During the miners' strike I was quarrying Magnesian Limestone in south Yorkshire, not a million miles from Doncaster with its NCB offices at the hub of the Yorkshire coal seams being worked some 3,000 feet under the rock we were quarrying. We'd stay up during the week and drive back to Suffolk on Friday evening down the A1.
It wasn't civil war, as some commentators are selectively remembering, but it was the most painful schism amongst the English people I've ever known, and afforded a glimpse of the true horror that widespread civil disorder would bring. For any idiots that imagine that riots and public unrest are somehow either positive or desirable, I'd urge you to think again.
I remember the police roadblocks on the A1, and the time we realised too late that we'd left our hard hats and boots in sight in the car; we were flagged into the 'arrest lane', ordered out and half a dozen burly coppers itching for a fight penned us tightly against their van. Only our utter passivity, our insistence that we were quarrymen, not secondary pickets and, I imagine, my southern public school accent saved us from a savage beating.
I remember being ashamed of having money in my pocket in the small mining village near our hole, and saying so to the tired woman in the village shop, and her great kindness and repeated assurance that it wasn't our fault; I saw the carrier bags, each with a sliced loaf, a tub of budget marg and a couple of tins of beans, being handed out to a small group of women and children, and my heart almost broke at their Yorkshire pride being so humbled.
I remember the rats, the shameless profiteers, men who came into the mining areas with wads of notes to buy the miners' cars at a third of their market value because those men couldn't even afford half a tank of petrol to drive their cars elsewhere to sell. I hope there's a special Hell reserved for them where they choke eternally on wads of grubby notes.
And when I bump into someone who lived through those times in south Yorkshire and a look of cold venom comes into their eyes and they wish Mrs Thatcher the most painful of deaths I don't argue; the pain and humiliation is so deeply seated in their souls that any rational justification of Conservative policy is pointless. I am instead filled with a great sadness that the schism should have been so deep and so long lasting.
There's a film on my eyes as I write. My great sorrow is for the ease with which human dignity was abandoned; the dignity of many police officers who behaved badly, the dignity of a proud people whose natural tenacity that has served this nation so well in the past just caused the prolongation of a struggle that couldn't be won, and the abandoned dignity of those with no first hand experience of the strike so easy to condemn with trite platitudes and shallow care.
And once I almost abandoned my own dignity. Sitting in a London pub when a few Socialist Worker type students entered rattling their buckets officiously and soliciting donations for the Kent miners, a tsunami of anger flooded me. Anger at their soft pale academic flesh that had never known a day's work, anger at their patent enjoyment of the conflict and schism, anger at their false care and pious self-righteousness, and it was only a heavyweight chum grabbing my collar and hauling me to the floor that stopped me laying into them with fists and feet.
Twenty-five years and I still wish to God the entire thing had never happened.