Poem: The hand that feeds

At the moment you were born
I was there
When you came home from hospital
I was there
When your nappy needed changing
I was there
When you spoke your first word
I was there
When you took your first steps
I was there
When you climbed the shelves to heaven
I was there
When you set off for your playgroup
I was there
When you saw the elephants too
I was there
When you ran in your first sports day
I was there
When you were lost in the cornfield
I was there
When you started out at school
I was there
When you hosed down the meter
I was there
When you stumbled with your words
I was there
When you caught your first ball
I was there
When you ventured first to Scotland
I was there
When every holiday came
I was there
When you caught your first fish
I was there
When you boarded your first ship
I was there
When you ate your first mussels
I was there
When you won your first ribbons
I was there
When the bullies set about you
I was there
When you bought your tartan trews
I was there
When college problems blocked you
I was there
When you needed your first car
I was there
When your fiancée hurt you hard
I was there
When you met your long lost sister
I was there
When you set off for Australia
I was there
When you returned tanned from Brisbane
I was there
When the cops caught you drinking
I was there
When you stood up in the courtroom
I was there
When you moved house yet again
I was there
When you stood as my best man
I was there
When you wanted a place to stay
I was there
When you needed food and clothes
I was there
When we lay your granddad to rest
I was there
When you called out my name
I was there
When you married your sweetheart Claire
You didn’t care

Love

THIS is the fourth and final part of my Back from the Edge series. It is entitled: Love

The Bigger Picture
I may have missed the bigger picture you know I never had a clue
Till you gave me all these wondrous things when I stood next to you
I could take care of the details every minute every day
But I couldn’t read the crystal ball or learn from past mistakes
Or learn from past mistakes
You gave to me my little girl she thinks her Daddy’s cool
But wait till boys come sniffing round and she’s home late from school
Vin says I’ll find another pocket it’ll come out of the blue
You will never have to share this love there will be enough for two – there will be enough for two
Now I’ve reached the big five zero not everything works well
But then it’s been a busy life and I’ve got some tales to tell
But I wish I listened harder and cherished what I found
I wish I kept more photographs and written more things down
And written more things down
But I wouldn’t change a single day well maybe one or two
But we can’t go back and start again that’s not what I would do
(Kieran Halpin, 2007)

AT 45 years old I never expected to become a father again, but there it was, I was a daddy for the fifth time.
In summer 2001 Ruth and I had been together for two years and we had both agreed to put parenthood to one side, at least until we were settled in our new home on Tyneside.
But after her visit to the local family planning clinic to have a contraceptive implant fitted, she came back with the totally unexpected news that she was pregnant.
The pregnancy was complicated with pre-eclampsia and Nathan was born four weeks prematurely by emergency caesarian section on Christmas Eve. He was a tiny mite, weighing in at just 4lb 11 ounces, but he was healthy and within weeks was thriving.
The early months put pressures on our relationship, but we pushed on and grew closer together. In May 2003 Ruth and I married, and later that summer moved into our big family home on South Tyneside.
We seemed to thrive as a family and made our home a real nest and retreat for ourselves and our extended families and friends.
So when I caught Ruth cheating with another man in the autumn of 2005 it was a hammer blow.
By Christmas I had initiated divorce proceedings and in January 2006 moved to North Wales to be close to my sisters and my parents… particularly for my father who was terminally ill with Parkinson’s Disease.
It was an attempt to find sanity and comfort from a world gone horribly wrong, yet again.
Suddenly I was again bereft of a child.
Then the unexpected happened…
Late in March, during one of my regular weekly trips back to Tyneside, Ruth asked me to meet her for a coffee. I reluctantly agreed as I felt intense emotional pain and wanted any divorce discussions to be exclusively between our solicitors. But she said it was important and was to do with Nathan.
So we sat down for coffee in a small bistro in Corbridge.
I was left open-mouthed when she suddenly told me that she thought Nathan should live with me.
She gave many reasons, including the fact that she thought I was the ‘better parent’, but that did not matter… here was my chance to be a real father at last!
I am forever grateful for her trust and bravery.
I discussed Ruth’s proposal with my youngest sister and my parents who all agreed that I should accept the offer.
My sister – who had been a single parent herself some years earlier – warned me that single parenthood was at times a struggle, but its rewards were many.
Nathan had only just celebrated his fourth birthday and I knew immediately that the task was going to be hard for a working man to raise a child, but I was determined to succeed.
So after a successful weeklong trial stay at Easter, Nathan moved to Wales to live with me.
That was eight years ago and I have never looked back.
He was – and still is – my joy, delight and pride.
From the early days of attending his every need such as wiping his bottom, cleaning his teeth and dressing him every morning, life has eased into the current state of pre-teen sulks and a sometimes ‘Kevin and Perry’ personality.
Along the way we have moved house four times, sat together and watched movies on the sofa, had friends for sleepovers and even lay on the lawn one evening to watch bats fly from their roosts.
He has also cared for me when I have been in bed with flu and sat by me in A&E holding my hand following an assault which left a temporal artery gushing blood from my forehead… he was only six years old and told me not to worry because “the doctors will make you better”.
In return I have taken him on bike rides in the local country park, played football and rugby in the garden, gone for walks in the forest and a week long holiday exploring caves and castles in the north of Scotland.
The highlights are too many to recount but top of them has to be him standing by my side last February as my Best Man at my wedding to my wife, Gill.
The pride and smile on his face will stay with me for the rest of my life.
My pride in him is manifold.
At primary school he excelled at almost every subject. He even wrote his first book! I beamed with delight when two teachers told me he was one of the most polite and well-mannered children they had taught.
His personality and confidence blossomed and was capped when he performed in the lead role of Prospero at his school’s production of the Tempest.
On leaving primary school his class teacher said: “I don’t know what I will do without him. I will miss him.”
He carried his enthusiasm for learning on to high school. He was placed in the top set for all his subjects based on his attainment. In his first half term in Year Seven he gained more merit points than any other pupil. He was rewarded by later being made a School Ambassador and given an Oscar at the Christmas award ceremony for being the highest achiever.
He continues to excel and has already gained three Platinum awards for his project work and continues as the top boy in school merit awards.
Outside school he has practised the Korean martial art of Taekwondo for the past four years and is now just two belts away from gaining the coveted Black Belt.
He has recently taken up rugby. In freezing rain and wind I smile and squirm when I see his small body throw itself to tackle boys who are six inches taller and a stone heavier than him. But he loves it.
Now if I can tear him away from his X-Box long enough I need to thank him for being such a wonderful son, thank him for accepting that his parents are divorced and his mum is 200 miles away and finally thank him for loving his step mum Gill.
I also need to tell him I am so proud of him, I love him and he has saved my life by proving I am a good dad and giving me a purpose once more.
The words of Kieran Halpin at the top of this piece ring so true… with each of my children I simply find another pocket of love.
Your pocket, Nathan, is right here by my side.

Denial

Didn’t share on Facebook first time so am reblogging

No Time to Think

THIS is the third instalment of my Back From the Edge quartet and is entitled: Denial.

A Fight for Justice


“We can and do frequently fall out of love with our partners. It is a pain that is impossible to explain when we feel betrayed by someone we once loved, and entirely natural that we feel the desire for revenge. Children, however, only fall out with their best friends but never Mummy, Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa.”
“I cry silently for these children who, through no fault of their own, are forced to grieve unnecessarily.”
EVELYN DOYLE, AUGUST 2003

I AM many things, have many flaws and made many mistakes in my life. I have paid for them all. I have not always been the best partner and have at times been wayward – for which I am truly sorry – but I have always been a good father.
As a…

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Denial

THIS is the third instalment of my Back From the Edge quartet and is entitled: Denial.

A Fight for Justice
“We can and do frequently fall out of love with our partners. It is a pain that is impossible to explain when we feel betrayed by someone we once loved, and entirely natural that we feel the desire for revenge. Children, however, only fall out with their best friends but never Mummy, Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa.”
“I cry silently for these children who, through no fault of their own, are forced to grieve unnecessarily.”
EVELYN DOYLE, AUGUST 2003

I AM many things, have many flaws and made many mistakes in my life. I have paid for them all. I have not always been the best partner and have at times been wayward – for which I am truly sorry – but I have always been a good father.
As a human being I am sometimes quirky and find it hard to tolerate fools, but above all, I am gentle, kind, caring and honest… qualities which those who know me well can confirm.
So what follows has taken many years to get my head around and many months of stalling to begin its telling.
I guess it all began when my second life partner – and the mother of my two middle girls – and I separated in the summer of 1999. We had been together for eight years and despite an at times tempestuous relationship we raised our two daughters with mutual care and love. We also parted amicably.
At the time of the break-up, I was working away in Aberdeen in the North East of Scotland. My ex-partner stayed living with our girls in our family home near Edinburgh. She found another man – a road engineer – very quickly, but that did not play on our emotions too much. We parted on an understanding that I would always have free and equal access to my daughters, Rhia and Shannon. Indeed, my ex said openly: “Don’t worry you will always be able to see the girls. You are their daddy.”
Within a few months she relocated with our girls to a farmstead in the North West of Scotland. A few months later, I heard she had ditched her road engineer in favour of a wealthy computer tech, who also shared her passion for horses. Her new relationship did not appear to unduly change the joint parenting of our daughters.
Despite a great distance between our two homes (a return trip by car of almost eight hours), I maintained good contact with my daughters and, with a couple of exceptions, had them to stay for every school holiday and half term – logistically quite difficult when I was only able to take 25 days holiday a year from work. These visits were supplemented by additional trips to her locale, where I visited the girls in situ and took them out, plus a Christmas Day drive to deliver presents and spend two valuable hours in their company.
My daughters were always delighted to see me and and enjoyed a loving and caring time with me and my new wife. I never lost my temper with them and never smacked them or hurt them in any way. I was, after all, their daddy and I loved them to bits.
But in the summer of 2002 my ex married her new partner and everything started to change.
He was a self-proclaimed millionaire and showered her with gifts: a new sports car with personalized number plates, a huge bronze bust of a horse for her stable yard and everything else money could buy… a sharp contrast to the frugal life she had had with me.
Her new husband – who I will call X for the sake of this piece – is all things to all people. His personal CV would make even Superman’s eyes water: a successful entrepreneur, a professor and doctor in computer science, a self-professed psychologist, a horse whisperer, a top photographer and an acclaimed web-site designer.
He was everything I wasn’t and I guess my ex had found her man!
But within a couple of months of their marriage, I had word from my eldest son Ben and some mutual friends that they had concerns about changes in the way my daughters were being parented and a new party lifestyle. The concerns were so serious that I drove to North West Scotland and spent two days talking to acquaintances to set my mind at rest.
The following May I remarried and my daughters were bridesmaids at our wedding.
That summer my new wife and I bought a family home in South Tyneside and, due to complications with the conveyancing, I had to delay my daughters’ two week summer stay by nine days. At this juncture I could tell things were decidedly cool with my ex. Her annoyance was obvious, despite my apologies.
But that did not prepare me for what lay ahead.
As explained in my earlier blog posting entitled Regret, in September 2003 I was reunited after 18 years with my eldest daughter T. I naturally informed my ex of my delight at the reunification and told her I looked forward to our daughters meeting their step-sister.
A family gathering was planned for the October half term where T would meet her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and most importantly her older step-brother and two step-sisters. This was going to be the weekend I had dreamed of for almost 19 years… my family all together for the first time. I wrote to Rhia and Shannon to prepare them and enclosed new photographs of their stepsister.
Then came the hammer blow.
In a short telephone call, my ex told me that the girls could not attend the family party as they had ‘other arrangements’. She added a justification that the girls would be ‘emotionally damaged by suddenly meeting a mysterious sister that has materialized out of nowhere”.
Yet my daughters had grown up with pictures of T in the house and always knew of her as their estranged sister. I even received letters from the girls thanking me for the new pictures of T, with Shannon adding: “I hope I can see T when I come up”.
I was crippled by my ex’s attitude and could tell immediately that someone else was orchestrating this move.
But there was more to come.
I challenged her assertion that T was a “mysterious sister”.
She retorted: “If you are really so honest, have you told them where she came from and who her mother was and how old she was?”
This was coming from a woman who had known of my conviction since we first met in 1991 and had often teased me with the words: “Don’t worry, it was just your willy being silly”.
Now she was using my conviction as some first assault weapon.
The next exchange was almost a month later.
On Wednesday 19 November, my wife telephoned my ex to chat about arrangements for the girls to stay at Christmas – a happy routine we had continued for four years. She was given short shrift and was told she was reviewing the Christmas arrangements.
I telephoned the next day to be greeted with a verbal assault over how our daughters were emotionally damaged “every time they stay with you”, adding that “after the last visit I caught Rhia bullying Shannon” and she placed the blame on me.
I told her that in turn Rhia was very unhappy at being being forced to go goose shooting with her husband and then being told to pick up the dead geese.
Soon hackles were raised and the phone call descended to a row, with my ex stating that I was an “unsuitable parent”.
In anger, I retorted that she was “an arrogant piece of dirt”.
I am not proud of my words or my anger, but I guess that is what happens sometimes when former partners disagree.
She slammed the phone down on me.
I redialed and the call was answered by X who bluntly told me not to call again, before hanging up.
I redialed again. This time I asked to speak with my daughters, as was normal. He responded with words that have haunted me ever since: “You will never speak with your daughters again”.
There followed the farce of me redialing again and again with my anger and frustration rising each time to be greeted with a similar response. On the ninth redial, X stated that he would report me to the police for harassment if I called again.
My wife was sat next to me and had witnessed the whole bizarre 20 minutes.
With tears flooding and anger rising, I sat and wondered what to do next.
What I did next was ill-conceived and something I regret.
I exacerbated matters and wrote a powerful personal letter to my ex raising a number of concerns I had over her morality and the welfare of my daughters in her household. It contained issues I had left bubbling since my trip to North West Scotland some 16 months earlier. It was spiteful and aimed to hurt.
I had marked the letter private and personal. In hindsight, it was clear that her husband had read the letter and I had stupidly upped the ante.
My ex wasted no time in cancelling my daughters’ Christmas visit. On 20 December I received a letter from her solicitor stating that if I attempted to contact her or my daughters directly again, they would seek a Court Interdict (Injunction) against me. The cost of contesting an interdict usually runs to at least £4,000. Breach of any interdict is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment.
I was left in no-man’s land… I could not afford to contest the threatened interdict.
So the New Year of 2004 dawned and a six month legal battle began.
I instructed a solicitor to act for me, primarily to address the threat of an interdict, but also to establish legal access to my daughters.
A ream of solicitors’ letters still sit in a file and bare testimony to what was to come.
My lawyer offered mediation and even supervised visiting as a way forward. In the early replies from her solicitors, she said there would be no problem with resuming access on certain conditions.
But my ex then moved the goal posts over my rights again and again until it became obvious that she had no intention of allowing me any contact or access.
Initially she maintained that I was mentally ill and had “anger-management problems”… based primarily on the telephone exchange of the previous November.
In one letter her solicitor held out a twisted olive branch in which he said his client would ‘consider’ supervised contact, if I “acknowledged” I had mental health issues to address and a letter from my GP that these were “being addressed”.
In the letter she based this demand on the fact she was “increasingly concerned by the tone and content of emails, letters and telephone calls” from me!
Even 10 years later I still have no idea how this could have impacted on my parenting of my daughters.
The accusations are wholly ironic. For while I suffered short-term clinical depression on a couple of occasions in my life, my ex had a long history of mental illness and irrational outbursts. These included two suicide attempts and her jumping out of a moving car while she was seven months pregnant, with my parents sitting aghast in the back, and even her lying down behind my car while I was reversing it out of a driveway.
She then claimed that my contact with my daughters had only been “sporadic”. This was made despite a 600 mile round trip each time I had seen my girls in the previous four years.
Yet I jumped through all of her legal hoops – even paying for a full medical report which confirmed that I was NOT mentally ill nor had any anger management issues. But she brushed this report aside and demanded a ‘second opinion’. Even 16 letters in my support from friends and family did not sway her resolve to deny me any access to my daughters.
By early March, my solicitor warned me that legal costs in pursuing the case could be prohibitive as he would have to do battle in her local sheriff court some 200 miles from his office.
On 26 April, my solicitor wrote to her solicitor highlighting my ex’s position of “a lack of good faith” in ignoring the earlier offer of mediation and being obstructive and to ask her to make my daughters aware of “the strenuous efforts that their father is making to re-establish contact with them”.
My solicitor told me that in his experience of dealing with family law matters, “she has probably poisoned your daughters against you by now… this usually happens in cases like this”.
A reply letter from her solicitor of 5 May 2004 simply reiterated earlier letters regarding my alleged mental illness and that she had been at the “receiving end of abusive and threatening text and telephone contact” from me.
It went on to say that “another party indicated that similar emails and messages resulted in the Police having to caution Mr Outterside in February 2004.”
To this date I have no idea who the “other party” is. But one thing is sure: I have NEVER received a Police caution in my life!
My solicitor told me that this letter was probably “designed to offend”.
The legal quagmire with its associated crippling costs eventually ceased in June 2004, when without the necessary funding to fight the battle in court, my solicitor advised me: “I have no confidence that Mrs X has any intention of co-operating, and is simply spinning out the process in the hope that her influence over the children will eventually resolve the problem for her”.
So, with the legal battle lost, I began my own campaign for access and contact with my daughters.
In August 2004 – the first anniversary of the last time I had seen the girls – I asked friends and family if they would help me lobby my ex to think again.
I was overcome by the response.
My mother led the crusade with a heartfelt letter in which she wrote: “I am struggling to come to terms with the fact that I may never see the girls again. As you know Rhiannon and Shannon were close to us and as their grandparents we really miss seeing them.” She added that my father’s (the granddad) health was deteriorating rapidly suffering from cancer, a stroke and Parkinson’s Disease.
Other people, including my sisters (the girls’ aunts), two doctors, a police officer, two solicitors and friends who had been denied access rights themselves joined the campaign with a host of letters.
But the missives fell on deaf ears and there was no reply.
A second Christmas with no contact with my darling daughters was upon me and I dutifully posted presents and cards for them both.
My parents received surprise Christmas cards from the girls and brave Shannon managed to smuggle a card to me inside one to her grandparents!
Unsure where to turn to next, in the Spring of 2005 I joined a local branch of The Real Fathers for Justice.
It was eye-opening, liberating and the most useful thing I had done in years.
Not only was I able to share my problems with other parents (both men and women) who had lost contact with their children, but among them were legal experts who helped immensely.
One lawyer told me I was entitled under English and Scots Law to receive school reports and school photos and to attend parents’ evenings (albeit the school was 300 miles away!). She also told me I was entitled to write letters to my daughters, though these may have to be channeled through a solicitor. And finally she advised me to record every letter and photograph every present I sent them, as in many cases mothers ensured children never received parcels from absent parents. This was done to make children believe the absent parent had ‘deserted them’.
Within a week I had written to the girls’ primary school headteacher requesting reports and photographs.
She replied immediately and a month later I received my first school reports and an offer of a telephone chat with their form teacher.
They were excelling at school, and I was both relieved and delighted.
Next I wrote to my ex underlining my legal right to write letters to the girls. She reluctantly agreed, but insisted the letters were sent via her solicitor. I in turn agreed and began writing a newsy letter to each of my daughters once a fortnight.
The letters were full of updates on how I and their young brother were doing and included recent photos. Not once did I mention the ongoing battle for access and kept the letters innocent and happy.
In one letter, I enclosed two £10 postal orders as a well-done for their excellent school reports.
And from June 2005 I also ensured that everything I sent, from CDs and books to an electric guitar and stethoscope were photographed as evidence of my continue campaign for access.
Very soon it was August 2005 and the second anniversary of the last contact with my daughters.
I decided to repeat the letter writing campaign from the previous year, hoping that time had healed the ire of my ex and that she may think again.
This time friends from The Real Father’s For Justice volunteered to write their own letters, explaining from first-hand experience the emotional damage to a child that comes from denial of the society of both parents.
I specified to all the letter writers that they “must not attack my ex or her husband in any way” but simply to appeal to their better natures.
Again all was silent.
Then suddenly on Saturday 22 October the postman delivered a brown paper parcel to my door.
I recognised the postmark and opened the package quickly.
My heart stopped. Inside was every letter I had written to my daughters since July… all unopened. In the package was also a letter from my ex. It was less a letter than a bullying and vitriolic rant. The venom, lies and anger it contained rocked me back.
What had I done to deserve this?
The letter kicked off with: “Rhia and Shannon are doing extremely well since the termination of your unwelcome involvement in their lives, and I believe correspondence of any kind with you is not in their best interests.”
Really?
Then turning to the anniversary campaign she added: “I remember you asking me to sign a letter you wrote to Ben’s mum complaining about access and then I receive the same letter from Ruth (my wife at the time), the same old harassment tactic.”
This was a complete fantasy as I had enjoyed more than 10 years unhindered access and contact with my son Ben from my first marriage and NEVER had reason to write to my former wife!
She went on to state: “I would have returned these letters sooner but I like the other downtrodden and abused women on the other side of your F4J crap, have to work all the hours to feed and clothe my children because their father cares more about hurting me than caring for them.”
This part of her letter had me reeling.
But it became even more venomous: “If you only had put the same energy into your visits and child payments as you have into abusing me, abandoning your children and cheating on all of your life partners to date.
“Don’t write to the children again until you have paid all the arrears in full and are prepared to apologise for your threatening behaviour to date. It should be clear, even to a self centred bully that I am not going to be harassed into submission by the F4J letter campaign, nor will I ever back down although still very scared of you. I am no longer your victim or patsy.”
The allegations and insinuations in this final part of her letter took my breath away.
Was she really suggesting that I had abused her?
Never!
Abandoned my children?
Never!
Cheated on all my life partners to date?
I cheated once in my first marriage, seven years before I met her, and that has been well documented!
What threats had I made?
None.
And why suddenly, after two years, did she raise the spectre of unpaid maintenance for my daughters? Was she moving the goalposts yet again as she had never mentioned maintenance before, after I ceased paying it when she denied me access to my children.
More was to become clear over the next six months.
In January 2006 I sadly began divorce proceedings with my wife Ruth after she had found another man. Although acrimonious at first, we soon adopted a civil and adult approach for the sake of our son, Nathan.
In March 2006, Ruth and I agreed that following a trial weekend stay, Nathan should live with me. We arranged for him to begin living with me 24/7 in the early summer.
Ruth then asked whether I minded if she approached my ex as Nathan had often asked after his sisters.
So in April she telephoned her and explained that we were divorcing each other and could she drive Nathan to Scotland to visit his sisters.
Apparently my ex seemed flummoxed by the unexpected phone call before blurting out: “If Nic had apologised to me he could have seen the girls!”
Were the years of denial of access all to do with her hurt pride?
She asked for some time to think about Ruth’s request.
But she never phoned back.
Another year passed as I settled in my new home in North Wales.
Then in August 2007 I received a surprise letter from the deputy head of my daughter’s new high school.
His letter politely informed me that my ex had lobbied him for me to stop sending cards and gifts to my daughters via the school – something which had been common practice for two years until that point.
He added: “Mrs X has informed me that a procedure has been agreed that gifts and cards should be sent through a solicitor. I would ask that you act through the appointed solicitor in future.”
He was, of course, unaware that my ex had already put a stop to this in October 2005!
The school’s letter was followed up by another dose of hatred from my ex at Christmastime.
Without boring readers with most of its raging content, it reiterated that: “My solicitor wrote to you a number of years back explaining that all correspondence and gifts were to be routed to their office.”
She added: “I have also asked the solicitors to write in the New Year to the school to rebut your ridiculous claims, which I believe are born out of your extreme jealousy, ongoing mental health problems and uncontrollable paranoia… I did find it mildly amusing with your UNSPENT criminal record that you are spouting your fatherly rights chapter and verse.”
Was she really unaware that my conviction was fully spent in 1991? And why raise it at all unless out of spite?
This time I ignored my ex’s hyperbole and venom and wrote immediately to her solicitors, with accompanying presents for my daughters, offering to pay maintenance arrears in return for contact/access with the girls.
I was taken aback when I received a reply from the firm explaining that my ex’s solicitor had left them almost a year earlier and that they “no longer undertake civil work”.
I wrote to my ex to explain this, but never received a reply.
In fact, 2007 was a year of no replies.
In early 2008 my father’s health was failing fast. He was confined to a nursing home and bed bound.
My mother again wrote to my ex asking if she would consider letting the girls visit their grandfather one last time. She stated clearly that I would not be anywhere near the nursing home
Mum’s earlier letters had been politely returned by the former solicitor stating that his “client refused to give him instructions”.
She hoped a direct approach might this time have some effect.
My ex did not even have to courtesy or humanity to reply.
When my dad finally died on 30 October 2008, my eldest son Ben telephoned my ex’s house to tell the sad news. The phone was answered by her husband, who simply said: “Ah, he’s gone at last, I will pass the news on.”
When my son told me of the response my grief battled hard with anger that someone could be so heartless.
So there followed another two years of Christmas and birthday cards and following the girl’s progress through school reports and occasional phone calls from mutual friends who lived nearby.
Seven years had passed since I had last seen my daughters and both were now mature teenagers.
Then in May 2010 I was informed that something had happened which meant I would not see them again.
Now almost four years later I still cry tears for the daughters that were denied me.

Lost

THIS is part two of my Back from the Edge quartet and is entitled: Lost.
It is a letter to my children written in October 2005 during the break-up of my last marriage. It is a testament of my love for my kids and admission of my failures. I publish it now for them to read.

Every Grain of Sand
In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dying voice within me reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.
Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

WHEN I was a small child, I would gaze up into the night sky and marvel at the moon and the stars. And like many others, I would ask the question… why am I here? It is the unfathomable and timeless question that has haunted mankind for thousands of years. Yet it is a question that has stayed with me as I fast approach my 50th birthday.
Now as my marriage lies in ruins and my life seems at its lowest ebb, I have asked that question again and again. I must be frank with you; there have been times in the past 10 days when I have wanted to end it all – a quick painless suicide. But that is something I can never do for many, many reasons. God gave me back my life – first in 1987 and then again in 1988 – and He must have had a reason. Only God can take my life away. So I move on and try to make the rest of my life more meaningful and create peace where I tread.
My hero Bob Dylan once wrote:
“I wish I’d have been a doctor,
Maybe I’d have saved some life that had been lost,
Maybe I’d have done some good in the world
‘Stead of burning every bridge I crossed.”
…. and maybe that’s my starting point.
But where did it all go wrong and why am I a father to so many fatherless children and a failed husband again and again?
Ben – my first born, strong and my rock – but does he ever realise how much I love him and how proud of him I am?
My marriage to Ben’s mother was, in hindsight, a mistake. We were both too young and for the two of us it just seemed the right thing to do as our friends and peers all seemed to fall into line and tie the marital knot. Ann and I were opposites – she was a home girl married to her career and above all materialistic. I was none of those things and our partnership was one of unease and inconvenience. The only remarkable thing is we stayed married so long, even throughout my affair with W – prolonged in a weird way with my diagnosis of cancer. Our eventual divorce was a blessing for us both and we maintained a civil relationship for the next 10 years until Ben left school. Only lately has it become clear how emotionally churned up Ben became during the latter years of our marriage and how that damage has perpetuated into his adult life. I am so sorry for that.
T – so much like me it hurts – she was an absent love for more than 18 years and now I struggle to know how best to love her.
Social circumstances and the situation of the moment meant that T’s mother and I were never to be. We all make decisions in life, but sometimes like Hobson there is no choice left. But all these years later my greatest regret is that I could not have been there for T as she grew up. And it is a massive testament to her mother and her mother’s partner that she went through her childhood and adolescence undamaged, blossomed and is a beacon to us all as a wonderful young woman. Only by our reunion has she been exposed to emotional turmoil … and once more that is my doing. I am sorry.
Rhia – the gentle and beautiful emotional giant of my children – steady, bright and simply gorgeous.
Shannon – the spark in my life, effervescent and a mirror to my soul and in many ways my life.

If my marriage to Ann was a mistake, my union with the girls’ mother was a bigger blunder. She was from a different world to the one I inhabited. Even two years before the birth of our first child close, family told me to walk away from her. But I was caught in a web of emotions. Ironically, as the years passed and our children became our focus, our relationship became easier to deal with. And its eventual demise was a two-way avenue. I neglected her and my daughters in a relentless pursuit of career goals, while she found solace with another man. Our parting was a relief…. but that relief has been replaced by a living nightmare of alienation between my daughters and me … I dread to contemplate the long term emotional damage that could ensue.
Nathan – he will always be my wee one, even when he grows taller than me. Now and always my delight.
And so in my mid 40s I married Ruth and became a father once more. Spoken and unspoken family and friends asked whether the difference between us was fathomable. But we had something between us that I had not felt before. But the years between us eventually took its toll. Even a separation didn’t warn us to avoid the marriage contract. The relationship remained close and with the reunification with T, a family was at last born. I still struggle to accept that the marriage is over and fail to see anything else I could have done to save it. I guess that when a woman needs to “find herself”, it is a message that her husband is the wrong man.
So I stand at the crossroads in my life.
I can look back on achievement and mistakes, look around me at my children and my loving parents and stare again at the stars and ask the question. We only pass this way once and my reason for creation is evident in five faces and five lives.
It is the future that I must now work towards and for you my children this is part of a document of my love and life for you all.
17 October 2005

Regret

I BEGAN this blog five months ago as a partly therapeutic exercise following my breakdown last June. I envisaged it as a vehicle to look back on my 28-year career as a journalist, an outlet for my creative writing and to expunge some of the events of my life.
It is the last which I turn to now. I have already told of the sexual abuse I suffered as a young teenager, my battle with cancer and my descent into near alcoholism. I am now publishing four accounts which I have vaguely called Back from the Edge. Part one is titled: Regret.

Acting out his folly while his back is being whipped
AS I survey the eternal bombsite that is my life, dark clouds gather constantly over one moment in time.
That moment is forever with me, because more than others it shaped who I became.
It was a huge and horrendous mistake I made when still a young man learning about life. Indeed at the time, my life was full, I had the world at my feet and my future ahead of me.
Thirty years have now passed since that moment. Thirty years that I have yearned to open up but felt bound by my own guilt and shame.
Now it is a story that coruscates with agony to tell, but if I am true to the badge of honesty I wear, I HAVE to tell it, for all that follows. Many friends – and my family – know the events well, but others who have come to me later in my life might recoil at its telling and I may lose some as friends.
George Orwell foretold 1984 as a year of doom for mankind; for me it is a year that will be forever Orwellian.
In that year, I was a 26-year-old ‘highly gifted’ special needs teacher. I had cut my teeth for three years in a busy comprehensive school in South Yorkshire but moved south for career advancement. I suddenly found myself as the youngest head of a special needs department in the whole of my new county local authority.
My first year in charge of the new department had been vibrant and successful. With that success came greater demand and soon I was juggling the growing number of children needing my services and skills. The demand was recognised and in the January of 1984, the headteacher of the attached comprehensive school offered me the help of two school leavers to prepare work for my charges and sit to hear them read – these were the days before classroom assistants.
The two Easter leavers – both girls – exceeded all my expectations and soon they were spending lunch times helping make work cards and even offering to stay after school.
One of the girls – who I will only refer to as W – was exceptionally gifted and helpful and often stayed for a cup of tea and a chat about her job hopes when she left school. Before long, a friendship developed and W began to accompany me to karate lessons in a neighbouring town once a week.
Many of you reading this will already be seeing red flags waving. For me writing this 30 years on, my thoughts are what a stupid git I was and that I didn’t see the obvious!
Anyway, without going into too much detail, the friendship with W quickly turned into a relationship and became sexual.
I was married to a loyal wife and had a small child from that marriage, but thought nothing of her while I enjoyed the physical attraction of a much younger girl.
When W finally left school at Easter, we arranged other times that we could see each other. We went away for a couple of weekends together and sordidly even had sex in my car. It seemed for all intents and purposes that I could have my cake and eat it. Morality and loyalty for my wife had left me. Not once did I stop and ask myself ‘what are you doing Nic?” I carried on regardless.
But the winter months turned to spring and warning bells began to chime.
Sometime in late May I was called in for a ‘private chat’ with the headteacher of the comprehensive school. We had become friends. He was 20 years older than me and I looked up to him as a mentor and role model. During that ‘private chat’ he told me that I had been seen by other members of staff after school with W in my car. In her home village, the gossip was already rife about my affair with her. In stentorian tones the head warned me that I was risking my career and my marriage if I continued seeing W. He told me to act immediately to save what I had.
That evening I jettisoned anything left of my humanity and bluntly told W we had to stop seeing each other. I left her shaking in tears and returned blindly to my wife.
Somehow over the next few weeks, I managed to push W from my everyday thoughts, disentangle myself from the affair and climb back on the treadmill of a ‘normal’ life with my wife and young son. I had learned heartlessness.
On Saturday 7 July, in glorious summer sunshine, I took my teenage sister to Wembley Stadium to watch an all day concert starring UB40, Carlos Santana and my musical hero, Bob Dylan. At that moment I kidded myself that life could not be any better.
Four days later, on 11 July 1984, all that changed forever.
It was just a few days before the end of the school year and I had returned home after a day’s teaching to light a bonfire and clear weeds from the back garden.
The early evening sun was playing mad shadows when I looked up to see W standing at my back gate. At her side was an older girl I recognised as her sister. I gulped as I was beckoned across by both of them. I walked to the gate unprepared for the shock which awaited me. Staring at me, and on the verge of tears, W told me that she was three months pregnant with my child. My heart raced and I choked as I tried to take in what she said. And before I had time to assimilate any of it, her sister barked: “And she was only 15 when you shagged her!”
Her words cut me to the core. I struggled for sanity and can’t remember how I replied. I recall feeling sick and asking for 20 minutes to sort out a couple of things and to meet outside the village hall, half a mile away.
In blind panic, I walked into my house and found my wife feeding our small son. I sat shaking next to her on our sofa and blurted out that I had had an affair with a former student and she was now pregnant with my child. I added the enormity that she was just 15 years old when we first had sex! My wife broke down as I struggled for reason before telephoning two friends to ask for their assistance.
Blinded by fear, I then drove to meet W and her sister by the village hall where I agreed to talk with their parents the following day.
An hour later, accompanied by my best friend Phil, I drove immediately to the local police station. Swallowing hard, I walked up to the desk to face the duty sergeant. I was in for another shock. The sergeant was very familiar to me… his name was Bill and he was the father of one of the pupils I taught. Shaking with fear and embarrassment I told him I had come to make a statement. Bill looked at me and smiled and asked if it was serious. I told him it was. He led me into an interview room where I sat and told him I had had sex with an under-age girl. Bill stared at me and asked if I was ‘sure’ I wanted to confess this? I answered ‘yes’ and said I had to try and put some things right. So we sat and he took a short statement from me, before adding that he would have to pass the matter to CID. He then patted me on the shoulder and told me to ‘go home’.
I did not realise at the time, but this was the beginning of something far bigger than I had ever imagined.
My wife and I barely slept that night. In a dark mist of tears and fury, both of us were unsure whether our marriage would last or whether either of us wanted it to. I can only imagine how W must have felt at this time. Thirty years later my heart goes out to her again.
The next morning dawned like the beginning of a nightmare. I telephoned the headteacher of the comprehensive school – who was my boss and line manager – and told him I could not come to work as there had been a domestic crisis. Half an hour later he arrived at my front door to check on what had happened – yes, he had already heard rumours! He asked a few questions and I offered him my immediate resignation as a teacher. He blankly refused to accept it and kindly told me to take the rest of the summer term off and ‘let things cool down’.
That evening I met with W and her mother and frankly discussed what I had done and how we would deal with the results of my stupidity. Both W and her mother made it clear that she would keep the baby. I in turn tried to raggedly apologise and promise as much financial help as I could manage. My reaction was pathetic in the extreme. The primary thought that a baby was on its way was blinded by terror of what I had done.
My next task was to tell my parents and friends. The telling and the reaction was mixed with horror, shock, denial, rejection and shame.
Within a week the school summer holidays had begun. The six weeks became a blur, punctuated by two interviews with CID officers and being formally charged with committing Unlawful Sexual Intercourse (USI) under the 1956 Sexual Offences Act. After being photographed, charged and having my fingerprints taken, I was told by police to await the outcome of their report to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The only other punctuation amid an endless summer was taking W to the local branch of Mothercare to stock up on some essentials for our child, who was due sometime the following January.
Then a week after the holidays ended, there came a knock at our front door. It was a local police officer who politely handed me a summons to appear at our town’s magistrates’ court on Thursday 27 September. I choked, still unable to fully understand the enormity of what I had done, or indeed what lay ahead.
I resigned from my teaching job the next day – this time the head accepted the resignation and I prepared to meet my doom in the courtroom.
In preparation for the dreaded day two friends, plus the headteacher, volunteered to write court references and a local solicitor agreed to act for me.
The day arrived too soon. My solicitor lodged my plea of guilty to all charges and I stood in the dock while the three magistrates read my references and weighed up the evidence. I admitted in court that I had “wrecked W’s teenage life and could never redeem what had been done.” I stood shaking when the JPs returned to the bench. My father stood behind me as the chairman of the magistrates said: “It is sad that a man with the abilities you have stands before the court convicted of an offence like this.” He then read out my sentence: “Three months imprisonment… suspended for two years”.
I stood down and felt the full punishment and total humiliation descend upon me.
The next few days brought testament to that feeling as local newspapers ran my court story under headlines as lurid as “Teacher ruined by gymslip sex”, “Affair with girl 15 wrecks career” and “Exceptionally gifted teacher made girl, 15 pregnant”. The papers also reported that my wife was standing by me and we were repairing our marriage.
The humiliation was complete, but it was not over yet… not by a long way!
A few days later, I received a short letter from W. Her words were wrought with pain, rejection and anger. In short she told me to “Fuck off out of her life” and she would raise “her child” without me.
In the reality of hindsight, her feelings were raw and I should have embraced them and offered more help. But at the time I lapsed into a deep depression. I became a recluse and life no longer had any meaning. I was the architect and perpetrator of my own downfall.
Sometime in October 1984 I stole my father’s shotgun and armed with the gun, two cartridges and a bottle of rum I walked deep into the forest at the back of our garden. I sat on the damp leaves by a tall pine tree and drank two thirds of the bottle of rum. I loaded the shotgun and held the barrel under my chin… then I fell asleep. I was woken from the drunken stupor by my Border Collie licking my right hand. The dog had followed me into the forest and had stopped me concluding my end purpose.
Shamed and crying, I walked back down the hill and returned the shotgun to my father’s gun cupboard. Although I often wanted to end my life over the next year, I did not try to commit suicide again.
Within no time it was Christmas. Probably the most empty festive season of my entire life. My thoughts were everywhere. I had just received a letter from the Department of Education and Science telling me, that following a review of my case, I had been banned from teaching anyone under the age of 16 for the next 10 years! My name was officially on the infamous List 99 of banned teachers.
January and 1985 dawned bleakly as I tried to pick up my life.
Then two things happened which rocked me still further and made me realise I had to carry on.
The first unexpected event was the arrival of two letters from parents of former pupils, each asking in turn whether I would consider teaching their children privately. I am staring at the letters again as I write this and realise the strength of forgiveness of fellow humans.
Then I heard word than W had given birth to our child and it was a healthy baby girl she had named T. A week later my solicitor obtained a copy of my daughter’s birth certificate… its details shook me. T was born on 1 February… my birthday! It felt like God was sticking a finger in my eye and telling me I would NEVER forget her or my actions again.
I knew I could have no part in my daughter’s upbringing, but set up a savings account for her into which I would put money aside for her future. It seems pathetic, but it was all I could do. I also vowed to write a letter to her on her birthday each year and store those letters away until the day we might eventually meet.
The next couple of years blazed by as I struggled to set up my own writing and teaching agency – after obtaining clearance from the DES – and giving myself some sort of purpose in life. Most people in my home town seemed to be aware of my conviction, but few ever mentioned it. For most of the time my head was elsewhere as I struggled to keep my marriage afloat, care for my young son, run a small business and think constantly of W and my daughter T.
Twice over those years I glimpsed her by chance. The first time I was shopping in a local delicatessen and while paying for cheese I glanced outside to see W pushing a buggy with a beautiful little girl inside. The second occasion was about a year later when I was driving through the village where W lived and saw her pushing the same buggy with a blonde haired toddler strapped in the seat. These two moments stayed with me for many years and were my ONLY visual link to my daughter.
But then in September 1987 my life changed again… this time through illness rather than any action by myself. After a year of failing health, I was diagnosed with an advanced and highly malignant cancer of my right shoulder muscle. I have blogged about my cancer battle elsewhere on No Time to Think. As part of my recovery I wrote a series of “Open After I have died” letters to close friends and family, including W and T. When I was put into remission in the summer of 1988, I sent the letter to W. It was a cathartic event on my part and an effort to apologise more fully for what I had done.
I did not expect a response.
As I gradually returned to full health I received a letter from the DES stating that they had reviewed my case and part of my teaching ban had been lifted. But inside me nothing had changed. I had committed a crime and I was being punished.
Towards the end of the summer of 1988 I received a surprise telephone call from W. She received my letter and appeared genuinely concerned about my health. She had moved away to a town 60 miles north of where I lived. We chatted for more than 20 minutes amid lots of questions about T. As the call ended, we agreed to write to each other.
Over the next couple of years we exchanged a number of letters and developed a cool friendship. Finally in March 1990, I divorced my long-suffering wife and was on the verge of moving to Scotland to begin a new life in newspaper journalism. I then grasped the nettle to ask W if we might meet. I was taken aback when she agreed.
The meeting, initially in a park in W’s new home town, was full of questions and at times quite barbed. W was now aged 22 and had grown into a mature and loving mother. She said she was living with a man, who was helping her raise T, who had just started school. She said she cared deeply for him and he was proving a great stepdad. We adjourned our meeting to lunch in a local pub and W surprised me by giving me two photographs of our daughter. We agreed to continue sharing letters and W would keep me informed of T’s development. We also agreed that when T reached 18, we would tell her of our story.
A new line had been drawn under what I had done and I felt ready to move on.
But three weeks later another shock was in store. A letter arrived from W which was to change things again. Her partner had opened the most recent missive I had sent her and set down an ultimatum: either we stop all communication or he would move out! W said she had reluctantly agreed to his demand. W closed her letter by promising that she would contact me if ever anything happened to T, which she felt I should know about.
And so I moved to Scotland bereft and clinging to the two photographs of T that W had given me. I framed the pictures and placed them on a mantle to look at every day.
My life moved on and I continued to save money and write my annual letters to T. She was always in my mind while my conviction still chewed at me even though it was legally ‘spent’ – which meant no-one could talk about or report it without facing dire legal consequences – in 1991. My career blossomed, but these were the lost years.
Then with a new partner in tow, I moved back to England in 2001. By this time T had turned 16, and I awaited with some anxiety the next two years.
So 2003 arrived and as my daughter’s 18th birthday drew close, I wrote to W for the first time in many years. My letter was to check out her thoughts and our mutual readiness to tell T about the past.
But more shocks were to come.
In September, following an exchange of text messages and a fraught phone call with W, it was clear that T had no idea I even existed. She had grown up believing her mother’s former partner was her natural father.
T went through emotional hell when she discovered the truth. I believed that I may never see my daughter and had only myself to blame.
But a couple of days later, on a wet Saturday, my mobile phone pinged. I had received a text message from an unknown number. Gingerly I opened the text to find a message from T, asking if we could write to each other.
That afternoon my heart opened and 18 years of pain and explanation flowed from my word-processor as I wrote to my daughter.
Two more weeks passed with more letters before we arranged to meet at a hotel in T’s home town. My wife and I had booked two rooms for the night at the hotel and had given T the option to stay over.
It was a Saturday and we had arranged to meet in the hotel bar at 6pm.
I sat and waited nervously. The hour passed and the clock in the bar ticked towards 6.20pm. Maybe she had cold feet? My nerves were raw as I ordered a second gin and tonic and waited.
Suddenly a blonde-haired girl walked into the bar carrying a small holdall. She looked at me and said simply: “Nic”. I replied: “T”. Unsure whether to embrace or shake hands we simply sat down.
We talked, drank, ate and talked some more until well past midnight. The next morning we had breakfast together and continued talking until past lunchtime. She met my wife and my small son Nathan (who was just 20 months old at the time).
Weekend visits to our home followed and a slow bonding process began with more questions and answers than I can remember.
At the end of October we organised a family get-together for T to meet her biological grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and her older brother and sisters.
And there hangs another story.
NOTES:
In 2005, T helped persuade me to appeal against my teaching ban. I had no intention of ever teaching again, but it seemed a good thing to do.
On Saturday 3 December, I received a letter from the then Secretary of State for Education, Ruth Kelly, repealing my teaching ban. In her letter Ms Kelly said: “You were contrite about your offence, you have expressed remorse, you did not attempt to justify your actions, you have attempted to make amends for your wrongdoings… you are not a risk to children and would be an asset to the teaching profession.”
The bonding with T has continued over more than 10 years. It has not always run smoothly, and I have had to recognise that the man who raised her for the best part of 14 years will always be her real dad. But our relationship survives and I have a daughter. What I also know is I cannot change the past and can never repair what I did to W. Time has passed and it is ironic that our daughter is now older than I was when I committed the offence.

You’ve been blown and shown pity in secret, for pieces of change

A couple of days ago I republished one of my newspaper articles while working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. It looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001.
Today I reload a piece I wrote in 1999 about the ultra-secret Bilderberg organisation.
Forewarned is forearmed!

THE world’s most powerful secret society is to meet in Portugal next week on the eve of the European elections to carry forward its plans for a globalised world government.
Top of their agenda is a strategy to allow the UN to directly tax global electronic commerce to strengthen its world-wide power base.
There are also proposals for the replacement of NATO forces in Kosovo with a “European Army”.
But their meeting has been damned by a Tory MP as a collection of “very powerful forces” whose intention is “to undermine and destroy the nation state”.
He says the time has come to expose their agenda and awake political leaders to their threat.
Bilderberg, one of the most secret organisations in the world, comprising politicians, top industrialists and financial leaders, will meet on Thursday at a heavily guarded holiday complex at Sintra in the Estoril region of Portugal, we have discovered.
Their high-powered conference takes place at a crucial time, just days before the European Parliament elections and G7 and G8 summits.
The Bilderbergers are strong supporters of the European Union and have spent years lobbying hard for a single European currency. Their wider agenda is to create a “one world” government.
The 120 Bilderberg delegates, under the Chairmanship of former NATO Secretary General Lord Peter Carrington and led by US billionaire David Rockefeller and media magnate Conrad Black will meet to discuss a range of global issues.
According to a Bilderberg source top of this year’s “massive agenda” is a plan to tax global E-Commerce with a slice going directly to the United Nations. This strategy will strengthen the current reforms of the UN and “assist the process of world governance”.
Other topics at this year’s meeting include:
* addressing the deepening crisis in Kosovo, the “dismemberment of Yugoslavia” and the replacement of NATO with a European Army.
* plans to create an Asian economic and political block under the leadership of Japan.
* preparations for a middle East Peace settlement and the creation of a Palestinian state
* the creation of an Americas Economic Union – a follow-up meeting has been timetabled for early next year in Quebec. This claims the Bilderberg source will be the first step to “full hemispheric union”.
* the US stock market speculative bubble. An abrupt collapse could have devastating world-wide consequences
* the development of a new “transatlantic marketplace” – stage two in the Bilderbergers’ plans to begin incrementally knitting together the three global regional blocks into one global trading, monetary and political union.
* the extension of the EMU to Eastern Europe, and the early entry of Britain into this second common European currency system.
The Observer editor-in-chief and political commentator Will Hutton who attended the 1997 conference said: “The Bilderberg conference is one of the key meetings of the year. The consensus established there is the backdrop against which policy is made world-wide.
“It is, in essence, a collection of people who are either up-coming or former top politicians and the cream of the world’s business leaders – the conference is a well-argued talk fest,” he said.
Hutton believes that the Bilderberg conference along with Davos [World Economic Forum] and IMF meetings provides the “common-sense background against which G7 takes its position.”
He said the issue of ‘globalisation’ would almost certainly top this year’s Bilderberg agenda.
“Following the US led fuck-up in Kosovo we need better social protection and more military common-sense if the globalisation aspired to by Bilderberg is to continue,” he said.
The Bilderberg conference is credited with selecting and nurturing political talent. Tony Blair first attended in 1993 when he was a junior opposition spokesman and Bill Clinton attended the 1991 meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany before he announced that he was running for president.
The Bilderbergs control the central banks, such as the Federal Reserve in the US, and are therefore in a position to determine discount rates, money supply levels, the price of gold and which countries should receive loans.
Just as NATO has bound Europe and North America together militarily so the Bilderbergers appear to have bound together American and European strategic and economic interests.
But their meetings and discussions are bound in the strictest secrecy.
According to the official Bilderberg line the publicity black-out surrounding their meetings: “makes discussion more intimate and candid. There are no massive indiscretions, but exchanges can be quite heated. “Bilderberg is just a flexible and informal international leadership forum in which different viewpoints can be expressed and mutual understanding enhanced.”
Critics claim the secrecy enables “this shadow world government” to plot their agenda which is then foisted upon the political movers and shakers of the western world.
“Their power and influence must not be underestimated,” said Bilderberg watcher and Scottish TV producer Sara Brown.
“These men live and work in the shadows and they don’t want it any other way.”
Bilderberg meetings are only held when and where the hosts can provide the highest levels of security for their guests. Last year Mail on Sunday reporter Campbell Thomas was arrested and held for eight hours by Strathclyde police for daring to ask a hotel chambermaid about the Bilderberg conference being held at the Turnberry Hotel.
According to US journalist and Bilderberg specialist Jim Tucker any intruders to Bilderberg conferences are manhandled, cuffed and jailed, and if they resist arrest or attempt to flee, they will be shot.
After 45 years on annual secret get-togethers the Bilderbergers are now facing some penetrating observation and questioning about their activities. Former BBC reporter Tony Gosling has spent the last two years campaigning for greater disclosure of the Bilderbergers’ activities.
Along with Tucker and Canadian John Whitley he has compiled a massive dossier on their membership, organisational structure and political agendas.
He believes it is no coincidence that this year’s conference falls on the eve of the European elections and G7 and G8 summits.
“With this roll-call of the richest and most powerful men in the world it is quite clear that their determination is to control the outcome of other political forums,” he said.
“And when you consider the inclusion of senior representatives from the IMF and all the major central banks that power can be used and abused at will to control global decision making.
“It is all done in secret and is completely unaccountable,” he added.
Washington reporter Tucker, who has followed the activities of the Bilderbergs for more than 15 years, says: “They want you to believe they are simply improving international relations. But they are controlling the world and making decisions that affect all of us with absolutely no democratic control on what they do.
Leading Tory Euro sceptic and Ludlow MP Christopher Gill has led a personal crusade to expose the workings of the Bilderberg group.
“I believe there are some very powerful forces at work and their intention appears to be to undermine and destroy the nation state,” he said.
“It is all the more sinister that when I ask questions about their activities I run into sand and don’t get answers.
“Their agenda seems to be to promote world government. It is a difficult enough job fighting against a European super state but how, as an individual, one can counteract the activities of a group which seems determined to create one-world government is a major task of our times.
“I believe the only course is to try to convince one or other of the main political parties and their leaders to recognise the enormity of this threat to our democratic rights and to fight to defend them.”
Gill has been supported in his quest to “out the Bilderbergs” by fellow Tory Nicholas Winterton MP.
Winterton has tabled numerous parliamentary questions asking government ministers for assessments of the power and influence of the Bilderbergers on world trade. Each time he has received either blank or “holding replies.”
However, Euro sceptic and close political ally Theresa Gorman is less conspiratorial, claiming Bilderberg is little more than a rich club for superannuated freemasons”.
These conferences are just a gigantic boomdoggle,” she said.
I don’t think any group like this can mould the world to one set of ideals – I think their importance is completely overplayed.”
Last night Scottish academics also doubted the real power wielded by the Bilderberg conferences.
Anton Muscatelli, economics professor at the University of Glasgow said: “An off-the-record forum makes sense for this type of gathering. The last thing large companies want is to be seen to have opinions that are politically loaded. Powerful companies are anyway going to have powerful influence”.
Muscatelli said he was sceptical about the Bilderberg group’s proposals for a global tax on E-commerce.
“Unless you ensured that every country went along with this, it would be extremely difficult to police. It really would require world collaboration.”
It seems a trifle ambitious,” said David Bell, professor of economics at Stirling University. “I just don’t see how you could make it workable.”
Two pro-European British Tories who have attended Bilderberg conferences in the past were both “out of the country for the next week” when the Sunday Herald tried to contact them.
A spokes woman for former chancellor Ken Clarke – a UK representative on Bilderberg, who attended their 1993 and 1998 conferences – said he would return a telephone call to the Sunday Herald.
When told it was to discuss Bilderberg, the spokeswoman said Mr Clarke was unavailable.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind – who attended Bilderberg in 1996 – was similarly unavailable and “out of the country”.
Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie refused to discuss the issue of the Bilderberg conference.
Note: The Caesar Park Pengha hotel and conference suites to be used by Bilderberg in Sintra lie adjacent to a huge leisure complex owned by British property millionaires John and Douglas Hall – the owners of Newcastle United FC.

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind

I AWOKE this morning to this email from a friend across the pond. Some one hour later I was still wiping tears from my eyes. It is the single most powerful piece of writing I have read for a very long while.
To help give it as much coverage as possible I am republishing, with permission, on No Time To Think.

Texas death row inmate Ray Jasper is scheduled to be put to death on 19 March. He has written us a letter that, he acknowledges, “could be my final statement on Earth.”
Ray Jasper was convicted of participating in the 1998 robbery and murder of recording studio owner David Alejandro. A teenager at the time of the crime, Jasper was sentenced to death. He wrote to us once before, as part of our Letters from Death Row series. That letter was remarkable for its calmness, clarity, and insight into life as a prisoner who will never see freedom. We wrote back and invited him to share any other thoughts he might have. Today, we received the letter below:

Mr Nolan,
When I first responded to you, I didn’t think that it would cause people to reach out to me and voice their opinions. I’ve never been on the internet in my life and I’m not fully aware of the social circles on the internet, so it was a surprise to receive reactions so quickly.
I learned that some of the responses on your website were positive and some negative. I can only appreciate the conversation. Osho once said that one person considered him like an angel and another person considered him like a devil, he didn’t attempt to refute neither perspective because he said that man does not judge based on the truth of who you are, but on the truth of who they are.
Your words struck a chord with me. You said that my perspective is different and therefore my words have a sort of value. Yet, you’re talking to a young man that’s been judged unworthy to breathe the same air you breathe. That’s like a hobo on the street walking up to you and you ask him for spare change.
Without any questions, you’ve given me a blank canvas. I’ll only address what’s on my heart. Next month, the State of Texas has resolved to kill me like some kind of rabid dog, so indirectly, I guess my intention is to use this as some type of platform because this could be my final statement on Earth.
I think ’empathy’ is one of the most powerful words in this world that is expressed in all cultures. This is my underlining theme. I do not own a dictionary, so I can’t give you the Oxford or Webster definition of the word, but in my own words, empathy means ‘putting the shoe on the other foot.’
Empathy. A rich man would look at a poor man, not with sympathy, feeling sorrow for the unfortunate poverty, but also not with contempt, feeling disdain for the man’s poverish state, but with empathy, which means the rich man would put himself in the poor man’s shoes, feel what the poor man is feeling, and understand what it is to be the poor man.
Empathy breeds proper judgement. Sympathy breeds sorrow. Contempt breeds arrogance. Neither are proper judgements because they’re based on emotions. That’s why two people can look at the same situation and have totally different views. We all feel differently about a lot of things. Empathy gives you an inside view. It doesn’t say ‘If that was me…’, empathy says, ‘That is me.’
What that does is it takes the emotions out of situations and forces us to be honest with ourselves. Honesty has no hidden agenda. Thoreau proposed that ‘one honest man’ could morally regenerate an entire society.
Looking through the eyes of empathy & honesty, I’ll address some of the topics you mentioned. It’s only my perspective.
The Justice system is truly broken beyond repair and the sad part is there is no way to start over. Improvements can be made. If honest people stand up, I think they will be made over time. I know the average person isn’t paying attention to all the laws constantly being passed by state & federal legislation. People are more focused on their jobs, raising kids and trying to find entertainment in between time. The thing is, laws are being changed right and left.
A man once said that revolution comes when you inform people of their rights. Martin Luther King said a revolution comes by social action and legal action working hand in hand. I’m not presenting any radical revolutionary view, the word revolution just means change. America changes as the law changes.
Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery. That was the reason for the protests by prisoners in Georgia in 2010. They said they were tired of being treated like slaves. People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.
If a prisoner refuses to work and be a slave, they will do their time in isolation as a punishment. You have thousands of people with a lot of prison time that have no choice but to make money for the government or live in isolation. The affects of prison isolation literally drive people crazy. Who can be isolated from human contact and not lose their mind? That was the reason California had an uproar last year behind Pelican Bay. 33,000 inmates across California protested refusing to work or refusing to eat on hunger-strikes because of those being tortured in isolation in Pelican Bay.
I think prison sentences have gotten way out of hand. People are getting life sentences for aggravated crimes where no violence had occurred. I know a man who was 24 years old and received 160 years in prison for two aggravated robberies where less that $500 was stole and no violence took place. There are guys walking around with 200 year sentences and they’re not even 30 years old. Its outrageous. Giving a first time felon a sentence beyond their life span is pure oppression. Multitudes of young people have been thrown away in this generation.
The other side of the coin is there are those in the corporate world making money off prisoners, so the longer they’re in prison, the more money is being made. It’s not about crime & punishment, it’s about crime & profit. Prison is a billion dollar industry. In 1996, there were 122 prisons opened across America. Companies were holding expos in small towns showing how more prisons would boost the economy by providing more jobs.
How can those that invest in prisons make money if people have sentences that will allow them to return to free society? If people were being rehabilitated and sent back into the cities, who would work for these corporations? That would be a bad investment. In order for them to make money, people have to stay in prison and keep working. So the political move is to tell the people they’re tough on crime and give people longer sentences.
Chuck Colson, former advisor to the President once said that they were passing laws to be tough on crime, but they didn’t even know who the laws were affecting. It wasn’t until the Watergate scandal and Colson himself going to prison that he learned who the laws were affecting. Colson ended up forming the largest prison ministry in America. He also foreseen in his book THE GOD OF SPIDERS & STONES that America was forming a new society within its prisons. Basically, that prison would become a nation inside this nation. He predicted that over a million people would be locked up by the year 2000. The book was written in the 8O’s. Now, its 2014 and almost two million people are locked up. It’s not that crime is the issue. Crime still goes on daily. It’s that the politics surrounding crime have changed and it has become a numbers game. Dollars & Cents. You have people like Michael Jordan who invest millions of dollars in the prison system. Any shrewed businessman would if you have no empathy for people locked up and you just want to make some money.
I don’t agree with the death penalty. It’s a very Southern practice from that old lynching mentality. Almost all executions take place in the South with a few exceptions here and there. Texas is the leading State by far. I’m not from Texas. I was raised in California. Coming from the West Coast to the South was like going back in time. I didn’t even think real cowboys existed. Texas is a very ‘country’ state, aside a few major cities. There are still small towns that a black person would not be welcomed. California is more of a melting pot. I grew up in the Bay Area where its very diverse.
The death penalty needs to be abolished. Life without parole is still a death sentence. The only difference is time. To say you need to kill a person in a shorter amount of time is just seeking revenge on that person.
If the death penalty must exist, I think it should only be for cases where more than one person is killed like these rampant shootings that have taken place around the country the last few years. Also, in a situation of terrorism.
If you’re not giving the death penalty for murder, then the government is already saying that the taking of one’s life is not worth the death penalty. Capital murder is if you take someone’s life and commit another felony at the same time. That’s Texas law. That makes a person eligible for the death penalty The problem is, you’re not getting the death penalty for murder, you’re actually getting it for the other felony. That doesn’t make common sense. You can kill a man but you will not get the death penalty……if you kill a man and take money out his wallet, now you can get the death penalty.
I’m on death row and yet I didn’t commit the act of murder. I was convicted under the law of parties. When people read about the case, they assume I killed the victim, but the facts are undisputed that I did not kill the victim. The one who killed him plead guilty to capital murder for a life sentence. He admitted to the murder and has never denied it. Under the Texas law of parties, they say it doesn’t matter whether I killed the victim or not, I’m criminally responsible for someone else’s conduct. But I was the only one given the death penalty.
The law of parties is a very controversial law in Texas. Most Democrats stand against it. It allows the state to execute someone who did not commit the actual act of murder. There are around 50 guys on death row in Texas who didn’t kill anybody, but were convicted as a party.
The lethal injection has become a real controversial issue here of late because states are using drugs that they’re not authorize to use to execute people. The lethal injection is an old Nazi practice deriving from the Jewish Holocaust. To use that method to kill people today, when it’s unconstitutional to use it on dogs, is saying something very cruel and inhumane. People don’t care because they think they’re killing horrible people. No empathy. Just contempt.
I understand that it’s not popular to talk about race issues these days, but I speak on the subject of race because I hold a burden in my heart for all the young blacks who are locked up or who see the street life as the only means to make something of themselves. When I walked into prison at 19 years old, I said to myself ‘Damn, I have never seen so many black dudes in my life’. I mean, it looked like I went to Africa. I couldn’t believe it. The lyrics of 2Pac echoed in my head, ‘The penitentiary is packed/ and its filled with blacks’.
It’s really an epidemic, the number of blacks locked up in this country. That’s why I look, not only at my own situation, but why all of us young blacks are in prison. I’ve come to see, it’s largely due to an indentity crisis. We don t know our history. We don’t know how to really indentify with white people. We are really of a different culture, but by being slaves, we lost ourselves.
When you have a black man name John Williams and a white man name John Williams, the black man got his name from the white man. Within that lies a lost of identity. There are blacks in this country that don’t even consider themselves African. Well, what are we? When did we stop being African? If you ask a young black person if they’re African, they will say ‘No, I’m American’. They’ve lost their roots. They think slavery is their roots. Again, its a strong identity crisis.
You take the identity crisis, mix it with capitalism, where money comes before empathy, and you’ll have a lot of young blacks trying to get money by any means because they’re trying to get out of poverty or stay out of poverty. Now, money is what they try to find an identity in. They feel like if they get rich, legal or illegal, they’ve become somebody. Which in America is partly true because superficially we hail the rich and despise the poor. We give Jay-Z more credit than we do Al Sharpton. What has Jay-Z done besides get rich? Yet we see dollar signs and somehow give more respect to the man with the money.
A French woman who moved to America asked me one day, ‘Why don’t black kids want to learn?’ Her husband was a high school teacher. She said the white and asian kids excel in school, but the black and hispanic kids don’t. I said that all kids want to learn, it’s just a matter of what you’re trying to teach them. Cutting a frog open is not helping a black kid in the ghetto who has to listen to police sirens all night and worry about getting shot. Those kids need life lessons. They need direction. When you have black kids learning more about the Boston Tea Party than the Black Panther Party, I guarantee you won’t keep their attention. But it was the Black Panther Party that got them free lunch.
People point their fingers at young blacks, call them thugs and say they need to pull up their pants. That’s fine, but you’re not feeding them any knowledge. You’re not giving them a vision. All you’re saying is be a square like me. They’re not going to listen to you because you have guys like Jay-Z and Rick Ross who are millionaires and sag their pants. Changing the way they dress isn’t changing the way they think. As the Bible says, ‘Where there’s no vision the people perish’. Young blacks need to learn their identity so they can have more respect for the blacks that suffered for their liberties than they have for someone talking about selling drugs over a rap beat who really isn’t selling drugs.
They have to be exposed to something new. Their minds have to be challenged, not dulled. They know the history of the Crips & Bloods, but they can’t tell you who Garvey or Robeson is. They can quote Drake & Lil Wayne but they can’t tell you what Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton has done. Across the nation, they gravitate to Crips & Bloods. I tell those I know the same thing, not to put blue & red before black. They were black first. It’s senseless, but they are trying to find a purpose to live for and if a gang gives them a sense of purpose that’s what they will gravitate to. They aren’t being taught to live and die for something greater. They’re not being challenged to do better.
Black history shouldn’t be a month, it should be a course, an elective taught year around. I guarantee black kids would take that course if it was available to them. How many black kids would change their outlook if they knew that they were only considered 3/5’s of a human being according to the U.S Constitution? That black people were considered part animal in this country. They don’t know that. When you learn that, you carry yourself with a different level of dignity for all we’ve overcome.
Before Martin Luther King was killed he drafted a bill called ‘The Bill for the Disadvantaged’. It was for blacks and poor whites. King understood that in order to have a successful life, you have to decrease the odds of failure. You have to change the playing field. I’m not saying there’s no personal responsibility for success, that goes without saying, but there’s also a corporate responsibility. As the saying goes, when you see someone who has failed, you see someone who was failed.
Neither am I saying that advantages are always circumstancial. Sometimes its knowledge or opportunity that gives an advantage. A lot of times it is the circumstances. Flowers grow in gardens, not in hard places. Using myself as an example, I was 15 when my first love got shot 9 times in Oakland. Do you think I m going to care about book reports when my girlfriend was shot in the face? I understand Barack Obama saying there is no excuse for blacks or anyone else because generations past had it harder than us. That’s true. However, success is based on probabilities and the odds. Everyone is not on a level playing field. For some, the odds are really stacked against them. I’m not saying they can’t be overcome, but it’s not likely.
I’m not trying to play the race card, I’m looking at the roots of why so many young blacks are locked up. The odds are stacked against us, we suffer from an identity crisis, and we’re being targeted more, instead of taught better. Ask any young black person their views on the Police, I assure you their response will not be positive. Yet if you have something against the Police, who represent the government, you cannot sit on a trial jury. A young black woman was struck from the jury in my case because she said she sees the Police
as ‘intimidators’. She never had a good experience with the Police like most young blacks, but even though she’s just being true to her experience, she’s not worthy to take part as a juror in a trial.
White people really don’t understand how it extreme it is to be judged by others outside your race. In the book TRIAL & ERROR: THE TEXAS DEATH PENALTY Lisa Maxwell paints this picture to get the point across and if any white person reading this is honest with themselves, they will clearly understand the point. I cannot quote it word for word, but this was the gist of it…
Imagine you’re a young white guy facing capital murder charges where you can receive the death penalty… the victim in the case is a black man… when you go to trial and step into the courtroom… the judge is a black man… the two State prosecutors seeking the death penalty on you… are also black men… you couldn’t afford an attorney, so the Judge appointed you two defense lawyers who are also black men… you look in the jury box… there’s 8 more black people and 4 hispanics… the only white person in the courtroom is you… How would you feel facing the death penalty? Do you believe you’ll receive justice?
As outside of the box as that scene is, those were the exact circumstances of my trial. I was the only black person in the courtroom.
Again, I’m not playing the race card, but empathy is putting the shoe on the other foot.
The last thing on my heart is about religion and the death penalty. There are several well-known preachers in Texas and across the South that teach their congregations that the death penalty is right by God and backed by the Bible. The death penalty is a governmental issue not a spiritual issue. Southern preachers who advocate the death penalty are condoning evil. They need to learn the legalities of capital punishment. The State may have the power to put people to death, but don’t preach to the public that it’s God’s will. It’s the State’s will.
If God wanted me to die for anything, I would be dead already. I talk to God everyday. He’s not telling me I’m some kind of menace that He can’t wait to see executed. God is blessing me daily. God is showing me His favor & grace on my life. Like Paul said, I was the chief of sinners, but God had mercy on me because He knew I was ignorant. The blood of Abel cryed vengeance, the blood of Jesus cryed mercy.
There are preachers like John Hagee in San Antonio who have influence over thousands of people, who not only attend his church, but also watch his TV program, and hear him condoning the death penalty. Hagee doesn’t see his Southern mentality condones the death penalty, not the scriptures. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that condones the way Texas executes people today.
Southern preachers use scriptures like God telling Noah, ‘Whoever shed’s man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed’. ‘That’s murder. Under Texas law, you cannot receive the death penalty for murder. There is no such thing as capital murder in the Bible, where murder must be in the course of another felony. Yet, they preach capital punishment is God’s
will. Even if you’re guilty of capital murder in Texas, it doesn’t mean you’ll receive the death penalty. People get the death penalty when a jury has judged them to be a ‘continuing threat to society’. ‘That means they are deemed so bad that they have no hope of redemption or change in their behavior. That is the only reason a person gets the death penalty. They are suppose to be the absolute worse of the worse, so terrible that they cannot live in prison with other murderers.
That in itself is contrary to the whole Christian faith that believes no one is beyond redemption if they repent for their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ. For a Christian to advocate the death penalty is a complete contradiction.
As easy as it is for a preacher to stand up in the pulpit with a Bible and tell thousands of people the death penalty is right, I challenge any preacher in Texas, John Hagee or any others to come visit me and tell me that God wants me to die. Martin Luther King said, ‘Capital punishment shows that America is a merciless nation that will not forgive.’
Again, Mr. Nolan, this is only my perspective. I’m just the hobo on the street giving away my pennies. A doctor can’t look at a person and see cancer, they have to look beyond the surface. When you look at the Justice system, the Death Penalty, or anything else, it takes one to go beyond the surface. Proper diagnosis is half the cure.
I’m a father. My daughter was six weeks old when I got locked up and now she’s 15 in high school. Despite the circumstances, I’ve tried to be the best father in the world. But I knew that her course in life is largely determine by what I teach her. It’s the same with any young person, their course is determined by what we are teaching them. In the words of Aristotle, ‘All improvement in society begins with the education of the young.’
Sincerely
Ray L Jasper

MORE CAN BE READ HERE: http://gawker.com/a-letter-from-ray-jasper-who-is-about-to-be-executed-1536073598

Whatever it Was, it Drove Them to Their Knees

DURING a recent dinner party a couple of long-time friends asked why I ‘always seem to blame’ governments and the Establishment for so many of our problems.
Fuelled by a few glasses of wine I began to burble a list which started somewhere around the creation of Israel, took a detour to the murder of Princess Diana and crudely ended with the Falklands War.
Yes, I suppose I am a bit of conspiracy theorist… but only when that conspiracy has credibility.
As a journalist I have witnessed far too often the lies and dirty tricks that governments and the Establishment will stoop to, to get their own way.
Murder, war and disease are the forerunners.
So I have decided to dig out and reload a few of my published investigations.
This one dates from early 2001, soon after Foot and Mouth Disease devastated British farming.
Conspiracy? You bet!

THE British, Canadian, US and Mexican Governments were preparing for the outbreak of foot and mouth disease FOUR months before it emerged on a Tyneside farm.
An investigation has discovered that all four countries were staging a co-ordinated foot and mouth simulation exercise in October 2000, despite the fact that Britain had not been struck by the disease for 34 years and the USA and Canada had not been affected since 1929.
And North timber merchants have confirmed that they were approached for urgent supplies to tackle the disease by Ministry of Agriculture officials as early as December.
Today scientists called for the Government to admit it knew that foot and mouth was present in the UK long before it was officially pinpointed at Bobby Waugh’s Heddon-on-the-Wall pig farm on February 23.
And Mr Waugh has called for a public apology from the Government after MAFF consistently blamed his farm as “the likely source of the outbreak”.
An investigation has discovered that last October the United States and Mexico began preparing for “a simulated outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease” in all three countries.
According to papers leaked from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the exercise – which took place between November 6 and 9 – was “for the purpose of emergency planning”.
It took place in Ontario, Alberta, Texas, USA, and Tamaulipas, Mexico.
The papers say: “This exercise is the first of its kind and provides all three countries with a unique opportunity to apply their emergency response plans in the event of a real disease outbreak.” Yet neither Canada, the USA or Mexico had been affected with foot and mouth disease since 1929.
And the exercise – which is estimated to have cost over $1 million – was the first US “Foreign Animal Disease Response Simulation” of any kind since 1993. At the same time the UK Government was preparing its own “contingency plans” for a foot and mouth outbreak.
Yet the last foot and mouth outbreak was in 1967. We discovered that MAFF officials began telephoning timber merchants as early as December asking if they could supply wood for pyres, should foot and mouth strike.
Mike Littlehales, who ran a timber yard in Staffordshire said he received a phone call “out of the blue” He said: “I got this call from a lady who said ‘This is the Ministry of Agriculture. Would you be interested in supplying timber in case of foot-and-mouth?’ because she wanted to update her records.
“It surprised me, and I thought it was doubly strange when three weeks later the Government tell us we have an outbreak of the disease.”
Mr Littlehales said the last time his timber business had received a similar call was during the foot and mouth outbreak in 1967.
Fran Talbot, a timber merchant at Eccleshall, said she was approached in first week of February and asked about the availability of railway sleepers in the event of a FMD outbreak.
“The woman said ‘are you still in a position to supply timber for burning animals in case of an outbreak of foot and mouth’. “It was a very odd thing to happen just three weeks before an outbreak.”
Mrs Talbot’s firm had supplied sleepers during the 1967 outbreak, but had not heard from MAFF since.
Tommy Norman, who runs a timber yard at Longtown, Cumbria – the centre of scores of cases of foot and mouth disease – confirmed he had received a similar call from MAFF in January.
“It’s difficult for me to say any more,” he added. “I have provided masses of wood for MAFF pyres, but they still owe me a large amount of money.”
Last night top US scientist Dr Patricia Doyle, who has led a stateside campaign to discover the truth about the UK foot and mouth outbreak, said: “I am convinced that MAFF knew about the virus was on the loose long before this February.
“And the US Government was protecting its back because they weren’t sure how far the virus had leaked.”
Amble-based geneticist Bruce Jobson, added: “This confirms what we knew all along, that the Government was aware foot and mouth was on the loose long before they identified it at Bobby Waugh’s farm.
“The new Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) must now admit that MAFF had covered up the real cause of this outbreak”.
Newcastle-based microbiologist Dr Harash Narang added: “I firmly believe that the virus escaped from a MAFF experiment and had infected sheep as long ago as last October.
“This evidence now supports that belief.” Mr Waugh said he felt vindicated that he was not responsible for the foot and mouth outbreak.
“Again, again and again I have been blamed for this disease, when I knew all along it wasn’t me.
“I now want the Government to admit they got it wrong and tell us all how this thing really started.”
Last night a spokesman for the Canadian Government said he was unable to comment on its foot and mouth simulation exercise due to agreements it had made with the British Government.
“Due to the sensitivity surrounding events which have occurred since February this year, we are unable to comment further on the reasons or results of the November exercise,” he added.
But a DEFRA spokesman denied that MAFF had tried to cover-up the outbreak.
He said: “We did not know of foot-and-mouth in this country at a time earlier than February 21 when it was identified at the abattoir in Essex and then traced to Mr Waugh’s farm in Northumberland.
“There has never been any deliberate concealment. “From time to time we do emergency planning exercises and the inquiries about wood may well have been of this nature.” According to official records the last official UK foot and mouth contingency plan was in 1993.

I’ve learned to hate Russians all through my whole life

WHEN I was a much younger man, I was a rebel with a cause… so many causes in fact, I actually lost count.
Now in the so-called autumn of my years, my causes are few: to protect my family and fight against injustice.
But, perversely, my canvas is much wider now, because ‘injustice’ is a shopping bag of multiple sins: the machinations of capitalism and state imperialism, the nuclear industry, violence in all its forms and bigoted prejudice of race, creed and sexuality.
And it is the machinations of the capitalist west and its media propaganda which irritates me the most, especially when I look at the injustices and indifference to Israeli atrocities on the West Bank and in Gaza and balance that against the world’s zeal like attention on the Ukraine.
In the days since Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into the Crimea, it has been amateur hour in Washington and London while the western press seeks to set out an Us versus Them scenario in the crudest terms possible.
In the past 48 hours, Putin has been demonised as “a bully”, “a war monger” and “a dangerous dictator” for his actions in trying to protect Russian citizens living in Russia’s back garden.
When you compare seizing Crimea to the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, as Leonid Bershidsky did at Bloomberg View this week, you can see the frightening level to which this political punditry has already grown.
And, as in post 9/11, Britain is hanging on to the coat tails of US foreign policy and acting like a spoilt child because the bigger game of western influence is temporarily out of our control.
Only yesterday, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that Britain is boycotting the next G8 summit, due to be held in Moscow, in protest at Russia’s activity in the Crimea.
The sea of foreign policy punditry – already shark-infested – has reached new lows in fear-mongering, exaggerated doom-saying and a stunning inability to place global events in any rational context.
Even the most soft-slippered of so-called democrats on both sides of the Atlantic have attacked Putin’s actions as aggressive and “typically Soviet”… pushing us to the brink of a new Cold War.
Do we forget so quickly US aggression in Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Guatemala, Grenada, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan and its special forces which undermined elected regimes in Chile, the Lebanon, Egypt and now Venezuala?
Putin is acting in Russia’s best interest, albeit in a heavy handed manner. The situation in Crimea is currently none of our concern.
Our interests lie in a stable Europe, and that’s why the US and its European allies created a containment structure that will ensure Russia’s territorial ambitions will remain limited… it’s called NATO. Even if the Russian military wasn’t a hollow shell of the once formidable Soviet Red Army, it’s not about to mess with a NATO country.
Any US problems with Russia are the concerns that affect actual US interests. Concerns like nuclear non-proliferation, or containing the Syrian civil war, or stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Those are all areas where Moscow has played an occasionally useful role.
The territorial integrity of Ukraine is not nothing, but it’s hardly in the top tier of US policy concerns. It is Russia’s back garden far more than Basra, Seoul or Saigon was ever a legitimate concern for the USA.
Putin has initiated a conflict that will, quite obviously, result in greater diplomatic and political isolation as well as the potential for economic sanction.
He’s compounded his loss of a key ally in Kiev by further enflaming Ukrainian nationalism, and his provocations could have a cascading effect in Europe by pushing countries that rely on Russia’s natural gas exports to look elsewhere for their energy needs.
Putin is the leader of a country with a weak military, an under-performing economy and a host of social, environmental and health-related challenges. Seizing the Crimea will only make the problems facing Russia that much greater.
You don’t have to listen to the “do something” western lynch mob. These are the same politicians and pundits convinced that every international problem is a vital interest of the US and the UK; that the maintenance of credibility and strength is essential, and that any demonstration of weakness is a slippery slope to global anarchy.
It’s all about control, and when every western leader from Nixon to Obama or Thatcher to Cameron felt they were losing control, they made it global… and if we haven’t learned anything from Afghanistan or Iraq, that is really frightening.

Now, he’s hell-bent for destruction, he’s afraid and confused
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
All he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies
(Bob Dylan 1983)