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

Of Black Holes & Endless Rapture

5690T’is more than eight years since the Silk Mill Riots of Grid-Iron Square and the overthrow of Lord Montaperti and his cronies. T’is less than five years since, at the urging of its constituents, the Union Rep was first elected Member of Parliament for Bow & Bromley. In that time he has scaled many a mountain of Tory opposition and with the help of his enraged Liberal comrades righted many a wrong. And by god if there isn’t such a wrong to be righted here in the midst of this education board, if he might but be allowed to sniff it out! Clearing his throat and getting to his feet the Union Rep examines the placid countenances of the men sat before him.

The air is redolent with the fragrant smoke of their Cuban Cigars, paid for by the blood and sweat of their workers no doubt. And yet for all that, when it comes to the proliferation of Industrial Academies for the training of their workers’ children, these education board members have plainly shown they have a conscience.

“Gentlemen, I would speak to you all on the matter of Molten Tussock Academy”

A look of puzzlement alights upon the flushed faces of the Bow & Bromley Education Board. Molten? Tussock? Would that be the name of  one of their schools? Glancing across the table on which sit several decanters of port and the remains of a prodigious luncheon,the Union Rep can make out the indolent face of Lord Elderberry who yawningly replies,”Molten Tussock Industrial Academy I think he means. Yes and what of it?”

And at this, this acknowledgement that such a school exists the Union Rep feels his heart skip a beat, so far so good. “T’is ten months since Molten Tussock Industrial Academy was inspected and nigh on twelve since Master Parnham’s inspection report was due; where is it and where is Master Parnham?”

“Master Parnham? The Mole Trouser Stretching Master? T’is hard to say, I’m told that from time to time he resides at Bethlem Asylum”

“Bethlem Asylum? He has not been seen there for some time, in fact since he undertook to inspect Molten Tussock he has not been seen at all”. Does the smile on Lord Elderberry’s gaunt face seem a little strained? Or is that just the Union Rep’s impression? He continues,”Indeed it is almost as if Master Parnham has fallen off the face of the earth and I could almost believe this to be the case, were it not for little Monty Eckard”

“Monty Eckard?” replies Master Dimmott a concerned look on his face, for the child’s parents and grandparents are some of his best Iron Slitters.

“Aye! The poor child has travelled many miles (and in fear of his life!) over Bow Creek Way and Bromley Marsh on foot and with much troubling news of Molten Tussock”.

“How so?”

“T’would be best if I allowed Master Eckard to recount his experiences to you all” he looked at all gathered there balefully,”Mayhap thou mightst decide what t’would be best to do…in the circumstances. Lydia?”.

“Yes Sir?”

“Fetch in Monty Eckard will thou lass?”

“Yes Sir” curtseying smartly the serving maid leaves the room for a moment,briskly re-entering with a little pinch faced boy trailing in her wake and loudly singing an infamous little ditty.

“Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Up on the mountain Sweet Gove spoke,

Out of his mouth came fire and smoke!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray! ”

Master Dimmott’s gentle inebriation is soon dissipated by a surge of anger,of outright indignation that only the singing of such a song can provoke. Other board members are disturbed by the sight of this eight year old child swaying hypnotically from side to side, his eyes half-closed his left hand clasped to his be-jacketed breast as if he were swearing an oath to some unknown deity.

“Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Up on the mountain Sweet Gove spoke,

Out of his mouth came fire and smoke!”

The Union Rep fixes Lord Elderberry with a sour smile, his Lordship squirming uneasily in his seat daren’t speak. Reaching down to the child swaying gently at his feet Master Dimmott seats him carefully upon his lap encouraging him to partake of the slice of pie left untouched upon his plate.”T’is Master Dimmock! Gove be praised! Thank ee Master Dimmock!” but the poor gentleman is more dismayed and more horrified than when the child had first begun to sing! The Union Rep sitting down alongside him and in front of the child disingenuously asks,

“T’is a beautiful song that you sang for these gentleman here, pray child what is it called?”

“T’is called the litany of Sweet Gove sir”

“And who taught it thee?” he asked,

“Reverend Tout-Puissant”

“Reverend Tout-Puissant?”

“Yes Sir, t’was the litany what we sung to Master Parnham as he was running into the Slitting Iron Tower”

“Why was he running child?”

“Reverend Tout-Puissant called him an unpatwi’otik heathen and tried to shoot him!”

“The litany of Sweet Gove! Heaven forfend!” declares Master Dimmock clenching his right fist,and he is not alone for several other industrialists at the table are similarly incensed. Lord Elderberry however, seems as one struck dumb and the Union Rep favours him with a fierce look. “Molten Tussock is non-denominational is it not gentleman?” the Bow & Bromley Education Board nod vigorously,

“Then gentleman t’were time it were paid a visit and I know just the gentlemen to send!”

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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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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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Academy status, Hypocritical Cant

Unions?! St Gove Preserve Us!!!

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And so it was that Arthur Farqhar found himself obliged to seek refuge in the smoker’s cupboard, the final bastion of all things to do with staying sane. And t’was there in that dank, dark, and exceedingly gloomy place that he thought he heard the sounds of someone quietly sobbing,

“Hello?” he whispered “Are you ok?”

A sniffle, a whimper, a rapid shuffling of feet,a sudden burst of light as the door to the smoker’s cupboard swung open and then closed, and all was silent again. Arthur Farquar sighed,he leaned against the wall puffing on a cigar and listening to the trickling of water through a nearby crack. He contemplated the teachings of Gove.This he found exceedingly wearisome for, in truth, had he enjoyed the affluent familial connections of his peers, his calling should have been dentistry.

Tossing the remains of his cigar on the damp floor, he slipped cautiously out of the store cupboard,heading down the corridor towards his classroom which was situated at the end of the Department of Religious Education’s corridor, “Tell old Pharaoh… Let my people go… Let my people go”

Strains of the baleful negro spiritual floated towards him on the cold, dank, air causing his spirits to plummet and turning his thoughts back to the glorious career that might have been his. Each darkened classroom interior he passed seemed a hive of activity, with teachers handcuffed to their desks (handcuffs to be unlocked punctually at 9pm) and hard at work, marking books and adjusting student achievement levels.

“Tell old Pharoah let my people go…” it was with great relief that he entered his classroom shutting the door behind him.

“Mr Farquar! A pleasure!”

Arthur shuddered, but alas and a’lack things had come to a pretty pass with his career and he had found himself obliged to seek the services of a Union Rep (dear God! the very term made him shudder!).

“Mr Farquar!” the Union Rep extended a surprisingly warm hand which Arthur, steeling his courage, shook,”Art thou ready sir?”

“Excuse me?”

“For the greatest endeavour ever undertook in the history of the trade union movement as it pertains to this school, namely the recovery of thy dignity and self-esteem”

“I am sir” he lied, for in truth he had hoped to make his escape by climbing out of the classroom window, using a rope ladder he had confiscated from Boodoo Lefevre earlier in the day.

“Then shall we proceed?”

Cigars, the Headmaster’s office was full of them and a decanter of Port,two chintz sofas and floor length velveteen curtains,the office was positively palatial.

“Smells like a knocking shop” the Union Rep muttered under his breath,

“Mr Farquar”

“Yes Headmaster”

“Have you marked your assignments, reset the student’s targets, completed an inventory of all the Maths books, Latin books,French books and made sure the Woodwork room is secure?”

“Yes sir”

“And have you completed the fourth and fifth year school reports?”

“Yes sir”

The Headmaster smiled thinly, his bony face was inscrutable, his teeth were pristine and Arthur noted how each seemed to end in a tiny sharp point.

“Then pray, gentlemen be seated”

Looking around him nervously Arthur sat down slowly and carefully on the edge of a sofa; the Union Rep on the other hand strode round the Headmaster’s desk, seated himself in his armchair and threw his legs up on the table.

“Well well Dumpy Durham!” He exclaimed thou hast done well for thyself! Others it seems have done less well, particularly in this school, but thou I see art in rude health!”

The Headmaster flinched, the Union Rep beamed,”Little Farquar here has a few concerns as I’m sure thou art aware,there’s the fact that he’s been saddled with excessive marking for starters, then there’s the matter of your drop-in lesson evaluations”

The Headmaster waved his hand impatiently seating himself on the edge of the chaise longue,

“Master Farquar I too would be panic stricken if I were in your shoes” he said, pointedly ignoring the Union Rep “You’re rated as requiring improvement in all five of the subjects areas in which you teach”

The Union Rep opened a box of cigars lit one and stuffed six in his pocket, Arthur’s jaw dropped to the floor, “Wilt thou never learn Dumpy? Thou canst not think I’ll abide thee shafting thy NQT! Who incidentally thou employed to teach thy apprentices leather work!”

“As an NQT he will from time to time be required to extend his teaching skills”demurred the Headmaster knocking back a glass of Claret. The Union Rep’s eyes lit up at the sight, reaching across the desk he snatched up the decanter, and proceeded to empty the contents into his hip flask, Arthur continued to gape open-mouthed at the Headmaster who was behaving for all the world as if the Union Rep were not in the room, leaning back in the Headmaster’s chair the Union Rep uttered only one word in Arthur’s defence but its effect was electric,

“Boodoo”

The Headmaster twitched,

“What of him?”

The Union Rep chuckled,”The lad is excelling wondrously in young Farquar’s leather work classes. One can only conjecture at the potency of his distress, were his favourite leather work teacher to leave the school”

The Headmaster shuddered, the burning down of the Maths Department may have passed into historic lore but there was no doubting who the ringleader had been, none at all. Rubbing his cravat nervously he glanced at the Union Rep “He wouldn’t!” the Union Rep smiled grimly,

“He’s union now, he’ll bloody well do as he’s told, I see young Farquar is no longer cuffed to his desk, unlike the others who are avoiding me like the plague,for the time being” he rubbed his hands together gleefully,
“Now” he said fastening his handkerchief about his neck in readiness for his fourth meal of the day,”Whilst we discuss the abolition of handcuffs and the restructuring of the school day so that it ends punctually at 3pm, how about ordering us some dinner?”

Arthur Farquar stared at the nicotine stained grin of the Union Rep, “So” he thought,
“This is how we negotiate”
Kicking off his shoes Arthur lit up a cigar and made himself more comfortable on the sofa.
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