The Language of Us

 

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The Language of Us

Before you, I walked at the edge of the group

A straggler in strangers

My life didn’t fit, held together with an unsafety pin

I was made not to measure

A bird not of a feather

And my hesitant shadow held back

Expecting never to be expectant, half a step behind

Like a skittish kitten, playing with fear

And then, amongst the bubble wrap multitude

Issuing and popping with importance

Was a face that emptied the page, cleared the stage

And invited me into your dressing room

Shutting out the mob that scratched and mewled against the door

And said sit down, I have a place for you

In my heart

Come and try it on

And I tried it on

Inviting you to lunch without waiting for an answer

Knowing that the glistening still water waves of the Marina

Would caress our conversation

And lap at our bruised emotions

As we refused everything on the menu except love

We had been things to other people

We had appeared as guests in others memories

We were both in a foreign country

But as the first twitch of feeling shivered between us

We found we had the language of us

That said yes whenever we touched.

Roy Stannard for Natasha

20.8.16

For a recorded version with music on Soundcloud please click here:

Fair Trade in Football?

A Fair Deal Football

In 1879 the football club Darwen in Lancashire shocked polite Victorian society by employing and paying Fergie Suter and James Love, two Scottish footballers.

In private players had been paid in kind for a while – some in cash, others in food and drink.

By 1885 professional footbal was legal and six years later a  £4-a-week wage limit was nervously introduced as the Authorities were afraid that the Corinthian ideal of the gentleman footballer was in danger of disappearing.

By 1922 the maximum wage had grown to £8 a week (£6 in the summer), and clubs also gave a loyalty bonus of £650 after five years.

In 2009 John Terry of Chelsea was earning £130,000 a week. It’s reasonable to suspect that he’s put in for a wage rise since.

By way of contrast, in 1908 Walter Tull was apprenticed as a printer and playing for his local  team in Clapton. He was an outstanding talent and was quickly discovered by a Tottenham scout. Spurs paid Walter the maximum signing on fee permitted at the time – £10 – and his wages were £4 a week. Walter was only the second man of mixed race (after Arthur Wharton) to play professional football in Britain.

Walter Tull at Spurs

He played at the highest level for Tottenham and then Northampton Town (a club much more prestigious then than now). His inspiring story has been told by me in another post. He gave up football and a chance to sign for Rangers in 1914 to join the Army, going to Italy and then France. He didn’t return.

Football has become about big money and small characters. Even the ball itself has become a metaphor for big business and exploitation.

In 1995 first reports started to surface about the structural abuse of child labour and exploitation of adults in Sialkot, Pakistan. Children and women were working for long hours in poor conditions for a pittance. Footballs were made in Pakistan and to a lesser extent, India for many years by people with no cultural link with the game. They were paid laughable sums and were prevented from having employment protection in law.

Footballs to this day are still hand-stitched, assembled one-by-one in primitive conditions where 5 to 6 balls a day is the average worker’s output.

Major brands like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Mitre (UK) have recently discovered a conscience in these matters because links with child labour are not a great football association in the hothouse supersales arena of world soccer.  

Research done by the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute (NLI) captured in the paper –  ‘Child Labour in the Sports Goods Industry – Jalandhar, A Case Study’ 1998 (known as the ‘NLI report’) concluded that around 10,000 children were engaged in stitching footballs in the district of Jalandhar.

A Child Worker in Pakistan

Stitching footballs is a home-based industry in which the manufacturing-exporting companies produce the panels of the balls in their factories and hire contractors who act as middlemen between them and the home-based workers who stitch the balls. Almost half of the stitchers are living below the poverty line and four out of ten households are headed by illiterate adults. About 90% of the households belong to the so-called ‘untouchables’, or Dalits as they prefer to call themselves. Their human rights are violated in many spheres of life, especially when they dare to assert and organise themselves. Dalits and their children are the main victims of bonded labour and child labour.

The NLI report estimates the average daily earning of an adult male in the sports goods industry to be around Rs.20 (less than half a US dollar) which is about one third of the present minimum wage of Rs.63 a day. Almost half of the working children have health problems, the most common of which are joint pains and backache.

Since 2006, meanwhile, a British company, led by young co-director James Lloyd in Brighton has designed a range of balls that do not depend on exploitation and child labour to make a profit.

Fair Deal Trading is based on rigorously monitored Fair Trade principles, paying fair wages for sensible hours of work and providing a hinterland of benefits and health cover for workers employed in Pakistan.

Imran Khan is one such worker. He has been working in the Ethletic factory, Vision, since 2005, manufacturing sports ball bladders. He currently earns Rs. 7000 – much more than the minimum wage.

Because of his employment, most of the benefits of the Vision Fairtrade projects are available for him and members of his family. He does a significant amount of his shopping in the Fair Price shop, saving about 3% on the grocery bill – significant savings for a family of ten (parents, six sisters, two sons) on a silly budget.

He can use the Vision pick-up and drop bus purchased with Fairtrade Premium money – saving up to 1000 Rs/month: His daughter has benefited from the Fair Trade health care scheme in place.

The footballs produced are of premium quality, unlike the factory produced, machine stitched Adidas balls used in the last World Cup to universal derision, not least from players. The sponsorship pumped into the competition secured their place on the pitch. Players watched in bemusement as these balls ballooned their way around the pitch, completely out of control.

In the meantime, Ethletic balls, which have fair wages and a future for the indigenous economy sewn into them, can’t even break into the squad of approved balls used in the Premier League, much less the European Championship or World Cup.

So while most Premiership players earn above £50,000 a week, workers in Pakistan are being paid 1/50,000 of this in order to protect the positions of the major football sponsors. Yet, the high street is going bananas for Fair Trade. The Industry is worth £1.4 billion per annum. It just hasn’t reached Football yet.

If you read this and feel ashamed, lobby your local club. Better still, get them to buy their footballs from Fair Deal Trading.  http://www.fairdealtrading.com/

That way, given a level playing field and a fair wind, everyone wins.

A fair day's pay for a fair day's work?

A Place in the Sun – my love affair with Tracey Thorn

Seashells and carousels – Tracey Thorn in The Marine Girls
I first stumbled across Tracey Thorn on the Cherry Red compilation ‘Pillow and Prayers’ in 1983. She had three songs on the album under her own name, The Marine Girls and Everything but the Girl. I was astounded by the maturity, magical resonance and mellifluous marshmellowness of her voice. I also loved the feeling of walking along Springtide beaches staring into rockpools that her voice conveyed.

I was at the leftish University of Sussex, camping out on the Vice-Chancellor’s lawn, protesting in a kind of self-harming way by occupying the Administration Block and thwarting attempts to distribute student grants (remember those?) to indigent students.  I would hang out in the Pulse Cafe at Sussex University, making out as a callow proto-revolutionary in Mandela Hall, visiting the Vinyl Demand record shop off Trafalgar Street, dipping into the vaguely seditious Solstice Bookshop (run by contemporary Paul Bonett, now a successful avant garde Estate Agent in Brighton) and engaging in some highly self-indulgent pirate radio activity.

Solstice Bookshop in the late 70s, Trafalgar St, Brighton

For a boy from Southend, transplanted to the exciting and Graham Greeneian Brighton landscape, Tracey Thorn’s melancholic voice accompanied this Bohemian existence perfectly and I rushed out to buy as much of her work as I could.

The all-female Marine Girls were formed by Tracey with her schoolmates Gina Hartman and Jane Fox in Hatfield, Herts England in 1980. At first, Tracey Thorn played guitar, with Gina on vocals and Jane on bass. There was a drummer shortage so the band applied necessity to invention and pursued a minimalist approach to arrangements. Gina Hartman sang on ‘A Place in the Sun’  and recorded the first album, ‘Beach Party’ before leaving (voluntarily) and was replaced by Jane Fox’s younger sister, Alice Fox on vocals. This was before Tracey Thorn first put voice to mic. The original trio recorded a tape called ‘A Day by the Sea’ and sold it to their mates. The Marine Girls eventually released two albums in the UK – 1982’s ‘Beach Party’ and 1983’s ‘Lazy Ways’. ‘Lazy Ways’ was produced by the band’s mentor, Stuart Moxham of Young Marble Giants.

The video for early single  ‘A Place in the Sun’ was shot on Brighton Beach and features some background footage of the now derelict West Pier. I looked in vain in the video for a glimpse of me with a crocodile of 100 German foreign language students – a Summer job I had at the time.

Whilst at Hull University, Tracey began writing her own material as the logistics of getting back south to write with the rest of the band was difficult between university breaks. The Marine Girls broke up after Tracey and Alice Fox fell out following a concert in Glasgow in 1983. Tracey then recorded her solo album ‘A Distant Shore’ which influenced Curt Cobain and others, before joining Ben Watt in Everything but the Girl. In 1997 Cherry Red Records packaged the two Marine Girls’ albums onto one CD and 4 years later spinART reissued the albums in the US.

 “We never really paid much attention to these so-called ‘rules’ about what a band was supposed to be,” Tracey said. “We didn’t know anyone who played drums, for example, so we just formed a band without a drummer.”
 
The very minimalism of the sound, instead of placing the album in an envelope between post-punk and the advent of the ‘Twee’ (Altered Images etc) movement, creates a timeless voice from the eighties bedsit low-fi chamber. Tracey’s unique voice remains a siren call from the caves of the southern isles which forever recreates the hours spent listening to these albums on headsets and Walkman on the stony, yet strangely comforting beaches of Brighton, Hove and Worthing.

Play these albums now and enjoy the waves gently lapping at the toes of your imagination.

Credits:

Bass – Jane Fox (tracks: 1 to 31)
Guitar – Tracey Thorn (tracks: 1 to 31)
Percussion – Alice Fox (tracks: 15 to 31), Gina Hartman (tracks: 15 to 31)
Saxophone – Timothy Charles Hall (tracks: 1 to 14)
Vocals – Alice Fox (tracks: 1 to 31), Gina Hartman (tracks: 15 to 31), Tracey Thorn (tracks: 1 to 31)

Notes:

Lazy Ways (Tracks 1 to 14)
‘Originally issued in album format 1983 BRED 44, and as a double play cassette with Beach Party C BRED 44’
Beach Party (Tracks 15 to 31)
‘Originally issued in album format 1981, Licensed from Whaam Records reissued on Cherry Red Records 1987 BRED 75′

Track Listing:

Lazy Ways

1. A Place In The Sun (2:31)
2. Leave Me With The Boy (1:50)
3. Falling Away (1:46)
4. Love To Know (2:52)
5. A Different Light (2:22)
6. Sunshine Blue (2:05)
7. Second Sight (2:58)
8. Don’t Come Back (2:01)
9. That Fink.Jazz-Me-Blues Boy (1:32)
10. Fever (2:14)
11. Shell Island (2:27)
12. Lazy Ways (2:42)
13. Such A Thing.. (2:22)
14. You Must Be Mad (2:02)

Beach Party
15. In Love (1:53)
16. Fridays (2:03)
17. Tonight? (1:19)
18. Times We Used To Spend (1:41)
19. Flying Over Russia (2:05)
20. Tutti Lo Sanno (2:21)
21. All Dressed Up (1:46)
22. Honey (2:02)
23. Holiday Song (2:12)
24. He Got The Girl (1:24)
25. Day/Night Dreams (1:10)
26. Promises (1:29)
27. Silent Red (1:33)
28. Dishonesty (2:16)
29. 20,000 Leagues (2:23)
30. Marine Girls (1:39)

31. The Lure of the Rock Pools (1:50) 

Marine Girls – A Place in the Sun – original video shot in Brighton 1982 – featuring rare footage of the West Pier and Peter Pan’s Playground:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kjABf474jw

http://www.mediafire.com/?tzgmwntjz55

Rare Eighties music gems (ripped from 12″ vinyl)

April Showers - Abandon Ship (with superb orchestration by Anne Dudley)

April Showers - Abandon Ship (with superb orchestration by Anne Dudley)

Jonathan Bernstein and Beatrice Colin together formed April Showers – a fleetingly brilliant Glaswegian pop duo who released just one single “Abandon Ship” on Big Star, a subsidiary of Chrysalis in 1984.  It quickly gained a cult following due to its sparkling production from Anne Dudley (Art of Noise) and string-heavy arrangements. This quality was echoed on B-side “Everytime We Say Goodbye” with the 12-inch featuring an instrumental of Abandon Ship “Abandon Ship Sing-A-Long-A-Wonder Mix”. Due to its rarity and the presence of Anne Dudley this record is now highly sought after – good job I recognised its quality back in 1984! Both vocal version and instrumental are included in the compilation below. 

In converting some rare Eighties vinyl to CD I thought it would be churlish of me not to share some of this hidden treasure. Where tracks are easily obtained via download sites or on CD compilations I haven’t included them. Hence Nick Neyward’s ‘instrumental version of ‘Whistle down the wind’ is included here because the vocal version is easy to obtain.

The instrumental 96.8 is on the B side of ‘The Highest High’ by China Crisis (1985), the year that I launched a Saturday afternoon sports show on Worthing Hospital radio and used this piece of music as its theme. It still sounds great to my ears – and is absolutely unavailable anywhere else.

The Secret Seven are so obscure that they do not have an entry on Last FM – but the 12″ mix of ‘Hold onto Love’ is an eighties favourite of mine – all glorious 7 minutes of it with sumptuous string arrangements and the signature programmed drum sound of the time.

Another favourite of mine was Virgin Dance – part of the thriving Liverpool scene that produced The Teardrop Explodes and others. The quintet consisted of Edwin Hind (vocals & guitar), Kenny Dougan (guitar), Lorraine Gardner (keyboards), Graham McMaster (bass) and Cliff Hewitt (drums, previously in Modern Eon). Led by vocalist Edwin Hind, the band released one album, “Against the Tide”, and scored one indie hit, “Are You Ready (For That Feeling)?” which is included here in both its 7″ and 12″ guises.

‘Weak in the presence of Beauty’ by Floy Joy was later covered by Alison Moyet but this version has the thrill and the passion of its writers in full flow.

Blow Up despite the name were nothing to do with the 60s film of the same name although they derived their name from it.  The title of the track suggests they had Brighton roots and that was where I was living at the time, which is how Norman Cook who was working in Rounder Records in The Lanes, Brighton at the time managed to convince me to buy it. I have never regretted it. Norman (Quentin in those days) always did have great taste.

White & Torch were a Walker Brothers for the Eighties and ‘Parade’ is simply superb, both in vocal performance and arrangement – majestic sounding even now.

1. April Showers – Abandon Ship (12″)

2. April Showers – Abandon Ship (12″ instr)

3. Blow Up – Pool Valley

4. China Crisis – 96.8

5. Floy Joy – Weak in the presence of beauty

6. Mondo Kane – New York Afternoon

7. Nick Heyward – Whistle down the wind (12″ instr)

8. Sivuca – Ain’t no sunshine (12″)

9. Sophie & Peter Johnston – Happy Together

10. The Beautiful Americans – Beautiful Americans (12″)

11. The Secret Seven – Hold onto love (12″)

12. Two People – This is the shirt (12″)

13. Virgin Dance – Are you ready for that feeling? (7″)

14. Virgin Dance – Are you ready for that feeling? (12″)

15. White and Torch – Parade (12″)

Here they are:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/3i186z9b7b7lth5/Eighties.zip