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

Saturday, 29 May 2010

David Laws top contender for Jeremy Thorpe Award.

Oh dear, Oh dear. Just when I thought that we were on the threshold of a whole new politics founded on the principles of honesty and transparency. Just when we have this New Jerusalem clearly in sight Lib Dem top banana David Laws turns out not only to have been doing a bit of very old politics expenses fiddling but to be a very old fashioned closet shirtlifter as well. Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Bangladesh 172 for 2 at close on day two.

Day 2 of the First Test against Bangladesh and if the tourists are not the best team in the world they showed today that they have not come here to roll over for England. This is shaping up to be not only a better match than many people anticipated but good fun and entertaining cricket. I don't know how much play we will get tomorrow as the weather forecast is pretty grim.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

New Politics Nick? You don't know the meaning.

A new politics. Just like the old politics, but new. Nick and Dave may struggle to convince us that a coalition government is actually a new idea or even a "completely new form of politics" but the truth is that very little in politics is really new. Mostly it's just the same old same old served up in a slightly different way. I suppose that the last time that we had a genuine flood of new political ideas was in the 1920's. In those days there was a host of off beat organisations on the fringe and many were a hairsbreadth away from breaking into the mainstream of political life. Every conceivable kind of ism vied for members and influence and some of the groups and individuals involved were very strange indeed. One of the most unusual and difficult to pigeon hole was the Kindred Of The Kibbo Kift. Founded by disillusioned scout leader and former Baden Powell cohort John Hargrave, the Kibbo Kift had Social Credit (much like the Green's Social Wage) at the heart of it's economic theory and somehow believed that this theory could be turned to reality by a combination of Saxon folklore, American Indian tradition and heaps of outdoor living and physical training. The Kindred would eventually morph into the neo-facist(?) Greenshirts but the only remaining legacy of this odd (but fascinating)movement is that icon of lefty parents and once described by Alexi Sayle as the para military wing of the CoOp- The Woodcraft Folk. Yes, they don't make 'em like Kibbo Kift anymore.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Permaculture. Is it all a load of manure?

When I first started growing veg forty years ago it was our neighbours in the Devon village where we lived at the time who were my main source of information. In the gardens of their council houses and tied cottages people just got on with it much as rural folk had done for generations. It was just a way of supplementing their income and some went a step further and raised pigs and poultry on rented smallholdings. They were happy to pass on their knowledge to a couple of hippy townies and I remain grateful to this day. I suppose that along with this matter of fact agricultural know how and pragmatic approach I also picked up some of the prejudices that went with it and have tended to look down my nose at anything that might be a bit "new age", "organic" or in any way "airy fairy". Permaculture for example is something that I have just not been able to get my head round. It's not helped by the fact that so many so called permaculture projects seem to be tended by Neil from the Young Ones and consist of a few tiny beds of not very happy looking crops surrounded by a sea of encroaching couch grass. It could just be that I am about to become a convert. Or at least a slightly less strident unbeliever. I have been reading Patrick Whitefield's The Living Landscape and have been incredibly impressed by the breadth of the man's knowledge and understanding of the ecological and social dynamic of our countryside. The point is that Whitefield is also one of the countries leading permaculture experts. Perhaps I'll have to take another look.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Arranged marriage shooting.

The British Pakistani community has been in existence for almost as long as the state of Pakistan itself and if it's history is not quite as troubled as that of the home land - it has not been without it's own problems. Racism, multiculturalism, segregation, integration, islamaphobia, mad mullahs, mad families, Tariq Ali - no wonder so many members of the community look so up tight. Mind you they don't always make it easy for themselves. After the recent fatal shooting of British Pakistanis in Gujrat surviving members of the family, in a script that could have been written by the EDL, are complaining about the lack of protection being provided by the British authorities -in Pakistan !

Friday, 21 May 2010

The power of fashion

Vivienne Westwood once famously stated that she thought fashion to be far more important than education. Tony "education" Blair disagreed with the old punk seamstress of course but perhaps we should not spent too much time considering the views (on fashion or anything else) of a man who spent his leisure time playing air guitar and longing to be Rick Parfitt. We should however never underestimate the power of fashion. Something can be all the rage one moment and consigned to the recycling receptacle of history the next; and this can apply as much to a set of ideas and concerns as to hem length and hairstyle. I mention this because it seems to me that we are hearing a lot less about climate change these days. Does this mean that concerns about global warming are to go the way of acoustic folk and loons, and is that part of the problem?

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Big Society could be our big chance.

As details of the government's, and we had better get used to the idea of the Cleggeroons being "the government", as the details of their Big Society policy are revealed we can expect the ensuing debate to have more than it's fair share of dishonest contributions from the right and (sadly) a lot of confused rhetoric from the left. The next few years may prove to be an ideal opportunity for anarchists and the libertarian left in general to get our ideas out in the mainstream. If we can on the one hand expose the shallowness of Tory ideas about empowerment and show what real community power means and at the same time explain that socialism need not mean state socialism.... well we could make some progress for a change. Will we rise to the challenge or will we settle for another decade of cop-fight fetishism on the one hand and half baked life style choices on the other? We have some answers to some stuff. Lets not be shy when it comes to making those answers public.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Gardening ups and downs.

As far as the weather is concerned this is turning out to be a very strange spring indeed and both gardeners and commercial growers have been a bit caught off balance by what nature has thrown at us. We started off with a very wet winter turning into the worst kind of cold dry spring. People delayed sowing but eventually the ground warmed up and we got off to a late start. We needed rain but soldiered on and by the first week in May it looked as though things were catching up and the weather returning to a seasonal normal. Bugger me if we don't go and get two nights of what for Southern England in May were exceptionally hard frosts. Many growers had early spuds hammered by the frost. Some will pull through but others will not. I saved my spuds but the runner beans are a write off and will have to be re-sown. Things have been looking better the last couple of days with some much needed rain and warmer days. Mind you, I can't help wondering what if anything the effect of the Icelandic volcanic ash will have on the weather. It's all sent to try us as the old people used to say but whatever the trials and tribulations involved in the raising of plants it remains one of the truly rewarding and calming of human activities. It is with good reason that the Medical Foundation place so much emphasis on the benefits of gardening in helping the victims of torture to rebuild their lives.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Prepare to be mended.

It can only be a matter of time now. Once the The Cleggeroons have got their feet firmly under the table at Number 10, and once they come to the realization that talking about getting out of the economic mire and actually wading onto firmer ground are not quite the same thing. Once the reality of it all sinks in we can expect the first of what will probably be a series of diversions; something to take out minds off the state of the economy. I refer of course to the master plan to mend "Broken Britain". Expect lots of stomach churning clap trap about the wonders of the nuclear family. Expect lots of half mad god botherers being called in to set up think tanks and for sure you can expect the further vilification of that most vulnerable section of society, young mums. Don't the oiks understand? If our broken country is to be made whole again all mothers will have to be middle class and preferably, having consolidated their career in creative directing or whatever, approaching middle age as well. Yes, If you thought that the creeping Jesus Blairs were bad just see what's in store for us now.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Nick n Dave pull it off.

Historic deal. The only way forward. A people yearn for stability. First steps toward the mending of Broken Britain.
A media village has sprung up on College Green, Nick and Dave are filmed fondling each other on the steps of Number 10 and The Red Lion in Whitehall had run out of bitter by midday today. New politics? mmm, not sure really.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Box That Changed Britain.

Last night BBC 4 showed what I thought was an exceptional programme in poet Roger McGough's wonderfully narrated story of containerisation, The Box That Changed Britain. I have never been a huge fan of technological determinism but much of what makes up the world we wake up to each day, from "Broken Britain" to the nature of High Street retailing, can be traced back to the introduction of the container. Containerisation was to impact on all of our lives but it was in shipping and the docks that the changes were felt most keenly and eventually it would change the East End forever. The two words most frequently used to describe dockers are "tough" and "militant" but dockworkers were also highly skilled and that whole area of pride and skill is a part of what was lost with containerisation. It's easy to romanticise the docks but the truth is that it was hard, dirty and dangerous work and the hiring of labour was brutal and humiliating. The cargo handling practices of the 1960's had hardly changed since Victorian times and, as always, if the new technologies had been at the service of the workers rather than the service of profit.... well who knows.
Dockers were not some leftie fantasy revolutionary proletariat. They were real people with all the usual strengths and failings. But I do think that when the docks closed we did lose something of value. I remember a gang of dockers working in the hold of my barge, stowing the bales as they were craned over from the hold of the ship that we lay alongside. There was some disagreement in the gang about how good a stow they should be making. I should explain here that the quality of the stow is not just a matter of getting more into a given space but an important safety consideration. Some members of the gang were all for a slap dash job but one old docker was insistent, arguing for a good stow and asking, "what about the blokes the other end?" Another group of workers, unknown and miles away, would have to eventually unload the barge and this old docker had their welfare at heart. I was impressed at the time and looking back now across almost fifty years, I still am.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Non Dom Strop.

Zac Goldsmith may be grinning from ear to ear in his Richmond Park constituency (well I suppose that a personal fortune of £300 million would pay for a fuck of a lot of leaflets) but the Tory's other fave non-dom, Lord Ashcroft of Belize, is not best pleased. It appears that His Lordship is hurling the contents of his toy cupboard all over the place due to him having paid for a comfortable Tory majority and not received the goods. Oh dear. Perhaps Harrods might have been a better investment.

Friday, 7 May 2010

It could have been worse.

Over the next forty eight hours it should be revealed to us poor mugs exactly what kind of hang hung lib lab con we are about to have to deal with for who knows how long. I for one am just relieved that the election is over and that at least we have not ended up with a huge Tory landslide. Looking on the bright side, and that is not something that I have been doing a lot of recently, the results in London could have been a lot worse. The much feared BNP big push in Barking came to nothing, it appears that across the capital people voted more or less on class lines and despite the worst efforts of New Labour I feel reassured by that.
The next couple of years could very well determine what kind of country we have for a generation. It will be critical that class comes back on the political agenda. The wheel is still in spin and we have everything to play for.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Gulf Coast Disaster.

As the Deepwater Horizon crisis continues to unfold it is becoming ever more apparent that this could be an environmental disaster on a scale that we have never had to deal with before. The oil industry has a huge repertoire of technical know how and it is quite likely that the leak will be capped eventually but by that time the damage, both environmental and social, may be beyond repair. This is not a matter of cleaning up a few seabirds and compensating some fishermen; at risk on the Louisiana coastline is a habitat, an economy and a way of life that can never be replaced. The truth is that America is now waking up to a reality that the people of the Niger Delta have had to live with for years - the ability of Big Oil to wreck peoples lives. The one place where we can be sure that the impact will not be felt, not in any real sense, will be in the boardroom of BP. We should all look long and hard at what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico because I fear that as oil is extracted from ever more difficult terrains, I fear that it is the shape of things to come.