What is a working class Christmas? It is two hundred homeless people spending the day in Euston train station, out of the cold and being fed. It is the Christmas Dinner’s Project founded by the poet Lemn Sissay, which provides dinners for those aged 18-25 leaving care. It is organisations like Crisis, the Quakers, the Sally Army, supporting the homeless. There are a whole host of volunteering initiatives on the day. Christmas is about not forgetting those more in need than ourselves, whether they are Christian or not and whatever class and/or religion you may be. And yes, it is the escape from work (not from family though), over-indulging, getting ratted, forgetting what Boxing Day is really about & having a punch up instead, the list I am sure is endless on depending on your inclinations.
Then there are the children, no not the children I hear you scream, well yes, the children. This government has put increasing numbers of children in poverty; this is because of falling wages (the majority of people in poverty in the UK are in work – one of Labour’s great failings was subsidising capitalism through tax credits thus allowing businesses to keep wages low) and the general cuts to benefits, compounded by the Universal Credit debacle.
But there are also the children who will spend Christmas day in hospital, where small acts of kindness can mean a lot, as Katherine Lockton describes in her poem, Dr Lee and the Apple Tree, ‘I lie in Westminster Hospital on Christmas day/ and Santa visits me and tells me while I play// that I will walk, and says this with so much/ knowing that I believe his words and blush.’ But some children will not be as lucky to have a visit from Santa, and live in fear of their own family, as Katherine shows in her second poem, Silencing Big Ben, ‘My father’s mood swings, a steel pendulum, cold and shiny as Big Ben’s./ I learn to say yes, sorry and yes again.’ So give it up for any excuse to reflect on where and who we are in a year we didn’t think we could top the misery of 2016, but it has, and with knobs on. Let’s hope for an impeachment of the large orange one. Cheers!
This will be the last post from PP this year. Thank you to all who have kept reading and supporting the poetry of working class lives. Have a great end of year, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and we’ll see you on the other side.
Katherine Lockton is a poet living in London who runs exciting workshops at South Bank Poetry. She has experience teaching and running workshops with beginner and advanced students, teenagers, the elderly and those with health problems. Her work has been published in publications such as: Magma, Rising, Morning Star, Northwords Now, The Delinquent, and ‘Hallelujah for 50ft Women’ out with Bloodaxe. Katherine has won a number of awards including the Inaugural International Travel Bursary by The Saltire Society and British Council Scotland, shortlisted for Girton College’s Jane Martin Poetry Prize, and won first place in the Field Poetry Competition judged by Martin Figura.
Dr Lee and The Apple Tree
The walking stick that Doctor Yung Lee
has gifted me is made from an apple tree.
I can still smell the apples the tree once grew.
The apples are like the ones that I once drew.
I lie in Westminster Hospital on Christmas day
and Santa visits me and tells me while I play
that I will walk, and says this with so much
knowing that I believe his words and blush.
No one will ever love me again I cry.
The man in the red suit hides his eyes.
Love is the small details in life; the giving
of clay buttons instead of gold rings;
when words simply cannot do
and life gets in the way of it all too.
Silencing Big Ben
My father’s mood swings, a steel pendulum, cold and shiny as Big Ben’s.
I learn to say yes, sorry and yes again.
The day they silenced Big Ben, my father learnt to speak, to say things other than “fuck” and “fuck”.
As a child I clung onto that steel. Now all but gone, my body swings with the music of it all. I used to wish
I had that very same metal boldness; now only that I could, with the braveness of a duckling swimming in its first rain, give up.