Lego 2It may only be 24 hours from Tulsa, but let’s hope we’re considerably further away than a day from Burma. The massacre of over 100 civilians protesting against the Myanmar military coup on Saturday has perhaps underlined in the most grotesque way that holding Aung San Suu Kyi responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in 2017 was to credit her with far more power than the Burmese Army ever actually allowed her. The de facto president’s demotion from Mandela/Thunberg sainthood to flawed human being was an especially facile example of the West’s habit of projecting its own idea of romantic freedom fighter onto a complex culture it doesn’t understand and then expressing mortification when the nominated idol fails to live up to its unrealisable expectations. To say the military staged a coup in February is a little misleading, for that would imply the five-year presidency of Aung San Suu Kyi had somehow ushered in an era of democratic liberalism that neutered the army’s grip on the nation; they never really went away. What happened last month was effectively the military ‘taking back control’ after supporting the opposition in the country’s general election and then watching Ms Suu Kyi’s ruling party win by a landslide.

Protests against the military’s resumption of power followed almost instantly, echoing the ‘Saffron Revolution’ of 2007, led by Buddhist monks; many credit that uprising with starting the ball rolling that eventually resulted in a civilian government for the first time in the country since 1962. However, this time round over 400 people have died protesting against the military junta, with Saturday’s bloody suppression the darkest day so far. Amazingly, a lavish gala celebrating Burma’s liberation from Japanese occupation in 1945 still went ahead the same day, broadcast on state TV in the wake of an equally tasteless military parade staged before any of the bodies had been buried. Yes, most of us are thankfully more than 24 hours from Yangon, Meiktila, Kale, Mawlamyine or any of the other Myanmar towns and cities in which the military opened fire on its own people. The road to Mandalay is paved with blood today.

Not that there aren’t plenty people who would be happy to see the Burmese Army approach to crime and punishment being implemented closer to home. A Yorkshire town once famed for its chicken-in-a-basket cabaret venue known as Batley Variety Club is currently witnessing attempts by a small group of religious fanatics to impose Sharia Law on British Law by using fear, intimidation and threats of violence. But this is nothing new. The dominance of some neighbourhoods with large Asian immigrant populations by a Muslim Mafiosi is something that police forces terrified of being accused of racism have facilitated by ceasing to police them and allowing them to essentially govern themselves – with disastrous consequences. Not only has this gutless abandonment spawned the systematic sexual abuse of underage white teenage girls on an industrial scale that beggars belief; it has also given the Islamic mobsters a sense of untouchable invincibility that every capitulation to their bullying simply hardens.

Barely a week after the schoolgirl whose false allegations against teacher Samuel Paty resulted in his brutal murder in Paris last October admitted she made the whole thing up, a teacher at Batley Grammar School has now had to go into hiding after apparently showing images of the Prophet Muhammad – allegedly including the infamous ‘Charlie Hebdo’ cartoon – during a religious studies class. The usual rent-a-mob thugs that tend to show up whenever they sense their ‘Satanic Verses’ moment has come besieged the school and not only brought about its closure (though you don’t need a gaggle of gobby wannabe Jihadists to do that these days); they also forced a grovelling and spineless apology from the school that suggested the institution was in sympathy with the sentiments of the mob and the teacher in question had done something wrong. He’d only have done something wrong were the UK a fundamentalist Islamic state – which it isn’t. On paper, we’re still a secular democracy, one in which blasphemy laws and retributive punishment for criticising or mocking religion were mercifully done away with after we burned and beheaded our way through the last century characterised by such barbarity, the seventeenth. Maybe teaching unions should be reminded of that as the teacher in hiding is deafened by their silence. At least pupils of the school have shown more balls by starting a successful online petition demanding his reinstatement.

According to those far more clued-up on the faith than me, the blasphemous portrayal of Muhammad as a religious icon isn’t even something that is universal across the Muslim world; it appears this is a particular obsession of the Sunni branch. Yet, so emboldened by the Woke Left’s patronage of Islam is the militant wing of the religion that it knows it’ll be given an easy ride every time it kicks up a fuss; and how can one not observe yet again how many tiers of policing are currently on offer? A lockdown protest took place just a few miles away in Bradford on Saturday, in which dispersal orders were issued and arrests were made; yet, no such dispersal of an illegal gathering – and one inciting religious hatred too – was made in Batley. I thought nobody had the right to gather in groups at the moment without said gathering being broken-up by the Old Bill – or is it easier to break them up if they’re white women holding a peaceful vigil? But of course, two-tiered policing, much like cancel culture, is a conspiracy theory. Funny how every indisputable fact is now a conspiracy theory if enough people of influence disagree with it.

The fact that the Covid restrictions on public gatherings are so liberally applied, depending on the purpose of the gathering and who happens to have organised it, highlights just how increasingly ludicrous and unenforceable these emergency powers are. Along with the announcement that kissing the bride when a couple are pronounced man and wife is now verboten if the couple haven’t spent the last twelve months living together, perhaps one little story underlining the farcical nature of the restrictions emerged a day or so ago. A 73-year-old pensioner who likes to meet up with a couple of equally elderly pals and play dominoes in West London’s Maida Hill market square was advised he’d be arrested and fined if he carried on being such an antisocial menace; Westminster Council has obtained a special court injunction for police officers to intervene if anybody is regarded as causing disruption in a public place. Dominoes, pensioners – think about that. Anyway, the rule has apparently now been relaxed following the 73-year-old’s ‘virtual’ court appearance last week; but the fact he even had to submit to that tells you all you need to know, really.

Oh, well – not to worry; we all know there’ll be an autumn lockdown come ‘The Third Wave’, so let’s make the most of the latest easing while we can and call-up five people we know for a socially-distanced game of dominoes in the nearest park – vaccine passports not required. For now. As for any indoor get-togethers when we’re given permission to indulge again, producing the requisite ‘papers’ is being trumpeted by some Ministers as the way forward – temporarily, of course; and masks will be needed too, though only to begin with. I don’t believe you, HM Government. Could be worse, though; could be Batley or Burma – could even be the University of Oxford. Sheet music has been branded racist there. The institution is considering dispensing with it due to it being ‘too colonial’; the music curriculum is complicit in white supremacy, naturally. Nothing else to be concerned about today, after all; it’s merely the dismantling of Western civilisation’s cultural pantheon continuing apace, as it will do if philistines are placed in positions of power and their supine supporters nod along. Ah, 2021 – what larks.

© The Editor


SNP - CopyYou can’t keep a bad man down, eh? I should imagine Nicola Sturgeon is probably thinking that today as she continues to feel the breath of her predecessor on the back of her neck, much the same as that breath quite possibly graced a few lady necks during Alex Salmond’s stint at First Minister – allegedly, of course. It’s a been a testing week for the incumbent First Minister, even though she appears – on the surface, at least – to have come through it largely unscathed. What the week’s events have done for the long-term reputation of both her and her party is in the hands of the Scottish electorate; but she remains Nicola, Queen of Scots for the time being and gives every impression of staying put till the bitter end. As a result of recent unedifying revelations, one would like to think some Scots voters have belatedly had their eyes opened to the seedy shower of crooks and charlatans that has mismanaged their nation for far too long. But there’s a certain incurable MAGA-like passion for the SNP in certain quarters of their supporters, willing to back a staggeringly draconian – not to say Orwellian – Hate Crime bill, one that effectively outlaws criticising anyone in either public or private, whilst simultaneously feeling free to demonise the English at will because it’s such a canny smokescreen when it comes to the SNP mantra.

Having been cleared of misleading the Scottish Parliament by James Hamilton QC, Nicola Sturgeon was then found guilty of doing just that in parts of her evidence by the committee investigating how the Scottish Government dealt with the complaints against Salmond. The latter’s conclusions were something of a minor miracle considering the committee was 5-4 pro-Sturgeon; but the committee found her administration’s handling of the Salmond complaints ‘seriously flawed’ and the First Minister’s dubious grasp of the truth was enough to prompt a motion of no confidence in her leadership by MSPs. She survived this just as she survived the publication of the ‘independent’ report into her conduct, published the day before the committee’s findings, though that was hardly earth-shattering. James Hamilton QC – coincidentally, her legal advisor on the ministerial code since 2015 – unsurprisingly found Wee Ms Krankie not guilty.

On paper, Sturgeon’s survival could portray her grip on power as being so strong it has remained intact despite the most serious challenge to it so far. Soviet Scotland looks like a corrupt one-party state more than ever after this week, and even when veteran Tory MP David Davis recently used Parliamentary Privilege in Westminster to heap further pressure on the nonexistent morality of the Edinburgh Politburo – a privilege not available at Holyrood – it was a case of ‘Move on, nothing to see here’ from the SNP. A weak Labour Opposition distracted by the irrelevant triviality of metropolitan Identity Politics and an increasingly authoritarian Conservative Government with an appetite for imposing and prolonging restrictions on civil liberties undoubtedly plays into SNP hands; but the SNP is effectively a combination of the two dominant parties south of the border whilst dishonestly selling itself as an alternative to the gruesome twosome it has cherry-picked the worst aspects of to strengthen the vice it holds the collective Scottish knackers in.

But whilst Nicola Sturgeon is momentarily secure on the throne, the man who would be king is refusing to allow her reign to progress smoothly. Just as he stood for a Scottish seat in Westminster following his post-Independence Referendum resignation as First Minister, Alex Salmond getting knocked down is followed by him getting back up again; the ex-FM is determined to return to frontline politics by taking the route previously traversed by the likes of George Galloway and Nigel Farage by setting up his own political party. Four candidates will be representing ‘Alba’ in May’s Holyrood elections. Interesting choice of name for Salmond’s vanity project, for Alba is the Gaelic word for Scotland. How fittingly romantic and characteristic of the man’s vision; his speech launching the party was redolent in such clichés – ‘Today Alba is hoisting a flag in the wind, planting our Saltire on a hill.’ Cue sweeping strings as Salmond’s Saltire-clutching silhouette stands atop Ben Nevis. Oh, do me a bloody favour.

Actually, choosing the name of Alba to stir misguided patriotic passions in the heart of every Scotsman reminds me of BBC Alba, the minority Gaelic TV channel funded by the nationwide licence-fee payer. It’s worth remembering, of the 5.2 million Scots actually residing in Scotland, barely 55,000 (i.e. 1%) speak Gaelic – and those Gaelic-speakers also speak English; there’s nobody left in Scotland today for whom Gaelic is their only language. Promoting it as an authentic native tongue is a form of luxury ethnicity that perfectly fits in with Alex Salmond’s appropriation of meaningless symbolism that conveniently obscures the reality of an ‘Independent’ Scotland subservient to a Union far less beneficial to the Scottish people than the one that has stood it in good stead for 300 years. If there is any glimmer of hope in this miserable circus, it’s the fact that the founding of the Alba Party raises the prospect of the SNP vote being split for the first time; if anything can weaken the SNP hegemony in Holyrood, perhaps this is it. Anyway, I digress…

I thought I’d point out that effectively renting a platform such as this has its pluses and minuses. Being the good guy I am, I resist playing the Peter Butterworth ‘Carry on Camping’ character at the gate, charging campers ‘a parnd’ for every amenity before they even set foot on the site. Although I don’t see any ads here myself, I’m told visitors are denied the perks of the creator; to get rid of ads altogether would apparently require my demanding ‘a parnd’, so it’s either put up or pay up; it seems like a small sacrifice. However, being the creator doesn’t mean I’m the freeholder; I’m essentially a tenant and was reminded of this fact when abruptly waking up in an online apartment that has been redecorated during the night. I remember reading one of the unnerving ‘gags’ Charles Manson and his gang engaged in before opting for slaughtering innocent people in their own homes was to stage nocturnal raids on occupied properties and simply move the living room furniture around without stealing a thing; the residents would therefore come downstairs the next morning and be instantly unsettled by the unforeseen alterations to their surroundings.

Mercifully, what’s happened here is not quite the same, though it’s still a pain in the arse to see the whole backstage design of the Telegram has been changed without my permission. It’s always strange how any upgrade undertaken without consultation is never as satisfactory as what preceded it. Yes, change always comes as something that takes getting used to, but it’s nice to have the option to choose change rather than having it thrust upon you with no say in the matter. If anything on here therefore appears different in style or presentation, bear in mind it’s nothing to do with me. I’ve spent the last couple of days doing my best to keep everything familiar. It’s frustrating that it now takes twice as long to achieve the complementary marriage of image and text at the top of the article that could previously be achieved in the blink of a mouse click; but this is the best I could manage. Ah, anonymous others making decisions on behalf of the individual and removing all autonomy in the process – at least this is a dilemma to which many have become accustomed of late.

© The Editor


When there was such a thing as a music press, a flurry of excitable hyperbole would often accompany the arrival of a new act that the musical hacks fell over themselves to declare as the Next Big Thing. This seemed to get worse once we hit the 90s, though maybe the music press sensed time was running out for them and there had to be a swifter turnover of bands to retain the ever-shorter attention spans of the readership. Exactly 30 years ago, one such band was a duo called Curve, fronted by the attractively intense Toni Halliday. Like many of these acts praised way beyond anything they could ever live up to, they were OK but not much more than that. So, why mention them now? Just because of their name, really. This time last year, I kept hearing it constantly, as in ‘flatten the…’ Anyone know if the curve’s been flattened yet? I’ve forgotten how many weeks – or was it months? – we were told it would take to flatten that pesky curve, but I don’t remember being told it would take a full year. And if it hasn’t been flattened yet, how long? Longer than Curve’s career, I suspect.

I don’t need to say what a strange twelve months it’s been, do I? 27 million of us watched the same programme one year ago today and it wasn’t ‘Line of Duty’. So many separate spinoffs from that broadcast, so few paragraphs to list them; but we received a reminder of one of them this weekend. Our frontline defenders of law and order kneeled before them and allowed them to wreak havoc in central London last year; with Labour MPs refusing to condemn them and ‘defund the police’ being a key catchphrase of an organisation whose name continues to be promoted at Premier League football grounds, should we raise an eyebrow in the wake of the anarchy on the streets of Bristol? Of course not; after all, the Bristol branch of the mob threw a statue in the sea when lockdown rules and regulations were specially waived for it in the summer. Therefore, the precedent had been established long before the police were targeted as the guilty foot-soldiers enforcing the Government edict on public demonstrations in the same city on Sunday.

Between Lockdown I and II, the dangers of placing a population under house arrest and facilitating the release of their parallel universe Twitter identities into the real world was disastrously exposed; after yet another extended bout of social isolation, we shouldn’t really be surprised the same thing is happening again, particularly in the face of fresh draconian legislation both north and south of the border that will shortly outlaw any opposition to the State, whether in thought or deed. Of late, the normalisation of violent protest has gone hand-in-hand with aggressive crackdowns on their peaceful equivalent, as seen at the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common. Mind you, I should imagine it’s easier for half-a-dozen fat coppers to lay into a weak and feeble woman than prevent two-dozen hooded anarchists with the stomachs of kings from smashing windows and hurling petrol bombs. Naturally, that’s not to excuse the actions of the thugs in Bristol – many of whom, I suspect, were probably bussed into town in the manner of old-school flying pickets; equally, some of the police behaviour over the past year has been so ridiculously disproportionate to the ‘crimes’ being committed that it’s no wonder respect for the institution has plummeted lower than the average plod waistline.

Furlough remains the sweetener to pacify outbreaks of civil unrest beyond the usual suspects, and a Government that can all-but get away with murder in the name of ‘protecting the NHS’ has managed to ensure widespread support for its policies from a compliant populace terrified into obedience. Revelations of the ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ scandal taking place in the early months of the pandemic – a cold-blooded practice that undoubtedly pushed up the fatality rate, thus justifying the lockdown – seem to have been received with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders by a MSM that has had its instinctive urge to challenge the powers-that-be utterly castrated by the freakish climate. In case you missed it, the shocking findings by the Care Quality Commission were published last week; they revealed that between March and December last year, over 500 DNR orders were placed upon ill individuals in care and nursing homes, all without informing the individuals themselves or their families; nobody in a position to give consent was presented with the opportunity to give it. Those with learning disabilities or dementia were especially vulnerable to this chilling decision which followed the staggeringly careless dumping of Covid-infected patients from hospital to care home.

The appalling handling of care home residents remains perhaps the single most atrocious f**k-up of the pandemic, yet to even imply it was some sort of clumsy error or inept oversight serves to let the guilty parties off lightly when there evidently seems to have been an unnervingly cynical and clinical process at play. Care home residents were clearly not very important in the great scheme of things – ditto those suffering from life-threatening illnesses like cancer, whose vital treatment was suspended and indefinitely postponed as emergency Nightingale hospitals stood emptier than a venue hosting a meeting of the Friends of Ghislaine Maxwell Society. Does anyone really expect heads to roll as a result of this scandal, however? I doubt it. The ability to express shame when required doesn’t appear to be a qualification for a career in public service anymore. Despite the unintentionally amusing hashtag of #DickOut circulating on Twitter following the behaviour of those Met Officers on Clapham Common, the far-from amusing incompetence of Cressida Dick hasn’t – and won’t – result in resignation or, I should imagine, the loss of much sleep at Dick Towers. I don’t really know what someone in a position of power has to do these days to fall on their sword.

Take Matt Hancock or the rest of the crony capitalists running the country. It couldn’t be made any clearer that virtually every Covid-related Government contract was put out to tender on the old boy network, yet nobody seems particularly bothered. Perhaps cynicism is so rife in politics now that whatever revelations fall the way of the electorate, the only response will be apathy. Just recently, our Health Secretary promised that all it would take for a semblance of normality to return to life would be for the vulnerable to be vaccinated. They have been. But now those fortunate enough to indulge in overseas holidays can forget it in 2021, apartheid-flavoured vaccine passport or no; the easing of restrictions continues to be kicked into the long grass, with endless variants of the virus appearing on cue whenever the public has been led to believe the latest lockdown is due to end.

Mary Ramsay of Public Health England has taken it upon herself to maintain the trend of unelected officials making announcements once reserved for elected Ministers by proclaiming travel restrictions, along with laws on mask-wearing and social distancing, are pretty much here to stay for the foreseeable future. This situation reminds me of something – yes! Anyone remember that frustrating game that was once a fixture of seaside resort amusement arcades – the one where you allegedly operated a crane and tried to scoop up a bar of chocolate that always fell short of dropping down the chute leading to your grateful palm? Well, I think the comparisons are there without any further elaboration on my part.

Yet still, after a full year of this, in which even the advent of a magic vaccine hasn’t made the general situation any better for anyone bar a superficial gold star, there are many who will now go along with everything, so successfully has the project worked. Were Boris to announce everybody over 40 must report to Beachy Head on a specified date and form an orderly socially-distanced queue (whilst wearing masks, naturally) before being ordered off the edge one-by-one or else risk a £10,000 fine, I suspect the majority would do as they were told. A handful of knuckleheads up for a fight in Bristol can’t obscure the fact that we now have one of the most conformist and neutered populations ever to reside outside of a Communist state. One year on from the general public placing its good faith in the experts and giving ‘the science’ the benefit of the doubt after tuning in to the PM’s landmark television address, is the curve flat enough to warrant release from our social bondage? Er…no. Will it ever be? Ask me this time next year.

© The Editor


A tried-and-trusted barometer for how far we’ve travelled as a society in living memory – certainly by the compilers of cheap clip shows – is to look at television output from 30-40-50 years ago. Yes, we’ve all seen these delves into the archives, with their awkward examples of antiquated attitudes towards women, ‘ethnic’ groups, gays and so on; such out-of-context samples of the recent past are usually accompanied by interjections from contemporary talking heads reacting in ‘Gogglebox’ fashion. As most of those selected to offer their insightful opinions tend to have been born long after the event, they react in the way people have always reacted to a past they never lived through; one may as well dig up descriptions of the atrocious living and working conditions of the urban poor in the Victorian period and inform someone born in 1995 that children actually used to be sent up chimneys. Yes, times have changed, just as times always do; that’s what happens when day follows night.

Despite having a greater immediacy than cinema in being able to reflect current cultural and societal developments and trends, television drama nevertheless isn’t the news; it usually trails a year or two behind the zeitgeist by virtue of the time it takes from the scriptwriter penning the opening line to an eventual transmission date. In the early-to-mid 1990s, for example, there was a spate of ‘illegal rave’ storylines running through many mainstream TV series of the era, with the standard moralistic plot usually concerning a teenage character dabbling in ecstasy and dicing with death as a consequence. However, by the time most of these shows aired, the rave scene had already relocated to shiny new city centre nightclubs opened by canny promoters and superstar DJs, and what remained of the illegal element was in the process of being crushed by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994.

Similarly, many TV dramas – and sitcoms – of the 1970s often feature storylines in which the late 60s ‘counter culture’ still figures prominently when embodied in hippie radicals spouting pseudo-Marxist revolutionary gibberish and using outdated terminology – ‘man’. Therefore, relying upon old telly, certainly drama or comedy, to provide a 21st century generation with an accurate window to a world they never knew can be a tad misleading. Even taking some archetypal variety show of the period and studying the act of a comedian in a dinner jacket spinning the routine mother-in-law/thick Irishmen gags doesn’t take into account the fact this kind of comedy was hardly cutting-edge; it had long been regarded as naff and was regularly parodied by satirists on TV; it was also mercilessly ripped to shreds by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s foul-mouthed alter-egos Derek and Clive on their subversive vinyl outings at the same time as ‘Seaside Special’ was airing. Ee, it’s Alfie Noakes!

By picking and choosing snippets of old-school attitudes or language alien to modern mores simply to fit the agenda of the programme-makers and therefore underlining what a backward, bigoted society we used to be, there’s an inherent dishonesty at play; in falsely claiming this represents a whole picture, we conveniently ignore those segments of popular culture and television of the past that did a better job of giving voice to important issues and the masses affected by them than any equivalent attempt can manage now. Yes, ‘Play for Today’ is rightly remembered as a beacon of this, but it wasn’t operating in isolation; many of the writers, directors, producers and actors who progressed to the single play and gave us some of its most memorable jewels received their apprenticeship on what the BBC used to categorise as ‘continuing dramas’. In the 1960s and 70s, two shows served as especially potent training grounds – ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Z Cars’; today we’d call them soaps, but they were described as continuing dramas back then.

The impact of Tony Warren’s baby on British TV was more or less instant and proved to be incredibly far-reaching; it’s easy to forget just how radical it was when first broadcast and how much it revolutionised television as a whole, not just drama; one could argue there’d have been no ‘Steptoe and Son’ or ‘Till Death Us Do Part’, let alone ‘The Wednesday Play’, without ‘Coronation Street’. Within a year of the arrival of Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner, Annie Walker and the rest, the BBC responded with ‘Z Cars’, another groundbreaking series that took the gritty, kitchen-sink vibe of ‘Corrie’ and put it in police uniform. Whereas Salford had been re-imagined as Weatherfield, Kirkby was reborn as Newtown. As close-knit communities were being swept away by the tower block and Brutalist housing schemes, ‘Z Cars’ showed how crime continued to flourish even in the Brave New World Utopias of the 60s. As the series moved on into the 70s, this factor became more pronounced as a greater reliance on location filming exposed just how swiftly those idealistic projects had descended into grubby, decaying eyesores in which crime and poverty were just as depressingly prevalent as they had been in the old slums.

Although a couple of ‘Z Cars’ DVDs were issued around seven or eight years back, giving me the opportunity to see the series with a fresh pair of eyes, great chunks of the show from the 70s are currently (at the time of writing) available on one of those YT channels that have a habit of quickly disappearing. I was able to download all the episodes – just in case – and have been watching them over the past few weeks. As is so often the case with mainstream dramatic output regarded at the time as the formulaic poor relation of the single play, when stood beside the ‘Am. Dram.’-like hospital-based soaps of today, many episodes of ‘Z Cars’ are astonishingly engaging, moving and hard-hitting. The writing and the acting are both of a remarkably high standard for a show that aired before the watershed. The characters are well-drawn, believable, either eminently likeable or effectively loathsome, and the situations are entirely relatable, especially to the audience who would’ve been watching at the time.

As someone who was a regular childhood visitor to an auntie and cousin who resided in one of the worst examples of a 60s high-rise concrete Dystopia, ‘Z Cars’ scenes of feral kids running wild around graffiti-stained estates with broken lifts, broken windows and broken spirits ring very true indeed. Not only do you instantly warm to the regular cast, but you care what happens to those who figure in just the one episode, which is a testament to the writers and the actors. Long scenes enabling characters to breathe and establish their personalities in a way that gradually explains the predicament they’re in means the viewer is slowly reeled into their world rather than emotional investment being achieved by emotional blackmail delivered with the subtlety of Bob Geldof demanding ‘Give us yer feckin’ money’. By mostly avoiding the headline-grabbing blags and gangland murders that Regan & Carter tackled, ‘Z Cars’ deals with the kind of small-scale crime most of us will come into contact with at some point of our lives and therefore highlights the plight of that most overlooked contemporary demographic – the little people.

From a modern perspective, the best way to watch ‘Z Cars’ – and its unfairly-maligned elder sibling, ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ – is not to view it as belonging to the same televisual canon as ‘The Sweeney’ or ‘The Professionals’ simply because cops are involved, but to place it alongside the likes of ‘Play for Today’, which also took time out to seek out the drama in the ordinary life. As we find ourselves at a moment in society’s decline and fall in which me and thee count for so little that they place us under house arrest, hide our faces behind masks and outlaw any public protest against them, it’s worth remembering how what was once the nation’s premier medium used to serve as the stage for our stories. Are we so much better off now than we were then?

© The Editor


Diaries as time capsules of a moment can be invaluable and irrefutable evidence of what our real-time response was to something that distance and hindsight can judge differently. Perused long after the event, they’re often quite an eye-opener, for few things in life have the capacity to be as unconsciously revisionist as memory. Being a former diary-keeper who abandoned the long-term practice overnight in 2017, I’ve subsequently found it’s often difficult to pin down recent events to specific dates without the handy diary reference. In this respect, the Telegram archive can be the next best thing to an old-school journal. Bearing in mind we’re approaching the first anniversary of the day the drawbridge descended on the old normal, I was curious as to the order of events in March 2020 and decided to flick through the Winegum posts from twelve months ago to recall the countdown to closedown.

The first post of that month to focus on Covid, ‘Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases’ appeared on 6.3.20; the opening paragraph mentions approximately ‘160 confirmed cases in the UK’ and goes on to say ‘and so far there have been two fatalities’; there are references to the latest Bond movie being suspended mid-production and airlines going into administration, suggesting the spreading coronavirus was already beginning to have an international impact on big business. At one point, I mention that the only people I’d seen on the streets wearing ‘surgical masks’ were a group of Chinese students; at the time, they couldn’t have attracted more stares from other pedestrians if they’d been strolling around without trousers. It would seem precautionary advice was in the process of being issued – basic general tips about hand-washing and using handkerchiefs in public that should’ve been a given, anyway; but life was very much carrying on as usual in the UK.

Five days later, a post appeared with the title ‘The Ides of March’; the accompanying illustration of the famous costumed character with ‘the beak’ from the time of the Plague outbreak of the 1660s suggests the scale of hysteria had advanced rapidly less than a week after the previous post on the subject. This post contains various references to the melodramatic reportage of the MSM, especially where empty supermarket shelves were concerned, something I myself had yet to encounter at this stage (therefore wondering if the media were promoting panic buying in the hope it would become a self-fulfilling prophesy). Self-isolation was evidently being heavily recommended at this point – though still not enforced by law; the choice remained in the hands of the responsible autonomous individual, not the State. There’s a telling mention of the first Premier League fixture being postponed due to coronavirus issues, but otherwise it’s as you were, albeit with a dose of caution.

‘Read My Lips’ (13.3.20) documents my debut as a ‘performing poet’ as I describe reciting a trio of self-penned poems at a local open mic night in a nearby Arts Centre a day or so before. A crowded room, a shared microphone, no masks, no social distancing, no panic; everyone was aware of the rumours, but stoic scepticism largely governed discourse. The next open mic event was scheduled for a month’s time; uncertainty reigned, but most still couldn’t countenance the kind of clampdowns that were beginning to take place elsewhere. However, 24 hours later a post called ‘They Think It’s All Over’ discussed the suspension of the football season. This, for me, was the real sign that we were entering a far more serious phase. One’s interest in the national game was immaterial; the fact an English football season had only ever ground to an across-the-board halt twice before in its 132-year history courtesy of two World Wars said to me that this was a significant development. I remember making this point to a close friend as I accompanied her on her dog-walking duties, something we’d had as a weekly arrangement for over a decade; it could well have been the last such occasion we engaged in this social get-together, for it too – like so much else – was being indefinitely mothballed. The crisis was beginning to personally impact now.

The next post, ‘The Fallout Shelter Diaries’, appeared exactly one year ago today; I depicted Boris as the Grim Reaper in the photo heading the article and this is the first post to explicitly describe the sudden plummet into bona-fide pandemic panic as I experienced the reality of everything the MSM had been excitedly imagining for weeks. The situation had finally hit home; for some reason, toilet rolls were the target purchase as the country prepared to collectively crap itself. The Government was advising people to avoid the hospitality sector and theatres and cinemas voluntarily closed their doors as the State’s usual support network of police and paramedics at public events was withdrawn in a case of ‘on your own head be it’; news of the Grand National, Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics being cancelled suggested we were careering towards unprecedented global suspended animation in which all the annual signposts in the cultural and sporting calendar that we’d taken for granted were coronavirus casualties; it seemed only a matter of days before the curfew was officially implemented.

‘Home Entertainment’, the post issued on 20.3.20 talks about ‘home schooling’ for the first time, so I can discern that the classrooms had been emptied as a prelude to the workplace following suit. Bit-by-bit, each successive post of this eventful month depicts another window closing. Three days later, ‘The State of Emergency’ speaks of Rishi Sunak’s first emergency financial package and there are ominous warnings of legislation being rushed through Parliament with little in the way of scrutiny, giving the Government unlimited powers to curb civil liberties at will; there are also salient warnings of how similar measures in both France and Hong Kong had brought an abrupt and effective end to the street protests that had proven to be such a thorn in the sides of those nation’s respective leaders over the previous year. It’s not too great a stretch of the imagination to suggest Boris, having successfully expelled troublemakers from his own party a few months before, now realised here was a canny way to crush opposition to his administration in its most basic, democratic form. One year on, with even peaceful public vigils provoking a physical response from the police closer to what we’d expect on an 80s picket line, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

On 23 March, the PM had his ‘Neville Chamberlain moment’ and addressed the nation across all TV stations from his Downing Street bunker; 27 million of us tuned in at the same time to receive confirmation that something we’d been expecting was now official – we were locked-in and locked-down. And we did as we were told; the days that followed this announcement saw traffic vanish from the roads and shops vanish from the high-streets. Four days after his emergency broadcast, Boris himself was stricken with the virus and by all accounts came closer to the Grim Reaper than even my Photoshop mock-up ten days earlier had imagined. For those members of the public uninfected, however, this was the tranquil ‘phony war’ of the lockdown, in which wild animals ventured into the desolate urban environment and nature quickly reclaimed the surroundings vacated by humans. The novelty of indoor leisure and the eminently sensible outdoor practice of masks being optional rather than mandatory made up for the supermarket shortages and the queuing. A brief respite in the summer was superseded by hardcore Lockdown 2 come winter and we are where we are – a surveillance state so subservient to authority that another draconian bill is poised to pass into law with the same unhindered ease as the SNP’s Hate Crime cobblers last week.

A year on, it’s still too soon for the true story of this remarkable twelve month period in our history to be told – indeed, it probably won’t be properly told for decades, if ever. We only have our own personal stories to tell. Lest we forget, there are 67 million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.

© The Editor


Regardless of where one stood on the issue, it still wasn’t a great look. Almost 40 years ago, TV news bulletins were awash with images of women being heavily manhandled by police as the former set up camp outside the Greenham Common airbase, protesting against the arrival of US cruise missiles on UK soil. In many respects, the scenario itself was a familiar one, following in a violent tradition that had characterised the old decade and would continue uninterrupted into the new. We’d seen it at Saltley Gate in 1972, in the streets surrounding the Grunwick building in 1977, and whenever the National Front and the Anti-Nazi League found themselves marching in the same neighbourhood; we’d also shortly see it on the picket lines of Yorkshire pits. And that’s not even mentioning the riot that erupted at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival or the incendiary wave of civil unrest that characterised the summer of 1981 in numerous cities across the country.

An army of coppers clashing with an army of strikers/demonstrators was so commonplace a fixture of British life in the 70s and 80s that it was probably more of a story if a strike or demonstration passed off with no arrests and no punch-up with the police. Of course, these explosive occasions were almost exclusively all-male affairs, where even if truncheons were only in the hands of one side, it was still a fair fight in terms of physical prowess. What made Greenham Common different was the simple fact that the majority of the protestors were women – and shrinking violets or not, it still didn’t send out a very positive message to see a big brute of a bobby reacting to women in the same way he would to rowdy football hooligans on a Saturday afternoon. Bras hadn’t been burned for that.

With changes to the law and the decline of trade union clout, industrial disputes are rare these days; rarer still are industrial disputes that spark the kind of physical clashes with the forces of law and order that once seemed part and parcel of strike action. Demonstrations, on the other hand, are still potential powder kegs, even if the police approach to them can be maddeningly inconsistent. The boys in blue didn’t appear too perturbed when Extinction Rebellion brought central London to a standstill in 2019, and their submissive response to BLM last summer was a nauseating spectacle that was rewarded with an outburst of vicious thuggery towards the police that made it look as though the authorities had lost all control of the streets to the mob. Since then, there’s been no further knee-taking, though there remain suspicions that some causes are regarded more favourably by the police authorities than others.

After the anarchy of summer 2020, there has been a notable clamping down on public gatherings of any kind, with lockdown rules and restrictions tightened to prevent any repeat of the ugly incidents in London and Bristol. Whenever there’s been a further attempt to stage the kind of protest the police didn’t initially have a problem with last year, the police have responded in a way that has inevitably led to accusations of a two-tier policing system – i.e. you can break lockdown rules if you’re carrying a BLM banner, but you can’t if you’re breaking lockdown rules by protesting against lockdown rules. When half-a-dozen people are unable to get together for a private family event in the privacy of their own homes, perhaps it’s no great surprise that a public gathering of hundreds in a public space – even if masks are being worn and social distancing is being observed as best as possible – is something destined to end in aggro. Lockdown legislation has effectively outlawed public gatherings, so any proposed event is a no-go; and if we accept that, then the reasons for staging one are immaterial. They ain’t allowed.

In the wake of the publicity surrounding the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard and the charging of a serving Met officer with the crime, a vigil for the murdered woman was planned to be held at Clapham Common. The announcement of this was greeted with a polite refusal from the Met, naturally citing Covid restrictions. It was then announced that the vigil wouldn’t be taking place so as to comply with the regulations, but the familiar floral tributes nonetheless began to swamp the Clapham Common bandstand; even the Duchess of Cambridge popped down earlier in the day and the atmosphere appeared to be in keeping with the routine Diana-esque vibe that is now customary when private grief becomes public property. Despite the official cancellation of the vigil, crowds gathered regardless and, as evening fell, the numbers were eventually sufficiently high enough to warrant police reinforcements in order to breakup what was an illegal gathering. What happened next depends, I guess, on which side you stand.

Whilst the term ‘peaceful protest’ has now become a euphemism for the exact opposite following its un-ironic use by the BBC to describe the BLM riot in London last summer, the fact that what was intended to be a genuinely peaceful protest on Clapham Common wasn’t given the official seal of approval is a bloody ridiculous state of affairs. One doesn’t have to support the idea of a gathering of this nature or the motivation behind it to conclude that it should have been allowed to take place. I won’t repeat Voltaire’s catchphrase here, but I think you know where I’m going. Anyone who believes these f***ing restrictions on our movements have reached the absolute limit now should feel the same way about it, whatever one’s position on the dubious morality of those pushing Sarah Everard forward as a posthumous poster-girl for a cause superimposed upon her.

Some say the crowds had been infiltrated by activists hungry for a confrontation with the coppers, knowing that it wouldn’t take much effort to provoke physical tactics on the part of the Met. It’s not too fantastical to surmise that this tragic death has been distastefully politicised in order to give these activists their ‘George Floyd’ moment – and that in itself is a disgraceful exploitation of a horrendous crime. Using the murder of a young woman as fresh ammo in the culture wars is beyond the pale. At the same time, had the police chosen to stand back and let the crowd get on with it – not unlike they did when the mob uprooted a statue in Bristol – then the crowd would have gradually dispersed, having made its point. By clumsily intervening and attempting to break up the gathering, the police gave any activists present precisely what they wanted, but they also would have enraged anyone there who actually turned up to participate in a non-violent vigil, those who have had enough of restrictions that have now been in place for almost a full twelve months. So many people in this country are at breaking point after a year of this, and this was the kind of moment guaranteed to make them snap.

No, it wasn’t a great look at Greenham Common in the early 80s and it’s not a great look in 2021. When the police moved in and began physically removing women from around the Clapham Common bandstand, there was no way they could make that action look anything other than brutal, awful and ugly. The images will linger and, in the same way the death of Sarah Everard has itself been politicised, the events of Saturday evening will be weaponised by all sides in the days and weeks to come; in the process, it will add yet another dispiriting layer to the seemingly endless layers of division that have taken every conceivable form – political, cultural, racial, sexual, ideological – since 2016. What a bloody mess.

© The Editor


According to what passes for ‘the Left’ today, cancel culture is merely a figment of the right-wing imagination, a collective conspiracy theory with no grounding in reality. The guardians of the new cultural order – keeping the peace on campus, in the workplace and online – are kind, compassionate, tolerant sorts, preaching love and understanding whilst denouncing hate, whether written down, spoken or simply thought of. And that’s evident in the way they respond to anyone they perceive to be questioning their Utopia. They spread their message through cyberspace like a benign virus that smells of fresh flowers and newborn babies. This makes the wrong see the error of their ways via gentle, sympathetic persuasion; and if the wrong continue to be resistant, they convince the wrong it’s more effective in the long run if they step forward and admit they’re wrong before conversion to the right side of history can begin. After all, the first step to admitting one is an alcoholic is to stand up at an AA meeting and say it out loud.

Mumford & Sons – perhaps the dullest band since sliced Dire Straits – have effectively dispensed with the services of their banjo player Winston Marshall this week, though it helped that he conveniently fell on his sword after some of that gentle online persuasion. His crime was to publicly state how much he admired a recent critical exposé of that cuddly anarchist collective Antifa in a book by journalist Andy Ngo. ‘Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy’ is evidently not deemed to be suitable reading material – I mean, was ‘White Fragility’ out on loan at Marshall’s local library or something? Anyhow, sounding suspiciously like he might harbour the wrong opinions, Marshall did his best to appease the outraged masses (i.e. a few pink-heads on Twitter) by issuing the kind of grovelling public apology that used to be written on a board slung around the neck during the Cultural Revolution. He announced he was taking a break from the band to ‘examine his blind-spots’. I hear the CCP has a decent re-education camp in Xinjiang if you’re interested in some intellectual cleansing, Winston.

Hot on the heels of such a shocking revelation that the outlaw spirit of rock ‘n’ roll remains alive and kicking, another dramatic act of voluntary cancellation also took place this week. Piers Morgan, the sweaty tomato of breakfast television, stormed off-set during a live broadcast of ‘Good Morning Britain’ and will not be returning. No great loss to yours truly, as I’ve never seen the programme in question beyond snippets that routinely appear on social media; but a man who has turned hypocritical double standards into an art-form by spouting some of the worst lecturing and hectoring pro-lockdown fanaticism whilst simultaneously jetting off to Antigua for a pre-Christmas break is not one it’s easy to warm to. Even his hissy fit had all the appearance of a classic self-important prima donna gesture when replayed endlessly across Twitter in the hours after it happened.

Moron was seemingly incensed by a supine defence of the Duchess of Woke’s latest sob story from one of those endless slimy ‘royal experts’ who pepper television that airs when most people are either at work or still in bed. The co-host of the show wouldn’t back down on his own personal (and less favourable) opinion of Harry’s missus when before the cameras; and, as it turns out, he wouldn’t back down off-camera either – especially when ITV bosses told him to publicly refute everything he’d previously said about the new queen of our hearts. Apparently, in the wake of that exiled actress having played the mental health as well as the race card, one is not allowed to call out her bullshit and one must praise her stunning bravery. Morgan refused to budge, and according to reports, he walked rather than take the Winston Marshall route of apologising when you’ve nothing to apologise for. Lest we forget, an opinion is subjective; it’s both right and wrong, depending where you stand. Airing an opinion is not a crime; neither is refusing to fawn at the feet of a privileged professional victim – yet.

I guess it is quite amusing that a sanctimonious American millionairess has become the current darling of the Guardianistas, perhaps telling you everything you need to know about where the priorities of the so-called Left are situated in 2021. Most of the Grauniad’s journos were probably at school with Prince Harry, anyway. Up the workers and all that. Mind you, it’s no great surprise that the kind of frivolous fodder that excites the chattering classes means jack shit to the wider population; after all, the wider population has more pressing concerns right now. A year of being subjected to the kind of repressive restrictions on civil liberties that would’ve left Erich Honecker thinking ‘Bloody hell, that’s a bit much’ means the majority of the British people are hardly going to be sympathetic to luxury whingeing from the resident of a Californian mansion. But, of course, every Identitarian utterance of Her Royal Wokeness is politicised. Everything from Mr Potato Head to Dr Seuss is politicised now – as is a tragic event that anyone seeking to politicise should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for doing so; but, naturally a) they do and b) they’re not.

When MP Jo Cox was murdered on the eve of the 2016 EU Referendum, the ramifications of the horrible killing continued to ricochet through parliamentary discourse in the worst possible way for several years afterwards, and it was often a way that was hardly respectful to the murdered woman’s memory. Labour MP and long-time opportunistic offender Jess Phillips invoked Jo Cox’s name and the fate that befell her during one of the heated debates leading up the Great Prorogue of 2019, implying that Boris Johnson’s clumsy attempts to shut up the opposition benches in order that he might speak without being drowned out by screams of ‘Tory Scum’ somehow equated with the ‘silencing’ of Jo Cox. And now that her felicitous flirtation with running for her party’s leadership seems extremely distant, Phillips has finally resurfaced to air her much-needed words and wisdom on another murder that has only just resulted in the discovery of a body.

But Phillips is not alone. Baroness Jones, the…er…world famous Green Party Peer has suggested the introduction of a 6pm curfew for men in the light of human remains – apparently those of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, missing for over a week – being found in woodland in Kent. The fact a serving Met officer has been arrested on suspicion of murder has presented some with a gruesome gift; we all know the organisation is institutionally racist, so I guess the appalling (alleged) actions of one employee must mean it’s institutionally sexist as well. What about institutionally f***ing useless? I guess putting police on the streets at night might help generate a greater sense of safety, but it’s surely more important to invest in daytime patrols looking out for pensioners on park benches that need a damn good fining.

Social media has been full of the usual suspects rushing to hijack the murder of someone none of them knew and claiming it for their cause; Sarah Everard is now representative of all violence towards women, something that is as inherent in the male of the species as racism is in anyone with white skin. All those exploiting this tragedy to fit an existing agenda are beneath contempt. Are any of them considering the feelings of Sarah Everard’s loved ones in all this, those who might actually want to grieve in private as the shock sinks in – something that would be greatly helped without her name being used in a game of political pass-the-parcel by despicable parasites who should (but rarely do) know better? Clearly not. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to draw any positives from this one.

© The Editor


The sanctity of the confessional undoubtedly upholds its mystique. Indeed, a clichéd plotline of many a detective drama is the frustrated copper trying to persuade a priest to hint at what was said between him and a suspect, despite the refusal repeatedly stressed by the man of the cloth. For the alleged suspect, knowing there is someone with whom he can share his demons safe in the knowledge the recipient’s lips will be sealed thereafter is evidently a rare comfort. But the confessional is more than merely an over-familiar trope routinely dredged up to embellish works of fiction. To anyone raised outside of the Catholic faith, the confidential confines of the confessional is perhaps one of the Church of Rome’s most alluring and attractive elements, though I appreciate the luxury of choice for non-believers is not necessarily something many chained to tiresome and intrusive religious rituals may view quite so benignly. Many years ago, a friend of mine confronted by a taxing personal dilemma that burdened her with more information than she could handle considered popping into the confessional just to get it all off her chest; but being utterly agnostic meant she too only knew the routine from the movies and bemoaned the fact there wasn’t a secular equivalent available – and an optional one at that.

Although some Anglican branches boasting Anglo-Catholic orientation have a similar set-up, it’s a wonder this particular aspect of Catholicism didn’t become a cornerstone feature of Protestant worship in Britain; it seems especially pertinent to the old British reluctance to wash dirty linen in public. A TV show such as ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ could never have existed half-a-century ago, for example, with the exposure of private family secrets used as a selling point completely alien to the traditional British character; a more fitting version of the programme produced at one time would have been more accurately titled ‘Mind Your Own Bloody Business’. How many of us grew up in families with shadowy figures on the fringes of photos whose names had been consciously forgotten, rumours whispered out of the ear-shot of children, contradictory evidence on clandestine birth certificates, a mysterious absence of a marriage licence and so on? The thought of all that airing on a primetime TV programme was anathema to those sensibilities. Yes, it is certainly an improvement that these secrets apparently can now be said out loud within families, but broadcasting them is still a step too far for some – though a lot seems to depend on which generation one belongs to.

Reading a description of the hotel facilities facing those forced to self-isolate at great expense upon returning to the UK from abroad, the inclusion of a TV set in the tomb – sorry, room – was clearly mentioned because it’s a given the item is as much a necessity as a bed. I haven’t been in a hotel room for a long time, but I can’t imagine a TV set would be much comfort in my confinement; it’d probably make me feel worse, receiving a horrifying premonition of a care home future in which I’m left to vegetate before endless gardening, cookery and antique exercises intended to extend inertia. Raised on seaside holidays in which the B&B boasted a communal ‘television room’ to serve that particular need, the novelty of a set in each individual room wasn’t something I encountered until my first visit to the States in 1980. I actually couldn’t wait to switch on back then, excited to see how different the service was. Looking back, I can see now that the dubious thrill of a hundred channels transmitting 24/7 was a glimpse into what awaited British viewers – as was the content.

One programme that stands out in the memory was so at odds with what I was used to that it almost seemed like a parody. I remember a weak steak of piss with a Gilbert O’Sullivan haircut sat around in a circle with maybe half-a-dozen people who were quite willing to discuss intimate problems and more than willing to burst into tears, leading to the inevitable ‘group hug’. My response to this conspicuous expression of emotions was laughter, but more so discomfort, feeling as though I was eavesdropping on something that I felt should’ve been conducted in private rather than public. It was probably some local PBS channel watched by fewer viewers than the number of people it took to produce the programme, but the apparent benefits those participating appeared to have received from the ‘therapy’ to me were outweighed by the very English threat of ‘everybody knowing their business’. I didn’t see the appeal for either participant or viewer. This was a new strain of television in which the confessional had opened its doors, a dream come true for that urban and suburban bogeyman (and woman), the nosy neighbour.

Previously better known for her small (but effective) role in ‘The Colour Purple’ and soon to become better known for the merry-go-round of her Liz Taylor-like weight loss/weight gain routine, Oprah Winfrey’s day-job was the host of a TV chat show specialising in audience participation. This wasn’t ‘The Generation Game’ or ‘That’s Life’, however; members of the public weren’t present to compare carrots to penises or make fools of themselves on the potter’s wheel; they were there to share things that had previously only been shared with intimate confidants and trusted friends – not only with everyone else in the studio but with millions watching at home. It would’ve been easy to write this off as an alien ‘Americanism’, but the sheer strangeness of such an approach to personal problems naturally gave it a car-crash cachet with British viewers, and British TV decided to have a crack at it.

Suddenly, from the mid-80s onwards, we had ‘Kilroy’ on BBC1 and ‘The Time, The Place’ on ITV. Then we had ‘This Morning with Richard & Judy’, ‘Trisha’, ‘Vanessa’, and probably numerous others long-forgotten in which people were encouraged to confess every sexual or mental hang-up in public. As Brits were making use of extended broadcasting hours by waiving rules on subjects that could and couldn’t be discussed before the watershed, the Americans were taking the format into extreme areas with the grotesque bear-baiting of ‘The Jerry Springer Show’; and, as had happened with the Oprah brand, we copied the format, lowering the bar way beyond anywhere the bar had ever sunk before by installing Jeremy Kyle as the gatekeeper of Bedlam so everyone could poke fun at the freaks. By now, reality television had already shown the narcissist and the exhibitionist that a lack of shame was no impediment to fame and fortune; but running parallel with this was the supposedly more dignified one-on-one interview conducted in earnest tones, a way for established celebrities to beg forgiveness for their misdemeanours and salvage their careers. Every household name from Frank Bough to Michael Barrymore followed in the footsteps of Princess Diana by adopting a faux-reserved manner to confessing their sins in public

Which brings us full circle, to the summit meeting of a woman who could lay claim to instigating this pernicious trend and a man who married his mother; the latter isn’t to be taken literally of course – after all, Jeremy Kyle has now been banished from the small screen; but you know what I mean. Considering areas where this here blog has ventured on occasion, I nevertheless deny it is also a symptom of such a trend. As a writer, I regard myself as operating in a particular tradition whereby the artist informs the art. Every novel has a sizeable slice of the novelist in it, ditto the poem and the poet, ditto the polemic and the polemicist – and I do all three. No cards are being played to elicit sympathy in the process, and there’s a world of difference between self-expression via the written word and holding out the emotional begging-bowl whilst sat in a Californian garden large enough to host gymkhana events. But this is an age in which the cameraman is closer to gynaecologist than priest and the confessional operates an open door policy in the arena of social media.

© The Editor


Back when television used to go to bed at night, it wasn’t uncommon to find one’s self being claimed by the sandman before actually making it up the stairs. Being abruptly jolted from this momentary slumber would spark a degree of disorientation when the last recollection was of sitting on the sofa tuned in to the final programme of the evening. The unnerving sight of a TV screen suddenly blank or displaying that abstract fuzzy chaos that television insiders called ‘snow’ would be enhanced by the piercing drone of a high pitched tone that seemed to slice through the head via one ear to the other like a sonic laser beam. I remember this once happening to me around 30 years back and I experienced a fleeting sensation that the programme I’d been watching before dozing off was still on and that this shock to the system was actually a trick being played by it to deliberately unsettle me. The programme in question had been ‘The Twilight Zone’, and I couldn’t be entirely sure Rod Serling wasn’t going to reappear after a few moments to inform me the disorientation was merely another example of life in the strange neighbourhood he was our guide to.

Of all the vintage shows that have provided me with downtime interior escapism over the past twelve months, perhaps none have been more perfectly attuned to these oh-so strange times than ‘The Twilight Zone’. Arguably the finest anthology series TV has ever produced, ‘The Twilight Zone’ remains the benchmark for intelligent, thought-provoking storytelling with a surreal, disturbing twist that has echoed throughout other examples of the genre ever since; everything from ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ to ‘Black Mirror’ owes it a huge debt. Although originally airing in the US from 1959 to 1964, like most insomniacs on this side of the pond it became a must-see show during the early years of Channel 4, when it would usually bring the curtain down on the schedule after midnight – or so memory tells me. One of the joys of the series was that the viewer never knew what he or she was going to get, for the range of the stories could veer from the whimsically bizarre to the downright nightmarish – and it was the latter that always sent you to bed with the story stubbornly lingering in the room.

Urbane, cool-as-f**k Rod Serling, the perma-smoking host of the show, visually belonged to that generation of immediate post-war American males for whom Hugh Hefner or the Rat Pack were sartorial role models, yet he also embodied the socially-conscious intellectual artist whose drive to highlight the fault-lines of society was informed by formative years living through the Great Depression. After a psychologically-damaging albeit character-shaping WWII fighting the Japanese in the Philippines, Serling initially established his reputation as one of the ‘Angry Young Men’ operating in the creatively-fertile medium of the television play; like Dennis Potter after him, Serling chose the small screen as his stage and consequently reached a far wider audience than any Broadway scribe such as Arthur Miller could ever dream of.

With the ramifications of the McCarthy era still ricocheting through the arts, the now-abandoned genre of the live television play illuminated American TV in its groundbreaking early years, bringing a level of emotional intensity to television that commercial considerations gradually ironed out; indeed, it took until the innovative original programming of HBO revitalised the dormant medium in the 1990s before such risk-taking techniques resurfaced. However, after a period in which his attempts to address America’s most outstanding problems via his art were increasingly frustrated by battles with networks, sponsors and censors, Serling eventually realised he could get away with commenting on the state of the nation by wrapping his message in the deceptive dressing of fantasy. Therefore, he relocated from New York to LA and created ‘The Twilight Zone’.

Sometimes subtly and sometimes less so – quality could vary, yes, but there were 156 episodes, after all – the pressing issues of the day were regularly dealt with on ‘The Twilight Zone’, but it wasn’t simply a relentless polemic; one of the alluring – and enduring – facets of the series was that, the slightly creaky ‘outer space’ episodes aside, it usually opened in a recognisable everyday world and then slowly took one step away from it, placing the picture at a distorted angle from which anything was possible. Part of the appeal of ‘The Twilight Zone’ was that some of the stories just posed the ‘What would happen if..?’ question, as in what would happen if we really could go back in time, or what would happen if we could suddenly hear the thoughts of the people we came into contact with, or what would happen if we woke up one day and everyone we knew suddenly no longer knew us, or what would happen if the life we were living was actually revealed to be nothing more than a scripted TV series – and this was a good forty years before ‘The Truman Show’.

Although he assembled a gifted team of writers around him, Serling’s role as creator and host was overshadowed by his creative contribution to the series, penning or co-writing a staggering 92 episodes of the 156, a phenomenal work-rate by anybody’s standards and one that gradually took its toll on him. And as it began to garner critical appreciation and awards, the series provided a useful entry point for many eventual household names, with the likes of Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, William Shatner, Robert Duvall, Elizabeth Montgomery, Martin Landau and numerous others gaining early breaks; it also offered intriguing roles to established stars such as Mickey Rooney as well as giving actors at the end of their careers one last chance to shine – Buster Keaton features in one especially memorable episode that serves as a touching tribute to the silent era.

At its best, the series provoked thought, placing the viewer in the shoes of the characters who found themselves in situations many have pondered on. One of the plentiful extras included with the DVD box-set that has provided me with late night entertainment over the past couple of months (and I can only watch it late at night) is a segment from the early 70s in which Serling discusses his craft with writing students; he admits to having a recurring fascination with revisiting or recapturing his lost youth, something that surfaces in several memorable ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes in which the irretrievable idyll is briefly grasped by characters who are alone in their realisation that they have reconnected with something those around them are oblivious to. Maybe these particular instalments speak to a certain age group and one has to get there to get it, but I’ve found revisiting ‘The Twilight Zone’ at a moment in time when the norm has been subverted to an unprecedented degree a highly prescient exercise. In some respects, the series may be very much rooted in time and place, yet many of the themes it tackled remain relevant and appear to grow more relevant the further away we travel from its original production.

Reduced to its earworm theme tune as a clichéd byword for ‘weird’ within popular culture over the last few decades, ‘The Twilight Zone’ when viewed afresh in its entirety offers a far more significant insight into both a reminder of what mainstream television was once capable of and what the medium’s archive still has to tell us about who we were, who we are and who we could be. I’ve found it the perfect reminder that sometimes the most telling comment on the here and now can often be found in something that appeared long before we actually arrived in the here and now. Messrs Huxley, Orwell and McGoohan would surely back me up on that one.

© The Editor


Maybe it’s only a matter of time – indeed, it may already have happened – before our uninvited house-guest Covid-19 is accused of being ‘fat-phobic’; illogical Woke logic has long since disregarded facts about poverty or Vitamin D deficiencies and has branded the coronavirus racist, so I guess (if we momentarily sidestep the Trans crowd) the next group on the league table of the Oppression Olympics that Covid has singled out for special treatment will be the obese. Not even sure if ‘fat-phobic’ is the correct term; is fat now referred to as the F-word? No, it can’t be on account of us having FAT-shaming. Big, we are told, is beautiful and not remotely unhealthy – if recent fairyland magazine covers are anything to go by, anyway. We couldn’t simply have curvy models closer to the average shape most women would recognise; we had to have huge ones just to hammer home the point. Funny how there is never any middle ground in this argument. We go from borderline anorexic to grossly overweight in one fell swoop.

Fine to celebrate an unconventional body image if the individual in question is content with it; but to promote obesity as some sort of desirable lifestyle choice seems as recklessly irresponsible as the ‘Heroin Chic’ look that some supermodels (or superwaifs as they were labelled) embraced in the 90s. But, hey, we live in the age of 2+2=5, so to suddenly declare that being a lard-arse is ‘cool’ is hardly a surprising development. The internal damage done by obesity is, of course, something only the Man with X-Ray Eyes has intimate access to, but one could say the same about smoking. Indeed, if we are to have wealthy fatties selling themselves as ‘body perfect’ and flying in the face of all medical advice as they do so, why don’t we reintroduce billboards and magazine ads for fags? We all know cigarettes are bad for you, but so is stuffing your face with sugary foodstuffs; both are down to individual choice, after all – no one forces a Big Mac into someone else’s mouth any more than they stick a lighted cig in it.

But I guess this is a time when individual responsibility is an unfashionable concept and the heavy eater or the heavy smoker are not to blame for the poor state of their own health; we’ve all been so infantilised that individual autonomy characteristic of the grownup is out of the question. If we have to ask the state permission to go for a walk like we used to ask our mums if we could play out, it’s no wonder we look to blame others for our own personal failings. We’re not responsible for anything we do anymore, and that includes what we eat. True, some do have genetic (and mental) conditions of which obesity is a by-product and these necessitate legitimate medical intervention; but the majority of obesity tends to be self-inflicted, either unconsciously (though simple ignorance) or consciously (though not giving a shit). Don’t point any of this out on social media, however. How dare anyone claim the overweight are obese because they eat too much shit and don’t exercise! They’re just as valid victims as all the rest! And whatever you do, don’t dare suggest that selling the overweight as ‘glamorous’ is a bad idea; that’s almost as heinous as saying men can’t menstruate, lactate or give birth. If anyone ever doubts this line of insane thinking is approaching a fanatical religious doctrine, just tweet some common sense facts that contradict the narrative and watch the fun begin. War is peace, as someone once observed.

Perhaps the uncomfortable truth that countries with some of the worst cases of obesity have suffered some of the highest death tolls during the pandemic backs up the inevitable ‘fat-phobic’ nature of the coronavirus. What else could it be? A report by the World Obesity Federation says that the fattest nations have had nine out of ten Covid deaths linked to the overweight state of their populations, with fatalities far higher in countries where 50% or more of its people are obese. Indeed, here in blobby old Blighty, we’ve had the third highest death rate whilst simultaneously being at No.4 in the world’s fat chart. Obesity certainly seems to favour the West; Far Eastern countries have suffered fewer Covid deaths and also coincidentally have far lower rates of obesity among adults. Japan appears to have addressed obesity as part of their pandemic package, whereas over here one of the heavily-promoted projects during the brief break between lockdowns was the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, which felt like the Government sponsoring the nation to binge on bad (or fast) food, even when there was already a well-established connection between a poor diet and susceptibility to contracting the coronavirus. Not that obesity wasn’t recognised as a ticking time bomb before the events of the past twelve months intervened, but Covid-19 gate-crashing the feast has perhaps highlighted just how much of an accident waiting to happen obesity was.

Talking of the apparent success with which Far Eastern countries have tackled the coronavirus in comparison to the Western nations, turns out North Korea is the biggest success story of all. According to the ever-dependable Pyongyang Ministry of Information, not one single Covid death has been recorded in the country, which is pretty impressive, especially when one considers North Korea’s proximity to China. The response of the Democratic People’s Republic to the pandemic has been, according to the UN, to impose ‘drastic measures that have exacerbated human rights abuses and economic hardship for the country’s citizens’. This is particularly tragic on account of the absolute absence of human rights abuses and economic hardships that existed there prior to Covid, something for which North Korea has always been celebrated.

Infamously one of the most isolated nations on the planet, the pandemic has seen North Korea strengthen its borders even further, but the loss of trade with China – coupled with the international sanctions already in place – has hit it hard. China provides North Korea with 90% of its trade, but the past year has seen an 80% drop in that trade. The sudden absence of farming tools and fertiliser vital to the country’s agricultural economy was made worse by serious typhoons and floods even before the monsoon season, pushing millions to the brink of starvation. Humanitarian work has all-but ceased and relief aid remains in limbo at the border with China. At times like this, it’s sadly ironic that a nation in which so many of its people are experiencing severe food shortages is fronted by one of the most roly-poly world leaders. I guess if there is to eventually be one Covid death recorded in North Korea, Kim Jong-un would appear to be more vulnerable than most of his people, what with him being such a fat bastard.

The vaccine – of which North Korea is set to receive 1.7 million doses, evidently as a preventative measure – is clearly a sensible requirement for anyone over a certain age, though this should have been the group within society that was ring-fenced right at the beginning – ditto anyone (to regurgitate that familiar phrase yet again) ‘with underlying health conditions’. And, despite what several stupid American magazine front covers would have you believe, being grossly overweight is indicative of an underlying health condition. Not to worry, though – even those who watch what they eat remain in the firing line. A few posts back I predicted an inevitable new mutation of the virus would magically appear to once more postpone the lifting of restrictions, and – hey presto! – we now have the Brazilian variant; keep a look out for the Narnia variant, the Neverland variant and the Somewhere-over-the-rainbow variant coming soon to a lockdown near you! But chances are it might favour you most of all if you’re on the obese side.

© The Editor