Sunday, 30 September 2012

Make-over time

I start my first teaching placement next week.  So yesterday I got my hair-cut. Over the past few months I've been picking up a suitable(ish) teachers' wardrobe on Ebay. It feels that I am in the process of crossing some sort of Rubicon.

I'm not sure why this seems like a big deal - but I suppose it is about taking on a new persona - a persona of 'authority'. Which is ironic  because in reality as a student teacher I will  have very much less authority than I did as a manager in my old life.  I might not have sought it, I might not ever have been comfortable with it, and I might have tried to play it down, but undeniably I was the boss. And all in a not a particularly worthwhile cause; making money for the owner of the business -  and even worse -  helping the arsehole clients making even more money for theirs.  That I could do so whilst dressed in the same clothes that I wore at the weekend and in the funky comfort of a Soho was scant consolation.

So I suppose - much as Henry of Navarre thought Paris was worth a mass  - then doing something more worthwhile  may be worth a second-hand collar and tie.  But  even so when I catch myself in the mirror it still looks like someone else.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sort of TUSC report

I went to the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition conference yesterday. 

I'm totally on board with the TUSC project. Intellectually - because I see it as a necessary part of the process of getting a new workers' party off the ground. And emotionally because after the best part of thirty years swimming against the tide of Tories, bigots and other arseholes I'd rather work with people whose values I more or less share rather than seeking some kind of ideological purity.

The trouble is these people can be rather hard work: And this was much in evidence yesterday. The SWP were generally conspicuous by their absence - and sending only a sprinkling of people confirmed that at the moment their enthusiasm for TUSC constitutes no more than keeping a watching brief. The Communist Party of Britain at least made their reservations open - although in the truly bizarre way of declaring that we should not write off the possibility of Labour being transformed into a socialist party until the next election. And a certain member of Socialist Resistance behaved with the persecuted hysteria that confirmed the python-esque stereotype of the Far Left in his ability to pick an argument in a telephone box. More positively on the other hand the Independent Socialist Network and the Socialist Party are clearly committed to TUSC - and to the credit of both were very careful to express their differences with each other in a  fraternal and respectful way. And most significantly of all  -  the RMT couldn't disguise their impatience that other unions couldn't just follow them in breaking with Labour and signing up to a new party.

I knew what I was in for when I went, so I wouldn't describe the experience as depressing, but after six hours in the conference I did have a numb arse and  a distinct sense of wading through treacle to get to a far off prize. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Lost in translation

Setting aside for a moment any more serious thoughts about invasions of privacy, misogyny and tacky journalism - I was struck how even at their sleaziest the French do  seem to manage these things with a certain je ne sais quoi. 

Apparently accompanying the topless pictures  of our new Queen-of-Hearts  Princess Kate of Middleton and Cambridge was the caption: 

'Exulted by the fragrance of lavender from the neighbouring fields, Kate takes advantage of those delicious moments of doing nothing and offers her breasts to the soft caress of the Provence sun.[She is] simply a spouse who feels well enough in her body and who has nothing to hide from her husband. And love in its purest form. Pure images of happiness without any cloud ... like a new Eden.’

It may read like soft porn with literary pretensions but it's simply impossible to imagine reading prose like that in OK, Now, Hello or any of the other celeb-gos rags in this country.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Old dog learning new teaching tricks

Six years ago I came back from holiday and started this blog with a first post about the autumnal 'start of a new term' feeling. I never imagined that six years later it would be literally true. Yesterday I was back at university for my first offical day as a student.

Within moments I could see a  few things seem to have changed since the 1980's: Students now take notes in their lectures on their laptops. The students' union doesn't have anything remotely political on the noticeboard - and the bar isn't open at lunchtime. 

More disturbingly,  in a seminar we watched a YouTube clip of celeb-historian David Starkey talking about last year's riots; I seemed to be the only one - other perhaps than the tutor - whose immediate reaction was that Starkey was obvioulsy just  a racist cunt. (Although naturally I couched this in a slightly more academically-diplomatic way).

It's going to be a strange year, but I do feel as if I have finally flicked a switch  on in my brain that hasn't been touched for my years ....

Sunday, 2 September 2012

EDL humiliated in Walthamstow

Over the years I've been involved in a variety of anti-fascist activities. Some of these were of the more cloak and dagger variety - these involved a lot of skulking about and waiting for things to happen - usually in greasy spoon cafes. In the days before mobile phones became universal much of this bordered on the farcical. Only very occasionally did we ever get to grips physically with the fascists - and although this fuelled the bravado of pub reminiscences for many years to come, the problem was that they tended to be private victories away from the public eye. They served a purpose in disrupting them, but ultimately 'the propaganda of the deed' doesn't really work when nobody is watching. However many  more of these activities were of the kind where you march backwards and forwards - usually at a safe distance from the enemy, waving 'down with this sort of thing placards'. It's a ritual - and like many rituals does have some purpose. In the right circumstances in can boost morale by making everyone feel good about themselves and creating a sense of purpose. But also like many rituals it can easily slip into being counter-productive through repetition when it seem hollow and meaningless.

On the other hand, I was up the road in E17 for the anti-EDL protest yesterday - and it was one of the rare occasions when for once  everything seemed to work. For starters it was a proper community march and not just the usual suspects of the Left. And most importantly despite some high-handed organisation by the SWP/UAF, the march actually achieved its purpose of preventing the fascists from marching. In part this was through the simple and traditional tactic of blocking a road junction - although it seems difficult to believe that the police didn't just let this happen. (Despite the chants of 'police protect the fascists' I do sometimes wonder if things are as simple as that). But more than this -  a  alternative route for the march was also thwarted when a smaller group of us managed to slip the main kettle and get to the fascists rallying point. As a result there was a short stand-off with a handful of EDL leaders whilst the main body of their much-smaller-than-expected march was held in the side streets. The warriors of the master race were  unceremoniously whisked away in their coaches - and after being briefly held by the police lines, we were allowed to make our way home.

After about seven hours on my feet and without food or drink I got home hungry and shattered but with a rare sense of having actually achieved something. Quite simply the EDL were  stopped. And publicly seen to be stopped. And with the overwhelming support of the the local community.