The common man's headgear
No, I am not going to wear it out and about - but the cognoscenti among you will have realised that I am modelling here the latest in political headgear. Not so much political tat (though it's that as well) as political titfer (rhyming slang, tit-for-tat = hat).
This is the 'Aam Admi' cap - as sported by supporters of the anti-corruption party which powered to a dramatic win recently in the Delhi state elections, and then imploded when the AAP chief minister stalked out of office after little more than a month. The style is also known as a Gandhi cap - though in Gandhi's day it was made of khadi, homespun cloth, and this is, I'd guess, of synthetic material and there are suggestions that the caps have been mass produced in China.
This version is without the AAP election symbol, the broom, but it has the party's slogans - on one side 'me hu aam admi' ('I am a common man'), and on the other 'mujhe pahiye puri azadi' (which comes up on Google Translate, entirely unconvincingly, as 'I have complete freedom wheels' - please somebody out there help me improve on that).
In the Delhi state elections, supporters of the Congress party complained that AAP rivals were breaching Election Commission rules by sporting these caps. The Commission ruled that as long as the caps didn't show the party symbol or carry the party's name, they escaped the ultra-strict regulations about electioneering.
For lovers of political ephemera and kitsch, this is a gem. Thanks, Sanjoy!
OK, so someone has painted out 'HOPE'. The rendition alongside the railway bridge as you head north up Highgate Road has gone. Just like that. A mass of black. And it's been done in the last few weeks. No laws broken - no act of sacrilege - but I miss the lost 'HOPE' all the same.
This is what it used to look like, on the right - one of scrappier renditions around here. If you look at the photo on the left above, you can just about make out the remnants of the 'H' and 'O'.
And if you are coming new to the subject of 'HOPE' in NW5 (and around), this is where to start reading.
The good news is that three other versions of 'HOPE' all within a short distance of the one now lost are still extant - and all the photos below were taken on this wonderfully sunny, almost spring like, Sunday afternoon.
A voice for Wales
An unlikely purchase, perhaps, from a book store in San Francisco specialising in gay pulp and Trotskyism - but what a nice pamphlet!
The striking cover is what first attracted me. It was designed by Ivor Owen - whether this is the children's book illustrator of the same name, I don't know. The pamphlet dates from 1955. Gwynfor Evans was at that time the president of Plaid Cymru (the party of Wales), and a local councillor - in 1966 he became the party's first MP.
The issue behind the pamphlet is an interesting one - Plaid Cymru's battle to be allowed party political broadcasts in Wales.
Only parties putting up at least fifty candidates in a general election were entitled to a party political broadcast. But there were then only thirty-six Welsh constituencies in total. So you can see the problem.
The Welsh Broadcasting Council proposed that any party fighting at least three seats in Wales should have political broadcasts, two a year between elections not simply at election time, either in Welsh or English. The Post Master General took the highly unusual step of vetoing this initiative, abetted by the London national HQs of the main parties.
'It is worth noting', Gwynfor Evans argued in this pamphlet, 'that in words and action the Parties refused to acknowledge Wales as a national entity whose needs and rights may differ from those of English regions.
'The length to which they were prepared to go, however, demonstrates the extent of their fear of allowing a Welsh party to state its case, on the most effective means of reaching, and therefore influencing, the public.
'One can detect a fear not oly of allowing Plaid Cymru to broadcast but of having themselves twice a year to expose on the air the bankruptcy of their policies for Wales.'
Plaid Cymru currently holds three of the forty Welsh seats in the House of Commons, and eleven of the sixty seats in the National Assembly for Wales.
... was the antediluvian comment one of my school teachers used to make about, and to, one of the shorter members of the class. 'Titch' is a fairly widely used word, slightly teasing or derogatory, about someone, or something, on the small side. But it was only today that I learnt that the word 'titch' comes from my old friend the Tichborne claimant, the man who sought to portray himself as a long lost heir, won the support of hundreds of thousands of "Tichbornites" in the 1870s and 80s, but was jailed for perjury and eventually consigned to a pauper's grave in Willesden.
According to an online dictionary, this is the etymology of the word 'titch': from Little Tich, stage name of Harry Relph (1868–1928), an English music-hall comedian of small stature. He was given the nickname because he resembled Arthur Orton, the Tichborne claimant.
Relph was just 4'6" tall, and I'm not entirely convinced about the likeness (judge for yourself) - he seems to have adopted the name Little Tich in 1884 to tap into a wave of publicity for the claimant, then recently out of jail and touring the country trying to fan new life into his campaign, which became about justice, fairness, anti-elitism as much as about his own claim on the Tichborne inheritance.
After two brilliantly sunny days here in San Francisco, I can hardly complain about a bit of rain. Northern California needs rain. It's facing a drought. I even heard mention of a restaurant that will only bring water to the table on request, citing the drought. But last night's and this morning's rain has left a city sodden with water. The sidewalks are awash, the damp is everywhere - the sort that soaks through your shoes and makes your whole body feel waterlogged.
So on my last morning here, I turned to the local diner as a handy retreat from the rain. Fountain's on Market, playing 50s rock'n'roll, and serving food to match. I had a pancake dish called a "Fumble" - well it is the day of the Super Bowl - which will set me up at least until I'm back in blighty. Great value, prompt and friendly service. Not quite in sync with City Lights or Haight Ashbury (my plans to go there abandoned because of the deluge, but somehow hippy San Francisco hasn't survived quite as well as the Beat city) but not a bad way of rounding off my stay.
A tale of two bookstores
City Lights, one San Franciscan told me, is like a church. It's a shrine to the Beat poets whose work it markets and publishes so well, among them the 94-year-old Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of the store more than sixty years ago and happily still around; it's a place of public worship to the Beat Generation; it's a shard of the counter culture which has become mainstream (the original store was the small shop front on the left, it's now taken over most of the block). Happily, I like churches, though I don't worship in them ... I adore good bookshops .... I relish places with a connection to past movements and times ... I read Kerouac avidly as a teenager, though I've not turned back to him out of fear that I might discover that something so important to me is insubstantial ... And I really like Ferlinghetti's poetry.
So for a book store, it doesn't get much better than City Lights.
Well, actually it does. And in San Francisco too. For obsessive collectors of old political pamphlets, Bolerium Books is nirvana. It 's in the part-gentrified Mission district. It has no shop front but is up above. The stock is huge and the booksellers indulgently friendly. Their best selling lines, John told me, are Gay Pulp and American Trotskyism. (So no crossover there I guess - but you never know, this is San Francisco!).
And below, you can see a bit of what I bought, from Regency ultra radicalism to anarchism in the Spanish Civil War (yes, that really is an FAI handbill from the barricades of Barcelona), via William Morris and Gwynfor Evans. And no, I wasn't tempted either by the Trot stuff or the pulp, in case you're wondering.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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