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Writing, clever kids, and radio 4 class battles

I've managed to get 30,000 words through this new revised draft of Mary Burns, 15,000 of which I managed this week. Now, I'm not in any way claiming that most of these words are made of sugar, most of them will be pure shite, but I feel I must spew the story out onto the page first and then go back and cut and mould the way a sculptor would do once they've thrown the wet clay onto the board. But I'm still very anxious about it and feel I should have managed another 15,000! Writing, I am really learning, is a hard slog; a process, not an event. I'm also looking to turn some of my attention back to the northern soul screenplay as that has also had some interest this week and so I now feel there is some urgency around it. Did I say I also had a day job and want to start dating again? There seems little time for any fun at the moment. Yet I am having some fun.

Today I went to a lovely garden party of a good friend who was celebrating his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and homewarming. I listened as a friend's twelve year old son tasted the chicken and declared that it was so good it must have been marinating for at least a week. He then left the table and an adult came over and mentioned how good the food was, and my friend's other son, five nearly six, copying his older brother verbatim declared aloud that 'yes, the chicken tastes like it's been marinating for at least a week' which sounded terribly clever and grown up! His older sister then recited a poem she had won an award for, which I have to say was much better than some of the 'adult' poems I've had recited to me.

Anyone who managed to listen to yesterday's Any Questions/Any Answers on Radio 4 would no doubt also have picked up the class battle played out between a painter and decorate from Yorkshire and some 'terribly terribly' academic type, both commenting on the Iran voting situation. The Yorkshire man declared that he was 'just a painter and decorator' and that he had been in Iran on holiday not long ago and that, far from what he had assumed, most people he had spoken to, farmers and other 'normal folk', all of whom were keen to talk politics with a 'blonde haired, blue eyed non-Muslim' were all Ahmidinejad (sic) supporters and were not at all happy with the western portrayal of recent events which only seemed to listen to the typically middle-class liberal viewpoint. Dimbleby thanked him and then welcomed the next caller, this academic type, who then attempted to politely refute the previous caller's comments, but quickly gave up by outrightly declaring that he just didn't believe a word of what the previous caller had said, saying that he didn't believe that he could have communicated with so many 'normal' people such as farmers and the like, no doubt thinking only the likes of himself and anthropologists would be suitably qualified! Said painter and decorator then rung back in and asked why he wasn't believed and the academic type said you would need to speak different languages etc. to which the Yorkshire painter and decorator said he spoke Farsi and had been learning for several years and was up to a good conversational level! It was so telling - that common assumptions about what a Yorkshire painter and decorator would be able to do or where he would choose to visit! It reminded me of the Geordie window cleaner sketch from the Armstrong & Miller show, where the window cleaner gives a well-informed, well expressed solution on some political situation and then ends it by saying 'but what would I know, I'm just the window cleaner!'

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Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

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