Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bob Crow RIP

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death today of trade union leader Bob Crow. I was with Big Bob on Saturday afternoon. He spoke powerfully and movingly about the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike, at a trades’ council event in Brighton. Afterwards, we chatted and he wished me well with my own little industrial dispute and gave me some valuable advice.

It was his final public engagement and one of his last acts of kindness – no doubt of many – to a trade union comrade.

Bob and I are the same age – 52 – and hearing him speak about the year-long miners’ strike brought it back to me.

Young and idealistic back in 1984 (as opposed to old and idealistic now), I collected money every week for the Hull Trades’ Council to pay for food parcels for the striking miners of Yorkshire.

Also I went to see the miners’ food kitchens in West Yorkshire and wrote a feature about support for the strike, for the Hull Daily Mail, where I was a trainee reporter.

It was a formative time. 

I believe I was the first journalist on the scene when the Humber Bridge was blockaded by the miners – a day I shall never forget.

When the strike was over, the other Hull Trades' Council supported and I were invited to visit the miners at their working men’s club, i recall, in Castleford.

A young miner gave me an NUM Yorkshire membership badge – which I have proudly kept to this day - but wore only for the first time on Saturday at the anniversary event that Bob Crow addressed.

The gift was made in the bar of that cavernous, boozy social club, at some indeterminate time between the bingo and the traditional punch-up, and, although the miner said little to me, I was deeply moved by his gesture.

At our celebration of the strike on Saturday afternoon, RMT leader Bob Crow recalled how one of his predecessors as general secretary had given the miners £150,000 in cash in an old crisps box - to keep it out of the clutches of the authorities to "stick by their friends" in the pits. 

This vital support, he said, later cost his union millions of pounds in legal fees and fines, but no one regretted helping the miners in their hour of need.

He likened the miners’ struggle to that of Nelson Mandela against apartheid in South Africa, turning the “minority view into the majority view”, converting the persecutors into the prisoners, fighting unselfishly because of your “principles and values”.

Afterwards, I told him his speech had been an inspiration to me. We shook hands and then he was gone.

But the spirit of Bob lives. Our fight goes on and on. . .

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Friday, March 07, 2014

Now We Are Six

Lewes Poetry celebrated its sixth anniversary on 24 February 2014.
It was an exceptionally good night.
Poetry enthusiasts and poets turned out in their droves. 
The headliner Jonny Fluffy was superb, and everyone seemed to enjoy all the poetry, the limerick contest - and the birthday cake. Even the Mayor of Lewes, Ruth O’Keeffe, paid us an official visit.
Looking back over the history of Lewes Poetry, it has been a long and turbulent six years.
The club has had its ups and downs – and so have I.
Despite trying my best efforts to avoid trouble, I have been involved in fighting no fewer than four major battles: two work-related (the latest one is ongoing and very stressful), one transport-related and one horrible, hateful divorce battle.
In reality, it has been a hell of a time to run a poetry club, but, against all odds, Lewes Poetry abides and thrives.
When I embarked on this great poetic journey, I decided I wanted to run a club which mixed and matched the best of the published “page” poets and the “performance” poets, while giving everyone who writes or wants to write poetry the stage time to read their work in a supportive and friendly atmosphere.
Our little stage, in the wedge-shaped upstairs room of the legendary Lewes Arms (Lewes’ best public house in my view), has seen great, memorable performances by John Agard, Elvis McGonagall, Catherine Smith, Attila the Stockbroker, Ros Barber, Martin Newell, Rachel Pantechnicon, Justin Rhymes, Jeremy Stockwell, Kitty Hardy, Dreadlockalien, Jared Louche, A F Harrold, John O'Donoghue, Elle Osborne The Anti-Poet, Robin Houghton, Iona Jette, Simon Welsh and MC Elemental among many, many others.
At the sixth birthday gig, Alan Bradley, Laura King, David Glynne, Robin Dalglesh, John Feakins and I read – as well as the magnificent headline performance by punk poet and storyteller Jonny Fluffypunk, who also gave the Mayor a hug.
The limerick competition was hotly contested and won by Guyan Porter.
The next gig at Lewes Poetry is on Thursday, 17 April from 8.15am. 

All are welcome.


My estranged eldest daughter celebrated her 24th birthday on 19 February.

Her grandmother (my mum) tried to phone the family home to wish her a happy birthday but, for her trouble, received a torrent of verbal abuse from my ex-wife before the receiver was put down. 
Naturally, my mother was very upset by this.

These days not many things make me really angry - but this incident does.

If my “ex” has something to say about me, she should have the guts to say it to my face.

She should not exercise her rage on a 78-year-old woman who has never meant her any harm and is caring for an ailing husband suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

In my view, to do that is cowardly and inhumane.

Besides, my mum was phoning to speak with her granddaughter who is clearly, at the age of 24, an adult and perfectly capable of taking her own phone calls.

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