The Lord be praised! The wonderful Welsh church on Eastcastle Street, a three minute walk from Oxford Circus, is back with us. A year ago I dubbed this the funkiest church in central London - based on the enticing architecture more than the liturgy or order of service, you understand. And promptly the building was shrouded under plastic sheets and scaffolding. I had an awful fear that even if the frontage of this listed chapel was preserved, the interior might be gutted and turned into yet another boutique office.
As you can see, the scaffolding is now gone - the church has conducted Sunday services throughout, though the renovation work isn't entirely complete. And as I walked by this lunchtime, I noticed the door ajar and took a peep inside. As you can see below, the pews and pulpit are all in tact - it's still a chapel, not an office. Hallelujah!
Heading out, I noticed that two of the workmen were spending their lunch break in the back row of the church - in prayer. They could have been taking a lunchtime kip, but I don't think so. Even for an atheist, that was sort of nice.
If you like a good street fair, get yourself down without delay to Alma Street in Kentish Town - just about the best, most friendly, most gastronomic such gathering around.
We had a good stroll around, found out more about tour guiding in Camden (why not?!!), got the latest 'Kentish Towner' and ate a wonderful, freshly cooked, Sri Lankan hopper, coconut flavour, and great value at £1.50. Don't ask me to describe a hopper - hop down and get your own, you won't be disappointed!
You couldn't want for a more soothing, civilised, solace-giving part of our planet than Suffolk. A crab baguette at Walberswick - to Orford for a seafood lunch - round the curtain wall at Framlingham Castle - an hour browsing among the books at the old chapel at Westleton - peering into Minsmere's reed beds in the hope (alas, never consummated) of spotting a bittern ... and Adnam's Southwold bitter to wash the day away. We even had our own hot tub and sauna!
And then - this! What must the world think of the good people of Saxstead. Can you imagine what horrors are revealed if you type this phrase into Google Translate? Les Yeux de chats supprimés ... Cats raptus oculis ... Ojos de gatos Eliminado ... बिल्लियों आँखें निकाल दिया गया ... 猫的眼睛删除 ... Кошки Глаза Удаленные ... Γάτες Μάτια Αφαιρέθηκε ... القطط عيون إزالتها ... enough said!!
Done it again - bought a book just for its cover. And wow, what a cover.
John Reed's Ten Days that Shook the World, a sympathetic reporter-style account of the Bolshevik revolution, was published in 1919. This edition appeared almost ten years later - published by the communist-aligned Modern Books in London in 1928, replete with a very brief introduction by Lenin. (By then, both Reed and Lenin were dead).
The paperback edition has this glorious cover. As you can see, the copy I came across (from Walden Books in Chalk Farm) is dog eared. The covers are almost detached. But the design shines through..The designer's name appears on the cover. It looks to me to read as 'Michael 28'. And judging by a brief internet search, not all that many of these fairly ephemeral, cheap paperback copies have survived.
Another deeply obscure but rather wonderful addition to my assortment of old radical papers and journals. This is the second issue of 'Oxan', dating from 'Winter 65/66,' and costing one shilling and sixpence at that time. It's sixty pages of Gestetner-style printing on foolscap, with a printed - and eye-catching - cover.
The publication was the work of the 'federation of Oxon anarchists' - which comprised 'the Oxford University and the Witney Anarchist groups, & is open to any other groups in the county to affiliate'. The leading lights seem to have been Harvey Mellar, Laurens Otter and Tony Pitcher - other contributors included Adam Buick, Robert Barltrop and Tony Allen. The articles extend to such themes as the SPGB, Sufism and LSD.
I came across this copy of 'Oxan' from one of those who produced underground - a more ambitious and impressive publication - in Oxford later in 1966. Thanks Penny!
This posting prompted a response in August 2014 from Harvey Mellar, posted here with his permission:
It was fun to see your post on OXAN as I was one of those involved with this so many years ago. I remember the writing and editing - but your comment that we must have run this off on a Gestetner reveals one of many holes in my memories of those times - perhaps this was a task delegated to someone else! I believe there were just three issues of OXAN in all. The striking cover was produced by Suzanne Duff.
I also noticed the link to your post on Underground. The people involved in the two publications were closely connected. OXAN was aiming to at least include the more political - anarcho-syndicalist - end of the spectrum, whereas Underground was at the more cultural - anarcho-individualist - end of the spectrum (that being the kind of political spectrum we had in those days).
Laurens Otter was from the Witney Anarchist Group - he and his wife were involved with CND and Committee of 100 from the earliest days, and they were amongst the organisers of the first Aldermaston marches. An internet search reveals him to have been actively campaigning in anarchist circles and writing until very recently.
Other people I remember as being involved with OXAN included Dave Mumford (now the Rt Rev David Mumford) a Christian Anarchist, the novelist and historian Robert Irwin and the poet Roger Garfitt. These last two have both written memoirs that include sections on their time at Oxford - Robert Irwin (2011) ‘Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties’ and Roger Garfitt (2012) ‘The Horseman's Word’.
Every university society had to have an official contact point and I was at that time the secretary of the Oxford University Anarchist Group which meant amongst other things that I was the person the University Proctors sent for when Anarchist graffiti appeared on the streets. As the links between left wing groups were fairly porous at the time, this role meant that I was also the person canvassed by Tariq Ali to deliver the anarchist vote as a minor addition to the general left-wing vote he attracted in his successful attempt to become the Oxford Union President in 1965.
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