Saturday, February 24, 2007

''It is, as I say, a form of madness''

In September last year I wondered How mad is Tony Blair? It had been pondered before. But it seems to be an opinion that is even more widespread after the PM's frankly fruitbat batshit bonkers woo woo la la delusional interview last week on Radio 4 with John Humphries, in which the not-so-esteemed-these-days PM blamed all the deaths on Iraq on all the pesky terrorists. As the perenially-fabulous NotSaussure pointed out

''somehow, I don’t think it will have gone down too well at today’s meeting on gun crime if the assembled folks from the police and the Home Office said, ‘We don’t what you’re all looking at us for — it’s those bloody people with guns who’re causing the problems. If it wasn’t for them shooting each each other…’.

It seems to me utterly clear. If you take a course of action with reasonably foreseeable consequences, then you’re morally — and, frequently, legally — responsible for the results. At one point, he actually started talking about ‘hornet’s nests’ — well, yes, it’s very annoying of those hornets to behave the way they do, but it still really isn’t a good idea to poke their nests with sticks. I can just imagine the scenes at the Labour HQ after the forthcoming disaster in the local elections — wasn’t our fault; can’t blame us if the buggers won’t vote for us.''

(I think we call it something like ''reckless disregard with knowledge of the probable consequences''? Or ''gross negligence''?)

Genius columnist and fabulous dining companion Matthew Norman has a cracking column on the subject of our Dear Leader's tenuous grip on reality...

'' Seldom since David Icke treated Terry Wogan to his thoughts on the giant lizards controlling Earth can a broadcast interview have sent so many jaws plummeting so quickly. The orthodontists of Britain, if not of Basra, must be thrilled. Whether it was imminent ordeal by Humpo that explained Mr Blair's surprising absence from the unveiling of Baroness Thatcher's statue on Wednesday, I'm not sure. It may have played a part, but there is another explanation as to why the incumbent prime minister proved a fair-weather friend to his predecessor [...]

His entire life from infancy onwards has been dedicated to showing off.''

See also Marina Hyde '' Tony Blair makes Comical Ali seem the voice of reason. The former Iraqi regime spokesman's boasts seem almost prophetic. Unlike the prime minister's deluded declarations...''

I am reminded of that old vaudeville trick where the manic entertainer who can't leave the stage is removed by the swift appearance of an umbrella, stage left, hooked around his neck, to drag him into the wings as the curtain hastily falls. Can't somebody have a word?

It's getting embarassing.

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Action stations - 24 Feb Stop the War March

Damn it, I was going to cry off the march against the war because I have so much work to do, and too little time, but it is too important and I can't live with myself if I don't do things I believe in, so I am going. There's always excuses. Editing can wait, wedding invitations can wait, I'll just have to go flat out tomorrow and Monday.

I need to indulge my innate leftie simmering anti-Americanism. That's a joke. I am marching because I want to send a clear signal that I am opposed to bombing yet more people and I object to my taxes being wasted on purchasing huge Trident bombs which could kill even more people, if deployed, which they won't be, so why not build some hospitals instead? Or prisons. Or schools. Simple, hmmm?

Whilst we're at it, what's with the 18 DS Left = anti-American canards? I assume that is the point of this ad, because it isn't clear at all. It is in fact, daft, patronising, pointlessly insulting, and it is a straw man and thus a waste of time. Although apparently it got on Fox News. Woopie-doo. I've been on Fox News. I subverted the live breakfast show on July 7th 2006 by saying no I wasn't terrified of Muslims, in fact, I liked living in London because it was so buzzy and vibrant and there were loads of different nationalities and faiths living together. And London had dealt with terrorism and bombs for over a hundred years, so we just got on with it. That foxed the rent-a-rant blonde presenter. No wonder my taxi home mysteriously disappeared.

I honestly can't see any positives about putting out sneery little 'attack ads'. This is not 'politics for adults'. This is the politics of the playground.

Over to a succinct Hamster.

1. I am opposed to the foreign policies of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.
2. I am not opposed to the existence of the United Kingdom.

There's a difference, you see. I strongly suspect I'm not the only person on the left who realises this

Anyway, I am off to text back Davide and see who else is going to join me in shuffling for peace. 12pm kick off, Speakers Corner. Fancy it? I'll bring the hipflask and the paracetamol.

UPDATE: Piccies via my mobile, at Blairwatch!
BBC report , another BBC report, more BBC reportage, Independent
My feet hurt.

UPDATE UPDATE: Davide has blogged it with speeches and photos - over at Netherworld

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Waking at dawn

Last night I went out with one of my best friends to celebrate her birthday which was last week. Both of us were rock solid with stress: her after working a fifty hour week ( '40% of that was flipping internal meetings' she told me wearily) and me after writing and editing all week. So we went to Neal's Yard walk-in back rub and I paid for us both to have a back massage. Afterwards J, and my friend's partner joined us and we went to a posh restaurant for a bottle of wine in the bar, and then to my favourite sushi place for dinner. The sushi place, Hana, is hidden away: you go into a Japanese supermarket in the Centre Point building, and up some stairs and it is on the floor above. Most of the customers are Japanese. Afterwards we went for another bottle of wine at a bar over the road.

I woke up at dawn with a headache: I am not used to drinking so much. I used to be able to put it away but since I stopped drinking for a month in January my tolerance for alcohol has decreased, which is a good thing. I look back now and see how much I was self-medicating with booze over the last few years. I thought I was dealing with everything okay, but I wasn't. I wrote about it all to keep myself sane, and in doing so, made myself too open, which caused further problems. Then I had a reaction to what I had done, and started writing about politics instead. Now I just feel drained by it all.

I'm about to stop drinking again, after this weekend. Tonight J and I are going to the opera, to see La Boheme. Then I'm into a hardcore diet and exercise programme. I have been going to the gym every day for the last week, and I'm gradually upping the exercise. I want to be really fit for my wedding and honeymoon.

I have not wanted to write much about my personal life on this blog recently: I have felt too raw and exposed to do so. All my energy has gone into the PTSD book, which is as honest as I can make it, and which is tiring to work on. Only a little while left to do book stuff though, and then I can start looking forwards, not backwards. I can't wait. I am sick to death of dealing with the fall-out of tragedy and trauma, and trying to out-run shadows. I want my life back, daylight back, without all these extra activities and complications and responsibilities. I want to think of the future, not the past.

Waking at dawn today has given me some time to think, a couple of hours to myself as the sky turns from pewter to pearl. I have caught up with some emails, there are still more to reply to. There aren't enough hours in the day to do everything on my to-do list, which was why last night was so nice - time off, catching up with friends. I have a lot of stuff on at the moment but I still need to block out time to relax. I have a pile of books I have bought but not read, and all these plans and dreams, and I wish, more than anything, that I could shake off these shadows and step into the light, walk out under a brightening sky. I am thinking of an old lullaby as the cat snores on the floor next to the desk.

'Peace, soon come, long a-waiting, peace come child, soon come-along now.'

I hope so.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Ace piece by George Monbiot yesterday, ''9/11 fantasists pose a mortal danger to popular oppositional campaigns. These conspiracy idiots are a boon for Bush and Blair as they destroy the movements some of us have spent years building'' . See also Counterpunch ''The 9/11 Conspiracy Nuts''.

Monbiot's latest piece is following on from his look at Loose Change, and the BBC's The Conspiracy Files patient look at the 9/11 conspiracy myths, which was shown last Sunday.

I am glad that the mainstream media are fighting back and attempting to educate people about the extent of this virus of paranoia. ( Although, sadly one of the definitions of a conspiranoid is ''someone who believes nothing they read in the mainstream media and everything they read on the internet''.)

(By the way, ''American Free Press'' funded Loose Change, the famous ''made by a kid on his laptop 9/11-was-a conspiracy'' internet hit movie. Here's some information about anti-semitic American Free Press. Nice. Hat-tip, urban 75, where a large forum thread is currently comprehensively debunking all the 9/11 conspiracy theories, with contributors who work as mechanics, civil engineers and architects joining in the fun.)

This is my favourite anti Loose Change site. It never fails to make me smile.

One of the reasons I am posting this is because I am annoyed. Some idiot or idiots keeps posting stupid conspiraloon DVDS, sent to my real name, and to my home address, which is not listed on the electoral role and which is entirely private, and which they can only have found by spending a great deal of time looking for it ( bit scary). The DVD sender includes letters urging me to ''embrace the truth''. I would like to urge that person to embrace reality, or failing that, to get lost, and I request now that they cease bothering me: if they continue to do so I shall report it.

Meanwhile, here is some reading for any Loose Change fans still here...
9/11 debunker ,, 9/11myths, screwloosechange, lolloosechange, thedoc911, internet detectives, sawyerwhatilearned ...and please don't bother posting frantic rebuttals here because it is bum-bitingly boring and you have other places to argue about hologram planes and missile drone pods and all that baloney. I am not interested, okay? I have seen all the movies, read the sites, heard the theories about 9/11 and 7/7 and I think they are all load of cobblers and that you are missing the point wasting your time with this stuff. Get bothered about something important, intelligence failures, complacency, using 9/11 as an opportunity to launch an illegal war. Don't fart about with stupid theories like '' the planes were really holograms'' and ''the buildings were brought down by controlled demolition'', for heaven's sake.

Right, I'm officially done with this oddball stuff on this blog. It was when I read Jon Ronson meeting the ''British 9/11 Truth movement'', in ''We Rationalists are the oppressed minority'' that I realised the error of my ways. There is simply no point arguing with these people. It is a matter of blind faith with them, and they really want to be argued with so they can hurl a blizzard of dodgy internet links to sites like the hilarious prisonplanet and whatreallyhappened at you. They revel in the status of 'martyr to the truth' and they want you to 'have a go'. By engaging with them, you become as bad as they are, you waste your energy by falling into their black hole that sucks up brainpower and passion and reasoned debate.

It is a great shame, when there are so many important causes that could unite left and right - such as resistance to ID cards, preservation of civil liberties, ecological issues and anti-corruption platforms, that so much time and energy is wasted on these ludicrous canards.

So I am not going to bother thinking about 9/11 and 7/7 conspiracy theories anymore, because there are too many other far more important things to worry about.

Do I dare leave comment moderator off? Yes, I'm going to risk it. I am trusting that people who read this blog are well aware of my position on conspiracy theories and are not going to waste time with a load of proselytising in the comments section. Fingers crossed.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pole dancing lessons in North London

Beginners fitness pole dancing lessons ( 4 week course) re-start next Tuesday evening, 6.30pm, in a dance studio in North London, N1, with 5 poles. With a fab pub opposite. Email me if you are interested ( email is on profile) .

Read about pole dancing here, or the edited piece I wrote for the Sunday Times here

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Bath time

Here's my nephew Angus, enjoying a bath.

At the moment he is keen on baths. It is my experience that small boys become less keen on baths as the years go on...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bloggers with book deals...

Congratulations to Wife in the North who has just got a book deal! Her lyrical writing has been a keen pleasure I have hugely enjoyed over the last few months. There's now a posse of us bloggers with book deals with a secret forum - and over the last few months we have happily procrastinated by sending emails round, encouraged each other, shared whinges and victories and tips for writer's block and deadline hell. A few weeks ago we all went out to lunch and some of us carried on until the evening. I will blogroll my fellow writers shortly. But for now I'd just like to thank them for being good eggs. It's ace that the internet has unleashed so many new voices into the world and enabled us all to share the joy of writing, wherever we are, whoever we are, deal or no deal.

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Wedding invitations

The wedding invitations designed for us by a friend Nyree arrived last week and they are lovely. But I still haven't posted them. I have been extraordinarily un-flapped about the wedding which is in April. I'm like, yeah, I'll worry about it nearer the time, I'm on an extended book deadline, I'm busy. But as it is getting closer I really should start to get on with stuff and organise myself.

J and I wrote a list of guests on a piece of paper and then lost it, we have since done this about four times. I have managed to book the venue and sorted out catering, but I still need to post the deposit. I've applied to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a special licence because of where we're getting married ( not my parish church at home because the tower has partially -collapsed). Sent off cheques to people for stuff.

On Friday I went round to see someone about a dress and drew a pic for her on the back of an envelope, and she says she can make me one, so that's fine. I really need to email the organist - we did come up with some ideas for music but I have lost that bit of paper as well. Um...what else do I need to do? Order of service - I know what hymns we're having and what readings but I suppose I need to get it printed. Shoes, and bridal undies, apparently you're meant to buy the shoes before you have the dress fitted. I hate buying shoes. I hate buying clothes full stop. I suppose I had better go and find something, but there just isn't time at the moment.

Check the ceiledh band are definitely coming - Mum said that was sorted. Er, what else? Flowers. Posy of roses'll be fine. Honeymoon, sorted and booked. Flowers in the church, will be there already, just give them a donation. Bridesmaids - well if my sister and sister in law want to be bridesmaids they can take themselves down to Monsoon and buy themselves matching frocks. I think that's it, more or less.

Oh yeah, wedding rings.

I had better get on with it, I suppose, and actually properly invite people. I'm going to have to email them all and ask them to send their addresses as I have no idea where people live: nobody writes to each other any more.

I think I must be in denial: I am sure brides are meant to get in more of a state than this. Basically I have been so busy that I haven't wanted to start doing wedding stuff as well because I haven't had the time to think about it. And maybe when your dad is a vicar and you are a choirgirl and you grow up with weddings every Saturday you get quite casual about the whole thing.

Actually, I think it is because I have been so depressed and having such a bad time with the PTSD being back again. This wedding doesn't seem real. I am trying to guard myself against being flattened by some terrible event in the future by trying to do all this wedding stuff very quietly, under the radar, not making a fuss, not tempting fate. It feels safer than throwing myself wholeheartedly into happiness: I did that in summer 2005 and bang, everything went black. It's taken all this time to get back to something like normality. I'm afraid of too much joy, in case it tips the scales and it all goes dark again.

Friday, February 16, 2007

SSRIs:'How I got hooked on Happy Pills'

Excellent, thought-provoking article from my friend and fellow KCU-er Kirsty, who was on my train on 7th July. Kirsty was prescribed Citalopram for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She has written a double page spread in the Independent about her attempts to come off the drug...
'On the Monday, I began to feel weary and cold, and the chill found its way to my bones. I couldn't concentrate or keep still; I was shivering to my core. The week continued with lethargy and exhaustion and my appetite started to fade. On Wednesday night, I woke suddenly, startled by a shudder. It was freezing and dark and my body was convulsed with fitful shakes. I hauled myself out of bed and piled on the layers - jumpers, socks and even a hat. I turned the heating up high and flung a blanket over my bed, all to no avail. This was the cold turkey of heroin addicts; it felt like a scene from a movie. Eventually, it subsided, but it was quickly replaced with biting nausea. I forced myself from my nest, staggered to the bathroom and was violently sick...'

'How I got hooked on happy pills'
UPDATE: I'm allowed to say its Holly Finch, so if you want to comment to the article's author, head over to Holly's blog

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Stop The War Protest Feb 24th

I'll try and be there. See Davide for details. Let me know via email or comments if you are going and you want to meet up. It's always nice to march and chat. I'll bring my battered hipflask...

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Verdict

UPDATE: BBC Programme site here

I have seen stickers all over the Underground today saying ''GUILTY; The BBC's The Verdict trivialises rape''.

In my opinion, this programme did not trivialise rape. Rapists trivialise rape. And because we are so afraid of rape, what it is, how often it happens, maybe we trivialise rape too. Oh yeah, we all agree 'it's terrible. When it happens'. But how often do we agree or admit that it has happened. 'It's just her word against his', we say.

To say ''he raped her, he is a rapist'' is so damning, so unsettling, that perhaps we do not want to say it, because it means letting go of our own preconceptions about rape; who it happens to, how often it happens, and that it can happen to us, or people we love. It is too frightening to accept the facts of the sheer prevalence of rape. It is easier to cling to the myths and decide it wouldn't, it couldn't happen to you, because you aren't like the people in the witness box, you aren't like the people in the stand.

But you are. They are human, and so are you. The chances are, you do know someone who has been raped, and you probably also know someone who has raped. That is, had sex without consent or was reckless or unreasonable in his belief as to whether consent was given.

I found the programme deeply disturbing, in its behind-the-scenes glimpse into the workings of the court process. The fact that the jury were celebrities became utterly irrelevant; all it did was give us a little background on them, they tried it as flawed human beings, not as 'stars'. Some of them were ignorant, and loudmouthed and closed minded, some of them were careful and thoughtful; all of them brought their personal projections and prejudices to the case, as people do. I have reservations about the whole adversarial system in rape cases: it clearly does not work. And yet what else are we to try? Inquisitorial? Three judges? Victim advocates? There have been recent changes such as improved rape reporting centres and police training, specialist prosecutor training, the allowance of the admission of bad character evidence, tightening up on
defence counsel bringing up sexual history, the showing victim's video statements (given to police soon after the rape) to the jury, the admission of expert witnesses explaining traumatic reactions and victim's demeanour...and yet still the conviction rate is terribly low.

I was convinced that the woman in The Verdict was raped, and many of the jury thought she had been raped too, and yet both of the defendants were found not guilty on all counts. In rape cases, it is not only the defendants who are judged. And in this case, the jury and the jury system in rape trials were judged too. And found to be wanting.

Even though it was not a real case, it reduced me to tears of despair.

If I were a rapist, this weekend I would go out as usual, nicely dressed, with my mates. I would look for the laughing girl enjoying herself in a bar, wearing pretty clothes, having some drinks with her friends, throwing back her head and dancing, smiling into the faces of everyone she sees, high on life and her own attractiveness. I would buy her some drinks, lots of them, make sure everyone saw us talking and I would kiss her in full view of people in the room, I would tell her she was beautiful, and leave with my arm round her shoulders, telling her I would love to get her number. I would offer to find her a taxi, or I would invite her to somewhere to join me, maybe a nice bar, maybe a party, and I would take care, when I raped her, not to injure her or to tear her clothes. Or not much, just enough to excuse it as passionate rough sex. I would use a condom, to minimise DNA evidence.

When she complained, when she cried, when she begged me to stop, I would tell her to shut up, that she was asking for it,what did she expect, dressed like that, drunk like that, to stop whinging because it would be over soon, and you've had sex before, haven't you? So what's the big deal? And I'd tell her to keep still, don't scream, don't fight, or you'll be sorry, I'll really hurt you if you do. Just take it girl, you wanted it all along.

And afterwards, I'd tell her she could try to take it to court if she wanted, and see if she felt lucky. The odds of a successful rape prosecution are less than 5%. About 50,000 women are raped every year. Yeah, yeah, the police are nice to you when you report it now, girlie. But wait til the defence gets started on you. You haven't got a prayer.

I could probably do that every couple of weeks if I wanted, and never get caught.

It's Friday night tomorrow. Someone's probably looking forward to the weekend tonight, making plans. And someone else will have a weekend they'll never forget.

UPDATE: The programme is discussed and blogged at Comment is Free
and by viewers on BBC2's website

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Good news!

A few days ago I told you about Annabel ( not her real name) , one of this blog's readers who had been in contact with me to tell me that she was in the midst of a rape trial. We have been emailing each other and I asked blog readers to send her their prayers and good wishes. I've just heard that the jury returned a unaminous guilty verdict. Sentencing will be in a few weeks, once pre-sentencing reports have been carried out.

Annabel deserves huge praise and thanks for her bravery and determination in bringing this rapist to justice. As well as attacking Annabel, the rapist had in the past attacked other people, one of whom was a child.

If you want to pass on a message to Annabel you can send me an email and I will pass it on, or leave a comment below. Thank you Annabel and I hope that you are able to take some time out to feel justifiably proud for the great service you have done society - all of us. And thanks to all the dedicated people who helped Annabel; the police, the hospital and medical staff and the Witness services volunteer, whom Annabel tells me have been 'fantastic' and given her 'amazing support'.

It is good to know that justice can be done. Well done Annabel, you complete star.

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'Burnley BNP Bombers' Update

From the Burnley News ( 13/2/07)

A FORMER British National Party election candidate and a dentist face trial today accused of conspiring to cause an explosion.
Robert Cottage (49), of Talbot Street, Colne, and David Jackson (62), of Trent Road, Nelson, are charged under the Explosive Substances Act 1883 after chemical components were allegedly found at Cottage's house in September. Both men deny conspiracy to cause an explosion with intent to harm life or property and possession of an explosive substance for an unlawful purpose. Cottage stood for the BNP in May's local elections in Colne last year. The trial at Manchester Crown Court is expected to last up to 10 days.

This story was picked up by several bloggers last year ,although the MSM seemed to miss it. I chased the BBC, C4 news and the Mirror, at the time, who all said, ooops, they'd be on it at trial stage. I'll check, and chase again if necessary. UPDATE: One of the men has pleased guilty. The media are on it.

UPDATE AGAIN: Blimey. Conspiraloon-tastic. BBC News

Ex-BNP man 'wanted to shoot PM'

A former British National Party (BNP) candidate who held explosive chemicals in anticipation of a civil war wanted to shoot Tony Blair, a court heard.
Robert Cottage, 49, from Colne, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to possession of explosives at the start of his trial at Manchester Crown Court.
His wife said he often boasted of wanting to shoot Mr Blair and Lib Dem peer Lord Greaves, the court was told.
Mr Cottage denies conspiracy to cause an explosion.
A second man, David Jackson, 62, of Nelson, Lancashire, denies both charges under the Explosive Substances Act.

Alistair Webster QC, defending, said Mr Cottage, of Talbot Street, was a former BNP candidate and had been the subject of threats.
He explained that his client believed the "political and financial condition of the country" would lead to civil war within the coming years.
Mr Cottage accepted the possession charge on the basis that the explosives were designed to deter attacks on his property, Mr Webster said.
The explanation was not accepted by the prosecution.

Louise Blackwell, prosecuting , said the case had come to light after Mr Cottage's wife became increasingly concerned about his behaviour. Kerena Cottage suffered mental health problems and told her social worker that her husband had several crossbows and chemicals stored in his home.

She also revealed he wanted to shoot Mr Blair and local peer Lord Greaves, Miss Blackwell told the court.
When police raided his house on 28 September 2006 they discovered 21 types of chemicals which, when combined, could form explosives.

Miss Blackwell said they also uncovered a document called the Anarchy Cookbook, which detailed how to make different types of bombs.
Ball bearings - which the prosecution claim could be used as shrapnel for explosive devices - were also found, along with four air pistols.
After interviewing Mr Cottage, detectives raided Mr Jackson's home on 1 October and found a bow and arrow and two nuclear protection suits.

Miss Blackwell said: "The prosecution say these two men together agreed to order these chemicals... and they intended to make a bomb with them.
"The bomb they intended to make would have had the ability to cause damage or cause serious injuries."
Miss Blackwell also read out a statement on behalf of Mrs Cottage, who was unfit to attend court because of her mental health problems.

"Rob believes there will be a civil war and the emergence of a new world order," the statement said.
"Rob has also started stockpiling supplies," the statement added.
The trial continues

It certainly ticks all the right boxes as a news story...big haul of explosives found, links to extreme organisations, political terror, sinister plots...eek...etc. The only missing ingredient is that the men were English extremists, not Islamist extremists. Should this make a difference? No, it absolutely should not. I am glad the story is now being belatedly covered. I expect it to be headline news in the tabloids tomorrow, and hmm, we seem to be missing another key ingredient of a typical terror tale...

...Dr. John Reid popped up and pontificated several times last year when similar stories about conspiracy to cause explosions/acts of terrorism broke, talking about the deadly threat and the need for constant vigilance. You could hardly get hom off the telly. The Home Secretary has been strangely quiet this time around. I wonder why? Answers on a postcard...

Also of interest: Forest Gate fallout - a BBC investigation. See BBC news tonight.

UPDATE ( again) : Iain Dale ( posted soon after this post went up). For the avoidance of conspiraloonery, I chased several news outfits up about why they missed it the first time around, speaking to people I know personally, and they all explained why, and they all came out with pretty much the same reasons about how they missed it, and the reasons made sense to me. (I chased the BBC Online team, the Sunday Times, and the Mirror just to get a general spread of broadhseet, tabloid, weekly/daily and TV.) Today I spoke to C4 news, the Mirror and the Sunday Times. All of them were already on it. It was on BBC lunchtime news, and it's on the 5pm BBC news now, it's also on the Telegraph online as the lead story. So I do not think there is a media conspiracy; I believe them when they say they cocked up and missed it. Bloggers should be proud of themselves for forcing the issue, though, as several people I spoke to said they were aware they had missed a trick and the blogs got on it much more thoroughly than the MSM, and one said he picked up on it via blogs. Well done blogs. Especially Ministry of Truth who I think got there first...Another UPDATE: Blairwatch is on it with some thoughts

I am still very interested as to why the Home Office is not making its usual song and dance, however. Perhaps they haven't got any eye-catching initiatives or 90 day internment packages to push today...

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Blogger TV again

Last night Iain Dale invited me to be on 18 Doughty St , for Blogger TV, Vox Politics and End of the Day Show, with Devil's Kitchen, Stephen Pollard, and Ben Sherread .

' Why are you on 'Tory TV', Rachel', people may cry? Well, 18DS bills itself as 'anti-establishment' and 'political TV for adults'; it has non-right wing guests and presenters on all the time, and I do not see the point of shutting myself or anyone out of political debate simply on party politics lines. I am not a member of any political party, though I would define myself firmly as a non-Tory. I have never voted Tory and I can't think of circumstances in which I would. But I have friends of all political persusasions, and I have conversations with people across the political spectrum. There are several areas that I am passionate about that are cross-party issues: civil liberties, ID cards, SOCPA & the right to protest, excessive legislation, free speech... There are some areas that I will never agree with the Tories on. And that's okay.

I'm sure that all this political bloggery will get very hardcore once we get to a General Election, but I try to avoid fights for the sake of fights and look for common ground these days. I know I say the personal is the political, but not to the extent that personal attacks are de rigeur.

We discussed Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's concerns that blogging is just 'pub bores' ( see debate on political blogging here on TV), the state of the blog wars, in which both sides have taken a lot of flak, particularly Tim, who has provoked a needed debate about damage done to the image of blogging by lack of basic 'netiquette', and who has been viciously ( anonymously) lambasted for it, which rather proves his original point. Personally, I think there's a place for all kinds of blogs, Guido is one kind of blog, other people have other kinds of blogs. Guido's blog does not define blogdom. How can it?

Blogging's simply a channel of communication, open to abuse and subject to the laws of libel like any other kind of publishing. Moving on, we talked about hope, and the positives of blogs, and Barak Obama. We also talked about our blog posts of the week - mine were Indigo Jo on the state of communities, and Sunny Hundal on Comment is Free about Independent Jewish Voices, Melanie Phillip's vitriolic rant on the same subject ( because it made me wild) and the consistently excellent Random Acts of Reality.

It was quite a lively programme with a lot of interaction from viewers. I'm glad that politics debates passion and heat and that the Opposition has livened up: that is good for democracy. Long may the debate continue. Fairly and without abuse.

Update: slight edit for clarity

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Sunday, February 11, 2007


Never have the words 'Presidential Hopeful' seemed so apposite. Obama Barack is all over the news. Yesterday he made a speech that has just made my voice catch, when I was reading it out loud to J. It made me well up because it is so full of hope. It has made me want to write about politics again for the first time in a month.

Here it is in full.

I have quoted parts of it in italics in this post.

Let me begin by saying thanks to all you who've traveled, from far and wide,
to brave the cold today.
We all made this journey for a reason. It's humbling, but in my heart I know you didn't come here just for me, you came here because you believe in what this country can be.

In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union...

Obama's speech, ringing with hopefulness, really hit home. Recently I felt I was losing faith in politics, that all politicians seemed to lie and all political parties seemed the same as each other, as bad as each other, doing anything, saying anything to have and to hold power. I admit my own faults; in my own small way, I am part of the problem. I have kicked frustratedly and hard in this blog at the present Government, and the one that preceeded it. I have mocked and sneered and complained, bitterly and frequently. I have enjoyed the cynical bitching and the tittle-tattle and the sniping, in the papers, on blogs, on political TV programmes, in the pub. I have welcomed the opportunity to blog and to vent and to rant and to release my anger, and I have enjoyed reading other people's righteous rage too. It has been cathartic. I did it because I was angry enough to care, and because anger is an energy, and angry energy is better than sullen silence and isolating, corruscating despair.

...I came to understand that our cherished rights of liberty and equality
depend on the active participation of an awakened electorate...

But now I am sick of all this negativity. I know there is a UK political blog war going on at the moment about 'netiquette' and lies and spin and deceit, and I have not wanted to join in. I don't care if politicians or journalists or bloggers or whoever were trouble-makers or drug-users in their teens, or if they behaved foolishly when they were students - hell, that's what the young and foolish do - and I was, and still am, silly at times myself. What I care about, passionately, is that they stand for something now, and that they are honest about what they stand for. I may not agree with them - but I want to respect them. And I want to respect myself.

I have stopped wanting to write on this blog for the last few weeks because it was starting to feel like a chore, and because I was fed up of feeling exposed, and sick of the sniping attacks, and of feeling like I had to 'take sides'. I don't think blogging is about taking sides. It's not a licence to bully and abuse and attack, either. Blogging allows the free expression of many voices, and what a shame if this great tool becomes a cacophony, a sound and a fury signifying nothing, and some of us turn inwards and attack each other, when there is so much else to say - political, personal, big, small, whatever - and so many passionate, and talented and clever, and funny people who enjoy blogging; writing for free, writing for the sheer joy of it.

It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come
together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people
- where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more
hopeful America.

It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable - that it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.

Owch. I am tired and fed up of the current culture of spin and lie, of obfuscation and denial and blame-shifting, of gossip and carefully chosen weasel words that is UK politics at the moment. Whether it is the Government initially denying the existence of a tape showing the death by 'friendly fire' of a UK soldier, or the clamping down on the proper inquiry into BAE Arms sold to Saudi Arabia, or cash for honours, or fewer nurses and beds in hospitals somehow being justified as some doublethink evidence of 'NHS success', it is all damnably toxic because it is corroding our democracy, eroding our trust and killing hopefulness. There have been too many cover-ups and falsehoods.

Nobody seems to believe a thing anyone says anymore or take anything at face value. And I am as bad as anyone else. It is assumed that almost everything is a lie or a deceit or a conspiracy. Anyone saying or writing anything has an 'agenda' that must be exposed. I think this kills any sense of hope and engagement. And without hope, where do we go? Nowhere but backwards and downwards into alientation, apathy, anger and despair.

I want a more hopeful America, and I would like a more hopeful Britain too. I want renewal. And no, for me personally, that doesn't necessarily mean I want a change of Government. It goes deeper than that; I want a change in governing. And a change in governance, in the way that we are governed.

The genius of our founders is that they designed a system of government
that can be changed. And we should take heart, because we've changed this
country before...

And not only in America has history shown change and renewal and political evolution, frequently being driven by plain ordinary people - which can include bloggers - as well as visionaries and writers and leaders and politicians.

Democracy is meant to represent the will of the people. All that you need for a working democracy is for the people to have a will to go somewhere together. If there is nothing but cynicism and apathy, then where is our will gone? We get the leaders, (and the leader writers, and the bloggers) we deserve, don't we?

Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's
needed to be done. Today we are called once more - and it is time for our
generation to answer that call.

For that is our unyielding faith - that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.

The man is right. And in this information age, where words can travel at the speed of thought, and ideas gather dizzying reach and momentum through instant and open exchange, people publishing and debating and engaging with each other freely, for all to see and read, we have more tools to shape and change things, so we get the politics we want, than ever before.

Politics and political debate in this country is no longer the preserve of wealthy white men in their exclusive clubs, whether in Westminster or Fleet St. It's something anyone can get involved in. Single issue or broad platform, whatever fires you up, there are more ways of being heard, holding politicians to account or finding like-minded others to get active with than ever before.

We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years.
What's stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound
policies and sensible plans. What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the
smallness of our politics - the ease with which we're distracted by the petty
and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for
scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a
working consensus to tackle big problems.

All we need is a sense of compassion and decency, realism and willingness to listen, and a stakehold in our shared humanity and our shared future. Not to be afraid of speaking out, not to have our collective and individual will sapped by cynicism and in-fighting about trivial things. Just to have some hope.

I want my hope back. This has felt like a long and bleak winter, but spring is coming. I have felt excitement and optimism returning today, as I read the words of a politician. An American politician, but it's a start.

oops, edited to say thanks Kate, I tagged it wrong...

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Weekend blogging round up...

I've finally switched to the new blogger system. I didn't want to risk it for months because I was scared of losing everything on the blog. Recently, however, I got to a point where I decided I simply didn't care anymore if the blog disappeared into the ether forever, so I closed my eyes and clicked ...

..and phew, all 560 posts, all your comments and all the links are still here, which is good because now I can do a round up of some of the good stuff that has been written this week. I have not been able to read other people's blogs for about a month, because I have been working flat out, so it's been great to catch up a bit this weekend.

Not Saussure on the extremists within our midst....

'I’ve also asked Ruth Kelly to set up a study group to investigate ways of better integrating motorists — many of whom were born and brought up here — with the community and ways of persuading them that sending letter bombs is very un-British. I would encourage the parents of young motorists to look for the danger signs — a fascination with Top Gear is very suspicious — and to report them to the police as soon as possible for their family’s sake...'

Sunny from Pickled Politics in Comment is Free

'As I stated in November when introducing New Generation Network (NGN), the idea that whole "communities" can speak with one voice is not only disingenuous but counter-productive. It only benefits those willing to constantly shout the loudest and spend time pushing their own agenda...'

Sunny also has a good guest post on Islam and Feminism from Zohra, and a lot of other interesting stuff.

Wife in the North has been consistently excellent since she started blogging, and here is a taster, for those who have yet to discover her writing Mothers and Daughters

'She told me the nurse was going to give her an anemone. I thought this unlikely. The bustling Scottish nurse arrived, not with flowers but with rubber gloves. Mother mine, teeth biting into the cotton pillow and tears falling onto my hand shrieked in silence as the nurse got on with it. Old age smells of shit and shame not Chanel...'

One Violent Crime and the Female Victim (hat-tip: Incurable Hippie)

'Again and again, women are told that we can avoid rape if we don't go out alone, don't get drunk, carry our car keys as a weapon, take self-defence classes, don't dress revealingly, don't talk to strangers, and on and on. We get it. We live it. And we still get raped.Women get raped sober and drunk. They get raped when they're out and when they're home. They get raped wearing short skirts and wearing burqas. They get raped by men they know and by men they don't know. If one woman avoids rape by using her self-defence skills, a woman unable to defend herself gets raped instead. Whatever women do or don't do, men continue to rape them....'

And whilst we are on the subject of rape, please send a prayer or a wish for one of this blog's readers, whom I will call Annabel, ( not her real name) who contacted me this week to tell me about the rape trial she is in the middle of, where the verdict is expected soon. Any raped person who finds the strength within herself to stand up and face her rapist down in court does us all a great service, and I wish her every success in getting the justice and the closure she deserves.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Spicy sausage and chickpea stew

It's the weekend so here come some recipes. (And it bumps the gloom further down the page.)

This was cooked up last night to beat the snowy chill. All ingredients were picked up from local shops five minutes from where I live: I am very lucky to live in this part of London where you can buy Turkish, Algerian, Polish and West Indian delicacies and groceries cheaply and freshly, which makes for interesting suppers.
The dish was inspired by some dark red beef and lamb sausages I found in the halal butcher, when I went in to buy some neck of lamb for tonight's lamb stew.

6 slim beef and/or lamb sausages. The ones I got were quite spicy. You could use Spanish chorizo, Polish kielbasa, Italian salami or French Toulouse sausages, ( or any good quality British pork, beef, lamb or chicken bangers). If you are using salami or kielbasa, you should cut them into pound-coin-sized rings and cook a little in a dry frying pan on a very low heat so they release their fat and go succulent and golden round the edges.

4 red peppers, cut in half, de-stalked and de-seeded. These go under the hot grill with the sausages, skin side-up first, until the skin is slightly blackened. Then flip over them over and baste the insides a little with the fat from the sausages, or some olive oil.

4 red onions, rough-sliced.
Rough-chopped garlic
1 fat red chilli, chopped and de-seeded
( watch you don't wipe your hand across your chapped lips like I did - owch)
Tin of chickpeas, drained
Some chopped mushrooms, about 3 handfuls
Pinch of sweet paprika
Salt, pepper, bayleaf

Half a jar of passata ( Italian sieved tomato sauce - you could also use a tin of chopped tomatoes and some tomato puree)
A glass or two of red wine.

Sweat the onions and garlic in a casserole dish or deep pan over a low heat. Add the chopped chilli and mushrooms, and paprika, mix well. Turn up the heat to medium. Add the chickpeas and mix it all again. When it is all frying gently and releasing a sweet steam, add half a jar of passata (or the tin of tomatoes and spoonful of puree) and a bayleaf and the salt and pepper. Add the chopped sausages. Give it a good stir.

Have a glass of red wine yourself. It's cold outside.

Peel off the skin from the grilled red peppers ( a quick way is to put the warm peppers in a plastic bag, tie a knot in it and let them sweat for a few minutes. Then slit open the bag and peel the peppers, slice them up, (licking your fingers as sweet sticky soft peppers will get all over your hands), and put them in the casserole or pan.
Top up the casserole/pan with red wine ( I used almost 2 glasses) until the liquid just covers the ingredients. Season to taste. Simmer for about half an hour. Or longer if you like, on a low-ish heat.

There's probably about half a bottle of wine left. Hmmmm.....

Serve with steamed broccoli with a squeeze of lemon. J put grated parmesan on his stew, as he is obsessed with cheese, but I don't think it needs it. If you are hungry you could serve it with steamed rice too, or fresh crusty bread, but all the chickpeas make it quite hearty enough without, in my opinion.

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Hello. I have had a few emails from readers wondering if I am all right because I haven't blogged in a fortnight, and I thought I had better log on and update people so you don't think I am lying dead under a bridge being gnawed by rats.

Good news: I made the deadline for the book, and am now in phase 2, which is rewriting and editing some of the chapters. As my computer has been very dodgy and slow of late, I have moved to a new place to work and I am now going into central London every day to work in an office where I have use of a PC. I have just got my home PC more or less running normally again (thanks to reader Ian) so I will be back posting more over the next few weeks, I hope.

Because the subject matter of the book is quite challenging to write about, when I come back home after writing most of the day, I am tired and a bit shaky. I have realised recently that I need to implement some stringent boundaries during this project, and my previous routine of working at home, on my own, at such intensity and for so many hours a day was not working.

As my friends and family know, I have been additionally trying to cope with a targeted harassment campaign from a particular individual over the last year, and that problem has intensified in recent months as the matter approaches resolution in a court of law. The individual has been arrested, and has recently been formally charged with harassment by the police. They are currently on Magistrate's bail, which has conditions attached: they must not contact me directly or indirectly.

I have seen my GP regarding some current physical problems, some of which I have detailed in this blog, and I have just started seeing a trauma counsellor because it has become clear that there has been a negative physical impact on my mental heath as well from the recent events and their aftermath. The counsellor works with many people who were on the same carriage as me on July 7th, which took a direct hit from the bomb, and in which 26 people died, and it is clear now that I am not alone in still suffering some negative effects after the bombings. One in five people are. In a horrible, sad way this is a relief.

'A Royal College of Psychiatrists report found between 30 and 40 per cent of victims develop PTSD - repeatedly reliving the event - and 20 per cent are likely to be still suffering symptoms two years later.
Professor Chris Brewin, who carried out the research, said: "The most important thing that determines how badly you are affected is how close you were to the attack. '


Last year I had some basic, practical CBT - simply to get me back on the tube so I could get to work. I have now left my job, taking voluntary redundancy during a company restructure because I still found the rush hour tube too much to juggle when doing a high-pressure advertising job. I have not taken the prescribed antidepresants that others are now struggling to come off; instead writing, campaigning and spending time with other survivors has been my self-administered therapy and my personal way of dealing with all this, and of trying to get something positive from the experience for me and for others. However, I am finally getting some extra help, and not before time.

It has become clear recently that I have been exhibiting some of the symptoms of stress and depression, and a reoccurrence of some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder; the latter condition occurring as a result of two separate incidents over the last five years which you all know about. The PTSD has been aggravated by the recent harassment, and the detailed re-experiencing of past events for the purposes of the book. The book describes a journey through post-traumatic stress disorder, so it is not surprising that writing it has been quite hard. The criminal harassment/stalking, however, I could really have done without.

I have felt uncomfortable writing in too much detail on this blog about the reoccurrence of PTSD because of concerns that I may be viewed as having a 'psychiatric disorder'. I do not, I have some symptoms of a psychological injury which is unfortunately common in those who were close to an attack or the subject of an attack in which their life was threatened.

After the bomb, I threw myself into writing and trying to help other 7/7 survivors. At the time I thought it was the best thing to do, and I still do think it was a good thing to do. However, there have been consequences of this emotional openness, such as unwelcome attention, and exhaustion.

The book, I hope, when it comes out, will be a useful document for others with PTSD, and those interested in the subject or who wish to support people they know who have undergone life-threatening events and are experiencing trauma.

As I am deeply involved in writing the book right now, I need to be very careful about managing my 'workload' and my health. And that is why I have pulled back from blogging and making my thoughts and my life public property over the last few weeks. At the moment, I feel extremely vulnerable; I do not feel particularly safe, and so I do not feel very comfortable sharing my thoughts - whether personal or political - with an internet audience. It is a bit of a reaction I am having now to having been so open in the past, and the problems which that openness has caused me.

I hope, having explained what is happening, that you will be patient with me and that you will understand.

I am still continuing the campaign for an inquiry into 7/7, and you will be hearing more about that in the next few weeks. And the book will be finished soon, and then I have my wedding to look forward to, and a new career as a novelist and freelance writer to try to make a success of. As always, I am extremely grateful for the support and well-wishes of my family, partner, friends, readers, and fellow-passengers. I am not giving up blogging. But I am trying to protect myself during a difficult time by taking a short break from it.

Back soon, I promise. And I might post some links to other blogs I have enjoyed, and some recipes over the weekend that I have been cooking, to keep the blog ticking over. (The casserole dish has come into its own recently during this cold weather.)

Cheers, and look after your lovely selves