Wednesday, 12 July 2017

To Believe or Not To Believe! Nicky Gervaise

Just reading a piece by Ricky Gervaise on Facebook (10th July 2017):

I think its helpful to seek definitions and express views. A Christian is someone who seeks to be at one with the Trinity of Father Son and Holy Spirit and is born again in faith. That person would want to follow and practise the teachings of Jesus Christ accessable from scripture.

Given that those teachings are hugely radical (The Sermon on The Mount for example) on social issues Christians will be radical about their faith but conservative in protecting that faith as C.S. Lewis states; but also for them to “preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection”. I suppose that I am saying that to discuss the points made by Ricky Gervaise on defining agnostics and atheism it would be useful to consider what a major alternative represents. None of this, of course, considers the great joy of experiencing God in worship, in faith or in the inspirational people you encounter.

To quote  "The Resurrection of Christ changes everything. The death of Jesus is one thing but the fact that Christ was raised from the dead is the game changer and is the key to the power of Christianity."

Friday, 30 May 2014

An Ode to Valery Hobson (Mrs Profumo).

An Ode to Valery Hobson (Mrs Profumo).
By Chris Burke.

Valerie Hobson (later Mrs Profumo) was the unexpected and sweet reward for watching the glorious Ealing film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” last night.
Valerie Hobson 1949

I have had a few months exploring Sir Alec Guinness the writer and they have proved delicious in a literary way. Sue (the other Councillor Burke and soul mate) and I had met in her City Ward at the warm and interesting Ermine Library awaiting the candidate at the start of the recent local and Euro elections. As we were half an hour early we both picked up some books for a random read.  I spotted a book by Alec Guinness (I had no idea that he was a writer) whom I loved as an actor called delightfully "My Name Escapes Me".  Although the Ermine Library (it’s near the Roman Ermine Street) is a busy part of the equally busy urban Ermine Estate it is also, as you might expect, a perfect place to quietly read a book. I was entranced by the style, wit and references to an age I remembered and my parents often spoke of. I thought that I would download it to my Kindle Fire but there was no kindle version. I remembered then that I had in my wallet that most precious thing: A Lincolnshire Library Card and so borrowed this wonderful book.
I subsequently bought a copy and sent it to my favourite 92 year old former form teacher, coincidentally named, Mr Edward McGuinness in Liverpool.  I have also bought Blessings in Disguise, Sir Alec's general autobiography which is sitting on the shelf waiting to be read and he called it "A book of casual reminiscences" along with another later book of reflections "A Positively Final Appearance" which I am just completing.  So, why "Kind Hearts and Coronets”? Last night reading page 223 of "A Positively Final Appearance" (Paperback edition) appears the words "On the Tuesday the Profumos had invited me to see the film "Primary Colours” so we arranged to have a light meal at The Connaught before the showing."

The Connaught 

 That was all very agreeable but I thought Valery looked rather tired. Jack was fascinating about visiting Hiroshima shortly after the bomb had devastated it and was particularly interesting about the impossible lives the kamikaze pilots were forced to lead after the Japanese surrender. (I never knew, for instance, that once they had undertaken to be kamikazes they had to attend their own funeral ceremony and were from then on officially dead, with no status; their wives could remarry.)
Jack Profumo 1960
Primary Colours I thought well-acted – particularly by Travolta and the always appealing Adrian Lester – but too wordy and sometimes confusing. Emma Thompson was excellent as always; she could take the first prize in any face slapping competition. Jack seemed indifferent to the film and Valerie nodded off once or twice.  They drove me back to my hotel and I kissed her goodnight. It struck me she might be quite anxious to get to bed so I didn’t offer a nightcap. In the morning she telephoned leaving a message but I had already left for home. Merula and I were shocked and deeply saddened to hear that she had died in the early hours of Friday morning, three days later.”(13th November 1998).
Jack in 1960

With Alec in 1952

Alec described her as a great beauty "of moral and physical courage, a demon behind the wheel of a fast car and the proud holder of a pilot’s licence". She was a very good oil painter and a strong supporter of charitable causes particularly Downs Syndrome.  She stood by her husband Jack who was at the centre of an international scandal of course then and for the rest of their lives. Last night she was the elegant, patrician and gorgeous Edith D'Ascoyne in 1949 playing opposite Dennis Price and Alec. It’s got to be one of the best films of its period and genre.

Monday, 4 June 2012

A Glimpse of My Garston in the 1960's & Earlier: Some Work Places & People.

Some of the Pictures and the inspiration for this piece came fromGarston, Merseyside, Past and Presentand Facebook correspondents from around the world dedicated to family like Majad Mzjaje. This is just a short piece composed on a bank holiday but I would like to expand this and thought this could be a "framework" where other present and former Garston residents might like to propose additions.

They all had a different something, often a smell, the Tannery was the most pungent. I remember the Bottle works and the Bobbin Works (were they the same place?). People would bring home strange shaped bottles which sometimes became ornaments. Odd shaped pieces of wood also appeared in the houses of friends and relatives. My Mum used the odd looking bottles for flowers that she grew in her Windfield Road "Hollywood" garden. Mum (Winnie Murray) had grown up in that house, joined the Army, married my father only to lose him in an accident a year later. Despite an ailing father and mother she qualified as a nurse, nursed her father and mother, married again aquiring three more chilren before she and new husband Les Curtis had a child of their own.  Windfield Road and the estate around it were council houses built to very high standards with gardens front and back and "almost" inside toilets. Built in the 1930's, denizens of more traditional Victorian housing nearby would call the estate Hollywood as a result of its comparative opulence. My maternal Grandfather, Patrick Murray, was the first tenant at 67 and the family remained there until I had left to join the RAF in the early 70's.
The Tannery

 The Matchworks felt the most self contained and permanent place along with the Docks. I could see the Matchworks field and distant factory from Holy Trinity playground and, of course, the eternal presence (seemingly) of the Gasworks immediately and noisily adjacent on the other side.
Growing up in Garston, still called to this day Garston Village or Under The Bridge Garston or even "Home to the Mud Men"; was an earthy, human and rich experience.
Patrick Murray 1911

My Grandfather (my first surrogate Father, my own died the month I was born) worked on the docks. He had built (I thought at the time single-handedly)  Queens Drive, won the Irish Grand National (still checking this one out) and was born and raised on Elphin Street, Strokestown, County Roscommon. He drank in the Clarence at the top of York Street (where he would deposit me on the step) en-route from the bookies having already collected his wages/pension. I owe him my faith and a belief in honour, romance, love of Ireland, fairness and humour.
Bertha & Jimmy Brind 1933

Aunty Jessie
My second surrogate was Uncle Jimmy (Robert) Brind, my Grandfathers sisters (Aunty Jessie) son, he worked as a painter and decorator. Uncle Jimmy was a scandal to my more conservative Grandfather being, not only a non Catholic, but a spiritualist and a Socialist, nearly, Granddad would say, a Communist! Jimmy taught me my politics from a very early age and made me my first fort more importantly (at the time). He had grown up at 33 York Street, (York Street connected Windfield Road to Window Lane and also contained our two nearest corner shops).  York Street was built between 1861 and 1871. By the time I knew Jimmy he was living with Bertha and all their kids off St Mary's Road in a wonderful rambling place. They lived upstairs in the Summer and downstairs in the Winter. Its gone now replaced by a Supermarket. My Mother loved these warm and compassionate people and so do I. I am still in touch with the Brind's. From Uncle Jimmy I learned that the world is always more and better than it seems and that God really is everywhere and no one faith contains all of Him/Her. Also faith is no excuse for inactivity and justice must be won in this world first. He also taught me the importance of humour and everybody loved him and Bertha. She was the great and gentle believer in nature and that all the kingdoms, human, animal, plant and the very earth we walk had a special life force. It was at her funeral I last heard Uncle Les Curtis sing in his wonderful tenor voice.

SS Lucania launched in 1909
The Dock Road as Paddy Murray would have known it in the 60's.
Uncle Eric Curtis of 75 Lucania Street (off Window Lane, our local shopping Centre) worked first at the Bobbin Works and then the Bottle works for centuries. His brother Les and husband to my Mother was my third surrogate Father (and made a very good one). He gave me a love of classical music, brass bands, singing and the Goons. He made it to the Albert Hall to sing in the 1980's as part of the Liverpool Male Voice Choir. He had one of the finest and purest voices I have ever heard. He taught me the value of hard work and a healthy sceptical approach which he applied to religion. While I never agreed with his atheism I have rarely encountered a more caring person beneath a tough exterior. The respect for his views that I learned also guide me today to respect those secularists who can be allies of the fight for social justice and make them friends with Christians, Muslims and Jews rather than in pointless conflict. His favourite piece of scripture (he was quietly very well read) was the story of the Good Samaritan. He said he was waiting for Christianity to live up to that story.  He also taught me the value of humour (well these are all Liverpudlian or Irish people so they would value humour ;-). Uncle Les's other brother was Griff, named after his maternal Grandfather, and he lived with Eric on Lucania Street. I would run messages for him on a Saturday morning. Griff was by then the house mate and he and Eric had decided that Eric would work to bring in the money and Eric would do all the domestics. They were two very happy bachelors who had enjoyed relationships but decided marriage was not for them (they gave many reasons for this, too many and far too much for this short piece that my wife will undoubtedly read).  The money they paid me would buy my first bike but meanwhile Griff would loan me his cast iron one, I rode it all over North Wales and Cheshire on it. I recently found out that many of the streets along Window Lane had been named after ships that had been built in Merseyside. The Lucania was launched in 1909 and Lucania Street appears for the first time in the Census of 1911. Oddly, there is no listing for 75 but there is evidence of members of Uncle Eric's mothers family living on the Street. It may be that the Roberts are in the process of moving in in 1911.
18 Derby Street in 1911

Bobbin Girls 1912
In 1911 his Mother, Elizabeth Roberts, is living at 18 Derby Street with her parents including the legendary Griffith Roberts her Father. A grandfather Uncle Les would describe as a fierce-some figure and a senior Orange Order Member. I think that the song the "Orange & the Green" was specially written for my parents coming as they did from such diverse strands of Christianity. Elizabeth, with two of her sisters, are working at the Bobbin Works. I do remember talk of jobs being passed to family members as a norm in those days particularly the Docks so perhaps this family connection helped Eric start there after the War. I should mention that Eric and Griff served in World War Two. Eric was, I think, Infantry and Griff drove ambulances. They both had wonderful stories to tell and Eric gave me a Zeus Icon German Army field camera (my first, my second was a Kodak Instamatic).  Uncle Jimmy first described the "Tally System" that applied at the docks when my Grandfather started there I think in the late 20's. The foreman would throw a tally in the direction of the men that he liked who would catch it and get work for that day. Other men would fight each other to get the "spare" tallies. It was practises such as these that led to the need for a trade union movement on the docks. Uncle Jimmy was, of course, a strong supporter of unions and co-operatives.
Fr Darragh & The Under Tens 1963

Mr Logan
Staff at Blessed John Almonds with
Mr McGuiness far left seated
The other "world of work" for me of course was school. Holy Trinity, where my Mother had gone and at least one teacher was still teaching from her time (sadly the name has faded from memory although I can still see her face). Mr Logan was Head, Mr Riley my last form teacher and I also remember Mr Kelly. These guys were deeply committed Christians who rarely used the cane but whom you would not dream of disobeying. They had a presence. Mr Logan took us off to the Isle of Man giving up two weeks of his own holidays year after year. Kids who would not have had a holiday went and some of us had two! He also arranged a cruise of Spain, France, Portugal and Morocco.  We nearly sank in the Bay of Biscay but it was a wonderful adventure which confirmed in me at least a desire to see the world. School and Church were completely intertwined and in a good and positive way so my first Parish was Holy Trinity Church. I was baptised there by Dean Moffitt but don't remember him. The first priest I can remember was the saintly Fr Darragh whom everybody loved. I became an alter boy and was twice sacked and twice forgiven for rowdiness. My last conversation with Fr Darragh was when home on leave in the mid 1970's he invited me into the priests house for a whiskey after Sunday Mass. I think this was my first malt. The conversation ranged through Greek philosophy to modern politics and culture. I had no idea that Fr Darragh was an Oxford educated Greek scholar. Despite his fitness for "greater things" he told me he was doing those greater things, "I could have no better job than this Garston ministry" he said. I have often wondered what work the Church had him doing before Garston.
Blessed John Almonds was also a wonderful experience for me and I enjoyed the company and conversation it brought. In fact I was a late developer and only after acquired the education I would need but  they gave me a thirst for knowledge that I have never lost. I still talk by phone to 93 year old Mr McGuiness who with Sister Anne is reckoned to be the last survivor of that era.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A New Civic & Political Year for The City of Lincoln

Freeman of the City of Lincoln

Mayor Cath Brothwell hands over to Cllr Karen Lee

I write still enveloped in the warm glow of an historic election victory for Labour and this week’s elevation of Karen Lee to the Office of Mayor of Lincoln, only the 12th women ever.On a personal note the election of my wife Sue Burke to Minster and the good showing of my son Sean in Hartsholme made this a heart-warming week. I know Sean will be back fighting another election soon.I went with Sue to her first function which was the service for the Freemen of the City at St Peter at Gowts Church in my own council seat in Park Ward. The Freeman go back to the days of King Edward the Confessor and are our predecessors as councillors in that they used to govern the City of Lincoln. This was of course before our more modern form of democracy.
Sue & I in Robes for Mayor-Making
Mayor making is in itself an event as historic as you can get, the civic role of Mayor of Lincoln having existed since 1206. Councillor Kathleen Brothwell had done a marvellous job and in an emotionally charged moment handed over her staff of office to the 806th Mayor of Lincoln. This was my third  Mayor Making but the experience is always up lifting and we all knew that Karen and Neil her consort will do a great job.
Also taking up her seat for the first time at Mayor-Making which is also the first council meeting of the new civic year was Councillor Adrianna Ellis, daughter of Cllr Geoff Ellis and Granddaughter of veteran councillor Dave Jackson. Dave spoke movingly of his pride in seeing his family’s new generation take up the cause.
Lincoln as a community is strongly family orientated compared to many other places and I think that this was a strong factor in the public’s adverse reaction to the Governments cuts which tend to hit the weakest in society and I feel our vote here and across the country reflected this. In my adjoining ward Jill Clayton-Hewson joined her husband on the council , along with Adrianna, Sue, Jackie Kirk and Rosie Kirk increasing the number of women on the Council substantially.
It was good to see a range of representatives from the City’s  various faith communities present at Mayor making including Bishop Christopher, Father John Kyne and the Imam Dr Tanweer Ahmed. It was fascinating to talk to Father  John and our new Bishop about the diversity of our City and the hopes and commitment of that community we represent.
An interesting and typically Labour movement thing here is the equal determination of believers and those of no religious belief sharing the same tenets of social justice the majority of all of us know to be right. One of my aims has always been to promote the concept that secularists and people of  faith should respect each other because usually they share the same beliefs about social justice.
St Catherine's Church & Heritage Centre 
This reminded me of another election about 100 years ago when St Catherine’s Methodist Church (in Park Ward) produced from its congregation a highly motivated and radical group of individuals  supporting the Cooperative Movement who were elected and changed the direction of the City Council towards the provision of education, cultural and social services support for all.
 I have found over the last year that there is this same sense of radical change within the Labour Group and a determination among all of us to deal with the inequalities in our City such as homelessness and housing waiting lists.  The election of our new colleagues have renewed our belief in the rightness of our cause of creating a fairer and more just society.
I will also have new horizons to reach out to over the coming year. I will still be working as the City’s Children and Young Person’s Advocate but also, as Chair of the Equality and Diversity Group.In that role I will  be working to ensure that the Council as an employer and as a service provider  acts fairly and serves the whole of the community of Lincoln.
 I know that in addition to completing my thesis as a budding (if not rather late) mature student with the Business & Law School I want to celebrate the success of our University staff and students.
The next year will be exciting and challenging in equal measure. Our new prospective parliamentary candidate  Lucy Rigby is already highlighting the immorality around the lack of budgetary control on at the Priory Academy at a time when our other schools are struggling on reduced budgets.
Rachel Reeves MP for Leeds West & Lucy Rigby Prospective Parliamentary Labour Candidate for Lincoln  
 I wonder if the fragile, indeed brittle Coalition of yellow and blue Tories will last the full term, I really hope not, we need a Government committed to putting people back to work and increasing by production and investment to get the economy growing again.
I am optimistic about the future for Lincoln. The people of Lincoln have a very strong sense of fairness and I look forward to working with all of our communities to create a just and fair society. 

Based on an article published by the Lincolnshire Echo 24th May 2012

Sunday, 25 March 2012

A New MP for Lincoln in The Making

Lucy Rigby was selected as Lincoln's Next Labour MP Yesterday.

While "Politique" (what a fun name ;-) is entitled to his rant none of it remotely relates to Lincoln. See his rant here.

Yesterday here in Lincoln we held our selection conference for the future Labour MP for the City.

All of the candidates who wanted to stand made it to the short-list and they were all very good.

One of the candidates, Rosie, pointed out that Parliament is still hugely unrepresentative of women and that's why we need all women lists until that's corrected. Makes perfect sense to me.

All produced literature and received equal access to party events, membership etc. As a local member and councillor I received material and telephone calls from all of them despite my very public support for Karen.
Cllr Karen Lee

Rosie Kirk

Francis Rehal
Lucy Rigby

Yesterday was a very fair and transparent selection and the LOCAL Party made a very clear and measured choice to select Lucy Rigby whose policies include opposition to foreign adventuring such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was said with great respect for the sacrifices our service personnel have made in those conflicts. We remembered at Mass today the seven  tragically killed in Afghanistan recently. Lucy, the daughter of an ex serviceman who was brought up "on the strength" understands the risks service men and women take on our behalf. I was very disappointed that Karen, who is an excellent community representative and deeply respected by the vast majority of the local party and Lincoln public, did not succeed.

That said I respect the choice of the Party, this is what democracy is all about and we have to now work with an excellent PPC who does reflect our Labour values of fairness and social justice. Lucy has campaigned in Lincoln in the past and understands the work that needs to be done to deal with the poverty, unemployment and other "inequalities" created by the real villain of this piece, the Tory led Government! As for her being an Islington Councillor and a lawyer does that mean we now discriminate against people because they are working in Islington or have had the determination to become involved in the law? (Bankers now..... - no only joking). Lucy used her knowledge of the law last year to attack the Governments stance on legal aid pointing out the severe damage to those on low or poor incomes that will now occur.

We already have a strong and hugely talented team in Lincoln fighting the Tories which includes Karen who via her scrutiny committee and local campaigns successfully challenges unfair decisions against the people. Ric Metcalf who has led us to victory on the City Council, Fay Smith Environmental Services and Public Protection, Neil Murray who has headed up our economic development including the first provision of council houses in generations to name just a few. We also have an excellent team currently in opposition on the Tory blue County Council led by former County Leader Rob Parker. Lucy will join this team bringing her own talents and we will welcome her.

Lucy will face Tory MP Karl McCartney who believes that the whole world wide economic crisis was created solely by the last Labour Government with not a banker in sight. He was "minced" on BBC Lincolnshire on Friday (23rd) by Hull East MP Carl Turner who pointed out that his Government had to borrow £158 Billion due to their failed economic policy. He also pointed out that in the budget 14,000 people who earn a Million Pounds a year or more will gain £40k a year extra. A representative of Saga, Dr Ross Altman, had just pointed out that those receiving less that £10k will lose £250 a year. Four and a half million pensioners will be worse off. All Karl could do was repeat his briefing and when challenged on VAT for static caravans for example he was lost claiming that he did not know the full details. Even when told 1000 people in his area may lose their jobs he was still unable to comment. Karl was lost at the end for a while (seemed to have dropped the phone) when asked to comment on the possible disappearance of support to help people stop smoking that Carl raised (its all here for a few weeks or so:

For Politique to talk about Ed Miliband or the Party being unelectable is simply to provide the Tories with another shield now the LibDems are heading for political annihilation. As any first year student could tell you; generally oppositions don't win elections, Governments lose them. Here in Lincoln we are going to hold this Government to account as never before and as the public begin to appreciate the huge inequalities and injustices that the Tories are creating so they will become "unelectable".

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

MP Wants Smoking Back!

"If landlords want a section of their pubs to be for smokers, then so be it. Non-smokers are not in the pubs and a lot of smokers buy their alcohol and stay at home." Karl McCartney MP for Lincoln.
Nobody made our MP issue these bizarre statements that fly in the face of all of the health advice we have received. I am concerned, by the by, that many of our young children (who are the most vulnerable with their small lungs) are still exposed to this danger. Further more, as someone who smoked for thirty years and regularly enjoys the excellent real ales of the Golden Eagle I know he is quite inaccurate. My local has smokers and non smokers in more or less equal measure. I equally value The Gateway, both pubs are near or within my Ward. I have every sympathy for smokers, I found this a difficult addiction to break and I am disappointed that my MP is not supporting me or organisations like Phoenix or local GP's who will try to help people stop but instead he is giving succor to the tobacco companies. If you want to give up please contact your GP, All our doctors in the City are genuinely committed to help. Lets be clear, all of the reputable medical authorities now oppose smoking as likely to lead to things like lung cancer. You don't see many doctors or nurses smoking these days. While smokers should be supported Karl is wrong to offer this false and health damaging prospect of reversing the legislation brought in on a free vote of all MP's with majorities for this current law in all parties. I want Karl to support the health agenda that saves lives rather than encourages ill health. I am very disappointed in his irresponsible approach to the health of his constituents.

A Very British Coup Rewound

Sadie Smith of Total Politics has reviewed the reissue on DVD of this great political classic of the late 20th Century. The original book written by Chris Mullen MP  to my mind is up there with House of Cards. I enjoyed the style and literacy of Sadie's article and I will confess I had not watched this series since its original broadcast. My difficulty is that Sadie dismissed the work as a sort of left wing chick flick, a fantasy of the 80's left. I said in response to her article (which is here): "If my memory is accurate  however then I would disagree with the analysis at a number of levels. The most important point is that when reviewing an historical work from the 1980's its important to do more than look up the date when the Berlin Wall fell. There has to be some valid reference to events and attitudes at the time of screening. Its also important when reviewing a screenplay not to assume that the author of the book (Chris Mullen MP) had total control over the screenplay". Alan Platter in fact deserves a good mention too. I went on "Having read the book (a deliberate comedy) and watched the TV series (a dark and insightful reflection of the times) I can tell you they are quite different creations. I am guessing that Sadie is too young to remember the period so this tells us more about her current (understandable and valid) views than the drama itself." I have now begun to watch the series again, its here by the way on Channel 4 if you want to refresh your memory.
Lets move on from Sadie then, however reluctantly. Looked at from the other side of a Labour Government which Chris Mullen's PM Harry Perkins would have seen as left wing Tory Government (if such a thing is possible post Heath) A Very British Coup is a serious reminder of the way we where in the early 80's. It is; sumptuous, stylish; a period costume drama of the highest standards. I remember when watching it then wondering if we would ever see a Labour Government of any kind in my lifetime. I was to wait nearly a generation. I don't share the view that the Blair/Brown Government was a sell out or a total disaster although morally, as always, and common to all previous Governments of all hues, it had blood on its hands, in our case, in the Middle East. Is it possible to have a British Government that is different?, Well, this is the story of one that tried to be. Its power of prophesy is outstanding. The Dirty Digger plays a major role and is even mentioned by name along with his creature The Sun. Don't rely on me or Sadie, do the unthinkable, go here or buy the DVD and watch it yourself. I would be interested to know if different generations to mine found this excellent piece of drama as fascinating and enjoyable as I still do.