Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A very proud Labour Member

Today I was very proud of being a member of the Labour Party. I was proud of my leader. I was proud of that amazing manifesto!

  After the local elections a few weeks ago, I was thrown - felled down. Stopped talking and it takes a great deal to silence me, as you all know.

  But today, I applaud that manifesto. I remember the United Kingdom, to which I migrated in 1774. My children went to Universities and qualified without me having to pay fees from my meagre teacher's salary. I did not take that for granted because I came from India where only the rich can afford higher education.

   And I remember, with gratitude, the times I have been to my G P and the clinic without having to pay for every visit, every prescription. I am Indian by birth, by culture, by habit. But I loved the freedom of the individual in Britain, which I enjoyed without question. MAGIC!

  But, today, I listened to the Labour manifesto unfold and the hairs on my arm stood on end. If only I was young enough to door-step, to go husting...  LABOUR DESERVES TO GOVERN.

  At my age (82) I am expected to be right-wing, Tory, 'I'm-alright-Jack' pensioner. Not a hope. I am financially comfortable, but I would gladly give more than my biblical tithe, to restore this country to what it tried to be not so many years ago. My children feel the same.

  I still hope the country will see sense and vote Labour. But even if it takes time, years, to turn the population around, this dream of Labour's WILL come to pass.

  So Tories, fox-hunters and hedge-funders, beware. Your nemesis is approaching. Find corners to hide in your mismanaged academies, in the corridors of your rarefied grammar schools and your tax havens. BE GONE.


Wednesday, 3 May 2017


I cheated. Yesterday. If not saying the whole truth is cheating. Also, these blogs, till the 8th of June are about our election, about telling a few people at least that the Tories are a huge scam that we have succumbed to for seven years. So I didn't think my personal angst was pertinent.

   But, on second thoughts, I know, first-hand, what it is to feel there is nowhere that is yours.

   My second visit to England was in February, 1974. This time I came alone. I was running away from my marriage and looking for a place to be, where no one would ask any questions. Coming down the steps of the plane that brought me from Ndola to London, the metal grabbed my hands, it was freezing. I was wearing summer clothes: no coat, no socks, no gloves. When I hit the tarmac the wind nearly blew me away. Fortunately my friend, Alda, met me and took me to her brother's warm and welcoming home.

   I stayed there for three days. I needed a job and a place to live. A friend said North Thames Gas was taking temps, so I applied. I got a job answering the phone and filling up forms for connections and disconnections as people moved in or out of their territory. My pay was 59p an hour and there was a room to rent near by on Lower Mortlake Road. Bliss! Or so I thought.
   Alda had also arranged for me to meet a Head Teacher in Essex who needed Maths staff. But that was weeks later. I had to make a one-room home. I remember it was eight guineas a week rent. Two Irish nurses who worked freelance in care homes, a lovely Goan girl, Anne, and I made up the household. The owner lived in the attic upstairs - he was a bachelor and I soon came to understand he extracted rent in kind from one of the Irish girls when she could not pay in cash.

   For heating you needed 50p coins for the tiny radiator in the room. You had to sit very close to it.

   We shared kitchen and the one bathroom. We had to play Box and Cox as the bath-water got colder by the minute and the grease-line broadened in the bath tub. I would sit in the tub and use a large mug to wash, no self-respecting Malayalee could possibly bathe in a tub!

   I believe the only reason I took the teaching post in Wickford was because there was a council house attached. That rare thing that is so hard to find these days. But, till the Essex Council located a flat in Laindon I was a lodger on Southend Road. House rules were that I must not close my bedroom door when sleeping - the landlady was recently widowed and lonely. She would walk in at odd hours of the night wanting to talk and cry. I never had the heart to ask her to leave me alone.

   I was allowed nine inches of bath water, but then I never told her I didn't do her kind of baths.

   I took piles of exercise books home and marked them sitting propped up on my over-dressed bed. It was all pink nylon and needed to be burnt as an act of kindness to the environment. On Sundays I would walk around looking for an empty house, room, storage box to live in - anything.

   Meanwhile, after six months the Council found me a flat in Laindon. It was in a 14-storey high-rise monstrosity, which locals had nick-named Suicide Flats because so many tenants jumped out of the windows and topped themselves in sheer desperation. There was a lift, which usually stank of urine and stale beer, so I walked up and down to my third floor rooms.

   Second-hand furniture for the bedroom cost 15 pounds and my caretaker slavaged dining chairs and two old wing chairs which someone had thrown away near the bins. But I was happy. I had Terry Wogan for company till I went off to the bus stand in the mornings, and the local scalawags in the evening, neighbourhood primary school children who I taught to read, while their parents were at the pub. They called me their 'teach' and rewarded me by generally 'looking after' me. They accompanied me on trips to Basildon market and crowded in on the living room, uncarpeted floor with their gossip and careless affection. I was blessed.

   No home since has meant more to me.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

They need Homes

At the end of the day, we need a place to go to. As of right. All of us. Where we know we can go back daily and feel secure.
   All those sleeping rough all over our country are our responsibility. The Tories can do nothing for them because they are seen only as a blot on the landscape. The Tories have never cared,

   We need those 500,000 homes, which Labour has promised to build in the first year, to house these young men and women, these abandoned people of all ages. A place where they can all find shelter, a warm room and a welcome. People to talk to and help.

   Even animals need shelter. WE NEED A CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT. We don't need  'a bloody difficult' Prime Minister.

   The Tories, indeed, are the blot on our landscape, on our national consciousness.



Monday, 1 May 2017

Food Banks amid wealth.

I am paranoid about access to food. Probably the result of living through the war-years in Thalassery. My father had gone off to jail because he did not approve of the British Government and wanted them to quit India. He had bad habits like organising public meetings and processions at a time when meetings of more than five people in public was banned by decree of the colonial masters. He was in jail for about two years. I was seven when he went.

   He was the only bread-winner in our household. There was myself, my two cousins not much older than me, and a spinster aunt. A niece of father's, Nani edathy, cooked whatever there was to cook: mainly moong in many enterprising ways and rice three times a day. Morning and evening it was conjee- rice in its liquid cooking starch, and afternoons it appeared as rice with a catch-all curry called Sambhar, into which dhal and all kinds of suspicious leaves and vegetables went. It was tasty and I love it still. A lot of love went into it because Nani knew how to love.

   At the end of the day, there would not be much food left for Nani edathy, the niece. I would find her scraping the bottom of the rice pan to get a decent serving. Scraping gently so that neighbours would not know there was food shortage in the lawyer's house.

   So, when I see those empty fridges and larders in the homes where women are forced to go to the food-bank for just enough to eat, I feel a tremendous sense of failure about the Tory Government. And anger. And we are supposed to be the sixth richest country in the world.

   Where are those riches going? And who is responsible for this terrible inequality? Why has this ridiculous government abrogated its duty to its less rich people.