Notes From the Northern Colony

GM Stevenson, living and writing in Scotland

Laura Henderson, Cube's managing director Photo: Cube Housing Association

Dear Landlords,

I remarked today to a fellow tenant (or “customer,” as you call us) that communicating with Cube is a bit like praying. But then I corrected myself, because when praying we do not know for certain that no one is listening or that our supplications will be ignored — which we can be certain of when communicating with you.

Like God, there is much debate about whether Cube exists in more than name, especially now that you have decided to become part of Glasgow Housing Association.

After I wrote and published this, about the filthy conditions in the Wyndford high flats, and how your managing director, Laura Henderson, ignores messages from “customers,” I sent the link to Ms Henderson. Of course she did not reply. Nor did she reply to my post about her lack of reply.

But, with new questions to ask, I am, like a pilgrim praying in the desert, writing to you once again.

I am confused because two days ago I visited another building in the Wyndford, 60 Glenfinnan Road. It looked nice from the outside, but I expected to find the same filth and faeces that I documented in 151 Wyndford Road. Then I went inside, to every one of the 14 floors, and discovered it was clean enough throughout to be a showpiece.

Stairs at 160 Glenfinnan Road

Stairs at 151 Wyndford Road

Lift at 160 Glenfinnan Road

Lift at 151 Wyndford Road

It took a day to get over my surprise. Then, today, I visited two of the nearby 14-floor blocks, and found them to be as immaculate as 160 Glenfinnan Road. I wondered who was cleaning them — surely not the same people who supposedly clean the 20-floor blocks? — but tenants informed me that, yes, you, Cube, are doing the cleaning.

I spoke to another “customer” about the discrepancy. He told me, “They [the 14-floor blocks on Glenfinnan Road] tend to get better treatment.” Why? “I think it's the demographics. Those are all two-bed flats. Lots of families and working people. Back blocks used to be very hard to let till the bedroom tax. They think of them as the junky flats. Still a local name for them. Not the case anymore, of course, but you know how organisational culture dies hard. It is also true that there are lots of transient people in the blocks and many with issues, filled off the homeless list.”

The high flats are supposedly cleaned on Tuesdays. Today is a Tuesday, and at 4pm they were as filthy as ever.

So, hoping your silence has been a test of faith, I ask you:

Why are the Glenfinnan Road flats being cleaned so thoroughly, and the Wyndford Road high flats, a few minutes' walk from them, being left full of litter, dirt, spilled liquids, and faeces?

Do you contract the same people to clean all the blocks? If not, by what criteria do you decide which contractor is assigned to which blocks? If so, what is the cause of the difference in standards? Is this incompetence, or classism?

Whatever the answers, or the likely lack of answers, to these questions, one thing seems clear: You call us customers, not tenants, so it is time for us to act like customers, and demand that you provide the services we pay for.

Yours faithfully, GM Stevenson

#cubehousingassociation #wyndford #maryhill #glasgow #healthhazard #laurahendersoncubehousingassociation #scottishblogs #plaguediary #pandemic #covid19 #wyndfordtenantsunion #classism #poverty

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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A week after I posted this, the stairwells and lifts in the high flats on Wyndford Road are no less manky. I sent the link to Laura Henderson, Cube's managing director, right after I posted it, but I have had no reply from her, or anyone else at Cube. I did not expect one, but I hoped to be wrong.

But at least one tenant (or, as Cube calls us, “customers”) has a sense of humour, as evidenced by this in a stairwell:

#cubehousingassociation #wyndford #maryhill #glasgow #healthhazard #laurahendersoncubehousingassociation #scottishblogs #plaguediary #pandemic #covid19 #wyndfordtenantsunion

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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Love unites.

If you doubt this, look at how love has brought together so many people with violently opposing political views. Left or right wing, they share a common love — their love for surveillance capitalism.

It would be heartwarming, were it not so chilling, to watch progressives who signal their virtue on the platform that brought about Trump's presidency.

It makes sense for Nazis to be on Facebook. But there are left wing activist groups whose only online presence is there. There are anarchist groups on there, which renders parody redundant. I am a member of at least once organisation whose news and activities I am mostly unaware of because the only medium it uses is Facebook. Many of my comrades are not aware that when you post something on Facebook, the company has the right to use whatever you post — text, image, video, music — however it chooses, in perpetuity, without having to pay you or even inform you.

Most progressives, like their reactionary enemies, are not monogamous; they are polyamorous, usually in a primary relationship with Facebook, with Twitter as a secondary partner, and also in committed relationships with Google, Zoom and Slack. Worse, in the pandemic you have to use Zoom, and probably Slack too, if you work remotely or are in any way an active citizen, because they are now the standard for online meetings. If you want to protect your privacy, the only way to be safe is to have a device you use only for surveillance capitalism, with no personal data on it, but how many people can afford this?

And it is sickening how happy and excited most of us seem to be to go along with it.

#surveillancecapitalism #facebook #twitter #zoom #slack #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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This is after cleaning

In a time of plague, Cube Housing Assocation's neglect of the health and safety of its tenants is medieval.

On January 29th, I contacted Cube, the landlord for the Wyndford scheme, asking if there had been any disruption to the cleaning schedule, as both the lifts and the stairwells in the high flats at 151 Wyndford Road were filthy. I suggested that in a pandemic a lack of cleaning could cause a health hazard. The response came from a housing officer on February 1:

“I have spoken with the Environmental team leader who advised that there has been no disruption to the cleaning service in any of the blocks. The team clean for 151 Wyndford Road is done every Tuesday from the 25th floor to the first floor, every landing is swept and mopped as are the stairwells in addition to the other cleaning that gets done on this day. The lifts are cleaned every day as well as the foyer and especially areas where there is more people present within the block. If you find that the cleaning is not up to standard, please let me know and I will pass your concerns on to our team leader to investigate.”

While Cube claims it is cleaning the high flats, it announced last year that it would not be cleaning the maisonettes in Wyndford.

Yesterday was a Tuesday, and there were indeed cleaners in the building (not wearing masks, not distancing). After cleaning, these were the conditions:

The building's lobby was damp from mopping.

The entryway into the stairwell had not been mopped.

The stairs between the ground floor and to the beginning of the second floor were damp, not mopped, but damp as if a wet mop had gone over the surface to wet them but not scrub or remove any of the accrued layers of dirt and filth.

The floors between the second and tenth were not wet, nor had they been mopped or scrubbed for quite some time.

Hair, faeces, walked-in gum and food, sticky puddles of dried substances are all present on those floors.

This makes me wonder: Is the mopping in the stairwell on the low floors only done on those levels because security camera (newly updated, I noticed) would capture the worker mopping?

I would ask these questions of Laura Henderson, who became Cube's managing director last year, following the sudden and mysterious departure of David MacKenzie, but in her time in that job, Ms Henderson has demonstrated that it is futile to ask her anything. At a public meeting about rent increases last March, she managed not to answer a single one of the many questions put to her by tenants (or, as she calls us, customers). In August, I obtained a copy of a letter she had written to Bob Doris MP, in which she refused to communicate with the Wyndford Tenants' Union:

I wrote to Ms Henderson, asking:

  1. Why does Cube consider it less safe to clean the closes in the maisonettes than the foyers, lifts and stairways of the high flats?
  2. You wrote that Wyndford Tenants' Union has “persistently questioned” Cube's decision not to provide services mandated by the Scottish government, and provided by every other housing association in Glasgow. Is it your position that the union should not question Cube's decisions, or is the issue with the “unreasonable persistence”? If the former, what do you think the union should do? If the latter, what constitutes “unreasonable persistence”? Are these positions held by Cube as an organisation, or by you personally?
  3. You wrote: “In addition to this the tone and content of some communications is wholly unacceptable.” Can you provide examples of such tone and content, and explain what makes them unacceptable?

She responded: “Thank you for your enquiry. I have forwarded your e-mail to our press office, where all media enquiries should be directed to, details of which can be found on our website.” And that was the last I heard.

Here are some more photos of the stairwell after cleaning:

And of the lifts, which are “cleaned every day”:

#cubehousingassociation #wyndford #maryhill #glasgow #healthhazard #laurahendersoncubehousingassociation #scottishblogs #plaguediary #pandemic #covid19 #wyndfordtenantsunion

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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Photo: daishin

The message to Cube, the housing association that runs the Wyndford housing scheme, is clear this morning, written on the football pitch at the high flats: FREEZE RENTS.

#cubehousingassociation #wyndford #glasgow #freezerents #rentfreeze #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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Note: Verso appears to have removed the apology from its website and then reposted it. In case they delete it again, I have posted screenshots below.

In the last four years, I have bought well over 100 books published by Verso, and its blog is one of my favourite reads, so I am disappointed by the company's strange “apology” to a former employee, Emily Janakiram.

In responding to her article about how she was sexually harassed while working there, the statement does not link to the article. While naming her, it does not name the person she says sexually harassed her, its US publisher Jake Stevens. Nor does it offer any specific amends to her. And it ignores her complaints about union-busting and exploitation of staff.

It is depressing to see the biggest publisher of left-wing and feminist books behaving like a typical capitalist corporation.

#versobooks #emilyjanakiram #jakestevens #sexualharassment #metoo

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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There has not been a time in living memory when the language of news was not violent. If the report is of a person or group disagreeing with another, the word “slammed” has been in standard use for at least 50 years. Violence is implied when there may be no personal hostility at all.

While that word is still common, it seems to have taken second place to another, less adult, term. Instead of disagreeing, disputing, condemning, objecting to, or challenging a statement or action, it will now be “hit out at” — a term that conjures the image of an angry toddler.

This language is as common in serious newspapers as in tabloids, as likely to be found in The Guardian as in The Daily Mail. Perhaps this will someday be replaced by an even more infantile standard, and it will become common to report that a person, organisation, or nation “took their ball and went home,” or “threw their toys out of the pram.”

#newspaperlanguage #sensationalism #violentlanguage #journalism #toxicmedia

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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Meanwhile, Scotland Continues in the 21st Century

Joanna Cherry and some colleagues Joanna Cherry and some colleagues

Craig Murray's relationship with sanity, which has been strained for some time, now seems to have reached the stage of divorce.

Today, in response to Joanna Cherry's being sacked from the SNP's Westminster front bench, Mr Murray tweeted: “No matter what you say about Nicola Sturgeon, there is no denying she has the efficiency of Caligula when it comes to utter determination to destroy potential rivals.” He also predicted Ms Cherry would be leader of the SNP within a year.

Joanna Cherry has been varously described as a TERF (trans-exlusionary radical feminist), or as “gender-critical.” To understand the meaning of the latter term, try replacing it with “race-critical.” She recently supported Sarah Phillimore, someone so bigoted she was suspended from Twitter for “hateful conduct,” an impressive achievement considering Twitter's tolerance of Nazis.

There has been media chatter about division within the SNP, and Ms Cherry's bigotry has caused some younger members to resign. But any real division in the party is not between trans-allies and transphobes — it is between the 20th and the 21st centuries. Like Alex Salmond and Joan McAlpine, Ms Cherry is a relic of the late 1980s and the 1990s, clinging to prejudices and certainties that now belong to history — to a period when Scotland was a Labour Party stronghold and the SNP was irrelevant. The same is true of Mr Murray, as evidenced by his decades-long membership of the Liberal Democrats before joining the SNP ten years ago.

Nicola Sturgeon is the most popular politician in the UK. Support for Scottish independence is at an unprecedented high. When the SNP wins the election in May by the expected landslide, the result should lead not only to an independent Scotland, but to the closing of the history book on Joanna Cherry and her cohort. As the UK goes, so go they.

#joannacherry #sarahphillimore #nicolasturgeon #alexsalmond #craigmurray #joanmcalpine #snp #scottishindependence #transgenderrights #genderrecognitionact #scottishpolitics #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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The anarchist ideal and the libertarian ideal have something in common: they cannot work, because they are based on the assumption that people are sensible and well-intentioned, a thesis that can be disproved these days just by going outside, where you will view:

People wearing masks around their necks, not their faces

People wearing masks over their mouths, not their noses

People not wearing masks at all

People taking their masks off to cough or sneeze

People in any of the above categories standing close to strangers, and becoming angry when asked to distance

There is, as Marx wrote, a lumpen proletariat, but there is also a lumpen bourgeoisie, and the most sensible rules of lockdown will not contain the plague unless they are enforced.

#covid19 #coronavirus #pandemic #lockdown #plaguediary #scottishblogs #greummaolstevenson

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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Despite the denial, it's hard to be unaware of death if you pay attention when you walk around Glasgow. On fences and bridges, there are so many memorials to people who have died. They usually include football scarves or jerseys. Some shrines are new, and may only be there for a short while, others have been there for years.

And you can hear the reminders too. On a stretch of the Kelvin Walkway, dense with unmasked people, someone says: “She was feeling better. She was starting to eat again...”

#death #mementomori #glasgow #scotland #scottishblogs #impermanence #mononoaware #plaguediary

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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