Tag Archives: Falklands War

March 18th

En ce jour de 1871, la Commune de Paris a commencé son gouvernement de Paris. Ne vous inquiétez pas, nous sommes de revenir à l’anglais dès maintenant! As you were!

The Paris Commune of 1871 was an uprising of the workers and lower-middle class of Paris in response to what the Franco-Prussian War had put them through. In the previous year Paris had been under siege, Parisians were starving and forced to eat rats and domestic pets. Things had been pretty bad for years, but this was pretty much the shitty cherry on a cake made of shite. However, the Parisians had something going for them.

Fuck you, we won't do what you tell us!

At the start of the war, in July 1870, the government – which had buggered off to Bordeaux so that they naughty Germans wouldn’t kill them – the National Guard of Paris had been expanded to protect it from invasion by German troops. This meant that many ordinary citizens were armed. They also had cannons and heavy arms which meant that they were pissed off and heavily tooled up. Not a good situation if you want your citizenry to remain all well-behaved, especially when many of the men being elected to head the Guard were of a socialist or anarchist persuasion. Fast forward a few months; the Prussians are triumphant and want to have a little march around Paris. The Parisians are not happy about this and the provisional French government under Adolphe Thiers realise this and decide they’re not going back to Paris as it’s a bit angry; they’ll go to Versailles for a while. The government also decide that they want their cannons and shit back and this is when everything goes a bit Pete Tong for Thiers et al.

The Communards – as they members of the Commune were called – were not having it. Some of the soldiers who were sent in to get the heavy arms, decided the Communards had it right, so they joined up with them, shot a couple of officers who didn’t like their attitude and there you have it. The Commune began.

Alas, it only lasted until May of that year, but for all the disdain flung at it by the la-di-da government, they were well organised, were not even demanding that much and had a rich culture of their own. After all, it was here that Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles

The aftermath

developed their musical chops and their cover of Never Can Say Goodbye was a heartfelt tribute to the day the Commune was broken up, the lucky escaped to make their way in the world and the unlucky were gunned down or arrested. The end was pretty heinous. In the week of May 21st-28th, nearly 20,000 Parisians were killed and 25,000 arrested. Thousands of the arrested were executed and about 4,000 deported to the province of New Caledonia (out near Australia somewhere). Many of the deported were treated appallingly, tortured and abused. The bad feeling among the poor of Paris as a result of the events of 1871 remained for many years and was only slightly assuaged by the outcome of an inquest into the treatment of the (now returned) deported that published its findings in 1881.

So, that was that. Mais ce qu’il était? Well, it was the first mass working class revolt, which could have become a full on revolution. It was the working classes demanding to be listened to, claiming rights for themselves, refusing to be treated as an afterthought and demanding equality of rights. It was a full on fuck you to the establishment that may have been quashed at the time, but was not forgotten and bore the seeds of later revolutions and the violence they contained. Violence is never right, but here’s the thing; if you’re happy to kill people for standing up for their right to be treated like a human being, you should never be surprised if those people are just as happy to kill you when they have the upper hand. Vive l’esprit de la Commune!

Today is the birthday of young Marvin Humes who is a singer in a boy band called JLS which apparently stands for “Jack the Lad Swing” (Sweet mother of god!). Now, normally I’d have no time for this sort of fly-by-night outfit with their vaguely ear-wormy tunes

Marvin likes to protect his penis while he sings

that are at once lingering and instantly forgettable, but then the band took part in a great sketch on this year’s Comic Relief and I decided that young Marvin deserved a happy birthday on the back of that. Not least because JLS are going to do a record with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and indeed went out for a pint with him after the recording of the sketch.

I mean, it’s music, Jim, but not as we know it. It’s all X-Factor (American Idol, etc) type shite that in many ways is killing real creativity and making Simon Cowell more rich, more powerful and more unbearable with every passing second.  In 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War, Marvin Gaye released What’s Going On? In 1981 with British cities erupting in riots and the economy in the toilet The Specials released Ghost Town. The Falklands War brought us Shipbuilding from Elvis Costello. Now? We have Everybody in Love. Still, it’s not Marvin’s fault that he’s pretty and vacant and he did some good stuff for charity (and his own profile) on Comic Relief, so la!

Happy birthday, young man. Look after your money because this won’t last forever and do try to enjoy the ride.

 

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Stuff that happened in February 1976

To begin at the very beginning. February 1976 started quite unexpectedly on February 1st and over in the US of A, Rich Man, Poor Man (which introduced us to Peter Strauss and Nick Nolte) premiered on ABC television. To people in the UK, it’s worth knowing – or not – that ABC is the station that shows the Oscars and has for ever and a day. Rich Man, Poor Man came to the UK as well and very popular it was too. It was about a rich man and a poor man  and years later we also got to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy which was  much waited for sequel and featured Alec Guinness as a spy in search of the missing beggar man and thief.

Travis Bickle gets cross when his passenger shows no interest in who he had in the back of his cab the other day

And that was just the beginning of the month. Staying with visual entertainment type stuff, films that were released that month included: Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Return of the Pink Panther and the truly sublime Taxi Driver which starred Robert de Niro as a slightly killy taxi driver and Jodie Foster as a prostitute. One of the most wonderful things about the film was its moral ambiguity and an ending that would just not be allowed today, well not in a mainstream Hollywood movie anyway. It was very much part of a new golden age of movies that started with Bonnie and Clyde and ended some time around the period that the whole world got a hard on for Star Wars. That’ s not to say that George Lucas is totally to blame for the 80s glut of “high concept” movies, but along with his mate Steven Spielberg he pretty much opened the way to the Don Simpsons of this world. The utter twat. Please to  be noting, I do like Star Wars – especially Han Solo and Chewbacca – I just mourn the passing of the ethos surrounding movies in the 1970s, although to be fair to Mr Lucas, it was probably cocaine that messed things up every bit as much as he did.

Moving on! Much as I’d like to stay with films and television, there were other things afoot in February 1976. There was some sport in Innsbruck, when the 12th Winter Olympic Games opened on 4th February. Lots of people did skiing and skating, some of them jumped on tea trays and slid down icy tubes of death and everyone had a tremendous amount of fun in the snow and ice. Meanwhile, away from the Winter Wonderland, political type events were going on.

The US were still doing nuclear testing in Nevada. Why? Well there’s a question. One would have figured that they knew how everything worked by then, but no, they kept on testing. Maybe the government had something against Nevadans and wanted them all to get nuclear type diseases to keep them in their place. One thing’s for sure, even Mulder and Scully never investigated that one, so, well, yeah. Something really strange must have been going on. Conspiratorially yours, etc.

Over in Africa, the last of the Europeans were pulling out. Not out of the goodness of their own hearts, lawks a mercy no! The Spanish pulled their armed forces out of the Western Sahara on 26th February and the following day the Western Sahara declared its Independence. Coincidence? I think not! That said Spain did keep a couple of enclaves in the region, but  not for long. Probably. Hey! I’m only looking at February 1976, I don’t want to give the whole story away!

In the Netherlands a huge scandal was emerging centring around the Lockheed Corporation and bribes. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands had received a lot of money from the corporation and he wasn’t the only one. Internationally, Lockheed had been handing out millions of dollars to all and sundry to ensure that their planes were bought by the military. Their Chair and Vice-Chair had to resign on 13th February in the face of everyone being all “Ooh, how dreadful, you corrupt so and sos!” (It was 1976, swearing wasn’t quite as common as it is now, so even when very angry, people were careful not to call a fucking bastard an utter bollockhead). Of course, Lockheed didn’t suffer too much. A few laws were passed to stop bribery and corruption, most notably in the US, but funnily enough bribery and corruption didn’t quite go away.

Meanwhile, somewhere far, far away in the South Atlantic, Argentinian destroyers fired across the bows of a British ship called the Shackleton. It was probably the start of a wee bit of trouble that later developed into the Falklands war, which was the moment that British people all went to their maps and breathed a huge sigh of relief when they discovered the Falklands weren’t islands just off Scotland so we weren’t about to be invaded by Eva Peron.

One other political type happening is worth remembering. Moscow, still under the rule of Leonid Brezhnev, prepared to issue posters of Margaret Thatcher, not yet PM, but getting ready to thrust herself upon the world and make the 1980s utterly bloody miserable for most of the UK, depicting her as the Wicked Witch of the Cold War. Alas, there is no pictorial evidence of this available to us, but it’s nice to know that the Soviets were one step ahead of the rest of us in recognising what a stain on humanity Maggie really was.

Onwards and upwards. Heaven sent type stuff. In this month Basil Hume became Archbishop of Westminster (and was called a

Basil tells his mate about the time I rubbed his belly. Hilarity ensues

cardinal a few months afterwards). When I was but a young girl, I got to meet Basil Hume on retreat. We were in the queue for dinner and for reasons that totally escape me now, I rubbed his belly – it was a little rounded, which sort of belied his lean image – and, well, I rubbed a Cardinal’s belly. I think I asked him if I could, but knowing me I probably didn’t and just went for the rub. I hasten to add that this was entirely innocent on both our parts. Hume did not order me to rub him and there was no frisson between us. It was just a very ordinary belly rub, albeit, a very strange thing for a young girl to do to a Cardinal. He was a very nice man indeed.

Before we get to the very end of this strange round-up of events, we should take a quick peek into the hallowed world of art. In this month the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain), put on display Equivalent VIII, which quickly became known as “The Bricks”. It was, to all intents and purposes a pile of bricks. The public was in uproar about it, or to be more precise, the media said the public was in uproar about it. Well, taxpayers’ money had been paid for the bricks and oh my gosh! The Tate had been conned, etc.  The Bricks, were just the latest in a long line of artworks that left people thinking that they’d discovered that the Emperor was naked. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. Equivalent VIII is still on show at the Tate Modern. These days people get in less of a two and eight about them.

And finally we turn our minds to death. This month saw the death of an artist who was loved by everybody, L.S. Lowry. Thought of by many as a naive artist, Lowry’s most famous paintings and drawings are of the industrial landscape of Salford, featuring many vaguely abstract figures, often called matchstick men. Lowry’s influence has been wide and the love of his work is still going strong 35 years after his death.

No cats were harmed in the formulation of Heisenberg's principle, which is more than can be said for his mate Schrodinger

This month also saw the tragically early death of Florence Ballard, the real voice of the Supremes. She was dropped from the group in 1967 after one too many arguments with Berry Gordy who had made Diana Ross his mistress and the leader of the Supremes. She had a solo career, but things were never right for Florence after the Supremes and she died of coronary thrombosis on February 22nd 1976.

There were many other births and deaths in this month, but compiling a list of them would be tedious for both you and me. I shall leave you with one last death: on the first day of this month, as Rich Man, Poor Man was starting on ABC, Werner Heisenberg breathed his last, of this we are certain. We think.

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