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

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.