Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Working class characters in Jane Shaw's books are rare, and especially in No Trouble for Susan Timmy the Terror's gang of stereotyped Cockney street urchins gives the impression that the "lower" classes are all good-for-nothing trouble makers. However, in contrast, one of her most sympathetic characters, in the Penny books, is Sid the orphan. He is a quiet little boy with a stammer, who tries to avoid using rhyming slang. He recognized that calling a hat a "titfer" (titfer tat, i.e. tit for tat) won't get him far in life. In Susan and Friends, JS's son Ian Evans explains why Sid comes across so well. It was because he was based on a close friend of his: "the orphan Sid (Crooked Sixpence) was based on one of my school mates Johnny Orpen, whose hyperactivity when visiting our house for parties totally amazed my parents". Sid also played a key role in Fourpenny Fair.

Again, this is a facet of the changes that took place in Britain in the late fifties and especially in the 1960s. Michael Caine, for example, has often stated that one of his goals as an actor throughout his long career has been to improve the image of Cockneys. When he first entered the film industries, his class were limited to tipping their hats to the squire and saying "Aw right, guvn'r". In this he was successful. Britain moved away from the Eliza Doolittle model, where a working class person could only hope for recognition by "moving up" to a posh accent. With the arrival of The Beatles and the success of Glasgow Celtic and Manchester Utd. on the football field, the upper classes were no longer the idea role model. It was possible for working class people to make a name for themselves without aspiring to be socially upwardly mobile. In fact, being working class became fashionable. By the late 1970s, the children's TV show Grange Hill showed that the lives and problems of working class children could be just as interesting as those of the upper classes; more so, in fact. Ratings for Grange Hill were far higher than those of the TV dramatization of The Famous Five, who came to be seen as outdated. This was a factor in the decline of the works of Jane Shaw and other writers who lived in the secluded world of the upper and middle classes.