A Carillon for Carillion

Carillion

(With thanks to Thomas Gray)

The curfew tolls the knell of coming dread, 
The lowing management wind slowly to their ends, 
And homeward plod, their weary tread, 
To leave the company to darkness and thee, my friends. 

Now fades the glimm'ring sites of outsourcery, 
And all directors a solemn silence hold, 
Save where their money should be paid, tax free, 
And drowsy workers face winter's fiercest cold.

A breezy call of "Will you help?" from PM Cameron 
Meant Chairman Green became an advisor,
An 'industry czar', to plug the theme and hammer on 
That private enterprise works, the eulogiser.

But yonder Philip (not BHS) who saw it coming.
Arrived at Number Ten but who would listen?
So he jumped ship before succumbing 
To the push of May, newly elected, and on a mission.
Beneath those rugged oaks of commerce,
The outsourcing board their costs did tighten.
Worker's wages fell, while to directors honours
And extra cash were showered - viz Baroness Huyton.

The shares slid down, the market aflutter.
Investors lost savings, their nest eggs in ruin 
But Howson laughed, oh, no life in the gutter,
A contract's a contract and if not I'm suing.
If only workers could say, “Enough 
Of free enterprise, it doesn't always apply.”
As commuters on Southern Rail, who have it tough, 
Or weary East Coast travellers will testify.

The problem is the Tories - yesterday's men,
and women, and ethnic minorities - who seem to think
our daily life and sole concern is money, Amen.
The country heads down a darkening path to the brink.

Come on, Jezza, save our wearisome nation
And lighten our loads with fairness and money. 
Help the old and the poor and infirm rise up from their station
And lead us to the land of flowing milk and honey.
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The Teesdale Affair

teesdales2

‘From nowhere, Special Constables arrived…

Chapter One

An Easter Day in London

Early in 1907, a month after my seventh birthday, our new coalman asked my mother, Matilda Morton, to walk out with him. She was no beauty. Drudgery had worn that out of her and given her a hardness totally in keeping with the battle she waged to keep our family afloat. Washing, ironing, and folding, day in day out, a penny here, penny hap’ney there. But it all added up, and she kept going through thick and thin, for poverty stalked us, waiting for any mishap.

Throughout the winter, the widower John Sutcliff flattered Mum. He was persistent. Twice, I heard him ask her out after sliding a bag of clunky black coal noisily into the bunker in the backyard. On one occasion, Mum, with her arms deep in the copper wringing out the washing, her black hair awry beneath her plain brown headscarf, told him, ‘Be off with you John Sutcliff, can’t you see I’m busy.’

One night, lying in bed, I heard Gran and Mum talking downstairs. Continue reading “The Teesdale Affair”

Return to Chelyabinsk

chelyabinsk train

Up the gradient, it puffed furiously, belching black smoke into the blinding whiteness of the snowy surroundings.

Igor Pavlovich Radiorksy’s death in a car accident on a Moscow road marks an ominous start for Peter (Petya) Cuthbert as Head of Operations of Goldberg Bank’s Russian subsidiary. Quickly, he discovers that the computer problems at the bank run deep and perhaps Radiorksy’s death was not accidental. Things are compounded when the head of the payments section is found dead. And are the newly promoted chairman, a young Kazakh and the ravishing Tatiana Sholokova all they appear to be? Pressure from headquarters in New York and demands from a major client mean a trip a fifteen hundred miles east of Moscow to Chelyabinsk for Peter Cuthbert and the new chairman with fateful consequences.

All the opening quotations are attributed to Adam Smith (1723-90). He was an eighteenth century Scottish economist, a philosopher, an author, and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment.

Read Chapter one here

Continue reading “Return to Chelyabinsk”

The Catalan Referendum – The Impasse

europe in the 1800s

The European Political Map Before the Unification Movements of Germany and Italy

Doesn’t the path of history look obvious when viewed through the lens of time? A hundred years ago the actions and subsequent reactions of states or politicians seem obvious. Events which so troubled our forefathers are taught by the simplicity of a needlewoman’s thread and as the embroidery becomes a tapestry and we see the pattern so clearly that even the simplest student can follow it.

But look into the future and the clear patterns distort, the threads tangle. After hundreds of years of association and unification, do we face, in Europe today, the first cuckoo of the spring of disunion? Continue reading “The Catalan Referendum – The Impasse”

The Catalan Referendum

IMG_3956

…the ballot papers – in three languages, Spanish, Catalan and Occitan.

George Orwell said of the Catalans, “I defy anyone… not to be struck by the essential decency, above all their straightforwardness and generosity.”

What he saw in 1935 is still present today.

Straightforward decent people want the right to vote on the most important issue- the issue of how they should govern themselves. Yet the Spanish government does not want to engage in the debate – rather it prefers to deploy the Guardia Civil, whose faces are hidden behind perspex shields, to kick and punch peaceful protesters and to attack and beat with truncheons ordinary citizens and old ladies in a crude attempt to dissuade them from congregating and voting. It seems they have learned nothing. The power of the masses will not be thwarted by a few policemen, however belligerent.

Continue reading “The Catalan Referendum”

Letters from Kolentawezi Jail

air mail letter

‘More than kisses, letters mingle souls’ ~J Donne

It was hot. It was always hot near the equator. Watson paused over the paper before deciding how to start the letter. The crude pen felt slippery in his sticky hand. He dipped it in the bottle of black sludge, supposedly ink. Would this be his last chance? Would it solve his problem? With a bold stroke from a hand powered by a hopeful heart, the squeaky nib wrote:

‘Dear President Olanta,’ he had always started with ‘Dear’ even though sometimes people were not necessarily ‘Dear’.

‘Sir, I am not guilty of the murder of Honest Nyrere. I plead with you to take a look at the case. I have never used a gun and so my fingerprints could not have been on the weapon found at the scene of the crime as the prosecution claimed. I was sleeping in my apartment two miles away at the time of the murder. The police arrested me on the evidence of a man, Alfred Chimbonza, who owes me money, a lot of money, 40,000 licugi although he’ll deny it of course. He is lying.

I am a too-easy target. Please help me.

Yours truly, Peter Watson.

Kolentawezi Jail’ Continue reading “Letters from Kolentawezi Jail”

Haverfordwest

Haverfordwest

      “It’s my town now, warts and all.”

Haverfordwest is a long name for a town,

It’s as though you’d need directions

To find the place without a frown

Of despair. It has aged connections

With Eleanor of Castile, Edward’s wife

Who liked the place and bought the castle.

There was some dispute, some strife

But the King’s the King – so no big hassle.

Her holiday home, opulent and grand,

O’erlooked a priory, all Dominican,

That skirted the river and its sandy strand.

Black they wore, but now it’s an inn again

On Castle Square abutting Victoria Place,

Built in 1839, for estate agents and banks.

By Owen’s Bridge – it made a packet- gave him grace

To rise above the humble throng and join the ranks

Of noble gentry fine and dandy. The old quay

Stands neglected today, no Bristol trade

Comes its way, no French wines tariff-free

Arrive. It’s long gone away, weighed

No more on the iron scales of duty.

The river’s a trickle in these dry days

Only the incoming tide could allow any booty

To come ashore on concrete cracked and crazed

Before the modern council building ersatz

Bastion of the county. It stands so stark,

Slate-grey conical roofs sit like witches’ hats

On towers of primrose yellow beside a park.

It’s my town now, warts and all.

The brass belfry-bell of St Mary’s says with zest –

For Cromwell never shattered that hall –

‘I do my best for Haverfordwest.’