The last 6 months or so in some sort of order

Family – I could not be happier with everything they are and do. Punch my face in I am so f*****g smug! I adore them all.

Wedding – I adored that too. Selfishly, I, yes I, felt very special

Cats  – Vince is obsessed with me – which is flattering but tying. If I am at home for a day he glues himself to me like we are training for the Crufts cat ‘heel’ awards. He still lies on the keyboard and pats me as I type. I adore him.

Health – I am really not bad, better than I really would have imagined a year or so ago. I have managed work very well. I am a pathetic old man going up stairs – I actually dread them – but that may due to the extra belly load of fat I carry. My diet is EAAAAT “eat anything at all a lot”  my at rest pulse rate hit 130 last night – not good – so self-medicated and it’s just got back to normal – hurrah for beta blockers.

Sir Peter Hall. On the night he died and before it was announced and for the first time ever I was googling him to find out what he was up to. He was always incredibly nice to me and tolerated my complete ignorance of most things clever. I was an excellent assistant to him and he was an excellent mentor. We shared many a big breakfast at a greasy spoon in Brixton discussing Shakespeare’s verse. Yep for real.

Politics – I am more convinced than ever that I am right. The End.

Religion – see above.

Donald Trump – I hate myself, why do I wake up every morning and rush to read what he has done in the night. It really is like looking down the toilet after a big dump – you don’t learn anything, you are just disgusted – oh ever since being ill I have become very lavatorial (to those that are offended I promise to find better metaphors) but in this case it really is the most fitting.

Lights in the kitchen – must be bright – moody kitchen lighting results in last minute fumbles for reading glasses and burnt toast. I believe our kitchen lighting totals about 500 watts now. It’s like a sunny beach. Not the place in Bulgaria where Arthur dropped his kegs and danced on a night club bar btw..

Bass playing practice. Sporadic and depressing. How can I still be so bad after so long.

My students – some seem to like me quite a lot – why does it hurt so much when they don’t ? After all I am so nice. Got it! I am very opinionated – some people hate that. Reminder to self be bland – nah. I bought a small group of them coffee – they seemed really confused. In the midst of all this one possible significant creative flowering, I hope – she’s lazy though. Suppose that could be good sign?

Poetry – none

Short stories – none

Ridiculously complicated set ups consisting of computers and what not. – one

 – did it work – not really – were the students impressed – not really – was it worth it – yes – I even made the collapsible table to show it all on.

New lighters – 2 or 3 – one Japanese one on its way. It is on off pink shade with a silver poodle on it

Serious discoveries. The work of photographer Julie Blackmon (below). Grew up in a massive family in the mid west I think – now has loads of children of her own that she photographs in surreal scenarios that are both silly and frightening. I treated myself to one of her very pricey books.

Disappointments – still have not done my chemical photography despite getting the kit for Christmas 2 or was it 3 years ago. Both my girls are keen to have a go but we never get it together – right!! this Christmas maybe.

Strictly Come Dancing – best thing on Telly except Peaky Blinders – why do we continue to under value light entertainment – this show is superb – brilliant presenters, dancers, choreography, music lighting and a great concept. I know I know I am always on about it.

Fizzled out


Julie Blackmon

My hairpiece

My lovely, proud and expanding family at Art’s graduation –

Enough of them  – now all about me –

note my special graduation day hairpiece. Styled by ‘Draggedthroughabushbackwards Hair’ of Knightsbridge.

I know we all focus on ourselves in photos but on this occasion the subtle peek of vest, the dead starling on my forehead

and the Trumpian push/lurch forward into the lens really does add class to the whole composition. Mercifully on this occasion my lower set of wonky, ‘hint of cappuccino’ teeth are hidden.

Goodness I am a dish.

I can feel a seasonal blog post brewing like trapped wind.

see ya

Give Arthur money for his art!

It is important that the entire world support my children in their initiatives – thus I unapologetically demand that all my loyal readers donate substantially to the fundraising efforts for The Matthew Read Trio – new album launch – European (I think) Tour. Only joking! ish…

Remarkably they appear to have secured 20 dates already which is pretty good going for Contemporary Jazz – I believe some venues are the Jazz equivalent of an evening with the Matalan all Stars – but who cares. They have seven gigs in seven nights at one point. My dear friend Paul and I spent many years begging for money to do our art so why should our children fare any better. Beg, borrow, steal but for gauds sake never ever consider applying for a lottery grant unless you enjoy tackling forms with sentences that would confound even the most illustrious scholar of Proust for complexity. For 3 years we employed a wonderful woman called Sue, an Oxbridge scholar whose sole job was to fill in forms to help us fund our ego led projects. I suspect she is still dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s for that ill fated application. Those were not the days.

The river of life is flowing just nicely still – The Norwichians have had some great news on the employment front that I will allow them to share if they wish while the Londoners are carving up a nice slice of the late-night entertainment slots in prestigious hotels market. There is also a new album on its way from La Marini which we cannot wait for.

I ended up at the hospital with splinter in my eye. Straight from optician to hospital in an hour or so – amazing service. I was seen by a consultant, which struck me as over the top. He was one of those ones who goes for the Saville Row meets Hackney look. Vaguely cravatty and bracey . Nice bloke, bit like me he had re-educated himself in later life having started as an optician then went to UCL, medical school, surgery and finally back to eyes. Unbelievably attentive to what I considered to be a minor annoyance. The best bit was when I heard and felt the click of his tweezers as they teased out a tiny shard of plastic. Completely painless and very satisfying.

Talking of satisfying. I continue to be very satisfied with work. I have some very challenging students who remind me so strongly of me at Swanley Comprehensive. Basically, the school system has treated them like idiots and they have forgotten how to think. I like to think I help them erase the grim memory of school and its pointlessness and turn the energy they currently direct to imagining how to burn all schools down into making lovely sounds and videos that soundlike Enya. No to be honest that’s all fantasy, if ONLY they did want to burn ithem all down. I’m a liar. Its me that wants to burn them all down.

Gravityisahat (the band) is back

Family are just dandy, Maria and I also – feral cat is now a tame, soppy cat, work is great, health not bad. I have a new American pay telephone just like the ones in the movies – nickels, dimes and quarters all make different noises when you post them – brilliant. The fresh married Norwich team are doing great things as are the London team who have a new (less crowded) and extraordinarily posh looking flat. What happened to Bohemianism I say? The Norwichers are still bathed in the undimmable light of that amazing summer wedding and I have the task of compiling all the photos into one castle cake  of memories. Something I hope to have done by the new year.

I am sat with the little ginger feral monster leaning on my arm and occasionally patting me as I type. This summer he evolved and is now completely domesticated – we never imagined this would happen and have awarded ourselves the family title of ‘cat whisperers’……..

Boy aren’t I boring when I am content. I honestly have nothing to be cross about, nothing to rant about, no drugs to blame – oh yes guess what I am off every drug except statins, blood pressure pills and stomach de acidfiers – no uppers, downers or sidewayers no poisons or anti poisons, do you know it’s a bit like not having cancer!

For the first time for a very long time I really like the teaching side of my job.  I have always liked the students but not the act of sharing knowledge with them. But now to be honest I find it pretty easy. When you are not having to do a load of other things to climb the greasy academic pole, committing yourself to being attentive to them,  a bit interesting and sometimes amusing is a piece of piss. Sadly I don’t suppose the students have noticed much of a difference but I certainly have. I look forward! As a colleague of mine said ‘moments in class are zen moments.’ Part of the secret is doing those really mundane things that I have always resented – like preparing the lesson, remembering to give them and you a break, having an extension lead, stapling your bits of paper together thus avoiding lose-leaf-lap-slippage, realising that students are not just young versions of yourself , having a bag on wheels to hold that extension lead, cleaning the whiteboard, -an unimaginable pleasure-,  tidying your desk, sticking stuff on the walls (now naked, after I turfed out every single book) they were their purely to show off that I read, but I don’t so I dumped the lot. Instead I have seven screens in my office. Four of which are permanently off but form a beautiful cold black still silence against my ghastly (must change it)  beige paintwork. I have one Belgium telephone to make me think of Brussels, no family pictures – another ghastly status symbol perpetrated by some academics – look I am smart and a family man or woman – I have a home and a mortgage and live in the expensive village near Hull where every second family live in an untidy house full of books and dusty objects from trips to exotic places where conferences with intercontinental bullshit pseuds titles are convened and their children go to the local primary schools with the outstanding from offsted. They walk, as a family, at weekends and encourage outdoor activities, just so important for healthy brain development. Upstanding (blah) and dull and boring probably just like their beautifully mannered brown lab or cockapoo (got cockatoo from the spellchecker, much more subversive) and the rotting wendyhouse in the garden that grandpa made before he lost the plot (he is now rotting too) hopefully speeding their inheritance – smug gits. Oh sometimes I really don’t like what I have become. Actually yes I do. I suppose that’s worse.

So the big news is that Gravityisahat (the band not the brand) is back and performing on Boxing Day in the village hall. This will be my 6061 birthday party thus we will perform a number of classics that hitherto (at many memorable school galas) have never gone at all well – being that they have more than three chords and may even have tempo changes – so given my seniority it is time to show ambition. Carlos Santana will never have sounded so much like Charles Ives meets John Cage meets a status quo tribute band who forgot to tune up – I can’t wait.

Summer – Wedding and whatnot

I have not posted anything for ages – too busy living. 

An amazing summer for us!

Before too long I will be able to direct family and friends to pictures and video of the best wedding ever. I am not just saying that it actually was. The most delicious combination of love and freedom and ritual and chaos I have ever witnessed. To be frank – you just had to be there.

If perchance you were there, please send any pictures you took to me by e-mail or dropbox or any means whatsoever so the library of congress collection that will soon emerge is as complete as possible.

I will catch up with other posts I have been meaning to write once my first-week-teaching-new-subjects  anxiety has abated.

Ta ra

Oh dear am I losing the argument?

I have been carrying on a discussion with some readers, (who wish to remain anonymous but gave me permission to publish our communications), about my ranting post – you know the anti-authority blurt. Reluctantly (I hate losing arguments) I must admit they have made some pretty good points. I feel like I am being ganged up on as there are two of them and only one of me so if anyone would care to rescue me before I must concede that not everything about capitalism is bad, I would be most obliged.

You can follow the discussion below

  • After our first offline discussion in which I was introduced to the idea that the poor under capitalism were actually better off, I responded with this article

  • and got this response

(A.N.OTHER) Apologies for intruding in your dialogue with *** but she showed me the article from the world wide anarchist’s forum or whatever it was named  and I suffered a degree of outrage. It struck me as falling into the category of serious misleading use  of statistics to promote an agenda, similar but possibly worse than the Brexit £350 million claim.

The World Bank supplies the following data generally regarded as reliable by most economists.

1990 35% of the world in poverty ie living on less than $1.90c a day

2013 10.7%

In the above time-frame  1.1billion have  moved out of poverty  (using the above definition)  with the total falling from 1.85 billion to 737 million.  The fall has been particularly strong in China , India and Indonesia as they have all adopted aspects of the free market   or ‘capitalism’. There has been improvements in Africa  again when the evils of capitalism have been allowed to triumph  but  in some areas war and famine have impeded progress  and in others Marxist dictators like Robert Mugabe have held up improvement. In other areas, as in many under-developed societies, economic growth shows in increased population rather than rapidly rising living standards. 

I am reminded of the old  joke current in the USSR in the late 1920s- 

Food in the cities -No food in the countryside–the left party deviation

Food in the countryside-No food in the cities–the right party deviation

No food in the cities-No food in the countryside–the correct party line

Food in the cities-Food in the countryside—the evils of capitalism.

I attach a brief summary of part of an article in the latest edition of Prospect Magazine. I have read one of her three long books but this summarises her views very effectively


  • to which I responded thus

(CN) I think you will both approve of much of this. I think it reflects your views and poo poos some of mine. 

Fair enough?

Is the world really better than ever?

  • I was on a roll so I followed it with this

(CN) I have been thinking hard about what I really object to about capitalism and why I have an irrational distaste for it (and religion to boot.)

I think it amounts to the same thing. In both cases intellectually I can see that they are not really that bad. Both ideologies have had a mixed record of good and bad outcomes and good and bad followers. I don’t think anyone could reasonably calculate whether overall they have been a force for good or evil. It might be possible to put numbers against improvements in GDP or the number of faith based charitable activities or the number of people who are not as poor as they were but it isn’t possible to put numbers against subtler variables like how we feel about ourselves or each other or our “superiors”. Maybe alternatives could have arisen that would have produced a better result than deference, industrialisation, less peripheral damage to peoples’ mind, body and soul and of course the planet. We will never know. Not is it worthwhile trying to figure it out. But emotionally I don’t have much time for either capitalism or religion (why to the two go so often hand in hand I wonder?) – real question – because both these positions ie that of the capitalist and the religious persons carry with them strong hierarchical resonances – and I sure don’t like being bullied by god or economists.

Only the present and the future matter. Whatever might have been in the past makes no calculable difference to the trajectory of the future = everything that happened in the past makes every difference to the future. Either way the solution to the equation is null. 

Everything changes all the time. This ephemeral, temporary nature that pervades everything makes me very mistrustful of anyone that believes that anything is (even temporarily) permanent (ok hopefully you know what I mean) or sets itself beyond scrutiny. Often these claims of omnipotence are accompanied by a value judgement supported by evidence (miracles, the Bible, GDP statistics, other academics – standing on the shoulders of giants) showing that whatever it is that is being supported is also the best. God has made this claim for millennia and for 200 years so has Capitalism and of course communism, Marxism and all the other isms.

My brand of Anarchism (CN’s libertarian Anarchism) does not make this claim. There are almost no positive historic or anthropological precedents and if there were they would have no value given my statement above. My flavour of libertarian Anarchism proposes an evolutionary democratic approach. It proposes that the greatest gift for any human is freedom, but that we don’t know how to achieve that yet. A transitional government (government is a temporary necessity) should see itself as a part of the process of securing freedom for ALL. Not all socialists are anarchists, but if you like all anarchists are temporary socialists. By that I mean, a temporary socialist ‘flavour’ government (it could call itself liberal, womens equality party, green, conservative – I don’t care) that wishes to encourage opportunities for all is the most likely route toward the goal of universal freedom – namely no government at all. In anarchist philosophy the details of how this comes to pass cannot be set out in stone as this falls into the same trap as any other authorative approach (the dreaded strong government mantra) however the principle of a fair distribution of influence through democratic means remains fundamental to the transition period. The transition period will likely have characteristics that don’t please everyone, including CN,  but the goal of the government remains the same, namely to make itself redundant once the principals of equality are fully ingrained in the culture.

So in the meantime what could we do?  Wait for it to emerge naturally? We could but that seems to waste the notion of human ingenuity and problem solving. In the same way that technology was a catalyst for the industrial revolution, modern technology could be a catalyst for a reappraisal of our values and of our political systems. Accepting that capitalism has done some good work up until now, why should we assume it is fit for purpose in our modern technological society that has just changed significantly in the time it took me to write this sentence? Indeed thanks to all sorts of technology (“thanks capitalism”) aren’t we in a better position than ever to reappraise capitalist achievements and to re-cut the cake more fairly. (“Thank you again capitalism for providing us with this opportunity.”) 

Unfortunately, we lack the political will because one of the primary products of capitalism is an unfair distribution of power that favours an economic elite (“Thank you Donald Trump for providing the perfect example of this.”) I am quite prepared to accept this is an unintended consequence of the Capitalist ideal but even so it is difficult for it to stand up to scrutiny, particularly for those that proffer moral scrutiny as a gold standard (I am not one). Even if we accept the notion that there is a drop down effect can’t we try to make the drop down more of a deluge.

So CN’s anarchism is for a progressive change of culture through temporary alignment with socialism in order to realise the central goal of universal freedom for all without government. Its starting point is to scrutinise (not destroy) the current, norms, traditions, hierarchies and values to see if positive innovation can help bring us toward this central goal. It has nothing whatsoever to do with  communism, Marxism, national socialism, fox hunting or any other of these monstrous failures.

  • This provoked a belated response to my very first blurt

(A.N.OTHER) You give your email the title,’anti authoritarian rant’ but you end by advocating a state grab of at the expense of private ownership. That state would then decide what necessities individuals would require to build a rewarding life, and redistribute accordingly.This all sounds pretty authoritarian to me, Chris. 

You acknowledge that such states have so far ended up with tyrannical regimes but ask why this need always be the case. I would suggest that the answer lies in your opening declaration that you hate authority. If you hate authority why should anyone else not do so?

The forced abolition of private property would meet with some considerable resistance because  most people ,like you, would not like being told what to do. This would lead to an inevitable clamp down, usually involving violence and loss of life, often on a very large scale.The accompanying instability would then lead to economic decline, which affects the poor the most.

Most revolutionaries, of right or left, have justified this period of violence as only a temporary means towards a greater good( in your case it would appear that this stage would teach us all not to like possessions and show us how to share with one another, eventually leading us to a society run on local cooperatives with no government) I would suggest that such periods are never temporary because those organising  such an upheaval ,like the man who doesn’t want to give up his property, do not want to give up their new found power. Such a scenario is being played out today in Venezuela where their experiment in social justice has taken income per head back to the 1950s.

Now what about the mess that you think capitalism has caused. You seem to think that capitalism is only about greed,ownership and power; I would agree that these are not attractive values. But there was something much deeper underpinning its evolution , beginning in 17 century Holland, which in effect amounted to a mental revolution- the freedom to talk,express ideas openly and have them listened to in an environment of respect. 

In creating a society where the ideas of ,not just those at the top, but those of the growing urban middle classes( previously much looked down upon) could b,e given respect and freedom to develop, the poor were enriched at a faster rate than ever before. But, as importantly, they were not just enrich ed in monetary terms. Philosophical and ethical ideas were openly discussed and wider freedoms evolved.This model was so successful it has been copied and further developed,firstly in Britain and as we have seen then into north west Europe and America 

Because these societies have been developed on the ides of freedom tempered with respect and dignity for the individual, emancipation has ,over time, extended to those on the fringes society- the poor, women, the disabled. Most importantly all have been given the vote, which means those in power can be thrown out if the people feel the government is not serving their interests.

Governments are answerable to parliament where the notion of a ‘loyal opposition’ allows for free and open debate, now of course televised and available for all to see( even at the committee stage)In precapitalist days money undoubtedly gave you power but it is not true that in a democratic society those who spend the most money always get in; Hilary Clinton spent much more on her campaign than Donald Trump. (SECTION REDACTED BY CN as it will give identity of writer away).

“The great achievement of parliamentary democracy is that it takes potentially violent political conflicts and civilises them” (the economist-July 22nd 2017)

Outside the field of politics people have important freedoms: free speech, freedom to demonstrate, freedom to be different, freedom to write and create the art or music of  their choice. We now have a variety of media which on the whole provides the means for a range of views to be expressed and criticised. We have an open press which represents a full range of opinions which are out in the open and subject to scrutiny( wish the same could be said for social media  which ,yes ,it provides a more direct opportunity for ordinary people to air their views( all the result of capitalist innovation)but it can also be used more blatantly as a tool for propaganda and can provide a platform for nasty threatening behaviour which is really a form of bullying that society has not yet managed to contain.

Of course within any system that espouses freedom there will be those  who will abuse it. That is why strong structures of law have to be in place and enforced independently of government, otherwise those in power can become involved in corruption and cronyism ( as was the case in precapitalist times and now in statist societies. In many ways states that take it upon themselves to grab ownership  and redistribute are operating in the same way as precapitalist rulers).

The degree to which the law can step into the realm of individual freedom has to be constantly adjusted to suit new environments Accountability has to be a crucial part of a free society. Sometimes it fails, as we have seen in the recent banking crisis-interestingly it is in America that the toughest sentencing has been implemented; we in England have been sadly lacking in this area. It is an example of how governments and the law have to keep abreast of innovation so that they can protect the public against those who seek to use their freedom to exploit others. Exploitation was and is not now a way of enriching all. Too great an inequality gap not only holds back economic growth but creates a less cohesive, more unjust, unhappy and ultimately a more unstable society. So narrowing that gap is important. It is interesting that a recent IMF report found that enriching the very top end did not drive the whole economy forward but enriching the lower and middle did (exactly what the early innovative societies between the 17th and 19th centuries did).

It has been the freedom to have open conversations and create ideas, together with a preparedness to believe in and provide the means to back those ideas with financial support( because of course this can involve risk) that has driven innovation and has taken societies forward both in material and ethical ways.The process of innovation has had to be ongoing adapting all the time to change and new ways of thinking. Above all it has to be responsive.

I would suggest that your model of the theatre with its recognition of talent and expertise is the perfect example of innovative creativity and it is no coincidence that it thrives in our free society.

So please let’s not abuse the freedom we have and do a Mao( who also resented his father and hated authority ) in his cultural revolution , constantly throwing everything up in the air in the vague hope that something good will come out of it. We might end up with a bit of excitement but I suspect there would be a lot of sound and fury accompanied by much suffering.

When people are given choice where do they walk? Away from authoritarianism and towards freedom.

  • at which point the BBC World at One broadcast two highly relevant points of view captured below.

(CN) So that is where we are now. I think I am struggling to rationalise my ingrained prejudices against power and authority with a more mature understanding of the pragmatics of economics – I will need to mull some more. I will be back!

Lisa Marini – Main Stage Wilderness Festival – TODAY

If you are in Oxfordshire – don’t miss it! – Except its is sold out so you have.

Although us sad gits are cos we cant be up late and miss our Newsnight and Horlicks.

Art sent us a pic of the main stage being set up – works brilliantly as an abstract but I cant make head or tail of it. I think it is from the stage looking out.