Home

Bristol Doors Open Days

Bristol Doors Open Days
The Merchants’ Hall
indocilis pauperiem pati
‘One who cannot learn to bear poverty’

What did I learn about our ‘Island Story’
On a squally September rain-swept day,
At the Merchants’ Hall, and Redcliffe Caves?
Well, we formed an orderly queue at the Hall,
Bantering with the pinstriped beadle,
Before our guide escorted us to the hall,
Where our talk began.

It was informative, in a manner of speaking:
The chandeliers are cleaned every two years!
Sixty-eight people can sit at this table!
When a speaker addresses an audience here,
The chairs are moved to face the front!
Princess Anne likes the Merchant Venturers!
Here are pictures of the docks in the 18th century!
(No mention yet…)
Royal Charters galore!
Portraits galore!
One day there will be a woman on the wall!
And a female ‘Master’ of the Society,
And she shalt have the title of ‘Master’!
The voice went on about the Society’s charitable enterprises,
I glanced at a couple of their annual reports:
‘New Schools’ Trust Offers Diversity’
(Conventional trope of girl in a science lab.),
More stuff on academies, residential care for the elderly,
‘Social business’ (sic), almshouses,
The ownership of Clifton Downs,
‘Although some 460 years old, the Society
is fresh and full of vigour and purpose’;
‘ … The Society and Bristol prospered. Trading patterns changed
over the centuries, with the later years marked
by the appalling period of slave trading in the 18th century.’
It all felt a bit Kafkaesque,
An arcane, shadowy world of ruling class disinformation …
Where philanthropy and charity
Obscures the hierarchy of ruling class control…

Read More

Football Gone Rogue

I went searching for the soul of Forest Green,
Wandering intuitively, ad hoc
Inferentially, without any
A priori knowledge or insight:
It was a tabula rasa wander.

Northfields Road smacked of enclosed fields
(‘Its only bondage was the circling sky’),
And Eighteenth century food riots,
With Captain Swing riding over in Horsley,
While dark satanic mills in the valleys
Stood where weavers once combined for justice.

I crossed the threshold of a century,
Past chapel, school, and blacksmith’s workshop,
Through labyrinths of handloom weavers’ paths,
Along a valley far below the flood threat
Of countless springs and teeming brooks and streams,
Along The Rollers, Chestnut Hill, Star Hill,
And so to the Jovial Foresters,
Where the players used to change for the match,
(Victorian post box in its roadside wall),
Past a blue plaque to Private Charles Marmont,
Died of wounds 21st May 1918,
Aged 20,
Buried Forest Green Chapel Graveyard,
And so to where Joseph Weight used to work
(A Nailsworth Conscientious Objector),
Before he faced the tribunal’s judgement
On whether he really had a conscience.

read more

The Badgers of Slad

The paintings of badgers on the posts at Slad,
Are beguiling and deceptive in their art,
Seemingly comic and anthropomorphic,
Each one contributes to a tragic tale,
Summarised in that curt and cruel word: cull.
They look like Tommies facing execution,
Tied to their posts at dawn’s first red-streaked light:
What passing-bells for those who die for cattle?

‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns,
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.’

read more

Radical Pub Crawl: Loomsday

A pub-crawl is something I associate
With my youth – indeed, I have never ever
Typed ‘pub crawl’, before, but I am surprised
To find a green line advising me to
Hyphenate and create a compound noun.

The word was never hyphenated
When I used to go on a pub crawl:
There was a noun and there was a verb,
The noun was a sort of synecdoche,
Whilst the verb ‘crawl’ said it all:
The evening started vertical
And ended with a slow, meandering
Horizontal, hands and feet slowly,
Gradually, inching along pavement.

And that was a pub crawl, sampling lots of
Different pints, and different pubs,
Different prices, and atmospheres,
Collecting and clocking the pub names,
The different tastes, strengths and breweries,
In a sort of localised and active
Sociological nuanced survey:
It made you observant through the smoke.

read more

Why Is There an L in Samon?

Dear Stuart,

MY EARLY YEARS

I was born in Liverpool in 1952. It seems strange looking back but Liverpool was still a bombsite as it was only 7 years after the end of the war. We lived 300 yards from the docks and through a child’s eyes everything seemed to be in black and white. I was the second oldest of 5 children. My mother had her children before she was 21 and we lived in 2 rooms in a privately rented house.
My father was pretty useless and he preferred the company of his mates in the pub and I remember him spending time in prison but my mother told us that he was working in Butlins holiday camp during the periods of his absence.

read more

NOT ONE DAY MORE: Overton’s Window

I’ve just come across the term ‘Overton’s Window’,
In an article by Owen Jones,
Also called the ‘Window of Discourse’:
The way ideas are viewed by the public,
In a spectrum of judgement that runs from
The Unacceptable, to the Radical, the Acceptable,
The Sensible, the Popular,
And finally: Policy.

It’s obvious that the way this window –
Or Zeitgeist –
Is now defined,
Has been revolutionised
By social media, activists and clicktivists,
While any notion of ‘the public’
Must now accommodate a whole new Generation Y:
The dispossessed millennials are taking the reins –
Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch and co.
Can still ride roughshod,
But only in their own heft now.

It’s a weird thing for me,
Someone who first read Marx nearly fifty years ago,
Someone who has been marginalised
By mainstream orthodoxy’s definition of common sense
For nearly half a century,
To see a 2017 Labour party political broadcast,
Where a voice demands the full fruits of her labour:
The revolution will be televised!
So this Saturday’s demonstration:
NOT ONE DAY MORE
#TORIES OUT NO MORE AUSTERITY,
Hosted by The People’s Assembly Against Austerity,

read more