"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Lest THEY* forget

Honouring all those who have died or have been injured in all conflicts, anywhere, at any time. Rest gently and peacefully.

4th August 2014
National History Museum
St Fagans, Glamorgan, S.Wales

These two young people are stood in front of the war memorial at the St Fagans Museum in S.Wales. They just so happen to be two of our grandchildren and because we were visiting the museum of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, we all wanted to spend a few minutes remembering ALL who have died in ALL conflicts worldwide, civilians and military personnel.

On the trip to the museum we had listened on the car radio to various memorial speeches and sadly too many glorified the war and referred to the 'brave soldiers' who had 'sacrificed their lives'. No mention was made of the fact that the young men [including the great, great grandparents of the children above] were sold a dream of fighting for their country when the truth was that Great Britain were fighting due to a historic set of alliances between countries which tumbled like a pack of cards after months/years of unrest culminating in the assination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo [There are far better explanations of the events leading to the outbreak of World War One extant, do search google; Jeremy Paxman's book Great Britain's Great War is pretty good. But do remember the old saying'History is written by the survivors' and is not always written from an objective point of view] And those soldiers who died did not willingly sacrifice their lives and perhaps we should more properly say that the governments of the countries involved sacrificed their soldiers lives......

We must never forget the dreadful human results of war. So as a family we agreed that the best way to commemorate those who died would be by putting an end to all conflicts. If no-one was prepared to bear arms then the leaders would have to solve their differences another way. A big hope perhaps, but one to which we can all aspire and work toward in our own small ways.

A few links for those interested in joining us in working for peace:

*They who must not forget are they who have the powers to start wars and conflicts. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Tale of a Tub [ or in this case a shower]

Elizannie and Other Half love camping, albeit  in slightly luxurious form [note slightly]  in a very small caravan. Sans lavatory and hot water but off the ground and including a foam mattress. And of course including lights that work even without electric input for reading purposes.

This week has seen us staying on a really de luxe camp site that boasted not only an electrical hook up but also a toilet block with showers and somewhere to wash dirty dishes. No need to crack out the paper cups and plates unless one is very lazy [yes you guessed it..] And the internet signal was really good too! So really not away from civilisation but plenty of opportunity for people watching as this was a really big camp-site. Close to a major tourist city too so all sorts of campers from many different campers provided plenty of scope for the 'where's that number plate from?' game.

So first morning trip to the showers was looking good as another really hot day was dawning and off I trotted complete with clothes, towel and shower gel all at the first attempt. Well done me! All downhill from there.

Beautifully clean showers. Undressed and straight into shower. Pressed the button, nothing. Peep head outside, no-one else in block other than in shower cubicles so catch up towel and venture out to see if there is something else needs pushing, pulling or depressing. Forget there was a step up into shower so fall down and out, luckily retain balance but towel slips, luckily again no-one in sight still. Call out in slightly wobbly voice to the occupied showers asking how to make showers 'go'. Reply is just to push the button but number one shower [mine] is not working..... Scramble in the buff into next shower.

Happily this one does work. Just drying myself when a little voice is heard calling in broker English 'please, how do these showers work?' Feeling smug now call out to explain about shower number one not working! Still not dressed when I hear another, deeper voice shouting 'male attendant on cleaning duties'. Decide to be a good citizen and poke my head out to report number one shower not working. At this point I should emphasise that I shower without glasses and hearing aids. Thus it was an easy mistake to think from the rear that the large lady walking past was a man. Feel obliged to stay in shower cubicle for a bit longer.

Eventually return to the little caravan clean and refreshed for a welcome cuppa to reflect on the morning's adventures. And to think about the original A Tale of A Tub, that wonderful first work and satire on religion by Jonathan Swift. Funny how even when I am camping I cannot completely leave behind English Lit, Politics and Religion isn't it?! 

Although to be honest a tub is a far better symbol for pulpit than a shower cubicle, there are similarities. There was the sharing of information and helping each others ; someone saved from a fall; differences between one and other [ethnicity, gender, ability] disappearing; and the unity of purpose - all needed cleansing although not in a spiritual sense perhaps! And underneath the towels with their fancy slogans and designs, all of us basically the same. As we all left the building we probably didn't think of each other again, rather like so many who leave their places of worship on their Holy Day and don't think again about their promises until the next day of worship. 

Oh dear - all this from a simple visit to the shower block on a camping trip but a microcosm of life, after all.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A Personal Request for Help for those with Hearing Loss

Taken from the website of Action on Hearing Loss :
North Staffordshire CCG are considering no longer providing hearing aids to adults with mild to moderate age-related hearing loss. If the cuts go ahead here, other services across the country could follow suit, meaning that millions of people who struggle to hear could be denied NHS hearing aids.

Those of you who know me will realise how much I appreciate the tremendous difference my hearing aids have made. I probably still cannot hear as well as many of you can, but would hate to be without my hearing aids. But I would hate even more for other people not to have this benefit also. Please sign and if possible share the petition organised by Action on Hearing Loss and let our voices be HEARD.

To sign the petition and/or get further information please click on this link

Thank you for listening....

.... and remember this could just be the start of the cuts in NHS services - what next?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Family History, Funerals and Facebook

Melbourne Argus 31st October 1950

Bless her, I hear you say, Elizannie has really lost it now. Not only does she provide a scintillating [not] blog title but then she gives us a boring picture to boot. Well all I can say - to quote Miranda's 'chum'* "bear with...."

Yesterday was a sad day for my family as a beloved older cousin was laid to rest. She was 88 years old and for all but the last few days of her life had been as bright as a button, had a fantastic sense of humour, great common sense and possessed a wonderful kindness and generosity of spirit. No wonder she will be missed by so many. But in the aftermath of the funeral - which had been arranged by her, she wanted us all to have a drink and something to eat 'on her' it has to be said that it was good to catch up with some members of the family who hadn't seen each other for years. We have a large extended family and there were a few games of 'Do you know who I am, then?' Edna would have loved that, as she was also the keeper of many of the family records. And following in her footsteps there are a few of us who are trying to write the family history too and last year many of us got together with old photos and stories to try and collate the facts.

Over the past few years we have not only collected and collated the facts when we could meet up, but we have used the often abused social media to keep in touch. Facebook has been great and whereas 50 years ago we all lived close enough to keep up the family gossip face to face we now can do so easily with facebook!!

This morning, with torrential rain outside providing an ideal excuse not to clean the windows or anything silly like that, I decided to have another go at finding a few errant ancestors via the internet. And I struck lucky and that elusive 2x great grandfather who emigrated to Australia in 1873 suddenly came to life [well actually I found his obituary!] via the Australian newspaper archives. And a question which had always bothered me, had he and his second wife produced any Australian half-cousins for me and the rest of the family was finally answered.

But here is the really exciting thing and something which maybe my longstanding readers may find interesting. I may have mentioned that my political journalist father was sometime the London editor of an Australian newspaper, back in the 1950s. So, seeing the name of that newspaper pop up during my archive search, I thought, why not? Let's type in his name and see what comes up. And yes, loads of articles did. He obviously had a weekly column where he told the Aussies what was going on in Westminster, sometimes throwing in a bit of gossip as well.

I haven't kept very many of my father's newspaper articles. Well you don't do you, when every day of one's young life a newspaper plops through the letter box and one's father has at least one byline, and that often to the headline. Although it gave me a big thrill a few years ago when the shop 'Past Times' was selling a pack of various newspaper replicas from the 1960s and one of them was the old Daily Herald with my father's byline on one of the articles! And going back a few years more, one of my cousins opened one of those Reader's Digest pictorial History Books and there was a picture of my father lecturing on Pacifism in the late 1930s. However I have been printing out some of these articles found today. And some of the political comments, written in the 1950s sadly make me realise that times haven't changed that much. His comments about wages and income tax are very interesting. And maybe others will now understand my dislike and disgust with Winston Churchill. These are two articles posted on here as photographs with 'translations' below.

Forgive me if I am being a bit self-indulgent today. I am dedicating this to Edna and all my lovely, huge family xxx

Melbourne Argus 19th December 1950

Text for the photos:

Attlee will introduce more socialism
SPARKS will fly in the political spheres of Britain tomorrow. By then the world will know from the King's Speech what legislation the Labor Government intends for the next Parliamentary session. The Opposition leaders and newspapers here are kidding themselves that the Government is going to coo as gently as a dove because of its small majority in the Commons. Don't believe that tale if you've been told it. The Government's new legislation will be challenging and belligerent. It will contain two proposals at least which will rouse fierce passions.
One will be a radical sugar nationalisation project - and the other will be a bill to make permanent the economic and industrial controls made necessary as temporary measures in wartime Britain.
And there will be another bill dealing with leaseholds that will bring all the backwoodsmen on one of their rare - and angry - visits to the House of Peers.
I sniff an electoral battle in the air.
February will see the struggle at the polls, I think.
When an election does come; cost of living will be a big issue.
Though it has been kept in check here better than in most countries in the world - and certainly better than in Australia - it is surely going up.
Fear of further price increases is making Christmas shoppers buy early this year.
Prudent husbands are buying their wives a something-to-wear present weeks ahead of the usual time.
Some shops have already sold more coats than during the whole of the winter season. 
Handbags and shoes are more popular than ever, and in both cases rising costs are likely with the increased leather shortage.
Handbags are already costing between £9 and £40. 
Everybody's feeling the draught, including higher income groups.
19/6 in the £
JUDGED by the income tax standards, the British millionaire is now almost non-
Last year there were only 86 people in the United Kingdom with over £6,000 income after tax.
In 1939 there were 6,560.
Tax at the highest rate ontop-level incomes in this country is 19/6 in the £.
Stiff, yes; but it doesn't begin at 19/6; it only reaches that at the supertax stage of £2,500 a year.
Lack of income has driven an Anglican parson out of his job.
He is the Rev. Austin Lee, talkative 45-year-old vicar of St. Stephen's, Hounslow, Middlesex.
He is offering his services as a cook for luncheon and dinner parties. To those ready to take him on he will also be prepared to bring a former Cambridge undergraduate as a waiter.

Oratory takes a  tumble
IF Australians still think of Winston Spencer Churchill as The Voice of England, they ought to shed their illusions. I sat in the House of Commons last week and saw Britain's wartime Premier descend, in the course of a few sentences, from the high level of a statesman to the abusive personal slanging level of the parish pump.
It was the most astonishing,  most impudent, and most insulting Parliamentary performance I have seen.
All the more so because Churchill's taunts and gibes were neither spontaneous nor unconsidered.
They were part of a meticulously prepared script from which Churchill spoke in a critical foreign affairs debate.
Coming at the end of a speech in which he had generally supported the Government on its Korean policy and had paid tribute to Mr. Attlee's mission to Washington, Mr.Churchill's charge that unless
the Government dropppd the act to nationalise steel he would "doubt their loyalty to the people of this country" was not only irrelevant-it was a studied reflection on the integrity of the men of whom Churchill has said he could have asked for no better Ministerial allies during the war.
What is the mystery behind all this? Why did Churchill deliberately destroy the non partisan atmosphere in which the debate on foreign affairs had proceeded up to that moment?
The answer is not easy to give, for it is many-sided. But one thing I can say with certainty: The hold of Churchill on the Tory Party is not as tight as it might be and to fasten his grip he must not make too many speeches even on foreign policy, which can be interpreted as support for the government.
Another reason it that, however grave the international situation, Mr. Churchill - and Tories generally-always have one eye cocked on the next general election.

*TV comedy starring Miranda Hart. Her chum is always uttering 'bear with' when answering her mobile in the middle of a conversation with A.N.Other. How rude.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Don't worry, it WILL happen ........

I didn't make a mistake in this blog title. I meant to say that - because I am convinced that too often when activists/politicians/union leaders put out a warning about something that can and will happen the general public/silent majority appears to take no notice. These members of the electorate need to wake up and protest/vote against all those 'somethings' . However, too often instead of protests, choruses of "Don't worry, 'that' will never happen" can be heard around the country, followed in a few months time by additional choruses of "Well I never thought 'they' really meant to do it". The so called silent majority have struck again. Silent because whilst they may be complaining at home/in the pub/in the bus queue they are not complaining where it matters: in the ballot box/the MPs inboxes/on the streets in peaceful demos and rallies.

And whatever it was 'they' weren't really going to do, we can be assured that it will probably never be reversed by the next Government because key infastructure/assets/knowledge bases will have been sold off/lost/destroyed. And the 'silent majority' will be blaming everyone but themselves, of course.

What is firing my bad tempered rant of today? Listening to the news bulletins today talking about the teachers' strike called for tomorrow. You know, those lazy people who work like stink so that the upcoming generations will be educated to a level that will provide adequate knowledge and prosperity to support us all in our old age. Those lazy people whose pay and pension prospects are so awful and whose retirement age is being hiked so that they will be on their feet controlling ungrateful pupils at an age when they - the teachers - should be at home resting. Those lazy people who work far more hours than the general public realise: running after school clubs and activities, marking homework, setting up lesson plans, school trips and more. Who are looked upon too often as baby sitters and pillioried if they take a day off in industrial action ["I have to get someone to look after my children so that I can go to work. This is so unfair."] Yet if the school does not allow a parent to take a child away on a foreign holiday during term time, these same parents are often heard to complain about parents rights and how much more expensive holidays are in school holiday weeks. When teachers' have to take their holidays, right?

Oh and of course today's couple of rants from Dastardly Dave used tomorrow's strike action and an opportunity to announce 
Tough new laws to restrict strikes in essential services will be promised in next year’s Conservative general election manifesto
these essential services will include council workers, health workers, firefighters and civil servants who - coincidentally - will be joining the teachers in their industrial action tomorrow.

And as Dave so kindly pointed out:

I think the time has come for looking at setting thresholds in strike ballots... The [NUT] strike ballot took place in 2012, based on a 27 per cent turnout

hmm, some local, EU and General elections haven't achieved a turn out of much more than that. A comment on that please Dave?

Trade unions look after their members in so many ways. One true blue friend attacked my union loyalty with the comment 'Unions have never achieved anything'. Without going into the full lecture [and I could!] I muttered about the 10 hour day, 40 hour week, paid holidays, sick pay and all the parliamentary causes they have supported..... I was still muttering as she slammed the door on her way out.

We all know our NHS is under attack. Please don't let that become something about which the silent majority says 'Well of course I never thought they meant to dismantle it.' Join any protest you can around your locality. Likewise protest against the so-called Bedroom Tax and any other Austerity measures which always seem to hit the poorer members of society disproportionately.

If you can't physically support the strikers tomorrow, please think about them. Tweet or facebook your support. Ask your MP to support public sector workers. Think how you would feel if your retirement age and pension was attacked. If you are one of those public sector workers, my solidarity goes with you in your struggles. I can't be with you tomorrow as we have a funeral of an elderly family member to attend. A socialist all her life who defended all like those on strike and rejoiced to see the birth of the NHS. I hope her family don't witness its demise. My great grandparents, grandparents and parents were all trade unionists. Our children and grandchildren have joined Other Half and I on protest marches. We will keep on marching - join us all!

Photograph above shows Anti-austerity protest marches on Parliament in London

Friday, 6 June 2014

From D-Day to Peace/ the stories of the two Harrys

We should all honour all those of all nations who fought and died on D- Day. But we should also remember all the combatants AND civilians from all nations who have fought, died and been affected by any conflicts before and since. And the best way to honour them is by ensuring that no-one suffers in this way ever again. We should all work for world peace.

No, it is not easy. But if we all start in a small way, join together and teach our children that peace is the way and aggression is wrong - we will get there one day. To those who scoff at my avowed Pacifism I can only say if everyone did the same as I and all my fellow pacifists - who would have fired the cannons, who would now shoot the guns or drop the bombs? The many thousands amongst whom I marched on the Stop the War marches in the 2000s, numbers that were repeated world wide showed the willingness to try to solve problems without warfare.

A comment that has stuck in my mind for so many years was made by a soldier who fought in the First World War in a TV programe which I watched about thirty years ago. Before that war, he had been a trade unionist and he said that he and his fellow trade unionists had never believed that such a war would happen because working men from one country would never take arms agains working men from another country. Sadly that proved not to be true and the speaker found himself fighting against men exactly like himself, just born in a different country and speaking a different language who were carrying out the consequences of their leaders failure to agree. There are so many books and TV programmes about the causes of the First World War available in this one hundredth anniversary year, yet how many fighting under any flag duing 1914 - 1918 really understood the breakdown of the causes: the house of cards that fell due to the intricate alliances between countries that meant that more and more were 'sucked' into the conflagration that gradually was named 'The Great War' and after 1945 'The First World War'?

Two Harrys who served in World War One should be consulted on their feelings about the effect of wars and their aftermath to both soldiers and civilians : 

The first Harry is Harry Patch who died in 2011- often referred to as the 'last fighting Tommy' because he lived until he was 111 and was the last man alive to have fought in the trenches. Here is a quote from him:

"When the war ended, I don't know if I was more relieved that we'd won or that I didn't have to go back. Passchendaele was a disastrous battle – thousands and thousands of young lives were lost. It makes me angry. Earlier this year, I went back to Ypres to shake the hand of Charles Kuentz, Germany's only surviving veteran from the war. It was emotional. He is 107. We've had 87 years to think what war is. To me, it's a licence to go out and murder. Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language I couldn't speak? All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that?"  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Patch 
There is a book available written by Harry Patch, The Last Fighting Tommy

The next Harry is: Harry Leslie Smith - who is aged ninety one. He is a veteran of the second world war, when he was a fighter pilot. His latest book: 

Harry's Last Stand: How the world my generation built is falling down, and what we can do to save it  looks at the world he and others believed they fought the war to achieve and how it is being eroded by present day politicians like Nigel Farage and the coalition government. A quote from this Harry:

‘As one of the last remaining survivors of the Great Depression and the Second World War, I will not go gently into that good night. I want to tell you what the world looks like through my eyes, so that you can help change it…’

 [I will not go gently into that good night is a reference to the Dylan Thomas poem Do not go gentle into that Good Night*. Very apt as it is Thomas' centenary this year too]

Lastly two quotes from the Old and New Testaments. It doesn't matter what religion or none one holds, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are pretty good guides for life, I always think!

Thou shalt not kill                      6th Commandment, Exodus 20:13

Blessed are the Peacemakers      Matthew 5:9

and one from Albert Einstein

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding

A few ideas for us all!


Monday, 2 June 2014

The place where I live/the joy of communities

For Edna

A friend posed the question on social media, to make all of us 'correspondents' less anonymous to one and other, to describe the place where we live. I sent my little contribution, but being known for 'inane rambling' [I loved the insult that was levelled at me some time ago so much that I can't help using it as a good descriptive tag] found that I wanted to expand upon where I live and where I have lived. So read on...

I live on the Essex side of the Thames Estuary, just about where Compeyson was drowned by Magwitch if anyone is a 'Great Expectations' fan and not far from the spot where the boat is moored in the opening scene in 'The Heart of Darkness' [can you tell I used to teach English Lit?] I was born further upriver and have nearly always lived within sight of water although ironically I am scared about actually being *in* water! Probably because I am a Leo birth sign [Fire!] 

The town on the Thames Estuary where I spent my first ten years was in a part of Essex which is now included within the London Boroughs 'system'. The community then meant the children could play in the street with so few cars and someone always watching, we and our Mums all walked to school together. There were not too many 'fridges and no freezers in our homes so when we went on holiday our Mums would leave a shopping list with the next door neighbour who would get in the shopping which would greet us on the kitchen table on the day when we arrived home. When anyone fell ill all the usual 'help' was employed if there were no family back up: shopping, taking little ones to school etc etc. Those lucky enough to have a telephone would take messages for those without 'phones.

The Hippy communities of the 1960s/1970s thought the world could be changed with peace and love. Some of us still feel that way, although some of us also feel that we have to be more politically pro active at the same time and demonstrate [peacefully but vocally!] against what we perceive to be the injustices and prejudices of many government policies. Sadly this Coalition Government has given us too many reasons to become vocal, many of which I have 'celebrated' in these pages.

'Here' is a nice enough place to live, good neighbours and a strong feeling of community. We came here for a while and have stayed 36 years so far. We have grown old[er] alongside many of our neighbours, having walked our children to school together and now swapping pictures of our grandchildren and going to each others' retirement parties. We no longer need our neighbours to get our shopping in when we return from our holidays but any other 'help' is always on hand. I have picked up from the floor the lovely nonagerian opposite several times and waited until either the ambulance or her family arrived; her ninety six year old next door neighbour offered to get her shopping after one of her falls; another neighbour often welds up bits of yet another construction Other Half has made; someone knocked on our door last night to see if we could print something as his printer wouldn't!; online shopping now means that we all take in parcels for one and other rather than actually go to the shops for one and other! Last week, knowing our next door neighbours were on holiday, Other Half nearly choked on his dinner [not due to my cooking this time] because he saw someone entering their house. He hadn't realised they had arrived home and was thus relieved he didn't have to confront anyone....

I also spend quite a lot of the year in West Somerset, again within sight of water, this time the Bristol Channel, amongst another community of friends and family. This community has grown from mutual interests and again, without realising it. We all help one and other out, swapping clothes for growing children, knitting for one and other and bringing items spotted for others' strange hobbies! We look across to the 'land of my fathers' both figuratively and literally. My father was born in S.Wales and if one takes a hike out of his birth village and stands high up on the Bwlch [mountain] above the village one can look across the Bristol Channel from there toward the West Somerset coast. So sometimes at night when I look over to Wales and see the lights twinkling I imagine that some of those lights are on cars going down the road to 'our' village. Obviously that is a stretch of the imagination... But from the stories my father would tell about his life in that village before coming to England, there was always a strong sense of family and community to which I loved to listen.

Other Half and I and our older children briefly lived in what was then the 'Temporary Capital of W.Germany': Bonn, and again very near water - the River Rhine. A beautiful part of the world and the only time and place in the 1970s when we did not have any money worries! But despite that and the wonderful friends we had in the wider area, it was never 'home' for lots of reasons - we knew we would be moving on and there was no sense of community in the immediate vicinity. We would wish our next door neighbours 'Guten tag' and that was it.

Reading back through this post, I realise that the strongest part of the memories of places where I have lived is mixed with the sense of community. All these communities were formed long before David Cameron 'floated' the idea of the 'Big Society'. And these communities have existed for hundreds of years wherever peoples have lived in close proximity to one and other: in Welsh mining villages, on estates of houses whether privately owned or rented.

So what has made me write so passionately about all these various communities? Well this weekend would have been the birthdays of various of my immediate ancestors. And it has been on mind how much they relied upon one and other and their friends to get themselves through the bad days of two world wars and the depression, by sharing everything - good and bad. And how, if the 'Bedroom Tax' had existed then communities would have been shattered when the elderly would have had to move away. Those elderly who looked after their grandchildren whilst their mother's worked to supplement family income, and cooked the meals that sustained that family. And how Austerity was the way that so many lived all the time - and how so many joined Trade Unions and left wing Political parties to allieviate the suffering and ensure their children and grandchildren would lead better lives. And how communities in S.Wales and the North of England 'sponsored' with food, boots, the little money they could spare and communities en route to Westminster 'donated' bed space to the Hunger Marchers like my father who felt they had to march to show the uncaring MPs in Parliament what it was like to be unemployed.

And I wonder about the world that my grandchildren will inherit. Will it be the one that my parents and grandparents fought for? Will it be the world that we thought possible in the 1960s? Or will it be the world that this Government and the thoughts of UKIP seem likely to impose? I sincerely hope it is the former and not the latter.

The photograph above shows the mining village in South Wales where my father was born and good eyesight and a magnifying glass shows the house where he was born and the houses where many of our family lived and still live.