Thursday, September 27, 2007

The McCann's Version - Despite Conscious Effort to Believe It- My Doubts Remain.

This video raises a lot of the questions that continue to perplex me about this case, please watch it. Writing below the video link, I attempt to explain why despite wanting to believe the McCann's version of events, I remain wracked by doubt.

I think that I must be like a lot of people who have been following the tragic case of the missing child Madeleine McCann. I was appalled by the fact that a young innocent child sleeping in her bed, on a lovely family holiday could go missing. I found it very upsetting to think through the implications of her disappearance, an abduction of one so young could only be for the foulest of motives. Like many, I guess I understood what the possibilities were, she sadly could be dead, probably killed by the panicking and deeply disturbed individual who snatched her in the first place, in an attempt to avoid judicial punishment and the huge weight of shame and culpability which would descend on the perpetrator and his family, and yes it was going to be a male in my minds eye,in all likelihood somebody not too dissimilar in profile to Ian Huntley. I suppose, I too toyed with the notion of an abduction to order, that old deeply seated fear of western Christians, that Muslims, in all likelihood the archtypal abductor of blond Christian children the 'Moors' could be responsible. At least the child would be alive.Yet staging an abduction to acquire a blond child, when the former USSR is full of blond children whose parents or orphanages would only be too happy to supply such a child for a fat bribe seems far fetched and derived more from some folk memory of Moorish raids. Acquiring a child through the well established people trafficking trade, could presumably achieve the same end at a significantly smaller price and far less risk and hullabaloo, and for considerably less trouble than snatching a sleeping child from a crowded holiday resort in Portugal. A resort which is not even particularly close to Morocco compared with the many Southern Spanish resorts,thronged with blond visitors in the summer months.
I observed the battle developing over the case, the PR 'War' and like many others I fell in line with the view, widely touted, that the Portuguese police were immensely unprofessional and in some obscure way vaguely incompetent. The coverage led one to cry in exasperation, 'if only a decent police force could take charge', it would be possible to get to the bottom of all this. Somewhere during this wet summer I started to think the unthinkable....I began to wonder how it was that I and my critical faculties had been so readily suspended.I sadly came to the conclusion, that not for the first time in my error strewn life, I had bought the story I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe that this poor innocent little girl had been abducted by a mysterious active force for evil, an evil unknown perpetrator. After all were not the alternative possibilities too difficult to contemplate? To even consider the possibility that this young girl was not actually abducted at all, opens up a vista of possible deceit and inhumanity which one instinctively seeks to quell as soon as it enters your head. On many occasions when that thought has entered my mind, I have remorsefully dismissed it as a possibility, even beating myself up a bit emotionally for even thinking such a thought.
Observing the 'PR War' I wrote a piece for this blog about that battle for hearts and minds which was going on, and tried to pinpoint why the McCann parents were in my opinion 'losing' that battle. After a relatively short while, I pulled that posting from this blog because it was clear that some of the 'facts' of what happened that night were not in truth established facts at all, in particular what happened when the unfortunate Kate McCann discovered Madeleine was missing from her bedroom. I realised that so much was unclear and unproven, that even an analysis of the reasons why the extremely well resourced McCann family campaign for Madeleine was hitting the sand, seemed to be plumping on one side of the controversy about who was responsible for her disappearance. I simply did not want to adopt a judgemental position on this matter. I was appalled of course by the fact that the child and two even younger children were left alone, but my sympathies for the plight of the parents were so strong, that like many others I tended to ignore that 'elephant in the room'.Castigating the McCann's for this huge error of judgement seemed a bit inappropriate, like turning around after a car crash and saying something like it would never have happened if you had'nt insisted on embarking on the journey 'despite the weather forecast I told you about the night before' , an utterly useless sentiment, akin to bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Yet, despite all the attempts to summon up sympathy, I find myself getting very angry about this case. This anger puzzles me , it is not really stemming from lengthy analysis, (although I have read a lot of material about the case). Rather this very real anger is coming from a nagging and insistent perception, call it intuition if you wish, that something about the versions of events being propogated in the British media, and originating from the McCann's themselves and their closely knit circle of friends is fundamentally flawed,to me it just does'nt hang right. This sense of not being told it how it really was, persists and in fact gets stronger the more PR effort is expended , and the more spin doctors called Clarence are brought to bear on my brain . When I am expected to be sympathising with a grieving McCann family it just does'nt come, I want it to, but that human emotion does'nt come to order, it needs certain emotional cues. Sympathy for the child Madeleine I have aplenty, but for Gerry and Kate the emotional buttons are'nt being pressed, I find myself comparing my reactions to the truly grief stricken mother of the late Rhys Jones after he was gunned down in Liverpool, and the reaction I had to that scene was strongly and deeply sympathetic, because the emotions and body language of Rhy's mother were utterly unambiguous and profoundly human. I hope that my persistent doubt is misplaced, I genuinely do. I hope that this 'Moorish' abductor makes an error and little Madeleine is reunited with her parents. If the poor misfortunate is dead, then I hope the perpetrator or perpetrators are brought to justice swiftly, not least so that this child can be laid to rest with the dignity that she and all human beings deserve.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

MI5 Spied on International Brigade Vets- (Relax)- Philby was the Case Officer...

It appears from the MI 5 files for the post-war era in Britain, that as several members of the International Brigade Association (IBA) had long suspected, IB vets were systematically spied on by Britain's internal political police service M15. MI 5's website reveals that this occurred in the Cold War years following the end of World War II , see
Philby-Below (Bandaged) in Spain, his transport had come under attack from Republican Forces Below (ii) as a Senior MI 5 Officer-
Philby-below (iii)- as he appeared in a Commemorative Stamp in the USSR .
"File ref KV 5/46-58
The thirteen reconstructed files of Security Service information about the British International Brigade Association (IBA) now released give a wealth of detail about the organisation and its activities from 1941 to 1954.
The files show that nearly all Security Service records on the IBA prior to June 1941 were destroyed at an early date, and there is therefore no contemporary information abo
ut the IBA from the Spanish Civil War period. Instead, the files focus on the propaganda and campaigning work of the IBA on behalf of Brigade veterans and against the Franco regime. Through intercepted correspondence of leading figures such as Nan Green (to April 1947 when the warrant was suspended) and phone calls, and through reports of meetings around the country, a detailed history of the development of the IBA can be reconstructed. The records of liaison with the Secret Intelligence Service show that in the post-war years most of the correspondence passed through Kim Philby's hands. There is a brief Security Service summary of the IBA's history at serial 570a in KV 5/58.
This scrutiny of IBA activity, may well have involved liaising with Spanish intelligence, as well as phone tapping, and perhaps most disturbingly 'reports' of meetings throughout the country. Whether or not the meetings reported on were internal IBA meetings or not is not made clear, although some diligent historian of IB affairs, and I know a few, will no doubt be able to reveal this now that the files are open to examination. Disturbing stuff, men and women whose 'crime' was that they took up arms against fascism in the years 1936-1939, were scrutinised secretly by the British state well after the Second World War, even more disturbing is the possibility that information concerning ongoing anti-fascist resistance in Franco's Spain may have been gleaned from this operation.It also appears that all the reports on this operation ended up on the desk of one Kim Philby , who no doubt, it can be reasonably assumed given his loyalties, would know exactly what should be done with the most sensitive and potentially damaging information .In fact it is ironically the case that Philby himself, could, had the truth been known at the time, have qualified as a veteran of the anti-fascist struggle in Spain, having been posted there in his earliest days as an operative deep inside Franco occupied Spain, to provide intelligence to the Comintern on the feasibility of an assasination of the Fascist leader.

Friday, September 21, 2007

GABRIEL-THE MESSENGER-The Cartoons of Jimmy Friell

A new exhibition of the work of Glaswegian-born Jimmy Friell has just opened in London. Friell was acknowledged, in the 1930s, as one of Fleet Street’s finest cartoonists, and under the pseudonym Gabriel, he put his humour and his brilliant drawing skills to work for the Communist Party's daily paper , the Daily Worker, now published as the Morning Star. In 1935, he sent some satirical political cartoons to the Daily Worker, guessing correctly that it was the only newspaper radical enough to print them. The Daily Worker’s staff liked his cartoons but couldn’t pay him. Friell told them to use them anyway. A few months later the paper offered him a job as their regular cartoonist, and he joined them early in March 1936. By then, the Daily Worker’s staff had transformed a rather humourless propaganda organ, begun in 1930 by the Communist Party of Great Britain, into a fully professional newspaper. Its appearance and contents were as up-to-date as any mainstream Fleet Street paper. The addition of Gabriel’s cartoons gave its leader/editorial page a new cutting edge, as did his other work on the paper. Bill Rust, one of the founders and editors, noted Friell’s arrival: "Gabriel first appeared on the scene in February 1936. In him was immediately recognised an artist with a sure political understanding. Both his artistic and political ‘line’ were just what we were waiting for! Apart from being a cartoonist, Gabriel is also a writer and critic of considerable talent". Jimmy Friell chose an appropriate nom de guerre for his Daily Worker cartoons: "In one way or another then it looked like the last trumpet was being sounded for existing society, so I took the pen name of Gabriel, the Archangel and settled down to helping the process along. My value lay in supplying the humour that the paper rather desperately needed."
His cartoons mordantly illustrate WH Auden’s epitaph for the 1930s. “The clever hopes expire, of a low dishonest decade.” His subjects ranged from the Hunger Marchers, the debilitating unemployment and the meagre dole, the state of race relations, the thuggery of the British Union of Fascists to the increasing threat to peace from the Fascists abroad.
Gabriel was particularly witty at using British national symbols to deride the systematic news management of the Government. On the threat of war from the Japanese and the Fascists, he was strikingly prescient. His depictions of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler are only exceeded in their bite by his series of attacks on the tragically misguided Neville Chamberlain. Perhaps his most memorable symbol was the Axis horse (or mule?) – a centaur with Hitler’s head, and Mussolini as its hind end. In November 1956, he became disillusioned with the Party and walked out over the stance the newspaper took over the Soviet intervention in Hungary. Sadly for Gabriel, although he did work for other newspapers such as the Evening Standard, his departure from the Daily Worker marked the end of his heyday as a political cartoonist.Jimmy Friell remained a convinced socialist until his death on 4th February 1997.
Fallen Angel! The political cartoons of the Daily Worker cartoonist “Gabriel” is at the Political Cartoon Gallery, 32 Store Street, London WC1. The exhibition runs until 28 April.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


As if proof was needed of the inherently irrational nature of capitalism and its markets, various reports are circulating about a so called 'Bin Laden' trade, a speculative trade of such enormous proportions that it is causing some concern in the financial world, as an economist it is intriguing to see how even after yesterdays palliative actions by the Fed, the tongues are still wagging about this trade...Basically here are the facts,
1) How it started ...Somebody is betting $900 million on the S&P crashing by Sept 21st. It's been dubbed the "Bin Laden" trade.Just such a trade surfaced on Wednesday 12th of September when anonymous parties agreed to buy and sell 120,000 SPY September call options using deep-in the-money strikes ranging from 60 to 95.This is a monster trade because it controls 12,000,000 SPY shares.Other commentators state that these influence 6.5 million shares at $750, making it in effect a $4.5 Billion bet . To put it at its most simple someone or some group are betting a huge amount of money that the markets will shift dramatically by 21st September hoping to make the huge 'bet' a winner.This led others to speculate that maybe a terrorist action was due which would cause this upset, with shadowy speculators in on the jihadists plans cashing in on the economic and financial repercussions of such an attack, hence the term the 'Bin Laden trade'.
2)Downplayed in the past week...Many respected analysts studiously pooh-poohed notions around this speculative talk by saying that it was just a device to reduce vulnerability, and nothing could be read into it..Dan Perper, a Partner at Peak 6, one of the largest option market makers and proprietary trading firms, has confirmed that the trades are part of a "box-spread trade."This was done as a package in which the box spread was used [as a] means of alternative financing at more attractive interest rates" explained Perper.
3)Saudi Arabia may have a role in this after all...However the latest twist in the story is that Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve for the first time,signalling that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollar across the Middle East.
4)China...the joker in the pack.Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent weeks warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.A dollar crash would set off a shift in already very jittery markets
5)Whats Really Crazy About All this....Basically Capitalism is inherently unstable,the fact that the future prosperity or poverty of so many on this planet is determined by the what Keynes called the 'animal instincts' of the traders on the world markets must be one of the most obscene aspects of capitalism. Speculation, panic, frantic buying and selling of options is all a million miles away from the needs of ordinary people, for work, education, shelter, food and culture. Any system that is so profoundly influenced by what is essentially gambling does not serve well the people of this planet..Socialism,admittedly improved and updated for the 21st Century, having learned from the errors of its past,is still the only rational way forward.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Meyer Taser Sick ...His Fellow Students Apathy is Worse

This film clip of a student in Florida , a Mr Andrew Meyer, getting tasered by US police officers at a campus political event where John Kerry was speaking is both shocking and depressing . OK he was a rather irritating sort of heckler cum questioner and his questions to Kerry did seem rambling and may have been embarrassing to the former Democratic candidate for the Presidency. He may also have had , shock horror a 'reputation for being a prankster'. However..... The reaction of the cops to this guy is simply mindblowingly over the top.

Perhaps the most disturbing and depressing aspect of this footage is the utter inertia of his fellow students upon his arrest. The thought that armed police would detain a student for simply telling John Kerry that he had in fact WON the last Presidential election seems hard to believe, but that his fellow students would simply sit and smirk as the drama escalates is amazing. Even when he is being electrocuted, a reaction that can be heard distinctly is one of amusement from some of the assembled students.One can only surmise as to the shock and outrage that would fill the world of comment had this happened in China, Cuba, or the USSR, I can just imagine Charles Wheeler going apoplectic. In Other filmed accounts of the events one or two concerned voices are raised, these appear to be concerned older adults, perhaps academics, who may be old ennough to remember the massacre at Kent State University? The Kent State shootings, also known as the May 4 massacre or Kent State massacre, occurred at Kent State in the city of Kent , Ohio , involved the shooting of students by members of the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4th 1970 . Four students were killed and nine others wounded, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis, they were protesting against the US involvement in Vietnam. For those who do not know about violence against free speech in US universities, then this clip below will enlighten readers as to what happened in Kent State....

Maybe some of these concerned people, perhaps old enough to remember the violence employed by the US state against students at Kent State University in 1970 , could after all this hoo-hah, take a little time and explain to these smirking youngsters, who seem to know so little about so much despite having access to more information than ever before. Take time to tell them what happened then,and remind them that freedom of speech on US campuses is a right that was sanctified by the blood of students from a previous generation. Kids just like them, in some ways, except I can not envisage that a student so assaulted in 1970 would be so utterly abandoned by his fellow scholars.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Vladimir Ilich Lenin who dreamed up that far fetched conspiracy that global conflicts such as the invasion of Iraq, might be about scarce natural resources and markets, might be chuckling up there in the big politburo in the sky, after Alan Greenspan's latest comments. Lenin's 'Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism' widely derided by neo-cons and other running dogs who should know better at websites such as 'Harry'sPlace', ,does'nt appear to be so wide of the mark after all .Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he told the White House before the Iraq war that removing Saddam Hussein was “essential” to secure world oil supplies, according to an interview published on Monday.Greenspan, who wrote in his memoir that “the Iraq War is largely about oil,” said in a Washington Post interview that he had presented the White House before the 2003 invasion with the case for why removing the then-Iraqi leader was important for the global economy.“I was not saying that that’s the administration’s motive,” Greenspan said in the interview conducted on Saturday. “I’m just saying that if somebody asked me, ’Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?’ I would say it was essential.”
In his new book “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” Greenspan wrote: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.” Unsurprisingly embarrassed U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday rejected the comment, which echoed long-held complaints of many critics that a key motivating force in the war was to maintain U.S. access to the rich oil supplies in Iraq.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Gates said, “I have a lot of respect for Mr. Greenspan.” But he disagreed with his comment about oil being a leading motivating factor in the war.
“I know the same allegation was made about the Gulf War in 1991, and I just don’t believe it’s true,” Gates said.“I think that it’s really about stability in the Gulf. It’s about rogue regimes trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. ( Are they still trying to spin THAT line!) It’s about aggressive dictators,” Gates said. Alan Greenspan retired in January 2006 after more than 18 years as chairman of the Fed, the U.S. central bank, which regulates monetary policy., He has been conducting a round of interviews coinciding with the release of his book, which goes on sale today .


Sunday, September 16, 2007


Congratulations to the KKE (Communist Party of Greece) for demonstrating that a consistent class analysis of the problems facing a modern society can, and evidently does, result in an increase in the mandate which can be achieved by serious Left parties. Both the Communist Party and the Coalition of Radical Left look like they are going to gain seats. At this point , it looks the final outcome will be like this, ( 99.37 % of the votes counted):ND (conservatives): 152 seats 41.84 % Pasok (socio-dem) : 102 seats 38.11 % KKE : 22 seats 8.15 %Coalition of the radical left: 14 seats 5.03 % Extreme Right (LAOS) : 10 seats 3.79 % . This KKE result is the continuation of a trend dating back to previous elections,In the Parliamentary Elections of 2004 KKE rose in its share of the vote (from 5,5% in 2000 to 5,9% in 2004), in the number of votes received and MPs elected (12 MPs compared to 11 in 2000). This positive result took place despite the intence polarization among the two big establishment parties, (the rightwing ND and the social democratic PASOK) and the inevitably negative role of the right wing dominsted media.
Its a pity that the ND have got back into power , but the KKE's strong showing suggests that this is not a crisis of the Left, more a crisis for ostensibly socialist parties who shift into the centre too readily forgetting what they were established to stand for in the first place. One curious snippet is that the far-right party's (LAOS) leader, according to a claim made in Wikipedia has "pictures of Fidel Castro and CheGuevara in his office as "anti-American symbols" , presumably this particular fruit cake can move his pictures to his parliamentary office now, since he has been elected to parliament for the first time. He campaigned during the election brandishing a boxing glove, suggesting that the people of Greece must form 'one fist', he was also supported by a scantily clad female Greek celebrity.These are not harmless eccentrics however, the LAOS have been credibly accused of harbouring some deeply unpleasant anti-semitic tendencies.
If you are one of the multitude of new readers who have visited us here recently then welcome back, we are prone to 'loony left' behaviour here quite frequently, sorry if it offends,we really did try to give it up, but you can only get marginally excited by lives revolving around the likes of gardening and the peculiarly vacuous sense of ennui and purposeless drifting from taking too seriously terribly clever people who informed us all that we had reached the 'end of history' ...
There is a video on YouTube which appears to support the KKE election campaign, whether or not it is an official effort is unclear, sadly my Greek is too weak to be able to determine this information for certain, on reflection however simply because the images are striking and the accompanying songs sounds pretty good its going to appear below, some particularly unrepentant 'unrepentants' will be intrigued by the closing shots, which will warm the heart of some of you (perhaps).

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said her party's supporters "feel satisfaction" over the KKE's performance in Sunday's general election. Addressing reporters in the early morning hours of Monday, Papariga said her party was on an upward course, adding that voters who "made a bold step in voting for the first time for KKE were many", while adding that Communists should not be carried away by the result. "The two mainstream parties still maintain high percentages, which however, are not in accordance with the levels of popular dissatisfaction," she said. The KKE leader said her party would be on the workers' side to "prevent the anti-popular measures that this government will present," adding that KKE would not disappoint young voters. Well Aleka you have'nt disappointed this voter, keep that up and a good few readers here will begin to feel younger to boot!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9.11.01 , its Consequences as seen on Video.

Its the 6th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, and its at this time of year that we living in the western world now brace ourselves for a repetition of the events by other Al Qaeda inspired religious fanatics. Its a time to remember the victims of 9.11, men and women going about their lives on a crisp September morning murdered in cold blood. IN the video below the first hi-jacked plane hits the WTC.

Then another plane hits the other tower,

Its also a time to consider the consequences, if Osama Bin Laden had dreamed that by implementing this evil scheme, the armies of the USA and Britain would 6 years on be utterly bogged down in an unwinnable war in Iraq, with other Western armies seriously struggling in Afghanistan, any slight doubts he may have harboured about the World Trade Centre attack would have been completely allayed. This one 4 pronged operation would generate a result far beyond his wildest dreams, a flagging jihadist movement revitalised and empowered by the propoganda of the act itself, but above all fuelled for generations to come by the copious amounts of blood shed in the Islamic world in the so called 'response' to the Twin Towers outrage, the images of the blood shed by the USA on the people of Iraq is much less frequently found on our TV screens, but this footage below perhaps gives an indication of the impunity with which it can be executed. The 32 second exchange that leads to this US bomb hitting an Iraqi crowd demonstrates that actions of this kind are commonplace and the estimate of 1 million Iraqi's killed since the US- British invasion suggests a huge amount of blood-letting, at least partially inspired by some sentiment akin to revenge.

A 'response' that somehow encompassed oil rich Iraq, a country which had no weapons of mass destruction and no Al Qaeda presence at all. General Petraeus may suggest that the 'surge' is succeeding in its specific aims, but surely if one lesson can be learned from Vietnam it must be 'don't listen to General's assessments of how things are going in a war if you really want to know whats going on.The video below gives just a slight impression of the scale of armed resistance which the USA and the UK are still encountering,regardless of the spin being put on matters by the General.

In fact if Osama bin Laden could have specified the outcomes he had hoped might arise from the 9.11 'operation' its a reasonable bet that what has actually transpired, must have exceeded his most optimistic expectations. What views do you the readers have on this series of connected developments, in fact would the USA have invaded Iraq regardless of whether 9.11 occurred at all?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Turfs Up.....and a Heroic Red Tractor Delivers It!

Isn't it about time that 'Unrepentant Communist' hosted its first image of a Red Tractor? No self -respecting socialist realist publication can be without its obligatory scarlet hued agricultural machinery, and we here at 'Unrepentant' will not permit anyone to suggest that we are depriving our readers of their fair share of this classic socialist imagery, so heres a special picture here for all you. This being one of the wettest summers in Ireland in the past three decades, has delayed the traditional saving, footing, and delivery of turf. This is a fuel still widely used in many parts of rural Ireland, it has been a staple of Irish life since time immemorial. Turf is actually peat, and is cut usually around Good Friday from the bogs, which are widely found all around Ireland . It was once cut by hand using a sleán, a special turf cutting spade, this has largely been replaced these days with machines which cut sods of turf slightly larger than the old hand cut turf.In the midlands and west of Ireland over 1m tonnes of sod peat or turf are cut annually, generally by local people who use the turf for domestic heating and cooking if they possess 'range' cookers. It is loved because it burns well and quite slowly, on an open fire it produces a heat which is less intense than coal, but also pervades the house with a distinct aroma which must be one of the most unique smells in Ireland. So distinctive is it that enterprising businesses sell little packages of turf to be burned in apartments in America and Australia, so that the homesick Irish exile can inhale the delicious blue heathery smoke of a turf fire and thus trigger instantaneously a huge deluge of memories of home. When the sod is cut, by machine or by hand, it is spread to dry on the adjacent spreading ground. After a week or ten days the sods are turned, then after a further period, (this summer because of the wet weather conditions, the period of time was extended ) the sods are “footed”, which means stacking four or five sods on end, leaning against each other. After a further week or so, the sods are built into “clamps” or stacks. Then the turf is brought home and stored in outdoor sheds or in ricks, which later are covered over for the winter. The whole process is extremely labour intensive, since to allow the air to circulate around the sods and to dry it is essential that they are regularly turned and moved, which obviously involves a lot of bending and picking. This summer the battle was to get the turf to dry, and the heavy rains made this very difficult, so the turf had to be footed and refooted more than normal. There are other aspects of work in the bog, there is a great sense of cameraderie amongst the people working in the bog, and it is usual for people to help each other out. Because it is so labour intensive, bog work is probably one of the last preserves of the 'meitheal' , this is an Irish word which means a 'gathering or collaborative group', so people readily help each other and in turn you help them out. In my case, four friends who also get their turf from the same bog, helped turn and load the turf. I first encountered turf cutting when I accompanied my Grandfather on his bog on the mountain bogs overlooking Tralee, it was even harder work then, since we walked to the bog and it was all cut by sleán, I remember particularly well though the enjoyment of tea brewed on a woodfire, and eating thick ham sandwiches, it is true, even if oft repeated, that food and tea eaten and drunk in the bog is wonderful. In Ireland there are people who like to talk about the joys of the bog, and there are those who really like it. What I love about it is the solitude, and being surrounded by nature. Your mind is relieved of all the stresses and strains of modern living as you undertake the repetitive and really quite mindless tasks of footing or stacking, but in that rhythmic work there is a slowing and a grounding which makes you tune into the sound of the wildlife and become aware of the small almost imperceptible alterations in the breeze, the clouds, and sometimes, even the sun.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Princess Diana - Goddess or Devious Moron?

Reading 'The Blair Year's- Extracts from Alastair Campbells Diaries' coincided with the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, in fact with regard to this in Campbells diaries there are entries which begin to make one wonder about the extent to which Campbell was always accurately in touch with reality. You can of course argue until your blue in the face about the politics of the diaries, which seem to be primarily concerned with the project to ensure the removal of the Tories from office in the UK in the late 1990's at all costs. Having been friendly in the early 1990's with formerly dependable lefties such as Alan Milburn and Steve Byers, who succumbed to this 'New Labour' mission to succeed at all costs, sacrificing every socialist principle in the process, to become convinced social democrats or ex-socialists. One of the defining features of the 'New Labour' protagonists was their pride in their grip on reality, Milburn would often exort his former left comrades to 'get real' . 'Gritty' and 'tough minded' former Fleet Street journo Alastair Campbell would be one of the most realist of this new breed, freed from romantic notions of actually believing in anything, apart from seeing 'Labour' once more in power. It makes somewhat cringe making and uncomfortable reading, with the reader feeling embarrassed for Campbell when he moves into full Mills and Boon mode on his meeting with the ultimate Sloane ranger, Princess Diana.... From his Diary for Tuesday January 21st 1997 he writes about meeting Diana ' She was already there and looking more beautiful than ever.She had a magical quality that was almost there in pictures, but strongly so in the flesh'.....Campbell gushes later on when he describes how he was transfixed by Princess Diana who he described as "absolutely spellbindingly drop dead gorgeous in a way that the millions of photos didn’t quite get it."He began flirting with her after he claims she asked Blair to meet him in May 1995 and during a dinner party at a home in Hackney, East London. "There was something about her eyes that went beyond radiance," he said. "They locked on to you and were utterly mesmeric. She had perfect skin and her whole face lit up when she spoke and there were moments when I had to fight to hear the words because I’m just lost in the beauty." Later he describes a dinner party in Hackney in which Princess Diana criticised him for the stories he had written about her when he was a journalist. "I said is it all forgiven? And she said yes....She was a curious mix of fun (with a lovely girlish laugh, a beautiful smile and the ability to take the mickey out of herself) and insecurity".Campbell irked Blair at the same dinner party by telling Diana, after the Labour leader had been waxing lyrical about the importance of 'compassion' that Blair refused to ever give a penny to beggars. Tony Blair a few days later ribbed Campbell on this ' He said I did'nt have to drop him in it so spectacularly when he was giving all that bullshit about compassion .... He put on a cockney accent, said 'There was I chatting up this bird and my mate drops me in it cos he fancies her rotten.I clocked that one'. When Diana vaguely offers to 'help out' Blair and Co. Campbell writes, 'Diana had thought about it a lot, she knew it would be difficult but if she could help, she would like to. I said to Fiona ' What do you think she's after?' 'You', she said.' It is clear reading between the lines that Campbell did have a thing about Diana, although its less clear that it was as reciprocated as much as perhaps Alastair would like us to believe. On the other hand Australian feminist academic Germaine Greer is far less star struck by the Diana mystique speaking in Edinburgh recently she observed that '"I have come to the conclusion that she was a devious moron," said the Australian academic and broadcaster. "One of the things I have been puzzled by is why her whole life was such a mess. She made a mess of being Princess of Wales, but that is fine because the job is not do-able. It is an insane job and, in history, all but one of the Princesses of Wales have come to a sticky end – stickier than hers.
"I am also interested in why she couldn't manage life after being HRH. It still puzzles me that she does that no-no thing: she sleeps with married men. If you do that in Hello! magazine, you are beyond contempt. But she does it with Will Carling, we forgive her somehow – even though his marriage is in a very delicate state and it doesn't seem to have helped at all.
"Then she does it with Oliver Hoare, the antiques dealer, who eventually realises he is in deep shit and goes back to his wife. She makes 300 nuisance calls to his home phone number. And this is the angel that people want to crown."
It is difficult to judge what is motivating either of these writers , when absorbing their comments, in the case of Campbell is it conceit? In that the subtext of his reporting at such length his (surely imagined) chemistry with Diana is that he must be one helluva guy to catch her eye, and indeed Campbell's diaries reveal that he is beset with a number of insecurities, and constantly seeks to impress the reader with his importance, these diaries were always intended for publication, that much is obvious . In the case of Greer is there perhaps just a little hint of the green-eyed monster? One thing for sure is that both of these commentators were perfectly happy to utilise Diana as a mechanism to promote their respective publications.
After ten years will the Diana cult begin to fade at last? Or is it destined to reach yet still higher degrees of intensity as the years go by, it is surely one of the strangest phenomena of recent years that this rather dim, pretty and manipulative young aristocrat exerts such a grip on the imagination of the worlds media. What do you think ?