Course and High Hazels.

I have just completed the powerpoint section of my current IT course (a mere 97% in the final test). Having been out for an afternoon walk.

In my account of my eight days away we have arrived at my first full day in Derbyshire on the morning of which I took the pictures of High Hazels that appeared in my last post, before moving my stuff across to the main house, as the other house was no longer required, and going on a trip to Haddon Hall, one of many grand buildings in the vicinity. 

Haddon Hall was absolutely magnificent, helped by it being a belter of a day – even Hillington Square looks less ugly under a blue sky! After we returned we all sat down to lunch, the centrepiece of which was a superb oriental style salad. The afternoon was quietly spent reading and making use of one of the most successful cheap toys ever bought – a plastic cricket set which was near universally popular.

Bearing in mind that I took over 200 photos while at Haddon Hall any selection will be unrepresentative, but here they are…..


Norwich Pride, Marxism and High Hazels

As I have three separate segments to this post, all of which have many photos associated with them, I will use the photos to mark the ends of each segment.

Yesterday was Norwich Pride, and it was by some way the largest we have yet had in that fine city. Normally our parade starts from Chapelfield Gardens and circles round the town to finish outside the forum, where various other events take place but this time there were so many of us that the police insisted that we start and finish in Chapelfield because we would not all fit in front of the forum. Before the parade I attended a Question Time type meeting in The Curve, two floors below the main body of the Forum (which was itself absolutely dominated by the event). Then it was over to Chapelfield Gardens (about 5 mins by the direct walking route) to get ready for the parade. As for the parade itself, pictures tell more than words….






ImageThe final day of Marxism is always a little stressful if you are from outside London because you have to pack, and have to put your heavy baggage in the baggage room when you get to the event, and retrieve it after the final rally. This was compounded when my early arrival was set at nought by the fact that the baggage room had not yet been unlocked. 

After enjoying Talat Ahmed’s meeting on Islamaphobia I had intended to go to Siobhan Brown’s meeting on After the horsemeat scandal: Capitalism & food, but she was ill, so rather than going full circle in terms of meeting venues (starting and finsihing at Nunn Hall), I went down to the Jeffery Hall for Colin Barker on What could a socialist revolution look like?

The Closing Rally featured a splendidly international panel of speakers: Maria Stylou from the SEK in Greece; Makhanya Siphamandla, one of the Marikana strikers (34 of whom we gunned down by the forces of the South African state for daring to go on strike); Eamonn McCann from Ireland; and wrapping things up Charlie Kimber, national secretary of our own party. The event finished as usual with the singing of The Internationale. Here are some more photos…

ImageImageImageImageImageImageHaving picked up my stuff from the baggage room I walked down to St Pancras International, from where I was catching a train to Chesterfield, the nearest station to where the gathering of the clans was taking place, based at 6 High Hazels, one of a series of holiday cottages associated with Hardwick Hall. 

I was able to buy some coriander for use in Wednesday’s supper for which I was on chef duty. The new Midland Mainline trains are quite luxurious, especially if you are used to the shuttle type trains that run the King’s Lynn to London line. After a minor mishap at the Chesterfield end (a mix up over timings) I finally got to High Hazels at about 7:30PM, and for the first time since the previous Wednesday had a proper supper. Although we were based at principally at number 6 High Hazels, there were so many of us for the first few nights that Number 4 was used for the overspill, and that is where I spent the first night of my stay in Derbyshire, before moving back to the main house the next day. A final selection of photos…



This week, and Sunday at Marxism

I have had a successful week at work, and my course continues to go well. I have arranged with David James to discuss a possible increase of my hours on Thursday morning (he needs someone to do press releases and related work, the question being can I convince him that this justifies giving me four full days work per week). At 9:00 I will be setting of for Norwich Pride.

On the Sunday morning I set off early again (in this case my chief concern being the possible length of wait for a bus), and arrived at the event with lots of time to spare. Not even inadvertently heading to the wrong room for my first meeting caused much of a problem. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all the meetings I attended on this day, which included three science based meetings. Paul McGarr was very good on Darwin, Engels & the evolution of modern humans. The chief point of disagreement between Darwin and Engels was on whether bipedalism or large brains came first (Engels thought bipedalism, Darwin large brains), on which matter Engels was ultimately proven correct. Jill Chanter’s meeting on genetics saw me using my IT skills, but unfortunately when the computer went into hibernation during the talk, it turned out to be password protected and therefore I could not retrieve that situation.

My third and fourth meetings of the day were very much campaign-based, featuring Sinead Kennedy, Mary Phillips and Marianne Owens on abortion rights, and then Karen Reissman and Louise Irvine on the NHS. For the evening I reverted to science, in the form of Amy Gilligan on Is Science Neutral? The answer is no – who pays the piper calls the tune. For the first time we (Trevor and I) got to our accommodation before midnight, and neither of us stayed awake long. Trevor was setting of early for an appointment in Lincolnshire where he lives, while the rest of us were all also leaving that accommodation on Monday morning, although two of our number were staying another night at a community centre as they were going to the After Party.

As usual I have some photos…


Continuation of holiday account

I am making rapid progress through the Powerpoint module of my online IT course, with every hope of finishing it.

Saturday at Marxism is always the busiest day, and this year was no exception. After Friday mornings experience I set off at 8:20 AM, and arrived with lots of time to spare. Both of my morning meetings were in ULU in rooms 3A and 3B. I started with Emma Davis on The Bolsheviks & the Russian Revolution and then switching focus from the past to the future went to Stuart Curlett on What could a future socialist society look like? Both these meetings featured lively discussions.

At lunchtime I partook once again of the Norwich Picnic, and enjoyed an open-air performance of Shelley’s classic poem “Mask of Anarchy”, his response to the Peterloo massacre. 

Immediately post-lunch I went to the meeting on Disabled people & the fight against austerity, which featured four speakers from the platform, and an inspiring set of contributions from the floor including one from me that was well received. This meeting was in Nunn Hall, and the room was well set up for the purpose.

My second meeting of the afternoon session was in the Jeffery Hall, three floors below the Nunn, and was on the subject of police cover ups, featuring speakers from the campaigns around Hillsborough and Orgreave, plus Gareth Peirce, a civil rights lawyer. 

During the long break between 5 and 7 I was able to catch up on the first ashes test match, and saw some splendid batting from Ian Bell and Stuart Broad (this partnership, and some great bowling by Jimmy Anderson would put England one up in the series, and set the stage for the hammering dished out by England at Lords). 

My final meeting of the day was on climate change, back at Nunn Hall. In the evening I spent time with the Norwich comrades before heading over to ULU where my room-mate was watching u-tube footage from Egypt. The last film was cut short because the licence only ran until 11PM, at which point Trevor and I got the bus home.

As usual I have some photos…



England are now 2-0 to the good in the Ashes contest and given the lack of appetite for the fight thus far displayed by Australia, Sir Ian Botham’s 5-0, 5-0 forecast for these two back to back series is starting to look less outrageous than it initially did. Joe Root with 180 and two second innings wickets was a clear cut man of the match.

Day two of Marxism 2013 got off to a slightly dodgy start for me because three of us set off from our accommodation near Stoke Newington at 9:00, and discovered that we had under-estimated the effect of morning traffic on journey times. By the time our bus turned on to Euston Road the traffic was so heavy that would obviously be quicker to walk, so we got off opposite St Pancras station. A check on the time revealed that we were in severe danger of being late, but I did just about get to my meeting (John Molyneux on Trotsky & trotskyism today) before it started, making a mental note to myself to set off earlier on future days.

Trotskyism is NOT equal to treating every word Trotsky wrote as gospel. What Trotskyism is about is looking at the guiding fundamental principles of his life and applying them appropriately to the present day. As an example, Trotsky was the first theorist of the united front, which today is exemplified by Unite Against Fascism, whose continued success is one reason that this country does not have a major fascist organisation.

After this first meeting (at ULU room 3C/D) I headed to the Drama Studio (IE), for “Freedom now! The struggle for Civil Rights”, which was billed to have Yuri Prasad as the main speaker, but in the event featured Ken Olende as Yuri was ill. This meeting featured footage from the civil rights era, projected on to a large screen, including excerpts from Martin Luther King’s famous speech of 50 years ago “I have a dream”. After partaking of the Norwich picnic (a sensible way to ensure that expenditure on food is not unmanageable) I next headed back to ULU 3C/D for Beth Greenhill’s meeting on Mental Health. After this meeting I headed two floors down to The Venue (originally Manning Hall, then Room 101 – the name has changed more than the appearance of the room) for Mark L Thomas (Editor of Socialist Review, not to be confused with the increasingly unfunny comedian Mark Thomas) on “Can the Left Reclaim the Labour Party?” The short answer by the way is: No and we don’t want to. Along the way a couple of good points were made – the myth of a Golden Age of the Labour Party is (like most such myths) almost as old as the Labour Party. Also the point was made in passing that socialist MPs should not take more than a worker’s wage in payment, which self-restraint is practiced by Richard Boyd Barrett (A TD – the Irish equivalent of an MP).

 After the long break for supper I made my third visit of the day to ULU 3C/D, for “After gay marriage are we all liberated now?” with Julie Bremner (a friend at whose house I often stay when attending meetings in Norwich). This meeting, Julie’s first as a main speaker at this event, went exceedingly well, and the Norwich comrades went out for drinks afterwards. There was a minor mishap in communications between me and Trevor (who was one of those who had a key for our accommodation) but we managed to meet up at the bus stop outside Euston station and got back at about midnight, which is not late for Marxism.

As usual I have some photos…


Cricket, Marxism & High Hazels

As I write this post England are moving inexorably towards a 2-0 lead in the Ashes Series. Only once in all the history of Ashes contests has such a situation been overturned, in the 1936-37 series when England won the first two before a certain D G Bradman produced innings of 270, 169 and 212 in successive matches.

I have been away at Marxism 2013, and then at a gathering of the clans in deepest Derbyshire. In order that posts should not be unmanageably long I have decided to write about things one day at a time, starting with…

Thursday July 11th

Having assembled everything I was going to need for Marxism (having prudently arranged for a few bits of stuff to be ferried to Derbyshire in advance by my parents whose car has a large storage capacity) I caught the 10:56 to London King’s Cross, and then walked to the Institute of Education (IE), which along with the University of London Union (ULU) was hosting the event, deposited my baggage and made inquiries about my accommodation, which had still not been sorted. 

My first meeting was at Nunn Hall, where Xanthe Whittaker was speaking on: “Is the Media All Powerful” – clearly not since thousands of us had signed up to an event of this nature. I proceeded straight from the end of this meeting to the Drama Studio for Jonny Jones’ meeting on fracking. After a lively opening presentation from Jonny, there was an excellent set of contributions from the floor. A personal favourite came from Jonathan Neale who has been involved with the campaign on the Fylde coast when he dealt nicely the “NIMBY”  (Not in my backyard) question: “We are not NIMBYs we are NOMPs (Not on My Planet)”. 

In the meantime, the accommodation team had done very well to rectify the situation for me, finding me a mattress on the floor of a shared room (with one other person) in a private house. I phoned the person with whom I was staying and we concluded arrangements.Thus I headed for the opening rally in a much more relaxed frame of mind than I had been in earlier in the day.

The opening rally was (as it usually is) a superb occasion. The opening speaker was a disability rights activist who set a very high standard for the others.

Having been advised as to buses and where to get off I was able to locate my accommodation without difficulty and got some sleep.

I have some photos below….