"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/

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."


MY COMMENT:
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 .

**Pollyanna 


***Grinch

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





So: 
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

Meanwhile:
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.


BTW:
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

Friday, 31 October 2014

What does Freedom of Speech really mean?



Breaking news does not - almost by definition - always give the full or entirely correct facts of a situation. Yesterday morning the wonderful organisation Hope not Hate posted on facebook that postal workers in Rochester had refused to deliver election leaflets on behalf of the far right Britain First party. I re-posted this link and it started up a lively debate. Looking at the Hope not Hate website later in the day it transpired that in fact it was Royal Mail who had in fact decided that the communications from BF did not comply with the law and refused to deliver.


However some commentators in the press and elsewhere still seem to think that organisations like Britain First should be allowed to say what they like without censorship under the 'Freedom of Speech' banner. I am - as you may have noticed - a passionate advocate of freedom and the right to say whatever one likes WITHIN REASON.



And that's the thing. Freedom cannot be had without responsibility. And surely that word 'responsibility' encompasses legal and moral obligations. The legal obligations are to keep the laws and if one considers the laws to be wrong, to campaign to change these. The moral obligations are to treat one's fellow citizens as one would wish to be treated oneself. Most major religions have tenets to cover this but 'Mrs DoAsYouWouldBeDoneBy' in Kingsley's The Water Babies sums it up pretty succinctly just by her name.


And as a btw, I understand that postal workers have the right to refuse to deliver any leaflets that they consider to be offensive, although it is illegal for them to refuse to deliver anything that has a stamp on it. The BF leaflets in question were just that, leaflets. In the past postal workers have refused to deliver BNP leaflets. And as one commented, 'if we did deliver them we would have had to put up with the offensive comments from the customers who didn't want to receive them'.

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.