The New Homeless Context
The homeless scene has changed since the original 'Cathy'. There are now many more homeless (one million households officially registered as homeless over the last decade). The provision of homes has dropped dramatically.
Homeless people are treated in different ways, being placed in two star hotels and caravans rather than workhouses.
Most important, all the alternatives which 'Cathy' tried in vain before the final disaster are now far more accesible and, where 'Cathy' failed, thousands now succeed in living in tents, boats, squats, converted vehicles, the street, caravans, a huge sub class who do not, often, even appear in the official statistics.
Very much present in my thinking at the moment is the awareness that we would now have enough homes and to spare (some two million more) if building had continued at the rate achieved in the years immediately after 'Cathy'.
And that, even now, there are more empty homes than homeless families. Out of a total housing stock of twenty three million, three quarters of a million are empty and there are a further half million second homes.
There will most probably be no direct reference back to the original story, either in terms of characters or locations, though I would not wish to rule this out entirely at this point.
In the original Cathy Come Home we saw how Cathy fairly consistently was able to solve her own housing problem, and then was thwarted by forces outside her power.
What would have happened if, just once, she had been able to defy these forces, insisting on a human right to defend the shelter she'd found for herself and her family?
If just once she had been able to defend her hard won foothold in, for example, the slum house, the squat, or in the caravan or even the tent?
There were examples even then of people doing this. For example the march of the homeless husbands onto the homeless hostel at Abridge in Essex, claiming and winning the right to sleep with their wives and thus effecting their own personal perestroika.
Now such personal perestroika is becoming more common. In an over centralised and over regulated state, people are increasingly fighting and winning battles for their own individual freedom and rights. (And losing many too. Long term, the prospect of individual liberty looks far less hopeful.)
Our times are actually seeing a perestroika in housing, however vehemently officialdom may deny this, with increasing numbers of people finding their own solutions.
The story of the original Cathy told how there was a chance of her solving her own housing problems in many of the following locations.
1) Rented flat. (Can't afford it).
2) Council flat shared with in-laws. (Leaves after row).
3) Rented slum flat. (Evicted for rent arrears).
4) Rented caravan. (Evicted after fire on site).
5) The squat. (Can't cope).
6) The boat. (No longer available).
7) The tent. (Can't cope).
8)Official temporary accommodation (workhouse). (Husband leaves. Cathy leaves one child at her mother-in-law's).
9_ Ditto (communal dormitory in workhouse).
10) The Street (Other children taken into 'care').
It was in those areas that Cathy found most desperate (the squat, the boat, the tent, the caravan) that there has now been a vast increase in homeless people. The original Cathy spent some seven minutes with the Travellers and I would like to see our new Cathy too spend some time on the wilder shores of homelessness, those further shores on which so many of us, however secure, could find ourselves tossed up.
Possibly give this story a happy, or at any rate half-happy, ending.
We could call the new film 'Cathy's Not Come Home', 'A Return to Cathy', 'Cathy's Home' or 'Shelter'. Or it may be desirable not to use the name Cathy at all. Possibly 'Dream Home' or variations, 'Dreaming of Home', 'Home Sweet Home', 'Dream Home Just for Two'.
The person we follow could be the son/daughter of the original Cathy. This young person would, of course, have grown up 'in care'. If we did this it would be important to not state it overtly. Viewers would discover for themselves, perhaps 20 minutes in.
One advantage of this would be a visit to Mum, the original Cathy, played as she is now by Carol White. What has become of her since the tragic end of the original film? It may be difficult for Cathy's children to locate their mother, or each other. While they were 'in care' they have lost contact with her.
Or 'Cathy' could possibly be the name of the child of our new heroine. If this child gets separated during the film from her mother, and is still separated at the end of the film, this could give a particular poignancy to the title 'Cathy's Not Come Home'.
All this is dangerous territory but I would not like to discard absolutely yet.
In some ways our film is a lengthy soliloquy on the question "What Is A Home?"
Our protagonist will spend time in official homeless provision, some of it not bad, in which she is miserable.
And in unofficial homeless solutions, some of it appalling, in which she's not unhappy. Officialdom in the end evicts her from these.
She is also in both official and unofficial homeless provision which is appalling but she tends to be happier in the places she's found for herself.
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