The word class is a common word. Have you ever counted the number of times you have heard or spoken it in one day? Neither have I. It is a word used with assurance. We know what we mean when we use it. But like the word traditional, I find it a very slippery term. We can put certain values to the word traditional. It can be a comforting word. Traditional baking. Oooh I can smell it. Traditional sweets made in the old-fashioned way. Then there are other types of tradition. In Victorian times it was traditional for children to go out to work with their parents. The went down coal mines. All those hours of darkness and filth, crawling about over hard rock. Where was the toilet? What if the poor child picking bits of cotton from under the clattering looms had diarrhoea?
Enough! I consider myself working class. But I am entering my sixth decade as middle class. When did I change? Shrugs shoulders whilst muttering a teenage style “duuno.” I shop at Waitrose, have a mortgage, renew the car every three years, go to classical music concerts, have a monthly wine order and like malt whisky. I had piano and cello lessons. In fact I became a piano teacher. Yes, but I went round in a battered old cortina and fixed cars. I would turn up at some pupil’s houses asking to use the bathroom so I could actually clean my hands. “Got any swarfega?” I went to the pub and I lived in Seacombe.
I’m old enough to remember early televisons. They were standing stones. A symphony of polished veneer placed proudly in the corner. There was no such thing as round the clock telly. There would be afternoon shutdowns. It wasn’t a TV society. Over the years, we have seen the development of the real TV society. Now it is merging with the small screens of our smart phones and touch screen pads. One of my uncles told me that every time we watched it, someone at the other end could see into our living room.
They would have seen into the main room of my nan’s council house. There was also a kitchen, a pantry, a coal hole and a bathroom. Although the toilet was part of the house, it had its own outside door. We all slept in one room. Of course, it was a coal fire with one of those funny hanging hooks to turn the hot water on. My dad sprayed cars in Standard Triumph and Mum did a variety of jobs. She was a clever lady my mum. She was brilliant with numbers, could play the piano, make hats and knit for England. But like my dad, she left school early. They met while working at English Electric.
Can you imagine the delight at moving to our very own house? It meant leaving the fields of Fazakerley for the urban jungle of Seacombe. Now we had a parlour. Firstly it housed the train set then a snooker table. We were popular; we had a snooker table. Dad was into making things. He made the fire place for the parlour. With my uncles, they replaced the old sash windows. We didn’t get anyone in. That was too middle class.
We needed the money to feed ourselves and for my mum and dad to enjoy their weekends in the Labour Club. They worked so hard. If you spend forty or more hours working in a factory or office, you deserve to enjoy yourself. Dad always took the over-time. You don’t turn down the chance for money.
Neither did I. Because while I was doing my day job in a primary school, I began to teach the piano for extra money. And what did I do with that extra money? I called in at the local pub to get my fix of adult conversation. After a long day of child talk, I needed to speak to grown-ups. Well that’s my excuse. Now I’ve retired because I have MS. But my telly is big and I watch football. I still come up with ways of saving money. Does that make me working class? Are my roots the defining factor? I know other people have other ideas. We all have valid views and good reasons for them. These are my ramblings. Thank-you for reading.
I have not been on the train to London on my own since August 2002. This was my second solo train journey within a week.
It is another level of freedom. In fact, I can now go anywhere I want to in the country. The only extras I would need to consider are the odd taxi ride for London transfers and the amount of tea I should drink before leaving. It’s almost spontaneous. So today I braved the bus ramp to brave the train ramp to brave the Strand.
I love the way the galleries of the capital have made the effort to adapt their elegant old buildings into accessible spaces so old fudges like me can trundle around looking discerning and intellectual. I find the nature and extent of the adaptations as fascinating as the works I have gone to see. I love the little looks I get from other people. They say: “What’s he doing going in that door?” “Why can’t I go that way?” “Oh look, he’s getting a ride on the stair lift.” And I can talk as loudly as all those other pretentious twits. I can quote dates, styles and names.
I can remonstrate about Rembrandt, muse about Manet or sermonize about Seurat but that would be taking the Pissaro. I can even refer to artists by their surnames alone as if we had been at drama school together. Wouldn’t it be fun to sit there and articulate knowledgeable about people’s bottoms and their choice of posterior containment? I could because I’m rapidly becoming an expert. It dominates my eyeline.
Today I charged up and down the Strand to a cacophony of talking bottoms.
Of course, I have to maintain the bum horizon for reasons of navigation. Imagine all the toes I’d pass over if I dared look a passer-by in the eye. Talking bottoms would become squeaking bottoms, and no-one likes a squeaky bottom. All I have to do now is to become more accepting of visible knicker lines. I must say, I’m still struggling with that.
The Courtauld Institute is a nice little place. It is very bijou but has some real gems by Gaugin, Cezanne, Monet and Rubens to name but a few. There are also several challenges for my steering skills. And some people appear shocked when I make a joke or some other pertinent comment. “Oh yes, just because I’m at a different level and on my own, I’m not some introvert who goes home to a mug of cocoa. I employ northern bawdy sledgehammer humour.
It actually makes me seem real again. There was a school party of year ones there today. I was waiting for a porter to let me out when they all filed past. I chatted to some of the children. The teachers and assistants were also very friendly. I mentioned to one that the last time I was there I had a party of thirty 11 year-olds from the Aylesbury Estate with me. Now that got a look.
The tall sombre American lady who let me out through the back door asked me about the Georgina Houghton spiritual drawings.
Inspired by the idea of the holy spirit, they were unusually abstract for their period. I thought they were both vibrant and addictive.
This led to a brief conversation about Rosemary Brown, a composer of the twentieth century who claimed that her music was written with the guiding hand of the great composers.
I could have stayed chatting for ages. Meeting this person was worth the journey alone. As it happened, the trip back was a masterpiece of well-timed connections. Before I knew it, I was back home watching football. What a contrast.
Where shall I go next week? Thank-you for reading.
I’ve just been reading about the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It was a gay venue that was attacked by a lone gunman. Twenty people were thought to have been killed. And so their music died.
The song itself is a reflection on the great American dream. The hope that sprang up in the fifties stemmed from a lot of the population finding themselves more affluent and able to afford the things their parents could only dream of.
Funny that isn’t it? This great American dream was happening against the backdrop of the civil rights campaign. Racism had led to countless atrocities against the black community. How many were living the dream only to sneak away at night to don their KKK uniforms, before rocking up with their burning crosses at some family’s home because the father was seen to be making a success of his life? How many people were shot or hanged because their son was black and one of the young white girls in the town had taken a shine to him?
Thus, the ambiguity of the Don Mclean lyrics opens up a whole host of topics for debate. I had originally meant this post to be about the time when English music died. It died along with Henry Purcell on 21st November 1695. But that’s now another story.
I just want to say that the words of that song never really go away and there are a lot of areas it can relate to. Despite the title, it transcends international boundaries; I could relate many parts of that song to points of social development in the United Kingdom.
All I can think of now is the plight of victims and relatives, regardless of being in the news or not. Why are so many people’s dreams shattered by others?
Isn’t the world big enough for everyone’s dreams?
Thank-you for reading.
I remember having a go at saying the word oasis. I was nine years old. I’d seen the word and knew what it meant but saying it was a different matter. I can’t remember if I said it properly but the teacher was well impressed with my explanation. Oasis: a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found.
Although it’s a simple enough definition, the actual meaning goes a lot deeper than the explanation. How do you see an oasis? Is it a little bit of sanity in amongst the madness? A haven in a sea of torment and pain? Is it your own room, your favourite chair or park bench, a specific place or even your own car. As a sufferer of MS, I have found a number of oases.
On my sofa in the flat when it’s just me.
On my scooter somewhere in the Sussex countryside. Writing on the laptop. Creating art.
Interestingly, all these places are dominated by solitude. But there are two exceptions. Firstly there is being joined on the sofa by my wife when the little one is fast asleep. That doubles the number. More exceptional however is one of our rare trips to the Royal Festival Hall. Now that is a real oasis. It is surrounded by desert. I use the term loosely. Of course, our thriving buzzing metropolis is not a desert. But just like oceans of burning sand, it is a gargantuan mass of life.
Everywhere you look, it is in your face; shops, restaurants, traffic, noise, rush, hassle and crowds. If you were to stand anywhere in London and close your eyes, your ears would be assaulted by the discordant cacophony of modern city life.
Dare I say that in London the art of conversation has been ousted by demands and shouts of derision as everyone seems so desperate to get somewhere? On the streets, no-one seems to talk to each other. It’s more like the orders of the battlefield or the ranting of a football match. Even inside the Southbank Centre itself the barking continues.
As you pass on the train, looking down at the swelling masses buzzing around the concourse, it looks like any other cultural market place. It’s iconic fifties concrete facade is not exactly inviting.
It’s only when you sit down in that hall and the lights go down, does my oasis come into view. No-one talks, a few people cough and we all listen.
Two hours later we pass from our little corner of heaven. People still shout and argue but I am refreshed and indifferent to the tensions around me. I don’t really care if some selfish lazy people are clogging up the disabled lift. (It actually sings each level.)
We could miss a train or the weather could be awful but that little burst of musical delight has put the life back into my virtual stride. It’s so necessary. The journey home may be full of everything but I am oblivious to its effect.
You don’t stare, you speak kindly and you languish in your recent pleasure. That is my oasis. I can say the same about many of the other concert venues I have gone to; especially the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. But the Festival Hall is my current buddy. Thank-you for reading.
“The greatest uncertainty associated with leaving the EU is that no country has ever done it before, so no one can predict the exact result.”
The above is from “The Week”, in which it aims to give a reasoned, succinct and balanced summary of the main issues. It’s a short but complex article. Would you be inclined to read it through? It covers trade, investment, the membership fee, immigration and security. The last two points are the most tangible for us common people. You can really whip up public passion with those two topics. You can also play the patriot card and proclaim our pride as an independent island nation, needing to break away from the dominance of the germans et al. Equally so, one could claim that once out of the EU, bigger fish will set their greedy little sights on us as easy pickings; the Americans, the Chinese, even the Indians and, (dare I say it?) the Russians.
Let us take two scenarios; an in and out one. This is where we do joined up thinking. It’s quite easy to do if you’re sitting on a bus or lying awake at night. At school we may have called it brain storming. But this phrase was replaced as a thought shower due to fears of association with mental illness. I wonder if that was an EU directive? (No!)
Firstly, we vote out: Hundreds of thousands of European migrants will no longer be allowed to work in the UK. There will be chaos at the airports. Cheap labour will disappear. No-one will be available to pick or pack our home-grown fruit and vegetables. Food will go to waste. Prices will rise. The nation will be less inclined to eat fresh food. A deal will be struck with whoever to import cheap produce. It will be inferior or GM produced. Foreign food gangs will go underground as an illegal trade is established. The money saved on donations to the European kitty will be creamed off by most wealthy. The population’s health will suffer. The NHS will eat itself.