"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/

Thursday, 2 October 2014

On Writing a Blog Commemorating 1914 - 1918

I started my  bit o' writing and got on with it. Did my research and tried to be fair to all sides. I am a pacifist, I reasoned, I prepared myself for the nay-sayers. I practised all my rhetorical skills against theirs. 

And then I put my head down on the table and wept. I wept for all those who died in all conflicts anytime or anywhere, whatever side or nationality. Rich or poor, young or old, native or foreign. I wept for all those who should have been and never had the chance. I wept for the children who didn't meet fathers and the mothers who never had children.

I cried for one of my grandfather's, badly injured in the Balkans. I cried for his comrades who never returned at all. I cried for my other grandfather drunk with his brothers because they could never speak of 'Wipers' or the Somme. I cried for my grandfather-in-law whose war experience turned the smart, intelligent 18 year old into a miserable - but still intelligent - old man. 

I thought about all those babies born during WW1 whose mothers' thought they were growing up into a war free world. I thought especially of the ones who did not make it through WW11. I thought about the displaced persons, refugees, homeless and sick that all conflicts leave behind. I thought about all the many who in times of war carry on but never look for thanks; those who cared for children not their own and any sick who needed help.

I wondered about books not written, pictures not painted, music not composed because their artists had died. Games not played, songs not sung, cheer not shouted and laughter not heard as the audiences had been lost. Love not made and words not spoken.

And so, although this maybe written another day, mere words can never tell how much I feel and how passionately I hope that we can manage to find a way forward, together, in peace.

Friday, 12 September 2014

No or Yes? Less than a week to the Referendum

Sadly, a lot of non-Scottish Brits do not seem interested in the Scottish Referendum, which is now less than a week away. Ideas that separation could affect England and Wales too are only just beginning to seep into the collective consciousnesses of many of those South of the Border.

I have been chatting today with a Scots friend on facebook and I thought that maybe, with the Scottish Referendum less than a week away, I could expand some of my comments into something that would be of wider interest. He is of the 'No Thanks' persuasion:

"For the past year or so I have been reading your discussions regarding the forthcoming referendum with great interest, my friend. Whilst your remarks and comments have been measured and backed up with facts, so often those from the 'yes' campaign have been increasingly hysterical and wild. A bit like the comments from Salmond, if his remarks yesterday comparing the Scottish referendum to South Africa’s post-apartheid election are correctly reported in context it does make one wonder about the ego of the man. Whilst some commentators are saying that he is referring to the amount of those entitled to vote registering to vote comparing in the high percentage to those registering to vote in the South African election, others are saying that he is using the juxtaposition of South Africa's post apartheid and Scotland's possible independence deliberately. Anyone would think that England had colonised Scotland rather than the truth that the Scottish King who acceded to the English throne, James V1 of Scotland who became James 1st of England, was rather pleased about the fact!

As a Welsh/English Brit living in the South East of England most of the time, whilst I wouldn't  claim that our political system is as good as it could be, I would suggest that there is safety in numbers and that only by all pulling together can we achieve any sort of strength on a global scale. And I don't mean military strength.

If I were to have a vote, I know I would be very worried about the unanswered questions, nay ignored questions that Salmond and his comrades seem to feel unnecessary to answer. Covering cultural, political and economic areas, those questions alone would make me vote 'No Thanks', Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil dressed in sheep's clothing [very mixed metaphors but too much reading of Salmond's speeches can do that to one]  And after any election, getting victorious politicians to stick to their campaign promises can be difficult enough, let alone attempting to get a politician to carry out a promise that 'things will be a better' - a subjective comment if ever there was one!
We are coming to Scotland on referendum day and I am sure it will be an interesting experience. If I could vote, which I can't, it would be 'No' because I really do believe we are 'better together'. "

The next few days leading up to the 18th will be interesting. Meanwhile, those Brits 'South of the Border' should really be thinking how the whole vote, whichever way it goes, could affect the whole of the UK.

Photo courtesy:

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Is the World Turning Upside Down?*

Other Half and I have just arrived back in the South East after spending a month with friends and family in the South West. As many of you know, when in the South West we are usually perched on a cliff, overlooking the Bristol Channel. Broadband signal comes and go, 'phone signals disappear mid-conversation and often I [deliberately] go a few days without hearing or reading the news.

So when I do hear/catch up with upto date news it can sometimes seem far more stark and frightening than when in usual, everyday 'real life' mode when we hear new bulletins seemingly all day long. One morning Other Half woke me up by saying 'The Elephants are taking over'. Once we had sorted out that I hadn't got my hearing aids in place and he had actually said 'The Militants are taking over' and discussed sensibly what he had meant, we both agreed that the idea of Elephants taking over was a preferable option. By 'the Militants' he was ironically referring to speeches by Barack Obama and other 'World Leaders' calling for military intervention in various trouble spots world wide. In the month that 'celebrates' [rather than commemorates] the start of World War One this is truly ironical. We noticed too how the Israeli aggression against Gaza seemed to drop rapidly out of the news, to be replaced by stories of violence in Syria. Coincidence?

During the month we also heard that British citizens who leave the country to fight with the Jihadis in Syria and Iraq would not be allowed back into this country. Whilst having no sympathy with their views, I thought this was a dangerous decision for the government to take because it seemed to be the top of a slippery slope: once this move had been allowed for Jihadist sympathisers would it spread to others who did not agree with the government for other reasons? Nineteen Eighty Four and the thought police come to mind. The news later in the week that it is against international law to deny a country's citizens entry to that country was slightly reassuring.....

The news that parents who had taken a terminally ill child from the hospital which had been treating him to another country in the hope that there would be one more procedure which could help him, had been arrested and separated from their child, appalled us. The UK hospital, who had sadly done all they could to help the little boy, claim that he is now in danger and British police felt it had no other option but to issue a European arrest warrant. As it turns out when the little boy was taken from the hospital by his parents it appears they were not breaking the law and as he only has a few months to live the whole situation seems horrendous. Politicians are now saying the child and his parents should be reunited and such is the cynicism with which politicos are now viewed in this country it has been suggested that these are vote catching comments. How sad.

for the family's sake I hope this is resolved soon.*

Since this was typed it has been announced that the European arrest warrant has been withdrawn by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Returning from the South West on Sunday the amount of police vehicles - motor bikes, people wagons, patrol cars [any unmarked cars could not, of course, be seen!] - travelling West on the other carriageway was remarkable. Presumably on the way to Newport for the NATO summit which opens later this week. Cordons are of course already in place in Newport [where a peace camp has already been set up] and Cardiff [where summit dinners are to take place]

Whilst the NATO summit is looming, another 'World Event' is also on the September calendar. The referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on September 18th and the two sides seem to be rather nastier to each other than one would have expected. A good friend is in the 'No' camp and I have to say that the amount of insults he receives compared to the good sense of his comments would have me voting 'no' if I had  a vote, although I already sympathise with the 'no' campaign anyway!] Since the Act of Union in 1707 was deemed to benefit both England [including Wales] and Scotland at the time there are obviously issues to be discussed after 300+ years - anomalies maybe seen on both sides like that fact that Scottish MPs can vote on English problems but not vice versa and the fact that the Scottish and English/Welsh legal systems are separate. But some of the screaming arguments that have taken place are surely counter-productive to the sort of reasoned logic that would be appreciated by the interested but unresolved voter? And the answer to whether or not Scotland can be included in the European community seems to differ according to which leader is questioned...... thus including this as a 'European community', if not a 'World' event. 

This government has provided its citizens with many u-turns but this week a welcome one for dwellers along the Thames Estuary is the news that another of Boris Johnson's pipe dreams seems to be failing. This is of course his plans for an island airport for London in the Thames Estuary. Those of us who have lived along the estuary for any length of time [and in my case that adds up to more than 60 years] knew from the beginning that - excuse the pun - these ideas would not fly and you can read about my fears here . I daresay that Boris in his role as Mayor of London is annoyed about the upset to his plans, but as in another apparent volte face he has announced lately that he will stand for Parliament in the next election perhaps he will manage to get over his disappointment.

Catching up with facebook I was surprised - and pleased - at the number of people who were taking up the ice bucket challenge to raise money and awareness for various charities, mainly ALS/MND [see my effort here ] But underlining that is the feeling - as when there is any large charity push for money - that it should not be down to the kindness of strangers to pay for the things which governments, who seem to be able to find the money for weapons with which to wage war, claim they have not enough funds to pay.

The world may not have turned upside down in the past few weeks, but there have been times when it shivered a little on its axis. The Super Moon could be viewed in the second week of August and we saw it when travelling back from Swansea to Somerset with one of our grandsons in the back of our car. He was awed by the sight of the apparently massive moon travelling along the motorway next to us, its size and brightness giving off an aura of peace which our world badly needs.

I don't suppose it will surprise any of you that the photograph above is taken at Glastonbury Tor, Somerset. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images 

Blog title: Some of my reasons for parodying the quote: 'The World Turned Upside Down'
The World Turned Upside Down was originally a ballad written in the 1640s and for more information visit here.
The wonderful and talented Leon Rosselson wrote a song with the same title about the story of the Digger Commune of 1649. You can hear Billy Bragg singing it here or Roy Bailey here.
Marxist Historian Christopher Hill wrote a seminal book about the English Civil War in 1972 with this title.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A Week is a Long Time [in Politics*]/ Double Drenchings

Our three year old granddaughter nominated us to take part in the 'ice bucket challenge' last week. All summer I have said that if nominated I would pay the 'fine' [sending double the suggested donation] rather than be drenched needlessly, but when a tiny child - willing herself to be drenched with ice cold water - nominates Nanny and Grandad, how can one refuse? So yesterday I allowed another granddaughter to throw a bowl of water over me and the result can be seen above. In turn I nominated David Cameron and George Osbourne and I have sent them videos of my drenching to this effect and will let you know their replies, but please don't hold your breath. 

Three year old granddaughter was raising funds and awareness for Tommy's baby charity and I also donated to the MND charity in memory of my cousin Bobby who passed away with this disease. [
Anyone wishing to join me in donations can do so by texting as follows: for Tommy's, which will donate £3, BABY to 70007 or for MND: ICED55 £5 (or other amount) to 70070]

Yesterday was warm and sunny and the dousing was quite short with large, fluffy towels to hand. Exactly one week before, Other Half and I were at a music festival in the West Country in rather cold and wet weather. Wrapped in a large crocheted blanket against the cold I was dancing in the pouring rain to the music of one of my favourite modern folk bands, Bellowhead

I may be getting older but I am certainly not getting any wiser. 

So two drenchings in a week, one for good causes and one for sheer hedonism [other Bellowhead fans will get the pun as 'Hedonism' is the title of one of their CDs...] but both great fun, especially when surrounded by family and friends.

*This quote is generally attributed to Harold Wilson but this could p
ossibly be a misattribution; according to Nigel Rees in Brewster's Quotations (1994), asked shortly after his retirement in 1977 about the quote, he could not pinpoint the first occasion on which he uttered the words.

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?