Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Monday, 28 March 2011

Me in SL

My SL profile:  HERE

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Grainne's Soldier

For the background to this book, please scroll down.

Click on each page to read, and then backspace to come back.

The voice I have used in this fictional account was influenced by many people I have known through the years I lived in Northern Ireland. 

I was brought up in South (County) Down in Northern Ireland and lived through the bulk of the troubles.  In fact, the first cease-fire came just as I left to live in Scotland in my mid-twenties.  I visit my old home town five or six times a year, so some people would say I have never left!  But the few hundred miles west is a step outside the mindset of sectarianism that permeates the province at all levels (whereas sectarianism in Scotland, although existent in the Central Belt, and in particular the west, I would argue, is not just as embedded in the structural social systems across the classes).

The sights and sounds and smells in Grainne’s story are informed by my experiences.  Although having been brought up in the “Ring of Steel” – an area of Northern Ireland that was allegedly protected to a higher degree than the rest - the terror was at times driven in in car bombs and shootings.   And of course, my life, especially as I got older and had independence, went beyond the ring of steel into some of the areas where one side or the other was more prevalent.

I spent time amongst Nationalists, Unionists, Republicans and Loyalists; some of the people I grew up with and drank with were witness to and took part in some of the most heinous crimes of those dark days between 1969 and the late 1990’s. 

And I had and still have, superb friends across the sectarian divides.

Sectarianism and bigotry are the two enemies of sense.  When one “side” feels superiority over another, whether that is by way of “true knowledge or way,” politically or religiously, then things get dangerous.
The sectarianism and the callous murders of Catholics (and the infamous murders of the Miami Showband    in Northern Ireland, known as “The Day the Music died”) carried out by the vicious Glenanne gang , led directly to me hearing my first bomb while in the living room of my ageing grandmother, and witnessing firsthand the grief of a family, my family, as victims of the travesty that was to become known as the “Troubles.”   This same sectarianism and disregard for life led to the death a school friend, a few years my junior, when a car bomb was left outside the shop owned by a family friend while the eleven year old waited for his father to collect him after a day at school.  

During my childhood I was caught up in the aftermath of bombings (and on one occasion was a few hundred yards away from one that exploded, but thankfully on that occasion, property was the only casualty), found ordinance and was caught up in various incidents of the troubles.  I was told my best friend was a Catholic, not knowing there was any difference, and then spent a lot of our time together trying to gauge differences.  I concluded “they” liked Cream Soda and “we” liked Sarsaparilla.  I waited behind curtains, looking worriedly out into the night when the local TV news reported “incidents” in Belfast, and my father was late home from his building work in the heart of the troubled city.  I was subjected to phone calls from nasty, vicious people who did not want my father working in “their” area.  I was beaten up for my beliefs, shunned by “one side” because of my mixing with “the other” and had my ignorance challenged by inspiring people.
My experiences in Northern Ireland have led me towards left politics – the politics of fairness – and also towards unity with as many comrades, brothers and sisters I can in the fight against those who use their money and power to trod us down.  In RL I am a member of the non-sectarian left unity party, the Scottish Socialist Party and I am a founding member of SL Left Unity.

This story was written by me a good few years ago, but I had placed it HERE.  Trill Zapatero, a friend in Second Life, read the piece and asked if she could create a book for it to be placed in Second Life's "Zinn Library."  (I'll blog about the library another time - it's official opening will be soon!) So - if you are in second life, take yourself to the Four Bridges Project and go in to the Zinn Library, and thanks to Trill and Millay, you can read this as well as many other books.  It is a great honour to be associated in this small way with Howard Zinn - and I thank Trill from  the bottom of my heart.  

Zinn, if you do not know of him, is well worth looking up.  He was a great man - and one who has helped open up real discussion in the US about real politics again.  In 2009, he said, 

"Let's talk about socialism. I think it's very important to bring back the idea of socialism into the national discussion to where it was at the turn of the [last] century before the Soviet Union gave it a bad name. Socialism had a good name in this country. Socialism had Eugene Debs. It had Clarence Darrow. It had Mother Jones. It had Emma Goldman. It had several million people reading socialist newspapers around the country. Socialism basically said, hey, let's have a kinder, gentler society. Let's share things. Let's have an economic system that produces things not because they're profitable for some corporation, but produces things that people need. People should not be retreating from the word socialism because you have to go beyond capitalism."[53]

Virtual Writers 15 minute Dash - today's word was -


My mum has to buy nappies for me. But we can only go to the big shop once a week. Because it takes so long getting there. So I wear torn sheets until we go.

The journey is not far. We can see the shop from our window. But the diggers and men with hammers came and built the fence and then the wall, so we have to drive a long way to get to the gate.

When we go to the gate, we are taken to a room where my mother is stripped and so am i. Our car is searched and my pram is taken apart and rebuilt.

When we go to the shop, mum takes us to the cafĂ© first, and we eat and laugh, but mum can’t hide worry.
I see her look across the wall to our house and then to me. She says, “one day, we will be able to walk here.”

I laugh.

Screaming. Running. We run into the playground, just as the burning, white stuff drops from the sky. My friend drops to the floor. Her clothes and hair are in flames. My teacher falls on her, rolling on her, trying to smother the flames, but she is on fire now too. I stand frozen.

My Grandfather, a doctor, sits in the darkened room.
“We need to leave here, Grandfather.”
“I can’t. this is my home. I paid for it by my work. Your Grandmother lived and laughed here. Your mother played and learned how to be, here.”
“The bulldozers are going to come through, Grandfather.”

“Let them.”

The shots ring out. I hear the siren. The bulldozers awaken.
I stand and nod.

I walk out of the house into the mud and hellish landscape.

I stand in front of the huge, armoured bulldozer.

A soldier shouts, “Go! These houses must be levelled!”
I look up and shout, “This is my grandfather’s house.”
He shout’s back, “Out of the way terrorist scum!”

“Did your father tell you that?”
“Everyone knows you are all terrorist scum.”
“Did your father tell you that?”
“My father told me about you terrorists, yes, “ he shouts.

“My father was martyred by your father.”
I lie down in the mud.
This word just came as i visited a new piece that Trill Zapatero is working on in SL - a Palestinian Wall  and it was influenced by her (and those who are involved in this project) incredible work.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


This is another post about my walks through Mugdock (I hope to post more photos as the seasons change, so you can see the beautiful changes in the Scottish landscape).

I was thinking of the TV programme "Wonders of the Universe," the programme featuring the superb Professor Brian Cox.  As a teacher, he is superb.  The whole programme is made in a beautiful way - with both amazing graphics and simple explanations to the most complex theories (in the UK, you can watch the programmes HERE  - I am not sure about the rest of the world).

One of the programmes dealt with "entrophy" - and the arrow of time.  The conclusion was beautiful and has stuck with me since I watched it just over two weeks ago.  Cox said that the Universe will finally entrophize into nothing but light particles and radiation (that is what I understand by it).  This will happen eventually, but he explained while sitting on a beach, that if he was to count the years out using molecules onto his hand, the amount of years in time would be many more years in the future than there are molecules in the Universe...

How does this apply to my walk in Mugdock?  Well, today was perhaps the first real day of spring.  I
went out wearing only a cardigan and a teeshirt, and not far into my walk I had to take off the cardigan.  This was a far cry from only days ago when I was wrapped up in my winter gear!
Conformity means death.  Only protest gives a hope of life - Bertrand Russell 1962
The teeshirt is a slogan one.  It says, "Conformity means death.  Only protest gives a hope of life - Bertrand Russell 1962." 

I really think our society is entrophising.  The rate at which it entrophises is stepped up when the Tories and Republicans come in to power.  There were attempts in the early-mid 20th century to control this entrophy, and indeed reverse it; but the greed encapsulated by Reagonomics and Thatcherism has brought us further down the line towards a society in which the only growth is in the bank balance of those who exploit.

Bang!... down goes another Truffula tree making that Onceler richer and richer...

Growth in knowledge and understanding and in empathy and togetherness has been stopped in its tracks.  We are all conforming under the false notion of "trickle down" and that the people who walked over many in order to enrich themselves will throw scraps from their giant tables for us to fight over.  On another blog I am quoted as saying, "Plot Tracer: "Our society needs to be more caring. Trusting in the markets to provide does not work - it is a leap of faith as big as hoping the Sun God will provide cash under our carpets"

...and it is this faith in Sun gods and the Gods of the markets and the God of wealth and competition that is slowly wearing away our society and our togetherness and our love and empathy for those around us.

When the Universe ends, what will be left will be without form... but will it be without intelligence?  Will something have grown from the entrophy?  what will it think of the time when other intelligences thought it a good idea to devour all to enrich a few "three score years and ten," and impoverish most.

In Mugdock, in the undergrowth, and on the hills, and in the seasons, the death and destruction of nature bears new life and new purpose.  There are hidden ruins being eaten by new life and beauty.  The rotting beams of a building are even hard to see, but they are serving a new purpose.  They are not supporting a floor, but they are supporting life.

I'm told that some of these old buildings were placed here to support a local mine; but some where built during WW2 to protect Clydebank 70 years ago.

The buildings at the Gun Sites have been preserved in their ruins.  I guess for years after the war, people wanted to build the new society of free healthcare and education and industry working for all; and the symbols of war and competition and the old entrophising society were to be hidden and forgotten.  But it is always good to remember - though not worship - the past.  Life has not been allowed to completely envelop the gun sites, but the brickwork is allowed to crumble and water allowed to flood and the wood allowed to rot.

I think when the new society is won through those fighting the conformity thrust upon us by these "Market god" freaks and hope returns, the citadels and cathedrals of selfish wealth hording and poverty should be allowed to return to nature perhaps in the slow, "remember" way the Gun sites have been.  

The Lorax in the Dr Suess book, leaves a statue to what was lost by the chopping down of the Truffula Trees  and devastation of the world of the Onceler to make the useless thneeds which bears the only word, "Unless."

Unless we stop the entrophising right wing greedy bastards, our society will crumble and fold.  In nature, when the old is replaced with the new, the old have left enough for the new birth to feed on and breathe.  Today's society is not doing that.  The history of capitalism, and indeed the speeded up capitalism created by Reagan and thatcher will become known as the years of the greedy people who ate everything, leaving nothing for their children.

Perhaps the epitaph for capitalism and it's citadels and cathedrals will be "Unless."