"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 31 July 2011


The national and international events of the week that ended on the 23rd of July seemed to involve me in so many emotions that I did not feel like putting pen to paper [or rather fingers to keyboard] blog wise until now.

Of course, at the time I blogged on the Parliamentary 'hearings' where Rupert & James Murdoch and Rebecca Brooks 'gave' evidence. ['Gave' is in inverted commas because 'giving' is not an action that I entirely associate with this trio] This week more evidence has emerged that seems to suggest that maybe they were, if not withholding the truth, then certainly economical with it. But by this week I was beginning to feel that the world was spinning on its axis widdershins and who knew what would happen next.

The bomb blast in Oslo and massacre on Utoya island in Norway was something that I didn't feel I could write about apart from a brief dedication. In fact the two Norwegian events left me - like so many people across the world - so stunned that I really did not want to listen to the news or get involved in anything that smacked of 'current affairs' for quite a few days. Cowardly? Shock? Whatever, I did watch part of the Peace rally and memorial on Monday evening, not wanting to but feeling if I didn't I would somehow be denying the awfulness of what had happened.

One man caused that much misery and awfulness. Whether in the name of religion or politics; whether because he was deranged or sane; whether he had links with other groups or was acting on his own, his actions reverberated around the world. It made the high drama/soap opera of the world of News International receed into the world of make believe for a little while.

Many people have found this a reason to reflect this week. And like the picture above of the ripples in water [taken from Geraint Smith with thanks] the actions of both the Norwegian gunman/bomber and those at News International continue to ripple and spread across the world.

On Keats' gravestone in Rome he asked to have inscribed "Here lies one whose name was writ in water" suggesting that fame is as fleeting as trying to write one's name in water. Lets' hope that whilst the ripples of their actions spread the names of the gunman [the reason I am not repeating it here] and the Murdochs are also 'written in water'. But hope too that their victims are never forgotten because we must all try to ensure that such things cannot occur again - in their names.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Dedicated to the people of Norway

The fabulous Roy Bailey performing his version in 2010

Dedicated to the people of Norway after the terrible outrages committed there yesterday by allegedly the so called 'Christian' rightwinger Anders Behring Breivik, who has been arrested. May all those killed sleep gently and may their families find peace. And wishing that more peoples in the world would follow the example of the Norwegian

PM Jens Stoltenberg who has taken a calm and deliberate response to the awfulness rather than escalating the

The wonderful Holly Near song:

I ain't afraid
I ain't afraid of your Yahweh
I ain't afraid of your Allah
I ain't afraid of your Jesus
I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your God

I ain't afraid of your churches
I ain't afraid of your temples
I ain't afraid of your praying
I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your God

Rise up to your higher power
Free up from fear, it will devour you
Watch out for the ego of the hour
The ones who say they know it
Are the ones who will impose it on you

I ain't afraid of your Yahweh
I ain't afraid of your Allah
I ain't afraid of your Jesus
I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your God

I ain't afraid of your churches
I ain't afraid of your temples
I ain't afraid of your praying
I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your God

Rise up, and see /find/ know/ hear a higher story
Free up from the gods of war and glory
Watch out for the threats of purgatory
The spirit of the wind won’t make a killing off of sin and satan

I ain't afraid of your Bible
I ain't afraid of your Torah
I ain't afraid of your Koran
Dont let the letter of the law
Obsure the spirit of the your love--it's killing us

I ain't afraid of your Yahweh
I ain't afraid of your Allah
I ain't afraid of your Jesus
I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your God

I ain't afraid of your churches
I ain't afraid of your temples
I ain't afraid of your praying
I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your God

Wednesday 20 July 2011

"The most humble day of my career" - life imitating art

I sat at my lap top yesterday, doing various bits of stuff, whilst listening to those giving evidence at the culture select committee in the Houses of Parliament yesterday and heard Rupert Murdoch say it was "the most humble day of my career".

I have to declare my interest here. I have never liked Rupert Murdoch's business style or ethos. He bought The Sun in 1969, five years after it had morphed from the sadly missed Labour Party Daily Herald into a new left leaning broadsheet called The Sun in 1964. Rupert Murdoch then changed it into the tabloid that everyone knows today. My father was a lobby correspondent on the old Daily Herald and transferred to the new Sun until his death in 1967. I have never bought The Sun since 1969.

Disliking an entrepreneur's business ethos and style is not the same thing as suspecting he may have been up to some dodgy stuff. And listening and watching Murdoch yesterday, I honestly do not know whether or not he knew personally 'the crimes committed in his name'. But, and again this is my own opinion, I think that the culture within his business empire was such that he and others in his 'management team' perhaps gave the impression that no-one cared how information was obtained as long as News International titles scooped others in getting a [sensational] story.

Now I said that I was doing stuff on my laptop whilst the hearing was being aired. Some of you may have read my 'Clarice' blogs and know that I have pretensions to literary criticism. In this guise, yesterday I was leading a discussion on the Internet of a 19thC novel by a now [sadly] mostly out of print and unknown author, Allen Raine, called Garthowen.

The novel, written in English, is by a Welsh woman writer and is very 'Welsh' in its expressions and glimpses of village society in West Wales in the last quarter of the 19thC - which is why I chose it and am leading the discussion. Several of my Welsh friends and family have been helping me with translations of Welsh phrases dropped into the text! And my life imitating art comment in the title of this blog occurs because one of this week's discussion points is how one character, an old man, goes to his chapel and humiliates himself by declaring all the 'sins' he has committed in a hitherto apparently blameless and respectable life.

Of course the novel is heavy with Victorian morality, showing how one's sins will always find one out and how one cannot live well with oneself until all moral debts are paid. The novel has a happy ending although I am uncomfortable with the humiliation of the character and the 'punishment' meted out to him by his Chapel brethren with true Victorian heavy-handed retribution.

So did we all watching/listening to Rupert Murdoch yesterday feel satisfaction or discomfort at seeing him apparently brought so low? That is a question I find surprisingly difficult to answer myself. The hurt inflicted on individuals like the Dowler family and families and victims of the 7/7 bombings are impossible to imagine or describe. Murdoch may not have personally authorised these acts but he did create an empire with a culture that could allow its employees to collectively think these sort of acts reasonable. One thing that yesterday must have made Murdoch and a lot of others watching realise is that power and money does not equal morality, respect and happiness.

Oh and the picture - well it is returning to the pre-News International Age when we could only get our news from Newspapers, TV & the Radio - no satellites or internet then! And of course paper boys and girls delivered newspapers morning and evening - many towns and villages now do not deliver newspapers. And of course this lad is delivering the Daily Herald, what else!

Saturday 16 July 2011

National Petition to save HM Coastguard stations

National petition to save HM Coastguard stations Petition

I should not be having to do this. The government should have "been and done" one of their famous u-turns on the proposed coast guard stations closures. Well they haven't - so please sign this petition and share with your friends.

And if you want to know the reasons why I am so firmly behind this petiton, please go to this earlier blog of mine: This Island Race

Am I angry? Yes. Which is why I am showing a picture of HMS Warrior - just to say I am campaigning in a pacifist way and intend to win!

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Nature [and Newspapers] Re[a]d in Tooth and Claw

The quote

Nature, red in tooth and claw

is from Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850. [Canto 56] It is generally taken to mean that 'nature' is pretty cruel, and whilst we may gaze at the 'cute lion cubs' playing on a TV documentary or in a zoo, we must also realize that they will grow up to be dangerous, predatory animals.

Tennyson wrote his epic poem to celebrate the life of - and also mourn the sudden death of - his best friend Arthur Hallam. The short phrase quoted is part of the following:

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

and questions why the God whom Churches in the 19thC taught loved 'All creatures great and small' [to quote Mrs Alexander] could also let evil things happen to them. Obviously Tennyson was questioning why his young friend [Hallam was only 22 when he died] died so suddenly. Tennyson, like many others at this time, must have wondered whether God existed in view of the sort of scientific discoveries that explorers like Darwin were making.

Of course in the 21st century many believe that the two are not incompatible, but in the 19th century they seemed so and Darwin - who at one time in his life had planned to enter the church - lost his faith due to his evolution theories. Those who had relied upon the Bible to guide them throughout their daily lives felt adrift in the light of what they felt to be a complete overturning of long held beliefs.

So where am I going with this blog? Perhaps many do not now rely on the Bible, or other religious teaching in their daily lives. Whereas in most middle class Victorian households the first thing to be read [out loud] in the morning was the Bible, and the servants were included in this 'instruction', now the early morning reading/hearing for most is the newspaper on the way to work/radio news. How often do we hear 'it must be right, it's in the ....[fill in the name of whatever national/local paper that applies!]

Suddenly in just over a week the sort of change that took place in mid - late 19thC Britain over religious beliefs is happening with the public's faith in three public institutions. Newspapers are not now to be believed it seems: although at the moment it is only the News of the World, the Sun and the Times that are included in the News International 'nastiness', the whole of Grub Street seems to be teetering on the edge of a chasm of disbelief by the public. The 'phone hacking scandal, which seems to have been bubbling away for years, has 'gone viral'.

When public figures like John Prescott said a few years ago that there was more to this than we had been told, he was accused in certain areas of the press and media of being over the top and causing trouble. Other public figures and politicians like Tom Watson MP were scorned for their warnings. The police seem, at the very least, to have been very careless in their investigations and top politicians are firstly victims of the most awful intrusions into their private lives and others may have been aware of what was going on. So who do we, the public, trust?

And there is also another area of confusion for the public. Last night on Newsnight [BBC2] the actor Hugh Grant questioned the executive editor of the Times, part of the News International Group, Roger Alton about the 'phone hacking scandal. Now here's the thing. Grant played the Prime Minster in the RomCom Love Actually and wasn't awfully good at it, imo. And he has played a lot of upperclass slightly twittish characters in his career, not to mention his adventures in Los Angeles and love life with Liz Hurley. But last night, in the interview with Roger Alton, Grant came across as statesman like, dignified and reasonable whilst the newspaper executive editor was as daft as a brush [imo] making ludicrous excuses and at times quite insulting really.

So whether or not there are more revelations to come, the damage caused to the victims already named is too much. Investigative journalism, which is impressive when it is properly done, has been damaged too by cheap sensationalism parading under the name of 'investigative'. The police have a lot of questions to answer as do some politicians.

Back to nature, red in tooth in claw. Last week in deepest Somerset I saw birds pecking at road kill [badgers and rabbits] and also saw some 'dear little bunnies' displaying signs of myxomatosis whilst others, hopefully immune, played on nearby and big birds like kestrels and sparrow hawks were out hunting 'pretty little birds'. Watching the media interviews and House of Commons enquiry into the 'phone hacking scandal seemed a bit like anthropomorphism in reverse.

And the picture. The sadly defunct Daily Herald - a REAL newspaper. Worth noting that it 'died' in 1969 only after it was bought out by News International in 1968! My father was lobby correspondent for the Herald for many years so this blog is dedicated to him and all the honest journalists everywhere!