“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.

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.