Sunday, June 23, 2013

Professor de Noli and letters to a Swedish lawyer

Yesterday I cycled over to Alcester for the Folk Festival (about 35 miles there and back). I used to do that every working day 19 years ago (48 minutes for one half of the journey was the fastest I ever did it but that was with a tail wind) and it was largely the same route I went yesterday, except I used to cycle up to Headless Cross, where I worked, instead of straight on down the Alcester Road. I use my bike in Birmingham for short journeys but it soon comes home to you when you are not as fit as you used to be, proving there has to be some correlation between age and fitness, as no doubt others have observed.  Cycling everyday keeps you fit, and occasional stretches like yesterday, just show you what wicked tricks time can play on lazy people. On the way home in the evening I stopped for a pee, and got bitten by mosquitoes on my bare legs. Only the females bite. It was Kipling, not me, who said "the female of the species is more deadly than the male." My thoughts turn to poor Julian Assange.

I've been taking a bit of a break from writing blog-posts and articles in order to recharge my batteries and attend to a few neglected jobs about the house and garden. Although I have not been writing articles, blogs or poems, I have been writing letters and raising FOI (Freedom of Information) requests. Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli I am very proud to say published copies of my letters to the new Swedish prosecution counsel, Elisabeth Massi Fritz, who is acting for Sofia Wilen, one of Assange's accusers. The letters and the reason I wrote them are presented on his Professors Blogg.

Professor de Noli is an esteemed academic who has made a substantial contribution to medicine with his research into increased suicidal behaviour in the immigrant communities across Sweden's cross-cultural society, together with other research of a similar nature. His personal history is fascinating. He was imprisoned under Pinochet as a political anti-Fascist opponent. Valued intellectual friends of his were killed during the Pinochet dictatorship, and he later called for Pinochet to face trial for murders and other crimes against humanity. People who oppress others seem to attract one another and Margaret Thatcher opposed the extradition of her good friend Pinochet and saved what was left of his evil life. What is perhaps not as well-known is Professor Noli's accomplishment as an artist and painter. The portrait below is one he did of his fellow-prisoner and friend in Quiriquina Island Prison Camp. Reading details of this period of his life is disturbing but adds an important chapter to the history of anti-Fascism.

"Portrait of political prisoner Armando Popa. Marcello Ferrada-Noli. Drawing on paper. Quiriquina Island Prisoners Camp, 1974. Armando Popa was at the time medical student and a fellow prisoner at Quiriquina Island. The drawing was made in November 30th 1973, while we were in captivity at the camp. Armando Popa and his brother Ricardo survived and became physicians in exile, working respectively in Singapore and Stockholm, Sweden."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sofia Wilén - Assange's other accuser

Over the last week or so the focus has moved away from Anna Ardin, who everybody thought was the main  accuser in the Assange sexual allegation case, towards Sofia Wilén the other accuser who went along with Anna to the police station. In a shrewd move by the mass media both women have alternatively been referred to as witness 'A' which is confusing. Shortly after it was announced that one of the women had sacked her lawyer and got a new one an article appeared in the Independent on Sunday by Kevin Rawlinson about the sufferings of one of the accusers. It was easy to identify this person as the much discredited Anna Ardin, who has removed tweets to cover up her tracks, especially the ones saying how much she had enjoyed the company of Julian Assange. She also removed her blogpost and her seven steps to revenge against men who dump their girlfriends. It was her blog to which the Rawlinson article referred.

Both these items were removed by Anna after she had made allegations that Julian Assange had raped her. Rape in Sweden can take several forms - and need not involve forced penetration (it would seem). Anna would not likely make a good witness because as well as her deleted tweets she has an attachment to CIA organisations. A lot less is known about Sofia Wilén although it is known she did a fine arts degree in Wales at the University of Newport specialising in camera work. She recently changed her lawyer to Elisabeth Massi Fritz. Lawyers of this ilk do not come cheap. Fritz is the family lawyer of the Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt. It is a legitimate question to ask where an art-graduate has suddenly got enough money to afford one of Sweden's top lawyers. 

Here is Sofia Wilén on the Saatchi list of artists. Now wasn't it the Saatchi and Saatchi group which promoted public relations for Margaret Thatcher? Anyone can join the Saatchi site to promote his or her art-work for free. Sofia Wilén's photography, unlike most of the other photography, is not for sale. Not yet anyway. I have to ask the question because it is niggling me. Is this the way they intend to reward Sofia Wilén so she can pay her legal bills by buying her photographs at some outrageous price? That's how big business appears to work. Delivering Julian Assange would be worth any amount of expenditure to some people. If I were her I would drop the case, apologise to Julian Assange for all the upset and hurt she and Anna have caused him, and try to get on with her life honestly.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Decadent golf and decadent government

Today for the first time in almost twenty years I went for a round of golf at Cocks Moor Woods golf course. This golf course has happy memories for me, since it is the only course where I have ever holed in one (on the tenth). I was rubbish. I only got two pars in eighteen holes. My best ever score in a round of golf was 81 but that was a long time ago. My golf has gone downhill but the exercise was good.

Governments have also gone downhill as my latest article for NJP demonstrates.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A royal occasion - 60 years ago

60 years ago today Elizabeth II became Queen of England. There were street parties all over the country, with events, races and fancy dress affairs which kept the mums busy. We lived in the village of Harworth in North Nottinghamshire, but our side of Sandymount, at least number 18, were Yorkshire born and bred. Doncaster was the nearest town of any size. I've never been much of a royalist, though some members of my family are, but I was only eight years old when this photograph was taken and had not formed any political opinions.

I was (and still am to some) the wizard on the left. My brother Charles (9) is the Chinese mandarin standing next to me and my brother Philip (3) is dressed as a ladybird sitting at the front. These are the children of Sandymount and the Bull Ring. I recall there was a race for toddlers which Philip, bless him, won. All the children received a coronation new testament and a coronation crown coin.

The day had special significance from a family point of view. It was Auntie Gwen's birthday. She was my mother's sister. It was also cousin Pam's birthday. Auntie Gwen was the 'darling' of the family. On my mother's side there was an attachment to the theatre which is probably where all the money went, if my experience is anything to go by. This is a photograph of Gwen Dalton (later Methley) in study for 'Gas Light' by Patrick Hamilton.

Gwen, who had a wonderful soprano voice, left a blossoming career in theatre to get married and only after her husband, Maurice, died did she choose to make a living teaching the E. G. White method of elocution and voice-training. She trained lots of singers and actors to gold medal standard. One of her child students in Falmouth was Alex Parks who won Fame Academy when Gwen was in her nineties. Another of her students, gold medal winning actress and Gregory Award winning poet, Lorna Meehan, wrote a poem in her honour called Tea and Shakespeare.

Tea and Shakespeare
For Gwen Methley

Every week without fail,
I would come for tea in china cups and Shakespeare,
Noticing a different ornament each time,
As I chomped on posh biscuits.

We wouldn’t get started for at least fifteen minutes,
And speeches would hang in mid air,
As a board treading anecdote was revealed,
But I didn’t mind.
Cause I knew this was where true knowledge lay.

Stories of stage beds folding at inappropriate moments,
Declaring yourself a shameless sex goddess in a silver raincoat,
‘That’ line by Lady Bracknell.
Stories of your husband,
Who divorced another to be with you,
Served in Gallipoli,
Once threw a cigarette in the fire and said
‘I’ll never smoke another’,
And kept his word.

I came one afternoon to help you sort your sheet music collection,
You made me prawns on toast and stewed plums,
And at the end of the day,
The sorted pile remained a few sheets,
As you sang your memories,
And the lines around the eyes and the blankets of age over your hands,
Ceased to hold your light in,
And it spilled over.

You poured inspiration into me,
As we tackled iambic pentameter
Dissected John Donne,
And took Shakespeare and tea.
Tears of awe in your eyes as you described how,
A simple Stratford school boy could make the world fall in love with words.

You raced around the small sea-side town in a bright green Mini,
Your fiery red hair under a classic hat,
The quintessential eccentric old lady.
You told me I had a young Penelope Keith look about me,
I was flattered,
I showed you an awful poem about a boy who didn’t love me,
You were patient and kind.

I was wrapped up in cycle binds,
Lightened by your faith in me,
As I shook my head gravely at Ozymandias,
Reprimanded my foolish father King,
Said ‘that’ line by Lady Bracknell,
And got a distinction.

I drank tea from china cups in your honour,
When I found out I wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
We play our many parts upon the stage,
We are such stuff as dreams are made of,
We fan our flushed cheeks as love seeps in uninvited,
We live without knowing our worth,
We die.
Lorna Meehan

Here Lorna reads the above poem.

Gwen's parents, my grandparents, were thespians too. The Daltons were an old Sheffield family of cutlers and, sad to say, ivory importers, but by the time my grandparents were appearing in 'The Gondoliers' times were as hard for them as most Sheffield families.

So back to June 3rd. As well as it being the anniversary of the coronation of our monarch, the birthday of Gwen, and cousin Pam, it is also the birthday of Philip's daughter, Gillian, a beautician who takes part in Gaiety Theatre productions in Douglas, Isle of Man. So three generations, all female, all sharing the same birthday. Somewhere there is a photograph of the three together. Anyway, Happy Birthday girls!