Tina Rowe

Art Washed

Two of my friends lived in buildings that were rented out at ‘affordable’ rents to artists.  They have been moved on.  I visited them both on or around the last days they were there.  In Warren House, Michael found it unnerving to be one of the last people still living in the block.  Some kids had broken in and were making their mark the day I was taking photos, we could smell spray paint coming up the stair well which was both unpleasant and disconcerting.  The day I visited the Balfron Tower, the place was a alive with people gathering their things for one last day after one last night of partying.  Both buildings were in a state of disrepair and neglect, they had an edgy appeal but nothing that could recommend them as homes.  It makes me annoyed to think of this huge spaces left empty, now being cleared for some plan or other.  I am pretty sure that on the heels of Michael and Necole in came people who smashed the toilets and rendered the spaces completely uninhabitable.

A few weeks ago I met a young man called Toby who was begging on the street.  I always give money to people who ask me and in the case of Toby I stopped to chat because he is affable, this has grown and now he has taken to standing outside my flat and calling my name until I come down to give him something.  Sometimes I get a bit pissed off about this, but quickly that gets balanced as I can’t help wondering how many times he has done that when I have not been in.  Every time I see him he looks more messed up, dirtier, less able to look after himself and his clothes look increasingly flimsy as the weather gets worse.  I feel guilty about not inviting Toby in, feeding him, letting him have a wash, giving him some clothes, putting him up on the sofa.  I hand over cash to him because his life seems to unnecessarily wretched and cash means some of the wretchedness can be covered for a while.  He may well have a list of convictions for venal behaviour, he could be all manner of things good or bad, but that doesn’t stop the immediate awfulness of his situation and the comparative plenty of mine and all of that just gets me wondering how the people in charge of the administration of these artwashed projects sleep at night knowing that all around us there are people with out homes relying on the erratic guilt fuelled generosity of self flagellating bareley copers like me.

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