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Titel: Capital
Autoren: John Lanchester
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    At first light on a late summer morning, a man in a hooded sweatshirt moved softly and slowly along an ordinary-looking street in South London. He was doing something, though a bystander would have been hard put to guess what. Sometimes he crept closer to houses, sometimes he backed further away. Sometimes he looked down, sometimes he looked up. At close range, that bystander would have been able to tell that the young man was carrying a small high-definition video camera – except there was no bystander, so there was no one to notice. Apart from the young man, the street was empty. Even the earliest risers weren’t up yet, and it wasn’t a day for milk delivery or rubbish collection. Maybe he knew that, and the fact that he was filming the houses then was no coincidence.
    The name of the place where he was filming was Pepys Road. It didn’t look unusual for a street in this part of town. Most of its houses were the same age. They were built by a property developer in the late nineteenth century, during the boom that followed the abolition of the tax on brick. The developer hired a Cornish architect and Irish builders and the houses were built over a period of about eighteen months. They were three storeys high, and no two were identical, because the architect and his workmen created tiny variations in them, to do with the shape of the windows, or the chimneys, or the detailing of the brickwork. In the words of a guidebook to local architecture: ‘Once this is noticed, it is pleasing to look at the buildings and detect the small differences.’ Four of the houses in the street were double-fronted, with twice as much space as the others; because space was at such a premium, they were worth about three times as much as the single-fronted properties. The young man seemed to take a special interest in filming these bigger, more expensive houses.
    The properties in Pepys Road were built for a specific market: the idea was that they would appeal to lower-middle-class families willing to live in an unfashionable part of town in return for the chance to own a terraced house – a house large enough to have room for servants. For the first years they were lived in not by solicitors or barristers or doctors, but by the people who worked or clerked for them: the respectable, aspirational no-longer-poor. Over the next decades, the demographics of the street wobbled up and down in age, up and down in class, as it became more or less popular with upwardly mobile young families, and as the area did well or less well. The area was bombed in the Second World War, but Pepys Road was unaffected until a V-2 rocket hit in 1944 and destroyed two houses in the middle of the street. The gap stayed there for years, like a pair of missing front teeth, until a new property with balconies and French windows, looking very strange amid the Victorian architecture, was built there in the fifties. During that decade, four houses in the street were lived in by families recently arrived from the Caribbean; the fathers all worked for London Transport. In 1960 a small irregularly shaped patch of grass at one end of Pepys Road, vacant since the previous structure was destroyed by German bombs, was concreted over and a two-up-two-down corner shop was built there.
    It would be hard to put your finger on the exact point when Pepys Road began its climb up the economic ladder. A conventional answer would be to say that it tracked the change in Britain’s prosperity, emerging from the dowdy chrysalis of the late 1970s and transforming into a vulgar, loud butterfly of the Thatcher decades and the long boom that followed them. But it didn’t seem quite like that to people who lived in the street – not least because the people who lived in the street changed too. As house prices slowly rose, the working classes, indigenous and immigrant, cashed in and moved out, usually looking to find bigger houses in quieter places, with neighbours like themselves. The new arrivals tended to be more middle-class, with husbands who worked at decently paid but not spectacular jobs, and wives who stayed at home and looked after the children – because these houses were still, as they always had been, popular with young families. Then, as prices rose and times changed, the new arrivals were families in which both parents worked and the children were in childcare either in the home or out of it.
    People began to do up the houses, not in the ad hoc way of
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