#End of Days, Podcast on BBC5Live, presented by Chris Warburton, produced by Ciaran Tracey and music by Hex from the album, Earth.

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I asked my girlfriend if she’d heard of Waco. No, she hadn’t. That shocked me a bit. But I’m the reader that sometimes writes stuff in the family, nobody ever reads. And, of course, I’d heard of David Koresh, but I didn’t know that wasn’t his real name, he’d picked it for the biblical resonance in the same way Shirley Crabtree called himself Big Daddy and John Wayne called himself John Wayne. I’ve got my own beliefs about the four horsemen of the apocalypse coming here soon induced by global warming, but hopefully I’ll be dead by then, but I’ve no great belief in the great hear-ever-after. If it’s any consolation I know the dates the world never ended. 1874, 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975. The Messianic Kingdom didn’t happen and the view from the Watchtower was they’d gotten it wrong, but they’d get it right the next time. It’s a blood sport. Us and Them.  I might even have lucked into Koresh’s association with the Seventh-Day Adventists and a splinter group of a splinter group, the Branch Davidians. There’s a kind of meme repeated in the podcast that sums up that general sense of knowing something, the wackos from Waco. That ties in with my worldview of politics in America and the moron’s moron being elected President of the United States, or the disunited States, would be more appropriate tag. Waco is in Texas and is the kind of place revivalist preachers like Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry flourished in real life and where the soft drink Sergeant Pepper was borne for those that didn’t like moonshine whisky.

God’s not alone, with a slew of books and films about the End of Days and Armageddon. Tara Westover’s Educated, for example, begins with Tara, aged seven, ‘in a little patch of Idaho’ with no birth certificate and no schooling, watching her Mormon father burying rifles and preparing for The Day of Abomination and asking God for his help in the coming shoot-out with the Feds who were coming to get them. Someone is always coming to get you at the End of Days.

Thirty people from London, Manchester and Nottingham at Waco, of mainly African-Caribbean origin,  were inside the compound at Mount Carmel. Twenty-six of the seventy-two men, women and children that died came from Britain and had followed David Koresh to their deaths.  He was labelled leader of a death cult and a false prophet by security forces. And the FBI coordinated siege which lasted fifty-one days and ended in tragedy on the 19th April 1993 was called appropriately enough by the authorities ‘Showtime’.

Chris Warburton and producer Ciaran Tracey take a more measured approach than Showtime. Their aim was almost anthropological to find out who these British citizens were, where they lived and what they worked at and how they’d come into contact with David Koresh and decided to give up their lives and follow him back to Waco. I don’t need to tell you anymore. Taste and see.

A Great British Injustice: The Maguire Story. BBC 2, BBCiPlayer, produced and directed by Eamonn Devlin and presented by Stephen Nolan.

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Fake news. Well, here’s a fake conviction that of the Maguire Seven: Anne Maguire, her husband Patrick, her teenage sons Vincent and Patrick, her brother Sean Smyth, her brother-in-law Guiseppe Conlon and a family friend, Patrick O’Neil. Prime minister Tony Blair was quoted on television and news media, on 10th February 2005, to apologise on behalf of the nation, for the wrongful imprisonment of the Maguire family. “They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated”.  Along with the Guilford Four, also wrongly convicted of The Guilford bombing on the 5th October 1974, they were found guilty of the crime of being Irish.

There’s a series on telly, which I’ve not seen, called, Making A Murderer about Steve Avery. Yet I know by people talking about the twists and turns of the serial story that it contained the planting of forensic evidence, blood splatters, and that he was wrongly convicted.  The subtext is, fucking Americans, they’re all crazy, and it could never happen here.

Forensic evidence is the killer in any trial. I can vaguely remember a documentary questioning the nitroglycerine evidence in the Maguire Seven trial, the only physical prop the Crown Prosecution Service had for convicting them. Unlike the Guildford Four none of them had signed confessions. The documentary found the traces nitroglycerine found that convicted the Maguire Seven, could have been picked up by playing with an ordinary stack of playing cards.

“None of you broke,” says Nolan to Vincent Maguire. “We had nothing to break for,” he replies.

But in its own way that was also fake news. All of them broke, but in different ways.

Anne Marie, the youngest girl, aged seven was too young to be tagged an Irish bomb maker and terrorist. ‘Auntie Annie’s bomb-making factory’ was the kind of tabloid headlines which showed the media’s objectivity, an amplification of anti-Irish hatred. But the child was old enough for grown men in the streets to spit in her face. She was sent to live with her mother’s sister in Belfast and appeared on the programme and admitted to being a recovering alcoholic, her stories of loss alone were enough to make a man weep.

Vincent and Patrick, sixteen and fourteen, were sent down for four years and classified as Category A, prisoners in adult prison. Patrick, in particular, was broken, a boy that seemed disconnected from the world and at fourteen couldn’t tell the time, until he learned the hard way, by studying the clock face at his trial. Repeatedly beaten by the police, he said he gripped the desk while they were interrogating him and his tears made a puddle at his feet. In prison it was worse. He was classified as a suicide risk and locked up for twenty-three hours a day with a constant low light on, but he didn’t know what a suicide risk was until they told him and put that thought in his head. Every story here is of adults breaking because of their children and children broken on the wheel of injustice and separation.

The irony is Patrick Maguire had been a member of the British Army and he and his wife Ann Marie were members of the local Tory Party (such sins are forgivable) before being convicted of terrorist offences. Sir John May who was appointed by the government to investigate the miscarriage of justice, as expected, exonerated everyone involved from the judge who bemoaned the fact he could no longer hang Anne Maguire, and the Guilford Seven but satisfied the cry for justice by sentencing her to twenty-five years, of which she served nineteen and the lowest tariff of four years given to innocent children. Sir John exonerated police officers who battered women, men and children to gain a conviction based on lies and then covered it up, even when the Balcome Street Gang came clean and said they’d done the Guilford bombing. These ranking police officers were not held to account, nor was the Crown Prosecution Service that protected them by falsifying accounts, withholding evidence and lying in a way that if happened in open court would be classified as perjury.

The jailing of the Maguire Seven was portrayed as an unfortunate accident like a comet falling from the sky and striking their home. The forensic officer who conducted the initial examination and found traces of nitroglycerine appeared on this programme to re-iterate that the results were positive and there was no procedural error. Sir John May’s job was then to find a suitable scapegoat that would satisfy everyone but the innocent. And he found it, in all place, a tea-towel. Auntie Annie’s bomb-making factory had a tea-towel in it. And with the kind of logic, Terry Pratchett delighted in,  a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle, it was proved conclusively that Auntie Annie had handled a tea-towel, in fact, wiped her hand on it, as had her husband, children, brother, brother-in law, and a visitor. Here’s the rub, or smear, if you like, one of her visitors –not any of the Maguire Seven, who had been exonerated – but another Irish person, a terrorist had passed through the kitchen and wiped his or her hand on that dishtowel.  Auntie Annie had then handled the dishtowel and the nitroglycrine had jumped like a virus to contaminate anyone nearby. Tony Blair’s apology, stuff it, no smoke without fire. Guilty of being Irish. Therefore, guilty of knowing a terrorist that washed and dried the dishes for you. A good heart is hard to find as Feargal Sharkey used to belt out.

The truth was, of course, far more mundane. The Surrey laboratory where testing was conducted had its work surfaces polluted with the substances they were testing for. A false positive is still a positive if you’re telling stories about an Englshman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walking into a Surrey laboratory and coming out contaminated with prejudice. But not only was the methodology flawed, which can happen, larger questions of justice had to be asked about why no one was called to account for torturing and beating adults and the Maguire children. It makes you laugh, of course, when the government appoints another impartial Queens Counsel to look at the tragedy at Grenfell. I’m sure he’ll be totally impartial, as Sir John was towards another despised group. God help our impartial justice system.

Apostasy written and directed by Daniel Kokotajlo.


Debut screenwriter and director Daniel Kokotajalo weaves together apostasy in Kingdom Hall, and strands of growing sexuality and defiance in a North of England family setting. Middle-aged, Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) has two teenage daughters and holds on to Jehovah Church doctrine like a nursing mother. The gold standard here is Jeanette Winterton’s autobiographical 1985 novel, adapted as a 1990 BBC serial, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.  The Jesuit maxim also applies in both cases, ‘Give me the child until he was seven, and I’ll show you the man,’ or  women.

Devout Alex (Molly Wright), and her older sister, Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) who recants her religious beliefs in the here-ever-afters and leaves the family home and relationship are a test case into the nature of belief and God.

Kokotajlo who was brought up in a Jehovah Witness household knows religion is a serious business. In Putin’s Russia, for example, Jehovah Witnesses are (and I’m meant to say here, allegedly,) persecuted for their refusal to serve in the armed forces. Heinrich Himmler also had them rounded up and placed in concentration camp and marked out with a lime-green triangle for much the same reason. Since Jehovah Witnesses were taught to expect the apocalypse, and labelled Hitler the Antichrist, this Armageddon was expected and even overdue. But Himmler made use of their pure Aryan blood, their essential honesty and willingness to work themselves to death. He advocated bureaucratic pragmatism, and women’s labour should be utilised  as servants and baby-sitters in the houses of SS guards outside the barbed wire of concentration camps.

Alex is the narrator when the film begins. She is much too pretty a match for gawky Steven (Robert Emms). In a rather awkward courtship ritual, the viewer learns he works as a window cleaner, while living alone and training to be an Elder in the Church. Alex works as a gardener, and has taken classes to learn and speak Urdu. We see her and another young Jehovah witness proselytising door to door among the Asian community of the run-down town having learned the language.

Both sisters have secrets. Alex is anaemic. She fingers a scrapbook with pictures of saved children that have died rather than have a blood transfusion.  Alex had a blood transfusion when she was a baby. She is aware of her unworthiness and how she could be shunned by her mother and the community of believers and spend the afterlife in hell. Steven squeezes her hand to show he understands. He’s pecked her on the lips. Her purity settled, the engagement is still on, until she gets a bit wobbly on her feet at a house party.

Luisia is at college studying God knows what. She explains to her mother that she might have to miss a meeting at Kingdom Hall to complete a module on Thursday night. They argue. But her secret is bigger than that.

When Luisia admits to her mother and sister she is pregnant, Ivannah tries to reassure her that the Elders in the church will understand and be merciful. But Luisia questions orthodoxy. She tells her mum that she’d been on the internet and that in the 1970s some Elders had given up their jobs, taken their kids out of school and sold their property believing that the end of the world was imminent, but the Holocaust was postponed. God’s ways are opaque.

Luisia is shunned by the Elders in her church, quoting Galatians and the church fathers’ advice about having little to do with those not on the righteous path.  Her mother and sister are told to cut themselves off from her. This is made easier when Luisia leaves home.

Transitions are difficult in life and family. When next we see Luisia she is back at Kingdom Hall and asking one of the faithful to give up her seat so she can sit in the front row, where her mother is already sitting dry-eyed. There’s a jump in which we realize the coffin is that of Alex, her wee sister and the narrator. All the questions that have been asked about faith and relationship are multiplied like the woes of Job.

Ivanna turns to the church for answers, and the Elders look at Luisia and doubt she truly has renegaded her apostasy, her return to the church a false flag of faith. Neither side is truly prepared to cede ground, a loving mother and soon-to-be grandmother caught in the middle. A new-born baby, each life brings hope of renewal.



Jaroslav Hašek (1973 [?])The Good Soldier Švejk, translation from the Czech by Cecil Parrot and the original illustrations by Joseph Lada.

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The Good Soldier Svejk like author Jaroslav Hasek, as their names indicates was  a Slav and Czech serving in the 91st Infantry Regiment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when they still had an empire, at the beginning of the First World War.  It’s not All Quiet on the Western Front, because for one thing it’s the Eastern Front and the Russians are the immediate enemies.  Svejk’s not sure how to get there, who they are fighting or the reasons why. He’s an eternal optimist and hopeless buffoon, which makes him the mirror of a The Good Soldier depending on whom looks into his simple face. He always carries out orders and does what he’s told, but when no official or officer is sure what they’re doing either Svejk often ends up metaphorically and literally walking in circles as he does in his putative journey to meet up with the 91st Regiment at Budejovice.

‘Forward the brave!’ said the good soldier Svejk to himself. ‘Duty calls. I must get to Budejovice.

But by an unfortunate chance instead of going from Protovin south to Budejovice Svejk directed his steps to the north towards Pisek…

‘Jesus Christ,’ sighed Svejk. ‘Here I am back in Putin where I slept in a haystack’.

That’s where I stopped reading. Just after book 1. The Good Soldier Swejk began as a series of newspaper articles illustrated by Josef Lada. And the characterisation can be cartoonish, but ironically the situations more real. There’s no doubting that a good officer had the perfect moral duty to beat his batman to death to enforce discipline and doing so twice was to be commended. And military doctors had a perfect moral duty to root out malingerers that feigned blindness and deafness and having only one leg by starving and beating and forced purgings which killed many and cured other.

Look at the central character Count Pyotr “Pierre” Kirillovich Bezukhov is in Leo Tolstoy’s  Napoleonic novel War and Peace and you will find many of the same traits. Indeed, at the end of this epic ‘Pierre’ boasts that he is no longer the same man, he no longer beats his servants, even though it’s long overdue and deserved. It’s a class thing.

The Good Soldier Svejk is an everyman soldier that gets on with everybody and nothing surprises him and for every story being told he adds ten taller tales of his own. In the end I found the poor, simple, buffoon wearisome as the bureaucracies and officials he faces, but that may say more about me than Jaroslav Hasek’s character and how stupid the First World War was for every side on the Western and Eastern fronts.

Richard Holloway (2018) Waiting For The Last Bus: Reflections on Life and Death.

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Psalm 90:10 King James Version (KJV)

 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.


Richard Holloway is in his nineties, a bit older than the biblical fourscore years and he’s still waiting for that last bus. It’s a regular service. If he misses it, another is sure to follow. Life may be an unequal race, but in the end, we all end up  in a dead end. Holloway is agnostic, which means he’s just not sure and if it really matters. I guess that matches my own inarticulate beliefs.

Holloway when he was around my age was Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and even then he wasn’t sure he believed in the risen Christ, or the idea of God. He had doubts, as all good men had. It’s all there in his marvellous biography, Leaving Alexandria.

And he’s written a stack of other books about morality and religion and dabbles in poetry and music. His muse is his life and reading and ‘The Last Bus’ is an extension of Leaving Alexandria, the postscript before he becomes a postscript.

He talks about the faith he had in the pills advertised in Church Illustrated around 1958 that cured baldness, which he purchased, but went bald anyway.  The only known cure after than was combing back to front and trusting in a fair wind and the myopia of others. There’s a metaphor and lesson there somewhere and it is this, the human animal is cursed and blessed with self-awareness and self-consciousness. The secret is acceptance.  The consolation is as we get older ‘vanity and self-consciousness fade away’.  That’s the theory.

More difficult is when we can see the last bus and knowing there’s only one stop ahead of us, there’s no future in front of us and our past is behind us. He quotes Philip Larkin:

‘And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true’.

Holloway calls for gratitude, not for death, but for life and the beauty of the world. His polemic extends to the medical profession who keep us alive when all joy is gone.

When in doubt, make a documentary about is as Louis Theroux does in the state of California and the land of the free, in Altered States, Choosing Death.


Here we have a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. We have a man who is grateful for the life he has lived and chooses death and takes the lethal overdose a doctor had provided. He dies with his family beside him. A terminally-ill woman does not take the lethal overdose but dies of natural causes, in other words, cancer. Whether that a better end, who knows?

The ugly face of death is here, in a group called Exit. This is something Holloway recognises in his long years of religious life and strive, the fanatic, who is always right. Theroux follows this man and woman as they prep an elderly woman in a wheelchair about the best way to kill herself. She is terminally ill and has early onset dementia, her life partner, her arms and legs, her quality of life, had died with him.

Theroux is too smug to be a devil’s advocate, but here I felt there were more push factors than the pull of death. She didn’t want to lose her house, she couldn’t afford medical care and her arguments were about money.

Nobody really cares said the Exit advocate, apart from the immediate family of the dying. And he was right, I agreed with him. She’d end up living in a twelve-by-eight room with another resident if she was taken into state care. There’s a lack of light here, but no lack of clarity. His co-Exit partner agreed with him. Her argument was that was just the way it is.

We know that over 600 000 people in the United States last year were made bankrupt because of their medical bills, but that’s when the bad becomes the sad and we’re in the slippery slope argument beloved of fanatics of a different sort. I’ve been reading about how euthanasia programmes in Hitler’s Germany were first set up in hospitals by Himmler and rolled out across the conquered nations for ‘mouths unworthy of life’. This is a dilute Exit version in California and here is the evidence, when we start talking about money, we’re taking about empty mouths. Let’s not kid ourselves and call it something else. Certainty is man’s most dangerous weapon.

But certainty, like black holes and religion is plural and not singular. Holloway quotes the French mystic, Blaise Pascal.

FIRE: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars.

Death’s imperative does not go away and it’s always personal. We’re all waiting for that last bus, if we don’t get hit by a train first. Too late, too late, our regrets take us places we don’t want to go. Holloway quotes the words of the poet A.S.J. Tessimond god, or the ultimate reality will meet us wherever we are and however we have made of ourself.

He gives you time in heaven to do as you please,

To climb love’s gradual ladder by slow degrees

Gently to rise from sense to soul, to ascend

To a world of timeless joy, world without end.



Dynasties BBC 1, BBC iPlayer.



David Attenborough may be over ninety and have more liver spots than a cartoon leopard, his dynasty extends through British culture, but he’s still king of the jungle when it comes to these types of big budget programmes. David Attenborough’s whispering voice gives that imprint of quality control. Planet Earth. Blue Planet, Blue Peter.

Aye, David, you’re right up there and down there. Remember that bit where a whale mourned the loss of its calf? It led to nationwide campaigns to eradicate plastic. Here in Scotland we had newspaper campaigns calling for the elimination of plastic straws. No mention, of course, of the elimination of plastic water bottles, which with tap water of the same quality is the equivalent of buying sunlight or clean air. Both of these are also on sale. Buy now since its Black Friday, but actually it’s Monday. We’ve moved our days about as a marketing trick.

So last week, Dynasties had David, not an Attenborough, but a chimp, who would know better than to fall for that kind of guff. He was king of the jungle in his wee bit of the world. Happy ending. Then he died.

This week we had Emperor Penguins. There’s that old joke, all Emperor Penguins look the same. They didn’t bother giving them names. What they did  (just as expected) was get up close and personal in Ataka Bay, Antartica, where temperatures dipped to below sixty-degree Centigrade.

The camera follows the travails of the Emperor Penguins from courtship ritual, egg laying, to gestation, to a friendly bit of huddling, chick stealing, and death in a ravine. Well, I must admit, they cheated here. Nature may be red in tooth and claw, even in a whiteout, but the production team dug holes in the snow so some Empire Penguins could get out with their chicks and make the long march to the sea.

Two-thirds of those that started out in the journey make it to food and happiness in the freezing cold waters. That’s the good news.

Whisper the bad news David. Those chicks that made it to the sea, when it’s their turn to court and have chicks there’s less ice, less of a season to incubate the egg and more sea. So with global warming Emperor Penguins, like David the chimp, will be one of those species we capture on camera and keep alive in zoos. I’m assuming mankind will still be here, which is also not a given we care to face.


Brendan Rodgers’s Guy Fawkes’s break, which is a bit of a mouthful for a dummy.

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Scotland was playing Albania last night. Anyone that knows me would be aware if Alex McLeish had phoned and asked me to play centre-half,  I’d have told him what most of the Scotland squad told him, ‘nah, emulsioning the ceiling and I’m pretty busy this weekend, I’ll call you back when I’ve got a bit of time for Scotland.’ Which means, of course, you’ve no time for Scotland, but like me, you kinda like them to win, but don’t really give a shit. Painting yourself in a corner is a messy business.

Whereas I love Celtic and would rather watch Celtic play a tiddledywinks-cup tie against Yoker than watch the European Cup Final. So Scotland, aye and no. Let’s start with the positives. Kieran Tierney didn’t start. That’s good. Gives the boy a rest, he’s been magnificent for Celtic, no more so than that opening goal against Leipzig. That was our best game of the season and we were truly classy.  None more so than Tierney, who gave the future French left back a bit of a doing. What was so pleasing in the quartet of games before and after was the emergency of Ryan Christie, who was up for it and at it, yet again, last night for Scotland, with another superb performance.

Let me put that into context. Ryan Christie was on his way out of Celtic.  Admittedly, he was good in cameos. Running about, closing down, but doing nothing much of notes when he got on the pitch for the last ten minutes. It’s all about pecking orders.

Remember way back to the start of the season. Dembele and Edouard up front. Behind them another Frenchman Ntcham and we were playing exhilarating, attacking, football. Those were the golden boys. How quickly it all changes.

Dembele spat the dummy, we miss him, but not that much. Ntcham is injured and will find it hard to get back in. Only Edouard, who can blow hot and cold, is guaranteed a start, mainly because Griffiths in injured and out of form. We’ve one number 9, but most of the time that’s all you need and again, against Leipzig he had one run from the touchline, holding off defenders and zeroing in on goal that was almost as magnificent as his match-winning goal at Ibrox. He has the ability and has showed flashes, but a Celtic centre forward, playing so many games, should hit 40 goals a season, easily.

Calum McGregor, that other Scottish internationalist, and I don’t mean that as an insult, has had to filter back, and play just in front of the centre-halfs. We used to call it a midfielder. Then a sitting midfielder. Then we just said Scott Brown. He got injured and Calum passes the ball quicker and better. So that’s like Nitcham, we’ll just have to wait and see. Automatic pick no longer.

James Forest scored two for Scotland against Albania. One of them was an absolute belter, with most of the Celtic boys involved. I know I sound biased here, which I totally am. If Alex McLeish doesn’t start the Celtic boys then he’s more of an eejit than Donald Trump. Forest is first pick for Celtic, therefore he should be first pick for Scotland. Celtic are much better than Scotland so cogito ergo sum Alexed, or some bullshit like that.

Forest has been praiseworthy not only for going forward, but also for what we used to call defending, but is now called pressing. Let’s face it, he’s got to help out Lustig. Lustig hasn’t gone backwards. He’s stayed much the same. Reasonable and unreasonable, a replacement part we should have replaced two years ago.

Behind him, in goal, we have an adequate replacement for Craig Gordon in Bain, as he showed in his debut at Ibrox, he’s at the right club, but whether he’s good enough to fill his boots, we’ll need to wait and see.

What is clear is Boyata, who went missing when we most needed him in the Champions League tie in Athens, where we lost school-boy type goals, is our best header of the ball and our best centre-half.  But he’s off, wanting away and when it comes to Christmas, he’s a loss maker.

In fact we have a black hole in the middle of our defence that has needed filling for two years, which has been filled with chicken wire. While Filip Bankovic from Leicester has looked assured, he could be off back to his parent club too. That would leave us with Ajer, who’s been not too bad, but for such a big guy loses too many aerial duels. Jack Henry, part of the schoolboy group that lost in Athens.  I’d class him as our defensive Kouassi and fling in a bargain buy Gamboa, Nir Biton and a packet of cheese and onion crisps please and I want change back for all of them.  A bit rancid and leave an unpleasant taste, but can be tasty as that tackle from Simonvic.

Rogic is the real deal. What has been great is seeing him back to his imperious best. Scoring goals, creating chances and even lasting ninety minutes as he did he the plastic pitch at Livingstone.

It saddened me to see the loss of Daniel Arzani, his fellow Aussie, but not too much. He only lasted ten minutes and he’s not our player.

Scott Sinclair, Scottish player of the year, two years ago, has been in a word, rotten. Put it this way, when Calum McGregor starts popping up at right back, as he might, then Lustig knows he’s on the way out. Worse still if Johnny Hayes deputises for you. Actually, I think Johnny Hayes would make a great right back, if we want to go the route of the richest team in the world, Manchester United and start using former forwards at full back. Sinclair, to be fair, with that back-heel goal against Aberdeen has looked back, not to his best, but in front of Hayes, but not Calum. And waiting on the wings is Mikey Johnstone who is worth keeping and Lewis Morgan, who I’ve not really seen enough of, which maybe makes its own point.

Then there’s Leigh, father of the nation. I like Leigh, during Ronnie’s reign he was the kingpin. Forty goals in a season man. He doesn’t start. Doesn’t score and gets injured, even with Scotland he gets injured. Listen, Alex McLeish isn’t even phoning him. He needs to get is sorted, whatever it is. But we love him. That’s a good start.

Brendan Rodgers might have stumbled on his A-team through injuries and it was good to see him picking it after that game on Thursday night against Leipzig, with the exception of Gordon and Bankovic, who came on for Ajer against Livingston. Christie is a standout and a new million pound player. McGregor has looked assured and dare I say it, better than Scotland’s player of the year, Scot Brown, the former beating heart of Celtic. We’ve had a heart transplant and the ball is moving quicker. Sinclair and Edouard, we need a bit more.  Lustig is Lustig, done. Centre of defence has been filled with enough chicken wire until Christmas. We might not make it through the Europa League section and European football. The treble treble? The rest of our team – God Bless the Celtic and here’s hoping. In Brendan we trust.


Doing Money, BBCiPlayer, screenplay by Gwyneth Hughes and directed by Lynsey Miller.

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There are facts and there is fiction and there is factual fiction and fictional fact, so based on a true story, well, everything needs to ring absolutely true. Gwyneth Hughes and Lynsey Miller have pulled it off. Ninety minutes of drama and not a bum note.

Here’s the facts. We get them added on at the end, a rolling script. Around five million women in the world are traded as sex slaves. Multiply that fact by a factor of two, or five or ten.

Here’s the facts. Ana who testified before the Irish Parliament and told them about her being abducted from a London street during daylight and forced to work as a sex slave led to changes in the laws regarding modern-day-slavery.

Here’s the facts (always read the small print) the men that abducted her received up to three years in prison. Let’s say they’ll be out in a year. And able to set up immediately trading other women.

It’s the economy stupid. Galway, Belfast, Cork, Stockholm.  Ana played by Anca Dumitra has one of those conversations that begin with ‘why don’t you let me go?’  with her blonde female pimp, Ancuta (Cosmina Stratan) who has learned to answer the phone with ‘hallo baby’ and hide the claws until they need to be shown.

Ana owes them money. They bought her for thirty-thousand euros and Ana has to pay it back. When Ana hits back with that she paid that back in about ten days and can’t walk because of it (anal sex cost extra and without a condom even more) Ancuta has the answer, it’s not enough. They have expenses and they are feeding and taking care of her. They can always sell to Dubai where they’ll love her until she dies.

The other girls, they can accept that. When the cops raid the place, they say they are happy working as escort girls. Ancunta, clicks her tongue and tells an Irish female officer it’s not their fault if they let themselves get fat and don’t want to do sex. They’re picking up the slack. They’re making money.

We all know about Stockholm syndrome. Skinny (Voica Oltean) has a blue star tattooed to her wrist a reminder that the boyfriend that sold her as sex slave when she was thirteen will come back for her. We all know he won’t.

This is a brutally honest drama. I hope it wins a stack of awards. But to be brutally honest we don’t really give a fuck. Trump with his build-a- wall mania and praise for telling it like it is about ‘shitty countries’, Brexit and hate Mail.  Italy, Turkey, Poland, and pan-European jingoistic hatred, which  fans the flames of in which people like Ana are disposable goods and their value is decreasing on the open market day by day. Human scapegoats. Where have I heard, ‘let them drown?’ not on scandal sheets, but from party leaders. So yeh, Doing Money, great drama. It’s the economy, stupid. That’s the reality.  There’ll be lots more than Ana Doing Money and unless it’s your son or daughter…


Geez A Break Productions of Cinderella, at 543 Club for The Golden Friendship Club.

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My old mate Jim McLaren invited me to the Christmas show for pensioners, even though I’m the same age as him and I’m not doddery, yet, although I can’t remember the last time I was at Panto and I hate Christmas. And I especially detest people who put their Christmas decorations up after Halloween and then wait until near Easter to put wee bunnies and eggs wrapped in red ribbons up on their walls. And you know what I think of people who buy Christmas presents in the January sales for next year. And when I come to think of it, I’ve never been to Panto before.  Boo-hiss. I think Jim was trying to tell me something, I might even enjoy myself without being drunk. Boo-hiss. (I sneaked in a half bottle of Eldorado and drank in a oner in the toilet, but sshhhh, don’t tell anybody).

But the first thing I noticed was somebody sleeping soundly, with a jacket over his head, in the seats at the corner table, near the fire exit. Perhaps he knew something I didn’t.  Right enough, his great-granny was there and when he woke up she gave him a dummy, but that was no excuse for him not greeting.

Well, the baby McLaren missed a great show. I hadn’t heard of Geez A Break Productions. I guess that’s us even, as they won’t have heard of me.

As a writer I’m interested in the use of language and storytelling. If you don’t know the story of Cinderella then your heid needs looking at. The Fairy Godmother speaks and sings in rhyme. Cinders, Buttons and the Ugly Sisters actors use Glasgow dialect. There are risqué jokes that aren’t much of a risk and singing and dancing. Over the years the wooden floor in the 543 has, no doubt, been barracked by stacks of people up dancing to The Sash and The Slosh, but I guess that’s the first time it’s been done with glittery magic shoes for the latter, and as a backdrop to being lost in the forest. And there was gies a Brecht in the best pantomime way as the performers addressed the audience directly. Oh, yes they did…Oh, no they didn’t. Oh, yes they did…

Costumes were terrific and the stage set perfect in its simplicity. My only gripe would be the use of microphones. I guess with quick costume changes and microphones attached to the collars might not be do-able on a small budget. But when The Fairy Godmother used her wand to magical effect so that Cinders could go to the ball was a show-stopping moment. With one shake of her hips Cinders had been converted from blonde, bright and beautiful with a great singing voice to blonde bright and beautiful with a great singing voice, but with a snazzy new blue dress on. A conjurer’s trick that was a delight to the eyes.

But sometimes the unscripted makes things better. Susan, who got a bit caught up in the performance and thought Lavvy, one of the ugly sisters, was a bit of a bully. She responded to requests from Buttons that anyone wanted to try on the glittery slipper that we know is a match for only one foot by wandering on to the stage. Magically, it fitted her. And as we know Cinderella always finishes with the lived happily ever after anthem and married Prince Charming. The last time I was at the 543 it was dark, miserable and less than charming, there was a punch up outside. But that’s a Grimm’s story for other times, not guilty, your honour.

The Last Tommies, BBC 4, 9pm, BBCiPlayer, directed by Nick Maddocks

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Episode One: For King and Country


This is the kind of documentary series that the BBC does so well using archive footage and interviewing those that remember The Great War. We are shown a Zeppelin, which could travel at eighty miles per hour and carry two tons of explosive and told about the raid on Hull. An eyewitness remembered how shocking it was, how families sheltered under the kitchen table, the horror of twenty people being killed and the morbid fascination of a house being blown apart and being able to see into somebody’s bedroom.

Inevitably, there’s the middle-class girl, with the pucker voice, unpaid volunteers for the WD, who lied about their age, said she was twenty, but was seventeen and was sent to war to assist (auxiliary) nurses to those nurses that had formal training and were paid. She tells us they got the dirty work. She didn’t much like carrying a leg in a bucket to be incinerated.

Then we had the other middle-class chap that thought it was his duty, everyone’s duty to repel those that were going to invade our country. All the water in the English Channel couldn’t cool his ardour.

We had the girl left behind, all four-foot eleven of her, a scrap of bones and hair, working as a house maid, when she gets that telegram. She’d wrote, of course, she had, that she’d wait forever for him. Forever came too soon.

We had the Scot from Glasgow, called Rabbie Burns, who heard the pipe music and joined up. A clerk, his boss, told him to be quick about it, or he’d miss the fun, home for Christmas.

The Battle of Loos, the Pals Battalion, mud up to the knees and lice feeding on every living body and rats feasting on the chest cavities of the dead. The pal that lost the pal, go forward go forward. Looks left and that man disappears. Looks right and that Tommy bites it.

At home, women take up the slack, twelve hour shifts in the munition factories, working day and night. I never thought I’d get through it, one woman worker tell us, but I did, and you get used to it.

The War to End All Wars. Here are those that did their bit and for what? The rich to get rich and the poor to get poorer.  Answers  not in the bank book but on the ballot box. Remember that old gag, Homes fit for heroes. How long did that last?