A good time to be alive….

To accompany my post about 1960s fashion today, I am happy to reblog this marvellous memoir from Janet, with photos of her own life in the same period.

My Life as an Artist (2)

With my two friends Patrick and Maureen in front of the then newly constructed Commonwealth Institute in Kensington London…….now The Design Museum.

I posted this image on FB and Twitter this week with the added text saying ‘whata good time this was to be alive’. In this post I want to examine why so many feel this way.

I will be 77 years old tomorrow….which is a good time to re-examine life…

On my Lambretta scooter with Maureen on the back – Kensington London.

These pictures were taken in 1964 – when I was studying at Rochester Art College…..and only two years before I sailed for the United States…something I had no idea about at the time these pictures was taken.

Although I had not a clue where life would take me, at that time America was not in the cards!

It was to be the start…

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England In The 1960s: More Photos From Tony Ray-Jones

Tony Ray-Jones loved to observe English people when they were relaxing. I found more of his photos online.

A boat trip off the coast at Eastbourne, 1967.

A beauty contest in Newquay, Cornwall. 1967

Enjoying an ice cream at the Epsom Derby, 1967.
(Littering did not seem to bother them.)

Schoolboys on a break at the prestigious Eton College, 1967.

Afternoon dancing in the ballroom at Morecambe, Lancashire. 1968.

Getting a good viewpoint at the Isle of Wight pop festival, 1968.

Enjoying a sit at the seaside, location unknown. 1968.

Our Multi-National, Multi-Cultural Country

I watched a report on the BBC about statistics for England and Wales regarding the numbers of people born outside those countries, but resident in them as of late 2021.
(Scotland was not included as it had not participated in the survey.)

I looked up some of the details available.

People born in India top the list, with a total of 920,000 born in India, but living in England or Wales.

760,000 people who were born in Poland also have a British passport, along with 539,000 people born in Romania.

EU nationals account for 36.4% of those born abroad, but living in England or Wales.

Between 2011 and 2021, the population of England and Wales rose by over 3,000,000 as a result of foreign-born migrants, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Other nationalities in the top five include Pakistan, and Ireland. Total numbers of foreign-born residents now exceed 10,000,000, almost 14% of the population.

Over 35% of all foreign-born nationals living in England and Wales live in Greater London

I find all of this fascinating. As a former Londoner, I can confirm the last figures. London is incredibly diverse, and the different cultures have added to the overall enjoyment of living in that city.

However, where I live now, in Beetley in rural Norfolk, I could count foreign-born nationals on both hands and have fingers to spare.

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.

English History: The Battle of Towton

The largest and bloodiest battle in English history is almost unknown, in 2022. During the Wars of The Roses in 1461, close to the village of Towton near the city of York, a battle was fought during a snowstorm in March that year. When it was over, 28,000 soldiers had been killed, a total never exceeded in England since.

The Wars of The Roses lasted from 1455-1487, a civil war in England lasting for 32 years over who should succeed to the crown. On one side, the Yorkists with their emblem of a white rose. Their enemy was the Lancastrians, who used a red rose as their symbol. The contest began with the capture of Henry VI by Richard Duke of York, and thus began over 30 years of fighting to determine who would be the rightful king of England.


Henry VI

In 1460 the English parliament passed an act to let York succeed Henry as king. The queen refused to accept the dispossession of her own son, Edward of Westminster’s right to the throne, and succeeded in raising a large army of supporters, who then promptly defeated and killed York in the Battle of Wakefield. The late duke’s supporters considered the Lancastrians to have reneged on the parliamentary act of succession – a legal agreement – and York’s son and heir, Edward, found enough backing to denounce Henry and declare himself king. The Battle of Towton was to affirm the victor’s right to rule over England through force of arms.

On reaching the battlefield, the Yorkists found themselves heavily outnumbered. Part of their force under the Duke of Norfolk had yet to arrive. The Yorkist leader Lord Fauconberg turned the tables by ordering his archers to take advantage of the strong wind to outrange their enemies. The one-sided missile exchange, with Lancastrian arrows falling short of the Yorkist ranks, provoked the Lancastrians into abandoning their defensive positions.

The ensuing hand-to-hand combat lasted hours, exhausting the combatants. The arrival of Norfolk’s men reinvigorated the Yorkists and, encouraged by Edward, they routed their foes. Many Lancastrians were killed while fleeing; some trampled one another and others drowned in the rivers, which are said to have run red with blood for several days. Several who were taken prisoner were executed.

In 1929 the Towton Cross was erected on the battlefield to commemorate the event. Various archaeological remains and mass graves related to the battle have been found in the area centuries after the engagement.

The Peasants’ Revolt

Something happened in England in 1381 that I recently had cause to remember learning about at school, when faced with the awful policies of our current government.

King Richard II (who was King at the age of 14) imposed a new tax, a poll tax on every adult of four pence. Everyone had to pay, whatever their circumstances. So the poorest in the land had to pay the same as noblemen and wealthy businessmen.

Richard II.

A radical preacher, John Ball, stirred up the poor workers with his sermons that everyone should be equal, and that it was not God’s will for some to be rich while others struggled. As well as resisting the new tax, workers demanded an end to serfdom (tied labour), the right to seek out their own employment, and an end to the social structure that provided the ruling classes the given right to be in power.

John Ball was imprisoned, and a group of peasants broke him out of jail. They were led by Wat Tyler, a man who had become impressed with the teachings of Ball, and was determined to overthrow the system in England.

Wat Tyler.

With trouble breaking out all over England, Poll Tax collectors were killed, and a large peasant army congregated in Kent, with Tyler in command. John Ball joined the rebels, and encouraged them to force their demands on the king.

John Ball addressing the rebel army.

He led his force to attack London, and they joined with other peasant armies, crossing London Bridge in June 1381. The rebels proceeded to kill anyone they thought to be complicit in helping the King and his government. They burned public records, and opened the prisons to free those held captive.

Three days later, the teenage King rode out with his bodyguards to meet with the rebels at Smithfield. He promised all their leaders a pardon for everyone involved, and pledged to consider all their demands and to make concessions to them if they withdrew and ended the rebellion. Many of the leaders were satisfied, and immediately left London with their armies. However, Wat Tyler was not happy. He continued to berate the King, using offensive language. This angered the nobles charged with protecting him, and William Walworth, The Lord Mayor of London, rode forward to arrest Tyler.

When he resisted arrest, Walworth slashed him across the neck with his sword, and another nobleman stabbed Wat in his body. After falling from his horse gravely wounded, Tyler was taken to a hospital that treated the poor. But the nobles dragged him from there, and chopped off his head in front of the crowds at Smithfield. Then they carried his head through the city displayed on a pole, before placing it on a spike at the entrance to London Bridge.

The death of Wat Tyler.

With Wat Tyler dead, his army dispersed, and left London to go back to their homes in Kent. Meanwhile, the King revoked all of the promised concessions, and the rebels were hunted down ruthlessly. Over the following weeks, many were executed without trial.

Two months in the summer of 1381. 641 years later, we need another Wat Tyler.

But this time, we need someone who wins.

Queen Boudica And The Iceni

Where I live now in the county of Norfolk, eastern England, was once home to a tribal people called the Iceni. They extended south into modern-day Suffolk, and west as far as what we now call Cambridgeshire. They were one of the original Brittonic peoples.

At the time of the Roman Invasion, they had been well-established and powerful since the early Iron Age. They had a social structure, a royal hierachy, and issued coinage that could be used in the territory they controlled.

Most lived in fortified villages, in large houses made of rendered mud with thatched roofs. (Replica of an Iceni village)

After the Roman conquest was completed by Emperor Claudius in AD43, the Iceni allied with the invaders, and that decision allowed them to expand, as well as becoming wealthier and more influential. However, the Romans constantly sought to integrate the Iceni into Roman society, and after the death of her husband in AD60, the new Queen of the Iceni, Boudica, began a revolt against the Roman occupiers. For over a year, her large army of over 30,000 untrained warriors, led by her riding in a chariot, defeated many Roman armies sent against it, and managed to travel south as far as the Roman city of Londinium, (London) which was looted and burned.

On the way to London, her army attacked the Roman city of Camulodonum (modern day Colchester) killing every single person inside, then went on to defeat a Roman force of 2,000 professional soldiers of the 9th legion that had just arrived outside that city.

Once in Londinium, the Iceni spared nobody in the Romanized capital. Contemporary reports put the death toll at close to 70,000 soldiers and citizens. Things were looking so bad for the Romans, the Emperor seriously considered abandoning Britain entirely, and returning all his soldiers and citizens to Rome.

However, Roman General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus returned with his army from a campaign in Wales, determined to crush the Iceni rebellion. Joined by other British tribes, Boudica took an army estimated to be almost 80,000 strong, and set off to meet the approaching Romans. Somewhere in modern-day Shropshire, on the old Roman road named Watling Street, the armies clashed in AD61.

Despite his force being heavily outnumbered, Suetonius had 10,000 well trained and battle-hardened soldiers under his command who could be relied upon to fight in formation, and obey every order.

By contrast, Boudica’s huge force was relatively untrained, poorly equipped, and had just travelled a long way on foot, living off the land. They attacked the Roman army in a disorganised fashion, and were easliy beaten, with most of their number being killed. It was said that Boudica took poison when she realised they would be defeated, rather than face capture, and the shame of slavery.

Boudica (also called Boadicea) is commemorated by this statue, on the north side of Westminster Bridge in London.

She is known to history as ‘The Warrior Queen’ of England.

Historical Norfolk In Photos

Closer to home for me these days, some great history can be seen in the county that contains Beetley.

Kings Lynn.
During the 14th century, this West Norfolk town was the most important port in all of England. Some of the historic dockside has been resored.

Central Norwich.
The old part of the city has remained the same since the Elizabethan age. These photos are modern, it still looks the same today.

Bickling Hall.
The stately home where Anne Boleyn was born in 1501. The house as it is shown here was mainly built in 1616, by Sir Henry Hobart. It is now managed by The National Trust, and open to visitors.

Oxburgh Hall.
A moated country house, built by in 1482 by Sir Edmund Bedingfield, and later crenellated. He was a supporter of the Yorkists during the Wars of The Roses. Now managed by The National Trust, and open to visitors.

St Benet’s Abbey.
Close to the east coast near Great Yarmouth, this dates from 1022, at the time of King Harold Godwinson who was killed in 1066 at The Battle of Hastings. Sir John Fastoff (Shakespeare’s Falstaff) was buried here.

Neolithic Europe And Beyond

The Neolithic period dates from 10,000 BC until 4,500 BC. It began 12,022 years ago, long before Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, or the Mayan and Aztec civilisations in the Americas. Given those dates, it is easy to imagine that you would find little trace of Neolithic settlements and buildings today. But nothing could be further from the truth, thanks to the work of archaeologists.

Stonehenge. One of the best-known examples of a stone temple, situated in the south-west of England.
It was built around 5,000 years ago, so is ‘Late Neolithic’.

A Dolmen, or burial tomb. This one is in Italy.

The oldest religious structure known so far. Built in 10,000 BC. It is in Anatolia, Turkey.

Temples on the Island of Malta. Over 6,000 years old, so older than the Pyramids in Egypt.

A farmstead on a Scottish Island. This is dated from 3,500 BC, so is 5,500 years old.

The entrance to a 5,000 year old burial tomb in Denmark. Forty bodies were found inside a huge mound.

Last but not least, the remains of the original walls of Jericho, in Palestine. They are estimated to be 12,000 years old.

New Beginnings?

Tomorrow sees the swearing-in of a new President of The United States. Even allowing for the issues surrounding the recent protest in Washington D.C. and the risk of more disturbances during the inauguration, that must feel like a new beginning to most of my American blogging friends. (I know there are some who are not that happy about it.)

I don’t live in America, as you know, and I have never even visted that country. But everyone in the world lives under the influence of America in one way or another, like it or not. So I would like to see the USA heal its divisions, take care of its poor and unemployed, provide better healthcare systems, and try to do something to stop the constant shootings that happen there.

It would also be nice if they stopped using military solutions to try to solve problems in other countries, and to forge good working relationships with countries that they currently see as enemies.

Is any of the above possible? Well anything is possible, but it remains to be seen if it happens. Whatever the Biden and Harris team manages to achieve, one thing is sure. They are not Trump and Pence, so that gives them a head start as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

Could the worldwide vaccination programmes herald a new beginning too? Or more like a return to how things were. We can only hope so. But it is going to be a long time before we find out. Even in Britain with its relatively small population, it will be October before all the people over the age of eighteen have been vaccinated. Then there will be those who decline any vaccine, and cannot be compelled to have it. They will potentially remain a danger to the rest of us.

As it stands, I cannot see that 2021 will bring universal heath care in America, or that I will be able to enter a shop of any kind in England without wearing a mask.

But I live in hope.