Anarchy in The UK


Well, this is a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

I’m all for people rebelling against the establishment, and I understand the impotent rage people feel against the forces of globalization wrecking their lives, but all the Brexit result will do is hand power from one bunch of rich toffs to another, ones who have since been shown to have lied about their promises and have no plan for what to do next. If voters outside London think those wankers are going to invest in them as much as the EU has they’re in for a rude awakening. I wish I could feel some schadenfreude over that but I’m too fucking angry.

As there seems to be some buyer’s remorse setting in, and with the economic consequences of Brexit already apparent (not to mention the potential break-up of the UK) some think that the next PM will bottle out of going through with it. But that will only enrage the hardcore Leavers and lead to a surge in support for UKIP from them — violence against immigrants is already on the rise. And just when you need a strong opposition to provide an alternative, the fucking Labour Party goes and implodes.

I really don’t see a good way out of this at the moment. Thanks Cameron!

Download: There’ll Always Be An England – Vera Lynn (mp3)

The Class Struggle


I used to belong to a Facebook group called “I Grew Up In Fulham” through which I reconnected with some old school friends, heard news about others, and even learned a few things about the history of my old manor. Most of the group were old-school, white working-class people, and sadly — with some decent exceptions — the majority of them were rabidly right-wing, nationalistic, immigrant-haters. I tried to argue with them and their bullshit for a while but eventually gave up and left the group because I got sick of seeing their nasty xenophobia in my Facebook feed. On top of that none of them could spell and I was almost as offended by their illiteracy as I was the racism.

There are stupid bigots in every walk of life but these were people who had grown up in the same neighborhoods and gone to the same schools as me, and I felt like an alien amongst them. I’m under no illusions about the British working classes being a bunch of bleeding heart liberals — I know they’d vote to bring back hanging tomorrow if they could — but it was a profoundly depressing experience that made me feel even further disconnected from my roots. I hated thinking “Thank God I got away from you people” because I’m proud that I grew up working class.

I was thinking about that experience when I read the article How I Became Middle Class by Lynsey Hanley in The Guardian the other week which is about the anxiety and identity crisis that can come with upward mobility. Like me, Hanley grew up on a council estate and went to a shitty comprehensive school, but managed to go to college and now has a thoroughly middle-class life with a job in a creative, middle-class profession — a writer in her case — so I related to a lot of it.

Hanley writes about feeling isolated growing up because she was interested in learning and not into doing the same things her friends were and, while I wouldn’t say I ever felt lonely, I know what she means. I was hardly a swot as a kid, but at my school anyone who was the slightest bit academic or read books for pleasure was seen as a teacher’s pet, bully-fodder, and probably a bit gay. Few boys stayed on for the Sixth Form and only two of us took A-Level English. They weren’t any help with my career either, I got into art school under my own steam two years after I left school. During that two-year gap I worked at a t-shirt printing factory where all the workers read The Sun at lunchtime while I had The Guardian which got me a few funny looks and comments. Over the years I’ve had temp jobs as a dishwasher, cleaner, and hotel porter and it was always the same: I was the smartypants who didn’t fit in there, even though my upbringing was the same as the other workers.

I never had any Billy Liar dreams of escaping my background but that’s what art school amounted to. Four years in that environment — and meeting a lot of other kids like myself — can make it very hard to really go “home” again. You still love your family and the friends you had before, but you’ve been shown this other world where you can be more truly yourself (I wonder if my Dad felt the same when he went from being a cab driver to stage manager at the National Theatre). Plus you now have a profession which pays enough money to buy yourself the life your new pretensions require.

But I don’t entirely belong here either because you can take the boy out of the council estate but never really take the council estate out of the boy. We’re not well-off by any means but make just about enough to send our kids to a private school for a few years (but not enough to keep them there longer) which I was often conflicted about. Hanging around with some of the richer parents would make me feel like a class traitor and I’d have to fight the urge to go all Class War on their BMWs. The smug assumptions of the liberal middle classes — and often total lack of experience with people who think differently — can be really annoying too, and make me want say something reactionary just to pop their cozy little bubble. And I love good food but there’s often this common voice in my head sneering that most middle-class lifestyle trappings like fancy coffee, craft beer, and artisnal tomatoes are all just overpriced, poncey bollocks. I may have gone from Carling Black Label to Côtes du Rhône, and tins of Heinz Ravioli to organic pasta from Whole Foods, but my favourite food is still sausages with HP Sauce.

Download: Ambition – Subway Sect (mp3)

Things To Make and Do


Kids today don’t know they’re born. Back in my day we didn’t ‘ave any computers, video games, or iPhones. We had to make our own fun, like making a mask out of an old pair of tights and using BISCUITS FOR EYES.

Try telling kids today that and they won’t believe you.

Download: Paper Mache – Dionne Warwick (mp3)

This image isn’t some Scarfolk gag either, it’s from a real 1976 book called Creative Masks for Stage and School.

Games Boozers Play



Who cares that England never qualified for a World Cup in the 1970s when we had Indoor League on the telly to show off our world-beating skill at pub sports? I bet the Germans were rubbish at Skittles.

Televised Shove Ha’Penny sounds like a Monty Python sketch — and looks like one too — but this was real and actually on our televisions in the 1970s. If you’re desperate to see that exciting Shove Ha’Penny final it starts around 3:25.

Download: Spiel Ohne Grenzen – Peter Gabriel (mp3)

Manchester, So Much To Answer For



Even Mike Leigh at his most misanthropic couldn’t have come up with something as grimly excruciating as this. Don’t miss “One of Great Britain’s top recording groups” about 3 minutes in, and stay for Charlie Williams making racist jokes. After that it somehow manages to keep getting worse. 

We occasionally watched Wheetappers & Shunters at home and I don’t know what is more depressing: The show itself or the sad thought that I might have actually found it entertaining.

Conversations With a Working Man



This is almost 45 years old but sadly could have been filmed yesterday, and I don’t just mean that Yorkshiremen are still always complaining. If anything, working people seem to be going backwards economically these days.

The saddest part though is that his ambition for his daughter doesn’t go beyond hoping she grows up to be a “glamour girl” and some “fellow with a Jaguar” will come along and marry her into the middle class. I hope that would have changed a bit at least, even in Yorkshire.

Not had any Reggae here in a while, this is from Johnson’s 1984 album Making History.

Download: Wat About Di Workin’ Claas – Linton Kwesi Johnson (mp3)

When Love Breaks Down


It’s mean but I feel like getting a time machine so I can go back and tell her what happens.

Download: Don’t Talk To Me About Love (Extended Version) – Altered Images (mp3)

Low Fidelity


Speaking of Lo-fi music technology, this was our family record player for most of the 1970s, a fact which may have influenced my memory of how music sounded back then. It’s a Fidelity HF42 which, according to my research, only cost £13.95 from Argos in 1976 which seems ridiculously low even for 40 year ago. It was mono and made of plastic — even the “wood” bits — with a whopping output of 1 1/2 watts of tinny music power. Sad to say, my mum probably bought it because it was the cheapest one there was — we were poor, you know.

The Fidelity was where I first played such epochal albums of my youth as All Mod Cons (I’m amazed I could hear Bruce Foxton’s bass), but the record I most associate with it is the 45 of “Telephone Line” which I played incessantly for a while. I think I literally played it a dozen times in a row the day I bought it. I listened to a lot of ELO records on that thing and was probably only hearing about 25% of the sumptuous production, but Jeff Lynne’s songs were so strong they still sounded great on a shitty record player, or radio.

Download: Telephone Line – Electric Light Orchestra (mp3)

We eventually got a Panasonic music centre at the end of the decade which felt like a top-of-the-line Bang & Olufsen system to me — two speakers!

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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