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

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!

For my money, one of the most interesting things that happened during 2014 was the Scottish Referendum. Not the result, or for that matter the issue of Independence itself, but the fact that even in these cynical, disillusioned times it is still possible for a population to get politically motivated. Even after extensive research, much perusal of Old Moore's Almanack, casting of turkey bones and the like, I am unable to predict if the coming general election will be of more than passing interest to the British public. We are now witnesses to a level of economic injustice never previously seen in my lifetime. But apart from a tiny handful of activists most of us seem content to sit back, hope for the best, and expect the worst. So with that less that cheerful thought I will simply wish you all a Happy New Year .

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Out and about on Boxing Day.

Yesterday I walked up to the top of Box Hill and then took the footpath down into Dorking and the bus home. Hardly a wilderness experience but it got me out of the house and into the fresh air. There is a very English tradition of recovering from the excesses of Christmas by getting outdoors and active on Boxing Day. After all that sitting around eating and drinking people feel the need to get outside and do something even if it no more active than watching a local football derby or a days racing at Kempton Park. For many of course the day's activity is probably confined to a good tramp in the countryside; or at least the nearest thing to countryside that they can reach from home. Dogs, children, toddlers and elderly relatives ensure that the pace is steady to say the least but, as with presents, it's the thought that counts.
For many people in the countryside Boxing Day is an important date on the fieldsports calender. Unlike most on the left I have never felt strongly opposed to hunting, shooting and fishing. Certainly I prefer the idea of the artisan hunter with terriers and ferrets to the toff riding to hounds and I think that it's easier to justify rough shooting for the pot rather than the ritual slaughter of driven birds bred for the occasion, but all in all I don't have a problem with field sports. I have never found it necessary to oppose everything that the upper class do in order to be an enemy of the class system.
Hunting with hounds might well be the most humane method of fox control but certainly any interaction with animals results in some suffering. Perhaps our responsibility is to keep that suffering to a minimum.  I have never had any part in foxhunting but I think that I can understand why others do it.
Mind you, a sympathetic stance on the hunt can bring a chap some strange bedfellows!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Have a good one!

As you can see from the picture below, I have finally got the decorations up in the hall and given a fair wind and the central heating holding up we are all set for the festivities. So from this old git, Her Indoors and all at Freedom Pass Towers - HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

New Era. A tale of two very different estates.

It's going to be a Christmas to remember down on Hoxton's New Era Estate. Hard work and gritty determination on the part of tenants resulted in rent-racking landlords Westbrook Holdings deciding to sell up to Dolphin Square Charitable Foundation. Affordable rent now seems a certainty for New Era tenants for at least the next twelve months and I for one just doff my cap to an outstanding victory by ordinary folk against a seemingly powerful adversary.  But nothing is quite what it seems in the London  property market and there is a backstory here that I suspect we will hear more of in the New Year.
Dolphin Square Charitable Foundation has an interesting history.
The Dolphin Square development in Pimlico was built by Costain in the 1930's and after passing through the hands of several owners was eventually acquired in the 60's by Westminster City Council who sub-let the site to Dolphin Square Trust who would manage the development and act as a kind of housing association for the next forty years.
The list of former tenants and sub-tenants at the square reads like Who's Who of twentieth century scandal, show-biz, politics and espionage. Everyone from William (Lord Haw Haw) Joyce to Mandy Rice Davies and Christine Keeler, Bud Flanagan, Oswald Mosley, Harold Wilson; all lived in the square at one time or another. If ongoing Met investigations are anything to go by there was also a very dark side to Dolphin Square with the possibility of a paedophile ring and even the murder of some children taking place there.
In 2005 Westminster City Council and Dolphin Square Trust sold the site and with an endowment  resulting from the sale Dolphin Square Charitable Foundation was set up. Some tenants were less than happy with the new owners but such is life.  Now the foundation seem to have rescued New Era tenants from the rapacious clutches of Westbrook Holdings. And the 2005 purchasers of Dolphin Square?  Er… Westbrook Holdings.
For those who have the stomach for it, the full financial and legal low-down here.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The powerful hate to be laughed at.

From Kim Jong-Un to IDS the one thing that political leaders hate is being made a laughing stock of. They truly don't like it up 'em. That's why political cartoonists are so precious to us and such a pain in the arse to the power elites of the world. "National treasure" might be a phrase banded about far too liberally but it's hard to find a better way of describing our own Martin Rowson and Steve Bell. More power to their elbows. Give yourself a Christmas treat and visit the Cartoon Museum why don't you?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

IDS. The Mr Nasty of a very nasty party.

Ten or so years back, when Theresa May suggested that many people thought of the Tories as the Nasty Party, the end result was much earnest, wide eyed proclamations of liberal decency from the party.  Gay marriage? Yes. Hug a tree, or for that matter hug a fucking hoodie?  Bring it on.  But truth be told there really is "something of the night" about not just Micheal Howard but the whole party. The loathsome IDS is just the most public example of a very unpleasant current in politics. We don't need the Guardianistas to explain all this to us but to be fair, Polly Toynbee has a thoughtful and provocative  piece here.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Waste not want not.

I have been known, when feeling particularly grumpy, to dismiss the Green Party as being nothing more than a home for middle-class women who have sublimated their sex drive into recycling. It's an opinion that is not generally well received among my loved ones and has won me few friends. But leaving aside the good people of the Green Party it has to be admitted that recycling has become almost another religion and woe betide the careless individual who deposits an empty bottle in the wrong receptacle. I doubt that the planet needs saving, well not in the foreseeable future anyway, but if it did I doubt that beating ipads into plough shears would help much. Truth be told the best thing to do about waste is have less of it. I'm the last person to propose that we all return to gnawing a raw turnip by candlelight but the rich nations have reached ludicrous levels of consumption and waste. Use less stuff, reuse things and only then consider recycling. Anyway, what do I know about Green issues. Does anyone know how to cook a Great Bustard? I was thinking of getting one for Xmas.
The Waste Hierarchy. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Some thoughts on torture.

The US Senate's report on CIA torture certainly makes for grim, and at times distressing reading. Of course the Americans don't have a monopoly on the ill treatment, torture and killing of prisoners. The unpleasant truth is that people in positions of power over other human beings frequently behave abominably. It might be comforting to pretend that only people who's religious or political allegiances differ from our own are capable of such barbarity but we know in our hearts that this is not the case. Human beings are capable of great acts of kindness and self-sacrifice but are also prone to acts of unspeakable cruelty. The Standford Prison and Miligram experiments confirmed what even a casual look back at history tells us; there will never be a shortage of torturers.
A free press, an aware and sceptical populace, a strong opposition movement that demands transparency, all these things can help hold in check the thugs of the CIA and ISIS alike. Torture is the logical outcome of power and only constant vigilance can keep us safe. It is frequently claimed that anarchism might sound like a good idea but that human nature will always make it impractical but perhaps it is that very same human nature that makes anarchism so desirable and so necessary.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dirt tracks and dropkicks.

Between 1928 and 1930 two sporting spectaculars, the like of which had never been seen before, arrived in Britain. Neither the dour working class sporting world of mud and fog shrouded football pitches or the Corinthian values of the public schools were any preparation for what was to come. First on the scene was Aussie ex-boxer, circus performer and WW1 flying ace, Digger Pugh who was to be the man to introduce motorcycle speedway to UK. No one had seen anything like it. Teams of riders hurtled around an oval dirt or cinder track at breakneck speeds. "Broadsiding" into the corners one leg trailing along the ground, No Brakes - No Fear was the catchphrase of the speedway rider. Speedway fever gripped the nation, tracks and stadiums opened all across the country and soon every town of any size seemed to have a speedway team.
No sooner had the British sporting public got it's breath back from the excitement of speedway when another sporting entrepreneur arrived on the scene. Henry Irslinger was no stranger to these shores.
The globetrotting wrestler and promoter was born in Vienna but had first made a name for himself on the London music hall stage during the Edwardian wrestling boom. Later he would decamp to America to ply his trade and also made a name for himself in Australia and South Africa.
 By 1930 Islinger was back in London with American wrestler Benny Sherman and together with Sir Athol Oakley and Bill Garnon would launch the next sporting sensation on an unsuspecting public. During the previous decade America had seen the emergence of an entirely new style of professional wrestling. Gone was the old school Greco-Roman that had become so popular in the past. The new "Slam Bang" style that would come to be known as All-In in Britain was something completely different. There seemed to be few rules with the  wrestlers free to hit and kick their opponent at will. It all happened in All-In. Wrestlers hit over the head with buckets and corner stools, unlikely submission holds, blood everywhere, some matches degenerated into full scale riots and certainly no evening was considered to be a real success unless the hapless referee became entangled in the ropes.
The Second World War more or less put paid to speedway and wrestling but both sports would experience a post-war revival. Wrestling was given a brush down and put on it's best behaviour and would eventually experience it's biggest ever boom. By that time Athol Oakley had retired and was running guided tours of the Lorna Doone country of Exmoor and trying to convince holidaymakers that R D Blackmore's novel was based on fact. Compared to convincing punters of the authenticity of wrestling it must have seemed like money for old rope. In the 1950s Digger Pugh would once more take centre stage with his latest brainwave, stockcar racing. You can't keep a good man down. Speedway would go on to survive many ups and downs and is still alive and well albeit on nothing like the scale of years gone by.

Speedway and wrestling were the brainchild of sporting showmen and had histories deep in the tradition of the music halls and the wonderful smoke and mirrors world of the circus, wall of death and fairground sideshows. A not quite respectable, not quite the done thing world that introduced a touch of danger and excitement to the hum-drum lives of the many.  

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The worst is yet to come.

Regardless of what the leaders of the main political parties might claim to the contrary, when it come to austerity and cuts in public spending, the worst is yet to come. UK, and the South East in particular, will continue to be a magnet for every money launderer and property speculating wide-boy from Moscow to Kuala Lumpur but increased poverty and homelessness will be the counterpoint to obscene levels of wealth. The gap between rich and poor will widen, as will the holes in the welfare safety net. Politicians can be divided between those who genuinely care but don't have a clue about what to actually do and those who understand the problems only too well but  are concerned only about keeping a lid on dissent. Not that there is really much dissent to keep a lid on. People make choices. They can get out on the streets or keep their heads down, retreat into the family and hope for the best. For the moment we seem to have chosen the second option and our leaders can sleep sound in their beds. Now where did I put that Old Moore's Almanack?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

First cast the beam etc.

Political Scrapbook quite rightly outed today's Sun for hypocrisy in it's dealings with Russell Brand. Whether you consider Brand to be our hope for the future or a terminal bell end of the first water is beside the point. The bloke can hardly be blamed for the tax avoidance of his landlord. The Sun thinks otherwise apparently, despite being tenants of an even bigger bunch of offshore scumbags themselves.
You wouldn't get this kind of thing over at The Grauniad. They lead the fight against corruption and tax avoidance. Oh hang on! What's this on page 49 of today's issue of the left-wing chattering class's favoured organ? "Guardian Investing is offering an exciting opportunity to visit the Guardian offices in London for a complimentary investment event." Subjects covered will include, "Inheritance Tax Planning". Or in plain English - how to avoid inheritance tax.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A short walk in the West End.

There are only a few days left of the Ansel Kiefer exhibition at the RA so I had a look at it this morning. You certainly can't fault the artist when it comes to scale, some of the works are the size of a small house. True much of the exhibition does resemble the contents of a skip but I found some of the huge canvases strangely moving and walked out feeling in need of a quick straightener in The Red Lion.
From this cracking little boozer I set off toward the Drury Tea Company in New Row in order to replenish supplies of their wonderful London Blend. Cutting through Panton Street I was shocked to see that The Stockpot restaurant has closed. Apart from running a huge number of excellent cafes, Italian immigrants also opened many cheap restaurants serving good honest lunches and dinners at a price that most could afford. Now both the cafes and the cheap restaurants are disappearing. There is still a Stockpot in Old Compton Street in Soho and another in the Kings Road but the Chelsea Kitchen, also in the Kings Road, closed a few years back and the New World Order of coffee and panini outlets marches ever onward. Resisting the temptation of a quick one in the Tom Crib, I also marched onward, picking up the tea and crossing the river to Waterloo and the train home. Mission accomplished.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The road to nowhere? New Stonehenge plans unveiled.

The most eye catching item in the road improvement announcement this morning is of course the proposal for a, wait for it, wait for it, A TUNNEL UNDER STONEHENGE. What an amazing idea. I'm just surprised that no one has thought of it before! For generations of kids (and adults) the first and usually their only view of Stonehenge is from a traffic jam on the A303; preferably in an overheating Ford Cortina. It was a rite of passage and certainly no proper family holiday to the West Country could be complete without it. Now the Tories want to deprive us of all this by digging a tunnel under a national treasure that is almost in the same league as Barbara Windsor and Bruce Forsyth. May the fleas of a thousand Sid Rawles infest their armpits. Mind you, The Stonehenge Alliance are in favour of a longer tunnel - say from Sunbury Cross to Penzance.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Old school tax avoidance.

The stats of inequality, global and national, have been the common currency of left polemic for as long as anyone can remember. In the unlikely event that readers of this blog need convincing further, there is a depressing wealth of information on The Equality Trust site. Of course not everyone is convinced that inequality is necessarily a bad thing. The view that attempts to achieve a more equal society are not only doomed to failure but will simply increase the sum of human misery is not confined to the likes of David Mellor, and "trickle down" is still the economic theory of choice in some quarters. But given that like me you probably think that at least some redistribution of wealth and opportunity might be a good thing, how best to proceed? Well first off how about hitting the private schools where it hurts, in their pockets. I don't mean the kind of wet dishcloth attack of the kind proposed by Twiswam Hunt but a simple, straightforward removal of the charitable status that absolves private education businesses of the need to pay tax. Make no mistake, these schools are just that, businesses. Let them sink or swim in the rough seas of the market place their supporters are so fond of. No Labour government, not even Attlee's post war one, has had the bottle to take on the public schools. I'm convinced that doing away with the unfair advantage of the private education sector would be a step toward a fairer and more just society.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Poor door protesters stick to their guns.

For the past twenty weeks, come rain come shine, a small but dedicated group of activists have picketed One Commercial Street in protest against the segregation of social housing tenants and a "rich door-poor door" policy. Developers Redrow eventualy sold the freehold to Texas playboy Taylor McWilliams and his development company Hondo. The protest continued. Now comes news that McWilliams is entering into negotiations with all stakeholders.  There's a long way to go and we don't want to be counting chickens, but this just might be the begining of the end for the poor doors.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

On snobs and bigots.

"………..Snobs and bigots. Of the two I think that snobs are the worst beacause a bigot can change. I know that because I was once one myself. But as far as I am aware there is no known cure for snobbery."
                                                                                           Speaker John Bercow.

"In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but unquestionably true, that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God Save The King than of stealing from a poor box."
                                                                                             George Orwell.


Image from Islington.

So what do we know about Emily Thornberry? Classic middle-class Labour party background. Father was a UN Assistant Secretary General who once stood for parliament on a Labour ticket. Mother a teacher and Labour Councillor. Parents divorced, brought up on an estate on the outskirts of Guildford. Secondary Modern education but made it to university and a career as a barrister. Married to High Court judge. Lives in posh bit of Islington. There are thousands of women like Emily all over the country but mainly in the South East of course.  They would certainly claim to be "left wing" and do hold strong views on gender and racial equality. What these people really struggle with is the working class, white principally but working class in general really, once you strip away the condescending patronage for blacks and Asians.  The idea of fat, peelhead blokes who support the England Team, like a pint and can be a bit loud is enough to send shivers down the spine of the likes of Emily Thornberry. Shame really. If they bothered to get to know each other they would probably rub along alright.
You would think by now that politicians would be wise to the pitfalls of social media. Oh look! White van man with England flags. I'll take a photo and send it to my mates so we can all have a snigger. Just like we used to do at school about girls with the wrong length skirts or boys with the wrong width trousers. Who will be the first politician to post a picture of a black kid eating a watermelon and label it "View from South London"?
 Let me put you in the picture Emily. You can have contempt for what you consider to be the archetypal white working class. Fill your boots as far as I'm concerned. But just don't expect them to vote for you.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The strange world of the Kibbo Kift.

The British political fringe holds a fascination for many people. Some have made a lifetime commitment to tracing and detailing the family tree of various Trotskyist organisations.  Others have become experts in the genealogy of  extreme right wing groups and burn the midnight oil looking for suspected neo-nazi connections. Of all the unusual organisations in the shadowy world of the political margins few can be quite as odd as The Kindred Of The Kibbo Kift. Founded by one John Hargrave, The Kift was a splinter group from, of all things, Baden Powell's scout movement. This unusual combination of camping, pseudo-Saxon folklore, woodcraft and Social Credit, would eventually split into The Greenshirts (who famously lobbed a green painted brick through the front window of 11 Downing Street) and the other part of the movement that aligned with the Labour Party.

The Labour faction would in turn evolve into what Alexei Sayle once described as "the paramilitary wing of the Co-Op", the Woodcraft Folk. The Greenshirts would fall foul of the 1936 Public Order Act that banned the wearing of political uniforms and would re-form as the Social Credit Party before disappearing altogether. The Woodcraft Folk are still going strong as far as I know but the nearest thing to Social Credit now is the citizens income policy of the Greens. The archives of Kibbo Kift are held in The Museum of London.
I also stumbled across this very interesting and detailed history of Kibbo Kift. Well worth a look

Monday, 17 November 2014

Anarchy in the PKK.

If there is one BBC programme maker who can get my attention it's Adam Curtis. Interested in what's happening along the Turkish/Syrian border right now? Want to know about the influence of Murray Bookchin on the PKK?  Adam Curtis is your man.

Bearing up under the strain.

About this time of year my mother would usually buy a copy of Old Moore's Almanack. I was amazed to find recently that this handy guide to astrological predictions for the year ahead is still being published by the same W Foulsham who produced it when I was kid. I remember that apart from the predictions of Royal Weddings, and other such disasters there were loads of adverts for sure-fire betting systems and a variety of lucky charms with "Joan The Wad" being a favourite if memory serves.
The news this morning is that David Cameron is warning of total financial meltdown, Islamic State have captured the Syrian town of Dabiq that in Islam is supposedly the location for Armageddon and there has been a pre-Christmas outbreak of bird flu on a duck farm in Yorkshire. Other than that it's all good.
Old Moore's Almanack might not be such a bad investment after all.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Puppy sandwich anyone?

I don't find it at all difficult to understand why a Northampton based sandwich making concern are recruiting staff from Hungary despite the town having almost 8,000  unemployed. The company are looking for an energetic, compliant workforce who will do 12 hour shifts in freezing temperatures and be happy with the minimum wage; and Eastern Europe is full of such poor souls. There seems little chance of the situation changing because there is little chance of seeing once again the kind of confident, organised working class that was the bane of the Daily Mail before the curse of the Thatcher Dynasty descended on the nation. I understand perfectly capital's fondness for Hungarian sandwich makers but what I do find difficult to get my head round is the apparent need for this country to import puppies from abroad. I know that we have a skill shortage but surely we can breed our own dogs. Can it really be cheaper to import puppies when the only labour involved is the bitch's? I thought that I understood globalisation but clearly I have some way to go. So much to learn - so little time.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A Kingston drift.

Yesterday the artist Laura Oldfield Ford led a group drift around the back streets of Kingston Upon Thames. Apart from the implausibility of anyone "leading" a "planned" drift, it turned out to be a good way to spend an afternoon. Laura is tiny, very friendly and obviously hugely talented. I loved her art work and admired her politics. Towards the end of our walk she was talking about her experiences with so called "careers guidance" at school. Attending what she described as a "shit comprehensive", Laura had told the teachers that she wanted to be an artist. She was advised to get a job in a stationary and art material shop. Hearing this I was immediately transported back to my own Norlington Road Boys Secondary Modern. Most of us were destined for the factories with the more polite and less disreputable  looking perhaps getting office work. Retail, or "shops" as we called it in those days, was another possibility. And so it was that any sporting ability would probably lead to a job in a sports goods shop. Although I languished in the second class from the bottom for all of my academic career, I was an avid reader and this was enough for me to be sent off to work for WH Smith flogging newspapers on Liverpool Street Station. Laura clearly survived "careers guidance" and so I suppose did I but my heart bleeds for the kids who are crushed by the system. All those unfulfilled dreams, all that lost potential.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Is Newham's Olympic legacy just another kebab in front of the telly?

According to a report by the physical fitness think tank UKactive, the London borough of Newham, principal hosts of the 2012 Olympics,  has reaped little sport participation benefit from all that much vaunted Olympic legacy. Newham residents are less physically active than anyone else in the country with almost 40% failing to get half an hour per week of moderate exercise. The report goes on to point out the disparity in exercise and sport participation between deprived and affluent parts of the country. As far as London is concerned Richmond is at the opposite end of the scale to Newham with only 16.3% of residents failing to hit the 30 minutes a week mark. Anyone who knows anything at all about wealth disparity will not be surprised at this as in just about every indicator from life expectancy to mental health to obesity it's the poor who are, by definition, worse off.  What is less clear is why something as rewarding but inexpensive as physical exercise is so unpopular in more deprived arrears. I suspect that answers to this conundrum will depend on political outlook. The poor are lazy, lack of facilities, poverty induced depression and inertia, bad diet, multiple low paid jobs leaving little time or energy for sports; all these are likely responses. As far as Newham is concerned it might be more useful, rather than looking at the non-active 40%, to find out what motivates the moderately active 60% and the no doubt much smaller number who are very active indeed. One thing is beyond dispute. This country's 2012 Olympians were disproportionately drawn from the privately educated well of sections of society. What kind of incentive is that for kids from the estate?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Tory Boy in blue funk.

I don't know what kind of turnout the political pundits are expecting for the impending Rochester and Strood by-election but latest polls show UKIP out in front with 44%, the Tories just hanging on in there with 32% while Labour, Greens and LibDems are trailing down the field with 17, 4 and 2 respectively. Cameron managed to find his way down to the Medway Towns today and called upon all good men and true to vote tactically in order to keep the Kippers out. Dream on Dave.

Monday, 10 November 2014

All Huff and Puff?

I have only attended the "poor doors" picket three times so am not in a position to throw stones at anyone else for failing to turn out. Still, it does seem strange that none of the established left groupscules have bothered to get involved. Perhaps they don't see any mileage in the protest or maybe it's because they suspect that the tenants using the side entrance to One Commercial Street are not poor at all but merely "less wealthy". Now I hear that the Huffington Post site put up an article about the picket but took it down after only ten minutes. How strange. A shame actually as it was a good article. You can catch a PDF of the mystery piece here.
EDIT.  Well I never!  http://ianbone.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/peter-tatchell-intervention-gets-huff-post-poor-doors-article-re-published/

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Black and Red poppies.

I thought that I had said just about all I had to say about the WW1 commemorations already but Remembrance Sunday, the poppies at The Tower and the latest offering from Martin Wright and the usually spot on Black and Red TV force me to come back to the horrors of war in general and WW1 in particular. Having performed a first rate hatchet job on idiot Brand's Wevolution Booky Wooky ( well at least Martin had the patience to read it which is more than I would have had.) the old class warrior goes on to denounce the ceramic poppies in the Tower moat and Poppy Day in general. I think that it's important, but sometimes difficult, to separate the horrors of war and the politics that lead to wars from the soldiers who fight them. I can see nothing wrong with remembering the fallen and understand that it's some consolation to families of the victims of more recent wars. I can feel this without in any way endorsing the pomp and hypocrisy that surrounds Remembrance Sunday. As for Poppies, I can see nothing wrong with supporting an ex-serviceman's charity. As well as remembering the fallen of two world wars we might also remember the shockingly disproportionate number of rough sleepers who are ex-military.
I had a look at the poppies at the Tower the other day and thought it a spectacular enough art installation and, gutter press endorsement aside, if it raises a few bob for disabled ex-squaddies so much the better. While I was there I paid a visit to the Merchant Navy War Memorial in Trinity Square. All those names. All those men who lost their lives in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. I always find such visits moving.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Kicking off on bonfire night.

Last night's Guy Fawkes Anonymous demo in central London seems to have been a lively outing and with such revolutionary glitterati as Russell Brand and Vivienne Westwood in attendance it's no surprise that it captured a lot of media attention. Meanwhile over on the other side of town the weekly Class War "poor doors" picket of One Commercial Street started out as a good humoured affair with plenty of drumming, dancing, a few fireworks and the ritual burning of a Boris Johnson guy. The guy had all but burn out when the Fire Brigade arrived to cheers and applause. Having assessed the situation the firefighters (They rescue people not banks you know) wandered off and returned with a bucket of water to douse what remained of the flames before departing to more loud applause. Big smiles all round. No sooner had the real public servants and genuine emergency service turned their backs when the cops turned nasty and  arrested Jane Nicholl. Quite what the charming grandmother's crime was is not at all clear. Dancing and smiling a lot possibly. Pictures here.
One thing seems clear. What's left of a radical current here in the UK might be beaten but it sure ain't going to lie down.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cyberscouting For Boys.

It's easy to make cheap jokes and leftist jibes about the Scout Movement but scouting has provided a vehicle for adventure and a sense of achievement for countless thousands of kids and that can be no bad thing.  Of course Scouting has had to change with the times and may now bear little resemblance to the organisation founded by Baden Powell. The interesting thing is that every time that Scouting goes through an internal crisis about long trousers, politically correct woggles or whatever, it seems to grab the attention of, not only the media, but loads of busybodies such as myself who have nothing whatever to do with Scouting but are not short of an opinion or two about the way that the movement should develop. This week came news that the modern scout is being encouraged to concentrate on developing skills in PR and IT rather than knot tying. I'm not sure that this is such a good idea. The use of cordage, and the ability to tie a secure and appropriate knot, goes back long before the dawn of recorded history. Every time that we denigrate a practical skill and consign it to the dustbin of history, only a short time afterwards it seems to me, we realise the folly of such loss and start launching national initiatives to train young people in these skills.
It may well be that we are close to a world where everything from heart surgery to bricklaying will be done by computers and practical skill are consigned to museums and heritage centres. Maybe that will be for the best, but I doubt it. A cyber society unable to tie it's own shoelaces? No thanks.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Rhys Jones to keep Phil Collins company in Switzerland. Nice one.

I have always thought that Griff Rhys Jones was a bit of a plonker, mildly irritating perhaps, certainly not very funny but generally harmless. Now I realise what a tragic loss to the nation it would be if yet another ex- public school/Footlights idiot was forced out because of Milibean's imminent red tide of socialism. (You wish) I'm with Bonnie Greer on this one. If Rhys Jones doesn't fancy paying a mansion tax he should just "pack up and piss off".
Rhys Jones Towers. Fitzroy Square. Ah bless.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A London blog and a half.

I have just stumbled across a wonderful blog. The writers father was a keen photographer who recorded London street scenes and characters from the first decade after the war. A London Inheritance is one of those rare blogs that does exactly what it says on the tin.

Hi-Yo Silver Screeners.

  Yesterday a lady was telling me that the local Odeon is running morning performances for coffin dodgers at the knock down price of three quid a head including complimentary tea and biscuits. I'm afraid that I was a bit dismissive and said that I thought that I was not quite old enough for such extravaganzas yet. But the truth is that it's a good idea, anything that gets the elderly out of the house is a good idea. The hard reality of life is that many of us will end up reasonably healthy but alone and anything, absolutely anything, that helps people escape from the isolation of four walls and a cat must be good. The erosion of the extended family, and the elderly's place within it, is a matter for regret or rejoicing depending on your point of view and experience but, for old and young alike, replacing human contact with Facebook will result in a very strange world indeed. Meanwhile, all those silver screeners will be old enough to remember going to that other cinema initiative to get bums on seats, the Saturday Morning Kids Club. Let's hope that standards of behaviour have improved.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Rumble Remembered.

Forty years ago today Muhammad Ali achieved what most pundits thought was beyond him and knocked out the ferociously hard hitting George Foreman to regain the Heavyweight Title. Much water has flowed under the bridge since the Rumble In The Jungle. As a Black Muslim, opponent of the war in Vietnam and a braggadocio when a respectful dignity was still the required stance for a black male in America, Ali had never been popular. But he was to rise above it to become a much loved international idol tragically silenced by Parkinson's and the legacy of some brutal encounters in the ring.
The taciturn George Foreman would re-emerge twenty years later as a garrulous and jovial rolly-polly comeback heavyweight who would end press conferences with a cheery, "My name's George Foreman. I'll see you at the buffet." He would go on to recapture two versions of the title at the unbelievable age of forty five and make a fortune from the sale of his famous no-fat grill.
Much has been written about the Rumble In The Jungle and doubtless there is much more to come. I just wanted to say thank you to two brave athletes who gave their all to entertain the likes of me.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Backend up the plot.

The growing season is well and truly over now - but what a season. Everything from spuds to strawberries seemed to do well this year. When I say that the growing season is over I don't mean to imply that the prudent allotmenteer will just sit back now and wait for next year. For a start there is the end of year clear up to crack on with; composting what you can and burning what you must. Autumn digging and muck spreading should be well underway by now and this years extended Indian Summer means that there is still plenty of good work with the hoe to be done if we are to keep those weeds under control. My spring cabbage plants are well away and if anything are a bit bigger than I would have liked for this time of year. Too much young fleshy growth will make the plants more vulnerable to frost later on. I sowed broad beans yesterday and, if the mice give me a fighting chance, they will compliment the spring greens for next seasons first vegetables.  Meanwhile, broccoli, kale, parsnips,   leeks and the few remaining beetroot will be harvested through the winter. But of course the biggest allotment task for the winter months is the planning and day-dreaming about what marvels we will perform next year.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Wrong place, wrong time - right move.

It's difficult to know what to do really. A day never passes without more alerts, reports and such like about the nation's lack of physical fitness and alarming levels of obesity. The Olympic legacy has just turned out to be a loss of playing fields and allotments alongside a load more luxury apartments. Only sports that can guarantee a large medal haul at the next games are being considered for state support. If you want to get fit and you don't have the money or the stomach for all those chrome and carpet gyms the best thing is get your kit on and go out for a jog. Not that this is without it's potential problems. You could be running along, suddenly have a funny turn, lurch across to the other side of the road, stumble over the curb and accidentaly deliver a quite decent flying shoulder charge to the fucking Prime Minister.  And there you are. Pinned to the ground by loads of fat coppers and arrested before you have even started your fitness regime. Cameron's security team covered up their gross ineptitude by claiming that Leeds jogger Dean Farley was just, "In the wrong place at the wrong time".  Mm, bit like Charles de Menezes I suppose. At least this time the plod just had egg on their faces rather than some poor bastard's brains splattered all over a tube carriage.

Monday, 27 October 2014

When will we ever learn.

Thirteen bloody years. 453 British deaths and who knows how many Afghan losses. This year alone the Afghan security forces have lost some four thousand and once again the Taliban are poised for victory. Since the time of the 1842 British retreat from Kabul through to the Soviet invasion and the American led occupation the message has been pretty clear; don't meddle in Afghanistan or you will end up with a bloody nose. Whatever the future holds for the Afghan people it is unlikely to be the kind of liberal  democracy that Western political elites are (let's be honest) such recent converts to. To paraphrase the old bloke with the beard, the emancipation of the Afghan masses is a task for them alone.

Friday, 24 October 2014

How do you prefer your Eurosceptics?

As if things were not bad enough for Cameron, now comes the news that Britain must pay an extra £1.7 bn into EU coffers as a result of the Tory's much publicised economic recovery. Over at UKIP Towers they must be cracking open the champers, doing cartwheels down the corridors and generally creaming their knickers. No such jollifications across the the other side of town at NO2EU HQ I imagine. The left-wing faction of the Eurosceptic world may have sent a junior comrade round to the bakers for cream cakes but that will be as far as celebrations go. Lack of funds, and possibly a lack of joie de vevre, will see to that. So how do you prefer your Eurosceptics? Flag waving, foreigner bashing, swivel eyed loons, or worthy but dull with a nostalgia for the old workers paradises of the East? Tough call.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Duck keeping. But not for long.

                                                                     Live aboard boaters who squat the towpath or river bank are never that popular with local communities. I have always reckoned this antipathy and suspicion is partly due to jealousy and the "why should they" factor. Why should they, not have to pay mooring fees, sit about all day smoking roll-ups and drinking tea when I have to work to pay my mortgage on this dull little house etc. It's part of the human condition to want freedom but also to fear it, and fear those who we think may have more of it than we do. But another reason for a negative attitude toward the  towpath squatters of our inland waterways is the junk that tends to accumulate on the bank. The cramped conditions on a narrowboat or small cruiser mean that it's very tempting to keep stuff out on the bank and although this might start out as a pile of firewood and a couple of bikes, it's amazing how stuff builds up. I was certainly no better than anyone else in this respect when I lived on the canals, graduating eventually to the keeping of poultry on the towpath. There is a sad story attached to this that I was reminded of by a recent comment on the blog. The poultry keeping started with a few bantams but eventually I decided to diversify, as farmers say nowadays, and expand into duck rearing. At no small expense I ordered four Khaki Campbell ducks from an advert in the Exchange and Mart. The beautiful looking birds were dispatched by rail, collected from the nearest station and bedded down in the new home I had made for them. In the morning they were gone. Had made a successful bid for freedom and were happily swimming along the canal where all efforts to recapture them proved futile. I was heartbroken.
My efforts at guerrilla gardening were far more rewarding. I found a small clearing right next to the canal that was almost completely surrounded by brambles and by some adjustments to the hedge was able to create a secret garden safe from both the cattle in the adjacent field and the prying eyes of passers by. The watering of the plot during what was to prove to be a very hot, dry summer, was a masterstroke. As the hidden plot lay below the level of the canal I was able to rig up a syphon with a hosepipe and in this way was able to grow quite a bit of veg and a not inconsiderable quantity of dope. That's yer towpath squatters for you all over - give 'em an inch and they take the piss.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

It's grim up North London alright.

Fuck me! You really could not make it up.  Some wealthy Hampstead residents are seriously suggesting that Labour's timid proposal for a Mansion Tax will so devastate their cosseted lives that the whole thing is actually a humanitarian issue. Has anyone alerted Valerie Amos? Drop what you're doing in West Africa girl and get yourself up to Hampstead.
Top marks to Political Scrapbook for alerting the world to this imminent crisis.
And now this. I don't know how they cope.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The rich, the rich. We wanna be one of the rich.

Apparently the recently reincarnated Rock Against The Rich has not been the runaway success with the yoof that the organisers had hoped for. One suggestion for the lack of enthusiasm has been a generational misunderstanding of modern popular culture and that the project should be re-named Rap Against The Rich. Senior Class War members are rumoured to be trashing all their old Bill Haley records and are asking about beatboxes in their local electrical goods stores.
Another possibility is that most young people do not in fact want to get rid of the rich. They want to join 'em not smash 'em.  They want to be rich themselves and will aspire to achieve this state of grace by means of art, football, drug dealing, corporate law or commodities trading depending on background and talent. Just saying like.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Where City meets the fringe I believe.

It should never have come to this of course. Social housing should never have been sidelined as a planning gain concession from developers of luxury investment apartments for the international rich. The issue of one door for the rich and one for the poor should never have arisen in the first place. But we are were we are and that means an increasingly polarised and segregated capital city and truly, if we put up with poor doors we will put up with anything.
The weekly poor door picket of One Commercial Street has been running for the last three months and largely because of the efforts of a handful of activists some of whom are not in the first flush of youth or in the best of health. At last night's picket, with some 80, 000 at the earlier TUC march and a couple of thousand supposed anarchist just up the road at the bookfair, a large turnout had been expected. Well, perhaps a hundred and fifty of us did turn up. It could have been bigger but was lively, spontaneous affair with  a couple of bands, the Durham Miners Association and the irrepressible Women's Death Brigade keeping the coppers on their toes. Well done all.

Friday, 17 October 2014

A garden bridge too far.

Man cannot live by bread alone and deciding spending priorities between, for example, arts and music projects or schools and hospitals is never going to be easy. There are however some total no brainers and the proposed "garden bridge" spanning the Thames between Temple and the Southbank is one such. The estimated £175 million that the bridge would cost would be far better spent  alleviating some of London's chronic social housing shortage. The further greening of London, one of the greenest cities in the world incidentally, is best achieved by a number of small community based initiatives rather than mega vanity projects. The bridge has the backing of Joanna Lumley apparently. Well the old trooper was on the money when it came to the Gurkhas but seems to be talking out of her bottom this time. A case perhaps of the old maxim about never taking any notice of what actors say unless someone else has written it for them holding true.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Bookfairs and Poor Doors.

Don't time fly? No sooner have you polished of the last of the Easter Eggs and the Anarchist Bookfair is upon us again. As usual there are plenty of interesting meetings and talks to go to and the usual plethora of literature on everything from veganism to Vaneigem by way of anarcho-syndicalism and radical anthropology. How many of the couple of thousand comrades who usually attend will find their way from Mile End to Aldgate for the Poor Doors Picket is open to question but the poster looks a tad optimistic. See you there.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Deep cover and other deceptions.

A new HMIC report reveals that there are now no less than 1200 undercover cops operating in this country but that these wannabee players of The Great Game are headed up by senior officers who are woefully lacking in knowledge and expertise. Moles led by donkeys I suppose. We can only hope that at least some of these operatives are doing something useful other than spying on peaceniks and getting their leg over at every opportunity. Truth be told I have always been fascinated by those who are capable of leading a double life. Burgess, Maclean, Philby and the rest. How did they hold it all together? The fiction of John le Carre remains a favourite of mine for the same reason.

 I suppose in a way there is little difference between the undercover cops who are deceiving their lovers and those men that we occasionally hear about who manage to keep two families hidden from each other, sometimes for years. Well, apart from the fact that the cops are doing it at taxpayers expense.
A few years ago some of us had gatecrashed the media village on St Stephen's Green opposite Parliament. Eventually we must have tired of baiting politicians and my mate Rik and I decamped to the Red Lion. We were followed by a somewhat the worse for wear and clearly disturbed bloke who, recognising Rik as a kindly soul, had attached himself. On the way to the pub our new friend repeatedly asked if we thought he was an undercover cop. Once in the boozer he downed the pint that Rik had bought him and wandered off to the Gents that was conveniently close to our table. On his return our friend hovered hopefully next to Rik and said, " But how do you know that I'm not an undercover policeman."
" 'Cos you've still got your trousers round yer ankles" replied Rik. "Now pull 'em up before you get us all chucked out".
Deep cover or what?

Monday, 13 October 2014

The curse of the Kippers?

Have UKIP really broken the mold of British politics or will it all come to nothing after some initial success? The history of fringe parties in UK politics should not inspire confidence among the Kippers   but nothing is quite as optimistic as the party activist on a roll and every time that Farage's troops get a media mention party morale is given a boost.
Remember the Social Democrat Party. The Gang of Four? Remember the election pact between the SDP and the Liberals? The two Davids? There was Liberal leader David Steele and the other one. The SDP leader. Used to be a doctor. Child Foreign Secretary. Departed Labour due to a surfeit of socialism. What was his name? That's it! David Owen. The Two Davids were supposed to be breaking the mold but in the end the merging of the two parties and the re-branding of the Liberals as Liberal Democrats was just the Liberals hoovering up a small (but vocal) fringe party. Owen and a handful of diehards rejected the merger and soldiered on as a rump (real?) SDP until the final indignity of the Bootle by-election when they secured fewer votes than the Monster Raving Loonies. In all probability such will be the fate of UKIP. There will be much slinking off back to the Tories. Much disillusioned licking of wounds and many tears before bedtime.
What should be of concern is what UKIP are able to achieve between now and their probable peak at next years General Election. I don't just mean how well they do in electoral terms but how the party is able to reaffirm and give legitimacy to the long held belief of many people that everything would be OK if only there were fewer foreigners; in the world in general and in this country in particular.
UKIP will not break the grip that the major parties have on the levers of power. They may however, before they depart the stage of history, leave us a more xenophobic and mean spirited nation than we were before. That may prove to be the curse of the Kippers.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A plague on both of these plagues.

Which is more frightening, ISIS or Ebola? Both are wreaking havoc in the areas that are subject to their  contagion and thousands of innocent lives are at threat from one or the other. ISIS seem strangely medieval in their beliefs and practises but probably no more so than the alarmingly pre-enlightenment response to ebola in some quarters;  i.e. pull up the drawbridge. Very many health professionals are risking their lives to contain ebola and care for the infected. We can but acknowledge their courage and commitment but in West Africa they struggle to work in a creakingly inadequate  health system.
There was probably little that "The West" could have done to prevent the outbreak of ebola but the outbreak of  heavily armed jihadist militias could certainly have been at least hampered by simply not meddling in far away countries of which we know little. Probably the best bet at this late stage would be to leave the Middle East to sort itself out militarily while offering as much humanitarian aid as possible. The money saved on bombing missions would be better spent improving African health care systems. It's about time that we learnt that "globalisation" is not just about the free movement of capital but the free movement of everything. In a global economy an injury to one truly is an injury to all.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Swanage Blues running all around my head.

Well into October and not a single post on the blog. I have spent the past week down in Swanage, initially for the Blues Festival and then for such mundane but delightful pursuits as walking, drinking, fish and chip eating and just gazing out across Swanage Bay to the Old Harry Rocks. High point of the festival was catching the wonderful slide guitarist Will Killeen. What a musician and what a nice unassuming bloke as well. There's quite a bit of footage of the guy on YouTube. Check him out if, like me, you are a lover of slide guitar.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

It might just be a hobby for some.

I have only just noticed this great post over on the Journeyman site. I have always loved the idea of hobbies but I remember only too well the indignity of having hard earned skills reduced to the level of a mere pastime for the chattering classes. Irrational? Of course, but heart felt none the less.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Freedom Passes for all.

This blog is not just the Home Of The Freedom Pass Anarchists but a strong defender of Freedom Passes and their equivalent for all pensioners, regardless of their political affiliation. It's not just a matter of free public transport for important journeys like hospital appointment but the way that a free travel pass can transform peoples lives. There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored and for many pensioners the Freedom Pass is aptly named as armed with a flask of tea and a packet of sarnis they take their dreams for reality and make the world their oyster. Think tank the Social Market Foundation have been harping on about doing away with free travel for the elderly and disabled, or at least making it means tested, for some time. Now a group of Walsall pensioners have taken up the challenge, launched a national petition to save the free National Bus Pass, and are delivering it to Downing Street.
The Labour Party, instead of making a big deal out of proposals for a derisory increases to the Minimum Wage would be better advised to get behind something really helpful - free public transport for all, regardless of age or income. Go on Ed. Show 'em what you're made of.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Scotland? Got a spot of bother up there have they?

Russia claims that the Scottish Independence Referendum failed to comply with international standards.
Meanwhile, according to Political Scrapbook, a referendum truther movement!!! is demanding a recount and claiming that the whole thing was rigged.  ISIS will probably declare Scotland kafir in the next day or two. That's the trouble with democracy - it does tend to get people worked up.

Friday, 19 September 2014

All over bar the shouting?

With a massive 80% to 90% turn out and a convincing 45% - 55% margin, the good folk of Scotland have, for the time being at least, rejected the idea of an independent state. Political pundits will now spend many hours casting bones and poring over entrails. It's what they do.
A few early morning thoughts: Does the YES vote in Glasgow and Dundee indicate a class split or something else? Is there a rural - city split?
Will all that political energy and involvement shown over the past weeks now just dissipate or remain as  a driving force behind a new grass roots movement?
Will things ever be the same again, not just for Scotland but for the UK as a whole?
Capital hates uncertainty. The  markets were twitchy but have settled down now. The pound is stronger. The project now will be a return to the status quo ASAP. All those pre-referendum NO dependant promises - just watch the back peddling start in the next few hours.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Getting free from Accrington.

I could weep for the unhappy, abused children of the world but I know that there is little that I can do about their lives. When they grow up a few are able earn money by unburdening themselves in an autobiography and good luck to them. But misery-lit as it's known in the book trade is not my cup of tea; there is a whiff of voyeurism about the genre. Having said that, I have just finished reading Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and although it would be hard to describe the author's childhood as anything other than miserable to categorise the book as misery-lit would be to do it a grave injustice. Winterson writes compellingly about love, adoption, politics and mental illness but what really gripped me was her description of Accrington in the 1960's. She could just as easily have been writing about the 1930's, or the 1860's. In the 50's we too shared an outside toilet but there the similarity between Leyton and Accrington ended. Up north, grim or not, it truly was a different world.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Who knows what the future holds for Scotland.

One thing is for sure. I can never remember a political issue that has motivated people to such an extent. If Scots genuinely feel that they will be better off outside the UK but inside the EU then of course they should go for it. Vote YES. But it's what will happen after the referendum that will be really interesting.  A resounding YES vote will mean months (perhaps years) of negotiation before independence is finally declared. On the other hand a NO vote will mean months (almost certainly years ) of bitter recrimination. There is a third possibility and it's one that no doubt has been thought about in the corridors of power in both London and Edinburgh. Just suppose that there is a YES vote but that Westminster maintains that there is no constitutional right to secession. That the Act Of Union cannot be repealed. What then?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Rowlocks to it all!

Writing recently about the smallholding advice given me by "Old Arthur" reminded me of an earlier incident in the rich pattern of what the pointy heads like to call "learning for life". In my experience there are few life forms as exasperating and of such little practical value as the teenage boy. Lovable they might be but when it comes to use value chocolate fireguards come to mind. I was no exception to this rule. I was sixteen years old and apprenticed to a boatbuilder on the Essex coast when I was inducted into the black art of bowline tieing. Much of our work was done afloat and that particular morning I had been doing something or other on a yacht moored in the middle of the creek. Come dinner time I had rowed back to the landing stage, tied up the dinghy and returned to the yard where I was told that the guvnor would be coming afloat with me in the afternoon and I was to prepare the boat, including the outboard motor normally denied me due to rowing being good for me apparently. Come two o clock and we arrived back at the landing stage. From this point onward things started to go rapidly downhill. I had secured the dinghy with a collection of hitches unknown to the art of seamanship and the natural fibre rope had swollen to an impenetrable tangle. I was spoken to quite sharply. The guvorner attempted to unpick the knot with a steel spike that slipped and pierced his hand. Again I was spoken to quite sharply. Eventually we got underway and I was told that on arrival at the yacht we were to work on I would learn to tie a bowline. This I did and by knocking off time was confident that I could tie a bowline in the most adverse of circumstances. We set off on the return journey only for the outboard to splutter and die after a few minutes. I had forgotten to fill the tank and once more was spoken to quite sharply. We would have to row back but this proved to be impossible as I had brought the wrong size rowlocks. We would have to use the oars to paddle back home. As the headwind strengthened I was not only spoken to sharply but described in some detail with much reference to the reproductive process. Eventually we got back to the landing stage and I took the painter in my hand, and yes you guessed it, such was my state of nerves that all knowledge of the bowline had flown from my mind like autumn leaves on the breeze. I was spoken to quite sharply.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Panic? No way.

Cameron, Clegg and Bernie Winters head north in an attempt, having failed with the purse strings, to tug at Scottish heart strings.  No doubt there will be much photo-op hesitant nibbling of stovies, mutton pies and haggis and chips. All washed town by tentative sips from pints of heavy. Pubs are offering YES or NO (Bitter Together) beer. A St Andrew's flag is hoisted over Number 10 only for the halyard to break and the whole shooting match flutter to the ground. John Major steps forward to fulfil his role as elder statesman and warn of the dire consequences of Jock Independence. Don't mention cricket, or Curry.
Alex Salmond has the look of a man who has lost a mickle and found a muckle. Only time will tell if the average Scot will be better served by an Edinburgh elite rather than a Westminster one but the question seems to be a live one all right. Unusually for politics - at least it's not boring.

Monday, 8 September 2014

True Grit and false dawns.

I watched the Coen Brothers re-make of the old John Wayne classic True Grit the other day. The 1969 John Wayne version was I suppose the point in cinema history when the Hollywood western finally became well and truly politically incorrect. There was no doubting the right-wing views of Wayne and no doubting either that to a very large extent the story of the Old West is one of exploitation of people and degradation of the environment. But the story is also one of rugged individualism and high adventure that has struck a cord with generations of film and pulp-fiction fans. I think that both versions of True Grit paint pretty much the picture of a brief moment in history that we want to believe in and a set of values that, despite the best efforts of the moral gatekeepers of the left, we all have a grudging respect for.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Deep joy. TCA arrives.

The Cunningham Amendment thudded onto the doormat this morning. Dedicated to joy, irreverence and the arcane skills of wit, irony and letterpress printing, there is no point in Googling, Twitting or Facebooking to find this wonderful little magazine. There is no online presence. TCA is firmly anchored in the real, rather than the cyber world. You could try sending a few stamps and a grovelling letter to :

Peter Good,
Room 6.
Tangleford House,
The Street,
NR20 4RT

You never know your luck!

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Green's Citizens Income is a winner.

There are many things about the Green Party, now ensconced in their annual conference, that give me the screaming abdabs but when it comes to their policy of a Citizens Income I reckon that they can't be faulted. Just think how a salary of £10,000 p.a. as a RIGHT OF CITIZENSHIP and regardless of any other income, would transform lives. At a stroke benefit fraud would disappear, as would the constant harassment of the disabled and unemployed. Those who wanted to work, and these would be in the overwhelming majority I suspect, would top up their Citizens Income by 100% or even 400%. Those who preferred not to be employed but rather to care for children, dig their allotments or master the tuba would be secure in the knowledge that, no matter what life might throw at them, impoverishment would be held at bay. A universal wage as a right would combine with free first rate health care and education to form the foundation of a just society. How would all this be paid for? Why, by a higher rate of tax on the wealthy of course. But might that not lead to a mass exodus of "talent" who would all decamp to Switzerland quicker than a rat up a pump? Ah yes! Switzerland. The richest country in Europe and the one with the highest wages and lowest rate of home ownership.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

On the door at One Commercial Street.

Yesterday evening I finally managed to make it over to Aldgate for Class War's weekly "poor door" picket of One Commercial Street. It was far from being a massive turn out. It's a shame that challenging this issue has been left to a handful of anarchists but I suppose that the left are far too busy dealing with islamophobia and Ukraine to bother with such trivia. The response from passing members of the public was generally sympathetic and I had an interesting chat with a young woman who worked at a local estate agents, had recently let one of the "posh door" flats, had no idea that there were segregated entrances and seemed genuinely shocked and upset at what she had unwittingly become party to.
I have heard it suggested that without the kind of planing gain social and affordable housing such as that at One Commercial Street there would be an even worse housing crisis than there is now and that segregated apartment  blocks are a small price to pay. Perhaps the whole issue of planing gain should be looked at afresh. Perhaps local authorities should grant planing permission to those developments that will have some advantage to the community regardless of bribes in the form of planning gain. 
If developments are populated by some tenants with well paid jobs who are renting from wealthy overseas investors, and some other less affluent ones who rent from a housing association, there is no rational reason why the two groups should be kept apart. This is just another example of the increasing polarity of this country in general and London in particular.  

Friday, 29 August 2014

There's a row going on down Clacton way.

The defection of Douglas Carswell to UKIP and the resultant prospect of a Clacton by-election should put the cat among the pigeons and not only at CCHQ. Apparently UKIP's chosen son for Clacton was supposed to be former tory Roger Lord and he is not best pleased at being elbowed aside by Carswell. A return to the Conservative Party and "ripping out Carswell's throat" are apparently two of the options that Lord is contemplating.
Clacton is an interesting constituency, To the north east is the anal retentive Frinton. Designed as a small and refined resort for the haute bourgeoisie, it would cling on to delusions of grandeur long after the posh people had come to the conclusion that it was better to be seen dead than seen in Essex and the town would resist such horrors as pubs and fish and chip shops right into the 21st century.

South west lies the former plotland of Jaywick the place that lays unenviable claim to being the most deprived human settlement in England. Clacton itself was a busy, cheerful seaside resort and home to one of Billy Butlin's first holiday camps. How we laughed at the jokes about the Martello Tower on the perimeter being there to stop campers escaping. Well Clacton's heyday is long gone and nobody is laughing now.  Like so many formerly thriving resorts the place has never really found a new future for itself.

In Frinton, Jaywick, Clacton and in the rest of the constituency people know that something is wrong. They can't quite put their finger on it but are pretty sure that none of this is their fault. An interesting place. Interesting times.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Public school/Oxbridge elite rule country shock.

The stats of inequality always make for sobering and sometimes shocking reading. Ever since I first started to take an interest in politics I have been digesting statistics about the percentage of global wealth owned by a tiny minority of the population. Now the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission have published a report detailing the social and financial advantages of attending private school and Oxbridge. 71% of senior judges, 62% of top army posts, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of the Sunday Times Rich List, 35% of Cameron's Cabinet, were all educated privately. But surely this is not a surprise. If there were not such huge advantages to a private education no one would pay the fees.  What is surprising is the numbers of working class people who by hard work and determination manage to break through and reach high standards of personal academic achievement. Some remember where they came from and devote much energy to giving others a hand up - others do not. At the end of the day inequality of opportunity means the loss to society of a huge reservoir of talent and the sad loss of personal fulfilment for countless millions. But we all know this. What we need is not the likes of Owen Jones foaming at the mouth and jerking himself off over the stats of inequality but a vision of what an alternative might look like and how to get to there from here.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Learning the ropes.

I always do my best to make newcomers welcome down at the allotments and if I can pass on any of my limited knowledge of growing a bit of veg I am only too happy to do so. I can well remember when the boot was on the other foot.
When Her Indoors and I rented a cottage and three acres in South Devon back in 1970 we were full of enthusiasm but totally lacking in any knowledge of how to care for livestock or grow anything at all. We borrowed books from Plymouth library but by far our main source of information was due to the kindness of neighbours who patiently explained what to them must truly have seemed the "bleedin' obvious". There was the couple who, as well as holding down full time jobs, ran a small egg and veg enterprise and they took us under their wing and showed us the basics of poultry keeping and horticulture.  There were also the two Arthurs.  One of the Arthurs just seemed to turn up on the doorstep one day, introduced himself and suggested that we keep a few pigs. Being suspicious townies I think that we might have wondered what his game was at first but in no time at all he had formed a pig keeping partnership with "Her Indoors", found us some work spud picking on the farm where he was employed and had become a constant source of information and encouragement.
We inherited the other Arthur as he was keeping bantams on part of the property when we arrived. Arthur number two was a retired farm labourer who lived with his large family on the council estate that bordered our holding. Previously the whole clan had lived in an isolated,and from all accounts pretty primitive, tied cottage with a herd of goats and countless chickens and ducks. The various boxes, runs and coops of bantams kept in our garden were Arthur's link to his past life. Always wearing a flat cap and usually dressed in a rather greasy gabardine raincoat with a piece of baler twine tied around the middle, Arthur would appear in our kitchen every morning, remove his cap, perhaps extract a particularly pretty bantam hen from his pocket, and make polite conversation about the weather before going off to feed and water his flock.   Arthur had spent all of his life in rural Devon apart from during the First World War when he had been "Out in Mespot. " He did his best to advise us but frequently struggled to come to terms with the true depths of our ignorance. One time I decided to scythe the field for hay to feed the goats during the winter. I ran the plan past Arthur. "So I cut it, leave it to dry, turn it and leave to dry again, then bring it in? Is that all you have to do with it Arthur?"  The old chap was silent. Removed his cap. Scratched his head before replying, " Well, there ain't much more you can do with it is there?" We had never met anyone like Arthur before and I doubt if he had met anyone like us either. He would never know that those two clueless young people would remember him for the rest of their lives.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Sale of the century.

I am mainly aware of writer and journalist James Meek through The Peoples Act Of Love, his epic tale of Revolutionary Russia, the Czech Legion, castration cults, armed trains and the Siberian winter. If it were possible for a Scot to write a great Russian novel in the 21st century Meek is your man. Earlier this year he wrote one of the most insightful articles about the current situation in Ukraine that I have come across and now turns his attention closer to home with a new book Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs To Someone Else. The great British knock down sale of national assets may not have been quite as traumatic as the Russian equivalent but it changed the face of this country and there is little sign that the increasing polarisation of wealth is likely to stop any time soon. There will be no going back. I look forward to James Meek's contribution to understanding how it all came to this.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Norman Cornish and the new Kings Cross.

A few days ago some journalist or other, I can't remember what paper, was banging on about how wonderful the new Kings Cross is. Comparing today's uber-sterile environment to the old Kings Cross of prostitutes and junkies this scribe was claiming to wait for a later train these days so cool and trendy had the place become. I would be the last one to glamorise either the sex trade or smack addiction and I well remember just how grim a road York Way was in the seventies but am I the only one to think that the back of the station redevelopment has been hyped up out of all proportion? I wandered through the area the other day on my way to visit the Norman Cornish exhibition at Kings Place. Cornish, who died earlier this month, was the last of the so called Pitmen Painters and his work captures the thirty years he spent in the mines as well as the life of the local pubs and streets. For better or worse it's a world that has gone forever now - and it was a world away from the new Kings Cross.

Monday, 18 August 2014

A sporting weekend to remember.

It was certainly some weekend for British sport. What with the biggest ever medal haul at the European Athletic Championships, the England team taking home the Women's Rugby World Cup, Alistair Cook   coming good in the end and leading his team to victory in the 5th Test and series against India and Sheffield's Kell Brooks winning the IBF version of the World Welterweight Championship, blimey!
What all this sporting activity meant for most of us of course was spending hours slumped on the sofa watching other people exert themselves. All well and good, and I spent far too much time glued to the box myself to start throwing stones at anyone else, but perhaps we could have done with a bit more publicity for initiatives like the Street Games charity who while all the splendours of the elite side of sport were going on gave 1,500 disadvantaged London kids the chance to try a sport at a multi-sport festival. Yes, I do know about the Coke and Mars sponsorship but needs must.

Covert insertions and tangled webs.

Some Kurdish factions are claiming that the jihadist fighters of Islamic State are being secretly trained by the Turkish Army in the hope that IS will act as a buffer to Kurdish national aspirations. It might seem unlikely that the Turkish government would want to fund a force that could well bite the hand that feeds it but when discussing this with "The Man Who Knows" he was quick to point out that it's no more unlikely then the Israelis setting up Hamas as a counter to the PLO or the CIA being patron to mujahadeen/Al-Qaeda. Such are the machinations of realpolitik.

Friday, 15 August 2014

British ingenuity alive and well in Orpington.

We recently paid a visit to Down House the home of Charles Darwin. The house and especially the Head Gardener's tour of the grounds, where Darwin carried out many of the experiments that helped him formulate the theory of evolution, was certainly interesting enough. The top floor of the house is given over to an exhibition detailing the development of Darwin's work and his struggle with the scientific and religious orthodoxy of the day; a visit should possibly be mandatory for all creationist Islamo-Christian funda-mentals. But that's just my opinion!
The journey to Down House involved waiting for a bus in Orpington and we used the time to wander around the shops. It was here, in a local bakers , that we came across an interesting example of both evolution and the British ingenuity exemplified by Darwin's grandfather Josiah Wedgwood. I refer to the evolution of the Cornish Pasty. I am normally pretty conservative when it comes to pasties and reckon that the traditional filling takes some beating but I was unable to resist The Breakfast Pasty.  This gastronomic masterpiece consisted of egg, bacon, sausage and beans IN A PASTY. And they say that the age of British ingenuity finished with the hovercraft.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

All change for one Kipper at least.

Even the most cynical of us would have to admit that when it comes to gender politics there has been movement in the right direction. It's difficult to imagine old time fight game impresarios like Jack Solomons and Harry Levine telling the world that they always felt themselves to be women trapped inside the body of a man. But when former boxing manager and promoter Frank Maloney announced that he would like to be known as Kellie in future and was undergoing sex change procedures there was nothing but support and understanding from the boxing world with everyone from Lennox Lewis to Steve Bunce  wishing Maloney well. What Kellie Maloney's old comrades in UKIP will make of it all remains to be seen. Much choking on the G&Ts I would imagine.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Summer time blues.

The tail end of Hurricane Bertha dumped a couple of inches of rain across the country yesterday and in doing so put a bit of a dampener on the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of small outdoor events that are a hallmark of the English summer. All year people plan village fetes, carnivals, street parties, pram races or the grand unveiling of a tiny community garden and a seat dedicated to Captain Sensible of all people. Most of the time, most of these events go off OK but the British climate combines with the law of sod to ensure that every summer a good few will get well and truly pissed on. No doubt many events were cancelled yesterday but I bet that far more carried on regardless. All that damp charcoal to cook all those burgers on. All that crepe paper and papier-mache dissolving in the rain as hours of fancy dress making washes into the gutter. All those heroic Mums and Dads clinging desperately to a thousand gazebos like so many Zeppelin anchoring German sailors. Is it safe to run the tug o war in all this mud? Bloody weather! But it will be better next year and anyway, have you noticed how the nights are drawing in?  Be Christmas in no time.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Oh dear!

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One Commercial Street stands out as the new landmark address in the heart of this unique metropolis, poised between the financial square mile and the culturally diverse city fringe.

One Commercial Street towers twenty-one storeys above Aldgate
East like a blade of light, its glass fin dramatically adding a sculptural quality.

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When you enter the impressive glass entrance lobby and ascend in the lift to your sumptuously appointed apartment way above the City streets, you know you have arrived at the one place you have always wanted to be.

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As a pied-à-terre or main residence, One Commercial Street will meet every expectation with an outstanding collection of studios, apartments and penthouses.

The Tower Apartments, The City Apartments and The Penthouses range from the twelfth to twentyfirst floors, and as you might expect, the views are astonishing.

Every day is an inspiration when you live at One Commercial Street.