Friday 29 December 2023


 Over the last decade, the Christmas season in the Donovan home in St Ives on the Penwith peninsula has been celebrated in the evenings with the viewing of our special collection of film. We are celebrating the birth of the subversive carpenter-turned-preacher called Jesus - the Nazarene Jew whose message is God is Love and that the pursuit of money is the pathway to losing that Love. 

Films are a capitalist invention. They are intended to make money. Yet they need to appeal and, even as the traumas of horrific world wars in the last century led to very many of the masses losing whatever faith they had, people still resonated with the messages of love and redemption that script writers conjured up for viewers, not least at Christmas.

Our Christmas film festival begins with the viewing over three evenings of the adaptation of John Masefield's story: 'The Box of Delights', a BBC children's film first shown in six parts in 1984. Directed by Rennie Rye who was at Catz, Oxford reading English from 1967-1970 at the same time as I was failing to read as much History as I should have done, this is a delightful imagining of the triumph of good over evil. The Christmas church service becomes a reality despite all the wickedness that is conjured up to prevent it happening. Society is saved from the greed and ambition of people whose egos have gone awry. The goodness of children, helped by some wondrous magic, in the end wins the day.

Christmas magic for children and adults - the whole family!

The screen writers for Christmas film have no time for the excesses of capitalism, even if they are not consciously shaped by a Marxist insight. The love of money is, of course, the root of all evil. Film maybe part of the market society but it is also a vehicle for criticizing the direction that people within

Thursday 23 November 2023


 I received this openDemocracy newsletter on Thursday 23 November, this week - and I felt it needed sharing. The more people who know, the better. Knowledge is power - and may lead to accountability.

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) - Photograph by William Hall, 1879

openDemocracy logo


Tuesday 21 November 2023


 Geoff Watson of the Marazion Quaker Meeting House pressed Richard Rohr's book - 'silent compassion - finding God in contemplation' into my hand recently and said that he was donating this work to the library and I should read it. He was right to recommend it. First published in the USA in 2014 and now in the UK in 2022, it is a wonderful read for all but perhaps profoundly so for Quakers. Richard Rohr, OFM, is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founding Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has authored numerous books, including six published here by SPCK. 'silent compassion' (sic) is very much a Quaker book; Rohr's wisdom is George Fox's and all those since who have found the Spirit in community silence.

Father Richard Rohr

It is a short book, 78 pages in length and divided into five chapters:

  1. Finding God in the Depths of Silence
  2. Sacred Silence, Pathway to Compassion 
  3. The True Self is Compassion, Love Itself
  4. Looking Out in Prayer with Contemplative Eyes
  5. The Path to Non-Dual Thinking 
One message I have taken from the book is that we need to use fewer words and take care not to over-think; we come closer to the essence of life and ourselves through meditative silence. My usual format of bullet-points will therefore serve well to give you a precis of the wisdom of Richard Rohr.

  •  In his introduction, Father Richard outlines his belief in the Trinity whist stressing the oneness of the Divine. He cites the wisdom of  the Christian mystic Lady Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) three times: 
  • "By myself I am nothing at all, but in general, I AM in the oneing of love. For it is in this oneing that the life of all people exists." 
  • "The love of God creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another person." 
  • "In the sight of God all humans are oned, and one person is all people and all people are in one person." 
  • For Richard Rohr, this is the perennial tradition, the ultimate truth about the Divine that has always been part of the Revelation shaping the Christian faith - and the faith of other religions too. 
  • Father Richard is well aware of what he calls the "deterioration of culture" all around us - for him, consumerism has some very unhealthy features. What we need is a vital counterweight: we need to learn the value of silence, to experience inner silence as "the essence of simple and stripped down", to see silence as "a living presence of itself, which is... primal, and then to see all other things - now experienced deeply - inside of that container."
  • Rohr offers this telling polarity: "The soul does not use words. It surrounds words with space, and that is what I mean by silence. The ego, on the other hand, uses words to get what it wants."    
  • "Silence is a kind of wholeness... It can absorb paradoxes and contradictions. Maybe that is why we do not like silence. There is nothing to argue about in true inner silence... It comes down to this: the ego loves something it can take sides on... this common tendency is dualistic thinking - and true interior silence really does not allow you to take sides." 
  • Someone who lives in a capitalist culture like we do, where everything is about competing and comparing and winning, may well find silence counter-intuitive.
  • Non-dual thinking is precisely contemplation.
  • We are now at the end of centuries of endless Christian argumentation which the world no longer listens to anymore. When we lose the contemplative mind, or non-dual consciousness, we invariably create disturbed and disturbing people who may turn to violence. Our school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says Father Richard, is trying to reintroduce the West to what we call the Perennial Tradition, the underground stream we all share. 

Richard Rohr presents a compelling case that sacred silence is the pathway to compassion, to sacred love. This was the way of George Fox. It is the Christian Way, as expressed in 1 John 4: 16: "God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them."  

All this leads to Father Richard's conclusion that the true self is compassion, in another word love itself. The 'true self' is an expression of Thomas Merton (1915-1968), the American Catholic Trappist monk, who did so much to awaken the Catholic Church to the importance of peace and the universality of the

Friday 3 November 2023


 The 'i' newspaper report (31/10/23) on proceedings at the public inquiry into COVID in the UK last Monday, 30 October 2023, noted that the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, accused Boris Johnson of being unable to lead, "changing strategic direction every day" in the weeks running up to the first lockdown. Martin Reynolds, Johnson's principal private secretary at the time admitted that the government was "grossly deficient" in the weeks leading up to the pandemic hitting the UK. By 21 February the Italian government had at last ordered parts of Lombardy into lockdown, fearing that the rising death toll would lead to the collapse of the health system in Italy. Yet Johnson received not a single note on Covid between 14 and 24 February when he was staying at Chequers, his country residence (see below for an alternative timeline). Imran Shafti, another private secretary to Johnson, said that the prime minister did not believe Covid was a "big deal" during February; it was not until Monday 23 March that he took the country into its first lockdown. Imran Shafti thought it was Johnson who had said to Sunak, the chancellor at the time, "We're killing the patient to tackle the tumour - why are we destroying the economy for people who will die anyway soon?".

Written 2020-2021; published 2022

The 'i' report (1/11/23) on proceedings the previous day, last Tuesday, highlighted the revelation that diary entries made by Sir Patrick Vallance, then the Government's chief scientific advisor, in August 2020 before the second lockdown was eventually enacted, showed that Johnson was "obsessed with older people accepting their fate and letting the young get on with life and so keeping the economy going". 

The 'i' newspaper (1/11/23) also provided a quote from Brenda Doherty of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK. She said: "Mr Johnson clearly didn't see people like my mum as human beings, and thousands of others died unnecessarily after the same mistakes were repeated.

Around 230,000 British citizens have died during this period of the pandemic, 2020-2023 - most of them between 2020 and 2021. The UK has one of the highest per capita death rates from Covid-19 in the world. The political and medical and scientific establishment colluded under the crazed leadership of a narcissistic neoliberal Tory who believed that the pursuit of profit took precedence over the health and even the lives of the citizens of his country. That's my judgement as delivered

Wednesday 1 November 2023


 I had never heard of Palden Jenkins before meeting Juliet. She is the young woman making a spiritual journey, walking from London to the Penwith peninsula in Cornwall and then returning back to London. Juliet gifted the Marazion Quakers the copy of 'Pictures of Palestine' which the author, Palden Jenkins, had given her a few days earlier when Juliet met him at the centre which is his home here in Penwith, last month.

A Palestinian demonstration in London on Saturday 21 October saw up to 300,000 on the streets - (the British media and police acknowledged only 100,000). A week later, 500,000 were demonstrating (official figures said 250,000). We have a problem in this country - actually that's my litotes. 

It has been for me an absorbing and rewarding encounter, learning about Palestine - and about Palden Jenkins. He is about my age - mid seventies, born shortly after the end of World War Two - and we both were the beneficiaries of a secondary education in a grammar school and then a university. He describes himself as 'a Sixties veteran who never quite gave up'. I can identify with that. Thereafter, Palden's life-choices were different and led to the acquisition of a range of life-skills I do not have. He has learned the skills of a healer. He is also familiar with martial arts. He is a web-master and book-editor. He is a published authority on astrology. He is also the author of a scholarly book about the ancient landscape around the festival site at Glastonbury - and his next book which is due out very soon will be a study of the ancient Penwith landscape in Cornwall. And then, of course, there have been the years as a volunteer for humanitarian causes, not least his work which started in the 1990s at the Hope Flowers School on the edge of Bethlehem in Palestine. 

Palden Jenkins

This review, as is becoming my way, takes the form of a series of bullet points that I hope will provide you with a full sense of the value of the book - and encourage you to borrow a copy from the library or buy your own. All our lives are being touched by the horrors of the mass slaughter of Jews and Palestinians in Israel and Gaza in this month of October - the picture of Palestine that Palden portrays

Thursday 26 October 2023


 There is something indecent about the way some people who have made a lot of money through the skills and labour of others seek to minimise how much tax they pay. Taxation is not an evil to be avoided. It is the most effective means a society has to ensure that all its citizens live a good enough life. 

My thanks to Just Money Movement and Church Action for Tax Justice 
                             for this photo.  

Dear Rob,


The Conservative donors who own the JCB digger company may be hit with a £500 million tax bill according to the Guardian.

HMRC has been investigating brothers Anthony and Mark Bamford’s extensive offshore business empire for over three years.

The Bamfords are alleged to have aggressively minimised the payment of UK taxes. HMRC may seek to recoup large sums of lost tax if the allegations are proven correct.

In September a Labour MP asked the Conservative Party if they would return £10 million donated to them by JCB.

JCB were also recently spotted at the Labour Party conference, exhibiting along with many

Friday 20 October 2023


 I subscribe to posts from Open Britain. They provide worthwhile analyses of the state of Britain. Try this latest post for size - I find it's so good I want to share it with you:

My thanks to the Guardian newspaper for this telling image 

Dear Rob,

We're not the only ones worried about the UK's flimsy safeguards against political corruption. Lord Evans, outgoing chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), spoke out yesterday about the UK's "very weak" compliance with ethical standards, urging for a complete "overhaul" of the way we regulate ministerial conduct. 

Evans brought up the government's recent decision to reject many of the CSPL's recommendations on improving political transparency and oversight. Even for the few meagre reforms that Sunak's government has elected to adopt, Evans is concerned that recent governments have already been ignoring the existing rules. The CSPL chair described it as a

Monday 16 October 2023


In my research for 'Mine to Die' (my latest book, due to be published in February 2024 - see this website link here), I discovered the remarkable life story of Charles Wilfrid Tregenza (1891-1974). His father was a mayor of Penzance and a Wesleyan Methodist, a man of standing in the local community. The family lived in Boslandew House in Paul, near Mousehole. Wilfrid Tregenza (as he was known to all) was the eldest of four brothers, all educated at the Truro Wesleyan College and all became conscientious objectors during the Great War (1914-1918). 

I knew enough about this remarkable man for my research purposes but I did not realize until the early summer of this year when I read the inscription on the bench outside by the kitchen door (see the end of this blogpost) that he had been a worshipper at the very same Friends Meeting House that I was now attending.    

Before Charles Wilfrid, aged 24, volunteered for battlefield ambulance work in 1915, he had enjoyed the glittering prizes that came his way as a fine athlete and a gifted scholar. By the time he was thirteen, he was winning swimming races; at eighteen, he was the school football captain and excelling in swimming, cricket, and athletics, as well as achieving outstanding public exam results. He became the first Cornish boy to win a scholarship to Cambridge where he read Mathematics at Downing College, gained a Cambridge blue and graduated with a double First in 1910. By 1914, he was mathematics master at King Edward's Grammar School, Chelmsford and a year later, mathematics master at Queen Mary's School, Basingstoke. To many observers the pathway to a headship must have seemed clear.

Charles Wilfrid Tregenza (1891-1974)

However, in 1914 a war in Europe began that was soon termed the Great War and then, in time, the First World War. In August 1915, Charles Wilfrid Tregenza signed up as an orderly for the British Red Cross Society and was soon working with the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU). His Methodist Christian faith had led him to an active pacifist position. A year later, conscription was introduced by the British government and when he heard rumours that conscientious objectors (COs) were being shot for desertion, he and several other FAU men decided to return to England to challenge the principle of conscription. Back in Cornwall, the tribunal he faced did its best to get him to compromise and return to


 Chris Nineham's 30-page essay was published this autumn as a Stop the War pamphlet. Chris is a British political activist, author, and founder member and current vice chair of the Stop the War Coalition. Here is a bullet-pointed summary of his Introduction: Selling War, the Six Steps he presents as the way forward to peace, and his Conclusion.

Chris Nineham's Stop the War pamphlet - Autumn 2023

Introduction: Selling War

  • 'Truth is the first casualty of war' is a commonplace saying that captures the reality of war. If the wider population were to understand the sheer horror of war it would be much harder to keep them on board. Lloyd George, the British PM, said this to the editor of the Guardian newspaper at the height of the carnage of World War One: 'If people knew the truth, the war would stop tomorrow'.
  • It is now widely accepted that the recent Western wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya were motivated by a desire to prop up Western influence in oil-rich and strategically important regions. But at the time, Western governments and media were saying that these wars were all about saving people from fanatics and dangerous dictators. Our troops were spreading democracy, human rights, and countering terrorism.
  • At present, the Western war effort in Ukraine is being presented as a fight for freedom, democracy and peace; the Russians are claiming that their actions are designed to thwart neo-Nazis who have seized power in Ukraine. Most of the global south is avoiding taking sides - but here in the West any criticism of the military involvement in the Ukrainian war is met with denunciation. There is a

Wednesday 4 October 2023


The first time I browsed in the small library in the Marazion Meeting Room was when my wife, Louise, and I were curating her textile art exhibition in early September this year. Serendipity pointed me to A Quaker Book of Wisdom - with the well-chosen title helping guide me. This book became my first borrowing from the library. In the last week of September, I read its 170 pages and began to look forward to writing this blog-post. By the beginning of October, I had been accepted as the new Librarian by our Marazion Quaker community, an event which makes the beginning of this blog-post series even more special for me. I hope when you read my reviews of the library books I read, you will be encouraged to borrow these books yourselves as Quakers, or purchase or borrow elsewhere.

Robert Lawrence Smith (1924 - 2021) was a birthright Quaker, a direct descendent of the first generation of Quakers in America. He toyed with the idea of being a medical man but was always drawn to the humanities and had a long career as an educator, including the headship of Sidwell Friends School, America's largest Quaker day school, from 1965 to 1978 His book is a distillation of the Quaker wisdom that has guided him through the decades of his life up to his mid-70s. The subtitle is 'Life Lessons in Simplicity, Service, and Common Sense' and the structure is indeed simple and effectively serves its purpose of providing insight into how Robert Lawrence Smith has found his inner peace and calm. There are ten chapters - Silence - Worship - Truth - Simplicity - Conscience - Non-violence - Service - Business - Education - Family - with a Prologue titled 'Let Your Life Speak' and an Epilogue summary of the book's messages which is called 'A Quaker Legacy: Ten Life Lessons'. More on that Epilogue at the end of this blog-post. 

Robert Lawrence Smith, the Headteacher from 1965 to 1978, playing chess with a student at Sidwell Quaker School (thanks to The Washington Post for this image).

For your consideration here, bullet-pointed, are some of the thoughts of Robert Lawrence Smith:

  • My Grandfather (who wrote a monograph tracing three centuries of his Quaker family's life in America) was echoing a central message of Quakerism resoundingly set forth by George Fox, the religion's seventeenth-century founder: "Let your life speak". 
  • Quaker wisdom provides lasting sustenance...the compassionate Quaker message needs to be heard in today's complex, materialistic, often unjust, and discriminatory society. Every day brings new public debate over issues Quakers have always addressed: war and peace, social

Friday 22 September 2023


 SKWAWKBOX, in the capable hands of Steve Walker, has a firm grasp of history and politics. I recommend the website. What follows below is a sound analysis of recent history:

SKWAWKBOX (SW) posted: " Activist analyses the discredited myth - or scam - that the media and pro-Israel activists still roll out and links it to the right's austerity scam In 2008, the Labour government bailed-out the British banking system with tens of billions of poun" SKWAWKBOX

There was no ‘antisemitism crisis’ when Corbyn was Labour leader – he just intended real change

Tuesday 19 September 2023


I admire Louise's talents as a textile artist. It is a joy to find that so many other people find her work stimulates thought and feeling.

We are very grateful that Marazion Quakers suggested that Louise consider mounting an exhibition in the Meeting House when they learned that the Crypt Gallery was no longer available for the planned exhibition in November this year. Louise and I had been Quaker attenders by Zoom since January 2022, moving to attendance in person in January of this year. We have our Quaker identity and the Quaker community is so welcoming. 

Louise - April 2021 - our back-garden

The sixteen pieces of textile art for the show were chosen in the Spring of this year. Five of the pieces had been exhibited before: 'Guantanamo' (NEC, Birmingham (2014 Judges' Award winner), and St Ives (2018 and 2021); 'When I am an Old Woman' (NEC, Birmingham (2019); 'Pyramids on Purple' (St Ives, 2021); 'Light Through a Mondrian Prism' (St Ives, 2021); and 'From Darkness into Light' (St Ives, 2018).

The remaining eleven pieces had all been completed between the ending of the 2021 Crypt Gallery, St Ives exhibition and the summer of this year - in around nineteen months. Together, the sixteen pieces created 'COLOUR ME PURPLE', the November 2023 Marazion exhibition. 

You can see 'Pyramids on Purple' - and the Meeting House in the foreground - and St Michael's Mount in the bay - on this cover

The catalogue that Louise and I created for this Marazion show is still available - each piece has its own page of Quaker-shaped commentary - please send an email with a donation to help us offset our printing

Friday 15 September 2023


This post is by way of explanation why you will never see any more of my blogposts on Facebook aka Meta (and I will touch on other matters too, including my life as a runner which is the excuse for these two pictures and captions below).

Finishing a Broome (Suffolk) 10K in 2012 as a Bungay Black Dog - 61 minutes and 19 seconds - the

Tuesday 25 July 2023


 I got back from my run this morning just before lunchtime - and discovered that Transform had been launched. Alleluia!

The Judas Touch

Here's how SKWAWKBOX ran the story:

Site logo image

SKWAWKBOX (SW) posted: " With 'Labour' refusing to oppose Tory two-child benefit cap, labour movement and campaigning activists have issued call for new party of the left under 'Transform' banner to offer real choice - and prevent far right filling political vacuum As Kei" SKWAWKBOX

Labour movement figures call for new party after Starmer benefit cap betrayal: Transform

Saturday 15 July 2023


 Just under a week ago, I published a blogpost that shared the insights of an Open Britain newsletter that struck me as having insights that needed sharing. 

Here is a link:

Yesterday, this week's newsletter from Open Britain had a similar feeling of importance. Phrases such as 'We're drifting into a new British dark age - and it feels like there's little individuals can do about it' and 'thirteen years of the Conservative's near-total failure to govern' seem to me spot-on. 

Thanks to EDRi20 - European Defenders of Digital Rights for this image

Most of the newsletter is taken up with an assessment of what the Labour Party under Starmer are offering - a pros and cons examination. It seems to me this study by Open Britain is helpful in highlighting a few promising ideas that Labour offered in May this year - although there is absolutely no guarantee that any will be acted on if and when Starmer is the prime-minister. It also nails the

Friday 14 July 2023


 There was an item on Channel 4 News last night which examined the cost of pay settlements - the 'experts' brought in to discuss the matter talked about the part that income tax could play but neither they nor the Channel 4 presenter referenced the elephant in the room - WEALTH TAXES.

Wealth Taxes for a more just society 

Here is a the latest newsletter I received from Tax Justice.UK:

Dear Rob,

In a world struggling with a cost of living crisis, recent research by Oxfam and ActionAid has shed light on a shocking reality.

In 2021 and 2022 the world's 722 largest companies reaped windfall profits totaling a staggering $1 trillion annually.

It couldn't be clearer that tackling the cost of living crisis requires a bold approach. This has to include higher taxes on both companies and the wealthy.

The cost of living crisis affects ordinary individuals and families who struggle to make

Monday 10 July 2023


 I get regular updates from OPEN BRITAIN - they always have their finger on the pulse of the country. I want to share their latest newsletter because I agree with the points within it and the word needs to be spread:

Warning (2018) by Louise Donovan

Dear Rob,

Whenever accountability comes knocking on his door, Rishi Sunak vanishes without a trace. Today, Byline Times Political Editor Adam Bienkov reported that the PM will be missing the debate and potential vote on the Privileges Committee's recent report – even though it suggests seven of his MPs and three Tory peers could be in contempt of Parliament. 

This is not the first performance of Sunak's disappearing act. Whenever any subject related to Boris Johnson, Conservative sleaze, or Parliamentary

Wednesday 21 June 2023


 Keeping to the promise I made in my March blogpost about Eugene McCarraher and his 2019 masterpiece, The Enchantments of Mammon, here is a summary of the Professor's main points in the first of the seven parts of his monumental work. Part One (pp.19-106) is called: The Dearest Freshness Deep Down Things: Capitalist Enchantment in Europe, 1600-1914.

McCarraher's 2019 masterpiece

  • The age of capitalist enchantment began in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. A capitalist vanguard of landowners and merchants blazed a trail of 'improvement' that swept away the ties of common-land holding that had been blessed by the medieval church. Puritan improvers had a Protestant ethic that was perfectly compatible with omens and portents and matters of the Spirit. The metaphysical enchantments of medieval Catholicism were reworked into the imperatives of Protestant dispossession and enclosure of land for profit - in the name of God.
  • English Protestants such as Richard Baxter and John Locke developed a systematic theology of the divine right of capitalist property which still embraced the power of the sacred enchantments - although other Protestants such as Gerard Winstanley and the Diggers offered a radical

Saturday 10 June 2023


Always start a blogpost with an arresting picture - and a good story. Well, the picture is as you can see an image of a group of Unite members who held a three-hour demonstration in Hayle last Wednesday. Most of those pictured are striking concrete-mixer drivers; a couple are senior Unite officials - and then there's me on the end, a Unite community member who's responding to an appeal to come and join the demo.

Greg Martin took the photograph and it was published in Cornwall Live - my thanks to them

The account of the demonstration I will save for later. First, I am indulging in some 'schadenfreude' - joy at the seeing another person's discomfort. 

Today, I am celebrating because a recent PM has left our nation's parliament. 

  • That man has resigned his parliamentary seat in a fit of anger. He has made a crazy miscalculation that soon he will return to his rightful place as the nation's leader.   
  • That man is a serial liar.
  • That man suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, in much the same way as his American