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Thirty Feet ©

(NB: A button, in this poem's context, was a switch working an underground conveyor system carrying coal away from the face to the minecars. The thirty feet referred to would be the distance a coal face moved forward in a week, to make an agreed productivity payment to the relevant miners. Each coal face, of course, had its own separate agreement. A wet note was permission to leave the mine early, as a result of working in excessively damp conditions.)

Gordon Fjaelberg
Bridgend, Wales
1979

"Let's give the lads incentives!"
Was the Coal Board's latest cry.
A self-financing bonus scheme,
Our limit was the sky.
I'm sitting by my button
Where the future's looking bleak;
We're nowhere near getting
Our thirty feet this week.

You speak of expectations,
We'll explain what we can do;
If I don't get a wet note
I'll not come and sit by you.
It's not your conversation
Or your company I seek;
We're nowhere near getting
Our thirty feet this week.

"Fill a thousand minecars
And we'll give you twenty pounds!"
Our manning level's fallen
Yet the quota's up by bounds.
We mean no disrespect, sir,
But your thinking's up the creek;
We're nowhere near getting
Our thirty feet this week.

You doubtless have your problems
But the face has had a fall,
Yet still you scream and jabber
As you call us liars all.
It wouldn't make much difference
If you swore at us in Greek;
We're nowhere near getting
Our thirty feet this week.

To the Chairman of the NCB
From all of us below,
We've done our very utmost
As you certainly must know.
If we ever make a bonus
It would constitute a freak;
We're nowhere near getting
Our thirty feet this week.



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