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La Boheme


Amidst the boredom, misery and frustration of handling new inquiries, one way of sustaining interest is identifying the theme of the day. There usually is a theme, frequently repeated. Generally, the theme is a single capitalised word, Desperation, for instance, or Greed, or Incompetence.

Today’s theme was more unusual, Italian Opera. Sex and Betrayal filled my working day. The libretto went something (but most certainly not recognizably) like this:

Act One.
The curtain rises on two flats
A. a husband and wife in their local authority flat. It is a small place, with mismatched and worn furniture, but clearly treated with care and determination to make it a home.
B. a husband and wife and 16 year old son in a small and shabby private flat.
In both flats, the wife stares in horror and disbelief as the husband (A & B in duet) sings that he doesn’t love her and has been seeing another woman for years.
In a desperate duet, Wife A tells her husband to leave and Wife B tells hers she is leaving.
Husband A leaves, telling his wife in recitative that he will be back, as it is a joint tenancy and he has rights. Husband B shouts at his wife that she will not leave him and hits her, she flees together with the son, to stay with friends.

Act 2.
The famous ‘Caseworkers Chorus’
Wife A at the Council housing office. She asks for the tenancy to be put in her sole name.
Wife B at the Council homeless unit. She makes an application as homeless. The individual arias meet in a duet begging for recognition of their plight.
The housing officers, in chorus, – under the relationship breakdown policy there is nothing can be done save with the husband’s consent
The homeless officers, in chorus, – (ignoring the domestic violence) your son is not in full time education so you are not in priority need. We have no housing duty.
All officers together – there is nothing we can do (repeated, with keyboard clatter and shutting doors.).

Act 3.
Wife A sits in the flat with curtains drawn, singing of her anxiousness about her husband’s return and how long she must wait till her tenancy is sorted out by the Court in her divorce.
Wife B sits in a small private flat, with a chair against the door, singing of having to reject the landlord’s unwanted approaches and how, having rejected him, he has told her to leave straight away.


If ever I felt like breaking into Che Gelida Manina in interviews, this was it.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. contact

    Assuming you refer to Anton, rather than Pavel, that would be next to Chekhov during his days in the grocery or in the Siberian penal colony, I take it.

    Still, what do you and your finely honed critical faculties expect for free?


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