You normally have an introduction first, but that’s going to be my second post now I seem to have returned to blogging/ranting/moaning and it’s highly topical to write about Thatcher, not to mention this is something very few people have ever found out about me so let’s dive in shall we?
Back in the Glasgow days I used to do the odd job for a local Glasgow character called Bob Shaw. No, not Bob Shaw the sadly departed SF writer but someone who was instrumental in the early days of Glasgow’s SF fandom in the late 70’s, not to mention being involved with the early days of Glasgow’s comics fandom. However that story is one for another time so back to me doing odd jobs for Bob.
I was around when I was 15 or 16 when I started doing some work for Bob, and this consisted of either making badges or handing out flyers for Scottish CND which would result in Bob giving me pennies for my work but I’d known Bob since I was 12 (another story for another day) and I’d asked him if he’d any work going while picking up some comics in his shop he co-owned in the West End of Glasgow. So it was mainly making badges in his flat not far from his shop on Woodlands Road that made me my cash, but sometimes I’d go round shops in the area handing out CND fliers and posters so it’s this that we need to focus on.
So one day while taking a break from making badges in his flat I was looking out his window and commented that a car parked outside his flat was always there. Bob replied that he knew fine well they were always there as they were Special Branch. He also said they were tapping his phone and he was being followed because he was seen as an ‘extremist’ due to his CND work & that I was probably on the list now too.
I went home that night thinking nothing of it, and it wasn’t til a month or two later that I was coming home from school in my final year of school that I noticed that I was being followed by a car. Now the reason this stood out is new or newish cars stood out a mile in Possilpark in the early 80’s but it didn’t seem threatening and it didn’t follow me all the way home. I noticed it a few more times over the next year, but by this point I’d left school, gotten involved with the Glasgow comics scene very heavily, started going to gigs and generally being a teenager so distractions were everywhere, but I was on a list someone as an activist in Thatcher’s Britain and that gave my little socialist heart some pride.
Fast forward to February 1990, and I’m now living in Leicester working for Neptune Comic Distributors and living in a nice wee flat with a mate, and his girlfriend who was from Derry. I was also kind of ”friendly’ with her sister who lived just round the corner and with a lot of the Irish community who drank at the late and lamented Pump and Tap.
I was dispatched one weekend toLondon so I could chat to some of our customers at Neptune, and see if I could get any new ones, so that meant drinking with the lads at Comic Showcase when it was still based in Neal Street in Covent Garden, and normally these weekends would mean I’d wander round the old Westminster Comic Marts.when they were based in the Westminster Central Hall near Parliament, but there was a gig at Hammersmith Odeon I wanted to see (Mick Hunter and Mick Ronson if I remember right. Or the Godfathers), so I stayed in London over the weekend and spent a lot of time drinking in Camden and Kilburn.
I came home on Sunday, passed out and went to work on Monday. On Tuesday there was an IRA bomb that was exploded in Leicester which disrupted the city and obviously set my Irish friends teeth on edge as they were expecting a knock on the door as being Irish under Thatcher was a criminal offence it seemed. We joked in our flat that we’d get that knock too.
Then we did.
All three of us were questioned individually, so the officer who interviewed me started reeling off bits of my previous history including my history with CND and the fact I was arranging to go drinking with friends in London in the mainly Irish areas which is the point that I had a file sitting around with my ”extremist’ history on it, but our phone in the flat was tapped and the others also had Special Branch files with their movements.
We were questioned on and off for the next three weeks until it became clear we weren’t IRA terrorists or sympathisers but this basically shat us all up. We were frankly terrified the state not only had files on us all but were monitoring our movements, listening to our calls and still seriously thought we could be blowing people up.
I tried hard to get access to these files, the police records in Leicester and Glasgow, plus the extent of just how closely we were followed but most of the time it was a dead end, or a ”fuck off” or once or twice some very veiled threats.
The reason I mention this and start this blog off with this is that I’d not thought about this for 20 years or so until a conversation this week with someone who said that Thatcher only went after people who ‘were a risk’ and she never targeted people for ‘their politics’. Well I’m hardly the only example but I’m still an example of how she used the police and security forces to target anyone she didn’t like because of their politics, nationality or anything she saw as being something of the ‘enemy’.
She divided people because she wanted to ‘weed’ people out be that a boy making badges for CND or someone who was Irish, or in a union, or gay, or black or anyone who wasn’t for her. She was a Libertarian in name only and was really a hard authoritarian who set the ball rolling for our civil liberties being slowly removed by Major, then Blair, then Brown and now Cameron and Clegg. That’s part of her legacy.
Now that’s out my system I’ll do a proper introduction to what I intend to do with this blog tomorrow….