Earliest political memory of the day #19

epm-19Several things come to mind. I’m not entirely clear about the age – but they’re all around 7 to 9 years old, so mid to late 1970s. One is my first encounter with racism, which was when I went to stay with my father for the weekend (my parents were divorced) taking a school friend who was mixed race and seeing the frosty reception she received. The next time i visited both my father and step-mother made it clear that they did not want her coming again, and i’m sure made some comment about monkeys. I was really horrified and argued with them. My mother was furious about it. My father was and remains incredibly right wing. At this time he refused to shop at the local co-op in his small Hampshire town. I can remember that once he was forced to go in because he couldn’t get what he wanted elsewhere, and I felt awkward as he took out his wallet stuffed with cash – i can picture it now – muttering about communists. I didn’t know what communist was but I knew that he had more money than many others and it was somehow judging those who wanted to help poorer people. Also, I was conscious of how, despite his views, he used the shop for his own purposes when he needed to, which didn’t feel very principled (i wouldn’t have phrased it like that at the time, but that’s the gist of what i remember feeling). I remember my aunt saying something anti-semitic about someone we knew around this time too and being equally shocked. Having a single, liberal mother who was also struggling financially (in part because my father wouldn’t give her enough money) helped raise my awareness of inequalities. Another memory around this time was sitting on a chest freezer in my mother’s house, as she was busy cooking and listening to the radio, crying because I didn’t want to move back to London (having lived in the country for two years), saying ‘there are bombs in London’. I was fearful of what i’d heard of the IRA attacks and I can remember feeling really anxious about the move.I knew it was the IRA and that they were ‘bad’, but little of the wider political context. I remember feeling powerless about where we lived and i think that added to my distress. The only other thing is remembering the power cuts in the 70s and knowing they were to do with strikes, but again no broader understanding about who was striking for what exactly; I liked lighting candles, that bit was quite exciting, but also it felt scary that our electricity could simply turn off.

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