Saturday, January 9, 2010
The de icer
The deicer was an uncommon occurrence in Ireland's recent snow. Shopkeepers generally didn't clear the snow away and I heard that was because they were interfering in the notion of "public space". Public space is "owned" by the local authority and shopkeepers heard that they might be responsible if, because of their actions, the pavements refroze and there was an accident. In areas more commonly affected by snow and ice, there seems to be an intuitive feel for when clearing the pavement might be beneficial or otherwise. When I lived in the East End of London, everyone cleared and cleared well. So there was little trouble. There was also some conviviality involved in the task. Discussions took place and collective views emerged - usually concerning the local authority, which was usually considered deficient, no matter what! If the local authority owns the footpath, it is in reality, private. So the public space which constituted the arena for communal ice-clearing activity was private property, just as the living room is private property. For the duration of the activity though, it was re-appropriated.