"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, 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

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.

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.