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Book reviews book shops Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Uncategorized

Three poems find sanctuary

You too can be Battersea Poetry Home. It’s amazing the treasures you can rescue from potential oblivion, and give sanctuary to in your own head. When you pick up a poetry book and find something you love, ideas, images and phrases take root. You have enriched yourself, as well as rescuing a book that might not be picked up that much, not being a popular novel or a box of chocolates.

Three poems I have never forgotten

From Sky Breakers…

Skybreakers book cover

Photo of Mr and Mrs Daft

by Joe Fearn

The sky here

isn’t actually blue

it only appears blue

because it reflects the sea.

Which itself isn’t really blue,

it just reflects the sky.

It sounds daft, but somehow works.

Like the marriage of Mr and Mrs Daft,

shown here in Hastings in 1915.

Mr Daft is stunning in khaki,

Mrs Daft is peaches and cream.

She will run a shop in St Leonards,

he will board a troopship

and be blown to pieces

in the Dardenelles.

From Records, Rivers and Rats

Records, Rivers and Rats book cover

The rock chamber

by Derek Sellen

A steep-sided gully

where the cliff narrows to a spit

and a fallen ram has left its bones;

It’s the ocean compressed in a box,

a cyclone of brine and spume,

a square cut maw,

it’s the breaking turmoil of the world.

From Misfit Mirror

Misfit Mirror book cover

Market Day

by Jocelyn Simms

John Scott rubs square palms across apron stripes.

I finger a solid apple.

Together we regard the sky: sulphurous clouds, nacreous

sun, the moon a cinnamon curl. The Resurrection.

 Apocalypse.  Turner’s Fighting Temeraire?

I bite tart flesh, silver juices spill, the taste of almond

at the core. Removal of any item of school uniform

will result in nuclear fission.

What have we to lose, John Scott? Here at the end of the world …

And you with all these pheasants to sell?

Why not rescue some poems for Christmas? If you’re in or near Hastings, contact me to have all three of these books delivered to your door for £15

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activism Corbyn economics Election Hastings Housing Labour NHS Politics prejudice Uncategorized

Make lousy politicians a minority

We could do this. Here’s how…

There are millions of people in this country who, like me, have used the phrase ‘politically homeless’. They have been thrown out of, or lost faith in, their ‘natural’ choice of party. There are also increasing numbers of people who, like me, have realised there’s more to politics than the competition between red, blue and any other party colours that choose to challenge the tyranny of red and blue. We know the ‘minority parties’ won’t get far, though, and many of us are having trouble believing we can magically agree on yet another new party, and get them into a realistic position before the next election.

There’s a better way

There are millions of people, if you put them together, who have thrown their efforts into the anti-austerity movement, perhaps via the People’s Assemblies, or through their unions. Others have chosen one of the big issues our survival depends on, and started working with XR, or Stop the War, or the women’s movement.

It’s become obvious to most that the main political ‘opposition’ known to the establishment is Keir Starmer’s Labour, despite the fact that Labour’s willingness to defend basics is minimal. By basics, I mean things most of us agree that we need – like the NHS, water, power and transport services, housing and workers’ rights. Many people also value women’s rights, anti-racism and of course the environment, and that means millions won’t sit easy with a party that neglects or worsens those issues.

You are being taken for a ride

Starmer’s Labour is cheerfully dancing to the right, confident that they don’t have to be much different to Johnson’s Tories now. They think a few familiar names from the last century, a few professional looking politicians who handle themselves better than Johnson, is all they need. The Greens are still too absorbed in arguing with each other over whether women exist to come anywhere near XR in environment-defence campaigns let alone on any other issue that matters to real people. The Lib Dems are still as pointless as they have been ever since Nick Clegg demonstrated their ‘beta Tories’ stance. There are other options in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and, if you’re Welsh, Labour may seem less of a lost cause to you but for English voters, no other party is going to get a nose into Westminster politics unless we force our politicians into a complete overhaul of the voting system, and indeed, many have joined vote-reform pressure groups.

Great – we need that. Join a vote-reform pressure group, but that isn’t very exciting, and doesn’t feel like the whole of an answer, does it?

Get mad AND get even

The politicians you shout at on the telly are all completely confident that you’ll choose red or blue or give up and do nothing. It’s time to prove them wrong. In the next election, there will be a lot of people who will need to be persuaded to vote at all. This is the situation where inspiring independent candidates have a really good chance and, if those independents want to win, now is the time to be planning and organising. But they need to have something most maverick independents don’t have. They need an organisation, and some informed supporters.

If you’re a member of a campaigning group of any kind, on any issue, national or local, that has natural justice on its side, get talking now about whether you have someone who’s real candidate material – someone your group would rally round with enough enthusiasm to inspire others. You should be preparing now, to offer your own Refugee Support candidate, or Housing is a Human Right candidate, or Anti-Austerity candidate, or No Shit candidate (the latter has become a popular slogan in my town, since our water company was taken over by a shameless, profiteering polluter).

Take back control

In the last two general elections, independent candidates were often unpopular because the main parties had a lot of passionate support. In one of those elections in my town, an independent candidate won a mere 400 votes but they were votes that could have toppled an unpopular MP. Although that maverick candidate raised some important issues and gave the unpopular MP some nasty moments in the hustings, he was seriously considering leaving town after voting day, for his own safety. The situation has changed now. In most constituencies, no-one would weep for the loss of main party offerings.

Consider both council and national elections. Don’t let the reds and the blues choke our politics. If every council had a range of experienced, specialist independents, if every hustings at the next GE had a range of candidates speaking knowledgeably on the real issues, seasoned activists from those pressure groups we all support, like We Own It, Defend the NHS and the rest – if that happened, the major parties would have to pull their socks up, start doing real politics, or lose seats big time.

That will make them listen to you. Think about your groups and campaigns, talk the issue through with fellow activists, and get organised now. It’s a big job, but it’s far, far more satisfying than sitting around feeling bullied by lousy politicians. Find a well known campaigner on an important local issue to put up for council, and an effective activist on a big national issue to put up for the next General Election. At the very least, your candidates will raise the level of the debate and make the big party politicians work but it’s perfectly possible that if enough groups did this, we could make lousy politicians a backward-looking minority on your council and in Westminster.

Doesn’t that idea just bring joy to your heart? Who are you going to talk to? Which of your local groups could do this? Let’s get to it, now.

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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Short stories Uncategorized

If you comment on this post, please avoid the ‘A’ word

Guest post by William Wood

When my anthology Stories for Sale was published by Circaidy Gregory Press in 2013 I little suspected the changes to come: changes in my own life and in our geopolitical lives. We now live in a different world.

Let me start even further back. When Philippe Delerm published his bestseller La Première Gorgée de Bière et Autres Plaisirs Minuscules (The first mouthful of beer and other small pleasures) I was inspired to write my own book of small pleasures. This was published by Sunpenny Press in 2011 and I revised it under the title 100 Small Pleasures in 2017. This was before the Danish claimed hygge which resulted in the cult of mindfulness in Britain. I felt resentful and envious because Delerm and I had pre-dated the craze and besides, having lived five years in Norway I knew that Norway had originated hygge or kos, related to our word cosy.

That’s as maybe. As luck would have it, another of my books, Trying to Care, an account of my four years spent living with and looking after my nonagenarian parents who each had a different form of dementia. The book is not without humour and a growing self awareness. Again it was ahead of its time. Social welfare and concern for the elderly has become trendier recently.

 A third book that also appeared at the same time was my novel Bribes d’une Identité Perdue (Traces of a lost identity). I love languages and European culture and I was so dismayed by the Brexit vote that, European as I thought I was, I resolved never to write in English again.  To my surprise a French publisher accepted this novel. I have not translated it into English.

In 2018, then, I had three new books to launch and publicise. At the best of times I am useless at self promotion. I am no salesman, no performer. However I thought I had better make an effort.

Stories for sale

But suddenly something happened worse than the national suicide by Brexit. My wife was diagnosed with cancer. We had just moved from crowded East Sussex to rural Cumbria to make a fresh start. What we saw of it for the next eighteen months was mainly the inside of hospitals. Anna died despite the added misery of chemotherapy and I had forgotten about my books.

Then of course Covid 19 struck and the first lockdown. I took up writing again and to lighten the mood published an anthology of comic verse Oh No! I did this in collaboration with Green Arrow Publishing ordering just 50 copies to cheer up my family and friends. Ironically it was a great success. I had requests for multiple copies to give as gifts and even orders from bookshops. It sold out quickly with no effort on my part.

My next project was to gather more of my short stories. Not as well edited as Stories for Sale where I had the invaluable advice of Kay Green. I published them myself on Kindle. I think the stories are all right but I feel ashamed of sinking to vanity publishing. I did the same for Four Novellas and felt worse. My vocation is to write. It is natural to want to share what we have written but almost pathological when we are driven to self publish.

The advantage of bona fide publishers, as I have hinted above, is that you open a dialogue with an editor. Our work needs this kind of scrutiny. Sadly several of those I have worked with, Babash Ryan, Sunpenny etc have disappeared and their books are out of print. I continue to write, but I no longer have the desire or the energy for the moment at least to chase up publishers and sales. I just exchange the odd manuscript with like-minded friends. At least they will not say, “Awesome William” as some did in the days before I abandoned Facebook.

William’s blog

Stories for Sale book cover

Buy Stories for Sale from Foyles

Or if you’re in or near Hastings, contact me to have your copy delivered to your door, post free.

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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press flash fiction Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Blog of blogs for Earlyworks Press

Greetings to all the authors and friends of Earlyworks Press!

I’m sorry for the long silence on the competitions and website fronts. COVID blah blah recession blah blah need to earn a living – you know how it is. For those who signed up to our newsletter for competition news, I’m afraid there isn’t any yet. I do intend to look at the possibility of re-starting the main competitions next year but we are scattered, and funds are non-existent so no details yet but I’m still here, and still obsessed with finding interesting stories and promoting small press work, so there will be at some point.

In the meantime, there are still anthologies available – I am in the process of putting information about all our backlist into blog posts so people can still find them, and I am still, as ever, willing to offer bundles of books to the authors who have contributed to them until stocks run out  – if this is you, and you’re looking for Christmas presents for example, feel free to contact me if you want any. Generally, I can supply ten books – of one or of a selection of titles – for around £60 to authors, post-free so long as they have a UK delivery address and can do discounts on individual title orders.

Here are the Earlyworks Press blog posts so far…

You are here and Old Magic in a New Age

Barcelona to Bihar

The Several Deaths of Finbar’s Father

Significant Spaces, recognition and Loretta’s Parrot

The Hastings Modern Art Beach Book and Visions of Hastings

The Ball of the Future, The Road Unravelled and Telescoping Time

Porkies

The Sorcery of Smog, Journeys Beyond, Unsafe Spaces and Apples, Shadows and Light

There are also write ups of quite a few of the Circaidy Gregory titles on the blog now.

There are more to come, so if you want to publicise the books your work featured in, please use the blog links, and do keep an eye on our Facebook account, or on Circaidy Gregory on Twitter (links below) for more. There will be announcements there, and via this newsletter, when I know what the future holds competitions wise.
All the best,

Kay Green (editor, Earlyworks Press)

Other ways to keep in touch:

follow Earlyworks Press on Facebook, or our related publishing imprint @CircaidyGregory on Twitter or write to us at Earlyworks Press, Creative Media Centre, 45 Robertson St, Hastings, Sussex TN34 1HL
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Book reviews book shops Earlyworks Press Hastings Poetry Short stories Uncategorized

Back in the days of the desktop publishing explosion, this happened…

Way back before I got involved in publishing, I had developed a fascination for small press books, glorious evidence they are of specialist endeavours that most people will probably never get to hear about. Someone commented once that there were probably more than a few books on my shelves that were the sole surviving copy of whatever it was.

Small press bookshelf
A random section of one of the ‘special’ bookshelves

I doubt that, but one of the reasons for my loyalty to small press is that I truly dread the success of the corporate world’s dream of everyone buying the same book, the same film, the same everything. It’s also why I loved producing the Earlyworks Press anthologies, collections of the best that had been offered up in our annual poetry and short story competitions. It was all brand new then: suddenly, desktop editing and publishing was within reach of the not-rich and not-leisured classes, and digital printing made small runs – not cheap perhaps, not exactly *easy*, if you wanted to do it well – but possible.

Every now and then, as well as the standard annual competitions, we’d branch out and call for different kinds of writing – and where the time, the inspiration and the print-fund allowed it, we’d produce anthologies of those, too.

Here are a couple that have earned their places on quite a few people’s bookshelves and, I can guarantee, will be on mine for life.

You are Here

Let’s try out some non-fiction, we said, and announced the Earlyworks Press Memoir & Journalism competition – and my goodness, it produced some unexpected wonders – and all true.

He’s a GI. She’s Pregnant. He’s recalled to New York… Her dad left home years ago: he wanted to be Robinson Crusoe – but now he’s back… From pork chop purloiner to community leader – who is best qualified to solve our problems…?

Dodging maths lessons, going to violin lessons; learning about love and life, war and death; dreadful accidents, extraordinary luck; growing up, changing your mind, changing your life; the stories came from all over the world, and some came with the most extraordinary photos – so the book is illustrated throughout, often with photos and artworks that had not been in print before – it’s a treasure.

Another time, we went off in the opposite direction…

Old Magic in a New Age

Standing stones and churches, trees and totems, fairy tale creatures: dragons, princes, gods, ghosts and elementals from Europe and beyond … We asked our writers and illustrators to find the mythic and magical figures that spoke to them, and show us why they have survived into the New Age.

Old Magic in a New Age: Earlyworks Press Myth & Legend

The result was a fabulous collection. Some of the motifs are familiar and faithful, others have evolved as the world has changed. So if modern life leaves you hungry, enter these pages and find out which eternal classics still speak to your personal magical language.

According to poet and cover artist Cathy Edmunds, the search went something like this…

I need to find a druid

need to bind a long-beard be-robed figure of fun

to raise a smile

need

a poet a bard a hahaha-hazel be-twigged master

lurking in ash groves oak gown sites

of special scientific interest

need a druid

an onion

ten cloves of garlic

at least

Contact me to order either of these books or, if you’re in or near Hastings, have them delivered to your door, post free.

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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Earlyworks Press Poetry Uncategorized

The Astonishing Worlds of Mandy Pannett

How many years ago did I jump on a train to Arundel to have lunch with Mandy Pannett, and talk about organising a poetry collection competition? It happened before the Corbyn movement swept me away for several years of single-minded battle; it happened before the most urgent women’s campaign of my lifetime, and before COVID, and I am looking into a long-gone world to write this.

I ask myself how to make that long-ago world come alive again, the world of river and café and castle, all ancient stonework gleaming in cloistered sunshine – and the wondering leads me into Mandy Pannett territory. It’s more real than Monday, despite being as far away as last night’s dream.

‘Tell it slant’ is a phrase of Mandy’s that evokes the necessary skill – do I have that skill? The first work of Mandy’s that I read was The Onion Stone, which took me to Shakespeare’s days, and sparked off a million diamond-flash worlds because it evoked, involved and manifested an idea, but it WOULD NOT tell the reader what it was. I was captivated, haunted, for ages. She calls it ‘telling it slant’. You can read about how that works here.

The onion stone by Mandy Pannett  - front cover
Who – or what? – was Shakespeare?

Mandy worked with Catherine Edmunds on that poetry collection competition, and two brilliant books came out of that. Firstly, one of my all-time favourite poetry collections, Georges Perec is my hero from our winner, Caron Freeborn.

Georges Perec is my hero book cover

Why Georges Perec?

How are we to speak of these ‘common things’, how to track them down rather, flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what we are.

– Georges Perec, ‘L’infre ordinaire’

The other book to come out of that poetry collection competition was Convergence – the meeting place of eight poets, edited by Catherine Edmunds and Mandy Pannett, and beautifully juxtaposing sets of poems by Andie Lewenstein, John Wilkes, Eilidh Thomas, Anthony Watts, June Wentland, Mick Evans, Rata Gordon and Angela Arnold – and of course, featuring Cathy Edmunds’ drawing of that most famous meeting place at St Pancras.

Convegence: the meeting place of eight poets - book cover

We lost Caron Freeborn too soon.

I last saw Caron when, back over Arundel way, I got lost in a visionary dream at the launch of Mandy’s The Wulf Enigma – an enigmatic evening if ever there was one, with music, poetry and plans – such plans! – alongside the River Arun.

The Wulf Enigma - front cover

Here’s the enigma

Mandy didn’t believe me about the hyperbolic plane (if you didn’t click the link above, you don’t know what I’m talking about) but you know, I stopped tippy-tappy typing just then, and started thinking about The Wulf Enigma again, and it led me off down yet another train of thought that hadn’t occurred before, so I maintain that it contains infinite folds of story, illuminating infinite worlds, and so you will never tire of being fascinated by it.

Thank you for all those worlds, Mandy Pannett.

Convergence, The Wulf enigma and Georges Perec: front covers

Buy The Wulf Enigma from Foyles or bookshop.org

Buy Georges Perec is my hero from Foyles

Or contact me to order either of those, or Convergence, and your books’ll be in the post directly.

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Book reviews book shops Circaidy Gregory Press Poetry Uncategorized

Women writing poetry – scary?

Ask a poet for a bit of text to for the back jacket, to encourage readers to open her book, and you get this….

Wormwood, earth and honey

Selected poems by Catherine Edmunds

teasel scratches, bramble catches

deep inside my den of mischief

mud pies splatter, cracked plates clatter

if you dare to enter here

insects bite you, ferrets fight you

creepers catch you, magpies snatch you

hidden dangers trap all strangers

don’t you try it, don’t you dare

I will chuckle, smirk and giggle

deep inside my den of mischief

faith is forfeit, friendship fickle

if you dare to enter here

So all I can say is read Catherine Edmunds’ poetry collection if you dare. It’s very good.

There’s a gentler welcome to Marilyn Francis’s ‘red silk slippers’ but don’t be fooled – she doesn’t miss a trick. Here’s the title piece …

red silk slippers

Yesterday we celebrated all the Christmases

we’d missed since you left and this morning there’s sunshine

and a light frost and I have red silk slippers from Thailand.

Outside, blackbirds peck for worms

on the square of turf where the old cat is buried

and I have bright wooden birds from Singapore to dangle

lifelike from the branches of the lilac tree.

The heating pipes grumble, wind lullabies

through the chimney and I have a lucky Chinese cat

whose silvered paw waves back and forth

tick-tocking the seconds

between yesterday and tomorrow.

This morning there’s sunshine and a light frost

and I have red silk slippers from Thailand.

Or you could read

Into the Yell,

Sarah James’s most excellent collection – but I can’t guarantee she won’t yell at you.

Into the Yell by Sarah James, wormwood earth and honey by Catherine Edmunds, and red silk slippers by Marilyn Francis

Buy wormwood, earth and honey from Foyles

Buy red silk slippers from Foyles

Buy Into the Yell from Foyles

Or if you’re in or near Hastings, contact me to take up our Christmas offer of all three books, delivered to your door for £16

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activism economics Housing media NHS Politics prejudice Uncategorized

Transports of delight!

Oh, what an original idea! Gather up all these alarming, inconvenient people and send them to some far-flung corner of the world we have a bit of control over.

https://www.dumptheguardian.com/world/2021/nov/21/migrant-crossings-are-becoming-a-problem-for-red-wall-tory-mps

It worked before, didn’t it? That’s why Australia is what it is. Come to think of it, lots of UK citizens who hadn’t been marked as undesirable followed them, once the country got on its feet. I think we should all consider jumping the gun this time – depart Cruel Brittania, and go with the refugees to a new world built by those the Tories always did, and always will think of as ‘undesirables’.

Now, what next? As they dismantle and sell off the remains of our services (the NHS is to all intents and purposes under the hammer in parliament this week) which of the Victorians’ cruel ideas do you think our abysmal politicians are going to try out next in their endless attempts to avoid the obvious truth?

The obvious truth

We had the best NHS in the world. We had transport, power, education and care services that were faulty but sort of worked. Now so many of us are struggling to find dentists, get medical and social care, we realise ‘sort of’ was a lot better than nothing. We got as far as ‘sort of’ because we had a government that saw its job as running the country, and local authorities that saw their jobs as running the services in their areas. We knew that all those administrators were there to provide people’s needs. They were paid to do it, and paid enough to live decently, not to get rich off our services. For decades, we’ve been told our services all needed to be sold off because they were faulty. Not so. We needed a government that would keep at it, make the poor services better and the good truly great.

Demand better – demand change. If you’re over 50, you’ll know we did it once before so we can do it again. If you’re under 50, ask granny how the NHS, housing, education, social services etc etc used to work. Fight back. If acting on your own doesn’t work, get some people around you and become an active part of everyone who’s demanding better.

What’s it got to do with refugees?

All those services we fought for and won in the last century – we did all that in time when (as now) lots of people emigrated to the UK when things were unsustainable where they lived. They came because they heard the UK was better. This was not a bad thing. They can’t help coming now. The ones who reach the north coast of France and get bullied into the sea by the French authorities are a minority of the refugees on the move. Pity them – they’ve landed in a country with a merciless government, and next to no local services.

But one thing we do know about the people washing up on our beaches is that they’re strong enough and clever enough to get that far. Maybe they’re strong enough and clever enough to help make a new country, either here or on the other side of the world when we all get sent to the Falklands for stealing our daily bread, like desperate people did in the bad old days before the NHS, social care services, etc etc.

This week’s ‘Destruction of the NHS’ Bill in parliament

If you want some help fighting back, contact the People’s Assembly office@thepeoplesassembly.org.uk Or try your local Trades Council. Or check if there’s a local branch of Defend the NHS where you are.

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activism economics Election Labour media Uncategorized women

Luxury beliefs versus vulnerable women

This week on the BBC, we saw a stand off by the two sides of the deepest and most harmful split I have ever seen in left politics, one that I am still waiting for many on the left to even acknowledge.

I believe that the resurgence of the establishment wing of the Labour Party re-establishes their inability to see what most people see – that we are once again faced with a Labour Party that can’t communicate with ordinary people. I also believe that the lines in the sand are not where they appear to be. All those lefty unpaid interns and academics who were brought into the limelight by Corbyn and MacDonnell a few years ago really do not count as ordinary. They were popular because they brought in ‘the new economics’ that we needed, to challenge the corporate stranglehold on our economy, but they were not ‘ordinary’ people so no, this dreadful split is not about left and right, but it IS about class.

The trendy left who had such a good time during the Corbyn movement era are every bit as off-key on this issue as the ‘centrists’ who are now in charge. It shows up painfully in the interview with Rosie Duffield and Ellie Mae O’Hagan, which many lefty commentators have automatically responded to by rushing to defend O’Hagan’s side of the debate.

Ellie Mae O’Hagan is a member of ‘CLASS’ but, as the average working class person does not get to expound their views on the telly, I think wherever she started from, she now belongs with the ‘trendy left’ rather than the working class. This would explain why she completely misses anything that could be understood by a class analysis of the point in question.

Rosie Duffield is also a maverick here. The perfect example of the misfit who by their very existence flags up hidden problems, Duffield rode to victory and became an MP (well-paid middle class professional by definition) on the wave of the Corbyn movement. When she says that before that, she was ‘just normal’ it is far more true than it is when most MPs say that. She can remember having an ordinary job that didn’t easily cover ordinary needs. I was among many who were underwhelmed by her in 2017 because she did not acknowledge the movement that carried her to victory, so one would expect to think of her as on the ‘establiishment’ side of the debate. It feels odd to be fighting her corner, but here’s the thing:

The divide

It all hinges on whether you’re willing to pretend you don’t know what the vast majority of people mean when they say ‘woman’, and if you follow the currently fashionable mantra that trans women are women (TWAW), or whether you are one of those who think sex matters, and real women – vulnerable, ordinary women, can suffer terribly if you sit in a well-protected, middle-class professional space, and pretend it doesn’t matter, that it’s all a case of applying good drawing room manners and being ‘nice’.

Duffield can see what her constituents experience, and therefore does not think that TWAW is sufficiently captivating as a progressive idea that she can forget what ordinary, unprivileged women go through when women’s spaces and services are inadequate.

Here’s the interview, with its groovy, trendy header quote and my comment and transcript below:

Let’s look at (my attempt to produce) a transcript, with some interpretations added, then I’ll say a bit more about why I think Duffield is the way she is.

The unasked and the unanswered

It’s not unusual to listen to TV interviews and hear yourself squeaking in frustration because the interviewees are not answering the questions asked but this is a particularly strange case because there is such a hammered-on script for the TWAW stance that I found I could hear the unasked questions O’Hagan was actually answering, so I am going to reproduce that conversation, and try to shine some light. At the end of this commentated transcript, I will say a bit about the situation we are in, and why mavericks like Duffield are appearing.

The interview

The video cuts in slightly oddly, but I think we can imagine how it starts. Interviewer: “… views that are expressed by Rosie that are held by many in society and yet they seem to be unacceptable to express, certainly in some forums – why?”

Ellie Mae O’Hagan: “Well the first thing to say is that the majority of women actually do support transgender rights and they do say that a trans woman is a woman and so actually it may be held by some in society but it’s not the majority view of women I think that’s the first thing to say.”

My response: The question O’Hagan actually answered was ‘do you think we should support people’s right to live and express themselves as they choose?’ O’Hagan is being extremely rude to Dufflield by assuming that Duffield’s opinion is that they should not. I suspect O’Hagan knows perfectly well that most of us, including Duffield, accept trans women as women socially, but she is stretching this to assume most of us accept them as women legally, which is what self-ID, and gender-identity theory, require, and what the ‘trans rights’ campaign is actually asking for. Duffield has not rejected trans women socially. I can’t believe that O’Hagan doesn’t know that, so why is she answering a different, unasked question? I suspect because neither published polls nor experience in the real world support the idea that a majority accept trans women as women legally. People like O’Hagan prefer to fudge the issue, and just make the social argument (which really is a ‘no brainer’ in most cases, and is covered by ‘be nice’).

The interviewer realises this, and tries to sort it out by asking: “But what about the definition of woman as by your biological sex rather than as by your preferred gender identity?”

O’Hagan answers: “You know I actually don’t know why some people are women and some people are men. No-one on this panel does and anyone who claims to know the answer to that question is a liar. All I care about is the principle of live and let live, and showing one another respect, and if a person says ‘yes I was born a man but I am a woman and this is how I live my life’, I want to respect that person as who they are because I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong and they are certainly not bothering me in any way so I think the ultimate important principle here that we should all share who want a free and accepting society is ‘live and let live’.”

My response: Although it was not asked, the question O’Hagan actually answered is ‘do you think it is dangerous to pretend we don’t know the physical difference between men and women?’ This is the key point because O’Hagan’s answer is that it is not dangerous to her. She is not a sportswoman, or a young girl in a badly managed, mixed school. She’s not likely to end up in prison, or a hostel, or insecure housing in a dodgy area, and her answer therefore is ‘I don’t care about women in those situations.’ That’s why I call her TWAW stance a luxury belief.

She has already negated her claim that she believes in ‘live and let live’ by dumping the fears of vulnerable women, in effect saying ‘live fashionably and let them take the hit’ and she has negated her claim to value ‘showing one another respect’ by telling Duffield to her face, and viewers by default, that they are liars.

Duffield then explains who the women are who are at risk: “if you are a woman who has been abused all of your life and ended up in prison you may not feel quite that liberal towards someone in a male body …. It’s usually working class women who haven’t necessarily had the best start in life or the best experience that are really worried about this, and are the ones that are having to deal with it, rather than politicians.”

O’Hagan retains her claim that “the majority of woman actually agree with me on this issue” She hasn’t answered the point at all, so I suppose we must take that as a re-iteration of ‘I don’t care about the women who are vulnerable.’ But the interviewer does stop her and press for a proper response, and Duffield manages to get in an important question – is she “talking about self-ID particularly?”

O’Hagan answers: “No, I’m talking about the broad, um, the broad principles of supporting people to change gender which they’re legally allowed to do.”

My response: so she does know she’s not really answering the issue Duffield has presented. She then busily talks over Duffield’s “so do I”, and pushes on before we get a chance to think about the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, which is the smokescreen she is using. She is now answering an imaginary question along the lines of ‘why is Duffield so old fashioned, when we are so progressive?’

Then she goes on to answer a second imaginary question … “So let me finish my point. Um, I think you know, we’ve seen other issues like um, abortion for example where, er people who oppose often use the most extreme er cases to argue against in principle against what are positions we could all agree with which is people should be respected for who they are, and actually when we’re saying that a small group of people should not be allowed to live as they are because other people might be upset about it well that is the very essence of discrimination and I don’t think that most of your viewers watching this would support that.”

My response: So O’Hagan has now re-imagined Duffield’s position completely and appeals directly to the viewers not to support people ‘being upset about’ an ‘extreme example’ – that is, ‘please forget about the very real and present danger to a vulnerable woman of being confined with a male sex offender’.

Can you imagine the horror of that situation? Because it is happening now, in our prisons. In the face of that, why should we do as she says? Because in her view, recognising a male as a male makes you a liar, even if he is a violent, in tact, male. In this situation, says O’Hagan, standing by your legal right to recognise sex as reality is ‘the essence of discrimination’.

She has now turned the law, and our lived experience, completely on their heads. If I was that interviewer, I would now ask O’Hagan if her trans friends would really thank her for persistently confusing them with self-IDed male sex offenders.

Duffield is asked if she agrees. She pulls the conversation back to the real point by saying: “I fundamentally disagree that we should impose male-bodied people on single sex spaces and if that’s called discrimination I think that ‘s really unfortunate. I think we need a conversation about…”

O’Hagan interrupts: “I’m really glad you said that because I think you’ve hit on exactly what the problem is there. So instead of saying, first of all there are transgender men which don’t seem to be part of this conversation, but what you’ve said there is ‘male bodied people’ and I want the viewers at home to really think about why it might be upsetting for a transgender woman who has suffered a lot – I have a few friends who are transgender women, who have had periods of their lives where they have not been able to leave the house because they are abused in the street and where the process of changing gender has been quite distressing and difficult and to go through all of that and to have somebody in public life who is a representative of the public and has a big public platform and a lot of responsibility to call them male bodied people, I think what is being communicated there is ‘I don’t accept and respect you for who you are, I am not interested in your journey’.”

My response: This is a baffling response by O’Hagan, but one I have seen many times. Duffield is talking about male-bodied people – that is, people whose only concession to ‘transition’ has been to say ‘I am a woman’. That is self-ID, and it is what is happening in prisons, and it is why Duffield and others are objecting. These self-ID males arrive in prison with all their bits, and a history of sexual violence, and cause dread, fear and danger. It seems to me very obvious that they are the people Duffield is talking about.

But O’Hagan’s answer doesn’t address this. In effect, she says: I have friends who have transitioned, who have taken every step available to them to leave the estate of men – they’ve had surgery, they’ve taken hormones, they have no history of sexual offending, and they will be very upset when I tell them you have called them male-bodied people.’

But Duffield did not say that. It is trendy lefties like O’Hagan here who are creating the fear and hatred her friends felt in the street, by pretending they have so many ‘anti-trans’ enemies. Thankfully, the interviewer interrupts at that point and says “Rosie, is that what you mean? And does Rosie have rights that she is also trying to protect here?”

Duffield replies: “51% of the population are physically female and have the right to at least debate or talk about whether people in a male body are allowed in single sex spaces without any debate or discussion.”

I say well done Duffield. If you cut through all the crap that went before, you have the key issue there in her final statement. Women currently have legal, sex-based rights that are being infringed by people who try to claim that sex does not exist, or is not evidencable. Women who have harder lives, who live in the real world, understand the dangers. Those women could answer O’Hagan’s point about why trans men are not mentioned in the context of prisons. They are not mentioned because trans men (who are female) are not queuing up to be admitted to male prisons, because they simply and obviously would not be safe there.

Why can’t MPs and celebrities see why so many women are rebelling over ‘TWAW’?

I wrote about Duffield once before, along with J K Rowling. Do you know what those two have in common? Something that comes before the somewhat overplayed rags-to-riches stories? If you don’t, here’s the story. They both started out in a sufficiently ordinary place that they can remember being truly vulnerable.

And here’s another clue. Afshan Arad is pretty much the only member of the cast of the Harry Potter movie who chose to stick up for J K Rowling, and the reason would appear to be that Arad understands all too well the fear and the danger women encounter, when there is no getting away from a violent male.

I once had an apparently useful conversation with John MacDonnell about this. He seemed genuinely concerned but men of the left, like the privileged, protected women who reach political circles, are not in the firing line on this, and can easily disregard the fear and the danger. I’m sorry to say that he’s lost it. On seeing this interview, he immediately took to twitter to join the charge of the blind, encouraging women to address this real, legal threat to their safety by ‘being nice’.

John MacDonnell praises O'Hagan's 'empathy', and careful and caring tone.

Women who are actually using their brains responded thusly…

women's groups disagree with John Mac's tweet

That era when we thought ‘the many’ would take over party politics has passed. Very few MPs, left right or centre, are going to get this. They all live in protected space. The left has deserted working class and other vulnerable women. It’s up to the rest of us – ordinary women with no special privileges, those of us who have experienced, or have been near enough to imagine, the fear and the dread of ending up in a prison or hostel, facing a violent male. We must drop party factional politics and fight this on behalf of those women who are facing that fear and dread right now.

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Who is best placed to get the Tories out?

We know, we know – Jeremy Corbyn is still the most popular option among Labour voters.

Graph showing popularity of various politicians. Corbyn is still preferred by Labour voters.

I do think we should all support those good people who are trying to reinstate their MP in the Labour Party, even if we have rejected and reviled the Party in its current form. His reinstatement as a Labour MP is a point that needs making.

Twitterstorm 18th Nov 7pm #ReinstateJeremyCorbyn
Islington Friends of Jeremy Corbyn

Please join in the Twitterstorm – and all the rest of the noise. Because people-power works. Understanding that is how you get your power back – the power we lost when we thought losing Corbyn, losing the election, losing the Labour Party, was the end of everything.

Where socialism went wrong – both in 1945 and in 2017 – was putting all its faith in one man, expecting salvation to come top-down, or from the centre. Who knows whether, given the chance, Corbyn would want to go through all that all over again – but what he did remains valid. He called together the biggest gathering of socialists in Europe. He called together a force that was – and is – big enough to push politics where we want it to go. The very least we can do in return is to make sure he gets his proper job back. But that’s not THE issue. The real pay-back to Corbyn, and for all of us – is to stay powerful, stay confident, and stay active.

Sleaze? Call it shameless theft

Never mind what the media says, we, the people, are unforgiving of MPs who use their position to get rich, and don’t address the problems we have. That’s why the ‘sleaze story’ won’t go away. Those few MPs who are on our side continue to help plug OUR concerns…

Don’t let their efforts be in vain. Join in the noise. Our determination to address the ‘second jobs’ problem has forced a reluctant Boris Johnson to try to look as though he’s taking action, and in his limited and compromised way, Starmer is trying too – but he can’t do much, he has his own skeletons to cover up.

But we can do something. All of us, and any one of us. That popular outrage – over the severe limitations of COP26, over the degradation of our NHS, over the increasing expense to us of rip-off Britain and now, over the discoveries about just how much MPs are earning by NOT treating their parliamentary roles as full time jobs has forced the leaders to do something. We need to keep that rolling, and force them to do more than a bit of PR.

This anger, this very visible anger, demonstrates the continuing force of ‘the many’ who Corbyn called together, and the door is still open for a new way for the many to do politics. Don’t give up, don’t give in – keep it going by keeping in touch with all those who are ready to stand beside you and do politics. You could join a union, you could get more active in your union, or you could just contact all those people you were working with when the Labour Party was really active. You could get together and visit your MP, or write to them, or do a public demo on any of the issues that really matter to us all. Whatever you do though, never forget, your small, local action is enormous and powerful because it’s a part of what we, the people, are doing …

Corbyn: it's not me they fear, it's you

Who is best placed to get the Tories out? WE ARE. Who is best placed to force the next government, whoever they are, to address our problems? WE ARE.