Monthly Archives: April 2012

Arrested in Moscow.

Moscow, August 2005 and one of my Russian friends called me.

“Chris, I need a favour – can you meet a local detective – off to an Interpol conference in Geneva next week – teach them some British police slang?”

I was free that evening so why not?

I sat in the faux Italian cafe Mi Piace on Tverskaya Street and watched the blonde supermodel in the leather miniskirt park her pink Audi on the pavement. I saw the policeman walk up to it. “Ha, a ticket – serves her right” I thought. No, he stood there waiting and watching.

She came up to me.

“Chris? I am Olga Ivanova , Moscow Murder Squad. Talk to me – I need a slang.”

The flash of red knickers as she sat down drained away my focus on John Thaw’s Sweeney lexicon, but I recovered in time. We went through “old bill”, “grass”, “you’re knicked”, “banged up”, ”ten year stretch” and even “sing like a canary”. Olga tapped it all earnestly into her laptop. Until we came to “a stiff” – she was in the murder squad after all. “Translating machine says this is when man is wanting. Yes ?” she looked at me a little too directly. This was not Juliet Bravo.

“Ah yes, quite so – stiff and stiffy .” I think I went through the various connotations accurately enough and in sufficient detail, and we pressed on to “paedos”, “narks” and “bung”. Then her mobile rang – a few words in Russian and, “sorry Chris, colleagues have the stiffy at Leningradsky station. I go now. Goodbye.” Another flash of the knickers and she went to her Audi.

No chance of a night in the cells with Olga then.

Gutted, as they say in The Bill.


(This first appeared on my now defunct Russian blog in 2010 but I still think fondly of Olga.)

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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


I Hate You All.

I have been reading the historian Eric Hobsbawm’s autobiography ‘Interesting Times’. Hobsbawm has been a Marxist all his life and while the book is fascinating, it doesn’t really explain how he became one. He just is one and has been since he was very young. But why?

I think the whole area of where we get our politics from is quite exciting so I have had a brief look at my own influences to see if I can puzzle out why I am what I am. I can’t puzzle it out by the way.

What I am incidentally, is a left-leaning liberal with a very strong anti-authoritarian streak. I am not a socialist mainly because I have real issues with a collectivist mind-set and with any state that has a significant role in my life. Equally I am anti corporate but very pro small scale business. I have a sense that local accountability for both politicians and commercial organisations is essential. I am also a Euro-federalist and a republican. So there.

I guess the possible influencers of a person’s political development would firstly be the family and home environment, then education and then the catch-all category of life experience.

So did I get all this from my parents? Well my mother has been a lifelong hanger and flogger (apart from W.I. members) and my father is a libertarian who mingles some patriotic and militaristic stuff with an increasingly liberal social agenda. In effect they cancel each other out and any chance of rebelling from the view of one parent would just bounce me into the view of the other. So, for once, I can’t really blame my parents.

I have a degree in politics so have read my Aristotle and Burke, my Mill and Rousseau and my Hobbes and Marx. I know my existentialism from my dialectical materialism. Has this influenced me at all? Nope. I left school a liberal and left university in the same mould. I thought I was a anarchist for a while as that type of feral female used to appeal to me but they and the army of Trots on (and teaching) a politics course in the 1970s have had no real influence on me politically.

So what about life experience then? Well I have travelled quite a lot including to some nasty dictatorships, am a news junky and read a fair bit. Surprise, surprise it all confirms that my liberalism is right. Human rights are violated daily, corporates will screw you in any way they can, big politics always leads to big corruption, politicians will play the nationalist and collectivist card when all else is failing and big countries bully small ones.

See. I was right all along. Arrogant but right.

But of course a Trot or a Neo-con seeing the same events will be right in their mind too.

As for where it comes from – well I don’t know, but in my case I try to live my politics. I have always been self employed (apart from an awful 11 months) either running a small business or being freelance. And sweet Jesus it’s been very tough sometimes. I have always worked in international education in some way or other and am naive enough to think that education promotes change for good. I try to shop locally and support non-chain enterprises where I can, and I avoid online shopping. I take an pride in and develop a loyalty to wherever I live. I think Nick Clegg should be lynched.

Before anyone mentions it, yes, my kids go to a private school and yes I drive a Mercedes Benz. Buy me a bottle of champagne and I will justify it to you because like all liberals I can always justify my own behaviour.

And l know where you live.

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Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


On the Box.

Today I have largely been ‘off’. Meaning not doing much work – just sending a few desultory non life-changing emails. My day off is taking place in a flat with a television in it.  Now that may not seem remarkable in the 21st century but for me it is, as I usually never watch TV and nor do I own one.  But rain and sloth today combined to make me switch the thing on and see what was on offer.  If I needed a reminder why I don’t have a TV, then this was it.

‘Property Greed’ – a dim Barbour-wearing woman being encouraged by a posh twat in a suit to mortgage herself to death by buying a wreck of a Victorian house in a ‘rapidly improving’ part of town.  The twat advises that ‘lots of people are moving here’. There are people here already – they are just being forced out and replaced by the dreaded ‘young professionals’.  Whatever that means.

‘Pro-celebrity Bear Baiting’.  Or something like that.

‘Chav and Police Car Chase Action’. Pixellated drunk teenagers with no shirts on drive their small Peugeots like arseholes, endangering life and then get fined fifty pounds for it.

‘Cook and Come’.  An astonishingly shapely woman makes a quick crepe suzette for her kids as they get back from school. This requires her to wipe white sugary stuff over her lips and occasionally slide her fingers in and out of her mouth. Very slowly.

‘ITN News’. There has been a terrible natural disaster in some remote country with many dead.  Luckily none of them are Brits so here’s a in-depth profile of a Yorkshire Terrier from Wigan that can whistle Purple Rain.

‘Hang on in There’. A light-hearted look at live executions from around the world  This week from Tehran, with Salman Rushdie.

‘Men and Penises.’  A bunch of loud men in even louder shirts and an invited ‘celebrity’ compare length, girth, rigidity and sperm count.  Actually it may have been about cars.  What would they make of my underpowered bouffant coupe I wonder. ‘Flaccid’ is the comment I would hope for. But then again I’ve heard that before.

‘Shit Shopping’.  A woman in a skirt so short I can see what she had for lunch tries to sell me a vacuum cleaner for my shower. I kid you not. I mean who the fuck vacuums their shower?

‘UK Parliament’. The gripping committee stage of  the ‘Filing Cabinet Management Order (Wales) as Amended’. Heady stuff.

‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1790’.  A costume drama remake of that great horror flick.  Well we are SO good at costume drama. It had Colin Firth in it. Obviously.

‘Sooty and Sweep’. Dear God I watched  these two when I was about six.  After 48 years can’t the BBC come up with something more elaborate than a mute sock with a rictus smile on its face and a bloke’s hand up its arse?


The TV guide also said there was programme on about the clitoris and I wanted to see that, but sadly couldn’t find it.

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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


A Game of Two Halves.

The summer holiday of 1987 had been pretty dull for Rachael.  A hot summer it was, but sixteen year old girls  were supposed to have more fun.  And fun was promised for Rachael back home in Ramsgate in the shape of Gary.  Gary who knew that if he kept plying her with cider she would eventually give out. And giving out eventually was most certainly in Rachael’s plan for the summer of 1987.

The fun quotient didn’t increase when her Dad announced that she was going with him and her grandfather, and his old comrade Bill to visit the first world war graves in Northern France. The summer of 1987 was the 70th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele, and Rachael’s Dad had decided it was time she learned a bit about their family history. So to France went Rachael, Dad, Bill and Gramps. Gramps was 90 and Rachael knew he wouldn’t be around forever and that kind of made the graves trip OK.

Rachael was pretty underwhelmed by the graves in all honesty. She understood that a lot of young men had died and were buried there but it was, well, so long ago and what did it have to do with her?  She’d also felt sick on the ferry.  Gramps and Bill seemed very quiet once they saw the graves  – she wasn’t sure why – and they had gone off on their own. Rachael thought it might have been connected with 300,000 men being killed in the battle or was it 30,000 or 3,000,000? Anyway it was a lot.

Rachael wandered amongst the graves just behind Gramps and Bill and watched as they slowly walked up and down the lines, occasionally stopping and pointing at a headstone. She thought at one point they were crying so she let them go on ahead.

After a while she caught up with them again – from a distance she could see they were standing still – seemingly listening to something.  She slowly approached and then she could hear it too.  What was it – she hesitated – that was it – Silent Night  someone was singing Silent Night from across the lines of graves.  As she got closer to the two old men she could hear that while it was Silent Night, it was being sung in German.  She recognised it from a film she’d seen on BBC 2 about the Christmas truces.

Rachael sat and watched as events unfolded. Gramps and Bill slowly walked down the hill towards the singing which Rachael could now see was coming from a small group of very elderly men. She watched transfixed as Gramps and Bill arrived at the point where the singers were standing. Some words, some handshakes and then embraces. Lots of embraces. Old enemies. Old men.

Rachael turned and ran up the hill – ran like the wind. She had a idea. “Give me the car keys quickly” she called to her Dad, and keys in hand she dashed to the car.

She must have looked odd running from the car park through the cemetery to where the old men were standing. Odd because she was running with a football under her arm.  She’d seen the film and knew what to do. The old enemies had been there seventy years earlier and they knew what to do too.

A small crowd gathered to watch the old men gently kick the ball around. Rachael wasn’t among them. She’d gone back to the car to cry her eyes out.

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Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

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