Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Poets' Day

Last night I ran into that fine London-Irish singer/songwriter Anto Morra again. He sang one of his compositions, about looking to cut short the working week. 'This is about poets' day', he said - Push Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday.

Actually, he sang 'Piss off early ...', but I put it here as my maternal grandmother first explained it to me in the early 1990s, when I was working in an office for Mercury Communications. Anto saw the phrase and the practice as belonging to the period when workers were paid weekly in cash. You could slope off early as soon as you had your week's wages in hand. I wonder how far the phrase is still in use, and whether it's still associated primarily with weekly payments in cash.

Even if the practice is changing, however, there's a long history of workers trimming their working week to cut short the wage-slavery. 'Saint Monday' could be invoked as a reason for not going in. A former Kent miner told me that workers on the first shift on a Monday morning would sit in the canteen ahead of clocking on. Sometimes one of the workers would throw his tally onto the table. If the others joined in, they'd all bunk off and go fishing. (He also said he'd had to stop doing it when he had a family to support, indicating the financial sacrifices that are made just to get some time away from work). The comedienne Sarah Millican grew up in a north-eastern mining family, where the practice was known as 'having one off for the queen'.

I probably should have posted this last week for World Poetry Day, but that fell on a Thursday. Meanwhile, roll on Friday.

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