Saturday, 31 March 2012

the crassness of Reading Labour

who stood up in the council chamber and cheered a Tory councillor who was making his last speech before leaving the council, having been deselected last autumn.  Local dead-tree reporting of this immediately brought out the following: Labour cannot comment on this after the shameful way they treated Jane Griffiths and why this lot - and Labour, and the Lib Dems and the Greens cannot just GET ON WITH THE WORK FOR WHICH THEY WERE VOTED IN FOR. START BE HAVING LIKE ADULTS. Oh, Silly me, they are politicians, aren’t they?
 and that was over seven years ago!  Reading Labour should have learned from that experience, but it seems they have not.  If a retiring councillor wants to have a public score-settling - and it would not be the first time this has happened - then surely this comes under the heading of private grief for that councillor's party.  And as such should be listened to in silence.  And then everyone should move on.  Undoubtedly Reading Labour had the text of the councillor's retiring speech beforehand, and had decided what they would do.  I can just imagine the cackling at the group meeting beforehand. So when Josephine Lovelock was heaving her vast wine-fed bulk off the chair she might have done well to reflect on the wisdom or otherwise of her group's actions.  People have long memories.  I don't know the councillor concerned and have no idea whether the reported accusations against him are true.  That's not the point here.  The point is that members of the public, as the comments showed, know a crass hypocritical gesture when they see it, and they don't like it.  And there is an election coming up.  Reading Labour are confident of cementing their control of the council in May.  Maybe that is just what they will do.  But shouldn't they think of what they actually want to DO with that control?  As historic Reading buildings like the Kings Meadow Baths crumble away with the connivance of the council, and as Reading Labour continue to fail to provide decent schools for Reading children, and as parts of south Reading look increasingly like the crappier suburbs of Belgrade, where is the vision?  Think about that.

In semi-related  news, this week the loathsome Ed Balls was in Reading.  Local reporting does not say why he was there, other than that he visited Alfred Sutton School in east Reading.  Yesterday on the Chronicle website he was pictured with a youngish person of drippy appearance with a Labour rosette on, who was not named.  Today her name has been added to the picture, perhaps after representations from Reading Labour.  Too late.  She is the candidate for Park ward, which Reading Labour are not fighting this year.  Their best offer previously was Basher McKenzie, and when the voters showed their disgust with the likes of him they couldn't think of anything else, so they put in a GIRL and then kept her safely out of the way.  They put a picture on their Facebook page later in the day, which has Gumdrops Gavin in the foreground (who should stay out of direct sunlight, or get a skin peel), the loathsome Balls next to her, and shadowed, so you can't see her face, some GIRL  or other with a rosette on.  Also, getting your picture taken does not constitute "campaigning", chaps.  Issues you're tackling in Park ward, anyone?  Anyone? (sound of tumbleweed)

After Bradford West, is this really all there is?  Still, Reading Labour "strongly supported" Ed Miliband for leader, we were told.  So that's all right then.


Friday, 30 March 2012

the wrongs of multi-culturalism

an interesting piece here by Kenan Malik on how the misguided policies of councils such as Bradford, particularly from the 1980s on, created sectarianism in their cities where there had been none.  Fearing Asian riots, they accepted uncritically the dictums of community elders, who said that it was Western values which were turning their young men into street fighters, drug takers and so on.  Islam would save them from this.  And these powerful men would then become even more powerful at the heads of the mosque committees, set up with council funding.  And the communities' votes would be parcelled up for the councillors who had provided the funding. So everyone was happy.  I saw precisely this happen in Reading from the 1980s on.  It culminated, if that is the word, in white politicians like Martin Salter marching for Salman Rushdie to be killed, and burning his book.  The immigrants from Pakistan in the 1950s did not ask for halal meat in schools, or for their daughters to be educated separately from boys.  They may have been believing Muslims, but they did not seek municipally funded piety.  But now we see the result of this misguidedness - in postal vote fraud as well as in the election of a poltroon like Galloway in Bradford West, after the retirement of the decent Marsha Singh, a secular, non-turban-wearing Sikh.  Politically wrong, all wrong.

What to Look For in Winter

A Memoir in Blindness, by Candia McWilliam, a writer of whom I had never heard until she was recommended to me by a reader of this blog.  She mostly dictated this, a memoir, as she began it after she had developed blepharospasm, a condition which makes the eyes clamp shut and thus renders the sufferer blind.  Her life, someone wrote in a review, has been rather like an Iris Murdoch novel, sharing flats with strange creatures with impossible names.  Her mother committed suicide when she was a child.  She grew up in Edinburgh and worked at Vogue and lived mostly in London.  She has two ex-husbands, whose lives remain intertwined with hers in ways I found uncomfortable to read about.  She seems to have been plagued all her life by a crippling misery and sense of being disliked.  But this is not a "misery memoir".  She has a keen sense of the beauty of the world and of its things.  Scots often do.  She describes a carthorse like this: "the horse would stand at a massive mincing halt".  I had never thought of carthorses mincing before, but they do.  She is excellent on the physicality of writing - now that I do it every day, spending another part of the day editing the words of others, I understand how hard writing is physically.  Because she dictated this book, she refers to her others as "books that had come down my arm and not out of my mouth".  I fell more or less in love with her use of words, but also very sad for the sadness she feels.  She says of her books "my... family turn in the main a civilly blind eye to my books, which they perceive as bad manners and showing-off writ rather too large".  Mine do precisely this too.  She became a drunk, a serious one, and started the alcoholics' recovery programme in middle life.  She is about my age. 

I read this book on paper.  There is no picture of her on the cover, presumably her choice.  She quite often refers to her appearance, not favourably.  She is tall, and says she is fat, and thus much too big.  I had to Google her to see what she looked like, and was surprised to find that when young she was quite beautiful, and that she still is, and is not really fat at all.  She does not write very much about her drunk years, and I believe this is because she cannot remember them.  She is alone, and lives in other people's houses.  But oh, Candia (what a lovely name) why not leave your husbands alone  and taste the joy you can write about so well, from the slap of mackerel on the Colonsay water to the Edinburgh shop fronts to the blossom in an Oxford garden?  A seductive read, but oh, Candia, I so wanted you to be happy.     

Thursday, 29 March 2012

will the real...

I'm a big Eminem fan as any fule kno, one of the grate humorists of our time cheers cheers and thanks to Marbury who is my grate friend for putting this up - and who paid for it?

la gauche in France

for those not following the French presidential election as closely as I am, left to right, depicted by Plantu of Le Monde, Jean-Luc Melenchon, candidate of the far left, who is pulling in many thousands at rallies, Francois Hollande, well, you can see what the chain on his ankle is indicating, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who on hearing "La Gauche" (a feminine noun in French) says "Do I know her?", indicating as clearly as possible what his own personal ball and chain is.  OK, not very subtle, but the broadsheets rarely are.  You need a tabloid for that.  I learned a long time ago that broadsheet headlines are understandable by just about anybody "UK set to go into recession in first quarter of 2012", but for tabloid ones to be comprehensible you need HUGE amounts of context.  "Gotcha!"  Oh yes.  Meanwhile, in the French election campaign Marine Le Pen, far right Front National, in third place, inches forward, tortoise-like.  The Green campaign appears to have failed already, and Francois Bayrou, for MoDem, the equivalent of the LibDems - well, there is simply no point to him, as there is not to the LibDems in the UK.  The important thing to remember is that there are two rounds of voting, two weeks apart.  The first round is on 22nd April.  I would be surprised if Melenchon makes it into the second round.  And some of his votes will go to Le Pen, as will some of Hollande's as time goes on.  But most of Melenchon's will go to Hollande.  The crucial point is how many of his, and Hollande's - who is not wowing the electorate - go to not voting.  Quite a lot I would say.  That could leave a run-off between Sarko (currently ahead) and Le Pen.  And then, who knows?  Just saying...

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

the best blessings of Alison Seabeck

I have said before, I do not know Alison Seabeck MP and have nothing to say about her personally.  But, a little glimpse at the cosy world of British Labour politics.
Alison Seabeck is the daughter of Michael Ward, the last Labour MP for Peterborough. He was defeated by Brian Mawhinney in 1979. Michael Ward subsequently died of cancer in 2002/3 - having left the Labour Party (he later rejoined) after being bullied by the Peterborough Labour Party (not that that ever happens) and a flirtation with the SDP.

Alison Ward, as she then was, was taught at the polytechnic she attended by Dr Rudi Vis, who originates from the Netherlands (he played for the Dutch national football team, the under-12s) and who became a Labour MP in 1997.

Alison Ward later became secretary to one Roy Hattersley, conniving at the latter's trysts with one Ann "Loaf-Head" Taylor, who later became possibly the most ignorant and unimpressive Government Chief Whip there has ever been.  Alison then married somebody called Seabeck.  Alison Seabeck then became secretary at the Commons to one Nick Raynsford MP.  A liaison developed between the two of them, and Raynsford left his wife for her.  They are still together.  She was then selected for Plymouth Devonport and is now an MP.
Anne, his wife, had previously had a torrid affair with Michael Booker (he of the prize) and Nick Raynsford caught them at it on the sofa.This was in the mid-late 80s.

Raynsford became rather a DOG at Labour Party Conferences, despite his deceptively nerdish looks.

There is a character in a work entitled The Best Blessings of Existence who bears a distinct resemblance to Mr Raynsford.
Sue me.

sunny Jim

my gorge rose this morning when I unwittingly clicked on an article you can read for yourself here.  It is written by a creature called Leo McKinstry, who is from Northern Ireland and who once worked for Harriet Harman, going on to diss her publicly aftewards.  Nice fellow.  Anyway, he says that people who say that Jim Callaghan was the worst prime minister ever (do they say that?) are all wrong, because the late Jim was a decent bloke, who was against "coloured people" immgrating into the UK.  Now, I don't remember him saying that.  If he did, a veil was mercifully drawn over it.  But even in the 1970s such views had begun to be disapproved of by decent folk everywhere.  McKinstry goes on to attack "Blair and Brown" who, he says, forced "the dogma of multiculturalism" down the throats of good British yeomen.  May I point out to the frothing Ulsterman that, if there ever was a "dogma of multiculturalism", it had its heyday in the late 1980s and early 90s in local authorities.  Under a Conservative government. I was a member of one such in Reading.  It very nearly allowed mother-tongue teaching in schools, it did arrange for halal meat to be served in some schools, its premises were used for an anti-Salman Rushdie rally, and one of its parks for a Hizb ut-Tahrir event.  That was multiculturalism, and it created and sustained ghettoes, and supported the isolation and oppression of women, with encouragement from white local politicians, some of whom do so to this day.  The Blair government took very much against such things.  Rightly.  I don't know what the Brown government thought, and I don't much care.  Managed decline not being my favourite scene.

Mr McKinstry, you get paid, presumably, for your hateful and ill-informed spoutings.  I wasn't much of a fan of the late Jim Callaghan, finding him crass and out of touch.  But I wonder what  his family, and those who knew him best, think of him being prayed in aid for the cause of racial hatred.  Pin-up boy for the BNP?  I very much doubt it.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Best Blessings of Existence 30

Welcome back Emma B.  In which a dog, or another creature, returns to its vomit, and things take a turn for the normal - or do they?

A room of one’s own was sufficient for Virginia Woolf – but by the close of 1982, she had a house of her own, a baby of her own and a pet of her own. The problem was, she seemed to have acquired them via a type of hire purchase.

And they could not be returned to the shop….

Getting pregnant was ridiculously easy. Not for her the five miscarriages; one ectopic pregnancy and one still birth that had been her mother’s lot.


One night of pill – less sex, preceded by a Truscott extravaganza at a Greek taverna during the course of which Philippa had smashed plates; danced on tables and ogled the waiters, was sufficient.

In the pre home-testing era, she had provided a urine sample for her doctor and the requisite rabbit or frog had died or turned pink. And she knew she was properly enceinte when she began to reside in the toilet - evacuating from all orifices throughout the day and most of the night. She missed out on the traditional bloom of preg Unfortunately, a jolly good brag is dependent upon the compliance of the braggee, and here she was sold somewhat short.

Her mother was ecstatic and knitted up a storm – but her response was not reliable because she had also airbrushed the Hunt debacle from history. Her father gave her a cheque instead of saying: You’re stuck with him now. Lynne said: If you call me Aunty Lynne I shall fucking kill you - and meant it.

Nicola and the kiddies said nothing because Paul did not tell them and it would be at least five months before she could brandish the evidence on access weekend in the form of a swelling stomach and a smock from Mystical Madonnas.

So she was left to her own devices; discarding Jane Austen; Erica Jong and Cosmopolitan in favour of Penelope Leach; Miriam Stoppard and whatever Mother and Baby magazines she could buy. It was a world of trimesters; stretch marks; cervixes; brown nipples and heartburn.

What Paul thought of it, she neither knew nor cared.
It was her body; her pregnancy; her baby. And that was all.

Well – perhaps not quite all.

She felt a residual need to maintain some sort of sex life in the changed circumstances. This was difficult – because from the moment she became pregnant, she ceased to find her husband attractive.

It was not that he had altered in any way – or gone to seed especially. He had always been a sartorial mess; the Cleghorn wardrobe had been an aberration and the tousled and ruffled look was – and remained, part of Paul's charm.

It was that their intimate moments had ceased to be a deux – at least in her mind.

In the throes of passion – or what passed for it; imaginary Nicolas would loom into view; or Hunts and Cleghorns.
On one occasion too horrible to dwell upon, she had been put off her stroke by a repellent image of the superannuated bookseller – and by then there was nothing for it but to close her eyes, think of John Lennon and wait for it to be over.

But she kept her counsel, discovering that wine and vodka in judicious quantities deterred unwelcome ‘visitors’ when avoidance was no longer feasible. It was a pre Health Police era and later in pregnancy, copious amounts of medicinal Guinness (for the iron content) did the trick. She found that one bumper unbridled session would do in place of more frequent lacklustre couplings; buying her more time off in between.

And Paul did not complain.

For once, she became inordinately keen to visit Eric and sample the delights of Picks Norton as a guest of Donald and Gillian. She anticipated an Eric in grandfather-mode with the prospect of a new baby toppling Nicola from her perch in his affections.

It was not to be.

Eric was not father material – let alone grandfather - and her pregnant queasiness at the sight of one of his ribs of beef oozing complementary blood, only sufficed to cement her status as resident wimp.

Nicola in similar straits was fondly remembered for chomping her way through the side of a whole bloody calf which she had then washed down with a bottle of his best Bordeaux.

And her own value as something below the rank of amoeba was hardly enhanced by the fact that she had ruined Eric’s attempt to show off to Paul by taking them for a ride in his new Rover (drinks petrol like a fish and purrs like a pussy).

It had been a mistake to venture a boiled egg at breakfast and waves of nausea engulfed her as they purred across Tufnell Bridge above the motorway. Eric had been compelled to make an emergency stop so that she could pour out of the car and deposit the contents of her stomach over the bridge; thence into the open sun roof of an unsuspecting motorist below. Emptied and weak, she repaired to the back seat, praying that stray threads of vomit had not escaped her mouth to settle amidst the creases in the white leather upholstery.

A weekend at Picks Norton was similarly frustrating. Gillian, who had formerly delighted in ramming the mysteries of the Breast is Best League down her un-pregnant ears, was not to be tempted onto the subject.


The increasing independence of David and Susan was a relief.
The tyranny of the nappy pail was now consigned to the past. And we won’t be revisiting that chapter again, will we darling? (with an arch look at Donald).

It was wonderful to exercise the brain after an eternity at the mercy of Roger Hargreaves and the Mr Men and I’ve become a bit of a men-magnet!!

The idea of Gillian attracting anyone other than her legally assigned spouse (and that was debatable) was ludicrous – but the point was clear. Nicola, divorced or not, was on the inside looking out; she was on the outside looking in and it could rain and hail and snow on her - with or without babies.

That was where she would stay.

The fall-out at work was better.
Head of Department Andrew, naturally assumed she would leave – which determined her decision to stay come hell or high water - courtesy of a decent nanny.

Such dedication reaped a just reward and she was astounded to hear Andrew respond in effusive tones – with the promise of a scale promotion on her return from maternity leave. It meant responsibility for university entrance; goodbye to some hated junior classes; a place on the Senior Management Team – and more money.

She bore her nausea; heartburn and cystitis with pride. She was a contender.

Chudleigh’s reaction was mixed.

The snooty Head Master who had banned her from hallowed turf before marriage conveyed a modicum of respectability, offered wintry congratulations when they crossed paths at the Corps Annual Parade.

Betty Glenn was genuinely pleased.

But shock and awe came courtesy of Dorian Chase who turned up one morning bearing gifts – in the form of: a jolly useful little book and some threads.

The book; an obscure, illustrated feminist guide to sex in pregnancy, adorned with pictures of engorged genitalia – was consigned to the bin. The threads took the form of three of Dorian’s old maternity smocks; washed and pressed but infused with the characteristic Chase grubbiness. Paul caught her stuffing them into the back of the wardrobe and insisted on a floor show:
Darling, how kind of Dorian – now you really MUST wear them! Pink and orange swirls are … (struggling) - well you won’t find anyone else dressed in that!!

So she wore the hideous sacks in strict rotation at Chudleigh functions – but never without washing them first in a vain attempt to remove any lingering trace of their original owner.

It was an intimacy too far…

But she was happy – for want of another word to describe the self absorption, epitomised by hours spent examining her body for signs of change. These were an eternity coming and by four and a half months she could still zip up her jeans; unsurprising as so much body weight had been flushed down the toilet.

Pregnancy came with a customised kit and she became inordinately attached to her Co-operation Card issued by the doctor on the occasion of her first routine examination. This large piece of card, meticulously annotated by whoever was examining her, contained fascinating facts about her blood pressure; blood group; results of scans; tests and weight checks.

It was her unique body encyclopaedia; endlessly enthralling and exquisitely intimate. She had to resist the temptation to show it to people.

Not that the occasion ever arose, because, in the absence of anyone with whom to share these exciting times – she was lonely.

Paul pottered on in his own fashion; amicable and not, as far as she could tell, engaging in Hunt or Cleghorn activities – but things had changed.

She had taken him back - but he was what he was.

What he was not, was doting Daddy to his existing three children, so expecting a rush of enthusiasm for a clump of cells was naïve. After the birth, it would be their baby, and she firmly believed that one in the house was worth three in the bush.

For now, there was Betty.

Betty Glenn; the wife of David, was not a natural soulmate and had little in common with the unconventional eccentricities of Lynne. But Lynne was in London; Lynne had no interest in babies and since the advent of Paul their lives were at best disengaged.

And Betty was there.

Betty and David, hailing from similar monied County families, had attended minor single sex boarding schools prior to Oxford for David and an Oxford Cordon Bleu
School for Betty.

(It didn’t signify; the woman was capable of ruining tinned soup).

Betty was averagely pretty in a sandy, freckled way and dressed in a ‘young mum’ uniform of peasant skirts, linen blouses and exercise sandals.
She was never without a baby-change bag for toddler Miles; her reading material rarely extended beyond the thrills and spills of a Jilly Cooper; and she occasionally omitted to shave her legs.

But she was a silent bulwark against the Chudleigh matrons and was not a cheerleader for Dorian after the latter’s off-stage skirmish with David.
She was normal and kind and nice; someone to talk to about heartburn and flatulence.

And she did not prey upon Paul.

She would do.

One of the first things they did was to spend a morning in the centre of Dorlich, shopping for clothes. After an enjoyable couple of hours flicking through the wares at the dedicated maternity shops, Laura Ashley, as usual, was the outlet of choice.

She chose ankle and mid calf length dresses, high on the bust with flowing skirts and sleeves in rust and green and midnight blue velvet. They were tasteful and comfortable without the ‘pregnancy trademarks’ of elasticated waists and panels, because they were not maternity clothes. They were lovely and she felt like a Botticelli Primavera.

With the Chases thankfully off limits since the infamous supper and the Truscotts in abeyance, they began to see more of David and Betty as a couple. The evenings were pleasant; usually a take-away at the Glenns’ (Miles was at a difficult stage in potty training and Betty was reluctant to leave the deck), followed by Bridge.

She was hopeless; Betty was quite good and David was a fanatic; regularly bested by Paul’s mixture of distracted and ruthless play. Wine was drunk; nothing was thrown or thrown up and she was glad that Lynne was not privy to any of it because it was all ineffably dull.

But it was safe.

As summer approached, it seemed natural to re-visit the idea of holidaying as a foursome and Bridge evenings in the Glenns' high-ceilinged school apartment now included this new conversational variant to add to babies and Chudleigh. Maps were bought; routes were planned and Villequier was selected as the destination for a two-week vacation. The men shared driving and she and Paul took a room in a small hotel near to the campsite where David and Betty erected their luxury tent, equipped with the essentials required for a not-quite-potty-trained toddler.

Hotel Caudebec; situated next to a forest, was clean and neat, boasting excellent views and a wood-panelled restaurant overlooking the Seine.

The Victor Hugo Museum was nearby; but she had not realised that the writer’s daughter, Leopoldine ,had drowned in the Seine; weighed down by her sodden skirts following a boating accident. Nor that the river had also claimed the husband, who had attempted her rescue.

It’s amazing – we had no idea! said Paul:
Three No Trumps! (with a flourish).

They were finishing their first rubber of the evening outside a tent door garlanded with drying training pants.
Victor Hugo was virgin soil as far as she was concerned. The film of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton in grotesque mode was the extent of her knowledge, but the fact that the author was enjoying a tryst with a lover whilst his daughter wrestled with mortality was disconcerting.

She played a card, thinking of that other corpse, fished from the sea and strapped to the boat on their return from honeymoon.

Water of a different kind engulfed Betty; weighed down by the rows of training pants which had to be washed and dried on a daily basis. David was considered to be a good husband (the dalliance with Dorian was an aberration) but consigned the care of his fractious toddler entirely to Betty, surfacing to read a bedtime story or assist with Lego.

It was hardly surprising that she occasionally forgot to shave her legs. It was amazing that she managed to shave anything at all; or even to wash.

Betty was a good wife and mother with a good marriage – but what next? David would not leave her, despite infrequent Chase-style aberrations; but no doubt his sharpness to her in company would increase; he would take less care with appearance and manners (belching; farting); less note of her birthday and interests. They would live parallel lives and when Miles left home – what?

It was a life lived by many – even most people, she thought, as they walked back to the hotel.
t was all right.

It would not do for her.

Their last day was the day of Diana Spencer’s marriage to Prince Charles and she felt the baby kicking for the first time. She dragged Paul from the shower, clamping his hand to her stomach. He was sceptical; the baby would not perform to order ,which she liked.

She was also glad to miss Royal Wedding frenzy and said so to Paul as he tucked into a huge bowl of moules mariniere at the hotel table.

The restaurant was full; Paul rose to his feet

I would like to propose a toast to HRH and his lovely bride!

The restaurant gave voice as one in a patriotic roar:


Followed by four rounds of God Save the Queen.

Stupid Spencer bitch ---- what dickheads!! sniggered her husband as a French hotel became a little England minus flags and bunting.

He was not laughing the next day – or driving either; having spent the night adorning the bathroom with bodily secretions following a violent onset of food poisoning as soon as they reached the bedroom.

The disgusting smell had precipitated another attack of morning sickness and one or the other of them drowning in vomit seemed a distinct possibility. They paid the bill and she avoided thoughts of the chambermaid.

It was a subdued party on the boat home. Nobody was up to Bridge. Miles was sulky; David picked at his bites; Paul was snappish and Betty was exhausted.

She looked at the sea and thought.

Betty and the training pants; Diana Spencer, worn by her big dress; the floating body; a baby in its watery sac; herself, pregnant.

Perhaps Leopoldine had the best of it.

Friday, 23 March 2012

southern comfort?

Independent Jones has put up a "guest post" by Caroline Flint MP.  You can read it here.  It is about her visit to Reading, with MPs Vernon Coaker and Alison Seabeck.  I think quite highly of Caroline Flint, although there are many who do not.  She is a clear thinker and a good communicator, both of which are important in politics.  Vernon Coaker is an all round decent bloke, and has a core of steel, the first of which is to be preferred in politics, and the second of which is essential.  Alison Seabeck, who represents a Plymouth constituency (you have to have something maritime in your name to get selected there I am told), I do not know at all, as we were never colleagues in the House.  Caroline makes the point that to form a government Labour has to win seats in the South.  True of course.  She expresses regret that Reading East was lost in 2005 and Reading West in 2010, in both cases after the departure of incumbent Labour MPs.  She doesn't say that the losses happened not only because of the departure of the incumbent, but because of moves by Reading Labour to secure a Tory victory in Reading East in 2005, and in both constituencies in 2010 to select candidates who were either embarrassing, as was Naz Sarkar in West, or crushed, as was Anneliese Dodds in East - she was kept away from the public and silenced.  Well, why would Caroline mention the above in this context?  I mention it myself because there is a further tale to tell about all that, which will be appearing later this year.  Oh and Cazza, do spell Rose Williams' name right.  It's not an impossibly exotic one or anything after all.  This is getting embarrassing.  I haven't seen a picture of Rose for weeks.

Speaking of forthcoming publications, thanks to all those who have bought my book Priors Gardens.  Mr Amazon doesn't tell you where the people who buy your book live, but there are some indications that it is selling quite well in Reading.  If you want to publish a review, that could be done here as well as on Amazon, and I'd be happy to read any you have.  You twentieth-century types out there may wish to know that the possibility is increasing that Priors Gardens will appear in a print remix later in the year.  Till then, get your copy on the right of this page.  And if you've never tried a Kindle, get one, they are fab.  My mother-in-law, who has Parkinson's, has got back the ability to enjoy books since she was given one for Christmas

This blog is going to have a mini revamp too.  Not (much) in the way it looks, because I like the rather minimalist Blogger style, but somewhat in content and layout, to reflect, oh, you know, our changing times.  It will probably be Easter, when I get a bit of time at home to mess around with such things, before that happens.  It will still be my gaff my rules, but I might allow a bit of guest posting and writing, or I might use a different place for that.  What do readers think?  Let me know, and let me know what kind of pieces you enjoy reading, or would like to see more of.  It's tedious to feel you have to comment, and life is often too short - I rarely comment on other blogs - and the number and location of visitors to the site, and the length of time they spend there (I like Sitemeter very much) doesn't tell you that much.  

Thursday, 22 March 2012

in mourning, again

the stand-off in Toulouse took well over 24 hours, and the police did not go in until late morning today.  It is their policy not to go in without contact from the person inside, but in the end they did. 
They had heard no sound from him all night.  I think perhaps he just went to sleep for a while.  We'll  never know now.  When they did go in he came out of the bathroom with guns blazing, shot three officers, wounding one quite seriously, and jumped out of the window, still firing.  He was dead when he was found on the ground.  Suicide is not allowed in Islam, but maybe that is not what Mohammed Merah in fact intended.  All that said, seven people are dead, two of them children, most likely at Mohammed Merah's hands. The stupid left has already kicked off in the UK - apparently it was all Sarko's fault for taking France into "imperialist wars" (there are 4,000 French troops in Afghanistan, and they are due to leave next year) and for having a government which marginalises Muslims, bans the hijab etc.  Ah yes, uncovered women.  That'll turn anyone into a mass murderer.  Leonard Cohen had it right when he sang about 9/11 that it may have been done because of "our women uncovered, our slaves and our gold" but that he "wouldn't know".  Following events on Twitter earlier today I was struck by how many apparently young French people were being flippant about the whole thing, wondering if Merah's motorbike would be for sale afterwards.  I guess they're not used to this kind of thing.  Some more serious types deplored the lack of coverage of last night's coup in Mali because of this event.  Anyway, another person is dead.  And what now?  Seriously, what now?  A mad loner is one thing, but who paid for him to go to Pakistan and Afghanistan?  Where did he get the guns he used?  Aren't these fair questions?  I have been to Toulouse, "la ville rose" "the pink city" and I wonder what effect these events had on the people living in the neighbourhood.  On Saturday I saw a terrific film called "38 Temoins" "38 Witnesses" (I think it has an English version which is called "One Night") which is about silence, and the truth.  It is set in Le Havre, and I think now that this has happened I need to see that film again.  Go and see it if you can find a subtitled version if you need to, and ask yourself what you would say, and do, if a killing happened in your neighbourhood. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

in mourning this morning

after the killings apparently by the same person, of three soldiers (of north African and Caribbean heritage) and a young rabbi and his two children at a Jewish school in south-west France.  Le Monde puts it this way:

Après qu'un raciste a abattu ses militaires, tué ses enfants, la France saigne. Chacun peut répéter ces mots de notre président, ne serait-il pas son candidat : "La haine ne peut pas gagner. La République est beaucoup plus forte."

election campaigning has stopped for a time, and Sarkozy and Hollande attended a Jewish memorial ceremony yesterday.  But what now?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

he's off

as imagined by Matt in the Daily Telegraph

the man who wasn't there - again

There was a somewhat bizarre piece by Cllr Jan "Goody gumdrops" Gavin, called "A Day in the Life of a Labour Councillor" - as if anyone cared what time a Labour councillor gets up in the morning.  She says that a group of Labour MPs visited Reading that day to campaign for the increasingly desperate fine team of Labour campaigners in Redlands and Katesgrove.  But, bizarrely, she doesn't name any of them, or use any pictures of them.  She does however use a picture of M. Salter with a couple of bearded gits from Redlands, to my certain and evidenced knowledge stooges bought and paid for a long time ago.  The picture she uses is taken in Katesgrove, but there are no identifiable Katesgrove members in it.  This is undoubtedly because Katesgrove members are refusing to campaign, having taken the view that a candidate has been imposed on them.  They are bonkers to take this view.  Rose Williams is excellent.  However the only pictures of Rose I have seen have been of her alone in an empty street -just the way a candidate should never be pictured.  A message not very thinly disguised.  Katesgrove members probably wanted to select a bearded librarian who thinks members of the public are moronic.  They are plenty mad enough for that.

So, a photograph of the "campaign" in Katesgrove and Redlands which includes neither candidate and no-one from Katesgrove.  High-profile MPs give up their time to campaign in Reading and are ignored.  But we do see Gumdrops Gavin, M. Salter and a couple of bearded gits gurning for the cameras.  Hmmm.

Meanwhile, we are told that M. Salter has been spending a lot of time in Parliament lately, giving evidence to select committees and so on in his role as a paid lobbyist for the Angling Trust.  We also know that he has been spending time gurning for the media in Reading East.  So what has changed since he was an MP?  Not much, except that he spends a bit more time in the House of Commons now than he did when he had a place on the green benches.

M. Salter, paid lobbyist for the Angling Trust.
M. Salter, paid consultant for Thames Water.
M. Salter, paid chairman of a Whitley charity.
M. Salter, a teacher (so he told us a while ago, haven't heard anything about that lately).

What a busy boy.  Pity about the Katesgrove campaign.

update: the gun porn is back!  Coupled with mentions of someone called "Dave Sutton", not a name I mentioned in the post, still, if the cap fits... none of them bothered to explain why the MPs were not named or pictured, and why neither candidate was named or pictured either, they were over-excited by the guns and fanny shots, clearly.  Is there anyone from Reading Labour reading this blog who is over the mental and emotional age of 14 please?  and some of you might be dangerous.  Much more of this and Her Majesty's Police might have to be involved, eh messieurs?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

racist? you decide

His Master's Voice has this on the tribunal at which the applicant is Sudhana Singh, the former head teacher of Moorlands School inTilehurst, Reading.  Racism, she says.  No racists in Tilehurst though, hein?

your predictable caption here

well, these pictures already have them.  I pinched them from Facebook somewhere.  But look at the body language, and compare and contrast.  Bush and Blair are doing the photograph stance, i.e. standing closer together than they would probably be comfortable doing in real life, but they are looking into each other's faces and clasping each other's hands with apparently genuine warmth.  Also notice there is no dominant partner, despite the nonsense on the stupid left.  Blair is a little taller than Bush, which helps of course.  Now the second picture.  Cameron and Obama are not actually looking at each other, and Cameron does not appear to be smiling.  Obama's smile is a little distracted and the two men are a "normal" distance apart, which in a photograph is a long way.  But the key point is Obama's hand on Cameron's arm.  Politicians should never do this, unless they actually want to give the impression they are trying to sweep the person aside so they can go on their way to more important things.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Best Blessings of Existence 29

in which things take a turn - backwards?

Vanessa was sitting on the blue velvet bean bag, poking plastic shapes into her holey ball.
She had been doing quite well; the toy was possibly too young for her, but a triangle would not fit into a square despite twisting and pushing and biting. So now she had really no option but to scream; hurl the ball at her mother and rip off her nappy.

Which she did.

Vanessa was eleven months old. She could crawl, climb and stand. Over the last few days she had begun to place one foot in front of the other whilst standing.
She was a pink, white and blonde baby, who adored her father; her grandparents; her nanny; her friends at Kozy Kids Playgroup and even her doctor.
Everyone except her mother.

The person she was supposed to like the very best of all…..

The three of them – and dog Splosh – lived in a three -storey Victorian terrace, five miles to the south of Gridchester. Five miles out – and different continents, she mused, consigning the soiled nappy to soak in its white plastic Mothercraft pail.

Terry nappies were loathsome and despite Gillian’s strictures (only single mothers on slum council estates use disposables) she would have eaten an arm and several legs for a year’s supply of Comfytots.

Unfortunately, Vanessa had no interest in obliging her mother and sprouted lurid wheals and spots in the nappy area (the decorous phraseology of the Health Visitor) at the very glimpse of a Comfytot in all its padded, perfumed perfection.

Until you start school, probably, or get fed up with shit half way up your back because no matter how I pin the bloody Terry, it seeps out and up and through everything all the time.

It was not that she did not love Vanessa; indeed, anyone who dared insinuate that her daughter was anything other than the Godhead made flesh, ran a severe personal risk.

Btu Vanessa did not hold her in equal esteem.

At times like today, she had the distinct impression that Vanessa was disappointed in her; that she had failed a specially crafted Vanessa test; they were neither in the same club, nor on the same side.

Paul, and Gillian and Donald, and her parents, and Eric, and Nicola and the kiddies AND VANESSA, were on one side; knew the rules of the game and sang from the same hymn sheet.

And she was on the other.

It was not supposed to be like that. But it was.

Paul had returned from the embraces of Frances Hunt a week before the beginning of the autumn term and she took him back on auto pilot.

When she considered it (which she did not as a rule), it was to reflect; sometimes with pragmatism and at other times – not - that she had dismissed any alternative course of action.

She was 25. She had married at 24. She was not going to be a divorcee at 26 and have completed to quote Ishiguro, within a three year time span from start to finish.
She was not.

Paul’s explanation for 6 weeks AWOL in the arms of another did not convince, but humankind cannot bear too much reality. She certainly could not, and so allowed his defence; in essence a terror of remarriage consequent upon the deplorable parenting skills of Lilias, to pass without scrutiny It was not satisfactory, but she had neither desire nor inclination to uncover the skull beneath the skin.

From time to time, remarks would be made about life in the Stavely Forest love nest but these were disembodied and both graphic and vague.
On the one hand, she had little or no idea of how they had spent their time; obvious pursuits excepted.

On the other; the pursuit of the obvious pursuit was impeded by the fact that the Princess Margaret manqué who had supplanted her, albeit temporarily, had given birth five times and was as saggy as an under-done Victoria sandwich.

The revelation that he had made a disastrous mistake and was desperately pining for his young wife, hit Paul on the road to Damascus (or the road back to the converted chapel after a session in the splendidly rustic Horn of the Forest pub) as he returned to a light supper of anchovies on toast with Gentleman’s Relish.

There was then nothing for it but to decamp immediately after the meal, drive like a demented demon and cast myself upon your mercy, darling. Beast that I am – can I ever deserve you and make amends?

After a week’s prevarication, (and emboldened by a two stone weight loss) she allowed him into the hall; the lounge and the bedroom – in that order.
It had, by any estimation, been an eventful summer vacation – the details of which she would not be sharing with colleagues.

Her parents; Eric; Gillian and Donald; Nicola and the kiddies; Lynne and the assorted sheep and goats on the Dorlich and Chudleigh social scene had, however, to be acquainted with her change of circumstances. Or reversion to the original circumstances Or something.

He mother was relieved, deciding definitively within days, that her daughter had misinterpreted a tiff as you do in the the teething stage of a marriage.
Eric had never fathomed why Paul had abandoned his first wife; the charming Nicola (a finer judge of a decent malt than many a chap) and Nicola kept her counsel – as did the kiddies.

The Truscotts, Chases and Donald and Gillian, were visibly miffed (they had bought shares in her grief and now had the bad grace to feel cheated) Percy and Lionel were genuinely pleased.

Her father – and Lynne- remained silent…

After the hurdle of their first night together ( and a forensic wash and scrub) when she had felt closer to Frances Hunt than she had any desire to be – it was easier to continue as before.

Paul’s references to Frances were at best, sporadic – but scarcely a day passed without an acerbic bon mot at the expense of writer Aiden Cleghorn. These were uncharitable at best and at worst, homophobic and scatological. Cleghorn was the most terrible old Queen; a brown noser; a shirt-lifter and worst of all; a bum burglar.

She did not encourage him, assuming that the vituperation was a type of proxy exasperation with Frances.

She overheard Paul’s part of a phone call to the Manager of University Bookseller, Rivett and Souter; cancelling a bulk order of Billy Leaves Home.

No. We won’t be needing these after all. Yes – I’m aware that I ordered sixty but that was on a third party recommendation; hadn’t read the thing myself. Can’t imagine what got into my colleague! It’s so simplistic – won’t stretch our pupils a jot. I say – what about asking one of the comps to take them off your hands? Ideal for the less ‘academically challenged’, shall we say?

He was lying. As soon as Paul had discovered (at their anniversary party) that Percy’s inamorata was a member of the Cleghorn social circle, he had bought a copy of Billy which he proceeded to study and annotate with exemplary diligence.

He had not enjoyed the Kerridge/Bellwether nuptials, precisely because his singular assumption of Cleghorn’s attendance had been misplaced. And he had asked Frances to use her ‘influence’ in encouraging her friend to address the Oxbridge set.

In retrospect, Paul’s elopement with Frances was exceptional not because Emma had been spurned in favour of Miss Bates, but because he had never betrayed the slightest smidgeon of interest in Frances Hunt.

Whereas in the case of Aiden Cleghorn…..

She had found Billy Leaves Home mildly interesting and An Oval Stone virtually unreadable, so was ill-prepared for Paul’s new custom of referring to her as a Cleghorn enthusiast at each and every opportunity, including a Chase supper at the start of term.

The prospect of consuming baked meats at the table of Chester Chase was insupportable...

She had not told Paul about Chester’s conduct – but her unwanted caller had arrived at Paul’s request. Her husband knew that Chester considered himself to be a sexual dog and she knew that this particular dog had been soundly whipped to kennel.
She could not – and would not attend…….

Misgivings notwithstanding, she entered the Chase apartment on the arm of her husband, nursing familiar feelings of reluctant apprehension.
The air was heavy with the Chase aroma; joss stick -plus-gauloises-plus cannabis.
And something else.


Her wine goblet was greasy; she dreaded encountering a hair amidst the delicate leaves of mille feuille with layers of spinach, cheese and salmon and she had gone to the toilet four times before leaving Conyham Crescent to avoid visiting the Chase bathroom and a consequent depression of appetite...

Chester, in fringed orange kaftan, reclined, glass in hand, by a baby grand at the far end of the room. She hoped to keep it that way and was thankful that the supper was more of an informal reception than an intimate dinner. It was really a chance for the bohemian alternative to the Chudleigh matrons to make their mark at the start of term and the guests were an eclectic mix of establishment (three Housemasters and their wives) and fringe players (the German and Russian assistants) and several new members of staff.

Three of the Chase children, Calliope, Bertram and Lesbia, darted in and out of the room in various stages of undress, addressing their parents by their Christian names and displaying a predictable precocity.

This was, fortunately, no forum for intimate and personal exchanges.

But as she talked holidays, camp sites and the trial of in-laws with a tanned and freckled Betty, she felt as naked as a stripper in a nunnery.

Everyone knew how Paul had spent his holiday and she knew that everybody knew how he had spent it. Why oh WHY had she signed up for another dose of this when she could have closed the chapter; cut her losses and run?

The BBC has asked me to guest edit a most cunning little programme, announced Dorian in her distinctive Tallulah Bankhead meets Elizabeth Windsor voice.

Now do have another pork parcel Paul – they are quite divine; positively ambrosial! No really – they chased me all over Oxford last month - I had to spurn them in the Bodleian! I mean, these formats can be frighteningly underwhelming and one has to be a trifle cagey - but they were in such swoons over my scribble that I weakened – with a trillion caveats. Now, Paul – should I cancel? Be honest!!

Dorian was blatantly puffing the fact that her atrocious treatise on female masturbation; Minerva’s Itch, had finally attracted an obscure publisher specialising in the type of thinly-disguised soft porn tricked out as feminist intellectualism and customarily rejected by prestigious houses.

She was now regaling a wider audience; amongst others, David; Chester; Choirmaster Wendell Rigby and wife Tildy and Vernon Noyce, a new member of the English Department.

She wondered whether Dorian would actually have the gall to read from Minerva’s Itch and decided that he odds were about sixty/ forty with the balance of probabilities favouring a reading. Dorian was feeding and watering guests; this served as the cover charge for the meal; it would be mildly interesting to second guess her pretext.

Paul did not reply immediately.
She recalled intermittent attempts to interest a publisher in his own literary efforts and the fact that their wedding anniversary party had coincided with the arrival of several rejection slips.

He had been scathing about the commercial imperatives of the modern publisher but she sensed that rejection rankled. Larry Prideaux, a university contemporary, had been the surprise recipient of the Bellow prize for a first novel; a 20th century re-casting of the Eden myth.
Paul did not approve.

Outrageous! Larry can’t even understand what he reads! It’s purely because he’s Georgia Prideaux’s nephew; her stuff’s tolerable if rather SAMEY -- but Larry – tosser, tosser of the first water. Absolute, fucking TOSSER.

It was pointless responding; he was probably right.

She had never read Prideaux’s book, but nepotism was as rife in the world of letters as in the corridors of power. It was a detestable fact of life.

But in her husband’s case, the publishers had made the correct call.

Paul’s poems were bad.

She kept quiet. She dispensed whisky; performing in bed like a demented seal when rejection letters polluted the atmosphere...

But her critical faculties, honed by Mr Proudie; Lionel Kerridge and Professor Newbolt were infallible. Paul’s cryptic verse could be summed up simply:

Mene mene tekel upharison
Weighed in the balance and found wanting.

A radio programme – how exciting, Mrs Chase, enthused English Departmental recruit, Vernon Noyce.

Chudeligh was his first post and a turquoise silk cravat was his sole concession to the avant garde propensities of his hosts. Otherwise, cavalry twills pressed at knife edge; boots polished to military perfection and a Harris tweed jacket with leather elbow patches denoted the uniform of a public schoolmaster. Did he dress like this ‘off duty’? He must have been all of 24 and she wondered whether he regarded the wearing of jeans to be the especial prerogative of celluloid trusties like John Wayne.

Minerva --- fascinating! Is it a study of female intellectualism throughout the ages?

No – female wanking!
Chester was not sober and his contribution sank like a stone. Nobody laughed. Vernon Noyce shuffled and snuffled unhappily.

It’s a panel discussion format, interposed Dorian in a voice now entirely redolent of Elizabeth Windsor. On female independence and creativity; Aphra Benn, Virginia Woolf, Vita ….

Fanny Hill! chuntered Chester.

Paul did not need encouragement.

Hmm… the miniaturists! I can see why you’ve got reservations, Dorian. If they think they’ve got you as THE APHRA BEHN person, they’ll just never get you on to talk about George Eliot. Do you see? Perhaps it’s not too late to pull out……. They can always get someone else in that slot…
Dorian changed course, biting into a peach.

It was actually a very winsome panel; Edna Pill, the acclaimed American feminist from Sarah Lawrence; Brigg Dolby, fresh from his darling production of Henry 5th with an all female cast and, of course, My chum, Aiden Cleghorn.

Doesn’t he live locally? offered Vernon Noyce, hoping to steer the conversation away from the murky waters of female sexuality.

Stavely Forest, I believe, said Chester, moving into pole position betwixt Tildy Rigby and Vernon.

Isn’t that correct, Paul? And isn’t he rather a chum of yours – or a chum of a chum, shall we say? And didn’t you ask your chum if her chum, Aiden, might be persuaded to address our chums in the Oxbridge set? Such a lot of chums, all being chummy together!

She turned to Betty, who would not meet her eye. Chester had crossed the line between tipsy and drunk and the challenge now was to extricate Paul without further embarrassment. She pulled surreptitiously at his sleeve – but it slipped from her grasp as Paul took a flute of champagne from the tray proffered by Calliope.

Oh no – my wife is the Cleghorn enthusiast, Ches, old chap. And I really don’t know where you’ve got the idea we could have him at Chudleigh – in fact, the Oxbridge group would probably be safe – I think he likes them younger, but we have to think of their parents don’t we….?

Chester; a virtual Seville orange in his ludicrous kaftan; had reached the level of intoxication where social proprieties paled in comparison with the absolute necessity of having the last word.

Parents, old chap and what about WIVES, eh?! (aiming a playful punch in the region of Pauls’ midriff and treating her to an unpleasant smirk). And we’re all CHUMS here aren’t we and what’s mine is yours and YOURS IS MINE – and didn’t’ you try to pimp yours - wife, I mean while you were pimping your poems to Cleghorn?

As they walked home, the stillness was punctuated by an angry monologue from Paul on the twin evils of Chase and the hapless Cleghorn who had made an ill fated pass at him after a dinner party at Stavely Forest.

It was so awful darling, I didn’t want to bore you with it – but the man made a beeline for me from the moment I met him. I felt that Frances had procured me for him --- I just couldn’t stay there a moment longer – I was like a bond slave at the court of Caligula!

It was a terrible tale. In his emotionally fragile state, following the first anniversary of a second marriage, Paul had been assailed by psychological demons; guilt over Nicola and the kiddies; doubts about his ability to satisfy the hopes and dreams of his new young wife, and recurrent flashbacks of maternal abuse at the hands of Lilias. Surely she could recall the terrible nightmares to which he had been prey before his breakdown?
(So that was his name for it….)

And that evening after a supper at Bunter’s with the Truscotts when he insisted on taking the long route home via the Custerway Suspension Bridge and had lingered over the rail, debating whether or not to plunge to certain death on the rocks below?

She had forgotten it…..…

His emotional fragility had been ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous chancers like Cleghorn and his procuress, Hunt. Thank goodness he had escaped their toils like Prometheus Unbound and returned to safe haven with her…

And more in the same vein. He had found a story and was sticking to it, she might have observed, had she not decided when she took him back that
These deeds must not be thought after these ways …so it will make us mad.

Life therefore followed its usual courses with a few small if significant, emendations.

Apart from Chudleigh 3 Line Whip events such as Founder’s Day; the Headmaster’s Garden Party and the Oxbridge Leavers' Supper, they avoided Chester and Dorian Chase. This was welcome, because they were detestable; but also because she had convinced herself that Dorian knew about her encounter with Chester and was laughing at her.

Secondly, Paul’s trendy new clothes had mysteriously followed An Oval Stone and Billy Leaves Home into the refuse bin. He was once more underplaying his charms in flapping flares, baggy jumpers and frayed button-down shirts. His shoes too had seen better days.

When he wanted her to oblige him – such as telephoning Nicola to postpone an access visit with the kiddies in favour of a pleasure jaunt to Necker’s:

I’m so sorry – Paul has gone down with the most awful dose of ‘flu; it really would be so terrible if Verity caught it…

he had a habit of referring to his psychiatric breakdown and stressing his reliance
upon her understanding.

Again, it was easier to comply – just as it was convenient to dismiss her clear-eyed
alternative explanation for the events of the summer; that Cleghorn with his access to publishers had been the spur to an idyll in Stavely Forest; that the writer’s known sexual proclivities had prompted the purchase of the enticing apparel and that for Paul, sex as a bartering tool was fair game – regardless of gender.

The elderly male bookseller who had relinquished a cat and an Edward Thomas first edition in exchange for a fumble came to mind. But clearly Cleghorn’s literary scruples had mastered his sexual desires – hence the extraordinary venom evinced by her husband at the mere mention of the writer’s name.

Who, indeed could say? She had decided to stick at her marriage.

By Christmas she was pregnant.

here it cooooomes...

those interested take note of the following, from the Organisation Committee of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party:

The Committee also agreed:

• To trigger a further 14 early parliamentary selections (all 3 seats in Brighton & Hove based on the anticipated new boundaries, Carlisle, Redcar, Crewe & Nantwich, Gillingham & Rainham, Milton Keynes N, Reading E, Bristol S, Gloucester, Cannock Chase, Stafford, Tamworth & Staffs).

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Haze, where's yer mates?

His Master's Voice has published a piece about a visit to Reading by former Cabinet minister and Labour MP Hazel Blears.  It shows Ms Blears with a former victim of stalking and harassment, who is from Reading, and campaigners for a change in the law to protect women, and others, from such treatment.  The government is minded to run a trial of a protection scheme, but not, yet, in Reading.  Hazel went to Reading to support bringing the scheme to the town.  There she is, with the campaigners - and no politicians.  Haze, did you ask the Labour council if they supported you?  Did they say no?  You'd think, with local elections coming up, there would be candidates who would like to lend their names to such a worthy cause.  Were they asked?  Or was it Reading Labour Party which, in its time-honoured fashion, refused to have anything to do with Ms Blears?  I think it was.  Here is His Master's Voice's delightful Hilary Scott on the subject of Hazel:
the odious Hazel Blears (I’ve always thought she was loathsome – that ghastly auburn hair, the fixed sickly smile, the sausage-legged motorbike leathers)
Lovely, hein?

btw dead iPad and travelling a lot recently has meant no posts.  This situation will not continue.

Friday, 2 March 2012

libel laws - sue in England

I have not formulated my opinion on the English libel laws - writers I admire and tend to agree with, like Nick Cohen, whose book 'You Can't Read This Book' I am currently reading, seem to have taken the view that the English libel law is Bad because it only serves to protect Rich Men.  Well, he may have a point.  But the fact that the English libel law currently fails to protect people who are not rich (the nurse who was dubbed a poisoner, and Christopher Jefferies, who was dubbed a murderer) does not necessarily in my view mean that it should be abolished.  And I was a little perturbed that Cohen, when referring to the Roman Polanski case in which he sued in England, though he is not British (he is a French-born person of Polish parentage) for his character, wrote that Polanski's "lifestyle" (he likes women) is pertinent to any libel or defamation case, because Polanski is a "convicted sex offender" (he is) because it seems to me that such a view is wrong and possibly dangerous.  A person's lifestyle is neither here nor there, unless, for example, their frequenting of S and M clubs might lead one to believe that S and M activity used in the commission of a crime might lead the long arm of the law to suspect that person.  Being a "party girl" who does not much like her job does not lead to the belief that a person is thereby a poisoner of elderly people. Having slightly odd blue hair does not lead one to the belief that a person is a murderer.  I think the libel law debate, if debate there is, is becoming dangerously simplified.  Views?

Thursday, 1 March 2012


from Hansard, Jim Fitzpatrick MP speaking:

I must also pay tribute and give credit to Thames Water. That will not go down well in the constituency because it is still regarded pretty much as the enemy, but to its credit, it has engaged with us, understood and several times changed its plans for King Edward memorial park. Mr Phil Stride and his team deserve credit for that. Some months ago, Thames Water also engaged as a consultant our former colleague, Mr Martin Salter, the former Reading MP. That has helped the consultation process with local residents.

Just saying.  I think Mr S should sue...

Jenny Tonge

is someone I always liked when we were in the House of Commons together.  Not so her views.  Jew-hater.  Well, she's not the only one, and there are plenty of them in the Labour Party.  She was sacked by Menzies Campbell as the party's health spokesman, for Jew-hating remarks, and now she has made some more of them and has resigned from the party altogether.  As she is a LibDem, I would ask - why bother?  It's not a proper party anyway, it's a kind of franchise organisation.  But she has, and I think her decision is an honourable one.  If Jew-hating is not part of the LibDems' policy platform (how could anyone tell?) and she is a Jew-hater, she should resign.  Well, she has, and now a spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews  expresses dismay that someone who holds such "vile" views should be a member of the House of Lords.  There I part company with him.  I believe the second chamber should be elected, but that aside, people should not be members of it on the basis of the views they hold.  And a cross-bencher, which Tonge now is,  has no party line.  People may be offended by the views Tonge expressed, but being offensive is very much to be supported.  Hein?