Anita Moorjani (2012) Dying To Be Me. My Journey from Cancer to Near Death to True Healing.

I consume these books like sweets. A guilty secret. Guilt is always bad for you.  You know how it goes. Anita Moorjani died then she has a choice whether she wanted to come back to this world, or stay where she was, heaven. Heaven is not a place with celestial gates and angels strumming harps, rather it is a state of bliss. Since there is no such thing as time, it could be said to be eternal. We know she came back, because here she is telling the reader all about what happened.

She was courted by the publishers Hay House. I hadn’t heard of Hay House, but they’re big in America in this genre and publish world-wide.

Stories follow a similar trajectory of before and after. You get big bucks for your dollar when the journey the person has been on leads to their death and resurrection. Anita Moorjani was brought up in Hong Kong. She was brought up in the Hindi faith and could speak fluid Cantonese which she learned from her nanny and English which she learned from school. Her mother and father following their own upbringing tried to organise an arranged marriage for their daughter, Anita.  She played along, but then didn’t and made a love match.

This is part of the background stuff. She was ordinary before she was extraordinary. I don’t mean that in a patronising manner. The structuring of the story of Bernadette Soubirous, for example, starts with the extraordinary and works its way back to her humble roots. I believe both of these stories, just as I’m sure both narrators also believed them. But there are parts of such narrations which I disagree.

It doesn’t make much difference to my life if Anita Moorjani died and came back to life, was able to miraculously hear what the doctors in corridors and rooms thirty or forty feet away were saying. Was able to tell what her brother, Anoop, who was travelling on a flight from India to be by her side was thinking. It doesn’t make much difference to me that she thinks we are in a sense magnificent and somehow we lose that childish glitter in our eyes and settle for something less. We are in essence all each other.

I get it, I really do. I don’t wholly believe it and sometimes, most times I don’t believe it at all. If we are able to live multidimensional lives the past and present crossing over and conjoined, none of these things matter much either.

I get it that Anita Moorjani says that she can no longer work in a job she hates and neither should we. Neither should anyone. I agree, wholeheartedly, except for one very big thing, money. The average person in London, for example, needs to find £2000 a month for rent. I belive that means many millions of people need to do jobs they hate.

I don’t think there is a god that watches every feather that falls from a sparrow and will provide for you. My experience tells me you’ll starve. That’s most folk’s experience and has been for most of history. For those lucky enough not to be overly concerned about money, or what kind of work they don’t do, then they are the lucky few. And god bless them. As for me, I’m dying to be me too. I guess I’ll just have to wait. I don’t mind. But I am getting on in years. Death doesn’t frighten me, because I’ve not met it.  I will. We all will. Books like this are sweet, but empty for now.

Serhii Plokhy (2019) Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy.

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Serhii Plokhy’s history of Chernobyl won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2018. He tells us what happened when reactor No 4 in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant, named after Vladimir Lenin, exploded after what should have been a routine maintenance test on 26th April 1986. First to arrive where firemen, who hooked up their hoses and treated it as a routine fire, no immediate threat to the around 5000 workers and their families living in Prypiat. Some of the firemen picked up or kicked graphite, which had been inserted into the reactor in an attempt to slow down the nuclear reaction taking place. Later helicopter pilots dropped thousands of tonnes of sand and lead into the space left open after the roof had blown off and flipped over. Miners were brought in to dig tunnels and freeze the earth beneath No.4 reactor. The main objective was to prevent the building from sinking and contaminated water flowing into the ground water and into the Prypiat River, the Dneiper River, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic. It sounds a bit like one of those games you had when you were young and wrote your name and the street you lived in, the town and city and ended up saying – at the end —  and the universe.

Soviet scientists were able to explain the technical reasons, how the reactor had failed, but they weren’t able to explain what measures, if any, stopped the nuclear explosion from continuing and wiping out complex life on Earth. The China syndrome, nuclear meltdown, was theoretical, but became a practical problem and not just for armchair physicists. Radiation affected everyone and everything, far and wide, but the closer to the epicentre of the reaction the possibility of tissue damage was higher.

Plokhii puts it into perspective in the Preface:

Altogether 50 million curies of radiation were released by the Chernobyl explosion, the equivalent of 500 Hiroshima bombs.  All that was required for such catastrophic fallout was the escape of less than 5 percent of the reactor’s nuclear fuel. Originally it had contained more than 250 pounds of enriched uranium – enough to pollute and devastate most of Europe. And if the other three reactors of the Chernobyl power plant had been damaged by the explosion of the first, then hardly any living and breathing organisms would have remained on the planet.

Over 500 000 workers and soldiers were brought in to deal with the aftermath. I didn’t give it much thought at the time. Like most others I thought Chernobyl was a place spot in history, a no-go zone for humanity. Reactor No.4, where the explosion took place, was covered in concrete and a special roof constructed to keep levels of radiation minimised and localised, but the other reactors continued to produce power and electricity for the Ukrainian economy for the next twenty years.

This astounded me more than Stalinesque cover-up and KGB clamp down on dissidents that refused to toe the party line that it was business as usual. Weddings and parties still took place in the city of Pyripiat in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. A 1st  May Day Parade in Kyiv, the capital, less than 100 km away took place, while radiation levels were increasing and threatened the life of adults, but children were particularly susceptible to the invisible poisoning as was typically shown by thyroid damage.

Plokhy shows how the fallout spread to other countries. Belarus was affected proportionately worse than the Ukraine in terms of land mass and was first to declare independence from the Soviet Union. Dissidents in the Ukraine were able to use Gorbachev’s perestroika to galvanise support for power sharing and transparency around the cover up of what happened at the Chernobyl plant. They were able to argue they should no longer be a satellite state used as a testing ground for the new technology of nuclear fuel and combine the tragedy of what happened for a call to arms. Full independence and control of the Ukraine, the breadbasket of Russia and second largest of its satellite states.

With Russia bankrupt and not just morally and Boris Yeltsin becoming President, Ukraine became an independent nation. Chernobyl the focal point of dissent was now an economic albatross, yet the reactors around it were still needed to produce energy for a shrinking economy. Plokhy shows how the intellectuals and dissidents and high-faulting words began to sound very like Bill Clinton’s ‘it’s the economy, stupid!’

Chernobyl asks a very simple question of us, could it happen again? The History of a Tragedy suggests that as the poorer nations out with the Western world adapt nuclear technology as a cheap fix it is more rather than less likely to happen.

We’ve been here before. We are there now. Global warming and denial by the moron’s moron in the White House has the same sense of cover-ups and lies, but it is to American interests and fossil fuels, not nuclear, that is far more likely to lead to Armageddon. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that you cannot have one without the other. Both are possible when sectional interests, as shown here, take precedence over common humanity. I just hope there’s some historian around like Serhii Plokhy to write it up.

Cluj – postmortem

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It’s rare for the Celtic support to boo their team off the park as they did last night, after losing 4-3 to Cluj. When I woke this morning I was still pissed off. Let’s be honest, in terms of fitba hangovers, that’s right up there with getting beaten by Warburton’s Rangers in that Scottish Cup semi-final a few years ago. We blew it. Against an average team from Romania with a budget a fortieth of Celtic’s, we lost four goals. We are not in the promised land of Champions League football. What makes it worse is our fate was in our hands.

After an insipid first half, we were ahead at 2-1, then were ahead at 3-2. Even in the dying minutes, McGregor headed a ball back into the box, it caught the Cluj defence flat-footed. It was a dream ticket to make it 4-3 to Celtic, with Griffiths getting a head to it. You could see what he was trying to do, nod it past the keeper and then slot it in. It went past the post. Game over. Only it wasn’t. Cluj scored a late winner, which made no difference, Celtic were out anyway.

Remember when Barcelona came to Parkhead and we couldn’t get the ball and they won? Which game? You are probably asking. They did that every game. Apart from one game when we were lucky enough to cause an upset.

Or PSG, remember when they came to Parkhead and we couldn’t get the ball?

In these game Celtic supporters applauded their opponents off the pitch. We recognised class tells in the end. We were outclassed. Ironically, when we played PSG in the away fixture a few weeks later we scored first, Dembele, then lost seven. But we actually had passages of play when we were better than we were at Parkhead.

Last night hurt because we took it as a given that we would qualify, not for the Champions League proper, but for the play-off spot. We’d contested the first leg, got that elusive away goal and…you know the rest. We’d got the measure of Cluj, only we hadn’t.

In terms of post-mortem, lots of angry Tims are focusing on Boli. He seemed to me and I’ve said it after seeing him in several game, no better than Izzy. To play McGregor at left-back seemed the wrong thing to do and seemed to be rather desperate. We did it at Ibrox and the flak Brendan Rodgers took was incredible. McGregor was one of our better players that day. Bain was at fault for the goal at Ibrox and last night.

At one point I’d Scott Bain down for the unsung hero and our player of the year. His saves at the end of matches, and I’m thinking of a point blank save against Hibs, in particular, won us points, won us the championship. But the truth is he stopped performing after that. Let in a couple of howlers. Looked nervy against Rangers, and in the Scottish Cup final. He stopped making vital saves. He stopped making, all but the bread-and-butter saves any average keeper would make. He’s carried that form into this season. Prove me wrong. Tell me one save he’s made to win us a game? I can’t think of any. Quite simply, we need a change of keeper.

Left back, we finished the season with Johnny Hayes, who wasn’t too bad. He isn’t Celtic class a winger, and he’s not Celtic class as a full-back, but he’s an option we’ve used. He does a job. Boli doesn’t. It seems that Lennon looked at all the supposed things he’d done, which seemed to me, rather bog standard and decided he couldn’t defend. I agree with Lennon. Boli is what Brendan Rodgers used to call a work in progress. Our left back spot is still up for grabs.

Right back seems sorted. The Israeli, Hatem Abd Elhamed , seems decent enough. Strong in the air. Good on the deck. Keeps the ball. Can whip in a cross.

Central defence is a mess. Simply Ayer, who has being receiving the kind of reviews that would make Messi blush, and Jozo are the number one pairing. The goals we lose from corners and cross balls is quite simply shocking. Fling in another French man, who is also over six-foot six and we have massive players in terms of height. What we don’t have is the ability to head the ball away consistently. We lost two poor goals away at Motherwell. Last night’s quadruple, if we include the penalty, where Brown, inexplicably, went for the ball with his hand, and three out of four goals were from cross balls. The other was a goalkeeping error, with defenders not following in on the rebound. The centre cannot hold and Celtic fall apart, as was shown last night.

The Brown-McGregor holding spot looks OK. Both are seasoned pros. One of them is worth twenty million. Maybe Lennon should have played Brown at left back. Ntcham has played a couple of games and looked better than his slothful, slithering self. He’s definitely a player, but I’d sell him in a heartbeat.

Mikey-boy-Johnstone had one of those games last night when he flashed a shot across goal and then, pretty much, disappeared. He’s a bit like Rogic, after ten minutes you know what you’re going to get. He should have come off.

James Forest is the player Lennon used to rave about first time around. His finish for the first goal was coolness personified. He’s a first pick.

Ryan Christie is a star too. He’s been the find of last season and this season too. Brilliant finish. Incredible workrate. Great in the air for his size and one of the few that can hold their head high.

Odsonne Edouard is an enigma. He’s great and good and not so good. But he’s a natural centre-forward (whatever that is) and scores goals. As he did last night latching onto a defensive mistake and slotting it away. His dummy to set up Forest was also superb. He was good with hold up and had a good night – before the roof fell in.

The truth is the problems that were with us last season have been carried into this season. We concede very soft goals and look increasingly vulnerable from teams that counterattack with pace. That was one reason Boli didn’t play. He’s so high up the park most of the time the left flank is left open. We can’t blame him or Julien last night, but that’s ten million sitting on the bench. Is it money wasted? That’s a question that needs to be answered.

It depends how you do your counting, but let’s say Celtic lost thirty million by not qualifying for  the Champions League. I don’t care about the money. I love the glamour. Big ties against the better teams. All gone. The Keynesian multiplier effect comes into play, but in a negative way. Remember Europa league ties with the top tier shut? That’s how I feel about the Europa league. Of course I want Celtic to win every game, even if it’s tiddlywinks. But I’m still angry. When we go to Ibrox in a couple of weeks I think we’ll win. But we’ll need to have invested in a new left back, a new goalie and we’ll need to get a central defence partnership that can actually defend. Lennon has been taking a hiding from the media. There’ll be no hiding after Ibrox. Lose and he could be out of work for Christmas.

Celtic 3—4 Cluj

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Celtic 3—4 Cluj

Celtic haven’t a Cluj how they can score three goals at home, and yet concede four. They were behind as half-time and behind at full-time. This shouldn’t really be a surprise. The first Cluj goal was preventable. McGregor, playing at left back, was nowhere. Deac with a speculative header and the ball found its way into the net.

Celtic’s equaliser was a thing of beauty and James Forest waited and waited before swerving the ball past the keeper and into the net. Celtic had brought the tie level on the night and level on aggregate.

After a mistake in the Cluj defence Edouard finishes brilliantly. The Celtic centre-forward was causing really problems for their defence. Celtic through as it now stands.

Then we have Scott Brown’s moment of madness. A cross comes into the box and the Celtic captain flicks out a hand. Clear penalty to the visitors. Ormani scores. Cluj are now going through on the away goal rule, as they did in the last round, with a late 2—2 draw.

But within two minutes the stadium is rocking. Edouard sets up Christie who scores. Celtic only need to see the tie out.

They don’t. A speculative shot from outside the box. Bain palms it away. Ormani scores again. Great finish. Cluj are now going through on the away goal rule.

Neil Lennon brings on two centre-forwards for the last few minutes, Griffiths then Bayo. They create a few half chances, but the game runs away. The Romanian champions score the winner with the last kick of the ball after six minutes of added time.

The next game against Rangers, more or less decides Lennon’s future. This is a massive set-back. Last year it was no great surprise to go out to AEK Athens. We didn’t have a centre half that could head a ball. Today was more shocking. Scott Bain has been poor from the end of last season to the beginning of this season. He lost a poor goal in at the post against Motherwell. He needs replaced. Bolli Bolli doesn’t look fit for purpose. We’ve just blown Champions League football again. Europa League is boring. I’m not even sure we’ll make it. Very, very poor. Christie and Edouard looked decent. Forest was flying. Elahamad looks decent. Even Ntcham started well. Scott Brown…fuck off. As for the rest, they can fuck off too. Celtic have blew it.

Rangers’ fans will be loving it. The pressure on Lennon, the pressure on this Celtic team has been piled on one-hundred fold. The worst thing is we brought it on ourselves. To score three goals in the Champions League qualifiers and lose four smacks of amateurism and reflects badly on Celtic and Scottish football  generally. Not that I give a fuck about the latter. Gutted. Another year of dross.

When Bridges Collapse: The Genoa Disaster, BBC 2, 9pm, BBC iPlayer, directed by Martin Gorst

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0007mxm/when-bridges-collapse-the-genoa-disaster

Forty-three people died, scores more were injured and 600 people lost their home when the  Polcevera Bridge in Genoa collapsed on 14th August 2018. One survivor described how the road disappeared before him and it was like being in a cartoon.  It was Italy’s worst ever road-bridge disaster. A design fault that allowed water to pool and steel cables to fray was blamed, but more worrying was a trend in Europe to cut back on inspection teams and privatise services.  Local Authority Inspection teams that highlighted the faults in the Hammersmith Bridge, and in Britain generally, also face austerity measures and cuts in public spending. Could there be a bridge collapse here? Watch this space.

Nathan Filer (2013) The Shock of the Fall.

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I’ve read this book before, but didn’t remember until I started reading it again. My memories like that, full of wormwood and dark holes. Most folks are, that’s why we use terms like short-term and long-term and even working–memory and other types of memory that often doesn’t work. Types I’ve instantly forgotten, but no matter. We usually judge ourselves to be reliable narrators of our own lives, able to judge what is and what is not with certainty.  Nathan Filer’s debut novel won the Costa Book of the Year 2013. He has an unreliable narrator, Matthew Homes telling his story, which begun when he was eight, when his brother Simon died, to 18th July 2009 when he’s in recovery from his illness and out of hospital and able to write about normal life and schizophrenia.

Name: Matthew Homes

D.o.B. 12.05.1990

Diagnosis: The Slithery Snake

Current Medication(s): The Works.

Risk to self/Others (please provide vague, embellished examples presented as hard facts): Matthew lives alone, has a limited support network and few friends. He suffers from command hallucinations, which he attributes to dead siblings. Creepy shit, eh? Problem is he’s been known to interpret said hallucinations as an invite to off himself.

He is currently being managed by Brunel Community Mental Health Team, and sporadically attends therapeutic groups at Hope Rd Day Centre (or he sits alone in his flat, tapping away endlessly on a typewriter his grandmother gave him, which if you think about it, is a bit mental in itself).

On 2nd April 2008, a few weeks into a lengthy hospital admission on Crazy Crazy NutsNuts ward, Matthew went AWOL. He revisted the site where his brother died, with a view to committing the last hurrah.

This attempt was foiled by an anonymous Passerby. Matthew does not appear to present a significant risk to others…

The fiction is Matthew Homes is writing an autobiographical story, collected through scraps of diaries and writing. He’s trying to make sense of the world (I do that too, when writing). The slithery snake has a focal point, the death of his brother. And a place and a time-frame.  The disjointed structure of the story from past to present and back again reflects the chaos we sometimes all feel, but with added menace.

We move in circles, this illness and me. We are electrons orbiting a nucleus.

It’s an illness, a void, which swallows the whole family. His mother is clinically depressed and his father seems world-weary. Nanny Noo and Grandfather just don’t know what to do and fall back on the same old, same old. Nothing works. That’s why there’s truthfulness about The Shock of the Fall, it just keeps going on and on. Another story runs along inside it, a mystery of what really happened to  Matthew’s brother and whether childhood guilt feeds like radiation sickness and poisons his mind, or whether…who knows? Matthew doesn’t. The reader can make his own mind up. I liked this book a lot. Everything about it makes sense. It should be on the reading list for anyone studying for a diploma or degree in Mental Health subjects. Not required reading, but enjoyable reading.  Read on.

The Bleeder, BBC iPlayer, Director Philippe Falardeau.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0006wg1/the-bleeder

Sometimes you just hit upon a movie you know you’re going to love. Here it is. As surely as any movie written or starring Simon Pegg (or even an actor that looks like Pegg) is going to be a going to be a stinker, The Bleeder is a knock-out. I’m not a big boxing fan. Yeh, sure I remember the Rumble in the Jungle and Ali v’s Frazier. I watched them on BBC in the same way that I later watched Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe playing tennis. I didn’t care who won and if I never saw another boxing or tennis match for the rest of my life I wouldn’t be bothered. So I’d heard of Muhammad Ali, I’d heard of Joe Frazier. I’d heard of George Foreman, but I hadn’t heard of Chuck Wepner. There’s no reason why I should. That would be the equivalent of expecting me to know who the tenth seed at Wimbledon was in 1974.

Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) known as the Bayonne Bleeder was in the top ten of heavyweight champs in the early 1970s. He was known as the Bayonne Bleeder because he came from the city of Bayonne in New Jersey and when he fought he never went down, but bled copiously. In an early scene the fight ref asks to look at his eye injury. It looks like there’s too much blood and he’ll be asked to retire from the bout. His corner-man flings a towel over his bad eye and the ref looks at his other eye, which is also a slit running with blood, but he’s declared fit to fight. That reminded me of when a referee asked to see our stud football studs at the beginning of a match on the gravel parks. Martin McGowan showed him his good boot, with no aluminium studs in it, then put his hand on the ref’s shoulder as if to support himself, twirled around and showed him the same boot, but from a different angle. If we were making a movie of it, McGowan would have went on to score a hat-trick with his illegal boot. The Bayonne Bleeder also goes on to win his bout. There was talk of him getting a title shot and pay day against George Foreman, who’s knocking everybody out for fun and thought to be unbeatable. Chuck knows his chances aren’t good, but like most other boxers, he’s got a day job and it would be a big pay day. When Ali does his rope-a-dope on Foreman, Chuck things his chance of glory is gone.

He’s a delicious looking wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss) to support and they have a daughter they adore. He writes his wife poems telling her how much he loves her, but he’s a man’s man that likes to play. He’s took a toot of this new wonder drug they call cocaine and it really does make the routine day wonderful. Chuck also has problems keeping his hands in the mitts. He likes to go the full fifteen rounds with any willing female. Phyllis catches up with Chuck and one of his floozies in a diner. There was only going to be one winner.

Remember when Rocky chases the chicken, but can’t catch it. Phyllis dumps the Bleeder. She’s had enough and goes to live with her mother. Then this match comes. Don King plays the race card. Muhammad Ali after beating Foreman is on a high and they want to cash in on some easy money. Ali versus the Bleeder. It’s Chuck’s big chance to be heavy- weight champion of the world. We know that Rocky goes into serious training and starts hitting rumps of meat in the deep-freeze. Chuck goes to the Catskills and does what a real professional is meant to do, he trains hard and just hopes he’s be able to finish the fight. Odds of 40-1 are being offered for Chuck to go the full fifteen rounds.  Phyllis his wife is back on board. And to quote another great film, Someone Up There Likes Me.

In the first fight after Foreman, Muhammad Ali fought Chuck. Chuck didn’t win. This isn’t Rocky, although the film was a what-if, what-if when Chuck really did put Muhammad down, Ali stayed down and Chuck became the new, white, heavyweight champion of the world, spawning a whole franchise of movies in which Rocky fought everyone from the Russians to the man on the moon and still bled and found himself, after a typically bruising  and bleeding encounter, still on top of the world. For the record, Chuck lost and was knocked out with 20 seconds remaining of the fifteen rounds. A moral victory, of sorts.

Part of the greatness of this film is what happened next. Chuck snorted and womanised and pissed it all away. The teeny tiny figure of  Sylvester Stallone   (Morgan Spector) offers him a part in his latest movie, but the big, for real, Bleeder, can’t stay straight enough to make the cut. The next time Stallone offers to meet Chuck is when the former is filming his latest movie, Prison Break, in the same prison where Chuck is serving time for dealing drugs.

This being America, Chuck does find redemption in an old flame, Linda (Naomi Watts) who waits for him and puts him on the straight and narrow. Billed as Rocky for real, this is much better. WATCH and WEEP. No bleeding about it.