James Cleverley doesn’t live up to his name (part 3452)

The Home Secretary wants to make it harder to hold a demonstration, calling for longer notice periods for larger marches. He wants a quick response to government failure or international outrage to be impossible.

He also said that he didn’t think there should be any more marches against the genocide in Gaza, as they’ve ‘made their point’. Which is a stupid argument. As long as civilians are being bombed and starved- and this country isn’t doing anything to stop it- the point hasn’t got through, and needs to be made over and over again.


An open letter to ‘Gender Critical’ Greens

For a few months, I’ve been arguing on Facebook with ‘Gender Critical’ Green Party members. It’s hard to fit my thoughts into the restricted space of a Facebook post (and I’ll probably still miss stuff out in this extended format), what follows is addressed to them, in an attempt to explain my position-

I’m a middle aged, white, cis man, from a middle class background. I’m a little bit bi, so I do have some skin in the game, but most of my opposition to your stance comes from basic empathy and having read enough history to know where this could go.

Your language and logic is full of tropes lifted from right wing talking points and the moral panics of previous generations. You’ve thrown out unexplained (likely unexplainable) references to postmodernism, critical theory and the like, as well as that boogeyman beloved of the empty headed reactionary- Cultural Marxism. All to try to justify your opposition to the terror of ‘trans ideology’- something with even less substance than all your other words.

Being trans is lived reality for millions around the world. It’s not an ideology, it’s a fact. Proportionally, the trans population is tiny, but over the last few years, prejudice against them has ramped up. They’re almost up there with immigrants now as the most popular scapegoats of Tories and Republicans.

Something that is an ideology is your beloved protected Gender Critical belief. It’s the ideology the Tories and Republicans use to justify proposed and actual laws designed to persecute trans people. It’s been the driver of at least one murder in the UK, and doubtless many more worldwide. GC ideologues have talked about how their world would be so much better if they could just get rid of trans people. They have drawn the support of neo-nazis.

You’re going to tell me that you don’t agree with those people, that you’re not like them. But you’re lying. You’ve cited Linehan to support your points. You stand with JK Rowling. You’ve demanded support for the LGB Alliance. And those are just the examples I can think of off the top of my head.

I was going to be generous, and say that the line between Gender Critical belief and rabid transphobia is so fine it’s basically invisible. But I’m not even sure there is a line. You hold a belief that makes you think less of a group of people because of how they were born. That belief makes you think it would be acceptable to place restrictions on their freedoms. You may not say the quiet part out loud- even to yourself- but you occupy ideological space with the absolute worst of our politicians.

That is why I think you don’t belong in the Green Party. We’re a progressive organisation, and you’re trying to force regressive beliefs on us.

I plan to waste less of my time on you from now on. I’ll still call you out when you deserve it and I’m feeling feisty, but I’m going to spend more time on positive actions. Be proud for yourselves for that at least- you’ve inspired me.

There’s still a version of my trans kids and allies vs the terfs novel that needs to be written. I may try to break the writer’s block on what I’ve got so far, or it could need a whole new start, but I will keep trying.

More immediately, I have signed up to do Miles for Mermaids in March. I’ve committed to put in at least 100 miles on my bike whilst raising money for a charity that supports trans kids and their families. Thanks for getting me off my arse and back to improving my health and bank balance by cycling to work. Click here to chip in and do your bit as well.

Talking to yourself

When I’m alone, and sometimes when I’m not, my inner speech becomes outer speech as I think my way through problems and action plans. That voice in your head is now being studied by philosophers as psychologists have found limits to their understanding of it.


Is India carrying out assassination abroad

It’s alleged that Indian intelligence operatives (or assassins hired by them) have been targeting Sikh activists abroad. The cases cited in this report were in Canada and the USA, but if it’s been happening there, it’s happened in other countries too.

Foreign kill teams on the streets is definitely thriller material, but I don’t think India’s religious turmoil is the background most script writers would run with.


All I Want for Christmas is a New Government

From a throwaway tweet over lunch on Tuesday-

I came home and had a play in Inkscape, and here’s the result. If you want to tell Santa what you want, the design is available on a wide variety of products at Redbubble.

The trick to sticking to a project every day—for years

I’m trying out a new to-do list. It’s the first page of a spreadsheet I’m filling with projects, which will be broken down into the tasks involved as I start them. It means I’ll always have a list of things to work on, and when I’m done, I can cross the job off. Every Sunday (more often on really productive weeks), I mark the completed jobs and print out a new version of the sheet.

I don’t know how this would marry up with the advice in the linked article, but I’ll take it on board as well. You can’t finish any projects unless you start them, and the best way to progress is to commit to keep working in them, even if it is only a little every day.


Books for the weekend

Night & Fog 1 cover image

Night & Fog 1: The March is available on Amazon today. An action sci-fi novelette, it’s more space pop song than space opera.

In the dying days of planetary occupation, the invaders have marched prisoners into the barely explored interior of the main continent.

Tren, an Aurzi, has escaped the march, only to be left in arid wasteland with little chance of survival. Until human mercenaries offer a way out, and to rescue the rest of the marchers.

Kettled cover image

The Tories are in Manchester for their conference, so it’s a good time to remind you of Kettled (also available at Smashwords and elsewhere).

The Tories are in Manchester, and thousands have turned out to protest their presence.

In the midst of the peaceful protest, a small group of hired troublemakers are planning to cause trouble. They want to start a riot, to distract from the demo’s message, and usher in new laws.

Irwin has been working with an MI5 agent to track them down before they can do any damage. But now, she has been stabbed, and he is trapped in a big crowd being held on a square by Police. Just the right place to start a fight.

With the reluctant help of Kay Wood, Irwin must track down the troublemakers before it’s too late, and find out who stabbed the MI5 agent.

Another Summer of Hate 8

Gary gave the motor a little blast of electricity, and used the torque to help pull up the front wheel. He pushed his torso up and forwards, and managed to get the back wheel into the air. It still tapped the edge of the curb, but he was getting better at these high speed bunny hops. Swinging back off the pavement, he caught some air and threaded between bollards.

The next delivery was by the chippy. There wasn’t a deadline, this wasn’t a video game, but he liked to push himself and get a bit better every time out. Like with the bunny hops. A right turn, then angle left, and he had another to do. It was a taller curb, and he whacked the wheel harder this time. Not enough to buckle the wheel, but he didn’t want to do it too often.

His customers were obvious, standing by the chip shop’s side door, hoods up and shoulders hunched against the drizzle. He angled across the car park, pulling a ragged stoppie as he drew up to them. It was only as he reached into his jacket for the bag that it began to feel wrong. They weren’t looking at him, eager to get the deal done, but scanning the surroundings.

The taller one reached out, real quick, and pushed Gary back. He kept pushing until Gary’s legs tangled in the bike frame, and he went over. His shoulders hit the concrete. He had tensed for it, but still his head cracked against the ground as well. Everything went unpleasantly bright.

The tall one was over him now, pinning him to the ground while the small one went through his pockets. “Tell that cunt Lee not to take the piss. He steals our business, we’ll steal his shit.” he hissed as he pulled out bags and cash. When he’d pocketed it all, he stood. The kick he swung at Gary’s chest was almost an afterthought. “Next time I bring a knife, yeah?”

Another Summer of Hate 7

Peter had provided copies of paperwork from the Family Court. His ex-wife’s transphobia, projected in the ways she treated their son, had been so bad that Peter had won primary custody, with her only seeing her son under supervision.

It had been bearable for a while. Then she had tried to drag Miles out of a fire exit, with a car waiting outside. Her accomplices had sped away, never identified, as a care centre employee intervened, and she had avoided being charged. But that was when father and son had moved halfway up the country. Whether they could truly start anew was a big question. Irwin was going to do what he could to help.

He had done some research before meeting Peter and Miles, getting an overview of the state of the ‘trans debate’. One side effect of diving in was that he had seen the word groomer more times in the last few days than in the rest of his life combined. Shorthand for child groomer, the baseless accusation was thrown out by Gender Critical activists- and a lot of sock puppet accounts- all over social media. Trans people were groomers. Drag queens were groomers. Parents of trans children were groomers. Anyone who supported trans people was a groomer. You were a groomer if you expressed no opinion on transgender issues or didn’t wholeheartedly agree with the bigotry aimed at trans people.

It was ludicrous, and would be comical if it weren’t simultaneously so dangeous. Irwin had tracked extremism whilst with MI6 and studied historical examples of a deadly idea taking hold of a population, hatred building until it boiled over into violence. Genocides didn’t start with mass murder. They began with whispered hatred, insinuations about a particular minority. With increasing volume, and decreasing subtlety, the out group became the focus of more and stronger vitriol. They were blamed for ever more of the problems they had nothing to do with. Politicians used them as a distraction from their failings, promising harsh treatment and punitive laws.

Somewhere along the slide to fascism, people started to die. Irwin hadn’t realised they were already at that stage until he started researching. There had been homophobic attacks in London and elsewhere. People in the United States had been shot because they dared to fly a Pride flag. Politicians in multiple countries were running on culture wars narratives, and putting in place bathroom bans and trans sporting restrictions when they could get away with it.

It was no wonder that Peter was worried what might happen to Miles if his mother tracked him down.

The new information from Peter gave some more specific people and groups to look into. It was unlikely to be any more pleasant than wading through the sea of hate, but it would help narrow the focus to more immediate threats. Peter’s ex had made most of her social media private after the court case, only popping up occasionally to make saccharine posts about missing her little girl and how sad it was when relationships broke down. The mask slipped occasionally, letting some transphobic meme through, but she was clever enough not to use some of the more extreme versions Irwin had seen.

This limited public engagement still gave Irwin a way in, though. Each of these people had their own presence and links, and Irwin started to build a network map from those. A number of tools helped, crawling through post histories to make the connections and creating heat map diagrams of the most prolific users of chosen phrases. This sifted out the merely obnoxious and focused on the obsessed. Some of them were present across multiple platforms, giving him even more to work with. Two, maybe three, he was sure he could match to names in the information Peter had given him.

Luckily, most of them hadn’t heard of VPNs, or knew anything about security basics. When they weren’t openly yelling about where they were, their phones and laptops tagged posts and pictures. There was a cluster in Surrey, which correlated with Peter’s old home and his ex-wife’s presumed location. An even larger grouping near Brighton looked like one human and a lot of sockpuppets on investigation. The spread of the rest roughly matched population density. Which meant there were some in Manchester. He could track their location over time, and one of them had only recently arrived in the city. The current location wasn’t precise, but it matched part of Peter’s background information too closely to be ignored.

Irwin dialled the number he had been given for Peter’s brother.

Night & Fog 1: The March

Book One of the Night & Fog series.

In the dying days of planetary occupation, the invaders have marched prisoners into the barely explored interior of the main continent.

Tren, an Aurzi, has escaped the march, only to be left in arid wasteland with little chance of survival. Until human mercenaries offer a way out, and to rescue the rest of the marchers.

Available from Amazon.

Another Summer of Hate 6

Another Summer of Hate, other projects, and exclusive posts, are available early for supporters of my Patreon for as little as £1 a month.

I’m cheating a little here. The Mouse Organ gang were created for one of those projects I got distracted and walked away from. When I realised I needed at least one more thread for Another Summer of Hate, I remembered them and dug out the file. In the final chronology, this bit is going to slot in earlier, whilst I’m establishing all the characters. But that’s for future drafts.

All the crockery behind the coffee bar rattled as the train passed overhead. Jon scanned the four clocks behind the bar, then poked his phone until it woke up and told him the time. The train had been late, but the clock for New York was running slow as well.

It was almost time for the last, small, rush of customers. The Mouse Organ lived in a tall and deep railway arch under the viaduct between Salford Central and Manchester Victoria stations. Down the hill and across the river from Manchester’s Crown and Civil courts, they had regulars from all the solicitors’ offices who dropped in on their way home from work, to grab a coffee and unwind. Most of them were single, and home was a one bed flat and whatever Netflix suggested today. Romances had started because of the early evening mingles, including his own.

Will was on coffee duty, and had just returned with last minute milk. As he busied himself with lining up mugs for the regulars, Jon went back to his job. Sat at the work bench opposite the coffee bar, he was using loops of wire to hang 35mm film slides off a metal ring to make a light shade.

The last slide of the fourth row clipped into place. Jon held the lamp shade out and waved it over the far edge of the tool shelves that the table butted against. “What do you think?”

“Pretty.” a little voice from the other side said.

“Cool. I’ve only got to make another six. If I can find enough slides.”

The regulars started to roll in. Sally was the fifth of the usual crowd to appear. Jon still loved to see her in her business suit, the sharp lines and dark wool contrasted with her pretty heart shaped face. She waved at Will and he picked a particular mug from the ones he had lined up.

Jon spun on his stool and stood to kiss Sally. He didn’t lay his hands on her waist, just in case he had picked up any grease or oil that would do terrible things to Sally’s suit. “Hey there.” said Sally when they parted lips. “Where have you hidden my daughter?”

Jon turned and knocked on the top of the tool shelves, and a moment later the top of a small head- curly black hair pulled back as tidily as its energy would allow- appeared from behind it. “Hello Mum.” the little voice said.

“Hey Nat. What are you doing behind there?”

“I’m putting the tools away. But not the sharp ones.”

“The girl whose room is such a mess is tidying up?”

“This is a job. I’ve been helping make things, so I gotta help put tools away.”

“Are you all oily again?”

“A little.”

“That’s why we got you work clothes, isn’t it.” Jon prompted. “Why don’t you go and get changed while me and your Mum smooch a little?”

“Eeeew! Okay.” Nat walked around the end of the bench. A trip to a charity shop had provided her with work clothes- jeans and a top that was too big for her, the ends of the sleeves rolled up into fat cotton bracelets so that she could stick her hands out. She had the same heart shaped face as her mother, but her skin was a warm mid brown. The front of her top was streaked with oily swatches, some of them the exact size and shape of her hands.

“Good grief, what have you been doing?” Sally asked.

“I’ve been building a bike. Danny says I can have it when it’s done.”

“Really. Don’t you already have a bike?”

“Yes. And I ride it whenever I can. But the one I’m making is super cool.”

“I can’t wait to see it.”

“Here you go darling. Go and get changed.” Jon handed Nat a plastic bag and she skipped off to the toilets to get changed. “Don’t forget to scrub your hands well to get the oil off.” he called after her.

Will waved at Sally and she went to collect her coffee. “You don’t have to get her a bike.” she said when she returned.

“Oh I’m not. She really is building it. Danny got a couple of kid’s bikes thrown in for free by his tame scrappy. He’s been giving her lessons and helping her and she’s been keeping his work space organised so he doesn’t waste half an hour trying to find the right size Allen key. They make a good team.”

Sally smiled, then blew on her coffee before taking a sip. “Thanks for looking after her this week. You’ve been a lifesaver. When Mum had to go look after Uncle Brian I didn’t know what I was going to do. And she’s loved it here. She’s tried to explain everything she’s done, but it just sounds like she’s been under your feet the whole time. I hope she hasn’t caused too much trouble.”

“Not at all. We’ve loved having her here. I think she’s closed a couple of sales just by being cute at customers. And she did a bit of waitressing as well. We’re going to miss her tomorrow.”

“She never mentioned that you made her work. I hope she’s been adequately reimbursed.”

“Well, she is getting a bike.”

Nat came bouncing back from the toilet dressed in a very girly red dress and white stockings with white and red pumps. She’d let her hair loose and it was a crazy spray of tight curls. She didn’t look like she had been wielding hammers and spanners all day. Jon tore a big square of blue paper towelling from the roll and said, “Hold on, come here, you missed a bit.” He carefully wiped a smudge of oil off her cheek.

“Give Jon a hug goodbye. We have to get you to your Nana’s house.” Sally instructed.

Nat reached up to wrap her arms around Jon’s neck and pressed her cheek against his as she closed them tight. He lifted her up off her feet. “You have fun at your Grandma’s. Grandmas always have the best sweets.”

“And you look after Mummy tomorrow when I’m away.”

Sally had an odd expression. When she realised Jon was trying to read it, she flashed a smile. Jon lowered Nat to the floor and Sally kissed him lightly on the lips. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.” She handed over her half empty cup of coffee then took her daughter’s hand. “Come on then, let’s see what Nana’s made for us.”

As they headed for the door, Nat waved at Will. “Bye bye Will! Bye bye Danny!”

Will waved back and, from the rear of the big arched space a voice called out, “Bye Nat!”

Another Summer of Hate 5

This, and more, is available first to supporters of my Patreon page.

Spoiler- Nelson is irredeemably stupid. It’s a combination of learnt and chosen stupidity. He may have been indoctrinated by his church, but faced with reality being in opposition to his beliefs, he has decided to double down and find ever more convoluted explanations for his nonsense. I see this a lot from the Satan Hunters and TERFs that have inspired Nelson. His thought process isn’t that different to theirs, I’m just playing it up for dramatic and satirical effect.

It was raining in Summer, and had been doing so for most of a month. So much for Climate Change.

Stakeouts were all about waiting and watching, often for long periods where nothing happened. Nelson was using this one to think about all the nonsense in the world.

The irregular drumming of heavy raindrops on the tarp had made him think about the weather. If they couldn’t get it right about tomorrow, how could they possibly predict for years away.

Covid was another example. It had been a made up scare, to test governments’ ability to control their people. So many had fallen for it it was embarrassing.

Some would say it all started with 9/11, but Nelson knew better than that. All of these scares and lies were part of long war- the eternal fight between good and evil, the power of the Lord Jesus against the dark armies of Satan. His Church had laid the foundations of his understanding of this grand picture, but his own research had shown him how aberrations like feminism, homosexual liberation and now the transgender cult were all part of Beelzebub’s plans to push humanity ever further from The Truth.

Water had found its way inside his hide. He had been trying to ignore the dampness creeping up his right leg, but it hadn’t stopped. He couldn’t rearrange the setup in daylight. Even in this rain, it was possible he might be spotted. So he would have to put up with it until the sun set.

The rain kept on falling, and the drip began to become a pool under his sin. But he kept himself warm and distracted by listing all the ways that progress was a tool of the Devil.

More and larger conservation parks are needed

A study has shown that conservation areas can effectively boost biodiversity outside the area they cover as well as inside. However, this works best for larger parks, and smaller ones can have little to no impact on surrounding areas.


Another Summer of Hate 4

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One of the things about first drafts is realising that a bit belongs somewhere else in the story. This should really go before part 3, mostly because I changed that bit to night time after I started it, and partly because the last line of this feeds into it quite well.

This is another info-dumpy piece as well, with possibly more Irwin lore than I’ve put in all the previous Rain & Bullets stories combined. Again, later drafts will probably prune this and feed relevant information out in smaller chunks elsewhere.

Miles’s partner in climb was called Fouzia. Fearless as she had been tackling obstacles in the gym, she became shy and self conscious when introduced to a new adult. Her father shook Peter’s hand and commented that most of the other boys didn’t like to climb with a girl, which made Miles a true gentleman. Miles’s grin was so wide his head might explode.

Irwin watched the exchange in glances up from his phone. He had done some background digging the night before, but Peter had added extra details and background. A few more names went into a spreadsheet, to be run through the many open source intelligence sites Irwin had access to, and crawled for across social media. The boring work of spycraft, and hopfully this little favour for his old boss would stay that way

His work for MI6 had primarily been data analysis, working with information gleaned by others or skimmed from the dark corners of the web. The one time Irwin had gone out in the field for MI6, he had ended up on the wrong end of a knife. It was mostly luck that meant he was alive to feel the ache of the sliced muscle in his shoulder when the nights got cold. It had been the optional training he had taken with ex-SAS men that meant his attacker was dead.

A simple sting operation in Berlin had turned into a double cross. Irwin’s survival, and the work he did from his hospital bed digging into the corruption in German intelligence, had earned him an early retirement, enemies, and a very rare dispensation to carry a firearm in the United Kingdom. It was harder to carry the Glock discreetly in warmer weather, so he was channeling Bond, and had a Walther in a holster inside his trouser waistband. It looked like he had a large and clumsy wallet and could be uncomfortable when he sat for too long. He had stopped carrying even that smaller gun, until the message from The Jedi dragged up old memories and trauma.

He had seen more action and danger since leaving the service than he had whilst in it. Almost every time, it had started with a call from Jeremy Simpson- known as ‘Jed The Jedi’ for his unnerving ability to judge the motivations and emotions of others. The pair of them had made a vow some time ago that they would use their skills to help those the intelligence services and, increasingly, the Police, didn’t seem to care about. Then they had forgotten about it when opportunities to play Robin Hood hadn’t popped up. This job fit the rough outline of their proposed crusade, but was primarily a family thing for the Jedi.

The brief was simple. Do an assessment of the risk, if any, that Peter’s estranged wife and her transphobic grandstanding presented to him and Miles. Then tighten security and teach father and son any appropriate tradecraft. That latter part should be almost too easy. What eleven year old boy wouldn’t want to play at spy?

Pete exchanged phone numbers with Fouzia’s father, Hamid, and there was talk of play dates, the other events put on by the gym, and rock climbing in a repurposed church. When Hamid and Fouzia left, Peter guided his son to the table. “This is Irwin.” he said. “He’s going to help us get settled in.”

“How?” Miles asked, sizing up the stranger.

“I know all the best value furniture shops. But I specialise in security, so I’ll be working on the burglar alarms.” Both statements were true, though Irwin had not intended to volunteer as a personal shopper.

“And making sure Mum doesn’t find us?”


“But it’s true, isn’t it? I heard what she said about me. I heard what her friends were calling you.” Miles had grasped his father’s wrist, his stance protective, bristling with anger a child shouldn’t have to feel toward a parent.

Before the silence became uncomfortable, Irwin admitted, “I can help with that, yes. I have some experience.”

“Good.” Miles couldn’t maintain the anger much longer. “Are you a Policeman, then?”

“No, but I know some Police.” Irwin’s main Police contact didn’t hate him, but was never happy about the trouble he tended to bring whenever he called her.

“A bodyguard? I know, you’re a spy.”

Irwin simply smiled. Miles grinned back. Now he knew a spy, and the excitement about that could lessen the worries about his situation.

“Right. Time to get you home. I bet you’re starving.” Peter announced.

“Can we have noodles? I really want noodles the way you do them with chicken and an egg.”

“I think we have the ingredients in.”

“Are you coming for tea Mister Irwin?” Miles asked.

“Not today. But I’ll be visiting soon. I’ve got to find out some information, and I’ve ordered some security bits and pieces.”


They went their separate ways at the main door. Peter and Miles lived within walking distance. Irwin had parked his car around the side of the building. He scanned the area, from force of habit, but nothing registered as suspicious. With luck, this would be how everything stayed.