If I had a hammer

This little ditty was inspired by the photo prompt for Crimson’s Creative Challenge. I might write a more serious story later when I feel less revolutionary.

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There are walls around this garden

And a gate that’s made of spears,

There are lawns and there is order

When the poor folk disappears,

There are guards to keep the people

In the place that they know best,

And laws that give the right to those

Who’ve stood time’s sacred test.

I’d rather have a hammer

Than any jewelled crown,

And I’d use with my little hammer to

Bring those walls tumbling down.

Golden age or comfort zone?


In my mailbox this morning was a reading suggestion. I obediently followed the link to Amazon to read the blurb, and if I liked the sound of it, the first few pages of the story. I managed the blurb—yet another princely youngest son, hounded from the family castle, finds refuge with happy, peaceful poor folk living a secretive existence in a forest, becomes their saviour (the blurb doesn’t mention why they need a saviour), and they help him regain his rightful inheritance.

Specifically what made me bristle was the pseudo-Medieval society that bears no relation to any real Medieval society that ever was. Medieval is more than just period costumes. But more generally, what is this obsession with royalty and a specific historical period with such alterations and embellishments that it may as well be science fiction? Why are writers still producing this kind of apology for absolute monarchy and privilege, and keeping alive the assumption that ordinary folk need to be led by some kid whose only claim to the job is that he was born of the ruling caste? Not only are the royals the only ones capable of leadership, it’s their divine right.

Admittedly, the other cliché of the humble woodcutter (they are often woodcutters, possibly because it sounds like a suitably Medieval and manly occupation) who defies the wicked king and becomes king in his place, is even more absurd.

What I find disturbing more than irritating, is that both scenarios, the divine right of privilege and the king who rose from the ranks of the commons by dint of hard work and impeccable moral hygiene, seem to me to comfort the myths we have constructed around our privileged lifestyles. We accept as right that the rich shall grow richer and the poor shall be content in their lowly place, and as incontestable that the leaders of society have reached the pinnacle of power through merit.

Call me a left-wing idealist if you like, but I hate this escapist world-building, which after all is supposed to make us dream, of a historical golden age which is no more than the enshrinement of the most conservative of our ideas about society. And no, the answer isn’t to have the same scenarios but with women in the key privileged roles, a sort of Medieval Evita. Isn’t it surely to create a world where the dreams of the generous and the humane come true rather than those of the power-hungry and privileged?


Looking up

Privilege is not something I feel I need to apologise for having. No, I don’t live in Syria, I’m not a woman in Afghanistan, and I’m not dead, but I don’t think that should necessarily be my yardstick. For the dverse prompt.


From empty fields, dark mills

and factory fodder,

hard work and the fear of violence,

I sprang.

Bumped along the bottom,

taking chances,

leaping in the dark. I

live still on the edge,

the life where clothes are second hand,

and there have never been holidays.

But I would not be those who spend,

have the cash,

the women who go to the hairdresser

the gym, the men with new cars,

who sit before the idolatrous screen,

living lives by proxy,

when the moon floats in golden splendour

over their unthinking heads

just for me.

The tide is rising

The Fillon controversy or Penelope Gate is getting juicier and juicier. It brings out my Potemkin spirit, my inner Sans-culottes, and I’m behind the Boys of Wexford all the way. You get the drift. We can dream, can’t we.

Cold trees are bare beneath the paltry sun,

And the east wind batters ancient sedge,

Parchment thin, breaking the back of crone grass.

Carrion crow casts a cold eye on muddy banks,

For the tide is rising.

Gulls, buffeted, dip and rise,

Seeking purchase on ragged waves,

Where broken branches spin and roll.

The tide is rising.

Poor and poorer beaten down beneath the paltry sun,

Wind whipping through thin clothes and bowing ancient backs,

Cast a cold eye on privilege and clench their fists;

The tide is rising.