Crouch End lost a little bit of its soul today. Paul Saxton packed up his news stall for the very last time, For forty-two years, he's looked out on the Broadway from his vantage point just by Crouch End's Clock Tower. His father and grandfather kept the stall before him.
Paul is the last in line. I asked him what would happen to his stall. 'It'll just stay here', he said, '... until the council take it away.'
I hope he felt the love. Well-wishers congregated around ... there were presents, cards, a few bottles ... and his loyal customers had clubbed together to get Paul a suitable retirement send-off. On top of that, he had another memorable gift from a well-wisher - a wonderfully crafted model of his news stand.
By the time I arrived, the very splendid cake to celebrate Paul's long years of service to Crouch End had already been partly consumed.
Paul found the occasion a touch overwhelming. And W.H. Smith's made its own special contribution to the occasion - by ending its supply of papers a day early, I'm not kidding. On his last day, he was left high and dry with not a single paper to sell!
But the fondness of the farewell papered over that particular corporate misdemeanour.
Paul and his wife - she's from Yorkshire - are moving to near Doncaster. How will he ever get used to lying in bed past quarter-past-three in the morning!
Wishing you well, Paul!
Since my student days, and indeed I guess from before then, I've felt a special connection with Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The name helps of course. It's memorable. It rolls of the tongue like one of his poems. And what he stands for - rebellious, gentle, acerbic, questing. Let's not even start to get into the issue of whether he was a Beat poet - he was with the Beats, though a little older and more staid in manner (which I sort of like).
It's been quite a thrill to visit Ferlinghetti's City Lights bookstore in San Francisco a couple of times. Last time I was in the States, I managed to pick up a signed copy of his Starting from San Francisco.
Ferlinghetti died on Monday, a month short of his 102nd birthday. Farewell!
Daphne's badges, cards, + a single which never made the charts: Harold Wilson, 'Let's Go With Labour'
The badges and political ephemera accumulated over a lifetime often bear testimony to decades of political striving, campaigning and service. They are the physical manifestations of a vision - of a commitment to social justice and a more equal society.
I am very grateful to a friend, Ruth Hogarth, for giving me these badges and membership cards of her mother's. Daphne Ritchings will be 95 in a couple of weeks time and is now in a home - I asked Ruth to tell me a bit about her mother:
'Both Daphne and my father, Alfred Hogarth, were in politics before they met. My father was active in the anti-fascist politics of the 30s East End under a pseudonym (Peter Hughes) so as not to jeopardise his mother’s business in Bethnal Green.'
'My mother became a socialist I think when she joined the WAAF in 1942. She joined the Labour Party at around that time and has remained a lifelong member - so nearly 80 years. They met when she - a GI bride with a young son and he a married father of two - went to work for him as his secretary after the war.'
'Between them they had seven children (four together) and we all lived in post-war poverty in a two-bed rented flat in London before moving to a new breeze block house in Bucks in the 1950s. It was at that point they both became trade unionists and Labour Party activists - he worked at Battersea Power station and she was a secretary. They both held seats on the local district council at various points during the 50s and 60s. Because of the war, my mother never got an education and, because of children, worked from home until she was 35, doing secretarial work, typing, sewing, childminding, lollipop lady etc. At 35, she became a legal secretary and carried on working in secretarial/PA roles until she retired at nearly 70.
'Later in life she turned from formal politics to protest - CND, Anti-Apartheid, Greenham Common.'
Quite the choice piece among these items is a 45 rpm disc - a 'single' in the parlance of the times - issued by the Labour Party ahead of the 1964 election (which Harold Wilson went on to win becoming only the third Labour prime minister).
This seems to have been the handiwork of Bessie Braddock - and the record has been signed by her, how wonderful! She was a pugnacious figure - the mainstay of the party on Merseyside. She started out in the ILP, was a foundation member of the Communist Party, moved over to Labour and became part of the 'great moving right show'.
Bessie was a formidable personality and campaigner and was once described as the most well-known woman in the country after the Queen:
And if you want to get a sense of the Merseysound Bessie Braddock style - and of Harold Wilson's introduction to it (wisely the A-side) - then give these a spin:
Kensal Green cemetery on the Harrow Road dates from the 1830s and is still in use. It was the first of the 'magnificent seven' garden cemeteries encircling the growing city of London - these were large private burial grounds intended to take the pressure off central London graveyards.
I didn't go there looking for the Indian aspect - but it was impossible to avoid.
The greater number of India-linked burials are of British generals administrators and officials of the East India Company - here's a selection:
Both the Anglican and the Dissenters' chapels have a real elegance ...
... though the general impression is of a crowded, higgledy-piggledy Victorian burial ground.
And the other graves and memorials? Well, I missed the Robert Owen memorial and the Reformers' memorial - so that's a good reason to go back.
But take a look at these ... and yes, the caricaturist and temperance advocate George Cruikshank was initially buried here (and then dug up and moved to St Paul's Cathedral) and the final gravestone, no, nothing to indicate whose grave it marks!
This is a wonderful reminder of one of Britain's less well known Official Secrets trials. It's from 1958 - the height of the Cold War. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament had just been established, and the first Aldermaston march against nuclear weapons took place in April that year.
This pamphlet - well, more a leaflet - was published (at one remove) by one of the main titles of the emerging New Left, Universities & Left Review. It reprinted an article from the Oxford student magazine Isis of February 1958 which revealed the dubious tactics that Britain's armed forces used against the Soviet bloc and to ensure the effectiveness of their signals intelligence.
The article makes interesting reading -
The leaflet was published by the ULR Club, and the address given appears to be that of Raphael Samuel, one of the founders of Universities & Left Review.
A pencilled note on the leaflet reads: 'Postgraduate students were jailed for this.' And that seems to be true - two students were indeed locked up.
The picture agency Shutterstock has online a photo taken on 21st May 1958 with the caption: 'Paul Richard Thompson (l) And William Miller (r) - Two Oxford Undergraduates Charged Under The Official Secrets Act With Communicating Secret Information Following An Article In The Undergraduate Magazine "Isis".'' Another photo of the pair dates from two months later.
According to an obituary of William Miller - who went on to become a successful editor, publisher and literary agent - the two men were sentenced to three months in jail with the specific proviso that this should be served in a low security open jail. In other words, the judge reckoned that while there had been a breach of the Official Secrets Act, it was a nuisance rather than a threat to national security.
The other defendant, Paul Thompson, appears to be the distinguished sociologist and oral historian of that name. He was certainly a student at Oxford at the time and - more tellingly - had studied Russian in the navy during his National Service.
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