There is a song that Mum used to sing to us – ‘little boxes on the hillside’. I will never forget it – its seemingly innocuous references to small houses, which were lined up in monotonous rows. I thought of those houses as beach huts, which were all the same apart from being brightly coloured. In other words the song and the little boxes, in my six year old head, were fun.
They were all made of ‘ticky-tacky’, which to me must be plasticine or playdoh or fimo. These houses were amazing. But the more I listened to this song and it’s jagged, repetitious refrains, the more I realised that it was less nursery rhyme, more forewarning. Exactly what kind of forewarning it was, I couldn’t place or give a name to in my 6 year old head, but I guessed it might be something slightly sinister and imagined how the cute lines of the song could easily slide from the major to the minor key and all those little beach huts would get swallowed up into the sea.
Now I know the song’s meaning, that it is a social comment on the blandness of post war housing, I know that I was right; it describes our vulnerability in the face of state control, and how we are in danger of being made into robotic automatums with no individuality. It is scary, dizzying even, to think we are not as individual as we might hope.