Sunday, November 28, 2004

Oi, Mother!

"The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they've been in".
- Dennis Potter
The Guardian seems to have List Mania at the moment. On Friday, it was the world's smelliest cheeses. The day before it was a survey of people's favourite words and some of these turned out to be pretty cheesy.
The latter was a survey conducted by the British Council in 46 countries. At No 1 was 'mother'. As I've remarked here before, this is also a slang abbreviation, sometimes spelt 'mutha', which has little to do with maternalism and nurture. But it's undeniably popular among certain groups. Perhaps 'Mother!' was what they yelled at the researchers who had interrupted them.
Few of the words would appear on my own list: smile, sunshine, love, cute, rainbow...........
Oh, fuck off. Was this survey done at a greetings card convention?
One of my own favourites is 'erubescence' but I rarely get the chance to use it.
'Oi' was No 61 in the British Council list, perhaps because one of the researchers was beaten to death with his clipboard by a bunch of skinheads. But is 'Oi' really a word? Surely 'Oi' is an ejaculation.
Ejaculation is quite a nice word, come to think of it. One that brings back memories anyway.


I was shocked to learn from a Dispatches documentary this week that a high proportion of children's care homes are now run by the private sector.
Putting it like that doesn't sound very shocking I know. After 20 years' of privatising everything that moves we've grown used to the concept. But did you know that children's homes are offered for sale in property magazines as going concerns, complete with all the highly vulnerable child residents? So if you've got a couple of million to spare you pop along to the current owner, he'll tell you the annual net profit (up to £500,000) and all the simple scams to screw every last dishonest penny out of social services. The difference between the cost of providing the service and the charge made to social services = fat profits, all from our pockets as taxpayers.
As you'd expect, at many of these homes corners were cut, untrained staff were employed and criminal records checks on staff weren't done. Kids were left to beat each other to a pulp or had abuse screamed at them by the staff. These things didn't particularly surprise me. After all, local authorities didn't have a great record in running children's homes. What I find obscene is that disturbed and vulnerable young people should be used a cash cow for businessmen.
It's bad enough that many prisons have been privatised, but this was even more repugnant. Why has a so-called Labour Government not drawn a line in the sand and said that, for straightforward ethical reasons, there are certain social functions that must be directly run by the State and accountable to democratic control?

Lee invited Carlo to "come for tea round ours."
Carlo asked me where 'Ours' was and if it was a new restaurant in town. Having clarified that one, he asked me if Lee's mother would have the same Earl Grey as myself, to which he is rather partial. I explained that Lee's 'tea' would probably be what we call 'dinner' but with less formality and without the Indian Tree china. This confused him even more because when the vicar had invited him to tea he had been served with copious quantities of PG Tips and Gypsy Creams, not to mention an invitation to help with the scouts' camping trip.

When he returned from tea with the Swarfega family he said very little, apart from asking me who Bernard Matthews was. Later on, I discovered there had been an awkward moment when Carlo had described the meal as 'minging', believing this to be a term of high praise. He also said they had asked him if he would ever return home and he had said no, he was very happy with his Willie. They'd laughed a lot at this, Lee's younger brother had choked on his Sunny Delight and Lee's mum had said "So is Lee!", which I thought was coarse and ambiguous in equal measure.
I was annoyed that he referred to his employer in such familiar terms to strangers. It could lead to misunderstandings but I suppose he meant no harm by it. Anyway, I like to think I'm his friend as well as his employer. It's now been several weeks since I've had to lock him in his room for failing to put a crease in my pyjama trousers.
When you rejoin us: Carlo goes to Argos


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