Monday, 6 June 2011

Class poor: Money rich

I have taken the Guardian Oxbridge bashing with a pinch of salt, until last week when it seemed to blow up from the odd tweets here and there into something far more loud and obnoxious.

The lady I submitted my work to at the Guardian probably has no idea about my background. I could have, if I'd wanted to, applied for the full time job of what I have been doing for a bit now as a freelance, as I was pointed in the direction of the advert. I could, if I'd wanted to, applied for the job of the person I submitted content to, but decided not to. In both cases, I was very kindly and gently made aware of the posts being open. 

It was a kind and appreciated acknowledgement that I am out of the normal loop up here. That I might not have been aware that the posts were there. That I might be suitable for something and should apply even if I didn't get an interview. 

She didn't have to. As a result of her kindness and patience, of her editing and red pen, I am a better writer, capable of self editing not only my own articles, but my own reports at work as well. 

She didn't have to. And if you believe some people, that she did goes against everything they believe because I am most definitely out of the Oxbridge network and I suspect she might be in it though frankly it is absolutely no business of mine as far as I am concerned.

You see, kindness, support, nurturing and help are not class related. There are other people who have and are helping me enormously, with free kit, with free advice, with loaned bikes, with loaned pedals. I try and pass it on because this is what bikers do, this is what good, decent, kind and caring people do. And those things, they are not class related and to think they are is stupidity.

My grandmother, who I never met, was a working class Cork girl. Proper working class. And her door was always open and at Xmas the table was full, places taken not just by 4 children but by neighbours and friends because that is what you did.

Just because our world is digital does not mean that the kindness of strangers has disappeared and it does not mean that people like my grandmother do not exist either. And what relevance has an education at a university or an upbringing in a certain suburb got anyway?

Well I know from bitter experience - connections. But you know, there are two camps. There are those who are ignorant of the luck they had to be born where they were born and those who are not and who feel some compulsion to assist those who were not so lucky and frankly, my experience of the Guardian so far has been that it contains many more of the latter than the former. 

I might sound posh. But everything else about me from my weight to my confidence levels, my self esteem to my stumbling social niceties screams working class. I am working class. Poor means different things to different people, of course. And I suspect people have no concept of what poor is who think that I could not have been. Poor is nagging hunger all the time. It's waking up with icicles on the inside of your bedroom. It's needing 3 pairs of socks and 2 jumpers, it's one bath a week cos it costs and one pair of jeans per year and all your clothes being second hand until Primark came along at which point some new stuff started appearing. It's no new books, it's pennies left in the purse at the end of the week, it's owing the local corner shop for a loaf of bread, it's hunger and cold and constant arguments as yet another bill comes in and no pocket money and constant chores and no music and no nice things and presents being taken back to the shop after Xmas and.....

You will not find me taking anything for granted. You will not find me being terribly wonderful at managing money. You will find me occasionally sat on the sofa holding some random object in my hand with a big grin on my face. You will find me buying experiences, buying escape and explore, pushing the edges and finding my way a little later than everyone else around me. You will find a slightly different world view.

But take it from me, a girl with a different background to most of you - I've been reading The Guardian most of my life, on and off, and you know why? It tells me things I want to know. It teaches me shit. It speaks to me in my language on my terms.

I don't give a flying squirrel where the person was educated who writes the words. I just care that I can still afford the frikking newspaper. Cos trust me, there was a time I couldn't.

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