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THE ROAD TO THE WEST PIER

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‘Everyone who knows the meaning of poverty, everyone who has a genuine hatred of tyranny and war, is on the Socialist side, potentially.’

George Orwell, THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIER, 1937

“We have closed the door…to anti-Semitism in the Labour Party…We have turned our back on the dark chapter.” Kier Starmer, Labour Party Leader, MIRROR, 27th September 2021

‘Britain deserves better than this incompetence and total lack of leadership.’ Kier Starmer, Labour Party Leader, THE SUN, 2nd October 2021 

 

A photo was released to the media

with a copy of his conference speech.

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STERKFONTEIN CAVES

For Sizwe Vilakazi

 

An hour’s drive or so from Johannesburg

and Pretoria are limestone caves,

a depository of fossils,

a chance ossuary of hominids,

the so-called Cradle of Humankind, owned

by Witwatersrand University.

 

Our guide, the first time we visited, was Arnold,

a young man in his twenties, who had lived

all his life near the caves, and whose ambition,

since boyhood, had been to be a guide.

He showed us a pool and its blind reptiles –

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WHITE PLAINS

My first time in Manhattan I was amazed,

walking down Madison from the Park.

Yellow cabs and subway trains from A to Z

I knew – but there were buses, a plenitude,

most seemingly destined not for The Bronx

or The Bowery but White Plains.

My ignorance pictured some far distant place,

almost Arthurian, in the Mid-West,

from where travellers might never return.

 

This was the city of Sipowicz,

Homicide Detective and Everyman;

of lives wasted in the garish,

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PANTELLERIA

The Carthaginians had a name for it,

and the Romans, the Greeks – the Arabs too,

Bint al-Riyah, Daughter of the Winds.

This mountainous, volcanic island,

with its stone tombs and obsidian tools,

lies between Sicily and Tunisia,

fifty miles from Agrigento, forty

from Sharik Peninsula – which was called

the Cape of Mercury when the sea

was Mare Internum, Mare Nostrum.

 

Smaller than Manhattan, with fewer people

than Peebles,

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17TH OCTOBER 1961

My first term at Liverpool. Tuesday morning.

The professor of Philosophy’s lecture:

“All metaphysical statements are false,

or platitudinous”. My memory

of that October is of soft sun,

and clement shadows in the breezy

pollution of the river city.

 

***

 

Today, I have realised, that morning,

not quite four hundred miles due south east,

near the Pont Saint-Michel, under orders

from their chief, Maurice Papon, a Vichy

collaborator, police were beating

Algerians demonstrating against

torture,

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THE FOURTH ANGLO-AFGHAN WAR

‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive’,

observed Holmes to the astounded Watson,

having noted that the doctor’s face spoke

‘of hardship and sickness’. He had seen action

in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, which,

like the First was all about The Great Game

and Russia, and both, like the Third, all

about the British Raj, that Jewel in the Crown,

and Afghan monarchs that might be cajoled

with sufficient treasure or sufficient blood,

while the true rulers, the tribal elders

of the ethnic groups,

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HIMALAYAN CHARNEL

Though there were rumours for a millennium

the first officially recorded sighting

of skeletons – at more than sixteen thousand feet

around the glacial, Lake Roopkund

in Uttarukhand’s Chamoli district –

was by a border guard in 1940.

The authorities thought a company

of Japanese soldiers had frozen to death

trying to invade India from the north

via Tibet but the bones were too old.

 

There were other hypotheses. A large group –

two hundred in total –

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THE NATURE OF MEN

The organ grinder sets up his pitch at dawn

opposite the Hotel Belvedere Du Mer,

and waits. His monkey, in a sullied red cap

with tarnished bells, scrabbles, beside the corniche,

among the beds of white oleander.

 

The hotel doorman sends a page boy across

with a message and a coin. He watches –

shielding his eyes from the sea’s dazzle –

as the boy speaks to the organ grinder,

who completely ignores him. He returns,

with the coin,

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A MEMORY OF MUSHROOMS

Once upon a time, fifty eight years ago,

I got a bus I did not normally get.

It took me down a street where I had not been

since I was a child. I passed the house –

English farmhouse-style, four-square, low roofed,

the small orchard intact – where we live now.

I noted then how out of place it seemed

in a street of petit-bourgeois villas,

Victorian and Edwardian.

I thought of Tennyson on the Isle of Wight,

after the publication of ‘The Charge…’.

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BENLLECH BAY LATE SPRING 2021

All the songbirds of North Wales this afternoon

it seems – in the old woodlands behind the beach –

are singing their undaunted polyphonies.

Three narrow streams trickle onto the strand.

Under the glinting grains of sand is water.

A flock of oyster catchers speeds squeaking

along the sea’s edge. On the horizon,

where there are always ships – sailing at high tide,

or anchored at low water – there are none

this late afternoon waiting to cross the bar,

only layers of cumulus catching

the last of the sun above the large island

beyond the empty skyline to the north.

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