working class

Tag: working class

Sandstorms and Julie Burchill on my mind

The crippling heat saps my energy as we rumble and judder on and on packed like sardines inside this tin-can on wheels. The sweat drips like blood out of a wound from my brow and slides down my soaked back, outside the Syrian desert heat soars to 47c whilst inside the air conditioning repeatedly refuses to work.

Fearing that I may pass-out from the insane heat I decide to sleep.

I wake in a hot sweat with Julie Burchill on my mind. What happened to the idyllic desert landscape? We are now driving through a sand storm. Visibility is nil yet still the driver hammers on as the whirling sand batters the bus.

Julie Burchill is like a bad dream in a sandstorm, I’d accidentally seen her ‘talk’ promoting a book at the Latitude festival last month in the UK. “How do you operate in a middle class world as a working class woman?” “How do you find your way?” “Are you ever truly accepted?” Burchill is asked.

At first I felt for her. I sometimes wonder if the working classes are ever really accepted into the private club of the middle class world or whether they just allow a few of us in because they know we’ll drink too much and keep them entertained with our common ways for a while. Do they laugh with us, or at us?

Oh dear, am I being too classist? Well to be honest if it wasn’t for the interviewer focussing on the class issue I wouldn’t have raised it, but I guess I’m also sensitive to the fact that I often find myself being asked how a mere pea factory worker ended up in TV rubbing shoulders with the bespectacled Oxbridge brigade?

Don’t get me wrong, I like my middle class friends because they are usually intelligent and in their own way they amuse me, although I still keep a tight bunch of working class mates who are my closest friends for their endless ability to mock themselves and life itself in a funny and intelligent way.

But I sometimes wonder if when the token working class ‘icon’ is paraded in some middle class setting like the ‘writers tent’ at the Latitude festival (or myself at film festival Q&A’s) whether it forces them into becoming a parody of the person these people want us to be like, so instead of being articulate and interesting we start shouting and swearing. Is this a result of our own insecurity?

It wasn’t long before Burchill was swearing ‘fuck fuck fuck’ to shock the middle class audience; like a tiger cornered in her cage. I was on her side at first but when she made some reactionary ignorant remark defending the war on Iraq and attacking those who opposed it I reckon she had gone too far.

15 years of hanging out in the Groucho club was the reason she left London, apparently she’d realised that the only people she knew were media types – it certainly explains her ignorance when it comes to her opinions on the Iraq war. Maybe she should restrict herself to the jade goody shagging gutter gossip stuff that got her rich and famous in the first place.

By the end of her ‘talk’ she’d completely lost the sympathy of the audience, and, more importantly for me, she had become an embarrassment to her ‘own’ class, doing nothing but re-enforcing the most negative stereotypes of us as ignorant foul-mouthed inarticulate fools.

Fortunately the Syrian sand storm woke me from this nightmare and still, with zero visibility outside of this tin-can, my attention swiftly turned away from Julie Burchill and back to my own personal safety as we rock and rolled our way through the stormy sandy desert. There are no Julie Burchill’s in Arabia thank god.