Monthly Archives: February 2015

Review: Patersongrad

By Fae Iris Paterson, age eight months.

A most agreeable little hostelry, I arrived early evening to be greeted by the very genial hosts. The décor and facilities were extremely well suited to a person of my size, age and proclivities. The wood floor in the main living area, in particular, was simply magnificent. My baby-walker achieved speeds of hitherto unmatched extremity. Most exhilarating.
faewalker3

Dinner followed and the hosts maintain, it must be said, an excellent kitchen. I had toast to start followed by an inarguably sumptuous cottage pie. Both the texture and consistency were quite to my tastes. As one knows, often a mid-meal pooh is required. The amiable elderly lady who attended on me provided first-class service. Nappy was quickly changed and the cleansing process was unobtrusive and, indeed, actually fairly pleasant (NOTE: inform my staff to procure some of those particular brand of delightful wet wipes).

After dinner entertainment was pleasant and one couldn’t fault the choice on offer. Shape-sorters, contraptions given to intriguing sounds and the sort of cognitive challenges a young lady finds delightful were plentiful.

After dinner bathing was a particular highlight, with the servants at pains to maximise my enjoyment. An unusual sort of cabaret was enacted by the proprietors involving song, some sort of strange dance and what can only be described as gurning. I quickly discovered the occasional smile impelled the duo to still greater efforts.

faebath

My boudoir was faultless in all respects but the nocturnal restlessness with which I’m often afflicted sadly made an appearance. No matter; I decided to jump in with mein hosts. Some may consider such actions a tad forward, perhaps a little on the intrusive side, but both parties reacted with the amenable demeanour one often encounters in those of the lower orders.

During the night, I was also, several times, disposed toward conversation and despite there being something of a language barrier the landlady and her good man attended to my wants. Strangely, their custom appeared to be to converse with eyes closed. Odd but this did not impact on my pleasure in any way.

Breakfast was toast, milk and porridge and while the latter was perfectly acceptable I found the absence of salt and whisky in the mix a peculiar thing. Grand Papa tells me that our people favour this recipe but that its consumption is not considered seemly for a young lady of my years.

FaereviewTo sum up, a splendid stay with catering, personal services and entertainment provided around the clock. That my hosts provided all this with just the efforts of themselves proves another of Papas’s contentions; that the lower orders require little or no sleep. Interesting. But of no import. I shall return! I have no hesitation in recommending to my peers such a charming little hostelry for the purposes of a young lady’s pleasure, relaxation and entertainment.

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Making Plans for Nigel : a Beginner’s Guide to Farage and UKIP

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new book, Making Plans for Nigel : a

MakingPlansforNigelCover Beginner’s Guide to Farage and UKIP, via Five Leaves Publications.

I’m chuffed to be working with Ross and Five Leaves again, following last year’s Look Back in Anger: the Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire – 30 Years On, on which he and his team did such a great job.

The current effort, about which not much needs to be said given the self-explanatory title, is a shorter, snappier book and is intended for the prospective UKIP voter. As I write in the introduction:

“By the time you read this the next general election will be barely a month away. This handy guide to Nigel Farage and UKIP is intended to help the undecided voter – and maybe the decided ones, too –  make an informed choice when the time comes to put that cross in that all-important little box. Given that increasing numbers of voters are shunning the voting booths – in much the same way that Michael Macintyre studiously eschews anything remotely funny in his routines – and are of the not ridiculous opinion that it doesn’t matter for whom one votes as the government always gets in, it appears likely that future administrations will be elected by fewer and fewer people.  All the more reason, then, for those potential UKIP voters to have at least a basic understanding of what they might end up with. Hence this book which looks in detail at Nigel Farage, UKIP and the party’s policies. It examines Farage’s anti-establishment rhetoric and compares that with his party’s policies and with his and his colleagues’ public pronouncements. It is a timely book because the prospect of a Tory minority government propped up by a clutch of newly-minted UKIP MPs, cannot be ruled out.”

It’s provisional publication date is April 1st, which I think is just perfect, and more info will be available soon. A special thank you to Martin Rowson for the superb cover. Makes me smile every time I look at it.

 

Sad Times at Chapel Hill

I’m on the home-straight, currently, with my second book and I took a break from finishing the thing, earlier, and was confronted by unending coverage of the terrorist attack – sorry, actually it was just plain old murder, apparently – of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Actually, I wasn’t, sorry. It was two hours before I saw any mention of the incident on TV. Of course, these three were people. You know; actual human beings before they were Muslims so let’s respond like human beings and use the names they were given. They were 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor MohammadAbu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

A forty-six year-old white man, Christopher Hicks, was arrested on suspicion of three counts of terrorism. Damn it, I keep doing that shit. Sorry, let’s try again. The initial reports didn’t mention his skin colour or ethnicity or any religious affiliation or lack thereof and the charges were for first-degree murder, not terrorism. Chief copper-in-charge Chris Blue reckoned the slayings were “motivated by an ongoing neighbour dispute over parking.”

Weirdly, though, it seems Hicks is a militant atheist with a Facebook profile covered in anti-theist posts and anti-religious rants of what could reasonably be described as a radical nature. Could this be, you know, a hate-related or terrorist attack, like the ones all those crazy Muslims do, instead of a spat over a parking place? Hicks posted on his Facebook page something that many of us might be consider to be a bit of a clue: “Your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I.” Eventually Blue conceded, “We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.” I just bet you will, whitey…

Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry and the deceased Christopher Hitchens have been called out by Rupert Murdoch demanding the atheist trio apologise for the murders and, on behalf of atheists everywhere, distance themselves from this atrocity and condemn it in no uncertain terms. Reports that Gay Byrne is pissing himself laughing are yet to be confirmed.

Benjamin Netanyahu was shocked by the murders but reiterated that Israel has the right to defend itself and then wondered, hopefully, if this now meant there was a house and some land going begging?

UK atheists need to brace themselves. We can expect parents being urged to grass up their kids if they show signs of atheist radicalisation. Teachers will be pressured into informing the relevant body if their charges show an unhealthy interest in the reactionary crap spewed out by Dawkins and Amazon are facing an unprecedented demand to ban anything written by him and fellow atheist radicals.

And, of course, the hashtag #jesuisDeahShaddyBarakatYusorMohammadAbu-SalhaRazanMohammadAbu-Salha didn’t go viral at all.                                                            Still, there was this on Twitter…

muslims

Evil Scarecrow

Stumbled over a couple of drafts of old reviews, earlier today, of Evil Scarecrow gigs from a few years back. I can’t recall where they originally appeared (or, frustratingly where and when the gigs took place)  – Powerplay Magazine, perhaps, during my two-year stint with the mag – but on re-reading them I was immediately reminded of what a really great band they are.

They’ve had some well-deserved success, over recent years, including appearances at Bloodstock, the Metal Hammer awards and much else. All the while, bafflingly, remaining unsigned by a major rock or metal label. Such as they even exist these days.

News of the ‘Best Black Metal Parody Band from Nottingham, in The World, Ever’ appearing at this year’s Download Festival is both welcome and, hopefully, an opportunity for them to catch the eye of a decent label talent scout.

So no further excuse needed, then, to share their excellent new video and the very best wishes to the band and their lovely manager, Jen Hill, for Download ’15.

If you’re new to the band, here are those aforementioned reviews which will give you some idea of what you’re getting into…

As the Dies irae from Verdi’s Requiem filled the venue, Evil Scarecrow ascended the stage to a furious roar. Possibly Black Metal’s best kept secret, the parody band achieves the seemingly impossible task of combining a deep respect for extreme metal while mercilessly taking the piss.

Sixty Six Minutes Past Six, Vampire Trousers and Blacken The Everything contained enough blast beats, death growls and bowel-churning riffage to satisfy even the most po-faced of Norwegian Church burners, while simultaneously serving up a large side order of pure comedy genius.

Main man, Doctor Hell’s, famous 4 Note Solo triggered laughter all over the venue while Ashes induced moshing of such intensity that bodies crashed over the monitors and onto the stage, with wince-inducing regularity. Bassist Kraven Mordeth, skinsman Papa Bongo and keyboard player Princess Luxury played on, unconcernedly. Just another day at the altar. Lead guitarist, Brother Pain’s end of show crowd surf to the strains of the “…best Black Metal cover of The Final Countdown, in the world, ever” had to be seen to be believed.

Superb stuff and the best metal theatre since Alice Cooper exchanged guillotined babies for God and golf. Peerless.

And…

Pantomime metal mentalists, Evil Scarecrow, can seemingly do no wrong, currently. Their well-deserved and hard-earned rapidly ascending star shows no signs of dimming and their first visit to the MFN facilitated an enjoyable deflowering for many scarecrow virgins.

Architects, not so much of songs as comedy sketches of ironic invention, everything that is brilliant about this act was, tonight, on vibrant and multi-sensory display.

Morbid Witches kindly purchasing pints of mild, fashionistas sporting Vampyre Trousers and “…the most evil, most metal, most violent cover of a cartoon theme tune ever” (Thunder Cats, natch) were just some of the attractions on show at the Evil Scarecrow circus of comic madness.

Robotatron worked it’s failure-proofed, nutty magic, Dr Hell and Brother Pain each had their very own face-painted mini-me and a guest appearance by celebrity-groupie, Slagbot, ensured everything that was needed for the most fun to be had since, well, the last Evil Scarecrow party, was present and correct.

Dr Hell, even by his own particularly high standards, was on singular form and his doomed attempts to conjure the mass-sob fest that was Blacken The Everything were hilariously subverted by Brother Pain leading the rest of the band into an impromptu hoe-down.

His crazed rush around the venue, dispensing high fives along with the licks, kept the grin-quotient high while new drummer Ringmaster Monty Blitzfist’s manic and tireless theatrics, it has to be said, have raised the Scarecrow game to even greater heights.

The icy beauty of Princess Luxury thawed several times to reveal delighted grins while Kraven Morrdeth, all hearty Viking machismo, hammed it up marvellously. When a band is having as much fun as the crowd, magic happens. And it did.

Fast becoming an institution that is virtually criticism-resistant, Evil Scarecrow delivered yet another outstanding slice of tongue-in-cheek metal theatre that still, somehow, retains freshness, vitality and sincerity.

 Six hundred and sixty six out of six hundred and sixty six.

Find out more at http://www.evilscarecrow.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/Evil.Scarecrow?fref=ts

Look Back in Anger: E-reader Edition

coverThose groovy people at Five Leaves Publications have released my book, Look Back in Anger – The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire – 30 Years On in electronic format. Compatible, I’m told, with Kindle and all other e-reader devices.

The print edition is still available, of course, for around a tenner from all the usual outlets, including everyone’s favourite tax dodgers, Amazon, and for only £7.99 here and the e edition for the very reasonable price of five of your English or Scottish pounds. Feel free to be tempted.  This latest edition contains new material. Here’s a snippet…

Sun Tzu, a man who knew a thing or two about conflict, once said that if you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by. If time is a river then Nottinghamshire’s tiny band of miners’ strike veterans – fewer than 2000 from a 32,000-strong workforce in 1984 – have been waiting patiently for thirty years.

On January 3rd 2014, Cabinet Office documents pertaining to the strike were released to the National Archive. Finally the bodies started floating by. First in ones and twos and then in a deluge as the truth finally emerged; a truth that is examined in detail in the following pages.

The miners’ strike is without precedent. Among many aspects that marked out the dispute as entirely different from any other industrial struggle that preceded it, were the sheer tenacity, bravery and commitment displayed by its participants. One Hucknall miner spoke of the moment he nearly caved in and went back to work.

“It were November and just about everything in the house had been sold to keep the debts manageable or to buy food or burned to keep us warm. I didn’t have any furniture left downstairs apart from a couple of kitchen chairs and a table. Me front room just had a couple of orange crates and I were sat on one chucking shoes onto the fire to warm the house up for the kids coming in from school. The stink were bloody horrible. Leather and plastic and that didn’t burn that well but it were all we had. For some reason folks seemed to think we desperate for footwear so they sent all sorts and we had piles of the things. I were burning the shoes and I thought, ‘Why am I putting me kids through this?’ I just burst into tears. I were cracking and were going to go back to work. But we were doing all this for our kids in the first place! We knew the sort of future they’d have if Thatcher won, so I gen me sen a shake and just gor on wi’ it.”

It is in no way an exaggeration to point, also, to the miners’ strike as the moment when policing in Britain underwent a change of epoch-shaping proportions. It was the end of one style of policing in the UK and the start of another. While corruption runs like a foetid stream between the two decades, linking the 70s and the 80s, it was Britain’s most turbulent industrial dispute that saw policing change to an overtly political function. Since the strike, politically motivated police abuse of power and deep-rooted corruption are now commonplace. Orgeave, Hillsborough, the Stephen Lawrence scandal and the use of undercover officers to infiltrate ‘subversive’ environmental groups – even sleeping with activists and fathering their children – has led to widespread revulsion and distrust of the police in many parts of the UK.

 When the strike was over and the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers emerged, key Notts Working Miners’ Committee members provided its nucleus. UDM leader Roy Lynk was awarded an OBE for ‘services to trade unionism’ and after paving the way for mass pit closures and privatisation, he and Nottinghamshire’s former strike-breakers settled in for the long period of prosperity and security promised them by a grateful establishment. To their fury, they too were betrayed as Nottinghamshire’s pits were closed. In contrast to the promises lavished upon them during the strike.

Today the UDM is a husk, with barely 300 members and its former President, Lynk’s successor, Neil Greatrex, is an acute embarrassment to his former organisation. The former UDM chief dipped his fingers in his Union’s till and was convicted on 3rd April 2012, of fourteen counts of theft.

The legacy of Nottinghamshire’s working miners is one of greed, cowardice and treachery. Little wonder that that legacy should culminate in theft, fraud and outright corruption. And the complete destruction of an entire – and once mighty – industry.

Did Thatcher Use Soldiers During the Miners’ Strike?

pic_orgreave2Photo by John Sturrock, Socialist Worker

I was recently involved in a Twitter thread concerning the use of troops during the miners’ strike. It has long been rumoured that Thatcher sanctioned the use of the army and that squaddies were dressed in police uniforms and let loose on picket lines, to aid in crushing the strikers.

I think the first thing we ought to ask, when considering the question, is why such a tactic might have been favoured by the Tories and in asking the question we are immediately presented with some difficulty in providing a reasonable and plausible answer.

Firstly, we need to understand the role of the police during the dispute. As I wrote in my book on the strike…

The Metropolitan Police Force was hated with a passion throughout the County, earning a reputation for thuggery and violence that outstripped that of any other Force, against frequently stiff competition. Often behaving more like ‘Casuals’ football hooligans than upholders of the law, the Met regularly issued beatings to Nottinghamshire miners and would then affix little stickers to their victims bodies, which read, ‘I’ve met The Met.’ A quaint custom not reserved for just Nottinghamshire miners. Dave Douglass says, “We used to park our cars outside the villages we were picketing so as not to have them attacked by scabs. More than once we returned to wrecked cars and the stickers ‘I’ve met the Met’ stuck on them.”                                                                                                                     Why the Metropolitan Police were even in Nottinghamshire, in the first place, over a hundred miles from London, was one of the most contentious aspects of the dispute. The origins of their deployment in other Forces’ jurisdiction, like so much else in the Government’s handling of the dispute, lay in the Ridley Plan.                                                              The creation of the National Reporting Centre (NRC) was central to dealing with policing in the coalfields. Operating from a room on the thirteenth-floor of Scotland Yard, its purpose was revealed, by Douglas Hurd, to Parliament on 5th April 1984. “Arrangements for a national reporting centre were first made in 1972. Its main purposes were and are to help in the national co-ordination of aid between chief officers of police in England and Wales, under section 14 of the Police Act 1964, so that the best use is made of manpower and to provide the Home Secretary with information, in the same way as he receives reports from individual chief officers, to help him discharge his responsibilities for law and order.”
          This bland description, while accurate, was hardly the full story. In reality, the NRC became the management body of an effectively national police force, as the paramilitary wing of the Conservative Party. In seeking to combat picketing and deal with an industrial dispute in this way, rather than by simply applying civil law, the Police UK-wide, enthusiastically spearheaded by the Met, became a partisan body, forcibly imposing acts of political policy rather than simply upholding the law. Hurd continued, “Since 14 March this year, the centre has co-ordinated the responses to requests from chief officers for assistance from their colleagues in policing related to the miners’ dispute.”             

 Numbers of police, resources, intelligence, funds and equipment were all made available to the police without limits. It’s difficult to see why Thatcher would need to use the army to bolster the – at the time – forty-three separate constabularies which were coordinated as a national force.

Secondly there has been, to date, not a single verifiable and documented case of any member of the armed forces being deployed in such a fashion. I interviewed over a hundred participants in the strike for my book, covering every single area of involvement from striking and working miners, police officers, NCB personnel to journalists and politicians and of those who’d heard the rumour no one could state that they had first-hand proof of such an action. Accounts from these people are purely anecdotal and, invariably, second and third-hand. Along the lines of, “my mate said…” and “… I knew this bloke who said…”

The large numbers of police used during the strike presented logistical problems for local authorities and there are documented instances of police being billeted at TA and regular army barracks. Perhaps the rumours started there? Additionally, it was very common for police officers to remove their ID numbers from their uniforms but it seems more likely that this was to prevent violent and corrupt officers from being identified, rather than any sort of indication that such people were soldiers in disguise, as was the common assertion during the strike.

We know that police spies, agents provocateurs, Special Branch officers and MI5 agents were all used to combat the strikers and evidence has emerged to confirm such actions. But of soldiers dressing in police uniform we have yet to see even a single shred of real proof.

Following the release of cabinet papers on January 3rd, 2014, we know that Thatcher was considering using the army in line with the recommendations made in the Ridley Plan, to move coal, breach picket lines and so on, but this would have been an overt action with armed forces in their own uniforms and acting with official state approval.

Of course, the use of soldiers dressed as police officers is certainly possible and one shouldn’t, for even a second, doubt that the Tories would have baulked at such a tactic had they deemed it necessary. There is no question that the prime minister would have ruled such a move either in or out based on any legal or ethical grounds; it would have been a purely tactical and strategic decision. But, personally, I don’t think it happened.

I’d still be very interested indeed in looking at any accounts people might have on this question, so please contact me if you feel you have something interesting to share.