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

Thursday, 31 January 2013

All change down the nick.

Social mobility is just another name for social climbing. There is nothing wonderful, or even particularly interesting. about ex trolley dollies shoe-horning their daughters into the Royal Family and it's a well known fact of working life that the senior manager who has come up from the shop floor is probably a bigger bastard than the chinless wonder given a leg up by their dad's mates - a bigger bastard and far less prone to having the wool pulled over their eyes as well. For all of this we reserve a grudging respect for the boss who at least understands what the job is about. The Business School educated suit with no knowledge of anything but the black art of "management" and the esoteric skills of writing, and claiming to make sense of, jargon laden "reports" has taken over almost every area of working life. For a long time the police have been able to resist the development of an "officer class" and every senior manager had come up through the ranks. Now it seems all that is to go. From now on it's all going to be "fast track", "graduate entrance", "officer material", Masters Of Business Administration who know nothing of the doctored notes and the short jab under the floating ribs. Top foreign cops (Mexican, Georgian?) being slotted into senior posts with no knowledge of Freemasonry at all. Who'd have thought it?

Monday, 28 January 2013

Ships that pass in the night.

It was 1964 and I was working for the coastal shipping company FT Everard when I was ordered to be on the next train to Great Yarmouth and join the barge Will Everard. A few hours later I climbed aboard and introduced myself to the skipper, a Thames waterman by the name of Jim Penn. We had an uneventful trip round the coast to the company yard in Greenhithe, Kent and I only spent a few days in Jim's company, but he was to leave a deep impression on me. As well as being a highly skilled boat handler Jim had led an adventurous life and was widely travelled. Still only in his thirties he had been a tug skipper in the Persian Gulf, lived and worked with goatherds in Spain and fished with the sardine fleet. Well read and equally at home propping up the bar of a Soho pub as behind the wheel of a tug in the Millwall Dock, Jim was a true working class bohemian. But more than this he was clearly a good man, an open minded man of the left. As I say, he left a deep impression and although we did not meet again I never forgot him.
Thirty five years later I was working on the upper Thames, towing a large pontoon into position in preparation for the annual Great River Race. I dropped alongside a passenger boat lying on the pier and got chatting to the skipper. It turned out that we had both worked the east coast trading barges and in the course of our conversation I asked if he had ever met a bloke called Jim Penn. He hesitated for a moment before replying,"I'm Jim Penn". After all those years there was no way that we would have recognised each other. Jim had continued his adventures, had become a respected marine artist and although retired was driving passenger boats on odd days just to keep his hand in. We didn't talk for long; the tide waits for no man and we both had to go about our business. We had a couple of lengthy phone conversations and talked about meeting up some time, but we never got round to it. A couple of years later I learnt that Jim had died. Truly ships that passed in the night.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Sad news about Wilko.

Very sad news about Wilko's illness. Respect. Rock n Roll as it should be.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The lessons of the 70's still relevant today.

With more details of the construction industry blacklist starting to come to light in the same week that calls for government files on the 1972 building workers strike to be made public at last, old building trades militants must have a bit of a spring in their step today. It was never an easy industry to work in and one of the hardest to organise effectively but as the sparks showed last year, it can be done.
Illegitimi non carborundum.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Blood on the plot?

People rub along pretty well down at our allotment site but it seems that such harmonious veg production is not always the norm. All will be revealed tomorrow night with BBC1's Allotment Wars.
The plot thickens.

Sunday, 20 January 2013


Here's the second re-posting from the early days of the blog. "In praise of anoraks" was first posted in December 2008..............

Other peoples hobbies are always difficult to understand. Radio controlled models, tennis and taking a lively interest in the genealogy and internal politics of Trotskyist grouplets are all hobbies that strike me as being only marginally more entertaining than watching paint dry but hey! that's just me. Others find these things totally riveting and more power to their elbow I say. I'm in favour of hobbies, the very idea of them tends to make me feel all warm in a sort of pipe and tank top kind of way. 
On my bookshelf, and I suppose that you could count books as one of my hobbies, I have a 1930s edition of The Universal Book of Hobbies and Handicrafts by Sid Hedges. It's a blinder. There is basic information on over a hundred hobbies ranging from Applique Work (me neither) to Wood Carving by way of Boating, Bookbinding, Self-defence and Television (that's making a set, not being an expert on Corrie).  But it's the introduction that really  gets my juices flowing. I don't know who Sid Hedges was but I tell you, he was one of us. Sid had much to say about unemployment, the alienation of work and the tyranny of machines. Here he is on the importance of hobbies, " they will become more important still, for as mankind shakes itself clear of the old jungle habits of hating and arming and fighting so there will be more scope for living...... Is it too much to hope that the various Whitehall Ministries of War may one day be replaced by Ministries of the Peoples Leisure?"
Of course you could accuse Sid of a certain naivety; while he was writing all this stuff about Fretwork and Home Gymnastics Hitler was putting the final touches to his plans for a new United Europe. Perhaps that is the whole point. If only Adolf had just relaxed and got on with his painting. Done evening classes. Joined the local Art Group. Maybe made friends with a nice Jewish girl. It could all have been so different.
One of my own hobbies is old fashioned systems of physical training and a few years back I got hold of a book on the subject called "Dinosaur Training". About the same time I bought a wormery for making compost and I was tempted to put on my CV under "Hobbies and Interests" - Dinosaur Training and Worm Breeding. I had visions of a HR department somewhere, " Blimey! bloke here not only breeds worms, he trains fucking dinosaurs as well".

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A power in the land.

On the Radio4 Today program this morning Paul Mason was talking about the Lancashire Cotton Famine that resulted from the Union blockade of Confederate ports during the American Civil War. Despite the hardship to themselves the Lancashire mill workers remained solid in their support of abolition. It's a heart warming tale and along with many other incidents from the past give the lie to the now accepted truth that social reform has always been the result of middle class do-gooders acting on behalf of working horses - or the equally helpless working class. The power of organised international labour is exactly the kind of history that gives the likes of Alien Gove the serious heeby-jeebies. But to be fair this all pre-dates Gove and his cronies; a whole generation have now grown up who think that international solidarity started with Band Aid.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow crisis! Snow crisis!

SnowCrisis!.......  Schools closed......... Trains cancelled............. Travel chaos.........
Annual debate re clearing of snow on pavement outside  house........ Why are we never prepared?..... Weekend sport.........Continent cut off........... Cameron forced to cancel major EU speech in some small city of which we know little......... Must soldier on........Britain can take it........etc. etc.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Make Gove history.

It seems to me that history has two important functions for most people.  Of course by understanding what happened in the past we should be better equipped to understand what is happening now but I suspect that for most ordinary punters history is first and foremost, be it in book, film or TV format, a form of entertainment. Well there is nothing wrong with that. God alone knows what Education Secretary Michael Gove thinks history is for. His new proposals for a complete overhaul of the school history curriculum will see a return to the old fashioned Great British Men and Great British Inventions approach to the subject. Out will go all this lefty twaddle about Mary Seacole, civil rights and social reform and back comes Nelson, Wellington and good old Turnip Townsend. It's the same approach that bored rigid generations of children, put many off history for life but went some way toward producing a nation of unquestioning Little Englanders. Here is a history question to ponder - What is it in our past that we allow narrow minded right wing morons like Gove anywhere near the levers of power?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Well it's this or try to unravel the new pension proposals.

Looking back over the past few years of blogging I have to admit that there are a few posts that I really enjoyed writing and that still make me smile if I re-read them. With this in mind, and in an effort to cheer  us all up a bit during these grim, quadruple dip recession blighted January days, I thought I would re-blog "Ready To Ruck" first posted in August 2008 ..................

Years ago I wrote and marketed a correspondence course. My reasons for producing "Ready to Ruck. A guide to street survival" were threefold. In the first place I was hoping to make a few bob. In case anyone is concerned about my being corrupted by the forces of capitalism, let me put their minds at rest straight away. There was never the faintest glimmer of hope that anything remotely resembling a profit was ever going to result from the project. In the second place I somehow hoped that Ready to Ruck would be a vehicle for anti-state propaganda. Don't ask.
The final and perhaps only legitimate reason for unleashing this masterpiece on an unsuspecting public, was a fascination with correspondence courses that dates back to boyhood. The thrill of knowing that a rugged physique, the secret wisdom of the Rosicrucians and the ability to draw like Leonardo could all be mine for the simple investment of a 10/6d postal order was matched only by the exciting sound of the first lesson thudding onto the doormat. From then on it was usually downhill all the way. If any of this was due to some deep rooted psychological shortcoming it was not revealed in the eight lesson course from the British Institute of Practical Psychology.
Anyway, about the time that I was preparing the nation for street survival an advertisement appeared in the local paper (I'm not making any of this up) for a correspondence course in Nihilism. And it was free. All I had to do was send off a SAE. Well, it would have been rude not to. A few weeks later, and having completed the course ( I later discovered that I was the only person to achieve this, and you can draw your own conclusions about that ) I was invited by the chief nihilist to come round to his drum for a meeting on how best to proceed from here. So, much against the advice of friends, I turned up on his doorstep as arranged The meeting comprised just the two of us plus his disgruntled girlfriend who made tea. It was all a bit of an anti-climax really.
The world of correspondence courses came to an end as learning facilities (adult education classes, gyms etc.) began to improve and I suppose that the internet must have been the final nail in it's coffin, but this odd,marginal part of popular culture, populated as it was by experts and charlatans, remains a fascination.
One famous correspondence course, still very much alive, deserves a mention. The cream of the crop and Harold Wilson's finest achievement, the Open University is in a class of its own. I did some OU myself when I was lock-keeping. It was the perfect way to spend the nightshift. With outstanding course material and some very committed tutors I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Any hunt sabs up for Florida ?

Today marks the start of a month long state sponsored python hunt in Florida. The quarry are Burmese Pythons. Escaped pets that are having a whale of a time in the Everglades, breeding like snakes and decimating the indigenous fauna. The hunters are an army of amateur backwoodsmen, survivalists and gun-nuts for a free society who armed with every kind of weapon from machetes to light machine guns will be making a sweep across the state in an effort to eradicate the pests. My suspicion is that the the hunters will be a very real danger - to each other. The only thing that Florida is short of at the moment is some of our own hunt sabs - preferably one with dreads and maximum facial piercing. Interesting take on it all here.

Keyboards of the world unite.

   I never feel completely at ease with online campaigning. It just the idea of all those cyber-activist crouched over their keyboards and in complete isolation from each other that I find a bit offputing. For all my misgivings I must fess up to signing the odd online petition and it seems to do little harm if no huge amount of good. From time to time I get emails from  Labour Start. This venerable leftie organisation contacted me the other day about a book on online campaigning that they have recently published. The book looks interesting enough but what a shame that it appears to be available only from those famous online traders and well known union busters, Amazon.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Waste not want not.

For most of my life the problem of malnutrition in the world has been down to failures of distribution rather than production; a shortage of cash rather than a shortage of food. There was plenty of food to go round but so many people in the world could not afford to buy it. That is still the case today of course but the problem is starting to be compounded by actual food shortages. Climate change, extreme weather events, water shortages and a series of poor harvests are for the first time in living memory making actual food shortages, as opposed to distribution failures, a worrying possibility in the near future. Against this background the recent report by the Institution Of Mechanical Engineers suggesting that up to 50% of world food production is wasted should make for disturbing reading. The reasons for food wastage are many and varied ranging from poor road infrastructure in some tropical countries meaning that much food spoils before it can be got to market to the criminally insane marketing strategy of supermarkets that results in thousands of tons of vegetables being ploughed back in due to being the "wrong" shape or size. Meanwhile the suits and spivs who continue to speculate on world food prices get fat on the misery of others. The only thing that cheers me up is the certain knowledge, that even as I write this, in the finest restaurants in the land an underpaid member of staff is spitting in some rich bastard's soup.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

UKIP youth leader too libertarian for his own good.

All political parties find the youth wing a pain in the arse at times. It's just that young people have not yet had principle beaten out of them, have a tendency to take things at face value and generally fail to grasp the reality of party politics. The kids wear their hearts on their sleeves - and hearts can be broken. How gratifying to see that UKIP is no different to other parties in this respect. The scourge of Brussels has had to relieve youth wing leader Olly Neville of his duties for a breach of party discipline and calling for churches to be forced to sanctify marriage between consenting necrophiliacs.
Funny old crowd UKIP.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Laugh? I nearly shat I self.

Here's a good one from a reader in Notting Hill. " How many shirkers and scroungers would it take to burn down all our houses?"

Monday, 7 January 2013

Who Shall Rouse Him Up?

The 1661 armed uprising against the restoration of the monarchy is a little known part of London's radical history but yesterday's combined commemorative walk and film shoot could well mark a revival of interest in Thomas Venner and the Fifth Monarchists. A great afternoon out. Lots of good photos  and excellent coverage of the event at http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2013/01/jan.htm#venner

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Gay Bishop Shock.

Vicars, gay, actress, bishop, bash. It seems unfair to play such word association games with the poor old CoE. I can't imagine that despite the media coverage many people outside the church really care if bishops are gay, straight or a bit of both. But when it comes to calling for abstinence the Anglicans might do well to pay heed to their fellow Christians in the Roman wing and consider that when the male libido is suppressed sexual energy tends to seep out round the edges and manifest itself in sometimes very unpleasant and alienated ways.
Perhaps there is a serious point to be made here after all. Why do the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths have such a problem with sex and why are these male dominated religions so especially frightened of female sexuality? For that matter should an organisation that so firmly positions itself within the tradition of repressive medieval superstition have such a privileged position in public life?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The curse of Thatcher.

It used to be a standing joke with Falkland veterans that by far the most harrowing  part of the campaign was the visits from Jim Davidson. It now looks as though the dreadful comedian(?) will be joining Savile and the the rest of the disgraced Thatcher supporters. What is it with the old bag and showbiz nonces? Thank fuck Tory half-wit Kenny Everett flatlined it before his sexual proclivities came to light. Milkman's horses as you ask!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Food And Go. The diet and fitness craze of 2013.

Listen! Hear that? That's the sound of breaking New Year Resolutions. Many of those soon to be shattered resolutions will be to do with diet and exercise. Fortunes have been made promoting various diets and fitness regimes but right here, and as a New Year present to anyone who is interested, is the ALL NEW FOOD AND GO LIFESTYLE PROGRAM. It can't fail and it ain't gonna cost you a penny. First the food bit. New York writer Michael Pollan pretty much summed it up when he said,"Eat food. Not too much, Mostly plants". Simples. The secret is to cook rather than rely on pre-prepared, processed and packaged products. That way you will be consuming food rather than expensive rubbish. So that's the "food" bit taken care of. Now for the "go". No gold plated gym memberships are necessary. Just get out and GO. Anywhere. Do something physically demanding. Anything. Walk, run, swim, lift weights, climb hills, climb trees, dig the allotment. Whatever you fancy.
But crack on and do it rather than whining about lack of time or lack of energy.
So there you have it. Cook proper grub and work up a bit of a sweat.