Rangers 1—2 Celtic

Celtic were better and deserved to win. At the end of the match, Rangers manager, Michael Beale took his team aside, and into a huddle. ‘This is what losing feels like,’ he was meant to have told his players. Well, they better get used to it. Apart from a twenty minute spell when they offered some threat down the wings and Morelos got a goal back in the sixty-fourth minute to bring Celtic back into touching distance, they were no better than  the threat offered by, for example, Partick Thistle whom they edged past in the semi-final. As the late-great, Bertie Auld was meant to have said to his Rangers’ colleagues on match day, ‘You might get a bigger bonus. But ours is guaranteed’.

Hatate, McGregor and Mooy controlled the midfield. The flow of the game in the first-half was towards the Rangers penalty-box. Sure Ryan Kent hit the post and Fashion Sakala missed a good chance from the rebound. But for every mishit shot from the men in blue, Celtic had three or four. O’Riley missed a good chance at the end. And Haksbanovich missed a quick one-two of sitters.

Apart from McGregor, the Rangers goalkeeper, no Rangers player would get a place on the bench of this Celtic team. Joe Hart finds himself sitting on past glories. Compared to McGregor he’s a youngster, but his kicking isn’t as good. He should have got a better hand on the ball that went into the net from Morelos. At one point he punched a ball that came straight to him, and was the kind my granny would have plucked out of the air. But hey, he didn’t concede a second. He’ll do for now. But I’d hope for better.

And only one team can win the treble. The team with the worst ever Champions League record aren’t going to be in it this year (or the coming years). That leaves a straight shoot-out for the Scottish Cup and the last game of the season at Hampden. When we were picking up the League Cup last year, with another Kyogo double, it seems a different age when we still chasing Champions Rangers. In such a short space of time Postecoglou has taken an axe to the team that was and build a team that is a joy to watch. There is talk of him leaving and there will be a time when like all managers when he will leave. He’s not only rejuvenated the Celtic team, he’s helped erase the memory of the hapless blundering and lack of purpose when our ten-in-a-row bid ground to a halt. Celtic have purpose and identity. We want to win games the Celtic way with free-flowing and attacking football. The irony is the team that won the European Cup famously was recruited from a ten mile radius of Glasgow—Bobby Lennox, Saltcoats, the furthest away—had only two Scottish players in the starting eleven at Hampden. Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor are first picks every week. But supporting them apart from the dreaded English, Canadians, Americans, Japanese, South Koreans, Montenegrins, Australians, Danish, and not even an Irishman among them.  What Postecoglou brought wasn’t just a reboot of Celtic but also knowledge of where good player were for bargain basement prices. That is something Michael Beale with his media posturing does not have.    

Bargain- basement Kyogo, who won us the final last year against Hibs, also did so on Sunday at Hampden. He came up with two close range finishes at the end of the first and second half to effectively win the game, but he also missed a few chances. An ineffectual header and an early one-on-one attempt, which should have given Celtic their usual early lead. But unlike Morelos, when his number was called, he went off with a smile on his face, a humility that is heartening.

The treble is on, but one-game-at-a-time mantra is the kind of mood music us fans eat up. Celtic are well ahead of Rangers. There’s no doubt about that. And long may it continue. But Rangers can beat us in the odd, one off game. It will just begin to happen less and less. I remember listening on the radio to a report in which Celtic got a draw at Ibrox. Darren O’Dee was playing, and I was ecstatic. Not because Irish man Darren was playing, of course, but I did have a soft spot for the hapless Anton Rogan. One game at a time. One league at a time. One cup at the time. One treble at a time. Humility in victory and in defeat. Let’s see it out. Let’s build for a new future with or without Postecoglou. As the ten-in-a-row debacle showed to stand still was to go backwards. For now we’re going in the right direction. Hail Hail.   

Ronan Farrow (2019) Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators


I know a girl, a little girl, I think of her in that way because of her size. She’s tiny. She got raped. I know the rapist too.  I also know his mum. She contacted me and asked me to stop calling him a rapist. ‘It was just one of those things,’ she said. ‘She panicked.’ The irony here is her daughter must have panicked too. Because she’d gone to the police alleging an acquaintance had raped her a few years ago. The rapist messaged me telling me he’d call the police for slandering him.  You know what happened next. What usually happens next? Nothing.

Ronan Farrow grew up with a rapist. His stepfather was film director Woody Allen. He married a stepsister he was parenting, Soon-Yi. Dylan, his sister, said that Woody Allen had digitally penetrated her vagina when she was seven-years-old. That’s around the age Michael Jackson preferred young boys to be when he had sex with them. Hearsay, of course, they would never have done those kinds of things.

Then there’s Trump and stories about sexual assault and rape. Almost as many stories about Trump as there were about Harvey Weinstein. Many of us have probably heard of him being caught in a sting filmed with Russian prostitutes when visiting Moscow, and asking them to pee on the bed. Putin was meant to have found that quite funny. But the Russian President did admit that Russian women were the most beautiful in the world. Trump couldn’t help himself, allegedly.

He was of course, a friend, a very, very, good friend with Jeffrey Epstein. They shared ‘Katie Johnston,’ also known as ‘Jane Doe’. That’s what the lawsuit against Trump stated in 1994. The usual kind of story of a thirteen-year-old girl in New York thinking she can become a professional model and forced to perform oral sex on Epstein and Trump. The finale was ‘a savage sexual attack by Trump’. It didn’t happen, of course, because the girl was clearly underage. Fake news of the kind Prince Andrew never committed.

Bill Cosby, of course, was found guilty of rape on re-trial. He claimed he didn’t drug his victims. Weinstein claimed he didn’t drug his victims either. Therefore it couldn’t have been rape. It certainly wouldn’t have been if he got elected President of the United States.

Farrow’s story is one we’ll be broadly familiar with. But the detail is eye-catching, because it’s all laid out. How the rape victim becomes a target to Catch and Kill.

That’s military jargon. Farrow begins his account with a meeting between two immigrants in a Brooklyn café in 2016. The narrator wasn’t there, but he writes the account as if he was. Roman Kyaylin was from the former Soviet Union. Igor Ostrovskiy was from Ukraine, which was also part of the former Soviet Union. They were for hire in the growing intelligence sector in the United States. Their target was spying on Ronan Farrow.

They were subcontractors, above them was Black Cube, an Israeli-based spy network, with former Presidents and Mossad directors selling their services to those that could pay. Weinstein made initial payments of $600 000.


Pegasus software was sold to dictators all over the world to track dissidents in their midst. It could track them and listen to their conversations. It could also activate the camera-phone. Here it was used to track a different kind of dissident. Farrow wasn’t the first reported to pick up on Weinstein (and Trump’s) story of rape and sexual assault.

Delay, doubt and deny. Picking holes in victim’s accounts. Terrifying them and forcing them into submission. The grunt work was done as low-grade shadowing. Threats came from on high and in torturous legal documents that billed their paymasters and sought to close victims’ mouths.

Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, for example, created a number of fictitious shell companies to pay Stormy Daniels $130 000 to shut up about her relationship with Trump. Weinstein employed a carousel of lawyers and faces that used the same tactics and playlists.

Both men had the backing of Dylan Howard at The National Enquirer. Like the News of the World in Britain, prior to the phone-hacking scandal, it sold tabloid scandal, but to Americans. Celebrities were fair game. Sometimes the only game. They put Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, in the frame.Urged him to cut a deal, and they wouldn’t publish pictures of him with his mistress. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg, and an endless list of stars and politicians, Bezos declined and preferred to be outed rather than ‘blackmailed’ and beholden.

Trump, of course, cut a deal. Dylan Howard and Michael Cohen worked together to buy the rights to the story of disgruntled women that claimed to be sexually assaulted or raped by the former President, or even a former housekeeper that was said to have a son to the moron’s moron. Then nothing happened. Apart from the moron’s moron getting elected American President in 2016, which was worse, much worse

Trump’s and Weinstein’s had paid for supposed slut shaming and shutting women’s mouths. There was a certain irony that Murdoch’s Fox News anchor, Tucker Carlson, used a picture of Farrow’s boss, Noah Oppenheim, as a prompt:

‘Let’s be clear, NBC is lying. Many powerful people knew what Harvey Weinstein was doing and not only ignored his crimes, but actively took his side against many of his victims.  It’s a long list, but at the very top of the list is NBC News.’

The sins of omission are almost as long as the sins of commission. Ronan Farrow has brought into the light the crimes of a deluded Weinstein, who still proclaims his innocence from a prison cell. We wait for the moron’s moron to join him. My guess is he’ll be dead before then. His crimes against women in particular and humanity, in general, are still to be accounted for. No doubt someone like Ronan Farrow is working on that book now.     

The Great Stink, Channel 5, My 5, narrator Dr Xand Van Tulleken, director Janet Simpson.



John Major: “Society needs to condemn a little more and understand a little less.”

We all know where deregulation and a lack of cooperation take us. It allows us to put carbon into the air and gives our planet multiple sclerosis. That’s a deadly miasma which will be terminal for most of us. Coming to you soon.

Britain 1858 is the uncontested superpower power in the world. Russia with its Emperor, large land mass and serfs remains a feudal society, but is still a superpower in the Great Game as the Crimean War shows. German city states are still to be reunited under Bismarck’s tutelage, but it has no empire. France is a rival, but Britain with its financial muscle, really does rule the waves. Queen Victoria is on the throne. India is the jewel in the crown, an indentured nation, whose goods and services they exported home to Britain.

Britain is also the workshop of the world. London’s population has risen from around one million to three million in 1858. The most populous city in the world. Britain is a prosperous nation. But the average life expectancy was nineteen in areas like Soho and the Bowery in London.  In other words, some people were prosperous, or gilded, as Mark Twain labelled them, but as Charles Dickens showed the great unwashed died in vast numbers.

Part of the reason was sewerage. For example, the mortality rate for children under five in Iraq before and after recent twenty-century wars wasn’t even fifty-fifty because of a lack of chlorine treatment and fresh drinking water. Throw in dead dogs, the run-off from factories and tanneries that dumped their waste into the tributaries of the Thames, add human sewerage and stir. Drink it down. Whisper it, poor people, didn’t have access to tap water. Only the middle-classes had that. It too was contaminated. We should all drink more water is advice from the Nanny state. Try drinking shit, literally.

Cholera and typhoid. Unnatural born killers.

The summer of 1858 broke all records (until now). Sunshine for three months. Population density increases. Water density decreases. Shit storm.

Many of us have had shitty jobs. One of the worst jobs, even in Nazi concentration camps, was cleaning out the human cesspit. Initially, this job was done by the poorest workers. The night-soil men would empty the cesspits of the London population outside their homes. They would put the filth it into a cart and sell their product to farmers. (A good source of nitrogen).    

But with a swelling population, pish and shit were dumped directly into stanks that ran into the River Thames. The intense heat and lack of natural rain water meant underground London watercourses became filled with sewerage and methane gas. It poisoned drinking water (as millions of tons of cow shit and toxic farmland sludge does today, especially in deregulated American farmlands). We can’t imagine the stink as the Thames dried up and had a lid of sewerage on top cooking in the sun. The best the programme could do was some corny acting in Victorian garb and hankies held to the nose, and an enclosed polytunnel with a shitty swamp inside.  Shit no longer flowed but took a cyclical journey, backed up into the rivers feeding it. Even Queen Victoria was affected.

The newly built Houses of Parliament overlooked the Thames. Something had to be done. It meant raising taxes. It meant investing in public works. All the things the Tories hate. But they didn’t then. It meant cleaner air. Benjamin Disraeli was on the right track. Rich people’s lives were in danger. I’m sure there’s a lesson there for us poorer folk. The great stink of 2023 is when and how we leave global warming untreated.  Treat those that campaign against fossil fuels as terrorists, with more deadly results than all wars combined. But this is not a costume drama. The average age of life expectancy is soon to be zero for us all as a third of nuclear-armed Pakistan’s land mass is covered in sewerage and India tries to steal its shared rivers and streams.

Beastie and other stories.

Nobody tells you how much you’ll come to hate your book. Fight or flight. You freeze. You’re being held down and forced to read it again. Try a different font. Try reading it aloud. Give it time to settle. While I was waiting, I wrote a rough draft of the follow-up novel, Angel. Try primal screaming. It doesn’t work but it does annoy the neighbours. At least they know how you feel. The problem isn’t someone else’s.

While you’re lining sentences up like soldiers waiting to get chopped, your mind is such a child, it wants novelty. Demands a treat. Syntax is for the dodos. Saccades are where you find yourself. You can’t read what you’ve written, but some cultish version of it onscreen.

Books aren’t finished. Just abandoned like dog turds on the bridge over the canal to snare cyclists. But I’ve finished this draft of Beastie. Tartan noir, 95 773 words. A clean copy. As clean as I can make it. I don’t think I’m William McIlvanney. I don’t want or need to be. I just need to be more myself. Find the words that make it true. I’m ready to send it to Nikki at Spellbound Books. Then I’ll print out the edits. Sit down and it will all start again with the 343 double-spaced pages and annoying the neighbours.  I’ve a publication date the end of August. That could change. Nothing is certain. We can only do our best.

Bonnie Garmus (2022) Lessons in Chemistry.

Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry, has as its protagonist Elizabeth Zott, who shoots from the hip, and never fails to tell the reader why. The past is never past and all that. And in physics, as in life, nothing is ever lost. But Elizabeth Zott is a chemist. A first-class chemist. Physics may have created the atomic and hydrogen bombs. But it was chemistry and chemists that created our modern world.

Elizabeth Zott is a genius, in the same way her first love and partner, Calvin Evans, at the Hastings Research Institute in California in 1952, is a genius. His work lauded, his research published in notable journals like Chemistry Today. And he’s a shoo-in for The Noble Prize (perhaps I should use past-tense here).

But Elizabeth Zott is not the wrong kind of genius, but the wrong kind of person. Sure, she’s white enough. And beautiful too. Her problem isn’t a murdering crook for a father and a narcissistic psychopath for a mother. That’s commonplace in American government (and most prisons all the way from cell blocks to the governor). Her problem is she’s female. It’s a problem no chemistry book can solve.

She’s forced to take a job, not a chemist, but as cook on local and then national television. Supper at Six. Lyndon B. Johnson, the then grossly overweight Vice President of America, watched it. Supposedly, an avid fan. He too had a way with the ladies. For example, the way his hand wandered inside his secretary’s dress, in the backseat of a car on his Texas estate, while his wife rode in the front. Boys will be boys.

Stott had her own idiosyncratic take on this kind of behaviour and American patriarchy. That’s why her cookery programme is such a nationwide hit. American housewives love her because she tells it like it is.

‘They either want to control her, touch her, dominate her, silence her, correct her, or tell her what to do.’

Listen to the modern tone here in a note put into her daughter’s lunchbox. Mad is aged five and also a genius, smart enough to have read most of Dickens and big enough to pass for six so she can attend school.   

Fuel for learning. Play sports at recess but do not automatically let the boys win. It is not your imagination. Most people are awful.’

Lessons in Chemistry is not Mill on the Floss. George Eliot does allow for women to be read as vastly superior to men, even although they may never be regarded in that way. But she wouldn’t allow for a dog being a narrator, and telling the story from his point of view. No matter. Elizabeth Zott is a great character. Everything else flows from that. I’m as sure as a dumb male can be that a television series will follow. I might even watch it. Read on.        

Celtic 4—0 Aberdeen.

Andy Rat asked what I thought the Celtic team would be today. Both of us took it for granted Celtic would win. We proved correct with four goals and a bit of a stroll. Aberdeen’s best chances came from two poor passes from Joe Hart. Apart from that it was damage limitation for the Dons. McGregor had us a goal up within two minutes. Reo Hatate added another ten minutes later—that was it game over.

I keep saying the same thing,  Hatate is one of the best midfielders in Britain. He scored a third goal late in the second half. He moves the ball quickly, can dribble and he does the doggies, shuttling between players. He’d a stinker against St Johnston a few weeks ago. And he faded towards the end of last season. But he’s a certain starter against Rangers, next week with this man of the match performance.

Liel Abada came on as a late substitute to get us a fourth. He was set up by fellow substitute Sead Haksabanovich.  The Montenegrin is class. He slotted in for Hatate, and the biggest compliment I can pay him is, the Japanese international wasn’t missed. Haksabonovich can play right or left or through the middle. His first effort at goal from outside the box was just over the bar. His next effort just past the post. He berated himself for them. But his vision and ability to pick a pass makes him dangerous in the last third against compact defences.

Andy Rat and me thought O’Riley would start, and Mooy would play next week. With Mooy’s injury we were proved right today. O’Riley did OK. He was very unlucky with a shot and great save from the Aberdeen keeper, who helped keep the score down to 2—0 at half time instead of four or five our play, and the chances we created, deserved.

Aberdeen changed it tactically in the second-half, pulling even more players into defence and it worked for them, not in term of goal threat (apart from Hart’s blunders) but possession. With the game pretty much won, we lacked the zip we had in the first half. It was only late in the game we regained our mojo and goal scoring ability.

Tomoki Awata came on for O’Riley, but he took up his position in front of the defence that McGregor usually occupies. McGregor moved further forward. And he was unlucky to add a second goal to his opening strike. Awata looks comfortable on the ball. One thing you notice is not only is he demanding the ball (always a good thing) but he’s telling other players were to go. These are captain like qualities.

Oh got his first start in a Celtic strip. He didn’t have any chances to score, but was decent without being brilliant. Kyogo came on for the last twenty minutes and gave everything as usual. He got into a kerfuffle with a Don’s defender which was more embarrassing than the score line for the player from the Granite City complaining about god knows what? Kyogo bumped into him?

We also had a penalty in the first half. Joto had the ball in his hands ready to take it. But VAR showed he was clearly offside. The Portuguese winger had couple of decent efforts on goal and header in the six-yard box from which he really should have scored. He looks a certain starter next week.

A big pitch at Hampden made for Maeda. He’ll start too. We had the usual flurry of balls across the six-yard box with Maeda, with his pace, just failed to connect with. Perhaps the best from a Greg Taylor ball in the first half. It was also Maeda that gave us the penalty that was not a penalty before half-time. Johnny Hayes mistiming his tackle and chopping him down.

Joe Hart got away with one today, or two, but he’s a certain started next  week. He’s well rested, not having a safe to make today.

Alistair Johnson, aye.

Cameron Carton Vickers, definitely. He’s getting better and more assured on the ball, which bodes well.

Carl Starfelt, aye. I’m not a fan, but he’d a descent match today and he’s first pick.

The defence, with Greg Taylor in it, picks itself.

Our captain, Callum McGregor scored today. In the first game of the season against the Dons he played more passes than most teams play in a season. Certainty to start.

Reo Hatate, well, he’s the man. Pretty certain to start. His recent performance have been a wow.

Matt O’Riley did his chances of starting no harm with his performance today. He’d become sluggish and lost his positon to Mooy. I’ve a sneaking suspicion it’ll be the Australian and not the Dane that is given the start at Hampden. It’s a bit like last year, a toss of the coin between O’Riley or, another Australian (remember him) Tom Rogic.

Kyogo will lead the line (Alleluia). Oh come off the bench for him when we’re four or five up.

Maeda and Jota on the wings. Maeda’s the quickest. Jota the most skilful.

We’ve plenty on the bench, that’ll come off the bench, win or lose. We’re better than Rangers it’s as simple as that. But we all know in a one-off game, a Rangers’ penalty can change things. The countdown to the League title in on. In eight day the Vaiplay (League) Cup Final is up for grabs. Green ribbons on the trophy and the blue bubble well and truly burst. No surprise with my prediction. Maybe Postecoglou will surprise us with his selection. I doubt it.   Hail, Hail.

Channel 4, The Billionaires Who Made Our World. Bill Gates.


‘The Global Fund is one of the best and kindest thing people have ever done for one another.

Our Foundation announces a $500 million grant to The Global Fund.’ Bill Gates.

Dear Bill,

I’m sure you don’t remember me, but your algorithm does. You ‘friended’ me on Twitter. That was before the other richest man in the world liked the site so much he bought it. The cost was prohibitive and would have tanked the reputation of any normal genius.

You weren’t as quick as I thought you’d be to ‘unfriend’ me then. It was cool hanging out with you and Bill and Hillary Clinton. For a man without a house, a car and who uses a ten quid phone, these things matter. I might even have been a project. But I still suffer from survivor’s guilt that it was Hillary and not me that was forced to run against the moron’s moron and 45th American President.

Just think, nobody knew then that Jeffrey Epstein was a serial paedophile, certainly not me. Certainly not Bill, or Prince Andrew or you. Although your wife did divorce you on that one and tell the world what she thought on a talk show.

But it might have been another one. You admitted to cheating. You tried to cheat your main partner at Microsoft when he’d cancer, but hey, every day’s a business opportunity. And we all know those women aren’t as smart as men. Sure we can put a few token faces on the board and a few more in the bedroom. Shit, we might even have daughters. You’re a numbers man. Fifty percent of the world’s population are female. Most of America is non-white, but you just can’t get the staff, because there’s only one of you. That’s all that really matters.

Nobody wants to be judged, not even a flower. But a rose is still a rose by any other name. Name calling hurts. We all know our blue planet has got multiple sclerosis (well apart from the 20% of elderly, white Americans who follow the moron’s moron, and think Covid was not just a hoax, but a global satanic conspiracy with Hillary at its head). But you wrote a book and told the world how to cure global warming in a step-by-step manner.   

You and your wife set up a charitable foundation and pledged to give all your money away. You went further than most. Urged other billionaires to do the same.  Told your children they would only inherit a measly $10 million when you die. That’s courageous. Most of your friends would agree that you could spend $100 million on your house so it looks slightly older, more lived-in than it should, perhaps add an Olympic-sized swimming pool for paddling in.  

OK, the poor old American taxpayer kicks in with 50 cents for every dollar of your charitable work. Only poor people pay taxes. I’m not smart. Not a geek. I couldn’t, for example, get the equivalent math grade to get into any college.

Bill, what doesn’t add up to me is, since your charitable work, say around 2016, when we were so cruelly ‘unfriended’, you’ve become richer not poorer. Perhaps you could explain to me the alchemy of turning charity into gold, or the dollar equivalent? When you give something away how does it boomerang back with more?  

Cheers mate from a former ‘friend’.

p.s. I didn’t unfriend you, or Bill. And I was never friends with Jeffrey or Prince Andrew.



Is Bill Gates the richest man in the world?

Nope, and he hasn’t been for a while. On Forbes‘ 2021 World’s Billionaires List, Bezos was ranked #1 with a fortune of $177 billion, followed by Tesla founder Elon Musk, whose worth was estimated at $151 billion. Coming in third was French investor Bernard Arnault with $150 billion, followed by Gates at No. 4 with an estimated net worth of $124 billion (which, as of March 2022, had increased to $133.8 billion, but still put him at fourth on the list of world’s richest people).

How did Bill Gates make his money?

Gates co-founded Microsoft with his childhood best friendPaul Allen, in 1975, and since its inception has served as CEO, chairman and chief software architect of the company. Their MS-DOS platform became the operating system for IBM computers in 1980. When Microsoft went public, Gates’ shares alone were worth $350 million, making him one of the wealthiest men in America. The release of Microsoft Office in 1990 only further grew Gates’ big bucks, and when Windows 95 launched in 1995, Gates was, for a time, the richest man on Earth; his fortune hit the $100 billion mark in 1999.

How much does Bill Gates give to charity?

Gates and pal Warren Buffettcreated The Giving Pledge, which urges billionaires to spend the majority of their wealth on philanthropy. He and Melinda formed their eponymous Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent more than $40 billion fighting global poverty and diseases like malaria and polio around the world. He wrote in an annual letter in 2018, “If we think it’s unfair that we have so much wealth, why don’t we give it all to the government? The answer is that we think there’s always going to be a unique role for foundations. They’re able to take a global view to find the greatest needs, take a long-term approach to solving problems, and manage high-risk projects that governments can’t take on and corporations won’t. If a government tries an idea that fails, someone wasn’t doing their job. Whereas if we don’t try some ideas that fail, we’re not doing our jobs.”

Margaret Elphinstone (2000) The Sea Road.

I might have read Margaret Elphinstone’s book, The Sea Road before. Everybody loves Vikings, especially President Putin. The Rus people, he claims, are directly descended from The Sea Road and not from the Asiatic hordes in the East. Another way of saying, white is right. White is might. Pass the longboat and invade Ukraine where it all began.   

I know what you’re thinking, Alzheimer’s. That’s what really scares me. Memory loss. Not being Valhalla less. Being exiled as a ghost that can’t scare up a broth to the place beyond the sea. When I nail down a book review, it no long rises like Dracula from the grave to suck out my brain.

Every book is a dream, in which the writer is a Viking that sets sail. Grit doesn’t work. 10 000 books published annually by HarperCollins and 11 000 and more published by Amazon every week. True grit works even less. Luck now there’s something to be in thrall to. Thrall is a slave. Like the gods of Fate, but only smaller. No writer I know would say they were fated, but some might claim to be lucky. Being a Viking means you’ve got to consider the Fates, or else—

The Viking renegade Erik Raudi (Eric the Red) from Norway, who became an unsettler in Iceland, then a lawmaker in his settlement in Brattahild, Greenland was not thralled with the new religion of Christianity. He thought it made them soft.     

Gudrid’s story is told on 5th July 1051 from the centre of the world an English Convent in St Peter Rome. She tells it to the Agnar, son of Aslief, a monk from Iceland. She’s an old woman, and he’s a young monk.  He transcribes a rough copy of their conversation onto vellum. Please don’t make the mistake of meaning I mean Vellum software.  

Agnar, in making his mark, notes like all Vikings,: ‘When you write down a person’s story…it becomes yours.’

Character building. Gudrid knew hunger as a child. Her father was a chieftain and her mother dead. He was a follower of Erik the Red.  Everyone had Irish slaves. Her father claimed like every Irishman I’ve met to be descended from the kings of Ireland. We all are. It’s not a matter of genetics, but simple mathematics. Just as we are all from out of Africa. No one needed to tell him his daughter, Gudrid, was beautiful. That was a matter of record in which she had two husbands and two sons.

World building. Seasons are short and winters are long. The boundaries of the world become very large and very cold. The sea gives life and takes it. Ghosts haunt the living. Gudrid is a childish witch, but her powers untested. Everything in their season. Nothing wasted. Bird and their eggs are taken for food. Sheep and cattle, the mainstay. Crops are sown. But it’s never enough for life. A ship is needed to hunt enough sea meat for the winter months.

But there are few trees that can withstand the gale-force winds. Wood needed for the keel and stern. The keelson trunk of the mast. Thick oak for planking. And little bog iron for the smithy to make nails. Ropes made from sea hide. Loose wool and thread for caulking.  For people not only to survive but to thrive, they must trade. Trade is a form of plunder. Winner and losers.

Winds must be favourable and Fates dictate heaven or hell.   

‘I’m old and I’m tired,’ says Gudrid. ‘Sometimes I think the more we see, the less we know.’ Read on.

Celtic 5—1 St Mirren.

Few would have been surprised by the score line or that Celtic goes into the Scottish Cup quarter-final draw on Monday night (my preference would be a home tie against Partick Thistle). But it’s that old cliché, Celtic were made to work for it.

I wasn’t sure what kind of team Celtic would put out. We’ve got so many talented players you could make a great case for most of them. The only change to the team that beat St Johnston on a muck heap, and with a bit of swagger, was Reo Hatate. David Turnbull, who scored against the Perth men, replaced him in the starting eleven. Hatate had a bit of a stinker in Perth. But he’s such an outstanding player I rate him no only one of the best midfielders in Scotland, but England too. He’s Premeirship quality without a doubt.

We got off to a flier. Daizen Maeda’s cross turned into shot that hit the outside of the post and gave St Mirren an early warning. But one thing we know from Maeda, he’s not the most technically gifted, but he never stops. In the eleventh minute, he slid in and diverted Mooy’s cross from the touchline into the net. That could have been game over.

Roberson’s sides always have a certain physicality. He gambled on his side going man to man and pressing up. This is what Rangers will do in a fortnight. Here it worked until it didn’t. Alex Grieve, for example, had a well struck shot blocked by Carter Vickers in the sixteenth minute. St Mirren were tidy on the ball, without looking like scoring. But Carter-Vickers and Starfelt had far more of the ball than any other player on the pitch as the ball came continually backwards.

Kyogo, our top scorer, also went down early with what seemed like a nothing challenge. A shoulder injury when was caught between Keanu Baccus and Marcus Fraser. I think that’s what he had before. He was taken off and hopefully he’ll be fine for the final in a fortnight. He’s been on fire. Like many, I thought Hyeongyu Oh was the very man for the job with much of the match still to play, and it would give us supporters a chance to have a look at him.

Oh got the opening goal of his Celtic career, but it was late on. McGregor had got a shot away from inside the box and the St Mirren keeper parried it. The South Korean substitute was on hand to slot it away. That made it 3—0.

The game was largely finished with a Reo Hatate penalty to make it 2—0 and a man sent off. Matt O’Riley came on for Daddy Cool Mooy. The Australian set up the first goal, but then had a run of three passes where he gave the ball away. Flavour of the month only lasts to the next pass and sometimes not even to the next match. Ask Reo Hatate. It was a VAR penalty, which meant it took a fortnight to decide whether Abada’s shot was blocked by Small and/or Taylor. I think (what do I know?) the referee took so long because he knew he was going to give a penalty, but he’d also to decide whether to flash a red card. He did and Taylor was off.

St Mirren didn’t crumble. We’re well aware the importance of a third goal as insurance. Ball into the box. Starfelt sticks out a foot and catches a forward. Stonewaller. At 3—1 the match was still finished. Celtic fans were still jumping about topless behind the goal. Brrrrrr. Ironically, they were picking the ball out of the net and running up the park and putting the ball in the centre circle.

This allowed Matt O’Riley to get his first goal of the season. His standards had dropped, but he’d a fine game when he came on. Capping it with a shot from just inside the box into the net.

Reo Hatate finished the match with a bang. Catching the ball sweet from inside the box. He’s flavour of the month this match. Turnbull less so. Sead Haksabanovic also played his part as a late substitute. I’m a big fan of the Montenegrin. He’s just so intelligent on the ball and seems to make space to pick out passes. Not so long ago, he was officially player of the month.

Aberdeen at home. Then Rangers at Hampden. The big pitch will suit us. They’ll try and bully us as St Mirren tried today. It could work in a one-off match such as when St Mirren beat us a Love Street earlier in the season. But over a season Celtic have proven to be far better. We’ve far better players. Simple. Still up and running for the Treble.   

The Shamima Begum Story, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Joshua Baker.


Elie Wiesel:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Near the end of The Shamima Begum Story, Josh Baker asked her a question we often hear: ‘What would you tell your fifteen-year-old self?’

Shamima’s answer is as you’d expect. ‘Don’t go.’ But the honesty many of us would recognise comes with the afterthought. ‘I probably wouldn’t have listened.’

Ought never is in our fifteen-year-old lives. Not even maybe. I should do more. Be more. But I am indifferent. I am not she-made-her-bed-and-should- lie-in-it school of thought. That would be a hectoring step beyond indifference.

Rationality v Irrationality.

Allow Begum home. If she has committed crimes, she should face trial. The Nuremberg Trials, for example, were a collective response to genocide. They did not include the curious case of a teenage guard at Auschwitz, who fled to America after the war. She married a German Jew. Not surprisingly, telling him little of her past. I’m sick enough to find that quite funny. She later was tried for war crimes in Austria.

The Begum affair is, of course, follows a familiar pattern of how moral outrage becomes moral panic. Like all witch hunts her presence would rot children’s bones.  Her threat is dressed in the modern clothes of an ongoing security crisis. She belonged to ISIS. She will always belong to ISIS. And is likely to commit a terrorist outrage when allowed back into England. This is the ongoing narrative used to exclude refugees. Women and children fleeing war in Ukraine, for example, were classified as a security threat. The Polish government, who took millions of refugees, urged Boris Johnston’s government to help more. Not to take as many women and children as Germany, because that wouldn’t happen, but as many as say a comparable nation, France. In the scramble to deny entry because of paperwork and apparent security issues, government ministers lied and lied again. A Ukrainian family in Paris, for example, hoping to come to London were told to contact government officials in a Paris office that didn’t exist. Passing the buck didn’t work because of media attention.

Begum, born and raised in Bethnal Green, has her right of British Citizenship revoked. An outraged reporter asked if she felt responsible for the children killed at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena. By then Begum was in a refugee camp in the Syrian desert, bordering Turkey. Her guard were Kurds. The Turkish President, Erdogan classifies Kurds as an ongoing threat to Turkish security and terrorists. Begum was no longer stalked by paparazzi and photographed in a hijab. She wore a baseball cap and white t-shirt with a hint of breast. With her long hair and full lips, she looked like a teenager that could have attended the Ariana Grande concert. But she was no longer a teenager. She was pregnant at sixteen and lost five children. Two before birth and three toddlers afterwards. Her son died of pneumonia in a Turkish hospital. She had to have special permission to take her dying child outside the camp to try and save him.

Yes or No questions are a way of shutting down debate. You’re black or white, yes or no? No blacks. No Irish. No dogs. That well-known message scrawled on rooms for rent in London suburbs in the sixties and early seventies. I qualify on the Irish side of things. Perhaps even the dog side. I didn’t get a vote on this. As a non-practicing Catholic, are you responsible for the decades of child abuse perpetuated by members of your clergy? As a Jew, are you responsible for the oppression of Palestine nationals?  Do you feel responsible for children murdered in the Manchester Arena at the Ariana Grande concert?

I can answer no here. I didn’t know who the singer was before the killing of 22 people and the injury of hundreds at the Manchester Arena by a suicide bomber. I was in Scotland. Begum in Syria. With moral outrage few dare to ask questions about the government’s duty of care. Prevention being better than cure. We don’t live in America and allow children handguns.

The bungling by MI5 and MI6.  When three children show up at Gatwick Airport and purchase one-way tickets to Turkey, shouldn’t someone ask questions about security, or even common decency? When three girls spend several days in a bus station in Turkey waiting to meet child smugglers, known to the Canadian secret service, and presumably, therefore, the British intelligence service, shouldn’t they have stopped him? Arrested him?

What if fifteen-year-old Shane MacGowan joined the IRA and hadn’t swapped his white England—until I die—shirt with the three lions for the green of Ireland, and instead of wailing about the New York drunk tank with national treasure Kirsty MacColl?

Every Celtic match supporters sings pro-IRA songs. Listen in.  Every Rangers’ match, until they were repeatedly fined by UEFA on an escalating scale they’d be ‘Up to their knees in Fenian blood. Surrender or you die’. Historically, they favoured the die option.  When I heard about the Brighton bombing, my only regret was they didn’t get Thatcher. ‘Ding-Dong the witch is dead,’ was a tweet when she died. By then I felt sorry for her, she’d Alzheimer’s disease. I could change my mind. But I was largely indifferent. The damage was done. I’d new hate figures in the Laurel and Hardy of British politics, Cameron and Osborne. The moron’s moron and 45th American President. Boris Johnston and all his lies and likes.

Shamima Begum is not allowed to change her mind, or that shows she’s lying. Even changing her clothes makes her suspect. I feel sorry for her. She wants to come back and live in Great Britain, where she was born. I’d let her, but I’m indifferent. If you want to get worked up about that I don’t really care about that either. As a rule of thumb, whatever position the moron’s moron and Nigel Farage unofficial leader of the Tory Party takes, I take the opposite view. What about you?


At 15, Shamima Begum left London to join the terror group Islamic State. It made global headlines. She and her two friends became known as the Bethnal Green Girls. Four years later, pregnant with her third child, Begum emerged from the ashes of the so-called caliphate, desperate to come home. But she showed little remorse for her time with the group. The British government decided she was a threat and took away her citizenship, leaving her in a Syrian prison camp. Her lawyers claim she is a victim of trafficking and should be allowed to return to the UK.

For the first time, she’s given her account of what happened since 2014 to investigative journalist Josh Baker. He’s been following her story since the day she left, trying to understand what really happened. For more than a year, he’s retraced her journey, piecing together where she went, who she met and what she did while she was living with IS to try and find out the truth about Shamima Begum’s story.