Relaxing and protesting

November 19, 2013

I love getting lost in a book. For me it is one of my primary methods of relaxation along with going for a walk (no running, please) and music.

Ah, yes. Music… little can be more relaxing, or more frustrating than writing and playing music. I’ve played guitar for many years and have written a few things along the way. A few years ago a friend asked me to write a song for him to do instead of a ‘best man’ speech and that was my first incursion into writing parody songs. I’ve carried on doing it for myself, and just for myself, ever since.

Until a few years ago …. I have a friend in Nottinghamshire who frequents the acousticsoundboard forum and will occasionally challenge me to write a song. We were bemoaning the lack of good protest songs and he sent me this link and challenged me to do something with it… so I did:

A Protest Song

The story developed and the individual concerned learned that he was going to be prosecuted for ‘vandalism’ which initially required another verse to be written (but not recorded):

It is so unfair I’m being prosecuted
For my protest on the cobbles of Red Square
But I’m up before the beak tomorrow morning
And I doubt that I will get much justice there
But I cannot stand by idly while the politicians lie
And at least my protest made the daily news
And that’s why I nailed me knackers, yes that’s why I nailed me knackers
Yes, that’s why I nailed me knackers to the mews

But I decided that, as in every democracy (and, surely, Russia is a democracy, right?) the State had a right, nay, an obligation to explain itself and so got to thinking what that response might sound like… maybe something like this:

Putin’s Right Of Reply

So, there you go … now you know my dirty little secret. When I get the chance, and when I am either ‘inspired’ or, more likely, challenged, I relax by writing and recording supposedly comic songs (although I do some serious ones occasionally, too)


A couple of events…

September 20, 2013

Some of you may be interested in  these events, most will not but, hey ho!

Both are taking place at Luther King House, Brighton Grove, Manchester

Fresh Expressions Day Workshop:
New ways of being church?
Saturday 28th September 2013 
10.00 – 4.00 pm  

·         Are you wanting to explore new ways of worship and mission?
·         Are you involved in a new expression of church?

This workshop, led by Linda Rayner, the Fresh  Expressions co-ordinator for the United Reformed Church, will look at what we understand by fresh expressions and include creative and practical ideas, as well as lots of real-life examples.

Cost £20 including teas and coffees.  You may bring your own lunch, or buy a meal (approximately £5) in our dining room.

Fliers and a booking form for this event can be found on our website:  click here
or contact the registry office:  Phone: 0161 249 2504    Email: learning@lkh.co.uk

Sam Sharpe Lecture:

As part of the open learning programme at Luther King House, in October The Northern Baptist Learning Community will be hosting the second Annual Sam Sharpe Lecture.  This will be at 18.30 on October 1st.  The speaker will be Dr. Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.  The lecture is entitled Deconstructing The Notion Of Race.  For full details please follow the link below.

http://northernbc.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/2nd-annual-sam-sharpe-lecture/

Please note that because we are expecting more numbers than usual and because there will be food after the lecture, you are asked to book in.
To book, please contact Glyn Chatterton:  g.chatterton@northern.org.uk  0161 249 2546.

A Year and a Bit …

September 12, 2013

A year and a bit further on from the publication of the Independent Panel’s report on the Hillsborough Disaster and what has happened?

Not a lot.

“But what about the investigation promised by Home Secretary Theresa May?” I hear you cry. Well, the team has spent 12 months being assembled and moving into new premises so it hasn’t actually had time to do anything apparently.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/hillsborough-disaster-an-investigation-going-nowhere-8810228.html

“What? not even easy stuff like strip Norman Bettison of his Knighthood?” Nope, not even that. Despite all the evidence that he has consistently misled the investigations, that he was more interested in preserving his reputation than finding out the truth and that, had he not resigned, he would most likely have faced disciplinary charges leading to dismissal, nothing has been done.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/hillsborough-police-chief-norman-bettison-5854854

Anne Williams has died. She died not having the truth about her son acknowledged, but believing that this was all coming to an end. Thank God she isn’t alive to see the authorities dragging their feet once again.

But they need to be reminded – we will not give up.


2012 in review

December 31, 2012

I can’t help thinking that I made the same resolution last year, too …. but I really ought to try to be more active on my blog! WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


Vindicated or Vindictive?

September 14, 2012

I don’t know how other people see me, but I like to think that I’m a reasonably laid-back sort of person; slow to anger, quick to forgive … that sort of thing.

3 years and 100 or so days ago, I wrote this piece about my experiences at Hillsborough on 15th April 1989.

2 days ago the Hillsborough Independent Panel published their report. They stressed that it wasn’t an inquiry – they hadn’t had witnesses or any powers – they had just been given access to ALL the evidence relating to the events of that day.

I was at a meeting in the morning, an important meeting about how the United Reformed Church (my employer) might most effectively meet the training needs of Ministers and lay people, but I couldn’t really concentrate. I was refreshing my twitter feed every few moments as new facts dribbled out as the panel, quite rightly, first reported to the families of those who had lost loved ones.

  • 164 Police statements had been altered to ensure that South Yorkshire Police Service wasn’t shown in a bad light and that officers were put under immense pressure to amend their statements. If they wouldn’t, it was done for them.
  • The ambulance service had changed statements, too.
  • Every victim (even a 10 year old) had their blood alcohol level checked and, for some, then had their names checked against the Police National Computer to see if there was a criminal record which could be used to ‘offset’ their innocence.
  • Potentially, 41 lives could have been saved if medical attention had been forthcoming on the pitch.

The facts kept coming and coming. I wasn’t sure how I was feeling – I had to pull over and stop the car to listen to the Prime Minister give his response. He sounded, on the radio, as shocked and genuinely appalled as anyone else.

My blood was beginning to boil … but I didn’t know what I wanted to happen next. Having been blamed for the events 23 years ago I, my fellow fans, my football club and my city had been completely exonerated. It was a weight off my shoulders… but, as my original post had said “where there’s blame, there’s a claim”… the blame for the disastrous events had been laid firmly at the door of the FA, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and South Yorkshire Police. What did I want to happen? I couldn’t really think about that… I was happy, delirious in fact, that at last, 23 years on, the truth had finally seen the light of day.

Apology after apology started rolling in, starting with David Cameron and Ed Milliband. Quickly followed by SWFC, South Yorkshire Police, it took the FA a further 24 hours to apologise but even they made it eventually. The S*n and Kelvin MacKenzie apologised, too, but theirs was worthless and self-serving and, consequently, ignored by just about everybody.

David Duckenfield, the police officer supposedly in charge that day, had been allowed to retire on a full pension at the age of 46 as a result of ‘Ill health’. Ill health is better than dying, eh, Duckenfield?

Then Kenny Dalglish who did so much for the families, club and city in the immediate aftermath of the disaster tweeted: “Very positive outcome. 23 years waiting for the truth. Next step justice”. And I thought, “yeah; justice!”

And then I started wondering what Justice might actually mean in this context, what shape, form or action it might take. And I realised that I didn’t know. I certainly wouldn’t presume to speak for those who have lost in a far more tangible way than I, I can only speak for myself. What do *I* want?

Well, I would like to know that those who were responsible for all that happened that day, who caused the problem and then failed to react effectively to the problem they had caused had been censured. I would like to know that some particular individuals (David Duckenfield) had paid a practical price – although I’ve no idea whether he even feels in any way culpable for what he caused.

I would like to know that those who took deliberate actions to place the blame, knowing that the information they were giving out was completely incorrect, on the shoulders of Liverpool fans, both fully understand and accept their guilt and, I would hope are prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows.

I would like to know that those in the ‘establishment’ who caused this whole thing to be unresolved for 23 long years understand the immense pain and hurt they caused to so many people, not just the bereaved although, God knows, their pain has been more than most.

Most importantly, I want the original verdicts of ‘accidental death’ to be overturned and new inquests held so that people like Anne Williams can get the answers she needs.

Having not been able to define what I mean ‘justice’ to be in this context, I am quite clear what it isn’t: it isn’t vindictive retribution. So long as people feel genuine remorse and are sincere in their apologies (although, as stated, those who broke the law should be prosecuted irrespective of how sincerely they regret their actions).

Except, maybe to Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor of The S*n at the time, who I hope burns in hell for eternity for what he knowingly did to besmirch the characters of the dead, of my fellow fans, of the football club, of the city, and of me.

My elder brother, an Evertonian, sent me a text on the evening the panel’s report was published saying that he hoped I felt vindicated. At the time I replied saying that I didn’t, but I did feel less guilty for having survived and being made to feel that I was, in some way responsible.

2 days later, having thought about little else, I realise that he was right – I do feel vindicated. My blog of 3 years ago was wrong – Liverpool fans were in NO WAY to blame, late arriving or not. The actions of so many brave, respectful people, from those who lost loved ones in the disaster, from people like Andy Burnham MP, Steve Rotherham MP and Maria Eagle MP who wouldn’t let the House of Commons have a moment’s peace until something was done and the actions and voices of people, many many thousands of people just like me in refusing to accept that what happened that day was an ‘accident’ and have fought for 23 years to get someone to listen and investigate has been vindicated.

People say that the most shocking revelation of the panel is that 41 of those who died could have been saved.

I would remind you that, if people had done their jobs properly in the first place, in selecting a ground which had a valid safety certificate, in allocating tickets sensibly, in stewarding the ground effectively, in postponing kick off to allow those who had been delayed by traffic to access the ground … if these people had done their jobs properly then 96 people would not have died in the first place.

Justice for the 96 … and for all those still affected by the events in Sheffield on the 15th April 1989.

Hillsborough Family Support Group

Hillsborough Justice Campaign

Hope For Hillsborough


Holy Land 2012 – Day 12

September 3, 2012

Heading to the airport today, but not before taking in 2 more important religious sites in Jerusalem. Having put our bags on the bus, we walked down to the Damascus Gate before walking through the old city to Haram esh-Sharif, better known to us as the Temple Mount. Security was tight but we eventually made it through and climbed up the wooden walkway overlooking the Western Wall. Reaching the top, Brian gave a brief explanation of the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa mosque and the (sadly covered) Dome of Chains before we took the exit at the Eastern corner and headed down to the Church of St Anne (Crusader church built around 1140 on the site of a chapel built by the Byzantine Empress, Queen Eudoxia in AD438, allegedly over part of the home of Mary’s parents: Anne and Joachim). The site also contains the archeological remains of the Pools of Bethesda at which Jesus performed a healing miracle.

Leaving the old city by the Zion Gate for the last time we picked up our coach and headed to Abu Ghosh and the church of St Mary of the Resurrection. A resting place both of the ark of the Covenant and the crusader army before taking Jerusalem the site has a marvellous crusader church with an intriguing crypt built over a fresh water spring.

Our final visit before the airport was to Sataff. It was a poignant end to our pilgrimage journey as the group walked through the Israeli National Park to the ruined village of Sataff – one of a number of Arab villages cleared and destroyed in the 1948 ‘land grab’ campaign of Israeli terrorists. Lunch was shared in the cafe overlooking the village remains …

And so to the airport. A brief scare when security took issue with a photo being taken by a member of the group (no names; but her initials are Helen Chappell… Oops!). After deleting the photo we made our way to the terminal ready for our flight.

Thanks are due to all who made our visit memorable and to the many friends we met along the way.

I hope the group enjoyed the, at times arduous, experience – thanks to all of them for not complaining too much!

Major thanks are due to our friends in the Holy Land: Jack and Tamara Giacaman and, of course, Khalil and Eliane Abdinnour who made so many of the arrangements.

And a final ‘thank you’ to Brian who worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the trip both before and during… What a ‘jolly’ good guide 🙂

That’s all, Folks!!!!

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Holy Land 2012 – Day 11

September 2, 2012

A short walk this morning to bring us to St George’s Anglican Cathedral where Brian was invited to recite the Collect for the day and also the Gospel reading. He concelebrated (yes, I know that’s not a URC word!) with Hassem, the Dean of the cathedral along with his old friend Suheil Dawani, the Bishop of Jerusalem who met with us after the service to offer insight into the way Christians are often seen as the ‘voice of moderation’ in the region.

Luay picked us up in the bus and tool us to Ramallah where we picked up Dr Abdellatif Mohammed, the Deputy General Director of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees – a URC Commitment For Life partner who was to be our guide for the afternoon.

Passing Beirzit university on the way Abdellatif took us to 2 projects – a land reclamation project in a village called Kufl Hares where nearly 3.5 hectares of land has been made arable primarily through the use of stone walls to increase soil humidity and reduce erosion and, later, to Almdwar where PARC has helped a farmers’ cooperative to provide water for their field 24 hours a day – whilst also reducing the amount of water used, thus saving money.

The cooperative provided us with a magnificent lunch of local food before the coach brought us back, via the Kalandia checkpoint (at which 2 security officers with sub-machine guns boarded the bus to check our passports)

Palestinians certainly like their speed bumps. I reckon we went over about 150 on the way back – some at speed – so with a headache and an impacted spine I was glad to get back to our hotel in Jerusalem!

The evening was spent catching up with some of my young friends with whom I have worked for the last 7 years as part of the Kids4Hope and, latterly, Youth4Hope programmes. They have such honesty and openness – it has been an honour for me to be a small part of their lives.

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