Jo Cox Memorial Walk: the Ghosts of Five Valleys Past and of London Present and Future

9.3 % Swing

A red island in the sea of Cotswold blue
A red outcrop in these blue remembered hills
We’re not 25 grand smug shepherd’s huts
We’re red brick, spit and sawdust, woollen mills

A red rose amidst the snarling thorns of May
A red flag sewn from Stroudwater Scarlet
We’re not the headmistress’s blue-rinse smile
We’re the crimson kiss of a wanton harlot

We’re not Farrow & Ball “complacent blue-tit”
We’re not weekend waxed-jacket and tweed knickers
We’re not honey-dipped, chocolate-box bollocks
We’re not mimsy-boo-boutique more tea vicars

Credit To Deborah Roberts for the above photos.

9.3 % Swing

A red island in the sea of Cotswold blue
A red outcrop in these blue remembered hills
We’re not 25 grand smug shepherd’s huts
We’re red brick, spit and sawdust, woollen mills

A red rose amidst the snarling thorns of May
A red flag sewn from Stroudwater Scarlet
We’re not the headmistress’s blue-rinse smile
We’re the crimson kiss of a wanton harlot

We’re not Farrow & Ball “complacent blue-tit”
We’re not weekend waxed-jacket and tweed knickers
We’re not honey-dipped, chocolate-box bollocks
We’re not mimsy-boo-boutique more tea vicars

We’re anarchist printers, poets and painters
We’re the ghosts of Huguenot weavers
We sing protest songs up a hornbeam tree
We’re the New Lawn vegan-green believers

We’re not Johnnie Boden, we’re Jonny Fluffypunk
We wield pen and brush not polo mallet
We steer to the left through canals of Budding beer
A splash of vermilion from art’s rich palette

We don’t twitch the curtains of seething disapproval
A Little Metropolis, we think out loud
Welcome mat unfurled, we’re citizens of the world
We’re the People’s Republic of Stroud

by elvis mcgonagall, june 2017

The Ghosts of Five Valleys Past and of London Present and Future

It was ten o’clock by the Nailsworth clock,
When we gathered for a walk and a talk,
Skeena Rathor speaking first about the Jo Cox Foundation,
And how important it is to contribute
To the symbolism and meaning of the day:
‘We are far more united and have far more in common
than that which divides us.’
Walkers displayed this in costume colours:
Red, green, yellow and blue …
We passed the site of an old tollhouse,
Reflecting on the traditions of radical walking,
And 18th century tollhouse protests,
Past ‘Homes fit for Heroes’ in Park Road,
A 1921 Lloyd George social housing legacy,
Past a flag high on its front garden pole
(It is the Queen’s official birthday today),
Before we began to turn up the steps
To a sunken, shadowed, holloway,
Just by two memorial benches,
Celebrating the lives of two street residents,
Who lived and loved the street their entire lives,
A sort of blue plaque of the People;

Poets presented their reflections on the election,
On Forest Green Rovers, on Shelley and William Blake,
On Jo Cox, on John Clare, on Captain Swing,
On William Cobbett, on WH Davies,
On Chartism and Momentum,
On the 18th century criminal code …

As we wandered through woodland, hills and pasture,
Through wheat-fields, past barns, dry stonewalls,
Water troughs, ponds, nettles, thistles,
Medieval footpaths, venerable stone stiles,
Foxgloves, poppies, streams, springs, wells,
Blue plaque homes of the Great War fallen,
Cottages, stables, pubs, mills, farms,
Interweaving past and present,
Remembering past struggles,
And voicing support for present and future ones:
‘We are far more united and have far more in common
than that which divides us’ –
But all the time, at the back of our minds
In this idyllic, Edenic ramble:

(‘How I love free-wheeling down
To you, my little Cotswold town.
The wind is whistling past my ear
But still I catch the hedgerows’ cheer –
Young birds are singing, loud and clear!’)

Stood a sky-high indictment of our society, polity and economy,
It seems as though it could come only from the pages of fiction.
Or it could only happen as metaphor, surely;
Or another time, another place: the pages of Charles Dickens:
Krook from Bleak House meets Our Mutual Friend meets Ronan Point;
Or as so many people on the television first cried:
‘It’s like something from the Third World.’
The Daily Mirror headline summed up what academics might term a paradigm-shift:
CRIMINAL
30 years ago Britain turned its back on social housing.
Profit mattered more than putting a safe roof over the heads of our poorest.
It is a diabolical failing which shames our nation…
and may now have claimed more than 100 lives.
We need answers.
We need change.

It is summer. And a beautiful bitter one.
A few numbers for a statistical analysis which does not matter.
There are 775 rooms in Buckingham Palace.
There are almost 20,000 homes sitting empty in London. They are called ‘ghost’ homes.
The Crown Jewels have a total value of 44.5 billion pounds.
Stuart Gulliver, CEO at HSBC, will receive 9.7 million pounds as reward for cutting costs. Basically, for making money for others.
Philip May works as a senior executive at investment fund Capital Group that controls $1.4 trillion in assets.
Over 31 million pounds will be given this year in prizes at Wimbledon.
Theresa May promises 5 million pounds. To be shared between hundreds of people without food, clothes and a roof over their heads. Victims of Grenfell Tower fire.
Theresa May gets free food and accommodation wherever she goes. At all times.
An average wedding in the UK costs 20,000 pounds.
One cremation is 1,600 pounds, if it is planned. Otherwise, it is free.
Fire resistant cladding is 24 pounds per square metre.
One life has no price. Nor numbers.

With thanks to Maria Stadinka

Credit To Mark Hewlett/Bob Fry for the above photos.