Children live here.

Welcome back and I hope you are as excited as I am to build an urban primer for the anklebiters. Moving on from last week, I’d like to introduce you to The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. Published in the sundrenched colours of 1977, it is about a Mr Plumbean who lived on a nondescript street of similar houses. One day, he is persuaded to paint his house due to a what I’d like to call an artistic clumsy seagull. A kaleidoscope of colours along with the installation of palm trees, baobabs and a hammock, his house glares individuality in amongst the ‘neat street.’ This stamp of individuality ignites a series of visits from his neighbours who try to persuade him to return his house to normalcy. However, after sipping lemonade with Mr Plumbean, each neighbour in turn is inspired to decorate their own house. What once started as a quiet neat street of houses transformed into a street reflecting individual sentiments of home.  “Our street is us and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams.”

Whilst most readers have reviewed this book against the narrative of creativity, individuality, dreams, I took the narrative to be a backlash against cookie-cutter planned development as well as a tribute to social connection. Actually, I chuckled when I came across it as it reminded me of my husband’s thesis about “the pink house.” Through a case study, my husband delved into the world of covenants, restrictions and conditions. He found a family who painted their house pink. The house was not part of a home owner’s association but rather a voluntary neighbourhood association. The neighbourhood association members, however, decided that they didn’t like the colour and banded together to buy and paint the house a different colour. I can’t help but wonder if the residents were each given a copy of The Big Orange Splot might the outcome be different. How have we gotten to a point where a nondescript street is a ‘neat street’?

For me, a house with character whether it be paint flourishes or a jungle of plants signifies that SOMEBODY lives there. What colour would your house be? If my anklebitter had his way, it would be of orange dinosaurs yelling ROAR at yellow diggers manned by blue spotted penguins. Our house would say children live here.


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Vivian Romero

I want to activate the urban imagined: stimulating, healthy and sustainable spaces for all (especially the young and young at heart).

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