The Referendum-One Year On

The Referendum-One Year On

A year ago at my birthday party on the 23rd June , Referendum Day, 50 sat down. Only two had voted to Leave. As I wrote then “Who knows England, who only London knows?” So very much yesterday.  Yet it was good to hear a debate between two of the main organisers-and brightest back room boys in UK politics- Will Straw(Remain) and Mathew Elliot(Leave).

Straw felt by the vote the electorate had became bored with the economy, he hadn’t been helped Cameron’s  refusal(for long term good of the Tory Party!) to go for the Leave’s strikers Gove and Johnston and the murder of Jo Cox  had stalled momentum. Elliot felt the negative  effect that Obama had on supporting Remain  and bumper immigration figures coming out near the end were match winners. One point made was that Leavers accepted more national  control not least on immigration would come at an economic cost.

Later when bright young things got up and asked why the older generation sold their grand children short I remember George’s words “The trouble today is that no one talks to each other and when they do its in another language”. George is 95,was brought up on a farm in the now London suburb of Mitcham and feels his roses this year “are the worst.”

Coming to the present typically the two sides took different views. Straw felt a year that could have been spent in having a national discussion on , what kind of Brexit, was wasted. And every day that May hangs on doesn’t help. Elliot felt May had played a good long game.

On the recent election the point was made that Labour accepting(however vaguely) Brexit took that subject out of the debate. That meant the concentration of dementia tax versus student loans, Father Xmas versus Old Mother Hubbard became the issue. But as some pointed out the Tory vote went up 5% which is not exactly a rejection of the Maybot. Those that proposed an uncompromising pro Euro position Libdems, SNP and Greens all saw their votes go down.

The debate was hosted by The UK in a Changing Europe.

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Proud To Be

Proud  to Be

Before my brother boarded  his plane back to Canada we went to  excellent Russian Revolution, Hope,Tragedy, Myth show at the impressive  British Library. Nothing new but a well  integrated mix of films to watch, documents to read, testaments to listen to and posters to remind.

Although I live by the Thames I have the waters of the Jordan and  the Vltava in my veins. So it was good to learn more  of the amazing Czech Legion who  played such a  dramatic and exciting part in those heroic days of yore. First they were  a regiment in the Russian Czarist Army . As the First War progressed prisoners of war and deserters anxious to free the Czechs and Slovaks from Vienna swelled the ranks until they numbered nearly 60,000.

With the collapse of Russia in 1917,the Legion wanted to get to the Western Front and carry on the fight for the Allies. The Germans  were not going to let that happen. So they determined to go across Russia to the  Pacific coast and get the slow boat home.

As one of the few totally effective  and  coherent units in civil war torn Russia the legion conquered as they travelled East along the Trans Siberian railway. The Germans as part of their peace terms ordered the Soviets to stop them. This meant the Legion became allied  with the Whites in the civil war. The Allies also ordered the legion to help the Whites. During this period the Legion captured  most of the Czarist treasure. Though most was handed to the Soviets some  made it back to Prague to found a bank.

With the end of civil war in 1920, 60,000 members of the Legion protected by Japanese troops made their exit through Vladivostok and onto home.

Dobra Prace Chlopci. Hostorie Pozdravi Vas. Great Legion ,shame about the language.

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The Tower

The Tower

“Tourist-one who travels for recreation, for pleasure or culture, visiting a number of places for their objects of interest, scenery, or the like.” Shorter OED

I had seen the hulking Grenfell Tower from the Hammersmith and City Line the day before. The whole  blackened mass with its vacant eye sockets brooding and life sucking.  As the train   went on exhausted firemen and a debris strewn playground caught the eye. So the next day, Saturday, had me alighting at Latimer Road station. Only three miles from my house but two worlds away.

All around missing notices. Pathetic,brief and to the point. Jessica Uhano 12, five feet,brown eyes and curly hair. Steve Power,16th Floor,last spoken to at 1.30am. Marjorie and Ernie Vitol 16th Floor. Mario and Gloria,Italy is praying for you. Missing Okhar Belhadi and his wife Farah and their six month old daughter.  In many third world countries similar notices of the recent dead are posted in the village.

There was the anger “Justice for Grenfell”, “Your Anger Must be Heard,Your Demands Must be Met”. Just two of many.

Heavy police presence and cordons meant you could not get close. But looking up at the wreck of the Grenfell one knew in those top floors there were the charred remains of people,many who had left war zones for a better life. Some would be still holding their phones, others clutching their children. All incinerated .

Tourists, sightseers, ghouls, vampires, pilgrims,agitators, supporters, most taking selfies,all muted in respect, this was thoughts and prayers country. “It should not be allowed to happen” one told me ,I replied “that fires and disasters in high rise blocks are a world wide phenomena.” You are not excusing them are you.” No, we shook hands.

In the next  block a man  was tending his raised vegetable patch. I said it was good to see someone adding to life. He said”If I didn’t look after my plot the plants would die.”

There were the piles of flowers, cards, teddy bears, candles. Walls  covered in messages of love and pain. A steady stream of tear soaked citizens added to the pyres. Elsewhere some large black people in white robes were leading a very  full on service.” We are helpless , You are the father of the helpless, Come to Us, Bring Us Love in this time of Hate. Come to Us,we are broken, bring us together, Love for All, Hatred for No one.” The Lords Prayer. We sang We Shall Overcome.

Much to the delight of the ever present TV camera crews one of the church went into full of spirit, swoon mode. Hands aloft, eyes to the sky.“Come to Us. Give us a Sign. We are your children. We suffer.” She  fell into a colleagues arms. My lily livered CoE instincts were feeling a little compromised. As I left the crowd, I said to another tourist, I don’t think he’s coming. No, he smiled, I don’t think he is.

And if he was coming it would not be by tube that day. While I was there TfL had closed the line.

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God’s Children

God’s Creatures

As summer shines and the nation works its heavy hearted way through the ten Biblical afflictions it was good to escape.  With my lovely brother Nick staying and the Wetlands close by it was time to   make a visit.

We watched moorhens and coots busy themselves in the reeds, polchards and other ducks  diving and snoozing, herons standing guard, seagulls swarming, lapwings circling and  even handsome beef cattle keeping the grass low.  But the pride of the place went to the swan(pen) and her cygnets. Less than a week old ,the six furry chicks ducked and dived, formed dutiful lines and  stayed very close to Mum. Nearby dad(cob) was watching and would eventually stir and join his family for a little glide.(see link)

They do mate for life. The eggs usually six or seven are laid in April/May and take 40  days to incubate. So we were watching a full house. Despite the swans famed aggressive dance(busking) they are pretty powerless against predators, the breaking of arms is myth-their wings are too weak. Another reason why swans do not over populate is that in any given season only ten per cent mate.

The adult swans stand guard over their young for six to nine months and then shoe them away. Not for them the problems of scarce and expensive accommodation. Ducks in comparison stay with their young only a month. Swans mate at two and live for 10/20 years.

But at the Wetlands that hot day there were other young on show. A group of disabled Orthodox Jewish children and theirnot-so fancy dressed minders had  come to visit. Were they the  product of normal genetic distribution, too much inter marriage, God’s peculiar way of testing his ultra chosen people? There seemed a terrible irony that this tribe which so slavishly obeys the most hysterical rules of observance should be  cursed.

Whatever,Nick and I were soon on our push bikes on our way for a handsome lunch at the Bulls Head by the river at Barnes. I noticed that England were being thrashed by Pakistan in the cricket. The ten Biblical penalties continue.

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Private v NHS

Private v NHS

Having seen off a poor heart and prostate cancer I am now on the third leg of my journey into the dark night of old age. The dodgy hip. GP said try physio. Four sessions later, if anything, worse. X ray time. Not conclusive, operation unlikely. See the consultant. He is based at the private Parkside,a service provided by the NHS  that has been privatised.  As  part of the NHS he agrees  my hip is more or less OK, the problem maybe in the back, best have an MRI. I told and return to the Parkway.

The reception area is more hotel then hospital. They point me to the waiting area. Now the waiting area at the GPs is full of the old and young mums and their sprogs. Sometimes appointments are kept but I have waited for over an hour and been told that the time table is running late or my appointment has been lost in the “system”. I always take a book.

At the NHS hospital its worse. Here the dead and the dying, the old and infirm  wait for an audience with a specialist who they hope will  give them a reprieve. Many come with their partners so that they can hold hands and share the news. A  very crowded waiting room.

There are no queues at Parkside. Four MRI machines work away on schedule, on time. You arrive,  fill in the form and soon its your turn. There are no desperate patients asking if they have been forgotten or relegated down the queue,. Here we are secure in a smooth running service ,at the NHS often feel you  are in a besieged town getting the last of what’s on offer.

At Parkside I am experiencing an NHS upgrade. I am turning left .You are given your own changing room, you keep the key until you leave. Instead of those awful NHS gowns which don’t fit, do up or give you any sense of comfort or decency you are given a well made robe which fits easily and  does the business. You are given an infinite choice of music to help the hour pass . It sums it up. Private is customer led, NHS for all its many virtues is supply led.

Moral-If you have it,you pays your money

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I am not a great fan of the TV series, barely watching.  But no one can avoid the hype. I watched this week and  the story is pure panto. There is a good guy who smoulders. There is a  bad  guy who is cruel and heartless. He has a mentor who wears a wig which is to remind you that his day job is  as a hanging judge. Various women are in between.  Bodices are ripped, shirts are taken off, and as elsewhere the hardly subtle scythe is grabbed with both hands and moved rhythmically in a  wonderfully Freudian movement.

When ever the story flags which is quite often someone gets on a horse and gallops with a brave silhouette across the same cliff. This is done at various times of the day and the audience must stay awake to spot whether it is am or pm. This week’s episode made a great deal of the eclipse of the moon.

This allowed all kinds of folksy types in what I presume were Cornish accents to say immortal tosh like “With a dark moon nothing good can come of it.”, while wagging a  wise peasant head “it doesn’t bode well” ,unfortunately nobody bothered to say what is always a great back stop in these scenes ”Master I will go no further.”

For some reason in this week’s episode there was a lot of dying, premature birth and amazing sacrifice by doctors. It was like  a costumed Casualty which itself is only an updated Emergency Ward Ten with sex and therapy. One of the standbys of Poldark is of course the tin mine. This allows trouble, sacrifice, heroics, corporate skulduggery, ”Master don’t go  down there when the moon is dark”.

But  he never listens, he is born to be wild  , he is a man who never shaves, often take takes off his shirt, rapes one of the women who loves him, says sorry to another, is loved by all and smoulders. And often rides across the cliff. Though this week totally unconvincingly he sprinted (fully clothed)across a beach.

No, no jogging as a therapy comes three hundred years later. But beach scenes   are good ,for as with scythes, crashing waves ever since From Here to Eternity(see link) mean natural force, inevitability and tidal beauty-that is the kind of sex we all want. Irresistible- which of course Poldark isn’t.






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On the eighth day,He created Tory chaos

On the eighth day ,He created Tory chaos.


In the beginning God created heaven and earth. It took him six days. Well there was a lot of evidence around that it may have taken a bit longer. So Peter said “one day is like a thousand years”. Whew. So it took 6000 years, thats more like it but still doesn’t explain everything. But it gave a bit of wriggle room, which creationists  always need.

So we come to among other verses, Leviticus 20:13 “If a man shall lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman,both of them have committed an abomination ; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”. To use a pun, not much wriggle room there. But for most the Bible is an authorative book, a guide  rather than The Law.

But not to the fundamentalists who dominate the Ulster Protestants. And herein lies the most beautiful mess the Tories find themselves in. Theresa the vicar’s (CofE) daughter needs the support of Arlene(DUP) the Ulster policeman’s daughter; however the only ray of sunshine in the Tory firmament is Ruth, the footballer’s daughter(Partick Thistle) from Scotland. Now Arlene and her DUP stopped gay marriage in Ulster,not fearing a blood bath but claiming rather archly that the gays don’t want it. But of course Ruth(lovely Biblical name) is not just the Tory’s most successful politician but very openly gay.

Now Arlene and her father  were both blown up by the Catholic IRA. This has  strengthened her resolve to “Never Surrender.” Now there was a time when the Protestants of Ulster feared the more populous Irish Catholic theocracy taking over. Now as  Ireland has morphed into a successful modern state with few of its old Roman inhibitions, the Ulster Protestants represented by the DUP officially remain marooned in their dour chapels preaching eternal damnation,  glorious marches and fear of the future. Made even worse by the fact that Ireland now has a mixed race, gay Prime Minister.

Just to rub in Arlene’s problem, Ruth one time Protestant Sunday school teacher is engaged to an Irish Roman Catholic girl. This is not politics, this is a far fetched film script.  Should it play as comedy, rom com ,Arlene and Ruth fall for each other and or Mr May? Theresa gets into a hussy fit as she is left out the threesome. Or just the obvious blood bath with Corbyn striding in as the good doctor? Love it.

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