Jane had been a young girl then, but she could remember the young men stood outside the Labour Exchange, huddled together waiting for something to happen.The building would have been called the Job Centre now but it had closed down and moved to the larger town. ‘Efficiency savings’ they called it. Signing on back then took an hour. Today it had taken her a morning and a bus ride. The people are no longer there wherever the Job Centre is. In the 80s they were encouraged to get on their bike and look for work. Today most of them sit at home in quiet desperation, surfing the net in hope rather than anticipation.
The ‘80s had broken her father and his generation; the Union was shattered, the coal mines shut and their skills no longer needed. Some jobs in the town were replaced in call centres but most of these had moved to India. Companies seemed worried more about their profits and shareholders than the communities in which their customers lived. Jane wondered what would come to take their places? There were protestors camping in the city centres now. It had been peaceful so far but the Government was getting nervous and the police presence getting stronger. She remembered 1984 and the standoff between the police dressed in riot gear and the miners on the picket line; the tension in the air before the first stones were thrown and the riot police advanced behind full length shields with truncheons drawn. They called them battles and they were. It had been a long hot summer and the lack of rain left dried blood in the streets for weeks after.
She shuddered at the memories and hurried along the high street. Her Mum would take her there after school to the butchers, the greengrocers and the fishmongers. The shopkeepers had ruffled Jane’s hair and put a little extra into her basket that summer with a knowing wink. Jane hadn’t understood why at the time. She did now. It was a community back then. But those shops are long gone along with the people who ran them. Today, food comes from the shiny supermarket on the outskirts of town where the staff come and go and no one knows yours name or says anything much except to tell you to take out your credit card or ask whether you collect the schools vouchers.
Jane walked on through the deserted streets. Most of the high street would be empty but for the charity shops and opticians. People always need to see where they are going, thought Jane, although they might not like what they saw. She was glad her Mum and Dad were no longer alive to see what was happening. Her Dad had died in his early sixties, his final days still cursing Thatcher as he took deep gulps of oxygen which his lungs could no longer fully provide. Her Mum had struggled on for a few more years, but the spark was extinguished and she had gone quickly after Jane’s wedding. ‘I’m glad you’re all settled’ she’d said before she drifted away.
The children were coming out of the school now. Jane could see her own twin boys running towards her. She bent down and scooped them into each arm. Last year she could have picked them both up but they were growing up fast and now she could only lift one at a time. Things would be different for them, she thought. Perhaps with a good education, they could make something of themselves? Go to University even; go to London even; anywhere but here. She listened to their tireless chatter about their day and held their hands tightly as they made their way home. In the fading light It was the best she could do for now.


About Peter Domican
Marketer and change professional. Writer and photographer.

2 Responses to Echoes

  1. marc nash says:

    It’s the best any of us can do for now. Such is the atomisation of people from one another. Nicely done Pete

  2. Martha says:

    ‘… the best she could do for now’ — a real truth.
    This reminds me of so much, back then.

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