Honestly, the sun always shines on the Glencoe Car Park Run.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

ISIS and Taliban in new strategy

We have an exclusive for you tonight. ISIS Communications Minister, Sheikh ma Haun Yabass, told Pesky News earlier today that they are currently in discussions with their legal advisors about the possibility of suing their distant cousin, a certain Mr. Barack Obama, over loss of earnings after their money-spinning oil distribution network was bombed. According to this spokesperson who, incidentally, sounded very much like my granddad after a few too many whiskies, Mr. Baghdadi was considering all options to move the organisation forward, including the likelihood of putting in a bid for Aberdeen Football Club.

When pressed on this diversification from the usual strategy of bombing and slaughtering innocent civilians, public beheadings, releasing grainy videos and generally making a nuisance of themselves wherever they went, Sheikh ma Hawn Yabass said:

“It’s all to do with expanding into new markets. Growth has slowed recently, mainly due to potential customers in North Africa and The Middle East seeking democracy and jobs now instead of promises of many virgins in another life. People are fed-up with all that doom and gloom, harsh training camps and short career spans of suicide bombing. They want satellite TV, Premiership and Champions League Football, and back-catalogue episodes of Top Gear. Not to mention the whole world now dropping bombs on our tents. Like all forward-thinking organisations we have to give the people what they want if we are to survive and prosper."

He was cut-off at that point as the credit ran out on his phone, but after he topped-up here’s what he said when Pesky News pressed further:

“Firstly, we believe football is now the fastest growing religion in the world and, being both devout and enterprising, we want a piece of the action. Mr. Baghdadi has been a fan of Aberdeen since Alex Ferguson conquered Europe in the early eighties. He believes any underdog who can defeat the European crusaders on their own soil is worth a punt. Plus, Aberdeen is an oil-rich city where jihadists have already invested millions over the years. But it’s our research into the already well-financed religious war that has been simmering for over a hundred years in Scotland’s football leagues which persuaded us there’s a gap in the market for an Islamic team.

Obviously, there will be some difficulties to begin with, but I’m sure over time, as we sign exclusively Muslim players, the Aberdeen fans will learn to enjoy chanting verses from the Koran, especially if we’re winning trophies. And win trophies we shall. Both Celtic and Rangers fans, if they pray at all, pray on Sundays, which as you know is a day after most games. What’s the point in that? Stupid infidels. We’re confident that by praying on the Friday before matches on the Saturday we will be nearer the top of Allah's ‘to do list’. We’re also pretty confident the fan base will grow rapidly as many jump on the bandwagon of something new, refreshing and successful in what has become a rather stagnant, parochial conflict based mainly around just the West of Scotland.

There are already plans afoot to release a video of Mr. Baghdadi singing The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, but it’s been delayed for now while we wait on Simon Cowell getting back to us about producing and promoting the single. You wouldn’t believe how much he charges per hour. And may I also add, contrary to malicious propaganda rumours doing the rounds on Twitter, Mr. Baghdadi has no plans to present a flock of sheep to the team’s supporters as a gesture of goodwill, but he will consider offering a reasonable discount to season ticket holders who convert to Islam.”

At this point in the interview a mixture of loud Glaswegian, Teuchter and American accents, backed-up by some terrible singing in Arabic and a lone bleating sheep, were all heard in the background before shots rang out and the line went dead.

In other news today, shares rose sharply earlier when rumours started by a dazed-looking George Osborne about a hostile buy-out of Proctor and Gamble by the Taliban turned out to be true. Apparently, the biggest barrier to the deal is the logistics of counting such a huge sum of money after the Taliban insisted on paying cash in a variety of currencies. Our insider at the London Stock Exchange told us the deal almost collapsed when the Taliban tried to include £20,021 of Scottish banknotes as part payment, shouting something about it being legal tender. The deal was eventually closed two hours later when both parties agreed to send the unwanted banknotes to Susan Boyle along with a strongly-worded request to give singing a rest...or else.

Although it's meant to be to secret we can exclusively reveal a fleet of Eddie Stobart lorries are making their way to Afghanistan to pick up the billions of dollars-worth of used banknotes.

We at Pesky News plan to use GPS technology to track the cash convoy as it travels across Asia, through Europe and across The Channel, and some of us are planning a short detour for one of the lorries by offering the driver the choice of facial reconstruction or a carton of fags.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail are predicting that out of the initial one hundred lorries they expect only one to return with the loaded amount of cash and the others to be loaded with pot-bellied asylum seekers with stomachs full of heroin and already-completed application forms for housing benefit.

MI6 and the Foreign Office have vowed to check every single banknote to ensure they’re not contaminated, counterfeit or stolen, and say their commission charges of between 3-5% are below market rates.

Unfortunately, no-one from the Taliban was available to answer criticisms, mainly from Unilever and the US Senate, that the deal was nothing more than a huge opium-related money-laundering scam, or to whether or not future products would be biological or non-biological.

The Colombian government are said to be monitoring the situation closely.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Celtic and Irish Politics

With a battle going on for the heart and soul of Celtic Football Club it's perhaps important to look back at its formation. Doing so might help many develop a more informed opinion about the current debates raging, specifically the club's relationship to Ireland and Irish politics.

To do so I looked out an old copy of Bill Murray's The Old Firm, Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland. Although first written in the eighties it remains the most researched and respected independent body of work on this subject that I've stumbled across, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone wishing to broaden their knowledge on a subject that continues to dominate the lives of many thousands of football fans and the wider community.

Most fans know one of the reasons Brother Walfrid set up Celtic Football Club to help feed and clothe immigrants in the East End of Glasgow. This charitable ethos is one the club is currently trying to reclaim through the Celtic FC Foundation, and for this they must be commended. Of course, there's always going to be some for whom the club isn't doing enough. This was highlighted at the most recent AGM when the resolution for the club to introduce a living wage was rejected. However, there is no doubt the club does more than any other football club. But is this enough to boast about being more than a club? Other recent issues like the no political banners or songs, while playing Let The People Sing over the Celtic Park tannoy, looks a tad hypocritical to many.

What is not so well known about Walfrid was his fear that Protestant soup kitchens might tempt young Catholics into apostasy. He was also worried about the dangers of young Catholics meeting Protestants in their place of employment or leisure and being led astray. A Catholic football club, then, could serve the dual purpose of easing the pain in starving stomachs and keep young Catholics together, free from the temptations of Protestants and Protestantism. 

But Walfrid wasn't the only man involved in the formation of Celtic Football Club and Protestants have played in Celtic teams right from the beginning. In 1895 a resolution was put before the committee that the first team be restricted to three Protestants but it was rejected. A counter-proposal established that the club sign as many Protestants as it wanted. This remains the case to the present day.

There is no doubt that in the first decade of Celtic's history many charities benefited from their visits. When Celtic became a 'business' in 1897 the charitable ideals were dented but not extinguished altogether. 

Tom White, who joined the board in 1906 and was chairman from 1914 until his death on 1947, never wavered in his belief that Celtic were founded to cater for the Irish people in the west of Scotland, and many of the players and directors were intimately and very visibly involved the politics of the Motherland. 

The Irish origins of the club were even more obvious than the religious, highlighted by the club's colours and the flying of the Irish flag at Celtic Park. In the early days they were often referred to as 'the bhoys' or 'the Irishmen'.

On their first tour of the United States in 1931 they were wanted to play under the Irish flag and be introduced by the Irish national anthem. It's worth pointing out that even back then Rangers played under the Union Jack rather than the Scottish flag.

The Emerald Isle was the homeland and its ills were as real to those born in Scotland as to those who had never left Ireland.

If Celtic supporters today can be distinguished by their green and white colours, often with shamrocks and representations of the pope superimposed, changes from the early days have been of degree and not of kind. 

The brake club gatherings broke up to the singing of God Save Ireland. At the Saint Patrick's Day Dinner in 1936 the toasts were to 'The memory of St Patrick' and 'Our Homeland', while the words of The Soldier Song were included in the menu, presumably to bring the proceedings to a rousing conclusion.

No group of Irish expatriates could avoid politics in the late nineteenth century, and the Celtic Football Club, as such a body, were no exception. Irish immigrants and the first generation born of Irish immigrants were more concerned about the politics of the Motherland than the politics of their adopted land.

The club were involved in such politics from the early days, but informally, through prominent players and officials, rather than officially through the club itself, but they were involved nonetheless.

When Michael Davitt was invited to lay the first sod of 'real Irish shamrocks' at the new Celtic Park in 1892 he was received by two young lads dressed in Robert Emmet costumes. After that sod of turf had been stolen the thieves are said to have invoked the 'curse of Cromwell' to 'blast the hand that stole the sod that Michael cut'.

When businessmen took over the club in 1897 they faced a revolt by brake clubs who not only claimed they'd been cheated out of reduced rates on their season tickets, but also that the club wasn't Irish anymore. 

The then Celtic chairman, John McGlaughlin, was the least sympathetic of all the top Celtic officials to the cause of Irish nationalism, and in 1899 went so far as to speak out against the nationalists and add his support to a motion which resulted in the SFA contributing 100 guineas to help the families of British soldiers fighting to defend the empire in South Africa.

There were calls for a boycott and the United Celtic Brake Clubs passed a motion that he be condemned 'in the most emphatic manner' and declared that he would never be given a place of honour in their association. As a result support for the club subsided for a while. The board sat tight, rode out the storm and refused to condemn McGlaughlin. It was clear in any case that McGlaughlin was a lone voice speaking out on behalf of British Imperialism: the other directors were committed to the cause of Ireland, and they and several other prominent players were to be found on platforms supporting Irish nationalist causes.

In 1896 William McKillop and John Glass were noted among a large and enthusiastic audience of Nationalists in Glasgow to celebrate St Patrick's Day and make speeches about Home Rule and the release of Irish political prisoners. Later that year they were joined by Tom Colgan in again demanding the release of Irish political prisoners.

Among the many Celtic supporters, players and officials at such meetings Tom and Alex Maley were more frequently reported than brother Willie. But the Celtic manager was no political agnostic.  In June 1910 the Glasgow Observer reported:

'Mr W. Maley, secretary of Celtic Football Club, gave a political address in Partick on Sunday under the auspices of the United Irish League. Although the Maley family are best known by reason of their football fame, the various members of it have always taken a keen interest in politics. Mr T.E. Maley is a constant figure on the Nationalist platforms, and Mr Alex Maley took prominent part in the affairs of the Pollokshaws branch of the United Irish League, while Father Charles Maley has never suffered his political sympathies to be secreted on the shady side of the bushel.'

Along with the Kellys and the Maleys, the name most associated with Celtic is White. Tom White joined the board in 1906 after the death of John Glass. White did not allow his position with Celtic to dampen his nationalist ardour, and in 1908 could be found talking on Irish politics at a nationalist meeting at Barrhead where current and past stars Quinn, McMenemy, Campbell and Somers were present. 

Probably the most prominent of all Celtic officials involved in politics was William McKillop. When he died in 1909 he was sent to his grave with a papal blessing at the request of His Grace the Archbishop of Glasgow.

But the link between Celtic and Irish politics is most clearly seen in the person of John Glass, whose untiring efforts to found the club and then establish it seen him duly rewarded with 300 fully paid shares when the club became a limited liability company. When he died his obituary appeared not in the sports, but in the political pages. Apart from the energies devoted by Glass to Celtic, he had been a founder and member of the O'Connell branch of the Irish National Foresters, a foremost worker for Catholic Union, a silent worker for the United Irish League and a treasurer of its Home Government Branch.

The granting of partial independence to Ireland by the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922 took some sting out of the political issue in Scotland but according to the Glasgow Observer the Celtic Brake Clubs had adopted Kevin Barry as their patron saint. 

The politics of Irish nationalism was not fought in or around Celtic Park, and the nationalists, within the club as in the community at large, were bitterly divided among themselves, as the tragic civil war following partial independence was to show. But to the general cause of a free Ireland there was a strong commitment by Celtic and their supporters, albeit romantic and in writing rather than in conviction and fighting.

If the Irish in Ireland were oppressed by the English, the Irish in Scotland suffered from the arrogance, if not the bigotry of Scots, and this drew them together in a community where common religion and nationality often transcended economic ills or grievances.

Celtic in those early days, and for a long time thereafter, were the proud symbol of what appeared to be a closely knit community. Part of the surge of optimism that carried Catholics forward at this time was the success of their football team, where every victory was notched up against their detractors, where every cup or flag won was a slap in the face to the Scottish Establishment.

The last few weeks have seen the club fined by UEFA for fans displaying a banner with a political message on it. As this isn't the first time that's happened the club decided enough was enough and stated that no more political banners will be allowed in Celtic Park. 

Yesterday it was announced that no flags or banners will be allowed into Celtic's game against St Johnstone on Perth. This means that for probably the first time in Celtic's history there will be no Irish flags in the crowd. 

As no other fans have been targeted in this manner many Celtic fans are up in arms about there being an agenda against them. Some believe the club are part of that agenda in an attempt to sanitise the support and cleanse any lingering attachments to the cause of Irish Nationalism, which is now unpalatable to many due to the bombing campaigns and tactics of the Irish Republican Army during The Troubles. 

One wonders what the position of the Celtic board and fans would be if the whole of Ireland was still part of Britain and fighting for independence and not just the six counties. 

Whether or not a twenty first century football ground is the place to be continuing that fight, albeit it only in song and banner, is a debate that looks like raging for some time yet. 

The club has many new fans who have no interest in Irish politics. They also have a much broader fan base with different cultural and religious backgrounds. But surely, as both the club and fans profess to being a club open to all, common ground can be found that satisfies all members of the Celtic family, whether new or old school. Tolerance and respect are the keys. Insulting or demeaning others with an opposing view is not the answer, and it's not the Celtic way.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Celtic Anthology: What's it all about?

With the Celtic Anthology now available and popping through letter boxes daily here's a few words reminding everyone what it's all about and why we want you to get involved. 

Motivated by the spirit of Walfrid the Celtic Anthology aims to breathe new life into the ancient art of Celtic storytelling for modern times and donate proceeds from the book sales to the Celtic FC Foundation.

To help achieve these goals we've collected various tales and poems from around the world. Many stories are told in English. Others, in an attempt to capture a wide range of diverse voices, are written in various styles of the local dialect heard on the streets of Glasgow and the stands of Celtic Park. 

These voices, heard over the years singing and roaring Celtic teams to glory, have seldom been represented in the vast canon of literature relating to the club, yet they represent the roots of the Celtic support.

You can find out more about the project here -

If you enjoy the stories and poems in the book we hope you'll help spread the word and encourage others to get involved. Whether that entails buying further copies of the book as presents, or writing a story, or poem, or song, or whatever inspires you, is up to you.

The book is available to purchase here and should be delivered in time for Christmas. 

Merry Christmas.


Saturday, 7 December 2013

No One Likes Us, We Don't Care

'No one likes us, we don't care' is the battle cry of supporters of a football team from Govan. Many words have been written, myself included, about how hollow those words turned out to be once negative stories started appearing in the Scottish Press about their team. When chairmen of other clubs spoke out they too were targeted by the new wave of bloggers capable of stringing a few sentences together and more than willing to do so. As it it became apparent that very few did actually like their team it became increasingly apparent that Rangers fans did indeed care what others thought of them. The term 'Rangers-hater' was then thrown around like confetti at anyone, and I mean anyone, who dared say anything negative about Rangers. Lists were compiled of the enemies of Rangers along with thinly-veiled 'Lest We Forget' threats of future retribution.

Such was the liberal use of the term 'Ranger-hater' it soon lost its intended impact and became nothing more than a cliche, like 'obsessed'. In a quite remarkable turnaround it is mainly used these days by different factions of the Rangers support to insult one another. 

Of course, to spectators like myself it is all mildly amusing. Expressing my amusement is what led me to being labelled an 'obsessed Rangers-hater', which, of course, I also find mildly amusing. For the avoidance of doubt, I don't hate anything or anyone. I don't even hate the intolerance of bigots, whether religious, political or class, although it does irk me somewhat.

In recent weeks both the Celtic team and Celtic supporters have taken some hammerings on and off the park. These have been well-documented elsewhere so I won't dwell on them here. The point being the negative cumulative effect it's had on Celtic and its fans.

In particular, a small, vocal section of the support appears to be circling the wagons and adopting a 'no one likes us, we don't care' philosophy. I have no problem with them doing so. To have a problem might be perceived as bordering on intolerance. Instead I look at each respective issue individually and try to form a learned opinion based on the evidence in the public domain and not on the alleged groups involved.

I have no issue with any banners, whether displaying political slogans or pictures of zombies. Unfortunately, I'm not in charge of UEFA. 

It should be remembered that clubs must apply for UEFA membership. It is a private members club. As such, it makes the rules for everyone wanting to play in their competitions. So, if you want to play in the Champions League you must adhere to their rules. If their rules state no political chanting or banners then anyone found guilty of breaking these rules will, undoubtedly, be punished in some way. 

But it's against the law to prevent me from exercising my right to freedom of speech is something I've heard frequently. 

This is where some people get confused. 

But, and this needs constant reinforcing, private member clubs, like EUFA, or the SFA, can dictate their own rules. If you don't like those rules you can always go and play elsewhere.

Last year Rangers took the SFA to court for handing out a punishment that Rangers felt wasn't in their remit. Rangers won the case but ended up accepting the original SFA punishment in order to play in their competitions. Lesson learned.

It can also be confusing because the SFA or SPFL have no rules about political chanting or banners. They had the chance to introduce tougher rules on racism and sectarianism earlier this year and the clubs voted against it. 

So, we have one rule for Scotland and another rule for Europe. If the Scottish football authorities had more bottle they would be telling the clubs these are the new rules rather than asking them. This would also make the ridiculous Offensive Behaviour at Football Act redundant. 

If clubs were fined or had points deducted there would be no need to arrest teenagers for singing songs, which, incidentally, is an attack on their right to freedom of expression.

Last night a number of plastic seats were broken in one of the stands at Fir Park during the Motherwell v Celtic game. It's true that this type of seat can be easily damaged when an exuberant crowd jumps around for ninety minutes. Accidents can and do happen. 

But on reviewing the damaged area one can't help but come to the conclusion that not all of those seats were broken accidentally. Like I said, I have no doubt some of the breakages were indeed accidents, but even if half of those broken were an accident that still leaves around sixty seats whose fate wasn't accidental.

Why do some fans feel the need to break seats? Alcohol? Wanting to be part of something? I honestly have no idea. It just looks like mindless vandalism.

It comes as no surprise to me, or many others, that even in light of the damning evidence there are still those who not only defend such behaviour, but take a warped pride in being part of an ever-decreasing group who act without a care for the thoughts of others.

While the majority of the Celtic support may not be completely supportive of everything the club does they don't feel the need to do whatever possible to hurt the club. Most realise that the so-called Celtic Family is bigger than single issues. They might not agree on everything but respect is given to those with opposing views, like it should be.

However, there is a vocal minority who are intolerant of other Celtic fans' views. They are becoming a law unto themselves and don't care about the club's reputation. Part of me admires their stubborn resistance, but another part of me cringes at some of their actions.

I will support people's rights to freedom of expression until my dying breath, but I can't support or condone out and out mindless vandalism. 

Those guilty of wrecking seats have today been called 'Celtic-haters' by other Celtic fans. Such a term, like the 'Rangers-haters' one now used by warring factions from the other side of the city, is completely wide of the mark. 

The Celtic fans guilty of destructive behaviour are no more 'Celtic-haters' than Chris Graham or Bill McMurdo are 'Rangers-haters'. Both groups might have strong negative feelings towards the board of their respective clubs, but that doesn't make them haters of their clubs for doing so. They all just have different opinions on what their clubs represent and how they should be run. 

So to those in the Celtic support who continue to defy the majority of fans as well as the board I ask why are you so intolerant of other opinions? Because from where I'm sitting it looks like you should be singing that empty battle cry usually heard in the Ibrox stands: 'No one likes us, we don't care'.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Columbo, Carnegie, Capone and Dave King

Idiots! They're all idiots. No, that's too kind. They're all loonies. Yes, that's it, loonies. And trolls. They're all looney trolls. Not to forget obsessed. They're all obsessed looney trolls...and idiots, too. Yes, don't forget they're still idiots. And sick idiots at that. Sick, obsessed, idiot, looney trolls. 

Who are these people and why are they all deemed sick, obsessed, idiot, looney trolls? 

Let's look at the case of The Scotsman's Tom English. 

Mr English's alleged crime has been to continually ask questions about the, some would say, dodgy past of potential Rangers investor Dave King, and whether or not he is a fit and proper person to be involved in running a football club in Scotland.

It's only fair at this stage to point out that many others don't consider Mr King's past to be in the slightest bit dodgy. This also gives me the opportunity to say that, even though I don't agree with their analysis of the situation, I won't resort to calling them idiots or obsessed loonies. Neither do I think Mr English is an obsessed idiot.

The highlight of this supposedly dodgy past was Mr King's guilty plea of contravening the South African  Income Tax Act on forty one occasions. There were other, more serious, charges dropped in the agreement between Mr King and SARS (South African Revenue Service). But even without the fraud, money laundering, racketeering and Exchange Control Act charges the High Court still sentenced Mr King to a grand total of eighty two years imprisonment. 

Now, no matter how you look at it, eighty two years in jail is an eye-watering headline.

Mr King, however, managed to buy himself a get out of jail card by agreeing to pay an equally eye-watering sum of approximately £44,000,000.

With this payment Mr King exited the High Court a free man and his debt to South African society was paid, or at least had been agreed to be paid.

This brought to an end a process that started through the courts when he was arrested in 2002.

During that lengthy process High Court judge Justice Southwood labelled Mr King as a glib and shameless liar and mendacious witness who had no respect for the truth and won't hesitate to lie.

But at the end of it all Mr King pleaded guilty in a High Court to forty one contraventions of the Income Tax Act. 

Now, I don't know about you, but I believe anyone who pleads guilty to any offence deemed worthy of being dealt with in the High Court is, by definition, a criminal.

Does that make me an idiot?

Does it confirm my status as a looney?

Am I sick?

Am I obsessed for pointing this out?

If you believe the answer to any of the above is yes I'd love to hear why. In the meantime let's get back to Mr King because the roots of his downfall are far more interesting.

In May 2000 Mr King attended an auction in Johannesburg and purchased a painting called Cape Girl with Fruit for the princely sum of £140,000. 

Considering the sums of money now associated with Mr King £140,000 is a mere drop in the ocean. But at the time Mr King claimed his earnings that year were only £6,279 and had asked his name be taken off the register of taxpayers.

Something didn't add up. How could someone earning so little afford a painting for so much?

Preferring not to keep a low profile Mr King gave an interview to a magazine where he openly discussed the painting. No doubt most readers didn't give the article much thought. 

However, the piece caught the eye of one interested reader. Charles Chipps was a South African Service investigator, likened to Inspector Columbo, who'd just processed Mr King's tax return. Alarm bells started ringing.

Mr Chipps began looking into the businessman's finances and found a vineyard in Stellenbosch, a private jet, Ferrari sports cars and a pounds 1.2million mansion in the most exclusive part of Johannesburg, Sandhurst. 

Mr King had bought four homes, demolished them and built a walled mansion on the site. 

Digging deeper, Mr Chipps found a myriad of companies with Scottish names such as Ben Nevis and Glencoe all connected to Mr King.

It looked like Mr King was, rather than having an income of only £6,279, making millions in shares and not giving the taxman his due. 

The hunt was now well and truly on, all because of the doggedness of Charles 'Columbo' Chipps.

It soon became clear Mr King hadn't paid any income tax since 1990. 

Yet it was only this year (2013) that Mr King finally admitted any wrongdoing; hence his possible jail sentence and subsequent fine.

But, as mentioned earlier, to some this isn't enough evidence of Mr King's criminal past. Some claim he's not guilty of tax offences, even though he pleaded guilty to contraventions on the Income Tax Act. Some claim, incredibly, he's not a criminal because he was fined and not jailed. And in a remarkable display of what many in Scotland call succulent lamb journalism, his crimes, worthy of an eighty two year jail term, are being reported in some newspapers as minor offences. 

In a South African article from 2008 Alec Hogg talked about time spent with Mr King a few years previous. He likened Mr King's reluctance to admit his shortcomings and come clean to that of American criminal Two Gun Crowley, immortalised in Dale Carnegie's classic How To Win Friends And Influence People. 

While crouched behind an overstuffed chair, dodging bullets from the cops and occasionally responding to their fire, "Two Gun" wrote a letter for the one who might come upon his body. The key part read "Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one - one that would do nobody any harm."

Carnegie wrote that the claimed innocence of "Two Gun" is part of the human condition. No matter how heinous their crimes, perpetrators rationalise and justify to themselves how they are innocent of all accusations.

Al Capone also genuinely saw himself as a benefactor rather than parasite on society, protesting that "I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man."

Alec Hogg continues: 

"We have many examples. Most recently lawnmower salesman turned robber of widows and orphans, Fidentia's J Arthur Brown told anyone prepared to listen that he was the one being victimised. That bungling by the authorities caused destitution among the thousands of widows and orphans whose bequests were tied up in Living Hands trust looted by Fidentia .

"While at large, Brown helped convinced himself as much as the rest of world that his cause was honourable, by acquiring as employees the best sporting personalities the stolen money could buy. Creating a veneer of respectability such miscreants seem to crave.

"So it was with King.

"His ill-gotten millions bought half of Gary Player's stud farm in the Karoo, partnership in Player's Blair Athol golf course development  - and the honour of caddying for the famous golfer at the world's most prestigious tournament, The Masters at Augusta.

"Those in the know realise once you cut through the technicalities, he is the original "pump and dump" king. His great fortune amassed in record time through offloading shares in his listed company called Specialised Outsourcing; a company conceived in dubious circumstances and destined, almost as quickly, for the knacker's yard.

"King's company became the first JSE-listed financial services operation to report quarterly results. Each one outdoing the next with glowing reviews and aggressive profit forecasts. Boosting the rapidly rising share price from the pre-listing 120c to more than 60 times that level.

"Protected by then lax rules on disclosure of share sales by directors, King banked around R1,2bn by transferring ownership of a massively overpriced and since defunct company to asset managers. The buyers - trusting institutional fund managers - were never told the shares King was "sourcing" for them came from his own pockets. Had they known this, the buying frenzy in Specialised Outsourcing stock would have fizzled out as quickly as King and his cronies had started it."

"King accused Sars of underhanded tactics; of bullying his sanctimonious butt; and warning the rest of us that where he goes we may also follow. Like we'd have expected from "Two Gun" Crowley, Al Capone or J Arthur Brown."

Like Eliot Ness, Charles 'Columbo' Chipps stuck to the task of following the money in order to find justice, though he never lived to see the case through to the end.

Mr King appears to have taken it all in his stride. 

This glib and shameless liar and mendacious witness who had no respect for the truth and won't hesitate to lie flew into Scotland last week. He claimed to have spoken to the relevant people who may have stood in his way in his quest to return to Rangers. 

Since then both the Scottish Football Association and AIM stock market have issued denials regarding any correspondence with Mr King.

It looks, on the face of it, like Mr King continues to be a glib and shameless liar who has no respect for the truth and won't hesitate to lie.

Hell mend anyone willing to point this out, though. For they will be slandered and ridiculed, like Mr English.

Let's finish with a return to the wise words of Dale Carnegie on How To Win Friends And Influence People.

He wrote, "Wouldn't you like to have a magic phrase that would stop argument, eliminate ill feeling, create good will, and make the other person listen attentively? Yes? All right. Here it is. Begin by saying: "I don't blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you, I should undoubtedly feel just as you do."

It really is that simple. 

Displaying empathy and tolerance of other views is the starting point for any reasoned discussion. 

Closing your mind to the possibility that you might be wrong and others right is bordering on bigotry. 

Labelling those offering opposing views in a well-constructed and reasoned fashion as sick, obsessed, idiot, loony or troll leaves one in no doubt.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Dangerous Addiction

Good evening everyone, I hope you’ve all had a great day and I don’t spoil it by boring you with my problems. I was told you were a friendly bunch who would fully understand where I am now, parts of how I got here, and maybe even help me help myself move on, if that’s at all possible. I’m guessing some of you have been in a similar position. Maybe that’s why you’re here now. Maybe I’m in the wrong place and beyond help. I suppose I’d better introduce myself before I go any further. My name is Pesky. I’m an addict.

My latest relapse started out as a bit of fun, something to pass the time during the long, lonely winter nights, a form of companionship where no-one could get hurt. No emotional attachment, just some harmless, casual enjoyment, nothing too heavy. I’d picked up the name and web address of the joint from a friend. Well, it was more a friend of friend to be honest. But you know what these online places are like. I’m sure you’ve all had similar relationships at one point, although if that’s a tad presumptuous I apologise. What do I know? 

I wandered along for a look, stayed in the background, minded my own business. No-one knew I was even there. Where’s the harm I thought? What’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s only words on a screen. 

After a few nights in the shadows a familiar urge started growing inside me. My palms became sweaty and adrenalin pumped with the weight of expectation associated with any addiction. I tossed and turned all night, thinking about people that, until only a few days before, I’d never even heard of. I started to get ideas.

My real reading list suffered. Cheever arrived by post and sat untouched at the foot of the front door. Hemingway looked up at me from the lounge coffee table as though I’d walked out on him without buying a round. In the bedroom Carver turned his back on me like an ex-wife because I'd jilted him. But time was scarce with no room for sentiment. All the signs were there but, as if to reassure myself like all relapsing addicts, I promised it would be different this time.
Within a week I applied for membership of the club. During those few days, waiting to find out if I’d been accepted, I attempted to keep myself busy by cutting the grass, painting the fence and getting out on my bike as often as possible. I tried thinking it was probably for the best if I didn’t get in, after what happened last time. However, I couldn’t stop checking emails every hour. The suspense was killing me. Cold sweat ran down my back, reminding me of previous battles with dependency, but also providing enough of a kick to keep me craving more.

Once accepted into the club I soon settled in, keeping my head low and opinions to myself. There didn’t appear to be any kind of dress code and the entertainment on offer covered a wide spectrum. To be on the safe side I stuck to what I knew at first. But the quality of product blew me away so much I experimented with different forms and found myself reading poetry into the early hours. At times I withdrew into my thoughts, fighting images of drowning children, or broken homes filled with spectres of the past, and wept a mixture of sadness and elation at how mankind can both revolt and redeem.

Eventually, I could hold off no longer and put a few sentences of my own together, but deleted them before anyone entered the room. I knew if my career-ladder wife saw them I’d be out on my ear. She’d warned me after the last time to grow up and get a real job. But I couldn’t sleep that night, so got out of bed around two-thirty in the morning, opened her laptop as quietly as possible and began typing. At first only adrenalin kept the words coming. I had no idea where I was going and when I stopped after ten minutes to read over what I’d written none of it made any sense. Two hours later I looked at the word count of two thousand four hundred and thirty three and wondered where on earth they all came from. 

I gave my piece a once-over, deleted the first half-a-dozen sentences, cut and pasted a few paragraphs, trimmed the abundance of adjectives and adverbs sticking out like weeds, and added a few killer details here and there. Over the next hour I re-read the piece, making many more cuts and re-writing better sentences where necessary. 

With the sun rising I knew I had to get rid of the evidence before my wife got up for work and needed her laptop. My plan was to save it onto a memory stick and delete it from the hard drive. That would allow me to take it to the library where I could continue to develop it at a more leisurely pace and without fear of being caught. But as I read through it one more time, making changes here and there, the living room door flew open and my wife barged in. I thought of telling her I’d been up all night looking at porn but knew she wouldn’t buy that. The look on her face told its own story. I packed my bags.

With a friend willing to put me up while I sorted myself out I’d found somewhere to hide away from reality. Before long I was writing non-stop. I started with short pieces that captured my feelings of the day, usually dark and miserable, but also occasionally dabbled in some humorous poems for a quick fix and vain effort to lighten the mood. Rhymes came easy but never fully satisfied my needs; like giving a heroin addict just a couple of Valiums to get through the day. I needed to be wrapped up in plot, character, point of view, worrying about the right mix of dialogue, narration and description, or wondering whether the theme was too ambiguous or too obvious. 

Of course, the inevitable happened. I began to get an urge to share my work. At first I tried showing a couple of what I considered close friends, but they didn’t want to know, saying it wasn’t really their scene. I started leaving pages lying around when visiting others, hoping someone would be tempted, but no-one took the bait. I couldn’t really blame them for not getting involved. They’d seen what had happened to me when I started to dabble in a bit of light reading and didn’t want to go down the same road. There was only one thing for it. I borrowed my friend’s laptop and headed back online.

Not wanting to put potential readers off, I chose a fairly short piece to begin with. I knew I was among fellow users but wasn’t sure of their level of addiction or what particular genres each preferred. My finger hovered over that Publish Work button for almost an hour. I kept changing a word here, adding a comma there, reading and re-reading the piece over and over. Beads of sweat dropped onto the keyboard as my pulse raced with that old familiar rush of expectation. I took a deep breath and pushed the button like a smack head spiking their vein. 

With the deed done I closed my friend’s laptop and made a cup of tea to calm myself down before heading to bed. The story was out of my hands now but that didn’t stop the worrying, it just took it to another level. What would people think of my work? Would they think I’m mad? Am I mad? Maybe my writing doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Maybe I should remove it before anyone sees it. I tried going to sleep, watching TV, listening to Radio 4, playing video games and reading an old Roy of the Rovers Annual. Nothing helped. All I could think about was whether I’d managed to capture the right tone, and if the ending worked or not. 

Once my friend left for work in the morning I returned to the site to remove the piece for further editing. I logged in and headed straight for the relevant section. When I got there my heart stopped and I almost fell off my seat. Not only were there three positive reviews, but the piece had also been highlighted as a Recommended Read by the editors. I stared at the screen, sipping the praise from fellow authors like an 18 year old Glenfiddich. 

‘Yes, very funny,’ said one.

‘I was there,’ said another.

‘This is such a unique voice,’ added the third. 

Being recommended felt like winning The Booker, Pulitzer and Oscar all in one night. I had surely arrived. Fame and fortune beckoned. I started dreaming of my acceptance speech and what to wear at the award ceremony. Would jeans, trainers and a hoodie be suitable? I remembered Asda were doing suits for less than thirty quid.

I fell into my own little world reading those reviews over and over until my friend arrived home from a hard day’s physical work. On hearing my exciting news he just shrugged his shoulders and screwed his face up. After building a joint he said he didn’t want my type hanging around, trying to influence him with all this talk of words, stories and books. If that was the path I’d decided to choose then I would have to leave, preferably as soon as possible, and I wasn’t to touch his laptop again. I packed my bags.

And that is why I find myself here tonight at this Writers Anonymous meeting. I’ve been living rough now for two weeks, struggling to survive without fresh paper or internet access. I know I have to sort myself out before it’s too late, but I can’t do it, not now. I’ve some great ideas brewing. It sounds crazy, but like I said earlier, I hoped a few of you would understand and maybe even offer some advice, help or support. You see, even though I know it will probably kill me, I’ve started dreaming about working on a novel. 

Anyway, thank you for listening to my story. It may be too late for me. But if at least one life can be saved, by hearing about the dangers of dabbling in creative writing, then it will have been worth the pain of reliving past events tonight. Like many others I thought I could handle it, but like many others I was wrong. Once its claws have a hold there’s no escape. It takes over. I’ve lost family and friends, and for what, an occasional affair with the muse. Even now, as I spill my heart out to a bunch of strangers, I’ve been taking mental notes on how to best portray this meeting in a short story. If only I could get hold of some nice, clean, pristine paper, I know this next story will be the big one. I can feel it.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Rangers: Public Relations Disaster (the sequel)

Much has been written in the last year about the public relations disaster that is Rangers Football Club. To many fans this was somewhat of a shock to their system. They have grown-up expecting nothing less than positive stories in the press about how wonderful and glorious everything connected with Rangers is. Ex-chairman David Murray once had the press so deep in his pocket negative headlines were rarer than the need for a wallet-full of Euros by the current Rangers squad.

How times have changed.

Last summer Rangers' plodding from one public relations disaster to another could be understood as no one was actually steering the ship as it drifted onto the rocks. It was left to stalwarts Ally McCoist, Sandy Jardine and John Brown to speak on behalf of the club. 

To be fair, none of them are public relations professionals. 

Although speaking from the heart was music to the ears of thousands of fans desperate to know someone was putting the club's interests first, veiled threats and demands for answers they already knew proved something of an own goal in terms of public relations. Opinions hardened against their presence in Scotland's top league and they found themselves having to start again from the bottom. 

When Charles Green took over he had his own inimitable public relations style. When he spoke fans listened. In fact, when he spoke everyone listened, mostly in disbelief at his more ludicrous claims. 

But, as far as the majority of Rangers fans were concerned, here was a man who knew what he was talking about and the man to take Rangers forward. 

Here was a man who understood the importance of an organisation communicating with its publics.

But he turned out to be a public relations own goal, too.

Does anyone involved with Rangers fully understand the role of public relations in today's world?

In the nineties I was lucky enough to study the subject as part of a Marketing degree. But the growth of the internet and explosion of social media makes public relations such a constantly evolving subject I can't claim any great expertise in the field today.

So what do the experts see as public relations?

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) defines PR as - 

Public relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.

Two key words stand out. 

Publics - these include existing and potential customers, employees, management, investors, media, suppliers, opinion formers.

Understanding - is a two-way process. To be effective, an organisation needs to listen to the opinions of those with whom it deals and not solely provide information. Issuing a barrage of propaganda is not enough in today's open society.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) offers a more succinct definition - 

Public Relations is a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics.

But let's not stop there. 

Marketing expert Heidi Cohen asked professional public relations organisations to send her their definition. You can find her list of thirty one definitions here -

And let's not stop there either.

As far back as 1972 Rex F. Harlow examined 472 definitions of public relations to try to arrive at a definitive version.

So, as we can plainly see, getting anyone to agree on what exactly the role of public relations is can be a complicated business.

Bearing that in mind, who are we to criticise the public relations strategy of Rangers? 

After all, they have had two professional public relations firms on the pay roll in the last year:

Media House
Keith Bishop Associates

Not to mention one Director of Communications:

James Traynor

Maybe they each employ a different definition of public relations.

Whatever definition they use they have managed to alienate most, if not all, of their publics.

Let's remind ourselves on the last sentence in the CIPR definition - 

It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.

How does Rangers' performance measure against these goals?

Most customers, or fans as they are known in the industry, don't trust those running the club. 

Employees and management feel undermined by the board.

The media, once in the club's pocket, are now turning against the board and its manager.

Investors are...well, who knows? There is so much cloak and dagger stuff among different factions going on behind the scenes no one really knows. But a share price that has almost halved since the initial flotation tells its own story. 

Suppliers are rumoured to be nervous about an impending administration event.

Opinion formers, especially among the club's customers, are at odds with one another and factions within the club about who knows what's best.

Does the club listen to the opinions of its publics?

Well they had a meeting with selected fans and followed that through by ending the contract of consultant and ex-chief executive Charles Green.

A positive sign then that they do listen...sometimes.

Then a statement released last week by the club said this - 

If Rangers fans want the truth they will find it only on the Club's official platforms.

It concluded with - 

Finally, Jack Irvine of Media House does not speak for this club.

Yet this week, against the wishes of the majority of its customers, chief executive Craig Mather rehired Jack Irvine as public relations guru for the club.

One of the reasons given was - 

The board also felt that there are huge public misconceptions about the financial realities of the club and once again this was a failure of communication.

Wait a minute. 'Failure of communication'? Isn't that the fault of the club's Director of Comminications? If so, why hasn't James Traynor also gone the way of Charles Green?

So why has Mr Irvine really been invited back? What is his primary objective? 

His remit is to fight back against the investors trying to oust Mr Mather. In fact, a club insider said he is prepared to 'go to war' with certain investors.

Now I never read all the different definitions of public relations but I doubt I'll find one that includes going to war with investors.

But, who am I to doubt the years of experience Mr Irvine has accrued during his time at the coal face?

I'm sure he thinks he knows what he's doing, as this thinly-veiled threat shows - 

'I have known Jim, Frank and Paul for many, many years and have a huge respect for their abilities in their individual fields. Unfortunately I believe they have now stepped out of their comfort zones and are going to find that the everyday rules of business do not apply in the world of football and the media scrutiny they now face is like nothing they will ever have known in their professional lives.'

It looks like the gloves are off, and those pesky investors who had the temerity to question the running of the club will now feel the full force of the Rangers Football Club propaganda machine.

Or will they?

Director of Communications, James Traynor, was surprised when told of Mr Irvine's appointment and said:

'I have not spoken to Jack Irvine and I have not had any dealings with him. As far as I’m concerned that is the way it will stay.'

So, here we have the Director of Communications refusing to communicate with the club's hired public relations expert who was brought in to improve the club's communications.

It remains to be seen how long Mr Irvine will last in is current role. Fans are already calling for his head. And in a strange twist of fate they are using documents leaked by the anonymous Twitter account Charlotte Fakes to boost their cause.

Here's Mr Irvine's thoughts on the man voted by fans as the greatest ever Ranger - 

'Grieg is just thick and contributes nothing.'

You don't need to be an expert or trawl through hundreds of public relations definitions to know that's a red card offence. 

Is it any wonder Rangers Football Club continue to be a public relations disaster, regardless of what definition is used?

*link to original Rangers: Public Relations Disaster last year