The Way We Were in 1900
by Angela Topping
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
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Written after a visit to Wigan Pier Museum, Wigan. A museum of working class life in Britain.
'Roll up, roll up, all the fun of the fair!
See the fat lady, cross the gypsy's palm!
Don't be shy now, smile, it's Wakes Week!
Stroll the tarted pier, just smell that air!
Round a corner there's a grimy street,
A mine where dirt-streaked dummies toil.
At each half-hour in a two-up-two-down
An actor squares up to his 'old man's' death.
"He 'ad the black spit, so he 'anged hissel'."
A child clunks a dolly peg, someone mutters
"They think it's a thing to play with."
Off to tea and cakes in the 'George Orwell' rooms,
Over her shoulder she adds
"It was bloody 'ard work, luv."
One floor down, a queue becomes Class Four
Drilled into school under arches marked
"Girls, Boys." They wriggle on benches,
Stammer out Mental Arithmetic, Read Aloud.
Hands are rapped for jewellery, or dirty nails.
Now it's handkerchief inspection! At the held
Pointing cane, grandmas tremble, faces drop.
Eyeing Miss, one sneaks a Kleenex to each friend.
Everywhere, groups of them bend
Permed heads, pick over half-familar things
That gobbled up their youth.