Saturday, June 30, 2012

Various Pets Alive and Dead

Various Pets Alive and Dead
Marina Lewycka
ISBN: 9781905490912

This book by the author of "Two Caravans" tells two parallel stories
about a 1970's hippy commune and the adventures of two of its children
in the 21st century. A lot of the humour comes from ridiculing some of
the more ultra-left views current in the 1970s and then contrasting
the morality of the parents with the immoral world in which Serge -
one of the children - has become embroiled.

I don't intend to ruin the plot but the banking world is summarised
for Serge thus:

"Imagine gambling in a casino. Everything you win, you keep. And every
time you lose, a kind-hearted donkey called Joe Public comes along
with a sack of gold and pays off your debts .... He just has to keep
the government onside by keeping them running scared."

Drawn into this world because of the easy money, Serge develops a
whole new meaning for the term "fictitious capital." The parts of the
financial plot which seem most bizarre, like making money out of a
downturn, are the parts which are most accurate.

In the hippy commune, the attempts to explain the role of marriage -
or the "pastry arky of the domestos fear" - to young children are a
salutary warning about fitting your language to your audience.

Marina Lewycka does not spare anybody, left or right, from her comic
ridicule. This is a thoroughly good read.

Derek McMillan
Mid Sussex Socialist Party

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A R K spells ARK

The Ark charity is supported by churches all over Horsham and has been
generously supported by St Johns Church. Ark is there to help people who are
held back by homelessness, drug abuse, alcohol abuse or poverty. It
provides food and companionship, advice and understanding.

Ark is now offering free adult literacy classes with the support of
Kip McGrath. We have three qualified teachers offering their services
to anyone who wants to come. One of our students is even writing a
novel. The work in progress is available on

I have nothing but admiration for our students. Nobody feels
embarrassed if they cannot handle Maths but to admit "I can't read" is
very difficult. It takes courage to accept help.

Another project which has been discussed is setting up a night shelter
in winter. We have been inspired by the churches in Brighton who set
one up last February. Think back to the awful weather and imagine
trying to sleep rough in it.

Ark can always use enthusiastic volunteers and will make the best use
of your skills to help others. This is straightforward Christianity:
"Love one another as I have loved you".

Thursday, June 07, 2012

20 October - advance warning


Saturday, 20 October 2012 - 12:00pm

The TUC has called a mass demonstration on 20 October against the cuts..

It will set off in London and march to Hyde Park for a rally.

For more details:

Can we assume co-operation from the police since they are also
demonstrating against public sector cuts?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Apprentice – or who wants to work for a bully?

When I could drag myself away from the Royal Circus on the Thames, I
watched the final of The Apprentice. For those of you unfamiliar with
this theatre of cruelty the main character is a pantomime villain,
Lord Sugar, who gets to set tasks of varying degrees of daftness and
then humiliate the participants.

Sugar is a Labour Peer and acts like a less charming version of Lord
Vader. He urges his apprentices to give in to the dark side. After a
day of teamwork they are all forced to humiliate and denigrate each
other in the boardroom.

And what great ideas did these finalists come up with? One was yet
another bloody call centre – even one of Lord Vader's stormtroopers
thought this was a tawdry idea! Then there was a website to enable
people to buy ingredients for recipes. Lord Vader derided the whole
idea that people plan their meals before they cook them. One assumes
his Lordship has someone else to do that for him. A recruitment agency
proposed by someone who already runs a recruitment agency was the
winning idea.

And that leaves one. A fine wine hedge fund. If you want a symbol for
the degeneracy of capitalism this will do fine. This is not for people
who actually drink wine. No. It is for people who want to invest in
fine wine as a hedge against the economic crisis. You can see how this
is an idea to set the nation alight and improve the lives of millions
of ordinary people. Or perhaps you can't.

The apprentice is undemanding entertainment but if it is an exhibition
of the best in British entrepreneurs, heaven help us all.

Derek McMillan
Mid-Sussex Socialist Party

Thank you for the opportunity Lord Vader