The Quiet Man. He touched your life today, all of you, though you may not have noticed. He is ignored, today, as he is every day. Ignored by the public, ignored by the politicians, ignored by the unions.
The Prime Minister didn’t fly to Afghanistan to check on the quality of his Christmas dinner. The Chancellor of the Exchequer didn’t address him at the annual Mansion House Ball. The Leader of the Opposition didn’t rail that he was ‘slipping further into poverty’. The Union leaders didn’t stop essential services because his pension wasn’t as good as he had been led to believe. He had neither been stabbed, nor had he stabbed anyone, so Sky didn’t want to film him. He isn’t believed to be the cause of any cancer, so the Daily Mail omitted to mention him. He isn’t a ‘public servant’ so he wasn’t enjoying a public holiday. He isn’t even a ‘vile banker’, so the Archbishop of Canterbury didn’t give him a mention. He wasn’t lauded for being part of our essential services, ‘nobly’ manning the police stations and ambulance stations on this day of rest. He certainly wasn’t out shopping.
The 6.03 from Penge ran as normal this morning, the rail employees enjoying an extra bonus for taking the train down the line – they may not have realised why. They did so because the Quiet Man needed to get to work, the country needed him to get to work.
The Quiet Man had made himself coffee at 5am this morning, he had wrapped up warmly and walked to the station; he had scrapped the ice off his car and driven off in the morning fog; he had jumped on his motor bike and careered off down icy roads. When he arrived, he’d opened up icy store rooms, turned on the heaters, warmed towels, separated icy cold slices of bacon, rearranged cars that refused to start, fired up computers.
The Quiet Man is part of the great army of self employed. He’s the personal trainer who borrowed against his house to turn that disused shop into your gym. He’s the hairdresser who will do your wife’s hair today. He’s the independent travel agent that is praying you can still afford a holiday this year. He runs your local corner shop; he’s the greengrocer who will restock your fridge after the holiday. He’s the man who runs the ‘greasy spoon’. He runs that little garage that always manages to fit you in when your car breaks down. He’s the computer software engineer that was made redundant and discovered that he could earn a crust writing software for the man who tests the catalytic converter in your car. He’s the mini cab driver who collected you for work this morning. He’s all manner of things.
In a month’s time he will fill in his on-line tax return, and send off a check for his tax bill. The government will let him keep just over half of what he has earned to keep his wife and children – the other half they will take to keep other men’s wives and children in the manner to which they are ‘entitled’. If he doesn’t he will be fined £100 for every day he is late – even if he has earned nothing. No top level negotiations over lunch for him. Just a cold reminder. He must do his bit for the country.
The Prime Minister can’t be bothered to talk to him. He’ll talk to journalists, he’ll address the bankers, he’ll talk to the fashionable ‘Mumsnet’, he’ll talk to European leaders. Will he face the cameras and address the Quiet Man directly? Will he explain what is happening to the country, why the Quiet Man must keep going, harder than ever, must try to employ more people in his fledgling business, support more of other people’s children?
Does he even notice that the Quiet Man is quieter than ever these days? Trying to sell his house, hoping he can raise enough money to flee the country. He can cut hair anywhere, drive taxis anywhere, write his software anywhere.
Who will the Noisy Ones lean on when the Quiet Man has gone?