iamhyperlexic

Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Stand down Margaret

Jason Holloway is the prompt for this post.  He lives in the United States.

I am a paid-up Labour Party socialist, of a kind that one seldom meets, even nowadays.  I believe in the National Health Service, nationalisation, redistributive taxation, and all the old-fashioned virtues.  I believe in pursuing tax avoiders to the furthest extremes of longitude.

Jason Holloway is a hard-line (anti-Trump) American Republican.  The only subjects we can discuss rationally are food, and music.

The Beat aka The English Beat is my favourite band.  ‘I Just Can’t Stop It’ is my favourite album.  ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ is my favourite track.

When Jason came to England, he landed in Birmingham, where The Beat comes from.  I gather he likes the city, as I do.  We got on much better face-to-face than we had done, on-line.  Since then, I think we have reached an accommodation, based on food, music, and sport.

I am going to take Jason Holloway to a professional rugby league match, if it is the last thing I ever do.  It might be in Canada.  I don’t care.

In the meantime: Stand Down Margaret.  I see no joy.  I see only sorrow.  I see no chance of your bright, new tomorrow.

 

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#MeToo

I grew up in North Leeds, and my parents were lawyers.  That might sound like privilege, and, of course, with regard to food, clothing, education, housing, it was.  But morally and philosophically, it was hell.

Jesus cannot save the atheist/non-conformist children of North Leeds.  They are on their own.

My parents believed in two fundamental things. They believed that the justice system was capable of working, as long as every individual within it on the states’s side showed the required degree of integrity. (What about The Guildford Four and The Birmingham Six? Never mind.)  They also believed in engagement.  They believed that every incidence of wrong-doing should be reported by everybody, everywhere, forever, without exception.

A working justice system has many ingredients.  But engagement is the most fundamental of these ingredients.

Somebody has to say, ‘I have suffered a wrong.’

That is the main reason why I hate Savile.  He used his status to set up a power structure that would have absolutely appalled my parents.

The only rational, sane, just reaction to ‘I have suffered a wrong,’ is, ‘What wrong have you suffered?’

Not, ‘Well, you see, he raises a lot of money for this unit.  If he comes round, it may be a good idea to pretend to be asleep.’

No.

The most valuable commodity in the world is justice.   Would I rather starve than have justice?  If I don’t have enough food, then I don’t have justice.

Let’s start with reporting of the violent and exploitative wrong-doing of privileged men, and then we’ll go on from there.

Who knows where that might take us.

Review: Catch A Falling Star at Cluntergate Centre, Horbury 13/10/2017

I arrived late, at about 5 past 7, when a young man with a guitar was singing and playing.  I took him to be Louis James.  He began a cover version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.  There was a fairly long and tinkly guitar intro, which led me to believe that this would be one from the  Jeff Buckley school.  And so it came to pass.  I am absolutely allergic to bad cover versions of ‘Hallelujah’, by Leonard Cohen.  They make me come out in terrible running sores, all over my bozzolikons.  This was a good cover version.  When he sang ‘All I ever learnt from love / was how to shoot at someone who outdrew yer’ the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  It sounded like an impersonation of Jeff Buckley, but it was a very good impersonation.  Louis James (if I have got your name right): why don’t you try a freer version?

A splendid build-up, in the Cluntergate Centre.  I get to walk to this place, from where I live.  I may be an outsider (I come from bloody Leeds) but this is my centre.

The next performer was Halima Mayat.  I know Halima from, among other things, the Black Horse Poets.  Halima is part of the spoken word scene in Wakefield.

She opened with a poem that she said had been written during a workshop with someone called ‘Gen’.  I have sent my spies out throughout the north of England, and the best they can come up with for a suspect called ‘Gen’, is Geneviève Walsh, of, among other things, Spoken Weird in Halifax.  It was a poem about bi-polar disorder, called, ‘Tin of Hot Dogs’.  It was a very good example of how to use an everyday object as a metaphor for mental states.

Halima’s next set of pieces were based on fairy tales: Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood.  These were modernist treatments of classic stories.

‘The Dark of The House’ was a chilling poem.  ‘Betrayal’ was an angry poem.

As a listener, I still find Halima’s poetic persona tantalising, but, from this performance, I learnt a great deal about her.  It was an excellent performance.  Halima held the room (there were 40+ people there – that is a serious room).  Her microphone technique was very good.  She got tumultuous applause, as well she deserved.

Stefan Grieve and Ralph Dartford appeared under the name ‘Specky & Specky’.

Stefan and Ralph performed 8 pieces.  Ralph did a piece about domestic violence, and relationship breakdown, which began, “There’s indentations in this chipboard wall…”  Stefan rhymed “Fill ya” with “thrill ya”, and “dyspraxic” with “sarcastic”.

Stefan also said, “Don’t let your pain be a stranger to those who can help,” which is a summary of the whole evening.

Ruby Macintosh wears spectacles and an A-line dress.  She evokes the 1950s.  She can really sing.  She plays an amplified acoustic guitar.  She has excellent technique in both hands.  That is not something that I say, often.

‘Raspberry, Strawberry, Gooseberry Jam’ was a tour de force.  Never mind the vocal and instrumental technique, in perfect unison.  The subject matter of the song is about life choices.  It is a kind of poetry that I would normally associate with Brian Patten, Roger McGough, or Stevie Smith.

Ruby Macintosh is as good as Eddi Reader.  Possibly, better, because she doesn’t have a backing band.

Nathan Birkinshaw did a routine that was partly about repetition.  He was telling a joke about a man who walks into a bar.  It involved a certain amount of lying on his back on a table, and shouting.  I am not keen on shouting.  There was a barmaid.

His funniest line, in my opinion, was, with reference to this chap in joke land, and the barmaid, “It’s later in the night, and they’re in bed.”

[There is an old 15 amp plug socket on the ceiling of the main hall in the Cluntergate Centre.  Don’t ask me how I know that.]

The last act on the bill was Jess Rowbottom, as The Bleeding Obvious.  She was, among other things, promoting her show, ‘Rainbow Heart’.  But this evening was all about the moment.

As a fan of Augustus Pablo, I am appalled at how Jess used the melodica.  To hell with that.  I am not appalled: I am encouraged.  There are new uses to which the melodica can be put, and The Bleeding Obvious is finding them.  More of that, please.

I am going to list some of the pieces that Jess performed, if for no other reason than I want her to know that I was listening:

  1. Life is Never As Straight as it Seems
  2. Not Dead, Yet
  3. Family Gathering
  4. Outside v Inside
  5. Wallflower
  6. Me, Myself, and I
  7. One Foot In Front Of The Other

It was #6 that did it, for me.  There was a sample from the old-fashioned speaking clock.  It went a bit Pet Shop Boys.  It went a bit Momus.  Jess briefly lost her place with the melodica, and had to count herself back in.  That was lovely.

If I have to crawl there on my hands and knees, I will put a blue plaque on the wall of Cluntergate Community Centre.  “13/10/2017 Jessica Rowbottom, rock star, performed here.”

It was partly about the keyboard playing.  It was partly about the vocals.  It was certainly about the hair.  But, mostly, it was about Jess.  With the playing, singing, and persona, she told us she was going to take us to a different place, and we acquiesced, and she did.

 

Stepping into Rickaro Books on Bookshop Day, 2017

The wife of my high school English teacher is a long time friend of the proprietor of my local, independent bookshop.

Christina James, crime novelist

Rickaro Books 2 Rickaro Books, Horbury

Yesterday was UK Bookshop Day, the annual event which celebrates the huge contribution made to civilised life by all British bookshops, especially independents.  It also marks the beginning of the current year’s ‘Books Are My Bag’ [BAMB] initiative for the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

The whole BAMB drive was conceived of and masterminded by the UK Booksellers Association, which now administers it.  Authors and readers alike are very fortunate to have, working on our behalf, this imaginative, dedicated, hard-working and amazingly small team of people led by Tim Godfrey, its long-term CEO.  I was lucky enough to attend, on 11th September, the BA’s annual conference and there to get a sneak preview of some of this year’s BAMB marketing material, which includes beautiful mugs and book bags designed by Orla Kiely.

I always visit at least one bookshop on Bookshop Day.  Yesterday I headed for…

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Welcome To The Mad: Wakefield Litfest, 2:45-3:30pm 1 October 2017

WLF_2017_Brochure

My wife, Valerie Anderson Gaskill, and I will be performing as the double act, Valliam.  The title of the show is Welcome To The Mad.

The venue is Cluntergate Community Centre, in Horbury.  We are appearing as part of an all-day event, called Wakefield Rising.

Tickets are £6 (£3 concessions) for the whole day, or £1 (£0.50 concessions) per event.

The line-up of this year’s Wakefield Litfest is dazzling.  It includes Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kate Fox, John Hegley, Geneviève Walsh, Matt Abbott, Gudrun’s Sisters, and many others. It starts on Saturday 23 September 2017.

Review: Matt Abbott: Two Little Ducks rehearsal, The Red Shed, Wakefield, 9 July 2017

I am going to try to write this without giving any direct information away about the content of Matt’s performance.  If you want to know what is in it, including why it is called Two Little Ducks, you will have to go and see it.

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/matt-abbott-two-little-ducks

The blurb on the Edinburgh Festival website is fairly accurate, except for two things.

First, Matt Abbott is not what I would call a “new voice”.  He is an established voice (established, but not establishment).  He may not be a regular on BBC Radio 3 or 4, but he does appear quite often on other mainstream channels.  I know quite a few performance poets, but I can’t think of anyone who does more paid gigs than Matt Abbott does.  The audience at The Red Shed was about 40 people, which is close to capacity.

Second, do not let the blurb’s references to politics put you off.  Many of the pieces make reference to people or circumstances which are affected by lack of money, or displacement, or homelessness, or other injustices.  But Matt’s work is observational, or humanitarian, rather than explicitly political.  It is nothing resembling a manifesto, and it is resplendently free of any vestige of preaching.  It is also mixed with just the right amount of humour.

It is getting the mix just right which characterises this performance.  It is not a single narrative.  Rather, it has three main threads (I won’t tell you what they are) which are distinct, but related, and are coherently woven together.  There is a parallel between the way the pieces are arranged, and the format that A Firm Of Poets, of which Matt is a founder member, uses: instead of a succession of single pieces from four or five different performers, this solo performer delivers a succession of pieces on different themes.  The recurrence and development of the themes is expertly handled, like a poetic symphony.

As a rehearsal, this was excellent.  It was not the fully-worked-up performance, but it was very close to it.  I could feel adrenalin starting to flow once Matt got into it, and the audience had started to respond.  This will only intensify once the Edinburgh programme begins.  No two of the performances will be quite the same.  Don’t just go and see it: go and see it more than once.

There is also a mystery ingredient.  Much of the material in Two Little Ducks is new, but there is one particular piece which, unless you were at The Red Shed on Sunday 9 July 2017, I guarantee you have never heard.  It appears nearly at the end of the performance. It is a piece containing a deeply personal revelation.  It makes the whole performance more intense, and draws the themes together.  Even if you know Matt Abbott personally, I am certain that the nature of the revelation is something you would never be able to guess.

My wife, Valerie Anderson Gaskill, and I, will be doing a joint performance at Cluntergate Community Centre in Horbury, Wakefield, on 1 October 2017, as part of Wakefield Litfest.   That performance will have a bit more pizzazz, and a better balance because of hearing this performance.

After he had finished, one of Matt Abbott’s new fans asked if I was his father.

Review: Unity Words, 28 June 2017

The first performer was Lily Gaskell.  Despite the similarity in our names, I could not get much out of her performance.  Lily Gaskell and Louise Distras, who played the music slot at Unity Words in May, are different people, and there are some differences between their performances.  But they are very similar.  Just about all my reservations about Lily Gaskell are the same as the ones I had about Louise Distras.  If you are going to play a solo guitar and sing, you need to have a reasonably sophisticated picking technique, and you need to vary your playing and your vocals to create something resembling a tone palette, rather than a massive splurge – certainly if you are going to play to audiences of people who are over 30.

Jamie Thrasivoulou, the first spoken word artist, performed without a microphone.  His voice projection was just right for the size of the room.  He is from Derby, and has an East Midlands accent, which is something I always notice, because the East Midlands accent is, in my opinion, the most under-represented regional accent in England.

Jamie is a very energetic performer, but he uses variation in volume and vocal style to good effect.  He has quite a varied speech register, combining references to drug-taking and homelessness with descriptions of Cyprus, and mentions of Allen Ginsberg.  He recited mostly from memory, but he also read from his collection, ‘The Best Of A Bad Situation’.  For (at least) his last piece, he put his whole body into it: he was throwing his hands about, staggering from side-to-side, occupying the stage.

I can think of two comparisons to make.  The obvious one, which I gather that Jamie has heard before, is with Sleaford Mods: ranting about working class liberation in an East Midlands accent, while wearing a polo shirt.  The less obvious one is with the late and lamented Michael Smith, from Jamaica.  I didn’t understand every line that Michael Smith uttered, but I could always feel it.  That is how Jamie Thrasivoulou’s performance struck me.

Ralph Dartford stood in for what would usually have been the mentored poet.  He is practising for his forthcoming show, ‘Recovery Songs’.  He did a piece about childhood friendship, a piece about Hillsborough (on the day that David Duckenfield was charged). He contravened his own principle, and read a piece from the screen of his smart phone.  He did a piece about a drug addict.  The recurring themes in his set were substance abuse, relationships, and the passing of time.  As a dry run, it was pretty good.  I would be interested to hear the material again, when it is the final performance.

There were three Pandemonium Poets.  The first was Tony Gadd.  He has a North Eastern accent, and began with a piece called ‘Siren’s Tears’, about government cuts to emergency services.  He did another piece which was somewhat disparaging about Wetherspoon pubs.

The second Pandemonium Poet was Tim Fellows.  Like Jamie Thrasivoulou, he is from Derbyshire.  His first piece was about a mining accident which killed a member of his family.   The next was called ‘Cumulo Nimbus’, and was about depression.  The last was a comic piece about trogging the food at funeral receptions.

The last Pandemonium Poet was Steve Harrison, who has performed at Unity Words, before.  The subject matter of his first piece, ‘Apron Strings’, was Yorkshire pudding batter, but it is an inter-generational poem, about the poet’s mother.  The next was about a Wetherspoon’s pub in Wellington, called the William Withering, the botanist who discovered digitalin.  Steve’s pieces are quietly-spoken, well-observed, and have some nice elements of craft about them.

The evening’s new performer was Caitlin Lyons.  This was her first public performance.  The subject of her poem was anxiety, of which she clearly has personal knowledge.  As a subject for one’s first ever public performance, anxiety is a difficult one. Caitlin’s delivery was excellent.  I suggest that, if she wants to develop mental health as a subject for her work, it is one of those things that is best looked at from a sideways angle, but her delivery style is pretty much there.

The headliner was Maria Ferguson, from Romford, in Essex.  She started talking about how she loves pubs, and we had the third reference of the evening to Wetherspoon’s.  Maria’s show, and publication, is called, ‘Fat Girls Don’t Dance’.

Maria Ferguson’s work is contemporary, what I call “urban” (by which I mean appealing to and understood by people who live in towns and cities), and most of it is unrhymed.  She has a varied delivery style, and some parts of her pieces are sung rather than spoken.  She gets away with this much better than some other artists.

Her main themes are a sense of place and identity, gentrification, feminism, friendship, and the passing of time.  Towards the end of her set, she offered the audience a choice between a piece about her favourite country (Tunisia), or one about going on a sunbed (with the underlying theme of subverting the mainstream image of ‘Essex girls’.  The audience were unanimous in asking for both pieces.

Review: The Ted Hughes Poetry Festival, evening, 24 June 2017, Mexborough Business Centre

Janine Booth had already started her set when we arrived.  Neither Valerie nor I had ever heard of her, before.  As we were entering the auditorium and faffing about with our tickets and trying to be as quiet as possible, I could tell that she was from London, and that she was reciting a poem that was political.  Political poetry usually makes me cringe, especially if it is rhymed, which this seemed to be.  I listened, and got ready to cringe.  But I didn’t cringe.  It was #1 delivered with controlled anger, not shouted or gone through like a times table.  #2 The poet sounded as if she knew what she was talking about.  #3 She had something to say that was not something I had heard said just that way, before.  It was engaging and lively and not the sort of thing you hear very often.

It turned out that Janine Booth might have been carved out of a slab of Valerie’s imagination.  She is from London.  She is vehemently anti-Tory.  (The poem we had walked in on was about hating Tories.)  She works on the London Underground.  She went on to do a poem about angry, middle-aged women, among other things.

Her final piece was a pastiche of ‘Hallelujah’, by Leonard Cohen, and, in my opinion, was a little step too far.  It didn’t have quite the same measure of craft and authority as the rest of the set.  Apart from that, Janine’s set was excellent, and I wish I had not missed the beginning.  Valerie bought two of her books.

Next was Tim Wells, another Londoner.  Valerie and I heard him for the first time at 7 Arts Centre in Leeds (near where I grew up) when he was supporting Kate Fox, earlier this year.  I had a chat with him, afterwards, about our shared passion for ska and reggae.  We had heard some of the same sound systems, in Leeds, though not at the same time.

Tim Wells has one of the most distinctive delivery styles I have ever heard.  His short pieces, which deliberately end before the audience expect, put me in mind of a Cockney version of Ivor Cutler.  I find his longer pieces fascinating.  I just want to hear what he is going to say next.  Tim Wells is one of the purest performance poets I have ever heard, in the sense that, for any given line or stanza, it is often not obvious what devices he is using: it usually isn’t rhyme, or metre, or repetition.  He just has a poetic voice –  an original, contemporary, poetic voice.  His speech is certainly Cockney, but it is also easy to understand to my middle class, West Yorkshire ear.

By the time Tim Wells finished his set, the atmosphere in the auditorium was already well on the way to healing the North-South divide.

Linton Kwesi Johnson looked much as I had imagined him.  I have seen images of him, before, on television, and in magazines such as ‘Black Music’ in the 1980s.  That was decades ago, of course, but his appearance was still in keeping with my expectations.  He wore an umber fedora, which he kept on before, during, and after his performance.  He wore a red tie,  a tailored jacket and trousers.  He was thin.  Despite the greyness of his beard, he doesn’t look old.  As many people used to say of my late father, he looks distinguished rather than old.

Linton Kwesi Johnson broke two of the basic rules of performance poetry.  He delivered long preambles, some of them as long as the pieces they preceded.  He also elided straight from the end of one poem into the preamble for the following poem, with hardly a second’s pause.  (This is what I call, “Doing a Gaia Holmes”.)  But there are mitigating circumstances in both cases.  The preambles were to do with the struggle for justice, both generally and with reference to specific campaigns, of black people in Britain, and he was talking mostly from first hand experience.  Also, the elision had the benefit of silencing all applause until the end, which was helpful to one’s appreciation and enjoyment of the performance.  I strongly suspect that he did this deliberately.

I first started reading the Liverpool Poets in about 1983.  I have since heard the late Adrian Henri, and Roger McGough, live.  I first heard the recordings, and read the pamphlets, of Linton Kwesi Johnson in 1982 or 1983.  In all the time I have been reading and listening to poetry, this is the longest span of time between first encountering a poet’s work, and then hearing them, live.  About 35 years.

Most of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s set was from his early work: the work with which I am the most familiar.  Some of these pieces I have not listened to for 20 years, but I know parts of some of them by heart.  ‘Sonny’s Letter’, for example.  The hairs stood up on the back of my neck, more so than in just about any other live performance I have ever heard.  My vision became blurred.  I don’t know why: I wasn’t in tears, but I couldn’t see, properly.  All I could see was a thin, well-dressed West Indian man on the centre of a stage in a hall in Mexborough.  That man was the one and only Linton Kwesi Johnson.

I thank Steve Ely and the other organisers of this festival for bringing such an eminent performer to Mexborough.  It was an unforgettable experience.

Janine Booth and Tim Wells can both consider their reputations enhanced, because their sets supported and complemented LKJ’s set.  The common threads were: a sense of pride in one’s own identity, and the struggle for justice.

On the way out, Valerie shook LKJ’s hand.  He was having a cigarette.  As we left, he sounded as if he was hacking up a lung.

Review: The Price of Happiness by Kate Fox, s2 ep1, BBC Radio 4, 11:30 19 June 2017

You can listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer Radio for the next 29 days from today, or download it, if allowed in your territory:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08twgfv

Kate Fox is just about the best and most celebrated poet with whom I have a nodding acquaintance.  I have heard her perform live at Unity Works in Wakefield, and at 7 Arts in Leeds, and I had the pleasure of having a bit of a chat with her on both occasions.  She has national coverage (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about her on the BBC) and is one of the most effective campaigners in England for the belief that contemporary poetry can be relevant – sometimes, even, vital – to everyday life, and is worth paying to hear.

Like Matt Abbott, Ian McMillan, Kate Tempest, and some others, Kate Fox mixes her spoken word career with other art forms: in her case, stand-up comedy.  Today’s programme also had some musical accompaniment.  There were elements of audience participation which, to my great relief, worked very well, and were not at all an embarrassing mess.

The subject of the programme, entitled, ‘The Perfect Body’, is the amount of money that people – mainly women, but men, as well – spend on their appearance, and whether it is worth the expense and effort.  As regards hardly caring at all about what other people think of my appearance, I enjoy some advantages that Kate Fox doesn’t.  I’m male, and, although I did spend a long time in childhood being regularly taunted about my appearance and voice (I went through an artificial puberty at the age of 7) my circumstances were such that it never got to me.  All it did was to give me a rational fear of the mob mentality.

Despite the fact that this is not my kind of subject, I found the programme engaging and well worth listening to.  The most engaging parts were when she was talking about her own, idiosyncratic experiences, rather than talking generally.  But even the statistics about how much people spend on what items and procedures I found interesting. (There aren’t many statistics that I don’t find interesting, as long as they are derived from reputable sources).  She even mentioned the subject of cosmetic surgery (which, if I ever see it mentioned in a TV programme, causes me to change channels immediately).  Kate, if you are reading this, I know someone who may be getting in touch with you about your experiences.  The parts about being <adjective meaning ‘above average size’> and having large breasts provoked the most masculine reaction in me.  I find <adjective meaning ‘above average size’> women much more attractive than thin women.  I like women with big bosoms.  I know lots of men who are the same, but I unreservedly admit that this aesthetic does not fit the mainstream in this era (though it would have done in many previous eras – probably every era at least until Elizabethan times).  Even I get it that breasts beyond a certain size can not only be a problem socially, and psychologically, but can cause other problems, not the least of which is chronic backache.

A female comedian doing a live performance about women’s relationships with their own bodies, from a point of view which is socially mainstream (or working class, if you will allow) but personally quirky and idiosyncratic, invites comparison with Victoria Wood.  The fact that Kate Fox’s accent and outlook are also unmistakably Northern makes the comparison even more irresistible.  I am delighted to say that Kate Fox’s use of self-deprecation and trying to make a virtue out of one’s own ignorance or alienation is much less than Victoria Wood’s.  Even where Kate Fox uses these devices, the way she uses them is, in my opinion, more subtle and better-crafted than Victoria Wood’s.  This may or may not have something to do with the fact that Victoria Wood was from the North West, and Kate Fox is from the North East.  She now lives in North Yorkshire, but her accent is North Eastern.

This is the first time I have listened to one of Kate Fox’s BBC Radio programmes.  I will certainly be looking up the others on iPlayer Radio, including a short extract from The Verb on BBC Radio 3 about swearing.  Based on one hearing of this one episode of The Price of Happiness, the Kate Fox persona I perceived was different from the one I have heard live.   Live Kate is freer, quicker, expects the audience to keep up with her in more of a lively fashion, expects the audience to be more imaginative and unshockable.  BBC Kate sounds very slightly inhibited (duh – almost as if she were appearing on the BBC).  One of the reasons I will be listening to more of her programmes is to try to detect moments where BBC Kate tips over into Live Kate.

On the subject of performance poets on the radio, there is a rumour that I may be re-appearing on Phoenix FM, broadcast from Halifax, in July.

 

iamhyperlexic reacts to the recent attacks in Manchester and London

It was never my intention to make this an explicitly political blog, but something has happened recently that I feel the need to respond to.  If I respond here, it saves me time and effort on social media.

The thing that I need to respond to is not the attacks in Manchester and London themselves, but the reaction of someone on my Facebook timeline to those attacks.

The people on my Facebook timeline, in the aftermath of a terrorist incident, tend to fall into three categories: 1. The majority, whose concerns are humanitarian, who worry about the people affected, including not just the public, but the people who work in the emergency services; lament the conditions that seem to have led to the attack, and fervently hope that something can be done to improve things.  Call these people naive if you insist, but, if the world is going to improve, these are the people who are going to bring about that improvement.  2. The minority (among, as I said, my Facebook timeline) who want somebody shot, or hanged, or tortured, or whatever: the stale, cartoonish, right-wing, knee-jerk reaction.  I have reduced this body down to about 2 or 3, and I only maintain those for personal reasons, which need not concern us, here.  3. Neither of the above.  This is the category that concerns this blog post.

The person whose post I am engaged in repudiating is an atheist.  I am also an atheist.  It remains to be seen during the course of this dispute how similar our atheism makes us.

When he says, ‘Members of so-called Islamic State ARE Muslims too, despite denials by some Muslims and some on the left,’ I completely disagree with him.

I live in West Yorkshire, where there are a lot of Muslims, most of whom were born in the United Kingdom.  I spent 12 years working in the IT industry, in Leeds.  During that time, I worked in teams where 50 per cent or more of the members were Muslims of South Asian origin, usually, but not always, male, and, usually, but not always, born in the United Kingdom.

These Muslims hate Al Qaeda and ISIS more than I do.  They hate them for all the same reasons that I do, plus the fact that they are personally worried about the destabilisation of the communities and businesses that they and their parents have worked so painstakingly to create.

These Muslims also hate the government of Saudi Arabia.  The very idea of not allowing women to vote, or drive, or occupy political office, or run businesses, is something they find utterly ridiculous.  These Muslim husbands, if their wives had a good business idea, would not think, “This is proscribed by the Quran”.  They would think, “This might put us on an earner”.

I am a white, British man who grew up in the Jewish part of North East Leeds.  Between me, and the Muslims of West Yorkshire: we eat the same curries and kebabs; we are addicted to the same kinds of sport; we attended the same universities; we work in the same companies; we are concerned about the same kind of political issues.  Apart from the practice of Islam itself, the only things that we don’t have in common are the consumption of alcohol, and – possibly – attitudes towards homosexuality.  The last one is, in my experience, academic.

I have socialised with Irish people who were openly sympathetic to the IRA.  I have never met a single British Muslim whose reaction to Al Qaeda and ISIS was anything other than revulsion.

The last conversation I had with a British Muslim, a few hours ago, wasn’t about the atrocities in Manchester, or London.  It was about cricket.