Emily Davison Knew Her Place

She was born in south-east London 146 years ago today. Her father was 49, her mother 23. Emily Wilding Davison grew up to be a bright student, earning a 1st in English from Oxford University – or, at least, she would have, were she able to actually graduate. At that august academy in the 1890’s, degrees were closed to women.

Davison joined the Women’s Social & Political Union in 1906 and quickly became a model activist, in just a few short years leaving her teaching job to focus full time on the organisation. Sylvia Pankhurst, no shrinking violet herself, was moved to describe Emily as, “one of the most daring and reckless of the militants”. Her first arrest was in March 1909, when a demonstration aimed at the Prime Minister ended with violence; Emily Davison was sentenced to a month in gaol for, “assaulting the police in the execution of their duty”.

The stint in prison did not deter her one iota. In July of that year, she and her fellow suffragists stormed into a public meeting from which women had been barred, held by David Lloyd George. For this ‘obstruction’ she was sentenced to 2 months in chokey. So her first spells of incarceration were for having a pop at the two men who would hold the highest office in the land during the forthcoming ‘War to End all Wars’ – pretty impressive, whatever way you look at it.

Emily went on hunger strike at Holloway Prison, thus being released after serving just 5 days. This was a forerunner of the ‘cat and mouse’ policy that would see official introduction in 1913; in response to a hunger striker the suffragist would be set free only to be subsequently picked up by the authorities once well-fed and healthy again. Sure enough, in September she was arrested for throwing stones at another men-only political meeting. In October, another arrest. 2 weeks after that, more stone-throwing brought about another penal sentence; hard labour.

When she went on hunger strike this time, the government tactics had changed. The brutal practice of force-feeding was carried out, and Davison would call the experience one which, “will haunt me with all its horror all my life”. To avoid a repeat, she barricaded herself into her cell using the bed and stool, and the guards responded by turning a fire hose on her for a quarter of an hour. Emily would sue, and win, for this inhumane treatment.

In April 1910 she broke into the House of Commons by hiding in a heating system, only being discovered by an officer when she went in search of water. That month she became a paid employee of the WSPU and began writing for its newspaper, Votes for Women. Incensed by police aggression against the Suffragists on what would become known as ‘Black Friday’, Emily responded by smashing the windows of parliament’s Crown Office. Once more she was sent to prison, once more she went on hunger strike, once more she was force-fed, once more she was released early.

At the end of 1911 she started setting fire to letterboxes. Davison was arrested for arson at the houses of parliament and admitted to burning 2 additional postboxes. For this she received 6 months in Holloway Prison, during which she again was subjected to what she described as “barbaric” force-feeding. In June 1912 she and her fellow imprisoned Suffragists barricaded themselves inside their cells and went on hunger strike. Once the authorities had wrested the demonstrators from their improvised fortifications, the strikers were again force-fed.

Davison now decided on what she called a, “desperate protest…made to put a stop to the hideous torture”; she jumped from one of the prison’s interior balconies, cracking 2 vertebrae and almost fracturing her skull in the process. Despite her injuries, she was still force-fed shortly afterwards.

In November 1912 Emily Davison was arrested a final time, for horse-whipping a Baptist minister while under the mistaken impression that her target was Lloyd George. In jail she engaged in a 7th – and last – hunger strike, and was forcibly fed for the 49th time. By this stage, she had become completely ostracised within the WSPU; they took a dim view of her spontaneity and initiative, considering her behaviour persistently erratic.

At Epsom racecourse in 1913, she would make her final – most memorable – demonstration. On the 4th of June, while bearing the Suffragist colours of purple, white & green, Emily Davision hurled herself under the hooves of the horse owned by King George V. This ‘propaganda of the deed’ was captured by no less than 3 news cameras – an extreme rarity with newsreels still in their infancy. The footage horrified the world.

Emily never regained consciousness after the collision, and would die 4 days later. Hatemail directed at her was sent to the hospital while she struggled to cling on to life. The contemporary news media were, of course, incredibly unsympathetic: The Daily Express called her ‘malignant’. The Daily Telegraph aired their ‘fierce resentment with the miserable woman’. The Pall Mall Gazette labeled her death ‘grotesque and meaningless’.

10 days after the race, Davison’s body was transported from Epsom to London. 5,000 women formed a procession, along with hundreds of men, to accompany her journey. 50,000 people lined the route. Then her coffin was taken by train to Northumberland, where she would be interred at St. Mary’s Church in Morpeth. Emily’s gravestone bears the slogan, ‘Deeds Not Words’.

5 years later, women attained the vote in Great Britain.

In her essay The Price of Liberty, Emily Davison writes;

“To lay down life for friends, that is glorious, selfless, inspiring! But to re-enact the tragedy of Calvary for generations yet unborn, that is the last consummate sacrifice of the Militant”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…♀


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Eat Your Heart Out, Sophocles

“The most terrible thing is that the possibility didn’t even register until I found out his mother’s maiden name. Even then, it seemed a coincidence….but who really believes in them any more? Up till then he’d looked like the cute kid next door – makes me queasy now – and I just figured, you know, ‘Who cares if he’s close on three decades my junior? Ain’t no law against it!’ Maybe there shoulda been.”

She had been 27 when he was born – though she knew nothing about it. At that time she was roughly half-way through her PhD in Gender Studies and had lost contact with her only daughter. The survivor of a statutory date rape at the age of 12, nine months later she had given birth, via Cesarean, to a perfectly healthy baby girl. Arriving on Christmas Day, the infant was thus appropriately named Noelle.

“When he first moved in, I went to welcome him with a plate of cookies, an’ his smile… It just shone right through me; I felt more warmth than at any time since my darlin’ Noelle was born. Then, when he introduced himself as Nick, well… My heart jumped over the moon. If this wasn’t a case of fate, or destiny, or the good Lord himself telling me somethin’…”

Against the mother’s express wishes and violent protests – which may have done her case more harm than good – Noelle’s grandparents agreed to put the child up for adoption. To spare the public embarrassment of all concerned. They were never forgiven for this action. As soon as she turned 18, the mother applied for – and received – emancipation. Immediately, she moved to the part of the country farthest from the people who had betrayed her.

“I gave birth to Noelle on Christmas Day. She gave birth to Nick exactly fourteen years afterwards…to the day. To the day! He’d been taken into Child Protection at 5 years old. It wasn’t Noelle’s fault! She never had proper parents of her own, or siblings, and she was a teenager – how could she be expected to care for a child?! She didn’t know that it was wrong to hit!”

Noelle had been abused by her foster family too, so the cycle of violence was predictable, if not inevitable. All parties became unrecognisable to one another. The son changed his name by deed poll to avoid all contact with his mother…who in turn had little or no means of regaining a relationship with her own estranged parent. All made efforts to get on with their lives, to recover from their ordeals, to escape their pasts. The hands of fate regarded such efforts with disdain.

“Imagine; me pushing 50, him on the cusp of 23. It didn’t take long for us to… Oh God, I can’t say it, can’t even bear to think it! He’d come over to help with all the festive greetings I wanted to send out. Season’s greetings, you know the kind.  He’d seen the small pile of cards and envelopes – it’d only been an excuse to have him over, ya see – and his grin… ‘Holiday backlog, huh?’ I’d laughed, gibbering nervously already. ‘You know it – presents, cards, all the trash that’s expected!’ Rolling my eyes, affecting a cynicism I didn’t feel.”

The warmth of mutual attraction overpowering any Grinch’s humbug. It is unsettling, disturbing, even disgusting to consider the possible existence of a hormonal connection drawing them together. A confusing magnetism out of their control and, crucially, beyond their understanding. The rush of chemical and biological pied pipery, leading them a merry dance to their doom. Their eyes meet, a spark flashes, smiles widen. The die is cast.

Do you really want to know what follows?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…☠

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Eyes on the Prize

This is what she wants most in the world. Or, at least, what she needs most in the world.

Equality. To be treated with dignity and respect, and to be able to treat others the same way without weakening her own position. The opportunity to share in the creation and enjoyment of everything life has to offer. A fair chance at happiness, free from the iniquities and injustices that stalk all who desperately yearn for freedom.

For decades, centuries even, her foremothers had demonstrated and agitated for this cause…and what did it get them? Ridicule. Belittlement. Scorn. At best, mere lip service. At worst? Rape culture. Low pay. Few jobs. Objectification. Sexualisation. Forced labour – in every sense. Body shaming. Restriction after restriction after restriction….

Constitutional feminism had achieved nothing of note. Not to her, at any rate. That is why she stands, rifle in hand, alongside her sisters-in-arms. That is why they eagerly await the orders to strike. That is why they will seize what is theirs, by any means necessary. Revolutionary feminism will win the day.

The Age of Man is at an end.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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A History of Invincibles Day

Since the Arsenal team of 2003/2004 completed their league campaign without suffering defeat, there has existed on the calendar a feast day commemorating their achievement. No, I’m not talking about the date of their final match that season, against Leicester City on the 15th of May. Rather, I’m referring to that day every season when it is impossible for another club to emulate the feat.

Of course, the first such Invincibles Day involved that very team finally losing – at the 50th time of asking – a league match; Manchester United brought the incredible run to an end on the 24th of October 2004, triggering the infamous Battle of the Buffet. The following year, Chelsea’s attempt to match the Gunners likewise came a cropper at Old Trafford, this time on the 6th of November. The third Invincibles Day fell on the 28th of October 2006, when Aston Villa were brought to earth at Anfield, where Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners.

Next it was the Arsenal’s turn to falter while chasing their own record, losing 2-1 to Middlesbrough on the 9th of December 2007. Their rivals from up the Seven Sisters Road cut short Liverpool’s run on the 1st of November 2008, before Wigan brought forth the earliest Invincibles Day thus far by beating Chelsea 3-1 on the 26th of September 2009. Conversely, the latest such date occurred the following season, with Manchester United finally succumbing on the 5th of February 2011 – to Wolves at Molineux.

Manchester City lost to Chelsea on the 12th of December 2011 while chasing the unique accolade, repeating the trick almost exactly a year later by losing to their fierce rivals Man United on the 9th of December 2012. In doing so at Eastlands, City became the first club to trigger Invincibles Day by dropping 3 points at home rather than away. They then brought about the holiday for a third year in a row, only on the 5th of October 2013 the Citizens were on the winning side as they inflicted defeat on Everton.

In 2014, Invincibles Day fell on the 6th of December when Chelsea lost at St. James’ Park. Arsenal’s 5-2 victory over Leicester City in 2015 meant that the holiday fell on the 26th of September for a second time. Chelsea did for Tottenham by winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on the 26th of November 2016, and in the subsequent season Manchester City’s run was brought to an end by Liverpool on the 14th of January 2018.

There have been 14 Invincibles Days, although 2 calendar years – 2010 & 2017 – did not get to have one due to the impressive runs of the last league team to lose a game. The dates of all the Invincible Days thus far are listed below:

1 – 24/10/2004
2 – 6/11/2005
3 – 28/10/2006
4 – 9/12/2007
5 – 1/11/2008
6 – 26/9/2009
7 – 5/2/2011
8 – 12/12/2011
9 – 9/12/2012
10 – 5/10/2013
11 – 6/12/2014
12 – 26/9/2015
13 – 26/11/2016
14 – 14/1/2018

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Of Mice and Mennen

“Think ‘Soapy’ will swing the V.P. slot at the Convention?”

Jeff London threw a sidelong glance at his companion driving their Studebaker Champion. It was hard to believe that this sweaty, uncouth figure was of such esteemed reputation around the Agency. Jeff shook his head slightly and sighed.

“Honestly Deano, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. You know politics ain’t my bag. What does it matter who gets the nomination? The whole scene is bogus, an’ everyone in it is a shuckster.”

Dean Phillips gave a throaty chuckle and, with evident glee, slammed his left hand on the steering wheel.

“See, that’s why I like you Lonny – you’re on the stick an’ you pull no punches. That’s why I chose you for my partner on this assignment. Cast an eyeball under the floor mat.”

Doing as he was told, London folded back the pliant rubber to reveal a gleaming handgun. He whistled appreciatively, examining the weapon with professional acuity. Phillips nodded, not taking his eyes from the road as he continued.

“That heater there is a Makarov PM. Brand new. You don’t need to know how I got it – you just need to know what you’re gonna be doing with it.”

A chill suddenly ran up London’s spine. He was aware that the more…aggressive voices at Langley, the Hawks and the ones who saw a Red behind every Democrat, hated the Governor of Michigan. But this? Then he thought back to Huey Long, and wondered how out of the ordinary this was, really. Not such an unprecedented course of action, he concluded.

“Dean… Just to be clear, so’s I don’t goof… Is this for Williams? G. Mennen Williams?”

At this Phillips laughed again, only much less convincingly than first time around. He waved a hand breezily, as if to dispel the dark implications of what was taking place.

“No no no – you writing a book? – we don’t do that kinda thing. Since when did we run around bumping off our own elected leaders?”

To this London made no reply, but he knew for a fact that such plans were tentatively made for disposing of F.D.R. by their forerunners in the intelligence community back in the 30’s. Maybe they’d have gone through with it too, we’ll never know; Smedley Butler blabbed to Congress and everything was put on ice. Given that, and his previous thoughts on the assassination of the Kingfish in Louisiana, Jeff London began to feel extremely queasy. Phillips sensed his colleague’s unease, and softened the tone accordingly.

“Listen Lonny, you won’t be taking out any big daddies, alright? You’d think there’d be just you, if the mark was somebody high up? No fear, my friend… We just need you to haul ass to Lansing and put the squeeze on a few people. Rustle some feathers, make some noise… Give us something to show the House, something that’ll keep Soapy off the ticket this Fall.”

Smiling, Dean Phillips finally took his eyes off the road to give London a brief look.

“Think you can handle it?”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Welcome to the Smooth Forest

Meticulous was the preparation. Horrifying, the execution.

As an officer and, no doubt, a gentleman, it behooved Captain Swayne to take all necessary precautions when administering the…technique. He and his assistants – men of the North Cork Militia – clad their bodies in the very latest protective garb to ensure that none of the boiling hot substances should harm them during the process. The object of the whole affair was, after all, to inflict suffering on the prisoner – not themselves.

Once the pitch or tar had reached a suitably scalding temperature, Swayne had the honour of pouring it onto the subject’s head. Well…not directly onto the subject’s head as such. The Captain’s assistants would have attached a linen cap around the poor unfortunate’s head, and this crown of sorts was conically-shaped so as to hold the liquid in place. After the mixture had cooled sufficiently, the cap was torn from the suspect’s head – taking with it a significant portion of the skin and tissue underneath.

Other methods had been inflicted, of course; flogging, half-hanging, picketing, dunking, nail-pulling… However, these were mild tortures when compared to the agony of this ‘pitch-capping’. The short, cropped hair of the rebels lent itself quite adequately to this action, providing as it did a sort of guide to where best the cap should be affixed.

Once all the skin and hair was ripped from the skull, the top of the head most closely resembled a clear-cut wood. Indeed, the effect was similar to that of the infamous scalping which both colonists and natives inflicted upon eachother in the Americas. The searing pitch had, at one ancient time or other, been poured into a victim’s orifices…but this often resulted in immediate death, and so was quite useless as a form of non-lethal torture.

Even this vicious cruelty did not distract the diligent Captain Swayne from the possibility of escape. Thus, he made sure to have one of the target’s ears cut off, so as to make identification easier. Should the individual break free from captivity, militiamen could readily discover the well-marked escapee in the surrounding area.

Suffice it to say that Captain Swayne attained all the required information regarding rebel movement in and around the area of Eastern Ireland, and the people of Prosperous were no longer terrorised by the so-called ‘United Irishmen’. The Wexford Rebels would be the next target, and the men of the North Cork Militia had all the tools with which to deal with them.

Civilization itself was at stake – the barbaric savagery of the croppies and their ilk could not be allowed to threaten the noble forces of law and order.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…


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The Trickling Sads of Time

With every passing second, we grow further from our birth and closer to our demise. There’s an upbeat thought for you. From the age we are first able to create memories, we are building a tail – a tail of tales, if you will – that stretches out behind us, longer and longer with every event, presenting us with our past. Our present is fleeting, transient. Our past is set in stone, immovable.

In such meandering is how I introduce you to a particular form of depression. Probably not a very unique form… A kind of nostalgia-fueled sadness. The realisation of the fact that we can never recreate our youth, never relive those moments, never recapture the feelings, never right the wrongs. That realisation weighs heavily on me.

My dreams are of old houses in which my family used to reside, of old flames and old friends, and – most poignantly of all – my late father, departed over 10 years ago now. When I listen to music, I imagine myself performing the songs in front of my secondary school year – yeah, that woulda shown ’em I was cool! – but only if the records had been released in subsequent years. After all, gotta keep it realistic; so that, if time travel became available tomorrow, I could shoot back to the year 2000 and pretend that, oh I dunno, Srxt by Bloc Party was in fact written by yours truly. So afterwards when all my fellow teens clustered round and were like, “Did you write that awesome song?” I’d be all like, “Totally.”

What was I talking about? Oh right, yeah.

While this looking back has been with me for a long time, the most overpowering feeling of this nostalgia-depression was triggered by a recent reunion with mates from university. That a decade has flown by since we hung out in front of our alma mater, with subsequent weddings and whatnot, really hit home like a hammer blow.

I know, I know… “Time passes, get over it. You’re only 33, you loser!”

The speed at which so much time has zipped by is just alarming though. My teens were only, what, 7 years, but it seemed to pass much slower than the last 15. I didn’t even have half the experiences in school that most people had – which is, by the way, a fairly obvious contributing factor to the evident resentment I feel at not having made the most of my youth – but even so, I felt that I actually *lived* those years. Even though I’m with someone I love and have been for almost 6 years, it feels like the last decade has breezed by without me doing anything of note.

Just in case you hadn’t grasped it already, I’m writing this completely stream-of-consciousness. So if it seems waffly, rambling, incoherent and self-indulgent…well, that’s because it is. Sorry ’bout that.

Sometimes I realise that a memory of something that feels like it was just yesterday actually happened 13 years ago, and I want to cry or throw up. Sometimes I just want time to stop so that I can get my bearings or get back on track (whatever that means). Sometimes I just want to scream, “WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?!” because, honestly, I feel like there’s a secret to living or some instruction manual that everyone else got and I’m totally lost.

Then there’s the regrets; I wish that I could have properly enjoyed myself in college, or had applied myself more, or worried less, or been able to get involved more with people/clubs/events/sports. That we can’t go back is one of the most basic things there is – so why does it cause sadness? Why is it so hard, seemingly to accept?

All the people that came into my life who I will never see again. All the nights hanging out, smoking and drinking and laughing, that I’ll never have again. All the dates that I had, or didn’t get to have, or had but didn’t go to plan, that I wish I could do over. All the mornings and afternoons and evenings at the Wall in UCD, chatting and smoking with the best people in the world…all just fragments of time.

I feel like I’m not expressing myself properly and, you know, that makes me saddest of all. I’m crying right now as I write this, that’s how sad it makes me. I lack the words or the sense to convey just how much regret and anger and disappointment and shame and self-hatred I have, just because time passed… I know, I know – I’m mentally ill, what else is new?

The weird thing is, I’ve loved the last 5 or 6 years; lost my virginity, got properly medicated, met the woman I want to marry, moved to the best city in the world, am living a life that I consider to be ideal. I guess it’s just some kind of weird, early midlife crisis or something, a desire to experience a specific period in time – from 13 years old to 25, say – even if the first time around wasn’t even that great. Maybe because the first time around wasn’t even that great.

Maybe ‘purpose’ is the word. Even though I hated getting up for school, my life had purpose. Even though I hated the essays and exams in university, my life had purpose. Even though I was perpetually single and sexless, desperately casting my rod (oo-er missus) around to see what’d bite, my life had purpose. Now I’m comfortable, and…what is the point of me, exactly?

I hate birthdays, and Christmases, and New Year’s, because they force you to reflect on where you are in life, and how many of those events you’ve experienced – a number that only ever goes up. These milestones have, for the better part of my existence, served to make me loath myself; for not accomplishing more, for not being in contact with loved ones enough, for not being a better person.

Fuck, I’m such a moany bastard.

I think I’ll add to this, and smooth it out, any time I’m feeling this way. It happens a lot – maybe there’s a book in it!

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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