Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Well into the first of the post Demi-Monde books. Most of the action will take place in St Petersburg of 1906 and those history buffs amongst you will remember that this is when things really began to kick-off in Russia. 1905/1906 has been called 'the dress-rehearsal' for the revolution of 1917.

In the scene I'm currently writing my hero (called Samuel) and heroine (called Jemilah) are attending a meeting of the Social Democrats (revolutionary socialists) where one Comrade Lenin is orating. Therefore I needed to concoct a speech that was suitably 'Lenin-esque'. Now never having had much time for politics (or politicians) this is new territory for me so any of you who have expertise in this area, please feel free to critique it as hard as you like. All comments welcome! Here it is ...

The admiration in Samuel’s voice made Jemilah a little uncomfortable: she had a natural suspicion of ‘great men’ and their motives. They edged closer and now she could make out what Lenin was saying.

‘… told that terrorism is not a legitimate means of class struggle. We are told that we must eschew robbery as a means of financing the revolution. We are told that anarchism demoralises the workers, alienates wide swathes of the population and injures the revolution. We are told we must remain quiescent. This is wrong! We must not expect the triumph of the proletariat to be served to us on a plate. In the whole of history there is not one example of the class struggle being resolved without violence. When violence is exercised by the working people, by the mass of the exploited against the exploiters – then we, the Bolsheviks, are for it.’

There were cheers around the hall, cheers which also provoked boos. This Lenin, it seemed, was something of a divisive figure in revolutionary circles. But he was a powerful speaker; that much Jemilah had to admit. She glanced towards Samuel who seemed to be quite entranced by the man.

When the room had quietened Lenin resumed his oration. ‘That is what the struggle of our brave Comrades in Moscow taught us when they manned the barricades and took control of the streets: that as the revolution progresses it will stimulate a strong and united counter-revolution. The criminal Tsar will be compelled to resort to more and more extreme measures to defend his illegal and immoral regime: has he not been forced to declare martial law over much of the country, has he not had to mobilise regiments of fresh troops, has he not connived in the despicable pogroms perpetrated by the Black Hundred and has he not used military courts to execute protestors without a fair trial?

More cheers; anti-Tsar rhetoric was obviously popular. ‘We socialists must recognise this mass terror and we must resist it. And that will necessitate the embracing of violence. It is inevitable that the Russian proletariat will have to resort to the same method of struggle as was used in the Paris Commune – civil war. We would be deceiving both ourselves and the people if we concealed the fact that the overthrow of the bourgeoisie will necessitate a desperate, bloody war of extermination. Those of you who are opposed to it, those of you who do not prepare for it, are traitors to the proletariat, are traitors to the revolution.’

Provocative little bastard, decided Jemilah, and obviously a born rabble-rouser.

‘We must show no mercy to these enemies of the people, the enemies of socialism, the enemies of the working people. War to the death against the rich and their hangers-on, the bourgeois intellectuals!’

Lenin’s appetite for blood and slaughter was obviously contagious. The crowd began to shout and yell its support.

‘Only by violent disorganisation will we seize the attention of the downtrodden, giving them hope whilst simultaneously creating fear in the heart of the oppressors.’

‘Terrorism is wrong!’ shouted a doubter from the side of the room. ‘Anarchy is wrong!

‘No, Comrade,’ Lenin shouted back, ‘it is you who is wrong! The armed struggle to secure the victory of the proletariat legitimises the assassination of the leaders of the bourgeoisie and the confiscation of funds by robbery. It is not these guerrilla actions which disorganises the revolutionary movement but rather it is the weakness of a Party which is incapable of taking such actions under its control. It is not guerrilla war which demoralises but unorganised, irregular, non-party guerrilla acts. The very act of violent political disorganisation imbues it with ideological credence. It is time we all accepted that nothing can be done in this country except by putsches. We are revolutionaries who have dedicated our lives to the cause of socialism and the freeing of the proletariat and the peasants from bondage so we must stand ready to sacrifice our lives for the cause: to triumph we must kill and, if necessary, die!’

‘What about the Duma?’ This, to Jemilah’s surprise, was a question shouted by Samuel.

‘Ah … the Duma … the very fact that you have asked the question, Comrade, shows how our revolutionary certainty has been obscured by the debate regarding the Duma, how successful this ploy of the Tsar has been in confusing and distracting the revolutionary energies of the people.’ He paused for a moment in sad reflection. ‘We are told by the liberals that the success of the political struggle against the government can only be secured by the consolidation and expansion of the rights of the Duma. What nonsense! We all know that the Duma is a miserable travesty of popular representation. This fraud must be exposed and this we can do only by boycotting the Duma … but it must be an active boycott … a boycott accompanied by intense agitation in order to provoke an intense political crisis.’

For several long seconds Lenin stood silent on the stage. Then, ‘It is time, Comrades, to grasp the nettle. It is time we recognise that only by a campaign of brutal and ferocious disorganisation and an espousal of agitational pragmatism will we free the people of the autocracy lauded over by that embodiment of despotism, Tsar Nicholas II.’ Again he paused, ‘Comrades, we are met at a cross-roads of history: do we take the fork signalled by the Kadets and signposted ‘Passivity and Submission’ or the fork signalled by the Bolsheviks and signposted ‘Action and Terror’? Are we to remain supine in the face of judicial murder or are we to smash and pulverise our opponents into submission? I say to you: down with the Dumtsy!’

Calling the Duma representatives by the diminutive ‘dumtsy’ raised a laugh.

‘Down with this new police fraud! Honour the memory of the fallen heroes of the Moscow barricades by making fresh preparations for an armed uprising! Long live the revolution!’

There was wild cheering and as though carried away by the audience’s enthusiasm Lenin began to pace the stage. ‘And let us all hope, Comrades, that by such acts of selflessness and sacrifice we will create the longed for popular rising of the people. It is my hope that from such a rising will emerge an ambitious man of genius, a Caesar, a demigod, who will lead our benighted country out of the darkness of autocracy and to whom all men and women will bow their heads as equals.’

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Do NOT use VirginMedia … this is my sorry saga.

I moved house on the 28th February and decided (foolishly) to ditch BT and go to Virgin as my telephone and broadband supplier. They arrived on the 8th March and connected me. On the 9th I ‘phoned to enquire if they did a special rate deal for calls to Russia (Nelli my wife is Russian and likes to chat with relatives and friends). They did – for £2.00 a month they would take my call rate down from £1.00 per minute to 10p per minute. Yippee!

So all was well until yesterday evening when at 6.30 p.m. I get a call from Virgin (I didn’t take the girl’s name) who informed me that in the past week I’d spent £250 on international calls. Now at 10p per minute that works out at a little under 42 hours worth of calls and whilst Nelli might like talking to Russia but she doesn’t talk that much. I suggested to Miss X that the preferential call rate hadn’t been put through. ‘Oh yes,’ she said, ‘but to put the changes thru you’ll have to speak to the ‘Debt Collection Department’ (Debt Collection?). I’ll put you thru.’


Eventually I get thru to ‘Daniel’ who seems to know nothing and who eventually admits that he’ll have to refer my problem to his manager ‘Kirsty Aitchison’ who will ‘phone me ‘definitely before 9.00 p.m.’ to resolve the situation.


‘Kirsty Aitchison’ doesn’t call.

At 8.30 a.m. I call VirginMedia and am put thru to ‘Joanne’. After a lot of toing and froing we establish that maybe, perhaps I have been credited with the overcharges made. But when I ask for a statement this induces meltdown.


I am transferred to ‘Andrew’ in Technical Support who explains to me that VirginMedia is so cutting edge that they don’t do statements, they do ‘on-screen billing information’. With Andre’s help I go to the VirginMedia website. I have difficulty logging on because no one seems to know the e-mail address my log-on details demand. Eventually I penetrate and am faced by an announcement that ‘no billing information is available’. Andrew scratches his head and says he will flag a problem and will get back to me.


I ask to be transferred to someone who can tell me how to cancel my VirginMedia account. I eventually speak to ‘Rachel’. After much huffing and puffing – and Rachel gets very exasperated that I don’t understand Virgin-speak – I understand that:

·         I can’t see my billing information because it is only posted monthly, and,

·         It will cost me £45 to leave Virgin.

TIME ONE THE ‘PHONE TO RACHEL:                          25 MINUTES

I receive 3 identical text messages from Virgin telling me everything will be sorted in ’48 hours’.
In sum I spent nearly 3 hours (3-fucking-hours!) on the ‘phone sorting out something which WASN’T MY FAULT. Virgin screwed up and I had to waste my time unscrewing it. I’m shifting to BT!