Monday 19 June 2017


sprinkling light spreading debris sparkling
fire-wrapping the homes flaming
flaming the living core fire-wrapping
fire-wrapping the furnace of families flaming
flaming choking the children fire-wrapping
fire-wrapping blinding the babies flaming
flaming closer to the crying fire-wrapping
fire-wrapping the people who perish flaming
flaming suffocating the souls fire-wrapping
fire-wrapping searing the skins flaming
flaming shriveling the hopes fire-wrapping
fire-wrapping the black skeleton tower flaming
shaming blaming underneath blaming shaming
Mail-ing shaming blaming Mail-ing
lying regulation stuff “get-stuffed” stuff regulation lying
underneath ha-ha ha-ha “get stuffed” ha-ha ha-ha underneath
ash and cinders cinders and ash

Ruth Hartley
19th June 2017

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Shakespeare is a European - Shakespeare would not and cannot Brexit

Shakespeare could not have voted for Brexit.

Shakespeare might, of course, have written a tragedy about Brexit. It's a subject for a tragedy and farce because it's about lies, misunderstandings, feuds, boundaries, wars and ambitions all of which bring damage and death..
Shakespeare belongs to all humans because he wrote about the human condition.
Fundamentally Brexit is a reduction of humanity. Britons go from being important actors on a world stage to disappearing up their own ever diminishing island fundament.  Scottish independence is the same. A diminution of what it is to be human from a universal respect for humanity to a populist jingoism.
Brexit if you must - but William Shakespeare belongs to the global village - all of humanity - he will never be part of Brexit.

I found this quote from a paper by Richard Wilson
"The Globe Theatre […] would have been for Shakespeare the pattern of the universe, the idea of the Macrocosm, the world stage on which the Microcosm acted his parts. All the world’s a stage." The words are in a real sense the clue to the Globe Theatre." It is by Juegen Schulz, ‘Maps as Metaphors: Mural Map Cycles of the Italian Renaissance’.

 I borrowed this too -
 The Settings of Shakespeare's Plays by Date for a chronology of the content of the plays.

All’s Well that Ends Well
Setting: Rousillon, Paris, Florence, and Marseilles

Antony and Cleopatra
Setting: Parts of the Roman Empire

As You Like It
Setting: Forest of Arden

The Comedy of Errors
Setting: Ephesus

Setting: Rome, Corioli, and Antium

Setting: Britain, Italy

Setting: Elsinore

Julius Caesar
Setting: Rome; afterwards, Sardis and near Philippi

King Lear
Setting: Britain

Love’s Labour’s Lost
Setting: Navarre

Setting: Scotland and England

Measure for Measure
Setting: Vienna

The Merchant of Venice
Setting: Partly in Venice, and partly at Belmont, the seat of Portia on the Continent

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Setting: Windsor

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Setting: Athens, and a wood nearby

Much Ado about Nothing
Setting: Messina

Setting: Venice (for first act) and a sea-port in Cyprus

Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Setting: various countries

Romeo and Juliet
Setting: Verona and Mantua

The Taming of the Shrew
Setting: Sometimes in Padua, and sometimes in Petruchio's home in the country

The Tempest
Setting: The Sea; afterwards an Island

Timon of Athens
Setting: Athens

Titus Andronicus
Setting: Rome

Troilus and Cressida
Setting: Troy

The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Setting: Verona, Milan, and the frontiers of Mantua

Twelfth Night
Setting: A city in Illyria, and the sea-coast nearby

The Winter’s Tale
Setting: Sometimes in Sicilia, sometimes in Bohemia

Go on then - Brexit - but you can't take Shakespeare away from the world, from Europe and from humanity - he won't fit into anything so small-minded even with Boris's putting all his weight onto it.

Monday 17 April 2017

Pantomime, the Imaginary and the Straight Banana Brexit.

Loving the Independence Referendums


Harry Potter - a modern British hero of the imaginary.
Before the first Scottish independence referendum, I was sad but sure that the Scots would opt for the romantic version of their nation and vote with their hearts. Scottish independence is economic nonsense but it is very pretty, all plaid, pipes, heather and warm whisky heating up what's under the sporran.It's good to have a heart but better when you vote to use both heart and brain. We're all the same though, myself included. We're motivated by a mixture of sense and nonsense, imagination and reason, culture and nurture.

Romance and Brexit and Straight Bananas


Like Scottish Independence, Brexit is also romantic and unwise. It is a myth derived from our parents' actual nightmare memories of WW2 mixed together with the revisionism of popular cultural history in the humour of Dad's army, the gallantry of Brits alone against the Nazi invaders, the altruism of the last man standing holding the flag in some Pinewood propaganda film.

Patriotic Reassurance


The local lads at home during a global war
It's teeth-grittingly untrue but of course, we love it. We've absorbed it into our patriotic souls right down to the soles of our hobnailed bovver boy clogs just as we absorbed, but didn't believe Boris's blatant baloney about the EU that bananas had to be straight not curved. In fact we know from nothing to a little about the EU.






Real History and Pantomime History


An unhealthy thoroughbred leads a mongrel nation?

Yet we have always been a mix like the EU of many cultures and nations. First, we and our rulers were Scandinavian, Danish, Viking and Russian. Alfred was Saxon, Harold, part Viking, his wife Russian, William, a Norman (Norseman) and French, Then our rulers became  Dutch, William and Mary, and German, Victoria and all the rest. For 100s of years, English kings and queens ruled France. We absorbed  Huguenot refugees, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, German and Italian immigrants and even some of our African slaves.



European Divisions and the Empire that won the war

We split Europe up with other Europeans and then split up the world with those same Europeans. After Dunkirk we weren't exactly alone against the Germans - we had the biggest ever Empire in the world on our side with all their soldiers fighting for us - sorry Captain Mainwaring - but then you did bank colonial money, didn't you? We had the free Poles in our air force and the Free French fighting for us. We were a mongrel nation under Elisabeth 1 and remain so today under Elisabeth 2.

My generation - children of soldiers

It seems that a large proportion of my generation, the most affluent and educated pensioners to date, born during and after WW2, voted for Brexit. Why I wonder? I do know that there are many different kinds of Brexit voters and many different reasons for voting for Brexit but I am curious about those who make up my peer group.

The Brexit Dream and the Imaginary


Boadicea - our queen - defeated by the Roman Empire.
 Brexit is a dream from the past. A trap laid into the brains of a large section of the voting population of Britain by the emotional dramas played out in childhood in our families and our cultural environment.  Is it a forward-looking utopian hope for a wonderful future or is Brexit is a retreat backwards into a fantasy world? Is it a regression into an imaginary state? Is Brexit a nostalgic trip into the past to fulfil an infantile wish to live undivided lives as whole personae and heroes in a world without conflict or confused and confusing choices.


We are all in it

At some level of our beings, all of us, myself, included, inhabit this world of the Imaginary and inside it, we live happily in a state of unreality. It might be described as the world of the Pantomime, the world we understood as children, a world of transformations and magic, a world without facts or cash.

 Pantomime characters

It is hardly a surprise that those who led us into Brexitland are Pantomime creations in fancy dress acting out stagily contrived roles - Farage, faking it as the genial innkeeper turning away refugees, Boris, as Buttons, Bulldog, Billy Bunter, and our favourite cheeky Churchill-like chappie, IDS, the loyal officer and boring police plod, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, Arthurian aristocrat, and snobby academic. They're pretend people acting out Downton Abbey fantasies to amuse us -  and to deceive us. Foolishly, we like what they tell us.

It's Behind You and it Bites

Brexit wasn't chosen for common sense reasons but for a dream.
"It's behind you!" shout the audience.
"Where?" asks the smiling yellow-haired clown turning around.
"Its behind you!" repeat the audience.
Brexit and the Land of Pantomime are behind you - imaginary and unreal and not a good choice if you are an adult with European grandchildren who need a real future and not the Imaginary past. Our past may give us great ideals and worthwhile values but they need to be grounded in the reality of today's world.

Monday 20 February 2017


This anecdotal account is about the interconnectedness of the above.
Mike, my husband and I arrived on the Zambian North Bank Power Scheme in 1972. Our news, the Observer newspaper, arrived by post every week.
Our friends, Hamish and Monica, left Zambia to work on another dam in the Shah's Iran. There was an earthquake in Iran. Soon after the Shah was replaced by a revolution. They didn't stay.
It was the Cold War. Zambia was punished by apartheid South Africa and Smith's UDI Rhodesia for its support for African freedom. Oil supplies were a big problem. Iraq provided oil by tanker – a pipeline from east Africa was built. Dundiza Chidiza Crescent became Saddam Hussein Boulevard.
There was a war between Iran and Iraq in which the west were involved on one side or the other or on both. It was a moot point as to which was the worse regime for its people and for its women.
Kate, a US diplomat, who had served in Zambia and acted in Lusaka Playhouse, was one of those imprisoned in the US embassy in Iran.
The Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, was vilified by the Western press for his friendship with Saddam. He was supposed to have become a billionaire and personally owned an oil tanker. Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). There was a connection with Israel, Holland and apartheid South Africa and the Big Gun designed to deliver the WMDs. Lusaka was a key airport on route for these deals which may or may not have happened. It was bar talk in Lusaka.
Saddam arrested an Observer journalist in Iraq who was investigating the WMDs story. He was executed. That journalist's British friend, Daphne, was put in solitary confinement. Kaunda arranged her freedom and she was released to Zambia and the British High Commission.
Saddam invaded Kuwait. Many of us believed that this was the start of the Third World War. It was the first Iraq war. The West defeated Iraq but the war was unfinished. From this point onwards the West continued to bomb Iraq ostensibly in support of the Marsh Arabs. Iraqi civilians also died but Saddam often used hostages to defend military sites.
The Afghan War continued in its myriad convolutions. Fundamentalist forms of conflicted and divided Islam had been recruiting in Africa for decades but now in the Middle East they had developed into Al Qaeda and ISIL.
On 9/11, a brilliantly conceived and successful attack on New York, the commercial capital city of the USA, took place.
2003 Bush and Blair decided to finalise the war with Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein. It seems likely that the WMDs used as the excuse were no longer in Iraq as a weakened Saddam had handed them to Bashir Assad of Syria who later used chemical weapons against his own civilians.
2013 Britain voted not to take action against Assad in support of his people. The resultant tragedy in Syria caused the huge migrant crisis which helped an anti-immigrant Britain vote Brexit and may lead to the breakup of the European Union.
In 2016 The Chilcot Inquiry reported. Tony Blair was apparently entirely and solely the most responsible for the war and all the deaths that resulted from the American/British intervention in Iraq over the whole period. He is the single scapegoat in an extraordinarily complex situation. Is that just?
The security of Britain, Europe, the USA, the Middle East and the Mediterranean areas are closely bound together now and have been for over a century. Today British and American troops continue to operate in Iraq.
Please explain to me why, in this complicated and interwoven scenario that has gone on for so long, Tony Blair is singled out as the one and only bad person?
Should his intelligent and patriotic concerns about Brexit be therefore disregarded?

Tuesday 12 July 2016


In 1968 my home was invaded by the Hard Left. I was 24, alone, over 7 months pregnant, my daughter not quite three, and there was an angry and apparently irrational man barricaded into my flat with me.
It was the year of the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in Grosvenor Square and Trafalgar Square. I had decided to drop out of my sociology course at the London School of Economics because I was out of my depth. I classified myself with some irony as a “Marxist” because in South Africa in 1966 it was possible to study “Marxism” at university but “Communists” were traitors. Early in 1968 I had been admitted to the Charing Cross Hospital because it was thought I might miscarry. Though I recovered, it wasn’t wise to go on a demonstration that might be violent. Instead my husband, Mike, a junior doctor and I volunteered for the LSE first aid post that was being organised to look after injured demonstrators. We were told to attend a meeting at a house somewhere in Hackney. The secrecy around this meeting was extraordinary. I kept looking around the meeting for the police informers and felt sure there must be police photographers outside. The atmosphere was extremely tense. Had I joined an illegal guerrilla group planning an attack on the British establishment? I have since wondered if it was it the headquarters of the Angry Brigade, who I then hadn’t heard of. 1968 was an uncertain time which felt not unlike Brexit Britain does today. Anything could happen – a world revolution – the end of capitalism – no more war? Was Corbyn around then too?
            By May Mike was working nights and spending whole weeks at his hospital. I didn’t want to be alone with a small child, in case I went into labour. A flatmate was the answer. I asked around among my political acquaintances and someone suggested a young mixed race woman who also had a small child and had just been evicted from her flat. I’ll call her Sarah. We met and talked. She seemed unhappy and distressed which, under the circumstances, didn’t surprise me. Her landlord had booted her out without notice. She gave few details but I agreed that she could move in. I thought our kids might enjoy each other’s company.
Sarah was very touchy, quick to withdraw into her room, and very unsmiling. Before long she asked if her boyfriend could move in. I was surprised. No boyfriend had been mentioned and I didn’t see how she could have acquired a new one as she never left the flat, but I agreed. I’ll call the boyfriend Mark. He was Jewish like Mike, a small wiry man, but without charm.
Sarah and Mark’s relations with me deteriorated immediately without an apparent cause. Maybe I asked for the rent? I was disturbed to be told by Sarah that her boyfriend, Mark, was the same landlord who had kicked her out of their flat and that he had in turn been evicted from this flat by a south London council for non-payment of rent. Soon Sarah moved out in a rage. Her boyfriend stayed on. I arrived home one afternoon to find that he had locked himself into the bedroom that I had let to Sarah. He had a chamber-pot for peeing in and climbed in an out of the bedroom through the fanlight above the windows that he also kept locked. I was sick with stress and fear.
Mike had a night away from the hospital. Sarah’s room remained locked but seemed empty. In the middle of the night we heard someone break in and we called the police. An officer had a lengthy discussion with Mark through the bedroom fanlight. Before he left he said Mark apparently “knew” his rights as a squatter. He was very well briefed both legally and in left-wing politics.
            “If I were you” one policeman said to Mike. “I would thump him. The man’s a coward.”
Thumping other men wasn’t Mike’s style, so we were at an impasse. Mike went back to work and I started getting anonymous heavy breathing phone calls, probably from Sarah, but still terrifying. It was a living nightmare. A phone call from the local council followed. The council officer said that Mark and Sarah claimed to have been made homeless unlawfully by me and were demanding to jump the housing queue.
“You must take them back,” he said. He was without sympathy. He didn’t want to help them one bit and he didn’t care about me and my child.
This hideous affair must have lasted only weeks. I was on the point of capitulating when Mark disappeared. It was as if he hadn’t existed. I didn’t see or hear him go but the phone calls also ceased. The council must have re-housed them. I never saw either Sarah or Mark again but I kept well away from the Socialist Workers Party or the Socialist Labour League after that.
Before I met them I had had an epiphany during the sit-ins at the LSE. I realised that what matters in politics is not whether you are left-wing or right-wing but whether you act with autonomy or comply with authority when making decisions about your life and your actions. An authoritarian is not the same as an authority. (Witness Michael Gove decrying experts.) Authoritarian personalities tend to fascism, bullying and blame in politics, while autonomous personalities are natural democrats who welcome debate and look for equitable solutions. I think, looking back, that Mark and Sarah were a troubled couple with personality problems in an abusive relationship. They belonged to the authoritarian hard left of the time. They would have been just as happily unhappy in any authoritarian cult or religion. As for me I became wary of any extreme organisation that puts obedience and deference above self-respect.
Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of Labour on the Twitter-fed surge of a new left-wing I have thought about Mark and Sarah. Describing a socialist as a Trotskyite was an insult back in 1968. As far as I could determine this was because Trotskyites remained wedded to a fundamentalist and pure socialism that would never sully itself with any of the compromises that are necessary to change society. They stuck to the god-given Marxist word of how and when capitalism would collapse and die and no changes in the existing world could alter the path prescribed by Leon. Is Momentum’s support for Corbyn a repeat of some of the fruitless efforts of 1968? Will a fundamentalist left finally split and kill off Labour and democratic socialists? I hope not.
Sarah and Mark may already be dead or simply incarcerated in a closed anarchist commune (which might be the same thing). Possibly they joined the 1980 Militants. Perhaps their ghosts fuel the hard left today, but I doubt it. Unable to work with other socialists, unable to cohabit with other human beings, they were socially dysfunctional. It seems that some few of Corbyn’s supporters may be the same.
If I was to take a poll among my friends about their views on Trident, on war, on benefits, on the NHS, on nationalisation I probably would find that they were as left-wing as Corbyn and as idealistic. What I would find, however, is that they would be pragmatic, realistic team-players with what is most essential for good politics – a sense of humour and a readiness to talk to and to listen to other points of view. Among the Twitter threats and insults heaped on people who do not support Corbyn are there any signs of a readiness for a debate that can take the left forward to a poll victory?
Among all this noise and confusion Jeremy Corbyn shines like the Virgin at her Assumption. I have seen this rapture before on the faces of the born-again into new life. It doesn’t last. Corbyn seems a man possessed by the belief that he is leading the very few faithful into a left-wing heaven. He is extremely na├»ve and innocent for a socialist. The rest of us know all about the friability of celebrity status. Cults are made to die and cult-leaders who fall from grace aren’t absolved. They go eventually but after causing the disintegration of their cause. They care little for those who they consider to have left the narrow path.

Wednesday 14 January 2015





Once upon a time something was wrong with the world.

So intelligent, good-hearted, brave Hero  set out on a quest to put the world to rights by destroying the Enemy.

'How will you recognise the Enemy?' asked Hero's father.

'The Enemy is different from me.' replied Hero. 'The Enemy is Death.'

'Take care.' begged Hero's mother. 'Be good.' She was a stereotypical mother.

'Come back soon.' warned Hero's lover. 'Love lasts forever, but sex has a time limit.'

The first person Hero met was an Old Man.

'Good morning.' said the Old Man.

'I am on my way to put things right.' said Hero.

'Can I help you? I have spent my life trying to make the world a better place by enacting laws that protect people from injustice.' offered the Old Man.

'No.' said Hero. 'You are old. You are a man. You have no new ideas and you do not know what it is to be a Hero and put the world to rights.'

'That may be true.' said the Old Man. 'The world keeps changing but some of the things my generation have made might be useful for you to carry with you.'

'No.' said Hero

'As you wish.' said the Old Man who had plenty of children and was tired of disagreements.

The next person that Hero met was a Liberal.

'Hello Hero.' said the Liberal. 'Where are you going?'

'I am on my way to put things right and destroy the Enemy.' said Hero.

'Can I help you?' said the Liberal. 'I want to put things right too. Perhaps I can go with you some of the way at least?'

'No' said Hero. 'My only friends are those who agree to go all the way with me.'

'I am sorry.' said the Liberal who always apologised for her failures and who wore ill-fitting shoes.

The third person that Hero met was a Moderate.

'Hi.' said the Moderate. 'I am heading in your direction and have already made some progress. Shall we journey together? I am going to visit my family.'

'No.' said Hero. 'My friends are wholly committed to my quest and you only care about your family.'

'Okay. Do it your way.' said the Moderate who because of experience, was given to being pragmatic and also had transport.

The next two persons Hero met were an Artist and a Writer.

'Wow!' said they said. 'A Hero at last. We have been playing around with ways of shaking up people and shocking them into having new ideas so the world can change for the better. Can we help you? What do you think?'

'Well I'm not flaky and offensive like you both.' said Hero. 'You simply cannot be relied on to be politically correct. I know what I think. Your thoughts are all over the place.'

'Perhaps and maybe not.' said the Artist and Writer. 'But we have always fought with the Enemy. Will you free our brothers and sisters if you defeat the Enemy?'

'When I defeat the Enemy I will.' promised Hero. 'Artists and writers have a high nuisance value however, so only if they paint my portrait and write a flattering eulogy about me.'

The Artist and Writer shrugged. They were used to bad reviews and carrying out worse commissions and had been invited to a party.

Hero found himself surrounded by a crowd of travellers who were all arguing with each other.

'Who are you all?' Hero asked in some confusion.

'We are all Heroes going on a quest to put things right and destroy the Enemy.' said one of the many spokespeople in the crowd.

“Oh.' said Hero surprised. 'I thought I was the only one on this quest. I am sure it is good to have companions who will go all the way with me. Please can you tell me how you are going to destroy the Enemy.'

'There is only one way to destroy the Enemy.' said another spokesperson. 'I am the only one with the solution.'

At this the argument became even louder and more fractious.

'First we must go back and destroy the Old Man's law.' said one.

'No we must rewrite it.' said another.

'Its the fault of the Liberals. They are too soft and kind and don't realise that they have always been fortunate. Without them things would be clearer and there would be more space.'

'Its the fault of the Moderates. They only consider themselves and not others. We must take away their riches.'

'Its the fault of the Artists and Writers. We have to teach them what they are NOT allowed to say.'

Some of the travellers said 'Lets go back and tell everyone how to do things properly.'

Others said 'Lets go forward and fight the Enemy.'

Realising that there was no consensus among his companions, Hero asked. “Have you seen the Enemy? Do you know what the Enemy looks like?'

This last question caused such a tremendous row that a fist fight broke out among the Heroes. No one could decide for certain who the Enemy was or what the Enemy looked like.

'Poverty.' 'Ignorance.' 'Greed.' 'Bigotry.' 'Riches'. 'Sickness.' 'Immorality.' 'Dogma.' 'Lack of faith.' were all suggested.

'I still think its Death.' determined Hero.

Neither could any of them agree on the best way to destroy the Enemy. Apparently everyone of them had asked an intellectual or an analyst for their point of view with the result that there were more opinions than people. They all had developed dreadful headaches from thinking about it. Hero was going to add that the Enemy seemed to be within their group but nobody was listening.

At last a third spokesperson stood up.

'We have decided to go onto Facebook and see who gets the most Likes.' he said. ' When we know that, then we will Unfriend those who got the least and that is how we will destroy the Enemy.'

'Are you sure?' asked Hero who had climbed up a nearby hill to escape the fracas.

'Look what is happening! It seems that the Enemy is also behind us.'

At that the Heroes turned around and found to their horror that the Enemy had divided and multiplied and had them surrounded.

The Heroes could see that rather a large number of Artists and Writers had been killed and imprisoned. Liberals and Moderates were being attacked and wounded on every side. Most saddening for the Heroes was the huge numbers of dead women and children that lay about everywhere.

The Old Man, helpless with tears, watched from a distance. They were all his children after all.

Friday 7 November 2014

Dental Surgery in Pau

Eight months ago I had a bone graft in my upper jaw. It was a sterile procedure done under local anaesthetic. I was losing bone and therefore a tooth and good dental health is good health overall. It took about an hour and was pain free - lots of stitches. Of course I had a swollen face etc afterwards but good after care and recovered well. Seven months afterwards my surgeon said it was successful and yesterday, eight months later he proceeded to put the implant in place. I will have another 6 months to wait before he knows if it is okay to go ahead with giving me a permanent false tooth. Again the operation was sterile - under half an hour, pain free but I behaved quite unreasonably like a baby. My surgeon is excellent and so was his team. I will write and thank him and apologise. Remembered traumas not actual ones made me fearful. My face is very slightly botoxed in appearance on one side but no discomfort. I have to take loads of antibiotics and pills for the moment but am fine. John has been brilliant about driving me to Pau to have the operations and all the previous appointments and follow-ups. Pau is 45 minutes away and sitting in waiting rooms is dull in the extreme.