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

Friday, 30 April 2010

Mayday Mayday Mayday

It's going to be a rather busy Mayday I think. First on the agenda I am running a workshop ( remember when that word was only used with reference to light engineering? ) for Hounslow Community Farm. Next up is get into town for the Meltdown insanity and I suppose that I really should try and get over to Hackney and lend moral support to my son's Green Party campaign. All go innit?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Looks like we're in for stormy weather.

If we don't end up with a hung parliament after the election it wont be for the want of trying. The three main party leaders and the media seem unable to talk about anything else. A crushing defeat for New Labour would mean some very serious heart searching not only in Victoria Street but in Labour Party branches throughout the country. All kinds of unreconstructed old Stalinists, closet Trots and the like will emerge from the woodwork and all in the context of a tough on public spending Con-Lib alliance in Westminster. It don't need a weatherman .....

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Sunday Times Rich List.

It's just as well that all three main political parties are completely relaxed about people getting filthy rich or the publication of the Sunday Times Rich List so close to a General Election might have proved a tad embarrassing. It appears that in spite of all the economic hard times and the pressing need for us all to tighten our belts, that the top 1,000 fat cats are a cool £77.265 billion better off than this time last year. Who will be the first election hopeful to remind us about all that wealth that the mega rich somehow "create"?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Sweet Gene Vincent, there's one in every town. Even Bexhill.

Last week saw us take the train down to Bexhill to have a look at that gem of modernist architecture, the De La Warr Pavilion. The pavilion itself is a real classic and well worth a visit but what a strange town Bexhill is. Until the 1880s Bexhill was a small village on a hill a mile from the coast. The main industry seems to have been smuggling and Bexhill's only claim to fame was as the site of a pitched battle in 1828 between excise men and "the boys". When the local landowner, Lord De La Warr no less, hit upon the idea of creating the up market resort of Bexhill on Sea the area was transformed. The Victorian upper middle class flocked to the luxury hotels. They walked along the genteel promenade, breathed great lungfulls of bracing sea air and even participated in the new and pretty raffish pursuit of mixed bathing. The first ever motor car race was held here in 1902 but by the time that the De La Warr Pavilion was built in the 30s the writing must have been on the wall for the pretentious little resort.
To visit Bexhill today is to witness a gentility that has faded to the point of disappearing altogether and been replaced by nothing at all. We counted just two pubs and both looked so dreary that we just could not face them. There is an air of deprivation about the place with seemingly every other shop a charity shop. I used to love those dodgy "exchange" shops that could be found in most towns and around London's major stations. I hadn't seen one for years but there was one in Bexhill complete with the usual window full of knives, airguns and electric guitars. That and the tattoo and piercing facility opposite was a clue to there being at least some youth in town. One can but weep for them. What must it be like to be the only Goth in Bexhill?

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Brown takes ash action. Saves bacon.

A national shortage of South American flowers and African bobby beans. The PM launches a Dunkirk type rescue mission for stranded Brit holidaymakers. BA's Willy Wonker says it's all a big fuss about nothing and that a bit of volcanic ash never harmed anyone. Possible UNITE conspiracy. Icelandic eruption pushes election off the front page. Only Klegg can really make a difference. Airlines force government to climb down and re-open Brit airspace. Whoever you vote for big business rules. African grown luxury vegetables dumped while millions go hungry. Gordon opens skies. All is well.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Taking a stroll into town.

I suppose that London has always been a destination . Always been a place to arrive at having journeyed from near or far in order to find work, escape persecution, seek excitement or make a fortune on those famous gold paved streets. Empires, the British, the Roman, the Russian, they have all resulted in legions of incomers from exotic and barely understood corners of the world. The spread of the suburbs and the coming of the railways brought about a whole new order of human being-the commuter. This much maligned object of pity, derision and contempt was to turn travelling without hope into a way of life. For many newcomers arriving in the capital today the journey will be, for all the misery that it may entail, the adventure of a lifetime. Go back a hundred and fifty or so years and even setting off for the city from the surrounding Home Counties was not the simple undertaking that it is today. For members of the upper and middle classes traveling from what are now the London suburbs into the City or West End would entail a journey by coach or on horseback; or perhaps a Thames waterman would scull the party on the tide. For the labouring classes who made up the bulk of the population such luxuries would be out of the question and the only option would be to walk. I got to thinking about this a couple of years ago and imagined someone walking to London from Teddington where I now live. Perhaps the individual had the opportunity of employment in town or was just taking pot luck and throwing off the restraints of life in a riverside village to seek a new life in the capital. Perhaps my imaginary pedestrian was a young girl going into service in one of the big houses, or they might have been a boy setting off to start an apprenticeship with a master craftsman.
I decided to trace the route my traveller might have taken and walk it myself. Looking at the map I was delighted to see that I could walk to central London in more or less a straight line. Crossing the Thames at Teddington meant a stroll over the footbridge but a hundred and fifty years ago we would have had to take the ferry to the other bank. The land now occupied by the housing estates of Ham would have been market gardens in those days but the grand houses of the gentry would have bordered the sides of Ham Green just as they do today. On the eastern edge of the green stands Ormley Lodge, now family home of the notoriously non-dom Goldsmith Clan. From here you can walk straight across Richmond Park to exit at Roehampton Gate. Our 1860 traveler would have been able to do the same because although Charles I had enclosed the park for his own use such was the outcry that the right of way and the right to gather firewood had been retained. From Roehampton Gate we start the walk downhill to Putney. Housing now covers what would have been open heathland in the mid nineteenth century. After crossing Putney Bridge to the north bank of the river, it's a straight walk up the New Kings Road and the Kings Road, past the grounds of Buckingham Palace and along Birdcage Walk into the heart of Westminster.
For me It was just a matter of making my way to Waterloo and catching the train home. We can only wonder about what happened to my imagined new arrival in the capital. Much as I do for today's incomers, I can but wish them well.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Orwell Prize Shortlist.

Well, it was fun while it lasted and everyone likes to have their ego massaged a little but my adventures in The Orwell Prize have come to an end. Good luck to the six bloggers who made it to the shortlist. I especially like Penny Red, although I don't imagine that the feeling is mutual. I had hoped that with an "Orwell" and possibly the prize for best allotment that I might be able to finally pull the birds. Best laid plans etc. Not a word to her indoors about that last bit mind.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The grand old cause is as relevant as ever.

The Tories say that they want to empower individuals and communities and reduce both taxes and the power of the state. Labour claim, however risible that claim, to still be the party that best represents the interests of the working class and to have at least some vestige of being a socialist party ; to essentially support a collectivist philosophy. Against these two well known and supposedly opposing positions it is never easy to make a case for anarchism; for libertarian communism. It has never been easy since the time of the First International but to make the case remains as important as ever. The choice is not between an autocratic state socialism on the one hand and market capitalism on the other. Nor do we have to accept some kind of liberal half-way house "nice" version of capitalism. We, as individuals and as societies, have the potential to create something that transcends all of the tired old ways of seeing the world. Masters without slaves. An economy based on the gift rather than profit. A collectivist, non-hierarchical society where the freedom of the individual is ensured.That is my politics. From time to time throughout history the old idea reappears, dusts itself down and enters the fray once more. Defeated again by the power of the ruling elite and our own hesitant inability to seize the time, the idea itself never dies; and it never will.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

David Cameron, Robin Hood and synchronicity.

The number of people bored by the election compares only to the number who are bored of hearing others moan about being bored by it. Now Lord Snooty tell us that he wants people to "come together". Well Dave, I think that's a great thing to aspire to but you shouldn't feel disappointed if it doesn't happen every time.
Meanwhile the election was put into sharp perspective for me at least, in a rather unusual way today. Hidden in the Radio 4 schedule this afternoon was Great Lives in which prisoner's rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith debated Robin Hood with medievalist Stephen Knight and the odious Mathew Paris. Wonderful stuff that is repeated on Friday night and will be on IPlayer soon.

Monday, 12 April 2010

In praise of independent bookshops.

As more people get their reading material either from Amazon or Waterstones, so the once thriving independent bookshops increasingly feel the pinch, and I think that's a shame. I recently wanted to get hold of a copy of Patrick Whitefield's The Living Landscape so called into my local small bookshop, placed an order and picked the book up 48 hours later. That's quicker than Amazon, only a couple of quid more and I got to deal with a real person who loves books rather than a computer screen.
When it comes to radical bookshops we Londoners are lucky to still have those perennial favourites Housemans and Freedom but they will only survive if we make the effort to use them. Talking of Freedom, I see that there is definitely going to be an Election Special edition of the paper. Why not pick up a bundle and try shifting them on polling day? It's what I intend doing.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Election Special Benefit Fraud Alert.

Theresa May (ain't she cute?) wants to introduce a Three Strikes And Your Out system for benefit cheats. Get busted for benefit fraud three times and the Tories are going to come down like a ton of. Quite right too I reckon.
Cost of Benefit fraud last year - £1.5 billion.
Unclaimed benefit last year - £5.4 billion.
Number of people convicted twice for benefit fraud - 69
Number of people convicted three times for benefit fraud in entire history of universe -0

Has anyone seen Spode's manifesto?

The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting, "Heil, Spode!" and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. what the Voice of the People is saying is, "Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in all your puff see such a perfect perisher?"
The Code of the Woosters. PG Wodehouse

Listening to Farming Today this morning I learn that irresponsible elements are planting imported garden type daffodils in the countryside and that these foreign plants are a threat to our native wild British daff. This is exactly the kind of critical conservation issue that usually exercises the minds of whoever writes the environment pages on the BNP website. You know the kind of thing-you start off with foreign daffs and grey squirrels and before you can say "Lebensraum" you're living in a street full of Azerbaijanis. But no mention of it on Spode's august online organ and I don't seem to be able to find the election manifesto as yet either. Is there a problem?
My son is fond of pointing out that it's easy for me to refuse to take seriously the likes of the BNP but it's not my letter box that has dog shit shoved in it. He has a point of course but ..............

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

To each a manifesto.

Isn't it time that we all had an election manifesto of our own? Not only a manifesto but a campaign strategy as well. Why leave it to the career politicians and hobbyist politicos? Just spend five minutes jotting down on the back of an envelope what it is that you want to see happening in the world. Is there anything that you can do that might bring your desires closer to reality? I used to think that "whoever you vote for the government get in" was a fine slogan. I'm not so sure now- it's just a kick in the teeth really. Like saying it never rains but it pours. It might be true but it is hardly helpful. There's nothing wrong with voting but it ought to be the least important political act. I suggest that as part of your manifesto that you see the election for what it is - an interesting bout on the undercard, but not the main event.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Good outing for Haye.

A convincing win for David Haye last night against the durable and experienced John Ruiz. I was interested to see that Ruiz opted to have the 78 year old Miguel Diaz working in his corner. Boxing must be one of the very few remaining professions where the wisdom of age is still considered something of value. Boxing trainers and cornermen working, and being at the top of their game well into their 70s is not that unusual. Think of Eddie Futch and Angelo Dundee for example.
Here is an Easter presi for the handful of boxing fans who read this blog - enjoy.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

An Easter Message.

It must take a special kind of imagination to be able to equate the holocaust with the current media criticism of the Roman Catholic Church for it's child abuse cover up. Probably the same kind of imagination that can give credence to immaculate conceptions, transubstantiation and all the rest of the Dark Age nonsense. But not all of the blame can be dumped on the Vatican's grubby doorstep. The real responsibility lies with the Pope's millions of followers. Without the authority handed to them by parents, and in some cases the state, Catholic priests would be no more than a quaint footnote to society, a bit like Divine Light, Druids or UKIP. These unpleasant, supposedly celibate people would be able to do little harm if they were simply ignored. Parents who bring up their children to respect and obey priests must bear some of the responsibility for all of this. In the case of Ireland the whole education and social welfare system was placed in the hands of the church, giving priests complete control of generations of defenceless children. This was a direct result of the vein of catholic fascism that lies deep in Irish Republicanism.
It is right that individual priests be exposed for child abuse, both physical and sexual, and that the Vatican cover up be seen for what it is but as Stalin famously asked, "How many divisions does the Pope have?" - the authority of this unpleasant cult rests with it's followers. Happy Easter.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Smellie acquittal.

Enough has been written about the unfortunately named Sergeant Smellie, his asp wielding, backhanding panic attack a year ago and his acquittal yesterday without me adding to it. I was there last year but did not see the incident, but I do know that from the morning of the previous day the cops had been hyped up by their superiors to a quite dangerous level. The end result was that a totally innocent man lost his life. I will just add that there's a very fair and balanced piece over on the Fitwatch site and you might find some of the police blogs worth a look.