Stephen Irvine, 5 April 2012
The asylum teemed with the grey-faced and the hopeless; shuffling cardboard cut-outs no longer able to communicate with the world at large, each believing themselves completely alone despite taking their place in the most intense of throngs. To attempt to shatter their sense of isolation with the mallet of conversation was tantamount to waving into blind eyes. The uninitiated found whatever solace they could from scraps of newspaper, clinging to any available appendage so as to avoid being swept away in the tidal-wave of antipathy sloshing through the heat of the narrow room. It was Monday morning. I was on the tube.
The first voice I heard since I’d boarded came seconds after the doors slammed shut on the ill-tempered sardines, a calm and clear tone proclaiming “The London Underground; the most expensive in the world!” This seemed like a strange marketing policy from TFL, hardly the kind of announcement to raise spirits in between sweaty stops. But wait – this was no employee, this man was here to deliver a socio-economic sermon to the sleepy, and I for one was keen for some more facts about the capital’s transport infrastructure. Unfortunately I was to be frustrated as his argument rather lost its way with his next point: “David Cameron – terrorist. Arab-murderer!”
I’d suggest our lecturer should have stuck to monetary issues, especially with the farce of Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne attempting to come out as ‘pasty-eating men of the people’ the week before, with the pair keen to defend the 20% VAT charge that Osborne had slapped on hot snacks in his March budget.
The Bullingdon boys were coming under fire for not understanding the pastry-fuelled proletariat of this country, with Steve Myall of The Mirror asking, in an emotionally-charged piece, if there were ‘ever a more satisfying sight than a man eating a pie or pasty from a paper bag with a heavenly trail of flakes from chin to waistband?’ I must admit that pastry porn was a new one on me, and I was struggling to see the beauty in Steve’s imagery. In my prudish way, I just prefer it when people get most of their food into their mouths.
The same rag reported elsewhere how ‘upper crust George Osborne was left squirming’ after telling a Treasury select committee of MPs: “I can’t remember the last time I bought a pasty at Greggs,” with Labour MP John Mann replying: “That kind of sums it up.” Quite when the regularity of one’s visits to Greggs became the barometer of class I’m not sure, but this was a strange angle of attack to say the least. We all know Osborne is posh, hardly a big scoop there, but don’t attack the poor bloke for having taste buds as well. I remember the last time I went to Greggs, and it was f*****g disgusting.
All of which had thrown me deep into the midst of my first ever class crisis – had I become a posh Tory toff by rejecting the cheap, greasy snacks of my working class brethren? I still hated rugby and couldn’t afford to turn the heating on, so I hoped not.
Obviously experiencing a similar crisis, Ed Miliband went one step further and actually took 2 of his mates to a Greggs in Worcestershire, where the trio left with a bag of sausage rolls, failing to even select the right product from the Greggs range as he went to cash in on ‘pastygate.’ The Labour leader was there to stick the boot into Osborne’s snack-taxing policies, and as a graduate of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and then the LSE, he is clearly far more in touch with people who will now be struggling to afford their regular visit to Greggs…
It was only when the carriage had emptied out as we hurtled into Zone 3 of the Underground that I noticed our self-appointed scholar remained aboard; an opportunity not to be missed. “Not only do we pay a fortune for this, we won’t even be able to afford a pasty at the other end!” I quipped, but it was no good, he wasn’t listening. He was busily munching on his mid-morning snack, several pairs of eyes gazing on lustily as he dropped a trail of moist, bready crumbs down his trouser leg.