Thursday 28 March 2019


Cornwall is a county you may well fall in love with when on holiday here - we did, in the late 70s shortly after we married. I even tried applying for teaching positions in the county but to no avail. Almost a quarter-century later, around 2002, I landed an interview for the post of Head of Religious Education at the Mullion secondary school in Cornwall - but it was not to be. I remember the long train journey back to East Anglia, knowing that the next day I would resume my life at Copleston High School in Ipswich and that, in effect, would be my locus as a teacher for the next seven years until I reached the retirement age of 60.

Just over a decade later in January 2013, after three grinding years of failing to find a purchaser for our Reydon converted barn, we completed our sale and Louise and I arrived at last as residents in Cornwall. Hopefully we will spend the rest of our lives here. It is a different kind of experience living and working in Cornwall as a writer and a politically engaged person from simply being here as a visitor. When I think back to the holidays we spent in the region of the Fowey estuary and the delights of the Hall Walk, or in Polperro, or in Tintagel, or here in St Ives, so many extraordinary and breath-taking vistas come to mind. Cornwall has such stunning landscapes and sea views. As a local, it takes discipline to break from the work routines to savour fully such delights. But they remain there for the taking.

St Michael's Mount, off-shore from Marazion - rising from the waters of the bay 

Yet beneath the tourist surface, there is another reality and that is the focus for this post.

First, the national context:

Earlier this year, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JFR) released their report on poverty in the UK in 2018. 14.3 million people in Britain were living in poverty. 8 million of these people (56%) are living in a family with at least one working adult. 4.1 million (29%) are children and 1.9 million (13%) are

Tuesday 19 March 2019


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

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

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

Monday 18 March 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 16 March 2019


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

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

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

With grateful acknowledgement to the cartoonist

Education and the nurture of our young people

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

Monday 11 March 2019


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

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

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

Reading Pop Festival - 1975 - Headline Acts and More

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

Wednesday 6 March 2019


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

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

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

Monday 4 March 2019


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

Chomsky theory of language

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

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

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