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

Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - A taste of things to come ?

During the past twelve months the UK has experienced an unprecedented number of extreme weather events. Extreme weather is always a possibility of course but 2012 really was unusual in that we had drought, severe gales, and  record levels of rainfall all crammed into one year. Beyond explaining the migrations of the jet-stream, climate scientists are being justifiably cagey about giving a reason for this years extreme weather but for many people it looks as though the effects of climate change are happening before our very eyes.                                                                                                               Meanwhile the precipitation continues. There was a knock on the door just now. Jehovah's Witnesses. I was  explaining my position on matters of faith when the Postie arrived. "You want to talk to the Jehovah's Witnesses?" I enquired. " I'm too busy building my ark",  he replied, handing me a soggy envelope. We will see what 2013 brings. Happy New Year.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Vamps, Vixens and Good Old Gals.

 I didn't think that the festive TV schedule was that much to write home about but on the Saturday before Christmas  BBC2 showed the Arena production Screen Goddesses. I recorded the program but didn't get around to watching it until last night. It was worth waiting for. I sat entranced for a solid hour as Garbo, Dietrich, Lillian Gish, Bette Davis and many more strutted their stuff. The screen goddesses were a product of the Hollywood studio set up and as the industry changed so the goddesses disappeared from our screens.
There is a continuing fascination with the old time female stars of cinema which is all the more surprising when you consider that most of them were at the peak of their careers before most of us were born. Marilyn Monroe could be said to be the last screen goddess - and what an act to bring an era to a close. But for me Dietrich, as both a screen and real life personality, is unassailable.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day Hunt Controversy Zzzzz!

Few things, apart from yet another  visit from the in laws, can generate quite so much Boxing Day heat as foxhunting. I have never been able to get my head round why so many people find this anachronistic but comparatively harmless hobby so important. When it finally dawned on the left-wing of the labour party that the New Labour project was never going to offer anything but a slightly pinkish tinged Thatcherism the 2004 Hunting Act was gratefully accepted as some kind of sop. It was an easy way to have a dig at the toffs. Personally I have always felt that if the English ruling class did nothing more socially damaging than chasing foxes we would have little to worry about.  Tally Ho!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Brace up comrades! Brace up!

We can get through this. With a steely determination forged in the crucible of past tribulation and adversity we can win through. Remember, in another seventy hours it will be done and dusted.
Have a good one! Happy Christmas to you all.  That's me standing in front of the fire BTW.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Will the proper capitalists please stand up?

A few minutes browsing company websites reveals that: TESCO put community at the heart of everything that they do. BP are all about making a socio/economic contribution to the community. SHELL are justifiably proud of their social investment program. HSBC are committed to a positive contribution to the community as well as a positive environmental impact.Concerns about labour and human rights are never far away from the thoughts of APPLE. All are more committed to sustainability than you would believe possible.
I wonder, are there any proper capitalists left? You know, proper profiteering fuck the lot of you capitalists like in the old days.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

ACAB - Well, almost.

Clearly not all coppers are bastards. We have all met the odd decent copper and I'm prepared to accept that some misguided folk really do join the force in the belief that they can make a positive contribution to society and "help people".  How long such good intentions survive police canteen culture is another matter. For as long as I can remember elite units have been run as little empires, corrupt, self serving and confident that if push comes to shove they really can get away with murder. Just at the moment the Met appear to be  in a world of shit. Plebgate, Plebgate Gate, half the stations in London due to close, talk of conspiracy fills the air and the Federation may implode any day now, why even the Inspector Gadget Blog is deleting contentious posts as if they where going out of fashion. Were will it all end?  My money would go on a public enquiry into policing followed by a lot of fine words and business as usual. The police will close ranks for sure because bastards or not,  coppers have a sense of solidarity that puts the rest of us to shame.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Nicola Adams. How cool is she?

Even for those of us who are not big fans of cycling, Bradley Wiggins winning Sports Personality Of The Year raises a smile of pleasure. Bradley seems like a decent sort. Bit of a laugh, not remotely up himself but a working class bloke with his head screwed on. But how distressing to see that no less than  230, 000 people are somehow able to hold in their minds the two concepts 'personality' and 'Andy Murrey' at the same time.
The Bad Old Days Will End special award goes to Nicola Adams not only for looking unbelievably cool at last night's ceremony, but also for breaking new ground and winning over the rather conservative male boxing fraternity. As Carl Froch said, "A lot of people have had their mind's changed and changed for the better".

Saturday, 15 December 2012

End of world update.

I used to think that the 'long count' was an incident during the Jack Dempsey - Gene Tunney fight. I now know that it also refers to the Mayan calender and that we are now very close to the end of the world. Blimey! In China the authorities are cracking down on Mayan cults but that hasn't stopped cult members calling for all out war against the 'Red Dragon' (CP) and stocking up on candles and tinned chicken chow mien. I'm not quit sure how to play this to be honest. I've stashed away a bit of extra food and cancelled the paper but that's as far as I've got. Just to be on the safe side we're off to the annual atheist Xmas show tonight. Cover all options I reckon.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Walking the streets.

Iain Sinclair trudges the perimeter of the Olympic Park contemplating the loss of London's last remaining wilderness. Ian Bone criss-crosses the City retracing the steps of Thomas Venner as he researches for the Fifth Monarchist  'Ephiphany' film. No books or films result from my own wanderings of the capital's streets and open spaces. There is no point to these excursions  beyond curiosity and the pleasure of discovering something unexpected, if unremarkable, round the next corner.  A mate once remarked that walking across London was like walking through geological strata. But the strata are not formed of differing layers of rock but bands of wealth and class, and just as tectonic movement forces geological strata into syncline and anticline, so does the pressure of the market distort the bands of social strata that make up the metropolis. Streets of done up houses with BMW's parked outside are forced into uneasy proximity to deprived looking estates. Much of London's housing stock has come full circle from grand bourgeois residence to run down multi-occupancy and back to large family homes for the new well to do.
Writing in the 1930's, Norman Collins in London Belongs To Me says, "Yes, that's London. Mile upon mile of little houses.......  If you start walking westward in the early morning from somewhere down in Wapping or the Isle Of Dogs by the evening you will still be on the march, still in the midst of shabby little houses - only somewhere over by Hammersmith by then".  Collins was writing before the blitz, developers, councils and well meaning modernist architects had combined to put their stamp on London. But there are still mile upon mile of classic Victorian terraces. Bay window, small front garden, neat privet hedge, net curtains. This was the home of the "respectable" working class and the aspiring lower middle class.
Yesterday I set off from Peckham Rye Station walked down Rye Lane with it's dozens of African shops, surely more fishmongers than any other street in town, butchers selling chickens feet at £1.99 a bag and shoulder of goat a snip at £3.50 a kilo. I turned east to take in Nunhead and walked up once posh (and soon to be posh again) Telegraph Hill. Swinging in a wide arc I marched through New Cross  and made my way to Canada Water. Despite all the recent (and not so recent) development I walked along street after street of solid old Victorian terrace housing pretty much unchanged from when Collins was writing and then as now - this is the real London.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Boycott everything!

Ethical shopping, like shopping of any description, tends to leave me a bit cold. Exchanging my civil rights for consumer rights interests me about as much as does exchanging unwanted Xmas gifts at M&S during the January sales. There is no doubting that consumer boycotts can put pressure on companies but the slack will be taken up somewhere else. Having said that, I am finding boycotting Starbucks pretty much of a doddle - as far as I can remember I have only stepped inside one of their establishments once and it's not an experience I'm in a hurry to repeat. A nice cup of tea leaning against that shelf in the Brick Lane begel shop is more my style or better still a visit to one of London's remaining proper cafes. Have you ever been to the River Cafe? No not the poncy one so beloved of the   chattering classes but the proper one opposite Putney Bridge Station. Proper cafe, proper grub, proper Italian family been running it for years. To step inside just once is to see Starbucks for what it is and, if that's your bag, they probably pay more tax as well.  It helps if you are a Fulham supporter but is not essential.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Grapples, Grunts & Grannies.

Documentaries that take a serious look at professional wrestling are few and far between so historians of the mat game as well as fans of the golden age of British post-war grappling will need to make sure that they don't miss this opportunity to relive again the innocence of our youth. My own efforts to record some moments from wrestling history here on this blog are a poor and amateurish thing compared to the output of the Wrestling Heritage site and I'm delighted that 'Hack' and 'Anglo Italian' have been able to have a major input into the program. So, on Thursday 13th December settle down in front of the box for an hour of nostalgia. It's just a shame that Watney's Party Specials and Vesta Curry are no longer available to complete the evening.

Only total financial transparency for all will threaten the like of Starbucks.

For Starbucks paying tax is seen as a voluntary donation, part of their corporate social responsibility profile and something that they can opt in and out of at will. Tax was originally nothing more than a tribute in kind to the king or emperor with the sole aim of increasing the riches and power of the ruling elite. With the wealth collected ships could be built, armies raised and frontiers extended. Tax still fulfils this function of course but in the modern world is also expected to be a tool of redistribution where individual wealth collectively funds hospitals, schools and transport as well as nuclear deterrents and royal pageantry. For most people, locked into the PAYE system as they are, there is no question of choice regarding the payment of tax; they would like to pay less but recognise the redistributive element. For the suits at Starbucks of course, none of this is of any relevance. Their whole world, children's education, health, pensions, everything, is a private matter. We may get pissed off with the arrogance - but we can't fault the logic.
Only total financial transparency for all will allow us to see who has what and where the money goes.
Who would object to such a thing? Only those who have such a disproportionately large share of the cake that they fear expropriation - or those who feel in some way personally diminished by the few crumbs that they salvage. Total financial transparency for all might not lead to the eruption of the marvellous but it sure would be a step in the right direction.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Nicholas Culpeper. More than just another quack.

Like many people I have a fairly limited knowledge of the English Civil War. I know of course about the major battles, the Levellers, Diggers, the Putney Debates, but I am frequently surprised by just how little I do know about this time of profound social and political upheaval. Take Nicholas Culpeper for example. The man is remembered as a famous herbalist and that was the limit of my knowledge about him until recently. But Culpeper was much more and was a true radical who devoted his life not only to extending his knowledge of medicine but making this knowledge freely available to the mass of people. It's easy to dismiss Culpeper as a quack and to be sure I would not fancy being treated by his eclectic mix of astrology and herbs but we should be wary of judging historical figures out of the context of their time. From his shop in Spitalfields where he dispensed to the poor, to his publishing herbalist books in English rather than the Latin favoured by the establishment, to his serious wounding at the Battle Of Newbury when fighting with the parliamentarian forces, Culpeper was a man who walked the walk. Even today there is a populist view of the Civil War and the English Revolution as a conflict between grim faced Roundheads who banned sex standing up in case it led to dancing and foppish Cavaliers who may have been toffs but at least knew how to have a good time. To allow such a huge social upheaval to be dismissed in those terms is not just a misunderstanding of history but a disservice to the memory of radicals and iconoclasts like Nicholas Culpeper.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Those were the days.

                                                                                                                                                                      A timely reminder over at the Journeymanblog that when all the lords, judges and assorted Old Etonians have  had their say there remains one very useful means of controlling the press.

Another brood mare to the slaughter?

The Duchess of Cambridge is spewing her ring up and has been put on a drip. No not that drip. This one is a medical intervention. Her offspring will have the same rights of succession regardless of gender and will also be allowed to marry a catholic. Oh well, that's progress I supppose. Just goes to show how one pushy lower middle class family can get on if only they have the gumption. Doors to manual - a beacon to us all.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Top interview by Sarah Story.

It's not always easy being interviewed by the media. The time available is frequently far too short to get across the things that you really want to say and it's easy to come away feeling that an opportunity has been missed. Paralympic multi gold medallist Sarah Storey has been around the block and was never likely to be put on the back foot in her World At One interview today but still it was a master class in how to get important points across. The relevance of the Olympic legacy, and for that matter disabled sport in general, to the majority of disabled people was summed up in just a few sentences. A pleasure to listen to.

Friday, 30 November 2012

What next after boxing Freddie?

The history of professional sport is littered with examples of formerly great sportsmen who retire only to find that they just can't cope with life away from the arena and end up doing anything from ill advised comebacks to panto just so long as it involves the roar of the crowd. I say sportsmen advisedly because  perhaps women are just too grounded, sensible and sure of friendship to do anything but accept retirement with grace. Anyway, for better or worse Freddie Flintoff make his professional boxing debut tonight against American novice Richard Dawson. According to trainer Barry McGuigan,  Flintoff has put in the gym time, is fit and up for it. We can but wish him well. If Freddie can have three or four outings, have some fun and not get hurt, he will be able to tell his grandchildren that he was a pro fighter as well as being a great Test all-rounder. Where's the harm in that? Trouble is that after boxing what next? Oh! Dear God please no not that! I have no idea where Flintoff stands politically but if Nigel Farage is spotted sniffing around the Manchester Arena dressing rooms tonight we should all be very afraid.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A healthy choice?

Philip Lee is Conservative MP for Bracknell and, we are told, a part time GP. Dr Lee naturally takes a lively interest in the future of the NHS but I can't help wondering if his suggestion about people who get ill due to inappropriate "lifestyle choices" has more to do with his political aspirations than his medical concerns. Lee reckons that people who smoke or eat doughnuts and get sick as a result ( I had not realised that the cause of illness could be pin pointed with such accuracy, but I'm not a medical man) should be denied free prescriptions. Bound to be a big hit with Tory backwoodsmen. You have to peel back the layers a bit here before getting to the real heart of the matter.
First of all, not everyone gets free prescriptions anyway. Just about everything that befalls human beings is due to a "lifestyle choice", if that's what you want to call it, because living is a pretty dangerous occupation. Sure we can and perhaps should, make healthy choices but some of us have more choice than others and, let's be honest, we are not all equally endowed with choice making ability. The unspoken assumption is that it is the long term unemployed, larger drinking, deep fried underclass who are mainly at fault here but the truth is that nothing is as unhealthy as work. Dr Lee might bring his undoubted diagnostic ability to bear on just how much sickness is created in the production of his mobile phone for example and he might also consider the huge legacy of poor health that will result from long work days spent in front of a computer screen.
Look, the more responsibility we take for ourselves the better and there could be no bigger enthusiast for healthy exercise, fresh air and decent grub than me, but that responsibility is both an individual and a collective one. We are responsible for ourselves and for each other.  If we want people to make healthy choices we need to educate them to do so but we also need to realise that to a very large extent and for the majority of people "lifestyle" is not really a matter of choice at all.
Philip Lee could make a bigger contribution by helping his patients rather than trying to score brownie points with his chums at Millbank.

Monday, 26 November 2012

UKIP and the search for alternatives.

I used to think that UKIP was nothing more than a BNP for the middle-class. A political home for flag waving Little Englanders with a deep rooted mistrust of foreigners but who felt themselves too refined for the the old dog shit in the letter box and back alley brutalities that pass for political tactics on the far right. But UKIP are making ground in Rotherham and the revelation that social workers have deemed party members to be unfit foster parents and Michael Fabricant publicly warning Cameron that UKIP are a real threat to the Tories will all be grist to the mill.
As the recession deepens and life becomes more difficult for whole swathes of the population we will be offered a stark choice - go back to sleep and hope for the best or look for alternatives of one sort or another. The search for alternatives will almost certainly not be pretty but it may well be interesting.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Last days of the Dandy,

On December 4th the Dandy will roll off the press for the very last time and, like much else, be consigned to a mere "internet presence". Dandy amused kids and adults alike for a record breaking 75 years but recently there has been a decline in interest and the home of Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and the rest has become unsustainable. If you live in London why not trot  along to the Cartoon Museum  and take a shufti at the Dandy exhibition that runs until Xmas? Great stuff!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Albert Meltzer takes a dip.

In 1959 Rank decided to switch over from newsreels to a series of short documentaries called Look At Life. Shot in high quality 35mm film, these shorts had no more pretensions then to keep the audience amused while they waited for the main feature. As part of the Britain On Film Series, BBC4 have been showing some of the Look At Life footage. Bright young things interested in seeing retro fashion as it really was will love it; as will old gits up for a bit of 60's nostalgia, film geeks marvelling at the quality of the footage, not to mention proper social historians with degrees and stuff. Last weeks episode centred on the boom in leisure activity and there were a number of shots of various forms of keep fit.  Just a minute. Who's that robust, if somewhat portly, bald gent taking an ice cold plunge into one of the Hamstead Heath ponds? Well bugger me! It's only "London business man" Albert Meltzer. It's difficult to imagine many of today's anarchists taking an early morning dip, working out with rusty old weights or banging away on the heavy bag. Mind you, I think Albert would have approved of Black Rose Martial Arts.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Good luck to the children of Gaza.

We are all Hamas? Speak for yourself comrade. If asked how to fix the Middle East the only honest response would be, "I wouldn't start from here". Islamic psychotics only too eager to show the innocent the way to paradise. Jewish settlers imbued with the same hatred of "the other" that gave us European anti-semitism in the first place. Every politician with an eye on the main chance. I curse them all.

I have no solution.  I only know that this is wrong.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Balling The Jack.

A friend was telling me how he can remember his old mum singing Balling The Jack. I thought that I knew the number but I had confused the old jazz standard performed by Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in the 1942 movie For Me And My Gal with Big Bill Broonzy's fantastic, I Feel So Good (I feel like balling the jack). We hardly ever have any music on this blog so let's just do it.

Friday, 16 November 2012

With truncheon and flat-pack.

When the Third Reich finally went up in flames, those members of the Gestapo who failed to find meaningful employment with the Americans or were unable to avail themselves of the Vatican escape route to South America, were quickly recruited by the new Stalinist regime in the GDR. The Stasi were not about to let such a pool of easily transferable talent go to waste. The combination of thug and anal-retentive bean-counter that is the secret policeman was to reach it's apogee in East Germany. It's easy for those of us who never had to endure life under the Stasi to be flippant about the organisation. Half the population reporting on the other half. A society groaning under the weight of card indexes on everyone and everything. When this ludicrous but malevolent regime finally collapsed the air was thick with the smoke from burnt out shredders as the secret state tried to dispose of it's records. Was it ridicule or retribution that they feared?
Now we hear that another organisation that it's easy to be flippant about if you have not had to endure it was using Stasi forced labour to manufacture it's furniture. There is no evidence to support the theory that Ikea was using forced labour to assemble it's wardrobes - even the Stasi would draw the line at that.

Democracy in action.

Lowest ever election turn out...... 3% vote ACAB....... Top Tory in racist slur shock.....
Michael Mates to be evicted from Big Brother house....... Top democracy..... You know it makes sense.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Treatise on national characteristics.

The concept of national characteristics is a minefield, an excuse for the worst kind of knee-jerk reactions and a subject ripe for hours of sleep inducing debate about "nation" and the roots of human traits and behaviour. Don't even think about going there. If that's your bag you're reading the wrong blog sunshine. However, I was reminded about all this by the unlikely intervention of hearing about the lovely Nadine Dorries and her appearance on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. I don't spend that much time contemplating IACGMOOH or Big Brother.  I do wonder why people get involved but that's about as much thought as I have given to such shows but this morning  I also got to wondering where this type of program came from. Then it hit me like half a stone of ice cold sushi down the front of the trousers. It was the Japanese. Back in the day, when we only had a black and white telly, there used to be occasional items on the box about these strange Japanese TV shows that centred around contestants having to eat awful things or have awful things done to them or whatever. How we gloated at our inherent superiority. It was the Japs you see. Fucking weird. That's why we could never understand 'em during the war. Totally different to us see. Fancy a TV show about contestants being humiliated and laughed at  topping the ratings. Couldn't happen here. Different see. National characteristics? Like I say - don't go there.

Friday, 9 November 2012

A stroll in Battersea Park.

Our memories of when we were very young are distorted in scale and perspective by the mere fact that we were small and the world around seemingly huge. One of my earliest memories is of looking down into what seems like a deep pit with pigs in it. I suppose that I had been lifted up on to my dad's shoulders to see pigs in a sty. Years later I was told that I had been taken to see the pigs in Battersea Park. Like other London parks Battersea was partly turned over to allotments during the wartime Dig For Victory campaign and pigs must have been kept there too.
My next memory of Battersea Park was during the Festival Of Britain. Although the more famous Southbank site with it's Festival Hall, Skylon and celebration of British achievements in science and culture is what is remembered today, upriver at Battersea Park the Festival Pleasure Garden was a more down to earth affair devoted to having a bit of fun. The Guinness Clock sticks in my mind.
I don't visit the Park that often these days but recently had a stroll round just to remind myself what a great place it is. There's no doubt about it, from the tiny Postman's Park in the City to the semi-rural splendour of Richmond, London is blessed with some of the best parks in the world. What I like about Battersea Park is the fact that it has a little bit of everything. A Buddhist pagoda, sub-tropical garden, boating lake, sports pitches, art gallery, children's zoo. Tucked away and sharing a corner of the park with the staff yard and office is a lovely community garden project run by the charity Thrive. Well worth a visit in itself.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Don't mess with the worker dandies.

There is a terrible current in the left, and perhaps the anarchist movement in particular, that in order to have any revolutionary credentials at all it is essential to turn your back on the good things in life. According to this credo we must eat only the worst food, drink only the foulest keg beers and, most importantly, dress only in the worst kind of rags. Any trace of style or hint of flash is to betray unfortunate counter-revolutionary tendencies. Of course there are honourable exceptions, Wing Commander Bone and the venerable Dr Peter Good to name but two and  the wonderful Worker Dandyist International have a whole website devoted to countering the comrades of sackcloth and ashes. The WDI nail their (finest silk) colours to the mast here. Check it out.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

All over bar the let down.

Probably the one question that most Brits ask about the American Presidential Election is, "How come the British media devote so much time to it?" This is closely followed by the one about wondering what kind of parents would name their kid Mitt. However, beyond all the tiresome rhetoric and banal cheerleading a  fundamental political question is being posed and that concerns the role of government in our lives and the role of mutualism, collectivism, call it what you will, in society. Of course both Obama and Romney are strident proclaimers of the false dichotomy between state sponsored (and state controlled) re-distribution on the one hand and the illusionary freedom of the individual on the other. It's  a perennial conundrum and, sad to say, one that those of us who claim that it is possible (and desirable) to be both socialist and libertarian are no closer to unravelling in public than we have ever been. Anyway, by this time tomorrow it will be all over and for supporters of both candidates "freedom" and "a fair society" will remain distant dreams.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The scum continues to float to the top.

The Jimmy Savile scandal has opened the can of worms that we all suspected it would. Newsnight bottled it again and while I have no idea who the senior Tory is that they failed to name  McAlpine and Laud are bookies favourites. The Internet is in danger of spontaneous combustion such is the level of accusation. Also close to meltdown is Tory Party Central Office as efforts are made to contain and minimise the damage. You won't find any startling new revelations on this blog but when it comes to the ruling elite, believing the worst of them is a pretty safe rule of thumb.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Ash dieback. Warm knees may be the only consolation.

Despite the impression you get looking out across the  Weald from Leith Hill, England is not a very heavily wooded country but we seem to have a particular affection for the patchwork of hedgerows and small stands of hardwood that make up the English landscape. The news about the spread of ash dieback disease is very sad and unless some kind of treatment can be found the ash could well go the way of our elms. The import of ash saplings has been blamed for the spread of the disease and no doubt  there is something in this. From bubonic plague onward nothing aids the spread of pests and diseases quite as much as trade and protecting people and crops becomes ever more difficult as the web of globalisation expands. We can do what we can to try and halt the spread of ash dieback but nature will probably take it's course. If there is a program of felling one small consolation will be the abundance of the very best firewood. Apart from being the timber of choice for manufacturing tool handles, nothing burns quite like an ash log but whether the satisfaction of putting another one in the stove will be enjoyed by future generations is open to question.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sunday, 28 October 2012

"Charity creates a multitude of sins." Oscar Wilde.

As the full extent of the power and influence of Jimmy Savile is exposed so too is his place in the unpleasant network that is the ruling elite in this country. The Tory Party, Royal Family, Vatican and the media have all been complicit in a huge cover up that is slowly being unmasked. Doubtless there is much more to come. But what positive outcome might we expect from all of this?  Some form of token justice and recompense for Savile's victims would be nice of course. It would also be satisfying to see our corrupt and degenerate masters revealed for what they are. It's a long shot I know but it might even be possible that some really fundamental issues get talked about. It is probably too much to hope for but how about we consider for a moment, not just the activities of a few evil men but the kind of social relations that allow such people to prosper. Perhaps a tad less ambitious but important none the less would be to have a long hard look at the charity industry. Savile's whole public persona was based on the notion of charity. Had he remained just another self-promoting show biz personality he would never have been able to wheedle his way into the inner circle of government and royals. It was the endless high profile fund raising and volunteering that gave him the necessary leverage. This is not to throw stones at the good folk who give their time, energy and hard earned cash to help those who they perceive to be worse off than themselves, far from it, but the whole industry of giving is sadly far more complex than the simple kindness of strangers. Some interesting thoughts from Jules Evans on the nature of charity, self help and mutual aid at http://philosophyforlife.org/pow-mutual-improvement-back-to-the-19th-century/

Friday, 26 October 2012

From geology to mythogeography in one giant leap.

Ian Vince is contributing editor to The Idler as well as being an amateur geologist and general poker about in the margins of life. He is also author of The Lie Of The Land, a layman's guide to the ground beneath our feet; and very good it is too. There is also a website www.britishlandscape.org. and that is interesting enough even if it's main purpose is to promote the book. Browsing through the site I came across mention of Counter-Tourism and from there it was but a short step to Mythogeography and the book of the same name. I have the book beside me now - strangely wonderful, and wonderfully strange.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

You Aren't What You Eat.

I have to be careful here. Don't want to come across as just another grumpy old fart. Oh! sod it. Listen there are a number of things that irritate me considerably. Allow me to share. Jargon laden pompous rhetoric that tries to make very simple things sound much more difficult to grasp than they are. Pseudo scientific nonsense masquerading as some earth shattering new cure for constipation or tiredness. The many thousands of mindless fruit cakes who bang on about "organic growing" seemingly without the first glimmerings of an understanding of what is organic or inorganic and very little practical experience of growing of any kind. People who seem more concerned about "the earth" or "the environment" than they are about other human beings. I'm starting to warm to this. Foodists of all kinds. Look I enjoy my grub as much as the next man and consider myself to be what used to be called "a good plain cook" but  spare me all these celebrity chef tossers who don't seem to be able to get their heads round the fact that in the course of their work they are not performing some complex feat of neurosurgery, writing Capital  or even scoring the winning goal for Wimbledon FC. No, THEY ARE COOKING THE FUCKING DINNER.  How wonderful then that Steven Poole seems to have written a book that kicks the shit out of all of this, well, shit. You Aren't What You Eat seems to tick all the right boxes as far as I'm concerned and if this review is anything to go by, ticks them for former restaurant critic and born-again anti-foodist Jonathan Meades as well.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Is there no end to this?

As all of the great political thinkers from George Brown to Gerald Nebaro to Jeffrey Archer would attest - a week is a fuck of a long time in politics. For the Cameronians the past week must seem more like a geological eon. It's just one bloody thing after another. Gideon, is he a fare dodging arrogant arsehole or just an arrogant arsehole? Plebgate. Tariffgate. Vindaloo is outed as the driving force behind Sir James Savile's appointment as Broadmoor supremo. (Yes, I know she's yesterdays woman but mud sticks) Normo Tebbo reckons that there is nothing wrong with being posh - it's being posh and fucking useless that's the problem. Cor Blimey Guv! Roll on that Christmas recess.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Is arguing about tariffs a waste of energy?

"Cameron reckons he's going to force energy companies to put us all on the cheapest tariff."
"What tariff are we on?"
"Well where are the bills?"
"Er! Somewhere."
"Well surely you know how much we are paying."
"If you are so clever, what is a tariff?"

I do think that breakfast conversations are so important in a relationship.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Allotments spread potato blight claim.

This has been a pretty shocking growing season for farmers and amateur growers alike. One of the problems with a wet summer is the spread of a variety of moulds, mildews and fungal infections of all kinds and potato blight is one of the worst. Now I hear that the Potato Council is blaming allotment growers for spreading blight and suggesting that we should leave spuds to the professionals and concentrate on crops less prone to disease. It's true that a lot of new allotmenteers, motivated by a misplaced belief in "organic" ideology, are wary of treating blight with fungicide but surely the way to deal with this problem is through a campaign of education. Anyway, if the Potato Council are so concerned about amateur growers how come that the first thing that I found on their website was this.
EDIT: Thanks to the ever vigilant Gitane for spotting this interesting bit of spud science.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Boredom. How boring is that?

Boredom, along with alienation, are terms that used to be bandied about by the revolutionary left quite a lot. You hear less about the psychological trauma of living in the advanced stages of capitalism these days with a good deal less talk of revolution as therapy; the financial crisis has seen to that. For an increasing number of people the struggle has returned to one of how to put bread on the table.
For all of that, who can deny the reality of boredom and a recent report suggests that boredom may damage your health.  Boredom is another of those aspects of the modern human condition, obesity is another, where the argument rages about social or personal causes. If we are bored who is to blame, ourselves or society?  I favour the view that there is a dynamic relationship between the personal and the social that takes some unravelling but for sure the boredom threshold must vary between individuals. Standing in a supermarket checkout queue the other day I got to chatting with a bloke of about my age I suppose. In response to my whine about shopping he remarked that for him shopping was an excuse to get out of the house; a break from the otherwise endless TV watching. I was horrified. What a choice. A tedious stream of pap on TV or a visit to Lidl.  And have you noticed how much daytime TV is aspirational in the sense that it's all about becoming a successful property developer, moving abroad or finding an Old Master in the attic? Scratch card TV.  Anything that might get you out of this shit. For myself, I have rarely been bored because I had nothing to do but usually because I had something to do that I found tedious and, well, boring. I have been lucky in my life because some of the many jobs that I've had have been interesting and satisfying, but boy have I had some boring ones as well. I heard a girl being interviewed about her recent work experience. What had she learnt? "That work is boring",  came the reply. Why are teenagers so prone to boredom? Is it hormonal or perhaps, without making it coherent necessarily, they see the reality of life in the capitalist mode of production before settling down to an acceptance of the status quo.
Enough! I'm off out. I'm bored.

Friday, 12 October 2012

London Anarchist Bookfair.

It's that time of year again. Time to start thinking about sowing broad beans and keeping an eye open for the rutting stags in Bushy Park. It's also time for the great London Anarchist Bookfair so on Saturday 27th October we will all be setting off on a pilgrimage down the Mile End Road. Ian Bone reckons that The Bookfair is a bit like Brigadoon with several thousand anarchists emerging from who knows where only to disappear again until the following year. The Bone may have a point but it's a pleasant enough day out and you always bump into long lost friends and interesting new comrades. Anarcho-syndicalists, feminists, council-communists, semi-detached situationists, vegan activists, Fifth Monarchists (search me), libertarian martial artists, can of Special Brew and dog on stringists. All are welcome. If someone points me out to you saying, "Look, there's that old git who writes that weird blog", please come over, pat me on the head and give me half a crown. We're all going down the pub after.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Who fixed it for Jim?

What have Margaret Thatcher's inner circle, the Vatican, the higher echelons of the BBC and the Murdoch tabloids got in common? It's beginning to look very likely that all were complicit in a huge establishment cover up of Sir Jimmy Savile's proclivity for sex with the young and vulnerable. Meanwhile everyone and their dog are proclaiming that they couldn't stand the man and always knew there was something dodgy about him.
PS. In case you're wondering what the Vatican has to do with the scandal. The Pope bestowed one of the highest Papal honours (Grand Knight Of The Order Of St Gregory) on Savile about the time that Thatcher was "Fixing It For Jim" knighthood wise. Only thing missing is a nice bit of Freemasonry. This could run for some time.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Annual Tory spite fest draws to a close.

Imagine being a single mum doing your best with a pre-school chavi. The cost of child care makes going out to work problematic but at least working might help to ease the feeling of isolation. Trouble is that even if you could find a job your confidence has ebbed away over the years and your not sure that you could cope with all the hassle of finding employment. What you really need is the annual blood letting at the Tory Party Conference where a succession of right wing loony tunes denounce you as a feckless, idle, waste of good oxygen. Bet you feel much better about yourself now.
It was ever thus. The conference is a showcase for the spite and self satisfied small mindedness of middle class Middle England. This year the Daily Mailers have been whining about the suffering middle class. Suffering? They ain't seen nothing yet.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Principia Dialectica bites the dust.

Political blogs come and go and this week another one bit the dust. Principia Dialectica was not to everyone's taste and to be sure much of what they wrote sailed clear over the top of my head, but this was no doubt a failing of mine rather than theirs. At other times the blog was right on the money and I will certainly miss it. Rumour has it that the PD boys and girls are concentrating on Marxist reading groups in an assortment of dodgy North London boozers. Well it keeps 'em off the streets I suppose but shouldn't they be on the streets. C'est la vie.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

George Dixon. First black champion.

I have been reading Steven Laffoley's Shadowboxing the amazing story of the rise and fall of first black champion of the world George Dixon. I had heard of Dixon but had no idea just how much he achieved and how deeply he influenced the sport of boxing. Apart from being the first black world champion George was also the first fighter to hold world titles at two weights (bantam and featherweight) as well as being first to lose and then regain a world title. He may have fought as many as 800 bouts. One thing that stands out when looking at his record is the strangely disproportionate number of drawn results. This is explained by the simple fact that on so many occasions Dixon had clearly outpointed a white opponent and a draw was the compromise that the referee came up with to appease the racist crowd. It's worth bearing in mind the fact that during the years that Dixon was fighting as a pro (1886-1906) more than two thousand blacks were lynched.  Fighters of colour had far more than opponents to deal with.
Dixon was not just a great champion but was also a great innovator and is credited with introducing many of the techniques and training methods that would make boxing the sport that we know today.
By the age of 38 George had earned and spent a fortune and was to die penniless in the alcoholic ward of New York's Bellevue Hospital having lived a tragically short but hugely eventful life.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Chris Gray Memorial Lecture.

Last night at Houseman's Bookshop for the Chris Gray memorial lecture given by his old friend and comrade Charles Radcliffe who came across as a really nice self effacing bloke and not at all the situationist uber intellectual that I might have expected.  There was much talk of how influential Gray's Leaving The 20th Century had been and that certainly brought back memories for me. The book was published by Rising Free and  at that time (1973) three members of the Rising Free collective had joined forces with myself and other like minded comrades to form Wicked Messengers. The artwork for Leaving the 20th Century was done by Sophie Richmond and Jamie Reid, both then based at Suburban Press. How lucky I am that some of those comrades from all those years ago are still my good friends-and how especially lucky I am that one of them has put up with living with me for 42 years.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Soon to be reunited I hope.

One nation railway enthusiasts monthly launched.

Right! Hands up all those people who think that Tory and LibDem HQs will be more like TV's The Thick Of It this morning than the prog itself. No sooner had Milibean assumed the mantle of Tory hero Disraeli and launched One Nation Labour, and just moments after the Labour leader had denounced the government as a bunch of half-wit back of the envelope incompetents and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has to announce that when it comes to the West Coast main line franchise not only were the sums done on the back of an envelope but some fucking moron has lost the envelope as well. Laugh? I nearly choked on  my cornflakes.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Eric Hobsbawm RIP.

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king and so it was that Eric Hobsbawm, unrepentant Stalinist apologist that he was, became a beacon for many on the libertarian left. Whatever his faults Hobsbawm was a wonderful writer and one with a real understanding of the class nature of society. Unreconstructed old Bolshevik he may have been but Hobsbawm knew who's side he was on.

Perhaps golf has some use after all!

I wake this morning to hear that the European team have triumphed over USA in the Ryder Cup. I know very little about golf, have never played the game or taken any interest in it. But for some strange and no doubt deeply Reichian reason I feel elated at news of the victory. Is this the secret of a United Europe? Just get it up the Yanks. In anything!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Swanage. Nothing to eat but fish and chips - nothing to drink but"Piddle".

I'm back from Swanage and the wonderful Isle Of Purbeck. What a splendid old fashioned proletarian seaside resort Swanage is. In the past we have only visited for day trips but having a full week there, sampling the local bitter ("Piddle"), walking for miles along the coastal path and stuffing ourselves with fish and chips - well, what larks. The town boasts a beautifully restored Victorian pier and, most surprisingly, a huge amount of artifacts from Old London ( street bollards, monuments, facades of buildings etc.) shipped down as ballast in the ships that came to the Dorset ports to load the stone that built the new Victorian capital. If you have not been there yet put Swanage on yer bucket list.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Bone is back!

I reckon that the best blogs are a subtle combination of the personal and the political. My own efforts have been pretty poor this month I know and now I'm off on me hols for a week but the good news is that Ian Bone has resurrected his much missed blog. Top work Ian!  Oh! I'll be 70 tomorrow. Don't time fly?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Hillsborough. Is this as good as it gets?

At last the truth about the Hillsborough cover up is starting to see the light of day. Justice for the relatives of the people who lost their lives that day is a given. So also is some kind of retribution and the   public humiliation of Norman Bettison and his ilk. But what we really need is more than just a few days  of tabloid rant before moving on to the more important matter of Kate Middleton's tits. Every time that the police are involved with the deaths of completely innocent members of the public we get a debate about the specifics of that particular case but never get down to brass tacks. What are the police for other than to protect the vested interest of the ruling class? Does the very nature of the work ensure that a high proportion of the force will always be uniformed thugs? What kind of police force do we want and would it ever be possible to have a force that interacted with the public less like an occupying army and more like the public servants they are so fond of claiming to be? Finally, could it ever be any better - or is this as good as it gets?

Monday, 10 September 2012

Growth economics for beginners.

Green comrades assure me that infinite economic growth is impossible on a finite planet and no doubt they are right in this. The mantra of economic growth has never been restricted to left or right and certainly a push for economic expansion is seen by all of the major parties as the only way out of recession. But how to get that initial kick start to increased consumption and production - that's the problem. Fortunately for us the combined efforts of the new reshuffled Cabinet have come up with a master plan. This dual approach, two pronged, pincer movement attack on economic inertia involves the abolition of health and safety inspections for pubs, clubs and restaurant on the one hand and a totally laissez faire approach to planning on the other. Sheer genius. If your teenage kids get crushed to death in an overfull club with the fire doors locked you will at least be able to console yourself with the biggest fuck-off extension in the neighbourhood. Make it grow Dave. Make it grow.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

A deco treasure trove.

A few years ago, when I was doing my Capital Ring circumnavigation of the London suburbs, I found one of the best things was coming across completely unexpected delights of landscape or architecture.   It's not all wonderful of course and the walk involves trudging along some pretty ordinary suburban streets; but you just never know what's round the next bend. I remember on one leg of the journey walking up the hill from Eltham Station to find myself standing on a stone bridge and looking down into a moat full of carp. I don't think that until that day I had even heard of Eltham Palace. The notice board explained how in the 1930's Stephen and Virginia Courtauld had obtained the lease on the virtually derelict medieval palace and had had a huge modern extension built and furnished in the Art Deco style. I didn't have time to have a look round but, being a bit of a fan of Art Deco, promised myself a visit at some later date. Yesterday I finally got round to it.
If the bizarre mixture of modernism and mock classical with overtones of African and Mesoamerican influence that is Art Deco is your cup of tea you will love Eltham Palace. The Courtaulds were toe curlingly rich of course and the Palace was a huge indulgence. No expense was spared and the house was equipped with every modern convenience as well as the most fashionable furnishings. The wood veneer alone must have cost a small fortune. I can not imagine what dreadful people the Courtaulds must have been but English Heritage have done a brilliant job of restoring the palace to it's former glory and allowing us proles to see how the other half lived.
 I don't suppose that Stephen and Virginia Courtauld would have liked post-war Britain that much and in 1950 they decamped for Southern Rhodesia. I wonder why?

Monday, 3 September 2012

A PM speaks.

Know what's wrong with this country? In a word, dithering. Too much dither and not enough deregulation, that's the problem. That's why it's so important to get rid of all of this planning nonsense and crack on with the major task of making our cities more akin to Dubai and Shanghai. Onward and upward. Forward together to a deregulated, dither free future.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Criminalising squatting is the thin end of the wedge.

From today the squatting of residential property will become a criminal offence. This piece of legislation seems to have just snuck under the radar and into the statute books with little or no real opposition but don't underestimate it's potential impact. In the first place of course, the change in law will enable readers of The Mail to go on holiday safe in the knowledge that there is less chance of coming home to find that their house has been squatted by Romanian Transgender Zombies or whatever. For squatters, summary eviction by the cops and a criminal charge will be added to all of the usual uncertainties. Owners of large property portfolios will be able to leave homes standing empty with greater confidence and even under the old legislation three quarters of a million properties stood unoccupied at any one time. But most importantly this is a real fundamental change to English property law. Historically owning the title to property conferred certain rights but those without such title also had rights and this is at the heart of why trespass was never a criminal offence. This could turn out to be the signature legislation of the coalition.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

More thoughts from down the plot.

People take on allotments for a number of reasons. Many see it as a lifestyle choice. Something that they have seen in the colour sups or on the telly and that seems like a nice idea. Bit like having a new kitchen or going skiing. A few months down the road and after a wet summer like this one and with what few crops did come up having been devastated by slugs and the plot an impenetrable jungle of weeds, it all begins to look a bit too real. A bit too hands on.  As I say, we all have our own reasons for working an allotment and not the least of these is not having a garden and just needing a place to escape to. Just a place to potter - and I am convinced that for many of us there is a great store of therapeutic self-nourishment to be found pottering about on a patch of ground. For myself I feel that my allotment connects me in some way with the world of food production . I listen to the farming program most mornings and take a keen interest in how the harvest is going. I know from my own small plot that this has been a difficult growing season and that the poor harvest in America and Russia will result in a rise in world food prices and, sneer if you want, but I find that my own efforts down the plot make me feel a part of all of this. I have always been interested in the wartime Dig For Victory campaign when every available piece of ground was turned over to food production. However, when you look at the stats you soon come to realise that,wonderful though the Dig For Victory campaign was, it's contribution to the nations food was tiny compared with that of the North Atlantic convoys or even the ploughing up of the downland. What Dig For Victory did do was make people feel a part of the war effort. It helped connect us to something larger and to each other. Funny the things that come to mind when you're digging spuds.

Monday, 27 August 2012

"and those who were seen dancing were thought crazy by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzche.

Apologists for the worst reactionary horrors of religion always like to claim that such excesses are nothing to do with the various faiths but are "cultural" - as if religion could be anything other than cultural. No doubt the same old culture v religion stuff will be doing the rounds again in the wake of the latest Taliban outrage.  Religious conservatives tend not to like singing and merry making and rather think that standing up sex should be avoided lest it lead to dancing. There seems to be some deep seated fear of female sexuality at the heart of this primitive nonsense and arguing about culture/religion or hand wringing cultural relativism have no part to play in the project of consigning this last vestige of the medieval world to the dustbin of history.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Court Circular.

There can be few more resilient dynasties than the House Of Sax-Coburg. Whenever it looks as though the oncoming express train of history will be the death of them they neatly step to one side and re-invent themselves. For a family who have produced so many inbred half-wits they seem to have developed some incredible survival skills. No doubt the emergence of third in line for the top job as a gormless, ginger-pubed gay pin up will be like water off a duck's back to those lovable Sax-Coburgs.
In the past the inbreeding problem has been addressed by the introduction of a brood-mare but this has produced problems of it's own. Perhaps the Royals should remember the motto of the old time stock breeders, "Breed close-and cull hard".

Friday, 24 August 2012

Old Father Thames has never seen the like.

The Thames has been a prime location for top end of the market residential development for many years now.  What was once a bustling waterway is now nothing more than a sterile backdrop, a view from the balcony, a conversation piece for the chattering classes who infest the riverside apartments. The river is now little more than a flood relief channel at the bottom of a brick and glass canyon. Don't suppose that this transformation is complete either. The next phase, prompted in part by the desire of the   European bourgeoisie to find a safe haven for their wealth, is only just beginning. A few news items have recently offered clues as to what is afoot.  There are big changes to the Southbank in the offing. All that public space is a waste of retail potential it seems. The skateboarders, the people just strolling about, where's the profit in that? Further upriver at Nine Elms is the site of one of the biggest developments since the transformation of Isle Of Dogs. Who knows what will happen to the ordinary folk who live in the triangle of land between Vauxhall and Queenstown Road but a clue might be found in the recent report from the think tank Policy Exchange. With the new American Embassy as the jewel in the crown  Nine Elms is set to be the Mayfair of the south. None of this will go unnoticed by the international business elite who will be falling over themselves to get a piece of the action. Most will be only vaguely aware that that water they can see from the balcony is actually a river. Fewer still will contemplate the fact that the Thames will continue to make it's way from the Cotswolds to the North Sea long after they and their kind are as extinct as the dinosaurs.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica.

I believe that there was a good crowd at Lords today to see South Africa beat England by 51 runs winning the series and taking the number one spot at the same time. It looks to have been a great days cricket and I don't begrudge anyone involved a moment of it. Meanwhile, over at the South African Embassy a handful of anarchists and a couple of dozen Black Nationalists attempted to mount a protest against what is coming to be known as the Marikana Massacre. So South Africa won by about the same number of runs as people who could be bothered to just turn up in Trafalgar Square for a simple act of solidarity with some of the most oppressed workers in the world.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The myth of the "Good Prince".

Thursday's  brutal killing of thirty four South African miners echoes the worst days of the apartheid regime and is a lesson to all about the true class nature of ANC rule; but already apologists are saying that Mandela would never have allowed this tragedy to happen on his watch. It's a lament as old as history. If only good King Richard had known what was going on Prince John and the Sheriff Of Nottingham would never have been able to force Robin Hood into fleeing to the greenwood. You can still find people who looking in dismay at today's East End declare that, "The Twins would never have allowed this". Why there are even those who maintain that the horrors of Stalinism had nothing much to do with Uncle Joe but were all the work of those scheming apparatchiks. Others might try to convince us that Hitler was far too busy defending the fatherland to realise what was happening in the camps. This is not to say that history does not throw up good men and women; clearly it does. Nor am I suggesting that Nelson Mandela is not one of those good men but simply that our fate can never be left to powerful individuals no matter how well intentioned they might be. By the same token the redistribution of wealth and the emancipation of the working class is not something that can be postponed until some historically correct moment in the distant future. The Good Prince will not step in to save us - he never has and never will.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Pussy Riot. On the side of the angels.

Tomorrow is the final day of the Pussy Riot trial and what passes for justice in Putin's Russia will be seen to be done. We can but hope for the best but a guilty verdict seems inevitable. The closing statement of band member Yekaterina Samatsevich is here.  Brave girls. I honestly don't know what else to say.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

In geeks we trust?

The group of 14 walkers who got lost in the Cairngorms while relying on smart phone apps to navigate probably don't realise how lucky they were to come of the hill alive. SatNav is a fantastic aid to navigation but, unless you're thinking of mounting an expedition to Mars, it is just that, an aid. The trouble is that satellite navigation takes all the brain work out of navigation and can leave people deskilled and unable to cope if the system goes down. Navigation is basically answering two question, "where am I?" and "in what direction do I go from here?"   SatNav is fantastic at answering the first question but to use it to answer the second without any form of more traditional back up is to put all your trust in one vulnerable little box of tricks. As a position fixing system SatNav takes some beating but knowing which direction to head off in should be your decision based on skill and experience. It always amazes me how many people are quite incapable of the simplest map reading task and are happy to place their safety in the hands of of a piece of electronic gadgetry and hope for the best.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

In praise of bodgers.

On Sunday our annual visit to Chertsey Agricultural Show was enriched by watching a bodger at work. The term is usually associated with work that will only just pass muster but in fact the bodger was a highly skilled craftsman who set up his pole-lathe deep in the woods and having selected and cut his timber would turn the chair legs for the Chiltern furniture trade. Bodging  has always seemed to me to be a wonderful craft. The pole-lathe itself is a masterpiece of simple but effective technology and the idea of working with green timber with just the wildlife of the forest for company has a ludicrously romantic appeal. It's good that a few dedicated folk are keeping alive a tradition that is a world away from all that accountancy and software design that we value so much these days.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Final Olympic thoughts.

So that's that. Forward to the Paralympics and good luck to all involved. The last couple of weeks have seen some outstanding performances and fantastic sporting entertainment. I remain very sceptical about the so called "legacy" and I need no lectures about bread and circuses, but at least the games gave  athletes and punters alike something to smile about. It's not difficult to think of things that the money would have been better spent on but I seem to remember that the same arguments were used against the Festival Of Britain. Sod it! Enjoy yourselves - it's later than you think.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Morrissey should get a life before it's too late.

You can't really expect someone who has forged a career out of writing and performing gut wrenching dirges about unrequited love and vegetarianism to be that big on sporting achievment but Morrissey's Olympic put-down will doubtless ring all the right bells amongst the skinny jeans and asemetrical haitcutt inhabitants of Planet Hoxton. I share the singers dislike of nationalism and have even gone as far as calling for a medal table based along class line rather than nationality. Not, mind you,  that this brainwave of mine has been met with anything but groans and a call to shut up and stop being so boring.
Look, lets be honest here. East London will probably end up with fewer sporting facilities than it started out with. The bill for all of this will be astronomical and in the months ahead we will have a seemingly never ending stream of revelations about financial wrongdoings.  And make no mistake, all of this is wrong - totaly wrong. But last night I had a wonderfull evening at the greco-roman wrestling. We ended up sitting in the block of seats that I think by rights are supposed to be for the "Olympic Family" and in our case this meant us sitting with members of the international wrestling fraternity. This was an added bonus and we were able to see at first hand the strong bonds of friendship between athletes from countries that have what you might call difficult histories; Poland and Russia for example. The wrestling was brilliant and so was the atmosphere. This is what people have been getting off on Morressey. Now fuck off and cook your lentils.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Jaimie Oliver to be new army catering czar?

Once the philosophy of the totality of the marketplace has penetrated every facet of life all kinds of weird and wonderful aberrations crop up. When G4S fucked up their Olympic security brief the army had to be called in. The MoD were saddled with the problem of where to billet the thousands of troops  now needed to police the games. Fortunately, just next door to Murdoch's Wapping HQ is a forgotten monument to a previous failed regeneration project, the long empty Tobacco Dock Shopping Centre.
Tobacco Dock is the property of Kuwaiti investment company Massila House and who knows what backroom deals were entered into to secure it as a base for the army.  Despite the cancelled leave, the visits from Boris Johnson and having to doss down where they can in the car park and abandoned shops of Tobacco Dock, the squaddies have remained cheerful. One thing that always helps is knowing that thanks to those army cooks, whatever time they return from the Olympic venues the troops can be sure of a hot meal waiting for them.  But now rumours are circulating that cuts to military spending will include the privatisation of military catering. Which one of Cameron's cronies will get the contract this time and which celebrity chef will be called in to give those army recipes a going over? Our lads and lasses could find that from now on it's going to be a case of out with the pie and chips and in with the lightly drizzled bullshit.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

What a night!

See, I told you just to enjoy the moment. After last night's amazing hour of UK athletic glory we might just pause from the celebrations to reflect that Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford are all the products of committed state school teachers and the amateur club system. There will be time enough to consider what all this will mean for the next generation of British athletes but (and I say this through gritted teeth) Colin Moyniham has done well to point out the sheer unfairness of the advantage given to  public school athletes.  In the meantime. Enjoy!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Rory Stewart. Yesterday's man?

I thought that Rory Stewart's BBC2 documentary The Great Game was one of the best pieces of Afghanistan reporting that we have so far been offered. Informative, challenging and at times moving, it was surely going to make the media sit up and take notice of Stewart. But here we are three months later and the Tory MP for Penrith and The Border seems to be yesterdays man already. A toff adventurer/spook straight out of the pages of John Buchan, Stewart seemed ready made for fame; in the American market especially. Unfortunately times have changed and the Old Etonian got no further than one appearance on Question Time before the jackals started to dismiss him as just another gap year tosser  with a flair for self publicity. Stewart now spends his days listening to constituents moaning about the difficulty of finding a decent dry-stone waller these days and wondering what Richard Hanney would have done. Such is the ephemeral nature of celebrity in Cameron's Britain.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Strange days - Olympic dreams.

Thinks are starting to get very strange. This is my third post in a row about the Olympics and we are only into the first week. My involvement so far has included watching two cycle races and a time trial. Two of these events have featured the redoubtable Bradley Wiggins and none of them have been more than a ten minute walk away from home. So no real training benefit there. I expended quite a lot of energy laughing at Boris Johnson stuck half way down a zip wire. The stop button has been pressed on the booming public school tones of the mayor who's warnings on the tube about impending travel chaos have resulted in central London looking like there has been a plague alert. Just relax and enjoy it. Relax and enjoy. Relax and enj........ Oh sorry! Dropped of then.
My next Olympic involvement is a day out with my son that will feature a couple of pints in the notorious but wonderful Yucatan in Stoke Newington High Street, a haircut at a Turkish barber that includes having your fingers cracked and ears set on fire (all for a tenner I'm told), a dodgy kebab and an evening of Greco-Roman Wrestling. I'm not making any of this up. Well, perhaps the bit about Boris Johnson and the zip wire.

Monday, 30 July 2012

We might as well just enjoy the sport now.

"Londoners say no to games of greed", proclaims the front page of the Morning Star. The article goes on to say that 600 people turned out for an Anti Corporate Olympic demo in East London. The numbers say it all. The truth is that outside of a tiny leftist bubble Londoners are shrugging their shoulders at the corporate greed and civil rights abuses and just enjoying the sport while hoping that they wont be too inconvenienced by the extra people using the tube. The truth is that it is very difficult for activists to mobilise around something like the Olympics without coming over as a bunch of whining lefties out to spoil the fun because they themselves were never any good at sport. There is plenty to complain about of course. Who knows what the much vaunted "legacy" will be, apart from increased profits for a handful of multi-national companies and a nice little windfall for some greedy landlords. Will the games make us a fitter nation? I doubt it. Well, not unless there's some kind of training benefit from watching twelve hours a day of Olympic TV. Give it a year and as the weeds start to grow across the now semi-derelict Olympic Park and the real cost of all this becomes apparent we will all be nodding in agreement at some Channel 4 expose of The Great 2012 Swindle. In the mean time we might as well enjoy what will certainly be some great sporting moments.

Friday, 27 July 2012


Isn't it amazing how things just creep up on you? I mean you know that a certain event is due on such and such date but it all seems like a long way off and then suddenly it's on top of you. THE OLYMPICS START IN LESS THAN TWELVE HOURS! Her Indoors reckons that panic buying will result in shops running out of food and that we must fill every available space with soon to be unobtainable supplies. WE COULD ALL BE IN OLYMPIC LOCKDOWN. We actually will be in lockdown on Saturday due to the CYCLE RACE going down the main drag at the end of our road. BLOODY HELL! We'd better get more food in just in case Bradley Wiggins stops off for a sarni. He looks like he could do with one. Another thing..... is it me or do those rings suspended from Tower Bridge look a bit naff? Too late to change that now. If only Steve Ovett had been in charge rather than that tosser Coe. The troops are being pulled out of Afghanistan in order to form a ring of steel around the Olympic Park. 4FS will take over training the Afghan army. I wouldn't go anywhere near a Job Centre if I were you. THE OLYMPICS START IN LESS THAN TWELVE HOURS. The torch has just passed through the lock where I used to work. It's only five minutes away but I missed it. I've got a lot on. WILL THE NATION STEP UP TO THE PLATE OR BE FOUND WANTING IN THE CRUCIBLE OF OLYMPIC WHATSIT? Our kids are coming over to watch the opening thingy on our TV. I'm not sure why. Perhaps they feel the need for parental comfort and guidance. I don't know what makes them think I'll be any good at that. I hope we will have enough food.  DON'T PANIC!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Rotherhithe afternoon.

I suppose that these days there are people who visit the Rotherhithe Peninsula and think that  Canada Water and Greenland Dock are water features thoughtfully provided by the architects and developers of the many blocks of luxury apartments that now grace the area. The truth is of course that these now sterile and meaningless bits of water are the last sad reminder of the Surrey Docks. This was the hub of London's timber trade with planks of sawn timber from the Baltic and Canada plus huge logs of tropical  hardwood being unloaded into barges for transhipment to the wharfs of London River and the small ports of the estuary. The Surrey Docks was the whole reason for Rotherhithe. Right into the sixties this area was a hive of activity that supported a host of small industry as well as the docks themselves. But the writing was on the wall. Truth be told "The Surrey" was even then a very cramped and old fashioned  group of docks. This combined with containerisation and the long term plans to move the docks industry downriver and leave the capital itself to the developers and the service sector meant that the Surrey Docks was closed for good in 1969 and not long afterwards the process of filling in the docks was started. Like other dock areas Rotherhithe went into a long period of decline. The closing of the docks devastated  communities and did away with a whole way of life. Only slowly have the various riverside areas found a new role and it has been a change not without problems and certainly has benefited some people more than others.
I don't get down to Rotherhithe much these days but yesterday I spent a very pleasant afternoon drinking in the Angel just a stones throw from the site of the old docks. We sat watching the visiting yachts manoeuvring and my companions remarked about how busy the river was. I thought that it looked dead and soulless and could not begin to describe what the view would have been fifty years ago.  I fell into conversation with a local man and we talked about the river of our youth, politics and how our lives had panned out. One interesting point that this guy made was that although he was only too aware of the downside of gentrification he also felt that at least the area was finally recovering from years of neglect and decay. The tough dockers and lightermen, the tally clerks, riggers, bargemen and tug skippers have all gone and I can but  hope that this new Rotherhithe will treat kindly the grandchildren and great grandchildren of all those long gone workers who so shaped my view of the world.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

"I can do you a deal for cash Dave"

When he is not selflessly working on behalf of his Hertfordshire constituents or fulfilling his duties as Exchequer Secretary, David Gauke has a cushy  little number with the well known firm of tax avoidance briefs, Macfarlane. Gauke also claimed ten grand in stamp duty and fees for his second home  so clearly he is a man who knows a bit about tax dodges, bunging it on expenses and what people like him call "the black economy". But such is the sense of entitlement and moral self-righteousness of  the creep that he has no hesitation in lecturing ordinary folk about the rights and wrongs of doing a bit for cash or paying in readys. What I don't understand about people like Gauke, people who's whole financial world is as bent as a nine bob note, is the way that they are so certain that the rest of us are too thick to see through the hypocrisy.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A right royal urban myth.

The proposed new Royal Yacht, or UK flagship as we call such vessels these days, is reckoned to give the economy a boost by in some way  promoting the inventiveness of British industry, honesty of British banking and so on. That such a hugely extravagant PR exercise could in any way benefit the ordinary walking round the streets members of the population is such nonsense, and such believable nonsense,  that it should be categorised as "urban myth". Most urban myths are harmless. Vanishing hitchhikers, insects that take up residence in a beehive hairdo and bore into your skull and similar Fortean occurrences. Some however are far from harmless and a  particularly nasty one was going the rounds when West Indians first started to make a home in London. The story was that these simple folk from the Caribbean lived on  KitiKat, a brand of cat food popular at the time. It was arrant racist claptrap but you heard it repeated over and over and there was always someone who knew someone who had proof positive that it was all true. But as I say, most urban myths are harmless and some are downright rib splitters. Which brings me back to the Royal Yacht and an urban myth that if not actually true certainly should be. 
The story concerns the Royal Yacht Britannia and a young Queen Elizabeth. A plot was hatched on the lower deck to procure a royal souvenir that would remain a talking point for generations of old salts. I should point out that the tale dates back before ships had holding tanks for sewage and when the contents of  "the heads" just went straight out of a hole in the ships side. Anyway, negotiations were entered into and with the aid of a double tot of rum here and a favour returned there the plotters were able to get the information that they needed. When it had been established at what point in time Her Majesty was likely to be performing a Number Two and, most importantly, out of which shipside orifice the contents of the royal bowels would be ejected, the plot entered it's final phase . From then on it was simply a matter of by means of a series of whistles and hand signals to get a bucket attached to a line lowered over the side and strategically placed at the right time. Piece of piss as you might say. The royal turd was recovered, and if you believe the tale, given several coats of varnish before being mounted on a wooden plaque and displayed in the stokers mess. From such legends national identities are forged.

Friday, 20 July 2012

With philosophers like these...........

I'm all in favour of the tradition of the autodidact, worker-philosophers capable of honest labour one moment, intellectual debate the next and manning the barricades the next. Like much else in life I have failed miserably to live up to this ideal but I continue to try. Organisations such as the WEA and Open University are an inspiration I reckon, and the new movement of Philosophy In Pubs sound pretty tasty as well. No surprise that the latter has a strong base in Liverpool where there is a long and noble tradition of people gobbing off in boozers. When I came across Jules Evans' Philosophy For Life it sounded right up my street and in truth it's not a bad read if perhaps a little too American Self Helpy for my taste; but I'm not so sure about Evans since finding this little philosophical gem on his website. 
"For my money, the great champion of the mass intelligentsia is Jamie Oliver - I'm serious, I think Oliver and Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall have done more to promote learning and shift ethical attitudes in our culture than 99% of academics. Chefs have become the philosophers of our society. Anyway, the latest addition to the Oliver empire is a new drop in cookery school in Notting Hill Gate. Good idea."  Yeah! Fucking ace!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Simon Harwood "not guilty".

Regardless of the verdict, if Harwood's previous is anything to go by the death of Ian Tomlinson or someone else, was bound to happen sooner or later. Harwood is clearly a very violent and possibly unbalanced man. But what has gone more or less unnoticed has been the efforts by senior ranks in the Met to psyche up the police prior to the G20 protest. The protest was a peaceful one but such was the nervousness and tension among officers that something unpleasant was inevitable. The top brass had succeeded in working up the officers on the ground into such a state that policing was spiteful and confrontational from the start. A loose cannon like Harwood, a police force worked up into a state of fear and ready for violent confrontation, poor Ian Tomlinson stumbles into a situation and meets a tragic end. This is the force that is supposed to have ultimate responsibility for Olympic security. Heaven help us.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Red Trouser Brigade.

Like this pic?
Wanna see more saucy snaps of terminal bell ends like this?
Go to http://lookatmyfuckingredtrousers.blogspot.co.uk/
Fill yer boots!

Hat tip to Mike Clarke for this.

Monday, 16 July 2012

John Lewis cleaners fight for dignity - and a fair days pay.

The retailer of choice for the respectable, Guardian reading elements of the chattering classes has long been John Lewis/Waitrose. Owned by the workers (coyly referred to as "partners" and having a corporate social responsibility profile of almost saintly proportions, the punters could stock up on Fairtrade coffee and ethically sourced soft furnishings and feel good about themselves at the same time.
The stores are spacious, brightly lit and sparkling clean. Yes, did you ever notice how clean everything is? You might be surprised to learn that this wonderful, ethical organisation sub out the cleaning to ICM of the Compass Group who pay the cleaners in the London stores a derisory £6.08 per hour, well below the London Living Wage. It makes perfect economic sense for companies to sub-contract work and thus absolve themselves of all responsibility for the pay and conditions of the workers involved. Perfect economic sense but it also makes a mockery of John Lewis' loudly proclaimed ethical stance.
It was good to see the lively cleaners picket outside the Oxford Street store on Saturday. More power to their elbow.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Organics. A note of caution.

Over the past year or two a lot of allotment growers have had to deal with the problem of spreading stable or farmyard manure on their land only to find that the muck was contaminated with aminopyralid  herbicide. This herbicide is used by farmers to control weeds in pasture or in fields that are going to be cut for hay or silage. It does no harm to the stock who ingest traces of it in their feed but of course the aminopyralid is passed through the system of the beasts and acts as a growth suppressant when the manure is spread on the unsuspecting allotmenteers plot. The result can be a wasted growing season.
On the face of it this all looks like further evidence that the full organic method of agriculture is the only one that can keep us happy, healthy, safe and sound. If only it were that simple.
The discovery that nitrogen fertiliser could be industrially manufactured was to revolutionise agriculture and lead to a satisfying increase in productivity. Yields increased yet further with the introduction of compound fertilisers and the widespread use of pesticides. Of course everything comes at a price, and the price in this particular case was the environmental damage that is only too well known. But the reality is that while it's perfectly possible to produce food without resorting to "artificial" fertilisers and chemical pesticides (we have been doing it since Neolithic times after all) the yields are considerably reduced. It's also perfectly possible to keep livestock outside all year round; to have cattle tramping about in a sea of mud rather than over-wintered in barns, and some campaigners would like farmers to do just that,  but it's not the most efficient way of doing the job. This is not an argument in favour of the worst practises of agri-business but it has always seemed to me that growing crops and keeping livestock are areas of life where ideology is best left outside the gate and we just take with us a hearty dose of pragmatism.
Ecologists are fond of talking about an ecosystem being able to "support" a given species population. Thus an increase in snowshoe hare numbers will support a larger Canadian lynx population, farmers leaving wide field margins and hedgerows will support a bigger population of songbirds, and so on.
Before we are too dismissive of modern agricultural methods we would do well to ponder what happens to those members of a population that an ecosystem, or an agricultural system, can not support. They simply starve to death.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Sid and Nancy by any other name.

Eva Rausing struggled heroically with  "health problems" for years before being found dead in her Belgravia home. Now the arrest of her multi-millionaire husband has compounded the tragedy. The couple were noted philanthropists as well as being stars of high society and personal friends of Prince Charles. The Rausings were a wonderful couple and quite unlike working class junkies who are of course feckless good for nothing scumbags.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

A man of rare talent.

I'm grateful to the good comrade Gitane for reminding me about Joseph Pujol "Le Petomane", a man of rare talent. Pujol was that most unusual of acts, a professional fartist. Attired  in  suitably adapted evening dress he performed such wonders as playing a number of tunes, sucking up and projecting a stream of water and blowing out a candle. It must have been in the late sixties that I stumbled across a book about this man with the unusual anus and some years later Leonard Rossiter would star in a film  about him. I remember trying to convince people that it was a true story. Pujol became a star of the Moulin Rouge but I don't think that he ever worked the English halls and if he had I'm not sure how English audiences would have responded. Roy Hudd has collected a huge number of stories and anecdotes about the music halls and one of my favourites concerns an old trouper who peering out past the footlights at the audience discerned a lady in the front row - unconcernedly shelling peas!