A.W Todd: Work Pays. Leisure and Recreation

In keeping with the work orientated themes, we come to the most revered day in the worker’s monthly calendar: pay day. And with it, a rare and minor break away from the actual work of the masons. If work is yin then play is yang. Both complementing, supporting and advancing the other. In this chapter Todd gives some insight into the leisure and recreation of the stonemason and how they spent not only their time, but the wages that they worked so hard for.

“Saturday, at twelve o’clock”, when wages were paid, was according to Todd “the most important time of the week” when the games begin. Literally. Todd paints a picture of a working-class workplace enjoying the down time between their shifts. The portrait of a working-class man’s card game, shrouded in tobacco smoke and coloured with profanity becomes almost poetic and telling of the environment that Todd is describing to readers. This is a typically masculine place where the threat of violence lingers above the gambling men. The way that Todd portrays this type of environment and the leisure time of the men involved adds to the working-class identity of the autobiography. He describes one man as having lost his entire week’s wage in seconds to the cards before he “trudged off, to do another weeks work.” These are not gambling men with the money to spare, they are wage laborers living from pay packet to pay packet, reinforcing the working-class identity of the memoir and its subject.

From Todd’s descriptions the prominent leisure time of the working-class man appears to be assigning his wages to the various gambling outlets available. Though you can’t really say that gambling is a pasttime exclusively attributed to the working class, it does help to frame the working men. From football sweeps to the card games it seems as soon as the money entered the pocket it was out again in the name of winning a bit extra. Though Todd describes these scenes and process he never explicitly writes himself into them. Nor does he ever tell us explicitly what he used his wages for. He retains his position as observer primarily when it concerns such exploits, almost stepping away from the autobiographical self and transcending his position as the memoir’s central “character”. The duality of his position as central character and observer from beyond the page offers alternate angles in his narrative. Overall, what we can say is even though the autobiography serves to present primarily the “self”, Todd is almost anonymous in his.

Bibliography

‘A.W. Todd’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:1030

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