A Day in the Life
*This piece was an entry for the New Writing North ‘A Writing Chance’ programme. The brief was ‘an original piece of journalism, non-fiction or / creative writing, up to 500 words on the theme ‘Life in 2020–2021’*
I read the news today, oh boy.
It used to be a vaudeville joke: A family describe their act to an agent. It breaks all social norms. It’s perverted, sickening, vile, incestuous, racist, hateful, putrid and poisonous. The shocked agent asks, ‘Whaddya call the act?’ to which the father replies, ‘The Aristocrats!’
We’d read the papers and see that gag shifting under the skin of the latest story performed by our very own elected aristocrats and secretly we’d enjoy our disgust. It let us know, deep down, we opposed, like the sweet and bitter taste in your throat after throwing-up let’s you know you’ve opposed the booze you needed to get through a Zoom catch up with pals you wouldn’t even see in normal times.
But now, in the Blitz-spirit, life-in-bore-time era for Covid, the news is a Stewart Lee routine. Only the insufferable repetition doesn’t end in a laugh, or end at all, for that matter. It just continues day in and day out, with the same punchline — ‘Welcome to Purgatory. You don’t have to be remorselessly feckless to govern here, but it helps.
Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A strange metaphor indicating either we’re dead and finally going to heaven or that we’re about to have a very fast, very intimate encounter with the blustering, drunk driver holding an upside-down roadmap and coming the other way. The optimists are hopeful for a return to normal as if normal didn’t mean ‘endlessly daily uphill trudge through cow shit’ for a lot of people.
The comfortable explain that society’s divisions have been highlighted as they slip a coin into the slot, revealing the peep-show of the joyless, perpetual dance of the naked and desperate.
‘They can’t hear you, love. I’ll speak for you.’ They whisper with a wink, donning their carnival barker costumes to write their columns and start their podcasts with the audio fidelity of a victrola salvaged from a skip. Not to worry, they’re common people too. Their great-granddad worked in a pit, and they made their own butties when Prêt had to close. If you can inherit your parent’s wealth, you can have their tragic backstory too. Why not?
The year paid lip service to asking what is class, anyway? Because we can’t accept it’s just about money? There’re paupers out there who read books for fun, that’s not working-class, is it? And what’s all this intersectionality business? Well, it’s trying not to distract from minority voices while being annoyed that race will always trump class in any conversation, but you at least feel bad about thinking that. After all, you had a lot of free time this year and read Akala’s book, so you know that racism is classism with added slurs and less disguised hatred.
Maybe the past year has given us a new definition. Maybe the working class are just all the people who suffered the same this year as they do every year, only the people doing just fine bothered to notice.