Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Slice of P.I.E

There has been much in the news recently about the links between the Paedophile Information Exchange (P.I.E)  with the National Council of Civil Liberties in the '70s and early 80s. The Daily Mail, riding it's moral high horse, has been busy casting aspersions about Labour's current deputy leader Harriet Harman and her MP husband Jack Dromney, both of whom worked for the NCCL during that time, and their association, acceptance and affiliation with P.I.E.

Harriet Harman and Jack Dromney have denied supporting P.I.E or any of the group's activities and aims, such as decriminalising incest, lowering the age of consent to ten and legalising sexually explicit photographs of children.

But then, who wouldn't ... clearly only a monster would but, sometimes, monsters are hard to spot.

In the early '90s I worked with the self-confessed paedophile and former chairman of P.I.E Tom O'Carroll at the Wakefield Express, a local weekly newspaper in the north of England. He was a sub-editor in the newsroom where I was a reporter.

It was, as he says himself in his self-penned biography, a place where his past could be "shrouded in obscurity." He'd been imprisoned for conspiracy to corrupt public morals during the '70s and written a book called 'Paedophilia. A Radical Case' in 1980 but we, who worked alongside him, had no idea about his past.

He was undeniably intelligent but a bit weird. He kept himself to himself, was taciturn, pedantic, and mostly unsociable. He was the butt of jokes among younger members of the newsroom staff. The staff member everyone dreaded being stuck in the office alone with, but only because it might mean having a conversation with him. He was also, by dint of being the only person willing, eventually voted in as the local NUJ branch's Father of the Chapel.

In this role he went to the NUJ conference where he was recognised for who, and what, he was by delegates who'd worked on stories about P.I.E in the 70s and 80s. News, even in 1994, travelled faster than light among the journalist pack. When he arrived back at work on Monday morning, he was promptly and unceremoniously sacked.

There was, on that Monday morning, a strange atmosphere in the newsroom. Shock and a shiver-in-the-skin revulsion that for four years we had shared our space, bits of our lives and our stories with, to all intents and purposes, a monster.

HOW did we not know?

WHY didn't we know?

Shouldn't we have been able to tell?

But how could we? Paedophiles don't come with a label attached, they don't have horns and forked tails and because they are what they are, they don't shout it out loud.

Now, 20 years later, I've heard Tom O'Carroll's voice again because he was interviewed on Radio Four's Today programme as part of the NCCL "scandal."  Hearing him was a shock and subsequently seeing him in the newspapers, a reminder that history is not always history.

Tom O'Carroll has always been extremely careful never to admit to having had sexual relations with a minor but writes in his biography that his work with P.I.E, his books, and his writings are his: "small contribution to sexual sanity." That his beliefs are just "swimming against the tide."  Reading his biography he seems, astonishingly, proud of his past, his reputation and his beliefs.

When I worked with O'Carroll he, unsurprisingly, didn't say much about his past, his present or his future. Or anything much at all. He was just a member of the subbing pool, a bit weird but apparently harmless. That I never realised how wrong we were makes me feel grubby, uncomfortable and strangely guilty because Tom O'Carroll was the most deluded and dangerous person I had ever met and I didn't notice.

He still is.

I hope people take notice now.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Love Is ....

Donna at Redhead Babyled has tagged me in My Petit Canard's Love Is ... meme. Here is what Love Is to me ...

Love is....

  • Listening to the same story for the 5,786th time in a row and still hanging on their every word.
  • Agreeing that you're wrong, when you know that you're right.
  • Not needing to have the last word....... Well, not out loud.
  • Listening to his Hawkwind collection without screaming.
  • Always having the time.
  • Never having to say you're sorry. But saying it anyway.
  • Being there.
  • Remembering that those annoying little habits were once endearing little foibles. And putting the axe down.
  • A mutual fan club
  • Mostly a squishy noise.

I hope this has been helpful to anyone in any doubt what love is. 


This is love, this is...

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 15 February 2014

My Fictional World ...

Possibly the longest and most rewarding relationship I have had in my life is with books. I love books, I love books a lot. Some (my mother) might say too much, but I firmly believe a house is not a home until is full to the brim with books. Now the lovely Jocelyn over at The Reading Residence has challenged me to answer the questions in her new reading meme, My Fictional World.

What were your favourite reads from your childhood?
I was an Enid Blyton girl. When I was small I adored the Magic Faraway Tree books, the Wishing Chair series and later Malory Towers. My heroines of choice were Blyton's Amelia Jane and The Naughtiest Girl but I also had a soft spot for Milly Molly Mandy, Joyce Lankaster Brisley's more demure rebel.
Three books still stand out in my memory and remain on my bookshelves, even more tattered than they were because my own daughters have read them in their turn: Blyton's retelling of Greek myths, Tales of Long Ago, Lorna Hill's Masquerade at the Wells (part of the Sadlers Wells series) and Eleanor Farjeon's The Silver Curlew.

There are always those books that defined your teen reads and stay with you – what were yours?
My teenage years started with JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and ended (by which time I was studying English lit at college and dating a philosophy student) with Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra and William S.Burroughs Jr's Speed via the collected works of  the Brontes, Dickens, Hardy, Eliot, Austen, Huxley. Waugh, Forster, Kerouac, Atwood, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle and of course the late great Douglas Adams.
I read voraciously and continuously. I even read The Bible. Well, the good bits. 
The books that became a part of me were Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native, Kerouac's On the Road, and the Danny Sugerman and Jerry Hopkins biography of Jim Morrison No One Here Gets Out Alive. A book I can't bring myself to leave behind if spotted on the shelf of any secondhand bookshop for fear it might fall into the wrong hands. I have four copies.

Who are your favourite authors currently?
My favourite authors to read now are Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell), Terry Pratchett, Peter Robinson, David Pearce, Val McDermid, Mark Billington, Stuart MacBride, Reginald Hill and Jilly Cooper. 

Which 3 genres do you gravitate towards most often?
I like 'classics', crime and comedy. 

Can you choose your top titles from each of those genres?
It's hard to pick just one classic book but if I had to it would be Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. I can still quote huge chunks verbatim and my eldest daughter owes her name to the author. Crime novels are generally hard to re-read, but Barbara Vine's Gallowglass I've read time and time again. Beautifully constructed, thoroughly involving and thought provoking.
The best, the ultimate, the only book that EVERYONE must read is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (and the subsequent series). Comic. Genius. That is all.

And your least favourite genres?
I don't do romance, either the Mills and Boon or the 50 Shades variety. I don't read chick lit and I don't do sci-fi.

Of the many, many fictional and fantastical worlds, where would you most like to visit?
It's a toss-up between Terry Pratchett's Discworld and Jilly Cooper's Rutshire from the collected Rutshire Chronicles series (not a romance and not chick lit, but so much more than that).... but only if I get to have a romp with Rupert Campbell-Black and drink all the gin.

Everyone loves a villain, right?! Who would make your favourites list?
Heathcliff. Obviously. And Rupert Campbell-Black, Jilly Cooper's womanising, horse-beating anti hero from Riders (before he turned all good and married the angelic Taggie *rolls eyes*). 

Share the books that have had you sobbing?
Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure makes me howl with anguish, it's compellingly tragic. Ian McEwan's Atonement. Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth. Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Chatterton by Peter Ackroyd.

And let’s end on a high! Which books leave a smile on your face, and maybe elicit a few laughs?!
I love Tom Sharpe, his wit is as pointed as his name, and I would give anything to spend an hour in Terry Pratchett's head. Ben Elton is funnier on the page than in person but Douglas Adams is my all time comedy writing hero. This a quote from So Long and Thanks for All the Fish:

'What's the matter with her, is she ill?'
'No,' said Russell, 'Merely barking mad' 
'What?' said Arthur, horrified.
'Loopy, completely bananas. I'm taking her back to the hospital and telling them to have another go. They let her out when she still thought she was a hedgehog.'
'A hedgehog?'
Russell hooted his horn fiercely at a car that came round the corner towards than half-way on to their side of the road, making them swerve. The anger seemed to make him feel better.
'Well, maybe not a hedgehog,' he said after he'd settled down again. 'Though it would probably be simpler to deal with if she did. If somebody thinks they're a hedgehog, presumably you just give 'em a mirror and a few pictures of hedgehogs and tell them to sort it out for themselves, come down again when they feel better.'

Which when I first read it made me laugh for DAYS. And frankly, still does. I keep a few pictures of hedgehogs handy too, just in case.

The Reading Residence

Check out everyone else's Fictional World over at The Reading Residence.

I tag you!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Putting Our Spoke In .... The Tour De France Le Grand Depart

Like any family with growing children, we have accumulated bicycles of all sizes while they have been growing. Some have been lovingly cared for and ridden daily, some left to languish in a corner of the garden gently rusting while their previous owners have grown up and out of riding a bike at all. Some have been sold, some given away and some have been left on the scrapheap of life.

But one bike, one of our old, rusty, trusty, once-loved and abandoned bikes has become part of celebrations for the the famous Tour de France's Le Grand Depart which, for reasons I have yet to fathom, starts in Leeds in July. Leeds, Yorkshire. Leeds, noticeably not in France. Er..

Anyway, our old bike whilst not taking part in the actual Tour De France, to it's and all's relief, has become one of the pin-ups of the Le Grand Depart's accompanying Yorkshire Festival, a promised 100 days of art and culture set around and celebrating the Yorkshire leg of the Tour de France.

The bike's current glamourous role is because I have the good fortune to know, and call a friend, yarn-stormer and crochet queen extraordinaire Cassandra Kilbride. In 2012, as part of the community arts event Flock to Ossett, Cassandra wanted a bike to yarnstorm and I, gladly and gleefully, donated the old bike that neither of the TeenTwins would admit to leaving at the bottom of the garden.

Then Cassandra pulled a 14 hour knitathon in the town's Eller Cafe to create what is truly a masterpiece. A beautiful work of woolly art.....

The Boy and The Bike

The bike became the centrepiece of the Flock to Ossett festival and we were, quite unjustly, proud to see it on display after it had been transformed by Cassandra and her dedicated band of volunteer knitters and crocheters.

I had even managed to knit (when I'm not what you'd call a 'natural knitter' or, in fact, any good at knitting) a tiny part of the bike's woolly exterior. See the yellow and green bit on the handlebar, that's some of my knitting, that is.

After it's success at Flock to Ossett, the bike became something of a local superstar and has been displayed and admired (apart from the yellow and green bit probably) near and far, including at the world famous Yorkshire Show.

And the bike is now the inspiration behind Cassandra's new venture celebrating the arrival of the Tour de France in Yorkshire. She is behind the The Woolly Bike Trail, 20 workshops, ten bikes with ten design themes in ten Yorkshire towns running from February to June.*

None of those bikes will be quite so beautiful as our rusty old bike from the bottom of the garden though. At least, not to us.

Bicycle Girls .... and Boy.

*To find dates, towns and venues for the Woolly Bike Trail, check out the Woolly Bike website

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