Later that morning Tepic and some of his friends were nailing the sidings onto the wooden frame they had built by the dock. Soon it would be finished, a simple enough building, but ample to hold the still and the crates of goods they had acquired.
At the far end of the lot they saw a couple of shifty looking blokes eying up the empty space, pacing out the length and breadth. Soon after they vanished, a gang of workmen turned up with carts full of bricks and other building materials, their supervisor marking off areas with bits of string and metal pins. He had finished two rows and was about to start on a third when the urchins realised he was getting mighty close to their shed. It didn’t take too many lobbed half bricks to persuade him to be content with what he had already done, and the urchins settled down to their traditional sport of watching other people work and yelling out helpful and constructive suggestions…..
It was with surprising speed that the buildings went up, single story two roomed purpose built slums, with a communal water fountain at one end of the row, and a brick built privy in each yard. Nothing special, and with no real foundations except for the City’s cobbles, most would last only a year or two before collapsing back on themselves, but for a working family on limited means, they were a good place to live till times improved.
As the light dropped, the last chimney pot was mortared in place, and the front doors hung on basic hinges. The doors were a symbol of, if not prosperity, at least solvency, for the first time the rent was not paid the Rent Men would come and take the door away.
It was, of course, an opportunity for Tepic and the urchins. It didn’t take long before they had set up the old Sneaky Vole lean-too at the end of one row. When the new tenants moved in they would be thirsty, and if the bar was there and ready…. They would also have some stew hot on the fire, nothing went down better after moving into a new place than a nice bowl of hot stew, even if you did have to share it with the whole family.
Even though no one moved n that night, it was a good evening, with lots of people dropping by for a chat and small libation. It was a popular route, and the custom was good, the only worry being the proximity of the Church. They had not been very understanding of the concept of free enterprise last time the Vole had a permanent home, hopefully this time they could see the value in such a socially valuable business…..
(The slums are based on rows built in Manchester in the late 18 hundreds, probably the most basic slums available. They were purpose built as slums – shoddy workmanship, low rents and not wholesome. Most slums in the UK were brick built, even the outhouse, as wood was just not up to the job, and cheap bricks were less expensive than wood anyhow! Mention was made of how the frontage was very flat and uninteresting – well, that’s exactly how they were! The yard out back was part of the requirements even for a slum building, it was where the outhouse went, and where washing could be dried.)