Those few of forlorn hope

Council estate children, might well be described in this manner. Parents, with no ambition, with children of little hope other than ‘achieving’ what their parents limit of have.

The mother who openly calls her child a ‘dopey cxxt and I will bite his fxxxxxg face off’ for an infringement of her ‘rules’, feels sure she’s doing the right thing, with that kind of language. The parents who are content to let their children sit in front of the TV morning, noon and night, watching cartoons or much worse. Parents who feel affronted, when called into school to be advised that their child is behaving in an anti-social way.

Children aren’t born horrible but soon, all too soon, learn, how to test boundaries. They test the limits of social behaviour, in the school playground or, here on the estate where they’re brought up. Neighbour disputes often arise, sometimes violently, simply because of the inability of parents to discipline their children, And they don’t know how to talk to their  neighbours or discuss issues of conflict.

Seldom, have I seen a more pitiful site than when tracing a water leak. I needed to enter a child’s bedroom only to find – a dirty wee stained mattress on the floor in a corner with a couple of equally dirty stained blankets strewn on top. I knew his mother was alcoholic, and his wider family members were into drugs of one type or another, but in the late 1990s and mid 2000s, it was still shocking to see. For weeks, I would see that boy, outside in the estate grounds just kicking a football about by himself against the concrete wall. It wasn’t long before I learnt, he’d been arrested for a petty crime of stealing a car – for which he was sent to a well-known ‘young offenders prison’ for twelve weeks. That short sharp shock taught him how to be a proper thug. It made him into a consummate liar and petty burglar for which he went back inside many times. Incarceration, held no fears for that boy, as he told me later. He claimed he’d some ‘right good mates’ in prison who looked after him better than brothers.

On the other hand was a really nice family who took a pride and interest in both their children’s education and exam results. Both those nice children lived on this estate for roughly the same number of years. I could tell, without too much effort, who were being brought up to be nothing more than prison fodder and those who wold almost certainly go on to a college education and full time employment. I’ve believed for a long time in the difference between nurture or nature has on children but equally it is self evident that poor parenting only forces the next generation into a life of crime and deprivation for their offspring.

Having lived on this estate for twenty seven years I have seen children from many different types of background. Many children from immigrant families, who in my opinion seem to raise their children to be polite and respectful of others, cause no problems on the estate. They’re a credit to both this estate and their parents. It’s such a pity that we have to endure the kids who have no respect for themselves or anyone else. If it were not so draconian I would suggest a partnership between schools, social services and landlords where early intervention by those organisations results in enforced parenting courses for the inadequate parents. It would be of huge benefit to all concerned.


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Beware of clever wives

A New York attorney representing a wealthy art collector called and asked to
speak to his client. “Saul, I have some good news and, I have some bad

The art collector replied, “I’ve had an awful day; let’s hear the good news

The lawyer said, “Well, I met with your wife today, and she informed me that
she invested $5,000 in two pictures that she thinks will bring a minimum of
$15-20 million. I think she could be right.”

Saul replied enthusiastically, “Well done! My wife is a brilliant business
woman! You’ve just made my day. Now I know I can handle the bad news. What
is it?”

The lawyer replied, “The pictures are of you with your secretary.”

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Book Review: Walter Tevis~ The Hustler

It’s a disappointing thing to have to say in a book review that Tevis is unknown but the film with Paul Newman is a classic. He also wrote ‘The Color of Money’ and he’s unknown for that as well. So! Why not watch the film and cut out the middle man? THE BOOK IS BETTER. There I’ve said it and now you know where my allegiances lie. It’s relatively short but every word counts. Tevis writes literature not airport doorsteps intended to kill boredom with the pretence that something good is happening. I’m putting myself on the line by offering a quote here to compel you to read this book.

“And then Fats began moving around the table, making balls, all of his former ponderousness gone now, his motions like a ballet, his steps light, sure, and rehearsed; the bridge hand inevitably falling into the right place; the hand on the butt of the cue with its fat, jewelled fingers gently pushing the thin shaft into the cue ball. ” (p39)

Okay it’s a book about gambling and pool but it’s also about life and adversity and excellence and courage.

Why you should read this book. It’s wonderful!

Why you shouldn’t read this book. You’re an intellectual snob who can’t believe that a book about gambling and pool can be literature.


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The river Ingrebourne flows gently past our ‘village’

River Ingrebourne, Park Hill and Sunrise Estate Hornchurch

For generations the children of our estate have played in or near the river. They had their fishing nets with a jam jar for the Mino they caught. Then they’d race home to Mum proud to show what they’d caught.

The banks are a haven for wild life that thrives among nettles and wild flowers; butterflies and moths; as well as bumble bees that nest underground. Foxes, rooks and magpies all vie for space with small mammals, which are abundant along the river banks.


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Capital Punishment as Entertainment in England, 1649-1868

The King’s head was held up to the crowd. The spectators, some who had watched in approval and some in dismay, were quickly dispersed by officials, but a few sought grisly souvenirs of the event rushing forward to dip their handkerchiefs into the royal blood, ‘by some as trophies of their villainy; by others as relics of a martyr. The execution of Charles the First 1649.

Tens of thousands of spectators saw the King’s head in the executioner’s hands and in the early 1660s they saw Regicides ‘hung, drawn and quartered’. This was very important in a revolutionary period as there had to be no ambiguity about the power of the state. Public execution served a legitimate purpose. Public executions over the next 200 hundred years lost legitimacy. Capital punishment was extended to 220 offences and executions acquired a circus like atmosphere. A depraved atmosphere. Public executions were frequent and well attended. They fell into disrepute in the Victorian era. Gory spectacles ceased to be entertaining. In 1868 they stopped altogether. Executions were held inside prisons until abolition in 1965.

Samuel Pepys attended both Charles’s execution and that of the Regicide Major-general Harrison. On both occasions he supported the execution. Pepys proved Cromwell’s aphorism true: “Do not trust to the cheering, for those persons would shout as much if you and I were going to be hanged.*” His description of the execution of Harrison is famous:
“I went out to Charing Cross [London] to see Major-general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy.*”
Pepys’s career depended on applauding the brutal execution of Regicides.

James Boswell attended his first execution in 1763. He declared that he was, “… most terribly shocked, and thrown into a very deep melancholy.***” Those feelings didn’t last very long. In 1768 he said, “Of all publick spectacles, that of a capital execution draws the greatest number of spectators. And I must confess that I myself am never absent from any of them.****” Boswell, a highly educated, sensitive man enjoyed executions, which reflected common attitudes. London’s Tyburn ‘Tree’ could hang 24 prisoners simultaneously adding to the excitement. Boswell attended all eight annual ‘hanging’ days, fuelling his gruesome entertainment*****.

The Tyburn Tree did multiple executions eight times a year

It should be remembered that the entertainment executions provided began well before the ‘drop’ and extended afterwards. In York for example: “Execution day was a big, rowdy event – criminals were a spectacle as they were driven from the prison to their deaths, sitting with their coffins. Until 1745 their bodies were quartered after hanging.******” In Lancaster there was an attempt to have some sort of solemnity by partially separating the main body of the crowd away from the gallows. High railings surrounded the drop area and the spectators were allowed up to these, within a few feet of the gallows. Many more crowded onto the opposite bank to get a good view of the proceedings.*******” Needless to relate the crowds were rowdy, drunk and turned executions into a sport.

The last decapitation executed in England.


The execution of the Cato Street Conspirators in 1820, demonstrated a lessened appetite for gory spectacular punishments. The five principal defendants were sentenced to be hanged followed by decapitation. A special commemorative axe was made for the executioner but wasn’t used. Presumably the authorities were concerned that a botched decapitation might trigger a riot. The execution attracted 100,000 spectators********. Fourteen years later the pace of change was increasing. In 1834 523 criminals were sentenced to death but only 34 were executed- presumably the remainder were transported to Australia. The brutal 18th century was being replaced by a kinder, gentler era.

Parliament established a Royal Commission on Capital Punishment in 1864. The Commissioners’ report was unequivocal in declaring that executions should take place within prisons. About a third of the Commissioners went further and argued for abolition. Parliament enacted the findings of the Royal Commission and so ended the depraved spectacles associated with public execution. A brutal part of British life ceased, without protest, in 1868.





***** For a long and very vivid description go to

****** The magistrates in York were so disturbed by the mob that they abandoned public executions in 1801, 67 years before the national ban.


******** The heads were surgically removed before being displayed to the crowd. Soldiers were present to quell rioting. Its certain that a 17th century mob wouldn’t have flinched at heads being hacked off.

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Modern day threats for old fashioned problems

Now that is a threat!


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Film Review ~ In The Heat Of The Night (Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger)

The iconic 1967 Civil Rights film In the Heat of the Night when viewed fifty years later appears unsubtle. It has sledgehammer scenes triple underlining the insanity of racism and the general third world nature of the Deep South. There are many key moments. Tibbs demonstrates to the doctor that he doesn’t know how to examine a corpse. He retaliates to a slap from the patriarch Endicott with a back-handed slap. He is subtle in his analysis of evidence carefully drawing conclusions, unlike Sheriff Gillespie and his officers. Tibbs is black, northern and well-educated and a senior police officer. Where he works, “They call me, Mr Tibbs!” he declares to Gillespie who repeatedly calls Tibbs ‘Boy’. The invasion of northern supremacy continues with the murder of the investor who was going to fatally disturb the status quo ante. This is an indentikit Civil Rights film but is it more? Is it also a great film with nuances and subtlety?

The genius of the film is encapsulated in two minor scenes which bookend the film. The train carrying Virgil Tibbs pulls into Sparta in the dead of night. In a silent moment the doors open and a footstool is placed beneath descending feet. There is no clue as to whom those feet belong. The footstool is placed with two white hands highlighted showing a carefully placed box. In a final moment at end of the film Tibbs’s train pulls in in bright sunlight. Gillespie waits with Tibbs for the train and a white porter places the footstool. A white man doing a menial task for a middle-class Black-American. Tibbs ascends leaving Sparta for ever. Two wonderful moments in a wonderful film.

Why you should watch this film: Black Lives Matter! Demonstrates that Civil Rights campaigning isn’t a piece of historical nostalgia .

Why you shouldn’t watch this film: You don’t like issue driven films, which feel ‘preachy’.

PS Steiger got the Oscar for his performance.


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