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

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.