A.W Todd: Work Pays. Leisure and Recreation

In keeping with the work orientated themes, we come to the most revered day in the workers 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 complimenting, supporting and advancing the other. In this chapter Todd gives some incite 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. I say Stonemason, but really, this could be indicative of most working class work places, I guess.

When wages were paid “Saturday, at twelve o’clock” the time that Todd states is “the most important time of the week” the games begin. Literally. Todd paints a picture of a working class work place enjoying the down time between their work. 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. 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 weeks 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 past time of the working class man appears to assigning his wages to the various gambling outlets available. Though you can’t really say that gambling is a past time exclusively attributed to the working class, probably far from it, it does help to frame the working men. From football sweeps to the card games it seems as soon as the money entered the pocked 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 memoirs 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 in some ways.


‘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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