Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Armed Man

The Sandgate Singers’ performance of ‘The Armed Man’ in Arundel Cathedral on 3rd March was a dramatic event to witness. The audience reacted to the opening in which the black-clad choir were marching on the spot for all the world like a tide of death. This was in tune with the opening theme, “The armed man must be feared.”

The work, by Karl Jenkins, is described as “a mass for peace” and it includes the traditional elements of the Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Benedictus. These are interspersed with movements which convey the futility and horror of war. Even the Sanctus, which praises the “Lord God of Hosts” has a distinctly martial air.

I think no less a place than a cathedral can do justice to this powerful work. It is unfortunate that one of the most distinctive pieces of the work – the Muslim call to prayer – was excluded by the powers that be. The words of the call to prayer, “God is great, prayer is better than sleep.” are not out of place in a Cathedral and now would be a good time to remind people that Muslims worship the same God.

The event was in aid of the “Love your hospital” charity. A pity a fraction of the billions squandered on war can’t be used for a better purpose. Carl Jenkins drew attention to the human cost of war and the voices of the choir became positively demonic in the sixth movement “Charge!” 

It was an evening the audience will not forget.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Far right threat

The i newspaper today says the police have warned that the far right threat is growing.

Anyone who has chatted with a member of the Metropolitan police can confirm there is definitely a lot of far-right extremism around!

I had the experience of drinking in a pub frequented by officers and most of my school pupils would have found the racism embarrassingly childish. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Durrington Detective Agency update

Inspired by the Sea is a very interesting shop to visit on Worthing Seafront. It is also a place to look for books by local writers. An example of that would be the Durrington Detective Agency.

Speaking of which, here is the beginning of the latest Durrington Detective Agency story.

Death’s Calling Card

I have never understood why Micah gets so agitated whenever the ace of spades comes into play when we indulge in the occasional game of rummy at the John Selden. We never play for money because pubs need to be licensed for that sort of thing.
It’s death’s calling card,” she once explained.
It’s superstitious nonsense,” I thought, but refrained from saying.
Perhaps that was just as well because we were to encounter Micah’s least favourite card in the most macabre of circumstances.
The Smithson family were a macabre lot at the best of times. I knew them slightly as neighbours but Micah is what an impolite person might call nosy, which is no bad thing for a detective of course.
So it was that Micah was the first person Carmen Smithson rang when tragedy struck. I will mention now that her mother did not name her after the heated rollers. This was, Carmen insisted, “a joke.” I leave you to judge.
We will come round straight away,” Micah said.
Turning to me, she added, “I will tell them they should call the police when we have had a look at the crime scene.”
And to touch nothing?”
Quite,” Micah gave me a look which said she was not a complete imbecile.
Anatole and Carmen Smithson and their grown-up son, Gregory who still lived with them at the age of 38 had been playing cards with a friend of the family, Bernard Cash.
Anatole had died where he sat. With a “strangled sort of noise,” he had dropped his cards and cashed in his chips so to speak. I noticed he had been holding the eights of spades and clubs, the ace of clubs and our old nemesis the ace of spades. The other players had left their cards where they were. While the family called for medical assistance (which proved to be a futile exercise) I took a glance at the other hands and realised that Anatole’s cards were winning ones. He also had an ace of diamonds in the hole, which clinched the matter.
Micah looked at the cards with a kind of superstitious dread.
That is a dead man’s hand,” she confided.
So I see,” I said.
She sighed. “It is called a dead man’s hand because, according to legend, it was the hand Bill Hickok had when he was shot dead. It is very unlucky,” she held up her hand, “even when it is a winning hand.”
I held my tongue. It had certainly been unlucky for Anatole Smithson that night.
We prevailed upon Mr Cash to remain although he seemed keen not to meet the police. He explained this, with a laugh, “I am a victim of nominal determinism. With a name like Cash, people assume they can come to me for help when they need a little more money.”
And what rate of interest do you charge?” Micah asked sweetly.
Well I don’t like to talk about that kind of thing, Mrs McLairy but I can tell you it is a lot less than those gangsters at Wonga.” He laughed again.
Such as...”
I suppose it works out at about, you know, in rough figures 999 percent APR. Nothing which people can’t afford.” He looked at Carmen and the look on her face suggested that Bernard Cash was not so much a family friend as a creditor.
While the family were waiting for the police to arrive we had a chance to look at the dining room where they had been playing cards before joining them in the living room. The first thing was obvious. There was a smell in the air which ex-smokers find nauseating. It would linger for a long time.
I have never read a monograph about 100 types of cigarette ash but fortunately Anatole smoked Sobranie as a rule and the distinctive gold filter tips and black paper indicated that he had smoked three of them. Bernard and Carmen were non-smokers or at least had no ashtrays. Gregory, it seemed, was a nervous smoker so he left half the cigarette in the ash-tray with the words 'Players No 6' quite clear. It seemed he had less expensive tastes than his father.
What was missing were cups and glasses. It seems that despite the death of a family member, someone had had the foresight to put them in the dishwasher. Valuable evidence had been destroyed.
There was something else we noticed. When we had played cards with the Smithsons on a previous occasion, there had been six upright chairs in the room around the table. There were now four. When we went into the living room to join the family waiting for the police the two chairs were awkwardly placed against the wall.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

David Walliams

David Walliams, the ‘know nothing’ host of the Presidents Club event for three years, has had his books pulled from shelves in bookshops. It is a bit surprising that The Pavilion Theatre thinks it appropriate to have a performance of his work on stage in April. Hasn’t news of this major scandal reached Worthing?

Thursday, January 04, 2018

New Stories from the Durrington Detective Agency - Advent in the Graveyard

What are we doing here?” asked Micah, “It doesn’t look like a crime scene, although there are bodies all over the place.”
We are interested in one in particular,” I said mildly and gestured towards a gravestone.
Thomas Shufflebottom, born 1852, fell asleep 1901,” Micah read. “Forty-nine was a reasonable age in the Victorian era, 41 was the average, well it was for the Shufflebottoms of this world. The rich lived longer but it’s a bit late for us to investigate that. We can’t get an exhumation order for a start. Why are we interested?”
Well it is because of that queerest of all fish, a paying customer,” I said.
Tell me more,” Micah seemed interested.
Our Thomas has a direct descendant, Sylvia Thomas. The family changed the name to Thomas in the 1930s, possibly out of respect for old Tom and possibly because they found ‘Shufflebottom’ only provoked amusement rather than respect when they moved down south seeking work. Sylvia’s father and Tom’s grandson was a Thomas Thomas who was teased as ‘tomtom’ by his workmates at the dairy if that’s relevant.”
It isn’t,” said Micah shortly.
So the Shufflebottoms had severed their connection with sheep. The name means ‘sheep-well valley’...”
I know.”
Well Google does, which comes to the same thing,” she smiled sweetly.
I noticed Micah had her laptop on her knee.
Can you...”
...access the local newspaper archives?”
Still no. The reception is quite dead here most of the time. I have GPRS.”
In response to my frown, she said, “General Purpose Rubbish Signal. Now, does the Bluebell Inn have wifi?”
Let’s go and find out.”
Return to Index

New Stories from the Durrington Detective Agency - Death by Computer

Inspector Tillotson was a good policeman, as he would be the first to tell you. And with the exception of Jews, Muslims, lefties and, of course, Catholics he was your ideal equal opportunities copper.
Imagine my surprise when he turned up in the John Selden and came to sit at my table. Me! A leftie and a Catholic to boot.
My surprise shaded into astonishment when Ben Tillotson bought me a drink. He even gave some biscuits to Barker. Barker does not care who he gets biscuits from.
Old Ben eyed my Cabernet Sauvignon with the sort of look he reserved for homosexuals and racial minorities. He opted for a pint of Harveys, an excellent choice in my view.
He noticed me looking at the door.
Waiting for someone, Colin?”
I am expecting Micah any minute,” I said.
You can go on expecting. She has been arrested,” With a look of satisfaction, he took a swig of his pint which clearly met with his approval.

To be continued...
Return to Index

New Stories from The Durrington Detective Agency - The Case of the Missing Candle

Micah and I were enjoying a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau in the John Selden after a hard day’s complete lack of work. Things were a bit slack for the Durrington Detective Agency just then. Suddenly the calm was broken when Micah’s mobile made a noise. Barker was immediately alert and up on his feet growling at the phone as if it were an imprudent rabbit he fancied for dinner.
Yes… yes…. Oh, I see….yes...”
Micah’s end of the conversation was not very enlightening. She was scribbling notes in the old notebook she took with her everywhere and when she looked up at me she was beaming in a way which suggested we had a paying client.
It’s Father Cedric. It seems somebody has stolen the Easter candle from the church.”
I nodded. It didn’t seem like a cause celebre.
And then they returned it.”
I looked puzzled as did Barker.
Father Cedric would not have noticed but he happened to leave his keys in the sacristy and went into the church at 3 pm to collect them. The candle was missing then. He searched the church quite thoroughly but it was nowhere to be seen. By the time he went back to the church for ass at 6 pm the candle had been returned.
Had there been a break-in?” I wondered.
The church was open for adoration in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament from lunchtime onwards so nobody needed to break in. And provided they made no noise they could have been in and out without anyone in the Chapel being any the wiser.”
Micah tapped her notebook.
I have the adoration rota here.”
The first witness we spoke to was Queenie Beaufort. She was on the rota from 2 to 3 pm. It turned out that the burglar could have made as much noise as a herd of elephants for all she was concerned. Her hearing aid was due for some replacement batteries but the shop wouldn’t have them in for a week. It made the interview quite difficult but fortunately, she was a very good lip-reader.
None of the other people on the rota had noticed anything and by now it was getting late so we called it a day. We arranged that we would interview Father Cedric after morning Mass. We don’t go to morning Mass nearly enough and I wondered fleetingly if this was old Father Cedric’s cunning plan to get a couple of strays back into the flock.
The next morning, More Radio had news of a much more interesting case. It seemed that a man who rejoiced in the name of Adrian Portentous had been killed - “stabbed and mutilated” the report said. This was in one of the many twittens or narrow pathways with which Durrington is well endowed and it took place yesterday afternoon or “in broad daylight” as the report had it. A man was helping the police with their inquiries.
I wanted more details and Micah was already using her dark arts to access the police computer network.

To be continued...

Return to index

New Stories from the Durrington Detective Agency

There are four new stories from the Durrington Detective Agency this year.

Ivy is the story of a strange murder

“Who is that woman climbing the tree?” I asked Micah.
“Oh, you mean Ivy. Ivy Dore. I think she's after that cat of hers.”
It was a tortoiseshell cat, we later found its name was Pushkin. As we watched she lured Ivy onto narrower and narrower branches before making a dash for the ground where the bemused cat stood and looked up at her as if slightly scandalised by her behaviour.
It was amusing up to a point. That was the point at which Ivy stopped struggling to get down, screamed something most unladylike and fell out of the tree, breaking her neck.
Micah is something of a first-aider. In fact, she is something of everything. She got to work to resuscitate Ivy while I got on the phone to the ambulance. Micah looked at me and shook her head. Pushkin came up to the body and tried to snuggle up to Ivy.
“It's too late for that,” I thought.
“Look at this,” Micah was pointing to a tiny hole in Ivy's trousers. Ivy didn't go climbing trees in a skirt.
“Moths?” I wondered.
Micah looked at me pityingly and revealed the wound beneath the hole.
“Airgun,” she said, “This was no accident.”
We looked around the area which was visible from the tree.
“One of us will have to climb it,” said Micah.
“Won't the police think that a little odd?”
“Then do it before they get here. I'll keep watch.”
I haven't climbed a tree since I was twelve. That is fifty-three years ago. I got as high as I could in the time but there were no convenient assassins with air rifles to be seen.
“We were watching Ivy. Her antics distracted us from the killer,” Micah said.
The police and ambulance arrived at around the same time. We had to make statements at the station. They were less than pleased that Micah had tried to resuscitate Ivy. Apparently, it messed up the evidence.
“I'll leave her to die next time.”
“She is dead, Mrs McLary. There will be no 'next time',” was all the answer we got.
No sooner were we home than Micah was at work on her laptop hacking quite illegally into the police system. As she put it, "It is as leaky as a colander anyway. Anyone could hack into it."
I don't know if the police took the same attitude but I kept my peace.
“They noticed the air gun wound and they are not treating it as an accident. They have extracted the airgun pellet and analysed the striations. This will be very useful if and when they find the weapon which fired it. Airguns of that muzzle velocity do not require a licence.”
“How do you know the muzzle velocity?” I asked.
“Depth of the wound.” She said impatiently.
“Wouldn't that depend on how far away the shooter was?” I asked.
Micah paused for a long moment and then said, “Yes.” between gritted teeth.
“However, the police have not found any registration documents among their three main suspects at this time.”
Pulling a notepad towards her, she wrote down in her neat handwriting:
“Bertie Dore
Shane Dore
Frank Raison”

To be continued....

The Case of the Missing Candle

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Death by Computer

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Advent in the Graveyard

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Capitalism means war

A work of art represents the thousands who died while the generals treated them as "cannon fodder". The generals got medals and hypocritically commemorate the "glorious dead."

Those who survived the Great War, greeted the 11th of November as the end of the slaughter and the beginning of peace. They would have been mystified to see generals and royals using it as an opportunity to celebrate war almost a hundred years later.
Since the end of the Second World War, there has not been a single day of peace. In my lifetime there has been one imperial war of conquest after another.
The red poppy is an ambiguous symbol. On the one hand it represents remembering those who fell in war and the money is used to support those soldiers who suffered as a result of war. On the other hand it is used by generals and the royal family to glorify war. If anyone dares to criticise this disgusting militarism they are immediately accused of disrespecting the fallen and being too mean to help the military victims of warfare. This has been characterised as "Poppy Fascism".
Socialist internationalism is the only basis on which militarism can be opposed. The people of Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan are some of the poorest people in the world. What with the ruthless bombing campaigns of American Imperialism and the disgusting brutality of the Taliban and ISIL their sufferings have been made worse.

Ironically the Kurds who routed ISIL have been the victims of a vicious campaign waged by the Iraqi regime.

War is not "insanity". To the arms merchants, to the royals and generals, to the politicians it makes perfect sense. For the working class it is indistinguishable from psychosis. 

Derek McMillan