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

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Big One.

I'm pleased to see that things are warming up quite nicely for the March 26 radical picnic and gentle stroll round the West End. Everything you need to know is here and Ian Bone is providing an excellent update service on his blog. Be There - Make History.

Friday, 25 February 2011

How an Admiral saved wrestling.

I think that it was Christopher Isherwood in Goodbye To Berlin who said regarding the Weimar nightclub scene and the rise of Nazism, "a people who believe in wrestling could believe in anything". A bit harsh on wrestling fans perhaps but certainly one of the problems confronting promoters in the hundred year history of pro wrestling has been how to keep the show believable and convince fans that they are witnessing a genuine contest. People who only know the game from the ludicrous world of WWE might be surprised to learn that the grunt and groan business was ever anything but a form of children's entertainment; a kind of tasteless Blue Peter without all that milk bottle top collecting. The modern day promoter knows that the multi-million dollar product is just a bit of nonsense and knows that we know as well; and doesn't care. But there was a time when the industry bent over backwards to convince the punters that they were witnessing a genuine contest. Huge efforts were made to keep the secret including a wrestlers language that could be used to exclude outsiders . As late as the 1980's British wrestlers were using the expression "queens" (Queens Park Rangers = strangers) as a warning if an uninitiated member of the public was within earshot. If in this country the secret lingo was based on rhyming slang, on the other side of the pond wrestlers used kafabe, the old hidden language of the carnivals. Wrestling was on the one hand a tough world of highly skilled athletes and at the same time a massive con that operated in a no man's land between sport and burlesque. For the promoter the challenge was always to put on shows that had enough gimmicks and esoterica to keep the fans interested while at the same time sending them home happy in the knowledge that they had just witnessed some genuine wrestling. It was never an easy task.
The business had a number of tricks up it's sleeve. One was to keep the press on side and this was successfull right up until the 30's when the excesses of many promoters persuaded sports writers to jump ship and transfer their loyalties to less contentious sports. Another was the fact that very many professional wrestlers were, no matter how choreographed their nightly exhibitions, very much the real deal and every bill would include at least one "hooker", a master of crippling submission holds who could be relied upon to uphold the integrity of the sport. You think it's all fake? Step right up mister and have a go. Finally,no matter how many expose there might be regarding the pre-arranged nature of wrestling it could always be argued that although that particular form of the sport was as bent as a nine bob note, this was the genuine article and the kind of wrestling that had been the norm in the "old days" before "the fall" and the bringing into disrepute of the game by dishonest promoters. The precise historical time of this supposed wrestling Garden of Eden could be adjusted to suit.
The style of wrestling that came to be both loved and despised was very much an American invention but it's roots lay in the catch wrestling of the Lancashire pitmen. But Britain can claim not only the mother lode skill base but also credit for one of the game's most outrageous scams. By the mid 1940's the British wrestling scene was in trouble. Such had been the depths that pre-war All In wrestling had sunk to and such the disregard for the public that the London County Council had finally banned it from the capital. If there was to be a post-war revival it would have to take the form of a born again wrestling that could cleanse itself of the recent past and by showing itself to be linked to the golden age of real wrestling, enter the halls in a cloud of sporting integrity while the product remained essentially the same as before. Could the promoters pull it off? Yes they could and a group of them put their heads together and came up with a plan.
A committee would look into wrestling and although this committee would be made up in the main of the promoters themselves, people from outside the business, and people of some standing, would be needed to give the proceedings authenticity. Admiral Lord Mountevans KCB DSO was approached and agreed to chair the committee. Mountevans was a naval hero, had been second in command on Scott's ill fated Antarctic expedition and was not the sort of chap to have any truck with fake wrestling. Commander Cambell, a popular radio broadcaster at the time also agreed to join this august body. Cambell did a sort of common sense, man of the people type act on The Brains Trust, predecessor of Any Questions. There is some doubt if Campbell was ever actually a Commander and some would have it that his seagoing career was as a purser on passenger ships. He would fit in a treat. Labour MP Maurice Webb was to complete the non-wrestling element. The Lord Mountevans Committee as it was to be known couldn't very well meet in the upstairs room of a pub so the boys went for broke and hired a room in the Houses Of Parliament. The committee discussed and decided on rules, weight divisions, championship belts (Lord Mountevans Gold Belt nach) and at the close the Admiral shuffled his papers together, thanked the members for attending and disappeared once more into the margins of history. The designated champions were authentic Wigan shooters, the masks and clowning around were kept to a minimum, the LCC lifted it's ban and for a while some semblance of respectability was bestowed on the grappling game. It couldn't last of course. Public taste is too fickle for that. In a few years the promoters would be forced to return to their old ways. Was Mountevans an innocent dupe or a willing accomplice? Perhaps he was a star struck fan who just wanted to hang out with the boys. We will never know but can be grateful I suppose that His Lordship would depart this mortal coil in 1957 and was thus spared the embarrassment of having to watch Big Daddy on World Of Sport.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Golden Compass author lays it on the line.

The writer Philip Pullman is not one to hold back and he took no prisoners when he shared his thoughts on Big Society with a meeting in Oxford last month. So much is being talked and written about all this that I fear that people may just switch off; just heave a sigh and change channels, or toddle off down the pub. But if you haven't seen it before spend a couple minutes reading what Pullman had to say. The man is on the money.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Jamie Oliver Update.

Fucking stroll on Jamie! I had no idea just how unpopular you are. After posting that last piece I Googled "hate Jamie Oliver" and up came the first page of over FOUR MILLION results and some of the stuff on that first page was pretty funny I have to say. Next I Googled "hate Gaddafi". Only one and a half million results for that Jamie. I'm having second thoughts about that peace envoy stuff now.

Jamie Oliver Saviour of the Universe.

Would you fucking Adam n Eve it? Having sorted out school dinners, the inadequacy of the American diet, youth unemployment and for all I know the meaning of life, Jamie Oliver, who's own children obviously go to posh private schools, has turned his attention to education. Jamie's Dream School will, with the help of some of his celeb mates, attempt to show kids that a proper pukka education is really cool. I mean, how fucking good is that? Fuck me Jamie you are a proper caution and no mistake. Not since Flash Gordon has there been such a top geezer. So what next for the cheerful mockney? Middle East Peace Envoy perhaps. Go for it Jamie, job for life mate.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

It's customer care - but not as we know it.

Ever felt that you had totally had it up to here with a customer service "help line" with the constant background music, instructions to press this that or the other key and the continual reassurances that you and your call are deeply valued? This might cheer you up a bit.

Friday, 18 February 2011

The Coalition is for turning.

The campaign to turn March 26th into something more meaningful and a lot more fun than a slow trudge from A to B is gathering momentum. The call is out to "Stay4OneDay" and this might be just the tonic that the Anti Cuts movement needs at this time. Information can be found all over the web but Resist26 is as good a place to start as any. The government have been forced into an embarrassing climb down over the privatisation of our national woodland and with a bit of luck and a fair wind could be pushed into a corner where they have no choice but a real cuts U turn. That might not be the revolution but it sure is something worth fighting for.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Chapter IV. The Head Boy has a big idea.

When Cameron talks about charity, volunteering and his vision of a caring society whole swathes of Middle England look like those nodding dogs you used to see in the back of Ford Cortinas. Indeed, unless you happen to be one of those public sector workers who face redundancy and the prospect of your job being taken over by an army of gap year do-gooders and their interfering mothers, there seems little that can be disagreed with. Volunteering is an integral part of our society and something that most of us get involved in at some time of our lives. It's personally rewarding, can frequently make a big difference to peoples lives and in many ways helps make clear part of what it is to be human. Anarchists have always seen volunteering as an example of how the world could be; as in Kropotkin's admiration of the lifeboat service. So what's not to like in the Big Society? Well to start with there is the nausea of listening to a multi-millionaire and a representative of that part of society that have helped themselves to a grossly unfair portion of the common-wealth banging on about people helping each other. Dave claims that he wants people to be empowered and I'm all in favour of that. In fact I would like to see people feeling so empowered that they turfed the Camerons out of one of their properties and used it for a pre-school playgroup or whatever. There's a great line in the film If... when Malcolm McDowell's character Travis berates the Head Boy, aptly named Rowntree, for "giving your best teddy bear to Oxfam and expect us to lick your frigid fingers for the rest of your frigid life". Cameron may have a big idea - but some of us have got an even bigger one.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Good Luck Egypt!

With persistence and exceptional courage the Egyptian people have brought down a brutal dictator. We hear over and over on the media the question, " how can you negotiate if you have no leaders?" The masses will hopefully answer by creating assemblies with recallable delegates. For negotiate they must. Not with the politicians but with the army who for better or worse hold the reins of power. Egypt is a conservative country with most of the population being devout Muslims and the emergence of a secular, humanist, libertarian socialist society is unlikely. ( But click here for a treat) Whatever happens, the behaviour of ordinary Egyptians over the last couple of weeks is a beacon to us all. I can but wish them well.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Salute the sewermen.

When I was a teenager I had a spell working on Upper Thames passenger steamers. The lavatorial arrangements on board these vessels consisted in the main of chemical toilets the contents of which I'm ashamed to say we chucked in the river come dark. We fantasised about lobbing an Eton Schoolboy in on top but I don't think that it ever happened. However, some of the boats had the more modern "holding tank" system that was pumped out into a tanker lorry for disposal. One day, having completed our usual trips up and down the river, one of us was instructed to drive the tanker and empty it. I was to be drivers mate. A couple of girls were hanging around the jetty and we decided to ask them if they wanted to, "come for a ride in our lorry". Amazingly they agreed to accompany us on our expedition. On arrival at a sewage farm on the outskirts of Windsor we coupled up various pipes while the girls looked on dubiously. A manhole cover was lifted and the contents of the tanker evacuated. The smell was beyond description. As you can imagine our companions were less than impressed and demanded to be driven back immediately where they stalked off without so much as a backward glance. Well we were all very young.
The details of how we dispose of sewage and refuse may not be for the faint hearted but is none the less vital for our health and well being and the people who work in these industries perform some of the most socially useful work. One binman or sewer worker is worth a thousand bankers in my view so I was delighted to find that we now have a sewer flushers blog complete with singing sewermen links and stuff. Top geezers.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The merest hint of spring.

We are not even half way through February so winter is far from over and we could well have a dose of cold wet weather before spring arrives. Non the less, at least here in the Soft South, there is a feeling in the air of the growing season not being that far off. The bulbs are coming out in the garden, if you get out in the country you will see that some farms have already started lambing, and this year's seed order arrived in the post today. I'm pretty well up to speed at the allotment. The muck was all spread in the autumn, the broad beans have survived the cold December under a cloche made out of old secondary double glazing, and the plot is pretty weed free. I tend to be a bit conservative when it comes to growing and in the past have looked down my nose at "no digging" systems and the like, but the soil on our plot is so light and sandy that I have cut back on the digging this year and am just giving the ground a light forking over. We shall see how it goes. The main thing with this type of soil is to incorporate plenty of muck into it because it sure is hungry and at the first hint of being a bit mean in the fertilizer department yields will start to drop off. Growing stuff is like that; a constant learning process with never ending adjustments and fine tuning. Bit like life really.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Sam and Dave set to integrate.

David Cameron wants minorities, the various religious, ethnic and social sub-cultures, to integrate into mainstream society. I'm all in favour of that but if this is to apply to, for example, Muslims, should this call for integration not also apply to all minorities including the one that the Prime Minister is a part of? Because make no mistake about it, Cameron is very much a part of a minority who are in no way integrated into the mainstream but lead very segregated lives indeed. I refer of course to the powerful and elitist sub-culture of the very rich, public school educated social network that is the ruling class. What's sauce for the goose Dave.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Don't let weddings or Islam take our eye off the ball.

You have to hand it to Cameron, coming out with a concerned critique of multiculturalism just as thousands of EDL supporters descend on Luton to make the same point. Talk about pouring oil on burning waters. Day after day we are fed the same disturbing news about cuts in public expenditure and how these cuts will impact on all of us and the less well off in particular. Surely Cameron is not pulling the old scapegoat stunt is he? You don't need to be any great admirer of either Islam or multicultural policies to see through this nonsense. Just as you don't have to have any strong opinions, one way or the other, about the Royal Family to see through that other diversionary tactic -The Kate And Wills Show.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

I'm a farmer get me out of here.

Reality TV shows work on the premise that the viewers will be so drawn into the charade that they will actually mistake it for "reality". In fact the only reality operating here is the one dictated by the demands of the production company with their bored crew complete with PA's, all pointy shoes and asymmetrical hair, parachuted in from planet Hoxton. Last night's BBC2's A Farmers Life For Me was no exception. Having graduated from his own reality TV introduction to farming a couple of years back, Jimmy Doherty now appears on our screens every other night as an all round expert on agriculture, livestock and food production in general. I'm surprised he has any time spare to run his farm. But then, who knows how real the farm is anyway? If you missed the show you will have to ask someone else about it, or watch it on iplayer. I can't be bothered but trust me, it had very little to do with farming - or reality.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

British holidays ruined by revolution.

As the Egyptian people gamble everything to overcome the twin evils of poverty and repression we are treated to a stream of hard luck stories from returning tourists whining about ruined holidays. Now that these intrepid adventurers are back safe and sound in safe but sterile suburbia they can consolidate their paranoia by checking out the level of crime in their area on the new interactive on line crime maps. That's one way of going about it. The other way of determining if it's kicking off in your neighbourhood is to look out of the window or take a stroll down the shops but that could be just me being cynical again. This new online facility is supposed to be empowering but of course will mainly empower estate agents and insurance companies. You wanna see some real empowerment? Try Egypt.