The Catalan Referendum – The Impasse

europe in the 1800s

The European Political Map Before the Unification Movements of Germany and Italy

Doesn’t the path of the thread of history look obvious when viewed through the lens of time? A hundred years ago the actions and subsequent reactions of states or politicians seem obvious. Events which so troubled our forefathers are taught by the simplicity of a needlewoman’s thread and as the embroidery becomes a tapestry and we see the pattern so clearly that even the simplest student can follow it.

But look into the future and the clear patterns distort, the threads tangle. After hundreds of years of association and unification, do we face, in Europe today, the first cuckoo of the spring of disunion? Continue reading “The Catalan Referendum – The Impasse”

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The Catalan Referendum

IMG_3956

…the ballot papers – in three languages, Spanish, Catalan and Occitan.

George Orwell said of the Catalans, “I defy anyone… not to be struck by the essential decency, above all their straightforwardness and generosity.”

What he saw in 1935 is still present today.

Straightforward decent people want the right to vote on the most important issue- the issue of how they should govern themselves. Yet the Spanish government does not want to engage in the debate – rather it prefers to deploy the Guardia Civil, whose faces are hidden behind perspex shields to kick and punch peaceful protesters and to attack and beat with truncheons ordinary citizens and old ladies in a crude attempt to dissuade them from congregating and voting. It seems they have learned nothing. The power of the masses will not be thwarted by a few policemen, however belligerent.

Continue reading “The Catalan Referendum”

Letters from Kolentawezi Jail

air mail letter

‘More than kisses, letters mingle souls’ ~J Donne

It was hot. It was always hot near the equator. Watson paused over the paper before deciding how to start the letter. The crude pen felt slippery in his sticky hand. He dipped it in the bottle of black sludge, supposedly ink. Would this be his last chance? Would it solve his problem? With a bold stroke from a hand powered by a hopeful heart, the squeaky nib wrote:

‘Dear President Olanta,’ he had always started with ‘Dear’ even though sometimes people were not necessarily ‘Dear’.

‘Sir, I am not guilty of the murder of Honest Nyrere. I plead with you to take a look at the case. I have never used a gun and so my fingerprints could not have been on the weapon found at the scene of the crime as the prosecution claimed. I was sleeping in my apartment two miles away at the time of the murder. The police arrested me on the evidence of a man, Alfred Chimbonza, who owes me money, a lot of money, 40,000 licugi although he’ll deny it of course. He is lying.

I am a too-easy target. Please help me.

Yours truly, Peter Watson.

Kolentawezi Jail’ Continue reading “Letters from Kolentawezi Jail”

Haverfordwest

Haverfordwest

      “It’s my town now, warts and all.”

Haverfordwest is a long name for a town,

It’s as though you’d need directions

To find the place without a frown

Of despair. It has aged connections

With Eleanor of Castile, Edward’s wife

Who liked the place and bought the castle.

There was some dispute, some strife

But the King’s the King – so no big hassle.

Her holiday home, opulent and grand,

O’erlooked a priory, all Dominican,

That skirted the river and it’s sandy strand.

Black they wore, but now it’s an inn again

On Castle Square abutting Victoria Place,

Built in 1839, for estate agents and banks.

By Owen’s Bridge – it made a packet- gave him grace

To rise above the humble throng and join the ranks

Of noble gentry fine and dandy. The old quay

Stands neglected today, no Bristol trade

Comes its way, no French wines tariff-free

Arrive. It’s long gone away, weighed

No more on the iron scales of duty.

The river’s a trickle in these dry days

Only the incoming tide could allow any booty

To come ashore on concrete cracked and crazed

Before the modern council building ersatz

Bastion of the county. It stands so stark,

Slate-grey conical roofs sit like witches’ hats

On towers of primrose yellow beside a park.

It’s my town now, warts and all.

The brass belfry-bell of St Mary’s says with zest –

For Cromwell never shattered that hall –

‘I do my best for Haverfordwest.’

What the Media Missed

david-goliath

…David Corbyn took on and felled Goliath May.

On 14 June, George Monbiot wrote an article in The Guardian: ‘The biggest losers? Not the Tories but the media who missed the story’.

Yes, if you live, like the media, in a hall of mirrors, you will only reflect not detect. Speaking with like minded people will yield no new insights.

The 2017 election was truly amazing. Labour had been in internal chaos merely months ago. The party was so weak that even the there-will-be-no-election Theresa May decided to call one to “strengthen her hand” in the upcoming Brexit talks. Few people had seen a greater Conservative lead in the polls. They stood on 44% on 17 April 2017; Labour on 24%. The outcome a forgone conclusion predicted the media.

But in the intervening seven weeks, the party which had been in chaos reared up like a Kraken from the deep and shocked everyone. The legendary creature that resembled a giant squid destroyed ships. Well, it destroyed her ladyship all right. Continue reading “What the Media Missed”

Election Parallels Previous Conservative Error

2017 general electionMacDonald (the eventual Labour Prime Minister) with his heady Utopian internationalism was the perfect voice for the Labour party. For MacDonald read Corbyn,

Is this 2017 or 1923? The parallels are eerily similar. Theresa May should have been a student of history and not geography, or perhaps she should have got a first at Oxford. Another second on her CV doesn’t look good.

But why 1923? Continue reading “Election Parallels Previous Conservative Error”

“We Are All in This Together”

Were al in this together

No one knows at twenty, thirty or forty what their final days will be like.

In 2009, George Osborne delivered those words to the Conservative Party Conference as he announced a pay freeze for public-sector workers (which is still in force seven years later) as well as savage cuts to the welfare state. And we laugh at that now, but the tragedy is it still affects millions today.

Now we have “Strong and stable government”. The Tories, those masters of spin who could persuade turkeys to vote for Christmas, are deceiving us again – you can fool some of the people all of the time is their mantra. They have made a dramatic wealth grab from the weakest and sickest who need social care. Their only crime is to be ill or worse suffer some chronic condition such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or dementia… the list could go on but I am no doctor.

Continue reading ““We Are All in This Together””