THE CURATOR

I wander around this museum of my heart
A lone curator of my soul
Dusting cobwebs of my emotions, my feelings…
Shuffling around in my moth holed cashmere cardigan!
Silk scarf casually tied around my neck
Like a drunken hangman’s noose…
Gently touching memories of lost love
of those that have paid the ferryman…
 
My candle flickering as the draught, like passing ghosts,
Blows particles of the finest dust into my lungs
The flesh of the dead, yet my breath offers not life…
Slowly walking along the corridors of time
Missing the laughter of those long gone
There is no sadness, only memories
Another staircase-Another room
Just numbness, the heart’s permafrost of innocence lost…
 
I truly love her, this woman in my dreams
Who appears at dusk
Gently stroking my hand, as if to remind me
She is here, she is always here
We continue our nightly walk, anxiety engulfing me
For time is slipping awayA crow cries for it is near dawn
Until tomorrow I sigh
I turn in hope, she has gone!
Disappearing into my heart, where she forever sits
upon the throne of my desire…
 
My flickering flame comforts me
It’s reassuring, offering hope…
Slowly I walk down the winding staircase into the cellar
To lay amongst the empty barrels of mirth
Muttering happy inside, even content
knowing this new day will bring the same
Awaiting the night,to wander once more
With my true Love…………
 
 
photo by MNT

Mark C Bolton November 2021

Colin Hall, Holland Park School, the Council, Power and the Media

Colin Hall, the Marmite headteacher of Holland Park School will retire at the end of this academic year having led the school for 21 years, a third of its history. Outstanding Ofsteds and the best-paid head in the country, but Hall leaves with a tarnished legacy. Just down the road from the school is Kensington Town Hall, where those who have overseen the council’s deficient response to the Grenfell Tower fire are still comfortably in positions of power. Hall’s reckoning contrasts with RBKC’s Taylor-Smith, Campbell, and Quirk, who have sailed through on a wave of spin with no media pushback against their running of the richest, most unequal local authority in the country.

HPS

News of resignations and appointments at Holland Park have been arriving in parents’ inboxes. The big one was provided, using death announcement vocabulary, by newly installed chair of governors Jane Farrell on 29th September: 

20210929031338686_LetterfromChairofTrusteesHollandParkSchool

Among the other resignations was former head of Lehman Brothers and major donor to the Conservative party, Michael Tory. Nominative determinism now exhausted, it seems that HPS will embrace a more centrist liberal inclusive philosophy with Farrell as chair of governors and the new New Labour-supporting Bercows representing the parents. The major turning point for the HPS old guard was an article in The Guardian last month by Fiona Millar, wife of Alistair Campbell.

There are obvious dots to be joined but there might be nothing more to this new centrist liberal power theme at HPS than coincidence. After all, the articles in The Guardian and The Times were served up by a highly organised campaign by former pupils and staff determined to expose what they call a “culture of humiliation.”

Strange

Two investigations are underway at the school, one independent and one by RBKC. Expect much to be added to the list of alleged abuses brought to the public’s knowledge by the Former HPS collective.

Yelling at children through a megaphone is both strange and abusive, as is sending the naughty children to the adventure playground on Southern Row so the mock Ofsted inspectors didn’t have to see them, and so is putting up ‘Wanted’ posters of unknowing children for their ‘Grade Ds in all subjects’.

The audio of a teacher screaming at children, recorded this month, is grim, but apparently the norm, and when this is considered alongside Mr Hall’s propensity to deliver long assemblies on the subject of himself, even to sixth formers on their final day, it suggests not just an abuse of power, but also an understanding among pupils and staff the power being abused is absolute and unchallengeable. From a distance HPS is surreal and eccentric, but if you’re there every day it’s real and normalised.

Still, these revelations alone, if they had happened in a more ‘normal’ comprehensive not on inner London billionaires’ row, would not have been enough to arouse the interest of The Guardian. Mr Hall is a complex headteacher, and plenty of parents like him and his approach, the way he sets about instilling high standards (at least aesthetically) for students. Will The Guardian follow the story as it moves on?

RBKC   

And what of The Guardian‘s silence on RBKC’s ongoing, very public failings? Holland Park is one of the schools that suffered from the entirely avoidable fire at Grenfell Tower, and Holland Park families continue to suffer under the local council also facing accusations of failure to meet its duty of care.

The difference? Perhaps RBKC’s 13-strong crack team of PR spinners pulling the wool, enabled by an establishment media staffed by journalists who consider the social order of Kensington, the haves and the have nots, as natural, or, at best, an opportunity for virtue signaling.

More detail on that another time, but it’s clear that The Guardian and the other establishment outlets have the power to tip the balance in certain situations, and there is enough evidence that RBKC has betrayed the Grenfell victims repeatedly and deliberately to justify serious analysis by the nation’s media.

£

Hall’s retirement was announced the same week that the Pandora Papers revealed that Kensington is home to billions of pounds worth of property owned by tax dodging members of the one percent. If I was aiming for power via Keir Starmer’s Labour party I probably wouldn’t want to piss off potential donors like Michael Tory by empowering North Kensington residents who might demand more democracy or even devolved power locally. 

The Guardian gave a platform to the once voiceless of Holland Park School. That is good. But they don’t challenge other unaccountable power nearby. 

The previous leadership of RBKC fell because they disrespected the mainstream media, trying to lock them out of a council meeting, something the government knew was a no-no. The despised social cleansers, Paget and Mellen, were made to resign and the pressure on the Tories eased. Their heirs at RBKC have been untroubled by an indifferent, ignorant media…

 

by Tom Charles @tomhcharles

ANTHROPOCENE

If you held me in your arms for eternity
That would not be time enough!
For you are the sweet fragrance of petrichor after the rain…
Everything about you was unpolluted, pure
There’s no falsehood in your being
Snatching my heart for your own
Yet I felt no pain or loss
For it was always yours
Ordained from the beginning
Not by chance or fate, but by nature’s mighty power
The apex of colliding dimensions…

A gentle touch of your hand just enough
To cause creation to stop and wonder
Is perfection once more again about to be created?
Oh! Great Mother Earth
Take me in your arms
Show me how this world should be…….

M C Bolton September 2021 @MarkCBolton1

Hope Valley, photo by The Duke

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