Power in the Darkness

13/08/2015

A week ago I wrote a piece here about having bought some ‘vinyl’ a it is now called, albums or LP’s as they were back in the sound-machine-logo2x1day. I also wrote about buying a means of playing the records. One of the records I bought from the great Sound Machine in Reading was by the Tom Robinson Band, ‘Power In The Darkness‘.(That suffers from the problems that beset wikipedia.)

I bought the album in the year of release and had the original which TRB_-_Power_in_the_Darkness_Front_Coverincluded a stencil for spray-painting the upraised fist symbol from the front of the album.

I don’t know how but, like a number of LPs, albums, I realised I had owned when they originally came out but I subsequently lost it, so I was able to replace this one because I had found it in the shop. I thought it was even better because it had the stencil as well. I had thought there wouldn’t be many after all this time which still had it. I bought it, amongst others that day.

Well, having bought a record player I have now listened to it. It reminds me of the me at that time. A list of some of the tracks gives an idea of where it was coming from ‘Up Against The Wall’, ‘Ain’t Gonna Take It’, ‘Man You Never Saw’, ‘Better Decide Which Side You’re On’ and ‘You Gotta Survive’. The state was going to disappear you if you opposed it. We were living in a fascist state. etc etc

I believed the agitprop views at the time. I was fiercely of the left. A person who joined the Trotskyist ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’ for a period until I attended one of their meetings. Above a pub in Katesgrove in Reading I was told that the run on gold at the time, 79ish, would result in armed workers guards at the gates of factories and the downfall of capitalism. We believed that there would be a workers revolution and that Thatcher’s anti-working class behaviour would lead to a revolution and the people would take over. Guess what, they didn’t. Others thought that a Labour Party fighting on it’s second most left-wing manifesto ever would win the election in 1983. Guess what students of history? Labour didn’t and Thatcher won a landslide. As she did in 1987. Major won another election in 1992 meaning that Labour was out of power from 1979 to 1997.

Who lost from that? The middle class Polytechnic or University lecturers who had a safe job and pension? No, they kept their safe cocooned existence.

The people who lost out are the people who really need a Labour Government. The poorest, the downtroden. The people suffering from the onslaught against people on benefits when the people stuffing their tax get away with it. The people seeking a better life who have come to the UK, found work and are paying taxes, or people fleeing the possibility of slaughter in their own country,

Who are the people supporting Mr Corbyn? The people who will suffer if Labour never wins again? The people on zero hours contracts, the people needing money to pay their rent or to buy food? People who are clients of food-banks? No. Not at all.

In my experience they are  people who don’t care if there is never a Labour Government again. People who didn’t even vote Labour at the last election, if they ever voted Labour. The people who can afford to say the Minimum Wage didn’t matter because it was too low. Their metropolitan friends didn’t see people get a pay rise because of the Minimum Wage or lose their job because of it either. Unlike family members of mine living outside their metropolitan elite, they clearly, do not count.

They did not benefit from the Educational Maintenance Allowance(EMA) so it was not important and they did not care when the Tories abolished it. Family members of mine did living outside London did, but they clearly do not count.

Or what about the difference SureStart made to the lives of children up to 3. The most important time in their lives and the first thing the Tories slashed? Nothing from the Corbynistas. The don’t care about the poorest and most downtrodden.

It is about the maintenance of middle-class welfare, unpaid education for the middle class at university, paid for by the poorest workers, people earning the minimum wage whilst those whose parents paid for them to go to private school pay nothing towards their further education. You call that redistributive? You intellectually challenged idiots.

For real people living in the real world the EMA made a difference and people stayed on at school and got an education, for the Liberal elite they didn’t so they were happy when the Tories abolished it. The people supporting Jeremy are happy to denegrate everything the last Labour government did which improved the lives of people.

The songs on the album by TRB remind me of nothing so much as the Corbynistias seeking to win the election for the leader of the Labour party for Jez! Well if he wins we will see a Labour Party that is irrelevant to the British electorate and fails the poorest and people who most need the Labour Party.

People have talked about getting people who don’t vote to vote. What kind of strategy is that? Appeal to people who do not do something to do it. Mmmm that’ll work. What about appealing to people who do vote to vote for you and thereby introduce the changes you want? Funnily enough that worked in 1945, 1964 and 1997.

Warm sound

05/08/2015

So, as my previous post said, here I am in Leeds, earning money that has eluded me in Strasbourg, mostly because people who owe me money in Strasbourg have not paid me whereas Leeds pay me straight away, Who would have thought that universities in France would be so third world? Last year when I was here I tried to resolve a lack in my life. As I have also posted I have a number of vinyl albums which I have been cataloguing and converting to MP3 files. So I thought, I have a record player but nothing to play it through so the money I earn  I can get something. I took some advice and bought an amp and speakers but, after taking them home, which was an effort in itself, I found they didn’t work with the record deck I had so I didn’t get to listen to my records last year as I had hoped.

maxresdefaultThis year I spent some time with my parents before coming here to work and visited a record shop in the nearest town, Reading, and bought a few records. The top thing is that this time I have not waited until I got home to be able to try to listen to them. Paid before the weekend and yesterday I went into the city and bought a deck with inbuilt speakers so I have been playing the albums I bought. The first time I have listened to vinyl rather than have it playing whilst I convert it to MP3 and how fab is it? I just love the warmth of the sound again.I hope to be able to plug the deck into the system I bought last year and have it working fully when I am next home.

Cultural differences

04/08/2015

As has happened for the last three years I am in Leeds working.

Living in Strasbourg and working as an English teacher, the work at the University in Strasbourg ends at the beginning of June and there is nothing until the middle of September. Previously I have gone to the UK to work at Summer schools. Then, as for the last two years. I got a job on a pre-sessional at Leeds. A course to help people, largely female and largely from China, to get used to what is expected of them in a British university before they start a Masters in September. Not so much teaching English but, as it is known in the jargon, English for Special Purposes.

Living and working in Strasbourg has not been helped by changes to the law by the government which has cut the money people have for training, a lot of which had been used for English language training. Similarly the restrictions put in place by the university to avoid people being considered a full-time worker mean there is some work there but not lots.

The most important part though is that in France I am self-employed. I prepare my lessons at home and then turn up and deliver them. Then I go home. Most of the time there is no-one else to share ideas with and talk about what you’re going through, no colleagues. Here I am part of a team. We share an office. We talk about what’s coming up and share ideas on how to deliver our lessons. There is none of that in Strasbourg. As a teacher I learn so much from my colleagues. I also go out on the evening after we get paid, have an after work drink, doesn’t happen in Strasbourg, and then go out somewhere for something to eat and chat and put the world to rights.

What’s nice here is that I get paid at the end of the month after having worked it. Who knows when I will get paid in France. I worked five contracts in France this year. I have been paid for two. Who knows when I will be paid for the rest. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity? Don’t make me laugh. Particularly not if you are an English teacher at a French university. Despite which Strasbourg is my home and, despite being on the wrong side of the Pennines, and me born in the south, Leeds feels like my cultural home.

#happysongsaturday#3

18/04/2015

So, for the third week of happy songs on Saturday I chose one of my own again.

In 1986 I was seeing someone and we spent the summer together. She went back to university and I continued to work in the pub as we had until my expectation of my employment opportunities came closer to reflect the opportunities available to me. Or alternatively I understood I would not get a senior position in publishing, social housing.or politics just because I had a degree. I needed to get experience in the workplace.

Anyway the someone I was working with in the pub gave me a mixtape. As people did then. A tape of songs one person likes and they hope the other person does too. I liked the tape a lot, although I am sorry to say I lost it and no longer have it. What I do have is a love of this song. It just ticks all the boxes, happy song. Enjoy.

#happysongsaturday #2 (On Sunday!)

12/04/2015

Reader’s may have noticed something wrong with this post. It isn’t Saturday but Sunday I’m writing it. It’s not very good, having started something one week to fall down the very next week. I do not really have an excuse so will just have to try to do better next week. If I was to try one it would be something about the almost Annual Dinner of the English language theatre group I belong to here in Strasbourg, but frankly it doesn’t cut the mustard as an excuse. Incidentally a good evening was had by all.

When I posted this first last week I asked readers to send me examples of what are happy songs for them. I did not expect to get any response immediately. My hopes were that people might notice my little efforts over time and the occasional suggestion might be made. You can imagine my shock and pleasure to get two suggestions. So this week. #happysongsaturday is being driven by one of the readers.

Rob from Reading wrote to suggest Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson and in doing so said “It was re released I think around 87m 88 and I heard it on a jukebox in the Boars Head. It reminds me of sunshine and the swooning feeling you get when you meet a new love. I’m pretty sure the weather was hot. As you know I dj a bit and this always gets people up.”

#happysongsaturday

04/04/2015

There are a lot of songs about things that are not happy, the end of a relationship or similar. It seems unhappiness gets the creative juices of songwriters going better than happiness. But, there are happy songs out there. As part of a bid to change perspectives and look at happy songs rather than sad songs I currently plan to post a happy song every Saturday. I don’t know how long I will keep this up. Boredom or the inability to find happy songs may beat me. However I start tonight.

This song is one from my teenage years, perhaps just. I heard it afresh this week, I bought a copy of an album it was on and when converting the vinyl to mp3 I listened and thought how happy is that song. The Stylistics were not thought of as cool by anyone I knew at the time and no-one has suggested to me since that they were. I thought they had a number of good pop songs in the 70’s.(Though I didn’t say so to anyone at the time!) Clearly there is enough appreciation of their work for there to be a tribute act. If there are songs you think are happy and would like to see them included one Saturday leave a comment or contact this blog.

Darkness at the Edge of Town

16/03/2015

This week unintentionally seems to be something of a Bruce Springsteen fest. Yesterday morning I went to see an Italian film set in New York called Hungry Hearts. Of the few plot-lines it was the Romeo and Juliet of doomed lovers and JTO has just got the latest book by a favoured author of hers, titled ‘Dancing in the Dark‘ – by Karl Ove Knausgaard. I am typing this listening to my favourite Springsteen album which gives this post its title.

The film starts with the embarrassing situation of a couple stuck in a restaurant toilet after he has done a particularly stinky pooh. Clearly it is not a problem as they spend the night together. As I said they go on to develop a relationship and then she gets pregnant. I won’t go on as I do not want to spoil it for anyone who might want to see it. It was produced by Italian broadcaster RAI from an Italian book which was transposed to New York and given a Bruce Springsteen song as a title, whether that was deliberate or a coincidence I do not know. Here’s the song:

There was no connection between the two events but this week Mr Amazon came round on his bike and delivered the new book  from Karl Ove Knausgaard – I did not know anything about him until recently but today I received as a gift a copy of the first of the six volume series, ‘A Death in the Family’. Ironically there hangs the tale of another coincidence as today I saw a Norwegian film ‘1001 Grammes’ (trailer) which is also worth seeing, a gently developing tale about a recently divorced woman in the world of weights and measures, I did say it wasn’t an action film! For those who don’t remember the Bruce Springsteen song it was one of his biggest its in the 80’s:

Darkness at the Edge of Town‘ was the Springsteen album which got attention at the end of the seventies but has long been overshadowed by its predecessor ‘Born to Run’ which gave him a massive worldwide critical and popular hit and the tow albums led on to his massive success in the 1980’s, giving the titles to the film and the book. Here’s the title track:

2014 in review

29/12/2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,200 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile – coincidence strikes again

26/10/2014

This morning I saw the new Woody Allen film, Magic in the Moonlight, which, incidentally is well worth seeing. The main character, played by imgres-3Colin Firth, is described as a man of reason who has no time for there being a supreme mind which decides what happens to us and explain how strange things happen, it’s just coincidence, as he states at one point in the film. When reading the book my last post was about, on the rise to Prime Minister of Australia of Bob Hawke, which featured the previous Labor Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, as the start of the narrative. Whilst reading the book Mr Whitlam died.

Three years ago I played a part in the Steve Martin play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile for imgres-4the Council of Europe linked, Tagora theatre group. It is set in Paris in 1904 and wonders what might have happened had Picasso and Einstein met at a bar in Paris, the Lapin Agile, and talked Physics and Art whilst trying to bed an attractive woman. Picasso is also supposed to be stuck in his blue period and a traveller from the future (in the guise of Elvis Presley just before images-4he went into the army) visits the bar and helps Picasso see the future, more specifically . Incidentally, having reached middle age most male friends have at one time or another had a phase of copying Elvis, usually they do the later years white jumpsuit period, I got to do an Elvis copycat act, on stage and when he was still good looking!

I wrote here about being in Leeds for the summer working. One of the dangers being back in the UK holds for me is that I have ready and easy access to newspapers, more exactly, the weekend newspapers with reviews of books. I know I could access the same things over the internet from here in France, but I don’t I only read the physical product. Reading the reviews leads me to buy books I otherwise wouldn’t have bought. My interest in the period Picasso was in Paris at the start of the last century, ignited by being in the play above,  meant that when I saw a review for the book, “9781905490868In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris 1900 – 1910” I just knew I had to read it. The argument put forward by the book is that it was the first 10 years of the 20th Century where modernism developed rather than in the jazz influenced 1920’s which the book says is when modernism is traditionally claimed to have started. I have written previously about an interest in Modern Art and from what I have learnt from my trips to galleries this year, it is certainly before the first world war that Mondrian’s and Malevich’s ideas and style had been formed before the first world war.

So I’ve just started reading the book and there’s another coincidence. The Picasso museum (They’re French they put it round the other way) in Paris reopens after being shut for five years. Four years ago I visited Paris en passant to a visit to Bristol as I wrote about here. The Picasso museum was mentioned as one of the things to visit in the Marais area of Paris. But I couldn’t visit it. I could, however, visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales in November 2011, when on a visit to Australia, where there was a fantastic exhibition “Picasso masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris” where I got the hideously expensive coffee table top book as programme and fridge magnet.(Incidentally I only took it out of it’s plastic shrink wrap to find out the details for this post.)

Two books, two coincidences. which might of itself be something of a coincidence. What am I going to read next and will anything coincidental happen? Watch this space.

The Hawke Ascendancy

24/10/2014

I bought this book after reading the praise for this and its successor in a highly contesting review of Paul Kelly’s new book in the Monthly. 6701134Previously the only thing I had read about Australian political history were books about the Whitlam coup and his life after it, Abiding Interests or the diaries of a short term Labour leader.

So this, taking the story from the coup against the elected Labour government in 1975, through the Fraser government and into the first Hawke term was an interesting read. The story it set out as the period being the fate of three people and way it was written made it a page turner. And, even though you know the outcome it is still thrilling to see if things will happen in time or be overtaken by event. It is one of the most readable history of politics books I have read and draws a very effective picture of the time and the place with the characterisation of the people also effectively drawn. An absorbing read. I also love the title, even though it was written before they existed, it still sounds like it should be one the the Bourne films!

It also became highly relevant to be reading this, about the end of his career in Parliament and how he was seen as a loser after the coup, before going on and having further careers, at the time of the death of Gough Whitlam. It is also interesting in setting out how the Hake government differed from the Whitlam one and how that resulted in its legitimacy not being challenged. Though I think one thing that helped cause Whitlam’s government to be challenged was that it had come after 23 years of Liberal and coalition government how dare these Labor people do this “It belongs to us”. I am now looking forward to the arrival of the successor about Hawke’s further government and his defenestration by Keating.


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