1. London by light

George Monbiot nailed it, 15 January 2014

My tree witch is screaming.

The Tree Witch



This etching borrows its title from Peter Viereck’s 1961 play/poem – The Tree Witch. She is a Dryad and has been captured and tortured by a collective contemporary man. This poem/play works for present day Britain where we have the nature of flooding completely misunderstood by the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, “the worst environment secretary Britain has ever suffered.” See George Monbiot’s brilliant article in the Guardian, 14 January 2014: Drowning in Money: The Pig-headed policies that make flooding inevitable.

Owen Paterson boasts that hill farmers on the least productive land “will now receive the same direct payment rate on their upland farmlands as their lowland counterparts.” The farmers will be paid, yes paid, to remove trees and scrubs that absorb much of the water falling from the hills. And they will no longer be given subsidies for further tree planting.

And this, with no reference to all the good work done by the British government for other countries. For decades Britain has been funding scientists throughout the world in the study of hydrology: helping other countries to protect their upland forests as a means for preventing communities downstream from being flooded away. And also helping them organise the engineering to return curves and bends into straightened, scoured rivers.

It’s so simply wrong, what the present British government is doing. Their philosophy seems to be that land exists only to support landowners. See the problem of grouse shooting estates with drained and burnt moors of the Peak District National Park. And, yes, the present government sees waterways as existing only to “get rid of water.”

It all makes you want to scream. Last word to the Dryad:
Hail man-the-improver,
For his is the end of the world. In technicolor.



Aftermath Rag, Mk2, 6 January 2014

Someone used the phrase – a violin in a void. Yeah. I like that. Or – marching out of Eden. Whatever, this painting is not a barrel of laughs. It was started with the CND movement in mind and all the rest followed. Not forgetting, of course, the soldiers borrowed from Sargent’s famous painting, “The Gassed”. So here we are with the absolutely last version:

Aftermath Rag




Charles Chilton, The Long Long Trail, 5 January 2014

I’m thinking about the BBC radio 4 programme last night on Charles Chilton. It dealt with The Long Long Trail, a documentary in 1961 about the First World War. Chilton’s brilliance in this new technique, which he in fact invented – making a documentary illustrated with popular songs – caused one of the commentators last night to say that he was perhaps the best, most original person, that the BBC had working for them in the 20th century. Wow.

He certainly demonstrated an overflowing creativity in everything he did. But in this WW1 context he also had a mission. His father had died aged 19 in WW1 and Chilton wanted to understand something of the ordinary men in the trenches. His father and the others who had died.

Statistics. 9 million soldiers had been killed. And another 21 million wounded. And to look, for instance, at the infamous Battle of the Somme alone, over a million soldiers were killed, including about 30,000 in just one day. There was a tendency for this horrendous period of our history to be conveyed historically with a one toned slant: the grand human tragedy, the horror, the horror.

But Chilton wanted to do it differently, in a way that would directly hit the listener. He wanted many voices. In fact he wanted, as mentioned above, the soldiers’s songs. He went to the London Library in St James’s Square to research song book collections. He researched everywhere and delighted in the anarchy that he found. He noted that, of course there were songs about missing their old world back home, but the majority of their songs were grumbles about sergeants and officers and the awful conditions. There was irony and wit and even joy in combination with despair. Very British.

Interesting to note that Joan Littlewood worked with him, or he with her, on – “Oh, What a Lovely War!” She had not really wanted the songs, just a story line. But that was his contribution. He used the structure of his Long Long Trail and the songs therein. To show that Littlewood was distancing herself from the way the production had developed, the poster advertising the premier in 1963, did not have her name on it.

The audience was ecstatic, however. Littlewood immediately had the poster reprinted with her name on it. It became her baby from that point on.

Charles Chilton is one of my heroes. I took some photos of him on the 19th of May, 2011, when the British Library had its opening party for “OUT OF THIS WORLD: Science Fiction but not as you know it.” (You can glance to the left and click on May 2011.)

And the close-up photo of him here is from that time when fans came surging up to meet him. He was responsive as you can see. Penny was, of course, at his elbow. I’m only sorry that my photo is out of focus, but I treasure it because of Chilton’s expression.

Charles Chilton

Charles Chilton



This event featured A JOURNEY INTO SPACE, his Science Fiction trilogy, with all three volumes displayed, A Journey into Space, The Red Planet and The World in Peril. Also there was his original manuscript for the first part.

It should be noted in conclusion, that Chilton gave the British Library his original manuscript of A Long Long Trail and this made possible the present BBC production to be broadcast later today on BBC Radio 4 extra at 14.00.