1967 – 40 Years On

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Channel 4, and Film On Four, are showing a series of programs and films this week to mark 40 years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act was passed supposedly decriminalizing male homosexuality (lesbianism was never made illegal in UK because Queen  Victoria apparently could not believe women would do such things.)

Last night they showed a dramatized documentary about a landmark court case in the 1950s, which started to change public opinion. In those days the situation for gays in UK was horrific. If you were a practising gay living with your lover, the police could break into your home and arrest you. The maximum sentence was life imprisonment, although in practise most gays got a few months or years, but it meant all gay men lived in constant fear of arrest or blackmail.

The documentary said that, largely due to the change in public opinion following the court case above, the Wolfenden Report of 1957 recommended decriminalizing male homosexuality, although it took Parliament another 10 years to actually pass any legislation. What the program did not mention was that it took a further 35 years or so for the law to be substantially changed. UK was one of the very last countries in the developed world to have a fully liberated gay community.

What the documentary brought out very clearly was that before the passing of the 1967 Act practising gays were paranoid, afraid to give their real names, using a secret language (polari) to communicate with each other, and that the illegal gay clubs which existed were all part of a very secret underground. What it did not make clear was that this secret gay underworld was hidden, not just from the general public, but from many gay men themselves.

I knew I was gay from the age of 13 back in 1958. I didn’t discover that there was anyone else like myself until 1967, when the publicity surrounding the changing of the law made me aware for the very first time that there were other people like me, and that there was a thriving gay scene in London.

Eventually I found this gay scene, with great difficulty. As there was no gay press in UK I had to get a list of gay places in London by writing to an address in California which I found in an American magazine. Even then the gay guide was full of errors.  And when you found the gay clubs, you could not gain admittance unless introduced by a member. Not knowing any other gays, I was refused entry.

Even if you found a gay bar where membership was not necessary, you had to be ‘in the know’. You had be aware of a certain gay dress code, how to behave, and be able to make eye contact. I am still unable to make eye contact or pick up subtle or even not-so-subtle signals, and I still don’t look, act, wear my hair or dress like a gay man, so I’m told.

A work colleague who was gay took pity on me and took me to a gay bar in the late 1960s. Next day he said to me: ‘You just haven’t got a bloody clue have you? You’ll never ever pick anybody up in a gay bar dressed as you were last night in a huge overcoat. Your clothes, hairstyle, everything was totally wrong, and you weren’t making eye contact with anyone. You looked like a straight guy who’d wandered in by accident. Gay men wouldn’t come near you with a barge pole.’ Or words to that effect.

I did eventually find places where dress codes and making eye contact weren’t necessary, but I was always breaking the law, as defined by the 1967 Act. I have never been able to meet any other gay man and remain ‘legal’ under this Act. It was not until the early 21st century that changes in the law made gays totally legal. In fact friends active on the gay scene before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act say the decriminalization of male homosexuality led, not to gay liberation, but to repression and a big clampdown on the gay clubs and places which did exist.

After the 1967 Act the police and courts had a strict legal guideline to go by, which in fact made all gay sex or even public shows of affection totally illegal unless in the privacy of your own home with no other person present. So after the 1967 Act gay clubs and other places were regularly raided and closed down. Before the Act, so I am told, it was all underground so much more went on and the police tended to turn a blind eye.

Moreover, any possible way of approaching another man with a view to starting a gay relationship of any kind remained totally illegal until the early 21st century in UK. Plainclothes police used to regularly pose as gay men to try to entrap people. If you so much as smiled at a plainclothes policeman in a gay bar or offered to buy him a drink, you were in danger of being arrested for ‘importuning for an immoral purpose’. Of course all cruising in public places such as parks and public toilets was, and still is, illegal. Even putting contact ads in the new gay press was illegal if the ultimate objective was gay sex of any kind.

So the only people the 1967 Act protected really were gays already in a relationship and practising in the privacy of their own homes. All ways of meeting other gay men usually fell foul of the law, and the definition of the term ‘in private’ was so restrictive that many gays lived as criminals for nearly another 40 years.  Certainly when my gay life-partner, George, moved in with me and my mother in the early 1970s, we were breaking the law and liable to arrest.

The 1967 Act put male homosexuals in the same category as prostitutes: the act itself wasn’t illegal, but every possible way of meeting another person to perform the act was against the law.

It is interesting that the court case which eventually led to the changing of the law involved a Daily Mail reporter who met a serving member of the RAF. This remained illegal until the early 21st Century, as members of the military were excluded from the 1967 Act. The way they met also remained illegal until the early 21st Century, since meeting a strange man outside a Tube station and inviting him back to your flat was clearly ‘importuning for an immoral purpose’ in the eyes of the law. The activity which took place at Lord Montagu’s palace, around which the court case centered, also remained totally illegal until the early 21st century, since more than two people were present on the premises.

Despite the passing of the 1967 Act, Britain lagged behind the rest of the developed world as regards gay liberation until the early 21st Century. Even East Berlin in 1968 was far more liberated than London at the time. Gays were walking down one of the main streets of East Berlin hand-in-hand without anyone batting an eyelid. In London you would have been liable to arrest for such public shows of affection ‘offending public decency’. Also there was a gay bar in this East Berlin street which would have been immediately raided and closed down had it been in London, even a year after the 1967 Act was passed.

With my gay life-partner, George, I visited gay cities like Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s and they were streets ahead of London at the time. All the clubs that existed in these cities would have been closed down by the police in England.  We told a guy in a Sydney gay club this in 1990, and he said: ‘Well England is still in the age of Queen Victoria. You are the laughing stock of the Western world!’

So finally Britain has been dragged kicking and screaming straight from the 19th century into the 21st century, as far as gay liberation is concerned. But there is very little to celebrate about the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act 40 years ago since it clearly did NOT make gay men and their clubs legal at all. It simply decriminalized certain gay acts inside a home where only two people were present. How on Earth these two gay men were supposed to meet in the first place put them in danger of entrapment and arrest for another 35 years or so.

Readings at Clapham Spiritualist Church

I had booked two 15 minute readings for myself and my friend Frank, mainly because I feel Frank needs to make more progress in moving on since his life-partner, Len, passed over suddenly in March 2006.

The readings were with an elderly medium, who I believe was called Dorothy Chapman. Mine was fairly accurate. She identified my father in spirit and described a lot of his character traits – very argumentative all his life, and richer than at times he made out. This was certainly very true. Every time we met he would lecture me on everything I’d done wrong in my life, and he was like this with most people. He’d argued with all his family and wasn’t even on speaking terms with his sister.

When my mother claimed maintenance for herself and my brother and me, after the separation, he always made out he was broke whilst renting a luxury flat, running a big car, owning a very popular restaurant and going out gambling most nights. In court it came out how wealthy he really was, and how little tax he had paid in the past year, somehow convincing the tax authorities as well that he was as poor as a church mouse.

On the other hand, the medium said he liked people to think he had money. This was certainly true with people he wanted to impress or influence. It didn’t include his family in England. It was people from his village in Cyprus mainly he wanted to impress. Although he was a professed atheist, he gave a lot of money to the Church, especially so they could build a church youth club in the village. They even erected a monument to him whilst he was still living, he was such a benefactor to the village, sending many of their sons to England to study at university. I never got to university, and my brother only got there by luck, and with no help at all from my father.

The medium said there were a lot of changes in my life about now, that I had a lot of things to sort out, and that there was a change of job in the offing.  Actually I have taken early retirement, am trying to sort out my company pension, any benefits I may be entitled to, fill in tax forms, I have re-drawn my Will, etc.. As regards the change of job, she said my father was saying I need to do something to get an income. At the moment I’m just living off money left me from his Estate, whilst I wait for my pension to come thru, which won’t even be enough to pay my council rent.

Only the day before someone had said to me I should try to get some of my short stories published for money, instead of giving them away free on the Internet, and I took steps to do just this. I felt this message meant my father was encouraging me to do something like this. Always he was talking about making money, so it would be typical of him.

Other things weren’t quite so accurate. Or at least were imprecise. She seemed to think my father and mother had a long marriage. Yes and no. They were probably legally married more than 30 years, but only lived together for about 10 of those years, if that. She said that they lived together long enough to have a family, which was true, but she then talked about a sister and children. When I said I had no sister, just a brother, she said it could be a sister-in-law. I do have a sister-in-law, but they have no children. However she is surrounded by children as she is a primary school teacher.

The medium talked about a lady very close to me with whom I could discuss almost anything. She assumed it was a wife, but as I am gay and single at the moment, I can only surmise it is my mother, with whom I am very close. We do indeed discuss almost everything, and do a lot of things together, especially now I’ve retired.

The medium said my father passed with a chest complaint, such as pneumonia, and that he coughed a lot near the end, and had to be propped up in bed to breathe. I couldn’t verify any of that, since I didn’t see him in his very last days. My mother and I visited him in the clinic where he died in Cyprus some weeks earlier. He had a terminal brain tumor. However, as with many people who die in hospital, he could well have succumbed to pneumonia near the end. I don’t know, I never saw the death certificate, which would anyway have been in Greek, a language I don’t understand.

Frank said his message was fairly accurate as well, describing many women acquaintances, which was true, one of which is currently in hospital very ill. The medium said Frank should visit her again, and indeed she had asked Frank to visit her every day if possible. He’d only been once I believe. It was his next door neighbor, who is probably terminally ill, since she is of advanced age and sometimes couldn’t even get out of bed.

The medium also apparently brought Frank’s life-partner Len to him, saying he felt it was his time to go, but was staying very close to Frank. I hope this brought some comfort to Frank and will help him to accept what has happened and move on.

Dorothy Chapman is no Colin Fry or Tony Stockwell. Most mediums are not able to be so precise as these TV mediums, who are extra talented. But she was accurate enough to be convincing. She couldn’t have known about those character traits in my father, for instance – being very argumentative thruout his life, and making out he was poor when it suited him, and flashing around his wealth when he wanted to impress people.

A satisfactory reading, one of many I have had thru the years which have brought to me my father, my partner George, my grandmother and many other less close acquaintances.

Pride Weekend, and why I wasn’t there

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Usually when the London Gay Pride parade and festival takes place, around the first weekend in July, I’m at the Wildest Cats In Town rock’n’roll weekender near Lowestoft. This year I didn’t go to the weekender, but neither did I feel inclined to join in any of the Pride celebrations. Neither did most of my gay/bi friends and acquaintances.

In the early days, Pride-type marches organized by the Gay Liberation Front were protest demonstrations demanding basic gay rights. At that time, despite the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act supposingly legalizing homosexuality, most things gays today take for granted were still illegal. In fact almost every way of meeting or flirting with another gay man was illegal, and you also had to make sure you were both over 21, not in the armed forces, and if you planned to be intimate, that no other person was present on the premises. This even applied if you were lucky enough to live in a palace or a 30 room mansion. If your poor old granny was fast asleep in her bedroom in the West Wing and you took your gay lover to bed in a room in the East Wing, you were commiting a crime. Indeed my mother committed a crime by allowing my life-partner to move into her council flat and share a bedroom with me – we could have all ended up in court.

Nowadays we have won more LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) rights than could ever have been imagined all those years ago. Gays can now get married (civil partnerships), divorced, even join the armed forces if they so wish. There are gay clubs where all sorts of activities take place on the premises. At one fetish club, when someone tried to take the club to court, it was the protestor who was fined and ordered to pay the court costs because the club was licensed for such way-out activities. Even Britain’s pornography laws have been liberalized, and now almost anything goes, whether gay or straight. There are, in fact, very few rights for gays to win in Britain.

OK, so we’ve got our gay rights, so we should go on the annual Pride parades to celebrate our lifestyle, so the argument goes. That’s fine, if you want to do this, and many do, so go ahead. But please behave yourselves and act in a responsible manner. My life-partner and I stopped going on these sort of parades nearly 20 years ago (he’s been dead for nearly 16 years) because of the few exhibitionists who insisted on shouting out obscenities in order to shock members of the public watching, which included little children. Others dressed or acted in an obscene fashion, for instance by wearing trousers which exposed the backside. Even going to and from Pride celebrations, some of these exhibitionists act in a disgusting manner on the public transport system, evidently because they feel strength in numbers and know there is little chance of them being arrested.

It is true Pride is the one day we feel this strength in numbers, and that might well give us the courage to walk with our partner hand-in-hand or give them a little kiss, activities which heterosexual couples take for granted. But in Pride-type events around the world, some gay exhibitionists go much further than this, committing obscene acts in full view of the public. Many of us don’t want to be associated with this kind of exhibitionism. It does us no favors, and can only turn members of the general public against us.

Heterosexuals don’t go on public demonstrations shouting out to all and sundry what they get up to in bed, or demonstrating it on the streets. We have won our gay rights, now let’s shut up about them and get on with enjoying them behind the closed doors of our homes, clubs, pubs, saunas or wherever. If we want to demonstrate for LGBT rights, we should be directing our protest at those countries and societies which have yet to embrace such notions. In some countries you can still be executed just for practising your gay sexuality.

Another reason I am reluctant to go on Pride marches: It is fine if you are with your life-partner, or even a short-term partner. Or with a group of gay friends. If, however, you are widowed or single, Pride marches can be a very lonely place to be. Nobody will talk to you or befriend you, and you’ll be surrounded by gay and lesbian couples holding hands and kissing, which will make you feel excluded and maybe lonely and depressed, even if you didn’t feel such emotions before you went on the Parade. The LGBT community is not renowned for reaching out to lonely people among their number, especially if they are older and perhaps widowed. Pride weekend, for such people, can be a very lonely place to be.

OK, I’ve been on lots of marches and demonstrations for all sorts of causes, and you tend to be alone on all of them. Nobody befriends single protestors on anti-war demonstrations for instance, so unless you’re lucky enough to meet up with some friends, that too can be a lonely experience. But at Pride we are supposed to be celebrating a gay community, and as described above, seeing happy LGBT couples holding hands, etc. can make single or widowed gays feel excluded, lonely and unhappy.

Then there are the festivals and special events put on thruout Pride weekends. Unless you fall into the LGBT mainstream who worships Kylie Monogue and other gay icons, loves boy bands and house/disco music, then these events hold little for you. In the early Pride celebrations there seemed to be more variety, my partner and I used to enjoy the wit of old-time cabaret artists like Lily Savage or Dockyard Doris. Now many of these have died or, as in the case of Lily/Paul O’Grady, moved on to TV. There are younger acts taking their place, but the emphasis at Pride festivals is on the kind of pop music which some of us have little interest in.

So how did I spend Pride weekend? Saturday I cooked a meal for me and my mother, who’s 92, and spent some time with her. Then I went to a reunion of ex-staff members in a pub near where I used to work. From there I went to Virginia Creepers, a rockabilly evening where, incidentally, I met up with two other gay rockabillies who also don’t appreciate the kind of entertainment laid on by the Pride organizers. I finally ended up in a gay club that night where the music was atrocious, but I didn’t go there to listen to the house music! Sunday I spent quietly at home watching TV, including bits of the Diana concert from Wembley.

So no Pride activities for me or most of my gay/bi friends. Those of you who just live for Pride, go ahead and enjoy yourselves, but please remember we are out to win over the general public, not to shock and alienate them. There were terrorist bombs in London and Glasgow over the weekend, which fortunately did not go off. The last thing we want is for gay clubs to be targeted again by extremists because of the obscene behavior on Pride marches by a few stupid exhibitionists.

On the contrary, the reaction we want to provoke is respect. I well remember walking with my partner, George, down Fifth Avenue in New York City on a Gay Pride parade where an old lady stood on the sidewalk waving a placard reading ‘Grandma for Gays’, with people cheering and clapping us from windows and balconies, and with a full-scale ticker-tape New York welcome raining down from the skyscrapers as we marched along. This is the kind of support we need to encourage from the general public in London, not disgust or violence because of the activities of a minority of exhibitionists.

Email to comrades in CPGB and other Socialist parties

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Comrades, I can definitely see the need for a new Marxist party, or some sort of new Socialist party which could unite leftwingers in the Labor Party and members of various other left and Marxist parties.

But as far as I can see nobody has gotten together and done a serious critical analysis of what went wrong with the 20th Century Socialist experiments in the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe, and how a new ruling bourgoisie was able to emerge. There is certainly no common conclusion.

Some factions blame the failure of Socialism in the Soviet bloc on Stalin, others on Gorbachov, or Yeltsin, or Trotsky. Nobody seems to have criticized Lenin or Marx themselves.

Comrades, we will get nowhere until we conduct an in-depth analysis, not fearing to revise the theories of Marx, Engels and Lenin themselves in the light of 20th Century experience.

I have conducted just such an analysis myself, as published in many articles on my website (The Unorthodox Website at www.btinternet.com/~tony.papard/). In particular the article on 21st Century Socialism – just called Socialism on the Home Page index. Other articles of interest are Confessions/Explanations of a Former Stalinist, Still Stealing From The Workers’ Wage Packets, Errors of the Socialist Era, Graveyards of Socialism, The Kronstadt Uprising in Defense of Soviet Power, Socialist Democracy and Democratic Socialism all on the above website.

Also there is a link from the home page to my newer weblog, which can be located at www.tonypapard.info/ Here, under the May 14th entry, is an article on Blair’s Legacy and a call in the final paragraph for a new Socialist party uniting Communists and former leftwing Labor Party members.

Please feel free to use any or all of these articles as a basis for discussions on what went wrong in the past, and how to develop Socialism in the 21st century.

In my view the partial failure and ultimate collapse of Socialism in the 20th century cannot be blamed on any one individual or group of individuals. In the final analysis I have come to the conclusion it was the apathy/political immaturity of the masses, which should have been foreseen by Marx, Engels and Lenin, which led to the power gained by the people in the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 being allowed to slip out of the hands of the masses and into a new ruling class.

There was a fundamental flaw in the system, so this would have happened, in my view, had Leon Trotsky or anybody else taken over from Lenin instead of Joseph Stalin. Indeed the rot in the system had already started during Lenin’s lifetime – see my article on the crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion, a crime in which both Lenin and Trotsky were heavily implicated.

Nobody is beyond criticism – we all made mistakes. Until we admit that, comrades, and learn from these mistakes, we will get nowhere fast.

Yours fraternally,

Tony Papard (ex-member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and Young Communist League in 1960s/1970s)

Joe Meek evening at NFT/Dali at Tate Modern

Last Thursday, June 14th, I met up with my friend Chris and we visited the new Dali exhibition at the Tate Modern. Be warned, you need several hours to view this properly, as it not only has many of his paintings, drawings, etc. but also full length films, which we didn’t have time to see. We did, however, see the recently completed color animation Destino, which Dali started to make with Walt Disney in the 1940s, and which contains typical Dali Surrealist images.

The Joe Meek evening was postponed from earlier in the year due to a power cut (the so-called Curse of Joe Meek!) It included some interesting clips, including a great color one of Screamin’ Lord Sutch performing ‘Jack The Ripper’. Not exactly pc nowadays, if it ever was, but great quality clip. ‘Live It Up’, a rather silly early 1960s movie featuring Joe Meek’s discovery and heartthrob, Heinz Burt (who was no better an actor than he was a singer), David Hemmings, and a young Steve Marriott among others. Gene Vincent has a cameo performance singing the forgettable ‘Temptation Baby’ whilst dressed in a cardigan, polishing a steam-roller (!) and singing apparently to a walking lampshade (judging from the hat she wore). An eminently forgettable film with a highly unlikely ‘plot’.

But the main feast of the evening was a great BBC ‘Arena’ documentary by Anthony Wall and others, many of whom were present to answer questions from the audience. Joe Meek was a complex character, a gay man who tragically ended up shooting himself and his landlady dead. He didn’t get the financial rewards he deserved for his innovating recording techniques (in his ‘studio’ in a flat in Holloway Road). But a few years after his death his estate was awarded royalties for ‘Telstar’, his biggest hit both sides of the Atlantic, which had been the subject of a court case.

A play/musical about Joe Meek was on the London stage a year or so ago, and there is talk of it being made into a movie. The play was excellent. I guess some things about Joe, and fellow gay impresario Larry Parnes, may never be known – such as how many of their ‘discoveries/boys’ succumbed to the casting couch in order to gain fame.

But a fascinating, if tragic, character, a great ‘Arena’ documentary, and a great afternoon out. I’m sure Salvadore Dali would have loved the Surrealism of Joe Meek’s life and death.

Busy, busy, busy…..

I had my second Retirement Party (at work) on Friday. I went in specially as my last working day was over a week earlier. There was a good turnout for me, loads of food (vegetarian outside the Conference Room, and a meat barbecue in the patio), and the Executive Deputy Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kate Gilmore, made a speech and presented me with some lovely gifts from AI and my colleagues. These included a DVD/VHS recorder/player, DVDs of really old TV shows from the 1950s and later, and a souvenir book signed by my colleagues with pictures of myself at work and at work parties on the front. Best of all was a picture of me with The Million Dollar Quartet, which I shall of course call The Million Dollar Quintet – Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Tony Papard!

I also got DVDs of me and my colleagues at AI. I haven’t had time to watch these yet, or the videos of my other Retirement Party which someone gave me. Nor have I had time to connect up the new DVD/VCR recorder/player or find out how to work it. Saturday I took my mother to visit a Greek-Cypriot cousin in Forest Hill. She gave us a nice lunch, and we sat in her beautiful garden, whilst she chose some photos of herself and friends/family from my father’s albums, which my brother rescued from his house in Cyprus. She’d never seen photos of herself at such a young age before. She will get them copied for the family. She invited me to join her in Cyprus in August and stay with her, and meet her mother and father again.

Sunday we had to be up early to travel to Gravesend for a boat trip up the Thames to Southend and back. It was a beautiful day, there was live music on the boat from Wee Willie Harris, Rockin’ Gerry Champion, Chas McDevitt, the City Ramblers, etc. We had several hours in Southend, and a nice meal on the pier. It was a very pleasant day.

Today I have a hospital appointment, but eventually I’ll get around to watching the DVDs/videos, and fixing up my new DVD recorder.

And I thought I’d have plenty of spare time in my Retirement. No way – I will be kept extremely busy. I go to my mother’s most days and cook for her, take her out, do shopping for both of us, etc. When not doing any of this, I have loads of things to work my way thru. Just sorting out the new DVD recorder will take a whole day at least.

Last Day of my Working Life

Today was the last day of my working life. It didn’t come as a great shock as I made my decision over a year ago, and it was a phased retirement. Starting 6 months ago I’d been gradually reducing my working week till I was only in one or two days a week.

I can’t say I’m sorry or sad. I’ve not been happy with my job, or my place of employment, for years. In fact things have just gotten worse and worse as time has gone on.

First my chosen career, that of Telex Operator, went down the drain, overtaken by newer technologies such as fax and email. This meant I was no longer using any of my keyboard skills. Then I was given work to do on the phone system, for which I showed neither any interest nor aptitude. The fact that training was totally inadequate did not help.

Then I was given Reception/Switchboard duties, despite the fact that I have no people skills whatsoever, frequently lose my temper, have a hearing problem, and again had no training on how to handle the public or difficult telephone callers, many with psychological problems.

Next the Amnesty International Mandate was scrapped, and ever since nobody has known what AI stood for, except the broad definition ‘human rights’. Under the old Mandate we worked for the release of prisoners of conscience in all countries, i.e. those who had been imprisoned because of their beliefs and who had not used violence to further them. Also we campaigned against unfair trials, torture and the death penalty. That was about it. Now AI is expected to campaign on all this plus so-called Economic and Social Rights. This is quite ironic considering in the days of the Cold War it was the Soviet Union and its allies who claimed to be protecting Economic and Social Rights (the right to work, to social security, an adequate pension, etc.) whilst AI was critical of these countries for their inadequacy in protecting the human rights described in our Mandate.

As if this isn’t bad enough, in order to campaign for clean water supplies, education rights, access to medical treatment, economic and social rights, etc. AI has cut back on its traditional area of campaigning under the old Mandate, where we had real influence. AI now has a list of countries it works on under the CAP (Country Action Programs), so any not on that list are ‘not a priority’. How do you tell someone who has relatives imprisoned for their beliefs in some country ‘Sorry, that country is not a priority for AI at the moment. We are too busy campaigning for clean water supplies elsewhere.’

It is not as if AI has the resources to do anything practical in any of these new areas it has taken on board – other NGOs such as Oxfam, War on Want, Shelter, etc. are able to do this. All AI can do is campaign – a voice in the wilderness nagging governments on what they ought to do, and which they can ignore as just a bunch of do-gooders spouting off.

Embarrassing governments by revealing they have people locked up for their beliefs, that they use torture, etc. was quite a different matter. It publicized things they didn’t want publicized, and therefore often brought results.

Then the International Secretariat spent millions on refurbishing their London headquarters, when many of us considered a big center in London was old hat, and if it was needed it would be better to move to a more accessible office and sell the old buildings which we had outgrown, and which were not near any tube or mainline station.

Finally, I was moved, with my colleagues, into the clinical new Reception, which I absolutely hated. We were totally isolated, since the staff now came in thru a separate entrance, and I felt I was in the Reception of a funeral parlor or something.  On the occasions when I was on my own on Reception, I never saw or talked to anyone apart from the visitors and telephone callers, quite a few of which were mentally disturbed individuals I simply did not have the training, qualifications nor the temperament to deal with.

So I have finally made my escape. I wish AI well in the future, but fear unless it goes back to its roots, making its main task campaigning for the release of prisoners of conscience and against torture, then it has lost its way and will gradually decline. The choice is AI’s and only its members can decide which way it is going to go.

I, meanwhile, intend to enjoy my retirement, do productive things, and spend some precious time with my mother, looking after her and taking her out. She is now 92, soon to be 93, and I am 62. We have earned this time together without the distraction of having to work for a living.

From my first job as a Work Study Clerk (working out bonuses) at a printers in Welwyn Garden City for £4.50 a week (or £4.10s0d as it then was) in 1961, thru working 6 years at CND head office as first an office boy/duplicator operator then accountant, to becoming an Overseas Telegraph Operator at Post Office Overseas Telegraphs, then a telex operator at various places, and finally a reluctant glorified Receptionist, I feel I have now earned my retirement after 46 years non-stop working for a living, plus another 11 years before that at school/college. After 57 years I can finally put my feet up and call my time my own.

Retirement Party

Tony and some of the performers

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It was a great nite at the Freemasons’ Arms, Covent Garden on Saturday (May 26th) for my Retirement and Brian Jessup’s birthday party.

The room was packed with rock’n’roll and music fans, including the infamous Woodies, plus my relations, friends and people from my work. There was a very good buffet early on, and a great atmosphere.

 MaryJean was unable to appear, but Wee Willie Harris stepped in to headline and put on a great show, dressed in his famous red drape with his name on the back. Other artists performing were Corliss Randall from New Orleans, Rockin’ Gerry Champion, Pete Baxter, John Hills, Ralph Edwards, Jaron and his brother Rolen, and other musicians.

 The great thing was how everybody enjoyed it and said what a fantastic night it was. Even my cousins and workmates were enjoying the music, despite the fact that an amp was missing and everything had to be fed thru John Hills guitar amp. This meant some of the vocals, including Keith’s announcements, were a bit muffled and indistinct at times.

But it was a fantastic retirement/birthday party, and I’d like to thank all my friends, everyone who came, the performers, Keith and all who worked to make the evening a great success. Thanks also for the many presents and cards I received.

A party like this only comes once in a lifetime, and it is one I shall always remember. But we do have jam sessions every month, so those who missed the a party should get themselves along to one of these at the Caxton Arms, The Highway, E1. Next one is June 29th.

Seven Ages of Rock

This is the title of a series of programs BBC TV is screening. The first one last night concentrated on Jimi Hendrix. Whilst it had some interesting clips, not least of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Richard, it is absolutely ludicrous to describe Hendrix as being in the first Age of Rock.

By my reckoning he is way, way back in the 5th Age of Rock. The first being the Louis Jordan/Sticks McGee/Fats Domino/Ike Turner era of the late 1940s/early 1950s. The second being the peak of popularity of rock’n’roll/rockabilly with white and black performers of the music, which swept the world. People like Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, Eddie Cochran, etc. The third (best forgotten) Age of Rock was when the Establishment tried to tone it down and make it more ‘acceptable’ with what Jerry Lee refers to as the ‘flock of Bobbies’ – Bobby Vee, Bonny Vinton, Fabian and all those other squeaky clean, good looking All-American boys. This also coincided with the rock’n’roll dance crazes of the early 1960s which swept America – The Twist, The Mashed Potato, The Hully Gully, The Popeye, The Hitler – the names got weirder and weirder, but they were all basically watered down rock’n’roll.  Then came the 4th Age of Rock with the new-found popularity of the British beat groups – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, etc. Jimi Hendrix was among the American artists who were a reaction to this British ‘invasion’ of the pop charts, and so is part of the 5th Age of Rock by my reckoning.

Yet they tried to make Hendrix out as some kind of revolutionary, when Bo Diddley was making innovative noises from his guitar over a decade before Hendrix arrived on the scene.

Typical of media articles and programs about Rock. The first two decades are nearly always overlooked, or just skimmed thru in passing. But it was these early pioneers of the 1940s and 1950s who truly shook up the music world, and cleared the likes of Patti Page, Alma Cogan, Denis Lotus, Pat Boone, etc. out of the charts forever. 

Colin Fry & Tony Stockwell at Fairfield Halls, Croydon

I was way up at the back of the balcony for this, and despite the microphones and my hearing aid turned up to full volume, I had difficulty hearing the proceedings.

However it was most interesting to see how Colin and Tony work before a ‘live’ audience. With TV you are never sure what has been edited out. Having seen them ‘live’ I can confirm they are very accurate with their messages, just occasionally the wrong person will initially ‘claim’ the message. Since there were probably thousands in the Fairfield Halls, this is understandable. Must be very difficult to work under such conditions.

The very first message Colin gave seemed to apply to me, but nobody could see my hand up way at the back of the balcony (I hesitated so was a bit late putting my hand up). The message was about an Edie or Edith who lived to a good old age and was in good health till she had a fall, when she deteriorated rapidly. Edie/Edith had a message about a kitchen which had been messed up, and a kitchen surface which had been scorched/damaged by a hot pan.  There had been attempts to cover up this damaged surface. And she said how glad she was that a dirty toolbox, or bag of tools, had been removed from the hallway.  Another member of the audience seemed to think this message was for her, and so it might have been. 

The fact remains my maternal grandmother was named Edith, my grandfather called her Ede or Edie, she lived till nearly 84, and was in relatively good health for her age till she fell in her kitchen whilst reaching for a saucepan on a shelf, broke her hip and deteriorated rapidly after that. She died 3 months later. My mother’s kitchen has been thoroughly messed up recently by workmen supposed to be renovating it, and I damaged and scorched the new kitchen surface by standing a hot pan on it, thinking it was heatproof like the previous kitchen surface. I covered the damaged part of the surface first with adhesive tape, and later with a table mat. The ‘dirty toolbox in the hallway’ is harder to place, but my mother states she was constantly having to step over the workmen’s toolboxes in the hallway, and everything was covered in a thick layer of dust over and over again as they renovated her kitchen. Of course this is the trouble with readings in front of an audience of thousands – several of them probably knew an Edith, but whether all the other factors applied to them as well, I can’t tell.  

 So in view of the difficulties hearing the proceedings, attracting attention, and the sheer confusion caused by such large numbers of people in the audience, I shall avoid such mass demonstrations of clairvoyance/clairaudience in future, but continue to watch the TV shows with a much smaller ‘live’ audience, and go to demonstrations of mediumship at local centers, even though many mediums appearing there are not as talented as Colin and Tony.

 I bought books by the two of these great mediums at the venue. I was delighted to see Colin had dedicated his book to his civil partner Mikey. Of course I sussed out, as soon as I saw them on TV, that Colin, Tony and myself were members of the same fraternity.

It certainly seems that many male mediums are gay, probably something to do with sensitivity to the psychic being more of a feminine trait. Whatever, Colin and Tony are two of the best.