Thursday, 22 June 2017

We're having a heat wave - time for The Beach.

This week I am very happy for a number of reasons. Firstly, my first born has gone on holiday with his mates and I am free of his Friday night washing load for the first time since November. Hurray!  The second reason for feeling happy is that the weather here has been remarkably warm and sunny for this time of year. I had been worried. I have written off the first two weeks of June, due to a regularly occurring phenomenon that I have unilaterally named 'English Monsoon.'  My third reason to be cheerful was caused by a combination of the two previously mentioned: I had booked a two day 'get away from it all' that has paid dividends in both the time well spent and incredibly 'close encounters of the David Attenborough kind' that I look forward to sharing with you all soon.

Today's order of business, (no - it is not the unusually informal attire worn by Her Majesty at the State Opening of Parliament - as she read out a very watered down Queen's Speech - on behalf of her minority government  - with a certain bored air of "One has done this 64 times before and just like the McCartney song, it is not one of the best one has ever heard."), is The Beach. This is great timing too  - I want to share news of wonderful new exhibitions at The Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool between now and 12th August. The gallery is ablaze with bright sea-side stripes, with a show entitled LOVE LIFE, ACT II by Emma Hart and Jonathan Baldock. The work features jovial textiles, hilarious ceramics and more than a little seaside sauce. There is a film screening, an exhibition of Punch and Judy puppets from the gallery's own archive, with added surprises. It is a joy for children of all ages.

Hold on a moment - there's more. Upstairs at The Grundy is a candid 1970's retro show, by photographer Shirley Baker, entitled 'On The Beach'. The work juxtaposes two sets of photographs taken five years apart. It is well worth the stair climb - I promise. I enjoyed my own visit so much that I have shaken on a deal with the new curator to have another of our much loved Dead Good Poets writing workshops at the gallery very soon. Our responses to the Mark Leckey exhibition were very well received by the archivists at The Southbank Centre - so I hope that we will have a great turn out for this event. I spoke with artist Emma Hart and she was delighted with the idea. We will post details here, on Twitter and also on our Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society's Facebook page, as soon as a date/time is finalised.

My poem this week was written in Calpe, Costa Blanca in 2009. There are two beautiful beaches there; the Levante beach is in a sheltered cove, towered over by the Iffac, a large rock full of nesting sea birds; the other beach is a long stretch of soft sand, overseen by a long promenade, dotted withed lovely shops and bars. When I visit, II like to sit with a strong coffee, on a white sofa, at mid-afternoon siesta time, watching the scene and making note for a later work. Let me take you there...

Beach Parade

Rows and rows of polka dot and pinstripe parasols
parade along the sand along the bay.
Yellow, red and turquoise blue,
greens of every tone and hue,
zig-zags, checks, diagonals in each and every way.

Bathers shaded from the heat, sand filled toes on naked feet,
towels strewn like postcards through the door.
Deep cerise with orange stripe,
lime and lemon, citrus ripe.
Bodies baking, dipping, dripping, diving from the rocks around the shore.

Children run and splash and scream. Toddlers chuckle,
melting ice-cream drips on sand,
berry blush and almond cream,
choc mint chip or strawberry dream,
A cornet filled with tastes of summer tightly held in hand.

Roaring surf, silver spray, swirling currents in the bay,
seagulls call and soar across the blue.
Surfers sway with sun-kissed locks,
time moves slowly round the clocks.
Music drifts.    And Fades.
And so we sleep and hour.   Or two.

Our senses store the memories of holidays beside the sea,
We soak them up and pocket them away.
Bronzing skin, bleaching hair,
baking sand and salt-filled air.
Sensations on a postcard: A place we can escape to on a dark, cold rainy day.

Thanks for reading. Now get out there and enjoy the sunshine.   Adele

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Beach - South Shore

I was nine years old when my family moved to Blackpool. Dad took a pub on South Promenade and my playground was the stretch of beach from the north side of South Pier to the small, ornamental windmill that used to grace the promenade opposite Waterloo Road. I could easily find ‘home’ between those landmarks, though I didn’t venture out alone at that age. I haven’t been there for a long time, but it’s a place where I always feel spiritually ‘at one’ with my departed loved ones. My father exercised our dog there, at least twice a day, early morning and late at night. When I was older I’d go with him sometimes.  My mother often took me out for a treat when my younger sister was in bed. We would go to feed pennies into the fruit machines in The Beachcomber amusements on the pier, maybe play bingo for a bit, then walk along the beach to Central Pier and back again, if the tide was out. My grandmother spent hours in the bay window of our living room just watching the world go by on the prom and the beach. I’ve only got to stand there to feel the love and the closeness of the family and be thankful for an abundance of happy memories, gathered in a short time.

Throughout those childhood summers my sister and I would be taken to play on the sands by our mum, or Nanna when she was visiting, but more often by Auntie Kathy who looked after us. With buckets and spades, towels and sometimes a picnic in a hold-all, we would spend ages trying to cross four lanes of traffic then the tram tracks. The smell of hot-dogs mingled with candy-floss and fried onions. Our bare feet would be roasting on the hot tarmac and we’d be dodging the assortment of spills that messed the pavements. Auntie Kathy always had her sandals on and only took them off when she gave in to our persistent mithering to go paddling. She kept us away from the donkey ride areas, we laughed at her calling ice-lollies ‘lolly-ices’ whenever we had one and she taught me how to pull the heads and tails of shrimps as I ate a couple of ounces worth from the seafood stall. We loved her. She helped us to make sand-pies and castles then sat back to smoke a Park Drive while she watched us get water for the moat. It was much the same with our mum and Nanna and we survived those long, hot summer days of hours on the beach with no sun lotion. We tanned and didn’t burn. Things were different in the mid-60s.

On the gorgeous Pembrokeshire beaches with my children some thirty or so years later, it was jelly-shoes, tee-shirts, sun hats and lotion for arms and legs.

Wherever I go, I’m drawn to the coast and I’ve strolled on some fabulous beaches at home and abroad, but, so far, nowhere can match the stunning silver sand of the west coast of South Uist. It was my first breath-taking view of the Hebrides. There were many more spectacular coastal views, like my photograph of a beach on the Isle of Eriskay where I collected ‘whiter than white’ shells and a thimble full of shimmering sand.
My chosen poem was created by one of my favourite poets, Dr John Cooper Clarke, and members of the public who contributed their thoughts of the coast.
Nation's Ode To The Coast
Dr John Cooper Clarke

A big fat sky and a thousand shrieks
The tide arrives and the timber creaks
A world away from the working week
Où est la vie nautique?
That’s where the sea comes in…

Dishevelled shells and shovelled sands,
Architecture all unplanned
A spade ‘n’ bucket wonderland
A golden space, a Frisbee and
The kids and dogs can run and run
And not run in to anyone
Way out! Real gone!
That’s where the sea comes in…

Impervious to human speech, idle time and tidal reach
Some memories you can’t impeach
That’s where the sea comes in
A nice cuppa splosh and a round of toast
A cursory glance at the morning post
A pointless walk along the coast
That’s what floats my boat the most
That’s where the sea comes in…

Now, voyager - once resigned
Go forth to seek and find
The hazy days you left behind
Right there in the back of your mind
Where lucid dreams begin
With rolling dunes and rattling shale
The shoreline then a swollen sail
Picked out by a shimmering halo
That’s where the sea comes in…
Could this be luck by chance?
Eternity in a second glance
A universe beyond romance
That’s where the sea comes in…

Yeah, that’s where the sea comes in…
Thanks for reading, Pam x


Saturday, 17 June 2017


In the wake of the violent attacks in Manchester and London and that fiasco of a General Election, I was quite looking forward to writing about trees this week - nothing controversial, a peaceful topic, pastoral, relaxing and restorative.

Then came the Grenfell Tower tragedy and a pressing need to respond in some way to that horrendous event and its background causes.

I have seen my house burn down and I have first-hand experience of tower-block life. I lived in one in the east end of London in the late '70s, part of the social housing provided by Tower Hamlets, that city's most deprived borough. Highworth Point stood 26 stories high and the wind from Hackney Marshes used to howl round it and its six bleak companion towers on the estate. The flats themselves were serviceable enough as concrete boxes go, but getting to them was a bit of a nightmare. The elevators were used as latrines and the stairs were littered with broken glass and refuse. It wasn't a good environment for kids to grow up in, so the flats were allocated in the main to young couples and older tenants whose families had grown and flown. English was most people's second language. It was a cosmopolitan and reasonably caring community - though in truth no one particularly wanted to be there. I have blogged about it before.... and wrote a poem about the whole concept of high-rise housing, of which it's worth quoting a couple of lines:

   "We, the people, condemn this new world with one voice
     though we end up as tenants - we haven't much choice..."

London's tower blocks, when originally completed in the early '60s, may have been better equipped than the horizontal slums they were designed to replace - but that material advantage wore off after a couple of decades, by which time a lack of maintenance coupled with the relatively soulless nature of high-rise living soon rendered them not much better than vertical slums. Thankfully, Tower Hamlets took the sensible decision in the '90s to demolish Highworth Point and its fellow high-rises rather than try and tart them up as was done in other London boroughs. Blackpool recently felled its own three remaining tower-blocks.

The real iniquity of the Grenfell Tower disaster is that this happened to a social housing community situated in Kensington, the wealthiest borough of London, and that the tenants of the tower had been warning the housing association for months that the place was unsafe. The allegations being made are that the refurbishment of their building was done on the cheap using materials that have been declared unfit for use in other countries with more stringent regulations; that an overdue review of whether the regulations were still fit-for-purpose kept on being deferred on the grounds that nothing bad had happened; that the tenants' repeated expressions of concern were dismissed by the TMO.

The inhabitants of Grenfell Tower had little option but to live where they did, in a refurbished concrete high-rise - but the management association had an absolute moral duty to give them a secure environment and to listen to and react to their concerns that Grenfell Tower didn't measure up.

You might be wondering with some justification where the trees theme kicks in - it's right here.

The residents of Grenfell Tower had arrived there from all quarters - England, Brazil, Ghana, Ethiopia, Morocco, Spain, Syria and beyond. They had family trees stretching across the world. They were living in London in the hope of making better lives for themselves and their children, cosmopolitan and aspirational. In the space of a few horrendous hours as fire and smoke tore up and through their high-rise homes, those family trees were ravaged in the most cruel way imaginable; fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters were variously separated from loved ones or shrivelled together in the flames. The agony is beyond comprehension.

Such a catastrophe should not have been possible in 21st century London. The shock and anger won't subside any time soon. I hope those impacted get the chance of a proper inquest rather than the public enquiry that has been proposed.

To the memory of those who died in Grenfell Tower, June 2017
Surely Grenfell Tower will be torn down in the aftermath of whatever investigation takes place. No one would want to live there after what happened. Wouldn't it be fitting if the area was turned into a memorial garden planted with trees from around the world?

Today's poem cannot hope to be an adequate response to the incendiary disaster that ripped through so many family trees at Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Wednesday morning. It's a work in progress, but here goes...

The timing of the tragedy put me in mind of a Simon & Garfunkel song, so I've borrowed it's title for the poem and have woven in a couple of references as well. (You'll recognise them if you know the song. If you want to check it out, it's on the album of the same name.)

Wednesday Morning, 3A.M.
I lived in onesuch once.
Thank god they pulled it down.

For the residents of Grenfell Tower
could only cower in smoke-filled cells
as hope deserted and as fire engulfed them
Wednesday morning, 3AM,
no hydrants, no sprinklers, no chance.

Just weeks before,
no one has died, you said, no one is dead,
as you ignored those tenants' timely protests.
They were lucky to have a roof above their heads!

They came from every continent to London
with hope in their hearts
to make a safer and a better life.
What have you done?
You provided social housing to fit the bill.
You had a duty of care - almost a sacred trust,
yet put the renovations of the tower
out to private tender looking for the cheapest quote
or something even lower
and turned a blind eye or worse still.

So many priceless family trees scarred,
charred or burned completely down to ash
in a forest fire of a concrete pyre
in the middle of a city gone mad
with the cynical dash for cash.

There will be a reckoning.
No one has died, you said, no one is dead.
Ask your expert quantity surveyor now
what is the itemised cost of a human life?
Ask the nightwatchman who's lost
both his children and his wife.

Wednesday morning, 3AM.
Alarm bells were ringing.
This all seemed unreal,
a script badly written.
They shared with him by mobile phone
the last moments of their living hell
in a burning shell -
Good-bye, I love you.
I don't want to die.

Thanks for reading. Take a deep breath. Be kind to each other, Steve ;-)

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Trees - they are our only hope.

I love trees.  I could tell you all about the five trees in my garden and thoroughly enjoy the process of blogging this week.  I could tell you all about the campaign I helped to launch in 2010 that raised funding for over 1,000 at an ecology park on the River Wyre. I don't need to write about that though, because I suppose many of you will have already seen them as you walk up the drumlin.  I hope that many of them will still be there when your great-great-grandchildren walk up the same hill, 60 years from now.

That is the wonderful thing about trees.  If we leave them to their own devices they out live us.  They are something that we can confidently pass on to future generations. That is; if we don't tear them down to build on the land where they thrive; if we don't pollute them until they no are no longer able to breath in carbon-dioxide and produce live-giving oxygen; if we don't decimate their populus to plant palm-oil trees, for the snack-food and cosmetics industry.

A Rainforest Action Network field investigation team has documented new evidence of large-scale, illegal rainforest destruction within habitat critical to the survival of the Sumatran elephant, tiger and orang-utan. RAN’s research has uncovered supply chain connections that link the rogue palm oil company responsible for the deforestation to major global brands through their shared supplier, Wilmar. The companies implicated include PepsiCo, McDonalds, Nestle, Unilever and Procter and Gamble.

I have been aware of the deforestation of Indonesia since reading an article in National Geographic in 2008. I was so affected by the destruction of orang-utan habitat that I wrote about it and spoke out against it. I also began a lifetime commitment by changing the products that I bought, completely cutting out any that had palm-oil content. It is harder than you would think - there are so many everyday products that contain palm-oil. Years ago I switched to vegetable suet, believing it to be better for my heart than beef suet.  I had no idea that the product is made from palm-oil and that orang-utans were being mercilessly killed to make sure that is a profitable crop.

I don't want to preach.  If you, like me, feel strongly about the rainforest, about the survival of the other species with whom we share this wonderful earth, there are many things that we can do. There are petitions to sign, we can lobby MP's, more importantly we can look at the content of the products that we buy and stop fuelling the destructive cruelty of the multi-national profiteers who are destroying our planet. So before you chose a pack of Dorito's or a can of Pepsi for your mid-movie snack, consider that the manufacturers of those products get rich at the expense of innocent, fragile wildlife.

Anyway - plant a tree, even a small fruit tree helps the ozone layer, provides nectar for birds and bees and the fruit will taste better than the ones in the shops. Did you know that if you have the freehold to your property, you can be buried in your own grounds?  Did you know that, after your death, your body can be put into a pod with a tree sapling and then you can provide the nourishment to help it thrive?  It makes cremation seem such a waste.

I wrote the poem at a Wordpool workshop last autumn and have waited for the right moment to share.  

Ode to a Tree
I bathe in your shadow,
striped by filtered light,
the gentle breeze bending as it curves around us.
A strange couple,
me,  just seven and a half,
 you more than a century.
What knowledge
passes from one to the other?
A child and tree.
Thanks for reading,  Adele   

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Trees - Bats and a Red Dragon

19:58:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , , , , , , , 1 comment
When the children were young we spent summer holidays in Pembrokeshire. We were fortunate to have the use of a static caravan owned by family. It was situated on a spacious site by the coast, surrounded by woodland. My husband warned our children to keep away from ‘the forest’ because a bright red dragon lived there. It was very fierce and snorted flames through huge nostrils. It was also very good at sniffing out children who were still awake after a certain time, apparently. The children weren’t quite sure about a dragon hiding in our trees, though they had seen plenty of Red Dragon themed items in the shops and didn’t doubt their existence. One day we were driving through the woods along the winding lane that took us to the main road when we saw a goat tethered to a tree.

“Oh look, there’s the dragon’s dinner!”  Said Dad to two horrified children.

Well, that was a step too far, especially when we returned later to find the goat no longer there.

When our children were a little older, they liked to be ‘scared’ by my husband stopping the car at night on the darkest stretch of the lane and turning the headlights off. No one wanted to be first to say ‘let’s go’ and get ridiculed by the others. It was usually me suggesting an end to silly games as it was nearly bed time. Nothing to do with fear, certainly not.

We never saw a real dragon but we did see the bats that lived in the trees. They flew around at dusk and we would watch them from the caravan veranda as we relaxed when the children were asleep after a fun-filled day.

Our children are now parents themselves. They still refer to the woodland near the caravan as the forest. If they ever visit with their little ones, I’m sure our legend of the Red Dragon will live on.

I was searching for a suitable poem about trees to add to my blog when vanity got the better of me and I looked no further than ‘The Tree in Pamela’s Garden’. Well, it had to be, didn’t it?

What I wasn’t expecting was eight pages of ‘A Literary Analysis’ about the fairly short poem.  The scrutiny kept me engrossed for a while, fascinated and amused with a bit of disbelief and lots of ‘What are they on about?’ or ‘What are they on?’ Either I’ve been away from education for too long, or I haven’t studied American poetry and poets enough.
The Tree in Pamela’s Garden

Pamela was too gentle to deceive
Her roses. “Let the men stay where they are,”
She said, “and if Apollo’s avatar
Be one of them, I shall not have to grieve.”
And so she made all Tilbury Town believe
She sighed a little more for the North Star
Than over men, and only in so far
As she was in a garden was like Eve.

Her neighbors—doing all that neighbors can
To make romance of reticence meanwhile—
Seeing that she had never loved a man,
Wished Pamela had a cat, or a small bird,
And only would have wondered at her smile
Could they have seen that she had overheard.

Edwin Arlington Robinson    1869 – 1935 Maine USA

If I had a proper tree in my garden, there would be also be a bench, like the picture. Not my photo, just looks appealing.

Thanks for reading, Pam x


Saturday, 10 June 2017

Suffrage In A Time Of Arrogance...

Who doesn't think this is another fine mess the ruling elite has landed us in? As one European commentator so wittily observed on Friday morning, the UK has now managed to shoot itself in both feet!

First of all we had the totally unnecessary debacle of the ill-thought-out Brexit referendum which was only conjured up by Cameron and the Tories as a tactic to try and win an outright majority in the 2015 general election - and look how it came back to haunt them and us. Then we had May in June going for a snap poll designed to make the Tories even more unassailable - cue a second major set-back!

Both foot-shooting exercises were cued up courtesy of the overweening arrogance of the ruling elite - in political terms, Tory crimes. It's a shame the perpetrators can't be held more to account. It's a pity that we are all somehow complicit in the unfolding fiasco of lame Britannia - again! (See today's poem, below.)

But hey, that's democracy! It's far from perfect, but at least we've got it - which is more than can be said for many countries around the world...

...though I'm convinced we need to find ways to make better use of it. I believe it was Winston Churchill who said something along the lines of "with power comes responsibility". I would suggest that with responsibility comes power!

By that I mean that what suffrage should really be about is more than just giving every adult in the country the vote. It should entail giving them the means to discharge their duty effectively for the collective good. That would require education - providing civics/politics lessons for all pupils in school and encouraging students to discuss, question, decide. It would require that evenly-aired and robust debates takes place in a civilised manner across the media. It would certainly require stricter censure against 'fake' news and campaign slurs. It might possibly extend to some form of proportional representation - for although I've always voted Labour, I've often felt sorry for the Liberals/LibDems whose paltry number of seats never equated with their percentage share of the popular vote. Perhaps we should go as far as a (surprising) number of states which enshrine it in law that every citizen must vote as a civic duty (with abstention being a valid option on the ballot paper).

All of the above is predicated on people being given the best possible chance to make an informed choice on polling day for representatives who are less arrogant and self-serving, more honest in their endeavours to be good public servants - and then maybe our British version of democracy can evolve into something less cynical, less chaotic, more inclusive and more consensual than it is at the moment, for the benefit of society as a whole.

However, I must repeat the caveat that I've given before in various posts, which is that I have no qualification to be a political commentator. I'm just a concerned individual searching for a fairer way of doing things.

Conservatives and Ulster Unionists in an (unholy) alliance? God help us. By the way, I remain a remainer. I've not written a new poem for the blog this week - but I think this one from Adrian Mitchell (published first in 1964) is quite fitting with the mood of the above...

Remember Suez?
England, unlike junior nations,
Wears officers' long combinations.
So no embarrassment was felt
By the Church, the Government or the Crown.
But I saw the Thames like a grubby old belt
And England's trousers falling down.

Thanks for reading. Have a recovering week, S ;-)

Friday, 9 June 2017


Many people assume that ' suffrage' applies only to women. However it took a shocking war with the maiming and slaughter of thousands of men to finally give all men the vote. After this was the catalyst for women to demand equal rights...and often with horrific consequences...just as it was for young men who demanded a vote pre 1st WW.

For conscription labelled all young men over the age of 18 as acceptable for the armed forces...they had no choice. To rebel against this was seen as cowardice and treason, to be sent for trial , to be shunned and vilified by family, friends, community and country.

These men had no political vote, no say in political matters. Only if one had status and indeed property could they vote and have political representation.

It didn't happen in a rush either, but was introduced in stages. Firstly age was considered, then property ownership..till finally all men could vote.

So it was that women's suffrage began ...after all during the 1st WW although women were never considered for armed service they had taken over jobs that men were " released " from. Often these jobs were incredibly dangerous e.g. In the " Devil's Porridge Factory" near Gretna, and arduous e.g. Farming duties and manufacturing warfare.

I always insist that women of all ages use their vote as it was long fought over, but consider firstly that men had an equally hard struggle to achieve the vote. Also don't forget that many many places in the world still omit women from the voting procedure.

   I'm going to just jot down a quick few lines. Totally unwritten as a goes.

      Stand up and be counted both women and men.
      Stand up and be counted vote now and
      Then, so don't complain of the choice that was made.
      You were asked to attend the polling station
      And to cast your vote with the rest of the nation...
      You didn't go ? Then shame on you
      For others died to give you a choice
      They relied on YOU -their future voice.
      So if you now moan and groan.
      It's your own fault - you alone!
      You had a right that was denied
      To thousands of men who fought and died.
      Stand up and be counted...the young men of the past never could.

  Well, that's it...unprepared and unchanged..thanks for reading ..Kath 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

On your Marks ... please vote.

An awful lot has happened since Mrs May decided to go to the country and Parliament was dissolved. I can scarcely recall a worse month in my life.  I hate listening to all the twaddle and dirt that is flung during political campaigns. This one has been punctuated by the merciless killing of innocent children and concert goers in Manchester, followed by the indiscriminate murder of visitors to our wonderful capital, many of whom travelled here from countries that have not been actively involved in any of the recent overseas conflicts.

A brief respite from the relentless TV debates and endless social media pushes, by all the political parties ,would usually be welcome. In this case, I am sure that you would rather have more of that, than witness the carnage that has befallen our two, much loved, artistic hubs and largest populated cities.

The anger that rages to bring about such carnage, tears at the very heart of our democracy. We have many rights under our beloved constitution and Magna Carta to thank for many, though not all. It was the beginning of constitutional freedom: a magnificent document from which most of our laws, rights and freedoms were derived. Magna Carta was the catalyst for the end of tyrannical rule and arbitrary imprisonment in England.

In 1258, the Provisions of Oxford, sometimes referred to as the first ever written constitution, provided for a Council of twenty-four members through whom the King should govern, to be supervised by a Parliament. This was convened for the first time in 1264 by Simon de Montfort (d. 1265). During the constitutional conflicts of the 17th century, the Petition of Right (1628) relied on Magna Carta for its legal basis, setting out rights and liberties of the subject including freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment. The Bill of Rights (1689) then settled the primacy of Parliament over the monarch’s prerogatives, providing for the regular meeting of Parliament, free elections to the Commons, free speech in parliamentary debates and some basic human rights, most famously freedom from ‘cruel or unusual punishment’. This was shortly followed by the Act of Settlement (1701) which controlled succession to the Crown and established the vital principle of judicial independence.

It didn't end there.  On 24th February 1834, Dorset farm labourer George Loveless set off to work, saying goodbye to his wife Betsy and their three children. They were not to meet alone again for three years, for as he left his cottage in the rural village of Tolpuddle, the 37-year-old was served with a warrant for his arrest.

Loveless and five fellow workers – his brother James, James Hammett, James Brine, Thomas Standfield and Thomas's son John – were charged with having taken an illegal oath. Their real crime in the eyes of the establishment was to have formed a trade union to protest about their meagre pay of six shillings a week – the equivalent of 30p in today's money and the third wage cut in as many years.The Tolpuddle martyrs were transported to an Australian penal colony. The ensuing riots and amendments to our constitution brought about the Right to Freedom of Association and ultimately the right to belong to a trade union.

The Right to Freedom of Worship has not always been an integral part of our law but is now embedded as part of The European Act of Human Rights. The common law offence of 'blasphemy' was only repealed in 2008.

The fight for women's suffrage was long and arduous. It began before WW1 and had to resume afterwards.  At times it was violent and militant but once it began there was no holding it back. The Representation of the People Act granted women over 30 the right to vote, as long as they were married to or a member of Local Government Register. It also extended men's suffrage to the right for all men to vote over the age of 21 and abolished most property qualifications for men.

Women were only granted suffrage equal to men under the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise Act) 1928. The age for women to vote was lowered to 21 and property qualifications reduced to the same as for men.

Our freedoms, our voting franchise and our equal rights under the law are the envy of the world.  No wonder then, that when any of those freedoms are threatened from outside or indeed challenged by those who have our own protection, those who have been accepted to live here under the Rule of Law in our enviable democracy - no wonder - that we all unite to show that we shall not falter in our determination to stand together as free men and women.

Britain is one of the greatest and most diverse nations in the world. Today is your chance to exercise your rights with full participation in the democratic process. Please vote.  Please vote thoughtfully and understanding the gravitas of your simple cross. Please stand up for the freedoms that previous generations have fought to give you.

I hope to see you at The Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Election Night open mic - from 6.30pm this evening at Ben & Johnny's Bar, 2a Wood Street, St Annes.

The party's almost over -

Tonight it's all done, bar the shouting
We’ve all put our cross in the box.
We‘ve suffered the weeks of campaigning.
We’ve heard all the parties complaining.
Our sums double-checked,
Our heads truly pecked,   
but soon the doors will triple-lock.
Slips will be tipped onto tables,
as candidates pull at their hair,
the counters will work ‘till the wee small hours,
until the results are declared.
The BBC gave us ‘reality checks’
to pull the wool out of our eyes, 
Two leaders went ‘mano a mano’ with Paxman,
but didn’t get many wise words in edgewise.
The maleficent seven played ‘Give us a Cluedo’
as they stood in a rainbow on stage.

"I’ll mix it up Mustard” the joker,
set the tone of the evenings debate,  
suggesting a Brexit – the sequel,
someone should tell him that nag has bolted,
the voters have sealed their own fate.  
He'll be lucky to get a hung parliament
and form a new Lib/Lab pact
or Coalition 'Two.'

There was brazen Miss Scarlet,
provoking the powerless Plum,
she was talking up fairness as terms of divorce,
but I’m still mulling over that one.

Oh, Irreverent Green
with her solar machine,
a little West country mouse.
Will the winds of political climate change
help you rearrange
the colour of seats in the  power house?

Stand back for the Blue Cross Peacock,
strutting the Union estate,
promoting 'The Great British Break Off',
and a separate Nation state,
There's still a big wall on the border,
it just needs a coat of paint.   

Old Whitebeard came late to the party,
to put the PM in her place,
Mrs May sent her Amber replacement,
who let them all argue, a smirk on her face,
Theresa remained in the library
re-writing her manifest.
Last seen with a piece of lead piping,
wearing a bullet-proof vest. 

Some people have stuck to their viewpoint,
Still blinkered by media tripe,
Some walked down the road to Damascus:
and were blinded by the light,
I refuse to follow the pollsters – they seldom get anything right.
But I hope that us Lancashire voters  
have all said ‘enough is enough’.
If you think you can frack with our county
don’t count on a landslide from us.

Theresa  May’s hoping to take us,
through Brexit and beyond,
Corbyn is not for the few but the many,
it a terribly catchy song.
So roll up - roll up and get ready
for a magical mystery tour.
We asked all our questions,
we’ve all played a card,
By morning we’ll know
If it’s soft or it’s hard
Perhaps we’ll all dance to different tune.
I wonder ... 
who thought we'd be asked to vote May in June?

Adele V Robinson 8 June 2017 - Thanks for reading voters.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Suffrage - Northern Grit

16:11:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , , , 2 comments
Goodness me, that was a quick holiday. One moment I was sunning myself in the unexpected warmth of glorious South Uist and in the next blink I’m home at my desk. The bit in the middle was filled with breath-taking scenery, meeting interesting friendly people and learning about the Hebrides. We notched up 1700 miles exploring and travelling.  So here I am and before I get cracking on planning a trip to the Orkneys and Shetland Isles, my blog page beckons.
I was delighted to learn that a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst is to be erected in her home city of Manchester, at last.  The first time I saw sculptor Helen Reeves’ model of ‘Rise Up Women’ I felt emotional. The pose is perfect, exactly as I imagined Mrs Pankhurst to be, standing on a chair addressing a crowd. She is remembered as the leader of the British suffragettes, but she was much more than that.  She was a political activist and social reformer in the late 1800s.  She founded the Women’s Franchise League which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections, and later the Women’s Social and Political Union, a women’s suffrage organisation separate from any recognised political party. It became the Women’s Party, promoting equal rights for women.  It was an important start to a fight that was still on-going a century later. Equal pay is something that has only happened during my working life.
Emmeline was refused membership to the Independent Labour Party because of her gender. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall when that happened. I don’t imagine anger or shouting, I think of her as fastening her coat, putting a pin through her hat and saying, “Well, I’ll show ‘em. Watch this.” 
Living at this time in Chorlton-on-Medlock, this strong, determined woman from Moss Side, as forceful and as capable as they come, involved herself in everything she could to make the right sort of changes. She was constantly busy fighting for what she believed in and at the same time raising her own family of five. Her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia fought the cause with her as they reached adulthood.  She supported her barrister husband, Richard, with his causes including education reform. He also advocated women’s suffrage.
My family, on my father’s side from many generations come from Chorlton-on-Medlock. They would have been living there at the same time as the Pankhursts. I’m proud to come from a long line of those northern women who might have known or met Emmeline and her family. I wish I’d inherited half their grit and strength. I might have suffrage campaigners in my ancestry.  I wonder if any of my lot chained themselves to railings or were subjected to horrific abuse being force fed in prison. It is something to look into.
 Votes for married women over the age of 30 were granted in 1918.
All women were given the same voting rights as men, which was voting at age 21, in 1928, shortly after Emmeline’s death.
I will remember the suffragettes when I cast my vote on Thursday.
Emmeline Pankhurst’s Manchester statue, ‘Rise Up Women’ will be unveiled in St Peter’s Square on 8th March, 2019 to mark International Women’s Day.
The photo is from the Manchester Evening News.
I found this poem, Coming by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935).
Because the time is ripe, the age is ready,
Because the world her woman's help demands,
Out of the long subjection and seclusion
Come to our field of warfare and confusion
The mother's heart and hands.
Long has she stood aside, endured and waited,
While man swung forward, toiling on alone;
Now, for the weary man, so long ill-mated,
Now, for the world for which she was created,
Comes woman to her own.
Not for herself! though sweet the air of freedom;
Not for herself, though dear the new-born power;
But for the child, who needs a nobler mother,
For the whole people, needing one another,
Comes woman to her hour.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Thanks for reading, Pam x


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Lonely Hearts

The theme this week is lonely hearts. How fitting, then, that it coincides with all the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Many hailed that LP as The Beatles' finest, maybe even the greatest album of all time. It was certainly ground-breaking and yet, for me, such an accolade belongs rather to its predecessor, Revolver.

However, it did blow our minds (as we used to say) back in June 1967 and I can still recall the excitement of listening to the first public pre-release airing on Radio Luxembourg late one night. This was followed shortly afterwards by a long, gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon playing Sgt. Pepper very loudly and repeatedly on a record-player dragged out into Nick Firman's back garden (his parents were conveniently away) accompanied by my mates Ian Brightie and Trevor Butler. After the third or fourth time through, we grabbed a couple of guitars and sang and played along, much to the annoyance of Nick's neighbours. It helped that the words were printed on the back of the LP sleeve - the first time that had ever been done, I believe. Happy times!

That drum (later sold at auction)
Stepping away from The Beatles for a moment, it's interesting to delve into the concept of lonely hearts columns. There is quite a history to the practice of publicising one's search for a perfect match.

The first known lonely hearts advertisements appeared in England towards the end of the 17th century when an enterprising pamphlet editor spotted an opportunity. Most such advertisements were quite genuine: "man of good estate seeks young gentlewoman to share fortune and favour". Some were distressing: "young lady desirous of freeing herself from the control of a cruel and capricious guardian."  In fact, many were from women widowed young at a time when life expectancy for men was around 40. Very few were from philanderers, though some were quite risqué for the age: "soft lips and shapely ankles a recommendation."

The practice grew through the 18th century and into the 19th, by which time photography was beginning to gain ground and so the searchers after solace began to request pictures as well as letters in response to their offers or appeals. During the latter part of Victoria's reign there were no fewer than twenty regular weekly or monthly publications made up entirely of lonely hearts ads, as single souls across the land sought to find companionship, security, lasting love, happiness. These advertisements were still quite wordy in expression: "Has no objection to marry any widow or single lady provided the party be of genteel birth and polite manners;"  or "Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer incapacitated by war". It is interesting to note that as many ads were placed by women as men, particularly so in the aftermath of World War One when an obvious shortage of eligible males coincided with greater emancipation of the fairer sex.

It was only in the lonely hearts columns of 20th century newspapers and magazines that TLAs (two or three letter acronyms) and FLAs (four or five letter acronyms) became commonplace, and the search for a mate became couched in the same terse terms as the search for a flat (at a shilling a word); for instance ALA - all letters answered, GSOH - good sense of humour, ISO - in search of, LTR - long term relationship, NS - non-smoker, not to be confused with no strings, OHAC - own house and car, WDAFC - will do anything for chocolate (okay, I made that last one up).

With the advent of the internet plus online dating sites, phone apps and so forth, the tools of the match-making process may have evolved but the basic drive appears to be the same - lonely hearts remain hopeful of finding the one who will complement them and banish their sense of aloneness, an optimistic undertaking and one not to be scorned.

Okay then, back to The Beatles. McCartney always claimed that they adopted the group persona of Sgt. Peppers Band as a means of unshackling themselves from the constraints of being Beatles (it gave them artistic licence to play at being something else) and I'm sure that's true. However, although it never really struck me at the time, it seems patently obvious with hindsight that The Beatles - in particular John and Paul - were lonely hearts in a quite literal sense in 1967. The conceptual device of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band only thinly disguised their very real sense of lonely-heartedness.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in June 1967
They were rich, they were famous, they were the most successful partnership in contemporary music, they were in long-term relationships (John married to Cynthia, Paul with Jane Asher) and yet neither was truly happy on an emotional level. The clues are there in the lyrics of several songs on Sgt. Pepper. They hadn't found the women who would be their soul mates.

Although they didn't know it, that was all about to change. Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman walked into their respective lives even as their most famous and iconic album was being launched into the waiting world in June 1967. Within a year or so, John and Paul had both found partners for life in their respective strong, artistic women and were lonesome no more.

Perversely and somewhat ironically, this week's poem travels in the opposite direction...

Phoenix Like
Shockingly stark my heart
the moment love's light went dark,
switched off - no...
more burned out like a blown fuse,
acrid with smoky recriminations
and scorch-marks of abuse.

I left it smoulder for a while
in cooling drafts of reflection,
no sudden shafts of insight,
just a gradual settling of cinders
into the ash of acceptance,
a bottoming out to cold.

Time now to rattle and rake,
shake some action,
dispense with remorse,
re-kindle the fire,
set a new course
and move on -
phoenix like.

TFR - thanks for reading. We'll get by with a little help from our friends, S ;-)