Now And Then

Eight thoughts

Reality

So.. Who are the candidates to lead Britain? Who are the best candidates? Well, let’s see. For the next five years, unless there’s a revolution in thought among the average Brits, or someone comes out of nowhere as a Statewo/man, and wows everyone with statecraft, there are only half a dozen or so potential Statespeople. The perception these days is that we have to go for comparative youth, because that’s where the energy is. That’s not always true, because you need experience as well.

The party in government right now are to the right of traditional centre. Some of them are far right, and because the statesmen among them would be seen as devisive, we have to exclude them completely. That would include Rees-Mogg, John Redwood, David Davies, Iain Duncan-Smith and Bernard Jenkin. Then there are a load in the middle who are to some degree nondiscript. Among the leading group, there are very divisive figures, like Priti Patel the hanging judge, Gavin Williamson, Grant Shapps, Hancock and Gove, who is a born traitor with dodgy eloquence.

Raab is nowhere near to being a statesman yet, he’s a nervy lawyer way to the right, and Sunak sounds like a decent kind of a man, but I don’t know him yet, and he has no real experience. So we’re left with the leader. Absolutely indisputably, they need him. There is no one else.

Yes, you can now say that Kier Starmer is a big chief, but really he’s just a big pinko, and the people he’s gathering around him are of his own cloth. The left of the Con Party are in the same political space as the right of of Lab. There but for fortune. How many of their personal best intentions float around the centre ground? Where are the revolutionaries among them? They are all staid, middle of the road good British people. A lot of them on both sides tend to be a bit damp. They stood for election because they passed all the social tests, and the country voted for them. That’s the system. In 1967 I sang, “The worst thing about the system is the system”, and that still stands, but that’s an almost invalid conversation. We’d have to go back well beyond Cromwell to sort some of those ingrained ‘national’ proclivities. ‘The System’ is ‘of’ us, and it’s been scewed and developed by hundreds of arguments and crises for over a thousand years. We’re in the middle of another right now.

So, a revolution of sorts did happen in Dec 19, though it couldn’t please most of us. What happened was that the majority revolted against the parliament, because the parliament had Not listened to them for three parliaments running. Parliament had point blank refused to acknowledge, and then obey, the people. It was as if the people didn’t exist any more. Parliament farted about with three lots of being hung. Finally the people took over. They maybe weren’t the people you wanted, or the people I wanted, but for sure, the people of Britain needed someone to listen, and more importantly, to hear, and to understand.

The battle was fought out in parliament between those who wanted, at long last, to listen to supermarket workers, trawlermen, ex miners, teachers and unrated small business people – and those who couldn’t get off the pot. The country was Very divided. It was dark; wasn’t it? With very loud voices clammering outside parliament with megaphones for years on end. Then, straddling the maze of political in-fighting, betrayal and reset he had to mount, one man came through. No one else in his party was able to. They were all too timid, or too extreme.

There were opportunities in the other main party, Labour, but no one was brave enough to take them. If, for one moment, Corbyn had seen the light, and offered, genuinely, to form a coalition with May to put a soft Brexit through, I would have thought that would have been it. I would have congratulated him, and we’d still be tied to Europe. Literally, that would have been good enough for me and millions of others, but that wasn’t good enough for Corbyn or McDonnell. They wanted the impossible. Corbyn couldn’t let go of the old Labour stance on Europe, which was to Leave, which I’d been part of, and McDonnell followed him into the fire. It was their only chance of power.

Johnson toured the country before the election, and discovered that the people needed someone to rescue them from eternal division. His biggest calculation was predicated on ‘What do the majority of people say they need?’ He needed to know, because he needed to know where the base was. A lesser calculation might have been based on how much he had to lose. Not much. Some people gave him an earful. He walked through that. He took a lesson from the floods, and practical joked with a JCB. In the end, he blew the rest out of the water. The righteous screamed old screams, but if your head was cleared of factional bad habits, you automatically thought along the lines that there were six hundred rudderless citizens sitting in the only parliament the British people have that represents everyone; and one man who has the political clout to go for it. There wasn’t another solution that wasn’t pie in the sky; and there wasn’t anyone else! And the nasty anti-Jewish thing going on in The Labour Party put a seal on it. That’s the reality.

Boris Johnson

I noticed that there were responses to my post of the 22nd March. They were written in the right spirit for these times, but perhaps a few of them need to be addressed in the current climate. I don’t want to criticise any comments. I’ve never done that, and besides, the current emergency dwarfs any nit-picking by anyone, including myself. This is a time to pull together, not for ploughing up ancient politics and fowling up your own online neighbourhood streets with personal effluent. There’s no time for that. This will be the same throughout these islands. The Scots are in a slightly different place, because the new version of their own labour party, the SNP, voted to stay in Europe. The leaders in their party were sold on the issue. Unluckily for them, their counterparts in England had been under the ‘unrepresented’ cosh for longer, and many who were suffering wanted out. (Of Islington and Europe).

So, I’ve written a few words to try to bring you up to speed with where I’m at now, hypothetically, or where I’ve been traveling to for the last few years, and particularly with regard to British politics and culture. 

There’s been a bit of blowback at my mention of Boris Johnson. Well.. I have to say that Johnson has been all kinds of naughty boy in his time, using bits of racist language in his early days, and being generally unpredictable and absent on the job throughout his career. His behaviour has been loose, and he’s been at times economical with the truth. He’s a comic character and a free spirit. His career as London mayor Was generally successful. He brought people together. He’s probably hurt people, and been selfish, but he also brings a smile to an occasion. He belongs to a privileged class, but he’s a born adventurer. I’m not his biggest fan, but he’s a social liberal, and always has been. If I was forced to describe myself without affectation or rumour, I’d consider myself to be in the same bracket. 

His enemies, mainly in the capital and in the lynch mob on Twitter, generally foul-mouth him, but to be fair, he’s not some kind of loose fascist. His actions don’t ever seem to be spiteful or anti-social, like some people try to infer. I’m not going to endorse his every murmer, who would? I’m just asking some people to stand back from sounding like the front page of the some lurid tabloid pantomime. Or some front pages of the Daily Worker. This is Britain, and Guy Burgess is dead. Be reasoned about what’s actually possible. The country doesn’t always need to be run by John Major, Gordon Brown or James Callahan. A lot of his comment is satirical, which comes naturally to him. That seems to be an innate quality. It’s not always PC either, which is why I sometimes appreciate his style.

I think that he’s been very clumsy with the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe affair, and in supporting Erdogan in Turkey, and absolutely wrong to be onside with Erdogan against the Kurds. That’s unforgivable, (although we have to be aware of the geopolitics between the West, Turkey, Iraq and Iran), and I can’t see myself in any of those political positions, but I still think that he’s the only man for the job in the current parliament. His energy is obvious and boundless. I wouldn’t be comfortable with any of the rest in charge. It’s too serious right now. We need someone who’s been in charge before.

The rest are all a pack of ditherers, and we’d be back to cynicism. On the opposing benches, Starmer is a pale version of a technocrat, and uninspiring; as a speaker, he’s little more than perfunctory lawyer; and not many of those who consider themselves as ‘leader’ on his side of the aisle would actually come close to being up for the job. There’s no one there who you could say embodies the national spirit as well as Johnson. Lisa Nandy is probably the most honest the opposition has; at least she absolutely knew what was happening before the election. The rest of the opposition were seemingly delusional. 

Actually, Johnson’s liberalism has slightly let him down in this current situation. He’s been loath to lock the country down, or use the police until recently, for instance. He should have shut down earlier, (I was shut down at home here on March 3rd), but that would have been against his religion, and might really have tested the population to failure by now. It’s easy to echo the Twitter terraces, and call him a c**t, but d’you really think that that’s intelligent criticism? Or correct? Or serves any purpose other than to show yourself up as being intolerant, utterly uninformed, and opposed to anyone except who YOU would want to take the reins…! The howling Twitter mobs didn’t decide who should lead Britain, neither did the ‘old’. The people decided they’d put their trust in someone who was energetic enough to end the dithering. 

Covid 19, Parliament and Johnson

There’s a lot of hardship being experienced at this moment, particularly by people in medicine who are working hard to rescue as many of us as possible, and what needs to be understood, is.. (and IMO, nobody actually says it like it should be said, ie… ‘Whatever you do today will be reflected in the number of dead in three weeks time’). In any responsible society, care has to be taken with the most fragile lives. Locking an entire population down obviously has to be timed, and is fraught with difficulties and questions about liberty versus martial law in civil crises. 

From a ‘free will’ libertarian standpoint, it would always have been about trying to pick the right moment to secure national approval for urgent mass action.. To repeat myself, Johnson has always been a social liberal; he was always going to do this by committee, and he’s the only PM we’ve got. The recent clique of Hammond, Gawke, Leslie, Grieve, Swinson, Starmer, Corbyn, Woolerton, Soubry and Letwin, etc., actually put him there, and they’ll carry that with them into history. Still dithering. Enough roy! No need. Stupid boy.

Johnson’s not personally been heavy handed during this emergency. That’s not his style. He WAS operating according to the science, although the scientists then questioned the route they were taking, and seemed to change course at the very moment that the world suddenly needed whole body PPE, and found themselves at the back of queues that they could have been at the front of!.

The fact that there shouldn’t be a queue is another bucket of worms. The scientists thought that they could do it an easier way, by letting the population do it – by becoming mildly sick and developing so called ‘herd immunity’. That has nothing to do with Johnson, unless you think that he ought to be chief scientist as well as PM.

However, it seems that when they checked the modeling, and reassessed the disease, its virulence, and the oncoming statistics, it probably became very clear that too many more were likely to die under the ‘herd immunity’ strategy. It would seem to be that the consequences of that U-turn have left more medical staff in danger of infection, because the position they could have had in the queue for chemical agents/materials and PPE had been relinquished; and the consequences of that are that there are now less of those materials available in the ‘market place’. Johnson isn’t going to blame the scientists for that. This is a journey that we’re all taking together.

It may be that the route through science needed more testing! Apparently, a test of the NHS’s capacity to deal with a pandemic was tested in October 2016. It was called Exercise Cygnus. Between Oct ‘16 and March 30th 2017, it was decided that the NHS had failed the exercise. Theresa May’s government failed to follow up on that. Jeremy Hunt, the then health secretary, obtained a total of £b28, after that, for the NHS, but how much of that was spent on respirators and PPE? More importantly, perhaps, how much heat was there in the Brexit debate at that time that deflected from the necessity to address that failed exercise, as well as other national exigencies? How loud were the voices that obliterated the urgent need to address a national health problem – that would surely have had more visibility but for such blocking and shrieking!? We’ll never know…

Reminder

If you’d been reading my blogs for the past few years, you will know that while I’d publicly supported leaving Europe for 47 years+, I didn’t vote Leave because my granddaughter wanted to stay in Europe, and it’s now her world. I wasn’t going to negate her vote. My first estimate of Charles De Gaulle – (Potential EU progenitor at the time) was made in the 40’s and 50’s, when I was a boy. The impression he left on me has always guided my subsequent scepticism.

‘Rebels’, General Election 2019, Prevous Blogs and Friends

I appreciate what Johnson has done in giving Europe no further opportunity to plunder this particular island with impunity. Plus, it will be up to Europe as to whether they want to do a deal or not. I don’t particularly want to walk away, but the boot has definitely been on the other foot since the last election. A deal with Europe wasn’t going to be possible until all the faffing around and very public obstruction of parliament had been brought to an end by the 2019 election. As you will know, the (mainly Metropolitan London) Establishment/parliament, had to literally be sacked. 

It’s now become possible for a decent deal to happen between what European partnerships are left standing after this economically disastrous disease has run its course. Which may take years. Just to make this clear, I haven’t regarded the eurosceptics as being The Establishment for at least a couple of decades now. How could they be? They’ve been fighting the Establishment for at least twenty years. Similarly, the word ‘rebel’ was, for 3 years, being used to describe people, (above) who were clearly establishment. It’s people like me, and the average ex-miner, in our own very small way, who are the rebels, not people like Philip Hammond or Dominic Grieve.

Rebels my arse, they were stuck to Europe like clams! Apologies for that show of wroth, but you couldn’t get more establishment than they were. (You heard this here first. The appropriation of the word ‘rebel’ to describe people who were as straight laced as it’s possible to be, really angered me for 3 and a half years! Propaganda by a state that’s now being gradually deposed. Fake nomenclature! Misnomer. Cognitive dissonance again, up the garden path). My own view of politics was mangled in this process. I obviously didn’t belong where I thought I did! It was very disappointing. When Johnson won, I didn’t want to gloat. I didn’t want to score any political points. Far from it, I was displaced, and a bit lost.. And again, for the umpteenth time in my life, there’s a chance that I’ll be disowned. For realising what was going on, and writing about it. And having an opinion that’s not fashionable in what used to be my own circle of friends and acquaintances. 

I’ve documented a lot of this in previous blogs. They’re in folders denoted by year, not by title. There aren’t many of them. They all mark a particular time. (Not all the titles are obvious and selectable. Some of them are hidden under the first blog written in each year. From memory, I think that 2017 is one such year, the first essay being in the January of that year, and the rest, of that years’ blogs, underneath it).

I tended, increasingly, towards the end of writing those blogs, to want to withdraw, (from writing them), because my perception was that it wasn’t my world any more; that my world was elsewhere. They’re now ancient history. Non-the-less, I’ve made copious notes since, and recorded hours of radio and tv during this last 4 years. If I ever have to write the book, rather than writing the songs, I will. Hopefully, though, it’s now in the past, and we can move on. Please.

You can open up a discussion about freedom of movement if you like, but I think, increasingly, that after this pandemic, that might well become a mute point. Actually, possibly a white elephant. Please, let’s move on. I no longer want to write about this. Or be confronted with it. If the vote had gone in the opposite direction nearly four years ago, it would be virtually dead now. At least for a whole generation. I don’t want to talk about this any longer, let alone write about it, but I find that I’m having to defend myself. Largely for owning up, and being honest about my opinion. I don’t want that any more. It’s an encumberance. I need to think about something else.

China and Too Many Questions – Testing For Covid 19

Because of a typical, obvious and outrageous health issue, China has partially destroyed its major markets, or – taken a ‘Great Step Forward’… take your pick.. And presented the human world with a new threat. Will they be held to book? Will anyone mention anything to them at all. Will China’s trading partners insist that they no longer attempt to cross bats with anteaters? I’ve heard it said that the Chinese will eat anything on the table, except the legs! Am I in trouble again for this comment? Is it racist? Xenophobic? Or is it just old fashioned humour? Who knows anymore?… Will a treaty be drawn up? Which nation will betray the treaty first? Life will continue. Hiding from the continued attack of a swarming, mutating, myriad tentacled, massive alien. Now and then.

Life is all a matter of perception in any case; and a fantastic experience, in lockdown or not. 

I’m just as confused as anyone else about testing for the disease. There seems to be enough agent/material to make tests, otherwise they wouldn’t be constantly saying that they’ll ‘ramp them up’. Is it a question of manufacture? How can government completely standardise kits that are being made in small amounts by by a multitude of manufacturers? Is that a problem, and if so, why? Where does the responsibility lie for efficacious testing product between a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, a laboratory, a hospital and a government? 

Are nations secretly fighting nations at the back doors of chemi labs? Is money talking again? Is there really enough agent/material to make millions? Have they changed strategy again, because they’ve re-modelled another course? Is there an element of the agent/material that’s difficult to obtain? If so, are they not telling us for political reasons? Or moral considerations? Is an element being blocked? What kind of bottlenecks exist? How suspect is the science? Has it already changed? Are the politicians protecting the scientists? Are they seeing something no one else can see, because of particular science/modelling? Is the picture still too confused? 

The government are about two days ahead of us in terms of announcements of stats etc. Is there a sudden rush to the West Midlands that we’re not being told about yet? What expedients are being utilised? Are areas being treated differently? Is a partial experiment naturally being presented to the scientists, because what happened in London can now be modified in the West Midlands? Or The North East? Or Blackpool South? (As opposed to North). This doesn’t smell so much of incompetence, rather more like timing between tests for the disease and/or later, better tests for the antibodies. 

Because I’m not a scientist, I don’t know how much the one might interfere with the other if they were being used in the same region but in different processes. What happens if you test negative to the antigen, but you then have antibodies? Presumably, the test for the antigen is wrong, is it? What might the science be saying? I’m thinking right now that they don’t have tests that are 100% accurate, either for antigens or antibodies, and as Prof. Chris Whittey said this afternoon (last Sunday), they need time yet to be able to harvest the better antibodies that’ll build up in the population in a few weeks time, (from those people who have had the disease).

Although there’s been a switch of tactics, there remains a general consensus on the strategy. Anyone who has not been following government advice delivered by Chris Whittey, Richard Vallance and Johnson are endangering their community and their country’s forward progress.            

This Page, and Political Point Scoring: and Europe

This page was NOT particularly set up as a political soapbox. And in particular not to alienate the great majority of the population. It was set up to impart a lifetime of wonder and reflection. Often it does stray into opinion, but I always make the effort to try to be as factual and even handed as I can be. It was not set up to perpetually bark into any particular tiny political corner of so-called civilisation, nor to polarise people.

And especially not at a time like this, when social cohesion is at its most needed, and thoughtful actions are the order of the day. The more you try to score a political point, the more you should be ignored. (I’d really love to ignore some of the things I’ve written; about 14 paragraphs back. I probably need some kind help). I see and hear all kinds of people dying to score political points all day long right now, but unless they attempt to bring actual help with them, emotional or practical, they are just being bloody minded and really boring. 

There are known culprits. Some of them skulk around on pages like this, others droop around in parliament, while other drones are in receipt of high honours, or in other prominent places. Whole areas of Twitter are awful places right now. So unbalanced. As if Kier Starmer could take over, wave a wand and less people would die! If I could interrupt the groaning righteous Twitterfeeders for one moment with one message right now, it would be GET A GRIP! The minute I see or hear doom mongers and lurkers making political points now, I turn the sound off the radio or TV. I won’t name anyone. That would destroy the whole point of writing these last two paragraphs. This is a time when the pot needs to call the kettle quits.

Well, that is, except for Trump, who has now completely resorted to type, becoming a PPE pirate, by invoking what he called the Defence Production Act. 3M, who make the masks in the US, are not pleased with him. Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA)

That such an idiot should be wasting the space he stands in every day to read out lists of his favourite ‘companies’ is an indictment of the nature of the species. He’s nothing to do with me!”, I hear you cry. Mm.. But tonight I had to agree with him. For once. Boris doesn’t need to be sacificed. There’s no one in that parliament, or, I’d vouch, in these countries, who can unite people like he’s going to be able to do. He’d be a great loss. He’s the only one who has authority. He’s the only one who has the authority of the people. You might think that I’ve gone mad. That I’m demented, but a majority of eighty odd seats in any British parliament tells some kind of a story.

I don’t often go with the majority, but it’s not like that. They just happen to have landed where I’ve been since 1948, when I first heard what Charles De Gaulle was saying. With unmistakable contempt. As a matter of fact, he was right. (About the mismatches between British and French culture, way of life, values, politics, sensibilities and attitude). He’d got to know us because of the time he’d spent here during the war. And although ‘Les Anglo Saxons’, (he included the Americans in that), had freed France, neither side trusted the other, which was to go on for much longer than my boyhood. And is in large part due to the haughty arrogance of De Gaulle. I was spat on twice, in my hitch hiking days in France, “Bosch!,” one of them said, under his breath. I had blond hair and blue eyes.

(I would visit France again, given the opportunity. France is a beautiful country, and French culture is a mainstay of historic Europe, plus there is much to see, take in, and admire. This has no bearing on my Euroscepticism. Added 31/4/20).

Think Before You Move..

There is much disagreement underneath this furious Twitter society at present, but let me just say that there is only one Prime Minister, and like him or not, the small ‘c’ conservative working population, most of them ‘left’ of traditional centre, put him there. In view of ‘Cognitive Ambiguity’, they had to. Sometimes I don’t like him, but he’s a hands on guy whose modus is to get stuck in. He’s obviously been so stuck in he’s become infected. He’s what they call ‘a good ol’ boy’ back in Luthersberg, with an good grade in ancient literature.

10 Downing St wasn’t designed for social distancing. Nor was he…… …I can hear you thinking. Some of you. …well don’t go there. Pointless.. I’ll maybe try to address it, but right now, he’s stolen the workable bits of Labour’s playbook, and he’s left of Blair. And the world HAD to change. Didn’t it? And Rishi Sunak could be a breath of fresh air. ‘Could be’ is a good phrase, isn’t it? Absolute licence. I don’t trust many of them in that party. Same with the other side. 

Finally, good luck everyone; pull together and be well. Don’t take any chances. Think before you move. Be aware at all times; i.e., never forget where you are, or what you’re touching, or what’s around you. Try not to be so distracted that you forget about the poison that’s around you. Wear gloves, and a mask if you can, and disinfect everything at the door, including the gloves. I’m holed up until there’s a vaccine. 

PS. I’ll never vote Conservative, nor Labour, and certainly not Starmer, and the satsumas have gone off. They’ll have been in the bowl too long in a couple of days. I’d vote Green.. perhaps.. Mm, maybe.. … white sticks.. again.. (next blog). I’d vote for extinction, if it was on the ballot, especially if I could be guaranteed the survival of the spotted flycatcher in my locality. They’ve not been here.. for many a year.. now.

From scribblings started on April 1st 2020

PPS. Over the last four years, I’ve become apolitical – one issue at a time. Tonight I’m going to down a wee dram for Boris Johnson. I wish him back to full health ASAP. I never thought, five years ago, that I’d say this, but, To Boris! (That was last night. I wasn’t going to post this, but I decided that I had to).

Time!.. Ladies and Gentlemen, Please!!

How many warnings do people need?

For weeks now we have watched carnage. And no one seems to be that bothered! At the end of January, a disease sprang out of China. The reasons for that might get a mention later on, but the fact of the matter is that right from the get go, it seemed pretty virulent to me. Enough for me to be put on alert.

By the beginning of February I was looking for protections that we might need. I thought that we’d need masks, protective gear and food. I already had about ten tins of mackerel and sardines, and we usually have some food stocked in. After weighing things up for a few days, orders were made and a few masks arrived on the 9th February 2020. I’d figured that one of us might have to go out once a week to replenish supplies. Another thing that I’d thought was that everybody knew what was coming.

Wrong. I’ve started a blog three times, but abandoned them, because I’d thought that they sounded a bit too authoritarian in their own mild way, but there is now no point in holding back.

I saw two young men on tv on Friday 20/3/20, who were obviously having great fun with the interviewer indicating to her how clever they were, grabbing this last night of the pubs being open to actually get out there and have one last bender. And breathing heavily into the microphone! In fact, they were six feet tall ten year olds. Actually, I do ten year olds a disservice, they were being stupid, and they were going to stay that way.

So what were they doing? As they galloped off into the pub in the blurred background. Basically, they were helping to destroy their own health service. They were mixing closely with at least fifty other people and exchanging various winter bugs and a few other social bits and pieces. As one of the most virulent viruses humanity has ever known was busy spreading in their midst. It would be an absolute miracle if that virus was not passed on to anyone in that pub that night. A miracle. And I have as much belief in miracles as I have as winning all of the lotteries on earth next Saturday.

With thousands of pubs open that night in London, all doing the same thing, there would have been a delayed spike being caused in the admissions to hospital beds… later on in the month, into the next month and beyond.

As all those people dispersed that night, how many of them spoke to an adult in a confined space in the following week? How many of them saw their Mothers on Mother’s Day? So there are already thousands of carriers. Now there are thousands more. How many of those new carriers saw older people during the next week? NO.. OF COURSE NOT! we’re not there yet! But we will be. THIS WEEK!

So how much more will the NHS be tested next week? And how many will die? ‘I’m not really that concerned.. well.. I am, but’…., I hear you think!? Because you’re young, and immortal, and it’s not really going to touch you. Nooooo, you don’t really think like that; do you? Of course not.. You couldn’t be a killer, could you? You could never really do anything like that.

WAKE UP! you’re killing people. You’re forcing deaths to occur in your own HSE///NHS. Some of the older medics, doctors and nurses won’t survive this, because you wanted to go to the pub. Your civilisation will be more fragile, because you wanted to go to the pub.

Some of you have wanted this to happen for years, because the system is seemingly so corrupt in a lot of places. I’ve been one of you. Like me, some of you want to change the world completely, but I don’t want to be complicit in killing people; actively or passively.

You are at present weakening your society by not doing your best to curtail the spread of this disease. Yes, we might build up immunity to it in time, but what about NOW? The Government has been far too liberal about this. Boris is a decent, liberal kind of man, but he needs to stamp more authority onto this immediately. His instinct is for laissez faire government, which is all very well in ‘peacetime’, but if he wants to relate this to being at war, as he does, then he can’t carry on not quite getting to absolute lockdown when he knows that it’s going to end up there in any case.

Perhaps the government think that it’ll be kinder to go for lockdown incrementally, but that’s just wasting time, and lives. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS NOW! The whole of Europe must now be focused on complete lockdown for everything except essential services. Everything has to be better organised. The tenets of socialism must be temporarily embraced, immediately. We know how it works. we have it in places.  Draconian ‘socialism’ at its most extreme must be utilised for the next few months. Everyone MUST betaken care of, regardless of cost. Price can never be put on life. 

Social distancing must be enforced. The longer this is delayed, the longer it will go on for. If you want to continue to live in virtual prison, then continue to mix ‘freely’. Continue to drink together in secret places. It is absolutely useless trying to deal with a merciless giant killer in dribs and drabs. 

As an easy analogy: we can imagine that if the whole of Britain had had enough foresight, the tribes would have come together 2000 years ago to defend Britain against the Roman invasion, but they didn’t think big enough, because they couldn’t. They had no prior knowledge. No actual experience. They never realised how big the threat was. They couldn’t. It was impossible for them to have had such foresight. The same with the North American tribes.

It’s now 2,000 years later. We now have the experience. This current threat is huge, and it’s ongoing. Today, Tracy is making us masks. She’s sewing some of it by hand, because she can’t use her ancient sewing machine to do some of it. 

Remember, hindsight is a fine thing. We must get there NOW. Or start to beckon drastic societal change. Some of us might want this, but we are NOTHING LIKE PREPARED FOR IT. And I’d like to help to preserve as many of my friends and associates as I can.

So by continuing to gather in crowds, you might be getting one step closer to beckoning a chaos you don’t survive. BURN THE WORLD!! (1982)

It’ll be better off.. in the long run..

What world?

Last Orders! Ladies and Gentlemen Please!

Euphemisms abound…

Post Tour Thoughts…

I’ve just completed the most enjoyable tour I’ve ever had. It was done with a remarkable group of friends and musicians. As usual, sometimes I wasn’t quite up to the mark, but they were always there for me. I’m perhaps being hard on myself in saying this, but I’m always hard on myself. It’s a necessity.

It was a great pleasure to be on this tour. We were four men and three women, and the mix was really conducive to working for each other. It’s always been difficult for me to be in a band. What I do, or rather what I’ve done in the past, has always been difficult for others to be involved in. Some of the statements are so singular, or so singularly political, that it has always been very difficult for me to invite other people onto a stage to effectively share in the delivery of thought that is often so deeply personal.

Working for each other is really inspiring. There was no crossed wiring. When I look at us, we are all leaders of sorts, and we are all willing to learn from each other. Fiona Brice is a brilliant composer, arranger, accompanist and friend who excels in any number of ways. Vicky Mathews adds such depth with her cello that she would always be a necessity in any future plans.

It would have been impossible to think of playing songs like ‘When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease’ and ‘Highway Blues’ without the help of Ryan Jacob’s trumpet/flugelhorn. Beth Symmons is a great bass player, and so versatile that I wonder why she’s not already in an award winning set up.

I watched Anthony ‘Anto’ Noonan in Clonakilty for the last ten or fifteen years, and thought that he was the best drummer around. On the tour he came up to the plate. It was a winning experience for both of us. Finally, Bill Shanley is a great guitar player and a good companion of the stage. Without fail, he does his best to dig me out of some of the spots I would otherwise have ended up in. All together, we are a free-hearted and fun loving group of people whose intentions for each other are exemplary.

Perhaps it helps that the three women have known each other for years, but in any case they are the life and soul of the group. They’re so positive and helpful that my confidence in what we’re doing has grown exponentially. What a tonic for an old stager! Every day was a delight.

Anyone who shares a stage with anyone else is effectively in agreement with what is being said or enacted. Humility naturally has to place itself in the forefront of any shared experience.. and I found it very useful to be completely aware of the responsibility of my position at all times.

Perhaps my biggest problem has always been with myself, in terms of what doesn’t quite come off on any given tour, but the patience of this group of friends with my verbalising and engagement with the audience was, in equal measure, both inspiring and humbling for me.

I accept that people don’t come to a purported musical evening to hear someone speak, but I’ve always felt that unless I say something about the inspiration for the songs, then I’m leaving people with only half the story. Very often a song is a précis of a chain of thought which would be too pedantic to expound in full; when a line or two of the nature of the original thought in sung poetry can be much more succinct: and a speech in ad-libbed prose can expose the depth of feeling I originally had for the idea.

By the by, I also have to admit, at long last perhaps, that in order to minimise the brain fades and loss of concentration that I’ve always had.. if I play in public again, and particularly with others, it will be better for everyone if I have some kind of autocue to get me over the hump of the road blocks my mind often creates for me. I can have no problem remembering the 19 verses, 11 choruses, and 1 release passage of ‘McGoohan’s Blues’, but when it comes down to the simplicity of ’Time Is Temporary’, often my mind isn’t even in the same postcode as the building. 

The worst of it was before ‘Cricketer’ one night when I started to think about the instrumental in it, and where I had to end on the right chord… and where that was… and then .. blimey, I’d forgotten the first line. The real problem was that I hadn’t rehearsed the song properly before the tour! I’d played through it a couple of times just to make sure that it was still there, without playing the instrumental through. I HADN’T LISTENED TO THE RECORD! Not once.. And not for ages.

So that when it came to rehearsal with the band, a big problem started to become obvious. I was ending in the wrong place! Then, as usually happens, I learned the mistake! As I started to play the song that night, I remembered the mistake. I was trying to think about how NOT to make it again….. I thought through the musical sequence.. Then..  I tried to start.. I wanted to go back to the beginning, but I couldn’t. I was obsessed with not making the mistake…. and I couldn’t get to the first line of the song.. Until I’d consciously emptied my mind..

My life has been like this from the very beginning. Ever since I’ve known me, I’ve been unable to stop tripping myself up, all the time. Often I castigate myself for it, and royally, but the flip side is that this urgent meander has given me all my songs, which are all interruptions to the broadcast of daydream and self realisation that swamp me from dawn till dusk and beyond. I’m sure that if I was investigated mentally, it would now be a ‘known’ ‘condition’, but I don’t know that I’m that interested to find out what someone else’s opinion of what I ‘have’ could possibly mean, except that it’ll probably result in more songs being written…

Before I forget.. I have to mention the brilliant help that we’ve all had from our support team. Tracy is a stickler for organisation with an infectious laugh. She often has to crack the whip, but it’s easy to get a smile out of her. Darren is an old and trusted friend who’s been there and back with me for a few decades now, and John Fitzgerald has grown from being a young lad I once knew who could help me to record, to becoming one of the most respected sound engineers in Ireland and beyond.

Finally, I think that it’s quite possible that this group of people have enabled me to find myself, at last. Strange, but in what I thought were to be among my last moments on a stage, I’ve been inspired by the players to perhaps get it together to come out with them again. I’ll have to work hard for a new record, and when it’s completed, we’ll have to see. Leastways, at this moment, I’m smiling again.

🙂

The Last Tour

The tour that I’m about to embark upon will be my last tour.

Planning life at this stage isn’t that easy, because while I feel quite fit and healthy right now, I might not be in a year’s time. This isn’t morbid. Not in the least. By choosing to tour at this time, I’m ensuring that I can present myself to you on good form. In this way, it’s an insurance policy.

I could stick my head in the sand and pretend to be Peter Pan, but I have to own up; I’m perhaps slightly beyond middle age…

I don’t actually want to retire. I would hope that there are many years ahead in which I’ll be able to contribute. Actually, I would hope that I’m fit enough to be able to do a farewell gig on my eightieth birthday, but I might not be, so this Last Tour is by way of that insurance policy, in that, if for some reason I’m not able to do that, then now’s the time to put your bum on a seat near you!

The age of 80 perhaps isn’t that old any more, but there are not many 80 year olds who would be able to perform as athletically in the voice as I may still be able to in another couple of years. I will hope to have a new album by then in any case. Farewell gig or not.

If I was to live another ten years, which is extremely doubtful, I’d still be writing poetry, but I don’t think that I’d be able to maintain any sort of viable gig-fitness. Again, this isn’t morbid, it’s just fact. I have to laugh… the medical profession gave me maximum 7 years to live when I was 31. That was 47 years ago!

Meanwhile, I have included three new songs in the set for THE LAST TOUR. They’re one of the reasons I want to tour. I’d like to make sure that they are played in public at least once. It’ll be great to play them for you. They’re all strong songs, and the next album looks to be heading into a particularly good place. I intend to finish writing this album in the year ahead. I’ll record it as soon as I can…. 

The set list will contain some old favourites, but will also contain a couple of surprises.

I’m going to be traveling a string and brass section with lead guitar, bass and drums this time. The music will be totally supported by acoustic instruments, from solo acoustic guitar with violin to total ensemble all in. 

As usual, the lyric and its sentiment will take prominence, while its musical bouquet has been written to enhance the mood. I really enjoy the musical place that the songs have now inherited. I wish that I’d been able to do this sooner, but better late than never.

The ensemble will be led by Fiona Brice, who has very ably taken stewardship of my orchestral vision since the sad departure of David Bedford. 

Finally, I’ll hope to see many friends on the tour, and doubtless I’ll be offering many of you some advice from the stage.

Thanks for being there,

roy

More information on the tour dates here: http://www.royharper.co.uk/live.html

Roy wrangles with his latest re-issue…

We decided, a long time after the commercial world did so, I have to say, that we would re-release arguably the best ten or twelve of the catalogue as LPs once again. I’d looked at it for years, and while I was out in California putting ‘Man and Myth’ together I became aware for the first time, first hand, that the turnover in high end 50s, 60s and 70s amplifiers for turntables, was huge. Then I had discussions with Simon Raymonde at Bella Union about a vinyl release for Man And Myth, and the rest of that chapter is history. It was a good experience, and it became obvious that at least the main figments of the Roy Harper catalogue were going to become available on vinyl again.

In theory, it seemed to be easy to transfer what we already had on cd and tape back onto vinyl and, hey presto, it would just happen. Wrong. All vestiges of old artwork had disappeared. A lot of it had, quote, “Gone into the skip”, as first EMI fell off a high ladder, (during which years of turmoil, for instance, the old EMI Studios in Abbey Road had become independent and were only affordable if you were making a blockbuster movie, Etc). We’re all used to the world changing very quickly. The shock of the previous generation to the ploughing up of its old means is always brutal. De facto, the new world arrives a second later and empties the skip. Then just as easily subsumes the old generation in the blaring glare of the newbies strutting their stuff. As Kurt would have said, ‘so it goes’.

So, not having any artwork was going to present problems. Some were big problems, but not entirely insurmountable because, well, mainly because, by some hook or crook, the artist is still alive, and still has sufficient in the memory bank to be able to curate a resuscitation of all that the old artwork meant. He even has enough in the scrapheap of his archive be able to add to it with one or two salient items. Time and care were necessary, but with the help of his old mucker Harry Pearce, and a bit of techno wobble, the past can be re-visited.

We decided that it was best to release the new vinyl in batches of three in order to facilitate most of the releases within a few years. It was hard work. Nothing like as easy as we’d first thought. There were all kinds of stumbling blocks, but, to cut a long story short, the first batch was released in 2016.

I’d wanted the second batch to include HQ, Bullinamingvase and Folkjokeopus. I rate Folkjokeopus, and particularly McGoohan’s Blues, but I quickly realised how unfinished it was. that I’d always regretted not being able to edit it in the way it should have been edited in 1968. Back in that year, there wasn’t the time/money to do another take of McGoohans Blues. We’d had to use the first take. Don’t get me wrong, the first take wasn’t that bad at all, but there’s a huge gaping error in it. I’m not going to say here where that error occurs, because most of you will have enjoyed it for years the way it is. But now I have the chance, the chance I’ve always wanted, to fix it, to finally scratch that itch, and I was going to, but it became difficult… I need to get a band together, I needed time.. I needed to learn the song again.. I needed to… wouldn’t it be nice to take it on tour again.. Fifty years later, if only to flag up ‘the bankers and tycoons and hoarders of money and art’ again, fifty years on.. but then there was a tour already happening.. and.. finally I had to shelve the idea of tackling that immediately.

So; what was I going to put in it’s place? Would I go forward, and look at re-instating ‘Unknown Soldier’, ‘Descendants Of Smith/Garden Of Uranium’, or ‘The Dream Society’; ‘Jugula’ or even ‘Death Or Glory’.. Mm, too close to the bone.. Or should I go back? Now there’s a thing! Lying there, full of bad edits and underrated by me. “Underrated by me”? What d’you mean roy, you know you’ve always hated ‘Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith’”? Yeah, but why? “Isn’t it that hair in your mouth that you’ve always tried to get rid of, and thought you had, but it’s still there, isn’t it? How come”?

So I listened to it again, for the first time in decades. It made me smile. Instead of hearing a couple of great clanking hand-fisted edits again, and the piece of 1950’s dialogue that I’d written off centuries ago as juvenile tosh, I heard the young roy, the very young man, trying to pull out all the stops, with some success, although the second side of the record is trashed by the lack of cash and hasty production.

Then something strange happened. The original producer, Shel Talmy, or people on his behalf, had obviously been unearthing his past to put together a compilation of his work, which includes early Who and Kinks records, and we received a request. Could he use a track from ‘Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith’? Of course I agreed that they could use it. The track is called ‘Aging Raver’. Then, by some turn in the conversation, we discovered that the original tapes had been found: in a tape vault at SONY! Immediately, I wanted to use them to bring the record back to life. To take away the generations of cd dust attached to them, address the edits, and re-instate the record. For me, it didn’t have a former glory. It was what it still is. A sound bite from 1967 that hadn’t had the attention that it perhaps might have deserved because no time could be spent on it, and it’s author couldn’t be present to make the edits at the time. And no one else knew, or cared, that there were edits that needed to be tidied up.

Shel was not to blame for any of this. He had a job to do, and a record company to accommodate, and in 1967 direction by the artist was absolutely discouraged. EMI might have had enough cash return from The Beatles to indulge them, and George Martin was a brilliant foil for them, but old roy was an alien from the folk cellar with very little clout, and Shel wasn’t that far above him.

When we got the old tapes into the Studio at Lettercollum, it became immediately obvious that we had something which was very much more alive than it’s cd counterpart. The decision to include it in the second issue of LPs from Science Friction was probably already made. That decision could easily have been reversed, but the moment I heard the real tapes there was no way of backing out. Here was a real chance to bring an uncared for and diminished collection back from the dead. It had to be done.

There were still production issues though. Would I take it back to the bare essentials? Could I? Even. I toyed with leaving the soap box imaginary conversation with my illusive dad off it. I was really tempted to cut out all the earnest but semi-embarrassing drivel. It was like listening to mock Mike Leigh or juvenile Pinter. And what would I do with the poem at the end? Was there anything I should do about that mock Dylan last line. Could I pare the record down to just the songs? I badly wanted to.. but in the end I couldn’t. I’d become a recidivist by so doing. I’d be modernising 1967 out of it. I badly wanted to, but the truth is that I couldn’t have done it without falling.. in my own estimation.

I did wrestle with the poem though. The words themselves were good. The sentiment was right. What the poem actually says is.. ‘please explain to me why you think that we’re not en route to annihilation’… (Fifty years ago). Which is a recurring theme in my work. Viz. – ‘And so the game is played out on the sinking *Wigan pier, With brass bands round the gravestones so that no one can quite hear, The prophets and the gentle people’s feelings that are lost, inside the ringing cauldron of the crashing holocaust.. Farewell to you Dear Genghis Smith, I’d help you if I could, But there’s nothing I could have told you, that you’d have understood; And there’s nothing I could have told you that would have done you any good, and Hey there!.. is there much more room down there? All I can see is mud.’

It was the right poem in the right place, but the delivery was perhaps too flippant. I faced a dilemma at the time. How was I going to not make it sound like T S Eliot or Ezra Pound reading his own poetry? Staid and confounding, but in some way dead. I needed people to be entertained in a more Betjeman on acid style, or so I thought… but what if the mock Dylan of that last line had been spoken in mock David Attenborough, which it could have been..? “What if roy, what if..”.. “Leave it alone Sunshine”.

——————————————————————————

The result of all this wrangling with myself is that there’s a new vinyl version of Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith on its way out again for the first time in decades.

In September 1967, CBS, (the company I’d signed to earlier in the year), wanted to finalise the cover. They’d heard demos, produced the contract in July, and the record was about to be made. They were hinting at a photo to hang alongside ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ and ‘Sounds Of Silence’ in the CBS offices, but not enough of them were…

They were silent when I voiced my sleeve idea, based on the title track, Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith, of having a birth picture of a new born human, umbilical cord still attached. Not a word from any of them. It was potentially an image for me that conveyed my own vision of survival against the odds. It was also intended to be an image of the birth of the carefree destructor itself. The pushy ploughman on the planet. I was voted down, although I was never in attendance. I was obviously not going to be included in any vote that in any way impinged upon CBS corporate policy. Silly boy, how could he have imagined that a corporation would ever have gone out on such a limb? After all, they weren’t in the business of making hit records by virtue of controversial images on record sleeves. Heaven forbid!

So what they came up with, and confronted me with, was the finished product. A front cover with a ‘sweet’ pic of the art director’s new born baby on it. What bollocks! So, a decent record, in which production the artist had no say at all, was finally relegated to the status of detritus by the usual corporate nonsense view. The view from the middle of the front row of The Circle. The whole character of the intended record had been diminished. Actually, the cover now didn’t have any character at all. However, FINALLY, the artist lived long enough to put the record into the context he’d always wanted it to have. A pyrrhic victory, you might think, in terms of the millions it would never have sold in any case, but not for the artist himself. For him, it’s a sweet moment. A moment when the original idea teamed up with the ability to finally do it justice.

I spent days, on and off, searching for the right photo across the world, on the internet. What I found was amazing. Hosts of pics of how homo sapiens likes to picture its babies, from complete fantasy to full-on photographic real. Through rose tinted speculation to comic pop art, from bad photo to gruesome image, from ridiculous Disney to WTF! I mailed people to ask for the use of pics, to no avail. Then suddenly, as deadlines approached, I found the right picture, taken somewhere in London. I found it at a photo agency, and it wasn’t going to be too expensive to obtain the right to use it. We had to ask the photographers permission for it to be used publicly, of course, but that came with a return of email. Bingo! An ambition had been achieved. I was so pleased.

I’d already sent it to life-long friend Harry Pearce, at Pentagram, so that we could discuss dimensions and etc., and I was thrilled by Harry’s first demos returned to me by PDF. The effect of having this in the bag, fifty years later, was so uplifting. There were one or two more back and forths between Harry and I, in which we questioned crops and fonts, but what had happened was serendipitous.

There is still a question that begs to be addressed however. Should a picture like this be used in a public arena? Does it derogate the intimate? Does a picture like this add to the seemingly mindless dilution of human integrity that is now profoundly global? Does it add to the possible diminution of human character that the internet multiplies every minute of every day? Is the act of being born diminished by such an image being so common? Were CBS right in 1967?  There are questions. Questions of honour. Questions of character.

There are questions of taste. There are questions of morality. Questions that a young man wanted to dig out in 1967. To ask questions of the world with. Can those old questions still be asked in the same way fifty years on? How many people, and particularly those of a fragile disposition, will this image offend? Was this that young man’s intension, in 1967, to offend those kind of people? All he remembers now is a will to go against the accepted grain. To expose the grain for what it was and still is. How unkind would that have been, to do it just to be offensive? He knows that he didn’t do that. His heart has never been like that. Not the heart he sees in the mirror anyway. Away away! Flee from the thought and have done with it.

Conversely, is birth not a reality? Isn’t it to be pictured in the way it is? Et al. I didn’t see it as a controversial image in 1967, and I still don’t; but that’s me. ‘Be careful what you wish for’. The old man whispers a cliché under his breath. It’s just a cliché, isn’t it?

1967 was a funny old year. It was the year before the revolutions. In some ways, it could be said that it was the calm before the storm. My writing in ’67 was seemingly far more parochial than was the fare of ’68. At the end of ‘67 I was writing McGoohan’s Blues.. but that’s another story.

‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ was the B-side of the Beatles single of the same year, ‘All You Need Is Love’, which I thought at the time was fatuous. Opinion – The B-side is a much better song than the sugary A-side. On ‘Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith’ I criticised the A-side and used half a line from the B-side.. no one noticed.. … …. :—)

‘Oo mum, he said, does God go to bed
Or is he a rich man too
She said in a minute my son
I’ll box your bloody ears for you’

And instead of the flatulent ‘All You Need Is Love’, I reposted with..

All You Need Is
All you need
Is all
You
Need
Is

All You need Is Love is a great sentiment, and the song is clever, but on a personal level, I didn’t need to be knee deep in treacle at that moment.. Although, I have to say that I was a Beatles fan. Still am when I hear some of the songs from that era on the radio.

Meanwhile, was it tantamount to self harm to marry myself to such stark realities? Would the original sleeve idea have won through? Should I have absolutely fought for it at the time? Should I have fought harder for the future of those ideas? Speak up boy!

Available now at the Roy Harper Shop…