The guiding principle about blogging anything on this site is the belief – however misguided – that I have something to say about it that’s worth reading. Over twenty years ago, I didn’t learn about the IRA Bomb in Manchester until hours later, because I was in the Lakes, enjoying a brilliant day of fellwalking.

Because I didn’t read any news-sites last night, and because I’m not on any social media, I didn’t know about the Bomb at the Manchester Arena last night until I logged on this morning and found that one of my forums had titled today’s thread ‘Manchester’.

I don’t really have anything worthwhile to say. No insights or explanations, and this is not a day for smartarse remarks. We have been attacked, our kids and their families have attacked, and children have died and been seriously wounded. This is personal to all of us who live in Manchester. It is raw and hurtful.

But my fellow Mancunians have shown, in their responses, why these bastards will never win. People have come together, shown humanity, generosity and grace, to help those in need.

The bastards who can only hate and destroy, in the name of a God who, if he sanctions this, is unworthy of a second’s respect, cannot beat this, cannot beat us.

That is all I have to say.

Our Local Horror

I can’t remember when I first became aware of the Moors Murders. My first conscious recollection of it comes in the early Seventies, via the New Musical Express of all places, commenting on Lord Longford’s attempts to get Myra Hindley released on parole. I think I probably had absorbed some idea about this horror by osmosis: I am a born and bred Mancunian, and this is our City’s tragedy. It is lodged in our collective psyche and it will remain so until it achieves final resolution, which with Ian Brady’s death, it may never do. There is still a boy’s body out there on the Moor, awaiting discovery, awaiting burial, needing the gift to his family of a place to go where they can feel connected to him, and can mourn as we all mourn the people we have lost.

It was there. It kept coming up, as the years passed, as Longford continued his stupid campaign. I remember a comment, from, I think, the NME, about the different kind of tragedy it would have been if Longford was right, if Hindley really had undergone a change of heart, and was no longer a danger who needed to be kept in prison. I wondered about that, acknowledging it in the abstract.

I could do things like that then, regard the Moors Murders in the abstract, without connection to the reality of things, because I was ignorant, because when the tragedy had happened, when the trial took place, I was only 11. Then things changed.

It was 1987, late summer, Friday afternoon. I came home from work, picked up the Evening News. The headline story was that Myra Hindley had been back to Saddleworth Moor with the Police, in secret, and that she had assisted them to locate the grave and remains of Pauline Reade who, like Keith Bennett, had not been part of the trial because it was not then known that there were more than the official three bodies.

Perhaps it was only me, though I doubt it. It was as if a psychic pall descended across the city. I had no idea what it felt like to be in Manchester when the story broke, when the trial was being conducted, but it felt as if we had been carried back to those days, as if a cloud had descended over all of us, and it lasted throughout the weekend. There was nothing else to think about, no avenue of escape, nothing that wasn’t affected by the still very fresh wound that had been done to all of us.

It felt like everything was alive again.

I don’t remember talking about it to my mother. She, after all, had not only lived through the original stories, but was the mother of two young children when they were current. I can only imagine, because I never asked, what fears she might have had for the chance that her own children, or either of them, might have been victims.

I didn’t know then that that risk had a degree of reality to it.

For the first time, I understood my ignorance. I knew buzzwords, Moors Murders, Hindley, Brady. But I didn’t know what had happened, and when, and where. And I suddenly needed to know, to understand what was being talked about when those references came up.

Today, I’d have turned to the Internet, to Wikipedia. These things did not exist then. Instead, I bought a book, the controversial book, Emlyn Williams’ Beyond Belief, a comprehensive detailed account of crime and trial.

It demanded my attention as soon as I started it. It was a workday, but I found myself hiding the book in a drawer, diving in to devour paragraph after paragraph whenever I could steal time. Once I had begun, I needed to proceed in the most straight of lines, until I had absorbed everything. This had happened to Manchester, it was part of our history, part of me in some weird and inexplicable sense I couldn’t properly understand and certainly couldn’t control. I just had to know.

So I found everything out, except for Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett, who were not part of things when the book was written.

The funny thing was, a few months later, when I tried to re-read the book, I found it impossible. It couldn’t hold me, and I lasted no more than about seventy pages, at most, before giving up. I had just needed to know once. I didn’t need to revisit it, indeed I was incapable of revisiting it. But I knew. I was inside the circle. I knew what this was, and what it meant.

I still didn’t discuss it with my mother, even after realising that when Brady and Hindley were preying on young children, like Keith Bennett, I was almost of the age they were looking for, and we visited Ashton-under-Lyne market, where they hunted. I can’t, and don’t even begin to think of myself as a potential victim, but in other circumstances, a year or two later if they’d not been caught, I was in what you might call the event space for targets.

When stories about them returned to the papers, as they did from time to time, I read them as I would any story affecting Manchester. I had internalised the horror. I knew what it meant. There was no longer any of this foolishness of considering whether Myra Hindley could ever be released: given the stated intention of members of the victims families to hunt her down and kill her if ever that happened, she could never be released. My every instinct is, and always has been, towards redemption, to reformation, but what I had read and what I had understood made me more conscious of retribution. What she had done, what he had done, rendered them unfit ever to be allowed back into human society. It is Old Testament, it is simple vengeance, or rather complex vengeance because I have no personal stake in this except an accident of geography, but why should such as they have a life, even a belated and shrunken one, when John Kilbride, Pauline Reade, Lesley Ann Downey, Keith Bennett and Edward Evans had none?

And why should the entirely human need for vengeance hang over the survivors, the ones who had to deal with the loss, the absence, the theft of life that shuld have come to fruition, why should these people be put at risk of trial and punishment, of their own imprisoment for the likes of her? It would have been the ultimate insult.

As for Brady, he has shown himself up in the colours we have always known he wore. He is an evil, twisted, manipulative little sicko. I really do not know whether he could genuinely have relocated Keith Bennet’s grave, or whether the passage of fifty years on Saddleworth Moor had rendered the landmarks unreliable. For the purpose of giving himself one tiny corner that he could claim to control, it doesn’t matter. As long as people believed he might be able to provide that answer, he had a hold on something.

Now he’s taken whatever it was to the grave, smug to the last that we didn’t know, that he was smarter than us, that he was superior in this one degree. His ego fed by others’ pain, as it always has been, evil little shite. If Time Travel were possible, someone should go back to when the little bastard was 10 and beat his brains in with a brick.

He’s gone, and good riddance. You can say so many things – currently, I’m thinking that we shouldn’t bury his body, we should feed it to the pigs, but then there are the pigs to consider and what is done with their bodies afterwards: would you want to eat their bacon?

And it’s not over. It’ll never be over until that grave is found, until those remains are removed to a place of haven, with whatever ceremony that most comforts the Bennett family. Until then there’s a hole in Manchester’s soul, and it will be there forever.

What if they held a General election and nobody voted?

At 11.15 am today, our not at all unelected Prime Minister (thank you, Tim Fenton announced that we were going to have a General Election on June 8.

This proves several things, including that the Fixed Term Act is every bit as worthless as we always said it was, and that all that stuff about not cutting and running, about dealing with the job at hand, about not looking to put party above the country was exactly what we always said it was: bullshit. Complete and steaming bullshit.

I came into work. I was here two hours and no-one, in a room in which about fifty people were working, mentioned it. Several of them had been here since before the announcement was announced and didn’t know. No-one was excited.

Given that the result is probably going to be a disaster, in line with the last three elections I’ve followed, I cannot summon much interest in this one. I live in a seriously Labour constituency and will vote Labour on the day, but I have no hopes, and I think the turnout is going to set new levels. I think this is going to be the General Election that no-one wants.

I can certainly do without it.

Nothing’s That Funny

…but this was.

A long long time ago, I can still remember…

I work, as I have mentioned, in a call centre providing customer service. Mine is a senior team, who deal with repeat faults, cases that have not been resolved in the first instance. This makes for a rather volatile team. Because of the number of us, we are divided into two teams, with separate managers.

At the moment, we have quite a churn. Several people have left and are leaving in the near future, most of them from my team. I don’t know what it is that I’ve said, and if I did there are another couple of people I would say it to.

As I have alluded, more than once, I’m not having a great time of it at present, and I’m finding working conditions difficult, even on the level of personal interactions. A lot of what would normally pass for everyday behaviour and high spirits is rubbing me up, sometimes quite seriously. I’m keeping it contained, for the most part, just letting out my frustrations in little outbursts, to other people, not to anyone who has got me worked up.

You may call this dishonest or cowardly, but the problem is me, not them, and I don’t think it’s fair to kick off at them when it is my increased thin-skinnedness that is the source of the irritation.

One of those shortly to leave is a female colleague who has herself been going through rough times: divorce, financial problems, health (she is another fibromyalgia sufferer). I like her, we get on well, she’s usually sympathetic and friendly towards me.

But. But my soon-to-be-ex-colleague has two substantial flaws. One is that she has a completely filthy mind. That, in itself, is nothing to be sniffy about: you don’t get to see that side of my mind on here. The problem is that hers operates non-stop, seizing on the double entendre in everything (and believe me, she can find double entendres where non-entendres exist).

It’s the relentlessness of this, the fact that no conversation takes place without it, that makes it wearing. Comedy, if it’s about anything, is all about timing, and the one vital aspect of timing that most people these days don’t seem to get is that you have to know when to just knock it off!

This is exacerbated by her other flaw: she giggles. And when I say giggles, I mean giggles. If we could weaponise that giggle, there would be no further worries about the rest of the globe, it would mow down armed forces everywhere.

So, put incessant innuendo together with the inevitable – and uncontrollable, unstoppable – giggle upon giggle upon giggle into infinity, and when I’m in my current frame of mind, it’s a fatal combination.

And this is going on – and on and on and on and on – yesterday afternoon, and I am gritting my teeth as forcefully as my slightly sore tooth will allow, and there is no end to this in sight or sound, and I grumble to myself, “Nothing’s that (****) funny.”

And the mists of time roll back, and I with them. And suddenly, I’m back in the guests’ living room at Low Bleansley farm, near Broughton in the Lake District, and I’m sat at the table. It’s the late mid-Sixties, it’s somewhere not long after eight in the evening, we are on holiday again. My sister has already gone to bed, and I will follow at 9.00pm, Mam and Dad and Dad’s elder brother are sat around talking, and no doubt smoking, and I’m reading.

I’m reading a library book, one I’ve just discovered thanks to School, or should I say Skool, because it’s either Down with Skool! or How to be Topp by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, and I am reading the thoughts of Nigel Molesworth, the Curse of St Custards, and I can even remember the exact line I am reading, which is set in a department store at Xmas, with Molesworth in line to sit on Father Christmas’s lap and being told to queue quietly and be nice to Santa Claus, and remarking what does she think we’re going to do, i.e. kick him in the shins and go roaring out, zoom zoom zoom.

And I am laughing my head off, which I have been doing for most of the book before now, because I have never read anything so anarchic, rebellious, fractured and absurd, and I am discovering that this is indeed very much my sense of humour, and this is all so ridiculous, yet so in tune with a mind that is only just pre-teen, this Willans guy knows how we think in a world we have absolutely no influence over.

And my Dad looks up and demands to know what’s so funny, and he say ‘Nothing’s that funny’, just like I did, only without any words that you may choose to represent by italics, because this is 1967 or something like that.

Nothing’s that funny. The years separating these moments close up. Circles are squared. I am my father’s son and to be linked with him, even in such frustration, is a comforting moment.

It’s good not to care

For quite some time now, I’ve been withdrawing into myself, moving further and further away from the world outside my own head. Increasingly, that world has been making itself inhospitable to someone with my hopes, opinions and thoughts, and since the reversal of massive political decisions within any kind of foreseeable future is not on the cards, that process is unlikely to stop.

But it’s not just rejection of a world that no longer reflects the fundamental values I have held all my life. There are personal issues that have accelerated the process of collapsing into myself, slowly increasing the distance between me and the people around me. More and more the past is coming to absorb my thoughts because of the absence of a future that involves more than repetitive actions, without prospect of change.

This is not without its blessings.

For over thirty years, month by month, I followed the comic book Cerebus written and drawn by Canadian Dave Sim, a man approximately six months younger than me. Artistically, Sim is a genius, a fantastically skilled creator, an inspiration. For over thirty years, Cerebus was a consistent in my life. Compare my interests when first I discovered it with those interests I had when its final issue appeared, take a cross-section of each and, unless you count Manchester United, it is the only thing to appear in both lists.

Sim has long been controversial for the anti-feminist opinions he espouses and which became an explicit part of Cerebus with issue 186. He has become widely regarded as a misogynist, an accusation he regards as being the worst possible aspersion that can be made about anyone in these Marxist-Feminist Times.

He has largely withdrawn from the world. He believes that he has been/is being persecuted because people have allowed him to be accused thus without defending him. He will not communicate with anyone unless they sign a letter he has drawn up stating that they do not regard him as a misogynist.

Sim has also had a petition put up on the internet asking people to sign to say that they do not believe he is a misogynist. He has refused to go out in public until that petition has reached 2000 signature. I have not signed that petition. I could not, in anything remotely resembling good conscience, sign it. But now 2000 people have.

This is Sim’s response:

I spent thirty years plus following Cerebus, absorbed in it. Disregarding its content, I would still rate Dave Sim as one of the most consistently inventive, thoughtful, insightful and original comic book creators. I just happen to disagree with his worldview, his opinions and his completely paranoid mindset, to the point where I am now beginning to get ever so slightly ashamed – to myself – of liking the series as much as I did (and, up to issue 268, do).

But, do you know, what? My current issues with the world around me are less concerning than they usually are when I read bullshit like the above link and realise: do you know what, Sim? I just don’t fucking care what ‘intellectual’ contortions you go through any more. They’re right: you’re batshit crazy.

And I don’t give a damn any more.

Ofcom acts…

Read this link:

I work for a company that provides Broadband and telephone to customers using the BT Openreach Cable and network. Only BT Openreach engineers are allowed to activate new services or repair existing ones.

When we book an Openreach engineer’s appointment to activate services or investigate a fault, we book that appointment from a list which tells us when an Openreach engineer can attend, and we book what the customer chooses as most convenient for them. Openreach then accepts the book, and tells us it is confirmed.

We don’t make these appointments up out of thin air, or tell the customer the Engineer can come round Tuesday morning for fun. We do it because it has been booked. By Openreach.

If fines for providers come in for broken appointments, and it’s about time they did, Openreach are going to have the fuck sued out of them, and not just by us.

Crap Journalism: Why we must all hate Barcelona FC, or else

Crap Journalism is an occasional feature on this blog, when I take exception to a piece of shite written for the Guardian. Having deleted my profile there several years ago, I cannot leave comments BTL (in those rare cases where they permit comments), so I counterblast on here.


Like a great many football enthusiasts, I followed the Barcelona vs Paris St Germain second leg on Wednesday night with mounting astonishment, leading to incredulity when they scored the final goal, after 95 minutes, that completed one of the most amazing football comebacks of all time.

For non-Football fans, let me explain that this was a two-legged cup tie, in which the team with the hgher total of goals over the two games, would go on to the next round. Barcelona, playing at home, started 4-0 down, meaning they had to win by five clear goals to qualify.

This was not probable.

Nevertheless, after 50 minutes, Barcelona were 3-0 up and looking capable of doing the job. Then PSG scored, meaning Barca had to score another three goals, in thirty minutes. In most normal circumstances, it would have been game over. With three minutes left, and still needing all those three goals, it was functionally impossible.

Barca did it. They scored three times,the last of them in the fifth minute of time added on for stoppages. This was pure mainline Roy of the Rovers fantasy time.

Of course, the online comments were full of hate towards Barca, especially from Real Madrid fans. But that was BTL, where you expect such things.

Enter this ‘comment‘ piece, one of the most vicious poison pen pieces I have seen outside of the rabid redtops. There is no pretence at any semblance of neutrality. this guy has a bug up his butt (as our American cousins put it) about Barca, and he’s going to squeal like a stuck pig about it.

In a way, it’s funny, but that ignores the context. this is a supposedly major newspaper, not some sub-When Saturday Comes fanzine where bias is not merely allowed but encouraged to run rampant.

Firstly, there’s the tone of hysteria, the traditional Football fan’s acscription of every evil under the sun to the object of hate, as if they’re the only club in the known Universe who do things like that. As a Manchester United fan, I’m very used to that response.

But the specific bone of contention are the two penalties awarded to, and converted by Barcelona during the course of the game, one of which came in that astounding last eight minutes that won the game. According to our ‘journalist’, it seems that these were the two least credible non-penalties ever incorrectly awarded in the history of Football in this and any thirteen other dimensions, because they were Dives! Dives, I tell you! DIVES!!!!!

Now I’m going to admit at this point to having a soft spot for Barcelona, made in equal parts of my visit there for the 1999 Champions League Final and their extraordinarily beautiful football in recent years. Yes, they utterly embarrassed United in the 2011 Champions League Final, but hey, the way they played, it was no shame to be second best to THAT club.

Nevertheless, I still possess a critical eye, so let’s pass it over these two penalties. The first of these was a foul on Neymar, converted by Messi. Neymar had pushed the ball past Meunier into the area, run round him to chase it, Meunier turned, stumbled, fell, across Neymar’s path, and he went head over heels over Meunier.

Was it a dive? No, there was clear and substantial contact. Did Neymar run into Meunier? In the sense that, did he alter his course, change his body shape, do anything to bring the contact on (as Aslhey Young has, notoriously, done more than once for United), no: Meunier fell right across him, from right to left, and was rolling across him.

Could Neymar have avoided the contact? This is a little more subjective, but I don’t think so. he’s running full-tilt after a loose ball, close to the goal-lie, when his course is obstructed by a falling body, right under his feet. Did he have enough room to swerve, to his left, maintaining his momentum, and curve back around Meunier’s body, to return to the ball? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a judgement call, and I didn’t think the margins were that blatant that Neymar could, without disadvantaging his attempts to get to the ball, where Meunier was unable to play it, avoid the contact.

The second penalty is a bit more clear cut. Our journalist accuses Suarez of diving: he does. Hell’s bells, everybody knows that Suarez dives, it’s not exactly the Fifth Revelation. PSG can argue a certain degree of being hard done to here, especially as the referee had already seen through one example of Suarez diving and yellow carded him for it.

So, if it’s as blatant as that, with a referee who’s already seen through a diver, why did he give it?

More importantly, and completely ignored by the ‘journalist’, the defender Marquinhos does make contact. Soft contact, marginal contact, absolutely, contact insufficient to bring Suarez down as he did, agreed. But he put his arm out, across Suarez’s clavicles, almost as high as his face. This is a player going past him, attempting to play a ball close to goal, a ball the defender is not going to reach. Why did he throw his arm out across Suarez if it were not to stop him from getting to the ball, in the penalty area?

Could it possibly be that Marquinhos intended to stop Suarez in an illegal manner that would have justified a penalty? The moral is, don’t throw your arms across opposition forwards in the penalty area if you don’t want to give away penalties.

A rather more balanced piece, shorn of the one-handed Barcelona-are-the-devil aspect, may well have been broad-minded enough to have considered this. But then it wouldn’t have been crap journalism if it had.