Tuesday, 19 March 2019

THE LONDON MARATHON 2019 - RUNNING FOR THE SALLY ARMY - PART FOUR

This post serves as a review of my training in preparation for the challenge of being a runner in this year's London Marathon, next month. I came to running late. It was not until I was in my mid-30s, that I started to run for fitness and charities. And now three and a half decades later, I am still not a 'proper' runner in my body or mind. Yet, counter-intuitively, through what I have termed bloody-minded determination, I seem to have persuaded a genetically-challenged frame to continue moving at a running pace that covers a mile in 11.5 minutes for over 13 miles. 5mph for 2.5 hours, aged 70.5 years, feels no mean accomplishment for someone who has never seen himself as an athlete.


March 19 - back garden - St Ives, Cornwall - a rest day after Monday's long run



How has the training programme worked out this time round? Let me start with a comparison. The schedule I devised for the London Marathon in 2017, when I also ran for the Sally Army - and raised £3,000 for their drug rehabilitation unit outside Swindon - saw me in January extending the distance covered in my long runs by lengthening my local circuit runs. All the running was from my own

Monday, 18 March 2019

WITCHHUNT HAS ARRIVED - TRUTH WILL OUT


'WitchHunt' has been launched today. It begins with a near minute's silence - stay with it.

Here is the link to this disturbing and brilliant piece of writing and direction by Jon Pullman:

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/watch-film-labour-mps-didnt-want-you-see?fbclid=IwAR0RmINJWFEUDwEnULJhLTaWe_Xuu_DYg8QxEHTN78Mi9i4hKXk3DSd0iLI


And here is the relevant section of the post that I published on 4 March. I was unable at that time to download the link to the film that had been briefly available online as a preview:


'I received the link from Koser Saeed (who complained that the link kept being taken down) - an online activist and fellow supporter of the values that are shaping the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, with its more than half-a-million members. We all need a socialism fit for the 21st century to change the face of our society and make it more civilised and us more content. 



This film is an exploration of some of the obstacles that we face. It speaks for itself. I started watching with the belief I had only a few minutes to spare. One hour was too much to devote to a single issue film such as this. Those first few minutes passed and I was hooked - utterly engrossed in the exposure of how Jackie Walker, a Labour Party activist with both Jewish and Afro-Caribbean parentage, has been vilified as anti-Semitic. 



Jackie Walker - anti-racist political activist, suspended from the Labour Party for anti-Semitism  


Here is a summary of some of the main themes and claims that are developed in the course of this film:  


  • WitchHunt is about the silencing of pro-Palestinian Labour party activists, who have been among the Israeli government's fiercest critics - in particular Jackie Walker; (Continued)

Saturday, 16 March 2019

THE COST OF TORY MISGOVERNMENT SINCE 2010 - WHY THE MANY NEED JEREMY CORBYN AS PRIME-MINISTER

The SKWAWKBOX exists as an online social media platform to tell the truths that the Establishment would rather not see publicised. That's how it sees itself and I think it does a fine job. It fulfils that remit. Here's a link to join the 48,000 plus who are already subscribers - press here.

Last Tuesday - March 12 - the new SKWAWKBOX post was entitled: 'List of Tory 'achievements' makes horrifying reading' and carried this sub-title: The blight of Tory government on the UK and its people in a few short bullet points'. It continued: 'As the government prepares for the Chancellor's 'Spring Statement', a list of Tory 'achievements' since 2010 has been circulating on social media. It makes the bleakest of reading.' Indeed it does.

I want to widen the circulation of these 19 bullet points by reprinting them in this post. They provide a devastating catalogue of the misgovernment we have suffered over the last decade. I have grouped them into categories and introduced illustrative material:

With grateful acknowledgement to the cartoonist


Education and the nurture of our young people

  • 470 schools closed
  • per-pupil spending down by 8% (20% on over-16s according to BBC News last week
  • 1189 Sure Start centres closed
  • 760 youth clubs closed                       (CONTINUED) 

Monday, 11 March 2019

MISOGYNY, SUB-CULTURES - AND A BIG THANK YOU TO MY BROTHER-IN-LAW, PETE RICHARDS

Our world is peppered with sub-cultures - and how wonderful that this should be the case. Diversity in life-styles indicates the health of a developed and civilised society. We can find good meaning by following our own interests - be it caravanning, cycling, gardening, darts, singing, listening to music, or whatever. The now rather quaint word 'hobbies' is what I grew up expecting to find I followed as an adult. I would have the interests that gave meaning to my leisure-time.

Yet, it's so easy to take this for granted. After all, the fact is that in our nation we cannot all find such fulfilment. In the sixth most prosperous country on the planet, millions cannot afford to enjoy the fruits of diversity. Most hobbies need financing. And so many don't have the spare cash - in-work poverty is a descriptor that has entered the lexicon since 2010 when the newly-elected neo-liberals declared war on the welfare state and introduced the Austerity programme to cut drastically the size and scope of the state and its governing responsibilities. Some don't have any cash at all. If you don't have two coins to rub together, forget diversity and sub-cultures. And if you only have a few coins, your leisure-life is sadly diminished.

But some keep the focus within a sub-culture whatever tribulations life brings and develop an awesome knowledge of that territory. Pete Richards - my brother-in-law from my first marriage - is a retired award-winning publican living in London who excels within one particular field. If he were to appear on Mastermind, his specialist subject could be something like 'Progressive Rock Music - 1965-95'. Or more recent manifestations of electronic heavy metal, Scandinavian style. He was already well into this musical world when he arrived, aged 15, with his mate, Garry Strudwick, all the way from south Wales, to share the delights of the Reading Pop Festival in August 1975.



Reading Pop Festival - 1975 - Headline Acts and More


He had lost his sister, Glynis, in March the year before. Today - Sunday March 10 - is indeed the 45th anniversary of the fatal crash which saw the Triumph Herald she was driving wrapped round a lamp-

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

LOUISE DONOVAN - TEXTILE ARTIST - AT THE CRYPT GALLERY, ST IVES - NOVEMBER 2018

Louise Donovan is already producing work for her 2020 exhibition at the Crypt Gallery here in St Ives. Being Louise's partner and husband means I have the advantage of a preview as each piece of creative art is designed and quilted. Trust me, this forthcoming exhibition will be as extraordinary as Louise's first exhibition in 2018. And this post gives me the opportunity to remind those who saw that show how good it was - and to bring those who did not more fully into the loop.

Here is the video that Facebook created and presented to me, using a selection of images produced by Leo and Larisa Walker, our very talented photographers. A number of these images are art works themselves as I hope you will see as you watch. Leo is the son of Roy Walker ( ),  one of the significant St Ives' artists of his generation. Leo's mum is Peggie Walker - she was one of our guests, the lady in the wonderful red hat. Our other friends included Tracey and Tim Rump from Norwich, hair-stylist and her printer husband both Norwich City supporters like Louise; Julia Bush, Quaker and former dean of the University of Northampton; Caroline and Tony Wilson, Louise's sister and husband - both lawyers; Stephen Vranch, now secretary of the St Ives branch of the Labour Party following a distinguished career in chemical engineering; Clare Lynch, my brilliant saxophone tutor; Steve and Jo McIntosh, my talented St Ives web-designer and his wife, gifted textile artist and teacher, and Keith and Sally Adams from Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, retired accountant and his wife, parents of three extraordinary daughters - we were so blessed to have such good people travel such distances and gather together to celebrate Louise's talent and artwork.   



And below is the video I created later using Leo and Larisa's images and some additional material as icing on the cake. There are a couple of shots of Louise taken when we were on the Greek island of

Monday, 4 March 2019

OPTIMISM OVER DESPAIR - ALBEIT THERE'S A WITCH-HUNT

Noam Chomsky is Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Below, is a snapshot of the reasons why he is one of the truly great minds in the history of humanity.


Chomsky theory of language

In the 1960s, linguist Noam Chomsky proposed a revolutionary idea: We are all born with an innate knowledge of grammar that serves as the basis for all language acquisition. In other words, for humans, language is a basic instinct. The theory, however, has long been met with widespread criticism-until now.
Optimism over Despair - Noam Chomsky (2017)


Chomsky is not only a brilliant academic in the field of linguistics. He is also a political activist. Back in 1968 (or 1969), the late Glynis Richards and I were part of the mass of undergraduates, graduates and fellows crammed into the Examination Schools main hall in Oxford to hear the great man, then aged 41, deliver a special lecture. He had crossed the Pond to speak about his academic work and opposition to the Vietnam war. 


Now aged over 90, Noam Chomsky is still going strong. 'Optimism over Despair' was published as a Penguin Special in 2017 (see image above) and in it Chomsky shows how 

Sunday, 24 February 2019

DAVID ROSENBERG ON ANTI-SEMITISM AND RACISM IN THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY

I am indebted to David Rosenberg, the author of the online 'Rebel Notes', for the thrust of this post. He has taught me much. Here is a link to a post he published at the end of last year on the roots of anti-Semitism - press here.

He begins with some personal biography that establishes his Jewish family background and his credentials as a lifetime fighter against racism - and his capacity to change his ideas as he reflects on issues:

'I want to start with some personal biography. My grandparents came to Britain as Jewish child immigrants from Poland and Ukraine in the early 1900s. I grew up in an economically struggling Jewish family in inner London that gradually became more comfortable.


My extended family were mostly Labour voters, plus some communist-supporting relatives. My family were traditional; not very religious, not actively Zionist. They had no family in Israel, but sympathised with Israel at a general level.

I became involved in socialist politics and antifascist activism when I was around 16 years old. My first demonstration was against the National Front, a group formed in Britain in 1967 by convinced Nazis who recruited a wider layer of supporters from all classes by condemning black immigration and promoting British nationalism.'



Battle of Cable Street - 1936 - the Jewish community fight back against the fascists

David Rosenberg continues: 
'I went to that demonstration with several Jewish friends from a Zionist youth group. I had illusions then about Israel/Palestine that I discarded long ago. Perhaps only one or two of 

Friday, 22 February 2019

THE LONDON MARATHON 2019 - RFTSA - PART THREE - MORE ABOUT NEWLYN

I promised more detail about Newlyn in Part Two and I am pleased to publish this post in response. If I may, let me take you into Newlyn through my vision as a runner. My focus begins to switch from Penzance to Newlyn by the time I'm approaching the end of the Penzance promenade and I return to the pavement and soon see a Lidl store and garage on the other side of the main road.



The south-western end of the promenade in Penzance

This road will very shortly turn into a gentle straight decline straight down to the traffic lights by the town sign for Newlyn.


The Newlyn town sign has always had a special significance for me - 57 minutes out from Marazion; 30 minutes away from Mousehole - and that's Newlyn Art Gallery facing the road behind the town sign 


Past the traffic lights, half a minute's running takes me to a complex crossroads with the main road through Newlyn turning to the left. This is generally a time to engage all the senses; the cars can

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

THE LONDON MARATHON 2019 - RUNNING FOR THE SALLY ARMY - PART TWO

Here's my latest update on the training schedule. Monday is my long run day; today is Wednesday - so I am reporting on what happened two days ago and illustrating the story with photographs I took yesterday when I went back in the car, parking at convenient intervals, and photographing sections of the route.




Still around a half mile from the port itself - but manna for a runner's spirit 


 I ran continuously from Marazion to Penzance on the coastal footpath, along the promenade and down into Newlyn - and then up along the coastal road for a couple of miles into Mousehole, then

Saturday, 16 February 2019

JAGO STONE - THE AMERICAN CONNECTION - PART TWELVE



This post is composed from two earlier posts that I published in January about the appeal for hi-res images of Jago's artwork. I have designed it for USAF Upper Heyford veteran websites as many Americans who follow these sites will not have seen the January posts - apologies to those who have seen the material before but it's Jago and worth a second look! 


As many readers - but not all - will know, the biography of Jago Stone will be published as 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone' by Rob Donovan on October 1 this year. Unicorn PLG are my publishers. Their design team and I are working together to ensure that the book looks as good as it reads - and to this end I contacted recently all those who had sent me images of their Jago Stone paintings and which I then referenced and included as images within the text. Unicorn and I hoped that these contributors would respond and send me hi-res images of their Jago Stone art work which I could then add to the Dropbox to send to Unicorn. The higher the resolution, the finer the picture.

The response has been impressive. So many higher-resolution images have arrived through cyber space. In this post, I give you - the reader - the opportunity to see some of the hi-res images that have come from the United States. A taster for the book itself.

I'll start with a story that I have already outlined in a Christmas 2018 post called: MORE AMERICAN LINKS - THE JENNY JANZEN COLLECTION. Here's the link to that post: Press here. Jenny has one of the largest collections of Jago's watercolours in the United States and we have been fortunate enough to be gifted images of fourteen of them. Four of these, I included in that Christmas 2018 post. Here is another:


Tysoe Fire Station, Warwickshire - Jago Stone (1976)


In the order the American hi-res images came, first the story behind those from Jessica Raber, nee Pue. Jessica is an artist in Bloomington, Indiana - press here for a link. Jessica was five years old when Jago painted a watercolour of her parent's home in Bicester, Oxfordshire in 1984 during the time they were on tour, stationed

Friday, 8 February 2019

TRUMP, FEAR, AND BOB WOODWARD - PART TWO

Bob Woodward is very good at capturing the instinctive Trump style and explaining why he was the winner in the presidential campaign of 2016. Here are some extracts from an early part (p.16) of 'Fear':

'Politicians like Hillary (Clinton) can't talk naturally, (Steve) Bannon said … not from the heart or from deep conviction - not angry. Trump said okay, you become the Chief Executive Officer of the campaign ...
               
They agreed that Kellyanne Conway - a feisty, outspoken Republican pollster who was already helping the campaign - would be designated campaign manager. (Bannon continued) "We're going to put her on television every day as the female-friendly face on the thing … people like her. And that's what we need is likeability … I'll never be on TV."



Fear (2018) by Bob Woodward


Conway had never run a campaign either. That made three of them - the shiny neophyte candidate, the campaign CEO and the campaign manager'.

Woodward was shaping my understanding as I read his words. Trump, Bannon, and Conway - trading as political virgins: a new passport to popular success. And Conway knew her man, her boss - Donald Trump. An unreconstructed septuagenarian. Here is Woodward recording the moment of her appointment:

"Do you think you can run this thing? he asked.
"What is 'this thing'? she asked. "I'm running this photo shoot."
"The campaign," Trump said. "The whole thing. Are you willing to not see your kids for a few

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

THE LONDON MARATHON 2019 - RUNNING FOR THE SALLY ARMY - PART ONE

When I had come to the end of my 26 miles and a few hundred yards in the London Marathon in April 2017, I spent a few minutes with the Salvation Army officers who were around at the end of the race welcoming their runners as they finished. I had just achieved a personal best marathon time in this, my third marathon - 05:37:29 - aged 68. Three years before, I had completed the Edinburgh Marathon in  05:42:10 and five years before, in 2012 - the year of the London Olympics - I had my first marathon under my belt in 05:40:55. So nearly 3.5 minutes faster in 2017 and five years older. It was like defying gravity but then running has always been a counter-intuitive activity for me - see my background story and the galleries featuring me as a runner by pressing here.


Running for the line in the Mall - London 2017


I was proud to run wearing the Salvation Army vest in 2017 and raise £3000 towards the development of the Sally Army's rehabilitation unit in Swindon for former drug users. I remember

Sunday, 3 February 2019

VENEZUELA - THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, is the bad guy. He's the one with the bandit moustache. Millions are leaving the country because it's in such a mess. All due to the socialist beliefs of Maduro and his government. The good guy is Juan Guaido who has recently become the president of the national assembly as a leading member of the opposition Popular Will Party. There's an informal agreement to rotate this position of president between the different political  parties in Venezuela. He's the fresh-faced one. No bandit moustache. As soon as he became the president of the national assembly, he declared himself the rightful president of the country. The bad guy, Maduro, was no longer the president. He was.

President Maduro


The president of the United States, Donald Trump, soon announced that Maduro was no longer the president of Venezuela. Juan Guaido now held that position. A few days later, our foreign secretary, James Hunt, declared that Britain does not regard Maduro as Venezuela's "legitimate leader". Instead, opposition head Juan Guiado is "the right person to take the country forward". That's a special relationship in action - Trump leads; the Tory government follows.


self-declared president - Juan Guaido


Listen to our media and the Trump/Tory line rules the airwaves and fills cyberspace. But there is another side to the story.

There is an evident link between Guaido and his actions on the one hand and Trump's support. According to Associated Press, Guaido had secretly visited Washington, Colombia and Brazil in the

Thursday, 31 January 2019

TRUMP, FEAR, AND BOB WOODWARD - PART ONE

In September 2018, Bob Woodward's account of the first eighteen months of the presidency of Donald Trump was published. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward had been the Washington Post journalists who exposed the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. Woodward knows his territory; he draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with first-hand sources and from meeting notes, personal diaries, files and paperwork. As the blurb says, here is an account 'in unprecedented detail (of) the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump's White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies.'

I finished reading my birthday copy very recently - and felt compelled to share a summary of Woodward's account. He makes few judgements; he reports. The verdict on the President is left to the reader. I had already made my judgement before reading 'Fear'. That verdict is more than confirmed by 'Fear'. 

Here is a link to my thinking about Trump and the special relationship, so-called, between the USA and the UK, as expressed in a post in early 2017: press here to find out more. If you had been in Truro around that time as we faced the prospect of a state visit by the new American President, you would have heard me one evening - see photo below - expounding on the menace of a man whom I - and others - believe is mentally unfit to be the leader of the most powerful nation on our planet. My reasoning? He evidently had all the symptoms of a medical condition: narcissistic personality disorder




Rob Donovan on the wall in Lemon Quay, Truro, next to Steve Robinson aka Red Robbo - February 16, 2017


'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump - 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President' by Bandy X. Lee & Robert Jay Lifton (2017) provides a compelling account of the reasons why there are medical grounds for doubting his fitness for office. These are the words of one of the 

Friday, 25 January 2019

WHAT IS CORBYN THINKING?

On 31 December 2018, Bernard Porter published a piece on the London Review of Books Blog (LRB Blog) with this title: What is Corbyn thinking?  Bernard Porter is an academic historian. I think his own thinking about Jeremy's thinking is worth sharing. Here is my summary of his article, using his words for the most part:

Here is how Bernard Porter begins:
'Jeremy Corbyn is getting a lot of stick just now ... for not coming out clearly in favour of a second referendum, and for Remain. The Guardian is especially critical: but when hasn’t it been, of this untidy bearded radical? I’d have liked Labour to have taken more of a pro-European lead. But then I think again.'
Second thoughts are always worth considering. Why should Labour necessarily take a more pro-European lead - whatever that means? In any case, to insist that No Deal can not be countenanced is markedly more pro-European than PM May's position.


Jeremy Corbyn - 2017 General Election


BP continues:
'There are three reasons for suspending judgment on Corbyn until the whole sorry affair has worked itself out. First, he is at least being consistent in his career-long Euroscepticism, which is

Sunday, 20 January 2019

ALEX 'HURRICANE' HIGGINS AND RICHARD DORMER - MY THANKS

There are numinous moments in a lifetime when we seem to be touched by the Gods. You choose your own metaphor if you are uncomfortable with mine - but I hope you have had the joy of experiencing transcendence. For me, Manchester United beating Bayern Munich with two very late goals to become European champions in 1999 when I was aged 50; my first ascent of a mountain (Helvellyn), aged 16; and so on. Two will have to suffice in this introduction to a blog-post in which I am giving thanks to two people who have brought me a joy that left me utterly at one with myself and the universe - a snooker player and an actor who became that snooker ace; Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and Richard Dormer.


Alex Higgins and Richard Dormer, on stage in 2003


A bit of background to explain more fully:

In 1970 in a Kidlington cinema outside Oxford, I watched the new American release: 'Mash'. I was blown away. These anarchic surgeons operating close to the battlefields of Korea were brilliant at

Friday, 18 January 2019

JAGO STONE - NEW IMAGES IN HI-RES - PART TWO

In Part One, a few days ago, I promised readers hi-res images from American sources. Those images and their stories are below - but first a reminder for any new readers of the background to this post.

The biography of Jago Stone will be published as 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone' by Rob Donovan on October 1 this year. Unicorn PLG are my publishers. Their design team and I are working together to ensure that the book looks as good as it reads - and to this end I contacted recently all those who had sent me images of their Jago Stone paintings and which I then referenced and included as images within the text. Unicorn and I hoped that these contributors would respond and send me hi-res images of their Jago Stone art work which I could then add to the Dropbox to send to Unicorn. The higher the resolution, the finer the picture.

The response has been impressive. So many higher-resolution images have already arrived through cyber space; others have been promised. In this post, I focus on two of those who have gifted me hi-res images that will appear in the book - both American - and give you - the reader - the opportunity to see those paintings. Another taster for the book itself.

The Pue family home in Bicester, Oxfordshire - Jago Stone (1984)



In the order the American hi-res images came, first the story behind those from Jessica Raber, nee Pue. Jessica is an artist in Bloomington, Indiana - press here for a link https://raberarts.tumblr.com. She was five years old when Jago painted a watercolour of her parent's home in Bicester, Oxfordshire in 1984 during the time they were on tour, stationed

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

JAGO STONE - NEW IMAGES IN HI-RES - PART ONE

As many readers - but not all - will know, the biography of Jago Stone will be published as 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone' by Rob Donovan on October 1 this year. Unicorn PLG are my publishers. Their design team and I are working together to ensure that the book looks as good as it reads - and to this end I contacted recently all those who had sent me images of their Jago Stone paintings and which I then referenced and included as images within the text. Unicorn and I hoped that these contributors would respond and send me hi-res images of their Jago Stone art work which I could then add to the Dropbox to send to Unicorn. The higher the resolution, the finer the picture.

The response has been impressive. So many higher-resolution images have already arrived through cyber space; others have been promised. In this post, I focus on two of those who have gifted me hi-res images that will appear in the book - one English; one American - and give you - the reader - the opportunity to see those paintings. A taster for the book itself.


St Ives - Jago Stone (1982)


For the purposes of this post, I'll start with Phil Webb. On the morning of 27 August, last year in 2018 - just before we left for our Greek vacation - I received this email with two images attached:

'Hi Rob,

 Thought you might be interested in seeing these two painting. As I
 understand it Jago was going door to door in 1982 in Bradford On Avon,
 Wiltshire and my Mum bought the first painting that was painted in
 situ sitting in our garden. She then gave him a photograph I had taken

Sunday, 6 January 2019

JAGO STONE - THE AMERICAN CONNECTION - PART ELEVEN

And so it goes on. On the third day of January 2019, Harry Marshall from the United States (I'm not sure where in the States yet) left a Facebook message on the Jago Stone webpage, saying that he and his family had a painting by Jago.

'It is of "Little Bandy Legs" of Chacomb … we lived in this stone/thatch roof house for one year. I also have a newspaper article of him presenting a picture to the President (Gerald Ford) of Sulgrave manor. This comes from the Banbury Guardian paper.'

I replied saying how exciting it was to get news such as this - and then realised that Harry had already followed up with an image of his painting attached to another email. Here it is:


The inscription reads: 'Little Bandylegs - Chacombe - Northamptonshire - Specially painted for Marshall family, May 1974' - and it is signed 'Jago Stone 1974'


As I remark in Jago's biography, the American government knew the value of looking after its defence personnel overseas. Those who were not housed within the perimeters of Upper Heyford and