Category Archives: Autobiography

Black Lives Matter: Miles Davis 1959: New York City

Background Miles Davis was a jazz superstar. In this encounter, with a red neck policeman in New York City, it made no difference. All that mattered was white supremacy and the power of the badge. The officer wasn’t sacked for … Continue reading

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An Awkward Question

Harpurhey, north Manchester, is a poor area, and was in the 1950s and 60s as I grew up. Rows and rows of terraced houses, with no bathroom or indoor toilet, straddled the Rochdale Road. There were no luxuries, but my … Continue reading

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J B S Haldane, scientist, organises his very own After Life

“He [Haldane] had left strict instructions about what was to be done with his body. ‘I hope that I have been of some use to my fellow creatures while alive,’ he once wrote, ‘and I see no reason why I … Continue reading

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A Pen Portrait of Dylan Thomas (about 1936)

“That cruel giggle is the thing I best remember about him. He told me how as a boy he delighted in tearing the wings off flies. I said it must be a difficult thing to do. Dylan replied, ‘Maybe I … Continue reading

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The childhood of Xi Jinping: Chinese General Secretary 2012 – present

“Xi Jinping started life as a princeling, the son of Xi Zhongxun, Mao’s propaganda chief. But in 1963 Xi senior was purged and banished to a factory in distant Henan province. During the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, the Xi … Continue reading

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A macabre anecdote about torture

….St Laurence, who was burned to death on a gridiron, is the ‘patron saint of cooks – and, less obviously, comedians’. I imagine the association with both professions arises from a story which has Laurence…..coolly advising his executioners: ‘I’m done … Continue reading

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Thirty Minutes That Changed My Life. Leeds, 1953

As a child I suffered from severe asthma. Leeds, at that time, was a heavily polluted city drenched in soot from factories and domestic coal fires, which was disastrous for people’s health. The result for me was attendance at Junior … Continue reading

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Yitzhak Rabin: Nobel Lecture 1994

At an age when most youngsters are struggling to unravel the secrets of mathematics and the mysteries of the Bible; at an age when first love blooms; at the tender age of sixteen, I was handed a rifle so that … Continue reading

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Councillor Accountability in the 1990s

Between 1990 and 1998 I was Chair of Havering’s Housing Committee, which I enjoyed hugely. Because so many council tenants exercised their ‘right to buy’* this led to a worrying fall in the Council’s housing stock. This especially effected people … Continue reading

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Sir Philip Magnus School: The 1950s weekly games lessons appraised

I’ve written how I truly hated the weekly sports lessons on a previous occasion.* Summer was bad enough, with cricket and its incomprehensible rules. Winter was worse. Every week I waited, for the coach to turn up. Often I stood … Continue reading

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