Great Scottish Writers, Douglas Stuart (2022) Young Mungo.

The same, but different. Most writers write the same book again and again. (I do that too). Publishers like that. It’s an easy sell, especially if your debut novel won the Booker Prize. Different characters, different haircuts, the same predicaments, with much the same outcomes. Write what you know. Young Mungo (Hamilton-Buchanan) is Shuggie Bain.

A rundown housing estate in the Dennistoun, East End of Glasgow (of course) after Thatcher destroyed the mining community, helped shut down many of the shipyards and what she thought of as lame-duck industries that made things. The workshop of the world has moved to China. Mr Campbell batters his wife after Celtic unexpectedly beat Rangers 2—1  and end their 45 game unbeaten run. John Collins and Andy Payton scored. Mark Hateley got a goal back near the end. The game took place in the 92/93 season. A meaningless fixture, but not for Mrs Campbell. She’s a good neighbour. (‘Her ankles were chalky blue from bad circulation.’) She looks out for Young Mungo and his sister, Jodie, but not their eldest brother, Ha-Ha, who’s gone feral at eighteen, and has already fathered a child with a fifteen-year-old girl. His mother was also pregnant at fifteen with him

Nobody looks after Ha-Ha, but he’s determined to make a man of Mungo. He’s too soft, too girly, and it’s bad for his reputation.

The cautionary tales lives at the bottom of the close. Poor-Wee-Chickie can only walk his dog early morning when the kids aren’t hanging about ‘the Paki shop’ to harass him for walking funny, talking funny, for being a wee poof. He’s seven or eight bolts on his door, but follows the world through his net curtains.

Young Mungo is fifteen going on sixteen. His sister Jodie is a year older than him, and mother’s Mungo. Somebody’s got to do it. Hers is a secondary storyline. The narrative switches to her point of view. Mr Gillespie, the Modern Studies teacher, is grooming and  fucking her over and has been since she’s been fifteen. (Like mother like daughter, but she doesn’t like sex with the paedophile, she endures it.) But he’s promised her great things. He’s promised to get her into Glasgow Uni and out of the East End and into the West End of Glasgow where English people live. 

Murdo joked with James Jamieson that he could rent his doo hut out for £45 a week to a single mother with three wains. James lives across the back from Murdo, but they’re worlds apart. It’s not so much what light through yonder window breaks, but whose arms and legs will be broken, rather than whose heart. Shakespearian rivalry. Gang warfare between the Montague’s and Capulet’s. Bernstein’s and Sondheim’s early musical scripts rivalry rang between Catholics and Jewish gangs in a musical called West End Story set in New York. East End story in Glasgow is the old I’m not a Billy, you’re a Tim. Catholic Bhoyston, an unconquered country linked by the bright lights and a narrow motorway bridge.

  James is a Catholic. He lives in Dennistoun. He’s got to provide his own bright lights, but also to keep them muted. His da is a widower who works in the rigs. He might even get him a job on the rigs when he too is sixteen. But he’s worried about him. He’s caught him out when the phone bill came in and it was astronomical—chat lines, which would have been something to be proud of, but GAY chat lines. His da wants him to sort it and fast. James has his own plans to run away. His dreams are Young Mungo’s dreams. They could run away together. But James tells him, he’s too scared. Too tied in with what his ma wants and needs. He’ll be there for her like Poor-wee-Chickie was for his ma. And he’s still there.

Mungo, like Shuggie Bain’s ma, like Douglas Stuart’s ma, was an alcoholic. Any notion of her bringing the wains up was purely accidental. Ha-Ha had that figured before he could reach out of his crib and chib somebody. He’d a keen grip on the Dennistoun reality of life being poor, brutal and then you die. Every man for himself. His ma wasn’t against him, but neither was she for him. She was too busy getting drunk and having fun. With sober interludes when she went to AA meetings. The promise of hope was the promise of failure. Mungo, like Shuggie Bain, tries to protect his ma.

But there’s a sense of jeopardy that was missing from Shuggie Bain. What kind of ma, the police asked Mo-Maw—without getting a reasonable answer—gave her wee boy to two men from an AA meeting, she’s just met and didn’t know, to take him for a fishing trip up North? They might be paedophiles. They were paedophiles not long released from Barlinnie Prison. It’s not far. James and Mungo cycle to it. For big families in the scheme, it provides alternative accommodation. What type of mother is Maureen, Mo-Maw?

The book begins with The May After. Mungo is wearing his cagoule and he’s going fishing with an older man, St Christopher. He’s an alcoholic with a room, one of 300 in the Great Eastern Hotel. Gallowgate was wiry, tattooed and younger, and he keeps the old guy in line. Mungo hadn’t strayed far from the half-dozen tenements he’d be born in. Scotland was a foreign country.

‘The men lumbered in the sunshine. They were weighed down with armfuls of plastic bags, a satchel filled with fishing tackle, and a camping rucksack. Mungo could hear them complain of their thirst. He had known them only an hour, but they had mentioned it several times already. They seemed always to be thirsty. “Ah’m gasping for a guid drink,” said the elder of the two.’

Working-class characters like Mungo talk in the Scottish dialect. This interests me, in particular, because I’m trying to get a feel for it on the page.

Poor-Wee-Chickie, for example, talking about ‘doohuts’ and James’s da. ‘He lives there, doesn’t he? I used to ride the mornin’ bus to work wi his father. He was a miserable big batstard. Didnae have the time of day for anybody. Wouldnae smile at ye if you bought him a new set of teeth.’

There’s a trade-off here (and other parts of the book) with dialect, which is always an approximation. For consistency, ‘wouldnae smile at ye if you bought,’ would read ‘wouldnae smile at ye if ye bought’.

Glasgow humour injects humanity into the characters. Parts don’t need to add up, because in community living they don’t either. Gallowgate, for example, likes talking on the pay phone to random people he’s never met. It’s a useful skill for a sociopath and convicted paedophile. But in Shuggie Bain, his ma also loved to chat on the phone. It was how she kept in touch with the world. Her trait became his trait. Same but different.

I could use terms like this is a more rounded work than Shuggie Bain, but I can’t really be arsed to remember if it is. In both of Stuart’s novels life is breeched and broken. The leading narrator tries, and fails, to sellotape a palatable future together with his mother, but there is no sticking point. Only a continued sense of failure. There’s more a sense of danger to Young Mungo. And that adds to the frisson of the follow-up novel. The truth is I just like it better. Read on.         

Savile: Portrait of a Predator, ITV, STV 9pm, ITV Hub

https://www.itv.com/hub/savile-portrait-of-a-predator/10a1253a0001

https://www.abctales.com/story/celticman/jimmy-savile-and-me

Ten years ago, Sir Jimmy Savile died. His funeral was an event that featured on the news. The great and the good appeared, in sombre tones, mourning our loss. People lined the streets to pay their respects. Sir Keith Stammer was Director of Public Prosecutions. Operation Yewtree was set up in London in 2012 to investigate his alleged sexual offences after girls from Duncroft, a children’s home in Surrey, featured in the tabloids saying he’d sexually abused them. Detective Gary Pankhurst said he followed up on hundreds of reports. He classified Savile as a high-functioning psychopath.

Spokesmen from Surrey Police admitted they’d interviewed the 80-year-old Savile in 2009. A familiar pattern emerged of Savile getting away with everything short of murder.

The question WHY is easily answered.

He was wealthy.

He was a celebrity. He didn’t work for the BBC. The BBC worked for him. They created a show, Jim’ll Fix It, and it did. It fixed it for the serial paedophile.

He counted Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles as his personal friends. He was part of the British establishment, given a knighthood in 1990. He had access to Kensington Palace and wandered about at will. Princess Diana thought he was creepy, when he tried to lick her hand. Prince Charles failed to comment on Savile’s posthumous reputation as a serial paedophilic abuser of around 500 mostly preadolescent girls. That’s an estimate by NSPCC. Being a conservative, that is a conservative number.  

He had high-ranking policemen friends that acted as minders.

He had criminal friends that acted as minders.

He could play nice, but he could also play scary.

Sylvia Edwards, now 63, appears on the programme. Back then, in the nineteen-seventies, she’s been given the nod by Savile, picked up by runners for Top of the Pops, a show regularly watched by 15 million. There she is onscreen beside celebrity Jimmy Savile as he speaks to his audience at home in their living rooms. The moron’s moron and fellow psychopath, ex-American President, admitted he grabbed women by the pussy, but it was never shown on camera. But here it is on loop, a blonde and very pretty mop-topped girl, jumping up and twisting away as Savile rams his hand up into her pussy.

It was treated as a joke. When she complained to a cameraman, he told her to go away, get lost.

He picked his victims—they were poor and powerless.

A former bass player with Sparks, Ian Hampton, said: ‘I think he regarded Top of the Pops as a happy hunting ground for young ladies. On one occasion I was on Top of the Pops, Savile disappeared with a young girl to a dressing room’.

Claire McAlpine (her image with Savile shown above) for example, an adolescent, who appeared dancing for the cameras on Top of the Pops. She became pregnant, aged fifteen, and killed herself. Her mother had complained to BBC management about her being in Savile’s dressing room.

Hampton asked a producer of the show what was happening with Savile? He wasn’t given answers. Told he was being ridiculous.  

Literally, powerless with a woman interviewed anonymously, telling how she was in a wheelchair, a patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Savile took her away in her wheelchair to abuse her. She was paralysed from the waist down, but she remembered his eyes.

He did charity work. Kerching, this led to lucrative contracts with state institutions such as British Rail, paying him handsomely for acting as their spokesman on child safety, for example. Savile joked that he’d squared it up with Him upstairs for a few things he’d done. Quid pro quo. A peripatetic bachelor, he had the right credentials to become a priest. He had the equivalent of a knighthood with the Roman Catholic Church.

A two-and-a-half-year independent inquiry in France about the abuse of children by clergy, over the past seventy years, found that at least 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by clergy and lay members of church institutions.

“The Catholic church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence,” the report said.

There’s little reason to believe that similar figures of abuse didn’t also happen in the United Kingdom. And again, these are probably underestimates.

Jimmy Savile was a serial sexual abuser. As each spokesman or woman for the institutions involved run for cover, does this programme offer us anything new?

Daisy Maskell: Insomnia and Me, BBC 1, BBC 3, BBC iPlayer, Director Emmanuel Ayettey.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p09qkrq8/daisy-maskell-insomnia-and-me

I watched this last night. The programme started at 10.35pm, and I was almost falling asleep. A poor joke, which also happens to be true. My partner has problems sleeping. The woman across from us said she doesn’t sleep much. My sister goes to bed in the afternoon, and her son isn’t much better. As Henry Marsh writes in Do No Harm, exercise is supposed to help prevent early onset Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t you’re just able to run away better. Margaret Thatcher famously never slept much, and she got Alzheimer’s. There may be a link in the same way there may be a god. It’s complex.

‘According to research by the NHS, hospital admissions due to sleep disorders among young people have almost doubled over the past eight years, and the recent Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue further still. In research conducted by Kings College London on a cross-section of 2,500 people across the UK, almost half of 16- to 24-year-olds stated that they were sleeping significantly fewer hours than they had been prior to lockdown, in comparison to just a third of those aged 35 and over.’

I’d never heard of Daisy Maskell. She tells us she’s had insomnia since she was a child. Her job as a radio host at 6.30 am seems to me a good fit. But she said she worries about her mental health and the possible longer-term effect on her immune system.

She meets her best friend, and other young and pretty people, to discuss some of these issues. How, for example, Covid lockdowns may have made things worse. Normalised insomnia.  She tries cognitive therapy, psychotherapy and has her brain scanned. She admits to rewarding herself with food treats and purging with laxatives (bulimia) when she’s up late and the world is asleep. Yawn.  

Time, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, written by Jimmy McGovern and directed by Lewis Arnold.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p09fs2x4/time-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p09fs2x6/time-series-1-episode-2

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p09fs2x8/time-series-1-episode-3?seriesId=p09fs2tp

Writer Jimmy McGovern guarantees quality, his production company is a must have drama factory for BBC, and his series gets the full marketing treatment and premium billing on Sunday-night telly. Our viewing habits have, of course, changed. I watched the first episode of Time last Sunday and during the week watched the other two episodes on iPlayer. That’s the new norm. Unless it’s Line of Duty, (none of which I’ve watched) expecting upwards of ten million viewers to tune in on a Sunday night is economic and entertainment madness. As consumers we want to watch when we have time. Or so the theory goes.

The Howard League for Prison Reform tells us there are currently 78 037 people in prisons and young offender institutions in England and Wales. David Leslie in Banged Up (published in 2014) tells us there are 120 prisons in England. Scotland has the highest number of people in prison or probation in the UK, and the highest in Europe. Statistics from the Council of Europe, a human rights organisation, show Scotland’s “correctional rate” is 548 people per 100,000 – behind only Russia and Lithuania. The correctional rate for England and Wales was 459, while the Europe-wide median was 318. That’s all the boring stuff nobody much reads. Jimmy McGovern knows this, people want stories they can relate to, and that’s what he’s selling us.

I’m sure I passed an ex-lifer walking down Duntocher Road on Thursday, who had been serving a sentence for two murders. He drunk in my pub, and he’ll be out on license. I talked to another guy whose son is in prison for murder. His date for release was put back because he got involved in a gym brawl. Then there is the ongoing case of a twenty-six-year-old Dalmuir lad, who was said to have been put in a bath of what was described as ‘a corrosive substance’, and later died. The number of murderers on license has doubled in the past five years. The Probation Service was privatised and renationalised because it was in such a colossal failure that couldn’t be ignored even by Tory scum.  But here’s the rub, our prisons are in a permanent state of siege and overcrowding. Yet crime levels are generally falling.  I live in a very quiet bit of Dalmuir with other old folk, nothing much happens, and that’s the way I like it. I don’t want drama.

Jimmy McGovern’s day job (most writers’ task) is not just making something happen, but to make things worse. So here we have the new fish, Mark Cobden (Sean Bean) sent to prison. He’s killed somebody, after drink driving. Is he mad, bad, or sad?

Well, he’s remorseful, but not really bad, after all he’s a middle-class schoolteacher and most prisoner are working class and come from deprived backgrounds (or ex-school teacher, McGovern had Sean Bean dress up at night as a woman and recite The Lady of Shallot [https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45359/the-lady-of-shalott-1832] to his pupils in a previous production, which is a poetry crime in extremis, so they have previous).

The twin strand of the storyline has prison officer Eric McNally (Stephen Graham) on the wing that Mark Cobden is imprisoned. ‘You were hard but fair,’ a former inmate tells him when he’s picking up drugs. But that’s to jump ahead.

Then you have the mad, Bernard (Aneurin Barnard). ‘Top bunk or bottom?’ Mark Cobden asks when he’s introduced to his new cellmate. Bernard’s body is covered in scars. He cuts himself, self-harms and is dragged away to the hospital wing regularly. He’s sick in the head. Prison officer McNally tells his mum, he’s sorry about what happened, but they were doing the best they could. The truth was most of the folk in prison were sick in the head. She doesn’t care. She only cares about her son.

In the preface to David Leslie’s Banged Up, he explains prisoner’s crimes range from the farcical to the terrible, but prisoners have one thing in common. Time. How to beat the boredom of being locked up 23 out of 24 hours, how to do time. Boredom is a killer. Drugs and bootleg booze a welcome relief. Cobden finds himself being stuck in his cell a bit of relief (like many others), because he’s been bullied by Johno (James Nelson Joyce). He steals his grub. Jumps in front of him in the queue for phones. And threatens to set his feet on fire with turpentine. He’s already flung a kettle of boiling water and added sugar so it sticks to a fellow prisoner he calls a grass. Cobden hides in his cell as a coping strategy.

The local Glaswegian kingpin on the block tells him that ‘his life will be hell’ until he hits back. Prison officer McNally’s life is already hell. His son is in a Young Offender’s and he’s told he’ll be assaulted unless McNally brings in stuff to the prison. McNally arranges with his governor for his son to be ghosted to another institution. But he’s sent a reminder that didn’t work. McNally isn’t trying to protect himself, but his son, and family. Hard choices.

Jimmy McGovern knows how to save face. Stevie (Dean Fagan) for example is Cobden’s new cell mate. And as part of retributive justice is allowed to tell his story to the victim’s parents. A lad he stabbed in a brawl. McGovern allows us to look at it in two ways. Stevie admits he was skint and took a drink from the man he murder’s pint, but he didn’t have enough money to buy him another. He’s in the sad category, but to save face he challenged him to fight. Took a hammering and stabbed him. It makes the convoluted sense that anyone living in a working-class district well understands.

Prisoners worst enemies are themselves is the message McGovern pitches again and again. And he’s right. But it’s not a vote winner. Locking so many people up, especially women makes no sense either economically (McGovern gets in the cost by admitting for every prisoner inside there’s an administrator’s wage being paid, and of course, added profit for private companies added as we ape the American model) or morally. Next to wrapping yourself in the flag, floggings and beating of prisoner is a sure way to get yourself elected and stay elected. The Honourable Margaret Thatcher, for example, favoured hanging and corporal punishment. Johnson favours whatever makes him sound less like the dim-witted pantomime horse he really is. Back to the drama. Yeh, worth watching. McGovern, as we expect, hits all the right beats in the right way and asks question of what we mean by atonement, and if such a thing as justice is possible outside The Book of Job?   

Saved by a Stranger, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Presenter Anita Rani and Director Toby Trackman.

Brixton born Marc

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000vlpr/saved-by-a-stranger-series-1-1-karl-and-emina

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000vszb/saved-by-a-stranger-series-1-2-marc-and-peter

 The format for this serious is simple, and it’s in the title. People who have been caught up in some traumatic, life-changing event, and some stranger has stepped in to help them. I’m sure I watched the last series, but can’t remember if I did. It’s a feel-good programme.  

The cynical part of me suspects if  an American documentary maker made this programme there would be supernatural elements, but the only angels here are real people. Anita Rani meets with Karl and Emina in the first episode and Marc and Peter in the second episode and does a bit of acting: Will we find these strangers, she asks? That’s like asking will Kylie and Jason Donovan marry in the final episode of Neighbours—of course they will—and live happily ever after?

Karl was in the train carriage where 26 people died on London’s Piccadilly underground line on the 7/7/2005 (another 26 died when a bomb went off on a bus). He was a student dancer, training to be a professional. After the explosion, he prayed to God to let him out, ‘I won’t be gay any more’, was his bargaining chip. God knew he was lying, because He was God, but He also had foreknowledge of the 7/7 bombings and that Karl would push past the stranger that held his hand and told him it would be alright, in his rush to escape from the carriage.

God would also know about the atrocities in Sarajevo during the Bosnia and Herzegovina war in 1992. He would know that a doctor would arrange for Emina and her sister, Edina, who required surgery and had Down’s syndrome to escape on a bus, taking young mothers and kids out of the sieged state to live in Birmingham. God would know that some of the older boys would be taken off buses and shot, and buried in mass graves. Buses would be blown up crossing bridges. But Emina and Edina and their mother would make it to safety. He would know that their dad made the right choice not getting on the bus, despite their mother begging him. And he too would join them in Britain. God would know Britain hates refugees—and poor people, in particular, even their own citizens that have the wrong colour of skin— but since this is a feel-good story, we’ll kid on we don’t. He’ll know that Anita Rani will go through the charade of not being able to find the paediatric doctor who now lives and worked in Holland.

God, despite hating gay people, killing them with AIDs, and in the words of former police chief of Greater Manchester, Sir James Anderton, ‘swirling around in a cesspit of their own making’ will know he’ll get the backing of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Brixton born black boy Marc will be diagnosed with HIV at the age of seventeen. Marc will find a saviour in a counsellor called John (Wilks) and a place of safety in the Landmark Centre. God will know that the Tories will unleash savage policies in the name of fiscal prudence which took money from the poor to give to the rich and shut off local authority programmes like Surestart and close places like the Landmark Centre.

God will know about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He’ll know about the Brexit border and every lie that Boris Johnson has told. Yet, God will know that the English voters found the little Trump to be good. He’ll know about Peter being shot in the legs by Ulster Protestant paramilitaries in 1979, and how his wife suffered post-traumatic stress disorder hit the booze and died young. God knows Peter will make it and have a pile of grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Peter will never forget the angel, a nurse called Betsy that pulled him through his darkest days in hospital. God knows Anita Rami will go through the usual hee-haw of being unable to find her, but then, suddenly, a chink of light. Ahhhhhhhhh…that’s nice.    

Mrs America, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, written by Dahvi Waller and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08ggl84/mrs-america-series-1-1-phyllis

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p08gglyp/mrs-america-series-1-2-gloria

It’s 1971, American troops are still fighting in Vietnam. Richard Nixon is President and is engaged in ongoing peace talks with his USSR counterpart, President Brezhnev. Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) is scheduled to talk about the arm’s race, to give a women’s perspective on local television. She knows her stuff. She’s ran for Congress as a Republican candidate. The talk-show host is enamoured, not only is she knowledgeable, she’s beautiful. He wants her to go to Washington with him and talk to Senators, including Barry Goldwater. He’s a man who knows the money men, the men with power and hoping for a bit of hanky-panky. She smiles as she’s been told to do. She’s good at smiling. Good at most things. She’s a leader and follower.  

Next up, we get Schlfly at home in Missouri. Her husband Fred Schlafly (John Slattery) is a successful businessman and her father to her six children. He indulges her political ambitions and her networking and her Rolodex and secretary and organising local mothers into a white, middle-class mother’s group against the Equal Rights Act, because it keeps her out of harm’s way.  She indulges him. After her trip to Washington, where she’s the only woman in a roomful of Senators discussing the arm’s race and latest proposed legislation, which she’s read and is able to slap down a Senator like a school teacher quizzing an errant pupil that’s not done his homework. At home she’s too tired for sex, but he isn’t. It’s his choice and her obligation.  

Perhaps I should use different similes. Metaphorical language tends to reinforce the idea of his-story being the dominant ideology. With first-wave feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, focussing on social context. Man, Woman, Other, with the distinction of being female and being constructed as a woman. Being gendered allows patriarchy to perpetuate the status-quo. St Thomas Aquinas’s idea of women being an ‘imperfect man’. In the tradition of women being nothing but an empty womb. Setting us up for the fight against abortion, which as we know from Roe vs Wade women won in the Supreme Court in the United States but has been rolled back again and again. With the poor, working class and black women overwhelmingly effected. It’s no great surprise that Schlafly received a standing ovation at the moron’s moron’s Presidential rally in 2016, when Trump was running for office. And the President of the dis-United States attended her funeral. As a rule of thumb, whatever Trump is for, I’m against. Betty Friedman (Tracy Ulman) and Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) are having a conversation about who Phyllis Schlafly is, while Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) is foregrounded. It’s a conversation about nothing but everything. The reply sums her (and him) up. ‘She’s a right-wing, nut-job’.

Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, was also a right-wing, nut job.  She didn’t believe in sexual discrimination either. But, ironically, in early-seventies Britain, Prime Minister Edward Heath only kept Thatcher in Cabinet as Education Secretary because she was the token woman. In the same way, the viewer, from a different viewpoint, almost feels sorry for Phyllis Schlafly when she gets to attend a coveted meeting with Barry Goldwater and the other state senators in the Senate. The stenographer, a woman, naturally, is asked to leave because talks about nuclear missiles is too important an issue and she doesn’t have security clearance. But Phyllis Schlafly primed to speak and show her mettle is slapped down and asked to take notes and minutes. Women should know their place isn’t spoken, but shown. That’s great drama.

Carol Hanisch (1970) coined the term, ‘the personal is political’ and the second-wave feminist movement that is dramatized here ride on a righteous wave against ‘right-wing, nut-jobs,’ which crashed against Thatcher/Reagan. We lost the ideological war and live in the right-wing, nut-job world now of hatred and entrenched social divisions.  I’ve only watched the first two episodes of nine. The second episode feature Gloria Epstein, she’s beautiful too, but perhaps I shouldn’t be saying that. Judging people by the bogus standards of the male gaze. Perhaps I’ll watch more episodes. I’m a prisoner of my birth and personality (personal–reality) aren’t we all? Aren’t we all?

Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Ben Steele

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000dbq7/exposed-the-churchs-darkest-secret-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000dbjd/exposed-the-churchs-darkest-secret-series-1-episode-2

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

King James Bible, Matthew 18:16.

I’ve never heard the term ‘de-arrested’. Yet this is what happened to The Right Reverend Peter Ball in 2012. He was re-arrested in 2014, charged and pled guilty to two counts of indecent assault and one count of misconduct in a public office after admitting the abuse of 18 young men from 1977 to 1992. In October 2015 he was sentenced to 32 months in prison. He served 16 months and is now dead. Job done?

Sheep in wolf’s clothing and paedophile priests have become clichéd. Cover ups in the Roman Catholic Church – see for example, the book and film Spotlight – and the pronunciation on the issue by Pope Francis and promise of reforms in reporting clerical abuse are rightly seen as too little and too late.

‘God weeps for the victims of sexual abuse.’

A whole army of churchman go to work applying whitewash and victim blaming. People in high places don’t like to be screwed. They prefer to do the screwing. Institutional cover ups are old news.

I was reminded watching this programme of an unpublished book written by scratch on ABCtales. The protagonist is taken from church school and sexually abused and passed around the clergy. Phil Johnson reports a similar, but historical narrative. He only went to the police after her realised his brother has also been sexually abused as a kid. Choosing the victim, isolating him (or her) and making them feel powerless and terrified of being caught for a crime they didn’t commit is the first step.

The Reverend Roy Cotton, for example, ‘groomed me (10-year-old Philip Johnson) pretty much from the first time that I ever met him’.

Johnson was working class and easy meat for politely spoken middle and upper-class men in positions of power. In March 1954, just six weeks before the date of his intended ordination, Reverend Roy Cotton was banned from the Scout Movement. A Scoutmaster, he was found guilty of indecently exposing himself to a child in an organ loft. He was still ordained and reports of him sexually abusing boys followed him from school to school. He was re-appointed as a Scoutmaster. Perhaps that’s where we get the term re-arrested.

Cotton in 1974 was appointed as parish priest at St Andrew’s Church in Eastbourn and Johnson was a choirboy.

Cotton took Johnson, when he was 15 years old, to stay with Reverend Colin Pritchard. This bit is pretty much identical to how scratch described the scene in his unpublished novel. Johnson awoke the next morning to find himself naked in Pritchard’s bed, having being plied with booze having no memory of the previous night. Pritchard then sexually assaulted him in the kitchen, He would later plead guilty to this assault and like Cotton had a long string of previous that where logged by Church authorities and buried.

Johnson reports another visitor to the gathering of paedophiles. The Right Reverend Ball had Johnson sit on his lap and felt up under his shorts and stroked his genitals as he had a conversation with Cotton. Ball was sexually aroused.

Neil Todd also described how Bishop of Gloucester Peter Ball asked him to strip naked and beat him with a whip. Ball was also naked, but claimed in a police report that if he did ejaculate it was out with his control and accidental.

He’d appeared on The Terry Wogan Show as the friendly face of Anglicism and a saintly figure that has set up an informal monastery to channel young men into a Godly life and find their vocation. He had friends in high places. The same friends as Jimmy Savile, most notably Margaret Thatcher.  Prince Charles who provided a house for Ball in the Dutchy of Cornwall, and through him connections to other royals such as the Queen Mother. Friends in the House of Lords and of course friends in the judiciary such as Lord Anthony Lloyd who was Lord Justice at the time and was more than happy to pick up the phone and give any local constabulary plod that dared to question his friend Reverend Ball an earful.  Anglican Church leaders at Lambeth Palace, Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey.

Here we have a Keystone Cops type interlude in which Carey appoints another Bishop who used to be a private investigator to use funds from the Anglican Church to investigate the victims of Ball’s crimes and rehabilitate him. The report concluded that Ball was a multiple abuser in cases which had stretched back years. The report like many others from victims of Ball’s crimes was buried.

Guilty Peter Ball.

Guilty Roy Cotton

Guilty Colin Pritchard

Guilty of criminal neglect: Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey et al. Prince Charles. Lord Anthony Lloyd. David Cameron’s godfather, Conservative MP Tim Rathbone.

Neil Todd R.I.P.  The Establishment fucked you up. We did not listen. We have let you down.

Gdansk

In November, 1988, a crowd of around 20 000 cheered as the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, met Lech Walesa. He was a shipyard worker from the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk and leader of Solidarity, the independent Polish trade union movement.  

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski had Thatcher’s car stopped before she reached the airport to board a Royal Airforce jet to London and presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

‘I came to see and to have a long talk with Mr. Walesa . . . . I knew that I had to come and feel the spirit of Poland for myself,’ said Thatcher.

Almost thirty years ago, 17th September 1980, Walesa led a strike against a programme of economic austerity in which the Gdansk shipyard would close.

Walensa’s key demands were reinstatement of sacked workers and a wage rise for those in work. Strikes spread to other industries and throughout Poland.

‘We shall not be found wanting when Poland makes the progress toward freedom and democracy its people clearly seek,’ Thatcher said, garnering praise for her support of a free trade union movement.

Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mine Workers, in the miner’s strike, 1984-85, key demands were no different from Walesa, with his claim that the National Coal Board in the name of economic austerity had a ‘hit list’ of 75 pit closures and the government was stockpiling coal and converting power stations to burn other fossil fuels.

The spirit of Poland, support for a free trade union movement, and freedom of movement were reported sorely missing from the spirit of Thatcherism. 84 000 miners and then there were none. Lest we forget, that’s democracy for you.

Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director James Giles.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0578x02/prejudice-and-pride-the-peoples-history-of-lgbtq-britain-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08zn99q/prejudice-and-pride-the-peoples-history-of-lgbtq-britain-series-1-episode-2

Presenters Susan Calaman and Stephen K Amos take us viewers through 50 years of LGBTQ history from before and after the (partial) decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people (quite a mouthful) could no longer be prosecuted for being LGBTQ.  But as we see here it was a bit like the Hays Code in Motion Pictures. Gay men had to have sex behind closed doors with other consenting men, and they had to be 21, or look older than your dad. They couldn’t put one foot on the floor or being seen to be enjoying themselves. They couldn’t join the armed forces or they’d soon by forcibly ejected.

I know you’re not meant to find that funny, but I thought of my old man, Dessy and his mate Jimmy Mac. They were boys, young men, that saw their army  pals die during the Second World War in the Gothic Line. They were mirror images of each other’s prejudices. But Jimmy confided to my da, one drunken night, that his son was a poof.

Dessy shook his head and told Jimmy, ‘we cannae have that. You’ll need to have a word wae ‘im’.

Homosexuals are marginalised in our society. As we become less tolerant, in other societies, more conservative, homosexuals can be stoned to death.  LGBTQ  ask all of those rich, white men, who make the rules a simple –existential- question: who are we? And more importantly, why do we need to pretend?

One of the characters in the novel I’m writing, Bruno, mirrors those ideas. He name-checks Peter Tatchell in an argument about adoption (which reminds me I’ve probably spelt his name wrong).

With nowhere else to go, even after the 1967 Act, one homosexual man admitted, cottaging, was easier and even fun. He pulled out a map of London and showed viewers the route he drove in his Ford Cortina. Those were largely happy memories for him.  George Michael was also caught having sex in a public toilet in the United States, which for a multimillionaire seems a rather queer thing to do, or maybe not.

The AIDS epidemic that hit America and was imported into Britain had a devastating effect. ‘God’s wrath,’  ‘Gay plague,’ and I think it was Tebbit that described it as a ‘cesspool of their own making.’ Thatcher, or course, tried to ban gays from being gay, local authorities and schools in particular from promoting homosexuality. Just the same as Prime Minister David Cameron held up a list of people, living off the state, and having the wrong kind of children, poor children, to demonise and publicly excoriate, we have here the controversial schoolbook that kicked it all off, Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin.  Whisper it, Eric and Martin are men, homosexuals! They probably went to Heaven nightclub in London, which was meant to be rocking and the place to be. Kenny Everett went there, which was probably a good reason for going somewhere else. Each to their own.

Thatcher’s wrath was worse than God’s wrath. At least God doesn’t drone on about leaving a better society. Emmm maybe He does. This documentaries not Calvinistic doom and gloom, and I told you so.

The legacy of LGBTQ was played out in Brookside, East Enders and Queer as Folk. Even Catholic Ireland voted to allow civil marriages of persons of the same gender. God bless us all, equally, apart from the Tory’s.  That’s nothing to do with gender. It’s to do with a lack of class. I’m sure God doesn’t give a flying fuck what we do with our squiggly bits, and neither do I. But if you’re a Tory, you’re scum to me. And you can go and fuck yourself. We’ve all got our prejudices. There’s mine out there. Why should we pretend?

Damian Barr (2013) Maggie & Me

 

 

 

Evelyn Waugh (1988 [1930]) Vile Bodies.

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I bought this book for one pence on Amazon. I think it’s overpriced, but I don’t want my money back. The dedication in the book is to Bryan Moyne and Diana Mosley. I don’t know who Bryan is, but Diana, friend of Hitler, married Sir Oswald Mosley, Vile Bodies, indeed. I wanted to have a look at this book because Selina Todd mentions it, in her history, The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class. Characters in Vile Body, think here of spitting images, Diana Mosley and her fascist friends treat the General Strike of 1926 as a lark in which the can dress up and act differently. Of course they could. A government decree held that strikers and working people, in general, could be and should be manhandled in any way those Middle and Upper Class strike-breakers saw fit. They would not be prosecuted, but commended in beating the brutes and showing them who was boss. Shades of the miner’s strike 1984- 85. Winston Churchill’s plan to use soldiers to shoot strikers would, however, regarded as a tad excessive by Margaret Thatcher’s loose standards.

I’ve got off-track here. In the preface to Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh writing in 1964, says:

This was a totally unplanned novel. I had the facility at the age of 25, to sit down at my table, set a few characters on the move, write 5000 words a day, and note with surprise what happened…Vile Bodies caught the public’s fancy.

In other words Vile Bodies was a best seller. Think of every cliché written about vanity publishing and multiply it by ten. I’m biased. Normally, I wouldn’t read a book with upper- class protagonists and we don’t need satire when we have the moron’s moron as President. Vile Bodies. I was robbed your honour. I could give this book to a charity shop, but probably better pulped, less than a penny’s worth but more than the book’s worth.