Poetic Licence

Our Part in the Class War BY MARTIN NEWELL ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL HEATH
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The Independent Culture
The hoary issue of class raised its head again this week with a well-publicised difference of opinion between John Prescott and his father over whether the Deputy Prime Minister is really working-class or middle-class

Yer grandad was a Green Line bus driver.

Left school at 14. Called Gran "the guv'nor"

and before he biked off to work at the garridge,

he used to take her a cup of tea up in bed.

Milk bottle on the tea-table, eggs and bacon for

breakfast, and gave the plate to the dog to lick.

Came home for his dinner at lunch time. Read

a good deal, and listened to the wireless a lot.

Rented a terraced house for nearly all of his life.

Kept a couple or three beers in the sideboard, with yer gran's Bristol Cream and his toffees.

Wore a weskit down the garden Saturdays,

kept a pencil behind his ear and mucked about

in the shed while yer gran peeled the spuds

squinting, a Kensitas hanging from her mouth.

Tin o' salmon, in case o' visitors. Toast'n' dripping

for supper, some Sunday nights. If you brought a

girl home, it was a "cooked tea". Swiss roll & Evap

for pud. Not "sweet". Not dessert. Pud. You didn't

come across garlic, granary bread, sea salt or

a pepper mill till you were almost 20.

The coal cupboard used to be in the kitchen.

An outside toilet. Not loo. Not lav. Never, khazi.

On Monday mornings Gran boiled the hankies

in a special saucepan and threw the lodger's

socks out the top window. He did the front garden

in his shirtsleeves on a Sunday - which had been

a bit controversial in its time. You were amazed

if you went round to a school friend's for tea and

they had a breakfast-room. Or a study. Or a

garden big as Hampshire. And not a long, flinty

strip with conker-tree staves for beansticks.

If company came round, the kettle went on and

the telly went off. Occasionally he spat on the fire,

and he always pickled his own onions. Weekends

and holidays he let you stay up late. Then he said: "Come on now Cocker. Clean yer railings,

then up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire." You never

heard him describe himself as working-class.

Wasn't the sort of thing he went on about.

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