Life


Doune The Rabbit Hole

doune.jpg

Jamie is co-organising a music festival at Dounce Castle, largely I think because this is the kind of music he likes, and it sounded fun. Makes me wish I were young again. Acts confirmed so far include

Francois and The Atlas Mountains

Glider

Les Bof!

The Junipers

Adam Stearns

My Old Blue Terraplane

The Fast Camels

The Koolaid Electric Company

Punch and the Apostles

The Higher State

Paul Messis

The One Ensemble

The Wise Guys

Sunken, Drunken, and the Broken Boat

While the pitch is enticing:

Doune the rabbit hole is a two day tea party situated in the beautiful countryside surrounding Doune Castle, Stirlingshire. Come sit at our table and let me tell you what treats we have in store. Expect the tea to be strong; a blend of the finest psychedelic music complimented with a dash of folk brewed to perfection in a big pot of sunshine. And we mustn’t forget the cakes; indulge yourself in a delicious array of freshly baked delights comprising of poetry, dancing, philosophy, forests, stories, lights, trees, cows, theatre, comedy, dressing up boxes, whisky, games, face-painting, giant mushrooms, rainbows (but no rain), local ale and cider, lovely organic food, and many more surprises to come.

http://www.dounetherabbithole.co.uk/Doune_the_Rabbit_Hole/Home.html

Interesting to see how they get on with a festival featuring a style of music rather than anybody famous.

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On Being Happy

I feel full of energy and – strangely – youth at the moment. The last two nights I did extremely good public meetings with the Global Justice Group in Halesowen

http://www.myspace.com/halesowengjg

and for Medical Justice in Manchester.

http://www.medicaljustice.org.uk/

They were vibrant and full meetings – the collection for Medical Justice afterwards raised over three hundred pounds for their Manchester branch. One of the things cheering me up is that I took a look through my engagements and realised I have raised tens of thousands for good causes at meetings over the last five years. It relieves the fear that my life has been wasted.

But what really cheers me up is the fact that there are so many good, informed and active people out there. I really must do more of this.

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I Hate and Despise London

The Daily Telegraph kindly commissioned a major comment piece from me on Kyrgyzstan, which was published today.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/kyrgyzstan/7834619/Kyrgyzstan-Death-dictators-and-the-Soviet-legacy.html

It already seems to have fed through into analysis by the BBC’s resident correspondents, which is a good thing.

A few months ago I wrote this:

Personally, if I had the chance to live in any town in the entire world, plus the seventh circle of Hell and an oxygenless planet off Alpha Centauri, London still might be bottom of my list.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/01/standing_down_a.html

On sober reflection, I was understating it. I deeply, deeply despise London. You will imagine the depth of my hatred if I tell you that, given the choice between eradicating London and eradicating Tony Blair, I would only opt for eradicating Tony Blair because it’s easier.

My only fixed appointment today was a simple interview shoot in Shoreditch, taking no more than half an hour. But I set off before noon and returned about six, spending five and a half hours in travelling from Acton to Shoreditch and back. I had walked to West Acton station by noon; spent one hour in going two stops to White City, where the train was terminated due to signals failure at Shepherd’s Bush. Central Line closed: on to the always disgusting, sepulchral Hammersmith and City line. That was only the start of a terrible, terrible return journey, of which the other chief highlight was a 27 minute wait for buses going down Hangar Lane.

Why do we put up with it? Tube systems in Paris, Warsaw, Brussels, St Petersburg, Moscow and Tashkent are infinitely more reliable than ours. My particular hatred is at the weekend, when all of the system that goes anywhere you might want to be shuts down completely, and all the stations continually announce “There is a good service apart from planned engineering work”.

What the **** does that mean? “You can’t go anywhere, connections across the city are shut down, we are out for 60 hours, but it’s OK because this is planned total failure, not spontaneous total failure.”.

Does it make any difference to me if London Underground had planned to be total crap, or if they are doing it accidentally?

This has been going on for a decade. Billions upon billions of pounds have been ploughed in, extravagant foreign managements have been imported en masse. But I still can’t get on the Central Line from West Acton to Liverpool St.

I hate London. There is no city on earth in which a family with an income of £30,000 per year would enjoy a worse standard of life. The private goods are too expensive and the public goods are worse managed than in the poorest third world country. There are much worse systems in third world countries, but billions upon billions less have been pumped into them. For value for money public services, nowhere is worse than London.

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World Cup Opens

I am watching the World Cup opening ceremony, and it is absolutely breathtaking. The sheer scale, the grandeur, the majestic sweeping order, the colour, the spectacle, of those ranks upon ranks, rows upon serried rows, of absolutely empty orange seats! Bank upon bank, line upon line of starkly empty, glaringly orange seats! It is grandly symbolic, it is conceptual art, it should get the Turner Prize!

Oh sorry, it’s just a huge cock-up that shows the stupidity of taking an event this size to South Africa.

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Strange Events

You will note that this morning’s piece on Afghanistan was posted at 4am. That is because I was awoken by what sounded like somebody rattling the back door. There was however nothing to be seen.

Then at 10.22pm this evening, Nadira received a phone call on her mobile from a witheld number. A heavily accented man asked “if her husband was the writer”. She asked who it was, and he gave his name as Osman. She noticed that another man was whispering, telling the first man what to reply.

“Osman” then started asking repeatedly “Is your husband at home?” Nadira said that I did not take phone calls from people at that time of night, and suggested that “Osman” should email. “Osman” said that I was going to write something for him, and again started asking if I was at home. Nadira told him to email, and he then started swearing and repeating “Your husband owes us £30,000”.

This is all very disconcerting. I don’t know any “Osman”, and to the best of my knowledge neither I not any organisation with which I am connected has any outstanding debts to anybody. Why phone so late of night, who was “Osman” and who was the man whispering his instructions? Most disconcerting of all, why phone Nadira and where did he get her number?

If I did not have a family I would laugh this off, but the approach to Nadira and the questioning of whether I am at home is alarming. Probably that is the object of the exercise.

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Estate Agent Ethics

I am having a fraught time with my attempted house move. It is so strange that I thought I would blog about it. The strangeness may be only a product of the years since I last bought a house.

I saw a lovely old home – a Grade 2 listed building, very dilapidated – earlier this week. It was advertised at 289,995, and I put in a bid of 275,000. The agent told me that a cash offer of 250,000 was already in, and that the seller was inclined to accept it for a quick sale. The house ad, he said, been repossessed. In these cases, the rule was that no offer was accepted until contracts were completed.

That sounded very unpleasant and I wished I was in Scotland where the law enforces some honour. But even more strangely, the estate agent said he had no idea if it was a listed building, and went on to deny my suggestion it had at some stage been converted to flats, despite the fact that it has three floors, each with its own recently but horribly installed kitchen and bathroom.

A phone call to the council confirmed it is indeed a listed building and it appears there was no permission for those changes, though I have to visit the Council to make certain of that last. But my several contacts with the estate agent since then have left me with the strong impression that they have a real desire not to sell to me.

In short, what they have said to me is that the 250,000 cash offer is going through, and they will not inform the seller of my higher offer unless I can show the cash. I have said I will be able to show the cash within seven days. They have said that if I show the cash before the 250,000 transaction goes through, they will tell the seller about me. But otherwise not.

That seems to me crazy. I should have thought even a corporate seller would want to know somebody had offered 25,000 more, and be given the option of waiting a very few days to see if he could show the money. The house has only been on the market a fortnight.

This is my email exchange with the estate agent today:

Hello…

I presume my 275,000 remains the best offer?

I today paid over 125,000 in cheques into my current account for the

deposit. These will take a few days to clear.

I have a second meeting with my bank (Natwest) on Tuesday morning to

finalise the offer in principle. So the finance will be fully in place

before the end of next week.

I have instructed, and paid, Mr … to carry out a structural

survey.

Please inform me of any developments.

Craig Murray

Afternoon Craig,

Thanks for your email.

We cannot put your offer forward to our corporate client till we have seen the following documents

Agreement in principle from your bank

proof of deposit

Kind Regards

Incidentally, the house plainly has not been a happy family home for many years so I don’t have qualms about buying a repossession.

Am I being paranoid? I have half convinced myself the estate agent is trying to sell for 250,000 to a local developer they know, avoiding stamp duty, not advertising the listed building status and suppressing higher bids. Or is this all innocent and normal?

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British Hotel Rip Off

Having travelled exensively around the globe, I have never found anywhere where hotels offer such poor value for money as the UK. One thing that particularly annoys me is a charge for guests to access the internet.

I was annoyed enough when I was staying in the Dundee Hilton at £110 a night, and being charged another £10 for internet access. But here in the Coorwne Plaza in Birmingham I am paying £130 a night, yet being chraged another £15,99 for internet access.

Complete rip-off. I would certainly never advise anybody to visit the UK on holiday.

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Cyber Attack

Yet more cyber attack problems. Here is a look inside my comments editing page.

Download file

Mmmm – when I click on the link I get the page with full functionality. I do hope that’s only me!

I had already deleted hundreds of these nonsense comments this morning. The interesting thing about them is that they do not give any message, do not attempt to sell anything and do not contain any links to other sites. Their sole purpose is to overload and crash the site.

They are of course running on an automated programme, but the quetion is, was this blog targeted for a denial of service attack, or is this simply a nihilistic attempt to crash anything at random across the web?

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Home Again

Back home again after a trip to Glasgow and York. The flu seems to have left me but I feel pretty knackered. Enjoying the election campaign, for the first time really since 1974. I’ll tell you the story of my involvement in that sometime in the next week or two.

Speaking in Manchester on Saturday but not sure if it is a public meeting – will let you know. Open meeting for Amnesty in Swansea next Wednesday.

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Eugene Terre Blanche

Turned out not to be so superior after all. It is sometimes hard to remember it is always wrong to be glad when someone dies. Must stop smiling about Terre Blanche (was that his real name? Too good to be true).

If I have to refrain from smiling about the death of Terre Blanche, I do hope nobody kills Tony Blair, or I shall have to refraiin from peals of laughter and dancing for joy.

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Christ, Brown and Gay Breakfasts

Happy Easter everybody.

I am no longer a church-goer, so I can’t remember the answer to this one. If Christ was crucified on Good Friday and rose again on Easter Sunday, surely that’s two days not three? Especially as he had vanished during the night as Mary Magdalen discovered when she turned up in the morning. He was crucified pretty late on Friday as there were a series of events that day beforehand, then rose again on saturday night/sunday morning? Isn’t that the next day rather than three days?

Speaking of timing, I told a friend a week ago that if the Tory lead increased to ten points (as it now has) then I didn’t think Brown would go for May 6 but rather wait till 3 June in case something turned up. New Labour would keep their money in store and not hold a national campaign for the May 6 elections, letting the Tories spend some of their powder. There are obvious disadvantages to letting the Tories build up momentum, but also the hope that Tory triumphalism after the council elections might put people off. There is nothing more unpleasant than a braying toff,

Don’t get me wrong – I think New Labour are toast, and good riddance. But I don’t think they’ll walk manfully to their doom. I think they’ll kick, scream, wet themselves and try to buy a few more seconds in the ministerial limousines.

Finally, I confess I do not share the outrage at Chris Graylings’ comments. I don’t think in general it is useful for the state to try to co-erce tolerance, except in preventing extreme and harmful intolerance. I am not sure where the line comes, but I am not really sure you increase tolerance by forcing bigots to give bed and breakfast to gay people. I think the ancient right of the publican, for example, to refuse to serve people without reason had something going for it. It’s his pub. I once got sacked as a barman for selling someone who ordered a Talisker and coke to fuck off.

On the other hand, if Christian establishments are gay free, where will paedophile priests stay on holiday? (Am I wrong, or were the Catholic priests concerned nearly all after little boys rather than little girls?) Maybe christian establishments should be allowed to ban gays, but only on condition that they erect a large sign saying “A Narrow Minded Joyless Bigot Establishment”. They could display an Ian Paisley mark, and be awarded from one to five Paisleys depending on just how bigoted they are.

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A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu

I haven’t been taken ill, or shut down by unfriendly fire from governments or lawyers.

In 2003 my life collapsed around my ears; I was hopitalised several times and I had neither time nor capacity for personal administration. Over the next couple of years I lost job, income, home and marriage. I was simply unable to face the mountain of correspondence those crises generated. Unless the address was handwritten, I didn’t open it, and sometimes not then. Being bipolar, one of my problems in depressive periods has always been a terror – and I use the word carefully – of opening mail. Then I moved into a tiny flat with nowhere anyway to file anything.

The upshot is that 90% of seven years of correspondence lay in almost thirty cardboard boxes, perhaps a third of it unopened. Much of it is indeed very unpleasant. To give just the example of life insurance policies, 27 different letters saying direct debit payments were missed, and subsequent letters detailing the cancellation of these policies. Plus matching letters from the bank detailing payments not made and fines imposed for “administration”. 17 letters from British Gas threatening disconnection, 11 from Thames Water. 54 letters from debt collection agencies threatening court action. 62 letters from the Inland Revenue, who pursue me with a zeal they never display about Lord Ashcroft or David Mills.

Then there are the 48 solicitors’ letters about the divorce, the letters from the Foreign Office about my sacking, the letters from the Treasury solicitors trying to stop publication of Murder in Samarkand…

You will have gathered that, my life being very much together again, and finally having some filing cabinets and somewhere to put them, I have spent the last week ploughing through the whole lot, sorting it and chucking or filing it as appropriate. I shut myself off from the world and got down to it. It has been tough, as of course it evokes starkly some very, very hard times and difficult emotions.

There is of course also stuff which brings a warm glow. Memories of Nadira’s support in times of despair, little bits and pieces belonging to my children. The loving emotions are the most disabling of all.

Anyway, good news is I am almost finished. It will be a huge weight off my mind.

Most cheering of all were the over 400 letters of support, mostly from complete strangers, many of whom outlined their own experience of injustice and persecution. Many real apologies to the large majority, to whom I did not reply. They have all now been read.

Back to blogging by the weekend, I hope.

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