“I went to the labour party meeting in Truro this evening and although I hate going out in the dark and driving down the narrow unlit country lanes, I made myself go. I notice as I get older the bright car lights coming in the opposite direction are disorientating.
I remember the dark back streets of Ashton under lyne in Lancashire where i was born in 1944. Poor cobbled streets with poverty stricken families behind each terraced door. Older people living alone on some scanty pension. state pension came into being in 1908 and it was 5 shillings a week to start with for those over 70 (25pence) not sure what it was in 1952.
My mother made me knock on the door of the old people on our street to see if they needed an erand. That might mean a copper or two for me or more likely a sticky sweet saved for such a time. I didn’t realise the significance of being old and poor. Our corner shop provided bread , milk and tea with a ration book, the war had only just ended and food was still scarce. Imagine buying 1 eggs and 2 slices of bacon nowadays. Poverty was all around those little terraced houses.
Going to school often meant being hungry till lunch time when school dinner was something to look forward to. Meat of some desription with mash potato and cabbage, with rice pudding or sponge and custard for after. Quite yummy when you are hungry.
However if you didn’t take dinner money on a friday which in old money was two shillings (20 pence,)there were no dinners coming your way the following week. My mum would say ‘tell them you forgot it’. How many of us did that I wonder. We were poor because my dad was a drunk and my mum earned enough to pay the rent.
Pride had no place in poverty.
A benefit of being poor was playing out side all day on holidays from school. You had to remain in ear shot of your mother or someone elses mother calling, so that meant playing on the spare ground where air raid shelters, left from the war, stood empty. Many dens were constructed in there, old bits of furniture and sruffy chairs for a makeshift game of house or even doctors and nurses.
No televisions and computors to destract us from our imagination. Our major worries were, where is our next meal coming from and who was willing to share a jam butty. Bath time was standing in line for a wash down in the tin bath which hung on the wall in the yard next to the outside loo.
My mother worked hard to pay the rent and keep us tidy. She was a cook for the UCP that was The United Cooperative dairies and she worked in the canteen. She would bring home left overs like tripe and oinions or a cheese and oinion pie so we would wait in anticipation for something for tea. Bless her.
My dad didn’t work and spent most of his days in bed sleeeping off the night before.
I tell this story because those days of scratting and scraping are re-emerging.
Poor children waiting for food, relying on hand out’s and good will of school to give a free dinner to those who look hungriest. We who were hungry relied upon school milk which stood patiently in the crate until 1st play time. Maggie Thatcher put paid to that.
Who would ever have thought that those dark days would return and we would see homeless people in depts because they have tried to keep head above water. Who would think that we would not be able to afford money for a metre to give the family hot baths.
In that pathetic speech yesterday by the prime inister of a rich country, we heared lie after lie from her lips about what she is doing for the poor, the health service. She spewed out false promises of how bright the future looks under this Treacherous Tory Government. No wonder she was coughing, the words were choking her. I felt ashamed of the audience who looked to have been bused in from the local old folks homes. how can they support this cruel conservative goverment? Because they don’t know any better and ignore what is under their noses.
We are almost back to where we were when I was a child in 1954. Hungry kids, struggling parents to make ends meet. Such low pay that families need suppliments to keep them staggering from one pay day to the next. For the disabled its a matter of being ignored and pushing aside the cries for help as they wait for their universal credit payouts and even told to take out loans to tide them over while they lurch from week to week degraded and humiliated in poverty.
I remember when I was eleven we were given a council house and how my brother jumped up and down for joy when he realised he didn’t have to sleep in the same room as his little sister. No council houses due to Maggie Thatcher. selling off better homes that belonged to the tax paying public.
It was Tony Benn who said something like Capitalism keeps the rich rich and crushes the will out of the poor and they became hopeless and give up and believe voting is a waste of time.
However now we have a young and educated poor and they will not be oppressed. Best of all we have ‘the much loved boy, our boy Jeremy Corbyn.’