Tuesday, 30 November 2010

found in translation

I am not a literary translator, although I would rather like to be - I would especially like to have been the translator of Haruki Murakami - Norwegian Wood, anyone?  Time to re-read I think.  My Japanese teacher told me many years ago when I was studying in Japan, at a time before Murakami had really begun to be published and known in Japan, and certainly before he was translated, that Murakami had been a college friend of his and that they had argued about the ending of the Beatles song "Norwegian Wood", the two of them reaching different conclusions.  (My teacher was right in my opinion and Murakami was wrong, so the book was inspired by a mistake, not a lot of people know that).  Some writers would have remained undiscovered by me if they had not been translated, such as Carlos Ruiz Zafon, as I cannot read Spanish - and translated works can be real money-spinners for publishers, though publishers do not always see it that way.  My knowledge of Turkish literature is just about zero - the only Turkish writer I have really heard of is Orhan Pamuk, and only then because he has been translated into English.  The journalist and translator from Turkish Maureen Freely writes this about her translation of Turkish, and how a translator, at least in Turkey, is part of the politics as well as part of the literature.  Orhan Pamuk and other Turkish writers have been subjected to hate campaigns for acknowledging the Armenian genocide, and writers have been prosecuted under the infamous law on "Turkishness".  The Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink was murdered.  As was the Japanese translator of  The Satanic Verses (a truly dreadful book btw for anyone who wants to remember what all the fuss was about).  Translation is political.  But a translator shadows the writer and lives in the world of that book, and not only in Turkey and other countries where the medieval obscurantism of Islamism threatens to rub out culture.

Hat-tip Margaret.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

pirate radio hall of fame

I remember the pirates!  I was 13 when they were stopped, but I remember them.  There was a hit song that year "We Love The Pirate Stations" which I remember singing.  It was the only way to hear pop music in those days.  I saw the film "The Boat That Rocked", which in France was called, oddly, "Good Morning England" - no-one ever listened to those stations in the mornings, then you had the Today programme with Jack de Manio getting the time wrong and exasperating your parents, and I do not imagine things on those boats were like that at all, though as always that film was worth seeing for Bill Nighy doing what he does best, ie being Bill Nighy.  But I digress.  Many of those pirate radio DJs went on to do interesting things.  Perhaps the best remembered is Kenny Everett, now deceased, who may have been the funniest.  Dave Cash is still broadcasting, I think on Radio Kent.  Does anyone remember Alan Clark?  I do.

The Pirate Radio Hall Of Fame needs your

Alan ClarkAlan Clark Born in Wales but brought up in Croydon, south London, Alan joined Radio City in November 1965 after hearing an advertisement for disc-jockeys on the station. Radio City was one of the smaller stations, based on Shivering Sands fort in the Thames estuary, and in those days station owner Reg Calvert would often take on a new recruit for a week then pay him off with £5 “expenses”. Alan was not prepared to leave it at that and pestered the management until they gave him a full-time job. He stayed with Radio City for sixteen months and became one of their most popular presenters. Along with Ian MacRae he hosted the much-loved comedy show The Aunty Mabel Hour and, with Tom Edwards, shared responsibility for the Five By Four Beatles and Rolling Stones request show. When City closed down in February 1967 he joined Radio 390 but changed his name to Christopher Clark. Here he hosted the station's very last programme. Since the demise of the pirates Alan has worked as a journalist for Radio Netherlands, Independent Radio News, TVS and Meridian Television. He is married to Helen Clark, the former MP for Peterborough who lost her seat in the May 2005 general election. (You can hear some recordings of Alan in his guise of “Christopher Clark” on Radio 390 and see another photo here. There are yet more pictures in Edward Cole's and David Sinclair's photo albums.) 

Friday, 26 November 2010

old and sad - now Phil Woolas is really a non-person

I do not know how they can do this, while the legal proceedings are still going on, whaever happened to innocent until proved guilty, no by-election has been called, this has been sent to Labour activists today with a copy of a leaked LibDem email, addressee's name removed

Please see the below email our online team has just seen from the Liberal Democrats about Oldham East and Saddleworth.

the Lib Dems are swamping the constituency with activists from across the country. We run the serious risk of being out campaigned if we don’t rise to this challenge.
it is critically important that you come and help us in Oldham if you can.
I am personally asking for a favour from you.
It is your help here that will make the difference.
will you come and help this weekend?
Sign up here or call the office on 07872 417 249.
Thank you and see you soon.
Noel Hutchinson
North West Regional Director
Subject: Four weekends to win in Oldham and Saddleworth
This Christmas, you can give Parliament a new Liberal Democrat MP.
Delays to Oldham East and Saddleworth legal proceedings mean we now expect the by-election to take place very early in January.
That gives us a longer campaign and the opportunity to speak to more voters on the doorstep. But to take advantage of the extra few weeks, we need people on the ground now and throughout December.
There could be as few as eight working days in 2011 before Polling Day. That means we must win this by-election before Christmas. Please do not wait until the New Year to help out.
There are four weekends between now and the Christmas holidays. We need as many Liberal Democrat activists as possible working in the constituency each and every weekend until then.
If you can help out during the week, that would be very welcome too. The Greenfield HQ is open every day from 9am to 8pm. There are a map and directions on Elwyn Watkins' website.
Thank you to the hundreds of people who have already helped out in some way. Elwyn and the team really appreciate it.
Already lots of our parliamentarians have been to help. For the first time in most of our lifetimes, we have Government ministers campaigning for the Liberal Democrats in a by-election. Andrew Stunell has been several times, Steve Webb met pensioners in the constituency today and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne visited last weekend.
As well as meeting voters, Chris went to a great green energy project in the constituency and recorded a video message for the campaign.
Please join many other activists, councillors and parliamentarians by coming to help us get our message out. The forecast is for great weather in Oldham East and Saddleworth this weekend. I hope to see you there.
Best wishes,
Hilary Stephenson
Director of Campaigns and Elections, Liberal Democrats
P.S. Remember: we must win this by-election before Christmas so please come as soon as you can.

was tempted to give the LibDem one a bit of a fisking, but you can probably do it for me. Especially "in most of our lifetimes" - were they really expecting anyone who can remember 1906 to be out on the knocker?

I guess they feel scorned

what always strikes me about these pictures is how much weightier British marchers are than French ones

anyway. I think the message from this banner is clear.  These little loves feel betrayed.  They thought Nick Clegg was going to - what exactly?  Rail from the opposition benches at a "Tory scum" government or a "Labour warmonger sellout Bliar" one?  I picked this picture up from a Facebook page not entirely unconnected with Reading Labour Party.  (Sue me.)  The comments are hilarious.  One of them said "Tell you what.  Let's give middle class families subsidies and not let poor kids of single parents go to university."  I think the person was trying to say that the Evil Coalition is trying to do that to the British people.  Er.  That's what already happens.  That's what you, as middle class kids, receive.  State subsidy.  That's what you are campaigning for.  More of it.  For you.  Not for people in mock Burberry and cheap jewellery who go to tanning salons.  Oh no.

Get real.  (Hat-tip AQC).  If you voted LibDem it was presumably because you liked their policies.  If you liked their policies you wanted them to be in government.  Didn't  you?  Er - anyone?  Anyone?  (sound of tumbleweed)

Now - this is more like it: in France they let working-class people join in.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

let the punishment fit the crime!

is this man a minicab driver?
said Gilbert and Sullivan all those decades ago.  But in a slightly different context, the Guardian has this, so it must be true.  They cite London-based men who go regularly to fight with the Taleban in Afghanistan against the elected government (the Guardian forgets to tell us that the fighting is the forces of the elected government of Afghanistan and their allies against the Taleban, who are an insurgent force) and who are engaged the rest of the year in raising funds for the Taleban.  The article quotes a man who describes himself as a minicab driver who earns "good money" in east London.  Now I knew at least eight years ago that there were prayers and fund-raising for the Taleban at the Alexandra Road mosque in Reading, I don't know if anyone who lives in Reading, British citizen or no, has ever gone to fight for the Taleban.  If, as might happen, one of these men is captured alive in Afghanistan, and turns out to be a British citizen, what should happen to him?  I really would like to know what readers think.  Harry's Place on the same subject titles the post "Traitors", which of course is technically accurate and also lets you know what the author of that post thinks - but what do you think?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

tell me what you've read, and I'll tell you...

I got this from Gene at Harry's Place, but apparently it comes from the BBC, who tell us that most people - well give it a go if  you like.  The list is below, and yes I know lists are usually a boy thing, but I have bolded and italicised in accordance with what I have read.

Anyway, here’s an interesting exercise from Gavin Williams, who writes on his Facebook page that the BBC believes most people will have read only six of the 100 books listed here. Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety and italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt. Admittedly it’s quite an Anglocentric list.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma – Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I have said I have read The Faraway Tree Collection by Enid Blyton, but I cannot be sure.  I certainly read more than one collection of her stories when I was five or six, and I think this was one.

the man who wasn't there

Congratulations to His Master's Voice, who have now changed their lying story about the "1000 Labour activists".  There's big brave soldiers, haven't we been grown-up?  The comments are worth a read too, Cllr Epps getting his panties in a wad about LibDem policy being made up as they go along, or typed by monkeys on infinite typewriters, or something, and someone else threatening to expose the identity of "PC Watch" - is there anyone left in Reading who doesn't know?  And there of course is the lovely Basher, who informed us on Sunday that he would "report" on a meeting for Park ward parents concerned about school catchment areas, due to take place that evening.  If you "report" on a meeting that rather gives the impression that you attended it, hein?  Call me old-fashioned and all - I am told by one who was there that Basher was not.  Hard to imagine why he would miss that meeting, as he has been "spearheading" (HMV) the parents' campaign.  His idea of spearheading seems to be staying at home and writing increasingly irrational and bizarre blogposts - when they start posting in white on black you know they are starting to lose it (Was, this means you too, "fetid dingo kidneys", forsooth).  Anyway, stay at home he did, and he has been spending his time slagging off the coalition running Reading - when in fact the only body which can have policies which can make any difference at all to anything that happens municipally in Reading is the council - which is run by the coalition, Labour now being ineffectual and in opposition, reduced to a corrupt rump of fat-arse no-marks (step forward, Cllr Lovelock).

Where was I?  Ah yes - "supporting Park parents" - the only ones I have seen doing that have been the Reading East Conservatives, whose chair attended the council meeting where there was a motion on the subject, and who was called "Wokingham scum" for her trouble by - yes, the lovely Basher (who has in the past been a guest in her house, what a nice man he is).  I am told, variously, that Basher was told by Park parents that he was not welcome at the meeting because he attracts adverse publicity, and that he was also advised by his political bosses (remember, "Your Better Off With Labour") to stay away so as to let the story be positive for Labour instead of being negative about him and his thuggish behaviour.  Well, hush my mouth if I lie.  This is what I have been told.  If there is another reason why he did not bother to attend the meeting to support east Reading parents, let him tell us himself, hein?  

Monday, 22 November 2010

more lies and the lying liars who tell them

the massed ranks of Reading Labour at the demo - both of them
this time it is the Reading Evening Post, which informs us as follows:

Around 1,000 Labour activists from Reading took part in the London march and demonstration opposing the increase in tuition fees on Wednesday last week.

their usual nearly two-week delay before reporting anything, while they take the line from the politician of choice, which causes some head-scratching at HMV Towers now that Mr Salter has gone into exile.  But there are not 1000 "Labour activists" in Reading.  There are  not 1000 Labour Party members in Reading.  HMV knows this quite well, and has reported the above knowing it is a lie.  Not for the first time does it report known untruths of course.  But hey, this is Her Majesty's Press, accountable to nobody, so wtf.  The piece quotes Jon Fatboy Hartley.  But it does not say that although he was there he did not march under any kind of Reading labour or other Labour banner.  Ashamed perhaps.  Though shame is not his strong point, as doing any kind of work is not.  Hartley has been telling people he did not march under a Labour banner, and if I know it here in Strasbourg why does His Master's Voice not know it or not choose to report it?  And why does Reading Labour not publish the press release on which the above story is based on its own website?  And why does Basher not link to Reading Labour?

I think we should be told.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


I got it wrong in my previous post about the UN vote on an amendment to remove sexual orientation from the categories for which extra-judicial execution should be condemned.  I said Sweden had opposed the amendment, which it did, and abstained, which it did not, it voted against, as did the UK and most of Europe.  Record set straight here on Harry's Place, where the post is rightly called "Civilised v. savage".

Saturday, 20 November 2010

wingnuttery and how to combat it - France and America

I thought what is below was rather good sense, from a blog I have not read before - I have no idea who the person is who wrote it, but still...  

Wingnutism... just plain nuts
People who live in the US are probably aware of the finding of this Harris Poll.

The only statement I agree with is that President Obama, like the three before him, is far too dependent upon Wall Street investment bankers. That's bad for the country no matter who you voted for. But he is not a racist, Muslim, Kenyan, fan of bin Laden, or the Antichrist (good grief!).

Nor is he a socialist.

But what is a socialist? One who believes that a country's economy should be organized around socialism. Here is one list of socialist countries.

Notice that France is not on the list, though I routinely hear in the States that I live in a socialist country, e.g., “you wouldn’t want to end up like France, would you? They’re socialists.”

There are of course aspects of French life, like in America, that are clearly socialistic. For instance, we in France have to pay taxes for national insurance for health, disability, and retirement. The pension plan is pay-as-you-go — in other words, today’s taxes pay for today’s retirees. In the U.S., Social Security pays retirement and disability from the same pot, which is supposed to be self-funded by taxpayers’ and employers’ contributions. In both countries, you have to pay those taxes. Medicare is completely socialistic: people pay taxes to support those who benefit from it. The French health care system relies heavily upon mutual insurance companies (true non-profits) to supplement the national system. For relatively little more, and with lots of choices, you can have all health costs completely paid for.

The American health care system is nightmarishly complex and hugely expensive. While France spends about 10% of gross domestic product on health, which is very high compared to most other countries, America spends 17% of its GDP on health. This is because the system has been rigged to produce significant profits at every level. In other words, market forces won’t bring down healthcare costs because the market is not free. Furthermore, there is something seriously wrong, morally and financially, with publicly-traded companies providing health insurance. Who is the client, the patient or the stockholder? My problem with Obamacare is that these fundamental flaws was not addressed clearly and forcefully. Politics is the art of the possible, and that is not possible at this point.

The French government over the years has from time to time owned means of production. That is no longer true, though the state does own shares in French companies and provides subsidies especially for agriculture and start-ups. (The last Socialist government clearly pursued free-market tactics.) There is a fascinating institution founded in 1815 known as the Caisse de dépôts et consignations (“deposit and consignment bank”). It is a long-term invester in huge projects, among many other things.

The US government used the purchase of shares as a means of bailing out General Motors and Chrysler. That bet turned out to be right, as the companies are recovering and the shares will be sold at considerable profit. Most of the TARP bailout money has been repaid, and what hasn’t is earning interest. Such intervention is unusual, except in the banking industry. Does anyone remember the Resolution Trust Corporation? Through taxes, like France, the US subsidizes certain industries and agricultural production.

In other words, there are aspects of both countries that are socialistic — investments made for the common good and owned by the government. But both countries seek to implement market economies, for markets are the most efficient way to deliver goods and services and create capital. Obama and Sarkozy are not socialists.

Who is going to reverse the tide of Wingnutism? It is downright scary to think of these misconceptions and lies as forming part of any serious democratic debate. Such amounts mis- and disinformation have always fed revolutions in the past. Not the American Revolution. I mean revolutions overthrowing democratic governments.

There is only one remedy for the Big Lie. Show it isn’t true and then repeat until people catch on.
20 novembre 2010/ Edmund of East Anglia
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Hat-tip Bishop Pierre Whalon

for shame, UN

which has voted to remove sexual orientation from the categories which deserve protection from extrajudicial execution, thus giving the green light to homophobic regimes to execute gay and lesbian and transgender people for being who they are (remember that Iran forcibly transgenders gay men).  Here is Peter Tatchell on the subject, reproduced on Harry's Place.  Sweden, whose representative spoke against this resolution, failed to vote against it.  South Africa and Cuba voted for it.

Remind me, readers, what was the UN supposed to be for again?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

ha ha ha

Rob Wilson, the Conservative MP for Reading East, made me laugh out loud today when I read the Hansard of his recent intervention in the House.  I quote:

In my constituency, after 13 years of a Labour Government and a Labour council, and with two Labour MPs between 1997 and 2005,

Well, not quite, Rob. Your constituency had one Labour MP between 1997 and 2005, one MP, as all constituencies do.  Moi, as it happens.  But I can understand your words, given the pathological behaviour of Mr Salter during those years, who attempted regularly to pass himself off as the MP for Reading East, and who was heard to shout in the face of Michael Portillo, then an MP, when both were in Broad Street, Reading, in Reading East "You're in my f***ing constituency"!  I was within earshot and later apologised to Michael Portillo in the House on Salter's behalf.  I believe Mr Wilson had similar behaviour between 2005 and 2010.  I hope it was not done as thuggishly and aggressively towards him as it was towards me.


Old and Sad

a bit more understandable that the Tories should be treating Oldham East and Saddleworth as if there was already a key by-election under way, as we see on ConservativeHome:

Judges declared void the result of the general election in Oldham East and Saddleworth, and the man who was elected as Labour MP, Phil Woolas, is awaiting the result of the judicial review he sought on the matter.

However, all the expectation is that the election will have to be re-run in a seat where the Conservatives were a very strong third behind the Liberal Democrats with 26.4% of the vote (Labour and the Lib Dems being on 31.9% and 31.6% respectively).

Whilst a Conservative candidate is not technically in place, Kashif Ali (pictured) - who fought the general election - has been readopted as parliamentary spokesman and it would seem unthinkable that he will not stand in the re-run election.

And although the fact that the local association website currently appears defunct is less than ideal, the Conservatives are nonetheless working away on the ground, knocking on doors and delivering leaflets.

Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi told ConservativeHome:

“Our campaign in Oldham is underway and we will be fighting for every vote. We have an excellent local campaigner and spokesman in Kashif Ali who has been working hard for the area for some time, and we look forward to the battle ahead. We’re building up our team in the area and we are already surveying local opinion. I look forward to pounding the streets of Oldham East and Saddleworth myself.”

Anyone wanting to help the Conservative campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth should visit the association office at 66 Chew Valley Road, Greenfield, Oldham, Lancashire OL3 7DB or email Caroline Dickinson or Dorothy Wonnacott.

but still...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

a rift

why is Basher no longer linking to Reading and District Labour Party?  I think we should be told..

lies and the lying liars etc, why the public tell them

this piece by Eric Joyce MP is vg.  Hat-tip Marbury. People lie about the amount of tax they are prepared to pay, they lie about how they vote, they lie about, oh, most things really.  But they are not liars.  Politicians are.  Well-known fact.  Lying has something to do with class, and with deference (which is not what Eric Joyce is saying) and in fact people do less of it now than they used to, in certain circumstances.  My mother used to lie, especially to doctors, when prescribed medicine had not been taken and she said it had, when she didn't want to treat her children in the way the health visitor told her she should, but told them she had.  This was in the 1950s. She doesn't lie to doctors any more.  She feels she has more power than she had then.  So does lying come from powerlessness?  Or from elsewhere?  Discuss.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Cellist of Sarajevo

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway, Atlantic 2008, first published in Australia, 2008.  I read this because I was very taken with Sarajevo when significant other and I were visiting Europe's capitals.  We were there in March for his birthday, a long weekend, and it snowed the whole time, making our footfalls soft.  The city was so very quiet.  The people who lived there seemed to tread lightly, and their footprints disappeared behind them in the snow.  We stood on the bridge at the spot where the twentieth century started, when Gavrilo Princip shot dead the Archduke Ferdinand and his pregnant wife.  We looked  up at the hills from where the city was shelled, day after day, week after week and month after month.  We looked at the bullet holes in the buildings.  We heard about the burning of the National Library, and we were served drinks by girls with pink cheeks and shy, gentle smiles.

The siege of Sarajevo lasted nearly four years.  In the 1990s.  In Europe.  Even in those pre-low-cost-flight days Sarajevo was less than four hours from London.  We could never say Bosnia was a faraway country of which we knew little.  Although we did not know it well.

Steven Galloway is a Canadian, and I do not know much about him, but perhaps importantly, he is not a European, and as such has less reason to feel guilty.  Because guilt is what this book made me feel.  And shame, at my own self-importance.  I was going to change the world, oh yes I was, in Reading politics.  Pedestrianisation was going to make us free.  All this was going on in Europe, and I didn't really care.  I had never been to Yugoslavia.  I worked then at BBC Monitoring in Reading, and we saw the media dispatches come in.  One time I went from work to the Civic Offices in Reading and was talking to political colleagues about what had been happening in what was rapidly becoming the former Yugoslavia.  They didn't care.  One of them said laconically "Oh yeah.  I've been on holiday there."

The Cellist of Sarajevo is almost unbearably tense and affecting to read.  The conceit of it is the man who goes out into the street every afternoon and plays his cello, in defiance of the bullets and shells and the men in the hills.  People come out to listen, and some of them put flowers at his feet.  "He was the principal cellist of the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra.  That was what he knew how to be... He gave to the people who came to listen what he loved most in the world." (p. 4).  The book is written sparely and cleanly.  "She dresses in silence, picks up her rifle and closes the door to the apartment." (p. 99). The start of a chapter, but could, or should, have been the first line of the book.  Perhaps readers know of great first lines.  I think I would like to start collecting them.

The shelling and burning of the National Library in Sarajevo: "For days afterwards, the ash of a million books floated down on to the city like snow".  There is sadness, and kindness, and slaughter.  "He still can't believe it happened.  He hopes he will never be able to.". This is several stories, about the lives of ordinary Sarajevo people during the siege.  The causes and the reasons for the fighting and the siege are not mentioned, as people surely did not when under siege.  Only on page 253 are "the defenders" (those within the city fighting for its survival) mentioned for the first time.

It is about death and about grief, as books about war must be.

"Then there are the things one doesn't mention about the dead.  It will not be said that he had a quick temper, or that he cheated at his monthly card game.  He was cheap.  When drunk he was cruel.  None of this will ever be said again, has simply vanished from existence.  But these are the things that make a death something to be mourned.  It's not just a disappearance of flesh." (p. 249)

When you say to people that we have had a war in Europe, within the past 20 years, with massacres and rapes and burning buildings and bombings, with Europeans killing Europeans, some of them do not know what you mean.  They really have forgotten the war in Yugoslavia, if they ever thought much about it at all.  The ones who do know about it say "Yes, but", though somehow the "but" never really comes.

For shame, all of us.

let's keep it as it was

Christopher Maskell,, the man who nearly crossed the floor in 2008 but was bullied out of it by Mr Salter, cannot let go of that moment, it is clear.  Mr M has been reselected to serve as Labour candidate for Battle ward in west Reading, the boys inform us.  Mr M posts, about the Remembrance Sunday event at Brock Barracks in west Reading, "Let's keep it as it is".  Not sure what he means by that, but he has chosen to use a picture of the wreath-laying which features - yes - Mr Salter, along with the Conservative MP for Reading East Rob Wilson, thus dating the picture between 2005 and 2009.  WTF?  

no by-election has been called!

in Oldham East and Saddleworth, how many times do I have to say this!  So, no matter what the LibDems are doing there, I do not believe the Labour Party should be behaving as if they are in the middle of a key by-election.  On the day Phil Woolas seeks judicial review of the previous court decision.  A correspondent who is a Labour Party activist in the Midlands says this:

they are behaving as if we are in the middle of a key by-election - even one in a seat previously held by a Liberal MP. It is as if Phil Woolas never existed. I wonder if the swine are happily tramping past his constituency offices with their loathsome leaflets etc?

Sally Bercow isn't quite my cup of poison, but, hats off to her for standing up for Phil. And hats also off to John Bercow for holding firm.
I suppose most of all, I despite those little creeps and creepettes who will have received the 'call' and happily abandoned family/work/ to run off and canvass - no doubt thinking it would earn them Brownie points for future selection applications.

in response to this communication from Labour North-West.organiser Noel Hutchinson:

Thank You.

over the weekend more than 100 people responded to my email and came out campaigning in Oldham East and Saddleworth.
Your help is making a real difference here. The party is really grateful and local people in Oldham and Saddleworth have mentioned how great it is to see Labour highlighting the government's broken promises.
But the Lib Dems are hard at work putting out leaflets and knocking on doors. We cannot let their claims go unchallenged and with today's news that Greater Manchester Police is cutting over a quarter of its workforce, despite Lib Dem pledges, we need to hold them to account for their broken promises.
I am making a personal request. Just a few hours of your time will have a huge impact.
We can only keep up with the Lib Dems with your help.
will you come to Oldham?
Our campaign centre is open seven days a week from 9am until 7pm and a map is available here.
The address is:
Unit 3 Bizspace - Saddleworth
Delph New Road
Please email us at oldhamlabour@gmail.com or call the campaign office on 0787 2417 249 to let us know when you can make it.
Thank you.
Noel Hutchinson
North West Regional Director

Leaving aside the desperate tone of that message, some of us remember what happened when Fiona Jones was convicted of an election offence.  I was in the Chamber when Madam Speaker announced the conviction to the House and declared the seat vacant.  I remember the relish in her voice, the nasty old bitch.  And I remember when Fiona Jones was exonerated on appeal and came back into the House.  I remember the Government Chief Whip turning her back on Fiona.  And I remember what happened to Fiona later, may she rest in peace.


Monday, 15 November 2010

who threw the extinguisher?

a thought, as the broken glass is swept up and the insurance claims submitted, after the "occupation" of Tory HQ last week, for which partly hat-tip Tom Harris, who says:

The students involved in last week’s incident were angry, and understandably so, since many of them, despite Labour’s warnings, had believed the LibDems’ silly, cynical and undeliverable promises on tuition fees. Anger is allowed. Violence – even against property – isn’t.

That's what made me so cross when I watched the coverage of those events last week.  I hadn't quite worked it out at the time.  The students were stupid.  Just plain stupid, to believe the LibDems, who everyone knows are a franchise operation and not a proper political party, and who will say anything, anywhere, to anyone.  People who are being educated, even if they are young, should know better.  They were credulous fools to believe the LibDem promises, and silly to vote for them if they did.  I am sure that many of the students thought it was a fun and exciting thing to be doing, demos often are good fun, and of course we know about the agitators in the crowd, they are always there.  But to feel let down by the LibDems is just unintelligent.  And "Fund My Future" is an idiotic slogan.

Foolish boys and girls.  Now, if you don't like the LibDems any more, you will have a choice of several other parties to vote for at the next opportunity.

That's it really.  A lot of broken glass for not very much.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

development miracles

well, that is what this blog calls them, not sure that I would.  It is reported that a number of countries have made huge strides in human development, thus improving life expectancy. and that one of the reasons they have been able to do this is that they have committed to the empowerment of women.  Availability of contraception.  Increase in the minimum age of marriage.  Ability of women to divorce.  You get the picture.  But where are these countries?  Not where you (probably) think.  They are in the Middle East and North Africa.  Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, Saudi Arabia.  Of these only Tunisia is anything like a democracy, and arguably Oman has its liberal moments, but the rest are Muslim countries which are not at all big on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  So, er... well, it is always good to have one's preconceptions challenged, hein?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

crash blossoms

I have been using these, and been amused by them, for decades without knowing what they were called.  They are plentiful in English but not so much in other languages, and are most often found in newspaper headlines.  They come mostly from the use of nouns which could be used as verbs,  a well-known example (which I was proud to use and get away with when I was a sub at the BBC) being "Government Push Bottles Up Resistance".  One used by the Guardian ages ago was "British Left Waffles on Falklands" which conjures up delightful images of discarded breakfast foods littering Goose Green.  Anyway.  Examples please.

the one they drove out

I have posted before about Moorlands Primary School in west Reading, a school I do not know and have never visited, and that was why I posted about it.  All I knew was stories in the local media that the head teacher was not liked, not wanted by the parents, most of which came from anonymous briefings to the Reading Evening Post, which of course was happy to copy them out.  The inevitable happened and the teacher was driven out, apparently she is now on long-term sick leave, so there is a good use of human resources.  Not.  But we learn today from His Master's Voice that a part-time executive head has now been appointed.  So that's all right then.  And there is a statement from the chair of the school's governing body.  Malcolm Powers.  I believe it is he.  Regional Director of the Labour Party, South-East.

Well done Malc.  Get rid of the girlies, eh?

Reading East MPs make the news

as a correspondent wrote to me this morning. She was referring to the front page of the Guardian, not a rag that normally pollutes my iPad, but you can see it here if you wish. These revelations appear in a book by Rob Wilson, the Conservative MP for Reading East, which naturally I have on pre-order and hope to get soon, and I would counsel all those minded to comment on it, or worse, copy the Guardian piece uncritically, as Basher has done, to actually read the book first.  I shouldn't have to advise people to do this, but some just never learn. 

Friday, 12 November 2010

airbrushed out of history

The Labour Party is good at that.they have done it to Phil Woolas, as today's communication from the East Midlands Labour Party calling for help in the by-election we believe is coming reveals:

----- Original Message -----
From: East Midlands Labour Party
Sent: Friday, November 12, 2010 2:46 PM
Subject: Message from Oldham East and Saddleworth

If you can't see this email correctly, please click here

Dear Friend,

The Liberal Democrats have been out in force in Oldham East and Saddleworth over the last week and have already put out two constituency wide leaflets.

It is vital that we don't allow their propaganda and broken promises to go unchallenged. A lot of local people who have voted lib dem in the past feel let down by them both nationally and locally, and we need to show how their cuts will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest.

We have a leaflet being printed now that we need to get out by Sunday.

We will of course be respecting Remembrance Sunday but can you help on Saturday? We won't be able to do this without you. Just a couple of hours of your time will really make a difference here in Oldham.

You will be assured of a warm welcome - regardless of the weather! - and we can provide lots of warm drinks and hot soup in return for your hard work.

The campaign centre is open from 9am till 7pm every day. A map is available here and the address is:

Unit 3  Bizspace - Saddleworth

Delph New Road




Sat navs don't always find the centre, so printing off the map would be advisable. The nearest train station is Greenfield Station and we can arrange lifts to the campaign centre from the station.

Please call the campaign centre on 07872417249 or email lucy_smith@new.labour.org.uk

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Best Wishes,



Noel Hutchinson

North West Regional Director


To unsubscribe, please click here. Privacy: we won't pass on your email address to anyone else. See http://www.labour.org.uk/privacy
Reproduced from an email sent by the Labour Party, promoted by Ray Collins, General Secretary, the Labour Party, on behalf of the Labour Party, all at 39 Victoria Stre et, London, SW1H 0HA

If you can't see this email correctly, please click here


The Tory councillor who tweeted this has apparently been arrested.  This is a disgrace.  Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, possibly the most annoying person in the UK media, although she is paid to be annoying, should intervene and ask for this nonsense to be stopped.  But I would be surprised if she did.  The Tory concerned has been suspended from the party, so you will not find much Tory comment on the subject.  What I think is worth pointing out, aside from the freedom of speech implications - if people were offended by this it does not matter, offensiveness is not a ground for sanctions, legal or other - is that Alibhai-Brown has said publicly that there should be no protest to Iran about the stoning sentence it has handed down but not yet, as far as we know,  carried out.  That too is a disgrace.  And offensive.  If a stoning happened in the UK would she think that was OK?  And if not why is it OK in Iran?  Human rights are universal.  If they are not they do not exist.  Pure and simple.  OK Yasmin?  Let's hear from you.

give us your money

is what the students were saying on Wednesday.  Yes, that's right peeps, they want your money so they can earn lots more of it later than you probably do.  In fact I blame the police for what happened at Millbank.  They were not apparently monitoring the anarchist planning of the criminal damage that took place, which was being done on Twitter, hardly a private means of communication.  So the reinforcements took three hours to turn up.  And someone, seemingly not one of the anarchists, threw a fire extinguisher at the police, and should therefore be charged with attempted murder.  The non-anarchist little loves were waving placards saying "Fund Our Future" - give us your money.  Not apparently embarrassed at all.  The Daily Mail naturally enough photographed the prettier girls and told us about their privileged backgrounds.  One of the latter, who got on to the roof, was called McKenzie.  Basher McKenzie tells us that he was there, he does not tell us whether he bashed anybody.

Higher education is done, and funded, wrong in the UK.  Nowhere in the world seems to have a a perfect system, certainly not France, where students are warehoused in lecture theatres in their hundreds and the dropout rate at the end of the first year is near fifty per cent.  Not in Germany, where if you don't fancy taking the end of year exams you don't bother, delaying graduation for ten years or more if you feel like it.  In the USA, where fees are about 40K, things are done rather better.  My American niece and nephew are just about to go to medical and law school respectively.  Both are receiving full bursaries, awarded to them because of high academic achievement.

It isn't about fees.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

the judgment of the electorate must prevail

two members of Reading Labour's executive committee
indeed it should, but it is not always permitted to.  I am indebted to someone commenting on a previous post for alerting me to a post by former Cllr John Howarth, prop. Public Impact Limited (remember "Your Better Off With Labour"?).  I shall give parts of it a little light fisking, below.  It is not surprising that Howarth supports Phil Woolas, as his boyfriend Mr Salter did, but look at what he says:

... the Phil Woolas story is even by the standards of modern politics something quite unique. For the first time since universal suffrage came about an ‘election court’ - an anachronism of a legislative system littered with detritus dating back to Cromwell and beyond overturns the judgement of the electorate. No.  Courts have overturned election results before, in Newark, in Winchester as Howarth says himself, and there have been others.Two judges, no jury, sitting with a range of powers designed in another age when politicians were all of independent means.

There is almost certainly what do you mean "almost"?  fan of fraudulent elections are you John?  Oh.  a place in the system for some form of ‘long stop’ where a defective election may be contested on a variety of grounds. Whether or not it is wise for candidates to do so is a moot point. Gerry Malone, the former Conservative MP for Winchester, who lost by two votes at the 1997 election and successfully petitioned against the spoilt papers found himself trashed by 21,556 at the re-run. The British don’t like bad losers... The right to remove an elected representative, unless that person is convicted of criminal offences, should rest solely with the electorate. oh yeah?  but not in Reading East So while there could be a case for ordering a re-run of an election, there is no justification for not allowing the electorate of Oldham East and Saddleworth to determine whether or not they wish Phil Woolas to represent them. The essential principle is that in a modern democracy the final sanction should lie with the electorate. or in the case of Reading Labour a small group of men
... While it is easy to understand the political logic in Labour’s suspension of Phil Woolas it is distasteful and piles one injustice on top of another. Phil Woolas was one of Labour’s most loyal, never voting against the Labour Government or the party whip, a member over 35 years and someone who never worked for anything other than Labour success.Tso obviously he had to go, eh John, by the logic of your own performance and activities ... He dosen’t sic deserve it. Phil Woolas is, as things stand, barred from the Commons, so his status as a Labour member is relevant only to him personally - he is no longer a public representative, there is no whip to withdraw. Pointless though the suspension is, the control freaks of the Labour establishment may wish to use this unfortunate incident as a pretext to impose another set of heavy-handed restrictions on local parties I only wish they would, the executive committees of most CLPs are packed with dangerous lunatics while handily taking attention from their own manifest failings in this case...

a period of silence on Mr Howarth's part would be most welcome.  While these barely literate doublethink ramblings can be entertaining, every paragraph he writes reminds the Reading electorate of what they have only just got rid of.  A bunch of corrupt scumbags who hold the electorate in contempt.  
Thanks John.


Le Col du Linge.  It did not look like this in May.
Today is the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  Thousands of bloggers will be posting this on this day and at this hour, but I don't care.  There is something a little comforting about knowing others are doing the same as you are on a particular day of the year.  I have already been to a remembrance ceremony locally,  as they do it here in France on 1st November, but today is a day to remember those who died.  Far more as a proportion of those serving than today of course, looking back at the war graves of the early 20th century. In May this year I visited a First World War battlefield in the Vosges, where some (not all could be identified) of the young men who were killed there are commemorated.  Eighteen, nineteen and twenty years old.  They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.

Interesting fact (to me) - that battlefield is at a place called Col du Linge.  Nothing to do with laundry or lingerie, "linge" is a Celtic word, with the same root as the first half of the place name Leinster.

Today is a public holiday here in France, for remembrance, and most people (including the entire organisation I work for) are making the bridge ("faire le pont") and are not working tomorrow either, so as to have a four-day weekend.  But children are going to school tomorrow, so it is a stay-at-home weekend, which suits me just fine.  Solemn images on TV this morning of the demonstrations by schoolchildren and young students on this day in 1940, against the German occupation.  Pity their leaders and military did not show the courage those "lyceens" did at the time.

Public holidays here are celebrated on the day on which they fall, and not on the following Monday as in the UK, which I greatly prefer.  Of course it means that we lose some when they fall on a Saturday or Sunday, but so what really.  We get plenty.

Poppies.  "Les coquelicots".  French people do not know why we wear them, and they often ask.  They usually like the answer.  But many, especially women, get a certain look on their face when they see a poppy worn as an emblem.  This is because "les coquelicots" is slang for "periods", for reasons which are easy to understand.  A thing you just have to know. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Murdoch Paywall of Death

there is a v. interesting article here on the economics of newsmedia paywalls.  Hat-tip Flashing Blade.  It is worth reading it all to try and understand what News is doing here.  They have lost revenue (it seems) by making the Times content paid for on line.  I used to get a daily email from The Times, with its main stories, and you could click through to read them if you were interested.  But on my BlackBerry or PC the experience wasn't great.  The Times is my newspaper of choice (although boy are they keen on the Coalition these days, especially the blue half), and has been for a number of years, ever since I stopped reading the Guardian, about the time the latter started (OK, it never really stopped) hating Labour and supporting the Taleban.  But I cannot realistically buy the physical paper here in France, and I don't want a bigger recycling pile than I already have anyway, so once I got my iPad I subscribed.  It is not ad-free on the iPad app, despite what people in the comments suggest, but the reading experience is just great.  You can get straight to the piece you want to read (in my case the Dubya memoir extract at lunchtime, save me reading the whole book), and it remembers where you were last time you opened that edition.  It can be a little slow to download; I try and remember to tap on it when I get up in the morning, so it downloads at home on wifi rather than using up my 3G minutes on the way to work.  Am I boring you?  Anyway, the piece suggests that if people have to pay to subscribe they are going to want a niche experience, a read that chimes with their views.  Well, yes.  Isn't that what people have always wanted from newspapers?  Isn't that why there is more than one newspaper in non-totalitarian countries? It suggests that newspapers are becoming more like newsletters.  I disagree.  But I think it is true that Murdoch can afford to take a drop in revenue and see how it goes.  And when you subscribe like this, as I have discovered, you feel a kind of loyalty - and you certainly read more of the articles.
I also read Le Monde, though not all of it because it has A Lot Of Words.  Currently I have a subscription to the paper edition, weekend papers and mag only, which works; I can read the headline stories on line free but it is really crap.  They do have an iPad app now (since about two weeks ago) but they are currently refusing to unsubscribe me from the paper edition.  All you can do is take a three-month holiday from it, for anything else you have to be interviewed by Nicolas Sarkozy as far as I can tell.  Oh and you have to do the transaction on paper.  Because this is France.  Chiz.  Last weekend there was an article about cheese.  There always is.  And they have a dismaying tendency, whenever there is an Issue Of The Day, to commission an article by - a philosopher.

Anyway, read the piece I have linked to, the comments too.  I'd be interested to know what readers think.

Monday, 8 November 2010


I used to know Phil Woolas quite well, we spoke often.  He once referred to John Howarth, whom he knew quite well at one stage, I believe they were colleagues, as a "snake".  When the case against him, of a breach of electoral law by knowingly misrepresenting what his opponent's views were and purveying untruths in his election literature, began in September, Mr Salter was quick to jump to Phil Woolas' defence, trumpeting in the local newspaper his "high regard".  Since the verdict he has had nothing to say from his exile in Australia however.  Harriet Harman, now that Woolas has been found guilty, has been quick to condemn him (Woolas not Salter) as a liar, though others in the party have been less willing.  I do not agree with Harriet btw.  Lying is always a bad thing to do, in politics as anywhere else.  People think politicians lie all the time, in fact they rarely do, because it is dangerous to the career.  If you tell an outright lie you are going to get found out, sooner or later.  Like Mr Salter was when he lied about his vote on the Iraq war.  So Phil should not have done it.  If what he published really was untrue, and his LibDem opponent was not the liar.  But he should not have been found guilty of an offence (not a criminal offence) and removed from his job and banned from doing it again for three years.  That is a disgrace.  That is not what the law should do.  He could probably go to a supra-national court if he does not get leave for judicial review.  And I believe in case-law terms this has opened the way for any disgruntled loser of an election to say that his opponent said Horrid Things about him and should thus be removed. What next?  Going to court if you don't like the elected candidate's face?
update: former Labour General Secretary Peter Watt posts rather sensibly about this, and he should know, hat-tip Iain Dale.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Labour in Reading "wrong" says its Facebook administrator

Reading and District Labour Party I am optimistic. One of the advantages of doing the Facebook page for Reading Labour is the ability to interact with the young, new members and relay there thoughts and hopes back. Clearly you are correct in your feeling that Labour took wrong directions but now we're in opposition both nationally and locally we need to look at rebuilding our grassroots support, become more active in the community and re-build the party as a positive progressive party. In regards to your specific questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail us and I will forward them on to the chair.

The above is the last post in response to me from young Duncan Bruce, who is the Facebook administrator for Reading Labour. I note "clearly you are correct in your feeling that Labour took wrong directions". He is not wrong there. And courageous in saying so. Shutting down comments on Reading Labour's Facebook page however is not. courageous that is.


Saturday, 6 November 2010

There they go. Again

Duncan Bruce Just wanted to wish everyone a peaceful Diwali and a fun Guy Fawkes night. If you'd like to see some fireworks (apart from the one's between me and Jane at the moment :) ) the Get Reading website has compiled a list http://j.mp/9zBAB2
Il y a 22 heures via iPhone

The above is the latest post on the Reading Boys Facebook page - they have now disabled comments to stop Horrid Girls saying things - but Dunky Babes is wrong about the fireworks - I am sure he is a very nice boy and I bear him no ill will and I am sure he is good to his mother. I thought it was just me who had been blocked from the page, but bracknellblog.blogspot.com says no-one can comment now. Oh dear. lol

Friday, 5 November 2010

an excellent result

from my uploading of a few pix to Reading Labour's Facebook page, as follows:

Reading and District Labour Party Hi Jane, My name is Duncan and I administer the Reading Labour Facebook page. We never met and I am happy to have you contribute to this page, but if you wish to upload pictures which appear to have no point I will have to block you. I'm afraid Reading Labour has changed quite a bit in 5 years.

Er, well, it hasn't if it still will not admit dialogue.  Or comment.  Little lesson for Dunky - Facebook is not a broadcast mode but an interactive one.  I remember the savage bullying of a party member who produced a paper newsletter, for internal consumption only, before Facebook, blogs or even websites were much thought of.  So what has changed?  Answers in the comments please lovely boys.

OK now this is serious

the hate website revolutionmuslim.com has been publicised in today's Times because it published a list of MPs, present and former, including yours truly, who voted for the Iraq war back in 2003, and instructed readers to kill those people.  That list was taken down at some point after midnight or so last night, and the link to purveyors of kitchen knives to use to stab said individuals has also disappeared.  The host of the website does not have to take these things down, because it is hosted in the USA, where the constitution makes it diffcult for the authorities to deny freedom of speech in this way.  And I am not going to start living like Salman Rushdie.  But the website is truly hateful.  I know there are plenty of them out there, but I do not spend time looking at them, however I have looked at this one.  It contains, with plenty else, a pledge to kill all Christians in Iraq, and it calls on Muslim women to arm themselves and to kill "Jews and Christians".

I was looking at it on my iPad on the tram this morning, and while I was discreet it did not worry me.  I would not have done this in London.

Nice, hein?  After the slaughter in a Catholic church in Iraq and the attempted murder of Stephen Timms MP.

Still  happy, Guardianistas?

screen shot

just brightened up my day a little yesterday by putting some photos on the Silly Boys' facebook page, here
just in case, hein? nothing serious, a dinosaur, a crowd of villagers with torches and pitchforks (resembling the typical attendance at the Reading GC) and a bunch of Hezbollah troops giving the Nazi salute, as they do.  If you try to go to this site from their website on a non-mobile device the link is disabled so you cannot, at least that was the case last night, so I have un-linked, and of course my blog is backed up so thrrrp.  Now get over yourselves boys and go out and do something useful.

the social network

anyone see the film? Thought it was verbal and stylish myself but little point to it. Anyway, the Silly Boys have got a Facebook page and have had it since August, but have set the parameters (settings) so that anyone can post on there, without intervention of administrator. So I have had fun putting a few photos on there today.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

they've gone!

click on Silly Boys, aka Reading Labour, and this is what you get:

Account Suspended

This Account Has Been Suspended

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

a poppy for remembrance

Today I am wearing a poppy.  It is hard for me to understand why some people object to this, but object they do.  It has come home to me that there is quite a cultural gulf between nations on these matters.  I have colleagues from 46 other countries, and only the Brits wear a poppy.  And not all of them do.  That is our custom, and it is our charity, whose aims and values I support, and so I wear a poppy, which shows that I have donated at least a little.  In France they do Remembrance on 1st November, All Saints Day, a public holiday.  I went yesterday to the Place de la Republique in Strasbourg to watch the ceremony.  It was shorter and rather less pompous than the Brit Remembrance Sunday ceremony.  The services were represented but there was no march past, just a wreath laying.  Children helped to lay the wreaths, which I liked.  There was a brief message from the top of the military, which I am told is always locally focused.  This one reminded us that when Strasbourg was under German occupation, which it has been several times in its history, its people were willing to fight and die for freedom.  And then a lone unaccompanied female singer gave us the Marseillaise.  What a tune.  That song was written here in Strasbourg, not in Marseille as some think. And the words make a particular kind of sense, given that Strasbourg has been occupied by Germany, has been in Germany, and has had its people sent to the eastern front. Most of them didn't come back, but the ones who did were often ostracised as having fought for the Nazis.  And this is in living memory. 
Those memories are with us, even if we are much too young for that war to have featured in our lives.  I thought of this when we went to see the wonderful Leonard Cohen in Stuttgart last month.  The first time we saw him together was in 2008, also in Germany, in Lorrach.  He didn't sing The Partisan then.  I saw him in Colmar, Alsace, in summer 2009.  He did sing The Partisan, which is partly in French, in Colmar, and when he came to the lines "J'ai tant d'amis, j'ai la France entiere" (I have so many friends, I have the whole of France) everyone in the audience stood up silently.  It was electrifying.  He sang that song in Stuttgart too, with a very different result.  Most of the audience did not like it.  You could feel it in the room.  Lenny's fan base is not very young, but even so we were mostly boomers and younger, post Second World War - and that song is a very different thing in Germany.

Memories.  Parts of ours are made from those of our parents and granddparents, what they told us, what they knew, and what they did not tell us too.  I think of this when I go to Germany.

how to be in opposition

the Reading Labour Group have had some kind of awayday to learn how to be in opposition, I am told, and have been given an instruction manual, extracts of which have been quoted at a council meeting, though not by Labour.  I have not yet seen this document, so...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Ebooks from Waterstones - the story continues

Dear Ms Griffiths,
Thank you for your email. Waterstone's is a UK based bookseller and bound to honour the rights agreements of the publishers that supply us. To comply with international publishing rights agreements we have removed the ability for overseas customers to download eBooks from Waterstones.com. We apologise for the inconvenience, and will pass on any comments to the relevant publishers.
Hope this helps.
Kind regards,
Waterstones.com Customer Service

From: Jane [mailto:jane_grffths@yahoo.co.uk]
Sent: 26 October 2010 13:41
To: info
Subject: Re: eBooks from Waterstones.com
It does in fact quite seriously inconvenience me.  I live in France, and my opportunities to buy ebooks in English from French sites are very limited.  Could you please explain why you have done this?
Jane Griffiths
Sent from my iPad

On 26 Oct 2010, at 12:53, "info" wrote:

Dear Customer,
We see from our records that you have previously purchased an eBook from Waterstones.com whilst having a registered address outside of the UK and Ireland. 
We regret that  as of  20th October 2010, we are no longer able to sell  eBooks to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland.  We have had to take this action to comply with the legal demands of publishers regarding the territories  into which we can sell eBooks.
Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience  that  this may cause.
Please note: Your previously purchased eBooks are not affected by this and will still be available in your ‘Digital order history’ in your online account.
Kind regards,
Waterstones.com Customer Service

The contents of this message and all attachments have been sent in confidence for the attention of the addressee only. If you are not the intended recipient you are kindly requested to preserve this confidentiality and to advise the sender immediately of the error in transmission. Waterstone's Booksellers Limited, Registered Office Address: Capital Court, Capital Interchange Way, Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 0EX. Registered in England, Registered No: 610095