Popular Posts

Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Tales of two classes

I spent last week in London after returning from an idyllic week on the North Norfolk coast. In Norfolk we stayed, more by chance than planning, in one of the villages of choice for the four wheel drive brigade. The vast majority of the village consists of  second homes and holiday lets and prices in the local restaurants and hostelries reflect this. I'm scarcely in a position to rail against large cars and second homes but I was given pause for thought on Saturday morning as we packed up by the sight of the infra structure that sustains civilized life in this sort of place. At 10 am the white vans arrived and out of the back  popped the minimum wage workers that clean, strip beds and tidy up. Even if you didn't see them disembark you couldn't help but notice them in the street: 30 years younger than the residents and holiday makers, different class, and in some cases different ethnicity. They must spend their days squeezed in among the mops and buckets hopping along the coast in the back of Ford Transits. I wonder where they live? Certainly for most of the week out of sight and I suspect for most residents of Chelsea-by-the-sea, also out of mind.
Back in London more examples of how the middle classes do well out of the welfare state. On Tuesday morning I drop my daughter off at the local  gallery for an art workshop. The cost, presumably subsidized, is absurdly cheap - you can't get childcare at that price let alone the attention of an artist and a handful of adult helpers. The clientele is as you might expect - I count 5 Chelsea tractors and a similar number of estate cars in the tiny car park - exclusively white and middle class. The only minorities there are myself and another dad swamped by the army of mums.
Killing time I visit the local library - a 1906 gift from  Andrew Carnegie. If you want to borrow art-house DVDs this is the place to go: Terence Davies, no problem, Bela Tarr by the sackful. While browsing  I listen in to a conversation going on behind me. A short stocky man in his mid fifties is talking to a member of staff. He wants to know if he can use one of the computers. He has been sent by the Job Centre to an interview in the afternoon and needs to prepare a CV. The Job Centre  told him that the library might be able to help him. But no joy. He isn't a resident of the Borough and though the sympathetic librarian is willing to wave the regulations nobody has time to help him with what he really needs - somebody to show him how to use the computer. The job he is interviewing for is straightforward labouring - as the job seeker explains, he's a "shovel and hammer man". It is a bone headed system (let's give the staff at the Job Centre the benefit of the doubt) that requires somebody to produce a  CV before they can pick up a shovel. I feel slightly ashamed that I've no time to help him myself. Before I go to collect the little artist I've just a few minutes to check out my choice of European high brow cinema.

No comments: