Thursday, 25 June 2015

Shoddily built

Listening to the radio in the car yesterday, I heard an item about the planned refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.  An enthusiastic spokesman for one organisation – didn’t catch which – told listeners that it was essential that the work should be done, because the palace is a vital part of British heritage.  In almost the next breath, he said that part of the problem was that the palace had been thrown up using shoddy materials in the first place.  I couldn’t help but see in that juxtapositioning a wider analogy about the way that ‘our’ heritage has developed.
The £150 million cost of refurbishing the royal palace is small beer, of course, compared to the estimates for refurbishing the Palace of Westminster which were floated last week, but there is nevertheless a common thread.  In both cases, it is proposed to spend large sums of money on repairing and patching up old buildings which are not suitable for purpose now and will still not be suitable for purpose when the work is completed.  Doing them up a bit as tourist attractions is one thing, but pretending that the result will be buildings which are fit for the 21st century is simply delusional.
But, in another analogy with ‘our’ heritage, pretending that delusion is reality seems to be mainstream accepted consensus.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people who walk in through the doors of the Palace of Westminster become wedded to the place with all its peculiar foibles and arcane practices, and end up believing that it’s the only possible way of doing things.
In any rational world, the fact that Parliament is falling apart would be seen as an opportunity to find or design a building which actually had enough seats and office space for all the members, and which enabled them to vote in seconds at their seats rather then spending hours walking in circles so that they can be counted like a farmer counts his sheep.  (And a building fit for purpose would raise an awful lot of questions about other processes and procedures as well.)
A crumbling royal palace should be a good opportunity to ask whether a family which actually lives in a nine-room apartment really needs a 775 room palace (to say nothing of the other palaces).  Or why a largely ceremonial monarchy with no real power over anything needs so many staff and offices.
It is, though, in the nature of ‘our’ heritage, jerry-built with shoddy materials as it is, to never ask such impertinent questions, let alone expect our rulers to answer them.  Clinging on to the past is all they seem to know, even when it’s literally collapsing around them.


G Horton-Jones said...

This was spot on
I thought the analogy of MPs as sheep was perceptive but if you ask for the names of MPs you only get Cameron these days these rest are non entities and he is waiting for his time to be over
I thought that jerry built was a bit OTT as they make magnificent houses. but then I remembered that it was built not by Germans but for a German family who changed their name very rapidly
when a family squabble with their German relatives got out of hand

Essentially it is an English problem we in Wales should not contribute a single Ceiniog to its repair or rebuild if that proves to be the way forward and that goes for both Buck House and the Houses of Parliament

John Dixon said...

Contrary to popular belief, the term 'jerry-built' was in use before the word jerry became a pejorative term for German, and no analogy with anything or any person of Germanic origin was intended.