As usual, Gerry Hassan
provokes, but he starts from a left-wing background that is not representative of the UK as a whole. Similarly, my family background was formative, but quite differently atypical. National emergencies permitting, my father ran a one- or two-man furniture workshop, making just enough profit to fund our modest family life in our own, small, row-house in a North London neighbourhood (N16). We worried, every month, whether there would be money to bank. My mother, a typical Jewish housewife, died when I was 13 and my only sister was 13 years older so that, like Gerry, I was effectively a singleton. But our backgrounds and inclinations could not have been more different.
I 'enjoyed' one distinct advantage: my sister had a musical vocation and ensured that I received some training, 'winning' a Junior Exhibition at the Royal College, aged five. This paid the fees for five or six years of Saturday morning classes, attended willy-nilly. But nothing could compensate for my lack of dedication; never an able performer, I became a listener, thankful for Radio Three (the Third Programme as was).
Schooling was another disaster. A second-rate grammar school in Bethnal Green, with some staff who should never have been allowed near children. I gained an education largely despite school, undertaking university entrance studies in evening classes and making my way in the world by alternative routes.
Despite this, by comparison profoundly disadvantaged upbringing, by 1945/6, I had worked out for myself that communism and socialism were snares and delusions and that the long-term stability of our community was safest when in Conservative hands. Despite current antics that remains true.
Thus I consider Gerry's political and economic preferences to be ill-considered and ill-founded. Neither Scotland (wherein perforce I am resident) nor the rest of the United Kingdom will flourish if his preferences hold sway. Indeed, I would claim that the UK has failed to flourish in the long-run since 1945, largely because there has never been a long-enough period of untrammelled Conservative Government in which to overcome the many structural and related economic defects. Whether enough time will be granted us now that we are freed from the constraints of the common market remains in the lap of the gods. Time will tell, but I have learned that it does not pay to be hopeful, and it may, perhaps, be necessary and advantageous that there never should be long enough.
What, if anything, is to be gleaned from the comparison of two British upbringings that could hardly be more different? Perhaps only this: that where political and social organisation is concerned, one man's meat is another man's poison. Society needs to encompass a wide range of legitimate opinion-holding that is incompatible with all and any monolithic political enterprise, of which Russian-style communism is only one past example. Democratic pluralism is something to be cherished above all.
In times of not getting out much, one turns to hobbies to pass the time. I started to play the piano and one song from My Fair Lady
came to mind. It led to:
I've grown accustomed to my mask.
It always makes my day begin.
I've grown accustomed, though its tight,
To wear it noon and night
I love the feel. Although the blasted thing's a sight
It's second nature to me now
When breathing out and breathing in.
I was serenely independent and content before we met.
Surely I could someday be that way again? And yet
I've grown accustomed to the thing –
Can even make it ping –
Accustomed to my mask.
Something to sing in the bath and, of course, I am indebted to Alan Jay Lerner. The rest is Frederick Lowe.
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