My East Borneo Diary


In the aftermath of a severely over-hyped storm that swept through the south of England last week, I learned an interesting thing. My apartment in Eastbourne is in a plastic building. That’s right: it’s made of polystyrene. I’m talking about the outside walls as well as the inside ones. Hollow. Plastic.

I have become what the Kinks referred to in a popular song as Plastic Man. “You can’t disfigure or disgrace Plastic Man.”

Like Barbie’s Ken, I live in a plastic house. I’ve become one of Yoko Ono’s Plastic People. I live in what only very old English people will recall cockney comedian Arthur Mullard almost describing as “a noo, plarstic ‘ouse”.

The news came as a debilitating shock. I like my buildings made of stone or brick. Not wood so much, and not, definitely not, plastic. But plastic my building is. The exterior walls are hollow, plastic foam extruded over the occasional steel girder and a bit of concrete to keep the whole thing kosher.

Here’s the odd thing: people just nod when I tell them this, as if living in a plastic house were normal. It’s not. It’s weird. Damn weird. The entire nine-floor behemoth probably weighs about 45 pounds. No wonder there are fire alarms all over the plastic ceiling: If the building catches fire, it’ll melt.

A new building in the financial district of London actually melts nearby cars. Jaguars, to be precise. It’s not the first building that particular architect has put up that melts cars. It’s his specialty. And whoever built my shack was probably previously employed making boxes for MacDonald’s burgers, which are also plastic (the boxes for sure; the burgers, maybe).

What has happened to the world? When did it become OK to have plastic buildings outside a child’s playroom? And why wasn’t I informed? I read two newspapers a day and surf the Web, or twerk, or whatever it’s called now. No one told me. No one sent me the memo.

Would I have bought a plastic building, had I known in advance? Probably not. That’s why nobody told me it was plastic. Will I continue to live in a plastic building? Probably.

Some problems have arisen with the plumbing and electrics. Piece of cake, everyone says, we’ll just take half the interior walls down, fix the problems and then stick the walls back on. When I pointed out the sheer idiocy of perpetually taking down walls to fix the toilet, they all looked at me as if I’d taken leave of my senses. “They’re just walls,” people said.

So here’s a revolutionary concept that apparently only I have ever heard of: permanence. It’s what houses used to be made of, in the days before an Englishman’s home became his bouncy castle.

Bottom line: I must now and forever think of myself as Plastic Man. “He’s got plastic lips that hide his plastic teeth and gums, and plastic legs that reach up to his plastic bum.” That’s me. Yikes.

One response to “My East Borneo Diary

  1. thanks for this. it explains why so many new buildings of 9storeys get built so quickly. there is a glut of new builds like these all around me, (i live in westminster, near the tate britain,) and why they are so cheap that 9storey buildings can be built and still make a profit. there was a pub, the westminster , corner of page st and marsham st ,on a small bit of corner land, that has been demolished and a 9storey block now being built..
    google streetview still shows the old building. plastics make a lot of sense actually in new buildings. they are versatile, easy to install, and remove, hence the toilet pipes can be exposed and repaired easily and waterproof so perfect for bathrooms/toilets. i bet the insulation in your flat is good too, and your heating bill should be low.

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