Category Archives: The Great Recession

On hearing Lord Dyson’s ruling that appeals against the Bedroom Tax were “manifestly without reasonable foundation.”

When is a society, a Civil Society?

When rulers don’t wage war on the people they are supposed to be ruling?
When the needs of those deemed most venerable, are considered?
When efforts are made to establish peaceful coexistence, are not overturned?
When reality rather than ideology is used to determine policy?
When the Courts of Appeal uphold the law not bad government?
When despair does not colour every day?

Whose Side Are You On?

Last Friday I celebrated the feast day of a third century Roman saint. I didn’t go to church, burn a candle, say a prayer, or take communion. But nor did most of this countries husbands and wives and lovers. They bought flowers, and cards, and broke bread together. And it’s easy to mock those who fall for the commercial sting that is St Valentine’s Day. Easy to dismiss an ancient festival, that may have it’s origins in pagan worship. Easy to say it was invented by card manufactures; when it wasn’t.

St Valentine or Valentinus as he was known in the third century, is lost to us. On the 14th February he was martyred on Via Flaminia in the north of Rome. And that’s about all we know about him. He’s on the Catholic Churches list of officially recognized saints for local veneration; the Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox Churches all recognise him. So he’s the real deal; not some capitalists dream.

Valentinus died for his beliefs. He died because the persecution of Christians  was an empire wide sport before Constantine adopted Christianity. The early Christians perplexed the pagan world. They happily embraced death; no matter how horrific. Sometimes they sought out martyrdom because it venerated Jesus Christ. Because they were certain of meeting God.

People like Valentinus were executed because they were considered a threat. Because they believed in things like: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Two millennia have passed. His persecutors empire has crumbled into dust. Christianity is a global religion. In Western Europe, people are no longer put to death. Yet in Britain a million children go to school hungry. Families who rely on food banks are called lazy. People born into privilege and wealth, accumulate more wealth.

I don’t know what Valentinus would make of a bunch of millionaires persecuting the sick, poor and disabled. But I do know whose side he’d be on.

Moving to the light

I’d like to rewind to January 25th, 2014. I’d like to revise my doom laden title; what to, I do not know. But it’s not going to be The Great Recession; because although the damned thing has been messing with my life, for five years, it’s not got the better of me yet. I’m constantly moving out of the darkness and into the light.

Untitled Thriller, C5 extract.        January, 2014

“Everyday I set sail on the great ocean. Sometimes the journey begins calmly; other times the waves are already beating against the sea wall. Yet no-matter how the day begins, we all begin it the same. In that first second of consciousness you are neither happy, sad, in love or out of love – you are simply alive. You’ve cheated death and woke-up. The great race to darkness has begun again.”

September Song.

I recall the summer of 2003 as being exceptionally hot. I moved houses on one of those hot days, when removal men sweated buckets. As the day progressed their t-shirts began to sag with moisture, and one man looked like he would explode.

During August there was a week long course at an IT company close to Bank station: it was an easy week, and I even managed to slip in a party at London Zoo on Thursday night. Back in the days of prosperity, my employer had an annual summer party; it was a thank you to the workers, and it actually did make a difference.

On Friday people needed to get to other parts of the country, so we packed-up early. I was able to pick-up my daughter from school that day; she stayed weekends with me, and weekdays with her mother. She has just turned four, a wonderful age.

There were dates with women, work, and occasional carousing.  My life was a mixture of light and shade; with no extremes of happiness or sadness. It rolled on, unexceptionally. After a ten year hiatus, I began writing again.

Right back there.                                  September, 2003

There’s no future here; nuthin left to farm. All my kids have rickets and Ma ain’t got no milk. Jimmy’s  drinkin   powder  from  the  government; the rest just go without.
Out there in California, I hear they have jobs. Food for my kids and decent places to live.  They can sell us a lie, but not the same lie twice.  For all our sakes I hope this new one is true.
When the well ran dry last week; I took down the crucifix above our bed. I said to Ma:
“If he’s done with us, then he might as well make us some firewood.”
I burnt the blessing from the bishop too.
“The warmest the old bastards been all his life,” said Ma.
She covered her mouth and gave heaven a glance. But I’ve heard her say worse.
The night Jimmy was born, she swore and she screamed:
 “Whore, child of Satan,” at Mrs Weir.
The baby’s head was stuck and she needed to cut, to save both their lives.
Mrs Weir, the pharmacist’s wife, shouted:
“Make yourself useful man and hold your wife down.”
So I did.
She spat in my face, when the blade cut her flesh. Called me a pig and things I’d like to forget. All those words made me angry, but I held on to her just the same. I could feel her life force ebbing away.  Like all those animals that have died at my hands: I waited for the final spasm, when her soul would jump away.
Then a miracle happened.  Mrs Weir handed me Jimmy, covered in blood.
“Now make yourself useful and clean up your son, while I deal with your wife.”
I whispered:
 “I love you Ma”, but her eyes were closed, so I suppose she didn’t hear.
A push from Mrs Weir got me out of the room. I don’t know what she did, but she saved my wife’s life.
A year ago, I was sayin:
“Thank you lord,” for sparing Ma and Jimmy.
And now I’m beggin; that he doesn’t take them both away.

The Great Recession

I’m going to be posting extracts from my forthcoming book: The Great Recession.

It’s a loose collection of writing spanning ten years and a couple of months (2003 to 2014). Fiction, poetry, photographs and some autobiography. Its out on Kindle in the Spring.

I can hear it coming.                  January 2014

At night, as I lie awake in bed, I listen to the sound of the railway.
Rolling thunder and screeching metal wheels.
It reminds me of a time before the Great Recession;
When I had to imagine how poverty and pain felt.