Trussell Tussle

One of the  finest, most pure example of good in Beeston is our local CAB. A charity ran by volunteers, it dispenses advice for those hit by loan-sharks, crap landlords, debt, homelessness and a vast swathe of other issues where the public feel no other recourse than seek help from the CAB. I have used the service before, many years back when I had several problems hit at once and I faced homelessness, hunger and despair. They spent ages looking into my case, checking the relevant laws, ringing round various places and eventually got a solution together that kept the wolf from the door, and enabled me to get some space and get myself together. I did, and I cannot thank them enough for that.

While I was there, they offered me some travel tokens to get to and from Nottingham to deal with the issue, and a form allowing me to go to the Salvation Army and pick up two days food. Fortunately, I needed neither as the problem resolved faster than I thought it would. I was amazed at the dogged determination these wonderful people put in to helping me. I never forgot that. It was the true definition of charity.

Charity is perhaps at the forefront of our mind this time of year. I am not religious at all, but still think of the Easter story as useful in a secular manner. Jesus’s feeding of the multitude. Jesus throwing the money lenders from the temple. Jesus committing the ultimate charitable act, that of dying so the rest of us would be forgiven our sins. When Eric Pickles recently said that we were a Christian country, I didn’t bristle as much as some of my more militantly atheist friends. There still is a basic moral code in there, that once you boil off all the supernatural guff, says ‘Look after each other’.

However, I doubt that was on Pickles mind at the time. The Tories idea of Christianity is massively  at odds with the basic premise. Problem is, they are still seen as the ‘churchy’ party, while modern, monetarist Conservatism shrieks in terror at the meek inheriting the earth. The money lenders Christ overturned the tables of are the same people the modern Tory party loves best.

To overcome this, they get creative. Thatcher was once asked how her politics squared with the loosely socialist message of Christ. ‘Choice’ she replied, explaining that before Pilate Christ had the choice to either be executed or spared. Thus, letting us choose our privatised gas supplier was in-keeping with the Christian ethos.

She followed this up with the notorious 1988 ‘Sermon on the Mound’. This speech was given in Edinburgh’s Assembly Hall, which sits on top of the hill known as ‘The Mound’, hence the punning name. She tried to reinterpret Christ’s message again, quoting St Paul  “If a man will not work he shall not eat” as a mission statement. Christianity, she claimed, was nothing to do with social reform, but spiritual awakening, in one swipe dismissing many centuries of Philanthropy, charity and sacrifice committed by progressive Christians. Sod the meek, it’s all about getting to Heaven, and if that means crushing your kin under foot to get on Jacob’s Ladder, than so be it.

The sermon backfired magnificently. Many in the audience, made up of Church of Scotland clergy, were horrified by this perverted interpretation, and the moderator was so incensed he presented her with a set of church reports on poverty, homelessness and social disintegration triggered by her government’s policies.

Now we have shiny Dave Cameron, who has refound the God he struggled to tune into a decade ago. Back then, his faith ‘comes and goes, like Magic FM in the Chilterns’ . This made him look very much the modern man, fuzzy of faith. Yet with UKIP tearing away the traditional small c Conservatives, Dave has gone on record talking of his strong Christian values, claiming Jesus invented the Big Society.

It could be noted here that the only comparison Cameron’s clique has with Jesus’s is the predominance of males, one who will soon betray him (Gove? Gideon?)

An interesting thing to note here was Dave’s sudden hardening of Christian values came just as The Trussell Trust: a charity with loose but not explicit Christian values, revealed that food bank usage had surged massively due to the failure of welfare reform. Many leaders of faith groups, including 27 Anglican Bishops, also slammed the way the poor and needy had been scapegoated, targeted and attacked by the likes of Iain Duncan Smith.

Duncan-Smith was not happy with this and went on the offensive. Food banks ‘scaremonger’ he claimed, and ‘create need’. Both statements were said, I best add, without irony.

He refused to meet charity leaders, and floundered wildly attempting to paint them as ‘driven by a political agenda’. This is a line of argument our own MP uses to deflect criticism: any concern for her votes on policy, from NHS privatisation to the shameful selling of Royal Mail, is ‘politically motivated’ and thus filed in her wastepaper basket. Here no evil, see no evil…

Then, today, things reached a head. The scummy Mail on Sunday ran a ‘shocking expose’ on foodbanks, trying to prove IDS correct. Thus they marched into a foodbank in Nottingham, demanded three days food and left with a Waitrose Hamper. ‘NO QUESTIONS ASKED!’ thundered the headline.

Except that didn’t happen. The ‘journalist’, Mr Ross Slater, visited a CAB undercover and after extensive questioning by the volunteer there, was referred to a Trussell Trust foodbank, where he received three days basic food and signposted to other agencies that could aid his claimed problems.

This, to me, is a great act of charity and one that has become a necessity while the Coalition mess up the benefits system. The CAB and the Trussell Trust acted out of pure kindness, while the sniveling scumbucket that is Ross Slater and his editors wasted the time of a CAB volunteer; lied about their circumstances and then effectively stole from a charity.

Their may have been a criminal act here, and I’ve seen various tweets fly off towards Paddy Tipping to investigate.

It’s vile journalism, and has rightly offended and appalled many. IDS must be rubbing his hands in glee. But, rather wonderfully, there has been another effect.

When the Mail does such acts of shiteness, one often feels hopeless and in an impotent rage. You might write an angry Tweet, swear a bit on Facebook or, heaven forbid, blog about it. Yet there is something else.

Make a donation to the Trussell Trust, or the CAB. Show them that despite the attempted undermining of  the work they do, you support them. It’s easy to do. The Trussell Trust have a campaign on right now to donate the cost of an Easter Egg to their cause. Simply pick up your phone and Text EGGS88 plus the amount £1, £2, £3, £4, £5, or £10 to 70070
e.g. EGGS88 £5 to 70070. Easy as that. 

Or donate to the CAB here.

Their are two main books in the Bible, The Old Testament and The New Testament. As a former Christian, apologies for this oversimplification but: The Old preaches superstition, hate, vengeance, murder, intolerance and fear. This is the side of the hateful Mail and the grasping Thatcherite Tories.

The New preaches compassion, kinship, humility, charity love and hope. This is the side of charities, the CAB, those who see good in the world and wish to follow that path.

This Easter, whether you be a committed Christian; a follower of a different faith; a fuzzy agnostic or an atheist, show what side you’re on and bung the charities a few quid. And never, ever buy anything from the rancid Mail group newspapers.

Oxjamming Down The Star Inn

October seems a long way off. The buds that are bursting through on the trees will have to leave, go from green to gold and begin to fall. The lengthening days will be in retreat, our yet-to-get tans fading.

So why talk of Oxjam? It’s ages off, innit?

Well, the main event is, but Oxjam is more than just a one-off festival. It’s become, over the past few years, an ongoing celebration of Beeston, with a diverse bunch of events we raise awareness and fund-raise at. These are never dour, worthy occasions, but fun events, ranging from the mini-festival in Broadgate Park last year, a packed Ceilidh; a caketastic bake-off and lots of other bits and bobs. Such activity helped us to win Oxfam’s Community Award last year, and contributed to our incredible doubling of our fund-raising target.

This year is no different, yet more ambitious, varied and exciting. Some of our ideas are still not fully-formed, and not ready to announce just yet. But some stuff is ready to shout about, and we’ll be officially launching the 2014 Beeston Oxjam this evening at The Star Inn.

Entry is an incredible zero pounds, zero pence, and all are welcome. We’ll be signing up volunteers, having an ale, and giving you an incredible line up of bands that have graced  Oxjam before, and hopefully will do again. If you’re in a band, then come down and we’ll have a chat about playing.

So come on down, say hello, and watch live performances from the excellent Molly and Jack;  the reigning Hop Pole Songwriter of the Year Emma Bladon Jones;  shooting star Josh Kemp and Beeston legends The Phil Langran Band.

Since you’re probably winding down for the long weekend now (this is one time of year I envy those with proper jobs) whet your appetite with the following videos, then come on down and we’ll have a bit of a party, ok?

Soubry and the Petition: An Act of Breathtaking Hypocrisy.

It’s a lovely time of year. Beeston springs back into life, stuff happening everywhere, and my toads sing.

I haven’t mentioned them for a while, so readers may be unaware I keep some very charming Oriental Fire-Bellied toads, and have done for about 6 years now. Small little green and orange creatures, that spend the day swimming, eating and basking, and, at this time of year, singing. It’s a soft, barking noise, like a puppy in the distance. They combine, harmonising, building tempo and pitch. It’s a unique noise that signals winter has well and truly done one.

Chirps of a different type come from Soubry HQ. Smelling an election just over a year away, she decides its time to find a song to sing that will woo over Beestonians: if she can’t get a decent vote here, the largest conurbation in Broxtowe, her chances of a second term are roughly that of a pie spending a second night in Eric Pickles fridge.

So easy target, the tram. Who cannot support the businesses and homes that have suffered through the works? Independent shops, in the main, are being hit much more than chain stores, who can rely on head office keeping them afloat for the duration.

I’ve tried to do my bit, especially with The Beestonian. We were the initiators of the Street Party last year, and we’ve ran lots of copy expounding the area’s brilliance,and continue to do so. The initiative that has set up around Beeston Continuum features Chilwell Road, and most of the tram route, as key areas of development for a post-tram Beeston. I’ve attended a ton of meetings looking into how businesses can survive in the climate. Also, and perhaps most practically, I’ve tried to actually use the businesses when I can.

We all know how important it is to do this. We are all supportive of this, and to make political capital out of it would be rather distasteful, no?

Soubry has done that, with some hilariously contradictory language. ‘THIS IS A NON-PARTY POLITICAL ISSUE’ she bawls in another of her increasingly deranged emails, then picks out non-Tory councillors for a slagging off for not signing her petition (which also begs the question: did she check every name of the 2,000 she got?).

Perhaps some people didn’t want to sign as they saw it as blatant electioneering? Perhaps they thought it rather hypocritical of Anna to run a petition when she has forthrightly stated before that when she is presented with any such collective action, such as petition or letter-writing campaigns, she bins them? Or ignores them and lies to the Commons -see previous posts on the obscene way she treated our local postal workers. Maybe it was the show-boating way she also used the (non-party political) petition to get people to sign up for her newsletter.

Or maybe there is an even more awful hypocrisy here. Let’s have a look back into history.

Anna’s position on the tram, as is the case with most of the local Conservatives, has flip-flopped for years. As has the Tory line on support for businesses.

Let’s bust a few myths here. The present pot of money for the businesses hit has yet to be exhausted. Talking to businesses, the real problem is in it’s allocation. That is a difficult job as no two businesses are alike, and have been hit in different ways.

Soubry wants the money to come out of the County Council, from an already vastly diminished pot thanks to Eric Pickles’ cuts. Why doesn’t she campaign for funds from central government?: after all, Cameron advised money was no object when floods hit the swing seats West of London.

Strangely, when the Council was under Tory control, they were very much AGAINST helping Beeston businesses while the tram was underway. Let’s go back to 2009, when the terms of the tram development were under discussion, Cllr. Richard Jackson (Tory, Chilwell) put forward, and voted on a clause stating that NottsCounty Council would not provide  ANY financial assistance to businesses. This was in an official meeting on September 24th, 2009, and full minutes can be found here

Capture

So lets be absolutely clear whats going on. The same financial aid that Soubry and her local Tory councillors Richard Jackson and Eric Kerry are lobbying and collecting signatures for is the SAME package they threw out when the Tories ran the council. Indeed, it looks like this was a whipped position. It is highly doubtful that Soubry was unaware of this unilateral stance.

I thus ask Soubry, and local Tories, to explain what caused such a major change of heart. Do they regret voting against the same aid package they are now campaigning for? Doesn’t such rank hypocrisy ever bother them?

While I wait, my toads will bark on, singing their tiny songs into the night.

 

 

 

 

Some You Lose / Some You Win / Soubry Gunning Trout / UKIP Alert

Campaigning for stuff is a tiring business. It involves huge amounts of patience, keeping one’s cool and being able to forensically take apart a reply. I don’t have great pools of these resources, but I do have the same tenacity that keeps a pit-bull’s jaws locked once it crunches into a limb.

Two such campaigns reached a (sort of) end this week. Considerate, I suppose, as both have been dragging on for ages, and I’m trying to wind down to get Issue 26 of The Beestonian out, and be a relaxed, focused groom on my upcoming wedding day.

There’s good news, and bad. Let’s do the bad first.

Regular readers will recall how I have been advocating for Sergio and Natalie Rocha from The White Lion regarding the awful lies Mail group newspapers made up about them. A quick memory refresh: last year, the couple gave birth to a daughter in the pub after tramworks delayed the paramedics. A nice little story, I covered it and also tipped off the Nottingham Post, who turned it into a popular front page story complete with a sweet photo.

A day or so after, an agency journalist rang The White Lion claiming he had exclusive rights to the story, and demanding Sergio agree to a series of quotes. Sergio refused, and slammed the phone down on the insistent gutter-rat.

That doesn’t stop The Mail though. They published t heir entirely fabricated series of events, inventing quotes that werer e clearly not Sergio speaking, claiming the baby was named after Stella Artois lager, their ‘best-selling lager’, and the baby was born in the bar, rather than in the flat above.

Natalie saw the article, and the sneery comments below as dozens of readers mocked their decision to name the baby after beer. She was aghast. The baby’s name was nothing to do with lager, but a name Sergio has had in his family for years, Portugese for ‘star’. Furthermore, The White Lion doesn’t sell Stella, and if they did their brewery would find them in breach of contract, potentially losing them their business and home. Natalie tried to comment on the piece, but every one of her attempts was refused moderation.

I offered to support them in a PCC complaint, and they agreed. We scoured the PCC code and found several breaches, and lodged the complaint. What followed was one of the most cynical, draining, evasive experiences I’ve ever had.

First, The Mail accused Sergio and Natalie of lying. When we still pushed, they conceded a little and suggested that their had been a simple misunderstanding, that the phone call was cordial, and look! here’s the journo’s notes to prove it. At this point we did get the on-line article removed, though not after it was ‘mirrored’ across the internet.

They then resorted to base racism, suggesting Sergio had agreed to such quotes as he spoke in ‘broken English’. Sergio has an accent. His English is impeccable. But, y’know, in Daily Mail land an accent means you’re one of those thick foreigners, yeah?

We still held fast, and after a waiting period three times longer than the usual, the PCC commission got in touch this week to tell me they were not upholding the complaint. Despite providing documents showing the brewery contract stating beers sold, sworn statements from Natalie and Sergio, finding inconsistencies in the account provided by the Mail, the crux of the decision is this ‘You say one thing. He says another. One of you must be wrong so that holds everything up so we will default to not upholding’.

This totally misses a crucial chunk of logic: motive. What motive would the Rocha’s have to lie about their own child, potentially risking their business, home and privacy?

On the other hand, why would a gutter reporter find a nice, local story in need of a little tabloid sensationalism in order to collect his cash from The Mail?

I’m not the first person to call the PCC not fit for purpose, and I’m glad it’s heading for some reform, though even the Royal Commission is massively flawed. The system as it stands – ran, don’t forget, for many years by Mail editor in chief Paul Dacre- is there to provide a buffer between the papers and the courts. It exists to kill off any legal threats by first discouraging any complaint; then extinguishing complaints with spurious logic.

There’s not even room to appeal. If we were to take it to court, we’d accrue huge costs and the first thing the defence would say would be ‘Well, the PCC adjudicated, so piss off’.

It’s a battle lost but the war will go on. There are also some consolations. The Mail will print an apology to the Rochas soon, and keep the article offline. They were initially refusing to do even these things.I will post up the full adjudication soon on a separate site.

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However, some great news. The Ladbrokes debacle has been well covered here, and in the Beestonian where we published an open letter to the Chief Exec in the latest issue. Quick run through the background: Ladbrokes took the lease on local charity shop, ViTal, kicked them out leading to the charity collapsing financially with the loss of it’s source of income. Then  Ladbrokes admitted they were not going to use the property, but leave it empty. For 15 years.

We didn’t expect a response, but we did, and from Richard Glynn, Chief Exec of the bookies. He apologised for the situation, promised to review the practices that led to it (I’m not convinced entirely by the excuses he gave, but I’ll hold that thought for now), and admitted it would be a good thing to make a donation to the trustees of the ex-charity to fund a new initiative.

I’ve passed on his details to Teresa, the head of the charity, to negotiate the exact nature of this donation, and will report back when she has got a figure. A cautious rejoice then, but proof that sometimes when we work together on stuff we can get results.

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A mixed week, then. Tomorrow should be a fun day as well, with Soubry shooting fish in a barrel oustside the Boot’s store, collecting signatures to get more money for businesses hit by the tram. A fine cause, indeed, but hypocritical: Soubry has long rallied against any collective means of protest, such as coordinated letter writing, and has made it clear when she is targeted by such a thing it goes straight in her bin. I talked to the branch secretary of the CWU this week, following my piece last week on Royal Mail, and the stories he told me about how she had treated him and his members, the rudeness, the spite, the dismissive arrogance shocked even me. And I have a file of emails from disgruntled constituents who have either been ignored, insulted or misrepresented by her: I thought I was now unshockable. Do sign the petition, by all means. But maybe ask her a couple of pertinent questions while shes there.

Also, the bigotted, anti-female, anti-science, anti-not being a member of a golf club and braying loudly UKIP are in town on Saturday, holding an open meeting in the Victory Club. As we are a wonderful, multi-cultural town that revels in it’s diversity, these saloon bar racists are most unwelcome. Please feel free to drop in on them and point this out. After all, they are all for freedom of speech.

 

 

The Great Mail Robbery and Our MP’s Part In it.

During the 1990s, I spent 2 years or thereabouts as a postal worker, after an ill-advised stint at studenthood. Every evening I would arrive at the sorting office on Padge Road, work a shift and roll out again as the rest of the world woke up.

The work was pretty tedious, but made bearable by the excellence of my colleagues. The camaraderie there was unlike any job Ive had since: some of the people from back then are even at my wedding next month. There was a pride at wearing the Royal Mail badge, and a pride at providing a service that was cheaper, fairer and more reliable than comparable systems round the world.

There was also great pride in being unionised, and being part of a strong collective workforce that was instinctively and actively political. Union members fought hard on all levels, and as such fought for a fair wage and decent conditions.

Tories hate that. Before them, miners, dockers and steelworkers had all been crushed; labelled by Thatcher as ‘the enemy within’, vilified by the right wing media and attacked relentlessly, all for trying to do a decent job for decent pay. The posties were different though. Thatcher knew that their was a greater degree of sentimentiality for them, as unlike other unionised industries, they were not concentrated in the North, but a familiar sight from the leafy streets of Surbiton as well as the slums of Sunderland. While Thatcher was a rampant free-market Tory, she was clever enough to avoid privatising them: selling a Royal asset, and one that seemed part of the fabric of British life would serve to alienate the more traditional Conservative voter.

Labour, under the auspices of the slithery Mandelson, mooted the idea for a while before quietly withdrawing the plans due to massive unpopularity, from grassroots to parliamentary party level.  Rights were hacked at under all administrations, and pay slipped, but the For Sale sign remained in the cupboard.

Enter the Coalition. Cameron had no such qualms, and quickly had plans drafted to sell off. To mitigate the outrage that would be triggered, the useful idiots of the Lib Dems were used to sell the plans to a wary electorate. Vince Cable, at the time still seen as the acceptable face of free market capitalism, was put out to ensure that this would be a different type of sell off, one that would create a new class of shareholders and not be for the benefit alone of financial institutions. He put his most avuncular face on to tell us that he had received personal assurances from the City that they would not use the shares to speculate and cream huge profits off. A gentleman’s agreement, with a class of person who are barely human in their ethical lookout, let alone gentlemen.

Tories were whipped into line, those that would cheer loudest for reform would be smiled upon. Anna Soubry, our own MP, saw an opportunity to get the eye of Dave, to be seen amongst the clamorous hordes of the 2010 MP intake. She would tell a debate in the House that her constituents were fully behind the selling off. On October 27th, 2010, she claimed

In my constituency there are 700 postal workers at the Beeston Sorting Office. To my knowledge, not one of them has written to urge me not to support the bill. Two of them came to the Commons today to ask me not to support this bill, 2 out of 700.

This was, and I will stand by the strong use of language here, a lie, and a deliberate attempt at obfuscation to curry favour with the Tory whips office.  When the local CWU angrily pointed out that they had sent over 150 letters to her from workers at Beeston who were also constituents of hers. They also pointed out that a CWU delegation from the sorting office had met with her beforehand and pleaded with her not to support the bill.

Our dishonourable member was not happy with having this pointed out, so tried to wriggle off the hook by saying that she had not noticed the letters until after the debate, where she found about ’30 letters in her office’.

If you’re going to mislead Parliament, then you best not forget that in a column you wrote for The Beeston Express, published date  October 15th,  that  you were so busy , having to reply to  ‘some 300 campaign postcards ‘  from constituents opposed to the sell off. Not that she’d have to buy stamps. MPs claim postage on expenses.

This misrepresentation and callous disregard for the truth led to the CWU taking more direct action. On a cold December morning, I went along with a group of posties to Soubry’s office in Beeston as they delivered a giant postcard with 600 individual signatures on (at the time the sorting office employed 650 permament workers: quite a representation) making it clear that she not represented them truthfully. A full contemporary report can be read here.

annagurning

The meeting went badly, with Soubry shouting at them for their actions, ‘thumping her desk’ and refusing to listen once the cameras on the street were off her. This intransigence, this refusal to waver from a position even when evidence is laid before her has become characteristic of Soubry’s tenure as MP.

This meeting in turn triggered, in February of the following year, the largest demonstration staged in Beeston for a generation, as huge numbers of the public marched with the postal workers through town and onto a rally at the New Venture Club. Not that you’d know if you read Soubry’s email circular to constituents at the time: the march was entirely ignored and given not even the briefest of mentions.

soubry liar

 

march

Fast forward a few years until you arrive at this week. The Royal Mail, an asset that was turning a good profit, is  sold. To what good? The sell off was a disaster, massively undervalued at a cost to taxpayers of £750 million. Kindly Uncle Cable was shown to be a buffoon by ignoring repeated warnings that the shares were undervalued. The independent National Audit Office was scathing in a report, claiming that the Coalition were so desperate to flog  the shares quickly, they purposely underpriced to ensure huge take up. As a great deal of these shares were subsequently sold on at great profit as the price rose, mainly to the same financial firms that had patted Uncle Cable on his bald pate and cooed how they would be gents and not speculate for a quick buck, the only winners were the City. Effectively, a massive amount of something we all used to own was handed over to hedge funds and tax-avoiding firms. Y’know. The same people that Cable once described as ‘spivs and gamblers

The whole thing is a tremendous mess, a shameful, awful example of how this government is keen to go further than the worst excesses of the Thatcher regime and give once proud, public institutions to their city mates to squeeze dry. The concept of providing a ‘service’ is not a concern of the new owners: maximizing earnings by squeezing wages, workers rights and high standards of service are. Well done, Coalition.

Today, during Prime Minister’s Questions,  Cameron was asked to justify the sell off. Visibly ruffled, he lashed out, claiming that Labour had included the sell off in their 2010 manifesto. They didn’t. Again, a Tory stood up in the House and lied with intent to help their career.

I’ve been chatting to a couple of ex-colleagues from my postie days over the last few days. They are, unsurprisingly hugely depressed about the lies they were fed throughout. They are also now terrified for their jobs: 1,600 redundancies are now on the cards. What was once a great institution will be cheapened, weakened and degraded to swell the coffers of those who have too much already.

Why did this happen? Look no further than our own MP. In an attempt to curry a tiny bit of favour with the party, in an attempt to shin up the shitty pole to a ministerial post, our MP lied, misrepresented and treated us with a level of contempt that staggers even traditional blue voters. Ensure that contempt is returned in May 2015.

soubzli
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I’m presently without a laptop, Ol’ Smokey recently puffed his last burning fume of circuit board and went to the great motherboard in the sky. I’ve written this using a Galaxy tab, a blogging app and a Bluetooth keyboard, an incredibly ad-hoc solution and the excuse for any errors. If anyone out there has a cheap laptop I could buy / borrow, I’d be hugely grateful. The wedding, albeit much less costly than the average due to the wonderfulness of certain people helping out is still a bit tough on the pockets, so any help appreciated.
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I’m spending tomorrow at a  Euro Elections hustings in town organised by the Nottingham Post, more details here. It’s worth coming along, even if it is to see me being all uneasy in the presence of  UKIP MEP Roger Helmer, that Pythonesque take on Grange Hill’s Mister Bronson. I wrote this about him a few years back (***warning! Gut wrenching content!****), and the other night had a awfully lucid dream that he shaved his moustache off and demanded I stroke his top lip. The horror, the horror…