Wednesday 30 October 2019


I am a writer. I have a voice. I used to be a poet and had a voice, albeit a very young one. Recently, I seem to have recovered that poet's voice but more of that another time. Here in this blogpost I want to celebrate being a 17 year old poet who was also in the Lower Sixth, the first year of my two-year sixth-form education at Dartford Grammar School (DGS), Kent, studying English, History, Geography and Art at A-level - and being prepared for the Oxford entrance examination which I would sit at the end of the autumn term, 1966; my first term in the Upper Sixth.

My journey back in time takes me into the pages of The Dartfordian (1966), the annual school magazine, where I am able to reacquaint myself with the child-self struggling to find a way into more maturity through a sea of testosterone. Writing poetry helped - two of my poems printed in the magazine are reproduced in this blog. My art work provided meaning too. One 'urban' watercolour of mine that found its way into The Dartfordian (1967) will be here in the second part of this posting in a week or two for you to see. Actually, my collector's and archivist's instincts have seen my sixth-form artwork travel safely though a half-century and more of movement so I am able to illustrate this poetry post with some of that work.

'And they asked me why ….' - Rob Donovan (1966)

But this blog is not just about me; I want to celebrate others and give you, now, a sense of what it was like to be alive in that privileged grammar-school culture as the decade of the Sixties shifted the 'structure of feeling' in society (Raymond William's telling expression) in a new and radically different direction.

For starters, a poem: 'Under an Ancient Tree', and other fragments:

The poem can speak for itself. I can still remember where I lay, under that tree, inside the school grounds one hot summer's afternoon in a free period - and how I felt, inside my head, creating the template memory for a lifetime. But also of interest to me now is the other content on

Tuesday 22 October 2019


Yes, it really does say the 'AUSTRALIAN CONNECTION' - and not the 'AMERICAN CONNECTION'. How come?

Below is the story which links Jago, a Daventry comprehensive, an English family of emigrants - and Australia. Hopefully, by airing the story in this way more details may emerge. It's also an opportunity to show off a number of Jago's paintings of 'Banbury Cross'.

Banbury Cross - Jago Stone (1973) - from the collection of Nick Michas

As an intro, here's some Banbury Cross info you may never have read before:

The principal events in the development of puritanism in Banbury include a dispute over the erection of a maypole in the town in 1589, the deposition and attempted reinstatement of the vicar, Thomas Bracebridge, in 1590, and the destruction of the Bread Cross and High Cross as objects of superstitious veneration in 1600.

Banbury remained without a cross for more than 250 years until the current Banbury Cross was erected in 1859 at the centre of the town to commemorate the marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal (eldest child of Queen Victoria) to Prince Frederick of Prussia. The current Banbury Cross is a stone, spire-shaped monument decorated in Gothic form.

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross

“Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross” is a traditional English nursery rhyme dating back to 1784, when it was published in The Nursery Parnassus.
It is needed to be said that in the 18th century version, instead of the modern “fine lady” an “old woman” is depicted.
The term “cock horse” may simply mean a high spirited horse. Banbury is a town in Oxfordshire, and it had many crosses until they were destroyed in 1600 by the Puritans. The identity of the fine lady is unknown.

“Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross” Lyrics

Modern Lyrics

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.

“Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross”
Original Lyrics

Ride a cock-horse
To Banbury Cross,
To see what Tommy can buy;
A penny white loaf,
A penny white cake,
And a two-penny apple-pie

And so back to the story that inspired this blog-post.

Chapter Four of 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone' - my biography of Jago which will be published soon - (press this link here for more details) - is called 'The Skinny Latte Blog'. This is how the chapter begins:

'This biography is following a singular path. I am asking my readers to
follow me in a real-time journey of discovery to find the artist Jago
Stone. What follows is very largely the draft I wrote in the spring of 2016.
It was not until 2011 that I experienced the excitement of googling
Jago Stone. The first time I typed the artist’s name in the search engine, I
hit the jackpot but it took a minute or two for the penny to drop. I had
been directed to a London lifestyle blog called Skinny Latte, produced
by Victoria, a twenty-something vegetarian trying to make better sense
of a London working environment. And I was reading an item posted in
October 2010 titled ‘Jackie’s – A Flea Market Stall in Hampstead’. What
could be the connection with Jago?
The first online response to Victoria’s post was from Jen, someone it

Saturday 19 October 2019


I published a blog called 'JAGO STONE, PRISON REFORM - AND THE MADNESS OF BORIS JOHNSON' a couple of months ago (17.08.19) - press here for the link; it's an interesting read. In this post, I quote a line from The Secret Barrister who writes an occasional column in the i newspaper:

'While the Prime Minister is lying to you, the rest of the criminal justice system rots.'

Boris Johnson, the PM of the UK for the time being, is deceiving himself as well as us if he believes that locking up more criminals for longer is a good thing. Longer prison sentences by themselves do not make us - the law-abiding public - safer.

What interests me is why this man - in ascending the greasy pole of ambition to become the Prime Minister - should have acquired this reputation as a liar. Let me dispose of the clich├ęs that all politicians lie and you can't trust any of them. Those claims are generalisations that break down when the evidence is examined - but they do have a basis in the real world of politics. Some politicians do lie. Some do it knowingly; some because they are trained to follow a party-line. What can explain this leaning to falsehood?

Which mask shall I wear for this occasion?

As a socialist who believes in the right of all in a society to share fairly in the fruits of what is produced, I will make the case that deception and self-deception are often rooted in greed: a selfish desire to hang on to the slice of the wealth that circumstances have gifted you, albeit at the expense of others. Recently, though, I read an article in the Morning Star - 'Why Public School f***s you up - and how the nation pays' (25.09.19) about the psycho-historian and psychologist, Nick Duffell, that

Wednesday 16 October 2019


On Saturday afternoon - October 12, 2019 - the St Ives branch of the Labour Party held a public meeting called ‘Austerity in St Ives’ and filled the Salvation Army Hall in Wharf Road, with around 40 people in attendance. The idea for the meeting had been developed in the discussion that followed my talk to the local St Ives branch of the Labour Party which was based on my three blogposts on the theme of Cornwall Under the Tourist Surface - press the links below to open these three posts:

Cornwall under the Tourist Surface - Austerity since 2010;

Cornwall under the Tourist Surface - the Treneere Estate in Penzance;

Cornwall under the Tourist Surface - St Ives Food Bank

It has been so satisfying and exciting to be there at the birth of the idea for the meeting, help with the publicity and the delivery of flyers - and then be present at this important Labour event in Cornwall. We wanted to have a permanent record of the meeting so one of our members, Mary Fletcher, made contact with a local film-maker, Alban Roinard, and we hired him to produce a video of our speaker's talks. The summary below of each of the four talks is accompanied by a link to the video of that speaker's valuable contribution to the meeting. I've also added a link to the introduction by our constituency chairman - Rex Henry.  

George Osborne - Chancellor of the Exchequer (2010-15), now the editor of the Evening Standard

First, though, a detail about an important couple of minutes during that meeting. At one point - when Gill Pipkin in her excellent non-political talk about Citizens Advice in Cornwall and St Ives referred to those on benefit who had not been adversely affected by the roll-out of Universal Credit - a woman behind where Louise and I were sitting interrupted. She began making the case for all those in Cornwall whose lives have been damaged by Conservative policies based on the drive for Austerity. She was talking from the heart; she was a victim. Within a minute or two, she had become so angry she left the meeting - expressing in her final words her fury at anyone who had voted for the Conservative Party. That citizen of our country has been abused by those who govern our society. Her pain and anger must be heard and we must stop this madness.           

The meeting began with an introduction by Rex Henry in which he concluded that we could now talk about a Dickensian world in which there was a tale of two St Ives: the comfortable enough one that most of us in the hall knew and appreciated - and the largely hidden one where hundreds and hundreds of citizens struggled to make ends meet. 

Press this link here for Rex's Introduction.

The leaders of the Coalition Government (2010-15) - The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, is the Deputy PM on the left; the Tory leader, David Cameron, is the PM on the right. Both are responsible for the policy of Austerity. 

The first speaker was Nicole Broadhurst, the Labour Mayor of Penzance, who explained that she had worked in St Ives in her role within social services and then gave a compelling account of how the programme of Austerity that has been government policy since 2010 was never an economic necessity but always a political choice. Her statistics and stories showed how much damage has been done to the British economy and to the lives of ordinary people, many of whom are in work that does not pay enough to live on – and so depend on a state benefit system that does not meet their needs – and end up relying on charity in the form of food banks. 

Press this link here for Nicole's talk.

Jeremy Corbyn - our next PM

Gill Pipkin, the CEO of Citizens Advice (CAB), followed with a non-political summary of the work of her independent organisation locally in these challenging circumstances. She apologised for not being able to establish a CAB in St Ives due to a lack of volunteers and noted that it was an indictment on society that Citizens Advice which had been set up in the 1940s as a war-time initiative should still be needed today. In Cornwall, in the most recent recorded year, there had been 8,500 clients with 39,470 issues; nearly all clients came to the CAB with multiple issues. The introduction of Universal Credit had worked for some but for around 20% nationally, it had been ‘a bit of a catastrophe’. In Cornwall, with its patterns of self-employment and lower winter earnings; zero-hours contracts; and lack of training in IT skills and access to computers, the situation was extremely challenging and felt most by those least able to cope.   

Press this link here for Gill's talk.

Paul Farmer, the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, spoke next and gave a heart-felt picture of a society that now had huge problems, a lot of them arising from the deliberately imposed Conservative policy of Austerity, supported by the Lib-Dem Party in the Coalition Government (2010-15). We now have a society where the richest have seen their share of wealth rise by 5%, whilst the least well-off have become even poorer. It is an issue of imagination; the richest seemingly find it impossible to imagine what life is like for the poor. The media is part of the problem; press and TV appear more sympathetic to the natives of Borneo than our own poor. On the back of an economically insane policy, our nation has become diminished as the most decent things in our society such as schools and the NHS have been deliberately starved of money. Those responsible for Austerity have no vision for the future. Research shows that the areas most hit by Austerity are the ones most supportive of Brexit. The Austerity imposed by David Cameron has ended up creating a nation divided into two tribes, at present represented by the Brexit and Conservative Parties on the one hand and the Lib Dems on the other. The Labour Party has a vision that aims to unite the nation through policies for the many, not the few. 

Press this link here for Paul's talk.

Paul Farmer at the front with a tie surrounded by around 50 of his campaigning team - I'm second from the left - we're at the Heartlands mining heritage centre in Camborne - September 19, 2019. 

Chris Wallis, the organiser of the St Ives Food Bank, gave the concluding talk with a summary of how it first saw the light of day in 2012 and has grown since. Operating now from Chy an Gweal chapel in Carbis Bay, it provides 550 meals a week for around seven families, with that number rising during the winter months. In the Christmas period, 2,500 meals are served by volunteers. But all this is ‘scratching the surface’. This is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Children are going to school hungry; families would prefer to go to Penzance or Hayle for help to avoid the shame of being seen near the local food bank. The St Ives Coop food share scheme is helping top-up this church work. Expansion is necessary to meet the growing need that Brexit may well make even more acute. 

Press this link here for Chris's talk. 

A food bank in Cornwall

The public discussion of these issues at the meeting was informed and passionate with land-reform being raised as an important way to respond to the present crisis. 

The meeting concluded with Paul Farmer repeating his vision for a socialist future, fit for the 21st century, in Britain. Paul became a member of the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn was elected its leader in 2015 because he recognised in Jeremy a man who cared about people and had the policies to change our world for the better. I re-joined the Labour Party in 2015 for the same reasons. 

Press this link here for my socialist story from the website. 

Finally, a photo of the panel of our fine speakers:

'Austerity in St Ives' - public meeting - Saturday afternoon, October 12, 2019 - Salvation Army Hall


Wednesday 2 October 2019


And still they come - the Jago stories and the paintings.  My last American Connection blogpost was as recent as September 25, a week ago - but on September 28 I had a Facebook post from Beth Lundry in Nebraska, USA, accompanied by three images. I could not resist sharing the story and images with you straightaway, telling you at the same time that yesterday I made my final amendments to the text of 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone' and very soon the indexer will be at work. After the index is complete the book will be ready for the printing press, with publication on the 1st of December, 2019!

Here is Beth's story:

In 1975 my dad was stationed at Upper Heyford Air Force Base in England. I remember Jago Stone coming to our house and painting the watercolor picture below from a picture that my mom took of my brother and I. I was five years old at the time and so amazed watching Jago painting for us that I still remember his visit 44 years later. He originally put my brother and I in the painting just like the picture my mom gave him but then changed it to all four of us on the far side of the river. My mom and I cannot remember where the picture was taken but I have always loved this painting so my mom gave it to me a few years ago and I have it hanging in a bedroom. I wonder how many other Jago paintings are out there and I'm excited to read the story of his interesting life!! Good luck with your search for more Jago paintings!

Beth Lundry, aged 5, with her brother - taken by her mum on a Polaroid camera. This shot is the start of the story …. read on for more detail.

Would the location of this idyllic setting remain a mystery? How did the artist respond to the