I was born in Mile End hospital, in the East End of London. My brother, mother and father and me lived in one room. It was a slum with mice and rats and damp peeling wallpaper. I grew up in a slum opposite a synagogue. We were part of the Jewish community.
When I got ill my father managed to accrue the right number of points to have us rehoused. Thank God I was
ill, suspected Polio. My mother was looking after my eighteen month old brother. My father was ducking and diving, we lived in immigrant conditions, feeding off knocked bagels and my bubbas generosity.
Nobody had anything, everybody was poor, nobody had a bath or a toilet, everybody had nothing. Although somebody told me that up West there were people bathing in Champagne and living in houses that had four bedrooms and a garden.
I was taken to the public baths by my mother. The smell of damp towels and soggy flannels triggers in me the memory of white enamel tiled freezing booths with the sound of others splashing in the next cubicle. I now have a warm carpeted bathroom. People come and sit in my bathroom because its carpeted and warm, has a mountain of dry white flannels and a selection of towels hanging over a fancy radiator.
We were rehoused in 1952, on account of my father threatening to take the eye out of the housing officer. Our new flat was the height of 50’s chic. We had washable wallpaper in the kitchen, with a pattern of pink prawns painted on it, we had a fashionable formica table. We had a bedroom each, we had a toilet and a bathroom and we had a sitting room with the latest Swedish Ercol furniture – a must have now in gentrified Hackney. We had a set of shelves with gifts from the ‘comrades’ a Russian dolly with a dirndl skirt and Cossack boots.I might apply to The Repair Shop to renovate her. We had a proper little telly in the corner and a piano in my bedroom.
However poor we were, a piano was considered a necessity along with politics..My father played the drums with knitting needles on a biscuit tin, my brother had piano lessons, my uncle Alfie sung at the Windmill Theatre whilst would be starlets covered their unmentionables with a fan and my mother played the piano like Chas and Dave in a back street boozer, she played everything from Hymns to Hogey Carmichael using two chords and the loud pedal.
I was brought up on politics and The Proms, I was drip fed politics and The Russian Army Choir.
I learnt from my militant, Communist father that we were at war with the establishment and that anything worth having had to be fought for.
I didn’t think I was owed anything, In fact I didn’t think I was worth anything. I just knew that as Russian immigrant peasants we should be grateful for everything we had even if what we had was nothing.
I understood anger at an early age. I saw my father punch facsists – and my mother. I watched my mother and him discuss Stalin and the politics of buying your own council house. I understood the paradox of wanting things whilst staying true to the political ideal that Mr. Marx had brought into our home.
We marched for peace, we marched for South Africa and boycotted Cape Town apples, we marched for the CND and we marched to end the war in Vietnam.
I was my father’s daughter. Militancy was better than gradualism. What did we want? Revolution. When did we want it? Now.
In 48 days time I am 75. I still have the outrage of the 22 year old who posed for the Special Patrol group whilst on a demo somewhere. Facing arrest for spitting on a policeman’s van in Whitehall and making up chants whilst we walked past the ‘pigs’. My fathers’ grievences became my grievances. Other parents hand down vases and brooches my parents handed down outrage and fury, a pathological need for justice and the knowledge that the class system stinks and everybody should have a chance at a better life.
Tonight I watched the three parter on the 1984 Miners Strike. I watched Margaret Thatcher sprinkling poison over disaffected communities. I watched the use of the police force against defenceless men who were trying to save their jobs. I watched 96 Yorkshire men go to trial to face a possible 25 years in prison for rioting. In 1984 I was 35 and moving out of London, I wore badges ‘Coal not dole’ And put money in buckets at gigs.
Margaret Thatcher, even though she’s dead, still makes my blood boil. I sat in the bean bag and I could feel the feelings I used to feel when I was younger. Covering my eyes, my heart thumping as fields of men were coshed by riot police. I watched as the manipulation of the strike pitted pits against pits. Women on doorsteps crying for their men who were forced into submission.
As my fathers daughter I could feel the wave of anger that my father drip fed into me.
I coud feel the tragedy of our nation then and now.
But I can’t keep writing about what is wrong with this country unless I can find solutions. So says Pauls 88 year old daddy.
It’s all very well me spitting my outrage but what am I doing about it?
I observe the trash that are running – or not running – this country and I’m at a loss as to what do to.
Russia with its history that captured my father and his generation has descended into vile war games.
China doesn’t work.
India has lost its way,
America is wearing its MAGA caps and frightening off the other side.
France, Holland, Italy and Sweden have all lurched to the right, Capitalism is failing us. But what is the alternative?
And so I turn off the News.
In 48 days I am 75 and I’m still walking and thinking and going to the gym and meditating, but I’m fucked if I know what to do about the state of our world. When I was on telly I got sacked for my politics. When I was on the radio I got sacked for my views. Now I’m old and without a platform, but if I did have one, I would still be sacked for my opinions. My fathers DNA runs through my lefty body but I’m not sure what I must do with it.
Manifest peace, manifest kindness, manifest help and health and bliss and love and tolerance. But when I see Sunak in Northern Ireland licking the arses of people he doesn’t really understand, then I’m back to my teens wanting to throw bricks.
George Monbiot calls for ‘decisive policy responses and mass mobilisation to change the way we produce and consume our food.’ to protect our climate.
So thats a start, I’ll eat plants and make dolls of Trump and Farage and stick pins in them, I’ll manifest a world of butterflies and bees, but I’ll keep my anger bubbling just in case.