Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Miami Showband -murder is never in my name



42 years ago, this band played my home town. On their way home, they were stopped by loyalist murderers (the word "terrorists," in those days, meant mass murdering, public scaring bastards-White OR brown,- Nowadays the term is almost a racist term) posing as army and three of them were executed - the others left for dead.

Terrorists and killers have always operated in my perceived political position. I'm perceived to be "the west," and Bush, Blair, Obama, Brown, Cameron, Thatcher or May order death on my behalf every day. I'm perceived to be socialist- and some who self identify as that kill and maim for the liberation of mankind. Im perceived to be a consumer and people and animals are killed for my "needs" and wants and must haves. And when in Northern Ireland, either all Ireland'rs, or British Nationalists killed and maimed in my perceived name.

None of it is. No death, no injury to support ANY cause is in my name.

When the Miami Showband were massacred, it was in the name of "Britishness." I don't accept that. Those who carried this out, those still living, were no soldiers on the side of right. And they are in a living hell, knowing what they did. I am not freer or happier because of the deaths of these musicians who shared their joy in Banbridge that night 42 years ago.

And I am ashamed to say, Banbridge has no memorial to these and other innocents killed in the name of some sort of perceived freedom. No place of contemplation for the musicians, music lovers, daughters, sons -lives- extinguished agonisingly and with dreadful consequence, in the name of perceived freedom, soul, borders and flags.



Murder tacked on to any ideology is not in my name, every bit as much as murder by men for their sexual gratification; murder by a drone guiding soldier for his pay cheque or murder ordered by those either I voted for to bring equality and equity closer- never mind those in power I would never vote for.



If ever there was a symbol for needless, shameful murderous madness, it is the deaths of the Miami Showband- and the excuses made by people afterwards to justify the slaughter of young men, sons, husbands,friends who loved to play musical instruments and sing.


Friday, 29 July 2016

The Band is Back thegither...

A wee podcast I produce... Lefty, pro-independence - and totally free of interference... UNGAGGED!!!


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My Pen Pal

Back in the seventies, opinionated working class people did not have spaces in which they could rant, or reminisce or ruminate. As someone who became a teenager in 1979, the Internet wasn't even a dream. No one I had ever read or listened to predicted a social "space" in which individuals could learn, be abnoxious, post penis pictures or work collaboratively with others to help bring about change. Representatives- heroes- keyboard warriors - did that for us from the newspaper columns and music press and comics we bought. And to learn about the world, we had pen pals.

Before I turned teenager, A friend of mine, Clark, had a pen pal. Clark had a lot of things I didn't have. Guitar lessons, straight hair, a tent, a pink panther car, a telephone in his house and his house had the number of my favourite Disney Character, Herbie- number 53.

His pen pal was from South Africa, the other place apart from Northern Ireland, where I was from, that was in the news every night. Clark told me about his pen pal having a swimming pool, a huge car and brilliant, sunny weather all the time. 

Soweto...

West belfast - on the news 1976


I wanted a pen pal.

And then came my opportunity. Clark's pen pal had a friend who wanted a pen pal. He had sent his Durban address and a photo for Clark to give to one of his pals- and Clark gave it to me.

This guy, at the age I was- around 10, was who I wanted to be. He had straight blonde hair, a tan and a bright straight smile.

"First things first," I thought. "I'll have to get a photo."

In those days the only way we knew how to get a selfie was to pay in the Photobooth in Wellworth's (across the road from Woolworth's). So, with my pocket money, I went off to have the pictures taken.

Each strip of "selfies" was made up of six photos- each one individually taken by the automatic camera. I only needed one, smiley, ordinary pic, so the other five were for me to make a comedy book mark.

I hated the strip of pics. They were the opposite of everything that was good about HIS picture. I closed my mouth to hide my huge rabbit teeth and I had TRIED to clamp down my unruly hair. And those fucking freckles... "Anyway," I thought, "maybe he'll like me as I am. Maybe like my friends, he'll not really judge me by how I look," which was daft as we all ad Nick-names for each other based on how we looked...

I cut the pic from the strip and went about writing my letter. My P6 teacher and now my P7 teacher both encouraged my writing. Both made me feel good about what I wrote. And I always had my stuff read out to the class- or was asked to read it out. So I thought the writing would be the easiest thing to do. 






To be formal, "Dear..." Or less so, "Hi!"

To describe were I lived, "lots of fields, we play on bikes, my best friend is ...erm, Clark (Mickey); my dad is a builder, my mum a cleaner." Or to avoid talking about my mundane, working class life?

It sounded a bit boring, unlike the imagined description of the swimming pool and servants and Savannah land with elephants he lived on.

But I told him about the games we played- "pretend road blocks," where we stopped cars in the street and asked the drivers for their licenses, and throwing stones at the earth removers building the local bypass.

I told him about Mickey, who had explained to me what "bigoted" was. I told him about Mark, who had come off his bike going down the hill and banged his head and forgot who he was, and I told him about my sisters, one a pain, and the other one who was into Saturday Night Fever.

And then I thought, I have to ask him about where he is from.

I asked.

"How come some white people are so nasty to black people?"

(I would dread to see the original letter- the language I was brought up on to describe black people-none of whom lived near me - and gay people- and disabled people, all perpetuated by the media and repeated by us, was awful).

I asked, "How come black people were forced to be servants and why they weren't allowed to have the same things white people have?" I asked him, "Do you agree with apartheid?" I told him that I hated the idiots in my country who thought Catholics weren't equal to Protestants (a distinction between people I was, at the time, struggling to understand) because Mickey and his family were brilliant people and didn't have horns or anything.

I signed the letter with my newly perfected signature, stuck it in a business envelope stolen from my mums work and decorated the envelope with Suzuki and Kawasaki signs, stuck stamps on it and posted it on my way to school.

I think most people want to communicate who they are- how they look, what they do, how they feel, their opinions on the world around them- all done in different ways and using different media. From buying a fancy car, through to wearing a teeshirt with some sort of message on it, through sculpture, painting, writing or sticking a few bulbs in their garden. It is a need- so I never judge anyone who expresses themselves in different ways than me, unless it is harmful to others and other animals etc. Express yourself! And use all the media you feel comfortable on and using. And as a teacher, that's what I aim to teach children. Be yourself. Don't worry about what others think of who you are, and collaborate on things that can make the world better, brighter, happier, fairer. The free internet goes a very long way to helping with these things- we have spaces and devices available nowadays 10 year old me could not imagine. We make films, we speak face to face from thousands of miles away from each other. We publish spiels of words, telling the world, "I am here- these things are me." And we argue and we fight and we take selfies and we have pocket TV's and communicators that even the original Star Trek creators could not imagine.

And I think, in the early days of this new way of being- this new way of discussion, collaboration and fighting, eventually the world is finding out about itself. It doesn't really matter if you have light or dark skin, feel different from how people perceive you or have curly hair. We are rapidly changing from a distrustful, bigoted, segregated race to an open and more understanding one. The old are kicking out, thrashing and lashing out in their death throes, Brexit, monarchism, Britishness, The Daily Mail, The Sun and Trump- all looking and sounding like something from a different era. 

Get connected and rant...
The fact I waited and waited and never received a letter from this blonde haired, blue eyed Afrikaner devastated me at the time. He hated my freckles, my woollen jumper, my curly hair and my obviously "hidden" buck teeth. That's how I interpreted his silence.

As I got older, and involved peripherally, with the anti-apartheid movement, I wondered had he taken offence at my questions? And I hoped so. Maybe this person was racist. And then as I got older I thought, "how could this person ignore me because of any of those things?"

Anyway- I write. Some people read. Some people write to me and tell me I'm a prick. Some people agree with me.

But the Internet, and art and writing and using capitals on forums to show how right I am are my right.

And I still have those over large front teeth and I wonder is his smile still as straight and white? I wonder did his family lose out when Mandela was freed? I wonder is that blonde straight hair long gone?

Or, did I not put enough stamps on the envelope?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Image, learning, self indulgence, addiction. Me.

Identity. What creates it? Is it who you are; is it who you think you are; is it who others think you are, and what makes these things?

Addiction. My definition (and definitions, like experiences and like language can be personal): something that a body experiences and either psychologically or physically craves and consumes or experiences to the point of damage to that body and its community.


I'm sure plenty of people reading that will disagree or correct me. So I'll explain what those sentences mean.

Identity is tied up in so much. How you identify yourself; how others interpret your identity; how your community identifies you and your relationship with your community. And how your identity is part of what is sold to you- how those who own the media/run society sell back your identity to you and how you engage with that.

This self indulgent post will create an image of me, in your head, if you can read the whole thing.

2011 - in need of a change.. I have been Elvis....
What is learned cannot be unlearned. Yet sometimes it takes years to learn things. And at 50, I know that. Or in the scheme of things, compared to my older friends, beginning to anyway. Or began to, at first almost imperceptibly, when I was in the pram.

Some lessons take years- generations- millennia. And in our limited time, our relationship, our interface with the world-our identity, in my opinion, at this moment in my life; is ever changing. At times imperceptibly; or at times change comes quickly, to do with circumstance, health, relationships, and your geographical position, family and other outside influences change you. But there are somethings we cling to, whether they be music, clothes, words or addictions. Addictions we poison ourselves with or addictions our society, economy or our class -or other classes- impose on us- force on us.

The political image I wanted to convey... but me?

When I was younger, I knew more than the slow, boring old men and women around me. I ruled the world around me, yet didn't control anything only my wild nihilism... Sometimes...

Me (centre) - beer, smoke and peace... or something... (1994-ish)
Yet some looked wise and content. Propped up in bars, retired from work and seemingly retired from responsibility and the madness surrounding them. A slow nihilism.

But slowly they died. And from my thirties onwards, so did quite a few of my peers who filled their lives in the ways we working class people were conditioned to believe we should.

I smoked, I drank, I longed for a good steak, a Chinese and a fish supper. And sugar and drugs and fast food and pizza and Coca Cola and vodka and meat twice a day (at least).

Nursing a working class hangover at the G8, 2005.

And I learned. I learned that smoking would kill me. Not through reading about it or on the packets- I learned through watching people die, losing limbs, hacking coughs, leathered skin, yellowed eyes. And I didn't want that, so I fought my working class want to socialise during work with other smokers. I kidded myself for a while, that some tobacco was healthier than others, roll ups and low tar, white tipped pure looking boxes. I was persuaded by corporations their product would be less fatal and persuaded over drinks that I was a woose for smoking nothing but the full fat fags. "you'll die of something- you may as well enjoy yourself." Then my coughing doubled me over and I watched as around me my contemporaries wheezed and slowly, slowly ground to a halt "enjoying themselves," unable to run, walk and in the end live. I learned. And I quit.

Circa 1985? A few months of health to train for a few runs...

I lectured and machine gun-like quoted facts, philosophy's and ideology. I shouted about being the change I want to see in the world, yet comfortably slipped on the cloak of "the system." The system we can't change unless we all rise up- I'll justify my next Big Mac because that's the world I live in. I'll justify my primark teeshirts produced by children in a factory at a machine where they can't leave to piss when they need to. My coffees and chocolate produced by the bleeding hands of farmers forced to live in debt as they are exploited by the corporations we can't bring down until we all hoist the red flag over the White House. I shouted about change, but consume "as a victim of capitalism; a rat in a race; a health time bomb created by a class unable to break the chains of the crap being forced down our throats - consent of our imminent early graves manufactured by fit, rich, tanned Gods on Necker Island or on floating palaces in the Caribbean."

image in food...

...and coffee...

...And vegan Scandinavian "Herring" meals...

And all of those holding their fists up, all of the comrades unable to act -unable to create change because we have trapped ourselves in our working class cages.

Unable, not wanting, to change. Stuffing dead, fattened, tortured animals down our throats, wearing clothing created by kids chained to desks for our sartorial pleasure, smoking tobacco made by companies that grew in power and wealth using kidnapped people from Africa, Scotland, Ireland... Digesting sugar harvested by modern day slaves...

We are killing them. They are killing us.

And someone lights a Cuban Cigar on their yacht, toasting the media they own for telling us how working class people should behave. What cheaply processed "foodstuffs" we should identify with and clog up our bodies with.

Image in music...

Image in comics...

How we rebel, nihilistically- how we consume and rant about capitalism and die its victims, taking many thousands with us.

You can't unlearn. But you can break the circle of consuming. You can stop your consuming. You can do without the "working class" football tops and the sugary fizzy drink. You can do without the addictive substances, and you can live and give the finger to the yacht. The "viccy" to the billionaire owned media. You can find people to work with- on equal terms- and share your fun, healthy, alternatives to this packaged working class mortality rate.

I told my pal, "if you make us a salad I'll throw it at you." It was his turn to cook for those of us who had signed up to one night a week feeding each other. It meant we only slaved over a cooker one evening a week-and it worked out cheaper. Students needed every penny they could get. That was over twenty years ago. I don't eat meat now. At all. I learned and couldn't unlearn- about health and about environmental destruction and then finally about the fact that animals I ate loved their young - and their friends and life every bit as much as I do.


Image in teeshirts...


On Friday nights during the seventies, we ate sweet after sweet given to us by both sets of grandparents and I buzzed and sometimes felt ill. So I knew sweets, those shiny, scrummy, brightly packaged things aimed at children; aimed to addict us, made me feel ill.

When I was in my teens and twenties, I

ran and cycled and during short bursts of training lasting a few months, I would quit sweets, crisps and crap and eat as healthily as I could. I rarely felt ill or tired during those times. My skin cleared up. I was not short tempered.

I realised that crap made me feel bad, short tempered, tired, sluggish.

So I had periods of my life in which I gave things up for a year- sugar, alcohol, meat. And I felt good, but socially excluded. Like when I no longer shared the conspirital , cool, sarcastic, sardonic, nihilistic smoke break. Or the laugh at the bar. Or the speed of the burger or the chippy or KFC... So inevitably, sugary foods bought by someone to share, were shared. A pie or a McDonalds was quick, easy. A pint with pals felt good- and I would push my healthy lifestyle change to somewhere in the future.

But then photos of me made me think "heart attack," stroke," "cancer," early death. And my mood and coping mechanism was shot. Drudgery, work, chores, bed, -- look forward to that booze on a Friday night after work; Thursday after work, Friday after work, Saturday because it is Saturday... Wednesday because it is the turn of the week; beer every night on a holiday from the drudge... Drink the free bar dry; wheeze and sweat my way to the bar... My identity- my working class health nihilism; food on the go from Greggs, full fat everything and victory in volume... was killing me. One more beer- it's only water and grains... And then you realise it is sugar; it is storing around your internal organs; it is pushing sugar levels to huge heights; it is making you sweat and it is in control as you run to the shop to ensure you get there before 10pm to get three more litres of fizzy lager...

My identity was, both from my point of view and the point of view of others, tied up in alcohol.

Roll us another one, Kev. Make it a good one. He laughs and looks at me through his lank, long greasy hair as he sprinkles the tarry substance amongst the tobacco from the Marlboro.

We smoke all day from waking at midday;

people visit and join us for joint after joint as day turns to night and eventually we all head back to our rooms. I'm last out; first there tomorrow.

For a few years, my identity was tied up with my long, dyed hair, shaved up the sides; my colourful clothes; my not give a fuck, lefty, Irish hippy, charity shop and "man" flecked sentences; chill... Roll another one. My identity. Days wasted, but not wasted - learning.

Calimotxo, metaxa, Czech beer at source, ricard, stroh rum, Havana rum... Necked at source in all those countries.

Alcohol, nihilism, drugs, all part of my identity- an identity found at 17- drinking beer outside with my mates before hitting the pub or club. An identity with its roots in my high school- my rebellion- my statement to a friend that I wanted to find out all the secrets. An identity hard to shake.

But what is learned cannot be unlearned and as community crumbles; body function begins to fail- addictions need to be faced. And the person I want to be rather than expected to be as a working class baldy pasty, fat white bloke, must be faced. The future embraced. A new identity formed from better informed me.

I don't drink, I don't smoke, what do I do?

I learn.

I be. The vegan, clean living, very, very flawed, husband, dad, cycling, dog walking, coffee drinking, comic/novel/biography reading, political 50 year old me.

Constructed image- what is real?

Friday, 15 July 2016

Je Suis... Redux.

All my life, it seems, little armies have been taking their grievances out on ordinary people eating, drinking, shopping, celebrating, singing, sleeping, walking, working, playing, crying.

Growing up in Northern Ireland, our news was almost daily filled with atrocities carried out on crushed families, carrying their fathers, mothers and children to cemeteries across the six counties. And far from preserving or helping a cause, all these acts have done is divide and aide bitterness that still lives on in Ireland. Although time is healing some wounds, bitterness against those who used families as their causes machine gun fodder still poisons many a heart. Though of course, as I say, time is healing, as are words spoken in the media, to neighbours and in courtrooms and hearings. Voices of victims and oppressed people are being heard and divisions -slowly- and as peacefully as possible, are being bridged.

Little armies smash, kill, maim, causing desperate, unquenchable grief, all the time negating their cause- sometimes just- sometimes a cry for help- sometimes a last resort, by tearing the life out of people far removed from their cause by the gulf created by the media, language, cultural difference, years.

Terrorism, whether it comes from a little army or one paid by taxes, is never going to bring justice. It will always bring repercussions that are bloody or full of hate and revenge.

And terrorism makes victims of us all- from the plotters, their families, their cause- through to the victims, their families and their mediated solutions.

There is something badly wrong with the world when someone feels their voice can only be heard through horror meted out on innocent people. Something badly wrong when oppressed people's causes are represented by a tiny army of angry, desperate, murderous thugs. The only voices we hear are the explosion of bloody terror and the cries and sobs of the victims and their families.

The world is wrong when a Peace Envoy is the man who enabled and armed extremist thugs to carry out explosions in cities that kill over 200 innocent people; enabled and enraged people enough to bomb buses and railways; enabled and gave encouragement to people enough to massacre people eating and laughing in restaurants; enabled and gave excuse to murder to untreated psychotics who mow people down in the street who were celebrating freedom.

And the world is wrong when the poor are taught to scapegoat by millionaire newspaper and media outlets, taking out their anger on people who have fled from towns and cities targeted by little armies and huge armies, as a result of what a peace envoy did along with a religious maniac of a President, back at the dawn of a new millennia.

In Ireland, will everyone forgive those who took their grievances out on their loved ones? Mostly not. But will these people call for revenge killings of a perceived "other" to quench their grief? No. That idiocy is over.

The present international fora for talking are not up to the mark. The voices of the oppressed people of Palestine, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the North African and middle eastern countries blighted by the worlds thirst for oil and religious answers of the ancient world must be heard- and when they are, the dreadful cacophony of death, grief and bloody revenge will be drowned out.

War is not an answer. Air strikes, drone strikes, land strikes and tit for tat leads to more innocent families grieving and calls for vengeance.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Where everybody forgets your name... Derek, Paul and me.

Derek grabbed the microphone. He smiled a gap toothed smile, his skinny frame enveloped by his teddy boy drape coat, a black curl from his black Ducks Arse hairstyle falling down his leathery, wrinkled, skeletal forehead.

We all watched. The bar was only half full. Young people did their partying in town. Jamie's was on the outskirts- built in a small industrial estate- a bar the locals came to from the Housing Executive estate across the way. We called it, "Cheers," because it had that kind of vibe. Regulars propping up the bar and discussing lives and scandals and minutiae the rest of the world would not see as important; offering solutions to world problems we saw as obvious- others might have isms or analysis that would box us into a container to be placed on their "unforgivable" shelf. Who was going out with who; Who had been seen pissing into the orange hall letter box, who was found sleeping it off in the church;  Banter, slagging, singing, laughing.

The bar snacks, made by the owner for the clientele to make us thirstier than we already were, had come down from the kitchen earlier. We hungrily ate from the trough, cheap sausage rolls, ham sandwiches, cocktail sausages. Derek had been at the end of the bar, a place he stood every week when he drew his dole. A shadow of a man known; famous; for his drinking. Someone who didn't mind being laughed at as long as someone bought him a drink or two.

Paul said, "watch this."

He picked up a handful of cocktail sausages.

He turned towards the other end of the bar and quickly flicked a sausage. I watched as it skewed across the room, through the small crowd and hit Derek squarely on the nose. He flinched and looked down at where the sausage landed. He looked around, smiled and bent down to pick it up. Paul nudged me and laughed as Derek pocketed the snack.

Paul repeated the flick. Derek again watched where it fell and pocketed it.

It was difficult to hold the laughter in. In my head I thought this was dreadful- Paul was laughing openly at this man who was obviously ill. Derek was obviously an alcoholic. Obviously drinking himself to death. Obviously drinking himself into further poverty.

None of us in the bar were well off- except for the owner. All of us liked a drink. All of us slagged each other off, found vulnerabilities in others around us and stuck the verbal boot in, but there was something poignant about Derek. This was the late 1980's and Derek was still dressing in his teenaged years clothing- all well kept, ironed, cleaned. He took pride in this image of a teenaged rebel- but the once weightlifter, soldier, father, boxer was a pitiful figure, still living that rebellion, that want for exotic late 1950's America, from the straight jacket the world around him in mid-Ulster had been. His rebellion now looking like nothing more than a drunken defeat to anyone looking in.

He was actually a very quiet man, but liked a laugh, and when he drank he was really difficult to understand. He mumbled. But everyone knew him. Like they knew Cecil, who had what we now know as post traumatic stress and who walked from morning to night around the town, covering every street and a lot of the country roads surrounding it, shaking his hands rhythmically by his side. And who, when we were teenagers, when we spotted him we would suck the last draw from a cigarette, and throw it in a bin to watch him rummage for it. Or Sweet, who twice stood in front of speeding trucks because he believed he was a God who could never die. And twice ended up in intensive care, now walking, in his late twenties, with the aid of a walking stick. And like "Darkie," the only Pakistani drinker in the town. Or The Meg, who was just known for her poverty, her smell and her place at the end of the bar in town. Or Sammy who was apparently very rich, but who wore the same suit day in day out- stuffing it with newspapers and hay during the winter.

By the time the karaoke came on, Paul and I were well oiled. His wife and my girlfriend were back in his house, probably livid by now- but we were contactless- back in the days without mobiles, texting, messenger, Facebook or any other social media we can use to buzz someone's pocket.

But the craic was 90. We all laughed and bantered and slagged and felt like Monday morning and the factory was far, far away in the future. A different world from here, from this dimly lit place where everybody forgot your name and went for your weak spot. This place in which if women came in, we fell silent like wee boys.

"You can sing," Paul said to me. I could hardly talk after the vodkas and pints we'd necked in the couple of hours we'd stood there laughing at Derek, putting the boot into those not as quick at the insults and verbal stick poking.

"Na!" I smiled and shook my head.

Paul ambled to the stage and said something to Eddie the karaoke man, and took the mic. The bar hushed and Paul, all 19 stone, 5' 5" of him, sang the most beautiful rendition of "Daniel" an ex-biker, full of beer and vodka has ever sang. The bar clapped and back slapped the big man.

"A bit of Elvis, now, we hope!" Eddie shouted down the echoing mic.

Derek set his golden short on the bar, as the other domestic escapees, some who were drinking the childer's dinner money; some who could only find solace from whatever pain life had thrown at them; some of whom whose glory days were, in their years young, hopeless heads, behind them; and some, like me, who loved the wisdom and the togetherness and the confidence and the paradise found in smokey, alcohol washed floors, and stories of self abuse dressed up as heroic deeds told by gravel rinsed throats laughing, shouting and whistling as Derek took to the stage.

"Elvis! Elvis! Elvis!" We shouted.

He took the mic with one hand, the head fell down, he wobbled into an Elvis pose with his other hand aloft,  finger pointing into the air, a knee thrust forward and his skeletal figure lost in his blue coat.

Where do you GET brothel creepers nowadays, I thought?

I look back on Derek, and nowadays I see many Derek's, old punks, Morrissey fans, Goths and people just lost in the past they didn't escape from and I don't judge anymore. My youthful feeling about these old people stuck in their past was informed by my years- my feeling I would never get old- my feeling that I would grow older much more "coolly" in my post punk style; my wiser ways and much more modern indie music... What had they seen in their lives, encountered, suffered that had/has them using a bar as their living room, their rebellious youth as their present? There-  only by way of my choices, my odd choices supported by a great network of family, - could be my present. My love for alcohol and in fact it being a huge part of my identity for many years could have trapped me easily in a world of my past. At times I still escape into my past, in my head; in what I wear; in the music I listen to. But I love the new. I wanted to experience beyond the smokey walls were I left some of my friends who still sport the hairstyles (some of the lucky bastards still HAVE hair!), who still have the love of the banter driven by the booze and the poverty and the camaraderie of "Cheers," where now empty stools sit were other comrades left empty, early in lives full of the goings on of a small town I still love, but only visit. From the position of a better life? I don't know. Certainly a more sober one. Certainly one bereft of the laughter alcohol can bring. And the pain. But not painless; not without its misspent hours and selfish days.

The jangling opening bars of "That's alright mama," rang out around the bar. Derek missed his cue. We laughed. Eddie rewinded and counted him in.

And when this time the melody was to begin, Derek did his all time best Elvis impression. The hero who he loved and lived, possessed him. The exotic world this shadow of a former weightlifter and joiner and ex-soldier had yearned for, seen only in technicolor in the Iveagh Cinema, he curled his cracked lips and from deep in his chest came the best Elvis "Uhuhuh!" we had heard. We roared and cheered and laughed and Derek looked up and smiled and for the next two and a half minutes he was that star, on stage, rattling those bones and "Uhuhuh-ing," from deep, deep in his chest; from deep, deep in his mind and soul and being.

And the drinks were on the rest of us escapees until we had to go back to, as Paul said, "broken tellies- all picture and no sound."