Among the best jobs I ever had, was in pre-Thatcher England, when I was young and poor and happy. It was a manual job. (All my jobs were, then.) A friend owned a small lorry, and did fairly minor haulage. He needed help for some deliveries, and one “signed on” for the trip. Almost anything might be carried, to almost anywhere in Great Britain, and sometimes even on the ferry to a place called Europe. Because my employer, the truck driver, and jack-of-all-trades, was of a thoughtful, philosophical disposition, the conversations were delightful. He would feed me along the way, and pay me in small banknotes, eschewing paperwork. Often the recipient of the delivery would add another fiver, for my help in unloading.

This Harold was a kindly man. He took on some jobs free, for instance transporting a piano for some old codger being moved from London to the upper floor of a council house (modern almshouse) near Norwich. The joy in that delivery was smashing up a wall. It was a new house, made of ticky-tacky, full of narrow spaces and right-angled turns, one of which, on the stairs, made taking a piano to the upper storey quite impossible. But Harold had a crowbar and a mallet, so he eliminated the corner. He reasoned that the old man would die without his piano, and that the council authority was used to making repairs, so that was the Christian thing to do.

God bless Harold. A non-churchgoing, very Low Anglican, he did his own moral reasoning, generally without scholarly research, yet many of his decisions were sound. He was also an Archimedean genius, and could devise ways to move very heavy objects without powered machinery of any kind, and almost without effort. The trick, he explained, is to think it through, and not be in a hurry.

Against an age that favours bigness, and speed, he was a rebel. Married, in the informal sense, though at least to a woman. To say his children were home-schooled would be an understatement. His dog was not trained at all. His house was a jumble of abandoned things he’d picked up here and there, and in a pinch he’d sell some of this furniture to the antique merchants. He read books, but only those he’d found in buildings he was clearing. One such was a defunct nunnery. The nuns had left an immense pile of battered volumes, mostly travels and adventures. Harold was acquiring a topographical education, and an impressive fund of colonial anecdotes. He was also working his way through the Cambridge Modern History, cutting the uniformly uncut pages as he went along. Lord Acton would surely have been gratified.

There is much to be said for an off-grid life, and let me add, much for the Labour government in the days before Thatcher. Its socialist policies tended to collapse the industrial economy, but its thrilling incompetence left everyone free. Goods and services were alike quite cheap, since hardly anyone was paying taxes, and there was a delicious atmosphere of gentle decay. Yet class lines were holding. Coalfield strikes, directed by communist provocateurs, were nasty, but nevertheless beneficial to the country at large, being weaned from electricity and its unfortunate downstream products, e.g. television. Happily, the museums and libraries stayed open, and admission was gratis.

I had other brief jobs to earn cash (bricklayer’s mate on a semi-legal “lump,” building real, solid, individual houses, was another highlight), and comfortable accommodations in a Lambeth Borough squat. By means of chastity, I kept out of trouble. Even at the time, I knew that I was living in paradise. In lifting fog, in Suffolk once, driving with Harold down narrow country lanes, I spotted a bullock pulling an ancient single-furrow plough. I was in ecstasy.

Today we pursue the vanity of speed, practise endless mergers and biglifications, hardly bother with anything unless it is a megaproject. We want all the parts to be interchangeable, with computerized departments for the “human resources.” It is all happening in the wrong direction, and let me importune my readers once again: Backward, ho!

Maybe Corbyn is the man to vote for.