Last week I was invited to talk at Hunt & Darton's Cafe symposium. I have performed 36 times at the cafe, jumping on trains from various locations to other lesser known locations, during which I have learnt a lot about the country I live in.
Here is what I said...
We live in a country that’s divided – geographically, economically, racially and politically.
A country that is compartmentalised by class. Where only the middle classes think class isn’t a thing any more, where people who live in houses have opinions of how those who live on council estates should live, behave and the size of their flat screen TVs. Where the middle aged, middle class, middle of the road male always wins.
We live in a country where people pronounce words differently to those 30 miles down the road. Where people put pies in a roll and call it a pie barn. Where local papers think lattes and donuts are wacky. Where avocado on toast is considered a recipe Nigella invented. Where everyone is fussy about how much milk you put in their tea.
We live in a country that’s afraid. Afraid of people wearing clothes different from their own. Where many of its population are really fucking poor, where some of its population are really fucking rich, where the richest are encouraged not to pay taxes. This is a country where families rely on food banks, milk tokens and the generosity of strangers to survive.
We live in a country that’s racist, homophobic and misogynistic.
We live in a country that has a massive, uncontrollable addiction to alcohol, where people inject on the streets to escape the world they live in, where Mayors cut ribbons ignoring the street fights happening behind them.
We live in a country that recruits young working class men from economically deprived areas to people its army. We live in a country that’s at war.
We live in a country unnerved by the non-white male and his backpack commuting across town, unnerved by the non-white males doing evening prayer at the end of the carriage.
We live in a country where women are controlled by their partners, where the old are forgotten. A country that tries to hide its civilians with visible disabilities, where those with prams don’t think it’s right they have to move for a wheelchair.
We live in a country where people are lonely, where people are isolated, where people volunteer because they want to be involved, where people try to do their bit despite a word we don’t understand – ‘austerity’.
We live in a country that’s glad you came, we could do with more of this sort of thing round here.
We live in a country where anyone with a southern accent is considered privileged, posh, from the telly or all three.
We live in a country that wants to know where you’re from…
We line in a country of overpriced train journeys, where there’s a Greggs around every corner and where all the towns look very similar.
We live in a country where men in white vans sound shit that’s inaudible but likely to be phobic. That doesn’t like to be confronted when you out the arm nudging and mummers.
We live in a country where a woman has invented the world’s first biodegradable nappy, David Cameron has seen this nappy after calling the inventor to find out what the next big thing was. It’s technically top secret but I only know about this because I look trust worthy.
We live in a country full of lairs.
We live in a country where some people get it wrong, where people are penalised for past mistakes, where your past matters, where the social standing of your birth parents determines the opportunities available to you for life.
We live in a country where people are “sorry but if we can’t look after our own then why the fuck should we be letting the Romanians, the Africans or the Muslims in? I’m not a racist but…”
We live in a country that’s afraid.
A country that’s afraid of art, a country where anyone could do that, that’s not art, a messy bed? Where potato stamping is considered public engagement, where marketing managers are paid twice the amount of the artists they are marketing. Where the arts are expected to sort out the major social issues that our health service is too pressured to deal with.
We live in a country that steals bikes. A country that’s angry and aggressive, that’s violent, where people kick, slap, stab – with the intent to kill each other.
We live in a country full of UKIP mobile phone cases; swastikas mobile screen savers and faded National Front tattoos, where Margret Thatcher is considered a role model.
We live in a country where the majority of the population prefer Spain because England is not what it used to be.
We live in a country where some people are British, some English but where most people find it awkward stating their nationality.
We live in a country that’s embarrassed.
We live in a country that still mourns for Princess Diana. We live in a country where every charity shop has a Princess Di & Prince Charles mug for sale, where men are not allowed to look in the ladies section of charity shops, where we get loads of people like you coming in, trying on stilettos. Never look good mind you, but they keep coming back.
We live in a country that’s depressed – in both senses of the word, that’s conservative – in both senses of the word
We live in this country. You live in this country.
More people in this country play the lottery than those who vote. In fact more people pretended they won £33 million in Worcestershire than those who signed a parliamentary petition on Reforming Student Finance.
Here’s the best bit - we like to pretend everything’s all right here in our London bubble. That perhaps it did used to be better under Labours reign, that our shit smells of English roses. Wake up – this isle has always been a poxy shit hole.
If you were in a relationship with this country your friends would take you to dinner and say “Look he’s really abusive, he doesn’t want you here, he spends all your money, he thinks you’re weird, he hits you, he’s bad for your mental health” and depending on where you live in this country “…he’s shortening your life span”.
Why am I so fucked off? Because we allow it to fucking happen. We allow our politicians to fuck us up the arsehole; we allow the judicial system to treat the working classes, (specifically young black men) as criminals before proven guilty. We allow our schools to be shit and fail our children. We allow our beloved NHS to be sold off and our do gooders to be exploited. We allow our old to die slow, painful and undignified deaths and we allow all of this to be funded by the public purse. We allow MP’s to take what they can whilst the rest of us do what we must. We allow councils to sell off public land to developers to create more wealth for the rich. We even allow Jeremy fucking Clarkson to talk about trans issues. We allow these patriarchal hierarchies to ruin the lives of the many. We allow this to happen. But it’s alright because we’re all so busy making our fucking super important theatre shows about beige.
Well, it’s not good enough.
The image you have in your head that we live in some cosmo-metro-paleo-handholding-community-embracing-I-cut-my-own-hair-free-thinking-liberal-lefty-green-and-pleasant-land is bullshit.
We live in a phobic-racist-poor-disenfranshised-post-colonial-pusedo-regenerated-conservative-led-shit-hole with an “elected” government who has ideas way above its station. The sooner we all admit this kingdom isn’t united nor this isle great the better.
So what have I found out about this country in the last few years? Well, this country is shit. In fact its really fucking rubbish. I’m becoming allergic to it.
I’m moving to Spain.