George Miller (27.5.43-29.9.91)

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(Click on picture to enlarge – George is on right of picture, as in my politics, I’m on the Left!)

The above photo is one of the last taken of us both, a few months before he died. It was one of the publicity shots taken by Channel 4’s ‘Out’ program. We were briefly featured in an episode about housing for gay people. George’s wonderful collage of pop music thru the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and into the 90s was featured all too briefly in the program.

George came into my life on September 10th, 1970 and changed it completely, for the better. We helped each other in so many ways, and grew very close over the 21 years we were together on this Earth.

When we met I was a fanatical Stalinist card-carrying member of the Communist Party, George was paranoid about anything vaguely leftwing. Not a very auspicious start for a relationship, but somehow we stayed together, and by 1991 we had almost identical political views. I had abandoned my hardline Communist views, and George had lost his paranoia about leftwing causes.

On two visits to Yugoslavia in the 1980s we fell in love with the country – its beauty, its people and its unique ‘market Socialism’ devised by Marshal Tito. Of course we didn’t approve of its one-party system, but in view of what happened to Yugoslavia about the time of George’s death, democracy would have broken up the federation.

George lived to see the beginning of the break-up of both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. He thought the Baltic States (Soviet Union) and Slovenia and Croatia were very stupid to try to go-it-alone, and that they should have stayed with the federations they were in, whilst trying to reform them. Gorbachov was implementing glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union before the fatal August 1991 coup, which George also lived to see, which let in Boris Yeltsin. One of George’s last comments on the Soviet Union was that he didn’t trust Yeltsin. In the event he proved a disaster. One wonders what would have happened had Gorbachov stayed in power.

George and I also grew close in many other spheres. We liked the same TV programs, and he introduced me to good theater and films. We went several times a week usually, and we traveled the world together. All over USA – New York City (three times), Boston, Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, Washngton DC, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, New Orleans. Into Canada – Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Peterborough (Ont.). To Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra), stopping off in Singapore on the way back for several nights. And all over Europe. It was after a trip to the GDR (East Germany) in 1976 (my second visit to the country, George’s first) that I finally left the Communist Party, and we grew even closer.

Perhaps the only thing we never really shared was music. George was into classical music, including Shoshtakovich and Stravinsky. He loved opera, but rarely got the chance to go. He also had a wide taste in popular music from all decades, and complained that I had a ‘mental block’ in the 1950s when it came to music, which was basically true.

He once came with me and my mother to see Jerry Lee Lewis at the London Palladium (1972) and commented that Jerry played piano with almost every part of his anatomy. Typical of George, he then said: ‘I thought he was going to take his cock out next and play the keyboard with that!’ It was a Sunday when Jerry appeared at the Palladium. I saw both shows, George and my mother just the first one that night. ‘At least he ended with Old Rugged Cross,’ said George. ‘After all, it was a Sunday’.

He liked some of Linda Gail Lewis’s recordings, though insisted on calling her ‘Linda Wail’ instead of Linda Gail! I got him a ticket for Linda’s solo performance in Plaistow in late Spring/early Summer of 1991 (one of  the gigs organized by Dave Webb) but he cried off at the last moment when he realized a lot of Jerry Lee fans would be there. ‘If those nutters are going, I’m staying home’ he said.

His final illness was quite short, although he had been getting ill for some time and kept it to himself, refusing to see a doctor. We were just getting off the boat on the way to our last ever holiday in Jersey when he got really ill, and he never really recovered. Two weeks later he was dead, suffering from a rare and chronic form of pneumonia.

But it was not the end of our story. He contacted me from the Other Side almost immediately, and we have kept in touch ever since. There have been some quite remarkable communications, most coming direct to me and not thru any spiritualist medium.

Meeting George was the best thing that ever happened to me and it turned my life around, for the better, completely. I miss him terribly, but know we’ll be together again one day. I believe I’ve known him as a soul-mate for far more than the 37 years since we met in this lifetime. We are old souls who have known each other for centuries I’m sure.

I now try to look on September 29th (Jerry Lee’s birthday) not as the day George died, but as the day he was born into a new life on the Other Side. So Happy Birthday, George. It must be nice to be 16 again!

False Economies

I get regular medication from St Thomas’ Hospital, which I visit twice every three months, once for tests and a few weeks later to see the doctor. I used to collect my medication from the Pharmacy on my visit to the hospital doctor. Now they have a contractor send them to me by ‘special delivery’ because they claim it saves them money. This is impossible, it can’t be cheaper to get a contractor to send medications by special delivery than just hand them out when people visit the hospital. What they mean, of course, is that they shift the cost from the budget of St Thomas’ Hospital to another Health area.

This sort of nonsense goes on all the time in the NHS and elsewhere. They are closing hospital wards as another false economy. Only this week I heard of a hospital newly built just over 40 years ago being closed. It is the only hospital in Welwyn Garden City, and I clearly remember it being built. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Take the current trend for ‘privatization’. A moment’s reflection will confirm it can’t possibly be cheaper to hand over public services to a private company which wants to make a profit. They will cut costs to the minimum that is true, but often at the expense of Health and Safety. And the so-called ‘profits’ are largely illusory as well. If you study the accounts of most privatized services and industries, you’ll see that the public subsidy from the Government usually accounts for all of the so-called profits. In other words, the public are subsidizing the private companies to run the services on a shoestring budget. The end result is the catastrophic run-down of services like the railways and the London Underground system. Shiny new trains, but more accidents (some fatal) and poor maintenance, profits for the shareholders (if the company doesn’t go bankrupt like Metronet) and the public are still paying the bill.

Then take the pension argument. The Government is increasing the pensionable age because it says, with people living longer and more pensioners, it can’t afford to pay pensions at 60 or 65. What utter and complete nonsense!

People at the end of their working lives are usually on a much higher salary than people just starting out, so we are paying people who could be retired at a higher rate than the younger, probably more efficient work force who could replace them. I know I slowed down and was less efficient towards the end of my working-life, and I was only 62 when I retired.

Unless we have full employment, which we don’t, people working beyond 60 are taking jobs from younger people. Not only are these younger people also likely to be paid less, but if they are on the dole many will be claiming benefits for themselves and their families – spouses or partners and children. Pensioners will usually not be claiming these benefits.

So, once again, making pensioners work till they are 68 or 70 is a false economy. It may save the Treasury money in the pensions budget, but it will increase the unemployment and various other benefits budgets by a greater amount, AND it will increase the amount of wages private and public employers have to pay to keep this high paid, increasingly inefficient workforce employed.

In any case, we CAN afford pensions, no matter how many pensioners there are. The current workforce have to pay for the pensions of those already retired. That’s how it must always work. Due to inflation nobody can provide for their own pension. I was earning £4.10s0d (£4.50) a week when I started work in 1961. My mother, still claiming her pension, first went to work in 1928 for peanuts (a few shillings, if that, a week). How could we possibly pay in enough money out of these wages to provide for our pensions in the 21st Century?

The Treasury and people running these services are complete idiots. They can’t see out of their little box. Nobody looks at the complete picture to insure that any savings made in one area are not costing more money in another area.

 I have one piece of advice for the Treasury and those in charge of the NHS when it comes to pensions and keeping hospitals/wards open, paying nurses and doctors a decent wage and running the public services generally: ‘Pay up and shut up!’ All these things have to be paid for, and people/company profits should be taxed accordingly.

Of course, if the Government took over all the banks and financial institutions they’d have plenty of funds to play with and could keep taxation and National Insurance relatively low.

TV: ‘Michael Pallin’s New Europe’

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This BBC series started last week, first episode repeated Saturday night. I’d have called it ‘Michael Pallin’s Sad Europe’ since I don’t see what many, if any, of the former Socialist countries have gained by trying to revert to capitalism, some of them after terrible, senseless and barabaric wars.

Pallin started off in former Yugoslavia, and it was odd to see him roaming around Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia, where I’d been myself just a week or so before. He also visited Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia-Herzogovina, which I’d visited when they were part of the Yugosolav federation. The historic bridge in Mostar was very obviously brand new, since the old one on which I stood with my partner years ago was sadly destroyed in the senseless Balkan wars of the 1990s.

I just kept thinking, both watching Pallin’s program and during my two short visits to Croatia on my recent holiday, how very sad it was that Tito’s Yugoslav federation had broken up, after the terrible wars and genocide which killed so many and destroyed so much. Now these little independent states are all clamoring to join the EU because they know they can’t survive on their own, so why leave Yugoslavia in the first place?

I was annoyed by one person Pallin interviewed who described Tito as a ‘terrorist’. All the terrorism started long after Tito’s death in the wars which broke up his wonderful, Socialist federation. Corrupt politicians like Milosovic were a product of one-party rule in the federation, but like elsewhere in Eastern Europe these corrupt leaders held on to power after the fall of Socialism. So people ended up with the very worst of both worlds – the criminally corrupt politicians/ruling elite of the old one-party system, plus the insecurity of the capitalist rat-race, losing all their social and job security and other achievements under Socialism in the process. Yugoslavia had perhaps the most perfect economic system in the world; a form of ‘Market Socialism’ based on competing cooperatives and publicly owned companies, which must surely be the blueprint for future Socialist societies. All this was created by Marshal Tito, who must be heartbroken by what has occured in the Western Balkans since his death (an increasing number of non-religious people like myself are now convinced by the evidence that we survive death in a quantum parallel universe or alternative dimension, but that’s another subject.)

Moving south to the mysterious country of Albania, which was certainly NOT a blueprint for Socialism under Enver Hoxha’s Stalinist rule, even here (in the capital Tirana) Pallin found a man in the street who insisted everything was much better under Hoxha’s Socialism. ‘No cars’ clogging the pot-holed streets of the capital for instance – Hoxha banned them (a Stalinist environmentalist? Red Ken should take a leaf out of Hoxha’s book and ban cars altogether from Central London.) Hoxha also banned mosques of course, and places of religious worship – but now we had to witness the barbaric sacrifice of a sheep for some religious ritual.

Even in Albania they could have held on to Socialism, perhaps even joining the Yugoslav federation and adopting their brand. This would make perfect sense since so many Albanians live in former Yugoslavia, a cause of much of the unrest in the former Serbian province of Kosovo (still technically part of Serbia).

I didn’t appreciate, in my recent visit and on TV, seeing the Croatian coat of arms on the red, white and  blue tricolor so similar to that of Yugoslavia. A red star should have been in the center instead. After all Marshal Tito did for the peoples of Yugoslavia, they have thrown it all away for petty bourgeois nationalism. In Croatia they even have their own currency now, the Krone. I wonder how long that wil last when they join the EU and then adopt the Euro?

I know I’m going to find the rest of Pallin’s series very sad, especially if he gets to the former Soviet states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have also broken away from larger federations.

The demise and break-up of the mightly Soviet Union was one of the greatest tragedies of the late 20th Century. Despite all it’s faults, it welded many different peoples together in a largely crime-free, peaceful USSR for over 70 years, and the Soviet people have Lenin and his comrades to thank for that. Their imperfect Socialism could also have been reformed. It had already achieved a lot for the people – good education, health services, good transport system, guaranteed pensions to name just a few. As mentioned in Pallin’s program on former Yugoslavia,  there was also no such thing as unemployment under Socialism, just complete job security. All thown away in a few years of total madness which swept from Vlavidostock to Durres and Dubrovnik on the Adriatic.

I will also be very sad indeed if Pallin gets to visit the former GDR (East Germany), which was swallowed up by the Federal Republic of Germany (former West Germany and West Berlin). The other great tragedy of the late 20th Century was the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, a very necessary border installation protecting the very successful economy of the first Socialist state on German soil, and one which remains dear to my heart, despite it’s imperfections.

The GDR too could have been reformed – already there existed there all the political parties (including the neo-fascist NPD) in a Communist-led grand coalition government, so all that was needed were free elections and improvements to the Socialist system there.

The Wall could have been opened up so people could cross from East to West and vice versa with the necessary documentation and formalities, but an ‘open border’ between two independent states was just not on (ask the Americans why they are building a border fence between USA and Mexico). Much less so when each state had a totally different economic and political system, and certainly not in a city like Berlin where people were taking advantage of the open border which existed before August 1961. Many were living in cheap State subsidized apartments in the GDR capital (East Berlin), they had the advantage of an excellent GDR funded education and health system, they did much of their shopping at subsidized GDR stores yet found jobs in the capitalist Western sectors of the city and paid taxes to the West Berlin authorities. This criminal scam had to be stopped. West Berlin was like a leech sucking the life-blood out of the fledgling GDR state, so the Berlin Wall was an absolute necessity.

The people should have been allowed to decide which State they wanted to live in – the Socialist GDR, or the capitalist FRG (West Germany) and the capitalist enclave of West Berlin 100 miles inside the GDR. They should NOT have been allowed to enjoy the privileges of Socialism, whilst working in West Berlin and paying taxes to the capitalist Western authorities.

Not all would have chosen the capitalist rat-race, and many who did would have returned to the stability and social security of the GDR. The current Chancellor of Germany, a very young Angela Merkel and her family, emigrated the other way many years ago, from capitalist West Germany to the GDR. They chose the Socialist state, where Angela’s father was a pastor. Unlike in Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hoxha’s Albania, there was no religious persecution in the GDR. In fact Angela’s present political party, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) had MPs in the GDR Volkskammer (Parliament). Angela herself joined the Socialist ‘Free German Youth’ organization (FDJ – see their blue flag above) in the GDR and held a high position in it in the Leipzig area.

It is also a scandal and an insult to that great German Karl Marx that the GDR city named after him, Karl-Marx-Stadt, has reverted to its old name of Chemnitz. Similarly with St Petersburg (Leningrad) in Russia – an insult to Lenin who helped create the Soviet Union.

So, even as an EX-Communist, I am not happy to see the mess which has followed the collapse of Socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe because I know it could easily have been reformed and made fully democratic without throwing out the Socialist baby with the dirty bathwater which was distorting it.

Many Germans, both East and West, have come to realize what a terrible mistake the shotgun marriage between the Socialist GDR and the capitalist West Germany and West Berlin was, for both former German states. I’m sure many people in the other Socialist countries also regret the madness of the late 1980s/early 1990s when they gambled and lost everything for the capitalist rat race. Unemployment, racism and general insecurity is what has followed in many of these countries, whilst foreign capitalists and criminals now own and profit from the assets once owned by the people collectively. Corrupt politicians and the old ruling elite are also often still clinging on to power.

Sailing the Seas of Memories

On the Mediterranean cruise I have just completed we visted 7 ports, 6 of which I had previously visited or traveled thru with my life-partner George, who died 16 years ago on the 29th of this month. Our 37th anniversary of meeting was on the 10th of this month.

So the cruise brought bitter-sweet memories, especially when I found our ship anchored right opposite the beach and hotel complex on the Babin Kuk peninsular in Dubrovnik where we stayed 20 years ago. We could see it clearly from our cabin balcony, and I felt I was looking back in Time, and could wave to myself and George 20 years ago on that beach, and they could see us 20 years in the future. Weird experience!

Also in Dubrovnik, in the old city, my mother and I visited the self-service restaurant where George and I ate regularly. Then we dubbed it ‘Madame Tito’s’ after the lady who ran it, and the obligatory portrait of Marshal Tito on the wall. A woman was still running it (her daughter?) but the picture of Tito had gone of course.

Very sad to think that on my return visit George had passed over nearly 16 years ago, about the same time that Tito’s marvelous Socialist federation of Yugoslavia broke up into separate warring states. Terrible genocides and atrocities followed, and the near-perfect and unique market Socialism of competing cooperatives/publicly owned companies was destroyed in favor of petty bourgeois nationalism. George and I both admired the Socialist system Tito had established in the beautiful country of Yugoslavia (though democracy could have been improved, but subsequent events show democracy would have resulted in break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.)

Other places we visited on this cruise which George and I had been to before were Split, also in Croatia (former Yugoslavia), Venice in Italy, Malta, and Palma Mallorca (Majorca) and Malaga in Spain. Only Corfu in Greece held no memories of George and myself.

 On the way home we saw Gibraltar and the Moroccan mountains from the ship – George and I had also visited Gibraltar and seen the same mountains across the Strait.

So a cruise of memories, retracing many of the European trips George and I had done in our 21 years together.

As to the ship itself – far too ‘posh’ for us. Dressing up in bow-ties and tuxedos several times, daytime entertainment consisting largely of boring lectures and trendy activities like Pilates, Reflexology, etc.. Remarks from fellow passengers such as: ‘I wouldn’t have any of the cheeses on their cheeseboard on MY dining table.’ And civil partnerships, rather than weddings, were also pooh-poohed. Very pretentious, very Conservative with a capital C, and very heterosexual. And noise everywhere. You couldn’t escape from the non-stop music.

But the places we visited and the memories they brought back were pleasant, if sad.

Knights of Rock’n’Roll

This was the title of a show on the cruise ship ‘Arcadia’ tonite, performed by the ship’s company. As Jim Royale would say: ‘Rock’n’Roll my arse!’

Rock’n’Roll is Little Richard, Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, early Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, etc., etc.  OK, this was a tribute to ‘British rock’n’roll’, in which case it should have been Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, Wee Willie Harris, early Cliff Richard and The Drifters/Shadows, Terry Dene, Terry Wayne, Screamin’ Lord Sutch, Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Lord Rockingham’s XI, etc. You could perhaps stretch the definition to include the skiffle of Lonnie Donegan, etc.

But Elton John, Paul McCartney, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark? I don’t think so. The nearest we got to anything like rock’n’roll was a couple of Stones songs – ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ and ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’.

 It is a shame that the name rock’n’roll is so abused. They should think of a new name for this production.

Cruisin’

That word means different things to different people. To the rock’n’roll crowd it means driving around in big American 1950’s cars, to the gay community it means ‘looking for trade’ (sex). When you reach your dotage, like myself (62) and my mother (93 next week) it is more likely to mean going on a sedate sea cruise, but let’s not knock it. Frankie Ford sang about it, Kyle Esplin is making his fortune out of them, and hey, it can be fun. Something like an up-market holiday camp with entertainment, as much food as you can eat, and you get to see different places from your balcony or porthole as your trip progresses. (He hasn’t mentioned ‘Hello sailor!’ I hear you say, but after three cruises the nearest I’ve got to a gay romance is a few gay and lesbian meet-ups at a bar on deck on the American ship last year. Out of many thousands of passengers, a pathetic handful turned up – at one time there was just me and this lesbian, I think two others turned up later. And not a sailor in sight!)

So this will be my last blog for a while. Don’t know if any of you still read them, but I’ll be back to Praise Marx and Jerry Lee. Meanwhile heading for the Med on a British ship this time. Got fed up with Americans with their strange vegetables, and having to sit at meals for two hours whilst they gorged their way thru 3 or 4 starters, a main course and then 3 or 4 desserts! Any Americans reading this, butter beans are yellowish, not green. And they are bean shaped, not oval shaped. Don’t know what those strange veg were Americans insist on calling ‘butter beans’ – never seen them before or since. Apparently the British name is Lima beans, but I’ve never seen them on sale in UK in stores or restaurants. Anyway, they are certainly nothing like ‘butter beans’.

But what do you expect from a nation which calls ‘courgettes – zuccinis’, ‘bread rolls – biscuits’ and ‘jam – jelly’?