Saturday, December 18th 2009

There you are. Thanks for coming back.

I bought a heavy new book called THE DEFENCE OF THE REALM: THE AUTHORIZED HISTORY OF MI5, and what an interesting tome it is. 1032 pages some of them detailing events and personalities from round here.

It mentions Arthur Scargill, one time leader of the NUM. It tells of the miners strike in 1984, his formation of ‘flying pickets,’ his dealings with the Russian miners union to get monetary support from them, also his successful negotiations with Colonel Qaddafi of Libya to procure funds to finance the strike. And many other interesting facts, including the exploits of heavy drinking Scottish Miners' leader, Mick McGahey, who came to Barnsley many times during the year long strike. Because his phone was being tapped, McGahey was very wary speaking on it about NUM business, but whose wife was never off the phone talking to friends and relations and innocently giving away all that her husband’s personal travel arrangements from which MI5 was able to anticipate the union’s plans.

There is comment about Roy Mason, MP for Barnsley, then a member of Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s cabinet, one time Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during the troubles. Now Lord Mason.

Geographically further away, but still no less intriguing, the book details how MI5 and the police found the Libyan who left a bomb to be detonated by a barometric fuse in a suitcase in a Boeing 747 which exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland in December 1988. There are several pages devoted to explaining how the forensic team found fragments of clothing classed as ‘category one blast damaged,’ and therefore from inside the suitcase containing the bomb, were eventually traced to an outlet in Malta. THere, a shopkeeper recalled selling the clothing to a man resembling a suspected Libyan intelligence officer, Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.

I had always wondered how MI5 and the police had managed to make such a fantastic connection.

The book begins with the founding of MI5 in October 1909 in the office of a single private detective, Vernon Kell, at 64 Victoria Street, London. His only target was German spies. Today’s strength is around 3,300. The service occupies a massive pile on Millbank in London, and its target is any country that is, or might become, a threat to the security of the UK and the rest of the world.

To other things …
Great news about my book, WILD ABOUT HARRY. It is to be recorded onto CDs for the blind and those who like to listen in the car or anywhere like that. It will be released early next year. I don’t know who will make the recording yet. I expect it will be the same chap, Jonathan Keeble, who did such a great job with MURDER IN BARE FEET.

About Christmas ...
Well, I’ve written the cards, (unless anyone catches me out). I swear that somebody I don’t know very well will post a card to us at the very last push so that we can’t reciprocate. And we will be filled with embarrassment (if we remember) next time we see them.

I am really looking forward to this Christmas. I’ve had a quick look at the new double issue RADIO TIMES and from what I could see there’s very little telly for me.
On Christmas day, the queen and I will go to church. Hope the weather is friendly. We shall have a slap up turkey dinner at about 5 o’clock, then I shall simply sink into the quiet of the house … and rest, or I might take the opportunity to write. Also, maybe I will sleep better when things settle down and there’s just the queen and me.

Christmas is a great festival and it’s for everyone to enjoy and celebrate in their own way. The nativity is a magical story bringing love and hope to a poor working man and his wife. We can do with that love and hope here now, so, whether you’re on your own, just the two of you, or in a big party, keep the magic of Christmas alive. I hope your troubles are small ones, and whatever your dreams are for this Christmas time, may they all come true. Have a great time.

I’ll get back to you soon.
December 4th 2009

There you are.

You know, I was never much of a coffee drinker even at its peak in the 1980’s. I’ve gone off coffee completely now. I’m a 100% tea man. But have you noticed how tasteless tea is getting these days? I used to look forward to my cuppa, now I find it very uninteresting. It tastes of hot water. Or is it me? Even if you squeeze the bag between two spoons, as I do, it makes little difference. If I tried standing on it, I suppose it wouldn’t improve it. I won’t name the brand because I don’t want to get locked up. Anyway, I’ve tolerated this deterioration for about two months now until an idea came to me the other day.

About twenty-five years ago or so, I remembered the queen and I visiting an old uncle and aunt who lived in Suffolk, and they invited us to have a cup of tea. When it came, the cup (although beautifully decorated) hadn’t a handle and it didn’t have any milk in it either. I thought it was a bit queer. The queen soon realised that it was China tea and quickly declined. But I never say no. I took the special cup, tasted it and enjoyed the drink.

I also remember having China tea after a delicious Chinese meal in Leeds. That was in the days when you could choose lots of various dishes of separately cooked meats, fish, vegetables and fruits and you ‘composed’ your own selection on your plate. It made for some delightful mixtures and exotic taste combinations that are missing today. That was in the good old days, of course.

Anyway, on Monday, I had the brilliant idea of dumping traditional Indian tea and trying China tea. So I went into our supermarket on Wednesday and was surprised to find a vast selection of teas from all over the world on offer. I stood there and gawped at them. I took down some of the boxes and read the labels. The stories they told were better than the stuff I write. I thought the right one would be Pure White China Tea packed by a very well advertised beverage supplier.

I eagerly brought it home, had it made to the directions on the packet and it tasted foul. I was very disappointed. What do I do now? I suppose I’ll have to go back to my favourite drink, Champagne.

I would be interested to hear what you think about today’s tea (or anything else). The address is If you write anything interesting, I might mention it here on the diary.

Now I really must get back to writing my new book. What I need is discipline. There is simply too much to do. Come back soon if you can tolerate the ramblings of an old writer.