Olympic Site & Bromley by Bow
London. Wednesday April 28, 2010
The Greenway has become a popular destination for guided walks and tourism
Though on Wednesday afternoon it wasn't too busy as this 360 degree view shows
As I was in Stratford I went along the the Greenway to make some further
panoramas of the Olympic site, then set off to walk down the Greenway. I was
hoping to then take the path by the Channelsea River to the Three Mills Lock
and then across and along Long Wall, but both these paths are still closed
for some reason.
It used to be pleasant to walk along the Greenway, with plenty of wild life,
but now work for the Olympics has made it a sterile area, with views to both
sides obstructed by fences. Along most of it you can't now get to the edge
of the path because of the fences, and in parts in seems much like a prison
camp, with ten foot fences topped by 5000 volt electrified wires - certainly
shocking to look at.
I was surprised to find a barge in Three Mills Lock, waiting to go upstream.
But there was apparently not enough depth of water for it, although I waited
for around half an hour it didn't move.
I continued on down the footpath by the navigation and across the footbridge
at Bow Locks to the Limehouse Cut, leaving this to catch the DLR at the Langdon
Park DLR station which opened in 2007.
Workers Memorial Day - Olympic Site Stratford
Stratford, London. Wednesday April 28, 2010
Laying the Construction Safety Campaign wreath for Shaun
Scurry and Henry Sheridan
A march and rally at the London Olympic site in Stratford on Workers Memorial
Day remembered the deaths of workers killed on the Stratford City and Olympic
sites. Hundreds of building workers stopped work to remember their dead colleagues
and call for stronger safeguards in construction.
For some years the Construction Safety Campaign and UCATT, the Union of Construction,
Allied Trades and Technicians, which has 125,000 members in the building industry,
supported by other trade unions and safety campaign groups, have held events
in London to mark International Workers Memorial Day on 28th April. 2010 was
the first year that the government has officially recognised the day.
Earlier in the day a ceremony and wreath-laying had been held at the statue
of the unknown Building Worker at Tower Hill in London, and a large cloud
of red balloons had been released to remember the workers killed at work over
the past year.
Late in the morning, around a hundred trade unionists met by the entrance
to the Olympic Site in Pudding Mill Lane for a short rally before the march
addressed by Tony O'Brien of the Construction Safety Campaign, Simon Hester
of Prospect (and an HSE inspector) Liliana Alexa of the Battersea Crane Disaster
Action Group, whose son Michael was killed mending his car on the street by
a crane collapse in 2006, Len McCluskey of Unite and others. The march, which
included family members of men who had been killed at work, then moved off
and into the centre of Stratford.
Outside the Westfield Stratford City site they were welcomed by a much larger
group of building workers, including people from the Stratford City, Olympic
and other local sites who had stopped work to attend a rally and memorial
event for Shaun Scurry, killed working on the Stratford City project in December
2009, and Henry Sheridan, a carpenter working at West Ham as a part of the
infrastructure development for the Olympics who died instantly when hit on
the head by a JCB extractor bucket in December 2008. Several members of the
families of these men and others killed at work were at the memorial event.
In a short rally with speeches by Dave Allen, UCATT convenor for Westfield
Stratford City and others (including O'Brien and Hester) we were reminded
of the importance both of remembering the dead and also keeping up the fight
for the living for safer working conditions. There was a minute of silence
for the dead men and then wreaths were for them; after the event these were
to be taken inside the Westfield site.
Construction is the most dangerous industry in Britain - in 2009 there were
53 construction fatalities, of which 11 were in London. Few of these deaths
are truly accidents, and many arise from the deliberate disregard by employers
of the safety of workers, "cutting corners" to get the job done
faster and on the cheap. Part of the reason this remains possible are employment
practices that mean many workers are not on the payroll of the company running
the site, which enables the building firm to evade its responsibilities.
Another important factor is the lack of proper inspection by the HSE, which
has insufficient staff. As Hester pointed out, there are only 26 inspectors
to cover the whole of London, with thousands of sites, and the result is that
around 90% of reported accidents are never even investigated. Yesterday construction
workers held a protest outside Conservative Party HQ in protest against Tory
plans to privatise safety inspections, which is seen as certain to lead to
an increase in deaths and serious accidents on building sites.
Release Syrian Political Prisoners
Syrian Embassy, Belgrave Sq, London. Saturday April 17, 2010
Syrians and others demonstrate for the release of political
prisoners in Syria
Around a hundred people protested opposite the Syrian Embassy in London in
an international event on the 64th anniversary of Syrian independence calling
for the release of Kurdish prisoners of conscience held in Syrian jails.
Similar demonstrations, organised by the International Support Kurds in Syria
Association (SKS, based in the UK and founded in 2009) were taking place in
Brussels, Canada, Switzerland, France and the USA. Many of those protesting
were Kurds, and the protest was also supported by other SKS members and Amnesty
The protesters waved both Syrian and Kurdish flags - these are illegal in
Syria - and called for the prisoners, many of whom were shown on placards
and posters, to be released and for the repeal of Decree 49. Introduced in
September 2008, this controls the movement of people in the border area between
Syria and Turkey where most Kurds live, and under it people there have to
get a licence to build, rent or buy property.
The roughly 1.7million Kurds in Syria have been systematically denied their
basic human rights for many years. In 1973, around 300 villages were confiscated
and the land taken from around 100,000 Kurds and handed over to Arab farmers,
with the names of Kurdish villages being changed into Arabic names. Both the
Kurdish language and celebrations of Kurdish culture such as folk dances have
been banned, and Kurds active in politics and others who have called for democratic
reform have been given long terms of imprisonment, along with lawyers who
have tried to defend them. In 2008 there were reported to be 150 Kurds held
as political prisoners in Syria, and the situation worsened in 2009 and at
least nine prominent Kurdish political leaders were detained.
Emergency rule has been in force in Syria since 1963 and no political parties
are licensed. Last year more than 150 Kurds were detained as political prisoners.
A blogger was sentenced to three years in jail because of the comments posted
on his forum. Others jailed include human rights activist and lawyers. Human
Rights watch report numerous cases of ill-treatment and torture by the security
agencies. According to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Human Rights
Report in 2009 there were 19 cases of Kurds who died during military service,
the evidence pointing to death by torture or shooting.
Law 93 in 1962 led to around 120,000 Kurds being stripped of their Syrian
nationality, and the number of these 'stateless Kurds' in Syria is now thought
to have grown to around 400,000. They cannot move house, own land or businesses,
are banned from many jobs, have no passports or other travel documents and
their access to medical treatment is restricted.
Syrian security forces opened fire on Kurds celebrating the Kurdish New Year
(Newroz) in March this year after the organisers refused to take down Kurdish
flags and pictures of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned in Turkey.
At least one man was killed and others were wounded.
Unlike Kurds in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Kurds in Syria have never formed an
armed separatist movement in Syria but have simply demanded basic human rights
in the country.
Today's demonstration was a peaceful one, and there were only a couple of
police visible around the embassy.
Loyal Orange Lodge London Parade
Westminster, London. Saturday April 17, 2010
The march forming up with wreaths to lay
The City of London District St Georges Day Orange Parade marched through
Central London to lay wreaths in memory of Crown Forces at the Cenotaph and
of WPC Yvonne Fletcher where she died in St James's Square.
The parade formed up close to Victoria station wearing their traditional
regalia and carrying banners, and marched off up Victoria St to the music
of the Corby Purple Star Flute Band. To the front were men carrying wreaths
for the Cenotaph, including on from the Churchill Flute Band of Londonderry
as well as those from the City of London.
Although even with the progress towards peace continuing in Northern Ireland
parades such as this are still contentious there, in London they are seen
simply as a celebration of a particular Protestant culture and arouse little
or no antipathy.
The parade was held on the anniversary of the killing of WPC Yvonne Joyce
Fletcher on duty in St James's Square when shots were fired into a group of
protesters outside the Libyan embassy, probably from the second floor of the
embassy, in 1984. One of the wreaths was to be laid at her memorial in the
Wandsworth and the Wandle
Wandsworth, London. Saturday April 17, 2010
mouth of the River Wandle with waste transfer station and blue spike
I went to Wandsworth by bus and took a few pictures from the top deck on
the way there and back, but my reason for going there was that a short path
has been opened there by the mouth of the Wandle and I thought might provide
a new viewpoint.
Unfortunately it wasn't really so, as the fence there for the moment prevents
you from getting to a suitable place. Perhaps when it is properly open it
will be better. I'd also hoped that the huge clear blue sky without any contrails
might work well with the blue spike close to the mouth of the river, and I
made a few digital panoramas while I was there as well as single images like
these. The sky also seemed to be a subtly different blue to normal because
of the ash.
Olympics and Nuclear Trains
Harringay, London. Saturday April 17, 2010
Protesters near the railway bridge over Green Lanes
A protest against trains taking highly toxic radioactive waste through densely
populated North London was given added moment by President Obama's recent
warning that nuclear terrorism is the gravest threat to global security.
Radioactive waste, from Sizewell in Essex, travels in special wagons on two
alternative routes taking it through Ilford, Stratford, Hackney, Camden, Kilburn,
Hampstead, Kensal Rise and Haringey (where today's protest was taking place)
to Willesden Junction on its way north to Sellafield for reprocessing and
long-term storage (it will still be dangerous in the next millennium.) Waste
from Dungeness also travels by rail through London, passing through Orpington,
Chislehurst, Grove Park, Lewisham, Peckham Denmark Hill, Clapham, Battersea,
Fulham and Kensington on its route to Sellafield via Willesden Junction.
The waste carried on the trains is spent fuel rods, which are highly radioactive,
and a successful terrorist attack on the trains could contaminate considerable
areas of London with this highly toxic material. The campaigners say that
if spread by the wind following an explosion it could cause thousands of deaths
even miles from the incident in a kind of mini-Chernobyl. The toxic isotopes
from that disaster were spread far around the world.
They point out that the attraction of this transport of radioactive materials
to terrorists is greatly enhanced by the huge interest in the London 2012
Olympics, as the route from the nuclear power station at Sizewell passes through
the main Olympic site and contaminating that would obviously be a major publicity
coup for terrorists.
In 2006, Daily Mirror journalists planted a fake bomb on one for the nuclear
waste trains in north-west London to show how easy it would be for terrorists
to do the same. There is no evidence that it would be any harder now, and
it would certainly not be feasible to provide adequate security along the
whole length of the route. Transport by sea would be a safer alternative,
though probably more costly, and nuclear power has already proved uneconomic
if the full costs of decommissioning of power stations and safe long-term
storage of wastes are included.
Today's protest, which involved around a dozen activists handing out leaflets
to people walking along a busy section of Green Lanes, a major shopping street
in north London, was called by the Nuclear Trains Action Group and supported
by London CND. Quite a few of those walking past while I was there took the
handouts and many were surprise to find that nuclear waste was being transported
so close to their homes.
The current UK Government wants to build more nuclear power stations to meet
a perceived energy gap in the future, although the lead time for building
them makes their contribution problematic. More nuclear power stations would
mean more highly dangerous shipments of their radioactive waste travelling
through our cities, as well as more emissions from the plants themselves into
the surroundings. A German study that showed the link between nuclear power
plants and childhood leukaemia in the areas around them was part of the evidence
that has convinced the German government to stop building them.
New River & Harringay
Finsbury Park, London. Saturday April 17, 2010
Thanks to volcanic ash, the new river was under a clear
It's a few years since I walked along the New River near Finsbury Park, and
as I was there with a little time to spare I took a short stroll and make
a few pictures. But you can see rather more (and I think better) pictures
that I took of the New River and the Finsbury Park area with the Hasselblad
XPan in May/June 2002 on my Buildings
of London site.
BNP Outnumbered at Borders Agency
Lunar House, Croydon, London. Thursday 15 April 2010
There were at least three times as many counter-demonstrators as BNP members
outside Lunar House
Around 30 British National Party members demonstrated against immigration
to the UK outside the Borders Agency in Croydon. More than a hundred people,
including some staff from the agency demonstrated against their presence and
Outside Lunar House in the centre of Croydon the police had set up a pen
for the far-right BNP with another for the counter-demonstration organised
by trade unionists who work for the Borders Agency and supported by Unite
Against Fascism (UAF) and other anti-fascists around 50 metres away to the
side of the building.
The roughly 30 BNP members were escorted to the site from East Croydon Station
by police, and as they arrived they were met by loud jeering from more than
a hundred counter-demonstrators who accused them of racism.
The BNP unfurled a banner reading 'Asylum Seekers Don't Unpack, You're
Going Back!' and another stating 'Britain is Full Up!' and displayed
BNP signs with the message 'People Like You Voting BNP Putting British
People First.' Several of those present were wearing election rosettes,
reminding us that their are many BNP candidates in the forthcoming election.
A BNP spokesman made a short speech and was then questioned by some of the
journalists present. The BNP want an immediate and absolute ban on immigration
to the UK except for exceptional cases, the rounding up and deportation of
"criminal and illegal" immigrants (2 million according
to their web site, but reliable estimates put the number from 3-700,000) and
a scheme of generous grants to encourage immigrants who are here legally "to
return to their lands of ethnic origin." We should no longer offer
asylum to anyone, whatever the circumstances - they are all "either
bogus or can find refuge much nearer their home countries." They
would also "review all recent grants of residence or citizenship
to ensure they are still appropriate."
Although they claim to be promoting traditional British values, their policies
seem to miss those I think we should be most proud of - including tolerance
and the respect for human rights. It's very hard to see how this country could
manage without the immigrants - both legal and undocumented - who do so many
jobs that other people are not prepared to do or where there is simply no
one else with the skills. Immigrants - both with and without the proper documents
- are vital to our economy and we rely on them for cheap food, for medical
services, for social care and so much more.
Meanwhile the chanting from the anti-racists continued and union reps and
others called for an end to the employment of BNP members in the immigration
The two groups of demonstrators where generally kept at a distance by the
police, but a small group of largely black-clad antifascists managed to get
close to the BNP pen and make clear the message that racists were not welcome
here. One man rushed past the police and grabbed one of the BNP banners, but
was immediately grabbed and wrestled to the ground by police.
After a few minutes the police formed a "bubble" surrounding these
protesters (and a journalist or two) and escorted them back to the counter-demonstrators'
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka came to speak to the union's
counter-demonstration, thanking those who had come to oppose racism. He said
that this demonstration "was an outrageous ploy by the BNP to target
vulnerable members of our society who go to Lunar House for advice and help
from our members."
"We want to bring people together and we are committed to doing
everything we can to oppose the BNP, which only seeks to divide our communities.
It is very disappointing that the home secretary said he was unable to prevent
a Home Office building being used as a platform for the BNP to spread its
politics of hate."
Around 3pm the BNP who had been standing around rather listlessly in their
pen while the noisy counter-demonstration continued packed away their banners,
collected in the BNP sign and were escorted back to East Croydon station by
police with three vans.
Olympia Counter Terror Expo Exposed
Olympia Exhibition Centre, London. Wednesday 14 April 2010
A man is caught red handed with a terror weapon - RED chalk
A peaceful protest took place outside the Counter Terror Expo at
Olympia against the profits made from terrorising people around the world
and the increasing use of surveillance systems to control and document our
The Counter Terror Expo is organised by Clarion Events, who are
also responsible for the world's largest arms fair, DSEi, held every
two years in London's former docklands. It is sponsored by Thales,
a leading manufacturer of weapons and security systems and exhibitors include
other leading arms companies.
The protesters point to the role of these products in war and repression
around the world, killing men, women and children and to the huge profits
that are made from this, while the manufacturers claim their weapons and control
systems make the world a safer place. Safer, I think for exactly who? Not
I think for you and me, but possibly for a small and very rich elite.
The major focus of this exhibition was on surveillance systems, enabling
governments and their agencies to keep track of people particularly through
electronic data gathering from CCTV systems, internet communications and web
browsing, electronic payment systems, mobile phone movements, automatic number
plate recognition, Oyster cards and of course the planned ID cards.
The protesters called for resistance to this ever encroaching surveillance
society and to an end to the climate of state and corporation induced terror.
While I was photographing there, one man was arrested by police and after
considerably argument was bundled into the back of a police van. The man was
alleged to have damaged property by chalking on the pavement, which seemed
an absurd charge. Arrests such as this seem often more designed as a kind
of instant punishment for people who upset a particular officer than anything
to do with upholding the law, and unfortunately bring the police into disrepute.
One of the officers present later handed out a leaflet about policing of protest
to the other police there, who put it away in their pockets, but it might
have been helpful had they got it earlier and read it.
Big Gay Flashmob at Tory HQ
Millbank, London. Sunday 11 April 2010
Tamsin Omond one of the organisers and Peter Tatchell at the Flashmob
Hundreds of activists and supporters staged a 'Big Gay Flashmob'
outside the Tory Election Campaign HQ today, protesting at the Conservative
Party's lack of firm policies on LGBT rights and homophobic statements by
shadow home secretary Chris Grayling.
A large cluster of pink balloons marked the Conservative Party Election Campaign
HQ on Millbank this afternoon for the event which was organised by Tamsin
Omond who is standing for parliament in the 'To the Commons' campaign in Hampstead
and Kilburn. She created the Facebook event which more than 1,500 had signed
up to attend and Peter Tatchell of Outrage! had worked with her to publicise
it. He was given a huge welcome by the crowd and told them of the disappointing
meeting he had had that morning with shadow chancellor and Conservative campaign
manager George Osborne.
The Conservatives have come up with only two policy promises on gay rights
- to erase from criminal records all past convictions for gay sex offences
that are now legal, and to have 'zero tolerance' over homophobic bullying
in schools. While he welcomed these, he said they did not amount to a great
deal and there were too many people still in the party who appeared homophobic
- including Chris Grayling who suggested that Bed and Breakfast owners should
be able to refuse gay couples. He along with the others taking part in the
protest would like the Conservative Party to "come out" with some
gay-friendly policies, actively promoting gay rights and equality, and to
stand up against anti-gay elements in the party.
The Conservative record is one of lip-service to gay rights at election time
but of voting against gay rights, and the infamous 'Section 28' which
banned local authorities from "promoting homosexuality"
still rankles - and many Tories voted against its full repeal in 2003. Despite
a charm offensive towards the gay community by Cameron - including a public
apology last year for the party's former behaviour with Section 28 - many
still feel the party is basically anti-gay. And they showed it at this event
by the repeated chanting that they would never vote Tory.
There were also several times during the party that everyone present was
invited to kiss and most seemed pleased to do so, and it was clear that everyone
present - although feeling very seriously about the issues - was determined
to have fun.
The Conservative HQ was locked and deserted, but there were apparently some
Conservatives present and they provided free ice cream for the party-goers.
Doubtless too some of them came later and wiped off the many anti-Tory slogans
that were chalked on the walls of the building and the pavement outside.
At the end of the event, many of those taking part continued to picnic in
the nearby public gardens, but I went home.
Tar Sands Party at the Pumps
BP, Shepherd's Bush Green, London. Saturday 10 April 2010
Sponsors Climate Chaos says the banner in front of the pumps
Protesters who claim BP's planned exploitation of Canadian Tar Sands is the
most destructive project on the planet, with huge pollution, destruction of
ancient forests and harm to indigenous communities, closed a BP garage at
Shepherds Bush Green for the day by holding a 'Party at the Pumps.
The protest, organised by the UK Tar Sands Network, Rising Tide
and the Camp for Climate Action, was a part of a 'BP Fortnight
of Shame' aimed at trying to get BP shareholders to reverse the company's
decision to take part in what environmental activists say is "the
dirtiest and most desperate attempt yet to profit from - and prolong - humanity's
crippling addiction to oil."
The extraction of usable crude oil from tar sands takes huge amounts of energy
and water, resulting in the overall production of from three to five times
the amount of carbon dioxide as conventional oil. Roughly 4 tonnes of earth
need to be dug up to make one barrel of oil, starting by stripping off the
ancient forest and peat bogs and then using huge trucks and shovels to dig
up to 75 meters of the tar containing sand and clay for extraction. But four-fifths
of Alberta's tar sands are too deep to be mined in this way and are brought
to the surface by the injection of high pressure steam (Steam Assisted Gravity
Drainage), which uses roughly twice the energy and water needed for strip
The process produces large amounts of highly toxic waste water, much of which
is already leaking into drinking water. There have been very high rates of
cancer reported among the indigenous people living in the area as well as
other diseases. Moose meat, a staple of their diet, has been found with heavy
metal contamination from water sources at up to 300 times the acceptable level.
Chiefs from across the whole area have called for a moratorium on new tar
sands projects, and several are fighting developments in the courts.
There seems unlikely ever to be any technology that could make the extraction
of oil from tar sands clean, and the prospects of carbon capture and storage
(CCS) are far more remote than the rather slim chance that this will ever
work effectively for coal. There can be no justification for further tar oil
extraction until the technologies for 100% CCS and solutions to the even more
intractable environmental issues can be demonstrated to work.
BP, unlike the other oil majors, were not involved in the tar sands until
2007, possibly because they realised the environmental disaster involved,
but more likely because they had cheaper sources of oil. But in 2007 they
signed a deal with the Canadian Company Husky Energy for a large-scale tar
sands project they called the 'Sunrise Project' and since then other BP projects
have emerged. 'Sunrise' was put on hold when oil prices crashed in 2008, but
along with the other dirty tar sands ventures seems likely to get the go-ahead
at the BP shareholders meeting on April 15 unless they can be made to see
the problems involved and take a responsible attitude to the environment.
The location of the demonstration was a closely kept secret, and those taking
part were told to meet at Oxford Circus with a Travelcard. After half an hour
of waiting around, a whistle blast was a signal for everyone to rush down
into the station, following those with green and yellow flags, a few of whom
knew the destination.
The Central Line was pretty crowded and the seventy or eighty people were
spread out over a number of carriages, along with a couple of police who had
followed them into the station. At Shepherds Bush the message came to get
off, and follow the leaders. They rushed out and along the busy shopping street,
across the green to the BP garage on the south side, which had already been
occupied by a smaller advance group of demonstrators.
Some of these had made their way onto the roof of the petrol station from
the scaffolding on a neighbouring block of flats and were fixing a banner
along the front of the roof, while others had blocked the entrance with a
large banner saying 'CLOSED'. The staff were locking themselves into the shop
area and there were one or two police around, but too many protesters for
it to be possible to stop the occupation of the forecourt.
Soon there were more banners being displayed, tapes going up around the pumps
with the message 'Danger Global Warning' and 'bp tar sands - back to black?'
stickers being applied liberally to pump handles and other surfaces.
The Rhythms of Resistance band had also arrived and was playing to make sure
everyone in the area would notice the protest as well as to start the partying.
A bicycle trailer sound system arrived, and when the band got tired took over
After the protest had been going for around an hour, a police officer came
across with a man from BP to talk to the protesters. They asked when the protest
would end and was told it would end some time later in the day when it was
over and that there was no intention to cause permanent damage. The man from
BP said he was worried about the safety of those on the roof, but was told
they were probably capable of avoiding throwing themselves from it and would
be able to make their way down safely in the same way as they had gone up.
The police then escorted the man from BP into the shop to talk to the employees
there before leaving the petrol station.
A live band played for some dancing led by a caller which perhaps a third
of the roughly hundred demonstrators now present took part in. It was a warm
afternoon and most were content to sit on the pavement and talk, eat sandwiches
and snacks and drink, while some handed out leaflets to the passers-by and
explained why the protest was taking place. Those who wanted to smoke made
sure they kept well away from the pump area.
When I left after more than two hours on the site the police were still standing
around and watching the protest, filming and taking notes but not otherwise
taking any action.
Defend the Welfare State
Temple, London. Saturday 10 April 2010
Pensioners call for decent State pensions and care
Pensioners led thousands in a march through London today backed by the trade
unions to defend the welfare state and oppose cuts in public services, to a
rally at Trafalgar Square.
The march was organised by the National Pensioners' Convention, which represents
over a thousand local regional and national pensioner groups with a total
of 1.5 million members, and was supported by the TUC and all the major unions.
It was very much a reminder to all the political parties who are just about
to publish their manifestos for the 2010 UK General election that pensioners
are an important political force. There are now around 12 million men and
women of state pension age living in the UK, very near to one in five of the
population, but the figures understate their political power, as pensioners
are far more likely to vote than other age groups. According to Age Concern,
more than 40% of votes cast in the 2010 election will be by those aged over
Of course pensioners do not form a single voting bloc, but they do share
many concerns, both for themselves and others who are growing old as well
as for the rest of society. Age Concern has identified five key issues and
these are refelcted in the demands by the NPC and others on the march.
During and after the Second World War, Britain reached a consensus that things
had to change and that the state had to provide its citizens with the benefits
of what was called a welfare state: state pensions, a free national health
service, free education and other public services. Over the years some of
these provisions have been eroded (and in a few areas such as dental care,
never fully implemented) but now they are increasingly under threat, whichever
party wins the general election.
The huge deficits created by handouts to the bankers to keep the economy
running, as well as vast expenditure on taking part in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
have resulted in unprecedented public debt. This is not a matter of Labour
mismanagement of the economy, but of pursuing policies which were largely
agreed by both major parties, and at least to some extent by the Liberal Democrats.
We have already seen cuts in some public services, in some cases arising
from privatisation under the Private Finance Initiative, which has burdened
the public sector and the NHS in particular with large debts, and many hospitals,
including some in London are now under threat of closure as services are rationalised
to save money.
All three main parties are making plans for cuts in public expenditure, and
these will fall heavily on the public services which are particularly vital
for older people and for children.
The marcher also called for increases in state pensions, which currently
leave one pensioner in four living in poverty. More too needs to be provided
for the disabled - and many of the elderly are also disabled.
As many of those speaking and marching reminded us, the financial crisis
wasn't caused by working people or pensioners, but by the unregulated greed
of bankers, many of whom are now once again receiving huge annual bonuses,
in some cases an annual amount more than the wages of a typical worker over
their whole working life.
Richmond and Richmond Park
Richmond Park, London. Easter Sunday 4 April 2010
The view from the Terrace on Richmond Hill
On Easter Day we went for a walk in Richmond Park and I took a few pictures,
including a very large panorama from King Henry's mount. Windsor Castle was
fairly clear on the horizon and the protected view to St Pauls Cathedral was
clear if rather hazy.
We walked past Pembroke Lodge nearly to Ham Cross before turning towards
the Sheen Gate past the Pen Ponds. At the Sheen gate we turned around and
walked through a new wood planted to replace trees brought down in the 1986
gales and on past Holly Lodge then turned towards the Cambrian Gate and back
from there to the station.
Cholsey - Wallingford - Benson - Shillingford. Saturday 3 April 2010
A pond close to the Thames south of Wallingford
At Easter I took a couple of days away from work and spent one of them walking
with some of my family along another section of the Thames path. We took a
train to Cholsey to join the path at Moulsford where we had left it in January.
It was considerably warmer than then, but the weather forecast was for showers
followed by rain, but turned out rather better. It wasn't until mid-afternoon
when we were at Benson close to the end of the walk that we got more than
the odd spot, and when it came on steadily I pulled on my waterproof trousers
thus ensuring it stopped almost completely a couple of minutes later. The
path was very muddy at times as we've had quite a lot of rain, and I was glad
I was wearing boots.
It was the day of the boat race, and this is a stretch of river on which
Oxford University have their boat house, a rather new but perhaps undistinguished
building (with a large old shed next to it.) Of course this was deserted as
they were all down at Putney, though we did see some rowers from Wallingford,
who have a rather nicer building in the town.
Wallingford was once a very important place indeed because of its position
as a bridging point of the Thames, and its old bridge is fairly impressive
(the new one rather less so.) King Alfred built the town to protect the crossing,
and William the Conqueror added a castle. It was the most important town in
Berkshire and had its own Royal Mint from the 10th to 13th centuries. Devasted
by the Black Death, it became prosperous again in the 18th and 19th century
with the river allowing it to trade with London and supporting thriving malting,
brewing and ironfounding industries. But it rather got left out in the railway
age, with Brunel's main line a few miles to the south, and the line to Oxford
some way to the west. It short branch line from Cholsey closed to passenger
traffic in the 1950s and is now a preserved railway where I was dragged a
rather tedious kilometre or so to see Ivor the Engine pulling out of the station
on the edge of town.
Benson is best know for it's RAF station, home to lots of helicopters and
renowned for its extreme low temperatures - often the frostiest place in Britain.
While we were there it was rather damp. And Shillingford is best known at
least to me for its bus stop, where Linda made a valiant attempt to miss the
bus, which took took us comfortably back to Reading station via Wallingford
and a rather lengthy detour around what looked like Oxfordshire's most boring
The Passion of Jesus
Trafalgar Square, London. Good Friday 2 April 2010
Jesus's body taken down from the cross
Trafalgar Square was packed on Good Friday for The Passion of Jesus, the
first Passion Play there since 1965, performed by around 150 devout Christians
and a donkey by a group based on the Wintershall estate. London, UK. 02/04/2010.
The highly professional performance related the key events leading up to
the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, with both narration and the voices
of the main characters coming to the crowd over loudspeakers around the square.
It was a colourful and at times exciting rendition of what was for some of
us a familiar story, but for others present was novel.
The play followed fairly closely the traditional story as related in the
four gospels, adding a certain amount of spectacle. Although the flogging
of Jesus occured off-stage and the sound effects were rather unconvincing,
the crucifixion that followed was a pretty gory sight.
As in the Gospel narrative, the Jewish heirarchy of the time was typecast
as villains, perhaps too typecast, and the resurrection too presents some
Peter Hutley who wrote and produced the play has made a fortune through property
development. He owns the Wintershall estate near Godalming in Surrey where
he annually puts on a more ambitious six hour 'Life of Christ' around a lake
in the grounds, which as well as having more actors also uses camels and a
flock of sheep.
Those producing and performing the play see it as a way to get the Jesus
story to people now that it no longer forms a part of the essential curriculum
in many schools, and so many are ignorant of it.
Crucifixion on Victoria St
Westminster, London. Good Friday 2 April 2010
A man carrying the cross leaves Westminster Methodist Central Hall
Christians in Westminster on Good Friday took part in 'The Crucifixion on
Victoria Street' with a procession stopping for worship at Methodist Central
Hall, on the steps of Westminster Cathedral and in Westminster Abbey.
The procession was led by a large wooden cross carried by men from the Passage,
a project for homeless people. Following this were around 500 people including
members of the passage, children from St Vincent de Paul Primary School, the
Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Duncan Sandys and Westminster clergy
and members of the congregations.
Outside Westminster Catherdral there were hymns, a reading by The Reverend
Philip Chester, Vicar of St Matthew's Westminster, a mediation by the Reverend
Martin Turner from Methodist Central Hall, a prayer by Mr Mick Clarke, CEO
of The Passage and a reflection on peace to honour the innocent victims of
our times by The Most Reverend Vincent Nicholls, Archbishop of Westminster.
He became the third Archbishop of Westminster I've photographed on these steps.
After a prayer for peace led by The Reverend Michael Macey, Minor Canon of
Westminster and another hymn, the procession left for Westminster Abbey. By
now the rain which had been light was coming down fairly heavily and I left
them at this point.
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