A post of uncritical, chattering indulgence – Bravo, Logan Astley

I was born into the working class world of Rugby League – the Lancashire side of the Pennines. During my teenage years, I lived in a classic two-up, two-down terraced house, only a drop kick away from Hilton Park, the rickety home of Leigh RLFC. My dad, like many a miner, tried his hand, playing a couple of games as hooker for the ‘A’ team. And, in 1957, I played for Newton West Park against the Twelve Apostles in the Leigh Primary Schools final on the hallowed ground of the town’s professional team. The muddy pitch was so big it was a wonder either team got near the opposition’s try line. It ended 3 points all in a dour draw. I ended up with a bloody nose, which was sorted by my father, running on with the ‘magic sponge’ and the instruction, ‘ger on wi’it’.

Hilton Park. Leigh

Like many a young lad, I dreamed of playing for Leigh. My hero was the rampaging Mick Martyn. However I was neither tough nor quick enough to emulate his exploits. Never mind that I went to grammar school, where class pretension meant rugby union was the name of a game, where writhing about on the ground was a necessity. kicking obligatory and passing almost unheard of. I became a race walker, where the only necessary contact was with the ground rather than with hurtling bodies – in retrospect far safer.

In 1989 I found myself living in a ‘posher’ house close to the middle of Wigan, this time only a spiralling pass from Central Park, the atmospheric home of Wigan RLFC, Leigh’s fiercest rivals. My love for the game was reignited. To the dismay, I’m sure of loyal ‘Leythers’, with my wife being a ‘Wigginer’, I rationalised following both the Leigh and Wigan teams, the latter in its pomp. Ellery Hanley, Shaun Edwards and Andy Farrell were amongst our heroes. It was an exhilarating period of dramatic matches, of incredible skills and courage, interspersed on our part with many a pint of Pendle Witch or Timothy Taylor’s Landlord consumed in characterful pubs across the North-West of England. During a couple of summers, I even found myself playing touch rugby for my local, the Tudor House, the oldest, slowest, but perhaps fittest in the team. On a couple of occasions my daughter’s soon-to-be husband, Bob Astley contributed to our efforts, startling us with his blistering pace.

Central Park, Wigan

Bob’s fast-twitch fibres were to be of more than passing importance. Having emigrated to Crete. Marilyn and I were not present at Logan’s birth so we can’t confirm the rumour that he was born with a rugby ball between his thighs. We can though vouch for the fact that from an early age he went to bed with ball in hand. Indeed when we visited we found the living room had been transformed into a rugby pitch with two couches set at a right angle, comprising the grandstands. From thence on the ruffled carpet was host to passes, short and long, delicate grubber kicks and crunching tackles with Sonny, Logan’s younger brother in the heat of affairs. It’s a wonder the room remains roughly in one piece. Recently Tubby, the family dog has found himself buffetted in the thick of things and, apprenticeship served, is able now to bark with authority, ‘Grr ’em onside’.

A magical try from Logan in his younger days!

Outside of the Astley’s private training ground, Logan has made his way successfully through the competitive age groups of the local amateur rugby scene, often in the colours of the Wigan St Patrick’s club, earning consistent praise for his talents. Possessed of an exhilarating turn of speed, inherited from his dad and perchance a willingness to do the hard miles reminiscent of my athletic dedication he has stood out from the pack. He’s been on the books of Wigan Warriors [ don’t get me started on the daft, unnecessary brand name!] for the past few years and has made his first team debut. Where it goes from here is not anyone’s guess. He is gifted and committed, telling his mum, ‘how lucky he is to be paid for doing something he loves’ but the sport is cruel. Many an exciting prospect falls by the wayside, sometimes through career-threatening injury, sometimes by losing the plot. In his favour is a laid-back and unpretentious disposition. He’s certainly not too big for his own boots. For now, a proud grandad I’ll wallow in the moment described below and leave tomorrow for another day.

Astley leads the way as Warriors take title
WIGAN WARRIORS 40 WAKEFIELD TRINITY 12

DAVID KUZIO

Robin Park, Sunday, September 18, 2022

BEN O’KEEFE grabbed a hat-trick of tries and kicked four goals as Wigan claimed the second-string crown with a comfortable victory.

The winger completed his treble in the first half as the hosts led 18-6 at the break after bossing the bulk of the action.

The Warriors raced into a 14-0 lead with O’Keefe scoring twice on either side of a Kieran Tyrer try (O’Keefe improved that effort).

But Robbie Butterworth got Wakefield on the board with a try out of nothing, to which he added the two, as the visitors started to grow into the contest.

However, O’Keefe’s score on the hooter settled the home side, who were slowly allowing Trinity to get into the game.

A 51st-minute score from Josh Phillips, also converted by O’Keefe, gave Wakefield fresh hope as the deficit was cut to six points.

But a brace of tries from Sam Halsall and scores by Alex Sutton and Logan Astley, plus three O’Keefe goals, saw Wigan home.

It was not a great start from them as Umlya Hanley put the ball out on the full from the kick-off, and they then conceded a drop-out as Wakefield looked to gain an early advantage.

But Tyrer turned the tide as he found touch from the drop-out and it was Wigan now on the front foot.

They made that count as Astley took the ball left and found Halsall in space to send O’Keefe in at the corner.

Wigan extended their lead in the 15th minute when Tyrer collected a short ball, threw a dummy and went in under the posts unopposed.

Jack Bibby and Tyrer went close before Astley and Halsall combined once again to send O’Keefe in for his second try – and a 14-0 lead.

Great defence from Robbie Mann and Rob Butler prevented Wigan from scoring their fourth try.

The Yorkshire side took heart from that, went up the other end, and scored their first.

A towering kick was collected by Hanley, but he was met with a monster hit and spilled possession, leaving Butterworth to pick up and touch down. Wigan were reduced to twelve men with James McDonnell sent to the sin bin for a professional foul, and Wakefield started to cause problems.

Jay Haywood-Scriven came close to grabbing a second, but he was held just short.

Wigan managed to soak up a lot of pressure and O’Keefe crossed for his hat-trick just before the interval following another neat pass from Astley.

Wakefield enjoyed a lot of possession at the start of the second half as they camped on Wigan’s line, and they got their reward with Phillips forcing his way over from close range.

Wigan were now struggling to create chances as Wakefield were taking the game to them, but a poor pass was intercepted by Halsall, who raced 80 metres to help put Wigan twelve points in front with 23 minutes to go.

Halsall then put the game out of Wakefield’s reach with another long range effort. Junior Nsemba – who was brilliant all afternoon – combined with Astley and O’Keefe, with the latter turning it inside for the scorer to race away.

Wigan’s seventh try came from Sutton as he was on the end on another passing move started by Astley, who then capped a marvellous performance with a try of his own.

GAMESTAR: Ben O’Keefe, Sam Halsall and Junior Nsemba were brilliant, but scrum-half Logan Astley was the one pulling the strings.

GAMEBREAKER: Sam Halsall’s 57th-minute interception try pushed Wigan ahead by twelve points and they were never in danger of losing the game after that.

Joint Enterprise Bill passes first reading

In solidarity with the JENGbA campaign, we bring the positive news that the “Joint Enterprise Bill has passed its first reading.

JENGbA – Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association
Common Law used against common people that makes no common sense. We are a grassroots campaign, run by volunteers. As with all grassroots campaigns, the work behind opposing the might of the legal establishment has been an uphill battle. It was a role taken on mainly by women (mothers, sisters, aunties and cousins but also heartbroken dads and uncles) who will not rest while their loved ones are serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed by others. JENGbA was created by the legal establishment, it was not a campaign that came out of nowhere; it was precisely because the use of joint Enterprise was unjust, unfair and discriminatory towards working class and BAME communities that we were forced to form JENGbA. From our kitchens and meeting rooms, we have focused tirelessly on this campaign

Credit to Charlotte Henry

On 6 September a Private Members’ Bill calling for fairer appeal processes passed its first reading in the House of Commons. The Criminal Appeal (Amendment) Bill or ‘Joint Enterprise’ Bill, calls for a fairer appeals process for those who remain detained on remand and convicted by joint enterprise will now progress to a second reading later this year. The landmark Bill will help those detained by joint enterprise invoke their right to a fair trial, enshrined in the Human Rights Act (HRA).

‘Joint enterprise’ is a common law doctrine according to which an individual can be jointly convicted of the crime of another. It is a feature of the law that has been misinterpreted for over 30 years.

Under joint enterprise, an individual can be jointly convicted of the crime of another if the court decides they ‘foresaw that the other party was likely to commit that crime’. This means that individuals can be prosecuted for a crime as if they were a ‘main offender’, even if they were not present at the time.

In recent years, it has resulted in people involved in much lesser criminal offences, or even bystanders, being convicted of serious crimes, including murder or manslaughter. Under the Human Rights Act, everyone has the right to a fair trial (Article 6) and not to be discriminated against (Article 14).

READ MORE at https://eachother.org.uk/

Elizabeth, the acceptable, reassuring yet hypocritical face of unacceptable hereditary privilege

I grew up with a proud and handsome father, a miner, who was a staunch patriot and monarchist. Indeed in the front garden of our council house in Leigh, my dad, Alf had erected a flag pole in our well-tended garden, from which he flew a union jack on every appropriate public occasion. I think at times I was a bit embarrassed but not overly so. And I can still visualise the chaotic excitement in our street when Elizabeth was crowned Queen on June 2nd, 1953 – the day before my sixth birthday. I can’t remember much in the way of an organised party. I can remember there was only one ‘telly’ located in a corner house at the top of our avenue, the garden of which was overrun with sweaty bodies, large and small. Was it sweltering? Being a toddler I never got even a glimpse of the BBC’s black and white evidently reverential coverage.

From thence on, through to my early teens. Queen Elizabeth was a taken-for-granted part of daily life – in our house, where coronation memorabilia stood on the mantelpiece; at primary and then grammar school in morning assembly; at church in our prayers; and socially through my father’s leading participation in a number of post-war naval associations, where a toast to the Crown was obligatory.

I’m not sure when my acceptance of this intrusion into my existence began to wane. I wonder if I was getting pissed off with having to wait till after the Queen’s speech before settling down to Xmas dinner. Her measured, patronising voice, symbolising class superiority was proving evermore thin. More than ever I reckon my rejection of her insidious presence was intimately intertwined with my refusal of God’s proferred helping hand.

At some point, when I was about thirteen, the whole edifice of my unthinking obedience to imposed authority began to crumble. Abandoning Christianity and its comforting sense of purpose, its vision of eternal life took some doing. Kicking into touch the absurdity of worshipping a family, who’d landed in the right place, at the right time on the back of theft and murder was pretty easy. In our sixth form Debating Society, I argued passionately for the abolition of the Monarchy…..and in the process perhaps God himself! In retrospect, this was more though than mere youthful rebelliousness. Indeed my burgeoning republican atheism was the hint that I might later become a radical political activist. It meant that I sat grimly, teeth gritted, through the opening National Anthem played ritually at the Halle Orchestra’s concerts, conscious of the burning contempt of Manchester’s petit-bourgeoisie. I took comfort in that most conductors, along with the orchestra, went through the motions. It means even now that I can’t remember [or don’t care to remember] if the anthem was played on the two occasions I represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland against West Germany in the 20 kilometres walk. Did I stand to attention? I’ve no idea. At the time I rationalised that my pride in this achievement had little to do with love of country, much more to do with finding myself part of a team of athletes I respected enormously. Self-delusion, you might well say.

Across the ensuing decades, I spent time in the Marxist-Leninist church with its Holy Texts, prophets, priests and disciples. I learnt a lot but never came to terms with its unrelenting righteousness and deep-seated authoritarianism. Gradually I moved, for the sake of a label, to the Libertarian Left, where anarchism was the dominant voice. The tale of this tortuous journey is for another day. For now, the important thing is that my republican atheism remained constant throughout. Faced with the passing away of the monarch and the passing on of unwarranted and unaccountable privilege to her son I felt angry and frustrated. I asked myself naively, ‘how could such a farce of convenience continue?’ The mass media and a chunk of the population retorted, ‘it continues because we say so’. In a futile gesture, I posted the following on Facebook.

FACEBOOK

As the sycophancy spews forth from all corners and comers, I call to mind from 1911 the words of James Connolly, the great Irish republican and socialist.

What is monarchy? From whence does it derive its sanction? What has been its gift to humanity? Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer and its gifts to humanity are unknown, save as they can be measured in the pernicious examples of triumphant and shameless iniquities.

Every class in society save royalty, and especially British royalty, has through some of its members contributed something to the elevation of the race. But neither in science, nor in art, nor in literature, nor in exploration, nor in mechanical invention, nor in humanising of laws, nor in any sphere of human activity has a representative of British royalty helped forward the moral, intellectual or material improvement of mankind. But that royal family has opposed every forward move, fought every reform, persecuted every patriot, and intrigued against every good cause. Slandering every friend of the people, it has befriended every oppressor. Eulogised today by misguided clerics, it has been notorious in history for the revolting nature of its crimes. Murder, treachery, adultery, incest, theft, perjury — every crime known to man has been committed by someone or other of the race of monarchs from whom King George [and his offspring – my addition] are proud to trace his [their] descent.

I gain no satisfaction from her death. It is what it is. Another parasite will succeed her. Thousands of people, who have contributed much more to society shuffle off this mortal coil every day, loved and respected by those, who knew them but not adulated by those, who did not.

She deserves no special attention but it is forthcoming in waves. In death, she provides a cloying, nauseous moment of distraction from a reality suffused with uncertainty for the many, within which her celebrity children are no more than pawns in the powerful’s propaganda game.

A number of people have criticised my Facebook post on the grounds that it is disrespectful to the grief-stricken and, even if correct, ill-timed. In one reply I commented:

I respect your opinion but there never is a right time to open up a serious debate about the continued existence of archaic privilege? Those, who are distressed and grieving are not short of support, having the full weight of the media behind them. Indeed to confirm the irrelevance of my tiny voice I’m told that the whole of the UK is in mourning, that the nation is grief-stricken. What to make of my insensitive aberration from the country’s collective compassion?

In a parallel piece, ‘The Queen and her legacy: 21st century Britain has never looked so medieval’, Jonathan Cook concludes.

If the monarch is the narrative glue holding society and empire together, Charles could represent the moment when that project starts to come unstuck.

Which is why the black suits, hushed tones and air of reverence are needed so desperately right now. The establishment are in frantic holding mode as they prepare to begin the difficult task of reinventing Charles and Camilla in the public imagination. Charles must now do the heavy lifting for the establishment that the Queen managed for so long, even as she grew increasingly frail physically.

The outlines of that plan have been visible for a while. Charles will be rechristened the King of the Green New Deal. He will symbolise Britain’s global leadership against the climate crisis.

If the Queen’s job was to rebrand empire as Commonwealth, transmuting the Mau Mau massacre into gold medals for Kenyan long-distance runners, Charles’ job will be to rebrand as a Green Renewal the death march led by transnational corporations.

Which is why now is no time for silence or obedience. Now is precisely the moment – as the mask slips, as the establishment needs time to refortify its claim to deference – to go on the attack.

In tune with this demand that we confront the sanitising legacy of Elizabeth’s reign, Nesrine Malik is eloquence itself in her Opinion piece, ‘Along with the Queen, Britain is laying to rest a sacred national image that never was.’ She ends.

But nothing is sacred. Not the Queen, and not her family, who have in recent years been roiled by accusations, firmly denied, of Prince Andrew’s involvement with an underage victim of sexual trafficking, and of estate investments in questionable funds. And not the country for which she provided not a bridge but an alibi for far too long. That was the job the Queen came to fulfil in her later years: that of a woman who showed up when our public health infrastructure was crumbling, and plugged the gap for an absent government. There is a thin line between boosting morale, and absolving acts of man by treating them as acts of God.

I feel some of you flinch, dear readers. I understand. Some might think it is too soon to speak of imperfection. But with the Queen’s passing, we are about to enter a new chapter where the only hope we have for a more confident, coherent country is to speak of our imperfections more. The Queen is gone, and with her should go our imagined nation. It is time for her to rest. And more than time for the country to wake up.

To return to the beginning, what would my gentle father think of this hereditary handover, cut down as he was in his prime back in 1969? I doubt very much whether he would have had time for the Buckingham Palace soap opera, the embarrassing melodramatics. I doubt though he would have cast aside his loyalty. He would have been chuffed to see me in a GB vest. For this much would have been forgiven. Having moved to a terraced house with no garden there would have been no flagpole to proclaim his allegiance. Inevitably we would have rowed occasionally. He might well have despaired at my politics. I’m not certain. I do feel though he might well have agreed that things can’t just carry on regardless. He might well have agreed, “isn’t it time to take a measured breath rather than mourn mindlessly?”

School Children Resist in 1911: A Historical Precedent?

On the 5th of September 1911, a UK-wide strike wave of schoolchildren was sparked when pupils in Llanelli, Wales walked out in sympathy with a boy who was disciplined by a deputy headmaster. From this one school, walkouts spread across the country to at least 62 towns and cities, with pupils demanding an end to corporal punishment and shorter hours. The schoolchildren’s strikes followed a summer of workers’ industrial disputes.

Schoolchildren on strike, Shoreditch 1911

In the present climate of growing unrest with the consequences of the authoritarian assault on children’s, young people’s, parents’ and workers’ rights, indeed upon society as a whole is inspiration to be found in this history.

School children in Hull on strike in 1911 “for shorter hours and no stick”


There is a wonderful pamphlet about the walkouts, written by Dave Marston, a docker and Ruskin student in 1973.

https://libcom.org/history/childrens-strikes-1911

Editorial Note

The children’s strikes of 1911, as Dave Marson shows in this pamphlet, were part of the huge upheaval of labour in the long, hot summer of 1911. The industrial unrest has often been written about: the school strikes are Dave Marson’s own discovery. He came upon them by accident when researching the history of his own people, the Hull dockers. He has followed the strike movement all over the country and has set them in both a school and a community context. The school situation which he describes has by no means disappeared: nor have the difficulties of organising resistance. The writer is a working docker, who was a student at Ruskin in 1970-2.

He begins his marvellous piece.

I came upon the children’s strikes of 1911 by accident. I was researching into the Hull Dock Strike of 1911, and reading through the Hull newspapers of that year when I noticed a small paragraph relating to a strike of Hull school children which took place in September 1911. It seemed no more than a curiosity, an illustration of the extent of the industrial unrest taking place at that time. What struck me first was the story about a policeman having to mount his bicycle and charging at the youthful strikers who had formed a picket line outside their school. The mere sight of a blue uniform was enough to frighten me and my school friends.

What set me looking further into things was one line in the report which said that the Hull boys were following the example of children in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Then looking through another Hull newspaper I discovered a front page splash – with photographs and a story about the strike. The newspaper listed all the different classes of workers who had been out on strike in Hull during that hot summer – cement workers – factory girls – seamen and dockers, and connected the children’s strike to them. It was a photograph that really affected me – it was a picture of the children picketting the gates of Courtney Street Primary School, the same school I had been to myself. I identified myself with those strikers – some of them might have been the parents of the children I went to school with.

When I looked at the Times I found that children’s strikes were taking place not only in Yorkshire but all over the country. At first I couldn’t believe it – how could it have taken place so quickly and all over the country – I’d always believed that strikes were something which had to be organised. I felt that these children were trying to say something. I did not realise how many places were affected until I started reading through the local newspapers at Colindale. These showed that there were many more than the Times had reported.

Dave ends after cataloguing an amazing variety of children’s responses across the country.

Away from their classrooms the jubilant children began to express themselves in various ways. To some it would be a ‘street theatre’ and to others the sheer feeling of freedom would exhilarate them enough to address the crowds of boys in the manner of the factory-gate or street-corner agitator. To the newspaper columnists they were ‘Dunces’; ‘The Truant Class’; ‘Children from the Poorer Areas’. This attitude shows how the respectable classes regarded them. Throughout the country children began to show originality and independence.

The strikes were not all violent. In Hartlepool the boys walked along the sands and picnicked, taking advantage of the splendid late Summer weather. In other places they went swimming or simply sat around discussing general topics; they played at being soldiers and paraded; some sang patriotic songs.

In Northampton strikers went blackberrying. But more important they entertained themselves with their own music making up the words to songs. These children, despite their stifling schooling showed their minds had not been overwhelmed by the gray monotonies of the class-room. They still retained imagination with ideas like the colours in a paint-box.

Malcolm Ball – Celebrating his life

Back in the middle of July, I was ready to attend an event in Lewisham celebrating my dear friend and comrade Malcolm Ball’s life. Flights and hotel were booked. However, the happening was thwarted by a supposedly unprecedented heatwave or by the ruling class’s desire to impose upon us an eternal state of anxiety, come what may. Whatever, the reconvened date was yesterday and sadly I couldn’t make it.

Thanks to Tania for the photo of the occasion

The celebration staged in the Council rooms was streamed live and included moving testaments to Malcolm’s remarkable impact upon life in what he always called ‘God’s own country’. namely Lewisham. Unfortunately, I can’t embed the video in the body of this post and it seems unavailable now on YouTube.

To give you a flavour of the thoughts shared, here is the speech that Steven West would have made if he’d had the chance.

I wanted to make a small speech about Malcolm, on behalf of myself and of a very dear family friend, Susan Atkins, a lifelong youth worker herself, who wanted to express her gratitude and share in the celebration of Malcolm’s achievements.

Their connection started when Malcolm attended a youth club she set up in Deptford. Later they met through various union organisations and worked together in In Defence of Youth Work. Susan compared youth work to building an organic garden, where plants are allowed to grow at different rates and to be different shapes, sizes and colours. She said Malcolm allowed young people to find their space and to grow into themselves.

I like so many here was one of those young people. Malcolm taught me more than anything that I could have a voice too, that what I had to say mattered, and that I never had to do anything, say anything or accept anything just because someone told me so. In short that I could go my own way and that I was good enough…as just me.

Susan says,” Malcolm didn’t do tokenism, he did authenticity”.

Malcolm taught me a lot without telling me directly, by letting me make mistakes but with support and with someone there when it all went wrong.

Standing here today I can see how many lives he touched, he gave his time and was never once unavailable. He gave us all opportunities to better our lives and worked to empower us all.

That’s how I will remember Malcolm, in actions not just words.

In addition, I include the transcript of my contribution to proceedings, which was recited by another dear friend and comrade, Tim Price.

REMEMBERING MALCOLM

Our paths crossed almost forty years ago. I was giving a talk on ‘Working with Young Men – the dilemmas, the contradictions – at the Leicester College where Malcolm was a student, Afterwards, he approached me eager to discuss, not so much the content, more his delight that I ended by saying, ‘these thoughts are the best I’ve got for now’. We hit it off from that moment. We shared a sense that our opinions could never be settled for good. We should pursue them with conviction but always retain a measure of doubt, be open to challenge. Malcolm’s way of capturing this ambivalence was to preface his remarks with the turn of phrase, ‘it seems to me’. When a group was struggling with differences, with disagreements, he would ask us to go away and let the issues ‘marinate’ in our minds before returning.

Our friendship deepened during the 1984/85 Great Strike, side by side on the picket line, and from then on, one way or another, we were in collectives, believing that authentic change can only happen through coming together in solidarity and struggle – the Socialist Caucus, the Critically Chatting Collective and In Defence of Youth Work, to name a few.

At the heart of our way of seeing things is a commitment to democracy, a much abused and misused notion, For us the seeds of democracy are sown in our personal relationships with one another, in what we might call ‘intimate democracy’. It is based on a commitment to listen, easy to say but not so easy to do, and on a willingness to ‘give and take’ as we converse with one another. This is why we coined the phrase, ‘critically chatting’ to describe what we saw as essential to the democratic process be it in the family, the community, the youth centre, the council or wherever. I believe all the young people involved in the Mayor’s Project will know what I mean. Malx, as I used to call him for many years until he changed to Mal [I never knew why] didn’t instruct; he didn’t write scripts; he trusted young people; he wanted them to be who they wanted to be. Hating the idea that he was subject to the control of others, he tried his damnedest not to be a tool of control himself.

I loved him deeply as a friend and comrade. Towards the end, Malcolm unbelievably came to visit Marilyn and me on Crete. He wanted to tell us in person about his situation. We walked, we drank, we laughed and we wept. And, as ever, we put the world to rights. As we bade farewell, Malcolm urged me to be optimistic. He urged me to keep writing. I was wondering whether it was worth it. I have tried to heed his words. Doing so has meant that he is never far from my thoughts. As I ponder what to type he often whispers in my ear, in that soft Deptford accent, ‘Tony, it seems to me’.

Malcolm, Tim and I first met up in 1984, whilst supporting the Leicestershire Coalfield’s ‘Dirty Thirty’ during the Miners’Strike. For quite some years we worked together in the Socialist Caucus of the Community and Youth Workers Union [CYWU] and later the National Association of Local Government Officers {NALGO]. During this time our militant minuscule group adopted the Leon Rosselson tribute to the Diggers as our signature tune. By chance, we”ve found an attempted rendition I made a few years ago in a local taverna – the opening words, ‘In 1649’ are missing.

The struggle continues, my dear Malcolm but what to make of it? It would be good to chat. Critically, of course. You are sorely missed.

Are youth workers chatting critically about their compliance with or resistance to the closing down of young people’s lives?

Back in January, I published a post, What about Children and Young People? Are they no more than collateral damage? The opening sentence declared, ‘from the very beginning, March 2020, of the utterly undemocratic imposition of COVID-inspired sweeping restrictions on social existence I feared for children and young people.’

I was perplexed from the outset at what seemed to be the absence of debate and the utter lack of opposition to the demanded closures of children’s and young people’s provision – from playgrounds through schools and youth facilities to universities. I am being diplomatic. I was pissed off and angry. It was plain that such draconian, disproportionate action would be deeply damaging. The belated acknowledgement in the summer of 2021 that the lockdown was creating serious mental health issues for the younger generation, crocodile tears, merely confirmed my angst. Then, a humble breath taken, I recognised it was easy for me to be so moved. If I was still a practising youth worker. teacher or lecturer what would I have done during the last two years?

Towards the end of the piece I commented:

Certainly in the coming weeks, as the pandemic narrative unravels, it would be revealing to hear the thoughts of UK youth workers, teachers and lecturers about their sense of the impact upon children and young people, upon themselves of the two years lost.

I’m still waiting but prodded by an Opinion article in the Guardian, ‘Evidence grows of lockdown harm to the young. But we act as if nothing happened‘ by Martha Gill, I’ll return to the issue by way of a recent criticism of lockdown.

Written by Dr Zenobia Storah, Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist, it is entitled, ‘Reflections of a Child Psychologist on the Pandemic Response, 2 years on.’ It deserves to be read in full, particularly perhaps by professionals in the fields of welfare and education. At one point she muses.

Something unexpected happened in Spring and Summer of 2020. I found myself standing apart from my colleagues. I could understand that in the initial stages of the pandemic, due to the particular threat that Covid posed to the elderly, the government’s decision had been to focus on the protection of older members of the population. But as the weeks wore on and I imagined the harm being done to children across the country, informed both by my training and my professional experience, it was clear to me that too much weight was being focussed on the protection of adults at the enormous expense of the less obvious (but more long-term) damage to the future and well-being of children and young people. And yet those who I would expect to be my natural allies due to shared knowledge and experience remained silent. There was no national, grown-up discussion anywhere about how we might balance the need to protect the most vulnerable from Covid with the interests of the young, and how we could remain faithful to our national commitment to children’s best interests being paramount. Any attempt to introduce such discussion was met with derision and accusations of moral decrepitude. To my astonishment, this was also the case on professional online forums, where it became increasingly difficult to raise concerns. It seemed to me that psychologists, who describe themselves as ‘scientist-practitioners’, should be asking serious questions about society-wide decisions to impose restrictions and mandates that would inevitably harm children and young people (and other vulnerable groups). At the very least, they should all be calling for a broader discussion, which they would be uniquely placed to inform, and at best, an extremely high bar (in terms of cost-benefit analysis) for the introduction of such measures. Yet the general view amongst those working with children and young people – and the official view of most professional bodies including my own – was that the moral responsibility of child professionals was to support government policy (at whatever cost to society and whilst asking no questions – or so it seemed to me) and then to work to mitigate the impact on mental or physical health. The alternative view – that policies that kept children out of schools, cut them off from families and friends, kept them from participating in outdoor sports, normal play, activity and socialising and prevented them from accessing healthcare and other support services should not be in place at all – was anathema. This was disturbing and confusing. I could not understand how, given the values and knowledge we had all shared before March 2020, this had come about.

She concludes.

We always knew what circumstances and experiences children needed in order to thrive, to be physically well and to be mentally healthy, and we knew that the unprecedented social experiment that took place from March 2020 deprived them of many of these things and would put many at risk of serious harm. The collateral damage outlined in all these studies and reports could have been foreseen and warned against by many more child professionals than ever spoke out. In moving into the post-pandemic era, it is essential that we continue to speak of these harms, to measure and describe them and to share these findings with our colleagues and the general public. We need to welcome into the discussion the concerns of many people who, at the time, were persuaded that reduced transmission of Covid trumped everything else, including the safety and mental and physical health of children and young people. It would be good to reach a point where there is full acknowledgement of the harms caused and the catastrophic errors made that led to them. Perhaps the Covid Inquiry will lead society to ask itself how we ever got to a point where children and young people were routinely subjected to harmful and unevidenced interventions and restrictions. As we support recovery, all those working with children and those in government must re-commit to the principles of the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child. And we must ensure that we never subject a generation of children to such experiences ever again.

Speaking purely of youth workers, managers and lecturers, fond of proclaiming themselves to be critical practitioners par excellence, to what extent at a local, regional and national level are they coming together to consider what has been going on over the pandemic years? To what extent are they encouraging young people to discuss the rights and wrongs of the authoritarian clampdown on their lives? Or is the profession pretending the last two years never happened? Such collective myopia bodes ill for a future, within which an emboldened ruling class is confident that its diktat will be fearfully obeyed and that amongst its messengers of anxiety will be indeed youth workers, managers and lecturers.

‘It’s doing my head in’ – context and contradiction. The era of disinformation.

What seems yonks ago, I excused my failure to engage with the harm being reeked via the COVID narrative by way of a self-centred concern about what people might think of my doubts. I got over the feeling or did I? In the last few months, I’ve found myself in danger of being in the same place re the Ukraine. All the more so as commenting on what were initially fast-moving events felt pompous and pretentious. Now we are 120 days in. There’s something about offering your thoughts on what’s going on in the world that suggests you are some sort of self-styled expert or a tiresome anorak, who has too much time on their hands; or someone, who is detached from everyday existence yet claims to understand it better; or indeed someone, who is deep up their own rectum.

No doubt I do spend too much time prostrate before the computer, suffering the relentless assault on my thoughts waged by the powerful before searching assiduously for alternative interpretations. In both cases, I try as best I can to be both critical of the competing sources and content, self-critical in terms of my own history, assumptions and prejudices. I try not to be a useful idiot in anyone’s pocket.

Outside of this political obsession, strange, though, it may seem, I do have other interests and concerns, many of them very ordinary. I was going to say normal but the word has latterly taken on a different emphasis. It is said to require capital letters, the New Normal, towards which we are being propelled – a world of increased surveillance and control for ‘our own good’. To think in terms of a return to lower-case normal is perceived as backward, whilst believing that perhaps there might be a liberating future Abnormal, within which the world is turned upside down, is scoffed at as mere utopianism.

And ordinary normal is. of course, contradictory. It is an expression of accommodation and resistance to the capitalist imperative, to relations of power. It can be both, at one and the same time, lifeless or lively. It is what on the ground makes the world go round. Thus in the last few weeks, to my astonishment I’ve celebrated with some caution my birthday in our beautiful garden, wallowing in the unique sound created by Maria Manousaki and the Hot Club de Grece – wonderful musicians confined to barracks for most of the last two years. Folk evidently enjoyed themselves. At the same time, I’ve observed believers in masks and social distancing, given the green light by the authority to whom they have been obedient, returning to some semblance of sense, casting off the muzzles, hugging one another, yearning to be human. I’ve accompanied Glyka, our ageing dog, morn and eve, on her leisurely and olfactory rambling, never a smell to be ignored. What tales she could tell. And, true to my long-standing athletic obsession, I’ve continued, aching joints aside, to walk, cycle and occasionally run along the olive-lined lanes beyond our house with only the bleating sheep and gymnastic goats for company. And, I continue to sing, of a fashion.

Our John, my son, is well-known for his frustrated turn of phrase, ‘it’s doing my head in’ when faced with the welter of contradictions life throws up. I share his exasperation. One minute we are told we are fighting a war against a life-threatening and cunning virus. Yet, in the time it takes to be jabbed, the advocates of COVID’s deadliness beat a tactical retreat. In the next moment, it’s said we are fighting a war against a demonic and cunning dictator. For now, a tragic stalemate hangs over the Ukraine. Almost seamlessly one tortured narrative of intertwined fear and anxiety, intertwined compassion and intolerance replicates the other. Rainbow NHS logos are replaced on Facebook by the colours of the Ukrainian flag. How many of those signalling their virtue defended the NHS against privatisation or indeed had until yestermonth not a clue about Ukraine’s whereabouts, never mind its turbulent history and politics. To question the unanimity of the orchestrated consensus around COVID or Ukraine, being relayed 24/7 everywhere from the supermarket to the sports stadium, is to expose oneself as an anti-vaxx conspirator or a Putin pawn. Or as the favoured fatuous and contemptuous dismissal of doubt goes, ‘don’t you care, people are dying?’ In some mysterious way, those signing up to the dominant orthodox narrative are touched with a sensitivity to the human condition denied to those of a marginal heterodox disposition. Only the former really care. Only they shed tears of authentic concern. As for analysis or indeed its conspicuous absence, I am told with a patronising sigh, empty of any meaning, that the world is crazy, more specifically to clinch the argument that it’s all down to Putin being a deranged narcissist. To be sure he’s mightily fond of himself and yet……

A simple Manichean scenario is proposed. Good is battling with Evil so what to do but side with the Good? Case closed, debate rendered superfluous. Forgive the repetition, to chat critically is regarded as deviant.

Yet, to an inquiring mind, aren’t there reasonable questions.?

  1. Is it possible to grasp the contemporary situation in the Ukraine without an informed feel for a country’s turbulent history, which, as best I can see, is far from that of a freedom-loving democracy?
  2. Was the dramatic 2014 change of government in the Ukraine an emancipatory ‘velvet’ revolutionary happening or an orchestrated anti-Russian coup supported by the CIA with the involvement of influential Far Right/Nazi forces?
  3. Isn’t it stretching things to see the USA/NATO configuration as defensive and benign? Back in 2019 the Rand Corporation, widely regarded as the most influential think tank in North America, partially funded by the USA government itself, published a report entitled, Overextending and Unbalancing Russia, which argues a range of options necessary to keeping Russia in its place when it comes to the World Order. Is it ridiculous somehow to suggest that the USA/NATO military alliance appears to have been edging ever closer to encircling Russia with all its possible consequences?
  4. Of course, my questions reveal a deep-rooted suspicion of the motives of American imperialism that dates back to Chile and Vietnam. Given the USA’s track record of blatant, oft barbaric interventions into the affairs of countries far from its shores, to mention only Libya and Iraq and its history of pursuing regime change whatever the cost, I do feel nauseous faced with the stench of hypocrisy emanating from the White House, the Houses of Parliament, the National Assembly, the Bundestag or its namesakes. None of this excuses Moscow’s aggression but it refutes the right of any party involved to be claiming the moral high ground.

Now, if anyone of import, perhaps one of either an ‘influencer’ or a fact-checker had the slightest interest in my observations I might well be outed as a purveyor of misinformation and/or disinformation. As I understand it, if I’m misinforming you it’s down to me getting hold of the wrong end of the stick. It’s a matter of ignorance or stupidity. If I’m disinforming you I am deliberately leading you astray up the proverbial garden path. It’s calculated deceit.

At this very moment, the European Union has published guidelines. entitled 2022 Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation.

“Disinformation related to the coronavirus crisis and Russia’s war in Ukraine clearly show that we need stronger tools to fight online disinformation. [Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency]

It was very tempting to presume the code of practice was bureaucratic bollocks and be done with it. To my credit, eternal or otherwise, I downloaded and started to read. Forgive me, but I didn’t get to the end, the 48th page of painstaking instructions to relevant and compliant signatories. Not least indeed because it was in fact bureaucratic and disingenuous bollocks. Conspicuous by its absence was any definition of what constitutes disinformation. That is, apart from this really helpful explanation – ‘Disinformation, which for the rest of the Code is considered to include misinformation, disinformation information influence operations and foreign interference in the information space.’ However, do not fear, tucked away in a cascade of footnotes is to be found the following. ‘the notion of “Disinformation” does not include misleading advertising, reporting errors, satire and parody, or clearly identified partisan news and commentary, and is without prejudice to binding legal obligations, self-regulatory advertising codes, and standards regarding misleading advertising.” Fair enough I might be short of a few slices to fill a sandwich but, at first glance, I’m none the wiser. Isn’t all of this a contradictory mess? Of course, I’m being naive, this is the name of the game – creating confusion rather than clarity, being opaque as opposed to being transparent.

Other officious initiatives are also muddying the waters. In the UK we find something called ‘the counter-disinformation unit,’ set up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. The task of this unit is to identify ‘misinformation’ and then liaise with social media companies to make sure this content is removed. It appears all it takes for the unit to brand something as ‘misinformation’ and press the tech companies to censor, is that its staff find the content therein to be ‘inappropriate.’ I’ll resist lapsing into obscenity. This is banal and ludicrous – inappropriate in what sense? Over in the USA, the Biden administration put in place what it called a ‘Disinformation Board’, housed inside the Department of Homeland Security. Glenn Greenwald, dissident lawyer and commentator asked, under what circumstances is a domestic law enforcement agency allowed to decide what is true or false? Politico’s Jack Schafer wrote:

Who among us thinks the government should add to its work list the job of determining what is true and what is disinformation? And who thinks the government is capable of telling the truth? Our government produces lies and disinformation at an industrial scale and always has. It overclassifies vital information to block its own citizens from becoming any the wiser. It pays thousands of press aides to play hide the salami with facts….

In the event, the draconian initiative, following a vociferous backlash, is now ‘on pause’.

Over in New Zealand Te Pūnaha Matatini (TPM), a research group that receives Centre of Research Excellence government funding came up with the notion of ‘dangerous speech’, rhetoric that is a threat to us all. In essence, this catch-all concoction sought to silence any criticism of Jacinda Arden’s Zero-Covid policies. To return to the EU the bottom line of its Code of Practice is the necessity to cut off funding to what it deems to be ‘malicious actors’. Its goal is to demonetise dissident opinion. In terms of doing any disinforming not a single word of criticism is aimed at the mainstream or ‘legacy’ media. Not a single dilemma is raised about the financial and ideological control imposed on the mainstream by a handful of billionaire capitalists.

Ta to beconnected.esafety.gov.au

When push comes to shove ‘disinformation’ is whatever state or corporate power decides is at odds with their version of the truth. All else is ‘fake news’ – a meaningless construct if ever there was one.

The hardly hidden objective is to buttress government pronouncements and their sustenance by the mainstream media while systematically curtailing freedom of expression and critical analysis wherever it rears its awkward and annoying head. Obviously too it desires to prevent grass-roots financial support for dissent.

As to how we monitor what is right or wrong, a self-evidently simple task, the EU has the answer. It is the supposedly independent International Fact-Checking Network set up by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Amongst its impartial funders are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google, along with Omidyar Network. With this army of fact-checking journalists, Jack and Jills of one trade, masters and mistresses of none collaborating with Facebook, Google and company in defence of the truth, we can rest easy in our beds.

Enough is enough for now. I am weary from trying to keep up with the many sides of what’s going on. In the end, I am left thinking that I need return to what is meant by propaganda. How this concept relates to the discourse of ‘informations’? Not so long ago Propaganda Studies was a recognised field of intellectual and political exploration. It sought to scrutinise the contesting opinions on offer in the public sphere.Today this method of inquiry is rendered redundant by the rise of an army of ‘disinformation graduates and scholars’ whose raison d’etre is to define the boundaries of debate in accord with what is acceptable to the ruling class and its minions. I will endeavour to pursue.

FREE JULIAN ASSANGE

I’m near to a meandering attempt to write about the increasing suppression of views opposing the voices of the powerful. As I prevaricate Priti Patel approves the extradition of Julian Assange. Indeed it is a dark day for freedom of thought, expression and interpretation. As for British democracy, it is revealed yet again as no more than at best a liberal oligarchy with no genuine accountability to its citizens.’

Extradition Statement: Patel approves extradition

Don’t extradite Julian Assange

This is a dark day for Press freedom and for British democracy. Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination.
Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.

It was in Priti Patel’s power to do the right thing. Instead, she will forever be remembered as an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.

Foreign laws now determine the limits of press freedom in this country and the journalism that won the industry’s most prestigious prizes has been deemed an extraditable offence and worthy of a life sentence.

The path to Julian’s freedom is long and tortuous. Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle. We will appeal through the legal system; the next appeal will be before the High Court. We will fight louder and shout harder on the streets, we will organise and we will make Julian’s story known to all.

Make no mistake, this has always been a political case. Julian published evidence that the country trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; tortured and rendered; bribed foreign officials; and corrupted judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing. Their revenge is to try to disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account.

We will not let that happen. Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms. We will fight to return Julian to his family and to regain freedom of expression for us all.

Thanks to Tim Dawson

Yanis Varoufakis

Politician, DiEM25, Greece

“The game is up. Years of lies exposed. It was never about Sweden, Putin, Trump or Hillary. Assange was persecuted for exposing war crimes. Will those duped so far now stand with us in opposing his disappearance after a fake trial where his lawyers will not even know the charges?”

Alice Walker

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist

“Years from now people will say: Oh, if only I had known what we were losing when they abused this decent and courageous man!
I would have done something! But now, what can I do, since these days I don’t dare express what I know and think! Regret is too often the fruit of silence.”

Mairead Maguire

Nobel Peace Prize winner

“Julian Assange and his colleagues in Wikileaks have shown on numerous occasions that they are one of the last outlets of true democracy and their work for our freedom and speech”

Dunja Mijatović

Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe

“Allowing Mr Assange’s extradition… would have a chilling effect on media freedom, and could ultimately hamper the press in performing its task as purveyor of information and public watchdog in democratic societies.”

Reflections on the Meaning of Existence whilst Leaning on a Lamp-Post

The audience starts to assemble. Ta to Xavier

Further to my self-centred announcement of my 75th birthday, the following seeks to offer an insight into the tribulations plus a number of images of the celebratory event held at our house. I’m hoping that doing so might kick-start me into renewing the momentum of this blog. We will see. Perhaps predictably I’ve found myself in the past few days, as befits my three scores and fifteen, dwelling upon the question of what I’ve been up to in my life. Living in the birthplace of Western philosophy demands such reflection. For now, though this musing remains hazy in keeping with me being dazy for the past week or so.

My dazed condition dates back to an alarming moment when, on a longish journey home, the brakes on our stalwart Suzuki car failed. One tortuous way and another we limped to the garage where the dear girl, 22 years old was declared beyond repair. With the birthday bash only two days away, without transport, our predilection to be anxious reared its nagging head. Fortunately, neighbours and friends came to our aid as we remembered, yet again, something else we had forgotten, notably, παγάκιa, the essential ice cubes. The temperature was forecast to be 32 degrees.

A glimpse of our eclectic assortment of chairs/kαρέκλες and indeed friends. Ta to Xavier

Not a single eddy disturbed the tranquil opening to Sunday itself. Not a wisp of a breeze could be discerned. Only the animated birdsong and a cock crowing pierced the silence. It was going to be bloody hot. The start of the evening’s delights would have to be delayed. Nevertheless, the first task if we were to be ahead of ourselves was arranging the seating. Over 40 chairs had been begged and borrowed. Being diverse and inclusive by nature rather than being in thrall to some Johnny-come-lately Human Relations influencers, we refused none on the grounds of shape, size or colour. Thus, when completed, the eclectic composition of kαρέκλες fitted perfectly the natural amphitheatre provided by our back garden. We were pleased with ourselves which was to be our undoing.

Despite the resplendent garden defying our horticultural ignorance, Marilyn ventured that a couple more bursts of colour wouldn’t come amiss. All the more so as our neighbourhood pine marten seemed to take great pleasure in digging up and destroying the prettiest of our flowers. Despite it being the day of repose Mark and I volunteered to go in search. Intuitively perhaps we knew. The charming little florist in the next village, Vamos, was indeed closed. However, opposite was situated the seductive sight of the Mosaico cafe. It seemed irreverent on a hot Holy Day not to seek refreshment. Two pale ales and toast later we realised we best return at speed except we were empty-handed. In a last throw of the dice, we dashed to nearby Kalives where alas the florist was also closed. Yet two rows of plants had been left outside on the narrow pavement and this was Crete. Thus I chose two colourful offerings, nipped into the next-door craft shop where I left the money owed in the helpful hands of the unphased, artistic owner. Σε ευχαριστώ πολύ.

Mutterings aside and acknowledging the flowers in hand, Marilyn and Sara forgave our boyish antics but nonetheless, the preparations had been concertinaed. Before we knew where we were, folk were arriving, not least Maria Manousaki and the band, Hot Club de Grece. In fact, these brilliant musicians were no trouble, escaping into the shade to practise together.

Yiannis inseparable from his guitar even during a break. Ta to Xavier

As for ourselves, our brains fled to the mountains. We forgot all sorts – the aforesaid ice, the bread, the prosecco, the beers and much more. If we’d ordered pies, them too, for sure. Meanwhile Francesca, in charge of the canapes, was serenity itself. Whilst Linda, Lizzie and Marie recognising our plight mucked in on plying guests with drinks and nibbles.

Marilyn arrives with Rosemary’s glorious orange drizzle cake. Ta to Sara

As for Marilyn and I being by default master and mistress of ceremonies we sought to pull ourselves together, to stop being mard-arsed. Marilyn floated amongst our guests, exuding welcoming warmth. I ventured to the front of proceedings with an eye on a retreating, still blazing sun, ready to capture the audience’s attention. In doing so I set aside half a century of experience. It was my wont never to speak publicly without rehearsing, indeed almost memorising the script I had written in long hand. Thus armed, I scarcely ever looked down at my scribbling. I strutted the lecture and conference hall with confidence.

Dazed but not drunk, forgetting my lines. Dimitris, our dear neighbour, who climbed up our back wall from his olive grove below, looks concerned. Ta to Sara

Yet there I was without a note in my hand. The rest is an embarrassing blur. I said something about being fortunate to grow up at a time when, under proletarian pressure, Capitalism had made a number of profound concessions to the working class, notably free education from cradle to grave. I muttered something about education being to do with the creation of questioning, active citizens, not the indoctrination of obedient, passive consumers. I declared that we were at a crossroads in a clash between the struggle for authentic democracy and the imposition of technocratic authoritarianism. All of which needed much explanation. It was neither the time nor place but whenever is? Time for a ditty though?

Thus I sang ‘Ol’ Man River’, a song of age, conformity and resistance with a falter before intoning Paul Robeson’s rewriting of the closing lines – ‘I’ll keep laughin’ instead of cryin’, I must keep fightin’ till I’m dyin’. At the end of which I departed dizzily stage left without even introducing Maria, Yiannis, Antonis and Georgos, the Hot Club. Fortunately, there was no need for such niceties. From the first strum, la pompe, the voices of violin, guitars and double-bass intertwined seemingly effortlessly in a tour de force of jazz manouche. We swung and were captivated.

Maria swinging with the Hot Club. Ta to Xavier

At the break Marilyn and I had decided, given our advancing years, to allow ourselves a nostalgic glance back to growing up in Lancashire, sitting in front of the telly watching the comic films of Gracie Fields and George Formby.

Hence I began by singing our Gracie’s signature tune, ‘Sally in our Alley’. It is now claimed there wasn’t a dry eye in the garden. Tears of emotion or laughter, we shall never know.

After which I was joined by the Backyard Boys, Phil on ukulele, John banjo and Ian washboard to deliver George’s greatest giggle of a hit, ‘Leaning on a Lamp-post’. Their consummate backing was much admired. As was Phil’s account of a touching poem penned by Linda Manousaki.

Begging Sally to marry me. Ta to Sara
Leaning on a lamp-post waiting for a lass called Marilyn to pass by. Ta to Xavier
Phil reads Linda’s generous tribute to my scribbling. Ta to Xavier

Maria and the Hot Club opened the second set by generously accompanying my effort to do justice to a popular Greek number, ‘Τι είναι αυτό που λένε αγάπη;’ translated as ‘What is this thing called love?’. I will take solace in the fact that Anastasia was impressed with my performance. Once I was out of the way Maria and the Hot Club returned us to the joys of their musicianship.

Honoured to be singing ‘Τι είναι αυτό’ with these wonderful musicians. Ta to Rod
Anastasia evidently pleased with my rendition of ‘Τι είναι αυτό’ . Carsten can’t quite believe what he is hearing. Ta to Xavier

It was at this point that Marilyn and I cast off our cloak of anxiety, tried to stop stressing and sought to bask in the atmosphere of shared pleasure created in our idyllic back garden. To add to our delight the band played her special request, ‘Misty’. At the end, rapturous applause rang down our lane and folk went their separate ways.

It’s tempting to think Marilyn is listening to the ageless melody of ‘Misty’. Ta to Xavier

At a pivotal moment when the ruling class would like to divide us and consign us to a virtual world of their making, a collective experience created by improvisatory live music cocks a snook at the powerful. It belongs to us and no one else. Our gratitude is due to everyone for being involved in all manner of supportive and helpful ways. On the Sunday itself, we vowed ‘never again’ but with each passing day our affection for the occasion grows. Whatever transpires in the future as the old song goes, ‘Thanks for the memories’. The struggle ever continues but between whom?

Well, Linda and Maria seem to have enjoyed the occasion. Ta to Sara
Thanks all round. Ta to Sara
The party’s over. Ta to Xavier

Many thanks to Xavier Rouchaud, Sara Gilding and Rod Waters for the atmospheric photos.

Our bucket collection raised 325 Euros towards Medical Aid for Palestinians. Much appreciated.

Postscript.

Thanks to Rod or not as the case might be – Leaning on a Lamp-post live from Gavalohori with the Backyard Boys! Eat your heart out, George.