keresaspa: (J Wellington Wimpy)
And another thing about Sinn Fein.... No, even I'm sick of me going on about them.

I'll not waste any words over the upcoming bombing of Syria either. I'm sure you can all guess my opinion on that score and I'm equally sure that it will carry about as much weight as Sarah Jessica Parker during Oscars week.

Instead I intend to turn my insights on the local press.



Something of an institution in Belfast (or not), South Side Advertiser is your one stop shop for local business adverts masquerading as stories, local school news masquerading as stories and public domain human interest nonsense stolen from the internet. And ads obviously. If you want a plasterer or a chimney sweep in Belfast it's the place to go but an august work of quality journalism it is not. In the most recent issue one of the filler pieces was as follows:



All very interesting stuff, even if its blighted by a glaring error in the title (the area they are describing is where the numbers begin on the Ormeau Road and so is actually "Bottom O' the Ormeau" with the top up at the junction with the Saintfield Road about three and a half miles away). One big problem however - it's actually a word for word copy of this bit of Wikipedia. Yup, in what is meant to be a "Belfast is great, isn't it" bit of airy-fairy nonsense they even left in the bit about the pass being a racist hellhole! I know journalists have come in for grief in recent years for becoming over-reliant on Wikipedia but (assuming the SSA counts as journalism) just copying it entirely with no changes whatsoever - the very definition of lazy, right there.

Of course I probably wouldn't have noticed it all were it not for the fact that the Wikipedia piece they copied is almost entirely the product of my own fair hands. Yup, one of mine immortalised for the ages in one of the finest press organs in the world and I didn't even get any credit for it. South Side Advertiser, I swear to God if you have a slow week and end up reprinting my UDA South Belfast Brigade article in full I'm coming round your houses and sorting you out. Cheeky buggers!
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
Lest we forget

keresaspa: (Jimmy Edwards)
When the history of the Troubles is written some days get more attention than others and, perhaps inevitably, some that were notorious at the time become forgotten in retrospect. Thursday 2 October 1975, forty years ago today, is one of those days, now largely forgotten in the wider consciousness despite the destruction and mayhem unleashed. In Northern Ireland: A Political Directory, W.D. Flackes and Sydney Elliott cover it in one sentence - "In a series of UVF attacks twelve people killed, including three women and four UVF men, and forty-six injured". As descriptions go its inadequacy is as undeniable as its accuracy.

In what to that point had been an unprecedented move by the group, the UVF went on an orgy of bloodshed, the death toll of which could easily have been much higher. In an attack carried out by Lenny Murphy and other members of the Shankill Butchers, a raid was carried out on Casey's bottling plant in the Millfield area at the bottom of the Falls Road. Four employees were shot and killed in the attack, sisters Frances Donnelly (35) and Marie McGrattan (47) and Gerard Grogan (18) dying that day, with a fourth, Thomas Osborne (18), dying of his wounds three weeks later. The group had entered the premises by pretending to have an order to be filled before launching the attack, Murphy personally shooting all except Donnelly who was killed by his accomplice William Green.

Ronald Winters (26), a Protestant who managed the London Bar in east Belfast (an occasional haunt of UVF members) was killed whilst visiting his parents' house close to the bar. Winters' killing remained unsolved and no motive was ever advanced, with those who knew him claiming he had no paramilitary involvement. Thomas Murphy, a 29 year old Catholic photographer, was the next UVF victim that day, was killed when two gunmen entered his premises on Carlisle Circus (close to both the loyalist Shankill and republican New Lodge areas) and shot him in the chest, before planting a bomb in his shop. The resulting explosion saw a female passer-by lose her leg. The next target was the Catholic-owned McKenna's bar in Aldergrove, County Antrim, where shots were fired and a bomb thrown from a car. John Stewart, a 35 year old Catholic merchant seaman, was killed and several others injured. In Killyleagh, County Down a no-warning bomb was exploded outside another Catholic-owned bar, the Anchor Inn. Irene Nicholson, a 37 year old Protestant woman, was killed as she was passing by in an attack that the perpetrators later claimed was supposed to be "a small one to scare them".

The final deaths of the day were to be four UVF members, Fred Aubrey Reid and Samuel Swanson, both 28, and Andrew Freeman and Mark Dodd, both 17, who were killed close to Coleraine when a bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely. Three loaded guns were also found in the wreckage of their car. Reid, from Belfast, was later named in court as having been involved in the murder of Brendan Doherty, a Catholic shot and killed in Derry in February 1974, with Reid named as the driver in the attack.

That there weren't more deaths was a near miracle however. Pubs in Leeson Street, Belfast, Ardmore, County Derry and Annaghmore, County Armagh were targeted in bomb attacks, along with a seamen's hostel in Sailortown and a sweet shop on the Antrim Road, both in Belfast. In all the UVF detonated thirteen bombs in that single day.

Returning to Flackes and Elliott the following day is summed up even more succinctly with the words "UVF declared illegal". Yes, all of this had been carried out by an organisation that was completely legal. In a move supposedly aimed at turning it towards politics, Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees had unbanned the UVF in May 1974 (the same day Sinn Fein were unbanned, a move never extended to the IRA). In between, this legal organisation had killed 33 civilians in Dublin and Monaghan thanks to a series of car-bombings, launched the notorious murders of the Miami Showband, killed dozens of Catholics in random gun and bomb attacks and even turned their guns on members of both the RUC and the UDA, all whilst recognised by the British government as being fully in compliance with the law. Indeed the ban was only brought in after the UVF leaders held a meeting with senior NIO officials, at which they were again asked to slow down on the killings. No chance of that – the Shankill Butchers would unleash the brutal killings that made their names soon afterwards.

Despite the bloodshed, 2nd October 1975 has been relegated to the status of a mere footnote in the history of Northern Ireland, rarely recalled at all, let alone discussed in any depth. But forty years on it's worth remembering just what a nightmare scenario the Troubles really were when 11 innocent people losing their lives could be seen as just another day. That those days are gone is a good thing but the people whose lives were stolen should not be forgotten. With the still extant UVF increasingly seeking to exploit its own supposed anniversaries by emphasising the Edward Carson incarnation (a completely different, albeit equally sectarian, organisation that just happened to have the same name, but that's for another day) as an attempt to minimise what it did in the Troubles it also serves us well to remember of what they were capable.
keresaspa: (Snowman)
If all else fails )

Rebel songs

Jul. 7th, 2014 08:36 pm
keresaspa: (Maurice Bishop)
One story that did catch my eye during my barely noticed extended absence was the minor fuss locally over the Ku Klux Klan. For those unfamiliar, Island Street is a back street off a back street off the lower Newtownards Road. Made up of 80s style redeveloped Housing Executive houses, it is one of the more soul-destroying parts of east Belfast, saying something given what a bigoted little dump that side of town is. The walls proclaim allegiance to the UDA although, as is the case throughout the east, it is the UVF that largely holds sway with the UDA only existing with their permission and fulfilling little role beyond dealing drugs.

For years 81 Island Street has been a particular carbuncle in the gloom. With a front door festooned with racist and Islamophobic stickers, not to mention a bunch of stuff about Rangers, a Confederate flag flying on a pole and a window filled with KKK memorabilia, as well as UDA flags, it stands as a beacon of hatred. Action taken to address this? None. In an area of low-grade housing, towards which immigrants are likely to gravitate, a public display of racial hatred and xenophobia has for years been ignored. So recently a KKK flag went on a nearby lamppost and a fuss was kicked up but Belfast's own Braunes Haus continues happily in a part of the town already notorious for its racism. The flag was subsequently taken down "following discussions" (rather than torn down with its owner prosecuted under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006) but when I passed that way today it had been replaced by a pair of Southern crosses. Well, that's much better as the flag of a racist state is a lot less offensive than the flag of a racist organisation.

Radio Ulster's decision to interview the local KKK boss-cocky is a dodgy one as it gives him much more importance than he deserves (although is very much in keeping with the ever rightwards drift of the BBC as whole). Given that we have a strongly anti-Catholic organisation in which members are expected to dress like prats and take part in bizarre rites in the Orange Order then it hardly seems surprising that the KKK could come here (although to be fair a few token Africans have found their way into the Orange Order) but it's also probably the main reason that they are an irrelevance. Extreme right organisations have found their openings within loyalism locally but they have never fully taken off nor are they likely to unless the loyalist paramilitaries ever come out unequivocally against racism and start punishing the racists in their own community. However the fuss over the flying of the flag is a little like suddenly becoming appalled about the Cerne Abbas Giant's tumescence - it's been that way years and nobody has batted an eyelid. To think that they're actually sinking money into promoting east Belfast as a tourist destination. God help any tourist who goes over that way and God help even more any poor immigrant who gets housed in Island Street. What an absolute shithole this place really is sometimes.
keresaspa: (Cynthia of Witching Hour fame)
It was probably a little silly of me to attempt two matches in one day, what with Belfast being in the grip of roadblocks caused by bicycles and slack-jawed gawpers incorporating torrential rain, but I decided to make the effort nonetheless. Ordinarily I would have been satisfied, or at least satisficed, with attending Sport & Leisure Swifts' crunch relegation decider in the afternoon but other things forced my hand. Saturdays in Belfast allow unlimited bus travel for two quid so I was excused walking duty but I was aware that the chaos was due to ensue once afternoon descended and so I resolved to get my bones out west as early as possible.

Inevitably bus travel was already a bit banjaxed with the hordes descending early and roads already getting blocked but by and by I made it to the salubrious environs of Poleglass, a huge sprawling housing estate (although some residents will tell you it's actually four or five small housing estates) sandwiched in between west Belfast and Dunmurry in a sort of no-man's land that is neither one thing nor t'other. An 11AM kick-off was the order of the day as advertised but when I arrived there was a half an hour wait on account of the visitors getting delayed in the roads melee. Nevertheless, despite the driving rain and the saturated nature of the pitch, Colin Valley reserves kicked off their match with their Bryansburn Rangers counterparts and before long it was raining goals as well as - well - rain. Valley took the lead in the first minute before Rangers took charge. They were 4-1 up at half time and it ended 5-2 in their favour, a shame as I have a bit of a soft spot for Colin Valley. But it's always good to see some goals for your trouble, I suppose. As a Division 3D Northern Amateur League match it is the lowest level of match I have attended and it also represented my third time watching a Bryansburn Rangers side this season. Total goals from the three matches - 23. Must try to catch them again next season.

After the appetiser (and a quick lunch that I just about had time to gobble down) it was time for the main course as I made my return to Glen Road Heights for the first time since November 2012. With my attentions firmly on DC, Sport & Leisure Swifts had fallen by the wayside but I still cocked the odd eye at their results and felt it was a shame how they were heading meekly out of the league. Then former DC manager Pat McAllister took over and, after a slow start, they dragged themselves up and going into the final match they needed a win to be guaranteed survival, having looked dead and buried about a month ago. A decent crowd by Swifts' standards had turned out to watch the crunch match against the mighty Chimney Corner (great name, pretty ropey club) and they were treated to a nervous, but wholly committed, display by the home team. Swifts' number 11 summed them up - a tiny man (5'4" if he was lucky) with little real skill but a bundle of energy who ran the feet of himself and was always after the ball. Their efforts were rewarded in the end as they took a narrow 2-1 to get the win they so needed. As it turned out it didn't really matter after all as their closest rivals, Killymoon Rangers, were roasted by Tobermore United and so will be relegated but the sense of relief in the home ground was palpable and I must admit I got caught up in it a bit myself, notwithstanding the presence of rather distracting nuisance children running wild. Not what you want when you're already a bath of nerves.

One more match awaits as I'll be up at Brantwood on Tuesday night cheering on yet another of the minor teams that I sympathise with as they attempt to beat Dollingstown and secure a long overdue return to the league in place of Killymoon. Still, barring a minor miracle, that's my lot for Saturday matches until the pre-season friendlies get going. Contemplating what I'm going to do with Saturday afternoons when my last blank weekend was in early July is giving me the cold sweats but for now I would prefer to look back on a grand year of 57 matches following DC and beyond. Ah, there's nothing like it. Roll on next season.
keresaspa: (Tiger Jeet Singh)
I have very a vague recollection of riding a tricycle out the back yard (no gardens in those days, we wuz poor but we wuz happy) when I was around two or three but details are sketchy at best as to whether it was actually mine or not. Beyond that I've never had any involvement with pedal contraptions in my life. Whilst every child would happily free-wheel through the barrios of Belfast and its environs the notion never appealed to me, being something of a lazy little git and also (little did I know) struggling with the reduced energy levels that haemochromatosis imparts. As a consequence not only have I never owned a bicycle but I can't actually ride one and the few occasions on which I have attempted to utilise a static exercise bike I invariably pedal backwards, a bizarre affliction caused by a combination of my lack of cycling knowledge and my laterality.

As time has gone on my feet have become my mode of transport and given that something like 75% of my a-to-b movements are now accomplished by walking inevitably cyclists have become my natural enemies. Just as cyclists hate the drivers so we walkers detest the cyclists with their horrible attitudes, their silent speed and their flagrant disregard for the rules of both the road and the pavement. I've lost count of the number of times I've expelled a sexual swear-word after some bike bugger who suddenly whizzed past my shoulder at a dangerously close distance or who, upon encountering a red light, suddenly mounted the pavement to speed at pedestrians. And don't get me started on the hateful tossers who ride a bike to walk their dog (dogs being runners-up in the walker's natural enemy contest).

As a consequence you don't need to guess how much interest I have in those long, drawn-out cycling contests like the Tour de France. Well, stone me because suddenly the Italian version is taking place on my bloody doorstep. Strictly speaking it hasn't even started yet but I am without doubt completely sick of it already. Now we all know that I'm a total droopy-drawers and as such the enforced jollity and enthusiasm that has arrived along with lycra-clad steroid guzzlers might be appealing to all of my fellow denizens of Farsetshire but for me they can cram it with walnuts.

On Monday we had the Belfast marathon, the annual spectacle of sweating nonsense that renders every May Day in Belfast a junk day in which it is impossible to get anywhere. Now we are to have four days of solid disruption just to determine which jacked-up pedaller gets to go on to the next stage or something. God knows public transport in Belfast is bad enough but for the next few days it is going to be so slapdash that it might as well not even exist. Belfast will become every bit as impassible as on any 12th of July and all for a substantial loss and the possibility of advertising (because there are apparently a significant number of people in the world who have never heard of Belfast but will do so because a bicycle ride is here). Give me strength. I know that the local mugwumps are obsessed with brining daft one-offs to this city but this is one we really could have done without. At the best of times this is a congested hell hole, where the simple chore of getting from one side of the city to the other can take over an hour by pubic transport, but with all this nonsense doing anything will be virtually impossible, particularly for those without cars and who have impaired mobility. But who cares, eh, we have a bunch of juiceheads on bikes that nobody has ever heard of so it's all worth it. Had the council ever bothered to invest in a transport infrastructure that doesn't rely on the roads all of this might have been no big deal but they haven't and a result for the second time in a week the city has to come to a standstill for some silly little race. Why this couldn't have been dumped in the Glens of Antrim or some other hick place that no sod ever goes is beyond me, rather than ballsing up a whole city just for bloody cycling.

Put it this way if I don't get to the matches on Saturday because of all this tripe then I'll be frightfully cross with the organisers. Rotters.

Borderlands

May. 1st, 2014 09:25 pm
keresaspa: (Lester and Eliza)
The headquarters of the Alliance Party in east Belfast, and as such the constituency office of local MP Naomi Long, sit on the corner of the Newtownards Road and Grampian Avenue. In many ways the location is a metaphor for the Alliance in east Belfast and the oul' house they have brought upon their own heads by virtue of their recent attempts to play with fire. Up the road one finds the Upper Newtownards Road and Ballyhackamore, middle class, even upper middle class, largely Protestant areas of the sort where the Alliance has usually been able to find fertile ground. Down the road however lies the lower Newtownards Road, an impoverished, drug-riddled, working class loyalist area where the UVF rules with a rod of iron (notwithstanding the UDA murals that remain as a hangover of Jim Gray's time in charge) and where Naomi Long went cap in hand at the last election in order to secure her surprise ousting of Peter Robinson from the East Belfast parliamentary seat that he held since 1979. It's widely documented that Stephen "the Beast from the East" Matthews, the UVF hetman in the area, had grown tired of Robbo's constant sleaze and had anointed Long as his chosen one to take the seat he effectively controls. For her part Longy played the game shrewdly, keeping the anti-UVF rhetoric to one side as she waged her ultimately successful campaign. But of course such behaviour meant that she was effectively in the uve's pocket and they would expect her and her party to play ball from then on.

The fact that they haven't means that the recent slew of attacks on the pictured building is both unsurprising and difficult to feel any sympathy about. The Alliance's decision to propose a reduction in the days on which the Union Jack was flown from the City Hall immediately put them at odds with the UVF and allowed that organisation to stage a massive comeback as they took over the interminable round of protests that have gone on since then. With their fence-sitting compromise about the flag the Alliance were of course playing to type, given that they have always been in favour of half-arsed non-solutions that suit neither side, but by climbing into bed with the UVF they had placed certain expectations upon themselves and their failure to fulfil those meant they were effectively pulling the tiger's tail. I certainly don't condone the attacks but they're about as predictable as smugness from Nigel Farage and the Alliance must have known that pissing off the uve in east Belfast was always going to be a very bad idea. Still, on the plus side Long gets five years of big money at Westminster and the chance to parley it into a cushy research fellowship somewhere when she inevitably loses the seat in 2015 so she can be happy at least.

And as if that isn't enough we also have Gerry Adams being arrested. Let's make one thing clear - along with Bloody Friday, the plight of the Disappeared in general, and the murder of Jean McConville in particular, represent some of the darkest moments in the history of Irish republicanism. The vile allegations of informing levelled against the woman were simply made up and in the end Jean McConville was killed because her face didn't fit in Divis and some of the local bigots didn't like the thought of a woman born Protestant living in their midst. Simply because of the narrow minds and wicked tongues of some Fenian lumpen an innocent widow was slain, ten children were made orphans and her family didn't even have a body to bury. That somebody should see the inside of a jail for that crime goes without saying. That that somebody should be Gerry Adams also goes without saying. Brendan Hughes knew that Adams was responsible and said as such, Dolours Price (who admitted her own involvement so can hardly be blamed on passing the buck) knew that Adams was responsible and said as such and Billy McKee knows (how can he still be alive) that Adams was responsible and has said as such. Heck, despite the denials of his party and Adams' own ridiculous claims that he was never even a member of the IRA, I think even most Sinn Fein supporters know that Adams was responsible for the crime. None of which however is likely to mean that he will ever be brought to justice. His arrest looks little more than a publicity stunt intended to show that nobody is above the law. I seriously doubt he will be brought to trial but in the unlikely event that he is a conviction will never happen. Ultimately somebody might be convicted but you can bet it will be a patsy, some sacrificial lamb offered up to do about a year's easy stir and then come out to a massive bung as a thank you payment for taking the rap. Adams' guilt for ordering the murder (no way he did it personally, too high up the ladder in the IRA for that) will go unpunished and Sinn Fein's collaboration with the British government upon which they once made war will continue unabated. Nothing to see here, so move along.
keresaspa: (Heckle and Jeckle)
For as long as I can remember I have had a thing for derelict buildings. Sure, they're grim but so's Belfast and no matter how much the council waste on stupid little advertising campaigns it always will be. OK, sometimes they become a total danger and have to be torn down and other times they become a magnet for hoods and have to be bricked but for the most part I reckon if an actual use can't be found for a building then leave it be as a monument to folly.

As I mentioned on here previously the council have taken to burning more money by sticking fake shop fronts on long-term vacant lots and as I previously mentioned I struggle to find the words to express just how lame I believe this practice to be. Even the Shore Road, a real bulwark of seediness even by Belfast standards, has begun to fall victim to this awful policy with the Boundary Bar, a frequent target during the Troubles and a personal favourite in the gloomy outpost stakes, now featuring a real rubbish "Ye Olde Boundary Bar" façade on the front. Is nothing sacred to these profligate local government morons (although in a rare show of defence of the Belfast Corp morons, the Boundary's location means Newtownabbey Borough Council may have to carry the can over this one).

But there's worse. So much worse. Observe:



Certainly in my life there have never been book or record shops (I refuse to use the Americanism "store" - a store is where things are stored, a shop is where they're sold) on the lower Newtownards Road and even if there were I suspect they might have actual names, rather than just "Book Shop". I also doubt that they would have flat plants on their non-window sills with cardboard people at their pretend windows. But above all what genius decides to glue a fake shop front and pretend windows onto a building that has no roof?! Never in my life have I witnessed anything quite as pathetic. God only knows how much money they blew on coming up with this daft idea too. Let's face it, if the Island Street hoods came over and torched that building it would look a lot better than it does now.
keresaspa: (Cow)
As a consequence of Donegal Celtic's continuing extended hiatus from all football, combined with the rainfall levels that suggest it really is Sodom and Gomorrah times again*, I was able to continue my tour of the backwaters of east Belfast on Saturday. My travels took me to Sydenham, deep in the arse of the east, to witness the spectacularly named East Belfast take on Derriaghy Cricket Club (who play football, despite their name). I'm not sure if the UVF's Jamie Bryson, an extreme right candidate in the upcoming elections now too, was playing for his club side or not but if he was it made sod all difference as Derriaghy wiped the floor with East Belfast, winning 6-0 despite having a perfectly good goal disallowed and a penalty saved.

Of course last year Sydenham was all over the news after a mural of George Best was replaced by one of the UVF, resulting in a lot of hand-wringing by those in the media and politics who still like to continue with the canard that the UVF ceasefire is genuine. It's not an area of Belfast I regularly visit so it was only Saturday that I finally saw it with my own eyes:



Disappointed to say the least. Given the fuss that had been kicked up I was expecting it to be a massive triumphalist epic covering several buildings but in the end it was a crappy little thing about ten feet high on the side of a tiny little outhouse.

Leaving aside the nonsense of the message (if loyalists are being oppressed it is by the government, which is part of the British state apparatus, so blind loyalty is frankly the daftest reaction going and with their savage beatings and drug dealing there are few oppressing loyalist communities more than the Uve) I think the fuss was all pretty nonsensical. Regardless of their message, I'm something of a fan of the paramilitary murals and am generally left rather cold by the "community mural" crap that goes up in their place. We all know the loyalist paramilitaries run their estates so for me it makes sense to have their stuff on the wall rather than covering it with some old crap about Ulster Scots (which nobody in the loyalist estates of Belfast speaks anyway) or CS Lewis (whom nobody in the loyalist estates of Belfast reads anyway). As spontaneous outpourings of dissent and examples of outsider art I love the bones of them and frankly one of the great shames of recent years has been the way Sinn Fein has taken control of the walls in the republican estates and are plastering in them in all that "cultural" crap that has become their obsession now that they're lurching increasingly to the right. Apart from anything, were there something really worth getting worked up about it would be the fact that the nearby Belfast City Council-owned park and sports facility is plastered in UVF insignia too but nothing was said about that.

In and off itself this mural is hardly anything to write home about but I for one would rather see it than some fantasy of smiling children or, worse yet, yet another one about the bloody Titanic. And as for the argument that a paramilitary mural will dissuade tourists from visiting Sydenham, frankly any tourist that visits Sydenham is bloody mental anyway. Let's face, the UVF is as active as it ever was so why pretend otherwise? If the Fenians have a problem then resist Sinn Fein's dominance and put up murals in support of the New IRA but getting all precious about a statement of fact (that the UVF remains armed and active) is just silly.

* I appreciate that Sodom and Gomorrah were totally separate from Noah and his flood and were destroyed by fire and brimstone rather than rain but the New Creation didn't bother recording a song about Noah and their Jesus Freak craziness deserves a bigger audience.

From a purely aesthetic point of view my favourite loyalist murals are this one, this one and this one (subsequently removed), although I rather like this one too because I made money out of the picture.
keresaspa: (Mikado)
So, once again on Saturday the centre of Belfast is to be off limits to all as it is taken over by loyalist marchers, this time an outfit calling itself Loyal Peaceful Protesters, essentially the UVF, sundry hangers-on and a bunch of young junkies threatened with having their drug debts called in if they don't march.

As leader of the Progressive Unionist Party and nominal leader of the protest Billy Hutchinson argued that yet another unwarranted disruption of people's lives over a piece of cloth and the right of sectarian bigots to celebrate UVF murderers in front of their victims "is legitimate and lawful and will also highlight the other issues that are impacting on working class Protestant communities, including increasing poverty." The most depressing possible thought is that Hutchinson actually believes that although I suspect it is just what he has to tell himself to get through the night.

At heart I suspect Hutchinson is a genuine man of working class politics but he has completely painted himself into a corner down the years and is now flailing around in a desperate attempt to justify to himself his decision to crawl into bead with the extreme right. The protests are about flags on City Hall and the fact that republicans don't want Orange Order and paramilitary flute bands passing their houses and have sod all to do with increasing poverty, an issue that impacts upon both communities equally and which is being ignored by the major parties and the British government overlords to which Hutchinson is avowedly loyal. If he really believes that poverty can only be solved by a sectarian approach then maybe Hutch has willingly gone over to the extreme right and is seeking to position himself as the Otto Strasser of loyalism.

In a way his options are limited. There was a time when Hutchinson was a big cheese in the UVF but these days he is cocky on the biscuit tin, flailing around desperately trying to gain some influence but increasingly ignored by the true leaders. He preaches working class politics and the fact that loyalists (and no one else) are suffering poverty but yet he happily hitches himself to the UVF and its drug dealing empire and intimidation of the same loyalists, counting UVF commanders like Winkie Irvine amongst his party colleagues. Billy can soothe his conscience all he wants with fantasy stuff about flag and march protests being about social issues but he knows fine well they aren't and that they amount to nothing more than nakedly sectarian shows of strength by the UVF.

The increasingly irrelevant Martin McGuinness recently broke his silence on the affair by suggesting that the protest was being orchestrated by the UVF before adding that he had heard rumours about Francis I being a member of the Catholic Church, but frankly his opinion is of no consequence as he has happily allowed it to go on. The same goes for the execrable Teresa Villiers - if Belfast is indeed open for business then how about you put in an appearance on North Street on Saturday afternoon, Teesy? Thought not. Interesting too that what is increasingly taking on all the trappings of fascism and has the vocal support of the BNP, National Front and other fringe extremist groups is being totally ignored by Anti-Fascist Action and the rest of the self-declared hard men. But that's the way it always has been here - a privileged group sees aspects of its dominant position eroded and it screams no fair and rises up, completely unopposed by the republicans who, as usual, are satisfied with the merest of scraps from the master's table.

Is there poverty in loyalist areas? Yes, but how is that going to be addressed by stupid and pointless rabid nationalism and flag waving? Poverty didn't suddenly appear the day the union jack came down from city hall and if it went back up tomorrow it wouldn't suddenly disappear, no matter what cloud cuckoo land ideas Billy Hutchinson might be trying to convince himself of. Take your concerns to the DUP, disrupt their lives and above all stop voting for them and stop welcoming a rabid monetarist like Nelson McCausland to your protests when his stated desire to copy the frankly evil policies of Iain Duncan Smith will only push those already in poverty further down instead of wasting all your energies on bigotry. And above all stop attempting to make poverty a sectarian issue and instead reach across the religious divide to the underprivileged of Ballymurphy, Turf Lodge and the rest of the republican sink estates instead of emphasising the constructed differences that your masters made to keep us all down in the first place. Or to put it in more simple language, fuck flags and fuck marches, stop being such lumpenproletariat idiots and then you might start to see poverty being tackled.

The whole "shared future" argument is a load of old bollocks, an attempt by Peter Robinson to neutralise the Irish unity argument by downplaying the sectarian aspects of the British dimension. Yet it's somewhat ironic that the loyalists, who, after all, are the ones who trumpet the importance of Britishness the loudest, are the only ones to vocally object whilst Sinn Fein continue to buy into the whole farce, despite the clear contradiction that a future cannot be shared by two communities who want diametrically opposed conclusions to their situations. On Saturday, once again, Loyal Peaceful Protesters will assert their ethnocentrist identity and I'm sure they'll live up to their name as the event will no doubt pass off peacefully as it is difficult to initiate clashes when you are completely unopposed.

Edmund Burke may have, for the most part, talked wall to wall crap but he was onto something when he opined "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". Now, by no stretch of the imagination is McGuinness a good man but alas it seems that the few good men republicanism has left are happy to follow his lead in doing absolutely nothing in the face of rabid sectarian hatred. The bigotry and hatred is something you get used to - it's always been there and always will be. But when resistance dies what is left? Sickening.
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
Why I didn't wear a poppy this year )
keresaspa: (Julius Nyerere)
When did people (in this part of the world at least) start dressing their houses for Hallowe'en? The Christmas tack has been going on for most, if not all of my life - Johnny Adair and his chief hitman Stephen "Top Gun" McKeag notoriously had an annual competition to outdo each other with the tacky decorations on their Shankill pads - but now I see several houses festooned in witches, skeletons and "beware of ghosts" signs to draw attention to the fact that that most pointless of dates in the calendar is a few weeks away. I can recall some houses putting up the odd little thing on the night itself in the past but some of these have been up for several weeks and it has become an epidemic recently. Today's journey took me through west Belfast and out to the Twinbrook estate in Dunmurry for the match (Iveagh United 5 Bryansburn Rangers 2 with a massive delay due to a broken ankle for one of the Bryansburn lads in case you were interested, which you weren't) and for the entire journey the Hallowe'en bedecked houses were the most prominent feature in the otherwise unremarkable views. The Americanisation of culture is often a shame but, along with the practice of inserting the word "like" in the middle of a sentence (as opposed to at the end of a sentence, a fine old Belfast tradition like), I think the growth of Hallowe'en, with its pointless loud noises, its demands of money with threats of violence and the increase in annoying drunk people, is one of my least favourite aspects of it and the fact that it has now joined Christmas as a whole season devoted to worshipping at the shrine of consumerism is really rather depressing. What's the All Saints Eve equivalent of "bah, humbug"?

Edinburgh

Sep. 27th, 2013 09:52 pm
keresaspa: (Wil Cwac Cwac)
Given how rarely I update this now I suspect my occasional extended absences draw little attention but this one can be explained away by an impromptu post-birthday break to possibly my favourite city - Edinburgh.

I'll leave off details about the flights. Suffice to say both reasonable as flights go, but I still hate flying. My base for the trip was Motel One on the corner of Market Street and Cockburn Street. A very central location thankfully although it was a peculiar place to say the least, with rooms having no wardrobes, only two badly positioned electrical sockets and a television that only worked properly when it felt like it. Seemingly it was part of a German chain as all signs and handouts were primarily in German but the rooms were certainly well designed, if a touch minimalist for my taste. The inevitable problem of keeping milk cool also struck (as it does it nearly every hotel) and my twin solutions - filling the bin with cold water or thrusting the milk bottle into the toilet - both proved unsuccessful with the remains of one Poundland effort even ending up curdled. Still, I didn't come here to talk about milk, did I?

So after arriving at the hotel on Monday I set off on my travels, with the Gorgie area of the city my destination. I had no previous dealings with that side of town but had designed a route from Google Maps and was surprised to find that, for once, my plans proved fool-proof. I arrived at Tynecastle in good time and got my ticket for the forthcoming League Cup match between Heart of Midlothian and Queen of the South. The Hibernian-Stranraer game was also an option but I figured I had previously been to Easter Road and that match was on Tuesday, for which I had other plans. The rest of the day was spent arseing about the familiar old streets, battling with an unseasonable heatwave and struggling in vain to find any supermarkets. Is there a law in Scotland banning supermarkets within three miles of the city centre or something? A nice haddock supper made for a fine repast that evening although it left the room ponging somewhat. Such is life.

Tuesday, as stated, was already earmarked for a specific purpose and that was a day's excursion to Glasgow. I am by no means a strong road traveller but the relatively short coach journey between the two cities played severe havoc with my stomach and a boak was avoided by the skin of my teeth. Glasgow is a city I have criticised on here before and I stand by those criticisms - it is horrendously ugly, having obviously been smacked about by town planners in a similar fashion to Belfast (if you must put new buildings beside old, at least try to match the architecture styles a bit) and the frankly ridiculous levels of drunks and junkies wandering about, regardless of the time of day, is very tedious and makes the whole place seem rather unsafe. However I still enjoyed my time there as it has greatly improved as a shopping venue and I could happily have killed a couple more hours there, even if the habit of checkout people saying "first, please" instead of "next, please" struck me as rather odd. One big gripe though - my God, have the accents ever been diluted! I'm a big fan of the Scottish accent in general, it being one of only two British isles accents I like, but a lot of the Glasgow kids sound like they're from the East End of London these days. Such a shame; you have a lot to answer for Eastenders!

My old stamping ground from 2011, Leith, was my first port of call on Wednesday and I meandered down that seedy old road nostalgically, notwithstanding the incessant pishing rain. Keeping on the two years ago riff, I spent the afternoon knocking about what I believe is called Newington (an altogether more refined area than the run-down republican interface area of the same name in Belfast) before heading back to the hotel. My plans to get a self-made salad for lunch were again thwarted as, just like two years ago, self-service salad bars are still absent from supermarkets despite being as common in Ireland as drunk people. Still, to each his own I suppose. That evening was the match and thankfully the rain had finally done one as I didn't fancy taking the relatively long trot out to Tynecastle in the middle of a downpour. As I took my seat in the Main Stand near the halfway line (always the best spot) I drank in the scene. Tynecastle is more dilapidated than Easter Road, although to be fair Hearts are in dire straits financially so it's only to be expected. Still it's a grand old ground nevertheless and credit to the Queen of the South supporters, who made an ungodly row throughout despite being only a small section of the 8,000 strong crowd. As to the match itself it was, quite frankly, bloody brilliant. Hearts played below their capabilities and the Doonhamers inevitably raised their game making it a blood and guts affair in which Hearts lost the lead three times before going through on a penalty shootout. They both went above and beyond in the entertainment stakes and I left the stadium exhilarated, having watched what was probably the best match as a spectacle that I had ever attended. It was well after eleven before I got back to Princes Street but, as always seems to happen at Edinburgh matches, an unofficial walking bus of supporters ensured total safety in numbers.

Thursday brought a welcome return to fine weather and I decided to get a bus day ticket and explore a few places I didn't know. My first port of call was Corstorphine, a suburb near the airport, and a pretty place the former village was. I killed a while there before returning to the main drag and boarding a bus for Musselburgh. I fancied a spell by the seaside and it seemed as good a place as any, although after nearly three quarters of an hour on the bus and still nowhere near the place I gave up and decamped at an out of town retail park by the name of Fort Kinnaird. As a monument to capitalist consumption it was slightly unnerving and its complete lack of facilities played havoc with my suddenly weak bladder but still, it was somewhere different and I had been mixing Musselburgh up with Helensburgh anyway. My third port of call was Ocean Terminal, which I felt compelled to investigate as it seemingly had a bus running to it every thirty seconds. When I got there it was yet another shopping centre, although this time a vast one nestled in a gentrified area reminiscent of the horrific Titanic Quarter in Belfast. My only thought was that a lot of fine historic dockland must have died to make way for such a monstrosity. To finish the day I partook of the local delicacies by devouring a haggis supper, which I was amazed to find consisted of a long sausage shaped slab of haggis bunged in batter and deep fried. Like haggis isn't fatty enough on its own! Probably not a good idea to eat offal with my blood problems but what the hell, I'm getting needle-stabbed next Friday so they can worry about it then (expect ferritin levels in the mid hundreds).

Home today, albeit with a little time for wandering around in Greyfriars and the surrounding area. All in all though it was a wonderful little break. I don't visit Edinburgh that often but whenever I do I'm always reminded why I'm so fond of the place. A wonderful city and the perfect place to dawdle a few days away.
keresaspa: (Nana Mouskouri)
The pre-season tournament hosted by a non-league club is always fun as you get a few matches played back to back and a nice way to kill a few hours. Well I say always fun, in fact I was only guessing as I had never previously attended one before today. However today I made the trip to see just such an occasion as once again I went back to the Skegoneill Avenue home of Ballymena League members Brantwood to watch them host a tournament featuring Championship 2 side Sport & Leisure Swifts, Northern Amateur League Division 1A (confusingly, the second tier of that league) club Orangefield Old Boys and Crusaders Reserves. This was to be my second visit to a non-league ground in three days as Thursday evening saw me watch Donegal Celtic lose 2-1 to NAFL 1A's Immaculata in a match in which DC were so abject against a team three leagues below them that it has left me expecting another relegation battle rather than a promotion chase for this season. Frankly DC's performance was more suitable for a gong farmer than a paying crowd (yes, Immaculata expected money for entry to what is essentially a leisure centre all-weather pitch). All things considered I would have been much better off staying at home that night. But I digress.

This interminable hot weather has played havoc with my sleep patterns and Skeggy is a good hour and a half trek away from my drum so I was forced to forego the first two matches, played in the morning simultaneously, one in Skeggy and one in the playing fields next door. When I arrived the third place match had just started between the two losers i.e. Sport & Leisure and Orangefield. Swifts, a team I briefly followed at the start of last season, took an early lead and soon went 2-0 up to the delight of no-one whatsoever as they had brought no supporters, unlike the east Belfast minnows who had brought a surprisingly large crowd. Well, about fifteen people but still, you don't expect the likes of Orangefield OB to bring any travelling fans. Taking advantage of a lull in the second half I went over to a freshly erected tent to get a burger from the barbecue and, as is inevitable whenever I decide to purchase any refreshment at a football match, I promptly missed a goal as Orangefield pulled one back. With practically the last kick of the game Orangefield, resplendent in their in no way partisan orange shirts, equalised and then, for reasons I'm still not sure about, a penalty shootout was held to determine a winner. It was a truncated version in which each team took three rather than the standard five penalties but having said that each match was shorter than normal to give the amateurs a slight rest on yet another baking hot day. Orangefield won the penalties 3-2 in the end to take third place and raise some serious questions for Sport & Leisure's prospects for the coming season. So no changes there then, as Angus Deayton used to say.

About ten minutes later Brantwood and Crusaders reserves kicked off and within about seven minutes Brantwood were 2-1 up. I've actually forgotten the order the goals were scored in such was the speed with which it all happened but so it was. Crazy stuff. Inevitably the pace slackened a bit as the match wore on but Brantwood had the upper hand for much of the match and in the end were worthy winners, with the final score 3-2. Heat was really beginning to win the battle now and it told on the referee, whose combination of paunch, fine moustache and past the collar hair despite male pattern baldness gave him the air of the sort of man who might run a discreet shop in Soho or (more likely) Gresham Street, as this match ended up lasting not much more than an hour. A wooden plaque with little shields attached, listing the previous winners of what is an annual event, was wheeled out and presented to the winners at the end as the watching several expressed their appreciation.

This was my second visit to Brantwood this year and for the second time I have come away feeling "what a nice club and what a shame they had to jack in their Irish League membership". As I said the last time with Crusaders on their doorstep their decline was always inevitable but there's something about their gameness that is appealing and you can't moan when you get to watch two matches in a fading but still atmospheric old ground for the grand total of zero GBP. I'll keep an eye on their results for the coming season and hope that they can do the bizzo carrying the flag for Belfast in the Ballymena and Provincial League next season. Tomorrow sees a rare Sunday match as DC host Cliftonville in the Fenian derby but I'm still undecided due to the problems of navigating Belfast on a Sunday and the threat of storms but for today I'll just say a good time had by all. Well done, the Brants.

Cor blimey

Jul. 17th, 2013 10:13 pm
keresaspa: (Albert Gladstone Trotter)
Hello you. Yes it was London time again recently but I got back too late last night to record my exploits. Never fear, I'm here now to "entertain" the reading some with every minor detail. "Enjoy".

Hit it )
keresaspa: (Edwige Fenech)
It seems to be the pattern that when the gay Pride mob hold their parade in Belfast (you know what would be great - just one Saturday in Belfast without a bloody parade) I go to Solitude and so it proved today. It had been four months since I visited Solitude but today the call proved too strong as the might of The New Saints had pitched up in town for a sort of unofficial let's-decide-which-champion-is-the-best-of-the-British-Isles-two-crappiest-leagues showdown.

Of course the recent Champions League draw meant that Cliftonville will be eliminated at the first hurdle by Celtic and inevitably the Fenian half of the city has gone agog at the news, with black Oxford shoes being stuck into pawn shops from upper Ligoneil to Mount Eagles in the hope of affording a ticket. I briefly toyed with the idea of going myself but abandoned such notions for a number of reasons i.e. I'll only be back from London the night before it happens and won't fancy a schlep out to north Belfast, I'm committed to DC now, I haven't cared one way or the other about Celtic in years and the fact that they have bumped up their ticket prices from a tenner to thirty quid for the match is exploitation of the worst kind and I refuse to associate myself with it. General sale of tickets began (and ended) today however so I arrived to a massive queue with those of us simply wanting to see the present game herded into the away stand. Still, these days that's my place in Solitude and when The New Saints (awful name, but never mind) took to the pitch in green and white hooped shirts it was as if I was watching DC get stuck into Chickenville. If I squinted a bit.

For a match between two champions there was precious little quality on show but the Welsh champions (from England) had the best of it for the majority of the game. Cliftonville's passing game was frustrated by the harrying close attention of their opponents and they failed to trouble their opponents too much, although to be fair they weren't helped by their talisman Liam Boyce have a bit of a stinker. Cliftonville would probably be a mid-table side if everybody played like this against them but it won't happen as the teams here would be dead on their feet after an hour of that, unlike the super-fit Oswestry mob. Total Network Solutions (as they were and as I still call them by mistake all the time) took the win in the end after Cliftonville's keeper goofed up to allow a TNS man (didn't catch his name) to score.

And that was that. In the baking heat I still had to navigate my way through streets full of rainbow-toting revellers (no mean feat for a droopy drawers like myself who dislikes organised displays of enjoyment as much as he dislikes hot weather) but at least the football has - in a way - returned and I can stop dreaming up silly things to fill up each Saturday.
keresaspa: (Lester and Eliza)
It was my Ma's birthday on Sunday and as a consequence [livejournal.com profile] queenmartina was in town with [livejournal.com profile] burkesworks in tow. With a surprisingly early start to the local pre-season this summer I was able to take advantage and reacquaint [livejournal.com profile] burkesworks with the delights of football in Northern Ireland by dragging him along to watch Crusaders facing Bangor at the Crues' Seaview home. Nestling at the start of the Shore Road in the staunchly loyalist Grove area of North Belfast, Seaview (which is fairly close to Belfast Lough but in fact affords no views of the sea) is one the better Irish League grounds and next season will also be home to Newington YC. It was in fact a new experience for us both as I hadn't made it so Seaview yet, allowing me the chance to cross it off my list.

From the word go it was clear we are at the Irish League as when a particular supporter entered the ground not only was he greeted by the home goalkeeper dong his warm-ups but said goalkeeper proceeding to thank the supporter for lending him ten quid. It's hard to imagine David de Gea acknowledging one of the drones at Old Trafford, much less needing to borrow a tenner. Crues lined up with a selection of coloured boots, including a purple pair that struck us as wholly inappropriate for part-time football, and started with grey-haired veteran Gary McCutcheon, who appeared to stand around five feet in his stocking soles. Mind you Bangor's number twelve was equally as short and looked to be about as old as the number on the back of his shirt.

Crusaders made a slow enough start to the game itself and fell behind after a clumsy challenge by the keeper resulted in a penalty. I decided it was time for tea and went over to the Western-themed food cart but in doing so missed the equaliser, which I'm told was a towering header by Jordan Owens as Bangor's defence, such as it was, fell apart. From then on Crusaders took over as the gulf in quality became a yawning chasm. Crusaders had ran Cliftonville close for much of last season whilst Bangor were lucky to avoid relegation to the bottom division and that difference was obvious here. Owens grabbed a hat trick and the Crues could have easily had five or six until about seventy minutes in when they made a heap of substitutions and the game broke down a bit. When the whistle went it was most probably a relief for Bangor, a late substitute for the scheduled Airbus UK Broughton, who mysteriously dropped out at the last minute.

On the basis of this performance Crusaders should continue to challenge for the honours next season whilst DC can look forward to taking six easy points from a woeful Bangor team. As for me, well it was only a month since my last match but frankly it seemed like years as I really got into the habit of going to matches last season and felt totally lost on Saturdays without it. Roll on the season proper.

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