Kevan Pooler

The Meaning of Life and the Sex that started it.

Vetted, not Barred

 “Vetted, not Barred”

(Work in Progress)

A post Soham psychological thriller set in a Youth Service.

‘It’s not the CRB that protects, it’s people.’

And who guards the guardians?

‘Convicted for Courage’ published.

Sheffield Pals

A first extract from ‘Courage and Conviction?’ My own Grandfather, a 4’10” Bantam was gassed probably on the Somme. I publish this on the eve of 100th anniversary of the Somme, in memory of all the poor lads left behind, and the poor lasses left at home.

Eric re his father (in his POW journal – addressed to Pina his, as yet unborn, daughter)

You’d have liked my Dad, your Grandad – he’d have really liked you. Gentle souls the pair of you. Supported the Blades – that’s Sheffield United to you. But Uncle Frank was the one who took me to the matches. I knew why, like, Mam told me it was the noise, from the war and that. I knew all about the noise … and how I couldn’t make it.

1919 was the last league derby there had been. I suppose it was because they were in different leagues or something. But when I could stand on my own two feet and see between a few people who were taller, me and Frank would catch a game somewhere most weeks.

I didn’t find out he wasn’t my real Uncle until the great 26/27 season. I’d turned eleven that June and Uncle Frank gave me the Steel City derby for my birthday. Course it wasn’t on my birthday – it’s two games – they play at each other’s grounds. That’s not at Derby of course – I don’t know why they call it that. It’s where the two local teams play each other. For us that means when we play Wednesday – the Owls. But that year, Mam said it was the right sort of fever that gripped the city, not like in ’19.

After the games, Uncle Frank would take me in and bring my Dad a bottle of brown – just the one they would have to share – the twenties did not roar for us – times were always hard for us after the war.

We’d all sit down and Mam would corral me – almost put reins on me to keep control. She’d sit there while I rattled off who scored this, who fouled who and ‘bloody ref’, when Mam would clip Uncle Frank round the ear.

‘Don’t be teaching t’lad your ways, Frank,’ she’d tell him. But she’d smile.

Her hands would go back over her mouth as I prattled on, her eyes intent on Dad, sometimes bringing me up short. I would be beginning to notice the shakes for myself by then. Well I weren’t a kid n’more, our Pina, were I?

And ’26 had the General Strike in May, and there wasn’t such a thing as strike pay, so for my birthday in June, Uncle Frank was giving a present he didn’t have to pay for, yet!

The season opened and it was our long school holidays. Us lads would be out on the street being moved on by one set of neighbours after another: ‘Stop banging your ball on our wall,’ ‘watch out for t’winders, lads, get down t’Rec.’ The first derby match was one of the first matches of the season – end of August. We had a bit of a trip out and up to Hillsborough on the tram to play Wednesday away. And we won! We beat them 3 – 2.

My, did us lads have something to talk about when we got back to school. And not a few scraps either. It was big school now – lots of extra lads we didn’t know and just as many supporting Owls as Blades.

I got a cut lip I was proud of, but you girls don’t understand that sort of thing do you? Mam didn’t.

Christmas wasn’t so bad for us that year. Mam and me had a heart to heart just before New Year. She was pleased with how I’d settled into the Grammar School, and I think she felt she was at last getting someone in the home she could talk to. I see it as my coming of age, even if most people think eleven is a bit early for that.

She was happy how Dad had held down his work this year ‘for the first time since the war, really…’ She looked into my eyes and took my hands. ‘It weren’t good for your Dad, the war, you know. Uncle Frank is looking after you, i’n’t he? Out there?’

I wanted to tell her how many lads and lasses in my class had dads that had simply disappeared in the war, gone to bits, blasted to pieces, ground into the mud, rotted with rats… But I think she knew I knew all that. She wanted to tell me something else. Something about Uncle Frank maybe.

‘Frank isn’t your real Uncle, our Eric.’

Was he my real dad?

She coughed and carried on, ‘This footie … Blades, Eric.’

That’s why it’s him that takes me to the match. That’s what Dads do.

Frank had gone and left Dad a cheery chappy, snoozing off a couple of lunchtime pints by the fire.

Mum was happy. Hands holding mine were soft and dry – not gripping and dripping.

‘Do you remember your Daddy taking you when you were about five?’

I didn’t. ‘Really Mam?’

‘Yes love, it was the last time they had a proper Derby match.’

I didn’t know that Mam understood football. She was a woman after all.

‘It was a stinking, rotten, horrible year. You won’t remember that either, will you?’

I thought she was going to let me down gently about the Blades in 1919.

‘You know about all the men killed in the Great War and your Dad … you know. Well there was this…’ Her voice cracked, but she carried on. ‘This great plague they called the…’

‘Spanish Flu,’ I said. ‘We did it at school. Killed more people than the war, didn’t it Our Mam?’

She looked up to the heavens. ‘Cruel, very cruel. But we sailed through it and your Daddy thought if he survived all that … mud, he wasn’t going to be beat by a bug you couldn’t even see. The trams couldn’t run properly, your school sent you home some days because there weren’t enough teachers.’ She chuckled, ‘that was after Miss Pilkington – remember her? – after she had tried to look after the whole school all on her own, well her and that daft caretaker. What a pair. Never again. Headmistress made a rule you all had to be sent home if they got down to only two teachers!

‘The 1919 derby was a like a beam of light the Lord sent shining down on Sheffield at that time. First season after the war was greatly anticipated by the men – and the boys.

‘The derby was at the start of the season – and it was to be two weeks running. The first game was at Hillsborough, Wednesday’s home ground and they won. There’s an advantage playing at home, you know that our Eric. Your own crowd shouts for you and you get a lift.’

We were both nodding.

‘Your Daddy’s wheezing was a good deal better – it was much worse back then, after he got back from the war. I think the gas must be clearing out of him slowly. It was summer and his wound hadn’t given him much jip so he was winding himself up to give the Blades some home support. It meant a lot to him you see. When he had last been, he said it was the last time he was a whole man.’

She swung her head away and back and I saw one hand sweep away a tear.

‘We made you after that match,’ she blushed, but I knew she knew I was a man now and would not be shocked.

I’d worked it out with my pal – if I was born in June 1915, then I was made in September 1914. We still didn’t know how we were made though.

‘And the next week he signed up for the Pals Brigade.’ She let go of my hands and stood up, went over the fireplace and put on a log. She lingered, looking down at Dad for a bit, her hand on her cheek. I couldn’t see her face. When she turned back she was radiant – almost. She took my hands again and got back to telling me about Uncle not being my uncle.

‘That game. 1919. I didn’t want him taking you into that crowd breathing all those flu germs, but he was so positive, so strong.’ She looked across at him again and he let out a relaxed sigh in his dream.

‘He wasn’t the only one who had that idea, and there was a good crowd. Your Daddy got you up on his shoulders and you saw the first goal. Unfortunately, you were in the way of a man behind you who happened to miss it. One nil to the Blades and he had missed it.

‘He gave your Dad a prod in the back. “Eyup pal!” he starts. Well that was it.

‘”Pal?” he says, “Pal? Call me Pal. My Pals are out there in the mud. In the Somme. I ’a’n’t got no Pals here.” And then he just says “Pal” over and over and over – and he was wilting.

‘The bloke sees your Dad’s grey face … and clutching at his throat … and beginning to keel over. The bloke lifts you – more or less catches you, actually – and puts you on his own shoulders. He sees your Daddy is looking out at the game, the rest of the crowd is roaring the Blades on, but Daddy is crying. The bloke doesn’t know what to do. Shall he go or shall he stay? Your Daddy isn’t going, so the bloke … this total stranger who just two minutes before was having a go at your Dad…’ She stops to blink a reservoir full of tears away. ‘He put his arm around your Dad for the rest of the game … like two old pals.’

I looked across at my Daddy and dragged a sleeve across my nose.

‘Uncle Frank?’

‘Barred?’ latest opening gets good review.

Thank you so much to patient followers and regular visitors.

I have been working for three years on my latest – “Barred?” and feel the three magic words EDIT … EDIT … then EDIT, have been rigorously heeded.

I received this praise for my efforts:

Look at the time. [2.10am] Finished it 5 minutes ago. Reread the whole thing in one go.  Well……..My friend the Writer and Author !  Outstanding ! Don’t know what you did between the first and last drafts but this has now turned into a non stop, well written page turner.  It has left me with questions and visionary imagination which is what you want to leave the reader with.  I still have comments and a suggestion or 2 but only constructive ones that don’t take anything away from making it a good read as it is.  But that’s for another day. Congratulations.

Here is the start. See if you agree: Titled BARRED window

 Kevan Pooler

 Third complete edit completed 1 Jan 2015.

Thursday March 4th

“Fucking Polacks.” Suzanne the Chambermaid at The Loseborough, was chuntering as she trundled into her third bedroom of the day, and it was still only half six. “Fucking Polacks” she said again – she heard herself this time, and she caught herself in the mirror too. She left the cloth on the sink and her hand made its own way to her cigarette packet. Without looking away from the mirror she slipped a ciggy into her mouth and felt around for her lighter, but froze as she realised she couldn’t light up in here.

The pause button was released and she tilted her head to one side. She swept her grey-streaked blonde locks all across to one side and moved the cigarette to the corner of her mouth. She narrowed her eyes and moved in to threaten her image in best American Gangster Growl: “Fackin Paw Lacks.”

She whipped the weed back into its packet and set about the room as quickly as she could to get to across to 212, so she could get a gasp on its balcony.

Suzanne’s son had told her about the Polacks when he challenged her racism. Right-on was William. “Kick Racism out of Football” – that was her William. She still thought it was funny. Even after he had told her the American anti-Polack jokes were the worst, and that as she was from Irish Immigrant stock herself, she should know better. She did. She knew. It didn’t make it any easier to accept the East Europeans pushing her friends out of their jobs. It did make it sillier though – because only Anya, lovely Anya, was a Pole. The others were from all over – Latvia, Estonia, France, but the one she really hated was Agnes from Glasgow.

The room looked hardly used. Mr Houldsworth said these four would probably be quite easy. The party had stayed over one night, then through the day, but because they had not stayed ‘last night’, she could set about them first and do the others as people left. This one was funny though – whoever had it was very methodical – the towels were exactly as she left them fresh, except for the hand towel, which was wet through and had maybe been used to wipe out the shower. It was folded neatly and left squarely in the middle of the bath.

The bed had been stripped. Sheets and pillowcases had been folded and made the base of a pyramid beside the bed with the dressing gown and slippers on top. ‘Must be a man – bet he was in the army – or prison,’ she thought.

Suzanne could beat the stipulated ‘Polack’ nine minutes in here. She had the room done in just five.

 

Setting her trolley at the door, checking up and down the corridor, she raced into 212. She stripped off the pillow cases, bundled them into the sheets, raced into the en suite, grabbed all the towels and went and – just in case anyone were to suspect she weren’t busy – threw them into the corridor.

She shut the door and leaned back on it. She’d gained herself a luxurious four minutes. Four whole minutes. She looked into her pocket and winked at her co-conspirators. She got a cigarette out and readied the lighter.

‘It’s cold in here.’

The French window was open.

She catwalked over to the Balcony.

She stopped just before it. ‘Bugger that’ – she wasn’t going to let that spoil her gasper. She lifted her head and took a lungful of fresh morning air, blew it out and replaced it with the wonderful Molotov Cocktail of Nicotine filled smoke and tar. She blew it out into the fluffy pink clouds as they picked up the dawn. “Take that Anya. They won’t catch me.”

After that she had a massive two hundred and forty seconds to take in the dawn. Was it Spring? The trees opposite were still dark skeletons. A Magpie scatted and she spied him. He got a reply from below her. Her gaze worked its way down the trunks to the evergreen of the Rhododendrons and over to the Leylandii windbreak, fogged over with steam from the Jacuzzi.

‘Nice morning,’ she mused. “Oops!” Any early birds in the Jacuzzi to spy her?

“The Jacuzzi!”

The magpie flapped on the shoulders. She noticed lovely blonde hair – natural – not out of a bottle like hers. Suzanne was flushed by a rush of pity, mixed with disgust. A whole life rushed before her eyes at the moment of death – but not hers – someone else’s.

She leaned over.

She rubbed her eyes.

She screamed.

She threw her cigarette and screamed out of the room.

She choked off her scream down the stairwell, but it burst out again as she slid onto the bottom and skidded round the banister.

“Somebody’s…” she braked on the rail. She faltered in her scream – she couldn’t shout “jumped” – that would mean suicide, that lovely blonde. No.

Without checking anyone was there, she screamed across to reception “Somebody’s fallen out the window,” and she barged out of the back door.

Before

One

 

Leo Nicholas was spinning his redundancy notice on his desk, the point of his pen held firmly against the heart of his boss’s signature – his eyes tracing the obnoxious and arrogant loops and dots that formed it. He sighed. An e-mail was open on his computer screen revealing that the ever increasingly costly red tape of Criminal Record Checks, had lost a pile of records. Would Leo ask certain individuals for a copy of their own?

The day had started well: he had thought of Talya’s mantra – ‘you never buy me any flowers’ and he had bought flowers. Shattered and headless they were mocking him from his waste bin. He had slung his bulging satchel onto the car seat and crushed them.

“Oh, talk of the Devil,” he said to Gina, his secretary. She had to remind him that he wasn’t talking, he was daydreaming. He laughed and said, “You’d better give Abe and me some space, please.” Leo always had time for a man who volunteered to work with the nation’s untouchables – young drug users.

Abe Grant was a bit puffed out when he got up to Leo’s Office. He stuffed the last piece of his sausage roll in his mouth and inspected his jacket before deciding to use the bag to wipe his fingers. Same old tip of an office. Abe couldn’t get over how badly the council provided for its employees. He could see Leo behind the partition he had made for himself inside the cavernous old knitwear factory. Poor lad – cared so much about others – no time to look after himself.

“Got a minute Leo?” He was looking around to see if anyone else was likely to come in. He shut the ‘ever open door’ behind him. “I know – if it’s ever open for me, it has to be for everyone else? We need to talk.”

“Of course, Abe, sit down.” Abe rolled the secretary’s chair from under her desk to be nearer Leo. “The Leader-in-Charge says the staff are a bit twitchy with the volunteers kind of grilling them about the increased pressure of Criminal Record checks.”

“Heard it on the telly, eh Abe?”

“Yes. Even people ferrying lads to football in their cars … they reckon about eleven million people will need police clearing.”

“Well I for one hope someone sees sense pretty soon and realises that a huge costly bureaucratic scheme alone, is not going to save children.”

“But people hate getting checked up on as if they are guilty. Aren’t they even calling it Vetting?”

“Oh yes – and Barring!” said Leo. “The politicians are panicking and getting onto all the councils about failures in child protection. They feel Social Services took no notice of the reports after Maria Colwell, Victoria Climbie…”

“Baby P?”

“Yes and of course the Paedophile Gangs – Oxford, Rochdale – and we’ve got our own, haven’t we?”

“Jelly! We reported Jelly and his grooming of the rose sellers.”

“How much notice did they take?”

“Exactly.”

Leo stretched his mouth and sucked his teeth. He had not got Abe police cleared – if they vetted him, they would certainly bar him. Leo would lose his job if anybody found out. He glanced at his redundancy notice. He had not worked out how to enable Abe to carry on his great work with the most vulnerable young people. “Abe, I’m half hoping it is just the media hyping it up. I don’t think all the austerity measures will allow such expense at the same time that jobs are being slashed.”

“Jobs, Leo? Not our youth workers?”

“Ah well, that’s something else I’ll have to tell you about. But don’t let’s get drawn into all this negativity.” Leo knew that they hadn’t addressed what Abe had surely come for, but he stood and looked around for Gina. ”Leave it with me, Abe. Love to Rowena.”

 

Gina saw Abe off, gathered up her photocopying and went back to her desk. She thought Leo was about to bash his head on the keyboard, but her gentle cough stopped him. When Leo eventually decided to take notice, he flashed one hand towards the screen and one suppliant hand at her, “I’m not having it, I’m just not having it?”

“Gotta do it Leo.”

“Why? Because a little Hitler of an admin officer says so? What’s she know about youth workers?”

“No, Leo. It’s because an Ian Huntley might be in your team.”

Leo spun on his seat. “Who …? Oh him, Soham murderer … but Gina Gina, you know Huntley and Palmer…”

“Behave yourself, Leo! You know it’s Carr, Maxine Carr.”

“… were crackers.”

She winced.

“They were let slip though the net – social misfits who should never have been let near a school. Damn bureaucratic checks, didn’t stop them. People let them in, people depending on the ‘system’ to do the work.

“You know you have to do it, so why resist?”

He threw himself back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. “No, I’m not doing it. These people were all checked and cleared when they were appointed.”

“Were you?”

“Was I what? Well of course I …” he coughed. “Well, no.”

He gave Gina a sideways look and pinched his Trotsky goatee. “Got me. But I was in post for fifteen years before all this Political Correctness went mad.”

“But the checks are about Child Protection.”

“It’s Job Protection, can’t you see?” Leo was weary with the Political Correction endemic in the County’s whole ‘post Soham’ response. Yes, two beautiful little girls were murdered by Ian Huntley, but all Leo saw was hundreds more lives being destroyed, by men out to exploit them in one way or another, right there on his patch, simply because there were not enough people out there to make a difference. Since the job freeze, he could put fewer and fewer Youth Workers out on the street where the kids were open to exploitation by ‘Jelly’ and his gang of ‘taxi drivers’. It was Leo’s team who had alerted the authorities and now it was they who were ‘out on the street’ themselves.

“But Leo, Huntley would never have been employed if the system had worked.”

“Exactly my point. Only a bureaucratic system, Gina. It won’t protect kids. I won’t be able to put any more Youth Workers out there next year, because this whole Criminal Record and Barring palaver is costing five million. More desk jobs won’t protect anybody – except the politicians’ backs. You’ve seen this email about lost records?”

“Leo, you are going to get yourself into hot water if you carry on like this.”

He waved his 188 Redundancy Notice at her. “Now we’ve got these.”

“Come on Leo, you know it’s only a precautionary measure, everyone’s got one. The whole service is at risk of possible redundancy.”

“Not damned Wyndham Leyton, I bet.”

“You’ve got quite a thing about him, haven’t you?”

“Should never have had the job. What’s he know … or care?”

“Seriously, Leo…”

“I am being deadly serious. We’ll come back to my clearance – or lack of – but what I am mad about is that bloody admin worker – she calls herself ‘an Officer’ – losing clearance forms; losing the most data-sensitive materials we in the Youth Service hold. Not just in my team, either?”

“No, they’re across most teams.”

“She wants me to get three of my staff and one of Abe Grant’s Drugs Team – a TINTAB volunteer – to let her have a copy of their own forms. I refuse. I am not letting on that we are such a disorganised, inefficient service. I had to tell Abe – but I’ve sworn him to secrecy. I thought he was going to skin me alive!” He grabbed his chin. “So, should I be cleared, too? Good Question? Is Wyndham – how come he hasn’t told us to?”

“No, he’s not cleared. I asked Ms Admin Officer straight out. She is appalled, but isn’t saying anything. I’m not either – keeping my powder dry.”

“Ha! Not only unqualified for the job, but not cleared to work with Young People either!” Leo looked across at his secretary “Get me a blank form Gina.” He added, “Please? Any chance to be one up on the boss, eh?”

 

Leo was torn two ways – as the County’s lead Child Protection Trainer he felt as if he needed to protect young people from the likes of Wyndham Leyton, a typical corrupt manager. He had been appointed as Head of Youth Service ‘by mistake’ apologised the CEO, after it was revealed that Leyton had no ‘Essential’ qualification as a Youth Worker. He was, as the Chief said, dynamic, clever and had great administrative experience, including some in a backwater, hick, County Youth Service in the country somewhere. Three years later it became obvious to Leo that he had no empathy with what real Youth Work could achieve and at the sound of the bell, had heartlessly asset-stripped the service to make cuts for his Tory masters, and to keep himself the glittering kid in their eyes. They made him Head of all Young People’s Services. That was not Equal Opportunities.

Leo on the other hand felt ‘more equal’ than that womanising pig. He had come blinking into the light of a whole new world when Thatcher shut his pit. As “Red Andy” Nicholas, he needed a new life, preferably one that allowed him to line up all the Thatcherites and shoot them. He wasn’t exactly the shooting type – too noisy to get away with – but he had had his sock-cosh, and he had used it. He smiled at the thought of the Coppers from the Met, buckling onto their shields at the Orgreave Miners’ picket. The shields didn’t protect their knees, and without knees…

His new life in Youth Work had given him equality. Equality of Opportunity had been a lengthy era of Political Correctness, sorely needed in Britain and Leo had received it, despite his immigrant background. Like many at the time, he had received so many opportunities, that now it was not stressed so much, he felt the burning need to ensure that it was not forgotten, and that others got them. He had so much opportunity, that surely he was now more equal. About the pigs Orwell was so right he was wrong.

It was bred into Leo’s very bones: The British had given a whole new life to their ex-enemies – his parents – a Ukrainian ex-prisoner of war and his Italian sweetheart. By the time Andrej Nikoluk arrived at school, he didn’t notice that his name entered the register as Andrew Nicholas.

Leo didn’t see himself as a violent man, but he always felt the need to handle himself. Maybe it was the ‘specky-four-eyes’ taunt – he always managed to wrestle his way round a bully. This developed into Judo – “The Gentle Way”. The ‘Dojo’ was at the Miners’ welfare – and so was the Youth Club. Sensei said the Youth Leader wanted a workshop to encourage some of the lads in particular, to take up something more constructive than mugging old ladies. Never having considered such a move, Leo volunteered. He couldn’t believe that so far into the twentieth century, these lads’ greatest wish was a job down the pit.

When the colliery closed soon after, his heart ached to hear the stories of all the lads in the village, boozing, smoking bongs, doped and lifeless, on the slag heap – and even that was redundant now.

By the time he was qualified in a second career in Youth Work, his fellow undergrads had christened their bushy haired, be-spectacled Socialist pal with a hint of a hippy beard, “Leo” after his hero Mr Trotsky.

 

Leo was imagining himself skulking with his sock-cosh in the black shadows of County Hall and as the man slunk into his bespoke Alpha Romeo in the floodlit car park.

“Leo!” said his secretary.

“What’s up, Gina?”

“Tapping.”

His pen had stabbed through Leyton’s name on the 188 Novice. No, stabbing wasn’t his way, coshing was. Motive – the man was not cleared to work with children and he was putting them at risk. MO and Weapon – unknown.

Leo was already more equal, and now he would love to get even.

 

 

Book review: Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Nathan Filer’s character in “The Shock of the fall” loves his Nanny Noo. I was reading this during the time poor Robin Williams’ mind was disturbed, thinking of “Nanoo Nanoo” every time she was mentioned. My thinking didn’t save him. Maybe he didn’t need saving – except for us.

Commentators claimed they were so shocked. Really? Wasn’t it obvious to us all that he was working too hard to be happy – and to make us happy.

When he decided that he had had enough he went. Depression does not always make us want to die – it always makes us want ‘it’ to stop. Sometimes ‘it’ ends up being life that must stop, but that’s all. It doesn’t want us to hurt our loved ones – it often feels ‘you’d be better off without me.’ It sometimes wants us to hurt ourselves – but not in dying – in living. Physical pain preferred over the mental.

Filer has written a novel about mental disability and mental health – not the same thing. From the start we are not sure if they affect the narrator. We explore through a set of characters, beautifully observed by Filer in his work as a mental health nurse: Down’s Syndrome, Drink and Drug abuse, Self Harm, Depression, Grief, Suicide, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Schizophrenia, alongside attitudes to them: Parental, Institutional, Care in the Community, Drug Regimes, Care Planning Committees and the gamut of patronizing ‘Does he take Sugar?’ behaviours.

It is not easy for us to read at length, factual expressions about serious issues. Therefore I thank the author for attempting this unusual and searching story, to find for us real situations to extend our understanding of the issues we in the community are supposed to care about.Shock of the fall coverAnd like Robin Williams, it’s moving and funny, too.

I don’t care what you call me

Greeny’s Track of the Month

David Ford’s “I don’t care what you call me”

https://i1.wp.com/www.davidfordmusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/David+Ford+386886653_l.jpg

David Ford

Master of the bitter love song with lines like “I’ll put up with your shit ’til the day that I die”, “Go To Hell”, “You’re less fucked up than the average girl”.

Greeny’s track of the Month – Man of the World

Of course he is a fan of his namesake. Peter Green

Peter Green with Fleetwood Mac sings

“They say I’m a Man of the World… but I wish I was in love.”

It always makes Greeny feel better. Is it like some people enjoy a really good cry?

And if my words could say as much as his one guitar solo…

Emmanuel Jal: The music of a war child

For five years, young Emmanuel Jal fought as a child soldier in the Sudan. Rescued by an aid worker, he’s become an international hip-hop star and an activist for kids in war zones. In words and lyrics, he tells the story of his amazing life.

Hear War Child Emmanuel giving his story in Oxford.

Emmanuel Jal, War ChildHis story in a Poem starts at 4.27.

He finishes with a song to Emma McCune the aid worker who rescued him and 150 other Boy Soldiers. “What would I be if Emma never rescued me?”

I hope my story helps, too.

Still not there…

The characters in “Vetted, not Barred” in 2010 were caught up in the maelstrom of activity and panic to Safeguard Children, well after the Soham murders. They felt completely tied up with red-tape. The notorious element was people having maybe five  CRB checks, or more. The ISA was promoted as getting rid of this – of having a “Portable CRB”. It didn’t and still won’t have by the look of these weasil words:

“Early in 2013
We are currently working to develop and deliver a new Update Service with a proposed implementation date of early 2013. The Update Service will allow individuals (if they choose to subscribe to it, and pay a small fee) to apply for a criminal record check once and then, if they need a similar sort of check again, to reuse their existing certificate, with their organisation checking online to see if it is still up to date. This will avoid many unnecessary repeat applications. More information will be made available about this new service – in the mean-time, it is business as usual.” (Home Office)

Greeny’s Track of the Month “I’m A Creep”

 

Radiohead “I’m a Creep”

Thom Yorke said : “I have a real problem being a man in the 90s… Any man with any sensitivity or conscience toward the opposite sex would have a problem. To actually assert yourself in a masculine way without looking like you’re in a hard-rock band is a very difficult thing to do… It comes back to the music we write, which is not effeminate, but it’s not brutal in its arrogance. It is one of the things I’m always trying: To assert a sexual persona and on the other hand trying desperately to negate it.”

This fits so well into the theme of “Apple?”

Greeny is one of the characters in “Apple?” He finds that miserable songs cheer him up. There is a page of links to his top 15 at the back of the book.

Comment to add your own favourite.

Congolese warlord guilty of recruiting child soldiers

The international criminal court has delivered the first verdict in its 10-year history, finding a Congolese warlord guilty of recruiting child soldiers.

Children as young as 11 were recruited from their homes and    schools to take part in brutal ethnic fighting in 2002-03. They were taken to military training camps and beaten and drugged; girls were used as sex slaves.

The verdict is the first at an international trial focused exclusively on the use of child soldiers.

The case will set legal precedents that could be used if Joseph Kony, the elusive leader of the Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army, is captured and brought to justice.

“Apple?” opens in Africa: I wrote about Dougal and Kenneth in Africa, as my bit towards drawing attention to the issue. After the review period I will give £1 (+ 25p Gift Aid) to War Child for every copy sold.

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