Wednesday 28 December 2016


An unlikely pairing at first glance. Imagine a Christmas cracker riddle: 'What links the cult of celebrity, Kim Kardashian, and the death of local communities?' Read on for an answer shaped by my most recent newspaper and journal trawling.

George Monbiot is my first key source. Writing in 'The Guardian' just before Christmas (21.12.2016), his piece is headlined: 'Celebrity is the smiling face of the corporate machine'. I think the case he advances is powerful and telling - and the statistics he uses are for me so alarming.

An attachment to celebrity has become the dominant value among little children in the US. A study published in the journal Cyberpsychology reveals that an extraordinary shift appears to have taken place between 1997 and 2007 in the US. In 1997, the dominant values (as judged by an adult audience) expressed by the shows most popular among nine-to 11 year olds were community feeling, followed by benevolence. Fame came 15th  out of the 16 values tested. Watch American films now on daytime TV here in the UK and you'll get a flavour of what that means - the 'feel-good' triumph of decency over adversity with the shared values of families in small town communities in the end winning out. Mythic tales but in their own way ennobling and with a long pedigree taking in James Stewart's portrayal of courage in adversity (with some angelic assistance) in Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946) and going, I suspect, right back to the very origin of the film medium. But by 2007, fame had shot to the no.1 position, followed by achievement, image, popularity and financial success. Community feeling had fallen to 11th, benevolence to 12th.

Kim Kardashian - 'Reality' TV star 

Monbiot cites a paper in the International Journal of  Cultural Studies (IJCS) which found that among the people it surveyed in the UK those who follow celebrity gossip most closely are three times less likely than people interested in other forms of news to be involved  in local organisations and half as likely to volunteer.

A recent survey of 16-year-olds in the UK indicated that 54% of them intended to become celebrities.

As they say, at the end of the day, it's not rocket science. Follow the yellow-brick Ofsted-ed road to Uni and saddle yourself with a lifetime of debt - and for what material gain? Or become a celebrity.

Monbiot points out that after watching and listening to interviews with celebrities you can work out that the principal qualities now sought in a celebrity are 'vapidity, vacuity and physical beauty'. An

Sunday 25 December 2016


Writing this on Christmas Eve, 2016, I can't quite believe it's been less than a week since I received an email from the States with the title 'Jago Stone'. Monday 19 December was the date of this my first communication from Jessica Raber.

My name is Jessica Raber and I'm an artist in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Merlin Porter told me you are putting together a book on Jago Stone and I wanted to offer any assistance I could provide ..."

For new readers, Merlin Porter is Jago Stone's youngest son. Merlin is also an artist and lives in Oxford. Read through my collection of blogs on Jago Stone for more about Merlin and pictures of his work. Google him to find his own website. Jessica had discovered Merlin in her own online search for more information about Jago a few years ago. Google Jessica Raber for her website.

"... My family was stationed at Upper Heyford during the 1980s and my parents commissioned a number of works from him (five that I'm aware of). I believe they all date from between 1984 and 1986 ... "

Jessica's parents live in Missouri and she is, as I write, with them to celebrate Christmas together. She has sent me pictures of these five commissions in the course of the last day or two.
Jessica has two watercolours in her possession - quite tiny, about 2.5 inches square, and dated 1986. They are unlike any other paintings of Jago that I've seen so far. Her parents have in their home a Jago Stone painting of the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Kings Sutton, in Northamptonshire.

The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Kings Sutton - watercolour by Jago Stone, dated 1986 

They also have an extraordinary Jago work that Jessica's mom requested depicting a "typical English village". And they have the picture painted by Jago of their home in Bicester, in Oxfordshire. Jessica tells the story as her email continues:  

"I was rather young at the time so my memories of Jago are rather hazy, but I'm sure my parents

Tuesday 20 December 2016


Just over a week ago, I posted the first part of the story of Jago's American Connection and I introduced Becky Bender from South Dakota and John Michael Adamski from Washington State as my new primary sources in my cyberspace research into the life and works of Jago Stone. Yesterday evening, a third primary source introduced herself by email from across the Atlantic - but more of that in Part 3. It can be very exciting, can't it, this shrinking of boundaries and experience of the world as a global village.

In this blog, as promised in Part 1, I will share more news about Jago and his paintings that I have learned from messaging John Michael on Facebook. In Part 1, I explained that John Michael had shared with me seventeen pictures of paintings that Jago had painted and were now part of  his  father's art collection. Pictures of the painting of George Washington's ancestral home - Sulgrave Manor - featured in that blog.

Here in Part 2, are pictures of five other paintings that comprise the artwork revealed in these seventeen pictures. First, Jago's depiction of a view that has caught the imagination of so many tourists - the Cotswold village of Lower Slaughter.

'Lower Slaughter, the Cotswolds'  -   Jago Stone (1977)

And now another popular view, this time looking towards the bridge at Henley-on-Thames. John Michael explained that Jago painted one of these paintings when he was sharing a coach trip with

Monday 12 December 2016


When my biography of the artist, Jago Stone (1928-88) is published in 2018, you'll be able to follow in detail the story of my online search for his life story. This blog - with its American focus - begins with the tale of an American lady - Rebecca Bender from Rapid City in South Dakota - who made her own online search for more detail about the life of Jago one afternoon last October. We google in a bid to add more meaning to our lives. Sometimes, it pays off - bigtime. Actually, what comes to mind is the image of striking gold - and that is wonderfully apt because Becky is the daughter of a Black Hills gold-mining operative from Lead, her late husband Don who died in 2009 was also the son of a gold miner from Lead, and her partner, Gene, has family roots that stretch back from Lead all the way across the Atlantic to the SW tip of the British Isles where this blog is being composed - to Cornwall. 

Becky and Don married in 1971. For four years - in the late 1970s and early 80s - Don was stationed at Upper Heyford, a USAF base in Oxfordshire, He and Becky lived in a detached bungalow in the village of Bloxham nearby. Their rented property had already been named 'Andsu' after the two children in their landlords' family. Becky, as a USAF officer's wife, became part of the officers' wives luncheon and function circuit that connected to others not just within Upper Heyford but also across at Lakenheath and Mildenhall in East Anglia (where we lived before moving to Cornwall). Two artists, Reg Siler and Jago Stone, and their paintings became a subject of conversation at these gatherings.

'Andsu' by Jago Stone - dated 1983

Last October, Becky was dusting the paintings that hang on a memory wall in her home. Several paintings by Reg Siler, the itinerant artist who painted the homes of Americans serving with the USAF in England (alas! - google is telling me nothing more about Reg Siler). And a picture of Becky and Don's home in Bloxham - 'Andsu' - painted by Jago Stone, the other itinerant artist. Becky and Don had met Jago.

So Becky decided to google Jago Stone's name, just as we had for the first time back in the late-

Saturday 3 December 2016


An earlier blog - on Sunday 13 November - brought news of how the left-overs from a sale of Jago Stone paintings were discovered in an Oxford pub in 1972. In this blog I can go into more detail, having now sought and got permission to name the people I wrote about in that last Jago blog. I can also show the photographs of the other three Jago paintings that were the subject of this story and are now part of our home-gallery here in St Ives in Cornwall at the SW tip of the British Isles.

This attention to geographical location comes from my growing awareness of the American audience for the blogs that Louise and I produce. I now know where Dakota lies in relation to other US states and similarly where Seattle is in the state of Washington; these two locations are key to the American perspective in this fast-developing online detective story - the search for memories of Jago Stone, artist. Soon, I hope another blog will shed further light on the significance of these places in the Jago story - and bring you pictures of paintings of his that crossed the Atlantic to hang on the walls of a family home in the United States of America.

First, though, a sight of one of the other three Jago paintings connected with the 1972 Oxford discovery - 'Butter Cross, Witney, Oxon.', painted in 1971 shortly after he had moved on from the south Buckinghamshire area where Louise, my wife, and her parents, Ronald and Phyllis Watkins, had known him.

'Butter Cross, Witney, Oxon'. by Jago Stone (1971)

Jago, by the time of the 1972 Oxford  pub sale at The Chequers in the High (where this painting was later bought), had been free from prison for half a decade. His creative artistry had flourished and he

Wednesday 30 November 2016


In the first part of this double-blog, published yesterday, I presented a precis of the first five steps in Youssef El-Gingihy's analysis: 'How to  Dismantle  the NHS in 10 Easy Steps'. Here below, with more pictures of West Cornwall Momentum' s part in the NHS Day of Action called by Jeremy Corbyn's  Labour Party last Saturday, is my precis of the last five steps - the final nails in the coffin. But there can be a resurrection. The people of this country can suss out who has been stealing their NHS and who has been peddling lies and deceit - and use their votes in their own interests - and return a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Step Six:  Run a PR Smear Campaign
There has been a relentless anti-NHS smear campaign in the media, softening up the public in preparation for the introduction of American-style  universal health insurance. The market and the profit motive reaches everywhere unless it is stopped by government regulation. Health is one of our basic rights and necessities and should not be in the market place. Yet the government, the Tory-led

The Momentum march pauses outside West Cornwall hospital, Penzance - Saturday 26 November 2016

government for five years and now the Tories alone, have not been defending the NHS. Instead they have been insisting on change - on the grounds of affordability (the need for austerity in a time of  financial crisis) and the need to modernise to improve standards.

The facts undermine both of these reasons.

UK spending on healthcare is less than all other G7 countries apart from Italy, which spends the 

Tuesday 29 November 2016


I am still on a learning curve. Having researched and written my book - The Road to Corbyn - about the misgovernment of the UK from 2010 to 2015, I knew a fair bit about the threat to our NHS. But by no means all I needed to. Thanks to a Momentum comrade, Mick Kennedy, I have now discovered and read a book by a London doctor who works as a G.P. in London, in Tower Hamlets. His name is  Youssef El-Gingihy and his book is called 'How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps' (2015). Thank you, Youssef, for widening my understanding. I hope that you will be drawn in to reading what follows as I present the main thrust of his account of this public scandal - the Theft of the NHS from the People of the UK. I hope you are as appalled as I am -  and like me, go and tell the world about this larceny.

Just before I start my presentation of Youssef's account, I'll tell you about some of the highlights of the national NHS Day of Action, called by Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, last Saturday - November 26-  down here in the SW tip of Cornwall. Three towns in the St Ives constituency had street stalls - Helston, Penzance, and St Ives - with between 6-10 Party activists in

Friday 18 November 2016


I want to live in a Britain where all the frustrations, desperation and anger - and hurt and sense of unfairness - that ordinary people are feeling are channelled towards the principled solutions offered by a Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. A Party that communicates the vision and hope of a new socialism for the 21st century. At the beginning of this week, JC sent out an email to all Labour Party members that carried the title: 'People are right to be angry'. 

Jeremy Corbyn - a leader with a vision

Let me give you some extracts:

'Last week's US Presidential election result was a global wake-up call.

Whether in the US or the UK, people are feeling left behind - marginalised by an economic system that makes them work harder for less, while hovering up ever greater rewards for a small elite.

People are right to be angry. Our political and economic system is delivering rising inequality and falling living standards.

Young people today find it harder to get a home of their own, harder to find good secure jobs, and are landed in lifelong debt simply for wanting an education.

Older people see their children and grandchildren struggling, their libraries and community

Sunday 13 November 2016


Jago Stone's story includes the one he told in his forties through the pages of an autobiography: 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion' (1975). I am now attempting as his biographer to provide another account, this time the story of the whole life from his birth in 1928 through to his death in 1988.

As you will know if you have read my website and my blogs, my research into the life of Jago Stone has been almost from the beginning an online search - a digital detective story. This blog is about one specific episode in this journey into cyber-space.

It was last month, in late October, that I opened the email with the title 'The Rollright Stones'. I knew not what to expect. This time the communication came from a fifteen year old student who had discovered my 'wonderful' website and interest in Jago from a google search and wanted to know the current market value of a Jago Stone painting and whether I knew of any likely buyers. He explained his grandparents had some of Jago's paintings and were happy to gift him one to sell to help raise money to send him on a one month adventure excursion to Peru.

An exchange of emails followed. I talked with granddad for twenty-five minutes over the phone, two days later. Mum and Dad changed their half-term holiday plans to drive their teenage son and younger brother all the way to Cornwall a week later to deliver to our house the five paintings we had been offered and bought. It turned out there was also a sixth painting that we also bought. This blog has images of three of them - a later blog will show the others.

The Old Wool Market, Chipping Campden by Jago Stone (1971)

Let me give you the drift of the phone conversation with granddad as from this I established the provenance of the paintings. Grandad, now aged eighty, had been an area manager for Ind Coope brewery with responsibility for the drinking places within central Oxford. His professional duties had

Monday 7 November 2016


I began this statistical stock-taking exercise at the end of June, continued at the end of August - and now just over two months later present for your interest, amusement and curiosity the third part in this saga. May I introduce my guest blogger for this article:


I'm the one on the left - of course! - and I should explain I lost my left ear in the siege of Petergrad.

Hello everyone!

Well you all know how pleased I was before I took the family off for our Greek vacation. My brilliant idea of doing three consecutive blogs, one a day for three days running, had paid rich dividends as I knew it would. My protégé, the one and only Jeremy Corbyn, had come to Cornwall - I knew he would accept my invitation - and wowed the crowds at Heartlands and so I got Rob, my human, to do those three blogs. 42 and 43 and 35 page views by the end of August. It had to be my idea it was proving so successful.

And the continuing success of other blogs also had my paw-print all over. 'Jago Stone Part 2' led the way with 216 views and I of course had played a critical part in advising my human how best to deal with the issues of gender and sex that surface in that blog. Just ignore anything that Sally Ann, my partner, might say. (See the brilliant picture of me that she has somehow got herself linked into for a picture of the grey bear in my life). She has a weird view that just because I've been around for  centuries I'm kind of 'un-reconstructed' as she puts it.

I can't think what that silly grey bear means. And of course the second most popular blog was very much my idea too.  I said to Rob as we watched 'Avenue Q' at Kidz R Us 'There's a blog in this - we

Saturday 5 November 2016


My web designer, Steve McIntosh, alerted me to the review of my book, 'The Road to Corbyn', in the Morning Star Arts by Paul Simon a day or two before Louise and I set off to north Wales for a birthday break. Google had picked up the article in the newspaper that proudly proclaims its role as the People's Press, the workers' national daily newspaper - financed solely by its readers. I warmly recommend buying a copy from your newsagent whenever you see it displayed or even consider placing a regular order if you can afford to do so. It is an excellent way to keep in touch with a consistent socialist perspective. The Guardian or the Independent will not serve this purpose, whatever their other merits.

My point of difference with Paul Simon, the reviewer, comes down to what we understand by 'socialism'. I believe that in an advanced industrialised society with free elections such as ours the coming to power of a democratic socialist party through a general election does not and should not mean the overthrow of capitalism. The language and realities of the late 19th century are no longer apposite in the early 21st century. As Jeremy Corbyn the leader of the Labour Party here in the United Kingdom says, we need a socialism fit for the 21st century. I sense in Paul Simon's critique of my book the presence of a traditional Marxist perspective that looks back to the great iconic figures of Marx, Engels and Lenin with a reverence that those with faith do tend to reserve for their founders

Karl Marx

and their sacred writings. My contrary view is shaped by the philosopher's awareness of the provisional nature of 'truth' and the historian's instinct for change over time. I am with Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders (imagine Trump vs Sanders - Trump would not have stood a chance).

Read on and make your own judgements about the relevance and meaning of socialism. Here is an abridged version of Paul Simon's review:

'This re-imagining of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress for our own more secular times certainly opens impressively: "One night, on my journey through the wilderness of this world, I laid me down

Sunday 23 October 2016


The last time I blogged about my book it was to explain how much I had learned about how the book trade operates and in particular how much - or how little - the author gets from the sale of his or her book. If you missed that blog it's worth going back and being shocked.

This blog to some extent repeats material that I have already communicated in my Mail Chimp Newsletter that you can sign up for using the tab on my website home page. Since there are eighteen subscribers for the Newsletter to date - hopefully more after this blog - I think it is reasonable to use such material again to reach the wider audience of a typical blog from me. That's around fifty to sixty page views (although my first Corbyn at Heartland's blog has now reached 100 and the second Jago Stone blog for reasons I don't understand is leading the field at around 250 views). Besides, there is  additional material too in this blog so my eighteen Newsletter subscribers will have fresh stuff to read too.

The shop window of Fahrenheit Books in Middlesbrough

Above, seven of the eighteen copies of 'The Road to Corbyn' that I dispatched to Fahrenheit Books in Manchester are seen in their community centre/bookshop window. How cool is that?!! Steve, my web designer, had passed me a list of seven radical booksellers and their  websites. I made phone contact with five out of the seven and an exciting journey of discovery began. Jim, the buyer at Housman's Radical Booksellers in London was very helpful and explained how the book  trade operates its system of distribution. He took two copies from Gardners, one of the main distributors, there and then. I began to realise that self-publishing does not stop when the book is finally printed. Everything depends on you, the author, having the will  to become the hustler, the salesman for your own creation.

This was a lesson the great English novelist J.L. Carr learned. His story is told in one of Byron Rogers' magisterial biographies - 'The Last Englishman' - and let me explain straightaway that for myself as the biographer of the artist, Jago Stone 1928-1988, Byron Rogers serves as my competence model. He is an extraordinary writer. And I concur with his judgement that Carr's 'A Month in the Country' is 'as close to a masterpiece as anything written in my lifetime' and 'The Harpole Report' is 'the funniest book I have ever read'. If you haven't read Carr and/or Rogers, they are a treat awaiting ...

Byron Rogers and J.L. Carr - great British writers

I come to this point in the blog a day after I first reached it. Let me explain. This blog was started on Saturday morning - yesterday - and completed and published by around 2.20 in the afternoon. It had picked up around fifteen views when I checked in the late afternoon. You may be one of those original viewers. But at some point later that day the last two-thirds of the blog vanished, leaving the first third in draft form. It shouldn't take me more than a hour and half to tap it out again so although I appreciate that the full blog must still exist somewhere and someone will know how to bring it to life my impatience to get it  back up and out there wins the day.

So back to Jim at Housman's. He was able to pass on details of two other websites to add to my list. One was the Socialist Bookshop - Bookmarks - who took  three copies from Gardners after my phone call and talked about the possibility of a book launch event. I am up for that - and will be back in touch this week. The other website was for the Alliance of Radical Booksellers. six calls to members of  that Alliance have resulted in one copy of TRC in Newham in the East End of  London and two copies in Nowhere Books in Liverpool and one with World Power Books in Edinburgh. Calton Books in Glasgow, from my original list of seven, also took one copy as did  the Militant bookshop, Socialist Books, in London.

And then came the Oxford adventure ...

It was easier to circumnavigate the Radcliffe Camera square in 1968 - one minute from the finish

I had had my place in the Oxford Half-Marathon on Sunday October 9 - three weeks ago - reserved for several months, but now I could see marketing possibilities as well as running joys for my long weekend away (the race was completed in a time of  02:36:21 - I can live with that). Matador/Troubador, my publishers, had sent out freebie copies of TRC on publication to ten organisations. Wonderfully, BBC Radio Oxford had asked for an interview. I  arranged it for the Monday after the half-marathon and at 10.45 a.m. on October 10 I arrived at the Summertown studio on the Banbury Road, as arranged. I was a stone's throw from the flat where I spent one year of my life (1969-70) with my first wife, Glynis, and another stone's throw from the house where I spent six years (1980-86) with my lovely wife of forty years standing, Lady Louise of Hora. The day before I had been part of a pack of runners, pacing past twice these same studios - running to and from Marston. Momentous. Things come together. A touch of the numinous.

I was on air from 11.07 to 11.30 - my first experience of the radio studio. The delightful Bethany told me afterwards when I said I had enjoyed the time: 'You're a natural ...' I will dine out on that for some time. But it gets better still. Before I walked up to Summertown from Rewley House where I was staying in Wellington Square in the centre of Oxford, I popped into Blackwell's, Waterstone's and W.H. Smith's to see if I could interest them in TRC. Blackwell's ordered one copy, Waterstone's several, and I later dispatched six copies to Smith's on a sale or return basis. Moreover, just before  the interview David in the the Summertown bookshop ordered one copy and half an hour after the studio session Dennis in the Albion Beatnik bookshop in Jericho also took one (as well as reminding me of the relevance of  Joyce Carey's 'The Horse's Mouth' to my biography of Jago Stone and introducing me to the brilliant alto sax of Joe Harriott).

Could it get any better? Well it certainly remained a delight since I later spent the afternoon in the company of Merlin Porter, Oxford artist, and a son of Jago Stone, the artist who claimed in 1975 to have sold more paintings than any other British artist. Jago is the subject of my next book (see the link here to my website). Merlin gifted me an experience that I had regrettably missed in my nine years resident in Oxford - the view of the dreaming spires (and clusters of cranes) from Boars Hill. Breathtaking; spine-tinglng ...

Merlin Porter's painting of Catz, my Oxford college, commissioned earlier this year

Merlin and I walked back into the centre of Oxford via the river and Folley Bridge, stopping off at the Head of the River inn for a quick non--alcoholic drink. I mention this today - an additional  piece for today's rewrite of the blog - because yesterday teatime I was in phone conversation for the first time with an eighty-year old former area manager in Oxford for Ind Coope, the brewers, who opened the Head of the River Inn in the second half of the last century at great expense. It had paid for itself within two years. This is not the time to explain the part my area manager contact plays in my online detective work to uncover the story of Jago Stone. That will  be for another blog. As will the remarkable account of Jago given me this weekend by an American lady in email correspondence after she discovered my website and blogs. If there is anyone else out there with memories ...

I came home to what seemed St Ives icing on the Oxford cake. My letter of explanation about TRC, complete with links to website and ordering tabs, had been sent out to all 1,000 members of the local Labour Party. But that too is another story for another blog.



Saturday 15 October 2016


My blog on 31 July was called 'RUNNING TO REDISCOVER THE PORTALS OF OXFORD' and serves as an overture to my Oxford Half-Marathon run last Sunday, October 9 2016. If you read or reread that July blog, it's clear how much I was looking forward to returning to Oxford and running past so many seminal places in my past life. What I didn't know then was that I would be in the BBC Radio Oxford studios the day after the half-marathon as Al's guest from 11.05 to 11.30 a.m. talking about the race and 'The Road to Corbyn'. More of that in another blog very soon. For the moment, I'll focus just on the Oxford Half-Marathon 2016.

Start or finish - I'm not sure!

When you pay your money for a place in the starting line-up, you are asked to record your expected finishing time. I've just checked the registration email and I wrote: 'Between two hours and 30 minutes and two hours 39 minutes.' My time for the Bungay Half Marathon in April 2015 had been 02:35:04. Based on that information, you find yourself allocated to a starting pen ranging from A to I, stretching back from the start where the elite runners gather in the Broad back to and then way up Parks Road almost as far as Keble College. I was in the I pen towards the front with hundreds behind me and thousands ahead in the other pens. There was one numinous moment after the claxon had

Friday 30 September 2016


'Socialism for the 21st century' - that's the rallying cry from the Labour Party conference in Liverpool this week. Sounds good to  me. The Cornishman published my letter last month in which I made the case that leading economists such as Ha-Joon Chang at Cambridge, Thomas Piketty in France, and Joseph Stiglitz in the States have ideas for the recovery of capitalist market economies and the creation of more humane and prosperous societies that are broadly similar to those of Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn - our next prime-minister

and all who share his values. The old and crude polarisation of capitalism vs socialism is no longer fit for purpose.

Pilgrim, my alter ego in 'The Road to Corbyn' (published August 2016), says (p.132):

'I feel ... I feel now that the way people used to talk about the battle between capitalism and socialism is no longer helpful. Too many sane and compassionate people who have an understanding of economics that is the opposite of  the neo-liberal nonsense we are suffering believe in the positive power of the market to  generate wealth. But that market has to have a measure of regulation or otherwise Mammon will rule. Inequalities of  wealth and power will be the order of  the day' ...

And a little later (p.133):.

'The smile had gone. Pilgrim was angry. "It is the patronising contempt for ordinary people that gets to me. We are all equal in worth. There should not be this reckless pursuit of deception ..."

If I had to pinpoint the key ideas of my book - the reason for writing - those extracts above capture

Wednesday 14 September 2016


I had said in my last blog that there would be no blogging for three weeks since we were going away on holiday. But having taken the laptop away with me in order to keep up with publishing news (sales figures for 'The Road to Corbyn', reviews, the urge to blog again has become irresistible. This island is too important in our life journey - and in that of others too - not to give due acknowledgement.

Patmos is less than a dozen miles from the Turkish coast, eight hours ferry-ride distance from the Athenian port of Piraeus; a Dodecanese island small enough to drive around in a couple of hours that is the site of one of the great monasteries of the Greek Orthodox church at Chora on the highest point of the island. This is the Holy Island. John the Evangelist, it is claimed, received the revelations that were then in time recorded in the last book of the Christian bible here on Patmos, in a cave, at the end of the first century. The cave itself is now a focal point of devotion within the Convent of the Apocalypse, half-way up the hillside ascending to the great monastery itself that was built around the end of the 11th century.


Whatever the historical truths of such claims, many travellers have spoken and written of the sense of peace that comes to them on this island. The American poet, Robert Lax, lived a hermitic life here for several decades, writing much of his major poetry, before returning to end his days in the place of his birth. Peter France, a former BBC editor, made this island a place of personal pilgrimage for himself and his family and wrote with insight about its power, not least in 'Patmos a Place of Healing'.

And we have been coming here - first in August and now I am no longer in the classroom in September - every year we could afford to since 1988, the year of our first visit. We are approaching fifteen visits. They have been a lifeline. Two weeks of rest for weary pilgrims on a life journey that

Saturday 27 August 2016


I first took statistical stock in June, two months ago. Now I return to the counting beads and draw some fresh conclusions.

I am delighted to report a turn-around in the fortunes of the political blogs. In June, I wrote 'the explicit political blogs are very much at the bottom of  the viewing charts'. No longer so. I have produced five political blogs over these last eight weeks, the first being 'Jeremy Corbyn -  the People's Champion - AKA the Political and Media Elite's Nightmare'. That blog now stands at 43 views. My second - 'Labour leadership contest becomes 2020 Election campaign ' - has reached 56 views. And then I tried an experiment and blogged on three consecutive days to communicate all ten of Jeremy Corbyn's pledges for the 2020 Election campaign that he has flagged up in his present leadership contest with Owen 'the Opportunist' Smith. Part 1 stands at 42 views; Part 2 at 43 and Part 3 at 35.

My own news about the publication of  'The Road to Corbyn' and the economics of self-publishing - my last blog - now has 35 views too.

Penzance demo - April 2016 - political activism in Cornwall

My only other blog during these two months has been a running blog entitled 'Running to rediscover the portals of Oxford' and that has pulled in a respectable 44 views.

And what of the others that had already been published? Do any of those still pull in the viewers?

Saturday 20 August 2016


Last Tuesday, my publisher in Leicester - Matador/ Troubador - took delivery of 700 copies of 'The Road to Corbyn'. 300 copies were delivered the next day to my address in St Ives. My hunch is that readers of this blog may well be interested in the detail of the cost of such a self-publishing venture. Here are some of the key features:

The initial quotation for the services I opted for - almost the full range available at that stage - was around £4,500. For that sum, I got the maximum of marketing and media support, proof reading and copy editing (these last two together cost around £700 with VAT and are absolutely essential), and other key services, including e-book format - and a print-run of 500 copies. If you have the money to spare - and I did only because of my father-in-law's legacy - and you want to savour the experience of being published - and you believe you have something worthwhile to share with a wider audience - then this kind of project becomes, as they say these days, a no-brainer.

My name on the published spine - at last

That initial quotation came back at the end of January this year. Since then, I have opted for an embossed cover to increase the 'feel-good' factor for the customer in the bookshop. That added over £900 to the cost. And there have been other pre-publication marketing initiatives I've purchased. Finally I made the decision to go for a print-run of 1000 copies. The cost to me for this venture stands now at £6,700.

Let's call it £7,000. I need to make £7 from each copy sold to break even, to recover my costs. But

Friday 12 August 2016


And so the last three pledges ... I hope you are as energised and hopeful as I am by envisaging this future for all the people of this nation. But I know there will be doubters. There is a gifted columnist who writes a regular weekly piece in 'The Cornishman' - Old Mike is his moniker. His is a voice of sanity and I've had letters published in that newspaper singing his praises. But he doesn't yet get the Corbyn phenomenon - or at least he's still only half-way there. This week he wrote:

'Many of his ideas are right on the button - a massive increase in social housing, an end to  privatisation, investment in our infrastructure, a drastic rein on the greed of the already rich ...

Anna Gillett addresses the crowds at Heartlands - she spoke of the plight of tenants in an under-regulated rental market 

So far, so good. But then comes the gut dismissal that betrays the prejudices and irrationalities and fears that shape the mainstream media and political establishment position on the leader of the Labour Party and his values - and crucially the half-million people, to date, who share those values. This movement is so much bigger than one man.

'But Jeremy Corbyn has nothing to offer Cornwall ... good words, but there's no detail of how to do it or where the money would come from.'

You could not be more wrong, Old Mike. See the detail about the National Investment Bank, read

Thursday 11 August 2016


Three pledges examined yesterday, four more today.

We Pledge:

A secure National Health and Social Care Service 

We will end the neoliberal ideologically-driven privatisation and bring services into a secure publicly-provided NHS. We will integrate the NHS and social care for older and disabled people. Dignity will be a premium value. We will  ensure parity for mental health services.

In short, there will be a decent and proper framework for a healthy nation based on need and prevention and not, in any shape or form, profit.

Banner headlines at Heartlands - the Corbyn rally last Saturday in Cornwall - (all pictures from the 'West Briton') 

We Pledge:

A free National Educational Service, an NES, open to all throughout their lives

We will create universal public childcare to give all children a good start in life, allowing greater sharing of caring responsibilities and removing barriers for those women who want to participate in the labour market. We will restore free education for all. We will guarantee quality apprenticeships and adult skills training.

In short, there will be a service that recognises the needs and rights of the people to enjoy learning

Wednesday 10 August 2016


This blog is designed as a thoughtful response - in three parts - to the 10 Pledges that Jeremy Corbyn and his team have drawn up as a central part of the leadership campaign that has been forced upon them by the attempted coup against JC within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). In a smart and admirable political move, Jeremy and his team have turned the leadership challenge to advantage - these 10 Pledges serve as a strong statement outlining the policies that will underpin the 2020 general election campaign or any earlier general election that the new prime minister, Theresa May, may call.

I listened to the disputed leader of the Labour Party, in person, speaking at a rally in the Heartlands Mining Heritage site in Pool, Cornwall, on Saturday afternoon. He was my kind of leader - articulate, caring, well-informed, convincing, honest, inspirational, kind ... What else would anyone want? He highlighted several of these ten pledges in his  address. I want to cover three in this blog; four in the next; and three in the last in the series. But before I look at these promises I'd just like quickly to

Jeremy Corbyn at Heartlands in Cornwall last Saturday - (all photos from the 'West Briton') 

sketch the contributions of some of the earlier speakers at the rally last Saturday who described their experiences in living in a state diminished by the application of neoliberalism  ...

The mother on housing benefit who described the reality of being at the mercy of landlords in an under-regulated  rental market that offers little security to the tenant ... the distress of her children who never know when the roof over their head is going to change its shape yet again, or which school they will move to ... the frustration of the disabled man in a wheelchair who is told by the woman at the job centre that it will probably be best if he omits the fact he is a wheelchair user when writing an application - and is later told by the same official that she understands what it must be like to be disabled because her brother is disabled too ... the inspirational primary school teacher of ten years service who rages against the conformity and inanity of a curriculum that has become distorted by the meaningless demand for testing and evaluation ...

And then Jeremy. The crowd of around 4,000 - spanning the generations - were uplifted. We had a glimpse of a better future. A socialist vision.

We Pledge:         An economy that works for all

We will create a million good quality jobs across our regions and nations and guarantee a decent job for all.


By investing £500 billion in infrastructure, manufacturing and new industries backed by a publicly-owned National Investment Bank and regional banks.

Where will the money come from? Running a national economy is not the same as planning a household budget. Quantitative Easing (QE) - creating new money - has been a key element in both Tory and Labour government responses to managing an economy in crisis. It can and will continue to be so. Redistribution of income but even more importantly redistribution of wealth will be a critical means to make the economy healthier and society fairer and more just.

Heartlands, Pool, Cornwall - Saturday afternoon 6 August 2016 - the people gather

We Pledge: Secure homes for all 

We will build a million new homes in five years, with at least half a million council homes, through a public investment strategy. We will end insecurity for private renters by introducing rent controls, secure tenancies and a charter of  private tenants' rights, and increase access to affordable home ownership.

Where there is the political will, there is always a way. Remember the Labour government's achievements between 1945 and 1951 in war-torn Britain ...

We Pledge: Security at work

We will give people stronger employment rights from day one in a job, end the exploitation of zero-hour contracts and create new collective bargaining rights, including mandatory collective bargaining for companies with 250 or more employees. We will create new employment and trade union rights to bring better security to the workplace and win better pay and conditions for everyone. We will act against the undercutting of pay and conditions through the exploitation of migrant labour.

Early seats at the rally for Jeremy Corbyn and all the people - 6 August 2016

This is government for the people, by the people - and in the interests of the people. Democracy in a word. Who wouldn't want to vote for such policies?  Corbyn and his policies, unelectable? His enemies - our enemies - are running scared.

Sunday 31 July 2016


Sunday October 9 is the date this year for the Oxford Half Marathon. I couldn't resist the challenge when I realised that Oxford now had a half marathon instead of the 10 k I loved so much back in 2010 when I finished in 64:16. I must have been caught up in the emotion of it all; the year before I had completed the Wymondham New Year's Day 10k in 59:40 and two years later in 2012 I managed a Broome 10K in 61:19. But who cares about times when you're running past portals into your own life - three years an undergraduate (1967-70), six years a resident (1980-86). I remember being so weary when I reached the University Parks at the end of that 10K in 2010. For over an hour I had been revisiting some of the most formative experiences of my whole life.

University Parks Oxford - 10K finish - 2010

Well, I'm doing it all again in 2016! I love going back to Oxford for college gaudies every five years or so and now I have another excuse. The first picture on this blog shows a very weary me striving for the finishing line in the Parks in 2010 and the second picture reveals the route this year in 2016. I shall enjoy blogging about the Oxford run in October after I return - and keeping anyone interested up-to-date about my training for the London Marathon in April 2017 now I have secured a gold bond place to run for the Salvation Army and raise money for their drug rehabilitation/addiction services. That prospect is so exciting!

Today, the last day of July, I started my serious training for Oxford (and of course London) by completing two circuits of my local 3.5 mile up and down hill run - 7 miles in 74 minutes. Not too bad for starters; the body and mind were working in gentle harmony without too much resistance. Next Sunday, 8 miles; the Sunday after, 3 circuits (10.5 miles); the Sunday after that, 11.5 miles - and the final Sunday in August, 4 circuits (14 miles). Plus two additional one circuit runs and one gym session in each of these four weeks. Then it's off to Greece and the island of Patmos for the best part

Friday 22 July 2016


Louise was upstairs watching TV as she quilted and alerted me to the press conference. Our leader was launching his leadership campaign. That feels oxymoronic ... Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader last year so why is he having another leadership campaign? Well, the Parliamentary Labour Party - more precisely, the majority of the Labour MPs in the House of Commons - has passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership. You probably know much of the rest of the story. My point here is to say how impressive and how confident Jeremy appeared in this fifteen minute launch - and to explain why I and hundreds and thousands others will be returning him to his rightful place as our leader, our figurehead for our beliefs about how this nation of ours should be governed. Do listen over the coming weeks as he spells out what Labour will be doing in government to rescue this stricken land from a decade of nasty Tory misgovernment.

Let me address a key accusation against JC. He has not been, is not, and never will be, a good leader.

Jeremy Corbyn - leader of the Labour Party

I'll begin by referencing the political point that we anti-neoliberals will always return to: governmental oversight of a national economy is very different from family management of a household economy. Keynesian assumptions bind us together on this matter; sound economics blend beautifully with our humane and civilised beliefs that people matter and should never be sacrificed on the altar of rugged individualism and trickle-down falsehoods. We can and we should borrow and even create the money that will drive the wheels of industry, trade and commerce.

Now, imagine a family-run business making ice-cream that has expanded successfully, employs over one hundred people and whose management board is filled by three generations of the same family and a healthy representation of non-family members with varying expertise. The board also includes a handful of members of the workforce. Word has spread; this precious institution has become a byword for good management practice and social scientists are queuing up to study their management strategies and leadership styles. People reference this ice-cream dream business as a text book illustration for good leadership.

Then imagine, there is a tragic air crash and all the family members of the board are wiped out in a single moment. A distant cousin who has never gained access to the higher reaches of the firm before now finds herself, as the sole surviving family member left in the business, the managing director.

Sunday 3 July 2016


They really want to see the back of him, don't they?

The majority of  the Parliamentary Labour Party allowed themselves to be manipulated into supporting a carefully planned coup against Jeremy, their democratically elected leader, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. The revolt was designed to satisfy the political ambitions of a few and restore the tried and failed recipes for political purpose and action that have been the undoing of the Labour movement for the best part of a decade.

Jeremy Corbyn - leader of the Labour Party and our next Prime Minister

But how dumb can you be? Jeremy was never going to be bullied or coerced into resignation. He would never abandon his own principles that have seen him through decades of opposition to mainstream Labour politics and now form the backbone of the real Labour movement and Party that has taken shape outside parliament. I am talking of the real Labour movement that was responsible for his landslide election victory as the national leader of the Party.

So much for the Labour political elite - but what of the media elite? Even my beloved Channel 4 News was guilty tonight of systemic and systematic rubbishing of the elected leader of Labour. Unchallenged assertions that at nearly 70 the strain was getting to him and his family and he was no longer willing to continue. Behind closed doors, he was considering his position. The Labour Party was unelectable with him at the helm; that was the message from the doorsteps of the country. Corbyn's lacklustre performance was the reason for the Brexit vote. The BBC is of course much worse.

Saturday 25 June 2016


Two weeks have elapsed since my last post - have I lost the blogging touch?

No way.

Let me explain. My website presents three of my personae in some detail: the academic, the teacher, and the runner. The website itself was set up to help stimulate interest in the forthcoming publication of my book, The Road to Corbyn. There is, therefore, a fourth persona: the author. However, at this time of the year, for around two months, yet another persona emerges - and has done, regularly, since 1972 with a break of only five years back in the early 80s: the examiner. Being an examiner for national exam boards has its own satisfactions. If you can do a job well enough and you know young people benefit from the exercise of your skills, that feels good. But let's be honest. We needed the extra income. Now the need is less, but I wasn't prepared to say no to the opportunity to examine just yet. But the business of marking is demanding on time and I simply have not found the space to produce a blog - until now.

I thought those of you who read these blogs would be interested in discovering the popularity pattern revealed by the viewing figures for the 24 blogs I have published since mid-January this year.

Way out in the lead with 183 views is my second Jago Stone blog where I raise, inter alia, issues of misogyny and sexism in order to exclude Jago from these charges. My first Jago blog had 43 views, my third Jago post that featured Merlin Porter the artist, Jago's youngest son, had 64 - and my fourth Jago blog that returned to the issues of misogyny and sexism in order to clarify has 47 to date. My fifth Jago post in which I examine his views on prison reform has 33 at the present time. This collection of Jago blogs is a dynamic entity. The viewing figures increase week by week for all five blogs.

The second most popular blog I have produced must owe much to its cunning title: 'Rough Sex in St  Ives'. That has scored 98 to date. Other St Ives' posts have done less well. 'St Ives Says No to Second Homes' has 33 at present. 'Under the Surface of  St Ives - mining in the past and politics today' comes in at 40. And that is a good cue to show this photo that appeared in the St Ives Times and Echo recently. I look out of my window here where I am working towards this very location. The past is truly a different country.

The line of view from my study window is almost directly towards this location.

Those blogs that focus on my running have proved popular. Running to find the Zone - Part 2 comes in third, overall, at 70 views. My first Running to find the Zone clocked 30 and my last: Running to keep Running has 41 to date.

Sunday 5 June 2016


This blog ends with an extract from the conclusion of Jago Stone's autobiography: The Burglar's Bedside Companion (1975) - see my website for further details of this remarkable book. Jago was a fine writer as well as a talented artist and as you will discover by reading to the end of this blog he makes a powerful case for prison reform.

Let me make my position clear. I think the state of our prisons and our prison system is a disgrace. Forty and more years have passed since Jago wrote his heartfelt critique and matters have only worsened. A nation should be judged in good measure on the quality of its penal system when assessing its degree of civilisation. We emerge from such accounting as semi-barbarians. There is something rotten in the state of Britain and it is our prisons. No political party seems willing to risk losing votes by taking the lid off this scandal. We are locking up more and more people and many of  these prisoners should never be in jail in the first place. I say 'we' and although I understand  these penal actions are not directly ours I do not hear cries of protest. Collectively, we would rather avert our attention from this scandal. But we shouldn't. If we do, our society is diminished.

Behind Bars

A former colleague of mine has now served around three years of his sixteen years sentence. This is not the place or time to discuss the particulars of his case. He was an acquaintance at work for whom I had respect. After I had left that field of work I discovered that he was on trial and after his sentencing and imprisonment decided to write to him in jail. I assumed his guilt and I wanted to extend the hand of my friendship. Sixteen years deprived of liberty is a tough punishment.

Nearly forty letters, fifteen emails and one prison visit later, I am better appraised of the consequences of locking people up in overcrowded jails with prison staff suffering from stress and

Sunday 29 May 2016


Running to find the zone  - Part 2 was the title of my last running blog nearly ten weeks ago. I've changed it to take account of circumstances as you can see. Now my Part 3 celebrates the fact that I have succeeded in running to keep running. Let me explain.

A week after my 34:30 minutes local circuit run in mid-March (see Running to find the Zone - Part 2) I fell prisoner to the Stivian cold virus that was doing the rounds. That put me out of training - running or gym - for two weeks. I managed a run in early April around the local circuit in 36 minutes on the morning of the day I attempted later to give my 76th pint of blood. I failed the finger test. I was still slightly anaemic after the cold virus. Fair play, I thought. Now I can concentrate on my

Feeling the pain in my fastest ever half marathon since my first in 1989 (Bungay Half Marathon 02:08:04)
Norwich 2008 - 02:19:39 was my adjusted time.

training and not have to take three weeks out because of the blood donation. Little did I know. We went to the theatre a few days later and saw the Kidz R Us production of Avenue Q. At this point you need to read my blog entitled 'Rough Sex in St Ives' to understand how much we enjoyed the production. Now this blog I'm talking about was composed in around two hours on the Saturday morning after the show. At the dining room table. For the first time with the computer downstairs. I forgot to look after my back. Disaster! Blogger's Back was self-diagnosed the next day.

It took a physiotherapy session with Ben Donaldson and a chiropractic appointment with Tanya Read to get me through the next two weeks but by the very end of April I had managed a recovery run in 36:40 minutes around the local  circuit and was back at the gym. But ten days into May and I was

Saturday 21 May 2016


As the self-appointed biographer of Jago Stone the artist (1928-1988) I take my moral responsibilities seriously. My task is to tell the story of Jago as fully and as honestly and as fairly as I am able to do, respecting my sources and always mindful that Jago had other roles than that of the artist. He was a partner, a husband, a father, a friend. There were and are those who did enjoy their encounter with Jago on their life-journey - and those who did not. Such complexities lead to ethical concerns for me that will inform the biography that emerges. That is my promise as I have indicated before.

In this blog, I want to explore in more depth matters that I raised in the Jago Stone - Part 2 blog. For the sake of clarification I need to tease out further the ideas that shaped my treatment of sexism and misogyny in that post. My ethical concern is that no one should be in any doubt as to what it is I am saying in this controversial area.

Detail from 'The Makers of Sweet Smells' - Jago Stone - June 1970

Let me explain more about the Everyman 1991 documentary 'Do Men Hate Women?' that I watched live and then used in the classroom for over a decade as part of the 'Sexism' unit I had designed. Contemporary Religious Studies teaching in schools was, and I hope still is, all about helping young people understand more about the world in which they are growing up - and their own beliefs - and what shapes their ways of making sense of those worlds. I believe this documentary made an important contribution to that understanding.

The narrator in the documentary - the female detective superintendent - took six 'experts' from various areas of contemporary life and explored the question of the relationship between men and

Saturday 14 May 2016


This week's blog explores what has gone on under the surface of St Ives in the past and what is happening today, politically, under our very noses but buried - under the surface of our perception - unrecognised.

First, the mining focus.

We moved to our terraced house, situated off the Stennack, coming out of St Ives, uphill, heading S.W., in January 2013. By the summer of that year, I had written the piece that appears this week for the first time on my website. It is called 'Under the Surface of St Ives.' Do read it in its entirety if you can - it provides a remarkable insight into St Ives in the past thanks to the stories of my two sources, John Toman and Jim Hodge. The picture below shows the old Stennack school, the Board School, built in 1880 on the outer margin of St Ives. The river and road are on the other side of the school, unseen in the photograph. The houses you see now do not exist. Instead the landscape is dominated by the spoil heaps of the Trenwith mine. This is an industrial landscape. Men were mining under the surface as the shutter opened on the camera to take this shot. Men were making their living. Men who were to die before their time, some in accidents, some through the substances they inhaled.

The St Ives Board School, built 1880, now the Stennack Surgery, looking south and towards the spoil heaps of Trenwith mine.

I make the point in the essay that there is little recollection now of mining's 18th and 19th century heyday in St Ives. 'Once the memory of mining passes beyond your grandfather it almost passes out of mind.' Certainly there are few visual reminders now. But we should not forget. It was only with the advent of the Edwardian age at the beginning of the 20th century that a new kind of sensitivity

Saturday 7 May 2016


Yesterday, Friday 6, in the early hours, the result of Thursday's St Ives referendum was revealed. The town and its surrounding areas had just had the opportunity to vote on a St Ives Neighbourhood Plan that had been drawn together after nearly two years of consultation to present a consensus of public opinion within the 12,000 strong community in the St Ives area. In the magical name of 'Devolution', Neighbourhood Plans have surfaced across the country. They allow a small measure of legally-binding local control over the planning process. But in the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan something remarkable enough to attract national media attention appeared. Along with the detail that sought to protect buildings and spaces of heritage and cultural value, and meet the needs of an ageing

Voted best place to live in the UK - (if you can afford to)

population, and safeguard trees, woodlands and hedges. We are talking about the St Ives Plan's 'prime residency' policy, applicable only for new builds, that would prevent them being sold as second homes, in order to help provide affordable housing for local people trying to acquire their own first home.

The result of the referendum was as remarkable as the measure itself to exclude second home owners from the ownership of new builds. The local press had carried stories that gave much attention to the cries of property speculators and builders. The Cornishman opted for the headline: 'Will St Ives say 'no' to local plan?  The answer was emphatic. St Ives said 'Yes!'