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Monday, 29 May 2017 18:43

Eating at Bea's

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Steam billows up as the lazy Susan spins about like a merry-go-round on steroids. Elbows and hands go flying trying to get the crispiest piece of fried chicken or first portion of fresh cornbread.  The musky marinade of the pulled pork BBQ mingles with the peach perfume of the cobbler.  Conversation rarely comes into it.  This is serious business. We are eating at Bea’s.

Daddy always took the “All You Can Eat,” as a personal commandment sent down from above. Biscuits with white gravy, green beans cooked all day with ham hock, fried chicken so crispy it crackled like cornflakes when you bit into it, as warm juice dribbled down your chin. Sweet corn, fried squash, fried okra, banana pudding, pulled pork BBQ, and peach cobbler. Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, fries, onion rings.  It was a sweet Southern symphony of food. Food that was bad for the heart but good for the soul.  Regardless of occasion, Bea’s was the place we celebrated.  Never a demonstrative family, our family loved each other with food, and Bea’s was an orgy of family love which always ended in the sweet agony of heartburn and the vow to “Never again…”

We’d impatiently wait in line to go in and pay $5 a head to stuff ourselves into oblivion.  Stocked with diner chairs with red vinyl-covered backs and seats that squeaked and squealed when your sweaty back and backside hit them, heavy pale green plastic dishes like they use in a school cafeteria, plastic flowers and a Coca Cola clock as décor, and black and white tiled floor probably there since opening in 1950.  It was Southern fine dining at its best. 

I’m filled with complex emotions remembering these times at our favourite Southern restaurant.  We rarely went places with my Dad, as he worked constantly.  I’m sad as I lost my dad when I was 20 and he was 52.  I was just getting to know him as an intelligent, thoughtful human being who worked so hard for a retirement that never came.  The food was gorgeous, but it’s the time spent with my dad that I miss the most. 

Years later, trying to get to the bottom of my intense craving for fried chicken, I remembered these afternoons eating at Bea’s Roundtable in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Fried chicken equalled love in my mind.  It reminded me of my love for my dad and his love for me.  I was encouraged to find something sans calories that reminded of my dad.  I loaded my iPod with Big Band tunes by the likes of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, two of my dad’s favourites, thus helping to end my addiction to fried chicken.  Addiction aside, a trip to Bea’s is still required when I return home to Northwest Georgia.  It’s a family tradition.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 18:52

A city united in remembrance

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This is an article I wrote for a website called YB News, in the wake of last year's Hillsborough inquest...

A generic-looking building on an unassuming industrial estate in Warrington was last week the scene for arguably the greatest victory in judicial and footballing history. The verdict of unlawful killing of the 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough in 1989 was the culmination of a brave, unwavering 27 year battle by the families of the victims. It was belated confirmation of what this remarkable set of people, and indeed the city of Liverpool, knew all along. It was a truth, which for far too long was an uncomfortable inconvenience for those in a position designed to ensure nobody should ever attend a football match and not return home. It was overdue vindication for the families, for their children’s, son’s, daughter’s legacies, legacies which certain organisations and publications set out to besmirch and dishonour in the most abhorrent manner possible. It was the truth. It was justice at last.

The overriding emotion in the wake of this verdict is pride. Pride in a city that refused to lay down and accept the hateful smears the last 27 years have heard. Pride in the dignity, bravery and humility shown by a group of people who refused to give up the fight.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said after the inquest:

“We went through every legal avenue possible knowing that vital evidence was being held back. To then see it, knowing they knew it was there all along, was sickening in the extreme.”

The spirit shown by the families of the 96 fans lost on that dark April day 27 years ago is a shining example of refusing to be silenced by those grossly in the wrong. The emotional scenes at St George’s Hall last week were a snapshot of a city, red and blue, united in remembrance. But it was also a poignant reminder that this is a truly remarkable city, a city that will continue to remember and celebrate the lives of the 96. It was a reminder that the despicable tarnishing of their memories by supposed powers-that-be will not be tolerated.

Undoubtedly, now that justice has been served, accountability must be tackled, and with a transparency severely lacking from the last inquests. Those whose negligence contributed to this tragedy must be brought to task. Moreover, a similarly pertinent issue that needs to be addressed is how a case of this magnitude, a case that has remained prominently in the national consciousness, has been painstakingly dragged over 27 years. Each year that passed was a year too long for the families to continue suffering in the knowledge that their loved ones were not getting the justice they deserved. Every time Saturday afternoon came around, when the 96 should have been joining their fellow supporters in making the pilgrimage to follow their team, was another week the families were denied closure. Surely, questions need to be asked as to why it has taken such an obscene amount of time for justice to be served. It is imperative these questions are answered, so that such miscarriages are never repeated again.

It is a sentiment echoed by Labour MP Andy Burnham, who has been vehemently vocal in his support for the families’ quest for answers:

“At long last, justice for the 96, for their families, for all Liverpool supporters, for an entire city. But it took too long in coming and the struggle for it took too great a toll on too many. Now those responsible must be held to account for 96 unlawful deaths and a 27-year cover-up. Thankfully, the jury saw through the lies and I’m sure this house will join me in thanking the jury for their devotion to this task and giving two years of their lives to this important public duty. When it came, their verdict was simple, clear, powerful and emphatic. But it begged the question, how could something so obvious have taken so long? Three reasons. First, a police force which has consistently put protecting itself against, over and above protecting people harmed by Hillsborough. Second, collusion between that force and a complicit print media. Third, a flawed judicial system that gives the upper hand to those in authority over and above ordinary people.”

The past week has seen the news that South Yorkshire Police Chief constable David Crompton has been suspended following the inquest amid concerns over his conduct during the case. Though a step in the right direction, it is scant compensation for the years spent and tears shed fighting for justice. It is of paramount importance that the unrivalled determination shown by the families serves as a basis for the manner in which cases of this scale are dealt with to be reviewed. It is vital that their victory signals wholesale changes, so that the unforgivable lies and mistakes, which have dominated this inquest, are never repeated again.

The scenes in Warrington last Tuesday, and in Liverpool throughout the past week, have brought into sharp focus how an extraordinary group of people has refused to lie down and swallow the lies they were fed. The Hillsborough families continued to maintain an astonishing decorum of dignity, and passionately fought for justice in the face of continuous setbacks and ludicrous lies. The conduct of the families during the past 27 years has truly been inspiring, and has served as a shining example of the strength of the human spirit. They have shown the country how the power of a relatively small group of people searching for the truth in the face of ridiculous, wholly avoidable adversity, will finally get it, albeit 27 years too late. The families have ensured justice for the 96, and last week the people of Liverpool helped ensure they will never be forgotten.

Sunday, 21 May 2017 14:23

My Father: Proud of his Marine Blues

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Dressed to the nines in crisply ironed Marine Blues, my 21 year-old daddy dons the same butter wouldn't melt grin I’d meet 12 years later.  Born near the dawn of the Great Depression in the American Deep South, he quickly learned he had to work hard and pinch a penny till it squealed if he was going to escape poverty.  Perhaps his deep respect for the Marines, coupled with the need to provide a comfortable, secure life for his young family, OR Fletcher, Jr resorted to extraordinary measures to gain entry to the US Marine Corps.

Blind in his left eye due to a childhood accident, Daddy memorised the eye chart in order to pass this part of the physical.  He went on to achieve an excellent score on his marksmanship test, so must have thought for a time that his visual deficit would remain a secret. Riddled with flaws like anyone else, my father made mistakes and even broke my heart a few times.  Despite the imperfections, I rarely questioned my father’s love nor doubted he would move Heaven and Earth to provide for his family.

One day during target practice, another soldier's rifle butted my dad on the left side of his head. The military doctor sadly informed him that he was now permanently blind in his left eye, and would be issued an honorary medical discharge.  Each time I recall this era in my father’s life, I can’t help but beam with the same cheeky grin my daddy displays in the photo.  I'm sure he was devastated to be discharged from the Marines, but at the same time I'm sure he was busting a gut to tell the distraught doctor that he'd actually been blind in that eye since he was poked in the eye with a window screen at the age of five.  After his military escapade, my dad went on to be an insurance salesman, cross country truck driver, owner and operator of a service station (garage which also sold petrol) and technician in a sewage filter plant. 

Unfortunately this 6'2" Southern gentleman with a deep drawl as slow and thick as molasses on a cold winter morning, would die in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 52.  I was 20 at the time and just a few months earlier had helped Daddy prepare for his chemistry exam at the filter plant.  Only last year, I found out he scored 100% on the test.  As I was just getting to know my father on an adult level, I feel a bit cheated that we lost him so soon.  I'd begun to recognise my father's keen intelligence, and that he could have gone on to achieve an advanced degree and high paying job if he'd had the same opportunities I did.

I’m now 54, so have already lived 2 years longer than my dad.  I wonder sometimes if he'd known he was going to die at such a young age, would he have taken a bit more time off.  Most of his life, he worked 6 days a week, often for 12 hours a day.

To anyone else, this is a photo of an ordinary US Marine, but to me, Daddy is one of the most extraordinary people I've ever met.  I'm filled with pride and sadness when I look at the photo of this young man with his whole life ahead of him.  I still miss him every single day.  Happy Father's Day to my dad.  I'm so fortunate to be your daughter.
Tuesday, 16 May 2017 13:44

Beans on toast

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Beans on toast , that's what i like the most!
somedays i like cheese on toast!
Beans for breakfast, beans for tea
Beans for supper , and i'm blowing free!

Beans on toast , with habanero chilli sauce
will liven it all up
and clear the room
if it is to full for me

A conversion starter
it'll really break the ice
when in full flow
those farmyard sounds
mixed with a passing
Tuesday, 16 May 2017 13:44


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Tuesday, 16 May 2017 13:18

Who's kidding who?

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Who's kidding who?   With all that Haiatian Voodoo, Got me mixing aCajun Stew, From Southern fried swamps of Louisiana
Can't tell fake news from the truth, Sleight of hand smoke and mirrors.
Holy miricales Saints and Sinners,Hidden Agendas and smart ass one liners
Swearing expletives in Gordon Ramseys over priced Diners!
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