Citizen Crookall

Today, something is happening that I want no part of.

The last Coronation in this country happened three years before I was born. Things were different them. I grew up accepting, even looking up to the Queen because it was the natural thing to do and nobody gave me any reason to think that it could be any way otherwise. Yet, before I was out of my teens, my instincts kicked in and any trace of Monarchism in me dissolved, for ever.

Legally speaking, in this country, I am a subject of King Charles III. A subject, a vassal, a serf. Not the Citizen of this country that I should be and that I deserve to be. Never in my life have I thought or acted in any way to accept or acknowledge that i am a subject. Someone who belongs to another person, or who can be told to do anything merely by whim.

Earlier this week, it was announced that, during the Coronation, the people of this country, the subjects, will be ‘invited’ to pledge allegiance the the King, his family and successors, in eternity. If that were not in itself a stupid idea, the notion that we ‘can’ do this by shouting it at our television sets renders the whole notion ridiculous beyond belief. No. Absolutely not. Not now nor ever will I say or do anything to suggest that I accept or acknowledge myself as a subject. I will act and speak and stand as a Citizen and nothing less.

Of course it is ironic that this is a completely new innovation in a country that prides and builds itself upon the sacredness of its historical traditions, most of which only go back 150-200 years anyway, instead of time immemorial as we are led to believe.

And whilst I do not want to descend to personalities in this, I cannot avoid the fact that if a person who has the privileges, power and wealth of Charles Mountbattan-Windsor still cannot cope with his role without the unbelievably petty ego-boost of trying to get the entire country to swear a personal fiefdom to him, then he is so psychologically weak as to deserve the allegiance of no-one.


Pale, Male, Stale: The Old Tired Trope

I’m getting sick of it. Old white male who has spent thirty years doing a job reaches pensionable age and is pensioned off. Not because it might be welcome to have a change after thirty years, not because it might just be that his attitudes and approaches have gotten into a bit of a rut, after thirty years, and maybe just a bit out of touch with now instead of 1992. No. It’s because he’s a white male, and it’s all down to ‘Woke’, whivh he promptly demonstrates he doesn’t understand.

The latest of this self-obsessed ilk is former Liverpool footballer and BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson, aged 65. I’ll be frank, I never had much time for Lawrenson. His schitck was pessimism, coupled with sarcastic humour that I never found funny. His being a Liverpool player didn’t stand him in good stead with me, and he was a notorious laugh for the years when he used to predict the Premier League results on the BBC website and never, not once, no matter how poor their form, did he ever predict a Liverpool defeat.

So thirty years was a good run for someone with a fairly limited range of opinions, and the BBC didn’t exactly commit any capital crimes in pushing him out at the end of last season, especially when this was being coupled with a new format for Football Focus.

And with weary predictability, Lawrenson produces the tired trope, in fact he makes a tryptich out of it. Firstly, he’s been gotten rid of because he’s a ‘White Male’, and everyone knows there has never been a time in the history of the world when anyone was more badly persecuted than white males. Secondly, he condescends to and patronises the new Focus presenter, former footballer Alex Scott. I mean, she’s neither White nor Male and therefore has been given her job for totally illegitimate reasons. Of course, he does speak ‘in fairness’, to say that she’s ‘a lovely girl’ and is ‘still learning’, no, Lawro’s not prejudiced (but everybody else is. Against him).

And thirdly it’s all down to ‘Woke’. Woke, in the mouths of those who feel that their former hegemony, their right to exclusively dictate who and what should prevail, is an elastic buzzword meaning whatever they want it to mean. It’s actual meaning, of senstivity to racial prejudice and intolerance can go hang. Lawrenson proves he has no idea what he’s talking about by coming up with a ‘woke’ moment from the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death when Gary Lineker was told not to use the word ‘wall’ when describing a defensive formation. Sensitivity to an exorbitant degree, I’d go with, or just plain stupidity, but ‘Woke’? Go away and fucking read until you understand what you’re saying, you stupid ****.

I don’t like the epithet ‘Pale, Male and Stale’, which is increasingly frequently being used to castigate a culture based on the tradition of Western Culture. It’s offensive, and deliberately so, for all that it carries with it a strain of truth. But it fits Mark Lawrenson and his band of pompous brothers to a T.

Twenty Years

For my parents’ generation, it was always said that nobody forgot where they were when they heard about President Kennedy’s assassination. Hell, even I remember that day, and I was only just turned eight.
Growing up, I thought that for me and my generation, the equivalent would be the falling of the Berlin Wall. What an immense day, what an unbelievable moment, what a shock. But a good one.
Well, we were destined for an embarrassment of riches. We were the generation that not only got the Berlin Wall and its attendant satellite moments, like the look on Nicolae Ceausescu’s face when the crowd booed him, we got 9/11 as well.
Twenty years ago today, it was a sunny afternoon. I was a year into my job as Principal Conveyancer at Bolton Council, nearly a year into my marriage. It was the early afternoon, maybe about 2.30pm, and I was getting into my post-lunch stride (because of my history of working in private practice, I instinctively took my lunch from 1.00 – 2.00pm whereas those who’d been in Local Government all their lives adhered to 12.00 – 1.00pm).
At the Council, we had individual telephone numbers so calls came through to me direct. The call came at about 2.30pm, and it was my wife. I was cheered to hear from her, until she told me why she was ringing. News had come through from America, nebulous, unconfirmed, full of rumour, that there had been an attack on New York, a plane had supposedly been flown into a building, the whole city was covered in a cloud of smoke and it had been closed off to the outside world, nobody in, nobody out.
We neither of us knew what this might entail, but it was worrying. Whatever it was was something major. She wanted me to know, and underneath there was the subconscious wish of both of us to be together, if something worse was coming.
She rang off. At that time, the Legal Department consisted of desks arranged in little carousels, creating little right angles in which we sat, four to a set. The one where I sat was at what I thought of as the top of the room, next to the door giving access from that side of the Town Hall, the side I came in. It was the only one with two people, the other being my immediate boss, the Chief Lawyer (Conveyancing). As soon as I was off the phone, I told him what I had learned.
He was as concerned as I, but also concerned not to start a panic. He asked me not to say anything to anyone about it whilst he slipped out to try to find any further information. The Internet might have existed but we had no access to it from Bolton Council, nothing but internal email.
There were a number of television shops not far from the Town Hall, with screens on all the shopping day, and he headed for these to see what he could pick up. It was still so early that it was all nebulous. Beyond the fact something had happened, and something pretty damned serious, he could throw no light on the situation. I agreed to keep my lip buttoned. It was weird being one of only a very few people aware that the shit had hit some sort of fan and the repercussions could be unimaginably widespread.
At 5.15pm, I left for the day. It was a ten-minute walk to the Station which got me onto the Station with a few minutes to spare for a Manchester-bound train that, if it arrived on time, left me just enough time to run from Platform 13 to Platform 1 for my connecting train home. If it were delayed, there was a twenty-five-minute wait for the next train. I was curious about what had been going on since my wife’s call. The first TV Shop I passed stopped me dead in my tracks.
They were showing the collapse of one of the Towers, from close range, coming down in that impossible way into itself that, until that moment I had never known was possible. I stood and stared at it, transfixed. Then I raced off, to catch the first train, catch the connection, get home, hug and kiss my wife and find out just what the fuck had happened.
We know what had happened. There were the clips of films they don’t show but they don’t need to because the images are branded on the brains of those of us who saw them. The planes flying into buildings. The Towers’ collapse. The Diving Man. Dubya’s face. Twenty years ago and as fixed and clear as if they were being seen for the first time today.
One thing that not everyone will have felt, but which I was conscious of, was a feeling of subliminal disappointment. That Superman didn’t intervene, that Spider-Man didn’t use his webbing. I suspect that most of us who were comics fans twenty years ago may have thought something similar, automatically. That indicated a certain stunned approach to the reality of what we’d seen, that it couldn’t really have happened, it wasn’t really possible outside of a superhero universe where the day could and would be saved at the last minute. It doesn’t happen here.
They told us the world would never be the same, that reality would change, irreversibly, in every respect. The world’s never the same every single day, but this was one of the mega-moments. But the never-the-same was inapplicable below a certain level. Things from before then are still the same now, or changed in ways that owe nothing to 9/11.
Then and now. There is still a direct thread between the two. We will never forget where we were, or who we were, when we found out.

The Children of Aberfan

Today was the 54th Anniversary of the day the children died at Aberfan. I was ten years old, too young to follow the news, too young to take an interest in what was around me. Certain things stick in the mind though, because I heard so much about them. One such was Aberfan.

Today, if money were not so venerated as to be held greater than human lives, a hundred and more men and women would be entering their Sixties. They would have lives and loves and successes and failures, good times, bad times. men and women would have been born who are in this world only ghosts, possibilities denied. What would any of those never born have done? What achievements were withheld from us because money meant more than human lives?

Who amongst us have lived lesser lives, seen duller, more awful times because the man or woman they would have met, fallen in love with and married wasn’t there at that crucial moment to meet them for the first time?

We all of us only ever lead contingent lives, dependent upon the world and the people around us, who change our lives and fates in every moment, by decisions that create ripples. I have often joked that if a long-demolished newsagents in Openshaw, in 1966, had placed a different DC Comic in their window one Friday afternoon in March, I would have never met the woman I married. But it’s true, as it is for everybody.

The children of Aberfan never had that chance. They, like the kid in Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’, never got to go to school, never got to fall in love, never got to be cool. We remember things like armistice Day and VE Day every year, and rightly so. But we should remember with equal vigour the stains on our reputation and dedicate ourselves with all our vigour to ensuring that we will not allow such things to happen again.

That is how we pay our proper respect to the children of Aberfan.

He may be us

No-one saw 2020 coming, not in what it was. As Cate Blanchett said, at the start of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, ‘the world is changing’. It has changed. And it won’t change back, no matter how desperate we all have been about getting back what we had until March this year. Because that’s the thing about the world changing: it always does and it never changes back.

And currently the world is heading into the Pit. I don’t mean that in any religious sense. There is no God or god waiting for the moment to resolve it all with a miracle. As Terry Pratchett put it in Mort, ‘there is no justice. There’s just us.’

American heading into Dictatorship of the stupid. Britain scurrying along in its wake. Breaking a treaty and expecting the world to trust us on the basis we keep our word. Belarus falling backwards towards chaos and Russian takeover. The climate isn’t changing after all, he said, coughing from the smoke of the West Coast fires. The isolation we experience. Work friends I haven’t seen in six months because they work from home and I work in the Centre.

But these aren’t the only aspects of 2020, though the good stuff is very limited. Doves have come back, sounding as if it’s still 2008 when I sat up until 4.00am and I near had tears in my eyes, was in almost holy awe, that in my lifetime I had lived to see the day America elected a black President. What an amazing feeling. How unbelievable then. how much more unbelievable now.

And 2020 is the year I finally got into Pogo, Walt Kelly’s blessed, much-loved and much-praised cartoon strip. I’ve tried and failed before. I’ve known of it for decades but couldn’t carry myself over that line. Now I have. Five Collected Volumes. A sixth awaits my next payday, to be put on my birthday pile. I have to live long enough for the other six that will complete the long story to be published. nothing like an incentive.

It’s Walt Kelly that’s prompted this mournful little essay this morning, as I wait for my rigidly enforced appointment for a flu injection . Because funny, acute, perceptive and inventive as Kelly was, he was also wise. And he said something that people quote, unaware that its provenance is a cartoonist. He said it in one line, but this, below, is an expanded version of it, and I quote it here. Kelly was talking about the ecology, but his words are no less applicable to everything that surrounds us today, and why there is only us to save us. If we want to.

“There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”

More Not-Crap

Guardian commentator ItsMidnight in response to the article in the previous post

“Three Rags for the Tory Lords under the Sky
Seven Rites for the City Lords in their halls of Stone
Nine Rules for Mortal Men doomed to die
None for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Westminster where the Shadows lie
Many Rules to rule them all, Some to fine them
Many lies to trick them all and in their darkness bind them”

Reblog: Tom Scott

If (or How to Be a Tory Politician)

If you can tell a lie when all about you
Demand the truth and nothing less from you;
If you can break the trust that was placed in you,
And do this with no shred of conscience too;
If you can make the desperate who are waiting
For vital kit that might just save their lives,
Wait long weeks more through your prevaricating,
And shift the fault away from your own lies;

If you can make your dream of power your master
And serve it with no other earthly aim;
If you can mete out chaos and disaster
And always make a scapegoat take the blame;
If you can bear to hear the lies you’ve spoken
Puffed by the press to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the hopes and dreams of others, broken,
And use all men and women as mere tools;

If you can simulate concern for others
When all the while you could not give a toss;
And gamble with the lives of fathers, mothers
And never turn a hair about their loss;
If you can kill the heart and soul within you
And carry on long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to you: ‘Hold on!’

If you can get the Murdoch press to love you,
So that its hacks lend you the common touch,
Then neither foes nor two-faced friends can hurt you,
And you’ll be free to get away with much;
If you can fill each TV airtime minute
With bullshit and not care it’s overdone,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be PM, my son!

With apologies to Rudyard Kipling