Tuesday, 31 March 2009
It's my habit these days to make an early morning cup of builders and, drifting in and out of sleep, listen to the farming news and Today program. At one stage this morning I woke to hear the news that the police had used CS gas to break up a disturbance at the Palace of Westminster. Blimey! I thought. Some of those rabid anarchists I've been reading about must have stormed parliament.
But no. The Bill had actually used CS gas to break up a drunken scuffle between a few journalists.
Have the peelers finally lost the plot? And what does tomorrow hold?
Monday, 30 March 2009
For those unable to attend the Wednesday festivities the BBC have laid on a suitable alternative.
Radio 4 Afternoon Theatre "A Question of Royalty" stars Ricky Tomlinson and Johnny Vegas as two plasterers who pinch the Queen's wedding certificate during a Public Records Office refurbishment.
Every day I learn something new and add to the wonderful mosaic that forms my knowledge of the world. Today I learnt that "additional services" is code for porn movies on subscription TV. I also learnt that if you are unfortunate enough to be shacked up with Jacqui Smith you had best pay cash for such services rather than try and wing it on parliamentary expenses.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
First the good news. I am indebted to the Wrestling Heritage site for alerting me to the return of boxing and wrestling to London's premier fight venue, The Albert Hall. There has been no boxing at the old Victorian monstrosity for the past decade and apparently some local residents are up in arms about the hall attracting a rather more rough and ready clientele than the flag waving punters who patronise the Proms. Oh dear!
And the bad news? Well today I dropped in to The Cafe on Vauxhall Bridge Road for a bacon sarni and tea only to find that it is now in it's last two weeks of trading. Another classic cafe bites the dust. The Cafe, a former Clash hang out, was never a centre of gastronomic excellence but it was handy if you had been to the Tate for a cultural top-up. It also had a 1940s decor that could never be recreated by any set designer. The old folks collective who seemed to run the place are retiring. I wish then well.
Monday, 23 March 2009
Living in the Heathrow flight path I will obviously be effected by any expansion of the airport but at the same time am suspicious of the nimbyism that motivates a good deal of the anti-expansion protest. Regarding the environmental issues, it seems to me that it is pretty pointless talking about airport expansion outside of a general discussion about what kind of economy and society we would like to see in the future. Unless of course you think that we have somehow arrived at a situation where we have a number and frequency of flights that is "just right"; any more would lead to environmental disaster but any less would be economically and socially unsustainable.
Having said this there is one very good reason for being wary of building new runways at Heathrow that seems to have had very little publicity, the increase in flood risk. I'm not going to get into the complex subject of hydrology in any depth, fascinating though it is, but will just point out that every road, roof, car park etc. increases what hydrologists call urban runoff. Rainwater, rather than soaking slowly into the ground, runs into the nearest watercourse at a rapid rate with the resultant increase in flood risk. A huge area such as a runway provides for massive runoff that in the case of Heathrow runs into the River Crane and in the case of Gatwick, the Mole. Both these rivers discharge into the Thames in West London. One of the many disturbing climate change predictions is an increase in the frequency of severe weather events, i.e. storms, very heavy rainfall. All in all more runways would seem to be a less than clever idea.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
It would be foolish of course to doubt both the ability and willingness of the modern state to crush any form of rebellion by brute force if it feels the need. When push coming to shove becomes more than a pat expression and is an actual reality on the street, when that happens the full repertoire of repression from batons to tanks is available on request. It was ever thus. But the true achievement of modern capitalism is that as the number and diversity of challenges to authority has increased so to has the states talent for controlling us without putting tanks on the streets. Time after time we see how the system is able to absorb our dissent, commodify it and sell it back to us. This was a lesson learn the hard way by the Women's Movement as many women comrades will attest. It is also a lesson about to be learnt by the Greens as well.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
There is nothing like a bit of warm spring weather to put bounce back in your stride and generally encourage a more optimistic view of the world. The growing season will soon be upon us allotmenteers, the old rag Freedom is having a new lease of life and I am declaring the start of the MELTDOWN COUNTDOWN. That's right, eleven days to Meltdown. See you there.
Monday, 16 March 2009
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson wants to put a minimum price on alcohol in the belief that consumption can be controlled in this way. In fact of course a price rise will only really have an effect on the less well off. There won't be a noticeable decrease in the drinking done at golf clubs and Hampstead dinner parties and those drinkers with addiction problems with simply find a way to pay for their habit.
This is not to say that this country doesn't have a drink problem, we do and it impacts on us both as individuals and as a society. There has traditionally been a culture of hard drinking in this country especially amongst the working and upper classes with the middle class adopting a far more abstemious, tight-arsed attitude to drink (and life in general?) This last is no longer true of course and today's middle class are swilling down the vino collapso like there is no tomorrow. I don't think that many people would doubt that not only has drinking increased over the years but attitudes towards drunkenness have changed as well. I have my own pet theory about this. When I was growing up in the 50's and early 60s all teenagers drank but it was not considered very cool to get pissed. Being able to drink loads and stay sober was the thing that was respected. Later on middle class bohemians and working class fellow travellers like me started to get into speed and dope. Now there is little point smoking dozens of joints and it having no effect. Getting really stoned was the whole point. So we now had two quite different attitudes to the effect of booze on the one hand and dope on the other. A generation later and dope smoking had become mainstream and soon kids would be being introduced to alcohol and dope at more or less the same time. And this is my point, the attitude toward dope, i.e get stoned ASAP, was transferred to alcohol with the result that you can see in any town centre on a Saturday night. So that's my theory. If anyone gets a PhD thesis out of this they can buy me a pint
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
........ there seems to be a psychogeography of insurrection in which life is lived in public and is about public issues, as manifested by the central ritual of the march, the volubility of strangers and of walls, the throngs in streets and plazas, and the intoxicating atmosphere of potential freedom that means that the imagination has already been liberated.
But nobody remains heroic forever. It is in the nature of revolutions to subside, which is not the same thing as to fail. A revolution is a lightning bolt showing us new possibilities and illuminating the darkness of our old arrangements so that we will never see them quite the same way again.
Rebecca Solnit. Wanderlust, A History of Walking.
Monday, 9 March 2009
I always look forward to the arrival of New Humanist "the magazine of free thinkers". Not that I agree with all of the articles of course, and unless you expect all free thinkers to think the same (don't go there) why should I? There is never a shortage of stimulating pieces and the current issue is no exception with MICHAIL RYKLIN on Communism as religion, SALLY FELDMAN looking at jealousy, sex and men and FRANCIS BECKETT revisiting the miners strike.
As I say, I don't always agree with the content but PAUL COLLIERS article on what he calls "coup diplomacy" left me at a loss for words. In a nutshell, what Colliers is suggesting is that the international community can lever democracy into place in African states by guaranteeing governments protection from a military coup and publicly withdrawing this undertaking if elections were thought to be not free and fair. Well you can't fault him for lack of either vision or optimism but the consequences of this idea could be on such a scale that it comes as a relief to know that the major powers are most likely going to be to busy at home to put any of it into practise.
Friday, 6 March 2009
Firms in the construction industry have been buying information on workers from some dodgy sounding company that calls itself The Consulting Association and using this information to create a blacklist of union activists, health and safety enthusiasts and other potential trouble makers. Whenever something like this is revealed the liberal left usually go into a spasm of self-righteousness. I don't know why, or what it is they expect. The blacklist has been a favoured device of the bosses ever since it became unfashionable to burn upstart workers out of their cottages. It's what they do. Management have a different project to the workers; different interests. I suppose that at the end of the day the only really effective way to fight back is for us all to be on the fucking blacklist.
Thursday, 5 March 2009
We lost a genuine sporting hero earlier this week with the passing of former British, European and Commonwealth light heavyweight champion and Olympic Gold Medalist, Chris Finnegan. I remember Finnegan best for his fights with Gypsy John Frankham. These two were good mates outside the ring but you would never have known this looking at the two massive tear ups they had. Chris was the real deal. Not for him the carefully manufactured unbeaten record before challenging for a World Title recognized by one or another of the alphabet soup governing bodies.When he climbed through the ropes for his big chance Chris had to face the truly great Bob Foster.
Chris Finnegan was that most respected of fight game characters and one that is becoming a bit of a rarity; a good honest pro.
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
Yesterday it was much too cold and wet to do anything on the allotment or go on one of my hikes round London or the North Downs so I settled down to watch a DVD of wartime Humphrey Jennings films. Most people will have seen clips of Jennings films even if they are not familiar with him or his work because much of his footage remains as the iconic imagery of the home front. Jennings was a master film maker and master propagandist as well. Films such as Fires Were Started and A Diary For Timothy were ground breaking for a number of reasons not least for the respectful and serious portrayal of working class people who had previously been relegated to (usually comic) cameo roles. Not only were working people captured sympathetically but so was work itself, for Jennings, who I doubt had ever done a single day of physical work in his life, had a real appreciation for the myriad small skills that join together to form the core of the dignity of labour. All of this is played out against the background of the greatest threat that we had ever faced. The message comes across over and over again. We can get through this. If we stick together we can get through this and when we do there will be no going back to the old ways. We will build a better world. One not based on greed and privilege.
Those of us who were young in the 60s loved to snigger at all this, convinced as we were that we were a part of a new wave that had nothing to do with the post-war settlement or anything that had come before. How cool we were; and how little we understood how much was to be lost in the not to distant future.