24 October 2016


This is the place.
This was part of England once.
English kings fought here,
And English soldiers died here,
To conquer a country that was never theirs.

This is the place.
Camps of refugees have been here
For centuries before these tattered tents
And their tattered needy
Fleeing from the wars their kings brought them.

This is the place.
Where the English raped and pillaged,
An uncomfortable cliché of history,
Where fortress walls burned and fell
For the sake of idle men's greed.

This is the place.
Humanity lies forgotten here as England
Pushes its borders out and fortifies its island,
As foreign becomes an alien word,
And real history lies forgotten
In piles of teeth and gold and bones.

R, 24/10/2016

20 October 2016


When I was young, I always had this vision
Of me, in my old age, sitting in a cottage garden,
At a rickety wooden table, wife and children by my side,
And dogs running around the lawn.

As it turns out, I don’t much care for dogs,
Only for cats and people.

That cottage never materialised either,
But the children and the wife did,
Even though, at times, they seemed an impossibility,
And even though I am not now that kindly patriarch
The stories, and my father, told me I should and would be.

It’s best that way.

Just imagine what I would never have learned
If I was always the strongest,
If mine was always the last word,
If women were not equal or more in my world,
If everyone looked up to me rather than just at me.

Just imagine what I would have missed
If we had never shouted or cried or laughed together,
If we had never agreed and never agreed to differ,
And never chosen our own ways and roads,
Our own ideas and consequences,
If we had never been brave enough to lead our own lives.

That cottage would have been a boring place indeed,
A prison and a gravestone,
But never a milestone on the long journey we all should travel.

So I’m glad you’re there,
And I’m here,
Glad you’re at the beginning
While I’m still in the middle,
Finding my way just as much as you are.

R, 17/10/2016
For Charlotte on her birthday.

20 September 2016


I thought second time round would be easier.
I was wrong.
It’s like having a part of me ripped away
With nothing to replace it.
It’s only temporary, of course,
And life moves on
In its inevitable way,
Bringing with it old age and regret.
Those were the minutes we should have
Held dearest, the memories
We should have written down
As soon as their storm had settled.
But we were too tired.
And now we are too awake
Inside the emptiness
That is this four-dimensional vacuum.

R, 20/09/2016

3 September 2016

I Reject

I reject that autumn starts on the first of September.

I reject that organised religion is faith.

I reject that faith engenders violence.

I reject that one faith is greater than another.

I reject that faith and science are mutually exclusive.

I reject that one country is greater than another.

I reject that humans are basically bad.

I reject that war is inevitable.

I reject that peace is impossible.

I reject that those who seek peace are appeasers.

I reject that those who oppose war are cowards.

I reject that austerity is a sound economic principle.

I reject that the poor should pay for the crimes of the rich.

I reject that immigration should be limited.

I reject that there is any difference between races.

I reject that there is any difference between individuals.

I reject that the EU referendum was anything but advisory.

I reject that the sword is mightier than the pen.

I reject that love is nothing more than chemistry.

I reject hate.

I reject evil.

12 July 2016

Politics, mandates, and real life

It's been a while. In real life, anyway. In politics, not so.

We're due to have a new Prime Minister on 13th July, some time in the evening, a Prime Minister without a mandate from her own party, never mind from the country. I said the same thing at the time Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair (and so did Theresa May, actually). It brings the country to the brink of being a one-party state. She didn't say that today, mainly because she'll be the leader of that party, the totalitarian leader, in fact. All heil, Theresa.

And we've had almost three weeks to reflect on a referendum won by lies. I was going to say subterfuge, but that's too mild a word. And by a process that went against the process by which democratic referenda are managed. No minimum turnout threshold, no two thirds majority. That's because the law which enshrined the referendum didn't set any such parameters, and the absence of any such parameters made it only advisory. If it had been intended to be a conclusive vote, the law which allowed the referendum would have said so.

Those who say I am writing this with sour grapes between my teeth and in my gullet I say this: had the law set the appropriate parameters, had the law said that the referendum was binding, I would not be arguing against the legality of it; I would merely be pointing out that it was won on falsity, and that it played upon the mistaken belief by many people that it would take immediate effect. It has not taken immediate effect; it is not legally binding, and it never was.

Leaving aside for one moment the lies peddled by racists such as Nigel Farage and his merry band of foreigner and LGBTQ-hating rich chums, leaving aside for a minute the biggest lie of all, that the NHS would benefit immediately to the tune of £350 million a week, spread by the liberals (ha!) on the right wing of the Tory party, leaving all that aside, I am looking at a landscape of devastated generations. And I don't just mean future generations, not just your children and mine, and their children, and their children's children. I'm looking at people older than me, those who have relied until now on charities and grantmakers (what's known as the Third Sector) to maintain or improve their quality of life - because state support has been gone for some years.

Many charities have investments, investments that have fallen rapidly and devastatingly since 24th June. A fall in the value of those investments brings with it a fall in the return on those investments, in other words a fall in the money charities generate. This in turn means that many charities now immediately have less disposable income, less money to hand out, less money to give to the people who most need it (and there are lots of those, especially with the austerity measures imposed by the party which Theresa May will now, unelected, lead). This means that real life, for old people, for those in poverty, for those most in need, is actually already worse, never mind if the UK Parliament's sovereignty is impinged upon and the decision of the advisory referendum is actually implemented.

That's what this all means.

Jeremy Corbyn was elected by the membership of the Labour Party last year, to be the leader of the Labour Party. This was not an advisory election; the rules of Labour leadership elections clearly make such an election binding. He polled over 59% of the vote. A clear mandate, in anyone's eyes, by anyone's measures. And yet someone, somewhere, decided that this wasn't good enough, that he wasn't fit to be leader. Why? Probably because he presented them with some unpalatable truths; like the truth that wars aren't worth fighting, that Blair was wrong to send the UK to war with Iraq, that politics should be conducted in a fair and respectful way, that it's better to be in opposition with principles intact than to be in power with almost the same policies as the Nasty Party. So many MPs in the Labour Party, crazy for personal power no doubt, decided they would try to throw him out, tried even to amend the crystal-clear rules of the leadership contest process so that he wouldn't even be on the ballot paper. They have failed, thankfully, and a proper leadership contest will now take place.

But why is a leadership election even necessary ten months after the last one? Why does the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) think Corbyn is unelectable? Is it because he will ask for Blair to be indicted as a war criminal? Definitely. Is it because he is a man of principle? Probably. Is it because he thinks about real life rather than the rarefied atmosphere of Westminster politics? Very probably. Is it because he is, actually, very electable, and that the Labour Party stands a good chance of being elected, but on a platform that is somewhat to the left of the party that was elected in 1997? Definitely. There is the decayed scent of personal profit about the actions of the PLP and all those who sail in her. That's sad. And despicable. Because that makes those people no better than the hyenas in the Tory Party.

Naturally, if the national membership of the Labour Party vote against Corbyn, even by 50.1% to 49.9%, I'll not argue with that. And why? Because such a leadership election is binding. Because party politics is cyclical, and those cycles often even themselves out. Unlike the referendum, where futures upon futures will be blighted by a non-binding and advisory vote by people who didn't understand what they were voting for, because none of the liars on the Leave side told them it would tear the fabric of the country apart, and that real life, for those of us who do not live in ivory towers shored up by bags of coin, would get worse and worse, not better. That's why.