FOLLOWING the famous Fleet
Street slogan that " man bites dog " always makes a story, I sat up and took notice when I saw last week in the Evening Sienniard a good word being said for something that has been done in Spain. It was an uncensored cable from David Robertson and after dealing with low wages, high cost of living and black market, went on to discuss housing. That's a matter we're all interested in and we can't afford to neglect any information from any country. This is what Mr. Robertson says: " Exception to this." (low wages, high cost of living, etc.) " is one of the finest things done by the Franco regime — the ' devastated regions scheme.' Architects and engineers appointed by Franco to carry out this work' are non-political. For years they have been reconstructing towns and village". mined by the civil war, usually building anew. Agricultural labourers' houses would be described in 'England as detached villas. Front garden porch, large kitchen and livingroom below, four bedrooms upstairs (Spaniards go in for large families), while arthe'back there is a large corral for horse or cow, built-in poultry-runs and pig-pen. The State pays the entire cost. workmen being charged Ave days' earnings per month, according to regional standards—an average of about ten shillings a month's rent.
" Workmen's flats in the suburbs of Madrid and other big cities under this scheme are far ahead of L.C.C. construction. Generally they fielse the shape of a large hollow square, inner patio, say twice the size of Leicester Square, terraced into flower gardens, lawns, where children can play under the eyes of their mother, while cascading fountains spread cooling spray during the intensely hot summer months.
" The State again pays all the cost, demanding an average of five days' earning per month as rent."
In the meantime, we in this country continue to botch and haggle and experiment with steel, aluminium, prefabrication; we plan little boxes in which there isn't room to swing a cat and call slits in the walls bedrooms in which a single divan bed will scarcely ' fit and in which a mother and father could hardly squeeze in to say goodnight to their child. Our authorities are terrified of tackling the land problem and fantastic sums arc being paid into the bank accounts of the descendents of people who once bought scraps of London for a few pounds. And should this kind of thing happen? A few months ago'a young married couple took the ground floor of a house in London. The former tenant had left some rotting linoleum behind. The husband, who had a strip of his own to put down, pulled the old stuff up and bits of board came with it. He levered a knife between one of the boards and lifted up a plank. A terrible stench met him. The house was built on a broken sewer. He went to the landlord, who said: " I'm too busy to do anything. Get some new boards and charge them to me." ' But the young man went instead to the sardtary authorities and the sewer was mended_ So patch and botch did their work again.
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WE'VE been hearing a good deal " about the terrible plight of Europeeps in the slave camp, but I've now met an American—he only looks about nineteen—who very nearly died in one. He was captured at the time of the break-through and until last . March, when the camp was captured, he lived on a meagre allowance of bread, a cup of ersatz coffee and a bowl of watery soup—the daily ration. Not a single Reel Cross parcel came into the camp, the Germans making the excuse that they were held up because of transport. This boy was so weak with hunger that he used to walk seven stops and then lie down for half an hour until he got enough strength to walk another seven. When he was liberated he was a stretcher case and had to be fed intravenously for a month. He was unable to take even liquid in the ordinary way. He's on the mend now and with the resilience of youth is looking forward to "going back to school " in the States_ He told me, quite dispassionately and without any indignation, that the Red Cross parcels were discovered in houses not too far away from the camp. S • • •
pOLLOWING on last week's tribute A to the chivalry of Irish children comes another from an Englishwoman, Mrs. Beatrice Harris, who writes from Cork: " All the working-men hereabouts take their pipes out of their mouths before saluting me—and I am quite English and they know It!"