Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Newbridge to Oxford 14 miles
The Windrush joins the Thames at Newbridge,
Flowing beneath the elegant Taynton stone bridge,
Once a port of call for honeyed Burford quarried stone
On its way to Oxford and London,
As well as a defeat for the Parliamentarians …
So many swans gliding on the waters,
So close to King Charles’ Oxford,
With their mute depiction of feudal hierarchy:
These birds are for monarchs old and new, not
‘Yoemen and husbandmen and other persons of little reputation’;
A heron interrupted the flow of my thoughts downstream
To Hart’s Weir footbridge – more English quaintness:
The weir has gone, but a right of way remains to Erewhon;
Then Northmoor Lock, before reaching literary Bablock Hythe:
Matthew Arnold’s scholar-gypsy,
‘Oft was met crossing the stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hythe,
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet,
As the punt’s rope chops round’;
None of that now at the Ferryman Inn and its chalet purlieus,
Instead a meander inland before returning to the waters
At Pinkhill Weir, before another short roadside detour,
And a boatyard and chandlers and a stride to Swinford Bridge
Where feudalism and modernity meet:
A toll bridge, built at the behest of the Earl of Abingdon in 1777,
Where a company still charges drivers today
(But not pedestrians!),
Then on to the now invisible Anglo-Saxon cultural importance
Of Eynsham, and Eynsham Lock,
Evenlode Stream and King’s Lock
(King denoting kine),
Underneath the Ox-ford by-pass
(You’ve heard its constant roar for over an hour),
To Godstow: ‘Get thee to a nunnery!’;
‘The use of detectors is strictly forbidden’;
The Great Money Trick
(Performed with Matches)
Hello and welcome to my company,
I’m going to be serious, I hope you will allow me;
I’m here to explain how you get your money:
This is serious, it won’t be funny –
A lesson about profit and how you get your wages,
I’ll make it easy, in sequential stages.
Now, imagine you’re a fagger, I mean a smoker –
Just now and then, not an absolute choker –
But you need to light your fag, and that’s a fact,
Now imagine that you use a safety match.
This lucifer will light our way to wisdom,
By exemplifying capitalism:
Each match will be a symbol, nay, an allegory,
To represent political economy;
Imagine I own the factories, shops, land, and banks,
I am the capitalist in these gathered ranks,
There are no tricks, no magical catches,
I own the means of production:
These four matches;
Join the Digital Army
Speak and Write the Truth
I grew up in a working-class Tory household,
A Daily Express household,
So, I know the mindset:
Deference and false consciousness:
‘Gawd bless ya, Mr Scrooge’;
A generation after A Christmas Carol,
The Conservative Prime Minister,
(So-called ‘One-Nation Tory’)
Described working class Tories as
‘Angels in marble’:
They had to be fashioned, sculpted, made, displayed,
In an alliance between the aristocracy and the working class,
With a modicum of social reform,
A hectoring printing press,
And an aggressive nationalism,
To provide the glue.
Circles without Class Ceilings
Why can prehistory be so entrancing?
Why do some people find prehistory so entrancing?
Why do they become so spellbound
When walking by, let’s say, a long barrow?
How do they become so transported in time and space?
What’s it all about?
Is it because a standing stone, a circle,
A tumulus, barrow, or whatever,
Demonstrates the fragility of knowledge,
The equivocal nature of understanding,
In a sense, the ‘negative capability’ of John Keats:
Being conscious, simultaneously,
Of knowing and yet not knowing?
The recognition that sometimes any presumption
Of understanding the meaning of an edifice,
Can only be speculative
(Despite the accumulation of evidence and artefacts,
Despite measurement, mensuration and comparison,
Despite a commitment to the rigours of empiricism),
And a reflection of who we are in the here and now –
Or can Homo sapiens merely develop
A restricted trope of meanings, recognizable
And familiar, across time and space …
So some speculations are bound to be valid …
Or is signification, itself, a trope of modernity?
Nature and Nurture:
How circumscribed are we by time and space?
And how universal are we across the same?
What do these structures reveal and indicate
About what is quintessentially human?
So, prehistoric structures,
In an a priori, apostrophizing, manner,
The manner of an innocent wonderer,
As yet unread on the subject,
I question your meaning:
What were you for?
As the traffic rumbles past on Cotswold roads,
It’s hard to hear the chip of stone on flint,
Or the croak of corvids with their blood-drip beaks,
Or the breaking of the bones of a skeleton,
Or smell the rotting flesh on the capstone,
Or taste the ashes of the dead on the nightfall wind,
Or see the blood red sunset behind the silver river
Or the standing stone’s silhouette,
But try hard on a winter’s afternoon,
And you might just slip down a wormhole of time,
To rituals of death and memory,
And recognize the prehistoric past
For what it is and was:
Not something primitive and alien,
But something shared.
A Pedestrian Excursion Through Several Parts of England and Wales
John Thelwall’s account of his rambles
Between the years of the naval mutinies
of 1797 and the 1801 Peace of Amiens:
‘The cottages in general, are small, wretched and dirty. Some of them are built of brick, others are plastered and may exhibit nothing but miserable mud walls, equally naked without and within. They are wretchedly and scantily furnished; and few have even the advantage of a bit of garden. To complete the catalogue of misery, there is a workhouse in the parish, in which a number of deserted infants are consigned to captivity and incessant application…’
And even though Citizen John was being pursued,
Followed and shadowed by spies,
With consequent anxiety,
Thelwall could still write that …
‘The vivacity of conversation made the miles pass unheeded under our feet. We canvassed various subjects of literature and criticism, the state of morals and the existing institutions of society. We lamented the condition of our fellow-beings, and formed Utopian plans of retirement and colonisations. On one subject, and only one, we essentially differed – America. I cannot look towards that country with all the sanguine expectations so frequently cherished. I think I discover in it much of the old leaven. Its avidity for commercial aggrandisement augurs but ill even for the present generation; and I tremble at the consequences which the enormous appropriation of land may entail upon posterity.’read more
Peterloo Memorial Walk 2019
About thirty of us braved Manchester weather on August 16th on a performative walk around Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt’s birthplace in Wiltshire. Pictures here tell the picture of the day.
We carried out a dialogue between 2019 and 1819 as we processed: the poem below from Robin Treefellow gives a flavour of how memorialization of Peterloo can reach out to the new Extinction Rebellion generation.
Chalk and Treason
To the chalk
we must go walk.
On the chalk where vipers bugloss brightens
we must go to rebel, debate, and reinvent
This green island
owned by a small land owning minority.
So depart that moribund Houses of Parliament
mired in out-dated oppositional bun throwing.
To the high dreamy chalk we must go like the bees to nectar
discovering what Britain dreams:
dreams like a giant with ammonites in its beard.
When we have lost our way,
when the ways are all privatised,
when society is manacled to linear profit centred greed:
to the chalk we must go walk.
In walking by the yellow of toadflax and melliot
there is waking,
with waking we can change.
This green island where feudalism has gone on too long,
the earth common to all,
we must learn from the biotic knit of ground sward
and abandon the tenure under our hidden landlords.
For Britain dreams!
The land will be free of chemicals,
to breath and flourish.
So shall our life return
Rude and willed,
modernisation discarded by the road where mugwort grows.
O Albion calls us all
freedom, green of leaf and brown of root.
freedom, bright as flowers by the way.