I keep Christmas nowadays mainly for my mother’s sake. She’s 93 and rarely sees any of the family except me. This year my brother called in for about two hours a week or so ago, first time she’s seen him for over 15 months.  He was in London for a meeting (he lives in Yorkshire). Her brother and niece called in for a few hours last week too, they live in Wembley. I’m the only relative living near her, and now visit her most days.

We both remember the old Christmasses we used to celebrate at my grandparents’ house, when they lived in Wood Green, and bungalow, when they moved to Welwyn Garden City. All their children, their partners and the grandchildren (except for my mother’s eldest brother and his family) used to meet up at their place every year. There were usually about 12 of us. They had 11 grandchildren, but 6 all belonged to her eldest son, so they had a crowd at Christmas all to themselves, and they lived way down in Kent.

My grandparents would insist we all watch The Queen’s speech on TV (this was once we got TV in the late 1950s/early 1960s), then the TV would be turned off or put in another room altogether. We weren’t allowed to watch it at all for the whole Christmas/Boxing Day period. Nor were we allowed to go to bed, well not till the early hours anyway.

We’d have Christmas dinner in the afternoon, an enormous Christmas tea with cakes, jellies, etc., a Christmas supper around midnight with cold turkey, ham and salad, and we’d start all over again on Boxing Day.

All thru the two days we sang songs together, played all sorts of games, my grandmother and mother would do ‘black magic’ – it was all great fun.

Then suddenly it all ended. On the day after Boxing Day 1970 my grandmother, then 83 and very active – she’d prepared the Christmas meals for us all – reached up in her kitchen to a high shelf in order to reach a saucepan, slipped and fell. She broke her hip, and although it was repaired in hospital she never really recovered. She deteriorated rapidly and died three months later in the early hours of my 26th birthday. My grandfather followed her about a month later, after saying to my mother the night before: ‘I think I’ll go and find Edie’, which was my grandmother’s first name – Edith. He didn’t commit suicide, just died in the night.

Since then the family have never met up again at Christmas. Sometimes my brother would come down for Christmas I believe, or my partner George and I would invite some of our friends round Christmas Day. It was never the same as the old Christmas times at my grandparents. The games we tried to teach our friends often fell flat – they didn’t understand them, or there weren’t enough of us to make them work properly.

In later years my mother was sometimes alone at Christmas. This was thru no fault of my own. The powers-that-be decided to take all public transport off at Christmas time. My mother lived 25 miles away, and there was no way of getting there and back on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. She hated staying away from home, and didn’t have room to put me up. Sometimes, if I booked early enough, I could get the guest room at her sheltered accommodation. Even before she moved so far away, and lived in Kilburn, it was difficult to get there from Battersea on Christmas Day.

My partner hated Christmas with a vengeance, and with very good reason. His mother died at this time, when he was only 8, and he had to stay with an aunt, uncle and cousins. He wasn’t told his mother had died, and couldn’t understand what was happening. He had to share a bed with a girl cousin, and she sexually assaulted him as his mother lay dead in the morgue.

These terrible Christmas memories, and the fact that he was Scottish and, like Greek-Cypriots, my father’s nationality, they celebrate New Year (or Hogmanay) rather than Christmas, led to him frequently staying on his own at home and sleeping most of the day when I visited my mother on Christmas Day. At other times he’d stay with friends. In later years, we compromised – we started going abroad for Christmas one year to get away from all the phony hype and merriment, and every other Christmas I’d spend with my mother. But I always made sure I spent some time with her over the Christmas period.

George annoyed my mother very much by not getting into the Christmas spirit. Weeks before she would asked us: ‘What are you doing for Christmas?’ and one year he plucked up the courage to say: ‘Ignoring it!’ He frequently did, though I always made the effort for my mother’s sake. I will say he tried many years to join in the festivities, but we never recaptured the Christmasses of old.

My partner died over 16 years ago. Nowadays many of my friends are also single and alone at Christmas. Many of them also ignore it. It is a time for families, and gay people don’t really fit in. And since they took the public transport off, it is almost impossible to visit friends or relatives anyway. Even those with cars are told if they drive they must, naturally, not have many drinks over Christmas.

This year my mother and I are going to be picked up after 10 a.m. and taken to a Rotary Club Christmas for pensioners in a big marquee in Battersea Park. I’m told it is very good by people who have been other years. Perhaps it will become a regular Christmas event for us, if we are fortunate enough to enjoy more Christmasses together. I thought it would not only save me buying a turkey and cooking it for just the two of us,  then eating it for weeks afterwards, but would be fun to be with a lot of other people at a big party on Christmas Day.

Boxing Day I’m taking my mother to a local cafe, which do an excellent Christmas lunch. Then we have my partner’s relatives, and three friends visiting around New Year.

I’m not going to say: ‘Christmas? Bah, humbug!’ but for non-Christians like myself without children, it means very little. It is always rather an anti-climax after all the hype which starts in September or even earlier. The worst part is before the actual day – the writing and posting of Christmas cards, and the presents. I find it all a hassle, especially as you don’t know what to get a lot of people, and have little idea what you want yourself. But I always manage it in the end, and with Christmas cards it is at least a way of keeping in contact once a year. If you don’t get a card from someone, you assume they’ve died.

A group of us ‘Woodies’ (fans of Roots Music who subscribe to a magazine edited by my friend Keith Woods) meet up for some drinks and a meal between Christmas and New Year to relieve the monotony of 8 Sundays in a row. Once Christmas was all over in two days, then everybody was back to work till Easter. Now they’ve given us the New Year holiday, most offices shut down for over a week, and TV is full of Christmas fare for the whole of this period. It does get rather tiresome. There’s only so many times you can watch ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (I’ve already watched two versions of Dickens’ tale and it’s still only 2 a.m. on Christmas morning as I write this!)

But we can rely on the soap EastEnders to really dampen everyone’s spirits with a tale of misery and woe on Christmas Day itself. Apart from Dirty Den serving divorce papers on his wife Angie one Christmas, another year Arthur Fowler was in prison (wearing a festive paper hat and a miserable face), last year his wife Pauline was found dead under the Christmas tree in the square, having been hit on the head with a frying pan. At least they are injecting some sort of reality into Christmas. Terribile things continue to happen – for instance the tsunami on Boxing Day a few years ago, and what happened to my partner George when he was 8.

I only wish everyone was happy and well fed thruout Christmas and indeed all year round, but it is not so. If I have a Christmas message it would be to spread the giving, the love and joy around to everyone all year round, not just one day a year.

But at least it relieves the boredom of mid-Winter, and indeed used to be celebrated as the pagan mid-Winter Festival till the early Christian church decided it would be a convenient day to celebrate the birth of its founder. They also adopted other pagan traditions such as the virgin birth.  But if Christ’s message of peace were taken to heart by Christians and others all year round, the world would be a better place.

As it is, Christmas is now largely a commercial festival, and as such is perhaps best ignored, at least for those without children or parents who would miss it if it wasn’t celebrated.

Oh for Heaven’s sake! This ‘pc’ crap has gone too far!

I refuse to watch every word I say, carefully vet every joke in case it offends some sensitive soul. The other evening I was in a restaurant with four friends, members of a Speakers’ Group who are supposed to be able to discuss all subjects intelligently and without animosity. We politely listen and clap even if we don’t agree with the speaker’s political or other views, because it is an exercise in speaking and listening.

So I was very surprised indeed to get an email after the meal from one of our number, an Indian guy, who said he didn’t enjoy a harmless little joke I told about his ethnic community. I could just as easily have told it about my own father’s ethnic community – the Greek-Cypriots.

It was the joke about the Indian guy living in Watford who went to the local railway station and tried to buy a ticket to a little village station in India. The booking clerk said it wasn’t possible to book thru; he could only get a ticket as far as Euston. He’d then have to get a Eurostar ticket, and so on, buying tickets in stages till he reached his final destination.

After spending some weeks visiting friends and family in India, the guy goes to the village railway station and asks for a ticket to Watford. The booking clerk asks: ‘Junction or High Street?’.

What on Earth is wrong with that joke? I know some people might regard it as ‘racist’, but all it is saying is that a lot of Asians live in Watford, among other areas, and that Indian railways are more helpful than the British ones. Would this guy have taken offense if I’d changed the country to Cyprus, and made it a Greek-Cypriot guy booking a thru ticket to Haringey? Well I’m half Greek-Cypriot and I wouldn’t have taken offense, nor to harmless jokes about gays, Spiritualists or other labels which apply to me.

‘How many rockabillies does it take to change a light bulb?’ is one variation on a standard joke. The punchline being ‘Two, one to change the bulb, and the other to say it isn’t as good as the original.’ (Rockabillies are fans of this 1950s genre of music, country-based rock’n’roll, who tend to seek out original recordings and artists. Ageing former garage mechanics hauled out of retirement because they once made a rockabilly record 50 years ago are hailed as idols by European rockabillies when they pick up a guitar again and try to remember their old non-hit which sold a few records in the Deep South.)

So is this joke out-of-bounds because it offends rockabilly purists? Is there ANYTHING we can laugh at nowadays? Mothers-in-law, women in general, gay men, lesbians, short people, fat people, thin people, tall people, people who are slightly short-sighted or deaf (I’m both) – for Heaven’s sake is ALL this now ‘non-pc’? Then no wonder comics are no longer funny, and most sitcoms don’t even raise a titter from me – ‘titterless, titterLESS’ as Frankie Howerd might have said. He’d be declared non-pc presumably for being camp and denegrating women and those not quite the full shilling: ‘Funny woman, ooh she’s a funny woman. No, no don’t laugh. Don’t laugh, missus. It could be one of your own, no  don’t laugh!’

This type of humor is now out of fashion, declared non-pc along with the really hurtful racist jokes told by the likes of the late Bernard Manning, so I believe. But perhaps he was done an injustice too, I never actually saw him on stage and he was rarely on TV.

Meanwhile, it seems you can get away with almost anything if you call it satire. ‘Little Britain’ has some very blatantly racist material which is most definitely offensive to ethnic and other minorities if taken seriously, but being satirical it is accepted. It is also extremely funny, one of the few modern sitcoms which are. ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ was a similar program – denegrating ethnic minorities and women (‘you silly old moo’) but Johnny Speight got away with it because Warren Mitchell, who played Alf Garnett, was really a leftie poking fun at mysogonist racists.

Whether satirical or just plain funny, I don’t see why jokes and sitcoms should be censored just because they feature certain minority and, in some cases, non-minority groups. Surely we can all laugh at ourselves. I laugh at gay jokes, or jokes featuring gay men, even gay stereotypes. So long as there is no real malicious intent, I don’t see why all comedy should be censored in this way. Of course we know the stereotype ‘nagging wife’ or ‘hideous dominating ugly mother-in-law’ is not to be taken too seriously – they are jokes, to make life bearable, to lighten our daily load.

But it is not just comedy and jokes which are censored. This Christmas I received two cards from America. It is very noticeable that all references to Christmas or New Year have been censored there for fear of offending non-Christians. I’m a non-Christian myself, but I still send and receive Christmas/New Year cards without getting offended. I would be a sensitive soul if I dropped down dead just because someone wished me a Merry Christmas. Yet these American cards say either ‘Happy Holidays’ or refer to ‘holidays’ rather than Christmas or New Year. ‘Season’s greetings’ is the increasingly fashionable British equivalent I guess, but it all seems rather silly if we are going to quibble or get upset over words like this.

Santa Claus is apparently still considered ‘pc’, but the British ‘Father Christmas’ has been declared persona non-grata. So what are we supposed to call this character – ‘Person Mid-Winter Festival?’ Have you decorated your mid-Winter Festival tree? And ‘Santa Claus’ is a corruption of St Nicholas, and so presumably offensive to non-Christians as well.

From America come such ridiculous ‘pc’ expressions as ‘visually challenged’ for the short sighted, or ‘vertically disadvantaged’ for those short of stature. And it is not as if the various ‘pc’ words and expressions stay the same. It is very confusing for older people when ‘black’ was once a derogatory term for a person of African descent, and they were taught to say ‘colored person’, but now that is considered offensive and ‘black’ the correct term.

The same with ‘queer’. Once considered very offensive towards gay people, it has now apparently been reclaimed by gays and we read about ‘queer culture’ and ‘queer history’ in the gay press. People of a happy disposition, or who just like bright jolly colors presumably will one day reclaim the word ‘gay’ for themselves.

The deciding factor in all this politically correct terminology and censorship should be whether the word, the joke, the sketch or whatever is malicious, really hurtful, or refers to events which are too awful and recent to joke about. Even this last one is difficult, as it was apparently laughter which got people thru World War II, and there is a long tradition of so-called ‘black humor’ (which has nothing to do with people of African descent of course.) Laughing about death and tragedy is how some people deal with it.

All these things are very subjective. When my partner had just died, I made a joke to the doctor who came to sign the death certificate. It was the worst moment in my life so far, and to lighten the mood I joked.

So it is very difficult to make hard and fast rules. But generally speaking, I am against censorship unless it is to prevent really malicious humor or indeed anything said, written or performed with real malicious intent.

There was once a Jewish drag queen called ‘Auntie Flo’ (Marc Fleming) who always said something topical in her weekly Sunday appearance at The Black Cap, Camden Town. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was paying a visit to West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, and Marc Fleming quipped: ‘Of course she only went to pay the gas bill’. Some of the audience walked out, and never came back. But Marc got away with it because he was Jewish, and it was satire, i.e. ‘how could an Israeli PM visit Germany of all places?’ was what Marc was saying.

So it is very difficult to draw up hard and fast rules. But I certainly feel we should all lighten up and be able to laugh at ourselves, and even terrible events such as that, if it helps us cope with life.

Any writing, speech, joke or sitcom, etc. which encourages someone to physically harm someone else or certain group of people should be censored.  Anything which deliberately pokes fun at someone else’s religion or sacred writings, prophets, etc. likewise if it is going to cause real offense. But it is so hard to lay down rules – Catholics have always joked about their own religion, Moslems presumably don’t.  But it will be a sad day when all jokes about various people meeting St Peter at the Pearly Gates are all banned for fear of offending someone or other.

Gay Fascism and Gay stereotyping


A friend yesterday drew my attention to an article in The Sun (a so-called ‘newspaper’ which I would never buy, and once tore up in disgust. It is sad that this rightwing jingoistic tabloid was re-born from the once leftwing Daily Herald.)

The article had a photo of David Beckham posing naked in bed apart from a pair of Armani briefs, which he was apparently advertising. The text of the article, by a gay reporter, was about using his ‘gaydar’, the sixth sense by which gay men recognize each other, to work out whether Beckham was to quote The Sun ‘batting for the other side’. This presumably didn’t mean Beckham had passed away and had joined a cricket team in the Spirit world.

Of course the last paragraphs of the article had to make clear, for legal reasons and probably for accuracy, that David Beckham wasn’t gay or bisexual, despite all the so-called signs to the contrary which the reporter brought up in the article.

After complaining about ‘gay stereotyping’ for years, with some gays upset by ‘camp’ celebrities such as John Inman and Larry Grayson, the gay community seems to be doing an excellent job of stereotyping themselves. I have to comment that few of my gay friends fit this ‘stereotype’ at all.

The ‘official’ gay stereotypes nowadays, fully sanctioned by the gay press, etc., are not ‘camp’ but usually display an ultra-macho image.  They are supposed to spend a fortune on personal grooming such as expensive after-shave and other cosmetic products, and wear designer label clothes in the latest fashions. They are all supposed to love house and similar types of disco music, and worship certain ‘gay icons’ like Kylie Monogue, and Judy Garland for the older generations. No gay man is supposed to have a haircut longer than a #1, or at a pinch, a #2, but a few teenage or young twenties ‘freaks’ with long hair can get away with it – just. Every gay man over 25 must shave their heads and try to look like an old lag just out of Wandsworth Prison who has shagged every man in the clink.

This shaved head look, by the way, makes every man over this age easily recognizable as a ‘gay’ even by straights.  It is also extremely boring when gay venues are full of guys with shaved heads or #1 cuts, and makes me wonder why, if they love this image so much, they don’t just all stay at home and admire themselves in the mirror! They all look just the same anyway – the so-called latest gay ‘clone’ look. Once it was all mustaches and checked shirts, now it’s shaved heads.

Another gay stereotype is the ‘bear look’. These are overweight guys, often wearing face jewelry, who sport beards and/or mustaches but who, of course, have shaved heads.

Few of my gay and bisexual friends fit any of these stereotypes. Some of us are far from fastidious about our appearance, shopping at cheap outlets like Primark and market stalls, or even charity shops, for our underwear and clothes. Some of us go around looking rather scruffy, others are smart but don’t fit any of the gay images. And even if we have the money, and some of us don’t, why should we spend it on designer labels and expensive cosmetic products, haircuts, etc. if we don’t want to? As to our music tastes, few of us like house music or any of the so-called ‘gay icons’. We are into different types of music such as classical, Blues, Country, rockabilly, 1950s rock’n’roll, etc. We hate bloody ‘house’ music!

Very few of my gay friends have shaved heads or a #1 cut, or wear the latest fashions in clothes and male cosmetics. That gay ‘stereotype’ is promoted by the trendy gay clubs and the gay press, and in my book amounts to Gay Fascism.

This is a strong term to use, but I believe it is justified when gay/bisexual men who don’t fit this latest gay ‘stereotype’ image dictated by the gay press are ostracized and made to feel they are not wanted by the gay community, and don’t belong.

One gay friend who has longish hair, overheard a remark in a gay club that ‘guys with hair like that’ shouldn’t be allowed in. I myself heard a remark about ‘that guy with the awful haircut’ in a gay sauna, which could well have applied to me, since I was the only one in there without a shaved head/#1 cut. A bouncer outside a gay West End pub tried to refuse entry to myself and a bisexual friend because ‘we didn’t look gay enough’. This was a reference, presumably, to our clothes, his long hair and my Brylcreemed Rocker quiff. For Heaven’s sake, we were trying to give the silly queens inside a bit of exotic variety in their dull, boring lives. We should have been welcomed with open arms!

But no, if you don’t fit the latest gay image, or rather one of them, you will be all but ignored in gay clubs and bars. You will be made to feel you don’t belong, and are not really welcome.

There is also a lot of age-ism on the gay scene. So us older guys in our 50s, 60s and older are also ostracized unless, and this is a strange one indeed, we fit the latest gay image of the gay ‘daddy’. In many cases, of course, it should be the gay ‘grand-daddy’ due to our advanced age. A gay ‘daddy’ must of course be completely bald, or have short gray hair. A beard and/or mustache is a help, in fact the hairier the better so long as it is not on the top of his head. If, like me and some of my friends, you are in your 60s but still have longish hair with some color in it, then you don’t fit the gay ‘daddy’ image and are again ostracized as being a) too old to be on the general gay scene and b) not fitting the gay image of what older men should look like to be accepted by younger guys into the ‘daddy’ look.

How I wish someone would open a gay club/bar especially for people who look normal, by which I mean we don’t fit any of the current gay stereotype images. A place where we could be ourselves, where we could meet other gays who have individual looks and personalities, and where we could listen to a variety of music, not just the endless ‘house’ type sounds which most gay clubs insist on playing non-stop.

The attitude of many gay men is summed up in this advice once given to me by a friend who fits the ‘bear’ image: ‘Get your head shaved, and wear a “Queer As Fuck” t-shirt.’ Although said in a partly joking manner, he was really deadly serious. I was being told in no uncertain terms that I didn’t fit the latest gay image, and nobody on the scene would want to know me unless I got into the latest gay fashion.

This same guy was bragging in the same gay bar about his new Schott jacket, then also an essential gay fashion accessory, and which had cost him £150. I just replied: ‘Oh really? My shit jacket cost me £13.’ That promptly ended the conversation.

So we have come full circle. From the stereotype ‘gay’ image where we were all supposed to mince along flapping our wrists and talking with a camp lisp, to the current one promoted by the gay community itself, where we are all supposed to look like macho he-men who have gone prematurely bald.

There is nothing wrong with either image, or any others. The ‘camp’ mincing queen one is quite amusing, and I had no objection whatsoever to Larry Grayson, John Inman, Quentin Crisp or Julian Clary. But the point is we are not ALL like that.

Similarly with the ultra-macho look currently fashionable on the gay scene. It’s fine for those who really look that way, but all trying to fit this image and ostracizing those that don’t, that is Gay Fascism. It imprisons us all inside little boxes with labels like ‘clone’, ‘bear’ and ‘queen’ (yes there are still some camp ones about), and suppresses our individuality.

Surely even on the gay scene, variety is the spice of life?

Same old Party Hacks

I recently contributed to a Forum of former Communists, many of whom write under pseudonyms such as ‘Kim Philby’, ‘Guy Burgess’, ‘Uncle Joe’ and even ‘Graham Norton’ (this latter was in a discussion about gay rights in the old Communist movement. It clearly wasn’t the real Graham Norton from the tone of the message.)

It is very depressing that, 16 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is little attempt to go back to basics and analyze what went wrong, or to come to a consensus and point a way forward to insure the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Until this is done, of course, the extreme Left will be isolated politically in tiny factions and splinter groups.

The particular Forum I looked at, when my name was mentioned on it, seems to be full of unreformed hardliners or Stalinists, who are under the illusion that everything in the Soviet garden was absolutely rosy until Mikhail Gorbachov came along and ruined it.

It probably makes a big difference that I saw things weren’t right long before the Soviet Union collapsed – in the mid 1970s in fact. It became increasingly obvious to me that a ruling clique, awarding themselves special privileges, had distorted Socialism, that careerists and opportunists had gained control of all the organs of State power, and that while the basis of Socialism remained, and many things were achieved (such as full employment, social security, good education, etc.) there was no prospect whatsoever of a genuine people’s democracy developing, let along the self-governing Stateless society of Communism proper.

It seems things started to go wrong at the very outset, when even under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky bureaucrats and Party officials started awarding themselves special privileges. The Kronstadt uprising tried to go back to the ideals of the Bolshevik Revolution, but was crushed by Trotsky’s Red Army under the orders of Lenin. This was, of course, hushed up by both ‘Stalinist’ and ‘Trotskyist’ branches of the Communist movement, as it tainted the revolutionary reputations of all the early Soviet Bolsheviks, including Lenin , Trotsky and Stalin.

The corruption of Party officials and State bureaucrats got worse as time went on, and careerists and opportunists with no allegiance to Socialism whatsoever flocked to the Party and took over the State to further their own selfish interests. I have talked to some members of the ruling elite from one Socialist country, and they confirm this was the case. They joined the Party merely to further their own careers, and only paid lip-service to Socialism.

I have analyzed elsewhere why this was possible when Marx, Engels and Lenin had said the workers’ vigilance and overwhelming numerical superiority would prevent a new ruling clique taking over. Basically, to make the Marxist-Leninist system work you need an incredible level of political commitment and maturity from millions of people on a daily basis to stop corruption and infiltration by careerists/opportunists. Once a ruling clique is in control, it is almost impossible to oust them under the one-party system.

‘Democratic centralism’, which is supposed to insure decisions are made by the rank and file Party members, who are then bound by these democratic decisions till the next Party Congress, worked no better in the various Communist parties of the world than it works in New Labour today. Decisions in the Soviet Union were made by the Central Committee and handed down, or by the supreme leader himself – such as Stalin. Few dared to challenge these decisions. In New Labour, Party Conferences are carefully controlled, and in any case all important decisions are made by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Democracy doesn’t enter into it. Centralism most certainly does.

Things are no better in the various other factions of the Left – the Trotskyist and Maoist ones for instance. Basically, if you don’t agree with the Party line, all you can do is leave and start a new faction of your own. In a one Party state, of course, even this option is closed to you, or extremely dangerous and likely to result in long-term imprisonment or worse.

The ‘comrades’ in these various Communist factions and splinter groups are all convinced Marx, Engels and Lenin were infallible and beyond criticism. Their written works can never be really challenged in the light of experience and updated. In this they share the blinkered outlook of religious fundamentalists who insist not one word of The Bible, The Torah or The Koran, etc. can be changed in the light of new experience and knowledge gained since they were wirtten.

So the Trotskyists insist everything would have been OK had he gained the General Secretaryship of the CPSU after Lenin died, instead of Stalin. The Stalinists insist everything would have been OK if he hadn’t died and been replaced eventually by Kruschov, who denounced Stalin at the 20th CPSU Congress in 1956. Others insist Leonid Brezhnev was Stalin’s true heir, and everything would have been OK if Gorbachov hadn’t eventually taken over the leadership.

I tend to think, myself, that Gorbachov was on the right track, and had he not been deposed in the hardline coup of August 1991, and eventually replaced by the buffoon Boris Yeltsin, the Soviet Union may have survived as a much more democratic and dynamic Socialist federation.

Moving from the USSR to Yugoslavia, where Tito had established a unique brand of Market Socialism under which industry and services were communally owned in the form of competing cooperatives and publicly owned enterprises. Some of these ‘Stalinists’ on the forum, always opposed to Tito’s brand of Socialism, are saying his Market Socialism caused unemployment. What utter nonsense! Under any Socialist system full employment can be guaranteed, because private enterprise is not trying to make profits at the workers’ expense. Even under Market Socialism on the Yugoslav model, work can be shared out to insure full employment. If there was unemployment, the problem could have been easily solved by creating jobs in the social service area. This is not so easily done in a free enterprise economy where public services are starved of funds.

Until Marxists of all descriptions are willing to look at their theories in the light of experience, we will make no progress.  The Soviet model left a lot to be desired as there was not only a lack of people’s democracy, but the huge State monopolies tended to be rather cumbersome and inefficient, with a few exceptions.

In Britain too we found that whilst nationalization might work for the railways and a few other industries, alternative forms of common ownership, such as the Cooperative Societies, were better for other industries and services.

Tito came to the same conclusion in Yugoslavia. But whilst the worker cooperatives and public enterprises had a great degree of democracy, on a nationwide scale they again had the one-Party state with the ruling clique. This ruling clique became nationaists overnight when the Yugoslav Federation broke up into separate, warring republics. This showed they had no loyalty to Socialist ideals, but were either Communists corrupted by power and determined to hang on to it at all costs, or in many cases were always just careerists/opportunists who joined the Party just to further their careers. Either way, they were happy to reject Socialism overnight and re-brand themselves free-enterprise nationalists in order to cling on to power. They used the nationalist banner to gain public support, at a terrible cost in human lives.

If Socialism is to stand any chance of replacing the capitalist system in the 21st Century it has to learn from the experience of the 20th Century variety. There is no monolithic ‘right’ brand of Socialism. The way forward is thru a pluralistic approach. Mao Zedung once said: ‘Let a thousand flowers bloom’. There are many roads to Socialism, many alternative models. All must be given a chance by abandoning the one-party Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and replacing it with multi-party people’s democracies under Socialist Constitutions. This would allow the electorate to choose different models of Socialism, and prevent a ruling clique gaining absolute power and control – they could always be voted out.

The self-governing society of Communism proper may well be too idealistic to ever be possible on a nationwide or worldwide scale, but some will still strive for it. It may work in small communes of idealists on a far less grand scale, but if it is to work on a national/global basis it requires a great deal of political commitment, maturity and vigilance by millions of people. I can’t personally see this happening in the foreseeable future. Rather than striving for Communism, I will be content to see truly Socialist states and federations established to replace the failing international capitalist system, which thru globalization is causing all sorts of problems for the environment, quite apart from its blatant exploitatin of human and natural resources around the world.

We are now reaching a stage where international capitalism based on giant multi-nationals does not offer true competition or a free market place at all. It could well be that only Yugoslav-type Market Socialism can do that, under a Socialist state which insures prices are controlled, there is full employment and the labor force is not exploited. And which also insures that the consumers’ interests are not sacrificed in the drive for increased profits.

The current trend towards mergers and take-overs, crushing competition. would not be allowed under Market Socialism. Certain industries, such as the railways, may be better run as a State monopoly, but most would be kept as competitive elements by State legislation.

A Week at Pontins, Pakefield, Lowestoft

Just returned from 7 nites at Pontins holiday camp at Pakefield, Lowestoft, Suffolk, my favorite camp as all food and electric is included in the price, and the entertainment is of a high standard. Also the camp is attractively laid out, unlike some others.

This was actually two holidays rolled into one. My mother and I booked some time ago for a Turkey and Tinsel Gold break – these are early Xmas/New Year celebrations for the over-50s, but they have other Gold (over-50s) breaks thruout the year.

Then we added on Ritchie Gee’s ‘Wildest Cats In Town Xmas Rock’n’Roll Party’ at the same camp, making it a Friday-Friday break of 7 nites.

We kicked off with a record hop (they didn’t have ‘discos’ in the 1950s!) on the Friday night in the Prince’s bar, and my mother at 93 enjoyed watching the dancing even though she found the music the entire weekend rather too loud. Having been listening to rock’n’roll for 43 years, always at much too high a volume, it explains why a lot of rockers like myself have gone partly deaf!

I met up with a number of friends at the Rock’n’Roll weekend, including Paul  Harris who provides some of the photos for Tales From The Woods magazine (we had our photo taken together), also Paul Sandford, local Battersea Teddy boy Tommy Hogan and Terry from West London (one of the few black Teddy boys – a really great guy!) Also Frank Walker, still rockin’ and boppin’ at 72, and Mark from Welling in Southeast London (note to Post Office: it ceased to be in Kent in the 1960s!)

Saturday nite we enjoyed the excellent German band the Lennerockers with their great music, including a rocked up ‘Jingle Bells’, their fantastic pianist and, of course, lots of on-stage gymnastics.

Then it was one of my favorite British bands, who I’ve been following for about 36 years now – Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers from Wales. It has been tradition ever since they used to appear at the Fishmonger’s Arms in Wood Green in the 1970s, for Teddy boys and Teddy girls to climb on stage and bop, sing along and generally go mad during some of their numbers, and this was no exception.  A Confederate Flag was held up and waved on stage – in Europe it represents rock’n’roll/Rockabilly music from Dixie.

A lot of very young kids joined us on stage – in fact they were bopping thruout Cavan’s set, including one young lad in a little Teddy boy suit. Good to know the future of 1950s rock’n’roll and rockabilly will live on for future generations. My mother was shocked that a tiny baby was in the hall being deafened by the loud music – but that’s how new generations of rockers are born, they hear the music in the womb and thruout their childhood, and become hooked well before reaching their teens.

I couldn’t persuade my mother to climb on stage during ‘My Little Girl’s Got a Motorbike’ to join in the melee, and sing her alternative words to this self-penned Cavan favorite: ‘My Granny’s Got a Souped-up Wheelchair’. She was content with looking manacing in her Teddy girl suit and slashing the upholstery in the Reception lounge with the flick-knife hidden under her velvet collar, reliving the time she slashed the seats at the Gaumonts and Odeons when Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was shown. (Only joking, mum!)

Johnny  Burnette’s son, Rocky, from the USA closed the Saturday nite’s proceedings. He also told a long-winded joke about how the fairy got on top of the Xmas Tree. Basically Santa Claus had a very bad day, and when a fairy knocked on his door with a Christmas Tree and asked where he wanted it, he told her exactly where to shove it! (Note: Santa Claus is still considered ‘pc’, but the British ‘Father Christmas’ must now be referred to as ‘Person Mid-Winter Festival’ so as not to offend non-Christians and women!)

Other bands I saw over the weekend included The Sundowners, The Rhythm Boys, The Rhythm Aces and I just caught a few numbers from The Rat Pack. Missed Porky’s Hot Rockin’. All the bands were up to the usual very high standard.

During the final record hop in the main ballroom, they played a track which at first I thought must be an alternative Sun take of Jerry Lee’s version of ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee’. The rockin’ piano, complete with glissiandos, sounded just like Jerry. But the vocal sounded more like his piano-playing, singing cousin Mickey Gilley. So I asked the DJ if it was Jerry or Mickey, and it turned out to be a relatively new group. Unfortunately I forgot the name almost as soon as he told me (old age!) but it was High something or other – two short words. It sounds just like a wild Sun original – dare I say it, even better than Jerry Lee’s Sun track of the same name, and that’s very good.

It was quite a contrast in dancing styles when we switched over to the over-50s Turkey and Tinsel Golden break on the Monday evening. There are basically only three dances in 1950s-style rock’n’roll – The Jive, where couples actually dance together, The Bop, where mainly guys take over the dance floor, and The Stroll, a sort of line-dance which mainly girls do to the slower rock’n’roll numbers.

During the Gold over-50s week we had all styles of dancing – in fact almost every song was a different dance – waltzes, quicksteps, tangos, line dancing – you name it, they did it. Also freestyle to the late night discos. The volume was way way down for both the records/CDs and the ‘live’ music.

On Monday also a group of pretty, and a few not so pretty, girls and boys arrived, mainly in their early 20s. These were the Pontins Bluecoats. These lads and lasses work very hard, and most smile so hard their faces must ache. One handsome young lad was called Sunbeam, presumably because of his ever-present smile. Apparently at least one of the elderly ladies dreamt about him all nite, as he told her not to the next night.  (The laundry bill for bed linen is getting too high already with all these incontinent pensioners, let alone giving them wet dreams as well!)

The Bluecoats not only organize the quizzes, bingo and other daytime entertainment, but they partner singles in the dances in the evening, then rush to change into costume for their very professional shows, well up to West End or cruise ship standards. With no music hall anymore, it is only on talent shows like the X Factor, cruise ships or holiday camps that young wannabees can get their feet on the ladder of success.

One young lad was the campest thing I’ve seen since the fairy fell off the Xmas tree. He was also very good looking, but the best male singer was a plumper slightly older guy who was also acting manager of the Bluecoats. I thought it was a very welcome change that not all the dancers/singers were slim models with pretty faces. There were quite a  few plumper girls and boys, and most of these were the best singers.

Monday night we had a 1960s show from the Bluecoats, which also included many pre-Beatles numbers like Helen Shapiro’s ‘Walkin’ Back To Happiness’.  Also ‘Da Do Ron Ron’ and other songs in that black-girl group style, ‘Shout’ and Orbison’s ‘Oh Pretty Woman’. All done very professionally.

There were two cabaret acts every night, and the earlier one on Monday I’d seen before. A unique Day-glo puppet show, which included an Al Jolson medley and ‘Please Mr Postman’. Very good, and very funny.

Tuesday the Wentham Brass Band played a selection of secular Xmas songs and carols, which we were invited to sing along with. I’m sure mum was singing: ‘sleep in Heavenly pee’ instead of ‘Heavenly peace’ during ‘Silent Night’. This reminds me of when Lily Savage, believe it or not, played the Virgin Mary in a nativity play. She screamed at the Three Wise Men in her Liverpudlian accident: ‘Frakincense, gold and myrrh! Fat lot of good they are to me with this thing pissing itself in the manger all day and nite. A big supply of disposable nappies would have been a  bloody sight more useful!’

Having seen The Searchers on the cruise ship in September, at Pontins we had another 1960s group – The Ivy League. They did their own hits, plus some pre-Beatles songs and other 1960s hits. They covered songs from George Formby, Lonnie Donegan, The Searchers, The Kinks and The Mavericks, among others. Very good.

Wednesday we had Mickey Zany, a local comedian, followed by the Bluecoats Xmas Show. In the finale Captain Croc, the Pontins mascot, appeared on stage dressed in a Santa Claus outfit. My mother couldn’t understand what a crocodile had to do with Christmas. Presumably to scare the kids out of their wits: ‘if you’re not good, instead of Father Christmas coming down the chimney and leaving you presents, a big green crocodile will come down and gobble you all up for dinner!’

Thursday was the quiz final. I’d managed 21 out of 25 in the first round, and won a box of chocolates and two bottles of wine. Unfortunately in the Final I changed two of my answers (always fatal) and so missed the free holiday for two by one point.

Then we met Derek and Peter, our friends from nearby Norwich, and had a drink in the ballroom and a chat with them, and Peter beat me in a game of ten-pin bowling.

Every evening Annie’s Trio played for about an hour. They are excellent, I’ve seen them many times at Pakefield. But British singers just don’t understand hillbilly slang. In ‘Blanket On The Ground’ Annie always sings ‘Just because we are married doesn’t mean we can’t sleep around.’ Of course it is that Dixie expression ‘slip around’ which means something quite different. Basically, Annie is singing that married people can still be promiscuous, whilst ‘slip around’/’slipping around’ apparently means a surreptitious sexual rendezvous, as when courting. The phrase is unknown in UK, hence the confusion. They’d drop dead in shock if you sung Annie’s line to the above song at the Grand Ole Opry!

The early cabaret on Thursday was The Temple Brothers, an excellent Everly Brothers tribute act. I saw the real Everly Brothers perform at the Royal Albert Hall last year, but the Temple Brothers were really just as good. They did a wide selection of Everly numbers, including ‘Ebony Eyes’ all the way thru, and some of their uptempo numbers to which we all danced. The only bad thing about their act was their 1950s-style wigs which looked very plasticky. Get some decent switches, guys, or just perform in your own barnets! But a great tribute act – catch them if you get a chance.

The final Bluecoats show was a 1940s show. It was excellent. Strange to see guys in their 20s or early 30s playing Flanagan and Allen, and the hairstyles weren’t exactly 1940s, but the costumes were great, as was the singing, with 1940s war-time posters all over the stage.

Building up to the finale they brought in the flags of the various major nations of the British Isles – so we had the Welsh flag and ‘When You Come Home Again To Wales’ followed by songs for the other countries. It amused, but delighted me, that the Irish republican tricolor was used instead of the St Patrick’s Cross or the Loyalist 6-counties Red Hand flag (Ulster is 9 counties, the British stole 6 of them). So the almost inevitable jingoistic ending was rather incongruous when the Irish Republican flag was waving thruout Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia and the finale, during which everyone was told to stand, God Save The Queen.

Of course I remained seated, as did my mother who was busy getting her coat on. I’ll stand for The Red Flag, for The Internationale, or for the socialist anthem England Arise! by Edward Carpenter. Even for the European anthem. But being a republican, and not really believing in ‘God’, I’m damned if I’ll stand for God Save The Queen which praises everything which was rotten about Britain and its imperialist past. In any case, if it was a 1940s show it should have been God Save The King.

But other songs near the end of the show were much more appealing. ‘We’ll Meet Again’ brought tears to my eyes (thinking of my departed life-partner of course), and I always get the words wrong to ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’. Apparently it is NOT ‘There’ll be Messerschmitts over the white cliffs of Dover tomorrow, just you wait and see.’ People seem to get upset when I sing that, I wonder why?

A great week, and we’ve already booked up for next July. The Wildest Cats In Town Weekender followed by Pontins Summer Gold break. Keep smiling, Sunbeam! Keep mincing around, you-know-who! Keep rockin’ all you Wildest Cats in Town!