"1952": a poem by Wendy Cope

Sometimes, instead of a farthing,
they give you safety pins.
Can that be right? I’m sure
it’s what the teacher said.
 
I know it was 1952
because the same teacher, a nun,
announced one morning
that the King had died.
 
We were encouraged to go
to the chapel, to pray for his soul.
A Catholic friend showed me
what you do with the holy water.
 
It was lovely in there –
white, gold, pastels –
as pretty as the scenery
for the last act of a pantomime.
 
It may have been the same day
that I upset my mother
by asking for a rosary.
Soon after that,
 
as we sat down in a theatre,
where I couldn’t make a fuss,
she told me it had been decided:
boarding school, next term.
 
Wendy Cope is an award-winning poet whose collections include Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and Family Values. In 2011 the British Library acquired her archive of 40,000 emails and 15 boxes of notebooks, diaries, letters and memorabilia. 

This article first appeared in the 08 January 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The God Gap

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Karen Bradley as Culture Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

The most politically charged of the culture minister's responsibilities is overseeing the BBC, and to anyone who works for - or simply loves - the national broadcaster, Karen Bradley has one big point in her favour. She is not John Whittingdale. Her predecessor as culture secretary was notorious for his belief that the BBC was a wasteful, over-mighty organisation which needed to be curbed. And he would have had ample opportunity to do this: the BBC's Charter is due for renewal next year, and the licence fee is only fixed until 2017. 

In her previous job at the Home Office, Karen Bradley gained a reputation as a calm, low-key minister. It now seems likely that the charter renewal will be accomplished with fewer frothing editorials about "BBC bias" and more attention to the challenges facing the organisation as viewing patterns fragment and increasing numbers of viewers move online.

Of the rest of the job, the tourism part just got easier: with the pound so weak, it will be easier to attract visitors to Britain from abroad. And as for press regulation, there is no word strong enough to describe how long the grass is into which it has been kicked.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.