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Mr Johnson’s triumph & Citoyen ‘ilton.

P1040216The archipelago of Middle England sits in a sea of other, more cosmopolitian values. Not only knock kneed Remoaners but hard edge members of various racial diasporas whose world view has no empire shading, at least not of the sambok wielding sort and no happy conviction that the natives are like children. Many of these hard edge people, entrepreneurs, are all for Brexit and not frightened about going over the cliff. They already live in the world. Sooner or later the two components will clash and the grisly racial fear will be plain to see.

Several thousand menopausal white men have decided to put the well, let’s just see what happens strategy to the test. They have chosen as England’s chief of men someone to whom, while hanging back themselves, they can say go on – I dare you. And he will. It is is not so much Johnson the Baltic baron cum wordsmith that makes me fear for a certain idea of England as those behind him pushing him on: Cox, IDS, Williamson and all the back of the bike shed willy-wavers not to speak of Crosby and dark elements of the Trump machine.

When I was a young man I kept my family by serving in the Fire Brigade. When we had to break in somewhere we would whistle up Harry and he’d tuck his head down and get on with it. He’d come out all dusty or muddy and even bloody sometimes with a smile on his face, his hair all over the shop and his helmet askew. Breaking and entering was what he was good at. Harry would break and enter for us but we wouldn’t leave him in charge of the dials and valves on the pump at the back of the fire engine. Nor would we have been to keen to have him comandeer the radio communications with the girls in the Control Room.

Johnson has been put up to break and enter on behalf of USA interests with the connivance of Middle England. No doubt after a short period of high journalistic drama … hey presto, me voila Prime Minister, write to the Captains in charge of the nuclear submarines? Quick, someone give me a pen, I’ve got a great idea… he will be replaced by a faceless impeccably mid-atlantic New Britain apparatchik. Underneath it all it seems that the English yearn for a King however foolish. History has been kind to Johnson since the present Royals, the Queen in her nonentity nineties, the eternally tragic and cowardly Charles and the rest of them doing people magazine stuff, leave a gap at the top. The George III of our times, his baroque imagination spilling out in every direction, the common clown the mob can identify with – all the world loves a toff who pratfalls. His domestic carelessness has the ring of truth, oh how we wish we could be so bold and messy and escape women’s dominion your nappy Boris your nappy... Reading the Politico interview with him you sense how comfortable he feels talking to intelligent journalists in a pub. He is in his natural surroundings, verbally splurging, fluent and imaginative.

When did Johnson last have a pint at lunch time, I wonder? “More recently than you’d think,” he chortles into his glass. “Don’t put that in.” He drinks half and leaves the rest.

What fairy wickedly kissed him and gave him the destiny bug, why couldn’t he just stay tucked comfortably inside the Telegraph? Wrong sort of women perhaps…

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And nowwhile that goes on here in France what am I?  Immigrant? Expat? Exile?  Here is an extract from a spectacle I mounted, translated from the French:

An immigrant is a person who goes to another country to work knowing that in the most remote corners on the planet s/he will probably find compatriots. Those who have arrived on earlier boats, who will exploit he/r as much as the locals, in search of ever darker jobs.

The expatriate always keeps with them something from their homeland. They claim a space on a foreign territory and live there, by all possible means, as a mysterious conqueror, groping their way under financial obligations they can only fulfill thanks to the charity of those they left behind.

The skin of an exile has no shine. Gloomy, her heart is tired – he shows you pictures of herself younger, more vigorous, in another country, in the shade of other trees. He always has a misadventure to tell, drenched in her solipsism.

One thing is certain: her heart is decomposed, and yet s/he continues to cling to this poor organ with the icy opportunism of someone who carries a board in case s/he stumbles on a downward slope.

There are other, harder terms: refugee, invader, clandestine but it is hard to get those if your skin is white.

I must admit that my case was not so dramatic – a few obstacles here and there concerning housing, a certain perplexity in terms of administration, small problems of climate and health.  But nothing compared to the experience of those I met, who had to fight literally to meet their daily needs amidst legitimate social resentment. Despite relative privilege I gave myself the right to feel a certain strangeness, an uprooting in my first years – the privilege of shuffling the pack which accompanies the change of country and culture. Change of culture? My wife looks at Brexit and says,

“Ah yes, les anglais with your rules of behaviour and your daily stabbings…”

She looks with wonder at an England retreating into its dormitory towns, into its drive to the railway station zones. An England of the last stand relying on dodgy businessmen to see it thru, to pay the mortgage and the kids school fees. Saxon pragmatism gone mad. The little people of England hustled into an enormous prison farm business in the hinterlands of the new free ports in the north east.

Ever since the marches of the unemployed in the nineteen thirties from Jarrow the north east has haunted the Tories. Macmillan, remembering his boys in the trenches had an aching heart for those slow parts of the country. They combine the most stolid quality of the Dane with the vicious drink habit of the Irish. Very soon they won’t even have to trudge to London and get themselves arrested, they can be locked up right where they are and put to work for Boss.co.

And now? As a consequence of the Referendum altho I remain English by blood  (my departure not being turbulent or bloody enough to make me want to pretend to be French) I choose in all modesty to get hold of a French passport simply so that I can take part in the democratic process. Ultimately I choose Africa with all its faults and fractures over the smooth geared USA death machine.

Wanting to be Larkin’s shit in the shuttered chateau I’ve become the twat on the terrace a-tippling. Tho I’ve lived in France for fifteen years I still speak badly translated English. I fight a single handed battle against gendered nouns and my tenses decline into a space/time whirlwind. I can hardly answer my French friends’ questions about the English, there are so many exceptions and then comes the question of the inner world and its inordinate and uncontrolled whims. But I like it here: there is space, tolerance, absurdity – they may not be very good shopkeepers but they are willing to talk about ideas. They bear witness to another part of our nature as a species and some how or another there is always at their frequent gatherings as many loaves of bread and bottles of wine to go round as are needed. Fishes you ask? Well let the English have their sea if they want, France has the most extensive offshore holdings in the world with its cunningly preserved Pacific and Indian Ocean despotisms.

Bring out the flags, beat the drums – let us replay the eighteenth century.

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Election fever – no hope for patient.

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The photograph is from a series created by a few bright sparks at leadbydonkeys tk. They imagineered billboards built of quotes from Brexit Party hucksters. Effective counter dialogue, creative street politics.

I live in the countryside odeeing on green and gagged by silence. It doesn’t come easy for me to get into the skin of a vigorous saloon bar vulgarian but try I must for we know, don’t we, where the talk of blood and soil leads – the cast iron furnace door.

Thanks to the Brexit retard the English in the shape of the Faragists (my company – my party) have parachuted into occupied Europe as a Government in exile. I read this morning that Farage demanded all his staff be taken on at their existing pay levels as his price for being the sovereignist front man. So the re-making of the european supra-national arrangements, the empire of goodwill if you like is infected from the start by Atlanticists who have stated clearly they will sabotage. Meanwhile the Tories try to make nice against the clock.

The Faragist pitch is software amplified political enthusiasms harnessed to a business model of politics lean – agile. Problems? Oh, just pay someoneThe absence of policy is deliberate since policy equals controversy equals splits – an intelligent discussion of alternatives is excluded. The Brexit Party likes the service model: got a problem – call the government, dog dirt on the pavement – call the government, Russia threatening war – call the government. The government would simply be a switchboard for outsourcing, for re-packaging and selling the problems to private enterprise.

Cameron famously said I’m not dealing with all that shit... when it was pointed out to him the level of detail involved in subtracting UK from EU. The civil service is quietly going mad squaring the circle, only Lewis Carroll in their cultural bloodstream can help now. Top Whitehall don Sir Mark Sedwill must be thinking hard about a coup each time he opens his locker and sees the coat of arms on his coat hangar.

Somehow though the Brussels affair now comes alive with these people who want to strangle it. Because their energy is derived from plain flavoured, unsalted, nationals the software parties scale up as caricatures: the slashing, careless Italian rhetoric, the odd cum short Brit chirpiness, the sinister, doom-laden Hungarians. It makes better spectacle than smooth, brainy eurocrats fighting over semi-colons.

If in Brussels at the Parliament the sovereignist parties build a passably robust coalition then they take the revolt a stage further up against the Commission asked to produce the regulations needed to construct a hard bordered intransigent bloc.

People don’t want gypsies sleeping in their garden – would you? For the moment there aren’t enough gypsies to go round so new categories: the work shy, the less attractive disabled will have to be added. Everybody must be given someone to hate, to point at in the street. However much I dislike Islamic (or any other) creed when I read Victor Klemperer‘s diary of his war years in Dresden as a Jew and how it felt to wear the yellow star I know which side I’m on. Unhappily this stream is now polluted since we learn that a Home Office unit is paying for wow! creatives who have already produced a photograph of a woman wearing a union jack habib which was placed on the front page of the Sun.

Maybe it is all about language, all about a gulf between people who cannot believe that people who don’t talk their language as the phrase goes may have equally valid interior lives and life goals. All the inflexions of Brexit Britspeak come from the six year war which exhausted the English of any appetite for another Continental adventure. Over there? No thanks. Truculent, sturdy, cynical the old turtles reddening on the Spanish beach and fiddling the health insurance see Europe as a playground. Trouble is they don’t really know how to play, they have to be taught by those black people splashing thru the surf with their music and drugs and that. But they don’t want to be doing with them either.

And for the people coming out of the surf servicing hedonism won’t take up all the slack. The technological revolution, AI and all that, mean the skills of poverty will be needed by more people than just the easily down-trodden. The great surge from the south east into the european peninsula is bringing the skills and culture of poverty: live in the moment, live just for today. And living just for the day is now mediated by smartphone – don’t ask what I will be doing half an hour from now, I might get a better offer.

Do we build walls against this as the sovereignists want? Or just get smarter with the social bending algorithms, like the Chinese do? The Chinese are just about ready to take on international as a way forward, they’ve been a laying that silk road for a while now, they have a clutch of ports and airports, let’s go! 我們走吧. Thru their culture they already have a built in togetherness thing – the whole is greater than the part. Some people speculate how far those tiny genetic differences can go. Someone punches me this, knowing I’m interested:

In a killer whale, the limbic system, a part of the brain associated with emotional awareness and memory formation, is exaggerated to the point where it has formed a unique structure on the brain now known as the paralimbic lobe. In recent years, scientists have begun to speculate that this part of the brain is also responsible for a form of collective self-awareness between members of a pod. They may have some sense of self that is spread out among the rest of their pod. What happens to members of the pod, happens to them. (Ashley Coates)

What the Chinese have by nature the West has invented artificially with Twitter and the other herding media. This is the new landscape for speedy politics (who gets what cash). The Faragists flash mob is up against the most modern and devious manoeuvres of the house trained securocrats. Ian Cobain of Middle East Eye assets in a fascinating article that government has prepared for terrorist incidents by pre-planning social media campaigns that are designed to appear to be a spontaneous public response to attacks tk

This is nothing new, in the nineteen fifties (with me anyone?) the Government worked covertly to build up an anti-communist norm thru innocent sounding intermediary outfits. And why not? There job is to keep those turbulent stoked, coked and woked Brits of all sorts calm. The Faragists are upending all this, they want people to be in a tizzy, to have hot flushes, to be angry about the neighbours hedge, to want to kill someone…

(to be continued)

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What to do about the f*****g poor?

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I had suspected for some time that there was more to crime than met the eye and then I found a source. In Edward Heath (Cape 1993) John Campbell speaking of the Conservative Government of 1972 writes,

… they could have done more to remind the public that, demoralising as unemployment unquestionably was, it no longer involved the degree of physical privation that it had done in the 1930’s: not only were social security benefits much higher, but the vast expansion of the black economy offered opportunities which significantly blurred the hard line between regular employment and the dole…

What I took from this frank passage was the dynamic it suggested between demoralisation and opportunities. The demoralisation of a section of the population led to them being the builders of the central criminal money-go-round: drugs. Like jazz and r’n’b drugs were soul implants first taken up by whites who wouldn’t have problems slipping into a comfy job and growing out of their habit. For their white and black brothers and sisters further down the scale or further up the supply chain that wouldn’t be the case. They became professionals.

What did this dynamic mean for economics and for politics? Unemployment was not painful enough. Unemployment could no longer be the hidden hand squeezing the working class balls. Crime would have to take its place. The State would no longer look too closely when the poor turned to the more enterprising and violent members of their clans. In a society of self-motivating self-organising egos mated with open databanks you wouldn’t worry about the poor and you wouldn’t have politics. You would just have the seamless flexing of productive monads.

There is no reason why the pools of unpoliced moneymaking should not deepen and darken. Somewhere down the line is formalisation: legit concessions with electronic gates trading with the natives all the way down the Brighton Road to the sea.  Even when the tobacco and oil companies perfect their models and take over cannabis there will always be the rest of the pharmaceuticals to go at in streets full of guinea pigs. There will always be another generation of council estate and public school Rimbauds looking to turn on.

Those with the pound sign gleaming in their eye know that Brexit will speed internal colony making. An economist might say we find crime more elastic than unemployment. The decision whether to put x more bobbies into y area is cleaner than decisions to encourage industry to locate somewhere daft. For many citizens the deaths by réglement de comte between traders make it a self-policing system whose victims are both unlucky and unwanted, a system whose only disadvantage lies in its territorial coincidence with toe-dip gentrification.

The other area of hidden subsidy to the poor by way of crime is motoring. Licence, insurance, taxation – money I ain’t got and all those bloody forms but I know someone who knows a fiddle for a fiver. If you catch one of the compulsive youtube police channels like Police Interceptors or Cops with Cameras you will find that drugs and motoring are what they catch most of. The they – the boys and girls in blue come over as competent and compassionate. The tragedy is they only get at the small fry. A £19k motor driven by a £40k copper in a hairy blue light pursuit of a whisky bottle shoplifter can’t be called cost effective policing. Higher up the chain with the words serious and organised tacked on crime becomes subject to political influence negotiating with the libertarian desire for cash flows thru the City commission takers.

Sometimes fundamental thinking about the poor breaks thru the political skin. I went back to what Sir Keith Joseph was rumoured to have said about sterilising the poor and found him speaking in Birmingham just after his party under Heath had lost the 1974 election,

… a high and rising proportion of children are being born to mothers least fitted to bring children into the world… … mothers who were first pregnant in adolescence in social classes 4 and 5. Many of these girls are unmarried, many are deserted or divorced or soon will be. Some are of low intelligence, most of low educational attainment. They are unlikely to be able to give children the stable emotional background, the consistent combination of love and firmness which are more important than riches. They are producing problem children, the future unmarried mothers, delinquents, denizens of our borstals, sub-normal educational establishments, prisons, hostels for drifters. Yet these mothers, the under-twenties in many cases, single parents, from classes 4 and 5, are now producing a third of all births…Yet what shall we do? … proposals to extend birth-control facilities to these classes of people, particularly the young unmarried girls, the potential young unmarried mothers, evokes entirely understandable moral opposition…

Er, that moral opposition would be on the grounds that sex before marriage was wrong would it Sir Keith? Or is it the Catholic lobby and the argument against abortion which says that the children actually conceived are a perfect feedback of the state of society and any culling distorts the view and so blurs the focus of change. And if it became a question of intra uterine IQ tests to determine viability would that apply to every mother Sir Keith? In England there is a safety net for nincompoops from well-to-do families: public school mutual aid aka the old school tie. Unless people drop as well as rise it is a meritocracy in name only. The drop can hurt unless you possess cultural resource. I remember very well being called a fifty bob a day nutcase by toughs in a fancy Jag when I parked cars at Sandown races.

Sir Keith Joseph freed from Heaths managerialism was one of the first to express the shift in the point of view that took place in the 1970’s. The end of deference and the rise of television allowed mildly populist leaders to emerge. Having Thatcher’s head and hair in your front room made you believe. Heath lost in 1974 and Thatcher won in 1979. The old benevolent statism with its well meaninglessness of mass housing and uplifting education gave way to the fight your corner complacency of the self-made. Minus the valiant bands of those who had been aborted, the poor were told to stand on their own two feet or get on their bikes or both. How might it have been different? Edward Heath had always followed his Mum shaped star and says in Campbell’s book,

… if you have half a million young people hanging around on the streets all day you will have a massive increase in juvenile crime. Of course you will get racial tension when you have young blacks with less chance of getting jobs…

That was in July 1981. There had been riots in Bristol and Brixton. Nothing wrong with the analysis but Edward was no longer in power. He hadn’t managed to broaden his appeal and had lost his place. Edward (Teddy) Heath was Britain’s first European politician and he had muffed it. They didn’t like Europe really, the continong and all that where their men had died in the mud or the hedgerows.

Heath gave off the smell of loose phrased idealistic discourse backed by technocratic omniscience. He never had the middle men to get the news out to the streets. His solutions were desk top solutions conceived with playmate civil servant William Armstrong: chess without a board. In 1973 he had been Prime Minister and could have changed Britain’s course using the oil crisis as a pivot but he got caught up in Union business: the miners as the Red Army. A three day week with candle-lit dinners for all courtesy mine host Teddy at the piano. At Ditchley Park the country house setting for high flown Anglo-American conversation William Armstrong eventually went mad lying on the Maples carpet and frothing at the mouth. Douglas Hurd at that time still in Heath’s private office tells Campbell … a few days later he broke down completely and had to be shipped off to Victor Rothschild’s villa in Barbados…

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Edward Heath at Gdansk (Danzig) in 1939 in his Balliol blazer and tramping boots. He was with his half-Jewish chum Madron Seligman. They got out just in time. The woman is unknown but she may have been the mother of the person taking the photograph who was perhaps the future novelist Gunter Grass.

Peculiar James Bondian times. Victor Rothschild of that ilk was a love child of MI5 and biology. When the oil crisis came Heath got a blank niet when he asked British oil companies to give the home market preference. Nevertheless Whitehall had a few months warning of the leap in barrel price from Rothschild or rather by way of Rothschild. The warning triggered several get out of jail scenarios sketched by Oxbridge men in bell bottoms and Zapata moustaches. One was Go Danish. Friendly black and white patched cows gave us Lurpak butter in its gold wrap and their pink skinned blond haired swine gave us bacon. Our country cousin to whom we sent deprived teenagers from the inner city. Fat and green and healthy under the Baltic sun. Leaping the submarine watched sands bits a swinging. And windmills just over the horizon. Legoverland. Perhaps an expanded youth exchange programme might have changed things, a mass Erasmus. Future Labour cabinet minister Alan Johnson then a precocious twelve year old remembers … this was another country where people spoke a different language, watched different television programmes, followed different football teams. It seemed incredible that I should be here…

It seemed attractive. Become a low energy laid-back taxed-up castle. This unrealistic Scandinavian option hovered over the left shoulder of ever more marginal politicians. Social democracy for the mild mannered didn’t extend down into the increasing volatile and disturbed ranks of the poor. And then Britain still hosted the Imperial bug. A bug operable thanks to husky Yanks who scooped the gents up after a night on the town and dri-kleened their corduroys in exchange for all those listening posts in shady cash havens. As the CIA man said to Kim Philby in Washington when they were planning trouble in Ukraine … you know every time we want to get involved somewhere we find the Brits have an island just handy…

What of now? Well-to-do people like to think everything is coming along just fine. There is a prime time schtick from Bill Gates and Stephen Pinker that says … folks have never been better off check out that comfort. No matter what you think you saw round those street corners you are wrong… Seems o’k at first but I caught this from Dr Jason Hickel (Guardian 29 January 2019). He gives an alternative interpretation based on the same Max Roser infographic,

…what Roser’s numbers actually reveal is that the world went from a situation where most of humanity had no need of money at all to one where today most of humanity struggles to survive on extremely small amounts of money. The graph casts this as a decline in poverty, but in reality what was going on was a process of dispossession that bulldozed people into the capitalist labour system… …Prior to colonisation … … they had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor…

Dr Hickel goes on,

… the trend that the graph depicts is based on a poverty line … …  equivalent of what $1.90 (a day) could buy in the US in 2011 … …  the few gains that have been made have virtually all happened in one place: China. … …  over the four decades since 1981, not only has the number of people in poverty gone up, the proportion of people in poverty has remained stagnant at about sixty per cent…

Stagnant. How do the poor learn to live without wealth? What do they become? Does joblessness have to be a horror? What skills do you need to foster if you are not in the market? To live knowing the sooner you’re dead the better is not so good. You’d lend yourself to anything. Is the real lesson from our older African brothers to be happy with nothing but being in your own goddam skin? In an untraceable television interview probably filmed in 1968 Edward Heath said something like … of course if someone wants to sit under a tree and dream, they are perfectly entitled to as long as they don’t expect to be supported … We can’t call the spiced out shapeless bundles on Gloucester benches dreamers. The sorting process between the market integrated folk and the disintegrated is being chemically assisted.

The poor remain …we’re only here to make up the numbers… but they are more isolated more inbred since they are not added to by the fallen. They are making their own culture some of which is saleable. Some of the poor are rich. They are of all colours and more mixed than the well-to-do. They have larger and more complicated families. They are more likely to belong to a diaspora even if it is only an Irish one. They only have a concrete sense of the world, warning signs don’t mean anything – you park where there is a gap. Too often they run up against things which they say… make my brain hurt… Even so, some of them get out thru education as per theory and stay out. Not many. They are city folk tho there are wishy washy outposts of Poorville in all the rural parts of England. They are the people who make such a mess of the picnic place we fought so long to get the Council to landscape.

So that now really it is no longer so much a matter of economics but of culture. Even if it is still true that the poor are marked by having very little or no disposable income, they are marked much more by the adaptations and the habits of mind flowing from such a condition even if individually they may have means which place them in the upper quartile. It is quite possible that this culture will take political form and that we will indeed have Disraeli’s two nations facing off against each other but thanks to Thatcher legitimising crime …there is no such thing as society… facing off against each other on an equal footing.

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Queen knights Banks. Arise Sir Aaron…

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Post Brexit UK – EXZOOK – is building itself in future’s shadow. On the ship of state all is confusion, people with mouthfuls of nails. Someone cries Full steam ahead, Brokenshire to the forecastle. Someone else Captain Captain, it’s coming up thru the bilges!

Zoom to Southall: a black clad biker parks his machine across the traffic against the green light. Traffic lights embody give and take, fair shares. Not wanting to make a fuss the cars hold. Into the cross roads comes a horse drawn glass sided white coffin cart. Huge latest model limousines with shadowed glass nose behind followed by a chain of super-cars in close order. Shoppers stand and stare, some blocked drivers hoot. Local villains hold the road and not a thing to do about it. An old crone rounds on me, well why not she says let them enjoy their cash, it’s only a moment or two of bother, enjoy the display. Perhaps she is right, perhaps it is better to flaunt anti-social muscle openly so we get on quicker and elect these people Mayors.

The tide of crime rises higher. National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill puts cost of serious and organised crime to the UK at £34 billion. Unserious disorganized crime is left to under-funded Pc Plod and the street barons, becomes sanitised by being called the grey or informal economy. The police are told to back off so that the poor may have enough cash to keep factory lights burning somewhere in the world. The flirtation or instrumentalisation of crime began with the black money put up for the referendum. This has morphed into the amused tolerance of the well protected, in its turn shading into incitement. Here is Charles Moore in the Spectator,

Perhaps it is time for a Brexit recipe book, like those comforting wartime rationing ones full of bright ideas for dull things. In our part of the south coast we have racier ideas. We have a centuries-old tradition of smuggling (‘brandy for the parson, baccy for the clerk’), and are ready to set out in our little ships to Dunkirk or wherever and bring back luscious black-market lettuces and French beans, oranges and lemons. Our Sussex and Kent smugglers used to be known as ‘free traders’, which is interesting and — if we have to sneak over an EU tariff wall — entirely appropriate for today.

There you are: two for the price of one, Dunkirk and smuggling. But it won’t be Charles Moore who pulls on his waders in the middle of the night and clambers over the rocks into his Zodiac or any of the people at the parson end of the chain. It’ll be the cocaine gangs of today getting out of Tooting at last and having a go at Littlehampton and Totnes. Adventure training, just what the doctor ordered, the press-gangs won’t be far behind so we can get back to an all Brit staffed merchant fleet again. The clever money is going into prison farm schemes to replace Eastern European seasonals, the marque to look for is BritpikBio. With all colours of poor trapped on the island and no fresh blood come in the English will be colonial masters in their very own land, the jovial brutality of power share between an oligarchy – the usual suspects – and the tecked up mobsters.

Whatever else it will be EXZOOK will be maritime. The high Arctic will call, the Irish sea will be a boiling and a bubbling with submarines and smugglers. The unacknowledged militia of little boats for the fish wars will be studded, hard tipped with military resources from Whitehall’s dodgy cupboards. Government vision nudges already at the theme, islands taking the place of ships. Here is Foreign Secretary Hunt speaking in Singapore,

Britain’s post-Brexit role should be to act as an invisible chain linking together the democracies of the world, those countries which share our values and support our belief in free trade, the rule of law and open societies.

Why invisible? So know one can tell? Might as well say occult liaison. And chain, well there you go you slave master you. Oh yes, Singapore, that place we once lost so stupidly and now we want to roll over on our backs to welcome in its modern masters. Home Secretary Javid speaking recently said,

My hon. Friend will have heard the Chancellor announce in the Budget that we will be expanding e-gates to five other countries—the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan—and we will now also be adding Singapore and South Korea to that list.

You can figure out the way minds at the top are going, protected by their costly security jobsworths who in their lower ranks merge with criminal milieu (think G4S). Shankar A. Singham (the brain of Brexit) is quite clear who should be inside the ring, 

Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, UK, US. 

That is to say the ancient Anglo-Saxon five eyes spydom plus two handy laundries. EXZOOK is emerging now from the Channel fog that cuts off the Continent.  A flotilla of cleverly structured territorial interests as wide apart as Jersey, Diego Garcia, Bahamas. Land become islands become ships, hi-tech outposts of the motherland. A world-wide sea-based state expressed in variable lego-financial geometry.

If it wasn’t for the faces of its representatives I would be sorry not to be a part of it. Their pragmatic world view is that Johnny Foreigner won’t recover from the creative destruction of colonialism but will limp along in wot Britguv calls fragile states, unhappy sandwiches of business and tribal interests in a boxing ring marked out by colonial map makers.

More natural for those peoples to somersault forwards into the new diaspora based supa-tribes circling the globe and dangling their feeding tubes where they will, which brings us back to Hunt’s invisible chain or more kindly, linked pods, keeping watch on migrant flows.

And now a musical interlude channelled from Caradoc of Llancarfan,

…Britain, the fairest of islands, whose name of old was Albion, which lies in the Western Ocean twixt Gaul and Ireland, is eight hundred miles in length and two hundred broad, supplying the needs of its people with unending bounty. Its wide plains and rolling hills fill the land, and into its harbours flow the goods of many nations. It has forests and woods wherein are found all manner of creatures and wild beasts, and bees gather nectar from its flowers. It has beautiful meadows at the foot of rugged mountains, and pure clean springs with lakes and rivers teeming with all manner of fish. There are three great rivers: the Thames, the Humber, and the Severn, and these embrace the island like three great arms, along them being carried the trade and produce of lands across the seas. In ancient times there beautified the land three and thirty great and noble cities, of which some are now desolate, their walls cast down. But others are still lived in, and contain sacred places within them for the worship of God. And the land is now inhabited by five peoples: the Britons, the Normans, the Saxons, the Picts, and the Scots. And of all these peoples, it is the Britons who were its first inhabitants and who once filled the land from the Channel to the Irish Sea – until, that is, the judgment of God fell upon them for their iniquities… 

Lovely innit? And the divine madness of … and in the hills. We shall never surrender… Cor blimey sir, that means we’re in the Final. The power of Britain uber alles. The children and grandchildren of The Few have this ache, you see, they want to be alone with their kin against the world like in 1940. They are defending investment territory that was lost to the Americans in 1945. If the EU ever invades they will set off like their Viking ancestors vaguely north west, arranging with Denmark to colonise Greenland and call it New Surrey. But mixed in also is the yearning to be alone of an animal that knows it is dying, that knows that all white no longer signifies all right.

Thatcher dissolved the English enigma into its parts there is no such thing as society making Englishness less than it was. Some mystic Gainsborough vagabond must have caught her on the raw. England suffered in return a hurt it couldn’t recover from. It is as though the extension of public well-being between the reform bill of 1831 and Attlee’s government had never happened. What ho the Lion, never mind the Unicorn.

The contradiction at the heart of the Welfare State – the more you improved the health of the poor the longer they would live to burden the other provisions to the point of collapse made it easy pickings for Thatcher. Public service had become bloated by political Trade Unionism. Certain economic theorists saw that you had to drive down the poor and drive up the rich, force a gap in which you built a security barrier. The castle, the moat and the wilderness. And in the moat you put all those who long for power but should never be given it. And you let them fight amongst themselves so no one dares cross. And you have perfect intelligence of all that happens in that mad muddy scramble.

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Inflexion Yank

Inflexion Yank

P1040257

I bow to no one as they used to say when it comes to tekkie progress. I had my home made web site up and running in 1990 something. But when Facebook asked me the name of my fiancée the quaintness of the term fiancée hinted at the FB world-view and got me off that dodgy nag in twenty four hours.

Now it is more complicated. I have to recognise the force however ugly of the gilet jaune mobilisation in France and acknowledge it came about thru a fusion of French sociability and the herding algorithms designed to make life simple for merchants.

French sociability?  Yes I’d sooner égalité liberté frivol… er, fraternité than Dieu et mon droit .And thirty years after that first apwb web site but still smartphoneless I am edging into religious sect territory as I don’t twit chat link or fub. People give me the same look I give a Muslim when I say I can respect them as a person but not their beliefs. Like the Quakers of old was it ? who never doffed their hats I stick out sat on a train with my eyes open but not looking at a screen, like an animal it must seem waiting to be fed.

On France Culture this morning they were talking about AI written books fed by the data profile of the consumer so that you could have an infinite variations of plot and characterisation all within the same thematic basket. But, listen up, the whole function of the creative thing in humans is to bring in the outrageous, the outside the ball park ideas the stuff that can’t be inferred from an existing data set. And not just machine dada either. Otherwise why bother? Every individual life is a tiny search bot with inscrutable criteria. I write partly to surprise myself by what I discover, when I finish the text to my standard I remember I’m meant to be fucking so I have to go find a reader. I don’t bust out into the traffic like the guy who offers to wipe your screen at the lights. I stand somewhere the view is good and stick a thumb out just in case someone comes by. I don’t mind the wait, I’m not going anywhere.

Wanting to be poet Philip Larkin’s shit in the shuttered chateau I have become the twat on the terrace a tippling but still most days words come. About which Manchester born writer Glyn Hughes  gave me a good crit bursts of vivid static images, no narrative. One can tell you’re a visual artist…

I suppose that is what makes me comfortable about publishing ebooks thru Smashwords. Visual artist you do the thing and it’s there for people to see, they buy or they don’t. They bought quite a bit off me. Of course writing you have to jack your inner edit up way high – it ain’t so natural a part of the process as sloshing paint the right way on. Being a less rattle more troughs man I’ve always felt greasy about marketing but since my rather precious hi-brow texts are unlikely to get a straight deal I have to look at it. Mark Coker the visionary behind Smashwords gives us his tips. I know, since I don’t use social aka herding media that it won’t get me far but I dug something in the Comments. Look at this for a puzzle,

GULO said…That is the excellent mindset, nonetheless is just not help to make every sence whatsoever preaching about that mather. Virtually any method many thanks in addition to i had endeavor to promote your own article in to delicius nevertheless it is apparently a dilemma using your information sites can you please recheck the idea. thanks once more. grammarly free trial 

When I tracked that  down I got to this.  And no, I’m not sneering, I love broken language – you should hear my French. Even after fifteen years I only speak badly translated English. I fight a single handed battle against gendered nouns and all their grammatical cousins and my tenses are a whirlwind of space/time co-ordinates. I shall have to clean it up if I ever need to take the citizenship test for the Brexit pincers bite tighter – emigré expat exile, who knows what tomorrow.

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Nostalgia? Fergetit!

norfolk

It gets you in the end. You think you’ll just file a few stray slides, those old fashioned plastic sandwiches, into their proper decade indexed dossier and before you know it you’ve dropped back into the past.

The past, the familiar tunnel of your own private ghost train. Here’s a Norfolk village at the end of the last century, you know, that one when all those folk got killed, a little after I had been invited by Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery to make an exhibition. The name – Journey to the surface of the earth  was suggested to me by the words of a friend who saw work being done in the winter. She pointed out that the oil stick sketches on the studio wall could be seen as images of gateways into the village. I’d done them swift and big size on soft transparent plastic. A pond and trees near the church and a long wooded hill to the fallen Methodist chapel.

“So you have decided to join us?”

I took a deep breath and had that feeling when you know you really have to say something. When there can be nothing in the back of your brain trailing on the ground. Where it all has to be gathered up for the punch.

“The countryside passes through major changes every two hundred years or so, the cultural component is lagging behind I want to give it a boost by the work I do next.” … or something like that.

“Gosh –  that sounds like a mission statement”

That might have been a dinner party sound bite sandwiched between the Brancaster prawns and the apricots in brandy. We do ourselves rather well out here in the intimate folds of North West Norfolk where luxurious and out of the way vegetables – globe artichokes, cardoons –  flourish in the hearty soil. I was there thanks to an old fashioned connection: the artist Matthew Meadows who is now a very niche and classy wallpaper maven.

I was trying to say that every so often in the countryside slow, long, deep stresses and strains pass a certain point and there are rapid and deep convulsions which surface politically. The tendency to suburbanisation is inevitable and in many ways desirable but has to deal with resistance,  knotty corners, stay-behind forces after an invasion. There is a cultural element to the resistance which accepts the rural world as “untidy-able” which accepts both new and old style travellers and fox-hunters.

I deliberately stopped making anything and looked for work in civil engineering, working for the summer as a highways inspector, looking minutely at parts of Norfolk and turning towards the idea of earthworks. Monuments to an unknown future.

The analogy I give (though it could be itself a concrete project) is that in advance of sea level rise certain constructions, artificial islands, could be built more cheaply.

Then I came across a curious unfenced trench used to inter pig casualties. It struck home (pay-dirt is the phrase) but did not really come out until at a genteel residents meeting in Notting Hill I thought of dead pigs thrown down into a trench on a hilltop in Norfolk. What flashed the conjunction through my soul was hearing the meeting talk about something for the millennium. They trickled from sundial to bird bath to statue to… (this was when my  inner categorical walls broke down and in flooded the deep pig trench) …safety surfaces for the children’s playground. A revolt against safety drove out the dead pigs and put into this London communal garden an abyss, dark, steep, uncushioned, with the very special dimension ratio that gives the true vertigo turn,  a deep hole into which you might slip and which demanded if you were to see the bottom that you lean out over space.

I’d been paying rent three years, was a regular at the church, looking at the bowed backs. A small quarry twenty yards from the churchyard fills with water at unpredictable times. People throw stuff in the dustmen won’t take. A mass of vegetation surrounded by trees with glimpses of water. The congregation of the church also goes up and down unpredictably. Sitting there one Sunday morning my thoughts drifted off to those churches of Old Europe crammed with people about to be massacred, and to the socially generated threat outside.

Then I clicked on a tragedy in London – how one of two youths thrown into the Thames had (underwater and unconscious) seen his friend on the bank waving. In his unconscious state he dreamt he struggled to reach him, to help him, when in fact the friend had already drowned. By seeking to help he had saved himself.

Only the drowning are saved was the phrase that came to mind and with it the role of water in the mythology of martyrdom and the especial profanity of drowning. Our vicar wants to tidy up the quarry as he wants to tidy up the business of being human in all its sometimes squalor.  I began to evolve an alternative structure for the quarry so that at least there should be another view of its resonances, its inner life. The central part would be an arm, or a hand, on a pivot arranged to rise out of the water when it got up so high.

Time in the countryside, the big house, the church, the seasons.

Michaelmas: In the glowing evening the tops of the low rolling clouds are struck with light and their bottoms grey-brush the hillside beside the dark firs.  As the light falls I get out of my chair and follow the road. Along the drove-way  pheasants clatter out of the trees, one farm worker’s car remains in the yard – the battleship boiler fertiliser tanks loom up as the drove-way becomes a track along the edge of a folded field.

A fox shoots from the hedge, dark and low its streak going into the beigy twilight of the stubble field and seen twice more as twin sparkles, eyes reflecting the last sun. The night closes in with a jump at the top of the hill in the wartime sown pit-prop patch and beyond where the mess of the hemp harvest lies black in lumps.

Hedgehogs hiss, scream at each other audible at twenty yards and from the roadside tree goes a bird I know know what. All the time there has been a swinging, moving searchlight on the opposite hill.  Lamping.

The beam pokes through the hedge along the road, the rifle cracks out and a little scream comes. The searchlight truck drives across, dowses its lights and a figure picks up the morsel. It comes on again through the gap in the hedge and passes me on the road. Quick silhouettes of hairstyles recognised from church.

Easter: There is a sullen scattering of porn about a wide verge beneath Gainsborough beeches where people who work from cars take a break. By foot round this way to the shops, over time the images bleach out from the stark bronze and carmine and dusky chocolate through soft bleeding lilacs and tenuous creams to a kind of grey-blood smudge. Car tyres making an elephants stamp, squashing the torso into high pulped relief, like a plaster cast taken at the scene of a crime.

I am always cautious when these shreds of lunchtime lust are seen off the beaten track rising like bait from the grass. Booby traps, like banknotes always connected to some bomb. I hope for the sturdiness to march past these flagging virgins  like the  centurions may have who passed busty toga’d girls along this hedge line of the Icknield Way.

Lammas: Bright light, the slow rustle of hot leaves gently stirring. Dark shadow, young birds flopping in the heavy air.

A snake came to my pond to swim. I had come to the edge of the pond and was looking for fish through the veil of weed. There was a swift turbulence and a snapshot of some grey-white body part. I went to get a stick.

When I came back I put the stick in the water and fished about. The coils of grey-white turned around under the water. I took the stick out  and sat down. It was an extraordinary irruption of life into the pond.

Of course you dig a hole and line it and fill it with water and life comes to it but this felt to be magnificent, a visitation. I saw the head above water, triangular, black, shiny with the flicker of tongue. There was yellow and black on its body. I watched the rippling paradoxical locomotion.

It nosed  along the gravel margin. It must have been a metre long.  Then it swam on the surface the length of the pond, its head a good hands-breadth above the surface and the wide whips of its body pushing it rapidly away from the end at which I sat.

I felt awed. I went into the house and consulted what I could. I think it was an adder, no matter, the importance was a sense of the privilege of witnessing the reptiles private rapture, driven by the heat to the open, to the water.

Pentecost: Two hundred yards away, from the drawing room window,  a pair of barn owls beating this side of the church, swooping and dropping every few yards. They go into the scrubby trees at the corner of the field and I walk over. The near paddock has been crudely fenced in.

Two men were working some weeks ago and now I find they have strung two strands of barbed wire around the perimeter and the gate on the path to the church is shut. I roll under the wire and cover my coat with burrs, my eyes on the owls.

A wooden rail of the fence alongside the children’s playground has fallen. Whose work is it? I lose the owls.

Back by the round towered church of St Mary and along the hard frosty lane looking back over my shoulder to the sky? Waves of dark grey clouds rolling in low from the south west. Somewhere down there Mr Blair and Mr Howard are  speaking today according to the radio.

Half an hour later, dipping my face into a large, elegant cup of tea I see the owls come out again to hunt.

All Saints: Set out after dark for the bonfire place. A cloudy-bright brownish patch before the moon tilted my way and shifted with me down the unlighted village lane, the air beginning to freeze. Strobe lights flickering of a plane overhead not very high going east – I could not quite tell whether four flashes or four groups of doubles. Down the slope of the hill and on out across the tangly dark and lumpy shadows of the middle distance an endless chain of headlights every hundred yards or so on the Gayton road.

From the top of the hill I watched the helpers with torches building the bonfire. I was one night early. I turned back keeping my eyes down to pick out the sandy trackway until I started to look up at the light of the weekenders cottage, A head moved in the dining room and focussed on me walking past outside. My vision zoomed to close up and I thought I recognised my landlord. My heart pumped at the acceleration of perception, the fitting together of a face whether it was him or not.

It blew the broken backed bonfire from my mind.

Advent: Pausing over the dishes at the sink on the morning of the day after the first frost I catch sight of a man, no, men, infiltrating into the fields. Increasing. Their uniform dark torn field clothes and caps. Late middle aged.

A giant wearing fishing breeches like rural punk bondage. More and more of them; you cannot watch one without others appearing from the hedges. It is exactly like it must be trying to stem a flood. In no time they could be everywhere as long as the supply of these craggy, rumpled middle aged men lasted.

They carry white or orange sticks. These unfurl as flags cut from plastic sacks. They have spread out to a regular distance and begin to wave the flags across their fronts clearing the ground away from my window to the right. They are beating for hares on the winter greens.

Going to the Post Office later I hear barking and bike up to the Great Field. A hundred people, with thirty or forty greyhounds come off the field to get lunch from their vans. I bike up behind a natty man trotting along with his springing white dog. His semi track suit semi breeches trousers in soft grey moleskin slither over his sunken skinny rear and his slim legs go down into green welly type clogs. A sinuous practical people off their bums and out in the open. The English.

“I might tie my dog on your bike for a run”

“Might be going a long way”

“Eed do it”.

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rezistance, Uncategorized

At the Camps

credit- Attila Volgyi

Just ten miles down the road from me at Le Vernet, Ariége, two hours by winding train to the Spanish frontier, the post pits of an internment camp are covered by subsidised wheat. I didn’t check it out until I heard they were constructing immigrant holding camps at Kelebia, on the south east Schengen border between Hungary and Serbia.

Le Vernet held anti-fascists escaping Franco’s victorious army and undesirable foreigners between 1939 and 1944. My contact with L’Amicale des Anciens Internés Politiques et Résistants was by way of a discrete conversation in Le Bleu Ciel bookshop in Pamiers with a soixante-huitard who asked me to translate into English new information boards for the visitor centre at the camp. L’Amicale was created in 1945 to look after the interests of the Spanish fighters lately active in the Resistance and to help them integrate into French society. During the cold war L’Amicale was seen as a cover for fifth column work on the part of the Comintern and was suppressed. Most members of L’Amicale are descended from Spanish Republican refugees. Just as the paleolithics holed up in the hills round here, hemmed in by the ice to the north so Spanish exiles made new lives in the region. Round here, Spanish is the usual second language.

I drove to Le Vernet the day they put the new boards up. At the railway station is a goods wagon, standing for all those which ran during the European deportations. It rests on bogus foundations so that visitors may step in easily. Pinned to the wall planking are over life-size graphite portraits by internee Carlos Duchatellier. His eye and hand brushed up the unlovely jackets and scarves of the deportees into something like a sort of luxury, was he in fashion before? Middle aged and comfortably dressed about fifteen of us squeezed our personal spaces up a little. It didn’t take much looking at our small signs of distress to feel how it could be with three times as many in there, all bound for who knows where and no breakfast.

Along the fence beside the railway track are facsimiles of the forms used to register arrivals. Greyish photos of tired men mostly in their late forties or fifties, the generation which came of age in time for the First World War, which carried flag and gun in turbulent Europe and got caught. Losers. At the bottom right corner of the form is a box: does he know how to mount a horse, ride and care for horses, swim, mount a bicycle, drive a car? There had been such a rush to get these undesirables bundled away that the collapsing French State had grabbed the nearest paperwork to hand – Post Office recruitment forms.

Our group leave the railway station and car share down Route Nationale 20 past the blue grain silos and the low rent terrace clothed in beige stucco which had been the guards barracks. Little to see of the camp as the scrappy wooden huts have been pillaged, but there is the water tower and two concrete gateposts. In 1970 the sons and daughters of the fighters kicked L’Amicale back into action and recovered their dead into a new cemetery.

Grit flies up from the wheels as the car swivels around the parking, there is a backdrop of industrial agriculture, a bland ripple of green shedding. I get out of the car. A winding shot-gravel path gives you time past the gingers, the purples, the browns, the hostas, the aloe veras clumped up on artificial mounds before you get to the concrete beds of sleeping men.

There are plastic flowers in celluloid tubes sticking up from the granite chipping heaps of the graves. I crunched the heads of vandalised solar lamps. I straightened scratchy fallen blooms, weather worn pinks and yellows and read the congested consonants, the throaty flourishes of the gilded names on the headstones Weschnevosky, Zamora Montoya, Tikhomirov, Pelc, Rotflug, Tchang Kouang Toung and… Dawson, Eric Dawson.

eric

To be sure, those other names were simply Dawson in foreign tongues but I gaped. Eric Dawson. 11 July 1942 with a question mark for nationality. As I felt my way under the chippings towards Eric, the question mark became who were you? Days later I got a hit on the letters page of the journal of the International Brigade Memorial Trust.

I was moved by a recent visit to the memorial and cemetery of an internment camp in southern France… …Eric Dawson …I’m told that his name does not appear among those on the recently digitised MI5 list of suspected International Brigaders. Can any one shed any light on who he was?

Graham P.

I got my torch out and re-read Arthur Koestler’s account of his time at Le Vernet, The Scum of the Earth:  the freezing huts, the staggering with buckets full of shit to the river, the pounding of stones, the hierarchy of misery but no mention of Eric. With my residents card I got a pass to the departmental archives at Foix. I went up three flights of tiled stairs into the cool of a big room with the file reference L’Amicale had given me. They brought me two sheets of paper: Eric’s enrolment into the camp and the note of his death.

Eric Dawson was born at Annemasse at Haute-Savoie 1904. He was unable to give the recording officer at Le Vernet the name of his father. His mother was an English woman, Clara Cecilia Dawson. His occupation is given as office boy. Under disabilities is written Catholic. He was married in 1925 to Héleine Mazalet at Davos, Switzerland. The photograph shows an unfortunate looking man with even closer set eyes than mine, fighting back a say cheese smile. The death note states that he died two years after he came into the camp of cachexie (starvation) and intestinal tuberculosis.

Where did Eric go wrong? Was he an International Brigader? I somehow think he wasn’t. He arrived at Le Vernet in May 1940 during the panic as the Germans cruised towards Paris. I imagine him scooped up as a dodgy character in one of the Paris bars where the riffraff consoled themselves. I sat for a moment with him before handing him back for re-insertion into L’Amicale’s ranks of earnest fighters. Going down the tiled stairs I imagined a list of undesirable foreigners on which was my name. Fair France. I could be expelled due to fishermen’s tangles. Airlifted with plastic sack of belongings to join all the other kicked out Brits in a re-purposed barracks in Northern Ireland singing God Save the King in line for breakfast, hoping you’ll be served the chelsea bun the right way up as befits a human.

The Scum of the Earth describes one of history’s brown motions squeezing a bunch of people into bare-bones living, primitive sanitation, physical cruelty and sub-existence rations just so, you’d think, a gifted science journalist could bear witness for as long as people can read. I put Eric back where I thought he belonged, listening to Arthur.

On Eric’s first day at Le Vernet Arthur might have explained to him how human hierarchies get constructed from zero, like a heap of grubs tossed into a jerry-built maze who have to make themselves comfortable in just three moves.

“We studied the higher apes…” Arthur quoted glibly, “…where food source is diverse and mobile the hierarchy is flat with lots of non-serious fighting, but where the food source is fixed and central the hierarchy is rigid which means a lot fewer fights but they end up fatal. In the rigid hierarchy of a closed society a small advantage deployed consistently for gain pushes you upwards; you search for the situation where your advantage will tell. Hierarchy is shaped action.”

Eric felt ill and stupid. He always got caught up with the wrong person. He didn’t understand a word, yet he was still listening. Arthur pushed his muzzle towards him and went on,

“You have natural advantages, acquired advantages or assumed advantages Eric. Some people cannot play their advantage because it is all mixed up with a defect, or drawback. You have to be clear about what your advantage is so that it shines out like a clean bone freed from, excuse me, shit.

There is a form of sorting by having a self-conscious idea of better conditions, more sleep, more space, more food, more security, always in relation to the enclosing power. Here we have two enclosing powers Eric: the gendarmes and the criminals. Between them they run the place, you can’t escape from them you have make do.

You have to go into the worst places inside yourself to be able to do what you have to do. Train yourself to be brutal by touching worms. You will get the jitters sure enough but just look at those who’ve lost their shoes and think they are better off without them. You will be tempted by that nothing state, the musselmen we call them.

You will rehearse your prison number as tho it could tell you something, you will live hungry for food, for books, for warmth, for sleep, for tobacco. Hungry in a word for parcels from the world left behind. Not everyone gets parcels. Those who have parcels become an elite.

You will wish your body was more compact and that your head sat tighter on your shoulders, you wish you were more like a bear than a giraffe. Victory goes to people without necks, you should become reptilian hard, bottom-most brain cogs grinding. Learn how to go about things, husband your resources, always trade up, ‘ware obligations, the small comfort of shoe laces might begin your corruption”

But Eric saw people and oddments, not situations, patterns, force lines. He saw the young Italian  historian Leo Valliani who had spent eight of his twenty nine years in prison for anti-fascist activity and the middle-aged Belgian épicier peaceful in France until his neighbour accuses him of signaling with pigeons. Arrested. He saw the solemn, stupid White Russian giant elected block leader and the pimp from Paris in his gangster fashion teddy-bear coat. He saw the actor who protested his transfer to the old men’s barracks whose tears streaked the rejuvenating make up he’d gone to so much trouble to fabricate. Eric saw the Jewish doctor who declined quickly after a false accusation and became muttering, unkempt, apathetic and the homosexual foreign legionnaire, a Swiss, who gets control of the block thru a deal with the gendarmes and the irreducible German communist sweating ice through the Hitler Stalin pact. And then there was himself, the thirty seven year old office boy with an English mum.

And it could all happen again: at five o’clock the morning of September 7th 1950 there was a mass arrest of hundreds of communist Spanish Republican exiles and Eastern Europeans across France. The action was coded Boléro-Paprika. A text from L’Amicale:

… one day the cars stopped in the middle of a forest. They took off our handcuffs, got back into the cars and drove away. We didn’t know where we were, we had driven for days. We had been abandoned, without food, water, documentation or any explanation next to the East German border.

The Préfet of the French Zone in Germany reported up the chain:

“I beg to inform you that since last January we have passed into East Germany eight hundred and thirty six foreigners expelled from France, either by sentence, thru breaking of work contracts or of dubious past”

The French fantasy was that they were fifth columnists for Stalin. But Stalin did not want the West European peoples to rise up. He had directed them lie down and talk up peace. The reality was that the Communists among the exiles maintained a state of readiness to re-ignite the Spanish conflict and this was contrary to NATO interests.

Aurélie Denoyer, source with Anne Dulphy of this information, writes:

… Boléro-Paprika was an action of mass expulsion. In French law expulsion is defined as the action of chasing someone by violence by or local decision. The individuals concerned are seen not as ut singuli but as anonymous parts of a pre-defined social body.

Aurélie found a piece of paper with the Police time-table written down:

3h00 : wake up and assemble urban personnel

4h00 : secretariat, inspectors and escorts take up position in districts

4h00 : name and address lists circulated

4h15 : teams brought together and instructed in their duties

4h30 : teams leave for their districts

4h30 : riot police reserve positioned

4h45 : urban police radio network on

5h00 : action

It couldn’t be clearer.

It used to be said that if all the world’s population agreed to stand on one leg they could fit onto the Isle of Wight. But that depends on being able to speak to your neighbour and stand his smell, depends on being recognized without derogation on racial or religious grounds. Think of the railway wagon.

The optimists amongst the indigenous people of a territory viewed as attractive and amongst the new arrivals have to practice an unnameable faith, answer the practical question, how deal with the other as an individual? Natural and mutual repugnance is the clay to be worked, mutual because most of the people in the camps come from societies honeycombed by rigid family and clan cells in which people-like-me would never find a place.

Europe evolved thru bloodshed to cope with otherness and federate and mutualize enough to create the état-providence which the people in the camps aspire to enjoy. They should learn that trick. In return, as the état-providence evaporates and we get nudged into twittering, tittering flocks of like-minders under dominant masters the European genius for social collaboration needs the stimulus of the otherness of arriving peoples – different shaped beakers.

Calais began to grow this culture before it got ripped up. Stuff practiced the last twenty years in ZADS could be applied to this harder case. Where better to find a bit of the other than in the camps in the frontier territories or the informal no-man’s wastes? Where better to imagine learning communities in which architects, body culture enthusiasts, pop up cafes, music makers, bicycle menders, nerds, team builders and shady businessmen could circulate exchanging cultural pollen with the transients? Within Schengen, frontiers could become territories of strangeness and discovery with the harder lines and habits blurring away on each side. Who knows what the mediaeval fairs of Champagne were like, perhaps a cultural version of the economic Enterprise Zones of yesteryear?

The river Roya flows out of France into Italy. M. Cédric Herron, in between minding his chickens and olive trees, guides people over the border. His network scouted out an abandoned holiday camp for the incoming Africans. The French constitutional court has just decided that fraternité of that kind is on a par with égalité and solidarité. The boy done good. The incomers inbuilt ability for bricolage (inventive making-do) and trade may be just what post-Brexit Europe needs. Upend the idea of hiding people away and the camps could be market places, not only for contraband and necessities but also for ideas and social practices. Radical libertarian educators instead of the demi thugs of G4S. And right in the middle, a big fat language school as the quickest way out.

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