It’s been a while…

Hasn’t it just?!

The last time I flopped my flabby torso on a decent sized bike, discounting riding a Ducati round a paddock, was in February 2018 in Jerez. To put that into context, that is the longest I have gone without riding on track since probably 2005. Ouch.

Thankfully the drought is over. Originally the plan was to travel to Almeria with both the BMW S1krr and the newly built SV650 stocker. Except it isn’t newly built. It simply isn’t built. It is unbuilt.

And so off I went to Almeria with just me and ole faithful primed with the same full tank of Spanish blue petrol, engine oil and grubby filter as it came back from Jerez with in 2018 (oh the shame). We went with Track Sense, a favourite Euro TDO who take a small group and piggy back on Bike Promotion trackdays, a huge German outfit. TS are very relaxed but at the same time very professional with the best documentation and communication of any TDO. And they treat you like grown ups.

The obligatory stillage shot…

Now it is fair to say that my last foray round Almeria probably wasn’t my finest hour. It was seven years ago and the Beemer was still a bit overwhelming for me. The technical nature of Almeria left me scratching my head last time and with me using silly road gearing I don’t think I really found my rhythm at all – so I have always wanted to come back and learn to enjoy the circuit. So this was it – rusty rider with an unkempt bike at a bogey circuit. What could go wrong?

I should at this point explain that our trip to Almeria was a little more than the typical jaunt. Apart from the sheer luxury of having a second stillage to carry ‘stuff’ in given that the SV race bike was vapourware, we also paid a little extra to have unfettered access to Andalucia as well. Until recently this was a circuit well worth ignoring but it has been re-imagined and is a wonderful track in its own right. Add to that the benefit of essentially sharing the paddock with Almeria and you have a whole new concept – two tracks in one holiday without moving garages. But it gets better – because opening up a link which cuts out one corner on each circuit, you combine two circuits into one 9 kilometer rollercoaster! So for day one and the first sessions on day two and three we had our choice of circuits on each session and the last two sessions on days two and three were on the combined circuit.

Bumblebee and associated Bumblebee-coloured items.

So how was Mr Rustyarse? Well not too terrible actually. After a lap the bike felt familiar and I was happy to just get on with learning Andalucia. Which is a bugger of a track to learn your way round. It has seemingly endless blind crests and hidden apexes and it wasn’t until third session that I had any confidence to commit to most of the corners. But the more I put into it the more I enjoyed it and I found myself wanting to ignore Almeria. I knew I had to get out on it, because it is half of the combined circuit and that would be ruined if I only knew half of it. So at the end of day one I ventured out on Almeria. Hated it. Bits of it felt vaguely familiar but only in so much as ‘oh yes I remember hating this bit’.

Day two and I was loving Andalucia, but decided I needed help on Almeria. Danny Webb offered his services but couldn’t take me until day three, so I had another crack myself and it wasn’t so bad. When they had the two combined sessions, things started to come together and well, what a lap! It has everything and having over four minutes between seeing the same thing again just keeps the mind totally engaged. Amazing.

I was getting mildly frustrated at this point because while I was loving the circuit, I was stuck at a certain pace and I knew I could do a lot more. My old sparring partner Blue is usually a good reference – he gets to pace quicker than I do but I can usually get up to his speed or thereabouts so seeing him leave me for dust told me I wasn’t back to my old self. Then I spent a session with Wee Danny Webb (what a gent!) and apart from really helping my lines round Almeria, he also described something to me in a whole new way which I had not considered before. The next session I went back to Andalucia and dropped eight seconds off my PB. Bingo Bango!

Briefing Danny…

So all that was left was two sessions on the full circuit and I absolutely loved it. New riding style, new confidence, new pace. Incredible circuit with very little traffic and blazing sunshine. The day ended with everyone very, very happy. I was well pleased that the muscles that ached at the end of day one no longer ached and I felt strong if a bit exhausted due to the heat. The bike performed as she always did, no spills, no red flags… We got to watch Danny Webb and Scott Redding do their stuff in between session which is always inspiring.

FInal session, Day 3. If you get bored, skip right to the end to watch Phil’s reaction to me nearly crashing into his bike…

One thing I learned on this trip is the importance of garage location selection. Let me demonstrate:

On one side, we have one end of the spectrum, Mr Blue – a downright shambles on a good day:

And on the other, we have our Phil – Mary Poppins reincarnated:

This was our group, mostly miscreants from Northern Ireland. Couple of fast boys at that table…

We even managed to sneak in a wee bit of culture…

The only complaints I heard were from people who had only booked one circuit. Both circuits are so technical that you can’t ride them at any sort of pace until you know them so the combined laps were not enjoyed by those who only knew one half. The moral of this is pay the extra £130 and get access to both for three days – it is daft not to.

We elected to stay in town instead of with the great unwashed who stayed at a golf resort – which is apparently great but we like to get out of an evening. Very glad we did, we were right in the middle of town and surrounded by proper tapas bars. We enjoyed great food and beer every evening and all within 5 minutes of our hotel so once anyone hit the wall, they could limp back and collapse into their pit.

Great company with Phil, Blue and the crowd from Norn Iron, great organisation by Track Sense, amazing circuits, no crashes, one red flagged session – everyone got something significant out of it.

One of the best Euros I have been on and I’ve done a few!



As part of Heidi’s birthday present and in lieu of a trip to Harry Potter World, I bought Heidi and I a three-hour falconry experience at Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre near Maidenhead. 

Typically, I am very skeptical of anything that involves handing over money to interact with animals. The abject cruelty of places like Seaworld and anywhere with captive dolphins repulses me. So when I considered a falconry centre, I did a bit of research. 

One of my first concerns was that the garden centre where the centre is located is also shared by a pet shop which has been at the centre of endless protests about the fact they sell farmed puppies, but the falconry centre is entirely separate. My research led me to believe the falconry centre was likely to be an ethical and responsible concern, so off we trotted.

(If you need to convince yourself, have a quick read of THIS blog post)

The 3-hour experience consists of a maximum of six participants who can also bring people to watch. The bird handling and flying happens in a private field away from the view of the public. We start with a very informal briefing before heading to the field – this experience only happens when it isn’t raining because it turns out these big scary raptors are not waterproof…

Sadie runs the centre and is downright passionate about her birds. She has hand reared or rescued most of them and their loyalty to her is impressive. We start with a barn owl, pretty but not the brightest! Then a long eared own followed by the mammoth European Eagle Owl. When you learn they can crush deer skulls with their talons, you gain respect…

On the field, the birds fly from guest to guest picking up bits of dead things on the way. You get to spend a lot of time with each bird on your hand, great for photo opportunities and to get a real appreciation of the beauty of these things. 

A quick cup of coffee with biscuits, a chance to pet the dogs and then it’s back to the field for the non-owl species. First is the Harris hawk, certainly the most eager flier and a fantastic bird. 

This is followed by the beautiful Lanner – Peregrine cross. Very different, it doesn’t waste time flying from glove to glove but rather hunts on the wing. This was a rescue bird which had been badly treated and Sadie went to great lengths to rescue it.

My motivation for writing a falconry blog on my bike site was to provide a recommendation to anyone who thinks they might enjoy this experience – I can’t imagine anyone not loving these three hours with some spectacular animals and their highly entertaining owner. Put asides any concern over the care of these birds – let’s face it, they can fly off whenever they like. But through the three hours you will learn the passion that Sadie has for these birds and as for value for money – definitely worth it.  


2019 Season Preparation Begins

After doing a total of three days on track in 2018 (February, Jerez), it’s time to start thinking about getting back out there. I did make good use of my extra free time and cash by getting married and supporting Danny at BSB, so it was actually quite a productive year.

I like the No Limits paddock and was keen to stick with them – their format suits and I like their choice of circuits. Plus I tend to be a loyal sort of a guy. 

The Clubman’s grid has become increasingly competitive as people avoid the Pirelli grid. This means that at my sort of pace, I’m fighting just to earn a point where before I would be disappointed not to bag points in every race. The BMW has a few miles on the clock now and taken a lot of punishment, and I’ve had a bit of a battering getting wiped out in the mess that is the middle to back of the pack. I was hit several times in 2017 and two of those took me out. So I had to question if clubmans was right for me, if I wanted to keep piling in thousands of pounds to try to collect the odd point and if I was serious enough to want to invest in a new bike. 

My answer to most of the above was ‘no’. I want to race, I want to have fun, I want to keep my BMW and I want to spend less money. The answer was mini twins – specifically standard twins because this is partly a money saving exercise. It gives me the opportunity to build my own race bike from scratch, we get to do every round, the bikes are lighter and less likely to destroy themselves in a spill and the running costs are significantly lower. 

I wanted to run with an SV, mainly because I like the bike and ebay has a billion spares. This model appeals because it is injected (older ones aren’t) and has a removable subframe (newer ones don’t). In the standard class, I don’t think the ER has a big advantage so it was no big issue. The regs limit the performance enhancements to a full system and a PCV, which helps. Suspension can be tweaked plus all the usual racey things you do to a bike to help it crash better. 

You can see the bike as I bought it above. A MY14, registered in 2016, ridden for 1,300 miles and repossessed, it was in great condition apart from some very light scratches from a car park spill and some corrosion from road salt (after 1300 miles – these low-end Suzukis really are made of chocolate).

Like the BM, this is going to be spoiled with quality parts. Woodcraft, Akrapovic and Ohlins are in the plans. As it stands it has had the bouncy bits stripped ready for a trip to Kais in the near future and I have built a race loom from a second hand standard one to replace the full one on the bike. Front and rear subframes are in the post, hopefully, along with a Lithium battery and some trinkets. Woodcraft sticky-out bits are on a plane from the US of A right now.

Arse end

So here’s hoping that in a few weeks this old cheapo road hack will be ready to get on the treadmill at Dynotech and see what sort of shape she’s in. With only 1300 miles clocked up, it probably still needs some running in!

The one thing I keep hearing about is the prevalence of cheating in the standard twin class. At our level, is anyone really going to strip an engine to check for porting or performance cams? Will we have a dyno at every round? I’d love to know there would be a dyno but I doubt it – so it will be interesting to see how many competitors want a £3 plastic trophy so bad they’ll cheat to get it – but the temptation is there because there will be no checks and the country is awash with tuned engines from the unrestricted class. But as always, I’d rather be last on a standard bike than first on a tuned one.

I’m really looking forward to the season ahead – it seems ages since Heidi and I packed the van, hitched the caravan, trundled up the road to set up in the paddock and then rushed to hospital the next day. I’ve missed A&E since I took my time out.

All joking aside, it will be great to be back on track on something a bit less serious than the German killing machine, but I love the fact I have it to play on too. I can’t wait to climb off the SV (72hp) and onto the BM (200hp) – that’s going to be some shock to the system. 



The Anatomy of a BSB Weekend

Having taken a one year hiatus from racing bikes, I have been spending this year helping Danny Shaw in the Ducati TriOptions Cup support series at BSB. This is Danny’s second year and I was glad to be able to roll my sleeves up and help in any way I could as Danny and I have have become firm friends since first meeting at Anglesay in the No Limits Racing paddock.

I have not written about this year as I prefer to let Danny’s social media accounts do the talking but after the weekend we have just had, I feel it is worth a write-up to give an insight into what the teams around riders actually do in the paddock.

There is the typical race weekend and then there was this race weekend. I’ll start by describing a typical one just for reference.


Danny and family arrive in the big white playbus on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning he waits to get guided into his paddock space at which point he and anyone else who has arrived starts getting the awnings set up. We have evolved our setup this year and it now involves a 3×3 attached to a 6×3 awning giving us a lot of room for bikes, guests, team and children. With the awnings set up and strapped down, the floor needs put down then the bike and tools get set out along with tables for eating, tables for the tea urn (critical) and the TV.

Once set up, it’s a case of attending briefings, getting scrutineered, getting tyres, fuel etc. First time out is on Friday for free practice, then Saturday will have qualifying and race one, Sunday is race two. Being a support series, the Ducati races tend to be at fairly unsociable hours, often it is one of the last races on Sunday evening. On Thursday and Friday night we all eat in hospitality, making things a bit easier. Saturday night has turned into BBQ night along with a few beers.

Between races, we typically maintain the bike – tyre/wheel changes, fuel drain and refill, brake maintenance and any tweaks we think will help. We also debrief and make notes from the previous race and record any changes. When a race starts we send someone down to pit wall with all the gear on a scooter, while someone stays to make sure Danny gets away ok, they they sprint to pit lane to catch up. Then its pit lane duties – looking after Danny on the grid, tyre warmers etc then pit board duty through the race. Parc ferme can be over 20 mins so it’s a bit of a chore, but is a good opportunity for a lot of banter after the race.

At the end of the weekend, the task of taking everything apart and fitting it into the truck jenga-like is not one anyone looks forward to but many hands make light work.

All of the above assumes you start and finish with an intact bike and rider. Not so this weekend. Danny arrived having rolled his bike at Cadwell the Thursday before, making a proper mess. He deployed headless chicken mode, running round pulling all the bits together and brought us what was a surprisingly complete bike on Thursday, we finished it off and it was in good shape to take us through the weekend – we thought. Not so.


Cadwell Carnage

During practice we had cooling issues which involved a lot of work to bleed the system and try to guarantee a fully functioning coolant system. Danny took off in qualifying only to be black flagged after a few laps with more overheating issues. Having diagnosed a more serious issue, we were faced with significant work to rebuild the bike to get Danny back on track for the race. Qualifying was on Saturday morning, by race one on Saturday evening we had rebuilt the bike and were ready to go.


On lap one Danny had a big crash, finding a false neutral at the end of the Wellington straight he put himself over the bars, took out another rider and properly wrecked the bike. It was in worse shape than it was after Cadwell and I’ll be honest – we were confident that was game over. Danny had taken a big whack and the bike was a wreck.


Nope – Danny wanted back out so it was game on. The bike went back to frame, engine and swingarm and we started again with a lot of donor parts from Highsparks. We worked until after 1am Sunday morning and again from 9am through to having a scrutineer come to the awning 40 minutes before the race before we had even wheels fitted.


This went on very, very late.


Danny made it to race two, started 23rd and finished an excellent 18th with the bike working faultlessly apart from a soft brake lever towards the end of the race. We celebrated as if it was our first podium – the relief and pride that we could work so hard as a team and deliver reliable bikes to the grid was incredible. Even better was the number of riders and teams who acknowledged our work and commented on how well we had pulled together. That means a lot in a paddock full of very experienced people.


Now it’s over we are all exhausted and Danny is off to hospital to make sure he hasn’t broken himself. We are aiming to be at Assen in three weeks so lots of work to do to get the bike and Danny race fit, but now we know what we are capable of I’m confident we will be there and fighting for points.

Other notable events at the weekend – Danny was chosen to give pillion rides on race day, if they were looking for the rider most likely to scare the bejesus out of someone they made the right choice! He also got a spin on the HP4 Race, something only a very small bunch of people can claim given it sells for £70k and is produced in very limited quantities. Travis has started collecting rider autographs and being Travis Shaw, he now has riders queuing at our awning for a chance to sign his book, I kid you not. This weekend we had Tarran and Taylor Mackenzie, Michael Laverty and Jack Kennedy all arrive looking to get their name in Travis’ autograph book.


She might not have been pretty, but she made it round!


All in all an emotional, exhausting and ultimately very rewarding weekend which I, along with Chris, Aiden and Danny will long remember. Thanks to all the support from Steph, Heidi, the kids and all in the paddock who helped us out when we were most in need. It means an awful lot.

Photo credits to Neil Pidduck (apart from the crappy ones).


Brands Hatch Race Report

D Shaw #33, FML Motorsport, Round Two Ducati TriOptions Cup.

Brands Indy circuit is a stand out round in the TriOptions Cup calendar as it is both a technically challenging circuit and the shortest by some margin at just 1.2 miles long. The nature of the track means that bike setup is inevitably a compromise and 1/10ths of seconds count for a lot more than in other races. The weather forecast initially predicted wet weather which would improve over the weekend, but this wasn’t quite accurate in the end.

Friday practice highlighted some issues with the bike setup which we worked on throughout the weekend with help and advice from Andy at KAIS Ohlins suspension. Conditions were dry but overcast, Danny’s time was 13th fastest despite the setup issues. Qualifying brought similar results putting us 14th on the grid for race one with the bike still not handling as we would have liked.

Saturday delivered glorious sunshine and Danny lined up in the middle of row five of the grid. Corner one at Brands is dramatic and can be a real scrum on the first lap, unfortunately Danny got boxed in at both Paddock Hill bend and Druids and finished lap one in 19th place. The rest of the race was spent clawing back positions and through sheer determination Danny finished back in 14th place. A hard race to finish where we started but finishing in the points is always good for the championship.


Photography by Neil Pidduck

Danny’s lap time from race one positioned him 13th on the grid for race two, being on the outside of the grid reduces the danger of getting boxed in so we were more optimistic for a good start. A rain dance paid off and right on cue the heavens opened half way through the race before ours. The team worked together and delivered a fully setup wet bike to the grid within minutes, with Danny now eager to leverage his wet weather skills to maximise points. A great start and Danny was making positions from the off, pushing through the pack lap after lap to finish six places up in 8th position. Track conditions were acknowledged by all as being very challenging with the rain making grip levels exceptionally low, so to push through to finish 8th was an excellent achievement.


Photography by Neil Pidduck

Taking 10 points home from both the first and second rounds puts us in tenth place in the championship, given the incredible depth of talent in this series this is no mean feat for a team in its second season. As always it was great to catch up with sponsors and friends over the weekend, the only disappointment was that our friend Jack Wills had to follow the race from hospital but we look forward to seeing him again soon.

Thanks to the kind support from all our sponsors Freelance Mechanics clutch and gearbox specialists and mot centreKnightsbridge CarsFurness Fluid Power LtdGraphixsigns LTDHarry Barker Properties LtdEmlyn Street Tyre ServicesInfinity Fitness & NutritionIRVS VW RestorationsPutoline UKMBR Motorsports ltdKAIS Suspension Services LTDCustom Fit Guards.

Photo Credits to Neil Pidduck.


Flat Tracking with Pete Boast

Champion Flat Track School was founded by Pete Boast,  the man who brought flat track to the UK back in 2005 after racing it himself in the USA.

I have a pet hate for accomplished sportspeople who take up coaching but are really all about ego, it makes it impossible for me to respect them. Mr Boast is the most unassuming, friendly and chilled coach you could ask for, he just wants everyone to have a crack at the sport and enjoy themselves, this means the school is ideal for absolutely anyone.  Pete was helped by two equally friendly lads (Adam Marshall and James Andrews) both of whom have significant experience in short circuit, supermoto and now flat track.

The day is informal from the briefing through to the ‘chase’ which ends the day. A friendly chat from the guys explaining what the day is about and how it is run kicks things off. We are in a large barn on a farmyard, it is insulated for sound and the floor is hard-packed dirt. Hay bails protect riders from big hard things and in the corner is a gas heater and lots of water, fruit and tray bakes.


Technically, flat tracking is pretty bloody basic. You take a dirt bike, drop the suspension, put crap tyres on it and stick a metal shoe on your left boot. That’s kind of it. As for the rest of the gear being worn on the day – well it ranged from brand new Ducati leathers to a pair of jeans and a Barbour jacket. The metal shoe was a bit of a pain, I wore MX boots to start but the shoe fell off, then I went for my road boots and the same happened. It was manageable but a higher lip at the back of the metal shoe would have made things easier. If you are going, try to find something with a proper heel at the back – both my boots had rounded heels which let them slide out of the shoe. Enduro or trials boots will work better than mx boots.

The bikes were Honda 100/125 four strokes and were perfect for the job. Anything bigger would have been wasted in the barn and would probably have made things a lot harder. Bigger is not always better. All the bikes worked perfectly, there were eight to choose from.


The morning is all about drills – three groups, a bike for each group and working with cones. Start with just weaving in and out of a straight line of cones to learn to manage the bike with the upper body, then staggered cones to make it harder. We then practiced riding in a tight circle using our foot for support, this is when you start to get the front tyre sliding out in absolute confidence. Then it’s riding a tiny little figure of eight and a tiny oval. The morning is tricky as everything is so tight, but it really sets you up for the afternoon on the bigger track.

The main things you learn in the morning are getting the elbows up, sitting on the high side of the bike, pushing the bike down, getting the inside leg out at 90 degrees and really depending on the metal shoe. Our group consisted of Danny and myself and two young ladies and it was definitely the group to be in – we all listened, took advice and then put that advice into practice in the afternoon. More on that later.

Lunch was at the Bottle and Glass pub, a hearty buffet of sandwiches, sausage rolls and chips in a very bikey environment. It’s a great little pub and I will be making a point of going back.  As with the rest of the day, it was relaxed and unhurried and gave us all a chance to chat as well as to admire the classic TT bike in the glass case and the walls covered in signed pictures of Pete Boast, the Lowes twins, Guy Martin and various other local heroes.

Talking to Pete’s assistant coaches at lunch, they both had the same story – good short circuit riders forced to leave the sport because of tyre prices, moved to supermoto until expensive bespoke supermoto tyres became available and therefore necessary for good results and now riding flat track as a way of competing at minimal cost. It is ironic that the cutting edge tyre technology that makes our bikes perform so incredibly well is actually the biggest barrier to riders enjoying the sport. These flat track guys will use one front and three rears in a season…


The afternoon is when the fun starts, beginning with an oval circuit and running one team at a time together. With four bikes on track you get a bit of sport going as well as learning to practice what we were taught in the morning. Except….

Watching the other two groups, it was obvious they only really wanted to race each other! I couldn’t see much evidence of the coaching from the morning and they spent most of the afternoon just chasing each other on track and falling off.  Our group was thankfully a bit different. The two girls had really picked up everything they had been told and were showing some serious style. Danny and myself were both clearly trying to follow the coaching whilst at the same time trying to throw down some record lap times! Great fun was had, then they set up the TT course which involved a right hander and a couple of hairpins to mix it up a bit, great fun.

To end the day, we competed in pairs against all the other riders using the TT course, Danny and I were paired together and claimed the champagne. A fitting end to a very successful day.

I am writing this on Monday evening and my legs still hurt from being held out at 90 degrees from my arse! But the smile is still on my face and I just wish I could pop down the road at the weekend and flat track. Pete has trackdays on Wednesdays and the odd Saturday, you can hire his bikes. I reckon Danny and I will be back in the not too distant future for a go at the next class up or even to do the same class again. To learn to have a bike with both the front and rear end loose whilst still feeling loads of grip is quite an experience and I really, really enjoyed just blatting round trying to get the bike low and the corners nailed.


If you are considering having a go at something a bit different, get along to Champion Flat Track – it’s not a lot of money, isn’t reliant on the weather and is all about fun.


Northern Ireland – a basket case

I am aware there are a few people who follow this blog who may not have an understanding of the politics of where I come from.

Northern Ireland is a basket case. To those who live there or who have moved away but refuse to step back and re-evaluate, it makes perfect sense. But to anyone else, it is no better than a lunatic asylum.

Let me demonstrate.

The above picture clearly shows a man in a petrol station with a loaf of bread on his head. It is a still from a video where he asked the camera if anyone knew where they kept the bread. Funny, if you’re 3 years old.

Except it isn’t funny. At all.

You see it isn’t just any man – this man is an elected Member of Parliament for a Northern Ireland constituency.

But he doesn’t actually sit in Parliament because the republican party to which he belongs opposes Westminster’s jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, and its oath to the Queen.

It isn’t just any loaf – the fact this is a Kingsmill loaf is very relevant.

And it wasn’t just a random day that this happened – it was the 5th of January, the anniversary of a 1976 sectarian massacre.

The massacre consisted of gunmen stopping a minibus full of men outside the village of KINGSMILL on their way to work. They let the one catholic man go and shot the eleven protestants, one ‘lucky’ man survived with only 18 bullet wounds whilst the rest died.

The man in the ‘loaf-on-head’ picture claims that his choice of date, his decision to video himself with a loaf on his head and his choice of bread were completely coincidental. In other words he is a blatant liar, a supporter or terrorism and a hatemonger.

His party suspended him for three months. He can still claim his pay and represent his constituents and given that he doesn’t attend Parliament anyway, it isn’t too big a deal.

The loyalist parties were up in arms at how offensive the original video was to the families victims and how his punishment was a slur on the dead men’s memories. And then the loyalist MPs started sharing this.

When pointed out to a loyalist MP who shared this on Twitter that this could be offensive to the victim’s families, he said he would wait for them to complain (ie. wait until he had offended them) before removing it. They did complain.

When pointed out to the artist that this cartoon would be offensive to the victim’s families, the response was “the past was gory and brutal and tough images have to be seen to reject the past and move forward together.” Yep, this image is meant to help us move forward together. Because a lifetime of images of death and brutality are not enough, we have to draw cartoons of it too.

So as much as everyone loves to scream about the feelings of the poor families, point-scoring is the real reason everyone is excited about this.

If you want to see the response of a ‘victims campaigner’ (he only recognises loyalist victims), please do take two minutes to watch this..

Just to be clear – the deranged man in the video above is taken seriously by many in Northern Ireland.

By now, you might have a flavour of the lunacy of this episode. But please believe me, the sort of nonsense described above is nothing unusual. The entire country appears to exist to point-score against the ‘other side’ and there are no limits to the childishness of it all. I could tell you about how each side wants to name things after it’s own heroes – who are invariably terrorists. I could tell you how they still gloat over a battle which happened in 1690. I could tell you about how they fight over the Irish language, or flags, or every trivial little thing because it is culture, it is identity and that is more important than peace. Every commercial development project becomes a pawn in the game of “them’uns get everything and we get nathin!”. Green spaces are burnt annually – along with houses – when the loyalists celebrate a battle that was won against a catholic king in 1690 by making huge bonfires and burning anything that upsets the catholics. The councils are prevented from planting trees, building playgrounds because of this ritual which exists purely to taunt the other side. And the ruling body of the sport of Gaelic Football did not allow anyone who was a member of the armed forces to play Gaelic football from 1897 until 2001. Each football team in Northern Ireland (and to a decreasing degree the national team) is unofficially affiliated to either one side or the other. I could go on and on.

Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 16.57.23.png

And if you think things are getting better in peace times, let me explain. DUP (red) and SF (green) are the most extreme (and polar opposite) parties in Northern Ireland. SF is the political arm of the IRA and the DUP are every bit as bad. So have a look at the recent voting trends…

The rationale behind ‘normal, respectable’ people voting for terrorists and religious bigots is fear that if one side starts voting moderate the other side will vote extreme and the other side might ‘win’.

Northern Ireland is currently without a government because the two leading parties refuse to sit in the same room. Politicians are now considering giving up their careers as there is so little hope of control returning to a local government.

And things are about to get worse because Brexit challenges the status quo. The Good Friday Agreement (the vehicle which delivered the closest to peace there has been in decades, signed in 1998) mandates that there be no border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and there should be complete freedom of movement. Residents of NI can choose an Irish or a UK passport or both. But if Northern Ireland sits outside the EU, they need a border and that is the opportunity the extremists want to pull apart the fragile peace on the island.

I am mortified by the behaviour of my old country. And my links to it are becoming weaker by the day because I cannot defend its behaviour. There is a very strong loyalty to Northern Ireland by all who come from it, a fondness for the wee place no doubt strengthened by the years of troubles. But I look back at some of my old attitudes, the things I was told growing up, the lies, myths and hatred perpetuated amongst the apparently god-fearing people of Ulster and am deeply ashamed.

When I comment on how mindless the politics of the country are to those in Northern Ireland I am told that I have been away too long, that I have forgotten what ‘they’ did. In reality I have had time to step back and open my mind, understand that there were desperately harmful acts by both the British and the Irish that caused the deaths of over 3,600 people. It isn’t over – the police and prison officers are still targeted and punishment beatings are a way of life for some communities. All I can think is ‘why don’t they want it to end?’, but the reality of the attitude in NI is a paranoia that the past might be forgotten.

Northern Ireland politics is, at heart, fuelled by hate. The country lives in a temporary, fragile peace with many looking for the first opportunity to break it by attacking the ‘other side’. As you can see above, the country becomes politically more polarised, not less. Following the debacle described at the start of this article, there is great triumphalism in the loyalist community as they claim that ‘the mask has slipped’ and everyone can see the republicans for who they really are. This is how childish and pathetic it is – we all know that both major political parties are bitter to the core. But both sides like to claim the moral high ground for political gain and the perpetuation of divides.

I have little hope for Northern Ireland.
I love it and I hate it.
I love what it could be, I hate what it is.
I love the people, I hate what they are doing to the country they claim to love.
I know why it is the way it is, yet it makes no sense.

And the worst of it is, those in Northern Ireland who believe they are moderate – most of them really are not. You don’t spend decades in a divided society and not have prejudices. And if you don’t know you are prejudiced, you won’t do anything to address it.

This is how we used to walk into Belfast City centre – corralled into metal barriers where we were searched for arms and explosives by armed soldiers. As much as I hate to think it, it could very easily happen again.

What a basket case.