Hypocritical Cant

On The Irregular Indulgence Of A Natural Impulse

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‘It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.’

– Edgar Allan Poe

It is well past midnight when the eminent politician’s Brougham pulls up outside Ah Tack’s Lodging House in Pennyfields. The mood of his driver is baleful for has he not spent the greater part of two hours travelling through every iniquitous den and dive in London, being made to wait in the cold (and the pouring wet), outside many a strike-ridden nunnery? There is hardly a dive in London where his Lordship has not tried to threaten or admonish proprietor after proprietor. And now, here they are at last, forced to canter down into ChinaTown to Ah Tacks, where, much to the suspicion of his Lordship’s driver, the eminent politician is welcomed with open arms by none other than the voluptuous Canton Katey ‘erself. “Oh lor! My Lordship! After all these years! Well I nevah! What brings you ere?! You ave not deigned to sample our wares in some time!” she winks lewdly, chuckles raucously and at last his lordship starts to relax. Sliding a plump arm around his waist she whisks him into the utter darkness of her rookery.

Lit just well enough for its denizens to find their way deeper still into its nooks and crannies but not lit too well. Led by the plump well-rounded hand around his waist, the eminent politician travels deeper still into the lodging house that Canton Katey calls home. It is like fumbling one’s way through a dense London fog, for the air is suffused with the heady aroma of opium, thick and dense and intoxicating. All around him he can hear the pain filled groans and unearthly sighs of men awash on the ethereal shores of opium addiction. The pragmatic, principled side of his nature is horrified. What in God’s name is he doing here? But his fleshly and more carnal impulses prevail, he has no wife, he has no fiancee and there are certain entirely natural impulses which must be sated if he is to remain sane and by God! Sate them he will!

“Off with that hat my Lord! Make yourself comfy! Ah Tak! Attend ‘is Lordship! Ang Sing? where’s Ang Sing? There’s a gent ‘ere needs soothing and no mistake! Fetch Ang Sing!”

Ang Sing, the command is uttered by one mouth, and then another, until the room his ‘lordship’ is in resounds with that name wondrously spoken and until at length, Ang Sing appears. His Lordship is uncloaked, his cravat loosened, he reclines easefully on Canton Katey’s chaise longue and Ang Sing, a prodigious beauty of not inconsiderable girth, materialises and lies beside him. Gone is his irritation at being nay-sayed by a professed leader of the lower classes, one whom he has consigned to Newgate (along with all those intellectually challenged fools who followed his lead). His irritations soothed, his natural impulses sated, he slides into slumber like one drugged.

“Poor Sot! A fine time he’s had of it!”

“Who? Him?” the eminent politician’s driver jerks his thumb towards his Lordship and raises an enquiring eyebrow, Canton Katey displaying genuine affection for  a gent? Well he never! Smirking, Katey shook her head, “The union rep ye dolt! Him as called the mill workers strike! What I should like to know is why ‘im as has the best interests of all at heart should be destined for Botany Bay!” Glaring down at the supine figure of the eminent politician she let rip a mirthless chuckle, “As for him? Such as he should know by now that when we calls a strike we means it!”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I would!”

“You didn’t!”

“Oh calm down won’t you! It’ll be at least a month before the symptoms show, plenty of time for you to find other employment”

“He’ll do for you!”

Now Katey cocks her head at an angle and stares at him hard and direct, the smoke has cleared, all the dreamers have gone and a cold wind whistles through a broken, rag stuffed window pane. “He’ll do for me will e? What? Like e’s done for the sons and daughters of the ‘fallen women’ he’s so fond of ‘avin? Get im out of ere!”

And so, dear reader, the driver departs with an eminent politician in tow and a dark foreboding in his heart. Driving back through the near empty streets of London in the glistening, glittering dark, hunched low in his seat he reflects grimly on this night’s doings. All unionised girls were clean, it therefore followed that the girl Katey had given to his Lordship wasn’t unionised and therefore hadn’t yet been given a clean bill of health.His Lordship had always been a man of probity where his natural impulses were concerned, he’d always made sure he’d indulged them with the very best. How could he have fallen so low.

“Terrible! Simply terrible!” the driver utters these words aloud and in the same breath curses his luck. Whipping his horses into a dreadful frenzy so that the Brougham quickly gathers pace he departs the hinterlands of ChinaTown and heads back to the plush surroundings of the eminent politician’s residence in Sloane Square.

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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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