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Monday, 12 August 2013

Monday, 24 June 2013

Stephen Lawrence and the shame of a police service.


I joined the Police in 1997. I wasn't one of those people who wanted to be a policeman all their life, I joined because I needed to pay my mortgage and it had a good pension. Plus, I'm a little ashamed to admit, I fancied being able to have car chases every so often followed by the odd punch up.

My first day “in the job” I shuffled around a classroom, balancing a terrible cup of coffee, wearing a tie that was worse than the coffee and a suit that I'd bought for my sister's wedding about five years earlier. It was a bit tight and the trousers were shiny from when I'd ironed them on the wrong heat setting.

I effectively looked like I was cut out to work in CID for the rest of my life.

In my intake of thirty odd Bobbies all were male and white, except for, I seem to recall, five women, and out of those five one was black. Not that I paid much attention to that sort of thing, to me it didn't really matter, I was too worried about the button bursting on my pants.

In 1999 I completed my training and became a "proper" Bobby. My probation was over, I'm a little proud to say I did pretty well, I'd felt like a copper long before I was told I could go out on my own and be one.

I'd got over the thought of car chases and punch ups, I worked with good people who behaved like a copper should. They took care of people, they were honest, they worked hard and were proud of the community they protected.

I once walked through the local town centre with an older bobby called Colin, we were on foot patrol and an old lady stopped us for a chat, nothing more, she just wanted to give us a sweet each and have a chat.

After she went on her way and we carried on walking Colin said to me,

"Do you see how important this is? How we made her feel safe? How she was happy to see us?"

I looked around at the odd one or two people who were smiling and nodding "hello" to me and I realised, I realised that the uniform I was wearing was important, I had a responsibility to behave in a manner that set an example.

I wasn't working in Dock Green, but I wanted to try to be George Dixon.

I realised this around about the time I was branded a racist, or rather, the organisation that I was in was branded institutionally racist.

At the time I was angry, I felt angry because I wasn't a racist (I wasn't even institutionally racist), I felt angry because I believed the people I worked with weren't racist either. I was angry with the Met for casting a shadow on me, and the force I worked for, with a taint that I didn't believe to be true.

I felt that I was being led by good people, I felt that I personally was led by honest people, I felt that the organisation I was part of was essentially a righteous one.

I'm not daft enough to think that there weren't bad apples, I had my suspicions about some people who I knew vaguely. There was one guy who I reckoned might be a bully, but I never saw him do anything untoward. I just heard rumours, and I believed, wrongly, that I couldn't act on rumours.

People don't believe me when I say that I only ever heard one racist comment in the Police, and it was during a riot, literally during a riot when a bobby from another shift called someone a "black bastard." The bobby who said it never apologised, but I do believe he was ashamed by what he'd said.

Whether he was ashamed for saying it, or ashamed that he had been exposed as being racist I don't know, but I do know it was the one and only time I heard something like that.

We were assailed on all sides by courses and literature training us about anti-racism and the equal rights of all. I'll be honest, I was a little fed up by it all. I didn't think I needed it, but I didn't complain, I just went along with it, it was part of the job, after all, we were institutionally racists.

I had good bosses and I had bad bosses, but I always believed them to be honest. I never had cause to doubt them until one day I was slung in a cell for eight hours as a result of a baseless allegation.

While I sat in that cell I honestly believed that right would prevail, I was scared, but I had faith in the system, I was part of the system and I'd done nothing wrong.

The right thing would be done, and the right thing would eventually happen.

I honestly believed that right up until I was taken out of the cell and interviewed.

It was during that interview I realised that the people who were in front of me weren't interested in the truth, they were more interested in what looked good for the organisation. They tried to make falsehoods into facts, they tried to twist me into a situation that had never happened. I knew they were lying, I told them they were lying, but it didn't matter.

They didn't care, they were doing their job, trying to close a matter in a manner that made the job look good.   If it wasn't for the honesty of one other person, someone who wasn't a police officer, coming forward I reckon I would have ended up in court, or maybe worse.

That incident changed me.

I left the police a couple of months later. I resigned with a clear record, proven to be an honest man I walked away with my head held high. 

I was holding my head high, but I was also shaking it sadly. I'd seen the other side, I'd seen what lengths the organisation would go too to get its own ends, I'd seen the rules bend, I'd seen the lying in statements, I'd seen the covering up, I'd seen the closing of ranks and the closing of cell doors and I'd seen I didn't want to be part of it ever again.

What has happened over Hillsborough has depressed me, what has happened recently regarding the Stephen Lawrence family has depressed me, what has happened over undercover officers in various organisations has depressed me.

But what has depressed me the most is that none of it has surprised me.

Every week that goes by it seems that we are discovering that organisations and individuals are essentially operating for the own nefarious ends, organisations and individuals whose sole intent is the protection of their own power to the cost of truth, fairness and most importantly justice.

People have no confidence anymore, like a chalk cliff face we are being eroded by constant waves of revelation, and like an eroded cliff everything at the top will eventually have to come tumbling down.

They can't keep shoring it up for ever.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

It's just my name.

I know my name.

It's just a bog standard any-old name. I've seen it around for years and although it took me a while to learn how to spell it (ch... not k...), I'm used to it now.

It fits me, sits around me, follows me and sometimes gets there before me.

It never surprises me, when I hear it I don't look around unsure, I know it's me they want.

It's me.

I know my name.

I’m used to it.

It does a job, gives me a label, makes it easy for others to get my attention.

My mum chose it, I don’t know why she picked it, I was there at the time, but I wasn’t really paying attention.

It’s my name, just my name.

I’m used to it.

So can anyone tell me why every time I look at it on the side of the book in front of me I can’t stop smiling?

Why don't you buy it and see if it makes you smile too?

I think it might, in fact, I'd stake my name on it.


       

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

We deserve better...

Do you remember when you could trust? When you could take things for granted? When if you looked at things they seemed solid, defined, unwavering and true?
There was a time when the pillars of Great Britain held up the country like great English oaks, sturdy, squat, warm to the touch and everlasting. Reassuringly un-bowing in the winds of change they stood for centuries, and would stand fast for centuries more.
If a criminal or a terrorist was released on appeal we would shake our heads and talk about "Some bad apples" or even worse "no smoke without fire" and the people wronged would get some compensation (minus the rent the Home Office took for their incarceration, which always struck me like Terry Waite paying council tax to the owner of the radiator he was handcuffed too) and go off and be bitter for the rest of their all to short lives.
I used to drink in a bar where Charles Connolly was a bouncer. Charlie had been convicted and served time for robbery in the fifties after being implicated in the notorious Cameo Cinema murders in Liverpool. This big bear of a man would once propped up a bar with me for a night telling how he had been forced by the police, by his barrister and by the prosecuting barrister to admit to something he hadn't done on pain of death. He told us how the police and prison services had abused him, worn him down and broke him on the broken wheels of justice to lie in court. And how those lies had snatched his neck from a tightening noose that claimed his co-accused, a man he'd never even met before.
That night it was hard not to believe Charlie, he rung his big bruiser hands and positively ached with honesty, but I'm afraid my doubts still remained. I'm afraid as we walked home I thought "Well you would say that wouldn't you? They wouldn't have arrested him for nothing."
Charlie died a long time ago now, I hardly knew him at all, but I wish I'd believed him that night, because now I've no doubt he was telling the truth.
I'm sorry Charlie.
Then there is Ricky Tomlinson, Jim Royle, who appears to have been abused royally by the Queens's government and judiciary. Tomlinson, convicted along with Des Warren on charges of conspiracy to intimidate. Both men were incarcerated almost as freedom fighters, wanting only the right to a fair wage and safe conditions in which to earn it, both men languished in jail, often held in solitary confinement, naked, wrapped in blankets with women folk camped outside the jail protesting their innocence. As Warren told the judge on the day of his sentencing:
 "The conspiracy was between the government, the employers and the police. When was the decision taken to proceed? What instructions were issued to the police, and by whom? There was your conspiracy."
It now appears Warren was right, for his were the only honest words spoken under oath that day.
Like some banana republic our great offices of state have conspired to cover up, both for themselves and for others, be they greedy bankers, claiming MP's, fiddling Lords, kiddie fiddling priests and corrupt top cops they lived in a hall of mirrors and we trusted them, like fools.
Even the BBC was drawing a shell suited veil over the disgusting deeds of one of its stars, allowing him, and possibly many others, to roll like pigs in their own filth safe in the knowledge that while Auntie spoke peace unto nations, she wouldn't say squeak to Lady Justice.
How about the church? I'm almost loath to give mention to an organisation whose founder said "suffer the children".
Because suffer they did, and suffer they do, while their abusers live out pensioned retirements surrounded by a warm cocoon of conspiracy. While one walks out the door it appears one of his cardinals has fell out the closet, who'd have guessed?
So we find ourselves unable to trust that and those which we held dear, George Dixon was a lie, Horace Rumpole was a lie, George Mainwaring was a lie even Hugh Grant in Love Actually was a lie.
Justice is a word heard a lot around Liverpool of late, it's a small simple word, easy to understand, easier to implement. Truth and justice are often mentioned together like bangers and mash, fish and chips and war and peace. But unlike the others, they can't be had separately, you can't have justice without truth.
I was a policeman, I've seen people lie, seen, I once gave evidence in court about an offence I'd witnessed with my own eyes, the defendant beat his breast, frothed and flustered, rolled his eyes and sighed and the jury acquitted.
A guilty man walked, justice opened the door for him and let him pass, he was one who got away and lived to fight another day and I was upset and saddened. I couldn't look the victim in the eyes afterwards, I was ashamed and felt like a failure and I still do.
But had I lied to Lady Justice to secure a conviction, had I exaggerated and bended my story to fit onto her scales and then tipped them when she wasn't looking, I wouldn't have been able to look at myself in the eye, and I would have been more ashamed and felt more of a failure than I do.
This country, its institutions, its leaders and enforcers should feel that shame, Lady Justice should lift up her blindfold and level her sword at ones we once trusted and now doubt, lest we should start to doubt her.
We need to start again, we need truth, we need justice, we need honesty and we need to believe in it, because if we don't, we will come to expect, and accept, exactly the opposite.
And we deserve better.
Don't we?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Big Daft Dog.


     The big daft dog, bounced and flounced into my life in 2002. My life, such as it was, was very different back then. But the big daft dog wasn’t, he was the same then as he was yesterday. Age had not withered him, he still loved to play, he still loved to bounce, he still loved to flounce.

     If I looked at him in a certain way he'd be off the couch and next to his lead reading my mind before I’d thought the thought. He knew me better than I knew myself, he knew me like a shadow knows a shape, he knew me better than anyone who’s ever met me, he was my best mate.

     He saw the highs, he saw the lows, he saw my deepest depths and my highest highs, he knew when I needed a cuddle or when I needed to play.

     The big daft dog wasn't so daft after all.

     We went through a lot together; there was a time, a dark time, when we lived in a car together, long winter nights sharing a blanket. He didn't complain he just kept me warm, all he wanted was to be with me, to be my mate, and he was.

     We loved the beach, he loved the sea, dancing and hopping through it, his paws buffed puppy-soft by a million granules as he ran in figure of eights, tongue lolling, the joy of ears flapping, in the only space where a big daft dog could stretch those big daft legs completely. Happy to be alive, running with his best mate... I knew how he felt.

     He loved the forest, sniffing and snuffling autumn leaves, that’s how we spent yesterday,  walking on our secret lane, he saw a squirrel and stopped and stared then looked at me,

     “Did you see that?”

     I did, and I smiled, and I ruffled his ears, and he forgot all about it and got back to sniffing and snuffling.
I stopped at our bridge, and he hopped up on those big long back legs and looked over it with me, enjoying the sound of the water below, watching the silver splashes as it broke over rocks, happy to be alive.

     He sat with me on the couch last night, he had a dream, a dog dream, he ran and twitched for a minute until I rested my hand on his head and scratched his big daft ear. He sighed, stretched and farted.

     And I loved him, he was my big daft dog.

     I hope he is still running in those dreams tonight, now that he is gone.

     Goodnight Boo, I love you and I’ll miss you, you big daft dog.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Hurricane Sandy.

After watching the coverage of Hurricane Sandy over the last couple of days I've decided to promote any profits I make from my New York Trilogy of short stories to the International Red Cross via their international donations page. This enables the ICRC to send the money where they think it is needed most, be that Haiti or be it Atlantic City.
I'm guessing it won't be much, but every little helps and I'd appreciate it if you could like and share this post.
Thank you!

The New York Trilogy of short stories can be found here. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

India or bust.



     I write for a living. Well actually, now that I think about it, that’s not true. I sell books for a living, I write books for fun.
     I don’t sell any old book mind, I only sell the ones that I write (although if I like your book I will chuck a tweet out there for the world to read, well the 1500 people on it who follow me on twitter that is,) so anyway, I sell books for a living, and I sell those books on the Amazon Kindle.
     The other day I heard that the world’s population is seven billion. Now, by anyone’s imagination, even a Wall Street banker’s, that is an awful lot of people. I wasn’t sure if it was true, so I Googled it, and found this site:


     This site is a weird kind of place where you can watch the world population clock spit out an ever increasing number as all over the world babies pop out to add to the delight that is mankind.
     For a while, looking at the number depressed me as I considered the famine and disease and pain and suffering in the world.  But then, after a minute or two, it dawned on me that all over the world the exact same number of babies that was popping out was equalled by people having joyous sex and I delighted in the fun and ecstasy that all that entails.
     And I was happy, for a while, and then I became depressed again, because I realised I wasn’t one of the joyous people having sex.
     But anyway, as I was saying, I sell books for a living.
     So I looked at the seven billion people in the world (not literally, that would be a worse job than selling books), and I thought,
     “If zero point one percent of that seven billion bought my book, I’d be able to retire from selling books, and I’d just be able to write them.”
     So after thinking about all this brain numbing stuff I decided to have a look at my Kindle Direct Publishing page (this is the place where I find out how many books I’ve not managed to sell each month), and while I was there I spotted something that I’d never seen before... my books are on sale in India.
     Now, I knew there are a lot of people in India. But, just to be sure I looked on Wikipedia (because everything is true there, I know this because someone told me so on Wikipedia) and it told me that there are 1.2 billion people in India right now.
1.2 billion people (I don’t know how many are being born or having sex and I quite frankly don’t want to think about it).
     Now I’m guessing, with a fair degree of certainty that they don’t all have kindles, not even the old dodgy ones that used to leave ink on your fingers.
     But what I am guessing is that an awful lot of them do. So, I’ve discovered a massive market that speaks my language (I’ve not sold many books in Italy or Germany I can tell you).
     And what am I doing to sell my books there? Nothing, not a jot, nada, nowt, कुछ नहीं

(that’s Hindi for nothing apparently).
     So what do i do? Do I try to sell books in India via twitter? It is a world wide platform, but to be honest, twitter doesn't work for selling books. It's a lazy way of feeling like you've done something to promote your book, nobody buys after a tweet, not even a bird.
     Do Iwrite a blog? Well, I supose that's what I'm doing right now, but i doubt this will sell any books either, they never do!
     No, there is nothing else for it, I'm going to have research the Indian market, track down some popular blogs and trade sites and I'm going to have work hard to get a toe hold in potentially the biggest English speaking market in the world.
     And in the mean time, I'm going to have to figure out how to find some time to do some writing, because that is, after all, all I really want to be doing.

My latest book, Rear View Mirror, a tale of lager, love, the lost and the lonely on the streets of Liverpool is available here.