Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Michael Rosen’s Getting Better. Really Useful Knowledge for our times

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2023 by kmflett

Michael Rosen’s Getting Better. Really Useful Knowledge for our times

On one reading Michael Rosen’s Getting Better could be described as a self-help or self-improvement book. He looks at ways of coping after various setbacks in his life.

There is a good deal of fascinating autobiography of a life lived on the left mixed in as well.

Many will know that Michael Rosen was hospitalised with COVID in 2020. He narrowly escaped death and still has some impairments from his experience. Here I can compare directly. I was in hospital for two months in 2022 with a lung condition. It wasn’t COVID indeed I found myself in a locked ward of the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff specifically designed to keep COVID out. Four operations and at least one Lazarus moment later I was discharged and gradually recovered. Michael was kind enough to send my occasional greetings on social media during that time.

It leaves you, as he notes, as yourself but perhaps not quite your pre-illness self.

Rosen looks at the time when he was a BBC Trainee but ended up being sacked (encouraged to go freelance).He later discovered that the sacking was nothing to do with his competence but related to his left-wing politics. He was blacklisted. Yet the experience left him doubting for a time his capabilities and capacities.

A chapter looks at the sudden death of one of his sons, Eddie, and (it could hardly be a Michael Rosen book without this) a discussion of their love of Arsenal. The pain of loss is evident and yet it has to be coped with and points and actions taken from it.

He also looks at the researches he has done into his family history, a global diaspora as so many have,  beyond the ken of politicians like Suella Braverman. She is noticeably cool about why its so important to remember and keep remembering the holocaust. Perhaps she should read the book and find out what happened to some of Rosen’s forbears

Michael Rosen has been a political activist at least since he went on CND marches in the early 1960s. Not really a party political person but a campaigner trying to make a difference. That is a key theme of Getting Better too.

The slogan the personal is political  was common on the left in the 1980s and while the slogan is heard less the approach remains. It annoyed William Morris a lot in the 1880s and it remains an issue. Can you change the world by not eating meat, or dressing in certain ways or taking cold showers? Perhaps you can but the chance is that this will simply end with capitalism selling you things to help to achieve your aim.

Rosen is clear that while there are lots of things you do need to consider and do individually, doing things with others- collective action- is important. He talks about his membership of the UCU trade union and the battles there have been at Goldsmiths College where he lectures.

There’s a lot more in Getting Better. It is Really Useful Knowledge for our times, and well worth your time in reading it

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Socialist History Seminar Mon. 13th Feb 5.30pm. John Foot on the Left & Italian Fascism

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2023 by kmflett

London Socialist Historians Group

4th February

Contact Dr Keith Flett 07803 167266

Socialist History Seminar Mon 13th Feb 5.30pm. John Foot on the Left & Italian Fascism

John Foot is the author of Blood and Power. The rise and fall of Italian Fascism

Monday February 13th 5.30pm John Foot, The Left and Italian Fascism. Violence and Victims?

Free on Zoom

Book https://www.history.ac.uk/events/left-italian-fascism-violence-victims

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My Hairy Valentine 2023 launches with dual focus

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2023 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

4th February

Contact: Keith Flett 07803 167266

My Hairy Valentine 2023 launches with dual focus

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has launched its annual search for My Hairy Valentine ahead of Valentine’s Day on 14th February.

In 2023 it includes two categories:

1 Beards that are sexy, allowing for the reality that this is in the eye of the beholder

2 Beards that are loved because they add a reassuring presence to public life and should be celebrated.

There will be a round covering each category with the winners of both contests sharing the title in 2023

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, we know that not all beards are sexy, think Ted Cruz, but at Valentine’s each year we celebrate those that are.

Beards that are  loved

Kris Kristofferson

Brian Blessed

Michael Rosen

Mooen Ali

Beards that are ‘sexy’

George Clooney

Idris Elba

Jofra Archer

Tom Jones

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Edward Guinness 1924-2023.Understanding the Beerage

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2023 by kmflett

Edward Guinness who has died at 98 did not get a knighthood or a Peerage and there is no direct link to support for the Tory Party yet his long life (Times Obituary 3rd February) does illustrate what is meant by the Beerage- the once powerful brewing lobby in British life.

Guinness was the great-great-great-great nephew of Arthur Guinness and after a spell in the Army entered the family business. By the early 1970s he had responsibility for the Harp Lager brand and was a Guinness Director in the 1980s retiring in 1989.

He was a keen cricket fan and member of Lancashire CCC. When the 1970 South African cricket tour of England was cancelled because of apartheid, a Rest of the World series took place instead. Guinness arranged sponsorship and presented the winners trophy to Gary Sobers

From 1956 he became part of the Duke Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Conference and went on to become Chair of the UK Trustees. He attended Prince Philip’s 90th Birthday party and regarded him as a visionary.

He married Elizabeth Thompson the daughter of Alan Thompson Chairman of Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries.

Quite a life…

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Once again on the price of beer. Tory austerity versus the community

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2023 by kmflett

Once again on the price of beer. Tory Austerity versus the community

The price of beer is in the news again. The impact of the pandemic years and the war in Ukraine is pushing prices up. Black Sheep Brewery in Masham have announced a 19.5% price hike from the end of February. I haven’t seen any corresponding pay increases anywhere btw

The general points are around increases in the cost of raw materials, production (i.e canning) energy and the impact of Brexit. Of course businesses traditionally make such points as much as I as a trade union officer argue for wage increases.

If the price of beer goes up, does it matter however? After all no one has to drink it, and numbers don’t. The reality is that the price of beer forms part of the Retail Price Index so it is an important economic measure. I suspect though this is notoriously difficult to prove, that the price of beer has outstripped wage increases over a lengthy period. One outcrop of that is the success of Wetherspoons where you can find a pint of cask beer for as little as £2.29 a pint in some places.

That said the price of cask beer has increased significantly in recent times. I was in a beard friendly Bethnal Green pub on Sunday where the well kept good quality cask bitter was £5.50 a pint. You can still get cask for under a fiver in London but Spoons aside its not that common.

Historically beer was considered part of the normal diet for many workers involved in heavy industrial or agricultural labour and was one focus for the ‘standard of living’ debate about whether living standards fell or rose as industrialisation proceeded after 1800.

More specifically thanks to a Malt Tax first introduced to fund the country’s wars in the early eighteenth century, the price of brewer produced beer was considered to be high by the first decades of the nineteenth century. It also made the cost of home brewing a traditional practice, prohibitive.

E P Thompson in the Making of the English Working Class reports a letter from a magistrate in 1816 arguing that the Malt Tax would lead to revolution. In fact numbers of unregulated and unlicensed premises circumvented the law. Reality intervened with the 1830 Beershops Act that made the opening of premises specifically to sell beer much easier and much less costly.

Expect the controversy to continue, though Assizes of Ale, Government assistance to brewers and price regulation would all help. If the pub is the hub for many, keeping warm and being part of a community, then beer prices at levels that far exceed wage rises is real issue and concern

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The real cancel culture. BBC cuts Autumn Watch

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2023 by kmflett

The real cancel culture: BBC cuts Autumn Watch

The media is full of celebrities and others claiming they have been ‘cancelled’ often because they have asserted their right to make bigoted and reactionary statements. They are not of course actually cancelled or we wouldn’t know about it.

By contrast there is the real cancel culture where views outside of the mainstream, dissenting perhaps from the values of a market capitalist society struggle to find an outlet. Its not a new thing. The historian E P Thompson was complaining about it 60 years ago.

In that framework the BBC has announced that Autumn Watch one of three seasonal programmes that look at changes in wildlife and the environment has been cancelled. More resources will be put into Spring Watch and Winter Watch. This is good news the cancellation isn’t.

The cause of course is Tory spending cuts to the BBC. Public Service broadcasting doesn’t fit too well with the market society. While the Watch programmes do of course focus on wildlife and the natural environment  the impact of climate change while not the headline can’t be avoided and it isn’t.

Hopefully the decision can be reversed. There is a petition

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February 2nd is the start of Spring in the traditional calendar

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2023 by kmflett

February 2nd is the start of Spring in the traditional calendar.

We’ve taken back control but don’t expect to find Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage tweeting about Candlemas which is the religious name for the day in the Christian Church.

It represents in the Christian calendar the end of the period after Xmas and the beginning of the time when the days are starting to get lighter. That meant, for example, beginning to put livestock out to graze on farm land again after winter confinement.

Of course the weather is often dreadful in February and March but you have to start somewhere.

Candlemas relates specifically to the tradition of lighting candles in churches on the day which was banned after the Church split under Henry V111.

In any case as with many such festival the Christian Church had appropriated it from other religious and non-religious festivals at the same time of year, notably for example St Brigids’ Day held on 1st February:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigid_of_Kildare

Typically while St Brigid’s Day was celebrated with much eating and drinking on 1st February, ahead of Candlemas bread and water was the dictated diet although that was relaxed on the day itself

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Strikes & the cost of living

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2023 by kmflett

Looking at the BBC News website I note a post by Faisal Islam headed ‘will the strikes ever end’. I don’t expect he wrote the headline as the post points to inflation at 10% while public sector pay offers have been mostly at 2% with some edging up to under 5%. That means a real pay cut for millions

Islam argues that the issue is that the Government which is the ultimate paymaster in most of the disputes will not sit down and negotiate settlements with unions. Indeed the Tories strategy is to push through yet another anti-strike piece of legislation in the Commons. A class war strategy and one co-ordinated from 10 Downing Street.

The legislation won’t stop the strikes though because in the 12 week period to 22nd January food price inflation was at 14.8% with milk and eggs showing particularly shop increases. I don’t expect Rishi Sunak the richest MP in the Commons knows how much a pint of milk costs but I’m most people struggling to make ends meet at the moment do.

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Big Coffee is bad for you

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2023 by kmflett

Big Coffee is bad for you

I don’t drink much coffee (usually no more than a cup a day) but when I do I prefer it to both taste of coffee and have a decent caffeine content. There is the slogan, first coffee, then revolution but I’m not sure Marx and Engels were keen (they did like cigars).

A survey by Which (which means it’s not promoting something) shows that the global coffee chain Starbucks sells the weakest coffee. Starbucks also has reactionary politics as a company. Pret does quite well on caffeine, certainly not a model business, but not Starbucks. Greggs also does well. It is fully unionised.

Perhaps as with beer the answer is to find an indy coffee shop where you like the coffee, give it your custom and sod Big Coffee

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Fletters to the Guardian 2022 & January 2023

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2023 by kmflett

Fletters to the Guardian 2022 & January 2023

Each year in early January a correspondent e-mails me details of those who have most letters published in the Guardian in the year just gone.

An edited summary is below. The correspondent tells me that as recently as 2020 22 Fletters were published. That of course was a time of lockdowns so perhaps more time was available.

Anyway I continue to write letters to the Guardian which are sometimes published. This may come as a surprise to those who tell me they used to read my letters. I still write, but do they still read.

Finally once again its mostly if not entirely men, with or without beards. Progress in history can sometimes be very slow

I take particular note of your “frequent flyers”, namely, correspondents who have multiple letters published. The winner this year (Letters Page 2022) is a bright spark from Devon with 12 letters*. The runner-up with 11 is the UK’s most epistolary narrowboat “Gordon Bennett”. In third place with 10 letters each come a Liverpudlian and a bearded regular (who has been ill this year and is now hopefully fully recovered. In 2020 you published 22 of his letters). A Fr comes next with 9 followed by three frequent flyers with 8 apiece – a figure equal to this year’s entire output from Hebden Bridge.

*Toby Wood points out that he also had 12 letters published in 2022

First Fletter of 2023 (10th January 2023)

Jonathan Freedland is right that the debacle of the 15 rounds of voting it took US Republicans to elect one of their own number to preside over the House of Representatives underlined that they are a party not of political power but of disruption. Just like the Liz Truss interregnum here, however, the disruption has a purpose. It is certainly not to govern in the interests of ordinary people. Rather it is to secure political and financial benefits for their friends and allies.

Keith Flett

Tottenham, London

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jan/10/todays-rightwing-populists-aim-to-disrupt-not-to-govern

Second Fletter of 2023 (30th January)

Dear Editor

It is rare for a Tory Minister to wear a beard so amongst other things Nadhim Zahawi has now managed to bring the hirsute into disrepute.

regards

Keith Flett