Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A Very Foreign Office

The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) aims to ‘promote the United Kingdom’s interests overseas, supporting our citizens & businesses around the world.’

Boris Johnson (I know, don’t laugh) was appointed Foreign Secretary in July 2016 and that move can now only be seen as a symbol of how incompetent and amateur the FCO actually is and by inference the UK Government.

Imagine if you will that the FCO sent out a picture of Tower Bridge in London but that the bridge shown was actually London Bridge. Wouldn’t happen would it?

However, when it comes to Scotland the FCO becomes the Very Foreign Office. And the people of Scotland are happy to rip the piss in showing their disdain.

The following is a tweet from the FCO.

Couple of points:

-         You will have no doubt noticed the photo is of the Forth Bridge; a rail bridge built in the 19th Century. Pictured is certainly not the Queensferry Crossing which is due to open in 2017.

-         The UK Government provided NO funding towards this project regardless of its role as a critical link between the Lothians (& the South) and the Kingdom of Fife (& the North). This despite the love of funding projects of ‘national importance’ like the Millenium Dome, the London Olympics, London Underground, HS2 (London to Manchester rail network) and billing Scotland for its share. Incidentally, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games received no ‘UK’ funding either.

The real Queensferry Crossing

To me, and it seems I’m not alone, this seems a perfect example of the Westminster Government’s attitude to and knowledge of Scotland. Not only are our world famous engineering feats alien to them (in this case) but also (as proven regularly by the mainstream media, metropolitan-based political commentators & politicians) our politics, culture, law, education, Health Service and indeed ‘role’ in the Union.

That said Scots on Twitter were quick to lampoon their incompetence.


Then, people just started pushing the boundaries...


Jovial as the banter was the FCO's tweet really did prove insulting on so many levels:

And for some the FCO tweet constituted the 'Tweet of the Day' award.

So in trying to claim credit for the UK Government (when Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems were all vehemently against the project from the outset) the FCO has only shown itself to be an amateurish, ignorant, self-important, vanity project geared to spouting UK propaganda at all costs and regardless of the facts. Surprised? Me neither.


Monday, 28 March 2016

A Dead Dead Rose (An Ode to Trump)

Author and journalist Will Black @WillBlackWriter started a hashtag that has been trending on Twitter called #WriteAPoemAboutTrump

So, I thought I would have a wee bash.

My favourite poem is Robert Burns' A Red, Red Rose

So, it seemed paradoxically appropriate to take this beautiful poem about Love and taint it with what I believe Donald Trump to be all about - Hatred.

My apologies to Scotland's national bard; a man who believed in egalitarianism unlike Trump.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Child Rape & Cover-Ups

Accusations of ''historical child abuse' are heard more in the media these days about politicians who are either dead or in Lord Janner's case have dementia & can't be prosecuted.

I'll skip the fact that I don't believe all those involved are 'unreachable' for the moment.

It's CHILD RAPE! I don't like this 'child abuse' phrase which softens the whole sad & sorry affair. News outlets should be calling it what it is: child rape. The abuse is there because trust has been abused but I believe the phrase just protects viewers (& the alleged perpetrators) from what it is. It is rape. Of children.

Christopher Hitchens in his exposĂ© of organised religion God Is Not Great has this to say: 

“Child abuse” is really a silly and pathetic euphemism for what has been going on; we are talking about the systematic rape and torture of children, positively aided and abetted by a hierarchy which knowingly moved the grossest offenders to parishes where they would be safer.

Whilst Hitchens went after organised religion it is in the context of authoritarian cover-ups that the following clip of an appearance on Fox News should be viewed. 

There is no doubt in my mind that if he were alive today he would be doing his utmost (as any real investigative journalist should) to expose the corruption within the British State with regard to child rape and it's subsequent cover-up.

The lack of action by UK authorities, the revelations broadcast by an Australian documentary team, the admission of the existence files relating to Westminster child rape allegations (which appeared 24 hours after Leon Brittan died) which are still held in secret, suggestions that former Prime Minister Edward Heath is now being investigated by no less than FIVE separate police forces, and allegations of a BBC cover-up over Jimmy Saville’s actions all start to point towards major abuses of power and privilege, and the systematic hiding of criminality.

Furthermore, why does the media use the word 'historical'? Ronnie Biggs was accused & pursued for decades as a bank robber. 'Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs' they always announced. Not ‘ Ronnie Biggs accused of historical train robberies’. Again, to me anyway, by using the word 'historical' the media is suggesting it was all in the past and doesn't matter as much. I have seen murderers being tracked down decades after the event and DNA being used to successfully prosecute them. I've even seen 93 year old Nazis being prosecuted for crimes committed during the Holocaust. 

The passage of time shouldn't lessen the crime. 

Well let's face it it's not in the past; people are still living with the trauma and everything else that goes with it; shame, low self-esteem, nightmares, fear, mistrust to name but a few. The crimes MAY be in the past, but equally they also may still be happening and just because it was in the past doesn't make it any less of a crime: just ask Ian Brady or Myra Hindley. Am I really to believe that if those two horrors had been sitting in the House of Commons or Lords authorities would have just let it all slip by? 

Because, given recent revelations and inaction, that's how I'm beginning to think.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Life On The Dole

I finally got a letter recently confirming my registration as an ‘approved casual worker’ where I can work with children who have had ‘difficult’ childhoods and struggle with their behaviour.

Notwithstanding the joy at being paid to do something that I enjoy there is an even more existential reason for celebrating.

Anyone unfortunate enough to be unemployed and/or on ‘benefits’ will be able to identify; those that have no experience of being in such a degrading situation will, perhaps, have their eyes opened to how the system works.

Let me first say by paradox that it is not degrading per se to actually BE unemployed. However, the treatment meted out to me (and I can only share my experience) was, for me, both degrading and humiliating.

Some background: I have worked for (at the time) the world’s biggest corporation (American Home Products) which owned such brands as Anadin, Anne French, 3 in 1, and Preparation H (yes, that one!). I was, for want of a better expression, a salesman.

I then worked for Allied Breweries, a local catering company and then for Guinness GB (which became Diageo) for almost 10 years. Latterly I was responsible for the Guinness Irish Pub Concept in GB and represented the company in Boston, USA presenting the findings of a study we did in conjunction with the University of Geneva. 

I bought a country pub (the lease of) which was sold at the end of 2005. So far, so very whatever. I only mention this to ensure viewers of ‘Benefits Street’ or Daily Mail readers that I am no long-term ‘scrounger’. 


I returned to Scotland in 2007, after a period of unemployment, (just as my sister was emigrating) to be near my ailing mum who was displaying worrying signs of dementia. My mum died in 2010.

These are only a tiny window into my ‘life on the dole’ experiences.

-      Having separated from my wife in early 2006 (living separately in rented accommodation) I was informed by Job Centre Plus after a year of red tape that I did not qualify for any benefits as I was officially still married and my wife had a job. I also had some savings (from pub sale) and therefore did not qualify for any support. I used what I had and sold possessions to get by.

-      Moving to Scotland, I was told I did not qualify for a council home as I had ‘voluntarily’ made myself homeless – actually, I could no longer afford my rent, didn’t want to get evicted or in debt and needed to be near my mum. So, I couch surfed. After a while I got a council flat.

-      I was denied any support whilst caring for my mum who at times didn’t even know who I was. All my ‘dole’ money went on bills and petrol for taking her out and when she ended up in a secure hospital ward going to visit. Friends gave me food. Eventually, I could no longer afford a car.

-      I sold my car and self-published my book.

-      My heating system at home was ‘so old and outdated’ according to gas engineers who came to service it that out of my £72 a week around £50 went on gas and electric. I went to bed in my coat and woolly beanie. The council finally updated my heating system (which is fantastic and much cheaper now) but in the process damaged carpets. I now have no carpets as there was no budget to replace them or redecorate the plastering where the fire used to be; minor inconvenience I know but these things all affect one’s psychological wellbeing.

-      I often waited around the bin outside the local chip shop to grab any throw-away food. Eventually the bin was removed and so a source of food for me. Friends, again, gave me food, although often I would eat only once or twice a week.

-      I had to walk the (roughly) eight-mile round-trip to the Job Centre as I live in Kinghorn and it is in Kirkcaldy. I was once asked to leave and stand outside the Job Centre as I was 20 minutes early for ‘signing-on’. A month or so later I was given a verbal warning (and told my benefits would be stopped) because I was 5 minutes late.

-      The cheap boots I got once cut my heels so badly one day that I had to walk home barefoot.

-      When my mum died she was to be buried on a Tuesday whilst I was to ‘sign-on’ the next day. I asked if I could be excused from coming in the day after my mum’s funeral. The request was refused as ‘the funeral’s not on that day; it’s the day before’. With my phone on silent, but vibrating furiously in my pocket, I watched my mum’s coffin disappear through the crematorium’s stage curtain; it was Job Centre Plus reminding me I had to come in tomorrow as I had been refused leave of absence and that if I didn’t attend I would be sanctioned.

-      I was given a 13 week placement at a youth club cafĂ© as ‘work experience’ whilst I also did an HNC Counselling part-time. I argued that I should be given ‘relevant’ work experience but was told if I did not attend I would be sanctioned.

-      I contacted a local foodbank and was told I lived in the ‘wrong’ postcode.

-      Throughout this whole sorry episode and for over three years I managed to do 3 years of voluntary work one night a week although I was ever careful as to who knew because I was often told at the Job Centre that if I was doing voluntary work I was not ‘actively seeking work’ and my benefits would cease.

-      After at time, I felt suicidal, was unkempt, isolationist, and could see no future. The Doctor diagnosed me ‘unfit for work’. I was sent to ATOS who disagreed. I appealed. And after about a year on reduced benefits my appeal was seen by three independent doctors and another professional (can’t remember what her job was) and was told that I was indeed unfit for work.

My long-winded ramble is purely to show how one’s mental state is affected by being unemployed even whilst truly wanting to be in work. And the thing is, my treatment is virtually ‘nothing’ compared to the way many people are being abused (not treated, for it is indeed abuse) on a daily basis.

I also aim to demonstrate that, nowadays, egged on by a compliant Right-Wing media, parts of society see those on benefits as sub-human and undeserving of help. 

It truly feels degrading and humiliating to be in such a position.

And people wonder why I get angry at politicians; why I abhor Westminster; and why it saddens me that people will vote for a Party as evil as the Conservatives and think that Labour (who brought in ATOS, remember) bear no responsibility either.

God forbid anyone reading this ends up unemployed. 

It is the single most degrading experience I have ever had.