I will never forget, the day, Margaret Thatcher, abolished free milk, in our schools. My first, abiding memory, of milk, in school as a 5-year-old, in St Teresa’s primary in Norris Green was the beautiful, miniature, milk bottle, with the gold top. Gold Top milk was the elixir of life, in the 1960’s. If you were; ‘worth a few bob’; in ‘Scouse parlance’, the milkman delivered Gold Top, to your front door, every morning. If you were, a little less comfortable, Silver Top would suffice. If you were as poor as church mice as many people were, in my neighbourhood, the milkman would deliver, Sterilized or ‘Sterrri (said with a guttural triple R), for maximum effect. One poor family, in our road, had two bottles of this foul, undrinkable bile, delivered, daily, to feed eight children and two adults. One of the tricks, we used to employ, if we wanted a drink of milk, was to refill the bottle with water. This worked, to a degree, with Gold Top, but the milk used to become transparent. My mum knew but she never said anything. Imagine, what Sterilised milk, infused with tap water, would taste like. I tried it once. It tasted like one year old Parmesan, that had been put through a liquidizer.
The schools, later replaced the artistic, glass bottles with cartons. The milk was never the same again. The cartons kept the milk warm which made it taste like masticated custard. The cartons were impossible to open. It was an exercise, that had to be expedited, with all the military precision of the Normandy Landings. We had some dullards, in our class, who managed to put more milk on themselves, than in their mouths. We should really have employed ‘Tug of War teams’, to pull them apart. It reminded me of one of Thatcher’s most famous commandments; “What Thatcher hath joined together, let no man put asunder”. I used to take, a small pair of scissors, with me to school, to prevent this embarrassing mishap. If you spilt milk, on yourself, in those days, the teacher, would make you sit there all day, even in the height of summer, smelling like ten-day old Cheddar. Not a pleasant memory. Also, a half full, carton of milk was an exceptional missile. I remember, after one remarkable battle with 3B, both classes of 40 pupils were lined up in the hall before the rest of the school to be chastised, with the trusty, decaying, curved, bamboo cane, of Mrs Burns. I still have the scar to prove it.
By abolishing milk, Mrs Thatcher saved the country millions of pounds. I suppose, she also laid the foundations, for her eventual promotion, to Prime Minister. Her policy was to make us more independent, more resourceful and more accountable. One of her idols was St Paul. She often quoted St Paul and one of her most notable quotations was’ ‘If a man does not work, he does not eat’. Thatcher’s place in history is assured. She broke the Unions, privatised a lot of British industry and of course initiated the sale of millions of council houses to tenants.
In 1982, I took her advice and got on my bike(in my case, one way train ticket), to find work in London. I had a job in Liverpool but Liverpool can be a goldfish bowl, without the fish. The 1980’s, fashion scene, in London, mirrored the classical liberalism of Thatcher’s policies. My wife was a hard-working fashion model and we met many photographers, stylists and creative people, exploring the ideology of Rossetti, Hunt and Millais. Pop groups had also discovered a new Romanticism and the creative impulse of the decade though eclectic was more bouffant than glitter.
This photograph of my wife is symptomatic of the kind of work that was being produced by photographers at the time. It is classic portraiture, that is aspirational, lyrical and sartorially poetic. In the right setting, this sort of imagery can be quite inspirational.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. My name is Steve Howard. You have been reading the digital circus.