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

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A Gift Comes Calling...

As the scientists looked at each other in disbelief, outside their Lower Withington building across the street, Corey stood up, turned his head from side to side, stretched and took his first tentative steps in the 31 years he had been on planet earth.

No one had ever wanted Corey, not even his mother, who had abandoned him on the steps of the Cathedral, just a mile or so away from the spot he sat every day in his wheelchair, begging for change. On the run up to Christmas people felt guilty. Those people who walked past him trying not to meet his eye, as he said, “Have a good day.” He could afford to eat something most days.

His usual day would be like nothing these people had ever experienced. His Christmas would usually be a fight for food, a bottle or two and a fusty mattress in a spike (he called it that name, laughing, because the others in the dosshouse had no idea what he was on about), and middle class liberals assuaging the guilt they had for voting for less tax and a massive “defence” budget, served food on their once a year penance; food the local supermarket usually threw into the skip that his hungry, misshapen bones wouldn’t let him reach.

It had been reported as a rock, around 400 metres by forty, “Oumuamua,” “The Messenger,” and it had shot past earth, steady, silent and faster than anything that had ever been recorded in the solar system. And the scientists heard the warming, comfortingly embracing noise in disbelief, as everyone did.

Report of "Alien Spacecrft," December 2017 HERE

Corey wasn’t the only life changed when the signal enveloped the earth. Opaque eyes saw colour and faces for the first time and cacophony, orchestra and whispers vibrated auditory ossicles newly formed in old ears.

Jessica, whose life support had been switched off while her family wept around her hospital bed in Belfast, suddenly sat up and laughed. She was 97 years old, and wanted to dance and no one, not even those expecting her demise were going to stop her.

Five year old Michelle clicked her knees back into place and the screams of her mother stopped as she emerged from under the fifteen year old Ford Escort, driven by the suddenly sober Iain MacHick who hadn’t seen her run onto the road to try to catch her pink rubber bouncy ball. MacHick cried, and was glad he would never need alcohol again to feel equal to the task of living. Michelle had learned not to run onto the road. Her mother glared at MacHick, took her child by the bloodied, but uncut hand and walked away from death.

All over the world, sickness, illness, inabilities and disability disappeared.

John, who had always wanted to examine the stars ever since he first watched Power Rangers twenty-five years before this moment, cried as he read the message on his screen. It had affirmed the message in his head. The knowledge he had regained. The lost feeling, he had lived with all his life, a background noise that everyone had fought, grabbed, self-medicated and stolen for, to muffle. Screens across the world were carrying the same affirmation of what everyone all at once knew. The knowledge they would gain later had yet to filter to them and TV producers and directors puzzled over who had intercepted their signals and minds.

Tina and Kodi pointed at the interactive smart board in Mr Kumar’s class. Mr Kumar was explaining how to use a speech bubble, when the board seemed to switch itself on.

Most of the class of eight-year olds could read the message when it first flickered onto the screen. And then they all could, even Demi, who had never been able to read her own name.

Demi knew it was a Christmas Gift. A Gift from Santa, who Jack had said that morning didn’t exist. She knew he did and he had given her the gift of reading by switching on a part of her brain that she had until now, not explored.

No one panicked, and everyone in shops laughed at the stupidity of the money they no longer needed.

Debts disappeared as they all knew, suddenly, how ridiculous the notion that people owned things.

The world started to feed itself and heal, and the hoarders and those who had accrued billions of everything were forgiven as prisoners were. They had not known what they were doing. They had been forced into a system that really was absurd, sick and had nearly killed the world by mistake.

People rushed to ensure no belly was empty. The horror of the old system hit everyone at once and they became free.

And the message that came with the cure, the first contact, the reawakening, the resetting of Earth became a message they all understood from the second the long cigar shaped craft enveloped their senses as it sped through space towards other galaxies long forgotten and left in the cold.

“Welcome back to the Universe. Sorry we took so long.”

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Why Tracey Ulmann, Blackpool and I Ruined Utopia

 This is an article I composed originally as a piece for Ungagged.  The podcast it is part of is this one (details and timings are on the website)

Utopias we want to build are always, of course, something much better than what we are part of at present. And part of is the key. Not marching in time with. Not a cog. But an active participant. Alive. Human.

When I was a child, my utopia was Blackpool. We went there for our holidays for quite a few years in a row. I anticipated and spoke about Blackpool months in advance of going, like I did Christmas when I arrived home. Blackpool was a break from school, a break from the streets, a chance to do stuff with my English cousin. I loved the journey to get there, Larne, Stranraer, and a bone shaking drive in our VW beetle through Dumfriesshire and then a couple of nights in the lake district, the beach, the tower, the piers and the pleasure beach. The confusion of it all. The crowds, all out for good times. Families together, not trying to fit in a life around must do and routines.

All innocent, 1970’s pre-Thatcherite fun. A childhood utopia, something away from the mundane, for 10 days every year.

I was full of imagination. I made up worlds, written, drawn and with my mates on riverbanks, in fields, around the housing estates and at the top and bottom of trees, and hills, and wasteland. We were lucky, we lived on the edge of the countryside, within view of the magical world of Narnia – well, the place that inspired CS Lewis Narnia – the Mourne Mountains. And we visited Narnia and its coast – the county down coast - regularly. And I still do. A utopia of natural beauty.

And most of the people of Narnia and its surrounds are wonderful… but to borrow a phrase , wherever you go, hell is other people. Utopia is always ruined by others interacting within it in a way you feel you don’t- and some never seem to appreciate the utopia you see.


And then some upset the utopia, ever so slightly, with their want to exploit what draws people there. And you judge, so you are in that room Sartre created. You are part of the torture.

So, what is utopia? Is it just these personal places we yearn for? These places we can be happy?

As political beings, we are always searching for it. And as social beings, utopias are not solitary things, so I suggest, we can only really find utopia in our lifetimes, as somewhere we like to be with people we trust and want to be with.

Build any physical utopia, and it will be undermined and exploited by people with different reactions and interactions with your creation. A political utopia in my opinion, is not a bright summer day watching the ocean for the rest of our lives.

I started writing this piece with the video of They Don’t Know About Us, by Tracy Ullman in my mind.

Weird when I’m supposed to be talking about utopias. But the video is about the utopia that the character who Tracy plays is aiming for in her working class, 1970’s disco night out, teenaged world. It makes me cry every time I watch the bloody thing! Her utopia isn’t realised, only in her dream. I remember my aunt Jean loved the video – she and others in my family laughed in recognition of Tracy’s reality versus her dream. Working class people did these things – and still do. Because they live in their hope, or disappointment at the reality of our proto-utopia, and Tracy’s character ends up exactly where lots of people they knew, did. And still do. In the reality of walking down that supermarket aisle in your fluffy slippers, not caring about your appearance, your whole being about others, and feeling you are failing because of the system you live in isn’t anyone’s idea of utopia – and certainly does not support you.

Well, this world is utopia for a small percentage of people who control all its resources and political narratives. They don’t understand us. They don’t know about us.

Why that song? Why that video? Well, it sits well with four other songs I love that kind of explain my idea that the golden citadel we all think we are struggling for is a hard struggle against ourselves, and not just “them. “ At least those of us struggling with this capitalist rat race. Three songs enhanced by their videos, one not at all.

Three of the song videos are by the Manic Street Preachers. A band I put up there in my top ten. And a band I have never seen live because of the bloody awful capitalist ticket system we endure every time tickets are released…

Video 1:

The first one to watch, Show me wonder… The utopia of the dance, the young woman putting on her late seventies/ early eighties make up to go to the club and the young guy with his mates all going to the same place (a miners welfare somewhere in Wales), the whole atmosphere of the dance, which I remember really well, as it would have been part of the mix of the types of places I week ended in.

Live music, a hooley and a coort (what young people did at the end of the night with someone they had fallen deeply in love with during the dancing). That’s what was a successful night in those days, and I’m sure for many a teenager nowadays it isn’t THAT different. Different destinations and drugs, but largely the same night. The utopia of the weekend after a week’s graft. Increasingly in our world, the weekend is becoming a minorities luxury yet again.

And the working men’s club (not being sexist here – that’s what they were called!) as the centre of the community. It’s a joyous place, a joyous, beautifully executed video with a wonderful story.

Video 2:

The second video, Anthem for a lost cause then starts in the early eighties, with the beginning of the end of what was a sort of utopia for many of us. A world in which we marched together, we struck for a better world. We weekended together. We learned and loved together. There was equality in the UK like there had never been seen in the history of the country, ever. And we see Thatcher’s destruction beginning with the miners’ strike. We hear a woman’s voice say, “no one in this country is going to be starved back to work.” Defiant. Strong. And we watch as the woman in the story from the previous video finds her voice and stands and fights. I won’t spoil the story. That’s not the whole thing. Watch it.

And then we forgot. We had forgotten the pre-war conditions – and the equality we first found in death, destruction, and grief in World War One, that led to our welfare state and National Health Service-free and accessed easily by all.

Video 3:

And we were defeated. And the third Manics video, Rewind the Film, sung by Richards Hawley, shows the same miners welfare social club as it stands now, almost deserted. Tatty. Almost without hope. A place out of time in our increasingly gentrified town centres. A place for those who had dreams to still come together, amongst the decay of what Thatcher and her successors forced on us, though the weaknesses the Tories recognised. Through the cracks in our solidarity. And through their forgetting again that those with less than them are people too. The video shows a community, not without hope. But weak, old.

The forth song is one whose lyrics are remembered in Show Me Wonder, the first Manics video I asked you to watch. “Heaven is a place, were nothing ever happens…”

The Talking Heads song, “Heaven.”

A song that is designed and written to express that being trapped in a utopia can be hell. A song that recalls Sartres words in context. Hell is other people trapped in the same room you are. I really love that Talking Heads song. As a lover of dystopian fiction, books like, This perfect Day by Ira Levin, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, The Machine Stops by EM Forster, and of course, Huxley’s Brave New World, that song sums them all up.

We almost achieved an equality. But then came along punk, coinciding with the dissatisfaction theThatcherite media threw at us. We were young, and told we could be different. We didn’t have to be our boring parents. We yearned from a utopia away from working class sameness.

Rebellion from sameness.

A sameness, a golden age, we all as working class people, hark back to. A golden era we fondly remember, even through the propagandised the Winter of Discontent tries to stamp on. A discontent the working class mostly only felt as the aristocratic empire failed us.

A breakout from the room of the working class certainties. Away from the working mans clubs, away from the doing the same job your forefather did all their lives. And we the working class, loved punk. Punk became post punk and yuppies and dayglo and Blair and Cameron and now May and Boris and Brexit. Back then, our rebellion was sitting with Mohicans on St Pauls Cathedral steps, and squatting and dressing differently in our grandads long coats with lacquered hair with no other way to rebel until Thatcherism kicked in and kicked the working class out of our certainties…

Now my generations new, tory driven rebellion is fucking with their children and grandchildrens future. More bloody tories and brexit. Boris’s carefully constructed messy hair, I’m sure, harks back to the days we took hours to make our hair look different.

The present revisiting of the 1980’s is almost laughable. People pick out records of hope – most of which are made up of bland, meaningless lyrics, don dayglo and legwarmers and tell us “this is the eighties.”

The eighties for me was the busting of a kind of utopia. A place and time when jobs were jobs for life. When taxes meant that we had real affordable homes, decent reasonably priced communications, gas, electricity, travel etc and surpluses that went back into the creation of jobs, and better things. I worked in a factory on the eighties, and every few months, we saw more of our union power eroded, and our pay and conditions chipped away.

My eighties were the discordant post punk era. An era when people wrote, moaned and whined about the dystopian nature of every day being like Sunday, and Huxley was pushed aside and Orwell was waved in our face as Thatcher and her mob along with the left, told us that that is where our social democracy would lead to.

Our proto-Huxleyan state began to crack when some were told they were better than others, and looking around them they began to wonder why their taxes were paying for things for their neighbours, they didn’t yet or never would need.

They moved from the council estate after buying their council home and selling it for a big profit, and went on to vote tory in their misguided individualist, mortgaged, Pimms soaked, Lady Di hairstyle, big shoulder pad, Dynasty anger.

How to dismantle a welfare state. Convince the middle class they are being ripped off by helping those in need.

And we the young helped Thatcher dismantle what had taken 200 hundred years to create… a state in which working class and poor people experienced an equality never before or since seen on these islands. We huffed and puffed about bringing the state down.

And Thatcher loved us for it.

We created our Thatcherite indie music labels, most perversely anti-Thatcherite in the art they produced, but financially living in her handbag. But perhaps the music some of them left gives us cause for a pause to think over the philosophies the singing pseuds poured over to write their lyrics. And the working class fightback lyrics of others. And the increased beats per minute in the real indie scene in secret fields and hangars, not the AEIOU’s and D I S C O’s of the selling of plastic to people seeking their utopia in new designer lagers and nightclubs.

We railed against her, in our comedy – some of those who made their money on anti-thatch humour are now the supporters of the Eddie Izzard Blairite bunch who will chip away at the left that the labour party and British politics need so badly.

I could speak, ashamed, for hours about how the utopia, the golden citadel that the pre-1945 generations fought for was destroyed by my generation. I could speak for hours on how many who listen to this will deny they were part of it, but we were very much part of it whether we knew it or not.

But that’s for another time.

But lets say, Utopia was betrayed by the 1980’s before it was allowed to take shape properly. Not to say that in lots of respects, the proto-utopia social democratic UK was not hugely flawed-and beginning to fail just as equality was being reached. It was. In many ways – including the fact it was still reliant on the labours of the empire… the poverty of most of the rest of the world, a desperate world others were baring arms to try to destroy in Cuba, Angola, Bolivia and many other places.

And our destruction was reliant on the discovery of Scottish oil, now a commodity that like coal, will become much too expensive to take out of the ground.

So. What is utopia?

Well, as a reader of science fiction, dystopian nightmares and utopian dreams I have a few favourites, including those I listed before. I love Edward Bellamy’s 19th century book, Looking Backward. A book that spawned more socialist societies across the world than Marx ever did. A novel so hopeful that socialism was going to be a middle class utopia, it seems quaint nowadays. But a novel that predicted much that has happened, like the supermarket, the debit card, radio, and much more. If middle class lefties nowadays wrote a novel set in a utopian left-wing world a hundred years hence, I know it would be full of the horrors Bellamy described in his present day Boston, because the levels of poverty and homelessness, as always when Tories are in control, is shameful. The book would, like Bellamy‘s, be full of their middle-class presumptions of what utopia would be like and THEIR wants.

So, back to Tracy and Blackpool. Ullmans video has her dreaming of her utopia at the end of the video, a utopia that is based in her characters working class world, inside a small car with Paul McCartney. A dream far from her character’s reality.

I revisited Blackpool in recent years, and it is far from the 1970’s utopia of my childhood where we could be set free by our parents amongst the flashing lights and sounds of screams of laughter.

The reality of our new world, summed up by these videos and by way of these novelists don’t perhaps offer much hope.

Maybe. But they all have one thing in common. They all seek something better for more than the person in the video or book (with the exception of Tracy’s character, who is trapped, but still dreaming for her own Paul).

And my dream? My dream is that I live to see a time when we have a society not far from the imperfect, perfect society envisaged by Iain M Banks. A Culture exploring ourselves and the stars, in which we have individual care, and long productive interesting lives. And the ability to become Tamara Bunke, Tanya the spy, inserting ourselves into worlds yet to change, with the exciting danger that that brings.

Utopias should be exciting.

And Utopians should never forget.

Our utopia shouldn’t let us forget that we are all equal and we should all be looking out for each other, or they’ll still be building statues to Thatcher while people freeze to death on our streets and children starve.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Politics Beyond Satire...

As those of you who read my ramblings know, I am a Producer on Unagged.  This is the latest episode.  Go to Leftungagged.org to listen to others.

Also available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Dear English Labour Party...

Dear English Labour Party,

I just wanted to drop a note asking you for a favour.

First let me explain who I am. I'm a teacher. I live in Scotland. I've never, knowingly, voted Tory. In fact, what the Tories stand for; what they arrogantly lie about and how they profit from fear and misery, is totally abhorrent to me.

Now, I'm originally from Northern Ireland, and when I came over to Scotland in 1993, placing my X beside the box that said "Labour Party," is an event I will never forget. At last I was able to vote for a party NOT tied up in sectarian religious shite. I was able to vote for a party which, at that time, had a huge amount of socialists in its ranks- and a party I believed was one that stood up for people in poverty; people looking for work; the disenfranchised; minorities and workers.

Now, I see that down there in England, socialists have been fighting back against the centre left liberals who pulled the party away from its socialist roots. Its bedrock. Its rudder. I hope you win that fight and I hope you can build support for sensible, progressive policies that move England towards an equitable society.

Meanwhile, the Tories are wrecking all that Labour built post war. The post war settlement; welfare, an NHS, free comprehensive education, publically run public transport, a manufacturing base that ensured skilled, well paid jobs etc -all has been dismantled and sold off and is stored in money form in bank accounts on the Cayman Islands, and other tax havens. Those who caused the impoverishment and abuse of once proud working class communities roam the world in massive yachts and personal jets, while here in Glasgow, 1 in 3 children live in desperate poverty. That's 38000 children who are hungry, cold, and unsafe. That to me is a statistic so disgusting, I really don't think I need to quote another one. Scotlands biggest city has 38000 children who are scared, malnourished and unsure of having enough food. One city.

Now, I know that isn't your fault. Capitalism and huge income disparities add to that.

But even with our centre left Government, that sits to the left of the current Scottish Blairite Labour, who are mitigating a lot of the appalling destruction the Tory Party Government are causing (eg the Bedroom tax; the welfare "reforms," the selling off of the NHS etc), Scotland is unable to help those 38000 children. We can TRY to use the money we are given via the Barnett Formulae, but in reality, we are bailing out water from a leaky boat.

Some of you have said it is unfair of us to leave you to the Tories, if we vote Yes in the upcoming referendum.

I say, if you help us get to the source of the flood, by helping us achieve independence, then rather than trying to cope with 38000 hungry, unsafe Glaswegian children by bailing out the boat, we can move upstream, and stop the flood. What a legacy for Labour!

Giving us our democracy will ensure we, a left leaning country; a social democratic-left country, can help the 1 in 4 Scottish children out of poverty- and when we do that, you, the English Labour Party, will have somewhere to point to close to home to say, "look- it can be done." And you know what? I'll go down there and help you campaign on that basis. I promise.

Scottish Labour; mostly disaffected Blairites; don't see it that way. And their Blairism and alliance with Tory Unionists at the last independence referendum all but destroyed them. They are continuing in that path- destroying a once great party  as they go. And I haven't voted for a labour candidate since I witnessed Labour Party members, officials and representatives hugging representatives of the most vicious Tory government in history. In Glasgow. After they stopped us from escaping a generation of Tory Governments. While 38000 children starve.

Please help us achieve independence, English Labour Party. And can you please chat to your Scottish comrades?


Yours in solidarity,

Neil Scott

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Track of my years: Just Send My Heart...

19 -a time when you think all might be possible; you test stuff; you embrace friendships, are open to new experiences and people, and fall in love. And everything is confusing - but no way will you admit that. At least, that is what  in and around Banbridge was for me. I fell in love; I loved being with my friends; I loved drinking beer- Summer 1985 was about all of those things. But it was also about music- gorgeous, haunting, uplifting, kick-ass, defining pop music. And confusing feelings, relationships and politics.

One piece of shimmering pop stands out- and it'll be one few of you will have heard of. The Northern Irish Troubles were raging all around us – me and my friends and wee town - in the news, bomb scares, bombings, shootings, friendships, bigotry and in communities coming together, over beer; dancing; singing the same songs (sometimes) and kissing girls.

I met a girl, a girl in a white dress; but this isn't about her. Well, it's about longing for her. Missing her; but it is also about discovery - knowing the community I was part of went further than the box the media and some of those in my troubled province wanted to put me in.

The girl in the white dress was a class apart. Literally. She was from a family of millionaires- but to borrow a Mrs Merton phrase, that was not what attracted me to her. She was beautiful and a bit wild - her wealth, education and life experience placed her on a level with me - someone who wanted to break out of the drab mid-Ulster working class expectations placed upon me by all of the restrictions around me. A culture I couldn't belong to. A culture that didn't, to me in my teenaged snobbish way, feel that cultured. And the girl in the white dress brought that to me - her culture, which, ultimately couldn't be mine... in short bursts, as she went to public school in England.

Our love affair was through letters and on her school holidays and then later, when she went to Lucy Clayton finishing school; and then on financially crippling and financially educating journeys to London.

But this isn't about her and how we split up and got together – and split up and got together and - three years later, in my burgeoning realisation we were world's apart; a class apart, calling it a day- wrecking my young head in the drunken process. No- it's not about her. It's about longing and it's about the search for a culture beyond the drums and the Britishness I didn't understand. That I felt outside of.

This week a song kept going through my head. A song from an album that barely scratched the charts, but an album so beautiful, in my mind and memory and emotions, that I was afraid to buy the follow up three years later. And the fact that both albums bracket the girl in the White dress is interesting- but only interesting in that I couldn't buy that follow up.

The song from the album that suddenly entered my head this week is a beautiful track called "Always." But the song that brought this Belfast group to my attention back in the beautiful summer of 1985 – the summer of Live Aid and barbecues and being caught in showers walking through Belfast windsurfing and pernod and black currant, was the song, "Send my Heart."

Every Friday night I got myself ready- showering the stress of the boxed in workplace from my head, and changing clothes; changing skin; spraying smells onto my body, wearing my collar up and meeting the lads in the Coach Bar. And when the weather was good, the sun would stream through the front bar doors and that first pint as we all met would feel freeing; a gateway into a world away from the need to work.

And the girl with the White dress wouldn't be there; she'd be in her very English world and every song on the video juke box would either remind me of her; make me cry inside for her or be something new I'd want her to hear.

The song began with four strums of a silver guitar. That took my attention. And then this video, that made me sad; a song that made me choke with loneliness; chords that played out a story of someone from my country leaving for a life that took him away from the girl he once loved; a bitter end to love.

The video showed places I'd recently discovered with the girl in the White dress. Dublin. Dublin buses. And they were dressed in the mid eighties fashions of Dublin - a city that just seemed stylish- a city pumping out coolness and oozing confidence and a city that seemed like everyone in the world had discovered at the same time as me.

And then the chorus, "Just send my Heart..." The name of the song- and the name of the group. The Adventures. And they weren't from cool Dublin. They were from battered Belfast- and from part of Belfast that I was led to believe was not part of my culture. And I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand why my “culture” didn't produce songs that made your heart rise into your throat.

So I bought the album- Theodore and Friends. Her mum thought it was beautiful- I remember her saying that. And it is. The songs are beautiful. Part of the foundations of what became Celtic Rock. Songs that were produced in a way that made them almost timeless because they weren’t Erasure or Depeche Mode or Heaven 17 or the likes. Beautifully crafted pop songs, with lyrics that made me want to embrace the other part of the culture that was split- wrenched- exploded apart. Soaring choruses and melodies that lifted your eyes as the trust around us was being shot to pieces.

The beauty of my town and the protections it had, was that some of us – most of us young people – the future – a generation that could perhaps end the shite around us - were able to mix across the sectarian divide. We had interfaces such as the local technical college; before that, "Summer School," a "club" run by teachers - from, if I recall rightly, the local catholic High School and from the technical college, during the summer holidays. Catholics and prods came together and played and went on trips together. And we had nightclubs- The Coach being the biggest (the biggest in Europe at one time) and the one people came to from across the province. So I had my prod friends- but I also had Catholic friends. But interfaces or not, some harboured hate and killed in our names and hated for us.

Theodore and Friends was such a beautiful album of discovery for me and from a time I never wanted to end- but had to- and did- that I couldn't buy the next album. But it was a song from the next album, "The Sea of Love," that sums up what was happening all over the North at the time- including in the lives of the members of the band- Terry Sharpe’s friend, Thomas Reilly was shot by a young soldier in Belfast. Another statistic in the awful, illogical story of the world around me. Sharpe’s girlfriend, Sara Dallin of Bananarama, wrote a song about the dreadful murder – Rough Justice - and the music industry mourned, recalling the dreadful Miami Showband killings.

Our land, our community, was indeed a Broken Land.

I remember seeing the Adventures in concert in The Mandela Hall in Queens University, and Terry Sharpe, the lead singer, using the pay phone as I was led to an office to have my camera confiscated -yet again- until after the concert. A claim to fame that means nothing – as people have forgotten this beautiful group.

And I never listened to that second album until today. That album that bracketed the love I had for the girl in the White dress; but was the beginning of a new struggle for me- the struggle to piece together me; to find my part in all of this and to break out of the walled in, frozen piece of a culture I couldn't be satisfied in.

I've listened to "The Sea of Love" a few times today. A forgotten album from the eighties, along with Theodore and Friends- but as beautiful -if not moreso than The Adventures first. An album of beauty and heartache that sounds like the broken community it came from-a community wanting to reach out and discover each other, to embrace, to stop being apart – a community longing to hold hands and walk together. Songs of longing, love and of the girl in the White dress- across the sea; in a letter of love; but ultimately a love lost.

Other Tracks of my years here-

Joy Division - a track of my years...

Sinead O'Connor - My Danny Boy...

Jim Morrison... The City of Lights; Newry, Paris, Budapest, Stuttgart... 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Scexit, Independence and Augmented Realities: Fighting Fake Peace...

A podcast I help produce.  Click play and have a listen!

Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

On this pod we have Red Raiph talking about fake news, Eric Joyce on pacifism and nukes and giving his view on ideas discussed by Tommy Sheppard MP at the Independence Convention, including ideas on currency, Victoria Pearson discussing an Independent Scotland within the EU, Amber Daniels talking about the importance of collective unity against the contemporary uprising of bullies, Steve McAuliffe with his poem False Dichotomies Hold Back Our Dreams of Peace, Debra Torrance discussing War by Numbers - taking a look at major and minor conflicts across the globe, and George Collins discussing the global rise of right wing nationalism, and how that's tied to the global economic system and we hear from our regular contributers Neil Scott and Chuck Hamilton. With music from music Roy Møller, Guttfull, Argonaut, Kes's Conscience, Pilgrims, Huskytones.


Monday, 30 January 2017

Murder Free...

To truly understand a system, you need to be able to stand outside it.

That is damned difficult with capitalism – it is a system that pervades all aspects of our lives – and increasingly so – leading us all to stress, mental health problems, physical health problems, family problems, division, conflict and death.

Dramatic? Aye – living in today's world, fully engaged as a working class person, at any part of that class spectrum is a dramatic, unhealthy thing. But how to escape? With great difficulty as an individual in the UK/ the West/ the developed and developing world.

I’m going to start this blogpiece with a recipe. I'm asked – what does a vegan eat in a hurry? Well tonight, we were on a budget – well – no-one could be arsed doing the shopping – so we “made do” with what was in the cupboard. This is what I made.

Neil’s Dahl - serves two...

200 grams of red lentils
50 grams of split peas
800 ml of water (and a wee bit more if needed)
Teaspoon of turmeric
Teaspoon of savoury yeast extract
teaspoon salt

For the flat bread

Pizza dough recipe for breadmaker, substituting sugar with maple syrup and butter with olive oil
“Easy Garlic”


Use a breadmaker to make dough.  Or make dough by hand. Or buy a couple of ready made nan breads or other flatbreads.  

Measure 200 grams of red lentils and 50 grams of split peas.  If you only have lentils - 250 grams of lentils.

add 800 ml of water,

a teaspoon of turmeric, 

a teaspoon of yeast extract 

and a teaspoon of salt; 

simmer until the water is absorbed.  Add a bit more water if needed.

Roll out the dough quite thinly.

Fry cumin seeds and onions. 

Add the onions and some of the cumin seeds to the dahl

Fry the dough on both sides (almost dry) and add oil to the bread and some quick garlic.

Serve.. eat... feel stuffed.

Anyway, some have tried the “moneyless” thing as individuals or communities – but when it comes down to it, those who do, are still reliant on the system- its cast of off’s etc.

I’ve no answer to this – I don't have a solution for you to escape. I don't have a recipe for you to take yourself out of the system in which to survive you must consume – you must compete – you must offer yourself as a machine.

But I have taken myself out of aspect of the system – and in doing so, it has laid the system bare in front of me – easy to see; obvious in its workings, collusions and manipulations.

When I was younger, I was aware of Nestle and what it did. But being wrapped up in the system, I really couldn't see how avoiding a product or two could help make change. But, after reading about it in more detail, I stopped buying Nestle products – and I haven't bought them knowingly for at least half my life now (I’m 50). But this didn't take me outside a system. It just made me swap products. I killed and exploited through other chocolate bars and ice lollies. But not babies, I hope.

I was still being exploited by employers and manipulated by corporations.

To take yourself out of a system, truly, it has to be something you enjoy. I think those religious festivals in which you give things up – whether it be Ramadan, lent or whatever – originate in spiritual discovery. Ways to really appreciate what is going on around you – where things come from. What your bodily needs really are. Appreciation.

Giving something up must be something you will make excuses for. Something you will say, “But I need some pleasure in life,” or “its the whole system that needs changed...” when confronted about your exploitation of poor workers. Giving up Snickers when you can substitute that bar for something else is really not giving anything up. Go to the source. Give up the ingredients. Give up the culture around that 10am fag/e cigarette break. Really give something up.

And this is where my giving stuff up comes in.

I always experimented with myself. From physical stuff like testing freezing sea water swimming in midwinter, to parachuting (im petrified of heights), twice, to hill walking, to travelling though countries on my own etc...

But these experiments only effect me. They make no changes in the world I live in. So then I tried experiments where I gave stuff up – a year at a time. Alcohol – a great love of mine, went for a year. Then sugar. Then meat. Just for a year.

And these years were finite – I could look forward to the end of them – the drinking session that would bring the booze ban to an end. The dessert in a restaurant that signalled the end of the sugar famine and the leg of lamb that brought the meat free year to a full stop.

They were experiments with myself. Personal, and did nothing only give me something to start a conversation with – write a Facebook update or blog about. They changed nothing in the world only something in me.

Yet, during all of those years, I began to see something of the system. I began to see the resources used – billions of pounds; physical space and lives devoted to promoting those three products.

And then it happened. About five ears ago, I realised I could no longer justify something dying – its life prematurely ended – its only time conscious brought to a bloody, often painful, stressful – frightened – end for my palette. I saw the joy animals had in life – the same joy children and adult humans had. The love they had for their herd, family or children. And I couldn't eat them.

The thing is – I loved meat – the texture, taste and the amazing recipes you could create using different cuts and animals.

But I really couldn't justify in any way, eating them. And the evidence I saw all around me showed eating them wasn't that good for me either.

I saw row after row of shelves in supermarkets of tinned, packaged, dried, marinated dead bodies. All of these things, made to look distant from the reality of where they came from – sentient beings – clever, communicative, loving beings. Corporations wrapping up death, ecological disaster, murder as cultural and “cruelty free.” And we tell ourselves – we repeat their mantra -of “if it had a free, happy life, its ok to eat it.”

Anyway – I'm not writing this to persuade you to stop eating meat.

Alcohol and sugar – two other products that are pushed by corporations – products that are literally everywhere. Sugar in almost every processed piece of food. Alcohol on screens, on billboards and dressed up with cultural references to suit all. And it is an incapacitator and a killer. And Ive seen it incapacitate and kill – and see that continuously. And I loved it. I loved the image of it – and I loved the effect of it – and I loved the cultural links – drinking mojitos in Cuba; Whiskey/Whisky in the Celtic colonies; real ale from casks and real lager in Pilsner. And getting wrecked on hot afternoons, at gigs, or because the love of my life at that point and I were not getting on.

I remember discovering the craic, the beer with friends and thinking as a 17 year old “society has conspired to keep this great thing away from me.”

And the wine on a Friday; the beers on a Saturday; the BBQ, the wedding, the Christmas Glühwein…

The truth is, I didn't want to be manipulated by the Bernays of the alcohol business any longer. I didn't want to be doped; hungover, subdued any longer. I realised society had conspired to insert me into the culture of buying alcohol (and meat and sugar).

I’m meat, alcohol and mostly sugar free. I avoid them all. Further – I’m vegan as much as I can be – that is in my everyday life – but have been known to eat an After Eight or two if someone has bought them for me at Christmas. They are made by Nestle, by the way.

And the other night, we went for a meal in an Indian restaurant and by mistake the barman gave me a lager with alcohol – instead of the alcohol free version. Its lucky I am not an alcoholic. I was more than halfway down the pint before I realised – but when I did I finished it. The first alcohol in five years. It didn’t tempt me to go back on it.

I miss none of these things now. I crave none of them. I don't feel holier than thou – I’m guilty of many things in life I see others avoiding – but I feel better. I'm not better than anyone for giving these things up – just a slightly happier me. Healthier. Happier – less guilty and less part of the huge corporate machinery that processes us daily. Our shopping bills are much less without meat and wine (though not everyone in the house is meat or sugar free).

And I don't feel I made up – or took someone else’s - principles – I wasn't influenced by a pop idol or someone who guilted me into giving up things I enjoyed. No – I came to my own logical decisions based on he effects on the world and on me these products have. I wanted to have less of a “footprint” on the world – and a lot less dead animals and people on my conscience, I wanted to be healthier and I wanted to be manipulated, pulled, twisted ground up and spat out a lot less than I had been.

And standing on the outside of those huge, three corporative interests – untouchable by their promotions and spokes people and product placements and invidious poisoning of my food; I can see the full horror and how culture and lives are claimed by these monolithic manipulators who care not a fiddlers fuck about your well being – or the workers they exploit – or the animals they rare cheaply and slaughter.