ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, Transported

Of Incontestable Arguments

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A global political, and commercial enterprise has been brought to a dead halt, by the disappearance of Her Majesty’s Railway Servants, and the Royal Dock Workers of London. Where ever can they be? Not idling at home surely! Why such hard grained men as these  work even on a Sunday! Passengers sit fretting on trains which can’t run themselves and all timetabled services have been suspended indefinitely. Cargo bound for the Indies lies heaped upon the dock; and in such a manner as to obstruct the best efforts of the most energetic clerk to negotiate his way past. What is to be done? The cargo cannot unload itself, any more than the trains can navigate their way from Paddington train station to Neyland.

But take a brisk stroll from the direction of the Liverpool Street Terminus, hop aboard a Hackney Cab bound for the Old Bailey and there you will have the solution to this puzzle. For you will get no further than Ludgate Hill, crammed as the thoroughway is with sluggish Omnibuses transporting reporters for the various London broadsheets, teeming as it is with stolid railway men and Royal Dockers, a prodigious profusion of them, stern and unsmiling and unyielding as the very metal the trains are made of! 

“Pray tell where are you bound?”

“To Newgate!” one man tersely replies and another and another, the march is slow, ponderous and heavy. The sound of their plodding feet? T’is as the rumble of underground thunder, t’is as the hammerings of the Greek God Vulcan upon the raw elements of the earth. To Newgate! The dwelling place of murderers, swindlers and those silk mill workers who dared to protest and riot against their meagre pay and working conditions. To Newgate! That point from whence hundreds of silk mill workers have been ferried to New South Wales, a place which even the denizens of hell have forsaken!

“Ours are the skills on which Her Majesty’s empire is built ! Our labours the fuel on which this empire is founded! And shall we forsake our brothers as they lie in chains for that very cause which is our own? Never! Why even now the orphans of our fallen comrades suffer for the sake of poor pay and worse conditions! Nay, their sufferings are our own! If we fail our comrades we fail ourselves! Let us march to Newgate!” And so they march dear reader, past St Martins of Ludgate, past the Old Bailey until, at length, they stand in front of the impenetrable walls of Newgate Prison.

Pitch darkness lit up by dozens and then hundreds of torches held aloft by men and children who have marched dozens of miles and would march thrice more to achieve their end, justice! Dear readers, justice of the purest and most beneficient kind for the much oppressed silk mill workers! “Can you see him da? Can you see him?” asks a weary, dust begrimed road sweeper arching his neck back in the hopes of viewing that near-legend whose stolid intransigence and fiery disposition has fueled many a protest and caused those who stand beside him to hope against reason. “Aye son, there he stands betwixt the prison walls! T’is The Union Rep!”

Well might you remark how, on such a night as this, it might be possible to espy a man perched on a prison wall and know who t’is. But the streets that surround Newgate Prison are lit up so fiercely that had the sun plummeted from its place in the heavens the streets could not shine more radiantly than they now do.”No chair behind the battlements for him!” declares a railway man his face lit up with fervour,”Nor sitting at rest with his missus whilst his workers suffer and fight for him! He is a man of true principle and truer purpose and I would travel to hell and back for the likes of him as stands up and fights for us! Hurrah for the Union Rep!” and that cry is echoed up and down the streets that encompass Newgate Prison, “Hurrah for the Union Rep!” the walls of Newgate Prison reverberate with the cry whilst the Old Bailey itself seems to shudder,”Hurrah for the Union Rep!”.

“When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yest what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,

Solidarity forever,

Solidarity forever,

For the Union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organise and fight?
For the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,

Solidarity forever,

Solidarity forever,

For the Union makes us strong.

All the world that’s owned by idle drones (ants!) is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.
While the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,

Solidarity forever,

Solidarity forever,

For the Union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn,
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong!”

Dear reader t’is a song of righteous fervour sung with such thrilling passion, such fervid ardour that it must chill the blood of every industrialist who hears it! Sung to the tune of ‘John Brown’s Body Lies A-mouldering In His Grave’ t’is not possible to tell who brought forth the song first, but t’is possible to see those who move gently amongst us sustaining it! See there the scarlet tri-cornered hat! And those jet black tresses that gleam so lustrously in the torch light. T’is none other than Madame Guacamoley and with her Madame Le Breton (knitting in hand) and behind her a ragged and uncouth looking selection of women armed with cudgels and bludgers. Dawn is but a few hours away and as we cluster beneath the oppressive walls of Her Majesty’s ‘Bastille’ one cannot help but wonder how things will end…

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

The Bells Of St. Sepulchre

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Silence. In the streets that surround Newgate, in the Old Bailey that stern, unyielding matriarch that, emptied at last, squats stolidly alongside the prison, having supervision of its inmates. Silence, falling warmly upon the householders of Sloane Square, wrapped snugly in eiderdowns in well-heated bed chambers.

Not so for the men of Newgate prison, tossing and turning fitfully in their beds as the bells of St. Sepulchre toll sombrely overhead. The iron clanging of these bells in no way resembles the delicate wedding chimes of St Paul’s Cathedral, for the bells at St Sepulchre’s have only one main purpose and that is to act as harbinger’s of impending death. There is to be another execution a’fore the gates of Newgate and several more will pass unremarked at Wandsworth Gaol for the ruling classes have not yet finished doing as they would have wished with the silk mill workers of London. Does Father London weep for his infants that are no more? He may weep in vain, the hearts of the rich are unmoved.

The Nunneries have been shut for months all the well-fed employees lying restfully a-bed; the music halls have aggressively stood their ground, there will be no unbridled frolics, no licentious entertainments, no debauched drinking sessions whilst the working classes of the capital are forced to bleed, and starve, and tramp about in mourning weeds! And all for asking that their wages and their working conditions be improved!

Silence, cold and unyielding, mired in death and disease in the midst of a prison whose tenants sleep uneasily. And yet there is one who does not sleep, and yet another, and another and another. Slipping across the walls of the prison, opening prison gate after prison gate. Quietly oh so quietly! They steal from cell to cell opening doors, letting prisoners out, who in turn steal across other walls, and slither across other courtyards, till at last nearly all who are sane, and who wish to live are awakened and ready. “For better pay and conditions!” the cry rings out and soon becomes a roar,”For us, our children and our children’s children!” cries another.

The prison governor is asleep, the Union Rep reclining in his cot takes time to stuff his pipe, and slowly lights it. He savours the first puff, langourously draws in the next, pauses on the third, for he now hears the increasing clamour and see’s the torrent of freed inmates pouring into the courtyard from left and right. Now the prison governor is awakened and creeps from his bedchamber to that of the Union Rep who is sat fully dressed pipe in hand.

“Well, they are all gathered” says he calmly, taking a seat on the only chair the room furnishes. A prison Governor seated calmly in discussion with a prisoner who has just incited an uprising in his prison? How can this be? Like the black death or the pox, a malaise has spread throughout the chattering classes of London, quite unlike the deathly torpor those diseases bring. For this malaise is typified by a staunch and intractable determination to see justice of a kind never before seen, done. The judges and the barristers are perplexed by this intractability. Present the evidence as the barristers and the judges might, they can persuade no more juries to vote in favour of hanging the remaining five hundred silk mill workers Newgate prison holds. No more than they can persuade them to vote unanimously in favour of the transportation of anymore prisoners, to the harsh penal colonies of Australia.

The Broadsheets suggest that the governments reaction to the demands of the silk mill workers has been excessively harsh. And then of course there is the disappearance of Lord Grid-Iron, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and those unbridled revelations of his licentious behaviour and financial immorality. Is it true he had a hand in arming the insurrectionists who attempted to blow up the Theatre Royal? Heaven forbid!

“Prosperity! For our children! And out childrens children!” the cries ring out, gather force and bring the Union Rep and the prison Governor to their feet. “Well old friend” says the prison governor firmly shaking the Union Rep’s hand,

“T’is time!”  but the Union Rep shakes his head. In spite of the flaming pyres being held aloft and carried to and fro by prisoners, whose running feet patter thunderously across the prison yard, in spite of the roars of determination, the time is not yet. He pauses, lights his pipe, cocks an ear and listens intently and then, he hears it, t’is like the first slight wave to hit a shore and t’is greeted instantly by silence. It builds it rises and it overtakes that of the men and women within the stone walls of Newgate, but that is because of the immensity of their silence. T’is the shrill war cry of the Chimney Sweeps! The prison Governor looks at his friend in stark disbelief, “but the last of them’s only got out of Great Ormond Street Hospital yesterday morn!” the Union Rep puffs slowly on his pipe, a triumphant look stealing over his face,”T’is Time to mount the battlements!” he declares.

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

Let The Right One In

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Around Sloane Square all has ground to a halt, all is quiet and although it has been a most busy day for Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe, he cannot help but to look back upon it with a degree of tremendous satisfaction. Three hundred ragged dependants sought the refuge of Spitalfields workhouse today! Three hundred! And of those sifted through by Willoughby Croft and then presented to the board of guardians, only twenty could in all good consciense be admitted. The casual ward held two hundred more, the rest being tainted by their association with the Grid-Iron Square riot, were turned away. Most workhouses in the poorer neighbourhoods were burgeoning with those who were supposedly destitute, Martin-in-the-Fields was one such example, but Spitalfields had a surplus of places. Only those he deemed truly deserving where admitted to the main building, the rest (whose claims were dubious at best) were consigned to the casual ward, where they might either survive the night or freeze to death, depending on the state of their health, and the life choices they had previously made.

Yes, all is quiet throughout the home of the Right Honourable Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe, the Ethelbert-Smythe children are all a-bed, Edwina curled around her brand new doll’s house as though it might grow legs and leave her. And young Thomas, his thumb in his mouth, wears the astrakhan trimmed dressing gown his mama bought him to keep him warm in the dead of night. Downstairs in the hallway the grandfather clock lets out a steady tick-tocking that serves as an undercurrent to the warmth and stability of that happy home environment. The servants all lie fast asleep in their attic rooms, worn out by the days ministrations to the wants of the right honourable Smythe and his guests. Being as it is the festive season, they have barely been off their feet since five in the morning, indeed not till twelve past midnight were they permitted sufficient peace, to be able to disrobe and take to their beds. The hours served in this household are many and hard, the times laid aside for rest few and far between, staff turnover is high, still, nobody dare complain, t’is either this, the mills or the workhouse.

Tick-tock! Tick-tock!The clock strikes three and at the foot of the stairs the household guard dog barely stirs in its sleep. Three thirty and a gust of cold air drafts through the narrow gap between cherrywood panelled front door and hearth, it is a dim, grey nebulous breeze that wafts up the spiral stair case pausing for a moment at each bedroom door until at last it reaches that of Mr and Mrs Ethelbert-Smythe and slips over the threshold. The Ethelberts being most comfortably esconsed in a four poster bed carved of ebony wood, replete with an immensity of linen bed sheets and woollen blankets, over which have been thrown two goose feather stuffed quilts (for it is deadly cold at this time of year). The most honourable Ethelbert-Smythes are deeply and tranquilly asleep or should be, but except that there is much tossing and turning beneath the comfy load for that pater familia,Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe.

“Let me in sir, it’s me sir. let me in! Let me in sir!” a little voice cries out, surprisingly it touches the heart of Hardy so that on mere paternal instinct he leaps out of bed , strides to the bedroom door, and opens it believing the distressed voice to be emanating from one of his children, but as he opens the door peering out into the darkness he spies no one their. Uttering an irritated sigh he clambers back into bed, smooths the covers over his side and closes his eyes. “T’is I sir! T’is Dommy! Dommy Woodbine! Let us in sir! I’ll be good I swears! Let us in sir, please!” at this Ethelbert-Smythe leaps out of bed for now he is certain that there is indeed somebody (other than his wife), present in the room. T’is pitch dark and so he spies them not, but he is certain that somebody (something) of that workhouse ilk, has broken into his home. He might be enraged at the fact where it not for the hairs standing up on the nape of his neck, and the goose pimples springing up all over his body. “Let me in sir! Let me in!” two little cold, damp hands fasten themselves around his neck, two little damp legs around his waist,”Don’t sends us there sir! Don’t sends us to Master Turple-Sleath! I swears I’ll be good! Honest I will sir!”

“Let go of me and I will let you in” replies the right honourable gentleman who upon being freed leaps for the bedroom door, forgetting that having left his wife in bed and asleep she may be in some danger. All at once the workhouse child whose face he has yet to see leaps upon him, wrestling him to the ground with a prodigious display of inhuman strength, Crying out in a frenzy of terror Hardy rolls frantically to and fro, to and fro in a desperate attempt to dislodge the pint-sized monster. “Let me in sir! Let me in!” the child cries hysterically until his cries and the screams of Ethelbert-Smythe mingle as one and are indistinguishable, “Aaargh! Dear God! Help meeee!” crying out to the very god his daily actions refute, Ethelbert-Smythe awakens, chilled, clammy, but still very much esconsed in his plush and comfy bed.

Of course there is no child assassin present in his room there is merely him and his wife, a lady grown expertly accustomed to feigning sleep whilst her husband works his way through his night terrors; something he has consistenlty done ever since taking on  responsiblity for poor law relief in their parish. These night terrors are the one thing that have prevented her from leaving him; they assure her that though he may not be a true Christian he does at least have something reasembling a consciense and is therefore still human.

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Academy status, Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant

The Hunt Is A-Foot!

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There is rest, dear hearts, at the end of all terrible strivings and endeavours, at the end of all heart breaking struggles there is a slumber filled peace and there is rest. Come with me dear hearts, take my hand and let us travel to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where the ‘warriors of promise’ languish and groan in a ward assiduously and none too discretely guarded by the forces of law and order. Here lies Milty, a blood stained bandage wrapped neatly around his head, being fed beef broth by a kindly nurse, it is the first mother’s love he has ever known, it is the first hearty hot meal he has ever had occasion to enjoy. And over there in that corner by the Christmas tree sits Wendy Woodbine being comforted by a one legged match girl, each holds a rag doll smoothing their fingers wonderingly over the delicately painted dolls’ faces. These are the first toys they have ever been given, donated by no less a philanthropist than Lord Shaftesbury himself.

And see here, the kindly face of the Reverend Arthur Farquar, as he delicately and most sonorously intones the testimonies of Gove,

“And Moses came down the mountain of Gove, and he saw that the people rose up to frolic, and to play, before the golden sacrificial calf of equal pay and conditions they had fashioned for themselves, and behold the spirit of Gove was grieved, and he was filled with wrath”

“Bloody hell! He do go on don’t ‘e?” whispered one silk mill worker to another

“I’d swing for ‘im any day of the week…if I had a bludger handy, why don’t someone shut ‘im up?” replied his comrade, his eyes roving wildly around the hospital ward looking for something, anything to hurl at the Reverend Arthur Farquar, as he patrolled his flock, reading all the while from the sacred testimonies.

“I wouldn’t lay a finger on ‘im if I was you” replied another, “e’s a friend of Bodoo’s”

“Wot im?! I didn’t know Boodoo ‘ad any friends…”

There was much exchange of surprised glances at this little tit-bit of information,

“Well e’ has. That’s ‘im. So lay orfff!”

The silk mill workers who had been privy to this conversation, stare with pop-eyed amazement at this disciple of Gove. For his sombre dress and stern demeanour give no hint of his prestigious connections, he seems lucid though obsessed, he looks sane though a little lacking in warmth, he clutches at his worn copy of the testimonies of Gove with the characteristic fervour of an abstemious true believer.

“Sought ye to to throw off the shackles of St Gove without his most reverend & sacred consent! And without my benediction! Cursed art thou amongst the flock! And lo Moses did smash the stone tablets on which he had inscribed the mos maiorum of St Gove. And lo, he did grind the stone into powder and bade the people eat of it and yeah, verily, verily, did they choke”  

As he intoned these words Arthur Farquar’s gaze swept over his flock, most of whom lay prone on hospital beds, groaning in pain. He felt his heart surging with love for these fallen mill workers whose murderous rage and destructive actions had taken them so far from the glories of Gove.  It was his duty now to lead them back to the straight way and it was a duty from which he would not flinch!

“When’s Mrs Seacole happening by? I could do with a shot of gin after him!” muttered Bert, his back hurt something awful, his head was throbbing and he counted himself lucky to have been sneaked onto the ward by Lady Grid-Iron (Lor bless ‘er!). But having to listen to all this preaching with out so much as a drop of ‘by your leave’ it was too much! The only thing keeping him here was the fear of winding up in Newgate, at least here he had a chance of escape.

Most of the patients lie snug a-bed, warmed throughout for the first time and permitted their first ever experience of indolence, a state the rich know only too well. Some sleep with smiles flickering ocasionally on their faces, all frowns washed away in a sea of warmth. A great fire has been lit in the fireplace at the end of the ward and many of the wounded chimney sweeps have clustered around this, toasting freshly cooked turkey twizzlers in batter. As they chatter and chortle, their faces all flushed and greasy, an old woman limps towards them,

“Ere! You can’t smoke that in ere! This is a ‘ospital!” piped up one of the freshly washed boys,

“An a very nice ‘ospital it is too, but Jaesus! It’s cold out and I can barely warm me bare bones with a pipe and a smoke, so if it please yeh I’ll be muddling off in a while but I jus thought to ask whether my Toby was amongst you?”

“Toby?” said the chimney sweep surreptitiously eyeing the trousers he could glimpse from time to time beneath the worsted dress, “Ain’t never erd of him” the old lady fiddles with the inside of her bonnet, drawing forth a sovereign. And as she does so the chimney sweep glimpses some stubble on her chin,them Molly Maguires! He narrowed his eyes,

” We didn’t go to war with the likes of Tobias Grid-Iron for the sake of money! Put your sovereign away! I knows what you is and I knows what you want and I ain’t blaming ye but we don’t knows where he is, he should be swinging from a gibbet outside a Newgate, but that’s only for the likes of us!” he opined bitterly, turning back to the fire and his friends. The old lady (who is not an old lady), turns away clutching her shawl to her bosom and singing all the while quietly to herself she leaves the ward and shuffles down the corridor. The old lady shuffles past hospital ward after hospital ward, each closely guarded by an officer of the law,finally she/he halts before a stall at the end of the corridor where sits an apothecary, an administer of medicines. The apothecary, Mr Scroggins no less, of Muck Lane, looks a little surprised and dismayed when he spies the bristle chin and those rattle-snake eyes hidden beneath the brim of a be-ribboned bonnet; but the surprise is only momentary and he submerges it quickly,

“Get the word out” the bonnet laden insurrectionist whispers, “Fifty pounds goes to the man that’ll tell us where Lord Grid-Iron is hid”

“Fifty pounds?” Scroggins whispers back,

“Fifty pounds alive, ten dead”

Scroggins chuckled,”Much more like it!”

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Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant

Of Secret Love & A Coffin Notice Long Deferred

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A brutal quiet has descended upon the Grid-Iron home dear reader, an eerie tomb-like silence. Even the Nightingales and the Cardinals that would gather and descend twitteringly upon Grid-Iron Square have fled. Not so the workers, Grid-Iron Square is deserted but these grim faced comrades have over-run Lord Grid-Iron’s town house and now, having barricaded themselves within, they await that final onslaught from ‘the enemies of promise’ .

“Ere Mickey fancy a beer?”

“You’re joking aren’t yeh? Have a tipple of Gin, it’ll warm you to the bones so it will, t’is awful gusty in ere! ”

Bert nodded in agreement, “Them leaded windows ain’t all they’re cracked up to be, we patched ’em up best as we could though” he eyed Mickey sharply, “Shouldn’t you be in pursuit of His Mibs?”

Mickey shook his head “I’m one that got out of that coal mine of his in one piece, after the walls collapsed, though there’s many that didn’t and many as lost their children too. I’ve done my share, I’ll leave the rest to the Molly Maguires God save ’em, fancy a pickled turkey twizzler? ”

“Nah, I’m feeling too gusty, I’ll have a tipple of Gin though, you seen Boodoo?”

A sultry evening at dusk dear reader, night has fallen. But the skies still blaze orange and crimson, lit up by the bonfires that abound in Grid-Iron Square and by the blazing conflagration eating its way steadily through the east-wing of the Grid-Iron home. Lady Grid-Iron and the servants have long since fled the premises, bundled into a coach and driven post-haste to Lord Grid-Iron’s country residence by Francis, the page boy. But where, pray tell, is Lord Grid-Iron? Let us alight upon a roof top not a quarter of a mile from a Grid-Iron chimney and observe a desperate, scrambling pursuit .

“Gombeen man! Gombeen man! We’re upon ye!” pistols can be heard being cocked and then fired and each near miss, each bullet that flys within an inch of it’s intended victim is greeted by a shriek and then a bellow of “Sweet Gove save me!”

“Sweet Gove? Sweet Gove? Of what use is such a profligate curse to such a Gombeen as thou? We’ll have at ye Gombeen man! We’ll have at ye!”

And indeed it does seem as if Lord Grid-Iron’s time has come, for as he scrambles desperately up and over one tiled roof after another,his face a ruddied sweating mess, his clothes befuddled and begrimed with soot, it seems that his speed has  slowed. And as he slows, his poorly used muscles trembling with fatigue, it seems that his pursuers have sped up, their legs and arms scuttling ever more quickly over each roof and towards him. Indeed it is as though Nemesis (the goddess of divine retribution), is carrying them on her wings as they fly through the air and relentlessly bear down upon him.

“My poor Sinead burned to death in one of thy coal mines!”

“Aye! My mother was driven off her own land by one of thy agents!”

“Aye! Aye! And my Da starved to death at they hands thou accursed Gombeen!!”

“Help me! Sweet Gove!” Lord Grid-Iron screamed,

And it indeed seems as if his prayers are heard, and answered, by that most dubious of saints, St. Gove, for the roof he is splayed upon crumples beneath him, sending him hurtling into the room beneath, pursued by the outraged cries of the Molly Maguires who have spent weeks travelling to this sceptred isle, just to have the pleasure of getting their hands on him.

As he falls Lord Grid-Iron’s life flashes before him, his many triumphs in the House of Commons, his marriage to the most esteemed Kitty Grid-Iron, his burning passion for Mrs Hayes. His fall is a long one in which he ceases to scream in terror at his precipitate descent, becoming at once both tranquil and silent, for death on collision seems imminent. And indeed it would have been so, had he not most fortuitously, fallen through the roof of Mrs Hayes ‘up-town residence’.

Mrs Hayes is at the peak of her nadir; her partially exposed bosom lying resplendent in a bejewelled corset of jet black silk, her flaming red hair artfully held in place with ivory combs and draped over one shoulder. Unperturbed by Lord Grid-Iron’s sudden and unplanned entrance, she sings on,

“Take a pair of sparkling eyes,take a figure trimly planned, such as admiration whets” she tra-la-la’s and trills wonderfully, cracking her whip in time to the music.

Lord Grid-Iron falls heavily at the feet of her avid customer, a most unlooked for climax to the evening’s events. Mrs Hayes continues to sing, “Take all these you lucky man! Take and keep them if you can!”. Now consider the embarassing quandary, nay the excruciating ‘situation gênante‘ as the avid client (a close relative of a certain monarch), arises from his ‘love seat’ at the feet of Mrs Hayes and speedily exits her attic ‘play space’.

Groaning and rolling to and fro on the attic floor, Lord Grid-Iron clutches at his left ankle which he is certain has been broken. He groans and he rolls around in exquisite pain and as he does so Mrs Hayes continues to sing, “Take my counsel happy man! Act upon it if you can! Take my counsel happy man! Act upon it if you can!”

Tobias Grid-Iron has ‘acclimatized’ himself to the love of his love having many illicit liaisons, but he has difficulty resigning himself to her utter indifference to his excruciating suffering at her feet. He is mortified by his humiliation, he is heartbroken by her indifference, he faints…

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

On The Subject Of Chimney Sweeps

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“How long d’you think it’ll take them?” asked Bert,

“Oooh..not long” replied Boodoo, “Not long at all, the workers was already up in arms and what with that explosion, I wouldn’t fancy Lord Grid-Irons chances at all, he should have hiked it to the countryside but then there’s nowt so naive as the aristocracy” squinting off into the distance he could barely make out the orangey, pulsating, glow of the conflagration that had been St-Martin-In-The-Fields, dense grey-black smoke hovered above the spot. Boodoo felt exultant, with a little help from the Chimney- Sweeps this had been his best conflagration yet. And the fun wouldn’t end there, oh no, by this day’s end he would see the down fall of the one man who had parted him from his beloved sister, Emily LeFevre.

“Fancy a pickled bloater?”

“Nah”

“How about some fried tripe?”

“Nah”

“Well what about a roast potato pickled in turkey twizzler dripping? You can’t go wrong with some turkey twizzler dripping”

“Bloody hell Bert! Don’t you think bout nothing but food?”

“Oi oi! Here they come!”

Now, dear reader, envisage the scene at Grid-Iron square, the sombre and austere silence of three hundred smartly clad policemen, spiked helmets clutched tightly by grim hands, manning the barriers pop-eyed and expectant, and four dozen of her Majesty’s Huzzars, fresh out of the Crimean, sharpening the edge of their swords briskly, their eyes alight with unbridled glee, blood-shed was certain.

“Oi oi! Here they come!” Bert said once again and Boodoo, perched alongside Bert on the roof of Lord Grid-Irons town house simply smiled, “Ere Bert” he said serenely, “Toss us a Turkey Twizzler” munching speculatively on the cold and spicy meat they gazed out over the roof tops and down toward the preparations that were a-foot in Grid-Iron square. Overhead a pall of grey-black smoke hovered and undulated it’s way towards them from St-Martin-In-The-Fields, whilst on the ground all had come to a halt and the air was thick with expectant dread.

“There heeeeere” Bert declared shrilly, for not even his world weary gaze could quite take in the sheer enormity of the mob that had swarmed down from St-Martin-In-The-Fields and now seemed intent upon over-running Grid-Iron Square and tearing it apart, he thanked St. Gove he was perched firmly a-top a roof. And oh my dears! What a terrible sight! What a nightmarish spectacle for young eyes had they the wit to be terrified!

“Aieeeeeee! Aieeeee!” screamed the little chimney sweeps as they bore down like a roaring tide upon the hapless police officers,”Aieeeee! Aieeeee!” that shrill heart-stopping cry was as nothing next to the sound of the chimney scrapers they wielded, like a roaring tide of locusts devouring a cornfield, the chimney sweeps swept over the officers-of-the-law throwing themselves upon the Hussars. Then came the onslaught of the silk mill workers, who upon seeing their children joined in hand to hand combat with the Hussars, went to work themselves mopping up the leavings so to speak.

“Ere what Boodoo I didn’t know ‘erbert Wilkins was capable?”

Boodoo chortled, “E’s capable alright! Caught him trying his hand at badgering once, ‘ad to warn him smart” they both watched as little Herbert, a scarlet coloured band tied around his head, grabbed hold of a horse’s reins pulling himself up into the saddle behind the terrified Hussar. Plunging his fingers into the Hussars glossy locks he pulled hard, jerking the rider back, and causing the horse to rear, until all crumpled down into the ferocious millieux that would in time be known as the battle of Grid-Iron Square.

The two arsonists watched avidly, as wild looking women dipped beneath their skirts to remove their garters and then proceeded to use them as sling shots with which to aim and shoot bits of sharp edged debris at the enemies of promise. Here and there could be seen  police officers staggering under the weight of an enraged child, Hussars galloped to and fro caught in clear panic as chimney sweep after chimney sweep bit their noses, swung from their sword scabbards and gripped them fiercely by the hair. “A-ha!” shouted one Crimea Veteran triumphantly, ” I have you now!” as he gripped a child firmly by his soot-covered throat, ” Oh no you ruddy haven’t!” screamed another child as he flicked him aggressively in the forehead with the flat of his triangular shaped chimney scraper.

The sunset set at its usual pace as the workers and the forces of law and order grappled with each other, until at last only the workers (as well as those injured and near-comatose) remained. Those Hussars and police officers who could, had fled, and quite frankly who could blame them? For they had families to consider, “Its gone quiet for a bit” said Boodoo, “Pass me a spicy bloater” chewing speculatively on the meat his eyes passed over the crowd to a lady clad in a scarlet dress with a tri-cornered hat squarely a-top her head. Madame Guacamoley! It couldn’t be no other! He licked his lips with relish as the lady cantered briskly over the battlefield with the shrewd eyed union rep at her side,

“Comrades!” she roared, here eyes a-blaze with righteous indignation, “Our work is not over!Look around you! Does Lord Grid-Iron lie bleeding on the groud beneath your feet? Is it his loud groans you hear? Whilst your young ‘uns eat dried turkey twizzler mince, he dines on roast goose! Whilst you and yours warm yourselves by hearths heated by a single piece of coal, his face flushes with the warmth of a blazing log fueled fire! Comrades on your feet! Our work is not yet done! To Grid-Iron Manor!”

“To Grid-Iron Manor!” the workers roared their minds a-flame with thoughts of long hours and short wages “Avaunt thee Grid-Iron!” bonfires had been lit hither and thither by the workers who had tossed the various Hussar and Police officer’s uniforms upon them, in the midst of those alternately crimson, scarlet and amber coloured flames it seemed as though the workers had become the very denizens of hell, “Blimey!” said Bert as he prepared to dig into his fifth dried Turkey Twizzler, “They ain’t done yet!”

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

Of Webs Well-Spun

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The Union Rep stared across a vista of pale, pinched, human faces, they were the familiar faces of his brothers and sisters in the struggle. In front, the silk mill workers, dark shadows nestling underneath their red eyes and all but a few of them eating breakfast (potatoes roasted in turkey twizzler fat), as they stood there. The match factory workers, mere children barely out of infanthood, scampered and skipped next to them, filling the air with screams of glee, clad as poorly as they were they seemed oblivious to the cold. There were some who could barely walk, let alone skip, white bandages wrapped tightly around crumbling jaws, a side effect of being repeatedly exposed to the phosphorus the match sticks were dipped in.

Behind them the chimney sweeps, their faces all ruddy from being fiercely scrubbed, they were as stolid as they were silent and had dressed in their Sunday best for this meeting. There was hardly a child amongst them not holding a scarlet coloured banner aloft, stolid they were and as silent, but the Union Rep could almost smell their rage. For one of their own had been made to climb up Lord Grid-Iron’s chimney whilst it was still burning, and had paid dearly for that cruelty with his life. As had the Master Chimney Sweep,Turple Sleath, he had been found dangling from that same chimney.

The cotton mill workers were stationed just behind them, whilst the ‘Nunnery’ keepers milled around everyone, for the most part they were ignored since theirs was considered to be a disreputable profession, but everyone had joined together in this dispute over pay and conditions. The Union Rep smiled sweetly at each and everyone of them, they had proved useful when it came to getting the better of a politician in the past, and should push come to shove he would need the help of them all and he knew he would get it. Then there were the music hall dancers swirling their skirts and tra-la-la-ing through the swarms of workers who made room for them and then closed around them and joined in the singing. Prime amongst them was the greatly esteemed Madame Guacamoley, she was clad in the bright red dress that had expedited her ex-communication from the Church of St. Gove; and to which she had added a tri-cornered hat,with arms outstretched she moved amongst the people singing ‘The Worker’s Anvil’ to the tune of ‘Down At The Old Bull & Bush’

” Strike! Strike! The worker’s anvil! Strike for the cause of freedom! For each friend and neighbour, strike for everyone! Strike! Strike! The worker’s anvil! Strike against the factory bosses! Strike against the dim-wit Grid-Iron! Then may we be free!”

A fine woman was Madame Guacamoley, her jet black locks flowing freely down her back and her face flush with the enjoyment of it all. The Union Rep noted with much satisfaction that none of the chimney sweeps were smiling, dancing or singing, their rage was palpable. Cantering back and forth on his horse he scanned the crowds looking for the union stewards who would marshall and direct the masses on the march to Grid-Iron Square, he waved his blue flag vigorously at them as he cantered to and fro. On that signal each produced a whistle blowing mightily on it until at last the comrades were quiet, the Union Rep cleared his throat, ” Brothers and Sisters” he said, “I was born not far from where you stand, at the workhouse of St. Gove the Martyr, raised by me Gran whilst me Ma worked for a pittance, as a cog-oiler at the Grid-Iron distillery”

Booes and hisses greeted the mention of St. Gove, but that was as nothing compared to the potatoes that went flying through the air when Lord Grid-Iron’s name was mentioned, (so far so good).”Torn from me Gran’s arms at the age of seven I were sent to the Industrial Academy at Spital Fields and t’was there I experienced the heart breaking oppression of factory life. Walking six mile each morning to the mole stretching factory, sitting from four in the morning to late at night, steaming and stretching suede gloves and mole-skin trousers. My little arms covered with blisters my little back scarred from the birch beatings I took, and my pay? One Shilling and six pence! One shilling and six pence! for being torn from the arms of my family, one shilling and six pence! For nought, but stale bread lunches and dinners! One shilling and six pence!”

The crowd shouted imprecations, it roared for blood, “Yesterday one of our dear brothers was murdered!” uneasy mutterings swept over the crowd, “Yes! My brothers murdered! Forced up a Grid-Iron chimney where he choked and burned to death! And d’you know what his wages where? One shilling and six pence!” Now the chimney sweeps howled and bellowed their rage, their little faces demonically contorted and flushed beetroot red. “My brothers! My sisters! It has been four decades since my birth, is it right that thirty three years on from when I was first apprenticed, the wages and the conditions should still be the same?”

“No!” roared the surging hordes,

“Is it right that we and ours should find ourselves stuffed into the same workhouses our parents endured when the bosses close down their factories for months on short time, to preserve their profits?”

“No” they roared again,

“Our grandmothers and grandfathers thrust onto straw pallets in a workhouse? No care in their old age? And us to follow them? After years of one shilling and six pence? Nay brothers! Nay sisters! I say strike! Will you strike with me?”

“Yes!” roared the multitudes, their banners held aloft, the crowds surged forward, eager to make their way to Grid-Iron Square and that is when it happened…

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