The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
Help! We're falling down a hole of deception dug by electioneering politicians into some parallel universe. And it all started once upon a time.
There lived a powerful woman who collected drawings of male nudes, some of which were her own work.
And a well-educated man, an Anglican reverend, writer and mathematician, who took thousands of photographs, many of which were of naked pre-pubescent girls posed provocatively.
Both the man and the woman enjoyed the respectful devotion of fans all over the world, existing within the bounds of a rigidly defined society - a society which exemplified what pundits would later call Victorian values.
The woman was the eponymous Queen, and the man, best known as Lewis Carroll, authored Alice In Wonderland.
They lived in an age professing the highest moral character, inhabited by people so sensitive they called furniture supports limbs in case pronouncing the word legs threw them into sexual frenzy.
Yet prostitutes walked every street and children worked hours that would tax today's hard men. Meanwhile their armies, out of sight and just following orders, ma'am, carved up large slices of foreign pie marked with their Queen's name on the tuck-box.
Victoria navigated her way as hypocritically as anyone through the redrawing of class boundaries that put paid to the divine right of kings which underpinned her very existence.
However, in an era jousting with the social significance of Darwin's theories, Carroll smuggled challenges to the status quo into his books for children.
The depictions of tyrannical royalty in the Alice tales are hardly flattering.
And when Victoria, entranced by the stories, asked for Carroll's next work to be dedicated to her, he duly complied with his mathematical tome An Elementary Treatise On Determinants.
Now the equally mischievous Tim Burton has followed some 20 previous directors in bringing Alice to the big screen, this time in 3D.
I'm a Burton fan, but can only question his choice to age up Alice to a nubile 19 from the pre-teen quasi-innocent so psychologically puzzled by the sexual undertones of Carroll's story. Maybe it is a Disney thing, but it makes nonsense of some of the startling imagery.
I was heartened by an early exchange between Alice and her prospective mother-in-law who asks: "Do you know what I've always dreaded?" "The decline of the aristocracy?"
It sort of presages a later rebellion of the Red Queen's troops, but anything more politically overt is as lacking as any laughs.
There are many cogent reasons Carroll's tales have lasted, and humour's definitely one. He drops charm and wit into sometimes savage attacks on the status quo, transcending mere child appeal. Burton struggles in his wake.
But maybe some of the messages will get through to an electorate who will soon be asked to peer beyond the mists of political hot air covering those nude representations of reality.
Victorian values always did and still do define a platform of deception. No-one lives happily ever after.