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Housing Benefit Hill

Updated on October 23, 2018
CJStone profile image

CJ Stone is an author and columnist, with seven books to his credit. He lives in Whitstable and currently writes for the Whitstable Gazette.

The author doing a reading at a rave party, as drawn by Ian Pollack
The author doing a reading at a rave party, as drawn by Ian Pollack
Original photograph by Dave Hendley
Original photograph by Dave Hendley

Stories first appeared in the Guardian Weekend starting September 11 1993. The final story appeared September 7th 1996. They were collected together, along with stories from a number of other sources, in my book, Housing Benefit Hill & Other Places (AK Press 2001), available below.

1. Introduction to Housing Benefit Hill

This is the introduction to the book Housing Benefit Hill & Other Places Collected Columns 1993 - 1998. It never appeared in the paper. It begins with a revisit to the old place some two years after I left, and then goes on to explain the origins of the stories. As it says in the text: "The name 'Housing Benefit Hill' is a reference to a line in Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues by Bob Dylan from the Highway 61 Revisited album. 'Up on Housing Project Hill it’s either fortune or fame'.” Unfortunately I found neither.

Read more here.

2. Still life behind drawn curtains

This was the first Housing Benefit Hill story to be published, on September 11th 1993, although it wasn't the first to be written. It tells the story of one of my neighbours, someone I used to spend a lot of time with during my stay up there, and her young lover, who had recently left her. As it says in the text: "People grow up fast on Housing Benefit Hill. At 16 years old he was already a family man."

Read more here.

Buy CJ Stone's books here

3. Invasion of the babysnatchers

This is the story of Sue and Martin, my next door neighbours on Housing Benefit Hill. This made quite a stir at the Guardian, moving several of the hard-bitten reporters there to tears.

Read more here.

4. Roller coaster ride to despair

One of my most poignant stories, about an abusive relationship. I can't say more than that.

Read more here.

5. Witch way out of here?

The first of the stories to be written, though not the first to be published. I originally wrote this for a local magazine I was attempting to set up with a bunch of the other ne'er-do-wells in the town, after a late-night stoned conversation with a friend of mine. We were going to call the magazine the Id. I wrote the story, but no one else got round to making their contributions, so in the end I sent it to the Guardian. The rest, as they say, is history....

Read more here.

6. Off the Grails

Ian Pollock's illustration for Off the Grails
Ian Pollock's illustration for Off the Grails

One of the later stories to be published, this also features in my book The Trials of Arthur. The story appears on HubPages, here.

7. Sitting Target

This is one of the later stories set in my home town, Whitstable. All the early stories were also set in Whitstable, of course, but a lot of people didn't like it, and I soon found myself getting into trouble, annoying people who didn't really want to be written about. Not so in this case, however: the character, Mark, was only too happy to have my take on his extraordinary stunt.

Read the story here.

8. Rubber soul

Illustration for Rubber soul by Ian Pollock
Illustration for Rubber soul by Ian Pollock

"I suppose - looking at it from where I am now, in the future - I can say, yeah, it's things like that you want. I mean, I'd be delighted to be on the main stage at a festival with thousands of people going wild about me and giving me an encore..."

A song about a rubber duck. Ho hum.

Read it here.

9. Mad rag doll

"She spent about nine months on and off in psychiatric care. She said she needed consolation, and all they gave her was drugs. She said she needed love and affection and to be told that it was all right, she was still a nice person. But they said she needed stability, and gave her injections. She said being in Psychiatric care was like being married to the system, so that you didn’t need friends any more, or lovers, or family. You just didn’t care any more. She said she needed a good cry, but all the drugs did was to stop her crying."

You can read the story here.

10. Caged Beeste

YOU have to ask why, don’t you? People get planning permission for all sorts of things. For roads that rip through countryside. For industrial estates and trading estates and shopping complexes. For leisure-centres and theme-parks. For hotels and for soulless housing estates like the one on Clement Attlee Way. But a harmless old man can’t get planning permission to live this simple way of life, out in the woods with his plants and his animals and his trees and the deer that ate out of his hand. He was a Hermit. It’s an ancient occupation. Well it niggles me. It bothers me. Why? Who in God’s name is the law meant to protect?

Read more here.

11. Illustrations by Ian Pollock

This is a collection of illustrations for the later stories, which I include to add colour to the text. They are beautiful pictures, and worth looking at regardless of their association with Housing Benefit Hill.

You can see the illustrations here.

© 2011 Christopher James Stone


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