"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, 27 January 2015

The patriotic duty to de-clutter ........


Have nothing in your house that you do not
   know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
                                                                William Morris

I may have mentioned that one of my New Year Resolutions is to 'de-clutter'. This is the trendy word for getting rid of the accumulated stuff that is blocking cupboards, wardrobes, sheds and garages in the homes of the middle classes in this Capitalist, over-consuming society. And of course it has become trendy to 'de-clutter' with whole TV programmes, web-sites, businesses, media articles and too much more dedicated to the subject. If you don't believe me, google!

I've even bought a book about de-cluttering - Living More With Less, by James Wallman .  In true devotee style I have had the book delivered to my kindle rather than clutter up my [almost] decluttered bookshelves....

Bear with me. This is not going to be another one of those 'clear your living space and clear your mind and soul' polemics. In fact it will probably turn into one of those Elizannie rants when I wonder how society has come to this pass?

One may have various reasons for de-cluttering. Mine, apart from a desire to see the floor of my wardrobe[s] and the backwall of my bookshelves is the impending incoming of more family members, the smallest one of whom will take up more space per capita than his grandmother. Others of my age may be [using the modern parlance] 'downsizing' - we used to say moving somewhere smaller.

Don't expect to make a fortune from things kept so long that 'they must be worth something'. Checking online, beautiful books are only fetching a penny thanks to mass cheap publishing and e-publishing; wedding present linen is scorned as it won't tumble dry and needs ironing; ditto crockery and cutlery, even those still in their boxes are not fetching a lot but always quote the 'marque' - and nobody seems to use fish knives and forks anymore!; dark brown furniture is definitely 'out'. 'Vintage' is in, but beware, it has to be the right vintage. However, my handbag obsession has paid me back reasonably well, but good photos seem to help and if you have a handy professional photographer on hand for anything for sale it does seem to help!

Consumer society will love, nay encourage us in de-cluttering. New businesses have set up to do it for us if we can't quite get the hang of it. We can be sold clever books about it and then when we have done it and decided we can't just manage with 100 items - or whatever the latest buzz is - we will re-buy everything of which we have faithfully [in the true sense of the word] disposed. Hopefully ecologically by selling or recycling or in an approved fashion, by donating our 'clutter' to those less fortunate who would love to have enough possessions to think of de-cluttering. It will probably become our patriotic duty to de-clutter, then re-clutter to kick start the economy and beat the austerity. Win win.......

Of course there are many who will be superior to those of us trying to jump on the de-cluttering lifestyle. Those minimalists who have been around since the 60s for instance. I tried to be one but as soon as children arrived and I started shelving all those lovely little keepsakes like first teeth, first curls, first pictures, first paintings I lapsed to my hippy roots of carrying my world with me. And then other considerations collide: as a historian, should the wedding album survive the marriage parting for the sake of future generations? And that despised-when-it-sat-on-great-Nan's-mantelpiece ornament, but which she really loved and now I love for her sake piece - how can that ever be de-cluttered?

Telling a friend about this blog, apparently Janet Street-Porter got there first in the Daily Fail, which I wouldn't have known as the paper is not on my reading list. But I like JSP and the internet is a wonderful tool so if you would like to share her thoughts please do so here. She seems to agree with me that de-cluttering is probably better in thought than in deed.

But I would wholly recommend decluttering the mind. Much easier said than done, I find. And especially important with the General Election on the horizon and getting closer every day. Decide what is worth worrying about, what one can change and what one can do. In life, emotions and politics probably the best clutter we can deal with, one day at a time. The quote at the top of the blog from William Morris can equally well apply to Houses, Souls and Minds.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Apologies for Absence

It may have escaped your notice, but Elizannie has been missing for a while. Although this blog has the title of an apology, it isn't really. So it's a bit of an oxymoron in truth.  It contains explanations of a sort, extremely late seasons greetings for the month of December and Happy New Year wishes for 2015. Elizannie's absence was due to extenuating family circumstances topped up with a severe chest infection. The latter was cured by our wonderful NHS and although there were times when the whole blog idea looked as if - like the little tramp* - it would disappear off into the distance it is back and metaphorically sharpening its quill pen ready for a few acerbic political attacks in the months running up to the General Election. Deep joy.

Of course, the past weeks would not have been 'normal' in the Elizannie household without 'happenings'. Like the Christmas morning happening when assembled adults and very small children were locked out on the front door step on their return from church because - in a very complicated process of events - Elizannie had managed to double lock all out into the frosty morning. Suggestions from three year old Granddaughter that if we could get Father Christmas back with his magic key he would let us in were studiously ignored. Eventually Son-in-law and Lovely Neighbour managed to break in through the most 'vulnerable' entrance which never the less took 45 minutes, heavy machinery and a bill for quite a lot of money when the locksmith and carpenter were contacted after the Christmas break. Looking on the positive side it will provide a good story for many Christmases to come: 'Do you remember that Christmas when Nana Elizannie locked us all out whilst the turkey was burning in the oven?'

The change over to vegan cooking for those not eating turkey was a great success, so much so that the actual vegans did not actually get a lot of this Christmas cake as it was - imo - the best ever home made cake. And incidentally contained no alcohol whatsoever:

New Year's resolutions were the usual: Write that book, de-clutter and a new one this year, to try and conquer the fear of going out on my own. And the big news is that I managed - with the help of copious amounts of Bach's 'Rescue Remedy' to get to my local shops on the second of January. So very small steps for [this] woman but ones upon which to build.

And as for de-cluttering - this could become a national campaign. It is truly empowering, except at bedtime when one has forgotten that the bed still has detritus covering it. May even find that bracelet lost in 2004, who knows? But this could also become a metaphor for all of our minds too, especially with a General Election looming. We need to de-clutter our thoughts to enable us to decide between all the 'lies, damn lies and statistics'^ to which we will be 'treated' by politicians and media in the next months. 

Which brings me in one of Elizannie's normal, circuitous routes back to one of the comments in the first paragraph - the political attacks. Whilst lying on the settee listening to  new radio and struggling to breathe but truly thankful for my free antibiotics which not only killed the chest infection bugs but a few others which had been hanging around [and would have killed bubonic plague and anthrax according to the notes on the internet when consulted. Which is a good reason never to look up drugs and symptoms on the internet] I heard reports of Nigel Farage's latest pronouncement. This is neatly explained in this Guardian article, so I will leave it to it to explain for now and write my own rant another day when I am fully restored to full ranting breath!: 

I have lived in a country where the second question that is asked when one visits a doctor after 'Name?' is 'Insurance Company' - before 'What's Wrong?' And depending on the answer to the second question is the treatment [if any] for the third question. I know what it is like to get a medicine that is not strong enough to treat one's ailments successfully. In that situation and offered the chance to pay more to 'supplement' medical costs once again the haves win out.

I will just leave you all with the last thought, would you trust our NHS to this man?:

OK, unfair photo. But Elizannie definitely doesn't trust the man whatever the picture opportunity result!

Stay well friends.

*The photograph is from the end of the 1915 Charlie Chaplin film The Tramp
^Often attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, but this is not confirmed. Mark Twain attributes it to a 'Wise Statesman' but whether or not he meant Disraeli or in fact it is Twain's own comment is unclear.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The new 'old lie'

Along with many other TV viewers, I watched BBC Question Time last Thursday 
[7th December] It's still available on iplayer if, dear reader, you would like to
check it out.

I usually watch #bbcqt. Sometimes I join in the 'discussion' by tweeting along 
with it on hashtag #bbcqt. [See, I am down with the kids when it comes to 
techie talk. Although I am having trouble formatting this blog today and on a 
tight time schedule so bear with me and I hope you can read this in reasonable 
comfort. And the colours maybe, well, interesting] 

Russell Brand and Nigel Farage were billed amongst the panelists. Interesting, I 
thought. And it was. Brand seemed to be trying to hold himself back and not 
live up to his firework image. Farage seemed not to have the same 
principles and - imo - was his usual patronising, truth-bending, mis-leading self.
However a couple of times his hail fellow well met act slipped and then the fire
in his eyes flashed and maybe his true self showed.

Yesterday there was, expectedly, quite a bit of discussion in the media about 
which of the two 'won' the debate. I was unaware that the debate was between 
the two and that there was a winner or loser. There were three others on the 
and all were interesting and had some good points to make. Whether one 
agreed or not. How annoying to make those points and then have the media
apparently ignore your presence. It was revealed by the media that some of the
audience may have been 'plants' by the panelists [Quelle Surprise] - the chappie
who challenged Brand to stand for Parliament is apparently the brother of a 
UKIP MEP and may stand for office himself. Brand himself wrote a long piece on 
facebook talking about his experience and his views and if, dear reader, you 
care to google there are many media articles taking sides on the 'debate'.

But today the lovely poet Michael Rosen has put up a view on facebook which I
want to share beyond facebook participants. So here it is. He wrote:

"I keep thinking of the young working class bloke (or he said he was) in the 
audience of Question Time who said that the working class had been hit hardest 
by immigration. What a  terrible success of the lie that his low wages have 
been caused by immigrants. What's incredible is that he could believe this at a 
time when it has been explicit - nay, boasted of - information coming from 
government and everywhere else that they are sacking people and 
keeping down wages as part of 'austerity'. So, in the usual run of things, the 
government 'freezes' wages (that is, cuts them in real terms) and the private 
sector uses that as a means to fix the rates too. That's what employers do. It's 
their 'job' to do that. They're paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to 
freeze wages. It's what they're doing.

And the bloke in the audience says that he's been hit by immigrants.

I hope a trade union organiser finds him at work on Monday and signs him up."

Wilfred Owen in WW1 wrote about the 'Old Lie' [Dulce et Decorum est] One hundred years later, another poet talks about another 'new' old lie.

Michael and I seemed to be watching the same programme. Thank goodness, as many of the commentators in the media yesterday didn't. We are entering the General Election propaganda period now, so look out for more 'new' Old Lies. Take the Politicians up on them all. Remember that if we let them get away with them, it is people like us that will suffer. Millions of us. Remember the man who said last time 'We are the party of the NHS'?* Did you believe him? Will you believe what he says this time? Just asking?

BTW I don't support Brand's views on not voting. I think that the only way we can change anything is through the ballot box. But also we should get involved by going to meetings, asking questions, lobbying MPs and candidates. We are part of the political processes. If we don't participate in however small a way, we cannot after the election complain. And as I and many others say on election days 'Many have died to get the vote so we shouldn't waste it'.

*Of course, David Cameron.

For the first time ever, no photo. Formatting and time have defeated me. I may return later and add something inappropriate!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Tony Blair's Christmas Card

Who would live in a house like this?
The decorated house from
 National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Sometimes I think our society is divided into those who love to complain and those who try to see the best in everything ["Pollyannas"] The complainers at Christmas time can be generically referred to as "Grinches"***.

I try to be a Pollyanna**, although complaining can burst out - especially in the political realm. In the spirit of Pollyannaism today, I posted a paean of praise to the 'organisers' of the new charging system at the Dartford Crossing: New system for charging at the Dartford Crossing started on Sunday. Our Dart tag payment was automatically changed to the new charge  - no problem. We crossed both ways on Sunday - no problem. Today Other Half changed our car reg number online - no problem. Now that we are in the system as soon as our credit drops below £10 a direct debit will automatically top it up.

But. Why do some seem to look for subjects to complain about? There has just been a completely manufactured news item about whether or not it is a good idea to send out family pictures on Christmas Cards in the light of  what was adjudged to be the frankly scary production by Cherie and Tony Blair and as for Christmas Round Robins - well apparently they are beyond the pale!

Cards on the table time [see what I did there?] I love getting Christmas Cards and Christmas Round Robins. If it wasn't for Christmas I know I wouldn't hear from lots of distant relations, friends and acquaintances at all.That's fine - we are all guilty of the 'yeah, I'll give so-and-so a ring next week'. Next week turns into next month and so on. That's why I love facebook, for the gossip! So what if the photos we send out are not of fashion model status, or show our age/wrinkles/gormless smiles - they are us! So what if are news items are quite parochial - they are about us!

What is this push for perfection? What's the panic about getting everything right for 'C-day'? What if the dinner isn't on the table bang on time? What if the Christmas cake is a bit wonky and burnt on one corner? What if the wrapping paper has run out and doesn't all match? What is important after all? Smiles and talking to people. Presents don't have to cost a lot, truly. The thought really does count - if it doesn't well perhaps there is something else wrong.

This time of year should be festive - happy. Individuals may or may not celebrate one of the religious celebrations that occur at the ending of the calendar year. We also have the celebration of the Winter Solistice to show that the lighter times are returning, always a milestone in the winter. Hopefully this should be a time when people are able to share time with family and friends.

It would be nice if for once people tried not to let media advertising persuade them to spend money they did not have on  things they did not need. And didn't use the time of the year as an excuse for things they really wanted to do or didn't want to do - along the lines of 'I couldn't possibly do that until after Christmas' starts being heard in mid-October. And signing into a hotel in shorts on the first day of August I was a little surprised to see a photograph of a Christmas Tree inviting me to book my Christmas Dinner. The parents threatening their children with no presents from Father Christmas unless they behave/eat their dinner/stop crying have rather missed the meaning of Christmas and the reason why we give Christmas presents any way.

Are you going to be a Christmas Pollyanna or a Grinch? Do try to enjoy the run up to Christmas even if you don't go along with all the customs/rituals. Marvel at the lights and laugh at the soppy Christmas movies! You never know, like Frank Cross in Scrooged*^ you may find:
It's Christmas Eve! It's... it's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we... we... we smile a little easier, we... w-w-we... we... we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!

And I will leave you with the immortal words of Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation*:

Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, kiss my ass. Kiss his ass. Kiss your ass. Happy Hanukkah.

Especially for Elizabeth Ann, Michael and Andy Mills 

Two Christmas 'must see' movies in our house and those of many of our family

^Scrooged is a version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol . Any version is really worth watching if you haven't the chance to read the story, for reasons I outline here .



Tuesday, 18 November 2014

So where does charity start? The Band Aid 30 single..

Cd cover art work by Tracey Emin

Many people have already downloaded the Band Aid 30 charity mp3 single via the internet or donated to the Ebola Crisis fund by texting from mobile 'phones, details here . [I downloaded my mp3 from amazon.co.uk] The audio CD will be released on the 8th December.

Many people already know all this, so why is Elizannie preaching about it? It could be because she is just so fed up with all the carping about the production of the song that has appeared in the press and social media in the past couple of days.

Comments regarding how the stars singing could have donated from their vast stores of money rather than 'only' give their time. How they are just 'showing off'. How the song isn't very good anyway. How the wording was [a] inappropriate or [b] could have been better.**

No matter that the UN asked Bob Geldof to do something to help. No matter that within minutes of the single's 'premiere' on X Factor on Sunday evening £1 million had been raised. No matter that Bob Geldof emphasised this is not just a problem that affects the African nations but which could too easily affect any other country. No matter that he praised the brave health workers who were going out to try to help. No matter that the Government are waiving VAT on the sales. There are too many who will find something, anything to criticise, to be sarcastic, to be ironical about.

So instead Elizannie wants to start a 'thank you' to the Band Aid 30 team campaign. Thank you for raising awareness. Thank you for giving up your time. Thank you for already raising a good amount of money. Thank you for trying to help.

And for all those commentating, criticising, complaining - Where were you? If you know so much about it all, why didn't you do something to help? Looking forward to your answers.

**One such article criticising Bob Geldof appeared in the Daily Telegraph . It seems to ignore the fact that the Band Aid 30 team hope to raise money in addition to all the actions that article mentions. The fact that the author of the piece does not recognise a large percentage of the line up is not a reason to decry it!

Monday, 10 November 2014

The commodification of Armistice Day and has Christmas Advertising gone mad? Is the world standing on its head?

Rather a long subject title but as they say in the sitcom Miranda 'Bear With'.

Whether or not one contributes to the Royal British Legion Poppy appeal, wear a white poppy from the Peace Pledge Union as a sign of peace or a black poppy* it would appear that this year - perhaps unsurprisingly given that it is the centenary of the 
outbreak of WW1- the poppy has become not only a 
symbol of remembrance but also a consumer item. In the Marxist sense of the word has become a commodity as different, 'desirable' versions of it are peddled on websites and street corners. The Royal British Legion website has many tasteful items for sale; their stalls in supermarkets do not just display the simple cloth poppies and poppy badges which have been added over the past few years but other memorabilia [mugs etc] Craft shops show hand knitted and crocheted poppies, postcards and small pictures - some framed - are available too - do the proceeds go to the shopkeepers or the veteran charities? Obviously the
handmade ceramic poppies planted outside the Tower of London are a bargain at £25 each and will be a great talking point in the corner in a tasteful vase inmany a home: a part of an art installation, patriotic icon and oh yes a remembrance of one of those brave soldiers who gave those lives that others may live. If I sound cynical it is because I am - so many of those young men had no idea why they were fighting and there is still a great misunderstanding in the minds of many of the population today as to the real reasons why the 1914 - 1918 war took place.The black poppy commemorates all those who have died due to imperialist war and its legacy: dead soldiers, dead civilians and dead conscientious objectors. Stop the War

Yet despite full page adverts in newspapers, leaflets delivered through most doors and TV advertising by the Royal British Legion it did seem that an awful lot of people were not wearing poppies this year. Hundreds of thousands went to see the poppies at the Tower of London yet there were no collecting boxes for veterans charities. And the count of the poppies there is only for the British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives, not those of all And in another twist, the poppy was hijacked in another sort of commodification by some far right political groups like Britain First who used it as a symbol on social media to sell themselves and raise funds by selling badges - some bearing poppies.

And whilst I am on the subject of advertising, have you noticed something, a bit of a trend perhaps on your TV in the past few days? The big stores and wholesalers massive TV advertising campaigns costing millions of pounds each appear to be vying with each either to get some sort of title: 'The best sickly, sentimental Christmas Advert of the year' perhaps?' And meanwhile the United Nations have to ask two elderly Rock Stars to make another Band Aid type record to raise money for aid for Ebola

So is the world turning upside down when the poppy for remembrance becomes a commodity. When a far right political group uses the poppy to raise funds for itself. When famous pop stars are reduced nearly to begging for our monetary donations to help those dying of a deadly disease. When global companies are spending millions to persuade us to part with money for commodities we don't really want or need. Christmas is a time of giving, we surely need to all decide the right direction in which our money should travel.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

It's only money - but what if....?

For Jane Jones and all those in the 'Save Our Pool' campaign

John Lewis spends 11million pounds on their Christmas advertising

Nick Clegg  spends an estimated 10million pounds trying to persuade us to 'staycation' in the North

Small villages in the valleys of South Wales are losing community services due to council cuts from lack of money like the one shown above [and many other places elsewhere throughout the UK] are losing community services due to council cuts from lack of money

So - what? Who cares? 

What if John Lewis' Christmas TV advert was a black screen bearing the legend:
We have donated our £X million of our Christmas advertising budget to the following charities.......
What if the Coca-Cola trucks were taking aid to underprivileged countries.

What if Nick Clegg/the Government's money for Northern staycations went on keeping some of the community services in small outlying districts all over Britain alive. What if then these communities could keep their libraries, community centres, swimming pools and many more social community services.

The photo above shows part of the placard from the 'Save our Pool' campaign for the South Wales village of Cymmer. This pool not only serves the residents of the surrounding areas but also provides the venue for the schools' swimming lessons. 

Why am I so concerned? 
My family come from the nearby village of Blaengwynfi and many years ago one of my father's cousins - aged 13 - drowned in a horrendous accident in the seaside town of Aberavon. There is a large memorial to him and his three companions in the Cymmer cemetery, built with money raised by the National Eisteddfod which was in progress in Aberavon at the time of the accident*. All children need to learn to swim. The closure of this swimming pool [and others] due to council cuts may mean many children may miss out on lessons.

Part of the blog title  'It's only money' is taken from the song - written by Phil Lynott  & Philip Parris - of the same name. One of the verses comprises the following lyrics:

You try to make a buck
But you haven't made a penny
You need a little luck
But you know you won't get any

Sadly appropriate for many living under this coalition Government perhaps?

*Shown under 1932 on the timeline of http://www.historicalporttalbot.com/timeline.html