Books Magazine

Her, Indoors

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
“My people, we stay indoors. We have keyboards. We have darkness. It's quiet.”Neil GaimanTo a practicing writer, the land beyond the well-worn track between the keyboard and the kettle is exotic.  The Greek origin of the word exotic pertains to The Outside.  This is not a place with which we are familiar.  The romantic image of a poet sitting beneath an oak tree with notebook and pen in hand is a ridiculous fantasy.  Do you know how many distractions linger in The Outdoors?  Just yesterday I found myself derailed from a potentially fruitful train of thought by the sight of a child of about three years sitting in a buggy.  This might not sound uncommon to regular inhabitants of The Outdoors but please let me assure you that it was an unsettling sight.  Please allow me to explain.
This buggy was designed by an adult in order to accomodate two children.  It was created to accomodate two children from the age of 'too big for the pram' to 'too little to walk for very long but big enough to break a back'.  The seats on this contraption were of a dark blue fabric and both set in a reclined position.  
At this point I will describe the buggy which my daughter traveled in as a tot.  It was a single-seater buggy.  There was a shelf underneath the seat which was handy for storing a bag of shopping and a couple of small items such as wipes and a bottle of juice.  
Now, to return to the unsettling sight.  The buggy which I saw yesterday, on the promenade near South Pier as it happens, had two reclining seats - one on top of the other.  The smaller child (too large for the pram) looked perfectly comfortable and content.  He was gazing across the road in toothless wonder and the morning sun was warming his spongy bones.  
Beneath the curious baby sat the second child.  Being of the 'too little to walk for very long but big enough to break a back' variety, he was crammed into the lower seat beneath his little brother.  The underside of his brother's cushion was so close to his face that he was forced to hold his head on the side to avoid squashing his nose.  He could see only glimpses of the scene which stretched out before his spoiled sibling.  This child looked bored.
As I watched his face, turned to one side, I wondered whether he had the faculties to resent his sub-standard seating.  Did he notice the disparity between their arrangements or did he simply accept his position as the status quo?  
This question put me in mind of the May Day protests taking place across the world to demand workers' right.  Walter Crane's Garland for May Day 1895 has been doing the rounds and the combination of the recent Bangladesh factory collapse, the ongoing struggle to defend worker's rights, and the look on that toddler's face - hidden from the May Day sunshine - felt to me like a fitting reminder of the need to point out unfairness wherever we find it.
And so, with a hearty salute to a Chartist Poet, I give you the Song of the Lower Classes by Ernest Jones:

WE plow and sow, we’re so very, very low,

  That we delve in the dirty clay;

Till we bless the plain with the golden grain,

  And the vale with the fragrant hay.

Our place we know, we’re so very, very low,  

  ’Tis down at the landlord’s feet;

We’re not too low the grain to grow,

  But too low the bread to eat.

Down, down we go, we’re so very, very low,

  To the hell of the deep-sunk mines;  

But we gather the proudest gems that glow,

  When the crown of the despot shines;

And when’er he lacks, upon our backs

  Fresh loads he deigns to lay;

We’re far too low to vote the tax,  

  But not too low to pay.

We’re low, we’re low—we’re very, very low,—

  And yet from our fingers glide

The silken floss and the robes that glow

  Round the limbs of the sons of pride;  

And what we get, and what we give,

  We know, and we know our share;

We’re not too low the cloth to weave,

  But too low the cloth to wear.

We’re low, we’re low, we’re very, very low,  

  And yet when the trumpets ring,

The thrust of a poor man’s arm will go

  Through the heart of the proudest king.

We’re low, we’re low—mere rabble, we know—

  We’re only the rank and the file;  

We’re not too low to kill the foe,

  But too low to share the spoil.

Her, indoors

I hope I have proven how distracting the exotic land of The Outdoors can be.  This blog post was supposed to be on the subject of my undying love for the Tory Party.  Maybe next time.

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