Issue #87 September 24th - October 7th, 2004

The child is the father of the man
By the age of two, chances are you'd already taken your first steps, said your first words, perhaps even made your first friend. You'd made lots of people smile.
By Johan Hugo

The bits in between the bits in between
I looked at myself. I look young, and my, do I swing between wonderful and hopeless. I looked back at the note... it looked right in all sorts of ways.
By Dimitra Daisy

Child Killers
Would there have been 4 major terrorist attacks in the Russian federation including Beslan within 2 weeks of each other if Russian troops were not killing Chechen civilians regularly?
By Duncan McFarlane

Ancient Rituals and Belly Flops: Welcome to the World Of Sport
British wrestlers - with a few exceptions - lacked the flair and athletic energy of their American counterparts. However, they created a pantomime-style world filled with bizarre characters who captivated the grandmothers who traditionally sat in the audience.
By Paul Williamson

Turning corners
Petra comes over and asks me if I’m ok, that I have been staring at the river a lot tonight, and I tell her I’m fine, just fascinated by reflections, by its colours and by its tones.
By Tom Bickel

Friends of the Heroes memories, instalment one: I get so sentimental
The simple beauty of turning a text document into a webpage. Discovering we have still have new ideas after all this time. The sheer fact that we've kept going for two years, despite everything. Despite ourselves.
By Dimitra Daisy

Friends of the Heroes memories, instalment two: FotH Forever!
I had felt very 'girl-reporter' coming home from the gig and sitting down to write some notes, then sitting down a few days later to write my article.
By Rachel Queen, Johan Hugo, Matti and Grainne Lynch

 

 

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The child is the father of the man

By the age of two, chances are you'd already taken your first steps, said your first words, perhaps even made your first friend. You'd made lots of people smile - not necessarily through anything you'd done; you were just delightful like that - and at other times they'd spent sleepless over you worrying. You were the subject of so many dreams, so many plans... the star of so many movies, the inventor of so many amazing things; you'd broken so many hearts (but always remained best friends afterwards!). All this - and you were still only two!

And so, what has happened since then? Where did those first steps lead you, and so you still know the way back, have a home to go back to? You always used to get up again, after a fall (even if you cried a little), when you were two - now that you're older and bigger, do you still have that strength? To get up - and to cry. Do you remember how good it felt to cry, and have someone there to hold you till you stopped? Have you still got that, or, when did you start pushing those closest to you away, when all they ever did was try to help? What happened to the goodwill you used to bask in?

And did you ever learn to not go anywhere, to just sit and let the wonder of the world wash over you, on a pale but sunny afternoon as the clouds drifted over and the silence was not uncomfortable at all?

Have you sometimes wished you never learnt to speak at all, when you've found how hard and sharp words can be, how powerless - how sometimes no words can fix again the things they'd broken so easily just a second before?

At two, you'd learnt to break things, but not yet to build. They were simple things you broke then, little inconsequential things, and there was always someone around, then, to put it back again afterwards. Since then you've learnt to break much larger things, things that can't be fixed. Have you learnt at least, somewhere along the line, to build them too?

What did you make of your life? What are you making of it now? Can you still look at yourself in the mirror and start to laugh, happily, spontaneously, as you did when you were two? Can you still look at yourself in the mirror at all? Do you recognize that person when you do? You invented many things, whether you're aware of it or not - but were they lies, or innovations? Did they make the world a better place for others? For you? Did you ever get to star in anyone's movie - and were you the hero, or a villain? Sometimes you had to bare it all - did you have what it takes to do that, or were you still hiding behind something all the time?

Tell me - who did you become?

Two was such a long time ago... or perhaps it was just yesterday?

Or, perhaps - it is tomorrow, too?

Johan Hugo
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The bits in betwen the bits in

1.
When I met you, I told you I would never manage to do all the things you have done. Never. Ever.

I was seventeen and a half, it was easy to be so sure about it. "You're like a sponge" you said.
I waited in the night for an explanation.
"You feel everything."
I held my breath, wondering how the hell you knew. Amazed. Enchanted. My life suddenly exposed to me. In a different light. With a string of meaning running through it.

And that's when my life as we know it today began.

2.
During my summer holidays I found myself in Stansted Airport with an hour to spare. Naturally I ended up in a bookshop getting deeply and hopelessly confused until (and with only a few minutes left until I had to make up my mind) I came across a handwritten sign stuck on the self underneath some books.

"Enough said. I'm half in love with him already. If you're young and swinging between wonderful and hopeless then this book is for you" it read.

I looked at the book. It didn't look like it was for me - the cover looked all wrong and so did the title and the names of the characters on the random page I looked at. I looked at myself. I look young, and my, do I swing between wonderful and hopeless. I looked back at the note... it looked right in all sorts of ways. And it sounded like something someone could have quoted on Friends of the Heroes.

I bought the book.

And then something strange happened - a week later and some a-hundred-and-something pages later and while I didn't seem to be any closer to discovering what to do with being young, wonderful and hopeless, I forgot the book at some gate in Luton Airport. I forgot it.

Now I've lost many a thing in my time. I was the sort of kid that needed a new pencil every week and I once lost my brand new coat and had to spend the winter in my old one (it was the coldest winter I remember) and even though I have grown out of it it still comes back to haunt me and make me wonder. I remember one April when I lost a wooly hat, my favourite pen and fifty euros within ten days and there are certain things in my house that disappear periodically -bottle-openers, the cable that connects the discman to the stereo and hairclips being on top of this list- and badges rarely ever stay with me for long... But I had never, ever lost a book before and I still can see how I managed that.

And I still don't know what to with myself.

3.
Last year I had a crush on someone -that's what it was, a crush- but it must have been a bad one, because last night I was reading back my diary of the time and I found that I had said: "Just the thought of just being with him makes me feel lucky forever, like I have found my long lost brother and all my Try a Little Sunshine dreams have come true on a rainy day. In a rainy world. In a, suddenly, not-so-rainy lifetime."

I don't remember feeling like this but I must have done, I never lie to myself in my diary. And I'm not sure what I'm trying to say but maybe you do...

4.
It rained on Friday night. It rained cats and dogs, chair-legs (which is the Greek expression about it) and frogs (which is just a silly thing someone told me once, when I was very young.) The skies opened and heavens poured down and all the while you could swear whatever the thunder was striking it wasn't further than a mile from here.

I spent most of the night sat on the staircase, listening to my parents argue, repeating the same pointless conversation over the same pointless things which they have been repeating for the past seven years, or forever. Outlining the paranoia that our lives are build on. It was the sort of thing that makes you want to jump off a bridge but from where I was sitting, unseen, I could see a square bit of the window, and, through it, a thousand raindrops hanging from a branch of the cypress tree illuminated by the streetlight, and it looked like Christmas. It looked like Edinburgh did on that sixth day of Christmas three years ago when it was frozen and shiny and there was a fairground and we walked around all day.

When they stopped arguing and they started pretending it was all over I went downstairs and I listened to the Galactic Heroes sing "tell me what you get from the late night in the rain", and I wondered.

5.
Some days, when I think of what I write, I worry that you think my life is all sunshine and smiles. It is not. There are lots and lots of bits in between - wasted bits, boring bits and sad bits. Pointless bits, discouraging bits and useless bits. I swing between wonderful and hopeless with a ferocity and a passion that never cease to amaze and confuse me. Some days I wish I could decide what I think of this world after all but then I regret it straight away. To calculate the exact amount of goodness, badness and magicness contained in this life and never having to be surprised about it again would be the single most boring, hopeless thing I can imagine.

6.
Sunshine. Yes. Think of the sunshine -the light and the warmth on your face and skin as the bus rushes through the suburbs and into town. Another reason I like September is because it gives us the sunshine back by making it gentle again after a stupidly long summer. But I digress: on Monday afternoon I saw an old boyfriend and together we tried to make the world fall into place again. One of the reasons why I like seeing this boy is that he knows me -he knows who I've been and he knows what I'm talking about- and still he likes me lots. It's reassuring. Another, that he makes me feel all grown-up when we say "back in the day" or "how we've changed" and mean it. That puts things into perspective nicely.

When we said goodbye on a noisy, crowded corner a couple of hours later I shouted "thanks!" out to him.
"What for?"
I rolled my eyes and teasingly said "for existing" when of course I meant every word as he said "ah, yes - for the company."
Sometimes it takes him a will to figure out what I'm saying so as I walked away I wondered what he thought.

7.
I live in a world of my own, a world made up of colours and songs and the pretty things my friends say more than it is made up of anything else. Outside it I'm lost in a foreign country half the time and I'm never sure where I am going. Or what's going on for that matter. And some days I run out of things to believe in... but there's always music to believe in. A song to make me spin around my front room, break my heart, hold my hand and make my world go round.

And for a while, this is enough.

Though I might have to buy that book again and find out what happens in the end. If anything happens, that is.

Dimitra Daisy
(More by this author)

 

 

Note: Song that is currently making me spin around my front room, breaking my heart and holding my hand is Saturday Looks Good to Me's 'Since you stole my heart.' Oh and a Hormones in Abundance demo track called 'More than friends.' Just in case you care.

 

 

 

 

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Child Killers




‘ This month in Beslan we saw, once again, how the terrorists measure their success…They believe that …torture and murder are fully justified to serve any goal they declare. And they act on their beliefs’ President Bush, speaking to the UN General Assembly, 21st September 2004

‘No one has a moral right to tell us to negotiate with child-killers’ – President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation 6 September 2004

From the end of August till early September 2004 Chechen kidnappers held an entire school hostage in the town of Beslan in the Russian republic of North Ossetia. The school was surrounded by armed locals and government forces. It ended with hundreds dead – many of them children. These deaths are very difficult for anyone to forgive. This though was not a random attack by terrorists motivated only by the wish to kill the innocent or destroy liberty as President Bush claims, nor a war in which they alone use barbaric methods against civilised armies opposing them.

The Beslan kidnappings took place because of the Russian military occupation of Chechnya. Chechnya and Georgia are strategically important to both the Russian Federation and America. Just as the Soviet Union was a Russian empire the Russian federation is still an empire based in Moscow made up of dozens of Republics many of which want to gain the independence which most former Soviet republics - such as Georgia - gained after 1991. Chechnya is refused this independence, despite having voted for independence in several elections and referendums from 1994 on because it lies on the main import route for Caspian oil and gas to Moscow. In order to suppress any moves towards independence the Russian government first under Yeltsin from 1994 and then under Putin from 1999 has waged a war which still involves rape, torture and massacre of thousands of Chechens – civilians and armed rebels alike. Much as in Iraq under American and British occupation or the West Bank and Gaza under Israeli occupation these methods are combined with bombardment of entire towns and cities. Chechen suicide bombers resisted German occupation during World War Two – and were labelled terrorists by the German government even when targeting Third Reich soldiers. Putin’s current solution is similar to Hitler’s or Stalin’s – after Beslan he has claimed he has no need to negotiate with the opposition in Chechnya – violent or non-violent , linked to Beslan or condemning it, they are all now ‘terrorists’ who must be killed, jailed or deported. Then more Russians can settle Chechnya – just as Russians settled Chechnya and Ingushetia after Stalin had many Chechens and Ingush deported to Asia.

The civilians, including children, killed at Beslan and in dozens of other Chechen and Islamic fundamentalist terrorist attacks across the Russian federation from 1994 on were not responsible for the torture and murder of Chechen civilians by Russian force. The converse though is equally true – Chechen civilians and pro-independence Chechens are not all responsible for Chechen terrorist attacks.

Would there have been 4 major terrorist attacks in the Russian federation including Beslan within 2 weeks of each other if Russian troops were not killing Chechen civilians regularly? Would over 400 Chechen rebels have invaded Ingushetia in June 2004 killing 90 people ranging from politicians to police and soldiers? Would the kidnappers at Beslan have been able to get dozens of recruits for the operation if thousands of Chechens weren’t suffering atrocities by Russian forces that have been going on for a decade? It does not seem likely. Russian atrocities against Chechens include rape and torture in ‘filtration’ camps , massacres with the victims bodies’ dumped in mass graves and anyone so much as criticising this risking having themselves and their family shot ?That’s not to mention the capital Grozny having been reduced to rubble by Russian forces causing thousands of civilian deaths in itself. Torture and disappearances by Russian forces spread to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia during 2004.

True there have been elections in Chechnya under Russian occupation – elections where the main opposition candidates are banned from standing and the approved candidates are Russian appointees who command their own private armies and personally order beatings and torture.


The difference between Chechen terrorist murders and Russian military murders is the same as that between terrorist attacks in Iraq and American military massacres there. Terrorist attacks get coverage by almost every television news channel – military killings get coverage only by some newspapers and human rights organisations. In Iraq on the 12th of September for instance an American vehicle was hit by Iraqi rebels. The crew were rescued and survived. A crowd of Iraqis – civilians including children and journalists – gathered to see what had happened. American helicopter gun-ships then opened fire on them with rockets, killing 13 and wounding dozens. Yet we didn’t see the kind of television pictures of victims and survivors we see after terrorist attacks. The American military gave several changing stories justifying the attack – ending in a claim to having been responding to fire from the crowd. Videos taken by journalists on the ground show there was no gunfire from the crowd.

The reason why we don’t get equal coverage is the same reason that the Beslan kidnappers took hostages in the first place – the Russian military and FSB intelligence services will threaten or kill any journalist attempting to report from Chechnya just as American forces have killed dozens of Iraqi and western journalists who refused to be ‘embedded’ with American or British units in Iraq so that what they saw and reported could be controlled. According to Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya during the Beslan school siege Russian journalists known to be critical of Putin’s government or its Chechen war were prevented from getting on planes to fly to Ossetia to find out what was happening at Beslan. She herself was poisoned by the FSB intelligence services (the new KGB) of whom Putin is the former head. Ruslan Aushev , the former President of Ingushetia, who had tried to negotiate with the Chechen rebels previously , managed to get dozens of hostages released. The Kremlin tried to have this fact covered up. Putin preferred a bloodbath to negotiations that would bring up the subject of Chechnya because the whole reason for Beslan was an attempt by Chechen terrorists to get the media coverage of the Russian atrocities going on in Chechnya which Putin is preventing. Afterwards many journalists were sacked, arrested or threatened. Similarly Iraqi journalists are often beaten, threatened, jailed and disappeared or killed by occupying American forces.

Like Bush after September 11th Putin immediately tried to use the attack to increase his own power and reduce democracy and press freedom. Following Bush he claimed the right for Russia to make pre-emptive military strikes anywhere in the world to defend Russia against terrorism. Watch out for Russian wars against US-backed governments and forces in Georgia. Ironically Bush claims terrorists want to destroy the principles upheld by the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the US Constitution. In fact as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have pointed out Bush himself has undermined all three by setting the precedents of pre-emptive strikes, jail without trial, and the use of torture. Of course what the US can do every other state will see as legitimate – so that the Sudanese government now justifies massacres and torture in Darfur by reference to the US occupation in Iraq ,and Putin justifies Chechnya by linking it to Afghanistan.

He also decided that he would appoint the governors of all Russian Federation republics – they would no longer be elected.

Bush in his recent address to the UN listed terrorist attacks across the world as if they were part of an international conspiracy. While Al Qa’ida does exist – and has been strengthened by the US’ worldwide military campaigns - Palestinian suicide bombers in Jerusalem , terrorists in Iraq and Chechen terrorists in Russia are not motivated by the same aims. Chechen terrorists want an end to the Russian occupation of Chechnya and many Chechen rebels actually supported the American invasion of Iraq seeing the US as a potential ally – which is not altogether unrealistic given the amount of vocal backing the Bush administration has given the Chechen cause. Their influence over Chechen rebels can be gauged by events in September 2002. Putin demanded that Chechen and other foreign rebels operating out of the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia (which borders Chechnya) had to withdraw from Georgian territory before Russia would not veto America’s proposed UN resolution 1441 on Iraq. Within a few days the US government secured the withdrawal of these rebels into Chechnya. The AIOC consortium of British, American and other oil companies is constructing a pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Burgas in Bulgaria and Ceyjan in Turkey which passes through Georgia. That pipeline aims to pipe oil and gas from the same Caspian reserves which Russian state oil companies and Chechens both want to export North through Chechnya – Russia and America are rivals for Caspian reserves (see note 1 at the bottom of the page for a link to a map). Just as with the Taliban before September 11th and former Mujahedin like Bin Laden the American government allies to terrorists when it suits them – and targets them as enemies when this is more useful.

Torture has not ended in Iraq a year after the occupation began any more than it has ended in Chechnya a decade after it began or in Tibet under the Chinese after 3 decades. What was revealed in the Abu Ghraib scandal was the tip of the iceberg. Torture continues in US bases and prisons across Iraq at Mosul, in 4 other prisons in Iraq and in Afghanistan – and British soldiers and intelligence officers have been involved.

In Chechnya ‘democracy’ under Russian occupation mean elections with no candidates not approved by the occupiers. In Iraq under Anglo-American occupation it means the same – and the puppet interim government of Ayad Allawi has suggested elections only in areas where security is good enough – in other words elections in the areas where they have support or can control the result , none in areas that oppose them. Democracy under military occupation is not a possibility – and terrorism will never be ended by military force. Terrorism is termed ‘asymmetric warfare’ by the Pentagon because it is the response of a militarily weak majority against a military force that they cannot face in open warfare and survive.

US , Israeli and Russian forces continue to bombard entire towns, killing and wounding children just as surely as any terrorist bomb could. Bush believes God chose him as President and as one White House aide put it Bush and his inner circle believe that ‘any action is justifiable in the name of God’. They, like Al Qa’ida , believe that, with God on their side , torture and murder are fully justified to serve any goal they declare. And they act on their beliefs.

Declaring a noble aim does not make anything and everything justifiable and does not make atrocities and torture side issues in a struggle of ‘good versus evil’. It’s no good pretending that when our side carries them out they’re ‘isolated incidents’ – human rights organisations and the International Red Cross say they’re not. The actions of the governments of America, Britain and Russia are not ‘basically good’ no matter what they do.

Negotiation is always possible. Both sides have those responsible for the deaths of civilians – including children - among them – and both sides have people who want peace. Should we decide that since both sides have people with innocent blood on their hands the only option is to keep on fighting and killing more of the innocent along with the guilty? Will that provide peace or ‘security’?


Note 1 – For a map of the existing pipelines and those under construction click on this link . Zoom in or else save it to your hard drive then open it and zoom in. Chechnya’s capital Grozny is marked on the map. Some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Sea area are found near Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. You can see on this map that Grozny lies on the existing pipeline North from Baku to Moscow. A second proposed (and now partially completed) export pipeline runs from Baku to Ceyhan in Turkey and Burgas in Bulgaria. This is the pipeline being built by a consortium of firms led by British and American companies with government subsidies – including some from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. So Russia and America are rivals for the same oil supplies.

Duncan McFarlene

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Ancient Rituals and Belly Flops:
Welcome to the World Of Sport

As a young boy growing up in a provincial town in the early eighties, I lived for Saturdays. After a morning spent water-bombing local shoppers off the top of the multi-storey car park, it was back home with a can of Quattro and a bag of Space Raiders, and into the arms of Dickie Davies and his World Of Sport. ITV’s Saturday afternoon “World Of Sport” was finally laid to rest in the mid-eighties because it failed to compete with the BBC’s dominance in the arena of sports broadcasting. But, along with the avuncular Dickie’s streak of grey hair, it has left a legacy of twenty years worth of classic ‘alternative’ sports such as darts, snooker, speedway, stock car racing, cycling and, of course, wrestling.

Generally the afternoon would kick off with “On The Ball”, featuring Brian Moore and Ian St John, which was usually followed by extensive horse racing coverage from Haydock or Kempton. Then there would be the choice of a variety of sports, which also included boxing and, if the BBC weren’t bothered, athletics. And finally, the highlight for many fans of the show would be the British wrestling - from the mid-seventies - which featured commentary from Kent Walton.

The wrestling certainly sticks in my mind the most. British wrestlers – with a few exceptions - lacked the flair and athletic energy of their American counterparts. However, they created a pantomime-style world filled with bizarre characters who captivated the grandmothers who traditionally sat in the audience, wielding handbags, swigging beer and berating the bad men who threatened to pulp their heroes.

Wrestlers such as Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Kendo Nagasaki, Mick McManus, Rollerball Rocco, Pat “Bomber” Roach and Brian Glover soon became household names.

Mick McManus didn't like having his ears messed up and would make his point by moaning 'Not the ears, not the ears!' Jim 'Cry Baby' Breaks used to throw a tantrum like a two-year-old if things didn't go his way. Kendo Nagasaki would enter the ring dressed head to toe in ‘traditional’ Japanese costume and proceed to perform an ‘ancient’ Japanese ritual (I’m now living in Japan and, to my horror, no-one has attempted said ritual…) If you upset Johnny Kwango, then he would headbutt his poor opponent. And any match involving Honey Boy Zimba would guarantee a butting. 'Ballet Dancer' Ricki Starr twirled like a, erm, ballet dancer. Big Daddy entered to the chant of 'Easy! Easy!' Adrian Street, a Welsh womaniser, pretended he was gay. Catweazle wore a brown romper suit and acted like a yokel. Deaf and dumb Alan Kilby always got confused by not hearing the bell. And Dropkick Johnny Peters did something special with his feet.

Giant Haystacks lived up to his name, standing 6 feet 11 inches tall and weighing in excess of 45 stone. He would haul his bulk into the ring and swiftly flatten his next victim. Athletic it wasn’t. His long-standing nemesis was Big Daddy, whose real name was Shirley Crabtree – though you wouldn’t make fun of this to his face. Big Daddy was the ‘hero’, and cheered on by his adoring fans he would protect the more puny members of the wrestling fraternity from evil invaders such as Haystacks and Mighty John Quinn.

All of this was high farce, and anyone at the time who complained that wrestling was fixed had clearly missed the point. To say that wrestling, at least, this type of wrestling, was fixed implies that it is a real sport, and a real contest. The reality is that this was the British version of the American travelling freak show, a skewed pantomime in which a diverse bunch of characters play out a battle between good and evil on behalf of the audience.

By the mid-eighties wrestling had become something of a laughing stock amongst some areas of the media, and audiences dwindled as “World Of Sport” lost its battle with the BBC’s more established sports. As a populist channel this cult-style programming could never be allowed to stay on air. These days, however, spurred on by the success of American Wrestling, Sky has begun to show re-runs of classic bouts from British Wrestling’s heyday. Finally, at long last, you too can drool and sit aghast at the Mcmanus famed reverse arm lever with a double wrist-lock.

Where are you going?

Paul Williamson

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Turning Corners

It’s what it’s all about, you told me, turning corners and getting on and getting up and getting over but where were YOU when I lay perishing under damp cardboard, misused, worn out, walked over and walked upon, 25 and already destroyed, capitulated by life, where were you when I wanted to turn a corner. Where were you?

Turning corners, you tell me, turning corners of your own, and it’s wrong of me to make demands upon you, it’s just that I thought you would be there because you were always there when things were good and- funny that- funny how the minute I needed you, you wasn’t there, funny how you were turning corners that we always turned together.

Funny.

I drain my drink. The river basks in an amber hue. I’m glad the typhoon season is out of the way; St Petersburg never was much fun in the wind. It’s a long way off, but I can see Yalta. That’s where I’m going to next. Picking up the pieces, picking over bones, fossils carved in answerphones and limestone walls. Getting to grips with ghosts. Some ghosts, you would say, some ghosts, we bury the living as we bury the dead, all colluding, all coagulating and colliding into the same form, the same force that buried me alive under cardboard boxes at 25.

Some ghosts.

Petra comes over and asks me if I’m ok, that I have been staring at the river a lot tonight, and I tell her I’m fine, just fascinated by reflections, by its colours and by its tones. She asks me if I want a drink. I tell her that’s a stupid question and she laughs. Sometimes I wonder what Petra’s running from. I asked her one night what she was doing in St Petersburg and she told me she that didn’t know. Yet. I told her about my life, about being buried alive at 25, and yet somehow getting a second chance, and she said there’s no such thing as chance, just a symphony of incidents, accidents waiting to happen. I told her that maybe there’s no such thing as incidents and accidents, just a cacophony of chances, some of which we take and many more we don’t. It was enough for her to ponder. And enough for me as well.

She comes back over with the drinks. I told her about my plans, about my pilgrimage to Yalta and she asks me why Yalta, and I find myself telling someone about you for the first time in my life, and she listens, she doesn’t say anything, doesn’t move a muscle as I tell her how, on the third night of our honeymoon you walked out on me and into the arms of the black sea, and all I see around me are ghosts of you and, yes I know, I know, some ghosts, some ghosts, as you always told me, and I wish I had listened that night when you lay sobbing on the bed, a week before the wedding, and told me you were turning corners, I wish I had listened or done SOMETHING instead of convincing you- I was always good at convincing you- instead of convincing you that it wasn’t a corner you were turning but pre-marital nerves, as common as they come, that all couples go through it, and that when we turn our corners we always turn them together and why did you listen to me and why won’t you go away and I can see your face I can see your face I CAN SEE YOUR FACE.

Petra pulls closer. I am shivering. Yalta lies roughly 1300 miles South-East.

I am ready.

Tom Bickell

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I get so sentimental

Evenings spent in an ugly back room, in front of a computer screen, nearly falling off my chair laughing as "meetings" dissolve into teasing matches between Paul and Rachel. Making the first contents page, all blue lines and blue letters, weeks before the first issue ever went on. The first few Thursday nights when the excitement and the pride of getting things done went to our heads. Friday mornings when we dreamed of offices and cakes and flowers. Wanting to cry when Paul wrote there was nowhere else he would rather be. Our first Christmas holiday, which we spent more or less together: writing FotH HQ on the steamy windows of Stefano's house, riding tube trains to clubnights where we would pretend to be trying to hand out flyers, sitting in the cafe on the top floor of the Tata Gallery discussing "our future" while the river below quietly reflected a hundred London lights. The first email from a half-stranger, saying "those reasons why stick in my head and make me do things." The first email from a total stranger, saying "your writing struck a chord." The first email from someone whose work I admired saying "I was pleased to no end by your site."

Reading the ballboy interview and realising we're not the only ones who think the way we do. Designing covers at 5 am on June mornings. Setting up the computer in a new house in the middle of the night just to check the new issue out (and being awe-struck to discover one of the best things that has ever appeared on Friends of the Heroes, in my honest opinion.) Reading what was to become 'Sunshine and the reason why' when it was only an attachement to an email and having to stop at least three times (to run to the next room and back) because it was hard to believe and take in that one of the best things I had ever read was written about us. Us.

Telling Rachel I think she should write about a diary and ending up with half a book about one. Having something to look at when I get depressed late at night to remind me I have achieved something. Always having to explain to new friends what we do, and why, and never quite getting it right. Making new friends who get it, nonetheless. Making new friends. Grainne and Matti offering to keep the site going while I'm moving and Rachel is rushing to finish her thesis. Coming back from spending Christmas with my parents to find a card from South Africa and one from Ireland (in the puddle) outside my front door. New people joining and being as excited about it as we were when we first started. Working all together on Thursday nights. The simple beauty of turning a text document into a webpage. Discovering we have still have new ideas after all this time. The sheer fact that we've kept going for two years, despite everything. Despite ourselves.

Looking at it this way it seems impossible that I will ever be able to single out one moment but that would be cheating, so I will tell you a little story about it. It goes like this: last November I lost a job and I flew to London where I walked by the river, listened to a Pipas record a few times and got over-excited about watching some bands play. Then I came back to Athens and made myself sit in front of the computer for as long as it took to write down all that I could remember about the Strange Fruit Festival. It took three days; about halfway through the second and some one thousand words into the story I was stuck so badly I got desperate, so I went for a walk around my still-new-then neighbourhood. I walked around narrow streets in the dark-but-not-cold of a November Athenian night and the world seemed rather small. I kept wondering what the point to what I was doing was. "No one is going to read it let alone care."

Yet I went back and I wrote another two thousand words and I put them online and I posted on a couple of messageboards about it... and then a miracle happened and... someone said something nice about it! And then somebody else too! And I got an email from one of the bands, and then another one... it was too much to take in. I spent the rest of the day drunk on happiness which could be why I don't remember anything else about it but the moment I was about to turn of my computer. Because as I was about to turn off my computer something popped up, and that something was an email from one of the people who had organised said Festival (who, you have to understand, was not only a hero in my books but a bit of a celebrity too. And it said 'thank you.'

And I just had to walk to my bed where I pretended to faint with a huge grin in my face, suddenly safe in the knowledge that suddenly safe in the knowledge that there had been a point to what I was doing all along, even though I had forgotten. And the world seemed fairly big again.

Dimitra Daisy
(More by this author)

 

(Next installment of this)

 

Note: 'I get so sentimental' is a song by the Hit Parade and it's been stuck in my head all bloody day.

 

 

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Friends of the Heroes Forever!

(Previous installment of this)

Rachel (Stevie Jackson and the big pair of jugs)

I’ll never forget the time when sister Janice and I were on holiday in Morcombe. I was browsing through sticks of rock to take back for the rest of the Friends Of The Heroes and Sister J was flicking through saucy postcards (I didn’t even dare to as who they were for!) when who should walk by but none other than Stevie Jackson! He had his fender telecaster in one hand and a bag of chips in the other.

"Oh my GOD. You write for Friends Of The heroes, don’t you?" he said addressing Sister J. "It’s such an honour to meet you" he stuttered, blushing profusely.

Sister J was as cool as a cucumber and handed him a signed postcard (The one with the slogan: "that's a very big pair of jugs you have there" if I remember rightly).

It was at that moment I knew that Friends Of The Heroes had truly made it. To the best of my knowledge Stevie Jackson is still a regular at Sister J’s world famous redemptive disco classes.

Johan (But somewhere in all that, you needed someone)

I’ve had so many - so many stories, so many great conversations alongside meetings, so many thoughts.

But if I had to choose a purely personal one, the one that, more than any of the other, made Friends of the Heroes worthwhile to me as a person, it would be the following. Once, I wrote a two-part tribute to my deceased friend Matthew, which went onto the site (thanks!)

Last year, on what I only later realised was his birthday, I received an e-mail from a complete stranger, who turned out to be a girl who had known Matthew, I think when he was in London, writing to thank me for the piece, and to say that she had really appreciated it, and that she had been moved by it (or something like that). For the first time, I think, I really felt that I had touched someone through my writing, and that is the most special feeling ever. It also showed me what the Friends had achieved - again, thank you to all who have made this happen, and keep it happening, fortnight after fortnight!

Matti (Teaching the cavalry html)

Friends of the Heroes taught me two big lessons - how to html and how to push ahead even when the road looks darkly impassable.

A year ago, the call went up - the FotH web mistresses were BOTH on holiday simultaneously, did any of the writers know how to create a web-page? Of course I did! I had my own web-site, I knew this thing! So I eagerly stepped up to the plate. THE CAVALRY HAS ARRIVED!

Oh! Innocence... Ignorance and Innocence combined...

I realized my mistake when the lovely Rachel sent me the guidance notes on how to create a FotH's web-page. It had strangeness in it... like html... like acronyms such as FTP. I phoned the IT desk at the University where I work, 'what's FTP mean then?' Five minutes later I was not only more confused, but in the early stages of utter panic. You see, the web-building that I knew all about involved an idiot-proof template. You type your text in this box, you up-load a photograph into that box, you press a button called 'ok' and magically it appeared on the internet. That was ABC, I'd just told the indomitable editors that I knew fully-blown html!

Fortunately, Grainne had also volunteered. Between Grainne, the University's IT desk and a re-appearance by the (justifiably) anxious Rachel, I taught myself ftp-ing and basic html-ing within the space of about three days. I didn't stop there, I carried on until I was more use than hindrance, and became a half-decent webmistress.

Witchgrove began by nicking the Friends of the Heroes style (with permission), the Pagan Headstone Campaign, my home-page, Charles Arnold's site - all of the above owe a debt to the Friends of the Heroes team for providing the circumstances which dropped me into the deep end and teaching me how to swim to safety again.

Grainne (Friends of the Heroes Forever!)

The first article I wrote for Friends of the Heroes was a review of Rodrigo y Gabriela, in June 2003. I'd been reading the zine since it started, and looked forward to the new issue each week. Naturally, I looked forward to the issue with my article in it even more. I had felt very 'girl-reporter' coming home from the gig and sitting down to write some notes, then sitting down a few days later to write my article. It probably took me a few days, I probably struggled with it, but that's not what I remember.

My favourite Friends of the Heroes memory is opening the new issue and seeing the title of my article there in the contents, with my name next to it! Then clicking the link and seeing my article. It seemed transformed, with the pretty Friends of the Heroes borders it looked so professional. Now it was a real magazine article, when before it was just a Word document seeing on my computer.

I was hooked. From then on, I wanted to part of making this magazine, I wanted to be involved in it's creation and evolution. And I still do. It's fun and exciting and rewarding. It's also hard work and the cause of some stress and frustration on a Thursday night, but I wouldn't give it. I hope we are still here in another two years, and another two years after that!

 

 

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