When you really, really need the state, will it still be able to save you?

At my uncle’s holiday apartment in Salcombe, Devon, is a tiny service lift so cramped and claustrophobic that you only use it in extremis: when you have heavy bags to carry up from the car, say, or a pile of sodden wetsuits which need drying on the balcony. Otherwise, it’s best avoided. Even the 40 seconds or so it takes to get from the bottom floor to the top are enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. You find yourself glancing at the emergency phone next to the floor buttons and thinking: ‘Jesus, I hope that works. Imagine if this thing ever broke down. It would be like the Black Hole of Calcutta.’

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