This week has been one where the stories in the news have brought feelings of nostalgia, anger and sadness. We had the funeral of Baroness Thatcher. When me and RC were growing up, this was the most hated figure by the youth and working class in our country. When we were at school the boys all knew which apprenticeships they would take up at sixteen. They were the future engineers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians. Overnight apprenticeships disappeared and college courses for which you had to pay came into force. The earn as you learn way to progress into a trade became pay to learn if you can. For those of us who now had left school with no job lined up(unemployment was very high) we were forced onto work schemes. When RC left school 3yrs before me these were placements in non profit organisations, but by the time I had left this had been expanded to all businesses. This meant a business could take on a 16yr old and make them do a full weeks work with no obligation to train them and the best bit was it was free. The government gave you £25 a week, you were contracted to this placement for 6 months, you had to find travel costs out of this too. If you refused, you could not claim unemployment benefit. You worked a full 42 hour week which made it impossible to look for a real job, as everywhere was shut by the time you finished for the day. Some kids were treated like slave labourers, they were mistreated, bullied and given dirty and dangerous tasks with no health and safety risk assessments.
As a sixteen year old I was sent to a day centre for the elderly and mentally disturbed, during my six months I was left with deceased clients at their homes to wait for police and doctors, told to assist in laying out bodies, attacked by a mental patient who had a knife, sexually harassed by older workers and clients at the centre and treated like a servant by the manager. I was sent out on the ambulance with Peter, to pick up clients from their homes, Peter was doing community service for tax evasion, running houses of ill repute and taking money with menaces. He came to work in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, I told my dad who my ambulance partner was and he was worried because Peter was a well known criminal who was known to be extremely violent if crossed. Years later he shot his wife and her friend when she tried to leave him. There would be a national outcry today if 16yr olds were put at risk like this.
I hated my time there and found a job as a nanny as soon as my time was up. A lot of kids from school didn't find work for a long time, if at all, the local dockyard closed and there were even more unemployed. All these young guys from school who had thought they would have jobs and trades like their dads were now hanging around the town centre sniffing glue or sitting at home doing nothing.
When I moved to the coast at seventeen for a job in a computer parts factory I was the only person with a job amongst a large number of friends. When I have watched tribute programmes to Mrs.Thatcher this week I don't recognise the country as they described it on television. I think if you were above a certain income then life was very profitable and you must have been either disinterested or unaware of what the rest of the country was going through. My father kept a bottle of whiskey for nearly thirty years waiting for Thatcher to die. The year before he died he decided it was wrong to celebrate someone's death and gave it away.
I cannot believe that after all the country went through, that the government were surprised there was resentment when it was announced that she would get a state funeral, paid for by the people. We have had other politicians and prime ministers who have achieved great things and do not get this treatment. I think the worst thing is that the whole funeral was planned by Mrs. Thatcher when she was alive. She expected a state funeral, pomp and ceremony fit for royalty and she secured a promise that her wishes would be carried out many years ago. It is wrong that at a time when we are in recession, when payments to disabled are being cut, medical treatments are being withheld because of lack of funds, families are struggling to meet the cost of burying their relatives that an extremely rich family can have £10 million pounds of tax payers money to fund an egotistical display of sheer class arrogance.