I watched the TV parade of affluent
(and mostly public school) chancers, liars,
fantasists, hypocrites, law-breakers
vie to top each other’s warmed-up clichés
and self-serving platitudes. The social
and economic future dystopia most
seemed to desire would, they assured us,
bring out the British best in all of us,
just like the Blitz. I thought of bomb-razed
building lots in major cities still empty –
and a tale a cabby told me years ago,
taxiing me from the railway station.
As he dropped me off he looked at the house.
He asked if it had a cellar, with a door
opening onto the back garden. I nodded.
He and his mum, he said, had joined a silent
and lengthy queue to buy black market sugar.
‘A doctor lived here then, ran a racket
with the lad that worked at the grocer’s.
The lad did time. The medic got off scot-free.’
I did some research, worked out the dates.
Here, in this place of light we have made our home,
all those ordinary folk committed crimes
like common recidivists – while London
was bombed, and Coventry, and Liverpool,
and the BBC broadcast Churchill’s speeches
of carefully crafted rhetoric.