Surprisingly nice, actually

I’m not famous and I don’t desire to be.  I much prefer telling the story to being the story, though life is not always so kind as to indulge our better judgement.

Thanks mainly to the internet, I’m well aware that I’m known today to many more people than I’ve ever met in person, and that there are probably thousands of people who have an opinion on me which is not based upon any meaningful, direct personal experience.

I get hate mail and I also get fan mail.  Some hate me and others love me – and none of them know me in person.  The like or the dislike is based upon something they’ve heard or seen that I’ve said or done – or something that is attributed to me by third parties which may or may not be true.

There is character and there is reputation, and the two are not necessarily the same.  There is who we really are and there is what other people say about us.

I know a lot of people think I must be a hard, harsh and serious man.  Well, sometimes I am; but often I am not.  I have a hard exterior, it is true, toughened by years of criticism and adversity, but I would hope I’m never hard-hearted.  It is possible – indeed vital – to be tough on the outside yet loving on the inside, and I aspire to both.

I was recently told of a young lady’s opinion of me which I thought rather touching.  Every compliment is worth a thousand insults.  The young lady and I have met only once, at Lincoln’s Inn.  She had heard of me beforehand and did not anticipate a pleasant meeting, however, I am told that she found me to be “surprisingly nice.”

I wish the young lady well in her pupillage.


David Cameron and Ed Miliband both come across as being ever so nice, don’t they?  Well, nice or not, I think we’ll be sick of both of them by the end of the 2015 General Election campaign.

You are not obliged to watch them on TV or listen to them on the radio.  We may not be able to vote them out of office or get them to govern diligently for the common good, but we can keep our radios a Dave Free Zone by judicious use of the buttons and dials.

I dislike both Dave and Ed (though I’ve never met either of them) and that dislike is of course based on their politics.  I’ve no idea what the political landscape is going to look like after the election, but presumably one of these men will be Prime Minister.

Dave enjoys much better treatment from most major media groups – the BBC especially – than does Ed.  It isn’t fair but that is how it is.

David Cameron has had five years in office and his political record and his personal conduct over that time really ought to be better understood by the public – that they might vote accordingly – but Cameron’s many disastrous decisions are never dwelt upon by the BBC.

If you are considering any established politician (rather than a never-elected aspirant), please judge them on their record and not on the propaganda.  Of course five more years of Dave will turn Britain into paradise, but what has he actually done for the past five years?

A wise man once said, “By their fruit you shall know them.”  Before you vote (or decide against voting), please take the trouble to find out who these men and women really are behind the masks.

The only thing I know about what happens after May is that Britain is heading for a period of great struggle and turmoil.  I expect it to last for a generation and I honestly don’t know what will become of us, but it doesn’t look good.  Whoever wins the election, we will continue to be ruled by wicked fools for the foreseeable future.  Hope lies only in a miracle and the sacrifices of good men.

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Silencing Michael Overd

2015 Britain: it’s now a CRIME in a Public Place to say ‘You can’t be Gay and a Christian’

20:15, 29 March 2015

By Richard Carvath

Journalist Richard Carvath attended the trial of Michael Overd.  This is his first post-verdict commentary on the extraordinary story of how British freedom of speech became a ‘homophobic hate crime’


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All the President’s Men

Perhaps surprisingly for one such as myself, I’ve just watched the 1976 film All The President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, for the very first time today.

According to the blurb on the DVD case: “In the Watergate building, lights go on and four burglars are caught in the act.  That night triggered revelations that drove a U.S. President from office.  Washington reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) grabbed the story and stayed with it through doubts, denials and discouragement.  All the President’s Men is their story.  Directed by Alan J. Pakula and based on the Woodward/Bernstein book, the film won four 1976 Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor/Jason Robards, Adaptation Screenplay/William Goldman, Art Direction and Sound).  It also explores a working newspaper, where the mission is to get the story – and get it right.”

Made in the year I was born, All the President’s Men was beaten to the Best Film award by Rocky at the 49th Academy Awards.  Two very different films but both excellent, and only one could win the 1976 award.

For me the subject of All the President’s Men is fascinating, but just a couple of things I’ll say now.

Firstly, it’s interesting to see how it used to be in my own lifetime, in terms of technology.  I grew up before modern day computers, the internet and smart phones – the last generation to do so.  When I was a boy, telephones rang real bells and numbers were literally dialled.  Also, before computers came on the scene, as a boy I learned to type on a traditional manual typewriter, and I learned the typing and formal English conventions of the time.  It’s the reason why to this day my default setting is to put two spaces after a full stop, and why it grates with me not to put a full-stop after Mr or Mrs (it should be Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones).

Secondly, could a President (or a British Prime Minister) be toppled in similar fashion today?  I’m not so sure.  I think corruption in politics is arguably worse than in the 1970s, and the press certainly is.  Where can we find serious investigative journalism today?  There’s not much of it about.  And since nothing ever stuck to Teflon Tony, and Monica Lewinsky’s tongue did not bring down Clinton, and that was the ’90s, how much worse are things by now?

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Michael Overd update

I haven’t made any proper comment yet on the Michael Overd verdict but I intend to do so next week.  I’m waiting on advice from the media department of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary on one point, and I may have one further enquiry to make too.  I will comment just as soon as I’m ready.

When I comment I will certainly examine the verdict and the complainant (Darren Chalmers).

I also intend to analyse the learned friends’ (Qureshi, Diamond and Searle) behaviour and interaction during the trial at Taunton Magistrates’ Court – the learned friends’ friend, solicitor Mr Phillips, being excused for my purposes – because some of what went on is worthy of note.

Lastly I intend to comment on the relationship between Taunton police and the Somerset County Gazette.

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Treat her like a lady

Whether I like it or not, approaching the grand old age of forty, I feel that growing sense of burden, which seems to come with age, and which compels me to pass on, to those half my age, the benefit of my years of acquired wisdom.

In particular, I’m frequently appalled by the behaviour of young British men towards women.  It seems many British men nowadays remain teenagers forever – never really growing up.

(And seriously, without enough ‘real men’, without enough mature male leaders in British society, it follows that we are doomed either to external conquest or internal collapse.  But back to this blog…)

My horror is such, and my burden so heavy, that I’ve been thinking of starting an occasional series called ‘Advice for the aspiring young gentleman.’  This, then, shall be the pilot episode.

Every young man is capable of gentlemanly behaviour; it’s something every man can learn.

But thinking back to my early life, I grew up with advice like this:

If a lady says “No” she means maybe, and if she says “Maybe” she means yes, but if she says “Yes” then she’s no lady.

Ah, great uncles are full of pearls like that.

Now, on reflection, as a grown-up man of several years’ call, it seems to me that this advice isn’t really on the same level as, say, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ or ‘do unto others as you’d have them do to you’, but, I suppose it’s marginally better than none.

The slightly more useful piece of advice I had growing up, though the motive for it remained rather dubious, was to:

Treat her like a lady… even if she isn’t.

Well, I think that what I’ve learned by now is the best advice of all:

Treat her like a lady, because she is.

Conduct yourself with courtesy and respect towards all women – because they’re worth it.

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Michael Overd EXCLUSIVE: Avon and Somerset Police vowed to “get rid” of street preacher

Yesterday (24 March) I spent about six hours in Taunton.

It was the day after controversial Christian street preacher Michael Overd had been convicted of a ‘hate crime’ against a ‘homosexual Christian’ complainant by Judge Shamim Qureshi at Bristol Crown Court, and I thought that it would be worth going to Taunton because there was a reasonable prospect of Mr Overd giving his first post-conviction sermon.  My hunch proved correct.

Mr Overd commenced preaching in his usual location shortly before 4 pm.  I photographed Mr Overd and observed the reactions of both local traders and the general public.

Local traders took a keen interest in Mr Overd’s presence, with several looking out of windows and doors, watching and listening.

As for the general public, the vast majority passed him by without any noticeable reaction.  I saw no evidence of Mr Overd’s presence serving to deter anybody from entering any of the nearby shops.  Most people seemed not to mind him at all.

The reactions of only two people really stood out.  One of these was a gentleman who approached Mr Overd in what appeared to me to be an aggressive manner – ‘getting in Mr Overd’s face’, so to speak – and who then proceeded to call the police on his mobile phone to report Mr Overd for some perceived ‘hate crime’.  At no point did this gentleman have any interest in engaging in civilised conversation about his concerns with Mr Overd.  I was very close to this particular incident, and I asked the gentleman if he was on his phone to the police, and he confirmed that it was so.  I overheard some of what the gentleman said during his telephone call; his complaint was about something Mr Overd said about Mohammed.  At no point did I hear the gentleman identify himself as a Muslim; it may be reasonable to infer from this omission that he is not.

In complete contrast, another gentleman approached Mr Overd and engaged him in conversation for several minutes – causing Mr Overd to abandon amplified preaching in order to focus on the one-to-one discussion – at the end of which the two concluded their conversation with a handshake, and the enquiring gentleman departed with a free information booklet given him by Mr Overd.

Before I encountered Mr Overd preaching in Taunton town centre yesterday, I spent some time going about Taunton, interacting with various people on the street and inside premises.

Before and during Mr Overd’s preaching, I questioned two store managers and two shop employees (four people from four different businesses).

One of these sources said, “Last year the police came round promising to get rid of him [Mr Overd] and asking everybody to help them.”

I have e-mailed the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary to ask for comment on the police efforts to “get rid” of Mr Overd, and I have yet to receive a response.

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Thomas Orchard death in police custody

Thomas Orchard died in police custody in October 2012.  Three Devon and Cornwall Police staff are charged with various crimes in relation to the death of Mr Orchard, as you can see in this article from the Exeter Express & Echo.

The Thomas Orchard case is next in court for a case management hearing at Bristol Crown Court on the 5th of June; assuming the defendants plead not guilty in June, the trial is likely to be held in January 2016.

In the event of a trial of the accused in the Thomas Orchard case, it goes without saying the trial will be a major event for West Country journalists and others to cover.

As you can see in the above-linked article, there is a reporting restriction on this case, namely that the defendants’ home addresses cannot be published “for security reasons.”

Even if it were legal for me to do so, I would not publish these addresses, and, generally speaking, I’m rarely able to find any good reason for publishing anybody’s address prior to trial.  It might occasionally be in the public interest but generally it is not.  I do think it’s often appropriate to give a broad indication of somebody’s whereabouts in news articles, as this is often helpful to telling the story, but not to give full addresses.  In this case, even to hint at the defendants’ home locations would be to transgress the will of the court.

That said, though I wouldn’t report such information in this case, even if I were permitted to do so, as a point of principle, is this reporting restriction strictly necessary?

This case does not involve terrorism or organised crime.  I’m not aware of any specific threat against any of the defendants to date, or that any of them are in any way vulnerable people.

I fail to see the logic in the argument that the defendants’ location at their workplace at the time of Mr Orchard’s death somehow renders their home addresses irrelevant, if indeed a journalist wanted to inform the public of what is fairly standard background information (the general whereabouts of a subject) in any news article.

An incident occurs in a location not being the home address of the persons involved; therefore journalists must be suppressed from giving standard background information about the general whereabouts of these newsworthy persons?  Frankly I fail to see the logic.  This is hardly a common argument – much less a sound one – and why should we accept it?

When a person is involved in a newsworthy incident at a location which happens not to be their home or in their local neighbourhood, is it unusual for the press to report, for example, that ‘It is alleged that Mrs Sally Smith, 77, a retired hairdresser from Timbuktu, was caught with her hand in the till by store detectives in Glasgow’?  It’s not unusual.  It’s standard press practice.

Of course, these defendants are police staff and, as far as I can see, that’s why it cannot be reported that Sarah’s from Timbuktu, Sally’s from San Diego and Jane’s from a north-eastern suburb of Paris.

But why should the mere fact these defendants are police staff mean they are treated any differently to everybody else?

Other than in very exceptional circumstances and for genuine reasons, I strongly disapprove of police defendants being treated differently to any other.

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