Thursday, 28 April 2011
I blow a bit hot and cold about Private Eye. It certainly does a good job of exposing corruption and pricking the inflated egos of the rich and famous but there is something of the ex-public schoolboy taking the piss out off everyone and everything because he was never any good at games about the Eye. Be that as it may, the Royal Wedding Special is truly wonderful and makes a refreshing change from the sycophantic nonsense of most of the media. Top work Gnome.
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
How sad to hear of Poly Styrene's death from cancer at the young age of 53. She was one of the genuine iconoclasts of the punk movement. I last saw Poly with Xray Spex at the Anti-Nazi gig in Victoria Park in '78. The woman had her problems but she was what Her Indoors likes to refer to as a "good old gal". I can't find a better description. RIP Poly.
When the boom in "survivalism" took off in the 1980s I started to take an interest. This was seen in some quarters as further evidence of my becoming none too tightly wrapped and possibly several sandwiches short of the proverbial picnic. My critics had a point. Survivalism never had a very good press. The associations with the extreme right, the obsession with para-military paraphernalia and the image of sexually unfulfilled youths making deadfall traps in their mums back gardens didn't help. But for all the unfortunate connotations there was, and there remains in my view, a kernel of something valuable in survivalism. It's roots are in Henry David Thoreau, the anarchist back to the land movement and the Kibo Kift. The simple desire to be a little more self-reliant and a little closer to nature has been a constant theme since the Enclosures and the birth of the Industrial Revolution. I like to think of myself as a Modernist and a Rationalist but that old romantic notion of nature and freedom rings a bell for me; and I suspect that it always will.
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
Things are not looking all that wonderful for the wedding. Street party euphoria is confined to the South East and only the posher boroughs in London are showing much interest. Assorted despots and dictators are in town for the event, "Doors To Manual" is still instructing her daughter in the finer points of not eating peas off her knife, the EDL are providing an honour guard and all in all things are not in what you might call the best possible taste. Now to cap it all the Met Office are forecasting rain for Friday. Stop that giggling at the back!
Friday, 22 April 2011
A daughter arrives. She has come to borrow a tent and deposit an African Pygmy Hedgehog that we are looking after while she and her boyfriend go camping. His name is Pumpkin ( the hedgehog not the boyfriend ) and he is nocturnal and sleeps all day; as does the boyfriend given half a chance, or so I am told.
I don't suppose that Pumpkin will be a lot of trouble and at least he will take my mind of the impending dawn raids. I'm worried sick. Supposing I'm not considered important enough to be picked up in the first wave but am relegated to the second or even third wave? What will people think? Worse still, supposing that having perused my latest publication The Parliamentary Road To Anarchism, the powers that be decide to just ignore me altogether? Whatever happens next week - Pumpkin and I will face it together.
Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Like some terrible version of the Chinese water torture the unrelenting drip, drip ,drip of Royal Wedding propaganda erodes sanity and seeps into every tiny exposed crevice of the mind. I awoke screaming in the middle of the night having dreamt that our High Street was bedecked in Union Jacks from end to end with the usual dull parade of coffee outlets and estate agents resembling a 1980's NF rally. But it was no dream. Yesterday evening, bewitched by the idea of "from pitman to princess in five generations" her indoors actually watched a program about the Middletons. Personally I am more taken with the idea of the Windsors being forced down the mines but you know me.
Monday, 18 April 2011
I don't think that there has been a time in my memory when politicians have been viewed by the average punter with as much contempt as they are today. Of course in amongst the careerists, ideologs and charlatans there are some very genuinely committed people. But they tend to stick out like sore thumbs. For myself, I tend to view parliamentary politics as a spectator sport only marginally more exciting than crown green bowls and certainly not as interesting as archery. The AV Yes/No campaigns may be keeping the Westminster Village awake at night but from what I can make of it those people who do bother to vote on the issue at all will do so on the basis of who they most want to piss off - Cameron or Clegg. Tough call.
Friday, 15 April 2011
Don't get me wrong, I'm in favour of the Olympics. Or at least I'm in favour of the Olympic idea. Young people from all over the world living in an "Olympic Village" and competing together in their chosen sport. What's not to like? If parts of East London were regenerated and the housing and transport infrastructure improved for local residents that would be nice too. The fact that the whole shooting match will be hijacked by politicians, property developers and the global fast food industry is hardly the fault of the athletes. Despite all the rip offs and broken promises the games will be a life changing experience for many young athletes and that must surely be a good thing. But is London, by which I mean the power elite who think that they run the place, actually up to the job? There are now fears that with an estimated five million extra visitors the transport system will just be unable to cope. Londoners are now being asked to rethink their travel plans during the games. There are suggestions that people "work from home" as if everyone was a keyboard jockey. What about schools, hospitals and the transport system itself? Not, mind you that it's entirely out of the question that tube workers will be on strike anyway. The Olympic legacy may well turn out to be a positive one but for Londoners it could be an Olympic nightmare.
Wednesday, 13 April 2011
I woke up this morning, did my usual half an hour with the weights and after a bit of breakfast prepared for a few hours work down the allotment. I think that I'm reasonably fit for my age but I certainly don't have the stamina that I had only a few years ago. When I was young I worked on a ship alongside a guy called Tim Carr. Tim was a couple of years older than me, was already widely travelled, had been curator of birds at Jersey Zoo and was an environmentalist long before it became the trendy thing to be. He was also one of the most doggedly self-reliant people that I have ever met. Not long after this Tim acquired a girlfriend (Pauline) and a very old and very small wooden sailing boat (Curlew). Tim and Pauline came to stay with us at the cottage in Devon in 1970 having spent the intervening years getting Curlew fitted out for a round the world voyage. We lost touch eventually and it was years later that I discovered that they had spent their lives sailing the world on a shoestring in this tiny vessel before finally settling in remote South Georgia. They moved on when even this haven of tranquility became too busy with tourists. This morning I came across this video of a lecture they gave a few years back.
I mention all this because I well remember Tim saying how he dreaded getting old and not being able to do all the things like climbing the mast that he took for granted. I have no idea where Tim Carr is today but I hope that he is fit and well. May you stay forever young.
Monday, 11 April 2011
Look, the burka and hidjab are symbols of repression. I know that. That some women voluntarily choose to wear these symbols in no way makes the practice any less of a medieval anachronism that should have no place in a society that has any aspirations toward individual freedom and gender equality. I know all that. But none the less I'm surprised and saddened by people who would support the state's intervention in the matter. If it's wrong for male family members to dictate what clothes women wear, how can it be right for male politicians to do the same?
I am also sick and tired of hearing Muslims assuring us all that burkas and hidjabs are nothing to do with Islam but are "cultural". As if religion could be anything other than cultural.
Friday, 8 April 2011
Cam and Sam. Don't you just love 'em? Off on Easyjet for a cheapo short break in Benidorm. It's the common touch see. What my Mum used to call having "no side". How long before the Camerons are dressing up as Pearly King and Queen and rocking up at Tubby Isaac's for a plate of eels?
Thursday, 7 April 2011
No time past seems to retain it's fascination quite like the sixties, and forty years after it all came to an end the decade shows no sign of losing it's appeal to writers and film makers. It was a time of huge social change but it's wrong to imagine that everyone under twenty five was involved in a massive and very cool mod project of turning the world upside down. The decade was experienced by different people in very different ways. It has always seemed to me that sixties people could be divided between those who wanted to shop in Biba and those that wanted to blow it up. A gross over simplification of course and not least because many people seem to have grown up at the time without either the style or the politics having had any impact on them at all.
One thing that can't be denied is that the sixties was a time of increasing social mobility but we tend to generalise about this. The Eastend photographers who started hanging out up west, the gangsters who thought that Princess Margaret was their mate, the sons and daughters of dockers and factory workers who became polytechnic lecturers, these were a tiny minority; albeit a minority that was beyond the imagination of their parents generation.
It has been said that the sixties, in the sense that most of us mean by the expression, that is the music style and politics , actually lasted from about 1966 until 1974. It's a fair observation.
When I look back on those times I am amazed. The people I met, the things that I did, the drugs I took. I sometimes wonder if it was all a dream.
Clearly it was not like that for everyone. Where I live now was at the time at the very heart of the sixties R&B scene, yet I know people who spent their youth just down the road from Eel Pie and never thought of going there. Just assumed that it was nothing to do with them. I have even met people who celebrated the spirit of '68 by choosing, that year of all years, to move to apartheid South Africa or Smith's Rhodesia. Unbelievable. The sixties was a time like no other, but for many it was happening to someone else.
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
Nick Clegg says that he wants to see an end to people getting on in life because of who they know or "who their parents meet at the tennis club".
Clegg was born in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. His father, Nicholas Clegg CBE, is chairman of United Trust Bank, and is a trustee of The Diawa Anglo-Japanese Foundation where Ken Clarke was an adviser. Clegg's paternal grandmother, Kira von Engelhardt, was the daughter of a Baron from Imperial Russia whose family fled the Bolsheviks after the revolution. One of his great-great-grandfathers, Ignaty Zakrevsky, was attorney general of the Imperial Russian Senate. One of his great-great aunts was the writer, Baroness Moura Budberg. Clegg's paternal grandfather, Hugh Anthony Clegg, was the editor of the British Medical Journal for 35 years.Educated at Caldicott School and Westminster, Clegg spent a gap year as a skiing instructor in Austria, before attending Cambridge University where he was active in the student theatre, acting alongside Helena Bonham Carter in one production. He was captain of the college tennis team.
Monday, 4 April 2011
"I've brought you a presi", announced her indoors when she came home. The gift turned out to be a black pudding from Allens of Mayfair, butchers to the nobility. "We're supposed to be smashing windows round there, not shopping", I moaned. Apparently the lady had felt an urge to wonder around a part of London normally only visited on demos. Check out a pub and a posh shop or three. Quite right too, for we deserve the best. There is a dreadful soul destroying streak of puritanism deep in the bowels of the left, and anarchists are not immune to it, that insists on us adopting a sackcloth and ashes take on life. There is nothing liberating about not recognising and wanting quality products; and nothing good about settling for the third rate products of sweated labour rather than the craftsmanship of the true artisan. I also don't think that there is anything contradictory in spidging about getting stuff out of skips and growing our own veg on the one hand, and the desire to experience the quality that is supposed to be the preserve of the rich on the other. What we need is a new kind of relationship with commodities and accumulating cheap crap produced at the expense of other peoples misery should be no part of it. We deserve the best. All of us. And the black pudding? Not bad actually.
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Growing vegetables is one of my great pleasures in life and anyway I'm really an outdoor person, much happier pottering around in the fresh air rather than being stuck indoors. For all of that I very rarely take much notice of the gardening media. I might refer to a gardening book from time to time but by and large the plethora of books , newspaper articles and TV programmes devoted to growing a bit of veg just leaves me cold. But just occasionally something comes along that is really worthy of a second glance and there was an article in today's Independent Magazine that is one of the best pieces of gardening journalism I have seen in a long time. So much is written and talked about garden design or new and supposedly wonderful new systems of doing something that we have been doing for ten thousand years and a good deal of it is just froth, but Anna Pavord's article Earth Matters is a genuine back to basics gem. Nothing is so important in agriculture, and probably for the future of our species, as the maintenance and improvement of the structure of the soil and Anna Pavord manages to get the basics across in a couple of thousand words. Classic gardening writing that should be read by every beginner and a good many older hands as well.
Revolutionary politics is an adventure or it is nothing. Standing in Trafalgar Square last Saturday and watching the Black Bloc streaming past, banners fluttering in the breeze, I had no doubt that they were having an adventure. As we get older, and yes more timid, there's a temptation to dismiss the incendiary flair of youth as being in some way not proper politics. Rubbish! To who else but adventurous youth can the task of changing life be entrusted? During the student protests last year I shouted, "the pensioners support the students" until my throat was sore. I warmed my hands on their bonfires; and my heart was warmed too.
We have been hearing a lot about violence recently. As if the violence of a bit of broken glass and some paint splashed around could in any way compare with the violence of any alienated city centre weekend, the endless abuse that is a part of every hierarchical relationship and the ever present threat of violence that keeps the state in power. The tanks aren't on the streets because they are not needed; not yet.
The Black Bloc won't always get it right of course, they are bound to make mistakes, but they are surely having an adventure. There's a statement about the trashing of Ann Summers on the Indymedia site. It's a bit wordy. The authors clearly want to be situationists. Nothing wrong with that. I wanted to be one myself when young. But in publishing under the names of the Famous Five they have hit the nail right on the head. It's an adventure or nothing.
RAMP-AGE SUPPORTS THE BLACK BLOC.