This video from England says about itself:
This subspecies is rare in Britain. They are usually in Asia.
This video says about itself:
2 July 2014
By Peter Frost in England:
Rural life of political struggle
Friday 28th October 2016
The initially sceptical PETER FROST is won over by a museum in Reading that chose to show the story of the countryside life as one that was far from the idyll pictured on biscuit tins
Views on the English countryside can be complicated. Here is a letter from one Victorian country gent to his friend in London: “On Saturday, I went out fox-hunting — seven hours in the saddle […] It’s the greatest physical pleasure I know. One fox killed and I was in at the death.”
Another Victorian was Alfred Palmer, one half of the famous Reading biscuit making partnership Huntley and Palmer. The company often sold their biscuits in beautiful tins covered with cosy idolised views of the English countryside.
This video is called HUNTLEY AND PALMER‘S CARR LU BISCUITS TINS.
They pictured thatched cottages with roses growing round the door; apple-cheeked yeoman farmers showed off their bulldogs and dutiful farmers’ wives, who when they weren’t churning butter were plaiting a quick corn dolly. It was never a very accurate picture but it entered the English culture and helped shape our national psyche.
Regular readers of this column will know I have a different view. Mine is the English countryside of Tolpuddle, Captain Swing, Wat Tyler, the Kinder Trespass, the Burston strike school, Joseph Arch and his Agricultural Labourers Union, the Braunston canal boat strike and a score of other chapters of rural history where working people have fought for their rights in the countryside.
My viewpoint focuses on the battle against cruel sports and for fair agricultural wages, against lawbreaking gamekeepers and the outrage of tied cottages, badger culls and profit hungry agribusiness, fair milk prices and supermarket bullying, national parks as well as the common agricultural policy or mega-dairies.
The biscuit-maker Palmer — having made his fortune — gave his mansion on the edge of Reading to the town’s university in 1911. Today the house — much extended — has become home to the Museum of English Rural Life, which has just opened again after a two year, £3.3 million redevelopment.
I went along to see how the money had been spent, and to be honest, with some reservations. Too many of the rural life museums I have visited are far closer to Palmer’s biscuit tin idyllic images than to real life.
It seems I needn’t have worried. The museum may have plenty of farmer’s smocks, farm carts and curious agricultural artefacts but it also has a good supply of red radical rural blood coursing through its veins. Its focus is always on real people and real issues.
One of the first exhibits to catch my eye at the main entrance was socialist artist Walter Crane’s 1913 embroidered banner made for the National Agricultural Labourers & Rural Workers Union. It was that union’s very first banner.
Decorated with sun, plough, ears of corn, flowers and fruit, it is inscribed with the slogan: “We sow the seed that feeds the world.”
Alongside on display are plaster casts of Joseph Arch’s hands — the hands of the man who founded that first agricultural trade union. Arch was a skilled hedge-layer from Warwickshire.
In 1872 Karl Marx described what he saw in the British countryside as the “great awakening” of British agricultural workers.
It was in that year that Arch founded the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union under the chestnut tree on the village green in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.
His supporters organised a meeting to hear him speak. On a wet and stormy night they hoped for crowd of perhaps 30.
In fact, over 2,000 agricultural workers arrived to hear Arch speak and to join his union.
Many other issues and disputes are aired among the thousands of exhibits packed into the new remodelled museum. I was surprised how many of my countryside issue boxes the museum managed to tick.
As well as real exhibits, archive film and evocative photographs bring alive the many stories. These include the Women’s Land Army, WWII child evacuees, hop pickers from London’s slums escaping to the fresh air and good food of Kent.
These and many other tales are told with both emotion and real understanding.
No museum today is complete without a good gimmick and this one has a beauty. It is a full-size animated plastic cow.
Children and embarrassment-resistant adults can press a lever at the front end for a satisfying moo, extract synthetic milk from the synthetic udders underneath or, best of all, approach the rear end and press the lever to get a realistically malodorous fart to remind you of the massive contribution that cattle make to greenhouse gases and ozone layer depletion.
I started this column with Huntley and Palmer biscuit tins and I’ll end with them too. Nearly 40 years ago the biscuit company, by then absorbed into mega-company Associated Biscuits, decided to re-introduce its rural idyll biscuit tin designs.
It commissioned an artist to produce an intricate scene of a happy garden party on the lawns of a thatched country cottage. It was very much in the Edwardian Kate Greenaway nursery rhyme rural style.
The artist was either very bored or very naughty. One version of the story has him as a disgruntled employee working out his notice. Whatever, hidden in the elaborate design he managed to incorporate a naked copulating couple and a pair of dogs engaged in the same activity. The tiny jam jar on the table appears to be labelled “shit.”
Thousands of decorative tins were sold before this rudery was spotted. Today these very collectable items sell for hundreds of pounds at auction.
Sadly, they didn’t actually have one on display at the re-opened museum, but there wasn’t much else missing from their comprehensive telling of the rich story of our English countryside.
To find out more about the Museum of English Rural Life visit www.reading.ac.uk/theMERL. Free admission.
This reggae music video says about itself:
David Hinds – Vocals, Guitar
Basil Glendon Gabbidon – Guitar
Ronald, Ronnie “Stepper” McQueen – Bass Guitar
Selwyn D.”Bumbo” Brown – Keyboards, Vocals
Alphonso “Phonso” Martin – Percussion, Vocals
Steve Nisbett, Stevie “Grizzly” Nesbitt – Drums
By Farhana Shaikh in Britain:
‘I’m interested in exploring how the personal becomes political’
Saturday 15th October 2016
SHARON DUGGAL tells Farhana Shaikh what impelled her to write her first novel, set during the 1981 Handsworth riots
The Handsworth Times is your first novel. How did you go about writing it?
I’d like to say I have a routine and a set process for writing but it would be a big fib.
I am quite unorganised and a bit sporadic as a writer but I do always carry a notebook, jot down ideas as they arise and revisit them later. I have taught myself to write quickly through necessity and I can bang out a shoddy first draft at speed.
This is because I know my time is short due to other commitments, so I have to get whatever is in my head down on paper before it is too late. From there I revise and redraft a lot and I suppose that has organically become my process.
You’ve set your novel in Handsworth in Birmingham but your story has at its heart a Punjabi family. What personal experiences did you draw on?
I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s in a British-Asian family in Handsworth, surrounded by the joint values of traditional Indian culture, family loyalty and an emphasis on hard work as a way of progressing through life and becoming upwardly socially mobile.
However, I was also surrounded by people of diverse cultural backgrounds living in reduced circumstances, struggling to make ends meet, and it soon became apparent that actually, for the working-class communities that I was in the midst of, opportunities for social mobility and aspiration were severely restricted whatever we did.
Having said that, Handsworth was also an extremely lively and exciting place to grow up with the street, doubling as a playground, central to community life.
I come from a big family with lots of siblings and cousins so there was a rich pool of material to draw on for ideas and characters. Like most extended families, stories about legacy and family history get passed down and become fragmented over time but some things, even though you don’t quite know whether they actually happened or not, do stick in the mind and resurface when writing.
The novel’s set in 1981 and, while it’s fiction, it feels as though we’re very much grounded in reality.
How much research did you do about the period and were you surprised by what you uncovered?
The novel started as part of a research degree so I was well placed to do research as part of the process but, rather than heavy academic research, I found what I had to do was a lot of googling to check things like TV listings and pop charts from the time. I do remember certain things about the period but it was a long time ago so I did have to do my homework, especially on the cultural and news references.
What made you want to write about the riots of 1981?
Birmingham in general is under-represented in mainstream literary output. Not enough stories about the city get published and I don’t know why.
But it is hugely interesting, both for its industrial past and how that has shaped its present, including its demography. It must be among the most multicultural places in the world yet, for some reason, publishers are not choosing stories based there.
This, coupled with the political landscape of the 1980s, of which the riots were a consequence, continues to be of interest, not least because our politicians and governments don’t seem to have learnt anything from what happened then.
Unfortunately, as ordinary people get squeezed tighter with welfare cuts, archaic education policies and lack of investment in communities and as racism and xenophobia rise, stoked as political tools by certain politicians and by their media mouthpieces — or vice versa? — manifestations of social unrest like rioting have and could so easily happen again at any point.
We see the struggle within the household juxtaposed against the one happening in the community. What were you interested in exploring by setting the story firmly within the space of domesticity?
I suppose I was interested in exploring how the personal becomes political, especially for the younger female characters, and how the domestic world and the social external world are inextricably linked.
The world beyond the house very much influences how characters develop and this, in turn, begins to transform how they exist alongside each other in the domestic sphere. They each go on a journey of some kind that helps equip them for the challenges of the world beyond the domestic sphere or, in the case of the father Mukesh, a journey that actually contributes to his demise.
I also wanted to convey something of the claustrophobia of living in a large family in a small house and how this can mirror the claustrophobia of living a seemingly fish-bowl like existence in a community like Handsworth.
Plenty of writers have written about the immigration experience but British stories set outside of London still seem few and far between. What were your hopes for the story you wanted to tell?
Like most people, I get frustrated by the stereotypes that continue to get churned out in books, sitcoms, film etc. It seems that there is an acceptable face of multiculturalism that mainstream publishers and other cultural gatekeepers want to perpetuate for some reason — I suspect it is because it is what they perceive as marketable.
The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a great talk a few years ago where she warned against the danger of a single story as it leads to misunderstanding and stereotypes which are almost always untrue. I couldn’t agree with her more.
We have a long way to go to change the lack of diversity in literary output despite some really good recent interventions.
The saddest thing is that this is at the expense of some very talented writers that don’t fit the mould and at the expense of the reading public who, I am sure, are thirsty for different kinds of stories and voices.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about writing about the past?
Bring the past alive as part of the research by exploring personal accounts, diaries, social histories, film archives and oral testimony.
Luckily, with more recent history, we have a lot more access to this kind of primary source material online, including digital archives housed on library and community sites.
I found old photographs, music videos and news footage particularly helpful to informing some of the more descriptive passages of the book. Visual stimuli really are useful.
The Handsworth Times by Sharon Duggal is published by Bluemoose Books, price £8.99. A longer version of this interview was first published in The Asian Writer, theasianwriter.co.uk.
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Tuesday 6th September 2016
The film I, Daniel Blake is enough to make you weep – with rage
I LOVE a good cry at the cinema.
Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, I head out to see It’s a Wonderful Life, that massively manipulative seasonal classic about knowing your place and the importance of giving up your hopes and dreams so you can thwart the evil plutocrats in your home towns. It gets me every time.
But last week I saw a film that made me cry for a very different reason. No schmaltz, no improbable Hollywood happy endings, just the latest — and, if some of the rumours turn out to be true, possibly the last — Ken Loach-directed film.
I, Daniel Blake is the latest in a stellar career stretching back to Cathy Come Home, his groundbreaking 1966 BBC teleplay about homelessness. It is unashamedly and brutally polemical, which has meant it’s been rather sniffily received by some of the broadsheet critics, despite winning the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes festival.
Loach himself noted the savage irony of his film winning an award at such a glitzy Establishment event. The tale of a Newcastle carpenter caught in the byzantine benefits system after suffering a heart attack, the film opens with Blake in a seemingly unending phone conversation with a “health professional,” going through a box-ticking exercise to ascertain whether he is entitled to sickness benefit.
Inevitably, he is declared fit for work, in spite of his doctor warning him to avoid the exertion of physical labour.
Blake, understatedly played by stand-up comedian Dave Johns, cheerfully heads to the jobcentre to get everything sorted out. After all, he’s been paying his taxes and national insurance for decades. He wants to work, he’s just unable to at present.
What follows is a savage indictment of the state of our welfare system, one that might have been unexpectedly stark to some of our more mollycoddled critics but will be familiar to the millions who have had any dealing with our increasingly privatised and outsourced state.
With rising horror, Blake realises that he has been dubbed a “shirker” by the Tories’ attempt to divide the working class into “useful” and “useless” categories.
His inability to use a computer, and his attempts to find work the old-fashioned way, mark him out as a troublemaker within the bright, bleak walls of the jobcentre.
He makes a friend in Katie, a single mother from London who has made the move to the north-east after being socially cleansed from the capital. She’s far away from her family and support network and her kids are struggling to adapt to the new area.
Without giving away any spoilers, it’s safe to say that this story doesn’t end happily. There are a couple of particularly brutal scenes, scenes that I could still see behind my eyelids days later. As polemic, Loach’s film is an undoubted success. It’s impossible to watch it without feeling a renewed sense of fury at what collective indignity our government is unleashing on the working poor.
The film succeeds artistically too, containing as it does some extraordinary performances and successfully sustaining crucial themes.
One is of powerlessness. The jobsworths, like the security staff at the jobcentre and the boss who chides a more sympathetic worker for helping Blake with his online application, may be the “strivers” according to current lore but the film makes it clear that they are as trapped as anyone else.
And the other theme is of dignity and the quiet power of maintaining it in the face of extreme, intentionally brutal provocation from an increasingly dystopian state.
This video from England says about itself:
4 August 2014
Wild badgers filmed in south Lincolnshire woodland.
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Pro-badger activists slam cull extension
Wednesday 24th August 2016
ANIMAL rights campaigners condemned reports yesterday that ministers are planning to extend the badger cull.
Killing badgers does not effectively eradicate bovine tuberculosis, animal rights protesters argue.
Badger Trust chairman Peter Martin said: “The badger is being used as a scapegoat for failures in the modern intensive livestock industry.”
Instead of culling, a vaccine for cattle should be a priority, said Paul Wilkinson of The Wildlife Trust, pointing to evidence that the disease is mainly spread through cow-to-cow contact.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) refused to confirm or deny reports that culling would be extended to south Devon, north Devon, north Cornwall, west Dorset and south Hertfordshire despite Devon farmer Tony Francis telling the BBC he’d signed up to one of the new cull zones.