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My name is Paul Catlow. Since about 1998, I have been a regular commentator on BBC messageboards and talk threads, mainly under the online nickname of “AgProv”.

I am not claiming to be an angel in this regard. I have been placed into “premod” status before on the BBC boards, and I accept the first time this happened, around 2002, it was entirely my own fault – I was pushing the limits to see how far I could take controversial comment, and I agree it went too far on that occasion.

Premod status, by the way, happens when your comments do not go directly onto the board but are vetted beforehand by a moderator to ensure they do not break any accepted rules within a code of conduct. This first period of premod only applied to BBC radio and television boards, and did not affect my posting on what remains my first interest on the BBC webpages, the “h2g2” (Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) pages, a legacy site the BBC took over following the death of its originator, author and BBC scriptwriter Douglas Adams. This was fair, as the offence did not take place on these boards and I have retained a good relationship with h2g2 at all times since (up till now) – one or two disagreements, but nothing that could not be soothed over by intelligent editing. After a couple of months, it was amicably resolved and I was allowed to resume free posting.

A second period of premoderation occurred in rather more sinister circumstances in 2007. I had posted to several threads on the Radio Two boards expressing concern at the behaviour of the then golden boy of the station, louche “comedian” Russsell Brand, who at the time was presenting a late-night Saturday shoe on Radio Two. In common with other posters, I had questioned this person’s suitability for the station, citing his extreme language, behaviour and on-air persona as reasons for the BBC to keep him under a tighter rein. I even suggested that allowing him the freedom to do as he pleased was going to end up in trouble of the sort that would bring the BBC into needless disrepute. (this was in February and March of that year).

Later on, after listening to one of his shows and feeling both troubled and disgusted by it, I made a formal complaint about his on-air behaviour. This was following a show where he requested listeners to send in tapes of themselves having sex, the best of which would be played on the show, and he promised to being on an extreme cabaret performer whose speciality was blowing ping-pong balls out of her vagina. I’m not easily offended – disgusted, yes – but this was going too far, so I made a formal complaint. This was not only fobbed off by the BBC with a bland reply, but it must evidently have been shown to Brand’s production team for their comments, as it was referred to on air and both Brand and his sycophantic co-presenter made it (and me) the subject of jokes and bad humour.

(After subsequent events, I believe the only mistake I made was not getting an additional seven thousand complainants to pick it up – we could have gotten rid of him so much earlier! One complaint is something the BBC can easily fob off. Seven thousand, on the other hand…)

After posting the details of another faux pas Brand made on his show, where a woman guest (singer Chrissie Hynde) appeared offended to the point where she walked out, I sudeenly gound myself in premod again on the boards.

At this point, I was advised by a BBC insider that this was no accident and I had offended the wrong people – either Brand or his influential supporters (Lesley Douglas, a woman who appeared to be besotted with him?) had insisted that negative publicity on the talkboards was silenced.

This was painful, as this time the pre-modding was extended to h2g2 as well, despite my not having any issues on this board. I protested that this was unjust and unfair, but got no reply.

And then Sachsgate happened, Brand became a thing of the past, and my posting rights were just as mysteriously, and with no word of explanation, restored.

Most recently – the weekend of the 5th September 2010 - the BBC finally put out a press statement to attempt to clear up why Sarah Kennedy had mysteriously vanished from her early morning show. As her last appearance had been on the 13th August, the fact it took them three weeks to make an announcement of any kind was viewed as suspicious by some posters.

In common with many others that Saturday, I posted on the Radio Two boards to ask why it had taken so long, and to inquire into what very carefully wasn’t being said. There was also a lot of speculation, backed up with reference to the end of Johnny Walker as a BBC DJ, that Chris Evans had had a hand in it – that this man was getting more power than was good for him.

Foolishly in retrospect, I joined this speculation and by Sunday morning I was in premod again – as were several other regular and long-standing posters. This was galling and smacked of inconsistency and double standards, as one pro-Evans and anti-Kennedy poster (Scott Clout/Nelson) was allowed free rein to say whatever he liked, despite the fact his postings reeked of nasty triumphalism and were full of personal comment about Sarah K and those who were supporting her. Anyone trying to post to point this out had their postings deleted, or even went onto premod, as if Scott C-N was being protected by the BBC and given free rein to say what he thought.

During this period, I made about twenty postings, and seventeen of these were initially accepted and allowed to stand – being in premod means a mod has to read and approve of them, remember. Therefore if a BBC moderator actively read my postings and allowed them to stand, then by definition they were fit for publication and broke no house rules.

I had complained to the BBC and asked for my premod status to be reviewed. I had also pointed out that as the dispute was between me and the Radio Two boards, why should I be excluded from h2g2, a BBC forum where my postings were held to be of such worth that many of them had passed the selection process and been accepted as official Guide entries?

I still await formal response from the BBC.

But a strange thing happened after I complained.

All seventeen of the posts approved by a BBC moderator since I entered premod were taken down – all at once. Then they looked at postings to h2g2 and deleted four of my postings – despite the fact that a moderator had approved those for publication so they could NOT have offended against the house rules. It looked suspiciously as if somebody at the BBC was deliberately creating an evidence trail for what happened next – my account was now restricted, as I discovered on the Tuesday morning. This means that to all intents and purposes, I have been barred from the BBC as an undesirable, a troublemaker, all of whose postings are designed to “troll” and cause trouble.

Yet all seventeen of the postings they now emailed me to tell me had broken house rules had originally been directly read and approved as fit by a moderator – so how could they now turn round and tell me they broke exactly the same set of House Rules?

I contend that I am deliberately being targeted and scapegoated all b ecause I said, half in jest, that Chris Evans had a hand in getting Sarah Kennedy retired (possibly because he wants his own dumbed-down noisefest to start even earlier?)

And it isn’t just me – others have been excluded too.

It has been suggested that this is being deliberately done to exclude possible troublemakers while the Radio Two boards are closed down – this is to happen today, Friday 17th September, at noon.

Who knows – I might get my posting privileges back at one minute past noon, with no word of apology or explanation?

Things with the BBC go from bad to worse, I'm afraid to say. I did a stupid and ill-advised thing. I was so desperate to get in and post that I set up a new email address and was able to log in for about an hour under the name of "Philip Holtack" (the hero of a novel I’m writing, but that’s a different story – literally…) but they somehow worked out it was me and barred this one too. Must have been the ISP address being the same, or something. What they have done now, which really takes the biscuit, is to delete the name "AgProv" everywhere it appears and replace it with an anonymous number. Nothing so brutal as deleting all my postings for the past twelve years, oh no: they're mostly being left intact, but there's nothing there now to connect them with me. I'm really quite upset by this. It hurts most that in trying to set up a new ID and nickname, I was gifting them a really good excuse to take still further action, but what would you do?

If I resent anything, it's losing my access to "h2g2", the Douglas Adams Guide to the Planet Earth, where I wrote quite a few long serious essays which the Editors formally accepted as Guide Entries. So on this BBC site I created things of worth that people still read and leave appreciative comment on. The rest of the BBC I can take or leave - but not h2g2. Being barred from this site really hurts!
So – can you help? I’d really like to get this out to where people can read it, Can it go on R2OK!, please, even if I cannot yet post it under my own name?

I affirm the contents of this mailing are as truthful as my memory can make them.

With thanks

Paul Catlow (AgProv)
Do me the favour of not insulting my intelligence with the spam you're dumping on me, please?

Please get your story straight. How can you be (a) the blonde woman in your user pic AND called Dave (unless you're a very good transvestite). Acording to your postings you also appear to be, quite simultaneously, married with kids AND single with a room-mate called Sean. Which is it?

I look on your "friends" page and discover that you are linguistically gifted, as you appear to speak three different languages with great fluency. Horosho! Muy bueno! Well done! (If you clock my userpic, I do have an association with Russia...)

I suspect there isn't really a person out there called "sbrase" and some sort of bot is trawling people's names at random. It also created a random identity for you to make you look plausible.

It must be a very stupid bot, as I doubt I would qualify for any United States gov't initiatives, due to the drawback of my being a British citizen.

If you're real and you can refrain from dumping Spam on me, let's talk. If not, you're busted!


Current Location: Great Britain
Current Music: The Sting
06 May 2009 @ 12:28 am
Posted on one of Xugglybug's threads where I made a comment, only to see it got deleted off.


Ah, I think I see how this works now. I do apologise if by some fluke I've caused offence, but this wasn't, really wasn't, my intention at all. I'm sorry if I blundered in where my comments and input aren't appreciated, but I did think I had something to offer - evidently the judgement is not. I apologise for not having seen the "1st post, private, please" link at the side of the page, but clicking on it, as with any of the other links, leads me to a dead end, an error page where I cannot go any further. Therefore I can only post in public to any of your threads, even if the result appears to be near-immediate deletion.

This is a great shame, as I genuinely do like what you write - it's a pleasure to read, it's thought-provoking, it's interesting, it's provocative, it makes me laugh, it makes me go "Hmm. She has a point".
I'll probably carry on dipping into it, even after this explanatory post goes the way of the postings I put on this thread earlier tonight. I hope you don't see this as a breach of privacy or anything like that - it is, after all, posted publicly where everyone can see it - and a response or two didn't feel innappropriate. (Perhaps I was wrong?)

But, Xugglybug, I did try to mske contact with you with the best of intentions - you genuinely did seem, and still seem now, like somebody worth knowing. At first it was when I looked around LJ and asked for a list of people who'd been to my old school (the Mile End Lane Day Borstal just off Lake Street) and you came up as one of six names: I checked them all out in turn and you seemed the warmest, wittiest and sanest. That view hasn't changed in the year or so in which I've been dipping onto and appreciating your postings. I love your photographic eye - you have a real talent there.

I accept you have a full life (so do I) and don't necessarily need another online friend (nor do I) and I wish you the very best in whatever you do and wherever you choose to go.

It's just a shame we can't open some sort of dialogue! Having been to the same school, admittedly at a few years' remove, doesn't confer friendship or kinship or any special favour, I know, but it seemed like a good opening gambit for conversation (I remember Madame Reckless when she was first starting out as a French teacher - she was Miss Edwards then...)

If it moves you to, message me at LJ.

If not, then so long, and thanks for the laughs and the thought-provoking glimpses!

agprov (Paul)


Just noticed this too has been deleted without explanation... so it goes!
Current Location: Stockport SK4
Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
Current Music: Sadeness, MCMXC AD

1.     The New Guild


A simple idea, but I’m really surprised nobody else thought of it first (OK, Terry Pratchett runs quite a long way with the central idea in Night Watch, and who am I to argue, but this is my take on it).


Vetinari smiled as he read the petition which had arrived on his desk. It was a light smile, a minimalist smile, and those only slightly acquainted with him might indeed question that he had smiled at all. But seasoned Vetinari-watchers, such as Rufus Drumknott, would be  in no doubt at all that the undisputed lord and tyrant of Ankh-Morpork was actually quite amused.


“I’m actually quite minded to grant this request, Drumknott”. he said.

“As the petitioners observe, it would restore a certain pleasing symmetry, as well as contributing to the ongoing resolution of an ontomological error.”


He handed Drumknott the petition.


“Oh my goodness…” Vetinari’s secretary raised a well-groomed eyebrow.


“Petition to the Patrician, by We the Undersigned, that the Establishment of a Guild of Prostitutes, Copulatrices, and Working Women, be approved as a Recognized Trade Guild within the Cities of Ankh and Morpork, and that this Guild should have the  Full Privileges and Consequent Obligations pursuant to its establishment.”


“Signed by Mrs Sandra Battye and eighteen others.” observed Drumknott.  “But isn’t Mrs Battye…”


“Indeed, Drumknott. In fact, I have another note here. A rather terser one, from the president of the Seamstresses’ Guild.  Let us await developments with interest. And amusement.”



“I’m not going to forget this, Sandra Battye!” Rosie Palm hissed, as they waited in the anteroom to Vetinari’s office.  Sandra smiled a thin enigmatic smile, but held her peace. They were old friends who went back a long way, and Sandra was sure their friendship could survive a necessary professional hiccup. Besides, the even tenor and certainties of Rosie’s life, as one of the three or four richest and most powerful women in the City, needed the occasional corrective slap now and again. It was always worth it, just to see the look on her face.


Drumknott came to the door, and coughed discreetly.


“Ladies? The Patrician will be pleased to see you now.”


Rosie shot another killing glare at Sandra, who turned her head away to conceal her half-smile.


Vetinari nodded his acknowledgement of their presence. He wasn’t alone in the office: the smell of must and formaldehyde announced the presence of Mr Slant, the veteran president of the Guild of Lawyers.


“Mrs Palm, Mrs Battye!”. Vetinari announced. “I’m so pleased you could both make it. Shall we commence the formal proceedings?”


Mr Slant cleared his throat, a noise akin to a distant tomb door creaking open.


“Indeed, my Lord. We are here to examine the petition submitted by Mrs Sandra Battye and eighteen others advocating that the Patrician approve of the establishment of a Guild of….. Prostitutes, Copulatrices and Working Women….  which would perform the usually accepted Guild functions of setting wages and prices for services, looking after Guild members in distress, providing initial and ongoing training for both fully fledged members and apprentices, and such sundry other functions as a City Guild is normally charged with.”


Slant paused. 

May I ask the exact trade function of your Guild? After all, the name you’ve chosen would seem to be more descriptive of…”


“Excuse ME!”  Rosie Palm interjected, furiously.


“A pre-existing Guild which already provides ample occupational cover in those described areas.” Slant concluded.


Was that the hint of a smile on the zombie’s face? wondered Sandra.


“Well, Mr Slant, My Lord, we represent a broad panorama of associated trades which up until now have lacked formal representation. Those of us who stitch, tapestrate, sew, and repair clothing, fabrics and textiles of all kinds. There is a word that adequately covers the services we provide, but on examination we realized it had already been taken, and made copyright, by another Guild. Therefore we needed to think of another name for us, ideally a memorable one that would stick..”


Vetinari nodded. “As I understand it, the fact the word “Seamstress” is already taken puts you in a difficult position. Could I ask you to explain why you believe the suggested Guild name is suitable for you?”


Rosie spluttered: “Havelock, this is intolerable!”


Vetinari lifted a hand for silence.  Sandra spoke:


“Well, my lord, we are a group of workers, almost exclusively female, who provide an intimate service almost exclusively to men, in exchange for money. This is a service which only an adequately skilled woman can provide, in order to give full satisfaction to a male client.  I think you will find that is a very accurate definition of the word “Prostitute”. As such, we have no scruples in using it, as it appears to be a word which is lying unclaimed and otherwise unwanted. ”.


“Point agreed” said Vetinari. “And copulatrice?”


“ From the Latitian copula, as I’m sure you and a learned man like Mr Slant are aware, denoting a joining of two things or entities. For us, the joining of two pieces of cloth that were previously sundered, and by extension, the woman who does the joining.”


“And of course you are working women, in the sense of offering a professional service to men in exchange for money. That appears to be clear enough.” observed Vetinari, his smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.


For a moment, Rosie Palm was angry enough to betray her origins, and she lapsed into gutter Morporkian.


“You are really taking the piss, Sandra Battye!”


Vetinari raised an admonitory eyebrow.


“Really, Mrs Palm? I understood that was an exclusive prerogative of Harry King and the Tanners’ and Fullers’ Guilds. Unless of course you are referring to certain specialized practices within your own Guild, which out of delicacy, not to mention immediate relevance, I refrain from investigating further?”


Rosie subsided, but said “She’s making a joke out of it, my lord.”


“Really, Mrs Palm? And that is the sole substance of your objection? I have taken the time to read the full submission by the aspirant Prostitutes’ Guild, and it appears to be extremely well thought out and presented.” He looked towards Slant, who nodded, carefully.


“I see nothing to object to, on legal grounds, my Lord. Which only leaves the matter of errm..”


Sandra opened her bag and passed over an ornate scroll.


“I understand the standard fee for covering legal and City expenses in adjudicating on the establishment of a new Guild runs at two and a half thousand dollars worth of errm.[1] This is a bankers’ draft, drawn on  our account at the Royal Bank, for the required sum.”


“Which makes it an expensive joke, Mrs Palm.” said Vetinari.


“Where do you get that sort of money from, Sandra Battye?” demanded Rosie.


“Well, you for one. I have a contract with the Seamstresses’ Guild for ongoing repairs of clothing which sometimes gets damaged in the course of normal business. You do get over-enthusiastic clients who find buttons and hooks and eyes hard to manage? Seams are split occasionally in the haste to undress and be undressed? So you seamstresses send the clothing items to we prostitutes for repair and fine adjustment? And in any case we’ve been preparing for this moment for a year or two now.   My Lord, there are relatively few of us and demand for our services always exceeds supply. It hasn’t been terribly difficult to build a surplus fund in a bank account, especially now Mr von Lipwig is offering interest on business accounts.”


“You do realize that as a Guild, you will effectively be obliged to charge a membership fee, and subsequently pay a proportion of that on to the City as a form of taxation?”


Sandra nodded, doing her best to look sombre.  “They say death and taxes are the two inevitable things in life. We had some discussion about this aspect, but the prevailing opinion among prospective Guild members is that you’re going to get it one way or the other, so it might be wise to pay up with good grace and try to negociate a favourable settlement. We understand you intend to reform the taxation system, so better now than later.”


Vetinari nodded.


“I understand you wish to endow a Guild school for girls offering a good standard of general education, together with training in the services you offer? Commendable.”


“Not just girls, my Lord. The Blue Cat Cabaret has its dressers and wardrobe people, as does the Opera House. We should be co-educational and prepared to accept suitably vocationally inclined males. After all, Mrs Palm has her understanding with Mr Harris at the Blue Cat Club, too”


 Vetinari steepled his fingers.


It all appears to be in order. Do you not agree, Mr Slant?”


“Completely, my Lord. I’m sure the new Guild will be a valuable addition to the life of the City”.


“And its Guild President a valuable addition to the city council.  Capital! I’m sure we can amicably agree on the fine details later, but don’t let me detain you, Madam President.”


“Thank you, my lord. Mr Slant, I couldn’t help noticing the pocket on the back of your gown is rather worn. Perhaps you might consider dropping it in for repair? We charge reasonable rates!”


“I’ll certainly consider it.” The zombie lawyer curled his lips up in what, for him, was a rare smile.



Rosie Palm strode a few paces ahead of Sandra as they left the palace, her body language signaling fury and annoyance.


Suddenly, her shoulders slumped, and she smiled at her oldest friend.


“You’re impossible, Sandra Battye. And you know I can’t be angry at you for very long. Come here!”


They hugged and made up, then linked arms, two women in late middle age at the peak of their careers.  Who each needed a friend…

[1] The $2.500 fee only recently became a time-honoured requirement following the establishment of the Guilds of Watchmen and of C.M.O.T. Dibblers. It was introduced to discourage frivolous applications.

29 August 2008 @ 06:16 pm

Just browsing my old school's website...

I have come accross this little gem:-

Sarcasm is banned. One of the biggest single precipitators of aggressive outbursts is when an adult attempts to be clever at the expense of a pupil.


I mean. Fuck me. It's taken the dozy bastards how long, ooh, thirty-five years, to work that one out? Ah, the genius of the British educational system. We really do have the world's best teacher-training system, don't we!

Do you use phrases you wouldn't use to adults at work? For example: "You stupid boy", "Get out of my room", "Where do you think the pencils are?" "You shut it".

Never heard anything else, although not often, anyway.

Do you remember the difficulties in his life and try not to make it any worse for him?

Hard to know where to start with this one. I visualise a "Life on Mars" scenario where one of the caring, sharing, politically correct, teachers of the early 2000's gets flipped back to 1975 to see exactly how all this stuff absolutely failed to be applied to teaching way back then. Should make good TV, if nothing else.

Are teachers getting drawn into dysfunctional patterns of behaviour?  Virtually all of them were fucking dysfunctional.

I'm getting angry again. Not at all good for me.


Current Music: Pink Floyd "Another Brick"
29 August 2008 @ 04:22 pm
OK, to get back onto more wholesome things!

Having vented some spleen and bared a few talons to anyone who might have read and understood the last two postings, back to my usual reasonable happy self. I've just had a few really enjoyable days away from being a wage slave (and looking with gloom upon the prospect of going back to it on Monday) and I like to think I've covered a bit of ground and accomplished a few things.

I still note there are only six people on this board who admit to a connection with Stockport School, the dear old redbrick borstal on Mile End Lane.  I still think the most congenial one of the bunch is xugglybug: her blog has the capacity to make me laugh out loud whenever I read it and I really do wish her all the best. I've posted what I hope are a couple of useful things to her blog: I suspect she's read them, as one was slightly edited from the form in which I posted it. I tried to explain the circumstances in which I looked up her blog and lj pages: I hope she understands the motivation. The main point is that of the five other ex-SS people here, she seems by far and away the most sympathetic and engaging. I have zero desire to chase or pursue or to be seen as stalking: why should I? I'm over twice her age, and anyway I have Herself here. As I might have said many postings ago, the common link is the old school. As I'm mainly using this blog to post reminiscences and work out issues that can still make me go "grrr!" even now, I will cheerfully admit to a curiosity. 

As the modern Stockport School is a whole world different from the one I attended, I'm curious to know about the changes and how other people perceive it.

We had:
  1. single-sex grammar school education: boys only.
  2. We were selected: we passed the old eleven-plus. (the older I get the more I think it was a mistake to scrap this)
  3. The school had a sixth-form, so we stayed for seven years, not five.
  4. The house system was different: six, rather than eight.
  5. Apres nous, le deluge: comprehensive unselected education.
They have:
  1. co-education, with presumably an equal number of girls.
  2. secondary modern, comprehensive, education or whatever the correct word is.
  3. No sixth form. What are they doing with the Octagon these days?
  4. Even the numbering system is different: I know where I am with first form, second form, third form, and so on up to upper sixth. With Year seven, year eight.... year eleven, et c, I have to count on my fingers to work out what age band or even what level of school the kids are in each year. It's counter-intuitive.
Some names I recall from schooldays are still there, holding on in there: Madame Reckless, Mr Flegg, Mr Mail.  Maybe others?
I'd dearly love to know more about them, even basic little things like what Madame Reckless looks like as she pushes sixty?  (Don't forget we saw her as the resident glamourpuss way back then, she was only in her early twenties)

I guess touching base with younger leavers would help reconcile a few of these curiosities, and that's wny I fist tried to contact xugglybug: but if she ain't interested in helping the aged, then she ain't interested. (sighs, deeply. So it goes).

What does the school propose to do about this seventieth anniversary? Nothing said yet.  Three or four months to go, though. BE fun to see the old shithouse again, though.
Current Location: Right here, right now
Current Music: Oddly enough, Madness,Baggy Trousers. I didn't choose it - it's on the radio...
03 August 2008 @ 11:03 pm
OK, the last posting was "out of character", which is usually what people say when they let go of an urge or a secret or  a strong emotion which because they have let it out, actually is part of their character (or it wouldn't be there in the first place). They just don't want to admit it was ever there. 

It took a while to get to this point, nearly a year of occassional blogging about the old school. 

But... put eleven hundred adolescent males of between eleven and eighteen  into the same relatively confined area and you're going to get all manner of power games playing themselves out.  Add very little pastoral care on the part of the teaching staff, and a callous expectation that you shouldn't complain about bad treatment  because it toughens you up and it teaches you that life isn't fair, boy, so put up with it!, and it's bloody inevitable, isn't it? 

You are going to get  "Lord of the Flies" played out every bleeding day in this sort of situation. 

OK, so I brought it on myself, initially, by saying something crassly stupid and offensive, to which this guy responded by thumping me. If it had stayed there, we both knew what the score was: I'd stepped out of line and given offence, he'd thumped me for it, apology presumed, won't do that again, let's go our seperate ways.  That's fair.  That's what males do: he went into the Crabs, I tried my hand in the Army for a few years. (Give me a rifle or other sidearm and I can still shoot straight. And use a bayonet.) I stepped out of line and had an informal beasting. Fine if it had stayed there. But it didn't.

But this prize arsehole chose to make an issue of it and blighted my life over the next few years. As I say I avoided the bastard as far as I could and the occassions where he could physically atack me were few and far between.  But every day was tinged by apprehension and having to look out for him and to ensure I was where he wasn't.  That was what did the damage: the continual grinding low-level fear and apprehension. 

And thirty-odd years on, the memory of this person stays with me, along with a desire to knock his smug "you can't do anything to me as I am bigger and harder than you"  face straight through, from front to back, with a handy lump-hammer.  '75 - '77 was tainted by the presence of this person. His leaving was occassion for a sigh of relief. 

May he and he alone still suffer pain, grief and hurt threefold to the pain, grief and hurt he inflicted on me. And may the sentence be that of one year and one day. So mote it be!

(Hmmm - wonder if the git still rides a motorbike)
Current Mood: angryangry
Current Music: "Feel the Thunder" - Blue Öyster Cult. About the death of a motorcyclist...
03 August 2008 @ 09:55 pm

This is mad... I went onto the Friends Reunited site earlier, and discovered the price for finding out where other people I knew currently are, was registering with them. So I put up a noncomittal entry with the minimum of personal information, thought about it and added a link to this blog, then set about checking out names and current locations as I remembered them. 

Thankfully the answer to the question Will anyone know that I have looked at their profile/ who has looked at mine?  is "No - we still don't list who has looked at each other's profiles".  So I was able to look people up with complete anonymity and find things out about them, which was good...   I suppose this is where I have to start being careful about what I commit to evidence, as one of the people I looked up was this guy who was in the year above me who did his personal  best to make my life more difficult than it was. OK, the initial trigger was that I was obnoxious to him: but this evil bastard chose to make it painful for me for the whole of the three years in which our paths crossed afterwards. It wasn't too difficult to avoid the nasty-minded shit, which I managed most of the time, but if our paths crossed he would do something designed to humiliate, usually a punch or something. The one time I punched him back, he basically beat the shit out of me - so much for standing up to bullies and forcing them to give you respect, as in the real world it often doesn't work out that way. 

I'm quite calm about writing this down now, but there have been occassions where the old rage and anger have really fired up in me and I have wished the most agonisingly painful and prolonged form of death on this guy. No: just something that leaves him crippled in a wheelchair for the rest of his natural, and may he then have a long life.

I'm agnostic as to whether curses have any effect, but I studied enough occult stuff (witchcraft and black magic) to know that formally cursing somebody is a really great method of anger management: directing and parking all the fury and rage on somebody else, with the intention that it ruins their life, can leave you feeling really calm and at ease wirth yourself afterwards. Hope he had at least a few bad dreams on my account!

I very nearly did it, twice:  I found out his home address and speculated on whether I could get away with pouring petrol through the letterbox and adding match. (I was fourteen at the time - nice education, hey!) and in those more relaxed days, researched how to make the perfect firebomb. Amazing how much I could work out from my local library and a thorough education in chemistry... it wasn't fear of being caught that stopped me, but the realisation that even a shit like **** ****** still had parents, probably siblings, and I wasn't justified in taking an issue with their arsehole son out on them. I still wonder, though, what sort of an impact it might have had on the bastard if i'd dropped a big hint to him....  "XXX  Manchester Road, Heaton Norris, Stockport, the one with the ugly and artless stone cladding on the outside....crackle-crackle, sizzle, burn, BOOM! "OK, he'd probably have beaten the shit out of me again, but would the threat have scared the shitbag?  But the moral problem was there: I'd have burned HIM alive gladly, but it wasn't right to expose his family to risk. THEY'd done nothing to me. Conscience, hey, who'd have one?  I have. But certainly not ****.

He rode a motorbike to school in his fifth year: the problem was, he parked it where it could easily be overlooked, checked on and anyone lingering near it would be noticed. Don't think the potential for, eg, sugar in the petrol tank, or severing the brake cables, et c, didn't occur to me.  Again,  I couldn't guarantee that somebody who didn't deserve it, another road user or a pedestrian, wouldn't be hurt when the bike crashed. Bloody conscience again.  And I bet that was a lockable petrol tank.

(I considered - twice - murdering this shit. Might have done it, too!.) One day, though, I kicked some broken glass in front of the bike in the vague hope he might drive over it and waste a tyre...

Anyway, I know where he lives now. His F.U. article told me the town, that he's married with three kids, and has a boxer dog.  A bit more Internet googling found out more. Heh heh, isn't it nice to have information?  Again though, the conscience thing....  damn damn and damn.  I have no beef with his wife Denise, nor anything against his three kids, Daniel and....    so they are, and must remain, safe. Nor could I hit at him in any way that impacts on them. The anger is against the up-until-now happy and contented paterfamilias, and cannot, must not, spill ont others close to him.  I don't have that right as they have never done anything to hurt me. However, if his death is ruled out, I'll settle for "crippled" in one way or another.... I wonder what's in his RAF service record that could be used against him? 23 years, with his delightful and engaging personality, there must be something negative on the charge sheet.

(And if the bastard ever reads this, I hope he'll be wondering if I mean it ,or if this is one gigantic bluff. Start sweating, in that case! Oh, and this is just an issue with you. Nobody else. Or your home would have burned in 1977. And Phil? I know where you live. I know where you work. If you read this and your reaction is to take it out on me in any pre-emptive way, shape or form, I can assure you it will not end there. Any action taken towards me will be followed up on. If not the day after, than a week, a month, a year, later. You have no way of knowing.  I also have friends and contacts and favours I could call in. Your life could so very easily be made somewhat less comfortable were I to make a phone call to a friend of a friend and ask for friends of theirs to intervene. All they need is an address. And you would be surprised what I know.  Now sweat, you bastard. )

Current Location: Home
Current Mood: weirdweird
Current Music: "Revenge", Patti Smith.
 I reprint it here - it's my intellectual property, after all - not out of vanity, but because it illustrates everything I felt and knew to be wrong with the way English was taught at Stockport School. So it's relevant to the ongoing discussion of schooldays and teachers and teaching styles.


(Published, 26 Feb 2007)
Prize winners and popular fiction
On the one hand we have Booker prize winners and the improving sort of
literature taught in English lit classes (Who is the greatest of them
all?, G2, February 23).
On the other, we have the sort of books people read
because they want to. Isn't the question that needs to be asked: why is
there such a gulf between the "literary" novel and the stuff that the
majority of people who read English novels will read for pleasure? Or
if the English lit fraternity find it insulting to their craft that so
many people shun Booker-prize stuff in favour of JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien and
Terry Pratchett, there's a simple way around it. Just put Rowling and
Pratchett on the syllabus for GCSE and A-level English lit, and watch
their popularity and sales nosedive as a consequence.


This ties into an increasing level of boredom and alienation and disaffection I felt with English, specifically English Lit, as taught at Stockport School. (To a lesser extent, the same criticism was something to be levelled at French Lit, which was taught as part of the A-level syllabus)

I only really dimly perceived this at the time. Something was wrong with the way English was taught, something fairly intrinsic to the subject, but what the Hell was it? I just knew that whatever it was, the subject was making less and less sense every day, and the deeper I got into it, the less satisfying it became. I mean, it was still easier than French and I didn't need to think about it very much, but the notion  of pursuing it as an academic discipline at university didn't fill me full of joy either. 

Perhaps the most direct way of getting at the point is this. In the fifth form, in Dr Hempstock's biology class, we had to do the standard dissections, one of a rat, one of a frog. In a detached and dipassionate sort of a way, I quite liked this, and the excercise of slicing, dicing, pinning, and presenting was not to much of a stress. It was, as I recall, enlivened by the loud THUMP! noise of Vic Brown keeling over and passing out. He'd been this way ever since the first year in the junior science lab in J12, when we did the thing with the surgical lancet, pricking our thumb, smearing it on a microscope slide, and looking at the cells.  (Q - with the hysteria about AIDS, how do they manage this in school these days? We didn't have to bother about this, and as I recall the whole gay/drugs thing wasn't an issue in the seventies: where it did impinge on our lives will get a Blog entry to itself, though, as the story can't easliy be woven in here). The first time Vic had passed out was age eleven, in One Brown, in J12. He'd repeated this, on average twice a year, in the labs whenever anything involving blood or oozing fluids came up in the syllabus. What made it especially risible in the fifth form was that Victor Brown, (and his bonded buddy Clive Brewer) had re-invented hiself as a hardcase punkrocker in the mode of Sid Vicious (yes, the guy who self-mutilated regularly on stage). I mean, how did Vic handle the gig footage where Vicious and Rotten are having at themselves with broken bottles and the blood is oozing EVERYWHERE?  Anyway, he had his hair done as near to a Mohican spiky effort as he could without incurring the censure of Mr Hudson and , even though I never really got on with the guy ,it has to be said  he  deserved, and got ,a grudging nod, for the way he subverted the school uniform rules and got away with blue bleeding murder. Well, as he said, all the school rules stipulated was that he needed to wear a blazer with the school crest on the breast pocket.   Nothing said he couldn't sew punk badges on the rest, nor rip the sleeves off leaving only the tattered lining. And he got away with it.  Practically all our teachers turned a blind eye, from Slug McDonald downwards. Vic, from this distance - even though what we thought of each other at the time is well documented, and I doubt we'd think anything else of each other  now - I salute you.

But anyway, we did the dissection and chopping up and pinning out and Labelling of Parts in the biology lab, first on frogs, then on rats (one male, one female). No problem, textbook dissection, I quite enjoyed it. 

And why does this formaldehyde-tinged smell , the sound of the rasp of a bonesaw, and the slightly carrion colours of a rat's interior, surface from memory now, in the context of English Literature and not biology?

Because, and this connection only surfaced when I finally made it to university and had to sit through a long dull dull tedious lecture from Malcolm Bloody Bradbury at UEA (although I really enjoyed Vic Sage) -   the penny finally dropped, and I realised that in English Literature classes we were doing exactly the same bloody thing. It took a couple of undergraduate introductory lectures from a man renowned as one of the greatest academic brains in the field of English Literature and creative writing  ( Malcolm Bradbury was a boring bastard, though: Sage could set a lecture theatre alight) to make me finally realise that no way was I going to change my degree and do Eng Lit. Does this sound ungrateful? That I was offered the chance to change my degree and do English Lit at UEA Norwich and be taught - all the time - by people like Bradbury and the Sages? At a university whose reputation for excellence in literature placed it way in front of most of Oxbridge? Where ten times more undergrads applied for places than there were places - and I turned them down when the offer was made?  I can hear, from a distance of thirty years, Shamail Abdool screaming with outrage and passionate disbelief at my choice. Sorry Sham. In fact - sorry mr Fogg. Sorry mr Ensor. Sorry Mr Parr. )

The truth is that English Lit was just like those dissections in the biology lab. You take a work of literary merit, do whatever the equivalent is of gassing it to death, pin it firmly to a slab, then dissect the bloody thing into smaller and thinner and more precise slices in an effort to analyse what makes it tick. 

I mean, shit, what's wrong with just reading the bloody thing and appreciating it?

I read one of Dean Swift's satires once. Something which on the face of it was about the whipping of a whore for soliciting. To quote Wikipedia:-

"In a particularly acute example of deadpan, Jonathan Swift's narrator in "A Tale of a Tub" says, "Last week I saw a woman flay’d, and you will hardly believe how much it alter'd her person for the worse".  "

I forget exactly how it continues - I never could accurately memorise quotes to reel off to order in the exam room - but I've go t a copy upstairs I can check.   Something about "the further and the deeper we progressed, the greater the number of faults and flaws laid manifest" -   why do I feel Dean Swift is talking about lit crit here?  

Current Mood: creative
Current Music: Steeley Dan - Reelin' In The Years

To begin where it began, an email exchange with that august and erudite British broadsheet newspaper, the Grauniad:-

From:Becky.Lewis@guardian.co.uk  Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book
Subject:The Guardian Book of Letters to the Editor
Date:Fri, 12 Oct 2007 15:18:23 +0100

Dear agprov,

This November we are publishing an edition of letters that have
 appeared in
the Guardian over the last twelve months.  We would very much like to
include your letter that is copied into this email.

Due to the timescales involved in producing a book of this nature, I
be grateful if you could grant us permission asap.

Kind Regards
Becky Lewis on behalf of Lisa Darnell

Guardian Books

As far as I was concerned, this was a fair request. You don't publish books out of altruism; you publish because you think there's money in it. You are using my input: as a writer who has been published in other formats, and who has received actual folding cash for it, it's only fair that part of that profit should come back to me in recompense for my contribution, right?
but no, the lovely Becky wrote back with:-

To:"agprov" <agprov@his_email.co.uk>
From:Becky.Lewis@guardian.co.uk  Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book
Subject:Re: The Guardian Book of Letters to the Editor
Date:Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:56:39 +0100
Hi agprov,

I am afraid you will not be receiving any contributor's fee for this

Kind Regards

It gets better.....

So at least I'll get a complimentary copy of the book, if nothing else? No, I'm going to have to go out and buy one. Whoa, what the Fuck is this - vanity publishing?

Now hold ON a minute here.....  you're selling it at £12.99 a pop, as I discovered this afternoon when I saw the book on sale on my local Borders. 

OK, a percentage of that must be a precalculated profit margin. And if that isn't being divvied up between the people who actually contributed, then who benefits? 

THinking about it. 

The book is called The Guardian Book of Letters to the Editor.  It's published, as you might expect, by Guardian Books. It costs £12.99 which I am happy to say I have not paid them in any way, shape, or form, as I still maintain that they should be recompensing me. My letter is on pages 117-118. (I checked).  No, I haven't bought a copy. 

I'm sort of pissed off that they appear to think the reflected glory of being in print is sufficent payment. Insulted, really. Fuck OFF,  I am getting into the habit of being paid in real money for what I write in print magazines. I also take photographs for print magazines for which I am paid at standard commercial rates.  This isn't my first income yet, not by any means, but this a habit I'm getting into and one which I quite like. 

Dear Guardian: I'm letting you off with this for one reason only, which is that it's going to look good on my CV for me to be truthfully able to say that my thoughts have been not only published, but reprinted in an anthology, by the Guardian. You've had me once, and if I write you any further letters to the editor, you can print them gratis ONCE and once only - after that you pay me residuals for any form of reprint. The experience of knowing I can be paid for freelance writing has sort of spoilt me, if you see what I mean! 

(Thinks: would Private Eye be interested in this?)
Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
Current Music: I want MONEY! (That's... what I want...)