|Is that why you don't sell many in Barrow?|
Just as I predicted, I am now in the process of 'off-loading' some activities to enable me to engage in other things. Barrow Peace Council - wrapped up. Furness Against the Cuts - wrapped up. Barrow and Furness Pensioners' Association - resigned. Barrow Association of the National Union of Teachers and also Barrow and Furness Trades Union Council - 'in the balance'. I finally cancelled the venue for a weekly Morning Star Readers and Supporters Group and abandoned the Saturday Morning Star town centre sales pitch at the market entrance (which I held on my own for four months) because two people (not Party members) who had indicated they wished to support this simply failed to turn up. In addition, my physical condition and my wife's general state of health may also force me to discontinue the 150 mile round trip to attend the three-hour CPB Northern District Committee meetings at Carlisle and this is the only activity I shall really be sorry to miss.
The comment beneath the photograph was made by an elderly and quite disabled former engineer who had worked in Vickers Armstrong (engineering and ship building) as he purchased a copy of the paper. We both laughed and he added "You won't get much sense out of them round here!"
In all the weeks selling the paper I never ever sold a copy to the same person twice (nobody returned the following Saturday, or any other Saturday). As I stood at the market entrance I was able to watch assorted members of the local population as they wandered about. Some strode by most purposefully as if heading for a pressing engagement or a transaction of some importance (but, more likely, just to catch a bus) Young lads would pass as if on auto-pilot whilst they focused their attention on a small hand-held device on which they made small jabbing movements with their thumbs, avoiding young women with a similar object pressed against an ear and who talked incessantly as they pushed before them a babybuggy loaded with child and shopping. Middle-aged, bored, disinterested husbands waited for their wives outside 'bargain shops' and outlets offering 'special sales discounts'.
Most men and women of all ages, but especially those in their twenties to fifties, would only become animated when, in sunlight, they caught sight of their own reflection in the large window of a store - young women would appraise their figures and their outfits and young men would assess their 'style' and one or two would roll a tee-shirt sleeve just a bit higher so they may show off their latest tattoo or suddenly square their shoulders and puff up their chests to appear 'more manly'. Yes, members of the Furnesss public certainly know what is important to them - until, one day soon, they begin to be deprived of the things they currently take for granted such as benefits, allowances, a roof over their heads, heating, lighting and food, social welfare and a free health service. And that is how I was entertained when attempting to sell copies of the world's only English language national daily socialist newspaper in 'Lumpensville'.
And what of the Pensioners' Association? Well, its constitution clearly states it is 'a campaigning organisation'. Over a period of four years I did my best to involve members in campaigns to defend their pensions, their bus passes, their standards of health care and they just could not be bothered to make any effort whatsoever. In the months before resigning I had begun to refer to the members as the 'Grub and Grumble Graveside Club' because they did not want a campaigning organisation and were determined to turn it into a pensioners' social club for entertainments such as raffles and bingo with tea and biscuits to pass the time whilst waiting to drop off their perches. They didn't want me going on about the Retail Price Index and the Consumer Price Index, or maltreatment of the elderly in hospitals and care homes, or the privatisation of the National Health service - as one member said "You make us depressed and we come here to be cheered up!"
Now, there is a really sad part to all this: the secretary of the organisation is no mug - she knows what the situation is. Ordinary monthly meetings attract an attendance of around eleven or thirteen members yet subsidised 'dinners' (such as the Christmas lunch) attract thirty or forty! When the annual Pensioners' Parliament is held in Blackpool, members queue up for the cheap deal four nights hotel accomodation and the vast majority use this as a holiday and have no interest in the parliament. Members of the association want to use it solely for what they can get out of it and are not prepared to put anything back in (in terms of time, effort or money). In many ways it is just like the situation with Barrow and Furness Trades Union Council (monthly correspondence club for nodding donkeys) except the secretary of the pensioners is heartbroken and the secretary of the TU council is very contented.......but more about sly nodding donkeys in the next posting.