“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968


Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Roll On Easter!

Well,how was it for you? Everyone survived without topping one of the in laws I trust. For me Xmas is a time for trying very hard not to sound like one of the C listers who are always trotted out for "Grumpy Old Men At Christmas" and also trying not to moan about religion creeping into a traditional retail festival. Mind you, I'm partial to the pressies and as you can see from the list on the right, I did rather well this year. Happy New Year! I await the first Easter Egg in the shops with breathless anticipation.

Friday, 24 December 2010

The rise and rise of Laurie Penny.

I told you that Laurie Penny was good and the Penny Red girl has proved me right with a fine bit of scribbling in today's Guardian. Penny Red - she's on the money if you ask me.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Freeze ups, and silver linings.

It looks as though, for the time being at least, the freeze up is moderating a bit and travel conditions are returning to something like normal, but spring is a long way ahead and we could be in for another dose before winter finally lets up. The last couple of years we have experienced a more continental weather pattern with cold winters and hot,dry summers as opposed to our more usual oceanic mild, damp conditions. That is certainly not evidence on it's own for climate change but it might well be a symptom of such change. The majority of climate scientists now support the theory of a man made enhanced greenhouse effect that will have a profound influence on global weather systems. The real challenge is how we will respond to this change.
One of the things that makes us such an unusual species is our ability to adapt to such diverse environments. From the Arctic to the equator we have managed to eke a living for thousands of years and I'm sure that we will do so for a long time to come. Living with long term climate change will not be easy. Many social systems, and some parts of the world, may not be able to support the population levels that they do today but as a species we will cope. There may be much misery ahead but there may also be opportunities to create quite new ways of responding to nature and to each other. Personally I find the prospect quite exciting.
On a more mundane note, the freeze up actually did me a bit of a favour. For reasons that I was never entirely clear about, I was meant to go to the Compass Xmas Party. Her indoors tends to know people like that but, predicted by one old friend as being, "a lot of ex-Trots banging on about reforming the Labour Party", it was not an event that I was looking forward to. The freeze up provided the perfect excuse not to go. Every cloud etc.
HAPPY XMAS TO YOU ALL.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

From Fred Astaire to John Maynard Keynes to Mr Bean.

The shine on Vince Cable's Xmas Special Strictly appearance may have been ever so slightly tarnished since his falling headfirst into the Torygraph young mums honey trap. Cable is my local MP and in truth he has a good reputation in the constituency. I can well see him giving the time to talk to a couple of concerned mums. Generally considered an economic truthsayer and a squeaky clean politician who's expenses were above suspicion, Vince was a "decent" of the first order. Everything changed when he joined the coalition government. From being a relaxed, humorous elder statesman of his party he has increasingly come to resemble a rabbit caught in the headlights and looks to have aged ten years. Vince Cable may prove to be that most enigmatic of characters from popular culture - a Flash Harry on the dance floor who turns out to have feet of clay. Sad really.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Everything to play for in Melbourne.

What with the emerging pan-European worker/student alliance and all, it's easy to allow the really important stuff to slip under the radar as they say down the local whine and tapas bar. By important stuff I mean of course the very exciting Ashes series. The all important fourth test starts on Boxing Day and with talk already of bouncers and doctored pitches it seems unlikely that there will be a huge amount of Yuletide Spirit Of Goodwill when the two sides walk out. Could be a thriller.

All hail the decents.

The death of political journalist Anthony Howard is another milestone on the sad road toward the final eclipse of that peculiarly British sub-species, the middle class decent. To me Howard was little more than a voice on the radio but it was a voice a million miles away from the mean spiritedness that is the hallmark of a lot of modern politics and political commentary. That is what Clegg fails to understand about his own party; the fact that in the Liberal Party there has been a long tradition of a membership, that however politically misguided they might have been, had a genuine concern for the common good and a genuine commitment to the poor and oppressed in their struggle with the rich and powerful. There was a Liberal bedrock of decent people. Where to now the Liberal decents? Will they, like so many Labour decents during the rise of New Labour, remain loyal to the party and hope to change it from inside? Or will they move on? Are the decents lost forever to party politics, and lost also to the media?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

On with the Crombie and out on the streets!

"Why are anarchists such scruffy bastards?", asks the ever sartorial Ian Bone. It's a good question and one that I gave some thought to here a while back. I reckon that it's all part of a leftie desire to identify with the most oppressed sections of society by looking like the chorus of Les Miserables. Fuck that for a game of soldiers.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Penny Red breaks on through to the other side.

When the Trotkyist grouplet the Revolutionary Communist Party strangely morphed into the Institute Of Ideas and launched the media career of Claire Fox few would have predicted how seriously it would be taken. Nowadays when she is introduced on Radio 4s The Moral Maze it's "Claire Fox of The Institute Of Ideas" as if she came representing the Royal Society or Harvard Business School. None of this can have escaped the attention of young Penny Red blogger Laurie Penny. I came across Penny Red when we were fellow Orwell Prize longlisters. I liked her stuff and was pleased when she made it to the shortlist. Skint, always on the verge of unemployment and homelessness and with a personal life that was going through one of those bad patches that we all experience from time to time, getting a nod of recognition from the Orwell judges seemed to be the only good thing happening to Laurie at the time. Now look at her. Writing for the New Statesman and the Guardian among others she is now set to appear as a panel member on Any Questions. I tend to dislike careerists, but fuck it. Good luck Laurie.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

They don't make nostalgia like they used to.

We are having a retro day today. First up is a full on dose of make do and mend and digging for victory at the Imperial War Museum's Ministry Of Food exhibition. In the evening it's 1950's documentaries at the BFI. In between I think we'll sit down to a pint of Pride and a plate of fish and chips in the Red Lion on Whitehall. I assume that the grand old boozer won't be just a public toilet for riot cops today.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Good sense from The Commune.

The "December Events", as I'm sure that the past few weeks will come to be known, have generated page after page of newsprint and cyber journalism by the shed load. From right wing outrage about a few broken windows and a bit of paint chucked around,to liberal shock/horror at police brutality, most of it has been predictable and not worth bothering about. The best analysis of last Thursday that I have come across so far is the fine piece by The Commune that you can find over on the Libcom site. Well worth a look.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Many a true word.

I was being a bit flippant when I posted on here recently that if the SAS are deployed on the streets we could end up with them "taking out" all kinds of people. It doesn't seem so amusing now. On the Today Program this morning Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson implied that only police restraint had prevented protesters being shot dead when they threw paint at the royal car last night. Looks like we're in for stormy weather.

You may say that I'm a dreamer........

The protesters are living in a dream world according to Nick Clegg. Well Nick, we all had dreams when we were young. Some of us had dreams of a successful careers in politics, maybe even becoming Deputy Prime Minister. Others could not elevate our dreams beyond having loads of money but some of us dreamt of life being an adventure that would transcend the world of shit jobs and shit relationships that we saw around us. Perhaps last nights protesters are glimpsing in their dreams a world of new possibilities. Who knows. "Beneath the pavement - it's the beach".

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

We could get in a mess with the SAS.

According to the Sun (yes, I know) we can all get stuck into the Xmas shopping safe in the knowledge that the SAS (Who Cares Who Wins) are patrolling shopping centres with a brief to "engage and neutralise" possible terrorists. Let's just hope that we don't end up with SAS troopers clearing a shop full of UK UnCut protesters with stun grenades and Browning "double taps" to the head.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Lets hear it for Gail Emms.

Sports personalities are not renowned for being militant socialists or being involved in progressive social movements. When sports people get involved in politics it is usually on the right; even though I have always felt that, at it's best, team sport is a true example of collectivism in action. I was pleasantly surprised therefore to see European and world badminton champion Gail Emms launch a campaign amongst her fellow elite sportsmen and women to fight Michael Gove's swinging cuts to school sports budgets and the School Sports Partnerships. Emms wrote a very thoughtful piece in yesterday's Observer and drew attention to what I think is a really shocking statistic. She claims that although less than 7% of kids in this country are educated in the fee paying sector, almost half of GBs individual medals in the 2008 Olympics were won by athletes who were privately educated. This is the kind of inequality of opportunity can only get worse if Gove's spiteful cuts are implemented.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Can the old firm pull it off again?

Have any of you been watching the Channel 4 adaptation of William Boyd' pot boiler Any Human Heart ? It's an entertaining enough romp through the latter two thirds of the 20th century with the central character playing a cameo role in the major historical events and being on nodding terms with everyone from Hemingway to the Baader Meinhof. What caught my eye was the accurate portrayal of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as the two thoroughly unpleasant little people that they were in real life. But I got to thinking, 1936 and in Spain the workers are locked in a life and death struggle with Franco's forces. Europe is about to descend into the abyss. At home there seems no end to the crippling poverty and unemployment faced by many. Yet the nation thrills to a tale that could be straight out of a Hollywood scriptwriters wastepaper bin - the King who gave up a crown for the woman he loved. I am old enough to remember as a kid people still talking about it. Such is the power of Windsor Street, the longest running soap in history. In the 80s and against a background of the rise of neo-conservatism, the miners strike, riots and all the rest of it the thing that seemed to tax the minds of so many was not which way now for the working class but rather "who is best, Di or Fergie? Fergie or Di?" It remains to be seen if, when the reality of the cuts starts to become obvious, Kate and Wills, the latest in a long line of old troupers,, will be able to astound the punters with their deft mastery of the art of illusion; or will we file out half way through the show and demand our money back?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

A few words on the current situation.

It's that time of year again and as usual we are getting a full dose of hand wringing self flagellation about our total inability to deal with snow. Why can't we be more like Finland or Canada moan the moaners. If only we could be prepared. What's wrong with us?
Listen chums! It snows in winter, Putin is probably not entirely kosher and the pope is a catholic. Get over it. And yes, I will be clearing the snow from the front of our house despite all threats of litigation. Don't get me started. Just don't get me fucking started.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

An adventure begins to unfold.

I don't know about the kids being alright, or united for that matter, but they are certainly learning fast. Yesterday saw them charging about central London in a flying column that was hotly pursued by a breathless, overweight and slow witted police force as well as those of us desperate to bask in a little of their reflected glory. It's a long, long road from here to any meaningful social change and the only predictable thing is unpredictability, but something is stirring in the land; no doubt about it.
What I find heartening about what is going on now in the student movement is the fact that these kids are above all else having an adventure. A real adventure far beyond the sterile, sanitised mock adventure of a team building course in the Cairngorms prior to knuckling down to the dreary half-life of work, drink,TV and shopping. When I say that the youth are having an adventure I don't just mean trying to outwit the cops but the far greater adventure of, gripping the secure hand holds of the known world they peer over the edge at the broad grassy plains of new possibilities.

Monday, 29 November 2010

RAMP-AGE Communiqué.

Hot on the heels of the Wikileaks revelations about a member of the House Of Windsor behaving inappropriately comes news that the allotment society cyber intelligence section have intercepted the following:

RAMP-AGE COMMUNIQUE TO THE YOUTH.
IF YOU ARE TAKING PART IN TOMORROWS DAY OF ACTION, BE SURE TO WRAP UP NICE AND WARM. LOVE AND SOLIDARITY.

Friday, 26 November 2010

First Test - Final Straw

What with being swept along by a tidal wave of militant fifteen year olds, discharging the various duties allotted to me by her indoors and keeping things ticking over on the allotment, it's been a busy week. Now I discover that I can't even put my feet up and watch The Ashes highlights on the box. It had escaped my notice that there is absolutely no terrestial coverage of the test at all. Will this be the straw that breaks the camel's back? What would you do, sign up for Sky - or get out on the street with the kids?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Pensioners on the rampage.

One new development at today's disturbances in London was the emergence of a group of militant pensioners who could be seen urging the youth on to further acts of rebellion. Some of the wrinkled revolutionaries that I spoke to claimed to be members of something called RAMP-AGE, a kind of KING MOB for old people. And there was me thinking that Rampage was a Midwest wrestling promotion.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

All power to the students!

Having spent most of my adult life slagging off students and generally adopting a thoroughly workerist, not to say neanderthal, attitude toward the dilettante little shits, I now find myself, in the light of recent events, having to eat a large portion of humble pie. Who knows how the next couple of weeks will pan out, but the cuts have motivated students to a degree not seen for a long time. More power to their elbow. Tomorrow could be a very interesting day. Good luck kids. Stay safe, and look after each other.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

"Weedy" Gove set to trash school sport.

If Michael Gove gets his way, and I see no reason to assume otherwise, there will be a massive reduction in the sport and PE facilities of state schools in the near future. There has been a consistent erosion of school sports for many years now as successive governments have chiseled away at both the facilities and time available by forcing schools to sell off sports fields and bow to the constraints of the National Curriculum at the same time. None of this will affect the fee paying sector of course. Private schools, being exempt from both income tax and the National Curriculum, have the best of facilities and the freedom to devote as much time to sport as they choose. The posh schools recognize the importance of each child developing their potential in their own way and see sport and physical education as a vital part of this.
As the media indulges in it's collective jerk-off over the continuing adventures of a former Marlborough College hockey captain, it might spare a thought for the majority of kids who, deprived of anything better to do, will be trashing Gove's motor and gobbing on his head down the stairwell when he turns up for a photo opp at their school.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

No Business Like Show Business... for the time being.

I had resolved not to join in the Royal Wedding nonsense. To simply have no part of it. But this piece on the Principia Dialectica site was too good not to re-post here,
The announcement of the forthcoming royal marriage will be used by the coalition as a smokescreen, a feel-good factor and an economic bonanza. But the euphoria will not last long. Nothing does these days. The crisis of the economy is too deep. Too many people are suffering. Many will be left with unsold souvenirs.

The entry of Kate Middleton in the royal family is quite symbolic. The monarchy in Britain have always been keen to be seen to change. It did not back Nicolas II when he was toppled. George V discarded his cousin, he could not be seen to back such an autocrat, since there was trouble at home, and it could become much bigger like in Russia. So the czar and his family were left behind…Politics is a cruel business. So the entry of the middle-class to the monarchy is a new move, and it could end the mystique of the Royal Family. Kate Middleton would probably not be out of place on the X-Factor circuit or Celebrity Come Dancing. An art history student is to marry another one.

No wonder all the journalists wheeled in to applaud were over the moon. “A brilliant boost for the economy ” said one hack from ITN (16 of Nov, 2010),”a bonanza for the capital” said another on the same network. Cristina Odone , the God fearing feminist from the New Statesman was over the moon about the marriage , because of sales, and tourism. (Channel 4, 16 Nov, 2010). . then the historian Simon Schama spoke of “of the fetish of the ring”- Kate was given Diana’s wedding ring. Schama also spoke of that marriage as “exorcising Diana’s death” , he also said it was “good news for the government”. and then he added we could be in for a three year Royal display.

First this coming marriage, then the Diamond Jubilee of the queen and her husband, and then the possible marriage of Harry. The crisis of the commodity economy is bottomless. The system has no way of rectifying itself. For Tory historians, in times of crisis, the precedent is there to follow: rally round the flag.

David Starkey, that perfect little Tory squirt and historian of royalty was over the moon with this marriage. He belched: “The Royal Family is reaching out.” Starkey could hardly stay in his chair, you had the impression he was going to take his clothes off and scream: “JOY, JOY, JOY.”

So it is the end of royalty as you knew it, it is now a middle-class show. Maybe the queen is the last monarch, Britain might be a republic in a few years. The Australian PM is of that opinion.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fitwatch site taken down.

When the police react to protest it is not always easy to decide if it is as a result of the personal views of officers, the whim of their political masters or simply an attempt to justify budgets. For whatever reason the police have, in the wake of the mounting level of student protest, had the Fitwatch site closed down. No court order involved; just a quiet word in the relevant shell-like did the trick.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Tourists were alright Annie.

I was listening to Annie Lennox being interviewed on radio this morning. I have always had a soft spot for Lennox. Apart from being an outstanding artist she always comes across as a really nice lady. One thing that I have never been able to understand is why the band she and Dave Stewart had before Eurythmics, The Tourists, was held in such low esteem by the music press and by Annie Lennox herself. The Tourists cover of Dusty Springfield's I Only Want To Be With You remains one of my all time fave toons.

Friday, 12 November 2010

You never can tell with the heavyweights.

No division in boxing captures the imagination of the public like the heavyweights. Even people with little or no interest in the sport will be able to name at least one former heavyweight champion and Muhammad Ali was at one time probably the most famous man in the world. The irony is of course that the standard of boxing in the heavyweights is without doubt the lowest in any division and although every era throws up it's great heavyweights, the likes of Johnson, Dempsey, Louis, and Ali are very much the exception in what is, to be honest, a dearth of talent. The reason is not hard to find. How many guys big enough to compete at heavyweight do you know? With such a small pool to draw on it's not surprising that the standard is so much poorer than it is lower down the weight categories. Improvements in diet have resulted in far more big men walking the streets and you might imagine that this would lead to an improvement in the standard of heavyweight boxing but all that has happened is that in order to make it in today's game a fighter has to be huge. The fourteen or fifteen stone heavyweights of the past would struggle to survive in the modern sport.
Whatever the skill limitations of the fighters however, in the heavyweights you just never know. One big punch can upset all the odds and leave the pundits with egg on their faces. This old boxing truth could well be reaffirmed once again tomorrow night when David Haye and Audley Harrison come up to scratch with Haye's WBA belt on the line. Bookies favourite Haye, although light by today's standards, is a class act with fast hands and a knockout punch in his right. Audley Harrison has been a bit of an enigma really. The former Olympic champion just never seemed to settle into the pro game and is expected to be heading for the showers sooner rather than later. But Harrison is a heavy hitter no doubt about it and has that most unpredictable of assets - a punchers chance. With the heavyweights you never can tell.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Small minority of troublemakers spoil everything. Yeah!

"My foot is hurting and I've got a bit of a cold. I can't be arsed. You go. I don't suppose anything will happen anyway." Such was the conversation round here yesterday morning. How wrong can you get? Poor old Dave Cameron. He can't turn his back for five minutes without having party HQ trashed. Meanwhile, as the crowds surged past Parliament, little Clegg was inside busy pretending to be in charge and looking for all the world like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
Oh! I do like to see young people enjoying themselves; especially in these times of economic uncertainty.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The allotment in winter.

Well autumn is well and truly here now and if that cold wind is anything to go by, winter will soon be upon us. So that's another growing season over and all across the country allotmenteers are putting their plots to bed and finishing of a bit of muck spreading and digging. The autumn sown broad beans are peeping through, the garlic, onions and spring cabbage are all looking healthy enough and given a bit of luck and a fair wind we should be off to a flying start next year. Of course that doesn't mean that I will abandon the plot for the winter, far from it, and on crisp, clear days I will be up there, lifting leeks and parsnips, cutting the odd cabbage and generally pottering about. Quite simply, it's one of my favourite places to be.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Job Club Revisited?

IDS, the perennial god bothering "Quiet Man" of politics, has finally come up with a master plan to solve the problem of the long term unemployed once and for all. The details have yet to be revealed in full but you can bet a pound to a pinch of shit that what we are due is just another version of that tired old number - work for dole. The long term unemployed are not all the same. Some are happy to remain on benefits topped up by a bit of petty crime. Lacking in skills and poorly educated they have never worked and probably never will. There are also a number of people who having seen through the charade of "the system" have decided to fill their days with what they see as productive and enjoyable activity and let the state pick up the tab. There are others who would like to return to work but have just had the stuffing knocked out of them in one way or another. Of course a huge number of people, with the best will in the world, are simply not fit and well enough to work. Others are unemployed because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time and are the victims of economic and political forces totally beyond their control. What may have escaped the attention of IDS is the fact that lots of people are unemployed because of ........ unemployment!
One group of people who have never done an honest days work in their lives will of course be exempt from all tests, training or schemes because they have no need of benefits, surviving instead on the accumulated wealth created by other people's labour.
We tend not to hear so much about them.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Cops 1 - Yuppies 0

At the inquest into the death of wealthy young barrister Mark Saunders it has come to light that one of the officers involved in the shooting of Saunders inserted the titles of Duran Duran songs into his evidence. The officer has been suspended from firearms duty. Quite right too. The last thing we need right now is a load of armed Duran Duran fans prowling the streets of the capital.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Too many communities, not enough community.

"You are totally alienated from the Polish community", was the rebuke recently handed out by a relative to someone that I know . I suppose such conversations take place everyday in the families of all types of religious and cultural minorities. The end result can range from a grudging acceptance to an honour killing. What perplexes me is where all these "communities" came from. The Muslim, Hindu, Black, Jewish, Somali, Gay, White Working Class, and Rural (to name but a few) communities all vie for attention, "rights", loyalty and funding. I have been trying to remember when the word "community" became so much a part of our daily language. Sure, back in the early seventies I helped set up a "community workshop" , the first time incidentally that I realized that workshops were not necessarily associated with light engineering. Yes,we thought that community was important but I'm sure that we located it within geographical rather than cultural or religious parameters.
In post-war Britain class played a major part in the definition of communities. The East End was very much a working class community. Large parts of Central London were mixed communities where the working class and the better off rubbed shoulders. The point is that the community was rooted in place rather than anything else. Running across the grain of these communities as it were,there existed a huge variety of sub-cultures based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, politics, work,music; the whole patchwork of what goes to make us who we are. This is just how it all seemed to me as a young guy feeling his way around the world in the late fifties and early sixties and no doubt many people who served their time as sociologists rather than as Thames bargemen will be able to make a far better job of analysing this stuff than I can. At some stage, and I really can't be sure when it was, these sub-cultures became communities and took on the role formerly assigned to place. As the developers prepared to destroy real communities at the behest of modern capital so the new "communities" waited in the wings for their cue. Just as love of place at times was able to obscure the relevance of class, so these new pseudo-communities threaten both love of place and class consciousness; and that it seems to me, is the real problem of multiculturalism.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Al-Qaeda, and the Bloke In The Pub.

When it comes to al-Qaeda, global terror alerts and the like, my opinion is pretty much about as valuable as that of Bloke In The Pub. i.e., not all that. Add to this the fact that my sum knowledge of spooks and the security service is almost entirely derived from John Le Carre and you will get the general picture. Fair enough. But packages from Yemen with or without protruding wires? Packages from Yemen addressed to synagogues in Chicago? Cause for some concern surely. All these Islamic loonies with their exploding shoes and exploding underpants would be a huge source of entertainment were it not for the real horror being brought to light this week at the 7/7 inquest.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lewes revisited.

I have just got back from a day trip to Lewes. Of course at this time of year the place is psyching itself up for the 5th of November when the town resembles a cross between the Wicker Man and the Gordon Riots. It's an odd little place and no mistake, but the couple of pints of Harveys in the pub next to the brewery went down rather well. Apart from the excellent beer Lewes also has a prison, a castle, lots of posh shops and a wonderful little printers called The Tom Paine Press. The town was also home to something called "Cloth Kits" that sold bits of material to the dimmer members of the 1970s chattering classes who would sew them together in order to make themselves and their kids look like nothing on earth. I am told that Lewes was also home to the very first Farmers Market. I can well believe it.
Returning home to the metropolis I stepped down from the train to discover that Boris Johnson has done the dirty on his Bullingdon Club chums and denounced Gideon's housing benefit proposals as something that might lead to a Kosovo type tragedy. Slightly over egged Boris, but we take your point. When it comes to our Mayor I tend to agree with Arthur Smith who said that he tried to dislike old Eton Boy as a mental exercise - but didn't always find it easy.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The ends and means of animal rights.

The argument about ends justifying means goes back at least as far as Machiavelli. What interests me more is not whether or not ends justify means but the thought that perhaps means can justify ends. I frequently come across actions, means, that are inspiring, exciting, or just good fun but that are aiming toward ends that may leave me completely cold. Nowhere is this more true than in the, to my mind, murky world of animal rights. Not that I approve of all the things that animal rightists do, far from it, there is after all nothing particularly good about random anonymous attacks on people who are unfortunate enough to work for companies who happen to be associated with some other company that the activists disapprove of, but the inventiveness and disregard for the law has to be admired. It's just a shame that all that effort is not aimed at fighting for human rights.
Don't get me wrong, I like animals. There have been individual animals that I have been really fond of. We are animal free now but over the years have had the usual dogs and cats and have kept poultry, pigs and goats. I won't even begin to go into the various bizarre pets I kept as a kid and today leaning on a fence and contemplating livestock remains a favourite pastime. I'm sure that you get my drift by now - I'm OK with animals. It's just that I don't confuse them with people, or think that they have rights in the same way that people do.
One of the many things about New Labour that had me spitting feathers was the fact that they moved heaven and earth to ban hunting but did nothing to repeal the anti- working class and anti- trade union legislation that was a legacy of Thatcher. More parliamentary time was devoted to debating foxhunting than was spent considering whether or not to invade Iraq for God's sake. Vivisection, that other great animal rights battleground, is no doubt unpleasant. We would all rather not know about it. But we all quite like the benefits of it none the less.
The reality is that like all creatures, we interact with and have a relationship with, other species, and I think that that relationship will always involve suffering. Animal welfare (as opposed to animal rights) is about keeping that suffering to a minimum and that seems to me thoroughlly laudable both for the benefit of animals and for our own happiness. Animal rights? Love the bottle and the balaclavas but the ends I fear are nothing but a pile of the proverbial.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Not so astute after all.

In a scene reminiscent of The Navy Lark, the inaptly named nuclear submarine HMS Astute ran aground in a clearly marked channel of the Isle of Skye. If nothing else this confirms once again the long held belief amongst seamen that the two most useless things you can have on a ship are a lawnmower and a naval officer.

Orwell Prize 2011.

This from Gavin Freeguard of the Orwell Prize:

The Orwell Prize for Blogs 2011 is now open for entries. All work with a clear relationship with the UK or Ireland, first published between 1st January 2010 and 31st December 2010, is eligible. Entries close on 19th January 2011.

Entry forms and full entry details can be found on our new website, www.theorwellprize.co.uk. The Prize is self-nominating. Each blogger should submit 10 blogposts.

This year’s Blog Prize judges are David Allen Green (‘Jack of Kent’, shortlisted for the Blog Prize 2010) and Gaby Hinsliff (former political editor of The Observer).

The Orwell Prize is free to enter, and there is no charge at any point in the process. To promote as much political writing as possible, a full list of entries will be published on our website after the closing date. Entries are also open for the Book Prize and Journalism Prize.


In 2010 I think that Paul Stott and myself were the only two anarchist bloggers to enter. Let's improve on that this year and get a wider audience for our ideas. Blogging is not the most important political activity, it's not even the most important on the "not very important" list, but if we are going to do it we might as well try to get as much publicity as possible. Forward to an anarchist victory in the Orwell Prize.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

May and Rifkind in cyber attack.

I'm grateful to Theresa May and Malcolm Rifkind for giving us a heads up regarding the threat of cyber attack. This probably means very little to most of you but to someone such as myself who is at the cutting edge of information technology it is a real concern. At any moment the forces of darkness could take over this blog for example and just fill it up with irrelevant rubbish thus totally shafting both myself and my loyal and discerning readership. Fortunately the government have earmarked £500m for a cyber attack defence strategy. The savings made by shaving 50% of the social housing bill will be more than enough to cover this you will be pleased to hear. Of course I suppose it's just possible that the bodies of May and Rifind have actually been taken over by these cybers. How would we tell? We could be in a world of shit here comrades. Doctor! Doctor! Has anyone seen The Doctor?

The Long View is on the money.

I have just been listening to Radio 4's The Long View ( repeated tonight at 21:30) that this week centered around cricket's recent betting scandals and the parallels with old time prize fighting. The program broadened out to look at the relationship between sport and gambling in general and how the Victorian distaste for betting led to the establishment of amateur sport. It's unusual for the media to be so well informed about the Prize Ring but in one time Olympic athlete and now sports academic Peter Radford they found someone who is a genuine expert. One interesting comment from Radford was that the introduction of the Marquess Of Queensbury Rules had less to do with reducing the level of brutality in the ring and everything to do with ensuring that the punter could wager with confidence. Sport, class, and the relationship with gambling is a fascinating subject and one that needs to be given a bit more of an airing if our opinions on straight and crooked sport are to get beyond tabloid journo level.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A taste of France required.

Apart from their total inability to make proper gravy, you have to admire the French. I mean they don't muck about do they? When in 1968 the Paris students called everything into question and almost toppled the government, us Brits shuffled along behind Tariq Ali calling for the end of a war that we absolutely had no control over and even less understanding of. On the other side of The Channel people seem to have an inbuilt determination to take matters into their own hands. In the past we have looked on with admiration as French fishermen blockade ports, farmers threaten to plough up the Champs Elysees and workers and students kick off at the drop of a hat. A proposed two year increase in the retirement age is enough to bring millions out. What Central London will look like on Wednesday afternoon I don't know but I just hope that we can be a bit more lively than the usual "what do we want?" bollocks. For once perhaps we can show the Frogs that there is more to us than a full understanding of Bisto.

Friday, 15 October 2010

The True Levellers and a Modernist Masterpiece.

Just outside Esher on the Portsmouth Road is an area of woodland known as The Ledges. This fairly unremarkable site is a favourite with local dog walkers but most people probably don't give it a second glance as they drive past. If you wander into the woods for a couple of hundred yards you come to a steep drop down to the valley of the River Mole. That high ground that you can see away to the west and on the other side of the valley is St Georges Hill where the Diggers, the True Levellers, played out that iconic act of propaganda by deed and declared the earth a common treasury for all. St Georges Hill is now, I'm told, the site of as unpleasant, uptight and tasteless a gated development as you could ever stumble across. Turn your back on this scene, it's all in the past, and walk in a southeasterly direction for a few minutes and you will be cheered up immediately for there, hidden in the woods, is a 1930's Modernist classic. We tend to think of Stalinist Brutalism and high rise horrors when Modernism is mentioned but there were very many projects built on a far more human scale. Built as a family home The Homewood is a Modernist masterpiece. There is something about the sight of a piece of Modernist architecture surrounded by trees, the juxtoposition of nature and the clean lines and modern materials, that just lifts my spirits. In an area blighted by both faux Arts And Crafts and the worst of Barratt Homes, The Homewood is a wonder to behold.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Chile mine rescue no miracle.

After sixty nine days trapped underground the Chilean miners are finally rescued and returned to their families and we can but heave a sigh of relief and wish them well. Hours of TV coverage and acres of newsprint have reported the drama in detail but one word keeps cropping up again and again, "miracle". The rescue was fantastic and thrilling and heartening and much more, but it was not a miracle. Instead it was a triumph of scientific knowledge and engineering skill. It was a triumph as well for that part of human nature that cares about the welfare of others. It's a pity of course that all that knowledge,skill and empathy was not used to prevent the accident in the first place. Now that would have been a miracle.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Andrew Marr comes down hard on bloggers.

Some irresponsible blogger seems to have upset Andrew Marr. Well in any area of life there are always a minority who spoil it for the rest of us and I suppose blogging is no different. The New Labour Windmill announced at Cheltenham Literary Festival that most bloggers were spotty inadequates living with their Mum and that they should get a girlfriend. Bit strong Andrew don't you think? However I do take his point about "citizen journalists" not being as good as the real thing and I certainly realize that people like me are not fit to sharpen the pencils of proper public school educated scribblers like Marr. Anyway, as far as the bit about getting a girlfriend is concerned, I ran it past her indoors and truth be told she was not all that taken with the idea.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Top catering policy in Hackney pub.

I was whining on to my son about my current major gripe, the turning of pubs into restaurants in all but name, when he informed me that his favourite Hackney pub had started to do food. "Well", he said, "they don't mind if you bring a kebab in and eat it". Top catering policy or what?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Where am I? Who am I for that matter?

Fortunately I don't have that many moments when I am gripped with an overwhelming desire to slam a side kick into the telly or hurl books across the room. Probably just as well really. Certainly a lot more enjoyable are the moments when a book or a TV prog makes you sit up and say, "that just how I feel!" I have been reading Map Addict by Mike Parker and have been pleased to find that not only do we share a lifelong fascination with maps but also a barely disguised contempt for those people who seem unable to venture further than the end of their street without the aid of GPS or "Pratnav" as Parker refers to it. Chuck the Tomtom and learn to map read. If you get lost you probably won't die.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A real result.

Well there you go. A Commonwealth Games wrestling Gold Medal for England as Ukrainian born Miroslav Dykun stormed through the opposition in the Greco-Roman 66kg division. That will go nicely with Terence Bosson's Silver in the 65kg.
I was also delighted to see that 16 year old Zoe Smith took Bronze in the weightlifting. It's not so long ago that women's boxing, wrestling and weightlifting were considered mere sideshow diversions, even another branch of soft porn. Now the women are getting the respect that they deserve in these tough disciplines. I think that that's a real result.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Health and Safety. Be careful what you wish for.

Two subjects are bound to get the bloke in the pub going. One is political correctness (gone mad) and the other is 'elf 'n safety (also gone mad). Yet irritating though both these much derided institutions can be, and I grant that they can be irritating, they both have their roots in something that is basically decent. One comes out of a not unreasonable idea that everyone deserves a fair crack of the whip regardless of their race, gender or sexual preferences and that it's not that clever to be constantly slagging people off for aspects of their being that they have absolutely no control over. The other has it's roots in workers in construction, mining, shipping etc. insisting that employers provide as safe a working environment as was practical in what were always going to be dangerous occupations. I find it quite sad that two genuinely progressive ideas have been so debased that they are now seen as offering nothing but further state interference in our already over policed lives.
I mention all this because Lord Young's recent attack on health and safety while certainly on target when it come to litigation culture, kids not being allowed to play conkers and all the rest of the nonsense, may be preparing the ground for something else. Is His Lordship softening us up for some huge cuts to the Health and Safety Executive I wonder? The HSE can be the last line of defence for some workers forced into dangerous working environments and is even more important in a time of rising unemployment and job insecurity. Next time you slag off health and safety - be careful what you wish for.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Commonwealth Games.

After a slightly shambolic start the Commonwealth Games have got underway and we can now all concentrate on the really important bit - moaning about the TV coverage of the games. You can bet a pound to a pinch of shit that if you are interested in any of the more marginal sports you will have to be content with a fleeting glimpse of your favourites in action. Well it has to be admitted that small bore shooting just can't pack the crowds in like say athletics can. I will be looking out for a bit of wrestling coverage and I suppose that a lot will depend on how well the English wrestlers do. England has actually sent a fairly strong team over and if nothing else it will be an experience for them to compete in one of the major wrestling nations in the world. It has always come as a surprise to me that the Indian community in this country has not had a far greater influence on British amateur wrestling than it has. To be honest I was expecting every weight division to be dominated by someone called Singh by now.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Another Saturday Night........

Tomorrow night you could:

a) Go and see Made In Dagenham at your local flea pit.
b) Attend a last minute planning meeting for Sunday in Brum.
c) Crack open a bottle and curl up on the sofa with the comrade of your choice.
Or if you are really desperate have a listen to A Working Class Tory Is Something To Be on Radio 4.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Idler.

When Tom Hodgkinson decided to produce The Idler as a hardback I have to say I had serious misgivings. I mean who would be able to afford to buy it? Or more to the point, who would be willing to part with so much dosh for what is, after all, just another magazine? One part of me was saying that but another part of me, the part that loves a bit of flash, was gung ho for the project and going hardback with a small circulation magazine is nothing if not flash. It really is in the spirit of the Situationist International who's original journal was ostentatiously produced and in stark contrast to the grim duplicated offerings of their equally grim rivals on the left. Anyway, I put The Idler on my birthday list and hoped for the best. I was not disappointed. Not by my nearest and dearest - nor by the publication itself. The Idler is so bloody English , and so incredibly relaxing. You only have to open it's pages to feel the tension just ebbing away. All those concerns about Red Milliband turning into a PolPot for our time, or even a Harold Wilson for our time, will drift into the ether. So pull up a chair, chuck another log on the fire and open The Idler. There! See what I mean?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A modest proposal.

I think that it's important for us older comrades to keep as mentally agile as possible. Try to stay at the cutting edge of libertarian political debate and ideas, that kind of thing. So here's the plan. Time was when food in pubs, if available at all, was consigned to a special area, usually upstairs, and known as "the dinning room". This meant that a chap could sit at the bar and enjoy his pint while reflecting upon the Gaitshead Koran Burning, Ed Milliband and the lurch to the left or whatever without having to watch a load of office workers eating their fucking dinner. Can you see where I'm coming from here? Truth is that there are a number of pubs in London that have maintained their dinning rooms and they tend to be pretty reasonable boozers. It's clear to me that what is needed at this juncture is an Anarchist Luncheon Club. A group of committed and dedicated comrades who would explore these pubs, discuss matters of the day and have a few pints before repairing upstairs for a decent roast. Bit like the the Pickwick Club, but probably not as radical. What do you think?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Down with the miserablists!

What is it with anarchists? Well, that's not fair actually. "What is it with some anarchists?" is closer to what I'm trying to say. What I'm referring to is the seemingly perennial strand in the anarchist movement that having, quite rightly, come down on the side of the poor and downtrodden as apposed to the rich and powerful, decide to show solidarity with the oppressed workers by trying to live the life that they imagine real workers lead. Nowhere is this miserable attitude more noticeable than in the minefield of consumer choice. What's the naffest, down-market shop we can find? Well lets do our shopping there. Might as well. Some of us are so fucking scruffy no self-respecting up market shop would let us through the door. We mustn't aspire to the good things in life in case we get accused of being middle-class. Apart from the very dubious politics involved; where is the fun in this. No wonder we don't get taken seriously by normal everyday folk who would quite like to have the best for themselves and their kids. I would like to see more anarchists striding along in the Crombie (fell of the back of a lorry guv), twirling a rolled umbrella as they make their way to the hostelry of their choice for lunch. I never had that much time for Derek Hatton but immaculately turned out in Armani suits he was everything that lefties were meant not to be. No anorak, combats and sandals for Degsy; and a serious two fingers to the miserablists.

Friday, 24 September 2010

A blogger returns.

There has not been a lot of activity on this blog recently although I am on target for my usual fourteen posts a month. Amongst the number of lame excuses for not writing has been my short visit to the Derbyshire Dales where I learned that the area is a bit like Last Of The Summer Wine; all dry stone walls and old people. I also discovered that a Bakewell Tart is actually a Bakewell Pudding and that this delicacy is, well, a bit ordinair as you might say. Wonderfull scenery though, and Bakewell itself has a bloody good market.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Of Popes, pints and pumpkins.

On Friday about 150 of us turned up to boo Razinger at Twickenham and yesterday about 15,000 packed into Whitehall to let the old Nazi know what we think of him and his weird paedophile cult.It was actually a very good day out. The high point for me was the appearance on the balcony over Fortnum and Masons of a "Pope" swathed in sheets and tablecloths and blessing the multitudes below to rapturous applause. Top work! As someone pointed out, "he will probably get the sack tomorrow but it will have been well worth it". And we had a nice little drink in the Red Lion afterwards. And I won First Prize for biggest pumpkin at the allotments autumn social today.
And they say that the anarchists can't get anything together.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Tea Party. Is it a load of old wank?

My insistence that laughter and ridicule are amongst the best weapons against the Forces Of Darkness frequently gets me into hot water and for sure it's easier to laugh at the Right if you are standing where I am as opposed to say being a Roma in France right now. But every time that I start to feel twinges of guilt about my flippant attitude toward the stormtroopers of the new order along comes some new nutter to cheer me up good and proper. Latest addition to the cavalcade of rightist show stopping side splitters is the lovely Christine O'Donnell. The Tea Party candidate wants to share with us the good news that her Bible studies have revealed that MASTURBATION IS A SIN. Way to go Christine! Some old chestnuts never wear out do they? You might have to think about that last bit Christine.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Work and the drinking classes.

Walking over Hungerford Bridge this afternoon I paused to watch one of Cory's tugs with a pair of thousand ton barges in tow working up river on a strong flood tide. Carefully getting the right line the skipper made a perfect job of shooting Westminster Bridge. Watching a master of their craft at work is always a pleasure. When Ian Bone interviewed me on his radio show a couple of years back he remarked that I was perhaps the only old hippy who believed in the dignity of labour. Not that I havn't enjoyed several periods of voluntary unemployment in the past and am now embarked on what I hope will turn out to be the lengthy voyage of retirement. That said, and even though I am an admirer of every champion of idleness from Paul Lafargue to Tom Hodgkinson, I still feel that to be denied the opportunity of employment is also to be denied the right to the self-fulfillment that can be found both in the workplace and in work itself. I don't have any problem at all with people choosing to not work. The cost of the benefits involved is a drop in the ocean and many jobs are not only boring and alienating but totally useless as well. What I would say though is that when unemployment is visited on a community it generally proves to be a curse rather than a liberation. The idea of a generation growing old and never feeling the elation of a job well done is nothing to celebrate. The dignity of labour is not the same as the work ethic. As I was once advised- serve the task, and not the master.

Monday, 13 September 2010

One final call to give Ratzinger something to remember.

With only a few days to go before the start of the papal visit I thought that I would make a last post on the reason why I for one will be joining the protest. Personally I will be motivated not by a particular aversion to Ratzinger himself, loathsome character that he may be, but to popes in general and the whole ethos and morality of the Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism has done it's best to preserve the worst aspects of Judao-Christian feelings of sexual guilt and fear of female sexuality and is perhaps only surpassed by some strands of Islam in this respect. There has been a lot of quite justified outrage at the shocking levels of child sex abuse in the church but we should not forget the truly heart wrenching amount of physical cruelty that has been inflicted on children in catholic schools and orphanages and the terrible damage that has been the result. Ratzinger presides over a rigidly hierarchical and authoritarian organization that has tended throughout history to be an enthusiastic ally of the forces of reaction. The Vatican is a tin-pot pseudo state set up by it's champion Mussolline and as head of this so called state Ratzinger is being afforded a full state visit at a cost to the taxpayer of over 12 million quid.
It should go without saying that this is not an attack on individual Catholics. I won't claim that some of my best friends are Catholic (though some are ex-Catholic) but of course I have met very many nice folk who were believers in Christianity, Islam. Buddhism, Crystal Therapy and have even met quite decent members of the Tory Party; that is really not the point. I will be protesting against everything that Ratzinger represents. I intent turning out for his visit to Twickenham as well as to the big demo on Saturday and I hope we can give him the reception that he deserves.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The worst job that I ever had........

The party conference season is in full swing now. This weekend the Greens are conferring in their usual well intentioned way and next weekend will see what may well turn out to be a thoroughly bad tempered and entertaining Lib Dem gathering. The following week the Labour Party will do their best to implode and finally the Tories will be holding their Old Thatcherite Reunion in Brum during the first week of October. This last event unfortunately clashes with a British Trotskyist "Right To Work" retro event being held at the same time.
Truth be told I have a bit of previous when it comes to party conferences. Regular readers of this blog may remember me posting about my short but enjoyable career in the circus. Well when the circus moved on I found some work as a stage hand in an ice show being staged at the Brighton Centre and eventually this led to a full time job as a auditorium hand/cleaner at the same venue. The work involved everything from building stages to operating spotlights to cleaning the bogs. It was a classic 80s local authority job with all that that entailed. Long hours were spent in our underground tearoom and when we covered the tables with check tablecloths complete with candles in Chianti bottles management thought that we really were taking the piss; which of course we were. They even went as far as recruiting an ex military policeman to try and tame us, but to no avail. Management did finally give me the bullet on a technicality but not before I had suffered some pretty excruciating party conferences including seeing Thatcher dust herself down and get on with it on the morning after the IRA demonstrated their own brand of politics at the Grand Hotel next door. Looking out across the hall at a sea of dark suits and floral dresses and listening to all that Tory self assurance is something that will live with me forever. Mind you, it wasn't as bad as doing follow spots for Julio Inglesias.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rugby League Night on BBC 4.

Last night was Rugby League night on BBC 4 and fans of the game itself, Eddie Waring or that great movie This Sporting Life must have been in their element. I have never followed rugby of either code that much but the social and political issues reflected in the Union/League schism have always interested me and no prizes for guessing where my sympathies lay. One thing that I have never really understood is why Welsh pitmen stuck to the snooty Union amateur code while their northern counterparts opted for the League and an extra couple of quid on Saturday afternoon. Can anyone explain this to a dim Southerner who lives just down the road from Twickers?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Morrissey is a sub-species.

Is Morrissey a racist? Search me mate but I do know that he is a tedious self pitying waste of space. When The Smiths released The Meat In Your Mouth Is Murder and Morrissey whined his way through this tribute to vegetarianism I felt as though the will to live was ebbing away from me. I seem to remember that my assertion at the time that the number was actually a gay anthem dedicated to fellatio went down rather badly with some comrades. Such is the lonely road of the iconoclast.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Two Andy's and a proper Charlie.

The story so far....... Gutter Press Editor Andy 1 sets up phone taps in order to get the dirt on various public figures. Andy 1 is employed by The Great Media Mogul.
The public figures get really pissed off and demand a police investigation. Andy 1 resigns from the paper and becomes "communications director" for post-grunge outfit Dave And The Big Society.
The police investigation is carried out by well known bad cop Andy 2, who finds that Andy 1 and his paper have done nothing wrong. When Andy 2 is caught in a legover situation he is forced to resign but finds immediate employment with The Great Media Mogul.
Meanwhile the Mad Prince sets off on his recycled cooking oil powered Royal Train to bring to the masses the good news about organic living.
Is it just me?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Can the News Of The World teach anyone anything about honesty?

Papers like the News Of The World tend to be like a dog with a bone once they get hold of a story. They will run with it until they are sure that they have got every bit of benefit from it or something juicier comes along to divert their attention. The Pakistan cricket team scandal is one such story and it looks set to run for a while yet. In amongst the mixture of liberal hand wringing and pompous twaddle that has made up most of the media coverage a few interesting and worthwhile comments have emerged. I heard some old retired general on the radio. He sounded like Peter Sellers doing a retired general and I don't suppose that he and I would see eye to eye on very much but when it came to the incident of Amir's "no balls" in the Final Test he talked a lot of good sense and rightly pointed out that it would be a great shame if a brilliant match was remembered only for something that influenced the outcome not at all.
One point that I have not heard made by anyone is that only gamblers themselves can ensure that sport is on the level. The English tradition of "fair game" did not come about because of some innate love of honour and decency but because of the aristocracy's love of gambling and the need to be confident about the matches that they were betting on. Notions of fair play, level playing fields and all the rest of it are firmly rooted in gaming; not the playing fields of South Slough.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Blair, New Labour, And the truth about politics.

So Tony Blair stands by the New Labour project and is convinced that any deviation from NL orthodoxy and the slightest hint of a return to old fashioned Labour Party ideals resulted in electoral defeat and will do so in the future. He is probably right. The argument however is not if the Labour Party of the 80's had become unelectable, but why it had. The continuing expansion of the middle class meant that only by appealing to these voters and convincing them that they could vote Labour without fear of any of that socialist redistribution of wealth nonsense could Labour return to power. And here is the perpetual dilemma of political parties and political elites in general. To compromise principle in order to take or retain power, or stand by your beliefs even if it means being condemned to political backwaters and the footnotes of history. That is the truth about politics and it is a truth that will endure for just as long as politics remains a specialised activity rather than part of everyday life.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Test cricket at it's best.

With Broad and Trott just two runs short of an all time England record for the eighth wicket and Mohammed Amir taking four wickets for no runs and becoming the youngest player to take fifty test wickets, today at Lords really was test cricket at it's best.
20 x 20? You can keep it.

Get cheered up. Get New Humanist.

What with faith schools, papal visits and fundermentals of every pursuasion grabbing the headlines every day it's easy to end up feeling that us supposedly rationalist athiest types are being increasingly forced on to the back foot. At times like this the satisfying thump as New Humanist lands on the doormat is always a cause for celebration and the latest issue is no exeption. What I like about New Humanist is that it goes far beyond being a vehicle for humanist polemic and is just a good, frequently challenging, but always amusing and entertaining read. If you haven't read this magazine for godless people why not check it out. Take advantage of their free trial copy offer why don't yer.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

There's No Business Like Spy Business.

In the early days of cinema the line between fact and fiction, between art and reality, was often blurred. The actors in the first westerns were actual cowboys who were just continuing the tradition, started in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, of riding around and doing the things that the public expected cowboys to do; only this time for the camera. Before the film industry decamped for California the business was centred in New York. Such was the cost of film stock in those days that it was the norm for a film to be shown at one movie theatre before being transported across town to be shown at the next venue a couple of hours later. It was inevitable that rival cinema owners would hire gangsters to hijack the films and equally inevitable that other gangs would be hired to protect the stock. From here it was a small step to hiring the gangsters to chase each other across rooftops firing blanks at each other and generally hamming it up. Thus a whole new film genre was born. The thing came full circle when a new generation of real life cowboys and gangsters based their persona's on their celluloid heroes. For years the fans found it difficult to separate the life of movie stars from the roles that their idols played on screen and it was a confusion that the studios encouraged. Sometimes their continued to be an element of truth in all of this. Burt Lancaster looks so good in Trapeze because he really had been a circus performer. Most of the time however all but the most unsophisticated of fans learned to differentiate between illusion and reality and were not entirely surprised when dead hard Rocky/Rambo Stallone was afraid to travel abroad for fear of being blown up by terrorists or nice clean cut romantic comedy star Hugh Grant got given a blowjob by a working girl in the back of a taxi. We just thought, "that's movies". Now comes news that this new found sophistication came late to the Security Service and that MI5 suspected James Bond scriptwriter Wolf Mankowitze of being in the pay of SMERSH. Mind you, at the time MI5 suspected just about everyone from Harold Wilson to Mister Pastry of being a Soviet spy. In the hall of mirrors that was MI5 and MI6 during the Cold War there seems to have been a grip on reality that would have put any old time film fan to shame.

Monday, 23 August 2010

CIA chemical warfare cover up exposed.

On the Today programme this morning there was an item about a case of "mass hysteria" in a French village during the 50s. Five people died and others were taken to mental hospitals in straight jackets. At the time it was thought that the incident was caused by ergot contaminated flour at the local bakers but now it is being suggested that the villagers were victims of a CIA experiment in chemical warfare using LSD. Funny that. I mean you never hear about a CIA LSD experiment where a village just sit around smoking and listening to the Beatles White Album, go down the pub later muttering about what brilliant acid that was and not bother going into work the next day.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Saturday Night Stomp. Not.

No doubt most of the people who read this blog are just warming up for a full on, very large Saturday night. I hope so. For myself it was a couple of pints in one of the few local pubs that have not been turned into a restaurant, followed by having an old mate round for one of her indoors' outstanding fish pies. Put the dishes in the sink and feet up for Test Match highlights and the Dads Army episode that features the Spanish Anarchist guerrilla warfare instructor. Bliss!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Nothing progressive about cutting middle class benefits..

At first glance it seems like such an obvious way of saving money without penalising the less well off. Surely the comfortable middle class have no need of winter fuel payments, child allowance and similar benefits? We can all relate tales of unpleasantly wealthy multiple property owners who can't wait to get their hands on the state pension, Freedom Pass and the rest of it and the erosion of middle class benefits is likely to have very few lefties crying into their beer and many will be rubbing their hands and chortling with glee. Well I think that they are making a big mistake. When benefits are means tested they are immediately reduced to the level of hand-outs to the poor. This has become the trend with both state education and the NHS with both these "benefits" increasingly being seen as second class services for those who can't afford the private option. This is a backward step that takes us yet further away from the inclusiveness that is at the heart of socialism. Far from cutting the benefits of the middle class we need to actually increase them. I am in favour of a social wage, paid to rich and poor alike, and a health and education system so good that the private sector would become irrelevant. How would all this be paid for? By taxing the better off of course. This would lead to something else that is supposed to be at the heart of socialism - the redistribution of wealth.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Pope? Nope.

The state visit of that incorrigible old nazi "Ratzinger The First", looks set to be a bit of a show stopper. As each day brings fresh talk of cuts and savings that need to be made, the news that the pope's retinue of cardinals and other hangers on will be accommodated at a luxury West End hotel at taxpayers expense is likely to go down like a rat sandwich. There could well be a massive turnout for the Protest The Pope march on Saturday 18th September. Apparently some hot-heads are calling for direct action to keep Ratzinger away from three and a half thousand kids the previous day.
I couldn't possibly comment.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Chertsey Show.

We have just got home from a really classic day at the Chertsey Show, the only traditional agricultural show held inside the M25. Unlike most "country shows" Chertsey is not all cut glass accents and cavalry twills and has none of that air of being the Tory Party at play. Set against a backdrop of pylons and power lines, and held on a site that is surrounded by mobile home parks and what looks like a graveyard for funfair vehicles, Chertsey Show could never be anything but unpretentious. The show is a gathering of ordinary folk, some of whom make their living from the land, but who all have an interest in livestock and agriculture. Horses,cattle.sheep,pigs goats and poultry are all here to be admired along with giant vegetables, old tractors and vast numbers of dodgy looking lurchers. And there was jousting. And a decent beer tent. A cracking day out.

Friday, 13 August 2010

George Foulser remembered.

Yesterday I was delighted to receive an email from George Foulser's niece. She has been researching her late uncle and had heard on the grapevine that I had some copies of George's disgraceful organ The East London Speed Freak and wondered if I could help. It will be a pleasure. George Foulser was an anarchist militant of the old school, hated almost as much by the National Union of Seamen as he was by the shipowners. Author of Seaman's Voice one of the most realistic books about the sea ever written, George was a big, tough warm hearted man. He was almost a throwback to a lost age and I was proud to have met him.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Great philosophical thoughts No 1 ........ You can't stop progress can you?

One of the truest "truisms" about society concerns the accelerating rate of change that people now experience. Think about it for a moment. We were hunter gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years and a mere ten thousand years ago started the transition to agriculture. Centuries of agricultural society gave way to the industrial mode of production a couple of hundred years back and the pace of change started to pick up speed. Even so I don't suppose that a time traveller from say the 1780's would have felt all that out of place in 1880 London. In my 68 years the capital has changed beyond recognition and I'm not talking about multiculturalism here. No, I'm thinking of the really important things, like pubs. Time was when you would be lucky to get a pickled egg and a packet of crisps in most pubs with some establishments admittedly having a separate dining room upstairs. Now it's almost impossible to have a quite pint without being surrounded by people having their dinner. The truth is that more and more pubs have become restaurants in all but name. Is this pace of change just too much for the human psyche? I fear that it may be.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Another tragic waste of life.

Afghanistan has witnessed a terrible waste of life and waste of human potential. The death of Dr Karen Woo is just another statistic in this long catalogue of misery but sometimes a single death can epitomise the sheer tragic pointlessness of it all. Karen Woo had been a dancer, model and stunt girl before turning to medicine at the late age of 22. She sounds like a good person, kind,clever, determined and fun to be around. What a waste. What a pointless fucking waste.

Friday, 6 August 2010

A walk on the mild side.

It never ceases to surprise me that the chattering classes will happily fork out shed loads of dosh for a walking holiday in Appalachia or The Dolomites but remain totally ignorant of the walking potential right on their doorstep. Regular readers of this blog will know (groan) that I am a great one for mooching about and indeed am one of that elite band of pedestrians who have walked the Capital Ring. Sometimes I set out on these expeditions alone but frequently I am accompanied by her indoors who likes to give directions and criticise the sandwiches. A couple of day back we girded our loins and set off on the Thames-Down Link, a 15 mile tramp from Kingston to the North Downs. A steady yomp through the suburban footpaths of Kingston, Old Malden and Chessington brought us out at Horton Country Park, Epsom Common, Ashstead and the gentle rise to the North Downs. We pretended to be legionaries as we marched along the Roman Road of Stanes Street before making the decent to the village of Mickleham and a well deserved pint in the Running Horse. And no, I didn't fall asleep on the bus home.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

No gods -No masters.

Things are beginning to warm up a bit for the pope's visit and while I can't see much likelihood of the citizens arrest coming off I hope that we can get enough people out on the street to send a clear message to the Catholic Church i.e. You want Ratzinger - you pay for him. Details at www,protest-the-pope.org.uk

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Pakistan faces huge catastrophe as Zardari consolidates a dynasty.

As the full enormity of the floods in Pakistan becomes apparent it's difficult to get your head round the terrible fact that this may be but the start of an disaster that truly could be of Biblical proportions. The monsoon rains will continue for some time yet and the country faces the possibility of dams bursting, flooding on an even greater scale and even the destruction of the national irrigation system. All this takes place against a background of rising food prices due in part to the heatwave in Northern Europe and Russia but also to hedge fund gambling on expected shortages. Grain rose in price by 50% in the last month alone. Meanwhile Pakistan's President Zardari is visiting us, partly to assist Cameron in brushing up his diplomatic skills but also to attend the launch of his son Bilawal's career in politics; an event that for reasons far beyond my ken is taking place in Birmingham.

Monday, 2 August 2010

A poaching we will go.

When hunt saboteurs and animal rightists talk about the class nature of field sports they have a point. Hunting with hounds, game shooting and fly fishing have all tended to be the preserve of the wealthy. One obvious reason for this is the cost involved but the ownership of land was and is a far more important factor in keeping the hunting of game very much an upper class pursuit. However the thrill of the hunt is universal and wherever the ruling elite have sought to restrict hunting for themselves, frequently on pain of death, there has existed that curse of the toffs and their lickspittle gamekeepers, the poacher. There is nothing very romantic about having to risk your life in order to put food on the table but the poacher has always been driven, not only by necessity, but also by a desire to cock a snook at authority and do what they shouldn't oughta. There has long existed a tradition of working class blokes mooching about the lanes and byways of the countryside with terriers and lurchers and generally getting up to no good. Long may that tradition continue. You can take it from me that the pheasant knocked of it's perch with a stick in a moonlit wood where you have no right to be tastes every bit as good as the one driven to the Purdeys by beaters.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Depression Cure.

If there is one branch of literature that I avoid more than Jeffery Archer's novels it's American self help manuals. The latest one to hit the bookstores and receive some media attention is The Depression Cure by Steve IIardi. There is a good overview of Ilardi's ideas here but in essence what he is saying is that depression is almost unheard of in hunter-gatherer societies and that as a step toward reducing the epidemic of depression in our own post-industrial world we should look toward introducing some of the elements of hunter-gatherer culture into our own lives. Tribal societies have always interested me and it was this emphasis on our hunter gatherer ancestors that caught my attention.
Much of what Ilardi is proposing makes sense. Plenty of fresh air, exercise and sunlight are good for us all and social interaction must surely be better for depression than isolation.I'm less sure about the fish oil supplements; didn't Ben Goldacre expose the paucity of real evidence for the benefits of fish oil not long ago?
What concerns me about self-help books is not so much that they urge us to take control of our own lives, I'm all in favour of that, but rather the implication that it is all down to us. The role of society never gets a look in. Many people are depressed, not because of a lack of exercise and Omega 3 but due to the feelings of utter helplessness regarding their situation. The hunter-gatherer world was a fascinating one but it might be as well to consider the truly appalling levels of alcoholism, depression and suicide found in the people who most recently lived in hunter-gatherer societies; Native Americans, Aborigines and Bushmen. For all my misgivings Ilardi may be on to something here. It's just that it seems to me that to talk of mental health in terms of simple quick fixes of any description and without reference to society as a whole, is to do a disservice to the millions who suffer debilitating mental illness.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Canine Obesity Shock.

The politics of obesity took an interesting turn with the news that 1 in 3 dogs are overweight and that the problem is worse north of the border.Is there a class factor to canine obesity? Preliminary findings by the Freedom Pass Anarchist Canine Obesity Unit would suggest that there are shed loads more fat labs than porky staffs but the research is in it's early stages.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Is obesity the politics that dare not speak it's name?

There was a time, not really that long ago actually, when obesity was a problem associated with wealth rather than poverty. Look at old photographs of the poor taken at any time prior to the 1940s; there don't appear to be all that many fat people around. It was the comfortably off who tended to run to fat. The poor ate at every opportunity in an attempt to ward off starvation if unemployed, and fuel the body for the long hours of arduous labour if in work. We all know that the situation has been reversed now and it is the low paid manual worker or the unemployed who are most likely to suffer from obesity while the diet and exercise conscious middle class are a beacon of svelte self improvement. How did all this come about? Some maintain that it is the irresponsible marketing of cheap but addictive and fattening junk food that is to blame. Others, like Jamie Oliver and his followers, imply, but never come right out and say, that it is the fault of the victims of obesity themselves; that the working class run to fat because they are too lazy and thick to cook proper food. For whatever reason the poor of the Third World still have the emaciated look that we expect of the near starving and the elites of those societies waddle around like the bloated plutocrats of old. Meanwhile in advanced capitalist societies the poor look increasingly like Regency dandies gone to seed but getting out of it on lager rather than port and madeira. The trim well groomed middle class in contrast, have that glow of self righteousness that I suppose has always been their hallmark. And the toffs? The actual upper class descendants of all those Regency wastrels. Where do they stand in the obesity ranking? There is a certain jowly flabbiness about the Bullingdon Boys that their ancestors would have approved of. Not for them the tight lipped and tight arsed puritanism of the middle class. They have the look about them of people who know the value of a couple of bottles of claret and a decent fry up in Simpson's In The Strand. They probably aren't eating all that many Transfatburgers with a side order of palm oil and sugar either.

Friday, 23 July 2010

No justice for Tomlinson family.

The decision by the CPS not to prosecute Pc Simon Harwood for the assault and subsequent death of Ian Tomlinson is a disgrace but a disgrace that was always on the cards. The policing that day was nervous and spiteful from the start. The police had been hyped up by their superiors and were looking for trouble and poor Ian Tomlinson who was simply trying to get home from work tragically reaped the result of their temper and frustration. From the moment I heard that the post mortem was conducted by the notorious Freddy Patel I was sure that we were about to see a massive cover up and sadly I have been proved right. The Tomlinson family will struggle on in an attempt to find some justice and details of their campaign can be found here.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Muralitharan retires on eight hundred test wickets.

Spin bowling sometimes appears to be operating on the interface of sport and alchemy. It certainly proves to be a mystery to many batsmen at times. No one epitomised this unfathomable craft better than Sri Lankan hero Muttiah Muralitharan. The legendary off spinner with the controversial action has taken his 800th test wicket on the final day of his test career. A fabulous bowler Muralitharan has also been a quietly spoken but determined supporter of both his Tamil people and peace in Sri Lanker.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Americanisation and the Special Relationship.

What is it with this country and the United States? The term "special relationship" was coined by Churchill at the close of World War 2 and I can't remember a single British administration that has not trotted it out at every opportunity. The relationship is special in more ways than one however, and is certainly an unusually complex and psychologically fraught one. I remember as a kid receiving two quite contradictory inputs about America and Americans. Adults were eager to tell me how in two world wars the Yanks had come in at the last minute and stolen all the glory. America was the epitome of flash, know all big headedness; but not a patch on us really. I remember a teacher at school explaining how much better British universities were compared to American ones. As there was no likelihood of any of us setting foot in any kind of university I'm not sure what we were meant to do with this pearl of information.
On the other hand, to us kids America was a wonderland of glittering success. Americans just seemed so much better at everything. Rocky Marciano made short work of our own hapless Don Cockell and even when Randy Turpin outpointed the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson we knew in our hearts that the middleweight title was only on loan and that the result of the return match was a forgone conclusion. The only sports that Americans didn't shine at were ones that they disdained to participate in. Or so it seemed to us. Hollywood was of course the home of celluloid glamour and British movies seemed grey and ordinary in comparison to the American ones. All of the music that was worth listening to, the cars (tail fins, chrome and whitewall tyres) all of the clothes, food, just everything worth having, from chewing gum to Superman, was American. Did the 60s and the Vietnam War change all this America ligging? Not really, just transferred it. Now it was our hippies and revolutionaries who seemed pale imitations of the Panthers, Yippies and Weathermen.
None of this is "true" or "fair". How could it be? That feeling of longing when I hear Delta Blues, of contempt when our foreign policy trots amiably along at the American heel, of mild irritation at having a Border Agency, Supreme Court and "Homeland Security". The feeling of sadness that so few of us know that other America of The Wobblies, Freedom Riders, Studs Terkel and City Lights Bookstore. Is all of that part of the special relationship.? I think that it probably is.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Dave's Big Idea

So little Cameron has discovered that Mummy was wrong all along. There is such a thing as society after all, and it's Very Big.
The reality is that there is a long tradition in this country of ordinary people volunteering to do extraordinary things in order to make daily life a marginally better experience for all of us. You can see this voluntarism everywhere from the RNLI to old folks lunch clubs to the army of unpaid sports coaches and youth workers. This willingness to help one another is the most optimistic facet of our nature and we do not need the dregs of the Bullingdon Club to explain this to us. Nor do we need to have Cameron asking us to let him know if the State ever stops us from doing what we want to do. If Cameron wants to explain something he can start by explaining how the hugely unequal distribution of the wealth of this country came about in the first place and how any of us can achieve our full potential as human beings while that inequality remains. You explain that Dave; and leave us to deal with the State.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Freedom Passes For All.

The Freedom Pass is a boon to the over 60's and for very many people the difference between isolation and being able to get out and about. Now comes news that the Coalition Of Brave New Politics is considering phasing in the increase in age of entitlement to 65 even sooner than already planned. What do I mean by already planned? Well, New Labour had already started to implement the rolling back of the age of entitlement from 60 to 65 before leaving office. The Tories are now talking of speeding this process up. The truth is we don't know what the government have in mind for the future of subsidised travel on public transport but they need to understand - mess with our Freedom Pass and we mess with you!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Badger cull may be the only option.

I don't know enough about the part that badgers play in the spread of bovine TB to have any strong opinions about the rights and wrongs of a badger cull but I do think that there is a real danger of decisions being influenced by an ill informed but vociferous towny wildlife lobby. Badgers are appealing and interesting creatures but if the population is infected with TB and tens of thousands of cattle are prematurely slaughtered every year and millions of pounds paid out in compensation something will have to be done: however distasteful.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Ramadan and Ratzinger.

August and September look like being a bit of a downer for us atheists. As if it wasn't bad enough to have Ratzinger over here moaning about his weird cult having to comply with employment law like any other employer we now hear that Stoke on Trent Council are telling schools to stop swimming lessons during Ramadan in case Muslim kids swallow water and break the fast. I sometimes wonder if this country ever actually experienced The Enlightenment after all.

Continental Allotments.

One of the very best things about train journeys is the opportunity to look into other peoples back gardens and generally see a part of the landscape usually hidden from view. My recent rail trip across France, Switzerland and into Italy was, apart from anything else, a chance to do a bit of peering over the back fence on an international scale and although the passage through the Alpine passes was impressive enough it was the glimpse of other peoples daily lives that was the main attraction for me. One thing that interested me was the allotments. Quite unlike our own utilitarian but slightly scruffy plots the continental version is much more of a leisure garden complete with small chalet. I think I am right in saying that we are the only country in Europe that prevents people from sleeping on their allotment.
The shelves of bookshops are groaning under the weight of lavishly illustrated tomes on how to grow your own veg but very little has been written about the history and politics of the allotment movement. There is one wonderful exception, David Crouch and Colin Ward's The Allotment. Its Landscape and Culture. Available from the usual place I think.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The spying game.

America's Russian spy scandal closes with an exchange of captured agents in Vienna of all places. Cue deep film noir shadow and Harry Lime Theme. Readers of this blog may not be aware of the fact that I am a recognised authority on international espionage. Well, to the extent that I have read every one of John le Carre's books I am. It's the level of sustained deceit required of a spy that intrigues me. In fiction le Carre captures this wonderfully in A Perfect Spy. Magnus Pym is the perfect spy due principally to his huge capacity for deceit. It is no coincidence that Magnus is the son of a master con artist. It is no coincidence either that le Carre based the character of Pym's father on his own conman father. In the real world Kim Philby must count as one of the coolest deceivers of all time. A senior member of MI6, typical establishment figure; and long term Soviet agent. The unpleasant drunken toff hiding the alter ego of unpleasant drunken Stalinist. How do they hold it all together? I would probably be alright at the tradecraft: the secret ink, deadletter drops or whatever and I quite fancy the clandestine meetings in dodgy boozers. But the deceit? I find it difficult to hide the smallest misdemeanours from her indoors. No, espionage is probably not my line of country after all.

Henley it ain't.

No sport has a more snobbish history than rowing and until the 1950's the toff Amateur Rowing Association kept itself a very long distance from the working class National Rowing Association. The two organisations held their own events and had their own champions etc. As you would expect the events run by the two bodies were very different. The toffs had Henley and the workers had - well from what I can make of it they had a right good time. A mate has just been telling me that he has an original programme from one such working class regatta circa 1922. The events included disabled rowing (remember this was not long after the First World War), boxing on a raft, and of all things, POLITICAL DEBATE ON A RAFT. All accompanied no doubt by gallons of ale. No wonder the toffs went to such lengths to keep the oiks out of the posh regattas.

Friday, 9 July 2010

It's not just about football.

Two seemingly completely unrelated news items caught my eye today. One was the news that the death by stoning sentence for adultery passed by Iranian courts on Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtianti has been "reduced" to one of hanging. No doubt idiot lefty apologists for the Islamic regime will be nodding sagely at this evidence of progressive elements in the Iranian power structure.
The other item, and it may seem trite of me to mention it in the same post as the above horror, concerns the FA's decision to not allow mixed football for kids over the age of eleven. What's the link? Well it seems to me that the fear of female sexuality and the desire to control women so clearly evidenced in the Iranian case is best challenged at an early age and what better way then for boys to grow up believing that girls are mates. Later on some of them may become lovers but they are mates first and foremost. I imagine that such an attitude would be anathema to the Islamomentals of Tehran.
When I was young I was convinced that I would live to see the eradication of class society. I may be a little less certain about that now but surely it's not too much to hope that men and women being able to live alongside each other as friends, lovers and comrades is a state of affairs clearly within our grasp.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Pope may drop in for tea.

No Pope! Ratzinger Out! Nazi scum off our......... Just a minute. Bloody hell! The pope is only planing to visit a catholic college 250 yards from my house. They must be planing to chopper him in. I may need a bit of help with this one.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Clegg vows to follow the people's choice.

Cameron's best boy Nicky Clegg's initiative to get us all to let him know what bits of legislation we would like to see struck from the law books was doomed from the start. The overwhelming majority of people will treat this bollocks with the contempt that it deserves and ignore it. A few will fall for it and send off their suggestions no doubt much to the amusement of the Civil Service drones who are detailed to deal with this stuff. We are unable to confirm as yet the rumour that Clegg has promised to repeal the Second Law Of Thermodynamics but we live in hopes.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Nothing to do with me guv.

The massive sums that top footballers earn always leads to the temptation to pour a large portion of it down their neck or shove it up their nose. I have always been a bit more interested in booze and drugs rather than football myself so I'm not entirely unsympathetic. Now comes news that Colombian cops have seized a replica World Cup Trophy sculpted from a solid block of cocaine. Some kind of consolation prize for an as yet unnamed national side I suppose.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Step right up and see the disappearing Arts Council Grant.

I was wandering past Tate Modern the other day and thought that I might as well take a gander at whatever was on offer in the turbine hall. Peering over the balcony I saw that the hall was completely empty save for one girl sitting cross legged in the middle of the floor. I shouted down to inquire if she was the installation but she assured me that she was just having her photo taken by a mate. Well it's not always easy to tell. It was Tate Modern who took the old saying of not knowing a work of art from a hole in the fucking road to it's logical conclusion by presenting a crack in the floor as a modern masterpiece. And why not? The gallery has been in trouble recently for it's association with BP. Perhaps the oil lapping against the Louisiana coastline is in fact a huge art installation.
Readers of this blog will know that I have always been fascinated by the short cons of the fairground, the three card trick, that kind of thing. Sometimes it seems to me that the art scene is the true modern incarnation of that old shadowy world of wrestling and sideshow shenanigans; only not as honest. The snake oil drummers of the past are best represented today I suppose by what we like to call "complimentary medicine". The biggest con of all? Well I think you know what that is.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Forward England!

The country is up to the gunwales with unwanted England flags, mugs, Mars Bars,T shirts and toilet roll holders. Never mind. Lets look to the future. Morrisons are the "official supermarket" for the England 2018 and 2022 World cup bids. That should be worth a bob or two to them. England United - The World Invited.

Monday, 28 June 2010

IDS. Cometh the hour .....

Anyone who has spent time arguing in the workplace about this and that will be painfully aware of what I call the "why should they?" syndrome. As in, why should they? - get away with it, be allowed to live on benefits, get housing, come over here, the list is endless. This unfortunate piece in the jigsaw of human nature is one that governments frequently like to take advantage of; especially during an economic downturn. It's the oldest trick in the book and sadly one that the Mail reading middle class and the more anal retentive elements of the working class never fail to fall for. So it is not really that surprising that the same tired old scam is being dusted off and presented once again as a brave new social policy. This time arch god botherer and all round cretin Ian Duncan Smith is the purveyor of this nonsense. The new plan is for the relocation of thousands of people from parts of the country with high unemployment but plentiful housing to the South East, where there are more jobs but a real housing need. At the same time there will be a big crack down on immigration from outside the EU: even extending to skilled professionals. And finally incapacity benefit is going to be much harder to get with thousands of claimants being given a new medical evaluation. This last will presumably be carried out by the sons and daughters of unemployed/sick ex-miners who will be given a crash course in medicine as part of their relocation package. Or will doctors from outside the EU have to be recruited for this task after all?
IDS-You couldn't make him up.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

England. It really is all over.

Well that's that and we can now concentrate on our real national sports of hand wringing and blame apportioning. I watched the game, more to keep her indoors company than anything else. Yes, that's right. I must be the only bloke in the country who's missus has to explain the offside rule to him. The truth is that I never really got football. Like much else, I blame the parents. My dad had no interest in football but was a very knowledgeable boxing fan. The result was that by the time I was twelve I could speak with authority on the Dempsey - Tunney long count but unlike my mates had not a clue about Leyton Orient. Does this go anyway to explain my feelings of alienation from society? If so I fear that like England's performance this afternoon, it's too late to do anything about it.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Hats off to the WAG. No not the WAGS.

It's not that difficult to start a local anarchist group, or any other sort of group for that matter. The trick is in keeping going beyond the first couple of meetings and the fading of the initial euphoria. It is so easy for everything to just fizzle out and end up as just a few mates having a pint together. One honourable exception to this has been the Whitechapel Anarchist Group. Since forming a couple of years back WAG seems to have gone from strength to strength producing a really fine free newspaper and looking very much as though they are here to stay, Alright they had the advantage of being based in a lively part of town that is steeped in anarchist tradition and the group had amongst it's founding members some very experienced and talented comrades but still and all, you have to take your hat off to 'em. WAG - more power to their elbow.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A statement of the bleeding obvious.

There is no doubt about it, and I don't care how much spin the ConDems put on it or how many times we are told that "we are all in this together", the effects of the budget will impact far more on the day to day lives of the less well off and leave the rich, well, still rich. This is of course stating the bleeding obvious. The question is what are we going to do about it? Moan on the internet? Shuffle along to Trafalgar Square for the umpteenth time to listen to the same stock speeches? Or will we give the establishment something to think about for a change? Come on for fucks sake. Lets give it a go.

The Unofficial Countryside

By the early 70s and fresh out of the Oxford Anarchist Group, Richard Mabey had decided to try and make a living as a natural history writer. In '72 Food For Free was published and I don't think that it has ever been out of print since. The following year saw the publication of Mabey's second book The Unofficial Countryside, a wonderful narrative of wildlife in the margins. No picture postcard rural idylls here but the authors recollections of mooching about abandoned gravel working, bomb sites, semi-derelict canals and the hidden world under the motorway flyover. Like a lot of other books, my copy did not survive the transient lifestyle I was living at the time and I never found another copy to replace it. I had more or less given up hope of reading it again when Little Toller Books republished it last month. It's just as good as I remember it and with an introduction by that other wanderer around the margins of life, Iain Sinclair, is well worth the tenner cover price.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Women boxers set for 2012

I'm pretty used to making a bit of a prat of myself but I surpassed myself the other day. I was doing some work on the allotment site and one of the people involved was a tough looking Aussie girl. I heard rugby mentioned at one stage but didn't take a lot of notice. Later on I asked her if she was a rugby coach only to be told that she was director of English Women's Rugby and was preparing our squad for the World Cup to be held here in a couple of months time. Ooops! She took it in good part but such is the attitude toward so much of women's sport that she probably has to deal with blokes like me every day. Things are improving though and nowhere more so than in the world of women's boxing. We have some really sharp skillful and dedicated fighters in this country and with the likes of Nicola Adams, Natasha Jonas, Lucy O' Connor and Nina Smith we could end up with a very powerful team for 2012. When it comes to dedication and hard work most women athletes could show our male footballers a thing or two.
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