first published in Blue on Blue, Redbeck Press, 2005
Sunday, 4 October 2015
first published in Blue on Blue, Redbeck Press, 2005
Tuesday, 29 September 2015
To deflect public attention from the terrible consequences of the European Union's meddling in Ukraine, the media has been playing up the tensions between Russia's President and the President of the United States at the United Nations over what to do about Syria.
Them Russians and those Americans, oh, they at daggers drawn with each other, they no like each other, another Cold War is coming on, be warned.
Nuts. If you go back a little way to the autumn of 1995, back to yet another appalling time in Western European history, you'll find the United States and Russia lining up with France, Germany and the United Kingdom as signatories of the Dayton Agreement which brought an end to the three-way civil war in former Yugoslavia involving the federal republics of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.
That three-and-a-half-year bloodbath, which saw as many refugees on the roads of Europe as we are seeing now, had a variety of flash-points and causes - the death of iron man Tito, who had held the six republics together since the end of World War 2 in spite of all that had happened during the Nazi occupation and all that had happened subsequently; the collapse of Communism from 1989 and the re-unification of Germany two years later.
The collapse of Communism and the bringing together of East and West Germany prompted outbreaks of independence fever from the Baltic to the Adriactic. In the case of Slovenia, this was actively encouraged by European Community, especially Germany. The fever was accompanied by conflicting boundary-breaking territorial claims between the presidents of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. Without a centrally strong bastard to control them all hell broke loose, fanned by the flames of historic hatreds.
The European Community didn't know what to do. The United Nations sent in armed soldiers to keep the peace under instruction not to use their weapons to protect life. But for the armed intervention of NATO fighter-bombers the bloody killing would have continued perhaps into the 21st century.
The West, over-stimulated by the end of Communism and the idea of regime change, wanted to topple all the nasty men of iron and steel from their pedastals of power. But when that happens too quickly chaos prevails as we have seen recently in North Africa and the Middle East. The Arab Spring has turned into a blizzard of murder and despair.
President Obama can cold-eye President Putin as much as he likes over Ukraine and Syria, to save face with his critics in the United States; but I suspect that wiser heads know that Russia's President could just be the man to help deal with the black-robed legions of Islamic State.
America and Russia co-operated over the seemingly intractable problems in former Yugoslavia. To this bear of staggeringly little brain it is obvious that they should so so again to restore some semblance of order and stability in Syria. Don't be distracted by the media's obsession with generating heat rather than light.
Thursday, 24 September 2015
Singer-songwriter and guitar man John Verity has written a song about an Afghan woman who was savagely done to death in March this year.
She was framed by the caretaker of a shrine in Kabul whom she had challenged for practicing what was known as simony in the unreformed Roman Catholic Church centuries ago - flogging bogus religious items for money.
The caretaker shouted out that this woman, a student of Islam who hoped to be a judge one day, had desecrated the Koran. He also said she was an American. That was enough for the mob. They beat her up, invaded the shrine where she sought sanctuary, and resumed the attack, kicking her, running a car over her, stoning her, throwing her over a parapet and setting her alight. Her killers were mostly young men and were mostly well-dressed in modern clothes. After the murder members of Afghanistan's Government joined in with loud acclamations and justifications.
For a while. When they realised that religious men are liable to lie to protect themselves, the public revulsion for what had been done in the name of Islam was too late.
John's song touches on this and more - religious bigotry, the hypocrisy of crocodile tears. It's made more effective by the judicious use of pictures and captions that tell the story and allow him to express his emotions without cluttering them with explanation. Please touch on the link below.
Monday, 14 September 2015
I'm glad I resisted the
temptation to change channels after 90 seconds. Drama Republic's adaptation of
J B Priestley's An Inspector Calls on
BBC1 began with Eva Smith answering Eric Birley's question: 'Do you believe in
God?' Every other version of the play that I've seen opens conventionally in
the Birling household on the night of the self-congratulatory party. This
version, I thought, might be an adaptation too far. Then again, Miranda Richardson
can end up a caricature of her Blackadder Elizabeth I.
Donne wrote that in 1624. Priestley's play was first performed in Moscow 321 years later in 1945. Donne's words are mirrored in Inspector Goole's departing speech: "We are responsible for one another...If men will not learn this lesson they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish." Earlier on in the evening over cigars and whiskey, Arthur Birling had told Gerald Croft, his prospective son-in-law, that well-to-do men like themselves were under no obligation to anyone else.
Sunday, 13 September 2015
MAURICE WILSON (1898, Bradford -1934, Everest)
Saturday, 29 August 2015
And then the Romans came
with their straight roads, stone forts
and short, belly-piercing swords.
They taught us the art of
off North from South.
And then came Picts and Britons,
Angles and Saxons,
Jutes and bloody great Danes,
and after them Vikings.
Lowering blood-red sails in the sunset,
they burned the East with dragon-flames.
Irish Norsemen from Dublin
caught and slaughtered the Danes
and were, in turn, broken by Saxon axemen.
The Reformation, the Armada, D-Day -
all that followed might not have been
had Harold Godwinson
kept his nose out of Normandy.
With Papal blessing, William's Normans came
and England, first flayed by the tanner,
was put under the hammer.
Nothing much has changed.
*The title is a line in the film The Eagle Has Landed. This piece was first published in Ambit 173 in Spring, 2003.
Thursday, 13 August 2015
The struggle is to live with quiet gladness
in spite of weather, rent rises,
power bills, stock market fluctuations,
stupid or cowardly governance;
bad faith, cheap grace,
young blonde barmaids
with plunging necklines.
Midwife of the questing mind,
professor of ignorance.
The way to wisdom is not
for those with secrets to hide.
The authorities got him
for immoral aiding and abetting,
as the English got Joan of Arc
for the heresy of cross-dressing.
More of a gargoyle even
than Paul Verlaine;
but purer than democrats and tyrants.
He had no possessions, no loot,
no off-shore investments in Persia.
What he had was shared with friends,
and when Athens was under military threat
he fought as a foot soldier.
He was sent to shine a light through posterity.
A thorny old bastard bare-heeled
among potsherds and
the broken amphora of history.
He accepted the state's poison ruefully.
The greatest discovery you can make in life
he said, as he wiped the hemlock from his mouth,
first published in Ambit 196, Spring 2009