"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/

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The new 'old lie'

Along with many other TV viewers, I watched BBC Question Time last Thursday 
[7th December] It's still available on iplayer if, dear reader, you would like to
check it out.

I usually watch #bbcqt. Sometimes I join in the 'discussion' by tweeting along 
with it on hashtag #bbcqt. [See, I am down with the kids when it comes to 
techie talk. Although I am having trouble formatting this blog today and on a 
tight time schedule so bear with me and I hope you can read this in reasonable 
comfort. And the colours maybe, well, interesting] 

Russell Brand and Nigel Farage were billed amongst the panelists. Interesting, I 
thought. And it was. Brand seemed to be trying to hold himself back and not 
live up to his firework image. Farage seemed not to have the same 
principles and - imo - was his usual patronising, truth-bending, mis-leading self.
However a couple of times his hail fellow well met act slipped and then the fire
in his eyes flashed and maybe his true self showed.

Yesterday there was, expectedly, quite a bit of discussion in the media about 
which of the two 'won' the debate. I was unaware that the debate was between 
the two and that there was a winner or loser. There were three others on the 
and all were interesting and had some good points to make. Whether one 
agreed or not. How annoying to make those points and then have the media
apparently ignore your presence. It was revealed by the media that some of the
audience may have been 'plants' by the panelists [Quelle Surprise] - the chappie
who challenged Brand to stand for Parliament is apparently the brother of a 
UKIP MEP and may stand for office himself. Brand himself wrote a long piece on 
facebook talking about his experience and his views and if, dear reader, you 
care to google there are many media articles taking sides on the 'debate'.

But today the lovely poet Michael Rosen has put up a view on facebook which I
want to share beyond facebook participants. So here it is. He wrote:

"I keep thinking of the young working class bloke (or he said he was) in the 
audience of Question Time who said that the working class had been hit hardest 
by immigration. What a  terrible success of the lie that his low wages have 
been caused by immigrants. What's incredible is that he could believe this at a 
time when it has been explicit - nay, boasted of - information coming from 
government and everywhere else that they are sacking people and 
keeping down wages as part of 'austerity'. So, in the usual run of things, the 
government 'freezes' wages (that is, cuts them in real terms) and the private 
sector uses that as a means to fix the rates too. That's what employers do. It's 
their 'job' to do that. They're paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to 
freeze wages. It's what they're doing.

And the bloke in the audience says that he's been hit by immigrants.

I hope a trade union organiser finds him at work on Monday and signs him up."

Wilfred Owen in WW1 wrote about the 'Old Lie' [Dulce et Decorum est] One hundred years later, another poet talks about another 'new' old lie.

Michael and I seemed to be watching the same programme. Thank goodness, as many of the commentators in the media yesterday didn't. We are entering the General Election propaganda period now, so look out for more 'new' Old Lies. Take the Politicians up on them all. Remember that if we let them get away with them, it is people like us that will suffer. Millions of us. Remember the man who said last time 'We are the party of the NHS'?* Did you believe him? Will you believe what he says this time? Just asking?

BTW I don't support Brand's views on not voting. I think that the only way we can change anything is through the ballot box. But also we should get involved by going to meetings, asking questions, lobbying MPs and candidates. We are part of the political processes. If we don't participate in however small a way, we cannot after the election complain. And as I and many others say on election days 'Many have died to get the vote so we shouldn't waste it'.

*Of course, David Cameron.

For the first time ever, no photo. Formatting and time have defeated me. I may return later and add something inappropriate!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Tony Blair's Christmas Card

Who would live in a house like this?
The decorated house from
 National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Sometimes I think our society is divided into those who love to complain and those who try to see the best in everything ["Pollyannas"] The complainers at Christmas time can be generically referred to as "Grinches"***.

I try to be a Pollyanna**, although complaining can burst out - especially in the political realm. In the spirit of Pollyannaism today, I posted a paean of praise to the 'organisers' of the new charging system at the Dartford Crossing: New system for charging at the Dartford Crossing started on Sunday. Our Dart tag payment was automatically changed to the new charge  - no problem. We crossed both ways on Sunday - no problem. Today Other Half changed our car reg number online - no problem. Now that we are in the system as soon as our credit drops below £10 a direct debit will automatically top it up.

But. Why do some seem to look for subjects to complain about? There has just been a completely manufactured news item about whether or not it is a good idea to send out family pictures on Christmas Cards in the light of  what was adjudged to be the frankly scary production by Cherie and Tony Blair and as for Christmas Round Robins - well apparently they are beyond the pale!

Cards on the table time [see what I did there?] I love getting Christmas Cards and Christmas Round Robins. If it wasn't for Christmas I know I wouldn't hear from lots of distant relations, friends and acquaintances at all.That's fine - we are all guilty of the 'yeah, I'll give so-and-so a ring next week'. Next week turns into next month and so on. That's why I love facebook, for the gossip! So what if the photos we send out are not of fashion model status, or show our age/wrinkles/gormless smiles - they are us! So what if are news items are quite parochial - they are about us!

What is this push for perfection? What's the panic about getting everything right for 'C-day'? What if the dinner isn't on the table bang on time? What if the Christmas cake is a bit wonky and burnt on one corner? What if the wrapping paper has run out and doesn't all match? What is important after all? Smiles and talking to people. Presents don't have to cost a lot, truly. The thought really does count - if it doesn't well perhaps there is something else wrong.

This time of year should be festive - happy. Individuals may or may not celebrate one of the religious celebrations that occur at the ending of the calendar year. We also have the celebration of the Winter Solistice to show that the lighter times are returning, always a milestone in the winter. Hopefully this should be a time when people are able to share time with family and friends.

It would be nice if for once people tried not to let media advertising persuade them to spend money they did not have on  things they did not need. And didn't use the time of the year as an excuse for things they really wanted to do or didn't want to do - along the lines of 'I couldn't possibly do that until after Christmas' starts being heard in mid-October. And signing into a hotel in shorts on the first day of August I was a little surprised to see a photograph of a Christmas Tree inviting me to book my Christmas Dinner. The parents threatening their children with no presents from Father Christmas unless they behave/eat their dinner/stop crying have rather missed the meaning of Christmas and the reason why we give Christmas presents any way.

Are you going to be a Christmas Pollyanna or a Grinch? Do try to enjoy the run up to Christmas even if you don't go along with all the customs/rituals. Marvel at the lights and laugh at the soppy Christmas movies! You never know, like Frank Cross in Scrooged*^ you may find:
It's Christmas Eve! It's... it's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we... we... we smile a little easier, we... w-w-we... we... we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!

And I will leave you with the immortal words of Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation*:

Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, kiss my ass. Kiss his ass. Kiss your ass. Happy Hanukkah.

Especially for Elizabeth Ann, Michael and Andy Mills 

Two Christmas 'must see' movies in our house and those of many of our family

^Scrooged is a version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol . Any version is really worth watching if you haven't the chance to read the story, for reasons I outline here .



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.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A Week is a Long Time [in Politics*]/ Double Drenchings

Our three year old granddaughter nominated us to take part in the 'ice bucket challenge' last week. All summer I have said that if nominated I would pay the 'fine' [sending double the suggested donation] rather than be drenched needlessly, but when a tiny child - willing herself to be drenched with ice cold water - nominates Nanny and Grandad, how can one refuse? So yesterday I allowed another granddaughter to throw a bowl of water over me and the result can be seen above. In turn I nominated David Cameron and George Osbourne and I have sent them videos of my drenching to this effect and will let you know their replies, but please don't hold your breath. 

Three year old granddaughter was raising funds and awareness for Tommy's baby charity and I also donated to the MND charity in memory of my cousin Bobby who passed away with this disease. [
Anyone wishing to join me in donations can do so by texting as follows: for Tommy's, which will donate £3, BABY to 70007 or for MND: ICED55 £5 (or other amount) to 70070]

Yesterday was warm and sunny and the dousing was quite short with large, fluffy towels to hand. Exactly one week before, Other Half and I were at a music festival in the West Country in rather cold and wet weather. Wrapped in a large crocheted blanket against the cold I was dancing in the pouring rain to the music of one of my favourite modern folk bands, Bellowhead

I may be getting older but I am certainly not getting any wiser. 

So two drenchings in a week, one for good causes and one for sheer hedonism [other Bellowhead fans will get the pun as 'Hedonism' is the title of one of their CDs...] but both great fun, especially when surrounded by family and friends.

*This quote is generally attributed to Harold Wilson but this could p
ossibly be a misattribution; according to Nigel Rees in Brewster's Quotations (1994), asked shortly after his retirement in 1977 about the quote, he could not pinpoint the first occasion on which he uttered the words.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Lest THEY* forget

Honouring all those who have died or have been injured in all conflicts, anywhere, at any time. Rest gently and peacefully.

4th August 2014
National History Museum
St Fagans, Glamorgan, S.Wales

These two young people are stood in front of the war memorial at the St Fagans Museum in S.Wales. They just so happen to be two of our grandchildren and because we were visiting the museum of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, we all wanted to spend a few minutes remembering ALL who have died in ALL conflicts worldwide, civilians and military personnel.

On the trip to the museum we had listened on the car radio to various memorial speeches and sadly too many glorified the war and referred to the 'brave soldiers' who had 'sacrificed their lives'. No mention was made of the fact that the young men [including the great, great grandparents of the children above] were sold a dream of fighting for their country when the truth was that Great Britain were fighting due to a historic set of alliances between countries which tumbled like a pack of cards after months/years of unrest culminating in the assination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo [There are far better explanations of the events leading to the outbreak of World War One extant, do search google; Jeremy Paxman's book Great Britain's Great War is pretty good. But do remember the old saying'History is written by the survivors' and is not always written from an objective point of view] And those soldiers who died did not willingly sacrifice their lives and perhaps we should more properly say that the governments of the countries involved sacrificed their soldiers lives......

We must never forget the dreadful human results of war. So as a family we agreed that the best way to commemorate those who died would be by putting an end to all conflicts. If no-one was prepared to bear arms then the leaders would have to solve their differences another way. A big hope perhaps, but one to which we can all aspire and work toward in our own small ways.

A few links for those interested in joining us in working for peace:

*They who must not forget are they who have the powers to start wars and conflicts. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Tale of a Tub [ or in this case a shower]

Elizannie and Other Half love camping, albeit  in slightly luxurious form [note slightly]  in a very small caravan. Sans lavatory and hot water but off the ground and including a foam mattress. And of course including lights that work even without electric input for reading purposes.

This week has seen us staying on a really de luxe camp site that boasted not only an electrical hook up but also a toilet block with showers and somewhere to wash dirty dishes. No need to crack out the paper cups and plates unless one is very lazy [yes you guessed it..] And the internet signal was really good too! So really not away from civilisation but plenty of opportunity for people watching as this was a really big camp-site. Close to a major tourist city too so all sorts of campers from many different campers provided plenty of scope for the 'where's that number plate from?' game.

So first morning trip to the showers was looking good as another really hot day was dawning and off I trotted complete with clothes, towel and shower gel all at the first attempt. Well done me! All downhill from there.

Beautifully clean showers. Undressed and straight into shower. Pressed the button, nothing. Peep head outside, no-one else in block other than in shower cubicles so catch up towel and venture out to see if there is something else needs pushing, pulling or depressing. Forget there was a step up into shower so fall down and out, luckily retain balance but towel slips, luckily again no-one in sight still. Call out in slightly wobbly voice to the occupied showers asking how to make showers 'go'. Reply is just to push the button but number one shower [mine] is not working..... Scramble in the buff into next shower.

Happily this one does work. Just drying myself when a little voice is heard calling in broker English 'please, how do these showers work?' Feeling smug now call out to explain about shower number one not working! Still not dressed when I hear another, deeper voice shouting 'male attendant on cleaning duties'. Decide to be a good citizen and poke my head out to report number one shower not working. At this point I should emphasise that I shower without glasses and hearing aids. Thus it was an easy mistake to think from the rear that the large lady walking past was a man. Feel obliged to stay in shower cubicle for a bit longer.

Eventually return to the little caravan clean and refreshed for a welcome cuppa to reflect on the morning's adventures. And to think about the original A Tale of A Tub, that wonderful first work and satire on religion by Jonathan Swift. Funny how even when I am camping I cannot completely leave behind English Lit, Politics and Religion isn't it?! 

Although to be honest a tub is a far better symbol for pulpit than a shower cubicle, there are similarities. There was the sharing of information and helping each others ; someone saved from a fall; differences between one and other [ethnicity, gender, ability] disappearing; and the unity of purpose - all needed cleansing although not in a spiritual sense perhaps! And underneath the towels with their fancy slogans and designs, all of us basically the same. As we all left the building we probably didn't think of each other again, rather like so many who leave their places of worship on their Holy Day and don't think again about their promises until the next day of worship. 

Oh dear - all this from a simple visit to the shower block on a camping trip but a microcosm of life, after all.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A Personal Request for Help for those with Hearing Loss

Taken from the website of Action on Hearing Loss :
North Staffordshire CCG are considering no longer providing hearing aids to adults with mild to moderate age-related hearing loss. If the cuts go ahead here, other services across the country could follow suit, meaning that millions of people who struggle to hear could be denied NHS hearing aids.

Those of you who know me will realise how much I appreciate the tremendous difference my hearing aids have made. I probably still cannot hear as well as many of you can, but would hate to be without my hearing aids. But I would hate even more for other people not to have this benefit also. Please sign and if possible share the petition organised by Action on Hearing Loss and let our voices be HEARD.

To sign the petition and/or get further information please click on this link

Thank you for listening....

.... and remember this could just be the start of the cuts in NHS services - what next?

Friday, 11 July 2014

Family History, Funerals and Facebook

Melbourne Argus 31st October 1950

Bless her, I hear you say, Elizannie has really lost it now. Not only does she provide a scintillating [not] blog title but then she gives us a boring picture to boot. Well all I can say - to quote Miranda's 'chum'* "bear with...."

Yesterday was a sad day for my family as a beloved older cousin was laid to rest. She was 88 years old and for all but the last few days of her life had been as bright as a button, had a fantastic sense of humour, great common sense and possessed a wonderful kindness and generosity of spirit. No wonder she will be missed by so many. But in the aftermath of the funeral - which had been arranged by her, she wanted us all to have a drink and something to eat 'on her' it has to be said that it was good to catch up with some members of the family who hadn't seen each other for years. We have a large extended family and there were a few games of 'Do you know who I am, then?' Edna would have loved that, as she was also the keeper of many of the family records. And following in her footsteps there are a few of us who are trying to write the family history too and last year many of us got together with old photos and stories to try and collate the facts.

Over the past few years we have not only collected and collated the facts when we could meet up, but we have used the often abused social media to keep in touch. Facebook has been great and whereas 50 years ago we all lived close enough to keep up the family gossip face to face we now can do so easily with facebook!!

This morning, with torrential rain outside providing an ideal excuse not to clean the windows or anything silly like that, I decided to have another go at finding a few errant ancestors via the internet. And I struck lucky and that elusive 2x great grandfather who emigrated to Australia in 1873 suddenly came to life [well actually I found his obituary!] via the Australian newspaper archives. And a question which had always bothered me, had he and his second wife produced any Australian half-cousins for me and the rest of the family was finally answered.

But here is the really exciting thing and something which maybe my longstanding readers may find interesting. I may have mentioned that my political journalist father was sometime the London editor of an Australian newspaper, back in the 1950s. So, seeing the name of that newspaper pop up during my archive search, I thought, why not? Let's type in his name and see what comes up. And yes, loads of articles did. He obviously had a weekly column where he told the Aussies what was going on in Westminster, sometimes throwing in a bit of gossip as well.

I haven't kept very many of my father's newspaper articles. Well you don't do you, when every day of one's young life a newspaper plops through the letter box and one's father has at least one byline, and that often to the headline. Although it gave me a big thrill a few years ago when the shop 'Past Times' was selling a pack of various newspaper replicas from the 1960s and one of them was the old Daily Herald with my father's byline on one of the articles! And going back a few years more, one of my cousins opened one of those Reader's Digest pictorial History Books and there was a picture of my father lecturing on Pacifism in the late 1930s. However I have been printing out some of these articles found today. And some of the political comments, written in the 1950s sadly make me realise that times haven't changed that much. His comments about wages and income tax are very interesting. And maybe others will now understand my dislike and disgust with Winston Churchill. These are two articles posted on here as photographs with 'translations' below.

Forgive me if I am being a bit self-indulgent today. I am dedicating this to Edna and all my lovely, huge family xxx

Melbourne Argus 19th December 1950

Text for the photos:

Attlee will introduce more socialism
SPARKS will fly in the political spheres of Britain tomorrow. By then the world will know from the King's Speech what legislation the Labor Government intends for the next Parliamentary session. The Opposition leaders and newspapers here are kidding themselves that the Government is going to coo as gently as a dove because of its small majority in the Commons. Don't believe that tale if you've been told it. The Government's new legislation will be challenging and belligerent. It will contain two proposals at least which will rouse fierce passions.
One will be a radical sugar nationalisation project - and the other will be a bill to make permanent the economic and industrial controls made necessary as temporary measures in wartime Britain.
And there will be another bill dealing with leaseholds that will bring all the backwoodsmen on one of their rare - and angry - visits to the House of Peers.
I sniff an electoral battle in the air.
February will see the struggle at the polls, I think.
When an election does come; cost of living will be a big issue.
Though it has been kept in check here better than in most countries in the world - and certainly better than in Australia - it is surely going up.
Fear of further price increases is making Christmas shoppers buy early this year.
Prudent husbands are buying their wives a something-to-wear present weeks ahead of the usual time.
Some shops have already sold more coats than during the whole of the winter season. 
Handbags and shoes are more popular than ever, and in both cases rising costs are likely with the increased leather shortage.
Handbags are already costing between £9 and £40. 
Everybody's feeling the draught, including higher income groups.
19/6 in the £
JUDGED by the income tax standards, the British millionaire is now almost non-
Last year there were only 86 people in the United Kingdom with over £6,000 income after tax.
In 1939 there were 6,560.
Tax at the highest rate ontop-level incomes in this country is 19/6 in the £.
Stiff, yes; but it doesn't begin at 19/6; it only reaches that at the supertax stage of £2,500 a year.
Lack of income has driven an Anglican parson out of his job.
He is the Rev. Austin Lee, talkative 45-year-old vicar of St. Stephen's, Hounslow, Middlesex.
He is offering his services as a cook for luncheon and dinner parties. To those ready to take him on he will also be prepared to bring a former Cambridge undergraduate as a waiter.

Oratory takes a  tumble
IF Australians still think of Winston Spencer Churchill as The Voice of England, they ought to shed their illusions. I sat in the House of Commons last week and saw Britain's wartime Premier descend, in the course of a few sentences, from the high level of a statesman to the abusive personal slanging level of the parish pump.
It was the most astonishing,  most impudent, and most insulting Parliamentary performance I have seen.
All the more so because Churchill's taunts and gibes were neither spontaneous nor unconsidered.
They were part of a meticulously prepared script from which Churchill spoke in a critical foreign affairs debate.
Coming at the end of a speech in which he had generally supported the Government on its Korean policy and had paid tribute to Mr. Attlee's mission to Washington, Mr.Churchill's charge that unless
the Government dropppd the act to nationalise steel he would "doubt their loyalty to the people of this country" was not only irrelevant-it was a studied reflection on the integrity of the men of whom Churchill has said he could have asked for no better Ministerial allies during the war.
What is the mystery behind all this? Why did Churchill deliberately destroy the non partisan atmosphere in which the debate on foreign affairs had proceeded up to that moment?
The answer is not easy to give, for it is many-sided. But one thing I can say with certainty: The hold of Churchill on the Tory Party is not as tight as it might be and to fasten his grip he must not make too many speeches even on foreign policy, which can be interpreted as support for the government.
Another reason it that, however grave the international situation, Mr. Churchill - and Tories generally-always have one eye cocked on the next general election.

*TV comedy starring Miranda Hart. Her chum is always uttering 'bear with' when answering her mobile in the middle of a conversation with A.N.Other. How rude.