Issue #9
November 30th - December 5th 2002

They don't give medals, part 4
'Remind them that every one of their experiments is a person. And any person that...volunteers...for this is a hero. A real hero. Whether they end up a fighting machine or a gibbering wreck'.
By Ian Anscombe

What the fire fighters strike really means
I want to tell you how I wake up each morning and sift through a media conspiracy of lies, corruption, and yet more lies, and I shake at the very real thought of our democratic process pummelled to a shadow of any former self, submerged under the jackboot of a one-party, authoritarian state.
By Paul Williamson

Breakfast with Jet Johnson
Music is amazing. It reminds you of things that have happened and even some that haven't. You could imagine for a while that you were somewhere else, that you were someone else. "Tula" has the strength to do just that.
By Rachel Queen

The best thing to come out of Nottingham since Robin Hood: it's the Chemistry Experiment!
The band has managed to win me over from a boy who had never heard of them, to a boy who asks them if he can be in their band. Anyway, here's an interview with the lead singer Steven Kirk.
By David Strange

How pleasant to know Mr (Edward) Lear
Back home, I took out my copy of 'The Book of Nonsense' from the drawer and placed it on an honorary place on my shelf. I do not care how Miss Bess will react to that when she comes back. As the rhyming goes, 'how pleasant to know Mr Lear!'
By Ola Szkudlapska

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They Don't Give Medals



'Anyway, the hero project, it shouldn't be replicated. Oh, I know you're going to, don't worry, but just convince whoever it is that's in charge to be a bit more ethical than my employers. Remind them that every one of their experiments is a person. And any person that...volunteers...for this is a hero. A real hero. Whether they end up a fighting machine or a gibbering wreck'

'Or a corpse. Most of us ended up that way before they even thought of finishing the project. Nearly half the people they experimented on didn't survive the test. Some of them- some of their deaths were horrible. There was a group of people who were to be able to re-generate dead cells. Every time a cell in their body was destroyed, a new one was to grow. Looking back, I can't believe how stupid that was, but then the project was on a wave of success - Hercules, Mindwarp, Salamander Man -'

'Salamander Man?' The words hurt my throat as they exit, but I need to ask him. From what I remember, Hercules was built along the same lines as patient #S but using older, less reliable techniques. Initial success, but then liver failure, I think, a couple of years into the project. Mindwarp had some telepathic ability to begin with, but eventually her powers became legendary. It was said that at one point she had the ability to make the strongest man alive kill himself. She killed herself. Salamander man is an unknown quantity -

He is obliging: 'Salamander Man. Oh, they loved him at first. He got sent out with me a couple of times. We weren't supposed to talk about the experiments but, of course, we did. Later on they would bug us, but they were also silly enough to create heroes who could manipulate magnetic fields, and not think we'd work together on occasion.. He was younger than me. Neither of us knew how old, he didn't remember his childhood, or any time when he wasn't part of The Project. I pitied him that. At least I had my years of growth, neglected though they were. We'd be sent into...flammable situations. He could withstand the heat, and I was known even then for my powers of recovery. His skin was completely artificial - grafted on, piece by piece, over the years. No piece was missed, if you catch my drift. There were injections.. I once had a file with the name of all the chemicals in, but it was burned the first time my ex-employers caught me.. I'm glad that doesn't exist any more. I wouldn't give it to you if it did.'

'He was lucky. He died quite cleanly. No ability to withstand heat protects you from an explosion of that magnitude.' An intake of breath, and a pause. I can hear him tapping his foot against something made out of metal. 'I wasn't sent on that mission.......Everyone on that mission died. A lot of them knew it was coming. He'd told me he thought they were trying to get rid of him. He was worried there were newer, younger models behind him. I knew there were, but didn't believe him for a second. Not back then. I was trusting then..'

I can hear somebody pushing a trolley outside, I consider calling them but decide it would not be a good idea.

'Yes, I was trusting then. And, apart from Ruth, I haven't trusted anyone for years. Not until now. If she hadn't told me about you, I wouldn't be here. If she hadn't found you, if it had been anybody else, I'd never have believed them. Oh, plenty of people have offered to help me over the years. But they've always been after something - the better ones wanted my money. The rest.. well, they wanted my life.'

'Or the end of it, anyway. And I know you could be betraying me, now. I know you could be plotting, don't think I'm not aware of that and-'

I don't like the way this conversation is going. I summon up my weakest female voice:

'I...I need to go to the toilet. I think...I think I can walk, if you let me lean on you..'

He comes over, and lifts me bodily off the bed. I am about to protest but something in his manner silences me. I know such protests will be ignored. He sits me down on the toilet seat, and I can hear him closing the door, and walking around outside the cubicle.

Even without my vision, it is a simple matter to locate the 'assistance' button. I helped to plan where they went when this facility was built, and I made sure I never forgot. There should be at least five in this cubicle.. Outside, I can hear the double-doors that lead into the medical room, and a conversation in sharp, yet measured, tones.

A knock at the door:

'Your friend says I have to go now. It seems a little rude to object, particularly as he's about to feed me. He says someone will be along for you in a minute.'

And then, two sets of footsteps walking away. I sit on the toilet, committing everything he has told me to memory, glad of the training my brain has had. It seems some of my colleagues could do with the same skills. I am there for fifty minutes before somebody comes to find me.

When they come, it is all I can do to keep the anger from my voice.

'Thank you. Could you get me a cigarette?'

to be continued...
Ian Anscombe

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What the Fire Fighter's Strike Really Means

I want to tell you about the Fire Fighter's strike. I want to tell you how I wake up each morning and sift through a media conspiracy of lies, corruption, and yet more lies, and I shake at the very real thought of our democratic process pummelled to a shadow of any former self, submerged under the jackboot of a one-party, authoritarian state. Because this, THIS, is what is happening, and it breaks my heart.

The current Fire Fighter's dispute dominates the British media, and all tow the party line in one way or another. Andy Gilchrist, the Fire Brigades Union Chief, is painted as some Trotskyist, left-wing spawn of the devil, son-of-Lenin. Everything, according to the media, is his fault. I had the misfortune to read the headline to yesterday's 'Sun' newspaper (the biggest selling daily in the country). "Strike to cost 10,000 jobs" it screamed. 3 million People buy the Sun, which means something like 10 or 12 million people actually have the opportunity to read the Sun. Well, at least, they read the headlines before turning to the sports pages. One can mock and denigrate the newspaper all one likes, but at the end of the day, people read it in their droves. The headline, of course, is a complete lie, a total fabrication of any notion of fact. But by now the damage is done. What will actually cost 10,000 jobs is the government's plan for 'modernisation' of the fire service. George Bain, the man that New Labour got to produce an inquiry that concluded that fire fighters are well paid, is on 160,000 a year. The papers don't tell you this. Nor do they tell you that he oversaw a 'modernisation' policy as vice-chancellor of Queens University, Belfast, that saw 107 long-term staff lose their jobs. For his sterling work for the university, he awarded himself a 50% pay rise. These matters strike at the very heart of the current dispute, yet they are sickeningly conspicuous by their absence. The fact is that it isn't even a case of 2 contesting ideologies on a level playing service, because the media is so entrenched in right-wing policies that the left-wing has no voice in the mainstream media. I don't call that democracy. Nor is it democratic to threaten your workers with the sack if they join the picket line, as was the case in Auchtermuchty in Scotland, when retained (part-time) fire fighters who work for a local garage, wanted to show their support and solidarity with their full-time colleagues, the owner of the garage s aid they would lose their jobs if they took such action. Again, media coverage of such incidents is pretty much non-existent. Yet stories they do cover, they cover is such a fallacious manner, that one wonders why they cover them at all. A few weeks back, during the first 2-day strike, the media were awash with the tale of how 4 fire fighters "broke the picket line" in Spalding, Lincolnshire. In actual fact, the station in question is a non-unionised, part-time station. Consequently there was no picket line to break. The media, be it in TV, radio, or newspaper, did not report this fact.

This battle isn't just about pay. It isn't about a 16% rise for fire fighters. It is about salvaging some sense of justice and democracy in a country that is becoming equally bereft of both. I ask you, how can Members of Parliament justify their own 40% pay increase? The simple answer is they can't, but the far more sinister implication is they don't have to. They have the media in their back pocket and the media, in turn, line the pockets of the government. Any semblance of democratic dialogue is lost in bungs and back handers. Fire fighters, teachers, nurses, doctors and all public service sector employees deserve more, much more, but the dual fallacy of government and media does it's best to demonise those folks fighting for better pay. I, for one, am no longer listening to them.

Paul Williamson

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Breakfast with Jet Johnson

This morning a small brown envelope arrived in the post. Inside was theCD "Tula" by Jet Johnson. Whenever I get a new CD a feeling of excitementwells up inside of me and I'm too impatient to listen it properly. I look atthe sleeve notes, skip tracks, try to keep it as background music for just awhile before settling down and letting the music in.I flicked through each track quickly before finally letting it play the whole way through whilst making my breakfast, stopping occasionally tolook at the name of a song whilst trying my hardest not to get butter on the cover.

The CD contains 6 tracks each of which conjure up images of lazy days, exotic cities and romantic interludes. Even the track titles are emotiveand after the 7 minutes of the "something about the ocean" I begun to getthat wind swept peaceful feeling that normally only comes after staring outonto a vast expanse of water. Music is amazing. It reminds you of things that have happened and even some that haven't. You could imagine for a whilethat you were somewhere else, that you were someone else. "Tula" has thestrength to do just that. I'm sure that when I listen to it in the future I shallassociate it with bright orange leaves hanging loosely from the treesand the clear crisp light that shines through my kitchen today. I'm alsosure I but I shall I remember the rain splashed pavements and rushing oceans it planted in my imagination probably just as strongly.

Swirling melodies give a whimsical feeling to the CD. The songs drift from one to the next wrapping around each other, complimenting theprevious track, and introducing the next while at the same time each song adds a unique something of its own to give depth to the CD.

My breakfast finished, but I pressed repeat on the CD player and for the rest of the day I let floating melodies twist around the sunshine that drifted through the window.

Rachel Queen

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The best thing to come out of Nottingham since Robin Hood: it's the Chemistry Experiment!

Isn't it great when you buy a record randomly, you may just like the sleeve or like the look of the band or heard people talk about the band before.

One of the best examples of buying random records and then loving them, was The Chemistry Experiment EP called Be My postman. This great 7" was sold to me by the flute player of the band a while ago while the ATP festival was on. He knocked on my chalet door and asked if I wanted to buy his band's record. He looked like a nice boy; he had good black indie boy glasses and a Pastel badge (that scored lots of indie points with me). The poor boy hadn't sold that many and I felt sorry for him, so I parted with my 3 and bought his record.

I'm glad I did it; as soon as I heard the first notes being played I knew my money had been well spent. The other ep they had recorded was harder to track down as it's a limited edition, but I managed to get my sweaty hands on 2 copies of it. The band has managed to win me over from a boy who had never heard of them, to a boy who asks them if he can be in their band.

Anyway, here's an interview with the lead singer Steven Kirk. I hope you enjoy it. And remember to buy more records randomly, as you never know if they are going to be gems.

1. Most of your songs have very interesting titles, how do you go about deciding the name of your songs?

I don't know, we get bored with things really easily and I suppose the first thing you get bored with in a song is its title, so songs tend to go through several names before they end up recorded and whatever name they have at that time sticks with the recording. In fact a lot of the songs by now have different names from the recorded versions, which gets confusing for some people, but the word I would use to describe it is 'useful'.

2. How did the band meet & what do you like best about the other members of the band?

Martin, our drummer, once told me a story, which I think answers this question better than I ever could. When he was about 19 he fell for this girl really really heavily deeply in love, but after seeing her for about 2 months, she left him. He didn't see her again for about 6 months and by that time he was working as a chef in one of those bars where women dance wearing only those little discs covering their nipples, I don't know what they're called, but he was working there.

Anyway, one day this girl he was really in love with walks into the bar and orders food, Steak or something, but by the time he has it cooked, she's gone and sitting on her seat is this midget guy wearing a really long cloak. Martin asks the midget where the woman who was sitting at the table went and the midget points to the bathroom door. It's a seedy bar and the signs on the doors are more for putting out your cigarettes on before you need to go pee, so martin walks in to the ladies' and as he looks into the first cubicle someone hits him on the head from behind and everything goes black.

When he wakes up, he notices all his money has gone but he's back home in his bed, fully clothed. But the strangest thing about the whole story is that he had a half-eaten chicken in the fridge that morning but when he went downstairs, there was a dead pigeon, feathers and all in there instead.

3. What's your favourite instrument?

I don't really have one... I think music needs what it needs and sometimes it's good, sometimes not. I guess the voice is my favourite because it's the most, well, human.

4. What's the best thing about being in the Chemistry Experiment?

Well it's not really being in The Chemistry Experiment that does it - in that I guess it happens to all bands, and probably even anglers sometimes - but since I've been in this band I've met so many good friends from all over the world who I would never know existed otherwise, and many of them have given me places to stay when I go to their countries, and even the Americans are good drinkers.

5. Who are your heroes? Who do you admire, want to be like, who inspires you?

Oh this changes every day. Every time I listen to a record, I go off and try to write a song like it. We're lucky in a way because we're not great musicians and every time we try to do a pastiche of a song, say "A Foggy Night In San Francisco," it sounds nothing like that song, and more like a school orchestra tuning up. I was never allowed into an orchestra at school and I guess I want to prove them wrong, so in that sense I suppose I'm more motivated by revenge than inspiration.

6. Have you ever been in love?

I have.

7. In your opinion what's the best love song ever recorded?

If I have to choose one, and I know I'll change my mind in a few minutes, I'll choose Joanna by Scott Walker.

8. If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you most like to go?

Well I'm going to Melbourne tomorrow which I'm really looking forward to, but other than that right now, Reykjavik. There are places I've not been that I'm sure I'd like to go to but I can't think so well at the moment.

9. Who was the first band you ever saw playing live? Where was it?

I don't normally like to admit to this but it was either F*sh from Marillion at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham, or the Manic Street Preachers at Rock City, Nottingham. Truthfully. I know better these days.

10. What's the best record you bought recently?

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips and I didn't buy this but the eponymous first album by Kate & Anna McGarrigle.

11. Do you have a great admiration for postmen, as suggested in Be my postman?

The title from that song came from a friend of ours who was a postman and he used to take a load of LSD and do his round tripping off his head. I don't think I would've liked him to be our postman in reality because I'm sure he must've delivered quite a few letters to the wrong houses. I do like postmen though, Coop from the X-Rays is a Postman, and the Flaming Lips did a song about Postmen. They also did a song about a Giraffe on the same album, but I didn't know about that until recently.

12. I've always wanted to be in a band, do you think there's a role in the chemistry experiment for me?

Can you play the trombone? If so it's an emphatic YES.

David Strange

More information and assorted nonsense at

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How pleasant to know Mr Edward Lear!

Monday, 17th July 1858

Seldom do I have time to write now - taking care of little James occupies most of my days (poor Miss Bess, our governess, had been taken ill) and when he is asleep I am usually too tired myself to think about anything other than slumber. Today, however, was a day so extraordinary, that in all likelihood I would not get a wink of sleep, had I restrained the yen to write down a detailed account of events that passed.

Mother, Jamesey and I were on our way back to London. Apart from us there were two elderly gentlemen in the railway carriage, and soon we were joined by a portly lady, leading by the hand a frail boy of about eight. In his other hand he was clutching a little book of limericks from the pen of Edward Lear. I pride myself on having instilled a sense of appreciation for those lovely rhymes in James, so the two lads took to each other swiftly, and proceeded to regale the whole carriage with the charming poems.

I found it immensely difficult to resist the urge to laugh out loud with them. However, as Miss Bess always says, it is highly indecorous for a girl to laugh out loud, so I hid my face behind a fan. It was indeed quite fortunate that Miss Bess was not travelling with us, for she looks down her nose at "such nonsense", being of the opinion that "a young lady of seventeen should not waste her time on it."

In between one of the lads' outbursts of laughter, the gentleman sitting next to the window spoke. He was quite bald and resembled Mr Hicks who taught me ancient History last year. "One is inclined to feel a sense of gratitude to the statesman who devoted his time and wit to create these little gems, " he said.

The portly lady raised her eyebrows and asked him what he had in mind, as she knew no statesman of the name Edward Lear.

"Ah, this is merely a nom de plume! " the man exclaimed. "The author is in fact none other than the Earl of Derby, and who knows whom these limericks really depict. I myself am of the opinion they are a caricature of today's society, and, if one reads between the lines, some of them have clear political undertones."

This time it was my Mother who expressed her disbelief at such theories, pointing out the book was dedicated by the author to Earl of Derby's children and grand-children.

"I tell you, Madam, this is simply a caprice of the Earl himself, meant to bewilder the readers, " the man continued, quite convinced. "No such man as Edward Lear even exists. In fact, 'Lear' is just an anagram of 'Earl'."

The second gentleman had been listening to this discussion with growing amusement. At this point he gave a little cough and said:

"Excuse me to interrupt, but I feel I am capable of solving this little dilemma. Please allow me to introduce myself - Edward Lear."

The bald gentleman was temporarily rendered speechless and, again, I found the fan quite useful. Fancy meeting Mr Lear in a railway carriage, in such circumstances! How perfectly charming!

To confirm his identity to the doubting gentleman, Mr Lear took off his hat, revealing the monogram inside. It said "E. L." He took out a handkerchief, on which his full name had been stitched, and went on to produce a set of letters addressed to himself. Next, after a short conversation, he excused himself and went out to smoke his pipe.

James chose this particular moment to let Fang, his pet rat, out of the cage, instantly wreaking havoc in the carriage. The portly lady jumped onto her seat and started screaming. Mother also started screaming, but she thought her main goal to help James and the other boy catch Fang and put him back into the cage. The bald gentleman contented himself with stating that keeping such unusual pets was a present-day folly, and one experienced no such trouble when he was young. I, on my part, thought I had better use that occasion to talk to Mr Lear, who was observing the scene through the glass-doors of the carriage.

According to Miss Bess it is highly indecorous for a girl to address a stranger, especially a much older stranger. However, I did not think much about it (I find most rules of etiquette quite stifling) and told Mr Lear I was very fond of his rhymes, and my brother also liked them greatly.

"I see that I, or rather the mysterious person hiding under my name, is widely recognised for those nonsense writings," he laughed. "It is quite surprising how widespread they have become. You see, I consider myself primarily a painter, writing limericks and other poems of that sort being merely my pastime. However, I see that they are now much more renowned than all my serious works put together, and I have literally been forced to publish a second volume of my 'Book of Nonsense'."

On hearing these news I almost jumped with excitement, but, noticing that by joint efforts of Jamesey, the other boy and Mother, Fang was now back in his cage, I simply said something along the lines of "Oh! How charming!", said how pleased I was to have met him and sneaked back into the carriage, hoping my disappearance went unnoticed. (Unfortunately it did not, and I received a stern telling-off later on, for 'setting a bad example to my younger brother'. My arguments that when I was his age I did not travel with a pet rat were, I am sad to say, ignored.)

The rest of our journey to London passed peacefully, with Mr Lear regaling us with anecdotes from his life and some of his newer limericks. Back home, I took out my copy of 'The Book of Nonsense' from the drawer and placed it on an honorary place on my shelf. I do not care how Miss Bess will react to that when she comes back. As the rhyming goes, 'how pleasant to know Mr Lear!'

'How pleasant to know Mr Lear!'
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.

'His mind is concrete and fastidious,
His nose is remarkably big;
His visage is more or less hideous,
His beard it resembles a wig.

'He has ears, and two eyes, and ten fingers,
Leastways if you reckon two thumbs;
Long ago he was one of the singers,
But now he is one of the dumbs

'He sits in a beautiful parlour,
With hundred of books on the wall;
He drinks a great deal of Marsala,
But never gets tipsy at all.

'He has many friends, laymen and clerical,
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.

'When he walks in a waterproof white,
The children run after him so
Calling out, 'He's come out in his night-
Gown, that crazy old Englishman oh!'

'He weeps by the side of the ocean,
He weeps on the top of the hill;
He purchases pancakes and lotion,
And chocolate shrimps from the mill.

'He reads but he cannot speak Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger-beer;
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr Lear!

Ola Szkudlapska

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