Party: Off.

Last night we tried to go for a party in Clayton Quarry. We managed this for about 10 minutes, the Police already swarming around the top of the road when we arrived. This was fairly unsurprising, as you could hear the bloody thing from the Ring Road.

Let this be a lesson – it was too LOUD. Ok, psytrance sounds much better loud, but if you are trying to have a party bang in the centre of Leeds, a bit of common sense is needed…

I spoke to a fairly friendly (as they go) WPC, who made the perfectly accurate comment: ‘if we’d have had only one or two complaints we’d just have let it lie. How would we have known you were here?’ It seems they’d been coming pretty thick and fast for over an hour…

I’m glad the lads who were chanting ‘Piggy Piggy Pig Pig’ shut sup before they caused a scene. Though I would have found it quite amusing if they’d been arrested. Silly fools. Much as I have little respect for the Police 90% of the time, they have a job to do and they are going to do it. If, by being silly, you give them a chance.

I was hoping the the remnants of Leeds’ party scene was getting an injection of new talent and energy. But it seems they have a lot to learn…

Weltschmerz

Last night, for the first time ever, I actually felt physically ill on reading the news. Not some bombing, some mass murder, the gang rape of a child or something. But the news that I am ‘represented’ in Europe by the BNP.

Well, this goose-stepping psychopath does not represent me. I care little enough about Euro-politics, not because I don’t think that they are important, but because in the grand scheme of things I think it has little overall effect on my life. Some might say that is naive; rather, I live my life in a way that so far as possible I let many things wash over me with a quiet acceptance that the alternatives are probably not that much different.

He also does not represent me because I simply reject his representation for who he is. For what good that will do me. Sadly, he does represent a large portion of my country, and certainly the 120 000 and odd bigotted and ultimately ignorant fools who voted him in.

Weltschmerz is a German word, translating literally as ‘World-Sorrow’. It can mean a simple dismay at the state of the world, or a feeling that one’s own weaknesses are a result of this. It is also associated with the Romantic Poets, and a feeling that the state of the world is counter to ones own freedom of thought and mind.

Which sums up how I feel today.

The familiar argument has of course arose, about freedom of speech, and how comments of violence makes one as bad as the object of one’s violent expression.

This state of affairs shows that we are not mature enough for freedom of speech. Of course this is a paradox, as to disallow freedom of speech places one in a situation where someone tells someone else what they can express. But does the state of the world mean this must be so? There is probably no answer to this, save the anarchist-influenced informal regulation that might only be a pipe-dream.

What this also shows, is that once again ‘democracy’ has failed. I have joked that the thing that has pissed me off most about this whole fiasco is that I have been forced to break the habit of a lifetime and vote. I have never voted in a general election. My main reason for this is that I will not vote for someone who does not represent my views. Which no political party ever has. I nearly voted in 1997, after growing up under Tory rule. I would be ashamed to have voted in such a disfunctional government. I considered voting for Greg Mulholland in the last general election, based on his good record as a councillor in Headingley. Again, I would have been ashamed, after his vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, reputedly because of his own Catholic beliefs.

But this failure of ‘democracy’ is the worst. Pop Will Eat Itself sang: ‘but if the answer isn’t violence, neither is your silence’. I have not been violent, and I have not kept silent. And I am now saddened.

I am sometimes an idealist. I have largely held reservations about violent responses to fascism. Partly because I think dangerous egos can take hold, and even people who will stand up and fight are often not mature enough to justify their means. Also, because although ideologically I am not anti violence, I refuse to succumb to allowing violence to be the answer, as I am, by nature, a gentle person. But where are we now? 120 000 people in Yorkshire and The Humber is too many to ignore. And this poison will grow and grow.

This is not some call to arms, or statement of intent to join Antifa. But the time is coming when many of us will need to make the choice whether we sit back and allow this to continue, by our posturing and faith in good nature and The System. Or whether we will be forced back to a time when human evil cannot be controlled in any other way: the ultimate recidivism. World Sorrow, indeed.

A small lesson in Pragmatism.

The Moor, once again, is the latest issue for Hyde Park Busybodies to throw a wobbler about.

As you will all know, when the weather gets hot, people flock to the park, many of them using those pathetic tin-foil barbecues and burning huge holes in the grass. Which is pretty fucking selfish and irritating, I agree.

So the Council, in one their rare bursts of sense have come up with the idea of sinking barbecue slabs into the ground to provide a means to do this with less damage. Which seems to me a sensible idea.

But of course, for some, this is not good enough.  People feel that this will spoil The Moor. That Money should be spent on enforcing the present By-Laws. That Barbcue smoke is Toxic.

Lets look at these, one by one. I’ll start with the last. Barbecue smoke may be greasy and nasty. But you can’t stop people having a barbecue in their garden (at least not in Hyde Park, at the moment). I’m also guessing a fair number of people opposing this on the park will be lucky enough to have a garden.

Spoiling The Moor:  I’m inclined to say that stone slabs set over a small area will spoil The Moor considerably less than the current mess caused by people who don’t use them. The Moor is not some ancient burial ground that is defiled by building facilities on it. Or maybe it is, and that’s why after ten years we still don’t have any lighting.

So lets look at the last one: Park wardens technically have the power to remove people from parks. It’s in the By-Laws. But they don’t. And those who will ignore the By-Laws clearly ignore the wardens as this letter suggests. So personally I resent paying for someone who doesn’t actually do their job. I fail to see how more wardens will help.

So the Police then? Well, the only time I’ve seen the Police do very much on the park is hassling people sat there in the mornings (because staying up all night and sitting on the park at 8 o’clock on Saturday Morning is oh so much more of a social evil than burning holes in things). The Police say it is the councils repsponsibility, the Council say it is the Police’s. Like Noise, that old chestnut. I’d be very suprised if the Police would ringefence the money that would have been spent on barbecue facilities, if it were to be given to them.

So, what will happen, is as usual nothing. And the park will continue to be burned.

The local resident bigmouths say ‘why should Hyde Park be any different?’ Because Hyde Park is different. Like it or lump it, we have a large population of students and young people. That’s life.

I have lived in Hyde Park 15 Years.  I am not an incomer student. But I agree with a pragmatic response to a problem. God I’m such a misfit. This shows, once again, two characteristics of ‘community’ in Hyde Park.

One: it is self-serving, parochial, and serves a small group. Two: these small groups of people who claim to be the ‘community’ quite clearly have their heads up their own ar, sorry, firmly in the clouds.

Giving them drugs, taking their lives away…

I should be writing my dissertation, but this requires comment. Finally, in peer reviewed journals, sensible discussion on the risks of drugs is coming to the fore.

This is something that the late Nicholas Saunders commented on nearly 20 years ago, though his statistical assessment put the risk as similar to that of fly-fishing. Whilst it is true that there is ‘no safe dose’ of ecstacy, as it can kill unpredictably this is also, as the Cheif Constable of North Wales suggested a year ago, the same for many over the counter pharmaceuticals, or other drugs consumed everyday.

Caffeine, a drug with an LD50  estimated at between 3-10g orally (a single packet of the US brand pep-pill No-Doze is reported to be possibly fatal)  is a key component of many peoples’ “morning stimulant” and present in many energy drinks and in pills such as Pro-Plus or the aforementioned No-Doze. Nicotine, a drug which provokes similar withdrawal effects to Opiates and Benzodiazepines is a major consumer product, yet still smokers may be refused coronary treatment. The list goes on; the argument about the criminogenic effects of alcohol consumption is well known.

Incidentally the risk of an unpredictable reaction from pure and unadulterated MDMA, taken safely, is very very low.

What is perhaps most problematic about this affair is the National Drug Prevention Alliance calling for Professor Nutt’s resignation. For what? presenting accurate statistics. If he did indeed present his ‘opinion’ as the NDPA suggest, I would agree that he should resign, as there is little room for opinion in the dissemination of medical fact. But it was statistical analysis he presented, and it is encouraging that this has been presented in an academic setting.

And now, Home Secretary Jaqui Smith has demanded and received an apology. This is perhaps most concerning.

Whatever one’s personal opinion on the morality or safety of drug use, Prof. Nutt has published an article, based upon statistical analysis of the dangers, in a respected peer review journal.

It is often argued that hiding debate around drugs serves a contrary purpose to the management of the drugs ‘problem’. Furthermore, to demand an apology for publishing a valid scientific argument is tantamount to censorship of scientific knowledge. Jaqui Smith has done both these things.

Community Plods

The other day I swear I saw Herr Flic walking down the street. OK the leather coast had been replaced by orange hi-vis, but the sour unrelenting face and demeanour, the purposeful walk was the same. This was on Moorland Road, walking off down towards Hyde Park. I then swear down I saw him again on Campus.  Who was this strange fellow?

He was a Local Authority Enforcement Officer, or rather I am guessing two of them, but the uniform and face were of course indistinguishable.

These pseudo police, along with their brethren the PCSOs are the champions of community cohesion in Britain Today.

I become more and more concerned by this as time goes by. Zygmunt Bauman talks of community as The Agony of Tantalus, something so desired, but so out of reach. And my question here is about how the hell this can enforce community.

These fellows were issuing parking tickets. Now parking is something that kind of gets my goat, but one of these was placing them on about 2 cars in the otherwise empty resident’s parking on Moorland Road. The other, on Campus. OK the first, maybe fair enough. The second, although a public highway, should really be the Universty’s look out. But my main issue here is this for me just highlights a little over regulation. Where was he dealing with the blocking royal park road so the buses can’t get by; the cars permanently so close to junctions that their arse end is blocking the entire pavement?

It also amuses me that it is highlighted now that Police must trust the public more. Far be it from me to comment about whether police are “more concerned with the rights of perpetrators than victims” of course, but we have all these people aimed to promote “community” dressed up like the Gestapo, and probably as unpleasant. How is that going to promote trust. Or community? I fail to see.

Community, or “Social Capital” to use Labour’s buzzword cannot be enforced. “Respect” cannot be enforced. Yes the Police do need to trust the public more, listen more. Help people to look after their areas, collect their trash and they won’t tip it, make sure there are places to park that don’t cost a days wage and they won’t park where they shouldn’t and so on…

Two grumpy old men

Well, Jamie Matthews got back to me. Actually had quite a constructive conversation which was good. Though it is a shame it took a complaint to make this happen.

From this I have had contact from the local police too… Predictable though. Police responses are reactionary (no shit, Sherlock) and of course officers cannot be expected to understand issues from all areas they Police. The Inspector dealing with the complaint got back too: He has discussed the issue with the officer concerned and “advised him”. What that will do I do not know, but at least he listened. We’ll see if I encounter that officer again when I am pissed and get harassment. Of course that will never happen.

As for the bins. That has been reported to the council. Apparently they will deliver four new bins, in four to six weeks time. What a fucking joke! They did say that they will provide some green bags, though it is of course the householders responsibility to clean up the mess (personally I think this is a bigger blight than graffiti and posters which seems to have plenty of money poured into their removal, but anyway…) No sign of the green bags I was promised, so with the general lack of bins from not getting the increased number I was promised 6 months ago I can see even more mess… Am tempted to say sod it as I am moving down the road and so it will no longer be my binyard (though the new one looks just as problematic…)

It’s kind of the same old story really. Empty promises and excuses. Of course if you believe half of what I have been told none of this is paid for by the council tax, so I cannot use that argument, and doubtless rattle on about Thoreau like all apprentice disobedients do (usually the ones who pay it off when it gets tough). I disagree with the council tax for many reasons, for many reasons, house size not being an indicator of income being a main one, and much as I comment often on the benefits of a more mutualist society where this may not be needed, poor service is not a reason for not paying it. This may strike you as odd from me, as I am committed to actually getting value for what you pay out in the consumerist transactions we all are slaves to and frequently complain about how our taxes are spent, but the simple matter is that not paying does not solve anything, oppressive as that situation is.

I heard a great one the other day too: students do not use the majority of services paid for by council tax (education, social services and so on), this is why they should not pay it. True, but neither do I. And a fair proportion goes towards the “gentrification” that the University then lays claim to. What do we do, give up on Welfare as a bad job, so everyone pays for exactly what they use? Anyway, I digress.

I am going to continue. Be an angry young man (or maybe a grumpy old man, now) and become the thorn in the side of local services. And incidentally the new neighbours, looking at the state of the binyard for my new house…

The power of recourse…

Following the incident with the “builders” across the road, (and I use the term “builders” loosely, looking at the quality of the work) I have been active.

It’s amazing what a complaint can do… or is it?

The Police got back to me in the end. An ageing Sargent came round and repeated largely the same rote, though at least he listened. The Noise Service wrote to me and made the point that they are not obliged to run an out of hours service and that they do not have the funding to run it any later.  Apparently there is an agreement that noise issues are down to the council, not the police. “Responsiblisation” as David Garland puts it – shifting the ownership of issues that are essentially crime out of the policing sphere into the community

What a surprise. I guess here we see the key flaw in Garland’s terminology. His observation is valid, but I cannot see this responsibility anywhere… But I guess that is his point.

It took a complaint too, for one of the local councillors (Jamie Mathews) to contact. He asked for anecdotes – so he got them:

Hi Jaimie,

Further to our conversation the other day, here’s a bit more detail about some of the issues that I feel the Council needs to be addressing in a more proactive way. As I said when we spoke, this is the main issue – problems obviously are going to happen, and it is what resources are in place to deal with them.

The background to the incident that lead me to try and make contact was as follows – basically there is a house opposite mine which is currently under renovation – I believe for Deu Estates, who seem to be on a mission to buy up half the street. The burglar alarm on this house had been fitted, but not isolated and started going off at about 3am – I called the “out of hours” noise team, which was closed as it was after 2 on a week day. The Police of course claim to be able to do nothing (I did suggest that maybe if nothing was done they may need to come and arrest me for removing it with a lump-hammer, though that didn’t seem to sway them). So I was stuck with this (which sounded not unlike a dial-up modem at 150dB) until the builder appeared at about 8.30. This incident escalated somewhat when as I was trying to arrange to get the builder’s number one of his mates decided to start giving me a load of abuse about this, and when I went back inside and said if this couldn’t be resolved I’d just get the council to deal with it tried to kick my door through. The police attended this, and overall were extremely dismissive of my concerns – something which I am making a formal complaint about.

So really there are two issues here – firstly the Noise Service line. One has to ask exactly what is the point of an “out of hours” service that does not operate out of hours? I have been in contact with them, and received the standard reply that they do not have adequate funding, and the service is provided as an extra, which they are under no obligation to provide. They also informed me that it was agreed with the Police that the council held responsibility for noise problems, but if the council is not providing that service who does? At the time the Noise service did nothing, other than contact me back and put me under pressure to provide the builder’s number, despite my informing them that as I had just been threatened by one of the builders I felt that acting at this late stage would just exacerbate the whole issue.

So this brings me to the side point point here – I don’t know how much input local councillors have into the policing of the area – but it is clear that that police have very little understanding of how this area works – the one who attended when I called them about the builder certainly seemed not to have any idea how much of an effect the continual issues in South Headingley affect people. The Police seemed happy to step in, in force, with the party in the Hessles last year, in a way which caused an incredible amount of tension for both local residents and students, both in terms of increasing the general feeling of persecution that students feel but also as they seemed to not realise that a fair few local people were not overly happy about meeting a line of aggressive dogs preventing them from getting to their homes  – it seemed almost as if the police had this lip-service idea of helping the community, but treated the area concerned like a little enclave where every resident was a student and therefore under suspicion.

Returning to the noise issue – I have had a similar issue with noise from an alarm in the house next door, again owned by Deu Estates. This was a faulty fire alarm, which went off again all night. I initially contacted Mr Singh from Deu on the number he provides for out of hours contact when he wishes to let a house. His response was that he lived about 10 miles away and it was too late for him to come out and deactivate the alarm. The noise service did attend on this occasion, and called Mr Singh on the number they had for him as key holder (and his home number from the phone book) – he had taken both phones off the hook. They said they could do nothing further as they could not arrange to have the alarm de-activated. So the response to this was a letter to Mr Singh and no sleep for me.

A further problem with this house is an extractor fan, which is loud enough to wake me when all 6 tenants come in pissed at 3am and troop to the toilet. The noise team’s response to this was that “I would have had the chance to object when planning permission was applied for” – the planning notification I got was for two dormer windows. Not extractor fans or (incidentally) converting the premesis to a 6 bed HMO with the associated lack of facilities for rubbish, loss in water pressure (the water on these properties coming through the other houses). So again, the noise team and the associated planning issues seem to be totally ignorant of the reality.

It is my understanding that to gain a licence for a licensable HMO the owner must be a “fit and proper person”… One wonders how someone who has seemingly not applied for full planning permission for the premises, and has needed to be reprimanded for noise problems is a fit and proper person.

The other major issue which it seems that the council services have no understanding of is refuse. A year or so ago I called to report that a large amount of building waste had been fly tipped in my shared bin yard – giving a description and number plate of the van I had seen doing so. The response was that this was the resident’s responsibility to clear. When I commented that I had no means to do this, I was told that as they had my name connected to the binyard and I had effectively refused to arrange removal when asked,  I would be prosecuted. I think my response was something along the lines of “just f-ing try it” and at some point the waste was removed. A couple of months later however a letter was posted through all the doors threatening action about the state of the binyards. This time, as I have actually on more than one occasion I pointed out that there were insufficient bins, to get the standard response that one bin per household is provided and that is all. We have four bins, for 6 houses, one of which is a 6 bed HMO. I have raised this with the HMO team and been assured that this would be looked into and if appropriate a trade bin provided due to the large HMO using the yard. about 3 months later there is no sign of this, and the bins are still often overflowing.

I have notice this morning that all our green bins are now a pile of burned plastic, so doubtless we will have no recycling facilities for weeks on end, and the same argument about whose responsibility it is to clean up the mess.

So there are a few anecdotes, I have plenty more, but these illustrate the key issues – that, as we discussed, there is no one size fits all policy.

The refuse team need to realise that one large HMO on a street can seriously unbalance the way a service needs to be run, and be prepared to make changes to the standard service.
The Noise service needs to operate out of hours, and be able to access properties to deactivate problem alarms when the key holders refuse to.
Landlords need to be denied licenses for properties unless they can show that they have a record of addressing problems – issuing a licence and then worrying when they do not comply is not enough.
The police need to understand the concerns of local residents.

There are a number of minor issues of concern too – we all know there is a problem with litter in the area, but walking from my house to the University I pass a total of two bins – both of which are always full. There are permanent parking issues – but where is a permit scheme, preferably limiting the number of permits issued, while managing to allow visitors of local residents somewhere to park…

Unfortunately I think the  issues are clouded by the supposed student/local binary – this seems to be the only issue addressed and then vast resources seem to be spent on placating students and reassuring locals, without looking at the micro issues – I know some people are galled by the idea that money is spent dealing with problems that they feel would not happen if students were kicked out of the area, but that is not the solution, nor will it happen. But money needs to be found to address the actual tangible problems…

I hope these examples are useful – an apologies that I did feel that I needed to go through the complaints form to try and make contact – At this point I was feeling very unlistened to…

Thanks for Listening

Christian Bodden

We’ll see what happens. Nothing I suspect.