A Whistlestop Tour Of F**king Up Everything

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I found a notebook a while ago ? still unpacking boxes in the little flat I moved into in July ? with a few scribbled songs and poems in that I wrote when I was unemployed and life was, well, pretty crap. Hungry, cold, miserable, angry, crap. This was a huge punch in the guts to rediscover, especially as on a facing page were the benefit calculations the Government website said I should be receiving as a single parent to a then-two-year-old, compared to the payments that were actually going in (or not, due to delays, suspensions, recalculations, etc.) I wrote to stay sane, I wrote to purge, I wrote to rage, I wrote to communicate, I wrote because sometimes it feels like the only thing I can do.

This morning I was alerted to a blog post, about me, that can only be described as a horribly gaslighting piece of fiction. The line that stood out for me, however, was the implication that because I wrote songs and poetry, I could never have been properly poor. As though working class people do not have hobbies and interests. As though many of the greatest songwriters and poets of our time ? to whom I absolutely do not compare ? have not come from difficult backgrounds and don?t write about their own experiences.

So, in the spirit of turning something negative into something positive, I have decided to start sharing my poetry again. Yes, this is largely a recipe blog, but this forms the background as to why it?s here in the first place.

WHISTLESTOP TOUR by JACK MONROE

It?s October and I?m older
For a year out on the dole
Got a sweater on but the heating?s off
There?s a chill right to my bones
There?s no fairytale or wonderland
Here on the other side
Got a letter to David penned his PA will cast aside
Show me your broken policies and promises
And I?ll show you what it?s like to be unsurprised

Can you smell the salt and sugar
Of the obsolete fairground rides
Can you walk inside my shoes in dead straight lines
Could you be lonely all the time

Well welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to a week in the life of me
Don?t fasten your safety bars
Turn your heads or close your eyes
If you?ve any shred of decency
You?ll see a crooked house and you?ll be horrified

Oh welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to brave faces
In strange places
Raising families on the dole
In bread and jam and hunger pangs are people who?ll tell you how much you?ve grown
And how far you?ll go
Oh how far you?ll go?

Ive got an unelected leader says we?re in it together
He?s got four homes and a deputy
And you?re sleeping outside in all weathers
We tried to make it work the way they said it works
But I?m worked right to the ground
I can?t keep coming up again I?m pulled back down
Can?t keep coming up again
Believe me
Don?t leave me
I?m falling falling falling, down

And can you smell the salt and sugar
And all the about-turns and the lies?
Can you walk inside my shoes along the tide
Could you be lonely all the time?

Well welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to a week in the life of me
Don?t fasten your safety bars
Turn your heads or close your eyes
If you?ve any shred of decency
You?ll see a crooked house and you?ll be horrified

Oh welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to brave faces
In strange places
Raising families on the dole
In bread and jam and hunger pangs are people who?ll tell you how much you?ve grown
And how far you?ll go
Oh how far you?ll go?

Can you see the single mothers
With their buggies
Queuing for an hour for a box of beans and rice
Can you see the nurse behind them
With a coat over her uniform
Dispensing free advice
The students kick in windows
Screaming riots
And today all the schools are closed
Teachers and the doctors stand in pickets
Coz they?re sick of being quiet
And the coppers and the papers are all bought and sold

Oh welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to brave faces
In strange places
Raising families on the dole
In bread and jam and hunger pangs
are people who?ll tell you how much you?ve grown
And how far you?ll go
Oh how far you?ll go?

Yeah welcome to a whistlestop tour of fucking up everything
Welcome to not knowing when the story ends
Go pick up your banners
And stand in your lines
These are the things that were yours and mine
These are the things that we?ll tell our children we fought for once upon a time.

Jack Monroe, 2012.

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