Becoming respectable


In the bad old days being a gay man in the UK, quite apart from being not respectable, was illegal. Lesbianism was never made against the law since Queen Victoria refused to approve such legislation, believing women wouldn’t get up to such things. (Or perhaps she had a crush on her maid of the bedchamber after Albert kicked the bucket.) Anyway, she obviously wanted men to be breeding loads of young male cannon fodder to fight her imperialist wars and add to her ever-expanding Empire, and gay men didn’t produce young recruits and conscripts.

Whatever the reason, male homosexuality had to wait till the 21st Century before it was made fully legal in UK. This legislation was forced on the UK by EU membership and the European Court of Human Rights. In the latter third of the 20th Century we lagged far behind such countries as USA, Australia, all of Western Europe, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and post-Franco Spain in matters of gay liberation.

True we had the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which legalized homosexuality in strictly defined circumstances only. Basically you had to be already in a gay relationship, both over 21, neither of you in the armed forces, and practise your ‘sexual deviancy’, for that is how it was still regarded, within the privacy of your own home with nobody present anywhere else on the premises. All possible ways of meeting another gay man and indicating a romatic/sexual interest were illegal and liable to a charge of ‘importuning for an immoral purpose’. Plain clothes ‘pretty policemen’ wasted many man hours seeking easy arrests of gay men by entrapping them.

In contrast to this, as far back as 1968 in East Berlin it was commonplace to see gay men kissing and walking hand-in-hand down Friedrichstrasse after coming out of one of the gay bars there. What went on in the Mocca coffee shop in that East Berlin street would have resulted in the place being closed down and everyone inside arrested in London one year after the 1967 Act supposedly ‘legalizing’ male homosexuality was grudgingly passed by Parliament.

As late as 1990, on a visit to Sydney, Australia, my partner and I remarked on how the gay clubs there would not be allowed in England. An Australian voiced how many in the Western world felt about England at the time: ‘You are still living in the Victorian age!’ 

Things only started to change for the better in the 1990s when gay clubs of the sort prevalent in the big cities of Western Europe, Australia,  and many states of the USA  started opening up in defiance of the law in UK. Only innocuous gay clubs and bars were legal here, where no sex took place on the premises. But even approaching another man in a gay bar and inviting him home was technically in breach of the law on importuning for an immoral purpose.

However in the 1990s, possibly due partly to campaigning articles in the gay press (one of which I wrote myself) pointing out the illegality and lack of safe gay cruising places (backroom clubs) in the UK, the police and the law courts started turning a blind eye to gay clubs/bars which provided ‘safe spaces’ for gay men away from the cruising grounds and public conveniences where queerbashers, muggers and murderers stalked their gay victims. Allowing these backroom clubs to open also gradually got rid of the ‘nuisance’ caused by gay men cruising open spaces and public conveniences.

In the past few years there have been enormous strides in gay liberation in the UK. We now have an equal age of consent at 16, gay clubs/saunas/bars of the kind existing all over the Western world are now legal, gay (and straight) porn is now legal for the first time, and now we have gay marriages (civil partnerships) recognized in law.

This comes a bit late for those of us in our 60s and 70s whose partners died long before civil partnerships became legal. We have no official status as ‘widowers’, and many were thrown out of their homes, disinherited and some didn’t even have the right to visit their partners in intensive care, or even to attend the funeral if the family turned nasty.

Back when I first realized I was gay at the age of 13, it was all still totally illegal in Britain, punishable by imprisonment. This was 1958. Because it was illegal, the gay underworld was totally invisible, not only to heterosexuals, but to many gays like myself.

There were then two classes of gay men – those who were initiated into the secret gay underworld, and those like myself who didn’t even know it existed. We were totally isolated, and felt we were the only gay men on the planet. There was no gay press, no gay helplines – there was absolutely no way for us to discover this secret gay underworld, except by chance.

Even if you somehow stumbled across a gay club, you could not gain entry. Most of these clubs had strict membership rules which meant you had to be introduced by a member. True you could stumble into a gay bar, but unless you went the right time dressed in the right clothing and knew the ropes, you’d be treated (as I was) like a straight man who had stumbled in by accident.

There was a secret gay language known as ‘polari’, so you wouldn’t even know what the gays in the bar were talking about. If you weren’t ‘in the know’ you were totally excluded.

The best, probably the ONLY way, to break into this secret gay underworld was by continuously visiting ‘cottages’ in gay parlance – public conveniences. This is where a lot of action took place, but of course it immediately stopped when a straight man walked in. So you’d need to hang around before the gay men in there assumed you must be gay also, and the activity started up again.

It never even occurred to me to ever enter a public convenience. My mother had always told me never to enter these places, and also never to talk to strange men. I obeyed these rules thruout my teenage years and well into my 20s, so had no possibility whatsoever of ever meeting another gay man.

I remained a total virgin, not so much as a kiss or a cuddle from a man or a woman, until I was well into my 22nd year – 1967. This was the year the Sexual Offences Act decriminalizing co-habiting gay male couples (for in effect this is all it did) was passed. As a result of this legislation, the London Evening Standard, which I read regularly, published  a series of articles on the gay underworld in the capital.

For the very first time I realized, as probably did many other isolated gay men, that a whole gay network of bars, clubs, cinemas and cruising grounds existed in London, but though these places were described in some detail, they were not named, and there was little clue as to where they were.

I had to pluck up courage and buy a gay magazine imported from the USA which I just happened to spot on a stall near Euston Station. By answering an advert in there I eventually managed to obtain a ‘Guide to the Lavender World’ from Los Angeles.

It was full of mistakes. I spent wasted hours searching for streets in the Kings Cross area of London, only to discover they had been entered erroneously under London – they were on the other side of the world in Kings Cross, Sydney, Australia.

I wandered into gay bars at the wrong time in the wrong clothes and was ignored. Previously I had wandered into local woods where I lived, which was apparently a gay cruising ground, at the wrong time, walking too fast and wheeling a bike. Needless to say I didn’t spot any gay activity, and never got ‘picked up’ in any of these places. It turned out a colleague at work in my office was gay, and had been picking up guys all the time. He never suspected I was gay.

When he knew, he took pity on me and took me to a gay bar – The Champion in Bayswater. Next day he said to me: ‘You just haven’t got a clue have you?’ I asked what he meant. He said I’d never in a million years ever get chatted up in a gay bar because I looked like a straight man who had wandered in by mistake. I was dressed all wrong, and was unable to make eye contact, to read body language or to give out the right signals. To this day all of this still largely applies – I just can’t make eye contact or read body language, or chat guys up. I have rarely, if ever, been picked up in a gay bar.

While my life-partner, now deceased, was sexually active from his early teens or before, and so were most of his friends, I was still struggling to learn the ropes of this newly discovered gay scene in my mid-20s. The place I eventually found, listed in the American gay guide, was a cinema in Victoria – reputedly the oldest in Britain. It was known as The Biograph (demolished in the 1980s).

I never did learn the subtle art of flirting, eye signals and reading or signaling my interest by body language. If any stranger looks me straight in the eye, even today, I look away automatically, it’s an unfortunate reflex action I can’t control, and instantly tells any gay man that I am not interested.

Having learnt belatedly to meet other gay men by a more direct approach in that cinema, in cruising grounds and in ‘cottages’, I can now only meet them in so-called gay ‘backroom’ clubs and saunas, which have taken over from the earlier three ‘Cs’ (cinemas, cruising-grounds and cottages.)

However the younger generation of gay men tend to ignore these backroom clubs/saunas and meet in highly respectable wine bars/pubs in Soho, and then go to equally highly respectable disco-dancing clubs where they play ‘house’ type music. Most of these are in the West End of London, and none of them have ‘backrooms’ for sex on the premises.

The younger generation of gays tend to meet their partners at these respectable discos and bars, or via the Internet. They seem to have no qualms about chatting to complete strangers on Internet chat-lines, not really knowing who is on the other end unless they both have webcams, and even then one of them could be a new David Nielson looking for a gay victim to murder. I would never even consider a webcam – too many nutcases out there who might recognize me in the street and decide to attack me.

So the older generation of gay men tend to dominate the backroom clubs/saunas now, whilst the younger generation ape their heterosexual friends by dating in bars, discos and via the Internet, and then getting married by means of a civil partnership.

Gay men are becoming respectable at last. In less than 50 years, when we older ones have died off, I doubt any gay backroom clubs or cruising grounds will exist. Gays will learn the art of flirting and reading eye signals/body language and how to respond to them, how to date safely on the Internet, and end up in life-long civil partnerships.

Already nearly all the gay cottages in London have gone, and open air cruising grounds are dying out. The saunas and backroom clubs are often largely deserted, except for a few old queens like myself.

It’s a whole new world out there.

Ancient, modern and brand spanking new

Everything is relative, Einstein taught us that. People see things differently. So when I was talking to a friend and neighbor about a nearby pub and described it as ‘that new building’ he challenged this. Since it was built 10 years before he was born, probably erected in the 1950s, he regarded it as an ‘old’ building.

For me, old buildings are those erected before the First World War, such as the Victorian terraces seen in cities across England. 


Ancient buildings are those built before the 19th century, such as the well preserved 11th century part of the Tower of London for instance.


Modern buildings include those built between the two world wars, such as the Empire State and Chrysler buildings in New York.


Also the very modern looking Peter Jones department store in Chelsea, London.


Plus, of course, the terraced houses built in that era, which include the vast expansion of London northwest into the former county of Middlesex around the Metropolitan Line of the Underground (then known as Metroland).


Buildings erected since the Second World War, such as the Royal Festival Hall built for the 1951 Festival of Britain, are ‘brand spanking new’ in my book.


There were a wave of new skyscrapers, such as those bland glass boxes of London Wall, erected in the 1960s – all ‘brand spanking new’ still of course.


And the post-modern developments at Canary Wharf and elsewhere, which will also remain ‘brand spanking new’ for the next 75 years or so at least.


Unless there is something fundamentally wrong with them, all buildings should be protected from demolition for at least 100 years. Buildings should, ideally, last for centuries.

Now we move on to popular music, which also produces controversial comments from different people.

Modern popular music probably started with Music Hall in the late 19th century. I love these songs, but modern popular music really got going in the 1920s with the Jazz Age and dances such as The Charleston and The Black Bottom.


In the 1930s and 1940s came the Big Band Era of the Jive and the Jitterbug, popularized by the likes of Glenn Miller. Also in the 1940s in the black communities of the Southern States a new form of music was being invented, then known variously as boogie woogie, rhythm’n’blues, and ‘race music’. Rock music was born in that era, as performed by black musicians such as Sticks McGhee, Big Joe Turner, Fats Domino and Ike Turner.

It became fused with white uptempo Country music (rockabilly) and popularized worldwide by Bill Haley and his fellow rockers in the 1950s. DJ Alan Freed re-christened this music ‘rock’n’roll’, and the golden era was the latter half of that decade with artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Haley, Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Brenda Lee, etc.


The 1950s hung around musically until 1963. In the very early 1960s a watered down version of 1950s rock’n’roll dominated the charts, with dances such as The Twist and Hully Gully (simply rock’n’roll under new names, with different dance steps), and artists such as Chubby Checker (a play on Fats Domino’s name), Bobby Vee and the emergence of the black girl groups like The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, etc.

Then along came The Beatles and the British invasion, and swept real rock’n’roll from the charts (except for occasional hits from the likes of Matchbox, Hank Mizell and Jackie Wilson). As far as I’m concerned, all pop music from 1963 onwards, from The Beatles/ Rolling Stones to the Arctic Monkeys, can be lumped together as Mod music, or very modern pop music.


There have been innovations since the 1960s such as Heavy Metal, Punk Rock, Reggae, Disco/House and Rap, but I lump all these together with mainstream popular music as Mod music.

Real rock’n’roll and rockabilly continues to be performed by the original artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino (who’s first hit, incredibly, was back in the 1940s). Also by later generations of musicians such as Crazy Cavan and The Rhythm Rockers from Wales and The Lennerockers from Germany. It still has a large following in Europe and Japan in particular.

So there you have it: modern buildings are everything built since 1918, and modern popular music started in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rock’n’Roll was from the 1940s onwards, and the Mod music era began in 1963 and continues to this day to dominate the charts, unfortunately.

Phew! Glad we got that all sorted out.

Diana’s car crash

Muhammad Al-Fayed came across as a ranting, raving, paranoid conspiracy theorist in the courts the other day. He was accusing everyone in positions of power of being part of the conspiracy/cover up, and calling them names like ‘Nazi’, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Dracula’, etc.

The trouble is he has no proof, and never will have. If Diana was murdered, as seems very likely to me, it will have been most carefully planned involving both the British and French Secret Services and the police and emergency services of both countries. So no evidence is likely to come to light.

All we have are theories and scraps of information which, like other conspiracy theories, point to foul play. For instance, the white car which hit Diana’s vehicle just before the crash, quite likely causing the so-called ‘accident’, has never been officially traced and investigated by the police. The fact that the driver of that car has since died is also suspicious – another possible witness who can’t testify.

Would Diana’s bodyguards have let her get in a car with a drunken driver? Was the driver, Henry Paul, really drunk? Have the blood samples been switched? Were bottles of alcohol planted in his apartment (they weren’t found on the first police search)? Why was Diana reported to be suffering only relatively minor injuries in the first reports? Why was she then in the ambulance so long before it reached the hospital a few minutes away? What was happening in this ambulance during that time? Why did a Tory MP make the comment, just a week before Diana’s death, that they ‘could not allow’ her to make political statements such as the one in which she said Tony Blair’s Labour Government was better on the landmines issue than John Major’s Tory one? Was Diana pregnant, and the evidence covered up? Were witnesses threatened and intimidated by the security services?

There are so many questions, and no way to get at the truth. Like the JFK assassination, which many people do not feel could have been carried out by Lee Harvey Oswald acting on his own (the shots from behind the grassy knoll, the ‘magic bullet’ which if it came from Oswald’s gun would have had to do somersaults in mid-air before hitting Kennedy and other people in the car, and above all the fact that Jack Ruby conveniently shot Oswald dead before he could appear in court and perhaps say he wasn’t acting alone.)

There are many things we will probably never get to the bottom of, and Diana’s death is just one of these. But I find it quite revealing that royalists and freemasons I have spoken to also feel Diana’s death is very suspicious, and that she was probably assassinated by the Establishment. Freemasons especially are party to secrets most of us don’t know.

On the other side yet again.

I frequently find myself out-of-tune with most people on all sorts of things, from pop/rock music, thru fashion, my sexuality to political issues. For instance, many people in Western countries applauded the falling of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. I still think these were two of the greatest tragedies of the late 20th century, but that’s not the main subject of today’s blog. There are two of these, but not the two just mentioned.

The first subject I want to comment on is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Serbian province of Kosovo. How ridiculous! I said the same, so did my partner incidentally, about the crazy rush to ‘independence’ by the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which led ultimately to the break-up of the Soviet Union. Also the similar crazy desire for independence by Slovenia which led to terrible wars and genocide, and the break-up of the Yugoslav federation. Thus ended the most successful form of Socialism on the planet, a unique blend of the Western  competitive market economy with true Socialism – independent competing enterprises all publicly owned and controlled.

Not satisfied with the tragic disintegration of Tito’s wonderful Socialist Yugoslavia, the Kosovo Albanians now declare this tiny Serbian province an ‘independent’ state. For the record, the Albanians already have an independent state, and always have had – it’s called Albania. It would have made sense for Albania to join the Yugoslav federation after the fall of Enver Hoxha, making it 7 united republics instead of 6, but that’s another issue.

There are two major problems with an independent Kosovo. One is the statelet is far too small to be truly independent. Like other tiny European statelets it will have to rely heavily on its neighbors and the European Union in order to survive. Nobody really believes the Vatican or San Marino are totally independent of Italy, that Monaco could survive without help from France, or that Andorra could survive without assistance from its neighbors France and Spain. Similarly with Liechenstein and Luxemburg, heavily reliant on their neighbors. The Baltic States all joined the EU in order to survive, just as the so-called ‘independent’ former Yugoslav states are all clamoring to join the EU. Kosovo will be no different in this respect, and the EU will one day become a federation, a sort of United States of Europe, so all this talk of ‘independence’ is a load of rubbish – a pipe dream in this day and age of super-states.

I once supported the idea of a fully independent Scotland and Wales, and even Cornwall and the Isle of Wight if they wanted to break away from England/Britain/UK, but now I feel just taking devolution a step further and making Britain a federal republic with full and equal autonomy for its member states would be the best interim solution. That is until the EU itself becomes a federation. Then it doesn’t really matter whether Scotland, Wales, England, etc. join the EU federation as separate states or as a British federation within the larger EU federation.

So Kosovo can’t survive as an independent state without help from its neighbors and the EU. They were already an autonomous province of Serbia within the Yugoslav federation, and they should have been satisfied with that. Everyone got along very happily building their unique brand of Socialism together in Tito’s union of republics, and all this yearning for ‘independence’ has only brought war, genocide and the destruction of Tito’s marvelous Market Socialism to that area of the Balkans.

Then we come to the second reason why Kosovo is not suitable to be an independent statelet. It is composed of two major communities – ethnic Albanians and Serbs. The Serbs do not want Kosovo to be independent, they rightly regard it as a constituent component of Serbia, which itself was a constituent component, and still should be, of Yugoslavia.

So a more sensible solution would be for Kosovo to be split between Serbia and Albania, the northern part going to Serbia and the rest joining with neighboring Albania. Not an ideal solution, but a compromise which would require some transfer of populations if they wished to live in their own ethnic state. But full ‘independence’ goes against everything Comrade Tito stood for, i.e. the union of the Yugoslav peoples in one Socialist federation, just as the Soviet people were once united by Comrade Lenin and his comrades in the greatest Socialist federation on the planet.

‘Then why do you regret the fall of the Berlin Wall which reunited Germany?’ I hear you ask. ‘Is that not inconsistent with your belief in unity rather than independence?’ Well yes it is, I was strongly in favor of the DDR/GDR (German Democratic Republic or East Germany) remaining separate from the Federal Republic of (West) Germany. But only because they had two quite different economic systems. I’d have been quite happy for West Germany to adopt Socialism and become part of the German Democratic Republic, albeit a reformed GDR with truly democratic multi-party elections. So there’s your answer – you can only unite states which have the same political/economic system.

The other subject in the news I wish to comment on is the temporary nationalization of the Northern Rock bank, which all the media seem to talk about as a disaster. The only thing disastrous about it is that it is only temporarily being taken into public ownership, and that the rest of Britain’s banks and financial institutions are not also being taken into public ownership, or rather those that are not already publicly owned cooperatives (such as the Cooperative Bank and many building societies, some of which have now become banks.)

‘What about the shareholders?’ you hear them moan. Who gives a stuff about the shareholders! Why should they get ANY compensation at all? They gambled and lost. Tough! They never contributed anything useful to any private company in the history of capitalism, they are the parasites of society, stealing profits which don’t belong to them. ‘Ah but they provide the capital, and they take risks!’ We don’t need their capital, is the answer to that one, because they always hope to take out more than they put in. They are simply gamblers, who moan and demand ‘compensation’ when they lose, but never give back even some of the profits to the public and workers they have fleeced when they win, which is most of the time.

‘But some of the shareholders are pension funds’ I hear people cry. Well they bloody well shouldn’t be – would you gamble your pension fund on a ‘certainty’ in a horse or greyhound race? All pension funds should be taken over by the State and pensions fully guaranteed and protected by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Private pensions reliant on gambling your money on the whims of the Stock Exchange are part of the biggest con trick ever inflicted on the general public. I lost over £30k of my pension fund thru no fault of my own – I didn’t want the money invested on the Stock Exchange, but I was given no choice. I wanted it kept safe and used to pay a decent pension, not gambled away. It is the job of the State to fund and guarantee decent pensions, nobody else. That’s Socialism – like it or lump it!

If all the banks and financial institutions were taken into some kind of public ownership, there’d be plenty of revenue for the country, it would keep taxation low, and there’d be no private shareholders to cream off any profits. These could then be plowed back into the country, or used to help the developing countries of the Southern hemisphere.

So yes, I regret the decision to declare Kosovo ‘independent’ and can foresee only more strife and trouble for this tiny statelet which can never be truly independent, and which now has a disgruntled Serb minority. And no, I don’t think the nationalization of Northern Rock is a bad thing, on the contrary it should be made permanent, the first of many such moves towards public ownership and the dismantling of capitalism.

CND – 50 years on


Ban The Bomb For Evermore!

We little thought, when we marched to/from Aldermaston in the late 1950s/early 1960s, that we’d still be demonstrating there against the latest development of that evil place in the 21st century.

My first Aldermaston March was in 1962, and I hope to attend the 50th anniversary demo there on Easter Monday 2008, to mark the first Aldermaston March back in 1958, the year CND was also founded.

Some may think that CND and similar movements around the world achieved nothing, since nuclear weapons have not been given up by any country except South Africa (which was going to develop them at one time) and have spread to ever more countries.

However, we have achieved much. The first big victory was the 1963 Test Ban Treaty which halted all nuclear bomb tests in the atmosphere. Later Cruise Missiles were removed from Britain and their bases closed down, there has been a comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which bans underground nuclear tests by the big nuclear powers, and since the ending of the Cold War nuclear stockpiles have been reduced.

Also, public shock and horror at the terrible war crimes committed when USA ‘tested’ the first two atomic bombs on innocent men, women and children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki back in August 1945 have meant nobody dare use nuclear weapons again in any of the many conflicts since 1945. Incidentally, those two A-bombs did NOT end the war in the Far East – the Americans knew the Japanese were already ready to negotiate a peace but simply wanted to test the effects of the bombs on living people, that is how evil and wicked the Americans who planned and carried out the dropping of the two A-Bombs were. Even if it HAD helped to end the war, it was quite unjustifiable, a heinous war crime comparable with those committed in the concentration camps/gas chambers by the Nazis themselves.

Nuclear weapons are totally illegal and morally indefensible, since they indiscriminately target and affect innocent civilian populations. Similarly the conventional bombing of German and other cities in World War II were also a war crime, but the perpertrators were never brought to justice. Similar war crimes have continued ever since, including by the Americans in Vietnam and later in Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter two with the help of the British. But thank goodness nuclear weapons have never been used again.

As a ‘deterrent’ they are totally useless – name one attack or war they have deterred since 1945? Some people will cite the Cuba Missile Crisis, when Krushchov backed down over installing nuclear missiles in Cuba at the last minute. But this crisis brought us nearer to nuclear disaster than anything in the past 63 years since 1945, and rather than PREVENTING nuclear conflict, the Cuba Missile Crisis of 1962 was CAUSED by nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union was surrounded by American nuclear missiles, but when they tried to even out the balance by placing a few in Cuba to deter USA from another Bay of the Pigs type invasion attempt, Kennedy brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. It was a very dangerous display of brinkmanship nobody wants to go thru again.

In any case, after 9/11 who seriously thinks nuclear missiles can deter anybody? Rather, just having these nuclear stockpiles and producing more nuclear warheads makes the danger a terrorist will get hold of the materials and carry a nuclear device into the heart of New York or some other big city in a suitcase in the ultimate suicide bomb attack much more likely. And if that happens, where do the Americans propose to target their senseless counter-attack – vaguely on the Middle East/Pakistan in case it catches Bin Laden, along with killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people? Remember, they are still suffering in Japan today from the effects of those two atomic bombs. Children are still being born deformed, people are still suffering from the effects of the radiation.

Nuclear weapons did not stop USA losing the Vietnam war, they did not help the Soviet Union to control Afghanistan, they did not deter Argentina from reclaiming the Malvinas/Falklands, they do not deter Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israel, they did not deter 9/11 and smaller scale terrorist attacks in UK, they did not prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc, and they are not helping the Americans/British win in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have just become a status symbol, and in the case of the 5 big nuclear powers a permament entry ticket to the UN Security Council, which should be scrapped as it gives the big nuclear powers a quite unjustifiable veto and paralyzes the UN General Assembly which otherwise would have banned nuclear weapons by now.

So the need to pressurize the UK government to scrap plans for replacement of the Trident missiles/nuclear submarines and our whole nuclear weapons program is as great as ever. That’s why I will be at Aldermaston 46 years after I first marched from that base in protest at the most fiendish and evil plan human beings have ever devised to destroy other human beings and the planet itself.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, anybody out there who supports nuclear weapons, even as a so-called deterrent, is supporting the planning of a war crime and deserves to be locked up. It is not, repeat not, a matter for ‘democratic’ debate – there can be no democracy where such indiscriminate weapons are concerned. Are the innocent men, women and children targeted by these weapons asked their democratic opinion? If Al Quaida decided ‘democratically’ to destroy the World Trade Center, those three airliners, and attack the Pentagon does this make it justifiable? Were the victims consulted? How are nuclear weapons any different, except in scale?

These terrible, illegal weapons must be banned. Any vote to continue to possess and develop them is illegal and therefore invalid, and all who vote to do so are endorsing war crimes. Even threatening to use these weapons is a war crime. So if you support the so-called nuclear deterrent (which has never deterred anybody) then you are in the same category as those who supported the Nazis and their ‘Final Solution’, or the terrorists of Al Quaida and other similar groups, who all think threatening, killing, maiming and terrorizing innocent people is a way to achieve their aims or protect their way of life.

Remember the greatest terrorists, and those creating a role model for the likes of Osama Bin Laden, are the leaders of the nuclear powers. Bush, Brown and the rest of these leaders think targeting innocent men, women and children and threatening to ‘nuke’ them is perfectly OK to ‘protect our way of life’. If it’s good enough for Bush, why not for Bin Laden? That’s the question you need to ask yourself.

Crush all cars and improve public transport

Last Sunday I had to take my mother, now 93 and largely in a wheelchair, across London to a cousin’s 60th birthday celebration. The journey, though a long one, looked simple enough: bus to our nearest Tube station (South Kensington), a Piccadilly Line straight to Eastcote, then a 7 minute bus journey to the Chinese restaurant in Northwood Hills where we were meeting the rest of the family.

We got to South Ken – trains to Eastcote only run during peak hours. This wasn’t stated/shown on any of the Underground maps I’d consulted beforehand. So we decided to take the Piccadilly Line the other way, traveling in the completely wrong direction, to Kings Cross and pick up the Metropolitan Line to Northwood Hills from there.

Got to Kings Cross, after negotiating loads of difficult steps at both South Ken and Kings Cross, to find Metropolitan Line trains don’t run from there to Northwood Hills at weekends – again not shown on any Underground map. So had to change again at Finchley Road, and finally climb loads of steps, which my mother could barely manage, and I had to carry her wheelchair up, at Northwood Hills. Finally got to restaurant an hour late after traveling for over two and a half hours.

Coming back a cousin went right out of her way (she lives in Wembley with her father, my mother’s brother) to drive us all the way back to Battersea. The traffic all the way was so bad it took nearly two hours even in a car. I checked afterwards and a black cab both ways would have cost about £130-£150 for the return journey with a tip, and a mini-cab, even without counting the very heavy traffic, would have been nearly £100.

I could have hired a car for the day, but since I haven’t driven in Central London for about 30 years I have lost all confidence.

You’d think you could rely on public transport, especially since it is now so expensive. Whether these Underground lines were affected by weekend engineering works or whether they never ever have thru trains at weekends I don’t know, but Underground maps should clearly show when there is limited, or no, service on certain lines. This is usually indicated by a dotted line instead of a continuous one on the lines diagram.

Now they have started to create an Overground network. Currently it seems to consist of the former Silverlink service on the North London and associated lines, such as the one from Willesden Junction to my nearest station, Clapham Junction. A new station is nearly completed at Shepherds Bush. The East London Line is also to join this Overground network, and is to be extended, eventually to Clapham Junction.

All London’s former British Rail local lines should become part of this Overground network and be fully integrated with the Underground. Lifts are badly needed at many stations, including Clapham Junction, for the disabled and elderly.

Our fares are still among the most expensive in the world, and public investment in our public transport still among the lowest in the world. I have some advice for the government: scrap the illegal planned replacement for Trident and scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons and sink some of this money into our public transport systems to bring them up to 21st Century standards. Then, perhaps, we can take some of the polluting cars off the roads, which are causing such congestion in our cities.

As my cousin remarked, she can now understand why I don’t have a car and won’t even attempt to drive in Inner London. Most people in Battersea who have cars leave them parked in the street all week and use public transport. Next thing for Ken Livingstone after the Congestion Charge: BAN all private cars in the Inner London area. Give people 6 months to get rid of them or move out of London, and then confiscate their cars and put them thru the crusher. Then London will be a much nicer city to live in.

More questions for ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’

Since its revamp last year, the British edition of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ with Chris Tarrant, there are not only 12 questions to be answered correctly (with the help of three lifelines) in order to win a million quid.

However I have a number of questions to ask about this quiz show:

 1.  Why it is one of the very few quiz shows to rarely feature anyone from the ethnic communities as contestants? They are in the audience, but the overwhelming preponderance of 10 white would-be contestants at the beginning of each show is very obvious.

2. Why is it also one of the very few quiz shows to never feature a gay/lesbian contestant? Every male seems to have a wife or girlfriend either in the audience or watching at home, and every female contestant a husband or boyfriend. A few contestants have just announced ‘friends’ or ‘family members’ in the audience, but none have apparently been allowed to say they have a same-sex partner in the audience or at home. Why is this?

3. In the special ‘couples’ shows they are ALWAYS heterosexual couples, never same-sex ones. Why?

4. Why are so few contestants of above-average intelligence selected? With the rare exception of someone like Judith Keppel who was highly intelligent and walked off with one million pounds, it seems most would-be contestants of the caliber of Mastermind, Brain of Britain or the resident panel on Eggheads are weeded out before the show. Could it be the program makers are afraid of too many people walking off with a million pounds? Perhaps Judith Keppel acted a bit dumb in the qualifying tests!

The exceptions to some of these anolamies are the Celebrity editions, where ethnic and gay celebrities are featured.

 I wrote to the program makers once with some of these questions, and they assured me there was no prejudice. I have yet to be convinced.

Jerry Lee Lewis – Superstar!


Jerry Lee Lewis, now 72, is currently riding high after his third come-back/fourth bout of popularity in the USA. After the 1958 crash due to his third marriage, news of which broke in London on a tour here which was aborted after just three shows, Jerry made a big come-back ten years later as a Country star.  He became one of the biggest-selling Country artists, with nearly every record reaching the Top Twenty.

With the advent of New Country in the 1980s, many of the traditional Country artists, including Jerry Lee, found themselves without a label or a recording contract. It seemed he would never have a hit again.

The biopic ‘Great Balls of Fire’ starring Dennis Quaid, with a brand new musical soundtrack recorded by Lewis, revived his career yet again, and brought him a new generation of fans around the world, despite the deficiencies of the film and Quaid’s over-acting, cartoon-like characterization of Lewis.

Now in the 21st Century Jerry Lee is enjoying his third come-back, winning awards and honors, and getting phenomenal fees for concerts. He is a top-rate star once again.

In 2006 he released his biggest selling album of all time, ‘Last Man Standing’, which featured 22 other music legends such as Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Kris Kristofferson, Little Richard, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Buddy Guy, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Jimmy Page, Neil Young, John Fogerty, etc. in duets or backing him on guitar. It shot to the top of 4 Billboard charts on release, and has sold over half a million copies worldwide.

He was featured promoting the album on all the major U.S. talk shows – Today, Tonight, David Letterman, etc.. In 2007 a new DVD, nearly 2 hours long, was released: ‘Last Man Standing “Live”‘, recorded in New York City and Los Angeles in 2006. It featured many more musical legends duetting with or backing Jerry Lee, including Tom Jones, Solomon Burke, Norah Jones, Ian Neville, Chris Isaak plus many who were on the CD. An edited version of this DVD has been shown on TV all over North America, and when shown on TV in the Netherlands on New Year’s Eve 2007/2008 the CD ‘Last Man Standing’ shot back into the Top Twenty again.

Only in the UK has all this been completely ignored. The album ‘Last Man Standing’ was not promoted here at all, and sunk without trace. It made no impact whatsoever, there was no TV promotion, and the CD could only be found in ‘oldies’ and ‘rock’n’roll’ sections of big record stores. The major supermarket outlets, etc. refused to put it on display, unlike the Tony Bennett ‘Duets’ CD released at the same time, which was displayed everywhere.

The facts are these:  in the USA no less than 47 of Jerry Lee’s singles plus 22 albums have made the Top Twenty, and 14 of these reached #1. In the early 1970s he had the unique distinction of having two consecutive double-sided #1 hits – Me & Bobby McGhee/Would You Take Another Chance On Me followed by Chantilly Lace/Think About It Darlin’. All these sides reached #1 in the U.S. Country charts. Not counting ‘Last Man Standing’ and its half a million plus worldwide sales, Jerry has been awarded 9 official gold disks.

In addition he has received many awards and honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy’s, where he is performing this year along with Little Richard and Fats Domino, election to the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, and the American Musical Masters Award and a whole week devoted to him and his music, including a tribute concert, by the R’n’R Hall of Fame in Cleveland last year. The first ever living artist to be awarded this honor.

It is sad that in UK his last Top Ten hit was back in 1961 with ‘What’d I Say’, and that he has only ever had 5 Top Twenty hits in Britain, and 9 Top 40 hits (the last being ‘Chantilly Lace’ which reached #33 in 1972.)

As a result of the almost total ignorance in Britain of his string of Country hits from the late 1960s thru to the 1980s, and the total failure to promote ‘Last Man Standing’, it must be doubtful whether Jerry will perform in UK again, unless something is done to belatedly promote the album and Jerry Lee here. His fees are now so high, but many people in UK are unaware he has had a hit since the 1950s, and many more think he’s dead.

So Britain remains unaware that one of the greatest living legends of all time is now at the top of his career again, due to appear on U.S. TV at the Grammy’s later this month, still performing, and with hopefully more hit albums to come.