I’m sure most of you will know Shelley’s poem, the Masque of Anarchy, written in Italy in response to the Peterloo Massacre. It was 1819 in Manchester, and a crowd of up 80,000 people had gathered to listen to the ‘radical orator’ (a term of disparagement by his opponents) Henry Hunt speak about widening the franchise and challenging the corrupt political system. Due to a massive over reaction by local yeomanry, fifteen people were killed and hundreds injured. Hunt ended up in prison for two years. A widening of the franchise has always been fought for, and against. (I personally think, we should rise up to lower the voting age to sixteen). (more…)
When I was born in the early ‘60s, I put my mother through a two day ordeal of labour, then was extracted via C-section; this was in the days when the scar of such a section was twice as long as it is today. So, it is little wonder that when leaving the hospital with my dad, my parents forgot to take me with them. Thank God for the NHS and all its efficiency, for an eagle-eyed nurse came running out of reception saying: ‘Haven’t you forgot something?’ Just over two years later, and my parents were playing cricket with friends in the stretch of scrubland outside our flat; when I was in need of something, I ran up to my mother who was in bat. The ball arrived at her stump the same time I did, she missed the ball and broke my nose. Thank God for the NHS. Aged sixteen, down to five stone in weight, everything had been tried, to understand why I was slowly dying – a nurse’s strike delayed final test results coming in, but eventually they discovered I had Addison’s Disease. Thank God for the NHS. And subsequently, I have frequented various hospitals as more diagnoses of auto-immune attacks have been found. Thank God for….yes, you get the picture. (more…)
Housing in the United Kingdom has always been an area fraught with disparities. When cities began to expand post-industrial revolution, and more places to live were needed in urban settings, people began to move on a scale that hadn’t been seen before. This flocking of people from rural settings towards employment, allowed opportunistic private builders to provide densely populated and disorganised developments, which subjected many families to poor and overcrowded living conditions, without effective sanitation or natural light. There was pressure on the Government to begin looking at housing issues, and they were slowly persuaded to intervene. (more…)
Second from the archives for Mental Health Awareness Week, from the brilliant Emily Harrison
My son is now eighteen, has a full-time job and is happy. He is ‘functioning’. This comes after almost three years of depression which at its worst involved self-harm and suicidal ideation. He left school in Year 10, couldn’t cope with another school, nor a part-time one. All schools found it difficult to support him, besides giving him extra time to do tasks, which was not what he needed. In fairness to them, although we didn’t realise it at the time, he simply needed to be withdrawn completely. So for him, no qualifications, no ‘normal’ pathway that as parents you just assume they will take (but boy, can he play guitar and knows his way round a recording studio).
Fluoxetine and psychiatry didn’t help; it wasn’t until he was free of daily commitments, went on mirtazapine and saw a therapist fortnightly, that he slowly came back to us. He is…
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It is National Mental Health Awareness Week, so here is a poem from the archives by the inimitable Melissa Lee Houghton
Today’s post is not about class. It is given over to World Suicide Prevention Day.
Three days before his GCSE exams, a boy in my sons’ school committed suicide. It was ‘out of the blue’, as was that of the well-known human rights barrister Michael Mansfield’s daughter. It is something we are all close to; one it twenty think about suicide, in the UK thirteen men a day kill themselves. WHO figures estimate that around 800,000 people commit suicide each day across the world. It is an epidemic we should not ignore.
The poet Abegail Morley has been posting poems in the run-up to the day by a number of poets, including today’s featured poet Melissa Lee-Houghton (you can read here). Melissa sent me a number of poems for Proletarian Poetry, which I was privileged to read, and will be included in her forthcoming collection. They are…
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Article 40.3.3, known as the Eighth Amendment, was voted into the Irish Constitution by referendum in 1983. The amendment states: ‘The states acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.’ It equates the life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus, and has created an unworkable distinction between a pregnant woman’s life and her health.
On Friday May 25th, Ireland will hold a referendum to Repeal the Eighth Amendment. (more…)
Imagine you are top of the tree. You have power, real power over many people. You got there with promises to change things around – a lot. It’s taken you a long time to get there, so you want action, for people to see that you are true to your iron fist words. But when there, you are frustrated by the fact that the path to your power is paved with countervailing forces; put there to curb the potential for your excess. You realise that you can’t do all that you wanted; all that you told people you would do. Frustrating, isn’t it? What would you do? (more…)
One of the key indices for measuring consumer habits, and their effect on the economy, is the Consumer Price Index (CPI); called a basket of goods, its contents influence a number of policy decisions, one of which is inflation. The CPI is also an interesting measure of changes in cultural taste, and as ever on this site, this has implications for class; for example, as the Grauniad highlighted, this year’s index saw the following: “Women’s active wear leggings, quiche and raspberries are in vogue while pork pies and bottles of lager drunk in nightclubs are out.” I’m too much of a coward to make judgement of how this affects class habits, particularly as the influence of advertising is often high.
The year before also saw the inclusion of gin, cycle helmets, and non-dairy milk. It’s an interesting exercise (at least I think it is), to go through the index and look at what you consume yourself. It gives you a distant sense of how you influence, or are influenced by, consumerism. However, this also shows how connected and co-opted we are by the products we consume, and the mechanisms we use to do so; a big one being debt. Debt is the diesel that fuels the economy. Years ago when I finally decided to get a contract for my mobile, I couldn’t get it because I didn’t have a debt record. I had never borrowed money (we don’t have a mortgage) so I couldn’t be trusted, at least by the computer which kept saying no.
Life, as they say, goes on when we die, and in today’s poem by Dave Eales, List of Items Which Fall Through the Letter Box After I’m Dead, we find a fascinating and depressing set of missives from bodies that don’t know your body is no longer sentient. I’ll leave you to read the poem to see the detail, but for a moment, think about yourself dead (apologies) and what your letterbox would receive after you’ve gone. How much capitalism still chases you; still tries to get you contribute further to the nation’s debt; doesn’t discount you completely from the ever-changing consumer price index. Given the limited amount of spare landfill we have left, I’m sure coffins must be way down the list of consumer items these days. By the way of an end, a fun fact; we are now a global population of 7+ billion – do you know how many people have died since the dawn of people? (c107 billion). Have a great week y’all.
Dave Eales was born in Apapa, Nigeria in 1962. He grew up in Nigeria, South America & UK. He spent many years working in IT in London, as well as writing and drinking in his spare time. Dave lives in France and is currently working on his first novel.
List of Items Which Fall Through the Letter Box After I’m Dead
A letter inviting me to apply for a gold credit card at 17 % APR;
A bill from the Electricity company for £46.22;
A voucher entitling me to enjoy any king size pizza for £4.99 (garlic bread not included);
A letter sent to the wrong person, she no longer lives here;
An advertisement from a bank, promising the lowest rate mortgage available;
A postcard from a long forgotten girlfriend;
A demand for council tax from Islington Borough Council;
An offer to invest in Jupiter’s high income fund ISA;
A reminder from Central Islington Library concerning overdue books;
More dust, leaves too;
A First Direct bank statement, showing a credit balance of 342.39;
A birthday card, (unopened).