Sunday, 11 December 2011

Study for Engine Sheds at Victoria

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Study for Round the Back of East Croydon Station With Mik & Ange (On the Way to the Pub)

Saturday, 19 November 2011

From the Bus Top: Memory of Kensington Mist

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Study for Railway Lines, Flats and the Thames

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Study for Allotment After Dark

Indian ink, watercolour and gum arabic on paper

Monday, 27 June 2011

Two Cheers for Libraries

IMAGINE a BBC drama where an idealistic young journo/councillor/social worker finds himself in a town in with public and private financial problems and ends up concluding that while the private sector is simply interested in the cold-hearted pursuit of financial advantage so too, when it comes down to it, is the public.
No, it wouldn't happen. The narrative will never be messed with: public good, private bad. That's socialism, right? The ruling ethos of the BBC.
If ever there was a time to have some real drama, art that makes us consider and think about current predicaments instead of headlocking us and dragging us to the conclusions North London Observer-readers always come to, it is now.
I thought this as I stared out of an upstairs window in Croydon Library. I was looking at something which had rather knocked me back, but more of that later.
Having moved from Highgate and currently of no-fixed-abode (furniture and possessions in storage; sleeping in parents' spare room) I am back in my old stamping ground and taking a look round.

There is controversy about the borough's cultural life at the moment because the Conservative Council decided to prune £1.5million off the arts budget and having done so they got the taste for it and are now looking at libraries.
I supported the first round of cuts. They mainly affected live events at the Clocktower, the cultural centre based in the Town Hall and library complex. Almost every event staged there was laughably politically correct, box-ticked to the last Labour governent's rigid requirements of Cultural Marxism (and the predictable tastes of the Guardianistas who ran it all). I am trying to think of some good examples off the top of my head.

The African storytelling which only allowed black children in was a good one. I sold the story to a national newspaper but it was never used (though I got paid). When push came to shove the relevant spokespeople - who were independent of the arts centre itself - denied the anti-white apartheid, but I had already made a careful study of how the event was advertised and those promoting it only approached black people with flyers. When I asked about this one of the promoters made some remark about 'cultural specifics'.
There were many other events, most of which were coded propaganda for Multiculturalism and other satellite creeds.

So, the axing of all that could only be a good thing. Then they chopped the two free music jamborees, the Croydon Festival and the Mela. All my liberal friends got upset about this. I observed the outrage via Facebook. In all the ranting no-one connected the largesse of the previous Labour council and government with the current situation. The shit-or-bust public spending based first on tax creamed off a boom created by consumer debt and City cowboys* and then, when that failed, based on good old borrowing.
As a regular festival-goer at Croydon I could honestly report that it had been going downhill for years. The nadir reached when Martha Reeves and the Vandellas sang to dodgy backing tracks in a hideous porridge of sound. My suggestion to a promoter friend of mine who got very exercised by the axe falling was: promote it yourself. If people love it as much as they say they do they'll pay a fiver on the gate.
Funnily enough my friend didn't fancy the gamble.

So the festivals went and I don't think anybody's too bothered now that the dust has settled. The Mela often ended in violence as various Asian gangs fought out obscure tribal ructions, though this went largely unreported because the local newspapers were slavish adherents to the NUJ's race reporting guidelines: if it reflects well on the particular community big it up; if badly, try and swerve it if you can. We'll have no black marks against the Multicultural project, thank you (no pun intended).
So now libraries. There is a great deal of controversy over proposed library closures nationwide, as well there might. According to Public Libraries News there are three hundred and ninety five (316 buildings and 75 mobiles) libraries under threat in one way or another. My maths says this adds up to 391 but I won't argue with librarians, they never take it well. It appears the Government doesn't quite know what it is going to do about libraries, so the figures are unclear.

Alan Bennett, who to the Obs reading-crowd is a sort of cross between Gandhi and the Archbishop of Canterbury, has called the cuts child abuse. The sane man receives this pearl with a sigh: if the old Holy Fool were that worried about child abuse why didn't he pipe up about the endless literal child abuse his beloved socially democratic public services allow because to intervene would be to judge and judging is for the petty conservative moralisers of suburbia, the ones Bennett's been taking the piss out of for fifty years. That's the way, Alan, EM Forster's the answer to Baby P's murderers. Has Bennett had anything to say about the shocking levels of illiteracy in London? Does he feel that his generation's battle against elitism has missed its target and destroyed standards instead?

The Evening Standard battled for months to jemmy those shocking figures out of the authorities. Tony 'Education, Education, Education' Blair donated the princely sum of £5,000 from his vast personal fortune towards that paper's crusade for literacy. I don't think it was some kind of heartless joke on his part but you never know. It certainly made me laugh albeit sardonically.
Child abuse is, among other things, the dumbing down of education, something that, whether he likes it or not, his 'side', the clever bien pensant side, have taken to with a vengeance as a sort of final solution for class equality. When there is a Prime Minister from a comprehensive school and if he is not a dunce, then I will say the project has finally worked. At the moment it doesn't look too clever, with the posh kids getting from education all they need to succeed and those in the lower social spectrum getting what the NUT lefties think they need to succeed. Guess who loses in the long run?

The council has allegedly been in talks with a ghastly-looking U.S. company that specialises in turning libraries into commercial propositions. The Institute of Directors, arm of Thatcherism in all its forms, recently said that libraries can go hang because the public are now buying cheap books off Amazon as well as Kindles etc. The Socialist Party squeals for the end of cuts.
So I decided to go in Croydon Library (first time in a while) and see what was going on. First floor: book aisles virtually empty (two people browsing, four seated); seven people at the computer terminals checking emails or Facebook. Fifteen children doing their homework, ie talking, in normal voices. This went unremarked and uncorrected.
Floor two: Books aisles entirely empty: seven seated reading, mostly newspapers; twenty-five people on the internet checking emails and browsing Facebook. Most tables filled with children doing homework, ie talking in normal voices. As downstairs, this went unremarked and uncorrected.
The unofficial homework club thing has been going on for years and it certainly has turned me away on several occasions because every table is taken up and the place has the atmosphere of a classroom. Those doing homework rarely trouble the bookshelves so the necessity of their presence is questionable. As in so many areas the public services' non-judgement ethos of the Labour years has indulged socially incontinent behaviour and as a consequence the idea of the library as a place of solace and quiet study has been eroded. It is now, with the blessing of our cultural commissars, more community centre than place of learning. (Perhaps they, and Alan Bennett, imagine that hoodies are having a quick break from skunk dealing to knock off a couple of chapters of The Princess Casamassima.)
A similar picture was to be seen on floor three.
I walked the aisles and thought about it all.

It is fair to say that a good deal of my education came from the shelves in front of me. I didn't have to walk far to come across books I've borrowed. In work and out of work, the nine books and six CDs you were allowed to borrow kept you instructed, stimulated, diverted and contented; and all the time education (a word I naturally now mostly associate with cant) of one sort or another flowed in. Conrad, Dickens, Joyce, Melville, Waugh, Greene, Patrick Hamilton, De Mauppassant, Flaubert, Anthony Burgess, Zola and countless others.
In the art section I realised I'd borrowed at least half of the books perhaps more. Some on many occasions. Many were like old friends that I'd forgotten. Books I borrowed when I was a callow art student, beginning the journey. From these shelves the boulevards of the Impressionists' Paris opened up for me, Rennaissance Italy, Carravaggio, the Cubists, Van Gogh, the School of London, Turner, Ruskin, Constable, Picasso, war artists, photographers you name it.
Libraries: The best that has been written, painted, sung and drawn. All free.
And here it is, seemingly largely ignored while the Facebook terminals multiply.
It hit me then that the problem neither the cost-cutting right or the stop-the-cuts left can see is that money is not really the issue here, it is culture.
Our culture drifts year by year ever further in a vacuous, stupid, vicious and inane direction. High culture survives but it does so in an increasingly marginalised and hidden state. The war against elites became a de facto battle against standards, in effect a crusade for mediocrity but fought under banners that cried excellence. With imagination-destroying television and computer gadgets at the centre of culture, education and the family are the first and last bastions of culture and civilisation. Both are now undermined in many ways, and the state and fate of libraries are to my mind proof of this.

The book as cultural artefact is at the centre of Western Civilisation. When we are done with books we will be on a very dangerous road indeed. When and if public libraries vanish it will be a very dark day in British cultural history. But we can't save our libraries until we save our culture, and I don't see anyone in power doing much about that.

Which brings me back to what I was staring at through the second floor window of Croydon Library: a huge hole in the ground over which three vast high-as-cathedral cranes loomed. The site of, drum roll, Croydon Council's new Public Services Delivery Hub. 240,000 sq ft of public sector doings, consolidated from other council precincts. This despite 30 per cent of the town's office space lying empty. The council has so far refused to say how much the building will cost. It claims construction overheads will be offset by 'development' of the assets (there is 20,000 sq ft of retail space as well), therefore theoretically costing the taxpayer nothing. What that means is: if another boom comes along everything will be OK.
I don't beleive a word of it.

*Those Labour Party defenders who blame the whole debacle on the, yes, disgusting behaviour of banks and hedge funds would do well to remember the whole sorry epoch had the public blessing of Chancellor Gordon Brown and his crooked little fingertip Edward Balls, for tax-and-cash-swill reasons on his own. He even made it easy for them through his much-vaunted light touch regulation (which of course had an unpleasant and unspoken corollary: heavy touch stealth taxes on the workers further down the economic food chain: hedge funders boasted of paying less tax than their cleaning ladies: wouldn't you like to see that in a BBC drama: you might, but it won't happen under a Pink Government...)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Marr and the Bloggers

THIS BLOG, such as it is at the moment, warmly welcomes back Mark Brentano's blog to the internet. If there is a more entertaining commentator or better writer of English currently being published on paper in England, or indeed western civilisation, I do not know about them. I missed it during its interregnum.

Mark has opened up batting with a good whack at Andrew Marr, in response to the broadcaster's dismissive comments about bloggers, made here.

I agree with practically all Mark has to say on the matter, but there are a few thoughts I'd like to toss in.

The real reason Marr has taken against blogs is because the ones that have caused ripples and crossed the divide into the mainstream media have generally been those that have criticised the pinkish political, media, legal and administrative class which runs the country and which Marr belongs to and thinks a very good thing indeed. These blogs are what the Guardian would call 'rightwing'. Sure there must be left wing blogs by the thousand and by the end of Cameron's period in office I would imagine we'll have a left-wing version of the right wing tattle site Guido Fawkes. Indeed, new Labour stooge Derek Draper tried to start one a couple of years ago when he realised the game was up for that government.

If blogging were dominated by a mentality that a champagne cultural Marxist like Marr could get on with then he'd refer to the activity as the People's Journalism or some other predictable bit of Mandlesonese and would pat them on the head in print, saying how wonderful puff-pieces on diversity and graffiti art in inner cities are. It's the lack of control which horrifies Marr and all the many others of his ilk. The unmediated thought that is baldly said. His generation have been extraordinarily effective in creating an alternative reality in a very short time simply by playing with words.
Despite his preoccupation with pop festivals*, a libertarian is the last thing Marr is. There is no cast-iron way, as yet, that the internet commentariat can be politically corrected and superinjuncted. The political, media, legal and administrative class (lets mint a bit of Newspeak and call them the polmedigad) do not like this and will, if we are not careful, in due course take steps to see that it is.

But there is another side to this. The real problem with blogs is that they are, as Mark Brentano says, for the most part journals and therefore the product of journal-keeping, which is halfway between diary-writing and op-ed. It is punditry not reportage. A pundit, from the sanskrit pandit for learned man. A source of opinion but not necessarily a news gatherer. The feeling I get from blog-browsing is that reportage, which what real citizens' journalism would be, is far too much like hard work. The blogosphere is rather like the Observer used to be about 20 years ago, ten per cent news and ninety per cent opinion columns. Opinions are like arseholes, everyone's got one. That's the trouble with blogs. In the blogosphere, I don't particularly like that word but we're stuck with it for the time being, hard news is hen's-teeth-rare. Bloggers don't appear to go in for the cold-calling, interviewing, document trawling, FoI-ing** and on-the-spot reporting that constitute active journalism.

Of course, many paid journalists are now mere churnalists, recycling press releases. Then there are the platoons of journalists handed stories from the PR men and women in politics, showbiz and sport. However, even within the editorial preoccupations of any given newspaper/TV channel there will be real news stories broken along with those copped from other organs or the wires. Bloggers don't generally do this.

They wait for the stories to be supplied, then comment on them or speculate on new angles and motivations within them. There is nothing wrong with this at all. It allows the publication of sometimes gloriously spot-on reaction that would never be allowed in the mainstream media. However, it does mean that blogs are something that can be taken or left, like op-ed in a newspaper. They are not essential and that is their flaw, if you are putting them up as an alternative to mainstream media. Internet media briefly became essential recently when it did something that the mainstream couldn't do: name public figures whose sex lives had been kept secret by law. It started to break stories the press and tv could not break. I wonder if bloggers learned from this important moment the sheer value of new information as opposed to opinion given about new information or opinion which says new information is not true information.

If blogs are to go on and become something to rival the mainstream media, as opposed to their current situation, which is closer to myspace or facebook, they will have to join the hunt for new information and then comment on it as well. When that day comes, Andrew Marr and his class will come to fear and respect them.

*In his TV history of Britain he looked down on the Glastonbury pop festival from a helicopter and spoke an encomium to the event, calling it 'microcosmic society', which are exactly the same words as Mick Jagger used in the film Gimme Shelter to describe the Altamont rock festival in 1969, and we all know how that ended up. In a way of course Marr was right: hundreds of thousands of people all pissed, talking platitudes while listening to rather rubbishy music high on drugs IS a miniature version of the country, or parts of it.

**Submitting Freedom of Information Act requests.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Ed and the Shammers

WHILE eating a late breakfast of boiled eggs I looked up at the television and saw Edward Miliband goggling and grinning.
I turned the sound on, reluctantly. Dermot Murnaghan of Sky news was asking the Labour Party leader about youth unemployment.
‘It’s a disgrace,’ Miliband said in that nutter-on-the-bus voice of his. He started on about a lost generation and the need for ‘more investment’ and all that political class rhetoric that you know so well you could do ten minutes of it yourself on TV.
Murnaghan prodded Miliband a bit, saying if it was a lost generation then generations take some time to get going, therefore surely the last Labour government had some hand in the present situation.
Of course, Miliband wasn’t having that. And so it went on, as it does. I looked down at my eggs and they goggled up at me just like Ed.
Murnaghan could have discomfited Miliband quite easily it seemed to me, or at least have wiped the goggliness off his face.
He could have asked the leader of the Labour Party why the last government engineered a population rise of about five million though immigration, many of whom do the sort of jobs that Miliband’s lost generation could be doing while they await work as management consultants, abortion co-ordinators and equality data officers to become available.
Edward Miliband will know something of this because his brother David more or less wrote the manifestos of the new Labour era. And of course, instead of gaining experience of how the country actually works Edward spent those years as a ‘special adviser’ to Harriet Harman and Gordon Brown, in other words a civil servant well paid by us to advise those two how to burn our money, sorry I meant implement social justice.
When standing in the long queues to buy, say, overpriced coffee from eastern European baristas, I often hear political class rhetoric about unemployment in Britain ringing in my ears.
To use a clich├ęd bit of that rhetoric, it is the elephant in the room. Various simple solutions to this seem blindingly obvious but you will never hear them entertained by the powers that be or their shadows. Nor will the media so much as suggest it.
This is because nobody in Westminster wants to solve the problem. Perish the thought. All interested parties are gaining something from the status quo: Big business, liberals, the Left. Besides, questioning mass immigration plays badly with the yummy mummy vote, or so the political marketing men say.
This led me to another massive pachyderm pacing round in front of the telly: the difference between the rise in accommodation costs and wages.
From my own research (recollecting my hourly rate and my monthly rent) I have established that wages for non-skilled jobs have risen about 33 per cent in the past 15 years while rent has risen between 200 and 250 per cent.
This again is directly linked to a huge influx of foreign workers and students: excess manpower and a lack of living space.
But I have never heard a politician say this on television. I have never heard a thrusting, truth-seeking BBC journalist say this on Panorama. It is the great unsaid thing.
Meanwhile, generations get lost.
Murnaghan finished his interview with Miliband. Two highly paid men going about their business, which happens to be largely a sham.
I finished my goggling eggs and went to work.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Email to a pal concerning Osama, Obama, The Beatles, Liverpool, Chester and the Ras Prince

From: William GAZY
To: Pal
Subject: Jelly Roll and the Ras Prince
Date: Tue, 10 May 2011 14:24:09 +0100


Many thanks for the CD. I literally hurried to put it on. What was my disappointment to find 'CD not finalized' come up on the display! Not dissing your work old boy but I really fancied a listen.

The landlady has had the builders in at Highgate doing the windows and other bits and bobs. This has taken six weeks. I have been camping out at Croydon and getting no work done, by which I mean the work of using one's imagination to create things of aesthetic or literary interest. I have been busy lately, continually diverted by the two largest claims on any Londoner's time: work and Drink. There has been precious little time for art, low or high. I did have a dalliance with one Tina Perch but what with her one-year-old child, her part time lesbianism and belief in UFOs etc I felt that a long-term relationship was not in either of our interests.
I did have a fair run of luck on the Turf. One afternoon placing six horses in six races either first, second or third which, had they all won in a £1 accumulator, and they were all capable of winning, would have netted me one million and fifty three thousand pounds. Of course, I would have had to forego the £53,000 because bookmakers' payout limit is just the round one mill. Unfortunately I had them in different trixies. Ah well - but still a good pick-up.

I was pleased to see the Americans shot Bin Laden because among other things it would in a matter of hours reveal the hypocrisy of many of my liberal acquaintances, liberals in the sense of that seam of inchoate right-on opinion that dominates broadcasting, academia and etc.
Where was the outrage at this act of western imperialist freebooting? Where were the luvvies bussed in to BBC news studios every hour to be prompted into anti-American rhetoric? Where was the outrage on Facebook? There was none to be seen among my many liberal friends, none of the hand-me-down sarcasm from the world of stand up comedy. I dare say Noam Chomsky had his say somewhere but I didn't hear about it. Of course, one expects the the head of the Church of England to side with Al Qa'eda now and one receives the news with equanimity; the gobsmacker would have been the tiniest vindication of the action delivered with impeccable Anglican tact. Why have we spent a thousand years listening to old poofs in funny hats? (Good album title)
But really, it was a muted reaction from the Righteous.

And then of course it dawned on my slow brain: Barack Obama, the President of the U.S., is a black liberal. Or is perceived to be so. Had a white man named Bush, or indeed anyone from the Republican Party been in charge then etc.
In those crazy days nine years ago you regularly heard a kind of coded praise for Bin Laden, remember? At that time his war on the U.S. appeared to some of the more addled members of the Islington Tendency as a sort of underdog football match between Crewe Alexander and Manchester United. It was years before they grasped that Bin Laden and his friends were not the sort of edgy young shavers who would dig The Clash, Mark Thomas and dub reggae. I knew a stoner bus driver a few years ago who openly admired Bin Laden, pronouncing his name fussily each time as ozammabin ladenne.
As I used to say too much: it is impossible to keep up with the cuntishness of modern opinions.
But it does make you wonder who'll the Righteous Left will blame everything on while they wait for the next Republican government to come along. I did wonder at one point if the BBC would go against all instinct and make the French out to be the wrong 'uns of the world. They had Sarko AND the Burka ban, maan, to go on.

A pal from work suggested a trip to Chester races prefaced with a jaunt round his home town of Liverpool. I had never been up the North before. Day one was L/pool. The beer was better than beer served in London, there was no doubt about that. Another northern friend had said to me: I don't like southern beer, it's warm and flat; I like northern beer, it's cold and creameh. He was bloody well right. I liked the city, what I saw of it, with its faded but grand architecture and old pubs. My Liverpudlian pal took me in the best example of an ornate Victorian pub I have ever seen: The Philharmonic Dining Rooms.
We went down Mathew St and in the fake Cavern and past the electrical sub-station which stands on the grave of the real one. There is a Beatles shop at the top which had a large poster of the bad lord Jagger in the window marked: 'was £4 now £2'.
My interest in the Beatles' music faded a long time ago and I found the area slightly sad, but we went in a couple of good pubs, one called the White Star (filled with dramatic sea pictures and four brass plaques on seats where the Beatles are supposed to have caroused, marked with their names). In another pub there was a photograph of the 'the boys' next to the corner where it had been taken. 'THIS PHOTOGRAPH WAS TAKEN HERE'. There they were aged 17 and the spot did not seem to have changed. We contemplated this for a moment and then Agadoo by Black Lace came on very loudly. The area seemed to have potential for ironists.
Later we went to an old RC church that had been converted into a bar. I forget its name but seek it out if you go up there, it is well worth seeing inside.

Chester was a nice city and the racecourse very good in its appointments but every knobhead for miles around had come. I should have realised this when agreeing to the trip, in fact I think I did but I agreed to it a year ago and clearly forgot.
We had press tickets which kept us in the good bit while the races were on. The women were very hot but there was a lot of footballers wives-a-like mutton accompanied by coked-up wrong uns in the mix. Fair enough, that's racing anywhere. But in a pub beforehand my accent had been clocked by three laddos at the bar and there'd been some mild screwing out. From that moment I realised I was a) 180 miles off the manor and b) Londoners are by and large disliked up there. I briefly considered adopting a northern accent but found I had too much pride and self-respect. I had a forecast up and had a nice pick-up on the last. As we left the racecourse it occurred to me that it was rather like being a POW on the run in Germany during the war: every time I opened my mouth it was clocked and not admiringly.
I had to get a train to Crewe, which turned out to be full of drunken chavs going back to Sheffield and similar. As the train pulled in to Crewe one of them, very drunk and half-abetted and half-restrained by his mate, tried to start a fight with me outside the toilet, which was out of order (the toilet). He grabbed hold of my hair, which was slightly bouffant, and started calling me a fucking gay cunt. I was holding him off trying to delay the full fight because I knew there was more of them in the carriage behind. Then he clocked my accent and he the abuse increased. They don't half hate Londoners! I was very calm during this, which always surprises me when I'm in real danger. Both him and his pal had had chunks out of their faces in the past so one could guess their hobbies. However they were both slight compared to me and I made up my mind to do my worst if it came to it.
I am by no means a keen fighter but I am as strong as lion, plus I'd had a few pints of Okells myself. Just then an Asian woman came along the corridor and this claimed the main antagonist's attention: he began racially abusing her in a manner to make a BNP-er blush before being dragged away by his pal. The train came to a halt and off I got. I headed for the station bar and ordered a drink at the precise moment five drunken scousers came in and clocked me and the accent. One of them did a strange silent 'square up' to me which he immediately backed off from to play pool.
By this time I felt like Sedgwick the Manufacturer in the Great Escape.

I drank my drink and thought: these young idiots are monkeys and they know they're monkeys: that's why they hate us cos we remind them of it. Caliban shrieks. Eventually I got on the train to London. I travelled virgin first class because I’d got a deal on it - £35. As I sunk into my seat, thinking ‘fucking close call’ and the fields sped by at 125mph, a stewardess comes along and asked me if I wanted a drink.
‘Got a gin and tonic?’
‘Yes,’ she said brightly. ‘You might as well have two, mightn’t you?’
That’s a good idea, I said. I asked her how much.
‘Oh there’s nothing to pay, it’s free drinks in first class.’
Thereafter it was a happy journey back to London - 90 odd mins. Pope-like, I considered kissing the platform upon arrival at Euston. I went in the Doric Arch and ordered a large VAT: seven quid! Definitely back in London. I paid up cheerily.



Friday, 22 April 2011

Cleese takes to Bath or RACIST PIE-THONN

From: William Gazy
To: Pal

Absolutely, I didn't think it needed saying. Lib Demmite he is as well! He has actively funded the pinkish political class and now moans at the world they've brought about.
The poor luvvy's down to his last £3.5million. DIDDUMS.
It will be interesting to see how the BBC handles its former star in the light of this. His remarks will be pored over at the Ministry of Truth. Poisoned umbrella tips at the ready. I suspect The Alimony Tour will now be a Channel Four broadcast.

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 12:21:59 +0100
From: Pal
Subject: Re: Further to our conversation on the bus yesterday
To: William Gazy
Well said by Cleese but slightly ironic since arguably he and his chums helped along the death of respect started by Beyond the Fringe etc. A case of 'be careful what you wish for'?

--- On Fri, 22/4/11, William Gazy wrote:

From: William Gazy
Subject: Further to our conversation on the bus yesterday
To: Pal
Date: Friday, 22 April, 2011, 11:25

'Cleese also spoke about the shift in British attitudes away from a "middle-class culture" and the emergence of a "yob culture".
He said: "There were disadvantages to the old culture, it was a bit stuffy and it was more sexist and more racist. But it was an educated and middle-class culture. Now it's a yob culture. The values are so strange."
He added that he preferred living in Bath to London because the capital no longer felt "English".
"London is no longer an English city which is why I love Bath," he said. "That's how they sold it for the Olympics, not as the capital of England but as the cosmopolitan city. I love being down in Bath because it feels like the England that I grew up in."

As P Hitchens said: 'Only the rich will be able to escape the consequences.'

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Email to a pal re England: An Elegy by Roger Scruton

I wasn't being facetious when I said sub's disease. I think it is an occupational hazard. It's hard to say whether I really disagree with you because I read the book more than five years ago, though I have looked at bits since. Parts of it are a hard read but as I say my guess is that he wanted to lay out concrete arguments alongside metaphysical ones if you know what I mean. He knew he would be slagged because you simply cannot write a book like that with upsetting the usual suspects. I found the Guardian's review of it online. It was, naturally, an exercise in juvenile carping. Its central charge was the book contained nothing about, yes, black or brown people's 'experience of England'. The reviewer had quite forgotten Scruton's stated aim, which was not a work of s*ciol*gy but an elegy, with all the faults and strengths of an elegy.
To turn the book into a magazine feature would risk losing some detail in the concision and would simply shorten it, something I reckon Scruton is constitutionally against because he is an academic and they adore length. But more importantly it would turn the book into mere journalism, which is ephemeral. A book is a lasting statement, or so you would like to think.
I had a small correspondence with him after I read the book but when he discovered I was a journalist that was the end. He hates journalists. He says a lot of questionable things in the book and if I remember rightly tries to mount a defence of social snobbery among other silly right-wing windmill tilts. But where I agree with him and evidently some on the nominal left/liberal side - Lord £Bragg£ for one - do is that the character of the country is changing into something inane, vicious and tasteless and that socialism (his father was a socialist of the respectable 1945 variety) has as much of a hand in the change as the hated Thatcher, someone who Scruton describes as 'an awful woman'. He also eats liver and bacon, likes horses, drinks a lot and (I was pleased to discover) has similar aesthetic tastes to me, excepting Wagner on my side and rock and roll on his. He unapologetically decries modern design, modern architecture, animal rights fanatics, political correctness, Islamism, dumbing down and television and does so with arguments that stand up. This makes him an admirable figure in my view.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Demolished House at Night in N6 5/3/11, chalk on jet black canford paper

Monday, 17 January 2011

Study for The Crucifixion of St Peter

From an email to a pal:
'This is the rough i did of the crucifixion of st peter the other night. I've been thinking of doing this picture for a couple of years. It's not a Christian thing - though no one will believe that - but more an image of the calculated domestic nastiness in our own age of conflicting idelogies colliding above the chavs. I'm thinking the background should be an ordinary English tatty suburban park - green railings, maybe even a game of football in the distance...'

OK, St Peter did ask to be crucified upside down, according to the Apocrypha, but still.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

'Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss'*

A FEW years ago I got a lot of stick off friends and enemies for saying the right-wing 'Fundamentalist Anglican' Peter Hitchens had hit the bullseye a few times when attacking new Labour in particular and the political class in general and the fashionable nonsense that had seeped into their policies.
He is far from right about everything - in fact plain wrong on many things - but when I first read his dissections of leftish middle class's doctrinal preoccupations I knew he was on to something. His jibes against New Labour and its armies of supporters, or should I say in the media, arts and local government were delicious to me: truth well-aimed - and he never gets tired of slinging it at the nicely-thank-you inverted snobs, con-men and hypocrites with which our political and civil administration is filled.
Almost everyone who gave me stick subscribed to a widespread political view which persists despite years of evidence which proves it is full of holes and cant; indeed, to use a phrase beloved of my old man, it sticks like shit to a blanket.

It is of course: Tories are scum and Labour is on the side of the angels. Oh yes, don't you worry about that.
After a long, long period where holders of that viewpoint had to keep very quiet for obvious reasons, the good times are coming back. Ed Miliband was in the Times last week denying that Labour's 13-year spending splurge on bureaucracy and civil servants had anything whatsoever to do with the vast structural deficit it faces. This was a lie. Good for Ed; he's shown himself to be cheeky, and you need to be cheeky in the political class. You need brassneck cheek.
Cameron is handing the Labour Angels another gift by bottling it on bankers' bonuses. This shows a lack of pragmatism and balls. When you add that to the Coalition's backing out on so many key areas: EU, immigration, crime, welfare reform, then stir in VAT and tax rises and you start to wonder who the hell this government is representing. Only another four years of it to go. Or is there...?
Which brings me back round to P Hitchens, who had this to say a couple of weeks ago about Dave Cameron and the yellow peril welshing us all on the immigration issue which has turned parts of country into ongoing tinder-boxes and will provide many angry British adults in the future called Osama:

'...the modernised Tory Party, just like its New Labour twin, actively favours large-scale migration. Rich young careerists in pleasant parts of London – who form the core of all our establishment parties – couldn’t function without the cheap servants and cheap restaurants that immigration brings.
Not for them the other side of immigration – the transformation of familiar neighbourhoods into foreign territory. Not for them the schools where many pupils cannot speak English, and the overloaded public services. Not for them the mosque and the madrassa where the church and the pub used to be. Not that they mind that so much. These people have no special loyalty to this country, nor much love for it. They are not significantly different from the Blairite apparatchik Andrew Neather, who last year unwisely said openly what such people have long thought privately.
Let me remind you that he spoke of ‘a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the UK Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural’. And that he recalled coming away from high-level discussions ‘with a clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main -purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date’.
Well, doesn’t Mr Cameron also like to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date? I think he does. And of course anyone who complained could be (and always will be) smeared as a ‘bigot’. In fact, the issue long ago ceased having anything to do with skin colour. We have many black and brown Britons who have, over time, become as British as I am – though alas this is less and less the case because the curse of multiculturalism has prevented proper integration, as has the huge size of the recent influx.'

Well said.

Of course, the cry of right-wing press will be heard. I prefer to take my cues from reality. Such as my father, age 74 (still at work in a manual trade, started work 1951), attending a hospital last week for a blood test which he had been told would take an hour but which took about eight hours because there was a queue of 180 people in front of him. Yes, you read that correctly.

He made a little study of the queue, a proper socialist study of nationalities and ethnicities you might call it, and to the best of his knowledge he could only discern four English people in it. Yes, yes, Harriet Harman, I bet there was loads of British passport-holders in the queue. I know which lawyers to consult to buy one as well, should I ever have need.

But well done Labour! You lived the dream. Well, you didn't live it you just inflicted it on your sainted ordinary people who you hate and call bigoted it on the rare occasions you meet them - see Gordon Brown during the election.

One day someone will write a proper history of how a bunch of smartass exam-passing machines who did PPE at Oxbridge and thought everything they read in the Economist about globalisation and Multiculturalism was true and big and clever, and how it might lead them to sing the Red Flag *and* have a platinum mastercard ('the working class? Oh they're around somewhere I'm sure...'), led them, out of sheer arrogance and greed, to create a Nowhere out of a Somewhere. And still end up in £1.6million ex-National Trust property in Dartmouth Park, North London.

Yes Mili Minor, I'm talking about you.

In trying to make Ed Miliband look a good bet for the public in four years Labour's Alistair Campbell-elect, Tom Baldwin, will have his work cut out for him. Don't get me wrong, the strategy part will be easy: gallons of the sweet wine of socialist rhetorical carping: 'there's plenty of money available for you and it's all hidden in a golden chest under David Cameron's bed along with his Eton collar'.
It is selling Ed himself to the public that will prove difficult.
However, I did not return to blogging to write about the opposition. I didn't do it when Labour were in power and now we have another bunch of overprivileged, venal, incompetent cowards in charge I intend to criticise them. I merely draw your attention to Baldwin because he appears to be one of the larger media sycophants of the Blair years and his profile is classic political class, right down to the extreme wealth, Oxford PPE qualification and the 'fanatical loathing' of Tories.
Oxbridge is good at producing such people. If only they could give them such a thorough grounding in ordinary life as they do in Keynesian economics and Marxian critical modes.
Someone called Tanya Gold, who seemed very pleased with herself, wrote the cover feature for the Sunday Times Magazine this week called Marx and Spenders - How the Left took over North London Again. Again? I think she meant that they all sulked because of the war in Iraq, but now they are all voting Labour once again, apparently. 'We're happier in opposition, aren't we?' says some organic knitwear yummy mummy Gold vox-popped in Hampstead. You know it, girl! Carping is the natural state for such people - I can handle that as long as they aren't running anything. Trouble is they *are* running everything, every civil institution bar the Cabinet. But that is another story.

Sufficey to say that Ms Gold's piece about Darmouth Park, Hampstead and Highgate (where I reside) missed the most obvious and grandest irony about it being a colony of champagne socialists. These places are nice to live in because they have resisted everything that the cultural and political Left has imposed everywhere else.

*From Won't Get Fooled Again, words and music P. Townshend 1971

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Email to Mark Brentano

You dear old boy,

I hope you have recovered yourself. I was on a skin-shedder from Boxing Day (which didn't stop me taking £75 quid off the relatives at roulette. Joe Pesci accent: you better do Nicky cos if you don't he'll play the alley bets till he beats you on the margins. Suggestion: Line for a rock and roll song: Play the Alley Bets). The 'Flu still hasn't entirely removed itself from my body but I feel a human being once again. I couldn't get my arms over my head on Wednesday. Didn't stop me taking a turn down to the Royal Standard though, where I consumed three pints of E.S.B. to get my bowels working again and throw something heavy at the contagion. It warmed me slightly and opened up the Limpopo but it was mere palliative care.

I have spent the week reading K Richards' memoirs and they are fun that's for sure. It's all about the turn of phrase. There are not many books which contain astute observations on heroin, Gram Parsons and Bexleyheath Tennis Club. There is a larf or a smile on almost every page.

All in all it puts me in the right frame of mind to play a bit of guitar in your proposed combo. Last time I was on stage was playing the ukulele at an open mic 5 years ago so what I may bring is debatable but maybe me and the serb can weave it up.

Richards says the Altamont fracas was largely caused by the vast amounts of two brands of cheap fortified wine the audience was consuming. One was good old Thunderbird the other Ripple. Thunderbird and Ripple - quite a good name for something.

He also remembers the Stones' piano player and road manager turning to him at Altamont and saying: 'Getting a bit hairy, Keith.' To which the great man responded: 'We've just got to brass it out.'

Like so many areas of life, eh?

See you in the bar and happy new year,