Sunday, 28 May 2017

JAGO STONE - THE HELLIDON YEARS - 1971-86 - PART 1

My last post concerning my research and writings on the life of Jago Stone (1928-88) was dated May 3, less than a month ago. I presented images of previously unseen Jago's paintings - images that have been gifted to me by those who had contact with Jago in his lifetime. I also indicated that I had gained new insights into Jago's life in the last two decades of his lifetime - the 1970s and the 1980s - through contact with my anonymous source, Mark, and the former village postmistress of Hellidon, Jenny Fell.

The post that follows is based on the memories of Jenny and her husband, Tony, as they cast their minds back three decades and more to a past when village life was not quite the same as it is now.


Jenny married Tony Fell in 1966 in her home town of Coventry, honeymooned in the Scillies, and then settled in the village of Hellidon in Northants with its population of around 140 and fifty or so houses. They had two children. In 1974, Jenny determined to take on the role of village postmistress when the matter of the vacancy was raised at a parish council meeting. By the time of the millennium in 2000 she had researched, written and published ‘Three Ells in Hellidon’, a rather fine history of the village. Today, in 2017, she and Tony are members of that small group – half a dozen or so - who have been resident in Hellidon for around half a century. There is not much that escapes the eyes or the ears of a key villager such as the postmistress.  Jenny and Tony remember Jago very well.

The English Village - Jago Stone (1986)

Jenny’s story begins with the man who in the late 1970s became the licensee of the only surviving public house in Hellidon. His name? Rowland Thomas, the village squire whom Mark, my anonymous source, first met in 1974. Rowland was the only child of wealthy parents who had bought Hellidon’s Leam Farm and its estate in 1948, having lived there as tenants since the early 1930s. Rowland’s parents had had a commitment to Hellidon. Their son was born in the village in 1936. When Rowland married, his

JEREMY CORBYN'S SOCIALIST VISION CLOSES THE GAP - PART 3 IN THE ROAD TO CORBYN

The Tory lead over Labour stood at 20 percentage points when Theresa May called this General Election. That was one key reason why Lynton Crosby, her strategist, said that she should go to the country. Wipe out Labour now - before the economy hits the rocks and the people start blaming the Conservative government.

We go to the polls on June 8 and that Tory lead has already been cut by fifteen percentage points in a couple of weeks. The Tories know by now that they have blundered. May will suffer the consequences after the Election. The knives are already being sharpened. When Tories rid themselves of a leader who has reached  their sell-by date, they are ruthless. Meanwhile, they will be gnashing their teeth at having gifted Jeremy Corbyn the space and time to tell the country about his vision - Labour's vision - of socialism for the 21st century. And the people are not fools. Despite the media's best efforts, the message that there is a better way of running the country - in the interests of the many, not the few - is getting through. A political meme has formed that can take Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party into government.

The leader on the roll ... Jeremy Corbyn - May 2017


I was struck by the pro-Corbyn tone of so many of the letters published in last Saturday's 'Guardian' and intended to focus on one letter in particular in a post soon after. The Manchester atrocity has delayed that action until now but sharing this particular letter with you still seems an important  thing to do. I have already cancelled my subscription to the Guardian with effect from September because I  cannot stand the anti-Corbyn bias in this supposedly left-of-centre newspaper. The Morning Star now graces our table each day. But there will  be aspects of the paper I will miss, not least the Letters pages.

And so to the letter. It's from Sheila Spencer in Newcastle and contains fifteen bullet points. It appears under the headline: Why poorer people should vote Labour. She begins by agreeing with a


Saturday, 20 May 2017

THE ROAD TO CORBYN - PART 2

In this post I want to tease out why Jeremy Corbyn - the elected leader - has faced such hostility from so many within the Labour Party. A majority of the PLP - the MPs who form the Parliamentary Labour Party - still, in varying degrees, display a lack of confidence in a leader who has received an overwhelming endorsement from ordinary members of the Labour Party in not one but two leadership elections. Across the country, there are still executive committees of local Labour Parties that are dominated by those who wish to see the back of the Corbyn phenomenon.

Blair and Corbyn - rival mind-sets within the Labour movement


In my own constituency of St Ives in Cornwall, I have produced a report - following a survey of new members - in which I summarise some common threads of concern that are now apparent. Most of those surveyed felt uncomfortable at meetings due to the tension between the two wings of the Party. I make it clear that I think these differences need to be much more out in the open with both sides prepared to articulate and justify their positions - with respect shown by all to all. We need to remember the murdered Labour MP, Jo Cox, and her line that there is more uniting than dividing us. And we need to remember how much of our exponential increase in membership - the Labour Party is now the largest democratic socialist party in Europe with over half-a-million members - is  due to Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader.

Those opposed to Jeremy Corbyn within Labour ranks have had their mind-set shaped by history. They grew into political maturity when Tony Blair's vision of a New Labour Party was being

Sunday, 14 May 2017

THE ROAD TO CORBYN - PART 1

As promised, after Friday's Introduction post, the series begins - and will continue until after the election.

Let's start with the Manifesto that was leaked before its intended publication, apparently by those hostile to their leader within the Party (more on that issue in another  post, another time).


Jeremy Corbyn - the natural leader - a strong and stable normal person


Here is the Daily Mirror 'take' on the Manifesto:

Morning,

It was shortly after 7pm on Wednesday evening when I put the call in to a senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s team, to warn them the Mirror had obtained a leaked copy of Labour’s manifesto and would be publishing it the following day.
These conversations are never easy.
First there was silence. Then a hollow laugh. Then incredulity.
“Of course you have. The whole manifesto. Right.”
To their immense credit, they remained calm – ‘Monsieur Zen’ apparently extends beyond JC himself - and called back a few minutes later to ask how we would be reporting it.
I told them we would be highlighting the plans to bring the energy, rail and mail industries back into the public sector, and describing it as Labour's most left-wing manifesto in a generation.
This final point sparked the only bone of contention.
“I wouldn’t describe it as left-wing,” the source said.
“I think that left/right stuff is really not relevant any more. What these policies are, is popular.”

The answer gives a telling insight into the way Corbyn’s top team hope to re-shape him as a populist insurgent.
It also has the benefit of being true, as our exclusive ComRes poll shows today.
Re-nationalising the railways is backed by 52% of voters, with 22% opposed .
Re-nationalising the energy market is supported by 49%, with 24% against.
And re-nationalising the Royal Mail is backed by 50% of voters, with 25% opposed.
Other popular policies include banning zero hours contracts - with 71% in favour - and new income taxes for people earning more than £80,000, which is backed by 65% of voters.
If this is 'Back to the 70s', as the right-wing press would have it, then it seems voters rather like the idea of selective time-travel.

The problem, however, is Corbyn himself.
Our poll found only 30% agree he should be given a fair chance at leading the country - while 56% say he would be a ‘disaster’ as Prime Minister.
The Labour leader has less than four weeks to turn that around.
He will start today on what is seen as his weakest subject – defence – with a major speech insisting he is “not a pacifist” and would go to war as a last resort.
His opponent Theresa May will be in the North East - her own tanks parked squarely on Labour’s lawn - to insist the Tories are now the only choice for “patriotic” voters.
We’ll be following all the developments through the day on our election live blog.

If you want to get in touch my email is jack.blanchard@mirror.co.uk and you can follow us @mirrorpolitics on Twitter.

Thanks,
Mirror Politics

There is a general consensus that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party is offering the electorate a genuinely popular programme in this Manifesto. I remember an account of a television programme that was told to me in the pub by two Momentum activists after the anti-Trump demonstration on Lemon Quay a


Friday, 12 May 2017

THE ROAD TO CORBYN - AN INTRODUCTION

I shall be producing a series of blogs during this General Election that focus on Jeremy Corbyn and his ideas and the campaigns against him - with links to the book that I have written which bears his name. Press this link here for more detail: 'The Road  to Corbyn' by Rob Donovan. This Introduction serves to open up a number of avenues of political thought and I shall end this series with a post after the nation's electorate has cast their votes and there has been time to make a considered analysis.

My book, published  at the end of August last year, less than nine months ago, was born out of anger and literary challenge.

My heart sank when Cameron pulled off the coalition agreement with the Lib Dems in 2010 and then passed the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, virtually guaranteeing him five years to embed his destructive brand of Tory misrule. I began my collection of newsprint recording this Conservative vandalism and my understanding deepened. How could I best share my insights into the travesties that were unfolding year on year in this second decade of the 21st century? I was in no doubt that the damage was deliberate - and terminal for some. It would be an extraordinary political challenge to reverse this monstrous accumulation of measures designed to keep and augment wealth and power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

What a jolly good wheeze - this governing game is fun!
Austerity, as Jeremy Corbyn says, is a political choice not an economic necessity.  

Serendipity played its part. I had picked up from my bookshelf, to read at long last, John Bunyan's 'The Pilgrim's Progress'. I did not share the author's 17th century devotion to evangelical Christianity as a belief-system - but I was gripped by the power of his faith and the skill  he showed in weaving his narrative tale of a Pilgrim's journey through a troubled world in order to find understanding and salvation. Bunyan uses the figure of an Interpreter to help unfold the truths of the Christian religion. Well I could use a similar device to help communicate my sense of the political calamity that had befallen our nation and people. I could write a 21st century update of Bunyan's classic, creating a


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

A JAGO STONE UPDATE - NEWS OF THE BIOGRAPHY AND MORE PAINTINGS TO VIEW

As some of you may know who have read my website - see this link - or who know me in person, I have a number of personae. It is no doubt true that my running persona has taken much of my focus since January 1 as I trained for my London marathon charity run that took place on Sunday. But the running has not been at the expense of the writing persona. Far from it. The biography of Jago Stone the artist has made considerable headway in that same time-frame - the first four months of 2017.


Ann Hathaway's Cottage - Jago Stone (1976)


My last two Jago Stone posts in February displayed images of Jago's paintings that now hang in the United States - thanks again to Laina Baker - and also one that is in Wiltshire - thanks to  Alastair Mould for that picture. I also wrote about my excitement at having the opportunity to listen to Jago being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 in 1971. Thanks to a lot of detective work, I was able to spend several hours in a listening booth in the British Library, transcribing the words of the artist himself. The very stuff of biography. Here is a link to take you into my blog-sphere.

But there has been much else besides. On January 1, around lunchtime, I received an email from someone who had known Jago from 1974 through to the early 80s. He chooses to remain anonymous and this new source for the biography I have christened 'Mark'. Mark's account - based on our email


Thursday, 27 April 2017

THE LONDON MARATHON - APRIL 23 2017

What a day! What a life! What a time!

Three and a half minutes faster than the time I recorded in my first marathon - London 2012.

05:37:29 in London in 2017.

05:40:55 in London in 2012.

05:42:10 in Edinburgh in 2014.

Yes, it would have been marvellous if  I could have maintained continuous running beyond the half marathon point - rather than switch to speed walking and running. I had after all run continuously for at least 17 miles in training. But when from 8 miles you are increasingly surrounded by walking runners, it becomes harder and harder to resist the switch. And my second half marathon was not much slower than my first - just under 3 hours compared with  2 hours 38 minutes. My dad used to take me walking when I was knee high to a grasshopper and I learned to be a fast walker from that very young age in order to keep up. I once had to kick my dad's ankles hard when he had over-walked me. Sometimes you can't just find the words!

Joy in the Meet and Greet to the south-west of Admiralty Arch

I remember posting after the Oxford half marathon in October last year and remarking on how inspiring it is to experience a city being closed down and refocused on one sporting event in the name of charity and community. It was extraordinary in Oxford - imagine how awesome it is when the city in which you find yourself is one of  the greatest capitals on our planet.

London - April 23, 2017 - what a privilege to be in that place at that time. And to be one of  the