So anyway, there we were, last Sunday, Mrs Angry and daughter, wandering about in Highgate Cemetery - and yes, for those readers concerned that I spend too much time sitting in graveyards feeling glum: you're not wrong, but this is as exciting as my life gets these days, and it is still less depressing than sitting in the Town Hall among the undead Tory councillors of Broken Barnet. Or at home. And there is something oddly symbolic of the state of things generally, at the moment, in an overgrown graveyard, that rather lends one to melancholy musings on change and decay in all around we see.
Miss Angry was photographing graves, for her A level coursework, dressed as usual in an interesting combination of biker girl meets Audrey Hepburn, and totally inappropriate for a Victorian cemetery.
'I don't understand it,' said Mrs Angry ... 'I know that Karl Marx is buried here, we've walked round twice, how have we managed to miss him?' *
'Karl who?' asked Miss Angry, with a shrug.
There was a long silence from her mother. Then:
'Are you winding me up?' demanded Mrs Angry, a letter to Michael Gove re national history syllabus rapidly forming in her mind.
Mrs Angry got hold of her daughter by the ear and frog marched her out of the cemetery gates and back up Highgate Hill with a stern lecture on the history of socialism, class struggle, dialectical materialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
By the time we got to the top of the hill, Miss Angry was begging for mercy, I can tell you.
*(This Sunday Mrs Angry and daughter went to Abney Park Cemetery, in Stoke Newington, and missed the grave of James 'Bronterre' O'Brien, the Chartist leader. There may well now follow a weekly series of visits to graveyards where Mrs Angry and daughter argue, get lost, and then fail to find the last resting place of other famous pioneers of social reform and great political thinkers.)
As we crossed over the border, back into Broken Barnet, Mrs Angry was pondering the difference between her teenage and twenty something years, and the political activities our generation were involved in, with the attitudes of our own children. Our generation had the great blessing of years of a Tory government and the reign of terror of Mrs Thatcher, of course, and this was pretty much all we needed to provoke the raising of our political consciousness. Our children have, until recently, had the misfortune of living through a Tory lookalike Labour government and years of a stultifyingly boring political scene, and so have been deprived of the same stimulus.
But things are changing, and although Miss Angry and her fellow students may not, as we did, understand the wider context, or the historical context, they are certainly aware of the impact of the radicalism of the Coalition government's agenda of the last two years, and this is going to be felt in any future elections. The whole issue of the cost of student loans has had a salutory effect on any young voter, and locally, here in Broken Barnet, there is nothing but contempt for the Tory administration. Much of this contempt is inspired by the idiocy of the likes of Brian Coleman (or is that just in my household, where, predictably, he is a figure of ridicule ..?) but it is also true that the realities of life in this borough bestow the perfect education for any young student of politics.
Last week's decision by our Tory council to shut a much loved library in Friern Barnet, a Labour voting area, whilst agreeing happily to retain the toytown library in the hugely affluent, Tory voting area of Hampstead Garden Suburb speaks eloquently of the rapidly widening gap between the haves and have nots of Broken Barnet, and the polarisation of opinions between the main body of the electorate, and the cabal of Tory tyrants who run this council, and their wealthy backers. Totteridge and Garden Suburb are looked after very carefully by their Tory councillors - and MPs.
The gulf between the privileged and the disadvantaged has been growing for some time, as demonstrated by studies such as the league tables of areas of social deprivation. And since the Tory administration was returned two years ago, the One Barnet agenda has pushed the two separate communities living here further and further apart.
And yes, there are effectively two communities here now. There is one fortunate, comfortably placed Barnet, living in Tory wards, whose children go to the best, usually selective schools which are so well thought of. This Barnet is not so reliant on the overburdened healthcare provision, largely based anyway, in the better off areas of the borough, because this Barnet has private healthcare to fall back on when they need to jump the queue to see a consultant about any medical problem. This Barnet is not reliant on the social care that has been offered by our council services, just being flogged off, or rather given away to the circling vultures of the private sector.
The other Barnet, the Barnet without means, the residents on low incomes, our elderly, our vulnerable children, the disabled, the refugee populations, the ethnic minorities, most living in the twilight world of social housing or at the mercy of short term but high cost private rental arrangements, cannot afford to move into the catchment areas for the minority of decent state schools. Take a trip over to the Barnet Eye blog to read this guest post from a resident who can give you a glimpse of this Barnet, if you like:
This Barnet's access to healthcare requires long distance journeys to hospitals across the other side of the borough. This Barnet of the dispossessed will only be allowed to apply for social housing if they are morally suitable, if they can persuade our Tory councillors that they have contributed in a 'positive' way to their communities. If they ever manage to attain such accommodation, they will not be allowed to settle there, and establish a permanent home, because our Tory councillors think this will discourage 'aspiration', and because the thought of being evicted if they fail to maintain a morally worthy life style will, it is thought, keep the feckless, undeserving poor on their toes, and teach them to be more like our Tory councillors, who are all of them fine, upstanding, honest and hard working members of society, as we know from their declarations of interest - don't we?
Back to the same theme, then: One Barnet, two Barnets. And hello: what do we have here?
Film maker Charles Honderick has made a thirty minute documentary about the state of things in our rotten borough. It's called 'A Tale of Two Barnets' and features a wide range of residents, including possibly some bloggers, and even the Leader of the council and Chief Executive, talking about how they view things here and now. There will be a premiere at the Phoenix, East Finchley on 19th March, 6-8pm, all are welcome ... oh, and Mrs Angry will be sitting in the dark with her hands over her eyes, praying that her bit is on the cutting room floor.