Friday 8 September 2017


Here is a memory transformed into a poem.
The story is true.
I just want to clarify a couple of points beforehand.
Bagging room is slang for the tea room. The place where you have your tea and lunch breaks in the factory. It is either Widnesian or Runcornian slang and very specific to a small area of the North West.
Franz Fanon was involved in the Algerian War for Independence. He wrote The Wretched of The Earth, which explores the dehumanising effects of colonisation and offers a path forward for post colonial countries and people.
Marcus Garvey promoted pan-African unity and founded the UNIA-ACL.

I'm late for work, but it doesn't matter
as it's the early 70's
and I'm a member of the labour aristocracy,
top of the pile, an indentured tradesman.
So I stop at the paper shop,
and on a whim, buy the Financial Times.
A thick, pink window on an alien world.

Tea break, in the baggin' room,
the shop steward, a little man,
full to the brim with us and them,
tells me:

This is not our paper,
this is for them with the money.
Why are you, a working man,
buying the bosses paper?

Curiosity, I reply,
just looking beyond the tools
at how other people live.

He shakes his head, tuts.
It is a very loud sound,
turns, walks away
and I am left sat there shamed.

By the end of that decade,
he will have emigrated to South Africa,
claiming that Britain is done for.
That he wants to taste the good life
and bring up his kids somewhere with a future.
I, meanwhile, will be an undergraduate,
reading Franz Fanon and Marcus Garvey.
The poem came pretty much as it is. I have been revising it all week.
Here's the wondrous Ryley Walker with a new song.

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