Thursday, 29 November 2012

England, My England

Grew up a child of the Welfare State,
got my free school milk
and had plenty to eat;
had the doctor come calling
with his black bag and hat;
had him sit by my bed
and thought nothing of that.

Didn't know back then
just how far we had come
since they handed out votes
in exchange for our guns;
didn't know how my grandma
blacked grates and scrubbed floors,
with half a day off one Sunday in four;
or how my old grandad,
a boy of fourteen,
survived the Great War
to be packed off again
to fight for his country,
to keep Britain free;
or how, in the end,
he was fighting for me.

I never suspected
when I went to school
how lucky I was
to be going at all;
or how much depended
on me being bright.
'Just do your best,'
was what they said,
'and everything will turn out - alright'.
But, on the day,
I knew they'd lied
and I was sick with fright.

Grew up a child of the Welfare State;
have to admit that it's true:
I did have the world on
a paper plate;
the family silver still belonged to you.
I had my eye-sight tested, yes;
and my teeth were drilled and filled;
the nit-nurse came to check my hair,
and not one drop of my blood was spilled.

I didn't scrub; I didn't fight;
and it's true I didn't die;
but I did take and cherish
the dreams they dreamed,
believing I understood why -
why  they scrubbed and scraped and bowed,
and why they fought, and why they died;
but now they are dead and so are their dreams.
Someone somewhere lied.

© Abigail Wyatt

Beveridge report: From 'deserving poor' to 'scroungers'?