I was on a train, aged about 20, passing through the Gorbals in Glasgow. This was an area of the city on the South side of the River Clyde. It had seen industrialization and had a very high population density. Poor people were crammed into low quality housing in the form of tenement blocks with poor sanitation and few facilities. It had been described as "the worst slums in Europe" in a famous 1948 article accompanied by a series of images that showed its squalor and poverty. When I saw it just over a decade later, the area was still in an appalling state.
I was standing in the buffet bar of the train looking out of the window at the spectacle slowly unfolding outside. We passed what seemed like more than a mile of grimy, decaying buildings. There was virtually no colour except dark brown and black. It was depressing and dispiriting, and I was shocked that people had to live amid such squalor and deprivation.
There was a fellow passenger alongside me sipping his beer, and I couldn't resist the urge to comment.
"Isn't that appalling," I remarked.
"Yes," he replied, "and we've German bombers to thank for that."
"But I thought German bombers mostly hit Clydebank rather than Glasgow," I queried.
"Exactly," was his response.
He was alluding in a somewhat macabre way to the fact that many cities in England had seen their run-down city centres laid waste by the constant bombing during the Blitz, and the fact that this had led to their postwar regeneration. Since the Gorbals had not been destroyed, it had not been regenerated.