Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Oxford to Abingdon 11 miles
A swollen, turbid, fast flowing river; blackthorn blossom; osiers, rushes and willows half-drowned; many trees down with the recent storms. Flooded mediaeval water meadows; rain at twilight.
I had companions today, including a food bank volunteer for Stroud. Here are some observations from a weekly commitment:
‘Stroud Foodbank has two outlets in Stroud town and a few others in the District. I help run the Nailsworth one. We don’t have much demand, so we don’t have weekly drop-in sessions in a centre. But, of course, there are some individuals in our little town who can benefit from what the Foodbank offers. They can contact the Foodbank office and obtain a voucher through the usual channels, and we arrange a Foodbank delivery to their home.’
‘I volunteer at Stroud Foodbank on Fridays, usually this is the busiest session of the week. We never know who might turn up on the day. We have a wide range of customers. A few we see every now and then who have longer term issues, others are just one-offs, caught out by temporary problems – job losses, benefit delays, health issues, work with unreliable hours etc.’
‘Although we are there mainly to help them with food parcels, we try to engage with our clients on other matters. Our experience is that the local agencies work well together, but we check that our clients haven’t slipped through the net regarding other help that could be out there for them.’
Friday 17th January 2020
Radical Stroud Walk
The Descent of the the Toadsmoor Valley:
From Bisley Church to Brimscombe Port
(and thence via the canal towpath to Stroud)
Approximately 4 miles. Mostly footpaths. Some styles and steep descents. Certain to be very muddy in places. Allow four hours. Bring food for your lunchtime repast. Optional stop for refreshments toward the end of the walk at Stroud Brewery
Directions to the start
Take the 8B bus from Stroud Merriwalks (stand k) at 10:10. Alight outside The Stirrup Cup, Bisley at 10:44 (scheduled arrival time). The walk will begin from this point at 10:50.
Brief guide to the context
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. On our walks we typically encounter many serendipitous points of interest and discussion.
Bisley is very rich in history, tradition and legend. There are ancient barrows, and significant Roman and Saxon remains in the area. Many of the houses date from the 16th and 17 centuries. Made rich by the wool trade, Bisley suffered economic decline in the 1800s and in 1837, 68 parishioners were given support by the vicar of All Saints to emigrate to new lives in Australia. We will visit the church to discuss this historical event. We will also consider the story of The Bisley Boy (suggesting that Elizabeth 1st was not Elizabeth 1st but was a replaced by a man); the burial of John Davies “ye black” in 1603; the tradition of dressing the impressive wells of Bisley; how Bisley lost its commons and “who stole the donkey’s dinner”.
We will then descend the steep, narrow and seemingly remote Toadsmoor valley via footpaths. Maps reveal that the tree cover of once coppiced woodland in the upper valley has hardly changed in the last 200 years. However, the remains of several mills (of various types) are evident below the fishponds in the lower valley, revealing the industrial legacy of the area.
We will cross the main road at the mouth of the valley and walk past the site of many stick, umbrella and tool handle manufacturing works that occupied the valley floor from the 1850s until the 1920s. In nearby Chalford, one such “stick works”, Dangerford & Co, employed more than 1000 people during the late 1800s.
Finally, we will head west along the canal towpath, past Stroud Brewery and back to Stroud.
Texts used on the walk or written during and after the walk now followread more
Terminalia Walking Festival
Sunday 23 rd February 2020
“Beating the Bounds” of Rodborough Parish
In honour of the Roman God of boundaries we will walk around the limits of the parish of Rodborough.
Parishes were once very important administrative areas and ceremonially walking the boundaries of a parish (known as “Beating the Bounds”) was a significant local custom in many places. Important boundary landmarks such as trees or stones would be ceremonially beaten with birch or willow rods. Sometimes young boys (typically choir boys) would also be ceremonially beaten at key places (supposedly to ensure that they would remember the parish boundaries!).
On this walk we intend to revive certain aspects of this custom for one day. Specifically, walking the boundary and beating key landmarks, but most definitely NOT beating young boys. As we progress there will be discussions and performative celebration of local matters, historical, political, industrial, cultural, geological, ecological and mythological. The boundary of Rodborough parish follows canals and disused railway lines, makes steep ascents and descents of beautiful Cotswold valleys and crosses the limestone grassland of an ancient common.read more
When the Daily Express and the Daily Mail tried to control
The Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, back in the thirties,
He commented in his masculine way:
‘What the proprietorship of these newspapers is aiming at is power,
But power without responsibility,
The prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.’
In the 2016 referendum,
We had Arron Banks:
‘Facts don’t work, and that’s it …
It just doesn’t work.
You have to connect with the people emotionally.
It’s the Trump success.’
And the General Elections of 2017 and 2019?
The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express,
With their slew of headlines,
Make it difficult not to think of John Heartfield,
And his Weimar agit-prop:
Big business pulling Hitler’s puppet strings;
Big business lavishing its money on Boris Johnson,
The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, the Daily Express
Splashing their similar views all over their front pages;
The BBC doctoring Johnson’s footage and appearances.
A prime minister who holds parliament in contempt.
A leader who speaks of ‘the will of the people’.
A leader who has held the people in contempt.
A leader who has been economical with the truth.
A leader who will redraw constituency boundaries,
Who will lead, in effect, a one-party state,
In an alliance of ‘Elite and Mob’,
A re-run of William Pitt’s repressive policies,
And sponsored attacks on democrats in the 1790s.
I think this means that we now have a new category
Of political system for the text book:
A liberal-democratic 21 st century variant of Fascism:
Not an oxymoron or a union of opposites,
But a subtle totalitarianism,
Authoritarianism in a suit.
Green Principles, Pragmatism and stopping the Tories in Stroud
There are those who say that when they cast their vote,
They have to vote according to their conscience,
To their ‘principles’,
Rather than pragmatically or tactically,
Rejecting any ideas of ‘a progressive alliance’
(A mirror, perhaps, to the KPD’s rejection
Of a Popular Front
In the Weimar Republic in 1932 –
And we all know where that ended up).
But what is ‘conscience’?
‘The voice in your head’ that separates right from wrong?
The internal ethical guide to universal morality …
Or is ‘conscience’ no more than a ‘pre-disposition’?
But expressed with what Mark Fisher has termed,
‘A lofty Olympian sense of detachment’
In the helter-skelter discourse on social media –
But as though ethics and morality,
Rather than the replication of one’s personality,
Or one’s presentation of self,
Or one’s doxa (one’s orthodoxy), as Pierre Bourdieu put it
Were the determinants of socially mediated opinion –
‘To thine own self be true’,
Is often cited as the justification:
People conveniently forgetting that Shakespeare
Was not enunciating a universal truth,
But rather reflecting Renaissance humanism,
In a pre-Enlightenment prefiguring of individualism,
Ina pre-capitalist rejection of collectivism,
A philosophy that reaches its apogee
In a 21 st century cult of the celebration of celebrity,
And narcissistic performance of self.
Jolly Well Vote Labour: A New Christmas Carol
Oh for a new Charles Dickens classic:
Jolly Well Vote Labour –
No more of that Bob Cratchit toasting Scrooge:
“Mr. Scrooge!… I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!” –
In the most complete and perfect depiction
Of false consciousness imaginable.
No more personal journeys of redemption
For malign capitalists such as Scrooge;
No more beneficent Victorian philanthropy
From well-heeled jolly old men
Such as the Cheeryble brothers and Mr Pickwick,
With their unexplained wealth bestowed on the deserving,
So that everyone lived happily ever after;
Instead, the likes of Sam Weller and Barkis and Pumblechook,
And Joe Gargery and David Copperfield
And Old Fezziwig, Martin Chuzzlewit, Nicholas Nickleby,
Wemmick, Little Nell, Nancy, Little Dorrit,
Fagin, Quilp, Pip, Wackford Sqeers, Sowerby,
The Artful, Bill Sikes, Mr Bumble et al
Declare: ‘Enough of this onomatopoeic caricaturisation!’
And in act of collective expropriation,
They snatch the quill from Dickens’ Broadstairs hand,
While Mrs Cratchit loudly declares:
“The Founder of the Feast indeed!.”
And under her determined leadership,
Dickens’ characters write a new Dickens classic:
Bob Cratchit refuses Scrooge’s offer of
A few extra shillings and a few extra coals,
He forms, instead, a union of all the clerks
And pettifogging pen pushers,
And, like Herman Melville’s Bartleby,
Bartleby the Scrivener,
When requested to perform a duty by their boss,
They reply: ‘I would prefer not to’;
The colours of Stroud’s spectrum are
not what they seem:
Vote Red: Get Green.
And this you know is true:
Vote Green: Get Blue.
It’s not some fictive story:
Vote Green: Get Tory.
So keep it real and serene:
Vote Red: Get Green.