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

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014 - Bring it on!

It seems amazing to me that this blog is now half way through it's sixth year. One of the wonders of life is the way that the passage of time seems to be distorted when we are young. We look back at some episode in our youth and it appears to have taken up half a lifetime but extended in reality for a year or two. Suddenly the time is flying by. Anyway, to the two old blokes and a Jack Russell Terrier who read this stuff - Happy New Year.

Monday, 30 December 2013

From citizen's rights to consumer choices.

We have given up our rights as citizens in favour of rights as consumers, as customers. We have always been a nation of shoppers as well as shopkeepers but never has the retail mind set claimed the hegemony that it does today. From health to education to the provision of utilities to transport to politics itself, we are first and foremost customers with choices to be made and satisfaction to be evaluated. The  philosophy of the market place has seeped into every facet of our lives. We would sooner discus the relative benefits of different schools, supermarkets, pension plans or health care trusts rather than the pressing matters of the day. Only a tough and street savvy citizenry can ask the important questions like "Will it always be like this?" "Is a classless society possible?" and "Will there be any life before death?".

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Only practical skills can see us through.

Floods, storm damage and power cuts made this a Christmas that many people would sooner forget. It must have been irritating to have Cameron turning up at Yalding and pronouncing that "something must be done, lessons must be learnt" etc. and of course it's hugely satisfying to see the PM ambushed by an irate villager. Being wet and cold and not being sure what's going on is a miserable experience.The hard truth however is that both as individuals and communities we had better get used to this. Berating politicians and power company executives is all well and good but it will be the collective efforts of knowledgeable and committed individuals that will be increasingly needed in future. Dealing with the forces of nature and surviving is a practical skill. Flood defence is a practical skill.  Never in our history have so few people been employed in practical matters. We have become a nation of suits. Ideal if you want reports on flooding or investment analysis for power generators - less useful if a water course needs clearing or a power line re-erecting.

Monday, 23 December 2013

No turtle doves or (partridges) in my pear tree.

We used to have a pear tree in the back garden but it fell foul of the dreaded honey fungus. I'm not sure if I have ever seen a Turtle Dove and it seems unlikely that I will do so in future as they now faces extinction in this country, apparently shortage of weed seeds and a loss of nesting sites are to blame. Conservationist are trying to convince farmers to grow weeds and as farmers everywhere from Afghanistan to Australia will grow anything if the money is right they might well be in with a chance. Victorian ornithologists would have taken a different view and simply shot and mounted the remaining birds in order to complete their collections. There used to be a museum in Brighton dedicated entirely to the stuffed specimens that an Edward Booth decimated with his punt gun. The Booth Museum must be somewhat of an embarrassment to Brighton's Green commissariat but I suppose that  while they are worrying about environmental correctness they won't be pissing off the bin-men for Christmas. Noel, Noel.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Don't hold back Geoffrey.

England's defeat in the third test at Perth provides an opportunity for that most loved of English art forms, the post match analysis. Geoffrey Boycott tucks whippet under arm, returns tripe sandwich to trouser pocket and steps smartly up to the microphone…..
A dose of man flu meant that apart from just wallowing in self pity I have also been able to keep up to speed on the debacle down under by listening to the daytime catch up on Radio 5Live Sports Extra as well as the occasional live session in the early hours. What a wonderful thing it will be for future social historians when they discover recordings of BBC Test Match Special. What will they make of "Aggers", "Blowers", and the rest?  So far this series Boycott has surpassed himself and has been unstinting in his efforts to bring to our attention the shortcoming of the England team. "You could find more brains in a pork pie". "Pietersen seems to be living in fairy land".  Why, the archetypal grumpy old Yorkshireman has even complained bitterly about the standard of lunch being served up to the media by the Aussies. Ah! Geoffrey! Where would we all be without you?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Cops off campus - and take the religious nutters with you.

Students are revolting, but they are not revolting half as much as they should be. Over the past couple of days two important protests have taken place. Today London students marched against police presence on campus, the court injunction against student protest on campus and the intimidatory tactics of the Met. All well and good. "The pensioners support the students!" and so on.  But perhaps more important, but more difficult for the left to cope with, was yesterday's protest against university authorities rolling over and allowing gender segregated meetings on university property. Such is the fear of being perceived as "racist" or "Islamophobic" that many on the left will turn a blind eye to this attack on everything that might be termed progressive, let alone libertarian socialist. Gender segregation is wrong and if saying that offends Islam then so be it. But don't take any notice of me. What do I know? You might however listen to these good folk.
Also -

Friday, 6 December 2013


Mandela has gone. That he was a good man, and probably a great one, seems beyond dispute and humanity will be the poorer for his departing. Now may not be the time to draw attention to the failings of the ANC and the continuing gross economic inequality of South Africa but one thing is for sure. During the next few days, alongside the very genuine grieving and sense of loss,  there will also be an unprecedented outpouring of hypocrisy and nowhere more so than in this country. Flowery tributes for the man will be mouthed by those who felt that apartheid was the natural order of things and that South Africa would have been a better place had Mandela and his comrades hanged. Others will praise Mandela and heap scorn on the Afrikaners safe in the knowledge that for the  wealthy, ANC South Africa is open for business as usual. As Mandela's old comrade Denis Goldberg was quick to point out this morning, the gains for the South African working class have been minimal. Meanwhile, the North London Guardian reading middle class will bow their heads, hum Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica and move heaven and earth to ensure that their kids don't have to go to a school with a large proportion of black pupils. It is for all of that, as well as for the loss of Mandela, that I grieve.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Worst flood threat for sixty years.

In the early hours of tomorrow morning the East Coast and Thames Estuary may experience the worst tidal surge since the devastating floods of January 1953. Part of the problem then was the lack of preparedness and adequate communication. Times have changed and flood defence today bears no comparison to that night when as an excited young boy I was evacuated from Canvey Island. The conditions are the same; a spring tide, low atmospheric pressure and a Northerly gale combining to force a "hump" of water down into the bottleneck the Southern North Sea. But with modern communications and a far better understanding of how to deal with this kind of emergency, we could, with a bit of luck come through this with no loss of life at all. A stark contrast to the three hundred lives lost that one night in 1953. Learn more about those floods here.

Class War election statement of intent.

Reblogged from Ian Bone.
There is a class war waging and we are losing it. The rich are getting richer and the gilded elite who have ruled us since Norman times remain in power and dominate land ownership just as they did when they first robbed it. We live in a feudal society dominated by an oligarchy of privately and Oxbridge educated toffs who run not just the government, banks, diplomacy but the media, music. comedy and even the opposition. We see no difference between any of the parties – we oppose Tristram Hunt with the same venom we hate Zac Goldsmith. . We don’t want to kick the tories out to replace them with Labour or any variety of failed Trots. We don’t want to kick them out at all – we want to kick them in! Started in 1982 CLASS WAR was first a combative, funny, populist anarchist newspaper then mutated into a similar political organisation. We are proud of our past. But 30 years later the same approaches do not work. Endless photos of overseas riots and balaclaved anarchists bring no movement here. The same old same old is getting us nowhere. Time to think and do the unthinkable, to cross the Rubicon.
We are standing Class War candidates in the general election on May 7th 2015. We are doing this to launch a furious and co-ordinated political offensive against the ruling class with the opportunity an election gives us to talk politics to our class. We in no way see the election as an alternative to direct action. By the brick and the ballot.
We are not talking community politics here. It’s too late for a patient slowbuild like the IWCA. The ruling class have us by the throat -they need a short sharp kick in the bollocks. Our election campaign will use any means necessary. we won’t be ushered away by PR minders – we will make ourselves central to the campaign in a funny, rumbustious combative and imaginative way. We will be on the streets and in their faces.

Comrades whatever our yesterdays you are welcome now. join in. reject cynicism. have fun.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Why Oh why can't we be more Korean?

Why are we so crap? Our national football team is a waste of space, cricket wise we are being shafted by the Aussies and now we find that our kids are worse than useless when it comes to very hard long division. A new OECD ( Yes, I thought it meant not being able to stop cleaning the karsi as well but apparently it's something to do with economic development.) report just released shows UK kids come well down the international league table for exam results. Shanghai is world leader but the Far East in general shows a steely determination for their kids to obtain top marks. South Korean children are slaving away from early morning until late at night and the exam results are impressive as is the teenage suicide rate - highest in the world I believe. It can only be a matter hours before The Alien Gove and his grim crew start calling for British education to be modelled more along Korean lines. Fewer teenage pregnancies and more teenage suicides is clearly the way to go if we wish to keep a seat at the top table.To refer to the likes of Gove as a wanker really is to do an injustice to that most benign of pastimes.
For an interesting but very different look at education I recommend Adam Ramsay's article in the current issue of Strike on the reality (and benefit) of public school. Ramsay points out that, " There is a bizarre belief held by many that success in Britain correlates to intelligence and hard work. This is a very middle class concept. What the upper class understand is that success stems from two things: community and the appearance of confidence."   The trick of course is to make all of that available to everyone and not just a privileged elite.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Time For Outrage.

Someone gave me a copy of Stephane Hessel's little pamphlet. It escaped me when it was first published but is credited with being a prime motivator for the Occupy Movement. Hessler was 93 when he wrote this and had had what you might call a full life. A true hero of the Resistance he twice escaped from the Nazis having endured torture and the dreadful conditions of Buchenwald.  After the war Hessel was involved in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and throughout his long life remained an outspoken defender of the oppressed. What surprised me about Time For Outrage was not that this old fighter was able to so eloquently equate today's anti-capitalism with the struggles of the Resistance or that Hessel in his advanced years could still proclaim , "To create is to resist - To resist is to create". No, what amazes me is that this little pamphlet should have topped the bestseller list in France. I fear that a UK equivalent would have sold a couple of hundred with the rest of the print run gathering dust in Houseman's. C'est la vie.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The sporting life.

We have a complex and demanding relationship with sport. The expectations are huge in terms of wanting our side to win whatever the cost and at the the same time demanding a level of honesty, decency and altruism completely at odds with a multi-million pound industry. Sport has let us down this past week. We have no right to expect any better but still we feel aggrieved. George Grove's pre-fight taunting of Carl Froch and the extreme Aussie sledging during the First Test of the Ashes Series leaves a nasty taste in the mouth for those of us who, in part at least, live our lives through the achievements of others and demand of our heroes a physical prowess and sense of honour that we could never aspire to ourselves. But that is what sport is. It's a form of theatre where all of human strengths and failings are magnified and portrayed in a brief moment. That's why we love it. We can be sad when sport fails to live up to our expectations - and forever grateful when it does.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Left wing cults? Brain washing? Seems to tick all the right boxes.

Now that it has been revealed that the suspects in the Brixton domestic slavery case were members of a "cult like Maoist collective" you can expect the press to have a field day. Already "experts" on left wing cults, brain washing, collective living etc. are brushing up their interview techniques while the Mail makes the usual comparisons with Citizen Smith scripts.  None of this is remotely funny for the three women victims nor for the capital's many other unknown victims of modern slavery and I hope that the media obsession with lefty cults won't take the spotlight away from a very nasty part of 21st century London. Meanwhile, perfectly nice groups of people who are politically active and sharing accommodation can expect some odd looks from the neighbours. Remember kids, keep a sense of fun and question everything, two things that are anathema to all cults, and sadly to many lefties as well.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Look out Dave! Class War gonna get ya.

During the heyday of Class War in the 1980's my relationship with the group was pretty much the same as the one I was having  with Chrissie Hynde, admiration from afar. What I really liked about the old Class War paper was the irreverence and sense of fun at a time when political life in this country was about as grim as I can ever remember it. Since then Class War has folded and reformed at various times in various forms but the brand remains iconic and now we hear that a number of Class War candidates will be standing in the 2015 General Election. The old class warriors are focusing on a number of key seats including David Cameron's own Witney constituency. Be afraid - be very afraid.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Deptford Creek

Despite the worst efforts of gentrification and the dreaded heritage industry, Greenwich is a beautiful riverside town. The Park and Observatory, the amazing Painted Hall of the old Naval College and (perhaps best of all) Goddard's Pie and Eel Shop are all well worth a visit. But turn into Creek Road walk a couple of hundred yards away from the tourists and you will come to the much more gritty reality of Deptford Creek. As a teenager I worked on JJ Prior's sand barges running aggregates from the Essex pits up the London River to Brewery Wharf immediately upstream of Deptford Creek Bridge. Over half a century later the wharf and barges are still there.

Not that the area has escaped change, the Stirling Prize winning Laban Centre and the Creekside development attest to that, but Deptford High Street looks pretty much the same and the creek itself remains timeless.
In 1497 the Cornish made one final effort to free themselves of the Norman Yoke and 15 thousand marched on London. It was at Deptford Creek that they were finally defeated.

A couple of years after working for Priors I was trading backwards and forwards to the Continent on tiny coasters, Again Deptford Creek featured in my travels. We used to load bales of waste paper at a wharf further up the creek and yet further up was a scrap metal yard where we loaded scrap  for Caen of Normandy Landings fame. In Caen we would load steel bars to bring back home. It made no sense to me at the time - I'm not sure that it does now. Have a look at Deptford if you are in that neck of the woods. But I wouldn't leave it too long. It's only a matter of time.

Monday, 18 November 2013

She was nothing like a dame.

It always surprises me how many people who adopt a radical anti-establishment stance are quick to accept an Honour from The Queen when it's offered. All those old principles and long held opinions fly out of the window when the ego is massaged with an OBE or a knighthood. But when Doris Lessing who died yesterday was offered a Dame of the British Empire she responded with the comment that there was no empire and dames existed only in pantomimes. Top woman.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Fond farewell to the little master.

We all have memories of events, perhaps historically important ones, that we are pleased to have witnessed or been a part of. Most of us will also have regrets about missing out on certain iconic moments. I suppose that all we can do is try to end up with as many of the former and as few of the latter as possible. Among my own snapshots of the past that I'm particularly pleased about is seeing Sachin Tendulkar play at Lords. The ground was packed with British Indian families complete with grandmothers, small children and boxes of chapatis. With a fine disregard for Norman Tebbit's "Brit Test" they cheered the Indian side at every opportunity. But Tendulkar  had only to scratch his knee on the boundary to be cheered to the rafters by all of us. The Little Master leaves test cricket not only with a peerless batting record but leaves cricket fans with the kind of warm feeling that the likes of Norman Tebitt could never engender in a thousand years.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Royal talks horse-sense.

Some people say that the Royal Family are a total waste of space and a waste of good oxygen. This viewpoint is certainly appealing but sometimes I wonder if it might not be a bit overstated and that the Saxe-Coburgs do have occasional uses. Take for example Princess Anne's recent intervention in horse welfare. HRH reckons that horse owners would look after their pets better if they knew that the animals  were worth a few bob as horseburgers when they got bored with them. Fair point and one that could perhaps be extended to dog owners as well. Now I don't mind holding my hand up as a dog lover but we do have far too many unwanted dogs in this country. Dogs that kill children, maim posties and produce a vast mountain of dog shit that has to be disposed of somehow. Owners might take more responsibility for their dogs if they knew that the hound could one day be turned into valuable entrocote chien.  Princess Anne may have stumbled across a way of killing two birds with one stone so to speak by making a stand for animal welfare and revealing a new and innovative form of disaster relief at the same time. How? Well, dog is a prized delicacy in The Philippines - you work it out.
EDITOR'S NOTE: No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Ministry of Truth.

Well I never! Politicians always rely on the public's short memory and, truth be told, our total lack of faith in anything that they promise anyway. But the Tories are taking no chances and just to be on the safe side have pulled a stroke reminiscent of the worst kind of Stalinist massaging of history. In their very own version of the Year Zero scenario Lord Snooty  and his pals have attempted to erase their past from the internet. It's transparent government Dave but not as we know it.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Toffs at the top a Major concern

John Major is concerned, shocked even, at the disproportionate influence that Old Etonians and the moneyed middle class have in every sphere of our national life. Seems that these days an ordinary chap from Brixton, the sort of person who might come from a family of failed trapeze artists and garden gnome manufacturers for example, that kind of person would just not get a look in these days. I have very mixed feelings about social mobility because although my heart lifts whenever I hear a working class accent coming from a doctor or lawyer and I'm all for people reaching for the stars and being able to fulfil their potential, I see no reason why I should cheer on people who aspire to nothing more than increasing their personal wealth and status. If that's what is meant by "social mobility" you can shove it where the sun don't shine. "Aspirational" has come to be a dirty word on the left and a mantra for the right. What I find distressing is the way that the word is now automatically assumed to refer to personal greed and aggrandisement. What happened to gender, class or group aspiration? John Major may have stuck it to Cameron and we can't suppress our giggles and sneers but, and it grieves me to admit this, I think that the PM was right when he claimed, with reference to his own toff background that, "It's not where you come from but where you are going to that matters".

Friday, 8 November 2013

Only In England.

There is a favourite device or sub-plot in a lot of American fiction. Being what we naively refer to as a "young country",  almost any town west of the Mississippi had a folk memory of it's founding. The early days of some townships were within living memory. There really were people who could trace the development of the leading families and remember when "it was all fields round here". This device anchors us in the narrative and anchored Americans in their history. Imagine remembering someone from your youth who remembered the pioneer days. I felt a little like that today as I wondered around Only In England, an exhibition of photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr that's on at the Science Museum Media Centre. Wonderful images of everyday life in the 50's 60's and 70's. Peering at the photos was one moment like being in a time machine and visiting a lost age and then being jerked back to the present when you realise how much has not changed. This was especially true of the many shots of the English seaside. If you care about the English and our eccentricities you will love this exhibition.
Tony Ray-Jone. Beachy Head boat trip. 1967. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Some of us went home too early. Again.

Brenda had the South Korean president round for wine and nibbles too. Bloody disgraceful I reckon. Bring back national service. Get a job.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Anonymous silent march for truth and justice.

What are we to make of the Anonymous plans for a silent march on Downing Street this evening?  Will  Gotham City come to a standstill or will a couple of hundred students be the excuse for a good wedge of plod overtime? Mustn't be cynical. I might even put in an appearance myself. Unmasked as usual.

The Pike wins Samual Johnson Prize.

We have all known, perhaps had as friends, people like Gabriele d' Annunzio. Complete shits to women they were always surrounded by girls. Never short of incendiary ideas and grandiose schemes these people don't seem capable of much empathy. They would never allow concern for fellow human beings to get in the way of a good idea. Serial womaniser, poet, proto-fascist, self styled leader of the Free City of Fiume,  d' Annunzio was many things but he was never boring. Lucy Hughes-Hallet has won the Samual Johnson Prize for The Pike, her biography of this awful but fascinating man. Those of us who might feel a bit sniffy about Gabriele d' Annunzio should perhaps just be grateful that the prize was not won by the Thatcher book.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Ivy House. A proper pub.

There are parts of South London of which we know little. Step out of Peckham Rye Station and within a two minute walk you can find all kinds of exotic vitals. Across the road a shop sign boasts that fresh food is delivered from Africa daily. Best not to ask. Proceed in a South Easterly fashion and within a few bus stops you will come to a place that to be truthful I had never even heard of. Nunhead is home to a famous cemetery, a vast allotment site and a quite remarkable pub. When it was built in the 1930's The Ivy House was one of the original so called "improved public houses". As the Newlands Tavern it was a major 70's pub rock venue with the likes of Dr Feelgood, The 101ers and Kilburn and The High Roads all treading the boards here. Early this year it looked as though the last pint had been pulled in this classic boozer. A property developer had bought the building and intended to gut the place, consign  all the lovely oak panelling to a skip and, yes you've got it, turn the place int flats. That would have been that if some members of the local community had not taken advantage of the Localism Act and moved to obtain the pub and keep in running as a cooperative. Yesterday we spent a very happy couple of hours in the place. Outstanding example of 1930's pub architecture, excellent pint of Brockley Bitter, a decent roast dinner, amazingly cheerful and friendly staff and the 15 piece Big Swing Band on stage. The Ivy House is what I call a pub.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Exiles. A great forgotten film.

Film 4 recently showed The Exiles at two o'clock in the morning. I had never heard of it but the film was duly recorded and last night I finally got round to watching it.  What a classic movie. Wonderful footage of a long since gentrified working class area of LA. Mind blowing lighting and photography and, most importantly, a perceptive insight into the lives of city dwelling American Indians shot some time before AIM and the plight of Native Americans becoming a cause celebre.  Watch The Exiles if you get the chance.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Morph hits comeback trail.

At last some good news. Morph is making a comeback. We used to know the bloke who did the voice for Morph. Worked in a hardware shop down the end of our road. His wife was a teacher. Taught our lad in Middle School if memory serves. Will the old Plasticine Trouper prove the exception to the fight game adage,"they never come back"? We shall see.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Roma voice.

In the acres of newsprint and hours of TV and radio coverage about "gypsy blond child abduction" the voice of Roma people themselves has been very limited. It's refreshing therefore to see this piece in today's Guardian by the young Romany boy Filip Borev. Filip (Pip) is also no mean blogger and you can catch up with him on the excellent Pipopotamus site.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Cunningham Amendment.

Oh! Joy. Deep joy. After a protracted and detailed vetting procedure I have been accepted as a subscriber to that most august organ The Cunningham Amendment. There really isn't anything quite like  TCA. Amusing but pertinent, wonderful letterpress printing, fabulous graphics, superb production values and as sound a political journal as you are likely to come across these days. Don't bother searching for TCA online, they eschew such fripperies. That's a point - why am I still behind this keyboard when TCA awaits me downstairs?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

You can't keep a good man down.

Talking of superheroes....... As John Major slips into a phone box, pulls his YFronts up over his trousers and emerges to save the nation's shivering masses....... Nice little take on the matter here.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Behind every keyboard a superheroe waits for the call.

The idea of criminals, rebels and other marginals being called on by the state and "respectable" society to get it out of the mire is a perennial favourite among fiction writers but is a theme sometimes based on fact. The Dirty Dozen is loosely based on the true life exploits of WW2 proto-punk airborne bad boys, the Filthy Thirteen, and no work of  fiction could surpass the wartime adventures of master safe-breaker, double (triple?) agent and all round loose cannon, Eddie Chapman. Now we hear that jailed hackers will be released to form a special military unit designed to protect the free world from the evils of cyber crime and alien invasion. Mind you, for every one master criminal willing to swap sides for a seat in the Batcave there must be a million wannabee superheroes convinced that they have what it takes. A combination of Crimewatch (Is it just me, or is this one of the most unpleasant programs on TV?) and the publicity given to the blond girl in the Greek Roma family has resulted in the work of British police investigating the disappearance Madeleine McCann virtually grinding to a halt. Apparently the cops have been inundated with phone calls and emails as every loony-tune conspiracy theorist and space cadet crypto-criminologist emerges from the woodwork to lend a hand. Perhaps these poor souls will now transfer their interest to the cyberterrorist prevention squad but at the end of the day only one thing will  shatter their delusions - "NEAL, SWITCH THAT COMPUTER OFF AND COME DOWNSTAIRS, YOUR TEA'S READY."

Monday, 21 October 2013

First cast out the beam from thine own eye.

The case of the blond haired little girl found in a Roma settlement in Greece has sparked a resurgence in all the old tales of Gypsy child kidnapping and the usual suspects in the gutter press have not been slow in linking this case to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann thus heaping more woe, and perhaps misplaced hope, on the McCann family and strengthening the fear and dislike of Gypsies at the same time. Child abduction is a terrible thing no doubt but the Roma couple in Greece seem to have been found guilty before any kind of enquiry has taken place. This all has the whiff of racism about it. The key words here are BLOND, GIRL and ROMA. We might all do well to pause to reflect on the countless thousands of indigenous children snatched from their parents by white imperialists so that they could be "tamed" and "civilised". A Roma settlement in Greece might seem like a holiday camp compared to the "boarding schools" endured by generations of Australian Aborigine and American Indian children.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Ethical shopping and the Whole Food conundrum.

There's a new store on the block. A branch of Whole Foods has recently opened and is chock full of introduction offers and cut price vitals. Her indoors reckons it's the dog's bollocks but I have yet to explore the emporium myself. Having never heard of the company I was curious about it's ownership and did a quick online search. Bloody hell! I am not a big believer in ethical shopping because although I know that the idea is well intentioned a commodity is a commodity is a commodity and be it "green" "ethical" or "fair" the social relationship remains the same. However Whole Foods owner John Mackey should give ethical shoppers plenty to think about. Mackey is a committed vegan, environmentalist and believer in animal rights and he is reported to have donated his stock portfolio to charity. Mackey is also a committed free market libertarian, a follower of Hayek, Friedman  and Ayn Rand and a strong opponent of trades unions and all this leftie Obamacare nonsense. In fact he is on record as saying that ordinary folk are no more entitled to health care than they are to food and shelter! Plenty there for ethical shoppers to try and get there heads round. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, vegan or not, Mackey's store has been offering a very tasty half-price spit roast chicken. Fill yer boots.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Perhaps it did take a Weatherman after all.

The fate of activists from the Weathermen and the Black Panthers would prove to be very different and was a reflection of the unjust society that both groups fought against. Bill Ayers came from a privileged white background. Had he been a working class black militant he would have been stretched out in the morgue long ago, and I suspect that Ayers would be the last to deny this. That said, it's refreshing and heartening to hear that after all these years the man still unashamedly stands by his actions and his comrades. Right On Bill!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Art for arts sake. Money for fucks sake.

We should never expect too much of artists and musicians, especially famous ones. There is no reason why the opinions of scrapers of catgut and canvas should be given more weight than those of surgeons, bricklayers, professional footballers and other truly talented individuals. Despite all pretencions otherwise, the primary function of the artist is after all to entertain us. I know next to nothing about pottery and not much more about cross-dressing but I know what I like and Grayson Perry makes me laugh and I'm thankful for that. In his first Reith Lecture  Perry was amusing enough and poked fun at the art establishment without ever pretending to not be a part of it. Ostensibly, his theme was "How do we value art?" and the answer was pretty much summed up in the Q&A session at the end of the lecture. When asked if he made ceramics for poor people, pots for those without a pot to piss in, his reply was simple. "No. I used to. You could pick up any of my stuff for a weeks dole money but now I get what I can get. The market has decided". Who can blame him? and as I say, we should never expect too much.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Bring cooking back to the classroom.

Mary Berry reckons that basic cooking should form a part of every child's education and that all kids should be able to cook ten meals by the time that they leave school. The Great British Bake Off judge and renowned Middle England fossil is actually talking a lot of sense. Gove and his ilk are turning out a generation of school leavers who are incapable of doing anything at all practical. Those who make it up the greasy pole will no doubt employ someone from the third world to take care of their cooking, cleaning and childcare needs and those who fall behind in the race to the top will have to rely on reality TV shows and the likes of Jamie Oliver to save them from a life of squalor and crap takeaways. Cooking, like tying your own shoelaces and cleaning your own kitchen, is a basic survival skill and, truth be told, not that difficult. If kids are taught essential skills like cooking, first aid and simply how to care for themselves and each other we at least arm them with the fundamentals before setting them adrift in an uncertain world.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Epiphany at the bookfair.

Next Saturday will see the annual pilgrimage down the Mile End Road for that cornucopia of libertarian delights, the London Anarchist Bookfair. Once again the organisers have brought together a stellar line up of just about every conceivable branch of anarchism. This year the bookfair will also stage the premier of Suzy Gillett's blockbuster movie Epiphany featuring those stars of stage, screen and assorted disturbances, Martin Wright and Ian Bone. See you there.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Rocking on in Swanage.

Just back from Swanage and the wonderful Isle of Purbeck. The Swanage Blues Festival was a total knockout. Great bands and a really nice inclusive atmosphere. It never ceases to amaze me what a huge depth of talent there is on the pub and small festival circuit. Lovely stuff!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Blogger up the Swanage!

Right! I'm off on me hols. Swanage Blues Festival here we come. Walking the Purbeck Way and the Jurassic Coast. Pints of Piddle Bitter. Swanage Pier. Fish and chips. What's not to like? Swanage itself is an old fashioned small seaside resort that might have been visited by Rupert Bear. The town has literally tons of old London street furniture ranging from bollards to a huge monumental clock tower that was  all shipped down from London as ballast in the vessels loading the prized Purbeck Stone for the rebuilding of the metropolis. Anyway, normal blog service, including cutting edge political comment and everything that you ever wanted to know about wrestling and allotments, will be resumed in due course.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Bash the rich - not the NEETS.

What can we make of the Tory "earn or learn" ultimatum to the country's under 25's? In part of course this is just another effort by the upper echelons of the party to convince it's rank and file that they really are coming down hard on a skiving, criminal underclass that threaten to spoil it all for Middle England. It's a conference tradition. The Tories have been coming out with this kind of "look how tough we are" claptrap for as long as I can remember. Schemes to harass people out of the dole queue always seem to come into their own during times of economic downturn and diminishing job security. This latest plan to motivate NEETS will not save the nation a penny but will rather cost a small fortune to implement and do little but heap yet more worry on the shoulders of hard pressed families. No parent needs to be reminded about what an irritating waste of space teenagers (and especially teenage boys) can be but they are also frequently vulnerable and isolated. So if these bash the young unemployed projects cost more to implement than they could ever save, and if only a tiny proportion of the young people targeted actually end up in full time paid work anyway, what on earth is the point? I think that the sad truth is that all this tough rhetoric rings a bell with the voters. We have a terrible tendency toward the "why should they" view of society. Why should they, live off the taxpayer, get a house, get a job, not get a job? What's worse is that this malevolent jealousy and fear that some section of society is getting away with something is always directed at the family down the road and never at the people who are really getting away with something.  Bash the rich - not the NEETS. Bash the rich - not each other.

Jones, Sugar, Hundal. Three (unlikely) Musketeers.

Owen Jones, Alan Sugar and Sunny Hundal (a liberal conspiracy if ever there was one) have upstaged the Black Bloc and called for direct action by picketing Paul Dacre's home and/or the Mail office. Serious hat tip to Political Scrapbook for this.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Harmsworth a chip of the old fascist block?

None of us are responsible for our parents, and that includes Ed Milliband, but that never stops us from being proud or ashamed of our family as the case may be. At the same time, politicians who frequently refer to parents in the public arena can't really whine too much when the same parent is criticised by political opponents. Look, let's be honest here, let's leave aside Ed Milliband's political aspirations for a moment and just consider this. Any one of us might well be proud to have had a dad who  escaped the Nazis after various adventures, arrives in this country as a young penniless refugee, learns English, spends three years in the wartime navy, goes on to become a leading academic and retains a lifelong commitment to socialism. On the other hand if we were standing in the shoes of Daily Mail owner Jonathan Harmsworth (Viscount Rothmere to you), how would we feel about having a great grandfather who was a personal friend of Hitler and Mussolini and who used the paper he owned to sing the praises of Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts? I hold little brief for Ed Milliband but the pondlife who own the Mail are in no position to slag off anybody's  ancestors.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Tory Party Conference? I still wake in the night screaming.

The Tory Party Conference will be getting into full swing now. "Another six bottles of claret over here squire. In your own time." I must be one of the very few anarcho bloggers who can claim to have attended a few Tory Party conferences. It all goes back to the five tedious years that I spent as a porter come stagehand at the Brighton Centre. Sure, I got to do backstage security for The Jam but the counter balance to such good times was the mind numbing boredom of the party political conference. The Tories were by far the worst. Looking out across the main hall at a vast sea of outlandish women's hats, "the lady is not for turning", the weird born again Christian who used to stage manage the events. My blood runs cold at the memory. Early one morning I approached the Brighton Centre to find the road  leading to the staff entrance at the rear of the building closed off by tight lipped cops. Making my way to the front I caught up with colleagues and found that half of the facade of the Metropole Hotel was missing. The IRA had gone for broke. Thatchers speech that day and the general air of self righteous hubris that pervaded the building had to be experienced to be believed. I think that at that moment I knew that when it came to Thatcher we were in for the long haul. Even in those days Tory conferences were stage managed to the last detail with no hint of anything resembling debate being allowed to disrupt the smooth flow of what was just a party rally. It was a format soon adopted by Labour and now you could be forgiven for not being able to tell apart the gatherings of the faithful.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Relax, G4S are on the door.

You have to hand it to G4S. No matter how many deportees or prisoners die in their custody, no matter the sometimes Olympian proportion of their management fuck ups, they just keep on coming. Now it seems that the company have landed the security contract for next months annual pilgramage to Mecca, the hajj. All those G4S knuckle draggers mixing it with all those Wahhabi nutters - still, keeps 'em all in one place I suppose.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Don't do it JK.

Even those of us who have never so much as opened a Harry Potter book know about the background and political stance of J K Rowling. The woman might be mind numbingly rich but she is none the less probably what "Her Indoors" refers to as a "good old gal". A recent article in The Staggers suggests that  Rowling could put her huge wealth to good use by becoming a media mogul and financing a left newspaper. A nice idea at first glance but the decline in print media, the huge outburst of leftie infighting that would result and the sad but true reality that most people would stick to the Sun or Mail anyway mean that here is a tears before bedtime project if ever there was one. Six months of declining sales followed by a fucking great row would probably be the sum of it, with little achieved but the career advancement of a few young left leaning Oxbridge educated journos.  Stick to the fiction JK. Never underestimate the power of the novel.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A disappointment on the Greenwich Peninsular.

I have always known about  the Greenwich Peninsular of course. I have rounded Blackwall Point, the Northern tip of the peninsular, countless times in any number of ships and barges. The decaying corpses of pirates once swung in the breeze at Blackwall Point as a warning to seafarers who might be tempted to embark on a career change. Now the O2 dwarfs everything in a grotesque tribute to Blairism. I have never visited The Dome, had never walked ashore on the peninsular at all in fact. I know that it was once desolate marshland, became heavily industrialised only to be abandoned until the double whammy of Millennium and Olympics provided the impetus for "redevelopment", but that was the sum of my knowledge. But a few weeks ago I had reason to be on a bus in the area. From the top deck I noticed a row of old terrace cottages and a pub, The Pilot, seemingly stranded in a landscape of new development. A reminder of the days when the river was more than just an interesting backdrop to luxury flats. I determined to visit The Pilot and combine the visit with a ride on Boris' cable car and set out on the expedition yesterday. The cable car ride was splendid. As we descended I could see the row of cottages in the distance and once landed set of for the pub at a brisk pace. Oh! Bugger! Talk about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and all that. The Pilot was "closed for refurbishment" but judging by the scale of building work going on it looks like something more serious. I fear the worst. The Pilot will doubtless reopen but I suspect will be an establishment of the square plate, swirl of sauce and rocket garnish rather than the decent pint and a jukebox. I should have jumped off the bus when I had the chance.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Space Hijackers for ever!

The £100,000 compensation paid by City Of London cops to the Space Hijackers is good news indeed. These self-styled anarchitects are my kind of politicos. So is the Reverend Billy. We need more talented and amusing protest like this. Compare and contrast with the turgid Left Unity and their will to live sapping lack of talent and amusement.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Nice suit John. Do you think they will ever come back into fashion?

Never underestimate the power of fashion and for that matter never underestimate the speed at which today's must have shoes, kitchen or ideology will have to be ditched when the trend takes a turn in the other direction. Be it the English upper class and their swift denial of ever having the hots for Adolf Hitler or all those ex hippies cutting hair and binning flairs when punk hit town, nothing is more Judas like than yesterday's trendy caught on the back foot. But what goes around comes around - again. Well, sometimes. During the great suburban expansion of the 20's and 30's the developers and speculative builders may not have had a huge understanding of the Arts and Crafts Movement but they knew a winner when they saw it and recognised that mock beams, leaded windows and anything that smacked of the rustic was the way to go when it came to impressing the new commuting classes. Mile after mile of semi-detached Tudorbethan spread like some terrible plague. For any piece of hard standing only one material was deemed quaint and rustic enough, crazy paving. These days, when it comes to front paths and off road parking, nothing is so unfashionable as crazy paving. Thousands of square miles of new block paving have replaced the old surface that could be created by one man, a heap of old paving slabs and a sledge hammer. We're hanging on to ours. It's bound to come back into fashion.

Friday, 13 September 2013

For Workers Power.

I have been reading For Workers Power, the selected writings of Maurice Brinton (Chris Pallis) These old Solidarity articles and pamphlets, originally published during the 60's and 70's, have stood the test of time and The Irrational In Politics, for example remains as relevant today as ever while The Bolsheviks And Workers' Control should perhaps be required reading for all Left Unity foot soldiers.
But for all it's many good points, Solidarity was never able to break into mainstream consciousness. It remained a small group who talked a lot of good sense but were only able to address a relative handful of left militants. Then as now, the majority of ordinary folk preferred shopping to politics. Perhaps they have a point.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The real Goldfinger.

Yesterday I visited a building that I have been meaning to take a look at for some time. 2 Willow Road, Hampstead was the family home of modernist designer and architect Erno Goldfinger and is now cared for by the National Trust and open to the public. When Goldfinger announced his plans to knock down a row of derelict cottages on Willow Road and erect a "concrete" house on the site there was considerable local opposition. Among the protesters was Ian Fleming who detested Goldfinger and his house. Goldfinger was modern, foreign, Jewish, intellectual and left-wing while Fleming of course was none of those things. The creator of James Bond would later, some say from sheer spite, name one of his most dastardly villains after the architect. From all accounts Goldfinger was not the easiest man to get along with, and neither was Fleming.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The lady in black.

The so called "religions of The Book" have much in common, and none of it is partticulary progresive.
British lefties make apologies for Islam and whine about the "right" of women to be hidden behind the burqa. The Burka Avenger is more my cup of tea.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Radical Dorking? Some mistake surely.

Because Dorking lies at the heart of the Surrey Hills, the closest place for myself and Her Indoors to go for a tramp in the country, we tend to visit the little town fairly frequently. I can't really put my finger on the reason but I quite like the place. I think that "old fashioned" might be the best way of describing the town that, as far as I'm aware, is most famous for being home to a very handsome variety of poultry. We usually arrive after a long walk, look round the shops, marvel at the Oddfellows Hall and the existence of a large Labour Party HQ in this Tory heartland, drop in for a pint and get the bus home. But the other day we called into the small local museum and what an eye opener. I had no idea what a radical past Dorking had. Home of any number of radical dissenters and a Parliamentarian stronghold during the Civil War, many Dorking residents were well to the left of Cromwell. Later the town would provide safe haven for the Fifth Monarchy man Christopher Feake.
By the early decades of the 19th century the level of poverty among the labouring classes in the countryside surrounding Dorking became intolerable and 1830 was to see full scale riots as unemployed labourers descended on the town. The now quiet and respectable main street rang to the cry, "Bread or Blood" and the status quo was only restored when a platoon of cavalry was dispatched from the nearest garrison.
No doubt the majority of the gentry living in the big houses on the outskirts of Dorking held staunchly conservative views on society and politics. No so Frederick and Emmerline Pethwick-Lawrence. Emmerline was a principle members of the Women's Social And Political Union and their home near Dorking served as a recuperation centre for suffragettes who had endured forced feeding in prison. Later both Fredrick and Emmerline would be charged and found guilty of conspiracy to cause criminal damage and would themselves suffer forced feeding. There is an interesting piece on these life-long political activists on the Spartacus Education website.
Dorking was also home to the journalist John Langdon-Davis who wrote Behind The Spanish Barricades after his return from the civil war. Later he would join with fellow anti-facist Tom Winteringham in the early days of the Home Guard when this organisation was far more of a people's militia than we might think from watching Dad's Army. 
But if the town had a radical past is there a radical Dorking today with anarcho-syndicalists on the council estate and the local WI a hotbed of militancy? I would like to think so.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Where to the EDL now?

A couple of hundred EDL supporters had gathered in Queen Elizabeth Street close to Tower Bridge. By the time that the marchers were making their way across the bridge the leading  boats in the Great River Race were going under the bridge. Perhaps the bemused looking tourists thought that the EDL were also a part of the Mayor's River Festival, or in some way connected to the Beefeaters at The Tower. All those St Georges flags. It would be an easy mistake to make. But the EDL should invest in some chainmail if they really want to carry it off. Over in Altab Ali Park anti-fascists of various persuasions must have outnumbered the EDL by ten to one. A bearded cleric was telling us that we are all brothers and sisters . All descended from Adam and Eve apparently. I'm sure that he meant well. I forget what Lindsey German said - so no change there. At one stage I walked up Brick Lane to get a salt beef roll from the Begal Shop. Up there the young trendies carried on with their shopping and posing oblivious to the political drama being played out a couple of hundred yards to the south. It was ever thus. Back at Aldgate Station Tommy Robinson was still making his speech at a quarter to three. It was turning out to be a long day and all the way from Bermondsey to Whitechapel the police presence was huge. I imagine that Tommy's boys and (a few) girls will be totally poleaxed by now. In the morning they can nurse their hangovers and have a long hard think about what, if anything, the future holds for their organisation.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Met lose Criado-Perez evidence.

I don't care that much about the design of banknotes or the gender of the luminaries who's faces adorn the notes. Truth be told, I don't much care for metropolitan elite media "feminists" like Caroline Criado-Perez either but you have to respect the way women like her are standing up to the sad creeps who's preferred form of sexual gratification is the graphic online rape threat. Now it turns out that, in time honoured fashion, the Met have "lost" the evidence collected by Criado-Perez. If Plod can get away with treating a high profile, sharp elbowed, middle-class woman like her in such an offhand manner what are the chances of an ordinary working-class woman who is the victim of online threats?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Walkie Talkie melts cars STOP

New skyscraper on Fenchurch Street act as giant magnifying glass STOP Reflecting sunlight and melting cars in nearby street STOP Temperature of 92.6 C recorded STOP Developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf issue joint statement, "We are looking into the matter" STOP Suggest invest in black paint STOP

Monday, 2 September 2013

Jamie Oliver at Big Feastival. Exclusive pics.

Thank fuck I was nowhere near Kingham, Oxfordshire at the weekend. This poor benighted place is not only contaminated with Cameron, Clarkson and the Ginger Bitch but is also home to the Big Feastival.  This brainwave of Alex (Cheesy Bits) James and his mate Jamie Oliver has been described as a festival of music, food and pushchairs and apparently attracts more posh totty, celeb retards and inbred public school wankers than you can shake a stick at. Here's a shot of Jamie Oliver caught backstage during an unguarded moment.

Autumn on the plot.

Well that's it, it's officially autumn. The days are getting noticeably shorter and although September and October can give us some beautiful weather, there will be an early morning chill to remind us of the time of year. The growing season is drawing to a close and us allotmenteers are contemplating lifting the rest of the spuds and beetroot, having a last weed round the brassicas, leeks and parsnips that will stand for most of the winter and putting the plot to bed for the year. This year I used seaweed fertiliser for the first time and results have been very good. It could be that the seaweed is particularly suited to our light sandy soil or of course it could be just coincidence or a combination of other factors, but this has been the best season since taking the plot over some six years ago.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Old catch wrestling. The real deal.

The grand old sport of Wigan submission wrestling was all but lost and might have disappeared had it not been for a dedicated band of enthusiasts. None knew more about this hard as nails style than Billy Riley and he was to pass on his knowledge to a man who would become a shining beacon of skill in professional wrestling's world of smoke and mirrors - Billy Robinson. You can see them both in this rare piece of footage.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Public school? No thanks.

It's heartening to see that a YouGov poll shows 50% of parents would not send their kids to private schools even if they received financial help. It just goes to show that many of us still believe giving children the opportunity to mix with all sorts of people is the best way to turn out rounded, decent adults and a step in the direction of a less elitist and hierarchical society. Mind you these principled parents are depriving their kids of the chance of being invited to holiday in their chum's Mum and Dad's chateau but hey! Welcome to the real world.

Shell can't take a joke.

The humourless fuckwits in the oil industry certainly don't like it up 'em. Shell had this Greenpeace video banned from You Tube but you can see it here. Top work!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Better bangers than bombers.

Among the interesting revelations in Channel 4's Attack Of The Zeppelins was the fact that cow gut turned out to be the only material able to provide leak proof cells for the airship's hydrogen gas. It took about 200 000 cattle to provide enough gut for one zeppelin and such was the demand that the normal use of the gut, sausage making, was banned. Not only were German High Command introducing the concept of total war to ordinary Londoners but were depriving their own population of sausages at the same time. What a condemnation of the crass thinking of military elites. What kind of warped mind would prefer to bomb civilians rather than turn out a decent banger?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Things to do on a wet day. No. 28. Spears.

Some say that information is power and information about the enemy is double power. It's no good hiding your head in the sand, reading worthy pieces by people who will only confirm your own opinions and pottering about down the allotment hoping that the world will go away. No, what you need is up to the minute, cutting edge info from the heart of the beast. Try this.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Wandering up the Chess Valley.

Out on the Metropolitan Line and just a short walk from Rickmansworth Station, the River Chess flows into the Colne. The  pretty little chalk stream  rises in the market town of Chesham and cuts it's way through the Chiltern Hills for it's ten mile course. The Chess valley makes for a pleasing days ramble. You can visit one of UK's few remaining watercress farms (God knows where the watercress in Tesco's comes from, Thailand probably).  Further up the valley is Latimer Place. During WW2 this imposing old pile was an internment centre for senior German POW's. The prisoners were kept in the lap of luxury, allowed to mingle freely together  and lulled into a false sense of security.  But the place was bugged from floor to ceiling and apparently much valuable intelligence was obtained. Cunning what? These days of course they would be bugging Guardian journalists but you can't stop progress I suppose.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dan Snow alert! Calm! Calm! Calm! Deep breaths. Let the tension flow out of you.

My good comrade Wing Commander Bone has got his knickers in a twist over over TV's best posh boy, Dan Snow. What has brought Ian's dislike of the Duke of Westminster's son in law to a head is a fansite devoted to this so called "historian". The site appears to be written by someone called "Rachel" who is unable to update it as often as she would like due to the pressure of doing her masters. Well,shit happens as they say. Meanwhile Rachel's mum will no doubt be longing for her daughter to bring home a bloke like Dan. That's the thing about public school, Oxbridge and coming from a wealthy self assured family. Not only are you gifted with a monumental sense of entitlement and superiority but are also frequently blessed with a huge charm capable of bringing down birds from trees and the underwear ...... Well, you get my drift.  Older women, even ones who know better, will be putty in his hands. "He was ever so nice" He's lovely. Really lovely.
I very rarely get uptight about Dan Snow. What's the point? He clearly has an understanding of history quite different to my own and a take on life that ensures that someone who will never earn in their lifetime the value of the Snow's crockery gets banged up for pinching a pair of trainers. Getting angry about the Dan Snows of the world is a waste of energy. The point is to get even.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Lilly and the workers.

Like his alter-ego Lilly Savage, Paul O' Grady probably has his heart in the right place and to be truthful I'm a bit of a fan. Despite fears that Paul's Working Britain two part doc on BBC 1 was going to be a very watered down and emasculated affair, last night's offering could have been a lot worse.  Yes, it might have been "class" for beginners  but thirty years after the final defeat of organised labour in this country perhaps there is a place for that. All right the old drag queen has become a professional scouser who owns half of Kent or whatever but who is to say any of us would do differently given half a chance. Despite the sickly sweet adoration the program did not run from facing up to the racism of much of the white working class and the piece on the Bristol bus boycott was excellent. What was missing was any mention of all those people who hated the drudgery of wage labour and escaped the stultifying embrace of all that working class warmth at the first opportunity. I suspect that Paul O' Grady was firmly in that camp. No pun intended.
* Next week thrill to Paul's interview with fellow professional scouser and that wonderfully warm bubbly Thatcher supporter - Cilla Black. Can't wait.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Last link to the alternative society.

There was much about the so called "alternative society" of the late 60's and early 70's that could make you want to tear your hair out. The trouble was that many of the people involved had developed the open mind to such an extent that their brains appeared to fall out. The lack of any coherent class analysis was a major shortcoming but for all of that the movement spawned a wealth of interesting and creative ideas and projects. Alternative papers and magazines may have been confused but they were inspiring and most of all, they were fun. One of the more famous and successful projects was the BIT information service in Notting Hill. At one time our cottage in Devon was a BIT crash pad and we played host to an assortment of visitors who having got our address from BIT just turned up on the doorstep. Some were just passing through. Others felt the need to escape the city for a spell. Others just needed to escape! It was a different world. One of the leading lights in the alternative society, and BIT in particular, was Nick Albery who I remember as a kindly and enthusiastic bloke who genuinely tried to live according to his principles. Nick is sadly no longer with us but his memory is enshrined in a most unusual walking club.  The Saturday Walkers Club has no leaders and everyone is responsible for their own navigation and logistics. What the club does is provide, in the true spirit of BIT, all of the information that the enthusiastic pedestrian needs in order to make their own way.  In all, 82 walks near London and reachable by public transport, are listed on the club website and also in the two volumes of the Time Out Country Walks; and there's another thing - who today would think that Time Out was once considered to be a radical publication?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fracking poses big questions.

Every once in a while an issue hits the headlines that has the potential to open up a real can of worms and spark a debate about the very nature the way we live. I believe that fracking is one such. The trouble is that more or less everyone is focusing on their own particular fraction of the fracking issue and failing to look at the bigger picture. Is fracking a technical issue? Very much so and their are some very genuine concerns about the safety of the practise. Environmental? Well only if you consider minor earthquakes and poisoning the groundwater something to worry about and that's before we even start to think about the greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere. How does class politics fit into it all? Well, big companies are making big money from the extraction of natural gas so fracking makes perfect sense in the boardrooms of the world, especially if the practise can be confined to economically disadvantaged areas where there is likely to be less organised resistance. Trouble is that gas deposits and geological strata have no respect for property prices and the wealthy South East is turning out to be a fracking hot spot. David Cameron is now urging  Tory voters in the shires to put aside their concerns and embrace the controversial procedure. From NIMBY to IMBY. The truth is that an ever expanding economy demands an ever expanding supply of energy. Those  lovable dredlocked ant-fracking fraggles down in Balcombe have the right idea but the trouble is that most of us are looking for a lifestyle not limited to eating lentil casserole by candlelight. The problem is that juggling with  material abundance, environmental well being and human happiness is a trick that capital is not capable of. Not without dropping at least one of the balls.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Jack Dash.

Zero hours contracts are nothing new. In the past a number of industries relied to a large extent on casual labour and with it came the insecurity and deprivation that many of today's workers know only too well. I have just been reading Good Morning Brothers, the autobiography of the militant docker Jack Dash. When I was working as a barge-hand in the 60's I used to spend a lot of time in Jack's stamping ground, the Royal Group of docks. I had huge respect for the dockers, for their skill, toughness and militant refusal to be beaten down by the bosses yes, but mainly for the very many examples of working class solidarity that I witnessed. Jack Dash was a real bogey man to the ruling class and hardly a day passed without him being vilified as a trouble maker by the right-wing press. The man was not perfect. He was a died in the wool Stalinist who like many of his generation had swallowed the soviet world view hook, line and sinker but he was first and foremost an old fashioned militant who would not allow himself or his mates to be shat on by the bosses. Jack and his contemporaries knew all about the evils of casualisation and many could still remember the terrible indignity of men literally fighting for a days work, but they also knew that by standing shoulder to shoulder they could force the rich and powerful to back down. Jack Dash was hated by the bosses and with every good reason. We could do with a few like him today.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Last word on Bongo Bongo. Honest.

Godfrey Bloom reckons that the misunderstanding of his use of 'Bongo Bongo Land' is a generational thing and that the expression is common among sixty three year olds. I'm not sure. I'm a few years older than Godfrey and I have never heard it used other than in a satirical sense with reference to, well, right-wing loonies. Anyway I'm grateful to the reader of this blog who pointed me in the direction of this little gem from Danny Kaye and the Andrews Sisters. I have since learnt that the number has been adopted as the anthem of the anarcho-primitivist faction of our great movement.


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

UKIP loonies run wild in Bongo Bongo Land.

If I was African I might well be offended by Godfrey Bloom's references to "Bongo Bongo Land". I might on the other hand see the UKIP MEP for what he is - a bit of a prat who likes nothing better than to get shitfaced and wind up liberal lefty Guardian readers. There is probably a good debate to be had on the economic purpose, the morality and the political expediency of foreign aid. Godfrey Bloom however, is unlikely to have anything useful to contribute.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The triffids of Surrey.

On the A3 just outside the M25 is the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley. It's a pleasant enough if unremarkable place. I'm sure that a lot of very worthy research goes on at Wisley but it's known in the main as a day out venue for grey-tops who arrive in their cars and wander around the grounds looking for the toilets. But there is now a whole new dimension to the place. The mad scientists at the RHA have been BREEDING SHEEP EATING PLANTS. I kid you not. Is this safe I ask myself? If these things can do for a sheep who is to say what might happen to some less than nimble pensioner contemplating the begonias? Will the House Of Commons be recalled for an emergency debate on the new Dangerous Plants Act? I'm expecting a statement from a suit soon.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Spot checks could spark summer riots.

Of course the Border Agency program of intimidating "Go Home" vans and even more intimidating spot checks has very little to do with immigration and everything to do with convincing voters that this government is taking a firm line with "illegals". It may yet turn out to be a very expensive mistake. It will only take a couple of bonehead Border Agency types doing a spot of on the street racial profiling, some disgruntled youths not having any of it, add a few over enthusiastic coppers and it's London's Burning all over again. Government Enquiry? I should say so.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Gerald Kersh. A life lived.

One of my favourite films is Jules Dassin's film noir classic, Night And The City. It's a dark tale of London's pre-war underworld based on the novel of the same name. But if the movie remains a favourite of mine it certainly was not appreciated by the books author Gerald Kersh who hated it. Kersh was a hard man to please, in fact he was a hard man full stop. Prior to becoming a reasonably successful writer Kersh worked as a bodyguard, door to door salesman, bouncer and professional wrestler. When  war broke out he enlisted in the Coldstream Guards but was injured during the blitz and ended up with the Army Film Unit. But Kersh must have tired of this and deserted. Unlike other deserters he was not going to lead a furtive existence in the Soho pubs and cafes that he knew so well but headed instead straight to France and was in Paris for the Liberation. Kersh was never afraid of a fight.
The man himself was born in 1911 just down the road from where I live. Gerald first saw the light of day in the room above his father's tailors shop in the High Street. There is no blue plaque. There is certainly no local Jewish tailor now, just an achingly dull parade of posh frock shops and coffee outlets. Few have heard of Gerald Kersh today and the author of dozens of novels, countless short stories, not to mention his Fleet Street output, is all but forgotten. London Books have republished some of his work, there is an excellent biography on their site and you can read John King's ace introduction to the Night And The City reprint here  but  by and large this self-taught writer who lived his life on the edge seems sadly out of place in today's sanitised world.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The enemy of my enemy ..........

How easy it is to make assumptions about people. At a gathering I was at recently someone was roundly condemning the Pope and pointing out that although he was selling himself as a part of the "progressive" wing of the church he was in fact a nasty old fascist like his predecessors and had colluded in the crushing of the liberation theology movement by Argentina's military junta. I nodded vigorously in agreement. Clearly I was in good company. We were all secular progressives together. Perhaps even anarcho-atheists. A few moments later someone else asked my new friend if she had attended a particular birthday party. "No", she replied, "I never celebrate birthdays". Alarm bells started to ring inside my head. "In fact I don't celebrate Christmas or Easter or any of the pagan festivals". The alarm bells in what passes for my brain had given way to little people clattering down steel ladders as klaxons blared. "I'm a Jehovah's Witness". Praise the Lord we hadn't exchanged addresses!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Weekend windup.

The last forty eight hours have provided a couple of outstanding examples of just how vulnerable to the wind up the forces of evil are. Take the CoE for starters. In vicarages up and down the land tomorrow's sermons are being hastily rewritten. Out goes all that stuff about moneylenders, temples, Archbish of Catab and Wicked Wonga and in come the "complicated world out there" take on things. Even Boris Johnson (peace be upon him) said that Wonga's interest rates amount to usury but as many a naive vicar is contemplating today, ethical investment is a bit like corporate social responsibility and police intelligence - a contradiction in terms and as rare as rocking horse shit.
I don't know what genius in the Home Office came up with the idea of having Promogroup vans urging "illegals" to go home or face the consequences touring the streets, but having a contact number displayed shows that they never thought it through properly. The line has been swamped with calls for a lift home, travel advice and complains about "a Welsh neighbour who looked at me funny". The twattersphere has gone totally crazy apeshit. Love it.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Bring on the pandas.

As a nation, we are clearly better at breeding royals than breeding Giant Pandas. Pity really. Pandas are charming creatures; quite unlike the new Royal Grandmother Mrs Middleton. Is there anything less charming than the sharp elbowed, upwardly mobile, aspirational middle-class mother. Buckingham Palace is home to more than one old queen and below stairs the place resembles nothing so much as a Sandy and Jules sketch from Round The Horn. This viperous crew apparently delight in referring to the ex trolley dolly as "doors to manual" and her two daughters as the "Wisteria Sisters".  There are forces at work here of which we know nothing. Perhaps we should give the pandas another chance.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Lowestoft Dandies

Moving rapidly on from Australian Sharpies I fell to thinking about another youth fashion, movement would be too strong a word, that is possibly even more obscure. It was during the early 60's and I was working aboard a coaster in the coal trade. Myself and the other young seamen considered ourselves to be pretty snappy dressers. Remember those old photos of the Kray Twins? Well that was pretty much the style that we aspired to. One day we were due to be joined by a new deckhand and wondered if he would be a fellow Commie Modernist, some dull old bloke or, worst fear of all, a really hard Ted stuck in a time warp. We looked up from our work to see the most amazing apparition ascending the gangway. This bizarre young man was like nothing we had ever seen before. Rocker hairstyle and outrageous Cuban heeled boots that made negotiating the gangway problematic were the most notable features at either end but it was the bit in between that really caused our jaws to sag. The bloke was wearing a suit the likes of which we had never seen. Amazing colours, bizarre cut, masses of pleats, huge bell bottoms. What the fuck? We soon discovered that we had been joined by a Lowestoft fisherman and that this odd apparel was all the rage in the Suffolk port. Cut off from the mainstream of youth fashion the young fishermen had developed a unique style of their own.
I had forgotten all about this brief interlude in my life when years later I met a guy at a party who said he originated from Lowestoft. I mentioned early 60's fisherman's fashion and it turned out that he was a bit of an aficionado and involved in writing and recording images of the era. I have just located a short film by the same Peter Wylie here.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Aussie Sharpies.

What's the point of a youth culture that don't piss off the establishment? Bet these were the kids that your Mum and Dad warned you about. Rock n Roll!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Up on the roof.

Whenever I'm on the Southbank I usually climb up to the roof garden atop the QE Hall. It's a cracking project I reckon. Initially planned and overseen by the Eden Project the actual day to day gardening is done by volunteers from Providence Housing Trust who have suffered homelessness, addiction and mental health problems. I would never presume to talk or write about the benefits of gardening for these good people. We chat about vegetables, moan about the weather, much like growers the world over. I don't know if the rooftop garden  is a form of therapy for those for whom life has gone tits up - I know that visiting the roof garden is therapy for me.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

And I thought that they just made posh ice cream!.

Reading about the wealth and tax affairs of Prince Charles is mind numbingly boring in the main with the only relief coming from moments of incandescent fury. The Duchy Of Cornwall is certainly one massively rich organisation. Owning over 200 sq. miles of land that includes vast swathes of Devon and Cornwall the estate is valued at between 800 and 900 million quid and generates an annual income for Charlie and that odd looking woman of some £20 m. All right for some you might say. Meanwhile Cornwall was identified as one of the most deprived regions of the EU, was granted Objective One status and remains one of the poorer parts of the UK. Gawd bless yer your Royal Highness.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

It's only a game but....

When Aussie test all rounder and World War 2 Mosquito pilot Keith Miller was asked about the stress of test cricket the great man's reply was straight to the point, "Stress is having a Messerchmitt up your arse mate, cricket's just a bloody game."  Perhaps we do make too much fuss about sport but sometimes it seems to be a metaphore for all that we aspire to and all that we hold dear. The First Test in this Ashes Series was dramatic from start to finish and you would have to be even more cynical than me not to be thrilled by the performance of Ashton Agar. In a story that might be straight out of Wilson of the Wizard, the 19 year old debutant who was only selected forty eight hours before the match, walked to the crease with a huge grin on his face, gives his mum a wave and proceeds to smash a handfull of records, give England fits and give the spectators the thrill of a lifetime. England's Graeme Swann who finally caught him was the first to run over and congratulate the youngster. Occasionaly sport is worth the fuss.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Making sense of nature.

The current issue of The Land focuses on two perennial favourites of the radical wings of both the horticulture and the conservation movements; permaculture and rewilding. It seems to me, and I'm gratified to see that the good people who write The Land seem to agree, that both permaculture and rewilding suffer from being driven by ideology rather than being the products of pragmatic trial and error practise. I have to admit that permaculture has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Working with nature rather than beating it into submission seems such an obvious "good thing" but permaculture has yet to show that it can come up with the goods and produce high yields with low input while minimising environmental damage. No idea should be blamed for the people who promulgate it but some permaculture enthusiasts seem to have little real understanding of basic growing techniques. They hold forth at length about various "zones" and the benefit of deep mulch and forest gardens etc. but frequently the actual projects are weed and slug infested. The old maxim of a good load of muck, a spade and a bottle of embrocation may not go down that well with permaculturists but it is the way to get something to eat from the plot. Growing food is hard work, and the less you want to rely on industrially produced herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers the harder it is. Yet all over the country allotment societies are responding to the huge waiting lists by cutting plots in half. The rational for this is that people these days don't have either the time or the gumption to tend a full plot. The answer to small scale food production and all those overgrown vegetable plots is not permaculture but back to basics old fashioned growing followed by individual trial and error experimentation.
The debate about rewilding,  allowing areas of the land to "revert to nature", has been rekindled by George Monbiot's latest book Feral in which he makes the case for doing away with Welsh upland hill farming, reforesting and replacing sheep with tourists who would come to gawk at the resulting wild wonderland and put money into the local economy. The roast lamb served at the tourist hotels would presumable be imported from some other less "wild" and less wealthy country.
We will never make sense of issues like permaculture or rewilding until we get to grips with what we mean by "natural". So much that is written and talked about the natural world seems to suppose that we are not a part of nature. We can't undo history much less evolution. We have emerged as a dominant species. We manage land. It's what we do and we have been doing it since our ancestors first cleared forest glades to encourage game to graze. All that we do is an intervention and that includes re-wilding and perma-culture. The project is to ensure that we manage land in such a way that we can fulfil our varied needs into the future and for the benefit of all rather than for a small but powerful elite.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Win some - lose some.

It now looks certain that Royal Mail will be sold off and privatised. What that will mean for customers remains to be seen. What it will mean for staff after the euphoria of the shares windfall has worn off will probably be not good.
Three quarters of the UK fishing fleet consists of boats under ten metres but up until now these small boats have had only 4% of the fish quota. Now the High Court has ruled this to be unfair. The big companies who own the large vessels will be up in arms but what do we want, a large number of fishermen making a living and enjoying a tough but rewarding life - or just a few big boys hoovering up the stocks and making a fortune?
First day of the Ashes and England all out for 213. Geoffrey Boycott chokes on his tripe sandwich and does not hold back in his critique of the performance. Then England start knocking over Aussie wickets. Geoffrey cheers right up and says he never doubted our boys for a moment. What larks!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

F.A.Q about changing the Labour Party.

Is Len Mc Cluskey a mere anarcho-syndicalist stooge?
Afraid not. But he is looking for the main chance to consolidate his position in what's left of the "labour movement".
Is the Labour Party still the party of organised labour in the same way that the Tories are the party of business?
That's another no but a number of honest people still feel that it is.
What working-class Labour MP claimed never to have understood what an anarcho-syndicalist was - despite having met many?
Ian Mikardo.
In today's Labour Party which is more important - political principle or electoral (and career) success?
That's a really stupid fucking question if you don't mind me saying so.
So will Millibean change the party for the better?
Better for who?
Does the average working class punter give a flying fuck about any of this?
Almost certainly not.