Friday 29 November 2019


Good morning! Getting my biography of Jago Stone, the remarkable English artist, to the printers has been a bit of a roller-coaster - but I think we are there. Here is my latest Mailchimp newsletter about matters relating to my writing and in particular the story of Jago and his art, recirculated and updated with some fresh material. Thanks to everyone who has played a part in the telling of the remarkable life of Jago Stone (1928-88).


It's been a couple of months since I created a Mailchimp newsletter; the last one in September was promising publication in December and explaining that the publisher's, Unicorn, had apologised for not being in a position to get the book out on October 1 as planned. Too much remained to complete.

These last two months have seen some progress but there have been further frustrations and delay. The quality of ten of the images in the book remained a problem until last week when at last all the images were passed as acceptable. I completed yet another final proof-read yesterday. The text is with the indexer and then it will go to the printer. I haven't been told when the new publication date is but it won't now be December 1.

You can of course still pre-order a copy, both here in the UK and the United States. Below, there are links to Waterstones and Amazon and an American website that a Google alert presented to me:



American website:

I haven't received any new stories about Jago or images of his paintings other than the material that I weaved together in the Australian Connection blogpost that I published in October - but I will, though, use this newsletter as an opportunity to show you the paintings that came our way through the Bertie Barrett and George Newsom pathway. Do dig around in the blog archive to find that story.

Butter Cross: Witney, Oxon - Jago Stone (1971)

The Australian Connection blogpost did lead to a delightful email exchange between Becky Bender in South Dakota and me. Becky is my very first American connection who gifted me in 2016 a remarkable story and images truly worthy of Jago. Here are sections of that email exchange last month, starting with Becky:

"Just finished reading your blog about Australia and the Jago connection. It's a small world with internet connections and it also goes to show what an amazing character Jago was! 
I want to tell you what my explanation was for the 'Ride a Cock Horse' nursery rhyme. I was told by an older lady who had lived in Banbury for a long time that the Fine lady probably referred to some lady of the Fiennes family. I believe they owned a lot of the land around Banbury long ago? The cock horse was described as an additional horse(s) kept at the top of the hills or bottom, to be hitched to heavy wagon loads to assist as a braking horse or pulling horse. Banbury is set way down in hills all around it. I always loved that rhyme as a little girl and could picture myself with rings on my fingers and bells on my toes, riding a big white horse around a cross. I also thought the cross was just that - a cross. Imagine my surprise when I first saw it and foud it was like a huge cake with a cross on the top. I drove around that roundabout and around the cross a ton of times when I first had my horse in livery north of Banbury. Then I could think, 'Ride a cock horse, Round Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a brown (white) horse. With rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes!'   I miss my Wally horse a lot sometimes!"

The Old Wool Market, Chipping Campden - Jago Stone (1970)

I replied:

"Your Banbury 'older lady' contact sounds as though she was onto something when she referenced the Fiennes family to explain a 'fine lady'. When we were living in Suffolk, we got to know through our Catholic church Jennifer Lash,  a very talented writer and artist who had married Mark Fiennes, a photographer and member of this Fiennes family that can trace its origins back to Norman times and has connections with the royal house of Windsor. Jennifer brought into the world six children who have all had extraordinary lives, some more well-known than others. They are Ralph, Magnus, Sophie, Martha, Jacob and Joseph. I too love the imagining of you riding on Wally around Banbury Cross! Do you have any pictures of Wally? And may I use your stories from this email in a future blogpost?"

The Rollright Stones - Jago Stone (1971)

Thank you, Becky,  for giving me permission.

Untitled - Jago Stone (1971)

If you know anyone you think might be interested in these mailings about 'Jago' please encourage them to follow the link to my website. Here it is: They can join you as subscribers - 66 to date. 

Yew Tree Cottage, Bodicote, Oxon. - Jago Stone (indecipherable, but probably 1971)

You can also use this page to access all my Jago Stone blogs. The blog-posts are also there for your enjoyment - and comments. Press this link here to start accessing these posts:

New College, Oxford - Jago Stone (1971)

I hope you have enjoyed these images only one of which will you find in the biography. 


That's the end of the Mailchimp newsletter. I thought I'd close on a personal note of thanks to an American source for the Jago biography who has been invaluable - Michael Mort. Michael messaged me in the last few days about getting a signed copy of the biography when it's published and we're working out the best way to achieve that. Here, now, I'd like to share one image that Michael has gifted me - this as my taster for the biography and Chapter Seven: The American Connection, in particular.

It was late May in 2017 when Michael made Facebook contact with me from Abilene, Texas. By the end of 2017, I had been gifted three images of Jago in 1977 painting Michael's home in Swalcliffe near Banbury, Oxfordshire. Here's one of them:

Jago Stone at work in 1977  - (Michael Mort photo collection)

Wow! The artist at work, in communion with his talent. Thank you so much, Michael. 


Friday 22 November 2019


Back in February this year I published a blogpost 'Venezuela - the other side of the story'. I had been so shocked at the difference between the facts as I had come to understand them from sources I trusted and how the events in Venezuela were being presented in our mainstream media (MSM) that I felt compelled to create my own account of this media bias against the left-wing.

Here's the link to that blogpost:

 Most of our media tend to follow the bidding of our right-wing politicians in government who in turn follow the lead of their right-wing allies in the American establishment who have a visceral fear and loathing of socialism on or near 'their' continent of America, north or south.

Evo Morales - the legitimate socialist president of Bolivia, now ousted and living in exile in Mexico.

Plus ca change - capitalism rampant is still the same beast. Now it's Bolivia.

An international vision needs some grasp of where countries are on the map of the world

The Observer newspaper had a leader on the subject of Bolivia last Sunday (17.11.19) a couple of weeks after Evo Morales, Bolivia's president since 2005, was forced out of office and out of the country. The headline reads: Morales was a victim of his own refusal to hand over power.  What follows is in the best tradition of a certain type of English liberalism - an acknowledgement of the merits of a person or set of ideas, followed by the knife in the back. Let me give you the good stuff first:

'Broadly speaking, Evo Morales was a successful leader of Bolivia. A trade unionist with familial roots among the country's indigenous peoples [a long-winded way to say he was an ethnic Bolivian, without European settler ancestry] he was first elected president in 2005 and was twice returned to office with substantial majorities. Morales is credited by the International Monetary Fund [a staunch supporter of capitalism] with achieving a drastic reduction in poverty among farmers and coca growers and a societal revolution that transformed the standing of Bolivia's numerous ethnic groups.

A convinced socialist, Morales identified with the late Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and with other left-wing leaders such as Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's former president. He championed a 'plurinational' constitution that guaranteed equal rights for all citizens, effectively ending the monopoly on power previously enjoyed by Bolivians of European descent. His time in office also saw a big increase in women's political participation.'

Very good so far … but the tone changes.

Supporters of the opposition leader, Carlos Mesa, take to the streets in October 2019

Just think how many enemies were waiting their moment amongst the rich and formerly powerful in Bolivia. Fourteen years waiting for the slip, the moment off-guard. Come the sixth paragraph, The Observer's leader is following their script:

'But it was Morales's determination to grab a fourth consecutive term, and his alleged rigging of last month's elections for that purpose, which precipitated his downfall … By his latest actions, Morales has obscured the good he has done and created a personal tragedy. Here, again, is the familiar story of what happens when leaders outstay their welcome.'

Supporters of the President, Evo Morales, are confronted by security forces - October 2019

There you have it - a classic example of gutter journalism from the pages of a so-called quality broadsheet. 'Gutter journalism' - really? Consider these facts:

  •    The Comite Ciudadano (Citizens Committee), a right-wing coalition led by Bolivia's ex vice-president, Carlos Mesa, and Luis Fernando Camacho, a multimillionaire entrepreneur who leads the extreme right-wing pressure group Comite Civico (Civic Committee) of Santa Cruz, jointly launched a brutal wave of violence in many parts of Bolivia in order to oust Evo Morales.
  •    The violence was carried out by paid, armed thugs whose main targets have been public buildings, organisations associated with the government such as trade unions - and cooperatives and radio stations in poor areas. Individuals such as mayors and ministers have also been the victims. The main brunt of this violence has been borne by persons of indigenous ethnicity, especially women.  
  •  A similar strategy was followed unsuccessfully in 2008 when the US ambassador, Phillip Goldberg, played a central role. The US - as with the oil in Venezuela - wanted to get a share of the rich gas and oil deposits that lie in the ground in the eastern region of Bolivia. An additional incentive is that Bolivia has the largest deposits of lithium in the world. 
  •  The present violence in 2019 was prompted by the electoral defeat of Bolivia's right-wing yet again in the national election on October 20 2019. The result gave the victory to Morales's Movement for Socialism (MAS) with 47% of the vote. Carlos Mesa got 36.5%. MAS won absolute majorities in both the Congress and Senate.
  •  The right-wing alleged fraud, citing the delay in the vote. In fact this was unavoidable as it takes more time for the largely rural, indigenous vote to be counted. The world media were used to spread the fabrication of a fraudulent election. By October 22, the right-wing thugs were in action.
  • Important sections of the police force, in what seems a coordinated action, retreated to their barracks and left the civilian population at the mercy of the racist thugs. 
  • The worst outrages have not been covered by the world's corporate media who are presenting the crisis as a rebellion against Morales 's government for the defence of democracy - a far cry from the reality on the ground. 

Read the Morning Star, as I do each day, to get a better grasp of what's going on in the world. Don't be fooled by what you read and hear in the MSM. I've made time to produce this blogpost even as I canvass for a Labour government here in the UK because we all need a global vision. We need to understand just how threatening the idea of socialism is to the few who at present control the levers of power and rake in the wealth.    

As a final word - you won't have picked this up in the MSM either - here's an extract from a piece in the Morning Star (November 12, 2019):

'Jeremy Corbyn decried the forced resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales as a coup yesterday, condemning the army's demand for the socialist leader to step down as "appalling" -  "I condemn this coup against the Bolivian peoples and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence'."

There are a number of international leaders and governments who are fearful of a Jeremy Corbyn-led socialist government coming to power in the UK through a democratic General Election. His vision is the opposite to theirs.

Tuesday 12 November 2019


Here is a link to my blogpost published a couple of weeks ago: Floreat Dartfordia - Part One. 

Press here to open.

I enjoyed researching and writing this account of how the culture of the Sixties was shaping my development as a History Boy at Dartford Grammar School. Now in Part Two I can take the story on a year to 1967, using both my words as a poet and my pictures as an A-level art student - and then finally display the last two paintings I created. One, I painted in my room in Catz as an Oxford undergraduate in 1968; the other I painted in the house in Acomb, just outside York, which my first wife, Glynis, and I rented as we followed our postgraduate teachers' training course at St John's College, York from 1970-71.

First, though, here's my urban landscape image that appeared in the 1966 edition of the school magazine, The Dartfordian. I mentioned it in Part One.

Untitled - Rob Donovan (1966)

My art teacher, Alan Carter, made the choice as to which piece of my art work should appear in the magazine. I remember asking him why this one and he muttered something along the lines that it works - it flows. I liked Alan and owe him a great debt. He and David Patterson, my history teacher whose invaluable contribution to my life story I acknowledged in Part One, were the magisterial influences shaping my explosion into some kind of adulthood. Alan fed the emotional side; David the intellectual - although not quite that simply. Here is a flower drawing of mine that emerged from art lessons at the time I was awaiting my Oxford entrance examination results.

Flower - Rob Donovan (1966) 
The signature of REK comes from my nickname at DGS - gifted me by my parents who had me christened as Robert Eric Kanwal Donovan (Kanwal being the name of my father's Indian batman).  

And here's a still-life from DGS that has accompanied me through so many moves across the country - Welling to Oxford to York to Slough to Windsor to Oxford to Walpole to Reydon to St Ives; Kent to Oxford to Berkshire to Oxford to East Anglia and now to Cornwall.

Still-life - Rob Donovan (1966)

And then, in 1967, there was more poetry. This poem appears to be untitled; it won the Bees Award - my second successful bid for the £5 prize gifted by an alumnus living in Australia.


This poem won the 1967 Bees Prize. The subject for this year's competition is 'Colour'.

Were I a child again,
yet retaining the wisdom of experience,
then would my life be Liberty incarnate.

Holy alliance! The uneasy joy of reason
embracing youth's unthinking pleasure.

But it cannot be.

My elders censure
such release from social bonds.
Instead, false hope! the Liberty of Manhood comes
and is revealed a fraud, a nasty childish lord
of hopes to be dashed, and loves to be crushed, 
and softly wondering voices to be hushed,

"It is not so," I hear my elders cry, alarmed.
"No dreams of youth are thus enharmed.
The Liberty of Manhood is such
as yields each man his common due in wealth and status.
In social structure, we've no hiatus.
There's freedom to do what e'er we please
provided it doesn't infringe the 'freeze'.
What happier vision of mankind
could ever human wisdom find?"

Impetuous child, that I am, 
('tis folly to be wise)
I start to answer …….
But what is this , what vision thus assaults my cynic mind
with silent stare unknowing; 
the face so deeply lined?

'Tis I in ten year's time
A member of the system.
Sad break - to leave one's dreamy innocence behind, 
to compromise; to be oneself maligned
A member of the system. 

 R.E.K. Donovan, UVIArts

And here's my attempt at depicting the human face.

Untitled - Rob Donovan (1966)

There are plenty of better examples of A-level art than these - I do appreciate that fact! But these are my works of creation and I am so pleased that I took Art as a fourth A-level to complement my standard package of History, English Literature and Geography. The school allowed me this privilege on the understanding I would sit the Art A-level exam early, in January 1967, to allow me to concentrate later on the three 'real' subjects in the summer exam period. So I took the Art exam in January and passed with the lowest grade: E. I was still high on gaining my Oxford history scholarship to Catz the previous month which meant I only needed to obtain two A-levels at grade E or above to confirm my Oxford award. Already, I had the first of them!

Copy of an early modern painting - Rob Donovan (1967)
I did this for my mum at home and it remained on the wall of our house in Welling, Kent until my parents moved to Leyland, Lancashire where it was again exhibited even when I was persona non grata for a decade and more. Smoke from my father's pipe has darkened the surface. 

Alan Carter, my art teacher, and his wife, June, lived in Erith and I used to cycle around five miles from home to reach their flat, a round-trip of ten miles. There were a few of us, chosen ones, who were granted the wonder of a new way of thinking and talking about life for an evening every so often. Alan played the guitar; Bob Dylan and other folk artists provided the gramophone background; we talked; challenge was in the air. In 1969, when I married my Oxford contemporary, Glynis Richards, I invited Alan to be my best man and he travelled all the way to south Wales for the ceremony. Later that wedding day, he took me aside and tried to open my eyes to stuff I was being blind to, not least the way I was treating friends. I can't remember what he said precisely but I remember feeling puzzled and awkward and defensive. He was of course quite right. Sorry, Alan, wherever you are, for my being a bit of an unknowing prick.  

Time for the other poem of mine that was published - and evidence of a lighter touch as I explore the meaning of life, the universe and everything:


O little worm of earthly mound
How strange to see thee squirm
In little bits.

You, who were once so firm and round,
Sliced, chopped down by grey-silver
In your prime.
You did not ask to die
before your time.
Many months of soft, oozing joy
lay before you, pleasure that can never cloy.

But you died.

Cut down in your prime with a sudden vengeance
from him you sometimes heard
moving above.
Him you feared secretly since your prophets
(they who have seen the shadow he casts) 
have told of that sun-blocking force
leaving the ground barren, 
leaving you damp and exposed.

But perhaps you did not hear
or even stop to fear
that awful tramp above your roof - 
Could it be?

Don't you, like him, need others
to see oneself exist;
to gain a sense of being; 
to sense a purpose in seeing 

O little worm, are you, in fact,
just YOU!
Because if you are
How strange it is to see
thee squirm in little bits - 
Cut down in your prime
by that grey-silver fork of mine.

R.E.K. Donovan  UVI Arts

As for that halcyon period between receiving news of the scholarship award and the sitting and passing of the three A-levels in the summer of 1967, much remains a blur. I enjoyed a passionate although never fully consummated affair with a sixth-former from the girls' grammar school in Dartford that involved a lot of cycle rides and blind-eye turning from my parents who really couldn't cope with me, their adolescent cuckoo who had just earned a free pass to escape the family prison in suburbia. I hope Judy, wherever she is, pardons my faults; I am so grateful that she gifted me a collection of the poetry of Sidney Keyes (1922-43) after we parted. More on Keyes, a former DGS student, another time - a blogpost is around the corner, I promise.

I did eventually start revising and working for the A-level exams but beginning a couple of weeks before the exams start is cutting it too fine. When I got my results a month and a half before beginning my Oxford adventure, I was disappointed but hardly surprised -  a Distinction in the History special paper but only a B for History, a C for English Literature and an E for Geography. But heck! I only needed another E.

I promised two final images of my art work - first the oil painting created in my Catz room (4:12) in 1968. Watching a short film documentary on Jeanette Winterson, the novelist, which included a section on her as an English student at Catz, my mouth fell open when a view from her college room was featured. I swear that was my room too! For a link to a Wikipedia article on this remarkable writer, press here.

Untitled - Rob Donovan (1968)

My Oxford tutors did pass a gentle word of admonition on the matter of A-level grades. But they were always too soft with me. I really needed a well-placed kick up the backside.    

Then, after Oxford, came York and the training to qualify as a teacher. It was not the happiest of years but the classroom provided some comfort. This painting below was painted in the spare room of the Acomb flat and speaks to me still of the anguish I was struggling to overcome.

Untitled - Rob Donovan (1971)

Thursday 7 November 2019


Those of you who read my blogposts regularly know how often an article in the London Review of Books (LRB) will shape my way of thinking and lead me to create a piece in which I can share these new insights with a wider audience. The latest edition of the LRB (7 November 2019) carries a short article - under the title The NHS Dismantled - by John Furse, a screenwriter and film-maker whose latest work: Groundswell: The Grassroots Battle for the NHS and Democracy is available online. Reading John Furse's analysis has led to this blogpost but it would be good to reference a couple of blogposts about the NHS I published back in 2016 before sharing my new insights.

Here is how the first of those two posts began:

"Tuesday, 29 November 2016


I am still on a learning curve. Having researched and written my book - The Road to Corbyn [Press here for a link to details about that publication] - 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." 

Press this link to read Part 1. This part has had 1121views to date.

Press this link to read Part 2. This part has had 1088 views to date.

The professionals who are the backbone of our NHS

John Furse in November 2019, three years after my first NHS blogposts and four years on from Youssef El-Gingihy's revealing exposure of a public larceny, begins his piece with an assertion:

'The Americanization of the NHS is …. already in full swing.' [My bold lettering) He then proceeds to amply justify his claim.

  • Since 2017 Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) have been taking over the purchasing as well as the provision of NHS services, deciding who gets which services, which are free and which - as with the dentist and prescriptions - we have to pay for. ICSs are partnerships between hospitals, clinicians and private sector providers designed - and