Friday, 27 February 2009
It's a fact that recent converts tend to be the most pious and most committed to their new found faith. It's true of converts to Christianity and Islam. I'm the same about Sam Smiths pubs. A convert of only a couple of years standing, I just want to tell the world the good news. The London pub has had a hard time of late with many good old boozers either closing or morphing into something that I for one can't recognize as a pub. I am reminded at this point of the wit who suggested that All Bar One had the advantage of keeping all the wankers in one place. In the face of all this Sam Smith pubs are a haven of good drinking. Cheap beer served in authentic old pubs. What's not to like?
Her indoors, lover and comrade of almost forty years, really does come up trumps at times. The other day walking down Little Russell Street she spotted Iain Sinclair heading towards her. Knowing what a great fan I am she promptly accosted the master psychogeographer and introduced herself. End result was that I ended up with a signed copy of Hackney, That Rose Red Empire. It don't get much better than this.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
The well known Scottish financial expert and hero of the banking "industry" Sir Fred Goodwin was, as you probably know, forced to take early retirement due to a bit of misunderstanding regarding toxic assets. It's the kind of thing that could happen to anyone really and increasingly WILL happen to anyone but in Fred's case the blow has been softened by an annual pension of £650 000. That's right, £650 000 p.a. For life.
Just about everyone from the SWP to the Daily Mail to the Ancient Druid Order are expressing outrage at the obscene amount of Goodwin's pay-off but it's the system that is at fault. Replacing Goodwin with Oxford landowner Stephen (who ate all the pies?) Hester is no kind of answer at all. Fred may be an odious spiv of the first water but that's not the point nor is his so called "reward for failure". What needs to be questioned is the legitimacy of a social and political system where a powerful but inept elite can look forward to retirement pensions with an annual payment equivalent to the lifetime earnings of many low payed workers. That is what needs to be questioned.
How much more of this are we prepared to take? I'm a bit long in the tooth to still believe that getting thousands of people out on the streets is in itself going to transform society but G20 meltdown on April 1st might just be the start of a real movement for change. You can find out more here. We need more than just a good turn out of young insurrectionists, we need a mass gathering of people from all walks of life united in at least a suspicion we could run things better ourselves. The City, April 1st. See you there.
Sunday, 22 February 2009
Gordon Brown wants a return to the old fashioned prudent banking so famously practised at the Walmington-on-Sea branch of Swallows Bank. Are we to expect a whole army of Captain Mainwarings to be called out of retirement to catch the 07:15 from Woking, march to the Isle of Dogs and save our bacon?
Mind you, I suppose it makes more sense for the Captain Mainwarings of the world to be running the financial sector rather than the Private Walkers who have been running it up until now.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Sir Allen Stanford is proving to be even more of a wrong 'un then we at first suspected and already this whole sorry episode is turning out to be something far bigger than a case of the ECB being made fools of. The question everyone is asking is how many more of the great and the good are going to turn out to be cheap con men gambling away other peoples hard earned savings?
We keep being told that we are in a recession but this is more than recession. The real nature of capitalism is being revealed on a daily basis. Truly the King is walking naked through the streets.
I take no comfort from any of this because I know that as the system goes into meltdown the people who will suffer the most will be those who can least afford to, and least deserve to.
But for all of my misgivings I'm convinced that we are on the threshold of an opportunity to call everything into question. Perhaps the best opportunity since 1945.
The message is clear- we can do better than this. But as to getting that message across.... well to be honest I'm buggered if I know how best to proceed.
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
So, Sir Allen Stanford has turned out to be a wrong 'un and is causing the English Cricket Board a bit of embarrassment. Well I never! Sir Geoffrey would have spotted him from across Headingley.
From the days when the Prince Regent was ordered from the course at Newmarket for trying to put the fix in, corruption and professional sport have gone together like shit and shovels and usually the social and financial so called elite have been up to the armpits in it.
Talking of which, Channel 4's Toffs and Crims series has been slated by the critics but I think it's turning out to be my fave prog of the moment. Last week featured Living Legends hero John Bindon and his relationship with Princess Margaret and this week we had two of the most unpleasant people to emerge from the 60's, Lord Boothby and Ronnie Kray. Who will be next? My contact at Whites Club tells me that a fair bit of nervous twitching and furtive peering over the top of the Financial Times is happening in the exclusive bolt-hole.
Friday, 13 February 2009
Brentford has undergone significant development and gentrification in recent years but still retains some interesting bits including a thriving boatyard. A stroll from the High Street down towards the Thames will soon bring you to Brentford Creek and the entrance to the Grand Union Canal. There are a number of old barges in the area that have been converted to houseboats and as I was wandering along the towpath yesterday I happened to notice one of these craft that looked vaguely familiar. I could just about make out the name on the rusty bulwarks, Cecil Guilders.
For a period during the early sixties I worked as mate on the Cecil Guilders, and along with a dear old skipper known to all as "Dicky Doddler", made a living loading cargoes from ships in the London Docks for transhipment to the small ports of the Thames Estuary. This was the heyday of Jack Dash and the docks were a very militant workplace indeed. It was a tough, dangerous environment but one made bearable by the strong feelings of solidarity. We bargemen where a more individualistic workforce than the dockers but not without a real sense of mutual aid.
It's all gone now of course. The working river, the old East End, the class solidarity of the docks and the easy camaraderie of the barges. But much else has gone that will not be missed. The truth is that even though there was by this time a well established West Indian community in London, I don't remember ever seeing a black face in the docks that did not belong to a foreign seaman. And of course it was an exclusively male environment.
There's no doubt about it, nostalgia ain't what it used to be. We may look back on the past with fondness or otherwise but mainly we need to learn from history and move foreword. Later in the day there was a refreshing counterpoint to all this when I met up with some young comrades from Liberty and Solidarity. Energetic and optimistic they were a breath of fresh air and left me in no doubt that the ideas of libertarian communism are in safe hands.
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Didn't I say that good news was just around the corner? At long last a much maligned section of society may be about to get the recognition they deserve and those of us who have thrilled to the work of Gene Krupa, Ginger Baker and Topper Headon (but don't want them as neighbours) are vindicated at last. No more jokes from front line musicians about the difficulty of playing while someone is building a shed behind them. I'm not sure what it's supposed to cure but apparently drumming is soon to be available on the NHS. I'm not one to name drop but Ginger Baker pushed me out of the way once.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
No sooner have we recovered from the frenzy of self-deprecation regarding the nations lack of preparedness for the "Snow Event" than the England cricket team's crushing defeat at the hands of the Windies gives us another chance to beat ourselves up. As part of an initiative to help the nation pull through times such as these, here at FPA HQ we are spending a great deal of time and effort in detailed research regarding how best to deal with this kind of problem. Preliminary findings suggest that possible solutions may lie in the area of lightning up and enjoying both the snow and the resurgence of West Indian cricket. Spring and an English Test victory are both just around the corner. Well, spring is.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
The problem of how to get those elusive bums on ringside seats is one that has exercised the minds of wrestling promoters from the early days of the sport. The result has been a long catalogue of gimmicks, some more successful and certainly some more tasteful than others. Terrible Turks, Masked Marvels, midgets, tag wrestling, mud wrestling, even real wrestling, it's all been tried at some time or another.
An old favourite is the appearance in the ring of celebrities from some other sport or even show-biz. This is not as difficult to pull off as you might imagine and any skillful working wrestler should be able to make a reasonably agile novice look tolerably competent on the mat.
In British rings two of the more bizarre examples of cross-over celeb grapplers are show-jumper Harvey Smith and perennial DJ Jimmy Savile. In the States there has been a long tradition of former American Football stars turning to the mat game on retirement from the gridiron, Bronko Nagurski, Wayen Munn and Gus Sonnenburg being just three of the many ex football heroes recruited to the pro wrestling ranks.
By far the best draw has been famous ex-boxers and I can think of at least four former World Heavyweight Champions who have performed in the wrestling ring with varying degrees of success. The great Jack Dempsey had a go and seems to have been genuinely interested in wrestling as a fighting art. Joe Louis, perhaps the greatest heavyweight of all time, had a less happy introduction to the mat game. Forced into trying anything to earn enough to pay his back taxes, Louis was advised by doctors to call it a day after only a handful of matches. This must have come as a relief not only to the Brown Bomber but also to his army of loyal fans. Other fighters of the Joe Louis era who had a go at the grunt and groan business included Two Ton Tony Gallento, Jack Doyal and former world champ Jersey Joe Walcott.
Boxing writers have tended to lament the supposed humiliation of formerly great fighters being forced by financial circumstance to clown around in the wrestling ring. It's a fair point but the loss of dignity is no greater than the annual panto appearance, if not as much fun. The main thing is that today's boxers are far more savvy financially than those of yesteryear and more likely to retire with a large amount of their ring earnings intact.
In 1951 when our own Randy Turpin outpointed the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson to win the World Middleweight title few sitting in Earls Court that night can have suspected that ten years and twenty nine fights later Randy would be wrestling for fifty quid a show. Turpin was a wonderful boxer but not what you would call astute when it came to financial matters.
The story of Primo Carnera is one that professional boxing has little to be proud of. At six eight and twenty stone the former circus strong-man looked threatening enough but was a cumbersome and one dimensional fighter. None the less the amiable Italian giant met with some success in European rings and was eventually persuaded to try his luck in the States. The Ambling Alp as he was known soon fell into the hands of The Mob who were to manipulate Carnera's career for the rest of his stay in America. Probably no one will ever know the truth about Carnera's boxing record and how many opponents took a dive on instructions from the Mafia bosses. One way or another he ended up as Heavyweight Champion of the World before being thrown to the lions and destroyed by the hard hitting Max Baer who knocked the hapless giant to the canvas eleven times in as many rounds. Finally he was to receive another beating at the hands of the up and coming Joe Louis. His humiliation complete and his usefulness at an end Primo Carnera was returned to Italy; broke. The mob had swindled him out of most of his earnings.
The story might have ended here but in 1946 Primo returned to America this time to take up a career in wrestling. He was an instant hit. The fans loved him and not only did he earn good money but he was actually allowed to keep it. The wrestling provided a stepping stone into lucrative film work and Carnera was to appear in a number of movies including a major role with Diana Dors and Joe Robinson in A Kid For To Farthings, Carol Reed's tale of life and wrestling in the 50s East End. Whatever we may think about the dubious world of professional wrestling we have to be pleased that it was around to give Primo Carnera that most unusual of life experiences; a second bite of the cherry.
Oh! those wonderful Thatcher twins. What a constant source of amusement they are. Now that her half-wit brother has given up his role as mercenary pay master in Sub-Saharan Africa, Carol steps forward as erudite commentator on the coloured races. Does anyone really still use "golliwog" as a term of racial abuse? I just associate the term with Robertson's Jam myself.
Predictably the Daily Mail have taken the opportunity to launch a major offensive against what they like to call the "PC Brigade"( are they anything to do with rent a mob?) I think that I may be able to help out here. They want non-PC? Try this. I don't think that Carol Thatcher should be allowed to appear on BBC TV due to her being so fucking ugly. Non-PC enough for ya?
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
The disruption caused by the snow has provided another opportunity to indulge in the national pastime of self-flagellation. Why oh why are we never prepared for snow, floods, pestilence, the second coming of Christ, or whatever? Look, it snowed, all right? Shit (and snow) happens. Lots of people had a day off work and build snowmen with the kids. Get over it.
Mind you, it must have been bloody freezing on the Lindsey picket line. That reminds me. Am I the only one to wonder if the people banging on about British workers being protectionist, even racist, are they the same people who are usually so vocal about English Apples, British Bacon and the rest of it?
The compacted snow has now turned to ice making it quite dangerous underfoot. Yesterday I cleared the bit of pavement outside our drum. This used to be common practise at one time but no longer. Is this all part of the undermining of collectivism that we have experienced over the last thirty years? That's something else we can blame on that wretched woman and the band of neo-con spivs and conmen who rode to power on her coat tails.