Wow, I expected the objection to Network Rails plans to be large, but have been bowled over by the response. There have been over 4,000 unique visitors to the initial post on here in the first two days, and several hundred have now joined the Facebook group set up to oversee the campaign.

Best of all, people have done things. The most obvious, and highly effective way to do stuff is simply object directly. Loads of you have. By both email and phone call, the response has been overwhelming. After receiving a barrage of contact, many pointing out that there was something sneaky about the way the consultation was being conducted, Network Rail conceded and, after an admission that the lateness of the initial letter was wrong (due to an admin-error, apparently), they have extended the deadline to January 25th. This gives us some much needed breathing space. Well done all, this was people power in action. But there is still much work to do.

I managed to get the Nottingham Post interested in the story (I was talking to them about a different story when this broke, which proved handy timing). The BBC also gave it a mention, and i’m on the radio Christmas Eve where I’ll give it more publicity.

So, an overview of what we’ve done:

  • I designed a poster (below) which Michelle Patel kindly printed, laminated, and delivered. I will attach these to the appropriate places tomorrow.
  • County Councillors Foale and Carr have had a great deal of contact, and have united to make representations to Nottinghamshire County Council.
  • Councillor Carr has added it to the policy agenda at Borough Council.
  • An FOI has been submitted to ascertain the actual safety record of the crossing.
  • Notts Ramblers Association have been contacted: they have passed this onto their Rights of Way officer.
  • Beeston Marina has been contacted.
  • Attenborough Nature Reserve have been alerted.
  • Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust have been alerted.
  • Many local and national cycle rights groups have been contacted (including Sustrans and Pedals).
  • A campaign group in Northumbria have been in contact, having waged a similar battle (and won) in their patch. I’m chat to them later this week to get some ideas.
  • Beeston, Long Eaton, Erewash Running Clubs have been alerted (possibly more).
  • Big Wheel scheme notified.
  • The Horse Society contacted.
  • Borough councillors – MP alerted, who have responded proactively.
  • A petition set up: sign it here
  • Other stuff, undoubtedly: if I have left something off let me know (either here or by ) and i’ll add it.

A public meeting has been set up AFTER the consultation period, at Attenborough Hall, 8th Feb 2017, 3-6.30pm. I’ll give you more info on how this should be approached later.

Keep on spreading the word, get people objecting, show Network Rail what we Beestonians are made of. As someone who has worked in a press office for a large corporation before, I know how much this will terrify them and show that we won’t roll over and let them restrict our right of way.




It’s a Sunday morning as I write this. I’m sitting in my front room, 5-week old baby next to me, sipping tea and occasionally glancing out the window where people pass by at a frequent rate, despite this being a quiet, hidden away spot.


They’re all headed for the same thing: Attenborough Nature Reserve -specifically the Meadow Lane entrance.

It’s a fine Winter’s day, mild, still and bright. Families off to build an appetite before a Sunday Roast. Amateur ornithologists hoping to catch a rare migrant who has dropped by. Joggers, clad in tight lycra and red-puffed cheeks. They all pass by, to take in the beautiful pathways and ponds. We are incredibly lucky to have a world-renowned Nature Reserve on our doorsteps.

However, this may all be in danger.

I moved here four years ago with my then girlfriend, now wife. We had vague aspirations to marry and raise a child: and what better place to do so than in a quiet cul-de-sac near the Reserve? It took a bit longer than expected to get the child part of that idea, but now we’ve had him he’s had a fair few pushes around the gravel pits.

It’s great for me too: I, like many others, use the crossing to gain access to the towpath, where I can cycle into Nottingham without having to use roads. As a non-driver, this is crucial.

We – as do all those passing by window today – cross into the reserve via a bridlepath across the train tracks. There is good visibility down the track (you can see both Attenborough and Beeston stations) and it is easy to cross safely.

Network Rail, however, don’t think so. They’ve decided this crossing, along with two others (Long Lane, Barrat’s Lane No.1) are no longer viable, on safety (cost?) grounds and therefore three general options are available (there are variations, please see the scans below).

  1. Stopping up of all rights over the level crossing: total closure of all access. This would create a detour of 1.5 miles.
  2. Stepped Footbridge: this would require Network Rail acquiring land, and in some cases, residential properties. It would also exclude crossing by wheelchairs / pushchairs etc.
  3. Ramped Bridle Bridge: Again, this would require taking land / properties to build, but would mean wheelchairs/ pushchairs etc would have access.

The complete letter, with proposals, can be read here: pdf scan of Network Rail letter.

You may notice that the letter is dated 28th November 2016. This is curious. We only received it on Friday, 16th December. Any excuse that it was delayed through a fault with Royal Mail is unlikely: the birth of our child; and my birthday a week ago saw a fair amount of mail come through. We’ve been quite diligent picking it up.

This delay is exacerbated by the timing of any consultation. The letter states that we must voice any concerns before the end of December 2016. That gives just a fortnight to send in any opposition, a fortnight which, in case it somehow slipped you by, is a bit busy with Christmas right now. A cynic would say that this is no accident.

So what to do? Here is provisional five-point plan.

  1. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD: ring 03457 1141 41, quoting reference number TSN1 121m 61ch (or simply say ‘Attenborough Crossings’), or email . Tell them you oppose closure, and if something has to be done, a bridge must be built. If you are not quite ready to voice your concerns, ring /email and ask that the consultancy period be extended.
  2. JOIN A GROUP: I’ve set up a space on Facebook where discussion can be had about the best plan of action. I’ve already had people send in details of similar cases; legal precedents; details on access legality rights. By joining the group, we can discuss progress, share good practise and have a united front.
  3. WRITE TO YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATIVE: It looks like the County Council will have the greatest part of this, so contact your councillor and ask them to represent your views. Don’t know who that is? Go to and a simple search will give you details.
  4. TELL OTHERS: I’m not sure how widely these letters were sent out, but I do know that the majority of people who enjoy the path WON’T have been advised: just those in the immediate vicinity. We need to get the message out as wide as possible, particularly to those who don’t use social media as much. Get people talking about it. Share this post on social media. Get them wised up and fired up.
  5. ATTEND EVENT: The letter mentions that Network Rail will hold an ‘information event’ will discuss options. If this is after the consultancy period ends on 31st December, then will it be more than lip-service, just a statutory requirement grudgingly carried out? Or has it happened / scheduled to take place DURING the consultancy period: ie: when everyone is doing Christmas stuff? Either way, it is important we turn out in large numbers. Show that Beeston can’t be easily fobbed off.

There might be safety considerations. Trains are getting faster and more frequent. But the responsibility for Network Rail is to address this in a way that benefits most, not just an accountancy department in a London office. Keep Attenborough Accessible.






Life, Leif.

 (This was written before my wife gave birth to Leif, after a three day labour where she went through some incredibly tough times as he was a lot larger then expected. I must pay tribute to the NHS: the care was beyond belief, the compassion life-affirming. I am forever in their debt, and it has driven my desire to do something positive more than ever. Plus, I’m besotted by my boy, presently contentedly gurgling beside me from his snug moses basket).

By the time I publish this, Leif Richard Isaac Turpin will be born. His name? The ‘Richard’ is his grandad (yes, his name is Dick Turpin: my father in-law is an out-law). ‘Issac’ is my grandfather’s name: he died when I was very young, but I have fond memories of the little time I spent with him, sitting in front of the TV football, eating our roast dinner, with him slipping a little beer into my lemonade when my gran wasn’t looking.

Leif? We just like the name, and the phonetic autumnal reference. There are no Scandinavian roots to call back on here, other than the amount of time I spent during his gestation fighting over IKEA  instructions. 

The boy will be born in a rich country, and have a higher chance of surviving the birth than at any other time in the whole of history. He will be born at the pin-point of centuries of scientific progress, where every aspect of his arrival will be monitored. He has no idea yet just how lucky he is.

He will be born into a family who will love him completely. I loved him from the moment I heard he was there; just a poppy seed sized bundle of cells. Despite the lack of tangibility – yes, I’ve seen the scans, where shapes can be barely discerned; I’ve heard the heartbeat, much faster than our own, propelling growth. I’ve even felt his foot; kicking through my wife’s side into my ribs while we lay together in bed. Yet he is still somehow intangible. Nevertheless, he is loved, and I’m almost terrified what that will turn into when he is there, when I meet him. I’ll know by the time you read this.

He will be born into wealth. Relative wealth. I have a decent job, which pays ok, and Ellie is a professional scientist; so while we’re not exactly dripping with gold, when compared to the world as a whole we are alright. The baffling chance of birth: to be born into a stable, wealthy country that still just about believes in care from cradle to grave. 

He will not want for anything. He already has all the clothes we need for him to wear for a year, and beyond. He has toys, ready for when he wants to begin exploring. He has two beds; a moses basket for the first few months and a cot for when he’s a bit older. He has blankets, nappies, muslin squares and parents who spent three Saturday afternoons in 5 hour NCT classes learning how babies work and how to keep them happy. He has everything he needs. He will not want for anything.

Not all children are so lucky. Across the world. there are 8 million children who are fleeing from countries hit hard by war, poverty, famine. There are a further 50 million displaced children, who have had to flee to another country: while they might be judged ‘safe’ they are still in a serious situation: subject to greatly reduced life chances; xenophobia; discrimination; incarceration. It’s a global problem that is accelerating in its seriousness: over the last five years, the numbers have jumped a staggering 75%. With no resolution to conflict in the Middle East, and more pressure on resources as climate change wreaks havoc. It is easy to feel helpless

Yet we can do things. We can help: not solve the crisis single-handedly, but show some humanity and do what we can. I saw this in action when Beeston came together in response to the horrific scenes of Alan Kurdi’s body washing up on a Greek beach. The response was incredible, hundreds of people queuing to donate items to refugees trapped in refugee camp limbo. Sergio, the landlord of the White Lion pub which acted as a drop-off point, and a former refugee himself, set up a fund to raise money to get a warm meal to those trapped. He travelled down, at this own expense, several times, returning each time more determined to help. Peter Bone, a Beestonian I’m lucky to count as a friend, also visited to help

I lately read another account of selflessness in the face of what seems an insurmountable problem. Brendan Woodhouse is a firefighter originally from Durham, who has worked in Nottingham for 14 years and lives in Derbyshire.  Just before Christmas last year, he travelled to the Greek island of Lesbos. On the final day of a two-week stint, an inflatable mistook the Korakos lighthouse for safety, rather than danger, and capsized rapidly, throwing the 35 occupants – mostly children – into the dark waters, 70 metres from shore.

Brendan was driven to go to Lesbos after seeing the photos of drowned children washed up on shores, and determined to help. He began by delivering aid, then, thanks to a local charity, East Midlands Solidarity, flew to the Greek islands to help in a more direct way. This dark night, as the occupants struggled to keep afloat, this was put to the test.


Brendan ushering boats to safety

He rescued a family first, including a terrified two-year old boy. After dragging them to shore, he was straight back into the waters, where he found a baby girl, seemingly dead, face down in the water. Risking his life, he scooped the baby onto his chest, and swam, backstroke, to shore, kicking hard under the stars. A former medic in Afghanistan, he knew that time was vital, so finding a rock he could balance on quickly gave the lifeless baby and gave rescue breaths. The first had no effect, and Brendan realised he might be too late. Yet after a second rescue breath, the child spewed up a large amount of seawater, and let out a lung-clearing scream. He had saved the baby: but now had a long swim back to shore

I remember lying on my back and was looking at the stars saying ‘Come on God, help me’.

“I don’t go to church any more, I am not a religious guy and there’s me praying up to Him as I am swimming backwards.”


He made it, collapsed onto the shore badly cramping and exhausted. A Dutch colleague, Joost, took the baby and stabilised her. He would later find she had made a safe recovery, and be reunited with a family. Her name is Sewin. While facing the challenges that life will throw at her as a displaced person, at least she has life. Without Brendan Woodhouse, she would be another notch on the appalling statistics of children killed trying to find sanctuary.

I have since been in contact with Brendan, and confirm that he is very much the hero. Humble, thoughtful, and driven by a strong sense of humanity, I could never do what he did. But I could do something. Yes, it might seem futile. But if it helps save a life, just one life, then I will be able to say that my child; Leif; a child born into every comfort imaginable, will have inspired something wonderful. 

That is why I have, after chatting to both Brendan and Medecines sans Frontieres, to raise some funds – I’m hoping £500 – to mark Leif’s arrival. We would like anyone reading this to not send gifts to us for the arrival of the child – it needs nothing – but instead donate directly to the fund. If you want to buy me a pint to celebrate my new fatherhood, please, please stick the cash into the fund. My chosen pint is usually about £3, as a guide. A celebratory cigar is about the same (and as I kicked the ciggie habit 4 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to have the actual thing). 

Please give what you can. I want my child to grown up to see the essential humanity and goodness of people. We are incredibly lucky that he is born right here, right now, and we will never forget those who are not so fortunate. To see others as humans, as people, with as much right to life as them. This is much more important than any gift you could give my son. Give here:

I’ll leave the final few words to Brendan Woodhouse, who is an example to us all.

“I have an absolute mix of emotions. Yes I made a difference and was really proud that I was able to go and do that and really relieved that I was successful.

“I am really proud of the team and of the international community for individual people’s responses to what is a global catastrophe.

“But I but I am also deeply ashamed that these people are put in such a perilous situation where they are essentially exploited at every turn.

“And I am angry there are people that would look at these poor refugees from war-torn countries and question why they would want to leave a war zone.

“I get angry that some people cannot open their hearts to these people .”

THE HORROR, THE HORROR: How to cope with 2016, Year of Anxiety.

I am probably suffering a case of severe solipsism, for two reasons

  1. Starting a blog post with ‘I’
  2. My life going well while the world seems to go to shit.

But I can’t help it. That perpetual Cassandra in me has been fairy-godmothered into a Pollyana. Stuff has gone alright for a while, and I’m enjoying life more than ever. Admittedly, this is from a series of low bases of unemployment, poor health, relationship disasters and that ole ches’nut, the chance of dying alone in poverty with nothing and no one. Somehow, I got out of all these desperate holes in acts that I will credit entirely to my own strength of will, in  direct proportion to all the times I blamed shitty circumstances and bad luck for my previous poor run of form. A self-help book will inevitably follow. Perhaps consider the following a taster.

Annnnnyway, lets have a look at why everyone is going to pieces in 2016, and what to do about it.



  •  THE CLOUD:This seems to have hit it’s peak at Prince, and now we’re clocking up deaths at a more normal rate. But my, the Grim Reaper had a time earlier this year, didn’t he? I blame Poldark, the daft scything bastard. Some have suggested the Rapture has happened, with all the heroes jetting off to heaven leaving us atheist scum to fight it out on a floundering planet. Bowie, why hath thous forsaken us?


  • SILVER LINING: Loads of ace people are alive well longer than you’d expect them to be. Burt Bacharach (88) Chuck Berry (89)  David Attenborough (90) . Professor Stephen Hawking (74 -was given 2 years to live back in 1963) . Dick Van Dyke (90). Angela Lansbury (90). Mel Brooks (90) (and Carl Reiner – 94).. James Lovelock (97) Kirk Douglas (99). Dame Vera Lynn (99) Jerry Lewis (100) . Instead of wallowing in the grief of those gone, and that sudden guilt you’d not really thought of them much lately, embrace what we have still got, well past their presumed expiry date. I still live in a world with these people. I am grateful. Be grateful too.




  • THE CLOUD: The one that really hurts many. We’re out of Europe. We’ve cut ourselves off from our neighbours, and replaced the Union flag with a flapping piece of cloth saying ‘FUCK OFF’. We’ve suddenly discovered that not only is the country full of shy / ashamed Tories, as we did  in 2015; but that 52% of this nation would like to find the mooring ropes of the British archipelago and cast us floating free away from those shirking French and their continental quislings, as a country ran by a hereditary Head of State and an unelected House of Lords DEMANDED we self-determine.
  • SILVER LINING: While the Tories have seemingly regained a facade of control and stability with ruthless competence after the surprise result, and Labour have managed to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the Nasty Party are possibly in deeper poo. The button embossed with ARTICLE 50 is unlikely to be pressed anytime soon, boiling the piss of the (majority)Tory Brexiteers. After May’s cull of the Cameron’s favourites , which swept arch-brownnoser Soubry to the backbenches (she claimed she resigned. Really. Even my Westminster mole, who previously defended her staunchness of position on issues, has described her scrabbling for retention as ‘desperate’. She was, it seems, sacked, denied even a junior ministerial role due to an impending court case regarding her electoral overspend looming ominously on the horizon. That and a litany of incompetence. Of which more later). The fact is, May is now strapped to the mast, unable to either initiate Article 50 or ignore it. To insulate this decision, she’s bought in key Brexiteers into her cabinet to wrangle the departure. In a act of almost Nero like cruelty, this grouping -David Davis, Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd and Liam Fox – have all significant responsibilities coupled with significant vulnerabilities: Fox is already being probed for alleged fiddling of a military family charity; Davis is seen as a politician with much gob yet little brain; Johnson is inevitably going to trigger an accidental  war and Amber Rudd used to be married to hollow-souled twat and sociopathic baboon murderer AA Gill, which shows an incredible lurch of judgement. It’s a volatile mix, and will explode soon. Hopefully, the shambolic Labour Party will have somehow come together to get the boot in.



  • THE CLOUD Nice, Paris, Jo Cox…the list of victims is a morbid procession of those killed by hate. We’re presently jumping at every shadow; with any breaking news story read for signs of terrorism before any other reason. We’re all on edge, knowing it is only a matter of time before the next attack happens. Have we ever been in such a terrifying place?
  • SILVER LINING: It’s been calculated that the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack is at least 20,000,000 / 1. That level of risk means that you’re more likely to killed by your furniture  (18,000,ooo / 1). You’re more likely to become an astronaut ( 13,200,000 / 1). Has it been worse? Oh yes, and in most of our lifetimes. The frequency of terrorist attacks on UK soil, that led to loss of life or injury, was much higher in the seventies and eighties, due to the continuing Irish issue. Back then, the lack of rolling news and hysterical social media kept this at a more reasoned pitch. The whole point of terrorism is to bring fear to a population, to terrorise. We make that personal choice about that happening. Be scared, they’ve won. You’ll also be making a choice to increase the chance of an early grave: excessive stress is a contributory factor to the REAL killer in the UK: heart disease. Chances of that getting you? 7/1



  • THE CLOUD: Yes, like a bewigged Oompa-Loompa drip-fed a diet of pure hate since birth, orange faced demagogue Donald Trump has snatched the Republican nomination and is now one vote away from having his tiny fingers on the US nuclear button (and ours!) His brand of toxic racism and vicious rhetoric propelled him to beat off all the other competitors, who prefer to keep their toxic racism vicious rhetoric undercover, at least until they get into the Oval Office. Having Trump as the most powerful man in the world will be the end, surely?
  • THE SILVER LINING: It’s probably not going to happen. While he rode high while in the primaries, he’s sinking now the actual race is on. It all seemed a bit of fun once, to many. Might shake stuff up. But now it looks like he has a chance, people are fleeing, his own party is collapsing round him and strong rumours abound that he might simply pull the plug, effectively destroying the Republicans for years. Demagoguery will be seen as a fatal road to follow, and a post-post-factual democracy, based on rationalism and consensual policy making will follow. The darker hour, etc. If he does win? Well, the phrase ‘Trump Apocalypse’ will at least cause some childish sniggers from the UK, just before the earth spins off orbit and is consumed by the sun.


We’re dead lucky. We live at a point of history where a baby born today will have a greater chance of survival than at any point in history, and will probably thrive enough to celebrating their 100th birthday. There is less poverty in the world than any other time. Education is spreading wider: the global IQ shifts up 3 points per decade. We are more connected than ever before, able to talk to each other cheaply and easily at virtually any place in the world (remember when we’d talk about the future, and how we’d have video phones? It seemed so far off, such sci-fi technology. But it happened and we just took it for granted).Wars, which seem to be raging harder than ever, are actually at an historic low in terms of casualties. Of course, any war is one war too many, any casualty a tragedy. But we’re getting more peaceful, and that should be celebrated.

We’re locked in a cycle of anxiety only by our own choosing. It’s a commonly noted phenomenon that fear makes for a more easily controllable, more passive society. If you think terrorists are on the cusp of killing you and your family, you’ll of course allow the state to apply more draconian methods to consolidate their power.

To be a real radical these days, ditch the anxiety. Embrace rationality, and stop ruining your present by panicking about the future. The world is an imperfect thing, spinning through space as those on board bicker and battle. But it’s also a sublimely wonderful place, and for every pissflap of a human out there, there are dozens of excellent, lovely people. We’re alright. Now, go out and enjoy yourself.

Soubry: Guilty of Fraud?

Halfway in, it’s been a good 2016. I’m getting paid to write both fiction and non-fiction, I’ve passed my magazine on to a new editor where I am sure it will flourish, I’ve got rid of some long-standing toxic people from my life; I’ve not been hospitalised for a while due to bizarre injuries and my wonderful wife is pregnant. I have a great job with Nottingham City of Literature, where I get to meet people I’ve admired for ages; it’s nearly Summer and my I’ll be a dad in four months. Yes,  I mentioned that already. I’m chuffed to bits. A whole new human built out of some of me and some of that excellent woman I married.

So what could make it better? World peace? A decent summer? Anna Soubry going to prison?


Soubry, in front of some bars.

The first two are definitely implausible, if not impossible as idiots wield power / climate change remains unchecked. But the latter? A fair few people are suggesting that El Soubz is in for a fall. Much more many people haven’t even heard she might be sliding into the brown stinky stuff. I thought I’d give you a comprehensive overview of what the state of play is. Anyone fancy a bit of Socratic Dialogue to kick this off? Yes, I would. Well, ok, let’s go:

I’ve heard Soubz and her fellow Tories are in a spot of bother about election expenses. Has she been caught trying to claim money for getting the moat of her palatial Leicestershire pad cleaned? 

Nope, not quite that simple as the stuff that happened in 2009. Arguably, this is a lot worse.

The Tories had a real problem last election. Their membership was lower than ever, with an average age of well into pensionable years. Activist membership (people who go out and canvass, rather than like the idea of being a member as it gets them invites to events) is very low.

This means that they struggle to campaign at General Elections. They are awash with money, centrally (millions roll in from a various bunch of spivs, crooks and tax avoiders, eager to preserve the status quo), but they can’t spend this locally due to caps on spending.

Caps on spending? What’s that all about then?

Politics and money have always had a strong relationship. Here, in Nottinghamshire, it was common a 150 years ago for the Tories to buy in votes: one account in the archives describe an election where a considerable proportion of voters died after drinking the copious amount of ale promised them – after the election. When this was system was contended in the 1831 Electoral Reform Bill, the peer in charge of Nottingham, Henry Pelham, 4th Duke of Newcastle took the Tory line of opposition.The system must stay corrupt, was his contention, and he voted accordingly.  When they heard about it, Nottingham folk rose up and burnt down his house. This was quite a thing, as he lived in Nottingham Castle at the time.

Over the years, a fairer system has been strenuously worked towards. In the USA, the lack of this has led the race to the White House to be one only available to those who can be bankrolled. Our system is designed to stop a billionaire demagogue such as Trump being able to effectively buy an election. This really pisses the hell out of the Tories. All that bribe/ lobbying cash: nowhere to put it.

The independent watchdog overseeing our democratic system, the Electoral Commission thus sets out a spending cap on elections, that have to be strenuously adhered to. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

So why is Soubry in trouble? Her election expenses were UNDER the cap set by the Electoral Commision. You’re just trying to stir up shit, aren’t you?

The estimable Michael Crick from Channel 4 News has shown that proper investigative journalism is alive and well and pulled a blinder. A massive, very likely tedious investigation has exposed huge discrepancies in spending, discrepancies which if held to be an overspend would mean the election was void, and a criminal offence had been committed.

Wait a moment! I’ve just had another look at her election returns and they’re showing it was an UNDERSPEND! 

They do indeed. She did declare she spend a few quid under the cap. However, the evidence is showing that she (illegally?) bought in help, courtesy of the ‘Battle Bus’.

Let’s see how the Electoral Commission view it:

There are two types of spending by or on behalf of parties at elections. These are:

Party campaign spending on campaigning to promote the party and its policies generally. For example, national newspaper adverts for the party, or leaflets explaining party policy. It also includes spending on promoting candidates at elections where the party nominates a list of candidates for a region, instead of individual candidates for local areas.

Candidate spending on campaigning to promote a particular candidate or candidates in their local area. For example, leaflets or websites that focus on one or more candidates and their views.

Different rules apply to the two types of spending.

The Battle Bus? I’ve heard something about these. Isn’t this the thing that led to a big internal Tory Party row and their Chairman quitting?

Yes, that’s the fella. A nasty guy called Mark Clarke, who had been previously feted as a future Tory leader by his party, was in charge of the campaign to send buses to marginals. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this ‘Tatler Tory’ put in charge of this campaign was a horrendous bully . Despite numerous warnings from many in his own party, including Baroness Warsi, he was allowed to carry out a reign of terror while setting up the campaign. Such was his nastiness and ambition, a young activist, former Nottingham of University student Elliot Johnson , was allegedly driven to suicide after being subject to this bullying.  Despite numerous attempts by Johnson and others begging the Conservative Party to examine the claims, Mark Clarke was only dismissed from the party once the media discovered Johnson had mentioned the bullying in his suicide note.

It is sad that it took a young man’s death to eventually rid themselves of Clark. Grant Shapps, the habitual liar co-chairman of the Tories, fell on his sword moments before he was pushed; but Lord Feldman, his fellow co-chairman, still reigns. Good friend of Cameron, you see. You can’t help that feeling if it wasn’t for a suicide triggering  a load of illumination and whistleblowing, the nasty git Clark would now be A-listed for a Tory safe seat come 2020, and legislate on your life.

Ouch. Soubry isn’t like that though, surely? Isn’t she one of those ‘compassionate conservatives’?

Well, some might judge that an oxymoron but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

What I mean is, she didn’t get involved in the battlebuses, did she? 

She didn’t run the campaign to drive the buses round marginal constituencies, no. But she did benefit from them.

How? Surely she was just running her campaign and they happened to drop by, jump off and say how great Tories are, how we should vote Tory, and jump back on the bus?

If they did just that, then that would be fine. It would be filed under ‘National Spending‘.

So they filed it under that, right?

Errr, no. They failed to file it whatsoever. When challenged on this , Soubry took her usual stance of passing the buck and claimed ‘It was a cock-up’. As a former barrister, Soubz might have stumbled across the maxim “Ignorantia juris non excusat”: ignorance is no excuse.

That ignorance will be even more telling if the battlebus visit is found to have been not just campaigning for Tories in general, but for Soubry in particular.

Well,surely it wasn’t? 

Not according to, errr, the Battlebus and  Broxtowe Conservatives. They tweeted and  retweeted, respectively,  this on the day stating:


Notice the word ‘for’. Not with. ‘For’, This is crucial. If they were there to campaign ‘for’ her, then that was something that should have been included on the local spend, not the national. And if it was to be included,it would have rocketed Soubry well past her legal spending limit. Buses -and the dinners and hotel room of ‘activists’ don’t pay for themselves, y’know.

Woah, woah. One possibly mistyped tweet does not a prosecution make!

Absolutely. But when there is a systematic pattern of such expense abuse being exposed, it doesn’t look like the action of an exhausted fat-thumbed activist in charge of social media. When it is also revealed that their activists were door-knocking and leafleting specifically for the local candidate (the allegations in Broxtowe are that the Battle Bus team were saying what a battle Anna had put up against the tram* / supporting Independent businesses** / caring for the greenbelt***) then it looks like they were, with intent, ensuring that the playing field was far from even, and unfairly and illegally skewing the election.

Oh. ok. So she has to repay the difference?

It’s not a question of figures: it’s a matter of principle. It’s also a matter of law.

Again, woah. She won’t get arrested, will she?

It’s not impossible.

But if it’s a centrally imposed conspiracy, she was surely an innocent bystander?

This is complex, and I’m no legal expert. Yet if a degree of complicity is identified (and the act of meeting the Battlebus, and the guest for the day,Theresa May, suggests such), then it is likely she will be hoisted before the courts.

Bloody hell.  Then  what?

A court case, but as it will be one of many, this will drag on,. If found guilty, the sentencing guidelines state a year in jail; and a three year bar from holding public office. Which might seem a barrier, but almost ideal timing to be back in position to claim the safe seat of Rushcliffe in the General Election. Ho ho.

You’re dicking around now. This is sounding serious. Surely I should have heard more of it?

Both Channel 4 and The Mirror have been fairly hot on it, but yes, it’s barely raised a peep elsewhere. Rather than suspect a conspiracy, this is probably more down to the EU Referendum dominating. As any story would have to mention rivals Michael Crick / Channel 4 News, it’s awkward to report.

Remember the phone hacking scandal? That was being flagged up in a series of excellent articles by the forensic genius of Nick Davies, writing for The Guardian, years before it properly broke. Similarly, a code of virtual omerta dominated, not thorough plotting, but through publishing pragmatism.

Blah Blah Blah. I didn’t come here for a discussion on media ethics.

I’m sorry. Do you need to know anything more?

Bleddy hell, yes! So it looks like Anna Soubry is guilty, and she’ll lose her seat, and potentially get banged up in prison?

Well, I didn’t say that. The Tories will put up a fight.

Surely putting up a fight is tantamount to an admission of guilt?

I’m sure they’d prefer the police, and then the Crown Prosecution Service, to bat this aside. However, they’re worried.

How so?

In an unprecedented step, they gave one of the UK’s top lawyers, James Laddie QC, a heap of money to defend them on a particular case, the battle for South Thanet. Laddie was bought in with some sense of urgency to stop Kent Police from obtaining permission to extend the time they could investigate any fraud by a year. This is very weird: the self proclaimed party of law and order trying to block justice and due process.

Doesn’t that make them look more guilty?

A blocked investigation will always look more successful than one that leads to conviction. A short term blow is more acceptable than a long-term knock out.


Sadly the decision is made in closed court. We may never know the reason they are so desperate to stop any investigation.

Right. This is crazy. What’s happening here in Broxtowe?

Nottinghamshire police have applied, and have been given, a extension to investigate Soubry and dundering prig Mark Spencers’ expenses for an extra year. I can’t see what she’s saying on Twitter: she blocks anyone she doesn’t like. But the latest info, as the net tightens, is that she feels that it is time to try and pass the blame.

Who to?

The most obvious scapegoat will be their electoral agent. Soubz could argue that they were too busy being MP’s to check every penny and farthing. It is doubtful that would make any impact: disbarring from office would still be a likely penalty: she could dodge a conviction herself and merely lose office, lick her wounds and move to a safe seat come 2020, or the Lords.

So who will take the hit?

Her agent was a guy called Richard Jackson. He would be the obvious target.

I think I recognise that name?

Give it a minute it’ll come to you.

Ngggghhhhhhhh..tip of tongue, no don’t tell me…..

Ok. No hold on, this could take all…


Well done! You looked like you were struggling. Yes, that bloke.

What, the spiv-suited, reputably oleaginous erstwhile used car salesman Richard Jackson?


So the bloke who closed down the Beeston toilets, shuttered the DH Lawrence centre up in Eastwood, threw the council cash office staff on the dole and put the boroughs leisure centres up for grabs could be thrown to the Electoral Commission lions?

Yes. Soubry has a rich history of blaming others for her own faults, and a career-threatening situation like this will probably be no exception. If it reaches court, watch as Jackson is thrown to the mob while she makes her escape.

That is callous, surely?

Not really. He is a Brexiteer, spotted applauding with gusto at Gove’s recent visit to Boots. Soubry is increasingly at odds with her own council: her utter failure to secure a fair funding deal for the council is hurting the coffers severely.

So what next? 

Hopefully the police will be granted as much time to do a thorough job, without Soubry obfuscating. I’ll keep an eye on stuff and report back if any significant details appear. Keep your eye on Channel 4 News and The Mirror, they have the lead on this. And cross those fingers. Soubry could very well soon be ousted. She could even up jailed. But fear not, she’s done her research on women’s prisons…



*which she subsequently praised on completion, claiming it could make Beeston ‘As good as West Bridgford, one day’.

** despite actively briefing against BID, and more recently scuppering any hope of helping pubs tied into chains by screwing up the implementation of a new code for nasty, asset stripping pub companies.

*** Did  I ever mention that her partner, Neil DaviDson, was a director of a greenbelt-hating, shonky-to-the-max building firm, Persimmon? And she has, with gusto, invited fracking into Broxtowe?












Accidental Writing

Another post? I thought this blog had more or less been retired after 7 years of weirdness?

Oh, I see. You have a kid on the way so think there might be some mileage in stopping the freewheeling edgy political baiting and civic oddness and becoming a dadwriter, one of those males who once they get the proverbial pram in the hall suddenly can only write about babies, particularly their own baby, and how they didn’t know happiness before it appeared, etc.

No. I’m not going to to do that, the horror that is Tony Parsons casts a demonic shadow over that avenue. However, if any editors out there with a decent budget and a space in their pages for a loosely comic description of an old dad having all sorts of silliness over nappies, get in touch. Baby needs shoes, after all.

So why am I wasting your time today, when you could be usefully spending that time matching digital fruits into infinity, getting frustrated with Twitter or looking at pictures of sunsets on Facebook? Simple. I’m going to have a honk on my own trumpet.

You see, I’ve accidentally become a proper writer. I’ve been a (published) writer for around twenty years ago now, but exclusively in non-fiction. This always disappoints people when you tell them:

“You’re a writer then?


“Ooh, written many novels?”

“No , though I do have some fascinating 500 word features on the provision of public toilets”


The idea of a writer is that of a creator, someone who raises dust into characters, blowing life into them and steering their destinies. It’s always seemed to me a bit strange, scary almost. Non-fiction types work the other way round: you gather a huge chunk of stuff then chip away at it until you have something readable. So an hour long interview that spider-scrawls over 10 pages of my notepad can be condensed into a couple of snappy quotes.

Then I started meeting lots of fiction writers. I started working for the bid for Nottingham to become a UNESCO City of Literature, and suddenly, I’m surrounded by all these authors.

I’d like to say there is some defining trait about then – consumptive, absinthe swilling garret-dwellers, but no, they’re as wide a swathe of the population as is imaginable. Perhaps there is a little of the introvert in them all, but us non-fiction writers have to be, by trade, extroverts, so it’s probably not them, but me.

robinarseAnother character trait I have is stubbornness: if someone challenges me to something I tend to agree, leaping in with little thought. Last year this led, among other things, to dressing as a bee on the hottest day of the year and cycling round Beeston.

This was recently piqued by a writer I’ve become friends with over the past couple of years, Shreya Sen Handley. Originally from Kolkata, she moved here for love which turned to violence, and had to work her way from from him. She succeeded (and, like myself spent some time at Royal Mail en route) , now happily married to a great guy with two kids, a role as the Nottingham City of Literature Ambassador and a book deal with a major publisher. She started in feature writing, until being persuaded to turn her hand to fiction.

She challenged me to do the same. I demurred initially, as I was too busy and lacking the confidence. Then one evening, I was just about to turn the light out and sleep when a sudden urge to write came into my head. I put the kettle on, fired up my laptop and began typing.

Four hours later, four hours of throwing myself round the room trying to dislodge thoughts and words that were stuck in my head and not slipping via my fingers onto the screen, four hours of delving into memories long packed away, four hours which felt like months at times, minutes at others.

Four thousand words sat glowing back at me. I gave it a read through, a few corrections, then fell asleep at the keyboard. My first story written.

Then it got weird. I sent it to Shreya, not for approval, but to prove I could do it. I was very surprised where I’d gone with it: instead of the usual whimsy and glib silliness / ranting polemic of my non-fiction, I’d written an incredibly dark tale of violence and recrimination.

I was almost embarrassed by it: its visceral bite was alien. A story that dwells on a man being beaten to a pulp and left for dead  isn’t my usual thing. And here comes the irony: it was actually a thing that happened to me.

I won’t go into too much detail, but for two years in the nineties I lived in Portugal, on the Algarve. In such a mad, drunk environment as a holiday resort, violence was quite commonplace and visible. It wasn’t, therefore, much of a surprise then when it visited me. What was a shock was the level: I was left for dead, with a face more mush then features. I lost a lot of blood, nearly drowned and still am mildly paralysed down one side of my face.

It’s not been a huge secret, I’ve told the tale to friends before. What was odd however was to write it, to fictionalise it. Life has no true narrative other than the certain bookends of  birth and death; by applying one to my own experience was terrifying, and suddenly it stopped being a few abstract, untouchable memories and turned into something solid. A weird experience to see it happen to a character.

I was persuaded by Shreya to submit it to a publisher, which I. Nevertheless, after a spruce from my long-term friend and colleague on The Beestonian, Christian Fox, I packed it over to the editor of Transportation, an Australian publisher looking for submissions for a forthcoming book of international writing, and forgot about it.

A while later, an email appears from a guy called Sean Preston, Editor of Open Pen literary mag, which I’ve been a fan of for some time. Assuming it was something relating to my job at Nottingham City of Literature, I cautiously opened it, and found to my utter surprise my story had been selected for the Third Script, their latest anthology, and I’d be getting a fee. I’d be sitting among a fine mix of Iranian, Tasmanian and British writers. Proper writers. My jaw fell south. A rejection letter would have been fine, at least my existence would have been noted. But no. I’d become a writer, by accident.


3rdThe book is now published, and we’re going to launch it this Sunday. You’re welcome to come and join us. It will be at Rough Trade in town (near Broadway Cinema), and inaugurated by the screenwriter Billy Ivory, who wrote Common As Muck and Made in Dagenham, and we have a banquet of fine writers coming along to read excerpts from the collection. We also have one of my favourite bands, The Madeline Rust, coming along to open and close the event with an exclusive acoustic set. Starts at 5pm, and is free entry…though we’d be chuffed if you picked up a book.








A much different post, one I wrote 9 weeks ago, but couldn’t put out at the time for reasons that will become clear….


Hello, Poppy Seed. I’m six feet tall, 13 stone, cynical, grizzled,and weathered through the frosts of 42 winters and 41 Summers. You’re a poppy seed. A smooth, perfect, untouched poppy seed.

Well, if I could see you, buried deep, that’s what I apparently would see. You’d be less smooth and more globular, pinker, I suppose. But at that size, and with my eyesight, who could argue at such detail. Anyhow, Poppy Seed, pleased to meet you.

Yeah, we met before. Earlier today, in fact. What to me is the merest thin sliver of time, to you; a significant chunk. I’d got up early and cycled to the BBC to give my opinions on the day’s newspapers. It’s a fun distraction that gets me out of bed at dawn, forces me to cycle down the towpath from Beeston to Nottingham, uninterrupted by traffic and lost in thought.

Today, one of those thoughts I had whole spinning my pedals towards the studio was inspired by the rough path, causing the saddle to rattle with a painful frequency upon my testicles. I had a weird panic that this was not something that should be happening. It’s now immaterial, Poppy Seed: your existence means that now I can subject my scrotum to as much damage as I choose.

I chose not to go home, but for a coffee. Ellie -I won’t introduce you, you’ve met – rang to accept my invite to join me. I got myself my caffeine-free coffee, she got a tea. She sat next to me, and we had a quick kiss.

“Didja listen?” I asked.

“Yes” she said “You sounded like you had a cold”.

“Ah, probably my mic technique” I pointed out, and was about to expand on this conversation about how I could never get it right, when she hushed me with an imploring look.

“I have something to tell you important. I need to talk to you”

All sorts of thoughts flew through, and I felt a nauseous imbalance. I’d had a writ. Someone had died. I was fairly hepped up on this morning, this dawn where the sun had risen with slow grace over the frost, burning it off, steaming the crystal-lit Trent. The ten mile round trip, parsed with the adrenalinised experience, I was awake, alive, so was ready for the news of whatever.

Before the following moment, I didn’t know you. How a moment can change everything. I’m sort of going to know you now until death, which I wholeheartedly wish – it’s only fair given my 42 years on you -gets me first.

“Umm. I’m pregnant”.

Everything changes and everything stays the same.

“I did a test. I was going to wait to tell you when we were at home, but I rushed out to meet you and didn’t want  you to get home and find the test and think I was being…pointed.”

A billion questions. “But I thought….when? When did it happen? When will it happen?”

“Well, It’s early days, so let’s not tempt fate. Right now, it’s not even attached to me properly. It’s just a bunch of cells, rapidly expanding. Our child is right now no bigger than a poppy seed”.

So hello, Poppy. You’re terrifying, and tiny, and even though you have not yet got a heart to love, it is loved in advance. I am so happy to meet you.