dubiously true stories and cartoons

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Here's a story that a kind of wrote a few years ago, put down and picked up again this year. I hope you like it.

Bodach (bod-ack): A malign creature from ancient folklore that lives in the recesses in chimneys and emerges after midnight to terrorise naughty children in their beds.

It was only six days to the arrival of Christmas but it might as well have been six years. In the long, dull, empty days leading up to that magical time when I was eight years old and boredom often led to disruptive behaviour, I would be shooed out of the house by my mother and would sit on the garden wall at the back of our house and pull faces at the people who walked by, but only when their backs were turned. It wasn’t a particularly constructive or intelligent thing to do but it passed the time. Towards the end of the afternoon as the sun was going down and the street lights were casting their long shadows on the flag-stoned pavement, an old man with long hair and a scruffy grey beard shuffled noisily past my perch. He was dressed in a shabby brown raincoat, tied at the waist with a length of frayed string. His trousers were ragged and on his feet he wore a pair of gaping, suede shoes that were wrapped in plastic bags that made him rustle as he tramped past. I was going to pull a face at him but he stopped suddenly and looked around, as if he were searching for something that he had misplaced or forgotten. And then he spoke to me.

“You,” he said. “You live here?”

“Y . . . yes,” I replied. I glanced quickly over my shoulder to see if my mother was watching from the kitchen window. There was no sign of her, but if she had seen this exchange she would have been out of the house like a shot, wagging her finger and lecturing me about how I should never ever talk to strangers.

The old man looked at me, cocking his head from side to side like a curious dog. “You bin ‘avin’ nightmares,” he said. “You bin a bad lad, an’t you? Bin a bad lad, eh?”

I stared at the old man, wondering how he knew about the terrors that had been waking me up screaming in the middle of the night.

“You got a Bodach in there,” he said, breaking the silence. “It’s ‘im who’s bin waking you up.”

“A what?” I asked, finally.

“A Bodach, lad.”

“What’s a Bodach?”

“It’s ‘im who scares you. Comes to see you after midnight, he does. I knows about ‘im, see. Came to see me when I were a bad lad. Not much older’n you, I reckon. Reckless, I was. A pest to me ma an’ pa. Never gave ‘em a moment’s peace, I didn’t. Always in trouble. But then the Bodach came to see me. Night after night, ‘e came, pinching me ears, tweaking me nose an’ all. Some nights ‘e’d pull open me eyelids and stare inter me, and I’d see ‘im crouched over me, ‘is leathery face touching mine, his slitty eyes starin’ right inter me. Scared me ‘alf ter death, he did.”

“Well, there’s no Bodach here,” I said. I tried to sound convincing, to cover up my fear of what tonight might bring. “There’s just me and my mum and dad.”

“Bodach in’t no person,” the old man said, “he in’t no human been. You won’t never see ‘im, not in’t daytime anyways. But ‘e’s there all right. Lives up yer chimney, ‘e does. Lives up everybody’s chimney an’ waits there until they bin bad. They ‘e comes down an’ tortures ‘em. Only preys on bad children, ‘e does. ‘E likes bad children. Taste better’n good children, they do.”

“We don’t have a Bodach up our chimney,” I said defensively, “and I’ve never seen such a thing.”

“No point lookin’ fer ‘im. You’ll never see ‘im. Tucked up that chimney of yours, right an’ proper, ‘e is. When you’s asleep, that’s when ‘e comes down. If’n yer wanna keep ‘im away just sprinkle some salt on yer fire afore yer go ter bed. That’ll keep ‘im away. Dun’t like ter tread on salt, dun’t the Bodach. You mark my words, lad.”

“Well, I don’t need any salt,” I told him, “because there’s no such thing as a Bodach, and even if there was there isn’t one in my house.”

The old man looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Night night, sleep tight, don’t let the Bodach bite.” Then he turned and, laughing to himself, tramped off down the road, his plastic-bag shoes rustling as he went.

The old man had been right, of course. I had been bad. I’d been in a bad mood ever since the school holidays started, mainly through boredom and a lack of imagination and the previous day I had thrown a tantrum that had spiralled out of control until my mother lost patience and had sent me screaming to my room. There I had laid on my bed, my hands clenched into fists, wondering how it had all started, until I drifted off into a deep sleep.

I was still dressed when I woke up and the house was silent and dark. At first the only sound I could hear was the loud tick-tocking of the clock in the hallway downstairs. But then I heard something else. Something in my bedroom. Something crawling across the carpet. Something that sent a chill right through my body.

Scraaaaatch. Scraaaaatch. Scraaaaatch.

I kept my eyes shut tight. I daren’t look, daren’t move. Whatever it was it was under my bed. I heard sharp, claws scratching against the wooden frame of my bed. I felt the sheet move as the thing crawled up onto the mattress, onto the counterpane. Cold sweat trickled down my body. I was terrified, struck dumb with primal fear – fear of something nasty lurking under the bed, something waiting to grab me and drag me down into Hell.

Then I felt my nose being pinched, felt something tugging at my ear. I could smell its rotten stench, its foul breath as a set of long, hard, sharp claws took hold of my eyelids. I wanted to cry out, to call for my mother, but I couldn’t. I felt sure that whatever was crawling on top of me was going to consume me and only a pile of gnawed bones would be all that was left of me in the morning. 

I felt my eyelids being slowly forced open and I saw that its own eyes were just slits, a malicious glint shining through them. Layers of skin fell from its leathery face. Its hands were gnarled, deformed, claw-like. It hissed at me and its breath stank of old sewers with dead things floating in them, dead thing that were rotting away, eaten by maggots and worms. Its pointed fingers forced my eyes open even wider and it leaned forward, a long, stinking, rough-edged tongue licking at my cheek.

Baaaaaaaaaaaadddd Boy, it hissed. Then my eyelids snapped shut and I began to scream.

Louder and louder and louder.

When my parents burst into my room it was gone. There was just me. On the bed. Screaming.

“Just a bad dream,” said my mother soothingly, stroking my hair. “Go back to sleep.” But I knew it wasn’t a dream and if I didn’t do something about it the thing would be back night after night after night.

The old man came to me in my hour of greatest need. His suggestion of the salt worked. I sprinkled it liberally around the fireplace, like he said, just before I went to bed. And, like the old man, the bad dreams disappeared from my life forever.

And then time began to take its relentless toll. I grew older. As each Christmas came and went the years appeared to get shorter and as the years flew by I got a job, I got married and we had a daughter. In that long passage of time that seemed so short I never told anyone about my encounter with the Bodach – not even my wife.

Like all children of a certain age temper tantrums become an essential part of making their parents’ lives as miserable as possible in order to get what they want. It doesn’t always work and the child more often than not gets sent to their room in disgrace, to ponder on the acceptability of their behaviour. That also doesn’t always work. It was an hour before my daughter had quietened down and sobbed herself to sleep and it was the dead of night when she woke up again, screaming.

My wife and I both dived out of bed in the same instant, rushing into her room and clicking on the light switch. In the glare of the ceiling light we could see that she was terrified. Sweating and crying, she had been woken from some terrible nightmare that she couldn’t relate to us. We eventually managed to calm her down, but she slept fitfully for the rest of the night, my wife lying beside her, gently caressing her forehead.

Yesterday was Christmas Eve, a bright sunny day with, as usual, no hint of snow in the air. My daughter was playing in the street outside the house and I was about to go out and ask her about the night before when I saw that she was talking to herself.

“You know,” I said to her when she came in, “People think you’re mad if you talk to yourself.”

“I wasn’t talking to myself,” she told me. “I was talking to my friend.”

“Your invisible friend?”

“Dur, he wasn’t invisible, stupid.”

“Really? What have I told you about talking to strangers?”

“He wasn’t a stranger, dad. He said he knew you.”

“Oh, yeah. What was his name, then?”

“He didn’t say.”

“Well, what did he look like?”

“Old,” was my daughter’s reply, “like you.”

Then she ran into the lounge and turned on the television. The sound of some moronic Christmas themed game show was blaring from the lounge when I stepped out of the kitchen and into the back garden. I walked to the gate and looked down the road – it was deserted, but carried on the wind a distant sound made the hairs on the nape of my neck stand on end. It was a sound I thought I’d never hear again, like some long forgotten memory had just been pulled from a disused information storage cabinet in my brain. It was the sound of someone shuffling along with plastic-bag shoes on his feet, rustling invisibly on the paving stones of my past.

It was the sound of my childhood.

That evening as the last of the presents were placed under the tree and the stocking were laid out by the hearth, I ate the mince pie and picked up the glass of whisky that had been left for Father Christmas. “You go to bed,” I said to my wife, “I’ll be up soon. I’ve just got a couple of things to sort out.”

When I eventually climbed into bed I snuggled up next to my wife. “Did you find it?” she asked me as I rested my arm over her shoulder.

“Find what?”

“The salt.” She turned around and kissed me lightly on the cheek. “Night night,” she whispered, “sleep tight. Don’t let the Bodach bite.”

I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone who has supported my blog over the years. Now that I'm settled back in the UK I should be able to get more stories and articles written for Travels With My Rodent. Also A Life in Cheese will recommence and go on to its conclusion at the start of February.

Merry Christmas to you all and have a Happy New Year.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


When I arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2008 the weekends ran from Thursday to Friday. Bahrain, which is just a hop, skip and jump over the King Fahd Causeway, had, and still has, it’s weekends from Friday to Saturday. Coming from the UK where the weekends run from Saturday to Sunday made it bad enough to get your head around the Saudi Arabian weekend but in 2013 when the King gave everyone two weeks’ notice that the weekend would be changing from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday it sent all our ex-pat heads spinning.
Palms Restaurant on the compound where I live had a regular Friday Brunch – a sort of virtual Sunday Roast that would rotate it’s meat course over a three week period – lamb followed by beef followed by turkey (no pork unfortunately), but when the weekend changed the Brunch didn’t and now instead of having a virtual Sunday roast we now have a virtual Saturday roast.
It’s a small thing, I know, but it really messes with your head.
I’d been living in Saudi Arabia for almost five years before the weekend changed and I was still occasionally getting my virtual Sundays mixed up with the standard UK Sundays – a UK Sunday was actually a Monday. But when Sunday became Saturday it was even more confusing. Not only did we mix up our UK Sundays with the new virtual Sundays (Saturdays) but we also mixed them up with the old virtual Sundays (or standard UK Fridays) with the standard UK Sundays and the new virtual Sundays (or Saturdays).
There are a lot of things to be confused about in Saudi Arabia. Driving out here is probably the most confusing. Actually it’s not the driving that confuses you – it’s the accidents. I have driven past some accidents where the positioning of the vehicles involved have defied the laws of physics. I saw one accident early one morning when there was hardly any traffic on the roads where a car was halfway up a date palm tree while the other car was on its roof facing towards the oncoming traffic. How did that happen? How can two cars driving on an empty road travelling in the same direction end up like that?

It’s a mystery.
Maybe it can be explained by one driver I saw who sped past me on the hard shoulder while I was on my way home from work one afternoon. The driver’s seat was so far back he was almost lying down and, as well as having his left leg hanging out of the window, his right hand was otherwise engaged in the process of texting someone on his mobile phone and his left hand was holding a cup of some boiling hot liquid. He was manoeuvring his speeding vehicle by means of his right knee and I can only guess at who or what was important enough for him to relax his limited concentration to send a text whilst travelling at 160 kilometres an hour. Maybe it was the emergency room of the local hospital to inform him of the vision they had just had of his impending horrific accident.
I was in a passenger in a car one time, driven by a Saudi friend of mine called Ali. There were four other passengers in the car and, like Ali, they all worked for one of the main oil and gas companies here. He was taking us to visit his stables where we would look at his thorough-bred horses, eat dates and smoke some shisha. On the way there he had to drive through the busy town of Dammam. He did this with his foot on the accelerator, swerving in and out of the traffic at high speed.
My Australian friend Tony, who was one of the other terrified passengers, said, “You’re driving a bit fast through here, aren’t you.”
“Don’t worry, Tony,” Ali replied, “I’m a professional Saudi driver.”
“That’s what he’s worried about,” I remarked.
Too be fair, Ali was a good driver. But the journey to the stables did get me thinking about the many near-misses that I, and all my colleagues, have had on the roads here. Now, I’m not the best of drivers – as my wife will be only too happy to qualify, but at least I know how to use indicators.

I used to think that indicators came as optional extras in Saudi, but I soon came to discover that quite a substantial amount of the drivers here didn’t really understand why they were there. I was talking to one of my Saudi friends one day and I told him that one of the things that bothered me about Saudi drivers was the fact that they never used their indicators.
Before I go on, I’d better explain that they don’t call them indicators in Saudi. Everyone drives big American cars and the indicator is referred to as the ‘Turn Signal’. This, one of the many differences between the American and English language, can also cause confusion. I’d just come off a roundabout once and, without realising it, my indicator was still on. After a few seconds the car reminded me of this with an LCD display that read TURN SIGNAL ON, and I remember looking at the display in a state of bewilderment, thinking, ‘turn which signal on?’
Anyway, I asked my friend why nobody used their indicators.
His reply was this: “Why do I need to use my indicators when I know where I’m going?”
Not long after I arrived out here there was an accident at a set of traffic lights near the compound where I lived. An ex-pat was waiting patiently for a set of traffic lights to turn green when he happened to notice a car approaching from behind travelling at speed. The driver of the other vehicle appeared to be speeding up rather than slowing down and the ex-pat must have experienced what people in the services call an Exocet Moment. An Exocet was a type of guided missile that was fired at the British and American troops by the Iraqis during the first Gulf War – and an Exocet Moment is when you can see something coming but there’s fuck all you can do about it. The car that was approaching the ex-pat at the traffic lights didn’t slow down and ploughed into the back of his stationary vehicle, sending his now written-off car careering into the middle of the junction. The police were called out and they looked at the scene in great detail before deciding that the accident was the ex-pat’s fault because ‘if he hadn’t been there the accident would never have happened’.
Things like that don’t happen all that often nowadays because the enforcement of traffic regulations has increased substantially. Mobile and fixed speed cameras are all over the place, which is ironic as in Britain many of them have been removed owing to the fact that it has been recognised over the years, with drivers slamming their brakes on to avoid being detected, that they create more accidents than they prevent.
Still, there’s only one way to get around out here and that’s to drive. And that’s what I’m just about to do. I’m just off to do my weekly shopping. I normally do it on a weekend – usually on a Saturday, or is it Thursday?
Or Friday?
Or Sunday?

Friday, August 22, 2014


The month of August this year has been a busy one for me. Not only did I have my Leaving Party in the Causeway Club on Thursday 7th August, it was also my sixtieth birthday party on fourteen days later.  My best mate and bromance partner, Andy Baker, wrote some terrible things about me which are simply not true, and which he read out to all assembled. What follows (for anyone who is interested) is a sort of edited mash-up of the two speeches I gave on those two extremely enjoyable nights. I hope you like it.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when I was in the RAF, I wrote a short story about the death of my grandfather and I gave it to one of the civilian women who worked in the next office to me to read. When she’d finished it she gave it back and told me that she thought it was very moving and that it had actually made her cry. But then she said, “What really amazed me about it, though, was that I couldn’t quite believe that someone as course as you could write something like this.”

Now, I’m not one for sitting on the fence – I’m opinionated – I say things as they are and I’m not afraid to upset people. In fact, sometimes I deliberately take an opposing view – even though I agree with what the other person saying just to wind them up and see what reaction I get. It took me years to figure out why I was like this and in the end I realised that it could only be one thing – it’s because I’m from the North of England. People where I’m from are not like our soft, shandy-drinking Southern counterparts – and by South I mean anywhere that’s beyond the river Mersey. We’re plain-spoken, simple people who like nothing more than to put on our clogs and go out on a Friday night for a few pints followed by fish and chips and mushy peas.
I’m going to speak plainly now and I’m going to start by saying that if I told you that I’d had a good time in my six years in Saudi Arabia I’d be lying. I’ve not had a good time – I’ve had a fantastic time.

But, it’s the people I’ve lived and worked with that made everything worthwhile.

Houseboys have always been a source of amusement. When my houseboy, Gulam, went out to do some shopping for a particular item for Jackie he came back with a bunch of flowers.
“Are those for me?” she asked.
“Yes Madam,” he replied – and then he smiled and handed them to her, “Party Flowers.”
Now, in itself that would have been a lovely gesture, had it not been for the fact that Jackie was cooking a curry at the time and had actually asked Gulam to get her some Chapatti Flour.

As well as the people I mixed with there was the family holidays.

Bahrain is always a good destination if you want an injection of pork and real beer to make you feel like a normal human being again (unless, of course, you’re a vegetarian teetotaller). I remember our frequent Men Only pub crawls into Bahrain where we invariably ended up totally pissed in a bar called Diggers, which is the only place I know where prostitutes are used as wallpaper. Our boss at the time, Kev Jones, was always the first one at the bar, usually accompanied by Pete Tomkinson, who had such a brilliant knack of blowing all our kitty on rounds of stupid cocktails that someone remarked on a night out that he suffered from Alcohol Tourette’s. What he meant by that was that Pete would go up to the bar with all the right intentions and say, “I’ll have four pints of Stella, two pints of John Smith’s and . . . and . . . ah fuck it – twenty Bullfrogs and fifteen flaming sambucas!”

My wife and I have been to some fantastically erotic (sorry, exotic) places while we’ve been here – South Africa, India, Eastern Europe, Egypt, Indonesia, Wales – unfortunately we had to take our teenage children with us. Teenagers, as you’re probably aware, don’t appreciate anything. But where did it all go wrong? I remember as a teenager growing up in Blackpool and the furthest my parents took me on holiday was Morecambe. Morecambe, for those people here that didn’t grow up in the UK, is a town in Lancashire where they have to prop dead people up in bus shelters in order to make the place look busy. I have a photograph taken on a holiday in Egypt at the Valley of the Kings, where everyone is smiling except my son Ollie who looks bored out his mind, and recently I saw one of my friends Brian, Helen and their teenage son Matthew on Facebook – they’re standing in front of the Eifel Tower – Brian and Helen are both looking happy standing in front of this iconic landmark, but Matthew is standing as far away as possible from them (without actually disappearing completely from the photo) and looking like he’s having the most miserable time of his life. And that got me thinking that we should photograph our teenagers standing in front of a blank screen and then photo-shop them into pictures of any iconic landmarks that we’re planning to visit on our next holiday. That way we can leave them at home playing on their X-Boxes and PS3s, while we go away for our holiday of a lifetime.
I’ve always had this fantasy where I would get revenge on my kids for all the torment, frustration and worry they put me through as they were growing up. I’ll wait until they get married and then I’ll visit them one day, but only when it’s raining. The first thing I’ll do when they open the door and say, “Hi, Dad,” will be to mutter something unintelligible to them, before taking my coat off and just dropping it on the floor for them to pick up. Then, still wearing my shoes, I’ll walk into the lounge, leaving a trail of mud and whatever I’d trodden in on the way to their house, and climb all over the soft furnishings. After that I’ll go into the kitchen, open the fridge door and drink all the milk and eat all the cheese until I feel sick. When they pour me a drink I’ll put it down on the floor next to my foot and then accidentally on purpose I’ll kick it over, spilling the contents all over their brand-new cream coloured carpet. And when they complain I’ll mutter something else unintelligible and wait for them ask me what I just said, at which point I’ll shout, “I SAID I’M SORRY!”

My youngest boy, William, likes to tease me by doing a hilarious impression. It goes something like this: “Dad, dad – who’s this? I’m an old man, I am.”

“I don’t know, William. Who is it?”
“It’s you.”
And now, here I am at the ripe old age of sixty – and what advice can I give any younger people for when they reach this age? The first thing that springs to mind is this: growing old is shit, isn’t it. Yeah, we have more money than we had when we were younger, but what we’ve gained in wealth and possessions, we’ve lost in basic bodily functions. A friend of mine, who was about the same age as I am now, said to me one morning, “I pulled an all-nighter last night.” What he actually meant by that was that he had spent all night in bed without having to get up once or twice for a piss.

These days I can’t help falling asleep at odd moments, I involuntarily grunt when I’m getting out of chairs and my eyesight and has started to get worse. My wife suggested that I might want to make an appointment with the optician after she found me reading a book that I’d fastened to a long pole and when she asked me to go to the Pharmacy to get her some Eurax I thought it was an odd request as I’d already had a vasectomy. I’ve spent every night of my adult life sleeping naked, but I was told to stop doing it just recently by one of the Emirates flight attendants.
At the age of 50 I began thinking that we all live our lives the wrong way round, especially where sex is concerned – when I was younger I had the stamina but lacked the knowledge and experience, but now I’m old and I do have the knowledge and experience I no longer have the stamina. I’ve been living on my own in Saudi since my wife went back to the UK a year ago to study Fine Art at the University of Cumbria and I’ve found that even having a Tommy Tank has become difficult. I recently found an old Thunderbirds annual and discovered to my surprise that the pictures of Lady Penelope turned me on almost as much as they did when I was thirteen. Unfortunately, as all the pages containing her image are now permanently stuck together, all that’s left to look at are pictures of The Hood – and I have never fancied bald men with big eyebrows – although a propensity for world domination can be surprisingly sexy.

Fortunately, growing old has not had any effect whatsoever on me being opinionated. In fact I’ve become more opinionated as I’ve grown older. You can get away with more things as you get older, because younger people seem to think that you are somehow wiser than they are simply because you are older. I’ll let you into a little secret – we’re not. You only have to look at me and my best mate and bromance partner, Andy Baker, to see that.
But are there any good things about getting old? Well – I can go on a Saga holiday and spend some quality time with people my own age (physically, not mentally); insurance companies let me pay less for their services because they assume I’m going to die sooner rather than later; I can send texts like: Just heard your mum’s dead LOL without feeling guilty; I’ve found that sanitary towels are not just useful for “Madam’s dirty time” as a male Saudi cashier in a supermarket said to me once, but are also good at soaking up other liquids, thus affording me a full night’s sleep after a heavy session in the Causeway Club; and I can fart loudly in public without giving a shit whose behind me, although having a shit at the same moment is a distinct possibility as I get older.

I’m going to end this with something that I heard the great stand-up comedian Bob Monkhouse once say when I saw him live back in the 1990s, which was, “When I die I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my dad – and not crying and screaming like the passengers of his bus.
Thank you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I just heard today that the European Court of Human Rights has said that the UK ban on prisoners voting is unlawful. Whoa there! Hang on a minute, aren’t prisoners locked up because of crimes they committed against individuals and society at large? Much as I am an advocate of human rights, isn’t this taking things a bit too far? Women had to spend years campaigning in order to get the vote and when they succeeded only women aged thirty and above could vote. It took many years after that for women to have the same rights as men and now the European Court of Human Rights seriously thinks that we should let prisoners have those same rights.

Where did it all go wrong? And don’t use that tired argument that it all went wrong when they abolished capital punishment. I think a lifetime locked up in prison is far worse than a quick and painless death at the end of a rope. Statistics have proven that crime has not increased since the abolition of the death penalty – it’s just more widely (and wildly) reported by sensationalist newspapers (like the Daily Mail) and comics (like the Sun).

No, it all went wrong when governments started listening to middle-class do-gooders with more time on their hands than brain cells. Whilst I agree that certain human rights were necessary to pursue – racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. – I really don’t think pursuing this new madness from Europe is a good thing at all.

A few years ago, when I was working as a civilian trade training instructor at an RAF training establishment in Buckinghamshire, the government were pushing through a bill that allowed homosexuals into the armed forces. One sergeant there was dead against this and he said, “If they allow homosexuals into the Air Force I’m going to leave.”

Brilliant. He would leave the RAF if they allowed homosexuals to enlist, only to find employment in one of the many civilian organisations where employing homosexuals was not seen as a problem (and hadn’t been for years) and where he would most probably be working alongside homosexuals.

Not everyone had the same opinion as the sergeant I just mentioned, and as far as I was concerned the RAF would have been well rid of him if he persisted in his blinkered, idiotic, 1950s male perspective of what life should be like. Homosexuals had been in the armed forces for years – they just hadn’t ‘come out’, because doing so would have meant an immediate discharge – and in fact if the sergeant in question had overcome his prejudices and ignorance and read some books he would have discovered that homosexuals were among the bravest and fiercest fighting men throughout the Second World War.

The same ignorant prejudices were prevalent when black soldiers, airmen and sailors first joined the armed services in Britain. Granted, it was nowhere near as bad as the US military where segregation of black soldiers was still going on well into the 1970s, but it was still a problem nonetheless.

At the same RAF training establishment, I was walking past the tea room when I heard one of my own RAF students loudly proclaiming about white superiority and how ‘niggers’, as he called black people, were stupid. I couldn’t quite believe my ears – this was Britain in the year 1999, a few months before the new millennium, and the not the Deep South of America a century earlier. It seemed that I had (incorrectly) assumed that I was living in a more enlightened age and so I decided to take action. I called him out of the tea bar and took him straight to see the Commanding Officer, where I asked him to repeat what he had just been saying.

The boss was not impressed – not because we had a black sergeant working within the organisation, but because opinions and behaviour such as his was totally unacceptable, not just in the RAF but in society as a whole. It turned out that this student was from a small village in Norfolk and that his ignorance stemmed from listening to his dad hurling racist abuse at the television whenever a black actor appeared on screen. He had no idea that what he had been saying in the tea bar was in any way offensive.

Now, I am all for this age of human rights, but where prisoners are concerned they should automatically forfeit those rights as soon as they commit the crime for which they have been incarcerated. Why should they have the same rights as someone who has abided by the laws of a civilised society when they are not prepared to do the same? Why should they have the same things as someone in the outside world, like television, newspapers and the right to vote when they so obviously don’t deserve them?

I’m not saying they should be treated like Michael Palin’s prisoner in Life of Brian, shackled to the wall and who had only just been turned the right way up the other day, but a certain bit of deprivation wouldn’t go amiss. Murderers and rapists should not be allowed to complain about their human rights when they so clearly did not accord those same human rights to their victims. Apart from their lack of freedom to roam around committing similar crimes, they have the same rights as everyone else in society except one – the right to vote.

I checked my calendar this morning and it is definitely not April Fools’ Day. Maybe, the government should carry out a referendum to see how the honest, law-abiding people feel about the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling.

But, if it goes ahead, where will it all stop? Are we to give children under five the right to vote? And how about dogs? I’d draw the line at cats, though – they’d probably vote for themselves because they’re too selfish.

When I was at school I was always told by my parents that I should stand up to bullies and I suspect many of our politicians were told the same. Maybe now is the time to heed that advice.

Britain is, and always has been, an island nation. Let’s start behaving like one.

Friday, August 1, 2014


A comment appeared on one of the pages I am a member of on Facebook about the last blog I posted. It read: Confused as to why this is on here. I thought about replying to the comment but then I couldn’t find it again, therefore depriving me of responding with a witty and insightful reply. It was, I suppose, a good thing because the last thing I would have wanted was to start a ‘Comments War’ or whatever they call it. My reply would have been too long anyway. Instead, I thought I would turn my thoughts about Facebook and its increasing similarity to that most odious of newspapers, the Daily Mail, into my next blog. I’m confused as to why – but here it is anyway:

For legal reasons (and because I’m a nice bloke) I have decided not to name the person who made the comment.

I was very sorry that my blog prompted the person to make the comment ‘confused as to why this is here’. The answer to his confusion is actually quite simple – I am a member of that page because I met all the requirements to be a member. I have been posting my blog there for over three years and I have found that many other members of that page actually quite like it. The vast majority of them are old friends of mine, with whom I served with in the Royal Air Force and they laugh openly at some of the things I write (even when I don’t pay them) and sometimes people who don’t know me also read it. There is even a person who hates my guts who nevertheless ticked the ‘like’ box on one of my blogs, although he didn’t make a comment because he still hasn’t got round to speaking to me just yet. Sometimes the posts within the blog are about the RAF and sometimes they are not – but you have to read them first to find out (see how clever I am).

I find it strange that no-one ever makes the comment ‘confused as to why this is on here’ when someone posts one of the many ‘hilarious’ videos of people falling off things (usually things that are in motion) that also have nothing to do with the requirements for being a member of that page (and I also strongly suspect that the people in the videos who are involved in the ‘hilarious’ accidents are not members either and have in fact no connection whatsoever to any members of the page in question). Still, there’s no denying that it is rather funny watching stupid people who are less fortunate than ourselves having accidents that often lead to prolonged and painful spells in Casualty (the hospital department, not the TV show – although I do find that watching Casualty – a show that had run its course over twenty years ago – can be just as painful).

Also, no-one ever says ‘confused as to why this is on here’ when anti-Islamic propaganda is downloaded from  the internet – usually from the website of that bastion of truthfulness, the Daily Mail – and posted onto the various pages on Facebook – if I wanted to read that kind of ill-informed rubbish I would join the British Nazi (sorry – National) Party and take out a lifetime subscription to the Mail (or maybe I could skip those two steps and just become a serial killer instead).

In fact, such is the vitriol meted out to Muslims on the pages of Facebook that the site itself is looking more and more like an extension of the Mail every day. Nobody complains about that, and if someone is brave enough to do so they will be subjected to a torrent of abuse in the comments that follow by hordes of Neanderthals that don’t know any better and who stupidly think that all Muslims are potential terrorists.

I have some Muslim friends in the UK and do you know what? – none of them are terrorists. None of them want to turn Britain into a Muslim state and introduce Sharia Law. None of them want to send their children to faith schools. In fact they send their children to state schools because – guess what? – they want their children to be acknowledged, as they should be, as British citizens who have a place in our secular society.

And, let’s face it, if our empire building ancestors hadn’t decided to invade their countries in the first place, taking with them packs of loathsome evangelist preachers to convert them forcibly to Christianity, disgraceful newspapers like the Daily Mail would have nothing to complain about.

Fortunately I was brought up with no religion. Neither of my parents were religious in any way, shape or form, although they did send me to Sunday School every week – but I suspect the reason for that was just to get me out of the house so they could have two hours of undisturbed sex.

But unlike the minority of morons who post inflammatory pictures and articles on Facebook, the Mail does not merely content itself with hating Muslims – it also hates just about everything else in Britain, with the possible exception of the middle classes and the Royal Family. It hates immigrants, feminists, homosexuals, single mothers, asylum seekers, the working class, the upper class, gypsies, atheists, the NHS, the EU, people on benefits, civil servants, socialists, taxes for people who can afford them, film stars who they initially praised to high heaven but who they now think are too famous and deserve a good kicking, and I suspect that a few of its own reporters, deep down inside, also hate themselves.

In his first inaugural address in 1932, Franklin D Roosevelt said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But it’s fear itself that the Mail dishes out to its drooling middle class readership on daily basis.

The average Mail reader is someone who still lives in the 1950s and still believes that that period was a halcyon world of plenty; an imaginary golden era of thatched cottages where only white people lived; where women did as they were told because if they didn’t their husbands would give them a good thumping because it was allowed; where the unwashed and untrustworthy socialist working classes knew their place; where homosexuals got beaten up by gangs of real men (who were secretly homosexuals themselves) because they were aberrations in the eyes of God; where children could play outside safely without being kidnapped because paedophiles weren’t invented until the 1980s; and where crime was less than it is now because they had the death penalty and that was a good thing – even if the wrong person was executed.

In other words, the average Mail reader will believe anything that is within its bile-infused pages. Over the years they have believed that groups of politically correct left-wing socialist bastards were planning to have the words of Baa Baa Black Sheep changed to Baa Baa Green Sheep. They believed that science boffins were ‘arrogant gods of certainty’ and that ‘a country run by them would be hell on earth’ because they relied ‘solely on empirical facts.’ They believed that dangerous products like mouth wash and Pringles caused cancer. They believed that teachers left a boy of five stranded in a tree because of Health and Safety Regulations. And worse still, they believed the despicable Richard Littlejohn when he wrote that five women who were killed by a serial killer practically deserved it because they were prostitutes.

There have been more complaints to the Press Complaints Commission regarding factual errors, misrepresentations and downright lies in the Mail than there have been about any other newspaper. Here are just five stories the Mail has made up:






Earlier this year the Mail turned its vitriol onto Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. In an attempt to discredit him it declared that his late war-hero father was THE MAN WHO HATED BRITAIN because he had been a Marxist academic, conveniently ignoring the fact that it has its own rich history of bigotry, hypocrisy and intolerance. Oddly it didn’t seem to remember that throughout the 1930s its owner, Viscount Rothermere, was an outspoken supporter of Oswald Mosely and the British Union of Fascists, declaring in one headline HURRAH FOR THE BLACKSHIRTS, and even as late as 1940 it was the only newspaper in Britain that still supported Adolf Hitler. The Daily Mail, it seems, loved Britain so much that it was more than willing to hand it over to Germany and the Nazi Party.

And speaking of Adolf Hitler, the following article appeared in the Arab News in January of this year.


BRAZILIA: Adolf Hitler died at the age of 95 in 1984 in a small town near Brazil’s border after having escaped his Berlin hideout, says a new book.  

   The book contains a photo that allegedly proves this theory challenging the official story that says Hitler died after losing World War II and shooting himself in a bunker in 1945, reported Al Arabiya News quoting a story in UKs Daily Mail. Simoni Renee Guerreico Dias, the author of Hitler in Brazil – His Life and Death, has written on her belief that the F├╝hrer fled to Argentina and then Paraguay before settling in the Brazilian state of Matto Grosso to hunt for buried treasure with the help of a map given to him by Vatican allies.

   Simoni is a Brazilian who comes from Cuiaba. The author also claims that Hitler ‘may have lived as Adolf Leipzig in the small town of Nossa Senhora do Livramento, 30 miles from the state capital Cuiaba.

   She is now planning to use DNA tests using a relative of Hitler living in Israel, after being given permission to exhume Adolf Leipzig’s remains from his alleged final resting place in Nossa Senhora do Livramento.

The very fact that this story originally appeared in the Mail should give you some idea of its validity, and that it is about as far from the truth as the theory that the dinosaurs died out because of cancer related illnesses caused by habitual smoking.

I’ll leave you with the words of the brilliant activist/comedian Mark Thomas, whose book The People’s Manifesto was derived from his live shows where ‘audiences were given forms and asked for their policy ideas, grand or small, to change the world’.


The Daily Mail should be forced to print this on its masthead, although not because of a desire to stigmatise the paper, because frankly it has done a bang-up job on that task itself – it is as Stephen Fry said, ‘a paper that no one of any decency would be seen dead with’. Nor is it to indicate the Mail’s right-wing tendencies. (If you don’t think the Mail is right-wing then you’re probably a reader and there is little anyone can do for you.) Nor is it to serve as a reminder that the paper has a history of supporting orchestrated indignation. The real reason the Mail should print the words ‘The paper that supported Hitler’ on the masthead is just to ensure there is at least one factual accuracy on the front page.



Levy, Geoffrey, The Man Who Hated Britain (Daily Mail, 27 September 2013)

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, Inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1933 (Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Retrieved  by Wikipedia, 22 January 2009)

Rothermere, Lord, Hurrah for the Blackshirts (Daily Mail, 19 January 1936)

Thomas, Mark, The People’s Manifesto (Ebury Press 2010) ISBN 978-0-09-193796-6

Unknown, Hitler Died at 95 in South America (Arab News, 27 January 2014)

Wilby, Peter, Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail: The Man Who Hates Liberal Britain (New Statesman, 2 January 2014)