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

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.