A Modest Proposal

Brilliant – and funny

tiintax

The problem with actors is that they never know whether they’re going to make any money or not – like a minimum wage worker on a zero hours contract.  The work they do is usually significantly more enjoyable and fulfilling than zero hours contract work, and there is the faint but real possibility of making lottery-winner money out of one successful contract.  After all, someone has to be Obi Wan and walk away with 2% of the Star Wars gross, even if most of us know our fate is to be the equivalent of the unfortunate stormtrooper who bashed his head on the doorway.

But think about this for a moment.  Alec Guiness died in 2000.  His estate still receives his 2%.  But should the payer deduction National Insurance before they pay it?

Yes, you may boggle.  The vexed question of actors, musicians and other entertainers comes up again…

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Law Geek's Blog

A long long time ago
I can still remember how Legal Aid used to be paid
And if lawyers had a chance
They could help some people out
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But Parliament made us shiver
With every “reform” it delivered
Bad news in the Gazette
LawSoc couldn’t stop one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about justice denied
But something touched me deep inside
The day Legal Aid died

So bye bye
Justice denied
Drove a chevy through our levies
‘Cause they said they’re too high
And good old toffs sipping whiskey and wine
Celebrated as Legal Aid died
This’ll be the day justice dies

Do you believe a Tory gov
Or do you have faith in a High Court judge
If the media tells you to
Now do you believe in the common law
Can justice save your…

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The Jackson changes are BIGGER than Woolf…it’s hard to see that anyone will be untouched

The Jackson changes are BIGGER than Woolf…it’s hard to see that anyone will be untouched.

What’s that you’re drinking Daddy?

In the Beginning – part 2 (for part 1 scroll down to August 2011)

Lorna’s recollection of her brother’s entry into this world is vague, she was 2 years old or thereabouts. Subsequent research into her background has shown that John Francis Charles, my Grandfather, Adelaide Joan’s first husband (there is a question mark over this, however, he may have been the second), adopted Lorna shortly before Uncle Geoffrey’s (his real name) arrival. It was 1946 and John was still serving in the army – based out in Burma.

John Francis Charles (I’ll call him Granddad because its easier and that way we’ll all know which John I’m referring to – stick with this and you’ll see that there are many, many Johns in my life!) is worthy of an entry in his own right. He was an honourable man if prone to a touch of the Eeyores and Melancholy. I think, from what I’ve gleaned from his own background, he did not have a particularly good childhood. A phenomenally bright man, born in a different age he would have undoubtedly gone to university and had a stellar academic career. He really was so bright. Oxbridge bright.

However, he was born in the 1920s, grew up in the shadow of depression in a house governed by a tyrannical mother (Kathleen Frances – yes her real name, aka Mamen) with an absentee father – portrayed as a feckless Scotsman named Patrick Watson (I’ve traced him from Aberdeen, to Newport where he married Kathleen and then back to Glasgow where the trail goes cold). Patrick was a knicker salesman (or purveyor of ladies undergarments as we like to say in the family).

There are references to the “Aunts” in stories about my Grandfather. Mamon was of irish descent (allegedly from a family that could trace its roots back to the Dukes of Norfolk and Lady Jane Grey – yeah right, I am the true Queen of England – on the very wrong side of the blanket!). The Aunts were once genteel ladies (Little Britain’s David Walliam and Matt Lucas flash into my mind) fallen on hard times. They all lived together in a huge house in Newport – it was permanently cold. The one enduring aim of the family was to ensure that NO ONE ended up in the work house (please whisper that place name for full effect).

John, to his dying day was terrified of “ending up in the Work House” – to the point where Lorna gave up all her spare time in his final years to ensure that he stayed in his own home. She cooked for him, organised his care package, went with him to hospital etc etc etc.

Which I still find surprising – he was an honourable man and I stand by that evaluation but, and its a pretty huge BUT, this is the man who also made his daughter testify against her own mother in his divorce proceedings on the threat that if she did not she would be made homeless – and then promptly sold the house anyway and, but for the fact that she’s got herself entangled with the man who became my father, would have made her homeless. She was 17. But more of that later.

John couldn’t go to university because he had to earn a living to support his mother and his younger sister (Patricia – aka Paddy – always Paddy or Pad, a wonderful woman married to a wonderful man. They both suffered greatly as a consequence of 1942 and Singapore). And so he joined the Army.

And this was odd because – he came from a family of Sailors – Royal Navy to be precise. His maternal Grandfather was RN (also rumoured to have pursued slave ships and liberated those unfortunates shackled aboard – or that may have been his Great Grandfather, time becomes blurred in a family with a strong oral tradition). Anyway, Nuncky Ron (Guildford Ronald Edwards), husband to Paddy and second cousin to John and Pad (don’t ask, I haven’t had the courage to examine that issue too closely yet but I think it was legal), Nuncky Ron was also RN so Granddad’s decision to join the Army was odd and a departure from family “tradition’.

I think his time in the Army may well have been his happiest. When I knew him, and I was fortunate to know him for 37 years, he was disjointed. As though he didn’t really belong anywhere. This was so even when he married his second wife, Sybil (odd woman, with an exceedingly odd family and I don’t intend to dwell on her – she was married to my Grandfather and that is as far as her relevance goes).

He always maintained that he wasn’t a very good soldier and was dishonourably discharged after WWII – his service record and discharge papers say otherwise. He never spoke of the War in any detail other than to say that he “never saw a Jap and never saw a German” – yet he spoke fluent French and is believed to have served with the Marquis. He also told tales of eating sheep’s’ eyes in the dessert and was in Burma. My favourite stories were from the time he was in Burma – particularly the one about the tiger and the toilet.

My Grandfather was an avid reader of science fiction (that university career he had to forgo would have been one in science, probably physics). One night he took a book and a torch to visit the toilet on the edge of camp. He didn’t take his gun. While about his business and engrossed in his book he heard a noise and growling sound outside the loo and lifting the flap a little saw the rear end of a rather large tiger sat down directly in front of the toilet tent blocking his exit. Whether it was the smell emanating from the latrine or the intervention of some god, we will never know but the tiger sat outside the tent all night without smelling or finding Granddad. And Granddad sat on the toilet all night reading his book!

He was also a bit of thief, somewhere in Lorna’s house are a set of silver dessert spoons bearing the legend “Simla Rest” – he took them as a memento – apparently!

Special Forces was often referred to in my mother’s hearing when she was growing up – he and Nuncky Ron exchanged stories regularly. Ron, who was RN, was at Singapore when it fell to the Japanese in 1942 and spent the remainder of the War as a POW in conditions I cannot bring myself to imagine.

I can imagine my Grandfather as SAS (or its forerunner). He was about 6’3″ and lanky but physically very strong. I think, but need to confirm, that he was Royal Engineers – which would also explain his presence in Burma and involvement with the Chindits. He had huge hands – permanently stained with tobacco from the Woodbines he smoked. He was a bald as coot and I don’t think he ever had any hair – certainly not after the war, all the photos of him from when my mother was a child show him bald. And spoke with a Welsh lilt (he’d been born and brought up in Newport).

If his life had been hard growing up, it got a whole lot worse after he met and married Adelaide Joan. If I haven’t made this clear before I must let it be known that Adelaide Joan was not a well woman – ever. She had serious mental health issues and in the latter part of her life finally being diagnosed as Bi-polar. While that mitigates her behaviour to a very great extent it does not prevent the assessment that for the very largest part of her life the women was a Queen Bitch from Hell who poisoned the lives of those she was close to.

Mental health issues are now identified and dealt with more swiftly so as to minimise or manage the impact on the individual concerned and the family. I know now that my Grandmother in large part was not in control of her behaviour but I still find it very hard to excuse it. The impact on her immediate family was devastating and it continued long after that family fell apart.

But more of that later.

Lorna’s enduring memory of Granddad is his returns home. He was a Works Study Engineer – time and motion man, and frequently worked away from home. He would often return late at night and make himself a fry-up and a pot of tea. He drink his tea so strong I swear the spoon could stand up in it unaided. And he drank it without milk, a deep red liquid, from a big white mug

Lorna would sneak down to see him and join him in his midnight feast. She asked him “what are you drinking Daddy?” and the answer came back “Blood!” – and for many years she believed him.

To be continued….

A Lot Like Yesterday, A Lot Like Never

A Lot Like Yesterday, A Lot Like Never.

 

This is brilliant – read it!

God Bless Americans – laughter keeps one young they say!

It is alleged that my mother’s father was an American GI from Texas. I just hope he wasn’t as arrogant and as stupid as this suggests commanders of the US Navel Fleet are – don’t they have charts or something?

 

Enough to have Locke spinning – Would it happen here?

I came across an interesting Tweet this morning by @Nolan_Legis.

It concerns police treatment of Student protestors in America at Davis and Berkley. They were protesting against increase in fees – a matter close to the hearts British Students at the moment.

Its also something of significance to me. Not only am I growing a child in the hope that he will attend University or other higher education in the future, but I took part in the Student protests in London against the scrapping of grants way back in the day and was charged by mounted police as I sat on Westminster Bridge. It was bloody and it was frightening.

@Nolan_Legis has broadcast an open letter by Nathan Brown, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at UC Davis,  to the Chancellor of that university – Linda P B Katehi. It shocked me for two reasons. First because Police appear to have viciously assaulted peaceful protestors with pepper spray and second because this didn’t take place in a public space such as the streets of a city but rather on a University Campus.

The University Chancellor is said to have summonsed the Police and, therefore by implication, to have sanctioned the use of this force. It is appalling.

I couldn’t re-tweet it for some reason but you can read it HERE – I encourage you to do so, and if you are so inclined to express your concern to the organisation and people concerned.

There is also video footage HERE – its worth watching all the way through.

Locke’s Inalienable Rights:

Right to life

Right to liberty

Right to property

Right to rebel against an unjust law or government

John Locke (1632 – 1704) – British philosopher and politician whose writings greatly influences the American constitution but apparently not the attitude of those who allegedly protect it.

In the beginning…

… there was a woman, we’ll call her Lorna (her real name).

On any version of events Lorna had a less than an advantageous start in life. Her mother, we’ll call her Adelaide Joan (her real name) had also had a less than advantageous start in life but the true facts about that are only just emerging – that is the joy of our current obsession with “Who we think we are”.

Adelaide Joan was just Joan at birth (this much is known from her birth certificate). She was born at 1 Golden Street in Deal in Kent in 1922. Its a romantic sounding street name and Google Street View shows its to be a delightful little road running onto the Kent coast. It was a grocer’s shop back then. Adelaide was probably born upstairs. In a back room.

Her mother’s name was Beatrice Alice Powell (this much is known from the birth certificate). And there the story ends – or starts depending on one’s perspective.

Beatrice wasn’t married (but you had guessed that, hadn’t you?) and the connection with Deal is unknown. So many twists and turns yet to be unravelled. Was she the first “wayward woman” or one of long line? Maybe she was an innocent victim of unfortunate circumstance – she is believed to have been “very young” and that unfortunately suggests victim.

Beatrice gave Joan up for adoption. Barking and Leyton are mentioned in the records but quite how she got from Deal to there is not yet known. She ended up with Adelaide and William Hodges. And that’s how she became Adelaide – Adelaide Hodges (nee Poore) wanted “her” child to have a link with its mother and so changed Joan’s name. Such conduct would probably be frowned upon today and Adelaide Joan certainly was not keen – she went by the name of Joan in (much) later life but that may well have been her way of finding her own identity, I didn’t like her much and so never bothered to find out. She changed the story so often poor Lorna just got confused.

The circumstances of Adelaide’s adoption are now emerging thanks to the tenaciousness of Lorna who is slowly being granted access to historical adoption, court and children’s home records. Its been painfully slow – complicated, apparently, by the fact that Adelaide Joan is dead now and cannot consent (mind that wouldn’t have made much difference anyway according to one particularly obstructive civil servant who really was not inclined to release records until various court orders were threatened – I think Lorna really ought to stop telling people her daughter is a barrister for leverage, somebody somewhere is going to know that the “laws” that trip so blithely from Lorna’s lips don’t actually exist – the gentle art of blagging).

Her endeavours are as as much a fascinating insight into 1920s social history as anything. The adoption it seems was never formalised, it was rather more akin to an extended fostering. Adelaide only tried to formalise it after William’s premature death and then only to claim some sort of pension or relief in order to maintain Adelaide Joan. It seems that adopted children were entitled to some kind of stipend if one of the adoptive parents died. However, because the adoption wasn’t formalised at the time of Mr Hodges death, Adelaide was knocked back.

I digress. So Adelaide Joan grew up. She maintained it was an unhappy childhood but it seems that Adelaide H did her best in exceptionally difficult circumstances. William had been a butcher or similar and the living had been comfortable if not grand. But he died and Adelaide Joan had to be put in a children’s home for a while until Adelaide could get back on her feet and could support the child again. She did that by working in sweatshops in the rag trade in the East End of London.

Strong links with London’s East End Jewish community have emerged but its unclear whether this is a blood link or merely social – I’d like to think it was blood. Its unlikely however, Powell is of Welsh origin and on the “by association” side the Poore line seems to be firmly rooted for generations in Downtown in Wiltshire and Hodges isn’t a particularly Jewish name is it!

Adelaide remarried – Harry Epps and the family ended up in Essex (Chelmsford). Adelaide Joan’s step sister, Nancy married a Harry Bressloff (his name may well have been Hyman anglicised to Harry and his mother’s name appears to have been Tanenhorwitz – census records show them as Russian Jews). Theirs was a love affair of great passion by all accounts (and not necessarily all above board, Nancy was probably “a bit of a one”). Records show they did eventually marry. I would have liked to have known Nancy, Lorna used to take me to see her when I was very little – all I remember is red flock wall paper….bordello?

Adelaide Joan turned out to be “a bit of a one” too. She gave birth to Lorna when she was 22 – the father was claimed to be an American Soldier who was subsequently killed in the D-day landings. She said his name was Jack. Whoever he was, he wasn’t married to Adelaide Joan.

Lorna was born in 1944 – in Paddington, London. By all accounts bombs were still falling and she spent the first 18 months in the cellars of St Mary’s Hospital where Adelaide Joan worked as a nurse. Scabies has been mentioned along with malnutrition and general neglect. There was a war on of course, but Adelaide Joan’s big problem was her passion for men….

Which lead her to John Francis Charles. Nice chap. 6′ 4″, gigantic brain, a career soldier from South Wales – this man became my Grandfather and I am immensely proud of him. He was deployed with the Marquis (pronounced marki) in France and was a Chindit in Burma – special forces basically. He was a lovely man – which makes me wonder how on earth he ended up married to Adelaide Joan. But his is another story.

Marry Adelaide Joan he did (she was pregnant with his son after all) and he adopted Lorna. Remember this was circa 1945, such adoptions were rare and John Francis was stationed in Burma/India and thereabouts – the adoption papers travelled thousands of miles back and forth and it was commented on in the associated reports how impressed the authorities were that this man wanted to “make things right” for this little girl, give her a name and be her father. I believe he loved Adelaide Joan very much at this point (the only alternative is that he had taken complete leave of his sense and certifiably insane – there was a war on after all).

So, there was a marriage, an adoption and my Uncle Geoff was born and a Nuclear Family was formed – Dave Cameron would be so proud. But life is never that straightforward – is it? And “Nuclear” was the operative word.

To be cont…

Parole

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” So said George Bernard Shaw.

Way to go GBS. I like this quote, it translates as “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE” in my world.

Today has been about changing my mind – and acting on it.

Today I have been changing my mind about people.

People I have in fact known “for years” but in respect of whom I have recently become aware of  hitherto unseen characteristics and opinions which are, frankly, making my flesh crawl.

It is Spring after all and pruning is necessary if the garden is to be kept healthy. I like that analogy, it just came to me. Maybe one day I’ll be up there with GBS with the quotes.

In common with many I have a Face Book (FB) account and a list of “Friends” (while I think about it, if you haven’t heard it please do have a listen to Chumbawamba’s “Add Me” – brilliant). I do in fact know most of my FB Friends personally and they are not just odd randoms I’ve picked up along the way. Many of them I’ve known for over 20 years and they are indeed FRIENDS. Others are people I’ve hooked up with comparatively recently and with whom I am forging good friendships which will, I hope, last for years to come.

This morning I had a list of 114. Now it stands at 104.

Why?

Because, in my opinion, FB creates a bubble in which people begin to express themselves as who they really are. They state in their Status Updates and Comments what is really in their heads and hearts and the “filters” we apply in “normal” social interaction get forgotten. And this, for me, has become a problem. I’m seeing a side to some of my friends that I wasn’t previously aware of and its generally a side I don’t like.

I’m seeing bigotry and racism and a lack of tolerance and social elitism. I have invitations to send virtual balloons and hearts from those who appear to spend all day doing nothing but haunt FB. I am asked to join obscure virtual farms and towns. My overwhelming desire is to shout – GET OUT MORE, GET A LIFE.

I don’t want to be friends with someone who thinks it OK to spout white racial elitism in the “privacy” of FB. IT ISN’T AND I DON’T WANT FRIENDS LIKE YOU

Or who posts snide comments on my posts or who manages to find the negative in every situation – GO GET A THERAPIST – DON’T PISS ON ME

Or who send me virtual balloons and begs for the favour to be returned – WTF? DON’T YOU KNOW THAT ONE DOESN’T GIVE IN THE EXPECTATION OF RECEIPT? and I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO WITH MY TIME.

And so, I’m not.

I’ve “unfriended” 10 people who are no longer relevant to this stage in my life. With the exception of one, these are people who I’ve come to know in the period 1995 – 2009 – an often less than positive epoch. They reflect my needs during that period and are, frankly, toxic.

My Progress continues.