“What?” said William, incredulously. “Do you mean to say that they give all old people all over the country ten shillin’s a week?”
“It’s called the Old Age Pension,” said Henry.
“I don’t care what it’s called,” said William. “It’s jolly unfair, an’ if you’re goin’ to start stickin’ up for it…”
“I’m not stickin’ up for it,” said Henry hastily. “I’m only tellin’ you what it’s called.”
- Number: 18.9
- Published: 1936 (same year in magazine form)
- Book: Sweet William
- Synopsis: The Outlaws try to eradicate age discrimination from the pension system.
William is so outraged to learn that old people get given money every week by the government “for nothin’ at all” that he vows to change the system (but only after he finds out how difficult it is successfully to impersonate an old person and claim the payment for himself: Action Benefit Fraud etc).
William, wearing an old hat of his father’s, a large grey beard that had figured in all the family theatricals ever since he could remember, and an
overcoat of Robert’s, entered the post office and spoke in a high unsteady voice supposed to be suggestive of extreme old age.
“I’ve come for my ten shillin’s,” he said.
The post-mistress gazed at him in blank astonishment. “Your what?” she said.
“My Old Age Pension,” quavered William. ”I’ve only jus’ come to live here, so I’ll be comin’ for my ten shillin’s now every week. I…”
But he got no further, for the post-mistress leant over the counter and delivered a box on the ear that dislodged both beard and hat, and sent William himself staggering ‘into the road.
“You saucy little hound!’ said the post-mistress indignantly.
He is also outraged when he learns that Parliament banned child labour: “D’you mean to say children used to be let work in mills an’ mines an chimneys? Well, why couldn’t they have left us alone instead of comin’ interferin’ with us? I’ve always wanted to go down mines an’ up chimneys. You have little lamps an’ go down in a lift an’ get black all over an’ there’s ponies there. It mus’ be jolly nice.”
Fortunately, Henry has a tactic for righting these wrongs in mind. He has an aunt who was a suffragette. He recounts some of her tactics; William is not a fan of all of them (“That’s silly: I don’t mind goin’ to prison, but I’ll jolly well eat anythin’ I can get when I’m there – I never see any sense in not eatin’”) but agrees to try organising a public meeting, and getting up a protest march on London, substituting for the slogan “VOTES FOR WOMEN” the slogan “PENSHUNS FOR BOYS”.
But then they come across a group of schoolgirls who want to know why they aren’t included…