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Thalia's Reminiscencies

When I was working at the international students fruit picking camp in Tiptree Essex there were a couple of black South Africans there. Both he and she told me how they had escaped from apartheid and shared some of the horrors of that regime... Over months they had hitch hiked to Britain. They were angry and told me they were going to do to the whites all the vicious things that had been done to them when they took power.I found this understandable if disappointing,

The fruit picking was in the late 1950s. At about the same time my father who had a high class tailoring busness on the Strand in Torquay told me stories of his customers some of whom he visited in their homes.One was a rich colonial widow who had been in Africa. She had ordered a skirt made from silk scarves attached to a waist band with points hanging down. They were sat in a large sunny room with big windows overlooking Torbay. There was a large Chinese silk carpet in turquoise blue with an enormous brown stain in the middle. She explained to my father that was her husbands blood when he was murdered by a black freedom fighters. I think in Kenya

in the 1970s we wore dull coloured loose fitting clothing and dungarees, not a burqa but fueled by the same desire to reduce the sexual harrassment we suffered. It was our choice for a few years.

The last cock crowing I heard was in Malta in a big garden at the back of St Juliens . we gave up our life long keeping of chickens in 1994 when we were continously on the road with our travelling exhibitions and there were no longer children at home.
How disconnected most people are from such country noises and smells. a crowing cockerell is now a noise nuisance to be complained about, Anthropormorhism is all pervading and Disney has a lot to answer for in our dangerous misunderstanding of animals.

Growing up, in early childhood books that influenced me were Aesops fables An unbowderlised version printed in the paper rationing of war time and Andersons and Grimms fairy tales,. The Emperors New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, Red Riding hood and the tale of the midas touch which is echoed in a recent tea cloth from the NCAT “when all the trees are gone and rivers poisoned you cant eat money”

In the 1980s I took part in a campaign to combat racism in London primary schools. It was promoted and funded by The Museum of Mankind, The TUC and the GLC. Artists were invited into schools to work with children around the issues. It was a non confrontational way to make the children and teachers more aware. I went into five schools , several in deprived areas. I made banners which involved,,drawing and sewing....with others they did tie dying and batique, puppetry etc ... The visual arts were a means of communication not based on language. The artists were from different ethnic backgrounds and different art disciplines. There were schools with formal class rooms and open plan schools.

On our first visit to Malta in the winter of 1999 we met an eighty year old man from U.K. on the quay near Valletta. He was standing staring at the water and when we talked to him he told us he was on the Illustrious when it was bombed right there in the harbour during the war. Whilst we were exploring Fort St Angelo we came across a room full of old Maltese text books. Their tone was so patronisingly colonial. Talking to Maltese friends they described their struggle to reclaim their culture and history as well as their flowers and trees instead of/ or as well as our history, and our poems celebrating our daffodils oak trees, thatched cottages etc.

In the three years we were at Brymore, in Cannington, a boarding School for farming children Ian got them to grow conkers collected from the few remaining trees on the drive. When the young trees in the pots were big enough the boys planted them out to replace the stand of alternate pink and white trees which had lined the mile long drive to the large red sandstone house originally the home of John Pym the parliamentarian. Tom and Hamish were born at home at Brymore. We had Grandfather Harry's, then Norman's old Lanchester car but had to abandon it as its wooden frame was full of woodworm. The severe winter of 1961 froze the three lakes and we were able to buy some elegant victorian skates from the local old fashioned hard ware store to clip on our leather hiking boots and had a couple of months skating.When the boys were on holiday we had the run of 300 acres. Ian used to shoot pheasants.

After my Summer fruit picking at The International camp at Tiptree my french picking partner invited me to Paris. She seemed very exotic to me.She wa as a child of wealthy divorced parents, mum a fashion designer in Algeria , dad in USA. She met me in Paris and said did I want to come with her and her boyfriend to a castle in Brittany. I decided to stay in Paris. With the little money I had I paid for simple accomodation. I spent time around the art galleries with my fists pressed into my hungry empty stomach. Hunger made the paintings surreal. I was given a long string of spicy Algerian sausages which I never ate being a vegatarian. I met the Clochards in Place de Tertre who took me under their wing and showed me their Paris. They slept by the warm air ducts. One young good looking man had been a paediatrician and sold his political art on the streets. he was concerned with over population and the environment. How had he become a clochard? After Three weeks I came home having lost weight.

The struggle for Gender equality was still in it's early stages at the inception of the UN in 1945. Of the original 51 states only 30 allowed women equal voting rights with men or permitted them to hold public office.The drafters of the UN Charter had the foresight to deliberately refer to the equal rights of men and women!

There was the UN decade of women - 1976-1985 and four UN womens conferences in Mexico city, Helsinki. Nairobi and Beijing. When is the Next UN Womens' Conferece?

At the plenary on racism at the NGO conference in Beijing the entire platform of speakers were white . A gasp went around the hall followed by a noisy hubub and a black woman was invited to join the platform. How much we still had to Learn.

In the 1970s /80s when the children were at School if there was an exhibition or event I wanted to visit I would take one of the children and hitch hike. It was easier and cheaper than an entire family trip. Tom and I went from Scarborough to the Gulbenkian Gallery in Durham to see an Exhibition of Chinese Social Realist Art. The Chinese artists had mastered our techniques and the different artists had skilfully depicted Chinese life and landscapes. Their styles differed as good hand writing differs, expressing their personalities. We have not mastered their techniques. The biggest insult offered to realist painters in the battle between abstraction and realism in Britain in the 1950s.was “ “who wants to paint Healthy Women Tractor Drivers?” Women had been doing this during the war. There was a big push to get women back in the home and free up the jobs for men in the 1950s... I think I would like to be healthy and drive a tractor! And be painted doing it. Rather than being painted as a sick prostitute dying under a bridge found by my spurned first love. A study of moralistic Victorian Narrative painting and Chinese optomistic social realist work is long overdue.. The Children made good chaperones on hitch hiking trips

When Hamish and I were in New York visiting Tom I peeled a poster off a litter bin. It was advertising a black speaker who had been on death row who would be speaking at Long Island University. In the evening Hamish and I made our way on the subway and found the lecture theatre. He was a young man in his thirties. He had remarkable dignity and lack of bitterness. He told the meeting how as a teenager he took on a drug gang who were selling drugs to school children. He said he misused his young male aggression and would do it differently now but the police jumped on him, and violently arrested him. He told the Meeting he was out on License because he was so successfully educating the other prisoners on their rights

In 1984 during Ian's Campaign in N .Wales as Labour Candidate in The European Elections we held public meetings. One of the best was with Jack Jones. TGWU who spoke about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War . Thalia Spoke about Greenham and Ian about the European Union. On election night on TV The whole of North Wales stayed Red until 10pm. We raised the labour vote substantially and Plaid Cymru came out on election night to knock up for us. Tom Put together some quality Speakers for the top of the Camper. We campaigned all over North Wales for six months with the support of local people. We played scottish bagpipe music including the Campbells are coming, Flowers of the Forest and the Blackbear. It made people laugh and smile. We Camped in the mountains, visited isolated welsh farmers, one with earth floors. A coach drew to a halt and a crowd jumped out to greet us they were all Campbells on a coach holiday in Wales. Hamish was brilliant on the loud speakers. There was little time to eat – occassional Whisky and Mars bars.

During the WILPF Congress In Baltimore. USA we lobbied the IMF, The World Bank and Congress. We went with prepared questions, on human rights, the environment, womens issues, debt and disarmament. At a preparatory meeting with our US hosts they provided us with briefing papers. At the IMF we met a UK representative who told us that the IMF were still reeling from a powerful speech by Clare Short Minister for overseas aid. She described how the men at the IMF were involved with the money and the women with the social issues. She described how with structural adjustment programmes they treated Africa as an experimental area and other third world countries less harshly.

In the 1980s after Mrs Thatcher sold Coventry Gauge and Tool to the Iraqis. Ian and I went round the desolate asset stripped Factory. Ian's father had worked there and Ian too in his university holidays. We rescued the large Blue and white Flag which used to fly above the premises. Coventry Gauge abd Tool were manufacturers of machine tools. In the 1950s /60s they had a research facility and manufactured mechanical gunnery predictors.They were robust and simple compared to electronic devices. In those days there were three Dining Facilities, for Directors with a butler, another for White Collar Workers and then one for the rest .

I am reading voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich. My family were very concerned when I was going by train to Beijing. one of our stopovers was Kiev. my children said please don't eat any thing. Desdite my concerns we ate Chicken Kiev and Cherry Dumplings. Our welcome on Kiev station was overwhelmingly emotional being one of the first large womens contingent from all over the western world. They shared with us how frightened they were about having babies. Lots of hugs and tears. It was 1995 less than ten years after the massive nuclear accident. There was a town band to welcome us and children in National costume danced on the station where we were offered bread and salt. We were invited into the parliament to ask questions of ministers . We were first item on the news. A massive crowd to see us off the next day

Remember when in the 1950s /60s/70s the old bank manager demanded that your father be guarantor for your mortgage deposit or bank loan. I remember the horror I felt when money started to be thrown at people with unguaranted loan offers coming thro the door daily.

History - I have always been interested in old churches and their historic graveyards but always had a sense of frustration about the limited information allowed on the grave stones. oppression even in death. Mary Beards recent TV programmes about the ancient world shared how the Romans did it differently with lively stories about the person buried.They did it better. Robert Louis Stevenson visited Istanbul and in their large graveyard at Scutari? he described the women being buried anonymously with only a flower carved on their tombs.

George Tutill's firm made most of the painted silk banners in the 19th century, trade union, sunday school and friendly society banners. He was a native of Howden, nesr Goole in S.Yorkshire. He died in Acton in 1887 and is buried there . There is a stained glass window commemorating his life in the west end of a local church, the firm still makes banners to day.

George Tuthill is and commemorated in Howden. His banners can be seen occasionally at the Durham miners gala or at the Tolpuddle Rally in mid July but they are mostly in museums as they are now fragile.

there are no bad tenants only bad landlords CAB

A doctors dilhemma - when a GP or Consultant has overtly or covertly provided less than optimum treatment for a patient possibly due to his/her prejudices and on financial or age related grounds ( rationing) how is it possible to rebuild trust and a positive relationship again. (a patients dilhemma too)

The interest in popular movements which has been shown by historians since the last war is now moving away from the purely organisational and institutionalaspects to take in a greater concern with the cultural and the artifacts of the movements.many radical movements borrowed ideas from the traditions of the carnival, fairground and religious procession to bvring forward their ideas .The silken flag, the painted or embriodered banner evoked some thing of the atmosphere of a carnival., but at the same time the ideas of loyalty and dedication of a military flag or a religious icon.
Dorothy Thompson

In the early 1980s steam trains were remembered with love.At Aberystwyth Trades council there were 2 retired steam train drivers. Often the buisness went out the window whilst we remembered the kindness and romance of that era. In my extra mural class in Lampeter I had ex Railway workers who still lived in their railway cottages and were still deeply unhappy that their way of life was brought to an end by Beeching.I remember the roaring coal fires in the stations at Machynlleth and Borth and the woman who managed the gates at the crossing in the centre of Borth who was thrown out of work soon afrter we moved to Ynyslas

For part of my childhood we had a cat and a dog . I had no strong feelings about owning predators as pets

My first concerns with dogs were the long waits at the bus stop in Cannington waiting for the bus to Bridgwater with my two preschool sons. The bus stop and the nearby lamp post were sticky with dogs urine. This usually ended up on their little hands however hard I tried to avoid it... In 1960 there were no moist wipes and we had to wait until we got off the bus and head foir the pubilic toilets to wash their hands....

I remember as a child my grandmother and family warned me that banks and corporations were to be viewed with suspicion. How they would have loved to see them at last getting their comupance, all these socalled irreplacable talented bosses who would leave the country if regulated are found to have feet of clay and worse have helped ruined the country with their greed and corruption - see coca cola on the family site

Do you remember John Yudkin and his book Pure White and Deadly. He took on The Sugar Industry like others took on The Tabacco Industry. Any one got the book Its out of Print!

Sir Jack Drummond was the hero who improved the nations health during the war . He and his family were murdered in France after the war.

Marthas school dinners. In the 1980s a friend of ours who lived in a welsh border town published a poster with two photos, one of of the school dinners given to the children on free schooi meals and the other photo a subsidised meal available to the county councillors. The growing child was offererd a foil wrapped triangle of cheap processed cheese and white sliced bread and margarine and biscuits, the meals for the overweight councillors were a lavish enormous plate of food.

In the late 1970s soon after we moved to Borth I was on a bus to Aberystwyth the windows beaded with rain drops. I sat next to a spry silver haired woman who looked as if she had cut her springy hair with the garden shears, With michevious eyes she told me she and her brother were being forcibly moved from their much loved unmodernised cottage into an old peoples home, and they did not want to go.

When I do My weekly supermarket shopping I take my old friends with me, my grandmother, my mother, Rachel Carson, John Yudkin, Thomas Allinson, Mr Prewett and the founders of the Cooperative Movement as well as those who made sure we had a good enough diet during the war. They all fought the profiteering food companies which put profit before health. I Pass by The fizzy Drinks, ginger beer once in a while but mostly a sugary watery waste of money, the shop cakes and biscuits rarely tempt me, trans fats excess sugar? sweets a rare treat, porridge only at the breakfast cereals, a little meat, alcohol a rare treat or to cook with............see our vegetarian section

Hacking, blagging and corruption are not the only problems with the mainstream media. For many contributors who offer a vibriant creative contribution are left feeling dirty, used and abused after their interview is cut and reduced and finished prematurely, or edited to conform to the perceived agenda of the main stream media. When they are pushed beyond their perceived agreed agenda there is polite panic as they shy away like a startled horse confronted by a newspaper blown out of a hedgerow. ....Their Final Solution is........" we have been told not to have you on air"

In I995 in Kiev, Odessa I remember the great flapping canvas advertisements for Marlborough cigarettes and Mac donalds , obscuring the gracious old buildings , not bringing the best from the west. In Almaty In Kazakisthan the journalists , politicians. media people and poets complained that their money from the west was fed thro the Thatcher Foundation and used in a patronising way with great cultural insensitivity. They wanted Change their way not imposed upon them. In Beijing young slim Chinese pouring into Macdonalds., once again not bringing the best from the west

following hamish's travels now it is interesting to compare it with my UN Wilpf PeaceTrain Journey 1995 and A book I found at Carew Market - Walter Citrines - I search for Truth In Russia written in the larte 1930s

With coercive inclusion we were treated to youthful repetative celeb style schyophantic coverage of the Jubilee celebrations. We could have been offered so much more information on the boats history and our countries history. more gravitas would have been better. The Queen and Prince Phillip at their age hould have been better protected from the damp and the cold.

our peace train delegation were hosted with a gargantuan feast in Ceauceseau 's Palace. what amazing architeccture in that link

During a quiet warm September a few years ago Ian and I went to Ireland , all around the south and west coast as far as Sligo. I noticed the cohesive charm of the towns and villages. I realised it was because they had not been bombed in the 2nd WW. There was no cheap tacky 1950s /60s infill. Some towns were verging on a Disneyfied Irishness but did not go too far, charming results..Lots of Green paint and Celtic lettered shop signs. A very friendly happy time, lots of french people over via Rosscoff with pre school children