Saturday, June 26, 2004
I've even seen some tough right-wing blogs turning to Melanie for that neh, neh, neh-neh neh gesture to all you soddin' people out there who thought that what the New York Times headlined was what the commission report actually said. But why blame them — those bloggies of the right, I mean — when Melanie's come out with fighting language, even if her initial approach was softly-softly so as not to scare us all?
"As so often in the coverage of Iraq, those who make the (illogical) claim that there was no such contact and therefore no cause for war saw in this report only what they wanted to see."
Gee, thanks Melanie, for putting that (illogical) shot in brackets; thanks for keeping those gloves on for us.
Then she belted out the full yee-hah!. We've been foolish of course, and too excitable in believing that there're no links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Sure Mel, but was there a working link? She wrote this for the Colonels and the Blimps of the Telegraph:
"They read the words: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qa'eda co-operated", and claimed official confirmation that no links had existed. But the report actually says: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qa'eda co-operated on attacks upon the United States" - not that they never dealt with each other. On the contrary, it says they did deal with each other, particularly in Sudan."
Well, yes, if you put it like that. And we may also add here another thing that the report didn't say, that there was more evidence of a working relationship between Iraq and Rumsfeld for sure. Remember the handshake, Mel? And Sudan? Let's come to an agreement that Sudan's another story (which will not necessarily prove your point); but it's Iraq and 9-11 we're talking about here.
Finding no satisfaction in the commission's report, Melanie P turns to other sources which, to her, were more reliable. But you'll have to go there yourself to read about that [see link below], but we must warn you that her proofs are 'overwhelming'. "For while none of this is conclusive, it makes a powerful case," she said in one place. And then, in another, she went all rhetorical: "Pretty authoritative, you might think?" before conceding that intelligence reports were a minefield. That's probably to soften us up for what was coming up next: that this book by Hayes that she was quoting from as her proof quoted a "well placed" intelligence source. I'll leave you now to grapple with that yourself, mindful of how many 'intelligence' reports we've already seen so far in this whole sad saga of Iraq.
But what she said next is interesting because it was meant to take her point further:
"Recently, yet more evidence has emerged. The Wall Street Journal reported that captured documents listed one Ahmed Hikmat Shakir as a senior officer in the elite paramilitary Saddam Fedayeen. By an amazing coincidence, an Ahmed Hikmat Shakir was present at the January 2000 al-Qa'eda "summit" in Kuala Lumpur at which the September 11 attacks were planned."
An amazing coincidence? No, an amazing error. There was a Lt Col Hikmat Shakir Ahmad, and there was an Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi, allegedly at that summit in Kuala Lumpur. And they were not one, but two different people.
As our Mel said, all these bleedin' heart liberals "saw in this report only what they wanted to see", and as Marina Hyde of the Guardian "Diary" asked of her: "Is this the first recorded sign of irony in your work, or just a bit of a bish?"
§There was a link, says Melanie Philips §But watch this Video [RealPlayer required]
The World According to Mel P
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
As a Muslim I don't know of any injuction to inflict pain and suffering on innocent people or parade them cockily before slogans proclaiming God's two major attributes — Compassion and Mercy. Who are they? What signal are they sending out to the world? Who are they working for?
O One Who is Most Kind to all His creatures,
O One Who is Omniscient of all His creatures,
O One Who is Most Informed of all His creatures,
Be kind to us, O Most Kind One,
O All-Knowing One,
O Most Informed One!
Gone to their Heads
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
The final interview with Said is now showing at the Institute for Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London , in which he — conscious of impending mortality — spoke frankly and succintly about Palestinians, himself, and his so-called liberal fellow travellers who shed their skins after 9-11.
But need we be pessimists because Palestinians are getting a raw deal? No. Said himself was fond of quoting this poem of Aimé Césaire:
but the work of man is only just beginning
and it remains to man to conquer all
violence entrenched in the recesses of his passion.
And no race possesses the monopoly of beauty,
of intelligence, of force, and there
is a place for all at the rendezvous
Camp David has beem much touted as a breakthrough in Arab-Israeli relations, but Said was famously against it [see link below]. Looking at how much the Palestinians had to give to sue for peace it is easy to understand why. But the game rolls on, with Palestinians expected to give more and more in order to be accepted as a reasonable people who are serious about peace, when the truth is that their land is disappearing piece by piece.
Now former Presdient Bill Clinton is making much of his role in bringing Palestinains and Jews together in a peace of sorts, based on another piece of paper called the Oslo Accords. Clinton makes little effort to hide his contempt for Arafat, saying that he (Arafat) just couldn't make that leap from fighter to statesman. His feeling is encapsulated in this exchange which he is now telling the world to market his forthcoming biography:
Arafat: "Mr President, you are a great man..."
Clinton: "I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me one."
The solipsistic nature of this exchange is breath-taking, but it's something that Clinton tells as a matter of course as if the biggest mistake in history is that Arafat — the Palestinian people — had deprived him of his laurels. Of Clinton and his peace effort and the Oslo agreement that led to the peace handshake on the White House lawn, Edward Said had this to say:
"There was Clinton like a Roman emperor bringing two vassal kings to his imperial court and making them shake hands."
§Edward Said: The price of Camp David
Arafat Couldn't Make Me Great
Monday, June 21, 2004
Philo says that there is a lack of explanation into the origins of armed conflict on television news. For instance, in a recent survey of university students who had followed such coverage, only 9% knew that it was the Israelis that were occupying the occupied territories and that the settlers were Israeli. There were actually more people (11%) who believed that the Palestinians were occupying the territories and that the settlers were Palestinian.
Replying to Greg Philo on the same programme — Radio 4's Today programme — the normally sane and sober John Simpson said that journalism's a difficult job to do, that the role of a journalist is to report what's new, and that all that about Palestinians losing their homeland, been living in exile and all that are background, which belongs not to news but to programmes about news background.
You may think that's the fair view of a seasoned journalist, but not so. Look at most reports coming out of Palestine: as I've said before, the reporter will normally explain Israel and blame Palestinians. The other day, another seasoned BBC journalist Jeremy Bowens was talking about how complicated things have become in Israel. He was trying to be fair, of course, spoke about a just settlement for the Palestinians and all that. And then had to weigh that with this: that the Israeli settlers too have to have a share of this fairness. On the face of it, that sounds about right doesn't it?
But hang on; where did those settlers come from? Why are they there? Did anyone mention that they, the bulk of them, came from the US and Russia and other parts that are not Palestine and that they took Palestinian land? Did anyone explain that they'd grabbed Arab lands on the basis of a superior right that's never been questioned? Well, not in the media, anyway.
The media, if anything, is suffering from a surfeit of fairness in Israel, and one result of that is that those settlers — whoever they are — have gained their right to stay by default and an equal claim to Palestinian lands as the Palestinians who are the real losers.
§The Mainstream Media and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict §Distorted Views:Many Britons still fail to understand fully the reality of the Middle East conflict [pdf]
Palestinians Are Afghans
Friday, June 18, 2004
In November 2002 Donald Rumsfeld said that 'within a week, or a month, Saddam could give his WMD to al-Qaeda'; in September 2003 Condoleezza Rice said 'Saddam was a danger in the region where the 9-11 threat emerged'; in May last year Bush said that the 'liberation of Iraq had removed an ally of al-Qaeda'.
Now the commission that investigated 9-11 dares to say that all those people we've mentioned had been producing noises from that place where the sun never shone. Out of so many holes come the ghost of Saddam!
The overwhelming evidence that they'd chosen to ignore was that Saddam had been with them all along; that he was ripe for the plucking and stripped bare of all the power and wealth they'd given him because the game was slowly changing. First they urged him to war with Iran, then they lured him into a trap when they nodded him into invading Kuwait (oh April Glaspie, where are you?), then they manufactured origami weapons of mass destruction shaped from pages torn out of an old PhD thesis and reports filed by crooked dissidents such as Chalabi; then when the ground was still littered with the twisted metal and bones and the dust of depleted uranium that will bend and twist the genes of generations of Iraqis to come, they dare tell us that it was Iran all along that had led them to war with Saddam!
If you're Iraqi you know of course that in under two weeks you shall be free, so long as you don't ask too many questions. The flag of the UN will soon be fluttering in your land alongside the flag of your nation reborn, hoist by men who are even now plotting out your map to military rule.
They — the coalition forces of the willing — have of course promised you a new army. According to one report, the new army armed forces lack even the basic equipment for speaking to each other, so — conveniently — all messages have to be passed through the US military. This little oversight notwithstanding, Iraqis can still be forgiven if they ask what shape this new army will be.
Well, models abound, shall we say. Not a million miles from there there's Turkey whose armed forces is an excellent model where the generals are ever snarling, ever ready to protect the freedom...of the army. One step out of line and you're plucked. Soon Iraq too will be a democracy, like Turkey.
Crooked Men, Twisted Metal, Origami...
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
--Enjut enjut semut
Halted he looked into the snotgreen sea of turmoil and laughing with delight because hed not heard songs like that since the mating song of the lesser rorqual tell me Mak Som he said quietly.
--Yes my love tis Bloomsday now.
Bloomsday On Trengganu Shore
Sunday, June 13, 2004
"Yes," his Lordship Randolph Churchill repled, "All the time."
I heard this story on the radio today, told by a man who wanted to underline the pretentiousness and snobbery that surrounds James Joyce, whose Ulysses enjoys its centenary this year. Do the prols read it too?
Well, like most common people in this workaday world, I read the first page of this stream of consciousness travel of Leopold Bloom and never raised the book again. As Neil Diamond once famously sang, Someday baby, things gonna be alright; One day baby, baby but not tonight...
But Happy Bloomsday to you anyway, Joycean revellers everywhere.
Saturday, June 12, 2004
And there they were, gleaming white mansions on the hills of Kuala Lumpur, monuments to kitsch propped by mock Corinthian columns, lit up against the dark evening sky.
Children of this dream are romping around the capital now, descended from that shining city of Malaysia Inc in their shining armour of Gucci and Armani. The Prime Minister who wanted so much to be the President of corporate Malaysia has now stepped down, but what a legacy he's left us now.
But now as I've discovered, this shining city on a hill was never meant to be a lit up version of money-grabbing corporate mania that has now become the basis of governments everywhere. It comes, in fact, from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:14-16]: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel...
My informant tells me that Reagan's version could've come from the mouth of the Pilgrim Father John Winthrop, in his 1630 speech aboard the Arbella as it was sailing for that distant shore:
"For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses ..."
What noble sentiment, shame that it was recycled by a man now dead and buried who rose as a B-movie star and was driven by trade, material wealth and the discomfort and deaths of the innocent and poor in Nicaragua, Cuba, Libya, everywhere.
It highlights now, doesn't it, what's happening to the world, when wars are fought for oil, Halliburton and the fat wallets of private contractors; when dictators in one part of the world become angels because they provide comfort and landing pads for the bombing of the country and the people of non compliant dictators elsewhere. When every political move, every social upheaval is always measured against the price of shares in those shining cities of stock exchanges on those hills everywhere.
Globalisation, that's what it's named now: a swell idea where sovereign nations are governed by corporate ideas in this Starbuckling, swashbuckling corporate world. If anything's got to do with anything, it's the value of money and shares. Which brings us to that old rhetorical question, What's that to do with the price of fish, wherever? Well, now everything's to do with the price of fish everywhere.
Which is why I'm uplifted by the flag in that picture above. Let's reclaim America from this brand naming, money-grabbing mania. Let's re-claim this whole world.
If you're American, go there now and sign the Pledge for the US of A. And thank you friend who sent me the real story of that City on the Hill.
Swashbuckling, Starbuckling World
Thursday, June 10, 2004
First ladies of the world; where do they all come from?
First Ladies United
Monday, June 07, 2004
Since then my mouse has strayed into strange places and I've seen Dershowitz lauded for having said what he did. The law professor Dershowitz has made a judgment on the intractability of Muslims, and the ratio decidendi of what he says can't be put any simpler: that Muslims, especially the privileged ones, like nothing better than blowing themselves up because they've been told to do so by their mad mullahs.
Dershowitz's argument seems to be spun around an intriguing web of self-deceit. The Muslims, he seems to be saying, aren't at all sporting like the Tibetans, who, even though oppressed and their land occupied by the Chinese, "still continue to celebrate life". Then he puts this strange poser: "Historically why have other oppressed people not resorted to suicide bombings and terrorism?"
This is argument coming from a suppoosedly eminent law professor, but for a legal mind who's supposed to be consistent and clear, Dershowitz has a fixation against Arabs and Muslims, so it's necessary to remind him of Menachem Begin and Yitzak Shamir, two Jewish terrorists who moved on to become Prime Ministers of Israel.
Shamir was operations commander of the Stern Gang which terrorised Arabs in Palestine. More famously, he organised the murder of two prominent people, British minister representative in the Middle East, Lord Moyne, in 1944, and of the UN's special mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, in 1948.
The man who first appointed Shamir into the Cabinet was Menachem Begin, another member of a Jewish terrorist group, the Irgun Zvai Leumi. Begin was behind many terrorist acts in Palestine, including the bombing of the British administrative office in the King David Hotel, killing 91 people and injuring 45. Among the casualties were 15 Jews. The Irgun targetted British soldiers specifically, for instance, on April 26, 1946, they killed six British paratroopers in their beds.
Now, I'm not normally inclined towards the ad hominem, but given that this is Dershowitz, it'd be a shame if we merely looked at the sewage without also looking at the sewer.
Having made his selective appraisal of history, Dershowitz moves on to paint his portrait of terrorists — people who've been oppressed, are living under occupation, are poor and humiliated. Then he goes on to say that it isn't so with Muslim terrorists. Why? Because, in his estimation, Muslim terrorists, specifically the suicide bombers, are privileged, educated people. They just want to be shuhada', i.e. martyrs. Martyrs, but with or without a cause? If the former, wouldn't it be worth looking at? No, no, no, that'd open too many troublesome areas.
As a law professor too Dershowitz has many peculiar penchants. He thinks nothing of a bit of torture to liven things up for a prisoner. In this latest exposition of his utter brill he finds it difficult to understand why the Muslims aren't behaving like Martin Luther King Jr or Gandhi and fight oppression passively, the gentlemanly way. But for Israel there should not be any holding back, they must fight like with like, even if civillians get killed in the way. In his book Why Terrorism Works, he recommends "a sterilised needle inserted under the fingernails to produce unbearable pain." Another method he recommends is a "dental drill through an unanaesthetized tooth." I think I've seen this drill method in use before, by a cold, sadistic weirdo in the film The Marathon Man. And if I remember well, he was a Nazi.
Well, there's Dershowitz and there're terrorists and terrorists. The Hebrew word for a terrorist today is mekhabbel, the same word used by Shamir all those years ago to describe himself and his gang. Words change their meanings, and so do principles of law, human decency and the professor.
§The Professor of Torture §Assassination of Count Bernadotte
Gee Whiz, Dershowitz
He attacked poor, defenceless Grenada, bombed Libya and killed Gaddafi's adopted daughter, cavorted with the Ayatollah in Iran while Jimmy Carter, whose post in the White House he vaunted, was trying to pick up the pieces of American dignity there. You wouldn't credit it, but he sent the Ayatollah a cake through a despicable man named Ollie North. And of course, he supported the Contras, a chapter of ignominy in itself that's worth a few dozen books just to unravel the dedaly shenanigans over there. And in the process, he managed to dupe an oil-rich potentate in Southeast Asia to make a major monetary contribution to those deadly freedom fighters. Money that, by some lucky fluke, was misdirected to the banking account of another.
He was a steadfast friend of his British counterpart Margaret Thatcher, supporting her Malvinas adventure which made the world safe for sheep but lost many Argentinian and British lives at war. Still, for all that, he was occasionally an entertaining character who taught the Americans that it was all right to spend when you didn't have the money, and called all those who disagreed with him members of the Looney Tunes. On a visit to Wales, I think, he addressed the late Princess Diana as Princess David. And he once caused a nuclear alert in the Soviet Union when — testing for sound level on a microphone — he jokingly said that he was going to bomb Russia.
On an even darker side, his reign also spawned many devils that are now stalwarts in the Neocon Order.
For all that, he was also a great communicator. What he said many years ago still sticks in my mind as a simple but brilliant evocation of the direction he was taking America:
"And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill."
Wow!, it reminded me of those bright lights I once saw on the hills of Kuala Lumpur; those gleaming noveau richeaux palaces that are always, always propped by corinthian pillars. I'd just landed at the old Subang International Airport, and the taxi was going towards the northern sector of the capital. Thanks Ron, for that moving picture.
The body of Ronald Wilson Reagan, former Presdient of the United States, was driven out in a hearse from 668 St Cloud Road, in Bel Air, Los Angeles yesterday. Here he lived in retirement, suffering from the dreadful Alzheimer's disease that rot the brain. Of this address, a neighbour was quoted as saying:"It used to be number 666, but the Reagans petitioned to get the number changed."
§Greg Palast on Reagan §Regret No Trial, says Gaddafi
Death of the Gipper
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Alan Dershowitz is professor of law at the Harvard Law School, and is widely regarded as a thinker and an honest broker, never mind that most of the time he's brokering for Israel. And as for honesty, well, let's put that aside awhile.
In a piece he wrote in the Guardian last Friday he promoted this interesting thesis, that oppression, poverty and hardship does not necessarily provoke a reaction; though the contemplation he was contemplating was by no means small — suicide bombers.
I don't know how old Dershowitz is, but I gather from his arguments that he is pretty juvenile. He said, among other things, that if Israel ended its occupation of Gaza and most of the the West Bank, "it is likely that terrorism would increase" And why the terrorism? Well, he had no ideas to offer, except that young, prosperous Muslim youth are just fond of strapping explosives to their chests and detonating themselves in public areas. Especially in Israel.
Now, Muslim youths, from prosperous families in Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, and elsewhere, just love playing their part or, simply put, they just love blowing themselves up into little parts for no reason whatsoever. I was waiting for him to mention those vrigins in Paradise too, but he didn't do so. So what other possibilities did he offer? Ah yes, those mad mullahs, especially the Wahhabis, who say, "Kill the infidels!"
So, he said, all those young Saudis, and the 9-11 hijackers were answering the Wahhabi call, especially of a millionaire named O bin L. Reminds me of the old man of Alamut, who used Hashish as a stimulant for battle and who had many thousand young men ready to jump off the cliff once he'd given the order. Except that he was Ismaili, not Wahhabi or Saudia or Emirates or Gulf Air, oh what does it matter, madness to them all.
Dershowitz is very much a Neocon thinker, and a rabid advocate for Israel and all that those Bushiites in the US stand for, especially on the Middle East. Something he forgot to mention is that many of those Wahhabis who are now going after the infidels were friends of Bush pere and fils.
All other people seem to be pretty contented when oppressed, except for these troublesome Muslims, he seems to say. Why, look at those happy TIbetans in China, not complaining a bit while being oppressed by their Chinese rulers and occupiers — "they continue to celebrate life despite their occupation by China" — oh, bliss. And what did Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi do? They went for ahimsa. Maybe the Palestinians should practise passive resistance while the tanks are rolling and the bulldozers are bulldozing. Wouldn't it be oh so simple?
But wait, we haven't solved this riddle of those exploding Muslims for no reason whatsoever, well except for those mad mullahs. They all come from nice homes, probably studied at Harvard and the LSE, eat McDonald's magnificient whoppers, and then wham! bam! thank you Imam! they're gone forever. So Dershowitz the don suggests a simple idea:
"The time has come to address the real root cause of suicidal bombing: incitement by certain religious and political leaders who are creating a culture of death and exploiting the ambiguous teachings of an important religion."
So it's time to move into those madrasahs and the universities of Islam and get into their heads to extract this head of an idea. And all will be bliss. The unconnectedness of Dershowitz's thinking will make this a very feasible idea; we'll make Islam acceptable and there'll be peace in this world.
And then what about the oppression and the suffering and the humiliation of all those people in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, everywhere? That has got nothing to do with nothing as we've said at the beginning of this Harvard tutorial if you've been paying attention. All those bombers are just free fodders for the Mullahs, d'ya hear? Er, maybe some people in some other parts of the world aren't so impressed by this idea of wealth, self-gratifcation, privilege, etc and still see it as their duty to fight the fight when they see oppression, especially of their own people. Er, we'll cover that in another tutorial if we have the time; but looking at the way you're thinking you'll never make it for membership of the Harvard alumni, you stupid boy!
Just thought I'd let you know that Muslims are as appalled by this idea of suicide bombing, and of their young blowing themselves to bits in a civillian area, and many Muslim scholars who've looked at it actually disapprove of the idea. And besides, what kind of devout Muslim would make loud noises in a bar in Germany and make passes at the girls just before blowing themeselvs to bits the next day at the Twin Towers all in the name of Islamic Jihadism?
Aw, shut up, go and conduct your own tutorial elsewhere.
Just one more question before I go to the dunce's corner: Wasn't Dershowitz the brill once named plagiarist of the year?
Dunno, but maybe you'd like to take a look here.
§Dershowitz-Finkelstein Affair §The Desrshowitz Hoax
Cuckoo in Mid Spring
Friday, June 04, 2004
Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain Iqbal Sacranie, already of the OBE (Order of the British Empire) could've had another last Wednesday June 2, but because of his intemperate behaviour, the award was withdrawn. So Iqbal Sacranie is not now a recipient of the 'prestigious' Sir Sigmund Sternburg interfaith award.
What did Sacranie do? Well, he refused to come out and play. Instead, he criticised Israel for its 'murderous leadership', 'ethnic cleansing', 'creeping genocide', and 'Zionist brutality' — remarks that were not conducive to dialogue, as Sir Sigmund himself put it. Withdraw, he said, or we take the bauble back.
Sir Sigmund is founder of the Three Faiths Forum which aims to promote dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims. But, as Sacranie has found out, it is difficult to dialogue when there's murder on your doorstep. Do you shut the door, keep the screams out, and continue dialoguing? To his credit, Sachranie said "Stuff it!" to the lot. And other Muslim leaders decided to boycott the ceremony too.
In his reply to Sir Sigmund, Sacranie quoted Israel's own justice minister Yosef Lapid, who said:
"If we carry on like this, we will be expelled from the United Nations and those responsible will stand trial at The Hague."
To read Sacranie's reply in full, go to the MCB webpage.
Criticism of Israel is, of course, fraught with danger. In Congress there are moves afoot to make it unlawful in the US of A. Veteran British journalist Roy Greenslade, commenting in the Guardian about the arrest of fellow journalist Peter Hounam in Israel last month soon after interviewing Mordechai Vanunu, had this to say:
"Last week's arrest of Peter Hounam by the Israeli security services was a disgrace. It was not only further proof of the intense disregard the Israeli authorities have for press freedom but an example of the way they intimidate all journalists.
"No matter how much correspondents attempt to be fair and balanced they inevitably face hostility from a state which demands a slavish adherence to its propaganda. Even the BBC's excellent Orla Guerin, who measures her words so carefully, has been heavily criticised."
So this obligatory pussyfooting to Israel has now crept into interfaith awards, but never mind Iqbal, you'll just have to live with that. And besides, the OBE is already a heavy cross to bear, if I may use an interfaith expression.
Sir Sigmund, by the way, is a staunch supporter of Israel and a prominent Labour party donor.
No Cigars For Sacranie
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
I know little about art, live a long a long way below the stratosphere, write like a rogue elephant poked with a nib, and am not — in short — John Berger.
But at least once, maybe twice, a year I too have to do my own digging into the cold earth, and slide slowly down the gutter. In the chill of April I was prone again outside the house, on a dissected black rubbish bag spread out over the surrounding muck, one arm probing down the gutter. The drains had become blocked again with the year's debris of compacted soap powder and snarled up balls of human hair packed into a ball in kitchen grease, and rotting leaves and twigs from the pussy willow that once stood over there. The sinks were becoming very sluggish, the gutter was beginning to overflow, even if the stench was — compared to Berger's — still pretty tolerable. And a man had to do what had to be done.
The clear the blocked gutter at the intersection where the drainpipes disgorged their contents into a gulley, I had to clear every flotsam and jetsam within reach or view. This I'd learnt from many years of lying prone, bailing out whatever excess water I could with a small cup, and then dipping gloved hand into the remaining depth just far enough to grab at whatever debris that came my way. This is never enough to clear the block, but a necessary prelude to the rest of the journey.
After a short break of clumping around in the garden undergrowths in my China-made jungle green wellies, and examining the unmoved drain from various vertical positions, I'd come back and run the taps to see the water level rising again in confirmation of the unmoved block. A little sigh, a little cup, and I'm furiously bailing the water out again until it seeps down to an acceptable level. If too deep it'd creep into the glove which reached up only to about two inches above my wrist. From there the arm was wrapped in plastic bags to armpit level to keep the dirt off my shirt.
Then prone again, face turned just away from the top of the gutter, gloved hand pushed in to ensure that it was clear at least to the top of the inverted u of the bend. Then came the only tool I'd devised for this manouevre: a rubber hose that was pushed all the way up the bend, and down again to whatever path it took to the sewer. After it'd go down about a yard I'd pull the hose out again and rush to the taps to run the water.
Ah, the gurgle of a sewage pipe once again in flow!
Dirty work or a satisfactory day's job? "Ways of seeing", if I may quote John Berger.
Down In The Gutter