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Friday, 26 July 2013

Brighton and Hove: The Stench of Decay

We have had a few days of hot weather recently, here in Brighton and Hove. And it hasn't rained. As a result, the pavements stink.

Walking into the city centre this morning, it was impossible not to notice. Sometimes the stench rises to a local crescendo, as if some under-pavement heating system was propelling it upwards.

Look down at the pavements and it's relatively easy to work out the causes.

There is spillage from street food, either accidental or from discarded left-overs. I guess it doesn't take long for cheese or fries, ketchup or mayo to begin to stink. The same is true for spillage from ice creams and fizzy drink cans.

This food waste produces black patches and, at its worst, greasy black slicks and puddles.

Then added to that is urine. Sometimes you can work out from the location whether it's dog piss or human piss - dogs use lamp posts, humans use entrances to buildings. Multi storey car parks are a favourite. But I suspect - and it's only a suspicion - that it's the rat piss which smells the strongest.

There's some shit too - dog, landgull, pigeon.

The pavements are in a terrible state anyway. The city authorities have a large budget for road works, but pavements don't seem to count. If they had an even surface, sloping towards the gutter, it would help. Then when it does rain, that would wash down the pavements, at least superficially. But the pavements aren't like that at all. When it rains, all you get is puddles.

Some cafes and restaurants with outside pavement seating realise that they need to take matters into their own hands, so they do wash their own stretches of pavement. But others can't be bothered. Perhaps they have become insensitive to the smells.

I walked maybe a couple of miles. I gave up the idea of sitting down at a pavement cafe, just did my chores and came home.

When I was a sixth former in the 1960s, I used to read Penguin and Pelican books. One of the first to grab my attention - I knew its main arguments by heart - was J K Galbraith's The Affluent Society (1958). He describes how private affluence and public squalor co-exist side-by-side in America. We thought then that Britain had less of a problem. Today, Brighton's streets show that we are now where America was in the 1950s.

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