"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/

Sunday 25 July 2010

Paul Robeson

Photograph: Paul Robeson: A Biography by Martin Bauml Duberman

Had a bit of a confusing/harassing day yesterday due to all sorts of things but managed to relax with music and watching the Tour de France. A good friend sent some lovely music and links and before I went to bed I was playing some of my favourite songs by Paul Robeson - which has inspired this personal blog about another hero of mine. Clicking on the title above will takes one to a site which gives some biographical details about him.

However a very important piece of Robeson's past [for me]not shown on that site is his involvement with the Welsh Hunger Marchers in the 1930s. Robeson met unemployed Welsh miners in London in 1929, visited them in Wales and during the early 1930s became involved with their struggle. He sang at Caernarfon, Wrexham, Neath and many other smaller towns and in Mountain Ash in 1938 and the Rhondda in 1939.

The following has been taken from the website [details shown here] which is a very interesting read: http://bit.ly/db1mcE

At the Mountain Ash Memorial Concert to the Welshmen who died fighting fascism in Spain he said,
‘I have waited a long time to come down to Wales – because I know there are friends here…..I am here tonight because as I have said many times before, I feel that in the struggle we are waging for a better life an artist must do his part. I am here because I know that these fellows not only died for Spain but for me and the whole world. I feel it is my duty to be here.’

The 1939 film "Proud Valley" showed the struggles of Welsh miners and was also a lot about Robeson himself although he played a fictional character.

In 1957 the Welsh miners tried to repay some of their debt to Robeson. He was 'trapped' in America by having had his passport taken away during the McCarthy witch hunt. Robeson was reported to be very depressed and there is a very moving account in the biography shown above that he had been invited to sing at a Welsh Eistedfodd but could not leave the US. So it was arranged that he should attend a New York recording studio and a 'phone link was set up so that a Welsh miners' choir could sing a song in tribute to him, which re-invigorated him.

In 1958 Robeson had his passport restored and left the US, arriving in Wales for the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale as Nye Bevan's guest.

I always knew that my late father admired Paul Robeson and I had assumed - as a child does - that this admiration was based on Robeson's wonderful singing voice. It wasn't until I was doing some political research many years after my father died that the truth began to dawn. My father was amongst those Welsh Hunger Marchers and possibly met Robeson in the 1930s. He came from near Neath - did he hear Robeson sing there? I will never know! As my father was a political activist I can only assume that he would have admired whole heartedly Robeson's political stance. By the time of the Spanish Civil War, f'r instance, my father was living in England and his fiancee [later to become my mother!] and her family had Spanish refugees living with them.

My mother used to sing me a lullaby in the 1950s and sang it again to all my children. I always assumed it was an old East End song, until I heard it again on one of the many Paul Robeson CD collections which I now own!

In the 1950s my father attended many Eistedfodd as a journalist. I do wish I knew if he was in Ebbw Vale in 1958!

This is the lullaby my mother used to sing to me and my children:

To bring the story up into the 21st century the Manic Street Preachers sang 'Let Robeson Sing' and a link for it is here:

This blog is dedicated to Michael and Yvonne [they know why] who knew the first Elizannie

Thursday 22 July 2010

Fanfare for the Makers by Louis MacNeice

We have been watching the wonderful Tom Hollander in 'Rev' on Monday nights, BBC2

In this week's episode [four] some lines were quoted from the poem by Louis MacNeice "Fanfare for the Makers". Despite having taught and lectured on English Literature, I am not really a poetry person and this poem had sadly passed me by, although there are other poems by MacNeice that I enjoy.

So in case anyone else has also missed this wonderful poem here it is:

Fanfare For The Makers by Louis MacNeice

A cloud of witnesses. To whom? To what?
To the small fire that never leaves the sky.
To the great fire that boils the daily pot.

To all the things we are not remembered by,
Which we remember and bless. To all the things
That will not notice when we die,

Yet lend the passing moment words and wings.


So fanfare for the Makers: who compose
A book of words or deeds who runs may write
As many who do run, as a family grows

At times like sunflowers turning towards the light.
As sometimes in the blackout and the raids
One joke composed an island in the night.

As sometimes one man’s kindness pervades
A room or house or village, as sometimes
Merely to tighten screws or sharpen blades

Can catch a meaning, as to hear the chimes
At midnight means to share them, as one man
In old age plants an avenue of limes

And before they bloom can smell them, before they span
The road can walk beneath the perfected arch,
The merest greenprint when the lives began

Of those who walk there with him, as in default
Of coffee men grind acorns, as in despite
Of all assaults conscripts counter assault,

As mothers sit up late night after night
Moulding a life, as miners day by day
Descend blind shafts, as a boy may flaunt his kite

In an empty nonchalent sky, as anglers play
Their fish, as workers work and can take pride
In spending sweat before they draw their pay.

As horsemen fashion horses while they ride,
As climbers climb a peak because it is there,
As life can be confirmed even in suicide:

To make is such. Let us make. And set the weather fair.

The photograph at the top of the page is taken from the cover of the Faber edition of
Louis MacNeice: Poems Selected by Michael Longley

Wednesday 21 July 2010

The Volunteer and the 'Big Society'

I keep trying to ignore all the puns etc on 'The Big Society'. I have had to wait until I cool down for long enough to write a sensible blog on this subject but more and more 'soundbites' from the ConDems mean my 'sensible levels' have not reached the right tolerance yet.

However on holiday over the past couple weeks I suppose I was particularly noticing how many volunteers are already helping in the society already and all this speechifying from the Government is really insulting to them. They get so little recognition already yet so many give up so much time willingly with little thought of thanks.

Like many Mums over the years I have helped out at various things to do with the childrens' education and interests etc. I have served on committees; collected, sorted and sold jumble; made outfits for dancing shows; gone on brownie and school trips etc etc. I have also worked voluntarily for a couple of national charities. I and all the others did all these things because we really enjoyed doing them.

Over the past weeks I watched volunteers who run a Gateway club for adults with learning disabilities who had taken their members on their annual weeks holiday. They were all having a fantastic time and what was even better was the fact that they always go to the same holiday park every year and a lot of the other holiday makers deliberately book to go at the same time to join in the fun. A lot of tears when the coach left on the Saturday morning - mostly from the other holidaymakers!

We wandered off around the little villages doing our usual thing of charity shop hunting, mostly for second hand books. All shops staffed of course by volunteers. The West Somerset railway chugged in and out of a lot of this villages, manned by volunteers. When I could get 'air time' on the computer I got news from the charities I support - my favourite one at the moment is MAMAA [see http://www.mamaa.org/ ] which was set up and is run by volunteers, one of whom was awarded the MBE last year. Incidentally MAMAA is being supported by that same holiday park mentioned above which raises money every year for six charities chosen by the holiday makers and volunteers again are the money raisers.

I haven't mentioned all the fantastic people who did the Moonwalk marathons or the Run for Life races this summer let alone all the other fundraising events all over the country for all sorts of good causes. Often raising money that some would say is filling a gap that government is leaving open: money for schools, hospitals, medical research and more.

But for every story told above there are lots more. Like we are an island but have a charity and volunteers running the Lifeboat service. Nobody has directed any of these 'volunteers', volunteering needs to come from wanting to help, directed volunteering is really conscription. There are plenty of people doing things voluntarily now to fill in the gaps that society should be filling with professionals, surely to have more untrained - even if willing - volunteers 'out there' is not a good thing? And where are so many volunteers supposed to be hiding? Could it be that - as one caller to a radio 'phone in programme suggested this week -that as much as she would like to volunteer she has to work full time to balance the family budget and is just too tired in the evening to help out as much as she would like to?

So excuse me if I get cross that Cleggeron and co seem to think they have invented charity and 'good works' volunteering and they can replace a lot of workers with that too. Because nothing comes for free and if they make existing workers redundant by this 'Big Society' idea as some observers have suggested could happen, well won't there be redundancy payments and job seekers allowance to be paid?

I can't think of a sensible photograph to illuminate this blog so lets have a pretty one instead. A sunset across the Bristol Channel.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Nobody puts Marmite in a corner

No need to say much today. Click on the title to see the article in the Mirror regarding the damages awarded to Marmite against the BNP. Result!

Thanks to Hope not Hate* for the alert.

* www.hopenothate.org.uk

Saturday 17 July 2010

The Red Flag

For various reasons I have recently been 're-visiting' the story and history of the working class 'anthem' The Red Flag

It all started over a literary discussion that I was leading on the internet when I was explaining the history of the song to the mostly American members of the group and as I realised that perhaps there were a few British group members that may not have known the history I thought perhaps I could make the song the subject of a blog on here. So here goes.

The song 'The Red Flag' was/ some say still is the anthem of the Labour Party. It was written in 1889 by Jim Connell, an Irishman. Connell originally intended it to be sung to the tune of a pro-Jacobite Robert Burns anthem, "The White Cockade". Clicking on the blog title will take one to a web page set up to celebrate Connell and the song with versions of it sung by Billy Bragg. However it is normally sung to the tune of the German carol "O Tannenbaum" [O Christmas Tree] and usually only the first and last verses and choruses are sung [full version below] Personally I think the penultimate verse is particularly pertinent today! For the 'traditional' version sang to 'Tannenbaum' go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cj5_9mZY7Q&NR=1

The story of the origins of the Red Flag as a revolutionary symbol are varied, and although I always treat information on Wikipedia with caution there is quite a good page here:


This page shows the story of its British origins, which is the one I was always told, that in S.Wales in Merthyr Tydfil [which at the time was the capital of Wales]
Two red flags flown by marchers during the Merthyr riots of 1831 in South Wales were soaked in calf's blood. The red flags of Merthyr became a potent relic following the execution of early trade unionist Dic Penderyn (Richard Lewis) in
August 1831 despite a public campaign to pardon him.
Dic Penderyn is a hero of mine so maybe the subject for another blog.....

The 'Red Flag' was one of the 'lullabyes' I used to sing to my children [and grandchildren] when babies. They had a very eclectic mix of songs as lullabyes! When my mother was buried her coffin left the church to the tune of the Red Flag which was a proud and fitting moment as a tribute to a true Christian Socialist. I have stood underneath the red flags of the UNITE union when demonstrating for equality for workers.
The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts' blood dyed its every fold.

Then raise the scarlet standard high. (chorus)
Within its shade we live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.

Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise,
In Moscow's vaults its hymns were sung
Chicago swells the surging throng.

It waved above our infant might,
When all ahead seemed dark as night;
It witnessed many a deed and vow,
We must not change its colour now.

It well recalls the triumphs past,
It gives the hope of peace at last;
The banner bright, the symbol plain,
Of human right and human gain.

It suits today the weak and base,
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place
To cringe before the rich man's frown,
And haul the sacred emblem down.

With head uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.

Picture above courtesy of  http://blogs.fayobserver.com/blog.fayobserver.com/files/4f/4f491d57-ad53-4186-b576-233f9f8c67db.jpeg

Friday 16 July 2010

What We Did On Our Holidays

I am lucky to live within distance of the sea, although some might think that the Thames Estuary is not so alluring as the Bristol Channel. However both have their charm and history and I love both.

The pace of life is more frenetic the nearer one gets to London and not having access to Twitter whilst away means that I have missed out on a lot of political gossip. So I did not know the latest about Boris Johnson's alleged 'love child' and really its not that interesting. However I have heard enough radio news bulletins to hear that the ConDem government seems to be trying to faster and faster bury their election promises! One idea was about less prison places [I seem to remember a Tory poster suggesting that Gordon Brown had released too many prisoners too soon - was that only three months ago?] and Vince Cable [who - prior to the General Election - I had thought reasonably sensible. But there again that was when the LibDems had little chance of gaining power on their own so he could promise what he liked. Now reality has hit and I suppose he must please his Tory paymasters] was heard too propounding his ideas for a 'Graduate Tax'. Oh dear - there has been enough comment on this and I particularly like that of David Lammy in the Gruniad:


My own comment is that - back when rocks were soft - I was taught in school that if one worked hard in school and managed to achieve a university education, this would in turn lead to one gaining a better job/career and thus a higher wage/salary. Obviously one would then pay more in tax then a lower paid worker and this tax would pay back for the university education more than sufficiently over one's working life. This seemes an eminently sensible system and personally I cannot see any reason to change it. Certainly in my own case I would never have had the career I did without a university degree.

For all those who had hoped for a postcard of 'What We Did On Our Holidays' I am going to be mean and show you instead the cover of the fabulous album by folk heroes Fairport Convention. Great thing about blogging - I can be as didactic as I like about what I think everyone should be enjoying in the form of books and music......

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Land of my Fathers'

I am feeling tired and self-indulgent today so am showing you all a picture of Ewenny Priory, Glamorgan, S.Wales where some of my ancestors married in the early 1800s [it was the local parish church]

Hopefully will be off on holiday in the next few days and will be visiting some of the lands of my fathers' but before I go have to share my disgust at the [un] patriotic actions of the peers [including Lord Ashcroft] who have 'resigned' from the House of Lords rather than give up their 'Non-Dom' status and pay British tax. See: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Article/201007115660246

It is reassuring to know the type of person selected by the Conservative party to help rule our country! Now the outgoing Labour honours list included an excellent choice in the defeated Labour MP for Basildon, Angela Smith. She will be a real asset to the 'other place' as she is such a hardworking campaigner and will continue to be so!

Friday 2 July 2010


People tell me I have a good sense of humour. I know I often use humour as both a weapon and a shield. A shield because I tend to laugh at myself first rather than have others laugh first - a hangover from being bullied in childhood probably. And as a weapon? I find confrontation hard so will often use a humourous jibe to try and 'gently' get my point across. When teaching adults, I was often surprised when they completed those dreadful 'end of year' forms that assessed the quality of my teaching and how much they had learnt over the year how often there would be comments on how much my sense of humour had enlivened and enhanced the 'teaching experience'.

But somethings go too deep to even joke about. I still can't talk, let alone laugh, about having to give up the job I really enjoyed suddenly due to health reasons. It will come [like now I am going say I don't miss those awful bureaucratic end of year forms referred to above!] but I am still 'raw' after two years.

However one often has to laugh about items in the news, sometimes if only in an ironical way, as in this news about the new iBook feature on the iPhone:
the-sauce.org: iMarx iManifesto: Apple dishes out millions of free copies of the Communist Manifesto

or sardonically as in the announcement that David Cameron will be campaigning about AV voting:

or triumphantly at the news that there may once have been female gladiators in Roman Britain:

Sorry to end on a sad note, but I cannot finish without remarking on the sad passing of the writer, Dame Beryl Bainbridge [an image of one of her bookcovers is above] She was a bit of a female gladiator imo. Sleep gently.

Thursday 1 July 2010


Homeopathy has been in the news again lately. There was a discussion between David Tredinnick MP [Conservative] and writer Simon Singh on Radio 4's 'Today' programme on the 24th June where surprisingly the MP was FOR homeopathy and the writer was AGAINST it. Surprising also for me to agree so wholeheartedly with a Conservative MP!

Then on Tuesday at the BMA's annual conference in Brighton there was a vote which stated 'The NHS should stop funding homeopathy and it should no longer be marketed as a medicine in pharmacies' according to
and other web pages. Am I cynical in wondering whether the drug companies are behind some of this unrest? After all drug companies make big money from their products, homeopathy is a really 'cheap alternative' [sorry about the pun!]

When I see these sort of statements I always wonder what people are so worried about. We as a family have used homeopathic medicine alongside conventional medicine for over 30 years, so obviously we believe it works. I would never be so prescriptive [oops another bad pun!] as to say that anyone should only use homeopathic medicine but would certainly say it is worth trying. After all not every convential medicine suits everyone, often different antibiotics have to be tried before an appropriate one can be found, for example.

An individual has the right to 'own' his/her body and take part in the management of any disease or drug regime. I know this to my cost having ended up in hospital on more than one occasion due to the inappropriate prescription of convential drugs by doctors - well meaning as they were. I have to use convential drugs to keep me going, as it were, but I use homeopathic ones as well and am convinced this helps me keep my 'drug quota' down, which can only be a good thing, surely? When my children were small I used homeopathic drugs alongside convential medicine and always thought if it saved one lot of antibiotic prescriptions in, say, four, again surely that was a good thing?!

Today's picture is of Samuel Hahneman, the 'discoverer' of homeopathic medicine. To find out more about him go to: