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

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.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Unmask police marksmen if they have nothing to hide.

In this country police marksmen shoot and kill on average about seven of us a year. The legal and moral justification for these killing is of course a matter of opinion but one thing has always puzzled me. How come the identity of the officers involved always remains a secret? We all look after our own and we shouldn't expect the cops to be any different. Sure they will close ranks to protect the identity of  marksmen who take a life and generally speaking the courts will be complicit in this. But in this internet age it seems almost impossible to keep anything secret for long and the number of people who know who shot who when must be considerable. Why does this information never emerge on the net?
Whenever a police killing or police corruption is in the headlines we are constantly reminded of the "courage" and "bravery" of the force. But is being a copper that dangerous? All right, any risk assessment would put the job as being more hazardous than say, being a computer programmer but it's not in the same league as the construction industry, or farming, or fishing and when it comes to facing violence from members of the public NHS staff are far more likely to be attacked than coppers.
Like most Londoners I would have been pleased if police marksmen had taken out the 7/7 bombers before their devices went off and took fifty two innocent lives. But the reality is that one more innocent life, that of Jean Charles de Menezes, was added to the carnage. Who killed de Menezes and what are those officers doing now? We all make mistakes but most of us have to hold our hands up when we do. The police should be no exception to this.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Let the kids play out.

Summer has arrived and open windows should let in the sound of children playing out, charging about and generally getting up to no good. This is how kids develop their physiques, absorb Vitamin D, learn how to interact with each other, learn about the dangers that the world holds and how by looking after each other those dangers can be avoided. There is no doubting that kids spend far less time outside playing than they used to. Parents are so cautious that they tend to restrict their offspring to a world of homework, organised activity and games consoles. To hear some parents talking you would think that the world beyond the front door was Mogadishu. Organised sport is a wonderful thing as is the ability to spend time alone lost in a book - but nothing is quite like charging about with your mates. Let 'em out. You will never be able to protect them from all the harm that may befall them and can only do your best to equip them to deal with the dangers. Let 'em out, and take time to enjoy the sound of their play drifting in through that open window.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Good luck Egypt.

The history of the 20th century, and the first decade of 21st for that matter, is littered with military coups against democratically elected governments. I would be the last to fetishise representative democracy but the fact remains that these coups have usually led to repression and the further disenfranchisement of the masses. That's the trouble with democracy - someone is bound to get what they didn't want. Who knows what the future holds for Egypt and we can but hope that progressive, collectivist and libertarian elements will somehow triumph in this deeply religious and conservative country. There is an interesting insight into an Egyptian anarchist perspective here. Egyptians are a friendly and humorous people and I hope that these attributes will stand them in good stead during the interesting times ahead.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The return of an emmit*

Right, where was I? Mazey day in Penzance was a real blast and the whole long weekend of Golowan was taken up with catching up with old mates, drinking, listening to some outstanding bands and indulging in hard core pasty eating. What's not to like? Cornish festivals tend to bring all the old hippies and punks out of the woodwork. Faces pickled a deep walnut colour by sun and alcohol, many are local but many more came down on youthful camping expeditions thirty, forty or fifty years ago and just never got round to going home. During my long association with Cornwall I have had a brief but eventful career on a Newlyn gill-netter (one trip, less said the better), indulged in Cornish wrestling and suffered some quite spectacular hangovers amongst other adventures. During my time away I hardly watched any TV, never looked at a newspaper or listened to the radio. Only now am I finding that against a background of progressives struggling against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Channel 4 have decided to broadcast the call to prayer during the month of Ramadan. I imagine that the British Humanist Association will be having something to say about this - and quite rightly so.
* Emmit. Cornish for ant and derogatory term for tourists. (They get everywhere.)