About fshiner

Aspiring writer.

On Grief

Given that my Mother has had early onset Alzheimer for the past eight years, and that I have known it was terminal for five years, I spend a lot of time thinking about grief.

Grief is one of the high priests of emotions along with love, sadness and joy that can irrevocably change a person. My eight year relationship with grief has changed me, making me more stoic. When you find your bathmat stained by your Mother’s urine which has turned electric blue because of her tablets you have to harden your heart. The alternative is personal ruin.

There was a time during my second year at university when it seemed that my grief, my failure to cope with what was happening to my Mother, was going to overwhelm me. I wanted to drop out of university and felt that any activity other than lying in bed was useless. But I pulled myself together and started to write, started to run regularly, and started to try things out. If I hadn’t been able to clench my jaw and get on with things I would not have been able to carry on living successfully and productively.

Grief is a capricious, tempestuous, unpredictable beautiful woman. For some reason she has chosen you. She wafts into your life with her bewitching, terrible beauty and stays with you. There is something primal and overwhelming about grief in the same way that unadulterated beauty can be.

I was going out with a girl for a while whose beauty I idealised and when I first started seeing her my brain would scramble and my whole body would just yearn. I would feel like lying on the floor or climbing a tree or having a fight. It didn’t work out, but I sometimes remember that breathless, bewildered feeling when I first sat next to her and saw her pale little hands clasping her bag when my grief comes strutting into my room in and poleaxes me.

When you are busy doing the things you love she walks alongside you and you hold hands and swing your arms. She smiles at you, and you smile at her, and you think to yourself ‘yes, she’s mine, all mine, and what does that say about me?’ You walk around, your stride clipped and purposeful, your back straight, your chin high, and you stare people in the eye, challenging them, ‘I bet you don’t know this feeling, I bet you have no idea,’ and people stare back at you, slightly frightened, sensing something different and disconcerting about you. On these days you feel invincible and you tell yourself ‘if I can live with this mad, beautiful, terrifying woman then I can do anything I want,’ and you feel that it defines you and you have a wry smile in all your interactions.

Grief, when isolated on its own by a busy and full life can actually add because it sets you apart from other people. ‘I’m really alive, aren’t I? I’m experiencing something,’ you tell yourself. However, when it is combined with other negative emotions, perhaps rejection, or regret, or loneliness, then you feel the payback.

A couple of weekends ago I went out on the pull. It was going well and I was talking to lots of different attractive women when I got too drunk, and passed over the threshold from earnest and charming to weird and stare-y. I knew this and there was nothing I could do, and all my attempts at initiating conversation turned into slurred questions into unreceptive ears followed by a pleading smile. I felt despondent and images of my Mother’s crooked back and wringing hands played in my head.

The next morning I awoke and I was being smothered, and I lay there for an hour going through my Tinder and feeling sad. Finally, I got up and cleaned my flat and talked to my friend and felt the hot suggestion of tears which I shoved back down to the pit of my stomach. I got on with my day and on the way to my tutoring I was cycling through Hyde Park when I started punching the air and whooping because she was now in a little pull-along wagon looking childish and impotent, smiling sheepishly. ‘Fuck you,’ I said, ‘I win.’

I went to see Mum that day and she burst into tears when I saw her and she looked old but it didn’t matter. I absorbed it. We went out for a drink with my older sister to celebrate my 24th Birthday and Mum had no idea, really, of what that meant, but it didn’t matter. I had managed to visit her and I had won.

Visiting Mum

My Mum lives in a care-home because she has early onset Alzheimer’s, a cruel form of a cruel disease that goes after people under 65. This can be particularly tricky because the sufferers are often still in their prime with highly-responsible jobs and dependents. Mum was a nursery school headteacher, and I was still at school and my sisters still at university, when she began asking us “Have you eaten enough?” several times an hour. Visiting Mum really is the least I can do and at the third time of asking I hopped on the train from London to Birmingham, and then from Birmingham to far-flung Rowley Regis, to see my mother.


Mum, July ’16.

Two and a half hours later when I strolled into Mum’s grey – but excellent – care-home I could immediately tell she was in a great mood. She recognised me instantly, smiled broadly, and waved in her signature manic way when her jewellery – a collection of ‘New Age’ type stones found in tourist shops in Cornwall and Celtic metalwork – clicks and clacks like a little maraca.

“Hello Mum,” I said.

“Hello!” came the reply.

If still physically possible one of the most important things to do when visiting a loved one in a care-home is to get out of there as quickly as possible. The other patients wander around and stare at you and it smells like miscellaneous cleaning products. I grabbed Mum and we shot off around the corner to a cafe which is more like a Little Chef. As we were walking along, her little legs a blur of activity, we caught up on lost time.

“So how have you been?” I asked.

“Well thanks!”

“What have you been doing?”

“Oh just, you know…just going to the what-not.”

“Oh yeah, same,” I replied.

We got to the cafe and ordered two cups of tea, a slice of lemon meringue for me and, after minutes of furtive deliberation, involving pointing at different cakes and fingering the wrapping of the various bars on offer, a caramel shortbread for Mum. We sat down as she rubbed her hands incessantly, creating a pleasant dry and scratchy sound. I had recently enjoyed both series of the excellent “Catastrophe” on Channel 4 and thought this could be a fruitful conversational boulevard.

“So what is your favourite sitcom Mum?”

“Lemon flavour.”

Quite content with merely being in one another’s company, we sat in silence for a while, although the silence was frequently punctuated by Mum humming “A Hard Day’s Night” under her breath because we had sang it together earlier and it had obviously lodged itself in her brain in the same way “we need more bacon” and “we need more Innocent smoothie” had in the great bacon and smoothie stockpiling of ’11, when our fridge resembled that of a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist preparing for a nuclear winter.

Mum and I

Mum and I, February ’16.

After approximately an hour of sitting in the cafe, which included me frequently tapping her tea-cup to implore her to drink it, we decided to call it a day. We walked along the run-down road that leads to the home and arrived back in roughly 10 minutes. Because Mum was in one of those good moods that anyone who has a loved one with Alzheimer’s will recognise as bittersweet, I foolishly tried to capitalise. Rather than depositing Mum back at the home as is my usual modus operandi, be I on my own or with other members of the family, I waddled after her into the home so that I could stuff my cheeks with some quality time.

On return to Mum’s little room she disappeared into the toilet for about ten minutes. I messed around with her CD player which seemed to be intent on playing at whatever volume it so wished. When she came creeping out of the toilet she was muttering under her breath about random things and Karen, another former teacher at the home with whom Mum has bonded.

Earlier on in the day when Mum was stood in the doorway of her room, as I helped put her lavender fleece on, a slightly emaciated hand shot into vision and touched Mum’s shoulder. Mum turned to see where the hand had come from to see Karen stood there, beaming. Mum waved and said “Hello!” and they smiled at each other like two children on their first day of school who have just found someone they know they are going to be friends with. I suppose every time they bump into each other on their little expeditions around the bottom floor of the home they are struck with that breathless excitement that comes from meeting someone you instantly really like for the first time.

“Shall we go through to the living room?” I said.

“OK,” she said, although I really could have said anything. The inexplicable and stealthy turn for the worse had happened.

I ushered her towards the living room with my hand on the small of her back, feeling her stegosaurus-esque spine which once split her swimming costume on a water-slide in Devon, and caught the eye of one of the young care-workers, Kelly.

“I think I’m going to head off,” I said.

“OK,” she replied, “do you want to come over here Jane?”

Mum drifted towards the young woman.

“Bye Mum!” I said, giving her an unreciprocated hug and kissing the top of her head,”Can you let me out?” I then asked  Kelly.

She walked me down the dark corridor and punched in the code. The door swung open and suddenly there was Mum like a pale apparition.

“No Mum, you’re staying here!” I said, smiling.

“Ah OK, am I?”

“Come on Jane,” chimed in Kelly, linking Mum by the arm, “let’s go.”

“Bye Mum!” I said, and the door closed softly. I walked down the stairs, fighting back the slightly tumultuous feeling in my stomach, and reflected on the last two hours. Other than the dicey final ten minutes it had been a success and well worth the journey. I decided that I had been coasting towards a resounding 3-0 victory with 2 minutes remaining but the ‘keeper had switched off and let in a dirty consolation goal from an unnecessary corner. It does mar the victory somewhat but three points are three points and you would have taken it beforehand.

You have to laugh, really, because it is just life, but that doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes feel like howling at the moon: “MUUUMMMMM! Where are you?! Come back!”

*Names changed.




Boring Update

Hello there. This is my first blog-post in about 8 months and if you think that a lot has happened politically in that time just you wait until you hear about what I’ve been doing:

  • I started an MA and dropped out.
  • I have been working as a Learning Support Assistant at a school in London.
  • I watched both series of Catastrophe in two days. Best sitcom I’ve seen since I recently got into Curb Your Enthusiasm – also brilliant.

I’m going to try and relax the standards by which I hold myself because it means I just don’t write. I’m not going to start writing any old tosh – although it might seem that way to you – but always expecting everything I write to “go viral” because I wrote that one article that “went viral” like a strain of syphilis doesn’t mean, therefore, that everything that doesn’t “go viral” is a failure. Perfectionism is a form of arrogance anyway because essentially what you’re saying is that you are so special that anything that isn’t really brilliant and amusing is somehow something of deep shame because you don’t do “average”. However, when you look at all your heroes  – in my case Ricky Gervais, Larry David and Stewart Lee, to name but a few – then they have all tried things out that have and haven’t worked. The only thing you have to lose is your own sense of pride but pride is a vice for a reason.

My goal for the next year is to try and blog with a little more regularly, a minimum of once a week. Every day is unrealistic but once or twice a week is perfectly achievable providing I don’t relapse into total shithead behaviour.

By the way, just so you know, I am aware that a) this isn’t very funny and b) that you’re very unlikely to really care about any of this but my reasoning is that if I write it all down in ‘public’ – how odd that a random blog in a dark corner of the internet is now considered ‘public’, and probably more ‘public’ than if I read this out outside a tube station – then the fact that it is out ‘there’, wherever ‘there’ actually is, will make me much more likely to actually stick to it.

That is all. A very boring post but a necessary one, sort of like cleaning your room or texting your girlfriend about her night-out(joke, I don’t have one). Stay cheeky!

On ISIS, Islam and Terror: Why Honesty and Bravery is Needed

It’s been several week now since the Paris attacks, and I have bided my time to say my piece, which is a nice way of saying I haven’t got round to finishing it. In the aftermath of such a visceral event it is easy to slide into an angry and emotional narrative that makes one feel better when faced with such threat. This can be “all Muslims are terrorists, send them home!” or “this is all the West’s fault, we are a disgrace!” Both these interpretations were rife, at least on my newsfeed of well-educated lefties, and both are false. One should wait and reflect before pinning the blame on whatever group ones sees as nefarious and villainous, be it immigrant Muslims or Western powers. Life, unfortunately, is never that simple.

What is to follow is my take on this whole affair. I will attempt to attribute blame and responsibility where I see it lies, discuss some of the issues involved, critique much of the reaction – mainly on social media – and offer some very tentative and vague solutions. I believe much of this will indeed centre around left-wing reactions to the attacks that I see as wrong. This is not because I have now set up camp in the opposite side of the political spectrum, but because I feel that if the left doesn’t sort itself out – and quickly – then the electorate will be tempted into the arms of far-right parties. As Nick Cohen says in this informative video, conservative groups have much more success with an electorate when they can say how their left-wing counterparts hate their country, and many on the left seem to be crippled by self-loathing.

One final point before I get started: I am a humanist and want I want, above all, is the progression of the human race. I have no other agenda: I am not Islamaphobic, nor am I racist or xenophobic, and I am fully aware of the West’s shortcomings in foreign policy. The fact I have to make these caveats clear is a frustrating aspect of politics at the moment, as discussed by Sam Harris in this podcast, but this is the environment in which we find ourselves at this moment in time. So, anyway, let us begin.

Who is to blame?

When 130 innocent people are killed in streets of one of Europe’s most iconic and well-loved cities, a day after 41 people were blown up in Beirut, and the day before 147 people – innocent as well – are murdered in cold-blood in Kenya, it is quite natural that people want to attribute blame. In such instances, I think the blame is very clear-cut: it lies with ISIS and the insidious spread of Islamic fundamentalism.

Of course, the disastrous war in Iraq created a political vacuum that these black-hearted monsters have occupied with glee, but to blame the attacks on the West, to suggest that we are ‘reaping the rewards of Western intervention’, is, in my opinion, extremely churlish, weak and wrong, particularly as France wasn’t involved in Iraq at all. That mode of thought is dangerous. Children were killed on that Friday night, so what do they have to do with Western foreign policy? I use the example of children deliberately: if I had said families one could counter with ‘they voted for the government who carried out x attacks’ but clearly this is not true of children. Of course, you could argue that by being born in Western society they have benefited from the misdeeds of imperialism, the War on Terror, but it would take an extremely brave person to qualify their death in such a way. Furthermore, Islamic fundamentalism predates 9/11, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. In 1989 copies of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was being burnt on the streets of the UK;there was an attack in West Germany in 1986 killing three; the Lockerbie bombings were in 1988. The rush to blame Western foreign policy ignores the facts.

I have been making the following comparison for a while and it is one that Rafeal Behr makes too: the war in Iraq is to the rise of ISIS what the Treaty of Versailles is to the rise of the Nazi’s. But, looking back on history, people tend not to apologise for the misdeeds of the Nazi’s on account of the failings of the Treaty. I think history will judge the Iraq war in a similar way. Clearly it has created conditions that were ripe for ISIS but it is doesn’t justify the actions of evil individuals. When you see Yazidi houses being marked out in a chilling fashion, similar to how Nazi’s marked out the Jews, it is hard to see that and think ‘but Afghanistan didn’t work….amiright?’.

A final argument that is often used to attempt to explain the behaviour of Islamists is that in the West they are marginalised, unemployed and disaffected. I have some problems with this interpretation. Firstly, being marginalised, unemployed and disaffected does not justify the murder of innocents. Why should it? Secondly, there are millions of marginalised, unemployed and disaffected people in the Western world so if it were such a pervasive reason for radicalisation we would have many, many more on our hands. Thirdly, a lot of the terrorists that we know of are actually fairly affluent. Jihadi John, for example, the poster boy of brand ISIS, was from a relatively affluent background and was well-educated. He had a degree from Westminster University. Brahim Abdeslam, the man who died on Boulevard Voltaire during the November Paris attacks, owned a bar in the rundown Belgian district of Moleenbek. Hardly an aristocrat, yes, but not exactly a poverty-stricken life. His income was probably more sustainable than most other struggling writers, for example.

Omar Ismail Mostefai, one of the Bataclan murderers, worked as a baker; Cherif Kouachi – one of the Hebdo killers – a pizza deliveryman; Nasser Muthana, one of the high-profile Britons fighting in Syria, was a former medical student. Once again, not living the high life but not cripplingly impoverished. Indeed, even the Guardian concedes in an article in January that “French jihadis heading to Syria are emerging from varied, often middle-class backgrounds, sometimes with a good education and prospects”. Finally, a study done by the psychologist Sageman in 2004 Sageman in 2004 found that 94 of 132 (71%) of Muslim terrorists have some kind of college education and 57 of 134 (43%) were professionals. Clearly, the reasons that compel people to fight Jihad are far more complex than economic hardship and low job prospects. Indeed, if that were the case, nearly all of my fellow LSE graduates who didn’t go into banking would be boarding the next plane to Syria.

I am not trying to suggest that there are not causal factors, such as environment and economic standing, that contribute to a Jihadists decision to fight. Every decision a human being makes is the result of a myriad of complexities. Merely, I am trying to illustrate that there is no simply solution here.

Is ISIS Islamic?

In short, yes. To deny it is false, weak and cowardly. It is like trying to deny that the IRA was about the liberation of Ireland or that the PKK want a Kurdish state. It is part of ISIS’ explicit, stated aims and a massive mobilising factor for their ideology.

The best explanation I have read of ISIS and one that has greatly altered my thinking of the organisation is this one in the Atlantic. ISIS is a religious group and it sees itself as a key player in the fulfilment of an apocalyptic prophesy derived from, yes, the Qu’ran. How is that not Islamic in origins? Yes it is a hateful part of the Qu’ran, yes the Bible has similarly fire and brimstone parts, yes not all Muslims agree with it. But, it is Islamic. Denying it from the fear of seeming Islamophobic or sounding like you read the Daily Mail is truncating rigorous intellectual discussion and debate.

Let us try and explain some of ISIS’ most hateful acts in light of this. ISIS has a disregard for innocent and civilian life. They blow people up in market squares, they shoot people during concerts, they behead journalists. Why? This is because they don’t have the concept of ‘civilian’ as we do, derived from the Geneva convention. Instead, the world of ISIS is divided into believers, i.e. Sunni Muslims, and disbelievers (mushrik or kafir), i.e., the rest of us. To kill a disbeliever, for ISIS, is a moral act in accordance with, for example, Sura 9:5 of the Qur’an, which states :‘Fight and kill the idolators (mushrik) wherever you find them’.

Many argue that ISIS are not religious but are nihilistic, a mindless death-cult. Once again, this totally disregards the facts. Janet Daley, writing for the Telegraph, argued the West is at war with a ‘death-cult’, Obama has termed them as ‘nihilistic’ and ‘speaking for no religion’. This is wrong. Nihilism is the belief in no values at all, that there is nothing to be loyal to and no purpose to live. This is not ISIS. Indeed, to paraphrase a good article by Mark Durrie – an article I recommend you read – the boast that ‘ISIS love death like you love life’ is not a nihilistic calls to arms but is a ‘is a theological reference to a series of verses in the Qur’an in which Jews are criticised for desiring life (Sura 2:94-96, 62:6-8).  According to the Qur’an, loving life is a characteristic of infidels (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27) because it causes them to disregard the importance of the next life.  The taunt much used by jihadis, ‘We love death like you love life’, implies that jihadis are bound for paradise while their enemies are hell-bound.’ The supposedly nihilistic outlook is in fact deeply rooted in religious scripture. To deny this is wrong.

One of the more idiosyncratic aspects of life in the Islamic State is that Christians are allowed to live as long as they pay a special tax called the jizya. There is scriptural justification for this found in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Qu-ran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Or, how do we explain ISIS’ disregard for Yazidi life? Well, according to Dabiq, an anonymous magazine acting for ISIS, ‘Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations… Enslaving the families of the kuffar[infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narration of the Prophet… and thereby apostatizing from Islam.’ Once again, the justification for their actions is an appeal to religious scripture. We simply cannot deny this.

Now comes caveat bingo: I am not Islamaphobic, I have no axe to grind, I don’t hate Muslims. But, to deny the Islamic nature of ISIS is so risky and so dangerous that we cannot afford to do so. We must be brave and say it how it is, not how we wish it were.

Social media

Social media, in time of tragedy and crisis, is a terribly predictable place to inhabit. There is the initial shock, the racists, the virtue-signallers and the whatbouters?, who have handily be given an apt name: “tragedy hipsters”. These are the people who, despite having shown no explicit interest in any of the atrocities they harp on about, are perfectly happy to moralise and admonish all those showing any grief at the death of innocent Parisians. “Why aren’t you turning your profile picture into a flag of Beirut?” they ask, “where was the reportage on Baghdad?”

I have quite a lot of contempt for these people because it doesn’t strike me as genuine concern for the lives of other people. Perhaps I am a cynic, but, it seems that the vast majority of these people are suffering from a serious bout of white guilt and want to project that upon other people on their news feeds. Does it really hold that more reportage on France means that you care more about French lives than Lebanese? Or is it that Paris is just over the channel, people have actually visited it and many have friends and family who were in Paris during the attacks? And, is it really appropriate, less than 24 hours after the death of innocent civilians, to use this as an opportunity to show how you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of human suffering and that you’re not interested in mainstream death?

Channel 4 journalist Lidnsey Hilsum has railed against this in a personal blog. She argues, quite cogently, that attacks in other parts of the world are covered but they just aren’t watched. She uses the example that she reported on a bombing in November 2013 that killed 23 people and the video got 80 recommends and 29 retweets. Yet, when Krishnan Guru-Murphy had his argument with Quentin Tarantino, the video got 3.52 million views, and rising. So, is it the evil media that is not covering things because it is inherently racist, or is that people are only interested in other atrocities when it suits their agenda of ‘I’m so much more caring than everyone else’?

Of course Paris was a bigger story than Beirut in the Western world and it is no great sin that it was. Paris represents so much of what we love about the West. It is free, it is secular, people drink, people debate, it is intellectual. An attack on Paris, like the Hebdo attack in January, feels like a direct assault on European liberalism and all that we love about it. Furthermore, as Hilsum continues to argue, it is much easier for ISIS to attack Beirut than it is to attack Paris. So, the Paris attacks were also frightening because it displayed a might that we didn’t necessarily believe ISIS to have.

I really do believe that all those who can’t help themselves but ‘whatabout?’ ought to have a long think about what motivates them to do it. Do you really believe that increased coverage in Paris means that we value French lives better? Did you really care about whatever atrocity you are waving around when it happened? Are you really hoping to educate people about deaths in other parts of the world? Or are you using it is a golden opportunity to puff out your chest and tell the world just how erudite, caring and oh-so culturally sensitive you are?

The Left

The left, in general, offers a limp-wristed response to Islamism. So blinded by its anti-Western, anti-American, anti-media, anti-everything, some on the left cannot see that it is bending over backwards to apologise and justify the actions of people who stand for the exact opposite of what the left stands for: fascism. This tendency can not be more aptly summarised then by the actions of the student union of my beloved LSE: a motion condemning the attacks in Paris failed to pass, a motion condemning the British government’s decision to bomb Syria did. Quite hilarious, really.

Left-wing politics are supposedly about tolerance, diversity, equality – gender, sexual and race – and progression. ISIS and Islamic fundamentalists stand for the exact opposite of this. They are utterly regressive, utterly totalitarian and want to drag humanity back to the 7th Century so that they can see the fulfilment of their ridiculous prophecy and the apocalypse. Why the rush to defend the people who join them? Why the rush to apologise? Why the rush to pin their creation on us? It beggars belief and unless a strong, coherent message is adopted Labour will continue to lose votes and UKIP will continue to gain them.

I see the problem as a fear of association. Many well-meaning, intelligent, left-wing people are fearful of condemning ISIS and Islamic fundamentalism too harshly through fear of procuring uncomfortable allies. You don’t want to be seen to be siding with the likes of the Daily Mail, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, so keep schtum. Yet, this isn’t a new phenomenon for the left. During the era of the Soviet Union, liberals on the left were reluctant to criticise the Soviet block in fear of being associated with the enemy. George Orwell in his prescient foreword to Animal Farm wrote:

You could, indeed, publish anti-Russian books, but to do so was to make sure of being ignored or misrepresented by nearly the whole of the highbrow press. Both publicly and privately you were warned that it was ‘not done’. What you said might possibly be true, but it was ‘inopportune’ and ‘played into the hands of’ this or that reactionary interest.

Indeed, after the Charlie Hebdo massacres, Ian McEwan gave a commencement speech arguing to the students that freedom of speech suffers when we are too scared of getting “applause from the wrong side”. What I am trying to say is that those who say they are progressive should argue against the enemies of progress – in this instance, ISIS and Islamism – without fear of who might agree.


In the time I started writing this and actually finished it, the UK has taken the decision to bomb Syria. I don’t agree with this decision for many reasons which I won’t go into. This essay is far more concerned with the world of ideas and what one who is engaged in the world of discussion can actually do.

Firstly, those who consider themselves to be intellectual must feel honest and brave enough, must resist the temptation to self-censor for fear of causing offence or sounding far-right, to have the conversation about Islam and religion.  Is it our role to be tolerant of the intolerant? Is it Islamaphobic to be honest about the atrocities done in its name? Do we demonise Muslims by saying what we see? These are questions that we need to ask ourselves but we live in a society founded on free speech: we should be able to debate and discuss freely for that is how we progress as a society. The reverse to this is that Islamic fundamentalists who wish to defend ISIS in this country should be given a platform to debate if they so wish. An important aspect of free speech is that you must listen to the views of those you dislike and this applies to Islamists. Watching Anjem Choudary refuse to say whether Maajid Nawaz would be killed as an apostate in his Caliphate can hardly have done his cause much good.

There are some practical steps to take too. For one, in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, no newspapers in the UK decided to print the cartoon. I would argue that if, heaven forbid, something like that were to happen again then all newspapers should show the cartoon. Not doing so was an act of cowardice and we cannot allow, to quote Douglas Murray, one little magazine “to hold the line of freedom of speech.” We printed Piss Christ, we should have printed the Hebdo cartoons.

So my main solution in the area of debate is this: honesty. There are some brilliant thinkers and writers on this subject: Maajid Nawaz, Sam Harris, Maryam Nawazie, Douglas Murray, all of whom are worth reading. Also, it is important to remember that Islam is not a race, it is a religion. And like every other religion it is subject to scrutiny and criticism. We, in this country, are quite happy to criticise – quite rightly – Catholicism, Judaism, atheists. So why not Islam? If people take a criticism of their religion as persecution or an attack on them, well, tough.

Bournville Students’ Feminist Society

After the unprecedented success of the Bournville Students’ Rugby Club, my cat Binky and I have decided to expand our venture into other areas that we strongly believe in. One such area is feminism. So, I proudly present to you the Bournville Students’ Feminist Society!

For all those wishing to join our fight against the cissexist, capitalist, white supremacist, heteropatriarchy, or the CCWSH for short, I would just like to lay down some ground rules so that we can be a cohesive team. I will begin with a ranking of your privileges. If your privilege is at the top of the list then that means your opinion is less valid. If your privilege is at the bottom of the list then that means your opinion is more valid, regardless of your life experiences or history of oppression.


1 – White male privilege – This is the most privileged of all the privileges and you are PRIVELEGED to such an extent that you make me feel SICK and you are not invited. Get out! What’s that? Both your parents died in a car accident? I don’t care – out, out, out, I HATE YOU!

2 – Male privilege – You are a male and so that gives you lots of privileges that a female doesn’t have. However, you are not white so you aren’t as bad as a white male but you are still a male so I still hold you responsible for many of the world’s ills.

3 – White privilege – You are very privileged but your saving grace is that you don’t have a bit of skin hanging between your legs. However, you are white. I don’t care if you are working class, have no arms, are blind or deaf because you are white and therefore you are more privileged than anyone non-white. Even Beyonce!

4 – Human privilege – You are a human so you should count yourself extremely lucky to have been born with that level of privilege. You get to talk, for example, and tackle complex issues such as why there is a disproportionate amount of female murders in TV detective shows. If you ever find yourself lecturing to a donkey about the patriarchy you should definitely check your privilege because you don’t know the oppression that that donkey has gone through.

5 – Cat privilege –Cats have a level of privilege that other animals don’t have because they live in houses and are fed by loving owners. Also, they get stroked a lot and the pay gap between the cost of cat food and the cost of goldfish food is absolutely shocking and cats should check their privilege if they find themselves having a heated discussion with a goldfish about who’s a better role model for the women of today, Taylor Swift or Queen Boudicca.

For those of you who are still a bit confused about this list it means that Binky, as the least privileged member of our group, always has the last word on any discussion we may have. Binky is from an ethnic background, what with being a black cat, and is female. So, let’s all feel sorry for Binky and whenever she has anything to say I would like it if you patronise and demean her by agreeing with her instantaneously, even if what she has said is complete fucking wank like that time when she tried to organise a death squad to take out all the dogs in the local area.

Whilst I’m on the topic I believe it is really important to make sure that an ethnic member of our group is made aware that they are ethnic at every opportunity and also that that means their opinion is better. For example, if an Asian member of the group said something like “I hate Big Issue sellers who shout too loudly just because they are men” then you should reply with something like this “You are Asian and what you said was right.” That way they will be made to feel like they are being treated differently on account of the colour of their skin and that is something to aim towards.

Our initiation ceremony is a low-key affair as we hate the Bournville Students’ Rugby Club and we don’t want to be like them. This is a difficult position for me to be in as I am the head of the Bournville Students’ Rugby Club but I find it incredibly easy to hold two very conflicting ideals in my mind. For example, I think it is OK to say “kill all white men” but at the same time my Dad is a white man, as is my boyfriend, and I love them both. How do I do it? Magic! For the initiation ceremony we will all meet up at my Grandad’s house, Old Pops as he is fondly called, and we will murder him in cold blood for all the pain and suffering he and his like have caused the world. The old cunt is going to die soon anyway.

I hope this has enticed you to join my group. One of the biggest benefits of the Bournville Students’ Feminist Society is that if you join, regardless of your past actions, behaviours and decisions, you are automatically a better person than anyone else who hasn’t joined.


Ode to my satchel

As a would-be-writer, what is more apt?
Then to have as a bag a nice leather satch?
It makes me look rather smart,
There is one problem: it smells of fart.

I wear my satchel with pride and joy,
There stands a man where once was a boy.
A brilliant vehicle for books and my phone,
But when I wear it there is always a groan.

I used to thrust my head in the sand,
I couldn’t accept it, you must understand.
But like a fox who’s wearing a thong,
I knew deep down that something was wrong.

One day, eventually, I had to give in,
Gossip heard above big city din.
I’m on a bus, behind, sit two young girls,
One with straight hair, one with curls.

“Saturday, did Sandra kiss Barry?” they ask,
My face becoming a very bored mask.
“I’m really not sure, but something stinks”
I look at my satchel and it leers and winks.

My satchel was treated in camel piss,
It makes it look great but here’s the twist:
My satch smells of arse and stinks out my room,
But I love it so much I endure the fume.

What shall I do? Shall I throw it away?
My mind says yes but my heart says nay.
I love it, I love it, I can’t let it go,
You say otherwise you’re a lifelong foe.

This is a tale of conflicted love,
The satchel was crafted by the Lord Above.
Yes, it reeks, but it looks great with my mac,
And the same cannot be said of an old rusksack.

Introductory Pamphlet to Bournville Students’ Rugby Club

Hello. You are reading this exclusive leaflet because you have made it through the rigorous and arduous selection process for my cult: the Bournville Students’ Rugby Club. I am writing this leaflet from my Daddy’s flat in Dubai. I am not wearing any clothes because I am fixated in an infantile state of mind whereby nudity still fascinates me and never fails to make me laugh. Without further ado, I invite you to read the introductory pamphlet.

Initiation Ceremony

Initiations are a vitally important part of the BSRC experience. It will begin by meeting at 9am – in the morning – at my grandparents’ house in Kings Norton. On arrival, you will be expected to do a shot, shot, shot!!! of my dog’s piss. Then you will made to do thirty press-ups whilst said dog, Tarquin, aggressively fucks your leg having been deliberately led into a dangerous state of arousal. After that, you will be expected to watch an episode of “Deal or no Deal”. Every time Noel Edmonds swishes his golden hair and says “hello”, “and”, “how”, “are”, “you”, “deal”, “or”, “no”, “deal”, “is”, “it” or “metamorphosis”, you will have to allow me to place my entirely bald bollocks on your head so you will them wear like a little hat and drink a bottle of red wine and a pint of balsamic vinegar which Mummy has very kindly let me use.

The grand finale of the initiation involves my grandfather. Old Pops, as you will be required to address him, is unfortunately incontinent. However, I have turned this into a positive for the purposes of the Ceremony.In the build-up, Old Pops has been fed on a diet consisting solely of fig rolls, chicken madras and vindaloo. I have then blocked his arse with a large champagne cork. During the course of the day I will release the cork, allowing a deposit of Old Pops’ excrement to cascade out like Niagara Falls. You will then be forced to wipe it up. Best of luck guys!

Post-Initiation Ceremony Celebrations

Having been initiated into the BSRC, all lucky members will be invited to celebrate. The Celebration will commence at my parents’ house in Bournville at 7pm. We will begin by eating some party rings, playing a furious game of apple bobbing and drinking a dirty pint of vodka, rum, beer, cider, prosecco, absinthe, camel semen, grappa, gin, champagne, whisky, ale, tequila and duck egg. Having enjoyed your dirty pint you and all other members will be given your official BSRC regalia which is a long, hooded white cloak.

Once kitted out, we will do some chanting beginning with: “We all love BSRC”, “BSRC is the best”, “If you love BSRC clap your hands” and finishing with a light-hearted rendition of “I want to brutally murder the members of rival rugby club Students of Bournville Rugby Club.”

After this fun, still in full gear, we will board a bus into Birmingham City Centre for the main set-piece of the celebration. Once in town, we will capture a homeless man and knock him unconscious with some Official BSRC Rohypnol. He will then be transported to the candlelit stone table I have had erected in the middle of Cadbury’s World. I will then plunge a ceremonial, bejewelled dagger into his heart. All present BSRC members will be required to drink a pint of his blood whilst I, your leader, master and dark overlord, will eat his heart.

Thus, the Post-Initiation Ceremony will be brought to a close. I hope we can all enjoy an evening of harmless, relaxed banter!

Week schedule

Once you have become a fully-fledged member of BSRC, there is a weekly schedule to adhere to. It is as follows:


Group therapy session where we talk about our darkest and most secret feelings.


Mass game of kerplunk. Riotous, rowdy and revered, to have the best possible time don’t bring your girlfriend!


The busiest day of the week, Wednesday begins with a hard-fought victory (fingers and webbed feet crossed!) over a rival Rugby Club. Twice a year we play the SoBRC which are always rambunctious  affairs.

In the evening we go to the zoo and look at all the pretty animals and remind ourselves of the wonder of nature and evolution. We then drink, drink and drink some more, before going to the public toilets in the Bullring, affectionately called Loo Bar, and do some chanting whilst trying to cop-off with the tasty toilet attendants who are known to be right slags.


Recovery from last night!


To celebrate the end of the working week, we get utterly destroyed in a Wetherspoon’s and behave like consummate gentlemen by vomiting, chanting and taking off as many of our clothes as possible.


Group trip to the swimming baths and then an early night watching X-Factor.


To cap off a hectic week there is a compulsory (topless) group Skype session where we recount the weeks events.

BSRC Official Terminology and phrases

Finally, to ease your integration into the BSRC here are a few handy terms to familiarise yourself with.

Slag – A woman who has ever had sex.

True gent – A man who has ever had sex.

Fag – A homosexual. Anyone suspected of homosexuality will be severely punished by being forced to fellate me which I will not enjoy.

Debauchery – A type of blue cheese.

Poly  Short for polygon.

Knuckles – Things that we drag on the floor.


That is all. I hope you enjoy your year in the BSRC!