Showing posts from December, 2006

Scarlett's Reward On The Day They Hang Saddam

On the day Saddam Hussein was executed, we also received news of the New Year's Honours list-- a quaint little British tradition in which a range of titles are bestowed on people who have served their country well in the previous year, from Knighthoods, OBEs, CBEs, to the peculiarly named Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, which is given to people in the diplomatic service.

And can you guess who got that one this year, though it's not being widely reported? John Scarlett, current head of MI6, previously on the government's Joint Intelligence Committee. Who's he? The obliging fellow who, in the so-called "sexing-up" affair, agreed to the last-minute changes in the dossier Tony Blair presented to the nation to make his case for the invasion of Iraq. Fears had been expressed that the dossier, as it stood--replete with facts and other such inconveniences--would not make a convincing case for war. But by the time they'd finished rewrit…


Saddam is dead. This will hardly have escaped your attention if you've had the television on in the last few hours, especially in England, where BBC 1 has featured nothing else. They've even been kind enough to show, repeatedly, footage of the former dictator being led to the gallows.

Am I the only one who finds that distasteful?

Am I the only one who finds the execution reprehensible?

To be fair, I am against the death penalty anyway. A mass murderer has no moral right to live, as far as I can tell, but I have no moral right to kill him. I am not a good enough man. But this one comes as a result of an illegal invasion and occupation by the world's last superpower and its bullying cronies. The British Government--in an act of backsliding even George Bush wouldn't stoop to--has distanced itself from the execution, saying it doesn't support the use of capital punishment in Iraq or anywhere else, and that Saddam's death was the decision of the Iraqi Government, but u…


*"You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." - Interview with CBS News.

*"I think - tide turning - see, as I remember - I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of - it's easy to see a tide turn - did I say those words?" – Response when asked if the tide was turning in Iraq.

*"The point now is how do we work together to achieve important goals. And one such goal is a democracy in Germany."

*"I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I've tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max, and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq knowing what I know today."

yes, all of these quotes are genuine. still feel the world is in safe hands?

Don't Look Back

It has come. That time of the year when, whether you understand the impulse or not, you find yourself reviewing the successes and failures of the last twelve months and making resolutions for the next twelve.
Well, the archives of SUFFOLK PUNCH catalogue my successes and failures with more accuracy than any end-of-year backward-looking essay could, as the posts (those I haven't deleted in shame or embarrassment), were written at the time, as the successes and failures were actually occurring. So if you're really interested, and I can't imagine why you would be, all the evidence is there.
Looking back is pointless. But we do it. The past rapidly becomes a kind of mystery, a vanishing dream, and the present is no less of a puzzle. How did you become this peculiar creature that you are? Was it this moment that shaped you? or another? Did those other worlds you live in really exist?
Can we not just step back, for a moment, and put right what we did wrong? Can't we say that wo…

Stray Thoughts On Iraq & The Execution Of Saddam

Can anybody think of another British Prime Minister who participated in the illegal invasion and occupation of another country and then had the deposed leader of the country executed?

Tony Blair. Isn't he against capital punishment?

I would not weep for the soul of Saddam. He is clearly a nasty piece of work, and--I would think--a little bit mad. But does he deserve to be alive?
Do I?

Saddam is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. No debate there. Ergo, crimes against humanity.
How many innocent people have died as a result of the invasion of Iraq?

The hand that signed the paper that launched the invasion--who put the owner of the hand in power?
I was one of the many.
Iraq is on my conscience too.

He was no friend of Bin Laden. He didn't have WMDs.
Why were we there, exactly?

Don't misunderstand me. I fear Islam as much as the next man. I fear any philosophy that takes away my right to think, and feel, and express the contents of my head, without fear of persecu…

Why Do You Write?

It's the question that is always asked of the author in the room. Jack Kerouac answered it by saying he wrote because he was bored. Charles Bukowski refused to answer it.
I write because I have nothing better to do.
I write because I am immensely vain and like the sound of my own voice, even in silence on the page or computer screen.
I write because I don't know how to say these things in conversation.
I write because I want to be told how clever and talented I am.
I write because I believe telling one's own truth liberates everybody.
That's all. If I get a reputation or a career out of it, fine. But I'm too lazy and undisciplined to seek them actively.

A Zenbo at Christmas

When I was a kid, or more specifically when I was a teenager, I used to hate the way older people would try to attach some seasonal significance to everything they did at this time of year--you know, everything was a christmas kiss, or a christmas hug, or a christmas drink, or a christmas nap. I could see even then the pathos of our attempts to match our mood to traditional expectations of the season.
I think a lot of the sadness that people feel at Christmas arises from the chasm that exists between their own emotional state and their sense of what they should be feeling. Their physical situation and their sense of what they should be doing. Someone who is alone for the other 364 days of the year (or however many there are these days), suddenly feels utterly bereft because they are alone on December 25th, and they don't think they should be. Someone else feels empty, scooped out of any emotion, but thinks they should be feeling love for their family, or the presence of a…

James Brown

BBC news is reporting that James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, has died. There's no more information yet.
What a loss. Since Elvis, they haven't come any bigger than him.

Blue Fred's Christmas Speech

Happy Freaking Christmas, esteemed readers. May you all get the sort of December 25th you deserve! (as you surely will.)

Now, how about we work extra hard in '07 to end the Occupation of Iraq, and head off at the pass any other war George Bush might want to start in his bull-headed campaign to make the world safe for extremist Christianity?

Then maybe we'll have the dubious privilege of labouring through another Christmas next year.

"Take it easy, but take it."

----------Blue Fred.

Christmas Eve

Want to feel the Christmas spirit? There's a beautiful seasonal poem over at Ralph Murre's blog ( ) that might get you in the mood. I wish I could write with that kind of grace and maturity!

I'm off to London for the day on a work-related mission. Getting a bus half way and then training into the smoke. I'd rather go all the way on the train, but it seems the great iron horse won't be passing through little Northampton on Christmas Eve. Well, I can't blame the rail company. I wouldn't be passing through Northampton if I had the choice either. I'd be staying at home, drinking too much, taking a cold back country walk, lying in front of the television getting depressed etc. etc.--all the things I like to do best.
When I get to London I probably won't stay long. In fact, I may just do the deed I have to do, then turn around and come home again. It's what I did last year when I was in the same situation. I always intend to m…

December 23rd High Street Christmas Snapshot

So this is Christmas. And what have you done?

A lot of shopping this morning, discovering in the process one great use for mobile phones. When you're lost in a Christmas crowd and you can't find your companion, you can pull out your mobile and locate them immediately. If they have one hand not laden with shopping bags and are able to answer it. I wonder what they did in the Seventies. Of course, I was around in the Seventies, but as I recall we always spent the 23rd of December at home in those days, lamenting the fact that it wasn't yet December 24th, because that at least was only a day away from Christmas.

Would the crowds in the shops have been so tumultuous then? I don't know. I doubt anything could have equalled the heaving press of humanity I encountered in Northampton this morning. I am normally quite happy to mooch around the shops for an hour or two, but today it really got on my nerves. Every shop I went into had queues at the tills twenty deep. And I couldn&#…

The Gays Are The Last Acceptable Target

Okay, I don't think I have too many English readers--something about S.P. doesn't chime with the limeys--but did anybody see that story about the police interviewing a Christian couple who had made public statements about homosexuality being morally wrong? I believe it was in Lancashire somewhere. Now, I'm not one to side with the police unnecessarily, but the real lunacy in this case was not the fact that they interviewed the couple, but that they have now been forced to apologise to them and pay damages.

Are you f***ing kidding me???? It may say in the Bible that homosexuality is an abomination. I believe it also says you shouldn't part your hair in the middle, or wear ringlets at the side of your face. But the same Christians who complain bitterly every day that they are a persecuted minority in this country and that Tony Blair only cares about Muslims (how do they work that one out?), will tell anyone prepared to listen--or too polite to tell them to piss off--that…

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice has arrived. Hooray!
Wossit mean, I hear those of you recently arrived either to Earth or consciousness?
It means the days will start getting longer from this point on, and the nights shorter.
Which means in a few short months it will be warm again. (Thank God for that, currently it's debilitatingly cold.) It means there will be daffodils, and lambs. And then pub gardens in the evening. Girls in vest tops. It means (adult note here) electricity and gas bills will become affordable. It means things will get better.
And isn't that all anybody really needs to know in life?

I am broke and desperately missing the love I once had. I've tried to distract myself with other women--been trying all summer--but it isn't working. Ho well. Sometimes you just have to deal with things head on, and not duck the issue. Love hurts, as Gram Parsons and a whole lot of other people would say. I do not want to leave the Lookout and have to face the possibility of sharing a house w…


The shaven face is corporate. Don't be fooled. But the corporate world has many faces. It might be that of your boss at work. But equally it might be the face of a handsome young footballer staring at you from a billboard as you travel into town. Or somebody on a television ad who looks cooler than you, who has beautiful women kissing his bare-baby cheeks (rewarding him for his conformity). Those images aren't real. That's MOVIE, as Charles Bukowski says. Those guys are getting paid millions by big companies to represent that life to you. However much they wrap it up in rock and roll imagery, or imagery which at least seems to have nothing to do with rich old farts in big houses who wouldn't piss on a pauper like you if you were on fire, it's still the fake world of control, suppression, homogeneity. Industry has wanted to stamp out your right to be a free-thinking person with an individual identity and separate hopes and dreams since way before the days of Henry F…

42nd birthday poem (all right still)

it's my birthday today.
i'm 42 years old. same age
elvis presley was
when he bit the carpet.
and i look much older.
my woman's gone.
i'm spending
the day alone.
soon i will have
to leave this house i love
and i can't afford to--
the cost of renting
is astronomical these days.
all in all, the outlook's
pretty bleak as the
pale sun climbs the trees into the winter sky
this morning.
so why is it
i feel this goofy hope?
perhaps because
i have no choice at last.

Clint and Bob, Still Causing a Fuss

Two old heroes of mine have been in the news this week.

Clint Eastwood, who is releasing two new films about the invasion of Iwo Jima in Japan in World War Two--the first movie from the American perspective and the second from the Japanese point of view. The critics are saying that Clint has risen to new heights with these films; some are even calling them masterpieces--and he's nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe for both of them. Way to go, old boy. Clint was always a little better than the average even during his "Hamburger Hill" and "Dead Pool" days, though it was a lot harder to see his good qualities in those (thankfully) far away times. And how interesting that someone associated so closely with the Right--albeit not the dumb-ass Right of George Bush--is making movies that express ambivalence about the glories of war and America's purpose in the world. If that don't tell you we're in changing times, then nothing does.

The other old hero …

You Gotta Move

My landlord came around tonight and told me that the people who own the Lookout want to sell it. Well, ain't that just great news to hear five days before your birthday! He says he has advised the owners not to put the house on the market before the Spring, but since the Estate Agents want to come around and value the place straight away, I'm not taking anything for granted. Gonna have to start looking for somewhere else tomorrow.

Which is fine. I've lived in the Lookout for three years, and though I've had some great times here, the really good times were a long time ago, when you-know-who was still with me and our love was young and insane. I've had some fun since she was last here, sometime last April or March, but it's not really been the same. So if she's not going to warm the chair at my computer table anymore, maybe the time is ripe for packing the saddlebags and moving it along.

But moving's no fun. It's stressful trying to organise it, plan i…

Whisky Gaps

I have interruptions in my memory which I refer to as "whisky gaps." So many things fall through them these days. So why can't I lose the memory of our love?

Iraq: Who's Really to Blame?

On the anti- side of the Iraq debate we compromise ourselves sometimes by appearing not to have a grasp of the complexities of the situation over there--it isn't another Vietnam, people. And too often, because we are either ducking the complexities or we really don't understand them, we seem to be blaming our own side (if, as human beings, we can have a side) for everything. Other than as a result of their own paranoid monomania, it's the main reason why those on the side of Bush and Blair think we're a bunch of stinking radicals who want to overthrow the government and set up a kingdom of radical Islam.

Personally I would rather Church and State were separated whatever the church. George Bush proves how dangerous a politician can be if he thinks God is talking to him. I don't want a Christian government (though I'd be more in sympathy with it), and I don't want an Islamic government. Nor do I want anarchy. I may be inviting accusations that I've turned …

Beards For Peace

That's right. It's the new peace campaign that every man wants to be a part of! Wish you could do something about the disaster in Iraq? Want to keep the pressure up on the Bush and Blair governments to bring our troops home? Grow a beard! It's a symbolic gesture to show your individualism, your independence, and your brotherhood with the innocent Muslims being slaughtered in the streets of Iraq every day. (No, it's not British and U.S. troops doing most of the killing, not now, but it's a situation we created and then failed to control; and even the British Army has admitted that our presence there "exacerbates security problems," or whatever the phrase was.)
The anti-war/ anti-Occupation lobby has made huge progress on both sides of the Atlantic--maybe more in America than here. But if we turn the heat down on our respective governments now the Occupation could go on for years, and how many more Iraqis--how many more British and American troops for that …

a little poem for yer

Picking up my journal a while ago, I realised I didn't know the date, so quickly scribbled off this little poem.

time blurring.
days and years all sliding into one.
tonight with heartburn
listening to arthur 'big boy' crudup 1950s blues
thinking of the railway club:
drunken teenage nights listening to rock 'n' roll,
avoiding the fistfights in the lobby.
electric blues riffs and cars passing through the steady rain
heading for the shortest day december 21st,
when spring starts inching back
to light the evenings--.

Adios, Pig

So Pinochet is dead. Shame.

Doctors say he died with his family at his bedside. That's more than the thousands murdered in his name got to enjoy when they breathed their last.

Margaret Thatcher must be bereft to have lost another of her dear old friends.

An Explanation

I hope people understand that when I'm knocking Christianity I'm not knocking Christ. It seems highly doubtful to me that the two are synonymous.


Here's one for you. I heard from a Christian I know that Christmas cards depicting Santa aren't acceptable because Santa is an obvious misspelling of Satan. The Devil isn't as clever with his disguises as we thought, boys and girls!

I pointed out to the person that you couldn't get the letters of his surname to spell anything sinister, unless SLUAC worries you, but apparently that is not the point. The laughing rotund white-bearded gift giver who comes down your chimney on Christmas Eve will be the Devil, and the Santa/ Satan thing proves it. Gives a whole new meaning to, "You better watch out/ You better think twice," or whatever the song says.

The Spirit of Christmas

That sense of something special in the air hasn't gone away today, and I was expecting it to. But I can't explain what it is; it defies analysis. Once you get into conceptualising anything, anyway, you go off into your own mind and lose your connection to whatever it is that's out there: Zen people have been telling us that for centuries. MU!

All I can say is that to me it's like some sort of electrical charge hanging everywhere that somehow carries all our collective hopes for ourselves and our loved ones, all our secret dreams and delights, all the things about us that are good and open and giving rather than sad, cynical and lost. There's an intimation of the love and tenderness of all the generations that have come before us in the air as well. Step anywhere and it's like the dead are close enough to touch. I could feel it walking around the Disney Store in Northampton today, with kids running around everywhere and Kermit the Frog singing something from one …

Christmas: Damn, I Think I've Figured It Out!

I'll tell you something I've figured out today. Christmas is the big chance everybody gets each year to put all their past screw-ups behind them and figure out how to be a better man or woman in the coming year. Jesus died on the cross to prove the resurrection, right? To show that with faith and selfless love you can have a new life. Now, I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that message can apply to you whether you believe in Heaven or not.

As for the consumer orgy that Christmas has become--which I and a million others have defamed as murderous to the traditional spirit of the season--well, yeah. But put on Sinatra singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" or Elvis blues hollering through "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"...feel the cold nipping your fingers...and tell me honestly that there still isn't something about Christmas, some kind of strange magic in the air that isn't there the rest of the year. I don't know if it's Christian or Hindu or…


slime. my world is mud and slime.
crawling thru barbed wire on my belly
frightened as a rat.

slung out of an alleyway: a dustbin!
bomb! the crowds scream and en
masse rush out of the way.
my mind races: to that parked car?
what's in the car???!!
if i follow them, the car will blow.
i press my back into a doorway.
"i'm scared," i tell my dark friend.
fear defines me like a name.

Which Side Are You On?

It amazes me that so many people don't belong to trade unions in this country (or anywhere.)
Seems almost willfully perverse to me. Or the height of naivete. One day it will be you hearing the Man's footsteps behind you. And you are not the Man, though you might wear cheap imitations of his clothing. He will squash you like a bug when you stop putting money in his pocket.
Here's a suggestion. If you don't agree with trade unions, give up the benefits you've got because the unions fought for them. Like a livable wage. Like paid annual leave. It's a bit hypocritical to enjoy the fruits of the labours of people you disdain, after all, don't you think?

Ronald Baatz Publishes New Book

Concrete Meat Press of Knighton, Leicester have published a chapbook by my favourite American poet Ronald Baatz. It's called "On The Back Porch" and it's very good indeed. 50 short poems (but not the haiku one usually associates with Ronald), about love and loss and death, all told in that funny/lyrical/ sad/ surreal/ orientally-influenced style that makes the Baatz ouevre so compelling and distinctive. He's American poetry's best kept secret, thanks in part to his own desire to remain beneath the literary radar; and if you haven't encountered him yet, you are missing something. Take it from one who knows.
No price is quoted for the book. Contact the publisher for more information via their website: .Oh, and tell 'em you were referred by a poet friend of Ronald's who has a chapbook of his own he'd like to place with some congenial Press.

The Meaning of Life

Watching the children coming out of Wilby school tonight--remembering me running home from school in Little Harrowden 35 years ago--exhausted after spending the day working at a job that does nothing for me except pay my bills, I thought: What a shit stick we're handing the younger generation! What is there waiting for them except the ritual of wasting their best days going to and from meaningless jobs, enduring insufferable company, being put down by people who deserve to be hit with a shovel but you can't because in the absurdist hierarchy of the workplace they've somehow risen to the top? What is waiting for those delightful, free-living, tousle-headed kids except the gradual diminution of their will and their energy, their joy, in shops and warehouses and offices performing, ritualistically, over and over and over again, totally pointless tasks just so they can earn enough money to survive to continue performing the pointless tasks?
All of which is true. Capitalist soci…

Monday Morning Notebook Observations

wind sweeps
the overgrown
garden bushes

a full yellow moon
over the woollaston
secondhand car garage

a black man
with a long-handled
comb in his hair
adjusts his
baggy trousers
in the mirror
by the basins
in the bus station
at 7 a.m.

from my journal, yesterday

Poetry Readings

I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but it bears repeating even if I have. Come January I will be reading poetry at the Labour Club in Northampton, first Wednesday of the month (whatever date that turns out to be).It's just me, a few loose leaves of poetry, a microphone and an audience of (I hope) appreciative listeners. Anybody who's in the area should come along. Hear this s**t read out loud by the man responsible for it (and pelt him with oranges).

My hope is to turn the performances into a regular thing. Maybe one day if I combine performances with a little freelance writing, I can even quit the money job. Today I've been discussing another gig with a Northampton event organiser, so it's not beyond the absolute, outer realms of possibility that a few more might come along, and on a regular basis.

We shall see. I have to get past the first gig first, and not die a huge and horrible death. After that we can talk of glory.

Oh, the point of this entry was to…

It Was Cold As Hell Tonight But The Women Were Lovely

i'm sprouting beard hair
like an unkempt bush,
growing my grey tresses
down my neck again
and roaming towns at night
in a big warm military coat.
sitting in bus stations
reading knackered paperbacks.
a girl i care for says, "you
look like a bag of shit
bruce. why don't you shave?"
i am happier
than i have been in months.

Rosa Who?

Something great on the BBC website yesterday. They have an "on this day in history" feature, which is always interesting if you have a curiosity, as I do, about politics and world affairs generally. But yesterday it said something like: "On this day in 1955 a black woman in Alabama USA refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. Her action helped to begin the Civil Rights movement in America." So, she didn't have a name? She still hadn't done enough to be identified as an individual person rather than a representative of her race? Try Rosa Parks, dummies.

Oh, before you race off with the impression I'm being politically correct, a glance at other events from the same day in history on the site shows that everybody else DOES get a specific name. A black friend tells me that the woman in the picture isn't even Rosa Parks! We've come a long way, kiddies, but there are miles to go before we sleep.