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

Monday, 30 March 2020

Covid Country... the Cody and Neil Diaries pt3

Cody and Neil in CodyCar... (For video, click HERE, not on pic). 

Friday, 27 March 2020

Covid Vlog 2...

Covid Vlog 2... Click HERE... Not on the picture. 

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Clapping the NHS Overworked and Underpaid Heroes...

... and my Covid-19 #BuildBackBetter Vlog number 1

The public came out tonight and stood at their well meaning doors and clapped, applauded, cheered, sent up fireworks for, sang for, etc etc the NHS staff and "key workers." Damn it, it brought a tear to my eye. 

My wife (nhs consultant) , and her sister (nurse) response, "clap. Huh. Maybe next election you'll all vote for a political party that gives a shit."

The claps are little recompense for frontline workers on shit pay, and in grave danger.

Society needs a real shake up. We need to #BuildBackBetter after this is all over. And that rebuild needs to start now through discussion and the sharing of ideas.

It really comes as little surprise that some people don't seem to understand that one person's health is dependent on everyone else's. A lesson learned during the genocide that is called the Irish Famine, when disease caused by the starving, dying, wandering poor jumped classes and killed thousands of the middle classes and upper classes.

A lesson that was learned during the recruiting for the Boer war, when our working class soldiers were found to be malnourished.

A lesson learned during the cholera outbreaks in Victorian Glasgow, leading to the creation of the engineering feat of the waterworks that syhons off millions of gallons a week of water from Loch Katrine.

A lesson that was learned during the flu epidemic following World War One, and a lesson learned after World War Two, when enough was enough and our NHS was created.

But a lesson flushed down an idealogical floo bent right by the idiocy of Thatcherite greedy individualism and resulting in the incredible underfunding of our NHS and the murderous decision by Boris' cabinet not to invest in pandemic response in February, and instead aim to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of pensioners and Ill folk.

Please, add your responses, ideas, responses to Ungagged 's request for covid-19 vlogs, and #BuildBackBetter ideas...
Have a wee swatch at my short video. Click HERE, not the picture. 

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Werner Heubeck and my Da': Working Class Heroes of Northern Ireland.

I'm very thankful for men like this one, who during the Northern Irish troubles, kept bread on the table and did so under threat from "all" sides, and I'm remembering ordinary workers who felt fear and were maimed or killed by terrorists during that time, while doing ordinary jobs. And I'm remembering some of my own fear. 

His name is Werner Wolfgang Heubeck. A man who kept the public transport in Northern Ireland running, and went on to the front line to do so, carrying bombs off buses.

I just watched a BBC Northern ireland documentary about him and the heroic people, whose jobs were to do no more than drive buses. It brought back lots of memories from the time. 

(On the Frontline, Buses on the Frontline: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04gvjd6 via @BBCiPlayer) 

But the biggest memory that came back, was sparked by an interview with Werner's son. He told of his worries as a child of his father at work. A worry I had, especially when I was old enough to  realise what was happening in Northern Ireland, and the realisation quite young, at how the terror organisations and political players cared little for ordinary peoples lives... especially if their ordinary lives could be exploited, or got in the way of some political goal. Bus drivers such as Harry Bradshaw and Sydney Agnew who lost their lives, due to nothing more than working to ensure their families could afford food, electricity, heating and a home (please Google these people. Heroes of the Troubles really were not the politicians and flag wavers. Heroes were those who struggled on for their families). 

[ From 


Tuesday 10 May 1977

Harry Bradshaw (46), a Protestant civilian, was shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries as he drove a bus on the Crumlin Road, Belfast. He was killed because he was working during the United Unionist Action Council (UUAC) strike.

Sydney Agnew 

(from Wikipedia 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Sydney_Agnew)  ] 

My father was one of many thousands of unsung heroes of the Troubles. When I realised he worked as a joiner, as a foreman, on building sites in areas that almost daily appeared on news bulletins, I became scared for his life. 

My dad drove a bright yellow Farrans (construction company) Transit van too and from Belfast, from Banbridge, every day. He drove through many different areas, across borders (peace lines), collecting and leaving off workers on the way. Dad was well respected, and liked by those he worked with. One of those people he drove too and from work ended up in jail, and when my dad passed away earlier this year, we found letters from jail from the man, who praised his friendship.

Dad really had little interest in sectarian division. He worked on both the Shankill and Falls and other places as equally as divided and religiously ghettoised. And we had to change our phone number to "x" directory, because of the threats made to him when he had to pull people up, from "all sides," for their work.

On one occasion, a young worker, who he'd asked to redo something he'd not done well, told him he was now a marked man. A "we know, where ye live" speech, one that folk say in jest nowadays, but one that was a dreadful threat coming from someone who could well be a player. Dad was like many ordinary people in Ireland, in the situation of having to do the firm's dirty, dangerous work, and hand over the "protection money" to the paramilitaries. So on this occasion, when doing so, he reported the threat to the IRA commander who picked up the money. The commander told dad not to worry, as he and the other construction workers were, "building houses for the people."

The young guy came to work the next day and apologised to dad.

On another occasion, in a Loyalist area, on handing over the money, a well known Loyalist terrorist opened his jacket, to reveal a gun. My dad said, "Oh... What have I done?" (Oh how fucked up society was when workers were so much on tenter hooks that they had to watch their step in case of some perceived insult to fanatical sensibilities).

The terrorist, laughing, opened up the other side of his jacket to reveal a bottle of whiskey... A present for dad, and said, "Only joking Bobbie!"

When the terrorists drove off, dad went in to the site office, opened the bottle and took a few swigs of the calming spirit. Some joke. 

There are a few stories I could tell about my dad, and the threats he and his ordinary work gangs suffered.

I worked with him as a labourer on occasions. I witnessed the hand over of the cash a few times. And I visited terrorist HQ's with him on occasions as well. And I remember driving through "peace lines" and past cordoned off crime scenes and devastated bombed out homes and work places.

And I remember the laughter and the crack in that van... I remember in the early eighties long conversations about electronic music with a young joiner and I remember the shouts and whoops of the men in the back of the van as dad raced the newly built Delorean cars as they were tested along the M1.

And I remember as a young boy, watching the 5.45 news, to see if Belfast featured, as mum cooked the dinner. I felt then, worried sick for my dad. But I held it, crushingly inside.  I'd tell mum, "Dad might be late, because there is a [bomb/shooting/incident/riot etc] in Belfast." And I'd stand behind our living room curtains, anxiously watching the road for a sign of that yellow van. And I remember the elation I felt when my dad returned home, and sat in the kitchen with his plate of spuds, radio on and unfurled Belfast Telegraph.

I worried so, so much, about my dad all my life. In more recent years, about his health.

But how do we heal a generation of grown ups who were put through mental torture by idealogues who targetted, or disregarded ordinary workers?

My dad, although he would never show it, worried about what was going on: look up Kingsmill Massacre and Teebane, and other incidents that targeted ordinary workers for putting bread on the tables of their children, to understand why.

Like quite a few people who lived through this horror, this terror, this fear in Northern Ireland, I resolved not to let it get in my way. I had friends who were from all corners of our broken society. I partied across peace lines and drank with UDR men in their bases, and Sinn Fein members in student digs in various areas of Belfast. 

And I crossed all borders. 

When I look back, I wonder if I hadn't have left Northern Ireland in 1993, would I have become collateral at the hands of some idealogue or other from either side (the murder of two friends, a Catholic and a protestant in Poyntzpass was carried out by someone who drank in the same company I did, a mixed crowd of Banbridge catholics and protestants).

Education, as always, is the key, to stamp out ignorant hatred that leads to "the enemy" being a bus driver or joiner earning a wage in order to raise a family.

This is why I support, whole heartedly Stephen Travers (Twitter @MiamiShowband) in his drive to create a space for Truth and Reconciliation in Newry, County Down. (@TaR_Platform). 

I wasn't shot, I wasn't blown up, but like many children of the Troubles, there was an impact that stays with me through what I experienced both emotionally and physically (I was threatened and attacked a few times for being in the "wrong place," and for saying the wrong thing to the wrong people).

My dad and our family suffered loss through the troubles, as did thousands of people. But we all suffered fear. Everyone in Northern Ireland, across our visible and invisible borders. And some people, ordinary people, heading out to ordinary workplaces, suffered fear because their jobs crossed the indiscriminate paths of gunmen who could at any time, pronounce them as collateral, or collaborators.

Remembering Werner Heubeck & Bobbie Scott. 

"Noone has a monopoly on suffering or loss."

Monday, 2 March 2020

It's time for justice.

A few years ago I wrote this about The, Miami Showband Massacre and that awful event has featured quite a bit in my writing over the years. 

I just watched the Netflix documentary "The Miami Showband Massacre." I recommend anyone with an interest in justice and peace, regardless of political allegiance or belief, to watch. And please follow Stephen Travers, who is one of the survivors of the terrorist attack, on twitter (@MiamiShowband).  The documentary can be found here.  

As a Banbridge man, and one who loves the town and its people across the political and religious divides, I feel the town council, churches and civic organisations (the council twitter is @abcb_council) should have a memorial to The Miami, who were attacked after a gig in The Castle Ballroom in the town, and to the civilians killed from the town during the Troubles. 

I was nine years old when this dreadful massacre happened. It was a time when I began to notice the abnormality of the society I lived in. I began to notice and realise the abnormality of things like "bomb sales," road blocks, closed towns, security in shops etc, and started to take an interest in the News. My best friend was a Catholic, from a family who owned a business and his sister discovered an incendiary device in their shop. Local policemen, business people and friends of my family were caught up in dreadful incidents, and later in that year, and my dad's cousin, who had been brought up almost as a brother to him, was killed in a pub in Gilford, a bomb that I heard as I was staying with my grandparents two miles away. We had been sitting by the fire with my aunt Marjorie, who was telling us about a car accident someone they knew had been in, when there was a distant, echoing, vibrating boom. I remember saying, "It sounds like thats another car crash." 
{images, Copyright Victor Patterson, 54 Dorchester Park, Belfast, UK, BT9 6RJ

In order for real justice to be seen to be done, for all of those innocents caught up in the dreadful "event" in our history that is given the odd name, "The Troubles," there needs to be openess, and honesty. And the organisation Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP - @TaR_Platform on Twitter) has been set up to do that.

I spent a lot of time socialising in Newry as a young man, drinking, going to the cinema, eating out, and on stage as part of Banbridge Choral Society and Acting Strange Theatre Company. And I got to know the new Newry during December and January as my late father was looked after by the great medical staff in Daisy Hill Hospital.

 It is fantastic to learn that The Truth and Reconciliation Platform are planning to open a TaR Centre, but need funds. I feel that families who were caught up in this war, those bereaved and people who were targetted or who just people from Banbridge should get involved in this. The TaRP motto is, "No side has a monopoly on suffering or loss." And a centre like  this in Newry would really go a long way to give peace to people carrying horrors of the past in their every day being. Please follow Stephen Travers on twitter (@MiamiShowband) to find out how you can help with this wonderful, absolutely necessary project. And please visit the TaRP website and watch the Netflix documentary.