A Dear Old Friend: an obituary

June Kight lived on the same  estate as us in East London for more than thirty years. I  knew June via my wife, Jan, who organised and ran the Tenants Association called PASTA – the Parkhill and Sunrise Tenants Association. June was  long-standing tenant, who thought her home and its environment was worth standing up for.

Fast forward to 1990, I retired from the Havering Council and Jan went on. We’re both Labour members who felt the Conservatives were dreadful. With the changes in our positions, I took up the mantle of running the Tenants Association whilst Jan became a well-respected member of the Labour administration on the council.

Over the next decade and more, Jan and I worked hard to make changes, where we thought possible, and fight injustices where feasible. It was about that time that I thought the estate where we lived wasn’t being maintained as well as it should be. The fact that the tenants were paying for maintenance, which wasn’t being done, rubbed salt into the wound. The two council caretakers seemed loathed to avoid dealing with problems involving graffiti, car dumping, drug abuse and litter which was rampant.

In 2000, Jan and I decided, we could and should exercise our legal rights to manage the estate ourselves. Although at that time June was not a founder member of our T.M.O. (Tenant Management Organisation) she was a staunch supporter who attended all our early meetings, and contributed her quiet, but dignified views on matters pertinent to the estate betterment.

As always seems to be the case, over a few years, key player came and went, either through moving off the estate, or death and so, soon after we took on the estate management, June became our second Treasurer. I suspect, out of sheer necessity, June had developed a keen instinct into holding back proportions of her housekeeping money for hard times from her aggressive husband. He had a goodly liking for beer and was aggressive when refused the price of a pint from June. Therefore, as our council allowance came in every three months, June was both pragmatic and innovative. She allocated funding for the ambitious schemes the committee brought forward.

Yes, I was the lead player, in taking the organisation forward, but June was the steadying influence that kept an ever watchful and diligent eye on the finance. Since we were set up under Government rules, we had to jump through any number of rules that made us accountable. Among the many provisions, there were very specific requirements for our finances to be independently audited every year. These then had to be forwarded onto the council.

Over the years, we managed to accrue a hefty surplus in our accounts. This amounted to nearly a quarter of a million pounds by 2014. But, as the years ticked by the council became more and more envious of our efficiency. We were more efficient at monitoring our contractors as well as more competent in applying our fiduciary responsibilities.

Sadly June’s health deteriorated, in 2016 and she had to be admitted into hospital several times. Clearly, she felt she needed to retire a our Treasurer, and I also came to the conclusion that I was ready to stand down, after thirteen years of leading the TMO.

Early in March 2018 June’s stepson told us that the Doctor had made him aware that June was not expected to survive much longer. She died peacefully and without pain, her funeral was in mid-March.

I will miss June as both my friend and stalwart associate who always did her best without causing any upset to anyone. So I said goodbye to a dear old friend.


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A novice taxi driver

A passenger in a taxi heading for Heathrow airport gently tapped the driver on the shoulder to get his attention.

The driver screamed, lost control of the cab, nearly hit a bus and stopped inches away from a large plate glass window.

For a few moments everything was silent in the cab. Then the shaking cabby said, “Are you OK? I’m so sorry but you scared the daylights out of me.”

The badly shaken passenger apologised and said, “I didn’t realise that a mere tap on the shoulder would startle you so badly.”

The cabby replied, “No, no, I’m the one who’s sorry. It’s entirely my fault. Today’s my first day as a cabby. I’ve been driving a hearse for the last 25 years.”

Ray E.

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Film Review ~ I, Tonya (Margot Robbie and Allison Janney)

Allison Janney (LaVonna Fay Golden) rightly won the 2018 best supporting actor Oscar for a stunning performance throughout I, Tonya. She’s the horror show mother of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) who’s been cultivated since early childhood to be a champion ice skater. Her mother’s persistent vile language and alienating behaviour goads Tonya into excellence. At no point does Tonya gets praise or anything that could be described as nurturing. Janney is a Tiger Mother. Tonya is her creation, her masterpiece and anything less than perfection is dismissed as loser effort.

As biopics go this is slightly better than OK. Janney is outstanding but the subsiduary characters are caricatures to the point that they appear to be members of a Dickensian human zoo. Maybe they exist but really at the end of the day they neither horrify or fascinate. What’s fascinating is why they’re there in the first place.

Like novels by Dickens they’re meant to illustrate a point. And the point is? That American working-class people are sub-humans with ape-like lifestyles. I, Tonya is a unique attempt by Hollywood to grapple with the working-class. They’ve ‘done’ most aspects of American life but an out and out film about the working-class is unique. And Hollywood finds them horrifying. Tonya’s husband is a wife abusing half-wit, his friend is a gorilla who hasn’t been house trained, the person hired to hurt Tonya’s middle-class rival is so incompetent he couldn’t find an exit after the attack and so on. And Janney! On one level- the level where Oscar’s are awarded- she’s magnificent on another level she’s so nihilistically hateful as to be another species altogether.

I, Tonya is vile. It has train crash fascination for the audience and the soundtrack is pure product placement.

Why you should watch this film: Allison Janney is wonderful

Why you shouldn’t watch this film: It’s an onslaught on the American working-class

An alternative review disagrees with me: https://www.wsj.com/articles/i-tonya-review-we-fascinated-1512686394


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A telephone family

A modern family


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Soulless But Sentient

In the deepest distant restless oceans
Life was cherished, before Adam’s line came
Orcas, whales, dolphins, all swam deep
At ease with their world of salt sea.
Their language – rumbles, clicks whistles
Sang the never ending songs.

Some young were taken by shark
Giant squid, or other fathomless rogues
But then, mankind encroached, with boat
Explosive harpoons, monstrous death
Wreaked havoc without warning
Those badly wounded sank to the eels.

Earthquakes volcanic eruptions
Violent, seismic strong tides
Came unannounced from the black deep
Some of the strongest whirling waters
Took others by surprise to the deep
Where crushing pressures killed.

Epoch – eons, the years of cruel man
Indiscriminately, murdered, slew
Pained, the long song warned of death
No longer safe to breathe the air.
Dive deep, keep safe,
The young need to breath often!

The ‘Faerie’ folk of legend
Tell of ‘Merfolk’ and their kin
Quick witted and openly honest
Each fell to the lowness of man
None now swim, with water beings
The old magic, crushed out of existence.

Religious, bigotry and fear, shrived –
Bell, book and candle exorcism’s
Where under sea creatures
Withdrew, before the ignorant God-man
Intent on their banishment
To a never world that not previously existed.

Purgatory, ordained through ignorance
Surf ravaged shores, beneath cliffs
Tell little of the time, now
Long ago, when a gentle, frolicsome
Race splashed in innocence
Albeit, soulless but sentient.



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Adroit thinking rewarded

A senior citizen bought a brand new BMW Z4 convertible and drove it out of the salesroom. Taking off down the motorway, he floored it to 120mph, enjoying the wind blowing through what little hair he had left.

Amazing!” he thought as he flew down the M4, enjoying pushing the pedal to the metal even more.

Looking in his rear view mirror, he saw a police car behind him, blue lights flashing and siren blaring. “I can get away from him – no problem!” The elderly nutcase thought as he floored it to 140mph, then 150 then 160.

Suddenly, he thought, “What on earth am I doing? I’m too old for this nonsense!” So he pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the police car to catch up with him.

Pulling in behind him, the police officer walked up to the driver’s side of the BMW, looked at his watch and said,  Sir, my shift ends in 10 minutes. Today is Friday and I’m taking off for the weekend.  If you can give me a reason why you were speeding that I’ve never heard before, I’ll let you go.”

The old man, looked very seriously at the policeman and replied, “Years ago my wife ran off with a policeman.  I thought you were bringing her back.”

“Have a good day, Sir,” said the policeman.


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French military atrocities 1933, 1944 and 1957: the normalisation of military terror tactics

Twentieth century French history is filled with horrific examples of brutal violence. Extra-judicial murder, torture, terror attacks on civilians and swaggering intimidation were routinely used*. Beliefs in racial superiority and entitlement legitimised atrocities. The French army provide a chilling context for reviews of Nazi atrocities. French soldiers, committing extra-judicial murder, weren’t psychopaths: they were acting ‘normally’. An extended book review by Max Hastings in The London Review of Books** makes this point in a single, throwaway sentence. This sentence deserves to be developed.

Although Hastings review is about the American My Lai massacre in Vietnam he takes the opportunity to consider other examples of military atrocities elsewhere. In his first paragraph he reviews the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane in France, 1944. Oradour was a classic SS action with 642 men, women and children murdered. This was justified as a counter-terrorism action and was a thoroughly mendacious description of a revenge attack. Those responsible were identified after the Allied invasion swept the Nazis out of France. At the war crimes trial in Bordeaux, 1953, to the acute embarrassment of the prosecutors, French Nazis were implicated. Panzer division Das Reich was mainly manned by French Nazis, virtually all of whom – 14 out of 15- were released within a year of sentence.

French colonial history suggests that any conviction was a triumph for justice and early release was inevitable. In French Indo-China, 1933, the following is a transcript of the trial of soldiers who’d massacred prisoners.

The President [to Legionnaire Palowski]: Had you received instructions to execute prisoners?Palowski: Yes, instructions from Monsieur Robin, who afterwards congratulated us and said: Tres bien! Continuez!*** Colonial France didn’t hesitate to inflict summary justice in their territories. Obeying orders was ‘congratulated’. Needless to relate they were acquitted even though they’d confirmed their own guilt. Twenty-four years later the French fought a quasi-civil war in Algeria. The military relied primarily on neighborhood raids, arrests, and torture, focusing its sweeps in the Casbah slum, an opposition stronghold. It killed thousands of Algerian civilians and combatants during the crackdown, successfully quelling FLN operations within Algiers.****” General Aussaresses, one of the guiding tacticians, claimed that,No one denied it. No one. And there was no investigation into torture here in France, or anywhere else,” said Collard. (Aussaresses lawyer).
“All (Aussaresses) did was to carry out the orders that were given by his leaders.”

Panzer division Das Reich had previously served in the Soviet Union. Nazi atrocities in the Soviet Union were of a different order to that which was inflicted in western Europe. France was admired by the conquering Nazis. Paris wasn’t bombed by the Luftwaffe and war damage was superficial. The country itself was permitted to retain a fig-leaf of independence with the sub-division into Occupied and Vichy France. It can be said that the French were very co-operative and submissive so when resistence occurred there was a sense of betrayal. Das Riech’s French Nazis knew what they had to do when told that Oradour was a hot-bed of resistence fighters and did it willingly. The only reason that Oradour is remembered is that it was exceptional in French wartime experience.

Hastings discussed the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre with an SS participant. “In 1980 a German veteran whom I interviewed for a book told me in conversation about the massacre with one of those who carried it out, said confidingly: ‘Speaking as one old SS man to another, Herr Muller, it was nothing. In Russia, we did such things every day**.’” In Russia, we did such things every day is an insight into how soldiers become crypto-psychopaths ready and willing to commit atrocities.

Those who slaughtered prisoners in Indo-China, civilians/freedom fighters in Algiers and French men, women and children in Oradour-sur-Glane are victims of a system which rewards obedience. And government knew this to be the case. They authorised and endorsed atrocities whilst trying to maintain an obfuscating distance from events. Atrocities are normalised and part of military action informing the narrative arc between soldiers and officers; officers and politicians.

*Likewise the British in Kenya, Germany in Namibia and Belgium in the Congo.

**Max Hastings: My Lai: Vietnam 1968 and the Descent into Darkness by Howard Jones: LRB pp19ff 25th January 2018

***La franche-indochine 12th June 1933 http://alphahistory.com/vietnamwar/atrocities-in-french-indochina-1933/

****https://sites.tufts.edu/atrocityendings/2015/08/07/algeria-war-of-independence/ see also https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jun/04/france.thefarright for the impunity that French troops had because they were authorised to commit acts of brutality. For General Aussaresses see http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/12/04/french-war-crimes-apologist-from-algerian-independence-war-dies.html


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