Capital or Labour


Marx believed societies developed through class conflict. The bourgeoisie controlled the means of production for money and the proletariat sold their labour into that production in return for money wages.

Which is the overriding consideration when tackling a pandemic emergency?

Today, 26 January 2021, the UK passed 100,000 deaths, a grim statistic. Did it have to be this bad? How have others countries done?

Of course, any pandemic will also cause peripheral damage, cancer or heart operations missed – possibly causing deaths– businesses wrecked, mental health damaged, etc. Any eventual report will include so many factors in the argument as to whether the UK has done significantly better or worse than similar nations. Its complex conclusions will be heralded as success by the government and a failure by the opposition

Osborne and Cameron’s response to the banking catastrophe, which can be traced to 15 September 2008 when the investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, sending shock waves through the global financial system and beyond, was to cut costs and freeze public sector pay to balance the budget or at least minimize the increase in the deficit. The pain fell on the low paid. Crudely, you could say that capital (the bourgoise) won, labour (the proletariat) lost.

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The Highs and Lows of 2020

This year, people have written millions of Christmas cards with the sentiment that 2020 was a strange year, a terrible year, a dreadful year. Yet even in this difficult year, many found glimmers of hope. Although we cancelled holidays to see loved ones, we found the slower life, typical of the fifties when we didn’t take holidays or go out for meals, to be a refreshing reminder that there is so much good all about us.

Now is a good time to look back to find the highlights amid the morass of mediocrity. The year brought unfamiliar words into everyday English: furlough, Zoom, lockdown, working from home, and COVID-19.

The highlights of my year were:

January: Britain leaves the EU at 11.00pm on 31st.

February: Keir Starmer launches his successful bid to lead the Labour Party away from the nadir of the 2019 election hammering. Global warming reminds us of its terrible power as storm Jorge brings flooding to many homes across the nation.

Storm Jorge

March: An overdue lockdown begins on 24th.

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Rugby Recalled

The team of the 1974/75 season

Everyone passing threescore and ten becomes more interested in the past. What twenty-year-old would look back? At that age, the world is one’s oyster and life is there to be grabbed with both hands and shaken like a rag doll.

With the passing years, things change, memories weaken, joints stiffen, arteries clog, each breath exchanges less oxygen than the breath before and despatches become more important than hatches or matches.

The problem with old age is that you run out of friends. Grab every opportunity, I say, to relive old memories, laugh at former errors and drink to absent friends with current ones. Today, we have silent still photos to prod our minds and pique the memory. We can recall ‘with advantage’ in a way that may well be denied tomorrow’s children with their videos and audio.

We all have particular associations which will last with us; school, university, regiment, sports club, etc. Before Facebook wiped the earth with its American power and rich functionality, Friends Reunited proved to be a popular platform for reminiscence. We can find so many friends on the Internet but there’s no substitute from meeting up in person.

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The Dying of the Light

I watched Donald Trump’s news conference held today, 6th November at 5 am GMT.

The tie had changed from the red of the war god Mars to insipid stripes of indifferent colours, the face had turned from orange to ashen and the voice had become is less strident, even if the demands remained stubbornly the same. His statements rang less true.

Donald Trump is dying in a way Dylan Thomas forecast seventy three years ago.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Prophetic words indeed as the forty-fifth generation of the Father the of the Nation is removed and passes away into (relative) obscurity.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The Reunion

Introduction.

Thirty years after his degree in Business Studies in France, Peter Cuthbert and his wife Janet are invited to a Reunion Ball on a Saturday in May. Gaston Cahour, the de facto leader of the Group Fourteen, additionally invites the other members of the group to a dinner at Le Lapin on the night before the ball. Over dinner, old times are fondly remembered, until the untimely death of Marie-Louise is recalled.

This book is now available for Kindle readers from Amazon. Click here

How the world changed after global wars and might change this time

 

Virus attacking a cell.

How a virus infects a healthy cell.

A century ago, my grandfather fought in a Great War from which he never returned. Not only did the war change my family forever, but it also changed the world. In Russia, the Bolsheviks took over. Germany faced not only the greatest inflation ever seen but also the resignation of the Kaiser. ‘I commend the German Reich to your loving care,’ he said when abdicating to the new Chancellor of republican Germany. In Britain strikes reached and all-time high in 1921, only to be bettered in 1926, and the Labour Party gained an unshakeable position in British politics.

In less than a generation, the world was at war again. My father survived and went on to live a full life. Determined to stop future world wars, nations bound together by forming the United Nations within six months of the war’s end.

Today, and past my allotted span, the world faces a new global war, but this time we are all united against the common foe, a virus named SARS-Cov-2. We have had global pandemics before. The word quarantine derived from the 40 days used to try and prevent spread of the Black Death in the 14th century. In 1918, Spanish Flu, so called because the Spanish press reported it, caused Britons and Germans to die in the hundreds of thousands but neither side wanted to confess its existence lest it weaken their position in the eyes of the enemy. They were at war. Spain was neutral. Continue reading “How the world changed after global wars and might change this time”

Climate Change and Education

Thunberg

She is on strike, refusing to go to school…

On 25 July, Europe from Spain northwards burned. Europeans sweltered, hiding behind closed air-conditioned doors or splashing in pools and rivers.

The heatwave broke records across the continent: France 42.6ºC, Netherlands 39.4ºC, and Germany 41.5ºC, even Britain registered it highest July temperature.

The day before in the British heatwave, the Queen turned on an air cooler, no air-conditioning in Buckingham Palace, so that Boris Johnson would not sweat too much as he greeted her with his request to form a new government!

In the Swiss Alps, a massive undertaking to cover the melting Rhone Glacier with white plastic sheets has been undertaken. Laughable really, like sticking plasters being applied to the sides of the sinking Titanic. Continue reading “Climate Change and Education”

Old School

parliament

He wasn’t old school, he wasn’t Oxbridge, he was a lad from Tooting and a redbrick university.

Chapter One 

1 February 2016

Pembrokeshire, home to the wild cliffs of West Wales and castles from the time of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn…’ Deirdre Fairbrother snapped the radio button off. She’d heard too many wonderful Pembrokeshire stories, if it was so wonderful, why didn’t more people live here?

Outside, the morning light, which could often be fickle, was clear and luminous. It shone into her artist’s studio. She liked days like this when she was alone with her oils and canvas with nothing on her agenda except her usual visit to her aged mother later in the afternoon. Loading her horsehair brush with a mixture of chrome yellow and magenta previously stirred on her palette, she touched the canvas again, and again more strongly, before standing back to observe the subtle change in her summer landscape. The season was well past now, but she worked with care at her rediscovered joy. Bit by bit, she was starting to rekindle her original love of painting, which she had foolishly set aside when she and Peter had started their family thirty-six years ago.

To read more go to Old School on Amazon

A Really-Smug Story

a really smug story

Once upon a time, or olim as our scholarly protagonist Jacob Really-Smug was prone to say, there was a young country boy living on one side of a large river. From his countryside home he could dimly see in the distance the Big School across the estuary.

Each day he’d walk to his small country school, only to be bullied by the bigger boys because he was a bright teacher’s pet and he wore glasses. He hated games the most. Fearful of getting his knees dirty and scared of being kicked below the belt, he detested football with a passion which far exceeded that with which his classmates supported Rovers or United or Hotspur, the teams on the other side of the river. Worst of all he had to take off his glasses to play, so he was even more disadvantaged in the game. He hated football. Continue reading “A Really-Smug Story”

Beijing to Chongqing

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Francis’ Family in Tianamen Square

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu.

Our journey nearly faltered at the first step. In the comfortable Titan chauffeur-driven Mercedes beside Ioan and Anita, we sat in a motorway jam. We were going to miss our flight. However, thanks to the mobile phone and the responsive Titan employee, Jo Kavanagh, we were re-booked on an Emirates flight via Dubai and we would arrive only a few hours later than originally planned.

During the trip, I was about to experience so many new superlatives, greatest, biggest, longest and the door to door journey time of 32.5 hours was the longest I had ever undertaken. We arrived in the Landmark hotel at 00.30 on Saturday 13 October in the company of the most helpful guide, Yang Zhen Xiong, who preferred his “English” name of Francis. Continue reading “Beijing to Chongqing”