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.”

For the Many Not the Few

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This weekend marked the 120th anniversary of the granting of freedom to roam on the footpath in Derbyshire known as The Snake. A recognition of the rights of the working man to enjoy at least a few hours away from the grime of factory or pit.

In 1932, barely thirty five years later the freedom had been rescinded.   The grandiose promise of ‘for ever’ was fragile.  Four or five hundred ramblers mostly from Manchester trespassed en masse,  having to fight a pitched battle with gamekeepers  especially enrolled by landowners to keep them at bay. The ramblers won. Trespass was not illegal, but men were accused of rough handling the gamekeepers and a handful were arrested.  Thanks to public outcry they were released and once again freedom of access to wilderness was restored.

The good things in life should be accessible, if not free, to the many not just the few.

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Dave Toft, himself a child of blackened back-to-backs of salford, and introduced to the life changing joy of the wilderness at an early age, read his poem to the 75 of us who had gathered on a grey Sunday to retread those footsteps into the wilderness of Kinder.

Climbing Kinder (for the 1932 Mass Trespass)

To these slopes

Here on the sides of this great and ancient plateau’s edge,

Where the curlew sings on a summer’s day

Its solitary, swooping note

Like a crystal drop of Kinder water –

A song far sweeter

Than any music humans ever made –

The walkers came

To claim for all who’d follow

The right to hear that song

To breath that air with smog- bruised lungs

To taste the sweetness of the open space

To pause a moment from the draining race

Of hard industrial existence

 

And they called those walkers ‘trespassers’

As if by claiming back these stolen treasures

By repossessing all these hard won pleasures

It was they who were the criminals.

 

But when you climb up Kinder now

And feel your legs strain hard against the earth

And fill your lungs with fresh free air

And watch the long white hare

Kicking its legs in the very ecstasy of life

Remember there are those who would have kept this from us

And those who even now would, if they could

Keep us from the silver stream and open moor

And windswept wood.

 

 

A Parliament of Seagulls?

Marauding seagulls stole my sandwich. I was enjoying my lunch, a brief ten minutes on the beach before a volunteer slot in the local RNLI.  The speed, the stealth, the determination of the posse impressed some bystanders.

 ‘Wo, did you see that?’  

One of them jeered at the seagulls, offering his crisps with a smacking of his lips, ‘come over here if you think you’re hard enough,’ and made us laugh. We’ve come to expect it of seagulls, there’s nothing much we can do.

The randomness of the attack and the unfairness made me indignant but it did make me think.  How helpless individuals are against the might of a determined force. How vigilant we should be and how worried by the stealth taxes and infringements on liberties of those less able to fight back.  We must fight back any and every way we can.

California Dreamin’ or election blues

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Remember that lovely 1960’s song of longing to be in a better place? It came to mind when I was out for a walk today.  A few details awry from the Mamas and Papas’ original. It was a spring day, not a winter’s day. All the trees weren’t in fact brown, they were green. True, the sky was grey and, as it happened the fields were blue.  The beauty of the bluebells made the walk delightful. I was not exactly dreaming of California either.

I’m already in California, the idyl the song  laments –  the sunshine/ beach/ laid back life.  It’s other poor saps who’re having a cold day somewhere else.

Nothing happens unless you make it happen. Vote for change and make the world a fairer place.

 

Greed

IMG_3827I coveted a chair, an iconic Eames chair, with leather cushion and steamed wood made to look like rosewood and wings. A chair that would ‘fit like an old baseball glove.’ I liked the sound of that but could not fully imagine it, never having worn one. A retired person’s chair that epitomised comfort, grace and ease, the kind that would include lots of reading.
I deliberated, waited, hankered and finally succumbed, choosing a purveyor of fine furniture with a solid and dependable name. On line reviews of their reliability were staunch, besides they advertised in the Observer.
I parted with the money from my dwindling resource, a major purchase for one now un waged and sadly without a pension either (see WASPI for that sorry story). Disappointed but only mildly concerned to discover a wait of twelve weeks for delivery. Oh I counted down the weeks, like an expectant grandmother awaiting a first grandchild. I lasted ten weeks before I checked up on them.

Serves me right I suppose for entertaining ideas way above and beyond. Shortly after my purchase, well after the company would have known my precious £££s would serve only to fleece me and line their pockets, THEY WENT BUST. Never mind baseball gloves and Mom’s good old apple pie. It seems there is nothing to be done since they are in receivership and I parted willingly with my money.

But wait! Just as I prepare to compose a stinging sentence to do with the little man and the unfair system, my bank has refunded me in full. The idea of chair as investment had begun to pall anyway.

Wilful Blindness and Nothing New Under the Sun

 

img_3381We are wilfully blind to the problems faced by rest of the world. Even the euphemism the ‘third world’ satisfactorily distances us.
We squabble over ‘getting our country back’ while millions face starvation due to war and drought and further millions drown in an attempt to reach this other world, only to find the drawbridge being hastily drawn up and the portcullis down.
The global picture is so much bigger and more important.
Our children will remember us with shame for our wilful blindness and pettiness.

There are many precedents in history and the phrase ‘nothing new under the sun’ springs to mind as well as a poem by Louis MacNiece at the outbreak of WW2. (Substitute the name of politician/tyrant of choice to update)

Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal

Conferences, adjournments ultimatums,
Flights in the air, castles in the air.
The autopsy of treaties, dynamite under the bridges,
The end of laissez faire.
After the warm days the rain comes pimpling
The paving stones with white
And with the rain the national conscience, creeping,
Seeping through the night.
And in the sodden park on Sunday protest
Meetings assemble not, as so often now
Merely to advertise some patent panacea
But simply to avoid
The need to hold the ditch; a bare avowal
That may simply imply
Death at the doors in a week but perhaps in the long run
Exposure of the lie.
Think of a number, double it, treble it, square it,
And sponge it out
And repeat ad lib and make the slate with crosses;
There is no time to doubt
If the puzzle really has an answer. Hitler yells on
the wireless,
The night is damp and still
And I hear dull blows on wood outside my window;
They are cutting down the trees on Primrose Hill.
The wood is white like the roast flesh of chicken,
Each tree falling like a closing fan;
No more looking at the view from seats beneath
the branches,
Everything going to plan;
They want the crest of this hill for anti-aircraft,
The guns will take the view
And searchlights probe the heavens for bacilli
With narrow wands of blue.

Autumn journal (Fabre) was written in February 1939

Objects of delight

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I see myself  in my final hours, about to face my last judgement, clutching favoured treasures in the palm of my hand.

A perfume bottle – a caprice with daffodil-yellow puffer, not much taller than my thumb, pretty with a sensual shape and feel, or a red bracelet made with nibs of bright coral with a tiny silver pendant of a scallop shell – emblem of the Camino de Santiago which will always sit high in my heart.

This no doubt betrays a shallowness. A crucifix, a rosary, or photos of my nearest and dearest would perhaps be more appropriate, but it is objects I will chose for the memories the engender.

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