Saturday, 30 July 2011

Best Blessings of Existence, 6

Emma B. continues the story.  Of convolvulus, a funeral and Neil Young.  Among others.

With the hindsight of thirty years, his transformation from casual date to live-in lover in less than a month was little short of miraculous.
Another world – they did things differently then. 
Or did they? 
They had left The Bear, hailed a taxi to her house and he had stayed.
Lynne took the coach to London. 

His luggage was a rucksack, with a wife and two and a half kids – not present at the moment.  What woman, even intermittently compos mentis – would go there?
No matter. 
It was hot – although not quite ’76 temperatures. 
When they weren’t in bed, they passed  their time sitting in the sunken garden, drinking wine and smoking. She was waiting to hear if she had been offered a place at York to edit an Early English Text Edition of Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes for an M Lit:  PHD conversion.
It would mean spending quite a lot of time in France and Germany and certainly learning to read and translate Medieval French.
She had needed a lot of Latin translated for her MA Extended Essay:  Chaucer’s Monk as a Tragedian – and here those interminable dinners with Percy, the law lecturer had come in handy. He had called in a favour from a colleague and had presented her with pristine translations of two key documents.
But Percy would not be on tap in France. 
She was not a natural linguist; not bad and probably Oxbridge Entrance standard (although she had a nagging feeling that her failure to secure a place at Girton  
was down to a less than stellar showing in the Literature in Translation exercise from Pere Goriot). 
The extra French classes in preparation for the exam had been care of French Assistant, Gerard - but they had invariably taken place in the Sixth Form Coffee Bar and had been largely distinguished by their impassioned analyses of Neil Young’s Harvest and After the Goldrush.
She had also been unfairly distracted by the fact that he seemed to have sewed himself into his trousers – and it must have been difficult for him – not to say a positive health hazard – to walk.
So the true extent of her linguistic abilities had never been put to the test – although she had scratched his copy of Harvest and had been compelled to supply a substitute complete with forged inscription. She suspected he was not deceived.
Her other housemates were, like herself, in limbo – waiting for results of exams and interviews.
Sandra Milford had already flown the coop – to a post as a scientific tester at United Biscuits and Laura, of the waist-length pre Raphaelite locks, was kicking her heels before embarking upon yet another postgraduate course – this time in Library Studies at Cardiff.
Laura  shared her room with Daryl, a postman who had dropped out of his History course at the end of the first year, and they crept around  like mice – suddenly appearing from nowhere in the corners of rooms or eating each other in public whilst watching the television.
This was especially inconsiderate because it had prevented everybody else from enjoying the Wimbledon Singles Final between Virginia Wade and Betty Stove – so they would not be missed.

Neither would Chris and Maggie who lived in the basement flat. They got loudly drunk every Friday and were invariably late with the rent – so it was poetic justice when a blocked toilet cistern relieved itself all over the feet of Maggie’s parents who had made an impromptu Sunday afternoon visit.
But the stink was excruciating, so it was just as well that she and Paul had decamped to the garden.
Not that he was especially sociable. 
He seemed to delight in playing a type of literary one-upmanship with all her friends – consisting of quizzing them about their reading habits and then sneering at them when they were out of earshot – or almost out of earshot.
It was entirely possible that Laura’s monosyllabic grunts at breakfast were occasioned by overhearing his unsparing verdict on her as typical Brummie working class. She’s read Shakespeare care of Brodie’s Notes and has NEVER EVEN HEARD OF BASIL BUNTING!!!!!
Of course, Laura could be incredibly irritating, so he might have had a point.
And most of his conversation was devoted to her own peerless looks, winning personality and superiority in every respect to his wife, presumably still mouldering in Brittany with 2.5 kids and his best friend.
And she did look pretty amazing that summer.
She could see herself now, sitting in that garden, surrounded by convolvulus and wearing a yellow liberty print dress that she’d bought from the new boutique that had opened next door to Bunters. She had worn that dress till it fell to bits, rendered off limits because of one cigarette burn too many  - and thirty years on, it was still a tragedy that she had not been able to afford  the green boots that had nestled so cunningly next to it in the window display.  If it had been three weeks later, she would have bought them with the money from her annual sale of text books. But it wasn’t, and somebody else would have the pleasure of their soft, dark leather, with front crossed lacing to the knee - and their curious blend of storm-trooper discipline and hippy cool.
Over the years, she had worn green boots and laced boots and flat boots – but never anything to compare with THE BOOTS.
She drank her coffee, idly toying with the Order of Service. 
There had been the obligatory references to heaven at the funeral – all singularly inappropriate, faintly embarrassing and almost prurient – particularly at the graveside when her stepdaughter had to be forcibly restrained from throwing herself in alongside the single-stemmed roses.
But if there IS a heaven, she mused, as the For Sale sign waved in the breeze, outside her home in Fengrove;

Friday, 29 July 2011

mote and beam

fond as I am of the formerly independent Tony Jones, I thought I should remind my grateful readers of his previous activities re deselections.  I was inspired to do so by reading his blogpost below (thanks for the chocolate teapot image Tony, that is bound to come in handy)

I take great care to avoid these blogs being labelled "misleading and inaccurate" so I feel duty bound to pass on the fact that I have received several urgent and urging messages insisting that Richard Willis will not be the next leader of the Conservatives on Reading Council.

I'm told that "Chocolate Teapot" Cumpsty (their description, not mine) is to be dumped in favour of Mark Ralph, Peppard Tory colleague of Willis and the recently axed Jamie Chowdhary.
Other Tory councillors must now start to look nervously over their shoulders and wonder who will be next.
The return of the nasty party? It never really went away.

Now, where to begin?  Tony Jones has represented several wards in Reading, one of which at least selected him as a candidate when they deselected the sitting councillor, a scheme in which present councillor Jan Gavin was active.  In 2004 when Reading Labour succeeded, at the third attempt, in deselecting yours truly, Tony Jones had been putatively Martin Salter's preferred candidate for the role of Replacement.  (The then leader David Sutton's preferred candidate had been Jon Hartley, whose bid was scuppered by having it leaked to His Master's Voice by Salter: HMV journalists confirm this).  Prior to the actual deselection, in November 2003, a Reading Labour soiree was arranged at a Caversham curry house.  Here it was that Tony Jones, having understood, or been informed, that he could not get the votes in the party to deselect me, planned to make the announcement that he would not be a candidate, and here it was that Martin Salter turned up, prepared speech in hand, to anoint Tony Page (who was there with his partner) as the Man To Save Us All From The Evil Griffiths Who Wins Elections.  Unfortunately for all concerned I got wind of this event and turned up myself.  The look on Mr Salter's face when he walked into the room and saw me there was worth it all.  Hugely entertaining stuff.

Just so we know...

Nasty party, hein?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Best Blessings of Existence, contd.

Emma B.  continues:

There was no reply; it was easier, for the moment to leave it.
She toyed, in desultory style, with the alternative of calling her son. 
But that idea was preposterous.
The last time she had phoned, Lizzie had picked up and had requested payment for the coraline and freshwater pearl bracelet – her birthday gift from Richard:
Just the cost of the materials – obviously I wouldn’t charge you the catalogue price…
Before embarking upon a breathless description of their proposed Christmas break in Geneva.
She had made no plans herself – except to determine that she would rather sit in a soup kitchen than fall back again upon the fractious festivities of Fengrove.
The sight of the town hall – the city’s sole claim to civic grandeur, trussed up like a turkey in bilious orange lights – and the smell from the adjacent burger stall mingling with cut price perfumes in a boxed set – denoted its definitive style.
So very different from the Georgian sweep of the Dorlich streets: Adelaide Grove; Palisade Gardens and of course, Wellington Parade, where Leslie Potts had 
reigned at number 14a complete with balcony and stone staircase.
She and Lynne had crashed a couple of parties there – until the abrupt termination of Sandra’s romance with Leslie, cast the three from paradise.
They had wafted from room to room, ignored comprehensively by superior beings clad in velvet and fur and kohl and feathers, smoking and smirking and speaking in code of red leb and quid deals.
Not that they had tried these drugs, scrunched in tinfoil and reputed to come, as these things do, from the local art college. 
They had not tried sex either – which was becoming a problem.
Decades on, Lynne had bumped into Graham Pelham from her Dorlich  Euripides seminar, who had morphed into a global energy expert, over a tea and taster briefing for Section Heads at the Department.
When he had recovered from the vision of Lynne in a Katharine Hamnett suit and rimless spectacles (well, what did he think I’d be wearing, loons and cheesecloth?) he had felt the need to abandon the challenge of solar power, in favour of re-visiting their execrable reputations at Dorlich:
He actually told me IN  MY OWN DEPARTMENT that everybody thought we were out of our heads on drugs – that you had two abortions in the second year and that I had to  re-sit Finals!
I’m surprised he didn’t accuse us of being a pair of raving lesbians – although I’m sure that would have been his next gambit  if the Permanent Secretary hadn’t pulled up stumps because of a call from the Press Office. 
It was all very far from the truth.
They had colonised the corners of parties because nobody spoke to them and were not out of their heads on drugs because they had not been offered them.
And as for sex, everyone else was at it – even Sandra Milford – except them, because they did not possess even one steady boyfriend between two.
As usual, Lynne, later to win praise for her forensic ability to strip the meat from the bone ( Lessways L: Sessional Review, 19.6 96)
was at hand with the answer:
Brook Advisory; steady boyfriend, safe and sensible.
I refuse to graduate with special mention as the last living virgin in Dorlich!
In the absence of hearts, flowers – even street cred as the female half of a joint membership of The  Dug Out Disco and Drinking Club   - it seemed the preferable option. 
Clearly, they weren’t attracting steady boyfriends because they lacked the inner glow of sexual confidence. 
This was doubtless the reason that Lynne was shunned on a regular basis by Ben Bex- Oliver – he of the fur coat, Disraeli hair and Texan boots – later displayed to the nation on the picket line at Grunwicks. 
So they had booked separate appointments at the Brook – courtesy of contact details provided in the latest edition of  Dorlich After Hours, published and printed by the Student Union Council.
The interviews  had been perfunctory but professional; they had spouted the boyfriend mantras and  submitted to the routine internals,  care of speculum – prior to equally professional chats about the coil , the sheath and the safe period – before departing with three month supplies of Eugynon 30  - the unspoken, but recognised, object of the exercise.
And they were relieved that after a month of ingesting pills on a daily basis – any rumoured weight gain was more likely to have been occasioned by Danish open sandwiches followed by raison cheesecake – their daily lunch in the Union Mandela Bar.
In the spirit of first over the parapet, Lynne had  determined to set the  pace and did - casting all to the winds with the owner of Bunters on the third Thursday  in November, after customers had been enjoined  to celebrate the fact that Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!

Her own initiation, courtesy of a spin bowler from the County Cricket Club – had taken place a few weeks later.
It had not been nasty, brutish and short - it had not been anything, really, but she fancied that a carefully modulated bevy of squeals deployed at appropriate junctures had convinced him she was an old hand at the game.
Not that it signified; he was not part of the university set and she had carefully provided him with a false address and telephone number - to avoid a return match.
As she recalled these events of thirty years ago – she winced at Vanessa’s revulsion
when her husband had jeered:
This was your mother – was it twenty/thirty or did you stop counting?
as he attempted to justify abandoning the family, two weeks’after her election to Parliament.
The truth was, she had probably stopped counting. As you did.
Because you got sex out of the way first and then decided if you wanted a relationship.
It was all pre Aids – and pre Paul who returned from his family to her home her bed and her life – and frm whom – unlike Aids, there was and remained – no antidote.       

speak English or else

I read a piece in The Times (£) yesterday, and the Normster comments on it, to the effect that the British government is illiberal in requiring those wishing to immigrate to the UK to learn English.  He helpfully points out that the piece can be seen here outside the paywall, for which thanks.  The couple in the piece, Mr and Mrs Chapti, are being prevented from living together (Mrs Chapti is a British citizen living in the UK) because Mr Chapti cannot speak or read English.  Mrs Chapti says he is too old to learn.  I am sceptical.  I had to become fluent in French (which I was not at all before) in my 50s, and it took me about six months once I was living in France.  For Mr Chapti, learning to read English would probably take longer than that, but it does not follow that it is impossible.  Norm suggests that is illiberal to oblige a person to use a particular language, and so indeed it would be if that was what was proposed, but Mr and Mrs Chapti, once living together, are free to use whatever language they please at home, and with their friends and neighbours.  My experience in politics in a place with a large population of Pakistani origin was that a great many of the older women, who had not gone to school in the UK, could not speak English.  This kept them at home and within their community, only using Pakistani shops, and so on.  This meant that their movements were tracked while their husbands were at work, and that suited the husbands just fine.  There was always resistance from "community leaders" (all men of course) to any offer of English classes.  I do not think this is a particularly liberal state of affairs.

Language and politics - when I went to work in Latvia in 2006 I could not speak Latvian, although I had begun trying to learn.  I was told I had to go to some office and get residence papers, which in fact was not necessary as Latvia had joined the EU by then and I was an EU citizen.  But I went, and was unable to communicate in Latvian.  I do speak Russian, which I tried - all Latvians over the age of 18 speak perfect Russian - and was told it was not permitted.  At that time the ruling that Latvian should be the only language of the state was fairly new, and in respect of schools it was hugely controversial.  But in government offices it was not.  I think the Latvians were right, at least about government offices and institutions.  If I really had needed those papers to be able to work in Latvia I would have had to hire an interpreter, and serve me right.

flattering, but...

muckspReading on the Chowdhary deselection

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

and another thing...

I noticed the following on HMV:

A family is to fight for the right not to return to their rat-infested home after the council moved them out while it deals with a plague of vermin in Southcote.

Dad Chris Sullivan was forced to throw out bag after bag of rat urine-soaked clothes as he packed to move from his Hatford Road council house to temporary accommodation in Coley earlier this month.

Very tiresome.  If this family's clothes really were soaked with anything, why did they only notice it when they came to pack to move?  And, although rats do pee all the time, it is in droplets so small as to be invisible.  If you keep two rats in a cage and clean the cage once a week, nothing is even discernibly damp - and they are in there for 24 hours a day.  There would have to be at least a dozen rats inside one bag of clothes for several hours for the presence of their urine to be noticed, and while rats do chew clothes, because they want the fibres for nesting, they don't stick around - a rat spends a matter of seconds at a time in space occupied by humans.  If the clothes had to be thrown away it was because they had been chewed, not because they were soaked.  If there was a family group of rats actually living in the house - which is unlikely, they would prefer pipes or similar outside, which is what the story indicates anyway - it would not number more than 12, and only one would ever be in human space at a time.  That is simply how rats behave.  The man says he threw away 40 bags of clothes.  If I threw away every item of clothing I and significant other possess they would not fill 40 bags - and this is only a three-person household.  Also, rat urine is odourless.  So are rat droppings.  The latter look like black grains of rice, and are about that size.  The urine of wild rats however is dangerous - Weill's disease is very nasty and in some cases can kill.  Anyone who has been in contact with wild rat urine and who feels even slightly unwell in the next few days should see a doctor and say they have been in contact with rat urine. I can understand why this family do not want to live in a house which regularly has rat visitors, but it is not difficult to ensure that you do not share your living space with rats.  You just never leave anything edible out.  Simples.  Hygiene, dontcha know.

Still, Her Majesty's Evening Post has never gone in for checking the facts much, hein?

trouble at mill

Cllr Jamie Chowdhary has been deselected by Peppard ward Tories in Reading.  So says His Master's Voice, so it must be true.  I had heard that he was standing down for health reasons, though clearly that was wrong.  Perhaps he was persuaded to stand because he is a supporter of Tory leader Andrew Cumpsty, who believes that not all his group supports him.  And Peppard ward members had other ideas.  Well, beware.  From what I know of Reading's Tory councillors (I don't know them all) they understand power, and they know that deselections rarely lead to election victory.  They had better move fast to repair the damage.  Cllr Chowdhary has been something of a loose cannon in the past, and in particular was quite remarkably unhelpful to the Tory cause in Park ward I hear from sources close to the Pakistan Community Centre, contributing heavily to the defeat of then Cllr Wazir Hussain, for which he probably ought to have been suspended from the party, but was not.  Perhaps this is why those who objected to his conduct during the election campaign have now taken their revenge.  Better to move on, I should think.   Don't take a leaf from the book of Reading Labour, who in the past 25 years have got five Asian councillors elected.  Two of them were booted out of the party, one in a particularly disgraceful episode of bullying intended to conceal a sordid episode involving Martin Salter, and one resigned in disgust.  Two remain, and are keeping their noses clean.  They had better, if they know what's good for them.  Whitey homophobe misogynist Reading Labour are making a big concession by allowing them into the Guardian-readers' tent. 

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andric

I read this book because it had been recommended to me by my former boss a couple of years ago when I was doing some travelling in the Balkans, and first off in French translation because a friend was passing on some books and this was one.  It was written originally in Serbo-Croat, and is the 300-year history of a bridge over a river in Bosnia.  Unlikely.  And my first reading, being in French, and seeing that the book is dense with language and description,. did not give me a number of political nuances that I saw later.  But it did give me the story.  And what a story it is.  The Turks in Ottoman times used to take Bosnian boys between the ages of ten and fifteen as tribute - they were circumcised and became Turkish and Muslim and served as janissaries in the Christian army all over the empire.  So the Turks did not send their own young men to serve.  One of the stonemasons brought in to built the bridge was Antonije, a Christian from Ulcinj.  (Where I went on holiday last year, in present-day Montenegro, in the south near the Albanian border, and very Albanian and quite Muslim).

This book was first published in the late 1940s.  Bosnia was and is a country they tried to kill, a country which barely exists.  The book was written in, and by a native of, a country (Yugoslavia) which existed when the book was written, but no longer does.

This is a dense and intricate story, which is puzzling at times, and scary at others, and is a tale of identity and migration. It is like nothing else I have ever read, and should not work, whether in the original or in translation, but it does.  I read it more recently in English translation, and thenI got the inferences of occupation and oppression, and the descriptions of wartime and the inhabitants of Visegrad, the town in which the bridge is situated. dashing across the bridge and dodging bullets, was eerily prescient of what actually happened in Bosnia in the 1990s.  The longest siege in European history, anyone remember that?

Read this book in whatever language you can - and it has been translated into several languages, and, officially at least, Serbo-Croat, the language in which its was first published, no longer exists.

It is not really about the bridge, or about Bosnia - it took me the second reading in English translation to understand that.  It is about who we are and where we live, and as such it is essential reading.  It is also amazingly readable.

Do read.

it's all Israel's fault

Yes, really.  They were behind the Norway massacre.  I suppose it was only a matter of time.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

political counterfactual

what if Portillo had not lost the Enfield seat in 1997 and had become Tory leader and then Prime Minister?  In 2004 noted Tory blogger and publisher Iain Dale wrote a piece positing just this, which you can read here.  He has published it to highlight the forthcoming publication of a new collection of political counterfactuals.

Just sayin'.

what took them so long?

the events of Friday afternoon in Norway were too shocking to write about at first.  Yesterday was a difficult day.  And while I have no reason to believe that my mother's younger brother and his Norwegian wife, who are retired and live in a village outside Oslo, and who I believe were planning a mini-break this weekend, were anywhere near the atrocities, it would be nice to know for sure.  They have not answered their telephone or replied to emails, but if they are away from home that is not surprising.  Similarly their son, my Norwegian cousin Stephen and his family.  I am sure you are safe, but you will be more shocked than I am.  An atrocity is harder to look at on the TV when it happens in a place you have been to and where people you know live and work.  That's not good or bad, just how it is.

When I got home from work on Friday, having seen (on Twitter of course) that there had been a bomb in central Oslo and the first reports of the shooting on the island, naturally enough I was transfixed by the breaking news on Sky (which this time really was breaking news, unlike most of the headlines they describe as such).  When a friend came round to collect something I was too distracted even to offer him a cup of tea (sorry Bill).  On the way home from work, on the tram, I was looking at the breaking news on the iPad and wanting to shout at the teenagers flirting with each other and gaming on their phones, "Wake up!  There are people who want to kill you!"  But they wouldn't have understood.  By the time I got home it still was not known for sure who was responsible, there were reports of rejoicing on jihadi websites and a supposed claim of responsibility by a jihadi group. al-Jazeera was talking of Kurdish Islamists, and so on.  But pretty soon it emerged that what people had seen was a lone man in a police uniform.  So then it was clear that this was nothing to do with jihadis or,  probably,  NATO.  It took a while though, on Friday evening, for the Guardianista left idiots to stop talking about the Coalition, and how Norway must expect to be a target once it had aligned itself with - they didn't quite say - Bush'n'Blair.

What was agonising on Friday was knowing that something horrible was happening on that island, and that the police were not there.  It took them forty minutes to get there, during which time more than 80 people were killed.  I didn't even know one person could kill that many people.  This morning a police spokesman said that they had had "transport problems" and "problems getting a boat".  Huh?  WTF?  I know Norway is not used to terrorism, atrocities etc, but it is one of the most affluent and highly developed countries in the world.  If you get reports of a killer on the loose you go there and you get him.  Helicopter, snipers, whatever.  Just do it.  The Norwegian police are not routinely armed, which in my view is a good thing, but you don't hang about waiting for a gnarled caretaker to unlock the weapons room for you.  You send in the military. Well, that is how it seems to me.  And just a thought - Norway is one of the few countries in Europe which still has compulsory military service for young men, so almost all male Norwegians know how to use a gun.  My cousin too, who did his a long time ago, and who was part of the king's personal guard, how cool is that.

This has changed Norway for ever.  The last such atrocities on Norwegian soil took place during the Second World War (in which Norway's record was not glorious - Quisling was Norwegian) and most of those who were there at the time are dead.  The fact that most of those killed n Friday were very young is heartbreaking.  The fact that many of them would have been the political leaders of Norway's future forever creates a "what-if" in Norwegian politics and society.  The fact that over 90 people were killed in a country with a population of less than five million means that each of those deaths strikes proportionately harder at society than it would have in a country with a large population.

I have been to Norway only once so far,  in 2008, when I went to see my family.  I fell at once for the beauty of the country and the charm of its people.  It would have been nicer if going out to lunch in Oslo wasn't QUITE so expensive, but there - the country is rich.  And I was there in summer - we sat in my uncle and aunt's garden in the sunshine and they fed us smoked cheese and forest fruits.

We stand with the people of Norway, yes.  We shall pray for them in church this morning.  But when the grief counsellors have gone away and the people go back to school and university and work, what then?  How long does it take to heal?  And what is to happen to Anders Breivik, the perpetrator?  What will Norwegian justice do?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Best Blessings of Experience, contd.

Hi everyone.  Do you like these episodes?  I do.  It would help the writer (who is not me, though I kicked off the inspiration for it) if you said what you thought.  For those not old enough to have been there, the Seventies period detail is spot on.

Back to base in Fengrove, she thought that she should phone her daughter.
They had not spoken since the funeral and she knew that she should finally try to encourage the words she did not want to hear.
But as usual, after lunch with Lynne, she could think of nothing but Dorlich.
Not so, Lynne - presumably   back in the bosom of her   charming Surrey pile overlooking a pond with her gazebo, her dogs and Greg.
They had two red setters, Pork and Scratching and although Lynne had not mentioned them once at lunch it was obvious on more than one occasion that she was thinking about them.
But Derek! When had she last thought about him?
Now, the memory of their youthful bout returned with relentless determination, assuming a life of its own.
It had happened   after she had drunk a heroic number of lagers and lime, topped off with Southern Comfort chasers and had decided that it was only right, natural and proper to take to the floor and treat the entire company to a display of solo dancing.
She had plunged back and forth to the strains of Cockney Rebel, finally lurching into the lap of Derek as Mick Jagger yelped the chorus of the B side to Satisfaction.
Don’t play with me or you’re playing with fire…..
Derek had taken that as a green light, because half an hour later, they were writhing and squirming in the bed of the first room they could find, with Derek yelling:
PANTS AHOY to no-one in particular, but as it turned out, the unsuspecting Sandra Milford, curled up in the corner. 
This had been a persistent image when Derek had undergone reincarnation as her Regional Whip – shortly after she had taken her seat as the MP for Fengrove.
There was barely a trace of the James Dean manqué in the balding executive with slip on shoes and flowery tie – but she had not known where to look and had left his soiree for new MPs as soon as was humanly possible.
Oddly enough – he had betrayed absolutely no recognition of her Dorlich self – and maintained the pose with studied diligence during her entire tenure in Parliament.
Of course he must have known that I only slept with him because Robbie Nantwich had gone off with Sarah
she had mused vengefully as Derek had shot smoothly up the greasy pole, from Whip to Minister, Secretary of State and finally Cabinet.
And now, according to every paper, smut and broadsheet, he was top choice to replace Wendy as Leader if, as suspected, she lost the Election.
Of course, such matters were out of her hands now – not that they had ever been in them.
But in her weaker moments – and  today’s miserable lunch with Lynne - combined with the after-effects  of the funeral certainly qualified – she had considered placing a quick call to Maurice  from The Crier and telling him about Derek’s suspected  liaison with Leslie Potts when they  had shared that apartment in Dorlich……..
Perhaps Sandra Milford, seeking refuge from her current humiliation, might be willing to divulge her discovery of Derek and Leslie on a divan in the apartment after the latter had absconded from her parents’ silver wedding lunch?
Obviously for a fee – and for a satisfying splash on pages two to ten in the Sunday edition?
Of course, Lynne had not been at the NUS conference. She had been licking her wounds in Dorlich after narrowly failing to be elected to the student Union Council.
This was her own stupid fault because she had not been willing to dress up on election day in a micro skirt and platform boots – essential uniform for pouncing upon the non English speaking students, armed with a ballot paper and pen, prior to placing a cross against her own name and supervising the voters as they dropped their slips into the ballot box.
This was why she herself had been elected in sixth place after Sandra Milford’s votes had been re-distributed. It was also why Sandra had demanded a stewards’ enquiry which had come to nothing because the foreign students had been able neither to understand nor answer the questions. And it was probably why Sandra Milford had insinuated herself  into the bedroom at Conference  as a watching third  - so that she could spill the beans back  in Dorlich – and  get her romp with Derek   into the Diary column of the student magazine.
Not that he was up to much though she mused, returning to the call with her  daughter
Prime Minister or not……………………

Thursday, 21 July 2011

this is not fun

His Master's Voice notes that on Sunday last (seemingly) an event was taking place at the Rivermead leisure centre, a council-owned venue, which was disrupted by some members of the English Defence League, who were apparently drunk, and thus removed by police.  The EDL were last seen in Reading being heavily publicised by Basher McKenzie.  The event being disrupted was an "inspirational talk" featuring the individual you can see in this video - it is worth watching if you have time, but for those who do not, he is an African-American convert to Islam, who believes that 9/11 was the work of "several governments" and not of al-Qaeda, that homosexual acts are punishable by death, and, well, you get the picture.  The video also reveals that the individual concerned, who calls himself Shaykh Hasin, is a fraudster and a thief.  Among other things.  The Rivermead event was sponsored by a Berkshire "Islamic" grouping, and the event is reported entirely uncritically by His Master's Voice.  I wonder if Reading Borough Council would have been happy for its premises to be used by the English Defence League themselves, or by any other grouping which is homophobic, racist and promoting of divisions between communities.

I wonder.  Not for very long.

What does newly Labour-controlled Reading Borough Council have to say about this event?  And who paid for the venue?  Did they pay the full commercial rate?  If not why not?  Do they distance themselves from homophobic hate preaching?  If not why not?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

this is fun

I saw this not on Reading Borough council's website but on the Facebook page of Reading and District Labour Party - but what a silly old Hector I am, those two bodies are one and the same - and I eagerly signed up.  To begin with I expressed an interest in rubbish.

Thank you for joining the conversation about how Reading Borough Council can work better with you. Your comments on local issues and services are really appreciated and we will be back in touch soon about how we continue to talk.

If you have any questions at this stage, your form reference number is 147210. Please quote this in future discussions.
The We Need to Talk web pages are located at Please look here to access up to date articles regarding the consultation process, and continue to have your say.
Reading Borough Council

I will, RBC, oh I will.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Brooks and Rothermere

I am indebted to Marbury for the following extract from the New York Times' account of recent events in the UK media world, but not only there.

Mr. Dacre, The Daily Mail editor, told his senior managers that he had received several reports from businesspeople, soccer stars and public relations agencies that the News International executives Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg had encouraged them to investigate whether their phones had been hacked by Daily Mail newspapers . “They thought it was unfair that all the focus was on The News of the World,” said one News International official with knowledge of the effort. The two men have told colleagues they did not make such calls, but two company officials disputed that.

Mr. Dacre confronted Ms. Brooks over breakfast at the plush Brown’s hotel. “You are trying to tear down the entire industry,” Mr. Dacre told her, according to an account he relayed to his management team. Ms. Brooks, whose tenacity is legendary, was not deterred. At a dinner party, Lady Claudia Rothermere, the wife of the billionaire owner of The Daily Mail, overheard Ms. Brooks saying that The Mail was just as culpable as The News of the World. “We didn’t break the law,” Lady Rothermere said, according to two sources with knowledge of the exchange. Ms. Brooks asked who Lady Rothermere thought she was, “Mother Teresa?”

Excellent stuff.  I am not a fan of the late Mother Teresa, in fact I think she was a ghastly dictator-arse-kissing old bitch, but that is another matter.

What kind of a world would it be if there were no newspapers? *visions of lambs frolicking in sunlit fields of flowers, shiny happy people everywhere*

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Best Blessings of Existence, continued

Guest post from Emma B.  The story continues.

She had broached the funeral with Lynne over lunch – but Lynne had refused to play ball.
Indeed she had not set foot on the pitch.

Speculative forays; mini raids into ‘real talk,’ were deflected with a flick of the wrist as Lynne made tidy incisions into her seared tuna on wilted greens.
The onset of dessert seemed to augur a change:

Of course the wrong choice in marriage is frequently devastating (spearing a prune).
But no – Lynne had launched into a cosy gloat about the misfortunes of Sandra Milford, who had appeared, pop eyes streaming and bulging, on the front page of every tabloid last month, accompanied by the humiliating disclosure that her husband, Environment Minister, Bill Cornish – had been blackmailed by a male prostitute.
The paper that had led with the scoop had been the very one that featured Sandra ‘At Home’, over four pages of fawning and froth in its Sunday supplement.

The timing can’t have been accidental smirked Lynne, spurning the cream.
They must have known that they were going to do her.
When Jessica Trotter said ‘Tell me Mrs Cornish – what’s the secret of a happy marriage?’ she must have been thinking ‘Dream on, you silly bitch – and take a shufty at pages two to ten next week’.

Of course, Sandra had been there before, although not for the contempt of the nation.
During their time at Dorlich, she had conceived a passion for graduate student Leslie Potts and had lorded it over them at parties on the arm of Leslie in his elegant apartment.
Leslie was a weed of the first rank – but his friends were the toast of Dorlich, doubtless tolerating Leslie because of his address, his cash and his car.
It was unbearable that Sandra, a dead ringer for Marty Feldman, had now made inroads into the coolest set in Dorlich – and if that meant sleeping with Leslie – well, pain before pleasure and all that.
But her time at the top had concluded when Leslie had ditched her, on the grounds that he thought he might be gay.

And even then, she clung on, didn’t she? said Lynne.
She offered to accompany him to the student Medical Centre!!!
And she dragged us to all those places where she thought he might turn up – such as BELINDA BRISCOE’S PARTY – saying ‘Well, Leslie says,’ all the time! She just didn’t get it.
And such a limpet! She must have known about Bill. I mean, you do, don’t you?
She knew and she refused to see - because she liked going to Chequers and Highgrove - talking about The Soil Association with Charles and Camilla and lecturing on organic marmalade.
And I bet if The Crier hadn’t splashed with the photos she’d BE WITH HIM STILL.
Lynne was fired up, ready to go – and she wondered if she had always been so cruel.
Sandra had been misery incarnate in the pictures – dabbing her face with tissues, plucked from her Mulberry bag.
But it was a comic, slightly pudding face and how could you really feel sorry for someone with such poached-egg eyes?

And in many ways, Sandra had not been a very nice person.
She had actually been pleased when her closest rival for the Darwin Science prize had absconded just before Finals, trashing her room and smashing every plate in the kitchen.
Heather had been unable to sit the third paper and had been awarded an aegrotat degree while Sandra was awarded the prize and its accompanying research scholarship.

She herself had been amazed, infuriated and slightly disgusted to wake up with Derek – the morning after the night before at the Broad Left Student Conference disco - to find Sandra leaning over their duvet stinking of stale wine and cheap scent, offering to find some tea.
You don’t mind, do you? I crashed out in the corner.


No – Sandra Milford had brought it all on herself, as usual – and The Crier had been acting in the best traditions of investigative journalism.
Lynne was absolutely right to sneer.

But, as the taxi approached the station and she checked the time of her train, she wondered how on earth Lynne could have segued smoothly from the travails of the wretched Milford to the verdict on her own marriage:

I’m sure that Paul really loved you once.

You learn something every day, she reflected, as the train carried her back to her own life……

Saturday, 16 July 2011

post Screws, what do politicians do next?

It doesn't really matter what details emerge about whose cosy relationship with whom, about who was invited by whom to dinner where and who was paid a retainer by whom.  (Great pronouns, hein?) It is a fact that politicians have, for a long time, perhaps always, got into bed with the media, and they haven't used protection either.  So no surprises when it all goes toxic. The public don't care about the details, they don't care much about phone hacking either, primary school children do it to each other and nobody much has moral scruples about it.  The public do want to believe that the police, public servants, even politicians, even journalists, are people of probity and integrity.  The British public is quite rare in this desire.  In France, where I live now, in Japan, where I lived a long time ago, in Latvia, where I lived more recently, the general public holds politicians in deepest contempt, believing them, not always rightly, to be venal and self-serving.  In France the media are quite high-minded, or like to think themselves so, they do not stoop to the tabloid trashing of people's lives that goes on in Britain.  But journalists are wined and dined by politicians, and vice versa, in France as in most places.  The President of the Republic has a finger in media pies.

The question I ask myself is, is this right?  Politicians have seemingly always thought that to get elected, to get power, you need the print media with you.  I remember at the beginning of the 1997 general election campaign in the UK Mr Salter put the Sun's front page on his campaign office wall "The Sun Backs Blair", it shouted.  Well, Neil Kinnock did not lose in 1992 because the Sun was against him.  It is perfectly possible to have a career in politics without selling your soul to the print media.  I did it for many years.  And I got elected despite weeks of sneering from the Reading Evening Post that I was a no-hope, lame-duck candidate, and re-elected to the accompaniment of savage attacks from the Reading Evening Post and constant tirades of lies from the Guardian.  And I wasn't alone in that.

It is arguable that the print media have become pointless, that we do not go there for news.  I subscribe to The Times on iPad, and I look forward to it every day, but its news stories seem stale when I look at them in the morning - it has all been thrashed out on Twitter over the past  24 hours.  Rupert Murdoch has probably understood that there is not much point to the print media, which is why he let the NotW go - its readers will probably not buy another tabloid on Sundays.  I used to get the Screws regularly, but there is no equivalent in France and I have never bought anything else in the UK, nor would I if I went back there.  Murdoch may well let the Times and Sunday Times go too, and focus on the broadcast media empire he has.  Well, we'll see.  But I remember my father telling me in the mid-60s (he worked in advertising) that since the advent of television people had stopped reading the papers for news.  They wanted comment and to understand more about what was going on.  He didn't know that the era of reliance on broadcast media for news was to be fairly short-lived, and that now we read the news again instead of listening to it - we just do it on line these days.  So that was true 50 years ago, but newspapers did not disappear, and they will not disappear now,

Back to my original question - do politicians need the print media?  My answer is no, and that those who thought they did, and who sold them a piece of their soul, pay heavily for something they did not need in the first place.  And online media - despite paywalls and so on, online media is something we control.  We have our Twitter feeds, which are not censored, and we do not have to take anyone to lunch to be able to publish what we like on them, and we can blog and publish what we want.  I follow Lady Gaga on Twitter, but if I didn't like what she does I wouldn't bother.  I knew an MP who lost his seat at the 2005 election, who was about the most media-savvy and media-connected I have met, and was litigious too.  He lost because no-one was bothering much in his constituency - people had seen him in the paper but they hadn't met him.  People got cynical. And voted for the person who came to their door, not the one they had seen on the telly.

Cllr Jan Gavin in Reading posted recently that some local politicians were too "cozy" (her spelling - where did she get that one from, and how did she work as a teacher for all that time with that standard of literacy? Oh.) with the local media.  But if you read the post it is clear that she is resentful that a LibDem or two is able to get quotes into the Reading Evening Post, which she has been told is the exclusive preserve of Reading Labour.  She didn't mean that it is a bad idea to be "cozy" (in fact I think I will adopt that spelling, and then you will know I am talking about Reading Labour and you will know to stop reading).  So, David Cameron, and anyone else in British politics, if you thought you needed the Murdoch family, you didn't, but it is too late now.  Learn from it, or die.

Friday, 15 July 2011

deep end

this 1970 film by Jerzy Skolimowski was thought lost, but has been found and restored.  It is now showing in cinemas, and I saw it yesterday.  Just after seeing it I was a little bit like "ugh, horrid 1970s sexual politics" but I actually woke up in the middle of the night transfixed by several of the images in the film, and with the soundtrack (Cat Stevens and Can) going through my head.  That has not I think ever happened to me before.  Every image links to another and is part of the story.  This is how films should be made.  A scene in which a man with his back to the camera paints a wall (bottom right-hand still on the poster) is terrifying.  I need to see the film again.  Go and see it.  It stars the young Jane Asher, who says now that not only did she not use a body double but that she is still pleased with the way it was done, somebody called John Moulder-Brown, and among others the wonderful Diana Dors, who could DO female sexuality like no-one else.  A masterpiece.
Oh and this film is in some ways so far ahead of its time that I kept thinking (I was sixteen in 1970) that they had got the period detail just right, only to remember that it was actually filmed then.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Best Blessings of Existence, continued

Emma B. continues the story.

Lynne, tripping briskly down the street before being swallowed by the hole in the ground, was to outward intents and purposes, little changed.
The inevitable lines; hair owing more to L’Oreal than nature.
But the eighteen-year-old ingénue was still there in glimpses.

She herself was the more changed – at least physically. Thin/not so thin/plump/thin-ish/less plump – had been the pattern over the years with ‘less thin’ in the ascendant and more than a flash of her mother at fifty when she passed the mirror.

But she knew that, given the right prompts, her rendition of ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’ would have been immediate and pitch-perfect – whereas to the Lynne of today – Rasputin would have been just another mad monk with no discernible links to lamp posts.

It had not been a difficult lunch – they never were nowadays because they didn’t talk about anything.
Family. Jobs – both were ‘moving on’ for different reasons; dogs; holidays; mutual acquaintances divorced, disgraced or dead; the weather and the next lunch.
And this was the toxic Hydra that her husband had re-christened ‘Loony Lynne’.
They had known each other for almost thirty years………

If she was part Emma Bovary, the remainder was Emma Woodhouse. Emma had been her A level text and she had always seen it as the heroine’s quest to choose the correct friend rather than the correct husband.

So Emma had catapulted from misery at governess Miss Taylors’ ,defection (marriage to Mr Weston), to the unsuitable Harriet Smith as best friend – spurning the superior claims of the impeccable Jane Fairfax en route - until properly uniting with the latter at the end of the novel.

The likes of Mr Elton, Frank Churchill and Mr Knightley paled into insignificance as Emma uncovered the true stupidity of Harriet.

( Harriet: Is it about sharks?
Emma: Good heavens why would he write a riddle about sharks? )
and the reader rejoices as the genuine accomplishments of Jane are crowned in a triumphant conclusion.

She and Lynne had been the Cagney and Lacey of Dorlich red-brick (Oxbridge –once-removed) circa 73-76. They had endured the noxious, braying refugees from St Mary’s Ascot and Benenden on their corridor at Peony Hall and had responded to the latter’s ‘crumpet and bun fights’ by playing Stairway to Heaven at top volume and smoking aggressively in the faces of the God Squad desert-boot set who were always issuing invitations to Jesus parties.

In Year Two, they decamped before they were removed by acclaim and set up home in a first-floor flat, riddled with mice, courtesy of an ancient landlord with perma- stained trousers and sweet sherry on demand when they came to pay the rent.

They wore matching maxis and bell- sleeved tee shirts, topped off in Lynne’s case with a leather jacket. Her own pride and joy was a white afghan coat that disappeared on the back of the gate-crasher she had caught urinating in the fireplace at their infamous vicars and tarts party. Lynne now favoured crisp tailored suits – gave up smoking when she married Gregory and had been resolutely teetotal since the Falklands War.

Their escapades had been legion and every lunch began with a ritual reminisce – wearing increasingly thin with the passage of time.

First out of the traps were the minor triumphs; Lynne landing on the doorstep at 4am after a party wearing someone else’s trousers and then calmly removing every light bulb in the flat. Or both diving to safety from the door of a hitched lift when the male driver donned a pair of elbow length leather gloves and they noticed that from the waist down he was not wearing trousers.

There had been the holiday in Florence when a drive to the Tuscan hills with three smouldering Italians had ended in a roadside tunnel with virtue just about intact ,but pockets pillaged. They had limped their way back to the pensione, suffered a morning with officials in the British Embassy and and then returned to the café where they had picked up the men, splurging all remaining cash on a slap up lunch, to prove that they still could.

And the piece de resistance – that day after Finals in 76, when they had sweltered in the cinema at the peak of the heatwave, watching Don’t Look Now, before arriving in the Falcon to discover both sets of parents and the Regis Professor of History, sobbing in the arms of a posse of uniformed constables. An escaped convict from the local prison had broken into the flat; ransacked the cupboards and phoned her mother, saying that they were being held at knifepoint at an undisclosed location and demanding £10,000 up front within 24 hours.
Whilst they had been watching Julie Christie thrashing in the arms of Donald Sutherland and buying Biba lipsticks at Snob, their faces had been beamed into the homes of the nation as the University Vice-Chancellor had issued a television plea for their safety; flanked by the Chief Constable of Dorlich and a psychological profiler.

The prisoner had been recaptured in the Trade Winds Wine Bar, where he had attempted to flog their entire record collection – including original copies of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake and Sergeant Pepper.

And then they had cleared the flat, Lynne had gone to London and she had stayed in Dorlich for the MA, moving into a house with students from her course. But there had been a Lynne-shaped gap in her life that had not been adequately filled by Sandra Milford, who had made up a three with them on many a Friday night.

As she left the bistro and stepped out in the direction of the nearest taxi, she remembered how she had answered her daughter as they left the church.
‘Why on earth did you marry Dad?’

Because Lynne went to London of course. Obviously.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

did he stand up to the bullies?

and further update

just a thought to add to what I posted earlier, below:  if Mr Salter's phone really had been hacked, someone would have found clear evidence of hs four-year expenses fraud, claiming £1000 a month for a non-existent property, and would have made use of that, especially as the News of the World were not his biggest fans in 2000, when he was still fraudulently claiming that money - wouldn't they?

er, no.  This is His Master's Voice's copy of Mr Salter's press release, usual fisking mine:

Former Reading West MP Martin Salter has been reportedly named as one of the figures targeted by a private investigator implicated in the News of the World scandal. 
Mr Salter, according to files obtained by The Guardian newspaper, was the victim of an inquiry he was the victim of nothing.  He didn't know until the Guardian reported it this week, and nothing has happened to him by a private detective who paid a junior police officer to search the police national computer for information. the police officer who took the money, allegedly, is guilty.  That's it.
His name emerged alongside former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and another MP Nick Brown.
The Guardian says it has a transcript of a previously unreported court case in which it was revealed Devon and Cornwall Police had discovered one of its officers was providing information to the private investigator in 2003.
The paper says the investigator was making enquiries on behalf of journalists at the time when the News of the World was attacking Mr Salter for refusing to support its campaign to pass legislation – Sarah’s Law – to publicise the whereabouts of convicted paedophiles. He was not the only one to refuse to support that campaign, there were many others, including me, but the rest of us were not targeted in any way, probably because we did not choose to give the NotW campaign publicity in press releases. 
However The Guardian says the private investigator has refused to name the journalists who commissioned him. and even if he had I should hope the Guardian, piece of filth though it is, would have enough journalistic integrity not to reveal its sources. 
Yesterday Mr Salter told the Reading Post the matter what matter? nothing has happened to Mr Salter.  The PNC looked at information about him, allegedly, and if anything had been found that the NotW was minded to use I am quite sure they would have done so; they clearly found nothing of interest was in the hands of his solicitors who have been asked to do what exactly? but said he thought he was a target because he “stood up to Rebekah Brooks”. who was called Wade then, as I hope Mr Salter knows
The News of the World under of the editorship of Rebekah Brooks Wade led the campaign for Sarah’s Law following the murder of Sarah Payne by Roy Whiting, a convicted sex offender who had been released from prison.
Mr Salter refused to support the newspaper’s campaign to allow parents to have access to the Sex Offenders’ Register. See above.

In June 2006, he spoke up in the House of Commons he used that opportunity to refer to the alleged burning out of a paediatrician, mistaken for a paedophile by a mob, following the Sarah's Law campaign, unfortunately this has been shown up as an urban myth  about the dangers of publicising information about convicted paedophiles when a right wing website called Redwatch linked to another called Noncewatch emerged. not on this topic at all, but never mind the facts, hey?
The website said: “Nonces deserve nothing more than a decent British noose around their necks and a long drop.” thanks for the publicity Martin, love and kisses Noncewatch
Mr Salter stood down as MP for Reading West in 2010 and has been in Australia ever since. He returns to this country next month. having placed self-publicity, including photos, in the Reading Evening Post and Newbury Weekly News, just ahead of time, handy, eh? idiot stooges in the media

The Newbury Weekly News quotes him as saying he "will not be giving interviews" because of possible "prejudice" to "any future legal action".  More likely to avoid prejudice to his resumed political career in Reading, hein?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Best Blessings of Existence, continued

What follows is a guest post by Emma B.

What ensued was a fortnight of drinks punctuated by the joys of illicit sex in her bedroom at the student house.

‘Illicit’ because he decamped to return to the wife at 2am and ‘joys’ because of ‘illicit’. The proceedings were supervised by posters of Marilyn and Michelangelo’s David - and the windows dripped with indoor condensation.

They visited her usual haunts and were clocked by some of her friends, which was fine, as he was tall, dark; so forth to match. They shared a birthday (five years apart) and DH Lawrence – although in his case, Sea and Sardinia not Women in Love.
They did not discuss his wife.

And then he went to Brittany with wife, kids, best friend. .

The postcard was a Turner seascape. ‘And then went down to the ship.
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea’, ( Ezra Pound, Canto 1) in black ink, followed by his initial.

Classicist Lynne explained the references.
‘Odysseus and Tiresias’, she mused, paying for last orders at The Bear. ‘But why has he sent you a poem about a quest to see somebody who has had a sex change?’

It had been a less than vintage week.
The PHD interview! Did she want to spend three years with the minor works of Thomas Hoccleve? Lynne had flunked the MOD fast-tracking scheme. Her Head of Section, who would have donned a trilby in St Tropez, thought women should wash their briefs rather than composing them for Ministers. She’d lodged a complaint under the new Sex Discrimination Act.

So they had ‘done the rounds’ in desultory style; drinks and dinner with Percy, the 50- year-old Law lecturer, followed by a chorus of ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’ and dancing round a lamp-post; girls' night out with Sylvie and Fat Fran and an exhibition of safely pornographic Mexican woodcuts at the Art Gallery with Marc and Malcolm. Malcolm had wined and dined them, together and separately, on numerous occasions over the past three years. An elegant, slightly wasted potter, he had never made a move, so was either asexual or tucked up most nights with the cherubic Marc from the BBC.

The Bear was not top choice for Lynne’s last night.
They had visited The Falcon to find it colonise by the women's rugby squad and The Bat and Belfry had been overrun by cider-swilling freshers. She had proposed quiche and salad at the Trade Wind Wine Bar, but a glimpse of Lynne’s ex with latest squeeze put paid to that.

So it had been the trek to The Bear, and three hours of buttock-clenching boredom, inhaling patchouli oil, plus drenched skirt hems, trailing in a mix of muck and beer.
And the prospect of the walk back.

Then he was there.
At the bar. In a khaki jacket; Jesus sandals, rucksack and pipe.
He had abandoned the wife, kids and friend in Brittany. He had returned to her. He had nowhere to stay for the night.

Lynne hauled her to the loo.

‘I can’t stand him. He is gross. Bad news. We can leave by the back door. Go to Fran’s. Now’.

Thirty years later, she reminds Lynne of this as they settle the bill at the London bistro. ‘No’, says Lynne. ‘I can’t have. You have imagined it. You want to think I said that but I didn’t’(Sipping her mineral water before leaving for choral practice).

But she did.

he's made it up!

this is what the Filth had to say about the evidence it has found that Labour MPs including Gordon Brown were targeted:
Notice that there is no evidence that Mr Salter was ever hacked, he has just tried to give the impression that he has been.  What is this, I've been hacked and you haven't, so I'm more important than you?  Sigh.  Anyway, this had to be fisked.

PNC checks were made by detective constable Diss on three Labour politicians, according to police interview transcripts obtained by the Guardian. All were in late 2000.

• The first, on 13 September 2000, was on Martin Salter, the Labour MP for Reading West.
Salter had displeased Rebekah Brooks, then News of the World editor. He refused her request to support her notorious campaign for Sarah's Law to "protect us from pervs". So did many others, including me, but he was the only one to do so using offensive language and to press release his refusal.  Shortly afterwards, on 24 September 2000, NoW readers were urged to pillory him personally in a "naming and shaming" stunt.  Yes I remember the "rogues gallery" of about ten MPs, with really horrible pictures of all of them.
Salter says: "She responded with some foul personal attacks so typical of the bullying style of the former NoW. Diddums. I remember canvassing that Sunday morning No you don't.  That Sunday was the first day of party conference in Brighton and you were there, chairing the South-East Group opening reception, you press released that so it must have been true.  There was no Reading Labour Party canvassing that day, and you were not in Reading.  Liar. and it was particularly unpleasant."
False rumours had been circulated earlier in the year oooh! by opponents in his constituency No.  They were circulated by me, who was never in his constituency, though he was regularly in mine that he had convictions for cannabis and GBH. GBH conviction he boasted about, and that is what I told them, cannabis he was and is a regular user, I am not aware that he has any convictions for its use He had also made no secret of the fact that he had smoked cannabis in the past and believed in its decriminalisation

The simple sword of truth.  Had to be wielded.

Monday, 11 July 2011

hmmm just thought I'd mention

this from the Filth, thanks Jonathan

In 2003, Devon and Cornwall police discovered that one of their junior officers was providing information from the police national computer to a network of private investigators. The Guardian has established that one of these investigators, Glen Lawson of Abbey Investigations in Newcastle upon Tyne, used this contact to commission a search of police records for information about Brown on 16 November 2000. Lawson also commissioned searches related to two other Labour MPs, Nick Brown and Martin Salter.
Lawson made these searches on behalf of journalists, a previously unreported court hearing was told. Transcripts obtained by the Guardian show that the search on Martin Salter was made at a time when the News of the World, then edited by Brooks, was attacking him for refusing to support the paper's notorious "Sarah's law" campaign to name paedophiles. 
I remember well that the Screws published a "rogues' gallery" of MPs who had refused to support the "Sarah's Law" campaign, printing pictures of them that made them look like child molesters, that is if anyone knows what a child molester really looks like.  They surveyed all MPs as I recall.  I threw their letter in the bin.  I do remember the Reading Evening Post phoning me up saying I was being "widely condemned" for not supporting the "Sarah's Law" campaign.  Why would they do that?  Anyway, they may well have hacked Mr Salter's phone.  As I barely used a mobile (and still barely do) and avoid the phone at all times if I can, there is unlikely to be anything of interest from my phone records - hence that there is no evidence that there was any attempt to hack them.  Many others however may be implicated, and "just satisfaction" as we say in the legal business may well be forthcoming.
Oh what joy.  The dead tree press will eat itself.  All that is required for unalloyed joy is for the Guardian also to be exposed.

screws 2

I have been most interested by the reactions to what has happened to the late Screws and in watching Cameron twisting in the wind as his erstwhile allies fall apart.  (Tony would have handled it much better).  Hang on a minute, I thought, the Screws were a tabloid, getting the kind of stories that tabloid readers like.  That was their job.  And when some of them were caught doing illegal things, they got into trouble.  More than one Screws journo has been arrested in recent years, and one has done time.  So there is due process when they break the law.  Rightly.  One commenter has noted that a Screws journalist "gloated" over a story about something unfortunate which happened to him/her.  I have experienced this too, not from the Screws but from elsewhere.  Why do they do this?  Are they really so pleased that someone's life has been damaged by their story?  Surely they would just be pleased to get the story, and not pleased  about the misery?  That is just evil.  I saw it myself in Reading, when the Reading Evening Post, known locally as His Master's Voice in Mr Salter's time, and now that Labour has retaken control of the council still in the business of copying out council press releases and little else, did a story not designed to be helpful to yours truly, from anonymous sources and without speaking to me.  They put it on the front page.  That evening I was doing an advice surgery in a pub, as I did one Friday evening a month, the Wynford Arms I remember it was, a gay pub then and I believe still now, when in came the author of that story, who for a while at least, maybe still, lived at the pub as the partner of the landlord.  Anyway, David Millward, for it was he, did not see me at first and started bragging about how he had "done over" the MP.  He shut up pretty quickly, not because he saw me but because the other drinkers did not appreciate the line he took.  But what I wonder is why they are so personal?  Why the gloating?  They don't care in personal terms about the people they write about, so how come they enjoy their suffering?  I really would like to know the answer to that.  What I do know is that they don't all do it.  There are a number of decent people who work as tabloid journalists, and good ones too.  I would single out Nigel Nelson of the People as such, but there are others.  Is there a former or present tabloid journalist out there who can explain the gloating to me?  Anonymously of course if you prefer, most of my commenters prefer that, sadly.

David Millward now works as public relations spokeperson for Reading Borough Council.  Hardly gamekeeper turned poacher, as his job for the Reading Evening Post was bringing council press releases to the attention of the public, and it still is.  He told the Wynford Arms that he had just come from the council offices.  Well, of course he had.  Certain councillors had been feeding him beer and clapping him warmly on the back in congratulation.

A commenter cites Marina Hyde, whom he or she correctly describes as "loathsome" as saying she feels "clean" because she works for the Guardian.  How exactly?  A paper that is the quintessence of bad faith, inciting racial hatred on a regular basis while pretending to be the Nice People's Paper.  To say nothing of printing lies on a regular basis.  What's clean about that?  There is a stink rising from the pages of the Guardian which revolts decent people, I tell you, Marina.  Smugness about the fate of the Screws ill befits anyone working in journalism.

It was brought to my attention over the weekend that when staff and especially press officers of a major national charity with a high international profile heard about the Screws they applauded, and some of them began dancing.  So says one who was there.  When I asked, politely, what they found so joyous about the demise of a sometime great campaigning paper at the whim of its proprietor because, allegedly, of illegal activities by a small number of its employees, with hundreds of jobs lost by people who had done nothing illegal or wrong, while the chief executive, who surely ought to be accountable, remains in post, I was told "This conversation is over".  Because tabloids are Bad.  Because they are read by Working-Class People.some of whom like tit and bum pictures.  But the Guardian is Good.  Despite its support for Hamas.  Whose position on respect for women and equality is, remind me...

There is a smell about the UK chattering classes that is fit to choke us all.  It has already choked off fair and reasoned debate.

May you reap as you have sown.