Wednesday, 23 September 2015

This is England '90

New decade for the Shane Meadows crew. Lol has a new job serving up school dinners. Mm-mm. The pupils look singularly unimpressed with the hotpot on offer. And there's no mint custard left for the chocolate sponge.

This possibly has something to do with Milky, Gadget and Shaun turning up every day to use the school as some sort of nostalgic soup kitchen, therewith depriving the kids of food. Nostalgic in that they want school dinners to remind them of a time when they were all "happy". Plus it's free food, for which Shaun will walk two miles - for the same sausage and chips that (his mother reminds him) he could have at home. And she claims she would cook him sausages that are less "grey". But it seems Shaun is getting the superior menu with his sausage and chips. Lol only offers Gadget new potatoes and coffee whip. "Who ever felt happy eating new potatoes?" Gadget laments.

The credits roll, and it's March 31st 1990, the day of the poll tax riots. I remember them well, since my dad managed to get us caught up in the middle of them. For his birthday treat he took us all to London, where he dragged us to an obscure opera matinee in the cheap seats at the Coliseum, followed by a meal in Chinatown. He picked a restaurant where the menu was only written in Chinese characters, which meant we had to take a possibly suicidal potluck with the food. Although this faded into insignificance when we went back outside to be greeted by a wall of riot shields and police. All day my dad had been blithely ignoring the helicopters circling overhead and the shouting coming from Trafalgar Square. I am not sure if he had been aware in advance of the planned demonstrations against the poll tax, but even if he had, he wouldn't have cancelled our trip. My dad doesn't change plans for anything. Flooding, hurricanes, flu, volcanoes, train strikes, military coups - he won't let them stop him. Anyway, here we were with us one side of Covent Garden and our car parked at Lincolns Inn on the other, with the slight matter of a massive riot and several fires to negotiate in between. Miraculously we managed to skirt round the worst of it. It was the height (and ultimate low) of Thatcherite Britain. I was in the Lower Sixth. I had just discovered the Cocteau Twins and love and was giddy on my German A Level that had just witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Probably the world's worst photograph of Trafalgar Square,
taken 25 years after the Poll Tax Riots
The soundtrack to the credits is "There She Goes". There are prisoners on the roof of Strangeways, there is Gazza optimistically heading to the World Cup, and John Gummer forcefeeding his daughter that burger. And yes, there SHE goes - Mrs Thatcher leaves Downing Street for the last time, which was the most exciting moment of the year on the radio in our Sixth Form common room.

And now we are in a time of Tory rule again, having hoped it had gone forever. There are currently free school dinners for our daughter too, with not a coffee whip in sight. She seems to rather like them. We certainly don't hear about much else of her school day. But she had been at school all of two weeks before the government announced it's probably going to scrap the universal free school meals scheme. You bastards. Mrs Thatcher took my milk away. Now Mr Osborne has the food on my daughter's fork in his greedy grasp.

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