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.

Some Sunday Musings

Unlike my frequent ‘Thinking Aloud On A Sunday’ posts, this is more by way of a collection of things I have been thinking about over the past week.

I have had to face the fact that I can no longer do many jobs around the house and garden. What with Vertigo, muscle weakness caused by Statins destroying my arm muscles, and the general onset of old age, I have let things go, to say the least.

I finally bit the bullet, and arranged for contractors to come and give estimates for clearing the shabby front driveway, and relaying the gravel that once covered the car parking area. With space to park up to four cars, depending how big they are, this is a considerable job. When I look back at old photos taken when I was regularly weeding and tidying the area, I hate that it now looks like nobody has bothered for a few years.

The first man who came was very local, living just a few streets away. He gave a fair price, and offered to start very soon. But when he was contacted to accept the quote, he wanted half the money up front.

This is a warning flag for home owners. NEVER pay any money up front for any work on your property, especially to someone you have never met before. He was told “Thanks but no thanks”, and the second man was contacted.

Fortunately, he was completely professional, and our attitude to him was helped by the fact that he had done some garden landscaping work for a neighbour earlier this year. Not only did he provide a fair (albeit more expensive) quote, he made us feel very confident with his grasp of what was required. In addition, his company can tackle other jobs we need doing next year, like sorting out the wonky patio at the back, fixing a fence and gate, and paving over some parts of the lawn.

Hopefully, we should have a fresh and smart driveway before Christmas, and arrangements in place to have the back garden sorted next Spring.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

A few houses in the village already have Christmas lights illuminated on their houses. Is it just me, or are people celebrating things earlier and earlier every year? We haven’t even got past Halloween, and some are beginning to celebrate Christmas in late October. My own opinion is that this actually diminishes the traditional enjoyment of any celebratory festivities, and I fully expect to be seeing Christmas lights in August soon.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

It has been nice to see Ollie chasing deer again this week. As he has been getting old so visibly, and not enjoying very long walks anymore, his sudden bursts of enthusiasm to chase random deer in the woodland are a delight. Of course, he has no hope of catching them, and he pays for it later with much longer sleeps, and stiff front legs by late evening. But I want him to enjoy life, even though he really is too old for such hunting exploits.

Sometimes, I think about life without Ollie, if he goes before me. I try to cut those thoughts short, as life without my constant companion and best friend is not something I enjoy contemplating.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Covid-19 is still very much in the news. Despite all the government self-congratulation, infections are back on the rise, and deaths attributed to the virus account for around 100 reported every day. That means that 3,100 people in England will have died of Covid-19 by the end of October. Imagine the catastrophic impact on all those families.

Yet more and more people refuse to be vaccinated, and continue to assert that it is all just a conspiracy.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

Best wishes, Pete.

Thinking Aloud On A Sunday

Selfishness.

Following the media hype about non-existent fuel shortages, the last few days have shown us the worst side of human nature that exists in this country. A blatant display of selfishness and disregard for others that always makes me ashamed to be English.

There have been confrontations in queues at petrol stations, and examples of flock mentality that makes me question the intelligence of English people in general. Hard to work out when this happened, but it is a long way from the pulling together and genuine community spirit that got this country through WW2.

Not content with filling up the tank of their car, many drivers rushed to also fill containers with extra fuel.

There were also people on Ebay trying to sell full containers at inflated prices. Shame on them.

This idiot was photographed filling unsuitable plastic water bottles with fuel, turning his car into a potential bomb.

I woke up this morning thinking about people like those pictured. People who don’t care about essential workers needing fuel to get into work to serve the community. People who feel satisfied when they have bought as much petrol as they can cram into any available container, then presumably drive home with a smug smile, hoping to boast about their exploits to family and friends.

They are not me. I am not one of them. They disgust me.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Opening up England.

Last Sunday evening, we ate out in a local pub. Our first restaurant meal since Christmas Day, 2020. There were disposable paper menus, table service, and the staff were wearing masks. Diners had to also wear masks until seated, and if they left their table for any reason.

In the nearby town, every shop is now open, although customers are still asked to wear masks inside when shopping. Despite the recent rise in cases of the Covid-19 ‘Indian Variant’ in some parts of England, it appears that the government is going ahead with its plan to fully ‘Open up’ the country on the 21st of June.

This will be good news for some companies involved in the tourist industry, also for service industries like wedding venues, and organisers of similar social gatherings. Nightclubs and other entertainment venues will be allowed to open with no restrictions on numbers, though wearing a mask will technically still be compulsory in many public places.

This new policy has made a lot of people very happy of course. Coming alongside a welcome change in the weather, England looks set to go a little ‘crazy’ as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

The lockdown rules have seemed to last for so long now, any break from the restrictive routines is bound to be welcomed.

But. There is always a but.

Having fun and adding alcohol to that doesn’t usually make for sensible behaviour, and keeping to rules like wearing masks. Being allowed to visit anyone, cuddle anyone, and to mix in large crowds of strangers may sound wonderful after so long, and the fact that so many have now been fully vaccinated will hopefully reduce any serious symptoms and cut hospital admissions.

But. Yes, another but.

There are still 8-12 people dying of Coronavirus every day here. That’s around 60-80 people a week, every week. And that is after all the vaccinations, and during the time when restrictions are still in force. In three week’s time, we could possibly see an explosion of infections once again, and a significant increase in the numbers of people dying.

Yes, I know we cannot remain locked down forever. Life has to go on. People have to go back to work, the economy has to start to rise from the pandemic slump.

But. The last but, I promise.

I for one cannot help thinking it is still too soon.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Not feeling it.

I woke up not thinking about much at all today. Hardly surprising, as for the past week or so, I am just ‘not feeling it’.

Perhaps it is the unseasonably dull and damp weather? Central heating still on in the last week of May. Lawn grass a foot high, but too wet to mow. Joints aching in the cold and damp. Hips feeling like they have come unscrewed, Voltarol gel on my finger joints to get them moving.

But I am definitely not feeling it.

Little or no interest in writing.

Little or no interest in watching TV or films.

Still zero interest in reading books.

Even my blog has had to trickle along with reblogs of old posts from 2013.

I try to stay perky for Ollie, but walking around holding an umbrella in high winds and driving rain is becoming really boring. The shorts have gone back into the wardrobe, and the rubber boots and heavy coat are in service again.

On the bright side, I haven’t had any mosquito bites.

Hoping to ‘feel it’ again soon, but not holding my breath.

Short Thoughts (59)

The checkout lady looked up at her.

“Thirteen pounds fifty-nine pence please. Cash or card?”

She had just ten pounds in her purse.

What to leave behind? The dog food, or the lasagna for dinner tonight?

The people behind were muttering about the delay.

She put the lasagna to one side.

Deciding to feed the dog.

Short Thoughts (52)

The slip-ons made sense.

Too hard to bend and tie laces now.

Elasticated sides made the trousers more comfortable too.

Feeling the cold more these days, but watching the cost of the heating.

A thick cardigan should do the job, no point wasting money.

There might be a nice one in the charity shop.

A good enough reason to go out for a walk.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Lockdown fallout.

As the lockdown begins to ease in England, it won’t be too long before we can think about eating inside a restaurant, or meeting up with family and friends in their houses. It has been a difficult year for everyone, some much more so than others. I have been lucky, and I am aware of that.

Next Wednesday, I am having the second dose of A-Z vaccine, so even if the ‘Vaccination Passports’ do come in, I will be ‘free to roam’, as it were. We have booked a holiday in England for September, a week away that now seems to be more desirable than at any time in my life.

But with all this progress comes some reflection on the fallout of over a year in lockdowns. The effects, both tangible and unseen, of fear, worry, concern, and being stuck in and around the same place whether from choice or complusion.

For me, the main effects are obvious.

I stopped reading books. I tried, but couldn’t concentrate.

I stopped using any of my cameras. I already had so many photos of the same things and places.

I stopped watching so many films. Again, lack of concentration was the reason.

I ate too many ‘bad’ things, and drunk more wine than before. ‘Treating’ myself was an easy excuse, but not a good reason.

I stopped watching so much television. With a few notable exceptions, it no longer seemed important or interesting.

I stopped ringing friends and family. What do you talk about? The fact that you haven’t been anywhere, or done anything?

My life, such as it was over the past year, moved almost completely online. Although I still went to the supermarket, I spent more time in front of the computer. I wrote more blog posts, kept in touch with people by email, and bought everything I didn’t actually eat or drink by using online sellers.

Now with life forecast to ‘open up’, albeit with sensible safety measures still in place, I feel the need to ‘claw back’ some of the me that was lost over this past year. I want to charge up my camera batteries, try again with some of those books on my Kindle, and wander aimlessly around reopened shops, not intending to buy anything. I don’t know if there will be a ‘new normal’, and there will definitely never be a return to that ‘old normal’.

But I will take whatever comes, and do my best to enjoy it.