Established 2003. Now incorporating The Sudbury Hill Harrow and Wherever End Times

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

National Demonstration: London Saturday 3 January

Copied from: Stop the War Coalition

"Israel is committing a shocking series of atrocities by using modern weaponry against a defenceless population - attacking a population that has been enduring a severe blockade for many months." (The UN Human Rights Council)

Stop Gaza Massacre

Hands Off Gaza: Stop the Bombing: Free Palestine
Assemble 12:30pm Embankment, WC2

Nearest tube Embankment.
**Important Update: Please note change of Gaza demonstration time and assembly point.**
Called by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, British Muslim Initiative and many other organisations.

Israel has launched a terror bombing against the people of Gaza, with over 350 dead and many more injured.

Not content after 3 days of devastating slaughter, the Israeli government promises more barbarity to come.

The head of the Israeli military says, "This is only the beginning".

The people of Gaza are asking, if this is only the beginning, what will the end look like?

Download the leaflet here

For details of daily demonstrations in London and actions around the country, click here.


He uses the same toothpaste


"He uses the same toothpaste"/Man holds drip for child bomb victim

Britain's "peace envoy to the Middle East" has never been to Gaza.

Business as usual

Business as usual/Refugee convoy bombed

Business as usual/Refugee convoy bombed, mother dying

"...the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza. That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it – Askalaan in Arabic – were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza. They – or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don't come from Gaza. But watching the news shows, you'd think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story. (Robert Fisk: Why bombing Ashkelon is the most tragic irony)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Private Experience

"Two women caught up in a violent street riot take shelter in an abandoned shop. A short story by the Orange Prize-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie" (Observer)

There is so much that could be said about this wonderful short story, but I am not the one and this is not the place to do it justice.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Count Arthur Strong's Christmas radio show

If you need a good laugh

This guy has a direct connection to the laughter centre in my brain (if there is such a thing, the titteralamus?). I'm totally poleaxed by everything he says. "Never mind playstations. The people in the Bible would've considered themselves lucky if Father Christmas had brought them a tangerine and Cluedo." (Count the ways in which that is wrong.) He tells the story of Mary and Judas's (sic) journey to Bethlehem and how they couldn't find anywhere to stay because it was Christmas, and had to settle for a pigsty. He's had a similar experience himself in Brighton.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Harold Pinter (1930 - 2008)

Video of Harold Pinter's lecture on the occasion of being awarded the Nobel prize in Literature (46 min.)

Text of Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture

I remember seeing The Caretaker at the Tricycle in Kilburn last year and being duly impressed by it. The production was taut and somewhat reminiscent of Beckett in the rundown sets and characters. There was a continuous sense of imminent menace or violence, and a sort of case study in bullying. [After I posted this I remembered thinking that three or four of the lines clunked a bit in one scene, where there was a sense of the voice of the author coming through rather than a particular character.]

He wrote about power, its fluctuations, development and interactions. In the film the Servant, power migrates with feeble resistance from the ineffectual employer to the butler, through his inexorable and merciless coercion.

Those are the two productions I remember. There were those late, angry political essays and poems that I saw as well from time to time, in Granta for example. You can find examples of his poetry and make your own mind up about it: here.

His Nobel lecture is fascinating both in the introductory remarks about the inspirations for his literary work and separately, when it turns to politics. Others are far better qualified to comment on what he says, and have done and continue to do so. All I will say is that he has me convinced, and I was convinced anyway from bits of what Chomsky and others had already said. For all the good it does.


All comments on Chinese ambassador's article deleted, the website of the Daily Telegraph newspaper has quietly deleted the comments posted by readers in response to an article by the Chinese ambassador to Britain prior to the Beijing Olympics. The article is headed "Chinese ambassador Fu Ying: Western media has demonised China" and sub-titled by the Telegraph "News: Chinese ambassador says Britain 'lacks respect'" (April 13th, 2008).

I was searching for a comment I posted there, because I remembered saying that we needed a period of "just and necessary austerity" and it appears we have since landed in one. (I don't think that any part of the EU should trade with any other country that has labour conditions, human rights or freedoms less than the minimum acceptable within the EU. It's not unprincipled protectionism, it's not unfettered globalisation, it is a policy to ensure the advancement of rights and conditions throughout the world. It should also enable us to become more self-sufficient, without going overboard about it. Anyway, what do I know?)

A Google search for "just and necessary austerity" produced one item, a link to the current article in the Telegraph online sans comments, and a cached impression of the original page, complete with comments including the one I was looking for, which was this:

Why does the Telegraph provide a platform for the corrupt tyranny that holds over a billion people in ignorance and servitude? How can there be a celebration of goodwill with a regime that treats people worse than animals, and who treat animals abominably too? We have mobile libraries, they have mobile execution chambers. Look at the pictures of women being dragged through the streets to their deaths with garottes around their necks, by smirking uniformed assassins who will later shoot them in the back of the heads. Would it have been acceptable for a contingent of Nazi guards to jog through the streets of London guarding their olympic torch on its way to the Berlin olympics of 1936? The Communist Party dictatorship in China has been responsible for deaths in the many millions and continues its absolute denial of freedom and even information to its people. It has decreed that there shall never again be any such thing as a brother or a sister (the one child policy). In the past it decreed that all sparrows be exterminated. It is time that the atrocious tyranny itself was abolished, and until then there should be no phoney celebrations, and no trade either. Let us accept a just and necessary austerity here until tyranny is starved out of business.

I know that some will say this comment falls foul of that "law" that predicts that every debate is likely to deteriorate to such a level that eventually one party will compare their opponents to the Nazis, but in this case I think the comparison is justifiable.

In case the page and comments disappear from Google's cache, here is a picture of them (pdf).


Thanks for the fun

An Englishman needs time - Eartha Kitt

One of those people you could call "a life force", Eartha Kitt died yesterday, aged 81. Follow the links for other, better known clips from the same session. A true but sweet coquette. Check this for a very girlish bit of clowning around: I want to be evil. There is a very spicy vein of comedy in everything she does, almost like an early music-hall songstress. Here is her most famous I want an old-fashioned millionaire. She looks marvellous in it, despite some leaden camera work, when we finally get to see her after some dreary shots of a vast and terribly literal set.

Newsmusic Desk

Boxing day roundup

Completion: September 2008 (building site)

Treetops Nursery refurbishment, 26 December 2008. Sphagnum

2:39 pm, a clear sky. The winter sun is defiant in the south, facing into an incessant, freezing north wind in a death battle for the season.

The north wind lands with a flurry of lefts and rights to the body. The sun counters with a roundhouse haymaker, but the north wind takes it and comes back for more. How long can they keep up this pace?! The frost is melting when they're in the open, but on the ropes the iceman has the advantage. Sunny's stance is impeccable, bent but with guard high. Will the iceman blow himself out or will sunny wear him out with the rope-a-dope? And now a word from our sponsor.

Rinso Macari

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Gaelic lullaby

Judy Collins - w/ paintings by Renoir et al.

The Dolls' Hospital [reprint]

Bless the beasts and the children - Carpenters

There's a dolls' hospital in Dublin
Where shellshocked Actionmen rest
And dollies wait for limb transpops.
It's where ragdolls come to get stitches
And bears undergo kiddie dialysis.
Barbie is believed to have botox
Privately in the outpatients daycentre,
But Ken won't say. His lips are sealed.
Sindy is terminal in the hospice
Watching Sunset Boulevard on a loop.
There's a bench with a plaque dedicated
To the great Robinson Golliwog (
Killed by the cruel marmalade trade)
Where tin soldiers wear their rusty legs
And music box ballerinas lean
Forever akimbo, forever hopeful.
They'll soon be returning to their careers.

Stephen Moran

Next >>

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"All the shops were closed and shuttered"

Sinéad O'Connor - Scarlet ribbons

If you're having that "Scarlet Ribbons" moment, get yourself down to --------. There are two good bikes remaining out of three that were there yesterday (the bigger one has gone). They are both about 28 inches high, one is pink and the other is dark coloured. They are standing in the street waiting for anybody to pick up. Actually, one of them has fallen over now - they were all standing in a line yesterday.

Let us know if you do?

Newsmusic Desk

Whither chestnuts, open fire & Tiny Tim?

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the
hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the
jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges
were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the
fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in
what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and
at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass.
Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as
golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with
beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and
cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

`A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.'

Which all the family re-echoed.

`God bless us every one.' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

(From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bikes 'r us

If you are within easy range of NW10 in the next half hour or so, and you haven't very much money and would like a bike for a 4 to 7 year old (approx.) for Christmas, I know where three good ones have been left in the street outside a big house - clearly as an offering for anyone who wants to take them. Click Dear Mona at the top left there and email me something and I'll tell you where they are. This message will self-destruct later. Don't ask me to go see if they're still there, it's up to you to do it all.

Update 24/12/2008: The bikes must be gone by now. I'll have a chance to check in a while and confirm. You never know. ... Actually, there were still two there when I looked.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

London late final edition: Competition closes

Update 19/12/2008: ...Gone.

Total 645 entries received. Not a bad turnout, all things considered. The results will be known sometime in the new year. A notice will be posted here after the short-listed or commended have been contacted. So you can keep an eye out for that to know when to check your email. After that it's up to Rana Dasgupta to pick a winner and runners up. If we can find three good stories Willesden will be spared, otherwise it goes the way of the cities of the plain.

Happy holidays and sláinte mhaith! from a London Dubliner.


The post of Christmas present

Mrs Scrooge

A new poem written for Guardian Review by Carol Ann Duffy. Illustrated by Posy Simmonds.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Going, going...short story competition last day

620 entries as the London evening edition of the Willesden Herald is put to bed. Not long left: today is the closing date.

Update 19/12/2008...Final total: 645


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paddington Basin

3:31 pm, 15 December 2008. Sphagnum

Send it as a postcard to anywhere else, with "Wish I were there" on the back.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Competition update, December 15, four days to go

1,000 people have registered their details, 450 entries have been received, there are four days left to enter and there are stories that demand to be on the short list, whoosh straight past the long list. I don't mean recently received only - some are ones that needed close reading, from earlier. It's going to be a great anthology again, I think (there was none last time - missed a year), but we need a few more of those whooshes.

The upload link will be removed at midnight on December 19th GMT + 12 (to allow for it still being the 19th somewhere in the world). There is no grace period and no email or postal submissions. Don't miss the closing of the stargate ;-).


Send gold, we have enough frankincense and myrrh

The little drummer boy - Terry Wogan & Aled Jones

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all. (Children in need)


Shoes and insults hurled at Bush on Iraq visit (Guardian)

There's a video with the report. What did he expect, flowers? Oh yeah, that's what he did expect - eight years ago.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Her blood still haunts me*

I was a Marine, in lots of ways I still am. I was never taught or trained to kill the innocent. Granted, my training was way back in '67, during the Vietnam era, but it was based on the English regimental model from the 1800's. Instant obedience to orders and so forth, but also belief that officers would never issue immoral orders. This did not reflect the situtation I found in Vietnam. True, part of military training is to dehumanise the enemy. They aren't people like you, they are sub-human, "gooks" in effect. The great delusion was that armies fought other armies for military objectives. Nothing could be further from the truth, and WW One not only proves that but changed the way military and political higher-ups thought.

So I'm in Vietnam, on a night patrol through a hill village. The locals know that there is a curfew beginning at sunset. Anyone outside of their hootch after sunset will be shot, no questions asked. A free fire zone, it's called. But there, just beside her little hut is a six year old little girl, naked and peeing. I react by leveling my M-16, but I don't pull the trigger. She stands up, sees me and smiles. She gestures 'Wait a minute' with her hands, then ducks inside her door. I move a few feet closer to the hootch and switch my weapon from semi to full automatic. Nothing happens, 20 seconds, fifty seconds.

Then there she is, still naked but now she's got a grenade in her hands. I don't see a pin or a spoon. She's bringing this to me as if it's a gift. There's a small bit of smoke, telling me its fuse is burning. The kill radius is five yards, and we are no more ten apart, and she's walking towards me.

What do I do?

Do I shoot her and save my life? She is dead, anyway, when the grenade goes off, torn to pieces by whoever gave her the thing. But for me to put a bullet between those smiling eyes and in effect blow her head off, goes against everything I stand for. There's no time to think about it, you have to decide right now, two seconds from now is too late.

What would you do?

No, nobody can answer this until they face it, but it is the soldier's delemma. I gave her an instant death, two seconds later the grenade blew up and I ate some steel. Her blood still haunts me.


You loose a little bit of yourself, and I should have been sent to the nut house by the end of my tour. Yeah, somebody in that house gave her the grenade, somebody else pulled the pin, because it's not an easy thing to do even for a grown man. The Communists had no regard for human life. To them she was no more than a way to strike at us, and everybody in the bush wanted to kill us. It's the same now, no doubt, and it was so from the very beginning.

At dawn we made camp at an old LZ. Two minutes after I left the CO and the Radio Operator on my tour of the rest of the platoon, the RO took a bullet in the heart. He died very quickly. The CO stood up and started to turn toward the report. His bullet was in the neck, and he died there, too. I crawled back to the radio and called for air support. It turned into a minor engagement. We lost two more guys, but they were only wounded, not killed. By noon we were extracted and back at a fire base, eating lunch. Insane.

We all made our decisions, and those who refused the draft followed their consciences. I chose to serve. I expected to die for that decision, but I could never have faced myself otherwise.


* This is a true story. Will has agreed to let us include his account here, for which I thank him. Ed

Friday, December 12, 2008

What I've been listening to/watching on YouTube

I know I've been going on about this, but I also want to add that and iTunes do not show what I have been mainly listening to, because lately it's mostly YouTube music videos, which are not counted. The playlist recently has been:

Leona Lewis "Run" (embedding not allowed): Link

Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down:

Odetta - Cotton Fields:

James Taylor & Carly Simon - Mockingbird:

The Pogues - A Pair of Brown Eyes:

The Incredible String Band - Witch's Hat:

Each one is favourite for a while but some, such as the Duran Duran/George Best tribute and David Bowie "Bring me the disco king" and Blondie (hachachacha) - can't resist - Atomic, terribly louche but so evocative of the era; I can see that there are troubling images in it, perhaps "glamorising drug-taking" (a stupid thing to do) but also what's with the lady with the black eye?; still, for the music. (Some versions of the video cut off the naff intro bars.) Also - partly for the local connection - "Duffy - Warwick Avenue" (embedding not allowed). There are others, too many to list but you can find them all here.

Blondie - Atomic:

David Bowie - Bring me the disco king:

Duran Duran - George Best tribute/Ordinary World:

As I look back through my favourites list, I feel the enthusiasm coming back, but I can't list them all again. Unfortunately some have disappeared (and keep reappearing and disappearing) from YouTube, such as everything by Diana Ross and the Supremes, though I've managed to capture some of them with Real Player. I think the best pop video ever is probably the Supremes "You keep me hanging on", for the sheer joie de vivre - it makes me smile all the way through. So does the live video of "Where did our love go", one of the best live videos, I think, though the audience are like statues and the dancing is a bit lame, but the sound - ah, the sound. I have a soft spot for the Ed Sullivan Show clip of "Love Child" too - a great song and a great Diana Ross performance.

And I've just remembered, I've been enjoying Oasis (how many years late?), at least these two superb videos. "The Masterplan" is inspired by L. S. Lowry's paintings - beautifully drawn, especially at the beginning and end.

Oasis - The Masterplan:

Also this one, "Stop crying your heart out", which would have made the perfect and sinister lament had Barack Obama not won the US presidency in November, which thankfully he did. So we are left with this incendiary, ambivalent image of either doom or hope, not sure which.

Oasis - Stop crying your heart out:

I've also been playing some of the ones embedded elsewhere in this blog, which you can find by scrolling down, and some of the ones on other people's blogs, which you can find by clicking on the links to the right. I don't want to duplicate what others have posted, including some of their own creations and favourites (Mikey's, for example).


December moon

8:09 pm, 11 December 2008. Sphagnum

Monday, December 08, 2008

From An Outpost

I've tramped South England up and down
Down Dorset way, down Devon way,
Through every little ancient town
Down Dorset way, down Devon way.
I mind the old stone churches there,
The taverns round the market square,
The cobbled streets, the garden flowers,
The sundials telling peaceful hours
Down Dorset way, down Devon way.

    The Meadowlands are green and fair
Down Somerset and Sussex way,
The clover scent is in the air
Down Somerset and Sussex way.
I mind the deep-thatched homesteads there
The noble downlands, clean and bare.
The sheepfolds and the cattle byres,
The blue wood-smoke from shepherd's fires
Down Dorset way, down Devon way.

    Mayhap I shall not walk again
Down Dorset way, down Devon way,
Nor pick a posy in a lane
Down Somerset and Sussex way.
But though my bones, unshriven, rot
In some far distant alien spot,
what soul I have shall rest from care
To know that meadows still are fair
Down Dorset way, down Devon way.

--- Frederick Coulson

A few weeks before he was killed, Sergeant Frederick Coulson of the 12th London Regiment wrote to his father: "If I should fall do not grieve for me. I shall be one with the wind and the sun and the flowers." Died of wounds 8th October 1916, aged 27.

He was from Kilburn, not far from here. This and more first world war poetry can be found at Remembrance. Further reading: First World War, an archive with seven days of Guardian and Observer articles on the 90th anniversary of the armistice, including more wartime poetry.

90 years on: 1918 - 2008

Winter flowers

December 7 - 17 2008. Christmas cactus and unknown (marigold?). Sphagnum

The cactus flowers look more spectacular every day, especially on a sunny morning.

Here again again

I think I said this before, but it just came up in discussion tonight. Agnostics cannot say they believe in God, therefore they are a subset of the set of all atheists. In no way can they be called believers, they are merely in denial of their atheism. They cannot be a subset of the set of all believers because their set does not intersect with the set of all believers, they are non-believers, their belief is non-existent, it is a dead parrot.

I don't believe that anybody educated and conversant with manifest reality truly believes in God. Anyone who claims to is only fooling himself or herself, but they all get together and play "let's pretend" and "la la la we're not listening".

I'm not happy that there is no God but then as somebody said, "if God lived on our street people would break his windows."


Sunday, December 07, 2008

London doctor is held as forced marriage hostage

London doctor is held as forced marriage hostage

"Race is on to release trainee GP lured to Bangladesh by family, held captive, beaten, and about to marry a stranger against her will." (The Independent)

The perpetrators are no better than kidnappers and rapists. They should be put in jail for several years to give them time reflect on their brutality, stupidity and criminality. All power to humanity and justice in its war against atavistic bigotry and oppression.

Update 14/12/2008: Bangladesh court frees Dr Humayra Abedin. She is expected to fly back to London this week. Excellent.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Save our pavement lights

Beautiful pavement lights

Covered with ugly, disintegrating concrete

Some of the pavement lights* in Willesden High Road have been concreted over most abominably. The concrete is disintegrating, ugly and hazardous to people out walking. Some of the remaining ones contain broken lights, which is perhaps why unprincipled huxters slopped over the rest with protuberant, amorphous concrete. I love pavement lights and find them one of the most mysterious and beautiful marvels of urban life. Perhaps the planning authorities can do something to save and restore them?

* Also known as vault lights or sidewalk lights (US)

Friday, December 05, 2008

The black wall



Underpass at the junction of Edgware Road and Marylebone Road

"Greed it ain't going anywhere! They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you're nothing. That's my spiel." (Joe Strummer, 1952-2002)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Odetta sings no more

Cotton Fields - Odetta (YouTube)

Odetta (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008. Ref: Wikipedia). Associated with the civil rights movement - would have likely sung at Barack Obama's inauguration next month.

Newsmusic Desk

New fastest-selling digital release

"69,244 people downloaded the cover of Snow Patrol's Run in the first two days. ... The new single from Leona Lewis has become the fastest-selling digital release, according to the singer's representative." (Telegraph)

Here is a link to the official video online: Run - Leona Lewis (YouTube).

Time = expansion?

Horizon: Do you know what time it is? (BBC2)

Maybe the expansion of the universe, stretching or growing of interstellar space, either stretches or grows existence itself, creating the effect of time. Then if the universe stopped expanding, maybe there would only be space but no time. So my question is does expansion of space equate to duration?

We're told that the time referred to as the age of the universe, how long it has been since "the Big Bang", is all time during which the universe has been either stretching or growing, depending on whether you think space is being attenuated or increasing.

It is the medium of space, not matter that is being stretched, but matter is existing in a larger space the longer it exists. So each moment of existence is in either a progressively larger or progressively more stretched space. It could be either the feeling of space growing or the feeling of space being stretched that we know as time.

This thought came after watching the excellent Horizon program by Professor Brian Cox, who looks more like an emo pop singer than a professor.*

Helmut Kronk

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* It's one of those signs of aging when professors look like teenagers. (Time again!) Ed

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tyranny in the UK

Mark Steel: Never mind the baby, just get back to work

The next thing will be an exciting new scheme known as the 'workhouse' (Independent)

Dickens, you should have lived to see this.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

On the pilgrimage to Disneyland

Disney accused by Catholic cleric of corrupting children's minds

" 'The message behind every movie and book, behind every theme park and T-shirt is that our children's world needs Disney,' [Christopher Jamison, the Abbot of Worth in West Sussex] says. So they absolutely must go to see the next Disney movie, which we'll also want to give them on DVD as a birthday present. They will be happier if they live the full Disney experience; and thousands of families around the world buy into this deeper message as they flock to Disneyland. He continues: 'This is the new pilgrimage that children desire, a rite of passage into the meaning of life according to Disney. Where once morality and meaning were available as part of our free cultural inheritance, now corporations sell them to us as products.' " (Telegraph)

He makes a good case. It's worth reading the article. If I was going to be hard hearted I could say that the church's Disneyland probably has more revenue and employs more people. It's certainly a lot more sophisticated. Instead of people dressed up as cartoon characters, it has people dressed up as bishops, priests and nuns. Instead of "tall tales and true from the legendary west" etc, it has its own magic show and its own kingdom. On the other hand, he's right about Disney, I think. Does he suffer a twinge of professional jealousy over crowds staying away from his circus and streaming to the other? [I feel a bit mean for thinking like this, after all we do go to the churches "in our hour of need". Perhaps it's as one of John McGahern's characters says in "That they may face the rising sun", sometimes you can be just too precise.]