“Hatred needs scorn. Scorn is hatred’s nectar!”
– Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly -‘The Crimson Curtain’
I don’t really do genuine hatred; it’s just not in my nature. I also find it hard to engage with the idea of hating something abstract like ‘Poverty’ or ‘Fascism’ and have always taken the view that people, not ideas, are evil. Having said that, I can only think of two people in my life who I have genuinely hated. In both cases my hatred stemmed from a sense of helplessness – these two individuals had slithered their way into positions where they were able to exercise a perniciously negative influence over my life and at the time, there appeared to be little or nothing that I could do about it.
My relationship with the recently-deceased Margaret Hilda Thatcher, the Grocer’s Daughter whose legacy is such a hideous stain on the recent history of this country was a distant one, but she succeeded where years of well-intentioned left-wing friends and left-wing politicians had failed. Her success was in making me consider the nature and substance of her rhetoric and, thereafter, in making me shift my political allegiances substantially leftwards. Not that I ever became a joined up apparatchik of Foot or Kinnock or Smith’s left, let alone a Blairite (soft) centrist. But Thatcher, so we were told, was a ‘conviction’ politician and it soon became my conviction that this dreadful harridan with her hectoring, booming, bullying foghorn of a voice was without empathy or compassion or very many positive human qualities. She clearly had no understanding of any class except her own, so if you were Gay or Black or Northern or a Europhile, let alone a Leftist, you were going to get short shrift from her and the posse of Tory worms that hid behind her and applauded whilst she decimated large tracts of British life.
Margaret Thatcher drove a double-decker bus through the polite conventions that govern British political life. After what she did, one of Tony Blair’s biggest errors was surely in not pushing us towards the written constitution that we need to keep the likes of Thatcher in check. After the Falklands War, when she was basically in a position to do anything she wanted, she had essentially unlimited power. Once the Miner’s Strike began, she basically perverted the laws of this country and used the police as storm-troopers to defeat Arthur Scargill and his supporters.
These were long and miserable years. At the beginning I was working in record retailing in Manchester, in the middle years, I lived in Newcastle as the Falklands War & the Miner’s Strike unravelled and by the bitter pyrrhic end, I was here in Birmingham. Throughout that period, Thatcher’s malign matriarchalism was like a cloud of toxic fumes that never seemed to disperse.
And, yes, I certainly hated her. She divided communities, destroyed the lives and health of tens of thousands of ordinary British people, twisted the law of the land to suit her own purposes, played footsie with fools like Reagan and war criminals like Pinochet and tried to impose her hausfrau values on the rest of us.
She was loathsome and thoroughly evil and whilst I didn’t commemorate her passing by getting thoroughly hammered. I would certainly spit or dance on her grave if I ever happened to be in its vicinity and would feel no need to apologise for such behaviour. She deserves nothing else, frankly.
“It is surely evil to destroy whole communities so that profit can be made for the few. It is surely evil to support and harbour war criminals, it was surely evil to order the attack on the ‘Belgrano’, it was surely evil to give cops a free reign to batter and bruise ordinary people who were just trying to save their jobs and their communities. Her policies have led us directly into the current climate of fear, greed and a lack of community spirit.
She destroyed hope for several generations and her ideology of wealth = good, poor = bad has left the environment in a terribly precarious state. She supported the Apartheid regime in South Africa; she allowed hunger strikers to starve to death in Ireland and went to war so she could win an election. Do we really need to ask whether she was evil or not?”
Craig Murphy, quoted on ‘The Guardian’s‘ website
Three vignettes: firstly, I am in Newcastle on the night Thatcher announces the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands and the imminent departure of a military ‘task force’ to kick them out. Local news later covers a story about the wholesale ransacking of a Spanish restaurant in nearby Sunderland. That’s a Spanish restaurant……so much for bringing harmony instead of discord – and so much for the Mackems.
Secondly, I am travelling south by car from Newcastle to London during the 1984 Miners’ Strike. Somewhere in Nottinghamshire on the A1, we are diverted off the road and aggressively grilled about where we were headed by heavily-armoured police at the top of the slip-road. I have no doubt that had we challenged them, we would have been ‘pulled over’ and detained for several hours until someone could be found to demonstrate for our benefit that their behaviour was totally above-board and legal. We kept quiet and the stormtroopers finally allowed us to continue southwards.
Thirdly, on the Firth of Clyde just outside Wemyss Bay, there was a power station at Inverkip, though most of it has now been demolished for new housing. The station was built in 1970 and became Scotland’s only oil-fired power station. Inverkip was hardly used because of the hike in oil prices during the mid 1970’s and was effectively mothballed due to the prohibitive cost of running the place. I wonder if any of you clever people out there can guess the only period during which Inverkip operated at full capacity?
Inverkip Power Station – full blast during the 1984 Miners’ Strike
The second person I hate – though the first in chronological terms – was actually one of my teachers. His name was Douglas Young and I feel that I can name him partly because he is long dead and partly because he deserves to have his name and misdeeds out in the open. Young spent most of his adult life teaching Maths and Religious Instruction to the boys of Northampton Grammar School – largely in the Lower School. He was also a pervert and a groper of little boys and everyone at the school knew it.
When I went to the school in 1964, he was well-established as the paterfamilias of the Lower School. On our first morning he ‘welcomed’ the entire ‘first year’ intake before sending us off to our individual form teachers. My first misfortune was to be in his class. His classroom was across the road from the main school buildings in the ‘School House’ – the Headmaster’s ‘Pied-à-terre’ – where he lived and where a couple of the surplus rooms had been co-opted to house Young’s first years and also a sixth-form class. Nice and quiet if your tastes ran to a little adolescent buttock-fondling.
Young taught me Maths as well as Religious Instruction. I recall him as a small, rotund, grey-haired man in squeaky, highly-polished black shoes and a dark double-breasted suit. His vocal delivery was slightly wheezy in an asthmatic kind of way and he had a habit of hurling wooden board-rubbers at anyone he suspected of not giving him their full attention. Once he had the class working, he would call individuals out to the front where we would have to stand at his side whilst he went through our work – and our trousers. Boys in the First Year were expected to wear a school cap and grey flannel shorts. The latter provided quietly questing hands with easy access to thighs and buttocks. All we could do was to stand there and pray that he would soon be done with us and move on to the next victim.
A wolf in the henhouse. Doug Young (on the left) with a new batch of victims at Northampton Grammar in 1954.
Maths was never my strong suit and on one occasion I made a royal mess of some homework and was informed by Young that I would have to stay back after school and do the work over again. He left me to get on with it and disappeared, returning to the now-deserted classroom about 20 minutes later. The stupid thing is that I knew why I was there and also that my presence had nothing to do with any Maths homework. He called me to the front, and without much preamble, bent me forward across the front row of desks and slippered me with an old tennis shoe. He never even looked at the re-done homework.
Walking home, I felt cheated, violated and angry. This fucker had used his position of authority to pursue his own squalid desires at my expense and even at the age of 11, I knew that anything I said to my parents or anyone else would be treated with amused disbelief. In any case, what could I say? My Dad – himself a teacher – actually knew Young through professional circles. Also, the fact was that in 1964, any polite vocabulary of perversion was not uppermost in the minds of 11-year olds. The words I knew for what Young intended would not have gone down too well with my elders and betters. I said nothing and – generally – considered myself fortunate to get through the rest of the year without ‘falling foul’ of his wheezy attentions again – though there were many others in my class who were not so lucky.
Through the next 5 years I progressed through the school without having much to do with Young. Then, in my first year in the Sixth Form, the school – for some reason – decided that us strapping 17 year-olds needed some more Religious Instruction and I was allocated to a class where we were subjected to his flesh-crawling attentions once a week. Having said that, he knew better than to try it on with us now that we were all pushing 6 feet tall and wearing long trousers. Even so, his oily personality was a factor you couldn’t ignore and we were all heartily glad to get our weekly dose of Creepy Religion out of the way.
Frontage, Northampton Grammar School
I lived quite near the school and during the Easter Holiday of that school year, I was walking into town with 2 mates along the main arterial road that leads from Northampton Town Centre out to the school. My mate Andy was in the middle of a particularly racy story about a group of Swedish nuns in their vegetable garden and as he came to the punchline, Young drove past as we all exploded in laughter.
You have probably figured out what comes next. Later that day, my Dad told me he wanted a word. He informed me that Young had been on the phone to him and had said that I had “hurled foul-mouthed abuse” at him as he drove past and that unless a letter of apology was forthcoming in short order, he would have no option but to refer this sorry affair to the Headmaster once school resumed. You can perhaps imagine my sentiments but I felt much, much worse once I realised that my parents were going to back Young and not their only beloved son. In the end, I wrote the letter but my relationship with (in particular) my Dad took the best part of 10 years to recover and I never really forgave him for believing a depraved paedophile instead of me.
So, in some respects, I hate Young far more than I hate Thatcher, if only because his corruption and his evil was small and furtive and based on his misuse of his position of authority. Hers was a malignancy on a far larger scale , but in relative terms, I only perceived it at a distance. Which was the lesser of the two evils, I wonder?
One thing is for sure, the world is a better place without both of them…..