Friday 30 December 2022


 Louise and I have established a programme of films from our DVD and Blue Ray collection for evening watching during Advent, and then from Christmas to Epiphany on January 6. We watched Frank Capra's 1938 masterpiece 'You Can't Take It With You' last Friday, 23 December. It may have been a year since we last saw it, but the film had lost none of its charm or meaning. There were even sequences which had me exclaiming with joy, 'This is a socialist film!' That makes it a real Christmas treat.

The Capra film that took two Oscars in 1938 - Best Director and Outstanding Production for Columbia Pictures 

Of course, with Frank Capra (1897-1991) things are sometimes not quite what they may seem. That is what I have learned, now I have been inspired by his films to find out more about the man. There is a moment in You Can't Take It With You, towards the end, when Lionel Barrymore as Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, the eccentric American idealist who doesn't understand why he should pay taxes to the government, refuses to tell James Stewart, in the role of  Tony Kirby, the young banker, the whereabouts of the woman he loves, Vanderhof's granddaughter, Alice Sycamore, played by Jean Arthur. 'I'm not and never will be a snitch', says Grandpa Vanderhof. 

But Frank Capra learned to compromise and became a snitch himself.

His biographer, Joseph McBride, in 'The Catastrophe of Success' (1992) wrote:

'How long Capra may have been informing before September 1951 cannot be determined from the available evidence, but it was as early as 1947 that he "began to act strangely, to look for 'villains'". (p.604)

This was around the time the Hearings on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began in Washington and the McCarthyite witch-hunt started, seeking to purge the USA of any trace of the 'red menace': Communism. The world of the witch-hunt was not a rational world, not least when the heat was turned up on Hollywood by HUAC with its 1951 round of hearings. Two Hollywood figures of note, Sidney Buchman and Michael Wilson, probably never knew that Capra had named their names to the security board. Both men's careers were soon severely damaged. Capra had not collaborated openly with the committee so the American public never knew for certain what Capra had done - and Capra

Thursday 22 December 2022


 If you identify as a Christian - and there is a wide spectrum of beliefs about what the term 'Christian' means - then it is a given that there was and still is something special about the charismatic carpenter-turned-preacher who lived around two thousand years ago in Palestine. 

If you identify as a Humanist - and declare there is no God - then you still might have more than a passing interest in the person that 19th century theologians called the 'historical Jesus'. Intellectual curiosity might mean you want to find out more about the historical person called Jesus - what did he say? what did he do? why was he killed? why, after his death, did he become the focus for a religious cult who believed he had been restored to life and was actually the Son of God? 

You might also be intrigued by the question: 'What did Jesus look like?, knowing that the historical reality was bound to be different from the Caucasian stereotype of western popular imagination. In fact, Israeli archaeologists and British forensic experts collaborated in 2015 to develop a computer model of the face of Jesus based on forensic archaeology. Led by the retired medical artist Dr. Richard Neave, formerly of the University of Manchester, the images constructed by the team of scientists suggest that Jesus of Nazareth might have had a wide face, with dark eyes, short dark hair, a bushy beard, and olive-coloured, tanned skin. Dr. Neave and his team based their reconstruction on the analysis of three Semite skulls which had been dated to around the same period when Jesus lived, combining the data with anthropological references. 

A computer image of what Jesus of Nazareth may have looked like
 - my acknowledgements and thanks to Popular Mechanics, the magazine in which this image first appeared. 

I am one of those modern, liberal Christians who do not take the bible as the literal word of God. That is our common ground with Humanists. Instead, we turn to what we see as a precious gift: the tool of de-mythologizing. We take the traditional, orthodox stories in the biblical text, root them in their historical context as any good historian would do - and then try to tease out what is timeless and of universal significance in these tales from the past. Our instincts tell us that there is much fruit within these stories. As Quakers would say, we are following the Light - the Spirit is leading us to truths that are timeless and

Tuesday 20 December 2022


 I haven't posted on COVID since mid-October when I was sharing the news that Europe was facing another wave of the pandemic with the continent's medical authorities fearing that vaccination rates were still not high enough. The British Office for National Statistics no longer give their updates as regularly as they used to - and they have become more selective both about what data is shared (displaying statistics for England only is usual - UK statistics are harder to track down) and how that data is presented (last week, I read that deaths from COVID were over 150,000 - the number accepted by the scientific community is in excess of 208,000 - such an attempt to play down the catastrophe of COVID in our medical history is an insult to the memory of those who have died from this deadly disease). 

Please note that I still wish to spread a Christmas message of cheer as well as send a warning. That's why this post is illustrated with screen shots from my inimitable Jackie Lawson  online Advent Calendar. I do recommend you get one next year - and explore what fun and games are available right now on their website. 

Jackie Lawson Screen Shot - 1

The media were remarkably silent about COVID as we approached Advent and then entered this Christmas season. I waited. I knew what the medical and scientific authorities had been saying in October and they were unlikely to have changed their minds. When the weather turned colder and people moved indoors and gathered together, infections would increase. Their thoughts, their voices, were simply not being given air-time or press-space as the warm autumn season turned colder. Why? It is difficult not to conclude that the pursuit of profit was yet again trumping public health needs. I go into Sainsbury's for a weekly shop on Monday mornings and I am now amongst the 5 per cent who are still

Sunday 11 December 2022


Patrick Cockburn in the 'i' newspaper published today (10.12.2022) writes:

 "Britain has entered an era of legalised larceny by the politically well-connected some 150 years after the Victorians ended what they execrated as the "Old Corruption".

By this term, the Victorians did not mean only practices that were illegal but all the behaviours which had enabled the ruling elite to obtain jobs and money through patronage and partisanship.

As Cockburn notes, the best-known achievement of the Victorian reformers who wanted to root out the cancer of corruption from the political world was the Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1854 which paved the way for a British civil service open to all through public examination. I would also add the legislation that ensured that, by the end of the Victorian period, corruption had been outlawed from all public elections. 

Yet now we are viewing example after example of what I shall term 'administrative malfeasance' in public office. It is a term I used in 'Dying to Know - Running through a Pandemic' (2022). In June 2020, the UK had the highest figure of any country in the world for deaths per million from COVID. I wrote:

"There must be a reckoning. Those of us on the receiving end of injustice need to believe in the possibility of legal redress. ... In my reading a couple of months ago, I learned of a Spanish senator who was attempting to take their prime minister to court on a charge of administrative malfeasance because of his government's failure to respond to the pandemic with the kind of rational and humane insight that other countries such as New Zealand have shown. Amen to that." (pp.35-36).

Two and a half years later, this Tory government is on its third prime minister and desperately doing all it can to ensure that any pandemic report which may emerge in the distant future is a white-wash. Read my book to get the truth. 

Baroness Michelle Mone of Mayfair - Wikipedia image - in 2013 - now under investigation, seeking to clear her name.

Read the allegations against Baroness Michelle Mone over PPE procurement. Notice how many of the worst ingredients of the "Old Corruption" are re-emerging in modern Britain. Here are some highlights from the Wikipedia article on Mone, who was made a peer in 2015 by the then Tory PM, David Cameron:

Born in October 1971,[1] Michelle Allan grew up in Glasgow's East End. She recounted how she had lived with her family in a one-bedroomed house with no bath or shower until she was ten.

She left school aged 15, with no qualifications, to pursue a modelling career.[3] At 17 she met her future husband, Michael Mone, and by 18 years old, she was pregnant with her first child, Rebecca.[3] She then converted from Protestantism to Catholicism and married Michael, an anaesthetist's son from a Catholic family.[3]

Business career[edit]

Mone obtained a marketing job with the Labatt brewing company and, within two years, had risen to become its head of marketing in Scotland.[3] She has since said that she invented qualifications to help get the job there.[3] She was then made redundant by the company, prompting her, at the age of 23, to set up her own business using the redundancy compensation she received from Labatt.[3]

MJM International[edit]

In November 1996 she founded MJM International with her then-husband Michael.[4] In August 1999, Mone launched the Ultimo lingerie brand at Selfridges department store in London. Mone came up

Thursday 1 December 2022


 My statistical records tell me that I have published 411 blogposts since January 2016 when I first became an online blogger. To be honest, I cannot remember them all which makes trawling through them an interesting adventure. Sometimes, I come across a post, read it - and exclaim to myself, "That still reads well. This is still relevant. This is worth re-circulating". When I re-read the post I published on 31 March last year, that was my reaction. Its title then was: 'WHAT KIND OF SOCIETY DO I WANT AND IS IT THE SAME AS THE SOCIETY WE NEED'. Today, I republish it with tweaks here and there to take account of the Quaker perspective that now shapes me.

The blogpost began with a thank you to my friend, David Siggers, in Brent in London. Sadly, David died earlier this year - see my tribute here. Here is how it developed:

"David recently sent me another gift - this time, a book: 'Alone in Berlin' (1947/2009), written by the German author, Hans Fallada (1893-1947). David wrote: 'the protagonists reminded me of you and other bloggers drip-drip of information against this government'. Thank you, David. Sam Munson in The National wrote that Fallada's work is 'the great novel of German resistance ... (and) deserves a place among the 20th century's best novels of political witness'. Philip Hensher in the Independent describes the book as '(Fallada's) heartbreaking tale of futile resistance in Nazi Berlin'. I am fifty pages in; there are around 600 pages in all. I am hooked. It is gut-wrenching.

(I did - slowly - finish reading Fallada's masterpiece. Emotionally, I could only take twenty minutes or so exposure at any one reading.) 

When a democracy slipped into dictatoship - and fear governed every encounter

I began my formal resistance to the new government in the UK the day after they were returned to power back in December 2019 - see this link here - but you will have seen if you opened the link that my warnings pre-date that General Election at the end of 2019. From my political and social and spiritual perspective, as a Christian socialist, I find what has happened over this last decade - and particularly in this last last year and a half - deeply troubling. 

Who else thinks so? I was inspired to wrote this blogpost today by an article in one of my two daily newspapers: the 'i' (the other one is the 'Morning Star'), written by the columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, under the title: 'Racism and sexism stalk this land that I no longer recognise'. Here are some