Friday, 22 May 2015



These buildings are called 'Nail Houses'. They are all found in various cities in China. As urbanisation becomes rampant there is an urgent need to house and move huge numbers of people moving to the cities a la the European Industrial Revolution. Consequently, large tracts of all sorts of dwellings are being resumed and demolished and quickly replaced by 21st century stuff.

Now as I have always enjoyed living in a democracy, I don't know anything really about the communist lifestyle apart from having spent a week in Havana a good few years ago. This gave a touristy glimpse but it was probably as accurate as trying to draw a picture of what an onion tastes like. I did get the impression that people generally did as they were told, unless some corruption of officials was possible. Had we been au fait with the greasing of palms system we could have landed ourselves business tickets on the Cuban Air plane on the way home, instead we sat more than snugly in economy and hoped that the plane didn't run out of petrol.

Some people surreptitiously cooked up food in their kitchens and told a few illegal cabbies that they were gonna be open for dinner and then tourists were dropped off a ways away from the house and when they arrived they were fed in the front yard. This was one of the best meals we had there, even if we spent time looking over our shoulders as we walked for a cab after we had finished.

People were poor and once passed the sometimes jolly facades of their homes you could see that the walls were crumbling and the overcrowding was spectacular. There seemed to be no reliable plumbing and furniture was limited in deed. But you know what? They were extremely proud of their homes. We were invited in a couple of times, not as scam I am pretty sure, just because they were happy to show and share.

But back to China. As needs must, the government ( Local Councils etc) resume tracts of land and the people who are gonna be ousted have to agree the compensation amount, if an agreement can't be reached then they don't have to move. So these NAIL HOUSES appear in the midst of some strange modern construction. It seems that officials are not permitted just to chuck people out of their homes like they can in our democracy. If people make a stand then they can stay.

I am not sure what happens in the long run though, cos the development goes ahead anyway and I guess then the property becomes tainted and has no value, but at least the folk get to stay at home, even if that means that they need a boat to cross the moat built around their place or they need to cross 6 lanes of traffic to get to school or buy a loaf of bread.

It must take some guts to tell the officials, 'NO', and stick to it. The rarity of NAIL HOUSES is surely an indication of the rarity of courage and strength and conviction. Or maybe Chinese people just don't give a shit about their homes - but I doubt this.

In these times of legislation and control and rules and licences, when the only real growth industry seems to be in providing fools with permits to tell Joe Public what to do, in these  times I would just love to see more NAIL HOUSE PEOPLE, people who can and will think for themselves and will make a stand regardless of pressure and backlash.

It's easy. Our democracy allows us to be NAIL HOUSES. The hard bit is thinking for ourselves and having the strength of our convictions.