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First class people

  Mon 11th May 2015

An exhausting few days for someone who's not used to discipline. I was working at the elections. As well as the General Election we had elections to the City Council to run. My main job was Presiding Officer at one of the polling stations at the University.

The alarm went off at 4.40 and I got up straight away, having spent most of the night worrying about whether it would go off. The taxi, a splendid old BMW, was driven by someone who, from the note of embittered resentment running through her chat, I guessed would be voting Tory. Had we gone a few miles further, it would have been all these immigrants.

I started setting the polling station up in an old stone farmhouse which has been swallowed into the University's seeping reach, and welcomed the other staff. We ate and drank constantly, mainly out of boredom. My stick-thin poll clerk drank large glasses of this pulped vegetable drink. The sludge colour came from kale, a vegetable which the Lord above, in His infinite wisdom, intended only for goats and pigs.

I made a joke which didn't go down very well. We have these long poky rod things to push the voting slips down into the ballot box, and using it I measured the volume of voting slips in my ballot box compared to that of the other (female) clerk. "Well you've got this much," I said, opening my thumb and forefinger to a few inches apart, "and I've got this much," narrowing it to an inch. "Not the first time I've had to say that to a woman, boom boom." Never was a subject changed so quickly.


The president of the Student Union, along with a friend, chained themselves to a barrel at an anti-fracking site in Manchester recently. A merry band of us, plus a well-meaning tweed-clad vicar who turned up from somewhere, went down to Manchester Crown Court to support them in their appeal against a charge of Obstructing a Police Officer in the Execution of His Duty.

One of the party put on some drum n' bass as we walked to the Court, which I found slightly embarrassing. In the court, Bez from the Happy Mondays turned up to support us. "I was at a rave last night in Bristol," he said, "and at some point I've lost my false teeth."

We waited around for six long hours, before being informed that the case was adjourned, pending the outcome of a similar case currently before the High Court. I was looking forward to some extra-judicial socialising, but one disadvantage of going out with environmentally conscious social activists is that you end up in a vegan cafe rather than a pub. I said I was going to have a quick look round a nearby record shop, and managed to quaff a couple of pints. On the way back to the cafe, I sneaked in to a sex shop -- unseen, I hoped, by my right-on pals -- to buy some poppers.

As we were about to leave, one of the arrested asked us all how much we'd spent on the train fare, and refunded us all in cash from the proceeds of a benefit gig a while ago. That was humbling.

On the packed train we went and sat in first class. The woman opposite shuffled and squirmed for a while. "I hope you've got first class tickets," she eventually said. "We're first class people," I replied.

7 comments

Comment from: smallbeds [Visitor]

Well, this has cheered me up after last week’s result, anyway. First-class indeed, d’n'b notwithstanding.

I take it the postponement means you’ll all have to make the trip again at some point, for reasons of moral suppopper I mean support?

Mon 11th May 2015 @ 21:06
Comment from: [Member]

We are destined, smallbeds, to sitting through another three hours of angry and incomprehensible guitar-based rock music in order to fund our next trip to Manchester. You can love the intention but not the art, and swallow your misgivings.

Tue 12th May 2015 @ 00:44

Did the few days commitment make you happy that your life is relatively commitment-free? Freedom. We all want it but only a few achieve it.

NYC restaurants are awash in kale. Christ. I hate food snobs. They’re worse than fashion snobs. And that’s saying something.

You can get poppers over the counter there? I think they’re illegal here. Bunch of prudes we are.

What the hell happened in your election? Once again, the pollsters and prognosticators are revealed to have their heads up their asses.

An excellent retort to the first class passenger. Those people never fail to live up to their negative stereotype.

Tue 12th May 2015 @ 11:55
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks Exile, that’s really nice!

I feel fairly free most of the time. I can cope with the lack of money. And whilst I have occasionally done rewarding, interesting, socially useful work, I have also been employed in places that reminded me of Raoul Vaneigem’s position that “work is a prison of measured time.”

Yes, poppers are legal here and you can get them for about 3 or 4 quid a bottle. I’m surprised they’re unregulated but I’m not complaining. Actually — to refine this – amyl nitrites are illegal but butyl isn’t. Amyl was banned here because people were having too much fun, or something, but the substitution of butyl nitrites as “room odourisers” has had the rare but unfortunate consequence of sending a few people blind. It interferes with your sight in some way. I definitely find I can’t focus quite as well the day after a sesh.

Yes, the polls were wrong this time. It was a gloomy new dawn for the UK.

Tue 12th May 2015 @ 21:05
Comment from: Leni Qinan [Visitor]

I’m impressed by your knowledge of chemistry! Amyl nitrites … butyl nitrites …

You never cease to amaze me!

Wed 13th May 2015 @ 20:23
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks, but it’s nothing you can’t pick up from Google. And it behoves one to be informed about one’s drugtaking.

Wed 13th May 2015 @ 22:46
Comment from: [Member]

amyl AND butyl are banned here… definitely prudish in regards to recreational drugs here in the states.

good to see that there may be progress against fracking. i’m a scientist, and a practical human, and know that our addiction to fossil fuels is not a good thing - we cannot continue as we are without dire consequences to the earth, and humanity. we DO need clever solutions for clean energy – which has me deeply perplexed as to why fracking has come into fashion. Inexpensive, relative to drilling, but good god, the cost in terms of water, and damage, is insane. Lots of strange earthquakes here in regions where fracking has taken hold. Time to stop it… it really isn’t a good idea…

Thu 28th May 2015 @ 01:53


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