WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #9-#13
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Wallingford to Cholsey
Sunday March the 15th
Beware the Ides of March – but I’m a long way from the tidal reach of the Thames – Wallingford Castle – High Street – Thames Street – St Leonards – a glimpse of the Chilterns in the distance – Littlestoke Ferry – the Papist Way – Ferry Lane – Cholsey – 5 miles.
Springtime on the Thames
When is spring not a spring?
When Edward Thomas went in pursuit of spring,
When spring’s advance was slower,
Compared with today’s two miles an hour,
In that so-called Golden Age before the Great War,
He hadn’t endured biblical floods,
And a seeming apocalyptic pandemic,
A pandemic that has arrived in this country
After a forty-year post-Thatcherite zeitgeist,
A zeitgeist that foregrounds charity,
And emphasizes individualism,
Rather than welfare state collectivism.
And the consequence of this zeitgeist?
Panic buying, hoarding, selfishness,
And a consequent diminution
In charitable donations,
Thereby indicating the fragile
Efficacy of charity …
The Guardian 11th March, Robert Booth, Social affairs correspondent:
‘Food banks in Britain are running out of staples including milk and cereal as a result of panic-buying and are urging shoppers to think twice before hoarding as donations fall in the coronavirus outbreak.’
Patrick Butler, Social policy editor:
‘Mental health charities and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of vulnerable people who were reliant on welfare benefits.’ There has been ’69 cases of suicide linked to benefit issues in the last six years’.
How will Universal Credit/Universal Cruelty,
And the five-week wait help in this crisis?
When the Department for Work and Pensions
Reply to criticisms
Highlighted by the death of Errol Graham,
Who starved to death,
Has this sentence within:
‘We always seek to learn lessons where we can’.
‘Where we can’ …
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists group from The Prince Albert
I’m walking the Thames to London,
Not in linear sequence:
Flooding prevents that –
But in an act of near nominative determinism,
I present the famous words of Thomas Rainsborough,
From down by the river bank at the Church of St Mary the Virgin,
From the Civil War Putney Debates of 1647:
‘For really I think that the poorest … that is in England
Hath a life to live, as the greatest …’
What would Mr Rainsborough make of the need
For food banks, four hundred years later?
I’m not a great one for sponsorship,
My mantra is ‘Parity not Charity’:
I’m rather more of a supporter of tax,
Not regressive taxes such as VAT,
Where everyone pays the same,
Irrespective of income,
But progressive taxes such as income tax,
So as to redistribute wealth from the rich;
Oh, and another thing about charity:
I dislike the virtue-signalling,
Of our society, with chuggers in the street,
And the incessant rattling of tins,
And that apparently self-validating cry:
I do give, however, in a random way:
Domestic appeals, national appeals, international appeals,
Beggars in the streets,
Big Issue (not a charity),
Food banks …
Even though it’s a piecemeal patchwork,
Random and uncoordinated:
A personification of charity itself, I suppose …
So here I am in February 2020,
In the year of our Lord of Paupers’ Burials,
In the year of our Lord of Bet Fred,
In the year of our Lord of Universal Credit,
In the year of our Lord of Universal Cruelty,
In the year of our Lord of the Five Week Wait,
Pragmatically doing my bit
For the Trussell Trust,
Which, I think, also feels ambivalent
About its work – as its website says:
‘94% of people at food banks
Are in destitution.
This isn’t right.’
‘Destitution’, now there’s a throwback
To a Victorian lexicon:
‘Poverty so extreme that one lacks
the means to provide for oneself’.
Synonyms for destitution include:
Penury; privation; indigence;
Pauperdom; beggary; mendicancy –
Isn’t it interesting to notice,
How many of these synonyms
Seem like archaisms?
Our semantic field for poverty is reluctant
To acknowledge the impact of modernity:
Universal Credit, the gig economy,
Zero hours contracts and so on,
It likes to pretend that poverty is old hat,
Dickensian: Scrooge before redemption;
Some walks confirmed – others will have dates confirmed on this website – others more tentative – walkers may need to check social media etc or Good on Paper for precise details. After discussing it with Radical Stroud members, we can’t do Saturdays, I’m afraid.
Wednesday January 29th: A hidden colonial landscape – from the Archway arch to the blackboy clock in Nelson Street. Empire, imperialism, the nation-state of the UK then and now. Meet at the arch at 9.30.
Sunday February 23rd: Rodborough (see website)
MAY DAY Chalford to Stroud – how late 18th and 19th century national politics affected Stroud – Thelwall and Spence – green roots of socialism – the radical lessons of 1790-1820 for today, both in terms of state repression and radical responses. Stroud Labour Party May Festival MAY DAYread more
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.