cover size 210 x 148 mm (A5)CONTENTSEditorial Ben Ainley Editorial Rick Gwilt I'm a Loony Les Barker Five Years to Live Isabel Baker Foretaste Jone O'Broonlea (Marxist-Leninist) Jone O'Broonlea Hero Paul St Vincent Bird on the Wire Rick Gwilt Free Period Michael Balchin The Hour of the Gnats Jim Arnison Ode to Jane Fonda Allan C Brown To J Reid Jean Turner Fixing a Tot for Seaman Telford Bert Ward Lisa's Song A Davenport Railway Bridge Verse Fran Hazelton The Analytical Ant Marjorie Dearle Susan Jean Sutton Museum of the History of the Revolution Keith Armstrong Cuba, Crocodiles, Rain Keith Armstrong Street Theatre in Brookhouse (Blackburn) Juan Antonio Lopez First Thing Greg Wilkinson Random Thoughts on a One Man Show Sol Garson
VOICES EDITORIAL BOARD
Rick Gwilt ) Joint Editors
Sol Carson Graphics and Art
Frank Parker Treasurer
Greg Wilkinson (Common Word Writers' Workshop)
David Carson Design
Copies of all 14 issues of VOICES are available (some in very small supply) from Frank Parker at 40p per copy Post/Pack. The first 5 issues of VOICES were in a foolscap or A4 size page: from VOICES 6 (1st series) to VOICES 8 (new series) the issue has been uniform.
WHERE IS "VOICES" GOING?
(Following a discussion on policy at the last Editorial Board meeting in March, it was suggested that Ben Ainley and Rick Gwilt should set out in brief statements viewpoints which could spark off a discussion among readers. We welcome your comments.)
The aims of VOICES were set out in the Unity of Arts document printed in VOICES 1, published in 1972 (This document is reprinted on page 2 of the cover). Basically, we have necessarily in VOICES turned our attention to poetry and prose.
In the total of 14 issues to date, VOICES has grown to a publication of increasing range, with a national (though not very extensive) readership, and with a growing body of more and more proficient and sensitive writers.
Some think VOICES has lost its original purpose and would prefer a 'local' publication based on a group of writers sharing similar neighbourhood experiences. I think such groups are excellent, but VOICES has gone beyond this stage and an attempt to go back would be at once masochistic, and stupid.
Writers' Workshops are available: we wish "Commonword" well, but the writers who constitute the continuing core of VOICES are too geographically dispersed, too mature on the whole, too diverse, to as it were, go back to school to learn how it is done.
Rick's point about editorial comment to contributors about their work, why we reject it when we do, is important. For myself I have felt, rightly or wrongly, that not being God, I was not always equipped to offer a criticism. If it were merely "the calculated risk of offending the more sensitive of our contributors" that would itself be serious; but I defy anyone to pontificate about the work presented finally except with such subjective expressions as "this does nothing, or says nothing, to me".
In the next VOICES there is surely a need to start a fuller discussion on long-term policy, relating this to the aims of Manchester Unity of Arts Society, which originated from Resolution 42, passed by the TUC back in 1960 and from Arnold Wesker's unsuccessful venture, Centre 42 Wesker's book Fears of Fragmentation (Jonathan Cape) is important background reading here.
However, there is room for contributors to say what sort of role they think the Editorial Board should play. At the moment, contributions received are either published or shelved without comment. The latter can mean anything from "to be published next time" to "not considered to be VOICES material" (for whatever reason).
It has been argued that editorial criticism (especially from just one or two editors) tends to be both idiosyncratic and (to some people) intimidating. I myself would argue that some editorial comment, however subjective, is preferable to no comment at all, if only to give some idea of why we have not published something. And I would prefer to take a calculated risk of offending the more sensitive of our contributors, than to deny any constructive feedback to writers who can make good use of it.
If our aim is to help develop the talents of working-class writers, rather than just provide a publishing outlet, then I think editorial criticism and writers' workshops (such as Commonword) are not just optional extras but an essential part of our work.
IíM A LOONEY I've said I'm Napoleon and slept with Lord Snowdon Incredible stories I tell I've run nude on Kinder, thrown gran out the winder And then thrown out grandad as well. I often set fire to me pillow And sometimes I burn the whole bed Cos if I should leave the asylum I love I think I'd go out of my head. I'm a loony, I'm a loony, from Manchester way; I have lots of fun doing nothing all day 'Cos I'm not a wage slave on Monday As long as I'm loony on Sunday. The day was just ending as I was pretending To be Hitler and having a ball; But it says in the song that poor Goebbels had one And Hitler, he had none at all. But we don't have wars in the asylum We all die quite peaceful in bed And if I should leave the asylum I love I think I'd go out of my head. I'm a loony, I'm a loony, from Manchester way; I have lots of fun doing nothing all day 'Cos I'm not a wage slave on Monday As long as I'm loony on Sunday I once loved a whore who was six foot or more So I hit her on the head with a hammer She was still five foot ten but I loved her again Despite her brain damage and stammer. On the day that we should have been married I went to the asylum instead And if I should leave the asylum I love I think I'd go out of my head. I'm a loony, I'm a loony, from Manchester way; I have lots of fun doing nothing all day 'Cos I'm not a wage slave on Monday As long as I'm loony on Sunday. If folk outside's mostly just like Oswald Mosley I think I will stay where I am. I could do a lot worse than seduce our new nurse; The last one retired with a pram I've seen the white hair on your head, sir And the cares that have furrowed your brow. And sooner than leave the asylum I love I'll stay a lunatic now. I'm a loony, I'm a loony from Manchester way; I have lots of fun doing nothing all day 'Cos I'm not a wage slave on Monday As long as I'm loony on Sunday I'm a loony, I'm a loony, from Manchester way. Les Barker FIVE YEARS TO LIVE The choice to make; which things do, which not? The first line is clear, running straight from childhood, 1916, when a flaming Zeppelin fell, the men ablaze, And I, watching, could not join the clapping people in the street, But saw the men in hell. So, a world at peace therefore, the first priority. And, with it, freedom from fascism, greed and fear; So, a chance for all to live in socialism. And then, can I, may I Just fill those gaps in the past More full enjoyment of man's heritage. The earth, books, plays, music, history? There was No time for these in the thirties and forties: Trade Union, Party work-Phipps Bridge candidate, Night after night. And then Bill came. In the fifties and sixties Life was full; the thing primordial That he should grow a balanced person In a world of greed, filth, gross material madness; And see things straight and make the choice To live for the revolution and the liberation of mankind And so he has become; a stalwart in the fight; And so the end is clear and he will carry on. Isabel Baker FORETASTE Aw deeply luv'd mi fust wife, Neaw t' bitch con goo ter 'ell; Sin' 'er aw've luv'd mi second wife F'r as long an' moore as well; t' third aw luv'd mi tally wife, That moore nar aw con tell; Ther's nowt namoore aw want i' life: Luv wed an' not mun mell- 't' Rooad it'll be, yont trouble an' strife, I' t' classless warld we'll build us-sel'.) Jone O'Broonlea mell, mix/mingle (MARXIST -LENINIST) Marx said 'e wurn't no Marxist; 'ad t' like struck Lenin or not? Aw wonder 'eaw they'd mark this 'ere Marxist-Leninist lot? Jone O'Broonlea HERO There comes a time when a man in spite of pressure from those who know him, in spite of his own eroding base of confidence, must stand up and proclaim his dignity as a Private Enterprise. This time has come for Philpot; and his three friends drink to it: there's a touch of the military in his dress tonight hinting at readiness for battle. His friends take the course of least resistance and linger with him for another drink another bout of reminiscence. Scanning a life- long war for victories he can quote Philpot repels again the latest challenge. It came this morning in the post: other people get bombed, threatened, proposed to; but for Mr Philpot, it's two identical letters with their Social Security windows set to entrap him. He's an old soldier, of course, and smiles at the obviousness of the move: clearly, the Enemy's running out of ideas. Yes, there comes a time when a man must abandon self-interest; and taking risks to defend his honour, return the offensive public bribe. Certainly, one envelope is enough! - Paul St Vincent
BIRD ON THE WIRE
A wild, green mountain landscape is projected onto a screen. The singer, visible, sings the first half of "Song to a Seagull" [Joni Mitchell], simply and unaccompanied. Angie dances. As dance ends, the mountain scene switches to an industrial scene - half-light over an endless staircase (like a 3D Escher design) - where a grotesque figure, dwarfed beneath the heavy coils of his chains, stumbles uneventfully on, watched by the saxophonist/narrator, whose staccato notes of misuc punctuate his journey. (Misuc was Brecht's word for brain-stirring, Mack-the-knife edged sounds in place of the soothing, soft-cushion effect. They told him this just wasn't music, so he said OK let's call it misuc.) Light on the figure fades.
Light on a study-bedroom centre-stage. Angie sits down at the desk over some work. Narrator steps into the lighted area.
NARRATOR: Today we are going to take a look at a day in the life of Angela Bradley. It might be interesting first to look back to the day her father bought her her first pair of dancing shoes, and perhaps the day she ran away from home to try and become a dancer. We can see her down in London working as a go-go dancer, waving her boobs at the customers at two quid a drool. Or you may prefer to see her telling the manager just what he can do with his job. We can see her as the secretary, outwardly efficient, putting someone else's thoughts into English for him-and, finally, telling the boss where to stick that one as well. But I'm afraid we won't have time to see any of that. We must take Angle as we find her, poised between yesterday and tomorrow, studying English at the University of Redbrick, so called because from the inside it has the glazed look of a urinal. But do not be misled by the looks on the faces- this is where the memory of civilisation is stored. And if you ask me why she's here, I can only say that everybody's got to be somewhere.
ANGELA: Sometimes I wish I could turn my whole life into a dance. It's so easy to feel free when you're dancing. Some days, when I'm dreaming, I see this old man with a long, white beard-the Lord of the Dance I call him-he sort of appears from nowhere and says, thanks for the dance-it were grand. Then he grants me one wish and that's when I
say I wish my life was just one long dance. I'm sure I keep having this dream, and yet when it happens it always seems like the first time. And I always want to ask him about that, but my tongue just won't move- as if there are some things you can say and some things you can't, otherwise it'll break the dream ... Oh, shit
Angie breaks out of trance and turns to work set out on desk. Enter breezily Grace, a black student, apparently in the middle of eating a bowl of breakfast cereal.
GRACE: What's all this? Swearing first thing in the morning? You must be working on your English essay.
ANGELA: How did you guess?
GRACE: The title written on the top line and sheer boredom on all the others.
ANGELA: All right Gracie, so what makes you so cheerful? Were you doing something sinful last night?
GRACE: No, I wasn't. I was working on my Black Studies all day. And I was up at six this morning finishing it off. I even had time for a walk in the woods before breakfast.
ANGELA: Were you studying the blackbirds?
GRACE: Yes, that's right. The little beggars were playing hell with the worms. I like the cockbirds best-all black and shiny. The henbirds are so pale you can hardly see them-they're the same colour as leaf-mould.
ANGELA: I wish I was into my studies as much as you are. When I first came here I was really interested. Now all I can seem to think of are all the essays I've got to do. I'm even beginning to bore myself. I think that's why you're interesting-because you're interested.
GRACE: Well, it's important to me. It's a question of finding where your edges are.
ANGELA: What do you mean, your edges?
GRACE: Well, if you draw your edges like a line round the outside of your skin, and if your skin is a rather inconvenient colour, then you're going to start thinking. "Well, for the sake of a fraction of an inch, I might as well try and get rid of my skin and draw my edges just inside it". But if you start to draw your edges way out there beyond Moss Side and Jamaica and Africa, well, it opens up a whole new way of looking at things isn't it?
GRACE: What d'you mean, hmmm?
ANGELA: You sound just like my brother.
GRACE: Is that good or bad?
ANGELA: I'm not sure. I don't really know him well enough to say.
ANGELA: But I should know him better soon. He's coming up to see me today.
GRACE: I'm a little confused. Why don't you know him very well?
ANGELA: Well, he was only thirteen when I left home, and I'd been stopping out a lot before that-since my dad died really. When I went home this Christmas it was like meeting a stranger. We were very polite to each other. It was like we were trying to get on 'the right side of each other, but we weren't sure which side it was.
GRACE: So how am I like your brother?
ANGELA: He's sort of round-bottomed like you.
GRACE: Charming ! I didn't think you noticed African bottoms.
ANGELA: No, I mean like those little dolls with round bottoms that never fall over, no matter how much you rock them.
GRACE: So did you have a good Christmas with this round-bottomed brother of yours, then?
ANGELA: My main was a bit of a damper on things. It's like she can't quite grasp what I'm doing with my life-just keeps wondering when I'm going to get married. Mostly it just made me realise how long I'd been away. I did one good thing though-wrote this poem for my dad.
GRACE: But I thought your father was dead?
ANGELA: He is. It's what you'd call an elegy.
GRACE: I'd like to hear it later, but I've got to go and see my tutor now.
ANGELA: Hang on. I'll come over with you. I've got to see Maxwell about changing one of my subjects.
GRACE: Don't you think you should call him Mr Maxwell or Dr Maxwell or whatever?
ANGELA: Maxwell's his first name you dimbo!
Exeunt Angela and Grace.
While Angela's room becomes Maxwell's room, light switches to the figure in chains who again moves without doing anything unexpected. Half-light and music fade. Light on Maxwell's room, Maxwell at his desk. Enter Angela.
MAXWELL: Hello ! Do come in ! Ah yes, Angela, you wanted to switch from Linguistics to Classics, didn't you?
ANGELA: Yes, you see I've been reading Plato, and it really fits in better with
MAXWELL: Ah yes, well I'm sure we can go into details in a moment. But first let me say that I have given the matter very careful consideration, after consulting the other departments concerned of course, and I really don't think it would be to your advantage to make such a change.
ANGELA: But you haven't even listened to my reasons for
MAXWELL: Now I appreciate that you may have reasons which seem good to you for wanting to change, but I must remind you that it is now long past the proper time for doing so. And the departments concerned are far from happy about your attempting anything so ambitious, especially when you seem to be falling behind even with your work for English.
ANGELA: But you haven't even given me a chance to explain why
MAXWELL: So I'm afraid it really is out of the question. It's just not in your own interest ... What's the problem? Are you have difficulties in Linguistics?
ANGELA: No, everything is fine, just fine
The scene is frozen while the narrator addresses the audience.
NARRATOR: Socrates was returning from the festival at Piraeus when he was stopped by Polemarchus and several of his friends. Polemarchus said: "I perceive Socrates that you are already on your way to the city".
"You are not far wrong", said Socrates.
"But do you see how many we are?" asked Polemarchus.
"And are you stronger than all these? For if not, you will have to remain where you are".
"May there not be the alternative", said Socrates, "that I may persuade you to let me go ?"
"But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you ?" "Certainly not".
"Then we are not going to listen. Of that you may be assured".
Maxwell's room reverts to Angle's room.
Angie is back sitting at her desk. Enter Grace.
GRACE: Just coming back for my spoon.
ANGELA: Very appropriate.
GRACE: How did it go then?
GRACE: Maxwell. Did you get sorted out?
ANGELA: Yes, I suppose you could say that.
GRACE: I've been thinking. Is he good-looking?
ANGELA: Who, Maxwell?
GRACE: No, your brother, stupid.
ANGELA: I suppose he is if you like that sort of bloke. Some people think meat pie and chips is a slap-up meal.
GRACE: You mean he isn't romantic and dreamy? Well anyway, you'd better not bump into that fellah you've been seeing lately, or you'll have some explaining to do.
ANGELA: Listen, I don't have to explain myself to anybody. Only dogs have owners, so that's one problem I haven't got.
GRACE: Don't shout so loud. I might stop believing you. Anyway, I'm going to wash my spoon. See you. (Exit)
Half-light on the figure; misuc. The figure moves as before until, at a blast from a whistle, he stops, and hastily pulls off his fetters. From beneath his chains he takes a pack of cigarettes and lights one up. Half-light remains, although misuc has stopped. Light on mountain scene. Singer sings "Michael from Mountains". Angie dances. Music fades as Angle sits down on grass. The figure finishes his cigarette and, one by one, replaces his fetters, before continuing his journey. Angie is joined on the grass by Grace and Michael.
GRACE: I still can't believe it-the way we came through that opening in the trees and one minute we were on our own, the next minute there were kids shouting and skating and sledging everywhere.
ANGELA: Yes, just like a picture come to life. Michael still isn't letting on what made him want to come up here.
MICHAEL: Like you said, it's a picture come to life-the one on the calendar in the kitchen at home.
ANGELA: No, I don't mean up here. I don't need any excuse to come up here. I mean what brought you up to the university to see me.
MICHAEL: Said I would, didn't I?
ANGELA: All right then, what made you say you would?
MICHAEL: Seeing you at Christmas, I suppose.
ANGELA: Jesus, getting answers out of you is like playing pass the parcel.
GRACE: You were glad to see her at Christmas weren't you?
MICHAEL: Look, she's my sister, right ? And it just seemed wrong somehow, seeing her coming home and looking lost, walking round like she doesn't know the place, doesn't know anybody, talking mixed up or just not talking at all, spending all her time in the park or in her room writing (Silence)
ANGELA: I was writing a poem about Dad. Would you like to hear it?
MICHAEL: Aye, I'd like that.
ANGELA: It's called "The children who live in the park".*Across our street was an ancient park where you and I would go to waste our time. We would hide ourselves in dense wild corners and I watched leaves stir and drip and ripple far, far away above us No formulas in those days. Nothing to pull us but the park maze that seemed always beckoning, ever waiting to unfold its mystery. And you would sometimes try on our side to peer beneath shadows and summits, to unveil the park and find its heart. Leaves stirred and dipped and rippled far, far away above us inspiring you to fantasize the children who live in the park. Your voice a wistful singsong made up legendary children who drifted and drifted free. Then you began going alone to the other world, the soft green world and each return found you more discontent and strange Slowly your eyes dawned new wisdom as, slowly, you slipped away Speaking vaguely of moist tangled out-door cradles where a man could sleep, could sleep. And all there was between us was the distance in your eyes. I saw at last that I had lost you to the children who live in the park. Phantom children, more alive than me, who could teach you all the secrets of an ancient park. Times now; wasted complicated hours floating without sense or solidity, I go creeping to the park, hide in dense wild corners, and sit-all senses tuned in a futile search for you. In the rich cool undergrowth you sleep unseen, and in wet foliage forests you dreamed the children who live in the park. Far, far away above me leaves stir and dip and ripple with the laughter of the trees. And the wind gathers to sweep your image from my grasp, and earth-dust clouds the airey children as they pass. The whole park whispers clearly you are gone from me and gone to stay. Your body sleeps unseen, melting in a weed and flower tapestry- but your spirit spins on wings somewhere in the park's green jungle. Your spirit spins on wings somewhere in parks lost deep inside me with forgotten children I have been.
Silence. * Poem written by MERLIN STUBBLEFIELD MICHAEL: Did you know he was going deaf?
ANGELA: Deaf! What's that got to do with it?
MICHAEL: Look, I'll try to explain if you'll try to understand ... In dad's time, they weren't properly organised, they didn't have ear muffs like we've got now, and they didn't have regular hearing tests either. So most of the riveters were going deaf without even realising it. Dad got it one of the worst
-but he didn't seem to understand what was happening. At work it probably even made things better, because the noise wouldn't seem so loud. Only trouble was, it meant he didn't hear things that were really important. That's how the accident happened in a way-if he'd have heard them all shouting, he'd have had plenty of time to get out of the way. And the sort of thing that would happen at home was Mam'd accuse Dad of not listening, and he'd accuse her of mumbling, so in the end it was easier for him to go down to the park and talk to himself. Trouble is, even in the park there'd be things he couldn't hear-like leaves rustling, birds flying and rain falling, wind in the trees, that sort of thir~ ... So may be that helps to explain your poem.
ANGELA: I'm not sure I wanted it explaining.
MICHAEL: Look, I'm not trying to be clever. It's not something I noticed when I was a little lad in short pants. I only know because of the Union- because we found out what was happening to a lot of blokes.
ANGELA: Does Main know about what you just said?
MICHAEL: Half of her knows. The other half doesn't want to know. She finds mysteries easier to understand than things you can explain. She just shuts her mind off and says deafness was in the family.
ANGELA: That's true. Grandad was deaf.
MICHAEL: Aye, and what was his job?
ANGELA: Oh ! You mean
MICHAEL: Job was in the family as well, wasn't it?
GRACE: You know, that poem made me think of my father. He worked for the Fire Service for years, always working really hard to get promotion and always just missing it. He doesn't say too much, but I can see what it's been doing to him in a quiet way.
MICHAEL: So what are you going to do about it?
GRACE: Well, I aim to do something he'll be proud of, but the way I do it may not be the way he's always believed in. He's always had illusions that I don't have any more. Once you see through these things it's like you don't need them any longer. So you start by not being quiet and respectful when you don't feel quiet and respectful.
ANGELA: You never said all this before.
GRACE: You never asked.
ANGELA: I can't see you like that
MICHAEL: That's because she's invisible.
ANGELA: What do you mean?
MICHAEL: Dad was invisible to me till I started at the works and started learning things. People can look at the same things and see something completely different. Take you, what do you remember from when we were kids, apart from the walks in the park?
ANGELA: I remember the seagulls that used to fly in when the weather was stormy and eat the white powder that they marked the playing fields out with.
MICHAEL: I broke my leg playing on that pitch. Bloke did it on purpose because I'd been running rings round him all match. What else do you remember?
ANGELA: I remember the croft we used to play on. It always seemed so big, like you could wander all round it for years without ever discovering all of it.
MICHAEL: It only took twenty houses when they built on it.
ANGELA: Oh, and the railway line. I once wrote a poem about it ... "where steam-trains in the night bequeath their smoke-plumes to the morning". I used to watch the trains and imagine all the far-away places they were going to.
MICHAEL: I used to watch them shunting wagons into the works siding, and wish I was old enough to work there. Once I started work though, the novelty soon wore off. It's like what you said about the croft-you can't go on forever pretending the world is that small and that simple. Sooner or later you've either got to come to terms with it or just stick your private flag in a little corner of it and swear blind the rest doesn't exist. And the second one is what our dad did all his bloody life
ANGELA: You shouldn't talk about him like that.
MICHAEL: Look, he was a genuine chrome-plated hardcase. He was his own man, and he'd shout it at anyone who dared to question it. Voted Tory every time, was as anti-Union as they come, and even if they'd have had ear-muffs he'd probably have been too independent to wear them. But he was intelligent in a useless sort of way.
ANGELA: I can't see him like that.
MICHAEL: Do you know what a definition of loneliness is? It's a man who spends his life fighting to go through a different door to everyone else-and then when he finally gets through it he finds there's nothing there.
ANGELA: All right, so you're doing your bit for the Union. What do you want me to do, start crying or stand and applaud?
MICHAEL: No. They're both ways of doing nothing.
ANGELA: So what do you think I should be doing with my life?
MICHAEL: Stick at it. Get to be a writer or a dancer or both. Look, when we had the sit-in last summer we had a girl come down and talk to us and read us some poetry-one poem about the Shrewsbury pickets I remember
-a real good-looker she was, if we'd seen her on the streets we'd probably have just given her a whistle, but because she got on our level and yet had something to say she had us listening to every word.
ANGELA: So you don't think there's anything wrong with me being up here with all this space to move around and think and meet people.
MICHAEL: No, just make the most of it and keep out of trouble, that's what I'd say.
GRACE: Hadn't we better get back if you're going to that Jack London seminar?
MICHAEL: Jack London ? Can I come along?
ANGELA: What do you know about Jack London?
MICHAEL: You'd be surprised. The Education Organiser of our Party Branch is mad on him-had us reading loads of his stuff.
ANGELA: Well as long as you don't forget what you just said about keeping out of trouble it should be all right.
MICHAEL: Gracie'll come along and keep an eye on me, won't you Gracie?GRACE: If I come along it will be to keep an eye on Maxwell. (Exeunt) Light switches to the figure. Again a whistle blows and he removes his fetters. This time he brings out a lunch-bag from under his chains and takes out some sandwiches and a copy of the "Daily Express" and starts to read over his lunch. Misuc stop, light goes up again on mountain scene as singer sings second half of "Song to a Seagull" and Angle dances. The figure stops reading but continues to eat as he watches. As the idyll fades, he finishes his lunch, replaces his fetters and continues on his way. Scene switches to Maxwell's room.
ANGELA: You'd better not show me up or I'll wish I never told you about it.
MICHAEL: We won't, will we Gracie?
GRACE: No, we'll be as quiet as mice.
ANGELA: I hope to God he doesn't tread on your tails.
MAXWELL (enters): Hello ! Ah, it's very flattering to see some new faces in the seminar. I always welcome new ideas on the subject. Today we'll be looking at Jack London, a man who thought of himself as a revolutionary and yet most of whose books have nothing to do with politics, a writer who called himself a socialist and yet who made more money out of the capitalist system than any other writer of his day. London was a writer who meant many different things to different people; he was popular in Nazi Germany, for example, because his stories about the wildness of Man in the fact of nature were taken to support racial theories of natural selection. His claim to being working-class himself were highly dubious, and do in fact cast more general doubts on the use of the term "working-class" to denote an objective social category, as opposed to a creation of the writer's subjectivity with the writer's views imposed upon it. But first we must examine London's place in North American Literature, which is after all what this course is all about. We can clearly see what London inherited from such adventure writers as Herman Melville; we can also see the influence which his work had on later writers such as Hemingway and Steinbeck
Maxwell's voice gradually fades as, after the mention of "working-class" the half-light goes up again for the figure to continue its journey. As the misuc fades, Maxwell's voice is heard.
MAXWELL: The story that best illustrates the phenomenon I'm describing is probably "The Apostate", the story about the boy who runs away from his job. When Jack London wrote the story, he undoubtedly saw it as a denunciation of the capitalist system. However, as far as I know, it is also the first study of a psychological 'fugue', that sudden evasion of responsibility when pressures become too great. Fugues are not the consequence solely of poverty. Under emotional stress, men of any class or race are capable of such evasions.
MICHAEL: Hey, wait a minute, did you run away from your job when you were sixteen because you'd been doing it for eight years and you'd got sick of it?
MAXWELL: Look, I'm afraid the trouble with you people is you're so obsessed with who is saying things that you don't understand what it is they're saying.
MICHAEL: I understand what you're saying. I just don't agree with you, that's all. I think the trouble with Jack London was that he'd seen what you call "Man's wildness in the face of nature" and he'd seen Man's tameness in the face of the capitalist machine, and he could never quite square the two up.
MAXWELL: Look, these are just opinions you're throwing in. I'm talking about facts. And anyway, my job is to teach students who are supposed to be here and turn them into good academics, not get sidetracked from the topic with all this pseudo-Marxist rubbish. People like Angie are getting nowhere while I'm arguing with people like you.
MICHAEL: Sorry, Angle.
GRACE: Hey ! You don't have to be sorry. What makes him think we all want to end up like him. I certainly don't.MAXWELL: Look, this was precisely the thing about "The Apostate". It got people indignant and emotional, and so this image of factories full of gruesome accidents is given a significance it doesn't deserve and is even kept alive to the present day.
MICHAEL: Have you ever seen a bloke running away from his machine leaving a trail of blood and may be a couple of fingers behind him, and other blokes being sick from just looking.
MAXWELL: Now you're really being objective.
MICHAEL: There were one thousand four hundred deaths from industry last year-half of them from accidents and half from industrial diseases.
MAXWELL: Unfortunately, statistics are also in the habit of
ANGELA: Statistics ! That's all we are to you-bloody statistics ! Come on, let's get out of here.
MAXWELL (Running after them): Look, hang on, don't get the wrong idea, I'm a member of the Labour Party, you know ... Don't forget I'm marking your exams at the end of the year.
Switch to half-light on the figure, swelling to full light as Angie enters and the misuc stops. The figure stops too and looks at Angle.
ANGELA: Hello. It is you, isn't it ? You always seemed larger than life- that's why I'm not sure. But it's like now you've come down to size I can try to understand things I never even knew I couldn't understand before. I wonder what you'd think-Michael organising a sit-in at the works, and me dancing for them, down the gangways and up on the catwalks. You'd probably turn over in your grave. But may be that's what it takes for me to be truly your daughter. May be I've got to walk all over everything you stood for. Like dancing on your grave. I think that's what people have got to do, before they can find their edges.
"Right, then, lB-pardon ?-you're 4C-it's these bi-focals-I can see that you girls are a bit more, um, older-anyway, Miss Jones is sick-that's nothing to giggle about-morning sickness ?-oh, I see, well, Mrs Jones isn't here; so I'm trying to remember the little French I ever knew; can't recall which verbs go with avoir and which with etre-not a French lesson ?-very well, current affairs-can anybody think of something interesting in this morning's news ?-a statement from the Vatican but you can't remember what the Pope said-yea, Monica, he does believe the story about the Virgin Mary-your mother wouldn't believe your big sister when she-no, I'm not surprised; Mr Whatsisname, you know, the one who wears his collar back to front-that's right, Mr Collins; he's always complaining about the lack of faith in this country nowadays-any other interesting stories ?-stone age tribe just discovered in New Guinea or South America or somewhere-yes, I expect it was one of the three- raises a problem, doesn't it? -do you leave them alone or drag them kicking and screaming into the 20th century ?-they do indeed have some quaint customs, Pauline, but when you find them running about starkers with great lumps of wood in their mouths, believing in voodoo or Mrs Thatcher, wouldn't it be kinder to bring them up to date ?-one of the royal family's having a birthday, but you don't remember which one-one of your relations went to a garden party at Buckingham Palace-your father's brother's wife's cousin once removed-small world isn't it ?-anybody see the film about China on the telly last night ?- yes, they are very different-you think they're more equal?-anybody want to argue about that ?-the social contract means fair shares for all, does it ?-can I explain the social contract ?-I'm not God, you know, or Jack Jones-better men than I have failed-tot homines, tot sententiae -well, roughly, you pays your penny and you takes your choice-it seems to me to mean that if you've got £50 a week you can't have more than another £2.50, and if you've got £500 a week you couldn't care less either way-that sounds like the fire alarm-let's go quietly down the stairs-QUIETLY, I said."
THE HOUR OF THE GNATS
Harry filled the kettle and plugged it into the socket next to the stove. He walked out of the kitchen, through the living room and poked his head into the bedroom.
"Are you right ?" he shouted: "Kettle's on. It's quarter past." He walked along the short corridor, picked up the newspaper, opened the door and went out on to the balcony.
The towering blocks stood silent in the morning haze. Down below, a figure emerged from the entrance of one of the blocks. A railway man, with a small bag hung over his shoulder. Harry watched him disappear round the corner. A milk float rattled its way through the courtyards. Other signs of life began to filter through the morning air.
From one of the flats, the sound of a baby crying. Then, the noise of an engine spluttering to life, the sounding off of an alarm clock. He glanced at the headline of the newspaper and went back inside.
Elsie was up and dressed and was combing her hair in front of the mirror in the living room: "Kettle's boiled-I've brewed" she said. He went into the kitchen and poured out the tea. "Want anything ?" he asked. "No -just a drink. I'll get something at work" she replied.
She joined him at the table as he sat drinking his tea and reading the paper.
"Couple here got six months for battering their baby half to death - Animals." He glanced up at the clock: "Christ - I'm off', he said and got up from the table, went through into the hall took his coat from its hanging place and said: "I'm not working tonight - See you about six."
The car was waiting for him on the corner. He squeezed in on the back seat as they rebuked him for making them wait.
"What were you-on the nest again? Can't leave it alone eh? He wouldn't swap them last three pushes for't treble chance, I'll bet".
They clocked on with minutes to spare. Harry shed his jacket and took out his boiler suit from the locker next to his machine. It was just ten o'clock that the incident occurred. He had reset the machine and was checking the result when he became conscious that somebody was standing behind him. He looked round over his shoulder. There was the foreman, one of the office staff and a man Harry had never seen before. They were standing there silently watching him.
Harry grinned at them and gave a little nod. The foreman was frantically trying to signal with his eyes. Harry wanted to walk round to the other side of the machine to remove some swarf from the bed. He took a half step but the stranger who was standing in the way, did not move. Harry stared at him for a moment and then switched off the machine, pulled out his stool from underneath the bench, sat down and began to read his newspaper.
"Is it finished now ?" asked the stranger.
"Finished ?" Harry shook his head: "No- it's not finished yet".
"Then why have you stopped working ?" asked the man.
"Two reasons", said Harry: "I get paid for producing - not for entertaining and in the second place - you're in the fucking way, aren't you ?" The man went rigid. He looked at the foreman who seemed as if he was about to faint.
"We'll see about this" said the man and stalked off, followed by the other two.The man from the next machine to Harry's came over and said:
"What yer playing at Harry ? Don't you know who that is ?" Harry shook his head.
"I don't care who he is-the twat-standing there like a bleedin' dummy. Who is he anyway ?"
"It's the new manager. He started today".
"Christ" said Harry: "Nobody told me. Anyway-balls to him. He ought to know better."
Ten minutes later, the foreman returned.
"Sorry Harry" he said. "You ought to have known better than that. You're pieced up - now. He wants you off the premises. Christ, he went bleedin' stir back there"
"Pieced up ! Give over- he can't do that. How was I to know who he was. I've never seen him before". "It's done" said the foreman: "I tried to argue him out of it but he won't have any. He's going on there about asserting his authority-You'd better go and see the Steward-see if he can do anything".
The Steward was in his tiny office at the end of the aisle. Harry told him what had happened. He laughed and said:
"You're a silly sod aren't you- leave it with me. I'll sort it out". Harry went back to his machine and waited. Half-an-hour later the Steward returned. There was an uncertainty about his smile as he said: "Listen Harry-if you'll go up there and apologise he'll let it go at three days".
"Suspension ?" said Harry incredulously. The Steward nodded. "Tell him to piss off. Jesus Christ - apologise and three days. What bloody game on?" The Steward looked at him for a long moment:
"It's not easy Harry. He means to show he's the boss. Give us time and we'll bring him in line, but for now, I don't know. That's what he wants".
"And what do you want ?" asked Harry. They stood there looking into each other's eyes. "If I was in your place, I'd stop the bleedin' job right now," said Harry.
"Is that what you want ?"
"It's not what I want. It's what should happen. Never mind bringing him in line later on-he's got to be shown now." One of the office clerks came up. He was holding an envelope.
"The Manager wants to know if you are coming in now with your apology - he says five minutes - otherwise he wants you to leave the factory".
"What's that you've got there" asked Harry.
"It's your money-and cards". Harry looked at the Steward:
"He's a right charmer this bastard eh ?" Turning to the clerk he said: "Tell him to come down here and apologise to me - otherwise he can get stuffed". The clerk hurried off.
"Well that's it then", said the Steward.
"Yes, that's it. What now ?" The Steward looked at his watch.
"I'll have to put it to the section at dinner time".
"The section ? What about the rest of the factory ?" asked Harry. "Come on now-it's all or nowt on this one".
The Steward sighed deeply.
"Harry for Christ's sake. Let me put it to our section. We get them out-then we can put it to the committee, and the rest". Harry pointed a warning finger at him.
"Don't you sell me short mate. I'm leaving it to you". He stripped off his boiler suit, hung it up inside the locker, put on his jacket and walked away. "I'll be in the rest room" he said.
The Manager sat behind his desk, telephone in hand, explaining the situation to the Company Chairman:
"Yes Sir-That's right Sir - He was insolent and aggressive - I really had no alternative-on my first day - I - Yes I did offer a compromise Sir - An apology and three days' suspension - No - Well, they are meeting now, in the canteen-Just the one section, yes - I think it may just be that, Sir - Yes - Well thank you. I'll keep you informed - Three days? It may even be less - Yes Sir - Thank you very much".
The Chairman replaced the receiver and went back to the bar to join his friends.
"It's our new man over there. His first day and he's got a bloody strike on his hands. You know the feller-old Smithy's boy. He's trying to show how firm he can be. Still-it might turn out quite useful. We have the merger coming up in three months' time. This little test of strength could be a pointer to how they will react when we start stripping down".
Harry's driver friend poked his head round the door of the Rest Room:
"We're out" he said. "It's not good though. You should have heard some of the bastards ! The Steward's gone to see the Committee for support, but he's not got much. It was a split vote".
They walked over to the car park. The other two passengers were waiting for them. They talked over the matter on the way home.
"There goes my overtime-and the weekend. You should have stayed in bed. Telling the gaffer to fuck off"
"That's not what happened" said Harry and he explained the incident. "Where did you get that from ? About me saying that to him ?"
"It was big Alf told us, at the meeting. He was all against coming out- said you should have apologised like you was asked and went on about the holidays coming up and his bleedin' mortgage and what a bad time it was for a strike."
"I'll drop that bastard one of these days" said Harry: "What did the Steward say ?"
"Oh Christ man - he's right under the arm that one. I don't know what case he'll put to the other Stewards but if it's as weak as the one he put to us - you've no chance. If we hadn't have had a go in there our lot would never have come out. Half of 'em are squealing already".
The Steward sat in the Union office explaining the incident and the result. The official leaned forward on the desk, chin in hand:
"Christ- that's all we need. You know we've always had a good set up with the management there. What do the other stewards say ?"
"They said they would call a meeting for tomorrow - if you agreed". The official sat there silently as he thought about the problem.
"Don't have a meeting tomorrow" he said: "Tell them I'll make an approach to the management first -to see how the land lies".
"What about our section ?" asked the Steward:
"They'll have to stay out" said the official: "You say it was a split vote ?"
"Yes. I don't think they'll stay out long on their own."
"Well that's all right. Don't worry about that".
"What do you mean ?" asked the Steward.
"Oh, use your loaf man. You know what's at stake here. This is no time for us to be getting involved in a big dispute".
"Big dispute ?" said the Steward.
"Well-any bloody dispute just now. You'll have the moaners on about losing money. The press will be squealing about militants. It's best if we can get over this without any blood being spilled. It could affect things here".
"Affect things? You mean your election ?":
"Not only mine". He stared at the Steward for a long moment. "Oh come on-you know the score. If I move up, you'll be up for this job. The thing is to keep things quiet. You have to win the votes of the members who never want to get involved. You'll not do that by marching in front of strikers and getting all that kind of publicity. It's softly-softly man, and keep your head down".
The telephone buzzed. He picked it up listened for a moment and said "OK. Put him through". He raised his eyes to the ceiling as if appealing to someone: "Yes-Oh yes I do know about it, but not all the details- No I can't tell you that yet - What?- I've no idea what he said-Well I'd check that first before you do anything on it".
He rang off and asked the Steward:
"Did he tell the manager to fuck off ?"
"Not that I know of' said the Steward: "Who was that ?"
"It's the Press - see what I told you? Now you tell the others to hold off. I'll see if I can get to the management tomorrow. I want this one out of the way".
When Elsie got home from work, she found Harry in the kitchen preparing the table for tea.
"You're early" she said. Harry grunted and said:
"Get yourself sorted out. I've done the tea". She took off her coat and went into the bathroom to wash her hands. When she returned, Harry had started his meal. She sat down opposite him.
"You've not told me why you're home early".:
"Never mind that" he said: "Get on with your tea".
The story came out later as they sat watching the regional news on television. There was a brief mention about the strike, and Harry's name was mentioned.
"Is that you ?" she asked.
"Of course it's me. Who do you think ?"
"Well you might have told me" she complained.
"I was going to" he said.
"You swore at the manager-and used a four letter word !"
"Jesus Christ" he shouted: "Listen to this lot. I'm right in it now aren't I ?"
"In it ?" she replied: "You mean we're in it. You got sacked! What are we going to do ? You know we can't afford to go without your wages. What about the saving up for the house, and what about the holiday ?"
"Are you going to listen to me ?" he asked her. "What about my side of the story ?" He explained what had happened, but when he had finished, she said:
"And all you had to do was apologise ?"
"And get grassed for three days" he said.
"Three days? You daft bugger, you're sacked now We could have stood the three days".
He stood up, pointed a finger at her and said:
"Now that's enough. You know me better than that. I don't take shit like that off managers or anybody. You think I'm going to go arse-holing round a bleedin' idiot who hasn't got the sense to let people know who he is when he goes creeping round the bloody factory ?" He sat down again. She was silent: "You're sulking now aren't you ?" She made no reply. After a while he could stand it no longer. He got up from his armchair. "Sod this. I'm going t'branch".
He caught the bus into town. Sitting in front of him, two women were having a fundamental discussion:
"It's true-some of 'em do think they run this country. They've got too much power, that's what wrong with them".
"Yes-well anyway, my Tom says he's not coming out, and none of them in his department are either. He says he asked for it and he should've bin sacked for what he did".
"Mmm. That's right. I heard 'e's bin in trouble before. I bet 'e's one of them Communists".
"Oh I wouldn't be surprised. They're always causing trouble. They should get rid of 'em all".
They got off at the same stop as Harry. He got off first and helped them both off. They thanked him, giggling as they did so.
"I bet you're up to no good tonight" he said.
"Oh give over. We're only going to Bingo" said one. They stopped at the crossing opposite the Bingo Hall.
"Good luck with the Jackpot" he said and walked on. They crossed over still giggling.
He went into the pub, through the Lounge and up the stairs to the Branch room. The Branch Secretary looked up as Harry walked in:
"Hello there. What have you been up to ?" Harry sat down on a chair at the side of the room.
"You've heard then ?"
"Oh yes. We've had a couple of your fellers in tonight. That's a right queer place you work at".
"Do you want me to fill you in on it ?" asked Harry. The Secretary looked at his watch:
"It's a bit quiet tonight. I'll be through here soon. Go and have a pint downstairs. I won't be long".
Harry went back down and into the bar. Four men were playing cards at a table in the corner. One of them was Big Alf, one of the reluctant strikers. Harry got a pint and walked over to stand behind him. Unaware of Harry's presence, Big Alf was making his views known:
"Bleedin' clown. Got us all out now with his big mouth" He did not see the signals of the other players trying to warn him of Harry's presence. He was studying his hand. They were playing nine card Don.
Harry made a signal to the others not to give him away. He watched the hand being played. Alf's partner had pitched Clubs and had just led again with a Spade. Alf claimed the lead and led back with a Heart. He lost the lead and a Jack of Clubs forced Alf's partner to play the Don.
"Who's the bleedin' clown now" said Harry. Big Alf looked round alarmed at the presence. Harry nodded to Alf's partner: "Don't worry cock - He doesn't know how to back a partner up at anything. He only studies his own hand, and he's no bloody good at that". He walked away from the table and toward the door leading to the Lounge. At the door he turned and said: "He had two Spades there mate". He tutted, shook his head and went through into the Lounge.
As he sat there waiting for the Branch Secretary to join him, a young man came over.
"Excuse me" he said. "Are you the man involved in the dispute today ?"
"Who are you ?" asked Harry. The man gave his name and said:
"I'm with the Chronicle". Harry winced.
"No comment". The man looked at him appealingly.
"Aw come on" he said. "This is my first real assignment. Let me get you a drink. I only want to know what happened from your point of view".
"I've got a drink", said Harry "and even if I tell you my story it'll never get printed in that bloody rag".
"Look-please. Let me get you a drink" said the young man. "What is that ? Bitter ?" He went to the Bar and came back with another pint, placing it on the table in front of Harry. He placed his own half of lager beside it and sat down next to him.
"What do you want to know ?" asked Harry.
"Well we've got something from the firm and I've been on to your District Secretary, although he didn't seem to know much about it when I phoned". He had his pad and pen ready. "Tell me-is it true that you threatened the new Manager ?"
"Well tell me in your own words what happened".
"What did they say happened ?" asked Harry.
"Did you tell him to fuck off ?" Harry stared at him.
"Where did you get that from ?"
"It's what's going around. Did you ?"
"How long have you been a reporter ?"
"I told you. I've only just started. I want to do a good job on this. It's important to me."
"Oh you'll do a good job all right. You already know how to put the accused on the spot. Just like them bastards on the telly. Did I tell the Manager to fuck off ?"
"I'm sorry" said the young man: "Just tell me what happened". :
"You asked me a question"., said Harry. "I'll answer it. That is not an expression lever use". The young man looked hurt. "I'm telling you" said Harry: "Write it down. That is not an expression I ever use". The young man wrote something in his pad. He asked how old Harry was. Was he married ? Any children ? Then he asked:
"Would you describe yourself as a militant ?"
"What's a militant ?" said Harry. He grinned as he said it.
"You're not a Communist are you ?"
"Course I am. I've been trained in Moscow where all the words end in 'off. That's why you're here asking silly questions".
The young man snapped his pad shut, stood up and said:
"You are not being very helpful are you ?" Harry looked up at him.
"No" he said: "Do you want your drink back? I've not touched it". The young man stalked off. As he reached the door, Harry shouted: "Be careful what you put in. I've got a good solicitor".
The Branch Secretary came down from the meeting room and joined him at the table.
"You'd better tell me what happened" he said. Harry gave him a full account of all that had taken place. "They're a bad lot in there" said the Secretary:
"I'm a loser on this aren't I ?" said Harry.
"I wouldn't say that entirely" said the Secretary. "This is how I see it. If you worked at our place we would have sorted it out before anyone clocked off tonight, but that's our place. Your Steward's already sold the pass on this one. It's a straight enough issue. The trouble is, your lot are not noted for having a go. They're docile. Your Steward is like that with this creep of a District Secretary we've got" he said, crossing the first and second fingers of his right hand: "When this feller moves on to the Divisional job, the Steward will be in for the vacancy. They are both playing the 'keep it cool' game. There's a lot of votes in your place and if they have to drive the bastards out on strike over this, well-they know what the score is."
"So I'm out then ?" said Harry. "Finished".:
"Oh they'll cook something up. They might twist your arm for a crawl back or - we'll have to wait and see".
"There's supposed to be a big meeting tomorrow" said Harry.
"No" said the Secretary. "That's off. The District Secretary is trying to see the management. Private talks and all that con. Your only chance is with the District Committee next week. We can kick his arse over it there if he hasn't settled it by then. The only trouble there is, it's a bit late for the DC to force the action. Unless they move at the factory this week, it looks dicey. We'll move victimisation and try to open it up for the EC man to step in with some national muscle". Harry finished his drink.
"I'll get off now" he said: "Thanks anyway. See you".
"Be at the DC next Tuesday" said the Secretary. "I'll move to get you in to report what happened just in case they distort it".
The two Bingo players were in the bus queue. Harry boarded the bus and took the seat behind them. He leaned forward and said:
"How did it go ?" They looked round, laughed and one said:
"No good. I waited ages for one number"
"Ah well" he said: "That's how it goes. You can't win 'em all".
The Manager was standing at the Bar of the Golf Club holding a whisky and lemonade. He was telling a group of his fellow-members about the incident:
"The funny thing was, everybody got excited and stirred up about it except me. I made a decision-that's all there is to it. That's been the trouble there before - too bloody slack - Mind you, I'm not a believer in the new broom and all that. I planned to get the feel of the place first, but - well there's this insolent bugger having a go right from the start. I wasn't having that". He glanced over again to where the bronzed, blonde woman was sitting with her two friends. She stared back coolly, giving the merest nod of acquiescence. He felt a surge of exhilaration - "Er-Beg pardon" he turned back to his company.
"I was asking about the boss. What was his attitude ?"
"Oh, complete confidence-no question". He raised his voice, hoping that his possible conquest could hear: "Of course when I took the job I made it clear I would do it my way-with guidance of course but no interference". He ordered another round. The bronze blonde came over to the bar. "I'll pay for those" he said. She smiled, thanked him and carried her order back to the table. One of his friends whispered in his ear:
"I'd watch that one-she'll take you for a ride".
"Oh don't worry about me. I might take her for a ride". He winked broadly. He was getting drunk fast now. "I must pay a call" he said and swayed off toward the Gents. Inside, he suddenly felt sick. He looked at himself in the mirror. His eyes were watery and bloodshot. Coming out of the toilet, he stumbled, tried to recover his balance and fell backwards. He sat down on the floor with a bump then scrambled to his feet grinning foolishly. One of his friends came over, took him by the arm and said:
"Alright, old chap ? I think we'd better get you home". He felt dizzy and, pushing the man away, he bolted back into the toilet to be sick. He came back white-faced and apologetic. They had phoned for a taxi which arrived shortly afterwards. He lay slumped on the back seat throughout the journey. The driver kept glancing through his mirror to see how he was surviving. When they reached their destination, the driver helped him out and took him to the garden gate, got the fare from him and left him shambling up the garden path. The driver checked in over the taxi radio.
"Everything alright ?" came the message back: "OK. No trouble. Just some toffee-nosed drunken get. I've seen him home alright" he reported.
Harry waited on the corner for the car to arrive. When it did, there was only the driver in it. The other two had decided not to go to the factory.
"They've heard the big meeting's been called off' he told Harry. "There's only our lot. The Steward wants to put us in the picture".:
"Why aren't they coming then ?" asked Harry. The driver did not reply at once.
"It doesn't take much working out" he said eventually. "They think it'll be a return to work and a sell-out.
"What do you think" asked Harry.
"I think so too, but not today. The District Secretary will cook something up and they'll do it tomorrow".
"What do you think it will be ;"
"It could be a works conference and 'Failure to Agree", said the driver. "That means a new file being opened with your name on it and put in a drawer in the District office".
"That means I'm sacked" said Harry.
"That's about it mate. Course-there's other things they could do. You never know what these bastards get up to".
There was only a handful of the strikers there. They gathered in the canteen. The Steward explained that the District Secretary was arranging 'talks' with the management and they were to meet again on the following day.Harry asked what the chances were of the management agreeing to reinstatement:
"He'll do his best for you-you know that" said the Steward. Harry and his friend left the canteen and went back to the car.
"You can drop me off at our old feller's house" said Harry. "I'll go and see how he is and tell him about this lot".
"What do you think now ?" he asked as they drove off.
"It's as I told you said the driver. "He'll do his best for you eh? Neither of 'em want to do anything. They'll have us back in work after tomorrow, and then a nice easy run in to the elections. They know there's a big vote in there for them." The Steward stayed behind talking to the others.
"What do you think ?" asked one.
"Well we can't get the others out. We know that. Harry can't complain. We've done our bit. He'll be alright".
"Oh aye, but what about us? We're losing money over it - just because he opened his mouth. He should have done what you said and took the three days".
"Don't worry" said the Steward: "I think we'll be back before the week's out".
Harry's father was in the living room reading. He looked up as Harry walked in:
"Well you've got yourself in a right bloody mess haven't you ?" he said. "You'd better tell me about it". Harry told him the story and what had transpired since the incident.
"So-they're going to sell you out eh ?" said the old man. "That's typical. I don't know what the movement's coming to. It would never have happened in my day. It's about time you got rid of that bloody Steward and that District Secretary. Pair o' shithouses".
Harry told him about the feeling in the factory:
"They're not going to move on it" he said.
"No they won't" said the old man: "And they've got the kind of leadership to match. We lost a few battles in my day, but not like this. We had people who were scared of the bosses, but when they had to fight, they did it. Now they're frightened about their mortgages and their bloody cars-tax and insurance. They'll carve you up."
"What's your guess on how it will finish up ?" asked Harry.
"You ought to know that" said the old man. "They've got all kinds of tricks to pull nowadays. You watch that official of yours. He'll be pulling something off when he meets them".
The District official and the Company Chairman sat in the hotel lounge sipping their whiskies.
"It's a lot of nonsense really don't you think ?" said the Chairman. "I mean-your man could have got himself out of this quite easily. All this trouble over a simple matter".
"Yes" said the Official. "But at the same time, your new man was a bit daft too. You know how these things blow up out of all proportion. I've got the Press on about it as if some great industrial storm is about to break out. I don't want this kind of thing on my plate".
"I hear you are having difficulty getting support from the rest of the workforce" said the Chairman. "In view of the good record we have between us, I should hate to see you being called in before the Department in some kind of context over a trivial thing like this. What is the position? Are the others coming out ?"
"We haven't put it to them yet" said the official. "I thought we might get it settled before that stage". The Chairman thought about it for a moment, then said:
"Look-I'll be honest with you. I know the new man could have acted with a bit more savvy-but you know-I'm very much in the same position that you are. I don't want to undermine him. He's new and he is looking for support-just as we all have to at times. I think we will have to come to a compromise."
There was a long pause. Then:
"What do you suggest ?" asked the Official.
"Well-we've got the Acts. I'm sure we can get something which satisfies all concerned".
"It would have to be Unfair Dismissal" said the Official. The Chairman nodded his agreement.
"You put your case-we will fight it of course-but-"
The Official got up to leave.
"Alright" he said. "We'll do it that way". The Chairman walked with him to the door:
"Of course" he said quietly, "It can't be reinstatement. I mean - it will have to satisfy our man too
"Cash ?" said the Official.
"Yes-Cash. That is if you win it of course."
The Official drove back to his office. The Steward was waiting for him. He reported on the talks he had held with the few strikers who had turned up that day and the arrangements for the next day's meeting.
"How did you get on ?" he asked.
"They won't budge" said the Official: "I've told them we'll challenge it through the DEP ".
"What will you go for- reinstatement ?" asked the Steward.
"We'll go for everything we can. We're bound to get something"
"What about the lads who are out ?" The Official gave him a long searching look.
"We'll have to get them back. Do you know if he got his cards and money sent on ?"
"No" said the Steward. "He refused to accept them on the day".
"You'd better check on it" said the Official.
"Who with ?"
"Phone the office now". The Steward looked doubtful.
"Suppose they've not sent them ? You're not suggesting I tell them to are you ?"
"Phone 'em for Christ's sake" said the Official. "Find out"
The Steward picked up the telephone, dialled, made the enquiry and waited for the answer.
"Thank you" he said and replaced the receiver. "Yes-they sent them off today" he said.
"That's that then" said the Official. "It's Unfair Dismissal".
Harry picked up the evening paper and sat down in the armchair:
"It's on page three" said Elsie. He turned the pages until he found the item. It was not a significant piece, but it knocked him. "Sacked Man Denies Swearing". There was a sub-heading. "I never use that language".
"Did you say that ?" she asked.
"No" he replied. "I upset the reporter a bit. He's having a go back".
"You ought to know to be careful with reporters".
"That's alright" he said. "I might see him again before it's over".
"What's going to happen now ?" she asked.
"I'll start looking for a job" he said.
"But I thought the Union was taking it up" she said.
"Oh they're taking it up alright. You know what's happened don't you ? We had all that business about getting rid of the extremists and putting the moderates in. Well, now we've got the moderates. They want a nice, easy life -no trouble and nice cosy chats with the gaffers. They'll sew me up good".
"When will you know ?" she asked.
"May be tomorrow. After that, I'll start having my say. I'll get a job somewhere, then I'll start going to the meetings. If I can't find someone better than that Steward to put up for the Official's job, I'll put up for it myself". She was making entries in a small notebook.
"What are you doing ?" he asked.
"I'm just reckoning up" she told him. "We're going to have to cut down on some things with you out of work".
"It won't be for long" he said. "I saw the old man today. He went through worse things than this. We'll survive".
"This could be your last trip with us Harry";
"Yes" he said. "I think the axe will fall this morning". They were driving to the factory for the meeting.
"How's the missus taking it now ?" asked the driver.
"Oh she's alright" said Harry. "It's not so much losing the job, it's the way it's been handled". The man in the passenger seat grunted in disgust.
"Pair o' bastards them two. You watch 'em go to town at this meeting":
"I'm not going in" said Harry. "I want them to take the decisions without me. They all know what they're doing. I'll wait outside".
He sat on a wooden bench outside the canteen. There had been a full turn up of the section on strike. He had watched them going in and had taken note of how many had avoided looking at him. The official spotted him sitting there and had walked over to have a chat.
"Are you coming in ?" he asked.
"No" Harry replied. "I don't want to make things awkward for anyone. You'll do your best won't you ?" He had stared hard at the man as he said it. The Official had felt uncomfortable under the gaze.
"It's all up to them," he said. "I'll do whatever they want".
There was a small patch of lawn in front of the bench where Harry was sitting. At one end of this, a swarm of gnats gyrated, rising and falling continually. He watched them and tried to remember something he had once read about the ritual and the reason for it. A young apprentice came out of the canteen and walked over to the bench.
"Is it over ?" asked Harry.
"No not yet" said the boy. "I got fed up with it. It's a load of rubbish. That big Alf's having a go-crying like a big twat. What are you doing out here ?"
"I'm watching the gnats", said Harry. The boy sat down and watched with him.
"What's so interesting about them ?" he asked.
"Have you not seen it before ?" said Harry.
"Course I have. Should I scatter em
"No" said Harry. "You see there you are. You've seen it before, but you've never thought about it. What they are doing and why".
"They're just bleedin' flying up and down cos they've got nowt else to do" said the boy.
"Oh no" said Harry. "You see - each one of them is striving to reach the pinnacle of desire - even though it kills them when they get there. They're not much different than some people I know". He got up and began to walk away.
"Are you not staying to find out ?" the boy called after him.
"No" said Harry. "I know already". He walked out through the factory gates.
Outside the reporter was waiting for news of the meeting.
"Hello there" he said. "Can you tell me what the result is ?" Harry looked at him calmly.
"Fuck off" he said and walked on towards the bus stop.
ODE TO JANE FONDA You Maverick of Santa Monica bouncing off the ionosphere of outrage, Saccharine sex-kitten of Tiger Road, Jagged, militant, plain Jane. THEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY? But you they have gathered to honour. Cameras ! Lights ! The newshounds, poised-pencils stiff-against-pursed notebooks prick and-snap-off-on-the-lined, empty sheet. Clean darkness you move to the floodlit dais Where massed daleks of microphones twist. In your small, woman's hands you hold it The Oscar-erect, frozen and mute. The silence is audible, tense. They all know you-and none of them know you: Barbarella; La Ronde, Klute. Black Panther; Chicanos; Vietcong. In which of your roles will you speak? LADY JANE LADY JANE LADY JANE. You pause. Your gaze sweeps their faces White searchlight on dark cold seas. From Main Street Austin to Nebraska America hunched expectant back of a million, million bright TV screens invisibly watches and waits. There they are-your eyes focus and travel across the Atlantic and back All clocks halt in your eyes, reset two black arms, Tick together; all the world breathes a single breath. There they are-your mind opens and closes Like a door the wind opened, blew back. The delicate butterfly stirs, and slips free as the huge claw drops, clicks shut. There they are-you know them-these strangers, Sparked off by the rictus of lust, laced with stiffnecked horror, Row upon row of white faces, torn off, trapped in darkness, hung limp on the knotted rope of your massive silence, your beautiful open mouth. LADY JANE LADY JANE LADY JANE. You have taken off your mask of leaves. In you (in them ?) the invisible dawn goes black. The archer locks horns with the goat. SILENCE. The microphones purr and creak. Silence. Roof and walls are a forest, a soundless shriek. You turn and speak: "Americans, friends, There is much that I could and would tell you The truth is a bird, a silver bell, a blue kiss of snow in my mouth; but let the vibrated echo fall silent; become like love, a familiar pause, a sleep. This is neither the time, nor the place You are not a night-horse looking for a rider. Neither am I You have not cold eyes like the gleam of an axe's cutting edge. Neither have I So I'll just say one thing, say this Americans, friends ... THANK YOU SO MUCH". THEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY? Five continents and one terror: The click of cocked guns and death. THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? Five continents and one horror: Musty calls of shut mind, pride, lust. But YOU Jane Fonda dark leap elastic doll White comet like LOVE and the TRUTH BOUNCE BACK Allan C Brown TO J REID ON HIS RESIGNATION FROM THE CPGB Oh yes, Socialism is love, man, Though it's more than that; If it's mothers milk to the toilers And a clout for the idlers, It's also a sword to fend off the prowling wolf, Or those who'd rob the house Leaving the hearth cold and empty. There's people and people, well you know. Some love money, Using it to good effect, buying tongues, Silencing Truth, their enemy. You, with your truthful tongue, what was your price? We know it wasn't money That they traded for your Clyde-red soul. Did they take you up a hill, Saying, as you turned and faced your native town, "This can be yours. You are the man to lead these ant-sized creatures to a better world. They have no need for puny bureaucrats, The jargon-ridden lackeys of an outworn science. Love is all they need" ? So for a day you're news. Queuing up with this year's exhibits at Crufts, And a fur-clad woman weeping At her memory of war-time days in fear Of being sent home to her native Russia, Nowthe camera's caught your haunted face. The interviewer smirks, and then you're gone. Jean Turner FIXING A TOT FOR LEADING SEAMAN TELFORD Ruddy faced Telford, Killick in the foc'sle mess, Teeth slight protruding, Excited stammer, Addicted to his daily tot Of rum, Notorious for his habit Of attempting to pick the largest ration Fell victim One day To the messdeck's comedians. On that day Before the usual time The rum was poured in cups, Two lines, One cup hastily removed Replaced by a substitute Of vinegar. To guarantee the messdeck's pleasure This cup carried extra measure It being the plotters' deep conviction Unable to control his addiction Telford would take the bait. In he walked with casual pose Cast his eyes along the rows, Left eye left row Right eye right Travelled with the speed of light Each eye a depth recording gauge Glanced the cups in ricochets Displacing not one drop. Reached the far end of the lines He realised in rapid time One eye had taken an extra leap A few cups back where the rum ran deep And to confirm that jump perverse He put his eyes into reverse Each one travelling like a rocket Towards its own predestined socket. My God! What hand had shaken? An eighth of an inch if I'm not mistaken Above the level of the rest With the table flat and the cups all pressed From the same mould. His hand reached out to lift the prize Which now he'd focused with both eyes Raised the cup to his lip Spat it out with just one sip, Face all red and eyes a'water Breathing wrath and stuttering slaughter While matelots, innocent, stood around Eyes averted from the sound Jaw lines set as if some pain Like epidemic had overtaken Them all. While round the convoy escorts raced And on the bridge the skipper paced And on binoculars lookouts leant And round the engines stokers bent The messdeck rang with language rare As Telford painted blue the air While gasping seamen clutching sides Teardrops streaming from their eyes Leaned on bulkheads for support Or collapsed on messdeck stools. To trifle with another man's rum Was a naval crime second to none But Telford A man of kindly grace Forgot, Forgave, And passed into legend. B Ward LISA'S SONG (When and how long) This is Lisa's song of when and how long will it take me to grow. At night she would pray for that growing up day to be here. And still she turns to me to ask "Daddy, when will I be grown ?" Don't try to grow before teddy bears and soldiers are smaller than you, before days become hard and life becomes more than laughter and summer sun. And still she turns to me to ask "Daddy, when will I be grown ?" Lisa arranges to meet her new prince in the castle under the stairs. She launches a ship the biggest to sail on the great bathtub sea. And still she turns to me to ask "Daddy, when will I be grown ?" This is Lisa's song of when and how long will it take me to grow. Little does she know that her life now is worth more than her prayers. And still she turns to me to ask "Daddy, when will I be grown ?" This is Lisa's song of when and how long. A Davenport RAILWAY BRIDGE Oh what thing-a black And orange train passing Across the main-road, above It, full of people. How many Flakes of skin are in With the bricks of that Railway bridge; how many Bits of bread and cheese went Into human bodies, came Out as energy which Climbed scaffolding, heaved Hods day in, day out, fetched Water, carried pieces of Heavy iron: thousands of Blisters, an expense of Chilblains; when the work Was done all that was Left of the lunch was a Hungry, angry urge to Get something for tea. (And a bit more bridge, Of course). Fran Hazelton THE ANALYTICAL ANT A mighty conclave of the ants concurred Heap number five nine three to be transferred; The project mooted-passed with one accord, The hole was to be moved-for praise the lord The earth was vast and wide (and some said round) Just past the bend lay holier newer ground. In ranks of two or three abreast they ran (With six feet it's impossible to march) A dauntless line stretching from now till then Heavy with heap and hole to start again. But there was one who, seeking not to shirk, Withheld his six feet watching others work, Pondering the weighty problem of the whole- Even envying the blind courage of the mole Who by young mountains marked his nightly route, A mole-a mere four-footed thing-to boot! And as he lingered by a blade of grass Five thousand ants behind him sought to pass, They nose to rump in strict formation rushed, And he who sought to analyse was crushed. Our hero thus fulfilled his sacred role Of doubting the omnipotence of the Hole. His passing was unmarked-yet history Carries the message to posterity, And in the annals of the ant it's said, "Quick quick is quick, oh egg, and dead is dead". Marjorie Dearle
Susan collected her mop, bucket and brushes and walked along the passage to the front hall. On the way she passed George's office. She knocked on the door, and opened it as he shouted 'Come in.
"Hello George, alright ?"
George swivelled round in his chair.
"Hello pet, do you want to do me yet ?"His lined face crumpled into a friendly grin.
"No George, upstairs offices first".
"See you later then" he said, and turned back to his newspaper.
* * * * * * *** *** * * * * *
After her cleaning was completed, she washed her hands, hung her overall behind the kitchen door and became a typist again. She was helping out with a new filing system, which required only the straightforward typing of addresses, but it amused her to think of herself as a cleaner typist.
She thought of Joe's reaction when she had taken the job, and told him where she was going to work.
The name of the firm had meant nothing to her, but Joe was different. Joe was clever, especially about world affairs. She admired him and his knowledge, his quick grasp of situations. He was down-to-earth, and sometimes she thought ruthlessly analytical about people and life in general.
"Well that's the last place on earth I would like to work. You could call them spies on the working-class. They're all for big business, and how to keep industries running smoothly, making sure no one puts a spanner in the works. Christ I bet they don't know you're a Communist".
"I'm not a Communist".
"No, but I am and you're as near as dammit, only you've not got the courage of your convictions to sign the paper".
"I know I'm Left, but I don't like belonging to organisations. What difference does it make signing a bit of paper ?"
Joe raised his eyes heavenwards.
"Oh Jesus ! You belong to an organisation now don't you, tripping round with your mop and shovelling up the capitalist shit".
"Oh Joe, don't be stupid. I like it there. Everyone is very nice. Anyway, I bet your boss is a capitalist, and Mr Howard is the best boss I've had yet. He's a perfect gentleman".
"Bollocks !"said Joe.
Sue settled herself at the typewriter and set to work. George read his newspaper. Reading newspapers seemed to be part of his job, and it seemed they ended up on Mr Howard's desk. When polishing one day she had noticed a newspaper with certain paragraphs ringed round in ink. One was about unrest on a building site. She thought about Joe's derisive words.
George tossed his paper down, and indicated a picture of a naked, pregnant lady smoking.
"Yes, I saw it this morning" said Sue. He flicked the pages idly.
"You get this one do you ?" "No, only sometimes".
"What paper do you get ?"
George still hadnít raised his head
"The Morning Star". Sue carried on typing. George carried on reading.
"Oh", he said.
"Joe's a Communist" said Sue.
"Oh is he". George was politely interested.
She enjoyed her couple of hours typing. Sometimes they had friendly disputes over their differing views on politics. One topic was the Miners' strike.
"Good luck to them. They deserve every penny" said Sue. George bristled.
"Rubbish. Granted they're doing a grand job, but they're holding the country to ransom. They don't have to be miners. Let them find other jobs if they're not satisfied".
"That's ridiculous. We depend on these men. They are doing a dangerous job, and should be paid accordingly. I had a letter published in the Evening Post and Chronicle on the same subject".
"I'd like to see that" said George.
"I'll bring it in some time then".
She brought the letter a few days later. George read it in silence. He handed it back to her.
"Did you write this yourself ?" His voice was cold. Friendly George had disappeared.
"Yes of course I did".
"Do you realise what you are saying there. You're very misguided you know
"Well that's how I feel about it. I wrote it in reply to a pensioner's letter, an ex-miner who was patting himself on the back for the way he put up with bad conditions without a moan. It's a good job people have more backbone today".
The discussion finished. She felt his cold disapproval during the rest of the afternoon.
Next morning George was his usual jovial self. Sue was cleaning in his office when Rene from upstairs popped her head round the door.
"Sue can you spare a minute. Mr Howard wants to see you in his office." Sue followed her upstairs. They entered his room together.
"Ah Sue, sit down". Mr Howard motioned her to a chair.
"Now you know we are having the decorators in next week ?" "Yes".
"Well I expect you can see we'll be in a bit of a mess here, and it won't be much use you trying to keep the place clean". Though surprised, Sue nodded her agreement.
"So we'll have to dispense with your services for a while, Sue".
"Shall I come in for my couple of hours typing?"
Mr Howard smiled.
"We-ll no. You see there won't really be any room for you. We'll be pushed for space, moving from office to office".
"Oh yes. I see". She didn't see at all.
Mr Howard picked up a large brown envelope from his desk. He was jovial. Rene was smiling too. They all smiled at one another.
"I've had your cards stamped up-to-date. Your money is in here and a little gift for being inconvenienced. We will send for you later, when we are straight. If, in the meantime you find another job, take it by all means". He smiled again.
"And thank you for all you've done for us". She rose, and slowly held out her hand.
"Shall I finish my cleaning? I'm halfway through George's office".
"Oh no, there's no point really. You might as well finish now. It'll be in a worse state next week."
She left the office, her mind in a whirl. Rene accompanied her to the Ladies cloakroom, to collect her belongings. She wondered if Rene was asking herself questions, yet she seemed serenely unaware of any conflict in Sue.
"Are you going to open your envelope ?"
Sue did so, as well as her cards and week's money, there were two five pound notes.
"Well !" said Rene. "Isn't that nice".
"Oh yes" said Sue. "I didn't expect that".
"He's like that. You wouldn't find another like him" said Rene. Sue agreed. She felt shame because she was already thinking what the family needed most with the £10.
Mr Howard stayed with her while she said her goodbyes. George shook her hand. She didn't know what to say.
"I'll miss our little discussions" she managed.
"Yes, by jove, yes". He chuckled kindly.
Mr Howard and George saw her to the front door, and they all shook hands again.
Once outside in the bright morning sunshine Sue breathed in deeply. She couldn't believe it. She didn't want to believe it. It was so neatly tied up. She felt as though she had very subtly been disposed of, and yet perhaps it was just coincidence perhaps, and the £10? Which she had accepted. She knew in her heart they wouldn't send for her again. She thought of the happy, friendly offices she had just left, of George and Mr Howard, the nicest boss she had ever worked for. A perfect Gentleman!
She knew what Joe would say.
MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTION MONCADA BARRACKS Here there are: field guns, remnants of scorched earth and grass the Guerillas chewed All enclosed in; pock-marked walls, a shot-up barracks with windows you can now see children through. This is: the Museum of the History of the Revolution; outside, across the road, it is being extended, all the time. CUBA, CROCODILES, RAIN It is raining on Crocodiles, bullet-tears on the scales. Here, where the balance of power has changed. These banks of hardened green-backs, spread stoned along the water's edge, are caged like old dictators, reigns ended as young Cuba surrounds them. Keith Armstrong STREET THEATRE IN BROOKHOUSE On our arrival dusk-light softened the stone, doves flew in a sky of opal, cooling-towers performed a honeycomb metamorphosis, grass-hills waved a sensual spell, while the longing for happiness shivered in a network of need, garages and low wages. Adolescence hoped for some exciting years with the army's professionals, youth fought boredom with Kung-Fu heroic fantasies, children played in a maze of rancid brick and damp stone, people moved in streets solely humanized with the deprived scent of their own existence. For six days, at noon's fall, our drums signalled to celebrate, summoned the conjurer of Fun and Wonder; on the fifth hips have mastered the rhythm, hearts understood the meaning of dancing. People followed the band, children jumped, women clapped, as we passed old folk laughed and nodded, pubs, windows and doorways bloomed with smiling faces; our Dancing Fool fell and rose, people rose, rose, rose; the beat rejoiced, soared, our Dancing Fool fell lower, rose higher. We took the summer moon shining orange over the hilly terraces. Leaving, under the morning sun, a heat flooded my brain and travelled down slowly to curl up in my heart. Some kids waved at our lorries passing. God ! what a seed plot of life we were leaving behind waterless, lightless, forgotten by a contemptuous gardener. Have you a drum? Are you a drummer from the factories from the fields from the sea from the mines from the stars ? Start playing; day and night, in the sun and the rain and the snow to keep the rhythm flowing, to keep the sound growing, until we have emptied the last home on Earth. Juan Antonio Lopez
B ... comes into the workshop Tuesday morning, first thing after the Easter holidays. I don't know her face, but know her name when she says it. She's unemployed, and I'd heard about her from someone who turned her down for a typing job. She'd been on a 13-week course in office skills, not long enough.
'I hope you're not after a job,' I say - not having any to offer.
'No', she says.
She takes a handful of typed poems out of her bag, a stapled file of duplicated foolscap and a sort of folder made of sugar paper. She hands me the poems, and wants me to start reading. That makes me nervous, but she says she's used to it.
In times of need
Stress or discouragement
I find my only consolation is to weep
My tears flow easily
Melting away the hurt inside me
The prisoners are released
Rolling down my face
They escape the flood
They achieve nothing
But I am relieved
With no need to cry any more
I like it, praise be, but still don't want to read the rest with her there. I don't know her well enough. Better in a group.
'Can you come Thursday evening ?' I ask. 'When the others will be there.'
'I don't know,' she says. 'I don't know if I'll still be here.'
The first page of the duplicated set, the cover, has a grid of black lines on it, with names and ages-mostly 17 and 18-in the boxes. 'UNEMPLOYED' is stamped across it in big letters. B ... says it's by the people who were on the office skills course with her. I read a few pieces, one to a page, each by a different youngster. The picture adds up from one to the next, casually-presented, more or less bitter: going hopefully for jobs you don't get, traipsing from office to office for £5 a week, killing time for nothing at the telly.
Worth publishing? I ask B ... if she could get in touch with the other authors? Would the teacher who put them up to it be in trouble with her bosses if we were to publish? How would we present it?
B ... says she'll try and write an introduction, see if she can find some of the others.
'You won't feel you've wasted your time if we don't publish?'
'No that's all I do all day anyway.'
I can't publish, or decide, on my own. Any more than I can do justice to her poems at first meeting. We need more time and more people. Personal things don't have to be private, feelings reduced to the odd moment.
'I'm supposed to be getting tickets,' B ... says. 'My parents don't know I'm here. They don't want me to have anything to do with it.'
Her parents are stall-holders, think writing's a waste of time. High-fallutin' if not bent.
'You can understand them in a way,' I say, 'the way writing's presented.'
'But I don't want to be a "WRITER" like that .... You know people say you can't change the world, but I think you can. Like a priest giving a sermon .... I feel I've got something to give, to help people.'
'Try and come on Thursday, and read aloud,' I say.
'I'll try,' she says.
She doesn't come .... She would have liked Sol's poem about the joiner's son who dares to join words. I'll send it to her.
RANDOM THOUGHTS ON A ONE MAN SHOW
There is a sweet retribution in having to cart and load the items for your own Exhibition. The artist as furniture remover, having cast in bronze and concrete, carved from tree trunks and slate and framed in solid mouldings, more sweat is exuded in the task of loading the van than was ever leaked in artistic creation. When the delights of a penthouse studio are assessed, the five flights of steps to the ground weigh heavily in the debit column.
Once arrived at the impressive slab of Victorian Gothic that is Manchester's Town Hall, the effort is repeated in reverse. "Watch out for a ticket" says a cheerful doorman. Not all the GMC's Municipal might can prevent a penalty for parking infringement being inflicted at its own doorstep. The unloading is interrupted by the arrival of the Lord Mayor. A shake of hands and a "Good morning, Ken !" indicates my association, brief and recent, with the town's first citizen. That's nice. He remembers my name and the load lightens a little.
The deserted corridor, site of the Exhibition-to-be, looks splendid in perspective; fine, vaulted, stone roof, patterned mosaic floor and marbled columns present an aspect of magnificence that contrasts incongruously with some of the items to be displayed. Such surroundings increase the dubiety, bred of years of familiarity with my own work, that battles against an artist's ego. A deep breath and the task of arranging the exhibits has to be faced. A pile of paintings, a heap of heads and the odd carved colossus have to be shaped into a cohesive display that attracts, commands attention and, finally, produces sales. The blank partition and empty trestles offer no inspiration. It's a question of sweat again, and luck.
Once the pieces are all in place, memory of the strenuous effort fades rapidly and moving a piece an inch to the left or right seemingly becomes an important decision. I'm fiddling and fussing, delaying my own final assessment of the display, afraid of its inadequacy. Fortunately, no-one expects an artist to render a judgment on his own work. An objective view must lie elsewhere.
Sol's exhibition of paintings and sculptures was held at Manchester Town Hall, in the week beginning April 25. Proceeds were donated by Sol to the Lord Mayor's Fund for a Hospital in Vietnam.