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.