samedi 27 juillet 2013

vendredi 5 juillet 2013

Blogvel. is a blog? is it a novel? An attempt at a novel through serialization .

This is an attempt at a sci fi/new age story, and if I get enough interest, I'll continue the story. Don't forget to donate, its  via Paypal I suggest 10 euros, but you can give what you want. Be generous!
 If I can figure out if the button works! 

Ah who am I kidding? Just read it anyway. As you scroll down, try to wipe out the image of me holding out an empty, chipped tin cup for money from your mind. Its just your over-active imagination. Probably.You'd better donate just in case, huh? 
You can also follow this blog 


Cool huh!

The Megalith portals

The misty roads were shaped into a tunnel by the gnarled old trees, their roots like cats claws, gripping the pale mud, almost white, like knuckles gripping the wheel of a run-away car, chalked up by the crumbling bed rock, yet buried by the passage of feet.
Roads that had measured the landscape for many generations, measuring the miles, the time and the changes. Around the chalk hills were dotted markers in time, standing stones of various ages, long barrows, half eroded and half destroyed, stone circles fallen into ruin or disrepair, markers in fields of death ,life, ownership and people. The winding tree lined roads, banked, as if the road had decided to settle itself into the chalk, worn down by foot and by hoof, trod by pilgrim, rutted by cart and wheel. People travelling to and from villages, towns, cities, continents. People with a trade or a religious purpose. Pilgrims or Romans, Saxons or Vikings, traders or traffickers, holy men or criminals, slaves and masters, all walking somewhere, nowhere. Ever since I was a young child, I've lived near Neolithic monuments, drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Are they markers on the communication routes or pointers to something else?

I was never really sure until that afternoon in the pub.

I hadn't been driving very long, when I got my first car, an old Renault 12. I can't have been older than twenty. It was a simple car, not sexy. I'd driven down to the pub to see some friends.
A summers afternoon, in the pub garden, drinking shandy. We'd been told not to drink too much by everyone, as we were driving.
It was a harmless conversation in the pub, in the summer, with friends. Talk of summer sports, summer girls and love sickness, summer holidays, spent without our folks for the first time, the talk of young men. Now I think back to the meeting, there must have been a group of us, but how many I couldn't say.
The friend that told me the story wasn't a close friend, I can't remember his name, but his face and the conversation are etched in my memory.
He told me of the secret and the stories. He told me of the roads.

Of course, as children, our father had shown us the roads, driven down them in long forgotten and long sold cars, sailing down the hills on bright mornings. We were small children, excited, on the back seat of life. 

lundi 1 juillet 2013

Industrial heritage of Western France

Not so very long ago, Western France was a hotbed of Industry and had large factories employing vast numbers of workers.
Lets have a look at some famous examples and try to colour them .

Angers is today a small town , with small and medium firms making products as varied as disc brakes and card printers, as well as Cointreau and Giffard who make the famous liquors. But not so long ago there was an enormous factory, Bessoneau, who employed 10,000 workers in 1920 and which was spread over 25 hectares on one site and 59 for the total  produced 80 tonnes of finished product per week. The factory had its own train station!

The tour à plomb  and mills at Angers. Carte postale, Arch. mun. Angers, 4 Fi 773.The next Angers industry I'd like to look at is the Lead production tower, The first factory was , unbelievably, in the Saint-Aubin, tower, now a classified monument in Angers. From  1822 to 1904, lead was melted and formed here. However,there were other lead towers in the town.One at the end of  Bout-du-Monde, next to the castle, where there is a long drop, and the second  at la Roche-de-Mûrs. Making lead shot requires a great height, to drop the molten lead down into a big cooling pool at the bottom. So workers would have had to carry the lead up some 30 meters, melt it and then ladle it into the containers which then dripped it down to make the lead needed arms of steel and legs of iron, as well as a head for heights. .
At the beginning, business was good, and other companies came . A match factory, a quick lime kiln, and even a canal was created and this zone became  a port, called  Port Ayrault   .
However, the Saint-Aubin tower was then classed as a monument, so the owners built a new tower.

La tour à plomb, huile sur toile, Alexis Mérodack-Jeaneau. Coll. part.
People will tell you that the tower was 45 meters high, but the architects drawing say 38 meters !
From the Courrier d' Ouest newspaper and from the municipal web site from where the photos on this blog are taken,,(in French here) I can say the following: Work began at 4.30, by making a huge fire under a cauldron, in which  were placed lead ignots of 50KG each. Then the temperature would climb to 300 °C The lead was white hot, blue hot. Antimony and arsenic and graphite were added, for hardness, and shine . then using ladels, lead was placed into huge strainers, 12 meters in diameter.Six tons of lead per day, by hand, using ladels.
The laboratory  Philippe Cayla, 1984.
Lead was toxic, and of course it was a dangerous, hot, hard sweaty job. Lead production waned, and stopped in 1972
The tower was demolished in 24th July 1984. Today, in France you can see a similar tower, in Couëron.(here, in French)
also here in French.

One last factory to talk about is the LU  factory.
Another town in a town, with thousands of employees and thousands of square meters, and still producing today, all be it it more modern and cleaner location.
Unlike Bessoneau, where pay and conditions were bad, conditions and pay here were not so bad.However, Bessaneau had an infirmary, and so did Lu, so not all bad.
Lu now belongs to Kraft foods! 

vendredi 28 juin 2013

The rise of the far right in France

The rise of the right in Europe.

Based on ideas from Michel Wieviorka

In France, we've seen a socialist elected as president. However, the turn to the right by the population since this event has been marked and notably so.The leader of  French extreme right party has succeeded where her father failed. People now admit to voting F.N. (Front national) whereas before the phrase used was 'everyone had their ideas' or 'I have my ideas' which translates as 'I vote for extreme parties' or 'I don't want to say who I voted for, but it wasn't the same as you'. And admitting to this was not done.
Marine Le Pen currently enjoys an approval rating of 40% of the French population if the polls are to be believed; it seems that people are ready to trust her , or to protest with their vote . So which is it? A vote for the 'beliefs' of the FN, racist and xenophobe, nationalistic and protectionism, or a vote to protest against the mainstream parties who flounder in the austerity of everyday politics in modern Europe? What do French people really believe?
Ten years ago, when Mr Le Pen, Marine's father, was elected to the second round of the French presidential elections, Chirac showed people that the choice was simple: Either be raped by Le Pen or make love to Chirac. People chose Chirac, with an overwhelming majority in the 70% range. Chirac also refused a debate with Le Pen on TV, and I think that was a very wise move, removing the oxygen of publicity from Le Pen.

The mainstream right became obsessed with security and terrorism, this was Sarkozy's mistake.
6 years ago, security dominated the electoral campaign, polarizing it to the right. Sarkozy created a minister of immigration and national identity, Ségoline Royal  from the left grabbed the French anthem to try to remove the monopoly of patriotism from the right. She failed, and wasn't elected. Sarkozy was, and the rest , as they say, is history.

France has two faces, like Janus, the ancient Roman/Greek god, who looks at the past and at the future and whose name is celebrated in January's title. On one hand, France boasts about being the country where human rights were invented, the first country to get rid of the death penalty, and the benefits of republicanism.The state recognizes historical mistakes, with apologies made by the President  for things done to Jewish people by the SNCF and monuments erected to slavery in Nantes for example.

But on the other hand, France looks to protect its goods and services with "appelations" which control exactly where things can and cant be made, such as Champagne. It looks to a 'united France' with integration as a magic goal and becomes like the tribe in the Asterix albums, surrounded by Romans, fighting against the tide. France loves nothing more than to give others lessons in how do do things, never being wrong. It refuses diversity,and becomes permeable to xenophobia and racism and antisemitism. This all dates from the 80's, when the front national won their first electoral success in Dreux. or even before, with france's shame stemming from the years of nazi collaboration and occupation. But ask the people and they'll tell you! The black mayoress Samia Ghali here who I saw on TV is quite clear! The FN win, but afterwards do nothing.Its just posturing and no action.
Nicholas Sarkozy tried to win the election by wooing the extreme right, and he lost. However, since this watershed moment, the extreme right has gained in strength as the mainstream right imploded, with warring factions inside and a lack of clear leadership in the mainstream UMP. Power hates a vacuum. Philippe de Villiers' illness and disappearance from the extreme right has meant that the extreme right, rather than being divided, has become united. Remember, An "Ifop-Paris-Match" poll conducted on 12 October 2006 gave him his highest ever popularity rating, with 37% saying they "have an excellent or good opinion" of Villiers, and 28% saying they could vote for him in 2007. This was not borne out in the results of the first round of voting, with him receiving less than 3% of the popular vote. so the 40% for Le Pen can be taken with large pinches of salt.

The more we talk of France,  of the things we have in common, the things which unite us, the more we forget the things that divide us, poverty, social opportunities, ghettos and oppression.We see migrants as obviously different from us, marked out, and unequal, rather than seeing them as an opportunity to evolve and progress, by nurturing their talent and welcoming their ideas.
On Canal Plus, the FN spokesman said 'the only criteria is the French nationality card" and that's very depressing; Why close your mind to the world in the hope that things will improve? As they won't  if you aren't open to all the talents coming to help! France needs to be an open nation, all the more so since Germany decided to change its social policies towards increasing families by offering money for children born to German couples.

Germany , instead of taking the opportunity to use immigrant labour, already trained, but with a different culture and colour and language, has chosen the longer road of natural reproduction. Closing the door to growth and progression in society, opening the past and its shadows and salutes.

But France has a wonderful opportunity. All of Northern Africa has been touched for better or worse by French history, and these educated and intelligent people could turn round the French and European and African economies if we welcome them and tempt them. Countries like Cameroon and Ivory coast, and the northern African states seem obvious candidates for migrants; that's not to say these countries don't need educated labour themselves, but in the future, the population will be so high, they'll need some escape valve, and France could offer this.Who else is going to pay for the baby boomers pensions?

Look at the picture  here which shows population changes into the future.

French will be a world language in 2050, and if we prepare now, France could be a world leader, with its partners in Africa. However, this isn't an argument for neocolonialism or brain draining. France needs to be a partner with these countries, not a patron, or a parasite.

So when I read of Europe's drift to the right, or hear news that Germany will pump money into family friendly policies,(here ) or that 40% of French people support Marine Le Pen ( here) ,or that the British government want to stop students coming in here it depresses me. The world is a wonderful place, if you accept that we are all human. And that last one is from an MP safe in his Charing Village, far from the real world.

So tempting as it is to lay the faults of modernisation on the scapegoat of the immigrant, we should instead open our hearts and minds and encourage immigration.Some  people will say 'We can't have them all' but I doubt very much that they all want to come. Let's build a fairer, more just society together. And lets start that by noticing how very dangerous the far right is.

lundi 24 juin 2013

Rainham memories

I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, but I spent all my childhood in the south of the UK in Kent, more precisely in Rainham.
We lived on Edwin Road, and in our garden was an army stone marking the territory. This is the mark for 'Rainham Mark', or so I've been told.
All around us were characters who lived on Edwin road or Marshall Road.People we knew for years, people with their families , their jobs, their problems, their sorrows and joys.
I remember our cleaning lady, Mrs Mac, who would come and clean the mess of our house. She was a figure, strict, neat but homely, ready for us, ready to look after us.She was the cleaning lady for years.then, she got old, and Sheila came to help out.

All around us then were the doctors and medical people in my father's professional network. Dr Coral, Dr Cockrell, Lorna,Lena,  all in parties with whiskies! All these people who I remember are dead now.

I remember Berengrave Lane , and Mogs and his lady friend. We bought our veg from her.She ran the fruit and vegetable shop, she was kind and friendly, letting us play with jigsaws, her friendly face beaming out from the leather-like wrinkles that  lined her work worn face. Mogs was her lover, he had one arm and one eye. I wondered if he was a war hero! As  a young boy, I couldn't work it all out, why they lived together but weren't married. No one elese we knew 'lived in sin' .She told me Mogs lost his arm and eye in a farm accident long ago, and she looked after him; later, she fell ill with breast cancer and my father was her doctor in Rochester. Mogs, who couldn't drive, would walk the 7 miles every day to see her. He held her hand, sat by her bed, sang her songs and loved her till the last. Later, I remember seeing Mogs, looking lost, pained and heartbroken. all he'd done wrong was love her.The house they lived in had a big concrete clad all, but behind was just kindness and love. She left her will to a local girls school, and Mogs got to live in the house till he died.maybe they weren't lovers, I never was told the truth !

At the end of Berengrave Lane was a chalk pit, full of wildlife. Another doctor loved here, with his wife and her sister.

mardi 18 juin 2013

Tax and its importance

When multinationals use tax laws designed in a mercantile epoch for their ends in the internet age, it leads to double Irish shenanigans. Companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Starbucks have all used these legal but unethical scenarios to avoid paying tax.

or here

8 billion dollars has been avoided in tax by these companies alone in recent years.

This means less money for health, education, environment, retirement   etc.
I will have to work until I'm 70 plus. My parents could retire at 60.

Thanks Guys! Not!

mercredi 10 avril 2013

Thatcher: Bursting the myth

Bursting the myth
This morning I heard on the radio 4 the old nonsense about in 1979 there only being 2 million shareholders, but the reality was that everybody was a share holder in society in 1979 and she under sold things I (and you) owned to rich people who asset stripped them and sold the shares at a profit .imagine if i sold your car to someone at a knock down price and then used the money to go on holiday. That's the political equivalent of Thatcherism.
There were 2 million unemployed in 1979, 6 in 1991 if we count everyone not working, and that's the price of Thatcherism. She destroyed communities and threw the post war baby out with the trade union excess bathwater.Thatcher said 'there is no such thing as society' or words to that effect. call me said that she was the best post war peace time prime minister, but my accolades will go to Clement Atlee. The trade unions killed Labour in 1979 with their repeated strikes and the winter of discontent and Thatcher killed them with her laws and fights with Scargill, and the trade union movement got its revenge when the wrong Milliband was elected thanks to union votes. Labour still resists 'one member one vote' . The Falklands did indeed save Thatcher's bacon . I'm not so sure Foot or Kinnock were really electable though!
For what she did to the miners, to communities and the working class , she'll be hated.We have a housing crisis because no housing was built and people got into the mess of debt we are in because they believed in the dream of the property ladder which was simply beyond their means. Our manufacturing base went, and globalization came.

Kinnock said and I'll quote him in full: In 1983
If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you.
I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.
I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.
I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.
I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.
I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.
I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.
I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.
I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.
I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.
I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.
If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday–
- I warn you not to be ordinary
- I warn you not to be young
- I warn you not to fall ill
- I warn you not to get old."

How right and prescient he was! But he lost to Thatcher, and the rest, as they say......

After all the hate and effort , all the phone taps and misuse of government apparatus against those Labour party members in the 1980's,I for one, will speak ill of her. The worst , most selfish PM, she replaced community with competition and it'll take decades to get the country of its knees.
GDP in 91 was lower than 79
Her economic policy was very bad for the UK and the roots of our current problems can be directly linked to her voodoo economics and free marketering. The market does not and never has known best.

To all those crying a river of crocodile tears (and there are a lot) and all those looking at her legacy, to all those hypocrites and wannabes, to all those who thought she was 'super' I say to you Foot would have been a good PM and Kinnock an excellent one.Thatcher was mediocre.
All those who think she helped women, I say no, she set them back decades.
Clear leadership ? hindsight will tell you that there are non so blind as those who will not see! Even McMillian spoke out on "selling off the family silver"

So goodbye, Maggie. History won't be kind to you, or your ilk.

vendredi 15 mars 2013

Thoughts on Popes and the Catholic church

I have thought long and hard about this subject as religion is complex and personal, and I think people should follow their own route to their own salvation, by whatever means that takes.

However I'll just make some personal comments.

The Catholic Church claims the Pope is infallible (as the Catholic Church is infallible too). But people in the Catholic Church  (along with other faiths) have done some bad things (like all humans, ceding to temptation) and I forgive them, but I ask that they be judged by due legal process also. Child rape and abuse of people in subservient positions is to be forgiven ,but not tolerated. As the Church is a human invention, and all human things are imperfect, we can improve and learn from experience.By claiming infallibility we close our minds to the learning experiences shown to us. Infallibility, one suspects ,is a devise to control and manipulate.

The election for a Pope is made by old men and I would prefer a wider electorate. Any Catholic could be voted Pope in theory, but in practice it will be a Cardinal. Why not trust the whole Catholic community?
It is however a fascinating ritual.

I'd like the Christians (and other faiths)  to give women a better, wider more equal role. And not just piecemeal number chasing.

I'd like preaching against homosexuality to stop, and an acceptance of love in all its forms.. The writings in the Bible (and other sources), weren't emailed from heaven, but written and translated by men, who as we have established, make mistakes ,which is a good way of learning and improving. refusing to accept errors is a refusal to learn, a refusal o improve. An acceptance of sex as a natural, healthy thing, is lacking. Homosexuality isn't a disease.Mutually consensual  adult sexual acts are fine.

I'd like celibacy to be optional. Forcing people to do this just seems cruel and against their human rights.Marriage should be celebrated by the Church, not condemned.

I'd like contraception to be accepted and the Catholic Church is simply encouraging poverty and illness and hardship with its line one this.Its not cheating God when we watch TV (invisible waves) or drive our cars or use other modern inventions. Sexual intercourse doesn't equate to the creation of a life, especially in sexually active people who are past the age of child bearing. Not every act of sexual intercourse leads to a life being formed, as in my life I've been married for 15 years and we adopted a child as we couldn't have children, but we did and do have sex. So the Catholic line on contraception is pre-enlightenment nonsense.

I'd like abortion to be the choice of women, not the Catholic Church. I'm pro choice. Although I'd prefer that abortions didn't happen, I think a legal and health frame work is needed to control abortion, council women and protect them.

I'd like a more liberal view to be taken over euthanasia but strict guidelines and practice to be followed.

The Church can not dictate what is 'good ' or 'bad' until it has set its own house in order. We need to forgive and then use legal routes for legal problems. Moral problems are a personal issue, which we should condemn but forgive.

I'd like a more active faith presence in communities, rather than the passive one we see now. With a Church that isn't just an empty building full of hypocrites, but a community working for collective good. The Church has become distance, irrelevant, out of touch and sidelined.

Finger wagging and blame don't help people reconstruct themselves, rather it reinforces negative images and shallows the opportunity for spiritual growth. By accepting our mistakes, and learning from them, we improve. Catholics practice confession, which seems such an opportunity ,but why do they insist on collective infallibility for the Church and individual  infallibility for the Pope? It seems counter intuitive.

I don't understand the Catholic Church, and I am not a Catholic, so my view could be seen as and is perhaps biased. I am human  and fallible. I do think the church could be a force for real good in the world. We need to think about and plan that very carefully, and learn from the mistakes of the past. Ecumenical efforts and peace, love forgiveness and reconciliation are things the church (and all of us) could and should work on. I'm not anti catholic. I think we should celebrate our differences, share our similarities.

lundi 11 mars 2013

Sportsmen and their demons

I looked through the best and the most flamboyant sportsmen and I noticed that some of them are so great that they have to fight their own greatness with demons of their own invention.
Lets take a look at some examples.

The list of footballers who have struggled with demons is a long and depressing one.
Peter Shilton and gambling
George Best and booze
Paul Gasgoigne and gambling/booze

Three giants in football. Shilton played well into his 40's, George Best was just a pop star god who played football and Paul Gasgoigne believed he was the best.
Best drank himself to an early grave, Gazza's doing it now and Shilton's gambling cost him everything.
They created another environment to escape the stress of the real one, they were so brilliant they added challenges to make life interesting.
Best was a name that sold newspapers, and his antics made sure he was often in them.
Gazza is the same, following that well trod path. beaten and with no plan B, death is the easy option.
Shilton's wife of 40 years has left him and he has nothing left except the memories.




The ultimate great one was Alex "Hurricane" Higgins.
He could pot the balls off the lampshades, and was very popular.Why? He played to the crowd, and it cost him many a match including the world championship.Once the crowd were behind him, he was either unbeatable or he went to pieces.
Higgins sold papers with his antics, the newspaper men knew it, Alex knew it and they fed of each other.
Alex smoked and drank himself to death, dying of malnutrition and cancer and pneumonia.
Higgins popularized the sport.Alex demonized the sport.
Lets face it, watching someone pot balls into a pocket isn't the most exciting sport, and it takes a genius with electric character to make it interesting. Alex did it, winning the public.
Drink and smoking and gambling and Alex Higgins killed Alex Higgins.That's what the sponsor's wanted.
Never predictable, the 'bad boy' of snooker. Great moments. But not great consistency.
Friends included Oliver Reed and Brian Moon two of the biggest binge drinkers in history.
Frustrating yet bewitching.

RIP Alex Higgins