Letter to America (to Eileen , a friend) (may contain class prejudice)


It’s a steel grey Monday morning, not so much light coming in to my living room as creeping in and stealing all the colour. There is really only one word to describe it – melancholy – and it is infectious. I’ve woken late, for me, and I have two things on my mind, you and writing, you are #1 and that too involves writing, but that’s the more important, as that involves connection. But I also have something on my mind that is #2, writing about ‘working class’.

The feeling of melancholy is strong. You know how I feel about writing, it’s bubbling away inside, the liberation of writing, which excites me, but I can’t properly connect with it as the leaching greyness is all around me. My little flower (a gift from Eileen) agrees with me, its movement is muted. It has two functions, it is a gift from you and that gives me pleasure at all times and it responds to light. I am not sure if it doesn’t ‘feel’ desperate today. But I think it’s an optimist, to thoroughly anthropomorphise it. It is waving stoically away on my window sill, making the most of it… and, of course, it’s magnificently pink.

I’ve been thinking about writing about ‘working class’, for a couple of days now and my mind is a card index of thoughts and ideas that will emerge when I get to writing and, I hope, fall coherently on the page. But that’s not going to happen until I have written to you, maybe I need to welcome you into my day and week.

I have just taken my first sip of coffee and the taste is divine and that reminds me how impossible it is to describe taste or the taste explosion that just occurred. Coffee will forever remind me of you and Del (my therapist for several years). Del introduced me to coffee. Real coffee, coffee bean coffee. I have always loathed instant coffee, it’s a cheat, a fake and it tastes like shit. Real coffee became a ritual of therapy, in Del’s kitchen, where we’d say our hi’s and connect as two people. My eyes are prickling with tears at the thought of her and how much I miss her. She is gone now, gone to the great vivisector, stolen from life.

Some people believe in reincarnation, that we keep coming back and evolving. But that does nothing for the loss and I think it’s just bullshit really, pampering ones own ego. And I think of reincarnation as a middle class thing, which may well be prejudice on my part, the pampered class, the self indulgent class, the buffered class, the I’m all right Jack class.

John Prescott, a man of humble working class beginnings, the son of a railway worker, and Tony Blair, both said, “We’re all middle class now” and Margaret Thatcher said, “Class is a communist concept”. And I say, “Fuck off!” Is that what pampering does to you? Is that the real problem of Westminster Palace? Is that what brings politicians down, working in that pampered place? The real life struggles of ordinary people, brushed away as an irritating and unwelcome itch where we can be dismissed as selfish victims of our own unworth?

Oddly, Del was middle class, but she wasn’t like that. She had a towering social consciousness and awareness and extraordinary kindness. A star bright soul who suffered the absolute loss of her own identity three times in her life (that I know of). She lived in one of London’s enclaves for the ‘well to do’ in what I can only describe as a modest mansion, a large detached residence, her husband a senior lecturer at the London Bible College, a bastion of middle class religious vocation and aspiration. Del was a square peg in a round hole. A beautiful rebel in her own unique way. I got the impression that her husband did not approve and was distant and aloof. He patronisingly indulged her but did not connect. He wrote a book, the title was something like, ‘I’ve lost my wife’, in response to one of Del’s losses of herself, not even knowing her own name. I never met him, but always wanted to say to him, “It’s not all about you pal.”

And isn’t that the problem, of capitalism and me, me, me? Isn’t that what Thatcher was sold out to when she said, ‘There is no such thing as society’?

Here are her, oh so clever words, “I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.” She dared say that to working class people?

Oh that’s so clever. It is so well scripted and it’s just awful, twisted words, deceitful and ugly.

Maybe we should all become brick layers, house builders, but that isn’t even half the problem. First we need land and that’s the real cost. Over a million pounds an acre as long as it’s got planning permission with it. “I’ll take two.”

The reality is that we, the people, can’t do anything without government and they make damned sure of it. Tying us up in knots.

We can go to Denny’s (an American chain of eateries) and Little Chef, that’s the level of our human rights… I’ve not been to Denny’s but suspect I’d feel right at home there, as I do in a Little Chef. Places I can be, relax, eat, with no aspirations for a better class of eatery. I would frequent a greasy spoon if I could, but they have died away… Transport cafes, the once proud eateries of choice on the arteries of the nation for working class people for which Little Chef is a pale reminder, but with everything boxed off, the food less joyously free, arranged on the plate, where there was something seductively pleasurable about a laden plate of cardiac arresting cholesterol in the days of yore.

Clearly, I know my place and it’s a perfectly good place.

KOG. 20 February 2017

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