Tag Archives: police

20 reasons why it’s all kicking off

This is an attempt to find common reasons behind all the upheavals happening in the world at the moment. It’s from the BBC Newsnight‘s economics editor Paul Mason, who’s also on Twitter.

As the cartoon on the left from Buttersafe suggests, having a wee scoot around the web is a way to lose aeons of time, but you sometimes find interesting things like Paul Mason’s take on the global social dynamic.  The short version identifies graduates, often female,  with no future, but access to social media and less tied to old ideologies as drivers of change. See what you think of his longer version:

We’ve had revolution in Tunisia, Egypt’s Mubarak is teetering; in Yemen, Jordan and Syria suddenly protests have appeared. In Ireland young techno-savvy professionals are agitating for a “Second Republic”; in France the youth from banlieues battled police on the streets to defend the retirement rights of 60-year olds; in Greece striking and rioting have become a national pastime. And in Britain we’ve had riots and student occupations that changed the political mood.

What’s going on? What’s the wider social dynamic? Continue reading

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Movie star actually makes a difference. Shock.

What do they know about politics? Why don’t they just stay out of it and carry on looking beautiful or tortured or smug? Actors and politics, huh?

Especially movie actors. Team America: World Police satirised them as patsies for North Korea and aggressively naive and deluded- Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon and the other members of the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.).

By following the rules of the Film Actor’s Guild, the world can become a better place; that handles dangerous people with talk, and reasoning; that, is the fag way. One day you’ll all look at the world us actors created and say, “wow, good going, FAG. You really made the world a better place, didntcha, FAG?”

But it’s too easy to write them all off. And puncturing thespian  self-importance would work better without the lame homophobia.

There’s a guy just died who maybe did make a difference Continue reading

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Imagine if… all police chases were like this

Imagine if…

…all police chases were like this…

Some fantastic euphemisms in the video: “A response vehicle soon arrives and notifies the felon of their presence.” = blasts holes in their van.

I’ve driven round a fair bit of South Africa, with and without hitchhikers. (The deal is Continue reading

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Count Zero or Stephen Hero?

I’m torn. I don’t know which way to turn.

This...

...or this?

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Filed under art, Influences, My Writing

The inside story…


Crumlin Road Prison by Stephen Shaw. He's a super observant watercolourist in Belfast. Click on the pic for his online galleries. The old prison was said to be the most secure in the British Isles. It hosted many escapes and executions. A tunnel led from the jail to the courthouse opposite, which features in Blackwatertown.

Here comes the inside story of my book. It’s the brief synopsis I’m sending to agents. (Some agents prefer a different approach – longer blow by blow, chapter by chapter efforts.)

The next post will cover my recent calamities and a particularly juicy piece of gossip. But for now, have a peek inside.

Synopsis of Blackwatertown:

Blackwatertown by Paul Waters is a thriller set on the Irish border in the 1950s. The intertwining of fact and fiction is based partly on a murky episode of Ireland’s past, and partly on things discovered about my family’s own secret history.

It is the story of a reluctant and conflicted policeman called John “Jolly” Macken, who is drawn into a conspiracy, accidentally starts a war (the 1950s IRA border campaign) and inadvertently becomes a hero.

It is also the story of how complacency in a time of peace can quickly be shattered, if the underlying tensions in society are not addressed.

Jolly Macken begins with a personal crisis because of his leading role in a police action he knows is legally correct, but feels is morally wrong.

As a police officer, an RUC man, he is isolated from his fellow Irish Catholics because he serves the Crown. As a Catholic (in name anyway), he is by definition distrusted by his Protestant fellow officers and the State.

There are three main strands:

1. Macken is punished after a farcical episode of violence at the beginning, by being exiled to Blackwatertown village, a sleepy Co. Armagh backwater. He is sent there to replace the previous token Catholic officer in the district who died mysteriously. Was it an accident or murder? Were the killers fellow police officers? Will Macken be next?

2. Macken meets an unusually bewitching local girl whose bravado masks a certain innocence. However, is her innocence feigned? Will their romance endure? Is she an IRA spy or is she hiding a much darker secret?

3. Macken is caught up in a police conspiracy and cover-up that has unexpected consequences. Their fakery is so convincing that the conspirators are lauded as heroes and accidentally start a war. Macken becomes part of a web of political and personal intrigue, watching his back as genuine and imaginary sides go to war for real.

An ambiguous fourth strand weaves in and out of the action. It retains its mystery until near the end, when its true purpose and horrible identity is revealed.

As the tension and stakes mount higher, Macken is forced to choose sides when it comes to war and to his personal life. He embarks on a journey through a broken and twisted world to see if it is possible to salvage anything that is good, worthwhile and beautiful.

Blackwatertown conveys a sense of place in the tradition of Ulster writer Maurice Leitch, and is threaded through with flashes of humour reminiscent of Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian Inspector Montalbano mysteries.

The story transcends time and place, but also parallels the current dangerous political situation in Northern Ireland today, and shows how a seemingly secure peace can be squandered.

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The biter bit (or when political interviews turn nasty)

Blues Brothers remake - in Jordan. As seen on the My Treasure blog at kinziblogs.wordpress.com (She writes about abuse, families and Jordanian life.) Or click on the pic for the original fail site

Politicians are in the firing line in the UK. The general election campaign is underway so some are just weeks away from being fired. (Except for those sneaky quitters who are retiring, thus denying us voters the chance of kicking them out. Drat them.)

Respect for politicians is so low that other disdained groups might think they’re in the clear. Not so.

Here’s a ferocious clip in which the biter gets bitten… Continue reading

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What I’ve learned

Its been tumultuous in Blackwatertown Towers lately. Normal service will soon be resumed. Once we establish just what the new normality will look like. But in the meantime, I’ll share with you some of what I’ve learned lately.

Yes, it looks like a roof slate because that's what it is. (You get a shiny medal for Sport Relief.) The glamorous person holding the slate/trophy is presenter Rachael Hodges, flanked by "the prestigious" Richard Bacon, and me. I didn't think the beer bottle would be in the picture. Missing from the line-up are top guru Louise Birt, indefatigable Garth Brameld, podcaster Harri Ritchie and inspirational listeners Jon Hillier and the Digger. The award was for the Special Half Hour - SHH.

  1. I haven’t completely lost it, thank God. I’ve just left the BBC after many years, but can proudly brandish two new awards. The first one is the highly prestigious Most Innovative Programme Award from the admittedly slightly obscure annual Audio and Music Awards. I shared it for a radio show I produced up until Christmas. The award-winning bit was the Special Half Hour – SHH – of which it was an honour and a privilege to be part. (Rule No. 1 You don’t talk about the Special Half Hour. But it’s been axed, so I dare to speak of it.)  The second is the also prestigious and much better known Sport Relief Mile. My running partner and I distinguished ourselves by completing the three mile (Count ’em! 3!) circuit before any of the six milers crossed the finish line. (Question: For which award did I contribute more to the sum of goodness in the world?)
  2. Whenever someone claims to be the first to ever do something, they’re wrong. Continue reading

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When have you last walked out of a film?

Ah Holy God. No! Please no!

When has a film been so tedious, so unimaginative, so stultifyingly boring that you decided life was too short to continue watching? I tend to want to finish what I start, not rely solely on first impressions and give things a chance to breathe and settle. I’m tolerant. But this week I encountered a film that was beyond even my broad Pale.

I’m not complaining. I’ve been lucky lately. I’ve seen Up In The Air this week (beautifully shot, very calming, George Clooney plays a corporate downsizer), Sherlock Holmes (a radical new approach to the franchise which works – full of action, humour, Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law), Astroboy (cartoon hero with machine guns in his butt – the 10-year-old boys I was with liked it) and Caramel (a Lebanese film by Nadine Labaki with no subtitles in English, but full of sympathetic characters and a good trick with a telephone conversation).

But my good run has just come to an end. Drowned in Holy Water. Continue reading

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Exit Music

Rebus. (As played by Ken Stott.) Looks pissed off. Perhaps he's contemplating his imminent departure from the job?

Synchronicity? Serendipity? Or an unfortunate coincidence?

I’ve been working for a large organisation for many years, doing all sorts of stuff in different areas. But now, I’m a few weeks away from finally leaving. It feels like a big deal. A big change for me.

It so happens I’m reading Exit Music by Ian Rankin at the moment. The main character is an Edinburgh-based Detective Inspector called Rebus. (Sure, many/most of you will already know that, but there might be someone who doesn’t.) It’s one of a series of novels with Rebus as the central character. They’re very good.

But the point is this: In Exit Music, the story takes place over Rebus ‘s final week in the police force. His impending retirement hangs over everything like a dirty cloud threatening to burst – over his attitude to colleagues and his job, his thoughts of legacy and other players’ attitudes to him.

So I’m worried that it’s exactly the wrong thing for me to be reading right now. It has passages like this:

That was that, then. End of the line, end of the job. These past weeks, he’d been trying so hard not to think about it – throwing himself into other work, any other work… For three decades now this job of his had sustained him, and all it had cost him was his marriage and a slew of friendships and shattered relationships.

Bit depressing. And then there’s this:

‘Just one last thing.’ His next three words were spaced evenly. ‘You … are … history.’

‘What I want you to do, Rebus, is crawl away from here and tick off the days on the calendar.’

Obviously none of those invitations to be maudlin have the slightest effect on me at all. I’m marginally less crumpled than the picture above. And the outlook here is resolutely sunny. Oh yes.

Anyway, while we’re on the subject of rebuses. Here’s one that was prepared earlier.

Not only does it predate Ken Stott, but also that unfortunate interlude involving the otherwise fine John Hannah.  Scroll down below it for a surprising (if true) fact about Ken Stott.

This hieroglyphic puzzle, or rebus, is dated 1811. Go to the Puzzle Museum website to solve it. Click on the picture.

Apparently Ken Stott used to be in a band called Keyhole, members of which later went on to form the Bay City Rollers. Narrow escape there, Ken. On the one hand massive stardom and record sales. On the other, they were awful and legal dodginess followed. They were awful, weren’t they?

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Oi! No smirking at the back there.

RUC Hastings Street garrison, Brickfields district, Belfast. 1923/24.

What a difference 30 years makes. In this police photograph from the 1920s almost no-one is smiling. I have another of new recruits to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) taken in the 1950s where nearly everyone is beaming. Two photos, two different sets of people, two different times, two different generations.

This one includes the father – my grandfather. When this post was originally published I included his name, rank and where he is in the picture. But I’ve been asked to remove the name – so I have done so.

But he’s easy to spot. The handsome one with the patrician air. (God no, not yon dopey-looking one.)

You’ll notice they’re a serious bunch. I suppose given that they’re in a tough area – the Belfast’s Brickfields police district – and that some of them will have survived World War one, the Irish War of Independence, civil war, pogroms and general rioting – it’s understandable. Or perhaps it was the rule back then. No smiling while on duty. Perhaps Smiler in the back row, left hand side, is actually squinting, not grinning.

I was struck by the contrast between this photo, and another from the mid 1950s. In the later one they’re all smiling. Including the son of the handsome one above. (I hope to put it on display shortly.) Maybe it’s because peace has broken out and war in Ireland is a sufficiently distant memory. They weren’t to know that the next round of hostilities was heading their way in a couple of years time – the IRA’s 1950s border campaign (which is the setting of my book, Blackwatertown).

So the men in this photo are the fathers or uncles of the police officers who fought in the ’50s campaign. They were a formidable bunch.

But back to 1923/24. Does anyone else remember those snake-clasp belt buckles? I remember coveting one when I was small. (Which was only the other day. Or perhaps the day before.)

Perhaps some faces in the picture are familiar. Drop me a line if you recognise anyone. (I’ve posted pictures of some other branches of the family policing tree: Dan Waters & Michael Murphy.)

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Filed under family history, history