I’ve just been watching a flim on TV, This is England.
It was made a couple of years ago, but was set in England in about 1982, during the Falklands War. It’s about a boy who is bullied at school and befriended by a gang of skinheads, and begins to hang out with them, and enjoys their friendship, but then an older former leader of the gang is released from prison, and a darker side emerges, as he is an English nationalist, and the gang splits as racism and xenophobia intrude.
I won’t say more about the plot in case anyone reading this hasn’t seen it, and don’t want to add plot spoilers.
But I was very conscious of it being an England I had missed entirely.
I visited England twice. Once in the mid-sixties, when I spent two and a half years there, mostly studying in Durham, but also driving buses in London, described, in part, in another blog post on Swinging London in retrospect. The second visit was about three years ago, much shorter, a three week holiday visiting old friends and relations.
After nearly 40 years there were many changes. One of the most noticable was that in the 1960s there had been an industrial working class. There were factory workers, coal miners and others. Forty years later most people seemed to be employed in service industries.
Nowadays the transition seems to be marked by the jokes on motoring programmes on TV — about the Japanese failure to make proper motorbikes that leaked oil, or proper cars that broke down.
But the film showed something I had missed, that marked the transition — the Thatcher years.
I’m sure that the film does not tell the full story of those years, and that there were lots of other things that happened. But during both my visits to Britain there was a Labour government, and it seemed a little bit more sunny and cheerful and optimistic.
I’d be interested in knowing if people who lived through the Thatcher years and saw the film think it is true to life.