Handouts? We get what we deserve!
I T IS no secret among my family and friends that I am interested passionately in politics (I blame my parents). In the interest of harmony with my readers, wild horses would not make me divulge which party I support – suffice to say (one of my mum's favourite sayings) that at the moment I would describe myself as a floating voter.
However, watching Question Time the other Thursday night, my blood boiled. A most unpleasant man, in my opinion, stated that "everyone" knows the largest group of people on benefits in the country is, without doubt, pensioners. Pensions, as I am sure you will agree, are not benefits because nobody gave them to us – we paid for them with contributions over many years.
My dad took great pride in paying his way – and brought us up to be the same. Mind you, he was not a fool – he would pay his round but nobody else's.
When my little brother was born in 1942 my dad, a soldier, was granted ten days' compassionate leave to get to know him. Then, as Jimmy Wheeler used to say, that was his lot. Off dad went to fight a war. And my dear old mum – I am sure I never appreciated her enough – went on looking after us without a moan. In those days, being a mum meant bringing up your family.
My first husband, George, started work at 14 years of age – and, apart from National Service, worked until his death. George and I were children who grew up during the Second World War and I think that was what shaped us. We never thought of our parents as being brave but in hindsight they were – and us kids accepted our lot in life.
We sang funny, rude, songs about Hitler and Mussolini and put up with whatever fate threw at us. We could not be picky about food – if it was there we ate it. I can remember asking what was for dinner one day, and being told "if it" – in other words, if it was there we could eat it. A couple of doorsteps, filled with whatever we had, went down a treat – especially if we were sitting on the pavement with our friends.
My dad did not have a Christmas at home with his family from 1941 until 1947 after he was demobbed. How he enjoyed that Christmas. He told my mum it was like a feast after famine – and how she managed it I will never know.
Also, we children did what we were told, or else. When youngsters left school and started work, often in local factories, they still did what they were told or they were out with a flea in their ear.
And at the age when young men might have gone off the rails, what was it that kept them on the straight and narrow? It was the dear old sergeant major – or other appropriate rank, depending on which Service you were called into.
If you read your Bible, like me, you will know that Samson had taken a vow to never cut his hair. Then he met the wicked Delilah, who, learning his secret, caused his head to be shorn while he slept, thus depriving him of his power. George reckoned that was the principle the Army worked on – deprive the young conscripts of their hair as they suffered their first free haircut, courtesy of the demon barber, and deprive them of their swagger.
I remember George writing to me about how he felt when, within a day of being in the Army, he had not only lost the quiff of whi- ch he was so proud and been shorn, he ended up on a parade ground at about 5.30am on a freezing cold day in January 1948, in his underwear, being shouted at.
My brilliant first husband had a lovely mum who wrapped him in cotton wool and indulged his every whim. He never ironed as much as a shirt – and here he was, out on his own, expected, after basic training, to become a soldier. What a culture shock.
For those who broke the law, the best they could expect was a short prison sentence – all of which they were expected to serve. And if the crime was murder the judge would don his black cap and the hangman would beckon.
In the 1950s there were about 35 million people in our country. The male population had been decreased by two world wars so there was no danger of not being able to get a job or of not paying tax and National Insurance. So what we pensioners get is our just rewards. Let us all decide to get our own back and live as long as possible.