Sunday 31 December 2017


There is nothing controversial in stating we live in a global world shaped by capitalism. So what is this capitalism, this capitalist economy? Let me borrow from the explanation of Ha-Joon Chang, a Cambridge economist of remarkable sanity and sense, in his Pelican 'User's Guide to Economics' (2014): 'Capitalism ... is an economy in which production is organised in pursuit of profit ...'. Of course, beyond this truism matters become more problematic.

Capitalism is a slippery-eel kind of word. It has different meanings to different people - and there has been change over time. I don't hear Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of a Labour Party pledged to reverse the dire consequences of neoliberal Tory-inspired misgovernment since 2010 calling for the overthrow of Capitalism in the name of Socialism. What I heard at Heartlands in Cornwall, listening to him speak, was a call for a socialism fit for the 21st century. JC's socialism is a radical but pragmatic bid to ensure that the capitalist market is regulated to serve the best interests of the many and not the few. Profit alone should never be taken as the justification for financial or political action. People matter and must be a primary concern.

Unfortunately, things happen that are prejudicial to our good health when those who are driven by a singular pursuit of profit at any cost hold the strings of power. More and more people in the U.K are getting this truth - which is why the neoliberal Tory government are doing their level best to avoid another General Election. Universal suffrage is the hard-won achievement that remains the people's defence against those with the wealth and power to control and manipulate.

I have become more deeply conscious over this Christmas break of a rather dreadful way in which those who have wealth and power - consciously or unconsciously, or any combination of those extremes in the spectrum of human thought - are actually making our mental landscapes more disturbed. An article in a left-wing magazine of repute caught my attention. The magazine was the

Friday 15 December 2017


'Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' by Robert Pirsig was first published in 1974 and caused a literary sensation. It became a million-selling classic - one of the must-read books of the decade. I gave it my best shot but got no further than the first few pages. The narrative seemed tedious and the philosophy that was interwoven within the story too difficult for me to get my head round. I remember thinking that I needed to teach myself some philosophy before picking up Robert Pirsig again.

Decades rolled by and I did get an education in philosophy - part-time study at the University of East Anglia, one evening a week between 2003 and 2005, led to a Certificate in Philosophy. And that was followed by three years part-time study between 2006 and 2009 with the Open University which led to a M.A. in Philosophy. So the ground had been prepared when this year, in late April, I read an obituary for Robert Pirsig. He had died aged 88 at his home in Maine in the USA on Monday 24 April.

The Guardian had interviewed him in 2006 and Pirsig had said:
'It is not good to talk about Zen because Zen is nothingness. If you talk about it you are always lying,

Thursday 7 December 2017


Every month since August this year, I have produced a Mailchimp Newsletter for those who are interested in the Jago Stone story. The Newsletter is free - to get your copy, all you need to do is complete the simple form on this page - press here for the link. There are around fifty subscribers at present. I make sure there is novel material in the Newsletter that has not appeared before in my blogs.

Incidentally, when you look at the link you have just pressed, you will see that there are now twenty published Jago posts that I've written since January 2016, including the four American Connection blogs that have now been reissued through the websites of USAF Upper Heyford veterans. The first three of these four posts have gathered nearly 2,000 more views in the last three weeks. Jago was commissioned to paint pictures by scores of the American flying crew on tour over here - and these guys and their families took his work back across the Pond to hang in their own homes.

In the course of this blog, I would like to share with you the fruits of one of the 'gifts' that has come to me online. About three months ago, I got an email from Google informing me that there was an online auction coming up in which one of the Lots included paintings by Jago Stone. Apparently, at some point in the past, I has pressed a key to indicate that I wanted to be alerted if such a development occurred. I've never taken part in an auction before online - in fact, my first auction experience had been in Penzance earlier this year - see this blog here  - when I bid for the Jane Sand and Claire Healey paintings that now grace our walls. It proved to be an interesting experience. Here is one of the four fruits that came my way.

The School House of Piddletrenthide , Dorset - Jago Stone (1983)

I was told online that I could enter a bid in advance for the Lot 419 in which I now knew there were four Jago paintings and three other items. I had no further information about the nature of the other items, nor any details nor pictures of the Jago paintings. I was too busy to attempt to find out any

Sunday 3 December 2017


Yesterday's blog brought you up the hill. Now, with some delight and anticipation, I'm ready to turn round and make my descent. It takes around twenty minutes to reach the top; fifteen minutes to run back down - with faster or slower times depending on fitness, mood and weather conditions. There's a car parking area at the top of the hill and a National Trust 'Little Trevalgan' sign.

First glimpse of St Ives Bay in the distance - and a breath-taking realisation of how high the run has taken me

Making that turn, brings the sweeping panorama of the St Ives bay into view.

The town sign adds a sense of boundary - and now I'm looking across the bay to the Hayle sands - Godrevy is out there, the rock and lighthouse, a tiny white pillar highlighted by a bright winter sun

Running downhill has its own technique and pitfalls, as well as its singular joys. To be free and gifted with such views makes the heart sing - and sometimes I will release a whoop of pleasure. I am loathe ever to lose this wonder of motion and land- and sea-scape.

A view that speaks for itself - you might just be able to make out the tower of St John's in the Field, the church that I pass twice-a-day on the Ella dog-walk 

As for the dangers, I took a tumble this summer. I was around two-thirds down the hill running on the right-hand-side, facing on-coming traffic, wearing as ever my high-visibility top. I had already safely negotiated the couple of blind bends where I will cross over the road to maximise my chances of being seen by motorists. Coming towards me, and slowing, was an open-topped double-decker tourist bus. I could hear that there was a vehicle coming down the hill on the other side, also slowing. I slowed too. The bus had almost stopped as I gently jogged past it, my left shoulder almost touching its bodywork. It had such a presence. I lost my focus on the ground beneath me. Suddenly I was falling - instinctively to my right and into the undergrowth away from the bus. I landed well as I have done in past years when falling - and breathed a sigh of relief that my Fifth Year (Year 11) gym lessons had included a term of judo. I've learned the art of self-protection when thrown off-balance.

As I picked myself up and reassured the car-driver who had stopped behind the bus and got out to see that I was alright, I looked behind me and saw the pot-hole at the edge of the road. I had failed to observe the peril before sinking my foot into it and tumbling.

As you descend, the view of the sea shrinks until suddenly it has vanished.

By the time I passed the field where the mechanical hedge-cutter was at work, the guy in the cab had completed his work by the road-side and was engaged in cutting and trimming on the other side of the field. I reflected on how much has changed with the coming of this machine-culture. Once, those same hedges would have been shaped and cut and managed by local farm-hands, five or six or more working for a couple of days. Now the work is completed in a brutal but effective fashion by one man sitting in a cab manipulating levers in half-a-day's shift.

The sea has all but gone - and so too has the life in my battery. This turns out to be my last shot! Note the road-spray from the hedge-management. 

I am loving every minute of my descent down the hill but I am becoming anxious about my camera. I didn't check the battery before leaving and I have been turning it on and off rather a lot. Sure enough, I discover I am out of juice.

To bring this double blog - Up and Down the Hill to Little Trevalgan - to a conclusion, I thought it would be interesting to check my running diary and share with you how many times I have actually run this training circuit in a particular period of time. Remember, the intensive preparation for marathon and half-marathon races is done between Marazion and Mousehole along the coast - a fact that has suddenly sparked an idea for a photo-image blog in the future!

April 23 2017 - heading for the finishing-line in the London Marathon - a Cornish-trained boy comes home

In 2017, I've made this Little Trevalgan journey 44 times on 32 separate days - sometimes there have been double and occasionally triple circuits. This is the year when I've notched-up another London Marathon and another Oxford half-marathon. Thank you, my local training circuit, for your part in such adventures.

Saturday 2 December 2017


This blog gives me the opportunity to share some of the thoughts and feelings that I experience on my local training run. Today, I set out for a run with a difference knowing that it would be a record slow time. In fact it was 49 minutes; usually it takes from around 34 to 37 minutes depending on my fitness and the wind and the time of year ... and so on, by way of excuses. But I was clutching my camera in the palm of my hand and I had previously thought through my stopping places for camera shots. A cold and bright December day - the first of the month - a brilliant backcloth.

First stop, up the steep Stennack hill, to look across to the wooded area on the left just past the fire station and the Leach Pottery. Through the trees, in your imagination, to a bustling mining landscape 180 or so years ago. This is the site of St Ives Consols, developed on a large scale by James Halse in the 1820s and 1830s. The mine that made him a fortune - tin was selling at £35 per ton around 1810 and increased in value still further in later decades - contained some large and unusual ore formations known as 'carbonas', which when excavated, produced large caverns, whose roofs had to be supported by massive timbers. In April 1843 a workman's lighted candle stuck against a beam in the fabulously rich 'Great Carbona' and caused a disastrous fire which burned for six weeks, destroying that section of the mine. The mine closed in 1875 but some work continued in the upper levels after that. Total recorded returns - 1827-1892 - were recorded at £1,024,467, with tin production during this period amounting to 16,400 tons.

In your imagination, through the trees and down, hundreds of feet, below the ground ...

None of those miners would have lived to the age I am now. The mine owner and the share-holders most probably did.

Bearing right - onwards, up the hill - still a pavement on the left-hand side of the road for a few hundred yards

We've reached the junction at the top of the Stennack hill. Bear left for the A30 connection into Penzance. Carry on to the right taking the B3306, the coastal road to St Just twelve miles away. The hill continues upwards to the car parking lay-by at the summit, known as Little Trevalgan. I reckon it's about  a mile and three-quarters from our home to this Little Trevalgan turning-around point on my circuit.

The pavement is there still on the other side of the road

A hundred yards further on and I've reached the entrance to Hellesveor farm and hamlet. The slurry smell is breath-taking - the poor farmer lost stock during calving a couple of years ago to a virus that most likely came from dog poo. Our Ella was not to blame but her old running circuit has had to be shortened. Now I look for the rhythm that will see me continue gently upwards to Little Trevalgan.

Little Trevalgan in the far distance - more on the mechanical hedger in a while ...

I can begin to see the hill that carries that name up on the horizon in the distance. In 1964, the St Ives artist, Peter Lanyon, aged 46, crashed into that hillside in a gliding accident and died later in a Taunton hospital. He had taken up gliding five years earlier in order to "get a more complete knowledge of the landscape". His movement through abstract expressionism, and particular absorption in the Cornish landscape, made him one of the most important talents in post-war Britain.

The mechanical hedger is responsible for my breath being taken away a second time - this time
by the sweetness of the fragrance from fresh-cut wood. The steepness of this hill is a constant reminder of the importance of breath control for a runner.

Little Trevalgan - looking down the other side of the hill towards the Atlantic sea

I've reached the summit. There's been, as always, a determined effort to reach the top of the hill. I've been so absorbed in the effort, I've forgotten to take any more pictures! The last five minutes of running has the steepest gradients in the training exercise. This view from the summit, with its glimpse of the sea again, is magnificent. And now there is the delight of turning around and running downhill. Just a moment of mental pause to reflect on the fact that when I'm fitter I do this circuit three times: 36 minutes; 37 minutes; 38 minutes - a total continuous running time of 1 hour 51 minutes.

Tomorrow, I'll take you back down.

Correction - made on Monday 4 December:

Just by chance, I was reading David Whittaker's book 'W.S. Graham & Cornwall' this morning and came across the fact that Peter Lanyon's tragic gliding accident did not happen at Little Trevalgan - although there is a memorial plaque there - but at Dunkeswell aerodrome in Devon. Surviving the accident he was confined to bed in the Taunton hospital with a cracked vertebra and died, without warning, four days later from a blood clot. Apologies for the error.

Friday 17 November 2017


Authors look for stories to tell. They seek pegs on which to hang the meanings they weave from their observations and reflections.

I have a peg for this blog. He is a real flesh-and-blood hook. He lives in the London Borough of Brent in what used to be called a council-house and he spends his life in a bed attached to various pieces of equipment that support him during the day and night. Occasionally, in an emergency, an ambulance will arrive and speed him across London to St Thomas' hospital across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster - and then some days later return him to his Willesden home. Let me introduce you to David Siggers who was born on July 9, 1960 when I was nearing the end of my first year at Dartford Grammar school in Kent.

David aged around seven - with Christine, his mum - Wembley stadium in the background - David notes that at the time the Siggers family were the only family living there - the whole area had been brought up by Brent council so they could knock all the houses down and build one big housing estate - hence the rather dilapidated background - the whole area was a playground of empty houses and gardens! David comments that he is standing, in his plimsolls (it's all trainers now!) on tiptoe. A classic sign of a child with Duchenne's muscular dystrophy.  

I first met David in the early 1980s when I was teaching at Aylestone Community School in Brent. The school that I had joined as Head of History in 1977 was now offering its Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13) teaching to adults from the local community as well as its internal students who were aged 16 and over. David was in my GCSE History 'O' level class for one year - and passed with a Grade A. The following year, he entered my GCE History 'A' level class and took the exam after a

Monday 23 October 2017


Not for the first time - see for instance this post in praise of James Meek , I am indebted to the London Review of Books - the LRB - for inspiration. The title for this present blog is taken, in part, directly from the LRB article of 5 October 2017, written by George Duoblys on 'the new school discipline'. I inadvertently first wrote 'the new school nightmare' and then realised my mistake. My subconscious had taken control of my fingers. The shock engendered by reading this piece by Duoblys left me determined to share my feelings with you through cyberspace but I needed time to recover. The beliefs and practices that underpinned a working lifetime in the classroom - my thirty-plus years of public service - are under attack as never before. And I'm only now catching up with this new reality.

There is a parallel here with the neo-liberal assault on the NHS and the provision of social care. Only in that area, I was up-to-speed - see my posts in praise of Dr Youssef El-Gingihy's excellent analysis of the Tory conspiracy to privatise our health service: 'How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps'. But nearly ten years have passed since I was an actor in the classroom and I had little idea of the consequences of the changes in the structure of our schools that Tory politicians, with Lib Dem support for five years, have engineered since 2010 - and New Labour pioneered before that.

My 1st Year (Year Seven) form in my Brent comprehensive - 1978 - plus two non-members on the back row, extreme right, who turned up unnoticed by me for the photo opportunity. I remained this group's form tutor for the five years of their secondary schooling. They did well.  

Let me take you for a ride through London academy classrooms in the twenty-teens. George Duoblys is our conductor. Until December last year, he had been working as a physics teacher at the City Academy in Hackney, a brand-new comprehensive built to replace a school notorious for ill-discipline and gang warfare. I applaud the fresh start approach - who wouldn't? - although I have

Sunday 15 October 2017


'The Road to Corbyn' talk at the Redwing Gallery in July 2017 given by the author
Yesterday's blog told the story of my Oxford Half-Marathon last Sunday. Today's post is focused on literary matters, specifically my first book: The Road to Corbyn and the biography of the artist, Jago Stone (1928-88) that I am researching and writing at present.

First, let me explain about my monthly MailChimp Newsletter that's designed to bring those who are interested in the biography of Jago Stone up-to-date with developments. At present I have 41 subscribers and 29 'Opens' so far for the October edition. Here's a link if you haven't signed up for these free Newsletters - 'Jago' MailChimp Newsletters. Do please open the October edition and read if you haven't done so already. I am using the Newsletter for two purposes: first, to get information to those who are most interested even before I post material on my blog - and second, to give publishers and agents when I approach them from January 2018 a sense of the public interest in this project. Some of the material in this blog is taken from the latest Newsletter but by no means all.

Before we left for Greece at the beginning of September, I did put the finishing touches to the first six chapters - around 28,500 words - of 'Jago', the biography of Jago Stone, and circulated copies of that

Saturday 14 October 2017


The Oxford Half Marathon was last Sunday. A year ago, I had run this relatively new event for the first time and was very excited beforehand at the prospect of running through streets and along roads so very familiar. I remember the run itself did not disappoint - although I was sad to find that my legs faded at around eight and a half miles and I had speed-walked/run the last four and a half miles finishing in 02:36:21. I had squeezed in some long runs before the race after returning from three weeks in Greece with no running but the preparation was not the best.

Paying the price of lack of preparation in 2016 - but heh! this is the Radcliffe Camera and Oxford where I was an undergraduate from 1967-70.

This year, the training was even worse. True, I had clocked up a month of long runs in August but the combination of no running in Greece and only two short runs on our return meant I was very ill-prepared. The evening before, I started jogging to the bus-stop and pulled up short with a twinge in the right knee. Later, I walked back the mile and a half from the centre of Oxford - where I had been

Wednesday 27 September 2017


This is a birthday blog - my 69th on 24.09.17 - and to celebrate I want to sing the praises of a fellow writer down here on the tip of Cornwall. Press this text here to find the link to the book - 'A note from Winterbottom' - on Amazon. I'd like to urge you to purchase it from a local bookseller for all the reasons you would expect me to cite as an author who takes his socialism seriously but it is only available from Print on Demand on Amazon, as a paperback or on Kindle - although the Edge of the World bookshop in Penzance does have one copy (and one copy of my 'The Road to Corbyn') . Self-publication is fraught with difficulties. Without further ado, here is a picture of the front-cover:

Let me tell you the story of how I came to read this book and why I am devoting this blog to my recommendation that you get a copy and read this extraordinary book for yourself.

Louise and I returned yesterday from our secular vacation on the holy island of Patmos in the Aegean. Three weeks seeking the three Rs - rest, recovery, and recharging. I can report back: Mission accomplished. The place never fails to work its healing magic. But then there is a good and thought-provoking precedent for its inspirational nature - the early follower of Jesus the Nazarene known as

Saturday 26 August 2017


I have been writing hard and I think well throughout the summer. 'Jago' - the biography of James Henry Stone - is taking firm shape. Chapters 1and 2 have now been written and join the drafts of the already completed Chapters 4, 5 and 6. The completion of Chapter 3 - centred on the autobiography: 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion' -  remains my aim over this next week before we take our break on the Aegean island of Patmos. This post is designed to provide a taste of the biography by sharing with you the opening of Chapter 2: THE  BAR STOOL FANTASIES OF A CAD'.

Before I turn to these pages, I should explain that there has been a fresh discovery in my online detective story - the search for information about the artist. The new find has prompted this particular focus on 1983. Readers familiar with these blogs will recall my post telling the story of the visit to Aberystwyth at the end of June this year and the wonder of viewing and transcribing 23 minutes of Jago being interviewed in 1969. Here's the link if you missed it first time or would like to revisit. A week or so ago, I received an email from Owain Meredith, archivist at ITV Wales. Owain had already been very helpful and now he was telling me that he had discovered another piece of film that featured Jago - only three minutes or so but an interview nevertheless and this time from 1983. That was the same year as the Bar Stool interview with the Sunday Express journalist - have I been blessed!

'Untitled' - Jago Stone - Bardon, 1968

More on that 1983 film interview another time. Here for your interest is the beginning of my second chapter from the biography. The paintings that accompany the text are a selection from Jago Stone's extraordinarily large 'catalogue'.

Chapter 2


There is no doubt that Denis Pitts’ take on Jago in 1983 and Jago’s own testimony from the bar in the ‘Up the Garden Path Inn’ in Manton, near Marlborough in Wiltshire shape any reader’s initial sense of the character of Mr Stone. Effortlessly, it seems, Jago holds court from his bar stool throne and unfolds the stories of his misdeeds. The Sunday Express writer records the flow of

Wednesday 16 August 2017


As spring turned to summer in 1983, the 'Sunday Express' published a feature-length article on Jago Stone, headlined 'The Bar Stool Fantasies of a Cad'. That admirable piece of journalism by Denis Pitts, one of Fleet street's most accomplished writers, provides the initial focus for Chapter 2 in my biography of Jago. My late father-in-law, Ronald Watkins (see my eulogy for Ronald using this link) had given us the faded newspaper cutting sometime in the late 1990s. Only then did we learn that the artist, Jago Stone, whose palette-knife and oil paintings graced the walls in our home, had spent nearly twenty years in gaol before he was released in 1967 at the age of 39.
Jago's gift to my wife, Louise, presented as he left the Gerrards Cross area around 1970

When I first read this piece – and for a long time afterwards, I had little reason to move beyond what Denis Pitts sets out as his impression of Jago – a bit of a card, a bar stool character in his mid-fifties, an affable English eccentric proud of being a reformed gaolbird. That of course was exactly what Jago was acting out. He had the pub regulars as his audience and a man come up from London to do the interview. The playhouse of the local hostelry provided the perfect setting for his performance. And what a brilliant choice of venue for the interview. The pub was called ‘Up the Garden Path’. Jago, the pied piper, leading his listeners on. Yet it was all true. As Denis says, the

Friday 11 August 2017


The last time I saw Jeremy in Cornwall it was at Heartlands during his second Party Leadership campaign. The New Labour members of the Parliamentary Labour Party - the MPs who believed that Jeremy and his socialist beliefs made him and a Party that continued to follow his leadership unelectable - had forced another election with Owen Smith standing against him. It was just over a year ago, in August 2016. Our leader was in fine form and delivered a speech that outlined the 10 Pledges that would form the basis of the election manifesto in 2020 or whenever Theresa May chose to call an election. See these three links for my blog-posts back then:

Jeremy Corbyn easily defeated that New Labour challenge and the Labour Party under Jeremy's leadership gained 3 million extra votes in the June 2017 General Election that was called by May and the Tories, calculating that the Labour Party would be destroyed as the Opposition. Doh! The Tories lost their overall majority and Labour are now 6 percentage points ahead of the Tories in the latest opinion poll. What a miscalculation!

To Lindsay and to Jack - all the best - Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy returned to Heartlands then with even more spring in his step. Mixing my metaphors, he is - as his deputy, Tom Watson, has said: 'walking on water'. After he had delivered his speech, our next prime minister came down from the rostrum and spoke with the people close to the stage and signed autographs. Lindsay Smith, one of the St Ives Labour Party activists from the Penbeagle estate who

Thursday 20 July 2017


It was late last Saturday evening that I checked my Facebook to discover that Keith Shilson, the newly elected Secretary of the St Ives Constituency Labour Party, had sent me a photo from Tolpuddle in Dorset. He was there - obviously - because of the three-day annual event to celebrate the anniversary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs who laid the foundations of Britain's trade union movement.

Here's the picture, taken in the museum shop:

The Road to Corbyn reaches Tolpuddle in Dorset

How cool is that!  It reminds me of this one, taken in the shop window at Fahrenheit Books Cooperative in Middlesbrough where four copies of my book had been sold up to March this year:

The Road to Corbyn reaches Middlesbrough in North Yorkshire

I have provided a link here to an earlier post that I published that first explained the connection with Fahrenheit Books. I said then that I was learning that an author has to learn the art of being a hustler for his own creation.

And then there is the outstanding Redwing Gallery in Penzance that I've been praising in posts

Monday 17 July 2017


When I knew that I had the opportunity to give talks at the Penzance LitFest Fringe at the beginning of this month, I decided on three talks, one after the other - Wednesday lunchtime, The Road to Corbyn'; Thursday lunchtime, 'Jago Stone'; and Friday lunchtime, 'Drink in Victorian Norwich'. The first two needed little preparation but the third talk was different. My doctorate had been awarded in 2003 and my ceremony followed in 2004. Nearly a decade and a half had elapsed. The main themes were still embedded in my mind but as I returned to the pages of the thesis a weird feeling surfaced. I was reconnecting with material that I scarcely remembered producing in the first place - and experiencing the joy of resurrecting my own forgotten scholarship.

Bess of Bedlam - a Norwich Victorian pub - (acknowledgements and thanks to the Norfolk Heritage Centre - see this link)

Derek Guthrie and Daniel Nanavati, editors from New Art Examiner - the independent voice of the Visual Arts (see this link) - were amongst the half-a-dozen audience. So too were my socialist comrades, Abbi and Mick. As I had planned, I began with a sketch of how the idea for the thesis came to life - explaining how my mum towards the end of her life had passed on to me her grandfather's journal, his life story in effect, and how I discovered for the first time his role as a trusted steward of club funds in the working class drinking and leisure culture in the city of Canterbury in Kent.

From that acorn emerged - seven or so years later - my doctoral thesis that maintains Victorian social cohesion depended on drink. In Norwich, as in other urban centres, population growth led to an

Sunday 9 July 2017


The Penzance Literary Festival 2017 has been happening this week - and like all good festivals it has a Fringe. I've been part of that Fringe - see this link for more detail on my three talks. These were given - very enjoyably - in the friendly ambience of the Redwing Gallery in Penzance. Roselyne Williams, the co-director there, passed me an envelope on Wednesday containing a letter for me from Jane Sand, an artist in Penzance. Her painting 'Ruined Cottage on the Moors near Boslow' (2015) I had admired and bought at a Redwing auction earlier this year. Jane had bought a copy of my book 'The Road to Corbyn' on the recommendation of Claire Healey, another Penzance artist whose work I admire. I had purchased Clare's 'Io rescuing Odysseus' at the same auction. You can see both of these striking paintings in this post. Jane's letter contained this feedback on my book which impressed me. I value what I have written and it is wonderful when someone shares your own  appreciation of the ideas that matter. Jane has given me  permission to publish her feedback.

'I nearly didn't get it for 2 reasons. (1) Political books are usually dogmatic and deadly dull, and (2) we were made to read Pilgrim's Progress at school when I was 11 and I loathed it! It was so preachy and boring. But Clare kept on saying: 'Get on and read it!'. So I did, and I think it's great.

Ruined Cottage on the Moors near Boslow - Jane Sand - 2015

Yes, I totally agree with you that self-deception and hence the deception of others is the major problem, plus this dreadful myth of democracy - the latest packaged concept. The idea may have originated in Ancient Greece, but their whole culture was based on slave labour so the idea is fatally flawed from the start.

And horribly accurate on current Tory ideas re: education. 'Invest in the best and satisfy the rest. That's the way forward.' My long-ago ex-husband taught in a secondary school in Camborne in the 1970s and was horrified by the appallingly low standard of teaching and the over-riding feeling

Thursday 6 July 2017


My Google searches for Jago Stone in January of this year had brought to the surface a new posting from ITV Wales that led me to their archivist, Owain Meredith, and the collection of materials housed in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth in Wales. I knew this new source was one I had to see. It was a 'historic production' by the Harlech Television Company which featured 'the work of the representational artist,  Jago Stone' and had been made by Kenneth Griffiths (sic). The record of the programme was in archival shorthand and from this I knew I could expect an interview between Jago and Kenneth Griffiths and a visit to the Notley Arms where they met the landlord, Mr Mellows (or Mellars) - who had formerly been in the Rhodesian prison service and served as its hangman - and Mr Davies, aged 92, a former soldier. And there were walking shots of Jago with his wife and baby.Tantalisingly, I couldn't figure how long the programme was. But the date was clear enough. February 5, 1969. Jago had been out of prison the best part of two years.

My further research established that the Notley Arms was a pub in the village of Monksilver in Somerset on the edge of Exmoor. Harlech TV's reach in 1969 extended that far into England.   

Aberystwyth - looking south-east 
The National Library of Wales and the new campus of the University of Aberystwyth lie up the hill to the east 

It took until June of this year for me to fit everything together but less than a fortnight ago, on Monday, June 26, I set out on my all-day train journey to Aberystwyth from St Ives in Cornwall. It was long and complex, changing at St Erth and then Bristol Temple Meads to head west for Newport in south Wales, and then changing again to head back into England and northwards to Shrewsbury. Some dodgy characters had nicked copper cabling used for signalling very early that morning between Cwmbran and Abergavenny so that last section of the journey took an extra two

Sunday 11 June 2017


And what a contest it is! 'The Spirit of 45' was a team that looked as if it was heading for oblivion. Their belief in socialist values and in the power and strength of communitarianism had attracted fewer and fewer spectators. They found themselves losing bigtime. A new manager had arrived, Tony Blair, and rebranded the team calling it 'The Spirit of 97'. It was a spin doctor's dream. He had taken the name and spirit and ideology of the other big team in town - 'The Spirit of 79' - and tweaked their formation and playing style a bit to include a little of the best from the old 'Spirit of 45' - and then gave the 'Thatcherites', as 'The Spirit of 79' were nicknamed, a drubbing.

'The Spirit of 45' under their manager, Clem Attlee 

Elements within 'The Spirit of 79' were far from alarmed. After all, they were the natural leading team, created to be champions. They might be losing a few battles, a few elections, but the old manager had known a thing or two - what did she say? 'My greatest achievement is 'The Spirit of 97'. She knew that her philosophy as a manager , her commitment to individualist playing styles - to the all-conquering neoliberal approach to the modern game - had been thoroughly absorbed through every pore of the skin of 'The Spirit of 97', the 'Blairites' as they were called.

Sure enough, 'The Spirit of 79' bounced back and in 2010 - under new management and an even more ruthless and refined playing style yet still using the tactics and formation that first saw the light of

Sunday 4 June 2017


I picked up this analysis by Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC senior political editor, a few days ago.

"A lot of people are only just starting to think about the election and they won't have sat through every bit of the TV event last night. What they'll glean, though, from snippets and headlines is a sense of how this campaign has changed, written on the leaders' faces. Jeremy Corbyn, more comfortable, more assured, with better prepared answers. Theresa May, really having to explain herself. And in this last stage the vulnerabilities are exactly where you'd expect. For Mr Corbyn it's on issues like security, his personal views on groups like the IRA. And for Mrs May, it's a Conservative prime minister facing tough questions over public services ..."

Labour Party activists campaigning in Hayle in Cornwall - 29/5/2017 - I can name Kelly, Mick, Dawn, Alana, Keith, Charles and me 

We have come a long way in a month of campaigning. Kuenssberg had been found quite recently to be in breach of BBC neutrality guidelines in her hostile treatment of Jeremy Corbyn. The bias against the man and his values and policies was evident across the media, mirroring the power of an establishment locked into either direct self-interested hatred for socialism or a refusal to acknowledge that this maverick backbencher could ever be taken seriously since to do so would mean tearing up a lifetime of assumptions.

In short, many sections of the media have been guilty of lazy and short-sighted journalism. They have failed to give adequate attention to the exponential rise in the membership of the Labour Party. We are now half-a-million strong. Nor have they had the foresight to credit ordinary people with the

Saturday 3 June 2017


In Part 2, I continue with more of this extract from my chapter: 'Lifting a Lid on Jago'.

Jenny’s husband, Tony, also remembers Jago and Rowland - and nights in the Red Lion that lengthened into the early hours of the morning.  Rowland was a ‘colourful piece of village life’. Tony agreed immediately with my expressed thought: ‘The country squire?’. ‘Yes! – and he revelled in being so’. ‘Rowland’, Tony continued, ‘divided the people he was thinking about inviting into his social world of parties and drinking into Gin Set Mark 1; Gin Set Mark 2; and Gin
Set Mark 3’. These were the levels in Squire Rowland’s hierarchal trinity of social acceptability.

The English Village - (detail) - Jago Stone (1986)

I was curious about how the squire of Hellidon stood in relation to his responsibilities towards that other foundation of village life, separate from the public house – the village church.  This, after all, was the church run by the Church of England which had its own Trinity and hierarchies.
Rowland, according to Tony, did indeed support the church. He was a generous man and he knew his obligations. He even, occasionally, attended the Sunday service. But being Rowland, the most memorable of these attendances was when he brought with him an African woman whom he had

Sunday 28 May 2017


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


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


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


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:


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 and you can follow us @mirrorpolitics on Twitter.

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


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


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


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

Monday 3 April 2017


This will be my final running blog before April 23 and the 2017 London Marathon - barring injury or other athletic nightmares. Yesterday was the last long run in the longer and longer Sunday run sequence. The next two Sundays will be run as part of the Tapering Programme before the marathon itself - 120 minutes next week and 70 minutes the week after. Then the 26 miles challenge in London.

First, the tale of Sunday's morning run as told by me yesterday afternoon on the Salvation Army runners website:

'My last long run today (03:06:24 and around 17.5 miles) - congratulations again to Sparky Joseph Holly for the long run and ode - and I was quite chuffed to add the half-mile from Mousehole up to Paul to the distance - and then back down to Mousehole. The emphasis is on the 'up'. I didn't so much run up the never-ending ascent but gently jog. The lone rambler walking ahead of me I took some time to catch up and pass with a friendly greeting - and then there was nothing to motivate me but the thought I could eventually sit in front of this computer and type the words 'I ran from Mousehole up to Paul before turning round at about 92 minutes of continuous running from Marazion.' Next Sunday, 120 minutes ...

From the village of  Paul, half-a-mile up from Mousehole, looking back towards Newlyn and Penzance

I'm really quite proud of having made that ascent from Mousehole to Paul jogging all the way. It is a  very steep hill and the sign in Paul proclaims that Mousehole is half-a-mile away. The pub and the church and the village green all entice me to stay for longer - this is surely a village setting that would have been taken to heart by Jago Stone, the subject of my biography and latest work of literature - see this link here. (I can't resist the author's urge to plug his own work: 'The Road to Corbyn' remains a fine 21st century secular and socialist update of John Bunyan's 17th century Christian classic 'The Pilgrim's Progress' - see another link  here. If you haven't yet got a copy or know someone who