2 September 2014

Banners

When I heard that there was to be an exhibition of National Union of Mineworkers banners at Barnsley Civic Theatre, I was keen to go - even with my housemaid's knee. I feel a great affinity with the coal miners of South Yorkshire - partly because my mother came from a coal mining family and both her father and grandfather worked underground in the first three decades of the twentieth century. 

Furthermore, during the miners' strike of 1984-85 my allegiance was with them and not with Thatcher and the police force she utilised to achieve her spiteful decimation of our country's coal industry. It was in my heart - like a coal fire. I sent them money and tins of food and wore a "Coal Not Dole" badge on my lapel. I even wrote a song called "On Orgreave Field" about the famous Battle of Orgreave which saw the miners defeated by the massed ranks of the British police - many flown up to Yorkshire specially from London and the south east. They waved their pay slips at the penniless miners.

The memory of that industrial struggle remains vivid and raw in the South Yorkshire coalfield. Thirty years later it has not been forgotten and the banners at Barnsley Civic Theatre are testament to that struggle, that industrial heritage and the countless men who lost their lives for those black diamonds.

31 August 2014

Regulation

How shall we reduce carbon emissions in the European Union? Shall we limit the travel plans of Members of the European Parliament and all the administrative minions who support them? Shall we require them to live in smaller houses that require less energy? Shall we instruct them to use public transport? Shall we outlaw the production and distribution of unwanted marketing material? Shall we examine and act upon the excesses of the free market whereby food stuffs are flown around the world and bottled water is transported hundreds of miles by trucks along already crowded roads? Will we ban the manufacture of Formula 1 racing cars? Shall we require EU officials to shut down computers when they are not using them? No my friends. None of the above. 

Instead we will prevent ordinary people from buying powerful vacuum cleaners that are designed to suck up dust more effectively than less powerful vacuum cleaners. Yes vacuum cleaners like the Hoover Smart Pets SM1901 Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner which has a power output of 1900 watts. Such profligate machines will be banned. Europeans will be restricted to buying electric cleaners with a maximum power of 1600 watts and in the future we will bring this down to 900 watts. Maybe in the future we will ban vacuum cleaners entirely, urging our citizens to use sweeping brushes instead. And shall we ask the people if they agree with this absurd and highly questionable ruling? No way José! No way!

30 August 2014

Martyr

I am aware that most members of the YPFC visit this blog mainly to view photos from my various country and foreign  rambles. However, because of my ongoing knee pain I have been unable to explore places recently and therefore it has been very difficult to post new pictures. For this I apologise from the depths of my soul. Fearing that I might lose the devotion of the YPFC, I decided to fight this excruciating pain - pain that would surely have hospitalised lesser men - in order to bring you the following photographs.

The first two involved a drive to Harthill which is Yorkshire's most southerly village. It is a great village with everything - just like Hathersage - but much less visited. It has a school, a village shop, a fish and chip shop, a sports ground, an old church, two pubs, many splendid houses and plenty of history and it is just far enough away from the nearby M1 motorway to be quiet. 
And I took the following two pictures today in the Vale of Edale. Dad's Taxi had just transported our Ian to Ollerbrook Farm where he was meeting up with old friends to mark somebody's thirtieth birthday. They are staying out there the whole weekend. I stopped on the railway bridge and howling involuntarily as the housemaid's knee wrought its vengeance upon me I staggered between the stone parapets to bring these photographs to the recently undernourished YPFC:-

29 August 2014

Housemaid

For the past week I have been incapacitated - probably by a condition called prepatellar bursitis that is colloquially known as housemaid's knee. I would prefer its common name to be something like warrior's knee or butch he-man's knee but no, the popular name harks back to a time when working women spent an awful lot of time down on their knees - scrubbing floors and doorsteps I hasten to add!

Normally, when I do any work that involves kneeling I get out my trusty square of thick foam rubber that I have found useful when gardening, laying carpets, repairing paths and anything else that involves putting weight on my knees. But last Wednesday while painting a chest of drawers upstairs, I realised I would have to kneel down for a minute or two while I painted the little legs at the base. It even crossed my mind to go down to our underhouse to get the foam mat but I had paint on my hands and knew I wouldn't be on my knees for very long at all.

On Thursday morning I woke up with a surprising pain in my left knee and it has persisted for over a week. It's okay when my leg is extended or when sitting. It's the transitional movement that sparks the pain. So there hasn't been much walking - just hobbling and quite a lot of grimacing. Getting in and out of the car has been tortuous as has climbing into bed. I keep thinking it is getting better but later I am not so sure. I have checked out most of the internet information and YouTube videos concerning  prepatellar bursitis and could now sit  a medical exam on the subject.

Linked to the injury, two other matters are now pressing on my mind. Firstly, next week I want to help our lovely daughter move flats in Birmingham. With a painful knee that makes the lifting of boxes problematic. Secondly, in just over a week we are bound for Gran Canaria on holiday and I don't want to be restricted to hobbling to the swimming pool within our little apartment complex.

Oh woe is me! ISIS may be killing the innocent, the victims of MH370 may still be lying at the bottom of the ocean, Hull City may have departed from The Europa League competition and ebola may be stalking West Africa but such matters are as nothing compared with my housemaid's knee. Come on dumb knee joint! Get better! Enough is enough.

27 August 2014

Girls

Rotherham Child Abuse Scandal - Ring A
Eight of the perpetrators
Yesterday some awful news emerged from Rotherham - a town which is joined at the hip to Sheffield. For faraway visitors to this blog, let me tell you that over a period of fifteen years, over 1400 children from Rotherham suffered sexual abuse. The victims were mostly impressionable young white girls who were first groomed and then assaulted by British Asian men - often gangs of them. Sometimes the girls would be driven to other towns and cities where more abuse took place as Muslim men with Pakistani heritage networked in a heartless and Machiavellian manner to achieve their bestial pleasures with no apparent concern that these girls were other men's daughters.

At the moment, the knives are out for any public servants who failed in their duties - failed to listen, failed to understand, failed to act. There were many signals about what was going on but it seems there was a widespread reluctance to tackle the cancer because this might have inflamed racial sensitivities in the town and nobody wants to appear racist do they?

However, it was not the chief constable, the leader of the council, the social workers, the head of child support services, the doctors, the nurses or the teachers who abused those girls - it was the men - almost all from the Pakistani/Muslim community. They alone were responsible.

In the British Muslim world there often seems to be a medieval attitude towards women. They are treated both like second class citizens and as angelic objects of reverence. This is in sharp contrast to my own view of women who I simply see as people just like me - my equals, human beings together no matter what our gender. But of course I am an atheist. There is no religion to guide my journey through life or my attitude to the world around me. In contrast, those Rotherham men would certainly claim to be guided by Allah as they refer to the Qua-ran in their daily lives. They probably visit their local mosque and they will have mothers and sisters, maybe even wives who they deal with according to their faith.

And to me, it is not only the evil actions of these men that needs close examination but also the religious context of their lives - a context in which women are not treated as equals, We the tolerant "White British" host community are meant to blithely accept this medieval outlook in our midst, to keep quiet, to accept and say dumb things like "Everybody's entitled to their own beliefs", And we keep our mouths shut for fear of being called racist.

But what has happened in Rotherham and is probably still happening there and in Oldham and Bradford and Rochdale and Huddersfield and Manchester has much to do with the Muslim view of women. The perpetrators have emerged from that context and there is a sense in which it is that religious context that is largely to blame. You don't get gangs of atheists befriending vulnerable girls in the streets before abusing them and passing them around like parcels. We should be braver. We should speak out. Tolerance is sometimes simply cowardice in disguise.

26 August 2014

Song

"At Seventeen" by Janis Ian (1974)

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone

Who called to say, "Come dance with me"
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems at seventeen

A brown-eyed girl in hand-me-downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said, "Pity, please, the ones who serve
'Cause they only get what they deserve"

And the rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

So remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity

Their small town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game and when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown

They call and say, "Come dance with me"
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me at seventeen

25 August 2014

Ethnicity

The official ethnic make-up of the population of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has changed very little since 2001. The white "host" community is still far and away the largest ethnic group in the country. We are generally people whose family roots in these islands go back a long way. The 2001 "cake" shows that 91.3% of the British people were "white". Of course not all of these belong to the original host community for we have EU nationals in our midst - Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians for example. We even have French!

Overall calculations based on the 2011 census suggest that 82% of the population are "White British". Looking back, let me illustrate this with memories of my own time in schools - both as a pupil and as a teacher. In my village primary school of about 200 pupils there was only one pupil who wasn't "White British". His name was Steven and he was of mixed race - his mother having had an affair with a black American airman some time in the summer of 1950. In my two secondary schools - one in Hull and the other in Beverley - there was not one black or Asian scholar. We were all "White British".

On to teaching in Britain. I taught in three Scottish schools during my training years and there was not a single black, Asian or mixed race child in any of those schools. At Dinnington School (1978-1980), again not a single black, Asian or mixed race child - all "White British". In my first Sheffield school - Rowlinson (1980-!985) I again cannot remember a single pupil who wasn't "White British". And in the final school where I was sentenced to twenty two years of hard labour - in the poorer northern suburbs of Sheffield - there was only ever a small handful of "non-White British". Two nice Sikh lads from a corner shop close to Parson Cross Estate, a refugee called Brighton who came from Zimbabwe, the daughters of the Chinese family who ran the nearby takeaway and half a dozen mixed race children - the products of long buried love affairs with West Indian or African men. That was about it.

I know that London is a different kettle of fish entirely. It is perhaps the world's biggest and most varied melting pot of races with people hailing from just about every other country on the planet. Of course London is also  at the core of the TV and media industry and it's where our national politicians pontificate, But London is not England and it certainly isn't Great Britain. It is very easy to get the nature of our multi-ethnic country out of proportion - to forget that this is principally still a "White British" country. But in the politically correct rush to demonstrate democratic and anti-racist values, it seems to me that the "White British", the host community, are frequently being sidelined or treated with an element of disdain - ignoring the arithmetical significance of our overwhelming majority presence.

At this point, I can sense "Disgusted" of Tunbridge Wells and others starting to bristle in their armchairs with little Acme racism detector antennae bristling and bleeping like smoke alarms. "Let's torch Pudding Towers! He's gone and joined the Ku Klux Klan!" But stay with me - I haven't reached my main point.

What I want to get at is television advertising. In recent years I have noticed that the ethnic make-up of television advertising is generally out of synch with the make-up of the population -  facts already covered above. There'll be a pizza party or a bunch of pretty models promoting skin products or a family buying a new car and there's always a significant black or Asian presence in the ad.. Increasingly, I see middle class families from AdWorld and there'll be a black daddy or a black mummy with a white spouse. It's as if the advertisers are becoming afraid to reflect our true ethnic picture - preferring to opt for a false portrait of Great Britain in which every other human being, every other household is black or Asian. That is demonstrably not the case.

Yes Britain is far less "White British" than when I was growing up. That is true. But the statistics still tell us that "White British" are overwhelmingly the largest ethnic group in our country and surely this should be simply and accurately reflected in our media, including television advertising, websites and public information products.

From the Royal Bank of Scotland website
Howard - Halifax Building Society advertising