I am not working class: don’t think I ever have been. Although both my parents were born into abject poverty, my mother [an orphan] into foster homes and my father the sixth son in a household without a father, they worked hard to make something of themselves and to break free from the lot of the working class. Plus, they had no vices: no gambling, hardly drank, never went inside a pub; my dad didn’t chase other women.
They soon owned their own house, the first step of the upwardly mobile. They never applied for benefits or went on the list for a council house. My dad worked hard and was ambitious, my mother took a part-time job to pay for holidays. They owned a car: in 1955 they drove it across to France and in 1959 drove all the way to Rome.
I am pretty middle-class now.
An article in The Guardian recently made me ponder on all this. I live now in an enclave of middle class families: self-employed businessmen; college lecturers; teachers; a hospital matron; retired couples abroad on cruises six-months of the year, surrounded by working class housing; terraces and semi-detached once-council-houses which they purchased under Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme from the Council. It would be fair to say that in front of every fourth or fifth house is parked a four-year old transit. The self-employed. Roofers, central heating engineers, plumbers, joiners, painters & decorators, double-glazing guys and all the rest of the essential labour force the country relies on to maintain and repair their properties.
No negotiation, if you won’t pay cash they will walk. Receipt? Errr . . .
We have had roofers here quite a few times; no hard-hats, no harness. They just walk around on the roof as though they were indestructible. But what if they slip and fall, break their arms or worse? Hospital, of course but who is paying for that? Not them, they pay little or no tax from their cash receipts. And their vans; who maintains the roads they drive on and keeps the traffic lights working and the traffic flowing? Not them. I don’t think it even enters their heads that they are making no contribution to society and that they are simply taking, taking, taking all the time.
Of course these are the Brexiteers, the once-Labour-voting UKIP supporters that are smashing our country and our economy by their selfish actions. Their cultural values remain intact: money counts more than refinement. Of course that's the biggest conundrum . . . how can you tell a sheep that she is irrational, without offending her for calling her a sheep?
I met quite a few of them on the ward: covered in tats; wearing the same clothes, sometimes sleeping in their clothes, never washing, foul-mouthed to everyone doctors who were trying to help them and young nurses who deserved much, much better. And God, racist to a man; we had quite a few Filipino nurses, including a terrific Filipino Sister and they treated them worse than you would treat a dog. And blah, blah, blah: they never stop talking; to each other to anyone that will pay attention [not me in other words]. They have their TV’s on and their i-pods on all at the same time. Zero chance of rest or sleep.
Are the divisions in society becoming ever-more unbridgeable? I think perhaps they are. I am glad I lived in better times.
If you want to read the article I am referring to it is here.