Inside the Bruderhof, BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Emma Pentecost and narrator Katherine Jakeman.

The end of the world is nigh. That’s not religious dogma, but the science of global warming. Hundreds of millions will die. Perhaps billions. The mass extinction of non-human species on land and sea has already begun. But Inside the Bruderhof is a joyous look at communal living in a religious community. But then again, I’m a big fan of utopia. The flip- side of Brave New World was Aldous Huxley’s Utopia. An island nation where everything was going swimmingly until a takeover bid called democracy with an injection of neo-liberalism was just another way of saying dictatorship, and not of the proletariat.  Remember onscreen when hard-bitten cop Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis looking pretty dinky in Amish costume got together in Witness. ‘Worlds apart’ was the tagline. The Bruderhof aren’t Amish, they don’t, for example, travel about in horse and cart, but director Emma Pentecost in this forty-minute documentary goes for that angle of cute otherness.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah, who plays a major role in this documentary, puts it bluntly, ‘It feels like I’m from a different time zone… Someone from the middle-ages shows up in London and stays in those ages… That way of life. I kinda feel like a foreigner.’ She probably doesn’t even realise she’s a ginger.

Ford and McGillis had to protect an eight-year-old boy in a corrupt world. Here we’ve got the before and after. Hannah is leaving the idyllic countryside setting of Darvell in Sussex and moving fifty-six miles to inner city Peckham (of Fools and Horses fame) to find work for a year, outside the community.

Hannah, the eldest of three children leaves behind her father, Bernard, and mother, Rachel, and around three hundred other people in the community she has known all her life to ask a very important question of herself: Does she want to remain part of the Bruderhof?

 Ironcially, she moves into another Bruderhof community, with house parents, but in London, which isn’t the London I knew when I hitchhiked down there when I was nineteen. A London of smash and grab and no time for anything but money, money, money and fuck-you more money.  This is a different kind of cloistered freedom Hanna experiences with other girls on the same quest. For the first time in her life, for example, she’s handling hard cash and toying with eight-inch heeled shoes in Rye Market.

‘One thing I have learned is how empty life is,’ she concludes. ‘And how we fill our life with stuff. It’s just so unnecessary.’

Amen to that. The question who am I? becomes what am I? (A question we all need to ask ourselves, and there’s a category of hell for Trump supporters and Tories.)

Aged 21, Hannah knows, like the other youngsters, she must commit or leave the Bruder community. Her father tells the narrator that around 25% to 30%  of young people in the community do not commit to staying and do leave. That it is not a utopia or a democracy.  ‘But it’s healthy, them leaving’.

‘People move where they’re told. People move internationally. It’s a way of life where you have to give up that kinda stuff, or you shouldn’t join.’

There are a few types of jobs, but everybody that is able works. And the domestic duties are taken predominantly by the females. Men work the land and workshops that produce, for example, wooden chairs and toys for classrooms and day-care centres.

Bernard says, ‘People come here and see gender segregation. But it’s no big deal. Nobody is getting paid.’

What is also noticeable to the viewer is there are no people of colour in the Bruder community. Is playing the white man, literal, metaphysical or other?  

The narrator quizzes a young lady in the kitchen, chopping vegetables, ‘Have you ever questioned the division of jobs?’

Answer, ‘Yes as a young woman, as a teenager, but as I grew older I came to understand the significance of why it is, we do what we do, here.

‘I’ve never been so free in my life.  Because we are under no pressure to follow anything, but to follow Christ.

‘And we do that in a free way, by taking care of our kids, taking care of other people’s kids.

‘We have our roles, it’s a traditional thing, but not a bad thing, it’s a wonderful thing.’

Hardy, aged 26, presents the flip-side of the community. The one that got away, but ‘if you ask me, I couldn’t live anywhere else’, he says, while being filmed angling.

He moved to UK, 2010. He grew up in Bruderhof. As a child he described it as ‘paradise’.  Rebel, typical teenage behaviour, ‘the grass is greener’. He left with his family of five siblings when he was fourteen, with the blessing of the community. They returned, well mostly, a few of them didn’t. That didn’t make them bad people.

Hannah’s father Bernard concludes, ‘We’re not utopia. The Bruderhof works because everybody has given up their life.’

The narrator asked Hardy, ‘Why did you come back?’

Hardy, ‘I never felt the same sense of belonging anywhere else.’

Narrator, ‘Some people might say you’re running away from real life by moving back here’.

‘I don’t think the Bruderhof is an escape from reality. We’re not trying to get away from the terrible things in the world. From a selfish point of view, I think I’d probably be happier living elsewhere. I knew it’d take sacrifice. I’d have to give up what I’d have to do with my life.

After a month away Hannah has more or less made her mind up. ‘All the people of the Bruderhof have committed themselves to a cause, there’s that meaning that gets you out of bed in the morning. If it wasn’t for my faith, yeh—I’d see no point in life’.

There’s a lot of good faith in the Bruder community. It would have been interesting to see it during lockdown with the corona virus. I’m sure with green field and sunshine they’d have handled it better that most. Generally, people with strong religious beliefs live longer, happier, lives. But there’s always the bad apple. That’s the story I want to hear most. Paradise is great, but after the fall is more interesting. The four horseman of the apocalypse are already in the saddle. I believe that. I truly do. Perhaps the Bruder community can teach us something useful about the way we should live, but I think it’s too late for most of us. Perhaps for all of us.

Celtic 1—2 Ferencvaros

Celtic are becoming overly familiar with Champion League elimination at the qualifying stages. But we’re getting earlier and earlier.  Last year it was Cluj, who did a job at Parkhead. The year before that AEK Athens. The Hungarian champions managed to eliminate Celtic with two shots on goal and two goals. Rather than playing the attacking threat at right, full-back, Frimpong, Elhamad who was meant to be more defensive option, sold the second goal, allowing the ball to bounce and substitute Tokmac to skip past him without about ten minutes remaining. The Hungarian forward running in on goal at an acute angle, put the ball through the Celtic goalkeeper’s legs. Game on. Game over.

Barkas can be counted as unlucky with the first goal after seven minutes. Midfielder Siger, outside the Celtic box, looking up and finding the corner of the net. But I’ve watched Barkas playing four games and I’ve still to see him make a save. If anyone asked me how good he is, the answer is quite simply, I don’t know.

Celtic are soft centres, that I do know. The Hungarian’s first goal was a case in point, no closing down in the centre of the goal. While Celtic tended to dominate possession almost every time they lost the ball, the opposition flooded forward and looked dangerous on the flanks and in the centre of the park.  Ferencvaros, like Cluj before them and like AEK Athens, before that, they’re no great shakes, but they don’t need to be.

Celtic fall into the qualifying pot for the Europa League and with two qualifying rounds, but with no guarantee they will qualify. Whisper it, they might not even win the league.

We started the game without Edouard, our talisman. So what? We should be bigger than that and we have two strikers on the bench (three if you want to include Griffiths). Christie played at centre-forward and he did get us back into the game with a deflected shot at the start of the second half. Great player, but never a centre-forward. But it allowed Lennon to squeeze in Ntcham for his second consecutive match. The French player had a couple of shots on target and his passing was pretty good.  But it was Elyounoussi with a delightful touch in the box after twenty minutes who looked most likely to score. Then towards the end of the game Elyounoussi does that disappearing thing. You see less and less of him. He’s like James Forest on an off day. Christie cutback behind Elyounoussi was perhaps the loan-stars best chance to score, but he didn’t.

A few cameos and the running down of the match in the last ten minutes. The usual Scott Brown booking that wasn’t a booking. Perhaps taking off a holding midfielder when hunting for an equaliser would have been an idea. Managers need to make hard decision. The season has just begun and Celtic are already out of the Champions League and behind in the big one, the Scottish league.

Goalkeeper—don’t know if he’s good, bad, or indifferent. He’s not Fraser Forster that’s for sure.

We need a left back. Taylor, the ex-Kilmarnock player is sometimes good, sometimes bad. Here he got caught defensively and was alright going forward, without doing much.

Elhammad for Frimpong? Didn’t work here, indeed in terms of spectacular misjudgements, the Israeli had a howler defensively, while not adding much in attack. Celtic were much better with Frimpong on the park, but the clock was ticking and the countdown to another disastrous result looked inevitable.

Here’s where we need to get creative. Julien and Ayer. Julien and Bitton. We keep losing balls in the air. We keep losing goals. The Hungarians pressed hard up the park knowing mistakes would be made. Cluj, Copenhagen (and Rangers) figured that out too. Fling in Kilmarnock. The soft centre is really the centre of defence. Both of them can go.

Scott Brown—warrior.  If Lennon is desperate to play Ntcham, then he should play him in Brown’s positon, simple.

McGregor, hmmmm? Yeh, good player, but

James Forest? Discuss?

Elyounoussi would I thought get us as many goals as Sinclair, but…

Ryan Christie is a bumper, but he’s not a centre-forward. He’s played behind Edouard and on both wings. But he also has some terrible games. Most noticeably against Kilmarnock. His off days tend to come with the team having an off day.

No Edouard, the future is now. The Frenchman is a joy to watch. No guarantee he’ll be fit for the season or he’ll stay at Celtic. If Ajeti is able to put the ball in the net-y then we might do something this season. We might even get ten. Really, it’s a toss of the coin. Not a matter of who is best in Scottish football, but who isn’t the worst. Right now that looks like us. Problems running from centre forward to centre midfield (Brown must go) to centre-backs (both can go) and a goalkeeper that is yet to make a competitive save. Put your money on us beating Motherwell on Saturday and getting carried away with the usual pish. This result leaves me with a heavy sense of foreboding. Not because we got beat. That happens. But the way we got beat. That happens too much and in the same way. Lennon needs to fix that. I hope he does. I hope it’s soon.

George Ramsay RIP 20th August 2020.

I’m not sure when George was born, late ‘67, the year Celtic won the European Cup, or early ’68 when a storm lashed Scotland, taking many roofs off tenement buildings, 20 people were killed and many left homeless. I think there was a bit of both the glory and destruction in George. He’d once volunteered to play for the Dropp Inn when we were short of players and looking for bodies. I knew well he could play, having come up against him when he was younger and fitter. By that time he was about three stone overweight and half pissed, but then again we were a pub team and he rolled back the years by winning man of the match, which was picked by opposition teams (they should really have picked me – but for some reason, never did). George played another few games and I think he even went to training, but then he didn’t. The Hurricane part of him meant that he was always in a hurry for something else.

When he played you at pool, he’d also play the puggie, watch the racing on telly and slag somebody off at the bar for something they said. He beat me most times, but in the very odd occasion, when he beat himself and I won, he’d shake my hand. Sometimes he’d play cheeky, one-handed against me, but I’d play with one hand too. I’d a better chance of winning when we played with one hand, because he could play with two and I couldn’t.

Sometimes George appeared behind the bar. He’d been manager of the The Cawdor Vaults and liked to help out. He just couldn’t sit on his arse. You’d open your front door and George would be doing deliveries for The Canton Wok. But The Cawdor neck of the woods was where he came from and where he was brought up. They’re knocking the flats down now he used to stay in. St Andrew’s school, a five minute walk for him, is now housing. George said he never really got over the loss of his mum.  The Ramseys are one of those families like the Henry’s, if a stone dropped from the moon in that area odds on it would hit a Ramsey or a Henry.

But you could never remember all the Henry’s names. Ramsey’s were easy. They were all called Chop Ramsey. My elder brother Stephen (RIP) went to school with Sammy (Chop) Ramsay, who was a bit of a handful, even for a Ramsay. Then there was Joe (Chop) Ramsay. I went to school with Chop-Chop Ramsay (John) and then there was George (Chop) Ramsay. And they had a sister, Chopess Ramsay (OK, I don’t know her name).

They all married young and breed like Mormons or Irish Catholics, where women were meant to show their love by having twelve children or more. George and Anne quickly had Paul, Peter, Scott, Ryan, and Natalie, the baby of the family. Chop wouldn’t allow me to call her Chop, but the four boys, Chop, Chop, Chop, Chop, then Chop wandered away, probably for a pint and to put a bet on.  

When Coral bookmakers were held up a few years ago, Chop chased the guy along the road and into the Business Park. Just imagine, as they used to say when he was playing fitba, if he was fit. Just imagine he caught the guy with the knife. He wouldn’t have shut up. You could hold a knife to his throat and he’d still tell you what’s for. I’m sure Chop couldn’t have given a shit if Coral lost money, but he was protecting his own, looking after his clan, Emma and Rachel that worked in the shop, also worked in the pub.

He used to shake his head and said, ‘I cannae watch Celtic, cause they’re shite’.

No point arguing with him, he supported them but they were shite. In Just a Boy’s Game, Frankie Miller played Jake McQuillan a hard man that worked in the yards, he was a crane operator. You’ll see a bit of Clydebank and what it was like in the seventies, when we were growing up. George was also a crane operator.

That’s a big thing. My dad worked in the yards too, but crane operators were always Protestants. Catholics were viewed as being unable to work complex machinery. Ironically, my next door neighbour, Mrs Bell was a crane operator during the Second Word War, but then again, she wasn’t Catholic. Crane operators were the elite and well paid.

George as well as being a crane operator was also the Trade Union official. He put his big mouth to good use. The person he didn’t represent well was himself. When he went on the sick with depression, he quit his job, because the storm brewing inside him was too much. He had to do something. Wouldn’t listen to anybody. Always moving.

Ironically, the last time I saw George was when we did the clappy thing outside The Dropp Inn, for Barry Brennan’s funeral at the start of Covid 19. Wearing a pair of shorts and t-shirt, because it was a scorcher of a day, Chop bounced out the front door of his house, next to the pub—which used to run a cable into the pub for bootleg Old Firm football matches—and he started hooting with laughter and slagging Big Pat off, right away. Might have been a funeral, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t slag you off. He knew everybody and everybody knew him. What’s not to like? After a hurricane, silence.

The Trial of Alex Salmond, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Sarah Howitt and narrator Kirsty Wark.

Droit du seigneur

#MeToo in the Middle-Ages – A supposed legal right in medieval Europe, allowing feudal lords to have sex with subordinate women on their wedding night (or whenever).

#MeToo in the twenty-first century, Scotland’s former First Minister Alex Salmond, March 2020, at the High Court in Edinburgh,  was found not guilty of thirteen charges of sexual misconduct, including an attempted rape in which the witness, ‘woman H’ (identities were kept secret and actor’s voices used for dramatic purposes) alleged that after dinner in 2014, at Bute House, she was sexually assaulted and Alex Salmond held her down on a bed and would have raped her, but he passed out drunk. This charge was found ‘Not Proven’ (a verdict that only exists in Scotland’s courts). One charge was thrown out by the procurator fiscal’s office before going to trial.

 ‘Woman A’, one of ten women, alleged, for example, Alex Salmond had placed his hand on her thigh while in his chauffeur-driven car and had sexually assaulted her.

Salmond’s Queen’s Counsel, the bumptious Gordon Jackson, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, was himself censored after being overhead naming some of the women witnesses on board the Edinburgh to Glasgow train. Salmond had crowdfunded his defence costs and reached his target of over £80 000 claiming he was being unjustly vilified.

Jackson was more forthright in his train journey. The same old tactics that victimise the victim which mean, on average, 95% of rape allegations never reach court and aren’t prosecuted by the procurator fiscal, were referred to by the QC: ‘All I need to do is put a smell on her’.

Discredit, discredit, discredit.

Jackson also referred to Salmond as sexual bully and being a nightmare to work for, but not being quite the kind of person that should be on sex-offender register. He was, in effect, one of the middle-class chaps that had made a mistake and it was his fame that had got him punished. He was being victimised.

Kirsty Wark also established that female workers at Bute House were advised not to work out-of-hours and to be alone with Alex Salmond. Alex Salmond and his friends suggest there was a conspiracy against him. He was right, of course, about this. It’s called POLITICS.

The latest opinion-polls suggest fifty-five percent of the Scottish population would vote to leave the British union and become an independent nation.

‘Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes or No’ was the question asked of voters in September 2014. I voted YES. The country voted NO, with a 55-45 percent split in which there was a turnout at the polls of almost 85% of registered voters. I was ungracious in defeat. You can fuck off with your Better Together campaign was how I and many others felt. A Labour Party cosying up to the Tories wiped them out in Scotland. All this is history, of course, but it’s still being played out.

The futures green and the futures SNP, but an SNP without its leading light of the 2014 Scottish referendum. Alex Salmond stood down and his ignominy was compounded by losing his Parliamentary seat to a Tory bastard. Salmond then tried to revitalise his career as a talk-show host, which would be fair enough, but like the former Communist Jimmy Reid decrying the rat race as Rector of the University of Glasgow, but writing for Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid made strange bedfellows, Salmon’s show was backed by Russian television and Putin’s oligarchs. Talk on independence would leave a bad taste in anybody’s mouth.

Where does Alex Salmond go now? A footnote in history? Nicola Sturgeon, now we’re talking.

Craig Robertson (2010) Random

This book is a bit of set-up for a debut thriller writer. The tag on the front cover tells the would-be reader, ‘Six Victims, One Brutal Killer, No Rhyme, No Reason, No Mercy’. The hard-sell for crime fans.  And in smaller font it tells you this guy is like Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. Wow, I say, I’ll need to read this, it’s been lying on my shelf, getting dusty for two years and when I read the first chapter it might have been another ten, because I don’t know who Mark Billingham is and if he writes like this, I don’t care. But then I read the book in one go. It took a few hours.

The background noise inside the book is motive. Why is this guy killing random people? What made it attractive for me was the setting – Glasgow.

The cops are the good guys, trying to capture the bad guy. But there’s also bad guys, trying to capture the killer, because he killed one of their own, a drug dealer. A loss of face, for an Arthur Thompson like kingpin, means somebody else needs to pay and loss their face too. Then you have the fourth estate, mainly the Daily Record, reporting on the case.  (Craig Robertson was a former journalist, writing what he knows.)

I guess in all Tartan Noir there’s a bit of Laidlaw philosophising, about taking revenge and needing to dig two graves, one for the victim. Not having a pattern, is itself a pattern. Serial killers and the mistakes they’d made. The ones that got away, Bible John and Jack the Ripper. The narrator is called by the press, Jock the Ripper. One theory was the Ripper’s murder of prostitutes was a cover up, of his real motive, protecting someone higher up, perhaps a member of the Royal family. Nudge, nudge.

Family plays a big part in the narrator’s life, but we know he’s fucked up, but when he kills a lawyer, you get the feeling he kinda deserves it. But when he kills a newly married man, the narrator’s motive become blacker and twisted and when he sets out to stalk and kill a random teenage student in the pubs in Ashton Lane and ends up in the Twisted Thistle with a cop at his back, it seems justice has been served. That would have taken him too far into the dark side. He backs off.

The book gallops along at a fair pace. The narrator reading press reports, we the reader too can scan, word for word. He’s a pal on the inside of the gangster underworld that reports back to him the latest doings. We know the type. And as a taxi-driver he listens to what the people of Glasgow are saying about the killer they’re now calling The Cutter, because he takes a finger from each of his victims with a pair of secateurs and sends them to the press or to the police. He doesn’t take a finger from his last victim, but still manages to give the police and gangsters the finger.

Here’s where it goes a bit iffy. We know why he done it. We know how he done it, because he’s telling us his thoughts and feelings and we’re looking over his shoulder, seeing what he’s seeing, hearing what he’s hearing, smelling what he smells. You want me to paint a picture, pal? Unfortunately, that’s what Robertson does. The denouement is too protracted. Too many loose knots are tested and tied, even down the last, falling, prayer from the narrator’s lips. Less is more. Jesus wept. Read on.     

Simon Sebag Montefiore (2007) Young Stalin

Young Stalin was winner of the 2007 Costa Biography Award. You can imagine historian Simon Sebag Montefiore after his acclaimed biography, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, wondering what he would write next. Then hitting on the wheeze, I’ll write the same thing, but younger. It depends what you mean by young, of course. As Montefiore declares workers in the Baku oilfields, died around thirty-years old, on average. Young Stalin is around 39- years-old (he’s like our Queen with a moveable birthdate) when he’s taking part in the October 1917 Russian Revolution. The ‘Old Man’, Lenin, is in his late-forties. The sclerotic, perhaps senile, Stalin died 5th March 1953, he was aged 74. Stalin’s remark at a conference in 1929 ‘the Party has made me in its own image’ is a truism.

Nine photographs of Stalin are on the back page and you can see the progression from boy to man: ‘Urchin’, to ‘Choirboy’, to ‘Student Priest’, to ‘Poet’, to ‘Lover’, to ‘Pirate’, to ‘Gangster’, to ‘Killer’, to ‘Commissar’. Not visible are his piercing honey-coloured eyes or his webbed feet, pock-marked skin from a smallpox epidemic that almost killed him, or the shortening of his left arm after being hit by a phaeton, which allowed him to avoid conscription into the Russian army, or the limp he developed. Stalin lived the charmed life of a cat that refused to die.

Montefiore lists Stalin’s Names, Nicknames, Bylines and Aliases on a separate page. Like many revolutionaries he adopted a nickname that marked him out as a strongman, (Stalin = steel, a name he didn’t use until around 1912,  Lenin, in contrast, took his name from a Russian river). Stalin’s father was Vissarion (‘Beso’) Djugashvili, a twenty-one year old Georgian cobbler, who married his seventeen-year-old bride, Ekaterina (‘Keke’) Geladze. Their first two sons died.

Josef  Vissaronovich Djugashveli, (‘Soso’) born 6th Decemeber 1878  ‘was so weak and caught every kind of bug,’ Keke promised God she’d make a pilgrimage if he lived.

From Urchin to Choirboy Keke had nine different places, where they lived, and a variety of different male protectors. Beso was jealous of the boy, he called a bastard and Monterfiore hints he may well have been. Beso thrashed him in an alcoholic fury. Keke also thrashed him, but only for his own good.  In Gori, everybody thrashed everybody else. In a culture of violence it won respect.  

Keke’s wiles was such that she was able to get Soso enrolled in the Gori Church School. He was a model student. He wrote verse, instead of letters to his friends and nobody remembered him scoring less than A grades. His singing teacher soon promoted him to sing solos. Stalin never forgot his singing teacher and sent him a gift late in life.  A schoolboy friend summed Soso up, ‘he was the best, but naughtiest pupil’. But his love of learning never left him. To the end of his life, he read voraciously and was still making notes, marginalia, often with drawings of wolves from his time in Siberia.

Keke, when her son was dictator of Russia, admitted she hoped he would become a priest. He became a priest of a different kind. His religion was Marxism. He found a mentor in Lenin he could follow, but Lenin needed him too. Stalin operated best in the shadows. In Baku, his robberies, kidnappings and extortion rackets kept the Bolshevik Party afloat. He also arranged the hijacking of ships to steal their cash cargo.   

Montefiore begins the book was an audacious bank robbery in Tiflis that led to worldwide-headlines because of the loss of life and the enormous sum of money the robbers got away with, over a million sterling in today’s currency.  Stalin planned it and smuggled the money abroad.

Stalin liked to tell a story about his exile in Kureika, Siberia. He fathered a child with a thirteen-year-old, native, orphan girl, which died and another child, a son, which lived. Stalin’s Siberian son had no contact with his father. The locals liked the foreigner, with his pipe and books. Fish and reindeer were their staples and their currency and the Pockmarked Oska learned how to hunt and fish from them. He noticed one time twenty men went out to hunt and only nineteen came back. The tribesmen seemed unperturbed. They explained their hunting companion remained, ‘out there’. Their rationale was similar to Stalin’s: ‘Why should we have pity for men? We can always make more of them, but a horse, try to make a horse!’

As a Commissar, Stalin presided over the deportation of 28 million to the gulags. Millions never returned. In comparison, between 1881 and 1904, a comparable period with Stalin’s decrees, 11 879 were sentenced by Tsarist courts to be deported.  Over twenty million died in famines. Over a million citizens were shot in 1938-39 alone. Stalin never tried to make a horse, he forged a nation that defeated Hitler’s armies. Stalingrad was the turning point; if Hitler reached the oil fields of Baku then the war was lost. Stalin, as a youth, liked to make notes on Napoleon’s campaign in Russia. He must have known what was coming next, but he was always scheming and plotting against those that would plot against him. One step ahead of the wolves.  Young Stalin, like old Stalin, old Stalin, like Young Stalin. Monterfiore gets it right, read between the lines.

Xan Brooks (2017) The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times.

Xan Brooks takes as his starting point something grotesque and twists it. Four men, ‘the funny men’ with such grotesque physical and mental injuries after the First World War that they have been marked down as dead, a telegram sent to their nearest and dearest to inform them of this—fake news—while they shelter in a cottage in the grounds of the aristocratic Grantwood House. Four children, three girls and a boy taken in a covered lorry to meet them during the summer of 1923, in the nearby woods of North London, Epping Forest. Orpahn Lucy Marsh, aged 14, the pretty one, stands out.

‘Take a random group of boys and girls. Throw them together and a hierarchy is established. Each member unconsciously finds his or her role to inhabit. She has seen it happening on the street and most recently in the bed of the truck where Winifred it queen and she and Edith princesses, which leaves poor thumb-sucking John as their subordinate. And here again, the very same system laid out anew, because why should the funny men be different from everybody else? Within the first movements of her opening visit, she recognised Toto as the group’s colourful, confident leader and now becomes aware of other pieces slotting into place. Winifred is correct: The Tin Man is the dashing gallant, full of rueful good humour, at ease in his skin, and never mind that it’s not his skin, while the Scarecrow takes the rank of cool-headed lieutenant. The Lion, she realises, is the lowest member. He stands off to one side.’

There’s no picnic on Lucy’s second visit. The child helpers are to run away and hide, but not very far. The whole point is they should be caught. After all, Lucy’s grandad has been paid ten bob for her to attend. Winifred calls it the ‘terrible Mensh’, terrible unmentionable.

[Wini]Fred continues, ‘it’s not as if you have to do very much. Just lie down and think of something else for as long as it lasts…’

Lucy hesitates… ‘Is it rape what they do? The very words seem to jam in her throat.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The Mensch. I mean if they make us do things we don’t like doing. That’s rape, isn’t it?’

But Fred is bewildered, ‘What like, if you scream or fight or run away? That’s not what we do?’

Rupert Fortnum-Hyde calls them ‘The Pleasure Dolls’. Their purpose clear. They only exist for him and rich friends as a use value. He has given them to the gallant soldiers as playthings to do with what they like. Fortnum-Hyde is lordly, because he is a lord, leader of avante-garde opinon and aristocratic followers. He proposes and disposes. Cocaine is his drug of choice, served on silver trays by liveried servants. He likes to be entertained and brings the next new thing to amuse him to Grantwood House.

The Long Boys, a group of black jazz musicians, have been brought from London’s music halls for him and his followers to listen to the latest must have. A subplot involving bogus Spiritualist that criss-crossed the country in the figure of another grotesque—imp—in   the figure of Arthur Elms, whose party trick was an ability to generate flames from his fingers and thumbs because of a mass burial that unhinged him, is also a houseguest at the decaying stately home.

The backstory of what happened to the funny men and how they became the funny men is gradually revealed. Bram, the Scarecrow, has a wife and child, he no longer sees, an ex-pilot, shot down, burned out, not expected to survive, but somehow, miraculously, did, is Lucy’s mentor.   He keeps her right.

When Lucy says her grandparents are nice. And her grandad means well.  He corrects her, ‘Lucy,’ he says. ‘He doesn’t. He’s not.’

Bram repents having sex with Lucy (and the other girls) and apologises. They team up in her coming-of age, and I guess, his too. The parts slide smoothly enough together for the ending to be contrived. But while it’s easy to feel sorrow for burnt out cases left rotten in the care of decadent aristocratic whimsy – it’s less so to feel paedophiles have already paid the price and they deserve a little human treat. Guilty of then and now standards, they did things differently in those days, hokum.  Entertaining,  worth a look. Read on.

The Australian Dream, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, writer Stan Grant, director Daniel Gordon.

I’d never heard of Adam Goodes. Let me put this into context he plays Australian Football League. A sport I don’t know the rules, or follow the game. The easy part is telling who Adam Goodes was, by making a comparison with David Beckham. He was the David Beckham of Aussie Rules Football. He almost single-handedly won his Sydney Swans club grand final after grand final and was voted the best of the batch of first picks divvied up between teams in 2003,  the most valuable player twice in 2005 and 2006. He was also voted Australian of the Year 2014. The documentary follows him from 2013 to 2015, when Goode declared, ‘I was done’ and retired from the sport – he once loved.  

He was also ‘a black bastard,’ ‘a nigger,’ ‘a coon’ and ‘an ape’. The latter remark came from a thirteen-year-old girl during an Aussie Rules match. Goode went back to where she was sitting, pointed her out and had her thrown out of the stadium by stewards.  Afterwards every touch he took of the ball was booed by opposition fans. He was told to toughen up, called a bully.

Goodes called out the inherent racism in Australian society. He called into question a society that celebrated Captain Cook’s arrival at Botany Bay over 300 years ago, to claim a county for Britain, with the semi-legal term, Terra Nullius, Latin for ‘empty land’. Aboriginal natives who had lived there for over 60 000 years and whose majesty was in their claim that they didn’t own the land, but the land owned them, were classified as part of the indigenous flora and fauna. Genocide took place as it did in the Americas.

Aboriginal people weren’t real people, because they weren’t white people. Fill in all the usual tropes about them not being able to take care of themselves. The white man’s burden to discipline and re-educate, then after genocide you have the eugenics programme which is still running. Adam Goodes father was a white man from Scotland, but his mother was aboriginal and taken away from her own mother and locked up to learn how to become assimilated as a proper Australian by living in a dormitory, re-educated, and trained to work as a domestic for white women. China is now doing something similar with around three million Uighurs in XianJiang re-education camps. But this is Australia land of the free and easy. Dream on.

Kilmarnock 1—1 Celtic

Celtic would have been expected to pick up three points here (and everywhere else in Scottish football). On paper they have better players in every position. On the plastic pitch they were paper-tigers. Kilmarnock deserved their draw. No Celtic player got pass marks, apart from the new Celtic goalkeeper, Barakas. The Greek international was beaten by a Chris Burke penalty, but he wasn’t culpable, barely having a shot to save. That falls to Julien. With Celtic a goal up from a long-range Christie free-kick, which the Kilmarnock rookie keeper Rogers should have saved, Celtic weren’t cruising, but they were in control. The best player on the pitch, Kabanaba was giving the Celtic centre-half and his partner, Ayer, a torrid time. He was also giving a Kilmarnock team based on getting everybody behind the ball, and defending deep, an outball. Kabamaba totally dominated Jullien, who had one of those games were he could do nothing right. A nothing ball in behind him. A stramash between Scott Brown and Kabamba who held him and Jullien off. He spun away the Celtic centre-back on the touchline. Jullien pulled him down. Stone-wall penalty. Stupidity of the first order. But Celtic still have some of the first-half and the whole of the second half to make amends.

Let’s cut to the usual shite about how many blocks the Kilmarnock defenders, in particular, made. Power, for example, making two million blocks and taking a booking for the team. Rogers the Kilmarnock keeper was slightly more worked than Barkas, but without having to do much more than punt the ball up the park and pick out poor crosses and scuffed shots.

When you bring on Bolingoli in the dying minutes then you know how terrible your team must have been. Elyounoussi looked dangerous pre-season. Another performance like this we’ll pay Southampton to keep him. Edouard, who often as not been our saviour, did nothing. Christie got a goal, but was posted missing for most of the match. Forrest had the kind of game were you’re asking if he was on the park. McGregor was slightly better than Brown and might even have got pass marks, but he didn’t pass the ball enough to achieve that. Frimpong, who has been so good of late, couldn’t conjure a trick. Taking him off for Elhmad didn’t hurt anybody, didn’t change anything. Ntcham on for Brown didn’t add anything either. Kimala on for Elyounoussi was a change that might have worked on another day. The Polish striker at least looked lively and might have got on the end of a fluffed cross. Ajer had a poor game and if he’s worth thirty million, grab the money. But then again, his defensive partner stole the show, we paid seven million for him, generally, money well spent. On this showing, today (and he’d previous as Livingstone against a physical centre-forward) he was inept, poor, merde or shite, take your pick.

Every point counts and this was two points flung away against a Kilmarnock team whom Lennon knew exactly how they would play. But, to be fair, the Celtic manager couldn’t have known his own players could play collectively and individually as badly. Shades of Ibrox here.  It’ll give him something to think about in the away fixture to St Mirren, who were brushed aside by Rangers. I can tell you exactly how St Mirren will play—the same as Kilmarnock—and if we play the same then ten in a row…I know, I know…I know…

Andrew James Grieg (2020) Whirligig.

A whirligig is a spinning top, a small predatory beetle, and a way of describing, for example, coming and goings. I quickly ripped through Andrew James Greig’s short, breakout, novel. Glen Mhor (Inverness) provides a Highland setting for skulduggery in this whodunnit. Four murders and a former top policeman forced to commit suicide, run in tandem with eight children that went missing from a home run by the Sisters of Mercy. Five shallow graves. A vigilante on a revenge mission. All the action takes place in a week. 

It took me a few chapters to figure out each short chapter was prefigured by the image of a cogwheel, which in the book are carved from bone. That too is a mystery. In chapter 1, cogwheel 1, for example, the time is 06.20 and Oscar is going to die – and go unmourned.   

The front door slammed with such violence the whole house shook, quivering timbers seeking comfort in the cold embrace of stone. Margo tensed in her bed, feeling the floor shake in sympathy. Nervously, she lay waiting for the angry wasp sound of his quad as it disappeared down the lonely track that led away from the isolated cottage. Only when the engine noise had faded did she allow herself to relax. He’d be gone all day, setting traps for the rabbits, laying poison for birds of prey, shooting the mountain hares. Death. Death and violence was all she ever associated with him now.

The narrative is told from a pregant Margo’s point of view. It shifts to Oscar’s, before his death. Omniscient point of view.  At one point it becomes the eyes of one of two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, hunting dogs, looking at his master, the Laird and Sheriff, out of water and out of luck, locked in a remote bothy with a box of salted crops. You can probably guess what happens next. I guessed quite early who the vigilante, killer, was. I guess that makes me a genius? Discuss.

All Detectives have sidekicks. Detective Inspector Corstophine lost his wife, five years ago. Aged 41. He’s young enough to be still looking. His dead wife sometimes pops up for a chat, the gist of which is, he should be getting on with his life. The gist of which is, I think, his dead wife should be exorcised from the book.

‘Sometimes Frankie reminded him of his wife.’

Don’t be jumping to conclusions here. Detective Constable Frankie McKenzie, three years married, three years divorced. Corstophine’s sidekick, in a will they, won’t they, or might they, if they weren’t trying to solve all those murders that have suddenly piled up on their desk and seem to be connected to the hanging tree and the death of local reporter, June Stevens, an apparent suicide in 1997? Her six-year-old daughter had also gone missing.

The clock is ticking. His ex-boss taunts him or warns him:

‘Your investigation will be closed down. There’ s no way they can allow something the establishment can allow something this big to get out. What’s a few unloved children compared to the sanctity of the British establishment?’

Lord Lagan and the ball at Strathcarron hotel. Large shooting estates and the rich people that live in them. The poor people dependent on them. Will the whole shooting match go up in smoke? Read on.