Retro Music 4

Steely Dan has been one of my lifelong favourite bands since I first heard their music in 1972. Fifty years later, I still listen to their back catalogue as much as I ever did.

Last night, I was watching a new documentary film on the BBC.
This film. (It is very good.)

Over the closing credits, Scottish singer Lulu performed a cover version of a Steely Dan song. She did a great job, but the original wins for me.

Only In England: The Photos Of Tony Ray-Jones And Martin Parr

The British photographer Tony Ray-Jones died in 1972 at the age of 30. In his short career, Ray-Jones helped transform British photography, his work influencing a whole generation of later photographers, including Martin Parr. Their photography was celebrated in a combined exhibition in 2013, called ‘Only In England’.

A man economising by not buying sunglasses. Blackpool, Lancashire. 1968

Two women in a Methodist Chapel, Mankinholes, Lancashire. 1975.

Brick Lane Market, London. The man has bought a chair, and is carrying it home on his head. 1966.

A couple outside a tea hut, 1967. Location unknown.

A man cleaning his windows, 1975. His name is Mr Tom Greenwood, but no location is specified.

This man is having a good look at a trendy young woman. Carnaby Street, London. 1967.

Men posing outside a holiday caravan, 1967. One seems ready to go swimming, but no location is given.

May Day, 1967. People enjoying a celebratory picnic, despite the rain.

Changing The World

Did you ever think you would help to change the world?

I did.

I was almost sixteen years old, and reading a lot of books. And I was also watching the news. Lots of things were happening.

*The Prague Spring.
*The Vietnam War.
*Civil Rights Protests at some American universtities.
*Protests at universities in Japan.
*Student protests in Poland.
*Demonstration against the Vietnam war in London.
*Baader-Meinhof terror bombings in Germany.
*Martin Luther King Jnr assassinated in America.
*Student riots and civil unrest in Paris.
*Student demonstrations in Yugoslavia.
*Robert Kennedy assassinated in America.
*State of emergency in Malaya following a Communist insurgency.
*Demonstrations against the military government of Brazil.
*Women’s Liberation protests in America and Britain.
*The ‘Troubles’ begin in Northern Ireland.
*Black Power salutes are seen at the Olympic Games.
*Israel attacks Lebanon.

Yes, a big list, and all in one year. And that is only a selection.

So, the young and committed me decides that the world is changing. The old order is being challenged, and I want to be a part of that. I am going to look back in old age, remembering how the younger generation in 1968 changed the world.

First step. I join the Young Communist League. At the time, this was the under-18 section of the British Communist Party. I go to the first meeting and I am overwhelmed by the bureaucracy and lack of enthusiasm. At another meeting, someone turns up with a deactivated WW2 rifle, and shows us how it works. He tells us that we will need to know how to use weapons when we ‘take to the streets and seize power’. We are going to sweep away the aristocrats and big-business millionaires, ensuring a fairer society for everyone in Britain.

I look around the room. There are eleven of us at the meeting. As keen as I am, I think we might be slightly outnumbered by the British Army.

After that, I don’t go to many meetings. Mainly because my parents moved us out to Kent, and it was too far to travel.

Fast forward to me at eighteen. I am working now, and my membership has been moved up to the adult section of the British Communist Party. But most of the time I am too busy to go to meetings. I have a car, a regular girlfriend, and almost forget about politics for some years. I stop paying my subscriptions eventually, and I am no longer a Party member.

By 1977 I am married, and my first wife and I both join the local branch of The Labour Party. There is a Labour government, but it is led by one of the rather stuffy moderates, Jim Callaghan. We go to some meetings, put some leaflets through letterboxes. But in middle-class Wimbledon, it is all very comfortable. Nobody talks about changing the world, they are more interested in the better schools for their kids, and local issues like rubbish collection.

And they don’t really like the idea of any poor people living in the same street.

Then I heard about the Militant Tendency. This was a far-left group within the Labour Party. I was still paying my subscriptions, so I joined that group too. This took me back to my original ideas in 1968. We would change the Labour Party by working within the structure. Get back to the Socialist roots. Support the working classes, tax the rich, and spend the money on promoting social equality.

Maybe I could be part of changing the world after all, but I was going to have to settle with starting in England.

It didn’t work of course. The newspapers caught on, and vilified the leaders and organisers of The Militant Tendency, calling them revolutionaries and Communists in disguise. (Both actually true.)

It seemed I was going to have to be content with my role as a union organiser in The London Ambulance Service, where I had already earned the occasional nickname of ‘Stalin’.

Besides, in 1986, the Labour Party expelled me as a member, along with everyone else associated with Militant Tendency. The Communist Party had split into pro-Soviet and anti-Soviet groups, and I had nowhere to go. My politics were old hat. The Sovet bloc was fracturing, and the hard left was splitting into ever more smaller parties. None of those held any attraction to me.

Now I sit here, seventy years old and in a reflective mood, on a very hot day in Beetley. I left my last Trade Union in 2012, and I live in the heartland of right-wing Conservatism. The unions have lost most of their power, and many people work for minimum wage on no-hours contracts. Some cannot pay their fuel bills, or put enough food on the table for their families. The rich are obscenely richer, and the government is run by heartless capitalists who think it is amusing to grind down the working classes into a life of despair.

Change the world? Me? That’s a laugh.

Yet More Nostalgic Photos

I cannot seem to get enough of these memories!

A seafood seller outside a London pub, 1960s.

A man selling live eels from a market stall. London, 1960.

A mussel stall. London, 1956.

A grocer’s shop selling fresh fruit and vegetables. 1969.

A bus conductor on his platform, 1967. (Buses no longer have conductors.)

The view on the top deck of a double decker bus, 1960s.

Queuing for the ice-cream man, 1969.

A carefully-posed interior shot of a London Underground train, 1972.

Using a lamp-post as a swing, 1960.

A Ford Capri parked outside a Wimpy Bar. South London, 1970s. (I loved Wimpy Bars, and once owned a Ford Capri.)

More London Nostalgia In Photos

Mini-Skirted girls, late 1960s.

Standard Underground Train interior, 1967.

The ABC Cinema Elephant and Castle in my youth.

The same cinema, sadly ‘redeveloped’ later.

The marvellous interior of Gants Hill Underground Station, East London.

The Art Deco exterior of Southgate Underground Station, North London.

Ealing Common Underground Station, with a ‘retro’ restored tube train dating from 1938.

Living in the last two houses in the street. East London, 1971.

East India Docks, 1971.

Age Test

I saw a nostalgia photo-post online, and it made me smile. If you remember all these things, you are as old as me, or close enough.

We had this same model on top of our Christmas tree every year. My mum’s pride and joy.

The ubiquitous school clocks, and the pencil sharpeners I used every day.

My first cassette recorder. How I loved that!

8-Track music tapes. When I bought a car that came with an 8-track player, I had to go out and buy some to play as I drove along.

The first camera I owned in my teens. An Instamatic with flashcube!

The machine for making card transactions. The flimsy paper was rubbed over your card placed in the carriage, and you got a copy as thin as a tissue.

Halcyon days!

Selling Yourself: Part Six

Another reblog from 2013, continuing this series about my early career in sales. I thought it was in 6 parts, but have just rediscovered a last part, which I will post tomorrow. I think only Jude has seen this before.


I hope I am not wearing down my readers, with this unusually long series on my exploits in the world of sales. Judging by figures for the posts, enthusiasm has dimmed somewhat since Part One. There is one more to go after this, and that will take me up to the Ambulance Service. No more selling stories to come after that, I promise.

As I have previously told you, I needed a job, as the shop was not paying enough to save for a future. I saw one advertised locally, and had an idea that I could get it, if I gave a good interview. It was back to sausages and pies, something I at least knew a lot about. My first employer in that field had now been swallowed up, and had become part of the brand leader, who had been my second employer. There was a new number…

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Selling Yourself: Part Five

Part five of a series from 2013. This covers the time when my mother and I ran our own business. For the benefit of non-UK readers, an ‘Off-Licence’ is known elsewhere as a ‘Liquor Store’.


At the end of Part Four, I mentioned two more jobs, both covered previously, in other posts. These are behind us as we continue, and it is now 1976. My next sales venture was back in retail, though in a very different way from before, and for totally different reasons. I have touched on this earlier, in a post I called ‘Looking after Mum’, and I will now go into it in more detail, and if you will forgive me, at considerable length.

When my Dad left, and forced the sale of the marital home, I was working as a taxi driver in Kent, and Mum was working in an office job. I was in my early 20’s, and did not want to be tied to a mortgage at the time, especially one taken out with my own Mum. However, it was highly unlikely that we would have qualified for…

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