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Monday, 30 November 2015


From today's BBC News website
"A tax on sugary drinks should be introduced as part of a "bold and urgent" set of measures to tackle child obesity in England, MPs say.
The Commons' Health Committee said there was now "compelling evidence" a tax would reduce consumption.
Its report, which puts pressure on ministers who have so far been resisting a tax, also proposes a crackdown on marketing and advertising.
Food industry representatives say a new tax would be unfair on consumers.
The government will be setting out its plans early next year when it publishes a child obesity strategy, but has said a tax is not something it favours."

Here's my thinking.
1. God forbid even the notion that hypocrisy has any place in politics but before I even consider the recommendations of the MPs involved in this idea, I would like to see their individual body mass index results and those of their children to see if they are leading by example and are all perfectly fit as butcher's dogs.
2. If a tax is put on sugary products, why is it necessary to penalise adults and children who look after themselves, are at acceptable weight levels and who enjoy the occasional Coca-Cola? It is not fair to use the "we're all in this together" card. I'm not saying there is not a problem but a proportionate response is required.
3. Why isn't there a programme of weight registration where, say, every two years it would be a legal requirement for everyone regardless of age to be weighed? Anyone within acceptable limits, no further action. Anyone with unacceptable results would be assessed for assistance to get in shape. Three unacceptable weigh-ins and bring on the penalties. I'm only half-joking.
4. MPs, committees, lobby groups, TV cooks, weirdo celebrities should think very carefully about overusing words like crisis, epidemic, catastrophe and all other worry-stirring hoo-haa words to underline whatever they are shovelling our way.
5. If this really is a world of choices - offer me war, plastic bags and fizzy lemonade and I'll take my chances with the plastic and the pop.
Now, to the fridge for a drink.

Friday, 27 November 2015


I am really looking forward to attending the official launch of actor James Ellis's book on a pivotal moment in Northern Irish theatre history - Troubles Over The Bridge. A publishing story that is a story in itself.

I'll be home in Belfast from 2 - 4 December. The book launch, by Lagan Press, is on 3 November at Queen's University.

I met Jimmy in 2010. We were contributing to a BBC Northern Ireland, Clean Slate TV film on film star Stephen Boyd.  He was very supportive, generous and gracious to me in my project to write a book on Boyd. Of course, I had been aware of his acting CV for years.

Here are some photos of Jimmy.

Me, Jimmy, Mark Garrett, Conor Kilpatrick (Clean Slate TV) at King's Cross Station, 4 July 2010

Me, Jimmy, Davy Kilpatrick, Conor Kilpatrick (Clean Slate TV) at King's Cross Station, 4 July 2010

Jimmy, Davy Kilpatrick (Clean Slate TV) outside the Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square, London, 3 July 2010 - where in the mid-1950s Stephen Boyd was a doorman.

God bless you Jimmy and rest in peace knowing that your story is finally out there.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


I am looking forward to a trip home to Belfast to attend the launch of Troubles Over The Bridge by James Ellis.

Robina Ellis, me, Jimmy Ellis on the occasion of his 82nd birthday, March 2013 at a 'thank you' lunch for Jimmy's foreword to my book on Stephen Boyd.

Here's a cut and paste from publisher Lagan Press's website, plus a link http://laganpress.co/blog/2015/new-release-james-ellis-troubles-over-the-bridge
I'll buy my copy in Belfast and, in due course, I will post a review right here.

 In: News
Announcing our latest release, James Ellis's first-hand account of the banning and subsequent efforts to stage Sam Thompson's controversial and acclaimed play 'Over The Bridge'.
Picture for blog story New release: James Ellis - 'Troubles Over The Bridge'
Belfast, 1959: the young Group Theatre director James Ellisis approached by playwright Sam Thompson, who announces “I got a play you wouldn’t touch with a bargepole!”
The play was Over the Bridge, Thompson’s powerful portrayal of a sectarian dispute in the city’s shipyards, a cutting commentary on contemporary life in mid-20th century Northern Ireland. After its effective banning by the Group Theatre’s board of directors following representations from the Unionist establishment, Ellis resigned from his position as a matter of principle in order to direct the production of the play.
In this book, Ellis provides a first-hand account of the strong and well-orchestrated attempts to censor Over the Bridge, and how these were overcome, allowing for the eventual staging of a dramatic work that would become a defining landmark in the cultural history of Northern Ireland.

James Ellis (1931-2014) was a Northern Irish writer, actor and stage director with a career stretching over sixty years. Best known for his work in television and film -mediums in which he maintained a high profile in for nearly forty years - he also starred in West End stage productions. As a stage actor he did seasons at the Barbican with the Royal Shakespeare Company, with the National Theatre and Sir Peter Hall's company at the Old Vic. Ellis is best remembered for his role as Bert Lynch in the long-running BBC TV detective/police series Z-Cars (1962-78).
'Troubles Over The Bridge' is available to pre-order now for £9.99, released on 23rd November.
ISBN : 9781908188557

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


I have been interviewed on the radio a few times and the style of the broadcaster is so essential to calm a nervous wreck. I can think of BBC Radio Ulster's John Toal and Gerry Kelly, two gifted broadcasters but with that natural ability to be both great questioners AND listeners.

John interviewed me about my fun verse alter ego Hamish Sheaney.

Gerry interviewed me about my book Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood.

This week, I experienced my second live interview with BBC Radio Sheffield's Rony Robinson. Yet another example of how to converse, listen and make the interviewee feel at ease.

We talked about my father's 22 missing years - he vanished between 1960 and 1982 - leaving a wife and 7 children and dying a lonely death in Clapham, London.

We talked about my biography effort on film star Stephen Boyd and about my only sporting triumph as British Home Stores, Belfast, 1974 Dominoes Champion.

A lovely 20 minutes.

Thank you BBC Radio Sheffield team for a warm welcome and a great experience.

Sunday, 22 November 2015


I had an after school job at the Mace supermarket on the Glen Road.
I can answer that question “Where were you when JFK was assassinated?” 
I was on one of my delivery jaunts, on a “Granville” bike. I remember
Overhearing a passer-by telling a man across the street what had happened.

“Kennedy? Shot? Where?”
“In the head.”
“No, where was he?”
“Seen that in cowboy pictures. Lot of gunslingers there, you know.”

I knew it was fairly important news but I was preoccupied with my own fate  
At the jaws of a yapping dog behind the railings of a house in Fruithill Park. 
I was scared stiff and could not pluck up the courage to open the squeaky gate. 
Luckily, after tense minutes the owner joked:  “His bite’s worse than his bark.”

She called off the dog and beckoned me up the driveway.  I delivered her box
Of groceries, she put a half crown tip in my sweaty hand – big money back then -
And I scarpered before the dog was let loose again to bite lumps out of my arse,
Legging it, knowing that oil-free hinges would squeal the mutt back into action.


I had escaped with my life.  Unlike the poor President.


I am working on a themed collection of new poems. "The McCullin Bridge" is....... well, if it develops, I'll let you know!

This is the first draft of the first poem.

At First

We are born into a specific part of society, born a colour, born
a class, born to parents who want us or don’t want us, who care
or couldn’t care less, who can cope or are hopeless. At first a stamp

appears on our baby-bald heads and from a moment just after conception,
we are what we are and for the formative years of our existence
there is not a damned thing we can do about our helplessness.

We are there to be shaped either as pure examples of the human spirit,
unblemished by ignorance or bigotry, blessed by good health and fortune
or poisoned by the seductive sweet elixir of cretinous malevolence.

Friday, 20 November 2015


Based on a true comment from my OU mentor.....

Years ago my weary Open University tutor,
when asked to elaborate on the class struggle,
pondered a while, looked profound
raised his head, closed his book,
gave us his professorial look,
stood up, took a deep breath and sighed:
"All I can say on the class-crass debate,
in all my teaching years I've found,
no matter how we argue the toss,
what the fuck, the world still goes round."