Kerry Hudson (2019) Lowborn

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Perhaps we should start a  book review by stating the obvious about God, everything and nothing. Books are holy to me, a companion to reality as I experience it. Entertainment and ecstasy, from the Greek, meaning a going out of ourselves, while actually staying in with a good book as long as it’s not fake, middle-class wordplay, wankery. Kerry Hudson book is a good book. She is one of us, working class, but I don’t like the title, Lowborn.

‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had. And add some extra, just for you.’  Philip Larkin in This Be Verse, sums up the Kerry Hudson dilemma of not repeating maternal history. Some birds fling their chicks out of the nest, but only humans bring them back to fling them out again. I was lucky, working class, never really liked my Da. Ironically, now people say that’s exactly who I’m like. In later life, understanding yourself, teaches you to be kind to your former self and those that have gone before you.

This book has that. Like Kerry I recently found a tenner on the pavements. It’s been years since anything like that happened. I didn’t leave it on the pavement for someone more needy to find, as Kerry did. But in the same way I regularly loss money, ten or twenty quid out of my pockets and I hope somebody that really needs it, gets it. There is a deep irony that a working-class woman is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, because the status-quo is based on that lie, the exception to the rule, is the rule. Rich, white men in politics, publishing and the media can point to her and say, there she is, you lot just don’t work hard enough.

Kerry tackles that lie. She has a list of her own. Those in the shitest jobs always work hardest. I’ve found that too. Men don’t care what age you are. And drunk is never too drunk for sex. Raped, bullied, beaten. She’s lived life where those knocked down, often don’t get up.

And like Kerry, something else resonated, both intellectually and emotionally.   The Jeremy Kyle Show offended me at a deep level and I couldn’t stay in the same room in which it was on. Mary, my partner, used to laugh at me, say it was only a stupid show. For me it was emblematic of the propaganda war that us, poor people, lost. I’d read about one of the tick-box tests of whether the subject could consent to being on the show was dependent on what medication they were on. I wrote a couple of stories about it. They were meant to be funny stories offering some deep insight, but didn’t. In terms of doing unto others what you’d do to yourself, the Jeremy Kyle show, like all those shows with the tagline, before or after them ‘Benefits’ was deeply sacrilegious. It wasn’t just a case of those that lacked nothing baiting those that possessed nothing and expected nothing it was a destruction of a damaged person’s psyche. It led to suicide and poor Jeremy, whose accumulated millions, being binned. A Pyrrhic victory of sorts.

Kerry Hudson understands that innately. It was part of her. We can read about experience or we can experience experience. Hers was both, being also from an early age a voracious reader. Libraries were her church.  With that comes compassion for her childhood self and others like her. If we talk about spectrum, The Jeremy Kyle Show and his ilk (they’re searching for the next,  more sociably responsible, Jeremy Kyle, perhaps they’ll hire Prince Harry) are at opposite ends.

I wanted to try and  understand the motivations and hardships involved in such a complex situation [childhood poverty, being pushed from pillar to post, and taken into care].

But then there was that child. And I realised my childhood made itself known to me every single day. In the way I engaged with others, when I slept, when and what I ate. In the thought patterns seemingly designed to undermine me, to make me feel whoever I was interacting with, which made me beg in all sorts of ways for their approval. In the deep loneliness, the way I often said I was a ‘black hole for love’ no matter how much I had been and was loved in my adult life.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences questionnaire asks ten questions to measure childhood trauma and each affirmative answer gives you a point. Research has shown that individuals with an ACE score of 4 or higher is 260% more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than somebody with a score of 0. 240% more likely to contract hepatitis, 460% more likely to experience depression and 1220% more likely to attempt suicide. I scored 8.

One of my favourite lines in the book comes early. She’s talking about her granny, who spent her whole life working in fish houses. I spent a few months working in Clipper Seafoods in Aberdeen, roundabout 1980, which has a chapter to itself. I know that boom town. Her granny worked filleting fish. My mum’s sister also worked filleting fish. It was one of those jobs that women could make a decent-enough-living because it paid piece-work. If you were quick with the knives, you made more than the run-of-the-mill.  Hudson’s granny was young and quick and pretty. But she wasn’t a soft touch. You need to be hard. That’s part of what this book is about. Hard on yourself, hard on others. Take nae shite. So when somebody called her granny a cunt, she held her knife to her throat.

‘I’m a good cunt, a clean cunt, and I care a cunt for no cunt, right cunt?’

Speak so I can see and all that jazz. The angel’s choir surrounding God couldn’t have put it better. Kerry Hudson was thirty-eight when she wrote this book. Newly married, she hoped to have a kid. I wish her well and all kinds of well. She’s one of us, speaking out of the wilderness where we’ve been cast down by the money men.  Lowborn? Not in my book.

 

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The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed by Tim Kirby and David Ross.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00068sk/the-unwanted-the-secret-windrush-files

Historian David Olusoga investigates the story, behind the story, of the Windrush Scandal. He unearths government papers to show the duplicity and hypocrisy of the British Government in creating ‘a hostile environment’ for those considered undesirable because of skin colour.

Who can forget Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists? Enoch Powell and his ‘river of blood’ speech? Powell had conveniently forgotten he’d been to Jamaica to recruit nurses for the overstretched NHS in the early 1950s. Or the Smethwick election of 1964, which the Conservative candidate won using the message, ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour’?

A hostile environment wasn’t some ruse thought up by the then Home Secretary, Teresa May. It has a long lineage and includes both the creator of the NHS, Clem Atlee and Winston Churchill. The latter wanted to fight an election using the rubric of Smethwick and elected Prime Minister in early 1950s  worked to ensure public institutions like the Post Office didn’t employ non-nationals (i.e. ‘niggers’).

Ukip and Brexit are rooted in a picture of the British Empire in which everyone knew their place. And stayed where they were.  Empire Windrush, a decommissioned ship, taken from the German navy was returning to England from Kingston and didn’t want to return to London empty, so advertised for passengers. 350 Jamaican and British Commonwealth citizens paid their fare and arrived in Tilbury docks on the 22nd June 1948 to be met by the media. They thought they were coming home to a place where the streets were paved with gold. They didn’t know they weren’t wanted. If they’re black, send them back was unofficial policy.

The government favoured displaced European, such as former Waffen SS, and those that couldn’t speak English but where white, for absorption into the working population. Unofficial surveys, such as those taken in dole offices, a week after the Queen’s coronation in 1953, were snapshots that were meant to show that coloureds were sponging off the British state. Chief Constables in our major cities were asked to provide data showing the extent of the coloured problem and the relationship with criminal behaviour. Here we have the crude eugenics of the early twentieth-century resurfacing after Auschwitz and given a new emulsion coat of paint.

Ironically, the threat of no longer allowing those Jamaicans that held a British passport entry into Britain created a self-fulfilling prophecy. At the end of the 1950s immigration to Britain had slowed to around 15 000 to 20 000 a year. Let’s put that into context, official figures in post-war Britain claimed to need an extra two million additional workers. In 1960 and the threat of their British passports become invalid, around 500 000 people travelled to Britain from the Caribbean and Jamaica.

Many of those features in this programme were the children of those that had travelled in the first wave of immigrants to Britain from Jamaica. It was these people that had been reunited with their parents, went to school here and worked here for thirty, forty or fifty years that were caught in the ‘hostile environment’ which conflated two ideas in a toxic mix: austerity and immigration. A system that sought to blame the former on the latter. A propaganda war in which the poorest are always culpable. A Kafka like system of bureaucracy that sought to fulfil targets and treat people as things and not as individuals. None of those featured in the programme could provide the documentation that said, categorically, they were British Citizens. No government official appeared to explain how it all worked. After all, if it’s politically expedient and they were black, send them back.

Their stories of our shame feature here. Olusoga stands outside Lunar House a place where those deprived citizenship, no longer allowed to work, not allowed to access our NHS when ill, not allowed to claim government benefits. Incarcerated – indefinitely. Think about that for a minute. Lunar House with 500 000 on its closed books. Gulags of anxiety.

But there is another landmark that Olusoga should have visited. Grenfell Tower. The blackened remains in Kensington, one of the richest boroughs in London, tells us everything we need to know about the un-United Kingdom.

 

Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director James Giles.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0578x02/prejudice-and-pride-the-peoples-history-of-lgbtq-britain-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08zn99q/prejudice-and-pride-the-peoples-history-of-lgbtq-britain-series-1-episode-2

Presenters Susan Calaman and Stephen K Amos take us viewers through 50 years of LGBTQ history from before and after the (partial) decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people (quite a mouthful) could no longer be prosecuted for being LGBTQ.  But as we see here it was a bit like the Hays Code in Motion Pictures. Gay men had to have sex behind closed doors with other consenting men, and they had to be 21, or look older than your dad. They couldn’t put one foot on the floor or being seen to be enjoying themselves. They couldn’t join the armed forces or they’d soon by forcibly ejected.

I know you’re not meant to find that funny, but I thought of my old man, Dessy and his mate Jimmy Mac. They were boys, young men, that saw their army  pals die during the Second World War in the Gothic Line. They were mirror images of each other’s prejudices. But Jimmy confided to my da, one drunken night, that his son was a poof.

Dessy shook his head and told Jimmy, ‘we cannae have that. You’ll need to have a word wae ‘im’.

Homosexuals are marginalised in our society. As we become less tolerant, in other societies, more conservative, homosexuals can be stoned to death.  LGBTQ  ask all of those rich, white men, who make the rules a simple –existential- question: who are we? And more importantly, why do we need to pretend?

One of the characters in the novel I’m writing, Bruno, mirrors those ideas. He name-checks Peter Tatchell in an argument about adoption (which reminds me I’ve probably spelt his name wrong).

With nowhere else to go, even after the 1967 Act, one homosexual man admitted, cottaging, was easier and even fun. He pulled out a map of London and showed viewers the route he drove in his Ford Cortina. Those were largely happy memories for him.  George Michael was also caught having sex in a public toilet in the United States, which for a multimillionaire seems a rather queer thing to do, or maybe not.

The AIDS epidemic that hit America and was imported into Britain had a devastating effect. ‘God’s wrath,’  ‘Gay plague,’ and I think it was Tebbit that described it as a ‘cesspool of their own making.’ Thatcher, or course, tried to ban gays from being gay, local authorities and schools in particular from promoting homosexuality. Just the same as Prime Minister David Cameron held up a list of people, living off the state, and having the wrong kind of children, poor children, to demonise and publicly excoriate, we have here the controversial schoolbook that kicked it all off, Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin.  Whisper it, Eric and Martin are men, homosexuals! They probably went to Heaven nightclub in London, which was meant to be rocking and the place to be. Kenny Everett went there, which was probably a good reason for going somewhere else. Each to their own.

Thatcher’s wrath was worse than God’s wrath. At least God doesn’t drone on about leaving a better society. Emmm maybe He does. This documentaries not Calvinistic doom and gloom, and I told you so.

The legacy of LGBTQ was played out in Brookside, East Enders and Queer as Folk. Even Catholic Ireland voted to allow civil marriages of persons of the same gender. God bless us all, equally, apart from the Tory’s.  That’s nothing to do with gender. It’s to do with a lack of class. I’m sure God doesn’t give a flying fuck what we do with our squiggly bits, and neither do I. But if you’re a Tory, you’re scum to me. And you can go and fuck yourself. We’ve all got our prejudices. There’s mine out there. Why should we pretend?

Damian Barr (2013) Maggie & Me

 

 

 

Willie Miller 18/10/32 – 12/6/19 RIP

willie as a youngster

Cider warned me, ‘he’ll no recognise you.’

Willie Miller was standing in the doorway, squinting in my direction. He bounded down the two steps and came out into his driveway, took a step up on to the mossy lawn to meet me. Cider hovered, anxiously, at my shoulder.

‘How you getting on Jack?’ Willie stuck out his hand.

We shook hands, ‘Great Willie, how are you getting on?’

‘No bad,’ he smiled.

I only ever talked to Willie about fitba. I’ve known him for about thirty years.  Yet I didn’t know if he supported Celtic or Rangers. He had no interest in the Glasgow giants. He played and managed the Co-op fitba team for sixty years and that was his passion. If they ever put up a statue for the man that invented walking fitba and led others to believe that they could play (ahem), then there would be a statue of Willie Miller on every street corner in Clydebank and whatever town we’re currently twinned with abroad.

Willie was born at the beginning of the hungry thirties. Scots Home Rule – in the Union was being debated (*spoiler, it didnae happen – not yet) and Scotsman Jim Mollison fly from Briton to Cape Town in Puss Moth and took four days, seventeen hours and nineteen minutes and broke some kind of record. Maybe that’s when Willie got his idea for walking fitba. He was pretty keen on the Boy’s Brigade and lived in Birch Street, Parkhall, like many others school kids he was evacuated to Ayrshire, after the Clydebank Blitz.

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Willie did his national service and grew up at a time of full employment and a job for life. His trade was butcher and he worked for the Co-op, one of post-war Britain’s great success stories. The Co-op delivered out milk and eggs and Co-op stamps were legal tender in their department stores. He met Mary, his wife, at the dancing and they married in 1963.

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His daughter Sharon, married Cider. Willie was pragmatic because it gave his team a new centre forward and two grandkids Lee and Abby. Willie had moved on from the Co-op, as the company disintegrated. He worked for the Albion and later as a janitor in Dalmuir Primary. Willie managed the primary school football team on the red-blaze pitch. He spent a lot of time lining the pitch and teaching the team how to take proper throw-ins. My memories of playing against Dalmuir was they were really good at taking shys, but never won a game.

By this time Willie was the janitor in Clydebank High I was playing with Cider in the Co-op football team. Every year we won a trophy in the Welfare League, The Fair Play Trophy. But one year I think St Peters, who were all about thirteen with thin reedy voices, ran as close for the Fair Play Trophy. But they lost it in the hectic final few game, only going on to win the two Welfare Scottish Cups instead. Willie was ecstatic. He didn’t like players that swore, or were violent, like those St Peter apostles.

Every year Willie held a dance. In my time it was in Dalmuir Bowling Club. Willie didn’t smoke, or drink much (if at all), but he liked bowling and could dance. He kept his shoes as shiny as I’m sure he kept his fitba boots encrusted in dubbing when playing for the Boy’s Brigade and later as a flying winger for the Co-op. When we went to training up in the wee gym hall in Clydebank High, rattling about like beans in a tin can, three against three or sometimes two against two, inevitably, there would be too many, or too few bodies and Willie would step in and play. There was a kinda tacit agreement nobody would tackle Willie, he was in his seventies. Inevitably wee Martin would, because although he was in his forties, he had the speed of a traffic cone and Willie was quicker than him. Willie handed out trophies from Tausney’s at the end of the year.

I should re-phrase that. Trophies, Willie pronounced as ‘Troffffeeeees’. As well as inventing walking fitba he had invented the Esperanto of Troffeee speak. Player of the year, went every year to Jim Anderson. When Jim retired at 65, it went to Jim’s son, David Anderson. David Anderson, was most probably, the Co-op’s best ever player. At thirteen, training with his dad, he was better than anyone else (with one exception, ahem).

Willie had a sense of humour and liked Laurel and Hardy. Because every year the main trofffeee went to Jim, and top scorer trofffeee went to Cider, Willie invented other trofffeee winners. One year I got an award for being the most promising player. I’d stopped being a promising player aged nine, after that it was all downhill. Most managers took a look at me and because I was taller than most other players, played me at Centre-Half. Willie quickly noticed I couldn’t heady a ball and had a tendency to run into people with the ball when I did have it. He already had enough players doing that in defence. Willie always played me in midfield where my tendency to run about and get in the road of the opposition was my only asset.

Like Jock Stein, Willie Miller, maximised my strengths. Willie always turned up early, with half cut oranges and juice. He prepared his half time speech in advance, telling us how unlucky we were and how with a bit of luck we could turn it around in the second half. I think there was a season we lost every game, although to be fair, we might have drawn one or even two.

Willie would make copious notes, standing at the side of the pitch. I’d love to read them. They would be a hoot. Willie didn’t swear. Not even besom. If I could look over his shoulder they’d read something like this: Cider McIver **I******, Jack O’Donnell ******** sake

That day I’d met him outside his house he’d vascular dementia.

I’d only one question for him, more of a statement, ‘Was I the best player to ever play for the Co-op.

Willie just laughed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qApsAPnoH7c

 

Doug Johnstone (2015) The Jump

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I came to read Doug Johntone’s  The Jump, sideways. I’d never heard of the guy, but read a review and thought, aye. And I’m glad I did. Doug Johnstone is the business.

If I need to talk about setting, then you’ve got it wrong. Ellie does the work for you. She knows every park bench and every pebble that has rolled down a hill around the Forth Road Bridge and South Queensferry. It’s imprinted on the page.

Ellie likes the pain of tattoos, a reminder, not that she needs one, of her son, Logan, who jumped off the bridge. No reason. He just jumped. His suicide took around 5.6 seconds.

Ben, Ellie’s husband, follows up every conspiracy theory that could account for Logan’s suicide. Something in the water. Something in the air. Someone spinning out of orbit and threatening not to come back again.

Ellie and Ben don’t really want to live. Time doesn’t bring healing, but reminders of what they’ve lost. Then Ellie gets a second chance. She coaxes Sam down from the struts of the bridge, stops him from committing suicide. He’s a boy, slightly older than Logan. She offers a change of clothing, Logan’s casual wear, and a new start.

Ellie finds redemption in Sam and a reason to live. Sam finds a saviour. Ellie promises him she’ll fix whatever has happened in his life, make it better. He asks awkward questions, like how? Ellie admits she doesn’t know.

Then Ellie finds out to save Sam she needs to save his wee sister, Libby. To save the family, she needs to save their mum and get rid of their father, who’s a cop. She needs Ben’s help. They need to do the right thing, while staying the wrong side of the law.

‘The trick was not to give anyone a reason to look.’

Quests ask questions of the reader. Whose side are you on? I’m with Ellie. She’s human in the way we’re meant to be. A fucking marvel that bleeds on the page. I’m with Doug Johnson. I’ll be reading more of his work.

 

Frank Woods (2019) Where the Bridge Lies.

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Where the Bridge Lies was Scottish novel of the week recently, which is quite an achievement for debut author Frank Woods. He can be proud of that. This novel should tick all the boxes for me. It’s set in Clydebank. And Clydebank is where I set most of my stories. It features a family that died in the Clydebank Blitz. I’d guess it’s loosely based on the Rocks’ family, who apart from the father, who agreed to work his son’s shift, died not far from a street in which I lived for years. It also has a second-strand story-line set in a castle used as a school. Yeh, that one that’s on the way to Drymen. I know somebody that worked in it and I wrote an unpublished novel, loosely based in another castle, Lennox Castle. I know exactly how Ervin Goffman’s total institutions are organised and most schools, especially residential schools, tick the boxes. And some of us remember Billy Connelly’s story of working in the shipyards and setting a rag alight in the troughs they used to shite in and sailing it like a model ship down wind and burning the worker’s arses. Hilarious. Not really.  In other words I’m like one of those street bores that ask you how you are and you can’t get a word in edgeways as they yitter on about themselves. I should be talking about Frank Wood’s novel and not my own well-documented addiction to scribbling words nobody bothers reading. And I don’t blame them. So what I’m trying to say is I never finished this novel. I got to page 58.

The protagonist Keir Connor, a photojournalist who suffers from post-traumatic-stress disorder after working in Vietnam, is taking a sabbatical in Clydebank and trying to trace his long-lost family is in alternate chapters with the night of the Clydebank Blitz and the aftermath. I even get a mention, Father O’Donnell.

You’ve got to love your characters. I didn’t. You might. Read on.

63 UP, ITV, directed by Michael Apted.

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https://www.itv.com/hub/7-63-up-uk/2a1866a0001

‘Give me a child and I will show you the man.’

That old Jesuit or ancient Greek aphorism is alive and well. I’m at 56 and UPward myself and one of my classmates, George Devine’s funeral, was on Wednesday. Arthritis creeps around my bones, but I’m still gloriously alive. When I went to school Mrs Boyle taught us that 9 x 7 = 63 (UP). My life has been in eight instalments, but I’ve followed the nine episodes of this soap opera and read into it things I already know. Class is alive and flourishing in Britain as it was in 1964; a half-hour documentary made by Granada, a World in Action, looked at the state of the nation through children’s eyes.

The villains of the series, as in life, have always been to me the upper classes. I’m like that old priest in Father Ted that when drink is mentioned his eyes glaze and he jumps out of his chair. With me it’s Tories. Fucking, Tory scum.

The first series (7UP) shows us three boys representative of that class, aged 7, Andrew, Charles and John.  They are shown singing Waltzing Matilda in Latin.  In their posh English accents they also boast about what newspapers they read. The Financial Times and Guardian. And tell the viewer exactly what prep school. public school and universities they will attend. And this all comes to pass with Biblical accuracy.  A world away from North Kensington, Grenfell Tower, the same rich South Kensington, London borough, where these boys hailed from.

The exception to the rule was Charles. We see him in 21 UP, long hair, hipster, telling the viewer how glad he didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge and attended Durham University instead. And he was glad of that because it gave him a different view of the world. Ho-hom. He does not appear in the subsequent programmes. Being educated at the right schools and having the right connections, of course, he went on to become something big in Channel 4,  something big in film and theatre and  threatened to sue his fellow documentary maker Michael Apted for using his image. This shows no class at all. Apted being one of those national treasures, like David Attenborough. Imagine, for example, a beluga whale suing Attenborough for impinging on his right’s images and all because of a bit of plastic.

Andrew went on to become a partner in his solicitor’s firm at 31, by that time he’d married outside his class to a good Yorkshire lass, plain Jane and they had two sons, Alexander and Timothy. His firm was taken over by a larger corporation and he regretted spending so much time at work, but in his modest way, admitted those were the choices he made. I quite liked Andrew.

I detested his and my namesake John. Of all the upper-class twats that little Tony wanted to punch, he would have been my prime candidate. I hated everything about him. The way he looked and sounded. His pronouncements that (Luton) car workers with their fabulous wages could afford to send their children to public schools. His life went exactly to the book, his pronouncements, aged 7 UP, realised. He became a Queen’s Council and gained his silk robe. He married the daughter of a former ambassador to Bulgaria and admitted his great grandfather, Todor Burmov, had fought against the Turks to gain independence and had been Prime Minister. No surprise, the gone, gone, gone girl, Teresa May, who attended the same Oxbridge institution, and helped create the hostile environment for immigrants didn’t exactly rush to deport him. John had the wrong accent, the right register of the Queen’s English, fabulous social connections and the pasty-white colour of skin favoured by immigrant officials. Two of his friends were Ministers in the Government.  Even Nigel Farage, the ex-Etonian, would have complained if John had suddenly been napped and put on a flight to Sofia, but then a strange thing happened. I didn’t mind John so much, and actually admired him.

He was one of the few that didn’t tell the viewer whether he had family or not. The reason he kept appearing in subsequent programmes was to promote a charity that helped disabled and disadvantage citizens in Bulgaria. He admitted modestly that he’d worked hard. While that usually would have me thinking nobody had worked harder than coal miners who’d powered the Industrial Revolution and paid in silicosis and black death, or Jimmy Savile who prided himself on being a Bevin boy and working (hard) down the pits and incredibly hard with his charity work and had other interests. John mentioned his mother had needed to work to send him to public school, in the same way that tens of millions of mothers have to work to put food on the table. John gained a scholarship to attend Oxford University, with the inference he was poor. I’m not sure if his mother was a Luton car worker, but I’m sure she didn’t work as a cleaner in a tower block in South Kensington. I didn’t exactly like John, but I understood him better, which is the beginning of knowledge.

I guess like many other viewers I identified with Tony, this tiny kid from the East End of London, his dad a card-shark crook and he looked to be going the same way. Larger than life Tony from 7 UP was a working-class cliché. He was never going to make anything of school. Left at 15 and he tells you early he yearned to be a jockey. He was helping out at the stables and got a job there. I know how he feels. I wanted to play for Celtic and trained with the boy’s club at 15. Trained with Davie Moyes, Charlie Nicholas on the next red gravel training pitch. Clutching my boots in a plastic bag I wasn’t even good enough to be molested by Frank Cairns, although he did give me a passing, playful, punch in the stomach. I guess he was aiming lower down and the lower league. Tony in a later UP series told us he’d ridden in a race against Lester Piggot. He wasn’t good enough, and is big enough to admit it.

Tony with his outdated attitude to women. The four Fs. Fuck them, forget them and I can’t remember the other two. Debbie sorted that out. She gave him three kids and now he’s got three grandkids. Tony admitted he’d had an affair. Tony, plucky London cabbie, having done The Knowledge, as did his wife and son. A spell in Spain trying to work out as a property broker. I guess, I should have guessed. Tony admitted he’d voted Tory all his days and now he wasn’t sure. More of a Farage man. Fuck off Tony.

Tony got a bit heated when he thought Apted had accused him of being a racist. ‘I’m a people’s man,’ he said. ‘You know me.’

Then he talks about the Arabs, in the same way you’d talk about poofs and Paki shops. The Arabs were the only ones that were helping him make money. It wasn’t Uber, that was ripping him off, but Labour that were taking everything and giving nothing back. Fuck off Tony, read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and find out what part of Mugsborough you’ve moved to. Yet, there were his daughter, something that had gone wrong. Sometimes we’ve got to realise that although we circle the wagons, as Tony claimed, only a community can save us.

The old lies are made new again.

Let’s look at the girls from the same social background as Tony. My kind of people. Straight as a die, Lynn, attended the same primary school as Jackie and Sue. Married for 40 years. Two daughter and two granddaughters, Riley, only two-and-a-half ounces at birth. God bless the NHS. Lynn whose first job was in a mobile library. Lynn, who loved kids and loved helping kids to read. Then she worked in Bethnal Green in the library. Under the Tories, of course, we don’t need libraries; we don’t need women like Lynn. Her job was redundant. She was redundant. RIP.

Jackie was always the mouthy one in the triumvirate of girls pictured together. She  told Apted he wasn’t asking her the right kind of questions and patronising them – which he was, a product of his own class. Jackie, first married of the group. First divorced. Said she didn’t want children, but had three boys and ended up  in a council estate in Scotland, but separated from the father of the two of them, but still in love and in touch with him. Jackie, who had rheumatoid arthritis and told the camera, and David Cameron, if he thought she was fit for work then he should show her what kind of job. Disabled, she was classified as not disabled enough and fit for work. Tory scum. Here it is in person. Public policy without humanity and based on a lie. No great surprise the suicide rate on those deprived of benefits has rocketed. I wonder what Farage, who has never worked and continues to draw a hefty stipend from rich fools and from the European Parliament he wants to destroy thinks about that. We know what he thinks. He thinks what rich people tell him. Jackie can speak for herself. Speak for us.

Sue can think for herself too. She got married to have children and had two kids, but divorced their father because she didn’t love him. Karaoke singer, she met Glen and they’ve been engaged for twenty years or more. She works as head administrator in the law faculty of Queen Mary, University of London. She’s thinking about retirement and does a bit of acting and singing. A working class life, made good. But she worries that the world we’re passing on to her children and our children isn’t as good. Doesn’t have the same level of opportunity and social mobility. She’s right to be worried.

Bruce, representative of the middle class,  who when he was 7 UP claimed to have a girlfriend in Africa that he probably wouldn’t see again and wanted to be a missionary, always had that look on his face as if he’d missed something. His father, perhaps, in Southern Rhodesia.  Bruce was beaten at public school. He freely admits it and agonised whether Christianity was an outdated doctrine and whether it was liveable. I wonder about that too. I see the façade and under the façade more façade. The devil seems to me more real than any god and Jesus whose only weapon was love. Yeh, I like Bruce. For a start, although he was public school and went to Oxford to study Maths, he was never a Tory. He taught maths to children in Sylhet, Bangladesh and in the East End of London (Tony’s old school, if I remember correctly). Late in life he married and had two sons.

Peter, who went to the same school in Liverpool as Neil, was also representative of a different strand of the middle class. Both boys claimed they wanted be astronauts, but Neil hedged his bets and claimed he would be as equally happy being a bus driver. Peter went to university, got a degree and took up teaching. The greatest moment of his life was, he claimed, the 1977 Tommy Smith goal for Liverpool in the European Cup Final in Rome. No mention of his marriage or his teaching career. He dropped out of the 7 UP series after being targeted by the Daily Hate Mail and other right-wing publications for criticising Thatcherism. He later re-appeared, in 56 UP, having remarried and hoping to promote his burgeoning musical career. He claimed to be happy working in the Civil Service. Good rate of pay, good pension. He must be ecstatic now that Mo Salah and Liverpool have given him another greatest moment of his life in Bilbao. Anyone that sees through Thatcherism has walked in my shoes and I love my team, Celtic in the same way he loves Liverpool.

Neil never became an astronaut or bus driver. He did go to study in Aberdeen University, but dropped out in the first year and at 21 UP was living in a squat in London and working as casual labour on building sites. Neil makes for good television. Contrast the bright, beautiful and confidant seven-year-old boy with what he’d become, a shifty-eyed loner, with obvious what we’d term now, mental health problems, or as he admitted depression or problems with his nerves, madness. At 28 UP he was living in a caravan in Scotland. Then he was living in Orkney.  Neil never fulfilled his boyhood potential. But I guess that’s true of us all. Then somehow, in that long curve on life he seemed to be making a comeback. 42 UP he’s living with Bruce and later becomes a Liberal Democrat councillor in Hackney. 56 UP he’s moved again to middle England as well as being a councillor is a lay preacher in the Eden district of Cumbria. Able to administer all the rites of the Church of England, apart from communion. 63 UP he’s living in northern France, a house in the countryside he’s bought with money inherited from his parent’s estate. Neil has become a squire. Like me he hoped to have written something people would want to read.

Nick, educated in a one room school house in the tiny village of Arncliffe, in the Yorkshire Dales, a farmer’s son, who went to Oxford and gained a doctorate in nuclear physics, is a story of meritocracy and upward mobility. He didn’t want to run the farm, he said, perhaps his brother that was deaf, could inherit the farm. Nick wanted to change the world. A fellow student at Oxford commented that he didn’t associate Neil’s Northern accent with intelligence.  He was right, of course, intelligence has nothing to do with accent, and upward mobility has nothing to do with meritocracy. Nick’s comments that Teresa May would never have become Prime Minister if she’s gone to an obscure polytechnic would have at one time seemed inflammatory. But Nick lives and teaches in Wisconsin-Madison. Before Trump, and the moron’s moron continual twittering, nothing has ever been the same again. Nick had a son with his first wife and later remarried Cryss. But in 63 UP he admits to having throat cancer. He’s intelligent enough to know what that mean.

In 56 UP, Nick admitted having long conversations with Suzy, who had appeared in eight of the nine episodes, but not in 63 UP. Suzy when asked about the series when she was a chain-smoking, twenty-one-year old, thought the series pointless and silly. By that time her father had died, she’d dropped out of school and been to Paris to learn secretarial skills. Her upper-class background true to form meant she was a pretty enough catch. She duly married Rupert, a solicitor and prospered as a housewife and mother of two girls and a boy. After 28 UP she glowed with good health.

Symon and Paul were the bottom of the heap in the first series of 7 UP in 1964. Symon was the only mixed race kid in the programme. His mother was white. He missed her when he was in the home. She just couldn’t cope with him, but later they became close.

Symon went to work in Wall’s freezer room. He had five kids and was married by 28 UP. He wanted to be film star. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. At 35 he was divorced and remarried. He remarried a childhood sweetheart. They met in the laundrette. She had a kid and they had a son. They fostered hundreds of kids over the years. If you take away the money Symon has been the biggest success story and has given the most.

Symon and Paul kept in touch and they reunited in 63 UP in Australia where Paul lived. He emigrated, following his father down under. Paul worked in the building trade. He was always one of the shy ones in the programme. He went walkabouts with his wife Susan, who thought him handsome and that he had a nice bum. They had a couple of kids and stacks of grandkids. Their daughter went to university. The first of their family to enter an institution of higher learning. Paul and his wife work together in a retirement home.

The 7 UP series tells us about ourselves. When it began the Cuban Missile Crisis had been played out the threat of nuclear annihilation had passed. Or so we thought. With global warming and tens of millions of migrants on the move, the threat of nuclear annihilation is more likely, but for a different reason, because countries divert rivers and tributaries and claim them as their own.

The jobs that each one did will be redundant. Self-driving cars mean taxing will be for the birds. Amazon are already delivering by drone. Any kind of administration is child’s play for artificial intelligence. The bastion of law and medicine is based on pattern recognition. We can expect the new Google to run our health service, or what’s left of it. Nick, the nuclear engineer, might not have much of a future. The future is green, totally green. Those Arab states that rely on the mono-crop of oil will become bankrupt almost overnight, like a Middle-Eastern Venezuela. Russia has long been bankrupt, but without oil it implodes. Let’s hope it doesn’t take the rest of us with it. Money flows from the poor to the rich at an increasing. rate, like an ever-growing, speeded up, Pacman creating new wealth and eating it up more quickly. We are left with dysfunctional politics, tyranny and chaos. The centre cannot hold. Our homes will be battery powered. Plants and trees are already solar powered. They shall become our new cathedrals. Scotland should be green by then.  That’s something a celticman appreciates.