"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Forever Young

Sleep Gently, Robbie. 1st September 1985

"Forever Young"

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

Bob Dylan

[Click on title for a link to a YouTube cover]

Monday, 30 August 2010


As I am half-Celt [the other half of me can be traced back to Essex yeomanry in the 17th century so I am proud to be called an Essex girl!] I always say that the English as a nation do not celebrate enough. I come from a family who would celebrate anything at the drop of a hat and dress up in weird costumes and have a party at the least excuse.

Celebrations need not be only for those big things. We can celebrate because it is Bank Holiday Monday for instance. Or just because there are sausages for tea. Celebrations need not be expensive to hold. When my children were small and money was tight we used to make decorations and make themed shaped cakes and biscuits. For Valentines Day I even mashed potatoes and piped them into heart shapes! Yes I know but I enjoyed it and I think the children did too......

This holiday there have been a lot of celebrations because as I may have mentioned [!] I have had a big number birthday and had to have several coming togethers when various people were available for festivities. Then whilst we have been in the West GCSE and 'A' level results came out for several of our younger holiday companions. Scores are not important - the facts to be celebrated are the amount of efforts each individual put into their examinations. However there was one truly magnificient score [he knows who I am talking about!]

A really close friend wants me to share his celebration that after having suffered badly from CFS for some years he has been cured by taking part in the Lightening Process. I don't know much about this personally but to see the difference in him compared with just a few weeks ago is fantastic and I am certainly celebrating that. I intend to read up a bit more about this at http://www.lightningprocess.com/Landing/
when I get home and am not paying-as-I-go for internet access as I don't want to rush reading it.

But I am saving my best personal celebration until last. Youngest child and partner were also amongst our holiday comrades and surprised us all by getting engaged last week. Other Half and I are thrilled to bits to have a new member of the family and the celebrations have lasted right up until they went home today.

We are heading back home in the next few days. And I will celebrate that because although I have had a great holiday it will be nice to go home although it is always sad to say goodbye to friends for a while and places I love. And I will be able to put photos back up on my blogs when I get back home - for some reason the internet here won't 'go' - so I will celebrate that!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Holidays offer time for reflection. Expecially when during that time one has a 'big' birthday with continuing celebrations [thanks everyone!]

We are on holiday with lots of friends and family - and I have just realised that amongst them are at least eighteen of my facebook friends. Family should of course also be friends and it is an added blessing when they are!

'Friend' has of course taken on a different meaning since the advent of social networking when one nominates 'friends' on sites like facebook. But never the less all these friends are - or should be - just as important in our lives.

Tennyson wrote a very long poem - 'In Memoriam' on the death of his friend, Arthur Hallam. I won't try you all with that although it is of course a masterpiece. Instead the following is written with thought to all my friends whether we meet up once a year, virtually on the internet or every day in real life. Every friend is important to me!

Saint Augustine had as always a couple of wise pieces of advice about friends:
I want my friend to miss me as long as I miss him.
If two friends ask you to judge a dispute, don't accept, because you will lose one friend; on the other hand, if two strangers come with the same request, accept because you will gain one friend.

And a warning from the great William Blake about the difference between friendship and enimity:

A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I summoned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.

So dedicated to all my friends and family from a cold and wet West Country which is made warm by the friends and family who are here with us and the love of those who are in other parts of the world!:

Emily Dickinson - Are Friends Delight or Pain?
Are Friends Delight or Pain?
Could Bounty but remain
Riches were good --

But if they only stay
Ampler to fly away
Riches are sad.

For the record - my reading of this is that Friends who stay are better than all the 'Bounty and Riches'. My friends certainly are.

[Elizannie is on holiday and trying to ignore politics and contentious thoughts. However this blog is worth reading:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/stephanieflanders/ ]

Thursday, 19 August 2010

I love holidays

I love holidays. I am not an expensive tourist so today am sitting in one of my favourite restaurants - MacDonalds - catching up with my emails as the clifftop holiday location internet connection keeps dropping out. The other good thing about MacDonalds is that I can read all the newspapers for free and that makes me feel as if I am getting my own back on Rupert Murdoch in a very small way. Sad but true.

When I finish the newspapers I have a copy of William Cobbett's 'Rura' Rides' to continue reading.Very sad news that Frank Kermode has passed away. He will be sadly missed - sleep gently,Professor Frank.

We have just 'done' the local seaside town - in my case I am a sucker for the charity shops and their second hand books. I 'recycle' these by sharing with my friend who is here on holiday with us and we then pass them on to the charity stall back in the holiday camp. So everyone is happy.

Other Half is luckily in a similarly silly mood so I shall capitalise on that and we will go back and if I am very good he may make me a fancy dress costume for tonight's competition. And if you are all very lucky I may not post a picture of it!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Indulge me - its my birthday!

I bought my first Bob Dylan album, vinyl LP, 45 years ago [I was a precocious child] Because I am half Welsh everyone always thinks I must like Tom Jones - I won't lie to you, I have never really liked his style of singing until the 'Reload' CD came along and I bought it. And then of course the fantastic 'Islands in the Stream' with Nessa and Bryn - Gavin and Stacey fans will understand.

The two facts about Bob Dylan and Tom Jones are related. One of my birthday presents today [by request] is the new Tom Jones CD with the Dylan song on it 'What Good Am I'. Fabulous. So I am sharing it with you:
What good am If I'm like all the rest
If I just turn away when I see how you're dressed
If I shut myself off so I can't hear you cry
What good am I ?

What good am I if I know and don't do
If I see and don't say if I look right through you
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin' sky
What good am I ?

What good am I while you softly weep
And I hear in my head what you say in your sleep
And I freeze in the moment like the rest who don't try
What good am I ?

What good am I then to others and me
If I had every chance and yet still fail to see
If my hands are tied must I not wonder within
Who tied them and why and where must I have been.

What good am I if I say foolish things
And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings
And I just turn my back while you silently die
What good am I ?

And to sample at youtube and then go out and buy the CD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3-2oAzJ_h0

No photograph today as we are camping on a cliff edge and the dongle is being precocious and will only download certain things...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Is Political Activism Hereditary?

I have always known that I came from a politically active family. My parents met when they both belonged to the Independent Labour Party [LIP] in the 1930s, my sister was 'named' in the local Socialist Sunday School and I took part in my first political act by delivering anti-apartheid leaflets at the age of six in the 1950s!

And of course I knew that the political activism went further back than my parents generation. My Welsh politician father walked to England on the Hunger Marches, his father and grandfather both held Trade Union posts in the collieries in which they worked. My maternal grandparents brought my mother up in the Socialist Sunday School, and my mother's grandfather on her maternal side was a Trade Unionist in the London Docks.

So despite being brought up in a politician's household, there was also the matter of the 'family heirloom'. When I was small there was this one really good piece of jewelery that my mother owned and only wore on very special occasions. It was an old red gold gate bracelet and as I get older I learned the story and even better the fact that when I reached twenty one [a couple of years ago you understand]it would become mine.

The family story went that my Nan had led a strike of munitions workers during the first world war that had been successful and workers had bought her this bracelet in gratitude. She had given the bracelet to my mother when she was twenty-one on the proviso that she passed it on to her daughter at twenty one. But I would rather let my Nan tell the story in her own words in the letter that she sent to me when I was twenty-one:
....It was in the '14 War. Granfer was in the Army and I worked at ......... Reclaiming Shell Factory from six in the morning until six in the evening and our wages were very bad 18 shillings [90 pence] a week and 3 shillings [15 pence] fare out of that. So I organized the 2000 women workers and got them out on strike which I was pleased only lasted two days because it was January and up to our boot tops in snow. Anyway our wages were increased to twenty six shillings [one pound thirty pence] a week....... The members of the Union collected for the Bracelet and presented it to me during our lunch time. I was so surprised I cried my silly eyes out. The Union official was also presented with sliver cigarette case, he too was surprised...

My Nan was eighty one years old when she wrote that letter and a photograph of her and my Granfer taken around the time of their marriage in 1915 is at the head of the page. So this blog is dedicated to her and all the munitions workers in the two world wars who worked long hours for little money. Although the munitions factory in which she worked was not the Silvertown factory, they were not that far apart. She heard the Silvertown explosion and obviously knew about the subsequent terrible loss of seventy three lives. I would like to add that at the time she led the strike she had a small child whom her sister looked after whilst she worked and was finding it difficult to buy food for them both as food prices were soaring due to the war.

The bracelet? Well I held it 'in tenure' until my eldest daughter was twenty one and then it was passed to her along with the story. Other Half says that it has in fact cost him a fortune because he then had to replace it because I loved it so much, but daughter number two was given that when she was twenty one and in turn he has replaced that. Eldest daughter has to pass the bracelet on to her eldest daughter at twenty one and hopefully so it will go on - along with the story.

But the story and the memories are the best of all. And the inheritance of trying to right injustices when they are found.

Independent Labour Party http://www.independentlabour.org.uk/main/history/
Socialist Sunday School http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/apr/02/labour.religion
Silvertown Munitions Factory Disaster http://www.newhamstory.com/node/2167

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Temples to Consumerism

I had to buy an outfit for a formal occasion. I am not good at formal occasions, my wardrobe style being more old hippy or 'doctor martins' plus jeans. Anyway to rectify this we made the expedition to the nearest shopping mall...

The first time we visited a shopping mall, about twenty years ago, I dubbed it a 'Cathedral to Capitalism'. Probably not an original epithet, but it served. Even the floor plan of the particular shopping mall was vaguely Cathedral shaped. And since then certainly of a Sunday more people seem to be crowding the shopping aisles than local church aisles - and of course at Christmas time the queues are longer for the shopping mall car parks than the nearby religious establishments.

Then I thought the title rather unfair to Cathedrals and Christianity [although not Capitalism] so over the years 'Temples to Consumerism' has replaced the term. And other thoughts have also occurred to me. Around the mid 19thCentury municipal parks began to appear which gave the 'ordinary' [I really dislike that word] working family the opportunity get a least a taste of the 'country' in the industrial cities - especially as the working week began to have at least a few more hours leisure. Sunday afternoons were a favourite time for 'parading' in parks, if possible in best clothes. And of course were good places for courting couples on Saturday and Sunday evenings!* Now it seems as if the 'parading' takes place in shopping malls and the best clothes are worn to buy other best clothes - if 'best' clothes still exist.

Looking on the 'net at the official sites for these shopping malls they also appear to have taken over the 'status' of a village. The particular one we visited this week has very many restaurants from fast food to silver service, a bus station, a train station, chapel, cinema and of course about 200 shops! What was missing there was the sort of 'camaraderie' one feels when wandering down a small village street - in fact wandering wasn't really an option, it was more 'go with the flow', and with such a large catchment area from which to draw its custom it is rare to see a face one knows.

Also on this mall's website was a mini questionnaire with tick boxes to vote:
What will you be doing this Summer?
Day at the seaside []
Going shopping []
Day at a theme park []

Going shopping doesn't seem a summer specific activity to me.

So my shopping trip has raised all sorts of thoughts about the difference in leisure in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Oh and the outfit? Didn't do too well really. I tried a really formal dress on and although it fitted and looked OK it just was not 'me'. As youngest daughter said, I am 'not really grown up enough for anything like that'. So I came home and ordered a simple flowing dress in two different sizes from the online shop where I get most of my clothes, they arrived today and the one that didn't fit has gone back already. Sorted.

*There are lots of lovely social history books on the subject, copies of many of which reside in my study although the particular one from which I wanted to quote has of course hidden itself today.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Family Histories

Please don't start yawning, I promise not to tell you the carryings on of my naughty great great grandad [they are being saved for the book anyway!] Having studied family history for years I am used to my family's eyes glazing over at the mere mention of 'guess what I found out last week?' despite my reminders that strangers have paid good money to come to my lectures on 'Tracing Your Family' and despite having retired from all that I still get 'phone calls asking if I will just do one more lecture... But one's own family is different after all - the subject of this blog!

Like most people starting out on tracing my family I had all the usual stories of famous ancestors to check up on. I even went to Highgate Cemetery to visit the grave of one putative ancestor. 'Family history' had it that he was buried next to Karl
Marx - well he wasn't which was disappointing to a left wing activist from a left wing background but not so surprising when it turned out that the individual was actually completely unrelated despite sharing the same unusual surname. And so it went with all the dashing, romantic ancestors - none 'belonged' to me. Other Half asked if I was disappointed - but how could I be when I had found all these 'real' ancestors who had lived and breathed and led ordinary yet extra-ordinary lives?

Because real 'Family History' involves social history - placing individuals and families against the backdrop of their environment and the times in which they lived. I have sat in County Record Offices and read the newspapers of the small towns in the times when my ancestors lived in them. And of course one's eye gets drawn to various stories: transportations for stealing small amounts; obituaries; troop movements for wars; grand balls etc. In London I have sat and worked out who lived where and in what sort of circumstances. I have wondered how some [Welsh and English] ancestors lived so long having started work at the age of ten in factories and mines. I have found very rich ancestors [whose money had sadly disappeared by the time my generation had arrived!] and some who obviously lived on the bread line. One worked in a jail and another was imprisoned in a debtors' jail. One was transported for breaking agricultural machinery. One eloped and left his wife in penury. One married the same woman twice! Many died too young - one lived until one hundred and five yet was described as having died of 'old age' and as a 'pauper'.

Just to try and understand some of them I have read books about laundresses in Victorian London; workhouses; Victorian jails; Mushroom and potato farmers; Coal and mineral workers; Quakers and dissenters in the 17th and 18th century and digressed on all sorts of subjects. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself!!

But all these ancestors are precious - we all have similar in our backgrounds whether we know about them or not. They have all made us what we are today. And when we move around some of the older parts of our countryside - whether 'old and quaint' or 'old and decrepit' we should remember that part of us lived there and helped shape us.