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

(Click on picture to enlarge)

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.

Blair’s Legacy



The Labor Party has had some dreadful rightwing leaders, but Tony Blair is by far the worst. He never seemed to belong to the Party – an out and out Thatcherite Tory who somehow infiltrated the labor movement. Socialism is totally alien to the man.

Most people say his legacy as Prime Minister will be the illegal Iraq war, which Blair took us into based on lies to please his friend, the rightwing idiotic President George W. Bush. This is certainly true, but the other legacy, that of the Blair Labor Party leadership, was the elimination of Clause IV of the Labor Party’s Constitution.

Part 4 of this Clause was printed on every Labor Party membership card, and read as follows:

‘To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’

This was the basic Constitution of a Marxist Party, who’s basis was Marxist Socialism, who’s anthem and symbol was the Marxist ‘Red Flag’. It is the Labor Party which I joined, and subsequently left for the Communist Party when I realized Harold Wilson and other Labor leaders had no intention of establishing Socialism in  Britain.

(The only difference between the long-term basic philosophy of the Labor and Communist Parties was that the latter believed the State would gradually wither away eventually and we would be left with a utopian self-governing Communist society in which there was no State, no police,  no armed forces, no money – just an abundance of goods and services. ‘From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs’. After the disastrous experience of Soviet-style Socialism, few people now believe such an ideal Communist society is ever achievable, except perhaps in small communes of similarly-minded idealists.)

I later rejoined the Labor Party, but soon left again when they abandoned their policy of unilateralism on The Bomb (i.e. when they decided Britain should keep its so-called ‘independent nuclear deterrent’, which, incidentally, is not independent and is not a deterrent. Falklands, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, 9/11, 7/7 – how have nuclear weapons deterred, or helped ‘win’, in any of these wars and incidents? It is merely a dangerous status symbol bought from the Americans in the form of Trident. Its use, or even threatened use, against innocent civilians, is a war crime which parallels, or even exceeds in scale, those of the Nazi concentration camps.)

Not wishing to be implicated in these war crimes, when Labor re-adopted The Bomb after years of rejecting it I left the Party again, and haven’t been a member of any since. Had I not left when they abandoned nuclear unilateralism, I would most certainly have resigned when they abolished the above paragraph in Clause IV of the Constitution, because it is the very basis of Socialism and the reason for the Labor Party’s existence.

Contrary to popular belief, the above Clause IV paragraph does not necessarily mean nationalization of every industry and service. Whilst this may be appropriate for some (such as the railways for instance), there are many other forms of common ownership, such as cooperatives and publicly owned companies competing in the market place. This kind of Market Socialism was practised very successfully in the former Yugoslav Federation, and is, I think, the Socialism for the 21st century. It keeps the fairness and common ownership and control of Socialism, and combines it with the competitiveness of the market place.

Tony Blair has followed Thatcherite policies thruout his leadership, privatizing one thing after another. Even after the total disaster of privatization of the national railway network, he and his colleagues (we can no longer call Labor Party members ‘comrades’) insisted on an equally disastrous privatization of the London Underground system.

What has happened to pensions and the NHS service under Blair has also been disastrous. With many pensioners destitute or relying on means-tested benefits after giving a lifetime of service to the country, and hospital wards closed and the NHS in constant crisis. The drugs companies, making huge profits out of death and illness, are a prime target for taking into common ownership. Research needs to be financed by the government, and drugs made available to the NHS at very low prices. Multi-national pharmaceutical companies should not be making money out of drugs, crippling our NHS, and denying life-saving treatment to those in need around the world, too poor to afford these expensive treatments. If this means ignoring international patents and producing cheap generic copies of drugs, then that is what governments around the world should be doing. The sooner the multi-national drug companies are put out of business and replaced by State-funded research and development in the world’s universities and State-run laboratories, the better.

In council housing, Blair has also followed Thatcherite policies. Virtually no new council housing stock is being built, and what there is is being sold off. Blair seems to want to get rid of council housing altogether. All council house sales should be stopped immediately, and new council houses built to replace those which have been sold off. Public housing at affordable rents is essential, otherwise we’ll end up with a country in which only millionaires can afford to live, with nowhere for the working class to live.

Blair’s one achievement, which he developed and progressed from John Major’s initiative, was the Northern Ireland Agreement. Otherwise his leadership has been a total disaster.

Since he has castrated the Labor Party members and their Annual Conference and made the tabloid press into the supreme decision making body of the Party, I see little hope of changing Blair’s policies in the future. Also he has surrounded himself with Thatcherite hacks, such as Gordon Brown, so the future does not appear any brighter.

Our best hope is for a split in the Labor Party, with the left wing and mass trade unions joining with Communists and others to form a new mass workers’ party based on real Socialism.


Visiting my distant past

Yesterday I took my mum to Bounds Green, where we lived 50 years ago. I actually knocked on the door of an old schoolfriend in Whittington Road, and met his mother, who still lives there. She put me in touch with Peter, my schoolfriend who is now a lorry driver living in Walthamstow. I’m inviting him to my Retirement Party, but unfortunately his wife said they’ll be away on holiday. Never mind, perhaps we can meet up some other time. Over 40 years since I last saw him.

 The area around Bounds Green/Bowes Park hadn’t changed that much, but seemed totally different to my mother and I. All the familiar shops in Myddelton Road had long gone, save for one Gents outfitters which had obviously been there for years, but which I didn’t remember. Bowes Park station wooden footbridge had long been demolished. Marlborough Road where we used to live was undergoing roadworks, but looked much the same, till you examined the houses close up.

 We’d never have recognized the house where we lived, #93, or the neighboring ones. They look totally different now the big privet hedges have gone, the stained glass in the front doors, and the tiled footpaths have been replaced. Could have been any Victorian house in England. Of course Kitty’s and Lamberts, where I bought sweets, had long gone in Whittington Road, as had the filthy pet shop with a water rat in a trough outside. In Myddelton Road Seagraves the butchers, the fishmongers, two bakers and the Home & Colonial had all gone. So not many memories were stirred there, though the actual buildings were intact.

The two main buildings of my old school, Bounds Green School, were still there. The Infants and the Junior/Senior school buildings. But the separate gymnasium, the toilet block, the playground shelters, the classroom prefabs, the playing fields and the old air raid shelters had all gone, to be replaced by new buildings.

 We then moved on to Broomfield Park, where I used to go regularly with my brother. Totally different! The playground where we spent hours on the Ocean Wave, swings, etc. had gone altogether. Broomfield House was under renovation and appeared to be gutted.

It was a nice trip down memory lane, best of all was making contact, albeit indirectly, with one of my best schoolfriends. I hope we do meet up again.