I think yesterday may have been my polemic day. As well as a terrible poem, I got this from my daily batch of prompts.
I don't usually post a fresh story, but I can't imagine this placing anywhere (The Spectator, maybe?) so here it is.
5 Oct 2015
Apparently, there are no poor people. We have it on authority from a particularly ugly immigrant who once ran a market stall, moved up to selling plastic shit computers and fell into importing millions of Chinese electronic boxes for other quite-rich people to access SKY and became a Lord. Thank-you Lord. How are this sweat-shops in Guangzhou, Alan? Not too many poisonings, I hope, suicides below ten a month? All good then.
We the quite-rich-really, we spread the word on our iPhones, jump in our low-slung go-fast striped Sierras, burn rubber on our dissolute ways to the best food banks. Some of us even change out of our pyjamas.
Obviously we squabble a bit over Tesco Everyday Corn Flakes (who the Hell wouldn’t?) and who wouldn’t shove a bit to get the only packet of Thai Chicken Flavour Crisps (hardly out of date.) You can’t stay in to watch your Blu-Ray of Fast & Furious on your 90-inch 4 x HD Panasonic and NOT eat crisps with your Stella.
We the quite-rich-really, we are the soldiers, the old soldiers, the ex-soldiers, the wives of soldiers, the children of soldiers. We are the archers who tramped towards Calais, our breaches undone to let dysenteric shit run out of us as we marched towards our murder. We are the full-fingered who followed a king, slept in fear and won for our country in a muddy field called Agincourt. We were soldiers, and when we have scrounged for a pack of Carling, we dance on the backs of soldiers, our fathers, brothers, uncles.
We-the-quite-rich died of Phossy Jaw, lead poisoning, mill-smashed limbs, gas and rock falls as we hewed your coal, and when we took a break from that we holidayed in The Ardennes, Gallipoli, Balaclava, Isandwhala or over Berlin. Occasionally we succumbed to malaria or snake-bite. Occasionally, somehow we won through, and you pinned badges to our chests. Rorke’s Drift or the skies over Kent.
We are the smoke on lamps, the smoke on ceilings, the smoke that lines our lungs. Our places are old, old, old, worn out, and yes, our children find chemical ways to live and then they are incarcerated. We are worn out, worn down, trampled even as you ignore us (except when we disturb you). We are the peeling labels on old tin cans, the shadows, your inconveniences.
We-the-pretty-well-off-actually, some of us have two pairs of trainers, and a change for when our favourite trackies are in the wash. We, the assistants, the apprentices, the miners, the steel-workers, the trawler men, the front line, we who unfortunately have managed to survive, we, Wellington’s Scum of the Earth, the stout Yeomen of England, now we lounge around in our penthouses, texting each other about the market, vaguely trying to choose between Cannes for the weather or the Alps - the shine of virgin snow.
Naturally, we the-fucking-loaded, we, the buyers of Chateau Lafitte ‘42, we who slum it sometimes with merely a half-decent oaky Chardonnay, obviously the last thing we want is work. Why in shit’s name would we want to work?
Would we want a job to feel human again? Would we want a job so our kids grow a little higher and stand a little taller? Of course we wouldn’t. Fuck me, Alan, of course we wouldn’t. It’s great here on the estates, we’re absolutely rolling in it, and we laugh our devious ways to the bank, to the boozer, to the betting shop. It’s hard to believe how happy are knowing we aren’t poor.
I was five in 1953, Alan, outside Fosters Garage, waiting. The sun was high, everything shone, and The Queen, the actual QUEEN was coming to see me. Imagine that. We were on Cardiff Road, just past Whiteheads Iron & Steel and Godins Steel if you (or HM the Queen) had just come through town. Up Corporation Road there was Lysaghts, too, and British Nylon Spinners and Stewart & Lloyds. One day they would build Llanwern. The docks creaked under the weight of coal going out and pit-props coming in, New Zealand Lamb incoming at 2/6d a leg, frozen in steely holds. Proud men worked then Alan, every man worked; and when her car came: the queen, bright and pretty in her light-blue hat waved at us with a white-gloved hand. We saw her for almost two seconds.
Maybe our leaders were just as bad back then. The poor will always be with us, eh? Except, we weren’t poor then, either. We only worked sixty hours a week, and we had a roof over our heads, didn’t we? Compared to a peasant farmer in the Domesday Book, we were kings, Kings!
We got to Barry Island once a year. We went to the Lido. We walked to save the bus-fare and were skinny. We stumbled towards adulthood, kicked a ball around weekends. Were we loathsome then, from the wrong schools, with the wrong accents, and ‘difficult’? Did you hate us so much when we joined together, all-for-one and one-for-all?
OK, our skin wasn’t fine - fruit would have helped - but the steel snaked from hellish furnaces, the cars rolled from lines, we made your cabinets and televisions, and sailed old fat ships on dangerous seas. We didn’t want to sit at your table, ours was fine, but a few bob extra would have been nice, say enough not to have to cut apples into four, or have to pick potatoes piecework on weekends to pay the rent. Just a little bit more was the point, but then it turned out we had never had it so good.
These are interesting times, but remember once Kings thought Kings were forever. Some of us are tired, some of us are beaten down. But just remember Alan, remember David, when you see your flushed cheeks in the mirror, that once a thousand noble knights, the cream of France thought there was no fight left in the poor.
So to the Alan’s and the David’s and the Boris’s, and Gideon AKA George, to those with puffed red Nazi cheeks and swollen trousers, to those with mothers called Felicity Alexandra followed by barrels, and 17th Lords, remember, when the pig is spent and you have zipped your swollen trousers that corruption carries the seeds of its own end.
We, the various microscopic inhabitants of your Jermyn Street cheeseboard, the tired but not yet dead, we will find a way.
Let me put it this way… You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, fuck the fuck off and die.