From A Pauper's Penthouse

ABOUT The Author And Historian Ron Gattway

The author and historian Ron Gattway
Eye am an author/historian/publisher/satirist. Eye was born in Fulford Maternity Hospital because there was no room at the inn. Eye am the product of a mixed marriage: my mother was a woman, and my father was a man, so I had a difficult upbringing. Eye am also a racist, as eye am particula More...



Here is an extract from 'The Views From A Pauper's Penthouse'

Friday 8th July

Isn't it the mother of all ironies that the newspaper that has fed off all manner of scandals has itself ultimately succumbed to scandal? I guess that it typifies the saying that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. Andy Coulson who was six months ago the Prime Minister's trusted aide on the media is now relegated to 'helping police with their enquiries'. Having been released from Lewisham cop shop this evening, Andy might do well to take himself off to the nearest food store and buy himself lots of porridge so that he can acquire a taste for what might become a daily meal.

The ginger goddess, Rebekah Brooks meanwhile has apologised to the staff at the Hysteria Of The World who are for the time being 'in between jobs'. It was suggested by Sheila Gunn on 'The World Tonight' that Mrs Brooks is being kept in position by the Murdochs as she is acting as a 'human shield'. Whilst all criticism is being directed at Mrs B, it is thus not travelling in the direction of James Murdoch. Whether Mr Murdoch or Mrs Brooks emerge from this débacle scot free is still anybody's guess. Mrs B intimated to staff that worse may yet be to come in terms of unsavoury revelations which is why the merciless Scandal Of The World received a mercy killing yesterday.

There are reports that the police are now on the case of the Daily Star. It is scarcely surprising. I was astounded that on Wednesday, as the drama was escalating, the Daily Star's front page story was an infinitely irrelevant piece on love rat Rio Ferdinand. Whilst the relationship between the press and the police was coming under scrutiny in a story that has rocked the foundations of 'the establishment', the Daily Star chose to dwell on silly Rio. I notice that rats is an anagram of star. Maybe this trashy tabloid ought to be re-named the Daily Rats. Its comeuppance is surely close at hand.

At Auntie Beeb, Radio Five Live's Drive soldiered on in the absence this week of the cantankerous Peter Allen, with an unusual duo of a Jewish man (Jon Sopel) and a Muslim woman (Aasmah Mir). Their chemistry was a harmonious one. Citizens of the turbulent Middle East, take note.

I myself will be paying a royal visit to the boys and girls of Radio Five Dead on Sunday as I have been invited onto 'Pienaar's Politics' where I shall have the opportunity to irritate the nation with my own perspective on recent developments. I find this prospect both thrilling and challenging. I shall learn from this experience as to whether my aspiration to be a media commentator on current affairs is a realistic one or not. Bring it on, I say!

Born on this date: Neil Jenkins (1971); Sourav Ganguly (1973)

Died on this date: Jean Moulin (1943); Wilfred Rhodes (1973)

Saturday 9th July

I saw a cat toying with an injured bird. It reminded me of Barcelona's annihilation of ManUre in the Champions League Final. Actually, I saw no such thing, but hey it was an amusing little piece of fiction, wasn't it?

On the subject of soccer, I have been laboriously engaged over the course of the last week in emailing all football clubs the length and breadth of this septic isle in an effort to shift further copies of two recent football books of mine. As a consequence, I've been trawling through every club's website. I noticed bizarrely that Cowdenbeath call themselves the 'Blue Brazil'. I wonder if Brazil meanwhile are alternatively known as the Yellow


It is hard work trying to penetrate the multi-million pound football clubs because they have designated suppliers who jealously guard their perch and don't allow nice enterprising seagulls like me to come along and occupy their place on the cliff. Then there is the issue of club-endorsed merchandise. If one's products are not official club items, then again one has a mountain to climb. Interestingly, a gentleman from Everton Football Club's retailers stated that the projected sales of my books would be in the region of 25 per season (roughly amounting to one per every home match). He then insisted that it would not be worth clearing space on the shelves to stock my books. How weird is that? I mean, if each Premiership club was selling 25 copies of my football books, that would total 500 from that division alone. Supposing the other divisions between them sold a further five hundred copies, I am looking at the satisfactory scenario of sales in excess of one thousand. How peculiar and indeed cruel, thinks me, that the clubs are unable and unwilling to stock my perfectly worthwhile soccer books, thereby denying me (and them!) extra revenue. Most frustrating!

Back on my home patch, there are red, white, and blue streamers adorning almost every locality in Norn Iron in preparation for the annual Twelfth of July demonstrations. Any French visitor who encountered these displays of le tricolore would be forgiven for thinking that the citizens of the six counties were intent on celebrating Bastille Day two days later on the 14th. Little do they realise that the colourful decorations are merely the paraphernalia of Planet Protestant.

Born on this date: Mitch Mitchell (1947); Paul Merton (1957)

Died on this date: Melvin Belli (1996); Rod Steiger (2002)

Today is also the date of birth of Simple Minds' lead vocalist Jim Kerr who seems a thoroughly personable chap. It's such a pity that he spoils it by supporting wee Glasgow Wannabees.

Sunday 10th July

First things first, congratulations to England cricket team for winning the deciding one-day international against the World Cup finalists Sri Lanka to secure their series 3-2. England can play one-day cricket after all.

A round of applause is also due to Fernando Alonso for triumphing in the British Grand Prix. Australia's Mark Webber finished third behind his team-mate and likely championship winner Sebastian Vettel. It is indeed proving to be an annus horribilis for Aussies. First of all, the cricket team was hit for six by England in the Ashes and then was turfed out of the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Then there was the Queensland floods. Furthermore, the once-mighty Australians have gone missing in the tennis grand slam events. Finally, dear old, beloved Rupert Murdoch has a small crisis on his greedy hands. Advance Australia fair? Not recently anyway.

Although Luke Donald struck a golfing blow for England and St George by conquering the Scottish Open, thereby securing his status as the World's Number One, the English suffered another painful soccer setback last night. The ladies were knocked out in the World Cup finals in a (yep you guessed it) penalty shoot-out by the French. You could say that this defeat goes a small way towards avenging Agincourt. I suppose that the English can count their blessings that back in 1415 Henry V's troops weren't simply challenged to a battle decided by a penalties contest. Oh la la.

Today en route to an appearance on 'Pienaar's Politics' at Radio 5 Live at Millbank in Westminster, I found myself tramping the streets of Birmingham for the first time since an unfulfilling sojourn at the university of Aston in 1989. As this slut was a-walking through central Brum, it felt really weird re-visiting old hunting-ground after a gap of twenty-two years. I certainly feel like the nation of Israel that wondered around for forty years before reaching the promised land. [Why didn't they use a SatNav?] I too have been journeying hither and thither since my days at Aston, and the extent to which I am any further forward is very much open to question.

I have used a window of opportunity cet après-midi to go round several Waterstones stores and Foyles of Charing Cross in a bid to hassle the staff into ordering copies of my most recent three publications. I enjoyed more success at this than I had anticipated. Mind you, some state that they've processed an order but may be telling porkies.

Okay, I'm making my way to west London where I have been granted the opportunity to annoy the nation on the airwaves. Britain brace yourself.

Born on this date: Arthur Ashe (1943); Virginia Wade (1945)

Died on this date: Admiral Jackie Fisher (1920); Joe Davis (1978)

Monday 11th July

Right, you want a coroner's inquest into my appearance on Radio Five Live's 'Pienaar's Politics'. Well, even if you don't, you're getting one.

I dearly love the opportunity to rub shoulders with the broadcasting media, so I found the experience to be potentially both challenging and thrilling. In the event, I found the premises at four Millbank to be quite grandiose, and were presumably a government ministry in a previous life.

I was actually in the studio sitting directly opposite John P for the duration of the show. It was certainly an eye-opener and convinced me that in terms of my own ability to hold my own in a discussion with members of the political classes that I was 'on a learning curve.' I think that both in terms of my knowledge of the minutiae of politics and in terms of my delivery of my tuppence worth, I probably came up just short in each. Yet, I still harbour a desire to be a political commentator or columnist. I remain of the opinion that my writings reveal an individual whose thoughts and observations are seldom dull and who has much to offer as a commentator.

However, in the midst of the renowned young Conservative blogger Tim Montgomerie and the Guardian's equally capable Allegra Stratton, it was clear to me that I am still some way short of their expertise. Having said that, I have a wide range of knowledge that encompasses for example sport while such individuals perhaps have a limited range of knowledge, but what they do know, they know exceptionally well. This reinforces my view that we are all imbalanced individuals. However, as a would-be 'commentator', I met my match in Tim and Allegra.

Remarkably, I was also in the exalted company of no fewer than five Members of Parliament. The token Tory was Paul Maynard, a lovely guy with whom I had a post-programme chat. He suggested that Vince Cable, a former adversary of his, was likely to step down after the next general election. Mr C is reportedly less than comfortable with the coalition with the Conservatives, so perhaps it isn't inconceivable that the darling of the Liberal Conservatives will exit the stage. Jo Swinson, the Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader was also present. She seemed a very likeable person. Les autres were Labour MPs: the bruiser Tom Watson, Ivan Lewis (the shadow spokesperson on Culture, Media and Sport) whom I found to be very charming and articulate, and last but not least Rushanara Ali, a young lady from east London who emphatically gives lie to the theory that politics is showbusiness for ugly people.

Born on this date: Yul Brynner (1920); Tony Cottee (1965)

Died on this date: George Gershwin (1937); John Spencer (2006)

Tuesday 12th July

Further to Sunday's special guest appearance on 'Pienaar's Politics', I was a little surprised that John P didn't start me off with a gentle opening question along the lines of “So Gary, did you buy a copy of the last-ever edition of the News Of The World?” To which, I would have replied, “John baby, I'm a News Of The World-virgin. I've never bought a copy of this rag and now 'unhappily' I never will. In fact, John darling, if I composed a list of 100,000 things that I should do before I die, purchasing a copy of the News Of The World would not even scrape its way onto the list.”

In the event, JP asked me a less than easy question and what I rated as a decent attempt at an answer impressed Mr P to such an extent that it was three-quarters of an hour before he dared to ask me une autre question. In my defence, it was like Piccadilly Circus in that small studio, and with the revolving door of guests, it was only to be expected that the regulars of Westminster village would receive the lion share of Mr Pienaar's attention.

Today is the day when the council estates of Northern Ireland are empty as the residents set off for several hours of flute-playing, drum-thumping, marching and boozing. Yes folks, welcome to Ulster's twelfth of July.

On a ferry crossing last night from Scotland, I had a foretaste of the Twelfth as a coach load of Scottish bandsmen and assorted hangers-on indulged in the eleventh-night custom of drinking themselves silly and then singing silly songs. I am all for a bit of banter, but when the riff-raff start to pay musical tribute to the thugs of the UDA (Unemployed Drug Addicts) and the UVF, well this cultural outpouring travels way beyond good taste.

Apparently, there has been much rioting and scuffles in the last couple of nights. Much of the loyalist, protestant underclass prize their pathetic little flags and take exception to anyone who challenges their right to fly these glorified pieces of cloth everywhere. Flag-flying and waving is for the insecure. The English, Scots and Welsh don't cling to the Union Jack. They are British and don't need to remind themselves, unlike the loyalist lumps who have to remind themselves of their national identity every year.

I attended the annual north Derry 'demonstration' if only as a means of passing the day. The parade is one of the better ones, if only because it does feature a considerable dollop of parks bands and pipe bands. There are still a disturbing volume of horrible paramilitary bands with their wee hard men trying to play poor taste tunes whilst struggling to stay sober. The royal family have never come near such a pathetic parade. I wonder why.

Born on this date: Gareth Edwards (1947); Gaby Roslin (1964)

Died on this date: Alfred Dreyfus (1935); Minnie Riperton (1979)

Wednesday 13th July

Hooray for humanity. News International have abandoned their plans to annex Britain's media lock, stock, and barrel. Rarely do the three major political parties coalesce on anything, except maybe when there is a common enemy overseas. Well today the three warring factions of the Hut of Commons combined to express their revulsion at Rupert Murdoch and his news-at-any-cost cronies. One only hopes that as the investigations run their course that all wrongdoers are dealt with accordingly. It simply won't do that a few individuals will be required to walk the plank on everybody else's behalf. This happened avec Goodman and Mulcaire a few years ago, and clearly the persecution of a few naughty journalists may this time prove less than satisfactory. It's quite ironic how the 'hang 'em and flog 'em' journos will now be pleading for us all to show them clemency. No chance!

Overseas, there are growing concerns about the financial future of Italy. Even the Republic of Ireland is still far from healthy. Poor old Europe is making a complete hash of the single currency. If there is a single currency, then surely logic follows that there needs to be one single fiscal policy and one continent-wide finance minister to ensure a cohesive strategy for trade and commerce within the Eurozone. So long as different European states pursue conflicting economic policies within the umbrella of the Euro, then there will always be fluctuating fortunes across the frontiers. Gosh I'm beginning to sound like a member of UKIP and I would not wish for that.

Oh the post-mortem is in full swing after yesterday's organised chaos that is otherwise known as the Twelfth. There is a recurring pattern each year. The eleventh is a day for boozing, the Twelfth is for marching and rioting, and the thirteenth is for accusing and blaming. I get so mad in a totally sane way when I hear middle-class protestant 'experts' suggesting that the Orange Disorder is making progress and that everything should be whitewashed over. Most parades are totally undermined by the influence of alcohol, either from bandsmen or their hangers-on. There is also something scandalous about the middle-aged marchers in the loyal orders, parading behind paramilitary bands. As long as they give credibility to such evil people, the loyalist community will remain in the gutter. I only write this in such strong terms because I feel passionate and upset about how the Billy boys and their alcohol and balaclavas culture is destroying the six counties. I saw yesterday the pernicious impact of alcohol consumption upon some Ulster protestants.

Born on this date: Harrison Ford (1942); Ian Hislop (1960)

Died on this date: Ruth Ellis (1955); Joachim Peiper (1976)

Thursday 14th July

The News Of The World continues to be precisely that. Rebekah Brooks and her Murdoch masters have decided to appear before a House of Commons select committee next week for cross-examination. This is not a legal scenario, but it enables News International to explain itself whilst under scrutiny. Suffice to say that this particular parliamentary committee rendezvous promises to be compulsive viewing.

Across the big pond, there is growing unease about the possibility that News International has been a bit too intrusive with victims of the 9/11 bombings. The FBI is now apparently being summoned to ascertain if the American gutter press have hacked into the voicemail of such people. It's funny but when I played soccer as a little nipper with other youngsters, the word hacking was a verb associated with committing dreadful fouls. How very appropriate that the Scum Of The World should be alleged to have committed equally bad fouls on 'ordinary', unsuspecting people.

Gordon Broon (remember him?) made a rare speech at the Commons yesterday in which he correctly stated that the Murdoch tabloids had descended from the gutter to the sewer. Meanwhile, Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats has cheekily remarked that the sun is finally setting on the Murdoch empire. Good riddance Murdoch.

However, there is one matter that I would like to touch upon if only to demonstrate that the wretched behaviour of the Scandal Of The World journalists is now the norm rather than the exception.

I believe that as a consequence of the free enterprise of capitalism, there are too many businesses and employees who are proving to be just a little too 'enterprising'. Oh yes, we all laughed and loved those amiable rogues Arfur Daley and Derek Trotter, but I would venture to say that the British workplace is now awash with firms who are so dreadfully keen to stay in front of the chasing pack that all manner of liberties are taken and corners are cut. I'm a great believer in thinking outside of the box, but when thinking outside of the box also means straying away from the norms of acceptable behaviour, then this is where we have our difficulties. To cite examples, we have van drivers hurtling to and fro like Grand Prix racers because they have to deliver and collect on a tight schedule. We have sales people who are under so much pressure to meet targets that they hassle would-be customers with cold calling. Are our tabloid writers that much worse? Perhaps we all need to be reined in a bit?

Born on this date: Howard Webb (1971); David Mitchell (1974)

Died on this date: Paul Kruger (1904); Adlai Stevenson (1965)