A Compassionate Irishman

Paddy phones an ambulance because his mate’s been hit by a car.

Paddy: ‘Get an ambulance here quick, he’s bleeding from his nose and I tink both his legs are broken.’

Operator: ‘What is your location sir?’

Paddy: ‘Outside number 28 Eucalyptus Street.’

Operator: ‘How do you spell that sir?’
Silence …. and after a minute.

Operator: ‘Are you there sir?’

More silence and another minute later.

Operator: ‘Sir, can you hear me?’
This goes on for another few minutes until….

Operator: ‘Sir, please answer me. Can you still hear me?’

Paddy: ‘Yes, sorry bout dat. .. I couldn’t spell eucalyptus, so I just dragged him round to number 3 Oak Street. 


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The tragic death of Martin Walker: a Hackney Dustman

I first met Martin in 1977 when I was foreman plumber at the Defoe Road depot in Stoke Newington, Hackney. He was a plumbers mate on my team. He wasn’t a skilled man but he was essential to us plumbers and ‘he was willing to learn,’ as the saying goes.

My small team of five plumbers worked from the Gilpin Road depot in Clapton Park and I placed him with Harry ‘Agee’ Gee who the best man to be his workmate and mentor. Martin was a bit immature but knew the area well as he’d lived there all his life. Once when we were in the car I said “You must be pleased to have got this job as there were a lot of candidates for it.” He replied that “To be honest, this is only a job to keep me off the dole.” I was totally shocked because this was a highly sought after job.

He went on to say, “My granddad and dad were both dustmen and I want to be a dustman as well. The only way to get the job is to have your name put forward when your are still at school! The ‘ganger’ will only take you on if your dad and/or granddad were good grafters. In other words jobs are inherited.”

I couldn’t believe that anyone would ‘fight’ to be a dustman. Martin explained exactly why being a dustman was sought after. He said, “Well you can usually finish your round just after midday. On top of that there are trinkets and knick-knacks that we get to see first. Sometimes there can be valuable stuff, which we sell as a sort of bonus!” Up to then I’d only ever thought of being a dustman as a dirty hard, smelly job that no-one would want to do.

Martin had settled in working alongside Agee, and after a couple of years he told me he’d got a job as a dustman. Since he was only transferring from one team of Hackney workers to another, I said “I don’t think you need to give any notice.” There were no objections and Martin transferred the following week.

Two years later I was told Martin had suffered a heart attack and dropped dead on his round. He was only 24 years old but the constant brutally hard physical work had killed him. In those days dustmen had bins full of ash from the coal fires as well as thrown away food. The bin itself was metal and very heavy. Martin was a strong lad but probably didn’t know how to pace himself over a working week and a hidden defect in his heart was triggered. I sometimes wondered if he’d have had a longer life if he’d continued as a plumbers mate with me but who’s to know?

Martin’s funeral was packed with family and friends as well as my team of plumbers and his fellow dustmen from his round who remembered him as such a nice lad.


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Nice people don’t become Nazis: Dorothy Thompson 1941

Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes—you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success—they would all go Nazi in a crisis*.

Believe me, nice people don’t go Nazi. Their race, color, creed, or social condition is not the criterion. It is something in them.

Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t-whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Nazi. It’s an amusing game. Try it at the next big party you go to.

A 1941 article by Dorothy Thompson in Harper’s Magazine

*Do you have in mind who I have in mind?

This is a long article but is well worth a visit https://harpers.org/archive/1941/08/who-goes-nazi/3/


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Donald J Trump: The ego has landed

What a big one he’s got!

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Rat-A-Tat the door knocker sang
The Caretaker, looked concerned
Can you come with me
I think we have a deaden?

Eight thirty, the flats were quiet
Where to I asked? – Eighth floor,
Was his simple reply -we got to the front door
Open the letter-box and smelt!

I did, “cabbages and kings”
Immediately hit me,
A smell so unmistakeable
Yep, I confirmed – he’s a deaden!

Locksmith was called
He turned up within the hour
Police were called, after he attended
They came, in minutes.

The locksmith took only minutes
To slip the front door lock
The full stench, of death
Erupted from the flat.

Experience, had taught me
The next steps to take
Down to the office,
Next of kin, on the flat file.

The police, had reams of paperwork to fill in
Coroner’s office to contact
Senior officer to confirm
Sudden unexpected death.

Later that day, two undertakers
Pulled the body-bag out on a gurney
The smell, lingering on the route taken
“Febreze” liberally sprayed.

David, was a big gentle man
No problem as a tenant
Kept himself to himself
Died on the floor, near his bed.

Was it, an illness?
Was it, just time?
Was it an unfortunate fall
Only God would know –

Eventually, it comes to us all.


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The MCC, social-class and English Cricket in the 1960s

The MCC* ruled English cricket with an iron fist in the 1960s. County cricket administrators were a version of the MCC, using their social-class and status as Gentlemen to control cricket. Professional cricketers were regarded as social inferiors because they were employees. For the MCC and county administrators cricketing excellence was secondary to social-class. The MCC selected the test (international) teams, wrote the fixture list and established the tone of English cricket. The MCC’s precepts were challenged by events throughout the period but their grip was only weakened by force majeure. The MCC’s decisions concerning Brian Close (1967) and Basil D’Oliviera (1968) were, surprisingly, not fatal to their domination. The MCC maintained their reactionary status riding out the storm of social change that was sweeping England in the 1960s.

The Gentlemen vs. Players match played at Scarborough in 1962 ended a series that began in 1806. The Players defeated the Gentlemen with ease**. But why was the match played at all? The MCC oligarchy believed amateurs, filled with the Corinthian spirit***, were superior to professional players. Brian Close, the England captain, taught them that that was a fantasy. He lost the England captaincy for the 1967-8 winter tour of the West Indies because of gamesmanship. The incident occurred when Yorkshire avoided defeat against Warwickshire through cynical time-wasting****. Close compounded the sin of professionalism by leading Yorkshire to victory in the 1967 county championship just as he had in 1966 and would do again in 1968. The agreeable Colin Cowdrey, a minor aristocrat, became captain of England in his place.

Cricket administration was controlled by aristocrats and the privately educated. Brian Close, Yorkshire’s most successful captain, wasn’t supported by the Yorkshire hierarchy. They sabotaged his test career in a gratuitous act of spite. Sir William Worsley, the president, was a landowning reactionary. (In 1927 he’d been made captain of Yorkshire despite never having played first-class cricket. Being a Gentleman was seen as sufficient qualification as the other candidates were professional*****.) The MCC’s oligarchy extended tangentially to the BBC’s Test Match Special team. This programme enhanced the tone set by the MCC through their ball-by-ball commentary of all England’s test matches. The programme had four principal commentators all of whom were privately educated and none of whom had played first-class cricket. Ignorance was no hindrance to their phoney expertise. They were the BBC’s very own MCC clones.

The British Anti-Apartheid Movement was gifted a cricketing cause celebre by MCC reactionaries in 1968. Basil D’Oliviera, a non-white England test cricketer, was deliberately dropped to appease the South African apartheid government of Verwoerd. The South African government let it be known that D’Oliviera was unacceptable. With masterful hypocrisy, MCC selectors chose the white Tom Cartwright claiming he was superior to D’Oliviera. Cartwright was selected but withdrew. This meant D’Oliviera had to be selected. The 1968 South Africa tour was abandoned as a result.

The MCC’s fixture committee allocated the 1968 Australian touring team a match against the joint Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The Australians trounced** them using the match for batting practice. Only a MCC fixture committee could be blind to this tragic mis-match. MCC selectors belonged to a caste who enforced their position with ruthless single-mindedness as the sacking of Brian Close demonstrated. Close had a distasteful desire to win! No-one believed that Close was anything other than the best possible England captain but he wasn’t one of us. The MCC’s self-serving mendacious attitude polluted English cricket.

The 1960s was a period of intense social change. The MCC attempted to prevent change and as a self-serving oligarchy was very successful. 1960s English cricket wasn’t a moated activity and external influences intruded. The beginning of the period saw the demise of the Gentlemen vs. Players match and ended with the ultimate social change: enforced racial equality. The MCC epitomised all that was wrong with England in the long post-war period.

Privately educated men who’d been in school pre-1940 shared brutalising experiences. Roald Dahl wrote the anecdote below about Repton School, Derbyshire in the 1930s. Emotional intelligence, empathy and social awareness was beaten out of the boys. Virtually all the MCC selectors and county cricket administers had been through precisely the same sort of experiences, which informed their caste type behaviour.

“Michael was ordered to take down his trousers and kneel on the headmaster’s sofa with the top half of his body hanging over one end of the sofa. The great man then gave him one terrific crack. After that there was a pause. The cane was put down and the headmaster began filling his pipe from a tin of tobacco. He also started to lecture the kneeling boy about sin and wrongdoing. Soon, the cane was picked up and a second tremendous crack was administered upon the trembling buttocks. Then the pipe-filling business and the lecture went on for maybe 30 seconds. Then came the third crack of the cane… At the end of it all, a basin, a sponge and a small clean towel were produced by the headmaster, and the victim was told to wash away the blood before pulling up his trousers.”

School of hard knocks Alex Renton The Guardian Review 8th April 2017 (the headmaster was Geoffrey Fisher later to become archbishop of Canterbury)

* See https://www.lords.org/mcc/the-club/what-is-mcc/
**Even more ludicrous was the match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities and Australia in1968 where the Oxbridge team was accorded first-class status as though it was 1868. The score card is here http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/577642.html
***See http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095639366
**** The Warwickshire captain M J K Smith was definitely ‘one of us’ so far as the cricketing authorities were concerned.
***** They were Herbert Sutcliffe and Wilfried Rhodes both of whom were senior test cricketers.

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The Theresa May Dream Team 2017

Every taste catered for in the Dream team


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