Friday, 26 July 2019

WHAT HAPPENS BEHIND YOUR BACK IN A NEOLIBERAL SOCIETY - LOST LANDS OF BRITAIN

My main source for what follows is a piece by Ian Jack entitled 'Why did we not know?' in which he reviews a new work by Brett Christophers: 'The New Enclosures: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain'. The article was published in the London Review of Books on 23 May 2019. Not for the first time, I have finished reading a piece in the LRB determined to share its important insights at a later date in a blogpost.

People matter which is why I am a socialist. The question of land matters because people matter.

Ian Jack begins his review with a personal story from his family's past about some local land that had been bought from the War Office for property development in Scotland. He comments:
'Nobody thought to wonder why we didn't know who had bought the land …. or who had made money from developing it as a housing estate; or why, as it was public land, owned by the state and therefore indirectly by us, we had never been consulted.'


Our new housing estates are not meeting our national need for affordable housing.  


Such a lack of legitimate questioning has been typical of popular attitudes to the sale of public land. That is the core argument that underpins the work of Brett Christophers. He calculates that the transfer of land from state to private ownership is the biggest of the privatisations that began under

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

JAGO STONE - THE AMERICAN CONNECTION - PART FIFTEEN

This blogpost begins by recycling stories and images from this month's Mailchimp Jago Newsletter. There are 63 subscribers to date and I'm always happy to see the number of new free subscriptions rise - the Newsletters contain material that I haven't shared before so if you do subscribe you're the first to hear about the latest developments in the Jago story. Here's a link to press to get to the online form for completion. The number of Americans connected with Jago Stone for whom I have either an email address or  a Facebook Message connection now stands at 50. There are a further 84 contacts that fit this bill from the UK.


'In late June this year I sent out a template email to all my Jago contacts, advising them that the biography would be published by Unicorn on October 1 this year. I personalised some with a reference to when the first contact had been made. One of those I emailed was Celia Taylor who is an American lady now living in Pocahontas, Tennessee and the daughter of Upper Heyford American vets. Celia attended the Upper Heyford/Croughton American High School between 1976 and 1978. In December last year, she had left a comment on a Facebook 'Jago' post explaining that her parents had a couple of paintings by Jago - but the lead was not developed at that time.  
On June 24, Celia posted this to me: 
'I visited my dad in March and took some photos of his Jago Stone pics'
 I replied:
'Wow! Just opened up your message before going to bed - thank you so much! I'll be back in touch tomorrow.'

Two pictures appeared through cyberspace. Here they are, in the best photoshop shape I could achieve:



'Ebrington, near Shipston on Stour - Jago Stone (1978)


The Fox and Hounds - Jago Stone (1978)

Tantalisingly, the location of this particular Fox and Hounds remains unclear. Can anyone help, please?

Celia also added that her mum and dad had gifted a third Jago painting - a watercolour of Blenheim Palace - to their other daughter as a wedding gift because she had a picnic in the grounds there on her English wedding day. Maybe, an image of this one too will find its way across the Pond to my screen. We will see.

And so the Jago story has a few more pieces in its jigsaw - and the search continues.

The biography will be published in October but there are more stories and images still out there. That feels exciting.'

So much for the material from the Mailchimp newsletter I published in early July. Since then, though, there have been further developments in the search for the identity and location of 'The Fox and Hounds' depicted by Jago Stone in 1978.

Last Wednesday - July 10, 2019 - Trevor Jones, a Mailchimp newsletter subscriber and reader, emailed me to say he thought the painting showed 'The Fox and Hounds' at Charwelton near Daventry. Trevor had first made contact with me in February this year, sending me this email:

 Hi Rob - hope this photo comes through. My Jago Stone book has this message
in it - maybe someone will remember it. I live in Adderbury Oxon where he painted
many houses one being The Old Wheatsheaf which cost my friend a bottle of scotch . He also painted pictures of my friends pub at Priors Hardwick and was paid with meals. Lino [Pires - the landlord and owner of The Butcher's Arms at Priors Hardwick] loved him and gave us both a mention in his book called Fantastic . Look forward to your own book coming out. Trevor Jones 

The photo that Trevor refers to is this image below - an inscription written by Jago Stone inside a copy of his autobiography called 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion' that was published in 1975.



'For Maureen - & for Des - a few tips in case you are ever redundant - Jago Stone'
Jago had provided his readers with a detailed account of how he worked his trade as a burglar.



As soon as I received Trevor's suggestion of a location, I googled this hostelry and made contact with David the landlord. With the help of a pub regular who is a longstanding resident of Charwelton, we were able to establish that Jago's painting was not in fact that of the Charwelton 'Fox and Hounds'. We are back to square one. The search continues.

Nevertheless, the area around the door and windows in Jago's painting is similar to the Charwelton hostelry. Could it be that Jago was creating an archetypical 'Fox and Hounds' that came from his imagination and memories of all 'The Fox and Hounds' that he had ever encountered?

I would love to receive more suggestions about exactly where is the location of this Jago pub!


With publication of the biography drawing nearer, I thought readers of these American Connection blogposts might find it interesting to learn more about the Oxford connections of the biographer. Upper Heyford is close enough to the dreaming spires to mean that perhaps most USAF veterans will be familiar with the city where I spent three years as an undergraduate and then a decade later six years as a resident, living in Summertown with my wife, Louise.

This link below will take you into a light-hearted exploration of the myths and reality of Oxford through the eyes of a transitional object.

robdonovan.blogspot.com/2019/07/peter-ted-goes-to-his-oxford-gaudy.html

You will have to open the link to find out more but here as a further enticement is a painting of the interior of the famous Sloop Inn in St Ives in Cornwall where we live. The two humans featured are myself and my wife - Rob and Louise. The transitional objects you can see behind us were placed there by the artist who had met them that day. He was none other than Merlin Porter, the Oxford artist and Jago Stone's youngest child, born in 1981. How cool and complex is that!

Detail: 'Rob and Louise and PT and SA in the Sloop' - Merlin Porter (2017)




A fuller story of our connection with Merlin is told in the Jago biography to be published in October. This link below is to a blogpost that I published in 2016 that gives an outline of part of that story.


robdonovan.blogspot.com/2016/04/jago-stone-part-3-weekend-with-artist.html


I hope you have enjoyed these glimpses - do leave a comment and let me know.







Friday, 12 July 2019

SCREWING OUR YOUNG PEOPLE FOR PROFIT - THE MISGOVERNMENT OF UK HOUSING

The Mirror Politics morning briefing is a useful guide to contemporary politics in the UK. Often, I find myself in broad agreement with the writers - although not so in one respect. They are hardly immune from the  mainstream media (MSM) commitment to rubbish Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist Labour Party. On such matters, I obviously part company. The Mirror Politics morning briefing - and even more so the posts that the SKWAKBOX publishes with the Facebook emails and posts that I receive from Koser Saeed - they, together, give me an alternative take on the presentation of news and 'truth' peddled by the right-wing elements in the press and in television.

This blogpost has been inspired by today's Mirror Politics morning briefing and I acknowledge my debt. You have here the Mirror text as I read it this morning, for the most part. When the wheel is as well-shaped as this, who am I to reinvent it?

'In the end almost every important domestic issue comes back to housing.

If you want to know why the economy is skewed towards the rich, why social mobility has stalled, why opportunities are curtailed and why health inequalities persist it is impossible to discuss any of these themes without reference to housing.


This is one of the wealthiest countries in the world - and one of the most morally bankrupt?


Having a decent home to live in should be a basic right but there are more than one million people on the waiting list for social housing.

Rent takes up 40% of our income on average, the highest in Europe where the average is 28%. This consumes money which could, for instance, be spent on purchasing better quality food. It is no

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

PETER TED GOES TO HIS OXFORD GAUDY

Hi everyone - I'm Peter Ted. I'm a revolutionary. A veteran survivor of the Siege of Petergrad. Perhaps the only one. Mum's the word on that. Incidentally, I'm a bit of an academic bear too. Strictly autodidact - you see I never went to Oxford. My Rob left me behind when he buggered off there on his Leathersellers' Scholarship. How many of my fellow animal creatures sacrificed their skins to pay for his higher education? Not that I hold grudges. I've done very nicely, thank you very much. I bet you didn't know that the phrase 'Mum's the word' has its origin in late Middle English: imitative of a sound made with closed lips. You don't need to have spent three years at an Oxford college to be well-educated. Trust me, I've been around the block a few times. Here's a picture of me in my prime when I first came into Rob's world to look after him - after my wounds in mind and body had healed, in the aftermath of that terrible Siege.


Me, Rob, and his Mum - Lewisham - c.1952


Now, it's quite possible that some of you may not have read my first post in cyberspace that I published on the 7th of November, 2016. How time flies! Not like in those unspeakable siege years. So here's the link to my sensational arrival in the blogsphere:

https://robdonovan.blogspot.com/2016/11/taking-statistical-stock-part-3-through.html


Did you enjoy that? Silly question, of course. When you're reading the ursine counterpart to Joyce,

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

JAGO STONE - THE AMERICAN CONNECTION - PART FOURTEEN

Publication of my biography of Jago Stone (1928-88), the English artist whose works hang in scores of American homes thanks to the RAF Upper Heyford connection, is scheduled for October 1, this year. Here is an image of the front cover:




The front cover of Jago's autobiography (1975) is part of the front cover of his biography (2019)


This post is designed in part as pre-publicity for that publication in October - but it also provides an opportunity for American followers of the Jago Stone story to catch up on latest developments via the RAF Upper Heyford websites, in particular the discovery of Jago's 'Vines House' painting.  My apologies to those of you who have already read my account of the David Mitchell Jago story - but it does bear repeating. 

In the concluding part of this post, you can read the publisher's description of the book. But first, here reprinted is the post that I published on Saturday 11 May, last month, in which I relate the story told to me by David Mitchell of Jago's painting of Vines House, the 17th century home that David grew up in - and the newspaper cutting glued to the back of the canvas: 

"By now, those of you who are regular readers of my Jago Stone blog-posts - I've published 46 since January 2016 when my website and blogsphere were first developed by Steve McIntosh (press this link here for the full list) - will recognise the pattern. An email arrives in my inbox with a title that includes Jago Stone's name. I open it - and wonder upon wonder, the spirit of Jago now appears. I have a story and often an image, usually of a 

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

MODERN SLAVERY - HOW TO COMBAT THIS SYMPTOM OF A DISTRESSED ECONOMY

The facts beggar belief.  I went to school in the 1950s and 1960s and learnt that in my country the slave trade had been ended by legislation in 1807 and in 1833 slavery itself had been abolished throughout the British Empire. Slavery had been relegated to the past. And yet, remarkably, one of the last legislative acts of the Conservative-led Coalition government (2010-2015) was the Modern Slavery Act (2015), designed to combat modern slavery and consolidate previous offences relating to trafficking and slavery. 



Modern slavery - gang labour under the threat of violence



How has it come to this - history reversed; a warp in the time-spectrum? I will make the case that the economic ideology of neoliberalism - the belief that the pursuit of profit unhindered by government regulation will produce the best of all outcomes for all in the long run - is responsible. We have seen the return of slavery because wealthy and powerful interests have taken to their collective bosom a 

Friday, 24 May 2019

CLIMATE CHANGE SOS - AND THE ROLE OF A JEREMY CORBYN-LED LABOUR GOVERNMENT

I missed the broadcast in April this year of Sir David Attenborough's 'Climate Change - The Facts' - but I caught up with the programme last Wednesday evening on BBC iPlayer. Thank goodness! Watch for one hour and prepare to spend the rest of your days more knowingly - and hopefully with less of a carbon footprint. Yes, I had a pretty good grasp of climate change before. But living through the presentation of the facts and analysis for one searing hour does open the eyes. Twenty of the last twenty-two years are the hottest ever recorded. As a political activist, I now understand even more knowingly my duty. Those who have wealth and power and think only of their self-centred instincts - they must be thwarted. If we fail to stop the actions of those who are responsible for climate change, we kiss goodbye to life as we know it.



The end of civilisation is the full-stop after Climate Change.



Our world's first industrial revolution took off in Britain getting on for 250 years ago. This new way of making and using energy soon became standard practice throughout Europe and north America in the 19th century - factories and railways were amongst its most obvious manifestations, and smoke and steam of course. The industrial revolution that was changing the landscape so radically required coal-burning, and that in turn releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. We now know that