Thursday, 26 July 2007

What do we want, convenient protest camps now!

I am encouraged by the appearance of several very convenient environmental protest camps this year - one near Heathrow in the second week of August, and one near Gatwick in early September. Protest camps have usually been in the middle of bloody nowhere half way up Snowdonia, or an hour's walk away from the nearest bus stop in the Peak District in Derbyshire. When I visited the Nine Ladies protest camp against quarrying in Matlock, Derbyshire, one resident told me there were very few alcohol-related incidents on site due to the 'very long walk to the nearest off licence.'

Now the Climate Change camp, somewhere near Heathrow, is easily accesible on the tube (us North London people don't even have to change). We can go and hang out and do our protesty thing, and then come back for a shower at the end of the day. The No Borders camp against the construction of a new immigration prison ('removal centre') near Gatwick is also nice and easy for us Londoners to get too - the Gatwick Express may be a bit more pricey but you can get the cheapo train from Victoria, and then be back in time for tea.

Why should anti-capitalist protest be such a struggle. What do we want, convenient protest camps now!

The image is from a flyer for the very convenient Climate Change camp near Heathrow.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Pornagraphic Edwardian hospital buildings of London, No 1

The Edwardians had some very strange and repressed ideas, as can be seen from this raunchy hospital facade at the Stamford Street end of Waterloo roundabout. (It's now an American university.) Female Edwardian patients going for gynaecology check ups would no doubt have preferred a nicely discreet, featureless building with a small sign on it that you couldn't see from the other side of the street, and which wouldn't draw too much attention to you as you were going in. Instead, they got this thing that screams 'soft porn!' at you from across the street! Even more scandalously for Edwardian times, the ladies on the facade of the Women's Hospital haven't even got their hair done up.
One has to wonder what the architects were thinking.

Sudden outbreak of gardening by Lebanese and Turkish hookah cafes

The shops in Turnpike Lane in North London have once again been re-arranging themselves. At the western end, more and more properties are being taken over by sari shops, but at the eastern extremity, the Lebanese cafe has marched across Burgheigh Road and moved three doors down, with the space left being taken over by the Beirut Gate Lebanese food shop, which has the same owner as the Lebanese cafe.
The reason for all these movements became clear on Sunday. The new premises has a GARDEN, which means that under new smoke-free regulations, the cafe's 40+ flavour hookah (waterpipe, aka nargileh, shisha pipe) operation can stay in business. Murat at the Mirage Cafe, who only has half a dozen flavours in hish nargileh operation, has also laid out a garden round the back of his internet cafe.
It remains to be seen what will happen at the Lebanese cafes on West London's Queensway, where some of the nargileh-using public are so serious about their habit that they BRING THEIR OWN nargilehs.

Spiderman blows cover shock!

Superhero crimefighter Spiderman has been unpadonably slack of late, breaking the first rule of superhero crimefighting - never reveal your secret identity!
I spotted Spiderman a couple of weeks ago, walking down the street in plain view, wearing the famous blue and red suit, but he'd TAKEN HIS MASK OFF. He was also wearing a pair of very ordinary looking trainers.
More amazing still, Spiderman seems to be, under his mask, a TEN-YEAR OLD BOY! He appeared to be walking along with what seemed to be his mother, and a younger sibling in a pushchair, and was heading for a very ordinary looking Islington house, which had pink and blue balloons hanging on the door, at about 12 noon on a Sunday afternoon.
What the evil supervillains of this city are supposed to make of all this I don't know. One can imagine it's only a matter of time before the likes of The Goblin and Dr. Octopus find out that Spiderman is just a ten-year old, and a slack, security-poor one at that. Look out London!

ESOL students end of term outing to see Gordon Brown

One of the first delegations to be received by brand new Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who started work on Thursday, was a group of students and teachers of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) on Friday 29 June protesting the introduction of fees for courses and cuts to the sector (See blog entries on ESOL below). The demo opposite parliament and the delegation to Downing Street followed a cursed and ill-fated 'ESOL protest picnic' by ESOL students from London Further Education colleges.
This was originally planned as a march and rally for Saturday 30 June, but this clashed with London Gay Pride, and the idea of lots of veiled Muslim ladies turning up at the end of the Pride parade was not one the organisers wanted to try out. The weather - after a week of floods and severe weather warnings - just about held on the day of the picnic, but in the event, at least one college withdrew its permission for its students to go on a school trip that morning, following the two bomb alerts right down the road from the St James's Park picnic venue.
ESOL students who are trying to register for courses next year are already being turned away in droves by the few colleges that have already opened registration. The government announced as part of concessions made in teh Spring that ESOL students on benefits (including Housing Benefit) or spouses of those working but on a low income who produced their wage slips would get full "fee remission" for ESOL courses. But no advice or guidlines seem to have filtered down yet to the college admissions departments, which means that they're still turning these students away based on old criteria that hasn't yet been updated. One class at a North London college, that would normally be full already for next year, has only three students who are able to enroll for next year.
Teachers in the lecturers' union UCU are planning a "public ESOL lesson" for the start of term in the second week of September, in which they threaten to teach ESOL classes in the street outside colleges for those students who have been turned away because they can't pay fees.
The photo shows the delegation preparing to enter Downing Street: UCU Associate General Secretary Paul Mackney (white hair, glasses), Aylin (curly brown hair, black top), an Hourly Paid Lecturer (HPL) on a temporary contract, a category of teacher likely to bear the brunt of the coming cuts in further education, and ESOL students from London further education colleges. The second photo shows the ESOL demo by students and teachers over the road from Downing Street.