Reader’s Letter: Greatest City in The World On Its Knees

February 20, 1906 ·

Oi Up Broms,

I’ve just gotten the letter you’ve sent in response to mine. Glad to hear that you and the boys are still breathin’. My beloved Annie’s well also, thanks for askin’, though her mum’s beginnin’ to show a sign or two of not bein’ able to fight the fog much longer. Annie’s a nurse, as you know, though, so she’s got the best chance of anyone with me sweetheart lookin’ after ‘er.

Now onto graver matters, bruv. Just after I sent you that first letter, the boys and I got word of a nasty attack on an airship. Desperate men takin’ to desperate raidin’ in the hopes of findin’ some sort of spoils that’ll keep ’em alive. Me personally, I thinks a lot of them are in it for the excitement, a bit of a thrill to make life worth livin’. I’d also wager a few are in it just to have something to do. Anyways, as you’d guess, it’s not quite the number of ships runnin’ today as it was back in the days when the sun was to be seen. What ships do take to flyin’ got a good chance of bein’ raided.

Lots of bad things happenin’ to lots of innocent people, and it turns me stomach to see what was once the greatest city in the world, populated by the greatest of peoples, bein’ brought down to this.

It turns me stomach even more, however, to see what it’s made of me. The handful of us that’s still got any heart and wits about us have been gettin’ steady work repairin’ the ships that’s salvagable after the attacks. Union boys, profiting at the expense of the innocent, just like our Industrialist overlords.

My personal demons aside, this nasty attack I’ve just told you about seems to ‘ave been particularly brutal, and I hear had some pretty high name people on it. Suppose you’d have to be a higher-up to be flyin’ these days though. Most of us ain’t got money to be takin’ to the skies. Which begs the question, what are those that ‘ave got the money doin’ comin’ into the Capitol? If you ‘ave the pounds the spare, the smart way of spendin’ ’em would be on gettin’ out, not on comin’ in. Like I said last time, bruv, something’s on, it’s big, and I ain’t got any specifics for ya just yet, but I’ve got some ideas. Strange things been happenin’ in the old East End, and our situation’s gettin’ worse.

Some of our boys have been lost to the air. Been mostly the older gents, a lifetime full o’ ‘ard work left ’em without enough to fight lungfuls of acid. But some of the younger boys have taken to wheezin’ now as well. I don’t know if the air’s gettin’ worse, or if the debauchery they’ve been tryin’ to pass off as day to day livin’ has weakened them. Whatever it is, there’s still a lot of us not showin’ any signs of failin’ health, and thank God for that.

But we’re losin’ the lads to animalism mate. Just the other day, not long after the nasty airship raid, we was ‘avin’ a meet-up in the backroom of the old Boots and Hammer. When I say we, I means that core group of us that’s still good men just tryin’ to get back to what was once a good life.

Or at least we thought we was all good.

Johnny boy was out back, most of us thought ‘avin’ a smoke, bein’ as a lot of the boys are still daft enough to be mixin’ tobacco smoke with the acid in the air. Then old Harris goes over the back door and calls out to Johnny that he’s wanted inside for the meetup when he’s done with ‘er.

Mate I haven’t jumped up and dashed so quickly since we was lads havin’ punchups to get the lasses to kiss us. Me heart was poundin’ and me blood boilin’ with the questions of who is she, and what’s Johnny doin’ with ‘er to get done with? My worst fears were confirmed mate; outside, we found Johnny knifed up pretty good, and no trace of anyone else.

As you can guess mate, this has caused a bit of a hullabaloo in our ranks. Some o’ the boys we thought was still good has now taken to attackin’ lasses. And them’s that ain’t doin’ it, know about it, and are playin’ right along.

With the old boys dyin’ off from yellow air, and the young ones losin’ all trace of humanity, our little core group is all we’ve got left in the old neighborhood. We know where the other Union boys are meetin’ up though, and we’re reachin’ out to them now to establish a unity through this madness. We plan to elect a new leadership, and do a bit of self-policin’, and we hopes to spend the money we’ve got between us a bit more usefully.

Also, Annie and me ‘ave been talkin’, and me to some of the boys whose girls are nurses as well. In the old tunnels and cellars beneath our parts, we’re lookin’ at settin’ up a few makeshift hospice centers. God willing the air underground ain’t nearly as polluted, and with not much else to do, keepin’ our countrymen and our class alive seems the best way to spend the time.

But right now, we’re in a bit of a shambles. And worse, those strange faces I was tellin’ ya of before, ain’t just strange faces now. They’re strange faces with knives, that show up as most of the money in Britain starts flying back into a Capitol that no one with any common sense would want to be anywhere near.

The big money’s here, brother, and they wouldn’t be here unless they thought they had a way to make their money bigger. I don’t think they’ve quite figured it out yet, maybe they’ve just got a hunch. Knowin’ them, if they had a sure thing, it’d already be in motion. But whatever it is, when they figure it out, they’ll need their workers back. Trouble is mate, the shape we’re in right now, the working class of London has nearly been completely broken. Most’d work for pittance just to have work to go to and somethin’ shiny in their pockets.

The inter-Union meetups’ll be startin’ soon bruv, and you and your lot’ll be hearin’ from us. For the good of every man makes his livin’ with his hands, we’d better get this ship righted sharpish.

Keep your hair short and your boots shinin’ mate.

To Better Years and More Beers,

Haytham Ashdown

In category:Readers Letters
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