"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/

Friday 26 October 2012

Recession? What recession?

Yesterday's news that we are officially out of the recession was surprising. Having just spent three weeks touring Great Britain and now back in Somerset for a few weeks I can assure the powers that be that there are plenty of empty shops and others that are having closing down sales that suggest the recession is still alive and well just for starters. Of course newspapers/media are quoting all the differing indicators that form a recession, a double dip recession and other such phrases but to the individual the most important indicator is whether there is enough money in the household budget to last the week/month/year.

Surely we must all know at least one person who is unemployed and trying to get work and many more who have had their pensions raided. Yet this government persists in talking about benefit scroungers. Yet once again down here in Somerset 'ordinary people' on holiday this year in a small holiday camp, despite the recession, have raised over £2500 for 5 charities - and this is despite less people coming on holiday. Working class people have always believed in a wider society and been very willing to  help others less fortunate than themselves. It is only this millionaire government who have allegedly just 'found' the 'big society'. 

Individuals like my cousin who have given up years to help others are the backbone of this society, not Cameron and co. Thousands of people marching with the TUC on Saturday were expressing their disgust with the austerity measures too. When will the government learn?

Yesterday was a worrying day for members of my family with redundancies announced at Ford and Coca-Cola - but not just for us. There will be many more worrying days for many more people and the so called news that the we are out of the recession will not resonate with these people.

Yesterday too Iain Duncan Smith made one of his pronouncements about welfare benefit cuts. If we are out of the recession why is this necessary? Just a thought...

As always when in Somerset I don't have access to my own picture 'library' so I am posting a John Lennon picture and quote instead. Pretty apt I think.

Friday 19 October 2012

By the Grave of Robert Tressell I Knelt Down


Another in the loose series of Travels with Other Half*

The last week of our travels around Britain saw us visiting a few iconic Socialist sites plus a some other more random choices, perhaps.

It has been remarked that Other Half and I 'do weird things'. I don't really understand this [why change the habits of a life time] but leave others to judge. As I have said before, our places to visit have been idiosyncratic but I have discovered that saying in reply to the question 'what made you visit this place' when paying one's entrance fee 'I have wanted to come here since I was 14' makes one look like an awful geek to the rest of those waiting to pay. Plus there was not a button to push on the till for this answer and I had to choose something else.....

So, a few of the places we visited - in no particular order as they say!:

The place where I looked an awful geek was New Lanark, the mill village built in the 1790s by David Dale who eventually took into partnership Robert Owen, one of my socialist heroes. As Wikipedia puts it, New Lanark 'New Lanark became a successful business and an epitome of utopian socialism'. Quotes from Owen are placed all around the New Lanark 'site', one such placement is shown above.

I also became badly over excited at visiting Coalbrookedale and Ironbridge and getting steeped in the area that is often credited as the birth place of the Industrial Revolution. Spending a couple of days there meant that we really 'absorbed the atmosphere' although when I asked Other Half if he could hear the clogs clattering along the cobbled streets the look he gave me was quite enough......

If you remember that I taught Popular Culture as well as History and English, it will not be a surprise that we had a lovely afternoon indulging in a cream tea in the refreshment room [shown below] of Carnford Station in Lancashire, where the film 'Brief Encounter' was shot. I pretended I was Celia Johnson although Other Half refused to imitate Trevor Howard. I had my photograph taken under the clock and walked up and down the slopes that CJ and TH had run up and down so madly. Oh the excitement!

And of course on visiting Morecambe we took photos of the statue of the sadly missed Eric Morecambe one of which is shown below.

In the Lake District we visited two of the houses where Wordsworth has lived and we strolled along Hadrian's Wall in Cumbria. We visited the Lowry exhibition in Salford - brilliant- and the Tate in Liverpool. We said 'we are names and not numbers' in Portmeirion. Marvelled in the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool and paid homage at Wigan Pier. We had a brilliant time and I have lots more to tell you all [I can see you all yawning and I forgive you]

But the most moving place and time, truly, was finding the grave of Robert Tressell, the author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in the disused Walton Cemetery in Liverpool. Now a City Farm , I searched for the grave in the pouring rain, avoiding the cowpats and sheep doodoos! You can find the story of the grave here and if you think I look rather manic in the photo below please remember the pouring rain and the huge raincoat I am wearing! And yes I knelt down, once to clear the rain from the words to take a picture and once when I fell over in a cow pat!

Thursday 4 October 2012

On the Road - or Whisky and Kilts

Part two of travels with My Other Half*.

Although we have seemingly stopped travelling this week, by staying in a little wooden lodge by a burn [see I know the correct phraseology] not too far from Fort William, we are in fact using it as a base to travel around the Highlands, some of the Islands and other northerly places in Scotland.

Our choices of places to visit are, as ever, idiosyncratic. As well as 'must see' sites like Loch Ness - taking the usual snaps of each other by the Loch and putting these on facebook with titles like 'The real monster of Loch Ness' [oh the wit!] - some of our destinations have been determined by facts like family history; places where friends and family now live; shopping; places named in Great Literature [me]

Other Half has a couple of places where way back in his family history his ancestors lived. One we visited yesterday and is the furthest North we have reached on this trip: Ullapool in Ross and Cromarty. A really lovely village with a very comprehensive, although deceptively small, museum. The first folder Other Half opened in the family history section of the museum showed a photograph of his grandfather about to depart with his battalion for the front in November 1914. We also managed to fill in a few missing details about the family prior to and just after WW1.

Today's destination on the Isle of Skye was actually one of those really wild ideas of mine. One of my favourite authors is Wilkie Collins [the link is to the excellent site by Paul Lewis], and one of Collins' best books imo is Armadale And as Armadale is a small place on the coast of Skye, I [we!] obviously had to visit.... [Collins' visited Armadale on Skye when yachting around Scotland] A very pretty place to visit. Although the photo of me [courtesy of Other Half] at the Ferry Terminal flatters neither the place nor me it does show the name 'Armadale'!!

We also found an interesting place which allowed me to indulge other odd interests of mine - a tin chapel and a canal system. Another little village, Fort Augustus. Other Half also managed to get me up in a 'gondola' - a sort of cable car - up one of the mountains in the Ben Nevis range. As I am not a lover of heights this was a momentous experience, which I thoroughly enjoyed!

Politics - past and present - can never be completely left behind: listening to the speeches at the Labour Party Conference on the radio whilst driving about and thinking about the Highland Clearances whilst driving around the Glens etc. On the first point I actually enjoyed Ed Milliband's speech, on the second I was even more enraged at the unfairness of the 'us and them' that allowed the Clearances to impoverish even further the already dispossessed.

*With apologies to Graham Greene's Travels With My Aunt

Photo of Ullapool courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ullapool