Andrew Neil and David Cameron or Alex Salmond and Natalie Bennett?

Is Andrew Neil a deliberate liar? Or an idiot? Both? Or neither? If the latter, then what is he playing at?

There is nothing I love more than being shot by both sides. I revel in provoking debate. And if that invites others from a variety of orthodoxies to take up the cudgels against me for thinking outside the box, then I feel I have done something worthwhile. I don’t always get it right. When others explain why I am wrong, I am genuinely grateful to them. What I do in such circumstances in pose problems that I can’t quite solve. I’m thinking out loud, and asking others to help me out. The more the merrier.

Andrew Neil is an important broadcaster. He is not your typical right-winger who pollutes the British Broadcasting Corporation. Many on the left hate him. I don’t. I don’t pull punches when I think he is wrong, and reactionary. But intelligent right-wingers who are not content with being mere mouthpieces for their own self-appointed leaders perform a very useful function for the left. Andrew Neil is one such right-winger, and we should value him for that.

A good example of how useful he is to us was his behavior during Scotland’s independence referendum. He was better than just about any broadcaster from any of the mainstream channels. While the guests on his three regular political programs tend to be useless from the point of view of genuine socialists, he tends to be unsparing in hammering away at the weaknesses of all his guests, or as good as he can be given his capitalist-blinkered spectacles.

Andrew Neil actually does the Tories good by exposing their weaknesses, being a sparring partner that challenges them, preparing them for the big match. Alas, he has been less good at helping the left. Ed Miliband’s team have had their weaknesses tested to destruction, and they’ve buried their heads in the sand. They are in a hole, and just keep digging. They’re like Keystone Cops on steroids, digging and digging, presumably in the search for more drugs. This is not a pretty sight. Not for the left.

However, Ed Miliband does not represent the left. His so-called, “Man on the left,” Alan Johnson is a nasty Blairite idiot. Andrew Neil thinks the left is ungrateful to corrupt war criminal Tony Blair. He has nothing to do with us. He didn’t win elections for us, but gave the BBC their excuse to lie about the nature of capitalist ‘democracy’. The left have been disenfranchised, and we are having to start from the ground up.

That brings me to Andrew Neil’s latest error that is not a mere error. Is Andrew Neil lying when he says the only debate that matters is the one between David Cameron and Ed Miliband and everything else is an irrelevant sideshow? I wouldn’t put it in those terms. Calling people liars is what you do when you have no interest in debating with them. You give them their excuse to withdraw from debate. So, I am not going to call Andrew Neil a liar.

What I am doing is putting it to Andrew Neil that his incessant misinformation vis-a-vis what the General Election is about is related to his British-Establishment tinted spectacles. How else can we explain his idea that voters get to vote for David Cameron or Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. Not even their own constituents get to do that. Only the 600 plus MPs elected in a game of media bias, a first-past-the-post that makes most of our wishes a pipe-dream, and a lottery that means we may all end up with MPs most of us hate… Only this rabble of unpopular idiots get to have any say on who the Prime Minister is.

Britain’s unwritten constitution isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on. Nevertheless, the party leader with most MPs is likely to get first shot at trying to form a government. But if, as seems likely, neither David Cameron nor Ed Miliband can form a government without doing deals, May is likely to usher in a period of considerable political instability with many Prime Minster from both Labour and Tories coming and going. There is no reason why either of these parties have to hold the office of Prime Minister. If opinion polls show that Alex Salmond, for instance, is the most popular choice, then there is no reason why Labour’s left, Greens, Plaid and others will reject that. There are many reasons why this could happen, and many more why Labour’s right and Tories won’t want an early second election as it is likely to see an intensified polarization of the electorate, with The SNP, Greens, Labour’s left, TUSC and others eating into Ed Miliband’s base from the left as Tories fragment, with UKIP cannibalizing David Cameron’s carcass, and Nick Clegg’s party being nothing more than a rapidly forgotten footnote.

Events in Greece, Spain, Italy and elsewhere are likely to further radicalize the electorate in Britain, and any attempt by the forces of conservatism to punish those resisting their oppressors as they fight for political and economic democracy simply making the electorate across Britain ever more radical.

The left has to get real when it comes to May’s election. We need to neutralize the Achilles Heel in the armor of those committed to finishing the Tories. Having an alternative to the Presidential bullshit of David Cameron and Ed Miliband is something we all need to unite around. Is Alex Salmond perfect from our point of view? Absolutely not. Nevertheless, we need to remind voters that we can reject the idea Ed is our candidate for Prime Minister by acting in a way that doesn’t play into David Cameron’s blood-stained, money-grubbing hands.

The left has to unite around everything that exposes David Cameron to make him at least as unelectable as Ed Miliband. Reminding voters that Andrew Neil is simply wrong about what voters are choosing in May could not be more important.

Natalie Bennett, Patrick Harvie, Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and (sooner or later, many Labour MPs too) uniting around Alex Salmond as an alternative Prime Minister for at least part of the next parliament is key to our strategy of utterly destroying David Cameron’s government of the millionaires, by the millionaires, for the millionaires. This is strategy that allows the left and every democrat worthy of the name creating the conditions for a constitutional convention that smashes this wretched first-past-the-post dystopia that can usher in a majority government (even one with a landslide victory in parliament) that is rejected by almost eighty percent of the electorate.

Andrew Neil and the right-wing are over the moon at his interview with Natalie Bennett on last week’s Sunday Politics. Preaching to the converted, mate. Blairites like Alan Johnson, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander are as happy with Andrew Neil as he is with himself,. However, his constant interruptions won him no new fans. When Natalie Bennett got her chance to speak for herself, without interruptions, as she did on Sky News yesterday morning, she blew away Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron. She’d have done it to Nigel Farage too if he hadn’t cowered away in Strasbourg.

Andrew Neil is particularly insistent in his opposition to Alex Salmond and every other representative of the Scottish National Party in the Prime Ministerial Debates. Despite The SNP likely to end up with twenty five times as many MPs as Nigel Farage’s UKIP, Andrew Neil does not think they deserve a place in the PM Debates. I wonder why that might be. Scared?

Andrew Neil says he can’t vote for the SNP, and neither can most of us in May. So what? The General Election is about electing 600 plus MPs. It is not about electing a President. Even if The SNP is geographically more compact than many others, they will still do a hell of a lot better in terms of votes, members and MPs than many of those who do stand across the UK. There is no reason why Alex Salmond could not be Prime Minister. And Andrew Neil knows that.

Even the technical issue of geographical narrowness can be put to bed. How? Does Natalie Bennett want to be Prime Minister? Nope. She doesn’t even want her party to participate as coalition partners to prop up a radical(ish) government. Okay. But does she rule out supporting as Prime Minister someone other than Ed Miliband, David Cameron or some other member of their respective parties? No, she does not.

Why should the left not accept that, when push comes to shove, Alex Salmond would be better than anyone on offer from Labour, and everyone on offer from the Tories? In reality, we know that most Labour MPs wish Alex Salmond was their leader rather than Ed Miliband. Then again, most Labour voters would prefer almost anyone as leader to who they’ve lumbered themselves with.

Leanne Wood of Plaid would also clearly support Alex Salmond if there was a vote in parliament. Many members of parties to the left of all the above would prefer Alex Salmond for a variety of reasons – not least of which is dumping an unelected second chamber and a first-past-the-post system that is universally held in contempt.

How likely is it that Alex Salmond end up as the first Prime Minister when the dust settles after May’s general election? The first choice to form a government? Next to none. Does that matter? Actually, no. What we are likely to see, as far as most credible commentators is concerned, is a highly unstable parliament. Most of us now assume there is likely to be either a second general election within months or a series here-today-gone-tomorrow broken Prime Ministers hobbling along from one crisis the the next, each becoming progressively less popular with voters, all fiddling while the streets of London burn.

Riots are an almost inevitable price all of us will pay unless and until something is done to defuse this pressure cooker society. And that will only happen if democrats can bring down this wretched broadcast mass media that is determined to bury the truth to keep a bankrupt and corrupt British Establishment in power.

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Diarrhea Diorama Die a Tory Death

head_up_arse  CROPPED


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Alternative commentary?

I’m a subconsciousness. We don’t get out much. We don’t have books written about us. Those with access to fingertips, laptops and such-like lack the ability to give us a voice. My meat-puppet is, however, asleep at the wheel. And I’ve been left in charge; so to speak. At any rate, possession is nine tenths of the law, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

I’ll be telling his story, but in my own way. I’ll contribute to the sum total of your knowledge by peppering his stale gibberish with my unique perspective and insights. Unlike my meat puppet who is relating events as they are happening, living in the moment, I have the ability to take a step back, to examine details in context: the big picture, as it were.

I am not anchored by these petty sense organs and a brain that evolved 200,000 years ago to prepare a group of social apes for navigating their way across the savanah without being eaten to extinction. I travel at the speed of thought. I tunnel through a network of wormholes, instantaneously leaping from one end of the observable universe to the other, and beyond. Leap, leap, leap to galaxies no one will ever see, no one from your universe, that is. I have seen worlds even Rutgar Hauer would never believe. And that’s not all.

Imagination never has been and never will be tied to the many worlds that have exploded out of the infinite possibilities tossed up by each quantum event, and every theoretically chaotic bag of dominoes falling from the moment this big bang banged big 13,678,666,666 years ago. That wasn’t the first act of creation, as an infinite number have kept happening each and every nanosecond in the best of all possible multiverses.

From the vantage point of any subconscious imagination worthy of the name, hypotheses can be explored, loose ends tied up, hopefully made sense of, prima facie cases called into question – or not. Let’s run it up the flagpole to see who salutes. N’est pas?

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Nicola Sturgeon and the suspended SNP Renfrewshire Councilors

counterproductive publicity stunt

Counterproductive publicity stunt

Once I’d seen the @YouTube video that landed three Renfrewshire Councilors in so much trouble, I became less sympathetic to them. Even before seeing it I knew enough to know it was a significant tactical mistake. Having seen it, I have no doubt Nicola Sturgeon was right to be angry, and to express that anger to them in private, even to let the public know why she feels let down by their behavior.

Nicola Sturgeon was right to set up an investigation into what the SNP councilors did, and to have them suspended in the run-up to its findings, safeguarding their right to have their say, to say sorry, to offer mitigating circumstances, putting on record why they think the point of part of what they wanted to get across has been lost, possibly due to their own incompetence. Having conceded it was right to suspend them from their party, however, I think Nicola has been set up, and she has fallen into a trap by the enemies of Scotland’s self-determination, including the right-wing media such as BBC Scotland.

In politics, you can’t unsay things. Nor can you painlessly undo them. There will be consequences in a lowering of your prestige. But none of us are infallible and putting mistakes right in a damage-limitations exercise remains preferable to burying your head in the sand and hoping no one notices.

In my not-so-humble opinion, I think Nicola has made a mistake in her use of the word ‘condemn’ in relation to what the suspended councilors did. Condemning it is fine, so long as we are clear what they’re being condemned for. Let’s think this through.

Did the Renfrewshire councilors do anything worthy of condemnation? From the SNP’s perspectives, absolutely they did. Making this clear to them individually and collectively, even doing so publicly, is no bad thing – certainly not at the end of a fair inquiry that lets them speak for themselves. The rest of Scotland’s YES Alliance weighing in on the scales of condemnation is no bad thing neither. But let’s be clear what they did, and what they did not,  get wrong.

What the SNP councilors got wrong was pretty substantial from the point of view of their party colleagues, and from the perspective of our cross-party movement. We all need to debate this.

Nicola Sturgeon was absolutely right to be angry at these SNP councilors for implying that John Swinney and Patrick Harvie and the rest of the team signed their name to a document that delivers something that is in no respect an improvement on the status quo. That is simply untrue. It’s an insult to Nicola Sturgeon for implying that she, Alex Salmond and others are naive for not agreeing with them on this point. Condemn these councilors for that, by all means. And take disciplinary action against them for this.

Nicola is right to feel let down that three SNP councilors did their own thing without running it past their SNP colleagues in the council chamber. Colleagues were not consulted, and they might all pay an electoral price for a childish publicity stunt.

Nevertheless, Nicola is wrong to use the term ‘condemn’ in relation to these councilors that gives Willie Rennie and co exactly what they demanded. Symbolic burnings of things we don’t like does have an honorable tradition. Just because reactionaries also do it is no reason to condemn progressives who have done this. We can all differ on which of these symbolic acts expressed radical politics and which did not. And we can debate which symbolic burnings were justified and which ones were grossly over the top. That’s a judgement call. But burning per se is not the issue.

If Labour members hold a mass burning of membership cards to then immediately apply en masse to become SNP members, would Nicola Sturgeon tell them they’re not welcome because of their ritualistic burnings? I hope not.

The real issue is the nature of the Smith Commission report. What the SNP and the rest of the YES Alliance do cannot be set in stone at this stage. These councilors got it wrong. They jumped the gun because they denied it could trigger legislation that would be welcomed by Scotland’s cross-party movement for self-determination, not as the end of the process, but as a useful, if inadequate, stepping stone.

These suspended SNP councilors were wrong because their actions have helped Ed Miliband and David Cameron find an excuses to bin the Smith Commission. Both Labour and Tory MPs will, I am absolutely convinced, betray what is progressive in this document. Scotland, I am absolutely convinced, end up with nothing. The cause of this betrayal will be due to those who signed the Vow being unable to patch up irreconcilable differences over English Votes for English Laws, and a democratic reciprocity solution to the West Lothian Question.

It is inevitable, in my ‘humble’ opinion, that Tories and Labour will burn what they had not already, secretly, tippexed out of the Smith Commission. If I am right about this, how could it possibly be in the SNP’s interest to let them get away with this by suggesting they should help David Cameron and Ed Miliband betray even more of their promises? This tactical incompetence is what makes these SNP councilors worthy of ‘condemnation’. From the point of view of strategy and tactics their stance is sectarian and totally counterproductive.

Despite all this, the way to deal with any bill based on the Smith Commission is to amend it, appealing to voters to back the YES Alliance’s MP group. That’s the way to do it.

If a poor bill is all that can be voted through, then SNP and Greens MPs should do that, as something is better than nothing. However, if what is being proposed turns out to be a poisoned chalice, don’t drink it. The devil, as always, is in the detail. It is simply far too soon for the SNP or the rest of us to know if the tax powers on offer are a trap, and the price that’s being asked, the cutting of the Barnett Formula, will make Scotland’s situation even worse, accomplishing nothing more than helping restore the electoral fortunes of Scotland’s Tories and the most right-wing elements in the other parties, including in the SNP. This can’t be ruled out. Not yet.

That is why it is tactically wrong for the SNP to go over the top in its condemnation of these suspended councilors. At the end of the day, what they’ve predicted might become the collective decision of the entire YES Alliance.

Even if we don’t advocate burning the final bill proposed by Ruth Davidson’s chums at Westminster after the next election (assuming they propose anything at all, which is far from guaranteed), that is merely a tactical decision based on symbolism. Divisions on such matters should not lead to splits and acrimony. But that is what Iain Gray et al are provoking. This is the raw material from which Special Branch agent provocateurs will manufacture electorally damaging splits. Gonnae no dae that, Nicola?

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You can fool some Scotland voters some of the time, but Michael Portillo’s an idiot.

Michael Portillo is a liar

Michael Portillo is a liar

Andrew Neil was joined on this week’s This Week by Michael Portillo to shoot a series of spectacular own goals, further exacerbating the implosion of all Unionist parties north of the border. Self-inflicted goals reminding us just how out of touch with Scotland they both are.

I want to put on record, yet again, that Andrew Neil was not merely one of a handful of BBC broadcasters on television or radio either side of the border that covered Scotland’s independence referendum with genuine impartiality; he demonstrated an impartiality that was rare on any of the UK’s television coverage. Eddie Mair was one other. Other than those two and one or two less well-known broadcasters, the BBC lived down to its notorious reputation as nothing more than a poodle of the CBI’s Better Together organization, albeit in an unofficial capacity.

Andrew Neil has done an about face in recent months, effectively since the polls closed. He’s not the only decent broadcaster,  at least on the referendum, whose credentials now look pretty shady, even if by the standards of their colleagues, they remain value for money. At least with comrade Neil, we get the odd fact tossed into the mix, and he’s an unrepentant equal opportunities trouble-maker.

Nevertheless, what we saw in his interview with Alex Salmond was not Andrew Neil at his best. Constant interruptions only work if the interviewee is deliberately obfuscating. That’s not what happened here. Scotland’s ex-First Minister was merely prevented from developing any point. This never looks good for the interrogator. Even when it’s a relatively good interviewer. Alex Salmond has other means of communicating directly with the voters these day. The National. Live-streamed press conferences where Nick Robinson and Glenn Campbell are reduced to hecklers. There’s other chances for the SNP to reach the parts of Scotland that the BBC cannot reach. Mass meetings. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Scotland is on the march, and there is nothing Andrew Neil can do to stop us.

What about Michael Portillo? After Andrew’s opening, I assumed he must be the bad cop. Apparently not. Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax heavyweight, the SAS daredevil who forgot how to launch a leadership bid without getting caught… Michael Portillo descended into the most ridiculous insults. If he thinks what he is doing impresses anyone in Scotland, then senility has finally taken hold.

Has David Cameron’s Vow been delivered? Michael Portillo knows that is a lie. Scotland has been offered nothing from the Smith Commission but a so-called joint general election manifesto by Pledge-breaking bastards like Nick Clegg, the toxic Ed Miliband and David Cameron whose commitment to the Vow had a sell-by-date that expired the minute the polls closed on Scotland’s referendum.

David Cameron told voters after the polls closed that there was a tandem veto on more powers delivered to Scotland and reciprocity. The other signatories to the vow, and their backers including the Chief Secretary to the Treasury had to tell him to shut the **** up. So he did. For a short period. However, it’s started all over again.

Lord Smith’s Smith Commission, according to the Labour reps and the Scotland Labour leadership candidate they support – Jim Murphy – all insist Tories have signed up on 100% of income tax going to Scotland but no reciprocity. Tory MPs have already said they’ll not accept. Labour is telling them they have to. But their English constituents would vote UKIP if they pretend they would vote for this after the general election. In other worlds, Ruth Davidson has sold Lord Smith a pack of meaningless Lib Dem pledges. David Cameron’s Vow is going nowhere, and Michael Portillo knows it.

On the day of the referendum, Andrew Neil allowed the BBC’s Deputy editor Norman Smith to lie to Scotland’s voters, in breach of broadcasting rules, that a NO vote guarantees massive extra powers. No supporter of the YES Campaign was allowed to expose him. Why exactly is that? Alex Salmond always insisted there would be no more powers if we lost. And still there are no new powers. And we are told we will get no new powers until after the next election! How do Scotland’s voters ensure Tory AND Labour MPs implement these constitutional changes, inadequate though they are by the standards of what was implied by the broadcaster-cum-spin-doctors for the three Unionist Parties? Scotland’s voters will have no power to do this! Scotland’s electorate will be reduced to praying that Lib Dem MPs have grown tired of braking their election pledges? You know where you can shove that proposal.

You can fools some of the voters some of the time. But the three Unionist Parties (four if we include Nigel Farage’s UKIP) have exhausted the good will of the people of Scotland. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are busted flushes. No amount of their groveling to Gordon Brown to help them con voters will work. Not anymore.

Diane Abbott, by the way, is ill-served by the mainstream media in Scotland if she wants to know if these comrades can toss into the pot of the next Labour Party parliamentary group much more than more than ten percent of Labour’s 40 seats up north. Diane Abbot relies on feedback from the CBI and Special Branch stooges at BBC Scotland or Labour MPs and MSPs north of the border at her peril. Goodbye to all but a handful of Labour MPs here. And good riddance.

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My #Nanowrimo Novel based on true events: Violet crept through Labour pains


Mobile rings. “Hi!” I say. “Where are you? Paisley?”
“I’m outside your flat.”
“What color’s your car?”
“You parked to my left or right?… Can you see my window? I’m on the top floor. I’m drawing the curtain now. If you see me, open your car door and wave.”
“I see you. I’ll be right down. Two minutes.”
“Derek, where are we going?”
“It’s not far. I’ll tell you when I’m downstairs.”
“Why can’t you tell me now? Are we meeting someone?”
“No. Just us. I can’t talk on the phone. This is not a secure line. I told you that. I’ll be right down. Trust me. Everything’s going to be alright.”
I drew the curtains back. Switched off the television, after using the remote to get the time: thirty five minutes past noon. Switched the lamp off. Looked around, to make sure I had forgotten nothing. Having reassured myself on that score, I made to leave the flat, walking as swiftly as possible down three flights of stairs to meet the sister I hadn’t seen in two decades. However,…

Turning unlocked all the locks, released the chain, unbolted the bolt, on grasping the handle to open my front door, I am overwhelmed by a flashback…

Time is out of joint. I know my body is on automatic pilot. I know it is moving down, winding its way to the front of the building, but part of my head has left the building. Part of my brain has been triggered of a day long, long ago. I am floating with transparent limbs. Hovering near the ceiling in an old flat. An out-of-body experience. That’s what this is like. Looking down at my younger self. Asleep. Lying on the sofa. In the living room. And then I wake. Violently.

Memorable montage of images march past. Flash. Flash. Flash.

Sound? Not there. Violent assault. Fists knocking out teeth. Metal bars being wielded. Crushing skulls. Blood everywhere. Razors whipped out. Flesh ripped apart. Televisions kicked off pedestals. Tapes tossed everywhere. Two dudes. One a muscle man. Like something out of a superhero comic. Other a small creep in a hood. He’s the razor man. He’s the metal bar thug. He’s the coward kicking me in the head. Kicking me in the testicles. One comes. Goes. Comes back. Leaves. Third time he’s back with the Hooded Thug. Punch. Kick. Slash. Kick head. Kick balls. Search. Scream at me for something. Don’t hear, but I remember what they said. I smiled a toothless grin. They’d have to kill me before I handed it over. I’d see them in jail. Them and their mates. Let them kill me. I won’t surrender. The guilty can rot in hell.
Shutting the front door of the block of flats, I walked towards my sister who, in turn, had started to walk towards me. Her smile was broad, evidently as happy as I was.
“Hello stranger!” she said.
“Is it really you? I wouldn’t have recognized you. You look different. Seriously.”
“I recognize you. You haven’t changed.”
“I wish I could believe that. I know it’s not true.”
“You look a lot thinner than I was expecting. Somehow I thought you would have put on the pounds. But… You spend a lot of time at the gym?”
“As often as I can. Couple of times a week, most weeks.”
“Anyway, look who’s talking. You say on twitter you’ve got really fat. Total lie.”
I feel my tummy. I’m surprised how flat it is. I slip my right hand beneath the belt. I find my trousers are falling down. The belt is tied as tight as can be. Genuinely taken aback.
“My weight goes up and down. You’ve caught me at one of my low ebbs. Anyway, I exaggerate a lot. Much of what I say on twitter is for comic effect. ”
“You want to say hello to Pete?”
“Not really. We don’t have time. Got a lot to say, and I don’t want to get sidetracked.”
“Okay. Let me get some things out the car, then we can go wherever you like. Do you know where we’re going?”
Sis opens the car door and whispers something to Pete, sitting in the driver’s seat. She gets a handbag, and a carrier bag, then shuts the car door.
“Nice day for a walk. So, where are we going?”
“Just follow me. I just need to find somewhere we can talk out of earshot of anyone else.”
“Why couldn’t we speak in your flat? I don’t understand any of this.”
“I told you already. I need to ask a favor, and those I need you to help protect me from will have surveillance devices in my flat. It’s important they don’t have any advance warning. That’s why we couldn’t speak on the phone. There’s no way it’s not bugged.”
“Who would be placing electronic eavesdropping devices in your home? The council?”
“Of course not. Why would they? They don’t have the authority to do that. Why would you ask that?”
“I know you don’t like them. Don’t trust them. Not sure why. Don’t know who else you think could be behind this.”
“Everything will be explained. But we need to find some place to sit down and talk, away from prying eyes, and ears. I think I know where we can go. It’s not that far. Don’t worry.”
“Tell me now. Where are we going? No one can hear us.”
“I don’t like walking and talking too much. Not when the talking requires me to think. Too taxing for my brain. Walking and talking at the same time is just not my forte. Sorry about that. I could fall over. Seriously.” I turn to see what kind of reaction that gets. No smile? She doesn’t know if I’m joking or not? Never mind. Not to worry.
“Anyway,” I continue, “I don’t want to risk someone hearing us. Not impossible, you know. You ever seen a film by Francis Ford Coppola called ‘The Conversation’? Gene Hackman played the lead. Harrison Ford was in it. One of my fave movies.”
“Don’t think so. What was it about?”
“It was about a man who used listening devices. Got trapped in a massive web of lies. Wonderful film.” I look around, in every direction. Looking for who might be checking us out. Sis didn’t seem to spot me looking for someone tailing us. Or if she did she said nothing. Don’t think she saw the film. Don’t think she had a scooby why I might have referenced it. I smiled. Satisfied with myself, with how I was handling this.
“There’s a police station just around that corner. We need to be careful.”
“Do you have any idea how paranoid you sound, Derek?”
I stop walking forward. One second later, so does she. She turns, stares me right in the eye, eyebrows raised in a question: “Well?”
“Yes. Absolutely. That’s why we’re here. That’s part of it. My task is to convince you I’m not paranoid.”
“Good luck with that.”
I smile. Not in the least offended.
“How much time do we have?”
“What do you mean? Time for what?”
“How long before you have to go? I need to make sure I don’t waste time with relatively irrelevant details. I need to focus. That means I need to know how much time I have. To prioritize.”
“Couple of hours?”
“Two hours? Can you spare that much?”
She nods. I smile.
“Two hours is fine,” I say. Very much relieved to have that long. I am confident I can do this.
“I read your blog.”
“What do you think?”
“You write well.”
“I mean it. Not joking.”
I stare at her. Hard. Not a trace of sarcasm. Not that I can see. She means it. Had someone told me this compliment would mean anything to me, I doubt I’d have believed it. But it felt good. Really good. Why? A reminder of when we were kids. V was the only one who looked up to me. Protected me when the rest of the world treated me like dirt. Memories came flooding back. Good ones.
Part of me wanted to dissect my writing. Weigh up what I felt was worthwhile, and all the horrible typos that littered it, made it so painful for me to read my old stuff. But that seemed inappropriate. Best to take the compliment, and move on.  Before doing that, I smiled to let her know what she said was appreciated. And then I changed the subject.
“Why did you get in touch with the council?”
“When mum died I called, but you never answered. I couldn’t think who else to get in touch.”
“I never answer the phone unless I know who is calling. I rarely switch it on anymore. Never check messages. Still not sure why you thought the council could get in touch with me.”
“Seemed the only option.”
“I’d never have thought of getting in touch with the council in such circumstances. Surprised they tried to get in touch with me. They know I won’t speak to them without a go-between, preferably a lawyer. They keep pretending they don’t know that. Your getting in touch gave them yet another excuse to hound me. You need to promise me never to get in touch with them about me ever again. This is important. If you do, then we are through. I’m not kidding. You need to promise before we say anything else. Promise me.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I had no idea you felt like this about them. What did they do?”
“They tried to get me to agree to contact you before. They wanted me to sign away rights and hand them to you. I refused. When I found you were in contact with them, I wondered if you had agreed to help them without discussing anything with me. You need to promise me you didn’t. And you need to promise never, ever, under any circumstances, to discuss me with these people. First things first. Then we can move on. Explanations come later. Okay?”
“Alright. I’ll never talk to them about you again. I promise.”
“Okay. Still don’t know why you got in touch with them, but it no longer matters. I need you to help me against them. You need to know why; and that’s why you’re here. That’s partly why you’re here.”

“Do you like it here?” asks V.
“What do you mean? ‘Here’?”
“In Thistown.”
“Thistown? I thought you said you’d read my blog. I’ve written about this. Lots of stuff. I never agreed to be moved here. Part of what I need you to help me with is the council’s illegal moving me to Thistown against my will. And leaving me here in a pokey little flat without lights in my bedroom or living-room for almost a decade. Without any contacts. With my home regularly invaded when the council takes me out my home. Politicians turn a blind eye. I’m taking it for granted you won’t turn a blind eye.”
“I don’t know anything about this. If you refer to it in your blog, I haven’t read that. I never said I read it all.”
“We won’t make much progress if I don’t know what bits you have and haven’t read. We need to discuss this before we do anything else.”
We’ve been walking some time now. Have entered the park opposite the police station. We’re quite far in when I notice a shadow. I look up to see a very large cloud and the sun has just been hidden by it. Almost hidden. And now it’s… Gone. I look back at the shadow and see it seem to point to the center of the park. There is a fountain there. I stop walking, and stare directly overhead. V stops too. Waits for a few seconds, then says, “What you doing?”
“One second.” My neck is hurting. I feel dizzy. Faint. I stumble. But it doesn’t last. I look round. Left. Right. Past the fountain. Look for people following us, or at least interested in us. Behind us is the police station. My eyesight is far too poor to see if we are being watched from the windows there. There is a church to the right. Some way back. Beyond the fountain, outside the park, is the public library, the shopping center, a car park, the local town council chamber. All these will be locked on a Sunday morning.
I rub my eyes. I do feel dizzy. Still. Need a few seconds to recover. Don’t want to dwell on this, so I bluff. Need to sit down for a bit. None of the park benches scattered around are appropriate. I ask V to follow me. She doesn’t argue as we move in a new direction: towards the fountain.
“Do you have any idea where we’re going? I’m starting to doubt it.”
“Let’s stop here for a bit. The fountain.”
“Is this a wishing well?”
“Pulling a couple of coins from my pocket, dropping them into the fountain, I look at V and say, “I guess.”
“So, what did you wish for?”
“I can’t tell you. It wouldn’t come true,” I say as I sit on the edge, getting my bearings back. Letting the faintness drift away. “You want to make a wish?”
“No. I’ve got everything I need.”
“Seriously? Everything?”
“Uh huh. I’m perfectly happy and content.”
“No one else you’d like to wish on behalf of? No unlucky relative?”
V looks at me guiltily. She feels shame. And hurt, clearly. She thinks I was referring to me. Maybe I was. Subconsciously.
V removes a coin and tosses it in the wishing well.
“It’s a very ugly wishing well. Don’t you think?”
“You’ll hurt its feelings. If it’s magic enough to grant wishes, it’s magic enough to hear what you say about it. And, yes. It is very odd looking.”
“What is that on top? An egg timer?”
“An hourglass. Yes. Surrounded by animals. You know what they represent?”
“One of them is a lion. Clearly. One is a dog. Not sure what the other is.”
“I think that’s probably a wolf, not a dog. The other big cat… It has spots. That’s your clue.”
“Well done. Never noticed these animals before. All these rings, by the way…. From a spy satellite, this would look like Hell, as described by Dante. To me, it is Hell. In two hours time, if all goes well, you may get me out. No pressure.” I smile. V doesn’t. Just looks more confused than ever.
At precisely this moment, the town clock bell chimes. One ring only. One O’clock. 13:00.
“Anyway, let’s keep moving,” I say. Rested. Waves of nausea having gone, I get to my feet and lead the way again. Moving back towards the right hand side of the park, walking as far away from the police station as it’s possible to get, occasionally scanning the scene for suspicious-looking characters, other than me, that is.

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