Gordon Brown and Me

Gordon Brown and Me

In the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king. But of course the one eyed man don’t see too well, he can’t see if anyone is peeping.

2007 was when the one eyed Gordon Brown became PM. At first very popular, serious ,concerned and all the other worthy virtues, it soon became clear that he was one of those  Prime Ministers who fail to get out in time. Which is most of them. But the spilt breakfast came early for this oh so bright, oh so dim son of a preacher man. His  rages, his indecision, his conceit, his basic lack of emotional intelligence soon became obvious. He had to go, So I joined the Tory party. For two years I even paid my subs, I then discovered that  most of the activists were deformed and or mad but out of habit I still deliver the leaflets.

But between early retirement and the grave PMs have first to write the book. I  will not be   reading- Gord’s “My Life,Modern Times”-I didn’t read Majors,Thathchers or Blairs  self serving excuses for failure-who does? But like a good little cat I have lapped up the reviews.

But the one eyed brooding heavyweight from Kirkaldy has fascinated me.  He still broods,no doubt waiting for a call from  God himself for another stab at saving the world. No, the fascination comes from a question I cannot answer.(Very rare!)

Politics is a people business. Getting on with people, learning how to mobilise and energise  a team . Keep that team loyal and efficient, inspire people on all levels. People skills. Those  than know how to network, have drive and ambition, obvious intelligence, take responsibility, communicate, keep their cool, show leadership under fire-these you would expect to go through the ranks of councillor, MP, committee person, party person. cabinet until the  top of the greasy pole is reached.

Brown didn’t get on with people, he found communicating on anything but a Phd level difficult, he even spoke funny,he raged, he blamed others , like every other memoir writer he sees the car crashes he was involved with , whether driving or map reading , as everyone else’s fault, I could go on. Like Major and May totally unsuited to be PM. Completely lacking in the X factor which both Blair and Cameron enjoyed.

So the fascination is this, how come these obviously unsuited beasts became the orangatangs in the cage,  where they are so desperately sad and unsuited, how come politics the ultimate people business is so often led by people without people skills. Is it so mediocre that there is little choice, is it that these people have some of the skills but not all, is it the lack of competition(both May and Brown were anointed but unelected by Party)? But then, again if you think our lot are bad, look across the  Channel.

PS Brown’s famous remark in the 2010 election when a long time Labour supporter 65 year old Gillian Duffy asked him about the economy and  immigration, he smiles,shakes her hand moves away and  still on camera  says “what a disaster, what a bigoted woman”. Later he grovels and personally apologises. But the damage is done and if anyone wants a sign about the gap between the Metropolitan elite and the rest, that was it.  Six years later ,Brexit followed.

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Wizard of Fulham

Wizard of Fulham

The courtyard in the early Tudor Bishops  Palace, Fulham, perfectly formed with ageing red brick and leaded windows, with its gentle fountain is one of my favourite places. Yesterday the sun shone and on my way to the Famers Market I sat awhile enjoying a golden autumn moment. My reverie was broken when two beautifully blonde, joyful  yummy mummies and their off spring came in. The four  little children delightful  in their winter coats ran to the fountain. All of them bent over and looked into the water.

“There are coins, there are coins, mummy” cried one. “Why  are there coins” asked another. The quick thinking taller mummy threw back her thick locks and said with a playful seriousness “people throw coins into the fountain and make a wish”. Mummy, mummy can we have coins, can we make a wish.”

With that both ladies searched into their large, branded bags for their purses, and started to look for coins. These were soon distributed.

I wish that Daddy will come back from New York quickly, cried one as she threw in her twenty pence. I want a new bicycle for Christmas screamed the next eldest. I just want to be happy , said the next. But the smallest was not so confident.

How can I be sure that our wishes will come true. Wouldnt it be better to spend the money on sweets. Argued the little cynic and with that, clutching her coins, ran to the edge of the courtyard and faced the  wall.

Oh come on Jessica, we have all done it ,cried the eldest. One of the mummies joined in , Dont be silly , comeback and throw the coins.

Jessica refused to move and stayed with her face pressed to the wall, defiantly squeezing her coins.

The bystander realised that something could be done to change to change the story. I went over to Jessica and in my deepest voice said-

I am the wizard of Bishops Palace unless all the coins are thrown in none of the  wishes will come true.  Jessica looked up fear in her face as  she saw the wizards brutal features, she ran to the fountain and cried ,There, I just want my hamster to have  a baby.

The  yummy mummies  beamed with pleasure and thanks, but by then the wizard was through the arch on his way to buy his weekly supply of black olives.














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Poverty Sucks

Poverty Sucks

We all enjoy childhood. Rich or poor, caravan or castle. Growing up. Getting bigger, learning stuff, having the protection of your family, the irresponsibility, the new things, getting away with it, the endless summer, hey, what’s not to like? Thats meant to be a moral of the brilliant art house movie ,Florida Project.

So they are trash. Single parents. Living in pokey motel rooms. But the kids create their own world. Derelict houses, begging, stealing, wrecking, adventures in new fields, and mum when she is not stoned is always there. Loads like us.Through a kids eyes and what a child actor is this, this is a great world. A feral world maybe, where you learn to lie, cheat, talk back and generally act street wise, and you are only ten. But as someone once said when you are a kid you feel secure because the adults are in control, its only when you grow up you realise no one is.

And thats why charmed though I might have been, Florida Project is ultimately depressing, For this gilded childhood  for feral kids turns into the cursed adulthood of feral adults. At best you get a job in McDonalds  or sell counterfeit perfume, at worst you beg and do a bit of prostitution,and all the time you are in debt and  stoned. How else can you get through the day?, tv can only do so much.

The film critics rave, possibly rightly about the quality of the movie, but it was the message which hurt me. The sun lit field of childhood experience leads to the begging, stealing  adult who has no chance except to pass on the misery and a car crash future to another generation.

My pier watching trips to the depressed sea side resorts of the UK-Weston super Mare, Southend, Great Yarmouth, Clacton, Hastings let  me see pale young, drug soaked men clutching cans of special brew accompanied by women barely out of their teens with two or more “kiddies”. Repeatedly saying, “Love you”, is sometimes not enough. And as Grenfell Tower shows nor is having a laugh.

Poverty Sucks and some have to suck it up. Think and Thank God is my club’s motto. I do.






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The Reunion

The Reunion

Some people love them. Some find them excruciatingly embarrassing. Many have no interest. Reunions. What happened to?  Some die, some make fortunes, some lose them, a few  step out the closet, most just get on with life, the more interesting marry often and or  have spells in prison or parliament. Whatever, what happened to?

We hadn’t seen Jeanette and her boy friend Steve for over thirty years. She a petite nanny from Auckland, New Zealand  and he a strapping plasterer from Westzoyland( river Stowi) near Bridgewater. They had met clubbing in Corfu. When I asked her what the first words he had said to her,she replied, I cant remember, I was too drunk.

As with most of our ten or so nannies, we got on. When she and Steve became an item I remember saying that I had no problem him staying over but I  didn’t want to see him for breakfast. Anyway thirty years later , in London for a concert, they looked us up. We are not in. They left a number. We phone.

Last weekend we sat down and broke bread. The reunion. The children she cared  for and took to the nursery  are now married, with children and approaching middle age. The young professionals she worked for are now extras in Custers Last Stand. They of course are in their 50s ,they are middle aged, and have children in  their twenties. Lots of catching up.

They have tried living in NZ. Putting it together, he is closer to his family than she to hers, he found it difficult to get work out there and the children were violently homesick. So they settled in his “hood. Westzoyland. Here they have prospered.

They are in the last stages of doing up their second house, the children are both with partners and steady jobs, Steve’s family network seems to cover the village, his sister lives in their old house, Jeanette has a job as a teacher’s assistant. They are both still good looking as are the proud pictures of their children. They have got on with life.

OK ,there is a gripe. Bald facts,fine, but where’s the meat. Where is the inner life,the  emotional life which turns the straightforward into the individual,the path not taken, the interesting. Maybe I didn’t ask the right questions, which are? Why do you live with J and not M to Z? Why did it last? Why do you get on better with your son than daughter? Why did the relationship with your mother falter and fail? Have you been faithful?

Oh Come on, no one asks these questions, a dinner table is not a psychiatrist’s couch, thats why we read books, listen to the Archers and watch Eastenders. They are more enriching and holistic than real life.

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Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday

We spent last weekend in Lyme Regis. Not in season, they are selling out of date fudge cheap. The dinky seaside town which once rose for Monmouth is now as loyal as Jane Austen who  spent time on its famous cob. And so it was, we went the  few hundred yards from Water Cottage to St Michaels on the hill for the Remembrance Day festivities. What larks.

400 packed the church . And in they marched ,two by two, the dignitaries in their period costumes, the veterans, the army, navy and sea cadets. What pride, what seriousness. The life boat men,the cubs and brownies- not for them the stern looks of grief and glory but giggles and waves. And  then we and the others that also serve.

The town’s brass band was on duty. The hymns all family favourites-Lead us heavenly father,lead us; Praise my soul,the King of heaven; all washed down with not one but two verses of the National Anthem. Hurrah.

Flags fluttered, medals glistened, people had to push up to let more sit. The mayoress,the vicar and the standard bearer all of the fairer sex. The vicar with that CoE regulation bob haircut and  glasses did an Alan Bennett and talked earnestly of global warming. A local marine talked about his belief in Jesus meaning that while in Afghanistan “my back was  covered”. The Roll of Honour of the hundred plus local sons who made the ultimate sacrifice in two wars was read out. No pins were dropped. The last post bugled.

And so the massed uniforms of Lyme Regis, where Whistler painted and Fowles wrote ,marched off to the square by the beach. Here the mayoress strutted up and down the motley ranks inspecting and encouraging. The National Anthem was played again, by then I was staring out onto the calm sea, Lyme Bay and Portland Bill. It was a still, bright day so different from a hundred years before at Passchendale when too many todays were given for our tomorrows.

Last weekend we saw a bright, cheerful version of “Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all who breathe away.” 100 years before the stream was a muddy torrent turned morgue. But on Sunday with its charm, lack of cynicism and bursting local pride few could not believe that “There will always be an England.”

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Wit and Wisdom 2

Wit and Wisdom 2

Over the years I have written thousands of words and had the odd idea, some more memorable than  others.

In retirement I exchanged meaningless work for meaningful leisure.

We are all dealt cards-family, health, education, intelligence, opportunity. Most I know have been dealt good cards and played them well or at least cautiously. Some played them badly. Top of the table goes to those who are dealt bad cards but play them well.

Friendship is a two way street. Indifference is easily matched.

The years are short but the days are long.

Languages are like mountains, some find them easy to climb, some find them impossible.

Life is baggage.

The English are a mongrel race with pedigree dogs, The Italians are a pedigree race with mongrel dogs.

The quality of the gift reinforces the quality of the friendship.

There is a point where blaming your parents makes you look very childish.

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Remembrance Thursday

Remembrance Thursday

Local Putney historians have been hard and successfully at it to put  some “flesh” on the 343 men who died in the First World War and whose names live forever more on St Mary’s Church(where the Putney Debates took place) Roll of Honour.

We have lived in three Putney streets. Each gave  sons for “Freedom and Honour”. Typically the street with the detached and semi detached villas gave officers. The terraced houses (now worth £1.5m+) gave other ranks.The dates  are when we lived there.

Mexfield Road(1975-80)

Reginald Edgar Hall. Publishing clerk. Aged 23 died May 1915, buried Calais. Lance Corporal London Regiment. Lived with his parents  Thomas and Violet at no 18.

Clifford Coates Marels. Aged 21 died November 1917, buried Jerusalem. Private , machine gun corps, Bucks and Berks Regiment. Lived with parents CHS and Alice at no 65.

William John Mills. Aged 23 died September 1918, buried Esqelbecq,France. Second Lieutenant RAF and Northumberland Fusiliers. Lived with parents John and Ada at 59.

Dryburgh Road (1980-2006).

John Richard Hughes .Aged 23 died June 1918,buried Rouen. Second Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery.Lived with parents William and Janet at no 20.

Leslie King Rayner. Aged 27 died April 1917,buried Vlamertinghe, Belgium. Second Lieutenant.Royal Sussex Regiment. Lived with parents Arthur and Charlotte at no 17.

Gerald Roderick Savage, Aged 30 died October 1917,remembered  Tyne Cot, Belgium. Captain Essex Regiment. Parents lived at no 20.

Festing Road( 2006-

Albert Edward Biscoe. Bus conductor lived at no 3.

John “Jack”Copping.Died February 1919. Sergeant Royal Army Service Corps, buried pas de Calais. Married to Maud and lived at 43.

George Arthur Down.House painter. Aged 33,died July 1917,buried pas de Calais. Private,East Kent(the Buffs) Regiment. Married Lived at 75.

John Gobbey. Aged 28 died November 1915,buried Netley, Hampshire. Lance Corporal, Royal Fusiliers.Once of St Marys Boys School he had in 1899 moved from Erpingham Road to no 11 .

Putney Remembers the Men of the First World War. St Marys Roll of Honour. Wandsworth Historical Society and the Putney Society. £5. Available at the Library.









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