To be working-class in this country, even now, is to be denied many things. At its worst this includes jobs, opportunities, prospects, a house of your own and self-respect: even at its best it includes entry into the worlds of art, literature and music, a really interesting, well-paid job and a halfway decent standard of living.
Working-class people tend to live in houses owned by others, whether a private landlord or a local council, with all the attendant lack of freedoms. They may have a holiday abroad every year but this will probably be in a resort staffed and organised for the package trade, where they will not travel in-country and they will not speak the native language. Generally they will have a regional accent, there will be more records in the house than books (and no hardbacks), they will drink beer rather than wine and own one suit for weddings and funerals.
Of our parents' four children (father a miner, mother a cleaner) I am still the only one to have gone through further education or to have a white-collar job, despite all our parents' ambitions for us. In fact, I am the only one in regular employment. To be working-class in Britain is essentially to learn - and very young - not to ache for what you will never possess.
Patricia Mansfield-DevineReuse content