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An ‘Equal Civil Partnerships’ badge
Equal Civil Partnerships badge

We went to Parliament Square this morning for the passing into law of Equal Civil Partnerships (the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registrations etc) bill — or now, act — to give it its full name).

It has taken a long time, but different-sex couples can now have a civil partnership if they want to. Or will be able to, later this year or early next, once all the paperwork has been processed.

It’s not the biggest issue in the world — it wasn’t even the most important thing happening in Parliament Square this morning (those kids were noisy, and rightly so) — but it means a lot to us. Those of us who have problems with traditional marriage. Which just means that it isn’t right for us; it’s up to everyone else what’s right for them.

Rebecca Steinfeld & Charles Keidan
Rebecca & Charles Addressing the crowd

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who took the case to the court, and ultimately the Supreme Court, were there, as was Tim Loughton, the Liberal Democrat MP whose private members bill it was. The government supported it, which is why it was able to get through; but of course they had to do something once the Supreme Court had told them that the existing situation was unlawful.

Tim Loughton MP
Tim Loughton MP addressing the crowd

The stupid thing is that all the time and money and stress could have been saved if civil partnerships had included mixed-sex couples in the first place. I was sure I’d had this thought back when they were introduced for same-sex couples. I thought I had written about it here. Not much, it turns out. There was a post expressing disappointment with a setback at the Supreme Court before the final decision.

But there was this post about Tony Blair’s legacy, where I said in an aside, “though why not for het couples?”

I took a few pictures. Did you know there’s a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square? I didn’t. Seems rather strange, but why not, I suppose.

Statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square
Statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square

After a week of Brexit insanity and a on a day of horror in New Zealand, it’s good to have some positive news.

Finally, some good might come of the Brexit fiasco:

Realistically, of course, they’ll cling on at all costs. But “the last rites of the Tory party” is such a pleasant thought.

The Beats: a Very Short Introduction (Books 2019, 4)

The Beats VSI alongside a heart-shaped pottery gift
The Beats VSI alongside a heart-shaped pottery gift

Since I announced back in October that I’m writing a novel called Delta Blues: Beat Poet of the Spaceways, I thought I should learn a bit more about the Beats. Not that my character is necessarily going to be very like the actual Beats, and maybe her poetry won’t be like theirs either, but you need to know about what you’re using for inspiration, right?

Books in the “Very Short Introduction” series do exactly what their shared subtitle suggests, and this is no exception. You get a brief prehistory and history of the movement, then a look at the major novelists, another at the major poets, and then a piece on their influence.

In common with the last two books I read, The Clash get a mention, because Allen Ginsberg worked with them, adding spoken-word part to “Ghetto Defendant,” on the Combat Rock album.

I know more about the Beats now than when I started, and that’s exactly what I wanted out of this book.

I hadn’t even seen this story about Morrissey and his politics and collaborators when I made my last post. But I’m baffled by this quote:

Representatives for Lydia Night of California band the Regrettes offered no comment, but the 18-year-old told punk magazine Kerrang!: “I’ve grown up loving the Smiths – my cat’s name is Morrissey!”

Emphasis mine. When I were a lad — and, indeed, when it was launched — Kerrang! was a heavy metal magazine. A flagship of one of the enemy camps in the Punk Wars. Has it really changed, or is The Guardian just misinformed?

Or maybe the lines are more blurred than ever before, so it doesn’t really matter.

“’80s Indie Essentials,” from Apple Music. Really good, and has several things I didn’t know, as well as much I did. Perhaps too much Smiths, especially with Morrissey’s fall from grace, but they did make some good records.

England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock, by Jon Savage (Books 2019, 3)

England’s Dreaming alongside a shaving brush

I didn’t start reading this just because I read a book about The Clash recently. In fact I started it sometime last year. But reading the Clash book did make me want to get back to this, and refresh my memories of the early days of punk.

Reading a history of a time you lived through is interesting. Not that I was involved in the events, but I was distantly aware of at least some of them. In the years the book covers I was between 12 and 15. Or maybe just 14, as it only gets as far as early 79. It’s a short period of time, looking back, and they — the Pistols, and most of the other bands too — were incredibly young. They were just 20 and 21 when they signed their first deal. And their second. And their third.

At times Savage appears to think that punk was over when the pistols split, if not before. And generally to have quite negative thoughts about it as it developed Though he undercuts that contempt later, in the appendices and in the notes scattered through the huge discography at the end. He acknowledges the influence of punk, though considers it just to be one of a range of genres or forms that influences popular music. Which is fair enough, though there are still, even today, bands that consider themselves to be punk. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I don’t know.

Something that came out of it that surprised me — though doesn’t, now that I know the facts — is that you can no longer get the film of The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle in any form (though you can still get the soundtrack album). That’s because it was McLaren’s project, it sets him up as hero, and makes Lydon the almost-unseen villain. Lydon hated McLaren by the end, and eventually won control of the Sex Pistols name and assets in a series of court cases. Presumably he controls whether it will ever be released.

I find this mildly annoying, because I saw it couple of times when I was a student, and enjoyed it, and wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Second-hand DVD copies are available, but they’re mostly pricey and/or being shipped from the States.

I suppose the more recent, documentary film, The Filth and the Fury, might be worth seeing. I see that, like The Swindle, it is directed by Julien Temple. Clearly Lydon didn’t mind his work on McLaren’s film.

What doesn’t come through very much is any sense of Jon Savage himself. What was he doing, and how did he get involved in all this? I gather he wrote a fanzine, London’s Outrage, and he became a journalist writing for Sounds, according to his Wikipedia entry. While he has done extensive research, and interviewed many of the participants, some of the story clearly comes from his being there at the time.

But the only real sense of that we get is that, towards the last third or so of the book, a series of dated, italicised entries appear. They clearly are — or are meant to be — diary entries from the time. Or notes for articles he wrote at the time, perhaps, giving us something of a first-person view of some to the gigs and so on. I would have liked to see more made of these, or more generally about his experience and from his point of view. A book about punk ought to be a bit more gonzo, I think.

But on the whole it’s a great read.

Chile Trip, Part 3: Valparaíso, City of Colour

This port city is a bit rougher than Santiago, but its artwork is more established and more substantial.

This is where we stayed, and the view from the window of the breakfast room:

And here’s the same mural from ground level.

Some of the artists like figures with way too many eyes:

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Or way too many crowns:

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The art doesn’t stop taggers, though:

If your canvas is a wide stretch of concrete, sometimes your subject has to be sideways:

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And a few more:

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It was hard to reach the sea because of the port and the railway line. So we took the train a few kilometres along the coast to Viña del Mar, where there’s a beach:

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Back in Valparaíso proper the dogs are parked everywhere, as usual, and there are funiculars, because it’s very hilly:

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