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[VtR] The Aster Courts IC: A Darkness Concrete
When the Birmingham City Council approved the plan for the Aster Courts, they didn't quite have the same vision of horror that the tenements turned out to be. To listen to Richard Marcell, chief architect describe the plan was to see a symmetrical array of sets of four l-shaped council buildings, circled by a common road and parking, with a large plaza in the centre. According to Marcell, these plazas were to be bright and well-lit parks, filled with plants and trees and a central fountain, ringed by a row of shops inset into the tenements at ground level. "A new, brighter community for the Britain of today!" he called it, breaking away from the concrete warrens all too common to the austere Britain of the Cold War era. In the council's hopes, the Courts would be a shining modern example of how to do public housing right.
Very little of this ever came to be. The council's plan had called for brick to face the tenements, to make their concrete hulls more friendly, likeable, homely. Only two of the courts were ever faced like this, another with the spray paint guiding lines set up - and the two that were finished have been worn down by weather, lack of care, hopelessness, vandalism. One day a team of gardeners arrived to put an oak tree in one of the courtyards, that same night a gang pulled it out of the ground and left it to rot. Eventually, the City Council gave up for lack of time or money or worry: the people moved in and the slow paralyzing rot began.
Stuart's Chips was one of those stores looking out at the plazas. It was one of the quieter ones, hidden next to one of the large wide sets of stairs that descend alongside the tenements into the central plaza. Stuart himself had a good run - a sign that lit up, glass front, a stand-up bit of herring to put on the stairs to entice customers. He wasn't there that night when your lives ended - off at home, leaving a poor kid named Jack to man the fryer and the register. Jack died, Stuart lost his livelihood, ended up being shot by some thug in a dead end over in the shanty town: another dead end in the Aster Courts. Certainly, he never expected his place to look like it does now, a year on with the shattered glass front, splintered plastic chairs, lights hanging on strings from the ceiling, everything covered in dust and shit and gang tags. This place isn't safe - this place never really was. And now it's just a wreck.
Outside of the chip shop, the wind picks itself up into a howl under the night sky, the brief dusting of rain shooting right through the gap where the glass front once stood to spatter down in the front of the shop. The only cover is beyond the counter, back where the place reeks the worst of shit and piss, where bits of fish were left to rot the past year, the oil turning cold and then rancid. One of you could turn on the lights, but it wouldn't do anything: sometime back someone had the same idea and started a small fire in the ceiling that burned out inside its concrete shell. This is your beginning: a ruin in every possible way.