Return to writing

Spread this far!

Rage at the duplicity of the government and the simplicity of people who follow them but do not see the suffering caused before our very eyes.

A gap of at least a year with not much written bar a few earnest letters to a new friend on death row. Suddenly the old urgency is back. Unfinished stories locked in the computer with far too much backlog altogether shake their cages.

Let’s hope some of them find freedom.

Epiphanies

An angel poking the three kings, don’t you just love this concept? To say nothing of the three Kings as bedfellows. Perhaps travelling together meant they had to rough it a bit. I wish an angel would poke the conscience of Theresa May and her bed fellows and open their eyes. ‘Oy you, leave it out!’

If it takes insurrection, count me in.

One October half term about fifty years ago, my sister and her friend decided to climb Snowdon. I was delighted to be invited to join their adventure. We pitched a tent somewhere in a farmer’s field in Llanberis. No other campers to be seen. I don’t remember rucksacks, maybe we lugged suitcases. We definitely didn’t have waterproof or lightweight clothing. Did we even have boots? A map and compass were probably on the list of did not haves.

The point of the story is not the unpreparedness but the cold that first night under the stars, still memorable, seeping up from the ground into our bones; impossible to sleep, impossible to get comfortable, impossible to get warm. The following night, the farmer took pity and let us use an old railway carriage he had on his land. The difference was life saving, even though this was a ground frost in October, and was for one night only.

How many more must die in shop doorways before a national outcry. Shelter means shelter, never mind the other mean isms. How many spare rooms, spare outhouses, spare homes even, are there out there? How many would be willing to foster someone in need? How many would be willing to sponsor to make it happen? How to convince this government that homelessness, poverty, destitution, escalated by their policies and including tax evasion, is not acceptable? If it takes insurrection, count me in.

Workable Truce

We have reached a workable truce, I think, the baby and I.
What’s that lovely expression from Nadine Gordimer, our ‘covenant of living together’, a phrase that at present I find impossible to let go.

When I first mentioned it to Sunny Boy, he immediately thought it applied to him, us, and it does. But oh, it so applies globally, a two way stretch, a fluid working agreement for the mutual benefit of all.
I can hear Sunny Boy’s voice of reason in my ear…sounds like compromise which means no one is happy. And yet a covenant implies agreement drawn up between people..signed sealed delivered and promises kept.

I will not bomb your children if you do not bomb mine; I trust my government to do their homework on flammable substances and firms who clad buildings (on the cheap?) because they have mine and my family’s and friends’ best interests at heart. In return I will be a dutiful member of society.  I will not sell you down river and shaft our peace agreement to further my own ends. And so on.

It’s when you reach impasse that troubles start and posturing begins. So many people take up a stance, an intransigent stance and then the outcome is doomed.

Whatever led from grandmadom to politics? Working truce. That was it, and compromise. Backing down rather than standing on a high horse, trust, love. Yes, love would cover it.

Ewan MacColl and The Manchester Rambler 


I love the way blogs lead to places. Avenues open to new ventures, new ideas,  to follow or discuss.  Or is that life?

The Peak and Northern Footpaths Society’s walk in May in commemoration of the opening of the Snake Path  and subsequent Mass Trespass, led not just to the Snake Pass and a well deserved half in the Snake Inn, but to music and poetry too.

The Manchester  Rambler, Ewan MacColl’s folk standard sung by folk heros across the land stems from the 1932 Mass Trespass that Ewan MacColl took part in. The story is in the song.

The  bastardised version we sang in pubs in our misspent student days, only ever joining in the chorus and getting it wrong to boot belied the serious undertow. We knew more of whiteslaves than wageslaves and we knew precious little of those either. Perhaps in this era of austerity and the misery of zero hours contracts it is time for a re release.

The Manchester Rambler

Ewan MacColl

Lyrics

I’ve been over Snowdon, I’ve slept upon Crowdon

I’ve camped by the Waynestones as well

I’ve sunbathed on Kinder, been burned to a cinder

And many more things I can tell

My rucksack has oft been me pillow

The heather has oft been me bed

And sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead

Ch: I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler from Manchester way

I get all me pleasure the hard moorland way

I may be a wageslave on Monday

But I am a free man on Sunday

The day was just ending and I was descending

Down Grinesbrook just by Upper Tor

When a voice cried “Hey you” in the way keepers do

He’d the worst face that ever I saw

The things that he said were unpleasant

In the teeth of his fury I said

“Sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead”

He called me a louse and said “Think of the grouse”

Well i thought, but I still couldn’t see

Why all Kinder Scout and the moors roundabout

Couldn’t take both the poor grouse and me

He said “All this land is my master’s”

At that I stood shaking my head

No man has the right to own mountains

Any more than the deep ocean bed

I once loved a maid, a spot welder by trade

She was fair as the Rowan in bloom

And the bloom of her eye watched the blue Moreland sky

I wooed her from April to June

On the day that we should have been married

I went for a ramble instead

For sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead

So I’ll walk where I will over mountain and hill

And I’ll lie where the bracken is deep

I belong to the mountains, the clear running fountains

Where the grey rocks lie ragged and steep

I’ve seen the white hare in the gullys

And the curlew fly high overhead

And sooner than part from the mountains

I think I would rather be dead.

Songwriters: Ewan Maccoll

The Manchester Rambler lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

Truth better than Fiction. A postscript.


The poet Dave Toft has sent me a correct version of the events following the 1932 Mass Trespass. Good to have the facts straight. I take the liberty of posting it here (with permission).

“There was no physical battle – just one scuffle. The gamekeepers were overwhelmingly outnumbered. One was injured in the single scuffle – he tried to hit someone with his stick and they took it off him and hit him with it.

The five who were sent to prison served up to 6 months hard labour. There was a public outcry but they weren’t freed because of it, they served their time

4 of the 5 were blacklisted and lost their jobs. The 5th was expelled from Manchester University and instead took up a place in Cambridge

The oldest of the trespassers was 21. The leader was 20. Jimmy Miller, better known as Ewan MacColl the famous folk singer, was 19, but not arrested. They would have all been working in the mills since being 14.

At least 2 were killed in the Spanish Civil War.

They were almost all in the Communist Party, which was not unusual amongst progressive young left radicals in that period,who wanted a fairer society and who opposed the rise of fascism. The repressive nature of Stalin’s rule was not known at that point.”