Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I loved every minute of it

Billy Elliot that is.

It made me laugh, cry, and gasp with sheer astonishment at the dancing - especially that of the lad who played Billy.

The background to the story, set as it is in Easington, County Durham, as I guess everyone knows is the 1984 Miners' Strike. It is the more poignant seeing the fight to save the pits being enacted when we all know fully well what happened to our coal industry and those communities where coal mining had been the life blood of the community. I studied social and economic history when I was at Hull. I imagine this strike will be studied as a defining moment in our history for as long as the history of the 20th Century is studied. I start to feel old when I realise that anyone younger than about 25 will have no memories of this strike, when it seemed more like civil war was going on between the industrial north and the Tory government in the south than an industrial dispute. We decided that we should play our part and declared 'They shall not starve' and did some fund raising which was a bit of a pain on a wet Saturday morning in Wood Green but let's be honest - not as much as a pain as having no salary for a whole year when you never had much in the first place.

I also think the bitterness will continue for generations. The reason that for example Chesterfield football club hates Mansfield F.C. so much is far more than local rivalry - Chesterfield miners mostly stayed out - many Nottingham miners worked. Many supporters of other sides still chant at Mansfield fans - 'You're scabs -and you know you are.'

I remember huge rows with mates who though they supported the miners saw more quickly than I did that Scargill's tactics were a disaster. I couldn't bring myself to imagine the miners losing after such a struggle, but looking back I have to admit it wasn't exactly text book stuff on how to win an industrial dispute.....

No 1. Call strike when coal had been stockpiled and do so in March as it starts to get warmer and therefore the demand for coal will be lower.

No 2. No, on second thoughts - really don't want to revisit all that here.

Back to Billy who is the gifted working class kid with artistic ambitions seemingly beyond his reach - but he succeeds just as the miners lose their year old struggle (the moment when I started to weep for the second time last night).

I am not alone in being a soppy old sod by the way- according to Elton John in the programme when he left the premiere of the film in Cannes he says "I had to be helped up the aisle sobbing." Quite an image :-)

There is a helpful section in the programme by the way- aimed I imagine at Americans and Cockneys - under the heading 'Translation'. To fulfill a useful public education role I bring you the following words which may come in handy should you find yourself north of Middlesborough. ( Messalina, I am thinking of you. )

'Cannut' - Second syllable unstressed, means 'can't' as in 'I cannut bear it man.'

'Howay'- 'How-way' means 'come on' as in 'Howay, I want to show you something.

'Awa' - Pronounced 'hour', means 'over' as in 'Admittedly the sausages are a bit awa done'.

Ok - bored with that now.

So contrasting emotions at the end - sadness and regret for the mining communities and what their future will bring alongside exhilaration that Billy will escape all that and have a wonderful future.

I leave you with the lyrics of a little song sang in the show by some of the village kids to a well known tune:

'O my darling, O my darling
O my darling Heseltine.
You're a tosser, you're a wanker,
And you're just a Tory swine.'


JCA said...

That takes me back a bit. The Miners strike was a depressing episode in the eighties. I covered it as a very niaive young Freelance Photographer. The one thing that always shoots back into my mind from those days was seeing a number of coppers (who had come from all corners of England on extended overtime)all waering sweaters with A.S.P.O.M. embroidered tastefully on the upper left of the chest and crowned with a pick and shovel. Realising that the police were renouned for creating secret societies around such events, I enquired what the initials stood for. I was told it was 'Avon and Somerset Police Operation Miner'. Some days later another Bobby told me it was really 'Arthur Scargill Pays Our Mortgages'.

Arthur Clewley said...

you've made me come over all emotional jj, gonna have to go and get a parmo now

J.J said...

JCA. Thanks for commenting. The lyrics in the show pick up on the money the police made out of the strike eg 'We've got a lot to thank you for, Geordie you're a corker. A nice extension on the house and a fortnight in Majorca.'

Arthur - the internet is an amazing resource -

parmo:- TS
A newishly coined Teesside word for a peculiarity of the Teesside take-away cuisine namely a piece of ham deep fried in breadcrumbs and dipped in parmesan cheese. You can also get chicken parmo pork parmo etc.

Arthur Clewley said...

a peculiarity? thats the staple diet of half a million people you're talking about there. better be careful or you'll end up with your photo on the back of teeside buses where they normally put those 'name and shame' posters of ASBO holders!

actually there was a story about the EU wanting to ban parmos under name of origin rules because they aren't made in the italian region in question so goodness knows what they'll be called if that happens

Messalina said...

I am proud to say that I knew what a parmo was before JJ supplied the definition. I had heard tell of them in the back bar of the Beacon on a Friday night. My best smogger pal has never had one, but he has been down in the Great Wen for three years ...