Archive for February, 2014


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Two years after the Stop in 2005 the Make Poverty History march took place in Edinburgh at the time when the G8 Summit was being held slightly further North at Gleneagles also in Scotland.  I attended and in fact I kept a diary of my time.  In spite of attempts to derail the movement, in spite of smear campaigns by some who claimed they shared our objectives we marched and formed a ring around the city almost all of us dressed in white.  It was a moving experience, a powerful experience.  Why do I bring it up now?  Because like the march in 2003 it united people of differing persuasions both left and right, atheist and religious, young and old who were all there to condemn the mindless slaughter of those disenfranchised in other countries by war, famine, disease and the simple lack of caring of the leaders of the Western World and their banking allies.  This was another example of people standing up for what they felt was right, and that they felt disenfranchised by the mainstream political parties who all seemed hell-bent on standing for the same neo-liberal agenda and policies.

I am still yet to forgive Bob Geldoff for those days and will not do so until he apologises for insinuating that we were the wreckers, the ones being unrealistic or idealist or cynical etc. etc. for claiming that the deals were hollow and in fact the cynicism was on the part of the leaders cashing in on what was clearly a powerful movement of non-violent dissent.  Geldoff effectively admitted we were right 5 years later but showed no remorse or contrition for the people he had slagged off at the time for casting doubt on the sincerity of the world leaders promises.  Furthermore it was he who helped organise concerts on the same day as the great march in Edinburgh and then claimed that it showed how many people wanted to get rid of poverty, it didn’t Bob it showed how many people wanted to see Pink Floyd reunite or be at an event that formed part of popular cultural history.  The ones who wanted to stop poverty were the ones who had to put their principles before their desire to see the Floyd as one for what will probably be the only time.  The fact that the concerts were put on the same day I found crass and offensive, it put into the shadow those who came to do something and reduced the day to a mere rock gig, the at best naive and at worst disgraceful statement that all the people attending were showing their opposition to poverty in Africa was simply not true.  I’m sure the people who attended did not specifically agree with poverty per se but protesting against it was not their primary reason for being there.  It was ours for making the trip to Edinburgh.  Furthermore we were not just protesting about Africa, we were protesting about poverty everywhere from continents far away to that which we see daily around us.  If even half the people in those stadiums (stadia) were to have been part of that ring around Edinburgh too then the message would have been louder still and the concerts can only have diluted the message we carried and the significance of it.  I specifically know of one couple who did get allocated tickets and were agonising about whether to go to Scotland or Wembley, they chose the latter.

The march on Gleneagles itself 4 days later was hampered and sabotaged by the police who tried to use radio news bulletins to claim the march had been called off and then when many still arrive sought to stop coaches and did indeed stop the 2nd wave (who then occupied Princes St. and got kettled and flushed by riot police for their trouble).  They pulled the 1st wave over on 3 occasions making us stand around wondering if all we might be able to protest on was a road junction roundabout.  We were told the “Anarchists had set up roadblocks which had closed off the A9”, what was shown later that I saw was that a piece of tree about 8 feet long and with a circumference around that of a milk saucepan that which barely covered one lane of the carriageway let alone the road. But eventually we got there and we made our voices heard.  It was empowering, exhausting and exhilarating.  We did not go to concerts, we did not stay at home, we came from different parts of the country – as did the police 😉 and we made our views known.

[I was unaware at the time that a sweepstake was being run at work courtesy of a couple of “friends” who were very familiar with the penal code and felt that it was worth speculating on what charge I would be apprehended by the police – smart money apparently was on ‘Affray’ at 8/1, Incitement to Riot at 12/1 and someone had placed an outside bet on Treason at 500/1!  As it was I behaved myself and only nearly got arrested twice – once apparently for being a “f*cking smart arse” when I pointed out that I didn’t need to move back to avoid a “crush at the gates” because the fact that I wasn’t actually in contact with anyone meant I could not be contributing to anything.  The second time was when a police van revved at me as I was crossing a pedestrian crossing.  I made a gesture and the driver made for the door clearly to come and ‘have a word’ but he was pulled back by his passenger and the lights changed.  Money raised from the sweepstake went to Save The Children.]

On my return I was in mid-air when the bombs went off in London on the 7th and the whole family was in pandemonium since no-one knew where the other persons were.  Everything seemed suddenly to be about blitz spirit, everything suddenly became on a war footing again and that put paid to any reasoned debate on peace and diplomacy, “London will go on” we were told, the outrage was tangible and the demonstrations were long forgotten.  But does that make our actions wrong?  Far from it, it means we stood up in a way that was not open to us in the ballot box, against those for whom we had not voted and in a way that ultimately was vindicated when it became clear that the information used to justify the campaign was fabricated, or at best embellished.  People died for that, many people, leaving bereft and destroyed, more than just the buildings that made a number of rich people very much richer through huge outsourced rebuilding contracts, families and communities were irrevocably damaged in a way I suspect those born in this country after the 1940s can scarcely imagine.  People in Syria now will tell you and the blanket media campaign that I see now about the conflict reminds me very much of 10 years ago.

Will the Make Poverty History March and the march on the G8 Summit be better remembered than Live8 – no I’d be somewhat staggered if the former make more than a footnote in the pages of political history journals, since the Stop The War march in 2003 merits little more than that, whilst Live8 is enshrined in popular culture, but when those who attended the concerts look in the mirror I doubt they will have quite the same sense of integrity as those of us who stood up for those who were denied a voice.  And that is something I can tell my children when they ask the question that prompted this, and maintain eye contact whilst I do so.

 Song Of The Day ~ The Mono Polys – Insomnia

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My blogging comrade Big John – himself going for the same decade as I have been – recently posted on the occasion of his 75th birthday about how things had been ‘in his day’ as opposed to that which is available (to children) now.  It got me in comparison mode so I decided to put another yardstick in giving how the world was in my childhood.  You have to bear in mind I was in Chelsea (when it still had council tenants) so what we had was in many respects streets ahead of those living outside ‘the smoke.’

Anyway John’s formative years involved the following:

  • Television .. Just the BBC on the radio wireless.
  • Telephone .. The nearest one was two streets away on a shop counter.
  • Computers .. Great fun was had playing games in the street.
  • Motor car .. If a tram or bus didn’t go there, then, neither did I, unless I walked.
  • Bathroom .. A scrub in the kitchen sink or a tin bath by the fire.
  • Toilet paper ! .. I won’t go into detail.
  • Fast Food .. Only fish and chips. ”Bring your own newspaper”.
  • Holidays .. Abroad ! Where was that ? .. Well, maybe a day by the sea.
  • Supermarket .. or “Can I scan your ration book?”
  • Refrigerator .. Only a daily walk to the shops by my mum.
  • Central heating .. Just open coal fires, even at school.
  • Shoes .. Oops ! .. No .. Sorry, I got carried away for a moment, so I’ll …

As opposed to a man in his 70s I was a child of the 70s and things were different, we had moved on, evolved, advanced with almost wanton abandon, things were thus:

  • Television .. Only bought when I was 13 and so my grandmother could watch the news, took up half the room in a wooden cabinet and 3 people to lift! Just two BBC and 1 ITV which I wasn’t allowed to watch because adverts were evil (this is quite correct of course!) Oh and it didn’t run in the morning except for schools programs and it didn’t come in the afternoon until 3.30 with Play School. It then shut down after the late film at around 11 and the National Anthem played! What’s a colour TV?

[Channel 4 came along in 1982 – it was such an event people took time off work to watch the opening… ceremony would be a bit strong, it started with Countdown one of the most sedentary gameshows ever!]

  • Telephone .. The nearest one was two streets away in a red phone box – queues down the street on a Sunday before dinner and hoping you had enough 5p coins to beat the pips!

[Later when we moved out of London in the 80s we had a 3-digit phone humber!]

  • Computers .. just came in – Yellow River on the BBC involving Xs or Spectrum cassette tapes which took hours to load and made a noise like a fax machine.

[I got my first computer in 1998 it was an Apple Powerbook Duo 280c and the snazziest system I had ever seen!]

  • Motor car .. Trams? Bloody luxury, we didnt have them in my day.  It was the No. 11 bus to school I had or a 20 min walk to the nearest tube station at weekends.

[I didn’t learn to drive until I was 28 and that was for a job.  I don’t exactly feel the richer for it, though my 27 year old car is cool!]

  • Bathroom .. Hot running water but an outside khazi still very much in evidence in the terraced housing, we had a separate toilet indoors in our flat for a while but when moved had to share a bathroom with the people above!

[Outside toilets were a nightmare, in the Winter it was bloody freezing and anything could be lurking in there and frequently was!]

  • Toilet paper ! .. Unlike the Big Man I will go into detail – shiny on one side and ripped your aris to ribbons it did. Izal – I’ll never forget it, I saw some on sale not so many years ago, heaven knows what idiot still buys it.
  • Fast Food .. Still only fish and chips. Newspaper provided! We did have an ice cream parlour – yes “parlour” but it was the Fulham Road you know!  In the very early 80s we went ‘into town’ to a Nepalese restaurant in Euston – it was the most exotic thing we had ever done or eaten in my life.  I still visit as and when I can.
  • Holidays .. Calais, we were cosmopolitan and my Grandmother lived in Kent!
  • Supermarket .. What? We had the grocer, the greengrocer, the butcher, the baker and knew them all by name. They’d give my mother a little extra because she was on her own and they liked my smile! (Tried that at Tescos and have another 6 months on the Anti-Social Behaviour order!)
  • Refrigerator .. I got to go on the daily shop with mother!
  • Central heating .. Coal? Ha you’ll be lucky, miners are on strike and all the powers off!
  • Shoes .. So many choices, Clarks or Start-Rite!

If there’s anyone else who wishes to reminisce either here or on your own page then I’d be interested and perhaps amused about your decade.  Feel free to share.

Song Of The Day ~ The Rifles – Shoot From The Lip