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Norseman
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PostSubject: Losing the Thread   Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:04 am

I set out to post about some floating cranes and found I couldn't get there without going through another country …. the past …... please forgive or ignore the following ramble.

When I was a lad back in 1973 with the port in some decline, I got a job with the dock board (The Mersey Docks & Harbour Board) in it's Cargo Handling section. That got me out and about on the docks and around the shipping line's offices too. That was when I first realised that the river was right at the heart of the city and the city's architecture was locked firmly into the river and trade. Prior to that (mid sixties) it was only something to be crossed on the ferry, with pop and sandwiches for a day out at New Brighton or at Liscard, and once we walked across to Hilbre Island. The river had been a sparkly summer thing for children to enjoy. It was also something to sing about with local songs or with Gerry and the Pacemakers 'Ferry Cross The Mersey' 1964 (I'm still very attached to that song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loyRYFUYg9g the video was made on the ferry too). The point is I had never understood what the river was really about – individually men's hearts and identity, or collectively Trade, Labour & Exploitation. Though there had been many strikes The Docker's strike (sacked men so a lock out) was yet to come 1995-98. see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_dockers'_strike
or a simple human image that says it all for me is 'Gordon: Alex Dock Gate 1995' see http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_sinclair_liverpool_photos/543852504/in/set-72157604184970480
The other Docker's strike image that stays with me is that of Robbie Fowler (God love him). After scoring against Brann Bergen, in a European game in March 1997, he lifted his shirt to reveal a mock Calvin Klein T-shirt set out in support of the dockers. There was murder about it and Uefa fined Fowler £900 but his action meant a lot to people here, reds and blues alike.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O3DWOqYRiw see 1m 22secs to 45secs still images
Here's how a couple of dockers remember that moment years later
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgq-KPfLGVI

So it was back in the seventies was when I began to learn of the indignity previously suffered by dockers under the Pen system …...........

For the docker, the ritual was unrelenting: you went to the waterfront before dawn where you were
put in a pen and waited for a man in a bowler hat to pick you out. ‘You’d be fighting and climbing
over each other’s backs to get the boss to take your book and hire you,’ one remembers. If you
were picked, you worked that day for a pittance. If not, your family went hungry. Exclusion was
often due to age or religion, or a reluctance to endanger your life or grease the boss’s palm. Men
worked from seven in the morning often until ten at night, and in all weathers; many slept on the
docks rather than miss ‘getting first on the stand’ (John Pilger, The Guardian, 23 November 1996).
I found this in https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/management/media/carter_et_al-IRJ-polyphonic_spree.pdf

When you take these things to heart as a lad (and I really did) it stays with you, and it's what made me a trade unionist, what gave me a social concience. You know, I look at the kids today with them all (if they can even get work) working for agencies........... and to my mind it reeks of the Pen. The employers have made it legal and polite and done by email – but it strips those kids of the rights and safeguards that were so hard earned by their forefathers.

So it's 1973 and I've started work, now its the winter of early 1974 and Heath has introduced the three day week http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Day_Week and people are struggling to manage, and the TV is ordered to close at 22:30hrs. The country seemed to lurch from crisis to crisis and disputes seemed endless and deepened into the Winter of Discontent. So now it's 1978-79 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_Discontent and we saw inflation running at about 26% and pay rises being limited to a worthless value, strikes broke out nationwide but the most notorious action during that winter was gravediggers in Liverpool striking. As coffins piled up, Liverpool City Council hired a factory in Speke to store them. A persistent journalist asked the Medical Officer of Health for Liverpool what would be done if the strike continued for months - 'burial at sea would be considered'. The gravediggers eventually settled for a 14% rise after a fortnight's strike. The national press screamed but I remember thinking that some of the city's more successful employers were just using the economic problems to mask a drive for greater profit margins. And life in Liverpool was getting harder by the day. Alan Bleasdale had seen the harsh truth and by 1978 he had already written The Black Stuff and by 1982 written the follow on series Boys From The Black Stuff; Yosser's famous 'Gizza Job'.The Militant Tendency were running Liverpool and the Tory party had laid seige to the finances of the city. Who could forget the confessional scene 'I'm desperate father' - 'Call me Dan' - 'I'm Desperate Dan'............ tragically true on an epic scale.


Meanwhile I marry in July 1981 and while on honeymoon in a Rhyl pub that lorry drivers stay at (The Load of Mischief) Toxteth burned by night and The Specials sang 'Ghost Town'. We were later awarded a sticking plaster called The Garden Festival. So it's 1984/5 there's little work and the country is embroiled in the Miner's Strike http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_miners'_strike_(1984–1985[/url]) There are many views on this dispute and I suppose it depends where your politics stand but I can tell you the lesson I learned from the dispute and it wasn't defined by the left or the right. For the first time I came to understand that our perception of our rights to act freely are an illusion, that the legislature was not separate from the police and the courts. It wasn't the horses charging picket lines, nor the BBC editing the order of events, not the mass arrests and related statistics. It was such a simple thing. People (men in cars) whilst travelling on the motorways were being stopped and turned back on pain of arrest. These men had committed no crime, were acting within the law, but their freedom to travel was removed. We are then not free – as is now true of some new age travelling groups, having committed no offence, they are simply turned back before crossing the boundaries of some constabularies. I have no love of these groups ….. but I do of their right to travel freely.


So now it's 1986 and I'm a man with a wife and new baby and I'm coming up to thirty. I don't know it yet but I won't see a socialist government ever again – Tory rule until 97 and then New Labour (centre right) they will repeal none of the anti trade union laws.


So just on thirty and I'm at the Pierhead in almost a gale, and I'm just watching the river churn and foam, thinking its like a Great Soul, a Mahatma. I have The Port of Liverpool Building, The Cunard Building, The Royal Liver Building all behind me and The Liver Birds above me; it's 1986 and I know I'm not British, I'm not English, not black nor white nor Labour – I'm Scouse and the city frames me and the river runs through me, and I can still hear the one o'clock gun from across the river (even though it's been silent since sixty nine)….... and I know our strength; We can laugh at anything especially ourselves.


Twenty five years pass and we are discussing poetry and someone cleverer than me says that Haiku even in the English form is a poem really quite harder to produce than most people think, and I write


River City Port.
My Mahatma.
Tribal, - Pool of Life.


Which is quite wrong as a Haiku but is an elegant statement in itself. I like Pool being triple edged.

Regards Dave
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PostSubject: Re: Losing the Thread   Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:40 am

I don't think you are losing the thread, but nor do I think that Liverpool is on it's own or can be singled out by what you have written.

Most large cities in this country, towns, farming land or any form of production within this great country have suffered from consequative governments that think the power of the land is in computing/banking and other white collar jobs.

Manufacturing in this country has been sacrificed for the greed of a nation with an insatiable apetite for all to become millionaires before they are 30, and have not given a jot about the poorer in society....greed breeds greed, and no longer do I feel safe for my family in this country.

It may have started with a Thatchorite government....might even have started much earlier, and I remember well the three day week as I was at college in Liverpool at the time and even then, one was losing the freedom to express individuality.

However I didn't learn until the latter days of the Tory rule................but I believe that we don't live in a democracy...but a legalised dictatorship, with any government of the day.....we vote them in democratically, and then they ( who ever is in power ) rule dictatorially, and until there is a regime where such M.P's can be got rid of if they lie to get into power, we will never get rid of the injustice of power breeding absolute power in this country.

Neil.
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PostSubject: Re: Losing the Thread   Fri Nov 04, 2011 11:34 am

Hi

I agree with what you say Neil, but you mistake me just a little in thinking I single Liverpool out for its problems – it was the only route I could take to finding me standing at the Pierhead and realising precisely 'who I was'. If I were a lad from Ebbw Vale I think many emotions would be the same but attached to other iconic details. I could certainly relocate to the Valley's my comment ' individually men's hearts and identity, or collectively Trade, Labour & Exploitation' and also government responses ' awarded a sticking plaster called The Garden Festival'. Ebbw's plaster was applied in 1992 and later became dilapidated. Would the lads from Ebbw recognise themselves as a type? Elvis Costello was spot on with 'Oliver's Army'. Isn't it so ironic that 'the boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne' are the very type that die to maintain the status quo? There will have been many lads from Ebbw too. Government can always frame many reasons why freedom must be defended whilst at the same time denying it to sections of society – I do recognise the politicians you mention in your post Neil.

I never intended 'losing the thread' but the floating cranes I was recalling placed me as a lad at the river and a lot of feelings just came flooding back, a sort of spring tide with the wind pushing on too. Tides are deformations in the shape of a body caused by the gravitational force of one or more other bodies – and that just happens to us humans from time to time and who can say what will deform our normal everyday life and trigger our deeper memories?


Regards Dave
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PostSubject: Re: Losing the Thread   Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:01 pm

it's funny that now reaching the later stages of life, without having to resort to Alhziemers to do it ( i say that tongue in cheek, as I know from experience[my mum who died 6 years ago from it] what Alhziemers can do to a family) that I tend to sit and ponder my life and wonder what I would have done myself had I been born in say, manchester of somewhere in ireland, scotland or wales...........would we really have been different or would we have been the same person, doing the same job ( in my case a teacher , now long retierd) or would we have "adapted" to what was on the table at the time.

as with you , I look daily at the prospects of the youth today, what my kids will do for a house in 15 years time......what sort of job they will do in a town that can offer them sod all, or will they, as I did, get out of that town and find their own Identity....because that is what life is......finding one's identity within your origins and roots and routes through life................bit phylosophical this........but I haven't been down that road since "teacher training"..........and it's amazing what comes flooding back once you put the ol' grey cells into overdrive, lol
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PostSubject: Re: Losing the Thread   Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:25 pm

One of the things wrong with us all is that we chat so freely but talk so little. We internalise everything and put our inner thoughts into locked little boxes - that's why I like poets - those people lay it all out and find new ways to express raw emotions. Maybe once a month we should force ourselves to say one thing real and chance a little embarrassment.

Ha Ha - just got it - it just needed two more syllables for the English forms seventeen.

River City Port.
Tidal, My Mahatma.
This Tribal - Pool of Life.

cheers Dave
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PostSubject: Re: Losing the Thread   Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:42 pm

Re last post - is the word 'this' one or two syllables? I find it hard to decide Question

I came across this picture of a dangerous guy armed with a camera - unfortunately the police officer doesn't even have a camera yet he still bravely tries to protect Maggie from the menacing threat of kodak Supacolor 200 ASA. I'm glad not to have seen the next picture taken at Orgreave colliery.



Regards Dave
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