The Empty Page

I watched an interview with Margaret Attwood. She talks, among many things, about the fear of the empty page. Other people won’t like what you’ve written. Well that’s certainly the case with my work. Violence and prosecution deter. Overcoming these things may be liberating, but it doesn’t take away the haunting thought that, next time…… When you live in this city, and especially in a place that we must never call a ghetto or a mental prison, you learn to keep your mouth shut and your keystrokes offline. The smug, chattering types don’t just make me angry. I envy them. They can criticise and condemn all they want. That so many choose mere mediocrity as life’s greatest virtue leaves fist prints on my computer screen.

My own lesson in literary conformity came at the age of sixteen. My handwriting had become a symptom of my slow descent into the abyss. My English teacher, in an attempt to make my work legible, gave me an old typewriter and some A4 blank. I’m showing my age here. This was the 80s. So I produced for her a piece of dark fiction set in the killing zone of Central America. People made love when they could, then fought, died, and betrayed one another. A child from West Belfast had no place in that school. The Deputy Headmaster, who was head of the Scripture Union, made it clear that such fruits of my imagination had better not pollute the pristine environment of his elite Protestant grammar school…..again. Never underestimate the power of invalidation. It creates the fear of the empty page. Who knows what you might vomit onto it? Who indeed?

Tell me what’s unsayable? Islam, like Catholicism and the Evangelical Horror Show, is disgusting. Zionism is endless ethnic cleansing. At least while there are still Palestinians in Palestine. What does Arabrein mean? The BBC is the broadcast arm of the Tory Party. And you better not go on it and call Donald Trump a Racist, or share that the UN found “Welfare Reform” to be a murderous war against the poor, the weak, the sick, the disabled. See how quick you get smacked down when you raise that issue. 130.000 austerity deaths? It’s more than that, but who’s counting? Not the National Broadcaster. The money for hospitals is fake. Their chief political correspondent sent a twitter mob against a father who’s daughter had nearly died. Why? Because he had the temerity to confront Boris Johnston on a PR stunt. Did you know they have lessons in schools that tell kids all the great things the Great Leader is doing?

Nobody’s listening. The clichés shut their thoughts down. Anti-Semite, Islamophobe, Catholicophobe. It’s not a word, but they’ll make it one. As for the Evangelicals, they have Kevin Sorbo to make movies about how oppressed they are. They don’t need a big word. They want to keep people’s worlds small. So do those who’ve colonised the Left, with their hierarchies of victimhood, something we’re good at here, and their made up notions, like classism. I hear that a lot and my poor monitor feels my wroth. It’s almost like some people, who are not without…………privilege…….want to deny the existence of a class war. I’m showing my age again. If I keep this up they’ll be calling me a deplorable.

Boris Johnston held a little piece of hope in front of a homeless person. The £50 note was a lot of money back in the 80s, when I was destitute. I don’t know how I would have reacted when he set fire to the money, burned down hope. Of course he was with his friends, David Cameron and George Osborne and the rest of the Bullingdon Club. No use trying to fight back. The boys from the Eaton Rifles will smash your face in then walk away laughing. They could get away with murder, and in government they have. Their austerity policies were designed to kill. They’ve been spectacularly successful. A row of effigies hung from a bridge in Manchester making this very point. I expect the usual condemnations. No one sees fit to point out that we hanged people at Nuremberg for the very crimes our masters have committed with such lurid loathing of their victims.

We also hanged a press baron, the Third Reich’s Rupert Murdoch, for his stochastic terrorism against the ever growing list of those to be eliminated. In the UK the homeless, when not freezing to death, are beaten, set on fire, sprayed with paint and urinated on. Think about that next time you read a Daily Mail headline about benefit scroungers. All those cripples who won’t pick up their beds and walk, what to do with them? How about take away their means of existence? After all, they can work. They’re frauds. And the system is there to help them. With tough love. And benefit sanctions. And dispossession. It’s their own fault for not making an effort. What’s that? The homeless are mostly mentally ill? Don’t you know the cure for that is hard work? Boris Johnston says so. And he would never lie. He would never destroy people and watch them die in the gutter to satisfy his own malice. Credit where it’s due, it’s efficient. No need for gas chambers. I hope you don’t think that’s Anti-Semitism, but the mentally ill were the first to get shoved into them and it’s people like me I’m talking about. The T4 programme killed 300,000 people. The Bullingdon Boys have murdered 130,000. And nobody cares.

I don’t see the pseudo-left giving me oppression points. After all, I’m a straight, white male so I’m, you know, subhuman. Just like the homeless, which I used to be.

What do you mean, the Royal Wedding was an atrocity against the destitute? How can you insult these lovely people, Megan and Harry? Yes, that £33 million that was spent policing the unmentionables out of sight and out of mind could have built them and many many others homes, but we don’t want to reward their lifestyle choice. These acts show what we represent. Who we value. Who we discard. We’re losing our humanity. And we don’t care.

Look at all the good work that the Royals do for the mentally ill. It’s not an obscene parody of compassion. How can you be so cynical? Megan and the other one, what’s-her-name, have it so hard as women in the public gaze. And one of them is, they say, a Person Of Colour. She’s got major oppression points unlike, you know…………. the cis, straight, white, male privilege of……………..those people.

The fear of the empty page is the power of other people’s lies.

The Price of Freedom

You owed him nothing

You raised him

And abandoned him

And only you

Could have

Saved him

But your life is your own

To make

A Human sacrifice

Of another

You owe me nothing

Not even

Forty-One years

You don’t own my pain

Don’t try to steal

What’s left

My life

Is my own

Sweet Defiance

No bottom

To hit

There’s always worse

Do not submit

They want to help


Won’t stop

Telling you

You’re worthless

No longer

Scream back

Free fallin’

Beset on all sides

By unworth

No line

Falls down

Only you

Can rescue


And yet

Out there

Tin shacks exist





Never knowing


They’ll be


Guest weekend long read: Lancashire Police tipped off benefit officials about disabled anti-fracking protesters


181020 PNR Rod Harbinsondotcom Photo:

In this guest post, John Pring, of the Disability News Service, reports on how Lancashire police sent information to a government department about disabled anti-fracking protesters. He also investigates accusations that the force repeatedly targeted vulnerable people at protests.

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Britain’s heart is broken

Fear and Loathing in Great Britain


How do I know that Britain’s heart is broken? I know it because I am living it and living with the grief of it moment by moment. I know it because my own heart is broken. I know it because I see who and what broke it. I’ve seen it since 2010, when the great betrayal manifested itself, a betrayal planned for long treacherous years and then was callously and brutally unleashed. I watched helplessly as it swept across Britain and people began to die. I watched austerity begin to brutalise people and I watched as people despaired, lost hope and took their own lives and I knew I had to do something.

I racked my brain, I searched my soul and desperately looked for what I could do, of my own volition, requiring no ones permission, that I had the ability to self sustain over time. I needed something…

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Billionaire money for Hitler then, for AfD now

Dear Kitty. Some blog

This German 24 November 2018 video is about far-right billionaire August von Finck financing the AfD party.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

From the Nazis to the AfD: Big business finances the far-right

28 November 2018

According to an investigation by the weekly Der Spiegel, the rise to prominence of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) was facilitated by huge financial contributions from 88-year-old billionaire August von Finck. His father, also named August von Finck, financed Adolf Hitler and made a fortune by confiscating Jewish property through the process known as “Aryanisation”.

Der Spiegel concludes that several million euros that flowed into the founding and development of the AfD originate from Finck’s business and financial empire. In 2013, Finck was placed 10th on the Forbes list of the richest Germans, with a fortune of $8.2 billion. In order to avoid paying taxes…

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The cat with no name

June 2011

Today I had a cat killed.

The phone rang. It was my friend the veterinary nurse.

The test came back FIV positive.”

I had asked her to make sure his blood was tested. Now I had to say it,

I know what I have to do. And I hate it.”

She argued a painfully false hope,

He’s healthy now. He can live a couple of years.”

What about my cat? My neighbour has four. What about them?”

There is no vaccine or treatment or cure. All it takes is one bite; fighting or rough and tumble. Transmission is saliva to blood. Toms infect females when they bite the scruff of the neck while mating. When cats fight…..

Tara was fourteen when she died. I told the vet,

But she’s neutered.”

He shrugged. You don’t need to mate to catch it.

I had brought her in that morning. She had collapsed yet again. I had thought it was her thyroid.

The nurse phoned. The vet had to speak to me. A friend drove me up.

We have to put her down now.”

I collapsed. I was on the floor in the foetal position. My friend talked me to my feet.

Let me hold her.”

Her bladder will go.”

I’m sorry Tara….”

Tears ran down my face. They should have let me hold her. The vet shaved her paw, slid the needle in…..

It was like switching off the light.

They put her in a cardboard box. She was wrapped in a towel.

I sat on my bed and cradled her limp form in my arms. Patti Smith’s Gone Again album blasted at me…..

I never mourned her. I could not allow myself to grieve.

She’s buried in the garden of a church, which is ironic considering her owner’s atheism.

Every spring snowdrops emerge and then bluebells; a little commemoration of the purity of her love. She nurtured me through my breakdowns; sitting atop my curled form; sometimes wrapping herself around my head as if she were the mother cat and I her kitten. She saved my life; more than once.

I spoke into the phone,

Can Cats’ Protection not take him?”


Can he be rehomed?”

You would have to take care of that.”

She had other patients to think of; and her own cats.

I swallowed, then,

I know what has to be done.”

She had collected him that morning after I’d rescued a little stray tom and endured a night of caterwauling. My own cat had kept his distance from the creature locked in the bathroom. My lazy, soft, quiet, cuddly neutered male could not be doing with this deranged young one who would rub up against me one moment then snap at my hand the next. He was a feline teenager flooded with testosterone and stress hormones. I sat on the floor beside him and he understood. I was in charge and he would shut up. I was angry at him, so much so that I had not given him a name. That would wait till he was relieved of his testicular burden.

I’m glad he made me angry. It’s harder to let them go when you’ve give them a name.



It was a holiday. The church café was closed. I liked these days. I could visit Tara in peace. The pile of soil was a cause of concern. I’d told them time and again where she was buried; look for the square of brick set into the ground under the linden tree. I couldn’t find it. There was nothing but a hole. Some piece of denial told me they hadn’t done this. I fumbled in the bare soil looking for the outline.

A brick.

Is it the outside or inside of the square?

The earth was dry as it flowed through my fingers. And then;

A bone. From the hind leg. The longest in a cat’s body. I dropped it and walked away.


I tore the wrapping from the cork and poured myself a glass of brandy. Then another. By the fourth or fifth it was taking effect.

There was a time when this would have broken me. I had hardened up.

Or perhaps merely died inside.