Je suis Charlie


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Ha muerto Manitas de Plata

Manitas_de_Plata_2_(Repetities_1968-03-07_Grand_Gala_du_Disque_Populaire)Another guitar great and legendary musician has died.

My Spanish roots must have given me a love of Flamenco from the outset. It’s still the single musical genre to which I find it hardest to multitask, write, or even sit still. The merest scent of duende and I’m all “¡Ole!” and “Mi aerodeslizador está lleno de anguilas”.

Manitas de Plata, literally “Hands of Silver”, but in a good way, not like the baddie out of Enter the Dragon who can carve the Sunday roast without even a glance at the cutlery drawer.

No, Manitas, probably just “Hans” to his amigos, oozed duende, the fiery depth of spirit that flows within the heart of gypsy Flamenco. He was a walking fountain of it, enough to sire the majority of the Gypsy Kings, anyway.

Indeed, if Paco de Lucía was the new face of Flamenco, then Manitas de Plata was the ancient, craggy, Hadean understratum that underpinned this soul music from the dawn of time. Well, since his first recording in 1963 at least.

A couple of related trivia that I like:

Manitas de Plata only agreed to play in public ten years after the death of Django Reinhardt, unanimously considered the king of gypsy guitarists.

Upon hearing Manitas de Plata play at Arles in 1964, Pablo Picasso is said to have exclaimed “that man is of greater worth than I am!” and proceeded to draw on the guitar (see picture, above).

Now, behold his greatness…

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Life Line


A 14-year old girl was murdered in London. It’s a well publicised case. Another pregnant, 16-year old was strangled to death by her boyfriend, “to teach her a lesson”. Another 28-year old woman with everything to live for, has mysteriously died in her sleep. I knew none of these people yet I cannot help but be moved to tears for each.

The 28-year old women, it turns out, was a cousin of a close friend for whom I instantly felt a surge of sympathy. She described her as having been, “one of those special people”, lighting up the lives of everyone she encountered. The outpouring of love and loss is the most I have ever seen online amongst a group of friends. Every photo reveals why, within a cuddle of girlfriends, she wears a huge smile at the centre of each, a Cheshire Cat of a grin that radiates joy, to which mirth moths are willingly drawn. Others capture family, friends, partner; the body language is universal, echoing, “We love you and we love being with you”.

I cannot imagine how distraught she has left her partner and family and the very many friends to whom she brought this joy and laughter and happiness, but it is obvious and tangible and recorded online for all to see. So it is the loss of that last individual, a shiny happy person, with bright eyes and fair complexion, that hit me most. The golden straw that broke the camel’s back.

This is the increasing and inevitable penalty, an emotional cost, of continuous news feeds and social media. All these stories arrived within a week leaving me punch drunk and bruised. Never before have we been so connected with lives and events. Ceaselessly updated, how can we fail to form a real relationship with the narratives of parallel lives, so that when there is an abrupt cessation of news, especially because of a tragedy, the emotional response is also real, and personal, and hurts.

This is not a delayed epiphany of mine, but I have recently felt it more than ever, rendered raw by an ongoing spate of clinical depression; three years of debilitated capacity for work, family and friends. Today I “celebrated” the first anniversary of visiting my psychologist, specifically not a psychoanalyst with answers, but someone I trust, who is invaluable in making connections between otherwise apparently disparate events in my present and past. I’ve hopefully also whittled my medication down to the correct type and dosage.

Beyond those interventions, I have decided there’s something else I can do. In fact, desperation dictates it’s something that I must do. Every time I feel myself dipping into another black hole, literally a pitiful state, I have to remember that help, a life line, is within reach, a symbolic rope to pull myself back out. That’s why this post: to make manifest an abstraction. Shape the idea. A reference point I can return to.

The concept in my mind is unclouded, not the customary fug-muddle. The fog has lifted and this time it’s a good rope, not one of the other types that have threaded my knotted thoughts. This is no hangman’s noose: I see it as a golden braid, a Rapunzelean lock to climb to a higher state of mind. There, you see, more Grimm than grim.

So, that’s what I shall do when blue. I shall think of the smiling woman, that 28-year old – nothing weird or inappropriate – simply to bask in her eternal light a little, be warmed by her smile and celebrate another day, ruing that she is unable, and then, taking hold and proceeding hand-over-hand, I will pull myself out of that fucking awful hole. And when I’m eventually shot of the blackness and have dragged myself safely clear, I shall look all about, delighting in the view and breathing deeply of the day, taking a moment to smile, myself, and stealing myself to say, “Thank you. Thank you, my Rapunzel”.

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The Dissent of Man: £10 gift + FREE ebooks


Dear All,

to celebrate reaching £1m-worth of pledges, those lovely people at Unbound have thank you gifts for you. Pledge on my next book, THE DISSENT OF MAN and Unbound will add £10 to your total. For example, that’s a 1st edition hardback for only £10. I thought you might not want to miss out, so please, make your pledge now.

Also, if you have already pledged, thank you, I am most grateful, and you can now download e-book copies of any Unbound book already published. This is an amazingly generous gesture by Unbound. Just go here for the book links

Thank you once again for your help and support (and patience).

Best wishes,





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Scotland The Brave

I am not Scottish, but live in Edinburgh, therefore the impending Independence Referendum looms large on my horizon as much as it does anyone else living within Scottish borders. Here is a series of posts relating to the issues, and incase it is not obvious from the outset, to be clear, and without a doubt, I will be voting…

Two recurring thoughts on #indyref:
1. the NO camp plead that Scotland stay to fight bad UK politics, but when did they earn that favour?
2. There doesn’t have to be shared nationality for people to share cause and support each other through bad times.

Seems announcement regarding new powers for Scotland is just a timetable for what has already been promised. Except of course, it’s not what people want, hence the YES vote.

The Morning After by Christine De Luca
Scotland, 19th September 2014
Let none wake despondent: one way
or another we have talked plainly,
tested ourselves, weighed up the sum
of our knowing, ta’en tent o scholars,
checked the balance sheet of risk and
fearlessness, of wisdom and of folly.
Was it about the powers we gain or how
we use them? We aim for more equality;
and for tomorrow to be more peaceful
than today; for fairness, opportunity,
the common weal; a hand stretched out
in ready hospitality.
It’s those unseen things that bind us,
not flag or battle-weary turf or tartan.
There are dragons to slay whatever happens:
poverty, false pride, snobbery, sectarian
schisms still hovering. But there’s
nothing broken that’s not repairable.
We’re a citizenry of bonnie fighters,
a gathered folk; a culture that imparts,
inspires, demands a rare devotion,
no back-tracking; that each should work
and play our several parts to bring about
the best in Scotland, an open heart.

Since the referendum, I have joined both the SNP and The Scottish Green Party. If you want a better future, I would urge you to do the same.

Please see my response in the comments to that post.



It’s been brought to my attention that the conclusion above is undermined by the small sample taken for the youngest age group for Lord Ashcroft poll. I’ve written to ask for verification,
Dear Sir / Madam,
the Referendum Poll is proving invaluable for analysis and understanding how Scotland voted. However, I am concerned at the small sample size of only 14 individuals in the 16-17 year old age class, that has subsequently been widely used for comparison and interpretation. Please would you provide some assurances of its statistical validity, or suggest a more rigorous estimate of vote share for the first-time voters.
Thank you and best regards.



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Ivory Zero Hour

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The F⃫i⃫s⃫h⃫e⃫r⃫ King

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Shrink Rap

I got no tears left, but here’s Robin Williams in conversation with Pamela Stephenson on Shrink Rap
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Depression And How To Survive It

In the light/shade/dark of Robin Williams’ suicide, where long-term depression has been identified as a likely major factor, this is IMHO still the best source for fellow sufferers and carers to best understand depression.

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Goodbye Vietnam

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