Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


And finally I'm getting back to my autobiography in verse. This return to an apparently abandoned project has been prompted because in May I will be having my farewell performance at Bilston Voices and I want to prepare something a little different, a little special, for it and have decided that the ideal thing would be an amble through my life in verse.

When we left it last I had just written about how bad I was at games lessons. There are, however, a couple of poems that need to slot in earlier. This is one of them. It's called "Freedom" and refers to an incident before I start primary school.


In the marketplace a child slips from his mother's grasp,
And, for a moment, is free:
Free to dodge between adult legs:
Free to clamber over pallets of goods:
Free to be chased from the wrong side of stalls:
But then he looks around, suddenly alone
In a world full of people:
Alone to wonder where mother's gone:
Alone to stare up at distant faces:
Alone in desperation, needing familiarity:
He begins to run, races from the market
Along the busy pavements:
Races on in purest, blindest instinct:
Races and retraces the route they'd come:
Races with racing heart and streaming eyes:
Home again he sits halfway up the stairs
And, energy spent, he weakly cries:
Sits in the narrow angled stairwell:
Sits with the door open, wanting his mother:
Sits until she finds him and, also crying,

Friday, 25 February 2011

Bilston Voices

It's Bilston Voices time of month again.

Last night's entertainment started off with a poet I hadn't seen before, Elaine Hickman-Luter. Her slightly hesitant start may have been due to nerves or, more likely, to the fact that she was performing with a broken arm while Jill Tromans stood at her side holding the poems ready to hand to her. She picked up quickly though and soon got into the swing of things adding tone and colour to her delivery. Her set was a very mixed bag of both styles and themes. Poems about trees and crocuses sat side by side with poems about moving to Mars or a friendly elf. Very traditional verse forms sat side by side with with much more modern and abstract material. She also had my favourite title of the night - A Day With An Abstract Seagull though I couldn't tell you what it was about if you gave me sixpence. I thought it was all very good but I liked the more traditional stuff a little better.

I had also never seen the second poet, Ness Tobin, doing what was only her second ever performance and making a pretty good job of it. Her poetry was mainly descriptive of people. Ms Together told of an encounter with a perfect mother. When You See Her, The Girl With Doc Martins and Rich Boys all painted vivid character portraits. Even Seen To Be Believed, ostensibly about biscuits, managed to sneak in a portrait of a compulsive biscuit eater. Occasionally her delivery missed the beat or mistimed the rhythm slightly so that the flow was interrupted but that can easily be forgiven in someone who has only read in public once before. 

Finishing the first half was a Bilston Voices regular, Peter Hill. He gave us a nice change of pace with a very funny story of a conversation between a grandfather and his young granddaughter in which she gradually tore holes in his story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff with the true logic of a child. It was a clever piece producing lots of chuckles and some laugh out loud moments. He accompanied it with a nice poem, allegedly true, about the time that his wife painted his favourite garden bench bright pink. It was funny and very well delivered.

After the Break Silvia Millward was back for another Bilston Voices reading. I've watched with interest her developing performances and she gets better every time. Her selection of material was good but more importantly she seems more relaxed every time she appears and her introductions to the poems are now far more natural and less forced. The poems themselves are very evocative of time and place. Whether describing childhood holidays, lorries sliding about on the ice or the contents of her trinket box she manages to create a genuinely atmospheric mood.

The final artist of the night, Simon Lee, I encountered for the first time last week at the Love Slam. I'd liked him well enough then with his two well crafted and rather funny poems but he made good use of the longer format with a series of humourous verses with an almost (but not quite) rapping use of rhyme and rhythm. A poem about a banker making excuses was followed by one about not wanting to dance and another about appearing on the X-Factor. One poem, The Waiting Game, was more serious in subject but maintained the rhythmic style. A fine performance to round off another fine night.

Open Letter To A Moron

I don't know you.
It's quite possible that, sober, you are a normal decent fellow.
I rather doubt it as, drunk, you are clearly a moron.

It seems that you believe that the height of sophisticated wit is to get drunk, drive around late at night at high speed and throw eggs at random pedestrians. The one that hit me, hit me in the face, smashing on my chin and then going on to stain my jacket. The chin is bruised. The jacket will cost me a few quid to dry clean. You are doubtless tickled pink by how funny this all is. 

Let me suggest that four inches higher and I would now be blind in my right eye. You might still think it amusing. Or perhaps, I like to think the best of people, you would be horrified at what you had done. Most likely you are just shrugging and saying that it wasn't four inches higher, was it? That's not the point. There will come a time when some poor unfortunate is walking home. minding his  or her own business, when it is four inches higher, when a bruise and a bill are not the only  consequences.

I like to think that I'm not a vindictive person, but it's within all of us, I just hope that before the day comes  that you wrap your car around a lamp post while trying to hit someone with an egg, you manage to grow up and grow a brain.


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

To Put Away Childish Things #25

If this entry becomes gradually more rambling and incoherent then the reason may be that a more appropriate title would be "To put away not so childish things and then pick them up again much later and drink them."
Bit of a mouthful though so I stuck with the more generic version.

See? Rambling and incoherent already and I've hardly begun.

Those of you who are following the plot will realise that I am planning to leave the country and as a preface to that it's necessary to get the house ready for sale, and as a preface to THAT it's necessary to clear out an awful lot of stuff accumulated over my lifetime. 
Part of today's task was to tackle some of the stuff in the loft. In one corner of the loft there are barrels, demijohns and all the related paraphernalia of home brewing and home wine making. That was no great surprise. I knew it was there. What was a surprise was the opposite corner where, behind some boxes, I discovered a rack with half a dozen bottles of home made wine. 

I used to be quite the dab hand at making both beer and wine. With beer I made lagers, bitters, stouts, pale ales and even had a go at a rather nice honey beer. It's wine that gets really creative though, wine that let's you stretch your imagination.
Oh I started with grapes. It seemed the right place to begin. Over the years that I was doing it I made wine from elderberries an oranges, carrots and plums, apples and dandelions, gooseberries and parsnips, pea-pods and rhubarb. It's possible to make wine, admittedly not always palatable, out of almost anything that's not actually poisonous. I even made some out of a tropical fruit juice blend sold as Um Bongo.
The thing is though that I last made any wine about thirty years ago, so the bottles I've found in the loft have been there, gathering dust for at least that long. There are a couple labelled as "carrot", a couple labelled as "orange" and a couple of mystery bottles with no labels at all.

It's to one of the unlabelled ones that I owe my gradually deteriorating faculties this evening. Having found them it seemed silly not to open one and check out if it was still drinkable. It is. Very drinkable. A very palatable dry white. Parsnip, if I'm not mistaken. I had forgotten just how potent I made my wines. It tastes more like drinking strong spirits but it's very nice for all that. I expect it will give me a headache tomorrow

And now, I shall go and pour another glass, pop on the DVD - I am watching all of the episodes of Sharpe that I bought for my father and that he never got to watch - and consider which bottle to open next.

I always suspected as much.

French Language is a Hoax.

(Thanks to Language Log for pointing this one out.)

Sunday, 20 February 2011


Two twenty-somethings in front of me in the queue in Ikea.

A: You know what I want?
B: No, what?
A: A tortoise. Emma at work has got one. It's the sweetest little thing. And it runs around after you and jumps onto the bed.

Er, run that by me again!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Snark: Abridged

Over on wordcraft Guy Barry has just pointed us to his excellent abridged version of The Hunting of the Snark, done in limerick format.

Marvelous stuff. Carroll and Lear would both be proud.


Whilst rescanning pictures from my travels, I came across this.

In case you can't read it, the Portuguese says,
"Seja Coerente
Preserve O Verde"
and the English says,
"Be Coherent
Save The Verdancy"

Don't know about the Portuguese but I love the English version.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

aros redux

The organisers of the River of Stones project are putting together a book of the best contributions. It will include two of mine. Bizarrely they have chosen the one I wrote in Klingon. I just hope my grammar was as good as I thought it was.


Monday, 14 February 2011

How true

Every contestant in Saturday night's Love Slam received a packet of Love Hearts as a "prize".

For anyone who doesn't know what they are, Love Hearts are small round sweets printed with romantic phrases.

The first three out of my packet formed a nice little comment, once I'd added some punctuation.

Dream on!
My Angel.

But how did he know?

We chose a different pub for our weekly Sunday lunchtime drink yesterday. Instead of going to our regular haunts of the Old White Rose or the Black Eagle we went to the Great Western, a pub I haven't used since I went there for my father's wake. It's a nice pub with a friendly landlord and we had a good afternoon. There was one odd moment when my friend was at the bar. An elderly man from another table approached and asked me, "Are you Bob Hale's son?" 
I confirmed that I am and he offered his condolences to me and we chatted for a few minutes about my father and what a great bloke he'd been. It was touching and moving and I was very happy and grateful that he had come over. The odd thing was that I don't recall ever having met him in my life and I have no idea how he knew me. I think I must have grown to look more like my father than I ever thought.

It was nice of him though, however he knew me.

Ongoing #72

Today is Saint Valentines Day.

I've cheated a bit in trying to find a picture in my cartoon book that works as an illustration for this poem but I've managed it. The picture shows a wistful looking Japanese lady standing all alone in a cherry blossom grove.

And here's the poem.

I'd like to write a poem
Of a love that's deep and true,
That's brighter than the sunshine
And fresher than the dew,
That lasts for all eternity
Yet begins each day anew,
Adds music to the sounds of life
And grandeur to the view -
And the only thing that's missing
Is someone to send it to.

The 4th Bilston Love Slam

I guess somebody has to be first.
I just wish that on my first proper slam, it hadn't been me!
Yes, the random draw for the running order put me on as contestant one of heat one of round one. At least it means that I get the awkwardness of reviewing myself out of the way quickly. So what about this Bob Hale fellow? Any good? Well I think my poems were pretty good and they were certainly well rehearsed but  I'm coming to the opinion that they are fundamentally unsuited to slams. It was noticeable, as it often is, that the few people who, like myself, did serious pieces (i.e. not funny) consistently scored lower than the people who made the audience laugh.
The other poets in my heat were Heather Wastie and Steve Rooney. Heather, who I have seen quite often, did a longish piece about eating her partner's bread pudding in her usual accomplished style. Steve's piece, about a girlfriend being unimpressed with his new shirt was also very funny but suffered slightly from being a little too slight for its length. Unsurprisingly, Heather got through and I came last.
The second heat also went as it should. Tom Jenkins seemed a little less confident in his material than usual, though his very clever piece constructing a love poem from terms used in chemistry  was very well received. Simon Lee followed with a poem about being in love with his dentist, which he assured us was OK as his dentist is also his wife. And Peter Wyton who concluded, and won, the round gave us a poem that started slowly but built very well into a lively and animated performance, an unlikely outcome for something that was about updating the messages printed on Love Hearts.
Heat three had Hazel Malcolm, an old friend of mine Donna Scott and Roy McFarlane: not a good draw for Hazel or Donna given that Roy is the Birmingham Poet Laureate. Hazel's poem comparing love to molasses was the first properly romantic poem of the evening, though perhaps a little gloomy in tone. As one of the more serious pieces it again suffered from the audience predilection for humour. Donna's poem fell nicely half way between the serious and humorous camps and was a good piece about love in the 1990's, filled with popular culture references and performed well. It inevitably suffered from being followed by Roy who did the two love poems that he had practised last week at City Voices. His greatest asset is his rich, deep voice and combined with his passionate performance it saw him through to round two.
Marion Cockin, Louise Stokes and Theo Theobald were up next. Marion, a seasoned performer but taking part in her first slam, gave the best introduction of the night - describing her poem with the words "there can be no greater love than a woman who puts her husband's severed head on the mantlepiece". And that's what she delivered, a poem called Sir Walter Raleigh's Head. Louise, like Roy, gave a poem which she had performed earlier this week, this time at Hit The Ode. I liked it better this time round but, clever and accomplished though it was, it seemed to be more suited to a shorter work and was a little stretched at three minutes. Still, she is the first to admit that her normal poetry runs to the pessimistic rather than the romantic. Theo followed and though the three minute format limits him - he is much funnier when he has the space to meander around his poetry with long and often hilarious introductions - his "I'm In Love With The Girl from H&M" is an old favourite and went down very well, sending him through in fine style.
The final round one heat saw Yvette Rose give a couple of slight poems - one similar in content to Tom's Chemistry, used mathematical terms as love metaphors and the other was a very traditional romantic poem. Once again more serious and once again suffering in the marking because of it. She was followed by Jo Bell who began by announcing that she didn't do romance and would we mind if she did filth instead. And that's what she gave us, two hilarious and very dirty poems about former boyfriends and how men make love. Eileen Ward-Birch, accompanied by a pillow and a bad case of nerves, completed the first round, explaining in verse about losing sleep trying to write a love poem. It was a good poem but her nervous performance let her down slightly. Jo ran out the worthy winner of that heat.

After that we broke for the highlight of any night at the Imperial, the curry: - and very nice it was too. Reflecting on the first half I felt that in every heat the correct result had come from the judges. All the performances had been good but the right people had, ultimately, gone through.

The format for round two saw all six performers - the five winners and the highest scoring loser, Peter Wyton, compete in one big round.
Their poems reflected their first round performances. Jo gave us an alphabetical list of words from her phone's custom dictionary which sounds as if it couldn't possibly be any good when described like that but which was in fact very cleverly done and really rather good. Theo followed with a poem listing the possible illnesses and symptoms to claim to have when "throwing a sickie". It got a good audience reaction though, as with his first round, I felt that the three-minute slot doesn't really do his kind of performance the justice it deserves. Peter's poem, like the Love Hearts poem from round one, started slowly and built well as he compared the people on holiday in modern Greece to the ancient Greek Gods.  For me it seemed to lack a proper climax though which may have let him down. Heather, in multiple voices, became the various icons and symbols that we see on our computer screens talking to a frustrated user. First the spinning symbol when something is loading, and then, by turns, the hour glass, the hand and the arrow. It was clever though maybe a little repetitive, though that was probably the point. Roy followed with a poem about his wife's lack of sympathy with him when he is sitting writing and waiting for inspiration. Though his performance was as powerful as ever he badly misjudged the time and became the only person of the night to actually be "whistled" off before completing his recital. Simon, the highest scoring runner up concluded the round with a better piece than his previous one, an elegy to the late Richard Whitely, of Countdown fame.

When everything was counted and the dust had settled our two finalists, and it must have been a tough decision, were Jo and Theo.

Jo opened with a nicely observed poem comparing real life to facebook and real relationships and interactions to computer ones. Her description of someone having only eight friends, but one's she'd actually met, echoed my own sentiments on the subject.
Theo put on a fisherman's hat and proceeded to give us a cleverly constructed poem based around the names of the places in the Radio Four shipping forecast. It played to his strengths of humorous one-liner gags building a very funny and very well written piece from what was essentially a series of jokes. (Though, of course, the Rockall joke is an old one!)

And so to the result. It was a close run thing but overall Jo's material had been funnier and better received and she ran out a worthy winner with Theo only a whisker behind in the scoring a very worthy second place.

A truly excellent night's entertainment with one of the finest collections of poets I have seen in one place. Of course I also need to mention the excellent organisation and splendid MC duties of Marcus Moore and Sara-Jane Arbury who made everything go so smoothly and led us through a perfect evening, perfectly.

And me? Well just as somebody has to go first, somebody has to come last. C'est la vie.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Safe and natural

On the news at the moment they are discussing proposals to license and regulate herbal products (I refuse to use the word "medicines") but only in a rather limited sense. They are talking about labelling them with something that, in essence, says it is safe to take and won't do you any harm.

There is an argument against it from the pharmacists who are suggesting that such a label might give people the impression that the products have some clinical value. This may be true for some and not for others and the anti-argument is that the existence of the label will give people the impression that the products are of proven medical effect.

The solution seems perfectly simple to me.  License them as safe and make the label something like.

This product is safe to consume.
It will do you no harm.
This is because it does nothing.
It has no proven medical effect.

They can put it on all the homoeopathic remedies too, but replacing the last line with 

It is proven to have 
NO medical effect whatsoever.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Hit the Ode

Last night I went along again to the Hit the Ode performance at the Victoria pub in Birmingham. I had been hoping to get one of the open mic slots to give some of my material for tomorrow's slam a bit of a test run but it was not to be. The performance slots had all been taken before I got there and by a very talented group poets including many of the usual suspects and a few I hadn't come across before. Matt Windle, Louise Stokes and Jodi-Ann Blickley gave their usual assured performances with their usual stage personas,strongly to the fore. I was particularly taken with the feat of memory required for Matt to get through his long and impressive "Outstanding". The poets I hadn't seen before included a brief but funny set from Fergus McGonigal, a début appearance from the talented James Burnette and a set from Al Hutchins. The final slot was taken up by four members of the Birmingham University slam team, including Sean Colletti  and Andy Cook who I have seen before and Sam Murphy and James Bunton who I haven't. There were also two brief rapping guest spots but rap isn't really my thing and I didn't manage to get their names.

Of course it's the three headline acts that we actually pay to see so what about them? Well the second half contained both Fatima Al Matar and Joshua Bennet. Fatima's poetry is quiet and rather intense. It needs - and deserves - serious attention and the audience gave it that, falling quiet as they listened to her thoughtful set but applauding loudly at its end. Joshua, who has performed for the Obamas, also has a fairly restrained and relaxed style but the content of his work is very good indeed and his final piece about his deaf sister was especially well done.

For me though, all of this, wonderful though it was, was overshadowed by the first half headliner, Byron Vincent who was quite simply brilliant. He was worth far more than the tiny entrance fee on his own. I have paid much more to see professional comedians who were no more than on a par with this young man. It's debatable whether much in his twenty minutes could actually be called poetry but as a piece of stand up comedy/theatre it was spectacular. His delivery was breathtaking and his material had me laughing out loud so much hat I kept missing the next joke. He's substantially better than a lot of the stuff we get on TV and worth looking out for. He managed the trick of making something very, very difficult look very, very easy. His style is to make it all look as if he's making it up as he goes along while a moment's thought makes it apparent that no one could be that good without a lot of effort and practice.  I shall certainly be keeping a look out for future performances from him.

What do they teach them?

As I was watching a TV quiz show, there was a true or false question: One divided by one is zero:true or false. The guy answering the question got it right.He said, "false". In this particular quiz the other contestants then get the chance to change any of the answers they think he has wrong. Three of them, all apparently normal intelligent people, then sat discussing it. There were two men and a woman with ages from twenties to sixties. You'd have thought one of them would know what one divided by one is, but no. They all agreed that one divided by one is zero. One of them actually said, "Well it can't be one, can it?" Three different generations of schooling and not one of them could manage the vastly tricky task of dividing by one.

Sometimes I despair.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

City Voices 100th Event

Like most of the performers at last night's City Voices I did my first ever public reading at City Voices back in the days when it was upstairs at the Clarendon Hotel. As I recall it was for the publication of the Wolverhampton Writers' first anthology which I had got into after being a finalist in the Poems on the Metro competition. 
My, haven't we come a long way?
A poetry event that's managed a hundred performances over more than eight years; it's unthinkable, isn't it?

City Voices 100th
Left to Right Simon Fletcher, Emma Purshouse, Roy McFarlane, 
Roger Jones (front), Win Saha, Jeff Phelps
(Image (c) John Davies)

City Voices goes from strength to strength and for the 100th Simon Fletcher, who has organised it from the very beginning, had chosen a line up of some of his personal favourites among many performers who have appeared there. He started with Roger Jones, whose writing always shows the easy charm of a great raconteur. His tales are drawn from his life and are always very entertaining. Last night he gave us the story of how a disaster in his first job, aged 15, gave him a chance to play rugby every Saturday. A light tale, very well told, and a great start to an evening's entertainment. 
He was followed by Win Saha who, more than anyone else, defines City Voices. She is a regular with her humourous take on life and has, in the course of her life of writing, produced more than two thousand poems. She views the world through an amused, though sometimes slightly scornful, eye and writes about every subject under the sun with skill and wit. Last night's set gave us poems about men's perceptions of women, hedge funds, a family with a flagpole, undertakers and a visit to the theatre among many others. All of them were new to me and all of them were as good as we've come to expect from Win.
Roy McFarlane, who came at the end of the first half, is the Birmingham Poet Laureate, and his performances are always marked by the passion of his delivery as well as the quality of his writing. Whether it's a poem, written for the Holocaust Memorial, about how stories never remain untold, or an angry piece about library closures or a poem about walking with someone you love, he delivers it with such power and life that it's impossible not to get caught up in the words.

After the break we moved on to Emma Purshouse who gave us a set of mostly new material. There was no cause for concern though. All of it was what we have come to expect. A piece about booking poetry shows into theatres without mentioning that they are poetry was followed by a very short piece entitled "Alice Cooper does Poetry Criticism". A trio of poems about butterflies, including one about the Comma Butterfly that was particularly clever, followed and she finished up with the only one that I have heard before, about the voice of a pub slot machine. As good as ever.

We finished up with a very different kind of performer, Jeff Phelps, who read an extract from his book Box of Tricks and another extract from his current work in progress. Both were excellent. The extract from the book had the narrator and his girlfriend getting cut off from the shore by the advancing tide and bickering a realistic way about what they should do about the situation, while the second was a tale of a girl playing hide-and seek with some younger children. Both tales had a realism and the second managed the difficult trick of being convincing in a present tense narrative which often comes off as contrived but here gave a sense of time and place that the more impersonal past tense narrative might not manage.

And that was it - the 100th City Voices over and done. Here's to the next 100.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Negation Translation

Because I was feeling lazy this morning I used Google Translate to translate a short poem in German that I came across on another site. One of the lines in the middle was

das Leben bewegt sich nicht zurück, jemals

which I would translate as, "life doesn't move backwards, ever" or maybe, because it sounds better in English "life never moves backwards"

Google Translate messed up the negation and rendered it as

"life moves back, do not ever" so that the negation then attached itself to the next line.

Doesn't that sort of reverse the meaning?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Bring it on!

I haven't cared much for the South Birmingham College motto - "Bring It On! - since it was introduced. It always sounds too aggressive and confrontational. It sounds more like a motto for the SAS or maybe for a street gang than one for a college. Still it was nice, when I had to call back in this week, to receive this very well chosen gift from my erstwhile colleagues.

Time warp?

I'm the first to admit that I wander about most of the time completely oblivious to my surroundings but yesterday evening I went into Birmingham on the Metro and as all the advertising hoardings were lit noticed some of them that I hadn't noticed before.

The first puzzled me because it was advertising Christmas Markets in Bilston and Wednesbury. It's February now but, fair enough, they're just a bit late in taking them down. At the next station I was moved to wonder exactly which Christmas they were talking about as there was an advert for a Gymnastics exhibition which is coming in April 2010. 

My best guess is that in the current economic climate nobody is paying for the advertising space so, rather than leave them empty, they just leave up whatever the last poster was until somebody comes along with money to replace it.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

post post script

To my surprise, in separate correspondence, a couple of my US friends have suggested that it does bear a resemblance to actual policy. I still find this hard to believe although they have suggested examples. One thing I'm certain of though, if they - or indeed if we - operate this kind of thing then it won't be done nearly as efficiently or effectively on TV. 

Mission: Unethical, post script.

Just as an example, in the penultimate episode of season three, a fictional Eastern European country (which bears a passing resemblance to pre-war Germany) has three people struggling for power. One of them is friendly to US interests, the other two are not. The team manage to trick one of the unfriendly ones into publicly murdering the other one and have him arrested and imprisoned. This is done with the cooperation and approval of the third candidate who then takes power.

Mission: Unethical ?


I've been watching a lot of the old Mission:Impossible TV show recently. I bought the boxed set a few months ago and have now watched three whole seasons of it. I've commented before on the strange linguistic aspects of it - the way that many episodes take place in countries that have all the signs in either a mock-Spanish or a mock-Eastern European. Later episodes add a mock-Arabic and a mock-French.

Something else that strikes me more as I watch more is the deeply immoral premise of the show. Let's skip past the fact that in many episodes the Barbara Bain character, Cinnamon Carter, is little more than a Government sponsored prostitute who seduces whoever she needs to in order to get the job done. (OK she never actually sleeps with anyone, but the implication is certainly there.)
Let's ignore the fact that the covert Government agency in question acts completely outside the law - stealing, kidnapping, threatening, even persuading people to murder each other - though never actually committing the murders themselves. There is probably no law short of murder that the team doesn't break at some point in the run. But, as I say, let's ignore that too.
The most immoral thing is the basic premise - which is this: in US interests, anything is permissible. All the things mentioned above and much more. Although some episodes deal with criminals and gangsters, most deal with Government sanctioned operations in other countries. Leaders of vaguely defined "unfriendly powers" are undermined, deposed and assassinated. Governments of countries are clandestinely brought down and replaced by friendlier administrations: you could even say puppet administrations. Foreign treasuries are emptied, foreign diplomats are blackmailed into betraying their countries, foreign laws flouted with the same casual disregard as American ones, foreign embassies broken into and robbed.
The list is endless.

Now I'd have to say that it is a very inventive and entertaining show but when it was originally broadcast did nobody ever question it? Did nobody ever stop and think, "What kind of image is this creating of the Government?" I know there are conspiracy theorists out there who would say : an accurate one, but in the real world that's surely nonsense. Like every other country in the world I'm sure that the US has its fair share of secret operations in other countries, but the routine disregard and contempt with which Mission: Impossible treats every other foreign power is remarkable. 

For the record, I'm certain that it doesn't bear any resemblance to any actual US policies or agencies, but I just wondered if anyone in the US ever felt uneasy about this aspect of the show.

A Walk

Note: This walk was last summer and these pictures have previously appeared on my other blog. The text is new.

Being newly unemployed, I was able last night to go to my writing group for the first time in ages.
We always do some writing during the meeting and last night the topic was "the countryside" and this is an adapted piece from that.

If you look at the photographs, examine them without the benefit of knowledge, scrutinise them without the words or the guidance of the photographer, then, no matter how carefully you do it, you will be fooled. The first, for example shows a gently sloping open field carpeted across the full frame with tens of thousands of sunshine yellow buttercups. At the top of the slope a row of low green trees tear jagged holes into the storybook blue sky. Indeed the second picture shows the branches of one of the trees in close up, a twisted tangle with sunlight piercing the gaps and oozing through the leaves to give them a magical translucence.
What they don't show is the main road that was six feet behind me as I crouched low to get the dramatic angle on the buttercups. They don't show the traffic racing by or the building site across the road. They don't show the houses to the right or the curve of the cemetery fence to the left.
The idyll is a construct of the composition; the tranquillity is faux; the beautiful sunny day may have been both beautiful and sunny but tells less than half the story.

I continued on with the walk that I had planned in my head, a walk around the decidedly urban environs of Bradley and Bilston but I was confident that my pictures would hide the fact that I was never more than a stones throw from a house or a road. I skirted the cemetery fence onto the unused ground that separated it from the backs of the houses. There's an old tree in a hollow there, leaning at an awkward angle towards the fence, towering over a dense bush. I managed to capture it perfectly while hiding both the pile of half burned lager cans and the red plastic bag fluttering in the branches.

Through the gate in the fence, I carried on towards the pub. It's a short grassy path through a narrow funnel of trees. Those on the right hide the supermarket, those on the left more houses but as I walked along, surrounded by clouds of midges, it was hard to believe that I wasn't entering some dark dense Middle Earth wood. The path angles sharply left at the end, effectively hiding the pub and the wooden shelter built for the smokers. I stepped out and crossed the road.

A few yards on a row of overgrown stone steps lead down to the right into the old railway cutting. Hardly anyone ever goes down there. You'd pass it by unnoticed nine times out of ten, but at the bottom the depth and the foliage effectively muffle all the sounds of urban life. If you look you can see parts of walls and fences behind the trees but strolling along the disused railway bed, the only time that you realise where you are is when you pass under the road bridges with their scrawled crude graffiti.

Ten minutes later I ran out of path and turned back to the road, but only for a short time, as far as the canal bridge where I descended to the towpath and turned to head in the direction of Bilston and ultimately circle back around to my starting point. The canal was calm and beautiful. The path runs along one side of it with trees on the opposite side crowding down the waters edge, fringed with a wide band of tall straight reeds. Ducks paddled lazily around in the water, halway between the sky and its deep reflection.

Although there is development just beyond the trees for most of the distance, here and there the land opened out with unexpected fields. Horses and ponies grazed in grass gown as high as their withers. They watched uncuriously as I paused to take pictures. Occasionally there were houses across the water, looking rural and village-like, with boats moored at long wooden jetties.

A brace of geese waddled noisily down from the bushes ahead of me. Another duck swam up to see what was happening. A crow screeched unexpectedly as I passed and took flight.

As I continued. moving more into the town, it became harder to get the pictures that hid the reality. The trees disappeared replaced by waste ground and factories. There was more and more ghastly flotsam in the water.
 I bent to photograph some flowers at the canal edge, framed by green patches of floating algae.

Further along I took a picture of a new housing development from underneath one of the bridges. It's been tastefully done and still managed a relatively rural look.

The path diverged from the canal and went, arrow straight for several hundred more yards between grassy banks and stands of trees. Across another main road I ducked into the last section of my walk, the waste ground, behind the square block of factories built in the 1970s.

Another half a mile and I was back on the main road, two minutes from my house. I put my camera back into the case and quickened my stride. It had been a lovely walk that proved that even in the middle of  the most urban of environments there is beauty to be seen. And then I was home, sitting in my living room, drinking a cup of tea and eating a digestive biscuit. The best way to end a great morning.