PROTECTIONISM by Brian Landers, author of EMPIRES APART

                             The first response of US legislators to the economic crisis was a whole raft of  “America First” measures. “Buy American” provisions were embedded in the various stimulus packages being proposed, all designed to ensure that only American corporations and American workers benefited from the measures. Commitments entered into with other countries, particularly the North American Free Trade Agreement, were suddenly under review. According to a New York Times article earlier this month, a Harvard university economics professor, Kenneth S Rogoff, warned ‘that the United States is in “great danger of backing away from free trade”. That, says the professor, could be a “disaster”.’

All sorts of responses are possible to a comment like that.               Advocates and opponents of globalization could tear each other apart over the idea that protectionism is synonymous with disaster and free trade with wealth-creation. But the part of the professor’s assertion that bugged me was that phrase “backing away”. How do you back away from somewhere you’ve never been? To suggest that the United States is backing away from free trade is like suggesting that Barack Obama is backing away from the Klu Klux Klan.

In Empires Apart I describe in some detail how the American and Russian economies developed in very different ways over the last two or three centuries, but one thing they had in common – neither had any time for free trade.

Britain’s American colonies grew rich behind tariff barriers and that continued after independence. America’s manufacturing might was built behind punitive tariffs – by 1913 average tariff rates on imported manufactures were zero in Britain, 13 per cent in Germany, over 20 per cent in France and a massive 44 per cent in the US.  In 1932, while the world was wallowing in depression, American import duties incredibly reached almost 60 per cent of the value of imports.

More recently a reader who booked a cruise from New York to Canada and then back to Florida complained to the travel pages of the Observer that he been made to leave the ship in Quebec City and travel overland to Montreal. The reason, it transpired, was that the US Jones Act (technically the Passenger Services Act) makes it illegal for passengers to travel from one US port to another on a non-US vessel. To avoid this protectionist legislation, foreign cruise operators have to break their voyage into separate unconnected legs, each starting or terminating outside the US.

True there have been some tariff reductions but these have in practice been easily balanced by the massive subsidies given to exporters, especially farm exporters in electorally critical states. The obscene subsidies paid to cotton farmers in the Bush home state of Texas and to rice growers in Clinton’s Arkansas have devastated third world competitors.

There are fundamental differences in what for want of a better word might be described as the political “ideologies” of Americans and Europeans. America is essentially parochial. Anyone watching US TV in the last few years must have been struck by the campaigns trying to persuade American drivers to convert to bio-fuels. But whereas in Europe the adverts would have concentrated on the benefits to the environment or on price the message on American TV was quite different: help reduce American dependence on foreign oil.

No wonder that in the latest economic crisis legislators made sure that foreigners would not benefit from their largesse – even to the point of insisting that banks receiving federal aid be banned from applying for work permits for foreign workers. US electors expect their representatives to put US interests first. In 2007 a Pew Global Attitudes Survey ranked 47 countries as varied as Bangladesh, China, Germany and Nigeria in terms of support for free trade: the US came last.

The stimulus bill passed by Congress last February contained numerous Buy American measures, with broad restrictions on buying foreign-made iron, steel and manufactured goods alongside a pious insistence that international trade agreements need to be respected. Robert Gibbs, a White House spokesman showed what the debate was really about when he claimed that: “Where we ended the right compromise that respects the [Buy American] laws that we’ve had on our books for many, many years while also ensuring that the language doesn’t create unnecessary trade disagreements.” The substance can be protectionist as long as the language is not.

To an economist, the US may seem to be backing away from free trade but to a historian the US is simply standing still.


The TAILOR’S NEEDLE by Lakshmi Raj Sharma


While the official notice has yet to go out, Picnic is delighted to announce it will be publishing Professor Sharma’s beautiful novel THE TAILOR’S NEEDLE this July.  He is organising Allahabad University’s international conference on the 21st century novel in Allahabad, 29 November – 1 December 2009.  The seminar is open to scholars and researchers working on the novel. Their institutions will pay for their fare and the registration fee of $100. If they are experts, and if the committee approves their names, it will pay for them. Papers will be published. Presentation time will be less than the actual length of papers — 15-30 minutes.  Accepting how busy Professor Sharma is, Picnic is  thrilled to welcome him to the Author Blog and his post below.

. . .

I live in Allahabad, the town of the confluence of the Ganga, the Jamuna, and the mysterious Saraswati. This last river takes its name from the Hindu goddess of learning, the arts and creativity. This ancient town has attracted learned men, artists and authors just as it has drawn spiritualists and sages. The Kumbh Mela, a fair, which is held at the confluence once every twelve years, is perhaps the biggest assemblage of humanity one might hope to encounter. Strangely, time refuses to move on in Allahabad and year after year the same kind of anonymous people, the same little nothings that amuse the crowds, the same unchanging fashions reside in the confines of this exquisite geographic setting. I have liked the ethos of this place. It allows you to remain content, without hankering after the world of prosperity and glamour.

The University of Allahabad, where I teach English, blends well with the town and provides enough stimulus for the mind and the soul. This university was once the Oxford of the East, now it has a more native character. It does provide that blessed ambience in which one is gently led on into the terrain of the spirit rather than remaining glued to the intellect alone.

The Tailor’s Needle had to be written. The youngest of five brothers and sisters, I grew up under their shadow, often watching their achievements with consciousness of my inadequacies. It was a situation in which I was compelled to think, feel, and intuit. I had heard stories of people of earlier generations – people who were extraordinary and who were now becoming an extinct lot. Noticing the vast difference between them and my own contemporaries I thought it a duty to pass on what I had heard about the past for the benefit of the future. If you ask what we are made of, apart from the flesh and blood that informs our bodies, one answer can be – stories. We get our identities largely from what we have been told about our past. We are what our stories have made us. It is for this reason that history is such an important subject; it takes us back to our past. But history has always bordered on fiction. For who can narrate without distortion of truth? But through fiction, we can actually get a glimpse of the past, the truth of the past.  The Tailor’s Needle is such a novel. It contains much truth about India’s colonial past. I hope you will read it and enter the past of a particular phase of history when ambitions soared and bred racial interaction with a vengeance. People from different parts of the globe noticed each other and often desired to taste the otherness of the other. Some merely got baffled by the other, some managed to defeat the other, some blended beautifully with each other. The Tailor’s Needle has resulted from the need to tell the world how we became what we are today, what were the forces that contributed to our present. The present has resulted from a situation that was wretched, but it has emerged from conditions that were equally funny. This is the stuff that seems to lie behind the making of The Tailor’s Needle.


My best



Émigré London, photographed by Iain Bailey – and also, a happy Christmas from Picnic . . .

Emigre London - Gold DressGreetings again everyone – you may recall my EMIGRE LONDON posts at the end of October before I gave way to Rick Schmidt book BLACK PRESIDENT in view of the recent news.

In any case, all at Picnic asked me to hold on to my last EMIGRE LONDON post to play us out over the holidays and into the new year. Through street fashion, the book describes life in a London suburb from the 1960s to the turn of the century and the mix of traditional English cultures with people of worldwide multicultural origins or backgrounds/race/creed and so on, through migrations, growing up abroad or living as an expat.

I am no stranger to this diversity as I was lucky to grow up in Africa. I used to walk around with a black snake in my shirt’s front pocket. This gave me protection against bigger boys, until my brother’s girlfriend took a dislike to my pet. She stopped visiting the house because of the snake. One day the snake disappeared and my brother finally got married!

We had plenty of open space so from an early age I had 3 dogs to knock around with. We grew up together and had loads of adventure and mischief. Jock was a black Labrador, Spike was a feisty black and white fox terrier with pointed ears, Bomber was a giant brown Bull-Mastive-cross-Boar-Bull and also the youngest. The 4 of us were inseparable. The dogs enjoyed a huge garden, covered with ripe avocadoes. They would feast on them and this would give them the shiniest coat. They also had the freedom to escape for a wander (all 3 dogs still had their male’s attributes!).

3 dogs in Africa

At meal times, an odd pantomime would repeat itself time and time again: Bomber would finish his basin of a meal in a few mouthfuls. Jock would finish his meal second, As for Spike, he would carefully pick the best bits and then guard the rest of his food fiercely. Despite his tiny size he was able to block giant Bomber from accessing the food.

From this point on, Bomber’s only aim would be to engineer a diversion to lap up Spike’s remaining meal. Here we go: Bomber would start running towards the garden fence, barking excitedly, pretending there was some major action outside, Jock and Spike would follow running up & barking, not wanting to miss on the action. Then once every one was well involved, Bomber would swiftly run back to the dishes to swallow Spike’s meal. Spike would come back at full speed but always a little too late… This was hilarious to watch. I miss them dearly since I left Africa. But I was lucky to leave them in good care as the family that took them on had a sofa for each dog!! Most probably a sizable upgrade in a dog’s life!

I am still puzzled why Picnic wanted to end its inaugural author blogging year with me and my pets but I guess it may have something to do with happy memories of sometimes difficult times. The book EMIGRE LONDON is pretty much about happy memories from sometimes difficult days too. I guess the message is that eventually difficulties, including the ones so many are in today, lift. A very merry Christmas to you all from wherever in the world you may be reading this and a may the new year bring peace.

best wishes


Woman Master by Mehrnaz Stars

Thoughts from Mehrnaz Stars following the election of US President-Elect Barack Obama and introducing her debut novel WOMAN MASTER. 

As a teenager, Mehrnaz was involved in the Iranian Revolution.  She now   lives in Europe.

The ‘Ayerahnians’


All the men have beards, women wear black and risqué girls show ten millimeters of hairline.


They’re brown, they’re angry, and they want to blow us up.


Every day they get up, have their breakfast, then they go on political marches and burn effigies and flags. And it’s pretty much certain they are on the verge of possessing a nuclear capability. They make nice carpets and if you’ve tasted their pistachios you know you can never go back.


Alexander kicked their derrieres back when their beards were curly and they once took some nice Americans hostage. Their holy men have hats too but they’re not as shiny as the ones the Italians favour.


They don’t wear ties and they have all of our oil. They are a real danger to world peace and, as Hillary (Obama’s new ‘stick’) Clinton said recently, “They should know that we can obliterate them.”


But you should see what they think of us. I can tell you, they’ve got us all wrong. They think we’re arrogant bullies who don’t wash. Imagine? They’d better watch themselves, that’s all I can say.


But they’re nice people really and as long as they do as they’re told there doesn’t have to be any trouble.


And yes; I’m one of them.


What’s more, I’ve written a book about them… us?


I was interested reading Mr. Schmidt’s post and I have to say I agree with every sentiment. But what I need to know is this; is Barack Obama’s mother-in-law really going to live in the White House and if so, should he be allowed to talk back?


Obama has already said that talks ‘without precondition’ are possible between the US and Iran, and the same absence of preconditions at the White House dinner table might help steer him from that dark cocoon where decent people and absolute power meet.


It is indeed time we met the Iranians, or time we met the Amerikahns, and the signs are good that, as we slide deeper and deeper into the economic inferno carved by rich people (who wear suits and ties) our relations with Iran can exist. Simple existence would be a great leap for America, and the rest of us, who have tired of all the bombs and the righteousness. If Obama achieves this alone he will have done something good for all the evil that has been done in our name.


But, cynic I may be, and much as I am spellbound by Obama’s potential, the rest of us have to break down the door if Barack can get a foot in without someone else trying to jam it down his throat.


International relations is Obama’s chance at true greatness. On the economy he is, like the rest of them, a flea on a dog’s back arguing about who owns the dog. But he can make a difference where a difference needs to be made. He can create a context within which the rest of us get to actually see each other, and perhaps even ourselves. Obama has demonstrated the power of the internet for all to see (all that is, who have internet connections; for the traditional media is a bit like the aforementioned fleas; their ideas, and their method of delivery, are as obsolete as capitalism).


But we do know something about Iran. Like shadows on Plato’s wall, images of revolution and chaos have been offered to us by the those who had the means to flee during the Iranian revolution. There are even ‘alternate’ parliaments based around the world where boys play at being in power in a free Iran. This already happened to Iraq and the ‘leader’ turned out to be the sole ‘mole’ and he was turfed in a jiffy; soon after Mission Accomplished.


Ain’t happenin’ man; an American friend might venture. Those guys will have to stick to the carpet business or hope their kids become film directors; for that particular ship sailed up the Euphrates a while back.


After the Iranian revolution a lot of Iranians ended up in Los Angeles (Tehrangeles) and other major capitals. They went into many different walks of life. Artists and writers started to ply their trade and we got to find out about how awful it is to have to move to Beverly Hills when you’d rather stay put in Farmauniye.


But there are other Irans just as there are many Englands.


In England the culture changes dramatically by the time you get to the end of the road. There are people living in England for whom actual aliens from outer space would seem more familiar than the man who runs the chippy, or the yacht club, or the local council committee on rubbish bin management.

There are Englands beyond Shakespeare and Dickens and Ken Loach and, as Iran was producing great art and science and literature when the English thought not painting their bums blue, like the Scots, was something of an historic milestone; Iran has even more stories to tell.

After all, Iran has Persia to turn to if they ever tire of allowing people marginally more bonkers than the leaders we elect, to lead them.

So, you can see how I’m thinking that Obama had better come up with the goods as soon as they evict the incumbent monkey.

But we also have people such as the meltingly handsome George Clooney making a film set in Iran, ‘based on’ an idea he ‘found’ on the internet.

(Please Mr. Clooney, please, bear with me, I do have an idea, really.)

This is good and this is how it has to happen. The people who don’t want to commit murder and mayhem and global theft get to have a say after all?

The writer who penned the movie “Clueless” said in an interview that publishers were begging her to Iranify her work. She’s next generation ‘let’s get our asses out of this dreadful nightmare and go to America’.

Well, my work isn’t Iranified, it’s Westled (pronounced like ‘wrestled’). I wanted to write about the brothels in present-day Iran, where a man can have a ‘temporary marriage’ but I found it too depressing. I like serious stories but I don’t want to sit on a plane and read that life is pointless.

I wanted to write about Persians and I wanted to write about women.

I wanted to write about the kind of lives any of us might have had.

I wanted to write a story about a woman who married for love. A woman who married a man already married at a time when, and in a society where, marrying for love was anathema; and virgins would never become a second wife to a man with a wife waiting at home.

I wanted to write about the strangest place in the universe where love could be found. Could a woman find love in the man who consumed her earthly dignity?

But I didn’t want to write a romance or a pot-boiler. I wanted something deeper.

I wanted to write about the kind of wisdom that can only be forged in pain.

I wanted to write a story I could read on a plane.

So I did.

I wrote a novel called Woman Master and I’m currently trying to get it read at publishers. I’m hoping that some publishers may have noticed who reads novels and why they read them.

Modern Persia is about to become visible. Not for any lofty acts or ideals, no matter how far Obama can take us, but because Gorgeous George is doing a film and others will follow, to hammer at the walls of ignorance.


best wishes











Black President by Rick Schmidt

Black PresidentWE MADE HISTORY!

What can I say in a BLOG for Nov. 5th 2008 . . .

but . . .

Barack Obama, an African-American, is the first Black President of the United States!!! 


Can’t believe the excitement last night, as the news was delivered from TV that he had the Presidential victory in hand.  Impossible to keep back tears for me, my wife and kids, family members who were all solidly behind OBAMA.  I remember voting in the primary for Obama, months back against the challengers, and wondering just how far this could all go.  It seemed like an impossible dream . . . until the second it was announced last night that he had actually won. 

Now I can better understand the energy of something like the end of WWII, the dancing and kissing in the street.  That’s how it felt last night.  And all my family’s hopes that FINALLY people in other countries will understand that BUSH ISN’T US…far from it.  If McCain/Palin had won we would have been so . . . SO emotionally sunk!  The very idea of that was something unimaginable.  A Republican victory would have been horrible, and yet the daily TV reporting leading up to last night showed masses of McCain supporters.  A lot of people I know were actively considering the idea of moving out of these borders if he won.  BUT…BUT…WE WON!  Still pinching myself, fighting to really believe it!

Obama — first African-American President of the United States. Obama…on-message the entire time.  Seismic shift.  Acknowledgment of multicultural country. 

Race transcendant, but not post-racial country yet (said a black commentator on the Today show)!~

Maya Angelou talks about healing race relations in US:

CNN: What does it say about the country that Barack Obama is a candidate to be president?

Angelou: The country is growing up and confessing to something we’ve known all along. What prevented us from admitting that we knew that? And I was taken back to slavery.

If you will have a person enslaved, the first thing you must do is convince yourself that the person is subhuman. The second thing you have to do is convince your allies so you’ll have some help, and the third and probably unkindest cut of all, is to convince that person that he or she is subhuman and deserves it.

Well, such a job has been done on all of us that people found it very difficult to admit that human beings are more alike than we are unalike. We’ve known it. But to admit it, you have to stop saying because this guy speaks another language, because their eyes are shaped differently from mine, because they’re first-generation Americans from Eastern Europe, then they don’t count, I don’t have to consider them. With this, the country is finally able to see through complexion and see community.

(for full interview see:

In Kenya they’re creating a new national holiday in honor of Barack Obama’s win.

In Beirut, Lebanon, the headline was, ‘Black Kennedy in White House.’

(Pardon me as I break into a smile – reading the press release of my Black President novel should explain this reaction :>)

Obama says:  ‘We won’t solve all of this even in first term.’  But if he runs the country half as well as he did the campaign . . .

President-Elect Obama’s national security briefings begin Thursday.  What national/international secrets will he learn?  What is going on secretly in the US and elsewhere that only the CIA knows?

In any case, there will be a Black President in the White House in 2009!  As my college-age son said in last night’s e-mail:

HIP! HIP!!  HOOORRRAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!!!! ! ! ! !     !          !

Note from Picnic Publishing:  For the record and with great pride, we publish below the lovely letter President-Elect Barack Obama sent Rick and all Obama donors/supporters prior to the President-Elect leaving for Grant Park.  The subject line was:  ‘How this happened’.  The email was sent to Rick by Obama campaign, <>.  We are delighted he has shared it with us. 
—–Original Message—–
From: Barack Obama <

Sent: Tue, 4 Nov 2008 9:18 pm
Subject: How this happened
Richard R —
I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.
We just made history.
And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.
You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a
donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.
We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.
But I want to be very clear about one thing…

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


Black PresidentPaid for by Obama for America
To unsubscribe, go to:


Black President by Rick Schmidt

In view of momentous events in the USA, Iain Bailey who is currently blogging on ÉMIGRÉ LONDON, kindly asked to be stood down for a couple of days so the Picnic community could welcome back RICK SCHMIDT of whom we are so proud.  As you will know, he is the author of BLACK PRESIDENT.
Welcome, Rick . . .

11/4/08:  POLLING DAY, USA



Ten years after I started work on a fictional work about a Black man becoming President of the United States, I’m literally hours away from seeing that fantasy possibly become a reality.  The big day of selecting a Black President has finally arrived! 


It’s still dark outside my California coastal windows as my wife prepares to walk about a half mile to a local church where our neighborhood residents can cast their vote.  She’s trying to get there early enough that when the polls open at 7AM she’ll be near the front of the line. (I’ll hear later about details such as length of line and how the voting process went for her!)  I decided to take time yesterday to vote early in Downtown Oakland, at the courthouse where a friend had gone days before (he happily reported that the entire process took him only about fifteen minutes!).  Fortunately I had our car, so I drove the five or so miles and started looking for a parking place reasonably close to the location.  As I was circling the block I got lucky, being right behind a spot that was opening up.  When the woman driver saw my car hovering behind she jumped out and handed me her parking stub, saying, ‘It’s good until 10!’  Nice to have a little gift from a stranger who had just voted!  At any rate, this was a good sign that I was doing the correct thing by voting a day early to avoid some kind of last-minute clog in the works. 


It was already 9AM and I hoped I could get through by 10, to allow time for breakfast before work at noon.  I wasn’t sure I could hold up to a ten hour wait like some have had to endure. And I’d heard that in some states there were already ‘dirty tricks’ taking place.  It was reported that in some Southern states, fliers were distributed with what looked like an official state seal, announcing that the Republicans’ voting day was Tuesday, while Democrats day at the polls was WEDNESDAY ( a day AFTER the votes would be counted!).   What else was/is going on is anybody’s guess!


At any rate I parked, grabbed my umbrella and walked the two blocks in the rain, finding a fairly short 150-foot-long line extending out from the top of a ramp at the side of the courthouse.  The rain was fairly light, and the people in line were friendly.  I discovered that the people in line were a mixture of voters and people present for court appearances.  We all had to follow the line into the building for examination by metal detectors.  Within twenty minutes I was emptying my pockets and pulling off my belt with its metal buckle.  When my watch made the machine beep the policeman told me to hold my arm up chest-high.  Walking through again, the machine was silent.  Following a few small hand-written signs I found myself in the basement with a small and eager crowd of voters.  I printed out my name, address and signed a form, then handed my data in at an available window.  The young woman clerk said she’d be back in a minute and was, presenting me with the official ballot, my name and address clearly printed out on the envelope that accompanied it. (The computers seemed to be doing what they should do, finding a name in a database to create a valid document that could not be disputed later!)


I quickly connected the arrow next to Obama/Biden (filled in the center of an arrow that had a blank center), marked in various other propositions, measures and political offerings, exited the building past my fellow East Bay early-birds and drove home in twenty minutes. (Total voting excursion = 1 hour).


Watching TV today, I see the long lines at various poling locations around the States, and hope people can withstand the weather and physical strain to get the votes in!


In honor of the historic implications of today’s US VOTE, please allow me to add this picture from a book I bought at a rare bookstore, entitled ‘UNREASONABLE RHYMES, told by Anne Idyott’. (Get it?!) It was drawn and water-colored in the late 1890s, and, to my shock, was an ORIGINAL artwork: 

original watercolour - Black President post


(click on image to enlarge)

 looking closely you can see little pinholes in the corners, along with penciled corrections to the text.  The book, with 80 original plates like this one, had been bound and sold as just another published edition – and luckily it was affordable!  At any rate, the image and limericks reflect on the PAST problems of racism in America.  Hopefully it will remind us of just how far we’ve come TODAY, as the votes roll in!


best wishes



Émigré London photographed by Iain Bailey

Emigre London - Vintage DressesHere are some of the dresses I photographed for Émigré London. It was interesting to follow the evolution of fashion as well as the rules at the time: for instance it would not have been suitable for a married woman or a woman of a certain age to wear something too joyful or to revealing (today this rule has somewhat shifted . . .). As a consolation, a range of colourful scarves could be used to customise and brighten up an every day plain black dress.  During the photo shoots, I couldn’t help noticing how some of the dresses and accessories clearly looked vintage while others could almost have been in today’s high street.

My girlfriend Caroline, the illustrator of Picnic’s THE SLEEPY LADYBIRD, pointed out how fashion keeps coming back in strange waves.  I’m usually blind to these trends as, like many guys, I can’t stand clothes-shopping.  But after paying attention to the crowds, I realised there was something really odd going on with people’s clothing, a mix of 80’s come back with leggings, skinny jeans, belts over stripy tops (making some girls look like bees!), and, at the same time, some really ancient styles (only formerly seen in black and white photography – 1920) are also making a comeback in women’s jackets, shirts and shoes.

Here are some photographs of the 1920’s coming back this year:–1920s-flapper-fashion-2008-trend-954.html

Man fashion 1823This mix goes even further back with the newly popular ‘empire waistline’ until recently only found in maternity shops!

Luckily these trends are not so drastic for us guys. I am grateful for this or I would have to walk around in a period outfit looking like this! tell me, can this guy breathe?


Émigré London photographed by Iain Bailey

British Garden Birds photographed by Iain BaileyDo you have a bird feeder in your garden? I have a couple and one thing leading to another, my interest in photography grew. From close ups of insects on flowers, to British garden birds, observing their behaviour and catching a good shot is always a great experience. Once you take an interest, there are plenty of details to discover which are invisible to most. For instance, try to guess the social order of a group of sparrows by watching in which order they are feeding: spot the ones on watch and witness the panic when a sparrow hawk is at bay.

I once took a nice picture of a blue tit hanging upside down from the peanut feeder. They are so swift one has to be quick before they disappear with their prize – a single peanut. Similarly, I once observed the dunnock, also known as the ‘hedge sparrow’ courting his reflection in a mirror. This lasted for several weeks . . .  Have you ever watched a starling having his bath and shining his feathers in the sun? This can all be quite fascinating and with a pocket identification book you can start to identify the juveniles, males and females, as well as rank from visual features – for tits the bigger the bib the older the male. But as I said, photographing birds, and planes (!), fed my keen interest in photography.

However, little did I know I was about to photograph dresses and haute-coutures frocks . . . and 100s of them!!!



Emigre London - Photographs of Vintage Hats

It all started when a friend’s house in SW London, full of memories, original features and decor, was being packed up, ready for sale. Everything had been left untouched as if time had frozen in the early 60’s, from the old vinyl record player to the matching bathroom fittings. But it did not stop there: hidden away and meticulously wrapped in paper and cardboard boxes were 100s of outfits, dresses and accessories.

The next thing I know, my friend is writing a book about it all – and Caroline and I are buying a headless mannequin off Ebay, as well as a polistirene head, and setting up photo-shoots of the whole wardrobe, from frilly knickers to smoking jacket and collapsible hats. This is how /Émigré London/ all started: friends getting together and, not realising the amount of time everything would take, nor where all was heading, we ended up with a book about a house, a London suburb & some old clothes.

Its nearly done and is about amour, 1960’s fashion, escape from conflict and the world in a neighbourhood . . .


Too little, too late – the politics of climate change by Colin Challen MP


 Travelling north on my way home, I am spurred to ask myself if there are many climate change sceptics in Watford for if there are they will have been cheered by the sight of snow lying on the ground: ‘and it’s only October.’ If this indeed is the first taste of a cold winter, and that is what the Met Office is predicting, then Nigel Lawson will be able to lead a demonstration of thousands to No. 10 demanding an end to the great climate change conspiracy, Ryanair will launch even more flights to obscure destinations so that the better off segments of the middle classes can have a second home away from it all and of course our dear friend Jeremy Clarkson will be revving up his four wheel fans to ever greater ejaculations of joy. Indeed as the frosts descend it will appear terribly odd to many that we are planning to spend as much as we are on climate change when there are plenty of other things crying out for cash, like ailing banks for example.

The cost of dealing with climate change certainly sends shivers down the spines of some in the House. The debate on the Climate Change Bill heard contributions from the likes of Peter ‘I have a little list’ Lilley, the former Tory cabinet minister who came to epitomise the caring, sensitive policies of Thatcher’s heyday. Now he could barely keep his cardigan on whilst denouncing the Bill, and I thought at one point a few blood vessels may have been rent. For people of Lilley’s mould, the word ‘cost’ can only mean burden, when of course it may actually mean investment. This is as much a product of partisan language as anything else – the party in government always talks of its wise investments, whereas the opposition can only ever imagine the taxpayers’ dosh being poured down the drain. But in the meantime the Conservatives have supported the proposal to spend over £50 billion on a replacement for Trident, a defence system which is so irrelevant to the defence needs of today it can only be classed a staggering con trick perpetrated by the military-industrial establishment. The only justification made for it by the government is that we cannot foretell the defence challenges of tomorrow.

Actually we can. Resource wars, regional conflict, mass migration for starters. For these challenges we need a fully resourced army (which can act as peacemakers and aid workers), not expensive ‘deterrents,’ weapons which are useless in a world of asymmetric conflict. Climate change is a threat multiplier, and that is where the real cost-as-burden lies, a thought that clearly hasn’t occurred to the desiccated calculating machines clinging to their A-level accountancy examination papers. But there’s another way of looking at the money we’ll be spending on tackling climate change – and that is to remember that all that mitigation seeks to do is to end our dependency on fossil fuels. In other words, if we can decarbonise our activities, we need not necessarily assume that it is the activity per se that is ‘bad.’ Investing in new technologies, based on renewable energy is an inevitable path in any case (peak oil and all that) so why not start today? Who are the Luddites now?



Too little, too late – the politics of climate change by Colin Challen MP


 Thankfully the exchanges yesterday between Cameron and Brown were relatively brief, and my turn to ask a question of the Prime Minister duly came with minutes to spare. I raised the issue of British funding for Kopernikus, the satellite earth observation system which will greatly increase our understanding of climate change. It is funded by member nations of the European Space Agency, who each expected to cough up funding proportionate to their GDP. Sadly, the UK never has, despite our having a leading role in climate change science. Gordon seemed sympathetic to the case and agreed to meet me. Indeed, this happened forty minutes later. The last time I used PMQs to ask for a meeting – it was Tony Blair and the subject was increasing the funding for microgenerated energy – an extra £6 million was rustled up, but the outcome was not quite as expected, a story I relate in my forthcoming book to be published by Picnic early in the new year. Even though the economy now feels cash-strapped, we cannot afford to ease up on climate change. With the Climate Change Bill now closer to Royal Assent, with the last House of Commons stages dealt with the day before yesterday, we may be forced to rethink all the practical steps we are taking if we are to meet the legal targets it lays down. I’m not sure people, either in government or generally have yet assimilated the scale of the challenge . . .