Why should the dregs of our society act in a caring and decent manner when our self-seeking leaders don’t care about fairness and freedom?

GBH was a seven-part TV drama by Alan Bleasdale, set in a Northern town in the Thatcher years, broadcasted on Channel 4 in 1991.

In this scene Jim Nelson, the working class headmaster of a special school played by Michael Palin, sleepwalks out of his holiday caravan during a thunderstorm and crashes into a tree. Waking up on the ground  in his pyjamas, soaked to the skin, he finds Grosvenor, the impoverished aristocratic owner of the caravan park played by Daniel Massey, appearing from the bushes wearing an oilskin jacket, miner’s helmet and lamp, sheltering under an umbrella  with a half empty bottle of whisky under his arm.

GROSVENOR: Are you all right? I’m only asking for insurance purposes. What was it this time Mr Nelson, the Bogey Man?

NELSON: Get away from me with that umbrella.

GROSVENOR: Oh, it’s a game Mr Nelson, called Woodland Roulette. To be played only during the course of an electrical storm.

Lightning flashes. Grosvenor shouts up to the sky, laughing.

GROSVENOR: Missed me again. Ha. Been playing it for years. Killez moi? Although the reading light is a more recent acquisition. Belonged to a former Kent miner. Passing through. Scavenging for work. Selling possessions. He had no further use for it.

NELSON: Well he wouldn’t would he? If this is a prelude to a political debate don’t bother. My head’s already spinning.

GROSVENOR: What a shame! I was rather hoping to hear some of that legendary Northern working class wit and altercation. You know, gems like: “You’re gonna get your foockin’ ‘ed kicked in.” Or … Oh, here’s one that I like: “We know where you live.” Elegant! Elegant!

NELSON: You don’t want an answer off me Mr Grosvenor. I don’t think you want answers at all.

GROSVENOR: No, don’t suppose I do. Wouldn’t know what to do with a Northerner. Still, things are warming up quite nicely for a Thursday night. You’re here bumping into trees. Not too long ago I saw a couple sneaking into the rear of a foreign vehicle for the committing of adultery no less. (Rolls across the ground laughing.) God. God how I hate the people of this country. Hate what we’ve become. Having mistaken freedom for license.

Lightning flash. Nelson jumps up and runs into the trees.

GROSVENOR: Nearly. Nearly. Once I’ve sold this inherited and most dreadful of hell holes and paid off all of my debts – well – some of them – I’m going to France Mr. Nelson. Proper France, where the English don’t go. Do you know what they call us in France Mr. Nelson? They call us “Les Fuck Offs“. They see us staggering around, nasty and oblivious, drunk in charge of a limited vocabulary and a lager can, and they say “Regarde Les Fuck-Offs.

NELSON: Why don’t you … GO AWAY!

GROSVENOR: You see, so few of the scum class have ever played any real part in anything, except for the occasional walk on in the crowd scene. Casualties and statistics. Some carnage coming up chaps? Take cover and send for the rabble.

NELSON: I’ve got A-level history.

GROSVENOR: But did your textbooks ever tell you how lucky you once were? Not to know. Not to be remotely aware. Not to understand anything. So that you wouldn’t miss it when it’s been taken away from you. Don’t you regret loosing that … ignorance Mr. Nelson?

NELSON: I don’t think you believe one word of what you’re saying Mr.Grosvenor.

GROSVENOR: Oh but I do. I do. So here you are Mr. Nelson. Risen from the rabble … Slightly! When the opportunities and the prospects still seemed available. When what passes for an education was free for the fodder and not just on loan.

Pity about the 80s, wasn’t it Mr. Nelson? For the likes of your kind. Lights going out everywhere. Dreams dying like winter following spring. It must be awful to be you. Awful. To have a glimmering of understanding. To be vaguely aware, and yet almost completely out of consequence and importance. Even your own side pick on you Mr. Nelson. If it is your own side, which I doubt personally. I mean, you were merely one of the crowd, weren’t you? You just happened to be there, that’s all.

But tell me Mr. Nelson. Tell me. Tell me. Why should the dregs of our unfair society act in a caring and decent manner, when our self-seeking so called leaders don’t even care about fairness and freedom? That’s what I really think. Contrary to expectations. Hmm?

(Grosvenor rolls over Nelson and lies on his back. half laughing  half sobbing)

For I could have been a noble man. Oh yes a noble man. Noble.

(Getting to his feet to make a speech).

Friends, Romans and countrymen. We know where you live.

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