The Dower House

The Dower House by Malcolm Macdonald Read Free Book Online

Book: The Dower House by Malcolm Macdonald Read Free Book Online
Authors: Malcolm Macdonald
exactly. ‘We realized that we – the architects who would be needed in our thousands to rebuild this shattered continent – we could play our part. Surely you remember? Where three hundred slum houses had stood back-to-back in cramped little alleys we could sweep them all away – if the RAF or the Luftwaffe hadn’t already done it for us. We’re doing it now, in fact. We’re turning the city green. And in each green oasis we’re raising those three hundred families high into the sky in clean, modern, comfortable machines-for-living-in.’
    â€˜The things we say under the strain of war!’ Willard laughed uncomfortably.
    â€˜OK, you played the cycnic then and—’
    â€˜Too damn right! My ol’ grampappy had dreams like that. He used to say that if the working man was paid a decent wage and given good housing . . . education . . . health . . . all that, he and his family would divide their time between the library, the art gallery, and the concert hall. Everyone would be cultured and civilized!’
    â€˜But that’s true – they would. Look at the thousands of ordinary people – men in the street – and women – who went to Dame Myra Hess’s concerts at the National Gallery during the war.’
    â€˜There’s a connection?’ Adam could sense he was getting nowhere with the global argument. ‘There was also the way we were going to live – putting our own ideals into practice. Can’t you remember our list? Our no-no list, you called it?’
    Willard gave a reluctant laugh. ‘God, I’d forgotten that.’ He scratched an ear. ‘Let me see. We were against the nation-state and its chauvinism – all kinds of nationalism. We wanted—’
    â€˜Yes, but personally. For ourselves. What were the things we rejected for ourselves?’
    â€˜While we were still sober, you mean? I guess . . . the Victorian family and the old lines of authority. The tyranny, the cruelty, the economic dependence of woman on man . . .’ He turned apologetically to Marianne. ‘You know the sort of thing. It’s hardly new.’
    â€˜You don’t believe it any more?’ she asked.
    Adam grew impatient as he saw the discussion slipping away yet again. ‘We wanted to take the next step beyond.’
    â€˜Maybe. I can’t remember what it was, though.’
    Adam sighed. ‘You can – you just don’t want to. In a little while now I’m going to show you a house – a large English country house, mainly Georgian with a Tudor remnant and a Victorian addition, and stables and outhouses . . . walled garden . . . five acres of wilderness that was once lawns, formal garden, fish pond, shrubbery . . . et cetera. I think all that is our “next step beyond the Victorian nuclear family”.’ He let the words sink in before he went on. ‘Imagine eight or nine families living there. All like us. All about our age. We each have our own part of the house, of course. Not by virtue of title deeds or padlocks or anything like that, but just by common consent. I’d even say communal consent. But we have one kitchen where we cook one main meal each day and we all eat it together. And we play billiards or ping-pong or whatever we want in our communal playroom. And we have our music room. And our gardens. And this – our pony and trap in which we go shopping each Saturday. But the our and the we in all those things is not “Mum and Dad”. It’s all of us, including the children. We are the community of the future! It’s the next stage of civilization. But even more than that, it’s our only hope of moving forward from the tight, cloying, inward-looking, neurosis-breeding, festering, stultifying cocoon of the Victorian family.’ He leaned triumphantly back and asked quietly. ‘So what do

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