Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back to the West Country

Three good days in Wessex, the ancient English kingdom of the West Saxons and still one of the loveliest parts of England, typified even today by traditional villages and mellow stone market towns, set among the greenest (this wet summer at least) of rolling hills and lush pastureland.

The drive from Wales to Bournemouth is, despite the scenery, a long haul, but we arrive in good time for the evening’s meeting. I’ve not been down here for about three years, and last time there were scarcely twenty of us. Barry Bennett hadn’t long taken over as ‘temporary’ organiser and was only just learning the ropes. He’s still ‘temporary’ organiser, but now knows the ropes. He and his local activists had a good crack at four local seats back in May, and now there are more than sixty people, nearly all from Dorset, eager to hear the BNP message.

Barry also runs our Land & People rural affairs/animal welfare website and circle. He and one or two other regular contributors have been working away quietly on this project for some time now, and Barry tells me that a surprising number of Greens now visit the site regularly, expressing far more sympathy than he’d have thought possible just a couple of years ago. Deep beneath the apparently settled surface of British politics the shifting of the plates of old allegiances and preconceptions are steadily creating a future earthquake.

Barry isn’t just a theoretically ‘green’ nationalist, he’s also leading by example. The enclosed back garden of his suburban semi is home (apart from to half a dozen gigantic rabbits who have given up living in hutches and dug themselves a proper warren) to two wind turbines, an array of solar panels, a battery bank and an inverter to turn the power back into the free 240v supply that powers all his lights, computer equipment, phone chargers and TV.

Barry with his solar panels

Barry tells me that most of the equipment came from ebay bit by bit and that he’s put it altogether as an amateur. What would now cost more than £5,000 has probably taken about £2,000. He doesn’t know in detail how the economics work out, though his electricity bill has dropped very substantially. The biggest benefit, he reckons, is the satisfaction of being independent, the clean conscience of knowing that if more people followed his lead our country would be more independent and our world would be a cleaner place, and the fulfilment that comes from meeting a challenge.

He also shows me a sheaf of letters from the Jobsworths and tax-eaters at the council planning department. Despite all the New Labour waffle about global warming and energy efficiency, he has been forced to reduce the height of the pole for his tiny 50 watt turbine to ‘a maximum of 3 metres’ and to bring the bigger 500 watt one down below the level of his roof, thereby drastically cutting its efficiency.

500w turbine – output cut by council planning red tape

For much of Tuesday I write the bulk of my next Identity article on Barry’s wind-powered computer, in between all the usual party business phone calls. Later in the afternoon, though, we head off further along the coast for something really different. Another of our local members with an interest in alternative power has a sympathetic friend who is in the final stages of building a real windmill in his back garden.

Our inventive host lets us in through his garage, which he has turned into the best equipped private workshop I’ve ever seen. Unbelievably neat, it’s packed with every kind of metal lathe, pillar drill, compressor, welder and such like you could imagine. Laid out on the floor of the equally impressive workshop behind are the shining steel arms of the four sails, each at least fifteen feet long. This is going to be a serious piece of engineering.

Just part of the spick and span workshop

He leads us into the back garden and we see immediately just how serious. This isn’t the enlarged domestic turbine I’d envisaged, but a full size (though not giant) windmill. The brick base must be eight feet tall, and above that rises a tower of steel, wood and skilfully dressed lead flashing. It is truly a work not just of engineering but of passion and of art. Magnificent.

A real windmill! Amazing project.

Inside, we climb up an almost fully extended thirty foot ladder into the chamber which already houses the drive shaft. The whole thing is self-designed, taking as its starting point a detailed study of a traditional working mill in rural Dorset. How much power will it produce? The proud maker doesn’t yet know, though his cannibalised diesel generator parts are ready to be installed and connected up once the sails are in place, so he hopes to know by the autumn.

Up in the top of the windmill, the main drive shaft is already in place

There is a sad angle to all this. All the gleaming engineering equipment is British-made, but it all dates back to the 1950s or earlier. None of the companies that made them still produces anything in Britain. And all the engineering firms which he worked with in a lifetime of productive work have shut in the last fifteen or so years.

The British companies that made the best engineering equipment in the world are mainly long gone, but their pride in their products still shows

As a result the skills and the problem-solving abilities of men like this are also in danger of dying of. Inventiveness which should be harnessed to make this country the fount of a new ‘post’-industrial revolution of effective renewable energy in the post-Peak Oil world are in danger of being lost forever. Madness.

As evening falls we drive through the New Forest, one of the places where Old England is at her deepest. Ironic that, for it was effectively made when William the Bastard expelled entire villages of defeated West Saxons in order to make himself and his Norman/French usurper heirs a huge hunting reserve. The meeting tonight is with another new group. New Forest BNP is only a few months old and organised by Ian Johnson, one of those persecuted by the PC leftists in the Fire Brigades Union, hounded from membership of his union after decades of honourable service in one of the most honourable and bravest of professions.

Even in this thinly-populated area a band of more than twenty members and keen supporters has been gathered together in just a few months by Ian and his expanding team. One of the newcomers is a singer-songwriter who seems to know pretty much everyone who is anyone in the southern English folk music scene. We talk about him doing an album with Great White Records and about his songs, several of which were emailed to me at Barry’s earlier in the day.

One, ‘Sometimes On Rainy Days’, tells of when he was a boy and would sit at the kitchen table as his grandfather “an Englishman, so definitely English” would tell him of times long gone, and the empty darkness he felt when the “man of the blood red cross …. my hero and my friend” died. I wish I’d written the song, for I know exactly the experience and the feelings. But I don’t think I’d have done as well, and I look forward to hearing it and Barry’s others once they’re out on CD.

Among the other interesting and talented people at the meeting is a keen archer and longbow expert. He is a recent recruit but already, having heard a bit about the RWB, he’s hoping to bring some bows and other equipment and do a display at next year’s Family Festival. If only half of the improvements already being planned for next year come off the Ninth RWB is going to continue our tradition of perpetual improvement in style.

Next day we leave Hampshire and Dorset behind us, heading through the fine old market town of Dorchester and past the huge earth ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort of Maiden Castle to head north to Somerset. Apart from the rain, why anyone would want to par-boil on a beach holiday in Spain when they could spend the time discovering the hidden gems of a county like Somerset I cannot begin to comprehend.

Our host for this evening, Bernard, has an equestrian centre and is fund-holder for the new Bridgwater and South Somerset group. The farmhouse kitchen is bedecked with trophies, rosettes and photos of his daughter show-jumping.

Also heavily involved at the well-attended inaugural meeting is an old hand, Bruce Cowd, and the anti-road protester and Tinker’s Bubble rural collective co-founder Robert Baehr, who gives a quiet but passionate speech about how we each must strive to be worthy of this ancient and delicate land of ours. This is nationalism at its deepest level, almost of religious intensity and profoundly moving.

Regional organiser Mike Howson is also present (in a superbly restored Elizabethan farmhouse, now a smart inn, restaurant and meeting venue. Our room is dominated by an ornate plaster sculpture on the wall behind us). He and I have a brief talk about his continuing research on positive things to take to youngsters in areas where Community Observation Patrols of the type pioneered by his team are operating.

This project would be revolutionised – and would probably revolutionise us – with a ‘spare’ £30,000. There is so much we could do with even quite a small lump sum. The Telegraph recently referred to the £5,000,000 blown by UKIP in thoroughly futile election campaigns (£80,000 in one by-election alone) – over the last few years. Most of it given by a handful of well-meaning, patriotic millionaires and all of it down the drain. When oh when will one of these individuals – whose wealth would insulate them from any consequences other than a frisson of excited gossip in the County Set – put their money behind what they really believe and get themselves a place in the history books for having really made a difference?

The following morning we head for home, though only after a short detour to Glastonbury. No-one with a soul or the faintest glimmering of a sense of the other dimensions from which we mortals are excluded can fail to find something magical in Glastonbury and on the short steep walk up the Tor which is the defining sight of the Somerset Levels. Not even the occasional dreadlocked crusty hippy and the Americanised busker can spoil the atmosphere.

That atmosphere, furthermore, is changing subtly in our favour. When I first came here, some thirty years ago, the bookshops were full of Karl Marx – his dogmatic materialism at drastic odds with Glastonbury’s innate spirituality and Otherworldliness. Twenty years ago, the bloodstained creed of Marx was being washed away by Buddism and Native American shamanism. Ten years ago the shift was towards Earth Goddess feminism and Celtic mysticism.

These two are both still very strong, but the Anglo-Saxons are now creeping in among the New Age mumbo-jumbo. One of the shops has a big pile of the newly reprinted and still superb ‘Way of Wyrd’ by Brian Bates. One of the girls already in the shop is enthusing about it, though she rightly notes that the cover isn’t a patch on the first printing. Anyone who hasn’t read the ‘Way of Wyrd’, set in still mainly pagan Saxon England, won’t grasp just how important it is that trendy middle class ‘alternative’ types like this have discovered and love this book. But take it from me that it’s about ‘roots’ – and get hold of a copy while it’s still in print. The call of the blood can – and will – be stronger than globalist ideology.

More straws in the wind can be seen among the plethora of ‘alternative’ magazines on sale in the shops. The current Nexus, for example, has among the usual New Age crankery and Islamophile 9/11 conspiracy theories two serious political articles, ‘Economic hit men & the corporatocracy’ and one on the Bilderbergers. Namaste, meanwhile, contains articles by David Noakes and Brian Gerrish, the former UKIP high-flyers who have done more than anyone else to uncover and publicise the working of the sinister pro-EU Common Purpose cult.

The free-thinking ideological incoherence of New Ageism is becoming ever more pronounced, and much of what passes for analysis in its publications is in fact uncritically reproduced garbage. But once people get as far as being alive to issues such as the key role of the banks in modern capitalism, the essentially conspiratorial nature of the federal European project, and the reality of ‘elite’ organisations such as the Bilderbergers, and the evils of globalism in general, then they are just one more revelation away from becoming nationalists. The core Green slogan “think global, act local” is pregnant with principled and positive nationalism, not least because only the nation state has the power to resist the corporate takeover and rape of our cultures and our planet.

The slow, sub-conscious shift among sincere ‘green’ types towards the fundamentals of our nationalism is even further highlighted by the CDs from the brilliant West Country folk/folk rock band ‘Show of Hands’ that are on sale. I’ve been meaning to buy a copy of their album ‘Witness’ since being given a bootleg copy by an enthusiast some months back. Pirate CDs may help to build a band’s support base, but it isn’t fair – especially to the smaller groups which don’t get plugged on repulsive stations such as Radio One – to deny them the money they’ve earned with their time, effort and talent.

So I buy a copy and play it on the way north west over the Levels and towards the M5 (Steve Knightley, singer-songwriter extraordinaire, surely knows the road). Most of the tracks are non-political, my favourite, for those who already know the album and are curious, is ‘Undertow’.

Track 2, ‘Roots’, is one of the most powerfully politicising, nationalist tracks ever written. It’s politely put, but this is genuine ethnic English nationalism put over in a very accessible, modern way. It bemoans the way in which the English know no songs to sing when the professional music has been switched off at the end of a celebration, and it lays into the deracinated liberal elite who think that’s just great:

“And a Minister said his vision of Hell

Is three folk singers in a pub near Wells.

We’ll I’ve got a vision of urban sprawl

It’s pubs where no one ever sings at all,

And everyone stares at a great big screen –

Overpaid soccer stars and prancing teens,

Australian soap, American rap, estuary English, baseball caps.

And we learn to be ashamed before we walk

Of the way we look and the way we talk.

Without our stories or our songs

How will we know where we’ve come from?”

Indeed, which is why Great White Records and the Red-White-and-Blue may one day be understood to have been at least as important at this stage of our struggle as winning elections. These are early days on a long, long road and we’ll be more than glad of those songs and reviving traditions before we reach the end of it.

And then, to the right of the car on a sharp left bend a few miles away from Glastonbury, is a picturesque and slightly oddly proportioned medieval building, standing on its own in a lush green meadow on the edge of a village. Turn around, drive back, and stop for a proper look. The chance to discover little gems like this in out of the way places is really the only worthwhile ‘perk’ of this job.

Meare Fish House

The sign by the gate explains that this is Meare Fish House, built in the early 14th century (just a couple of hundred years after the Norman Conquest, and well before the so-called Peasant’s Revolt - in fact a national rebellion in which the natives of south east England rose against their French-speaking overlords, and their lawyers, tax-eaters and imported labour - and began the long fight back for freedom and English identity). It housed the head fisherman overseeing Meare Pool, a huge shallow lake, up to five miles in circumference, which provided huge numbers of fish to Glastonbury Abbey. There was also a vineyard (but I must resist diversion into the problems with the man-made global warming theory).

5,000 eels were caught here each year, along with many other species. The fishery was recorded as long ago as 670 A.D., and King Alfred the Great must have enjoyed its produce, and indeed known it well, for the lake stretched almost to Wedmore, where he signed his Treaty with the defeated Danes after his long comeback from what at one time seemed like endless defeat.

The Meare was drained in the 17th century and is now ‘just’ another part of the Somerset Levels, beautiful, especially when the distant hills are dappled with a mixture of sunshine, blue skies and clouds as they are today.

Looking north from the Fish House, across the site of the drained Meare.

The journey home then takes us onto the M5 and past the giant display of imported unemployment and industrial decline at the car import parks at Avonmouth docks. Then past Bristol and up to Malvern. I’ve arrange to meet Jackie there so that Martin can head on up to Leeds early and so we can spend some time together as she’s got a day off too.

We have a really well-made burger and salad on the terrace of a town pub (plus a pint of well-worth-trying White Bear, a wheat beer from a local brewery), over-looking miles and miles of Worcestershire and Warwickshire. Then we climb up onto the lower of the hills that overlook this quaint spa town. The view is even better from there, although we don’t have time to go to the higher point where a view pointer would show us which of the distant hills gave its name to Edgehill, the first battle of the English Civil War, or to look westwards into Wales.

Walking down with an icecream from the Victorian spring at St. Anne’s Well, a young dad also returning from the hilltop with his son greets me and shakes my hand. A Scot, he was a member of the party back in the nineties, when he lived in Islington. Now he’s a porter at a threatened cottage hospital in the country, and takes his lad walking during the summer holidays. He says that he keeps up with our progress on the Internet and I hope as we say goodbye that our meeting will kick him over into being a participant again, instead of merely a sympathetic spectator. (If you’re reading this, well met in any case, and well done for making the effort to bring the next generation up to appreciate this land of ours. Hope to see you and your family at next year’s RWB).

Home – my new wall and weather typical of this ‘summer’

Then it’s home, just as evening falls and another shower cloud skuds across the sky. About the only positive thing to say about this rotten summer is that the seemingly endless rain has helped to establish the plants (such as houseleek, red valerian and Welsh poppy) I built in or planted in pockets of soil on top of the dry stone wall that Richard and I built over a long weekend back in the Spring.

The latest such relaxation project (a change being as good as a rest) is an experimental cold-smoker. This truly hideous Heath Robinson contraption is at present smoking bulbs of home-grown garlic. Whether it works or not, I’ll tell you next time how it goes on – and show you the pictures that will explain why in either case I’m threatened with divorce if I make it a permanent fixture on the front yard!

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