A matter of ambition: re-visiting class in 21st Century Britain.
The rise of the BNP, the loss of the support of the traditional working class voter and an election in the offing. Suddenly, in the UK at least, class is back on the agenda. Eleven years into a Labour Government and it takes an independent "panel of experts" to inform us that social mobility is on the decline, the top professions are increasingly out of the reach of all but the most affluent and informal recruitment systems, such as internships and work placements, are becoming a back-door to top jobs for the well-off and better-connected. What the present working class needs, it seems, is a good old-fashioned dose of aspiration. After all, as Simon Carr wrote in the Independent last week: "The middle class has never been more open, more accessible, more permeable.........the only thing you have to do to become middle class is to do what the middle class does......The belief that education matters. The desire to know things. The desire to get on in life. The urge to have your children do better than you have done......."1 So straightforward: so uncomplicated. How could today's working class have failed to grasp such a basic tenet? Is it that they simply don't have the ambition, the determination or the drive of some of those 1950s counterparts? Or is it, as it has always been, more complex than that? In the search for some clues, I found myself re-examining my own childhood in post-war Britain. My grandparents, on both sides, were first or second generation immigrants. On one side from Ireland, on the other from the Russian, Lithuanian borders. My maternal grandfather worked in a wood yard in East Street, in Leeds. I don't know what he did there because I never met him. I do know he was gassed in the First World War, from which he never properly recovered, and that he had the most perfect white feet my mother had ever seen. He kept them like this by bathing them every night in a bowl of hot water and potassium permanganate.
My grandmother was trained as a French Polisher, which my mother told me meant she came from a "better" family than his. They had six children of which my mother was the youngest. They lived in a tenement flat on Marsh Lane, just round the corner from Leeds Bus station. My mother was, as I said, the youngest of these children. The oldest, John, was already in his 20s when my mother was born and he and his younger brother Joe both worked in the Ice House across the road. The Ice House (in the absence of large refrigerators) was a place where half cows, whole pigs and other large cuts of meat were stored; mainly for the butchers' stalls in Leeds Market. The men who worked at the Ice House needed to be strong and able to carry heavy loads. It wasn't an easy job and involved long hours but it was reasonably well paid compared to other un-skilled employment. By the time I got to know them, both John and Joe had neighbouring flats in a block further up East Street and wives and families of their own. That was the men on my mother's side. They both liked a pint, a bet on the dogs as well as the horses and smoked like chimneys. But they would treat my mother to holidays in Blackpool, as long as she pretended they were buying her ice creams while they put their bets on. And if they won she would get extra spending money, more turns on the rides and as much candy floss as she wanted. The girls were younger. But my grandfather's time in the trenches meant there was still an age gap between them and my mother. Mary was the oldest and she had trained as a nurse but at some point had left and, like Kathleen, gone into tailoring. Kathleen had stayed on at school after fourteen, which meant there was no way my mother would be allowed to, even though the nuns had said she could have got into the college. I don't remember if Eileen ever worked. She must have done at some point, but she had got herself married young and gone off to live in a back-to-back house up York Road: which in those days meant something. Esther, my mother, was encouraged to follow her sisters into Burtons because there would "always be a need for good seamstresses". She clearly had some idea however, from quite early on, that she was worth a little more than all this. Borrowing their frocks from Kathleen and Eileen (without their knowledge), she and her friends would take themselves into town and hang around the Cathedral, mainly with an eye on the boys who sung in the choir, who clearly came from a better side of the tracks than they did. It was there that she first saw my father, Thomas, playing the organ. Thomas Pacevitch, as he was the known then, before my grandfather became naturalised, was quite a catch. He had just finished at the College of Commerce and been offered a place training as a surveyor in Banbury. My mother was worried that her friend, Kathleen Denham, would have been more his type. Kathleen was tall, slim and well turned out. She had also gone to Mount Saint Mary's College. But Esther kept hanging about and in the end he must have noticed her. Maybe it was the real fur jacket she had recently pinched from one of her sisters, or the way she curled her long black hair into a pageboy. But by the time the war broke out and he went off to enlist they were almost engaged. Meeting Thomas Pacevitch was a significant moment in Esther Smith's life. His parents were also of immigrant stock. But when my paternal grandfather introduced himself to my grandmother he wooed her with a claim to be "a poor Polish artist". Casimir might have earned his living as a glass-blower, but he had a romantic vision, based on the
city he had come from, Kaunas, of glass making as a form of art. He had bought a house in Headingley, seen his children had music lessons, and never went out without his white gloves, walking stick and spats. My father was his eldest child. There were three more brothers and three sisters and, apart from Uncle Edward, who wanted to leave school as soon as he could, they all stayed on beyond the statutory age. My mother started to spend as much time as she could at the Pacevitch's house. Not only were there musical evenings where she got to hang around by Thomas's side at the piano, but there was a whole new world of people whose dreams included becoming musicians, or being teachers, or living in London. There were books on the shelves, flying ducks on the wall and a downstairs cellar crammed with boy's bicycles, girl's walking boots and a separate washhouse of its own. Esther's family thought that she was "getting a bit above herself." Although Kathleen had married a nice Jewish boy who was going into the RAF and Eileen's husband worked in the print at the Evening Post, Saturday evenings were family occasions and to be spent either at St Patrick's' Club or the Cavalier public house on Richmond Hill. Having discovered that Esther was walking out with a "foreign looking" lad with a Polish sounding name, John and Joe decided that a meeting might be in order. But the War got in the way of more than their plans. Thomas, like many Yorkshire boys, was sent to a Scottish regiment waving his way out of Leeds station in a tam-o'-shanter and a Cameron Highlanders' kilt. Esther took herself off to the recruitment centre in Briggate and came away signed up for the Women's Land Army and on her way to a hostel in Kirk Deaton, near Wetherby, West Yorkshire. Interviewed about this choice later in her life, she said she had decided on the Land Army because she had always "loved the countryside". The Smith family were not as delighted as she was by her news. The job of the youngest daughter was to stay at home and look after her parents. And, although her father was already dead, her mother was still Esther's responsibility. Luckily for her, her sister Kathleen wanted to move back into her mother's flat whilst her husband was gone, and Esther was free to go on her way. Wearing a navy blue serge suit that Kathleen had run up, a new pair of court shoes and carrying a borrowed case, she got on the Wetherby bus and said her final goodbyes to Marsh Lane. John and Joe, now in their forties, continued working in the Ice House throughout the war. Kathleen lost her new husband when his plane was shot down over France and Mary's husband Albert was so badly shot up that he suffered from nightmares and sleepwalking for the rest of his life. Esther had the time of her life in the Women's Land Army. In a temporary suspension of the usual pecking order (many of the other girls had been teachers, civil servants, one was even the daughter of a lord) Esther had managed to get herself elected to the role of hostel forewoman. Not only did this mean that she was given a room of her own and taught to drive (in one of the first Chryslers imported from America) but she was put in charge of placing the 35 other girls and a whole bevy of German and Italian prisoners with the local farmers. In what had now become the "Cass" family (from Casimir's nickname), the children were mainly younger. This meant that two of them, Bernard and Shelia, were evacuated. Kathleen stayed at home looking after her parents, Joan had gone to work for the Ministry of Defence in London, Frank was in the Post Office (a reserved occupation), Edward had been taken prisoner of war in Italy and Thomas was so badly injured rescuing one of his wounded colleagues in Sicily that the regimental priest had
given him the last rites and sent a message to Esther that he was unlikely to make it back to England. Thomas did eventually return, however, and, despite daily proposals from her Italian farmhands, Esther visited him regularly in hospital and finally married him. But although he had gone into the army physically and mentally A1 Thomas returned damaged goods. Not only was his body riddled with bullet holes but his mental state was equally perforated. The man who was going to be his guide and mentor into the surveyor's profession was also now out of the equation, having lost his wife, his office and most of his desire to go forward on the night that Coventry was flattened. Attlee's post-war Labour Government won a landslide victory on the promise of radical social reform and a fairer, more equal society. I'd like to think that both the Smith family and the Casses had voted for him, despite Esther's track record until the late 1990s. Thomas and Esther moved to a bright new council estate in the north of Leeds, with a front garden, a back garden and a bluebell wood behind. Frank Cass bought a semi-detached house out on the Otley Road, Joan was working in Town and Country planning in London while Bernard was training as a loss assessor in the insurance business and Shelia was about to become a primary school teacher. Hampered by his nerves, Thomas had had to take a step or two backwards in his career plans but he did have a job as the book-keeper/accountant for a number of firms in Leeds Market. And if it wasn't exactly what he might have imagined himself doing, his organ playing skills were still in demand at the newly built Catholic Church up the road and he had an occasional engagement as the repetiteur for the Doyley Carte Theatre company when they were in town. It was as close as boys like him could come to any dreams of being a professional musician. The Smiths were still living within a mile or two of the original family home in Marsh Street but the girls' lives, in particular, hadn't entirely stood still. Mary had been elected to the local garment makers' union and along with spending weekends away at Labour party conferences had become a voracious reader of political non-fiction. Kathleen was working as an independent tailoress, mainly making vestments for the Catholic Church, and living in her own small council flat in Seacroft. Eileen was enjoying the fact that her husband had come through the war unscathed and newspaper workers like him were enjoying the rewards of the post-war boom. They were bright, they were independent and they were all fairly comfortably off. All three of them dressed smartly, wore good quality gold jewellery, kept their china in glass cabinets and spent their holidays in Rimini and Rome rather than Blackpool. Their children had left school and left home but stayed local. Most of them lived in the same block of flats, worked in tailoring or light industry and went to the same pubs, Catholic clubs and churches as their parents. Even those who had moved out briefly when they first got married returned once they had had their own children. They saw no real reason, enjoying the post-war period of relative affluence, to do otherwise. Esther's nephews and nieces were happy enough to have parents who were close by to do a bit of baby-sitting when needed, lend them ten bob if they were short at the end of the week and cook a roast lunch that they could come round for after 11.00 o'clock Mass on a Sunday. Even the unmarried mothers among them knew that their children would be absorbed into the wider extended family, with grandfathers taking on the roles of absent fathers and grandmothers making sure they wanted for nothing. In moving out to the new estate, Esther had taken a decision to live at a distance from all this. She might still join her sisters for the tea and home made apple-pie that followed Saturday afternoon shopping, but when all four of them gathered in the tiny
living room of Mary's flat, while her husband went on watching the wrestling on television, there was a sense in which she was no longer one of them. Even as children we were aware that it was part of the same subtle shift that meant that none of the brother's wives were invited to these gatherings, even though they lived in the same block. The shift that made Esther cringe should she bump into her brother's daughters in Leeds Bus Station: their tight skirts, head-scarf covered rollers and cigarettes setting the benchmark for what it was to be "common". My sister and I both loved to go with her on these visits and in my early teens I would hold my breath until I knew if my cousins were staying in or going out. Their choice of the former meant that I would be able to ask to stay overnight. Nothing seemed more glamorous than to become part of their Saturday night lives of television, backcombed hair and Babycham. But I was also aware that the focus of our lives was determined to be elsewhere. Saturdays with the Smiths were followed by Sunday afternoon tea at Frank and Margaret Cass's new semi, our Christmases spent in the Cass family home in Headingley and our holidays in Cullercoats, on the North East Coast, where Bernard was now living. (However much Esther still held on to her love affair with Blackpool). My first holiday, without my parents, was to be allowed to take the train down to London with Kathleen Cass and her daughter Josephine, where Joan treated us all to the ballet, the zoo and the Tower of London. The Ireland Wood Estate played more than a supporting role in shaping our future. Described in Wikipedia as "particularly leafy", consisting of "low density" housing and set within the northern perimeters of the city, its pre-fabricated concrete homes were light, spacious and modern. The families who had gone to live in the Luttrells almost felt as if they had been specially selected. On one side our neighbour was a policeman, on the other a manager for a removal firm and opposite were an insurance collector, a bespoke carpenter and an ex-army Captain married to a Frenchwoman. As small children we were given a lift to the Catholic School in the centre of Leeds, by a dentist who lived just round the corner. Luttrell Crescent was a perfect setting for becoming part of that "great post-war wave of social mobility"2. Our parents might have grown up in over-crowded inner city tenements but we children could cycle to Otley Moors in the summer, pick blackberries in the woods in the autumn and take our sledges to Quarry Bank in the winter. There were even families who had home made ginger beer plants in their outhouse and fathers who performed magic tricks for parties. Many of the mothers in our street were full-time housewives but there were those like Esther who, through choice or necessity, had part-time jobs. When we were small this took the form of a few mornings at a nice Headingley greengrocer's. Then when our primary school moved to the old Bishop's House a mile or two away, Esther joined a group of, mainly Catholic, mothers who took part-time jobs cleaning and doing silver service waitress-ing at one of the nearby University Halls of Residence. The work might have been menial but it also afforded them a sense of taking their place in the new social order. They were close at hand for sports days, first communion breakfasts and medical examinations. As the children in our street grew older, it became a habit for everyone to be waiting at the gates the day the scholarship results came through. Getting a place at Lawnswood (Girls and Boys Grammars) or (in the case of the Catholic's), Notre Dame or St Michael's was what was expected. It was the same with our "O" level and then our "A" level examinations. Although few of our parents had attended school after 2
sixteen themselves all of them had bought firmly into the welfare state ethos of a new meritocracy. Higher education was the first step on the ladder and we children were determined not to disappoint them. Most of us who grew up in the Luttrells were first generation university students: there was a girl who went to Oxford to study Biology and a boy who went to Cambridge to do Russian. If everything had gone according to plan, Thomas and Esther might have also been part of the newly created "lower-middle class" exodus from social housing and followed their neighbours to the private estate across the main road. But my father's mind had been more badly affected by his war experience than anyone had originally recognised. Post-traumatic stress counselling having not yet been invented, his increasingly regular nervous breakdowns were followed by intensive periods of hospitalisation in the Psychiatric Wing of St James. While they attempted to numb Thomas' pain with what would now seem like daunting levels of ECT, Esther found herself bringing up three children and learning to cope with the vagaries of the newly created Health and Social Security system. For the last two years of his life Thomas was awarded an Army Pension in recognition of what had happened to him, but unfortunately for Esther it was neither retrospective nor posthumous. As a widow of 52, with one child just starting university and two more still at home she was left with nothing but a tiny parttime wage and state benefits to live on. At this point Esther should most probably have re-visited her options. There was certainly plenty of forthright advice on hand from her sisters; it was time to send her children out to earn their own living. It was probably something of the same stubbornness with which she had taken herself off to the Cathedral to Mass or the Land Army Recruitment Office that made her dig her heels in even at this moment. It was certainly not about taking any easy option. She knew exactly what it meant to sign up to life on supplementary benefits. Whatever Shavian style notions she might have of "deserving" and the "undeserving poor", we had all come to know that no such nice distinctions existed in the over-crowded waiting rooms of 1970's social security offices. Despite the post-war commitment to expansion of higher education statistics were hardly in her favour. Whilst the number of school-leavers going on to university had risen to almost 9%, less than 5% of these came from poorer backgrounds. The possibility of means-tested full grants and no fees, did however, mean that higher education was, in the end, still an option. Esther sent me back to Newcastle University, made sure my brother followed me a year later, and when it came to the time, brought me in to argue my sister's move from the secondary school to the college. In the end all of us undertook some form of higher education. The ramifications of Esther's decision were many and far-reaching; my brother and sister and I are still living them. But this piece is focused elsewhere. The big factor that Esther had failed to take into account was the "mobility" part of social mobility. Full university grants were conditional upon recipients living at least fifty miles away from their parents. The move we were making from our working and lower-middle class backgrounds was to be literal as well as metaphorical. Few of us returned to our home cities and the Cass children were no different. This meant that while her sisters went on enjoying almost daily contact with their children, grand-children and even great grandchildren, Esther began having to take long, mostly solo, journeys to see hers. It was too late to look for sympathy from the Smiths. They would have repeated what they had told her previously; she was the
one who had decided to "educate" her children. She had signed up to one model, they to another: there was pleasure to be had but also a price to be paid for each of them. As she got older, it often seemed to Esther that she was the one who had ended up paying most. Whilst she was proud of her children, the fact that none of us were living close by meant that she was increasingly on her own; our visits were always regulated by demands of work, children, time and distance. Few of the friends she had known had stayed in the neighbourhood. Those who had were mostly the ones whose family's lives had followed similar patterns to her sisters': their children had left school early, followed their parents into unskilled jobs and were living down the road. Esther's situation was no doubt compounded by early widowhood and what had been, in reality, long-term single parenthood. But the geographical and cultural gap that had been opened up between her and her family in the 50's was now reflected tenfold in her relationship with the lives of her children. Without the language to articulate or analyse her growing sense of displacement and disappointment she became increasingly angry and embittered. Not that anyone looking in from the outside would have ever guessed. Like her refusal to put up net curtains, in the knowledge that this was an important demarcation of class, Esther had also mastered the bourgeois art of keeping up appearances. But at the end, whilst each of her older sisters had plenty of nearby children and grandchildren to take turns at their hospital bedside, much of Esther's journey into the darkness of paranoia and then dementia was, because of our living so far away, unaccompanied. When she died there was enough money in the bank to cover her funeral and a small reception afterwards. We were given a week to empty her council house of what little she possessed: Thatcher's divisive "right to buy" legislation had passed her by. Although much of her later anger had been directed towards the Church, which she felt had been taken over by money, class and greed, it felt strange not to give her a Catholic funeral. The priest was new to the parish but he had done his research amongst the older parishioners. And was able to speak movingly about the part Thomas had played as organist as well as Esther's contribution to the Union of Catholic Mothers' First Communion breakfasts, weekly flower rotas and pensioners' Christmas lunches. The post-funeral meal was the first time that the Smith and Cass families had been in the same space for almost thirty years. It was an interesting encounter. Whilst not all of the post-war generation of Cass children did go to university, some of the girls marrying and becoming full-time mothers and others going straight into careers like banking, most of them were now firmly entrenched in the middle classes. They owned homes of their own, more than one car and had children who were hoping for careers in graphic design, interior architecture or music production. Few of them still lived in Leeds, although some had recently moved back to the Yorkshire countryside. The Smiths on the other hand, now had four generations living within a three or four mile radius of each other. With very few factories or industry of any kind in Leeds, the women were working mainly in care or retail and the men were more than likely to have suffered long periods of unemployment. One or two of the lads had minor criminal records. They lived in housing association or council homes that were part of the new developments that had replaced the old blocks they had grown up in. Some of
them, who should have be enjoying grandparent-hood had found themselves, with another generation of single parents, taking full-time care of their grandchildren. The Saturday afternoon shopping trips were still happening (even if they now met up in cafes in town), almost all of them were regular attenders at Church and still cooked a Sunday roast for whichever members of the extended family turned up. They teased my sister and I about the "cosmopolitan life" they think we live in London and New York and promised, even though we all know they never will, to visit us. A social scientist entering the room, might have found it difficult to tell them apart. They could have picked up clues in the choices of drink and the thickness of the accents, but if it had to be judged on appearance alone, they would almost certainly have come down on the wrong side. A refined sense of when and how to dress up, still belongs, as it did in my mother's day, much more to the Smith tradition. Those women didn't spend all their years in tailoring for nothing. In class terms, however, there is a very real difference. Most of the Smiths remain firmly on the lower rungs of that social mobility ladder. Some of them could be said to be part of that growing " white underclass". Yet I have a sense, when I am with them as a group, of them sharing a comfort and ease with who they are, that is missing from my own life. It is nothing to do with any nostalgia for some mythical "good old days" of working class solidarity and communal values. It is undoubtedly informed by the knowledge that were I to be at any similar sized gathering in London, with people who work in the arts like I do, there would be almost nobody with whom I could have a shared history conversation. When it comes to talk of family, where children should be sent to school, even where to go on holiday I recognise most of my friend's decisions are informed by a very different sensibilities and life experience to my own. It's not that I am any longer afraid of revealing my roots. I only note, that despite eleven years of a Labour Government when it was placed firmly off the agenda, class remains a very real fact of life in 21st Century Britain. I've been trying to work out at what stage I must have become aware of my own sense of dislocation. After all, at those early parties in Luttrell Crescent I could have shared my history with at least 97% of the other children. Did it begin at the convent grammar school when the nuns asked those of us who were scholarship girls to put our hands up and told us we didn't deserve to be there as much those girls whose parents had had to make the sacrifice of paying? Or at my (northern) university when it suddenly dawned on me that I was the only person I knew in my hall of residence who had come from a council estate? Or was it much later, as I moved into a more creative context, when I sensed there was a series of informal networks to which I didn't quite have access: that my choice of employment was, just as it was for my mother and father, constrained by lack of family influence or independent income? I do not know if there is anything new that the intersecting lives of the Smiths and the Casses can contribute to the current debate about social mobility and class barriers. It is a subjective piece of qualitative research: less a narrative of two families driven by different values than an account of the ambition and aspirations that a certain period in history awakened in one woman. In some ways it is appealing to individualise Esther's experience. Despite setting out to be a reflection on class issues it is, in the end, her story. But in many ways I feel it is a story that has important resonances for many who were part of that post-war period of social transition and important implications for what we are trying to deal with now.
I still remain unconvinced by Simon Carr's claim that," not everyone wants to get on and do better than their parents". Esther's sister Mary's active involvement in the trade union movement suggests someone who was far from content to put up with the status quo. She and her children made the choices that seemed possible to them at the time. Esther insisted that we made others. But where we do concur is in his acknowledgement that social mobility is not without its costs. Not only does it almost always require that we are prepared to "leave their origins, their school friends and family" as part of that process, it gives them no warning that the influences of those origins, schools and families will remain pivotal to our lives and the choices we can make in the future. In a recent Radio 4 programme "Whatever happened to the working class?" Eric Pickles declared that in class terms "we are all prisoners of our youth in some way...". However reluctant I am to find myself agreeing with a Yorkshire working class Tory, I find it fascinating that, while more and more Americans refer to themselves as middle class, over 50% of UK adults still claim to be working class. This is partly because we continue as a nation to identify our own class through that of our parents. It is also because social mobility was, in many ways, a 20th century myth. American economists, such as Tom Hertz3, have already exposed its lack of validity in a US context. What makes us think that in a country that still has a monarchy, an unelected House of Lords and one of the most powerful and secret land-owning elites in the world we might be able to make it work better. Yes, it might have possible for those of us who went to grammar school and obtained access to higher education to climb a little way up the social ladder but the likelihood of most middle-income earners ending up in the top percentile was as unlikely for us as it was for our parents or grandparents. The further one rises in a cultural context the less likely one is to meet people with a similar background. In some professions, like the arts, it becomes almost impossible. Re-visiting the seminal 60's documentary series "7-Up", inspired by the Jesuit dictum "give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man", one might be surprised to see how closely borne out its assumption that each child's social class predetermines their future has been. Recent research, however, shows that little has changed. Whilst only 7% of the population attend independent schools up to GCSE level 75% of judges, 70% of finance directors, 45% of top civil servants and 32% of MPs were privately educated. I wouldn't even want to begin to guess at the figures for the leaders of our arts and cultural institutions. Conducting my own research through sites like Friends Reunited for names I recognised from Primary or Secondary School, it was fascinating to note that while a number of people who had gone on to have careers as nurses, teachers, physiotherapists, even lecturers in further and higher education, I have yet to come across anyone who is a judge, an MP, or a lawyer. There is a girl who married into the upper echelons of the Tory party but I've never found anyone who is directing films, running a theatre, leading an orchestra or working in the media. So, if social mobility really is the "political issue for the next decade" and wellintentioned people like Alan Milburn really want to tackle class inequalities perhaps they should look at the issue of shared history. In a world of widening differentials there is little point in tinkering around the edges. It's been demonstrated over and
Understanding Mobility in America, Tom Hertz, American University For the Center for American Progress 2006
over again that in the middle classes will always benefit more from any scheme to provide more access, whether it's to the arts, the professions or education. Yes, we could require fee-paying private schools to do more to meet their charitable status by teaching "soft skills" such as communications to children from state schools. We could provide working children with better career advice. Maybe it is just that no one suggested to the Smiths that they might like to try for a place at the Bar? Other than the one at the Cavalier pub that is. We could even make sure that a certain percentage of the growing number of unpaid placements and internships in the professions go to working class children. But placing a working class child in a top lawyer's office for two weeks is hardly going to have the same effect on them as it would for a child who has gone to the same schools, visited the same theatres and museums or holidayed in the same parts of Tuscany or Cornwall. In the things that matter shared cultural references and informal networks remain just as important as equality of income. Until we have a government in power that is happy to put the re-distribution of wealth, the abolition of fee-paying schools and republicanism back on the table then class will go on being the elephant in all our rooms.
Postscript. For one term at Newcastle University my tutor was visiting poet Tony Harrison: like me he was a working class scholarship child from Leeds. He was one of the first people for whom I felt able to write an essay (on Blake) that was based on my own thoughts rather than what I thought the person I was trying to be should be saying. When he gave me it back he told me he thought it wasn't half bad. At the bottom he had written "more power to your elbow". I add this not only because Harrison has written more powerfully than anyone about the price to be paid for social mobility and education, (The School of Eloquence) but because, in a recent interview with John Tusa for Radio 3, he says that his parents wanted him to get on but "they wanted me to get on so far...... I think they didn't want me to go that far." I think it is a sentiment that Esther would have understood.
Published on Aug 7, 2009