"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Rose-tinted Specs

It's such a cliche: those 'blue-remembered hills', the good old 'when I were a lad you could get a farthing's change out of a thruppence' days, but there is a truth to be found in them and it's a truth that's being eradicated through education, history and general social degradation.

That sounds apocalyptic but really, it isn't.  Everything today seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to a political statement - they say this so we say that even though we agreed with it in Opposition and let's hope the electorate forget it because now it's our turn: Con out, Lab in, Con-Lib coalition out, Lab-Lib Coalition in.

Anyway, 'when I were a lass', it's true that I didn't know Beeston by name.  I only knew north-west Leeds and the rest of my knowledge was restricted to parts still inhabited by relatives who hadn't managed to make the move.  I'm talking about the back-to-back streets of Hunslet, of ginnels, middens, three toilets with enormous wooden seats in two blocks per street and factories that gave off a particular smell that I can still smell today when I close my eyes, just like the coal tar soap Grandma used to keep in a white tin blue-ringed soap-holder next to the scary gas geyser in the corner of her room.

What I knew in those good old, bad old days was people.  People saying hello, going about their business, taking buckets and slops down to the midden, children skipping in streets, playing at gangs, people who sat in front gardens waving hello and goodbye.  If we visited on a Saturday, I saw women cleaning doorsteps or reading tea-leaves as an entertainment for their neighbours.  If we visited on a Sunday it was usually in the afternoon after Church - and what a spread and celebration of family life it was then.  What I saw was a real example of, "We're all in it together."

What I never saw were moss-covered cobble stones, indolent door-steps, dirty windows or litter in the streets.  In fact, insofar as I can remember, litter hadn't even been invented.

The answer isn't to be found in our Coalition government and it won't be found in any other coalition government either - not for this country.  In 2006, Cameron said he favoured coalition governments as a way forward but you'll be lucky to find that on Google these days.

My grandmother and grandfather are well out of it. She, blind from the age of fourteen and he, who never spoke a word after returning from the horrors of the Somme in WW1. Thank God they don't have to endure what this country has become.  I don't want to be like them; I won't die being grateful for 'the release'.

Beeston today - click to enlarge:



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