The Samson Syndrome (and Football)


David Beckham with and without hair

In the Bible is the story of how Samson’s long flowing locks were cut off by Delilah, and he then lost all his strength.

Seeing David Beckham on TV news the other day talking about getting his 100th cap for playing on the England side, I couldn’t help but notice how absolutely awful he looked with his head shaved. All those beautiful golden locks, which once made him so attractive, have long since gone, but his latest, brutal shaved head look means he has lost nearly all his attraction as far as I’m concerned. I feel sorry for Victoria, but perhaps ‘Goldenballs’ has other hidden assets to compensate!

It’s not just David Beckham of course, loads of men follow this absolutely ridiculous fashion. In fact I can’t find a barber nowadays who knows anything other than how to shave your head, or give you a #1 or #2 (which meant a piss or a shit in my days!) Ask for a short back-and-sides or, Heaven Forbid, a ‘Tony Curtis’ and they just look at you blankly, then cut it all wrong. I haven’t had a decent haircut from a barber since my local Greek old-school one retired.

Gay men in particular follow this latest fashion, since having a shaved head, or a severely cropped barnet, is considered essential to fit in with the boring – yawn, yawn – gay clubbing scene. Why don’t y’all just stay home and admire yourselves in the bleedin’ mirror! I was at a gay club last nite and you can’t believe how incredibly boring it was to see all these shaved-headed geezers standing around trying to look as though they’d just been released from Wandsworth prison. Then an Oriental guy walked in with hair down below his ears, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Surely we don’t all want to look exactly the same? I thought variety was the spice of life.

Why shave your head, or have most of your hair cropped off, when men tend to go bald soon enough anyway? Don’t we want to keep our crowning glory as long as possible? I speak as a 63 year old lucky enough to still have most of my hair, which I keep fairly long, and have no intention whatsoever of having it shaved or cropped off after hanging on to it for all this time, fashion or no fashion.

How would heterosexual men feel if the latest women’s fashion was to have their heads shaved, or cropped? And all the manufacturers of women’s hair products would go out of business overnight. I feel like I and a few fellow Rockers/Teds are the only ones keeping the Brylcreem factories going – when they close we’ll be reaching for the old axle grease!

Cropped hair or a shaved head can look attractive only on teenage boys. Perhaps they can get away with it till about 25. But even so, why would a teenager want to shave his head when by the time he’s 30 or 40 he may be bald, and long for the days when he could grow and style his hair?

Silly fashion, which would be fine for those who wish to follow it if everybody in certain communities, like the gay one, didn’t follow it like a herd of bloody sheep! Baa Baa!

And as for David – never mind his ‘Goldenballs’, are we ever going to see that floppy golden hair which was once so attractive? I doubt it. Pity. And even Gary Lineker never gets the chance to show off his nice legs now he’s given up football. But he does look good in a suit, and at least he hasn’t shaved his head.

That’s about as much as I know about football – David Beckham had nice hair, and Gary Lineker had nice legs. Is there anything else remotely interesting about the game other than the players’ looks? I never could understand the attraction in watching guys kicking, or batting, a ball about in all these silly games like football, rugby and cricket.

Aldermaston – Our Auschwitz


Yesterday, Easter Monday, I returned to the Aldermaston factory of genocide along with thousands of other peace campaigners on CND’s 50th anniversary protest and commemoration of the first Aldermaston March in 1958.

Looking out of the coach windows as we came off the M4 motorway and went thru the picturesque Berkshire countryside, via the pretty villages of Aldermaston Wharf and Aldermaston village itself, suddenly, on the other side of the coach, was that huge, ugly double wire fence with its jumble of buildings where men and women planned to torture, burn alive, vaporize, kill and maim millions of ordinary little babies, children, animals and innocent men and women, and cause cancers and deformities in millions of others for generations to come. This was our Auschwitz, paid for by OUR taxes, and this obscenity was STILL there, in the beautiful, tranquil Berkshire countryside 20 years after I’d last protested there with my life-partner beside me, George Miller, now passed over to a better place.

Not only was it still there, but it was being expanded. A new facility was almost completed where they can test another generation of Trident missile nuclear warheads, so circumventing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which, thanks to CND and worldwide protests like ours bringing attention to the dangers of nuclear testing, has banned nuclear bomb tests both in the atmosphere and underground.

Just think about that new facility at Aldermaston for the moment: where they are going to TEST nuclear warheads in a laser/computerized simulation. Test what exactly? How well they can fry a million little children alive? Test how many cancers they can inflict on  people? How do the workers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment and the neaby Burghfield nuclear warhead factory live with their consciences?

I saw none of my old colleagues as we got off the coach, gathered outside one of the gates, and later surrounded this evil place, pinning banners and notices to the fence. I pinned pictures of two Japanese A-bomb victims with a legend saying that War Criminals behind the fence were planning more of this:


Japanese A-bomb victims – please click on the photos to enlarge to see the full horror of what is being planned in your name!

It was a nostalgic day, thinking of all those who joined me at Aldermaston and on the marches in previous years. Where are they now? Some have died, some I just don’t know what happened to them.

I remembered Jimpy, who organized the tea-stalls and collected all the Aldermaston lost property – and who also sold every CND badge in the country for years, Peggy Duff – my former boss and first Organizing Secretary of CND, her former secretary Sheila Cooper, the London Region CND and later National Organizer – my former work colleague at CND Head Office Michael Kennedy, Malvin Side – the stalwart old lady who came on EVERY demonstration in the 1960s, 1970s and before, all those colleagues from Welwyn Garden City, Camden and Battersea CND branches who I marched and protested with years ago, and above all my life-partner George Miller who stood shoulder to shoulder with me on the later protests, and got arrested with me outside Upper Heyford former nuclear bomber base in Oxfordshire.

Upper Heyford, like the Cruise Missile bases at Greenham and Molesworth, is closed down, but the obscenity of Aldermaston AWE is still there.

As I was walking along the fence I heard a familiar song – a whole family was singing the chorus to ‘The H-Bomb’s Thunder’, once the anthem of CND sung on all the marches, a song I hadn’t heard for about 40 years: ‘Men and women stand together…. Ban the bomb for evermore!’ I joined in with them on this and another old peace song from the early days, ‘If I Had A Hammer’ (there was a hit version by Trini Lopez). They had photos pinned to the fence of their family on the march on an old demonstration in the 1960s. But these adults were back then the childen in the pram and pushchair, or little toddlers walking alongside their parents 40 or so years ago. Their parents were now too old to make the demonstration this Easter, but their children were continuing the fight, keeping in touch with their parents by cellphone.

My cellphone rang – three times. CND was sending out instructions to us – Welcome to Aldermaston….. Time to surround the base…… 2.30 p.m., make a noise…..

As everybody blew whistles, banged tins and saucepan lids, or otherwise made noise, I’d like to say that, like the Walls of Jericho, the fence of Aldermaston and all its obscene buildings came tumbling down. That wasn’t the case. Soon we were clambering back in the coaches and heading home, many pledged to come back in October and blockade the workers coming into the base on a normal workday, if you can call such obscenities ‘normal’.

It was exhilerating yet sad. Sad that protests are still needed 50 years on, sad that Britain and the other nuclear powers have not fulfilled their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Ploriferation Treaty (NPT) and got rid of their nuclear weapons, sad that all my former colleagues were missing.

But the ones who had passed over to the Other Side, especially my George, were there beside me in spirit. I have to continue the fight till my dying day, for their sake and ours, and for the sake of future generations who might well become victims of these obscene weapons.

And this is no idle threat, remember Trident submarines are constantly patrolling the world’s oceans, with men aboard just waiting for the order to push the button and incinerate millions of innocent civilians.

But think of this: what if every single person who supports this policy has to account for their actions – feel every effect of what they are prepared to do? If we survive death, as even many scientists and atheists now believe we do after studying the evidence for survival, then it seems we all have to judge ourselves in an ‘instant life review’ and feel the consequences of all our actions, good and bad, on other people. These weapons are made in our name and are ready to be used on real, live people. Can you live with that on your conscience? If the button is ever pushed, it will be in YOUR name, unless you protest NOW.

The world is completely mad – it must be for people to plan evil and destruction on this scale. Thank goodness some of us are sane. Thank goodness some of us remember the words of that great philosopher, CND’s first President, the late Sir Bertrand Russell, who I first saw breaking the law on an anti-nuclear weapons demo outside the Ministry of Defense back in February, 1961. Russell said:

‘Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.’ Amen!



Fewer, or more, divided countries?

Once there were at least five divided countries – Germany, Vietnam, Korea, Cyprus, Ireland. Now that Vietnam has been reunited under Socialism and Germany under capitalism, that just leaves the other three.


Republic of Cyprus    TRNC (N. Cyprus)

In Cyprus, where my father came from, the travel restrictions between the Greek-Cypriot South (Republic of Cyprus) and the Turkish-Cypriot North (Turkish Republic of North Cyprus) have been greatly eased in recent years. The new Greek-Cypriot President is keen on making a new effort aimed at reuniting the troubled island, since the UN-sponsored plan for reunification was accepted by the Turkish-Cypriots but rejected by the Greek-Cypriots in a referendum a few years ago.


Republic of Ireland

In Ireland too there has been much progress, not in the form of reunification, but the Anglo-Irish Agreement has finally brought a devolved government composed of both nationalist republicans and loyalists to the 6 counties. (Note: the Irish province of Ulster is 9 counties, only 6 of which compose Northern Ireland. Note also that even these 6 counties are not part of Great Britain, as evidenced by the official name of our country – ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland’.)


ROK (S. Korea)       DPRK (N. Korea)

On the Korean peninsular there seems little hope for reunification at the moment. You cannot reunite states with two completely different economic and political systems, so these have to coincide, as in Germany and Vietnam, before reunification can take place.


GDR (E. Germany) 


FRG (Germany)        SRV (Vietnam)

(these were also the former flags of W. Germany and N. Vietnam)

But there are other kinds of divided countries emerging in the world as united countries and federations break up into individual states. I’m thinking of places like the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia, former Czechoslovakia and African countries like Nigeria, where Eritrea has broken away as a separate state. Or indeed the Indian sub-continent, once united in the British Empire as ‘India’ but now divided between the states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.


USSR                       FSRJ (Yugoslavia)

In Europe, including parts of the former Soviet Union, these newly independent states are clamoring to join, or have already joined, the European Union. So while old countries/federations are breaking up, I see the trend to new, voluntary unions or federations such as the EU.


USA                        CSA

One such federation which still exists is, of course, the United States of America. In the 19th century there was an attempt at secession when the Confederate States of America was declared in the Southeast of the country. There is a huge cultural division still between these Dixie states and the Yankee states of the North and West. South and East of the Mason-Dixon line the American Civil War which brought victory to the Union forces is still referred to as either the ‘war of Northern aggression’, or more diplomatically as ‘the war between the states’. The CSA battle flag, also known as The Rebel Flag, is still flown as a symbol of their heritage by many in the South, and remains part of the the official State flag of Mississippi. Although the Confederacy exists no more, all states in the Union have a great deal of autonomy, which provides a possible blueprint for other Unions like the EU should they ever become fully-fledged federations, as seems likely in the long term.


EU                           UN

As I see it the only hope for world peace is for more states to become autonomous states within voluntary unions/federations such as the EU and USA, and loosely united globally under a world-wide UN confederation,  policed by a permanent international UN security force.

But while I am all in favor of a federal EU, being a Socialist I also hope for new democratic and voluntary Socialist federations arising in future. There is no reason whatsoever why European states who wish to adopt Socialist Constitutions in the future should not break away from the EU and form a Socialist European Union, where all political parties would contest genuinely free elections, but where each State would be pledged to uphold their Socialist Constitution unless and until it was rejected and replaced in a referendum by a substantial majority of the electorate. I believe only genuine democratic worldwide Socialism can truly solve all the problems of inequality and exploitation in the world, and ultimately bring lasting peace. But it has to be voluntary, and uphold freedom of speech and genuinely free multi-party democracy.


I seem to have been surrounded by these most of my life, which is no doubt why I can see myself becoming one as I grow older. An oddity who clings to the music/values of the distant past, who sticks out like a sore thumb because of my old-fashioned hairstyle, etc., and who is liable to rant like a raving loony in public places.


This brings me to my first British Eccentric, Screamin’ Lord Sutch, or David Sutch, founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party. How he brightened up our boring elections, and indeed the rock’n’roll scene. I never knew him personally, though once attended a party where he was also a guest. When my partner was arrested once, David was also at the police station, having been arrested for one of his publicity stunts, and was very friendly and chatty to all the others who’d been arrested that day.

His shows were very theatrical, but it was obvious that he was quite quite mad. Donning a pig’s head with a toilet seat round his neck to sing ‘I’m A Hog For You Baby’, lighting a fire on stage then donning a fireman’s helmet and ringing a bell shouting ‘Fire! Fire!’ during ‘Great Balls of Fire’, and of course being carried on in a coffin and singing horror songs like ‘Til The Following Nite’ and ‘Jack The Ripper’, dressed in character. Sadly he committed suicide a year or so after his mother’s death, suffering from depression. Many thought his death was yet another publicity stunt and that he’d jump out of his coffin at the funeral, but sadly this time he failed to do so.


Quentin Crisp was another great British Eccentric. I’d attended some of his lectures and question and answer sessions on ‘Style’, but my partner actually knew him before he became famous after the publication of his autobiography ‘The Naked Civil Servant’ and his portrayal by the actor John Hurt. The book was so-named because Quentin once made money by posing nude as an artists’ model for university students. He had a flat in Chelsea, London for years which he never dusted, claiming the dust didn’t get any worse after a few years, but you had to jump to get into your trousers without getting them covered in dust. Plates and dishes could be re-used without washing them up, he claimed, until you reached the ‘fish barrier’. Once you’d had fish on the plates, you had to wash them before serving the next meal.

Quentin was quite outrageous before the Second World War when homosexuality in UK was illegal, and most gay men were discreet. Not Quentin, he minced around in flamboyant clothes with long dyed hair, and when brought before a court of law and asked if he was a ‘practising homosexual’ replied that by now he was no longer practising but an ‘expert at it’. He also described himself as one of the ‘Stately Homos of England’.  In his later years he moved to New York City, because he felt that there were too few eccentric characters like himself left in London. His New York apartment too was never dusted or cleaned, or so he claimed.


There were many other eccentrics who I knew personally. Malvin Side, for instance, a little old lady who came on every peace demonstration thruout the 1960s and 1970s, and probably on many before that. She had a shrill, middle-class voice, and would come into the head office of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament where I worked shrieking: ‘Two and sixpence for the Campaign funds! Ha ha ha!’ Most of her statements were punctuated by laughter. She then complained about everything which was wrong with the world – nuclear weapons, the Vietnam War, the National Front, etc., etc. and blamed it all on the then Prime Minister of the day: ‘And it’s all that dreadful Harold Wilson’s fault! Ha ha ha!’

In 1976 or thereabouts she was seen on a peace demo trying to sell CND’s newspaper ‘Sanity’ to a group of punks, and was last heard of selling the paper in the nursing home where she spent her last days. Some time before this she came into CND office saying she didn’t feel well as she had a cracked skull from when a marble clock fell on her head. The doctor had advised complete rest in bed, but she was determined to go to Trafalgar Square the following weekend where the National Front were holding a rally and confront the fascists. We tried to persuade her it wasn’t a good idea for a frail old lady with a fractured skull to go to what could turn into a full-scale riot. But she was determined to go.


Click on this and other pictures to enlarge

Of course the place where British eccentrics tended to congregate in London was Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. There was one guy who always carried a Christian cross with tin cans and all sorts of rubbish attached to it including an ‘L’ plate. Another who walked around Speakers’ Corner and also up and down Oxford Street with a sign listing all the things which would send us all to Hell, including eating meat, fornication, etc. There were lots of religious nutters at this place, plus some sane ones like the Salvation Army and Dr Donald Soper.

One such ‘nutter’ claimed he was Jesus Christ and could work miracles. On one occasion he pointed to a tree and said he could make it jump out of the ground, do a complete somersault, and then re-plant itself in the ground again. Of course the hecklers urged him to do it then and there, but he kept making excuses as to why he’d do it later, and of course never quite got around to it.


Two ladies I loved to listen two were an Irish woman, Mary I believe her name was, and her friend from Leeds. One had a walking stick which she constantly held up to her nose to described what she felt Jewish people looked like. They had a bee in their bonnet about Jews and foreigners of all descriptions. On one occasion, which my partner told me about, they claimed that the Queen was looking out of her window in Buckingham Palace when she saw Vera Lynn walk by. ‘Oh what a lovely shnozzle’ said the Queen, ‘I must give her a knighthood’, and that’s how she became Dame Vera Lynn according to these two anti-Semites.

The Queen’s husband didn’t fare any better, as Mary constantly reminded everyone: ‘You didn’t hear what I said, so I’ll tell ya. It’s a sneaky Greek who lives in the Palace with the Queen.’

I was once told I was a bloody foreigner because of my Greek-Cypriot looks: ‘Look at the big nose sticking out of the foreign face of you’, said Mary, and my partner’s nephew from Glasgow was accused of being a foreigner because of his thick Glaswegian accent. We challenged this remark, saying Mary was a foreigner as she came from the Irish Republic. She was always proclaiming her republicanism and Irishness, saying ‘if you’re Jewish they put you in the House of Lords, if you’re Irish they put you in Long Kesh!’ (Long Kesh being the former name of the Maze prison where many IRA and Loyalist prisoners were held.)

Anyway, on this occasion, when accused of being a foreigner, Mary changed her lifelong nationality in an instant and said: ‘Sure I’m British!’ Well if an Irish Republican is British, so is a person from Glasgow, Scotland, but Mary didn’t see it that way. If she couldn’t understand your accent, or thought you had a big nose, you were foreign or Jewish.


Peter Cadogan on a demo (click to enlarge)

Loads of other characters I met, mainly in the peace movement. Mavericks like George Clark and Peter Cadogan, who had their own style of campaigning and seemed to rub all the peace movement organizations up the wrong way, never quite fitting in with any of them. A girl volunteer who always stood in a dustbin when in the office, another young girl who claimed she was ‘in love……. with Communism’, a little meek Quaker woman who claimed she couldn’t campaign for the Labor Party in the 1964 election because she was a member of the Communist Party, a Labor Party member who said the Soviets were quite right to invade Hungary in 1956 and put down the counter-revolution whipped up by the Voice of America, and my boss who did campaign for the Labor Party in one of the elections of the 1960s, but on election day went and voted Communist as a protest vote.

He also was something of a lecher, eyeing up all the young girl volunteers who came in the office (he was in his late 50s/early 60s at the time), and filling his house with young unmarried mothers. Also, whenever he felt like a day off, which was quite frequently, he’d tell me to do all the work, saying: ‘I’m off to Brighton races’. He called all our General Secretaries names such as ‘that dreadful woman’ for our first Organizing Secretary, and ‘that crook’ for her successor, a man from the Northwest.

Even in my childhood I was surrounded by eccentrics it seemed, such as Mrs Do-Not-Shout, as we called her, a Polish doctor studying medicine in England. She’d lean out of her upstairs window when my brother and I were playing in our North London garden and say in her sing-song foreign accent: ‘Yoo-oo mus’ nod shoud!’ Of course we went out there and screamed at the top of our voices every day just to witness and hear this spectacle. The poor woman was heard muttering to herself over the wall behind our chicken shed, the only place she could find peace to study her medical books.

Then there were characters my mother knew as a child, which she tells me about regularly. One was ‘Flop’ Langley who said her favorite meal was ‘boil-the-pot’. This consisted of all the leftovers and scrapings from various unwashed pots and pans they’d been using all week, which were all boiled up together at the end of the week to make a sort of stew.


Pope John Paul I

My partner and I met many characters on our holidays abroad together. Such as the two Jewish brothers who spent all their time in Spain in bars, and when we passed one invited us in saying ‘S’cheap, s’luvly!’  We went in for one drink, and they were talking at the tops of their voices while the locals were trying to watch the funeral of I believe Pope John Paul I or his predecessor on TV. They kept giving dirty looks to these two Jewish brothers who were laughing and joking about the ‘luvly’ cheap booze, and when we suggested they should lower their voices out of respect they just said: ‘Oh don’t worry ‘baht that. Just some ol’ Pope they’re burying!’ Of course this Pope himself was a maverick, wanting to give away or sell many of the Vatican treasures to help the poor. Some speculate this is why he only survived 33 days before mysteriously dying.

Then there was another fellow-tourist (which is different from a ‘leftie’ fellow-traveler!) who we nicknamed ‘Brisbane Bella’ and who announced at one mealtime to all and sundry, including some vegetarians presumably, that ‘In Australia we like our blood-meat!’ We had visions of her biting into a raw steak with blood dripping down her chin.

And the little Welsh widow who went to Italy with Spanish pesetas, in the day long before the Euro. She was actually ahead of her time, as she just went into the bank with the receipt her husband had got when he exchanged pounds for pesetas on a trip to Spain, and asked for ‘more of that funny money they spend abroad’. Had the Euro existed then she would have been OK, but as it was thruout the holiday she tried in vain to get rid of her Spanish pesetas in Italy, but all they wanted was her pounds sterling, in the absence of Italian lira.

The courier was no help, shouting at the poor woman, instead of telling her where to get her money changed into lira. The courier was also an eccentric, an Italian one. She was so rude to everybody, and took money off us for meals and tours, then ran off with the money halfway thru the tour never to be seen again. She was barred from many of the hotels en route, and in one hotel outside Rome tried to split up husbands and wives by holding up keys and saying: ‘I want two mens or two womens to share this room!’ This was because it was late and she couldn’t be bothered to go thru the list of names allocating them properly, so she thought she’d promote a bit of homosexuality/lesbianism instead.


Click to enlarge

So many characters, so many eccentrics. But without them the world wouldn’t be half as much fun. My favorite singer, Jerry Lee Lewis, could be described as an eccentric, but also as one of the greatest living performers and recording artists. Genius is often regarded as eccentric.  Jerry’s been married 6 times, but forgot to divorce two of them. As his sister Frankie Jean said to us once, ‘Jerry gets married, but he sometimes just forgets to get divorced first.’

This caused a hoo-ha in 1958 when he came to England with his 13 year old third wife and second cousin, who he’d married before divorcing his second wife. He claimed his marriage to his cousin was perfectly legal as you could marry your 13 year old cousin in Louisiana at that time. (Frankie Jean, also a lovable eccentric, claims you could marry at 9 if you could find yourself a husband, and she herself was married at 12).

However when the British Press questioned Jerry Lee about his second wife Jane from whom he was not yet divorced, he hardly improved the situation when he said that it didn’t matter that he hadn’t legally divorced Jane before marrying his cousin Myra, as he hadn’t divorced his first wife Dorothy when he married Jane. As his second marriage was never legal and he was now divorced from both former wives anyway, he was perfectly free to marry Myra.  

There’s a certain logic to that, but it didn’t impress the British Press who dubbed him a double bigamist and cradle-snatcher, so he abandoned the tour, taking 10 years to really make his comeback as one of America’s top hit-making Country stars. He is now in the 21st Century a big hit-maker for the third time in his career,  his latest Rock, Blues  and Country ‘Last Man Standing’ CD, featuring duets/jams with many other famous stars,  selling over half a million copies worldwide and hitting the top of many American charts, including #1 Indie. Not bad for an ‘eccentric American’ who was thought all washed-up in 1958!

He’s been something of an eccentric always, a larger than life character who says things like: ‘I’m Jerry Lee fucked-up Lewis, and if you don’t like that you can kiss my ass!’ And who will modestly tell you there’s only ever been four stylists in popular music – Al Jolson, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis. (Elvis, Sinatra and The Beatles don’t get even a mention.)

I love eccentrics like this. As Jerry once said: ‘Just think what a dull old world it would be without a Jerry Lee Lewis in it!’


Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with ‘Henry’

Or Little Richard the flamboyant ‘Queen of Rock’n’Roll’, or the late Rock and Horror bluesman Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who left goodness knows how many children behind, I think it was 80 something at the last count, with many different mothers.

Eccentrics make life fun, and sometimes you have to be a little mad to cope with life.

Too much choice?

We have far too much ‘choice’ in Britain today. I’m fed up with having to constantly make crazy, nonsensical ‘decisions’ such as whether I want my gas from an electric company, my electric from a gas company, and my phone/internet service from a multitude of different companies. I am pressurized by salespersons with intrusive and unsolicited phone calls and knocks on my door, and told that it will be ‘cheaper’ if I switch suppliers or service providers. This is the ‘free market’ gone stark raving bonkers!

Maggie Thatcher is primarily to blame for kicking off the crazy process known as ‘privatization’, and other Prime Ministers and governments have continued the policies ever since.

I tell these salespeople that I don’t want to have to make these decisions and that all these utility companies should be re-nationalized. Everything worked much better anyway when the various gas, electricity and water boards, all nationalized, specialized in each of these areas and supplied these utilities, and when the Post Office handled all telephone services as well as the mail, telegrams, telex, etc.

Also when the railways were nationalized under British Rail, and all buses/underground services in London and much of the Home Counties (the old green country buses and Greenline services) were run by the publicly owned London Transport.

Just a few moments’ thought tells you why this is so. Take the phone service. The network was laid down by BT’s predecessors (a division of the General Post Office) and the worldwide connexions are still owned and maintained by British Telecom. When I worked with an organization which made many international calls to obscure destinations via various privatized telephone companies there were constant problems with connexions.

With many destinations calls had to be re-routed permanently via BT. Owning the network meant they had the best lines to these countries. So any money ‘saved’ by using some cheapskate alternative company was for an inferior service, and caused us constant hassle.

It must be the same with utilities like gas, electricity and water. An electricity company can hire use of the gas mains, and similar arrangements can be made for electricity and water supplies via various companies, but one company/organization still has to maintain the network, and they will always give priority to their own customers.

A similar arrangement applies to the railways, with Network Rail owning the track and signaling system. They have contracted out maintenance to private companies, but with disastrous results. And the arrangements for leasing use of the track to different railway companies is a nightmare. In the early days after privatization I was traveling from Clapham Junction to Bristol Temple Meads, and a ticket inspector was having to sit with each passenger for 10 minutes and work out what percentage of our ticket price had to be shared out between the various railway companies whose stations the train was stopping at, by means of a calculator. Now they have some other system, but it is still terribly messy and unecessarily complicated.

‘Privatization saves money’ we are told. Nonsense! It can NEVER EVER genuinely save money, only cut essential costs at the expense of health, safety, staff training, wages and conditions. The excellent staff training for London Transport and British Rail drivers, for instance, has now disappeared, and the cut-price miminal training offered instead causes accidents and is constantly endangering the public. Just ride a London bus which throws passengers about, and fails to pull up at the kerb or even stop at all! A signalman with years of experience told me any driver of a train under the age of about 50 is a danger to the public, since they will not have had British Rail training.

A moments’ consideration will show that any savings made under privatization are false economies. The reason? Private companies have to make profits for their shareholders.

Now some of the essential services mentioned above, such as the railways, have very heavy overheads and really can’t run at a profit. There is no railway company in the world which genuinely makes a profit, as if they did the fares would be so high nobody would use the railways. So how do the privatized railways in UK make a profit? In short, they don’t. As when the railways were nationalized, they are heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. The difference now is this money ends up in the pockets of greedy shareholders, whereas it would have gone into investment and maintenance before. Not satisfied with stealing taxpayers’ money and claiming it as ‘profit’, the private railway companies do what every other private company do and cut costs at the expense of safety, investment and the wages/working conditions of their employees. Since Maggie Thatcher broke the power of the big trade unions, employees of these privatized companies have had a very rough deal.

All the above utility and railway companies should be re-nationalized without any compensation to shareholders. They gambled on the stock exchange and lost – tough! They have already made too much money out of us anyway.

If pension companies have invested in any of these areas that doesn’t matter as they should all be taken over by the government anyway. It is the sole responsibility of the State to pay decent pensions to all its citizens, and it must do so at whatever the cost. So pensions must be guaranteed by the government.

By taking the banks, insurance companies and all other private financial institutions into public ownership the government will have plenty of funds to pay pensions and support excellent public services, without the need for high taxes. Some Socialist countries were able to reduce and hopefully abolish personal taxation altogether, funding public services from the money held in State financial institutions, and from the profits of the nationalized industries and services.

However many industries and services work better with some healthy competition and a free market place, and this is best achieved thru competing publicly owned but independent companies and cooperatives. This was the system used in former Yugoslavia and it worked very well indeed. Much better, in fact, that under so-called ‘free enterprise’ where multinationals are squeezing out the competition. Near-monopoly global capitalism offers less and less choice as the big multinationals dominate the market, and divide up the spoils between them.

Even in the nationalized industries and services, we will still have plenty of choice, as we did when they were nationalized before. I could choose, for instance, whether to travel by train or coach, and whether to have my home heated and meals cooked by gas or electricity. I could also choose whether to use the telephone or the alternatives of telex, telegram or letter. What more choice did I need? None, because each State-owned company were experts in their field, owned and maintained all the infrastructure, and any profits were reinvested to improve services.

If some of these nationalized industries and services were wasteful or paid too high salaries to their executives, then this problem can be solved by having to account to public watchdog bodies like Ofcom. In any case private companies are usually guilty of such practices as well, and have to be similarly regulated.

Then we come to the matter of choice at election times. There are areas of policy which at present are treated as footballs to be kicked about in the rough and tumble of party politics, which I feel should be dictated by an independent body such as the Bank of England, which has already taken control of interest rates.

One such area is the level of taxation required to provide the essential public services such as health, education, public transport, pensions, etc..  This should not be a matter for party politics, to be decided at election time. When I go to my local supermarket I have to pay the price displayed, I can’t haggle at the checkout and demand a discount. Why should we be able to haggle about what taxes we pay, influenced by the rightwing press which will always tell their readers to vote for the political party which promises the lowest taxation?

The result is all political parties are scared to raise taxes to the level needed to fund the public services and utilities, pensions, etc. for fear of being voted out at the next general election. Similarly in local government – the level of council tax should be dictated by some non-elected body which would decide how much is needed to provide local services and a low-rent council home for every family, couple or single person in the country who does not own their own home.

Too much democracy is very unhealthy. Ordinary people are not qualified to take decisions on such matters on a whim in an election booth, especially when influenced by the rightwing tabloid press. It takes a second to put a cross against a candidate in an election – have the voters heard all the arguments for and against low taxation, do they know the possible consequences? At democratic public meetings, and of course in law courts, people/juries are not allowed to make decisions until they have been forced to listen to both sides of the argument. Decisions on the levels of taxation are too important to be left to people who may not have heard/considered any of the arguments, and just vote for the party offering the lowest taxes because The Sun newspaper tells them to.

Just voting for the political party which promises the lowest national taxation or the lowest local council tax is totally irresponsible, and the end result is public services and State pensions starved of funds.

As described above, by taking many industries and services into State ownership, including the private financial institutions (leaving cooperatives independent of the State), it would be possible to keep national and council taxes very low, and even abolish them altogether. So if the public want low taxes they could vote for a leftwing political party which would re-introduce widescale nationalization of essential industries/services and competitive public ownership of the rest of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

So the electorate should not enjoy the luxury of voting for a policy of lower taxes which involves cutting back on pensions and essential public services, nor for policies on certain other matters which require careful thought and discussion of the pros and cons. They would be voting for policies without taking responsibility for these decisions. No democracy without accountability should be the watchword. It’s no good voting for a party which promises low taxes and then complaining when your public services are cut, you can’t get a council home and struggle to survive on a meager State pension. And why should thoughtless, selfish people condemn those of us who take a more responsible attitude to these things?

Remember democracy does not always produce wise decisions. Adolf Hitler was elected as Chancellor of Germany by popular vote. A public vote on the issue would bring back hanging, with the many miscarriages of justice which occurred previously, such as the Derek Bentley case.

The public, MPs, the Cabinet and the Prime Minister also have no right whatsoever to decide in favor of replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system since all weapons of mass destruction are totally illegal. They have no more right to demand a so-called nuclear ‘deterrent’ (which not deterred terrorists and not helped win any of the wars we have been involved in since 1945) than the German people had a right, were they consulted, to vote for the Final Solution. If anybody has a right to vote on such issues it is the would be victims. So when we acquired the atomic bomb in the 1940s, it was the Soviet and East European people who should have been consulted if anybody, not the British people. We should have been able to vote on whether the Soviet Union should target us with nuclear weapons!

This is all complete nonsense, of course – all weapons of mass destruction must be abolished. The nuclear powers have already signed international treaties to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide, and must get on with it without delay, not plan illegal new replacements such as Trident.

So choice must always be restricted. We have a right to choose which party we want to govern us, and to get actively involved in that party and politics if we want to (this should be encouraged).

We also have a right to decide on our basic Constitution, which should always be a written one (unlike in Britain).  Whenever it is felt necessary, a referendum should be held on the Constitution of a country, and it should be compulsory to vote in such a referendum. In order to change the Constitution of any country at least two-thirds of the electorate should vote for that change, a simple majority is not nearly enough to justify such a drastic change.

So in Britain, a two-thirds majority would be required to overthrow the Constitutional Monarchy and become a Republic. A similar two-thirds majority would be required to set up a Socialist Constitution, committing all political parties to maintaining some sort of Socialist economy where the bulk of the means of production, distribution and exchange remains under some sort of public ownership and control. Similarly, any country with a Socialist Constitution would need a two-thirds vote of the electorate in order to reject that Constitution and return to a capitalist economy.

Are the white working-class being marginalized in UK?

This is basically the subject of a brave BBC 2 series which started tonite, the first program concentrating on the problems in Bradford, centered around a dying working-man’s club. It came across almost as a party political broadcast for the BNP.

Tomorrow they are screening the second program in the series ‘Rivers of Blood’, a quote from the prophetic speech by the late Enoch Powell.

There was much talk in the program of the betrayal of the working-class by Tony Blair and New Labor, as well as about the problem of immigration, now from Eastern/Central Europe as well as from the Indian sub-continent, Africa, China and the West Indies.

The collapse of the Trade Union movement has caused a lot of the problems and racial tensions. This dates back to the Thatcher era, and her full frontal assault on the Trade Unions.

We have a minimum wage in this country, but it is not enforced because there are loads of non-union industries and retail outlets which employ immigrants illegaly and pay them well below the minimum wage. This in turn puts white working-class men from this country out of a job, with little prospect of ever getting one.

Much of this exploited,  cheap labor comes from the former Socialist countries in Eastern/Central Europe. When they were Socialist the wages were lower than in the West, but this was largely because of all the hidden benefits they got under Socialism: full employment, security in their old age, excellent public services, subsidized rents, subsidized basic foodstuffs, etc.

Now they have lost all these benefits, but wages have not risen to pay for the greatly increased cost of living under capitalism. So they come over to UK under EU rules to get more money than they can at home (this also applies to immigrants from Africa and Asia), but are still under-cutting the basic minimum wage and trade union rates, and are thus putting British born workers out of a job.

In addition to this there is positive discrimination in favor of all ethnic groups, and has been for decades. My life-partner, born in Glasgow, could not get a job the last year and a half of his life because of this discriminatory policy. He had to fill in a form when applying for jobs which described his ethnic background. Certainly in government jobs, such as the Department of Social Security and the Unemployment Office (or whatever it was called back then) he didn’t stand a cat in Hell’s chance of ever getting a job. He applied many times, but never even got the courtesy of a reply, let alone an interview.

Yet he was interviewed by ethnic staff at these offices who tried to bully him into low-paid, unskilled jobs at McDonalds, etc..  He told them that he was capable of much more than that, and with retraining could be a skilled computer operator (he was previously a Telex Operator with fast keyboard skills) or if given a chance to get a university degree (he was quite intelligent enough to get one) he could fulfil his ambition to become a qualified librarian. However he received short shrift from people who could barely speak English. Not even understanding what a ‘Telex Operator’ was one Asian woman offered him jobs in telesales, for which he was totally unsuited.

In the area where I live there are more black/ethnic people than white. It sometimes feels like they are taking over our country with their alien culture. It is difficult to find any fast-food outlets/butchers which are not Hal-Al for instance. The schools in this area have hardly any white kids in them. A pensioners’ club I belong to was told it could not get further grants because it contained no refugees. There are a few black people who attend, but like the working-men’s clubs featured in the program, these pensioners’ clubs appeal mainly to the white working-class, with old-fashioned style British/Irish entertainment. Surely we have a right to enjoy our own culture in our own country?

A pensioner friend of mine living in Notting Hill says at his senior citizens’ lunch club you are never served English food, always spicy West Indian and North African/Asian foods which many white pensioners don’t like.

Black and Asian gangs of teenagers have taken over the streets in many areas of our inner cities, and the police are nowhere to be seen. Alien ‘gangsta rap’ music encouraging gang culture, hatred of ‘batty men’ (gays), etc. is partly to blame, and the Jamaican culture of gun/knife crime has been imported here. At the same time Islamic extremists are stirring up hatred of non-Muslims and planning suicide bombings, campaigning for sharia law and thus causing even more racial tensions in our society.

Way back in the years before, during and after the Second World War my father’s relations came over from Cyprus and some abused our hospitality. One aunt of mine obtained a council flat under false pretenses, deliberately overcrowded it by sub-letting and taking in illegal lodgers, and made so much money she ended up owning and renting out houses all over London.

My dad also abused the system, paying virtually no tax for years, refusing to buy National Insurance stamps for his staff, serving horsemeat for beef in his restaurant, and getting away with most of these scams by claiming he didn’t speak English and didn’t understand. Privately he told my English mother that all the English were stupid to let foreigners like him get away with it.

Is it any wonder people turn to extremist rightwing racist parties like the BNP when a traditional Marxist working-class party, like Labor, have betrayed us so completely in order to pander to the middle-classes? They have continued the often disastrous Thatcherite policies of privatization of our public industries and services, subsidizing shareholders’ dividends out of national taxation whilst the railways, etc. are starved of investment and costs are cut everywhere at the expense of safety, adequate training and staff conditions. Also the even more disastrous policy of selling off the council housing stock, making it almost impossible for working-class people to find places to live.

Council housing is essential for working-class people, and immigrants/refugees should not get priority over British people who have been on the council housing lists for years. These policies are just brewing up racial tensions and trouble for the future.

All these problems need to be dealt with and controlled. It is no easy task. The collapse of the Socialist bloc and the spread of global capitalism has worsened the exploitation of the underdeveloped Southern Hemisphere and the former Socialist countries by the rich Western multi-nationals. They employ cheap ethnic labor here, and move factories and contact centers overseas where they can employ even cheaper labor.

Ultimately the only solution is true worldwide Socialism, where nobody is exploited. The problems we face are not caused directly by immigration, but by the inequality in the world caused by global capitalism and Western governments propping up corrupt autocratic regimes, exploiting the natural and human resources of the underdeveloped/former Socialist countries and thus causing a flood of economic and political immigrants/refugees into Western countries, where they then take jobs and housing, etc. away from the indigenous population.

I can’t help feeling Enoch Powell was right when he foresaw too much immigration causing ‘rivers of blood’ to flow in the future. It has started already with the ethnic gang warfare, Islamic terrorism and race riots, and will get worse unless the government of the day take control of the situation.

The minimum wage should be enforced everywhere. More police, armed if necessary, should be put on the beat, and the Army brought in if needed to stamp out the anarchy on our streets. Stop and search needs to be an everyday feature of life, with police/soldiers swamping out streets to carry it out. Gangs should be broken up, those carrying knives, guns or bomb-making materials should be deported or incarcerated on remote island detention centers indefinitely. Preference for council and other social housing for non-British populations, and discrimination in favor of ethnic populations in jobs, etc., should be halted. Anyone who doesn’t learn English within a few years of coming here should be deported.

Cheap imports from underdeveloped countries should be heavily taxed, and the revenue raised invested to improve the wages/standards of living in those underdeveloped countries. There is nothing, for instance, to stop the British and other EU governments forming publicly owned companies/cooperatives and setting up fully unionized factories in the underdeveloped world paying Western wages. That would instantly put the capitalist multi-nationals exploiting these countries out of business.

Tough action is needed if  the country, and indeed the world, is not to descend into complete anarchy with endless wars, riots and the rise of fascism as a result.

Foreigners/refugees, etc. must be welcomed in our country, but numbers controlled, preference given to genuine refugees who’s lives are in danger at home (but only if they are not involved in terrorism), and nobody should be allowed to work below the minimum wage.

Memories of the First Ten Years

I thought I’d take a trip way down Memory Lane to my very earliest ones, which are so long ago they are somewhat hazy. The very earliest are just hazy snapshots in my memory bank. We are talking about the first ten years of my life, the late 1940s and early 1950s.

My very first memory, very hazy indeed, is of waking up in some hospital ante-room. This is not surprising, as I was constantly hospitalized from birth till I was 24 for various operations, many due to deformities probably caused by a World War II bomb blowing out all the windows in the hospital where my mother gave birth. Apparently she was in danger of losing the baby altogether, and I was born with a club foot, hare lip and a cleft palate.

Another early memory is of being in my dad’s car and seeing thick snow outside the window. This is likely a memory of the bad winter of 1948, and I seem to remember the snow being on the high banks each side of the road north of Hampstead Heath (we lived in West Hampstead).

I have many hazy memories of various so-called ‘aunts’ and female friends of my parents, many of whom were refugees from the Third Reich who came over during the War. Some of them worked in my dad’s restaurant at Swiss Cottage, such as my ‘Aunty Gretel’ who doted on me (and died of cancer in Hill End Hospital in the early 1950s), and Petra, another foreign lady.

There was also ‘Aunty Dora’, an English woman married to a Greek-Cypriot, who warned my mother that on a planned upcoming visit to Cyprus, which was to be the first for my mother, myself and my little brother, he had only one-way tickets for myself and my brother and planned to bring us up as Greek-Cypriots. This was the final straw which led to the separation – not least because I was under constant hospital treatment which I wouldn’t be able to get in Cyprus. At least not from the finest surgeons in the NHS whom I was under at the time. Mr Wiles was my orthopedic surgeon, Mr Mowlem the one for my lip/cleft palate, both based at the Middlesex Hospital, Mortimer Street where I was born.

Another early memory is of my mother paying a visit to one of the first laundrettes in the country, in Finchley Road. As we sat there watching the washing going round and round, it suddenly disappeared and my mother panicked. She found the supervisor out in the back and asked where her washing had gone. My mother thought it had gone somewhere else to be perhaps dried and then collected. The supervisor patiently explained how the machine had gone into spinning cycle, and the clothes were still in the machine but had been pressed to the sides of the revolving drum by centrifugal force. This seemed highly unlikely to my mother, but of course turned out to be correct.

My mother taught me to swim at a very early age by taking me regularly to the indoor swimming baths in Finchley Road, now long gone along with most other swimming baths in London.

Also in Finchley Road was John Barnes department store. They had one of the first food halls/supermarkets in London. I remember going down to what seemed a vast food hall, the likes of which I’d never seen before, on an escalator and hearing the latest hit of the day played over the Tannoy system – ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’.

In our luxury West Hampstead flat we lived in some affluence, due to my dad’s successful business. We not only owned a car, but the flat was expensive at £5 a week rent (a fortune in the late 1940s) and was furnished expensively. We had a radiogram, and I used to dance around the room to Katachurian’s ‘Saber Dance’.

Another old 78 we had, this was long before 45s of course, was ‘Walkin’ My Baby Back Home’. I was puzzled as to why a little tiny baby would be made to walk, and even more so as to why a baby with no hair would want to borrow her father’s comb!

Walking with my mother one day up Adelaide Road towards my father’s restaurant in Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage, I spotted a whitewashed slogan on a gray brick wall which read: ‘NO WAR IN KOREA!’. So this must have been the early 1950s, my first experience of an anti-war protest. I was always very good at reading from an early age.

I remember my first school, St Mary’s Primary Church of England School, just off Kilburn  High Road. Miss Adams was my teacher, and taught us to read by means of little colored picture cards with words printed on them. The one which sticks in my mind is a picture of a bomb with the word printed underneath. Seems a most unsuitable subject for a toddler, but I suppose it was just after the War. We used to play regularly on bombsites.

In this classroom was a Wendy House, and at playtimes I was always crawling inside, only to be told cruelly by the teacher that only girls were allowed inside, but I could be the postman.

Since my father was always absent, in bed till midday, then out till the early hours gambling, womanizing, etc., he never taught us boys Greek or took us many places at all.  I was usually out with my mother, so on my first day at school when I wanted the toilet and was directed to the boys’ one in the school playground I was horrified to see the dirty tykes urinating against the wall, or so I thought. I kept going into the girls’ toilets, and they kept pushing me out and telling me to go to the boys’ one. I’d never seen a boys’/men’s urinal in my young life until that day.

At lunchtime we were served school dinners in the main hall, and the dinner lady serving mashed potatoes was talking to the one next to her when serving me. I said: ‘no more potatoes please’ as she had already put too many on my plate, and not hearing me properly she said ‘Go along now, you can’t have any more you greedy little boy!’ Actually I wanted her to take some of the mash OFF my plate.

Another early memory is of being in nearby Regents Park with my mother pushing my brother in a pram. The pram had a big silk canopy over it with tassles hanging down. Apparently we were visiting the Children’s Zoo, and Hella, a friend of my mother’s also married to a Greek-Cypriot, was with us. I remember goats gathering around us and eating the paper carrier-bags my mother had hanging on the pram. My mother was pushing them away, and my mother tells me Hella was roaring with laughter. Getting the carrier-bags out of the reach of the goats, they then started reaching up and trying to eat the silk canopy. We made our escape eventually.

Poor Hella was destined to be murdered by her Greek-Cypriot mother-in-law. Hella was at the sink washing up, and the old lady crept up behind her and hit her over the head with a heavy marble vase or something, killing her. The old lady then tried to burn Hella’s body in the garden. The old lady was arrested, convicted of Hella’s murder, and was the last woman to be hanged in Britain before Ruth Ellis, who was the very final one. There seemed to be a lot of female murderers in the Hampstead area at the time!

My mother said that my dad would come home in the early hours with friends and ask her to get my brother and I up as they were having a party. I don’t think she did this, but I do remember some parties. I used to be able to speak a few words of Greek at the time, long since forgotten, and I remember singing a little song whilst hugging my favorite teddy bear: ‘Goodnight mama, goodnight papa, goodnight to all the rest. Goodnight mama, goodnight papa, but I love my teddy best!’ Ah sweet!

I also remember the little green and black plastic nightlight which burned all night in the little bedroom I shared with my brother. This was because I didn’t like sleeping in the dark, I was afraid lions from Regents Park zoo might escape and somehow get in the window and gobble me up. My brother slept in a cot, and my mother used to find him playing with his toys on the floor in the middle of the night. She scolded me for taking him out of his cot, which I denied. Then she discovered one day he was climbing out of his cot by putting one leg over, then the other and just dropping to the floor! He also regularly tipped his pram over – my mother had to prop it up each end with boxes. If she gave him a baby bottle of milk, which were then made of glass, she had to be quick as he’d fling it to the floor and smash it as soon as it was empty.

I used to play in the sandpits in Grange Park, Kilburn and also in Regents Park. We also used to visit the playground in the churchyard at St John’s Wood, opposite Lord’s Cricket Ground. My mother remembers my Greek-Cypriot cousin, Sylvia, going to the top of the slide and pissing all the way down it from the top! All the posh nannies with their little charges were, of course horrified: ‘Come away, darling, no you can’t go on the slide today.’

After Aunty Dora’s brave revelation of our upcoming abduction (‘Johnny will kill me if he knew I’d told you’ she said – Dora too died of cancer soon afterwards) my mother secretly planned to leave my father, who was also knocking her about, especially when drunk, which was very often. On the day we were leaving I looked out of the flat window and said excitedly: ‘Daddy’s here!’ as I saw his car pull up. My mother was scared and horrified, and with good reason. We were all packed up, and I have vivid memories of my dad shouting and screaming at her. He’d obviously been tipped off by someone, and he was breaking open boxes, taking out curtains and throwing them to the floor. I’d never been so terrified. He threw a little table across the room and smashed it. Somehow we got away with a few items, and for the next few weeks were homeless.

Part of the time we stayed at a battered wives’ refuge in Fulham Road, then stayed with my Uncle Fred and his big family, his wife Dorothy and their six children, plus every pet you could imagine, in their police house in Sutton Valance, near Maidstone in Kent. My uncle was the village policeman. Whilst there we kids went for a country walk, and my brother was picking wild flowers, berries, etc. from the hedgerows and asking if they were OK to eat. One of the berries or leaves he ate was from the Bella Donna/Deadly Nightshade plant. Even I knew these were poisonous, and my country cousins certainly did, but for some reason we said: ‘Yes, OK’. My poor brother ended up in hospital with what they thought was an epileptic fit. He survived, but I didn’t dare tell my mother till years later. She wished I’d told her earlier – for years she thought my brother Philip was epilieptic and liable to have more fits.

My mother’s other policeman brother, Len, lived in Wood Green with his family, upstairs from my Gran and Grandpa (my Grandpa had also been a policeman, but now worked for the Civil Service in Crouch End). I remember visiting Len and my cousin Laurie, who played me his favorite 78 on a wind-up gramophone – it was Tweety Pie singing: ‘I Dort I Daw a Puddy Cat’.

Anyway, once Len and his family moved to a police house in Wembley, we were free to move in downstairs, and my grandparents moved upstairs. We lived in this house in Marlborough Road, Bowes Park, Wood Green from 1951-1957, when we got a council flat at the back of Alexandra Park. I know we were in the council flat by October 1957 as I stood on the iron steps and watched the first Soviet Sputnik pass over with our neighbor, Mr Paulec. In the school playgrounds we used to sing a version of Michael Holliday’s hit ‘Catch A Falling Star’ just to annoy the Yanks, who’d been beaten into Space by the Soviets: ‘Catch a falling Sputnik, put it in a matchbox, send it to the USA’.

But I digress – that was the late 1950s. No sooner had we moved into Marlboro’ Road than there was another mishap. My father had access rights of course, and came to visit us in his car. I saw it arrive, and rushed outside to show him some photos. It was a cold Winter, and I slipped on an icy patch on the front path and broke my leg. I was in hospital in traction for the next 6 months – it was the right leg which had originally had a club foot and was already shorter than the left one, so they wanted to make sure it didn’t end up any shorter due to the broken leg.

Later we started going to the Saturday Morning Pictures at the ABC Ritz on the North Circular Road. Before watching the cartoons, The Three Stooges and Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in their cliff-hanger serials, ‘Uncle’ Whatsisname used to play the Wurlitzer organ, all the latest hits of the day in this pre-rock’n’roll era. Things like ‘Over The Mountains, Over The Sea’, ‘I Love to Go A-Wandering’, ‘How Much Is That Doggy In the Window’, etc. But we were too busy screaming, shouting and throwing things at each other – a full scale weekly riot – to sing along. However as soon as ‘Uncle’ sank down into the pit with his flashing colored lights on his Wurlitzer, up on the screen would come the invitation to: ‘Join in the ABC Minors’ Song with your very own ABC Minors’ Choir’. To the tune ‘Blaze Away’ we’d then sing with gusto:

‘We are the boys and girls well known as

Minors of the ABC

And every Saturday we line-up

To see the films we like

And shout about with glee

We like to laugh and have our sing-song

What a happy crowd are we

We’re all pals together

We’re minors of the A-B-C!’

These last three letters were shouted out with gusto at the tops of our voices. Our deadly foes were the Gaumont Saturday Morning picture goers. We had luminous badges with the ABC logo, which glowed in the dark and gave us all a dose of radiation – Gaumont kids didn’t have those! However when we moved in 1957, the ABC Ritz was too far away so I joined the Gaumont Saturday Morning picture club in Wood Green High Road.

Then finally, around 1955, many boys started wearing luminous pink and green sox to school, with the words ‘Rock’n’Roll’ printed on them in black lettering. This exciting new kind of music had hit Britain, though the BBC refused to play it. We didn’t have a record-player at the time, so I never got into the music till 9 years later, in 1964. But kids were teaching each other the words to Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’ in the school playground.

But I really didn’t have a clue. I rushed home excitedly one day to tell my mother I’d seen the girls doing ‘rock’n’roll’ in the hall. They weren’t of course – they were merely doing exercises to music. I assumed, since they were swaying from side-to-side, this must be the ‘rock’n’roll’ dance I’d heard about.

I didn’t really get much further educated about rock’n’roll till 1964 when I discovered Little Richard, Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis for the first time, via their Granada TV specials. However in the late 1950s I did get to hear Elvis’ ‘Jailhouse Rock’ EP on my friend’s record-player, and was amazed at the little 45 records which could be bent without breaking, unlike the shellac 78s I was used to.

So there you have it – some of my memories of the first ten years or so of my life. Another age, when TV was in very few homes, and many streets were still lit by gas, and sweets and some other commodities were still on ration till 1954. I still have my old ration book with some unused coupons in it!