Brick walls. Stone walls. Peace walls. Walled gardens, wallpapering, Wall Street, Wall-E and walnuts. I hate them all.

Walls either trap me on the inside or make sure I stay on the outside. They’re so inclusive. So inconvenient. So in my way.

My hate of walls probably stems from being Northern Irish. Walls in Belfast – pretty much like all walls – were there to keep people in and to keep people out.

So you might think I’d be enjoying all this 25-years-of-the-Berlin-Wall-coming-down thing? I’m not. I’m not enjoying the endlessly retweeted picture of a bunch of lit-up balloons. I’m not enjoying all the ‘We saw it coming/We made it happen’ stories that always seem to air at a time like this. And I’m especially not enjoying all the: “It’s amazing how far we’ve come” rubbish that I hear. 

Yes, the world has moved on since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But it hasn’t moved on in the sense of growing up. It just moved on to build walls in other places: it only took us three years after German reunification to start building a barrier that still exists in Gaza, for goodness sake.

It’s like a really rubbish teacher, who instead of being developed or sacked, just takes a job at another school. That’s not progress, that’s just a redistribution of the crap. 

It’s the same story in Oxford, where I now live. There was the Cutteslowe Wall, to separate the poorer Cutteslowe estate from the wealthy Summertown suburb. The seven-foot high wall, complete with decorative metal spikes, was built in 1934 to keep the ‘riff-raff’ out. It stayed up for 25 years, and today people in Oxford talk about the wall like it was a pre-enlightenment thing that we’ll never see the like of again.


Today in the council estate where I live there’s a development of flats, full of young professionals. It’s surrounded by another 7-foot high fence to keep the ‘riff-raff’ out. 

We haven’t moved on. We’ve just moved.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant when a wall, like the one in Berlin or in Cutteslowe, comes down. But it will only be truly brilliant when we stop putting up new ones in their place. 

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