AFTER HOURS PLATO

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He was always more of an After Hours Plato. Always going on about this law or that one, in his posh voice. She was never sure if he had actually been a lawyer in a former life, but eyeing up his shabby Tesco carrier bag and faded brown suit, she doubted it. He used to prop up the bar where she worked after school; it was a tiny old man’s pub, boring as hell but she needed the cash.

She never paid him much notice until one hot afternoon on the housing estate. She had been laughing with her mate about flunking school when the old man had suddenly stood up and shouted at her, “hey Tracy!, ” he pointed straight at her, “don’t you ever laugh about screwing up your school years. Plenty of us did that and look where we are now!” at this he slumped back down and slugged back his whisky.

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She tried to laugh off his outburst but it really niggled her. She knew that she pretended to be thick at school, so she wouldn’t get bullied but how did he know that? She started talking more to him after that. Asking him about the stupid laws he was always going on about, asking him about philosophy and politics. Once her curiosity had been awakened, she couldn’t contain it. She had a thirst for knowledge that shocked her with its ferocity. No-one from around here ever talked to her like that and it was her secret. She had confessed to him that she would love to have been a lawyer one day but poor girls like her, with scruffy accents could never become lawyers. “I’m from the estate and it is too big a jump for someone like me. It is just a pipe dream.” He just shook his head at this.

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However, their talks had given her a strange confidence to tune in at school. She had been shocked to discover that she had passed all of her exams with flying colours. She was actually the top of all of her classes. As she ran into the pub, breathless, desperate to tell him the great news, she was perturbed to find his usual place vacant. She asked the manager where he was. After Hours Plato was always in the pub!

“Dunno, love. He hasn’t been in all day.” the manager just shrugged. Well, he didn’t turn up all week and she was now seriously worried.

It was on the Saturday that the pub door opened and a very official looking man in a suit walked in. He spotted her straight away and came up to ask if she was Tracy. Handing her an envelope, he nodded and pushed a crisp white business card across the bar at her, “Call me once you have digested the letter and I will make the necessary arrangements.”

She opened the envelope, reading the letter,

“My dearest Tracy,

I know you used to call me “After Hours Plato” behind my back, so I am leaving you two things. The first is one of his most famous quotes:

“Οι καλοί άνθρωποι δεν χρειάζονται νόμους που να τους λένε να ενεργούν υπεύθυνα, ενώ κακοί άνθρωποι θα βρουν έναν τρόπο γύρω από τους νόμους.”

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”

You see, Plato believed only that there were good people and bad people and in between we had laws to govern both. You, my girl, are a good person. You are not defined by your childhood or your accent or the estate where you grew up. You are defined by your drive, intellect and ambition. Law knows no class. Law knows no accents. It is much much purer than that.

So, I am leaving you something else. I am leaving you my estate which is substantial. Wealth, for me was inherited but money only brought me unhappiness. I hope that my wealth will enable you to go and be the lawyer you were always destined to be, but always remember your true wealth is your intelligence and that will never leave you.

From After Hours Plato to a Future Female Plato.”

ART AND WRITING BY ANNA LOUISE SIMPSON

Divorce in Scotland: a recipe for poverty…

Being working class is a heavy mantle to carry. You have to fight all of your life. And when you think that the fight over, then you have to fight some more.

You don’t start out like this. You believe in the silky promises of meritocracy. You work hard to escape the clutches of poverty. You study. You do the degree…often the first in your family. There are no nepotistic family trees to cling to here, lass. Make sure you work harder than everyone else. Make sure you go that extra mile to fight to get the good job.

Once I was qualified as a lawyer at a top law firm in Scotland, I entered a strange twilight zone. I was easily one of the best in my year yet I found there was a club that I was simply not part of no matter how hard I worked. It was a school club, a rich club, a middle class club and there was no way I was getting in.

As life went on, it got worse and a subsequent failed marriage brought it’s own challenges. I worked hard, at being a wife, a mother and an entrepreneur. But working hard, isn’t enough. One of the massive setbacks and challenges of being working class is that there is no safety net. There is no trust fund or rich parents to lean on when times get tough. Poverty creates cycles of poverty consciousness that future generations suffer from. When you take risks when you are working class and they don’t work out, you cannot lean on family, as that family is still operating within a poverty consciousness themselves. They simply cannot help and that leaves a working class person suddenly back to facing poverty and that is the cycle of poverty repeated again.

The only solution is to fight. And then fight again and again. Harder, tougher and faster than everyone else. Never stop fighting until you have secured something that no one can take away.

Women and in particular mothers are very vulnerable in these circumstances. Agreeing with your then husband to put a career on hold to bring up children should provide some degree of security as it an agreement of trust. However when marriages break down in these circumstances, it is often the women who are left with very little, no career, children to look after and suffering severe financial hardship. In these circumstances, if you are working class, it is often the case that there will be no safety net to fall back on. This is not right and the law in Scotland needs to change to protect women in these circumstances. The golden nugget of “a clean break” policy in current divorce law is causing real poverty to creep in for mothers who thought they had escaped the poverty cycle by pursuing a career.

The law needs to change and until it does then we have to fight, and fight and then fight some more.