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

Monday, 29 March 2010

Boris and the Olympic Space Cadets.

One of the real advantages of intergalactic travel is that it has allowed visitors from other planets to take an active part in London's political processes. Take for example our esteemed mayor Bullingdon Boris. According to Mayor Johnson the 2012 Olympics is going to be, "just like Woodstock". I think I see where you're coming from here Boris. Country Joe, toilets not working, Jimi Hendrix posthumous set, getting ripped off for a bag of dried nettles and all happening in a sea of mud - can't wait

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Raised beds may not be the answer. Sorry, what was the question?

The last couple of days have seen a dramatic increase in the readership of this blog. It is a state of affairs that obviously will not last and no doubt this time next week I will be addressing the usual (but much loved) audience of two old blokes and a Jack Russell. However, having got the attention of all you new but transient readers, I thought that it might be a good opportunity to bring to your notice a strange phenomena that is sweeping the land. I refer of course to the rash of so called "raised beds" that seems to be spreading across the nations allotment sites. There is a sensible look at raised bed growing here but in the meantime you can take it from the Freedom Pass Anarchist Agricultural Section that this now incredibly trendy system of growing might not be all that it's cracked up to be. The system has advantages if your plot has very heavy clay soil and of course raised beds are a boon to the disabled but what most new plotholders need is not half a lorry load of timber dumped on the plot but a good spade and a bottle of embrocation.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Hoon gets it wrong. Caught with fingers in tuck shop till.

So Geoff Hoon "got it wrong" the implication being that his blatant attempts to use public office in order to feather his own nest is just "a mistake" and on a par with the rest of us getting a crossword answer wrong or making a massive bollocks of decorating the spare room. To get wrong. To do wrong. Are they the same thing? Discuss.
There will always be corruption as long as we have the kind of political and social structure that makes it possible. I'm a bit long in the tooth to have many illusions about politicians but surely there used to be some idea of public service. Most sickening of all are those Hoon apologists who suggest that it is only natural for him to be considering his post-political career. It's all part of the middle class obsession with career, aspiration, to have - rather than to do. Family success rather than social well being. Given this kind of outlook it is indeed "natural" to be sending young men to their deaths in Afghanistan in the morning and using your position to line your own pockets in the afternoon. According to this view of the world, Hoon and his ilk only get it wrong by getting found out.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Papal visit? No thanks.

I am fond of saying that it's a matter of regret to me that people are still prepared to live their lives according to the tenets of any medieval superstition and that I don't intend to choose one of these cults as being better (or worse) than another. But can I maintain this stance of religious relativism ? Are the Quakers really as bad as Scientology and isn't this the same kind of thinking that leads us to insist that all cultures are of equal value and to turn our backs on the victims of domestic violence and oppression as a result? If forced to choose I would have to name Wahhabi Islam and Roman Catholicism as two of the more unpleasant aberrations of the human mind. I don't want to restrict the movements of anyone. If the top ju ju men from any religion want to come here and preach to their flock they can fill their fucking boots as far as I'm concerned - I just don't want to pay for the privilege. When the Pope graces us with his presence we the taxpayers will be funding his visit; to the tune of 12 million quid according to some estimates. The security alone is going cost a fortune. Well I for one think that we should get our moneys worth and give the old Nazi a right warm reception.

You could knock me down with a feather. Lone anarchist voice on Orwell longlist.

I read a few political blogs. Perhaps not as many as some of you do but enough to know that there is a lot of well researched and skillfully crafted writing in blogospace. So with this in mind I'm sure you will be as gobsmacked as I was at the news that Bad Old Days is on the Orwell Prize longlist. Some of the other bloggers are proper journalists and stuff. Her indoors is well impressed.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Harry Carpenter RIP

Mainly remembered I suppose for his double act with Frank Bruno, Harry Carpenter who died on Saturday was an outstanding boxing commentator. Knowledgeable and with a genuine interest in the game, he represents to me the golden age of post war British boxing. I grew up listening to Harry Carpenter who covered the first two World Title fights involving British fighters that I remember - Rocky Marciano versus Don Cockell and Randy Turpin's defeat of the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson. They don't make 'em like you anymore 'Arry.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Greggs bid for the yuppie pound.

Just as the recession will impact differently on different sections of society, a reduction in public services but an expanding market for mega yachts for example, so it will also impact differently on different retail outlets. As the less well off scratch around to save a few bob so we see a plague of rip off pound shops spreading across the land. But according to some pundits it's not quite as straightforward as you might think. One retail company that seems to be doing very nicely is the bakers chain Greggs who are in the process of opening hundreds of new shops. The company's top dogs are claiming that this is partly due to the economic downturn forcing yuppies to forgo their usual lunchtime parma ham on ciabatta and a skinny latte and opting instead for a Greggs sausage roll and a cup of brown windsor soup. Does this mean that the bakers will now become infested with suits fiddling with their Blackberrys, and is there such a thing as brown windsor soup anyway? I shop in Greggs myself from time to time - only in an ironic way obviously.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Left surprisingly quiet about BA strike.

In almost any industrial dispute that involved a management strategy of engineering a strike in order to break the back of an organised workforce as a prerequisite for sweeping changes in the industry; in that kind of scenario you would expect the left to be jumping up and down like enraged chimps. So how come relatively little time is being devoted to the struggle going on between BA cabin crew and the hard nosed management of Willie Walsh? For the Green Left of course the problem is one of taking sides in an industry that they fundamentally disapprove of in the first place. For others of a more "old left" frame of mind the workforce themselves may be part of the problem - cabin crew are not everyone's idea of horny handed sons of toil. The fact is that Walsh sees the only viable future for BA as being a low cost airline staffed by a low cost and necessarily non-unionised workforce. Management are gambling on being able to goad the staff into striking and with the aid of especially recruited scab labour break the will of the strikers. Cabin crew will then be able to apply to join the (much reduced) workforce in the new cheap and cheerful, New York for a tenner BA. The whole thing stinks and I reckon that trolley dollies are as worthy of support and solidarity as any other worker. I wish them well.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Tired but happy.

I could be wrong but it looks as if spring has finally arrived. About bloody time to. Yesterday was spent having a good old tramp up to the highest point in Southern England - Leith Hill, and today it was down the allotment to get the first early spuds in. The result is one tired but happy blogger.

Monday, 15 March 2010

It's what they do.

No one is very outraged or even particularly surprised at the Observer revelations about Special Branch infiltration of Trotskyist groups. It's what they do. Or at least it's what they try to do. There's an interesting response from the Socialist Party over at A Very Public Sociologist. Personally I would have thought sitting through all those meetings only marginally more interesting than directing traffic. Like so much security and police work it sounds like yet another feeble attempt to justify budgets. That also is what they do.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Stranger than fiction. Part II.

Well I suppose it's not bad. Holding out until my sixty eighth year before reading a PG Wodehouse story that is. There has never been anything about Wodehouse or his upper class characters that appealed to me in the slightest. Then for some reason I picked up a Blandings Castle tale a couple of weeks ago and here I am on the final pages of my second Blandings book and looking forward to The Code Of The Woosters and all that stuff about Spode and the Black Shorts. There goes the last of my already dwindling stock of political credibility I suppose.
In fact I have a tenuous connection to Wodehouse that is almost as bizarre as one of his plots. PG Wodehouse was a distant relative of John Wodehouse the 4th Earl of Kimberly a man who was recognized by fellow toffs as possibly one of the biggest shits in history and holder of the record for being the most married member of the British aristocracy. Among the Earl's six wives was one Carmel Maguire, daughter of the former welterweight champion of Australia and a woman who had set her sights on climbing the social hierarchy. Having born him a son (who was later to inherit the title) Wodehouse dumped Carmel and moved on.
Later she would re-marry to someone else not short of a bob or two, the wealthy Norfolk landowner Jerremy Lowndes. Enter the young anarchist, hippy yacht skipper as was, now matured as your Freedom Pass blogger. I ended up skippering the Lowndes' yacht for a few months and I have to say that they were two of the most objectionable people that I have ever come across. I was very glad to see the back of them and their job. It must have been twenty years later that I read in the papers that Lowndes had battered his wife to death with a candlestick in a drunken rage and was to stand trial for murder before a Spanish court. I think that Spain was still garroting murderers at the time and for a while I was reconsidering my view on capital punishment.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Social workers brace themselves for another round of media vilification.

Recent revelations about the shocking case of a father who repeatedly raped his daughters over a twenty five year period and the apparent complete failure of social and health care professionals to intervene, is resulting in another media led witch hunt of social workers. Some of this criticism will be justified, some less so. In a perfect world of course, communities would play a far bigger role in preventing child abuse but that is not the reality of today's world, and I'm not sure how much it ever was. Putting aside for a moment any visions of a future society that we might harbour, it has to be admitted that it is essential that we have some form of professional social care structure. Social workers are frequently portrayed as either elitist interfering, middle class, lefty do-gooders or as inefficient, uncaring careerists. There is probably an element of truth in both criticisms but I have to say that most of the social workers that I have come into contact with have been, regardless of any other failings, genuinely compassionate individuals doing there best in overstretched and underfunded departments. If you are a five feet two female case worker it must be pretty daunting doorstepping an intimidating six foot man with a known track record of violence. Why are there so few male social workers? Why don't some of those smart arse rugger buggers have a go? They might find it change from trying to be something in the city and moaning about clueless social services departments.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Interesting stuff about three blokes that hardly anyone under thirty has heard of.

Principia Dialectica is usually a bit too intellectually rarefied for my own simple taste but recently a couple of posts have caught my eye. One concerns the relationship between George Orwell and Michael Foot when Foot was editor of Tribune and the other item is possibly the best obituary of Colin Ward that I have come across so far.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Stranger than fiction.

I'm grateful to Henry for pointing me in the direction of the Lobster revelations about possible American funding of the Gang of Four and SDP. I don't know how plausible this is and I tend to be a bit cynical about many conspiracy theories but then again look at the surprising things revealed about the past every time a new batch of archived government records are made available. Today it was Hitler Youth cycling (spycling) holidays in UK, exchange visits with Walmington On Sea Scouts and Baden Powell being courted by Hitler. And there was I thinking it was all reef knots and picking stones out of horses hooves.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Message In A Bottle.

It seems somewhat ridiculous to talk of revolution ....... but all the alternatives are even more ridiculous, since they imply accepting the existing order in one way or another. S I 1960.
Recuperation, as I have said before, is not just some pseudo-intellectual concept dreamt up by the situationists in order to frighten the horses. In a world where so much of what we thought was "progressive' or "radical" has been gift wrapped and sold back to us. In a world that has reduced militants to mere bit players in the spectacle of rebellion. In that kind of world where the dream of the non-hierarchical organisation of production has come back as that nightmare product of the business school; the team leader infested "horizontal organisation". In that kind of world it's clear that little short of total rebellion can succeed. I have never been in favour of gratuitous violence. A single act of kindness is likely to impress me more. But in a world like this the molotov cocktail through the bank window is the ultimate message in a bottle. And the message? "Recuperate THAT".

Friday, 5 March 2010

Confessions of an Essex Boy.

As is well known, the roots of the blues lie not in the levees of the Mississippi Delta but in the windswept seawalls of the Thames Estuary. At least that's the version of history favoured in South Essex. It's certainly true that back in the 70s bands like Dr Feelgood and The Kursaal Flyers for example, saved us all from a fate worse than Wings. I don't think that there is a county in the country quite like Essex. It is the home of bellwether constituencies, poisoned industrial wastelands, eerie tidal marshes, New Towns, Constable Country, shopping centres the size of small republics, Essex Man, Essex Girls, Tiptree Jam and Southend Pier.
My own involvement with the county started when at the age of five we moved from London to live in a wooden bungalow on the Canvey Island plotlands. Canvey at that time only had a couple of made up roads with the majority of wooden dwellings being located on dirt tracks that turned to quagmires in winter. We had no mains drainage, the chemical toilet being emptied into a pit in the garden. Lying below high water mark the island, joined to the mainland by the bridge at Benfleet, was protected by a seawall built by the Dutch a couple of hundred years previously. I think that even at that young age I knew that Canvey was different; was unlike other places. The dreadful floods of 1953 forced us to retreat to higher ground. We decamped and headed to the sunlit uplands of Leyton. Although much like any other part of that swathe of Victorian development that lies beyond the Old Eastend, and considered to be "London" in every respect, Leyton was at the time officialy part of Essex. On my sixteenth birthday we moved back to Essex proper and the small port of Brightlingsea. Essex has in the past been socially and economically divided between the industrial south and the more rural north of the county. North Essex, and Brightlingsea was very much North Essex, was very different to the south. People spoke with a totally different accent for one thing. North Essex was South East Anglia, rural in speech pattern and outlook. South Essex, populated to a large extent by refugees from The Blitz and Eastend overcrowding, was a different world. People in the southern part spoke with a London accent that would later be categorised by the pointy heads as Estuarine English.
When I left home at the age of seventeen it might well have been the end of my involvement with Essex but for some years afterward I would work on coastal trading vessels that frequently visited the Essex ports. I very often found it frustrating to fetch up for the evening in somewhere like Purfleet with no social option but a few pints in the Working Men's Club up the road while knowing full well that a few miles to the west Swinging London was swinging along quite well without any input from me.
I spend quite a bit of time pondering the question of identity and what it means in a multicultural nation. While I don't feel particularly British or even all that English, I do very much identify with being a Londoner. Truth is of course that a lot of my formative years were spent in that slightly odd, little bit dodgy nether world of Essex.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

A link to the past - and a lesson for the future.

The death of Michael Foot has severed perhaps the last link between New Labour and the old time Labour Party that was a joint project of trade unions, co-ops and the Fabian Society. Acres of newsprint not to mention the blogosphere will be devoted to dissecting Foot's political career. Darling of the left, that coat, consummate parliamentarian, wonderful orator, last of the pre-celebrity politicians, old fashioned West Country liberal gentleman. Some of it is even true. For me however the real lesson from Michael Foot's life is that even the most principled of people can come a serious personal and political cropper if they allow loyalty to the party to become more important than loyalty to those principles. It's a very old dilemma and just as pertinent today as ever.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Back by popular demand.

Not only popular, but as you can see from the comments on the right, international demand as well. I'm not sure about the Japanese contribution. Why is SEX written in English? Is that an offer of sex if only I will resume blogging? I suspect not. Anyway my technical difficulties seem to be resolved at last and I'm back on the case.
Now, about this Non-Dom malarkey. As I understand it Lord Ashcroft doesn't pay tax anywhere but makes huge contributions to political parties in the certain knowledge that when they come to power politicians will smile benignly on His Lordships business enterprises. In Belize the People's United Party went as far as rewarding Ashcroft's funding of that party by introducing legislation that was advantageous to him. Lets be clear about this. All this talk of money is to some extent a smokescreen. This is not you or me doing a bit of graft "off cards". This is not your normal businessman being advised how to keep his tax to a minimum. This is not even that Bertie Wooster of the environmental movement Zac Goldsmith keeping the family silver offshore. No, this is about one man reinvesting the millions saved in unpaid tax. Reinvesting it in political parties that will in turn pay interest in the form of political power that is undemocratic, undisclosed and difficult to trace. This is the kind of corruption that makes bunging the odd duck house on expenses look like running off your birthday party invites on the office photocopier.