KEEP FIT WHEN SELF-ISOLATING by pretending to walk the Thames to London. Join me for a virtual walk and measure your steps inside your house. As many of you know, I have been walking the river piecemeal towards London to raise funds for the Trussell Trust and food banks. I’ve got as far as Wallingford in reality and have now walked to Tilehurst in a pretend way. Join me if you wish and I’ll let you know what you’ve seen along the river banks. The next stage is from Cholsey to Tilehurst which is about twelve miles.
It may be that you might want to send me a sentence or two about your ‘walk’ in exchange, as we build up a journal of this new plague year. The first two posts about walking from Stroud are up here – please see below.
I have reached the conclusion that individual, family and public health considerations mean that I will now walk the Thames in a virtual/pretend way.
How will I do this?
By laying out the route-map for the day and by measuring the required distance on my phone. I will walk within my home and within my immediate locality, but far from the madding crowd: 19 corvids rather COVID-19, as it were.
By using imagination and memory rather than observation. By following my usual practice of blending reflections on topographical, historical, and contemporary contexts, with the Trussell Trust and food banks always in focus.
By all virtual means, please join me.
Munich, Arsenal and Frankfurt
Twenty years after Neville Chamberlain
Proclaimed ‘Peace for our time’ at Heston,
On his return from the Munich conference,
The ‘Busby Babes’ played their last ever game
In England, against Arsenal, at Highbury:
The Munich Air Crash would take so many lives and minds,
And leave a city and a nation frozen in grief;
It was a long journey from February to the summer.
But the World Cup followed the end of the season –
Pele amazed the world with his precocity –
Before close season training at Highbury,
With eyes upon the coming fixture list;
When Jack Zipes, an American student,
Would leave Coleridge, Wordsworth, Thelwall et al
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.
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’;