Nurse! The Screens!

Christopher Fowler
This column is going to be like the comments section; all over the place. But it probably reflects my fractured mindset at the moment. Morphine, I thought, having instant thoughts of Sax Rohmer and Anna May Wong, does it have a place in the modern medicine cabinet? I checked the bottle. A liquid with a ridiculously complex delivery system involving a plastic syringe and a funnel. You fix the syringe to the funnel and turn it all upside down, a leap of faith that I fully expected to result in a stained shirt or 'dinner medals' as my business partner used to call them.
Filling the syringe, you squirt the liquid down the inside of your cheek. Not sure why. Maybe it makes your gnashers fall out.
The moment the sickly smell of rotten strawberries hit me I realised this was 'Kaolin & Morphine' without the kaolin, a chalky mix that used to separate when left on the shelf. Not especially strong, but in these more cautious times less readily prescribed. As children we'd had cocaine of course - at the dentist in the form of gas or an injection, and heaven knows what else. They probably gave us little'uns something for being good after, like a sweet cigarette or a sly finger down the bum crack. I took the morphine, carried on reading for a while, dozed, woke up with a mouth so dry you could have shot 'Flight of the Phoenix' in it (do I mean that? The one where Sylvia Sims and the flight crew go for a beer), went for a glass of water and fell over most of the flat's furniture, which had clearly been rearranged in an effort to make me think I'd gone mad. I explained to the spouse (whom by now I had woken up) that I felt like Liz Smith in Alan Bennett's 'A Private Function' desperate to prove she was not ready to be put away by reciting her times table. I had foolishly thought that being married to a Johnny Foreigner with no matching pop-cultural references would be fun. 'Nurse! The screens!' I cried, sitting down heavily. JF scratched himself in puzzlement and stumped back to bed. I acknowledge my British heritage, how could I not when my family counted among their number teachers, farmers, scientists, mariners, road diggers? I didn't follow in their footsteps; I live in the Now, and this confuses those who look at my age or Bryant & May (Ugh! Old people!) and condescendingly write me off. Last summer I went to one of those relaxed sort of raves where you can take kids along and sit on a hillock with a joint and some glow-sticks, and a girl looked at me admiringly. 'Well done you for coming here,' she said. 'I bet you've never been anywhere like this before!' Edward
Lear was a boring-looking old Victorian with a grey beard. When the young saw him, what did they see?
Lear was one of 21 children. A lifelong epileptic asthmatic, too intense to form lasting relationships, his love of wordplay influenced a century of British writers.
At the age of

he trained as an ornithological draughtsman and travelled through Greece, Egypt and India, creating vivid sundrenched landscapes that appear to glow.
His written nonsense predates Lewis Carroll's 'Alice In Wonderland' by nearly twenty years. He concentrated on the five-line anapaest with an AABBA rhyme scheme, or limerick. Popularising the form, he became famous for his fanciful neologisms, most obviously the 'runcible spoon'. People assumed he was the Earl of Derby writing under a pseudonym,
'Earl' being an anagram of 'Lear'. Indeed, he was once called upon to prove that he wasn't.
Victoria Holt enjoyed portraying feisty women of independence and integrity who fought for liberation. She rarely wrote anything dull; Hitler, she says in 'The English Are Like That', made the fatal mistake of frightening the English. Hamlet, she notes, is not incapable of action; he kills his man three times in the play. But popularity rarely guarantees posterity. As post-war hardships intruded, historical fiction for women became unfashionable, just as surely as men stopped reading tales of kings and explorers. I approve of the removal of statues glorifying rich white males with their boots on the necks of a captive workforce. I do not approve of the idiot girl who spray-painted antifa on Churchill because it's lazy and reductive. Instead of a sneer, why not work from the inside? Investigate the endless deaths in custody, cases too complex for a clear-cut narrative? They can ban 'Gone With The Wind' but what do you do about the nasty little coded digs Agatha Christie regularly came out with? All those snide remarks about 'swarthy' foreigners? Victoria Holt died on a cruise between Greece and Egypt in her eighties. 'Never regret,' she once said. 'If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.' I wonder if any young madame asked her if she'd been to a rave.


Martin Tolley (not verified) Thu, 11/06/2020 - 19:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

On being "old" and being talked to by the young. I haven't felt "old" until yesterday. I have a 'bus pass, sneakily denied me, like my state pension, until 6 months after becoming 65. Now no 'buses in my area to try it out! But yesterday I was old. I was in a supermarket searching for Marmite as it happens. A bright young assistant, all smiles and shiney eyes came the regulation 2 metres close to me and said - "Are you alright my lovely, do you need help?" No more "Oi you", or "Thank you sir"; now I'm somebody's "lovely."

Helen Martin (not verified) Thu, 11/06/2020 - 19:50

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Those "snide" comments always bothered me. They're in John Buchan and most Edwardian and early '20s writers. Ever read about the jazz musicians performing in the West End? It doesn't get much more racist than those descriptions.

I know what you mean, Martin. I thought I'd know I was getting old when they stopped addressing me as "Miss" in stores, but I held on till almost 30. Of course, if I had my son with me "Ma'am" was automatic. These days I'd be happy if they spoke to me at all. If I ever was in a store. I haven't been in one since before the middle of March and I'm called by name in the bank because you have to have an appointment to go there.

Helen Martin (not verified) Thu, 11/06/2020 - 19:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I hope the effect of the pain medication is more towards controlling pain and less toward disorientating you, Chris. Actually, I hope the pain reduces itself really soon.

Ian Mason (not verified) Thu, 11/06/2020 - 20:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


If I have my dialects right, you have just encountered a native of Somerset, possibly Devon. Even though, in theory, I quite expected to encounter it at some point, I was quite taken aback as a young man at being addressed as "My lover" by a matronly lady in a Cornwall shop. It's somehow much more intimate than the North Western "duck", London "love", or Scot's "Hen".

Derek J Lewis (not verified) Thu, 11/06/2020 - 20:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The flight of the Phoenix is the one where hardy Kruger builds an aeroplane from the one they crashed in. Great fun. Nice little twist
The one with the luminous Sylvia Sims is 'Ice cold in Alex' where they drink Carlsberg at the end. Incidentally they had to drink Carlsberg because it was the only non-german lager (for a film set in WW2) available on location.
If you haven't seen it for a while, give it a watch.cracking little plot. Nice acting. My favourite part Is where our heroes encounter some laconic LRDG disguised as Bedouin

Jo W (not verified) Thu, 11/06/2020 - 21:43

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hmm,Chris,sounds like you need more rest, to give all those researchers in your head the time to be able to sort out and properly file away your thoughts.
That film you were reliving - Ice Cold in Alex.

Roger (not verified) Thu, 11/06/2020 - 21:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was entertained a few years ago by a couple of young women in a pub with their aged and drunken parents reminiscing about their lives in the 1960s. The Younger Generation did not approve of their elders' depravity.
In the great covid queues for supermarkets I keep getting hauled to the front because of my age, white hair and stick. On the one hand, it's very pleasant to miss the wait, but as I walk between ten and fifteen miles every day now I always feel I'm getting by on false pretences.
Wasn't there a cough medicine with enormous amounts of morphine in it too? I remember someone swigging it merrily, but I may have been smoking something strange at the time.
The "coded digs" seem to have been a kind of game with some writers. A nasty game, in retrospect, but probably harmless-seeming at the time. The appearance of Hitler and people who actually meant it was a nasty shock to some writers.
Anyway, I hope you're improving. Some of us can fall over the furniture when we're well and no-one has moved it. You'll get used to it. Just make sure you get furniture you don't much like.

Jan (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 06:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Mr. F .this stuff you are on definitely works. Obviously I can't comment about its efficacy with regards to your pain but by its created change in your writing style for sure. That's a weird delivery system.

Derek J. Yes it's a smashing film that "Ice Cold in Alex" Alex Quayle was interesting actor. In a sense that film is so much about rest of the casts relationship with Quayle he sort of defines the film. Even though he's the "enemy" they acknowledge their need of his physical strength and other qualities. It's a great picture. The presence of Quayle reveals a lot to us about the tolerence, decency and the fears + doubts of the other characters in the film.

He seemed to be a quite exceptional man Quayle. He was selected to work in the defence of the UK had we been invaded. I dunno much about the details.

I think he was quite high up in the pecking order in this last line of defence - I think he might have been a regional commissioner. There was a sort of real intelligence about him. Ironically he appeared in lots of films as a German. He crops up in "Mckennas Gold" didn't he as half of a gay couple looking for the legendary hoard. ( I know it's daft but I liked "Mckennas Gold" let's not got in to the psychology of it!!)

I always thought Mr Quayle looked too serious to be having much of a laugh but was probably the opposite of this.

I never knew that about the Carlsberg scene.

Derek J Lewis (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 07:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Jan

Mr. Quayle served in the SOE behind the German lines with the partisans in Albania. Proper war hero (if that term is still acceptable). He wrote a novel based on his experience called 'Eight hours from London' . Worth a read

Jo W (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 07:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Was the cough mixture Gee's Linctus, by any chance? That had to be asked for specially,at the chemist's counter, due to the efficacious nature of its ingredients. Whatever they were, they helped my Dad who swigged quite a few bottles when trying to keep the pain of his lung cancer from overwhelming him.

Kim Froggatt (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 07:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ah, the insensitive kindnesses of the young!

I remember with such clarity the first time somebody offered courteous kindness to me because they thought my need was greater than theirs. I was on a packed tube train from Euston to Victoria, lugging a suitcase which came up to my waist and carrying a backpack, almost as heavy. I travelled a lot in those days and this was nothing unusual for me to manage. There were no seats available on the train and a girl in her early twenties, looked at me with great sympathy, stood up and asked me if I would like to sit down? It was the first time anyone had done this to me since I had hauled my toddlers around the public transport system, twenty-odd years earlier. I was so shocked I looked over my shoulder because, she couldn't be talking to me, I thought and in that split second I knew! I almost refused in protest as the realisation came to me that she had made this gesture because of my age! Then I looked at her lovely smile and obediently sat down. I think I actually blushed when I thanked her.

All the way to Victoria I told myself she was being kind because of the size of my suitcase. When I looked around I realised there were many others on that train with suitcases and backpacks just as big as mine, but, they were younger and seemingly, less in need than I was!

As we all poured off the train at Victoria and headed for those brutal exit steps, a lovely young man came up behind me and said " Need a hand with that, love?". I looked at him and said "Yes, please". Why resist, I thought, clearly I now have the look of and old lady who cannot manage her luggage any longer!

The look on the faces of those two young people appear in my mind now and again and I recognise it from many years ago when it was on my face as I offered a seat, or carried a bag for someone who I thought might need a hand because they were older and frailer than I was. I hadn't realised then that in those words and gestures, which were meant to be kind, was a subtext only they understood.

Jan (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 08:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sorry I appeared twice above Mr F. It was because of the Oromorph ?

Cheers Derek I will be having a read of that book 're Mr Quayles wartime exploits once the library 're opens. I will put it on order with them - if they will in fact do interlibrary exchanges nowadays. Been thinking about Mr Quayle whilst watering my garden container plants this morning. About half of his appeal being he looks bright - looks ALERT in government parlance! Plus he looks trustworthy looks like someone you could rely on. Dependable maybe if you can look dependable.

Isn't it a strange time this? Now we just about on the verge of regaining the start of the adjusted normality - of restarting practical daily living it falls at the same time as all this sudden cultural 're assessment. The world don't change by halves does it?

When things gather momentum that's it off we go.

Looking forward to it now everything gradually 're opening and we are starting to return to the new normality. This new normality is going to encompass many changes we would not even have taken an outside bet on less than a month back but there you go. Whatever the rights and wrongs its been a long time coming.

Peter Dixon (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 09:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was once given morphine for renal cholic caused by kidney stones - not great fun, like being stabbed in the side and gentleman's parts for eight to ten hours - but the morphine gave me a dream of an enormous elephant (about a mile wide) made entirely out of leaves, falling slowly through the sky. I seem to remember that the pain didn't actually go away, it was just somewhere else.

There used to be a lethal drink called 'Red Biddy' which was a mixture of red wine and methylated spirits.
Meths doesn't have much of a smell so to prevent human consumption they added a purple colour and a hideous smell to stop people drinking it.

Jan W (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 10:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Kaolin and morphine, those were the days. I hope it is helping with your pain and you can rest and wake refreshed (the dream).

As children we were told that if a jaunt went well , it was a holiday and if it went badly it was an adventure. Still works for me, though a little heavy on adventures these days.

Thank you for continuing the blog, take care of yourself but I can't belive you haven't introduced your husband to the delights of Carry-on films.

Dave Young (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 12:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If it were weed I'd suggest more tobacco with it - makes for a very entertaining stream of consciousness writing style anyway

Joel (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 14:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I thought "Nurse ! The Screens!" was one of Major Denis Bloodnok's cries on being introduced into each story of The Goon Show'... Along with the fairly regular "No more curried eggs for me!" accompanying sound effects to reflect that request.

And the Victorian cough mixture with the lethal content was "J Collis Browne's Chlorodine"?

Paul Connolly (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 14:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Enjoyed Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu books as a 14 year old but they're utterly unreadable now (did he ever just publish the first rough drafts ?) Same with some films and music too as you grow older - a sad feeling

I suppose Fu Manchu books will all be banned and burned in public shortly anyway........

Frances (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 15:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Powerful stuff, morphine. My husband had to have patches as a delivery system. He saw flowers everywhere and loved ones long gone. Still, it did the job.

For the young, those who are older do not have a past. Fortunately, my youth was spent before social media so no evidence.

A salesperson in a shop in the United States once kept referring to me as "Mommy". Very disconcerting.

Brian Evans (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 15:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Paul, I'm just the same with Dennis Wheatley. Loved them as a teenager, but unreadable now. I tried one a while back -The Satanist-and it was utter garbage.

eggsy (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 15:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

No marmite 'cos no brewing beer 'cos no pubs 'cos lockdown. Bloomin' virus.

On statues, where do you draw the line on culpability? And surely _deleting_ history is wrong, the shame of it should be acknowledged. Also, I can't see it improving the lot of anyone in the here and now, apart from those employed in the graffiti-removal trade. If some of the effort went into dealing with the socioeconomic issues...but that would involve committee meetings, which aren't as exciting as breaking stuff.
Engage. Debate. Vote. Change stuff. (At an appropriate distance).

Peter Dixon (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 15:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Wheatley certainly wasted an awful lot of trees and typesetters time.

Christopher Fowler Fri, 12/06/2020 - 19:07

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The one Wheatley I liked was 'The Haunting of Toby Jugg'. I agree Rohmer et al are unreadable. Beachcomber (Morton) is as funny as cancer, and I should know.

Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 12/06/2020 - 19:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hmm, I've heard favourable comments here regarding Mr. Wheatley's writing. Am I going to go back to find the evidence? Probably not, but I am correct on this, aren't I?

Liz Thompson (not verified) Sat, 13/06/2020 - 15:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Was The Haunting of Toby Jugg the one where he follows the medium into the bathroom in a frantic attempt to make contact, and in outrage she immediately , and, I think, permanently blanks him from her sight?
It's all I can remember, but at age 14, that sort of thing is funny. I seem to recall To the Devil a Daughter was fairly over the top.
When on morphine ( laudanum, paregoric etc), get up very slowly, and move as if imitating a sloth. My ex has morphine patches plus fentanyl patches, and alarms visitors by declaring he's on that stuff they had all the trouble with in the US. The house is laid out so he always has a stable piece of furniture or a handrail to grab.
I actually thought tipping Colston into the harbour was a nice move. Non violent, no one got hurt or arrested, and Bristol has been debating the statue's future for some years. Symbolic, I'd say. We are having a review in Leeds of ALL our statues, plaques etc. Should make for good headlines and letters in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Jan W (not verified) Sat, 13/06/2020 - 16:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

'The book of forgotten authors' arrived today. I know some of the authors but many are new to me. I am looking forward to expanding my reading when the libraries and bookshops open. (and charity shops). Allingham and the Avengers, Yes! makes so much sense and I love both. Thank you.

I have not read any Dennis Wheatley and not going to to start but I did see the Devil Rides out and Charles Grays' eerie blue eyes were truly scary. I wonder how he did that.

Joel - In my mind's eye I can see Kenneth Williams shouting this. Obviously I am wrong but he is still there.

snowy (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 00:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Golly, that's jolly nearly a rambling as one of my comments, and they say "The drugs don't work".

[If you should wake up with an epic 200 line poem in your head, forget it and earn the unspoken relief of generations of schoolchildren yet to be born. Interruptions by people from the West Country are not as conveniently obtained as they once were.]

This is going to be a comment, 'that dare not speak its name'

I have been wondering if the current brouhaha has any basis in fact. So I decided to run some rough numbers to test the UK case, [America is a very different country so any conclusions here are not applicable there].

UK BAME population approx. 13% of 65M = 8.5M

Subtract 33% to remove children/retired adults = 5.6M

Average BAME deaths per annum while in contact with police: 5.5 (2009-2019)

[Note this number is inflated by: those killed carrying out acts of terrorism, deaths from natural causes exacerbated by resisting arrest, deaths from swallowing evidence [drugs]. Removing those would lower the figure by 0.5-2.0 But we will use the higher figure and divide by population estimate - 5.5/5.6M]

Risk of death 1/1,000,000 approx.

For comparison of risk:

UK Police Numbers [Frontline] approx. = 122k

Average Police deaths per annum - crime related: 1 (2009-2019)

Deaths per capita 1/122,000

[Correct to common denominator [1M/122k = 8.2 so multiply both sides by 8.2. Therefore:]]

Risk of death 8.2/1,000,000

From these very rough estimates, Police officers are 8 times more likely to be killed each year but because they don't threaten to smash up city-centres the fact goes unreported.

If you thought that was not heretical enough, buckle up, because we are going 'way out West'.

I believe <b>ALL</b> lives matter, but since the focus is currently dominated by those campaigning from a BAME perspective, let's run a similar analysis on a much larger threat to BAME lives, one that only affects the BAME population. [The media have a horrible name for this: 'Black on Black Crime'].

Obtaining good quality data is difficult, so we will have to construct an estimate from what data we have. Many anecdotal reports give figures for shootings and stabbings of BAME people by other BAME people at over 1 per week [or 52/year]. This will be the low boundary. Slightly more rigorous studies put the number at 4 per week [or 200/year].

If we take a range of 50-200 and apply it to the same population the estimates become:

50/5.6 = 8.9/1,000,000
200/5.6 = 35.7/1,000,000

[These figures are probably low; the at risk group is predominantly young males which would reduce the population estimate by age and gender, if we make VERY crude adjustments: 50% for gender 50/100 X 5.6M = 2.8M and 20% for age 80/100 X 2.8M = 2.24M, Reworking the figures gives:

50/2.24 = 22/1,000,000
200/2.24 = 89/1,000,000]

So if the aim of BLM is to prevent deaths which is the bigger threat?

Oh, that isn't the heretical bit, those are just numbers anybody with better data is welcome to correct them.

This is the bit..

'Black Lives Matter'[in the UK], will cause the the deaths of more BAME people.

Extensive political campaigning by BLM, will cause Police Services to temporarily reduce operations targeting the very small criminal element - that hides within the much larger BAME community. [To state the point explicitly, the problem is the criminals not the people.]

If Police withdraw, the only people that benefit are criminals. Crime will then increase and with it gang-related deaths of young BAME men.

Anybody that wants to shout at me for this feel free - but please bring data, if I have messed up I would like to learn what the real picture is.

[Anybody who happens to bring up Stop-and-Search, will have to suffer an explanation of why they are focused on completely the wrong thing.]

Ian Luck (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 02:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You used to easily be able to obtain Codeine cough linctus, and if you mixed it with lager, you could get very hammered, very cheaply. It was a very late 1970's way of spending an afternoon in the park with your mates. Never did me any harm.

John Howard (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 07:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank goodness for the voice of common sense that is SNOWY... I am fed up with people changing history.. Thank feck I am old and can be an old git about this and not worry anymore about how society is splitting up after decades were spent trying to bring it together.
There are stupid youngsters out there (yes I also know there are good ones - I have 3 of my own), that identify with this Winston Churchill cult that is happening and seem to think that his name is Winsten....!!
God I hate the way the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

John Howard (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 07:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

PS: By the way Admin, please can I have some of those Drugs... they would appear to be the dog bollocks. As long as you don't have Cancer and aren't in pain that is.
Thanks for the previous pointer Re: Molesworth, I'm on that and am waiting with bated breath for "The Bells Of St.Clements"... ( Smiley Face )

Brian Evans (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 08:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Now you tell us Ian. If only I'd have known at the time.

Jan (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 09:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy I can't follow your figures exactly ( having forgotten the very few skills I had managed to pick up in just a few weeks. It's pitiful really.)

I take your point entirely though having spent 30 years policing the capital many of them spent in a public order role - I get it. Trust me. US pc's like their British counterparts and indeed police officers everywhere adopt survival tactics. Everyone is pretty keen on getting home. Its important to us all. We are only doing a job. Or I WAS only doing a job. Another generation now. Now they are being called upon to engage in street battles during a pandemic. Where's the sense in that?

The U.S. officers have the added excitement of having to factor in a relatively easy access to firearms when dealing with suspects.

Saying this and not wishing to be overly controversial (or needing publicity of any bloody sort) I can't condone or comment on the behaviours of others. If the process of law decides wrong doing has taken place then not only will there be penalties for persons found guilty but processes will be changed.

At the present attrition rates exist change looks in order to me. The numbers have been high for many years. My reporting sergeant was a Scots gent and at some point there was a bit of a publicity drive in Scotland (we are talking late 1960s into 1970s here ) for the Canadian police forces to recruit from Scotland the Scots police forces. Each of the officers my skipper knew who joined a Canadian force was killed during the arrest of armed suspects. No wonder those guys are twitchy.

But another part of the tragedy is the killings within the minority communities. This also needs to be addressed.

I'll tell you what for my final few years in the job it became increasingly obvious that when doing raids at addresses in many parts of the capital that the suspects were in the vast majority of cases entirely RELIEVED it was the Old Bill demolishing their door. Seriously.

I've got no snap answers no easy answers. Policing can't provide all the answers for this. Police officers enforce the law. That's all - and its ever so easy to make the law enforcers become the ones in the wrong. The problems are bigger and more complex than that though. Needs to be recognised I think its long overdue that the essential problem is recognised. That's exactly what I believe has been a long time coming.

Liz Thompson (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 13:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

To return to the point about casual racism in Christie, it's in Sayers, Allingham, and most of the murder mysteries from that period. But it is in Shakespeare too, and a careful search of most of the 'classic' writers, films, theatre produces examples. I've been discussing J K Rowling's comments on gender on Facebook, with particular reference to the question of whether an author's works should be conflated with their social, political or racial opinions. There are well over 150 posts in that thread, with views going from banning all the author's works for ever from your shelves, to identifying the bias/ prejudice in the work and ensuring you recognise it for what it is (this relates particularly to children's books), to accepting the work as it stands evaluating it on that basis only, and differentiate between the creator and the work.
I incline to the recognise and accept view, but then I like Wagner's Ring Cycle, whilst abominating what it was used for. We probably are as influenced by our own upbringing, age, and society as all those earlier writers and composers were, though I'm uneasy with the 'of their time' defence if it ignores the racism, homophobia, or whatever completely.
I am not at all sure that this approach works with historical statues. They celebrate public figures, that's why they are put there. Where they omit significant aspects of that individual's history, the statue may be celebrating fame, fortune, or power, and indicating a disregard, a contempt, for the opinions of the less powerful. It is usually the powerful who erect the statues, usually the powerless who suffered what has been overlooked and ignored. I really can see why Colston's statue ended up in the water. I don't disagree with its retrieval for display in a museum with a full account of his part in Bristol's history, and perhaps that's where a lot of these statues up and down the country belong.
On the subject of Winston Churchill, I have one word to offer, Tonypandy.

snowy (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 16:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


Liz, I do not expect or intend to change your views one whit, but I will offer a different perspective for you to consider.

Casual racism is a late 20thC political construct. It was invented by people who suddenly realised that supplies of real racism was in danger of drying up and with it would go their research grants, TV appearance money and Political capital and so they had to create something new to keep the cash coming in.

Lots of things have been written in books over many centuries; we now disagree with almost all of them, progress does that. We take what we start with and improve upon it.

The test is 'proof of harm', [and I have yet to see roving bands of tweed-clad Marple fans running around the country setting fire to synagogues and kicking British-African men in the nuts after reading 'They Do It With Mirrors'].

So at the risk of veering dangerously close to the point, the analyses of books and authors are usually some of the most poorly researched and badly worked out arguments that I have ever read, [I re-read my own comments here before I post them - so the bar is pretty low already!]. They are absolutely awful, they make claims that are inaccurate or untrue or both, [there is a distinction], and conflate 'wrote' with 'said'.

Authors regularly put bad words into the mouths of bad characters to demonstrate exactly that they are bad. So if an author constructs a villain and has the villain say something abhorrent then this can be presented in a number of different ways depending on the effect that the observer to achieve.

Take the line: The cat said 'Kill all mice'.

Statement 1

The author wrote 'kill all mice' within the context of fact both true and accurate but proves nothing much.

Statement 2

The author wants all mice killed, not true nor accurate, the author's views on mice genocide cannot be determined from three words attributed to a fictional character.

Statement 3

The author said all mice should be killed, patently false the recorded words of the author them-self have never been heard, [since I made them/her/him up], so the claim is both untrue and inaccurate. [But you will find people claiming authors are anti-this and prejudiced against-that - all over the shop! And it is based on selective quotes taken out of context.]


The debate around statues is really complicated. You can take any historical figure and construct any narrative you like around them by choosing and manipulating just the fact that suit a particular argument.

The statue that went for an early bath was a trader in commodities, at the time he traded one of those commodities was human beings. These are facts of record, and ones that we no longer regard as acceptable behaviour. But it is possible to construct two equally logically valid though largely specious chains of events that begin with him and lead to today.

Proposition 1

Through his philanthropy he raised the levels of education in Britain and a better educated population lead to an increase in the call for Abolition.

Proposition 2, [though this one is more of a paradox]

Without him [and people like him], there would not have been enough people annoyed about his statue in Bristol to throw it in the dock.

We still live in some form of democracy, if you don't like a statue go through the process to have it removed. [The smart way to do it is to offer to pay for a better statue of something you do like to stand in its place].


I'm not fully up on Tonypandy, a quick read-up says...

Industrial dispute becomes property destruction.
Local politicians ask for Military support.
Churchill blocks this as he doesn't want armed troops used and sends unarmed police.
Property destruction turns into a full riot.
More calls from local politicians for help.
Churchill has run out of Constables, he can't open another magic box and produce them.
He has to do something as Home Sec. , and all that is left is to send troops.

snowy (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 23:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Er... Liz


I'm flopping about like an octopus in a cement mixer here, trying to find an account of the Tonypandy strike 1910-11 that isn't wildly partisan on one side or the other. [I've been all round the houses, and everything is either a WSC hagiography or Socialist polemic.]

From the fragments that both sides seem to agree on, [my own interpretation - so handle with due care]:

Sending more coppers appears to have been the 'wrong' move for the 'right' reasons, ie. WSC didn't want to deploy troops against a civilian population. But the police were seen as being in the pocket of the bosses and adding more made it worse. When troops finally came they were seen as non-aligned and things calmed down. [This is contrary to normal expectations].

There was a huge amount of industrial unrest in the period, the Llanelli railway strike is another example, where absolutely everything went wrong on the ground, troops were deployed, then lured into an ambush, Riot Act read, shots fired. Two dead, the liability for death remains disputed even today. [Winne had to rubber-stamp the deployment, but it was organised and coordinated by local Magistrates].

But these would not be the last deaths associated with the strike, a local... 'entrepreneur' decided while everybody was busy what with 'one thing and another', he would like to investigate the contents of an armoured train carriage that was standing in a siding.

Lacking a key or the skills to pick a lock, he used what fell to hand - some dynamite lifted from somewhere else.

We cannot possibly know what the last thing to pass through the mind of this person was as the entire cargo of - explosive detonators went off in a huge explosion, [probably a bit of door handle?], but it killed him and 3 other people caught by the blat.

snowy (not verified) Sun, 14/06/2020 - 23:24

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What on earth is a blat? Blast! - 'blast'!

Dawn Andrews (not verified) Mon, 15/06/2020 - 07:41

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Lear's paintings are luminous, very glad they are more appreciated. I remember seeing a documentary about him years ago when he ruefully said that his paintings at the Royal Academy were so high up as to be 'viewed by only the occasional passing spider.'
Brilliant artist and gentle man.

Liz Thompson (not verified) Mon, 15/06/2020 - 10:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy, you're quite right that Tonypandy accounts are pretty partisan! Comes with the territory I think, workers = good, mine owners = bad etc. Or vice versa. I said I suspect age, upbringing etc helps form our reactions to things, true for trade disputes, politics, as well as the creator's relation or relevance to their work. We may not agree, but we are reading each other's comments and considering them. That has to be an improvement on the old 'believe what I tell you' line that they rolled out when I was at school. The use of the police in the first place was probably as helpful to the cause of 'law and order' as it was at Orgreave! The fall out has lasted well beyond the actual dispute in both cases, regardless of rational argument and debate by either side or even the recorded and accepted consequences. Modern myth plays a part! Rather like folksongs, traditional and modern.
Not sure casual (it's probably the wrong word anyway) racism is purely down to legislation against the overt forms, or a wish to continue as a recipient of the research grant, though it might apply to some folk! Like feminism produced a whole new analysis of social behaviour and organisations, I think this is happening in the anti racism movement, and a closer look and analysis is being made. The procedure is likely to be disruptive and uncomfortable, it was with feminism, and won't solve the problems of course. Utopia is never achievable, we just keep stumbling forward, trying to find common ground with good intentions. (Most of us....)

Liz Thompson (not verified) Mon, 15/06/2020 - 10:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Most of us refers to all the commenters on this page, by the way!

Jan (not verified) Mon, 15/06/2020 - 16:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy are you in the ramble again?

snowy (not verified) Mon, 15/06/2020 - 16:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm flitting about Edwardian Wales, [as a sort of time-travelling tourist via a computer], if that is the question?

snowy (not verified) Mon, 15/06/2020 - 20:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Liz, I don't think you could slide the proverbial cigarette paper between us on important stuff, we might disagree on details, or the 'best' way to fix a problem, or where to start first, but nothing major.

Tonypandy seems to have been a classic cascade, [that's the polite word; the one that isn't an anagram of flustercuck], a bit of compromise on each side would have fixed it, but nobody was giving an inch.

It's a sad old do, once the first shop window goes in, the Conflict Resolution Manual doesn't have much to offer - the last page only has two options Call Police, Call Army.
Neither organisation are constructed or experienced in solving Industrial disputes, [they are not allowed to strike]. And more crucially they don't have 'Independence of Action', they have to do what they are told even if they disagree with it.

I think everybody on the ground - [on both sides], at Orgreave was being manipulated. The NCB wanted to break up the NUM and vice versa. Pointless amounts of suffering, they'd all be out of a job in a decade. [There are human stories to be found, spare food from police feeding stations was going into vans with blue lights on and being delivered quietly after dark to Miner's Aid groups along with children's clothes, shoes, nappies, tins of formula. Open dissent is not allowed in the police, but off-duty is off-duty.

[The mines in the UK were doomed from 1920. Economics, Royal Navy converts to fuel oil - other ship owners follow, Australian opencast mechanised coal production causes prices to tumble: imports cheaper then domestic, Second World War stops the decline for a while, Clean Air Act causes a switch to Town Gas, Railways convert to diesel, Natural Gas and Nuclear power stations come on stream, declines in steel production.]
I think we will become unstuck/bogged down if we try to sort out definitions of 'casual' and 'racism', please let me try another way...

This is a bit of a 'Cri de coeur' and perhaps not as elegantly worded as perhaps it should be:

Worrying about words in books that nobody reads is fiddling around at the bloody edges and there are much more important things to be tackling like people being stabbed at the rate of 4 per week! [Pithy... but I probably need to polish it up a bit].


If you want to have a go at books have a go at the ones that are causing the MOST harm! There are two that I can think of.. they both start with the words 'The Holy', and work back from there.

OK it's a safe space - I'll admit something...

What really gets up my goat, is pampered little flowers that when they don't get exactly what they want, ie. when they are treated just like everybody else and not the superior beings they think they are, fall on the floor and have a tantrum, claiming to be 'the victim of a micro-aggression'. It doesn't wash with me, anybody that tries that nonsense is liable to get a free sample of aggression, for calibration purposes obv. and it wont be micro.

Ian Luck (not verified) Wed, 17/06/2020 - 04:11

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

'Pampereed little flowers'. They are the absolute worst of all. They know little to nothing of the real world, have probably never done a proper day's work in their lives ("Mummy says working is common") - a phrase some stupid child with a huge sense of entitlement said to me once - and who believe every iota of panicmongering and lies shat out by equally moronic knownothings on Arsebook - the only form most of 'book' most of them have ever been in contact with. If you checked, I expect that most of them don't know any non-white people, of any nationality, let alone be on first name terms, or work with any.
These 'Pampered Little Flowers' nobodies are the ones overcome with 'Uninformed Outrage', and, because of that, become a 'Trendy Protest' - they have little or no idea what they are protesting about, and get in the way of those protesters who have complete knowledge as to why they are protesting, and a legitimate cause for so doing. Unfortunately, the bottomfeeder Red Top press know that proper protesters won't give them the answers that they can twist into their own agenda to undermine the protest. Stupid, uninformed 'Pampered Little Flowers', knowing next to nothing, except the bullshit fed to them by other Arsebook retards, however, will.

Ian Luck (not verified) Wed, 17/06/2020 - 04:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Brian - I think a bottle of codeine cost about 45p, and then, after several of us had bought bottles at various shops, we'd go to the nearest offy, and get cans of the cheapest lager we could find - this was an exercise in effect, not a gourmet tasting, of course, and then head for a big park, ensure you were seated on the ground, and then proceed to get utterly munted for a few hours. I would not recommend trying it now, though. The headache afterwards could be described as 'heroic'.

Tim Lees (not verified) Thu, 18/06/2020 - 15:09

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Reading the first part of this, I started to look forward to an upcoming "hilarious" memoir of your cancer treatment. I doubt you're short of writing projects, but I really think that could be a delight.