Dear Aggrieved of England

Look, I understand. Tomorrow’s referendum has got you all upset/agitated/twitchy/unsettled/downrightbloodyfurious (delete as applicable). Some of you are looking at Scotland, which has had the Scottish parliament for several years, and now might (but probably won’t) vote to leave the UK tomorrow, and you want an English parliament. Well, if you want one, you can have one. Here’s what to do:


  • get off your backsides and work for one
  • set up political parties whose aims include an English parliament and vote for their candidates to become MPs
  • join existing political parties and persuade them to include an English parliament in their manifestos
  • vote against the parties who are not supportive of an English parliament
  • march, campaign, lobby, vote, march, campaign, lobby, vote
  • persuade others to do the same
  • keep doing this for anywhere between 50 and 300 years

Then, when you have done that for long enough, you will have enough MPs at Westminster who will vote for the establishment of an English parliament, and someone will propose a bill, and it will be passed and then it will happen.

Just like how Scotland did it.


Phones 4U – not surprised at all

In 2009, I sent this email to Phones 4U customer service




Dear Sir or Madam


Phone number xxx

IMEI xxx

Repair xxx

Repairs Team xxx

Some other ref xxx


I purchased an LG phone from Phones 4 U telesales earlier this year – round about March or April I think. In mid-November the phone broke. I contacted Phones 4 U They said they had no record of me. After 10 minutes of searching, during which I had to give my name, DOB, address, mobile number, mother’s maiden name, inside leg measurement, make and model of fridge and promise to send them my first-born if and when I have one, they found me. They told me to contact Orange and claim it on insurance. I contacted Orange. Orange said “but it’s under warranty, here’s your fault code, go back to P4U.”

I rang P4U. They said they had no record of me. After 15 minutes of searching, during which I had to give my name, DOB, address, mobile number, mother’s maiden name, brother’s height, list my last 4 hair colours, inside leg measurement, make and model of fridge and promise to send them my first-born if and when I have one, they found me. They agreed to send out a bag so I could send the phone in, and told me it would take about 10 days. I sent the phone in to the repair centre on the 20th of November. They logged it in on 24th Nov.

I used the online repair tracking service to check what was happening. Since 4th December it said “not a p4u unit asking for cat a or valid pop.” On 9th December I got fed up of that and rang them. They said P4U can’t confirm I bought the phone from them so I have to send them proof of purchase. I rang P4U to find out why you are saying I didn’t get the phone from you. They said they had no record of me. After 20 minutes of searching, during which I had to give my name, DOB, address, mobile number, neighbour’s best friend’s cat’s name, mother’s maiden name, brother’s height, list my last 4 hair colours, describe my ideal night out, inside leg measurement, make and model of fridge and promise to send them my first-born if and when I have one, they found me. Then they said it was my fault for phoning the wrong number. I said I’d phoned the number on the website. Then they asked me which shop I’d taken the phone into. I said I’d never been in a P4U shop in my life, I’d bought the phone via telesales and arranged the repair over the phone. That appeared to blow her mind and she had to speak to a manager. Then I had to go to work so we agreed that she would ring back and leave a message telling me what was going on. When I got in, I found a message saying she’d got her manager to ring them and confirm I got the phone from them and it would all be ok. When I checked the online repair tracking and it says “spoke to Carly from HO and confirmed it is a P4U phone, spoke to Agnes who advised me that Becky Barker is the only person who can confirm it is or it is not P4U handset and advised that to Carly” – so P4U were telling me it was ok, and the repair centre were saying it wasn’t.

During subsequent phone calls throughout the remainder of that week, I was told that Becky Barker had notified the repair centre that the handset is a P4U handset, then I was told that she was going to notify them, then that she had. Then I was told the proof of purchase had been posted to me on the 10th. It still hasn’t arrived. Yesterday I was told that the repair centre are still waiting for proof of purchase although last week I was told Becky Barker had confirmed it’s a P4 U handset. The person I spoke to at the repairs centre yesterday said he would email P4U to find out what’s going on and phoned back today to say that P4U had told the repair centre again that they have no record of me getting the phone from P4U and that I’d have to pay for the repair.

So today I phoned P4U again. I was told that everything else I’ve been told up till now is nonsense, Becky Barker can’t confirm I bought the phone from P4U, I have to wait for the proof of purchase which still hasn’t been sent out because nobody in your godforsaken incompetent organisation realised the phone was bought from telesales rather than a shop – apparently your system can’t cope with that. I have made it clear time and time again that the phone was bought from telesales, not a shop. P4U are refusing to send the proof of purchase direct to the repair centre claiming “data protection” which is absolute nonsense – I have given permission for P4U to do so, I have begged them to do so, but they won’t. I have asked them to fax me the proof of purchase, they won’t. I have asked them to email me the proof of purchase, but they won’t. I have asked them to send the proof of purchase recorded delivery to my work address but they won’t. I can’t even begin to understand why I need to send a proof of purchase to the repair centre for a phone which was sent to them in an official Phones 4U repair envelope. Do the repair centre think I counterfeited an envelope and repair form to scam a free repair?

The customer “service” I have had from Phones 4 U has been absolutely appalling. Nobody seems to be able to cope with the fact the phone was bought from telesales. Nobody communicates with anyone else. Nobody communicates with me. I’ve spent hours on the phone chasing this up, nobody from your end has initiated anything. People tell me Becky Barker has confirmed proof of purchase, then they say she hasn’t but she will, then they say she has, they they say she can’t. People use data protection laws as an excuse for lazy, sloppy service. Last week I was told proof of purchase was on its way, today I’m told it hasn’t been sent yet. There isn’t a hope in hell of me getting the phone back before Christmas. Nobody will acknowledge the service has been terrible and try and sort it out – you could fax me the proof of purchase, or email it, or send it direct to the repairs centre, or spend a tiny little bit of your profits and send it to me recorded delivery so it gets to me tomorrow, but you won’t.

It’s absolutely bloody awful. I can’t believe you think this is acceptable customer service.

Here is how I want this resolved.

I want you to send my proof of purchase to the repair centre immediately, and instruct them to repair the phone under warranty. I want the phone delivered securely to my work address (given) rather than my home address by no later than Monday 21st December. I want compensation for the month I will have been without use of the phone and I want to be reimbursed for the time and money I have spent on the phone to you. If you can’t do that, you can send me a new handset equivalent to or better than the broken one, and I want an apology for the shoddy, lazy, incompetent customer service I have been the victim of. I don’t want excuses. I don’t want to hear “data protection doesn’t let us” – I want my phone back, fixed, or I want a new phone.


And that is why a) I am sorry for everyone at Phones 4U who is about to lose their job but not at all surprised, and b) I have never used Phones 4U since.

Labour Pains, Labour of Love

Originally posted on :

Labour: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Where did it all go wrong? (Photo: Ian Jones)

by Irvine Welsh

When I think back to how the Scottish independence debate has evolved in terms of my personal journey, I can see it in three distinct phases. The first was best expressed by the bitter and ugly sentiment “it’s all the English’s fault.” This guff was fairly ubiquitously trumpeted when I was a kid, and largely sustained, I believe, by an infantile football mentality. I was always unmoved by this idiocy: nobody was going to tell me that my cousins in Wolverhampton or Aunt in West London were in any way culpable for our circumstances north of the border. In retrospect, the ban on the annual Scotland v England match was the best thing that ever happened to the debate, it helped folk think a little more clearly. When ‘politics’ is mixed up with football, the end result is…

View original 3,145 more words

What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege

Originally posted on A Little More Sauce:

The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”

I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than…

View original 1,639 more words

Fringe Reviews 2014: Pam Ayres

First show of the year for me was Pam Ayres at the Assembly Rooms. For those of you who are under 40, Pam Ayres won Opportunity Knocks (a 70s Britain’s Got Talent) with her comedy poetry. Since then she’s had a successful career as a poet, writer, songwriter and presenter. Her poems are generally about everyday life and they seem quite simple although really they’re very clever.

This show is a mixture of Pam sharing anecdotes, reading passages from her autobiography and reciting her poems. She had the audience in stitches with her description of how the teenage Pam tried so hard to look like Dusty Springfield, in yellow lipstick.

There’s not much to say about it really – it’s warm and funny and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Guest post- “The public have no right to know”: how the Morning Star threatened to sack me for reporting domestic violence allegations

Originally posted on Another angry woman:

This is a guest post by Rory McKinnon. Content warning for domestic violence. It is published with permission of the survivor.

My name’s Rory MacKinnon, and I’ve been a reporter for the Morning Star for three years now. It’s given me a lot of pride to see how readers and supporters believe so strongly in the paper, from donating what cash they can to hawking it in the streets on miserable Saturdayafternoons. I was proud to represent a “broad paper of the left”, as my editor Richard Bagley always put it: a paper that saw feminism, LGBTQ issues, racial politics and the like as integral to its coverage of class struggle.

It’s for this reason that I thought I would have my editor’s support in following up domestic violence allegations against the Rail, Maritime and Transport union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley. Instead the Morning Star’s management threatened me…

View original 1,273 more words

Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014

I enjoyed the London 2012 Olympics so much, and I don’t think a month has gone by since then that I haven’t thought “I miss the Olympics.” So when the tickets for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games went on sale, I was keen to see as much as I could get tickets for (within what I could afford, which wasn’t as much as I would have liked).

The Big G

Sadly for me, I couldn’t get tickets for the diving, which is a) my favourite and b) being held less than a ten-minute walk away from where I live. We couldn’t get track cycling either, but we did get one session of badminton, one session of athletics and one session of netball. Then one of my cousins who lives a couple of hundred miles away let me know they had decided not to attend, and she sent me all her tickets to dispose of. I used one set of athletics tickets, sold another set (and gave the money to my cousin) and I still have a pair of badminton tickets for Friday, if anyone wants them.

On Saturday we went to the badminton at the Emirates Arena. Before it started we amused ourselves by trying to name the countries represented by all the flags around the venue; we did better once we realised they were in alphabetical order.

Badminton Commonwealth Nations Flags

I’ve never played or watched badminton, and know next to nothing about it, but I enjoyed every minute of it. There were four courts active during the session, and it’s pretty difficult to concentrate on four matches at once. We were a bit too far away to comfortably watch the Scotland games, so I concentrated on watching the country of my birth.

Badminton, 26/07/14

Badminton, 26/07/14

We were watching a mixed team session. Each country had to win the best of five games, made up of a mixed doubles game, a solo men’s game, a solo women’s game, a men’s doubles game and a women’s doubles games. As soon as a team has won three of the five games, their session is over, so if a country won its first three games, it wouldn’t have to play the other two, or it might go to four or the full five games. Singapore got through, and although Scotland put up a very strong fight, they weren’t good enough to beat eventual champions Malaysia.

Malaysia v Scotland

Badminton played at this level is incredibly fast, and the players are astonishingly agile and athletic. It was a great evening.

Monday was a long day. We had our own athletics tickets for the morning session, and my cousin’s tickets for the evening session. We spent the time in between eating a somewhat pathetic picnic scraped together from what was left in the big ASDA at Hampden, and sunbathing. (Dear ASDA, if you are the only supermarket near to a venue which is hosting major sporting events all day, please order a lot more sandwiches than you usually do, and keep restocking them through the day. Kthnxbye).

Our seats for both sessions were more or less behind the hammer-throwing cage so we had an excellent view of the hammer and discus events. I must admit, if I was watching athletics on the telly and hammer throwing came on, I’d probably stop paying attention, but watching it live was compelling. One of the nicest things about the Commonwealth Games is that the para sport is on at the same time as the mainstream sport. I know people think that it would be too difficult to do for the Olympics because it would just be too big, but for the Commonwealth Games, it works really well.

One of the things I most enjoyed on Monday was a men’s para discus final. I think it was T42-44 – it was for athletes with lower limb amputations. Most of the competitors wore prosthetic legs but Richard Okigbazi managed to balance on one leg and still get enough oomph to win bronze. I don’t want to sound like one of those “oh, the para athletes are so inspiring” wankers, but seeing someone manage to throw a discus on one leg was one of the most incredible sporting things I’ve ever seen.

Richard OkigbaziRichard Okigbazi throwing for bronzeOne of the nicest things was how generous and appreciative the crowd were. Obviously the UK nations got the most support, but the whole crowd were genuinely cheering for other nations too – not in that “we’re clapping politely because we have to” sort of way, but with genuine pleasure at seeing people do well. The decathlon was going on throughout the day, at the other end of the stadium from where we were, and the crowd was cheering for everyone who managed to get over the bar in the high jump. There was a real sense of joy and delight at seeing athletes doing well and achieving new – er, achievements. Biggest cheer of the day was for Scot Libby Clegg who got gold in women’s para 100m, but pretty much everything was greeted with huge applause, and standing ovations for every gold winner’s lap of honour, as well as for the silver/bronze medal winners who walked around the track, and, really, for any athlete who had completed their event and walked around the edge of the stadium. Lots of the athletes stopped to high-five kids and give autographs, and not just the winners, the losing competitors too. Monday was a very long day – we left the flat just before 8am and didn’t get back until just before 1am on Tuesday. Of course, that didn’t stop the cat waking us up and demanding food at 6am. Even though there was food in his bowl.

Yesterday we went to the SECC to watch the netball. I hated all sport at school but once I left school and started 6th form I played netball for a local league. We weren’t great but we enjoyed it. I was thinking about getting back into it until I knackered my hip – it’d be too high impact for me now. I’ve only ever played at a very basic level, and I was even struggling to remember all the rules. Watching it played at this level was an education in what sport can be like when people are really really good at it. We saw South Africa v Wales (Wales got gubbed)

South Africa v Walesand Malawi v Scotland (Scotland got gubbed).

Malawi v ScotlandI really enjoyed watching people play with competence and some idea what they were doing. I could see clearly how the Malawi (in particular) were able to anticipate, and position themselves so as to make space and create opportunities. Netball at this level is fast and skilful, and deserves more respect than it usually gets. The Malawi goal shooter, I think her name is Mwayi Kumwenda, was particularly good.

Unfortunately, that was the last of our Commonwealth Games trips. I feel quite sad we won’t be there to see any more, though to be honest I’m knackered and glad of a few lazy days before I go back to work next week.

From what I’ve seen, the Games are very well organised. They’ve clearly thought hard and put a lot of work into the public transport arrangements, and it worked very smoothly for the three venues we attended. Security checks were quick and thorough – airport-style screening machines, but the armed forces personnel doing the screening were much friendlier and pleasanter than any airport security staff I’ve ever dealt with. All of the volunteers we saw or spoke to were friendly, polite and eager to help, as were the train and station staff. My one gripe, and it’s a pretty big one, was the venue food. At the Emirates, I bought a cheese ploughman’s sandwich, nothing special, just a triangular packet of cheese sandwich with pickle and a bit of tomato, for £4, and a ham and cheese for £4.50, plus a bottle of water, a bottle of Irn Bru, two muffins and two caramel logs. Total? £19.40. That was the last vegetarian sandwich they had, so if we’d been any later, I’d have been going hungry. At Hampden, there was a choice of fried food, fried food, extortionately-priced anaemic falafel wraps, £1 pieces of fruit, £2 bars of chocolate, pies or fried food. We gave up at the SECC and took sandwiches. Scotland has a huge problem with dietary related ill-health, and lack of exercise ill-health. If they’re hoping that the legacy of the Games will be better health in Scotland they could at least have tried to set an example with cheaper, healthier food. The pricey, unhealthy food is the one thing I think they’ve really got wrong with this Games (well, that and the embarrassing opening ceremony). Even the lowest-achieving athlete here would baulk at a meal of potato wedges and a £2 giant Twix washed down with fizzy mango juice – why should spectators be fobbed off with that? They could have put a bit of thought into it and showcased cheap, tasty, healthy food from all the Commonwealth countries – it would have been much more inspirational than pies and burgers, even if they did have haggis in them.

On the whole though, we had an amazing 3 days at the Games. If I had more money I’d have loved to have gone to more sessions of any number of different sports. As it is, I’ll be spending the rest of the week glued to the telly to watch the diving! Well done Glasgow – and if any of the volunteers/transport staff/police etc see this post, thank you so much for the hard work you have put into the Games – we really do appreciate it.