Archive | September 2020

The people I could not manage without

are all people that our great leader the Prime Mendaciter seems able to ignore as if they are of no consequence. They are probably typical of all the family carers who are presently looking after very elderly relations who have been in and out of lockdown ever since this pandemic began. If I had a flag I would wave it for them, or pin it to my door, so this blog is my way of waving a flag.

The people I depend upon and depend on very heavily are my two daughters and one of my granddaughters. Here she is doing what she does pretty well every week. Proof reading. She also puts up my blog every week – as well as putting up with me! She is my research assistant, my accountant – coping with my hideously complicated tax return – and my sub-editor. At the moment, she is enabling me to cope with a very complicated middle section to the present novel. On my own I would have reached raving lunacy and given up, but with her beside me we have finally and after a great deal of hard work, completed what we call ‘the dreaded middle’.

And here are my two lovely girls, Caroline to my left with my sister Carole and Mary on the right with me. Oddly enough sitting on the same sofa. Without Caroline two things would not have happened. One is that Charlotte would not be able to come and work for me, if it were not for the fact that her mother looks after her children. But there’s also another reason. When I’d been in lockdown for quite some time, I was reaching the point at which I thought it was not going to be possible to get out for a walk probably ever again. Caroline coaxed me out. She did it as she does everything, very delicately and with a lot of tact. Now she takes me for a walk every weekend, so that rather than dreading being out, I look forward to it and that has taken some doing. Respec’ my third born darling.

Mary seen on the same sofa with me has become my gardener, because the garden it totally beyond me and my housekeeper, because although I can look after myself more or less, I am very, very slow. This too is done in her determined way and is another labour of love. Respec’ my second born darling.

And of course as he is currently telling me, I also have the services of quite a superlative literary cat, seen here assisting with our latest jigsaw puzzle. Ok Dixie, all right, you’re in on the act now. We all know the house couldn’t possibly function without you.

This entry was posted on September 24, 2020. 4 Comments

So true of Felpham, even now.

This week Felpham has been rather shaken by the news that one of the most popular pubs in the village is going to close down and much has been written about it on Facebook and elsewhere. In the course of the various conversations – a man called Aidan Bappoo quoted what Blake had said about Felpham to one of his London friends:

“The Villagers of Felpham are not meer Rustics; they are polite & modest. Meat is cheaper than in London, but the sweet air & the voices of the winds, trees & birds, & the odours of the happy ground, makes it a dwelling for immortals” William Blake to Thomas Butts, September 23, 1800

Bill Brooks answered by quoting another letter of Blake’s to John Flaxman:

“Felpham is a sweet place for Study, because it is more Spiritual than London. Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates, her windows are not obstructed by vapours. Voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly heard & their forms more distinctly seen.”

I was delighted to see Blake being quoted like this and it gave me the chance to add my seven pennyworth in the hope that it would simply be accepted and not criticised as being “political”. Here is what I said:

They’re such touching descriptions. I expect you already know that his neighbours in Felpham were fond of him because he was such a hard worker. And when he was put on trial for sedition they perjured themselves to get him off.”

I didn’t get scolded this time, which was pleasant, but my comment provoked an answer. A lady came back almost at once to say “So true of Felpham, even now.” It was a kindly and sympathetic observation, but it stopped me in my tracks and made me think. And led to this blog, because it was a perfect example of how easy it is to get hold of the wrong end of the stick. I’m sure it made the lady and her readers feel good about themselves and their opinions, but…

If Blake were suddenly reincarnated in today’s Felpham, he would have a very hard time of it, for he was not a gentle poet who wrote about lambs and England’s green and pleasant land, he was actually what we would now call ‘extremely left wing’ and an outspoken revolutionary. He wore the red cap of liberty around London during the heady days of the French Revolution, which was a daring and dangerous thing to do. And the poem, which has since become our second national anthem, is in fact a plea for a ‘mental fight’ against all the things that were standing in the way of achieving the ideal state, which he called ‘Jerusalem’. He pledged that he would “never cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand” in a promise to keep on fighting for the things he believed in. We pledge ourselves in the same way whenever we sing the hymn, although we might not all know what we are actually singing.

I’m pretty sure this sort of attitude would not go down well in today’s Felpham, where there are people who feel it is too political even to talk about what is currently happening to his cottage. Even if what is said is true. I am now so demoralised that I have almost given up trying to give anyone information about the state of the cottage.

But of course, I could be wrong. Ah “Felpham sweet Felpham”.

This entry was posted on September 16, 2020. 1 Comment

Farewell to the Fox in Felpham.

Very bad news for Felpham residents and visitors this morning. The Fox Inn which is one of the best know and most loved Inns in the village has been forced to close down.

It’s a real blow because the pub was doing so well and was such a lovely friendly place and served such delicious meals and such a variety of drinks, that it was always crowded.

It also has a very distinguished history. Our William Blake no less, drank there in the original, old building at the start of the nineteenth century, when he lived in his cottage, across the road. During my lifetime the old Fox burnt down and the present one was built to replace it, which it did very successfully. I wrote about the old one in ‘Gates of Paradise’ and picked the brains of two of the family who had lived there before the fire, so as to get the details about the old Fox right. It’s been a very close part of my Felpham existence and I know it will be miserably missed.

Thanks for all you’ve done Andy and Ali. Sad, sad, sad.

This entry was posted on September 11, 2020. 7 Comments


Let me introduce you to this nice juicy word. It was coined in the sixteenth century, if you can believe it and it means ‘foolish babbling or prattling and not making much sense’ and the people who blatter are called blatteroons!

I wonder how much they suffered from blatteroons in the sixteenth century. Not as much as we do now, I’d be willing to bet! I am absolutely sick to death of Johnson’s piffle paffle, wiffle waffle, Hancock’s blank and meaningless responses, Gove’s cunning blatteration (I do so hope he’s not fooling people still), Farage’s endless and meaningless bullying and the moronic and totally senseless ramblings of the unbelievable President of the United States.

In a TV show we would laugh at them, but these men are massively rich and inordinately powerful and they’re doing immense damage to us and our societies.

So what are they really like when they’re not showing off? I think we have to dig into their activities a bit to make sense of them. Let’s start with Gove and Johnson in the days when they were blatterating to persuade us to vote to leave the EU. According to our political spies, Gove accepted thousands from the Russian billionaires Blavatnik and Abramovitch and in addition was given £150,000 a year by Murdoch to promote Brexit and Johnson received thousands from Lebedev and Temenko another pair of wealthy Russian oligarchs and £250,000 a year from Putin via the Telegraph for the same purpose. So they may have sounded as though they were just babbling babyish nonsense and peddling lies that most people saw through even at the time, their purpose was thought out, well funded and determined. They were not what they seemed, even then.

The big and terrible problem that we all have to face, here and in the United States, is that there are so many people who actually believe the lies they were told and trust in totally meaningless slogans. The American’s who dote on Trump are still waving placards shrieking ‘Make America great again!’. Our poor dupes swallow the slogans ‘Forward Together’, ‘Strong and Stable’ ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save lives’, ‘Hands, Face, Space’ or to put it another way ‘Hands, knees and bumps’a’daisy’ Bish, bash, bosh.

How on Earth do we persuade such self perverted people to stop and think and understand how they are being used without provoking a torrent of hatred – and in the process being called ‘wokes’ and ‘snowflakes’ which I have just discovered are the new right-wing terms of abuse.

We shall find a way in the end I’m quite sure, for snowflakes, although delicate, are beautiful, complicated, individual, natural creations and if they fall at the right time and in the right numbers they can form a snowdrift. Love and strength to all you snowflakes out there. Don’t let the buggers grind you down.

This entry was posted on September 11, 2020. 3 Comments

Life in the Blitz

Today is the 80th Anniversary of the start of the London Blitz, which I saw as a nine year old child and wrote about in the book I called ‘Citizen Armies’, which is published by Lume Books who asked me if I would write a blog about my own experiences to accompany their re-issue of the book to mark the anniversary. So for once I’m going to write about something historical in which I was involved. This is it:

Me just before the Blitz began

It always worries me when people describe wartime characters rushing about like headless chickens and screaming and shouting. This all comes from films and they were made when the war was long over and audiences wanted ‘drama’. In fact, people alive and suffering during the war were deliberately very calm about it. They made jokes, they sang songs, like ‘Hitler has only got one ball’, they were trained to keep themselves under control and they did. I remember how calm we were on the day the Blitz began. The sirens had sounded but nothing much seemed to be happening, so we went out into the garden to pick apples and suddenly the sky was roaring with big, black, German bombers, at least four hundred of them, possibly more. They were flying in squadrons with little silver spitfires harassing them and they were too high to bomb us, so we just stood and watched. After a while it was obvious that they were heading for the Docks and before long the bombs began to fall and one fire after another jumped into the sky, multicoloured and very tall. When the German planes started to fly back, we went indoors and into the cellar very quickly, in case they had any remaining bombs and threw them out on us and my Gran said ‘Well they’ll come again tonight, so we’d better be ready for it. That great fire will lead them in like a torch.’ And of course, they did and from then on London was bombed all night and every night for nine long months.

So what was it like to be bombed? I was eight when the war began and nine when our street was bombed and believe it or not when those bombs started to fall I wasn’t taking shelter in the cellar – as we did every night – I was halfway up the stairs in the loo having a wee. Although the raids went on all night long, there were lulls from time to time when the bombers weren’t directly above us and the Ack-Ack was firing a good distance away, so we could run that sort of risk. But bombers move fast and by the time I’d pulled the chain and was on my way downstairs, they were right overhead and a stick of six was being dropped on our street.

Bombs make an awful screaming sound as they come down and when they explode the noise is so loud it hurts your ears. I tumbled into the hall hearing the next bomb screaming towards us and just had time to say a very selfish prayer ‘Please God don’t let it kill me. Let it drop somewhere else. Please!’ when it exploded. It was so close it shifted the ground under my feet, I could feel the floor rippling as though it had been turned to water and there was a terrible roaring sound coming from our dining room and the hall was full of dust, clouds of it, swirling and buffeting. I was so frightened I couldn’t move and I couldn’t scream. I just stayed where I was and after a while my mother and grandma appeared one on each side of me and joggled me back down to the safety of the cellar. I was shaking all over, even in my stomach.

The next morning our warden came in and asked how we all were and said the house was now uninhabitable and we would need to be evacuated again and should he arrange it. He was, as all the ARP people were, wonderfully and reassuringly calm.

The Blitz went on for another five months after that but we were in Harpenden and safe. I went back to Tooting on my own in 1944 to join up with a grammar school which I’d passed the 11+ to attend so I was there when the doodlebugs and rockets fell. But that’s another story.

Citizen Armies is available today for just 99p on Amazon.

This entry was posted on September 7, 2020. 5 Comments

An unexpected coincidence

which turned out to be a revelation.

Yesterday two apparently disparate things in my life came together. The first was reading an article in the Guardian by George Monbiot, which I will come back to, the second was an interview I gave to Irene Campbell who is organising the first Bognor Regis Literary Festival and wanted to talk to me about what was happening or not happening to Blake’s Cottage. By way of preparation Lottie and I had sorted out all the blogs about Blake’s Cottage that I had written over the past four years, it turned out there were 41 of them! So the folder we gathered was sizeable, but very useful for the interview. One of the blogs, which I called ‘Beware of the dog‘ had always seemed very curious to me. It did when I wrote it which is why I made fun of it. Take a look at the dog that we ought to beware of. I chose him carefully.

And here’s a quote from the blog to show what I’m talking about ‘This one is for twitter friends, Facebook friends, friends old and new, fans and followers and it’s a dire and dreadful warning. You must beware of me. Take heed. I am, it appears (shock horror) political!

I can hear you laughing. What on earth am I talking about? Well apparently it is a political action to stand up on my rather rickety 85 year old legs and organise a petition to ask that Blake’s – now decaying – cottage should be repaired. People in the village are being told not to join me or to sign my petition because it would be too political to do it. When that was first said to me, I have to say I laughed because it was so ridiculous. Now it is coming at me so often and it feels so deliberate, that I am beginning to think somebody out there wants me to keep quiet and go away.’

Now that I have read George Monbiot’s article I’m beginning to change my mind, for this article is all about power and how authoritarians manipulate it. He starts off with a clarion call.

‘To accumulate power, a government with authoritarian tendencies must first destroy power. It must reduce rival centres of power – the judiciary, the civil service, academia, broadcasters, local government, civil society – to satellites of its own authority, controlled from the centre, deprived of independent action.’ He then goes on to show how our present government is doing just that, just like the right wing governments before them. What he calls the ‘infrastructure of persuasion has been built since the 1950s. The model was developed by two fanatical disciples of Friedrich Hayek, their names are Anthony Fisher and Oliver Smedley, who said ‘it is imperative that we should give no indication in our literature that we are working to educate the public along certain lines” but what they developed were arguments that could be used to strip down the state, curtail public welfare and release the ultra rich from the constraints of democracy. Boris Johnson uses a lobby group called ‘Policy Exchange’ founded in 2002 by Francis Maud, Archie Norman and Nick Boles for the same purpose. It’s first chairman was – surprise surprise! – none other than Michael Gove.

One of the techniques they use, is to silence any opposition because it is ‘political’. Well, well, well. I may be reading more into it than I should, but that seems sinister to me and if I am a dog you’ve got to beware of, I’d better grow some teeth.

This entry was posted on September 4, 2020. 4 Comments