Archive for December, 2019

Not My Prime Minister

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

I’ve long believed it was time to reform our voting system, and recent events have reinforced that conviction.

The total UK population is thought to be around 67.7 million, of which around 53 million are old enough to vote, but only around 47.6 million are registered to vote. The other 5.4 million either are not eligible for some reason or can’t or haven’t bothered to register. Only 32million actually voted – 67.3% or roughly 2/3 of those registered. The number who voted in what the media calls a landslide for the Conservatives was just under 14million. Just over a quarter of the adult population.

It was of course more votes than the Labour party, though the actual number of MPs hugely overestimates the difference because of the way in which voters are distributed around the seats. Labour’s seats roughly represent their 32% share of the votes, while the Tories got around 28% more seats than their vote would suggest.

While the Conservatives benefit hugely from our voting system, and Labour don’t fare to badly, the smaller parties in England lose out hugely. The Lib Dems got 11.5% of the votes and only 1.7% of the seats and the Green Party with a 2.7% vote share only have 1 MP rather than the 17 or 18 that a fair share would give. Added to this is the fact that many people who might well vote for the Greens or Lib-Dems in a fair system know that a vote for them is wasted and instead vote for one of the major parties.

On 24th July the protest was not about the results of a general election, but of a Prime Minister who had been selected as the result of votes by Conservative MPs and then members of the Conservative Party alone, less than a hundred thousand people in all. It was difficult to argue against the conviction of the protesters that he had no mandate from the people.

Among those who spoke was the then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and while I agreed with most of what he said, it was hard not to think that the reason we have such an unfair electoral system is that both major parties rather like its unfairness. It is rather harder for Labour to get MPs because of it, but it does mean that they have a better chance of an overall majority in those elections where they do well.

Of course the electoral system is only one factor that makes politics in this country unfair. We also have a system that allows the wealthy still to make huge political donations (and Labour benefits from the support of some trade unions, though on a smaller scale.) More important still is the way that we have a so-called ‘free press’ which is largely owned by a small group of billionaires who are allowed to get away with lies and misinformation about political parties, their policies and personalities.

It was Neil Kinnock, the Labour Party leader in 1992 who blamed The Sun as a major factor in his losing the 1992 election – it ended a long and relentless campaign of what he named as “misinformation and disinformation” with the famous election day headline, “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.” And at the following election when The Sun had changed sides to back Tony Blair, the paper again made its claim “It’s The Sun Wot Won It“.

And while it isn’t hard to think of fairer alternatives to the current electoral system – including some that retain a constituency connection for most MPs with a list approach to redresses most of the electoral imbalances, it is rather harder to think of some way to redress the irresponsibly used power of the press. It would be nice perhaps to have some kind of publicly funded media organisation (perhaps through a licence fee) which devoted itself to fair and unbiased editing and reporting! Unfortunately Lord Reith is long dead.

The rally in Russell Square was extremely crowded and I got very tired, and went home rather than face the march to Downing St, where the protest got rather more interesting (and certainly even more photogenic.)

I’d been to Downing St earlier and things had been very quiet, and protesters I’d expected to see there had already left. If I’d been thinking clearly I would have realised that they would return later and taken the tube back to Whitehall rather than missing out on the action there.

More at Boris J is not our Prime Minister

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Friday, December 20th, 2019

London’s big Italian festival which takes place every July in the streets around St Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell is alway an interesting event, and one that although it has changed over the years since I first photographed it in the 1990s, still retains much of the same atmosphere and feel.

I always enjoy both the procession and the festival that accompanies it, which is apparently a much more recent addition to the event. When the festival first began in the 19th century – and special permission was needed for this Catholic procession – the area around the church had a large Italian population.

Now that population has moved away, with many in the suburbs or outside London and Italian communities come to the event from places like Watford, Luton and Woking, and the Sagra provides them with something to eat and drink and to meet people they may only see once a year at the event. And to dance.

It also provides something of a day out for myself and a few photographer friends, who take advantage of the cheap and reasonably priced Italian wine and sometimes the food too. THough rather more the wine!

I was a little disappointed this year by the release of the doves, which for the last few years has been done by three clergy who were each given a dove to hold in their hands before releasing them more or less together. It was something they so obviously enjoyed. This year there were again three of the clergy, but all they did was stand behind the basket and watch as the lid was opened and the birds made their own way out.

It is always something of a challenge to capture the moment the doves fly, though I’ve usually managed to do so. It is of course made much easier with digital cameras, where you can use rapid sequences of exposures. Back in the days of film, few of us had motordrives, and we needed to wind on after each exposure. This meant you only had a single chance to get the picture, as by the time you had wound on the film the doves would usually have been high in the sky.

This year I took the picture with the Olympus E-M5MarkII using the 14-150mm lens at its widest setting, equivalent to 28mm. It was a bright sunny summer day and I set the camera to ISO 640 to get both a fast shutter speed to stop motion (1/400s) and a small aperture (f10) to get plenty of depth of field so that the background float with its statue of Our Lady would also be sharp. I say I set them, but in fact the camera was on ‘P’ setting and I simply checked it had suitable settings. As the moment approached I changed the camera into sequential shooting mode. I used the high setting which gives around ten frames a second.

One bird came out first and was several feet in the air before the other two emerged. The frame at the top of the post was my sixth and the last to show all three doves. There were I think 5 further frames with the last two doves, and the Exif data shows that I had taken 11 frames in just over a second. Using film I could have got at most two, though I would have hoped to get one that showed the peak of the action, I could well have missed it. Once the doves get going they can move extremely fast.

More pictures and text:
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Sagra


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Jane Evelyn Atwood

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

My daily e-mail from The Eye of Photography (l’Œil de la Photographie) today reminded me of a documentary photographer I’ve long been aware of with their post Jane Evelyn Atwood : On prostitution, Paris 1976 – 1979, which includes ten pictures from her forthcoming show at the Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau from 25 January to 21 April 2020.

If you are in Paris in those months, the short excursion to Gentilly just outside the southern boundary of the city will be worth making. I’ve not been there for some years, but found both the gallery and the place interesting, as well as our walk back into Paris itself, when rather than go to the nearest station (or catch a bus) we wandered the mile or two back to the Place d’Italie.

Atwood does have a web site, but it is perhaps curiously opaque, if not secretive and the only pictures I could see were small thumbnails of book covers. She is represented by Contact Press in the US, with a short bio and a web page that – at least to my browser – displays seven blank images, though in their achive you can see ‘War Never Ends‘, a feature with photographs by her and Lori Grinker.

The best on-line presentation of her work I’ve found is at l’Agence Vu, which has sections including her portfolio, portraits, books, awards and exhibitions as well as series which includes her remarkable documentary work on The Blind, Women in Prison, Land Mines and Haiti.

Remainers march

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Back in July there still was hope that we might be able to avoid the huge mistake of Brexit, and thousands came to march in support of staying in Europe. And while the recent election makes it almost certain we will leave – and leave on terms that will be very damaging to the country, I still suspect that in a few years time we will be begging Europe to let us back in, or at least to come to some much closer arrangement than is likely to result from negotiations by the current government.

Like the referendum, the election campaign was marked by an enormous amount of misinformation and lies, mainly from the Conservative Party; First Draft checked out the ads from both parties on Facebook from Dec1 to Dec 4, and, according to Full Fact, ” found that a majority of the Conservative ads during this period included or linked to claims that Full Fact has questioned“. First Draft give a figure: ” 88% (5,952) of the most widely promoted ads featured claims about the NHS, income tax cuts, and the Labour Party which had already been labelled misleading by Full Fact.

Labour put out far fewer FB ads during this time and for technical reasons the first report by Full Fact missed any misleading claims in them; later they updated the figure to say that of their 104 ads during the same period only 6.7% contained or linked to misleading data.

The Brexit referendum was similarly marked by deliberate misleading by the ‘Leave’ campaign, including the figure on the side of their bus. But perhaps even more importantly we were told that leaving Europe would be a simple process, and the public were given the impression that once they had voted it would all be over within a few months.

But the politicians are only a part of the story, and the huge misinformation campaign of both referendum and election is largely driven by the media, both newspapers and broadcasting. The Sun has previously boasted of having determined the results of UK elections, and certainly it and the other newspapers, mainly owned by a handful of billionaires, have played a vital role. Most of the broadcast media, with the exception of the BBC are also similarly controlled.

The BBC is a special case, and has long been under attack by both the left and right in politics for failing to be impartial. Unfortunately this doesn’t imply that it is getting the balance right, as the two sides attack it for very different reasons. Many Tories have long wanted to close it down largely because it is a public service and as such not making money for them and their friends, but at the same time have been very effective in getting members of a highly conservative establishment into positions of power within it. Labour have seen in taking up the anti-Labour views of the press and collaborating with the opposition to Jeremy Corbyn, conspiring with some Labour MPs opposed to him and even inventing fake news to discredit him and the party.

What we are left in now is a real mess. A country which would now almost certainly vote to remain being taken out of the EU, on the basis of a promise made by a former Prime Minister over a non-binding referendum. A referendum result that had it been binding would almost certainly have been challenged and rendered invalid in the courts. Scotland looking increasingly likely to break away and rejoin the EU after we have left. A border in the Irish Sea that makes the reunification of Ireland seem much closer (perhaps the only positive outcome of the whole sad business.) And a country that is going to become much poorer and more unequal. But most important of all will be the failure to take action over the climate crisis.

No to Boris, Yes to Europe

Protesting in the rain

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Protests, particularly those over climate change, seem to rather often take place in the rain, and it causes problems both for protesters and photographers. Bad weather cuts down the number of people who come out to protest, leaving only the hard core; few of us like getting wet or cold or both and those who are wondering whether they should make the effort to take part are likely to take a look out of the window and think to themselves that perhaps they will go on the next protest and give this one a miss.

And of course photographers like myself do sometimes check the weather forecast and if its an event I’m wondering whether or not to cover it can be the deciding factor. I don’t like the cold or the wet, and I don’t really like working in the dark either, though I’m prepared to go out and do my best if I think it is really important.

Protesters can sometimes shelter under umbrellas, though it can be hard to carry a placard or poster as well as a brolly. It has to be pretty extreme before I’ll try to hold one while I’m taking photographs; really I need both hands for the cameras and an umbrella just gets in the way too much. It’s an accessory that really needs to come with an assistant to hold it.

While printed placards normally stand up to the rain, hand-made ones, usually of more interest, often have images or messages that run, or glued on letters or pictures that fall off. Most of the cameras I use are reasonably weatherproof, and some of the lenses are also said to be so.

I’ve tried using various kinds of plastic bags to keep cameras dry, including those manufactured and sold for the purpose, but have never found them much use. And of course you can’t put them over the part that really matters, the front surface of the lens.

I generally now work holding a chamois leather (vegans could try a microfibre cloth but they don’t work as well) balled up in my hand pressed against the front surface, taking it out immediately before I want to take a picture, and replacing it after I’ve pressed the shutter. But it’s surprising how often a rain drop can fall while you are focussing and composing the image.

When I know there is to be prolonged heavy rain I’ll think about wearing a poncho and then it’s easy to simply lift out the camera and take a picture then put it back in the dry. But my bag isn’t big enough to hold the poncho and I don’t like having it hanging around my waist. Usually I have a jacket and can put one camera inside on my chest, though it does mean opening the zip enough so I get a bit wet.

Lens hoods help too, at least with long lenses, but those on wideangles and most zooms give little protection against rain falling on the front element.

Something I’ve not heard much talk about, but has often been a real problem for me in wet weather is condensation on the inside of the lens. I can’t really understand why this is such a great problem for me, as I would only expect it to happen when warmer air saturated with moisture meets a cold glass surface. But it seems to happen whenever I’m working for a long period in wet conditions, at first simply giving flare and reducing contrast in all or part of the image and then when it gets worse making the lens unusable until I spend some time in a warmer place and it evaporates.

By the time we had got from Parliament Square to Piccadilly Circus, both the lenses I was using were beginning to steam up, and I decided it was time to get somewhere warmer and dry if I was going to cover the second event in my diary. This was in Kensington and fortunately my the time I had travelled there with a little help the lenses were clear again. One of the lenses changed its length when it zoomed, and so pulled air in an out helping the drying – and I also wiped any moisture off the lens barrel that became exposed when zooming out.

Students march for climate


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Requiem for a Dead Planet

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

The Daily Mail was banned by Wikipedia as an ‘unreliable’ source in 2017, and fact checking sites and organisations regularly find that it published materail that is known to be untrue. But of course there are stories in it that are factually correct, though even these often have misleading and sensational headlines.

It has a long history of support for extreme right views and its proprieter in the early 1930s Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere was a friend of both Hitler and Mussolini and ensured his papers published articles in support of the fascists and in 1934 wrote and published an article ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ urging young men to join Mosley’s thugs. The family still have a controlling share in the Mail group, which includes the Mail on Sunday and the daily free Metro. Northcliffe House in Kensington where this protest took place is now also the home of Independent, London Live and the Evening Standard.

Extinction Rebellion had organised the protest to urge the press to stop publishing denials of climate change and to tell the truth about the climate emergency. They want the press to “put the full resources of their papers behind saving humanity from climate catastrophe and ecological collapse, and protect what is left of the natural world. “

As well as stopping publishing fake science, this would also mean changing the content of the papers to remove advertising and editorial material that promotes high-carbon lifestyles, whether about fashion, travel, food or other consumerist content and so enabling government can take the drastic action needed.

It was a protest where a great deal of thought and effort had gone into visual material, including skeletons, banners and lilies, as well as having classical music from XRBaroque who performed inside a large gazebo.

It was still raining most of the time, heavy at times, but Northcliffe House has a large projecting porch over its entrance which kept the rain off most of the protesters, and at least some of the time from photographers too. And it meant that most of those who took part in the die-in had a fairly dry pavement to lie down on. But there were still times like the die-in when to stand where I needed to take pictures meant standing in the rain. My lenses had dried out on the journey from Piccadilly Circus, but after taking pictures for an hour or so here I was having trouble with condensation.

Since it was ‘A Requiem for a dead Planet‘ some of those attending had come in suitably funereal dress, including one man in black with a black hat and dark glasses. I noticed these were reflecting some of the banners on the floor and as he moved around the white XR symbols on a black banner werem at times reflected in the lenses. There was a short period of time when there was a suitable banner behind him too, with skulls, and I took a whole series of pictures trying to get the effect I wanted. It would have been tricky to even set this up and I was pleased to get one frame with exactly the effect I wanted. People who were there have said to me “I didn’t see he was wearing glasses with the XR symbol on them” and I’ve just smiled.

More pictures at Requiem for a Dead Planet at Daily Mail


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Tax Rebellion

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Travelling around London as I do is often frustrating, with traffic often blocking the streets rather than moving through them. If I had any sense I would have picked up my folding bike, a Brompton, and took it with me to get to this protest at City Hall, the home of the Greater London Authority, more or less next to Tower Bridge.

My journey had started badly, with my train into London arriving around 25 minutes late – impressive for a journey which normally only takes 35 minutes. If I’d brought the bike I could have jumped on it and still got to City Hall on time, and if I’d been thinking more clearly I would have rushed down to the Jubilee line station to take a train to London Bridge, leaving me with just a short walk.

But when I’d planned the journey I’d given myself plenty of time, and the bus had two advantages. First my National bus pass meant it was free, and secondly it took me almost to the doorstep of where I was going so I decided to keep to my plan and take a bus. It was a bad call, and as I waited longer and longer at the stop I wondered whether to give up and go back for the tube, but finally the bus arrived and I got on. The first half mile was fine, but then we hit more traffic.

I ran up the path towards the protest, and saw the die-in starting from a couple of hundred yards away. I hadn’t missed it completely but it would have been rather better to have arrived and been available to photograph the start of the event.

The protest was to declare a tax strike against the Greater London Authority, withholding the GLA element of their council tax until they abandon projects which will cause environmental degradation and hasten ecological collapse. They want a citizen’s assembly to re-write the London Plan to stop all infrastructure projects polluting London’s air and invest in measures to cut carbon emissions and encourage healthier lifestyles

Many of London’s problems were made much worse by the abolition of the GLC by Margaret Thatcher back in 1986, leaving the city without any proper overall authority. The GLC under Ken Livingstone had made a good start in improving public transport in the city, but things more or less came to a halt, only to pick up again when he returned as Mayor with the newly formed GLA in 2000. Rail privatisation in 1994 made matters worse, with so many different companies responsible for overground services in the area – and recent franchisees seem even less competent than their predecessors.

The development of London in most respects also took a setback with the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor, who was able to claim the kudos for Livingstone’s cycle hire scheme, but was generally ineffectual, as well as wasting time and considerable money on a garden bridge that served no purpose and few wanted.

Progress with better cycling facilities has been slow, though much of the blame for this lies with the boroughs rather than the GLA. Some boroughs have been clearly anti-cyclist, and a strong lobby from cab drivers organisations has opposed innovation. Progress has been very piecemeal.

The Green Party has of course been pushing for better cycle facilities and other changes that would make London a healthier place, and both Sian Berry and Caroline Russell spoke. There were also protesters against the Silvertown Tunnel, which will greatly increase traffic on both sides of the river, particularly in Greenwich. This has now been given the go-ahead by Mayor Sadiq Khan who seems to have rather less concern for the environment even than his predecessor.

I don’t know how successful – if at all – the tax boycott has been, but I’ve heard nothing about it since. I think it would take rather more than this single protest, where many of those present will not have been London council tax payers, to get such a boycott going on a scale large enough to have any real effect.

XR London Tax rebellion


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


120 years

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

My father, were he still alive would be 120 today, born in December 1899, just before the start of the 20th century (though for mathematicians that only started on 1st January 1901) and I often reflect on the changes he saw in his lifetime, and even more since his death 34 years ago.

Dad grew up in Hounslow, not far from the barracks of what was an important military town. The cavalary barracks there were the first of 40 new barracks built following the French revolution when there were strong fears both of the population here rising up in a similar manner and of a French invasion. Many of the buildings on the site, currently occupied by the Irish Guards, are listed and are expected to be retained when the site is redeveloped for housing in a few years time.

But Hounslow was also important as a coaching town, its High St allegedly lined by a hundred pubs, with the Bell junction being where the road from London to Bath and that to the Southwest diverged. Of course the coach traffic had gone by his birth, taken to rail, but these were still busy roads, though busy with horse and carts, with motorised vehicles only just begining to appear. Dad’s father had a business making horse-drawn carts, and the motor vehicles killed both his business and him when he turned right into the house gateway in front of a car whose driver pleaded he had been unable to stop.

As a two-year old he will have seen the new Electric tram which was extended to Hounslow, and later came to run past the house he lived in on the Staines Road. In 1935 the trams were replaced by trolley buses, and then these In a few years time the buses which now run there will again be electric.

At five he will have seen the building of a grand new Council House, Public Library and Swimming Baths in Treaty Road, and he lived long enough to see a new civic centre built in 1975, dying around the time the grand Edwardian buildings were demolished to build a rather undistinguished shopping centre. Now the civic centre is being redeveloped for housing and the council have moved into a rather snazzy new building on the Bath Road close to The Bell.

Just down the road from their house was Hounslow Heath, the site of one of London’s first airports. Dad and the other kids used to go down to watch the early aircraft take off and land, and always claimed to have seen Bleriot there and to have been told off by him for touching his plane. I doubt it was really Bleriot, but there were certainly other early aviators there in 1909 and later years.

Then came the war. At the start Dad was too young and worked in the drawing office of a munitions factory (women did the real work) and I think in a few other factories, but eventually when old enough decided army life would be easier. He wasn’t conscripted – I think because he was a skilled worker – but decided to volunteer. At the medical the officer who examined him told him his complete deafness in one ear (probably a result of factory work) meant he should fail him, but if he wanted to enlist he would ignore it.

After army training where he narrowly missed being court-martialled and probably shot for insuborordination the army got rid of him to the Royal Flying Corps and he went to France mending planes and finally running the stores in a camp in Germany (by now in the RAF) after the war had ended, again getting himself in a little trouble, this time for fraternising with the enemy.

I think he was probably back in Hounslow for when the first commercial flights took place from Hounslow Heath in 1919, and certainly for later in the year when the daily services began. In 1919 it was the only airport in the UK with customs facilities and there were regular flights to Paris, Amsterdam and Leeds.

By the time the BBC was established in 1922, Dad and his brother were listening-in on their crystal sets – and soon a primitive radio powered by a Daniell cell, which still I found in his workshop when I was young.

I doubt if Dad was there on 30th May 1925 when King George V cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the newly completed Great West Road, half a mile or so to the north of his home, the first of a number of new road schemes designed for motor vehicles – though also provided with separate cycle tracks in both directions, but he certainly rode on the cycle tracks and, on a motorbike, on the roads.

Dad cycled everywhere, except when he walked. West Middlesex still had plenty of country lanes in the 1930s, including those through the orchards of Heathrow, a small hamlet south of the Bath Road. When he had a young family he bolted a sidecar onto his push-bike to carry the kids, though by the time I was around the sidecar was rusting in the shed. The motorbike had long gone too, and he never owned a car. He had a hand-cart which he used to carry ladders, building materials, bee hives and other heavy goods for his various jobs.

He cycled all over Middlesex during the Second World War inspecting bee hives for foul brood; people were encouraged to take up bee-keeping as part of the campaign to grow more food at home, and had to be taught to keep their hives disease-free. We grew up self-sufficient for vegetables, from our own garden, his mother’s garden and an allotment, together with a wide range of fruit, apples, pears, plums, raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries and more peaches than we could eat from a couple of trees he grew from stones. And of course honey. I took my turn at the handle of the extractor watching it flow into the 28lb tins. At home it often came with the odd bees leg or wing in it, doubtless adding to the flavour.

Heathrow Airport was established towards the end of the war with the industry telling the lie it was needed for military purposes, when all the time it was being established to be London’s civil airport. At first it was small, a few tents on the Bath Road, but in the fifties it grew and larger, heavier and noiser planes began to use it. Replacing the DC3s with large propellor aircraft was not too bad, and I stood in my back garden crossing off their numbers in my aircraft spotters book. But when the jets came in you needed ear protectors. More lies were told to get each stage of expansion. Terminal 4 would be the last terminal ever needed. Then came T5 and the ‘third runway’. But by around 1971 Dad had had enough of the noise and been driven away. Away from so many people and places he knew.

After the war (when he also did his bit fire-watching) came the welfare state – the NHS and free education which I and my siblings benefitted from. NHS dentistry came too late for Dad, who together with his bride had been given a “full set” as a wedding present back in 1932. I was born before the NHS, but did get regular visits to the clinic with free orange juice and cod liver oil once it began.

Things have of course continued to change since then. We got a washing machine to replace the old boiler and mangle. Dad put in a hot water system with an immersion heater, though in winter it was still heated by the coal fire in the living room – which now had to burn smokeless fuel. The old stone sink went, to be replaced by a stainless steel sink unit. A fridge – our first was gas powered. Finally we got a television though Dad still preferred the radio (and so do I – we don’t have TV at home now.) A record player (mainly for me and bought on HP).

Later came computers; the Internet and World Wide Web and mobile phones. But by then Dad was no longer with us.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


November 2019 My London Diary

Friday, December 13th, 2019

November was a month in which I seemed to grind to something of a halt. It’s always sad when the clock goes back and it starts getting dark at half past three. And then came December and the distraction of the election which seems to have made it difficult to get down to doing anything…

I finished this before we know the election result, which may well be very disappointing. Though as Bolivians have seen, winning an election isn’t always the end of the matter. I can only hope that things get better for both us and for them.

November 2019

No to the coup in Bolivia
Iranians condemn killings in Iran
UCU March for Planet, Pay and Pensions
Youth Climate Strike March

March Against Fur 2019
Carnaby Street Show
Stand With Hong Kong
Brixton
CAIWU protest at WeWork City offices
Kings Cross

Kick Boris out of Uxbridge
McStrikers demand New Deal
Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens
Funeral March for Chile Protesters

Remember migrants who have died
Don’t Extradite Assange!
OAS Head visits Senate House

OAS Head visits Senate House
Queer Solidarity for trans and non-binary
March for Autonomy for Hong Kong
Defend Rojava against Turkish Invasion
Stop Hate Crime, Educate for Diversity
Against constitutional change in Guinea
Day of the Dead

London Images


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Election Day

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Today I will be voting, as I have done in every election, local, European and national, since I was old enough to vote. Not that my vote will really count but I think it is a duty, part of being a citizen rather than a subject, though I have often been tempted to write ‘None of the above is suitable‘ on my ballot paper.

For the last 45 years I have lived in a safe Conservative constituency, and in a ward of that constituency which also has a large Tory majority. None of the MPs (and few of the councillors) have been people I felt I could trust or who had the interests of the majority of the country rather than their own careers and interests at heart. The current candidate, now a leading figure in the party, seems to turn up here only for the occasional photo-op and seems to have little interest and even less knowledge of the area, has some strange right-wing economic views, clearly wants the NHS to be privatised and will certainly not get my vote.

The last person I voted for who became an MP was Gerald Kaufman, back in 1970 in Manchester Ardwick. I took this signed portrait of him in 1908, and more recently talked to him at an event not long before his death in 2017, still and MP, when he was amused by me telling him this.

Although Boris Johnson and the others in his party keep telling us this election is all about getting Brexit done, it isn’t an argument that resonates with me. Firstly because I think any Brexit they are likely to get done (and it doesn’t finish with the withdrawal agreement) will be something of a disaster, but also because I don’t feel this is the most important issue facing this country.

Top of the list is of course the climate emergency. This is something that is not just a matter of things getting a little worse, or of us getting a little poorer while the rich make more money to hide away in their tax havens, those treasure islands supported by Britain, but of the continued existence of life anything like we know it on the planet. Personally I’m likely to die before the crisis really bites, but I’d like to think that my children and their children will have a future to look forward to.

And secondly, there is the welfare state in general and the NHS in particular. I was born just as the war ended, when the country had been near bankrupted and austerity was real, but then it prompted a great vision and hope for the future – though I was less than two months old and so unable to vote. But I did benefit from the NHS as a toddler, with free orange juice and (though I didn’t thank them at the time) cod liver oil, and access to a doctor when I was sick without my parents having to worry if they could afford the bill (and they would have found it very hard.) And I benefitted from free education all the way to degree level, getting a full maintenance grant as well as paying no fees.

Since Thatcher, succesive governments have chiselled away at our public services – and Blair and Brown were certainly a part of this, particularly for the NHS. If you’ve not watched the recently released film ‘The Great NHS Heist‘ you should do so, as it goes into great and convincing detail about how the NHS has been systematically undermined and prepared to change into a US-style insurance system – with people in key posts who have long advocated its privatisation. In the run-up to the election there were some organised screenings and the whole two hour film was available to view for free. I thought I knew about what was happening to the NHS, but it is even more advanced than I thought.

Nye Bevan may never have made the famous quote attributed to him, “The NHS will last as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it“, but it remains true. When Tory and New Labour tell us the NHS is “safe in our hands” they mean safely being turned into a privatised system. Unless we fight for an NHS run as a public service we are going to lose it, and we are rather a long way down losing it already. And the NHS may not last my lifetime.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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