Guantanamo Holiday Resort
We don’t normally carry information about holidays and
related issues but decided to make an exception in this case.
We recently received this press release from Guantanamo Holiday
management Gauntanamo Holiday Resort much
regrets the deaths of three holidaymakers who participated
in unauthorised extreme sports (hanging is only approved up
to a point and when we are supervising it, hang-gliding not
at all). They knew our strict guidelines as to what is acceptable
and what is not and we will be suing their relatives for damage
done to our good name, when we are able to contact them, of
course, as no one has been in touch with them for four years
or more. When asked how he was getting along, one resident
said “I can’t complain” (there is no truth
in the rumour that he muttered under his breath “Because
I’m not allowed to”).
“The staff have been very hurt that the
care and attention they have lavished on residents should
be repaid in this way,” General ‘Uncle’
Sam Packinpower said, continuing that “Our staff are
very sensitive souls who have been much hurt by adverse media
publicity. All we ask is a little tolerance and understanding.
Breaking every international law in the book is tiring and
dirty work, you know. Someone has to do it if the world is
to be free for US multinational corporations to make money
from poor people.”
Guantanamo Holiday Resort Inc, known widely
and simply as Guantanamo (enquiries about franchises welcome,
particularly from eastern Europe and Asia), has been in existence
for over 4 years and these are the first deaths on our premises.
We are dedicated to providing a complete experience in secure
surroundings where residents will not be troubled by unwelcome
distractions. We specialise in experiences which residents
may not have had before as we reckon our guests are the adventurous
sort. The number of staff which we have on hand to supervise
residents and their activities is simply second to none. Our
complete care package provides everything which you might
require for a tropical stay, even down to toothbrushes and
bijou accommodation, whatever rattles your cage. Room service
is included in our special package deals. In fact, most of
the residents who came reluctantly four years ago because
they were persuaded to do so are still with us; they have
been unable to tear themselves away and couldn’t leave
if they tried. That’s how popular our establishment
is – we have built up a worldwide reputation in just
four years and have very high brand recognition.
We are working extremely hard to get residents
to share with us the names and addresses of their friends
and acquaintances so we can persuade them to join us as well.
Some people think we’re very exclusive, only for certain
nationalities and kinds of people but there is actually no
evidence to this effect, in short, there is no evidence. Our
clientele are drawn from various countries around the world
though it is true that when it comes to religion, we do specialise
in facilities for Islamic guests, perhaps you could say we
have a special affinity, or is it infinity, for Muslims.
Guantanamo Holiday Resort is a wholly owned
subsidiary, and holy integral part, of the USA-registered
Life Changing Experiences, the people who brought you ‘Iraqnaphobia’,
‘Aghast at Stan’ and much more. And don’t
be concerned about the cost; whoever you are, we’ll
make you pay.
Gauntanamo – a place of legends. Come
and visit us soon and in no time you’ll be joining in
singing our theme song “Guantana-(night)mare-o”.
Yes, we can provide a tropical experience that you’ll
remember for the rest of your days – however long or
short that may be. Guantanamo – the place to be neither
seen nor heard. And do remember our proud motto, ‘Arbeit
macht frei’, or was that someone else’s?
Contact us or our free “Amo Guantanamo!”
stickers and posters!
Cycles of change –
and a code of conduct
‘Tis the season to be a cyclist, though I believe that
with a bit of expenditure on the right waterproof gear, cycling
is a year around love affair. But there is a problem for cyclists.
Where do you cycle? If you cycle on the roads in general it’s
pretty dangerous and motorists don’t always show the
care that they should in overtaking, turning and so on. If
you cycle on the path – I mean the footpath where part
of it is not designated cycleway – you are likely to
The Northern Ireland Cycling Initiative (NICI)
newsletter (May 2006) had a piece complaining about Peter
Robinson asking questions about cyclists charged for infringing
road regulations (the import was he should have been bothering
about other things such as motorists knocking down pedestrians).
The same week I received the NICI newsletter there was a letter
in the Belly Tele [‘Belfast Telegraph’ –
Ed] from a pedestrian who had an arm broken by a hit and run
cyclist going on the pavement. There is a problem. In general
I don’t believe in cycling on the footpath and take
my chances on the road. But I do use the footpath on occasions.
When? At a busy junction when I’m coming off a cycle
lane but there is a gap before another cycle lane. Or when
manoeuvring onto the road is going to take all day and be
dicey when I’ve just a short bit to go before turning
off. Occasionally, very occasionally, I’ll go on the
path to get past bumper to bumper traffic.
Police turn a blind eye to cyclists on the footpath
because a) they have other things to do, and b) they know
the roads are dangerous. But while motorists and the level
of traffic may have forced cyclists onto paths to some extent,
there is no excuse for cyclists not giving way to pedestrians
completely when on paths or shared spaces.
I would suggest an informal code of conduct
for cyclists using the footpath and, indeed, routes through
parks and such spaces where cyclists may or may not be legally
1) Considerate/Non-aggressive cycling – not frightening
anyone, as slow as needed, stop or slow up drastically near
young children, animals, elderly people or anyone who might
become frightened to see someone suddenly bearing down on
2) Using the footpath as the exception rather than the norm.
3) Using bicycle lanes when possible. But cyclists have a
choice, and if going on a cycle path doesn’t suit they
should use the road.
4) In general, respect for pedestrians. Just as some of us
are also motorists on occasion, so also almost all of us are
Anyway, it’s the season to be a fair weather
cyclist. So get out that rusty old heap, or that beautiful
sleek machine that has hardly ever been used, and ‘on
your bike’. And remember the first rule of cycling,
particularly summer cycling: Keep your mouth closed (unless
of course you want to supplement your diet with insects).
But to come back to where I started, with the
May 2006 edition of the Northern Ireland Cycling Initiative
newsletter. The following relates to the UK but I would surmise
the relative cost of cycling/motoring is at least as large,
and possibly larger, in the Republic:
“ The cyclist is ‘a guest on roads that are paid
for by motorists’ so said the motoring journalist Jeremy
Clarkson. Every cyclist has heard similar accusations countless
times. In fact the opposite is true. In law, cyclists have
the right of way on roads; motorists must use them under licence
and as studies by Transport 2000 and Leeds University show,
it is the cyclist that subsidises the motorist. For every
mile a motorist drives, taxpayers subsidise the journey by
21p after taking into account accidents, maintenance and pollution.
Rob Ainsley, writing in the London Cyclist, the magazine of
the London Cycling Campaign, estimated that costs of cycling
on a similar basis amounted to 0.21p per mile. Rob reckoned
that this figure did not take into account of [sic) hidden
national benefits such as health and savings to the NHS.”
So there you have it. Cycle with pride.
Ode to a pound shop
My local ‘pound shop’ has closed down, presumably
due to the impending redevelopment of the building it was
in. ‘Cheap’ shops continue to flourish but the
‘pound shop’ is a fascinating phenomenon although
extinguished earlier in the Republic than in Norn Iron (the
Irish pound/punt after it diverged from the British one was
usually worth less meaning that purchasing power was less,
and then pounds were totally extinguished by Euros which made
a ‘pound’ shop something of a misnomer). Anyway,
I’m not sure many people write odes to a pound shop,
so, as I often undertake tasks no one else will do, I decided
I would do this serious and sensitive task [sounds a bit ode-ious
to me – Ed] [your pun-ishment is worse – Billy].
In for a penny, in for a pound
Now they’ve gone and shut you down.
What’s the neighbourhood coming to?
Where will I get my useless glue?
My cheap and cheerful tools and bits
That bend and break after just a little,
Tapes for ducts and ducks and drakes,
Spices and ates for your bake,
Christmas presents from young kids -
To get things now, they’ve got the skids.
So redevelopment has got you too,
No more plastic flowers or paper for loo,
A bit less plastic coming from China,
And ornamental yellows rhinos
(I’m exaggerating now, it’s true,
But zillions of things I cannot pursue).
War toys and guns would make an appearance,
But the post office sells them with a vengeance.
Inflation hit and a pound bought less,
It was still a wonder, I do confess.
In your place, a shopping mall
And prices vast, beyond the pale
And faces matching, I do say.
Is nothing sacred, is nothing saved?
You’ll not live to see another day.
Your goods produced for very little,
A surviving wage, and lots of spittle,
Toiling away in terrible conditions,
But exploited less than some. I wager.
So will you have a wake to mourn?:
Admission, well, it’s just one pound.
[I would suggest keeping the day job –
Ed] [That’s all right, I can take a pounding –
No one likes to be made a muggins. So when I saw graffiti
on a hoarding at the Beersbridge Road, Belfast, advising that
“Muggins in East Belfast is totally unexceptable”
(except it was in capitals which I will spare you), I thought,
how right. ‘Muggins’ is English slang, probably
related to being a ‘mug’ and certainly dating
well back into the 19th century. Making a mug of people is
unfair. And ‘unexceptable’, the writer hardly
meant ‘unexceptional’, presumably ‘unacceptable’.
So I agree.
Oh, but what is the following sentence? “Those
caught will be severely dealt with”. Ah, so it’s
not ‘muggins’ at all but ‘muggings’,
making three spelling or grammatical errors in the one sentence.
Now, I certainly don’t agree with muggings, robberies
committed against individuals perhaps with violence or the
threat of violence, but nor do I support vigilante/paramilitary
action ‘severely dealing’ with muggers.
I wondered then about the writer. Certainly
not well educated or shall I say highly literate in English
unless ‘he’ has one of the many forms of dyslexia
– the odd error in public pronouncements is common but
three in one sentence is pushing it. I make the presumption
that the writer was male. I wonder whether he is a political
activist, political-community activist, paramilitary fellow
traveller or one of these as well as disgruntled citizen whose
great aunt was mugged on the way back from the post office,
her bag grabbed, or threatened with a knife. I feel a short
story coming on, “The intelligent but poorly educated
young Billy was on the fringes of an organisation with three
letters”….. [That’s enough – Ed] [I
wouldn’t want you to think I’m portraying the
graffiti writer as a muggins – Billy] [OK, point made,
enough – Ed]
The relatively constant gardener
Am I a constant gardener? Well, fairly, except when lack of
time prevents engagement or the invasive, perennial weeds
we have get me down. But I was looking at my large, red, oriental
poppies recently, and very pretty they were (they don’t
last too long), and I sometimes gaze incessantly at some amazing
and beautiful indication of nature, and wonder at nature’s
cooperation with me as a gardener. I do take satisfaction
in a good display of colour or of vegetables and fruit for
the pot or the plate.
But I also reflected on a constancy with the
political part of my life. Yes, I like success (as they say,
nothing succeeds like a parrot with an injured beak). But
that’s not where I’m at, primarily. On the Bill
Moyer Movement Action Plan [see ‘Workshop on strategising’
in Workshops section of the INNATE website – Ed] I ‘am’
a one to a three. That is, I ‘like’ picking up
issues no one else is dealing with, running with them, struggling
to get the issue the public attention it deserves, battering
my head against brick walls. Maybe I enjoy the righteous indignation
of it all. And when something starts to be successful? [Has
it ever happened with you? – Ed] [Once in the occasional
blue moon – Billy] Then I’m quite happy to hand
it over to others, I’ve passed the baton, done my bit.
So, while I enjoy and take pride in something
which has grown well in my garden, it’s the planning
and the nurturing to the stage of success which interest me
most. Though if there wasn’t the end result, and my
brassicas always got cabbage root fly and shrivelled, my courgettes
were always eaten by slugs, well, I would soon give up all
but the most basic gardening. It is the challenge, the hope
of a better future, in gardening as in life, that drives me
May a thousand flowers bloom. May a thousand
Putting the wind up
Ken Loach’s latest film ‘The wind that shakes
the barley’, is a powerful exploration of violence at
a particular place and time; Ireland during the War of Independence
and the Civil War. Other commentators have drawn parallels
with Iraq. Some British commentators have accused it of a
calumny of crimes, being pro-IRA, anti-British, akin to Nazi
propaganda (I think a certain amount of this even before the
film was released or seen). Others have accused it of portraying
the British as the source of all violence; there is a debateable
point here but if that is in any sense true then it portrays
the Irish (and both sides in the Civil War) as learning (the
same methods) fast. I think the simple starting point of the
film may give this impression but, it has to be said, Britain
was the big imperial power.
It’s a powerful and often honest film
– not least in showing Irish-on-Irish violence as well
as British-on-Irish. It is often not easy to watch in the
sense that it is discomforting. There are a few historical
quibbles I would have or make. I have no issue with Ken Loach’s
socialism but think he may portray the anti-Treaty side in
the Civil War as possessing a radicalism and socialism it
did not have since, as I understand it, by far the greatest
issue was the republican one of breaking all connections with
Britain. One character speaks about local councils having
switched allegiance to the Dáil in Dublin (actually
an important nonviolent move in the nationalist struggle)
but the impression given is certainly that ‘all’
councils have done so whereas only those in nationalist-controlled
councils did so, an important distinction given the impending
partition of Ireland.
I’m not going to discuss the film in depth
but it is well worth watching; powerful, violent (certainly
not ‘violence as entertainment’), discomforting,
challenging about what was being set up for Ireland in the
rest of the 20th century. The primary character, Damien, felt
he had not chosen to be involved but was forced to be, and
remains true to his ideals and what that entails. The possibility
of nonviolent methods of struggle does not appear anywhere
(aside from the mention of councils’ allegiances, mentioned
above) which is a realistic assessment of how things were.
We, as commentators the best part of a century later, as nonviolent
activists, might understand other possibilities but the protagonists
did not. I wonder, on the island of Ireland, North and South,
East and West, how much more knowledgeable we are about the
possibilities of nonviolent struggle in the 21st century?
Despite the Troubles and commitments to work peacefully and
constitutionally, I regret that the answer may be, ‘not
- - - - - -
And that’s me until after the summer,
oh, what an ominous phrase. Make the most of it because, come
September, it will be felt to have gone by in a flash. Flash.
See you sooner. And in the meantime, if you prefer soca to
soccer, or don’t know which way a football is up, don’t
grin and bear it, grin and ignore it and get on with all the
other things in your life - Billy.
is Billy King? A long, long time ago, in a more
innocent age (just talking about myself you understand),
there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train'
and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor
has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write
a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able
to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor
around with you).
Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman
pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little
about horses even if someone with a similar name is
found astride them on gable ends around certain parts
of Norn Iron).