Celtic 3—0 Dundee United

Every game — a must win. The next game against Rangers is a must-win squared. For the first time in over a decade the Rangers’ management team wouldn’t be too unhappy with a home draw. For us it would be disastrous, almost as bad as losing. Losing and even the most faithful would need to face the loss of ten-in-a-row. I don’t think we’ll do it, but, of course, hope we do.

Barkas, replaces Hazard, who has also been unconvincing, as the goal-keeping merry-go-round continues. Interesting to see who is the next number 1. Simple really, it’s whoever plays at Ibrox. I prefer Laxalt to Taylor, but the same test applies. Soro plays today, but I’ve a sneaky suspicion it’ll be Brown taking his place in Govan—until the Ivorian turned up with a wonder-strike from the edge of the box (perhaps Siegrist, the United keeper, should have done better).  No Elyounoussi, our top-scorer, on the bench.  But great to see Mikey Johnson offering us something different going wide, if called for.

David Turnball set up a fantastic early chance for Griffiths with an over the top ball, but a great save from the United keeper. Edouard, missed the rebound, and missed a sitter. Turnball showed the way. Griffiths wins a 40/60 with Pawlett. Soro passed to Turnball. The goal-a-game midfielder was at it again today. Great strike in off the post, leaving Siegrist with no chance. Sour note at half-time was hearing Rangers were also winning 2—0 at Love Street.

A fine first half. We saw much the same at Hampden against Hearts, where if it was a boxing match the referee would have stopped it. Ridiculous as it sounds, a two goal lead is no longer enough. United started well and Julien cleared off the line. But the French defender had to be stretchered off. Hopefully, not too bad. I don’t fancy Bitton or Duffy for the Ibrox match. Needs must.

United did create another chance, perhaps there best chance of the game, cutting through the Celtic defence and Clark having a one on one with Barkas. The United midfielder fluffed it. But for every chance United created Celtic created three or four.

Edourard grabbed the third, a fine through-ball by Griffiths and the Frenchman coolly lobed the keeper. He could easily have grabbed three or four goals.  Last twenty minutes was a stroll. Man of the match went to Turnball (again). But Frimpong had a strong case, perhaps his best game here. He constantly got beyond his opposing defender and got to the line. Ajeti (on for Griffiths, who also had a number of chances), for example, tried a back-heel flick in the ninetieth minute, from a Frimpong cutback in which the Celtic forward should have scored.  

All prayers called for us to win on the match on Saturday. Let’s hope the fluid team of the first-half turn up, not the nervy bunch of lads we’ve seen of late.    

The Ibrox Disaster, BBC 1 Scotland, produced and directed by Craig Williams



Sixty-six Rangers’ fans died and another 145 were injured in the Ibrox Disaster after the New Year’s Day Old Firm game ended in a 1-1 draw. Rangers’ equaliser came at the end of a game watched by 80 000 supporters. Fans on the way out of the ground on Stairway 13 heard the crowd roaring and turned back to be met by a surge of jubilant supporters leaving the ground. Barriers gave way in the resulting crush. Thirty-three of the sixty-six dead were teenagers. Five of them teenage school friends from the town of Malkinch in Fife. One of the victims was a girl, eighteen-year-old Margaret Ferguson. The youngest was Nigel Patrick Pickup of Liverpool, age nine.

Mist was falling and ambulances, police and fire engines were delayed by the crowd leaving the stadium, unaware of the tragedy. Eye-witness accounts such as eighteen-year-old, First-Aid assistant, Ian Holm told us he wasn’t even sure what happened and he was inside the stadium.

Spectators helped police carry victims onto the pitch and pavilion. A general appeal went out for first aiders. Fifty-three bodies, still in their club’s colours, were laid out on the pitch.

In the aftermath, Lord Provost Sir Donald Liddle wept at a press conference. He declared, ‘It is quite clear a number died of suffocation’.

This wasn’t the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 with ninety-six deaths and 766 injured were the police and ambulance services were culpable.

Kenny Dalglish, brought up a Rangers’ supporter, but part of the Jock Stein’s  Quality Street gang of youthful player replacing the ageing Lisbon Lions, was in the stand that day. He was also a player-manager in the Heysel disaster in 1985 and manager of Liverpool at Hillsborough  

A Rangers’ director did use the tactic of victim blaming, something Dalglish as player and manager never did. Stairway 13 ‘was an accident waiting to happen’ concluded one spectator at the game, but no worse than you’d see at Falkirk or Tannadice.

2 died in a crush in Stairway 13 in 1961, 70 fans injured; in 1967, 11 injured; 1969, 30 injured.

Rangers were cleared of culpability in a public enquiry. Sheriff James Irvine Smith was said to have lost friends when he concluded:  ‘The said accident was due to the fault and negligence’ of Rangers F.C. and paid damages to a victim. Sixty other civil cases were brought and settled by the club.  

Black Narcissus, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, Writer Amanda Coe based on a novel by Rumer Godden (1939), Director Charlotte Bruus Christensen.


 Gemma Arterton plays the lead role of Sister Clodagh, famously taken by Deborah Kerr (from Helensburgh).  Diana Rigg, who died this year, plays a cameo of Mother Dorothea. From the safety of Darjeeling she gets to task of warning Sister Clodagh that it won’t all be peaches and cream at Mopu in the Himalayas when the snow sets in. A missionary group of brothers have already failed in their quest to bring Anglo-Saxon English with a sprinkling of Catholicism to the natives. Jim Broadbent even pops up as bumptious, but kind, Father Roberts to add authenticity. Karen Bryson gets to play the token black nun, Sister Philippa. Alessandro Nivola as Mr Dean, the love interest. Nila Aalia as Angu Ayah, the caretaker and cat women, who predicts doom, doom, doom.

Nice scenery and the tolling of the bell that extends, over three nights, to three episodes.  

Hamilton 0—3 Celtic

Hamilton 0—3 Celtic.

Celtic start with Griffiths and Edouard up front. Turnball and Soro keep their place in the team, as does Conor Hazard. The debate goes on to whether Soro will play at Ibrox, or Lennon will bring in Scott Brown. My guess is Brown will play at Ibrox and Soro against United. I can’t say the young keeper has impressed, but that tells you all you need to know about our goal-keeping reserves. Bitton comes in for an injured Jullien and Greg Taylor for Laxalt. We’ve a strong bench, but it’s the players on the pitch that matter. Rangers were nineteen points clear coming into the game. Our chance of ten-in-a-row looks unlikely and hanging by the thinnest thread, even with games in hand. Every game until the end of the season is a must win. We’ve struggled on the plastic pitch in recent seasons and it’s wet and windy, in other words, normal Scottish weather. Neil Lennon settled for a diamond formation in midfield.

Griffiths had a chance after two minutes. Bitton had two headers from corners and almost scored. Frimpong getting the touchline and hanging up for Griffiths again, with fifteen minutes gone. The Celtic striker hit the post. Turnball and  Christie both had speculative shots from outside the box. Celtic, as you’d expect, dominate possession (86% at one point) at the midpoint of the half. Edouard in the 33rd minute weaved into the box and his shot was saved by the Hamilton keeper, Gourlay. After 47 minutes Edouard’s magic feet allowed him once more to get a shot away. But he didn’t score. Hamilton, with a decimated squad, offered little in attack. Celtic’s track record of losing every kind of goal from corners and free kicks, in particular, means the home team were still in it.  

Edouard made the difference. Frimmpong, who looks more comfortable at full-back, with space to run into, got to the bye-line and fired in a ball. Edouard’s touch was good and he tried to dink it over Gourlay, but it didn’t go in and the referee awarded a penalty. 1—0 Celtic and that Edouard penalty made a huge difference. Edouard set up the second goal for Griffiths. A side-foot shuffle into Griffith’s path. From the edge of the box, Griffiths slotted it away. We can no longer assume it’s game over, even with a two goal lead. But it was game over. Turnball got his third goal in three games. Again it was Edouard who set it up, hitting the post from a McGregor cut back. Turnball followed in with the rebound.

With twenty minutes to play Lennon could bring on a slew of substitutes. This kinda tells you the pecking order. Adjeti for Griffiths. Griffiths is number 2, to Edouard. Klmala for Edourad (well, that tells us nothing). Johnson for Turnball. You’d expect to see Elyounoussi, our top scorer, coming on before Johnson. And he did, eventually, for Christie. And Elyounoussi was unlucky not to score at the end of the game.

We need to beat Dundee United on Wednesday. Then Rangers at Ibrox on the 2nd January. We’ll still be underdogs, but will have a chance of ten-in-a-row. It was easy today. Our defence didn’t lose a goal, which is unusual this season. Griffiths is certainly sharper. Edouard back to something like his best. Stating the obvious, we need Rangers to lose and us to win. And we need to stop losing daft goals to do that.

Documentary of 2020: Once Upon a Time in Iraq, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Narrator Andy Serkis and Director James Bluemel.

Once Upon a Time in Iraq, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Narrator Andy Serkis and Director James Bluemel.






Waleed Nesyif was a teenager when President George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein just 48 hours to leave Iraq. He was, like many Iraqi teenagers at that time, infatuated by the West. But while many of his generation grew up enjoying songs by The Backstreet Boys, Waleed formed Iraq’s first heavy metal band. By comparison to the American movies Waleed and his friends enjoyed, life under Saddam was oppressive, fuelled by fear and paranoia. If war meant life would eventually be more like the way it was in the movies, then in Waleed’s words, ‘let’s get this s**t done’.

Omar Mohammed, a young Iraqi student in 2003 explains the difference between the Iraqi and the American soldier during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He thought they were Rambo. Nobody could defeat them.

For others, it was more complicated. Um Qusay, a farmer’s wife from a small village near Tikrit, was under no illusions about the cruelty of Saddam’s regime. That did not mean however that she wanted a foreign army to invade her country to dispose of him. There were benefits to living in a police state. The streets were very safe, and if you did not oppose the government directly, you were free to live how you wished. Life might not have been perfect, but many felt that a war with America would be something that Iraq would not survive. Sally was just eight years old when American troops entered Baghdad. She had been told to be fearful of them, but when a soldier offered her a sweet, she decided that the stories she had been taught at school about the foreign imperialist devils were wrong, as only good people could be this kind.

As the statue to their former dictator falls in Firdos Square, there is a real sense of hope felt by many Iraqis. Maybe, just maybe, Iraq would emerge a better country – perhaps even as one of the best countries in the world. That was the very real hope of Ahmed Al Bashir. Now Iraq’s most famous comedian, as a teenager in 2003, Ahmed was excited by the opportunity to speak English with real Americans, waving at the invading troops and inviting them into his house. From his hotel room in northern Iraq, photographer Ashley Gilbertson watched, along with the rest of the world, as Saddam’s statue was torn down. ‘I’ve missed the war’ were his initial thoughts. What he and many others did not realise at the time was that this was not the war. The war was still to come. The initial hope, felt by many Iraqis, would be tragically short lived once the realities of occupation with no postwar plan hit the streets of Baghdad

When Lieutenant Colonel Nate Sassaman arrived in Iraq in 2003, his belief in the task ahead – of delivering democracy and stability to the Iraqi people – was unquestioning. Sassaman was an inspirational leader to his men, and many felt that he was destined one day to become a general. Six months into his tour, caught in the political and literal crossfire of the insurgency, his good intentions and belief systems were shattered. Unprepared for the hostile environment he found himself in, with little support coming from Washington and taking daily attacks from insurgents, Sassaman was pushed to the very darkest regions of his psyche.

Alaa Adel was 12 years old in the summer of 2003, when she too was caught in crossfire on the streets of Baghdad. She suffered life-changing injuries when she was hit in the face by shrapnel from one of the first roadside bombs, which were planted by insurgents and intended for American forces.

Looking back at that time, both Sassaman and Alaa question the benefits of the war in Iraq. While one struggles with the guilt of their actions, the other lives with bristling resentment and ongoing anger.

At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, over 600 journalists and photographers are given permission by the US government to follow the war as embedded reporters. Dexter Filkins and photographer Ashley Gilbertson are working for the New York Times when they enter Fallujah with Bravo Company in November 2004.

It is the most intense battle of the entire war and the biggest the marines have fought since Vietnam. For the duration of the battle, both journalists live with the marines, filing their stories as they are constantly shot at. Illustrated by thousands of photographs taken by Gilbertson that week, many of them never before published, as well as unseen material taken by the marines themselves, this film takes viewers into the heart of the battle. Gilbertson’s decision to capture an image of an Iraqi sniper shooting from inside a minaret changes not only his life but the lives of the soldiers with him.

Nidhal Abed has lived in Fallujah her entire life. On 4 November 2004, her two-year-old son Mustafa is running a high fever. She leaves her home to take Mustafa to the doctors just a few streets away. What happened next ensures their lives too are never the same again.

With unique archive of the battle itself, this story is told through the marines, journalists and residents of Fallujah

CIA analyst John Nixon is the first person to interrogate Saddam.

The emergence of ISIS concludes the legacy of the Iraq War. But it has begun before this by what David Armstrong describes as the Bush administration ‘Drafting a Plan for Global Dominance 2002,’  in response to 9/11,  a strategy of threatening and attacking countries in pre-emptive strikes to prevent terrorism. ‘Iran would be next, then Syria, North Korea, even China…Sweep it all up’.

Felicity Arbuthnot, reports in Iraq: The Unending War 1998-99, humanises it by reporting on the case of Jassim, the Little Poet – R.I.P.  

Until he’d been ill he’d been selling cigarettes in his home town of Basra, in northern Iraq. Bombed in the 1991 Gulf War and Desert Storm.

A six-fold increase in childhood cancers linked to the use of missiles and bullets coated with depleted uranium, which remains radioactive for 4500 years.

‘Iraq’s childhood mortality rate will go down in history as one of the great crimes of the twentieth century, alongside the Holocaust, the bombing of Dresden and the excesses of Pol Pot. Between 6000 and 7000 children under five are dying of embargo-related causes,’ said Denis Haliday, a former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN.  

Jay Gordon, Cool War, Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction 2002, reminds us before the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein’s government, despite the well-known mass murder of Kurds and Shi’ites would not have survived without substantial backing from the United States, especially with an expensive war with Iran from 1980-1988.

After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War, in 1991, the US secretary-general envoy predicted ‘imminent catastrophe’. Immediate crises in food, water, sanitation, and infrastructure. His report concluded with the suggestion of ‘epidemics and famine’.  According to a Pentagon report that was the intention.

In the Oil for Food Programme, for example, around $170 per person per year was allocated. Around half the annual per-capita income of the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, Haiti. Less than the $400 spent on dogs UN used on de-mining operations.

The destruction of the fresh water system caused outbreaks of cholera and typhus, which disproportionately killed infants and children. Prior to 1990 around 95 per cent of city dwellers had drinkable water. By 1996 all sewerage-treatment plants had broken down, confirming the Pentagon report’s analysis. Thirteen percent of Iraqi children died before their fifth birthday.

Jassim, the Little Poet’s last written words, ‘Identity Card’.

‘The name is love,

The class is mindless,

The school is suffering,

The governorate is sadness,

The city is sighing,

The street is misery,

The home number is one thousand sighs.’

Celtic 2—0 Ross County.

John Hughes turned up at Parkhead as the new manager of Ross County. I’m sure we all wish him well, but just not tonight. Ross County recently put us out of what we used to call the league cup, beating us 2—0 at Parkhead. The league-cup defeat followed a familiar pattern. They played with a big striker, Ross Stuart, and ten men behind the ball. Nothing new here. Opposing teams have been turning up at Parkhead and doing it for years. What has been different is they have been coming and winning or drawing. Sunday’s penalty-shoot-out was a case in point. Hearts dropped back to their own box. Celtic scored two goals and at half-time, commentators were wondering how many more Celtic would score.

Here tonight we had a bog-standard boring Celtic victory. A goal in each half. Frimpong creating the first in 23 minutes by skinning the full back and cutting the ball back for Turnball to turn in. The former Motherwell man won man of the match. Griffiths who started the game, got our second in 61 minutes. He’d already spurned two one on ones with the keeper, but made up for it with a fantastic header from a Christie cross.

Being two ahead hasn’t been enough of a lead in too many recent matches. Lennon’s job was made easier by Duffy and Brown’s injuries. That meant Soro started and he was quietly efficient. Ajer gave up his right back role and went back into a central pairing with Jullien. Ajer had some fantastic runs and his passing was tremendous. His cross-field pass picked out Frimpong for the first goal. But Ajer isn’t a great centre half, nor is he a great full back. He’s just alright. Frimpong, similarly, is better at full back with space to run into than in a crowded midfield. But Frimpong isn’t a great defender. Conor Hazard retained the goalkeeping jersey, but looked less than convincing on Sunday. Here he didn’t have any saves of note to make. We seem to have spent five million quid on a dud, so it’s Hazard for now, but I’m convinced now that we need another keeper.

Edouard dropped deep for the ball and had a better game with Griffiths playing up front with him. He was substituted for Ajeti, who must be considered number three or four in the striking stakes. Bringing on substitutes of the calibre of Rogic, Ntcham and Mikey Johnson makes you wonder how we’ve been so shite recently. I wonder if Johnson has jumped ahead of Elyounoussi in the pecking order. I’m pretty sure we won’t win the league, but, obviously, I’m hoping for the miraculous. Rangers haven’t got better players than us, but they’re just doing better. A managerial change at this stage—well, I think it would be too late. Quadruple treble winners but it’s all so low. Winning games like this help.     

The Death of Stalin, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer directed by Armando Iannucci


I’ve read a couple of books on Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore. I get who he is, or was. Armando Iannucci concentrates on Stalin’s death and the scramble for power among his henchmen of torturers and mass murderers. It’s played out as farce. For example, in the opening scenes Stalin, who loved music (and books) rings a studio in Moscow and tells the presenter of the radio performance that he’d like a recording and he’ll send someone to pick it up in 17 minutes. You can’t say no to Stalin. The orchestra has to replay the concert and an audience rounded up to fill the theatre and clap at the appropriate moments. Then  it has to be recorded and sent to Stalin. Chaos has to be managed.

The apparently droll humour of Iannucci’s Yes Minister and The Thick of It translated into the grim Soviet era of 1953, Moscow. But I just don’t get that kind of stuff, and found it as funny as Benny Hill chasing after a Page 3 girl. I didn’t laugh once and switched over to Match of the Day before it finished. I guess these kinds of programmes aren’t made for the proletariat.  

Celtic quadruple treble winners.

Celtic 3—3 Hearts. (Celtic win the Scottish cup on penalties).

Celtic  quadruple treble winners, which is a great achievement. As William Shakespeare once remarked, ‘how many ways is there to say I love you?’ (or give away daft goals?) Celtic described by all and every commentator at half time as a variation of the theme ‘cruising’. An early goal from Ryan Christie and then ten minutes later a chipped penalty right down the centre of the goal from Edouard. Nine Hearts players positioned across their own eighteen-yard line for most of the first half. Andy Halliday, remember him, the former Ranger’s player, who was so rotten when he played left back for the Huns that our fans started cheering every touch in an Old Firm game. He was at it again here. Brown bossed him, in the first half and, his other old mate, Stephen Naismith, the Ranger’s fanatic wasn’t doing any better at winding us up. Edouard, could and should have had a hat-trick. By the time he went off for Griffiths, the score was 2-2.

Andy Halliday had drifted wide and got a cross into the box. Christopher Jullien and Shane Duffy flat footed. Taylor marking space. Liam Boyce, unmarked heads into the corner of the net.

Jullien and Duffy, a few minutes later, with both central defenders waiting for the other to clear the ball, lets in Ginnelly. The Heart’s substitute misses when clean through on goal. Half-decent Connor Hazard save. That made up for the hash he’d made of an earlier effort, when he’d rushed out of the box and let in Naismith, with the score at 0—0.

The Heart’s equaliser was simply postponed. Christie, as he’s prone to do, gave away a needless free kick, wide right. Hearts win a corner and Christie seems to have cleared Kingsley’s effort, but the referee gets a signal the ball has went over the line.

Celtic are wobbling. Rogic come on for Turnball. Griffiths on Edouard. Soro on for Brown. But it’s the Celtic skipper that looks to have been instrumental in winning the cup for Celtic during extra time. He attacks the ball. Griffiths scoops it towards the goal. Craig Gordon saves, but Griffiths, the predator, is first to react and hooks into the net. Surely, now the cup is ours. Frimpong for Duffy and Laxalt for Taylor are also on the field. In choosing who to play and leave out of the team, Neil Lennon’s strategy is to give everybody a chance. Mikey Johnston also on earlier for Elyounoussi. It’s hard to keep up with all the substitutions.

So here we go, seeing the game out in extra time, ten minutes to go. Tom Rogic works his magic down the line, cuts into the bye-line and almost creates another chance for Griffiths. Olly Lee, finds Kingsley with a free kick. Or rather, Connor Hazard has his second meltdown of the day and comes out and flaps at the ball.  Ginelly, who gave the static Celtic defence problems, sweeps it into the net.

It’s penalties and given a choice between Hazard and Craig Gordon in goal, I’d have taken the Hearts and former Celtic keeper. Christie misses, or Gordon saves. You pick which. Kingsley, the Heart’s hero, misses. We’re back in it. Wighton’s penalty is saved by Hazard. Ajer scores the final penalty to win the final. I’d like to say it was fitting to win an exciting match, but really more relieved than anything else. I know we’ll forget the game and remember the victory. But anybody watching this game will know for sure this bunch of players, this manager, isn’t going to win ten-in-a-row. Even diddy teams are scoring two or three against us. We’re back looking for signs and portents, even when we win as we did today.   

Best film of 2020, Lynn + Lucy, BBC iPlayer, written and directed by Fyzal Boulifa.

Lynn + Lucy (Roxanne Scrimshaw + Nichola Burley) wasn’t the kind of film I usually watch. It seemed like Brookside transported to Harlow, Essex. Yeh, I’m snobby that way. ‘You alright? Yeh, I’m alright. You alright?’

Lynn + Lucy went to school together, best mates, forever. Lynn has been married to Paul (Shaq B Grant) for ten years and they have a daughter Lola (Tia Nelson). They got married when she was sixteen and he got her pregnant. He’s off sick from his job in the army and scouring the internet for talent. Lynn isn’t worth looking at. She gets a low-level job in the hairdresser making tea and sweeping up after customers. The owner of the boutique, Janelle (Jennifer Lee Moon) is the kind of snotty cow both girls laughed at school.

Lucy is the glamour puss with blue hair and a younger boyfriend, Clark (Samson Cox-Vinell). Their house is across the road from Lynn’s, and she trudges across to help with their fractious new-born kid, because, for once, she’s had experience of that sort of thing. Lynn’s doing the talking and Lucy is doing the listening, but that’s what her plain-looking friend is there for, helping out.

Paul isn’t particularly happy when Lucy goes for a girlie night out with Lynn. It’ll be like old times is the cry. But Clark doesn’t know about it and has to be told and persuaded that Lucy is going out. She deserved her little break, like everybody else.

Lucy is back in her element, on the town and winding up the boys they used to go to school with that they used to be a pair of lesbians because they were so close. Even snogging one of the boys for a laugh to show that she’s still got it. Lynn is by her side, going along for the ride.

The classic set-up for what happens next. An ambulance takes away Lucy’s baby. Everything falls apart. Lynn begins to pick up the pieces. For the first time in her life, she’s taking the lead. She’s in the limelight. The question emerges of how well we can really know each other? It takes precedence over all others. The glue that binds them is ripped apart. Who will fling the first stone in the witch hunt?

‘You alright? Yeh, I’m alright. You alright?’

Think again.

Stieg Larsson (2010) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland

When Mikael Blomkvist is holed up in cottage in the Vanger estate and can’t think he reads detective novels. I do that too. Hence The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and the first 100 pages of The Girl Who Kicks the Hornets’ Nest). Blomkvist namechecks Val McDermid The Mermaids Singing and some other—to me—obscure Scandinavian detective novels. In short, Blomkvist was behaving like a real person. He was behaving like me, which might have been you. But who would play you in the film? The answer is Daniel Craig plays Blomkvist. (Roona Mara plays Lisbeth Salander) Larsson/Blomkvist was everyman with a mission, or two missions, or perhaps three books full of Millennium and another three, literally, ghost written.

The trial was already over, everything that could be said had been said, but he never doubted that he would lose. The written verdict was handed down at 10.00 on Friday morning, and all that remained was a summing-up from the reporters waiting on the corridor outside the district court.

Blomkvist had been found guilty, fined and he’s going to jail for three months. But he’s more worried about the Millennium magazine he’s set up to investigate corruption and big finance, which is often the same thing. He’s been accused of libel and defamation of the reputation of financier Hans Erik Wennerstrom. That’s a bit like defaming Sir Philip Nigel Ross Green special adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. And conservatives really would be so outraged with the Swedish model of prison time. Blomkvist thought of it as therapeutic. Our Tory friends, of course, think that the hanging of a boy of thirteen-year-old for stealing a spoon in 1788 was too lenient, because he hadn’t been flogged properly first.

Stieg Larsson has a didactic element to his writing, which if often glossed over by his page-turning prose. Current concerns in the disunited United Kingdom that children are facing Christmas cooped up with their abusers, with the NSPCC charity receiving more than 31 000 calls since April, are matched by the author’s themes of incest and sexual abuse and eugenics of the Nazi variety in The Vanger Family. They are portrayed as old money, industrialists that made things and didn’t mind destroying people in the process. But not all of them. Christopher Plummer plays the eighty-two-year-old patriarch Henrik Vanger in the film of the same name, he’s that nice kind of Teutonic fellow that worries about worker redundancies. And for the last 40 years he’s been receiving a framed and pressed flower, with a note to mark the disappearance of his niece Harriet. He believes someone is his family has murdered her. All police leads have ended in failure. He hires Blomkvist, ostensibly to write a family history, to look for new leads of what happened on the day of her disappearance. But he doesn’t hold out much hope.

Blomkvist says because it’s an island, it’s a bit like an Agatha Christie closed-room whodunnit in the Vanger family, but then discounts the idea. But that’s exactly what this long-winding book is.  

Larsson makes misogynistic abuse plain. Part 1, for example, tells the reader, 18% of the women in Sweden have at one time been threatened by a man. Part 2, 46% of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man. Part 3, 13% of the women in Sweden have been subjected to aggravated sexual assault outside a sexual relationship. 92% of Women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported the most recent violent incident to the police. Here in Britain the Independent Monitor for the Press, Femicide Census, reported that a woman is currently being killed by a man every three days. Larsson, before his death, was outing not just a Scandinavian, but a British and, arguably, universal pattern.

Larsson’s revenge was the creation of the iconic Lisbeth Salander. While journalist Blomkvist experiences middle-class angst of where his next story will be coming from, Salander is the outsider’s outsider. She’s four-foot-eleven, twenty four, but looks like a beautiful fifteen-year-old waif and every minute is a battle for survival. Her battle with a bureaucracy designed to help her is of the deadly variety. Her social worker a sadistic predator that orally and anally rapes her. Larsson flips to his point of view as he muses that she’s better than a prostitute because he pays for her services with her own—state-funded—money.

Salander will get her revenge—she always does. She’s a hi-tech hacker, the best in Sweden, and she has a photographic memory. Blomkvist muses that she suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, but they become lovers as they unravel the mystery of what happened to Harriet Vanger and other mutilated and abused women. Salander is the equaliser that’s not going to let powerful men get away with it.

Salander, ironically, becomes part of capitalist branding like our aging James Bond. She becomes not a character, but a sexy Japanese Anamie figure that can be deployed in a number of situations and she’ll come out top girl.

In The Girl Who Kicks the Hornets’ Nest, for example, she’s been shot in the head by her father and buried in a shallow grave by her half-brother who is built like ‘a brick shithouse’. Because of a genetic condition, her half-brother feels no pain. He’s superhuman and a psychopathic murderer. He disarms two armed cops, kills one of them and steals their car, yet she takes him down. She has internal injuries to her leg and…well, you get the drift. Bad thing happen. Bad things happen to her. But it makes her stronger. More of a brand name. Watch the movie, save yourself time.