Teatime in the Seventies by Robin Houghton

chips ketchupMy first taste of independence came when I had authority over the amount of ketchup I spread over my tea. It wasn’t like drizzling icing over a cake because this was the days of the bottle, where if you weren’t careful, huge globules would flood your ham, egg and chips; with the introduction of the squeezy bottle in 1983 more children were allowed the treat of splurging their food with the essential accompaniment. But it also gave rise to the more refined way of putting a dollop on the side of your plate which I reckon also means we waste more ketchup – that’s right it’s a capitalist ruse! Just to be sure that the iconic bottles are still used to their most wasteful effect, Heinz has shown that by tapping the 57 moulded into the glass, you can release the ketchup with the same ease of the squeezy variety. My sons often leave a red mark on their plate that I have to wash away, as I cry into the sink.

Gone are the days when food was a simple menu of boredom and over-cooked meat and vegetables (with the latter limited to carrots, cabbage, and a tin of processed peas). Although the nutritional value of food today is expansive, I believe it has a paradoxical effect on today’s teenagers, which sees them being an inch or more taller than previous generations (I am only 5ft 6ins – a hundred years ago I would have been 5ft 2in) but also heavier, and not just because of the increase in height but also excess baggage with its associated ill-health effects The UK is the fat man of Europe, with a 25% obesity level (it was 1-2% in the 1960s).

robin-reading-magmalaunch-smBut I have veered into the serious, which I’m trying not to do for once. This feature was prompted by the poet, Amy Key who on Twitter posted a picture of a salad (see below) from her childhood, accompanied by jars of pickled onions, beetroot, and mayonnaise; to which I responded by saying that my working class credentials were undermined by the fact that I never liked corned beef, but in my defence I never liked salad either. I then asked for a salad poem, to which I am very pleased to say was answered by Robin Houghton, with her poem Teatime in the Seventies’. This is such a lovely poem in how it depicts the way children vet their meals, as though making sure they weren’t being poisoned by their parent: ‘I’d…decide how little lettuce/ I could get away with eating/ hide a few slices of cucumber/ under an oblong of corned beef.’ Dinner was the punishment, pudding the reward, as we were ‘forever eyeing up the cake to come/ and jelly’. We’ve all been there. If you’re looking to go back in time in the way Robin has, check out the twitter account, @70s_party, it is so colourful and yummy. (more…)

November Review – From Nana’s Luck to The Last Gang in Town?

It’s been a great second month for Proletarian Poetry (I would give you the stats but that’s a bit too geeky. I am however, warming my hands over them now).

I have got to know some great poets who have kindly agreed to have their poems featured on the site. As I’ve said before, in terms of working class lives, this is about the poems not the poets; I secretly believe that all poets have written a working class poem, they just don’t know it yet – it’s a class consciousness problem 🙂 Also as I write this, I am reminded how many of the poets I have seen read this month; all are great performers in their own right and way – you really can’t beat live poetry. For example, on Saturday I was at The Shuffle where two featured poets on PP, Inua Ellams and Karen McCarthy Woolf read alongside, Tom Chivers, Holly Corfield Carr, Gale Burns, and Harry Mann. The theme was the environment and there were a great range of poems on the subject.

This month’s poems have covered a number of themes to do with: family, gender, identity, racism, urban life, work and industry, food, and music (got to have the music). There are mothers, fathers, grandparents, butchers, assembly line workers, brass bands, activists, priests, loan sharks, and (to use the title of Inua Ellams’ poem) Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves. (more…)