Sunday, 29 November 2009

A song Georgey boy would have enjoyed.

Some months ago I noted with some considerable sadness that Chas and Dave had split up. Dave Peacock could no longer continue touring after the death of his wife.
Anyone who has been to a Chas and Dave gig will know they were the greatest rock and roll band in modern Britain. I do not say that 'ironically' nor facetiously but in the sense that they could play the music known as rock and roll better than any other band at work in the contemporary scene. Get them on the right night and when they played old rock and roll numbers in that propulsive Little Richard/Jerry Lee Lewis style and it was simply magnificent. They were great lyricists as well.
Anyway, I wanted to post a small tribute to them and I forgot to. So now I am. Where does the greatest English journalist come into it, you ask?
Well, click here and you'll hear a song that I think the author of Politics and the English Language would have enjoyed.
They've turned the language upside down
And aimed it out the door.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Quantitative Easing, or, The Coach

Study for Quantitative Easing, or, The Coach. 60x45cm, charcoal on brown packing paper.

Continuing with my drawing project (see this post for more details). A while ago I sat at the bar in the Coach and Horses, Soho, and idly made some small very rough sketches of the room and how the light falls in it - light readings, really - and took some phone pics to back it up. Then I promptly forgot all about them until this evening when I was looking for something else. I used them as the basis for this drawing, which seems to continue the theme.
I slightly warped the perspective here and there, partly to make the viewer feel he is in the bar feeling a bit drunk or emotional; and partly as a salute to Keith Waterhouse's play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, which featured the Coach and Horses all at crazy angles, as if CRW Nevinson had got juiced up and designed the set.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

When the Nomenklatura turned into the Political Class

'...Moreover, because learning, culture and the European spiritual heritage were, for them, symbols of their own inner freedom, and of the national independence they sought to remember, if not to regain, they looked on those things with an unusual veneration. As a visitor from the world of fun, pop and comic strips I was amazed to discover students for whom words devoted to such things were wasted words, and who sat in those little pockets of underground air studying Greek literature, German philosophy, medieval theology and the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

In 1985 the secret police moved against me and I was arrested in Brno; visits to Czechoslovakia came to an end and I was followed in Poland and Hungary. But our team kept going until 1989 when, to our surprise, the catacombs were opened and our friends came pale, staggering and bewildered into the sunlight, to be hailed by the people as the natural trustees of their restituted country. This was a wonderful moment and, for a while, I believed that the public spirit that had reigned in the catacombs would now govern the State.

It was not to be. Having been excluded for decades from the rewards of worldly advancement, our friends had failed to cultivate those arts — hypocrisy, treachery and realpolitik — without which it is impossible to stay in government...'

Roger Scruton remembers his dealings with the anti-communist/socialist underground in Eastern Europe 25 years ago; and how the tentacles of Moscow have been replaced by the chicanery of Brussels. (No, he's not saying the EU is as bad as soviet totalitarianism, but, and there is a but...) The rest here:

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Boom Times

Many thanks for all the good feedback on my drawing.
When I said I undertook it to take my mind off the political situation I didn’t express myself very clearly. What I meant to say was that in the past few weeks I have formulated and even begun to write quite a few posts, but all of them have been abandoned, partly because I’ve seen the same things said better elsewhere and partly because, well, savage indignation and the great morass of cant, lies and bullshit known as contemporary political discourse are draining materials to work with.
I find it interesting that now the political class and Labour government’s mistakes are piling up thick and fast it seems to have a deadening effect on all our moral imaginations, by which I mean we are being worn down by living in the logjam; what would once have shocked me now provokes nothing more than a disgusted sigh: responding freshly to a situation of permanent chicanery, incompetence, arrogance, hypocrisy and moral nullity is hard work for the human brain. As Orwell said, sometimes the hardest things to see are right under your nose.
However, these are a few unpolished thoughts provoked by the past month’s events.

The present government, political class and contemporary culture represent the full flowering of the baby-boomer generation. It is the received opinion of forty years of liberal thought made civil and constitutional reality. In many important areas it has been an utter failure, disguising rather than solving many of the old social problems, while creating many new pathologies and problems, which it often refuses to admit exist and always refuses to take the blame for.
Although socially speaking there has been a welcome easing up of the old class boundaries and social snobberies, these boundaries still exist in education and many of the boomers’ remedies have simply turned out to be wishful thinking: levelling gestures that have punished talent emerging from the lower social spectrum, while leaving the moneyed middle classes to carry on as they were.
To write the above is to generally invite a chorus of sneering retorts along the lines of ‘what, would you rather live in the 50s?’ To which the answer is most certainly not. I simply turn the boomers’ triumphal view of history around a little bit: we know the bad things that have disappeared, but let’s consider what was worthwhile. Sometimes it is worth considering the baby and not the bathwater.
When you consider the burning social injustices that drove most boomers to righteous decaffeinated Marxism – having to wear short trousers until the age of 14; having old men tell them to stand when they played the national anthem; being told to get their haircuts and take their feet of the seats on trains – you have to laugh when you compare them to the injustices these grammar/public school boys eventually thrust on the subsequent generations: the rights of passage now are knives, drug delirium, absent fathers, a landscape of strong and casual violence, gang rapes, feral behaviour, legitimized ignorance, unpunished violence, unexplored potential, low paid work or a life of welfare.
Even the boomer complaint that in their youth difference was severely frowned on – John Osborne’s comment about not being able to walk through a provincial town wearing a yellow cardigan comes to mind – has to be digested in the knowledge that anyone these days who doesn’t conform to manufactured reality of television (the boomers’ superhighway of liberal babel) is liable to be singled out for belittlement: pre-cultural revolution, people were not jeered to self-immolation for having long hair or wearing yellow cardigans. If they were attacked repeatedly the law would do something about it. Now, thanks to boomer government, the police will only act if it is a ‘hate crime’. Anyone who decides this is an exaggeration had better study the recent Fiona Pilkington case in detail.
I wondered what had made the boomers the way they are. I can understand a lot of it: I was a wayward youth and adult, embraced rebellion, sex, drugs and rock and roll plus left wing politics. I still believe that two of the most repellent sights in British politics are young conservatives and old socialists.
But you grow up, you notice the hypocrisies of the new boss, same, as The Who sang, as the old boss – but in the case of the boomers often a deal worse (put Blair next to, say, Macmillan).
That is not to say you suddenly believe that Britain should be run by Mark Thatcher types and that greed and the corporations are good, far from it; but you come to realise that the same problems keep coming up, and that there are, perhaps, reasons for certain attitudes. That standards are there for a reason and that without authority there can be no justice.
But a social democrat boomer would tell you that there has never been more justice – a ministry of justice here, supra-national ministries of justice on the continent; a mantra of social justice running through the media and academe like letters through a stick of rock. But this brave new world keeps producing more and more inversions of justice. While the EU creates a legal framework which protects Islamic terrorists, it simultaneously bans Italian schoolchildren from wearing crucifixes to school.
While we are on the subject of Islam it is always worth repeating that the rise of radical Islam in Britain, while in part was allowed to flourish by the security services, was largely a result of the boomer class's vanity: they considered themselves so non-judgemental (of non-white groups anyway) that even when an organised far-Right death cult began to gain influence all the boomer class did was make excuses for it and give it money (recent example: Hizb ut tahrir - the far Right Islamic group that Tony Blair boasted he would ban - has just received a large grant to run its own schools) This is institutional folly on a grand scale.
The boomer left claims to hate elites and yet it has given its weight to creating and sustaining an anti-democratic elite in Brussels.
Multiculturalism, mass-immigration, the curtailing of freedom of speech – all things that were decided in a wholly undemocratic way by noisy social democratic boomers. The effect? A flagging civil infrastructure, overburdened schools and services and a growing urban tension. A demoralized, low-paid workforce struggling with crippling accommodation bills – the privileged boomers, however, got the cheap au pairs and Polish plumbers. Now fascism is on the rise. Before 13 years of boomer government the BNP was a tiny, fringe organisation with less than 2,000 members. Now it has 20 per cent of the population considering whether to vote for it, two MEPs in Brussels and a regular spot on Question Time to look forward to.
And still Jack Straw (a textbook boomer) would not connect his government and its policies with this alarming rise of support for a fascist party.
The principal of free speech replaced by political license: in the bad old days homosexuality was illegal. This was wrong. It achieved legal toleration. This was right. Now it has become virtually illegal to disagree with it. You are no longer allowed to disagree with the state orthodoxies. Is this the liberty that boomers shouted about? I don’t recognize it as liberty.
Sure, there is more liberty than there was in some respects and what is worthwhile I enjoy. But the boomers’ relativism and hatred of their parents’ manners has dovetailed perfectly with consumer capitalism to create the blank-eyed, ignorant, utterly selfish, burger-stuffing iPodista we sit next to every day on the train. For such people, independent thought means what crap am I going to buy next. Does saying this really make me a soulless fogey? I don't feel like one. I feel young, actually, with a soul. (I'm listening to Otis Redding as I write this - but I do listen to the more melodically pleasing Elgar now and again...)
But why did the boomers become as they were? I’ve come to the conclusion that it was an inferiority complex about the Second World War. They had to grow up in the shadow of it and the achievements and resilience of the people who lived through it and this pushed many of them into a kind of permanent adolescence, rejecting on principal – not reason – anything that reminded them of their parents’ and grandparents’ attitudes (I am not saying that all their attitudes were right and proper).
But it is a good irony that what the boomers’ destroy they eventually need again: hence after years of decrying the suburban archetype of ‘the nosy neighbour’, the government is now planning to have local snoopers, paid by the state. They do exactly the same in the failed Communist state of Cuba, where each block of flats has a party snooper on the look out for any seditious comment or behaviour. Our local snoopers will soon find their list of trangressions to look out for widened to take in the political manias of the boomers.
There is one silver lining, I suppose: the boomers will all retire soon, most of them on fat pensions – they had the good times and queered the pitch for many of those that followed.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Study For A Painting

Study for Our Revels Now Are Ended, or, English Smuts. Charcoal on brown packing paper, 48inches x 19inches

Before the West Pier in Brighton was finally destroyed by arsonists* I used to go and look at it now and then because I love piers and because not only was it the finest pier in Britain it was the finest piece of Victorian seaside architecture bar none.
It also looked magnificent even when it was falling to pieces.
It was designed by Eugenius Birch in 1866 and was finally closed in 1975. I own a plank of decking from the pier: an old girlfriend had a pal who rescued it from a pile washed up on the beach after one of its collapses.
The West Pier has been drawn and painted many times but I have never seen one I much liked. Plus I have always wanted to draw it, even though it has now gone from decomposition to skeleton, as it were.
I hope the following doesn't land me in Pseuds' Corner. I fancied creating some drawings and paintings as a way of taking my mind off the current political situation and to somehow produce a work that says something that writing can’t.
This charcoal study was my first attempt at the West Pier. It felt like a gamble, an adventure in drawing (I haven’t enjoyed drawing something so much in years) and it also felt like taking a reading of the subject.
I dug out some photographs I got a friend to take years ago (I generally hate working from photographs) and felt my way in. I wanted something that had an atmosphere to it; somehow that particular Brighton atmosphere of sunny frivolity and concealed evil; and, in a larger implicit way, the atmosphere of inevitable general decay, of people and all their works.
I want to work towards a painting, perhaps on a larger scale with some figures in the foreground maybe. In a way though, smutty charcoal on cheap packing paper seems to be the way of it, or at least a way into it. My working title is from The Tempest: Our Revels Now Are Ended. But I also like English Smuts, though that is obscure – smuts does play an end of the pier chord, I suppose.
Wonderful set of photographs taken on the decaying pier in 2000, here.

* In Brighton, it is an open secret who was behind the arson attack. I once knew a journalist down there who had the whole story, but he feared for his legs/life. It was all, now I come to think about it, reminiscent of Hale in Brighton Rock.

Monday, 2 November 2009

How Lucky We Are to Be Governed by Educated Moral Socialists

How educated, moral and intellectual socialists run things. A recipe. First, get five to seven million (and rising) extra people into the country for your own political agenda (drive down wages, drive up rents - clever, that). Second, close 2,500 sub-post offices in one year. Then everyone will have to queue, nice and collectively, in the main post office. Clever, isn't it? This queue, very average, consisted of 75 people. Gordon Brown, very clever, moral socialist. Heart of gold. Brilliant.