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

amongst the staff that these kids were worthless, future cannon fodder at best, and basically were there rather than being out on the streets, causing trouble. With my ex's help and encouragement, many of his pupils went on to achieve great things. One is a successful author for example, and another a very good chef. So yes, always, as you say, the key question is: Education, yes, but for what? Social conditioning - most of it anyway, the inculcation of corrupt capitalist ideas when young minds are open and vulnerable.

Front of envelope from Jane Sand containing feedback

And yes, it's a very powerful point that we now live in a world where there is simultaneously more education than ever - and more ignorance than ever. I know a disturbing number of people who managed to go through the education system but who still base their world views on old wives' tales, local prejudice and tabloid headlines.

It is also a very strong point in your book that the cult of individuality does not lead to freedom.

I love Charity as a phoenix-like bird.

I think you must have loved The Wind in the Willows as a child. The ominous wood full of frightening watching eyes is so like the weasel-haunted Wild Wood, and the Interpreter is so like Badger! Pilgrim is a combination of Ratty's boldness and Mole's timidity, and Mr Toad is definitely the archetypical Tory!

Back of envelope from Jane Sand containing feedback

I also enjoyed the printing error whereby the Body-builder was dressed just in training paints not pants.

Have you read Christopher Fowler's wonderfully anarchic detective series about Bryant and May? You would love them. The way I paint is very intense and exhausting, and I read them to relax and stabilise. Arthur Bryant is your perfect hero - after Jeremy Corbyn, of course.

All in all, a fascinating and inspiring book. Thank you for writing it.'

Io rescues Odysseus - Claire Healey - 2016

How cool is feedback like that! Thank you, Jane.

I have it seems sold 102 copies of 'The Road to Corbyn' to date. If you have not got yours yet - or if you're looking for a good present to give (particularly to the young) - here's the link to my website and a copy is a few clicks away ... Or go to your local bookshop and they will get you one. Spread the socialist message and watch for my future post where I explore my role as a John the Baptist figure - although on second thoughts that might be tempting fate, remembering what happened to John.

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