World War One: 100 Years On

One hundred years ago today, Britain declared war on Germany – and thus began this country’s involvement in the First World War. This, what was assumed to be ‘the war to end all wars’, soon became a ‘total war'; a conflict that killed millions of soldiers and civilians and left millions more permenantly physically or mentally scarred. Even more people worldwide, but particularly from countries across Europe, lost family, friends, lovers and homes as a result of the fighting and destruction. A whole generation was virtually wiped out by what was quite simply industrial warfare.

World War One was unquestionably one of the most significant events of the 20th century. The fact that historians are still debating its exact causes one hundred years later says a great deal about its impact on our society and others  – and the fact that we are all still paying the price of this conflict (in the Middle East, for example) shows how its effects have echoed down the decades since the Armistice in 1918. It is, therefore, important to remember.

So, to commemorate this important anniversary, I’ll be publishing a number of new posts on the subject of some of the lesser known or more unusual aspects of the conflict from the British perspective. Much will be written by others about military leaders and famous battles (and there is nothing wrong with that), but I prefer to focus mainly on the war on the Home Front and the people who lived through that, with particular reference to events in London. I have some fascinating and enlightening stories to tell about the experiences of this city at war – my small tribute to the men and women who served in numerous capacities, whether they survived or died, during the four years of this terrible conflict.

Watch out for the first of these new posts later this week and more to come over the next couple of months.

July Update

Hello everyone, I really hope it’s not too hot and sticky where you are right now (it’s absolutely sweltering here…)

Some very exciting news for you – next month, Another Kind Of Mind will be a whole FIVE YEARS OLD! I’m still slightly astonished by that, to be totally honest with you. To celebrate this milestone, I’ll be publishing a series of brand new and exclusive guest posts from some of my favourite bloggers and tweeters (hopefully!), so watch out for those (incidentally, if you’d like to send birthday cake and champagne, please do… *winks*).

As ever, watch out for more of the usual randomness you’ve all come to expect from this blog over the coming months, and I’ve got a number of special posts planned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One in August.

I also curate the Top Fifty Albums Lists blog and I’ve started updating the List of Lists there with some of your Best Ever Debut Albums lists (and will posting my own list very soon – I’m still battling with it, this one has not been easy!). If you’d like to submit your Top 50 too, please do – you can find out how here.

If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can always leave a comment here or tweet me. Also, if you’re interested in photography and street art, you can find loads of my pics on my Flickr page, which is regularly updated with new stuff (you can see some of the latest images at the bottom of this page). You can also find Another Kind Of Mind over at Tumblr, plus I’m on GoodReads too. Feel free to follow!

Now, who’s going to go get me an ice lolly…?

claire x

RIP Tommy Ramone

Aw, damn. That’s the end of an era then – no more Ramones. Tommy Ramone, the last remaining original member and founder of the first generation punk legends has left the building, aged only 62 (some reports say 65). Admittedly, that’s a fairly good innings for a Ramone – of the classic, original line-up, vocalist Joey died in 2001 aged only 49, with bassist Dee Dee dying the following year at the age of 50 and guitarist Johnny following in 2004 at 55.

Born Erdélyi Tamás in Budapest, Tommy Ramone moved with his family to New York in the mid-1950s, where he met the three young men who were to become Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone. Originally the band’s manager, he ended up as their drummer because, as Dee Dee later put it, “nobody else wanted to”. Never the world’s most technical or complex drummer (which, quite frankly, didn’t matter one bit), Tommy provided a solid backbeat to the band’s first three classic albums, Ramones (1976), Leave Home (1977) and Rocket To Russia (1977), as well as handling co-production duties.

He left the band in 1978, ostensibly worn out after constant touring but really because the tensions within the band had become too much for him, although he continued in a management and production role with the band for some time after. He continued to play music and produce various bands until he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He died yesterday, at home in Queens, New York – and the classic line-up of the Ramones was finally reunited in rock ‘n’roll heaven….

The Ramones were one of those bands who had an enduring and powerful influence above and beyond their (lack of) commercial success. Never big sellers in their native America (their self-titled debut only went gold earlier this year!), but that debut album had a huge and lasting pivotal impact on the early British punk scene before being picked up by cult American bands such as Social Distortion, Bad Brains, Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, Ministry and Bad Religion. They’ve been cited as an influence by everyone from Evan Dando, Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder to Green Day, Lemmy and Kirk Hammett – and the list goes on and on and on.

It’s easy to hear why they were (and still are) just so damn influential – particularly on those legendary first three albums. Their deceptively simple yet distintive and immediate sound is impossible to resist – or to replicate, although many have tried. It’s that unlikely and irresitable melding of 70s rock, 50s rock ‘n’ roll, girl groups, surf music, bubblegum pop, and classic protopunk bands like The Stooges and The New York Dolls that made them so utterly wonderful. For me, they were unique, one of the definitive punk bands with a sound and an attitude that still makes me smile every time I hear them. It is genuinely sad that they are all gone now – this really is the end of a great musical era.

RIP Tommy, Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny.

Gabba gabba hey!

The Common Cormorant…

The Common Cormorant...
The common cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag
The reason you will see no doubt
It is to keep the lightning out
But what these unobservant birds
Have never noticed is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

Christopher Isherwood

Yes, this silly little ditty (one of the first poems I learned by heart as a child) is apparently* by the very same Christopher Isherwood who wrote Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935) and Goodbye To Berlin (1938) – the novels that were later adapted into the play I Am A Camera (1951) and the 1966 stage musical and cult 1972 film Cabaret. I was irresistably reminded of Isherwood’s nonsense poem when I encountered this beautiful cormorant stretching out his wings in the July sunshine as I walked by the Thames in Richmond last week. Incidentally, you might like to know that cormorants and shags (no sniggering at the back there!) are, although of the same avian family, two totally different types of bird – and there were no bears (with or without buns) to be seen anywhere, rather disappointingly…

*There is some debate over whether the poem is actually by Isherwood at all, but it is certainly widely attributed to him on most poetry websites and in pre-internet poetry collections (of the physical book kind) dating back over a number of decades that I have either personally seen or own.

‘Grasp the Nettle’ now available to view online!

 

Grasp the Nettle is the latest film from director (and friend of Another Kind Of Mind) Dean Puckett. This documentary explores the experiences of a disparate group of activists who came together in 2009 to create a sustainable community outside of the mainstream on a patch of derelict land at Kew Bridge, west London. I was involved in this project too (indeed, it was at the Kew Bridge Eco-Village that I first met Dean and his ever-present camera!), photographing and writing about the site as it grew and changed over the eleven months of its existence. It would be true to say that this was a place that inspired me both practically and creatively – and I wasn’t the only one.

Here, Dean describes what inspired him to make a film about the Eco-Village:

There was an intoxicating energy about the place, a sense of freedom from a system which many of us recognise is unequal and destructive. Yet this rag-tag bunch of occupiers defied conventional stereotypes of the ‘ecowarrior’. Most of them were ordinary people from different walks of life – some were students, others were former professionals. And they had come together to not simply occupy a piece of land, but to transform it, bit by bit – in an exciting and unnerving sense, creating their own reality outside the system. I wanted to truly understand this emerging hotbed of radical practice that was both outside and inside wider society, the people involved, and the way they understood what they were doing.

So he got his camera out – and the result was Grasp the Nettle. Having been successfully screened at a number of festivals, the film is now available online for anyone to watch – wherever, whenever and for free. I’ve posted it above, so now it’s your turn to meet the inhabitants of Kew Bridge Eco-Village and see what you think…

Long-time readers may be familiar with Dean’s name from my posts on ‘The Crisis of Civilization’, his previous film collaboration with Lucca Benney and Nafeez Ahmed – which is also available online if you haven’t yet seen it.

For more on Dean’s films, visit his website and Vimeo page.

Happy 1st Birthday Rochester Square Gardens!

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I was invited by friends to visit Rochester Square Gardens in Camden, north London yesterday as this community garden project was celebrating its first birthday. Tucked away in a small, quiet square only five minutes walk from Camden Road station, this lovely space was once a plant nursery. Its current caretakers have transformed what had been a derelict site into a place where both plants and people grow sustainably. On their Facebook page (see below), they explain their ethos and invite people to get involved:

We currently facilitate workshops and events promoting environmental awareness and action, Art/Crafts/Music/Film/Photography and Movement. The space welcomes you to tune in with the rhythms of collective awakening, evolution and harmony on our planet.

If you have ideas for the space or would like to run a workshop / presentation / event, get in touch and be a part of the garden! :)

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this peaceful urban oasis and recommend you pop by if you’re in the area! If you’d like a taster of the place, you can see some of the photographs I took during my visit in the slideshow above…

If you’d like to learn more about the Rochester Square Gardens project, check out their website or their Facebook page.

Can you help Eve find her donor family?

I’d like you to meet my old friend Eve. She’s awesome. We’ve known each other since our college days in the mid-1990s, when we were introduced by a mutual friend. We’ve had a lot of fun together over the years (usually involving loud music and much giggling!) and she has been a great support to me through some difficult times. Now it’s my turn to try and help her.

You see, for the last 26 years, Eve has only been alive thanks to one remarkable, selfless act on the part of a family of complete strangers. She had been seriously ill and needed a new heart and lungs – and, on 6th June 1988, a set of organs were found and transplanted, having been donated by the grieving family of a young boy who was tragically killed in an accident.

Twenty six years later, Eve is still with us, and, as a result of this family’s incredible generosity at such a terrible time, she’s lived a full and active life, as she describes on her blog:

I’ve been to university, I’ve travelled, I learned to drive, I have fallen in and out of love. I’ve had a career. I bought a house. I have a cat! None of this would have been possible without you, or without your lad.

Back in 1988, transplant patients in Britain were told very little about the person whose organs they had receieved and contact was not encouraged (things are, I believe, very different these days), but Eve would now very much like to say thank you to the unknown family who gave her another chance – despite having very little information to go on, as she writes:

‘Thank you’ is probably the biggest understatement of the century. You have no idea how ‘thank you’ really just does not cut it, until you have been there! However, I have wanted to write that letter for years, but I never really knew how to go about it, especially as so much time has passed. There aren’t just the emotional issues, but also practical things to consider; my donor family could have moved and the transplant co-ordinator may not be able to pass on the letter. What if my letter caused upset, instead of bringing comfort? The last thing I want to do is cause more distress to a family who made the ultimate gift-giving decision, but I know I have to do it. There is a mum and dad (maybe brothers or sisters) out there whose son is still here, 26 years later. With this in mind, I am attempting to make my gratitude known – maybe social media can help to make this happen.

And maybe it can. Which is where you come in. Can you help Eve say thank you to this amazing family? You’ll find all the information she knows about her donor family and the circumstances surrounding the transplant below. And due to the circumstances, there are a lot of ‘mights’ and ‘possiblys’ – but if anything at all strikes you as familiar or if you have any possible leads (or ideas for next steps), please get in touch.

  • The donor was a 10 year old boy from Reading in Berkshire, or the surrounding area.
  • He died as a result of a road accident of some kind.
  • He almost certainly died on Monday 6th June 1988, the day Eve received the transplant (organs are only usable for transplantation for a very brief period after the donor’s death).
  • The accident probably happened some time on Monday 6th June 1988 – due to the timing of Eve’s call into hospital (see her blog), it most likely happened in the afternoon and possibly on this young lad’s way home from school.
  • However, it is also entirely possible that the accident happened a week or so earlier and he spent the intervening time in hospital before passing away.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you or did you live in the Reading area? Does this sound like someone you knew? Do you know who this young lad was? Do you or did you know his family? Do you know someone who does or might?

A few days after Eve’s transplant, a woman was interviewed about organ transplants and the need for donors for a TV news report on the subject because she had sadly lost her young son several days earlier. Certain aspects of this interview make Eve suspect that this might possibly have been her donor’s mum. Here’s a partial description of this lady (which may not be 100% accurate):

  • She was somewhere between 30 and 45 years old.
  • She had what looked like dark, possibly brown, hair.
  • Her hair appeared to be fairly short, possibly in a jaw-length bob or a pixie cut.
  • She had a slim face and possibly a slim figure.

Could this be you? Or someone you know? Were you interviewed on TV about the need for more organ donors in early June 1988? Do you know someone who was? This may or may not be a clue to the family’s identity, but it’s worth a try…

I’ll finish up with Eve’s own words explaining exactly why she wants to say thank you to this family for their life-giving act of generosity:

If you are reading this, please know that your decision was the right one. I have lived a good life, with many friends and family. I am loved and I do love.

I am eternally grateful to you and your family; it was down to you that my mum and dad did not lose me. It was because of your son that I have lived my life. It is because of your son that I am looking forward to my 40th birthday, next year. He has run with me for the last 26 years at a steady rate of 90bpm. He has drawn in air for me, 16 times per minute, hour by hour, day by day. Firemen, nurses and doctors save people all the time, he has saved me one beat at a time, one drawing in of a breath at a time, for the last 26 years. It is an understatement that I call him a hero.

So, if you know anything at all that might help Eve identify this family (or even think you might), please get in touch.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for next steps, please get in touch.

You can leave a comment here – I moderate all incoming comments (which means they do not automatically appear on a post and are only published if/when I decide to publish them), so if you have any information and want to post it without it appearing in the comments section here, please do so and I will ensure it is not published. You can also contact me via Twitter.

Eve also moderates comments over at her blog, so you can leave a message there too if you have any information. You can find her on Twitter here.

Any information you provide here will be strictly confidential and only passed on to Eve.

Please note that no individuals will be approached unless they give their permission. Eve is very aware that even after 26 years this must still be a sensitive issue for those involved, and the family will not be bothered should they prefer not to be in contact.

Please feel free to reblog this post or tweet about it or share it on other social media – and help Eve say thank you.

Watch out… squirrels about!

Watch out... squirrels about!

Out for a pleasant walk by the Thames in the sunshine last Sunday, I turned a corner to find this gang of cheeky rodents – in fact, this lot weren’t the only grey squirrels in sight. Tempted by the remains of picnics and ice creams (as well as the seeds and buds of the many mature trees in the area), squirrels were bounding round everywhere I looked. As I walked through the shady green grounds of York House in Twickenham with my camera in my hand, they seemed to be edging ever closer to me, circling me as I strolled – their fear of humans almost non-existent after so many years of posing for photographs and being cute for scraps of food. It almost felt as if I were in the opening scenes of some weird, squirrelly horror movie, so I quickly pocketed my camera and left, breathing a sigh of relief…

I think I’ll stick with ducks in the future!

Quotes of the Day: Maya Angelou on being yourself – and respecting yourself

Here are a few words of wisdom from the pen of a very wise woman:

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

The writer of these words, Maya Angelou, who has died at the age of 86, was most certainly an amazing person (and, incidentally, she was quite right about “trying to be normal” – there’s no such thing…). Best known as a writer, academic, award-winning poet* and civil rights activist who worked with both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, she was, at various times and amongst other things, also a successful actress, singer and dancer. Described by her family as “a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace”, Maya Angelou was certainly a woman who lived her life with passion, compassion, humour and not a little style. She will be missed.

* Two of my personal favourites from among her many poems can be found here and here.