Monday, 17 August 2009


It's quite possible that nobody in London actually knows Taffy's real name.

'Taffy' is a bit like 'Jock' for a Scot or 'Paddy' for an Irishman. But that's what he tells people to call him.

Unsurprisingly, Taffy was born and brought in Wales, in 'The Valleys'. At school, he was repeatedly rapped across the knuckles with a ruler by the teacher – because he was left-handed.

After school, he followed his father into the mine. And he worked there until the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher's government closed down the mining industry and threw hundreds of thousands onto the scrapheap of unemployment without considering or caring about the consequences.

Taffy went into the construction industry. Now his body is close to breaking. His doctors say he needs surgery or he'll be in a wheelchair within a few years. But the casualisation of construction in the past few decades means that, if he does that, he'll have little chance of getting a job after long recuperation. He has no private pension. So he's ploughing on regardless.

His wife still lives in Wales. The work he can get keeps him away from home during the week. If he's working in London, he stays in a room above a pub in the east of the city. He has a couple of pints at night, often sitting at the bar looking utterly weary, and then quietly departs to get some rest.

This is modern, civilised Britain.


  1. The pension issue is going to be a huge problem in a few decades.

    Politicians pay scant regard to pensions (unless its their own) at the moment, begrudgingly handing out cost of living increases and then using these as political "good boy choco-drops" to feed to their press agents.

    I know already that my contributions to date will qualify me for a "full" state pension and that at current rates I will be able to survive on a subsistence level provided that I have paid my mortgage and any credit card debts off by then.

    In reality I know that I will not retire anytime before the age of 70 and will probably not ever be able to "retire" in the accepted sense of the word.

    I am currently 51 years of age and I suspect that those who are just one decade behind me won't even have the luxury of being able to see a subsistence level awaiting them - my children have no pension awaiting them.

  2. I guess that's your version of what we call Social Security. I have relatives who're trying to live on $800.00 a month. Simply put, that may be just about enough for food, but it's not enough to pay the rent too - never mind the utilities and medical expenses.