Wednesday, 25 December 2013


Dementia is a terrible curse on the elderly and those who care for them, and this blog is not in any way intended as a slight on anyone who has the condition. It is clearly a bewildering and frightening world to inhabit. A lovely old lady near us suffers. We have been neighbours for over twenty years, and the other day she tottered past our drive as I was getting into the car, and said, "I do hope you are settling in well. It's lovely to have new neighbours. You'll find we are a friendly lot round here." Weird, slightly wonderful, but very sad.

My post concerns a much loved elderly relative. Someone who has been in part of our family since earliest memory. She was known as 'Auntie', not just by us, but by countless others across the country. I am referring to the BBC. I can vividly remember being in our kitchen on a July day in 1953 when the austere voice of a lunchtime newsreader announced that an armistice had been declared, bringing the Korean War to an end. My mother had a little weep and got on with the cooking. That was typical of the way in which the BBC was an authoritative lifeline and conduit of information for all families, rich or poor.

Now Auntie is seriously ill. Her delusions are sometimes laughable, frequently embarrassing, but increasingly dangerous to herself and those around her. She totters about the place, and her regular falls seem ever more likely to cause her lasting, even terminal, damage. We support her, loyally, of course. Only the other day I stumped up nearly £150 as my small part of the multi million pound care package which pays for her care during her sad decline.

Auntie's bizarre behaviour is happening more and more often. She has developed a worryingly peculiar way of responding to world events, where, when something happens which she considers 'relevant', she will send a team of alleged journalists to the scene of the event, where the dutiful stooge will stand around in the crowd of onlookers/mourners/innocent passers-by, shove a microphone under a random nose, and ask such penetrating questions as, "Well, what's the feeling in your village now that Nelson Mandela has died?" Every mundane reply is then transmitted back to an adoring audience, no-doubt glued to their radio or TV set. The whole Mandella farrago was a disgrace, and I have only just felt that it was safe to turn on Radio Five Live again.

Only the other day, there was a terrible and heartbreaking murder of a young girl in Didcot. She was last seen at the railway station, late on a winter's afternoon. So what did Auntie do? She sent a reporter to the scene, and announced with breathless excitement, "And we can now speak to (anonymous hack) who is STANDING OUTSIDE THE STATION WHERE THE MISSING GIRL WAS LAST SEEN!" Wow. Amazing. Bear in mind, this is radio. What were we to expect? Would the latter day John Pilger might stumble upon a vital clue to the girl's disappearance? Would the perpetrator of the crime suddenly appear, and confess on air?

My small but loyal readership will have gathered by now that my views, in political terms, are some way right of centre, but not, as one critic has alleged, some way to the right of Eugene Terreblanche. 

 Auntie used to pick her way slowly, but safely and surely along the ridge above the political divide. Now she has lost her footing, and although she occasionally tries to grab a protruding bush or a rock ledge to break her fall, her momentum gathers force as she plunges into the left-wing abyss.

Take Auntie's pride and joy, BBC Question Time. The format is simple. Ship in a rent-a-mob audience of students, malcontents, entitlement freaks, Guardianistas and beards. Choose any three from Auntie's centrally-contracted cast of stars - Owen Jones, Baroness Toynbee of Tuscany, George Monbiot, Mehdi Hasan, Chuka Umunna, Kevin Maguire, Diane Abbott…(need I go on?) 

Then drop into this toxic mix a random right-winger, and let the death of a thousand verbal cuts commence. I am also reliably informed that Anjem Choudary, after his star turn on The Today Programme, is being lined up for a regular spot on Thought For The Day.

While we try to persuade Auntie to take a holiday, and to come with us to a lovely health resort in Zurich (DIGNITAS, P.O. Box 17 8127 Forch), she seems content to sit in her dusty old home, surrounded by memories of old boyfriends from the ANC, Hamas, Al Qeda, The Provisionals, Stonewall, Greenpeace and the RMT union. Maybe we will all be sad when the first Christmas comes when she is no longer with us, but I, for, one will look back on a long life, largely well led, and raise a thankful glass to her her

Saturday, 21 December 2013


This confession gives me little pleasure. It is like appearing before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to lay bare my soul, and utter one final - yet-primal - scream, which will wipe away my sins. I am reminded of the (apocryphal) pun from Sir James Napier in 1844. 

After his brutal conquest of the Indian province of Sindh in 1844, he is supposed to have issued the statement 'Peccavi' ( For the benefit of those who didn't learn Latin at school, that means, 'I have sinned' Geddit? No? Well let's move on.

MY SIKH BUDDY  When I were but a lad, I grew up in a street of ex-railwaymen's terraced cottages. Worth a fortune now, but then, pretty basic. We were on the edge of a lovely park - acres of green grass, trees, swings and a river. I had a mate. He didn't go to my school, because I went to the posh local school that offered Assisted Places. I guess his mum and dad didn't know the ins and outs of the system. His name was Sutje Manavinder Singh. We used to play cricket, tennis and football across the seasons, and he was a lovely lad, polite, loyal and friendly. It was all about innocent boys' stuff because we didn't waste time chasing girls. You have to remember this was the early sixties, and Sex was yet to be invented. But here's the confession. Like most of the other local rough and tumble lads, I called him 'Sooty'. He didn't seem to mind. We never talked about our cultural background or felt uneasy in each other's company. Our paths diverged and life moved on. But, I regularly wake in a muck-sweat thinking of what hurt my casual and thoughtless misinterpretation of his given name may have caused him. If he is, in his late 60s, still receiving therapy, then all I can say is, "sorry, mate, no harm intended"

SATURDAY NIGHT TELEVISION For what seemed like an eternity in my mid-teens, I sat and watched Saturday night TV. 'Yoof' didn't go out in those days. We were much too under the thumb of parents who believed in staying together, despite chasms of differences, and mutual irritation. So, there might have been Dr Who, followed by some anodyne bullshit, and then the evening's highlight - The Black and White Minstrel Show.

OMFG (as the liberated twitterati are wont to say) I was exposed to nearly an hour of entertainers dressed up as cartoon black men, with straw hats and rubber ring lips, singing mellifluously about 'de Swanee Ribber'. The show was my Dad's favourite, but to be brutally honest, I only stuck with it for the occasional glimpse of long-legged dancing girls. Well as you can imagine, this turned me into a raving fascist butcher, and very few weekends since then have not featured me launching myself into the ghettos in order to butcher random black people who are unfortunate enough to cross my path. And, I suppose the dancing girls whose long limbs stoked my adolescent fantasies, well, they were victims as well, yes? Objectified and demeaned by being ogled by a spotty teen sitting on a cheap sofa in a Midland town. Shameful.

PREJUDICE WEARS AN ARRAN SWEATER  God, this confession stuff is hard. I do understand that being Irish may be difficult. You have a great backlog of dodgy decisions and tactics to cope with. Some of your lot backed the Germans in two world wars, supported a murderous terrorist organisation, you had a banking collapse like none other before or since, and your clergy have a very questionable stance on women's rights …but, hey, let's not nit-pick. What may have hit you really hard is the shameful legacy of English hippies trying to be more Irish than Mick (sorry, Mícheál Ó Coileáin) 

Yes we strutted our stuff, sang songs about The Troubles, the Easter Rising, Bold Devileira, and all of the bullshit. And all this in the (not biblical) Upper Room of a Warwickshire pub. Probably serving Ansells. I have a 'wake in fright' memory of actual performing at a Sinn Fein benefit concert, again in a spit and sawdust Leamington pub. I can only hope that my performance was incompetent enough to have brought no glory on those we were raising money for.

THE PENNY DROPS, AND THE LID COMES OFF TO REVEAL A SORRY TALE OF BIGOTRY This is where it gets deadly serious. Two childhood aberrations, two cardinal sins, two journeys into the Dark Side…oh, heavens, did I just say that? What I mean to say was "two journeys which did not follow the Path of Light." Phew. Apologies. Moving on rapidly, I don't want to go into The Four Yorkshiremen territory, but as kids we were not very well off. I used to save my pocket money. It was usually two shillings and sixpence a week. Half-a-Crown. 12.5p in today's money. The half-crown was a substantial bit of kit. It was heavy. It had real value. If you had two half-crowns to rub together, then you were seriously minted. But that isn't the issue. It was where I kept my half-crowns. Can you believe that I used to force those half-crowns between the exaggerated lips of a cartoon black man who was enamelled onto the side of my money box? 

Surprised that it hasn't shown up on any of my CRB checks? Flabbergasted that I was allowed to work with children for so long? Well, as I look back on my life, I can only shudder in shame at the indignities I inflicted upon noble African-Americans everywhere. I have saved the least forgivable until last, because I don't want you to leave this blog with any shred of sympathy for my vile past. To quote Sir John Betjeman (who might have been a great poet if he hadn't been white, middle class and able to write and speak his own language) "I'm dying now and done for, what on earth was all the fun for?" My dying fall concerns jam, marmalade and badges. Yes, I can see the antennae of Race Industry professional are twitching with alarm. ("Surely even he wouldn't have sunk so low …?", "I could believe almost anything of him, but THIS …?", "Completely defies belief…and he's still out there, with access to our youngsters..?" OK. Time to come clean. There's no other way of saying this. Hide behind the sofa if you have a medical condition. I. Collected. Stickers. From. Inside. Jars. Of. Robertson's. Jam. And. Marmalade. And. Then. Traded. Them.In.For…….A GOLLIWOG BADGE!!! 

I know now, in the depths of my old age, that I was complicit in a vicious conspiracy to demonise, belittle, mock and denigrate millions of innocent black people. My greed and avarice probably contributed to the horrors in Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s, the Sharpeville Massacre, the Tottenham Riots, and the disgraceful imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. I would like to say that I wore my badge with pride, but that would be a lie. I think the pin fell off in the playground at school, and the gruesome effigy was probably swept up by the caretaker and put in the incinerator.

SO HERE ENDS THE CONFESSION I am a certifiable racist moron. My bags are packed. My final wishes have been scribbled onto the back of a BNP election flyer. When the BBC Thought Police make their dawn swoop, I am ready, Just one request. Please don't send me to an HMP where all the inmates, officers, and admin staff are forced to bow down to the east during Morning Prayers.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Grand reopening of Constantine House postponed. An FDC spokesperson says,"We are working tirelessly with approved partners for a successful outcome to this community project which has raised the flagpole for a holistic high altitude view of the ongoing situation."
March Town Band said to be "incandescent" over last minute cancellation by Fenland District Council. The band had been booked to play at the delayed opening of the refurbished Constantine House. At the last minute, the ceremony was cancelled. An FDC official said," We regret the inconvenience caused to stakeholders, but several high profile providers have dropped the ball on this occasion." Bandleader Alf Miggins said, "We are well gutted. We had been rehearsing a special arrangement of 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.'
Crowds had to be dispersed by riot police outside Constantine House today. They had gathered to celebrate the long-awaited reopening of the iconic Wisbech landmark, but the mood turned ugly when it became clear that the ceremony was not to go ahead. In a press release, the FDC Beloved Leader said, "We are involved in Blue Sky Thinking here, and when we have all our ducks in a row, we will fire the silver bullet which will set this exciting civic regeneration initiative up and running,"
A disappointed crowd of three people who had been queuing overnight to attend the proposed reopening of Wisbech's Constantine House turned ugly, as the ceremony was postponed at the last moment. FDC officers responsible or regeneration issued a press release saying, "We have re-baselined the green light governance of this integral initiative, and we are fully committed to maintaining the council's reputation for fostering a 'can-do culture'". In the resultant melee a journalist from Suffolk was arrested by police, but was bailed to appear before magistrates in 2020.
They are certainly dancing on the potholed streets of Wisbech's Nene Quay tonight, after a huge crowd gathered to celebrate the unveiling of three new giant photographs of idyllic Fenland scenes, which have been put in place to cover the crumbling facade of Constantine House. The only sour note was sounded by the ill-mannered booing by the crowd every time the face of FDC's Beloved Leader appeared on the many big screens erected around the town.
In a shock development, on the eve of the removal of the plywood windows of Constantine House, the Executive Institute of Environmental Infrastructure Organisations (Ee-eye-ee-eye-oh) called a halt to restoration work, as their scientists have discovered a colony of endangered rats in the building. The Javanese Bluefoot Rat (Caeruleus Piedica Javensis Rattus) is unknown outside its Indonesian heartland, but scientist believe it has been attracted to the Fenland site by the abundance of its main dietary requirement - pigeon excrement.
There was a widely supportive response on social media tonight, as the Beloved Leader of FDC, flanked by his media spokesperson, issued the following statement. "Regarding Constantine House, we are aware that there has been an unfortunate level of public cynicism about our approach. It is with deep sincerity that I say to you today, we have focused on area-specific benchmarking that, alongside our commitment to citizen-specific community engagement, will ensure a mutually beneficial outcome which will ultimately empower all end-users."
An attempt to stage an alternative  Wisbech Rock Festival on the roof of Constantine House came to an abrupt end when the drummer of the local band 'Negligence' crashed through the decaying timbers as the band launched into their opening number 'We Are Wisbech'. The drummer, Wayne Thribb, is in a critical condition, as he awaits a potentially crucial Basspedalectomy.
Several pleasure cruisers, three families of ducks, two migrant geese and a discarded sofa had their journey down the Nene disrupted today as a large part of the facade of Constantine House collapsed into the river. The Beloved Leader of FDC said, in an emotional broadcast to thousands of supporters anxiously gathered in Wisbech Market Place, "This is a minor setback. I have a dream. A dream that one day, people will be able to walk into The Belfast Building and buy rayon sheets and nylon pillow-cases. I have a dream!"
A plan to turn the derelict Constantine House into the St Pancras of NE Cambridgeshire has been shelved, after a bitter disagreement between local solicitors Hooke, Lyne & Sinker, builders Fenland Erections, and fourteen of the sixteen groups rivalling each other to restore what has been called "one of the most evocative railway lines between two Cambridgeshire towns which begin with 'M' and 'W'".
As more of Constantine House subsides into Nene Quay and the river, FDC officers hit back at critics " We have organised a fast-track facilitation of on-line resources to ensure a beneficial collective outcome to this minor problem. We have engaged users, introduced a framework compatible with community flexibilities and freedoms and, given the coterminous evidence based research by our investigative officers, we say, with the utmost confidence, that in 2015 we will be funding a feasibility survey to look into the possibility of replacing the existing photographs of Fenland scenes with specially commissioned graffiti by The Southwell Road Artists' Collective."
Grand reopening of Constantine House postponed. FDC officer in charge says,"Tirelessly, we are working with approved partners for a high altitude view of the ongoing situation to this community project which has raised the flagpole for a holistic successful outcome."

Monday, 9 December 2013

My overnight bag is packed. I have soap and toothpaste enough for a six-month sentence. When the Thought Police knock on my door in the early hours of tomorrow, I will go gently into that good night, provided by the BBC and a generation of lily-livered left-wing lunatics.
I expect that the intelligentsia will cast my words into the same depths as those currently occupied by Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and the editor of The Daily Mail. So, Nelson Mandela is dead. At 95, he has had a good innings, especially considering the years he spent in a inhumane prison. But what justifies the current blanket media coverage? The BBC have disgraced themselves with their fawning and uncritical coverage, but have failed to respond to annoyed listeners and viewers.

The picture is from a 1930s cartoon. A guest at a posh dinner has lit his cigar before The Royal Toast. The cartoon was by H.M. Bateman, and is titled "The Man Who Lit His Cigar Before The Royal Toast.' Look at the outrage, hate and vein-popping anger on the faces of the other guests. Brilliantly done, but there is a serious point. These cartoon toffs are nowhere near as outraged as some social media celebrities over the last couple of days. A decent, honourable and brave man, who had a huge impact on the country of his birth has died. We should praise his achievements, and be thankful that his wisdom changed the way people thought in his country. 
But wait. I read that an inconsequential newsagent has been arrested, questioned and cautioned (and had a DNA swab taken) because he cracked a feeble joke about Nelson Mandela's passing. Closer to home, a witch hunt was stirred up (by someone who should know better) because a local councillor re-tweeted another fairly dim joke about Madiba. The BBC have gone into saturation mode over Mandela's death. 
The moronic media pounces on the latest Mandela tribute like a fat vulture. "Why is there no Mandela tribute from Katie Price?" 'Why have One Direction stayed silent..?" "Why have Wisbech Town Council not renamed Churchill Road 'Mandela Boulevard?"
What we need is a little perspective. A brief but pertinent Q and A session

(1) Has Mandela's life and work affected anything in Britain? No

(2) How has Mandela's legacy improved the life of black SA citizens? Pass
(3) What has been Mandela's impact on world affairs? Negligible
(4) Has his legacy inspired a new generation of democratic black leaders? No
(5) Why are we bothered? Ask the BBC

Thursday, 7 November 2013


Two local Wisbech artists, Annie Appleby & Nadine Ridgewell are holding their first joint art exhibition at Octavia View, South Brink ,Wisbech PE13 1JQ. The exhibition will run from Friday 8th November until January 3rd. 

There will be over 30 pieces of work displaying a wide range of subjects using mixed media. All items are for sale and are competitively priced.

An open evening has been arranged for Friday 8th November at 7pm to coincide with After Hours Live featuring Musician/singer/song writer Tommy Loose also starting at 7pm with free admission. The café will be open for drinks and snacks.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

No, I have to say that I never met the legendary Steve. From what I have read, I don't think he and I would have got on terribly well. This is about those awful, exploitative, dissembling, largely corrupt, venal and self serving people who blight modern society."Wait, do you mean the bosses of payday loan companies?" "No, fool, was my description too vague? Try Politicians."

One of my pet hates, and yes, there are enough to stock a small zoo, is when politicians and lobbyists spout all these bull***t  claims plucked from the air about various initiatives, and the number of jobs which would be lost/created if the initiative did or didn't happen.

Leave the EU? That'll cost 300,00 UK jobs. Build HS2? That'll create 3,000,000 new jobs in Birmingham alone.

Bring the railway back to Wisbech? Let's see, think of a number, multiply it by 700, add the combined years when your children were born and we get, erm, well at least 20,000.

Stump up a small fortune of Fenland money to improve the A14? 15,000 new posts created, and that's just in Manea.

Pay people a living wage? Disastrous to UK industry and commerce. There would be 2400 P45s issued at Fenland Hall for starters.

Control EU immigration? Utterly unthinkable. UK businesses would, overnight have 47,000 jobs unfilled, and the 24,000,000 Britons who currently work in Croatia, Estonia, Malta, Romania and Slovenia would be made redundant within three weeks.

Cut the £ 400,000,000 yearly aid budget to Pakistan? Preposterous. UK jobs would be savagely hit, and whole communities would be reduced to dust-bowl dependency. That's in Britain, by the way - not Pakistan.

We have a lovely commemorative tea-towel which embodies the enviable human qualities required be a successful servant of the electorate. These have become a collectors' item, and were lovingly - and ethically -  hand-made in our factory in Bangladesh. As soon as the site is cleared of the rubble from the recent unfortunate collapse, more will be available in many bright and original colours. These are available in packs of three from or from all major charity shops and 24/7 off-licenses

Sunday, 3 November 2013

SO, HERE'S ANOTHER THING ... (two rants on the same night ...? The old duffer must be on the way out) Possibly so, possibly so, but the more I think about the language Nazis, the worse it gets. They are more despicable than the work-shy retards who strip our rail network and beautiful churches of precious copper and lead. In fact the language thieves are worse. Too lazy too create their own vocabulary, they steal someone else's, and with the gross bulk of political correctness leaning in their favour, they render our language ever more barren and inoperable. 

WHICH IDIOT (who probably got a 2:2 in Social Interaction Strategies at The University of South Lincolnshire) decided that it would be a good idea to label the practice of flattering and deceiving vulnerable children so that they would be compliant with terrible and obscene sexual acts at a later date? Now, call me a pedant, an ideologue, a right-wing bastard - in fact any kind of bastard - and I will be left with a warm glow in my heart, and a solitary tear of joy trickling down my weathered cheek. But tell me that one child's innocence has been defended by this lazy corruption of a perfectly decent and valid English word, and I will call you a knave, a fool and a liar.
IF SOMEONE GROOMS A DOG OR A HORSE .... or any other kind of species, they do it to make the animal look beautiful, clean, happy and healthy. I have to say that since I reached puberty, I have never understood the allure of animals and pets, but that's for another day. But, you can't say that the groomee has come to any harm. But here we go - a thirteen year old girl meets (either in person, or on-line) an older man. She is flattered, cuddled and made to think that she is a special human being, and after being given alcohol and/or drugs, she is sexually violated. For crying out loud, is this the same thing as some Middle-England, Middle-Class, Middle-Income couple brushing up their Collie for the local dog show?
I HAVE TO ADD that no dogs, horses, guinea pigs or child sex-abusers died during the writing of this blog.

 "Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

SORRY FOR SUBVERTING THE WORDS OF THE WORLD'S MOST CELEBRATED DRUNKEN WELSHMAN, but for several years a sense of frustration and irritation has been building, and now it has reached genuine rage. Against what? The dying - not of the light - but of the English Language. It is the death of a thousand cuts, the knives being wielded by those who think playing around with the meanings of words is a substitute for social change.

Lets start with education. It gave me a good living for forty years, but I was never so glad to leave anything or anywhere when retirement beckoned. One of the main irritants was the incessant playing around with language. For example, almost overnight some years ago pupil became verboten, and was replaced with student. Hardly the end of the world, you might say, but it blurred the rather important distinction between children in school and young adults at college or university. We would have regular visits by real students, finishing their teaching qualifications at university, and they would take classes of children, who were also called students. Meaning becomes blurred, and has to be defined by context - a chancy business. And don't get me started on the awful word learners which, thankfully, seems not to have survived.
Some of the worse verbal tangling and twisting used to go on in and around the Special Educational Needs Department. Oh, Goodness, is it still safe to call it that? One had to be so careful. We had everything from differently abled, through alternatively skilled to differing emotional perceptions. Did all this linguistic claptrap make one iota of difference to the educational and emotional development of these children? What do you think, seriously?

Away from schools, and into the real world for a while. Race and ethnicity is always good for a laugh. Or not. It is to the gulags for you if use the phrase coloured, but perfectly fine to talk about a person of colour. Well, that should be color, strictly speaking, as most of this nonsense originates from the USA. I love how the police sometimes say that are looking for someone of Asian appearance. Well, that narrows it down then. Police wish to interview someone who may be from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Iran, Japan, North Korea, Lebanon, The Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikstan or Yemen. To name but a few. You get my drift. Is black OK this month? I fully accept that if such, erm, people wish to use the 'N' word about themselves, that does not constitute an invitation for me to use it.

It is with the deepest sigh of all that I move on to gender and sexual politics. I would go to my eco-friendly, woodland, non-polluting grave a happy man - sorry - person, if I could just reclaim the innocent little word gay. Happy, carefree, bright, optimistic - it had so many uses, but now the word doesn't know where it is. After being kidnapped by the homosexual community (what IS that, by the way, has anyone ever been there?) it has now been snatched by naughty teenagers who use it as a term of abuse. Particularly in the public services here in Britain, we now fall over each other in our efforts to give every form of sexual adventure its proper vocabulary. Amazingly, I once had an invitation to seek out LGBT help and advice groups if I was feeling uncomfortable at work. Where was this intriguing message? Inside my payslip from Norfolk County Council. I love LGBT - it sounds like a kind of sandwich.

Even the relatively neutral term single parent has now attracted the attentions of the language nazis. Apparently lone carer is so, much more inclusive. How is that? And how about the size agenda? Not for me the demeaning fat, or the worth-challenging obese. A person of size works every time, don't you think? I'm also delighted that deeply offensive term English As A Foreign Language has been rendered much more inclusive. It is now English As A Second Language. Phew!

There's a much overused expression, you just could not make it up. I've cut and pasted the idiocy below, not from Private Eye, but from a UK government website. Don't believe me? The full link is here.

1.The word 'disabled' is a description not a group of people. Use 'disabled people' not 'the disabled' as the collective term.
2. Avoid medical labels, which say little about people as individuals and tend to reinforce stereotypes of disabled people as 'patients' or unwell.
3. Don’t refer solely to 'disabled people' in all government communications - many people who need disability benefits and services do not identify with this term. ‘People with health conditions or impairments’ is another common descriptor.
4. Avoid phrases like 'suffers from' which evoke discomfort or pity and suggest constant pain and a sense of hopelessness.5. Wheelchair users may not view themselves as 'confined to' a wheelchair. Try thinking of it as a mobility aid instead.6. Common phrases that may associate impairments with negative things should be avoided, for example 'deaf to our pleas' or 'blind drunk'.

AS A CHILD I was an avid reader of the great Billy Bunter books, by Frank Richards. Bunter was a cad, a scrounger, a liar, a cheat, and above all FAT. When my oldest boy began reading, I was delighted to find that King's Lynn library still had Bunter books on its shelves. I took one out and hurried home so the No 1 son could share my boyhood laughter. It was not to be. The modern Bunter had been 'retold' my some milksop children's author, and all references to Bunter's gross faults and character defects. had been removed. That's pathetic. Because that was the joke.

Friday, 18 October 2013

BUT NOW IS CHRIST RISEN FROM THE DEAD, AND BECOME THE FIRST FRUITS OF THEM THAT SLEPT. I'm not entirely sure what that quote has to do with cider making, but it's from Corinthians, and if  St Paul didn't know much about cider, he certainly knew how to turn a memorable phrase. So, my First Fruits endeavours have almost come full circle. From picking up the Bramley fallers from the vast orchards of the wonderful Mrs Liz Manning, of Barton Farm, through strenuous hours of chopping, pulping, pressing and squeezing, to the anxiety when the fermentation doesn't start, to the joy when it starts to clear, and the ecstasy when it tastes divine - it's been an incredible journey, as they might say on a trash TV reality show. The first few bottles have been filled and corked, and the labels have been printed. I have to confess that the clear glass bottles have been acquired by the distinctly lowlife method of raiding the Somers Road bottle bank - but future drinkers fret ye not - the bottles have all been scrubbed, cleaned and sterilised.

The cider is clear, pure, and tastes of autumn. I'm not sure what the alcohol content is - my guess is somewhere between 5% and 7%. The proof will be in the drinking. I will release it to the family over Christmas and observe the effects.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

AM AT A LOSS TO KNOW why here in Fenland, and more specifically, around Wisbech, we have not capitalised on one of our major assets. No. Sunlit uplands? Certainly not, we have neither. Enlightened and progressive local government? Do you have  PhD in irony? Fracking, perhaps? Nope - unless you can create energy out of mud. Oil reserves? Maybe, if you could distill the Brylcreem from the barnets of our town councillors. OK, I give up. What? Forget Zummerset - if you drew a ten mile radius around Wisbech, you would include one of the most intensive apple growing areas on the planet. So why not market a Fenland cider? On a small scale, here's what you do.
(1) Core some apples. You need a heavy blade, ideally a Chinese chopper (racist bastard, send for the UAF)

(2) Slice the apples in 1cm bits(3)Pulp them up - you can use a food processor, or a blade attachment on an electric drill

(3)Here is your major investment - a fruit press

(4)Put pulp inside mesh bag
(5) Turn the screw of the press
(6) Transfer juice to demijohns/barrels

(7) Throw in Camden tablets to kill wild yeasts
(8) Add sugar, if you prefer
(9) Make yeast starter
(10) Chuck yeast into juice
(11) Wait for fermentation to finish
(12) Bottle. leave to mature and drink.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN - A free guide to what politicians actually mean when they do media interviews. We are well into the season of party conferences. The broadcast media seem obsessed with the idea that the normal populations gives a s*** about these expensive and self-congratulatory junkets. Turn on any half decent radio station (Holbeach FM - that includes you out, sorry) and you will be regaled with wall-to-wall interviews with creatures who have scuttled out from under some party political stone, to blink in the daylight. They lie. They dissemble. They avoid answering questions. They use a parallel language which seems to make sense, but when analysed, signifies nothing. Next time you listen to one of these charlatans, have this handy guide ready, so you can understand what is really being said.

(1)  "Firstly, I'd like to....." If a politician begins an answer like this, then switch off immediately. It means they have been expensively coached by some PR 'expert', who may have scraped a 2:2 in Media Studies at the University of Chelmsford. It also means they have no intention of answering any questions, but have an agenda decided for them by their party special advisors.

(2)  "This is a conversation that we need to have with......" This means that one part of the party is daggers drawn with another, and rather than implying a dialogue, it translates as," I'm going to talk, and those bas****s are going to listen."

(3)  "We need to move forward..." This is a sure sign that some horrendous dirt from a few months ago has been uncovered by the press, but we have just invented a new scheme to give free incontinence pads to gay Albanian pensioners in order to deflect attention from the scandal.

(4)  This is in the same category as (4) When some official says, "Lessons have been learned since...''(30 teenage girls groomed by Pakistani rapists, 18 old people died through neglect and malnutrition in a care home, a delusional psychopath is released into the community by Health 'professionals' and then stabs to death a 32 year old father of two on an Underground platform...) What this means is, " S**t happens. The managers concerned have all been moved sideways, sent on a two-day re-evaluation course, or have been given a generous pension and been re-employed by G4S."

(5)  "I have every respect for..." This means that the person under discussion is a thieving, unscrupulous, child-abusing, moronic retard who, were they to be on fire outside the 99p shop, the interviewee would not p*ss on the flames.

(6)  "The voters have spoken, and I hope the winning candidate will continue to serve the community as I have tried to do." A nice way of saying, "So, I spend four years of my life listening to pathetic moans about dogshit on the pavement, opening bloody fetes and picking up cans of Fosters and used condoms from the village green, and they vote me out? The ungrateful,short-sighted retards deserve all they get!"

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

WE SAID GOODBYE to George today. Donning my ancient shiny suit, which hadn't seen service since the last funeral, I tried to remember how to tie a Windsor knot. Retirement has many challenges, but doing the simple repetitive motions which were second nature for every day of forty years of casting artificial pearls before real swine, now has to be thought about. Tie knotted, wife dressed, perfumed and complimented we set off for Friday Bridge. For non-Wisbech folk, there is no bridge, and no-one knows where the Friday comes from, but be that as it may, it has an amazing Victorian church, which sits at an alarming angle, as it appears be sinking slowly into the Fen. Were it in Italy, it would be surrounded by Japanese tourists and the subject of a thousand postcards. Joking aside, there was a poignant symmetry, because it was in this very church that June and George were married in 1965.

The church was full of folk, mostly of 'a certain age', but there were also grateful former pupils, some now with children of their own. The sun shone through the clear glass windows, and a captive butterfly fluttered against one of the diamond panes. Then came the family, and George himself, but from the congregation there were more smiles than tears, because after the organist had worked her way through the usual funeral fare, we heard the unmistakeable strains of The Harry Lime Theme, from The Third Man. George was having a final chuckle, and made sure that at least some of our sadness was blown away by his enduring sense of humour.

We sang Crimond, and All Things Bright And Beautiful, and joined in with prayers and invocations which were lucid and full of meaning, but reassuringly traditional. To the long forgotten strains of 'You Are My Heart's Delight' George was borne away by the pall-bearers and his family, and we emerged into the mid-day sunshine to chat, gossip and catch up with old acquaintances. A fine man had passed from us, but there was an unspoken agreement his that here was a man who, by his compassion, decency and good humour, left the world in a better state than when he came into it.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

This week, one of Wisbech's finest has passed from us. George Campion, teacher, football man, friend - and intrepid cyclist - has died at the age of 75. I first met him when my wife and he were colleagues at the short lived, curious, but always entertaining private school - St Paul's Gorefield. It was a school which set out to provide what might be called niche education for those youngsters who, for whatever reason, were finding things tough at larger schools. I have to say that although many of the children were delightful, there was always a slightly 'Decline and Fall' atmosphere about the place, and George regarded the school - and its two proprietors - with a kind of cynical benevolence. Eventually, when I got a call at work from my wife one Friday morning in December, to say that the proprietor had locked the school and fired all the staff. It was  rather a sad end to what had seemed a bright and optimistic enterprise. George helped my wife run a kind of home school at our house for some of the children for the remainder of that Christmas term. Over the next two years or so, George and my wife had to go to the small claims court to get their unpaid salaries, but eventually, after putting charges on the proprietor's house, honour was satisfied, and the money was paid.

Meanwhile, George had achieved his fifteen minutes of fame by being at the centre of Sandwichgate - when Wisbech Town FC, of which George was chairman, got into major trouble for not providing proper sandwiches for a visiting tea. There was much mirth drummed up by the national media, and the club were eventually suspended from the league, but as with all mini dramas, everyone moved on and the affair was consigned to the footnotes of Wisbech history.

My third son, who now has a Masters' Degree, was a rather eccentric and fragile lad when he was little, and after one too many episodes of him coming home from primary School in tears, we sent him to St Paul's. He developed an instant bond with George and as he grew up he came to regard George as a kind of surrogate grandfather. He became a passionate follower of Wisbech Town, often used to help with bits and pieces like selling programmes, and was encouraged by George to take his referees' badges and become involved with the sport at grass roots level. He will be taking George's passing particularly hard.

Although George had a good decade on me, age-wise, we both were educated at long since defunct Teacher Training Colleges. We were both proud bearers of that archaic award, the Certification In Education, or Cert Ed for short. We shared a distrust of modern teaching methods, but George had an infinite faith in the inherent goodness of young people, including some of the exludees from local schools, for whom visits from George were their only contact with learning. He was also much in demand by the parents of less troubled souls, who wanted to help their children with grammar school entrance exams, or to untangle the complexities of GCSE maths.

He was a man of infinite kindness. When my boys were youngsters, we didn't always have a great deal of money to spend on extras as a family, as my wife had chosen not to dance the Maternity Leave Tango, but instead put her career on hold while she brought the boys up herself. George had a static caravan up near Heacham, and let Diane and the boys use it whenever they felt the need to get away for a few days. He would take no payment, but would gratefully accept a bottle of his favourite Southern Comfort for his trouble.

It could be said of George that he was a simple man, but a man who saw and understood the complexities of life, and that he was a man of great learning, but one who wore his learning lightly. He was a familiar figure, pottering along the Lynn Road and about town on his ancient bicycle. We met each other infrequently over the last few years, as my boys had all left home to seek their fame and fortune elsewhere. I last bumped into him in the Market Place, me on my bike and he on his. His first question was always, "How are the boys..?" I was always pleased to give him a positive reply, but I just wish now that I had been gifted with the foresight to add the words, "Thanks in no small measure to you, George."

Thursday, 25 July 2013


The initial legal proceedings took place at Taverham Magistrates' Court, and the three men were represented by Mr Kenneth Land (Southwell, Dennis and Land) When the case was moved to Terrington Magistrates' Court, a new element entered the proceedings. It became apparent that witnesses were being threatened, and here there is a distinct similarity to the events surrounding the trial of Tony Martin, over thirty years later. Wallace Virgo said, "Members of the public who have come forward as witnesses in this case have been threatened and intimidated." On March 31st, the men were remanded after threats to intimidate witnesses at Terrington St Clement Magistrates Court. 

The former court at Terrington St Clement

Later in the proceedings, Kenneth Holman of 134 Lynn Road was called to the witness box, but refused to take the oath. He later returned, and gave evidence. He was  declared to be a hostile witness. On April 20th, Collins said, after unsuccessfully applying for bail, "I have had time to think about this. As far as I am concerned, I know nothing about anyone being threatened, and I think the Superintendent should not have said that"
The eventual trial took place at Hertford Assizes, where the Presiding Judge was Mr Justice Glyn-Jones , who had represented the parents at the Aberfan enquiry Other people declared to be hostile witnesses were Valerie June Foley, who was asked if she lived at 24 Guild Road, but denied it. She refused to look at a statement she had previously made to the police. Friends of the suspects leapt to their defence. Warden said he had been to the fair, went to his parents' home, watched TV and then fell asleep in the chair. John Richard Warden, of 33 Bath Road, said he had come home to find his son asleep in the chair. Grace Evelyn Warden corroborated the story. At the time David Warden was living with Sandra Setchfield, but was always "popping in and out." At the trial, Mr Michael White, the landlord of The Bowling Green said that Cooper and Warden had been in there drinking, but did not return as they usually did before closing time. They had been whispering, and talking to each other outside. Cooper claimed that on the night of the murder he was trying to break into a garage in Lynn Road, Wisbech, to steal cigarettes. Due to give evidence, Kenneth Osborne Holman failed to arrive, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Holman was widely believed to have been intimidated into silence and he was later sentenced to three months in jail. Cooper was known as a local thief, had been in prison, but had no record of violence.

Against a background of intimidation, local loyalties and the fear that hardened criminals inspired amongst Waterlees residents, there were eventual convictions. The verdict was that the men were guilty of manslaughter. Glyn Jones said that it was "One of the worst cases of manslaughter ever to come before me." Cooper was judged to be the planner and was sentenced to fifteen years for manslaughter and five for burglary, to run concurrently. Warden, who used the violence received twelve and five, as did Collins. No-one, apart from the criminals themselves, has ever suggested that there was a miscarriage of justice in 1967. In his statements, Warden seemed to be saying that yes, he had done it, but the police would be hard pushed to prove anything, as the killers had been meticulous about leaving no traces.

And yet, and yet. In 1977, Commander Wallace Virgo, head of the Serious Crime Squad, was convicted of corruption, and sent to jail . As the ensuing corruption investigations widened, the obscene publications squad was replaced in its entirety with a new group of officers drawn from the uniformed branch, and in all over twenty detectives were dismissed or required to resign. When the cases ultimately came to trial in 1977 the presiding judge Mr Justice Mars-Jones summarised those involved as having engaged in "corruption on a scale which beggars description" Ten years earlier, had the case-hardened and confident London detectives arrived in the relative backwater of the Fens and 'done a job' on some local men who were certainly career petty criminals, but not very bright? The jury's verdict was certainly unequivocal, and the three men were perhaps lucky to have only been convicted of manslaughter. The last executions in mainland Britain had been in August 1964, so the three were never going to face the death penalty, but they were certainly reprieved from a much longer life sentence. The killing of John Auger is by no means an unsolved crime, but the suspicion remains that there were others involved who did not face justice.