Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
I hate football.
But I love international sport, whatever it is. When the hearts and souls of nations are concerned then it becomes an uplifting and enthralling experience.
It is acceptable, almost healthy to despise the Germans in sport, even if we have a sneaking admiration for their efficiency and strength.
The Italians are deceptive and cowardly when we are playing them but artists, expressing great flare and style when beating the Germans as they did so gloriously tonight!
Truly, international sport is an excellent replacement for war. We should get the Iranians to the ping pong table.
What I noticed was that before the game, every Italian player sang his heart out with his anthem while the Germans were less than enthusiastic.
Football is so much better when it behaves like rugby.
I am easily moved. It is connected with my Welshness. The 15 brave souls singing before they charge for Wales at Rugby Union and I am in bits.
It is rare though for just a few words in print (OK, on a screen!) to move me so much.
I am right at the end of the 731 pages of written evidence to the HASC drugs inquiry and I come to Russell Brand.
Not someone I have held in high regard until I saw his contribution to the Versus YouTube debate. Even there he was hyperbolic and almost abusive but the intellect and truth shone out of him.
In his submission to the inquiry, he quotes an article that he had published in The Guardian on 24th July 2011, and this passage made me cry.
It’s also one of those rare examples where the use of foul language is absolutely perfect.
“I arrived late and as I made my way to the audience through the plastic smiles and plastic cups I heard the rolling, wondrous resonance of a female vocal. Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a backcombed barnet, the lips that I’d only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound.
So now I knew. She wasn’t just some hapless wannabe, yet another pissed-up nit who was never gonna make it, nor was she even a ten-a-penny-chanteuse enjoying her fifteen minutes.
She was a fucking genius.”
I really believe that change in our cannabis laws is imminent. Since the CLEAR campaign began the whole impetus for change has accelerated. Even those who are not supporters of CLEAR and who disagree with our policies have become more focused, more coherent and more active.
The impact we have had in the media with the Comment Warriors campaign and the Press Complaints Commission should not be underestimated. Those with a keen eye for progress should check the letters pages of this weekend’s Sunday newspapers. Our message is being listened to and heard.
It is the written evidence to the drugs policy inquiry that really excites me. So much of it recites CLEAR evidence and support for our policies but even when we are not mentioned, all the submissions that advocate reform deliver a coherent message. They cannot be ignored.
The cannabis e-petition has now been superseded. It was never going to reach the 100,000 signature target anyway. Even if it did, all that was offered was the possibility, maybe the probability, of a debate in parliament and the best we could have expected from that was for an inquiry – which is what we’ve got already.
I think the cannabis e-petition has probably been signed by 80-90% of the “stoners” or user activists but we know there are three million people in Britain who use cannabis regularly, so where were they?
These are people who don’t want to join the campaign but, undoubtedly, they’d like to see a change in the law and I believe that many non-users are now seeing the social and fiscal advantages of regulation instead of prohibition. These are the people that hold the power.
It will probably start with some sort of medicinal use and gradual relaxation of enforcement until it is actually formalised. In fact, that’s what ‘s already happening with Sentencing Council guidelines. It will be fascinating to see the impact of the US elections when drugs policy is bound to come to the top of the agenda.
We are getting there. I congratulate all who are involved in delivering our message with the invincible power of evidence and truth.
While the CLEAR website is down, we will continue to provide a service to members from here, my personal website.
One of the recent posts on the CLEAR site attracting most interest was the 731 pages of written evidence submitted to the Home Affairs select committee drugs policy inquiry
While the CLEAR website is down, we will continue to provide a service to members from here, my personal website.
The problems with the CLEAR site started last Monday when the home page disappeared. However, all direct links to content still worked and admins still had access to the back end in order to create new content. Efforts to repair the home page took the site offline for short periods through the week but generally it was working satisfactorily.
The website is hosted on a server belonging to Chris Bovey, a former member of the CLEAR executive committee. He undertook to upload a backup to restore the home page and for this reason the site went offline last night.
Regrettably the site is still offline and passwords to it have been changed. Now, neither I nor Derek Williams, the website editor, have access to it.
The good news is that we have full backups of the site which are held independently and under Derek’s and my control. We also have new hosting arrangements in place.
It remains to be seen whether Chris Bovey will honour his commitment to restore the site. CLEAR owns the data and domain name and we will take whatever steps are necessary to secure them.
At the worst, if we have to restore the site to a new server, I expect it to be back up by the middle of next week. If Chris Bovey allows us access to the existing server to carry out a transfer it could be much sooner than that.
Our apologies to all members and supporters. Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to restore normal service.
The CLEAR campaign to end the prohibition of cannabis continues!
DS Evans delivered Clive’s firearms certificate personally and at the same time he returned his father’s rifle. Clive had installed a steel firearms cabinet with two massive locks and the detective waited until he saw the gun locked away before he said his goodbyes and left. Clive wasn’t at all sure now why he had wanted to keep it. He’d told the firearms officer who had interviewed him that it was a family heirloom and that he was keeping it as a collector. There was no ammunition on the certificate which meant that if Clive ever wanted to use the gun he would have to apply for a variation. Then he would also have to explain where and when he wanted to use it and prove that he had permission to do so from the landowner concerned.
He hadn’t forgotten the cartridges which Mr Thomas had found and which were still in the glove box of his car. He hadn’t mentioned them to anybody.
The initial euphoria at getting the building work underway had now worn off. There really wasn’t very much for him to do on the site anymore. Max was well in control. Even Simon Bristow had taken a back seat as all the construction work was finished. Now there was a small army working on the finishing. The decorators had started in some areas and Clive was trying to focus on marketing. He’d had a series of meetings with estate agents, all of whom were eager for his business, all of whom had sent along their most attractive female negotiators in their smartest business suits to try and convince him. He was none the wiser and really couldn’t decide between a local agent and the sort of prestige international outfit that also sold country estates and private Caribbean islands.
This morning then, with DS Evans gone and the rifle safely locked away, he was rattling around in his own modest, rather grubby little flat near Battersea Park. He was bored.
Life was no longer a struggle. His new bank had taken an entirely different view of his circumstances. Once they’d seen the cash deposit of £150,000, a manager had been sent to visit him at the development and had then updated his file and credit status. Although Clive didn’t know it, the bank now saw him as a high net worth individual and he had a notional limit of £50,000 against his name. He could ask for any type of borrowing up to that level and it would be granted immediately without any further question. In fact, on paper he was probably now worth around £5 million so he didn’t need to worry about paying his bills anymore.
What the hell! He was going to enjoy this morning. It was a beautiful day. Strong sunlight was dappled through the leafy trees in the park. It was half-term so there were kids and their scantily clad mothers everywhere. He sauntered along the Albert Bridge Road enjoying the sunshine and wondering whether perhaps he should invite Mark for lunch at Vermont – or somewhere else. His money was good anywhere.
Next thing there he was on Albert Bridge – again. How long ago was it now since that evening before he’d first met Mark? It was just a matter of weeks. How things had changed since then.
Another morning at the library was over and Sir Damian was enjoying the very much more relaxed lifestyle of a worker. After being let back onto the wing he was free to wander around and chat until lunch was served. Then he was expected to go back to his cell and push his own door shut for the lunchtime lockdown.
There was loads of noise coming from the servery but they clearly weren’t ready to start yet so he went back to his cell. There was one letter and a slip of paper that had been pushed under the door. He knew straightaway that the letter was from Barnaby Evans.
He ripped it open and scanned the contents quickly. His appeal against sentence was to be heard in two weeks time. The slip of paper told him that he was to be transferred to Ford prison in a week.
He was elated and angry, surprised and shocked, relieved and frustrated. He almost shouted out aloud.
He barely noticed lunch although he ate it hungrily. He didn’t want to leave Brixton now. Why would they move him just when his appeal was coming up? He was just a few miles from the Court here. In Ford he would be half a day’s travelling away. He started to write an application requesting that his transfer be cancelled. Everything in prison is accomplished by “app”. He’d learned that very quickly and it helped to be literate although it was best to word everything in very simple and direct language. The officers themselves weren’t the most highly educated of people.
As he was drafting he realised that the prison probably didn’t even know about his appeal. Even if the governor’s office had been informed he recognised that usually one hand didn’t know what the other was doing. Everything happens behind closed doors in prison. The administrative and management methods were like something out of the 19th century with an unhealthy dollop of union demarcation rules thrown in. He decided to mention his job in the library as another reason he should not be moved.
The spectre of Andrew de Boer fluttered briefly across his mind but he dismissed it. He knew now that he could cope with a couple of years. He’d be out and rebuilding his life sooner than he’d expected. The last thing he needed to get involved in was any sort of escape plan. That was an absurd idea.
Shortly after I was elected leader of the LCA back in February 2011, Alun Buffry presented me with a list of intrusive questions about my personal life and background.
I was surprised at the depth to which Alun wanted to interrogate me, particularly as he had just resigned in a fit of pique and was no longer on the admin team nor even a member. Nevertheless I answered them all, in detail without holding anything back. Even Alun, begrudgingly, said at the time that I had given full answers. Others said they felt they now knew me even better than their own family members!
I no longer have a copy of those answers but I know Alun does because he’s been niggling and quibbling and indulging in his own unique buffoonery about them all year. Now he’s managed to get his buddies in the anti-Peter Reynolds campaign to open the whole issue up again. I’m supposed to be “fake”. I’m supposed to be a BNP voter. I’m supposed to have participated in an EDL demo in Weymouth. Perhaps most absurd of all, I’m supposed to have sold fake Nazi memorabilia on a Swansea market stall. Just today I hear that I’m angling to become an MEP or an AM in the Welsh Assembly. It’s all news to me!
So here are some facts and evidence.
1980 Article in “Mind Your Own Business”
1983 Report to Home Affairs select committee
1986 “An Introduction to your Amstrad PC” video
1994 Article in “Marketing”
1997 Column in “The Independent”
Across London the street lights were coming on, burning orange to begin with as they warmed up. The western sky was also orange as the early spring day came to an end and cooled down. From Docklands in the east to Hammersmith in the west, the traffic surged to its evening crescendo and then began to fade away as the commuters reached home or dispersed from the main roads onto the M25 and various motorways heading for the home counties and more distant destinations.
The river continued its endless and timeless meander through the capital. The setting sun reflecting off small wavelets, the spring tide running fast, creating hard work for the dozens of small boats plying up and down, carrying passengers, moving cargo or just messing about. The lights on Albert Bridge burned brightly as a solitary figure strolled along the pavement and paused to lean over the side and watch the water.
Clive was worrying. He had hoped that a walk through Battersea Park and along the river would calm him down and prepare him for the meeting. Staring at the water he told himself that he had done everything that he possibly could. In his younger days that had been the recipe for a worry free existence. If you’ve done everything you can then worrying isn’t going to achieve anything more.
That philosophy, or perhaps it was just a mind game, didn’t seem to work anymore though. Not since the long and painful break up from Kim. That experience had wounded him deeply, perhaps more than any other. He had tried to – no, he had – acted with integrity throughout. He had been ready to break away himself but her tears and her pitiful begging had reeled him back in and he had re-committed to her more deeply and profoundly than ever before. Her betrayals had hit him hard and it had taken too long for him to see the truth that was actually staring him in the face. She had pleaded to move back in with him and he had found a delightful cottage in Sussex that she had enthused about and seemed to be the perfect solution. Within days of moving in though she had disappeared. She went straight back to her former ways. She’d go out to the shops and three or four days later would surface “at her sister’s” or “visiting her mum and dad”. Clive had to come to terms with the fact that the woman he was doing his best to love was a liar and a cheat. It hurt.
He’d spent a year looking at the bottom of a bottle. At first it had been to dull the pain and the worry, a way to sleep. Later it had become a problem. He’d stopped working and would go to the pub for a couple of pints at lunchtime then spend the afternoon and evening getting through a bottle of scotch and watching old black and white movies. Along the way, he had to deal with his father’s death and with three or four passionate reunions with Kim, each occasion causing him more pain and demonstrating the depth of her insincerity.
Tonight was to be the end of all this. No, he’d already put all that behind him. Tonight was the start of his new life. He’d done everything he could. There was no point in worrying.
He turned away from the river and started back towards the park. He had an hour now to get home, get changed, into his car, back up through Chelsea, Kensington and Holland Park to the restaurant. The walk had done him good. He felt calmer and stronger. Howard would be introducing a new man to Mark de Boer this evening.
The early evening rush for Mo was well underway. His business phone was ringing almost constantly and he was making an endless and impossible series of promises to be at various different locations in west London“in 10 minutes”.
Mo knew the Range Rover was far too conspicuous but it was the one thing he was unable to resist. He lived his life in a constant state of fear, always watching over his shoulder, checking every car behind him, trusting to his instinct, avoiding any situation that felt dangerous. He was always ready to cut and run. Once, outside a chicken shop on the Harrow Road, he’d been spooked by a van that he was sure he’d seen following him earlier that day. He was serving a new customer. He’d seen him before but never on his own, always with a girl that he’d known for some time. The van had suddenly appeared in the side street. Mo had turned, walked calmly but briskly away and dropped several hundred pounds worth of gear into the waste bin. He hadn’t been pulled so on the face of it, it was a false alarm. Several hours later he’d sent one of his soldiers to check the bin. Amongst the empty boxes and the greasy bones and skin, he’d recovered more than half of what he’d dumped.
In this constant game of cat and mouse, Mo excused the Range Rover on the basis that the police knew who he was anyway. If today was to be his day, it wouldn’t make any difference what he was driving. He gunned the big black beast up to the top of Ladbroke Grove and past the Sainsbury’s roundabout. Everything was quiet now. The store had reopened but rumours were rife about exactly what had happened earlier. He swung right immediately after the roundabout and headed down the back road to Trellech Tower. There he stopped twice on two corners before completing the loop back down Golborne Roadand onto the Grove again. He waited opposite the tube station until one of his regulars showed up, jumped in the passenger seat and then he cruised round to Portobello while they negotiated the price of a quarter-ounce in good humour. “Give ‘em both one for me!”, Mo grinned. “You’re too greedy for your own good!”. He barely let the customer out of the car before flooring the throttle again and then, just as quickly, screeching to a halt as he saw Beanie bumbling down the road. “C’mon, get in. I need your help”.
Beanie was strung out now but he had the latest news about the stabbing at Sainsbury’s. “It was that squaddie girl. Susan something. She went nuts. There was a cash van collecting and she tried to jump them but that big fat security guard jumped her. Y’know the one what nicked Jimmy’s missus. She shanked him good and proper. He’s dead”.
The dark wood-panelled courtroom was quiet and serene. After weeks of intense argument and dramatic revelations the moment of denouement was just minutes away. For now, for just a moment more, James Macpherson, the court usher, enjoyed the peace, the heavily pregnant peace that was about to give way to even greater drama as the jury returned to deliver its verdict.
A side door clicked open and Sam, the jury usher, gave James a quick nod before turning back to attend to his charges. James drew a last deep breath of serenity and turned to his duties: recalling the lawyers, the defendant and the public. As soon as he opened the main court doors there was a rush of fresh and expectant air and a growing hubub as the throng returned to its seats.
The elegant figure of Sir Damian Fremantle moved reluctantly away from the reassuring cluster of silk surrounding him and climbed the few steps back into the dock. Perhaps there was just the slightest humility showing now, a little uncertainty perhaps, possibly even fear…but no, it was a fleeting moment. The chin went up, the lofty nose was looked down and the supreme arrogance of Britain’s wealthiest banker was restored. It was as if he were waiting for the Judge to return and offer an apology for the great inconvenience that Sir Damian had suffered over the last five weeks.
“Rat-a-tat-tat!” The loudest, most peremptory sound allowed in the Court was the warning of the Judge’s entry. “All rise!” came next and as defendant, lawyers, jury and public rose to their feet, Mr Justice Weatherspoon assumed his seat, all sat, a few routine nods were exchanged and James rose to perform his final duty.
“Guilty”. The verdict resounded around the Court. Sir Damian looked disbelieving, outraged as his legal team slumped in their chairs, the youngest, female junior, her head in her hands, realising those flirtatious promises her client had made really would now come to nothing.
Sir Damian appeared to rally, a touch of cockiness returning to his posture but then slowly he slumped, his shoulders dropped, his world seemed to spin and he fell insensible to the floor. Now the collective gasp that had been building since the jury foreman spoke reached a crescendo. There were muted cheers. The doors slammed as journalists left, mobiles already at their ears. There was a general sense of relief and excitement as the Judge banged his gavel just once and said “Sentencing will take place in the morning. I need no reports. Bail is denied”.
Within seconds the Court was empty. Outside the “Bash The Bankers” demo had become a party. There was literally dancing in the streets. Pandemonium erupted. Strangers embraced each other. London had seen nothing like it since VE day when the last great threat to civilisation was finally defeated.
This was the final chapter in bringing to heel the avarice that had been allowed to run wild in the City. A year ago the first chill winds of reality had swept through boardrooms when Sir Jim Malouse had been extradited from Scotland to the US. Within a few weeks he had to stand in a tiny Alabama courtroom in a prison boiler suit, manacled at hands and feet, to hear his sentence described as 160 years without possibility of parole. Of course the appeals were in hand but meanwhile Sir Jim languished in a maximum security state prison, his massive lifetime pension of no comfort at all. His only friends the cockroaches that crawled in from the stinking mangrove swamp on which the prison was built.
A few senior civil servants had followed both in Europe and US but then the politicians had started to fall. Any British MP who had had any connection with the City, the Treasury or the financial system was ruined. From former Chancellors to junior ministers of state, more than 20 MPs, 12 senators and fifteen congressmen were convicted on criminal charges ranging from false accounting and conspiracy to straightforward theft. Ultimately Silvio Berlusconi was at last kicked out of office, not with his trousers round his ankles but with his secret dividend income statements from a raft of European banks.
Now with the conviction of Sir Damian, the night of the long knives was fast approaching dawn. In Britainthe destruction of the old financial system had created a massive new industry. Out of the very disaster itself had come the creation of thousands of new jobs in local financial councils, co-operative banks and the Regulator, the nationwide authority, part of the International Finance Treaty of 2011. A new optimism was in force throughout the country. People were back in work. A new culture of transparency and fairness had swept aside the old institutions.
Fremantle’s world was in ruins. As the unthinkable reality pulsed through his body he regained some sort of consciousness and found himself in a cold, slightly damp cell, a massive steel door being the only feature of note.
Before the horror of imprisonment could overwhelm him the door opened and there stood Bart James, his QC, despondency written all over him, his juniors almost hiding behind him.
“I’m so sorry Damian. We’ll start working on the appeal immediately. Believe me, whatever tomorrow brings you can count on us putting together the best possible arguments”
Fremantle looked directly at James, his face bemused, dull, incomprehending. Then, without the slightest acknowledgement, he turned away and lay down on the concrete shelf that served for a bed, his face to the wall.
London Games, my novel set in the spring and summer of 2012, is now on sale at Amazon.
It concerns an Afghanistan veteran suffering from combat stress, a disgraced ex-banker sent to jail amidst scandal and public outrage, a cocaine dealer with customers at the very top and the very bottom of society, a property developer on the cusp of making his fortune and a restauranteur starting to make his name as a celebrity chef. The story culminates as the games open at the Olympic stadium.
Please go to Amazon to buy it, enjoy and let me know what you think!