In A Class Of My Own

In the 60’s I remember running to the gate at the front of our home on Thoroughsale Road to join my parents in waving to a man that was being driven past in a car, whilst another man in the same car shouted into a microphone using words that were lost in the poor technology of the day. I waved as the black car swept past because my parents were waving. There I was, a boy of nine, at a time when Corby was included in our neighbouring town’s constituency, waving to a man called Geoffrey de Freitas, the Labour candidate for Kettering in the 1964 General Election. I didn’t know who he was, but if it was good enough for my parents to wave their support for this man then it must be fine for me. There appeared to be a list of folk that automatically deserved my deference based mostly on my parent’s view of their own social standing in the world, and the way the world of people chose to treat people like my parents. This was indicative of the ‘class’ society which, on reflection, seems to be peculiarly British, copied latterly by other western societies: reminiscent of the Cleese, Barker and Corbett sketch. I used to like playing with my friends in Spinney Grove which, on reflection, must have driven our neighbours mad, particularly when the football made an appearance. As we played we were more than aware that the house in the corner with the Morris Minor parked next to the well manicured lawn belonged to a man whose last name (or ‘Sir’ name as it was known to us) was the same as my mum’s maiden name: Nimmo. Mr. Nimmo was special: he was a Councillor on Corby Council long before it became a borough in its own right. This was a man that deserved respect and was far too important to be returning a football to a posy of noisy children. These were the same children that would never do anything that would warrant a visit by a police officer to their home as a direct result of any miscreant actions. The police and all emergency services were automatically granted respect status. All of the professions would be on the ‘list’: doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, bank managers, and the clergy: anyone really who was deemed ‘better’ than us. I can clearly remember the day that the son of one of my teachers had gained enough ‘A’ levels to qualify for university. My mum was so impressed because this would move him automatically and psychologically onto the ‘list’. Throughout the years since the sixties society and politicians have bent over backwards to give lip-service to equality. The latest manifestation of this is the ‘Big Society’: ‘we’re all’ apparently ‘in this together’. Well, like the proverbial Emperors new clothes, the class society still lives and breathes; the only difference today is that the level of respect expected by some has not been earned by others.

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