31 Mar 2020
Sue, Leeds, is one of five people that we interviewed for International Day of Older Persons 2019. This is their story.
I came to university in ’63 from a rural area. My dad took the Daily Mail, he was a rural Tory. His parents had been fairly rural bourgeois farmers but my grandad had gone bankrupt in 1929 so my dad carried ideas of being well-to-do while not being. In fact my father met my mother when he was sent to drive a Caterpillar tractor to bulldoze down trees and farms to create what was then, Ringway Airport. He lodged at my grandparents’ house and married the landlady’s daughter. I grew up with no progressive ideas around. When I came to Leeds it was like being reborn. Of course there was a lot happening. There was Anti-Apartheid, Vietnam, just lots of different ways of looking at things.
I was looking for something else. Summer of ’66, a friend and I were looking for a diversion from swotting for finals, and there was a coach going down to London to support the seaman’s strike. So we went on it. And that was organised by the Socialist Labour League. I was impressed with this new way of looking at things and that was when I first started teaching. Along with getting politicised, I decided I wanted to teach English in inner-city schools to hopefully enable working-class kids to use the language to enrich, improve and empower their lives. That’s what I did for 38 years.
I think it’s just a sense of packing in as much as possible ‘cos the older you get, the more aware you are of mortality at the end of it. I think it’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, there’s a quote ‘The leaves are green but a little while’ and sometimes phrases resonate with you. We’re like a blink in the eye of eternity. And there’s so much needs doing. It really irritates me when I hear people saying “I’m dreading retiring, I’ll be bored”. For f**k’s sake, there’s so much, not just to do for yourself; on one level I’d like to build on my artistic talent which I haven’t used since ‘O’ level, or join a choir or something, but there isn’t time for that. I go to music, I go to films, I go to plays, but there’s so much needs doing in terms of political change and just trying to make things better and stopping things that are wrong....