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


Friday, 30 December 2011

A royal wedding too soon?

National Archive files released under the 30 Year Rule show just how worried the Thatcher cabinet were about the 1981 riots. CS gas used on the mainland for the first time, a partial evacuation of Liverpool considered and preparations made to combat further acts of rebellion. In the end everything quietened down and the next time that the masses hit the streets it was to cheer Charles and Di. The old royal wedding trick came up trumps again.
While all this was going on the present occupier of number 10 was refining the venerable arts of self-abuse and joint rolling. But those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it and it could be that this years royal nuptials have been a case of the worst kind of political premature ejaculation; that this time around when it comes to trouble at mill the best is yet to come.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Resolution Revolution

I have mixed feelings about charity. Well, not the actual act of being charitable which must surely be better than being un-charitable but I am very suspicious of millionaire philanthropy, corporate grand gestures and the whole industry of giving. That said, when people are in trouble they need help. They do not need a lecture on surplus value and the accumulation of capital and it's for that reason that I put my misgivings to one side and my hand in my pocket whenever I can.
I make no comment on the politics of Resolution Revolution, an initiative by the British Humanist Association. Make up your own minds. Happy New Year.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Top acts at the godless gig.

A rationalist/humanist variety show does not necessarily sound like what you might call a bundle of laughs. Could be a bit worthy you might think. In the case of Nine Lessons And Carrols For Godless People nothing could be further from the truth. It may come as a shock to some of you but I can tend to get a bit grumpy about Christmas. All that religion getting dragged into what ought to be a perfectly enjoyable festival of retail culture and drunken bad behaviour just gets right up my nose. However, this annual event at the Bloomsbury Theatre always cheers me up. You never know who is going to be on the bill over the six day run but I am always surprised at the acts who turn up. This year has been a cracker with top bananas from the world of entertainment and science coming on to explain string theory and take the piss out of religion. The line up last night was outstanding and included Robin Ince , Josie Long, Dr Ben Goldacre. Richard Herring and Al Murray. A great night out as them theatre critics say.
This blog will return after the festivities with the very best of cutting edge political comment, cultural analysis and 101 interesting things about wrestling. Have a good one!

Monday, 19 December 2011

I must stop thinking about Cameron.

Sometimes, OK most of the time actually, people wonder what this blog is supposed to be about. All this mishmash of stuff about wrestling (wrestling?) and allotments combined with my pedestrian (and mental) ramblings. I mean, what's all that got to do with the collapse of capitalism and the coming new dawn of libertarian socialism? Bugger all as it goes but there are shed loads of proper political blogs out there - some doing a grand job and others doing a grand job of boring the tits off anyone who stumbles across them. But one thing that this blog was never meant to be was a platform for a constant whine about what a terminal knob David Cameron is. Truth is I just don't seem to be able to stop myself. It's not even as if I feel all that bitter and twisted about Old Etonians. Of the Old Etonians that I have met (not all that many admittedly) some have indeed been over privileged wankers of the first water but some others have been pretty decent and at least good for a laugh. But Cameron just seems to be beyond the pale. Everytime he opens his mouth I seem to be motivated to acts of extreme violence. Now he has started to bang on about us as a Christian nation, the sanctity of marriage and suchlike drivel. I'm sorry, I'll just have to take one of my tablets. Lie down in a darkened room with a cold compress placed on my forehead. I'll write some stuff about the allotment tomorrow.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Deterritorial Support Group.

You take your life in your hands when you get involved with the mainstream media and many are the revolutionaries who have ended up being portrayed as Dave Spart figures or simply as not very bright; and perhaps not very well either. A nice exception to the above is in today's Guardian. The Deterritorial Support Group get a fair crack of the Dan Hancox whip but the main thing is that DSG come over as loads of fun. I just wish that their blog reflected this a bit more but it does prove that underneath the spoofery and tomfoolery this group are not short of an idea or two.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Villagers show Stalinists what communism looks like.

Something quite remarkable is happening in Wukan. The 20,000 inhabitants of this South China fishing village have risen up in open revolt and sent the local Communist Party bureaucrats packing. Tired of Party corruption and the selling off of their land to speculative developers the villagers have taken matters into their own hands, seized control of their community and given Party bosses an object lesson in what real communism would look like. Sadly, common sense tells us that it is only a matter of time before the free market loving Stalinists crush this revolt but in the meantime the courageous people of Wukan remain a beacon to us all.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Is Cameron to blame for songbird decline?

I'm not the worlds greatest ornithologist and the nearest I come to twitching is when her indoors raises her voice, but I do enjoy watching birds and do my best to encourage them into the garden. The past couple of winters we have been visited by large numbers of migratory blackbirds that apparently come over from Germany. So far this year these welcome Teutonic versions of turdus merula have not been seen at all. This could be due to the mild autumn, not putting the right food out for them (bratwurst and sauerkraut?) or possible them getting the knock about the increasing anti-European sentiment that is being whipped up over here. Is this avian mystery something else that we can blame Cameron for?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

All is far from lost for Amir Khan.

The 2004 Olympics in Athens and a teenage Amir Khan is doing his best against one of the all time greats of amateur boxing, Mario Kindelan. Khan sits in his corner between rounds staring up at his coach and looking for all the world like Bambi, my daughter said , "I just want to give him a big cuddle". Yes, her and half the girls in the country no doubt. Gone is the innocent expression. These days Amir Khan has the look of a seasoned pro about him. The critics will be out in force after last night's split decision loss to a tough and determined Lamont Peterson and sure, a loss is a loss home town or otherwise, but it's the mark of a true champion to be able to take a loss, go back to the gym and just crack on. These days we place far too much emphasis on the unblemished record but when you look back at the really great fighters of the past, Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sandy Saddler and the rest, you find that a loss, albeit a rarity, was something taken in it's stride, by fighter and fans alike. It's not too late for Khan to be recognised as the best pound for pound fighter in the world and I imagine that Freddie Roach will be telling his protege as much right now.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Continent Cut Off.

Of all the ideas to come out of the 19th century, you would be hard pressed to find one that has resulted in quite so as much human misery as has nationalism. To that extent, and because I favour inter-nationalism over the tired, spiteful world of the nationalist, I tend to be in favour of a united Europe rather than a disunited one. The EU, for all it's many faults, has at least prevented us from tearing each other apart. As the dust settles over a new relationship between Britain and mainland Europe we can ponder what kind of mess (or otherwise) Cameron has got us into. It might also be a time to ponder the nature of federalism and, perhaps more to the point, the nature of the opposition to federalism. America has far more experience of dealing with this than we do, yet even today, after all that history, the American Right can always guarantee votes by appealing to that powerful undertow of feeling that maintains , "those fat cats in Washington DC are telling us what to do again". Civil rights legislation imposed from Washington and kidney in pork chops directives from Brussels do not compare - but frequently the opposition to them does. Sarah Palin would fit right into UKIP.
So Cameron has traded on the goodwill of the Tory backwoodsmen, the rednecks of Surrey and the Yorkshire Dales, to save his chums in the City from regulation. So Britain is to be an offshore tax haven. A Bahamas without the balmy weather. All that regulation, all that health and safety, all that nonsense about working time, it's holding us back. Holding us back from our destiny as the next Dubai. On the run up to the festive season perhaps I can paraphrase Tiny Tim in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, "God help each and every one of us".

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mr TV remembered.

return to wrestling
The most highly prized skill for the old time professional wrestler was the ability to work a crowd. To be able to generate emotions ranging from humour to fury by a few simple moves was the mark of a real pro. In the heyday of post-war British wrestling in the 50's and 60's nobody could work a crowd like Jackie Pallo. Born into a boxing family, his father and uncle were well known trainers and seconds, Jack was a useful fighter but at a time when useful fighters could be found no further away than the next dressing room and so he decided to have a go at the mat game. Unlike his cousin Reg who would go on to become a TV boxing commentator, Jackie was denied use of the family name of Gutteridge in such a disreputable career as wrestling but if Reg Gutteridge was to be recognized eventually as one of the most knowledgeable of TV boxing pundits it was Jackie Pallo who would come to be known as Mr TV. How we loved Jack's appearances on the box, especially if he was matched against his arch rival Mick McManus. Pallo was not a skilled wrestler, in fact I think I'm right in saying that he had very little background in competitive wrestling, but when it came to selling himself as a tough, competent grappler who was the archetypal cheeky cockney Jack had no rival. A typical Pallo match would see him in a series of lucky escapes and outrageous rule bending all accompanied by a stream of banter with the crowd.
Toward the end of his career I had the privilege of sharing a dressing room with Jackie Pallo (it's a long story) and amongst the many pearls of wisdom he shared was the following comment on McManus, "Miserable bastard. Lovely worker though." No higher praise could be given to one old pro by another. Jack was also a lovely worker who enlivened many an otherwise dull Saturday afternoon by his appearances on ITV World Of Sport. A great performer in a more innocent age.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Bell Pottinger creeps get light of transparency treatment.

Sometimes it seems to me that the liberal left take a delight in nothing quite so much as revealing the bleeding obvious. I mean, top work by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for taking Cameron at his word and shining the old light of transparency squarely up the arse of top lobbying firm Bell Pottinger but surely there is nothing up there that we should be surprised about. It's a shit industry, run by shits, for shits. Bell Pottinger top creeps Tim Collins and David Wilson were caught on camera boasting about who they know in government. Well they are hardly likely to say, "Oh! We don't know anyone. We usually watch Strictly and then toddle of to bed with a cup of cocoa." No reason not to hope that these revelations cause them the maximum embarrassment mind.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Take Care!

It's not unusual for institutions and individuals alike to lash out when they sense that they are losing control of a situation. If the recently leaked Police Federation report on the failure of the Met during the first 48 hours of last summers riots are anything to go by we can expect some pretty volatile and unpredictable policing in future. The young activists of the Occupy Movement are in a vulnerable place right now and I fear that some hard lessons may be learnt before long.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Olympic lockdown taster.

They can't have it both ways. Yesterdays strike was either a major disruption to the decent hard working general public (and ipso facto a shooting offence) or it was a damp squib; one or the other. Of one thing there can be no argument, yesterdays London march ranked as one of the more boring political events of the year. As for having a linear rally along the Embankment - words fail me. The choices were three in number. Storm through the stage and giant screen to Westminster, stay and listen to various union bosses urging us to fight the good fight (but not here, not now) or fuck off to the pub. Yeah! Me too. We did have the opportunity to inspect the new police control barriers. Blimey! I have seen the future and it looks hard to get over. Olympic lockdown? Can't wait.

Welcome to London. Home of the 2012 Olympics.

Imposing: The steel cordon stretches across the road in central London today as police unveil their latest tactic in the bid to stop disorder on the streets





Sunday, 27 November 2011

Council Tax dodgers of Knightsbridge.

If there is one thing that irritates the mega-rich it's having their financial details pored over as if they were ordinary folk. The secretive owners of apartments at One Hyde Park are being pursued for non-payment of council tax and the more publicity this gets the more irritated they will be. The rich - not to be confused with those greedy public sector workers of course.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

We are what we eat.

There are some things that even I won't admit to doing. Take watching celebrity chef cooking programs for example. Hugh Fearnley-Poshboy, Jamie, that one with the hair-gel, they are all the same to me. Blokes who are making a big fuss about something quite simple i.e. cooking the bleedin' dinner! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy cooking and have always had the greatest respect for ships cooks who are able to dish up excellent grub, sometimes in appalling conditions, when just being able to stand upright is an achievement. I learnt to cook as a teenager on the barges. It was usual to have to learn to cook before you were taught how to steer and this proved quite an incentive. For a long time my repertoire was limited to baked pork chops and savoury mince and these two dishes remain favourites of mine to this day. You can't beat good basic grub I reckon.
The truth is however that the other day, in a moment of weakness, I watched about ten minutes of Celebrity Master Chef. Do you remember that clown who booted his telly in so outraged was he at the Sex Pistols? That was almost me with the celebrity cooks. What a load of rubbish! Minuscule bits of daintily served meat, portions of vegetables so small that any self respecting hamster would have a moan , swirls of sauce, six chips in a lattice - and square plates. Don't get me fucking started about square plates!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A conflict of style.



Is there conflict of interest for David Cameron regarding his property deals with PR and lobbying top boss Lord Chadington? I don't know. It's just not my area of expertise. One thing I do know about is rigger boots and I'll tell you something Dave - You don't wear your trousers over them. Makes you look a prat Dave.

Dream On.

I usually like Adam Curtis' documentaries but only occasionally read his on-line writing, so many thanks to Henry for pointing me in the direction of this - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/10/dream_on.html

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Strange days.

I was up on the Greensand Hills last week and the view out across The Weald toward the South Downs was as gobsmacking as ever but what really caught my eye this time was the amount of leaf still on the trees. This must be the latest autumn on record with reports of all kinds of unseasonal things occurring: even a mallard duck hatching a brood of chicks. I heard the other day that the photographic record of Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph shows shivering crowds against a backdrop of bare limbed trees for almost all of the time until quite recently.
The kind of maritime/continental convergence climate that we have in the UK means that we experience huge variations in weather, day to day and year to year, and it's difficult to know what is the result of climate change and what just normal fluctuation but this is one strange autumn and that's for sure.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Occupy movement gets closer to a nap hand.

I called round to pay my respects to the Bank Of Ideas yesterday. In fact with a prile of occupations in the capital already I'm expecting the Occupy movement to have achieved a nap hand by Xmas. Top work comrades! Having made my way to Sun Street via St Paul's and Finsbury Square I arrived just in time for the tail end of an interesting talk by John Weeks. During a Q&A session Weeks pointed out that we should not confuse what we predict will happen over the next couple of years with what we might want to happen and he offered a note of caution to those who are convinced that some kind of utopia will emerge from the approaching financial apocalypse. It's a note of caution that might have been taken on board by the author of the leaflet that I picked up when leaving. In part it said. "Let it be well understood and widely known - top-down, coercive diktat by disproportionately paid upper echelons of all centralised undemocratic hierarchical organisations and systems of oppressive control - both financial and government - is well past it's sell-by date." Yeah! If only.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Give 'im the money Mabel!

Eric Pickles (is he related to the Wilfred of Have A Go radio fame back in the stone age?) is introducing a "curry college" that will apparently teach Brits how to knock out a knock out vindaloo, curb immigration and put a stop to all this multicultural malarkey in one fell swoop. You couldn't make it up could you? Stand by for a building college and the mass exodus of our Polish comrades. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns. If you ask me the Bank Of Ideas seems like a better idea altogether but that's just my opinion of course!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Youth unemployment. Is there life after work?

Youth unemployment has reached an all time high and now stands at over one million. I don't want to add to all the liberal hand wringing platitudes about the future of our youth but they surely do face tough times ahead. One of the few good bits of advice that I was handed when young was, "never work - have a good hobby and make as much money from it as you can". Easier said than done of course but faced with the option of a life of wage slavery or grinding and soul destroying poverty on benefits, it remains the only way to go. Whether your bag is the black bloc, rap, boxing or bird watching - get out there and enjoy it. Every day counts. This is not a dress rehearsal.

Monday, 14 November 2011

EU at least keeps us from each others throats.

Angela Merkel thinks that the crisis in the Eurozone is the greatest threat to Europe since World War 2. Odd thing for a German chancellor to say especially given that during the war one nations crisis tended to be another's cause for celebration. Germany certainly faced a bit of a crisis during the period of Stalingrad through the Normandy landings and on to the fall of Berlin - the rest of the continent was pretty chuffed. But enough of such small mindedness. Whatever you may think about the EU, it has to be admitted, and yes I know all about it being a project to ease the movement of capital and oil the wheels of commerce, it has to be admitted that member states tend not to wage genocidal war on each other. For that we should all be eternally grateful.

The Blade Runner Olympics.

It's a shame but those clean limbed young athletes competing against each other for Olympic glory next year seem increasingly likely to be overshadowed by darker forces. The Americans (why are Yanks always so scared) are so concerned about security, or the lack of it, that they will be sending over a thousand security personnel including 500 FBI agents. These cheerful folk will be armed to the teeth of course and if the government roll over to American demands for an armed presence on the streets of the capital it will be hard to deny similar demands from other states. Hundreds of coked up G men, Met robocops, private (Mac)security wannabees, agents from every country that can afford to release them from homeland duties, London awash with guns, high speed chases down the VIP lanes. Those Londoners who can afford to get out for the duration will do so. The rest will cower in their homes watching a sporting event taking place just down the road beamed to them from satellites in space as tracer rounds light up the night sky and the sound of automatic fire reverberates around the city. I really must stop reading those old 2000AD comics.

Friday, 11 November 2011

City in favour of regulation - for mushroom picking.

Being made up as it is of freewheeling entrepreneurs, property developers, Freemasons and hedge fund spivs, the City Of London Corporation is not noted for it's love of regulation. Well not unless the regulations refer to something really threatening - like mushroom picking for example. It's those dastardly East Europeans again! Not content with eating Brenda's swans and failing to understand that here in England we put fish back when we catch them and only cook proper fish fingers, now the Slavonic deluge are picking all our bleeding toadstools. Well look and learn people. When those deregulated city types are finished we could all end up foraging for a living.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

They also served!


Over the next few days, on the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, we will be hearing plenty about the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, especially during World War2 - and rightly so. The whole thing certainly has less resonance now. There are fewer old sweats left alive and fewer families of the fallen for whom Remembrance Sunday offered some crumbs of comfort. If you doubt all this, the next time you watch that grainy old footage of the troops storming up the Normandy beaches ask yourself what would have happened if they had failed - if those young boys had been pushed back into the sea. Hitler's version of a united Europe make today's concerns over euros and drachmas seem trivial by comparison.
But, for Britain at least, the war was not all horror and sadness. the home front was throwing up all kinds of interesting stuff and I don't just mean the after effect of Woolton Pie. Even after digging for victory, collecting old saucepans and making wedding cakes out of spit and cardboard people had energy left to challenge many of the old social mores. As author Pip Granger remarks in her Up West - nothing loosens knicker elastic quite like knowing that a bomb might drop on you at any moment. For an alternative to the official sugar sweet girl next door image of Vera Lynn check out this Florence Desmond track. The real spirit of the blitz.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Postmodern blues, running all around my head.

The postmodernist exhibition was entertaining enough I suppose. The V&A curators have understandably concentrated on the physical products of postmodernism - everything from architecture to those fucking awful New Romantic bands. What I find depressing about it all is that whereas modernism, for all it's many failings, was a movement dedicated to the possibility of improving the lives of the many, postmodernism was largely about the accumulation of wealth and the triumph of the individual. If the movement was not directly responsible for the neoconservative project it's only responses were to warmly embrace the project or else descend into a drug fueled spiral of self destruction.
The academic left and the arty farties have both got slightly moist over postmodernism and here at least the sheer impenetrable nature of the ideas have resulted in some saving humor. The art world gave us Piero Manzoni who famously canned (and sold!) his own poo labelled "Genuine 100% Artist's Shit". But my favourite is the scam pulled by physicist Alan Sokal who, pissed off to the back teeth with all that relativism and what he saw as the betrayal of the Enlightenment, wrote a long and suitably dense and obscure article for the postmodernist journal Social Text on the unlikely subject of a postmodern and relativist physics. The article was complete gibberish but there was much need for the changing of underwear in the Social Text editorial office - and later much postmodernist egg on face when Sokal owned up to the spoof. Happy days!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Art for art's sake.

While I spent yesterday spreading muck down the allotment followed by a visit to the St Paul's camp and paying my respects to Withers & Co Solicitors, her indoors opted for a day at the Pallant House Edward Burra exhibition. Apparently it's a great show but what struck her was the punters that it attracted. As a young artist Burra was fascinated with the underbelly of society and gravitated toward the sailors bars, dodgy clubs and strip joints of the world. Now his work is lauded by the kind of people who think that the local Conservative Club annual dinner and dance is living on the edge. All those art lovers jerking themselves off over Van Gogh would not come within a million miles of the real life artist. It was ever thus. Not that art and music practitioners themselves, the actual scrapers of catgut and canvas, are any better. The art world, infested as it is by mummy's little fuckwit faux bohemians, has always had a deep vein of hypocrisy running through it. Yesterday's radical musician is today's champion of the free market. Bruce "Eton Rifles" Foxton actually sent his son to the school. The Situationist International may not have had a monopoly on the truth but they knew what they were doing when they expelled all the artists. Sod it anyway. We're off to the Post Modernist romp at the V&A tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

At times like this.

The established church in disarray. Popular assemblies on the steps of St Paul's. The Stock Exchange sealed off like a plague site. The cops are chomping at the bit to get stuck in but are wary of the presence of the world's media. The Old Etonian AGM round the corner in Old Bailey is cancelled due to fears that the event might be invaded by a rag tag army of tambourine playing fraggles and aging anarchists. The government plot to have a court injunction to prevent the mass public sector walk-out on November 30. All this against a backdrop of the possible collapse of the European financial house of cards. Have there ever been such times?

Friday, 28 October 2011

The deserving rich?

Corporate greed, rather like police brutality and religious hypocrisy, is a given. It's how they do and in the next couple of weeks we may see all three of these phenomena on show on the steps of St Paul's. Even so I imagine that in a lot of Guardian reading households this morning a good few spoonfuls of muesli are being sprayed across the breakfast table at news of the whacking 48% pay rise in top company boardrooms. Most of us will just shrug our shoulders I suppose. Mutter something about getting even rather than mad and just get on with our day. As I say, it's how they do. But for all of that I can't help wondering how these fat cats justify the huge disparity between what they take home and what the overwhelming majority of folk get by on. Most of us are prone to that occasional waking in the early hours and mulling over the rights and wrongs of our lives. Do the rich do the same? Perhaps the arrogance of wealth and privilege keeps them immune from self doubt. I suspect that that is the case.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The ghost of Lenin stalks the occupation.

The Bolsheviks have plenty to answer for. The silencing of all opposition voices, the millions who starved to death, the enforced collectivisation, the gulag. For those of us who became politicised during the cold war, another legacy of the old Leninist gang was constantly being told to "go back to Russia. "It didn't work in Russia did it?" etc. etc. On and on. You might expect that twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Empire that all this comparison to the Bolshevik catastrophe was a thing of the past; might indeed be consigned to the dustbin of history. Not a bit of it. Yesterday at the St Paul's camp I found myself having to go over the same old ground. The existence of a libertarian current in socialism, direct democracy, a movement from the bottom up, the anarchist tradition. Keeps me on my toes I suppose. Perhaps more telling were the Russian tourists who demanded that the couple of cops on duty at the camp explain why they allowed this disgraceful gathering to continue. That comrades is the true Bolshevik legacy. The good news is that most of the activists at the camp seem far to concerned with trying to live politics to be interested in polemic from any quarter.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Homes Under The Hammer? Do me a favour.

Some things just never seem to change. For as long as I can remember there has been a housing shortage in this country and that shortage has been set against the obscene backdrop of thousands of properties standing empty year in and year out. The post-war squatting movement, Cathy Come Home, the founding of Shelter, the second wave of squatting in the 70's, housing action initiatives by the cart load. Is there no end to it? The truthful answer to that question is no, probably not. Well not at least until we start to talk about the meaning of property, question the idea of housing as a commodity and challenge the role of speculation in that most basic of human needs - a roof over our heads. Heavy stuff, but nothing short of this will do I'm afraid.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Another year - another bookfair.

I awoke this morning to the usual post Anarchist Bookfair hangover. Not too serious mind and certainly nothing that a few hours work down the allotment couldn't put right. I also awoke to the usual pile of magazines and pamphlets that I had acquired. There was all the regular stuff that I pick up of course, Black Flag, Now Or Never etc. but also some more esoteric publications as well. Kittens (journal of the wine and cheese appreciation society of Greater London) for example. Also the usual (but wonderful) selection of neo-situationist pamphlets that I can never resist and to cap it all the story of Joe Hill - in Polish! Not a bad haul but I was disappointed not to see two of my favourites, The Cunningham Amendment and The Land.
Apart from the wealth of reading material there was a stellar line up of meetings and talks and as usual the Wright And Bone Show was a superb example of restrained and measured moderation that is a beacon to us all. But by far the best thing about the bookfair is the people that I haven't seen for ages, the new people I meet and the chance to relax in the pub afterwards with good company. Lovely!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Booker won by scouse striker shock.

The Booker Prize, once sneered at by Julian Barnes for being "posh bingo" has been won by - Julian Barnes. You know, Julian Barnes, black geezer, used to play for Liverpool.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Something else to worry about comrades.

An Asian hornet feasting on a honey bee
Don't panic! The above illustration is not life size. If like me you don't monitor the Non Native Species Secretariat on a regular basis you may not be up to speed on the latest alien invasion. I refer to the deadly Asian Bee-Killing Hornet that is due to rock up on our scepter'd isle any time soon. Bloody Hell!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Back to basics?

You don't tend to make a lot of friends by insisting that in order to make any sense of the state of the world it is essential to get to the heart of the matter. "Back to basics", as Major whispered in Vindaloo's shell like all those years ago. We have to ask fundamental questions and encourage others to do the same. What is property and what are property rights? We need to ask not if the inflated profits of energy companies are "just", but where those profits came from. No doubt Eton has produced more total shits than any institution this side of the Lubyanka but it's abolition without challenging the whole notion of elites would be pointless. Every small victory, every marginal redistribution of wealth from the rich to the masses. every individual who's self-confidence is bolstered by successfully challenging authority; all of this is to be welcomed. But in order to liberate ourselves from the perpetual tinkering with the detail of capitalism and get on with the job of superseding it, we have to risk being accused of being theoreticians and ask some very basic questions indeed.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The relationship that dare not speak it's name.

Onward and upward shines David Cameron's light of transparency!

David Haye to retire.

At thirty one years of age and with a 23-2 professional record David Haye has decided to hang up his gloves. Haye has been a controversial figure in the sport. This has been partly due to the man's self-confident persona, us Brits like our sporting heroes to be shy and self effacing, but also because of some real misgivings about the genuine quality of Haye as a boxer. On the face of it the Bermondsey fighter had everything going for him. Admittedly small for a heavyweight, he was always a gifted athlete, a talented boxer who was committed to the sport; or at least committed to being successful in it. So why did many of us feel that something was missing? More to the point, why do we always struggle to define that "something" that makes the difference between between being a top athlete and a truly great one? From the time of the Ancient Greeks, through to the modern day world where every gym seems infested with sports science graduates, we have sought to improve our understanding of physical excellence and when it comes to the measurable things such as nutrition, recovery rate and skill development, the project has been a huge success; but we are no closer to defining that hidden "something" than Homer was. Next time you are watching world class cricket you might have a go at pondering what the relationship is between "talent" and "form" - answers on a postcard to the ECB.
We might also ponder what it is that allows professional boxers to climb through the ropes and put their health on the line in the most physically and psychologically demanding of all sports. Haye may not have been the greatest but he was part of a tough and courageous elite who we mere mortals salute. Thank you David.


Monday, 10 October 2011

The Price Of Oil.

Regarding my previous post about the Merchant Navy War Memorial, I'm obliged to Journeyman for reminding me of this wartime cartoon from Zec. Powerful stuff.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Lest We Forget.

Just across the road from Tower Hill and nestling beneath the imposing Trinity House lies Trinity Square. This small park, probably unnoticed by most of the tourists visiting the Tower Of London, is home to the Merchant Navy War Memorial. Some thirty five thousand British and Empire seamen lost their lives during the Second World War and although our Merchant Navy is now all but a memory, for ex-seaman like myself and for the relatives of those lost at sea, strolling around the memorial remains a moving experience. Now comes news that the site is to be desecrated by a series of lavish Christmas parties and banquets for city bankers. The average banker and city spiv would not be fit to wash the jock strap of the men who's courage is commemorated here. Keep the scum out of Trinity Gardens this Christmas.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Tory scandal. Well bugger me!

The time has come for this blog to make clear, once and for all, where we stand regarding Defence Secretary Liam Fox's relationship with the much younger Adam Werritty. Here at Freedom Pass Anarchist House we take the view that if Fox is in fact a hypocritical closet shirt-lifter who has reduced his wife to the level of a mere fag-hag we should refuse to make political capital out of what is clearly going to turn out to be a personal tragedy. There is a long and honourable tradition of closet homosexuality in right-wing politics and Fox has every right to be a part of it if he so chooses.
If there is one thing that gets up the noses of the rich and powerful (no not that Gideon) it's being laughed at. We should not be surprised, but we have every right to be outraged, at the story of international corruption that will be unfolding over the next few days - and Fox should not be surprised if he becomes the laughing stock of the nation.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Not easy this economy stuff is it Dave?

Paul Stott once remarked that taking the trouble to really learn about economics was a bit like decorating the spare room - seemed like a good idea but you just never find the time. Politicians frequently attempt to help us simple people make sense of such higher matters by comparing the nations economy to our own household finances. Margaret Thatcher was fond of equating the mysteries of our part in the web of global capitalism to putting a few extra tins in the cupboard in case one of the kids turns up unannounced. Now the Great Helmsman is telling us that just as he is dealing with the national debt as he pilots us safely through the maelstrom of financial crisis so we must play our part by paying off our debts and putting a bit by for the coming shit storm. Just in time the finance monitor whispered in Dave's ear that what the punters should actually be doing is spending like sailors on the last night ashore. There's obviously more to this financial malarkey than meets the eye.

It's that time of year again!

The London Anarchist Bookfair kicks off in a couple of weeks. Autonomists, Syndicalists, Anarcho-Syndicalists, Anarcho-Communists, Council-Communists, Radical Feminists, Libertarian-Marxists, Pro-Situationists, Vegetarian-Pacifists, Vegan-Activists, Freedom Pass Anarchists, Steam Punkists, Continental Theorists, Can Of Special Brew And Dog On Stringists.
We'll all be there. We're all going down the pub later.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Freedom goes monthly.

The nice new fat twenty four page issue of the now monthly Freedom has thudded onto my doormat. I have to say that I was unsure about the old rag dropping the fortnightly format but I am aware that the decision was largely a financial one. The truth is that a long history and an iconic status in the international anarchist movement butter few parsnips and Freedom is always strapped for cash. Anyway the October issue is chock full of good stuff with interesting pieces on everything from industrial action to martial arts by way of "The Riots" and timely reminders of Cable Street and the Attica Prison massacre.
A deepening economic crisis and a government determined to address that crisis with policies that must result in tough and uncertain times for ordinary people may well lead us into uncharted political waters. Who could have predicted what has happened on the streets during the past year - and who knows what the next couple of years have in store for us? If anarchist and libertarian communist ideas are to have any role in the days ahead a paper that can be trusted and that can provide somewhere to turn to (figuratively and for real) will be essential. I think that that paper is Freedom.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Battle Of Cable Street 75 years on.

I have just got home after a cracking day at the Cable Street 75th anniversary in the company of comrades old and new. It could be the beer but I've come over all non-sectarian. Bob Crow gave a rousing speech, one dear old soul on the stage will be 106 tomorrow, Wiltons Music Hall was a knock out and Benjamin Zephaniah was in the pub after. What more could you ask for?

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thank God that's over!

If I was a member of the Labour Party, homeward bound from the conference and nursing a near fatal hangover, I would not be happy. Not because Miliband has come across as a bit of a muppet, or because of the embarrassingly contrite apologies,and not even because the party has failed to relaunch itself as any kind of left alternative. No, what would distress me would be the seemingly total lack of any ideas at all. I have absolutely no clue about what Ed Miliband stands for but I suspect that it is a kind of warm, cuddly capitalism where no one gets hurt and no one is too greedy. I thought that the best comments on his "good and bad" companies theme came from Autonomy CEO and techno billionaire Mike Lynch on the Today Program. I may not agree with Lynch's politics but at least he seems capable of reason.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Spirit of the blitz and all that.



At our allotment site we are lucky to have old fashioned hand pumps that will keep us supplied for as long as the water table stays more or less where it is now. Since I retired I have taken on looking after these pumps and as they are such a wonderful example of appropriate technology this is a real pleasure. The pumps are so simple yet so cleverly designed. At a recent talk about pump maintenance that I gave in an effort to get more plotholders involved I was banging on about what a wonderful bit of kit they are and mentioned that they remain a principle source of fresh water in many third world countries. "That will be handy," commented one smart arse, "we'll be a third world country ourselves soon". It's being so cheerful that keeps us going!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Never work with kids or animals Ed.











Is it just me or do party conference child prodigies give everyone the creeps? I'm sure that Rory Weal is a nice enough young chap and nothing like as smug as that dreadful Hague kid (remember him?). And what about that amazingly articulate young person who got all those Trot juices flowing at Stop The Cuts meetings a while back? Seriously, you have to admire any teenager who is articulate and self-confident enough to address a big conference audience but I can't help thinking that I prefer those young scallywags who were making bonfires in Whitehall nine months ago.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Pubs and parks.

For us Freedom Pass psychogeographers, in our seemingly aimless wandering of the streets of London Town, there is just no escaping the Victorian legacy all around us. The strident self-confidence, a level of inequality that makes our own fractured society seem positively utopian, the huge wealth of Empire; the evidence is all there in front of us in the bricks and mortar that even a combined blitz of Nazi bombs and speculative office building have not been able to wipe out. Much of what our ancestors left behind, such as the horrendous Albert Memorial, is mawkish and grotesque but when it came to designing pubs and parks, two of my favourite places, the Victorians knew a thing or two I reckon.
Yesterday I visited two of my favourites. Much as I am a fan the clean lines of modernist architecture and design, when it comes to watering holes give me the Victorians every time. The Princess Louise in High Holborn is probably the best remaining example of a Victorian boozer that you are likely to find. Acres of gilt mirrors, etched glass, wonderful tiles, wood panelling and ornate plasterwork - why, even the urinal is a gem! Enjoy your refreshment and ponder the fact that back in neolithic times that old commie Ewan MacColl ran a folk club upstairs.
Take a short walk south from the Princess Louise. Make your way through Covent Garden, by all means stopping off for a quick one in the Lamb And Flag, cross The Strand and enter the second Victorian gem - The Victoria Embankment Gardens. This is a only a tiny park but to my mind is a real classic. So get yourself a coffee, find a vacant bench and relax. There! Not been a bad afternoon has it?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bit nippy in here Chris. Got any ideas?

How thoughtful of Energy Minister Chris Huhne ( Westminster School and Oxford) to point us all in the right direction regarding the best way to deal with escalating fuel costs. More households than ever are facing the prospect of fuel poverty but according to multi millionaire Huhne this is to some extent their own fault. Seems like we just can't be bothered to spend the time shopping around for a better deal. I see it all now. If I were to waste less time writing this blog and concentrate instead on searching the net for cheaper gas and electricity I could be fucking quids in.
This sort of condescending advice from our betters has a long history. We have even had to suffer well heeled MPs in much publicised "experiments" of living on dole money for a week before lecturing the lazy, undeserving poor on the benefits of a hearty lentil casserole and putting an extra blanket on the bed. OK! There's some truth in all this. There are a number of ways that we can save a bob or two. Growing your own, recycling, shopping around here there and everywhere for a better deal, these are all sensible things to do and yes, all that stuff can be fun - but a lot more fun when you aren't worried sick about the rent or mortgage, the cost of everything going up and just the sheer debilitating lack of any glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I'm reminded of the slogan that I wrote almost forty years ago - KEEP WARM THIS WINTER. MAKE TROUBLE and look forward to hearing that victims of fuel poverty are getting the circulation going by dancing round a bonfire of Chris Huhne's furniture.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Maryam Namazie makes my day.

Today's March For Secular Europe was predictable in a number of ways. A few hundred of us trudged along the mercifully short route from Victoria Embankment to Downing Street for the usual rally and speeches. Don't get me wrong. I may have misgivings about fighting for the separation of Church and State when in reality I would prefer to see the abolition of both, but none the less, I support the Secular Europe Campaign. The less influence that priests, mullahs, ju ju men and god botherers of every description have in our world the better and if undermining their power involves me with a liberal humanist current- so be it. This was pretty much what was going through my mind this afternoon. That is until Maryam Namazie of the Council Of Ex- Muslims took the stage. What a speaker! This is a lady who takes no prisoners. Not for her any wishy-washy liberal concerns about relativism or treading on the toes of some supposed minority. For her the only good religion is one that's on the back foot. Religion is a political force and resistance to it is a political act. If you have not heard her speak catch up here.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

We are what we eat.

One of the ways that groups of people differentiate themselves from others is by the food that they eat and how that food is prepared. This is no more than an amusing cultural footnote most of the time but the bringing of religion into the equation can make it very unamusing indeed. Proscribed foods, such as pig meat or holy cows, can take on a life or death importance in some societies. My own experiences in this area, while nothing like as dramatic as the Indian Mutiny, for example, have shown that even the most rational and open minded people would think twice about eating something that they were just not used to. Take "her indoors" for example. Coming from a Polish family she was brought up eating beetroot as a hot vegetable and of course as the main ingredient of borsch while I had never eaten it other than as a pickle or salad vegetable. When the subject of beetroot comes up down the allotments I find that the majority of growers still consider it to be something to steep in malt vinegar and eat with summer salads. Strange, but not mind you as strange as Jon Snow's recent revelation that he had never sampled the delights of HP sauce (what?). Britain is full of odd regional culinary variations but surely none more idiosyncratic than the one that I encountered as a teenager. Thames bargemen hailed from either North or South of the Thames Estuary and on the whole Essex and Kent crews got along pretty well. We drank in the same pubs, endured the same bad weather and suffered at the hands of the same owners. But in one important respect we were two distinct tribes and that concerned the famous, or infamous, bargeman's duff. No meal was considered complete without a steamed suet pudding. This monster of the deep, liberally laced with raisins, was wrapped in butter papers and a tea towel ( none of that effete pudding basin nonsense) and plunged into a vat of boiling water and simmered for a couple of hours. Now we come to the contentious bit. Whereas those tough blokes from Erith, Gravesend and the Medway Towns would have the duff as "afters" sprinkled with sugar, the Essex Bargeman preferred his duff to be served with his meat, gravy and spuds. Each side avowed that the other were no more than "fucking savages" but both agreed that any leftover duff should be fried with a few rashers of fat bacon the following morning. I can taste it now.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Slavery in the 21st century.

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, what is unfolding at Dale Farm is more complex then either the local objectors to the site or the Vanessa Redgraves of the world would care to admit to. Now the news that a police raid on a traveller site in Bedfordshire has resulted in a number of half starved slave workers, some held for up to fifteen years, being freed will hopefully concentrate the minds of those people who are keen to support anyone who is in conflict with the authorities. This is not to suggest that all travellers are slave masters of course but we should not be blind to the fact that the travelling community is home to some very unpleasant individuals. This recent raid comes after a similar case in Hampshire in June and will no doubt be used as ammunition against Dale Farm.
This case is about a few dozen vulnerable men held for years to work as labourers. They deserve our sympathy, but no more so than the hundreds of women sold into the sex trade of our major cities. It's a shocking reality that slavery did not end with William Wilbeforce but is still a feature of the modern world.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

NO GODS - NO MASTERS

Secular Europe Campaign

March & Rally for a Secular Europe



Next Saturday: 17th September 2011

Join the movement for Secularism: march with us for human rights this coming Saturday 17th September!

We protest against:

  • the privileged status of the churches under Article 17 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union)
  • the privileged position of religious organisations in politics and the law
  • the special status of the Vatican in the United Nations
  • state-funded faith schools
  • the economic privilege and political influence of the Vatican

We promote:

  • freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech
  • women’s equality and reproductive rights
  • equal rights for LGBT people in all the European Union
  • a secular Europe – democratic, peaceful, open and just, immune to the clandestine influence of privileged religious (or other) organisations
  • one law for all, no religious exemptions from the law
  • state neutrality in matters of religion and belief
The march will begin at 10.30 am leaving from Temple Place (Victoria Embankment), and the rally will take place from 12.30-2.30pm at Richmond Terrace opposite Downing Street.

All details are available at the following URL: http://secular-europe-campaign.org/march-rally/

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Conway Hall still going strong.

The Conway Hall in Red Lion Square has always struck me as a slightly odd place.It's home to the wonderfully named South Place Ethical Society who to their shame hired the hall to the National Front for a meeting in June 1974. During the protest outside the hall Kevin Gately was killed, believed clubbed to death by mounted police. It was a low point for Conway Hall. Over the years I have attended all kinds of events in the slightly shabby but atmospheric old building. Events ranging from a meeting in support of the Anguilla Revolution (look it up!) to the May '68 Celebrations to a Marlene Dietrich tribute a couple of nights ago. Those of you who have an interest in 9/11 truthers and conspiracy theories in general might want to check out the event on 25th September.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Greetings And Salutations.

Most people, when addressing someone who's name they do not know, will use a term of endearment - mate, love, dear, chum, depending on, amongst other things, what part of the country they come from. Back in the day when we had a Merchant Navy it was common for men to address each other as "chief". I am now of an age when I sometimes get called "guv". I quite like it. I have noticed however that the middle-class, I suppose in an effort to differentiate themselves from the working, or feral under as we now say, class, have taken to addressing people as "there". "Hello there", they chirp. I don't know how this originated but it may possibly be an aping of the upper-class, "I say, you there." Anyone getting a PhD out of this owes me a pint.

Freedom's just another word........

Now that everyone from Toby Young to Transcendental Maharishi Whatsit to business empires wanting to add education to their corporate social responsibility profiles, can open a Free School we might ask, "free in what sense?" Some of the parents interviewed in the last few days seem to be under the impression that an education comparable to a public school one is being offered, but for free. There was a Free School movement in this country years ago and many anarchists were involved in it. These schools aimed to be free from learning by rote and free from the unquestioning obedience and brutal regimes of corporal punishment that was the norm in British education; state and private. Some of these schools, such as A.S Neill's Summerhill, were far from free in the monetary sense with fees comparable to other establishments in the private sector. Most of us felt that isolating kids from the mainstream, be it in some posh private school or a free for all hippy establishment, was both socially divisive and not in the best interests of the kids themselves and that "free range" was something perhaps best reserved for poultry. We opted for the Comp down the road. By the late 70's many of the radical ideas about the role of freedom in child development had filtered through to the mainstream. Those are the very ideas that have been consistently challenged by the right ever since and routinely blamed for every social ill imaginable. How ironic that the most recent critique of the idea of freedom in education will come from "Free Schools".

Monday, 5 September 2011

The fantasy weekend of your choice.

I'm afraid that I did not turn out to protest the EDL's expedition to the East End. I figured that the two hundred thousand residents of Tower Hamlets could probably manage without me. From what I can make out the Master Race got totally poleaxed in Kings Cross, hurled abuse at anyone a bit foreign looking and made their way back to Luton via Aldgate Tube Station. Not my idea of a day out but each to their own. No, I spent the weekend in North Devon exploring the Lorna Doone country. Walking up the valley of Badgworthy Water to the remains of the old medieval village it's easy to see how RD Blackmoor was able to fantasize about this hidden tree lined cleft in the moor being the headquarters of a band of outlaws. It is a truly magical landscape.
Early the following morning, walking down Lynton High Street to get the paper, I paused outside Lloyds Bank. A note had been tucked behind a pipe running up the wall. Curious as ever I stopped to read it. "The revolution will not be televised", it read. Who was the author? Lynton's only Gil Scott-Heron fan? A teenage revolutionary trapped in this quiet village that becomes infested with Devon Cream Tea eating, Daily Mail reading coffin-dodgers in summer?
Will she make the break and take her dreams for reality because she believes in the reality of her dreams? I hope so.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Dale Farm. It ain't The Archers.

A number of things are happening at Dale Farm. For starters there is the question of planning permission, or rather the lack of planning permission. Basildon Council are adamant that establishing a residential settlement without planning permission can't be tolerated regardless of who owns the land. For them it's a straightforward planning issue. Most of us, and I'm no different, have a pretty ambiguous attitude toward planning. We hate bureaucratic interference but not as much as we hate powerful developers or supermarkets who can afford to force a planning department into court over and over again until they finally wear them down. Some of us wonder how come Canary Wharf required no planning permission but woe betide any harmless back to the lander who buys a small plot of secluded woodland and decides to live there.
Something else unfolding at Dale Farm is another act in the long drama of the provision of traveler sites. The 1968 Caravan Sites Act, it's eventual repeal in 1994 and the recognition by traveling people that even owning the land that they pulled up on would be no guarantee of being left in peace are all part of a sorry history. It's a history that government, local authorities and the police all come out off looking a lot less than heroic or even remotely generous spirited.
Yet another strand to the story is the perennial distrust that the mainstream of society has toward anyone on the margins. In the past I have lived as an itinerant canal boater and finished my working life as a Thames lockkeeper so have seen that particular branch of travelling life from both sides. I could never see what the problem was. Sure, many people start out with a dream of continually cruising only to find that the reality of work/signing on, schools, doctors etc make staying in one place for long periods a better option. It is also very easy to put a few items (coal, firewood) on the bank and end up with the place looking less than tidy. I speak as someone who kept poultry on the towpath and even had a secret garden where we grew vegetables and a huge crop of dope. It can get a bit out of hand but truth be told we did very little harm. I am convinced that much of the objection to travelers is all about a bitter envy of a people who are perceived, however inaccurately, as being more "free" and in some way getting away with something; something their critics would love to get away with if only they had the bottle. Economic hard times, combined with a housing shortage and high rents, will likely lead to an increase in the number of people living a marginal life. As always they will be easy scapegoats and at the moment the coalition must be credited with not creating the kind of rabid atmosphere that led to the Battle Of The Beanfield under Thatcher.
So is all this an apology for the Irish traveler community? Not really. I suspect that Vanessa Redgrave would be less than enamoured if a couple of hundred travellers rocked up next to her drum. All that Catholicism, superstition, anti-social behaviour and dodgy asphalt jobs mean that we have little in common apart from a genuine love of boxing and the turf. But then again.....

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Carnival Time!

I shall be making an appearance at Carnival tomorrow safe in the knowledge that 6,000 of the Mets finest will be looking after me. According to Commander Steve Rodhouse (who he?) there will be no special arrangements for the use of tasers. I'm not quite sure how to take that Steve.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Garden City project anyone?

In an already fractured nation a new dichotomy has appeared in the land. It seems that we are now divided into two distinct groups; looters and those who analyse looting. Of these two groups the analysts are by far the larger and before they are finished may cost a lot more and do far more damage. Stand by for a raft of Back To Work initiatives, "greening" projects, problem family interventions and actions to reverse disaffection. A whole new parallel world of think tanks, committees and task forces is taking shape before our very eyes. That of course is the real division in society - the one between those that "do" and those that have things done to them. The real project remains the cranking up of desire for commodities while hiding the reality that these baubles are there for the taking. It's the same old con but one that is going to get ever harder to pull off.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Final days Of Third International Theory and the Amazonian Guards.

It looks as though the long reign of Muammar Gaddafi is drawing to a close as the rebel fighters engage in the last desperate battle for control of Tripoli. Who knows what the future holds for the Libyan people and we can but wish them well. In the early days Gaddafi spoke a great deal about "direct democracy" and even claimed to have been influenced by Kropotkin and Bakunin but in the end there was to be no democracy, direct or otherwise, in his brutal regime. Power corrupts - always.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Carver Doone and Atholl Oakely.

I'm off to Exmoor again next month. During my previous visit early on in the summer I bought a copy of Lorna Doone and this time intend to walk up the East Lyn as far as the Doone Valley. I have discovered that just as Sherlock Holmes fans used to walk up and down Baker Street in search of the fictional detective's lodgings, so too do Doone fans roam the landscape between Exmoor and the Bristol Channel seeking out the location of RD Blackmoor's classic tale; and that is turning out to be a tale in it's own right.
The history of old time show business is littered with fake titles. "Count" this, "Sir" that. "Colonels" who never made it to Lance Corporal. Indian "Rajahs" who never ventured east of Mile End and more "Professors" in theatrical digs than in any town of dreaming spires. Naturally the hall of mirrors that is the world of professional wrestling has been home to it's fair share of fake Earls and phony Lords but one, Sir Atholl Oakeley, was the genuine article. Oakeley introduced modern professional wrestling to this country in 1930 and went on to become British Heavyweight Champion and one of the leading promoters. His autobiography, Blue Blood On The Mat, mainly concentrates on the authors involvement in the wrestling business but does mention in passing his interest in Lorna Doone and I believe that as a promoter Oakley once had a wrestler billed as Carver Doone. Quite what Sir Atholl Oakely Bart. was doing in the almost exclusively working class world of grunt and groan is a bit of a mystery. When he retired from the mat game he ran sailing holidays on an old Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter and also tours of Doone country; or at least that's what I have heard. I suppose that compared to the duplicity of the wrestling game, convincing people that Lorna Doone was based on fact was money for old rope.
Now I discover that RD Blackmoore wrote his most famous book just ten minutes walk from where I live. Unfortunately there is no overgrown Gothic mansion to explore but just a dull 1920s development with the only link to the past being a Blackmoore Close and a Doone Road.
So a short break in North Devon, a new found interest in Lorna Doone, my long time fascination with wrestling history and a couple of streets of unassuming 1920s semi-detached, have all come together to reafirm once again that most profound of philosophical cogitations - the interconnectedness of all things.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Digging and thinking. Thinking and digging.

All over the country allotmenteers, well those lucky enough to not have had their sites expropriated for Olympic Parks or Convicted Looter Holding Camps, are looking at their plots with some satisfaction. Despite the very dry spring this has turned out to be an exceptionally good growing season, especially for fruit. With food prices rising and most people getting more strapped for cash there never has been a better time to grow your own.
We don't hear quite so much about climate change these days and in many ways this is a blessing. At least we don't have to suffer the hapless children of the bourgeoisie stridently proclaiming that the future of the planet is in their hands. No, they've all invested in posh frocks and suits and gone off to work in PR. We are also spared having to listen the folk dirge of the insufferable Seize The Day at demos so all in all I find the demise of "Climate Change" to be a good thing. But don't run away with the idea that the problem has disappeared along with the protesters because nothing could be further from the truth. Climate change is real enough and with it comes a multitude of problems that will take all of our innate human ingenuity to cope with. There will be winners and losers for one thing and you can be sure that as life becomes more difficult in some parts of the world there will be mass migrations to more temperate regions. At the moment food shortages are due to a failure of distribution rather than production; plenty of food but the poor can't afford it. That could change and we could face real food shortages in future. Extreme weather events, rising sea levels, unpredictable harvests will combine with the mass movement of people around the globe to create perhaps the greatest challenge that our species has faced so far. The task is not to try and reverse climate change with wind farms, electric cars and non-farting cows but to cope with the effects of such changes. Are we up for it? I think so but only if we radically re-think the way that we do things. We will have to do better than the market led expanding economy model and create whole new ways of dealing with both each other and the world around us. Anyway, something to ponder as you dig those spuds.

Monday, 15 August 2011

It's all chipping off in Kicking Norton!

Behaving as if choices have no consequences... Moral Collapse... Irresponsibility... Selfishness...
Crime without punishment... Rights without responsibility... Greed... Feelings of entitlement...
People showing indifference to right and wrong... People with a twisted moral code... People with a complete absence of self-restraint...
But what to do about these people? That's the question isn't it Dave? I suppose not having them round on Boxing Day again might be a step in the right direction. Talk it over with Sam Dave.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A hard rain's gonna fall.

It's over! For now at least. Now for the reckoning and I don't just mean the long procession of accused through the courts. Many people are pleading guilty and hoping for the best but early signs suggest that we can expect some draconian sentences to be handed out. In the media every expert under the sun will be wheeled out to give their views. Some of them, like Camila Batmanghelidjh, will be worth listening to - others less so. Parliament has been recalled and the political class will unite in their condemnation of looting and arson while doing there best to score party political points at the same time. The calls for every kind of retribution and social engineering will stretch credulity. The Speaker, John Berkow, went up in my estimation when in a recent interview he said that the people he disliked the most were snobs and bigots but that of the two snobs were worst because a bigot could change. He knew this because he had once been a bigot himself. Well he will be hearing plenty from both snobs and bigots in the House this afternoon as the political elite compete with each other to pour scorn on the "feral underclass".
To listen to David Cameron yesterday was to hear the worst kind of hypocrisy . Born to a level of wealth and privilege beyond the comprehension of most of us and part of a corrupt clique who can have literally anything they desire, he gives lectures on morals to people who have the audacity to wear a pair of trainers they have not paid for. To me. one of the most striking images to appear in the media over the past few days was not the harrowing footage of a distressed and injured boy having his belongings stolen, or parts of London looking like the blitz, nor even the wonderful lady haranguing the mob about "fighting for a cause" but yesterday's Guardian centre spread of an army of smug, self satisfied white middle class big society street cleaners. Armed with their brooms and their moral certainty, the long march of the bland and well off is just beginning.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Reflections on trying to keep up. A poem.

In this ever changing world in which we live it's not always easy to keep up, no matter how hard we try. It seems like only last week that it was all about, "Murdoch-the cancer in our society". Just a minute, it was last week. Now it's all "London's Burning" and "will a bunch of brutal thugs rule our streets?" Well, not unless we increase budgets and give them water cannon apparently.

Monday, 8 August 2011

New youth adventure scheme gets off to cracking start.

Tottenham High Road is a mess, people have been made homeless and I have far too much respect and admiration for firefighters to want to see them being put in any more danger than necessary. On the other hand surely we can all applaud the initiative shown by young people in organising a little recreational looting for themselves and in these times of economic uncertainty there is much to be said for wealth redistribution projects of this nature.
Regular readers will know how keen I am on youth adventure schemes and it must be great fun to be riding around on your BMX with all of your mates and doing a bit of shopping without money. Not only great fun but in it's own way just as constructive an adventure as say, going off to the Arctic and irritating a lot of Polar Bears and, per head of young people involved, probably a lot cheaper.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Sham69? National Treasure? I should say so!

The National Trust have taken to flogging a compilation punk CD along with the fruit cake and books on butterfly watching. All the old punks are now well into their fifties of course and us old pro-situationist liggers and coat tail riders of the storm are well into our sixties. Prime recruitment fodder for the beige brigade you might imagine.
Well I'll fucking tell you one fucking thing - I'm not joining the fucking National Fucking Trust !

The Other Countryside.

Gitane's comments on this blog are always good value and are frequently far more entertaining than the original post. Once again the old geezer has got me thinking, this time about the class make up of our rural towns and villages. Gitane clearly knows Chipping Norton far better than I do, not difficult given that I have never been near the place, but his comments remind us that in every rural community there are interesting undercurrents and that things are usualy far more complicated than they appear at first glance. When we lived in Devon during the early seventies the term "estate" had several very different meanings. There was "The Estate" that owned many of the old building in the village (including our cottage)as well as the Big House and the surrounding couple of thousand acres of farms. There was also the "council estate" where although many people had connections to, and identified with, "The Estate" others worked in the nearest town and had no interest in the traditional structure of rank and land ownership. Finally there was the "housing estate" of middle class home owners who for different reasons tended to be wary of the proles and have a strong antipathy toward the toffs in the Big House. Well known to both toffs and proles, but hardly on nodding terms with any of the middle class, we and others like us, existed in a happy state of stoned limbo.
The nearest bit of real countryside to where we live now is the Surrey Hills, an area that includes the Greensand Hills, part of the North Downs, the town of Dorking and numerous villages. It's here in this beautiful landscape that we tend to go for days out walking and in many respects it lives up to most peoples preconceptions about Surrey as a place populated almost entirely by Chelsea players and hedge fund managers. However, you don't have to scratch the surface much to find a very different reality and even in the poshest bits there is evidence of "real people" living alongside the world of pony clubs and private schools. Plotlands, very unposh hamlets and isolated holding that look like Cold Comfort Farm are all there for the finding. We recently came across a village pub with a notice in the window advertising for a "Amusement Restriction Officer-would suite local person-no sense of humour required". As we suspected the notice was not unconected with the one alongside it advertising a "Ska and Reggae Nite".
So come on Gitane. Tell us more about the other Chipping Norton. The dodgy breakers yards, dodgy boozers, lurcher breeders, lonely goths and the families that nobody messes with.

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