Sunday, 22 January 2017

Theresa May - Just another mutant version of a Conservative

The effortless way in which some politicians muddy the waters, muddle the facts or, in simple plain English, tell lies, is remarkable. Take Theresa May for example. Do I think she is a liar? Of course not. I wouldn't be so rude. 


Recently, well today as a matter of fact, whilst on BBC TV, our, that is the British, Prime Minister, boldly stated that she, rather than Jeremy Corbyn, would maintain Trident. She said only she and not the Labour leader would retain Britain's defences. Really? Isn't having a fully functioning police force a vital part of our self-defense? I mean, where I live, and my county isn't alone in this, is 400 officers short. The knock on effect of Tory austerity cuts is we in the UK lack police officers. 

And those floods that beleaguer our nation virtually every other year, where is the funding for that? Not the after the event funding but the up-front, taking care of people's homes, self-defence funding made proactively not reactively? Why it's all a matter of money isn't it? 

We can afford to build more missiles, house more Trident but we cannot ensure the upkeep of the NHS, our police force or even our flood defence. We can proudly claim to have a deterrent that keeps China, Russia, Iraq and possibly Korea from invading us but we cannot safeguard our nation from terrorist attack.

I really thought Theresa May would take the Conservative party back to its Disraeli roots, to the days of Harold MacMillan but no, another female PM has cast a shadow so long it still darkens the common sense of Tories unable to break away from the Neoconservative monster as created by Mrs T. Unable to shed its neoliberal policies in favour of its time -honoured 'one nation Toryism.' 

Same old bath water, different baby.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

I've Been Thinking....

...of the morning, of waking to greet a new day, a new life as the old fades with the passing of last night's dreams. Waking up now is like waking up many years from now. The sky outside is the old sky, is a new horizon. The seasons that come and go dress the garden in myriad shades and colours, scents and sensations. My memories grow as I gather more to my heart. My children are no longer children less they be forever children to me. Not mine for I do not own them but rather I am their father as they are mothers and fathers to my grandchildren of whom I derive such pleasure. They owe me nothing yet I owe them everything. Children and grandchildren.

Each new day I write words onto a page then watch the words form into stories which in turn mature as my writing evolves along with the stories I write. Everything changes yet everything stays the same. Life spins on a wheel. The wheel is but a cog in a larger wheel. All that is, is connected. All things are of one creation, linked by non-design yet not by accident. God is a word. When the internal greets the external the eternal enters the mind. You are never alone.

I have been giving away my old vinyl, old CD's, old books and more. Attachment sucks you dry as desire attaches to your mind like a barnacle on a boat, like mildew, like a fungus sapping the strength from a tree. My old desire to possess all I desired has left me as I desire not to possess but to love and be loved. Can anything be better than being loved?

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Father Brown or Grantchester? - G.K. Chesterton or James Runcie?

Well, the first detective priest was, of course, G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown. The debut book featuring the Roman Catholic priest in a series of short stories was "The Innocence of Father Brown." Published in 1911 and now, some 102 years later, the evergreen padre is back on our TV screen and has been since 2013. 

Chesterton based the character on the priest who helped the author convert to Catholicism, Father John O'Connor. I have no idea if said O'Connor was a short, stumpy large umbrella carrying cleric who dressed in ill-fitting priestly garb with a Capello Romano set neatly on his head, but Father Brown fits that description nicely.

Unlike that other great detective, the one who perhaps shines a brighter light in terms of fame and notoriety if not longevity, Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown does not deduct, deduce or in indeed use logic in solving his crimes. He uses his intuition, that and his time spent listening at the confessional where he, or so he reckons, hears more about the workings of the human mind than logic alone can gather.  To quote the man himself -  "Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?"

G.K. Chesterton was known, largely due to his style of writing, as the Prince of Paradox. His work often featured sentences that are structured in such a fashion as to seem as if they have been turned inside out. "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."

His work on Father Brown where he wrote in such idiosyncratic, often paradoxical and alliterative English provides the reader with stories that live on long after the time they were published. They really do, because of their quirky nature, beg to be read again. 

The current series, which first aired in 2013, starring Mark Williams (Mister Weasley in the Harry Potter films) is much like the 1974 TV series starring the late Kenneth More, loosely based on Chesterton's stories. The only minor issue I have is that the current show is set in the fifties, not the early part of the last century as the characters creator intended. Mark Williams does an impressive job as the priestly sleuth adding the right amount of peculiar mannerisms to offset the humour as supplied by the supporting cast who get to ham things up something rotten; the plots are, oddly enough, pretty good even if sometimes blindingly obvious. It is, by some odd, strange twist rather like another contemporary TV series, "Murder in Paradise" which also has splashes of amusing scenes. "Father Brown" is broadcast on daytime TV so is presumably aimed at girls like me who have a quiet moment to spare from the housework.

I like the show. It has to be viewed in the manner in which it was created - as light entertainment. As such I can see little fault with it. It might not, in fact, will not, Impress those seeking grim realism but then again I often find such shows grim but lacking any authentic realism just fictional tension.

Oh, yes, "Father Brown" is broadcast by the BBC.

Then there's "Grantchester."

No sooner did the Reverend Sydney Chambers appear in the first collection of short stories entitled "Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death" than reviewers and critics alike began by comparing it to G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown. In fairness, the comparison wasn't without merit. Father Brown and Sydney Chambers are both priests. One a Catholic the other Anglican. That, though, is pretty much the only likeness.

James Runcie, the author and creator of Sydney Chambers and the whole Grantchester concept writes nothing like Chesterton. His is not a revamp of a long established character given new blood, a make-over as it were. No, his dog-collared investigator is far more logical in his thinking than his Catholic counterpart, far more deductive. Yes, this too is a cosy, comfy world where violence isn't served up rare, with blood for sauce and a rising body count. The murders committed are more Christie than Chandler.

The first Father Brown as published, as stated above, in 1911. The first Sydney Chambers in 2012. One hundred years between the two. Father Brown was based on a priest Chesterton new and owed so much to whereas James Runcie's Chambers is based on his father, the deceased Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.

Grantchester has soul rather than humour. It wears a serious face providing human relationships rather than a comedic, tongue in cheek, set of stories. Not only does the show have romance there is the sometimes strained relationship between Canon Chambers and his police detective and pub drinking friend Inspector Geordie Keating. These tensions produce a very different feel to that of "Father Brown."

Chesterton's prose style is rightly much revered. Runcie is very different but no slouch. His style has a certain elegance about it that probably comes from his love and respect for his father,  a man who did his job with a quiet dignity.

Again, I like the show. I enjoy the way the relationships create a certain frisson between characters. I find the camaraderie between Chambers and Keating both intriguing and believable. In many ways the are two sides of the same coin. Both men are flawed.  Both men are basically honest. Yet, at times their friendship is strained when one sees one way of doing things whilst the other favours the reverse. It makes for entertaining viewing. Yes, it too is cosy crime but this should not lessen enjoyment.

And of course, Grantchester is broadcast by ITV.

So then, which is best?

"The Fall" and "Shetland" are two very dark, very real, gritty police dramas. "The Fall" was shown on the BBC whilst "Shetland" was ITV. Exactly the same as "Father Brown" and "Grantchester."  I enjoyed the realism of these shows for they contained sufficent police procedure, you know, the boring paperwork stuff, to grant them authenticity. I like "Father Brown" and "Grantchester" equally as they provide the prefect antidote to "The Fall" and "Shetland."

Yes, it is possible to like two different genres at the same time just as it is possible to like "Father Brown" and "Grantchester." I do.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Village Tales of Fekenham Swarberry - Book 4 and a bit - Hand In Glove (Chapter 13)


“Harry, we are going around in bloody circles here. We know all about you. We know you were once butler to the Fatleafs. We know that you worked with Agatha Nosebag. It is common knowledge you didn’t like the woman. You have said as much yourself and now we have your fingerprints all over the murder weapon.”
Lazarus looked hard at the accused. Hertlasp was a tough nut but the detective thought he could see the first visible signs of the man’s well-honed inscrutability cracking. He continued with his line of enquiry.
“You admitted to me that you had argued with the deceased. I put it to you that the argument turned into a row, one that escalated beyond your control. Agatha Nosebag had a way of winding people up and that’s what she did to you. You saw her shears, you picked them up and, before you know it, plunged them into her mouth. Why don’t you just admit it?”
Harry Hertlasp was beginning to feel a little cornered but not so much that he didn’t have the ability to think. He ran his hand across the table in front of him as though smoothing out the grain.
“They were mine.”
Lazarus, surprised to finally hear the man speak, looked confused.
“What was yours?”
“The shears, they are mine, I lent them to Agatha.”
Not exactly the confession he wanted but at least Hertlasp said something.
“And you thrust them into her face.”
Hertlasp stopped moving his hands across the table, brushed them together, then looked directly at the police inspector.
“No, I didn’t. I often wanted to stop her infernal yapping but I had managed to live with it for thirty years so why would I kill her now?”
Lazarus leant in close to Hertlasp’s face. Their noses were practically touching.
“She had something on you, something from the past. I think she was blackmailing you with it and you decided to kill her to silence her.”
“With a pair of shears that just happen to be mine. It sounds a bit too easy, a bit too convenient. Surely I seem just a little more sophisticated than that?”
Lazarus sat back. Beside him, a grizzled plain clothes detective watched with arms folded across his chest. The police officer spoke.
“You may be sophisticated, sir, but in my experience we all do funny things in the heat of the moment, even sophisticated gentlemen like you.”
The sarcasm didn’t go unnoticed but Harry Hertlasp chose to ignore it. He retreated back into his shell again, back into the halls of silence. Lazarus sighed. He looked toward his colleague, went to say something to him but then stopped. He addressed Harry again.
“Were you and Agatha ever lovers?” Lazarus asked, knowing the question should arouse some form of reaction. The reaction it got was not the one he had hoped for. Hertlasp laughed out loud and continued laughing until tears ran down his face. When he did speak it was with a husky voice.
“Good Lord,” said Hertlasp, “you must be anxious to pin something on me. I would have needed a team of Sherpas to help me mount that old crone!” The laughter came again, bursting out with snorts and a string of vague obscenities.
“The woman hated me. She hated me from day one when I told her off for not wearing the proper uniform. She hated me as much as I hated her. The Fatleafs liked me but they couldn’t stand the sight of her. The only reason she kept her job is that Sir Clement had an eye for the ladies and Agatha caught him one afternoon with the grocer’s wife. She never blackmailed Sir Clement but she made it crystal clear she would expose his little indiscretion to Dame Fatleaf if she ever lost her job. Lovers? Me and her? Good Lord no.”
Harry wiped his hand across his eyes, finally regaining his composure. He drew his shoulders back,  then addressed the policemen in front of him.
“I did not kill Agatha Nosebag. My fingerprints are on the shears from when I lent them to her. I have done nothing wrong, nothing at all. Now, when will I be allowed to go home?”
Lazarus stood up. The plain clothes policeman followed suit.
“I am terminating this interview at twelve thirteen. We will continue this later Mister Hertlasp but for now you can return to your cell.”
Hertlasp looked darkly at the chief inspector.
“You cannot just keep me here. You will have to charge me with something. Where is my legal representation? I want a solicitor.”
Lazarus walked across to the interview door then turned back to face the accused man.
“There is more to this that meets the eye, Mister Hertlasp, something you are not telling me. Barry, take Mister Hertlasp back to his cell then contact a solicitor for him.”
Back at his desk Lazarus trawled through the paperwork again then, in frustration, screwed a handful into a tight ball which he threw across the room. Detective Sergeant Highlot had gone with Penny Farthing to speak with Hilary regarding the two dead men. The Birchtickle case was odd but Lazarus now had another murder on his plate. There was something distinctly weird about Vesper Highlot’s attitude to the case they had dubbed the ‘Tattooed Men.’ If not for Penny, there would be no focus, no drive. Lazarus was concerned but also puzzled. After Debbie Sundae had been seconded to the Isle of Wight Crime Investigation Team, he had feared that her replacement would not be half as good. If anything Vesper had proven better but now, over such a paltry case, she seemed to be losing the plot.
Barry returned with a smile and a yet another mug of coffee.
“Good news, guv,” he said, placing the brew in front of Lazarus.
“You’ve found coffee with taste?”
“Nope, better than that.”
“Hertlasp has confessed?”
“Sadly, no.”
“What then?”
“Another severed hand has been found. This one was in a dustbin in Winchester.”
Lazarus leapt up, knocking the coffee over.
“Have we spoken with the owners of the property?”
Lazarus pulled his raincoat from the clothes rack. Barry followed.
“An old widow, she went to throw some refuse out and saw the hand lying on top of the rubbish. She has no idea how it got there and, judging by the shock she seems to be in, I’d say I believe her.”
Lazarus turned abruptly, wagging his finger as thoughts raced through his mind.
“Do me a favour and get over there now. Have the hand sent directly to Hilary Leatherbarrow. I need her to give me her expert opinion on this ASAP. I am on my way there now.”
Penny Farthing was feeling let down. Having left Winchester Police Station along with DS Vesper Highlot she had thought the plan was to go to Doctor Leatherbarrow’s to collect any further evidence along with any material evidence collected from the cadaver’s pockets. She was horrified when Vesper had said she was feeling unwell.
“I don’t feel too good Penny. I am sorry but I think it better if I were to go home. Will you be alright on your own?”
Penny felt wrong-footed but, being the positive-natured girl she was, replied breezily.
“Yeah sure. What’s up with you then?”
Vesper’s response had seemed lame.
“Oh you know, women’s stuff, as Dad used to say. I have just started my period and I feel a little rough.”
“Oh, okay. Guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
“Of course. I think having a bit of time off won’t hurt. You don’t have any new evidence do you so we are not missing out on anything?”
For some reason, even though Penny understood period pains all too well, she felt that her senior officer was just using that as an excuse. They had worked together for some years now and Vesper had never had time off sick before. This was now the second time in as many days that Vesper had pulled this stroke. Penny could have let the question go but felt she should set her colleague straight.
“As it happens I do have fresh clues. When I last spoke with Doctor Leatherbarrow she told me about a business card she found in one of the corpse’s pockets. My intention was to collect it today with any other evidence there may be. Fortunately, Hilary gave me the detail. The chap on the card is one Francis Fischer. I have his address so when I have finished at the forensic lab I’ll shoot over there.”
There as a fleeting look of disapproval on Vesper Highlot’s face.
“I see. You didn’t think of telling me earlier?”
“Sorry, Vesper, I thought it could wait until now.”
“In future keep me up to date. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
When Penny arrived at the forensic laboratory, she was first greeted by Mrs MacCrumpet. The woman was as dour as ever. Her greeting was like being sandblasted by rough cement.
Inside the lab, behind the drawn curtains, Hilary Leatherbarrow was hard at work examining a small object.
“Penny! Hi! How are you?”
“Still trying to make sense of the ‘Tattooed Men.’”
“Have you tried that name I gave you?”
“Not yet no. I thought I would collect any material evidence you have.”
“It’s all over there in the plastic bag. Everything has been clearly identified then tagged. Where’s Sergeant Highlot?”
“Off sick with period pains.”
“Hmmm, I sympathize.”
Penny moved cautiously closer. She was still accustomising herself to being around dissected bodies with bits of bowel lying in kidney-shaped dishes.
“What are you doing?” she asked, fearing the answer.
Hilary rubbed the tip of her nose with the back of her gloved wrist before answering.
“They found another severed hand.”
“So you now have a pair. This is the missing one is it?”
“Yes. This one is also a right hand but it belonged to a female. It too has been kept refrigerated even though it has been left out longer than the first one we discovered. I think it is of a similar vintage though. I need to check to see if it too has had the same hand lotion applied to it.”
She sounded as though she were talking to herself as much as Penny.
“Does the boss know?”
“Inspector Lazarus? Yes, he knows about the new hand being discovered   as he had it sent to me. It only arrived here about half an hour ago. He doesn’t yet know more than that.”
Not that Penny would say anything but she had been hoping to have more of Doctor Leatherbarrow’s attention. She still felt, especially with Vesper’s negativity, that the ‘Tattooed Men’ case was a mystery worthy of investigation. The severed hand seemed to be taking up everyones time. It was probably due to budgets. Policing nowadays was becoming increasingly like that.
“Doctor Leatherbarrow...”
“Hilary, please.”
“Hilary, do you have anything else that might help me with the ‘Tattoo’ investigation? I am convinced those men were killed but there is no firm evidence to prove that belief.”
Hilary stopped what she was doing, pulled off her latex gloves, threw them into a bin then walked out of the lab, guiding Penny by her elbow.
“Five minutes is all I can spare. I agree with you. Those men were killed. I think they may have been victims of a professional ‘hit.’ You see, it strikes me that those tattoos not only link them together; they bind them as tightly as though they were joined at the hip. I found small drops of blood on the shoes of victim two.”
“The hit and run?” 
“Yes, the hit and run. The blood type was the common or garden A. Oddly the hit and run’s blood type is O whereas the suicide jumper is A.”
“It’s a shame we can’t easily identify bodies when they are dead by something other than blood or fingerprints,” said Penny, with feeling.
“Funnily enough there are two men now, two scientists, who think they have discovered what they refer to as DNA which is short for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is a molecule that sort of encodes genetic instructions. In other words it is a link that connects all living organisms and viruses but more importantly it identifies us individually. To cut through all the heavy stuff, they believe that this DNA is unique to each individual so we are getting there; it just takes time.”
Whenever Penny found something interesting she had the habit of putting her head to one side. She did this now.
“So are you saying that victim two may have killed victim one?”
“I believe it’s a possibility. For now though all we have to go on is two corpses - Trevor Higham and Cooper Kloot. It is now over to you chaps in the police to find a link.”
“You think there is one?”
“Yes, yes I do.”
Penny Farthing thanked the doctor then made ready to leave.
“I have some things to do. I think the governor, Inspector Lazarus, is coming over shortly. He’ll want to know all you have on that latest severed hand.”
Hilary smiled.
“I’d better put the kettle on then hadn’t I?”
“This one is different from the last,” said Hilary as she examined the latest piece of evidence.    
 “Firstly it is female but also it has a ring on the third finger, a wedding ring. There is also another ring just above the first. It is an engagement ring and it looks to be an expensive item.”
Lazarus shuffled excitedly beside the forensic expert.
“It should be easy to trace. Can I have photographs of it and possibly the rings themselves?”
“Yes, of course. I can also confirm that this woman, whoever she was, used the same hand lotion. I know this proves little but it does suggest that she too was murdered some twenty years ago.”
Lazarus edged a little nearer to see what Hilary was looking at; seeing a hand not connected to a wrist and an arm struck the detective as being almost surreal. He could clearly see where the cut had been made. There was just the smallest remnant of a wrist. It was clearly female as it seemed smaller than he remembered the other one and much smaller than his own hand. The nails were also much longer than a man’s having been manicured then shaped. They also had the remains of a pale pink varnish on them.
“Can you tell how old this individual was?”
Hilary shrugged but continued her examination.
“Not really no; I can make an educated guess but that’s all it will be.”
“Go on then.”
“Perhaps fifty, maybe a little older. The trouble with this hand, even though it too has been stored in deep freeze, is that, unlike the other hand, it has started to decompose, not much but significantly for it to have started to change. Having said that, the skin looks to be less tight than that of a younger person, the elasticity has reduced: when I pinch the skin it retains that fixed position far longer than say someone of twenty.”
Lazarus moved away. He paced the floor with his head bowed deep in thought.
“You remember my mentioning Sir Clement and Dame Fatleaf?” he asked.
“The people Harry Hertlasp worked for as a butler? Yes, I remember.”
“I know this is a pretty wild guess to make but is it possible these hands could belong to them?”
Hilary finally looked up from examining the hand. She pulled off her gloves then threw them in the bin. She walked over to the detective, placed a kiss on his cheek then beckoned for him to follow her. They walked down a short corridor until they reached a door which Hilary flung open.
“This is the engine room of my little operation.”
Before then lay a small kitchen which contained an oven, a sink and table big enough to seat four people. Mrs MacCrumpet was sitting at the table, drinking tea.
“I see we have guests,” announced the observant Scot in the plural as though Hilary were a guest in her own laboratory.
“This is Detective Chief Inspector Lazarus.”
“Aye, I know that, I’ve met him before. Is there something yous two would like to eat? Mebbe, some stew. The pot is still half-filled wi’  what I made the other day.”
Hilary looked toward for Lazarus for a decision
“I would love some but only a small bowl mind, I have to look after my stomach,” replied the policeman with a smile on his face.
“Watch your stomach indeed but there’s not even the picking from a chicken on your wee bones!”
Hilary and Lazarus sat down as the cleaner-come-kitchen-maid warmed up the stew which she then ladled into two bowls. She then scurried away to a drawer only to hurry back moments later with two spoons.
“I’m off away now to the shops. You’ve run out of Jif and I need some to do my proper job. I am after all a cleaner not a wee cook.”
Hilary, her mouth filled with hot stew waved her hand in goodbye then waited until she heard the front door go before speaking to Adam.
“She’s a godsend but boy is she irascible. ‘I’ have not run out of Jif as ‘I’ don’t use the damn stuff but she does!”
Lazarus laughed, blowing on a heaped spoonful of the stew.
“This is delicious,” he said. “Did she make it?”
“I did indeed,” came a voice from down the way, “I may be irascible but I am a damn fine cook too!”
The front door slammed again. Hilary had turned scarlet.
“Oh God, she heard me.”
Lazarus laughed that odd laugh of his.
“I think that dour Scot persona is nothing more than an act. She is obviously devoted to you,” said Lazarus.
Hilary took another mouthful of food, waved her hand in front of her mouth trying to cool the heat, and then spoke again.
“To come back to your earlier question of whether the severed hands could be those of the missing Sir Clement and Dame Fatleaf; yes, they could be. Of course you now have evidence that could prove that, although I don’t think you will need to do much research.”
“What do you mean?”
“The wedding ring is inscribed,” said Hilary who then let a silence descend like a shroud.
Lazarus put his spoon down and looked at Hilary.
“Are you deliberately teasing me?  What does the inscription say?”
Hilary giggled through a mouthful of food putting her hand up to hide her mouth.
“It says ‘To my one love, M.”
Lazarus looked at Hilary in disbelief.”
Really, you’re not teasing me again are you?”
Hilary lifted three fingers to her forehead.”
“Girl Guides honour,” she sweetly intoned.
“Wow! M is short for Matilda. That was Dame Fatleaf’s forename. That is fantastic, well done, but hey, were you ever in the Girl Guides?”
“I was, even if only briefly. Have you finished your stew?”
Lazarus nodded that he had.  Then his comwand warbled.
“Excuse me,” he said.
“Hello? Yes. “Yes. Hell’s bells, where? “Okay, I’m on my way.”
He stood up, taking the half-empty bowl with him which he placed in the sink.
“I have to go; there’s been another murder. I have another corpse for you to look at. I need you to take a look at the crime scene. Sorry but I need this doing as a priority. As soon as we have established cause of death, and forgive me telling you what to do, it would be good if you can get as much info from that hand as possible, then turn your attention to this latest murder. I have a funny feeling that this is somehow connected to the other two tattoo murders. I take it we are still on for tomorrow night?”
Hilary gave him her most seductive of smiles.
“Don’t be so presumptuous about tomorrow night, let’s have the meal first.”
Lazarus laughed as he handed Hilary her leather jacket.
“Silly goose. Here, take this, it is still a bit nippy outside.”
And with that, detective and doctor hurried to his parked car. As they drove away Hilary mulled over an earlier conversation.
“When one of your constables suggested the tattooed men might be part of a right wing group called the Brethren you dismissed that notion out of hand. You then went very mysterious and suggested that whoever these people were they probably belonged to something far more sinister than a local bunch of racists. What did you mean and who were you alluding to?”
The way Adam’s face went from jocular to deadly serious gave weight to what he said.
“Not being mysterious at all. You must have seen the papers? The Wynkyngate affair? They were full of the story. A big corporation, one of, if not the, biggest in the world, East India Trading, has, or rather had, a semi-secret group working for them. This group was formed of ex-military men and women, all hand-picked for their unique abilities. The group acts on the surface as sales people for this conglomerate but in fact are industrial espionage agents. I met a man, two men in fact, a year ago who are to all intents and purposes members of that secret organisation; except they are not. In reality they work for the government. They are both S.I.S men. Have you heard of the S.I.S?”
“Secret Intelligence Service.”
“Precisely, they had been undercover for a good many years, digging around in East India’s affairs.”
In one sense Hilary felt pleased that he had told her for it indicated he already had more than a passing liking for her but, on the other hand, such information is dangerous and Hilary did not want to be exposed to any risk whatsoever.
“You think these men are part of that semi-secret group?” she asked.
“I do.”
She considered his succinct response while thinking of how she should reply.
“How is it that such men are still free. Surely either the police of the S.I.S would have arrested them?”
Lazarus sighed deeply. The look upon his face was grave. He licked his lips anxiously.
“It isn’t as easy as it sounds. You need proof first and finding that has been difficult to obtain. We haven’t really been involved as the whole business is really down to internal affairs.”
Hilary snorted.
“Politics eh?”
Lazarus nodded his agreement.
“Absolutely. However, this linked killing gives us the opportunity to investigate things further than we have before. People being beaten to death then pushed from tower blocks or deliberately run over is our remit and not the S.I.S’s”
Hilary smiled.
“And now?”
“Now we uncover all we can.”

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Willful Walks of Russell C.J Duffy - Book 2 - The Whispering of Grass (Chapter 4)

When we are talking history, and we Brits do try and Lord it over our former colonies even if we soon retreat when confronted with India, then Stambridge stands proudly with the best of them. Evidence of a settlement during the Iron Age, that is about 500 BCE, has been found. Not only that but excavations at Hampton Barns revealed a creek once ran there and that two settlements, two villages as it were, developed in the area during this period. Oddly, unlike neighbouring Rochford, there are no signs of the Roman occupation. That being so, there is more than enough evidence to prove that between 450 and 740 CE, at a time when Britain was being invaded by a number of European tribes, namely the Angles from Denmark, the Jutes from Jutland, the Frisian's from the Netherlands and of course the Saxons from Germany, that Stambridge was being  colonisedIt is from these invaders that the English have developed. You could say the English are the oldest immigrants living in these islands.

Way back then, as Britain was being divided up into Seven Kingdoms, namely Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Kent, and as the natural Pagan religion was subsumed into the nascent Christianity these Germanic tribes brought with them, so the Saxon's, who had settled in Great Stambridge, built a stockade by which to live in. With the sea to one side of them and a river to another they needed to protect themselves and their livestock from marauding tribes. It was a  robust building constructed very much with defence in mind. Stakes were driven in surrounding the stockade to deter attack and a ditch was created so as to dissuade any assault.

Originally, Stambridge was divided in two. Very probably due to the Saxon settlements.This meant that there were two churches. One in Little Stambridge, St. Mary's, and the other St. Mary's and All Saints in Great Stambridge.  The smaller church of Little Stambridge was demolished in 1891.
Little Stambridge Church taken about 1890
Photo courtesy of

No sooner was the smaller church removed from the land it stood on then the two Stambridge's, Great and Little, were joined as one leaving St. Mary's and All Saints as the parish church. Dates as to when this church was built vary but I think it safe to say it is as near as damn as old as Ashingdon church. There has been many an additional wall constructed or tower raised but the original build date is somewhere between 1020 and 1040. This meant that when the Norman invasion took place that William the Conqueror would have seen the Saxon church before altering it. The only original bits still standing are the north wall, from the tower to the clergy vestry, and a small piece on the south side of the tower.

Even with those facts in mind the church - definitely, Norman rather than Saxon - is still impressive. It stands on the corner of the road staring out over farmers land but also adjacent to the parish school. As I stand here now, on a Sunday at about 11 am, so a small flock, a very small flock it has to be said, of worshiper's are gathered outside. Awaiting no doubt the appearance of the vicar.

Combined, as they naturally are, church and school give an aura of quaint, rustic respectability. Suddenly, the veil of history is drawn aside and we catch a glimpse of how Victorian England would have appeared during that period. Church and school as the pillars of society overlooking the rural industry of farmland England. Let's not forget that the dream was not the reality. Children were used as chimney sweeps, the poor were shoved into the workhouse and class was rigidly enforced. 

I and my forebears would have known their place. I find it odd when I hear some American's wilfully ignore the class divisions assuring us that the USA has no class to speak of. These self-same people then create a faux middle class that includes all people. Yet, to have a middle one has to have both and upper and lower. I hail from the lower end of the class spectrum yet, conversely, would, largely due to my parents, be regarded as middle-class. Having a pot to piss in apparently confers status. This means I rank higher than my grandparents and parents? The hell it does. I am a peasant. I work for a living, therefore I am working class.

The word peasant is a word related to pagan. The original inhabitants of these islands were pagan. They worshipped a pantheon rich with gods and goddesses. Oddly enough, when Christianity first entered the lives of Albion's oldest tribes, sometime in the 1st century, it was not so rigorously enforced as it was when those Germanic immigrant invaders landed here. Following Augustine's arrival in 597 CE Christianity, whose own Hebrew influence was formerly pagan, not only subsumed festivals like Eostre and The Yule into their own Easter and Christmas but violently forced Christianity on those they conquered. Over the course of several hundreds of years, until about 700 CE, Christianity flourished. It remained the nation's faith until comparatively recent times. Now, religion in Britain is on the decline even though half the nation is of faith.

Anyone who has religously (pun intended) read my blog will acknowledge how like a journey it has been. When I started writing I was a devout atheist before conceding to being agnostic. There is no proof there isn't a deity any more than there is proof there isn't, I guess you'd say I am nontheist. For me, as I've said before, God is nothing but a word. Another would be Tao. Oddly enough when early Christian's landed in China they could find nothing heretical in either 'The Analects' of Confucious or 'The Tao Te Ching.' Both fell neatly in line, or more accurately, didn't challenge the Christian Bible.  And of course the Chinese, Tao, means in English 'the way' so fits rather neatly into John 1.1.  "Followers of the way" is how early Christians were known. Even Jesus said, "I am the way." Of course, Tao predates Christianity by several centuries. Suffice to say I no longer have an axe to grind with Christianity even if I see no point in organised religion.

When I first read Richard Dawkins life-affirming "The God Delusion" I bought into it totally. The cold logic of it revealed a very flawed Bible riddled with passages both vile and twisted. This echoed deep within me for as an adolescent I read the Bible and made the same mistake Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett made. They take the words of the Bible literally when in point of fact the Bible isn't a book to be read literally. It is a work of symbolism. Perfect examples of this are easy enough to find. A star being dragged across the heavens to be set above the baby Jesus' birthplace is one such example. There are about five occasions when this symbolic act is used within the ancient scriptures to signify the birth of someone of importance. Another famous slice of symbolism is when God commands Abraham to take his own son, Issac's, life. 

This brings me to Humanism. Surely a religion unto itself for without organised religion for it to oppose there could be no Humanism. At first, I thought Humanism was for me but now I see it as being just another unnecessary organisation that harbours like-minded individuals. It doesn't set people free of indoctrination it merely provides another - a shield behind which atheists can gather in opposition of faith. 

Every principle behind Humanism makes perfect sense apart from they overlook the poetry of life. One doesn't have to believe in fairies, deities or the supernatural to have a redefined spirituality. For redefined spirituality is nothing like that as commonly accepted as being spiritual. Recognising that life and all creation are linked and that by virtue of that link reveals something bigger than us yet conversely something which we are part of, is not another form of faith nor is it a rejection of science. Rather it is encouraging the individual to think for themselves without the need to belong to any organisation, to see science for what it is, the key to understanding that which is thus far unfathomable. Call it God, call it Tao, call it what you will.

The thin mist that has stayed with me during my walk from Paglesham through to Stambridge settles over the fields to my left and right. It is like a gauze stretched across the day which turns trees and hedgerows into shadowy, spectral whispers of themselves. It isn't particularly cold yet there is little heat to the hour. The weather seems in retreat. It is as though it were a river running back on itself. 

The total population of Stambridge is approximately 700. Most of the villagers were born in the UK so immigration is virtually non-existent. Not sure what I think about that. Immigration is a good thing for immigrants bring with them traditions that add flavour and colour to existing practises. One doesn't replace the other but rather enriches existing customs. After all, isn't curry the favoured food of Britain?

I can feel the bite of winter now. The chill is turning colder by the day. We no longer get the seasons as I remember in my youth and we seldom get winters the like of Northern Europe or Canada or, worst of all, Russia and I for one am grateful we don't.

Photo:Stambridge Mill todayThere is meant to be a phantom hitchhiker that walks these roads but I haven't seen him, or her, yet. Funny how so many sightings are at night.

To my left is Mill Lane. It is down here that old Stambridge  Mill can be seen. Derelict now,  a shadow of its former self, yet still it makes an impression. What once was the centre of a vital industry now is merely a wooden, lofty structure unused and overlooked. I think it such a waste when these old buildings become vacant and inactive.

What is even more tragic is that this building along with corresponding sites throughout this area used to dig for London clay which they then produced bricks from. An old friend of mine, a chap of perhaps sixty, worked on a similar site. We never seem to plan for the future, by we I mean our politician's and heads of industry. Surely, there would have been signs of the collapse of these factories long before they closed?

I think The Long Now Foundation an admirable project. Rather than view life as an ever shortening process that seems to accelerate as technology advances, instead we should think long term and plan accordingly.

"When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 02000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 02000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium."

It makes perfect sense to me. Live in the now but plan for the future.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.