"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/

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Good Golly Miss Molly

To wake myself up in the mornings - never my best time! - I eat my humble cereal in front of the lap top, catching up with the news on the BBC web site, reading my emails and catching up with the latest from my contacts on social media. Where, on a good day, I can be having three or four 'conversations' at once: possibly discussing the latest new baby in the family/wonderful thing one of my grandchildren has achieved; a political thread; a bit of a philosophical debate and maybe something which comes under the general heading of 'culture'! On a really good day I could still be sitting at the keyboard when I notice it is lunchtime and once more the housework has mysteriously not been done. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

Today's philosophical question was on the subject of Golliwogs*, should they still be on sale. To be honest, I didn't think many shops sold them.  I googled on amazon.co.uk and Toys 'r' Us and to my relief could not find any. Amazon did have some books but of the historical context variety. Oh and some very old knitting patterns! E bay and a google search provided a few for sale, but then sadly many undesirable and inappropriate things can be purchased in these places - I am told! [I saw a local shop selling small plastic golliwog models a couple of years ago and asked for them to be taken off display. They were]

When I was small, 60+ years ago, we didn't see anything wrong with them BUT kids also played with guns and parents thought nothing of teachers battering their kids in schools. Black and white minstrel shows were popular at the end of the pier and on TV. Times have changed. Hopefully we are now more intelligent and informed.

I think it is obvious that I don't think they should still be for sale. I am not a great fan of censorship but there are certain things we used to sell - across the board - that we realise are nowadays inappropriate. Nothing against dolls of different skin colours, these are obviously representative. Gollys [and I spell it that way deliberately] represent something altogether nastier. And yes, before someone says it, I would agree with the re-casting of Enid Blyton books. There is no suggestion she was racist including these characters at the time she was writing but there is no need to include them in new editions. And before people cry censorship hypocrite at me [!] I would point out that I was an English Lit lecturer in a previous life, specialising in 19thC novels. And many of those novels were written in what would now be considered politically incorrect ways with politically incorrect descriptions of characters and actions. I would always point out when introducing such novels that these were written with the words and mores of the times and although we deplore them now the works should be read and analysed in the spirit of contempory readers, not with our own enlightened views.

So the problem of giving this blog a subject line and headline picture. Well I wanted to include the word 'Golly' but without any fear of insult, so I thought I would celebrate the great singer Little Richard and to see and hear his version of his song please click here. The picture was a little more difficult. I like to think laterally. Or as others would say 'Elizannie lives in a world of her own. Thank goodness'. So as I have mentioned piers earlier in this piece, and I am a complete anorak about piers [honestly] I thought I would include a picture of Southend Pier. And indeed, why not?

This photo of Southend pier is one of the many times it has caught fire - this is is of the 1976 fire. And is dedicated to my children who, to their joint disgust, have been roused from bed or collected from school so many times over the years to see the Pier on fire or once - on a truly memorable occasion - to see a boat sitting in the middle of it due [I believe] to a wrong turn by its captain.

Well done, another morning and no housework done!

*For an interesting history of the origins of the name and 'history' of the toy, 
please visit here.

On a purely personal note and nothing to do with this or any other blog:
Sadly Other Half has now become Ex. But hopefully still friends.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Elizannie: Marching on the Anti-Austerity Demo and contemplat...

Elizannie: Marching on the Anti-Austerity Demo and contemplat...: Arriving early for the Anti-Austerity march and demo in London yesterday I decided to 'have an hour' in Westminster Abbey. On ref...

Marching on the Anti-Austerity Demo and contemplating British Hypocrisy

Arriving early for the Anti-Austerity march and demo in London yesterday I decided to 'have an hour' in Westminster Abbey. On reflection I may not have been in the right mood, especially after I queued for quite a time in the wrong entrance queue [online bookings and groups only] and had to start again.

So once inside the ancient walls the feelings of the history take over - for a while. But my feeling of the inequality of British society soon rears its head and I am off on the usual dichotomy that occurs when visiting such ancient piles: wondering at the history whilst growling at the imbalance amongst our people that it shows.

So I did a few anarchic things to address the balance. Well mostly taking photographs which are not allowed [but I am sharing them with you all so it was a kind of Robin Hood action] And ducking across blue cord barriers. Oh the thrill of it all. 

And on the day of an Anti-Austerity march this was a pretty good tombstone to start my reflections at:

Twenty years a leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister in the post war years - and if judged by the standards of today I doubt if he would be elected due to our cult of celebrity. Certainly he was not a publicity savvy chap, did not have the sort of 'presence' that seems to be demanded today if the media is not to pillory a politician. But what a leader and Prime Minister he was - first peace time Prime Minister after the 1939 - 1945 war, the Prime Minister of the Post War Austerity years whose government never the less saw the instigation of the Welfare State [care from the 'cradle to the grave'], the establishment of the National Health Service - many of whose present day employees were marching yesterday against the dreadful cuts and pay under which they are now expected to work. The new Education [ditto] and training provisions that the Labour Government of 1945 saw in, the housing programmes instituted and whilst the new builds were constructed at least returning soldiers had somewhere to live on the many 'prefab' estates that were quickly erected. Thought for the working people you see. By the party who really were the party of the working people.

I wandered on through the massive tombs and chapels that were erected for various Lords, Ladies, Kings and Queens. As a family historian I know where many of my ancestors are buried. In unmarked graves of course, some in multiple graves as 'paupers'. Just as mourned as these souls, but without the money behind them to be glorified. And looking at tributes to leaders of wars and battles, often erected by public subscription one cannot help thinking of all the 'ordinary' souls who perished in those battles never to have a memorial and never to be considered.

Of course the grave to the unknown soldier in the Abbey is regularly visited. But - to me - is so little for so many when - again to me - there is way too much for too few others.

And of course I laughed at a brilliant example of supreme British hypocrisy. I have always had a soft spot for Mary, Queen of Scots. Ever since I was taught that she lost her throne and eventually her life for the love of the Earl of Bothwell. Of course when I came in turn to teach history I taught a very much less simplified form! But I had to sneak in to see her magnificent tomb:

Only the [English in this case] could murder a Queen and then honour her tomb in this magnificent way! Originally buried in Peterborough Cathedral with great solemnity by Elizabeth 1's orders [odd that since Elizabeth had ordered her death! Hypocriscy?] but Mary's son James I brought her remains to Westminster Abbey for re-burial in 1612. And ironically the Protestant Elizabeth 1st shares a far plainer tomb with her half-sister, the Catholic Queen Mary who had reigned before her [and is often known as 'Bloody Mary']. More, well hypocrisy? So history is not only written by the survivors - but by their children too. Mary Queen of Scots had a son - Elizabeth the first and her sister Mary did not have children......

So nicely primed I rocked up for the march and joined the estimated 250,000 there. Lovely atmosphere although no doubt the media will show any small scuffles [ if they mention the march at all]; good tempered marchers; lovely polite policeman - I do wish 'though they wouldn't call me 'madam' as it offends my egalitarian principles!; brilliant signing on the speeches which should have helped when my hearing aid battery ran out but my signing is no where good enough!; brilliant speeches from too many to single out a few - but I must mention Len McClusky and Mark Serwotka just to get them in the same blog as Elizabeth the first!; Charlotte Church was really good!; good enough weather to sit on the ground to listen to the speeches and lovely service by the Underground services despite the fact that the District and Circle services were not running through Westminster.                                                    

So a day of contrasting hypocrisies,  and what may seem odd on such a full march but lots of time for thought whilst also space to make new buddies and have some good discussions [of course!] Sitting in the wavering sun listening to really good speeches is always a pleasure! Possibly a different march from many others I have been on because there were so many different organisations represented there but very effective. And maybe I will be leaving my rucksack packed for next time because we ain't giving in!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Song dedications to David Cameron and those who voted Conservative on the news that he David Cameron says "ministers must back any EU deal" *

*as quoted by BBC news 8th June 2015

Well I woke up this morning [Blues aficionados will recognise that line!] to the news that David Cameron has, again quoting BBC news as above, been
Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, he said he was confident he could secure sufficient reforms but indicated that ministers who did not support him would have to resign.

Nice one Dave, especially knowing that there are more than 50 Conservative MPs, including the Foreign Secretary,  threatening to 
vote to leave the EU unless David Cameron secures far-reaching changes to the UK's relationship with Europe bbc news

So my song dedication to Dave in the light of this and other statements since the General Election is that lovely Cyndi Lauper voiced song, 'True Colours':

And for all those general electorate who voted for the Conservatives on May 7th, I dedicate the lyric from Pete Seeger's Where have all the Flowers gone? When will they ever learn?

Sunday, 7 June 2015

What makes you ashamed to be British?

Surfing the social media sites this morning I came across one of those photograph that are meant to be shared, the provenance of which I always check before [a] I get too enraged and [b] before I 'share'!

Today's photograph was of Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd with the whole of the quote which he made in the wake of the Fox Hunting banning legislation of 2004:
I've become disenchanted with the political and philosophical atmosphere in England. The anti-hunting bill was enough for me to leave England. I did what I could, I did a concert and one or two articles, but it made me feel ashamed to be English.

To be fair - ouch - Waters later in 2005 also said 
I come back to the UK quite often. I didn't leave as a protest against the hunting ban; I was following a child in the wake of a divorce.

Anyway, this got me thinking. What would make you so ashamed to be British? [I am obviously not England-centric like Waters!] And before we get going on this I would just like to say to those 'patriots' [deep sarcasm] like Waters who would leave a country over one parliamentary bill that unless the lives of my family were threatened, I would stay and peacefully fight against those things that I think were spoiling the society in which I am living. As I have done for the past 50 years! So:

I am ashamed to be British when we cut benefits to the sick and disabled. When we deny drugs on a cost basis to the terminally ill. When we condemn children in poorer areas to inferior education. When we sell off our assets like the Royal Mail. When we allow zero hours contracts. When we attempt to ban industrial action by interfering with the voting system but allow parliamentary and all political elections to be run under the rules banned for trade union elections. When we suggest that MPs should get a 10% pay rise whilst condemning others to none or 0.5%. When we recklessly destroy public services like our libraries. When food banks multiply in our 'affluent' society. When 'rough sleeping' is criminalised. When we ignore the needs of asylum seekers. When we curtail the rights to demonstrate on the streets of our 'free country'. When we operate systems like 'the bedroom tax'. When our benefit systems are so complicated that some very legitimate claimants are actually starving and/or have committed suicide. And so much more, but I think my readers may have got the point. Please feel free to add to the list.

But, Roger Waters, I reiterate I am staying here to try to right these wrongs. Please don't come back if the only reason you left is because you weren't able to enjoy hunting. 

[If banning fox hunting is enough to get people like him to leave the country are there a few other things we could ask to be banned? I am only half joking]

PS This is not the place to discuss the pros and cons of fox hunting with dogs. But for an interesting overview this article in the Guardian is very good.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Royal Mail

Coming home to the news that one of the ways that the present Government is going to beat the deficit is by selling off their remaining 30% share in the Royal Mail led to these musings, which  I have noted down!

Over my lifetime there have always been one or more postmen in my family. So I truly know what a lot there is to the job. The old jokes about getting bitten by dogs are really not funny. Those people who wonder why postmen wear shorts into the depth of the winter are always surprised at the real reason - well would you like to wear soaking wet LONG trousers when doing a walk [round] on one of those days when the rain falls in sheets, non-stop?

One doesn't have to be a postman to recognise the horrors of awkward letter boxes: too high, too low, too sprung, too narrow, the ones where a dog leaps to trap your fingers. The remarks that customers make: 'Postman, take care not to scratch my car' [OK, you may own a Bentley, but why would a postman be more likely to scratch it than anyone in a public car park?]; complaints that although their property is flooded to a depth of four foot the householder really cannot understand why the postman is refusing to deliver. And more.

Postmen get up early. They don't complain very often. They get complaints over things they can't possibly help - like senders of letters not putting enough stamps on the envelope so the recipient needs to pay a surcharge. The improperly wrapped parcel/package that has not arrived in good condition. The improperly wrapped parcel/package which 'burst' in the sorting office one Christmas and showered [deliberate pun] all the parcels and packages below it in the 'cage' with bath oil.

Postmen nowadays particularly don't like getting complaints about all these new delivery service providers who are not as fastidious as Royal Mail and don't give such as good a service. Its useless explaining that these companies are nothing to do with the Royal Mail, that the sell off that the Coalition Government authorised means that these companies can now operate to their own rules -which may not be as stringent as those of the Royal Mail. 

F'r instance today I received two parcels at different times, delivered by two different delivery providers. Some days I have received four parcels delivered by four different delivery providers. It doesn't need much wit to realise that all these vans chuntering up and down my road are using four times as much fossil fuels and polluting the air four times as much as necessary if only the one delivery system was used. A lot of the delivery drivers not employed by the Royal Mail are [a] not trained [b] on zero hour contracts [c] due to [b] do not have a pension plan. These companies have to make savings if they are to offer their clients a cheaper, if not as good, service than Royal Mail. Despite this, in the past year the City Link delivery service company was put into administration, which employed over 2700 people. Furthermore, and just last month, a mail delivery firm, Whistl - which was formerly TNT post - was reported to be in difficulties. So are we to gather that running a cheaper service than the Royal Mail is not only undesirable, it is also unprofitable?

So, backtracking a bit, let's go to the first 'go' at Privatisation of the Royal Mail by the 2010 Coalition Government. This took place in 2013, under the aegis of the then Business Minister, Vince Cable, who was subsequently accused by the National Audit Office of selling the Royal Mail shares too cheaply, losing taxpayers millions when share prices rose 70% higher than their original 2013 sale price.

If the remaining 30% is to be sold, those of us who deplore privatisation are going to voice our concerns. My biggest concern is that when any public service is privatised we can be sure that less profitable parts of that service will be quietly dropped or made out of all reason expensive. So those post boxes in far flung post codes may find they have to pay a surcharge to get their mail delivered, for instance. Post code lottery may assume a different meaning.