Wednesday, 19 December 2012

So fresh and so clean

OK, so Maslow pretty much had this covered, but bear with me - sometimes the obvious just needs re-stating in a less eloquent and effective manner.

So tonight, I had a shower. Don't worry, this is not so infrequent an event as to warrant blogging, but...

I've been feeling pretty crap the past week or so - mainly physically, cold, sinus, insomnia and to top it off, food poisoning. Whoop! I also got some horrible news which kind of hit me hard at the time. There have been good bits, to be sure, but generally the past week has worn me out.

Today I was sat feeling a bit ill and a bit bogged down and a bit sorry for myself, so decided to have a quick shower. No big deal.

But as I did, and after, I was hit by a simple appreciation of being clean, and what a difference that made to how I felt.

And that's it - that's my big wow revelation right there - I was amazed by how much better I felt from taking a 5 minute shower.

(What can I say - I never claimed this would be a life-changing blog post... Have you not read my tweets?!)

Being able to turn on the tap, get hot water, wash away dirt and stress and mind fug and frustration, then get out and put on clean clothes and feel fresh.  Something so simple, and yet with the effect of making me feel physically better, emotionally comforted, and mentally more alert.

And I just got to thinking how unimaginable it would be for me to not have what is essentially that luxury - hot running water inside my own bathroom inside a flat that I'm neither at risk of being evicted from nor having to share with numerous others (human or vermin).  This is not some Christmas appeal, but really, it is something to stop and think about.

I guess it was kind of primed by hearing the figures for homelessness and poverty tonight on Novara, a radio show/discussion with Aaron Peters and James Butler that today was discussing prospects for 2013 given events of the past year (just listen to it). Also I saw this article about a man (retired painter, Malcolm Frost, 61) who died after being evicted and having to live in his shed, and this one about rising rent and homelessness in london.

As @piercepenniless says, these types of stories are just the tip of the iceberg - there are thousands of these cases that are the real face of austerity/cuts/the current global crises that don't make the papers or the news.

I think what struck me most about listening to the show was the comment that austerity and its outcomes are often presented in a very abstract manner, and the importance of also presenting the outcome to the real lives of real people.  Percentages and graphs are much more easily dismissed than stories such as those mentioned above.  So saying rough sleeping has risen by 43% this year may sound shocking but much more abstract than, say, a young homeless woman  (21 year old Michelle Conroy) living in a tent who was killed by a falling tree in the recent floods in Exeter.  

I was ranting earlier tonight that there are so many people, generally good, well-intentioned people, friends and family of mine definitely, and acquaintances etc who either just don't see what is happening around us, or who see it but don't feel compelled to actually do anything.  And as I ranted in my usual flailing and frantic, somewhat thoughtless manner, I kept talking about apathy - the world as we know it falling about our ears, and people sitting back tutting but doing nothing to change it, wondering 'what's the point?', propounding the old 'whoever you vote for, it's the government that get in' and feeling their work is done once they've visited the polls.  And someone wiser and calmer than me suggested the only way to go is to learn - arm ourselves with knowledge and educate others, so that actually, people might feel a little more compelled to take action - and then put that knowledge to good use.  

So, my new way of looking at things is this - I can't rant about people I know not doing anything or knowing about what's happening if I don't actually make any effort to tell them (sadly, inarticulate ranting doesn't count).  

I've always shied away from trying to share knowledge about anything vaguely political, because I'm acutely aware of how little I know, and for all my attempted way with words, I am not very good at hiding that.  And this is not an attempt at disingenuous charm - I know how much I don't know.  But I'm aiming to get to know a little more, and then share what I do know.  Even if that only comes down to blogging every now and then, with posts full of links and sources of information that I've found useful, or maybe local initiatives that people can get involved in, or petitions that need pushing.  It may not be much, but it'll hopefully be a little better than me standing on my twitter soapbox and shouting into the void. Or waxing lyrical about the amazingness of my shower...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

You can listen to Novara and other shows on Resonance FM live here or to the soundcloud after the shows are done.

A few alternative news sources to check out (definitely not exhaustive, nor necessarily all aligning with my own views, but somewhere to start for now):

 - Ceasefire

 - Open Democracy

 - Occupied Times

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Just to end, then - an awesome picture of people using the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.  Knowledge *can* be free - it's out there for the taking.  Definitely not as easy to teach yourself as it is to go to uni, but it's there.  I'm intending to get a bit better at using it.

(from Mitchell Library webiste: )

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Response from Home Office - e-mail transferred

Just got the e-mail below from the Home Office - it seems they have washed their hands of any responsibility on this.  So, direct communications to the Crown Prosecution Service - contact details here. And tweet them also: @cpsuk

The London Chief Crown Prosecutor is Alison Saunders - her contact details:
Chief Crown Prosecutor - Alison Saunders
CPS London
5th floor, Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge,
London, SE1 9HS

Tel: 020 3357 0000

Textphone: 18001 020 7796 8000

Questions / comments: If you have any comments or questions about CPS London, please write to the above address.

Complaints: If you have a complaint please follow the procedures outlined on the complaints page.

Local CPS London contacts can be found on the Districts pages.

Personally, I feel the Home Office should still get the e-mails too - let them know there are people out there fighting this, add to the pressure.

Oh yes, and that e-mail I got:

Mr Wasi Daniju,

Reference : T13363/12

Date: 25-Sep-2012


Thank you for your e-mail of 25/09/2012 02:57:25 regarding.....

The matters you have raised are the responsibility of Crown Prosecution

We have therefore transferred your e-mail to the CPS, who will arrange for
a reply to be sent to you.

Transfer Desk

Extradition of Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad - a collection of resources

I wish I could promise something coherent here - instead, I'll be realistic and just say, this is my attempt to put together a few links/resources that I hope will be helpful in explaining the situation of Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, especially so that people wanting to help can quickly and easily find ways to do so.

I must emphasise, this is just a compilation of things I've found via twitter and Google - I'm no kind of expert at all - the opposite in fact, so I know how difficult it can be to know where to go to find stuff out.  I'm also hoping people who know better will correct mistakes I've made, and add further resources that could be helfpul.

The most important thing now is how people can help.  Go straight to the What we can do section of this post for details on that.


ECHR ruling - appeals rejected

As you may already be aware, today the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was revealed on the appeals against extradition of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan.  The ECHR rejected their appeals, meaning that within a few weeks both Talha and Babar Ahmad could be flown to America to be detained in almost constant isolation, in Supermax prisons.


Who are Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad?

Talha Ahsan

"Talha Ahsan is a British citizen born in London in 1979... His mother describes him as “a serious, bookish young man… a very gentle, softly spoken and thoughtful boy.”
Talha has Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism). In a medico legal report of June 2009, a consultant psychiatrist described him as “an extremely vulnerable individual who from a psychiatric perspective would be more appropriately placed in a specialist service for adults with autistic disorders.”
He is also a keen poet and has received acclaim from novelist A.L. Kennedy amongst others.

Why is he in prison?

Talha Ahsan was arrested at his home on 19 July 2006 in response to a request from the USA under the Extradition Act 2003 which does not require the presentation of any prima facie evidence. He is accused in the US of terrorism-related offences arising out of an alleged involvement over the period of 1997-2004 with the Azzam series of websites, one of which happened to be located on a server in America.
He has never been arrested or questioned by British police, despite a number of men being so from his local area in December 2003 for similar allegations. All of them were released without charge."

Babar Ahmad -

"Babar Ahmad is a 38 year old British Muslim and the longest detained-without-charge British detainee held as part of the global ‘war on terror’.
Babar Ahmad was born in London in May 1974, and, until his imprisonment in 2004, lived in Tooting, South West London. His parents migrated to the UK from Pakistan in the early 1960’s. His father is a retired civil servant and his mother a retired Science teacher.
He went to a reputable public school where he won academic prizes and obtained outstanding results at both GCSE and A-Level. He then went to university and obtained a Master’s degree in Engineering from the University of London. Before his imprisonment in August 2004, he was working in the IT department at Imperial College London.
He is well-known locally in Tooting as a ‘caring and helpful’ member of the community through his years of youth work.
In December 2003 Babar was arrested at his London home under anti-terror legislation. By the time he reached the police station Babar had sustained at least 73 forensically recorded injuries, including bleeding in his ears and urine. Six days later he was released without charge.
Babar then filed a formal complaint that he had been subjected to horrific physical, sexual and religious abuse by the arresting police officers. In March 2009 the Metropolitan Police finally admitted in the Royal Courts of Justice in London that they did indeed carry out the Islamophobic and brutal assault on Babar Ahmad in December 2003. Moreover, they paid Babar Ahmad £60,000 compensation for damages. However, the Metropolitan Police have still offered no apology for the actions of their officers.
In August 2004 Babar was re-arrested in London and taken to prison pursuant to an extradition request from the US under the controversial, no-evidence-required, Extradition Act 2003. The US has alleged that in the 1990s Babar was a supporter of “terrorism”. Babar denies any involvement in terrorism. He has now been in prison for over five years even though he has not been charged in the UK"

You can find out more about Talha Ahsan and his case here: including a useful timeline of events.

Read more about Babar Ahmad and his case here: again with a helpful timeline of events.


Erroneous link to Abu Hamza

Many of the articles about these cases and the ruling start off talking about 'Abu Hamza and others', lumping together all the suspects as though their cases are the same.  There is an important distinction: Abu Hamza has been convicted - Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad never have been.  This is especially unhelpful as the image of Abu Hamza is used, whether intentionally or not, to demonise Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad by association. 

An example in point*, Jerome Taylor's article for the Independent begins: "Hook handed cleric Abu Hamza and four other Muslim men" and is headed by a close up of Abu Hamza's face.  If pictures are to be used, then picture all suspects, not the one with the most controversy surrounding him, thus at best, drowning out the situation for Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, and at worse, associating their cases with that of someone already charged.

(*That said,
a few weeks ago Jerome Taylor did write a more specific article regarding Talha Ahsan's case , which he referenced again in a tweet a few hours ago.)


What are Supermax prisons?

According to wikipedia:
"In supermax, prisoners are generally allowed out of their cells for only one hour a day (in California state prisons they are allowed out for one-and-a-half hours); often they are kept in solitary confinement. They receive their meals through ports, also known as "chuck holes" or "bean slots," in the doors of their cells. When supermax inmates are allowed to exercise, this may take place in a small, enclosed area where the prisoner will exercise alone"
Or, as stated on the Free Talha site:
"Imagine being confined in a 75.5sq feet cell with only a concrete slab and a thin mattress for a bed for 23 to 24 hours a day for every day of your life – the only window three inches wide looking out to a concrete pit…
This is the prospect Talha faces if extradited and convicted in the US – life without parole  in solitary confinement at ADX Florence, Colorado...

In 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern about “prolonged isolation periods” and “the extremely harsh regime” in US Supermax prisons.  It is little wonder that the former warden of ADX Florence described the prison as a ‘clean version of hell.’"


Still time to take action

Although the ruling seems final, there is still one chance that this extradition can be postponed - there is a call for the Home Secretary to stop extradition until the Director of Public Prosections (DPP) takes on the private prosecution being brought against Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad by businessman, Karl Watkins.  This private prosecution would mean they were both tried and, if appropriate, imprisoned in the UK, rather than being sent to the US without charge.

Karl Watkin explains his reasons for bringing the private prosecution:
"My sole focus is the public interest that this case represents. Our criminal justice system should deliver on its duty by ensuring that these two British citizens, alleged to have committed very serious crimes in the UK, are tried and, if appropriate, imprisoned here... It is not for the US to deliver universal justice to us all, and such a suggestion should worry us all deeply."


What we can do

It is still possible to take these two actions, as stated on the Free Babar Ahmad Website:
(i) write to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) asking him to take on the private prosecution
(ii) request your MP to make similar representations to the DPP
You can find details on how to do this (including templates which can be easily copied and pasted into emails) on both the Free Talha Ahsan website here and on the Free Babar Ahmad website here

Given that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is the only one who can stop the extradition to allow for this private prosecution to happen, you should contact her. I am afraid I have no templates, and just a link to how to contact her either by e-mail or post, or even to call:

Home Office enquiries

If your enquiry is regarding the Home Office then please write to:
Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Home Secretary
2 Marsham Street

Telephone number: 020 7035 4848

Correction: Just got an e-mail from Home Office - Apparently this issue is not for them, but for the Crown Prosecution Service.  So, direct communications to the Crown Prosecution Service - contact details here. And tweet them also: @cpsuk

The London Chief Crown Prosecutor is Alison Saunders - her contact details:

Chief Crown Prosecutor - Alison Saunders
CPS London
5th floor, Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge,
London, SE1 9HS

Tel: 020 3357 0000
Textphone: 18001 020 7796 8000

But if you feel like I do, still keep sending copies to the Home Office.  Even if they won't deal with them, at least they still have to see them befo
re transferring.


Not too little, too late - not yet

I realise all of this is rather tenuous, and may for some feel like it's just too late, but until Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad are on the plane to America, I feel there is still time to take action.  In my case, I definitely wish I had done more earlier, but that's no reason to decide it's not worth doing anything now.  Every single mail, letter and call can make a difference.


And finally - send messages of support

It is possible to contact Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad directly.  You can send messages of support to them by email, via the 'E-mail a prisoner' service.  It takes a few minutes to register, but translates to an important reminder that, especially at this time, they have not been forgotten.

You can also show love and support to their families via twitter - the official twitter accounts for Talha (@FreeTalha) and Babar Ahmad (@FreeBabarAhmad) and Talha's brother, Hamja (@HamjaAhsan).

Monday, 30 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 30

A variation on today's prompt (from the facebook group 30/30), taken a couple of lines from the Terrance Hayes' poem 'Gospel of the two sisters', but not quite the last ones
- - - - - - - -

"How often do you hear the tenderness you need to hear? I mean exactly when you need to hear it? Is it ever before that little yolk of hurt wraps itself in layers hard enough to break teeth?"

Does it sing to you in your own voice, the way it used to sound before bitterness made it brittle? Soothe you in a tone you have forgotten you once owned, full enough to hold loneliness at bay? Hold you in arms, not yet bruised from your own pinches, fuller fleshed barrier against your own heart's brutality?

Because perhaps it is that very tenderness that brings the hurt.  As you reach for the belief that you deserve it, you mock your own comfort, draw it further from your own hands.  Fade the colour of hope with your dry, dark stare until it pales beyond insignificance.

Try to teach yourself the words you sing to others, but falter mid-verse.  Remember the song of forgiveness you preach, but confused with a hymn of recrimination.  Set yourself in their shoes, perhaps, start from there. Believe yourself to be as they say they see you. Believe the kindness is not lies.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 29

today i feel like maybe i discovered
a start to the end
like i somehow finally got in sight 
of that light they keep talking about
their voices echoing through the darkness
of this tunnel we traipse together
but we all know, they and i, that i've made
this particular discovery before
rushing ahead with my disbelieving grin
only to be greeted by a host of fireflies
or to discover a discarded helmet
its light still winking knowingly

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 28

it's this:
kitchen until 2am
three nights in a row
fish - scale, season, batter, fry
chicken - clean, season, boil, roast
wash starch from rice until water runs clear
6 cans of plum tomatoes
9 onions
5 ata rodo, 6 ata inla
blending as the sparks fly
transform white to jollof
and a little fried for those who don't do spice

it's this:
10pm trip to 24 hour stores
for forgotten eggs
& lemons
11pm - mixing begun
a couple of recipes and a little improvised
dozing on the sofa until oven bell pings
icing pump quest spanning 4 shops
2.5kg icing sugar
but still needing 2 packs of ready-made
squeezing out patterns
bursting new pump

it's this:
too many and too much
for one back seat to take
bags between legs on laps
in arms under foot
tucked in seat belts (just this once);
12 souls one car
60 miles here 60 miles back;
cyclling there - rain drenched
cycling home again - retrieving forgotten
cycling there - rain drenched
cycling home again - sleep

it's this:
3 flights
3 flights
(3 flights!)
over and over
puffing, laden
chairs, cans, coolers, cake

it's this:
who can keep quiet the longest
you get chocolate
(i have no chocolate
someone get me chocolate)
is that them?
everyone out here
they're ringing
3 flights
they're coming
2 flights
everyone here - they're coming
1 flight - camera
ready when she

Saturday, 28 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 27

I forgot which sponge was mine today
stood there in the bath
newly wet, formerly warm
seconds cooling drips before they join
the pool of splash
collecting impatiently at my feet

hesitant in choosing as i consult mind
that continues to draw a blank
blinds flat, shutters down
and for the moment
all keys lost
as i rattle, hopeless, at memory's awnings

the trickle down my back 
becomes a sly finger of fear
nowhere near terror
but mounting frustration
(i used it yesterday
i use it everyday)
quick shifts to the regular
anxious agitation
(Alzheimer's, early onset)

head threatens throbbing
and eyes swim a little
closed a moment
seeing red
and that's it
obvious as the fear
grab the newly found thing
get to srcubbing away anxiety

bath done
step out whistling
panic forgotten

Friday, 27 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 26

walk on frosted nights
crust crisp snow swallows foot-steps
home hearth heats your soles

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 25

it is too late, now,
for endearments and apologies
so take this instead:
did i tell you about breakfasts
back home?
how i ate graperuit segments
straight from the tin
juice caught by tongue
tip before it reached the peak
of my chin
some mornings
pineapple rings also
syrupy freshness
tha never quite satiated
the same way
as those bitter wedges

back here
mixing batter
licking fingers
last minute ingredient
bitterness tempering the sweet
rainy night memory
of sticky heat mornings

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 24

dazed, here, dazzled
devastated by a portrayal too perfect
to be named simply

at lights up
i want to create
visual appreciation
standing ovation
for your art

but your words
they rooted me to the spot
took my roots
and shone them under that spotlight

showed me home
in a way that hinted perhaps
you walk those routes
by heart
time without number

still stunned
all your words
robbed me of my own

Monday, 23 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 23

nothing here for you 
to see - rain stopped play; punters'
hopes all dampened

Sunday, 22 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 22

today has been a day
for tears
just beneath the surface
at times bubbling over
when they don't know
what else to do 
with themselves
never were taught
to bear the pressure
be patient
to contain themselves
wait at least until
a more appropriate time
instead they jostle with each other
to be first to emerge
win the downward race
making their own tracks

it's been a day
for missing
for diving into the mundane
hoping mindless industry
will somehow distract
dilute a pain that already
is tiresome
with its predictability
in its insistence
refuses to take the hint
lays low as i try to transform
housework into healing
makes its presence known
at inconvenient moments
whispers reminders
under vacuum's drone
reflects on shining surfaces

the day has been one
for carrying on
wailing or silent weary but
carrying on
deliberate distractions
or genuine dismissal
ignoring or unaware
carrying on
and if i keep to this
for long enough
carrying on
then perhaps 
it will come true
carrying on
and every other 
waking moment
carrying on
won't be spent 
avoiding thoughts of you
carrying on
every other 
waking moment
carrying on
won't be wasted
on working quite so hard at
carrying on

Saturday, 21 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 21

every night
i forget to forget
that's how the line goes
isn't it?

to remind myself
not to expect your call
recall all too well
the contours
of your voice
how perfectly they fit
snug against
my eardrums

leave the lamp on
so you won't trip
when you come in
forget with your late
there is no more coming in
no danger from bedroom
floor flung items
or wardobe door
left ajar

still surprised
every morning
by your missing
unmeshed with my own
don't realise
the scent of you
only emanates from memory's

don't notice
until too late
one too many
at the breakfast table
drink from your mug
keep myself from remembering
to forget

Friday, 20 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 Day 20

today i woke with my mouth dry from grimacing
stretched overlong, winced at spasm
despite expecting it
sleep liberally lining eyelids
gummed shut, still, wishing to be back under
but the day pokes bright its insistence
that i rejoin the living
though it offers nothing of interest
to entice me out of bed
and i decide it will have to do  without me
manipulate lips into something more closely resembling...closed
and allow eyes to resume the position
the day can go on without my contribution
for now, my dreams need tending

Thursday, 19 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 day 19

i have forgotten where i am from
forgotten that real heat goes beyond
skin deep
sinks into the soul
and radiates outwards

forgotten what it is to have the hurt
not be much
as it is absorbed by layer upon layer
of kin
reducing its force to dust

i have forgotten how to step
to this rhythm
shake sadness to the bone
roll, bob and flow on proud beats
in time with no surrender to it

little wonder, then
that every day is spent
flustered, frustrated
how can i find the way home
when i'm still so lost?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 day 18

shivering through some sort of
self-fulfilling prophecy
that the layers would not stand up
to the non-temperate tricks
being turned by the weather
fake attraction from a glance
lulled into taking a chance
despite it being the same old story
year in, year out

tomorrow, add another - 7 instead of just 6

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 day 17

stand, pose, pout
consider yourself and marvel
at just how pretty you are
6 years old and pleased as punch
with what you see
in every reflection
only child
but self-appointed twin
keeps you company
perfect tandem
laugh and grin
loud delight
at such a picture
of perfection
beckon me to let loose
the restraint of years
self-consciousness carefully
crafted to keep preening
at bay

Monday, 16 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 day 16

contrary to popular belief
(or perhaps in line with
i don't remember
do not bother me with such trifles)
it is never too late to start over
ad infinitum
as long as you learn
from the last time round
and on the way back
to the beginning
you remember
to learn to forgive yourself
and actually mean it this time

Sunday, 15 April 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012 day 15

loving how you both call your boys
gives me hope
hoping you will still do this
when they have become men
and you matured further, together
hold them to comfort
kiss them on lips
and none find it strange
impart love
receive it

remember car journeys
disney singing and giggles
name changes
babylicious shadow
gorgeous boy
bedtimes with tiger suits
the girl explorer and mr men

Napowrimo Day 14

one more thing to add
to the list of not quite good enough
lost in the fug of over eaten
under prepared
distracted and hyperfocused
all at once
until it was too late

tight fisted frustration
too miserly to make any real difference
but enough for rage to creep in

count decades
and hope for a lack of
next time

Friday, 13 April 2012

Napowrimo 2012 Day 13

Ice-cream - 52 flavours
Melting outside castle walls
Ninja fairies - dodgy outfits
Stars and wands and cowboy boots

Roof-topped market
Garlic bread
Ten-foot tuna mayo baguette
Break to eat

Town hall wedding
Vintage bus
Teal (or turquoise) overload
Cheeky driver, congrats kiss
Dragon lording
Strewn confetti lawn display

Vaulted ceilings
Bug filled drawers
Mosaic sonic
Mammoths not walruses
Dinosaur skulls
Crumbling jaws
Welsh plabets mime

'Never shown this to anyone before
it's my best friend'

Eat again
All you can
Home to dance
Then hit the surf

Dora rules - valé?