If the Hung Parliament exit polls prove right this is the most extraordinary moment in British Politics and the chance to pull back from the Abyss. The Abyss being Brexit. It is what the Election was cynically called on, what both major parties have avoided campaigning on at all, for any Labour successes, and what the Liberals have failed to be really heard on. But with a slightly improved Liberal representation and a weakened SNP, pro Europe, potentially pro a dissolution of the Union, those two parties must come together very quickly to change the shape of Brexit, even force a new election on the issue that has been so avoided. The Referendum that should never have been called was no great victory, it split the country in two, 52 to 48%, and it was absolutely no justification for May’s revolting, opportunistic vaulte farce and ruthless politicking. Whatever happens tonight her cynicism has failed and her position will very quickly prove untenable. Unless of course the exit polls prove very wrong, as they did in 1992. Watch these spaces!
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Well, this cynical, snap election is tomorrow and we urge you to vote tactically for the only party apart from The Greens calling for a second referendum on Europe and Brexit, the Liberals, who may double their seats. But elsewhere to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. He will not win it, indeed his cabinet is not fit for office, and yet he has a voice of real integrity that must be heard. Especially in the face of Teresa May’s utterly cynical soundbite political opportunism. A woman who voted to stay in Europe jumped on the Brexit bandwagon, was so stupid to make it a Hard Brexit, when no one else around the world can understand it, and is playing the strong-Britain card like a puppet of the Ministry of Truth or one of the bad witches in Harry Potter. What turned it for us though was not only Corbyn’s marvellously improved speech making and rally to arms, which has breathed new life into a democratic process, but his saying he would not be afraid to pick up the phone and tell Donald Trump he is simply wrong about Climate Change and so much more. In such contrast to May’s very Tory scramble to suck up to Trump, getting promises that mean absolutely nothing, now Trump has gone rather quiet on Brexit and Britain being at the head of any queue. People have come to power on populist opportunism and we need conviction politics everywhere. Good luck tomorrow.
She doesn’t have a name, such a beautiful wild lioness, even though the guides on our trip had at least got her used to the jeep. We were about twenty five feet away, after having searched for two days, seeing old, dry tracks, and the remains of a zebra that had been killed months before. Then, bumping through the bush in the Kalahari, that lions will use as shade and cover to take animals, Jonah suddenly spotted what we couldn’t see at all. He swung the jeep around and there they were, not one but three lionesses, the two more retiring companions almost lost in the tangle of Wait-a-Bit trees next to her, stretching and yawning in the African heat. Breath taking.
I don’t know if I could see the anguish in her face that my companion Arabella did, the tension and strain, that made us warier of moving where we sat. Apparently lions’ eyesight cannot easily distinguish shape and colour, they see blocks, so they react to things breaking out of the frame. That anguish though is because she had had two cubs, a male and female, but a lion, not the father, who had been following these three females around the area, had first killed the male cub, then driven out or killed the female too. Perhaps new cubs will succeed the little tragedy.
How gloriously different though, after our experience of meeting two lions in South Africa in a 4 hectare fenced enclosure in Plett Bay, to see these Queens of Jungle and Bush in the true wild and led by such a proud, beautiful, astonishingly powerful creature. The story of lions though, and the collapse of populations in the late Twentieth Century, is as tragic as so many wildlife stories. It has a particular nasty Human side too, in the existence of what they call ‘Canned Hunting’, not here in Botswana where any such hunting is illegal, but in South Africa. Where it is legal to breed lions in captivity – there are something like 8000 captive lions there today – for the private zoo trade, or ‘Petting Tourism’, where Europeans pay high prices to supposedly suckle them for Conservation, but where their final destination is really death at the end of some high paying ‘hunter’s’ rifle. In South Africa three lions are shot for sport every single day and they go for around $60,000. I don’t know if Donald Trump’s sons have taken such lions, but they have certainly been in the Press for their enthusiasm for Big Game sport shooting. The shameful, cruel and scandalous practice of Canned Lion Hunting, animals often drugged and baited before an easy and senseless kill, I am sure the likes of that lion of a man Nelson Mandela would not have condoned, was confirmed in 2014 by the South African Supreme Court under Jacob Zuma’s administration.
The irony in it though is that lion numbers in South Africa have probably gone up because of legal breeding. Yet, compared with this vision of the true wild in Botswana, what kind of life do those captive animals really have? What kind of sport is it to slaughter them too? Or is that killing of this lioness’s cubs in the wild part of a brutal truth always in the background of existence, human and animal, with increasing populations and ever shrinking habitats, we just have no answer to? Yet, for all the brutalities of life and the world, surely Man’s real talent could be to avoid that kind of senseless ugliness, and what the wildlife organisation Four Paws describes as “selling brutality”. In the Kalahari, with the raising of endless miles of fencing, partly to try and stamp out Foot and Mouth disease, European meat markets are so sensitive to, natural migration routes have been disrupted and both Zebra and Wildebeest populations decimated. Inevitably predators like lions have suffered dramatically too. But at least that hot day this beautiful February in Botswana, three graceful lionesses enjoyed their freedom, only caught in the photo can, and the true wild was there, in all its paradoxical wonder.
David Clement-Davies February 2017. David travelled with Uncharted Africa, for their website Click Here If you are interested in opposing the practice of Canned Hunting you can find out more by visiting the Four Paws website Click Here
Phoenix Ark are very proud to be supporting and promoting a group of four great artists in South Africa, who have founded a little Collective in Cape Town’s beautiful Kalk Bay, at The Kalk Bay Artists Collective. There Chris Bladen, Pete Strydom, Arabella Caccia and Jean Tiran now have their own workshops, but a lovely gallery space too, currently by invitation, to help support each other and to try and challenge the Gallery system too.
Chris is a highly renowned fish and wildlife sculptor, whose almost scientifically realistic fish, birds and animals stem from his own love of sports fishing and the environment. They sell around the world. He is also a superb jeweller. Pete is self taught, but his passion and wit ring out, and his sculptures range from gorgeous sunbirds to humorous modernist camels. Arabella is both award winning painter and sculptor whose work has auctioned at Southebys and, like all of them, is deeply inspired by nature and the shapes inside it, especially trees, to capture the vivid colours and forms of Africa. Jean Tiran is the Master Craftsman of the workshop, but also a wonderful abstract sculptor in his own right. To see them, their Mission Statement, their website and their work, just Click Here
Phoenix Ark and the artists are keen to build long term relationships with buyers, not least because work can be finished to detailed orders and editions. Links to individual websites can be found by clicking above. For International clients, even with the costs of shipping and tax, the work still represents considerable value. To contact them you can write directly here, to The Collective or to the artists individually, via the website.
A SHORT WALK IN THE KALAHARI
His name is Cobra, and he has been working with the excellent, high end travel outfit in the Kalahari, Uncharted Africa, for years. I think he started as a boy with the hunter Jack Bousfield, who was killed in a plane crash, where his son Ralph was injured, back in 1992. So Ralph founded Jack’s Camp, in honour of his father, and so came San Camp and Camp Kalahari too, all in reach of each other, here in beautiful Botswana, on the edge of the Makadikadi salt pans. I’ll blog more on the wonders and style of our visit, of lionesses, meerkats, and an evening ride among three thousand Zebra, during the migration. We were thoroughly spoilt and the only decent thing is to share just a little of it with you here.
But first to something Uncharted offer too, which is a two hour walk with the ‘Bushmen’. Of course nowadays that term is decidedly politically incorrect, for the San and Koi peoples, among the oldest cultures and people of Africa. I do not mean it to insult, far from it. Their guttural, clicking, beautifully sing-song tongue is the root of the Xhosa language in South Africa, though linguistically they have long split apart. I think we all felt a little awkward as we rounded a Wait-a-bit tree, heavy with Long lensed cameras, our bronzed skins fizzing with mosquito repellent and wearing shades, to see a small group of adults and children, all apart from Cobra, in traditional dress. The group come for around three months, paid by Uncharted, though I have no idea what, then are replaced by another group, so inevitably came the potential feeling of a stage set, and a forced exercise.
But very quickly we were put at our ease, after many handshakes, reassured that these guys like it, including being photographed, and actually several of the bare breasted women dandling their dirty babies hardly seemed phased at all. Somewhat bemused, or amused. So off we set, wondering what on earth we were doing, to stop now and then, to pull up a bitter herb, a xoi, or wild carrot, or pluck purple pepper pod leaves that help cure a dry cough, or try and understand their mesmerizing language. I’m afraid I still haven’t grasped names, but a couple of the younger guys and girls had very good English too, to translate, and somehow the awkwardness eased, as we started to enjoy a walk in one of the largest, and hardest gardens on earth, the Kalahari. Several of the men carried delicate asagais, I’m not sure of the bushman word for spears, made from the hard wood of the brandy bush, and one arrows and a bow, though technically, like everyone else in peaceful Botswana, they are not allowed to hunt. I have a problem with that, because although I thoroughly approve of Botswana’s general ban on Big Game hunting, which should be adopted across Africa, what will it do to their unique culture and lives, among such an un-invasive people?
The story of the Bushman is probably as sad as much of the rest of the World. Now perhaps two thousand live a truly traditional, nomadic life in the Kalahari, and have been moved especially from the central parts around the Diamond reserves, though ‘Conservation’ is generally the excuse, to the edge of towns or their own communities. Diamonds! Those beautiful, over valued stones we like to give each other on bits of gold as a symbol of Love ad Eternity, that generally are pretty useless, especially when we’ve ruined the Wild and the World for Eternity. But never make too many assumptions. One of the guys smiled knowingly as I asked him what he wore in Frances Town or his village. Jeans and Tshirts was of course the answer, sometimes, especially in town, as I learnt he was studying Engineering. But on we trecked, this mobile outfit from Botswana’s equivalent of Central Casting breaking away to pluck a purple pepper pod, or show us an animal track. Especially the elder guys were watching and knew, and you knew too that if you were ever lost in the desert, forget Ray Mears or Bear Grylls, it was these guys you wanted with you!
The ground was dry, despite the unusually heavy rains this February, and soon the girl I had been trying to vaguely flirt with, or prove I wasn’t an arrogant Westerner to, was crouched on the earth, teasing the guys about their jokes that this was women’s work, digging for a special water tuber which they scrape like a carrot, then squeeze, using the thumb as a spout, to drink the milky, bitter fluid. That I tried too and it tastes like pure water, when your brain separates out the turnip bit. Back she placed it in the ground too, for another day. Meanwhile the men were collecting dry Zebra dung, twigs and fine kindling to show us the primal art of Fire. Cobra was trying to upstage them though – they came from different tribes and didn’t talk the same language – scooping out the earth to catch a scorpion, that he played around with, then popped between his lips and teeth, so he could clean it and show the eight eyes, and eight spots on its underbelly, that relate it to a spider. I tried to talk to Cobra, about what he thought of tourists, or the problems of his people, and though there were lots of reassuring ‘goods’, his extraordinary face seemed naturally lined with doubt.
But the fire was going, the group and the little children decidedly interested in their own stuff, and so began a kind of song and a game I think I’ll never forget. Men opposite women, it was a version of Paper, Rock, Fire, though with moves and signs for Lightening and Steenbok instead. But they so got into it, laughing with delight, that fascinating machine-gun rapid song language rising to some enchanted drumbeat, we were all laughing too and slapping our chests in rhythm wanting to really be part of it. The Game was done, the fire out, a smoke in a bone pipe complete, I had been dying to try too, from a tiny wad of tobacco couched between one of the lady’s breasts, that makes you wonder how many pula they earn, and just like the water plant, the fire remains were pushed into a hole and smoothed over. Gone. One more thing left, as I tried to throw a spear, the little snare they had made under the tree, for birds, or even the tiny deer we had seen everywhere. They laughed approvingly as I was persuaded to put my hand through the vine-made noose, to touch the bark gum bait and I was caught.
Now we were wandering again, the sun high, feeling as if we had touched a little bit of a very innocent Eden. It was all there. All you really need in life. Food. Water. Fire. And a laughing song-game. Then suddenly they began to break away, after all of them shaking our hands once more. We of course had no idea where we had wandered in the bush, but there we were back near their camp, like turning the corner to the semi-detached. Cobra and his fine, long faced compatriot, such a dignified, beautiful face, hopped in the jeep with us for a lift back to Jack’s Camp, but it was over. It will go on. For the other tourists, a walk in the Kalahari, though Uncharted offer a trip where you can live with them, without any other creature comforts. But for any staginess, any odd conjunction of Ancient and rather Modern, that many of the Botswanans around looked at somewhat sceptically, I was deeply touched. I thought of all the problems, all the fights and horrors of the World, of the grossness of Donald Trump and all that Power, the difficult issues of Conservation too, and precisely because these gentle, threatened people seemed to leave no harmful mark, felt very genuinely that we could all take a purple pepper pod leaf out of the Bushman’s book.
David Clement-Davies February 2017 Photos David Clement-Davies and Arabella Caccia. To Visit Uncharted Africa’s website Click Here
Perhaps all is managing expectation and when I dreamt of a South African Safari it was certainly dreaming of the real wild. For that though you will have to go up to the Karoo or the Kruger National park and give its perhaps a couple of weeks. Instead, in the Southern Cape, and for a short visit, come the smaller Game Reserves, often in danger of carrying the label of a zoo. But which also allow you to get very close to some wonderful animals you might not even see in the real wild and taste something of the ‘Safari’ experience. One example is the two and a half thousand hectare reserve just above pretty Plettenberg bay. Plettenberg being a place worth a visit in itself, for its delicious golden beaches lapped by the warmer Indian Ocean, lunch at the eccentric Grand hotel, or some Rock n’ Roll among the…
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It’s a moot point whether David Cameron should ever have called a Referendum on Europe, but if more voices are not heard now, then Parliament may loose its purpose altogether. With enormous anguish about a very small majority in the Referendum, 52-48% of us, that changed after the result, it has now taken a passionate private citizen to even bring this through the courts. Bravo, and apologies from Britain for all the foul online hate you have had to suffer! But Constitutional law demands that actually Article Fifty can only be triggered by a vote in Parliament, which is being debated tomorrow and on Wednesday.
Well, those who have fought for Brexit crow that it already happened with the Referendum last June. Actually, if Donald Trump can so cut through Democratic processes, nothing is certain in Politics, much what the Brexiteers want of their own power, and nothing is absolutely true either. Except perhaps momentum. The report on Channel Four news after the Supreme Court decision, put the likelihood of any real opposition to Brexit now though as absolutely negligible. Why? Because Labour is in such pathetic disarray and was never particularly European anyway. Because the Liberals were destroyed by being too keen to exercise power and then Nick Clegg’s attempt to fight an election simply on being the middle-ground, restraining, supposedly reasonable force was a shameful disaster. Because the truly moral voices of visionary Conservatism, like Ken Clarke, stand against a supposed tide of history and individual ambition.
So MPs from all parties, consumed with fear of ‘popular opinion’, and no doubt swept up by the heady Executive power being shown by Donald Trump, will ignore the problem of a Referendum, the fact that it was no sweeping victory at all, and all the confusions of a future they can neither see nor understand. But it is precisely why there should be a huge grasp at the chance of true debate now, or true and creative opposition, despite David Davis’ plan to sweep this through with a quick, short Act, 137 words long. True opposition will not happen, because we live in a populist, increasingly demagogic age, that has forgotten the most fundamental principle of true Parliamentary Democracy, over push button, Plebecite politics, expressed by that great Tory Edmund Burke, during the French Revolution, in his speech to the electors of Bristol. There he not only foresaw the coming Terror but defined the fact that though an MP owes their power and responsibility to their electors, they also owe the electors the authority and freedom of their own conscience. The truth is there was never any true debate about Europe, or the World, because the pro Europe Campaign was so lame. Perhaps no excuse, but if we are really talking about British Sovereignty, Parliamentary Democracy, surely now is the time that Parliament itself must stand up, each individual MP must stand up, and have a true debate. It will not happen.
THE INAUGURATION OF DONALD JOHN TRUMP
Despite the new attempt at an Orwellian Ministry of Truth from the Washington Press Spokesman in this statement that crowds at the 45th US President’s inauguration were huge, but Media coverage doctored, and of what has been universally described as a low turnout, I’ve been a bit confused by the coverage too, on TV and especially Radio Four. With commentators, although mentioning minor riots in Washington, in fact talking about the razzamatazz, glamour, triumph and good support. Perhaps we should all have been invited to the parties, or they are trying to ride some wave.
To me the entire thing felt and looked like a funeral, subdued, fearful, ominous and Trump’s speech was sinister. That super hotelier of a President, who does not read, clearly looked as if he needed a hug, and at times you were even tempted. But when he came out with that frightening garbage, I and I hope any of the civilised world, hung their heads in shame. It lacked any breath of oratory or Statesmanship – from sea to sea, from ocean to Ocean (!), blah, – and was Messianic in its American bombast and virtually illiterate. Protectionism, Isolationism, America First, wiping things from faces of the Earth, God leads us, We The People, or You, when he lost the popular vote. God, what a contrast to Obama’s superb and needed oratory, especially after George W.’s damage, so much a part of the rise of World Terrorism, with the arrival of a First Black President and his inspiring humility on his departure. Not that oratory is enough, but then, as Edith Clavell once said too, Patriotism is not enough either! Or not enough for the Planet now.
Trump is not only a Plutocrat with a dodgy history, but the First Americo-Russian Oligarch. Probably why he so seems to admire Putin. Or is that Putin’s grabbing of Pussy Riot? Perhaps that’s unfair, America was forged by big business men too, from Carnegie to Rockerfeller, as Putin’s power was secured with the rise of the Oligarchs, but you’d hope something might move on and it was Government’s job to hold their likes in check. His scornful comment about those people congratulating him who had once attacked him though is so totally to misunderstand what difficult but always preferable Democracy must deal with, and why others were at such pains to celebrate the peaceful transfer of power. But now his arrogance and stupidity, not in the commercial sense, I’m sure he’s very savvy about how big business bullies, or he does, how his wife can get a commercial leg up, or how he goes serially bankrupt so he can make more money, as others loose out, and according to Channel Four advised by a lawyer to Crime Families , will try to take a chainsaw to complex checks and balances. Rowe V Wade, the EPA, the PAA already negated, the end of abortion assistance in Developing countries, you name it.
Is it right to attack the corruption and swamp of Washington though, as if the only movie Donald ever watches is Mr Smith Goes to Washington? He’s certainly no James Stewart or Frank Capra. Well actually I think elements are right, have experienced the corruption at the top, yet the power of The Hill and US social divides is really about the problems of Super Capitalism and Wall Street, exactly what Trump is such an arch and tasteless exponent of, despite what he claims. Now in his cabinet he has several members of Goldman Sachs, that ‘Universal Spider’ so implicated in the Greek crisis. What is so wrong with a liberal elite anyhow, in comparison to a new hyper Conservative and Right wing elite of pure money and capital? Though it must be said that the Liberal Media seems to have just got it spectacularly wrong in the new series of Homeland, predicting that a Woman and Anti War President would now be in the Whitehouse. Perhaps they are indeed deeply out of touch. As for movements, Hitler too really was a revolutionary, though at least he far Trumped Trump in being a very eloquent demagogue. I am sorry though America, but for a Country that is rather great, the only Super Power, actually perhaps you deserve the Politicians or the Democracy you get.
So, The Paris Accord on Environmental initiatives and emissions is now a dead letter, because, er, it’s just not true, cos The Donald says so, any reference has been removed from the Government website, those guys are just making money out of it, Tump’s bottom line, and because we don’t want or can’t afford for it to be true! Um, it is true, 95% of scientists agree, while it is fatuously obvious that the little Earth is a finite resource, Rainforests are being decimated, species vanishing every second and the Ice caps going. Now admittedly, in the bewildering Extinction and Evolution of species, once upon a time the entire Earth was one great big snowball, but frankly that was 65 Million years ago and I don’t think the super survival of Donald Trump and family is the pinnacle of Human or Animal Evolution, or indeed taste. Meanwhile Russia becomes more and more aggressive, but Trump denies that his own Secret Services are right in pointing to Russia’s attempt to influence the election, precisely because he is exactly of Putin’s dictatorial stamp and we will see far more of that. Already he has struck at Nato. His Office’s attacks on the Press are also symptomatic. While here, We The Fractious People of once Great Britain, are now rushing as ever up America’s special arse, which included Tony Blair’s corrupt and also semi-messianic support of the war in Iraq, that caused so much extremism, because we are still obsessed with having once had an Empire, including America. Can’t we see that now is exactly the time to turn back to a United Europe though, with the values that made or make us too, quite as much as anything American?
Britain always trailed its feet in Europe, could never take any lead and perhaps a tragedy is that was just a fact of life, De Gaulle never wanted us in, although many here wanted reform, especially with the terrible example of Greece. In that sense Europe is as much to blame, though Brexit is surely greatly to blame for Donald Trump, even more worrying with the growth of far Right parties, and if a leader emerged who could sound that clarion call, economic, political, but cultural too, including the needed culture or awareness of World Environmentalism, perhaps there might be a Geopolitical shift away from what is happening now. But where is that kind of leader made in Britain anymore? Nowhere. It certainly isn’t Jeremy Corbyn, who seems eternally confused. Well, there is an interesting moment with the Supreme Court ruling here that both houses of Parliament need to decide on the enacting of Article Fifty to take us out of Europe. Ironically of course a true lead probably needs to come from that most recently reviled of Empire builders, Germany.
Henry Kissinger was interesting in saying maybe Britain can play the most unique of roles in still uniting America and Europe, but there is nothing that suggests it will do so in the right way for the World, or for what still drives the most decent and admired of British values. That Little Englander Nigel Farage is also a Trump kind of guy, our Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson makes fatuous jokes about punishment beatings, which forget that not everyone had fun at Eton and why should Europe give Britain everything it wants, and Theresa May has potential, though is no Margaret Thatcher, if I’ not sure if that is a compliment. What is it intellectually though that any of them can truly stand up for in the arrival of Donald John Trump, or that inauguration speech? These are very nervous times, or interesting times, as the Chinese might say. Just before Christmas one of the most famous Shorters of shares and markets, Bill Bonner, who predicted the fall of Communism, The Dot Com Crash, The Japan Crisis, and 2008, and has a very interesting track record, came out with an almost apocalyptic prediction about a crisis beginning in America, the like of which the World has never seen. Because of trillions in US debt, and the absence of actual physical US currency, since up to 50% and higher is in Foreign hands, and the ability of global bankers and private individuals to take vast amounts suddenly out of the Markets, he talks of ATM Machines just stopping, fuel stations running out, Social Security cheques ending. He says he doesn’t want it to happen, but feels duty bound to warn people how to protect their friends and family. It has a survivalist American stamp, and of course he is a natural shorter who benefits by calamity, while his warning preceded a suggestion we buy into his monthly newsletter at his Global company Agora, which has two million followers around the world. Most people can’t afford to play at that level anyway. But even the FT this weekend was talking ominously about Black Swan theory, of unseen things around the corner, of Neom Chomsky’s warning now about the biggest and most dangerous centralisation of power in the form of the American Military-Industrial Complex. And of course America’s spending on the Military is massively higher than any Nation on Earth and about to go up, as The Don talks new Arms Races and First Strike capabilities. It is also the greatest consumer of Energy on Earth.
Well, what can you say? Donald Trump has certainly stuck to being Donald Trump. If in fact his words have always wobbled like any businessman. Perhaps he is planning Soviet Style Show Trials of the likes of Hilary Clinton. Does he have a vision for American regeneration though, the likes of which Roosevelt used to inspire and unite a Nation? I doubt it very much. Roosevelt’s National works programme, that helped to build access to the Grand Canyon, was rooted in a sense both of Nature and good works. Meanwhile, as the machine hurtles on, and we are all caught up and implicated in it, Government should always have acted to enforce new Research and Development initiatives into different energy capture technologies, storage, emissions targets and so on, by powerful companies, to make them responsible at every level. We could do with such a Roosevelt style initiative of regeneration in Britain. In the meantime, as Bill Bonner might say, you have been warned! Then everything about Trump was a warning and America still let him in. Go on, The Don, give the World some hope, don’t put up walls at everyone else’s expense.
I must confess to a dastardly crime against the Theatre, or myself, in not staying for the second half of Loves Labours Lost at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Perhaps it was the difficulty of the pla…
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