Last week I watched a film that was made in 1958 in World’s End in Chelsea. I had never seen it before but chose to watch it to check a memory I had from that year when I was 12. The film company had come to our school nearby to get extras.
They wanted a group of ruffians breaking up boats on the River Thames that runs past Chelsea. The main character lived in one of the boats and sure enough there was a gaggle of scruffs playing at being vandals.
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I was not chosen. One of the boys chosen was possibly one of the most obnoxious people I have ever known. I befriended a boy who was often beaten by this boy who’d been chosen as an extra. This stopped the beatings. The protected boy went into prison at 20 and came out a mountain of muscle. Suddenly no longer the butt of all, he became the leader of a group of heavy-drinking, hard-working, well-paid drivers. I, because of my Marxism, was excluded for not being proletarian enough.
The erstwhile film extra though, toadied up to the muscle mountain. All was forgiven and forgotten. No memories of the humiliations meted out to the former weak boy. And I, having witnessed the before and after of it all, was never invited (I was discouraged in fact) to attend The Black Bull pub on a Friday night and be loudly proletarian, racist, homophobic and chauvinistic towards women.
Also they didn’t want to ram my attempts at correcting their reactionary behaviour down my throat. I was, after all, an original proletarian. So I stayed away, though on odd occasions I would roll up to try and convert them to progressive politics.