Price hikes, strikes and Angel Delight
If we're returning to the eighties, can we bring back collectivism along with Kate Bush please?
This piece was originally written to run on Sunday, but was postponed due to events in the USA. Given how quickly events are moving right now, I thought I’d throw it in as a bonus long read today…
I’ve been thinking about my Grandpa a lot over the past week. My mum’s dad, specifically.
Grandpa was a miner who, after the collieries closed in the Lothians, went on to work in the local power station, a lifetime spent surrounded by dust, coal and, perhaps most pertinently right now, comrades.
I don’t know if that’s the word he would have used. Probably not, to be honest. It sounds a little militant and he was anything but, preferring to spend his time with my brother and I making ice cream floats, sneaking us out of bed to visit the ice cream van or (can you spot the theme?) treating us to sundaes as tall as ourselves. Generosity of spirit was his defining characteristic.
I remember his dirty yellow safety helmet and blackened boots lying at the front door some mornings after we’d stayed over, meaning he’d just come off night shift and we’d have to creep around at breakfast. As he slept, I’d sneak a nosy in the kitchen drawer where he always kept the Curly Wurlys, make sure the stock wasn’t running low. Some days, once the sugar highs had worn off, he’d take us to the local bowling or Labour Club, both of them regular haunts full of weel kent faces who’d lift me up to press the buttons on the fruit machine and always sent me away with a shiny penny tucked in my pocket.
It was in that context that my political education occurred, I guess, though it was never overt. I was always aware, somehow, of the sense of community built into the Labour Club’s bricks and had an inkling, too, that it was somehow at odds with the government of the time. I didn’t understand much, but I could recognise Thatcher’s face on the tele and link her, without comprehending why, to the ‘Fuck the Poll Tax’ graffiti that occasionally daubed the garages on my grandparents’ council estate.
Grandpa never spoke to me about party politics, never tried to lead me in any particular direction – and my ever-quiet Gran stayed well out. Even my own parents would drive me bananas every election day by refusing to tell me who they’d voted for, preferring to leave me to form my own opinions. But the one thing Grandpa made crystal clear about his politics was that he saw voting as a responsibility to your community – and if you were lucky enough to be able to provide for you and yours, you should always cast your vote for a better life for those worse off.
As I say, I’ve been thinking about my Grandpa a lot recently, as Britain has hit the rewind button at pace.