Tag Archives: politics

Thronging in the streets

Well, I’ve bought a new, cheap camera. Not much point in buying an expensive one as I seem to have lost my last two. I suppose this is because of my habit of walking around London at all times of day and night with the camera in my pocket.

So now I am tooled up again, here is the view from my office window about two hours ago. (As usual you can click on the little pictures to see some bigger ones)





Some good banners in there. And a surprisingly large number of red-haired people. Is it dye? Or are they predisposed to protest?

Anyway, its nice to see the youth of today take an interest in politics πŸ™‚

Overheard in a cafe

On Friday morning: “If I was that David Cameron I’d shoot myself. Iraq War, credit crunch, cuts, most unpopular PM for twenty years and the Tories STILL can’t win a bloody election”

(paraphrased due to cerebral caffeine deficit syndrome after staying up all night and drinking port at 5am)

Beautiful day!

So much for the weather forecast. Here in London its sunny, warm and dry, an almost cloudless sky. The trees are in leaf, the lilac is blooming, and the birds are singing.

I just voted and the polling statiom was actually busy! If the old cliche about high turnout and good weather being good for Labour is true, then this election could be less disastrous for Labour locally than predicted. Dunno about the rest of the country though.

Inner choir

I was walking this morning through Waterloo Station with my head full of the “Magnificat” (prayerbook translation of course) set to the arrangement, and roughly the tune of “Boys from the County Hell” by the Pogues.

Did this set the tone for the day?

Late free lunch in Deptford

A meeting of the school governors of Lewisham Bridge school at 4.45 (its usually at six). And Lewisham Bridge is in a mess (Google it). The mess got worse. The kids are being bussed to the Mornington school near New Cross station, because our school is to be demolished and rebuilt as a 3-16 all-through school on the old site. Except it isn’t, because the Council didn’t apply for planning permission before the kids were “decanted” (as they say). And then English Heritage listed the building. And protestors occupied the school. And now the council is planning to move the school back for one year and move it out again and move back again a year after that (or maybe two). And its all a mess.

Because we started so early there was a two-hour gap between thay meetin and the next one I needed to go to and I used it to walk round Deptford High Street and in and out of the railway arches. Photos when I get the chance to upload some.

And yes, Deptford in the evening can be wonderful. I bought some little coloured glass jars
for a pound each. And saw lots of people of all sorts walking up and down, including a black bloke on a bicycle who stopped a friend on another bicycle outside a cheap Asian knick-knack shop (I ought to go back and buy a big cooking pan) and asked him out for a drink and said “I sold a Volvo today – three thousand quid”. Where else do people who sell cars ride bicycles? And I met J and H and N on Edward Street on their way from a quiet afternoon drink at the Dog and Bell (the Deptford pub that really isn’t like most people’s idea of Deptford – real ale, Belgian beer, all the day’s newspapers, and art exhibitions) and off to Brockley to buy some weed and go home and watch Dr Who videos.

And (not for the first time) I wondered why I always stay at work or in town so late. It might be good to spend more time in Deptford in daylight.

Then a Labour party meeting at 8pm (it would usually be 7.30 or 7.45) round the corner. And Steve Bullock (sorry, Sir Steve Bullock) the Mayor talking about Trust Schools and the proposals of “hard” federations and “soft” federations, and the proposed relationship between Goldsmith’s College and Deptford Green School and Addey’s School and Crossways (whatever that is) – which to be honest sounds like a good idea to me though the meeting was mostly against it – and another one between Colfe’s School and Catford High School and listened to the rest of us trying to tell him that all that means nothing to most people (the best contribution was from Laura Seabright who I think actually is a teacher at Deptford Green) and certainly isn’t going to win us the next election, either locally or nationally.

Actually in other ways it was a good meeting and we heard some really good stuff from Joan Ruddock, our MP, about a possible new railway station on Surrey Canal Road, and the upcoming Copenhagen talks on the environment, and some stuff they did in Greenland – but like the man said, all politics is local, and our schools are as local as you can get and we are fucking them up. Well, Lewisham Bridge, anyway.

So after two meetings and lots of walking and photos (& the last walk a very nice stroll to the bus-stop talking to a rather pleasant and intelligent House of Commons assistant I don’t think I’ve met before) I was feeling hungry and thirsty and possibly in need of a cigarette so into a pub at about 10.30pm and yes there is a darts match on and its the trophy competition at the end of the season and so I get a few pints of good beer and free burgers and salad off the barbecue and talk to G and K who aren’t even twenty yet and are running a door-to-door sales business in Gravesend and have bumped into their first cash-flow crisis and are having trouble paying their staff. And M who is more or less homeless and has been put into sheltered accomadation by the council and dislikes it hugely because she isn’t old enough for that yet and would rather live almost anywhere else but can’t so comes to the pub all evening instead of sitting around watching Big Brother on the TV and talking to the old folk waiting to die. And R & M talking about how nothern chips with gravy are better than our poncey southern chips. And T whose wife died from a heart attack a few years ago and is thinking about suing the doctors who had failed to diagnose a heart problem only a few days before. And TD talking about about – no, but this is a family-friendly blog

But if there is something better than free barbecue in a pub garden after two stressful meetings in one evening I don’t know what it is.

And it was all too much and I went home – and THEN they showed the fourth part of the current Torchwood story on TV. Which you really need to see. And is sort-of kind-of almost relevant.

And THEN they showed a repeat of the BBC TV coverage of the Apollo missions from forty years ago which I saw live at the time and you really need to see that as well… James Burke (remember him?) … Cliff Michelmore chewing his fingers for Apollo 13.

And tomorrow: to Bromsgrove – and beyond!

More listening to London

Seen from a bus:

There were police in the act of arresting someone at the bus-stop in front of Lewisham Station this morning. Or at least it looked as if they were from where I was sitting on the 321, they had the back of their van open and it looked as if they were bundling someone in. Of course I don’t know for sure if it was an arrest. Maybe they had just stopped for a cup of tea and a chat, but if they had it was a funny place and time to do it.

The bus stopped right next to them and we passengers all got off the bus and went up to catch our trains. I think there are cities in the world where a bus driver would not stop at an arrest scene however many passengers wanted to get off. I think there are cities in the world where the passengers would insist loudly that the bus drove on as quickly as possible.

OK this was the BTP, and if they had arrested someone it was as probably for getting on the DLR without a ticket. But you cant tell that from the other side of the road. Two vans and half a dozen uniformed police, and at least one plain-clothes (I assume since she opened the door of a police van herself and got into the front) Anything could be happening. But the bus stopped and we walked right past them. No-one here expects the police, or those they are chasing, to have guns. So no-one is scared to be near them.

Overheard on a bus:

29 bus last night, packed with standers, only two empty seats . Young women walks up to them, turns round without sitting down, comes back again. I take my chance and sit down and find myself next to the reason she didn’t.

Dirty, drunk, bad-smelling tall twenty-something man, feet on the seat opposite, talking to himself or his can of K cider. Or maybe talking to me. Mumbling as if I wasn’t meant to hear. “That’s right. You sit next to me, Get your fat arse into the seat” Northern Irish accent I think, the sort that sounds almost Glasgow.

Then off on a mumbling rant about the state of the world and the nation. “Twenty-two pounds a week Army pension. Its a joke.” It seems that he has an unfeasibly large number of stitches and no job. And the fat cats screw you whatever you do.

Then he sat up straight, seemed to take notice of his surroundings, and asked my how my day had been, before apologising to the women opposite and getting off the bus. Though he turned round on the pavement and made a throat-chopping gesture at someone. I hope it wasn’t meant for me.

The song remains the same:

Tube strike has caused a flurry of political conversation around the office. Best line so far:

Ms. X [defending the strikers]: “Maybe they should get 5%. Why shouldn’t workers get the same money as their bosses?”

Mr Y [horrified]: “But.. but.. that’s Communist!”

X: “Well, I am a Communist”

People are actually talking about politics, the fash are getting pelted in the streets, a Labour government is groping its way to ignominious defeat, there is a Tube strike, its raining, and I’m listening to Deep Purple…

Bloody hell, its the 1970s!

But fings ain’t wot they used to be:

Overheard in a pub:

“… eighteen of them and they were all Romanians and they were all pregnant. And the Lewisham Council gave them every floor of a whole block of flats, the whole building just for them. AND their partners. No English people could get that. We have to work for everything we get in this country… [blah-blah]…politically-correct…[ [blah-blah] …soft…[blah-blah]…that’s the trouble with this country…[blah-blah]…so liberal…[blah-blah]…the Englishman is a foreigner in his own country…[blah-blah]…politically-correct…”

Nothing remarkable about that, you can hear similar nonsense any day if you hang around in the wrong bars. Except that the young black man who said it was wearing a hoodie, combats, and a baseball cap.

London truly is a multicultural society πŸ™‚

London was like this every day before the Congestion Charge

Getting to work. There is a Tube strike. I foolishly didn’t realise that the buses would be messed up. I rarely use the Tube to get to work, and when I went home last night I had had an easy bus journey. But of course that was because all the Tube-travelling wusses left work early so by the time I hit the streets the rush had died down.

Twelve hours later on my way back things were quite different. Waterloo was packed with people who didn’t know where to go. Some seemed sad, some angry. I was sitting next to a young woman – maybe girl really, she looked a lot like my daughter did about five or six years ago and gave every impression of trying to look older than she is, lots of makeup, very high heels – who looked very sad. Well maybe looking sad was the point because the clothes were distinctly Goth – black al over, frilly round the edges, long skirt, rather chunky shiny black shoes.

An odd style for 10am. Its too early to be going out, and the clothes looked too clean and new and dressed-up to be her regular clothes (or the ones she was coming back from the night before in), and the style is too self-consciously Goth to be dressing up for work. Unless she works in one of the handful of deliberately self-styled Goth pubs I suppose. I rather patronisingly wondered to myself if she was going for an interview for some supposedly arty job, or at college or university, and wanted to look “different”. Which if it was the case she was failing to do because you could see people dressed like that when I was in Brighton in the 1970s. Except that they were wearing second-hand stuff or clothes they nicked from their grandmothers rather than a style bought off the shelf at Claire’s Accessories. No, not Claire’s Accessories, that’s cruel. But I hope it was the Goth pub. You always want to think the best of people. I smiled at her and she smiled back. Which is always heartening. Though she looked sad again later.

A woman on a wheelchair tried to get on the 188 bus in the rain and another woman, one of the other passengers, complained. She said it that motorised wheelchairs are against the rules. I hope she’s late for work every day this week. And the driver agreed and didn’t let the wheelchair user on. I felt very angry – but said nothing. There were a lot of other people who said nothing. Its not as if it was one of those refurbished golf buggies with steering wheels and five-speed gears that large Americans use to get round convention centres and airports and silly Brits drive down the wrong side of the road at ten miles an hour in. It was just a perfectly ordinary wheelchair with handles and everything and a little whiny motor controlled by a switch in the arm. The sort that nearly all wheelchair users actually use. She didn’t get on the bus, but a couple of policemen helped her to the one behind. I hope she wasn’t refused there. I didn’t see what happened.

There were more idiot drivers on the road than I’ve seen for ages. More drivers of any kind. One fool tried to pass the bus I was on on the inside by moving into a side street and back out again and ended up with the nose of the car jammed between roadworks and the kerb. A wobbly wet cyclist also tried to come up the inside between a parked van and the bus, just as the bus was moving left to a stop, and his handlebars came within an inch of us. And he nearly fell off. Whey didn’t he just stop? Why didn’t he go on the outside of the bus the way you ought to?

It took me twenty-seven minutes to get from home to the platform at Waterloo Station, another twenty-seven from the platform at Waterloo Station to the south side of Waterloo Bridge (for non-Londoners that is about four hundred metres) and it would be poetic to say it took twenty-seven minutes from the south side of Waterloo Bridge to work, but actually it was twenty-four. Yes, I could have walked it, but I stupidly didn’t come dressed for walking in the rain. Wearing sandals – I thought about putting on shoes and socks but didn’t because I was late for work and wanted to catch a bus in a hurry. Sandals save a minute.

The 188 driver kicked us off the bus at the south side of Russell Square, as they usually do when they are grumpy (and black drivers do less often than white drivers – I wonder why that is?) But it didn’t matter as the Square was so blocked with traffic we got there before the bus. And my feet hardly got wet at all.

This is what London was like every day before the Congestion Charge. Thank God for Ken Livingstone.

And expect worse. As we move towards a government that is likely to be even more unreasonable on worker’s rights than “New Labour” has been, the chances are we will see a lot more of this.

Kaddish for the City

I had a dream last night. Or rather this morning. It wasn’t a very pleasant dream.

I dreamed a song. It rhymed and scanned and everything and had a rather plonky piano accompaniment. It was in the voice of an American black anti-capitalist Christian suicide bomber who was going to detonate a nuclear bomb to destroy a big chunk of New York because the city was so full of sin. He hated abortion and he hated racism and he hated capitalist exploitation and he wanted to show them all how bad they were.

And the song had angry moralising and absurd self-justification and stuff about how he was going to let the pure white light shine through his heart and soul into the city to clean out its dark places; and how he was going to hold his arms spread out as he died in a gesture of love to those he was killing. Or as it occurred to me while dreaming it, some blasphemous parody of the Crucifixion.

The dream was, I think a reaction to news on the radio. I had got the Euro elections and the BNP and the “Christian” party and the Tamil Tigers and the recent murder of a doctor in the USA all mixed up in my sleepy head and my anger against us electing racists and Nazis was coming out in a dream.

It was pretty unpleasant and as I woke up I realised that the piano accompaniment was what was playing on BBC Radio Three at the time – Ravel’s [i]Chanson hΓ©braΓ―ques[/i] a setting of some Yiddish and Hebrew traditional songs. And I think – I’m not sure because I was still more asleep than awake and I don’t exactly understand Yiddish and Hebrew though I recognise some of it – I think the song was Kaddish.

And that was an odd juxtaposition.

If that’s what the BNP getting elected does to my brain I think we need to do something about them πŸ™

Holding my breath

Why does the count have to be delayed by 16 hours? Back when we used real people to count votes the first results were in by midnight.

Anyway, despite the expected debacle in most of the rest of the country, the London mayoral results are still too close to call, and we still have very little idea what the makeup of the Assembly. So I’m holding my political breath and thinking or talking about something else for today.

Though I expect that whoever we turn out to have voted for I’ll need a few beers in the college bar this evening.

Hackery for Londoners

In the unlikely event that you have any friends or relations thinking of voting for Boris Johnson to be Grand High Poo-Bah of London later this week (*) then show them this lively interview. Especially if they are gay.


It just shows how wonderfully out of touch he is.

(*) or thinking of not voting for Ken Livingstone as first choice, which, if as it is a 2-round contest rather than a full alternative vote system, might be almost the same as voting Tory.

The real point of this post being (as Abigail is fed up to the back teeth with me saying) that if you *really* don’t want Boris, and if there is a chance that he might sneak in with a small absolute majority in the first round then it is NOT safe to vote for whoever you really want in the first round (Greens, Respect etc) and Livingstone second – that only works if there IS a second round.

This posting based on the arguable assumptions that:

(1) it matters who gets in, in that government, including local government, makes a real difference to real people’s lives (even if only a small one)

(2) yes Virginia, Amelioration is not Revolution. But it still makes things better, or at any rate less bad

(3) Corrupt careerist Labour politicians are bad – but corrupt careerist Tories are worse.

(4) No-one other than Labour or Tory is in with a chance (and yes, I know that would not be the case if we all voted for another candidate, but we aren’t going to this week, are we?)

Feel free to debate them at length – while voting Labour πŸ™‚

Oh, and the BNP still look as if they might get an Assembly seat on the proportional vote – that is least likely the higher the turnout is. So get in there and vote with abandon for all those greens and left lists and so on for the assembly seats – the more left-wingers there are there the less of a free hand the new Mayor gets whoever he is.

Vote early, vote often!

Bonfire 2007 (3) The principle of the thing.

Thinking about it over the last few days, with and without beer, I now tend to agree with the idea that Bonfire is a practical demonstration of liberty. Despite the rather overblown flowery language some of the Lewes societies use on their programmes.

bonfire2007_4426 St Anne's Churchyard
Borough Bonfire 2007 bonfire2007_4427

Even – in fact especially – the burning of effigies of the living and the dead, offensive though that is. (This year Commercial Square burned a police superintendent on a rocket) It genuinely is a matter of free speech. If you are only free to say nice things you aren’t free. Free speech is the freedom to say evil and offensive things. Who would object to you saying only good things? If everyone burned in effigy was either safely dead, or obviously evil, then someone somewhere would be controlling who we are allowed to insult or protest against. If you can’t burn the Pope, who can you burn?

The same goes for meeting together in large numbers. Freedom of assembly and movement has to be the freedom to assemble in a way that might potentially worry or disturb some others. If you an only meet together in places where everyone agrees it is proper for you to meet, and in numbers that annoy nobody then you are not free to move and meet.

bonfire2007_4436 bonfire2007_4437
bonfire_2006_barrells2174 Borough firesite
bonfire_2006_before_cliffe2118 bonfire_2006_borough_fire_show2216

Burnings aside (and Bonfire is a memorial to real people who really were burned at the stake in Queen Mary’s time) Bonfire is our carnival, our folk festival. For a value of “our” that is more or less limited to the people of the little blob at the bottom-right-hand corner of England between the Thames and the Channel, and most especially to those born or brought up in East Sussex. And its something we do in public, together. Not a display put on for us by local government or some charity or a private company (though all those are involved). Its not commercialised, packaged, or marketed (though plenty of people make a little money out of it, and why not?) Its something we do of and for ourselves.

And its something we increasingly DON’T do. Public bonfires are dying out, being replaced by managed and controlled firework displays. I love fireworks but they aren’t the whole point of the thing, they are an added extra. Not that many people have bonfire parties in their own gardens any more. When I was a kid there were bonfires all over Brighton. Private ones in gardens – my parents had a Bonfire party every year when we lived in Woodingdean in the 1960s – but also communal ones. On open land outside the council estates, one more or less on the Downs, even one on the beach,. I think there was sometimes one on the Level. These were not, as far as I could tell, run by committees or some organised charity or other trying to raise money. None of your “British Lions” or Heart Foundations or whatever, worthy though they might be (I hated it when the Heart people hijacked the London to Brighton bikeride). They seemed to be mainly built by boys a little older than me nicking old furniture from dumps (and from the next estate’s bonfires) And we stopped doing it. Sometime in my teenage, the practice died out.

Bonfire, 2006 Shaking hands with the bishop (Bonfire, 2006)
Someone blew something up... bonfire2003_1887
bonfire2003_1905 bonfire_2005_scared.0777

Which I think is why so many Brighton people go to Lewes, even those of us who no longer live in the South Country. Its the one place we can carry on participating in something we were brought up to and have been doing all our lives. Even if only by standing at the side of the road and cheering.

Talking of which, when one of the bands stopped outside St Anne’s and played God save the Queen and some of the crowd joined in, a man standing next to me raised his fist and gave us a verse of the Internationale. And it wasn’t even me πŸ™‚

bonfire_20062195 bonfire_2006_barrells2175
Tom Paine's House Cliffe banners 2006
Bush, Blair and the UN Tom Paine's House

A song for May Day

Happy International Workers Day!

I was browsing through Wikipedia, as you do, looking for something else entirely, and my attention was caught by a reference to the official US Army Song. I’d never heard of it (unlike the Navy & Marine songs which just about anyone who has ever watched old war films on TV must recognise). So I looked around a little and ended up chasing links for all sorts of military music, until I ran slap bang up against the Armchair General (which could be called the Tankie’s Friend) which has lots of Russian Civil War and Great Patriotic War songs (many are in fact links to Sovmusic or hymn.ru).

So I listened to some. At first almost as a joke, something to do, have a laugh at the overblown Stalinist language, so at variance to what was really going on. But I ended up with tears in my eyes. Yes, there are tinpot generals and synthetic heroics. There are also plain ordinary love songs, as wall as surrealistic absurdities like the one about the weapons-grade samovars, or “I am a Yak Fighter Plane”. I ended up with tears in my eyes of course. All those people really lived through all that. Some of them meant what they sang.

The Russian Revolution and Civil War, along with the Great War (of which they are a part in some ways), are the great tragedies of our modern European civilisation. And they are tragedies in ways that the Nazis weren’t. Nazis were (and are) unambiguously enemies of civilisation and culture and decency and freedom and law and art and music and life and hope and peace. They were the bad guys. The Communists were meant to be the good guys. And it turned into oppression and war and torture and death. They themselves thought they were the good guys, at least at first. Rosa Luxemburg supposedly could hardly believe what she heard about Dzershinsky and the Cheka. (that there were Western leftists who still belived in Leninsm and Stalinism as the last great hope of mankind in the 1920s, or even the 1930s just shows how little attention some of them were paying. Until 1942 of course when Hitler made it come truem, and they were our best hope). What the Nazis did to Europe was like having your kids shot by a burgular. What the Soviets did was more like being raped by the policeman you called in to investigate the crime. Both very wrong, but the second is more tragic, in the dramatic sense.

A lot of the songs on Armchari General are links to other web sites, particularly Sovmusic a deeply cool site of apparently unreconstructed Stalinists. And The history of the Russian National Anthems an exhaustive set of recordings of every version each of the half-dozen or so songs that have been a Russian national anthem in the last century or so, as well as other pieces opf music that quote them, or from which they may have been derived (including the UK and Danish anthems) and a whole heap of Tchaikovsky and Glinka and the anthems of each of the SSRs.

Our UK national anthem is so boring compared to most. But Russia had half a dozen before they settled again on the one you know from watching the Olympics on TV, mostly borrowed, all better than ours. The first one is the oddest, because it is our national anthem, it started as God Save the King translated into Russian, with the disparaging comments about Scots removed and a few Slavic twists to the melody. You’ll have heard it if you ever listen to any Russian orchestral music at all, their composers quote it repeatedly, most famously in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 where it is the main theme played against Marseillaise. I don’t know what makes Russian music sound Russian – some memory of Orthodox liturgy maybe. But whatever they did to the tune changes it from one of the most boring anthems there is into something that makes your hair stand on end.

After the Revolution they briefly flirted with the Marseillaise (which sounds weird in Russian) before settling on that other French song Internationale which doesn’t. That’s a song with a strange set of connotations. I didn’t feel at all happy about it for a while, not until Tianamen Square, when the demonstrators sang it and redeemed it. Once again we can look people in the face while singing it ourselves. But it isn’t a trivial song. Its not a joke.

Neither is Avanti Popolo, though it can sound like one. I tend to associate it with drunken parties at Labour conferences (though I’ve sung it at a drunken party at a Liberal Conference I gatecrashed once in the happy days before they had armed guards at such affairs) and particularly with Neil Kinnock in 1984. Or was it 1985? It seems so long ago now. Its always been a uniting song rather than a dividing one on the Left. Apart from the last word, which varies according to taste πŸ™‚ Somewhere today, someone is singng it.

I got downloads from AWS the impressively gigantic Italian anti-war site with links everywhere. (Navigation is hard though. Things often aren’t where you would expect. There are loads of MP3s and video clips, many linked to on other sites, but lots of the links and some of the files are duds. And its hard to tell which links are recordings and which not so I ended up looking at the html source… and then gave up. But there are hundreds of songs, many with alternative translations into different languages.)

And then I was off on one, building my little itunes playlist of vaguely left-wing songs.

A few more repositories of lefty lyrics:

Free Peace mp3s has some great newer songs. Check out Soylent Gringo! XPDNC has lots of links to union and labour stuff , not just music. There are union and left songs at Radical songs and unionsong.com (Lyrics, links, but no downloads that I could find).

Protest Records has a mind-bendingly braindead “interface” and New Songs For Peace is a UNESCO front! Some fun music at both though.

Avanti Popolo!

And here, extracted from itunes, is part of that lefty and anti-war playlist. Mostly found from those websites listed above (though some from CDs I have)

And yes, I do see that there is an incongruity between the Anthem of Soviet Union and The Green Fields of France

  • A Change Is Gonna Come, Cooke Sam
  • All Along The Watchtower, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix
  • Another Man’s Cause, Levellers, Levellers, Levelling The Land
  • Another War, The Compassionate Conservatives, Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Perle, n/a
  • Anthem of Soviet Union
  • Anthem of Tajik SSR, instrumental version
  • Avanti Popolo
  • Babylons’s Burning, The Ruts
  • Bandiera rossa, Rundfunk-Blasorchester Leipzig
  • Battle Of The Beanfield, Levellers, Levellers, Levelling The Land
  • Battle of the Somme / The Freedom Come Ye All, (Luke Kelly and the Dubliners)
  • bob dylan – masters of war
  • Born In The U.S.A, Bruce Springsteen
  • Both Sides the Tweed, Dick Gaughan
  • Bush_War_Blues_(updated), Billy Bragg
  • Children Crying,
  • Dancing At Whitsun, Tim Hart And Maddy Prior, Tim Hart & Maddy Prior, Summer Solstice
  • Dead Marshes (June Tabor? Coope, Boyes & Simpson?)
  • Dirty Old Town, The Pogues, MacCall, Ewan, The Best Of The Pogues
  • Drop The Hate, Fatboy Slim
  • English Civil War, Levellers
  • Far From Home, Levellers, Levellers, Levelling The Land
  • Farewell tae the Haven, The McCalmans
  • Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash
  • Four Stone Walls, Capercaillie
  • Freedom Come All Ye, Dick Gaughan
  • Go Down Moses, Grant Green
  • Gresford Disaster, Albion Band
  • Guantanamera, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill & Celia Cruz
  • Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire, Chumbawamba
  • Hard Times Of Old England, Etchingham Steam Band
  • Hard Times, Johnny Cash
  • Highland Muster Roll, Ewan Mac Coll
  • I Love The World, New Model Army, Robert Heaton, Thunder and Consolation
  • I Pity The Poor Immigrant, Bob Dylan
  • I Shall Not Be Moved, Johnny Cash
  • If It Wisnae for the Union, Hamish Imlach
  • Internationale (in Russian), Choir and orchestra of Soviet radio
  • Internationale in Zulu
  • Internationale, Billy Bragg
  • Internationale, Sheffield Socialist Choir, Pierre Degeyter, Watch Out (tape)
  • Its_a_long_way_to_tipperary
  • James Connolly, Christy Moore
  • Jerusalem Revisited, Panta Rhei + Coope, Boyes & Simpson
  • Joe Hill, Paul Robeson
  • Julie (New Version), Levellers
  • The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, June Tabor
  • La Marseillaise, Mireille Mathieu, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
  • Le déserteur, Boris Vian
  • Let Start A War
  • Liberty Song, Levellers, Levellers, Levelling The Land
  • Lili Marleen In German, Marlene Dietrich
  • L’Internationale
  • Lonely London, Jah Wobble
  • Lowlands Of Holland, Levellers
  • Marche Slave, Op.
  • Marseillaise, United States Navy Band, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
  • Marsh tankistov, Petr Kirichek, Petr Kirichek,
  • More Axe, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Anonymous, The Very Best Of The Early Years
  • Mothers, Daughters, Wives, Judy Small
  • No Mans Land, June Tabor
  • No Man’s Land, Eric Bogle
  • No More Heroes, Stranglers
  • North by North (Arthur Johnstone)
  • One Piece at a Time Johnny Cash
  • One Way, Levellers, Levellers, Levelling The Land
  • Plains Song, Paul Robeson
  • Poor Old Horse, Albion Band
  • Protect And Survive, Runrig
  • Ragged Heroes, Albion Band
  • Ravenscraig, Runrig
  • Red Flag, Alan Bush
  • Redemption Song (With Joe Strummer), Johnny Cash
  • Ride ‘Em Jewboy, Kinky Friedman
  • Riverside_Live
  • Rose of No-Man’s Land
  • SA National Anthem,
  • Salve Regina
  • Samovary – Samopaly, Ansambl Pesni & Plyaski
  • Sell Your Labour, Not Your Soul, Brian McNeill
  • Shipbuilding,
  • Sikelela_iAfrika_Africaanas, Nkosi
  • Slavery Days, Burning Spear
  • Small Axe, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Bob Marley, The Very Best Of The Early Years
  • Smashing Of The Van, Chumbawamba
  • Stand Together, Ceolbeg
  • Tear Down These Walls, Runrig
  • The Ballad Of Ira Hayes, Kinky Friedman
  • The Blantyre Explosion, Ewan MacColl
  • The Bloody Fileds Of Flanders, Panta Rhei + Coope, Boyes & Simpson
  • The Boatman, Levellers, Levellers, Levelling The Land
  • The Contract, Eric Bogle
  • The Diggers Song, Chumbawamba
  • The Game, Levellers, Levellers, Levelling The Land
  • The Great American Novel, Martyn Joseph, Larry Norman, The Great American Novel
  • The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash
  • The Manchester Rambler, Ewan Mac Coll
  • The Press Gang, Ewan Mac Coll
  • The River, Bruce Springsteen
  • The Road, Levellers, Levellers, Levelling The Land
  • The Triumph Of General Ludd, Chumbawamba
  • They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore, Kinky Friedman
  • Thing With War (Acoustic), Ben Okafor
  • Thing With War, Ben Okafor
  • This Train, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Trad. Arr: Bob Marley, The Very Best Of The Early Years
  • Three Nights and a Sunday, Matt McGinn
  • Tuvan Internationale, Huun-Huur-Tu
  • Varag – Naverh
  • War Baby (Live), Martyn Joseph, Tom Robinson & M Ramsden,
  • Warning (Live), Levellers
  • We Poor Labouring Men, Waterson:Carthy
  • We Remember (Naming Of Names), Ewan Mac Coll
  • We Will All Go Together When We Go, Tom Lehrer
  • Where Have All The Flowers Gon, Marlene Dietrich
  • Who’s Gonna Win The War, Hawkwind
  • Will ‘ye go to Flanders, June Tabor
  • Worker’s Marseillaise (Russian), Chamber choir of the Krupskaya Leningrad State Institute of Culture
  • World Turned Upside Down, Chumbawamba
  • Zhdi menja, Georgy Vinogradov, Georgy Vinogradov, http://retro.samnet.ru


A factory blew up last night.

Spring is sprung, and the canopy closed, again. The planes, last of the common trees to get their leaves, are more than halfway there, as are the limes. Most of the sycamores are in leaf as well – though not all (sycamores are much more variable than the others) and the horse chestnuts are in flower, candles everywhere. Lilacs bloomed last weekend and walking around South London you get whiffs of their beautiful smell from all sorts of gardens and alleyways.

But rewind briefly. Before that I’d popped into a pub and seen John the Buddhist at the bar talking to a tall white-haired bloke in a blue shirt. I half joined-in and eavesdropped, as you do. I couldn’t suss out his accent at first – very posh Irish? A rather unplaceable sort of northern English? I’d almost settled in my mind on a soft Anglo-South-African when I’d picked up enough conversation to work out that he was Australian but had been living here for twenty years. And he was a very angry man. Bitter and very drunk, an Australian ex-soldier on what I did not at that time realise was ANZAC day, which must have been an emotionally intense anniversary for him, alone amongst others who didn’t understand.

He is in his 60s and said he had been an NCO the Australian army for fifteen years, and then in the British Army. He said the had fought in Vietnam and had very unflattering views of the American army there. Apparently they were ruined for combat by all the niggers – his word – who were into nothing but drugs and Black Power. He made some offensive gestures and parody salutes. Apparently the US NCOs used to drink in the Australian mess, avoiding their own men, who were a greater danger to them than the enemy. According to him the sensible US officers deliberately got their platoons ambushed so that the VC would kill the “niggers”, which would increase the white soldiers chance of survival. And the Australian units were more effective because they were all white, as the Abos weren’t intelligent enough to operate weapons so they didn’t allow them to join up. And how black soldiers were useless and always beaten by whites and the the Rhodesians had the right idea with UDI with patrols of volunteers to keep them down.

No-one understands him, according to his own estimation, and no-one knows what it was like to have been in the Airborne (shouted, with a quick salute) He also thinks the modern world has gone to the dogs and made the usual moans about governments and taxes and various moral laxities. The one thing he wants from government is to cut Council Tax, which takes twenty quid a week off him to subsidise wasters and immigrants.

Meanwhile, just behind us, there were two younger blokes giving it large about being black Millwall supporters. “You think you’ve had it hard – try running away from three thousand white men at South Bermondsey Station – looking over the fence and yelling ‘Nigger Nigger’!” “Born and brought up in Greenwich, I’m more Millwall than you!” “Don’t diss the ‘Wall man!” Loud comments, aimed into the pub as a whole (and successfully irritating the landlady), about their troubles and successes at work, and how one of them got made redundant with six thousand quid to go. “Who’d have thought a black man could get hold of that much money in this white man’s country without stealing it?” And then hassling the barmaid: “You look like you need some vitamins in the morning. Try me, vitamins supplied and installed, free of charge.” It sounded a lot ruder the way he said it. Actually it sounded very rude the way he said it. He was marginally less offensive than the Australian, but a lot cleverer with words, and a lot funnier.

There was a white woman with them, and Australian says, quietly, “call me a racist if you like but I still can’t stand seeing a nigger with a white girl”. Like something from an old film. I’m praying that a fight doesn’t break out. All I managed to think of saying was something along the lines of “I’ve got no objection at all” to which the reply was “You may be a liberal but…” so I could do nothing but make the old crack “I’m not a liberal, I’m a socialist” and move further down the bar to try to talk to someone else. John, peaceable as always, talked about a neighbour of his years ago who married an Asian woman who was then rejected by her family, with threats of death, but they’ve been together for nearly thirty years and brought up a family of their own. But the answer to that was that Muslims are the Enemy Within and we should never have let them in in the first place.

I don’t know how I’d have reacted to the Australian ex-soldier (whose name I never found out) if the circumstances had been less public. Knowing my own distaste for confrontation (other than intellectual) and my love of arguing I suspect I might have wimped out of moral objections and tried to go military-historical on him, and mentioned conflicts in which black soldiers had fought effectively or beaten white soldiers – the Haitian Revolution, or the Zulus, or French African troops in the Great War, or Hissein Habre, or even pointed out that the Africans beat the white Rhodesians that he respects so much (though he’d have then been quite entitled to point out that it hasn’t turned out so well) or the US Army right now. But it would have been pointless I suspect, because he obviously wasn’t putting forward a theory about military history, he was just having a bitch.

I was glad when the Australian left. But not, for some reason, really cross with him. He seemed lonely, misunderstood, and angry. Would I have reacted to him differently had I known it was ANZAC day? (He never mentioned it) Would he have reacted to me differently had I known? (Should one memorise the national days of all countries before going to the pub?). Would I have wibbled on about Gallipoli as if I knew anything to compare to his twenty-one operational jumps? Would I have done what I do so often and trawled my experience and memory to find something that connects with the person I’m talking to?

And there wasn’t a fight. There probably was never going to be one, but most of the pub were glad when they all left. “Nigger” is not a word in common currency round here. I think I’ve heard it used more often in discussions about racism than in actual performance. I think I heard it more times last night than in the last twenty years. But the other black bloke had been three years in the army – he seemed to young to me, hardly more than a kid, but I suppose that’s actually normal – and that got some respect from the Ozzy, who was reserving his nastiest comments for us middle aged white men, keeping himself to ourselves. I did not feel good about that, but I felt less bad about it than I would have if there had been a blazing row.

And then a quiet pint and back home and standing in the garden with Abigail who was smoking a cigarette – it was a very warm night and I prefer her smoking outdoors rather than in the flat – talking about James Blish and John Clute and Diana Wynne Jones (I got mentioned in Language Log!) when a very Loud Noise echoed through the sky.

“What the fuck was that?”

“Thunder I guess. It looks like its going to rain heavily. I don’t really know of course, but last time I heard a big noise like that I said it wasn’t a bomb and it turned out to be a bomb after all. So I have no idea!”

We didn’t find out till this morning. It did rain, but it wasn’t thunder and it wasn’t a bomb, it was a factory or warehouse or goods yard. And it was right by the main line and there were no trains to London Bridge station this morning. That does odd things to Lewisham. If a couple of thousand people wandering around talking to their mobiles at 10am counts as “odd”. I got a 136 bus to New Cross, a 172 to Aldwych and A 188 up to college. Took about an hour and a half. For once my boss wasn’t cross with me for being late. Came back from Southwark Cathedral on the 21 and met four people I know from church on the bus or waiting for it. That never happens in central London, does it?

The Thames running with much ink.

Walking to Euston the other day (to get the Northern line to the Cathedral for the Reader’s course) I bumped into a full-scale war. Blood on the streets. Well, ink.

I haven’t been paying much attention to the papers for the last few weeks. Partly because I spend half my life on the Net, partly because I mainline on Radio Four at home, partly because I’ve been reading the book Press Gang by Roy Greenslade, which is a history of British newspapers since the War. (well, English newspapers to be honest – he skimps on the Scottish press, which is just as bad).

Anyway, between UCL and Euston at least three people tried to give me a copy of a new freebie paper called London Lite and another two tried to give me another one called The London Paper. Yesterday and today, for the first time in years, I saw no copies of the Metro on the train in the morning

Even if I hadn’t been reading the Greenslade book (which is bloody brilliant, especially the first part) I’d have recognised what was going on. A fullscale circulation war, as newspapers attempt to persuade advertisers that more people read them than the other one. The British press has a long tradition of this, and News International (AKA Murdoch & the Poodles) and Associated (the Daily Mail and its clones) are the worst offenders. Whenever someone launches a new paper, someone else launches a spoiler (or relaunches their own paper, or invents a totally imaginary paper that they never intend to print (Murdoch once went as far as appointing an editor, hiring journalists, and fitting our office space for a fake paper) or in the case of the old Evening News exhumes its stinking corpse from the grave. Bingo and tits.

As far as I could tell from the one copy of London Lite I looked at on a train a few days ago, its basically the pictures and celebrity interviews from the EveningStandard with the news articles in between taken away. The London Paper looks even skimpier. They both have a vaguely similar purplish look to their front pages.

I’ve no real idea which (if either) of them is the “real” paper and which the spoiler. Perhaps they both are. The obvious target is Murdoch trying to knock out the Standard but the paper that’s vanished from the streets is the Metro. Maybe they are using the same printers or distributors for it. They’ve been recycling copy between the Metro, Standard, and Mail for years, so adding another one probably doesn’t stretch their intellects too much.

But it certainly isn’t stretching their readers intellects. From what little I’ve seen there is almost nothing in either new paper to make them worth picking up off the floor, which is where most of them ended up at Euston last night. But that’s the British tabloid press for you. Like Roy Thomson said decades ago, the news is the stuff that keeps the adverts apart. Of course he was Canadian. Like most British Press Barons. In Canada they couldn’t get away with what they get away with over here.