BOND AND THE GREAT BRITISH SELL-OFF

FEBRUARY 2020 – AN ENGLISH STATELY HOME, NOW A COUNTRY CLUB

The crunch of gravel underfoot and sting of the frosty morning air on his face elicited a smirk of contentment from Bond as he sprung his door lock with a click. He was alive and ready for his next test. No sooner had he fired up the engine of his Aston Martin Zagato, engaged seat heater and adjusted the cabin thermostat, than his mobile rang.

“Bond.”

“Have you heard the news, Bond?”

“I’ve been keeping a cute masseuse busy at my club, what’s happened?”

“Spectre’s plans to de-stabilise the West have taken a big step forward.”

“Explain?”

“Their USA agent, Donald Trump, has just been re-elected. We’ve just intercepted a conversation between him and his British counterpart, Agent BoJo. They’re about to put the next phase of their grand plan into motion.”

“Can you play it to me?”

“Certainly. Here is the relevant extract…”

“…my most discombobulating applause, nay, Roman Senatorial salute, to you, mighty orange leader, for your excellent and devious re-election.”

“Cut that annoying word-play, Boris. Keep it for the Limey Press. Now we’ve both lied to and confused our people enough to get elected, it’s time to put our plan into action.”

“Of course it is, oh Great Carbuncle.”

“I hope you mean that affectionately, Boris. Now get hold of that weasly guy with the foreign name…”

“Do you mean Nigel… erm… Farage?”

“Yeah. Agent Mirage, let’s call him. He’s a barely believable vision of false hope. Now you two get busy with collapsing the British economy and trading the Pound down until it’s worth as much as a lousy nickle. Then make a very public appeal for help to the good old US of A and I’ll come to the rescue. It’ll be a work of art, Boris. A piece of homemade apple pie. The last and greatest privatisation – Britain sold to the USA for a pittance to become our overseas colony and launchpad for European de-stabilisation. It’s a beautiful plan. I’m so clever.”

Mini Me Too

“Oh yes you are, mighty orange-furred bear. The stupid British are so easy to manipulate with their pathetic aspiration, their tacky cuckoo clocks and cheap Banksy prints, so easily distracted with cookery shows and obsessed with selling their junk on the Antiques Roadshow…”

“Yes, yes, Boris, stay focussed. Remember the sequence – number one?”

“Erm, number one – put an end to all public spending.”

“Yeah. Number two?”

“Err… This will lead to famine, preventable deaths and widespread rioting, so declare a state of emergency and mobilise what’s left of our run-down military.”

“Good. Then part three?”

“Errr… part three, mmm… can you help me out?”

“You oaf, lay off the brandy and American chicks! Number three is start a run on the pound. You and the Mirage will organise the wholesale selling of the pound until your currency collapses. I’ll get Soros in Wall Street to do the same. After a few days, your pathetic parliament, isolated from Europe, will be begging us to come in and help…”

“Yeah! and that’s when I’ll take control of negotiations and we’ll cut one of your deals!”

“That’s right Boris. Britain will be so weak and confused, I’ll buy it for a few bucks and kick the Royal Family out of those palaces that we’ve earmarked for Trump Hotels. We’ll arrange safe extraction for you and anyone you care about… is there anyone?”

“I, erm, can’t think of anyone offhand, Donald… all my ex’s and my children hate me.”

“Nevermind. We’ll fly you back to the city of your birth, New York – we haven’t forgotten that you’re one of us at heart – where you can rule Britannia from a safe distance. We always knew you’d come back, Boris. The ensuing civil war should reduce your population to a more manageable 40 million. Then we’ll send the troops in. It’ll be like that movie, 28 Days Later – one of my favourites…”

Bond interrupted the recording with a bellow of rage. “I’ve heard enough, X! That smug, entitled buffoon must be stopped before this escalates!”

“Precisely, Bond. Come in for a briefing and then see Q for the latest deadly gadgets. You’re going to need all the stealth you can muster to get close to agents BoJo and the slippery Mirage. They must be eliminated – this comes right from the top. BoJo lied to our Head of State and now she wants payback. Get here as fast as you can.”

With a spray of gravel, Bond headed down the driveway and out through ornate sandstone gates onto a peaceful country lane. Its peace was soon torn apart as he floored the accelerator and with a mighty roar, leapt to 80 in a heartbeat. Bond felt the call of history on his shoulder – all his previous missions had merely been practice for this monumental moment. The smokescreen of Brexit had distracted a divided country, allowing the party of corporate greed and asset-stripping to be re-elected with a working majority.

“How foolish and gullible we are,” Bond muttered through grinding teeth. “But I’ll fix it. Sometimes democracy needs a helping hand.”

Boris-Johnson-Donald-Trump

The Day John Lennon Died

On Monday, 8 December 1980, John Lennon was shot by disturbed ‘fan’ Mark Chapman in the archway of the Dakota Building, his residence in New York City. He was pronounced dead soon after his arrival at hospital. The ex-Beatle had just turned 40 and had recently recorded a new album, Double Fantasy, that celebrated his new zest for life – his single Starting Over was still in the charts. Now, on the 37th anniversary of his shocking murder, I’ve decided to share my personal memory of that day…

john-lennon-quotes-happy-quotes

I woke up, got out of bed and dragged a comb through my tangled mop of red hair. It was still dark outside. My alarm had gone off at the ridiculously early time of 4.45am on the morning of Tuesday 9th December 1980. I was a 19-year-old trainee reporter for a Liverpool news magazine, The Woolton Mercury, and had an appointment at BBC Radio Merseyside studios in central Liverpool to write a piece on the workings of local radio. I was a tall, skinny youth, still living at home, who dressed almost exclusively in black. My musical tastes had moved on from the Beatles and Glam Rock to punk and new wave, reflected in my music column that featured new releases and gig reviews. I was a member of Erics club in Liverpool where I saw punk and new wave bands most weekends including: Joy Division, Magazine, Buzzcocks, OMD, Teardrop Explodes, Stiff Little Fingers, The Stranglers, The Damned (featuring Lemmy!)… you get the picture.

The streetlights were still on and a milk float rumbled into our road as I buttoned my black Crombie overcoat and headed for the bus stop. The bus was warm as I joined a handful of silent shift workers on a speedy forty minute journey to Castle Street. From there a short walk took me through a deserted city centre to Commerce House – a grey 50s concrete building that had housed Radio Merseyside since its start in 1967 [note: this was before their move to their new purpose-built office on Paradise Street].

Roger Phillips BBC Radio Merseyside2
Radio Merseyside Presenter – Roger Phillips

They were expecting me, as arranged, at 6.00am. I was greeted by Studio Manager, Phil Pinnington, a suave, dapper gent, who placed me in the capable hands of Studio Assistant, Janice Long (yes, Keith Chegwin’s sister who went on to be an acclaimed national radio DJ and host of Top of the Pops). I was shown around the newsroom and the newsgathering process was explained to me by Newsreader, Tony Nutter. In the pre-digital age, reel-to-reel tape recorders and spools of tapes were everywhere and two teleprinters spewed out news items on ticker tape from the national BBC newsroom in London. I was shown how soundbites (interview clips) were spliced together for use in news bulletins.

My published article in The Woolton Mercury records that at that time (about 6.30am) there were no major news stories coming through:

“One such news item that came through on the teleprinter concerned a US Army deserter who had been arrested at Risley Remand Centre with two canisters of nerve gas strapped to his legs.” Tony explained that this would be classified as a ‘human interest’ story and held in reserve to be used only if there was a lull in the news. As it turned out, it would not be needed.
popart-rock-n-roll lennonJanice made me a mug of tea and I was ushered into the studio where veteran presenter, Alan Jackson, was cranking-up the breakfast drive-time show. A local lad from Prescott in Merseyside, he was warm, friendly and soon put me at ease. He asked me a few questions about my series on local media, and casually said after the next record he would do a little interview with me.

“Erm, live, on air?” I squeaked.

“You’ll be fine,” he laughed. “Just say what you’ve already told me and speak in your normal voice.”

And so my first radio interview took place, just before 7.00am on Tuesday 9th December 1980. I was scribbling a few notes in my reporter’s notebook when Phil popped his head in the studio door and announced in a hushed but earnest tone: “John Lennon has been shot.”

Alan’s eyes were wide in shock and a quick conversation between the media veterans instantly ensued along the lines of, “Call all our contacts who knew John and the Beatles – let’s start lining up responses as the news story unfolds…” This was personal. John was a much-loved son of the city and the magnitude of the event meant it instantly took center stage.

And so I sat there for the next three hours as the staff of Radio Merseyside pulled together and presented the news of John’s shooting in New York City, playing Imagine (several times) and Give Peace a Chance along with early Beatles classics such as Twist and Shout. To this day, I still get goosebumps and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck whenever I hear John’s raunchy rock vocals on Twist and Shout. For me, it will forever be associated with that day.

“…reports are still coming in that John Lennon has been shot outside his apartment building in New York…”

Alan Jackson vacated his seat for Morning Merseyside presenter, Roger Phillips, who took on the uncomfortable task of building a show devoted to outpourings of concern for John as we waited with trepidation for further news. The confirmation that John was dead came barely an hour later, and a state of shock descended on the city as the news was rolled out.

Shocked interview subjects shared their reminiscences of John over the airwaves as the city awoke to the devastating news on that cold December Tuesday. I left the studio at about 11.00 and made my way home in numb silence. It wasn’t meant to end this way for John, who had seemed to have found happiness in his new life with wife Yoko and son Sean in New York. By lunchtime, it was the headline item on the BBC television news.

Interviewing Bert Kwok at Granada TV0002
That’s me on the left interviewing Pink Panther actor Bert Kwok in 1981 at Liverpool’s Granada TV studio for the second article in my series on Liverpool news media

The following Saturday I joined a crowd estimated at over 30,000 on the plaza outside St George’s Hall for music, readings and prayers as the city grieved over the death of a favourite son. It was the final end to hopes of a Beatles reunion, and consigned John’s body of work to the past tense. The man who asked us to give peace a chance had been the victim of an ugly act of murder by a psychotic ‘fan’ who earlier in the day had waited patiently to get John’s autograph. It was unpredictable, pointless and the cause of such grief and pain for those who loved the man and his work and who had been entertained and inspired by his music, wit and free spirit. It was our JFK moment – we remember what we were doing or where we were when we heard the news. John was dead and we had to accept it; and I know it’s a cliché but I’m going to give it an airing – his memory lives on through his music and his pro-peace sentiments.

As for me, I moved on to reporting and film reviewing for another Liverpool newspaper later that year, and in 1982 won a place to study for a degree course in Communication Studies. I became editor of the student magazine, utilising the experience I had garnered at The Woolton Mercury. After graduating, my path led me to London where I started a career working in the newspaper publishing industry – not as a journalist, but in product development and market research. I re-directed my creative mind to dull but commercially vital report writing and conducting training sessions for sales reps. I had unintentionally joined the group of frustrated creatives who are thwarted from making a living doing what we really want to do. At least John had that.

the-beatles-artThe anniversary of Lennon’s death still prompts outpourings of grief from fans around the World, although this is perhaps something John himself would not have wanted.

In one of his last major print interviews published in Playboy magazine, he said: “I don’t have any romanticism about any part of my past. I don’t believe in yesterday. I’m only interested in what I’m doing now.”

 *****

As a footnote to my earlier comment that my musical tastes in 1980 had moved on from The Beatles – their music continued to provide an enduring ingredient to the cultural wallpaper of Liverpool, a city that never fell out of love with the Fab Four. Every jukebox in every pub in Liverpool had Beatles singles that were frequently played along with other rock, punk and pop classics. There was no Beatles tourism activity in the 80s – that came later from the 90s onwards when musical nostalgia grew into an industry. We knew where the Beatles lived and the places they performed – Liverpudlians will always be intensely proud of their successful sons and daughters without any shows of fuss or drama.

When writing this piece, I checked what records and gigs I had reviewed in my music column in the weeks before Lennon’s death and found, next to a gig review of The Stranglers, this:-

“This Week’s New Single Releases –

UB40 – The Earth Dies Screaming [reviewed]

John Lennon – (Just Like) Starting Over – And who knows, maybe John is turning over a new leaf. This boppy, jog-a-long song has already been hailed as a ‘shhhh, it’s almost Christmas’ single, and will have the ex-Beatle laughing all the way to the bank. His first UK single release for some time, it’s already looking like a safe bet for Christmas No.1…”

It was actually No.2 in the UK Christmas charts behind, erm, There’s No One Quite Like Grandma by St Winifred’s School Choir. The first chart of 1981 saw re-issues of Imagine at No. 1 and Merry Xmas (War is Over) by John and Yoko at No.2. The worldwide outpouring of grief for the witty Scouser led to a celebration of his life and the birth of his legend.

GUNS N’ HOUSES

Guns n houses2Two things have caught my attention in last week’s news. The first – British Prime Minister Theresa May bravely battling through a hacking cough, falling signs and an unfunny prankster to sell us the unbelievable notion that her party actually cares about citizen welfare. The second – another appalling, almost apocalyptic, mass shooting in the USA.

In my own quixotic, febrile mind these two events are connected. You see, both the USA and the UK are hostages to their history and socio-cultural development. In the case of the UK, there is an obsession with home ownership that started out as a quite reasonable desire to well, own your own home. This dream has been cynically hijacked by the forces of capitalism who have now gained such a tight control over our lives that we are being slowly rendered powerless vassals to an uncaring system who see us merely as consumers on the one hand and units of labour to be exploited for profit on the other (or replaced if we ask for decent pay and conditions).

Theresa May chose to swerve the impending car crash of Brexit in her party conference speech and instead headed straight for the heart-and-soul of a creaking nation – home ownership. Since her heroine Margaret Thatcher’s ruinous rebalancing of the economy to render it up as a sacrificial lamb to the Wolf of Wall Street, our housing sector has become the Property Market and is now an investment opportunity for international crooks and money-launderers rather than serving its intended function of housing people. Citizens need to be housed, even in an aggressive advanced capitalist system, otherwise, how are they going to work and pay taxes? But there’s too much money invested, too much at stake, to reform this ugly investment beast. So suck it up, Britain.

Mrs May unwisely chose to highlight the fact that today’s younger generation, apart those with millionaire parents, have been priced out of the housing market and will never realize their dream of owning their own home. So are the Tories advocating low-cost rental schemes? No – private renting has become a huge source of investment and wealth-creation in its own right, feeding off the fat carcass of an over-inflated property market. Instead, she made a weak and insincere ‘promise’ to invest in ‘affordable housing’, to the sneers of her watching colleagues. This is from a Party hell-bent on withdrawing from all its responsibilities towards citizen welfare – the slow pulling-back of a parental hand from a dying child. The charities sector will take up the slack in a post-welfare state Britain if this lot continues to be re-elected.

Why did she do it? They certainly don’t intend to intervene to allay our misery at ongoing economic exploitation – just the usual lies and sops that at least let us know they are aware of our distress – like Fritzel feeding his imprisoned daughter and rape-victim with mock shows of kindness that merely reinforce the power relationship between the exploiter and exploited. Will we ever break away from this increasingly totalitarian global capitalist super-state? They have done a brilliant job of subverting our democracy and bamboozling our media with, yes, you’ve guessed it – FAKE NEWS.

Which brings me to part two of my rant. Our capitalist cousin, the USA, is reeling after the latest incident of mass-murder by a gun-toting maniac who had amassed an arsenal of over twenty weapons. Islamic State added a darkly sinister attempt at humour by trying to take the credit for a killing spree carefully planned and executed by a white retired millionaire accountant. The playground of the affluent – Las Vegas – became the killing ground for the insane gunning-down of hundreds of concert-goers in a carnival of pure evil. Why does the USA so proudly cling to its ‘right to bear arms’? Thomas Jefferson is long dead and the British colonisers long-gone, so why the need? Well, one gun shop owner explained to a bemused reporter that an armed citizenry prevents an overbearing state from exploiting them – in a chilling act of defiance bordering on the threat of re-opening the civil war. USA, you are in one helluva mess.

So, in conclusion, we are all living under a global capitalist system whose aim is to squeeze every penny it can out of us with as little investment in our welfare as is possible. A wealthy elite will prosper and we will all pay for it.

The difference between the UK and USA is that US citizens are armed and dangerous…Guns n houses2

Our Increasingly Dystopian Society

We are, perhaps, more familiar with the term ‘Utopian’ that describes a society that’s conceived to be perfect. ‘Dystopian’ is the exact opposite — it describes an imaginary society that is as dehumanising and unpleasant as possible. Dystopian stories are often set in the future and come as warnings for us to reflect on trends in our societies and mend our easy-going ways or else risk falling into the hands of an oppressive regime. Popular literary examples are George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, now finding new readers.

DevilGateDawnModifiedCover_Aug_2016As a writer, I’m also constantly attuned to trends in our governance that might be undermining the personal freedoms and opportunities for advancement we currently enjoy in Western societies. My attention was drawn to a news item this morning (12/02/2017) tucked away in a tiny space in my e-newspaper, The Mirror, that to me screams, ‘Beware of the encroaching Dystopian Society!’

ONE MILLION ON ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS

The report states, quite calmly, that the number of workers on zero hours contracts is set to exceed one million for the first time. Figures for 2016 show over 900,000 on zero hour contracts – workers on hourly rate with no guarantee of working hours, no job security and often on the minimum wage. Employers argue that a flexible labour market where staff are called in at a moment’s notice with a lack of fixed hours boosts employment. But this leaves workers uncertain of how many hours they will work and how much they can earn each week, often leaving them short of ability to pay rents, transport and feed themselves.

The report states that the Trade Union Congress (TUC) believe that as many as three million workers (one in ten workers in Britain) are now in insecure jobs, such as seasonal, temporary or agency work.

Such insecurity of tenure goes against all the efforts by worker’s representatives and trade unions going back over a hundred years to fight for workers rights and to be treated with respect by their employers. Sadly, the current climate we live in of harsh capitalist exploitation, backed up by uncaring governments who see their job as furthering the interests of Big Business ahead of looking after the welfare of citizens is, well, leading us down the rocky road to a dystopian, authoritarian state.

This is coming fast, in my opinion. In Britain we have had thirty years of Thatcherist politics that have seen national infrastructure ruthlessly asset-stripped under the name of Privatisation, to the extent that most of our utility and transport companies are foreign owned and operated at high cost to the consumer. Also, our property market has become a free-for-all investment product for international criminals, Tax-dodgers and foreign governments, pricing our citizens out of being able to afford a roof over their heads.

I have long been suspicious of successive governments feebly apologising for missing net inward migration targets by several hundreds of thousands, foolishly believing their narrative that they’ have no control’. Of course they have control, at point of entry. In reality, I believe they have deliberately created a large, multi-cultural, low-paid labour pool of people desperate enough to work long hours for the minimum wage, and thus drive down wages for our working class citizens. We are already witnessing tensions in our towns and cities as this ‘divide and rule’ politics takes effect.

Our opposition parties have been completely compromised by this, not sure on whether to listen to the complaints of hard-pressed citizens or embrace the diversity of new arrivals. By trying to do both, they end up pleasing no one. They are unable to provide a coherent opposition to the forces of rampant global capitalism as represented by our ruling party, The Conservatives. Sadly, our educated liberal elite in their rush to embrace ‘One-World-ism’ are unwittingly aiding and abetting our sly capitalist leaders in their aim of creating a large, low-paid underclass of workers whose freedoms and rights are slowly being whittled away.

Don’t get me wrong. I bear no ill-will to any people looking for ‘a better life’, and reject all forms of discrimination. I just have a problem with the cynical politics of exploitation for profit that throws people from different backgrounds together, whilst denying them the ability to have a descent standard of living (added to a growing crisis in schools and healthcare) in a race to the bottom of average earnings. Our government is taking us out of the European Union and will use that opportunity to repeal worker’s rights and human rights legislation. Citizens need to wake up and see what is happening…

Boris in ChinaOtherwise we will end up in a 1984-type totalitarian state with ‘Big Boris’ as a pantomime-villain leader. Let’s face it, the States have already got one – Donald Trump!

Check out my tongue-in-cheek novel, Devil Gate Dawn, now described as ‘dystopian’ because I predicted a paranoid Trump America and post-Brexit chaos in Britain leading to mass voter apathy that leaves us with King Charles (not Big Boris) running the country. Don’t laugh too much, it might happen!

http://myBook.to/DevilGateDawn

Changes Made to Futuristic Novel

I’ve taken on board some useful feedback following the release of my first novel, Devil Gate Dawn, in April 2016, and as a result have made a few changes:

  • The cover has been changed to have a shadow figure standing at the gate
  • The quote on the front has been changed to, ‘Mild-mannered George must face his nemesis’
  • The start of chapter one now has George reflecting on an accident at work, indicating that such traumatic moments contributed to his decision to take early retirement.  Other work-related inner thoughts have been added through the early chapters, showing he is still haunted by past events.  These reflections stop when new events come to dominate his thoughts and actions.

DevilGateDawnModifiedCover_Aug_2016All in all, I’m proud of my achievement in pasting together this story from blogs and new material, and am thankful for the input of my copyeditor, Sinead Fitzgibbon, in helping to shape it into a structured story with sub-plots and suitably developed support characters.

George battles his way through problems with a calm, stoic approach, often bewildered by the extreme methods and actions of others.  In many ways, his pragmatic approach has mirrored my own problems with battling health issues whilst writing it.

I’ve made notes for a follow-up, and have pored over the 10,000 words of my abandoned novel, The Langley Leopard (submitted to the Richard and Judy novel competition three years ago!) that preceded this one, looking to salvage bits.

I’ve temporarily dropped the price to 99p and equivalent in other currencies to attract new readers.

In the meantime, I’m immersed in the mid-fifth century, ploughing on with researching and writing my next historical fiction novel, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans.

http://hyperurl.co/ii7gpl

Trump’s Plan to Ban Friday 13th

A report in the telegraph.co.uk on Friday 13th May posed the question, “Is Friday 13th a disaster for business?”  Apparently, over the last five years the FTSE 100 has closed lower on eight of the ten Friday 13ths. Other financial disasters have happened in recent years on this fateful date, including a dramatic drop in China’s GDP growth, and the running aground with fatal consequences of the Italian cruise liner the Costa Concordia. Coincidence, or are some dark forces at work?

937753-friday-13thOn ‘Black Friday’ 13th October 1989, a failed buyout of United Airlines sent the stock markets plunging and in January of the same year IBM stock plunged as a result of data loss from a computer virus. Just coincidence, or is the ghost of a hockey-keeper-masked, chainsaw-wielding Jason stalking the corridors of Wall Street? Either way, it represents an impediment to the smooth, onward march of International Capitalism, and as such there are plans afoot to remove it.

Now, US Presidential candidate, Donald Trumps, in a move aimed at protecting the wealth base of America’s elite, has declared he will ban Friday the 13th in the future if elected President of the USA. In a recent media briefing he said, “Research findings tell us that one in four believe Friday 13th brings bad luck, which can in itself become a self-fulfilling prophesy. One in ten refuse to fly and road accidents are higher than on any other Friday.

Friday-the-13th-friday-the-13th“I say, in the interests of maintaining commercial consistency and saving the lives of unlucky citizens, we need to remove this glitch, neutralise it with maximum prejudice, and ban this unlucky date once and for all. This can be achieved by skipping a day, and going from the 12th straight to the 14th, in such a month when it (crossing himself) is due to occur, and adding another number onto the end of the month, either a 31st or a 32nd.”

When asked, “What happens in a February in a leap year, Sir?”

He replied, “Hell, you do the math, boy!”

 

Read this far? Then you need to download and read the thrilling dystopian novel, Devil Gate Dawn, by UK indie author, Tim Walker, featuring President Donald Trump and his wall…

http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B01EGDLHLW

http://amazon.com/dp/B01EGDLHLW