Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Gorblimey Trousers

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Gorblimey Trousers

Article excerpt

Piles of black plastic rubbish sacks lie in the streets of Birmingham because, since the end of June, the dustmen have been on strike. That is not quite what the BBC tells us. On its website the corporation says that 'refuse workers have resumed strike action'.

I complained here a year ago that dustcarts were disappearing in favour of bin lorries, and now the very dustmen are returning to the dust -- dust and ashes. 'Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris,' the priest says, 'Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return,' as he marks a cross of ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday.

The BBC prefers sex workers to prostitutes and refuse workers to dustmen. It imagines that being a refuse worker is a lifestyle choice for women as much as for men. No doubt there are gender-fluid refuse workers too. The picture on the BBC news site showed eight picketers in high-vis jackets and overall trousers. All were men.

I find it odd to think that anyone might find it hard to understand the profession of the hero of Lonnie Donegan's song, so popular in 1960: 'Oh, my old man's a dustman/ He wears a dustman's hat/ He wears gorblimey trousers/ And he lives in a council flat. …

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