In my last post, I forgot to give credit to the song ‘After the Gold Rush’. I’ll do that now. Neil Young (of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) wrote it in 1970, or rather, released it August of that year.
I would like to approach the subject of discrimination in this post. It’s nasty tendrils reaches to every aspect of life, from bullying to wages. This situation, I think, is in some ways better, some, worse than in the past. As a lad, it didn’t impact on my life. I certainly felt uncomfortable having free school meals, and free shoes, literally. These came in two ‘flavours’, brown or black. They had to be black to conform to school uniform, but to the equivalent of Social Services then, they didn’t have to fit! My hammer toes vouch for that. Not as many women ‘worked’ then, in paid jobs I mean. And not so many women did a mans job, but where they did, they were paid less. Pea pickers were paid by weight, as a kind of piece work. Today, if men and women were paid according to their worth, they should be paid the same. If factory floor workers and factory managers were to be paid by the same criteria, the difference in their wages would narrow substantially. For me, that would apply across the board. No question. I don’t regard myself bolshie, much.
Only a small number of children suffered from malnutrition or diseases then, at least, where I lived. One lad I remember had polio, badly. His frame was distorted and sadly was, as I remember, mocked. Hence the title. This refers to an English informal proverb, which is self explanatory. But still not practiced much more now than then. Down Syndrome children ‘them’ days were called ‘mongol’, a term now (since the mid 70s) not adopted, thankfully. There was one occasion when, I remember, probably millions of viewers were in tears during a clip on the BBC Swop Shop programme, watched by Michael Crawford, himself in tears. It featured two Down Syndrome teenagers dancing to a Phantom of the Opera song. Priceless. Any way back in my childhood, these almost ‘normal’ (I say that because, what is ‘normal’ in child or adult?) children were mocked too. Not bullied, I would say.
Are you left handed ? Chances are, you’re not. It doesn’t matter a jot these days. Us left handers (called cack handed, which I quite like; makes me think I’m different) have never been disadvantaged. Sixty years ago you wouldn’t have thought so. Teachers did their damnedest to ‘persuade’ lefties to be right handed, usually by a rap on the knuckles.
Any way, we could discriminate till the cows came home. I think we should celebrate our differences and rejoice in the fact that variety enriches our lives. Tramps were revered in my childhood. They were one of the Travelling Nation Ewan Mc Coll sang about, moving from farm to farm, doing odd jobs in return for food and shelter. They left signs on walls for other tramps to read: hostile to tramps, kindly, do not trust or very welcoming. Or words to that affect. Gypsies too, were generally trusted and got on with other country folk. They could live off very little, providing you didn’t see poaching a crime, or mind the odd turnip missing from your crop. I remember the pegs they made and sold, made out of two whittled pieces of wood and a thin strip of tin raped around the blunt end to join them. They lasted years, unlike the plastic ones today. Then there were the tinkers, who moved from county to county, repairing tin pots with solder. In Matlock here, there used to be an iron mongers called ‘Tinker Wright’s’. The firm was set up by a tinker who did repairs and when the Hydros started, made tin baths and douches for them. The Hydros went but ‘Tinker’s’ lasted till a few years ago. If you don’t know what a Hydro is, it’s short for Hydropathic Establishment, where one took the waters (a form of hydrotherapy).
Working on farms as casual labour like tramps and gypsies required tolerance to freezing temperatures in winter and scorching days in summer. Seasons really were seasons then. You knew what to expect, by and large. Days were long and the work was hard. My older brother worked on Jones’s farm after leaving school, setting off with his clogs and snap tin in his pack. Being younger, I worked on another farm, at weekends for a while. Cutting kale by hand for the cows, on a cold winter day was not particularly pleasant. But when Ray came home with some ‘beastings’, well that was a treat. Beastings is the first milk from a cow that’s just calved. It is so rich in colostrum that, when baked by itself in the oven, it came out set, like egg custard. Eggs too, came curtesy of Jones’s Farm, usually the ones with little shell that felt rubbery.
The subject of the photo I’ve posted is of a little chap I found in the garden of a previous home of ours. I made him in his image (the model I made is just a representation) for my sons, who liked playing Dungeons and Dragons. His name is Bardy Strong in t’ ‘ead Trussworthie, and is a dwarf. It is not nice to engage in the old custom of dwarf throwing. In case you think that’s not done anymore, sadly it is. When will we learn to respect our differences: big, small, beautiful, less so, old, young, rich or poor, atheist or theist. Any road up, don’t try it with Bardy!
It’s time to wind up this post, hope you enjoyed it, wherever you are.
Till next time, adios amegos.
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I enjoyed your post and well remember the sigma with free school meals even way back when. and I have not been work-shy to the factory life either … But one thing I have never thought of is myself as in anyway beneath anyone else.. I speak to people of all walks of life and that has for most part of my life stood in good stead..
But you are right about those who discriminate or judge and mock the afflicted.. Working as I do now in Support its been my privilege in the past to support Adults with Learning Difficulties, these have included Down Syndrome and Autism among others.. And you would be ashamed of the Human Race if you saw the amount of times people look down their noses or move out of the way so they dont have to come into contact with these beautiful souls..
A very good post
Thanks for your reply, Sue.
Yes, I didn’t see myself as below anyone either. Just was sensitive to the suggestion that I might be above. I think I stood up for myself as well as the next lad, or lass. Hence the scraps in the school yard. But I never wanted to be an ‘alpha male’ !
I knew it, Andrew. Great!! I love it!! Thanks for these sweet musings and important insights. Best,
Thanks your your encouragement, Carl. Very much appreciated.
I’ve enjoyed reading your post. There’s so much wisdom that’s been forgotten throughout history.
I’ve researched hydrotherapy and incorporated into my health regimen. Never been sick in 6 years! Thanks for the glimpses in time. 😀