Tuesday, January 22, 2019


CJ Sansom
ISBN 978-1447284482

"Tombland" is the latest of the Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom. It is a murder mystery set in the 16th Century. There are no spoilers in this review about who the murderer was. However, the story is set against the real historical background of the Kett rebellion.

In the reign of Edward VI (when real power resided with his uncle, the Duke of Somerset who reigned in his name) the gentry and yeoman farmers had taken to enclosing land and giving it over to sheep. They forced small farmers off the land which was also given over to sheep production. Not only did the people lose the use of common land for their own sheep but agriculture was devastated. 

As a result of a disastrous war with Scotland and the debasement of the currency prices rose out of control while wages stagnated.

One Norfolk yeoman farmer, Robert Kett, was approached by rebellious commoners who demanded he remove the enclosures he had made. Not only did he do so but he ended up leading the rebellion in Norfolk which became the largest of its kind in the country.

An estimated force of 16000 rebels set up a massive camp on Mousehold Heath to the North of Norwich. Under Kett's leadership, the rebels stormed Norwich and took the city. The workers in the city sympathised with the rebels and assisted the takeover. The forces of the aristocracy thought the rebels would be a walkover and sent an army against them under the Marquess of Northampton. He was comprehensively defeated.

The rebels however had faith that the government genuinely intended to deliver on its promise to end illegal enclosures. That is a bit like expecting the 1 percent to act in the interests of the 99 percent. Instead the King's army under the Earl of Warwick was sent to massacre the rebels with the aid of 1200 mercenaries.

The story is a useful antidote to books and TV series about the pomp and ceremony of the Tudor court and the intrigues of the aristocracy. The flip side of that coin was the unimaginable brutality with which aristocrats like Warwick treated the commoners. He only stopped because the gentlemen did not fancy putting their own hands to the plough so repentant commoners were spared.

Even a book about the 16th Century has a valuable lesson. Not only does it show the power of the common people to fight for justice but also the perfidious nature of the upper classes.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Page and Spine - the Derek McMillan page

Page and Spine - the Derek McMillan Page. Someone has done their homework! I edited "Pieces of Eight" I didn't write all of it. I can't take credit for "Death Agony of Capitalism" either. The rest are mine.


The link is here

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

About Worthing Flash

The blog, http://worthingflash.blogspot.com has been going since 4th July 2018. It was launched at an event at the Chichester Festival. However, the people who attended that event were from Worthing so I think it would be a good idea to hold an event in Worthing, for example at St Paul's, on 4th July to showcase your flash fiction.

I appreciate some of our writers are from India, New Zealand, Nigeria and the United States so this is a call to those a little nearer to home.

For a change this year I would invite members of the audience to bring their own flash fiction (stories of less than 1000 words, sometimes a lot less) so they can participate more.

I promise faithfully that I will not use a powerpoint!

I will go ahead if I have volunteers to take part. This is your cue to volunteer. email me on derekmcmillan1951@gmail.com

If a lot of people cannot make 4th July but (for example) 3rd July then we can probably compromise on that. We have a reasonable amount of time.

I was proposing to sell tickets on the door for 1 pound which will not break the bank!

Derek McMillan

Les Miserables

The character played by Dominic West, prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean, dominates the narrative of the BBC production of Les Miserables. There are no spoilers in this review but his fate represents the incredible injustice of the regime in France and the appalling treatment of the poor in the wake of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

Fantine and her impossible task of keeping her daughter and her job is brilliantly portrayed by  Lily Collins. If the poor in general had a rough deal in that period, the working class women suffered it twofold.
The vicious behaviour of Javert, the policeman played by David Oyelowo is a personalisation of the cruelty of the law.

Those familiar with the musical version will remember the comic roles of Thernardier and his wife. The dark side of the characters is much more to the fore in this adaptation. However, the scene in episode three where Mrs Thernadier (Olivia Colman) is making a game out of beating Cosette to the great amusement of the clientele of their inn is brilliantly choreographed. It is a situation in which the laughter of the audience is crueller than the actions of the actor.

For all the darkness, the novel and this adaptation both offer a message of hope. Jean Valjean's personal struggle for redemption could be a metaphor for the redemption of French society which the revolutionaries of the day, like the Gilet Jaune of today, seek to bring about.

Socialists should be inspired by this story.

Derek McMillan

Monday, January 07, 2019

WSO Viennese New Year Concert

We attended the Worthing Symphony Orchestra Viennese New Year Concert in the Assembly Hall on Sunday 6th January.

The concert was a blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar. There were a total of four works by Johann Strauss the Second and one by Johann Strauss the First (the Radetzky March). The common theme of the music was gaiety.

Leon Jessel's "March of the Tin Soldiers" was included. The program recorded the fact that his work was banned in Germany and Austria because of his Jewish ancestry.

Perhaps the most unexpected addition was the inclusion of "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" by John W Bratton as the penultimate work.

The whole evening was a wonderful experience.

Conductor, John Gibbons did an excellent job although he did tend towards the anecdotal. The audience went away knowing more about his rose garden than they realised they needed to know.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

The BBC? Misleading?

You will be as shocked as I was to find the BBC being misleading. And it was about Brexit - they talk of little else.

Polly Toynbee of the Social Democrats was giving instructions to the Labour Party  as is her habit and she said that a majority of Labour voters supported Remain.

In fact in 60 percent of Labour seats the majority was for "Leave" and the electoral system means that winning seats is what counts in a general election. You might think she would know that.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Bullying and workload - Coronation Street hits the target

Coronation Street has a storyline about a teacher being bullied by senior management. It rang a few bells for me. 

I ran a helpline for stressed teachers and SMT were often more of a problem than the most ‘challenging' pupil. My advice to Brian in Corrie or anyone else who recognises his plight? Ring the union: you shouldn’t have to face this alone. The relentless piling on of workload and the consequent health problems are 100 percent a union issue.

And well done Corrie, 10/10 for relevance to the problems of #workload and #bullying.

Classroom Teacher Manual- advice for teachers from teachers

Monday, December 10, 2018

Universal Credit

Universal Credit has not been a universal success.
Universal Credit replaces:
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Housing benefit.

However people have had to wait months to get the money. In general these people are not in a position to live on daddy's money for a month. The government simply didn't think of that. That is how out of touch they are.

Then there is the fact (verified by www.learnmyway.com) that "Universal Credit is an online service so you need to be able to use computers and the internet."

They also state that users will require a mobile phone, an email address and a bank account. Not everyone has all these things. How someone who is receiving no money is supposed to get a mobile phone is a question which is not answered.
Sanctions are part of the government initiative to create a 'hostile environment' for the poor. Sanctions vary but potentially they can be harsh. 

And what kind of crimes can you be sanctioned for? "If you are judged to have used offensive language in person, on the phone or in writing, it could be seen as failing to meet your claimant commitment. This could leave you at risk of sanctions.If y

The longest sanction is for 3 years. This would be because of serious failure to meet commitments 3 times in one year. And how you live on nothing for three years? Do the Tories look like they care?

Usually, sanctions will apply until you carry out the action you have been sanctioned for plus one week.

http://www.learnmyway.com provides useful information. A French solution - (going out on the streets and bringing down the government) is also an alternative.

Unite has a campaign against this farcical system on behalf of members like myself who are not in employment. I have a pension. Plenty of people do not.

  1. Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money.
  2. Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online.
  3. Provide people with better help when the system fails them.
  4. Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes.
  5. End benefit sanctions for all claimants.