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Halifax can yet be made to rise above the detritus of its past

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Toothpaste tubes are very interesting. This apparently innocuous convenience carries with it many properties, including a variety of taboos. When the tube was made of soft, leadlike metal it became frowned upon to squeeze it from anywhere else except the bottom. It was considered both rude and uncouth to squeeze it in the middle because this behaviour resulted in some of the paste being forced to the bottom of the tube, thereby making it more inconvenient for the next user. In fact, some manufacturers developed a winder, reminiscent of a sardine can, to prevent this anti-social behaviour.

Technology has eased some of the burdens of etiquette.The introduction of the plastic tube means that it now springs back to its pristine form after every use, thereby preventing the unattractive, misshapen lump effect. Sadly, though, it is now no longer possible to see, at a glance, when the tube is empty and due for replacement.The rigid standing container that looks like it works with pump action overcomes the uncertainty of emptiness problem by transparent packaging, which permits the user to know the level of contents. Sadly, though, the appeal to the user of this device is so great that the paste disappears faster than a regular tube. I am sure it is only a matter of time before the toothbrush itself will contain the paste in the handle and will automatically dispense when the brush is used. When the paste is used up, the whole will be thrown away and a new replacement is obtained.

Toothpaste is a product that has to continually develop and adapt to maintain a market position.When technology and new understanding permit, the product is improved.Why does this attitude not prevail when we think about towns and cities?

I have just returned from Halifax.A variety of workshops and discussions have been going on since October and I went to aid and abet by thinking about the Piece Hall as a particular place within the town that needs some life pumped into it. An extraordinary model had been prepared by a group of children which showed a car-free city. Their city was filled with life and imagination, which was clearly a reaction to a 'no can do'attitude that has prevailed in the town for a long time.

The children, on the other hand, can do anything, which they do with a clarity provided by innocence. There was some talk in the group I was attending about traffic, with some venom poured on the elevated highway that acts as both a feeder of cars to the town as well as a conduit to take vehicles through (or rather, over) the city.

I think these structures, which give a layer to the town and are indeed a part of its history, should stay. If they continue to serve the car going through, then so be it; the feeding function can always be controlled.

Alternatively, if cars were removed from one carriageway it could be a plain of perambulation, affording views out over the town and the surrounding hills. These are the only modern structures in a town steeped in the detritus of the 18th and 19th centuries and Halifax needs its reminders of some other era's thoughts on progress and modernity.

The town, through lack of investment and rapid change in other parts of the world, does not have the technology to allow developments that promote good-mannered behaviour.Halifax got as far as the introduction of stripes to the paste, which did not quite mix properly, but they have not, as yet, removed the solidified bung problem on the tube that bounces back. I have, after a splendid weekend, no doubt they will.

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