"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/

Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Hallowe'en/Samhain Greetings

As I have said before, I do love an excuse for a party/celebration. If there is a chance that I can dress up in fancy dress and act silly, all the better. So Hallowe'en/Samhain is a lovely chance for me to have fun...

Hallowe'en - or to give it its proper title All Hallow's Eve - is a Christian Festival. As with many Celtic or Pagan festivals, the early Christian Church 'adopted' an early Celtic/Gaelic festival, Samhain, which celebrated the end of harvest and also to some extent the advent of the darker, winter months.

[Samhain has been 'readopted' and 'rejuvenated' by other pagan and wiccan movements in this century and these can also be read about on the above Samhain link]

All Hallow's Eve is the night before the Christian festival of All Saints [the 'Hallowed'] Day. The following day is All Soul's Day - the festival of the 'Faithful Departed'

Like other Christian festivals - Christmas and Easter - the 'religious' bit has been largely forgotten and the celebrations and fun have taken over. However every year Hallowe'en gets lots of bad press with not all trick or treaters behaving well and commentators suggesting that those who do behave well but dress up in witch or ghoul costumes are celebrating the black magic or practising devil worship. Obviously such commentators haven't read my links....

I think that apart from the innocent fun that can be had on Hallowe'en [and yes Other Half and I do dress up and go and trick or treat our grandchildren whether they want us to or not. But breaking with tradition we take sweets for them!] the nicest thing about these few days is remembering on All Soul's Day all those we love who have departed from this life. Of course we remember them all year, but an extra thought or so on that day is always good.

I thought you might like to see a photo of my teddy dressed for tonight's fun. He looks much more handsome in his fancy dress than I... So wishing everyone a Happy Hallowe'en/sending Samhain Greetings and remembering all those who have departed.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Legacy of Dale Farm

Well most of the fighting and violence is over. At Dale Farm anyway, but the basic problems still remain. Plus additional problems engendered by the events of the past few weeks.

Mention of the fact that one lives not far from Dale Farm to anyone living elsewhere in the country and the other person has a definite view on the events of the past few months/years. Sometimes that view is obviously coloured by which newspaper the individual reads. The orator will tell me they are very knowledgeable about the history/geography/social make-up of the area - despite the fact that it is only a very few miles away from where I am typing this and have lived for over forty years and I possibly know a little bit more about it.

It seems that prejudices do seem to abound - for and against the travelling community. And for against Basildon Council which happens to be Conservative, not my favourite political colour it is true but a council that has changed hue over the years that this problem has been ongoing and has had to deal with changing national laws as well as the local issue. And for and against those who arrived at Dale Farm and actively supported the Irish travellers who were living at the 'illegal' part of the Dale Farm settlement. These protestors/supporters were variously called amongst other labels 'activists' or 'anarchists' according to which media source is being followed.

The local newspaper to the Dale Farm has published over the past few months lots of facts and figures about the history of the dispute which can be found by searching the archives. Possibly these articles give the clearest, most disinterested account of how the situation arose as presumably they have been double and treble checked by the paper's legal team. [I have had stories checked by that legal team and can tell you they are good!]

The awful press photographs and media filming of the violence of Wednesday's eviction process were not a surprise to local people. The travellers had been threatening such violence for a long time. However I certainly wonder whether those threats were purely from desperation on the travellers part and would not have been enacted if it had not been for the glare of publicity plus the assistance of some of the more pro-active protestors and supporters. There were plenty of peaceful protestors and travellers on site who sadly did not seem to attract the same attention from the cameras.

So the legacy? Well it would seem that a lot of people have had their prejudices about travellers confirmed and entrenched. This is very sad for the travelling community as a whole, most of whom around the country integrate well with their surrounding communities. Basildon council is facing massive bills and a lot of censure for their handling of the long running legal process. Various 'bodies' have become involved and various accusations - like 'ethnic cleansing' - hurled about which will take a long time to settle. Any campaigner with any sort of cause will be labelled as a trouble maker 'like those at Dale Farm' - ignoring the fact that the peaceful protestors and the peaceful travellers did not cause any hurt or harm to the police, baliffs or anyone else.

Wednesday was a very sad day to be in this part of Essex. Parts of our main roads could not be negotiated, helicopters were circling constantly overhead [police and media] and watching the fires burning and the rhetoric from both sides at Dale Farm on the TV screen juxtaposed with news reports of similar scenes from Greece was depressing. Essex is a nice, friendly county - honestly.

Nobody 'won'. Civilisation regressed a bit. Where communities can't or won't integrate everyone loses. Magnify this and we have wars.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Antiwar Mass Assembly, October 8th

We joined thousands of others at the Antiwar Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square on Saturday. There is always a warm feeling when surrounded by like-minded comrades although even pacifists were surprisingly calm when I misjudged handling of my 'Stop the War' placard.

It was good to bump into friends who had made the same pilgrimage [although by different tube routes] from our village, and hear other friends speak and sing. The speeches from the 'platform' were many and inspiring. Each speaker was allowed two minutes: Brian Eno read out a list of things upon which the money the war is costing could be better spent. Eno's two minutes was up before his list was finished. Lots of other inspiring speakers including Joe Glenton and Hetty Bower, aged 106.

Hetty has led many peace marches and led the march later in the day to Downing Street. Addressing the assembly in Trafalgar Square she told how she could remember how, at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 when she was aged nine, she could remember her father saying [and I am mis-quoting from a bad memory!] 'the first casualty will be truth'.

It was sad that our gathering was to mark the anniversary of our ten years of intervention in Afghanistan. How much better it would have been to have been celebrating ten years of world Peace. Or one hundred years. Or more. We can only work for this together by being and staying together.

Below is a snippet of my mate Roy Bailey, who appeared with Tony Benn, singing 'I Ain't Afraid' by Holly Near

The photograph top right was one of the many memorials to those killed in the war around the Square. It shows an art work [for a clearer image of the words, click here ] by the fabulous Robert Montgomery To see another memorial go to Elizannie's sister blog Clarice's Book Room

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

And Ordered Their Estate

I have been enjoying our Indian Summer for the past week or so, roasting in the tropical temperatures on our West Country cliff top camp site. Unfortunately the tropical temperatures meant that broadband and mobile 'phone signals were frazzled so I couldn't comment on the Labour Party conference although I watched it as much as I needed.

This week, back in the South East, I have tried to avoid watching the Conservative Party conference. Especially after Theresa May's piece yesterday of what I initially thought was a stand up comedy routine, but realised was in actual fact sheer ignorance and prejudice. She involved an illegal immigrant, deportation and a cat - you know what I am talking about I am sure. If not, click on the link.

However, listening to the prognostications of the Conservative politicians this week, and to a lesser extent some of the younger Labour politicians last week, I thought back over all the conferences I have 'listened in to' over the years. I can remember being told that I was too stuck in the mud and things would never go back to what they were, politically, and I was worrying unnecessarily, hanging on to old ideals... I was too firmly left wing and 'Old Labour', I was told around 15 years ago - nobody would try and destroy the Welfare State. Nobody would stand for it. Well we all know that story about 'Nobody'[see below*] and should take heed of it...

Now we have a government here in the UK who seem intent on destroying the NHS [yet David Cameron's election quote was 'We are the party of the NHS'] and taking away any benefit it can from the poorest and most dispossessed in our communities whilst preserving low taxes and large bonuses etc for the highest earners. Our government seen to believe in very 19thC ideals such as those Mrs Alexander expressed in her 1848 hymn:
The Rich Man in his Castle
The Poor Man at his Gate
God made them High & Lowly
And Ordered their estate

[The original third verse of the poem All Things Bright and Beautiful. Now ommitted from most Church Hymn books by popular demand...] When the hymn was sung in the past including that verse I always felt it sounded like the Conservative Party at prayer and refused to sing it, much to the embarrassment of The Children.

And now to redress the balance, Eldest Daughter's favourite hymn:

They Who Tread the Path of Labour
They who tread the path of labour follow where My feet have trod;
They who work without complaining, do the holy will of God;
Nevermore thou needest seek me; I am with thee everywhere;
Raise the stone, and thou shalt find Me, cleave the wood and I am there.

Where the many toil together, there am I among My own;
Where the tired workman sleepeth, there am I with him alone:
I, the Peace that passeth knowledge, dwell amid the daily strife;
I, the Bread of Heav'n am broken in the sacrement of life.

Every task, however simple, sets the soul that does it free;
Every deed of love and mercy, done to man is done to Me.
Nevermore thou needest seek me; I am with thee everywhere;
Raise the stone, and thou shalt find Me; cleave the wood, and I am there.

Henry Van Dyke

Now those are Socialist ideals to be proud of! I am not sure of the tune name, can't find my Socialist hymn book to check right now but maybe my friends at CSM will know?

In other news I am surprisingly happy with my photo for my bus pass. Yet rather shocked that when we were shopping in Glastonbury last week, along with our normal 'ethnic' and 'alternative' shopping we somehow managed to also buy a vacuum cleaner and a lavatory seat. Does this mean we are growing-up at last? Our Children do not seem to agree.

*This is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.

The photograph : 'Well Met in Glastonbury'. Just because.