SISTERS OF MERCY

I knelt in submission before the throne of grace
Guarded by two veiled women of Truth
Sisters of purity, staring deep into my soul…
Feeling pity for this wounded man
whose heart bore the scars of many battles…
Mercy and Love surely were their names
They both stood in silence
Looking without judgement at this corrupted man of flesh…

Wisdom beyond their years, yet without age!
Harbingers of light
Shining into humankind’s hidden depths
Enabling my eyes to see true beauty once more
Each glance filling my heart with Hope, with Love
Making demons shudder-Angels weep…

Granting me God’s favour, mercy, kindness…
So softly walking into my spirit
Setting me free, as slowly they depart
These majestic-regal-spiritual beings
Who have seen, who know life’s secrets
Yet still remain clothed in humility
Leaving me quietly weeping
Knowing they have my heart for eternity…

M C Bolton July 2021

@MarkCBolton1

Sudanese Women in Egypt by Max Slevogt (1914)

ENIGMA

I am just a simple man

in the most complicated of ways

With a basic thinking complexed mind

that’s often led astray

I worry about the things I cannot change 

Don’t change the things I can!

Just a complicated simple man that’s never had a plan…

Just get by day to day

always grateful for my pay

Yet it is my freedom that I truly crave

Delude myself everyday

that I am not the system’s slave 

knowing deep down that is a lie 

I just don’t see the chains!

For I am the world’s most simple man 

on the road again…

Maybe a little complicated, mixed-up, mad?

Aboard my train of pain

I know deep down inside my soul

There’s a regular bunch of guys

very slowly drowning

as they swim against the tide

Writing poems of nonsense 

When their brains are fried……..

M C Bolton, @MarkCBolton1 June 2021

Interview – Tonic Menswear

Meet Phil Bickley, owner of Tonic, the classic menswear shop on Portobello Road. Phil sat down with Urban Dandy just after his shop’s twentieth birthday as retail opened up again. He explained how Tonic started and became a Portobello mainstay, what inspires the shop, the impact of Covid on retail, and how some major currents in British history and culture have shaped his personal story… 

What is Tonic about?

Tonic is about quality, understated clothing for quality, understated people. It is socially and environmentally responsible, anti-mass production, clothes with value, established names and up and coming new brands.

What explains your longevity?

We were 20 years old in November. We offer classic labels and designs and value for money.

Three months closed in the first lockdown, then another month, and on – how do you cope?

Now that’s a question!

Two days before lockdown we photographed every item in the shop, bit rough and ready. Then in the first one to two weeks of lockdown, I was editing and adding stock then I started to put down my thoughts on retail and Tonic and its place in the community.

I sent these thoughts out in the next few weeks as emails to my customer database and through social media. The response from customers was emotional, it touched me the response we received, and the support. It helped me understand how much the shop means to our customers…retail is much more than the transaction.

Tonic isn’t just about selling stuff, it is a place, an attitude, a place people like to come and hang out, talk about the world, society, community, politics, music, football and sometimes clothes. Now and again they like to buy….

I started to come in once, then twice a week, sending out online orders and delivering orders that were close enough by hand. It was good to see people. The neighbourhood was very quiet, people appreciated me delivering by hand, sometimes I’d take two sizes of something that had been ordered so the customer could try both and decide which was better, this went down well.

We were able to access some of the government support. I’m not a fan of any Tory government, never will be, but their initial response on the financial side was good, it was decisive, considered and timely. Everything else though has been terrible!

And, in my own experience, I know there’s many with not such a good experience in lockdown.

What is the future of fashion retail and the high street?

Retail will never be the same again. The pandemic has accelerated what was already happening, people shopping from home and high streets dying. For retail businesses to survive, in my opinion, they need to be open and honest. Look after people, be nice. Sell good quality at honest prices, be true to a vision, whatever that might be.

How did you end up down here, establishing yourself on Portobello?

In 1989 I went to Hillsborough, going to footy and clothing was my thing in my later teens, I was in the Leppings Lane end with a group of friends, unfortunately, three of them didn’t make it home. At 18 years old it was tough to deal with something like that. In the 80s there wasn’t much support in how to deal with something like that. Later that year I decided to leave, maybe it was running away, I’m not really sure to be honest, I think you were expected to deal with things differently then.

Anyway, I was working in the Post Room of the Girobank in Bootle, Liverpool, and they gave me the opportunity to go and work in the London office as junior junior office assistant. It was my ticket to a new life. I moved to London not knowing anyone but gradually found my feet, found friends, worked in Greece, found rave culture, which was probably the natural next step to an ex-football going fashion lover…

Then after working in clothes shops in Soho I decided to go back into education, I managed to talk my way in to doing a fashion degree at London College of Fashion. Then I went on to work for Paul Smith in London and Nottingham. Then I had a buying role at The Moss Brothers Group, and from there I went on to roles buying for the Hugo Boss UK stores, then developing own-label ranges for the Cecil Gee stores. That is where I came up with the concept of Tonic. 20 years later, here I am.

With you being so directly affected by the atrocity at Hillsborough, there’s an obvious parallel with the Grenfell atrocity. What are your thoughts on how the community can interact with the ongoing injustice?

I grew up in Liverpool and my dad was a fireman. There would be fires in flats all the time and they were put out, they didn’t spread. Estates were built in conjunction with the fire brigade. What happened at Grenfell Tower was so different from this and it would be a disgrace if the families are made to wait as long as the Hillsborough families did for justice.

I see the similarities, the fact that minorities and marginalised communities are demonised, the misdirection from the media. With Hillsborough, it was The Sun demonising people from Liverpool, but the reality was that there were fans from all sorts of places at Hillsborough that day.

I just really hope they don’t have to wait so long but I’m concerned for them as it seems the same tactics of delay and demonisation are being used against the Grenfell families and local community.

 

tonicuk.com/

twitter.com/tonictweeter

instagram.com/TonicPortobello/

facebook.com/tonicportobello/

 

By Tom Charles @tomhcharles @urbandandyldn

 

 

RBKC’s Alarming Indifference Continues…

We just received the above image from a former Lancaster West resident. The image shows an official RBKC notice announcing that the council has designated 14th June, the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, as the date for the first of a series of fire alarm tests in one of its properties.

Four years on from the horrors of Grenfell, with no justice, widespread trauma and a PR-heavy change programme at the local council which has been ignored by the national media but exposed as a sham on this blog and elsewhere, RBKC is still finding new ways to be incompetent and insensitive.

On and on it goes….

@tomhcharles @urbandandyldn

Malaz

I stare into the sun

Longing for your shadow

to pass over me

Filling my cup once more

with the elixir of Love…

Your purity too much

For such tainted eyes to bear

Feeling so vulnerable – yet so safe

in the graceful gentleness of your presence

Kneeling in humble submission

to the Queen of my soul…

My sword thrust deep

into the desert sands of time

your veil of modesty and dignity

caught by the cool evening breeze

revealing such hypnotic perfection

that has caused kings

to wage war to win your favour

I who have served you

through many ages – dimensions

seen empires rise

seen empires fall

Finally catching a glimpse

of Paradise on Earth

In the eternal beauty of your face

Forever capturing my heart

M.C. Bolton May 2021 @MarkCBolton1

Tower Block, Housing Stock & Two Double-Barreleds

Nicholas Paget-Brown (L) & Rock Feilding Mellen (R) flanking former KCTMO chief executive Robert Black in Grenfell Tower, 2016

The Tower Block is Grenfell Tower.

The Housing Stock is the 9,000 residential properties owned by Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC).

And the two Double-Barrelleds are Nicholas Paget-Brown and Rock Feilding-Mellen, former leaders of RBKC and key players in North Kensington’s recent history.

Background

Until March 2018, RBKC managed its 9,000-strong housing stock through an arms-length subsidiary company misleadingly named Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) – read more about KCTMO here.

RBKC’s leaders had ultimate responsibility for KCTMO including scrutinising the company to ensure it met its duty of care to residents. Following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, RBKC folded KCTMO (and its 3,500 outstanding repair jobs) back into the council and increased the role of another council subsidiary company, Repairs Direct. RBKC gave Lancaster West, the site of Grenfell Tower, a separate estate management organisation, W11, although it remains in the gift of the council.

KCTMO claimed its number one aim was “Keeping our customers and residents centre stage.” Despite RBKC’s positive spin about its performance, KCTMO failed spectacularly.  

Those with lived experience of KCTMO, including me, know it behaved like a “mini mafia who pretend to be a proper functioning organisation,” going after “any residents who have the temerity to stand up to them.” RBKC’s leadership chose not to take action to improve the TMO’s approach to residents. 

In 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition took power with a zest for austerity that was taken up by RBKC. Since that election, life expectancy in Golborne ward, North Kensington, has dropped six years, one of many statistics to lay bare the inequality of Kensington.

RBKC and KCTMO used banal bureaucracy to victimise residents who opposed their policies in the years before the fire. At the head of this was Tory council leader, Nicholas Paget-Brown. 

  1. Nicholas Paget-Brown

Paget-Brown was a career politician, holding various roles in the Conservative party including local councillor from 1986 until 2018 and RBKC leader from 2013 until 2017.

His stated ambitions for North Kensington were modest: “I would like all residents to be proud of living in Kensington & Chelsea and I want to contribute towards the regeneration of parts of the Borough where there is still a need to ensure that people have opportunities that will give them the best start in life.” This, alongside platitudes about improving parks, gardens, and museums, indicated Paget-Brown’s comfortable position as leader of RBKC. His blog, his local newspaper columns, and his utterances in conversation could be reduced to one sentence: ‘Everything’s alright, you can trust the Tories.’

The most unequal borough in Britain? Paget-Brown was not a man intent on change. Continue reading

The End of the Pier Show

I sit on a deckchair

at the end of the pier

Reflect on my life

how I got here…

As a boy I squandered my money

in the amusement arcade

Rode the ghost train

thought I was brave…

But all I’ve become is another of time’s slaves!

I am now an old person

who looks out to Sea

Searching for memories

of when I was free…

Free from the madness

that runs amok in my head

Walking at times-in boots made of lead!

How did I get here?

It all went so fast

Most of my life-Now lived in the past…

Yet I see a bright future

at the end of the line

Oh! God, please give me a little more time…

Love for my children

is all I’ve got left

As lonely at times

I stand close to the edge…

But I sit on a deckchair

at the end of the pier

Reflecting on my life, the ones I hold dear

Just alone on this deckchair

at the end of the pier

Reflecting on my life ‘n’ the ones I hold dear………………………..

M C Bolton April 2021 @MarkCBolton1

Photo by tc

SANCTUARY

Holding you close against my heart

Something shifted within the depths of my soul

I didn’t want to let you go-our hands casually holding…

Slowly pulling away like a liner leaving the dock

Such majesty, grace, driven by so much power

Enough to battle the mightiest of waves

upon the foreboding Ocean of time…

We of differing faith and age

Drawn together out of love for truth

within ourselves-within each other

Agenda, motive free, pure, edifying

which tempers passion-freedom to just be!

Like two birds that fly together

just for a moment, a brief while

with no destination or reasonable explanation

Yet with a gentle touch, inner tectonic plates moved

In time with Heavenly beings…

Stumbling across this gift

That fell upon us like a boulder from the sky

Nothing will or can now remain the same

An eclipse​ of the heart. without fear or demand

Free to be our true selves, without worry of self-sabotage

Like Angels we hide beneath each other’s wings

Knowing true love has found us today…

M C Bolton, March 2021

@MarkCBolton1

RBKC Propaganda Policy

The word propaganda is rarely used by politicians, who prefer to use ciphers like public relations, communications strategy and messaging. Propaganda is reserved for foreign enemies like Nazi Germany or Iran. Like the word imperial, the negative connotation means it is avoided. And like imperialism, it goes on every day, it has a home here in London and Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) is fully committed to it.

The propaganda we discuss below is generated by RBKC. It is not an abstraction to be debated by intellectuals, but a real problem destroying people’s life chances across the borough. For RBKC, propaganda is not just a way to put the best possible spin on a policy, it is their policy.

Lancaster West

Back in August we wrote about Lancaster West estate, site of Grenfell Tower, which has been undergoing refurbishment since 2018 when RBKC stated that the estate would be transformed into “a model for social housing in the 21st century” through an ambitious, resident-led approach. Continue reading

Ravens of Madness

The gauntlets of darkness compress my brain

Feeling constantly stoned, drunk with too much wine

Yet I have partaken of neither grape nor herb in years!

My eyes are not in sync as I stumble around

like a Dickens character trapped inside an unfinished novel

Never to be read or published

Flitting from page to page searching for my lines

For my own story within this crazy story…

These days, even though I sleep longer, I still find no rest

I dread waking up! Oh! so grateful I do…

Has my God left me? Am I deluded?

Sent out of his pity?

For to see the wretched humanity deep within my soul

would be too much sorrow for a man to bear…

Am I a lost boy to conscience?

Alone running through a petrified forest

Thunder, lightning overhead, my own 1812 overture

While shrieking ravens fly above

Mocking! Mocking! Mocking!

Dark ravens of madness that now forever fly inside my head

Mocking! Mocking! Mocking!………………

M C Bolton 2021 @MarkCBolton1