John Lucas


A Class Act
Three Reasons Why I Became a Republican
An Incident in the Class War


A Class Act

To his straight face "Gaffer", otherwise

"Brown Nose", "Talcum Malcolm", "Bossy Boots",

Too good for us lot now he's in cahoots

with Big Man," Nogger our chipie judged, sizing

Window-frames with grime-seamed fingers. "I'll stake

A week's pay he'll go public with his hand

Washing." Five sharp and Malcolm takes his stand

By the outside tap, Soap, scrub, rinse, then shake.

Next, our tea-pot to scour, mugs, sugar bowl,

A prowl round the firm's new van, sleuthing for dirt,

Then flick, flick of a rag, his crackling shirt,

Chisel-edge trouser-creases, strop-blue vowels

Of "I'll be off, chaps," saying he'd go far

So's to avoid us in the BULL's front bar.




in buttoned-up sadist’s suit, the Head
marched us into Great Hall. There,
searchlight stare finding us
all worthy of blame, he blubbed
“The King is DEAD”.
For our disbelieving smiles
ten of us were caned, severely.


Pre-Coronation Sunday. At Evensong
the vicar sermonised on God's
unique love for Britain and its monarchy.
The Day itself, he beamed,
would surely be blessed
by heaven-sent sun. Remember that day?
Remember the flawless, munificent rain. 


Last, a holiday town where her majesty
filled the screen at film's end
side-saddle. I rose in mute subjection as the
national anthem's brassy Boom
was swamped by wave on jolly wave
of "Screw the monarchy" "ye're no our queen",
from the packed, sat-at-ease Dumfries citizenry.
Equal to its wish that I should get
out of it, I turned my back on her and soon
found myself in the nearest public bar.




An Incident In The Class War.

She came banging at our door: "he's on
nights, he's needing all his sleep,
I guessed my mother's soft agreement,
knew I'd have to turn the music down,
but mimicked over loud "he's needing
all his sleep"—her cockney whine.
What hurt was less my father's
soaped hand lashed across my face
(and when had he crept in from interview?)
than his "Mr High and Mighty—
who'd you think you are."



"Shake hands' Ted's the name and tiling's the game."
Then - I must have gawped at his stumpy grin –
"Lost 'em in a Fair booth since you ask.
Took a big 'un on, see. Built the same
As Randolph Turpin; tanked me on the chin,
Left me less four teeth and counting up stars.

"Why'd I do it? Well, I needed the dosh:
Demobbed with plans to marry, but Ruth's dad
Reckoned I was scum. So, a gold ring
Stuffed with loverly carats put the kybosh
On all his schemes for her. And we ain't done bad
Though 'course she cried when her mum ducked out the wedding."

I worked with Ted stripping a factory roof
Through days of August sun and sweat. Salt swealed
My cracked lips, back, thighs, wrists ached, cack
Hands ripped and bled. But there was nothing rough
in Ted's work, and as I blundered he held
Steady, purlins his tight-wire, at each creak

Of joist a grin, while without pause he levered
Up nails with touching, orthodontic care,
And slate stacks thickened so at each day's end
The foreman muscled in to say how pleased
Big Man would be with us both. But that glare
Whenever Ted winked at me! "Don't think he's my friend"

Ted laughed it off. One monday Ted was gone.
Why? "Stood up to Malcolm," our chipple said,
"Asked for danger money, got give his cards,
Reckon his wife's behind it. She looks one –
He drew his roll-up to a nano-shred –
"Thinks she's a cut above a builder's yard."



Just eighteen and married to a squaddie
whose regiment was off to sort out Aden,
then, a few weeks later, found herself pregnant.
“I don't know if it's his. I feel sick. What
am I going to do? He’ll! He'll murder me
if he ever suspects." "But who would tell?"
"His friends, sisters, brothers, parents, they're all
watching me. 'An eye for an eye', he says
their motto is, they just wont let me be."
"Then how did....?" "Him. Your clever mate, he found
a way. I thought it might be love, I should
have known he thinks himself blue skies above
anything I do to try to please him.
Once he's back at college he'll forget me.
It's just like cradling hot coals, this knowledge
of flesh so warm on mine it seemed to make
me new each time. I burn now I recall
the words we used. If I was smart I'd learn
some trick to keep my heart from being bruised.
Now I just want my old life back. That's all."