Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Streets of London - ralph McTell

Ralph McTell's most well-known song is now part of the English folkloric tradition. I can remember singing this song at primary school and it was one of the first I learnt to play on the guitar (only the chords - I still haven't quite mastered the fingerstyle version that Ralph himself plays). The song is about the lonely and homeless - the ignored and forgotten members of society. The Welfare State is the safety net that is meant to catch people before they end up on the streets. Welfare is not merely about a hand-out to the poor; it is about providing a minimum level of well-being and a supportive social network. Social Security should not therefore be merely monetary; it is about facilitating communities to ensure emotional wellbeing, companionsip and guidance to all of its members. When these things are taken away then an underclass of people is left without hope or expectation.

If we're not careful many more people will be left destitute and homeless in London and other cities in the not too distant future.

Streeets of London - McTell, Ralph.

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news

So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She's no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.


In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven,
Same old man is sitting there on his own
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup,
Each tea last an hour
Then he wanders home alone


And have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn't care


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