Anal JourneysDavid Warner, Bernard Cribbins, Nichelle Nichols – they’re dropping like flies again; and in tandem with the passing of familiar famous faces whose finest performances evoke inevitable nostalgia, a purely unrelated excursion on my part has involved delving into a retro-scented environment as redolent of a disappearing world as those dearly departed characters were. Over the past month, I’ve followed a route carved-out by navvies more than 200 years ago and ended up at a landmark George Orwell immortalised in 1937, despite the fact even he arrived too late to catch the decrepit remnants of an old music-hall gag. A lengthy post-war restoration of our man-made waterways has perhaps neutered their industrial origins, yet a wooden jetty erected to assist the loading of coal onto working barges was labelled a pier as an ironic dig at a town sorely lacking in the gaudy glamour that the coastal escape routes offered the colliers whose booty the vanished edifice was once weighed down by. The fact a functional construction was jokingly compared to a seaside stalwart highlights how the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, upon which the actual Wigan Pier stood, was very much a workplace for the majority of its existence, something it’s easy to forget when one strolls beside it today.

The Canal cuts a sublime swathe across the Pennines for 127 miles, and almost half-a-century ago a small segment of it provided yours truly with a picturesque playground during seemingly endless school holidays; back then, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was on my doorstep, and improvised summer outings along the towpath left a lifelong love of the location it’s been nice to revive. This time round I’ve followed that path on the other side of the geographical divide, however, with the starting point being the West Lancashire town of Burscough. Although less than 10 miles from Wigan, walking all the way using the Canal as a route is a method of getting from A to B that consciously makes journey’s end something to prolong. Unlike the internal combustion engine – rendering the journey itself an inconvenience to be got through as quickly as possible – when one walks along a canal, it’s all about the journey rather than the destination. In terms of reaching the finishing post, it’s far more tortoise than hare. Leisurely is the word.

Indeed, the leisurely pace of a canal trek is something that again emphasises the changing purpose of this country’s waterway network. When barges are sighted on canals today, nine out of ten times they’re either pleasure cruisers or alternative dwellings for the eccentric; the former come and go as must-have accessories, with the barges belonging to some of the more faddish wannabe shipping magnates betraying their sell-by dates via their shabby, neglected state as they sit permanently moored and gathering dust. Of course, if the more zealous members of the green lobby get their way, a century from now we may well see road vehicles as we now see canal vessels; perhaps a visitation of future transport-for-all came courtesy of the occasional cyclists along the canal path that required rather tiresome standing aside at certain points of the route. At least some cyclists had bells on their bikes to warn pedestrians they were creeping up from behind, whereas others exhibited the same entitled arrogance the revamped Highway Code has misguidedly legitimised on the roads. Either way, the mess that tyres have made of the path is something that a drop of rain can exacerbate, making the journey on foot one in which veering too close to the edge is even more ill-advised.

Actually, any rainfall that took place didn’t occur whilst I was walking the towpath; I was fortunate that each leg of this journey was staged on days when the sun had got his hat on. As if to underline the prosaic nature of the trek, the walk from Burscough to Wigan was undertaken in isolated episodes spread over several weeks. Also, a pattern was established whereby the end of every stage would then see the immediate retracing of steps after a drink and bite to eat; for example, stage one was from Burscough to the village of Parbold, though once this said hamlet had been reached it was then followed by backtracking to Burscough (where the car was parked). Stage two on a different day began at Parbold and went all the way to the commuter village of Appley Bridge; when that was achieved, a return visit to Parbold was then in order – and so on. Stage three: Appley Bridge to Gathurst, a district of the township of Shevington; and stage four consisted of Gathurst to Wigan. The inspiration for this undertaking was the late, great Ian Nairn, whose 1972 trilogy of documentaries for the BBC saw him travel from London to Manchester by road, Manchester to Leeds by canal, and Leeds to Edinburgh by rail. The canal seemed the more economic option in these cost-of-living crisis days, not to mention providing a suitably serene travelling experience.

Certain sections of the route were marked by blissful vortexes of natural quiet, often spanning a good ten-fifteen minutes without sight or sound of another human being or the noise pollution of traffic. Indeed, it was these sedate passages that most evoked childhood memories; there’s something inescapably calming about a location with an abundance of wild flowers on one side and water on the other that taps into an impression of summer as seen through a child’s eyes as much as the mellifluous commentary of John Arlott transmitting on Long Wave represents the season’s sound in the imagination. Other than cyclists, the only interruption would come via the occasional fisherman positioned by the side of the canal or the odd dog-walker and his/her canine companion. Long periods of untouched nature would be periodically intruded upon by affluent settlements – old tied cottages refurbished for the nouveau riche and new-builds attempting to blend in to the surroundings, with the regular incursion of archaic coaching inns remodelled as gastro-pubs making the most of having survived both the smoking ban and lockdown. All of these somehow seemed integral to the landscape, however; even a motorway bridge that crossed the canal during the stage with Gathurst as its finishing post could be admired as a feat of engineering as impressive as the canal itself rather than an unwelcome 20th century gate-crasher.

When the end of the line was eventually reached, I experienced a similar sense of anticlimax as Eric Blair himself must have felt 85 years ago; where be Wigan Pier? Well, the site that bears that famous name today largely consists of several expensive-looking ‘luxury apartments’ or work units that sadly stand unoccupied. In a way, this serves as a melancholy metaphor for the town of Wigan itself. A cursory online exploration reveals a settlement that Ian Nairn particularly praised in the 1960s as a fine example of a thriving Northern enclave that had transcended its industrial roots once boasted a characteristic Victorian market hall that embodied the spirit of the place. Alas, like many such locations during a period in which town councillors became drunk on the unrealisable visions of town planners, Wigan suffered from over-ambition, and even the ‘Casino’ that put Northern Soul on the map in the 70s has long since fallen beneath the dubious wrecking-ball of progress.

My previous visit to Wigan – only in the dying days of 2021 – found the old market’s replacement still open to the public, even if most of the shops housed in it were closed for business; seven months later, the entire area has been boarded-up and blocked-off; ‘1989’ is the giveaway year of its erection imprinted in the architecture, though the fact the town’s beating heart was swept away to accommodate a misguided attempt at urban regeneration was mirrored in the plethora of lunchtime pissheads and mobility scooters for the clinically obese that left the saddest impression on the visitor. Thankfully, the established order of my canal trek meant a dispiriting Wigan was followed by a return to the less-depressing environs of Gathurst. Overall, though, the lingering impact of an impromptu journey was of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal itself as opposed to the town at the end of it. The timeless appeal of this country’s unsung waterways remains unpolluted by ‘progress’, and as a method of seeing the country in a refreshingly alternate light, I can’t think of anything better.

© The Editor





‘Suppose that, for one reason or another, all the propaganda was in the hands of one or very few agencies, you would have an extraordinarily powerful force.’ No, not a contemporary observation on the small handful of corporations that control the flow of information to the western masses in 2020, but a snippet of an interview with the eloquent visionary Aldous Huxley from US TV in 1958. I stumbled upon this 62 year-old gem the other day on YT whilst that very medium was no doubt logging my ‘like’ in order to suggest something else in its vast archive that might appeal to me based on the information already accumulated. Huxley – along with CS Lewis – died the same day as JFK, so only had five years left to live when this interview was filmed; but he referenced ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ in it, a work written by a former pupil of his (Orwell – as Eric Blair – was at Eton when Huxley briefly taught French there at the end of the 1910s).

There’s something of the torch being passed on here; as well as his association with the future George Orwell, Huxley was also friend to a literary giant from a previous generation – DH Lawrence – during the 1920s, though he himself outlived Orwell by more than a decade. He championed ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ upon its publication, but astutely foresaw that governments would eventually rely less on the intimidating threat of terror in the form of physical violence to suppress their rebels, viz. the methods that characterise Orwell’s novel; Huxley envisaged a more sinister development whereby totalitarian regimes rule by consent, having seduced their slaves into inertia with trivial pleasures that persuade them to accept their servitude with a shrug of the shoulders; they might even grow to love it. The brutal tactics of the Nazis and the Soviets would be superseded by a subtle illusion of democratic freedom, utilising the techniques of advertising to convince man his oppression is not oppression at all and is instead being done with the best of intentions for his own long-term good. State-sponsored chemicals would also play their part in this mass deception; and as someone who requested (and received) the administration of LSD on his deathbed, Huxley knew all about the potency of drugs.

Huxley had outlined the principles of this future society in 1932’s ‘Brave New World’, a society he himself described as a ‘negative Utopia’. Prior to the Great War, writers like HG Wells had predicted humanity possessed the capacity to ultimately resolve its outstanding problems and would emerge triumphant in the end; the generation that lived through the carnage of 1914-18 was less optimistic, and the soulless society portrayed in ‘Brave New World’ – which seems to have anticipated so many of the scientific and sociological advances we have subsequently been persuaded are for mankind’s benefit – is a far more dystopian vision of how the state presents its lethal weapons as must-have luxuries to keep the populace in line. Huxley’s prophesies of the direction the world might take in his absence didn’t involve one of the 1960s’ more erudite rock bands taking their name from his chronicle of mescaline use, ‘The Doors of Perception’, but 2020 in particular often feels like a world to which Huxley and Orwell were joint midwives.

When Huxley wrote to Orwell following the publication of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, he said ‘Within the next generation, I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient as instruments of government than clubs and prisons’. That said, a combination of the two can be effective. As the curriculum of Britain’s primary schools is gradually immersed in a ‘Janet and John’ version of Critical Race Theory, the indoctrinated grownups recite the oven-ready dogma courtesy of their abundant mouthpieces and the state’s storm troopers turn to Orwell for tips on how to police dissent. Then the spirit of Huxley re-emerges as, following months of clubbing and imprisoning should anyone dare question the wisdom of the programme, we are informed via a media fanfare and crocodile tears from a thoroughly incompetent Health Minister that a wonder drug has arrived to deliver us from evil. It’s not called Soma, the hallucinogenic antidepressant which is a compulsory panacea for the population in ‘Brave New World’, but one of its first ‘volunteers’ was a Mr William Shakespeare. Rumours he was followed by a Miss Austen and a Mr Dickens remain unconfirmed.

As if the first shots of a vaccine wasn’t enough of a Covid-related story to get the MSM excited this week, it’s also been able to indulge in the perennial habit of rounding on one of its own – in this case, Sky’s veteran broadcaster Kay Burley. Most people probably couldn’t care less if Burley celebrated her 60th birthday with a few chums; but perhaps the main reason the event has caused such an uproar and led to a temporary suspension is the fact Burley has been one of the guilty parties in whipping up the hysteria that has accompanied Covid-19 ever since the first lockdown. The same double standards and hypocrisy she relished accusing Dominic Cummings of back in the summer obviously didn’t apply to her restaurant-hopping, tier-breaking birthday bash; yes, it’s yet another case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. One of television’s prime lockdown cheerleaders and serial demander of ever-tighter restrictions clearly doesn’t believe she should practice what she preaches; now, there’s a surprise.

In a media landscape that seems to require fresh sensation on a daily basis, Kay Burley’s birthday party swiftly usurped the story that opened the week, and that one managed to combine the year’s two favourite subjects. When footballers began the eye-rolling ritual of taking the knee before kick-off a few months ago, the shrewd cultural commentator Douglas Murray suggested one reason they went unchallenged was due to the ceremony being enacted in empty stadiums; he wondered if their narcissistic virtue signalling would be tolerated once fans were allowed back. Well, no – it turns out voluntary submission to a political organisation not exactly overflowing with tolerance itself isn’t actually regarded as being part of the game by those who fork-out for the privilege of watching it. Ah, yes, football fans – the hardcore support that kept the game going during the hooligan decades, when polite society regarded football as being about as cool as cock-fighting or bear-baiting. How refreshing it was to not have them at the ground for once, so the authorities could impose the Woke agenda on sport as well as every other facet of pop culture.

I guess it was unfortunate that Millwall FC – a club with something of a ‘history’ – should be one of the first to let fans back in; the boos that greeted the players’ BLM homage were immediately seized upon by the outraged free-ticket brigade who naturally put the inexplicable opposition to this noble gesture down to racism. What else? Let’s not mention the findings of a recent poll whereby 55% said they believed BLM have increased racial tensions in the UK – and 44% of BAME Brits agreed. No, far easier to stick to the narrative and ignore the fact that taking the knee no more belongs in one of this country’s genuine multiracial success stories than the Nazi salute did when England players were forced to give it in Berlin in 1938. Let’s leave the pat Identitarian lectures to the Vicar of bloody Dibley, eh? Millwall players have already announced they won’t be kneeling before their next fixture; hopefully, the rest will follow suit and this ridiculous charade can leave the field of play. If not, more boos until it does, please – for silence isn’t so much violence as surrender. As Aldous Huxley said, ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance’.

© The Editor


A shadow backbench MP nobody beyond her constituency had heard of was ‘owned’ by the Home Secretary last week. Hot on the heels of a staggeringly condescending letter to Priti Patel signed by various Labour MPs that accused the Home Secretary of using her race to ‘gaslight other minority communities’, this latest desperate leap on the BLM bandwagon by Her Majesty’s Opposition wheeled out the usual Labour copyright claim on race issues. Florence Eshalomi sought to uphold the oppressed immigrant victim narrative so beloved of the left and it was immediately evident the gambit had backfired brilliantly. Priti Patel disputed the accusation that her government doesn’t understand racial inequality.

‘On that basis,’ Patel retorted, ‘it must have been a very different Home Secretary who as a child was frequently called a paki in the playground, a very different Home Secretary who was racially abused in the streets or even advised to drop her surname and use her husband’s in order to advance her career, a different Home Secretary recently characterised in the Guardian newspaper as a fat cow with a ring through its nose, something that was not only racist but offensive both culturally and religiously. This is hardly an example of respect, equality, tolerance or fairness; so when it comes to racism, sexism, tolerance or social justice, I will not take lectures from the other side of the House…and sadly, too many people are too willing, too casual to dismiss the contributions of those who don’t necessarily conform to preconceived views or ideas about how ethnic minorities should behave or think. This…is racist in itself.’

The Labour MP didn’t call Patel an ‘Uncle Tom’, but the implication was inherent in her arrogant assumption that only Labour has the right to narrate this saga. Four great Offices of State and two of them held by British Asians rather than the evil white men who should always occupy them in order to validate the left’s story arc – that wasn’t in the script. And what a script; primarily penned by the self-loathing white middle-class that has echoes across the Atlantic at the heart of the Democratic Party, the politically-correct facade of tolerance obscuring a myriad of old-school bigotry and nastiness. Priti Patel doesn’t fit the narrative, so she’s fair game to be demonised in a racist character assassination as vile as any the left routinely accuses its enemies of.

Ditto the recent graffiti on the statue of Queen Victoria in Leeds – look beyond the historically inaccurate ‘slavery’ sloganeering and notice the statue’s breasts and genitals have been highlighted in spray-paint; what does that say to you about the ‘artist’s’ attitudes to women? Funny how so many who wear their Woke colours with pride are – beneath the approved T-shirt and the perceived immunity that comes from occupying the moral high ground – utterly guilty of everything they are quick to weaponise and aim at anyone who doesn’t fall into line; one might conclude the shame over their own thought-crimes is manifested as transferring them onto the enemy. One particular Facebook ‘friend’ of mine is such a prolific virtue-signaller for all the correct causes that her posts imply she’s one of the kindest, most compassionate people you could ever wish to meet, when she is in fact one of the most unpleasantly manipulative and nastiest individuals imaginable. But I keep her in my newsfeed because I derive amusement from her hypocrisy.

At times like this, it’s always apt to defer to a man who nailed it 80 years ago – George Orwell. How long, one wonders, before some possessed fanatic discovers such a wry critic of the British Empire in its decrepit redundancy was actually employed as a colonial copper in Burma and decides his statue outside the BBC deserves the ‘racist’ epithet? You heard it here first. Of course, Orwell’s impression of the Empire came from the one thing today’s obsessive experts on it don’t have – first-hand experience; but his experience – and gradual disillusionment with – the left in this country seems the most relevant and timeless when placed in a contemporary context. His 1941 essay, ‘England Your England’, is as well worth a read as either of his two most famous works of fiction in what it has to say about where we are now.

‘It should be noted that there is now no intelligentsia that is not in some sense Left,’ he writes – and with the mainstream media of 2020 forbidding any diversity of thought or opinion, that certainly rings true. ‘The mentality of the English left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half-a-dozen weekly and monthly papers,’ he goes on. ‘The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion.’ When was the last time you saw anything but what he describes in the pages of the Guardian? Everything is shit, everything is rotten and corrupt, everything is beyond repair, and – it goes without saying – everything is racist.

When he writes ‘under this is the really important fact about so many of the English intelligentsia – their severance from the common culture of the country,’ one cannot help but instantly think of the political class’s failure to anticipate – and its reaction to – Brexit. ‘England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality,’ he writes. ‘In left-wing circles, it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution.’ The contemporary left narrative certainly endorses that statement; in Orwell’s day, naturally, most Englishmen were white; if one were to insert the word ‘white’ before the word ‘Englishman’, that last quoted passage would make even more sense in 2020, where the disgrace is embodied in ‘taking the knee’.

But perhaps his opinion on how the left of the 1930s was complicit in creating a sense of the English being a defeated, redundant race that they themselves should be ashamed of highlights how doing so leaves the English vulnerable to the enemy within. ‘All through the critical years,’ he writes, ‘many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were decadent and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the left was partly responsible.’ Witness the response to what happened last weekend – or this – from the left; the violent desecration by their side was justified because the hymn sheet is the same one passed around the whole congregation, and those at the top have been distributing it for years.

Fear of reprisals governs discourse. One is not allowed to question or query the incoherent manifesto of an organisation that wants to defund the police, destroy the nuclear family and effectively reorganise society along the lines of a neo-Marxist kibbutz. As the FA follows the same cynical line as all other public bodies, institutions, companies and corporations in enforcing BLM on football shirts with the ‘you must wear this or else’ decree previously applied to the LGBT rainbow logo, any resistance will result in instant dismissal; ditto the black square on social media. Funnily enough, the same sporting authority informed any England player refusing to give the Nazi salute when the team lined-up to play Germany in Berlin in 1938 that they would never be picked for their country again. Wonder if Orwell watched the game?

© The Editor