Depression # 26 by Dan Pearce

Dan Pearce

Dan Pearce has done editorial work for many magazines and newspapers including New Society, Honey, 19, Oz, The Observer, The Times and Sunday Times, Mayfair and Penthouse. Dan has created book and record covers, political cartoons, comic strips and caricatures and he has written two graphic novels: ‘Critical Mess’ (against the nuclear industry) and ‘Oscar: The Second Coming’. His labour of love is the graphic novel, ‘Depression’ which is unfinished. He lived in Andalucia and then Umbria before coming back to live in the UK in Hastings. Dan went to the Colchester School of Art and the Central School of Art and his last painting was well received at the Sussex Open.

The Striking Colours of Indonesian Markets

Women working in the markets of East Java

By Inge Colijn

Prompted by a colleague, Inge Colijn, a passionate street photographer, finally overcame her reluctance and travelled to Indonesia. Her reluctance was partly the result of complicated feelings about her father’s relationship to Holland’s colonial past. Inge visited East Java, where she took photographs of women working in the markets. We see the lives of the women market workers through her photographs. As Andy Hall, the Observer photojournalist, remarked: ‘Inge’s use of well-composed colour is striking and admirable. Her pictures are full of human warmth and fun.’

I am fascinated by Indonesia. It is made up of 17,500 islands. Indonesia is the biggest archipelago in the world. Indonesia spreads over three time zones and parts of it, like Java, are very densely populated. Many people forget Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.

Blitar market woman, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

Women have a much more prominent place in society in Indonesia than they do in the Middle-East. In East Java, especially, people’s worldview is strongly coloured by ancient Indonesian beliefs, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Women have a much more prominent place in society in Indonesia

Women are not forced to stay at home in Indonesia, they go out to work and make a living for their family. This is particularly true of the women married to fishermen, or small farmers. The women will sell their produce on the local markets. Women sell all sorts of things in Indonesian markets: onions, bananas, fish … they may even work as fully fledged butchers. Younger women, often better educated, sometimes work in shops and offices. It is many of the older Indonesian women who work in markets.

Malang market women, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

I have always had a complicated relationship with Indonesia. I actually only went there for the first time in March 2017. The pictures you see here were taken during my third visit, between July and August of 2019.

Some women become fully-fledged butchers, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

There were two reasons for my ambivalence. In the first place, traveling to Indonesia while my dad was still alive felt a bit like betrayal because I knew it had been his dream.

Surabaya market women, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

My father dreamed of going to Indonesia in 1947. He wanted to experience Indonesian culture, but he would have done so as a soldier. He was in the marines at the time of the infamous politionele acties‘.

Surabaya market woman, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

Surabaya market woman, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

My father was excited by the possibility of going to Indonesia, but to his chagrin, his battalion was the one kept behind in the Netherlands. He tried to join the troops who were sailing off to ‘Nederlands Indie” as it was called, but needed the approval of his father. He wasn’t 21. His father, my grandfather wouldn’t give in. I am very grateful that he wasn’t allowed to fight for Dutch colonialism.

Surabaya market woman, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

My relationship with Indonesia was complicated further by the fact that I studied Cultural Anthropology at Leiden University. Despite the fact that I was so attracted to Indonesia and even though I had the opportunity, there were so many people who seemed to know so much more about it than me that I felt at a great disadvantage. This feeling affected my confidence and made me decide to stay far away from taking any course on the subject.

Malang market woman, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

Malang market woman, East Java, Inge Colijn ©

Finally, in 2017, I overcame my reservations and decided to go – encouraged by a UNHCR colleague in Colombo.

I loved Indonesia immediately, not least because the people there are approachable and friendly.

Inge Colijn

Inge Colijn took up photography as a teenager. Later, as a student of ethnography, she studied Ethnographic Photography. While working for UNHCR, Inge carried a camera with her in the field, but photography was always an afterthought to her main job. After retiring from the UNHCR, Inge enrolled in photography workshops and got excited about street photography. She is part of a group of travelling street photographers and the photos here were taken on a visit she made to Indonesia in 2019 with her group.

The Gathering Storm

Telling stories about Extinction

By Gordon Liddle

What influences an artist? Why does one artist paint in a manner recognisable to that artist alone and above all why does the artist pick that subject matter in the first place? What is art?

                For most of my life I have had the ability to translate what I see into paintings or prints. At will. I can do a portrait which looks like the person as I see them. I can paint a cat. Or a dog. Or a tree. When I was a young man I tried over and over again to paint the likeness of an object so that other people could see it as I saw it, then, after years of practice, almost overnight, the ability to do so was readily available. It wasn’t learned at Art College.

The tutors, if they were there at all, had no inclination to teach the fundamentals of applying paint or ink. We had passed the days of the artist as an apprentice to another artist till he learned his/her ‘trade!’ If you wanted to learn how to apply paint so it doesn’t crack two years later, or to apply glazes to allow colours to shine through each other, or to understand why light reflects off neighbouring objects to change each surface, it had to be done on your own.

I keep hearing Rosa’s maxim ‘socialism or barbarism’, and I believe it to be so.

Most art tutors have been stealing a living for decades. The only reason to be there was to get a very decent wage and to shag the freshers before retiring early with a decent pension. No, if you need the fundamentals of how to paint, you are on your own. By the way, the life drawing tutor was brill, the rest, not so much. This applies, I find, to much of education. The system may give you a start (or puts you off for life), but real education happens when you take a personal interest, then teach yourself. Then the world of knowledge becomes astounding. As Frank Zappa said, ‘if you want to get laid, go to college, if you want to learn, go to a library!’ Now the library is on Wi-fi, as well as on paper.


Then of course, you need a subject matter. What do you paint, but most of all, why? If you’ve mastered the basics of putting paint on canvas (even that seems dated now), you want to know why you are putting the paint on and what for. You have the whole of the history of art to be influenced, to look at how and why the great and good, and not so good fared. If the simple manner of defining an artist is by how much of his/her stuff is selling, or how much press they get, then Emin and Hirst are both geniuses’, and Van Gogh was a complete failure. This is nonsense of course, but defining art is like trying to nail down a jelly. Apparently nowadays, everyone is an artist, and I suppose that is true in that everyone has the potential to create art. But I remember the Hitchens quote, ‘’Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.’ Most children are instinctively drawn to art, to them it is a natural as speaking, but like many things they are ‘educationalized’ out of it, which is a terrible shame.

Radicalism is absorbed, or purged so things carry on a ‘normal!’

 In our neoliberal capitalist world, art has become just another method of asset storage and wealth hoarding. Most of the ‘leading’ artists supply nondescript tat for ‘collectors’ or billionaires and like every other activity, this is seen as somehow proper by our supplicant and corrupt media. If a work comes to public attention the whole focus is on the auction price. How much it sold for. The work itself is rarely examined. Artists, for the most part, have gone along with this, their radicalism, if it existed at all, sold for a few pretty pennies. It’s how the establishment works. Radicalism is absorbed, or purged so things carry on as ‘normal!’ If you aren’t absorbed, you are locked out. Your work is rejected and there is no-where to show it.  You have to work at something else to survive.

I was so disillusioned after finishing art college; I didn’t paint for years. It seemed somehow much easier to throw some used condoms on a bed or make childish balloon shapes instead. The physical and emotional lift of standing in front of something truly moving and inspiring didn’t seem to be a thing anymore. But you cannot suddenly stop being an artist.   

Woodcut from the 6th Extinction Series in progress, Gordon Liddle ©

I see things in colours. Or shapes. Or shades. Everything. Even conversations. Even bird song. And I see things as stories. And for many, art has stopped telling stories. When I was just finishing college, I did a large painting of an imaginary Egyptian mural. The murals told stories (I wish I had done the hieroglyphs correct). On the right-hand side is a workman plastering around a newly fitted urinal, completely overlaying the old and ancient narrative of the wall behind.

I see things in colours. Or shapes. Or shades. Everything. Even conversations. Even bird song.

Obviously, it was a tilt at Duchamp but could be of any of our modern art ‘elite.’ The problem for me is that the Duchamp urinal seems to have been repeated ad-nauseum ever since. I remember listening to Hockney recently when asked about the new flush of ‘artists. ‘Hand, eye and heart. If you don’t have all three, it isn’t art.‘ I tend to agree with him. I realised early on that art for me was not a choice. I didn’t immediately understand my slight autism until later in life, but I did understand that when I’m not being creative, I am destructive. If I’m not writing about something or altering the garden, or growing plants, or painting or making something, then I’m destructive.

Woodcut from the 6th Extinction Series in progress, Gordon Liddle ©

I don’t like talking much and I’m not gregarious. Lockdown for me and being in my studio or garden was glorious. I have also come to understand that telling a story is political, as is seeking the truth. We live politics, we also live a lie. And our establishment rulers fully understand this. For years we have lived like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed bullshit, as a very wealthy few have looted the planet, hoarded wealth and resources and put us on the edge.

Climate change and ecological collapse is very real. It has been added to the Doomsday Clock by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and this has placed us 100 seconds to midnight. If that doesn’t frighten you then you aren’t thinking. For decades the corporations and Oligarchs responsible have been spending billions gaslighting and lying to us, and that capitalism and the free markets are the only way, nothing else is conceivable, that wealth will trickle down, and climate change is a hoax, actually no, now it’s real but it wasn’t our fault, and you need to stop using plastic bags, it’s your fault and now it’s too late we will have to adapt! None of this is true. It certainly isn’t too late, but it will be a damn close shave, even if we move all our resources immediately. A very clever young girl from Sweden has realised this, and her ‘condition’ has given her a laser like focus. We can make a difference, but only by changing the system.

Woodcut from the 6th Extinction Series in progress, Gordon Liddle ©

For the last few years, I have painted about ‘stuff!’ I decided that my way of making a small ripple in the pond, my contribution to the fight as it were, was by writing about the issues and painting about them. Telling stories. I set about painting six large canvases regarding climate change and ecological collapse, as well as six large-scale woodcuts and a series of etchings, as well as a book. Three of the woodcuts are nearing completion, one painting is finished and four more are on the easels. A large sculpture is also half finished and looking for a funder and a site. They will take me a long while, as I have to fund them myself. 

the Doomsday Clock … has placed us 100 seconds to midnight.

These works of art are links to the symptoms of climate change, refugees, oceans collapsing, biodiversity loss, and they are all under the Gaia banner; The Sixth Extinction Series. They are warnings. I think Lovelocks Gaia hypothesis is the nearest scientific theory for life on earth I’ve ever read, that everything is connected and, like a game of Jenga, removing one tiny part of an eco-system can cause total collapse of the whole. If you are of religious persuasion (I am not), then this is the God of small things. God is in everything, of which we are a part. Without the other parts, we are nothing.

like a game of Jenga, removing one tiny part of an eco-system can cause total collapse of the whole

Bereft. I read the Oligarchs views of the mess and their solutions, that we can move to Mars, engineer our way out of this mess, that we can adapt, we can transhuman, we can transcend, but only through capitalism, and I reject it. Humans are collaborators. We succeed by co-operating and are happiest when doing so. Our current perversions are the results of slavery and colonialism by a wealthy few who have poisoned the well. I keep hearing Rosa’s maxim ‘socialism or barbarism’, and I believe it to be so. Art is what makes my heart beat. Without the art of Gaia, we have nothing. As our leaders meet this week to discuss their approach to the crisis we face, expect nothing. Crumbs from the top table. Boris has already condemned us with scorn. Bunny huggers! We live on Paradise, Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. On my latest woodcut is an Albatross with a crossbow bolt through it. Let’s not make the same mistake as the Ancient Mariner. Art is life. Life is art.

Gordon Liddle

Gordon Liddle was born 1956, Horden, County Durham, United Kingdom Married, lives and works at his Derbyshire studio. BA Hons, Sheffield Psalter Lane Art College Gordon has had numerous positions and travelled extensively through the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain, Africa and Europe, with particular interests in religion, democracy, politics, economics, MMT, and culture. The results of these studies form the basis of the series of works now under way. Numerous works bought by private collectors #Madonna Victorian Mood Bought by Andrew Cavendish the 11th Duke of Devonshire is owned by the Chatsworth Collection. ‘Celestial Teapot’ was exhibited at La Galleria Pall Mall in London for one week in 2013, 4 days at Art Basel in 2014. Currently working on Gaia, The Sixth Extinction Series, of paintings, woodcuts and hopefully etchings soon. Also writing two books and a book of poems and rants. Gordon is on Twitter @sutongirotcip and his website is 

Nature in Black and White

By Leon Kreel

Storm Eleanor, Newhaven, photograph by Leon Kreel ©

photograph by Leon Kreel ©

Dead, photograph by Leon Kreel ©

photograph by Leon Kreel ©

Hastings beach, photograph by Leon Kreel ©

photograph by Leon Kreel ©

photograph by Leon Kreel ©

Ploughing, Sussex Downs, photograph by Leon Kreel ©

Storm Dorts, Newhaven, , photograph by Leon Kreel ©

Leon Kreel

Leon Kreel has exhibited in salons around the world. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. His photographic trips have taken him to Yellowstone national park, Iceland, Namibia and India. Leon uses photography to immerse himself in new and old environments and to capture the wonders that he discovers – and continues to discover.

Stroudwater Magic

Everyday natural wonders.

By Paul Halas

ON THE TOWPATH of the Stroudwater Canal a curious woman stopped and asked what I was staring at so intently. Across the water from us, perched on a twig, scanning the shallow water margin for tiddlers and tadpoles, was a kingfisher. Suddenly aware of our presence it flew off, a flash of blue, quickly disappearing upstream. The woman was amazed. She explained she had walked along the canal for a number of years but that was the first time she had ever seen a kingfisher. It occurred to me that a great many people have little awareness of the wonderful habitat on their doorstep.

Actenoides concretus.png
Look – and you will see.

The Stroudwater Canal, otherwise known as the Severn and Thames Canal, was completed in the late Eighteenth Century, and as the name illustrates formed a link between the country’s two main rivers. It was an impressive feat of engineering, involving what was at the time the longest ever canal tunnel, under the Cotswold escarpment, at a little over two miles in length. There were always issues with the water supply for the canal. Its lower sections were fed at its western end by the river Frome and in the east by the rivers Churn and Coln, but the main problem was at its summit stretch (which encompassed the tunnel), where the springs at Thames Head proved inadequate for the task – with much of the water seeping into the porous Cotswold rock. A number of ingenious pumping schemes were tried, with none really solving the problem satisfactorily.

The canal was never the success its designers and backers anticipated. As well as the problems with water supply, the River Severn at its western end was prey to unpredictable and often treacherous currents while the Thames to the east was difficult to navigate due to the narrow and bendy nature of the river’s upper reaches. The canal suffered a gradual decline, which was exacerbated by the spread of the railway network. The eastern section of the canal was closed in the 1920s and the rest of it abandoned by 1941. A couple rock-falls in the tunnel only served as a gratuitous coup-de-grace.

For some years now there has been an ambitious scheme to restore the canal – which deserves an entire article to itself. In short, however, the good folk at the Cotswold Canal Trust are working wonders to revive the waterway, with the backing of the Lottery Fund, Stroud District Council, the Canal and River Trust, Gloucestershire County Council and many other organisations. While to the east of the tunnel the task of restoration remains dauntingly vast – much of the old canal course has been obliterated – work to reconnect Brimscombe and Stroud with the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal at Saul Junction is well underway.

See the source image
An old map, but it shows the navigable section of the canal..

In the next few years Stroud, a smallish market town that nestles into the side of the Cotswolds, will be back on the national waterways network, which will certainly boost the local economy. As things stand around five miles of canal are now functional, with Stroud at its centre. The old towpath has been restored, and serves as both as a useful link for pedestrians, joggers, dog-walkers and cyclists – and a wonderful resource for nature spotters.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and the Stroudwater Canal is a magnet for all sorts plants and animals – far more than at first meets the eye, but you have to look out for it. It is possible to spot a kingfisher on most days, but they tend not to show if the towpath is busy. Seeing one actually fishing is a rare treat, so cold, wet, beastly days are best.

Dippers and wagtails have an affinity with moving water, and are often seen that the canal’s weirs and water spills. Along the reedy margins it is quite common to see a statuesque heron waiting to skewer some unwitting prey: small fish, frogs, and the odd duckling at this time of year. Swans, moorhens, coots and mallard are plentiful, along with occasional visitors mandarin ducks, all playing out their quotidian dramas oblivious to the passing humans.

Pair of mandarin ducks.jpg
Mandarin ducks – colourful visitors.

Coots are known for their feistiness, moorhens can be vicious to one another, while serene and disdainful swans can have what in human terms would be described as a distinctly nasty streak. I have seen swans trying to kill ducklings and young Canada geese, and on one occasion, in the stretch of the canal at Stonehouse, a fight to the death between two young cobs in front of a horrified collection of onlookers.

In the trees and shrubs that line some sections of the canal one spots bullfinches, tits, wrens and treecreepers, along with the blackbirds, thrushes, sparrows and robins you see in most gardens.

At this time of year the waterside vegetation is growing at full throttle. The bullrushes and reedmace in the margins are shooting up with the speed of tropical bamboos, the weeping willows cascade magnificently, and below the surface patches of water lily leaves, looking like shimmering cabbages, are reaching for the air.

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Cascading willow.

The different varieties of waterweed, which have never really died back due to the absence of harsh winters in recent years, are motoring: milfoil, mare’s tail, the ubiquitous Canadian pondweed and, in the faster stretches, streamer weed – all providing cover for emerging insect life and shelter for fish. Back on the verges, nettles and cow-parsley are taking over, along with patches of wild garlic, while soon flag-irises will produce spectacular clumps of yellow. Later, when summer is past its prime, the campions will will turn the bank-sides crimson.

Many varieties of insects are now hatching out, but what the canal does best – damsel- and many varieties of dragonflies – await the warmer weather before showing. Hot sun, vivid red and blue dragonflies, the sound of miniature buzz-saws as they zigzag past. Magic.

The delicate damsel-fly.

Aquatic mammals seem to be something of a rarity in the Stroudwater. I would love to have spotted water-voles but I haven’t (however they can be found in the River Frome, which dovetails with the canal). I have seen otters on a couple of occasions. I expect they were in transit, as the canal probably doesn’t contain an adequate head of large fish to sustain resident otters. With insufficient fish to feed on they turn to wildfowl, eggs and any other available sources of food. I have yet to see any mink – but I would be surprised if they were not present.

Being a lifelong fisherman, I’ve saved what I consider the best until last. The canal is full of fish – or rather there are fish in most sections of the canal, and loads of them in some. But I am pretty sure that most people seldom notice them, if ever. You have to look, and be practised at looking. Polarising sunglasses are very useful as they can cut through the water’s surface glare. Be still, no sudden movements, and look very hard. If you see no fish move on a little and repeat – until you do. You will be surprised.

The canal abounds with tiddlers – minnows and sticklebacks. But the most common fish you are likely to spot is the roach, the most common fish in English waters (not so widespread in Wales and Scotland), and certainly the most common fish in the Stroudwater Canal. When the water is clear – and it often is in warmer weather, due to the very low volume of boat traffic – they can be seen in their thousands, mostly fish in the three to six inch bracket, with a few bigger ones, up to around eight or ten inches maximum. A handsome, silvery fish, with reddish fins – but mostly they appear grey in the water. They grow bigger in other waters, as do all the species found in the canal: the size of fish is mostly determined by the size of their watercourses and availability of food.

The humble, dainty roach.

Those great shoals of roach will be whittled right down over the course of the coming year. Spawning fish will each release many tens of thousands of eggs, filling the canal with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of fish fry, 99.9% of which will meet a violent end. Under the surface it is the law of the jungle – squared. Poor roach: pike, perch, herons, cormorants, grebe, otters, mink, the whole damn lot have it in for them. Nature is not cruel – that is a human construct – but it is highly brutal.

Apart from roach you may be lucky enough to spot some rudd. They look very like roach but are rarer, a little bigger, their fins are ruddier and they are a gorgeous burnished golden colour. Stripy perch are quite common. They hunt in packs and eat bugs, worms and smaller fish. They in turn are likely to be eaten by pike, which have the deserved reputation of being freshwater sharks. (There was rumoured to be an outsized pike of twenty-seven pounds resident at the Ryeford Basin of the canal. How anyone knew it weighted twenty-seven pounds is a mystery as no one ever caught it, but of course it was just another of those fisherman’s tales – no fish of that size would be possible is such a small, shallow canal. Most waters have their own bit of folklore, and the twenty-seven pounder is far from the most outrageous I have heard.)

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Streamlined assassin – the pike.

Another opportunist predator in the canal is the eel. I’ve only ever seen one in the Stroudwater, quite a big one, but then eels are expert at not being seen. As are tench: laconic, olive/bronze flanked, paddle-finned, with tiny red eyes, bottom feeders, which none-the-less show in late spring and summer by the weed-beds and lily-patches (I have a very soft spot for tench. So do most anglers).

The much loved tench.

Last in the fish parade is the brown trout. Not a species associated with canals, but several streams feed into the Stroudwater, and it is connected to the River Frome via several small weirs and a convenient fish ladder. Some sections of the canal look more like a river, with water flowing at a moderate pace over streamer-weed, and that’s where you see the trout rising.

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A compulsion to gaze at water.

I am always drawn to any water, be it canal, beck, creek, river, pond, lake or sea, and each habitat is populated by wonderful animal and plant life – where humankind has not completely screwed it up. But I count myself as very lucky to have the Stroudwater Canal a very short walk from my door. These places are sheer magic when you take the time to look.

Paul Halas’s escape from 1970s hippidom was the discovery that he could invent stories. He spent forty years contributing to various Disney magazines and books, as well as a variety of non-Disney comics, books and animated films. His retirement from commercial writing coincided with Jeremy Corbyn becoming the Labour Party leader, which led to five years’ political activism. He left the party two years ago with a heavy heart.

Berkeleianism versus Buckleianism

By Peter Cowlam

‘I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopaedia…’

J. L. Borges, ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’

No matter, God will sustain

Berkeley, who was Bishop of Cloyne in 1734, denied the existence of matter in a reply to Locke (1632–1704), whose conception of the universe was Newtonian and mechanistic; a place where material bodies conformed like clockwork. The Newtonian universe exhibited solidity, figure, extension, motion or rest, and number.

Among other things, material bodies produce an effect in human sense-organs, and have an effect on the immaterial substance of human minds – all of which conjoins to produce ideas. Therefore, what we perceive to be the real world that surrounds us is not actually the world around us, but only our ideas about it.

To Berkeley, this theory which he developed was repugnant, not least because, although as a system it allowed that God may have created the world, it did not require God to be present, eternally supervising his creation.

Therefore, what we perceive to be the real world that surrounds us is not really the world around us, but only our ideas about it.

For this reason, Berkeley denied the existence of matter, maintaining that material objects existed only because they were perceived, or, to put it another way, through the act of perception. Now, we need God, because the reason why things don’t cease to exist in our absence is Berkeley’s proof of the omnipresence of God, who at all times perceives all things, everywhere.

It was in this way that Berkeley (1685–1753) justified his proposal that the world existed as a sort of divine syntax through which any well-adjusted mortal might commune with his maker.

Jorge Luis Borges

In Borges’ Mirror

In Jorge Luis Borges’s revision of Berkeley, Uqbar is an undocumented region of Iraq or of Asia Minor, one of whose heresiarchs had declared the visible universe either an illusion or sophism. Borges also claims for his imaginary heresiarchs that mirrors and procreation were abominable because they multiplied and disseminated the visible universe.

As it develops in Borges’s writing, it emerges that Uqbar is a region of Tlön, and that Tlön is the name of a country invented by a secret and benevolent society conceived in the early seventeenth century, which included Berkeley in its ranks.

As the society’s work began, it became clear that a single generation was not sufficient to articulate and describe the whole fictional country of Tlön. Each master therefore agreed to elect a disciple who would carry on his work and also perpetuate this hereditary arrangement whereby this non-existent country was described.

Borges continues with his tale: There is no further trace of this society until two centuries later. However, one of the disciples of the society dedicated to describing the fictional Tlön is an ascetic millionaire from Memphis called Ezra Buckley who scoffs at the modest scale of the sect’s undertaking.

Instead he proposes the invention of an entire planet with certain provisos. The project must be kept secret. A whole encyclopaedia for the imaginary planet must be written. According to Borges, Ezra Buckley stipulates that the whole scheme should be free of Christianity and have no pact with the ‘impostor’ Jesus Christ. So, Borges closes the brooch of his argument – the imaginary planet would have no truck with Berkeley’s God.

So, Borges closes the brooch of his argument – the imaginary planet would have no truck with Berkeley’s God.

For Borges, though the date of Buckley’s involvement with the encyclopedia of an imagined planet is in 1824, it is approximately a century later when Buckley’s encyclopaedia of the fictional planet begins to emerge. Then, Borges writes that, like a magical mirror, the description of the planet starts to propagate its own universe.

The encyclopaedia, and the planet the encyclopaedia describes, are not objects in space. Consequently, one of the languages of Tlön has no nouns. Its central grammar construction is the verb, but with no subject (I, You, He, She, We etc). In Tlön, verbs are modified by adverbial suffixes.

The moon rose above the water in its Tlönic equivalent, would be expressed like this:

Upward behind the onstreaming it mooned.

In another language of Tlön, the prime unit, rather than the verb, is the adjective. Just as in English, a compound adjective can be used as a noun. Instead of ‘moon’ the language says:

round airy-light on dark.

Borges makes his point: because there are no real nouns so there can be no possibility of deductive reasoning. If there is no matter there is no deductive logic.

Deductive logic is where, if the first two statements are true, then the conclusion must be true. Perhaps you remember the famous example of deductive reasoning. You can’t do it without nouns and adjectives together:

Bachelors are unmarried men.

Peter is unmarried.

Therefore, Peter is a bachelor.

People and objects all have telos (a purpose) but without people or objects there is no telos. If something doesn’t exist you cannot, through inductive reasoning, assume that other things like it exist. If I see a thousand white sheep, I might reason inductively that all sheep were white. While flawed, this inductive logic isn’t even possible in a fictional universe where there is no time and things cannot actually be.

We understand. Borges has dropped us into an ideal Berkeleian world where nothing exists. It is his imagining of Berkeleian idealism with one critical attenuation. Borges removes the unnecessary concept of a sustaining deity which Berkeley has injected into his philosophy to make it more palatable.

An interesting paradox arises. Because there is no time, any citizen of Tlön who draws breath in the present, is not the same citizen who drew his previous breath. There is no cause and effect, no movement of things in time. This fantastical notion of replicating non-beings provides an analogy with the view of Julian Barbour, who has argued against the existence of time. Apparently it is inconsistent with his quantum theory of gravity. Barbour has proposed that we may have to consider each moment as an unchangeable entity in itself.

Borges knocks European philosophy off balance.

We, who are not of Tlön, or particle physicists like Barbour, do believe in time because we see that everything exists and persists independently of us, through a flow of change that we choose to divide into a succession of moments.

Barbour, who is a particle physicist, can conceive of a universe that rises to its entire stock of moments simultaneously. To him we have invented time and diced it up in the way we prefer to live it. Of course, Barbour is only one influential physicist among many.

The fulcrum of philosophy shifts away from Europe

Unlike Borges, Russell is not playful. He sets out the essentials of Berkeleianism and then critiques it. Borges the philosophical writer has more of a sense of fun and removes Berkeleianism from its European loci, reflecting it in an indeterminate fictional world as ‘Buckleianism’..

Borges, in his playful philosophical fiction, encompasses Berkeleanism from the viewpoint of an Argentinian, a Latin American. He provides us with critical reflections on Berkeley – Buckleanism. The value of Borges’s critique is that it cannot be ignored. Borges knocks European philosophy off balance. It is not enough to reference Russell, one must go further abroad to get a better perspective on European philosophy, and on the value of every aspect of European culture.

Peter Cowlam

Peter Cowlam is a poet and novelist. As a novelist, he has won the Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction twice, most recently in 2018 for his novel New King Palmers, which is at the intersection of old, crumbling empires and new, digital agglomerates. The Quagga Prize is awarded for independently published works of fiction. Other work has appeared in The Battersea Review, The San Francisco Review of Books, The Blue Nib, The Galway Review, Easy Street, Literary Matters, Eunoia Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, The Four Quarters Magazine, The Liberal, and others.

Whose English is it, anyway?

Global English is the New Standard English

By Farhad Desai

In Toronto. My students came from all over the world, but in 1995 the world was quite different. South Korea was a rising industrial nation, Japan was about to peak. Hong Kong would not belong to China for another two years, and China had not yet begun to focus intensively on providing its children with an English language education.

The cold war had just ended, the Berlin Wall fallen. I taught students from newly unified Germany, and from budding democratic nations like The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Albania, Romania, and Russia. Every day, I would get new insights and perspectives into global affairs from them. In Toronto, the English we spoke was different to what it is now; we used more idioms, sports expressions, male gendered-references and regionalisms. We had different standards of grammatical correctness.

…there are twice as many non-native speakers of English in the world as there are native speakers.

At first, as the world globalized, native English speakers had an advantage. Most native English speakers haven’t had to learn a new language in order to communicate with colleagues and customers in a job, to talk to other people around them, in their everyday lives.

The English Language keeps evolving. It is dynamic. Life itself is dynamic, so is culture. Nothing stays the same. We no longer speak the English of Chaucer, Shakespeare, or even Mark Twain. The English of 50 years ago is already outdated.

We need to acknowledge and accept this change because it makes it easier to let go, to grow and adapt and be happy. Denial ultimately results in creating obstacles to progress and it throws up unexpected problems. Languages are promiscuous. They change, simplify and mingle, borrowing words and concepts from each other.

group of people sitting indoors
English is the Lingua Franca, Photo by fauxels on

Native English speakers no longer dominate the rules and conventions of the English language, No one nation sets the gold standard – not even England. Using prepositions, articles, and verb tenses correctly is simply the way of a standard native speaker of a specific dialect. One dialect isn’t the measure of all other dialects. Native speaker dialects of English are no longer as influential as they used to be.

No one nation sets the gold standard – not even England.

With global business, messaging, video games, and access to TV shows and movies from around the world, the English language has now morphed into something more international; there are twice as many non-native speakers of English in the world as there are native speakers – and the power of the non-native-speaker is growing.

The people who speak English in all those other places have more money and, therefore more power and clout; they have a say in determining what Global English is and will be. The decision is no longer in the job description of the six main Anglophone countries. There are more educated, privileged, English-speaking people in countries outside the Anglophone countries. That’s why we are seeing this power shift in Global English.

… a shared time-table that fairly accommodates different countries.

English is even more widespread than it was in 1995. Obviously, this is due to the Internet. Covid notwithstanding, travel is an inevitable part of virtually every corporate job. When I was growing up, people used to tell me they’d love to go to India one day. Today, I can’t believe how many people I meet who’ve been to India more often than I have and more recently than I have. The chances are, many of you reading this article have travelled to India for work, or pleasure, or you know someone who has. Even if you’ve never been to Bangalore, Chennai, or Mumbai, there’s a good chance you may know of them.

With globalisation we’re seeing the power structure shift towards a shared time-table that fairly accommodates different countries. Before, in India, I coached Microsoft engineers on their communication skills and our hours were coordinated so that they would suit the engineers working in the US and Canada, not me or my colleagues. My shift was from 5pm to 2am. When I’d leave the floor each night, I’d see engineers who wouldn’t leave till 6am. But recently, I taught Asian students online from Toronto and the time-table was designed to suit them. Weekday classes started at 7am and weekend classes at 8pm, Toronto time. This kind of schedule is becoming the norm, where ten years ago it would have been the exception.

The pandemic has accelerated the evolution of Global English

Today, China and India are more powerful than Canada. The Canadian government used to freely (and rightly so) criticize both China and India for their human rights violations. Now, as these abuses intensify, Canada says almost nothing. It is fearful of the economic repercussions that would follow. Globalisation also means Canada’s domestic human rights abuses, its mistreatment of indigenous peoples, can no longer be hidden behind a screen of first world privilege.

I think many of us in native-English-speaking countries thought Global English meant everyone else would learn to speak our language and we wouldn’t have to learn anything new. Instead, what’s happened is we are all creating a new language together called Global English. We are doing this right now as we adapt to a range of different accents, pronunciations, cadences and rythms, modes of delivery, vocabulary sets, and stylistic conventions.

We are morphing together culturally and globally faster than at any other time in history.

In developing this Global English we must keep borrowing more and more words from other languages in order to posess and use concepts we don’t yet have in English, but need. This developing lingua franca means that, like magpies collecting shiny objects, we are all picking up bits of English and foreign words that come from different countries and languages and including them in our everyday lives. In certain circles, Cheers! and Namaste! sometimes seem interchangeable. This cross-language pollination has become more intense.

While retaining its expressiveness and power, Global English is constantly simplifying so that people can use it more easily. Is it far-fetched to think that in another twenty-five years we won’t bother so much with commas or apostrophes? Or perhaps we will simplify preposition use and or subject-verb agreement even further, We might no longer make a distinction between countable and uncountable nouns. For that matter, even sentence structure and paragraph structure might change beyond recognition. So called ‘question tags’ at the end of sentences seem to be disappearing. Instead of hearing:

You like reggae music, don’t you?

You might hear. You like reggae music, no? Or, You like reggae music, right?

In the UK, you might even hear: You like reggae music, init?

we are all creating a new language together called Global English

These simplifications occur inside countries where English is a native language, but they are happening even faster now outside, where the majority of English speakers are from non-native-English-speaking-nations and those nations have some of the strongest economies in the world.

The last time we saw this shift in the geographic centre of English was about 75 years ago, after World War II when the USA finally became the most powerful nation on Earth. General American became dominant because America’s hard economic and military power backed it up. The soft power of Hollywood and the USA’s burgeoning creative industries also projected the USA’s cutural influence, and its dialect.

new dialects of English, being spoken all over the world

Nowadays, new dialects of English are being spoken all over the world. In particular, throughout Asia and the Middle East. The economic power of Asian and Middle Eastern nations is increasing and strong economies are emerging in Europe and Latin America where English is an important language; this means that these countries will also contribute to shaping Global English, the lingua franca of science, business, travel, culture and on line communication.

No one nation, culture, or even generation will dominate Global English.

The pandemic has accelerated the evolution of Global English. Online meetings and training sessions in English have become the norm. We work even more globally now. As a result, the language will change more, and faster in order to keep pace with national, generational, technological, and economic changes.

We are morphing together culturally and globally faster than at any other time in history. Global English reflects this new norm. No one nation, culture, or even generation will dominate Global English. It will keep growing and changing. English belongs to the world now. It’s all of us together who will shape its future.

Farhad Desai

Farhad Desai is dedicated to peace, prosperity, and equity for all beings. Farhad was born in Mumbai and grew up in Toronto. He has also lived and worked in Bangalore, Ras Tanura, Seattle, and San Diego. 
He is co-founder and mindfulness facilitator at Beyond Binary Consulting, and the author of Orientation: For the Journey of a Lifetime. You can read his blog on mindfulness, here

So, is London finished as a leading financial hub?

Not so fast!

By Thomas Levene

The City of London is the goose that laid the golden egg. Not even the left in the UK want to kill it. Ken Livingstone, a great hero of the left and the former leader of the GLC, advocated for The Square Mile because he knew that, realistically, the fortunes of all Londoners are tied to the success and influence of the City. The City provides the UK with  £75.5 billion in tax revenue every year. Although, the need for greater financial regulation seems imperative to humane socialists, at the same time it would be a disaster if financial companies migrated in numbers out of London. Thomas Levene discusses the prospect of that migration happening, now that Brexit is a reality.

One of the biggest arguments for staying in the EU was the fear that if we left it,  there would be catastrophic financial implications for the UK. Will the city of London, post Brexit, be able to keep its seat as the financial hub of Europe? Will it keep its status as one of the three main financial hubs of the world, alongside New York and Shanghai? There are serious fears that The City of London, or ‘The Square Mile’, as it is affectionately called, will lose its position. After all, why stay if London is no longer the gateway to the rest of Europe?

Since Brexit, what exactly has happened? In a recent survey, since Brexit, around 400 UK – based financial service firms have moved all, or some part of their business to somewhere in the EU. 10,000 financial jobs have already left the city and Some say the total number could rise to around 70,000. Amsterdam has now become the center for share dealing in Europe–taking a whopping 80% of the revenue from London’s control and costing the City of London an estimated £10 Billion in a year.

The financial sector is the biggest taxpayer in the UK, so the flight of large financial corporations is disastrous for the country. According to the Corporation of London, the City paid  £75.5 billion in tax for the financial year 2019 to 2020.

Amsterdam has now become the center for share dealing in Europe–taking a whopping 80% of the revenue from London’s control and costing an estimated £10 Billion in a year…

To make matters worse, London may lose more financial business in the future because EU countries want a piece of the pie, and are aggressively incentivising financial companies, brokers and investors to relocate. For example, President Macron of France has given a huge 70% tax break to those entities who may wish to move from London to Paris. Italy and Spain are offering similar deals. These are not the actions of enlightened European social democrats eager to make corporations pay their way, they are the actions of cut-throat neoliberal competitors.

EU countries want a piece of the pie

This situation has been further exacerbated because the EU has not given ‘equivalence free’ financial ‘passporting’ rights between the UK and EU to sell their financial products across the 28 member states.

Right now the UK allows EU companies to operate within their shores, but not vica versa. The trade is not on equal regulatory terms. And in yet another ruthless effort to squeeze even more business away from London, the EU has decreed that all EU–listed equity exchanges must take place solely in EU regulated exchanges.

So, is London finished as a leading financial hub? Not so fast. Daniel Hodson, former head of the London futures exchange says: ‘Yes, you have good financial centres like Paris, Frankfurt and Milan, but they are not, and never will be, the size of the City of London.’

‘Yes, you have good financial centres like Paris, Frankfurt and Milan, but they are not, and never will be, the size of the City of London.’

Daniel Hodson continues: ‘The City is too big, too liquid to fail. The EU needs London’s vast pools of capital.’ It’s logical to make the observation that, if the EU insists on barricading itself its own system, then companies and investors outside the EU may want to keep their Euros outside the EU and look for cheaper, more established, alternatives. ‘This is where London can facilitate and offer cheaper options’. Of course, additionally, London offers a great agglomeration of services to financial institutions that are not available anywhere else in the EU.

‘The City is too big, too liquid to fail. The EU needs London’s vast pools of capital.’

London has always been a buccaneering innovator. The City has been willing to adapt and capitalise on financial opportunities and change. After all, that’s how The Square Mile came to prominence as a key financial center in the first place in the 1960s. During that period the US created similar financial walls to the ones the EU seem to be intent on erecting right now. All that happened is that people eventually looked for cheaper, better alternatives for places where they conduct business. In the 1960s, that place was the City of London.

London has always been a buccaneering innovator. The City has been willing to adapt and capitalise on financial opportunities and change.

When it comes to regulation and taxation, London should be careful. However strong the cachet is for a company that locates in the City of London, no place is immune. Rash measures could result in financial businesses relocating to countries inside the EU, or even moving online altogether – especially in the time of a pandemic. Even The NY Stock Exchange, after the election of Joe Biden to the US presidency, has recently threatened to leave New York in the face of a proposed Stock transfer tax and increased regulations. 

If [to the resigned despair of the left in Britain] London goes the opposite way, and, strategically reduces taxes and if it makes regulatory hurdles even lower, then it is likely that money will flow to where it gets treated best. In this case, London will continue to thrive as the dominant financial hub, not just of Europe, but of the whole world,

… it becomes clear that London is still in the driving seat

The financial landscape is changing faster than it ever has. With the rise of Bitcoin and decentralised finance parallel industries, now worth $2 trillion and rising, there are more attractive, emerging opportunities for businesses and companies who operate in the financial sector, for those finance based businesses nimble enough and open-minded enough to capitalise on these opportunities, and for those financial hubs which willing to innovate.

Luckily, according to one report, London is the premier location in in Europe for local ‘sandboxes’ and innovation hubs. The City of London is a place that encourages innovation and Fintech startups. €2.1 billion in the UK vs €1.5 billion for the continent have been invested in Fintech startups in the City. Couple this with the fact that the current UK government has expressed a strong intention to back innovation; the huge talent pool from top universities in London that the Square Mile can draw on; the fact that The City is the leader in cyber security and green technology startups, and it becomes clear that London is still in the driving seat of Finance; at least for Europe.

In a recent PWC survey, post Brexit, The UK – and so London – was ranked ‘4th most attractive place to do business’ by CEO’s worldwide, despite Brexit. Surprisingly, investor confidence in the UK and in the Square Mile is, cautiously, high.

Thomas Levene

Thomas Levene, has been a long-time teacher, and in the last few years, been a passionate expert and investor in Bitcoin and Blockchain technology. He has completed, a ‘Blockchain Applications’ course with distinction, from Oxford University Said School of Business in 2018.

Thomas has given presentations on Bitcoin and Blockchain, internationally to young entrepreneurs on the digital Nomad Cruise in Greece and the DNX Digital Nomad Festival in Lisbon. He currently lives in Taiwan.

Towards a New British Liberation Theology

We want a church that’s on the side of the poor and the persecuted.

By Matthew Taylor

Excitingly, Matthew Taylor proposes a new British Liberation theology as a way forward for the church to get back to where it belongs; in the community. There are precedents for a British Liberation Theology. Matthew Taylor argues that ‘Benn was also a proponent of Christian socialism and it is within his Christian socialism where we see this example of Liberation Theology at work in Britain.’ He points to Justin Welby’s opposition to austerity, and the progressive politics of Rowan Williams, Welby’s predecessor.

When we consider the theology of liberation, we mostly associate it with the continent where it was born, Latin America. It all began in 1968, where Roman Catholic bishops met at the Second Episcopal Conference of Latin America, which was held in Medellín Columbia. Their purpose was to interpret the outcome of the Second Vatican Council in the regional context of Latin America.

The mid-twentieth century was a time of much cultural change. The conference was at the time of the Swinging Sixties, the Cold War, and neo-colonialism. Many of Latin America’s countries were trying to forge their own economic, political and social paths free of the influence of the dominant imperial power in the region, the USA.

Liberation Theology enabled people in academia and the clergy to call for justice in a world where it seemed there was none

This new direction in theology was part of a broader struggle centring around issues of poverty and inequality. In most Latin American countries there was a social divide, with high rates of poor living conditions and poverty. At the same time, wealthy Latin Americans enriched themselves even more. In other countries in the region there was political unrest that resulted in dictatorships and military governments such as Peron in Argentina.

These issues were the concerns of the bishops, who met at the conference. That summit marked the symbolic birth of Liberation Theology, It was a theology which provided justification for many in academia and the clergy, to call for justice in a world where it seemed there was none.

Archbishop Romero, assassinated for taking the side of the poor

Liberation Theology was opposed fiercely by the regimes it spoke out against and by the USA. Even people who you would think would be on the same side opposed the Liberation Theologists on the grounds that the church should have no role in politics. The Roman Catholic church itself was divided over the question of Liberation Theology and there is a famous picture of Pope John Paul II berating a Latin American priest . Many liberation theologians were silenced or censored or even martyred. St. Oscar Romero and the UCA scholars were assassinated and martyred.

… it is in this unjust world where Christianity finds its role, purpose, and mission in the contemporary era.

In the 21st century however Liberation Theology has become more accepted, even influencing the role of church leaders. Much of Pope Francis’ work and many of his remarks and comments resemble the ideas put forward by Liberation Theologians. Liberation theology has given the church relevance in the modern world. When Liberation Theology arrived in North America it inspired feminist and black theology.

Although, prior to the birth of Liberation Theology, there was the work of Mary Cady Stanton and The Woman’s Bible. Liberation Theology is a now considered to be a popular tradition in the contemporary church.

The church after all has a history of patriarchy, enforcing gender roles, inspiring social discrimination against the LGBT community, supporting colonialism and slavery (as well as financially gaining from it) persecuting indigenous peoples, and inspiring attitudes such as antisemitism.

Much of the work in theology we have seen over the past century has questioned how the Christian faith should respond to an ever-changing world. Christianity must change and adapt. Theology must respond to historical context and be practical.

Gone is the time when theology was the queen of the sciences. Gone are the days when the church was part of the British state. Gone are the days when the church had significant influence and privilege in society. Gone are the times when the people relied on the church for guidance, council, education and even healthcare.

Christianity is no longer mainstream in the UK, with many questioning its relevance in modern society; Christians are side-lined.

Nowadays, in the UK, Christians are side-lined. In an era of scientific enlightenment and progress, religion is pushed back and many regard it as mere superstition and myth. The church has become starved and stretched socially, politically, culturally, and economically. Modernity seems to have truly turned the tables on religion. Capitalism shows no sign of ending. In fact, we are in late-stage capitalism, which encourages the growth of individualism and thrives on selfishness. Capitalism creates great social divides. However, it is exactly here, in this unjust world, where Christianity can find its role, purpose, and mission in the contemporary era.

The church has become starved and stretched socially, politically, culturally, and economically

As secularisation marches on, the church joins the poor, the starving. Church members link arms with the oppressed and the ignored. Yet, despite the fact that the church is now actively derided and sidelined and despite the fact that it has such limited resources, it is still portrayed by some as a source of injustice.

In part, this image of the church is justifiable. The church of the 20th century has a dark side: more recently – and more difficult to forgive – there was the uncovering of the abuse scandals in the church. The church, after all, upheld the patriarchy, enforced gender roles and inspired social discrimination against the LGBT community. It supported colonialism and slavery, and even benefitted financially from it, it persecuted indigenous peoples, and inspired and tolerated antisemitism.

In the UK, the Christian church – religion in general – is regarded as a prime cause of many social evils, and its critics support secularism and the disestablishment of the church from the state.

Secularism is now dominant in the UK

The increasing distance between state and church in the UK makes religion less influential, but it also protects the church from the corruption that goes along with collaborating with the British establishment. This is the stance of many pro-secular Christians. They do not want the church to cosy up to power.

There is a window of opportunity here for us to develop a theology to explain the reasons for secularisation and coexist peacefully with it; a theology that attempts to come to terms with the controversial past of the church and to understand what Christianity’s current place is in a world that is increasingly against it, or indifferent. Such a theology is the theology of liberation. This theology provides the answers to the questions asked about the church’s place in the British society in the first quarter of the 21st century.

Towards a new British Liberation Theology

Early Christianity was not the Christianity of grand cathedrals and political influence which people commonly associate with the established church today. There were no paid positions, either. Jesus and the apostles congregated in each other’s homes. No one bowed down to them. Christianity’s early leaders lived in the same streets and alleys as the poor and the outcasts. Their ministry was practical, reaching out to those in need, teaching and healing.

The Christianity of the New Testament was poor, homeless, and persecuted.

It was the life the disciples chose; to give up their possessions and follow Christ. It was an uncomfortable life. Christians in the early church needed each other, supported each other and reached out to others who were also suffering and cast out. The early church was a community, a family, a collective. The central figure of the faith, Jesus, was born poor, yet he said things and did things that astonished and moved everyone. Then, unjustly, Jesus was betrayed, humiliated, tortured and executed for his message – which was love.

Pope Francis, heavily influenced by Liberation Theology

It has to be asked, has the church gone in the right direction? Is this the church that Jesus would recognise? Have we become the Pharisees whom Jesus warned his disciples against?

The early church was poor and downtrodden and the early church was with the poor and downtrodden. This was the church of the New Testament. When the church became a prestigious, wealthy and powerful institution Christianity departed from its humble beginnings and the problems began. To quote Mark Twain “If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be – a Christian”. Christianity, as a whole, lost its way. Jesus taught that his followers should be willing to lose their life (Mark 8:35, NRSV) and sell all that they own, to follow him (Matthew 19:16 -30, NRSV).

… is this the church that Jesus would recognise?

But, in the end, the power and influence of the church didn’t last. Over the past several decades, it has seen a rapid decline. Churches in the UK are downsizing, relying more and more on their congregations – members of the laity – to help at services. The church is closing and selling off many of its buildings, buildings which are being converted into luxury flats and office space. The church is considering drastic changes and cuts.

Practically and financially, the situation is no longer viable. Now it is time for the church to return to the way it was when it started. We must live in the community and be a part of it. We must share the suffering of the poor. We must practice liberation theology.

It’s happening: the Christianity that began with nothing but a community and its faith is going back to that model again. In the secular age, the church is returning to its New Testament roots; it is going back to being as it should be. In the 21st century churches are used as homeless shelters, food banks, Covid test centres, vaccine centres; as places for group counselling and for a range of community outreach organisations and support groups.

Today, the church is starting to return to its original mission; it is reaching out to the community again. Where before the church was seen to be asserting its authority, now it is offering practical, psychological and spiritual aid.

if the church identifies itself with the Jesus of history then it is obliged to side with the poor and marginalised.

Although the UK was the first country to industrialise, and despite the fact that it is the 5th or 6th richest country in the world, in 2020, 14.4 million people in Britain were living in relative poverty. In 2019 Shelter reported that 280,000 people in Britain were homeless. According to the National Literacy Trust, 16% of adults in Britain are illiterate, and life expectancy has stopped falling.

Since 2010 Britain has had successive conservative governments who introduced austerity measures and made cuts to public services. These cuts have caused such poverty, that many people need to rely on food banks in order to feed their children.

Justin Welby, Wikipedia

Most notably, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has spoken out against the Conservative government’s austerity measures. Since he became Archbishop in 2013, Welby has criticised austerity measures, and voiced his concerns over welfare reforms and the lack of social housing. In fact, Welby provided the government with an ambitious plan to help solve the UK housing crisis by building houses on church owned land. Welby also caused controversy by speaking at the 2018 Trade Union Conference, saying:

‘justice is who God is……The bible is political from one end to the other……Jesus was highly political, He told the rich that they would face woes. He criticised the King of the time as a fox. He spoke harsh words to leaders of the nations when they were uncaring of the needy’

Rowan Williams, Welby’s predecessor

Christianity has often come out in defense of the poor in the UK. Welby is not the first Archbishop of Canterbury to be outspoken. I also noted his predecessor Rowan Williams spoke out on the issue of poverty in Britain. We could add St. Thomas Becket and High Chancellor St Thomas More to the list of religious people who opposed arbitrary and unjust power. William Wilberforce was a devout Christian. Chapels played a strong part in the foundation of trade unions in Britain in the 19th century.

Since he became Archbishop in 2013, [Justin] Welby has criticised austerity measures, voicing his concerns over the consequences of welfare reforms and the lack of social housing,

Welby is part of a trend. Pope Francis and the established clergy, are now more accepting of Liberation Theology and open to discussing it and even implementing it. In the same Trade Union Conference speech given by Welby, he referred to a time when the Church of England opposed Trade Unions and then he delivered the arguments of Archbishop Tait in 1879 century who urged the church to accept and support the Trade Union movement.

Today’s church has been active in society, supporting communities and fighting poverty. Increasingly, this is becoming the visible role of the church in British society. The Church of England’s current leader clearly thinks that one of his most important missions is to combat poverty..

… the church must now embrace this new place, whereby it may no longer be on the side of power and wealth and instead on the other side, with the poor and marginalised.

Tony Benn is best remembered as a socialist writer, a Member of Parliament, and Harold Wilson’s Postmaster General. He was also a pilot during the war. Benn was an eloquent supporter of socialism, but, at the same time, Benn was also a proponent of Christian socialism and it is from the example of his Christian socialism that we see a modern day Liberation Theology at work in Britain. Benn was the son of Margaret Wedgwood Benn, a feminist theologian who quarrelled with the Church of England over its then views on women in the church, particularly its opposition to women to in positions of leaderships.

Women’s role in the church has become increasingly important: the recently retired Reverend Susan Ramsaran

Tony Benn’s mother was also President of the Congregational Federation and a member of the League of the Church Militant. Benn was a committed Christian. Benn viewed Jesus as a political figure. Benn focused on the figure of the carpenter who was the Jesus of history who called for social justice and equality. According to Benn, a Christ of faith divorced from the Christ of history is often used to justify power and wealth. Focusing on the Christ of history, makes Jesus more relevant, according to Benn. From Benn’s Christianity we see that if the church identifies itself with the Jesus of history, then it is obliged to side with the poor and marginalised.

Welby and Benn each provide a separate contribution to make up the whole: Benn demonstrates that such thinking exists, and Welby proves that it can be put into practice. Together they exemplify the British Theology of Liberation.

British Liberation Theology emerges from the Latin American tradition.

In Latin America, Liberation Theology, struggles in a world where there are gaping social divides. Britain is economically developed, yet many citizens lived in poverty here and here too there is a great social divide between rich and poor. Therefore, British Liberation Theology can emerge and develop from the Latin American tradition; it addresses the same issues of inequality, but in a different, more developed context. Addressing the genuine issues faced by a society in specific contexts as they emerge is the heart of Liberation Theology.

Welby and Benn are not the only figures in British Liberation Theology, there are many others. Britain prides itself in having a long and diverse history and heritage, so it is also rich in this contemporary Christian tradition: Trevor Huddleston, Emily Davison, Elizabeth Fry are all figures of the church. They are also important to British theology. They had a faith in Jesus Christ. They were inspired to work towards a better world and we Christians should follow their example.

I have attempted to explore the church’s place in this new Great Britain. If Christians want to have an active yet positive impact, then the direction for the church to take is liberation theology.

Archbishop of (2018). Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech at the TUC. Retrieved from

Channel 4. (2015). Tony Benn on Jesus [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from

Boseley, S. (2020). Austerity blamed for life expectancy stalling for first time in century. Retrieved from

Cady Stanton, M. (2012). The Women’s Bible. Hamburg: Tredition. (Original work published in 1895).

Cox, J.M. (2002). Mark Twain: The Fate of Humour. Columbia, MI: Missouri University Press.

Shelter. (2019). 280,000 people in England are homeless, with thousands more at risk. Retrieved from,000_people_in_england_are_homeless,_with_thousands_more_at_risk

Welby, J. & Tomlin, G. (2021). Justin Welby: Only A Shared Long-Term Vision Will End Our Housing Crisis. Retrieved from:

Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor lives in North Wales. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from University of Chester. Matthew has an interest in the humanities and current affairs and which he writes on. He is an active member of Christian, voluntary and campaign groups.

Depression # 25 by Dan Pearce

Dan Pearce has done editorial work for many magazines and newspapers including New Society, Honey, 19, Oz, The Observer, The Times and Sunday Times, Mayfair and Penthouse. Dan has created book and record covers, political cartoons, comic strips and caricatures and he has written two graphic novels: ‘Critical Mess’ (against the nuclear industry) and ‘Oscar: The Second Coming’. His labour of love is the graphic novel, ‘Depression’ which is unfinished. He lived in Andalucia and then Umbria before coming back to live in the UK in Hastings. Dan went to the Colchester School of Art and the Central School of Art and his last painting was well received at the Sussex Open.

Finding Equanimity 2: Learning Karate in Okinawa

The Cadences of Grand Master Nakazato

By Dave Blazer

After three and a half years of preparation for our first dan black belt tests, we departed for Okinawa from San Francisco International Airport. After a long flight to Tokyo for a change of planes and then a flight to Naha, Okinawa we arrived exhausted, but excited. Okinawa is a small, thin tropical island well to the south of the larger Japanese islands. Okinawa is just as close to China and Taiwan.

It was both gratifying and surprising to me to find master Nakazato and several senior members of the Shorin-ryu Shorin-kan (the name of the ryu or school) waiting for us at the Naha airport.

Cain’s Californian karate students in Shorin-ryu Shorin-kan

Sensei Cain had trained in the hombu (headquarters) dojo for several years and had made many friends among the senior students. This was our introduction to Okinawa’s culture of welcoming visitors and friends. The courtesy and generosity we were shown was humbling, I felt like an important visitor rather than a curious student tourist on a shoestring budget.

Since that budget was very real we stayed in bare-bones lodging made available on Kadena AFB by an Air Force friend of sensei Cain’s, three of us to one small room with sensei Cain holding down the couch in the adjoining room. We seldom spent any time there except to eat an evening meal on training days, clean and dry our gi (uniforms) for the next day, and sleep.

I felt like an important visitor rather than a curious student tourist on a shoestring budget.

The ride from Kadena to the Aja City section of Naha was a bit over 10 miles, giving us our first look at Okinawa. I had lived in the Philippines for a few years earlier, and it was reminiscent, but more urban. Traffic was brisk, but fast moving. We had arranged for a daily taxi in the morning and evening, a micro van that accommodated the four of us comfortably.

The Californian karate students, behind them is Shuri castle, then under restoration

We had a brief conference and lunch the next day with master Shugoro Nakazato, the president and chief instructor of the Shorin-kan organization, in his home on the second floor of the dojo. We set up a training schedule which would consist of two classes a day of two hours each, one from noon to 2:00PM and one, his regular evening class, from 7:00-9:00PM, working on open hand kata on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and kobudo (traditional Okinawa weapons) kata on Tuesday and Thursday nights. He signed us into his personal student roster, saying that we were now his students, making a joke at sensei Cain’s expense, and presented us each with his business card and told us if we had any difficulties while in Okinawa to call him.

The next day we arrived at the dojo a bit before noon on our first day of training. It was fairly small and unremarkable in most respects. It had the look and feel of a well-used boxing gym or dance studio, bare walls and floors with some minimal wall decoration in the form of historical pictures, and plaques set with karate related rules and expressions. One wall held training implements; traditional Okinawan weapons, and some weights and other exercise devices for the hands and wrists.

It had the look and feel of a well-used boxing gym or dance studio,

Everyone waited for us to change first. The senior students stood by and waved us into what passed for a locker room; a small, windowless area at the rear of the dojo. We dawdled a bit, and sensei reminded us that the seniors were showing good manners, and that we were keeping them waiting and that we should hustle up to show our appreciation. An early lesson, quickly learned. We were anxious, wanting to do well and represent our teacher’s efforts to his expectations.

At first, I was tense, not wanting to make mistakes, but the atmosphere that sensei Cain had created in his dojo in California was a near match for what we found here, and I soon settled into the rhythm. The format and material were familiar. We would fit in. He had prepared us well.

From that moment we trained rigorously every day for over four hours. We didn’t have much energy for other things. Most days we didn’t return to Kadena AFB for our 2:00 pm -7:00 pm break, we would go to nearby food kiosks, or small blue collar restaurants nearby, and then go to a local park and nap and rest until evening.

we would go to nearby food kiosks, or small blue collar restaurants nearby, and then go to a local park and nap and rest until evening.

The food was inexpensive, and healthy; a lot of sushi and similar things. We also ate great Okinawan noodles and seafood. When the locals in restaurants, the baths and other places we frequented learned that we were in Okinawa to study karate rather than being associated with the U.S. military, the social atmosphere changed. People were even warmer, friendlier, and more generous than they had been when we first arrived in the neighborhood.

Dave Blazer undergoing instruction from Hanshi Shuguro Nakazato

One afternoon we got caught out in the rain between classes, and, having nowhere else familiar to go, we returned to the dojo. Mrs. Nakazato, a well-known figure in Okinawan classical dance circles in her own right, saw us and came down and gave us several umbrellas, which we returned with a gift the next day.

… they were messing with us a little, increasing the temperature to see if we would hang in there

Some days we would go to the public bath between classes for a quick wash and then after the wash we went into a large communal tank of water with a number older Japanese men in it. I think that they were messing with us a little, increasing the temperature to see if we would hang in there – or perhaps they just increased the heat of water heat as part of their routine.

I was used to clothing optional hot springs in California, but ‘some like it hot’ was different here; those guys were pros. I was acclimated to 105°F, but they took it to a higher level. We didn’t go every day, there’s a danger of dehydration when such heat is combined with exertions in class.

Sai, used in kobudo, a part of Okinawan karate

The second night of training was kobudo class. We had rudimentary knowledge of the order of moves in the kata and again felt like we fit in pretty well. Since we were relative beginners in that area this class consisted of a higher levels of instruction rather than repetition of the form we knew. As we became familiar with using the weapons over the course of the three weeks we became accustomed to the class pace and intensity.

By the second night of open-hand kata class we felt at home. The master arranges the student in two or three lines by their characteristics, putting faster people next to slower ones, stronger ones near weaker ones, hesitant ones next to impulsive ones, and generally ‘balancing’ the room for everyone’s benefit. He then begins to mark the cadence in for each move of the kata, allowing for the proper intervals for us to move, expand, and then relax again into a neutral stance. Once the rhythm was set he would occasionally say ‘no count’ and we were expected to perform the kata without the metronome of his voice. We maintained the correct rhythm on our own.

we were expected to perform the kata without the metronome of his voice.

There’s a certain rhythm involved in delivering a telling blow; stance, breathing, expansion and contraction of the body are coordinated with the breath and maai (distancing). After that comes collection of energy, delivery, and relaxation. This is a vital component of the practice, but learning it is almost entirely tacit. You have to feel it, recognize it.

The movements quickly become hypnotic. I would liken it to the feel of sailing, or surfing on a steady wave. It reminds me of the heightened physical state of steadiness I felt when I ran long distances. I felt the energy, urgency and rhythm flowing. Once that you get there, you feel like you are floating in time and space.

I felt the energy, urgency and rhythm flowing. Once that you get there, you feel like you are floating in time and space.

By the second week, at the end of classes, I would be near exhaustion; when the master announced; ‘That’s all for tonight!’. At 9:00 pm and went upstairs I would collapse like a puppet with its strings cut. I was entirely hooked. We settled into the karate routines and time passed quickly.

Sensei Kamiya, Dave Blazer, Charlie Jeremias, front row sensei Cain, Hanshi Shugoro Nakazato, Don Holman.

One night while midway through the class I started getting tunnel vision; my view narrowed to pinholes. I interrupted my kata and with the aid of a senior class sempai told master Nakazato that I was afraid I would pass out. His response, translated by the sempai, was;

‘Find out.’ with a big smile, to reassure me that I was O.K.

On another night I was kicked in the wrist, and my forearm started turning black on the inside. I showed it to him. But when he looked at my arm instead of commiserating with me he said:

‘Good, good’ with another big smile. Sempai said that master Nakazato was very pleased with our level of effort.

I would collapse like a puppet with its strings cut. I was entirely hooked.

After the first week master Nakazato honoured us with an invitation to lunch. He took the four of us to a lovely restaurant and talked to us for a few hours. He seldom spoke English, but I suspect that his knowledge of it was greater than he let on. I didn’t realise that this was a very unusual action for him. He had a close relationship with sensei Cain. We were lucky to be along for the ride.

One afternoon we accompanied master Nakazato to an interview with a local newspaper at their offices. He was much more ebullient away from the dojo with the good manners you would expect from an experienced, confident, and well-known businessman. He greeted many people, held doors open for others and generally exhibited excellent manners in public.

The published article was about sensei Cain bringing his first group of students to Okinawa to fully participate in the traditions of the ryu. In recent times, the last 20 years or so, it has become more common for people to travel to Naha to learn karate. That’s good in some ways.

Master Nakazato was driving us around that day. There was one senior student and the four of us, As we went down the local freeway to return to the dojo he went so slowly that most of the traffic was overtaking us. Sensei Cain teased him: asked him

Sensei, why are you driving so slowly? Are you getting old?

‘Anybody can drive fast. It takes a real man to drive slowly.’ He answered. That little joke has stuck with me all these years, and the memory of it always brings a smile.

We spent a long day on the second weekend being escorted to some of the tourism and historical sights in the area. Master Nakazato’s son Minoru-san, now the current association president and Grand Master, was our guide. He was a suave, well-dressed and well-mannered young man of our approximate age, at the time already ranked 6th dan. He liked sensei Cain and had a great sense of humor.

The Shuri Castle, Wikipedia

We saw the Shuri Castle, which burned down in 2019 – it was in the process of restoration – and a subterranean river cave. We made a trip to a war memorial and the Nakazato family tomb and finally visited the local A&W Root Beer stand. A root beer stand was a novelty.

During the final week of our training the spring promotion cycle began. Instructors made recommendations for grade (dan) increases. The run-up classes to promotions night consisted of a detailed review and much repetition of kata. At times, especially when it was particularly hot and humid, tempers flared. Sensei Cain was upset with us.

‘Good manners are imperative.’ he said.

In a society where ‘face’, or image is important, a teacher will never recommend a student for promotion who isn’t very well prepared. Still, a master will usually promote a student unless they fail miserably. The instructor has a giri (duty) to teach, and the student has an equal and corresponding giri to learn. Ultimately, any pressure you feel is entirely self-generated, it is your responsibility to deal with your own stress. This was a good lesson for me to learn on its own.

Ultimately, any pressure you feel is entirely self-generated, it is your responsibility to deal with your own stress.

I was feeling O.K. I had been through this with judo and karate on other occasions. Sensei Cain was by far the most nervous of us; his students would be appearing before the association and his own sensei for the first time. We were taught that it is always too late to think about what you should have done and what might have happened. As Yagū Munenori  (柳生 宗矩, 1571 – May 11, 1646) would say;

‘No design, no conception.’

I felt good to go. We traveled to the dojo a little early on testing night, taking our best gi which we had all laundered, pressed and folded carefully. We changed and came out onto the floor. The senior members of the association were in uniform, sitting formally around the perimeter of the room, with master Nakazato at the head, seated on a low bench. There were a couple of other Western students there and a few marines from a local U.S. base.

Gary Cain and Minoru Nakazato

Nakazato specified a leader for a brief round of warmup exercises, and then had us be seated. He called up each small group by naming each student, and then specifying the particular kata they should perform. At first Nakazato called out a cadence to set the pace for the kata, and as the evening progressed, he would sometimes instruct an individual or small group to perform a kata without giving counting out the rhythm.

My turn came, and I felt good, I was excited, but I was also aware of what it was I was feeling. It wasn’t fear, but natural energy. It remained to be seen if I could apply that energy productively.

I don’t remember which kata I did first, it was in company with one of the senior students my age and one of sensei Cain’s other students. That went well, and he called cadence, so I was feeling the pulse of the practice.  Suddenly I felt a rush of adrenalin. Master Nakazato asked the two other students to sit down, leaving me up there alone. He assigned me a kata that he had mentioned was his favorite. I saw it as a sign of encouragement.

‘This is why I came here.’ I thought.

I took a breath and moved to the center of the floor. I took another breath. Then I called out the name of the kata and just let it go. I could feel the energy from the group practice in me alone, really for the first time, and I did what for me at that time was a great kata performance. I could see sensei Cain smiling when I finished. I immediately felt a strong sense of release. ‘This is why I came here.’ I thought. Now it was time to settle back and enjoy whatever came next. I performed one additional kata solo. It was easy for me to do. In fact, what I felt was a little bit of an anticlimax. But at that moment, I became a true believer in the full, Eric Hoffer, sense of the phrase.

… at that moment, I became a true believer in the full, Eric Hoffer, sense of the phrase.

A night or two after that, first one of our senpai that had helped daily with our training invited us to his home for dinner. We had a wonderful traditional ‘single pot’ meal, and when we presented a good bottle of scotch to him in gratitude, he insisted that we drink most of it.

Afterwards, some of the other sempai took us to a seafood and sushi restaurant that one of the them operated. We sampled deadly fugu and drank sake. And we also drank beer. And maybe also, a bottle of Jim Beam that sensei Cain bought at the P.X. He wanted to thank us for our efforts and to celebrate our achievements. That night in 1984 I learned the true meaning of ‘really drunk’, and I have never been there since.

‘That was fun, but I was getting tired of being so fu*king polite all of the time.’

We were seen off from Naha airport by several of the senpai who had worked closely with us, and had a feeling of sadness and loss when we said goodbye to them. On the return flight one of my fellow students put back his seat, kicked off his shoes;

‘That was fun, but I was getting tired of being so fu*king polite all of the time.’ Which brought a laugh from us all.

Now, we were taking what we had learned home to share with our classmates in California.

Dave Blazer is a retired financial securities industry manager and technical expert with a life long interest in Asian philosophy and martial arts. He is also a struggling left handed Blues Guitarist.

He served as a cryptographic and systems management technician in the U.S. Navy for nine years, and attended the Dominican College of San Rafael, CA. He was involved with the securities industry for nearly 30 years.

His martial arts career has spanned 50 years.

Wellington’s Clubland

Soft words over cigars and port

By Stephen Hoare

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of WellingtonKGGCBGCHPCFRS, ‘the Iron Duke’, is well known as the military man who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and as the man who ended the Napoleonic Wars – with a little Prussian help. He was also the Tory prime minister from 1828 to 1830. Wellington was a master of the exercise of military and political power. But there is another side to Wellington: he was also a master of soft power. Stephen Hoare discusses this side of the Duke .

On 18 November 1852 over one million people lined the streets of London to pay their final respects to a man described by Queen Victoria as “the greatest Englishman”. The Duke of Wellington, the victor of Waterloo and an Irish peer had earned his place in the national pantheon of heroes and a full state funeral.

Before dawn broke, Horseguards in Whitehall was a hive of activity as troopers of the Household Cavalry groomed their mounts and made last-minute adjustments to gleaming ceremonial helms and cuirasses. At nearby Wellington Barracks, entire brigades were turned out and drilled under the keen eye of colour sergeants, regimental sergeant majors and officers on horseback. 

In a few short hours, the entire effective strength of the British army would be marching to honour Wellington and the victory of Waterloo. From the red-coated Coldstream and Grenadier Guards to the regiments of the line, riflemen in green shakoes, and the flamboyantly uniformed cavalry troops – hussars, dragoons, lancers, the royal house artillery and the light brigade which was to feature famously in the Crimean war. All would escort the Duke’s funeral car to its final destination, St Paul’s Cathedral.

The three-mile long funeral procession headed by Prince Albert on horseback would leave Horseguards at 9.00 am and travel at a slow march accompanied by regimental bands up Constitution Hill, along Piccadilly, into St James’s Street then along Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square, the Strand, and Fleet Street before finally arriving at the Cathedral.  The crowned heads of Europe travelled in carriages near the head of the cortege, where Wellington’s groom led his riderless horse with the general’s boots reversed in the stirrups.

The focal point of the procession was the funeral car, a four tonne juggernaut, constructed in bronze melted down from cannons captured at Waterloo which carried the Duke’s coffin, so heavy that it needed six dray horses to pull it.    

The choice of route was highly symbolic. Instead of taking the shortest route to St Paul’s Cathedral the cortege would pass Wellington’s London home, Apsley House on Hyde Park Corner before travelling through the heart of London’s clubland.

Antonio Canova‘s Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker, 1806, statue in Apsley House

In St James’s Street, White’s, Brooks’s, and Boodles, could trace their origins from the chocolate houses and gambling clubs of the late seventeenth century. They would later become exclusive members’ only clubs for the aristocracy and the beau monde. Wellington was a lifelong member of White’s.   

The clubs that lined Pall Mall had erected temporary grandstands decked with flags and patriotic banners from which members and their guests could view the procession. The Oxford and Cambridge, the United Universities Club, the Carlton Club, the Reform, the Travellers, the Athenaeum and the United Services Club all paid homage to Wellington as the procession passed slowly along the ceremonial route.

Wellington’s links to the revival of London’s clubland cannot be over-stated.

Palatial clubhouses were constructed on the site of the Prince Regent’s palace, Carlton House which had been demolished in 1824 creating a blank canvas that would see this area transformed into a new elevated clubland centred on Waterloo Place, Cockspur Street and Pall Mall.  


The Reform Club Lobby, Photo Alexander Williams

Wellington’s links to the revival of London’s clubland cannot be over-stated. With the obvious exception of the Reform Club, the Duke of Wellington was involved with every single one of the Pall Mall clubs, either as a founder member or as a guiding light. For Wellington the soldier statesman, clubs represented a modern ideal. He saw them as cementing a new Pax Britannica– a form of cultural imperialism designed to show Britain at its best. Throughout his career, Wellington was an active member of no less than eight clubs including White’s and Crockford’s.

But beyond global power politics, Wellington had a more pressing reason to value members’ clubs as an institution. They were a form of soft power. On leaving the army and entering the political arena as a Tory, Wellington needed to network and build his power base. Clubs were private spaces where influence could be brought to bear over a glass of port and a cigar.  

He saw [clubs] as cementing a new Pax Britannica – a form of cultural imperialism designed to show Britain at its best.

The Duke was a founder member of the Union Club for Irish peers. Having served as a general in the East India Company’s army, he was closely associated with setting up the Oriental Club for former army officers, colonial administrators and merchants.

The Athenaeum, William Radclyffe (1783–1855) 

In 1816 Wellington lent his support to the United Service Club whose aim was to provide a congenial home from home for officers of the rank of major and above who had fought at Waterloo. Wellington’s advice was in defiance of prime minister Lord Liverpool’s fear was that such a club might encourage the army to form a military junto that might one day overthrow an elected government. Wellington’s opinion carried the day.

Clubs were private spaces where influence could be brought to bear over a glass of port and a cigar.

The Athenaeum was founded in 1824 by John Wilson Croker a lawyer, Irish MP and a long-term associate of Wellington’s. With Sir Humphrey Davy, John Faraday, assorted bishops, leading artists and writers among the founder members, the Athenaeum set out to champion Britain’s achievements in the arts and sciences. Investing in building a world class library and art collection, the club stood in marked contrast to the aristocratic St James’s gambling and drinking dens.      

The ‘Iron Duke’ in 1850

Most of all Wellington is associated with the Carlton Club which he helped establish in 1832. Here he would build the network that finally led to his election to Parliament and his short career as Tory prime minister from 1828-1830 and briefly in 1834. Alas, the club and Parliamentary democracy failed to live up to the Duke’s desire to pull strings and peddle influence. Unable to fully comprehend democracy, Wellington became disillusioned with politics. “Damme sir, I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them!” Wellington is said to have exclaimed after his cabinet colleagues rejected his command-and-control leadership. 

the Athenaeum set out to champion Britain’s achievements in the arts and sciences.

His disillusion was complete when in 1834 Sir Robert Peel led a clique that dislodged him from Downing Street, using the Carlton Club to hold secret meetings of co-conspirators.

“Never write a letter to your mistress and never join the Carlton Club,” was Wellington’s considered verdict. 

The Carlton Club, photo by Debonairchap

In later life reconciled to the political wilderness, Wellington was appointed Chancellor of Kings College London, a post that enabled him to claim membership of the United Universities Club. Here he would often retire to enjoy a quiet hour of relaxation.

There is a lovely story that members of the Guards’ Club in nearby St James’s Street, were given reciprocal dining rights at the United Universities Club while their own building was being refurbished. One boisterous young officer on spying an elderly gentleman sitting quietly in front of a blazing fire reading the Times remarked to his fellows:

“I say, these old University types really know how to treat themselves!”

The paper was lowered gradually to reveal the scowling countenance of no less a person than the Duke of Wellington!

Stephen Hoare, Author of Places of Power: The Birth and Evolution of London’s Clubland

Stephen Hoare is the author of Palaces of Power: The Birth and Evolution of London’s Clubland published by The History Press 2019. ISBN 978-0-7509-9076-9 price £25

For the past twenty years, Stephen Hoare has been a freelance writer and journalist, writing about higher education, business schools and the public sector for The Guardian. He is a regular contributor to the Times’ special reports and author of many non-fiction titles including The Assassination of John F Kennedy and Hiroshima for Batsford’s ‘A Day That Made History’ series

The time has come to reignite the liberal flame

In defence of liberalism 

By Frank Hardee

If you think about it, socialism relies heavily on defeasability. In other words, people point to living examples of socialism and the response of most socialists is to say: ‘But that is not ‘real’ socialism’. Proponents of the free market do the same. Their response? ‘But that’s not real capitalism‘. Why can’t liberals have their ideal liberalism? Here is Frank Hardee, a lecturer in politics, arguing strongly for the idea of real liberalism.

Although this is ostensibly a piece about political ideas, I have been asked by the editors to lay out my own political views.  Let me make it clear that in the UK I tend to vote Liberal Democrat (and am a party member) not out of some tribal loyalty, but rather, because they best fit the values that I describe below. And while the voting system in the UK does not promote plural politics, I think it is important to have that liberal voice at the table as best we can. I would, of course, consider voting a different way and for different candidates if they bought into the ‘liberal vision’. There are members of the Green Party, the Labour Party, the SNP and even the Conservative Party who are fellow travellers along the liberal cause. To take a very current example: it’s funny but also enlightening to see that the real liberal opposition to this shockingly authoritarian government has united the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and the Liberal Democrats as well as the Tory libertarians of Sir Desmond Swayne and Graham Brady. To me this is a good thing – politics is not red side vs blue side or ‘socialist vs capitalist’, it is about coming together on issues to promote the cause of freedom.  

Towards the end of the two-year A Level Politics course, I run a lesson entitled, ‘Will the real liberal, please stand up!’. We hear the term ‘liberal’ and means so many different things to different people. In the States it is used as a term of insult to progressives on the left by the conservative right – ‘those libtards…’! In the UK, the socialist left equate liberalism with neo-liberal economic doctrine espoused by the likes of Thatcher and Reagan. In the international sphere, realists dub anyone who holds the vague notion that national sovereignty is not the most important global political idea as a IR liberal.

Liberalism is at its heart about individual freedom, a belief that human beings are rational and liberals believe in tolerance.

Global socialists rail against the ‘liberal world order’ and the ‘liberal Washington institutions such as the IMF and World Bank’. Feminists like Kate Millet and Carol Hansch see liberals as weak and not going far enough to smash the patriarchy.  

Being a liberal in the 21st Century is not easy – you get it from both sides, and here in the UK it is very hard to get a word in edgeways when both the system and prevailing wind has been against you. Having said that, this article argues that there is still a place for liberalism in the world today and not only that, but the type of liberalism that I am about to describe is actually desired by the majority of the world’s population. 

Defining Liberalism

It’s necessary to go back to basics and define what we mean by liberalism – this could be a whole article, heck, a whole book in itself, but I’ll try and reduce it to a few key sentences. 

Liberalism is, at its heart, about individual freedom; the belief that human beings are rational. Liberals believe in tolerance; although potentially selfish in nature, people have the capacity for cooperation and helping others. A firm commitment to education, equality of opportunity and the belief in a genuine meritocracy are also characteristics of liberalism. By meritocracy I mean those who are given the same chances in life should be allowed to rise and fall based on their informed and rational decisions. On the face of it, all good? Then why is liberalism attacked to vehemently in the UK today?

The attack from the right 

The attack from the right is probably the easiest one to deal with. They argue that Britain is a traditional nation and that its traditions should be upheld. They argue that society is organic and has a natural hierarchy that needs to be maintained. This conservatism manifests itself in many aspects of British society: the uncritical reverence for the monarchy; the importance conservatives place on traditional Christian ideas and values; the support for tough law and order, and the desire to create a homogenous society – which has led to the anti-immigration agenda they have been pushing since the 1960s.

Save getting rid of the monarchy (which may take some time), a liberal would argue that society and social attitudes are changing as, on the whole, the world has become more informed and people are better educated. The more rational humans are, the better they can distinguish between fact and fiction – antiquated ways of seeing the world will fade and die out. 

The attack from the left 

The attack from the left is more difficult to understand, but it boils down to an economic argument. Socialists caricature liberals as those who subscribe to neo-liberal economics and they call them selfish. For them, these liberals are simply out to tread on the poor. They point to the Jacob Rees-Mogg’s of this world as evidence of capitalism gone mad.

The attack from the left is more difficult to understand, but it boils down to an economic argument.

While I agree that liberalism has been taken in that direction by some, there is a modern liberal defence to contradict the attack from the left. I don’t agree with the Marxist analysis which states that there are different competing classes pitted against each another. As a liberal I believe that we are all individuals and that to group people together misunderstands the complex and varied nature of the human race.

However, I do agree with socialists in this sense: it is a good idea to have a well-funded and functioning welfare state. However, this is not for the same reasons the left gives. Here I want to draw upon the work of the liberal philosopher, John Rawls and his Veil of Ignorance Theory. The reason I want a well-funded welfare state is not because I believe in an abstract idea of social justice and egalitarianism, but because I don’t want to have to pay for healthcare in the event that I am unlucky in life and get dealt a poor hand. The liberal justification invokes self interest. We get the same outcome as the socialists, but for individual rather than collective reasons. 

Free speech 

This is a topic people have been concerned about recently. In fact, Gavin Williamson, in my view the worst Education Secretary we have ever had, is planning something I actually support. As a liberal, I am prepared to abandon tribalism and give him credit for it. He intends to ban ‘no platforming’ in universities. For a liberal, this is a very important thing to do. Academic discussion and debate is the key to rationalism. When reasoning people are presented with the evidence, the truth emerges in debate.

For example, as a gay man I believe homophobic views need a degree of exposure to the light in order to demonstrate that they are incoherent, abhorrent and wrong. You can only discredit ideas by facing them head on rather than by pushing them underground where they fester. Some people on the left are not confronting these ideas readily enough, they are avoiding necessary confrontations.

It used to be the left who were champions of free speech, not the right or the centre. What’s gone wrong? When I consider myself as an example, my views have changed. I am certain that in the past as a younger, and less experienced man, I might have said things that I probably wouldn’t say now – but as a liberal I tolerate that in myself.

As a liberal, I hope to change and adapt my views as I educate myself and become a better person I have faith that the majority of people will think and do the same, so do not judge me, or them for their missteps if their missteps are an essential part of the development of their thought. 

Liberalism moving forward 

For me, a decade of populism from both the left and the right, from Trump, Brexit, Orban, Bolsonaro to Chavez and the ANC, has failed the people it claims to represent. The time has come to reignite the liberal flame; and there are signs that the 2020s is the decade for its resurgence.

There are democracy uprisings in Myanmar and Hong Kong, global cooperative action on climate change, and the idea that the global economy should be based on fair and free trade rather than protectionism is strong. Biden is rolling back the illiberalism of Trump with an impressive and rapid series of measures.

Liberalism is … an optimistic ideology which harnesses human potential and moves us forward to a better and higher level of understanding.

Despite appearances, our world looks more and more progressive and inclusive and based on the liberal idea of individualism, where the achievement of inalienable human rights and personal freedom of choice seem both possible and desirable for everyone on the planet.

Liberalism is about freedom, about hope – it’s an ideology which harnesses human potential and moves us forward to a better and higher level of understanding. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I hope that after a decade, a century of failed right wing and left wing radicalism, comes a new dawn of liberal hope. 

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Frank Hardee

Frank Hardee is a politics lecturer at Holyport College, Master in Charge of Universities and Eton Relationship. Frank is a Manager and teacher between two schools. He studied PPE at Oriel College, Oxford. He’s from Greenwich London, son of the famous comedian, Malcolm Hardee. In his free time he is a quiz master.

Should Britain’s asylum seeker policy reflect its foreign policy aims?

Let the right ones in!

By Phil Hall

How many Palestinians have been given asylum in the UK? Clearly, Britain’s asylum policy reflects its foreign policy aims and many of us have vociferously opposed some of those foreign policy aims, especially when it comes to Iraq and Syria. Britain is using promises of asylum as a reward for collaboration. White Helmets, anyone?

In the phase of decolonisation, immigration policies sometimes seemed more progressive. The British citizenship of my parents, who opposed Apartheid, was expedited in 1963, and in 1968 Ugandan Asians were invited to come to Britain.

How many Palestinians have been given asylum in the UK?

But Britain has not met its quotas for refugees from places like Syria and it should do so. We should lead the way, we should follow Angela Merkel’s lead. We shouldn’t just wait for asylum applications from literate, well-resourced individuals, we should go out to the refugee camps and actively invite deserving people to come to Britain; though not necessarily Jihadists posing as members of a volunteer rescue group.

I taught refugees for years in the UK in the 90s and noughties. Most of them had suffered terribly. Most of them were legitimate refugees. I couldn’t put a figure on it. If you pressed me I would say, maybe 85% of my students over the years were legitimate refugees.

To have kept that 85% of deserving asylum seekers out of the UK would have shamed the UK. There are no official figures for ‘legitimacy’ of course. Seen from the US perspective, an 85% success rate in awarding asylum to the right people would sound very good indeed. One only has to remember the USA and all the reactionary flotsam and jetsam it has welcomed in: Batista’s henchmen, the South Vietnamese ex-military, ultra-right Latin Americans running from justice – so many creatures of the night. Their families are innocent, of course.

… we should go out to the refugee camps and actively invite deserving people to come to Britain; though not necessarily Syrian Jihadists who pose as members of a volunteer rescue group.

At different times there were different kinds of refugees coming from different places. Before, many of the refugees were Sudanese, Somalis and Iranians, then there were Bosnians and Kosovans, then there were Afghans, Sri Lankans, Iraqis, Columbians, Chadians, Peruvians, Rwandans and Congolese. Some – most of my students were wonderful and we have stayed friends. I liked, and wanted to help, all of them.

OK, there were a few ‘economic’ refugees. For example, some of the people who said they were Kosovans who were probably just Albanians. No big deal. There are always economic migrants to every rich country, a country needs economic migrants.

The point I want to make is this: I was listening to a radio programme on how East European Nazi collaborators came to live in Britain and it seemed suddenly clear to me that we have a serious problem which we should deal with. I doubt we will be able to do so until we get a left-wing Labour government. Remember how Maggie Thatcher protected Pinochet from prosecution.

No big deal. There are always economic migrants to every rich country, a country needs economic migrants.

There are wolves who hide among the sheep. Some of the people who seek asylum are the persecutors. Though often tables turn and the persecutors are then persecuted. It’s a twisted logic, but the communist governments ‘persecuted’ Nazi collaborators after the war and Britain gave them asylum. Fascists make great anti-communists.

The reasons why the wolves, the torturers, thieves and murderers, can sometimes reach Britain and settle here pretending to be victims of oppression are twofold:

First, they have the money and resources to come to the UK and apply for asylum. Ordinary victims of persecution rarely have enough money. Second, many of these wolves do some service for the British state that gives them a stamp of approval, or they are part of an organisation that, though it may be murderous and evil itself, has political support from the British state. They are here because Britain’s asylum policy reflects its foreign policy. This is exactly the same reason why Nazi collaborators were allowed into Britain in the 50s.

many of these wolves do some service for the British state that gives them a stamp of approval

Let me give you one example: one of my students was an Iraqi working as a taxi driver. Very quickly, I realised who he was. All he had to tell me was that he worked in Iraqi counter-intelligence before the second Iraq War. This meant he was a killer and a torturer. Clearly, he wasn’t comfortable in his skin, either. After the fall of Sadaam he worked as an interpreter for the British army. He was a target.

He realised I knew exactly what he was. Friends of our family, the Gaidens, were tortured and persecuted by the Baath Party. They were communists. Sadaam Hussain’s torturers exterminated the communists in Iraq. This was way back in the early 70s.

Demobbed child soldiers in the Congo, picture United States Agency for International Development

Some of my Afghan students, had obviously been Mujahedin fighters. They were very tough, compact young men, dismissive, uninterested in education and very self-confident and self possessed. I also believe that one of my students might have been a Congolese child soldier. He was a tall young man, not all that educated or bright, but very happy. His beautiful dream was to become a carer. I could not understand why he dreamed of being a carer, until I thought it over. They made the right decision letting him in. Poor student! Poor victims!

Should we stay shtum, because we don’t want to increase anti-immigrant feeling?

So, Britain is taking in a small percentage of killers and torturers as part of its asylum programme, it has done so for many decades. Some of these criminals, like the child soldier, the Nationalist Jihadi and the Iraqi torturer are known to the British government, which has given its blessing. But some are not, and when you reflect on this it seems shocking at first.

Should we question the political way in which the British government awards asylum? Should we worry about the possibility that people who have done such horrible things are free and happy in the UK – to the extent that you can be free and happy here – or should we stay shtum, because we don’t want to increase anti-immigrant feeling?

To beg the question. Do you think it was right that the British government gave asylum to anti-communist Nazi collaborators? Do you think it’s right that the British government give asylum to Mujahidin, Iraqi torturers and Congolese child soldiers?

If you had to chose between in letting in a Tamil Tiger, a member of Sendero Luminoso, or a PKK fighter, who should get precedence in your opinion? Should Britain’s asylum seeker policy reflect its foreign policy aims?

Phil Hall is a college lecturer. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine. He started Ars Notoria in May 2020.

Cooking for the Invisible College of Eaters

TV producers invite us all to dream about cooking for the upper class.

By Phil Hall

How many top restaurants have I been to in London? None at all. Although it fascinates us, there is something disempowering and classist about programmes like MasterChef. How many of us go to expensive London restaurants? How many of us feel comfortable in them? Do you really have to dress up to have tea at the Ritz? I don’t know. I’ve never bothered. That’s the case for most of us. Who actually goes to these restaurants? You? Are you in the business? Do you provide ‘service’? That doesn’t count.

Do you really have to dress up to have tea at the Ritz?

It must be that I come from a sort of servant class. After all, my name is ‘Hall’ which means my forbears were servants of the hall. Perhaps some of your forbears were too.
Having said that, like everyone from the middle middle, I have eaten out many times at all sorts of restaurants, though I have never been willing to pay hundreds of pounds for a single meal. Ever.

What happened to the vast British servant class? A lot of them probably opened small hotels, or they went into the restaurant business. After 1948, no one wanted to serve. People like Downton Abbey, but are they fantasising about sitting at table upstairs or working in the galley downstairs like their great grandparents?

As if pleasuring the wealthy were something we should all aspire to.

I think that the expensive restaurants of London are like its clubs. They are like private schools, Oxford and Cambridge, country houses, like rugby, the Proms, the officer class and investment banking. Top restaurants are part of the parallel, almost invisible world of the British establishment. Neither you nor I are a part of that. Perhaps expensive restaurants are actually just knock offs of the dining rooms of the very wealthy. Their menus simper and ingratiate.

Top restaurants are part of the parallel, almost invisible world of the British establishment

All this cooking on the TV, and the perspective we are presented with is always from the kitchen. Men and women with working class and regional accents, a few with French accents, all providing a service to the invisible college of eaters – they are overjoyed when someone important likes their rich and interesting pudding. As if hoi polloi in the kitchen were receiving some benediction. As if pleasuring the wealthy were something we should all aspire to.

And even the professional food critics are not the real consumers of this food. They are like majordomos tasting the food to ensure the quality, making meal suggestions to lord and lady muck and delighting in their lordships approval and praise. Good doggy. Good Jay Rayner. Good Grace Dent.

Good doggy. Good Jay Rayner. Good Grace Dent.

There is always the discomfort and the humiliation: the scholarship children at the posh school, the ‘oiks’ at Oxford, the man who doesn’t clap at the right place in Handel’s Messiah, the great unwashed, the non – U. ‘It’s not for the likes of us, guv’nor.’

In the last semi-final of Masterchef, the most talented cook, Alexina, prepares jerk chicken with a habanero salsa. Marcus Waring’s face creases up. He says something like ‘The power of the Chili blows the rest of the taste away.’ Masterchef is not a competition where people are preparing food for each other; it is a competition where people compete to feed the wealthy. Apparently the wealthy can’t take too much habanero

We are not even invited to dare to imagine that we have joined the college of invisible eaters. Instead, TV producers invite us all to dream about cooking for the upper class.

Phil Hall is a college lecturer. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine. He started Ars Notoria in May 2020.

This isn’t ‘The Wire’: The price of peace is the rule of law

Despite their serious flaws, in the UK the police still provide an essential public service

By Phil Hall

This may not be the right moment to defend the police, at the moment when the police service needs to be overhauled, and yet let’s not lose sight of the fact that the police in the UK are an essential public service. They are public servants just like teachers, firefighters and nurses. Recently a senior police officer stated that technically, the police are not public servants; they are ‘crown servants’. Most people disagree with that. I hope most of the police do, too. The police must serve the public.

All of the people who say they hate the police also rely on them absolutely. They are grateful to the police in person when they receive help after dialing 999. We ask the police questions nicely in the street and, generally speaking, they answer back politely. Though it is also true that BAME people, most of them young, are stopped and searched far too often and without cause. Darcus Howe explained, in great distress, how upset he was that his innocent young grandson was constantly accosted – clearly because of the colour of his skin.

But let’s put it simply. Without the rule of law the UK would be hell.

But let’s put it simply. Without the rule of law the UK would be hell. It would be the world of the Wire. It would be downtown Sao Paulo. It would be Burma, Russia or China. It would be Bangladesh. It would be South Africa, Mexico, almost every other country apart from a select few. If there is one thing that marks out the UK from all other countries it is the rule of law. The rule of law is the price we pay for peace. Even in the more socially advanced European countries the police wear automatic pistols strapped to their belts. Not here.

There may be a lot of work to be done. There is a lot of work to be done. But I suggest you go to a country without the rule of law before you go overboard in attacking our judicial system and its enforcers.

Even in the more socially advanced European countries the police wear automatic pistols strapped to their belts. Not here!

Do I like and agree with the actions of Priti Patel? Certainly not. Did she create the British legal system? No she didn’t. Home Secretaries come and go. The obvious conclusion to draw is that, in great part the prime objective of our legal system is to maintain law and order and enforce the status quo. The status quo is an unbalanced, toppling, social democracy that favours the rich and powerful minority. To that extent, we should all oppose the state and its legal system and enforcers, to the extent that it works primarily in the interests of the rich and powerful.

But, at the same time, the legal system and its effective enforcement are essential to the smooth running of society. You need law and enforcement as much as you need nurses and doctors. Many of the laws were implemented because of pressure from below. If we want better law enforcement and better laws and a better legal system, we shouldn’t exaggerate its shortcomings. We should be coldly objective about how to improve it and on think strategically about the question of what to militate for – or against.

Should we attack those who defend us from petty crime, abuse, harassment, exploitation and worse?

With a very strong democracy, a socialist government, a republic, key sectors of the economy in the hands of the state, or run cooperatively, it is certain that we could pass some excellent new laws and the police would probably be a better reflection of that more enlightened incarnation of British society. They would act more on behalf of the many, and less on behalf of the few.

But that is all a long way ahead in the future. I have lived in countries where you cannot drive down an ordinary highway without the risk of being robbed by men with AK47s. Get a grip! Should we attack those who defend us from petty crime, abuse, harassment, exploitation and worse?

Petty criminals are not revolutionaries, they are the reactionary lumpen proletariat.

Petty criminals are not revolutionaries, they are the reactionary lumpen proletariat. Still, if those who defend us cannot all be trusted to act without prejudice or to behave properly, then we have to confront the issue head on and demand that they be addressed; issues of misogyny and racism, for example.

Well, what would Tony Benn say and do?

Let’s see things from the imaginary perspective of a good Christian socialist, Tony Benn. There was someone I knew who said. Whenever I don’t know how to behave, I think of Debbie Harry from the group Blondie, and I ask myself: What would Debby Harry say and do?

Am I gaslighting Tony Benn when I say this? I hope not. I think Benn would be angry about institutionalised racism and misogyny and do his best to root it out. He would also recognise that the police were the first line of defence for the capitalist status quo. But don’t you think that Tony Benn would also see the police as valuable public servants – as providing a valuable service to the public? I do. After all, this isn’t America.

If the police came to defend you or your family from an attacker or someone abusing you, wouldn’t you thank them, as public servants, from the bottom of your heart? Who knows, you might even want to bang a tin pot with a spoon for them.

Phil Hall is a college lecturer. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine. He started Ars Notoria in May 2020.

Poet of Honour: Martina Evans

Poet of Honour is a series of Ars Notoria and Word Masala Foundation’s celebration of some of the best contemporary poets who have become iconic and a major inspiration.

Youngest of ten children, if you ever encounter Martina Evans, loquacious friendship is what you will find in her. Shortlisted for the 2019 Irish Times Poetry Now Award, the Pigott Poetry Prize and the Roehampton Poetry Prize, Now We Can Talk Openly About Men is her latest collection of poems. Almost a hundred years later, in this exceptional flip side of the fight recounted, the poet makes us relive the period of the men stifled by the Irish Conflict around 1919. Instead of writing with lopsided sentimental and political views, she focuses on capturing an exquisite depository of the characters of the men involved in that conflict. These men are from the stories told by her mother and the others but distilled through the eyes of women in her narrative, to be precise through Kitty Donovan’s and Babe Cronin’s eyes. You are put on the spot to judge yourself a war against fragmentary humanity. Flawed and full of grit are the men of the war she is talking about, so one must not get deceived by the provoking title giving the impression of a feminist agenda or #MeToo tones! The men here are caught in the fighting and dismantled in their wanting traits. “As my mother would talk”, she weighs words, not losing their Irish lyricism—and occasional humour. Martina crafts her poems, leaving us to experience the narrative as a humane emotional roller-coaster cast in her “Irish vernacular”. 

I am thrilled that through her other poems selected here we can celebrate Martina Evans as our Poet of Honour. She brings us her mother’s reigning – but delightful – presence, as well as her own experience as a radiographer recording a kick of a very Irish ‘Oh’ formula (!) that pumps the veins of ‘a mad exhibitionist English‘ Gazebo ‘on an English village green’.

-Yogesh Patel MBE

Three Poems by Martina Evans


young ethnic couple resting in old wooden gazebo on daytime
Photo by Hong SON on

Gazebo was the word my mother
used to describe a mad exhibitionist
or a queer hawk. For example,
so-and-so was going around like a
right gazebo. Naturally I imagined
a gazebo had legs and travelled so
I was surprised to see my first one
on an English village green, going
nowhere, the wedding couple
toasting each other under its rippling
blue and white canopy as cricket bats
smacked slowly in the heat. My mother
grew up near landed gentry and
the gazebos hidden in their walled gardens
must have entered her language
like escaped seeds,
growing into wild tramps
that straggled along the Rathkeale road,
on strange, overblown feet.

The Windows of Graceland, Martina Evans, Carcanet Press, 2016

Facing the Public

joyful adult daughter greeting happy surprised senior mother in garden
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

My mother never asked like a normal person, it was
I’m asking you for the last time, I’m imploring you
not to go up that road again late for Mass.

She never had slight trouble sleeping, it was
Never, never, never for one moment did I get a wink,
as long as my head lay upon that pillow.

She never grumbled, because No one likes a grumbler,
I never grumble but the pain I have in my two knees this night
there isn’t a person alive who would stand for it.

She didn’t just have an operation; she died in the Mercy Hospital
and came back to life only when Father Twohig beckoned
from the foot of her blood-drenched bed.

She didn’t just own a shop and a pub, she told bemused waitresses
that she was running a business in the country, urgently
when she insisted that we were served first.

She didn’t do the Stations of the Cross
she sorrowed the length and breadth of the church.
And yet, she could chalk up a picture in a handful of words

conjure a person in a mouthful of speech; she took off her customers
to a T, captivating us all in the kitchen,
drawing a bigger audience than she bargained for.

How often we became aware of that silent listener
when he betrayed himself with a creak, a sneeze or a cough.
How long had he been standing, waiting in the shop?

We looked at each other with haunted faces,
and I, being the youngest, got the job of serving him
his jar of Old Time Irish, his quarter pound of ham,

writing his messages into The Book, red-faced and dumb
before his replete and amused look.
Meanwhile, inside, my mother held a tea towel to her brow.

Never, never, never would she be able, as long as she lived,
even if she got Ireland free in the morning,
no, no, no she would never be able to face the public again.

The Windows of Graceland, Martina Evans, Carcanet Press, 2016

Clinical Indications

photo of an ob gyn looking in the monitor

Oh was shorthand for the chemical equation
C2H5Oh – Ethanol meaning alcohol,
a tip-off from the doctor,
a coded message
to say drink was involved/ the patient was drunk.
The radiographer faraway
in a deserted X-ray department at night
had to watch out for the obstreperous.
It might have been shorthand for Irish
but how could they scare me when
I only had to lay my Cork accent
like a wand on their ears?
Once I puzzled over
a request form for a chest X-ray
that gave one word – Irish –
in the Clinical Indications box.
Was it a joke? Or working backwards,
shorthand for the drink or drunk
or look out
for the telltale fractures of the third metacarpal
from frustrated Paddies punching walls
for the bi-lateral healed rib fractures
of the older labouring immigrants
who got so plastered they fell down,
broke, healed and carried on,
the stigmata inside the coats
of their skin like the rays from
a sacred heart? Or did it mean
what I never understood?
That night, the young doctor
with the black moustache
too close to me at 2 a.m.,
his breath in my ear, whispering –
Something has to be done about the Irish.
They’re spreading TB, spitting it
on the floors in Kilburn.
I’m scanning another man’s head
so I can’t move away from
the smell of his Wotsits.
I look straight ahead while
through the microphone
on the other side of the glass
my voice echoes –
Keep still, you’re doing brilliant –
to Mr MacNamara, yards away
terrified on a moving table.

Martina Evans
Martina Evans

Martina Evans grew up in County Cork and trained in Dublin as a radiographer before moving to London in 1988. She is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose. She has won several awards, including the Premio Ciampi International Prize for Poetry in 2011. Now We Can Talk Openly About Men (Carcanet 2018) was shortlisted for the 2019 Irish Times Poetry Now Award, the Pigott Poetry Prize and the Roehampton Poetry Prize and was an Observer, TLS and Irish Times Book of the Year in 2018. Mountainy Men, a narrative poem, was the recipient of a Grants for the Arts Award in 2015. She is a Royal Literary Fund Advisory Fellow and is an Irish Times poetry critic.

To read poets honoured previously here is a roll call; please click on the name.

George Szirtes

Steven O’Brien

Nick Makoha

Fiona Sampson

Mimi Khalvati

Vijay Seshadri

Pascale Petit

Imtiaz Dharker

Vidyan Ravinthiran

Cyril Dabydeen

Tishani Doshi

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