activism Election Labour Politics

Please check whether you are part of the problem

The government are robbing us blind, and you know it. While every single one of us watches our climate slipping to the no-return stage of climate crisis, we are each of us spending a large proportion of our energy fighting against the slipping away of our personal income and opportunities as bills go up. the ways organisations have of giving us the tasks and someone else the money proliferate, and forever overtake our attempts to hang onto a livable income. We can’t win without drastic change, you know this – however near or far from the edge you personally are. You also know that many people fall over that edge into destitution every day.

Hundreds of thousands of us tried to fight back by joining the Labour Party a few years back. Before that, people joined the Green Party, or trade unions or whatever, looking for a way to solve these attacks on everyone and everything.

The Labour Party betrayed us – most people realise that now. Many joined other organisations, looking for an alternative solidarity group to fight back with. I was one of hundreds of thousands who saw the push-back from the my-money-my-power element in the Labour Party establishment, and understood the nature of the beast. I’ve personally seen dozens of my comrades who are socialist Jews and/or working-class black activists kicked out of the party, or leave in disgust over the treatment of their friends. I saw the party’s energy and resources draining as they left. At least most lefties understood that, and helped with the fightback, but their attack had another weapon that many didn’t understand, that many were complicit with.

I saw thousands – no, I’m not exaggerating, I’m a member of several numerous groups – I saw THOUSANDS of women bullied, frustrated and hounded out of the party, its energy and resources draining as they left, because women have an issue with the government over the way it is seeking to CHANGE THE LEGAL STATUS OF WOMEN by legalising ‘self-ID’ or ‘gender identity’ and prioritising those over laws about sex.

I have been doubly, triply frustrated by so many apparently intelligent people responding to the women’s campaign to protect our sex-based rights by saying ‘why are you obsessed with the trans issue’? For us, it is not a ‘trans issue’. It’s been a huge campaign to get the government to acknowledge that messing with the sex exemption in the Equalities Act, or making new laws that trump the sex exemption, matters to women.

Many politicians do see that now, but it’s taken vast amounts of energy by vast numbers of women to break through the smoke and mirrors of ‘stop going on about the trans issue’. That’s vast numbers of women slogging away on a campaign that makes them tired, anxious, and depletes their earning opportunities. In many sectors, it makes them ‘unemployable’, because they have been branded ‘transphobes’, and their organisations branded ‘anti-trans hate groups’ – but they did it, those brave, activist women, because you CANNOT run a political campaign in polite silence, and no politically literate women, once she’s seen the seriousness of the legal issue, is going to politely ignore it. It is, finally, in the news as a legal issue. Those women who spoke out have succeeded but in many cases at much cost to themselves (NOT just Kathleen Stock – that’s NOT a one-off story, it just happens to be the one that broke through).

All this while we watch our planet reel into irreversible change, and our incomes and our resources stolen away by bad government.

If you haven’t helped the women, if you haven’t stood up for them, take your share of the blame. If you are still asking women to please pipe down about ‘the trans issue’, take your share of the blame.

We need – all of us – the 99% – we need to be working together against the forces that are progressively impoverishing every single one of us. Think about this every day, as you watch YOUR income and opportunities go down, your bills go up, the climate clock ticking to zero, and the number of women who can no longer find the patience to work with you increasing.

Speak up for gender-critical women, as you should for all the groups bad government demonises, and then maybe you can start talking about ‘solidarity’ and ‘democracy’ and ‘socialism’ and ‘community’, and all the rest of those things we are going to need, if we are to save a world worth living in for our grandchildren.

Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press young fiction

Bother! Trouble!! Emergency!!!

S P Moss has a family background in the RAF, and loves classic children’s adventure stories every bit as much as classic cars, planes and kids’ books so, when she won the Earlyworks Press novels for children competition back in 2011, we knew we were in for some good, old fashioned fun.

The Bother

The Bother in Burmeon excelled our hopes. We scandalised conventional booksellers by designing the book to look as grubby and just-discovered-in-the-atticky as possible, and artist Joy Chan and designer Stefan Lochmann gave us a ‘look’ that was every bit as good and bad as you would expect for a rollicking children’s adventure which would have was been published 50 years after, and several years before, it was written…

Beasts, Baddies and Bombs!

Grandpop is supposed to be dead…

…but when Billy finds a mysterious kaleidoscope engraved with a jewel-eyed tigress, he’s whisked into a world of adventures in which his pilot granddad is very much alive and kicking.

In a real life race against time, “Play Again” simply isn’t an option.

The Trouble

If however, you’re behind the past or ahead of the future, and have already had a bit of Bother, Trouble in Teutonia is just brimming with Christmas-spirited adventure. S P Moss’s second time-defying adventure kicks off in a gloriously Teutonic Christmas market with a backdrop of snowy mountains where (if you’re not very careful) you’ll meet the Beast of Ratshausen and find yourself in – well, not so much a race against time this time, as a race against space.

the Trouble in Teutonia - cover pic

And if you’ve already had some Bother and enough Trouble, time to tackle book three:

The Emergency

The Al-Eden Emergency - cover pic

Here are some good places to buy books online…

Buy The Bother in Burmeon from

Buy Trouble in Teutonia from Foyles online

Buy the Al-Eden Emergency from Troubador

Or if you’re in or near Hastings, UK please contact me to buy books post-free.

Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Poetry Politics

Hibakusha – never forget

Joycelyn Simms’ extraordinary poems about the Hibakusha – those affected (in so many terrible ways) by the nuclear detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were inspired by ‘a thousand paper cranes and lanterns floating on the river Ota’, and by John Hersey’s book, Hiroshima – and then, when the poem Grapple Y was published by the erbacca journal, fellow writer Helen Aurelius told Jocelyn that her father had been on Christmas Island during the nuclear testing.

Jocelyn discovered that the number and range of the Hibakusha – those affected by nuclear bombs were greater and more terrible, and the callousness of governments’ response to them more extreme, than most of us ever realised.

With a light hand and an artist/poet’s eye, Jocelyn brought together Helen’s never-before published photographs of her father and his fellow soldiers, or the nuclear explosions themselves, with her poems and an evocative selection of letters and information about the victims and survivors.

Poet and editor Mandy Pannett comments: … and as a backcloth to the images, the notes and the poems, we have all the unwritten words, the un-heard voices of the dead and the dying, the ‘circling words’ of the Navajo chant, the insistent murmur that underpins Tickling the Dragon, saying we must remember.

Remember what you have seen, because everything forgotten returns to the circling winds

– Navajo chant

“Buy this collection,” declares fellow poet Roger Elkin, “savour and re-read it: share it, champion it, and let it help to shape for good the wider world.”

Tickling the Dragon by Jocelyn Simms - cover pic

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activism Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Politics women

Fish heads are still flying

It’s a contentious thing, being a feminist. There are always plenty of vocal people wanting to loudly disapprove of you. Not least of the obstacles that need to be addressed is that of class. I read a story recently about a woman who told those less well off than herself to save money by cooking fish heads. The response was, “really? So who’s eating the rest of the fish?”

I have no idea if the story is true, or whether the feminist concerned deserved the jibe, but I do wonder whether it’s why some citizens of Hastings responded to suffragette meetings in their day by throwing fish heads at the women.

Fish-heads, fire-raising and force-feeding – Ann Kramer’s history of Hastings and St Leonards suffragettes

Ann Kramer’s book, Turbulent Spinsters, gets its title from a long-ago letter in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, giving that description of local votes-for-women activists. A bit different to this week, when that same paper gave their front page to an event by Kramer’s organisation, Women’s Voice…

Ann Kramer, chair of Women’s Voice, said: “What we’re protesting about, what we’re marching about, today is demanding an end to violence against women…”

These days of course, there are other issues that feminists get shouted at over. ‘Turbulent Spinsters’ – was that a fair description? Reading Kramer’s book, I discovered that a lot of the Hastings suffragettes were married and that, although there was a pretty dramatic incident of fire-raising, the finger of blame for it was pointed at that turbulent lot from Brighton.

There is though, plenty to tell about the local suffragettes, including the story of Muriel Matters, after whom our local council offices were named (with a fair degree of turbulence as a consequence). So whilst they weren’t, on the whole, spinsters, there was a fair bit of turbulence.

Thus, feminism down the ages always comes in for some colourful criticism. If you’d like to know what the suffragettes of Hastings and St Leonards really did get up to, and how the town responded, Ann Kramer’s book is for you. There are some quite dramatic surprises.

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activism Politics Uncategorized

Beware the ideas twisters

Here comes another government consultation. I do suspect our government do this whenever they’re scared of making big decisions themselves. This is a ***long read*** but I hope it will help me, as well as you, if you’re reading it, to produce clear-headed responses to the government’s latest, as well as to some of those odd conversations down the pub. I accept that I could be right or wrong in my conclusions and choices about any of the examples I give below but, please join me in thinking about the phenomenon, and how difficult it makes our own decision-making.

Where do the words in your head come from?

We’ve had a million catchy phrases ringing in our ears in the decades since the PR-mongers and strap-line sellers have been in charge. I remember way back in the last century, someone saying it all started with ‘your country needs you’. With the development of modern media, political catch-phrases did a lot of work, and developed to an art form with ‘you’ve never had it so good’ but, since the dawn of social media, we have *really* struggled, and often failed, to free our minds from the word-spinning illusionists, from coal-belching climate-change deniers to post-modernist sex-deniers.

Destroying the Labour Party

Yes, I think it has been pretty much destroyed and I think the line that did more than any other to wreak that destruction was ‘rife with anti-Semitism’. Not ‘the occasional careless comment’ or ‘a few nutters here and there’ but ‘rife with anti-Semitism’. You may or may not believe that either Jeremy Corbyn or his followers were seriously anti-Semitic but, time and again, when I listened to the ‘I will never vote Labour again’ tribe on the topic, they used that same phrase ‘rife with anti-Semitism’. I don’t think ‘rife’ is a word that comes naturally to that many tongues, so why did nearly all the anti-Corbyn people who came to our Labour Party stall back in the day use the same words? I see it as evidence that that line was fed in by social media posts managed by someone’s expensive word-spinning PR team.

Destroying individuals

I first noticed the character-destruction technique back in the days when I still read the Guardian. It’s no co-incidence that we’ve thought of a special word for a special breed of journalists – the Guardianistas. The name arose because the very visible loyalty that Owen Jones and the rest of them had to editor Rusbridger’s Guardian led them all to use the same words to attack those Rusbridger reviled, and then you’d hear everyone who imbibed the Guardian view of the world repeat those same words as though giving their own opinion, when they helped to take down Rusbridger’s enemies. Russell Brand was a ‘narcissist’, Julian Assange was ‘egocentric’ and ‘a control freak’. Rusbridger’s words, via the PR team, through obedient journalists’ typing fingers, into everyone’s conversations.

Leaving the EU

‘Brexit means Brexit’ was a great way of deflecting any attempt at explaining what a Tory-led Brexit would be like. ‘Take back control’ was a great way to present leaving the EU as a no-brainer. ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ was a pathetic debate-avoider by Remainers who were worried about their skiing holidays, but not that clear about the campaign they were on, because not many of us actually knew every much about the pros and cons of the EU. And whose idea was it to habitually call Corbyn’s studied neutrality ‘ambivalent’, ‘lukewarm’ and ‘indecisive’? He had stated clearly that he wanted to inform, and let people decide. That was not the story the media told, so it wasn’t the story down the pub, either.

Can you change sex?

I’m sure you can think of other examples but what’s been driving me witless lately is the way the words relating to sex and gender have been twisted and misused by the self-ID trans lobby, who time and time again have had the average citizen scratching their heads and saying ‘I can’t really comment because I don’t get it’. You may ask why a PR team would set out to confuse the nation, rather than sell a slick idea. The answer to that is in the Denton Report, a document offered up to those with the money to buy PR, as a way of selling self-ID and child transition – the ‘born in the wrong body’ idea.

The central argument of the report was, ‘if people get what you’re trying to do, they will oppose it.’ So the self-ID lobby studiously avoid debate, slip their ideas into articles and resolutions along with others people approve of, and stick to PR lines everyone can remember and repeat, regardless of whether they get the issue. The surest way to avoid debate in a more or less free country is to fog, mislead, and scare off attempts at debate, but provide people with something catchy to say.

Have you noticed how very few official forms ask you your sex, or even your gender these days? They tend to ask you what gender ‘you were assigned at birth’. Did you know, that phrase was originally developed back in the day when doctors didn’t know how to identify the sex of babies with disorders of sexual development so they would, initially, choose a sex and assign it to the baby. That’s not true any more, except in an infinitesimally small number of us but, the phrase comes in handy for inculcating the notion that sex is not real (it is) or binary (it is).

Meanwhile, our politicians’ heads are so befuddled now they are well on the way to allowing the harmless-sounding phrase ‘gender identity’ (a matter of how you feel, or how you express yourself) into law in place of the existing terms ‘sex’ (a biological reality) or ‘gender reassignment’ (a recognition of those ‘living as’ the opposite sex, that does not require a belief in magical transformations).

Changing the terms to ‘gender identity’ is a really bad idea because the current terms protect everyone, but the unproven, unevidenced idea of ‘gender identity’ does not. Courts can’t make evidenced decisions about something that, as far as we know, is entirely subjective. Its presence on the statute books would make sex discrimination law, and other measures in place for women, inoperable. No-one would agree to that if they had had a chance to think it through, which is why the ideas twisters have been at work amongst our politicians.

Conversion therapy

If you are as old as me, you will be absolutely sure that conversion therapy is A Bad Thing. Before the triumphs of the Gay Liberation Movement had cleared the air, we often heard terrible stories of organisations – usually low-brow fundamentalist religious ones – that would ‘take charge of’ children showing signs of ‘problem’ attitudes such as being lesbian or gay, and trying to change their minds. We called it ‘conversion therapy’, and we opposed it in the name of liberation and natural expression. We even heard of the barbaric idea of ‘corrective rape’ for lesbians – we still do, in news from more benighted parts of the world, and such practices do seem to be creeping back into supposedly enlightened societies so of course we stand by the idea that conversion therapy is a bad thing, and should be banned.

Lesbian and gay children are under threat again

But the ideas-twisters have struck again. Lesbian and gay organisations, and many of the more thoughtful child-therapists, have in the last few years expressed concern that ‘transing children’ is becoming a highly fashionable and highly passionate crusade, very dangerous when plied with such enthusiasm that any child who feels alienated, traumatised, at odds with the world, might pick up the idea that they are ‘someone else, really’. Any child whose trauma is expressed as dysphoria can be swept up into the belief that they need protracted and invasive medical treatment, to ‘live as’ the opposite sex – to a young child, this sounds horribly, easily, far more possible than it actually is.

Dysphoria has more than one cause

A few years ago in the UK, a young woman who had transitioned realised her error, and detransitioned. She found that where her original transition had been aided and cheered on by enthusiasts, her detransition had been a lonely business, so she did a call-out for others in her situation. She immediately had hundreds of contacts from young women in the same boat. They had transitioned, then realised it wasn’t what they needed, and gender clinics and trans groups weren’t interested in that idea. That is crazy – young people with dysphoria need counselling, to ascertain the cause of their feelings, and they’d be far better having it *before* a trendy rush to transitioning. But now, those who are swept up by the ‘transgender trend’ are calling that counselling ‘conversion therapy’. The predicament of all dysphoric children is being pulled into the trans activists’ arena of ‘no debate’. If the child thinks he or she is ‘the wrong sex’ or ‘in the wrong body’, no-one must argue. That, they say, would be ‘conversion therapy’. If the child (or young woman) has doubts later on, listening or advising them is ‘conversion therapy’.

Beware the ideas twisters

I don’t remember hundreds of lesbian or gay youngsters gathering in such a way, saying they wished people had discussed other explanations with them, or that they need a doctor to help them become ‘ungay’, do you? The two cases must be different, don’t you think? But because of all that ideas-twisting, when the government run their public consultation on ‘conversion therapy’, there’s a real danger people will be passing motions and running petitions and filling in the consultation form with completely opposite ideas in their minds when they see those words. Are we talking about a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ as in trying to persuade gay kids to become straight (a bad and futile thing) or ‘conversion therapy’ as in offering counselling to dysphoric children, to check where their distress came from (that counselling could save a lot of unnecessary suffering to gay, autistic and traumatised kids who might think they are ‘trans’.)

If you find yourself being asked to do that government consultation, or sign one of those petitions, please make sure you know which variety of ‘conversion therapy’ you are supporting and/or denying.

Some info that might help:

Transgender Trend

Safe Schools Alliance

Please give the government your view, and don’t be put off by those ideas-twister words and phrases – just hit the ‘other’ button, or ‘comments’ boxes when you need to, and explain your own views and distinctions in your own way.

The Consultation

Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press young fiction

The Key to the World Beyond The Gate

There couldn’t possibly be another Timothy’s Gate novel, could there? I mean, in the first book, Timothy found the magical world of Challenrah behind a mysterious gate in the garden of the Grey Lady pub, near where he used to live – but now, he’s moved right across the world and will never see the Grey Lady’s garden again.

Timothy's Gate book cover
Timothy’s Gate – the first adventure

He’s having interesting times in his new home of Oceania, California. He’s made friends with a girl called Angela, and they’re working on a conservation project. It’s a good life – except that a girl called Madison wants to join in, and Tim’s not too sure about that. And he keeps having these dreams, where the grass is dying, and everything’s going wrong, in that once-upon-a-time magical land he used to know.

And then, on a walk along the Californian seashore with his dog, Jasper, he sees a gate that does not seem to go anywhere. Challenrah needs him again.

Book Two – The World Beyond The Gate

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The cover illustrations in both books are the work of Katy Jones, co-creator of the fabulous Froggicorn.

Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Uncategorized

Coming back to Holst

I always do. In the last few years, politics and COVID and financial troubles left little time for contemplating music but sooner or later, it had to happen. I sat down and listened to Mars, and thought yes, that’s how it is, and felt better. Then I listened to Jupiter, and rallied my internal troops and then I ranged out into the far distant planets, and regained my sense of balance and proportion. (And you know, Holst produced far more than the Planets Suite across his busy life and once you start exploring, well…)

The LP my dad had when I was a kid

Thank you, Gustav Holst, who said it all. Of course, many others have said it all in many other ways since but he was a ground breaker, and will always be a favourite of mine. That’s why I am still very proud and very pleased that composer Michael Short came to me, and asked to use my little press when OUP dropped his superb biography of Holst. It’s a very unusual approach, and I think a stroke of genius – ‘The Man and His Music’ – Michael wrote *two* biographies. The first one is about the man, his family, his health, his travels and his struggles, and the second is about the music – and for those who know the territory, this second part shows with even more eloquence how the music was rooted in Holst’s socialism, and his love of community singing and teaching, and how its topmost branches reached the stars, and can still carry us from root to sky, everywhere we ever need to go.

‘The Man and His Music’ may no longer generate enough interest for a giant publisher like OUP to be interested but people do still come back to Holst, and want to read this superb book. For the musicians, both halves are riveting. For the rest of us, the first half is riveting, and the second an insight into Holst’s unique and passionate way of speaking through music. I love this book, and recommend it above all others as a sanctuary and re-fuelling stop in difficult times.

Michael Short’s book

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