Monday 12 November 2012

Uncle Joe

I got up to go to the gym on Saturday morning and almost immediately abandoned the idea. It had been a long, if enjoyable and successful week and so I spend most of the day on the sofa.

On Sunday I do a brisk walk early morning and manage to climb above the mist into bright warm sunshine. After that I enjoy reading (vaguely appropriate for Remembrance Sunday) about the gangsters, con-artists, spongers, tarts, foreign royalty and toffs who hung out in the grandest hotels of London during WW2 in Matthew Sweet's light-weight but amusing The West End Front.

My favourite story is of the 40 members of the Communist Party led by Max Levitas who demanded access to the Savoy's very posh shelter during a bombing raid in September 1940. The police wanted to evict them but the hotel manager wisely let them in and the waiters served them tea for which the occupiers paid at Lyons Corner House rates. The whole affair was politely conducted on both sides - and hushed up in the press (apart from the Daily Worker).

The CP was at that time in a strange position as their ideological masters in Moscow were still allied with Hitler, an embarrassment which was only removed in June 1941 when 4 million Germans marched into the Soviet Union and everybody had to start loving Uncle Joe.

The Communist Party lays a claim to helping Londoners during the blitz by campaigning for deep shelters and this may have assisted in getting the London Underground opened up for this purpose although this is usually ascribed to ordinary Londoners anarchically forcing access and even breaking down the gates - not unreasonably you have to say.