In British coal miner Dave Johnson's house, the only hint of strike is TV news
Eastwood, England — The morning shift was over. It had been dark, dusty, and hot for coal miner Dave Johnson, who had descended almost a quarter of a mile beneath the earth's surface.
Now he could relax and enjoy the welcoming sun that was streaming through the windows of the coal mine cafeteria where he was eating a hot meat pie lunch.
After a word or two with a couple of his ''mates'' in this working Nottinghamshire coal mine, he would be on his way home.
Home is some 45 minutes away by car to Eastwood, a Nottinghamshire mining community that was also home to author D. H. Lawrence.
From his neat, semidetached house on Webster Avenue, Mr. Johnson has a panoramic view of the lovely Erewash Valley. He pinpoints nearby Woodside copse, which he recognizes in Lawrence's writings.
It is a far cry from the rows of rented miners' cottages huddled under the shadow of the mine gear in that Welsh mining classic, ''How Green Was My Valley.''
Johnson is part of a social revolution that has taken place in Britain in recent years. He has joined hundreds of thousands of working-class people in Britain who have become homeowners. What made it possible was a Conservative government that in 1979 allowed tenants in council houses to buy their homes at discount prices. Some 750,000 of the 6 million available units have changed into private hands.
The impact can be as immediate as giving a drab door a bright color of paint.
Sometimes it is more subtle - like changing political allegiances.
Thousands of working-class homeowners, formerly bedrock supporters of the Labour Party, are now voting Conservative or Social Democrat.
Dave Johnson is one miner who no longer conforms to the old stereotypes.''I'm Conservative,'' he says. ''I'm not red-hot Labour.''
In his opinion quite a lot of miners voted for the Conservatives. ''We used to be a very unintelligent class. Predominantly laborers. But the work is become more technological, so we're getting more sophisticated,'' he says.
Home ownership is so common at Cal-verton Colliery, where he works, that he estimates a good 50 percent of the miners there own their own homes. Keeping up a mortgage also seems a compelling factor that explains why many miners have chosen not to strike. However, not all miners who owe mortgages have gone back to work.
But for Mr. Johnson, owning a house is a strong argument against striking.
''You're more committed, aren't you? You can't go to the social (security) people and say, 'Pay my mortgage.' ''
Johnson is committed enough to have spent thousands of pounds improving his home, which he bought three years ago at a discounted price of (STR)7,000. Today he would want ''at least (STR)22,000'' or three times his purchasing price.
''You couldn't swing a cat in here before,'' says his Irish wife, Carmel, with evident satisfaction at the way the kitchen, once large enough only for a washing machine and a stove, had been substantially expanded by knocking out first the pantry and then the coal shed.
On the other side of the house, two small rooms, the sitting room and a minuscule parlor, were converted to one large room, and the fireplace, which is made of handsome Yorkshire stone, was doubled.
Now Mrs. Johnson can sit in what was the sitting room in the back and have a clear view of people passing the front of the house.
''You used to miss an awful lot living in the back of the house. It's not that I'm nosy, mind you, just curious,'' she says.
One of the first things Mrs. Johnson did was double glaze all the windows in the house, including the glass front door. That project alone cost (STR)3,500. But the result is that she cut her coal bill drastically. ''I'm all right all winter even if they (the local mine) go on strike.''
There's much more to be done, she says, like ''having the house all pointed up. It has to be rewired, change some points, decorating inside. It's all got to be done.''
But she has no regrets: ''It's a nice feeling to know it's your own property. You can pay rent forevermore and you can only do certain things. You always had to ask the council permission for every little thing you did.''
Caroline, a teen-ager and one of four Johnson children, took all the changes in stride. ''We've got used to them,''she says.
She was watching the color television. News of violence among striking miners flickering across the screen was the only reminder that this community is caught up in the bitter coal dispute.
As a homeowner and a working miner, Dave Johnson doesn't expect any trouble here. He is part of the moderate Nottinghamshire coalfield that has been the greatest obstacle to National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Arthur Scargill getting overwhelming backing for the strike.
Johnson's Calverton Colliery employs between 1,500 and 1,800 men who voted not to strike. Only about 30 men have stayed out.
Johnson opposes the strike on grounds it is political, not industrial. ''He (striking mine leader Arthur Scargill) is not thinking of us. We never heard a shout from the NUM officials when they closed pits around here. We only heard about it when they closed one down in Yorkshire. At least that's the feeling around here.''
News of the closure of Cortonwood Colliery in Mr. Scargill's county of Yorkshire precipitated the miners' strike.
Johnson believes that the strikers fighting to save pits ''have a principle and they're sticking to it. I've got mine as long as they don't indoctrinate me into thinking their way.''
Had accounts of Libyan and Soviet financial backing for the mine union had any impact on striking miners?
''It's going against him (Scargill). It's politically motivated in the extreme. We don't like that. It's one of the reasons I believe striking miners are going back to work.''