Wednesday 15 September 2010

If I Had A Hammer ... I'd Need A Van

During my childhood, one always knew when Mr Puddlecote Senior was to spend the day decorating, gardening or fixing something, as he would tend to sing crucify this song over breakfast.

At the time, my only experience of a hammer was a small wooden one I used for knocking cylindrical painted wooden pegs through a variety of different sized holes while watching Champion the Wonder Horse, so I just believed it to be a jolly ditty. It wasn't until much later that I discovered its political intent.

When Seeger and Hays wrote the song, it was a bit of anthemic support for the emerging progressive movement, which was focused heavily on labor rights, among other things. The lyrics allude to the labor movement, taking symbols from the work place and turning them into calls for action toward equality.
I was reminded of the tune again this week while having more work done at Puddlecote Towers. The garden was in urgent need of a wholescale gutting, so Mrs P suggested throwing some cash the way of her 22 year old cousin. He works like a Trojan and for the past couple of days has been hacking away in the undergrowth, pulling up stubborn roots and fighting long undisturbed spiders the size of small rats, filling a six yard skip in the process.

He asked to stow his tools in our garage for the first night, and that's how we got talking about his many run-ins with public transport. You see, he doesn't drive which causes problems when getting to jobs with his tools.

I must firstly point out that we're not talking a shaven-headed chav complete with disdainful sneer here, the guy is well spoken and incredibly polite (even to the point of asking permission to use the loo at the house of a family member). However, bus drivers routinely refuse to let him board and he has had his tools 'confiscated' many a time when travelling on trains, despite carrying them in a professional canvas carrier, the last time being when leaving the train on his way back home. They were very nice about it, he said, and confessed to being quite aware that he was a builder with a perfectly valid reason for carrying them but, you know, 'rules is rules and it's more than our job's worth' yadda yadda.

So he waited 20 minutes until the police turned up, officially confiscated them, before walking with him back to the station, where he was asked to sign a form to 'claim' his bag before finally walking home.

Seeing as it is expected that self-employed working men arrive at the job with their own tools, the message here seems to be that they must do so in their own vehicle and not on public transport. In fact, better make sure that vehicle is quite obviously a working one (white van, for example) in case the police get the wrong end of the stick and land the driver with a criminal record.

Quite silly considering that, when working in London especially, it is far easier (and less costly) to get there on a train, and that for many labourers on daily rates, the expense of a van is either out of the question - just the road tax is equivalent to three days' pay - or cuts down on their income.

All of which makes efforts, lyricised in the song, to "hammer .. all over this land" rather difficult. Not very progressive, is it? And certainly unsympathetic to practicalities faced by many a working class labourer.

And when one considers that such control freakery has materialised under an administration which claimed to be progressive; to be acting in the interests of the working man and his family; and with a keen eye on equality, it's all rather amusing.

Perhaps the song should be updated to "If I had a van, fully taxed and insured, run on LPG if possible, liveried so the police know I'm not a terrorist, smokefree, parked in a marked bay and, when moving, driven within the speed limit, and at all times with both hands on the wheel ... I could then hammer all over this land".

Though, as a protest song, it's not quite as catchy, is it?


J Bonington Jagworth said...

You have to wonder what they'd make of an orthopaedic surgeon complete with tools...

JuliaM said...

Good lord! I tend to travel quite early in the morning (6-6:30am) and I've seen workmen taking all sorts of tools and odd things on the Tube!

Perhaps it's only if you travel in rush hour that the small-minded target-fixated drones attack?

SadButMadLad said...

JuliaM, do you expect such small minded drones to be up early. They probably have their coffee break from 8-10, pop out to look officious for a few minutes, then pop back into the office for another coffee break from 10:09 to 12:00. Then it's a break for lunch. You get the idea! ;-)

Witterings from Witney said...

Nicce post again DP - only one question:

"so Mrs P suggested throwing some cash the way of her 22 year old cousin."

Err, hers or yours??

Dick Puddlecote said...

JBJ: I think they only travel in a coach and horses, wear a black cape, and kill ugly prostitutes. The London Dungeon told me so. ;)

WfW: One guess. :(

Smoking Hot said...

DP Nothing surprises me about this bloody country anymore. Am going back to Bulgaria :)

lncidentally you may like the way Bulgarians do MOT's. My wife needed a new MOT for her car but she had no time to take it in for the test as we were going on a roadtrip that day.

Not wanting to risk the roadtrip and being stopped by the police without this MOT she rang the garage and he brought one round within the hour an said he'd do the test when she got back. :)

Unknown said...

Thank you DP for taking me back to 1963 and Peter, Paul and Mary. I didn't realise the political influance in there music, just like you but I knew I liked what they sung. Great song and thought provoking.

Once again thank you for bringing them back to my attention.

J Bonington Jagworth said...

"I think they only travel in a coach and horses.."

Given your revelations, I imagine they would have to! I hope your cousin never has to work anywhere that requires air travel...

Mick Turatian said...

Were you disappointed, like so many others, when you found out that Weston Super Mare wasn't the wife of Champion the Wonderhorse?

Anonymous said...

If I had a hammer, I'd take it to the heads of this shower...