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

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.