Ramsay MacDonald, the pacifist first Labour Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was the father of Ishbel MacDonald, who married my great-uncle Norman precisely eighty years ago. Ramsay MacDonald has been condemned by many, but I wonder where British society would be now without such a trailblazing personality. For my part, I am glad to know that such an intelligent and far-sighted individual added something so positive to our family. I intend to add to the legacy. A few videos are attached:
A plaque that I re-discovered in the High Wycombe museum commemorating the death of my great-uncle Charlie in the Great War is being reinstated at the Methodist church in his home village of Bryants Bottom on Armistice Day, not far from where I was born.
I never knew uncle Charlie but I would like to think that he would not have approved of the present-day slaughter of innocent people in countries like Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria…
If commemoration of atrocities means anything, then we can hope that the death of those like my uncle Charlie Ridgley leads to love, life and peace.
I walked into a bookshop in the university town of Coimbra last weekend and felt really pleased for about thirty seconds as I looked along the shelves…
I so, so want to enjoy being in a bookshop and feel that they are worthwhile and a book-buying renaissance is forthcoming…
Books – and bookshops – are so lovely and so worth having…so much a part of who I am…
Here is a daring truth to admit: I have not bought a book from a book shop for… What?… Six – maybe seven – years or more! Tell me, why would I? What would I buy? Jamie’s ‘One Hundred Recipes in Zero Minutes’; JK Rowling…some kind of moribund thriller about somebody being tortured and executed by a psychopath for no good reason other than my supposed amusement; a political memoir…doh!
Where is the fiction..!
I have been in my local Waterstones twice in the same amount of years – to buy calendars as Christmas presents…and that’s all.
One look in the window is enough to turn me off…
Really, very, very sad (to quote an orange-faced American president…)
Bring me books I want to buy…
Publish books I want to read…
Right now we are staying in a converted stone barn in central Portugal and I am watching a tiny lizard scampering along the top of the concrete edging which separates the outdoor terracotta tiles from the burnt grass. Preparing camarão for lunch earlier while listening to an old ’69 recording of Duane Allman / Boz Scaggs combined on a blues workout got me to thinking about a time when I was in a similar situation, staying in an almost identical stone barn in central France not long after the annual grape harvest had concluded, just as it has already in Portugal this year.
The time of year was near enough the same, with hot late-summer temperatures folding into cooling autumn days and encroaching star-filled nights. We – a new-found friend and myself – had travelled up from the Beaujolais district on a train with Tigre, who we had met while working in the vineyards, and were staying in his friends’ vacated property. Amongst the album collection were a stack of blues rock recordings, most notably those of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which seemed never to leave the turntable and whose sound dominated the barn interior while melding into the surrounding green hills and endless heat-filled days.
The big difference is in the times, in every sense of the word.
Back in the late-seventies you could believe that the world was actually going to become a better place to inhabit, no matter in which part of the globe you lived. Sure, there was already the growing North-South economic divide, and both the post-colonial states and pre-empire USA had proved themselves willing to go to any lengths in order to secure their influence in foreign countries around the world. Both elected and non-elected elements in these states were continually plotting murders, coups and mayhem which they felt would sustain and develop their ascendancy. The Chilean coup by General Pinochet, supported and financed by representatives of the USA, and subsequent dismantling of democratic societies around the world by use of force, along with the rigging of financial institutions (as outlined by the discredited Milton Freidman Chicago school of economics), was the model successfully adopted and imposed on an indoctrinated and gullible public.
Prior to these simultaneously planned and meticulously orchestrated seizures of political and economic power, the mood music – the times they are a’changing mentality – actually had some resonance. Which is what scared the ‘planners’ in the first place. Which is why they introduced their dissonance. Which is how we have come to be in a world that appears to have taken several steps backwards along the road of progress rather than continued moving forwards.
Back then in late-summer France it would have been impossible to imagine a global corporatocracy being fronted first by a Hollywood B-list actor with incipient dementia, followed by a string of downright corrupted or toady characters, leading to the most insane public choice of all in a three-times bankrupted celebrity TV star real estate magnate of dubious moral standing by the name of Trump. Not even K Dick had come up with that one.
Just as there has been external change in hopes between these times, so has there been internal change taking place (that said, had world events continued on a trajectory which appeared to be leading to further freedoms and international cooperation, the internal would have better mirrored the external. Instead, there has been both convergence and divergence).
In the first place, an internal psyche first shaken and even unhinged by the monetarist and militarist takeover of two predominant social orders – the US and UK – rallied to the point of discovering and asserting perfect harmony within and without. This took years of concentrated study, only to be followed by dismal years of disappointment leading to busted ideals and broken dreams. Time both covered up the cracks and buried previous idealistic hopes – whilst also furnishing many opportunities for growing relationships built on trust and love. But what had seemed certain at the outset – that love and contentment would develop in equal measure to a far more equitable and peaceful world – at last appeared hopeless. Not naïve, just hopeless.
And now, looking out at the summery decline of another year to a backdrop of sixties and seventies freedom-loving and politically-inspired white blues music…?
Yesterday morning we were woken to a particular sound…and understood precisely what had happened… Phone calls received from a sister-in-law on my wife’s device are announced by a programmed ringtone; so when Motown blared out at seven-thirty a.m. as we snoozed in bed what had been half-expected became finalised.
“Dad’s died! Dad’s died!”
Naturally, this news has harbingered a whole slew of thoughts and emotions concerning the very bedrock of life itself. We all have our own views about what happens to the human being after death – my own are clearly laid out in a sequence of eight novels which I started writing that summer after my stay with the French hobo Tigre in the stone barn following the year’s vendange – but whatever we may believe seems hardly important against the very first and very real impact arising from the knowledge of the death of a parent, which is an event that can only happen twice in any lifetime. A human being that gave you life is now departed.
And so now here we are living temporarily in our stone barn situated in central Portugal amongst the olive groves of the village…
For me, at least, I’d say the big difference between the time spent in France that late-summer and the time spent here in Portugal is exactly that – : time. Whereas there seemed so much of it back then – in fact time felt limitless and so therefore did freedom and all possible outcomes – now, all these years on, with failed dreams and busted hopes, insults and amassed injuries, that self-same time seems somewhat curtailed, contracting and diminishing, ever-shortening as the final event horizon draws ever closer.
After an unintended, extended and unwanted hiatus staying in my beloved home county of south Bucks, I finally hit Spanish shores and headed on down in the van to where I am now living for a while in central Portugal.
Such joy to be inhabiting a converted stone barn within olive groves in this Portuguese village; in the garden are grapevines, fig and orange trees, and the surrounding hills are densely-wooded with eucalyptus and pine. The skies are blue through the day and glow orange on the western horizon before turning yellow in the fading evening light.
I even got to work on my new novel this morning before going to the local market and working out where best to buy salt-cod, garlic and oil for the soon-to-come autumnal dinners. Right now, it’s still warm enough to sit out and eat on the veranda, but there is no mistaking the shortening hours of daylight and the need to close shut the doors before settling down as night falls.
With any luck I’ll really get stuck into the typescript tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’ve made some changes to my Author’s Page at Amazon in order to try and better explain just exactly what my writing over all these years with limited success has been all about:
People have sought knowledge from ancient to modern times, while authorities have tried to conceal this knowledge from them. This process continues even now: the secret services protect state agendas; religious leaders control their power base. Why? Because the truth will set you free. This is the Serpentine Myth: the complicated paths used to prevent transmission of true knowledge. The books available on this author page will take the reader step-by-step through this latticework of deceit out to the vistas of full comprehension.
A case in point:
This evening we completed a binge-watching session of Wormwood on Netflix, the story – as told by his son – of how Frank Olson, an American citizen, came to be murdered by the CIA in order to prevent him revealing details of the USA military’s development of a biological warfare programme known as MKUltra.
Over the coming period of time, I expect more and more people will become more and more aware of how they accept information that simply isn’t accurate; as this happens, acquiescence to the authoritarian line will become more and more unacceptable and there will be a greater tendency to react in a positive manner – to the detriment of those who peddle untruths and outright lies.
RIP James Gilligan, my father-in-law, 1925-2018
On the one hand you’ve got the City of London and its utterly unbelievable shenanigans…
And then there is the likes of Planet Gong and its utterly unbelievable shenanigans…
Please, let’s work this one out…
Hawkwind meets Mike Batt is probably one of the battiest combinations anyone could think of.
But here we are with ROAD TO UTOPIA
And get the album cover with its equally batty image of a most perfect Englishness almost unmatched since Pink Floyd decided to go quaint with Ummagumma. Along with the flying saucer, Cosmism remains alive.
Quark, Strangeness and Charm turned into a Brazilian rumba that would get any party started, is the opening track. Robert Calvert will be turning in his grave…if in fact he is dead and not merely play-acting…
The beauty of all this for me is that our old-time fave psychedelic band Hawkwind is on Cherry Red Records who in turn now sponsor Wycombe Wanderers.
A perfect circle.
Just had a real Proust moment…
Cooking up a tortilla and preparing a salad at my folks’ place, tearing up a lettuce leaf I recalled a tube of Heinz Salad Cream lying in the cupboard for…oh, I don’t know how long.
Who uses Salad Cream anymore?
I remember the two boys who were my so-called friends that lived either side of our first house way back coming out one summer day each holding a big broad lettuce leaf literally plastered with Heinz Salad Cream. It just looked so good!
Back then, you didn’t get a second chance. We didn’t go into each other’s houses and because I hadn’t been around at that moment, I missed out.
Not this evening..!
I just had a healthy dollop!
Oh, my – a lettuce leaf with Salad Cream. What a treat!