Archive | August 2016

Fantasy, satire or fairy story?

Let me take you into a secret enclave where the rulers of a democratic nation are discussing a review of the parliamentary boundaries in the country, which is due to take place next month and which one or two of the press are already calling ‘gerrymandering’. The leader is well pleased with the planned changes, whatever the press are being foolish enough to call them.

‘It should not affect us unduly,’ she tells her colleagues. ‘The odd seat here and there, but with any luck up to 30 Labour party seats could disappear altogether and that is 13% of their total number. Which would be to everybody’s benefit. However the electorate tend to be hideously unpredictable as we all know. They vote on a whim and can be swayed by almost any argument. It doesn’t seem to matter how false a premise it might present, providing it is presented strongly enough.’

Her colleagues murmur agreement. ‘So now,’ she goes on. ‘Perhaps we should put our minds to what can be done to achieve a – shall we say – more favourable electorate. I would suggest to you that there are some sections of the population that have not earned any right to a vote. People in prison are an obvious example, but there are, as I’m sure we will discover when we discuss it, plenty of others.’ 

Her colleagues are happy to be helpful, after all, nobody wants to be elected out of office when steps could be taken to prevent it and a fickle electorate is plainly a dangerous entity. As one of them puts it ‘there is altogether too much nonsense talked about universal suffrage. Why should everybody be given a vote just because they happen to be alive and they’ve reached 21 or 18 or whatever limit we’ve set?’

‘Quite,’ the leader agrees. ‘So what is to be done about it?’

They begin to make suggestions. One of them wonders whether students should be required to earn the right to a vote, perhaps by the administration of a considerable fee for them to register ‘which should sort out some of the more objectionable.’ 

Others have other ideas. Perhaps it would be sensible ‘to raise the age of the suffrage back to 21 or even later’ if the opposition would stand such an idea. Perhaps people in hospitals should be excluded from voting, after all ‘they could hardly get out of their hospital beds to go out in the cold to a polling booth. That is a very unkind thing for us to do to them.’ Another mentions stay-at-home mums ‘who have far too much to do looking after their children for us to force them to trail down to a polling booth.’ And then there is the matter of the elderly. They are all sure that everything should be done ‘to make the lives of the elderly easier and less complicated. Whoever heard of anything so unkind as to require old men and women who can barely walk to stagger out and vote.’ And as to old men and women suffering from dementia, they should ‘plainly be beyond the bounds of the suffrage, because they don’t understand what is going on.’

Oh yes indeed. These would all be acts of mercy and compassion. The flights of fancy continue happily, they are caught up in the dizzying satisfaction of boundless power.

A fantasy? A satire? A fairy story? Let us go back to the beginning and see where they started. For we must remember what is actually happening now. It is called a ‘review of the parliamentary boundaries’, which freely translated means ‘with any luck up to 30 Labour party seats could disappear altogether and that is 13% of their total number.’ 

Oh steady, determined and long suffering Chartists. Oh steady, determined and long suffering Suffragettes! Where are you now when we need you? Must we have another Peterloo massacre? Another martyr?



This entry was posted on August 31, 2016. 4 Comments

Summer by the sea

I met up with three trustees of the Blake Society yesterday. It was a very enjoyable meeting because we all got on so well and at the end of it one of them asked me if Blake was happy when he lived in Felpham. I told her, he was and quoted his words ‘Felpham sweet Felpham, all heaven is here.’ But I had to admit that by the time he left the village he was rather disillusioned with it and was glad and relieved to get back to Lambeth.

Now here I am back on the coast again and feeling very, very happy to be here, I have never stopped being fond of Felpham and missed it sorely when I was away from it during the war. It really is ‘Felpham sweet Felpham,’ to me, and I find it beautiful no matter what time of day it is and what the weather is doing.

I swam from these beaches when I was young and sit happily beside them now that I’m old. And thinking about it has made me wonder, how many others feel the same sort of affection for a place. There must be millions of us. Is it any wonder I defend Blake’s Cottage so passionately?

No news of that incidentally, at the moment, but I will pass on whatever news there is as soon as I get some.


This entry was posted on August 24, 2016. 1 Comment

What’s happening to Blake’s Cottage part 4.

This is simply to keep those of you who are concerned about Blake’s Cottage up to date as far as I can.

The first thing to say is that nothing has been done to the cottage at all, despite the fact that Mr Johns (one of the triumvirate who own the cottage) assured the Bognor Observer that they were expecting to receive permission ‘in a few days’ from Arun District Council for repair work to begin. That was back on June 16th which is now more than 2 months ago. There is still no sign of a planning permission notice outside the cottage nor any indication that repairs are about to start.

The second thing to say that although we are now playing a waiting game, I have not been idle. I have spoken at length to Mr Lydford and his wife and know a great deal more about how badly injured he was when the wall fell on him. He tells me that he has had no communication at all, either from the owners of the chalet next door (who owned the bulk of the wall), nor from any of the triumvirate of the Blake Cottage Trust who owned a section of the wall that also fell down. That seems extremely heartless to me.

The third thing is that I have managed to visit one of the active members of the Felpham Village Conservation Society and listened to what he had to say to me about it. Which was very interesting.

The fourth thing is that I have written to Mr Andy Camp who is currently the chairman of the FVCS, detailing my concerns over what is happening or not happening to the cottage. And I am now waiting for his reply.

I am, in short, keeping the pot a-boiling. I hope there will be more to tell you in my next.

If you’ve found anything out please tell me so that I can pass it on.













This entry was posted on August 17, 2016. 2 Comments

Beauty in the eye of the beholder? Or not?

Some years ago, I found myself at a party, sitting with one of the guests and his brothers, listening to them talk. I found it decidedly comical because although none of them were even remotely what you could called handsome, they were all complimenting one another on how good looking they were. ‘Well’, one of them said eventually. ‘Is it any wonder? I mean, think how good looking Dad was.’ At which I had to get up and pretend I was off to the loo because that was too funny and too incredible. I’d always thought that their father looked like Bela Lugosi. But it made me think of our criteria for beauty.


To my eyes, the gorgeous Monroe had a face that told a story, quite exceptionally beautiful but with a touch of vulnerability that made me want to rush across the Atlantic, put my arms round her and comfort her. How silly we are in our adolescence! Yet when I came to read about her early life and all the things she’d had to endure as a child, that vulnerability made sense. It didn’t dent my own, rather conceited belief that I could read faces and recognise beauty rather well. Yeah. Yeah.


Of course, my own children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were all quite touchingly beautiful.

To be gazed at in the open, rapturous way of the very young or to watch a toddler absorbed in

something new, is simple delight. Perhaps simple delight feels like beauty. Or is it because our love for them clouds our ability to see whether they are beautiful or not? They are ours and we love them and they love us. What more could any of us want?


In Macbeth, Shakespeare gives King Duncan a speech which begins ‘There’s no art to find the minds construction in the face’  and although I’m a great admirer of our greatest poet, I have often wondered if he really was right about this. Can we tell what a person is like merely by looking at their face?
When I was a child the very best adult in my life was a remote relation who lived in the same house and loved me dearly. I always thought of her as lovely, loving woman. She was caring, gentle, a source of wicked mischief and very, very beautiful. It came as quite a shock when somebody discovered this picture of her, years after her death. It had been taken at a family wedding and was, as you see, grainy. And I had to admit then and with some sadness that she wasn’t beautiful at all, but really quite ordinary. It didn’t alter the way I had always felt about her but it brought me up short. Her beauty, really was, in my beholders eye.

This entry was posted on August 12, 2016. 1 Comment