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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Christmas Telly/Film reviews...

...wrote these originally on Facebook.  I'll post others if I do them...



I just watched what has been the Christmas telly highlight for me so far this year. It could have slipped by as I had become tired of Michael Palin's travel programmes, but his documentary, "Michael Palin in Wyeth's World," was a wee gem. Andrew Wyeth's work is familiar to me- one of his most famous works is stunning- "Christina's World" is all the more beautiful when you learn the story behind the muse.

Wyeth's painting is so stunning in its obvious love for the hard work of most of its subjects, and his love of the landscapes, light -and darkness - in both the land and its people. Palin, a man who has an obvious love for life and people, beautifully paints a picture of an artist you can tell would he have got along with like a house on fire.

Wyeth, like everyone, has depths beyond the landscapes and portraits he painted and the shadows and light he painted reflected the joie de vivre and tragedy he lived. There is no better presenter who could have made this programme. And the direction, editing and camera work in the programme really compliments the subjects... Maine, Wyeth, the artists muses and Palin himself.

5/5 Stars for this unexpected gem.




Christmas Dr Who - just watched it. Not much of a story- it relied too much on past plotlines that had been tied up and even in the Dr's world, too much suspension of belief and illogical devices and resolutions (eg entire armies of Daleks etc unable to invade a village for centuries because of the Drs tricks). Ultimately it sacrificed a story for sentimentality. But hey, I suppose it is a kids programme and none of these things should matter, though if viewing as a kid, I dont think there was enough to keep me interested beyond the appearance of the new Scottish Doctor who hopefully will urge 16/17 year olds to vote Yes next September to break the present Dalek Westminster hold on this time continuum. 2 1/2 out of 5.

As for the always "shakey" comedy of Mrs Brown, well, lets just say even in her world, middle aged Fonzie jumping the shark was much more believable and acceptable. A disapointing 1 out of 5.




"Gravity"- worth seeing. And worth seeing in 3D. It won't transfer onto the small screen well. Great cinematography, decent acting. Sparse story and a smidgeon of pretentious "meaningfulness" - but only a smidgeon, so not completely ruined by something pretending to be more than the sum of its parts. Not a relaxing watch. 3 1/2 out of 5.


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Victorian Christmas...

The Little Match Girl and Tiny Tim- two victims of Victorian austerity. How many children are reliant on cap wringing charity this Christmas?

Those of us who are lucky to be able to afford a decent Christmas, hopefully, will give thought towards those impoverished by the present, nasty system, because George Osborne, David Cameron, Boris Johnston, Ian Duncan Smith, Nick Clegg et al shall have perfectly selfish millionaire Christmases in warmth and with full, fat bellies. As they swirl their brandies tonight, they will reflect on how they have broken up and sold off England's NHS and welfare system and they will be counting the dividends from these along with those made from the Post Office sell-off.

For nearly 50 years our welfare system helped those of us who needed it now and again. In just a few months this year, the Tories and Libdems have dragged us down where the US is- foodbanks and people in so much debt they will never really be contributing members of the community. Our taxes instead of directly helping people go to boost G4s and SERCO profits, who deny people dignity and rights and ensure profitable health services take priority.

Shame on the Tories and their Libdem facilitators. 

Let 2014 be the year these Tory robbers are jailed.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The city of Lights... Newry, Paris, Budapest, Stuttgart.

Memory is selective. Selfish. Escaping a society built on hate, so ingrained its form goes from obvious knuckle- dragging spat hatred, through to subtle, almost imperceptible whispers indoctrinating the next generation, sounding right and good.

This piece can only be a snapshot. Memories, unrelated except by music and selfishness. All informing my present. Cherished memories, but not the whole story of selected relationships- and of course, one sided.

I'm older and wiser, still learning though.



Me on a roof in Stuttgart, Christmas1994

My first kiss was by a telephone box on a dreich night in my hometown. She is in this story. 

“Your ballroom days are over baby
Night is drawing near
Shadows of the evening
crawl across the years"

Growing up is selfish and every bit as much steeped in the want to escape banality and boredom -and doesn't stop at school.

Selfish. 

Like the U.S. East Coast hippies, moved by their own personal revolutions that coincided with political upheaval, and dotted with their liberal kindnesses. Who doesn't want to seem kind? But self preservation prevails and the barefooted hipster soon becomes the pipe and slippers da', misquoting nonsense about being left when you are young and a practical selfish right wing racist little UK'er when you realise you have to kick the 'scum' to the floor to ensure your taxes don't go up one penny more.

Personal, selfish struggle can morph through the emergence from the self aware, self gratifying child and teenager. And preserving a sense of self will always prevail if adults are given time to reflect and learn.


Education comes in often disparate events, separated by time, linked by selfishness and yearning and naivety and self importance. Running towards what?

"No-one gets out of here alive."

She looks tired, but every bit as beautiful as I remember. Memories can be sepia stained and rose lensed, but I know my memory of this day isn't. I don't remember the end of the day, but I think we all boarded a train to Bayeaux for The End. 




She smiles down the lense, our quest successful. In those days, finding our way with a battered Euro-travel book and really basic, sub-GCSE French and graffittied gravestones proclaiming "THIS WAY TO THE MORRISON HOTEL,"- a much more immersive journey than today's electronically guided, cold, logic, screen. The old ways to see Paris were the best. On another visit, emerging from St. Lazare Station, and sleepily asking a news vendor where the bus station was ... I would never have walked all the way round the block had I never asked and sleepily followed his instruction, tourner à droite, tourner à droite, tourner à droite, tourner à droite. The main bus stop had been right across the road from the vendors stall. Tres witty, but hey, I saw a part of Paris I wouldn’t have seen without asking.








Before our seeking Père Lachaise, I knew only Jim Morrison was buried there. During our trip around, I discovered Bizet and Chopin and Proust and Wilde and Piaf and Daladier and Dąbrowski and the 147 Communards who had been sacrificed to keep the status quo.  All of them pointed the way to Jim. All of them pointed to The End.







"It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies."

She would be gone and my summer of freedom would be over.  A hot summer of sleeping on trains with a book as my pillow. Of drinking cheap, sweet beer in Eastern Europe, with Jim, Ian, and Evan and the guys from the shipyards, Austin and her.

She who weeks before had stood like an angel in white at the top of the steps. She who had, in the dead of that hot Budapest night, introduced her smiling, radiant, funny, clever self as Catherine and talked about Jim and music and total carefree happiness. She who I had kissed and who had disappeared, off to another country before I woke and me moping to Vienna, longing to meet her again. Then days later, waking hung-over beside a pool in Corfu, seeing her wave over as if she had never been away. Our tour around Europe was full of perfect coincidences like that. And everyone we seem to have met along the way seemed to congregate in Corfu for a week of drunken fun.





I'm not supposed to love the Byron-esque, sexist hedonism and white boy usurped pseudo-mysticism of Jim Morrison and The Doors, but I do. I see, plainly, the negatives, but the beauty of the images and the teenaged kick aimed at the midriff of regimented middle class America by a spoiled brat of a self loving/loathing rock God really appealed to this working class boy who was bruised and battered through the school system ruled by vicious, middle class, hard knuckled, self loathing, fearful women and populated with damaged, hard knuckled, poisoned tongued bastards. Morrison, of his time, still ignites a "fuck the system- fuck them-  let's get the hell out of here" emotion in me perhaps greater than any other muso.

Two songs, for me, capture this rebellion best. LA Woman and The End, and like all great pieces of music, they dredge up memories from when they were immediate. When they were young in my head. And memories of four connected, but different cities - connected by my want for rebellion and want to break on through from a life of pre-destined Sunday boredom. An attempted escape from pre-ordained numbness and order. But almost succumbing.

Newry, Paris, Budapest, Stuttgart.

"Driving down your freeway," the irony hits me as we head towards Armagh on the "A" road in the Mini Metro. I was 24. In retrospect, I now know how patient she was with me. How serene and how balanced she was. And how fucked up I was by a dog eat dog system in which resentments rode high and lashed out at the poverty trap, usually at perceived compliance. My rebellion was not to be a Nazi. Not to wear their badges. Not to revel in hatred of the other. As soon as an "other" was identified, they became my friend.

My head full of Highway 66 and getting out of there, where and whatever "there" was. My head on repeat, Kerouac whispering, "I hope you get where you're going, and be happy when you do." A small town couldn't contain me, but nowadays I know it was too big for my narrow, damaged, teenaged dreams. The subtleties and the histories, richness and the meaning all lost on someone like me who thought everything was happening somewhere else, with someone else. Lost on me who had to escape a kicking for my loud mouthed opinions and "fuck you and your misunderstanding of punk." Their misquoting of The Exploited and wearing of sectarian badges alongside Nazi symbolism as "punk." I cheered inside when the old teacher crushed and stamped on their swastikas, foaming and shouting at their sneering faces - "My friends died for your freedom!"

My hatred of containment only remains of routine. My hatred of fascism is stronger.

She lives their bullying daily. Her family move out of the village every year during the "Twelfth Fortnight," escaping the bands drumming, purposefully, intimidating at her gates. Choosing to clear out from the marching seasonal hatred of neighbours who politely make small talk the rest if the year, when they come home.

She doesn't particularly like The Doors, but listens while she drives.

"It sounds like a journey," I say.

"It doesn't end, just fades, like a never ending journey. Imagine driving forever! Yeuch!"

The conversation bolsters my feeling that "she just doesn't get it." My condescension knew no bounds in those days. I suppose my escape from my thoughts of my failure to break on through to another side of life, one promised by L.A. and The Doors, or New York and the Velvet Underground; a life of hedonism and beautiful or strange people doing as they pleased was personified in her. A life of safety, shining cars on Sunday and 9 to 5 on week days. And making her angry by cursing her Irish God and his ma.






When she dumped me for a more exciting, though stable model, I was devastated, but deserving. The illness that followed had something to do with the realisation I had entrapped myself in resignation to mowing lawns and that my teenaged dreams were all but dead. So I threw off the 9 to 5 and went back to school. Escape wouldn't just happen, I had to find a key. And my two keys were drink and education.

The pub is a bit run down. I can't remember why we were there, but she was with me. I was 19. She was like me. We were both lost. Rebelling from something so insidious we barely knew what it was. We'd crawled from the nightclub at 6am, blinking in the morning sun and lay on the pavement outside the small shop in the housing estate, staring into each others eyes, babbling our teenaged dreams of escape. She had escaped from abuse and sectarianism for a while to England, but had come back to find safety. But he, the safety, had been caught rebelling with another rebel, in her bed. And now she and I drunkenly planned our route to a world away from daily Sunday's. We needed a drink and we needed cigs, our ears ringing from the thumping beat and drunken, shouted conversations.

When the shop opened and we bought our lucozade and Embassy Regal, we lit up and staggered up the road, past neat gardens and temperance halls to her bed, where we slept till late afternoon.

When we woke I drove to Newry and found a pub with a juke box and ordered burgers. Her laughter filled my heart and we topped up with a few beers. The pub wasn't that busy, and the jukebox was silent, so I pushed a couple of fifties in and, surprised at the selection, chose Bob Dylan and Jokerman, Roxy Music and Virginia Plain, The Velvet Underground and Venus in Furs and The Doors, The End.

"I'm gonna have to stop drinking. The car."

"Stick to beer, you'll be OK."

The few old blokes seemed to tolerate our laughter and drunken petting.

"He was a shit."
"I know. I won't be."
"You aren’t my type."
"I can be."

" ...the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands,"

"We could live in England. I could get a transfer to a factory in Northhampton."

"There's nothing there. I want away from all of this shite. Route 66."

"Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand."

The music started to pull my mind further, the beer oiling the tracks.

"Ibiza?"

"Now your talking!"

I stood up and lifted her empty glass. At the bar, as I ordered a couple of whiskey's and a couple of pints, I vented my disgust at the barman for switching off the juke box just as Morrison was mid " fuck me fuck me" rant. We were asked to leave and I drove thirty miles to a village where the jukebox and petting was unfettered and then home to sleep a couple of hours before work.

The escape hadn't happened by the time we met in Budapest. But this was the first step. My escape was under way, the vague plans and dreams had transformed into digging, tunnelling, moving towards the goal. A summer away from monotonous provincial town in which all seemed shut down except churches and pubs and off licences.

And a week of Corfu, eating, drinking, laughing so much we fell in heaps and slept by lapping Mediterranean water under a huge, black sparkling sky.

From Corfu to Italy, then Paris and Jim. To a cemetery that educated and a thank-you to a dead rock star who pointed the way to a never ending need to escape.

Then Bayeux with "Sweet Dreams," hash and wine and cheese and bread and The End in Cherbourg, sipping wine before the ship left, my throat nearly closed in grief.

The following year I would be at University, unfettered by my past, or so I thought. Hedonism contained. Rebellion only from my own demons and barely a mark on the world.

Time and learning are strange things, sometimes you don't realise they are happening until it is painfully or joyfully obvious that they have.

1994, Stuttgart. I quickly drafted a letter to her, arranged a temporary passport and arrived in Stuttgart airport, not knowing she would be there.  Luckily she was.  We took the tram into the city, dumped my bag in the beautiful, ricketty old attic flat and hit the Christmas decked German town.


"What will we do?"

"Nothing.  You've always been quite unstable. Let's have a nice week."

The late nights of drinking, the jealous girlfriends and boyfriends and the falling out, getting back together again, secret meetings, seemed to come to a close that week.  That chapter of my life really closed far far away from that phone-box.

"This is the End, beautiful friend..."




She smiles over her beer and says, "She was the love of your life... your life so far.  But you hadn't realized."

Maybe.  But only "so far."

The End did not come. Seeking freedom did not finish. But the parameters changed.  I hope I am less selfish. I realised there was no hedonist holy grail. I enjoyed learning; my selfish times were amazing and selfishness can evolve into dogged determinism - I know I have that trait -  and I would not go back, but I have some fantastic memories.


The love of my life criticizes my cooking, my instability and loves my cooking and my instability. 

Merry Christmas to all

(except Tories and Libdems- I hope YOUR balls fall off. Your tree. Your tree...)

Monday, 23 December 2013

Tory/Libdem induced hunger and poverty not newsworthy...

Hey! News 24! Its winter and the weather is bad. We've got that (and kind of expected it to be honest).

Now, get to reporting some real news like the fact that the UK is one of the countries the Red Cross now delivers food parcels in (see Jacqui Mcintyre's facebook status reproduced below for a list) and tens of thousands more people/families, as a direct result of Tory/Libdem policy (voted for enthusiastically by my MP Jo Swinson), are reliant on food banks (the new name for soup kitchens).

Weather and Nigella and Christmas shoppers are much more important than increasing poverty and starvation in Tory UK.

But hey! GDP and other figures that show in actual fact, that the rich are getting richer and damn the poor who had no hand in the 2008 economic crash, are much more important!

My local foodbank are describing the present situation as "the food crisis."

I know they are well meaning, but lets call a spade a spade. This is a crisis brought on by the Tories and LibDems diverting taxes from welfare to corporations, banks and their pockets.

Like the Liberals and Tories of the 19th century who starved the Irish poor.

The mismanagement of the economy that has led to starving people relying on foodbanks is more than incompetence- it is criminal robbery.

"The food crisis" = the tory robbery of the working class.

Workers are getting poorer and poorer, and welfare now means "starvation and freezing to death" in one if the richest countries in the world, yet News 24 want to tell us the winter is cold and wet.

The UK is definately a cold place for those who work, are desperately looking for non-existant work, are unable to work or have recently lost work.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Tory ruled Scotland

The swine who have caused starvation and poverty so bad in Scotland that for the first time since WW2, the Red Cross are going to give out food parcels, should be jailed.

This society now relies on food parcels and "food banks" to feed old people, disabled people, low paid and unemployed people while millionaires make thousands administrating this new privatised welfare system (Cameron's so called "big society").

There is no doubt about the callousness, greed and stupidity of these Tory and Liberal Democrat politicians- a huge amount of whom profit from the destruction of our safety nets and NHS.

The sad thing in Scotland is the Labour Party leadership are on the same side as the Tories and want us to vote for no change. The only way out of this dreadful new tory wrecking of lives in my opinion is to vote Yes in the Independence Referendum next year.

The Tories who find poverty funny condemed in an article by Tom Watson MP HERE

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Trident- the vile lie that MUST stop

The only reason these vile nuclear machines of murder are still there on the Gareloch at Faslane,  is because our share portfolio holding politicians and uber-rich "betters" put their profits from BAE systens and the likes before people like our children, our disabled, our parents and grandparents.

Lets call a spade a spade.

Nelson Mandela, in insisting on truth and not accepting compromised bullshit from his rich and powerful "betters," exposed them for what they were, and in turn showed up our aparthied supporting Tory Party as greedy, power crazed racists - and in doing so started a revolution of truth.

I accept nothing but the truth about these evil weapons of war- they are indiscriminate and illegal- and are not there for the good of the Gareloch, Scotland, the UK nor man and womankind.

They are there as a tremendous money spinning exercise for already very rich people who could not give a fiddlers f*** about anyone only themselves. They put "me" first, forcing the rest of us into a dangerous, impoverished second.

A Yes in next years Independence referendum will see us rid of them, and a chance to rejig our society for people, not profits for the 1%.

This is the biggest white elephant money maker for rich people ever. It reminds me of the thousands of standing stones at Carnac. A huge industry and economic engine was created there over hundreds of years. By the end of that culture and industry, noone really knew why they originally started lifting the stones upright, but so many trades, religious centres and food growers etc depended on the stone standings, and through the trade, so many had grown powerful, they continued long after it had any meaning. These weapons are not needed anymore. But so many rich share holders see money slipping through their hands if they go,and so many of them are close to the reins of power, the industry remains.

I wrote about this for the HuffPost during the Summer HERE

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

le Penn and Farage - Mandela's fist symbolises your demise

Marine le Penn and Farage are two disgusting racists too far. How dare they use Mandela- a man whose life, beliefs and convictions could not be further from theirs - to  in some way tack their nasty wee bigoted dirty rag of a flag to. Farage- a nasty, greedy wee man who was goosestepping through English villages when Madiba languished in chains and voiceless in prison; Le Penn who is being prosecuted in France for comparing Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation. 

Watching Bush, Cameron, Blair etc slap backs and spout that "Mandela forgave all..." made me feel physically sick. Mandela can be quoted out of context and used by vampires picking over his corpse now. But those left in poverty, without homes, hope, limbs and loved ones by these vicious hawks should and do know, Mandela pointed his finger at their likes for  excerbating the man made conditions that create poverty.

Mandela may have forgiven in order to ensure transition from racist state to a state in which legislatively everyone was equal- but he was no mug. He saw through their nastiness and although eventually meeting Thatcher, made it clear just what he thought of her and her Government's bolstering and its ministers profiting from the racist regime, when on his first visit to the UK, he refused to entertain her. He knew the people who create poverty. He was not and is not a symbol for them.

That raised, clenched fist was not for these selfish, careerist, self aggrandising, bigoted murderers. It was a sign, he is a symbol of solidarity with workers who have been beaten, incarcerated, victimised, tortured, exploited, segregated, banned, fenced, impoverished, shot, blamed and lied to. And it was a sign to say that the exploited will one day win. It was a sign in defiance at the likes of these dreadful excuses of human beings that their tormenting and exploitation for their selfish gain will be defeated.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

33 years ago...

33 years ago, I played the single I had bought a few days before, "Just Like Starting Over," over and over again. I was 14, nearly 15 and had just that year read up on John Lennon's activism. Another flawed man who inspired many.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Madiba. Our fight.

Rosie Kane has a thread on her Facebook on which people have been writing where they were when they heard about the passing of Nelson Mandela. This article started off as a post there.


I think Mandela's passing will, of course, be remembered. His life, and those who fought alongside him; his ANC comrades; the many women who fought this dreadful system; Desmond Tutu, Steve Biko, Winnie Mandela and all of those who lost their lives in the struggle and never saw freedom and what they struggled for, will be remembered longer.

I truly believe that the legacies of Mandela and Gandhi will be viewed, reviewed and ultimately thought of as people who began the 'new time' when good first began to crush might and greed. Neither man succeeded in creating utopia- but the struggle and victory they both symbolise will, in my opinion, be seen as the first steps towards a fightback. Three steps forward, two back - and both men understood that.  Some on the left have yet to understand that when they criticise. Changing this world will not fit exactly the left sect programme the critical mind belongs to.  I read online and hear at meetings criticisms of political fighters who have given their life to struggle that I can hardly believe.  The usurping of the Mandela legacy by the right will rely on the criticisms from the left.  Mandela understood that.  He explicitly said that he was no saint.  He was a sinner who did his best - as all of us should acknowledge we are - even those of us who prefer not to use religious language.  In other words, he, like Gandhi, was flawed.  Lots of these flaws are flaws of their time, generation, culture etc.  Some are personal, socialised flaws.  We all have them.  We don't all give our lives to struggle like these men did.

I read about his passing on twitter last night, nursing a sair foot after falling through a school stage.  That, I will remember in the same way feeling rubbish after an argument with my new wife in September 2001, or feeling a bit hungover watching the Berlin wall fall through my small portable telly lense or shivering in my digs in Dunblane when my mum phoned me to tell me something dreadful in 1996 or when my grandfather, the same age as Mandela, passed away. All of these events were dreadful or hugely historical or personal and all of them I remember every detail around me. I will remember the papers on the seat around me; my laptop and and my sair foot.

I wore my Makana FC top to work today (Nelson Mandela's footie team when he was on Robben Island) and told my P3 class today about why he loved Glasgow so much and why he thanked the city.  I got all choked up and a wee girl cried because I did.  I will remember that.

Mandela and the struggle against Apartheid, and my small part in that as a young teenager through to my early twenties (writing letters, sending money, marching),  helped me understand my own country (Northern Ireland) when I was younger.  I remember sending away for a report by some organisation about South Africa when I was in my early teens. The organisation had the foresight to send me a report on the island of Ireland. Stark facts, figures and raw data on housing, wealth and poverty. They made me think. I read the world I saw was flawed. The vista was a green baize patched with cheap paint. A rhinestone studded shiny plucked cloth covering a festering mound of poverty and elitism. I will remember that.

The struggle against apartheid united many right thinking people across the world then, and at this moment in time. 

The struggle isn't over as the Tories and right wing parties are on the rise defending their riches by deepening our impoverishment; and people are incarcerated in disgusting holding centres for no other reason than existing and wanting to escape poverty.  This is our fight.

The struggle against apartheid continues in Israel / Palestine.  This is our fight.

It continues across the globe when one set of people are pitted against another, or one set of people are scapegoated, or swathes of humanity are kept poor and die of hunger and curable disease at the hands of a system that has huge riches. This is our fight.

We were right.  Separation was wrong. Discrimination, poverty, segregation, division, inequality, elitism, demonisation, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia,  hatred, poverty, poverty, poverty all our battles.

This is our part in the fight. Exposing wrong and smashing it.

The past- the Cameron's and Thatcher's (who he refused to meet) and Tebbits and Farage's and Bush's and Reagan's etc of this world were wrong and have no place in the celebration of this mans life. This mans fight is our fight.

I will remember him. Madiba. Tata.