Friday, 30 March 2012
A report by the National Trust highlights the decline in children "playing out" as we used to call it. The National Trust draw heavily on work done by Play England and come up with some alarming findings. Can it be true that more kids are taken to hospital as a result of falling out of bed than from falling out of trees? Has the "radius of activity", the area that kids roam about in, really declined by as much as 90% since the 1970s? Concerns about safety are cited as the main reason why kids are increasingly confined to their homes and I'm sure that this is true. Whether or not these concerns are justified is another matter. I think that in towns at least, roaming about tended to be an activity of the working class child with middle class families looking down on this freedom as being associated with "street urchins". This is a generalisation of course and in rural areas things may have been different again. My own kids played out and survived more or less unharmed. Of course the reality is that left to their own devices kids will frequently be a general pain in the arse to the adult world and I think that in the past this was held in check by a cohesion of the community that has long since all but disappeared. Truth is that last summer there were plenty of young people roaming about and having adventures but the adventures had little in common with anything dreamed up by Enid Blyton and I suspect were roundly condemned by the average National Trust Member.
Thursday, 29 March 2012
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
The pasty tax fiasco looks as though it will run and run. Cameron favours VAT on pasties and a large hot one. Miliband is up for a Greggs. Clegg probably can't make his mind up but will most likely make his a Ginsters. Ian Bone has really started something here and if sensible political analysis is yr bag have a look at Johnny Void. Forget about Greggs, they don't sell pasties anyway, they only think they do. Truth is that when the dust has settled what we will be left with is a price rise on a basic item of working class grub. Governments have fallen for less.
Monday, 26 March 2012
It's difficult to say for sure when exactly "business" became the established religion of this country but certainly the Thatcher-Blair project, the deregulation of the City, the rise of the business schools and the triumphant march of the spivs can all act as historical clues. About the same time that young people were beginning to see "business" as the new rock'n roll we also witnessed the emergence of a completely new type of employee, the professional manager. The manager of the past might have been a reasonable person or the prick of history but having spent years in railways, baking, the manufacture of knicker elastic or whatever, probably had a pretty sound grasp of what the job was all about. This new product of the business school knew nothing but the art of management and was convinced that this pseudo skill was transferable anywhere. In my final years of employment I worked as a lockkeeper on the Thames and at one stage was confronted by a fairly senior manager who proudly assured me that he knew nothing about the river but that it didn't matter as he "employed people to know that". His expertise was in the dark art management itself.
This is the world that we now inhabit and despite Cameron whining about the punters continually putting business down, there are very many kids who are not involved in Occupy and who genuinely aspire to being something in that world so well epitomised by the FT's nauseous weekend supplement, Spend It. Kingston Business School is actually expanding and a new extension is being opened next month by that managers manager and scourge of the organised workforce Willie Walsh. Now we hear that the Somali pirates are operating to a business plan and that the more successful ones are products of the British MBA system. So what exactly is the relationship between the business schools, a certain airline CEO and the pirate strongholds of East Africa. I think that we should be told.
Listen very carefully. I will say this only once. Political parties claim to represent certain sections of society, certain interests. In order to ensure that their electoral campaigns are well funded parties collect money from their supporters. The Tory Party represents the interests of business and the landed aristocracy whilst Labour claim to represent those of organized labour. LibDem are not sure who they represent and for that reason collect very little money. This Cruddas geezer was simply doing his job, getting money for his party from people who thought that their interests might be better served. The job of the party is simply to get/keep power. Our job is to vote and go back to sleep. It's how they do. Get over it.
Saturday, 24 March 2012
Friday, 23 March 2012
London is a walkers city like no other and in spite of the amount of traffic lends itself well to pedestrian exploration. I am all in favour of Londoners getting out of their own particular manor and expanding their horizons a bit. The parks and open spaces alone are a treasure, virtually every street contains some hidden gem and despite the impression given by much of the media, London is a safe city. Compared with many places in the world we don't actually spend that much time mugging and knifing each other. The Walk London initiative is sound enough. The establishment of a number of sign posted long distance walks must have led to loads of people getting off the sofa and getting down to a bit of urban exploration. Why even I have completed the Capital Ring, a circumnavigation of the London suburbs. I'm not quite so sure about the new Jubilee Greenway though. This new walk links Buckingham Palace with the Olympic Park and may yet come to be known as the White Elephant Walkway.
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
A lot of things will change in London between now and the Olympics. We can expect a security lock down of course but also a general sanitization, sterilisation and gentrification of the capital. The recent hounding of the charming street performer Miss Polly Hoops is but the thin end of the wedge. We can look foreword to yet further erosion of our civil liberties in the coming weeks. I doubt very much if between now and the Olympics we will see a similar carnival of resistance to this afternoon's when a collection of militant working class women, anarchists, cripples and crippled anarchist chased Black Rod from the hallowed turf of St Stephens Green. If only we had been joined by Miss Polly Hoops my day would have been complete.
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Fabrice Muamba is not only a gifted footballer but by all accounts a really good bloke as well. When the young Bolton midfielder collapsed it was natural that people felt for his family and wished him well. It's early days but it very much looks as though Fabrice is in the first stages of recovery and who would not be pleased about that. What I'm not so pleased about is the way that this recovery is being attributed to the supernatural. Google "Fabrice Muamba power of prayer" and you will be rewarded by an astonishing 62,000 results. No mention of the good fortune of having a cardiac surgeon in the crowd who was able to be present during the "golden moments" after collapse. No mention of the dedicated teams of NHS workers who didn't wait to check on the patients insurance cover before going flat out to save a young life. No mention either that if Faprice pulls through it will be down to the power of modern medical science - not the power of prayer.
Monday, 19 March 2012
You would have thought that in the closing months of the second world war, when it must have been obvious to even the dimmest Nazi that the game was up, you wold have thought that Germans would have moved to make the inevitable defeat as bearable as possible. But no, even in the closing stages of this nightmare huge resources and energy were devoted to the continued killing of Jews. The German people, with their backs against the wall, were not best aligned to see the writing on it. Are we witnessing the same kind of historical moment today? As market capitalism goes into it's death throes the political elite are incapable of seeing beyond the commodification of more aspects of life and the further inroad of the market into everything. The trouble is that political elites, like old dogs, struggle with new tricks. Perhaps it is in this light that we should see Cameron's plan to privatise the road network and perhaps we should expect more last ditch attempts to calm the storm by pouring oil on burning water.
Saturday, 17 March 2012
I must admit to being no great lover of gastropubs Far too many good boozers, especially in country districts, have been turned into restaurants in all but name and watching the chattering classes eating their dinner is not my idea of pub entertainment. The one wonderful exception is the forager (I dare say you can get a degree in it) and the pub chef who joined forces to persuade the punters that eating road kill ticked all the right fashionable green boxes. The Home Counties middle class tucking into half putrid badger is something that I reckon I would pay good money to watch. Not, I hasten to add, is there anything wrong with foraging. Anyone who has picked a few blackberries down a summer lane can claim to be a forager. Certainly our original 1970's copy of Richard Maybey's Food For Free remains a treasured possession and my sloe gin will stand up to any one's. Not only foraging, but hunting for the pot as well, are perhaps the last remnants of an earlier, some would say more authentic life. Most shooting in this country consists of bagging reared and vertualy tame pheasants as a form of corporate entertainment. It's a wasteful and completely unjustifiable pastime that has nothing at all to do with the time honoured skill of hunting for the pot. The pheasant is a quarry best shot from it's roost with an air rifle by moonlight. Apart from nicking the odd pheasant, the fields are alive with good meat in the form of rabbits. At one time the youth of this nation would be out at the weekend and, armed with guns, ferrets and an assortment of dodgy looking canine companions, would go in pursuit of coney for dinner. There is nothing wrong with skateboarding, video games or looting Footlocker - but there's a lot to be said for poaching.
Friday, 16 March 2012
Had another day walking in the Chilterns yesterday and discovered, high on the ridge overlooking the small market town of Princes Risborough, the remains of what turned out to be World War 1 practice trenches. It's quite a poignant place to visit. I couldn't help thinking about the young men and boys who would have practised going over the top here in these benign surroundings, perhaps within sight of their home village. They must have thought, "well it don't seem that bad. I'm sure we will be alright." The reality of what was in store for them is told in the long list of names that adorns the war memorials of even the smallest settlement. How many shattered lives and broken hearts were prepared for here in these practice trenches I wonder?
One of the great enigmas of the twentieth century is how in 1914 the European working class turned it's back on any thoughts of internationalism and embraced the jingoism of whichever empire they happened to live under. For many of course, going off to war would have seemed like a huge adventure and even later, when the truth was known, the social pressure to march off to the horrors of trench warfare must have been overwhelming.
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Rebekah and Charlie Brooks are among those arrested first thing this morning and Operations Weeting edges ever closer to Cameron & Co. Weeting, along with closely connected Operations Elveden and Tuleta, are being headed up by the Met's DAC Sue Akers. Question is will Akers prove to be a safe pair of hands and manage to hang enough expendables out to dry while at the same time keeping the heat away from Cameron.? Will the Olympics, the Jubilee and a major water shortage be enough of a distraction - or are we on course for the collapse of the ConDem alliance and an autumn General Election being added to all those 2012 Big Events? Did I mention the Mayan Calendar?
EDIT......... and just in case you think that I'm some deranged conspiricy theorist. Check this out.
Saturday, 10 March 2012
Just a few years before punk exploded onto the stage of popular culture everyone was talking about an eruption of energy of a quite different kind. The martial arts boom was something that had to be experienced to be believed. Largely on the back of the Bruce Lee film Enter The Dragon there was suddenly a huge interest in Chinese martial arts - Kung Fu. There had been surges of interest in oriental fighting arts dating back to the Edwardian passion for ju-jitsu, judo had matured to into an Olympic sport and the arts of karate and aikido had been practised in this country for years but there had never been anything quite like this. Literally thousands of young hopefuls queued up at the doors of the kung fu clubs that had mushroomed in a few short months. Karate and the other systems were able to piggy-back on the boom and there was a massive increase in participation. A lot of money was made during the boom. Apart from the cash from clubs and private lessons there was a deluge of books and magazines. Equipment was being sold as fast as it could be manufactured with everything from that most impractical form of combat footwear, the kung fu slipper, to reproduction samurai swords to (and I swear to God) a special dartboard for throwing shurikens at.
Of course there were positive aspects to all this activity. For a start it provided an impetus for young men, and this was almost exclusively a male obsession, to get off the sofa and go out and get fit and although most would last for only a few weeks of training for others it was the start of a rewarding hobby. On the down side there was an unfortunate orientalism in the air. Western boxing and wrestling were denigrated as being crude and lacking in technique. Many martial artists genuinely believed that no boxer would last more than a few seconds with a karate black-belt. There were to be a lot of sadly disenchanted martial artists around when full contact karate (kickboxing) arrived on the scene.
By the mid 1980's an increasing number of people were coming to the conclusion that recreating the hierarchy of feudal Japan in the local Scout Hut had little to do with real combat and that when it came to fighting, like much else in life, the proof of the pudding was in the eating. Many of the blind alleys of the martial arts boom could have been avoided by paying a little more attention to the one person who was largely responsible for the boom in the first place. When Bruce Lee's notes were posthumously published as the Tao Of Jeet Kune Do it became a best seller. I'm just not sure how many people actually bothered to read it. Personally I was amazed at how much politics I found in the book. Bruce Lee was more than just a young guy who wanted to make it in the movies. He was very much a product of the sixties. A pragmatist, a rationalist, who was happy to challenge the status quo. A wing chun practitioner he was also hugely influenced by western boxing and wrestling. Much of this has been supersede by Mixed Martial Arts but the core principle that runs through Bruce Lee's approach to the combat arts is as valid today as ever - absorb what is useful.
Wednesday, 7 March 2012
The austerity caused by continued government cutbacks is creating a confusing kaleidoscope of hardship. As usual the poorest, the weakest and the least organised are bearing the brunt. The food and agriculture industry is home to some of the very worst working conditions and after the tragedy of the Morecambe Bay cockle pickers a Gangmaster Licencing Authority was set up in an effort to at least curtail the worst abuse. How effective the authority has been may be questioned but it has prosecuted a number of employers for using unlicensed gangmasters including National Farmers Union vice-president Gwyn Jones. Now, in a response to squeals from business about "red tape" the government are ordering a more light touch. Light touch. Now where have I heard that before? The food and agriculture sector are deeply enmeshed in the murky world of people trafficking and worker exploitation. Rise again Captain Swing !
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Congratulations to Johnny Void and Libcom for getting in February's top ten political blogs. It's well deserved especially for Void's fine anti-Workfair efforts on his site. I particularly like this post here. Nice one mate! They don't like it up 'em!
Monday, 5 March 2012
Until a couple of weeks ago I had never walked any part The Ridgeway. This long distance footpath is based on the old neolithic trackway that stretched from the chalk downs of Dorset and having crossed the Thames at Goring continued along the ridge of the Chilterns almost as far as what is now Luton. The Chilterns section is easy to get to by train from London so myself and my trusty companion, "her indoors" have set out a couple of times recently and armed with nothing more than map, flask and sandwiches have had some cracking days out. On one outing we climbed up Ivinghoe Beacon and could see right across the Midland Plain. Amazing!
Friday, 2 March 2012
Mumbo jumbo of any variety is a curse and a blight on humanity. National Socialism, Roman Catholicism, Witchcraft, Pentecostalism, infallibility of both the Papal and the Leninist variety, UFO-spoofo hum-buggery of every description. It all belongs in the dustbin of history. The terrible death of young Kristy Bambu at the hands of witchcraft obsessed relatives who should have been caring for him may be just the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg. But how will the authorities respond to this? Perhaps the search is already on for moderate (as opposed to extremist) witchcraft believers. Soon it will be the norm to speak of a witchcraft community and where there is a community there needs to be community leaders. Spokespersons will need to be found. Budgets will have to be allocated. A think tank will need to be set up - we can't forget the witchcraft vote. Or we could just see all of this crap for what it is, put aside any fears of being branded "racist", thisophobic or thatophobic and denounce it accordingly.