Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wahlööped #2

Reason #191 why I love Sjöwall and Wahlöö:

"Walpurgis Eve is an important day in Sweden, a day when people put on their spring clothes and get drunk and dance and are happy and eat food and look forward to the summer. In Skĺne, the roadsides are in bloom, and the leaves are coming out. And out on the plain, the cattle are grazing the spring grass, and the other crops are already sown. Students put on their white caps and trade union leaders get their red flags out from the moth-balls and try to remember the text of Sons of Labour. It will soon be May Day and time to pretend to be socialist for a short while again, and during the symbolic demonstration march even the police stand to attention when the brass bands play the Internationale. For the only tasks the police have are the redirection of traffic and ensuring that no one spits on the American flag, or that no one who really wants to say anything has got in amongst the demonstrators.

The last day of April is a day of preparation; preparations for spring, for love and for political cults. It is a happy day, especially if it happens to be fine".

From 'The Fire Engine That Disappeared' (Published 1969).

Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men by Colin Bateman (Arcade Publishing 1996)

"You know," said McClean, "I saw this for the first time way back in sixty-nine when I was at Queens University. It had been around for a good few years then, like, but we had this cinema club, a real fleabag joint. A brilliant film, brilliant, I was really enjoying it, but I couldn't for the life of me understand why David Lean had this little black bush in the bottom corner of every frame. It intrigued me for the whole of - what was it - three hours? This was the late sixties, like, the age of experimental film. I had dreams of being a filmmaker myself."

"A bit different from insurance, eh?" said McMaster.

"Yeah, well, boyhood dreams. But I thought Lean was such a master. I mean, there he was with this epic picture, millions and millions of dollars to make, looked like heaven, yet he has the balls to put a little black bush in the corner of every frame. I spent ages trying to work it out, the symbolism, the hidden meaning. It was a real enigma. Then it was over, the lights went up, and there was this bastard with a huge Afro sitting in the front row." He shook his head. "I should have killed him."

Mannen På Balkongen (1993)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sideshow Goal

Absolutely wonderful goal by Santos's Neymar that was only tarnished by the sight of his bloody awful haircut.

Happy ending, though. A Flamengo inspired Ronaldinho battled back from 3-0 down for a 5-4 victory against Pele's old mob.

If you're not a Alan Hansen wannabe with a dodgy ticker, the goal highlights and defensive lowlights are at the following link.

Hat tip to 'Monkeygrinder's Organ' over at Urban 75.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Fire Engine That Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Pantheon Books 1969)

Doris Mĺrtensson arrived back home on the evening of Saturday the twentieth of April.

It was now eight o'clock on Monday morning and she was standing in front of a large mirror in her bedroom, admiring her suntan and thinking how envious her friends at work would be. She had an ugly love-bite on her right thigh and two on her left breast. As she fastened her bra, she thought that perhaps it would be necessary to keep things on for the coming week to avoid awkward questions and involved explanations.

The doorbell rang. She pulled her dress over her head, thrust her feet into her slippers and went to open the door. The doorway was filled by a gigantic blond man in a tweed suit and a short open sports coat

He stared at her with his china-blue eyes and said:

'What was Greece like?'


'Don't you know that the military junta there allows tens of thousands of people to rot away in political prisons and that people are tortured to death every day? That they hang women from the ceiling on iron hooks and burn off their nipples with electric steel cutters?'

'You don't think about things like that when the sun's out and everyone's dancing and happy' 'Happy?'

She looked appraisingly at him and thought that her suntan must look fine against her white dress. This was a real man, she could see that at once. Big and strong and blunt Perhaps a little brutal too; nice.

'Who are you?' she said, with interest.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Matters of Life & Death & Other Stories by Bernard MacLaverty (W. W. Norton & Company 2006)

'It was a shame about the Orrs having to leave,' said Bill.


'But it wouldn't have been wise for him to stay.'


'After the threat.'

'But all cops get threatened.'

'Not on pirate radio, they don't.' Ben stared at him. 'They gave out his address on Radio Free Whatever.'


'And the powers that be said it was a serious threat. A bomb threat. That's why he came round us all. He was very apologetic.'

'What do you mean - came round us all?'

'Didn't he come and tell you to put the girls in the back bedroom?'


Bill looked confused.

'He said he went round everybody. Warned them.'

'Not me, he didn't.' Ben sipped at his drink and stared at Bill. 'Maybe he said something to Maureen.'

Ben went off in search of his wife. He took her from a conversation with three other women sitting on the floor and beckoned her out of the noise into a coat recess in the hall.

'Did Dawson tell you someone was itching to bomb him? Did he tell you to put the kids in the back bedroom?'


Ben bit his lip.

'Why?' said Maureen.

'That's what I want to know. Why did he not warn us? He warned everybody else.'


'We're Catholics.' He threw back his head and whooped in disbelief. 'Fuckin Fenian bastards. That's what we are.'

You don't mean it was deliberate?'

'What other way is there of looking at it?'

'Not only did he not warn us,' Ben's eyes widened with realisation, 'he tried to set us up. That's what the bad parking of the car was all about. He wasn't drunk. He didn't miss. He parked his fucking car in front of my house so's we'd get it . . .'

'Jesus. And he's got kids of his own.'

(From the short story, 'A Trusted Neighbour')

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman (Arcade Publishing 1995)

"I don't think it would be a good idea to call the police."

"Why?" He stared into my face. "We've just been shot at. We could be dead." His eyes narrowed suddenly. "You think they were the police?"

I shook my head. "They were Protestant paramilitaries."

"Protestant? How can you tell?"

"Two ways, really. One: they fucked up. Proddies have a habit of fucking up operations like this. They outnumber the IRA ten to one but couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery. Correction. They usually do organize a piss-up in a brewery before they try anything and that's why they fuck up."

"And two?"

The skinhead who shot at us. He had FTP written on his head."

"FTP. Tattooed? What's it mean?"

"No, just written. Like with a felt pen. It stands for Fuck the Pope. It's a dead giveaway. Actually, they're improving. Usually they can't spell FTP."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Misterioso by Alan Plater (Methuen Paperback 1987)

Fantasy had always come easily to Rachel.

As a very little girl, she had wanted to be Her Majesty The Queen when she grew up. When she discovered the title was not vacant, other possibilities began to haunt her imagination: Judy Garland, Bambi, any one of The Beatles' girlfriends, Ann Jones, Miss Piggy, Lucinda Prior-Palmer and Mrs Hodges, the PE teacher. In her late teens, the onset of political fervour and a semblance of maturity produced a new set of role models: Sylvia Pankhurst, Emma Goldman, Pat Arrowsmith and Nina Simone.

Once upon a happy time in bed, Will had summarized her fantasy life with his customary gentle astringency: 'You really want to be a Greenham woman with an electric blanket and a voice like Ella Fitzgerald's'

Monday, July 18, 2011

Too Much, Too Late by Marc Spitz (Three Rivers Press 2006)

Do you know the song "Talk of the Town" by the Pretenders? I always loved that song. I consider it probably one of the ten best singles ever released. Over the years, when intoxicated a certain way, I'd insist it's the best ever, but then I've also insisted that about "Bad Case of Loving You" by Robert Palmer, which just isn't true. Still, "Talk of the Town" is perfect every time I hear it. Maybe it's because I know the band's leader, Chrissie Hynde, is an Ohioan. Maybe because it's beautiful. I was hearing "Talk of the Town" in my head as we began our flight to John F. Kennedy International. "Oh, but it's hard to live by the rules. I never could and still never do," Chrissie sang.

I forced myself onto a bit of a high, and my walk had become a strut. I'm signed to Diphthong Records, I repeated to myself. My little band is worth one million dollars to someone. We've been played in Topeka and Athens and Istanbul. We were banned in Iran. Big in Japan. Very famous in places I would probably never visit. I am now middle-aged. But I'm a professional musician, and I will never have to work at anything else again. All you people who warned me to grow up? Fuck you. All you people who tried to grab me and take me down with them? You couldn't catch me, suckers. I am going to stay 18 for all time like Mr. Mick Jagger, and if you have a problem with that, you can kiss my arrested ass.

Harry . . . he had no strut and a much different interpretation of "Talk of the Town." He saw Chrissie Hynde's confession as a lament, whereas I was sure it was a boast.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Vintage Crime/ Black Lizard 1966)

Martin Beck inspected his fellow passengers gloomily. His expedition had been a failure. There was nothing to indicate that Ari Boeck had not been telling the truth.

Inwardly he cursed the strange impulse that had made him take on this pointless assignment. The possibilities of his solving the case became more and more remote. He was alone and without an idea in his head. And if, on the other hand, he had had any ideas, he would have lacked resources to implement them.

The worst of it was that, deep down within himself, he knew that he had not been guided by any kind of impulse at all. It was just his policeman's soul—or whatever it might be called—that had started to function. It was the same instinct that made Kollberg sacrifice his time off—a kind of occupational disease that forced him to take on all assignments and do his best to solve them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Walking Wounded by William McIlvanney (Sceptre Paperback 1989)

He looked at the litter on his desk and wondered how he had come to be manacled to these invoices, how many years he had spent transferring days from the in-tray to the out-tray. It would be some time yet before he could go home, but the thought was merely a reflex, no longer carried any deep regret. Marie would be waiting there with a detailed report of how much hoovering she had done today and what the Brussels sprouts cost. Jennifer would be doing her usual impersonation of a foundling princess who can't understand how she has come to be unloaded on such a crass family and Robert, fruit of his loins and heir to his ulcers, would be playing songs in which the lyrics only surfaced intermittently and incomprehensibly.

From the short story 'Waving'.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Pothunters by P. G. Wodehouse (The Overlook Press 1902)

As for Stokes, I suppose I must prosecute--'

The detective raised a hand in protest.

'Pardon my interruption, sir, but I really should advise you not to prosecute.'

'Indeed! Why?'

'It is this way. If you prosecute, you get the man his term of imprisonment. A year, probably. Well and good. But then what happens? After his sentence has run out, he comes out of prison an ex-convict. Tries to get work. No good. Nobody will look at him. Asks for a job. People lock up their spoons and shout for the police. What happens then? Not being able to get work, tries another burglary. Being a clumsy hand at the game, gets caught again and sent back to prison, and so is ruined and becomes a danger to society. Now, if he is let off this time, he will go straight for the rest of his life. Run a mile to avoid a silver cup. He's badly scared, and I took the opportunity of scaring him more. Told him nothing would happen this time, if the cups came back safely, but that he'd be watched ever afterwards to see he did not get into mischief. Of course he won't really be watched, you understand, but he thinks he will. Which is better, for it saves trouble. Besides, we know where the cups are--I feel sure he was speaking the truth about them, he was too frightened to invent a story--and here is most of the money. So it all ends well, if I may put it so. My advice, sir, and I think you will find it good advice--is not to prosecute.'

'Very well,' said the Head, 'I will not.'

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bore'em Hill

Another quiet Sunday night in the Swedish part of Brooklyn.

The poor bastard didn't stand a chance.

If only he'd discovered Världssocialism, the Swedish language journal of the WSM during that period satirised in Lukas Moodyson's wonderful 2000 film, 'Together'.

He wouldn't have sold many more papers, but he would have kept his sense of humour and wouldn't have been obliged to learn the lines to The Internationale.

Killing Bono (2011)

Sunk by the Belgrano

A phlegmatic River Plate fan accepts their first ever relegation in the club's history with a restrained good grace.

My father-in-law speaks Spanish. Maybe I should send him the link to ask for a line by line translation?

Hat tip to 'Chip Barm' over at Urban 75.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Day of the Jack Russell by Bateman (Headline 2009)

It was the Tuesday before Christmas Day when The Case if the Cock-Headed Man walked into No Alibis, the finest mystery bookstore in all of, um, Belfast.

In some ways he was lucky to get me, because with business being so quiet I had resorted to letting my mother woman the till for that short part of the day when she could manage to keep off the booze, i.e. between the hours of nine and eleven twenty-nine in the morning. If he had walked in ten minutes earlier he would have walked straight out again, because while still undoubtedly sober, Mother is not one for suffering fools or anyone gladly and she's gotten ten times worse since her stroke. She has always been ugly and mean, but she used to restrict her glares and tempers and violence and sarcasm to members of her immediate family, but since the stroke she has expanded her circle of viciousness to include distant cousins, vague acquaintances, most other members of the human race and several dogs. Mother is wired differently to you or me. A stroke usually affects just one side of the body, but she has lost the power in her right leg and left arm, making her appear lopsided from whatever angle you care to look at her, although most people don't, and stagger from side to side like the drunk she is when she tries to walk. It is funny to watch her. When she's drinking she now only has to consume half as much as before to get legless. And half of that again usually drools out of her mouth on to her blouse, because another side effect of the stroke is the loss of all feeling in her lower lip.

Friday, July 08, 2011

One of those strange 'I should have known that' football facts . . .

. . . from today's excellent Joy of Six:

"Given Manchester United have just won a record 19th English league championship, the fact that they've had only three title-winning managers comes as quite a surprise."

And of course Ron Saunders should have got an honorable mention.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

If only . . .

. . . this was the front cover of tomorrow's Guardian:

Sadly, they've gone for the much more sedate:

Thankfully, Steve Bell is on form:

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Leave It to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse (Vintage Books 1923)

Eve's eyes opened wide.

'Do you mean to say you gave me somebody else's umbrella?

'I had unfortunately omitted to bring my own out with me this morning.'

'I've never heard of such a thing!'

Merely practical Socialism. Other people are content to talk about the Redistribution of Property. I go out and do it.

Browned off

Not surprised to see Ian Rankin's name so high up the list if last year's Dunfermline charity shops are anything to go by. The question is, do people actually read the books that they eventually palm off to charity shops?

The author and/or book that always seems to be in abundance at thrift shop sales, stoop sales and library fund raisers in Brooklyn? Step forward Ian McEwan's 2001 novel, 'Atonement'. If I had a dollar for every time that unbroken spine stared back at me at a book sale, I could afford a kindle . . . and afford to put a few books on the kindle.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

dancing ninja

July 2011 Socialist Standard

July 2011 Socialist Standard


  • Britain's care home crisis
  • Regular Columns

  • Pathfinders: Fission confusion
  • Cooking the Books 1: Good capitalism, bad capitalism?
  • Cooking the Books 2: Profits before petitions
  • Material World: Money - a waste of resources
  • Halo Halo: Why a socialist world won't be paradise
  • Greasy Pole: Calm down and listen
  • 50 Years Ago: Britain and the Common Market
  • Main Articles

  • Is the crisis over? Whatever happened to the financial crisis?
  • Democracy and Capitalism Can capitalism and democracy co-exist?
  • The archbishop is right “We are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted” (The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams).
  • Pedalling in ever-decreasing circles A look at the old Clarion Cycling Club
  • Anyone know a lifestyle anarchist? Keep a look-out for people who are chock-full of undirected, ill-informed revolutionary gusto, but empty of any desire to organise their views into a coherent critique of the world.
  • What environmentalists are up against The continuing deforestation of the Amazon.
  • Letters, Book Reviews and Meetings

  • Letters to the Editors: Reformist charities; World War Two; Plain English
  • Book Reviews: Property is Theft! A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Anthology. Ed. Iain McKay (AK Press 2011); Marxism and World Politics. Contesting Global Capitalism. Ed by Alexander Anievas (Routledge 2011)
  • TV Review: Choosing To Die
  • Film Review: Jumping The Broom
  • Action Replay: Ring-Fenced
  • Socialist Party Meetings: Clapham, Glasgow, Birmingham & Manchester:
  • Voice From The Back

  • All Right For Some; The Middle Class Myth; A Dog's Life; The Class Divide; Law and Disorder