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

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.