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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 3 April 2008
Omega spells out the end of an era in Gothic fashion

I RECEIVED a macabre letter recently, complete with skulls as a figurehead, informing me of the death of a Camden institution.
The deceased turned out to be the famous Goth pub The Devonshire Arms in Hawley Crescent, which had not died so much as relaxed its “Goth-only” dress code when new management took over, as reported in this noble organ (CNJ, February 14, 2008).
Yet this distinction seems negligible to one former “denizen of hell”, Omega, as you can see in the poem, reproduced in full below:

Ode to the Devonshire Arms

The Devonshire Arms
Would do you no harm,
Though the clientele
Look like the denizens of hell,
They are but Goths
(And the occasional toff),
Whose satanic ways
Are fantasy plays,
But now this must cease
And the 'undead' decease,
As commerce dictates
The re-ordering of space,
Like so much else
In the Camden universe,
Profit prevails
And humanity fails,
And so culture dies
As entertainment thrives.

Sins of the father still trouble his teenage daughter

PAUL Stinchcombe, barrister and former Labour Camden councillor, has a problem with his daughter.
Apparently the feisty teenager won’t forgive him for voting for the Iraq war in 2003 in the Commons at a time when he held a Wellingborough seat.
In a re-enactment on Newsnight of the events surrounding the Iraq war, Stinchcombe is portrayed as an MP under pressure from the party whip – as well as his daughter.
She glares at him when he returns home after the vote and says: You voted for the war, didn’t you?
Ill at ease, he nods.
When Jeremy Paxman asked him whether he regretted his decision, he made signs that he did, and admitted that his daughter had still not forgiven him.
Stinchcombe represented Brunswick ward in the early 1990s along with another lawyer, Ernest James. He first won Wellingborough with a 180 majority, and raised it to 5,000 before being ousted at the last election.
Is there harmony at the Stinchcombe home? Apparently, not.
A source tells me that his daughter still won’t forgive him.
Now, he tells friends sadly he “believed in” Tony Blair in the run-up to the war. But all that belief has drifted away.
I was one of the two million who marched against the war.
Like many other marchers, I never believed in Blair.

A message from the ‘angry man’ of letters

HAS age mellowed that Angry Young Man of letters, Alan Sillitoe, Diary wonders after meeting him on Wednesday night as he rolled into Foyles in Charing Cross Road, to speak about a rerelease of his 1970 book, A Start In Life.
Sillitoe, who turned 80 two weeks ago, opened the event by pulling from a bag one of those tappy Morse code machines. Plugging it into an oscillator, he started sending out beeps to the audience.
He explained: “Before I was a writer, I was already a communicator. I trained as a radiotelegraph operator for the RAF while I was doing my National Service and what you learn when you are 18 you ­never forget.”
After explaining the niceties of being based in Malaya and having to guide aeroplanes flying from ­Australia to Singapore with nothing but a Morse code radio machine and a sextant, he challenged anyone in the 100-strong audience to decipher a message.
“If you do, I’ll give you a couple of copies of my books,” he said.
Dot, dot dot, dash, dash, dot dot dot followed, with the older members of the audience wondering if they could remember what they learned at the scouts and guides, while the younger fans sat blankly.
Sadly no one could rise to the ­challenge, but Diary discovered he was telling his audience to have “...a long life
and good luck to you all”.
Mellow Old Man has certainly replaced Angry Young Man. Happy birthday, Alan.

New Labour missed the glory of Jock

I HESITATE to write these words for fear that readers may feel they diminish the memory of a fine man, Jock Stallard.
I regard Jock as the finest of Labour politicians. Buttressed by his deeply held Scottish Catholic beliefs as well as an Old Labour ideology, Jock held to his faith until the end.
He spent his last active years in the 1990s as a peer campaigning for pensioners. A man of the people, who lived among them in Chalk Farm, he knew what privations they had to endure.
You would expect that such a man, in the last few years of his life, would be honoured by society but it was not to be. In truth, he largely became the forgotten man.
Never self-centred, Jock wouldn’t dream of pushing himself to the front. He was ill at ease with any kind of self-publicity to the point where he would not even tell our newsdesk of his campaigns or make sure we knew of his speeches in the Lords.
Other MPs or peers would have pressed us with phone calls and press releases.
But not Jock. He was of the old school – and in some ways I was glad.
Occasionally, I would meet him shopping in Camden High Street and we would talk politics. He was angry with MPs who had sold the pass. And he didn’t conceal his loathing of Tony Blair. To Jock, he was a traitor to the cause.
But it was difficult for him to find solace at Labour meetings.
More than once, he told me how he had gone to local meetings where few appeared to understand his arguments, and where few knew who he actually was.
Imagine, this man who had given so much to the borough had become an unknown at meetings.
This says so much about today’s Labour Party. Fewer and fewer of its members are council tenants or in any way working-class. I can imagine the young Labour professionals of today asking themselves: Who’s this old guy?
Not only did generations set them apart. But also their place in society. Yes, I felt a certain kind of sadness when Jock and I stopped to chat, particularly sad there could be people in his party with no sense of history. Or any awareness of the glory of a man like Jock.

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