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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, March 31, 2007
    Sympathy and complexity

    Charles Hurst's book contributed to the English reverie I enjoyed on the West Coast train north today, with the welcome joys of weekend engineering detours enabling my eyes to feast on parts of the Midlands never seen before and with my ears enfolded in the deeply rooted folk of Martyn Bates.

    Hurst's book describes his epic 1909 walk - his aim, to plant acorns all the way from Manchester to the East Midlands - which taught him a thing or two.

    Today Phil is starting out from Piccadilly to follow on Hurst's trail. He will be looking for Hurst’s oaks, planting some acorns himself, and revisiting the scenes of the various adventures and setbacks which Hurst described so vividly in his book. All of this is research for a one-person show Phil's developing with New Perspectives Theatre Company, about oak trees, about England, about time and change, about walking and cars, about property and landscape, about attitudes and relationships to the natural world and to each other, about a search for how things are today through the binocular lenses of the past and the future.

    I'm going to join Phil for a day after Easter, by which time he'll be somewhere outside Nottingham. And I'm sure it'll teach me a thing or two.
    On the Strand

    On The Strand tonight, celebrating Linda's birthday. Yes, there is quite a difference between The Savoy and Stomp. About 100 metres.
    Thursday, March 29, 2007
    Roads go on
    Roads go on
    While we forget, and are
    Forgotten like a star
    That shoots and is gone.

    On this earth ‘tis sure
    We men have not made
    Anything that doth fade
    So soon, so long endure

    - Edward Thomas

    Good to meet up yesterday with Joe Moran, whose current project is the soon-to-be-published Queuing for Beginners; The Story of Daily Life from Breakfast to Bedtime and who is then going to be turning his attention to the minutae of life on the roads. He tipped me off about Thomas, who wrote a lot about roads and who (according to Lucy Newlyn) "saw the world as a walker sees". Fertile ground, all of this.
    Wednesday, March 28, 2007
    Serious stuff

    S. Mark Heim isn't that squeamish. Which is why he puts this quote at the top of Chapter One of his book Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross. He understands why Delores feels that way - many contemporary readings of The Passion of the Christ (like, for example, The Passion of the Christ), do indeed major on a lot of blood and gore. But Heim's not about to duck that tricky atonement doctrine. Instead he's written a book which takes it on, turns it inside out and around, removing it from the deadly cycle of violence which is Hollywood's obsession and from the violent practice of scapegoating from which we, all of us, find it so hard to step outside.

    Heim's book comes highly recommended by the source of many of my sermon ideas Paul Nuechterlein's website, by James Alison and by many other respected writers in this area. It's probably about time I read a serious book. It's probably about time I read a book of theology. It's probably just about enough time between now and Good Friday for me to get my head around it.
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007
    Middlesex persists
    I misjudged the masticatory habits of Nick Papadimitriou in my blog the other day, as the footnote corrects. But the upshot of our email exchange about it is Nick introducing me to his very interesting project, Middlesex County Council, which honours his home, 'the old County of Middlesex , utilising prose and poetry, photographs and local history lore'.

    The old administrative boundaries have long gone but Nick insists that 'the resonance of Middlesex lingers':

    Walk down the Hendon Way, from Child’s Hill to where traces of old UDC sewage farms are still visible in the concrete culverts, the raised line of the buried aqueducts at Brent Cross. Work up from there to Hendon, to Sunny Hill Park (noting the old Hendon Corporation metals set into the alleyways and road surfaces) and gaze over to the line of ridges running east to west along the old county borders. Allow the eye to roll far off, across the landscape beyond Harrow, to Haste Hill at Ruislip and to windy Harefield on the western border of the County. Next, cut through to Mill Hill via Arendene open space. Looking west again you see the hills at Red Hill, Barn Hill and Harrow (elongated ridges from this perspective) looking like dreadnoughts in line-abreast. Behind twinkle the lights of distant arterial roads and the tower blocks at Hounslow Heath.

    He's got plans to use the website to 'build up a composite picture of the region'. He's aiming to produce a series of chapbook publications for sale or download. And he's already put up a sizeable section devoted to the rivers of Brent. It's fascinating, fun, and I suspect (once I get deep into it) revelatory writing too:

    In a sense this site is concerned with the hidden worlds. Behind the business of our concerns, our dashing and worry, the rivers, streams, ditches rills and rillets run. Though in no-way an eternal counterpoise to our ephemarality, these waterways persist, operating on a different scale of duration to our lives and traceable through the various Ordnance Survey maps produced over the last two centuries.
    Monday, March 26, 2007
    A tourist in your own town
    On a momentous day in Irish politics, I've been reading about Scotland. Some disagreement as to whether the Act of Union which merged England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain, took effect 300 years ago today, or a bit later, on 1 May 1707. Whatever, this week's NS is a thoughtful and insightful Scottish Special issue.

    I especially enjoyed Lucy Sweet's report from behind the condensation on her home town's sightseeing bus:

    Although I've lived in Glasgow for 11 years, my day as a fake tourist bears no resemblance to my everyday experiences of the place. The tourist office is like a weird parallel universe inhabited by ex-cast members of Take the High Road. Here, the city I admire for its drunken spontaneity, creative diversity and ready, self-deprecating humour has been replaced with a Rennie Mackintosh oven mitt and leaflets documenting a variety of bizarre attractions. "Visit Taylor's Bowls!" says one flyer. "If you are a bowler or you are simply interested in our manufacturing process, you will enjoy our factory tour." No? Well, if you don't fancy that, £30 will buy you a lunch with a genuine Scottish person called Gordon, who will invite you into his home to enjoy a glass of whisky around his beautiful lounge fire. (Er, no thanks.)

    She loses it a bit when she complains that this ersatz Glasgow bypasses Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the Armadillo building, neglecting to acknowledge that those two visitor attractions are equally manufactured and mediated, just to a different audience - and arguably at far greater cost to native Glaswegians - than Mackintosh oven mitts. I'm sure many locals who've never visited Taylor's Bowls would never dream of stepping inside either of those buildings either.

    But her thought-provoking adventure might have been taken directly out of a Mis-Guide: Spend the day as a tourist in your own town. Fascinating exercise. Must get myself booked on a Yellow Duckmarine.
    Sunday, March 25, 2007
    Just a stinking cover up
    Just what I needed at the end of this knackering Sunday - arriving in time to save you, dear reader, from what would probably have been a set of pompous reactionary ponderings on this weekend's slave trade celebrations, sorry, commemorations - an email from a grown man who calls himself the Bookplate Junkie because, yes indeed, he's addicted to collecting bookplates.

    This one is a beauty. A promotional item for a company trading, let's be frank, the city's human waste. Bookplate Junkie read my very educational blog of June 2005 in which I shared the information that the fertile soil of the East Lancashire farmlands owes its richness to the fact that it was fertilised by Liverpool manure - human and street waste brought up the Leeds-Liverpool canal to Burscough's Manure Wharf.

    Must have been a very smelly process, a very mucky business, this triangular trade in which canny industrialists shifted the shit of Liverpool across the Mersey to Wallasey (for what, processing, packaging, quality control?) and from there up the canal to the farms of East Lancs, who in turn returned to the denizens of our city all manner of well-fertilized foodstuffs, starting the whole ingestive-industrial process over again.

    A smelly process, a mucky business, but probably quite lucrative, given the high quality of our city's spilth. So, marvel with me at how the manure entrepeneurs chose to portray their product. There's no connection in reality between that picture and the business it's selling, the refined young woman playing a genteel tune, emerging from a context-free mist. If she was a scratch-and-sniff pic I bet she'd smell of roses. I guess the Victorian admen felt that any picture which portrayed the fetid truth of their festering business would not appeal to their potential customers. And fair enough, if you're going to choose between two freebie blotters then you're going to go for the violinist in the peach dress over the pile of poo, every time.

    Now, it may be possible to draw out parallels between this illustration and today's window-dressing of the slave trade in a city still blighted by racial segregation (just look at the employment stats), but I thought I'd avoid that. It would, after all, be in very bad taste.
    Saturday, March 24, 2007
    Once a melancholic, always a melancholic
    "now is not the time to be turning to me...
    ghosts and dead dreams are all that I see"
    - Martyn Bates, Once Blessed

    Many significant birthdays this year, 50ths and 40ths, mine mid-decade inbetween those of various friends and family members. Another one today, Andrew's 40th, which he marked with a retro / kids disco DJ'd by our old Wavertree mate Rock Steady Eddie. My instinct for melancholy has been growing on each such occasion, that sinking feeling that our best years are behind us and what have we got to show for it... But more recently a good friend and respected sage introduced to me another way of approaching the encroaching demise of middle age. What we have to show for it is actually quite a lot, he insists. And the trick is to turn back to it all, not to feed a feeble nostalgia, but to use all that stuff as a deep resource for the future.

    Wise words. Because once you begin to look back - at the words and songs and visions and experiences which have most helped, moved, inspired you over the years - then a great canon of excellence begins to form. Put these things together, in a book, as journal entries and scrapbook cuttings, or even on a website with audio-video links, and you start to compile your own 'personal bible'. And as you compile this collection, you make wonderful rediscoveries. That old stuff is reborn as maturer eyes and ears engage with it afresh. I shall be investing in a Moleskine this week and getting cracking on that.

    Helpful then, at just this moment, to be reminded of something rich and meaningful and well-forgotten. The Wire is running a fascinating interview with Martyn Bates, who with Peter Becker formed Eyeless In Gaza. In 1983 they were one of those Cherry Red groups I most listened to. Over and over, that cassette of Rust Red September with its eerie autumnal elegies with titles like 'Only Whispers' and 'Leaves are Dancing'. That cassette I eventually found at the back of a cabinet yesterday, dusted off, and allowed to fill me all over again, possibly eighteen years since I last heard it.

    And of course, listening again, with older but alert, fresh ears, makes it all new. Eyeless In Gaza are still quality, still haunting, and (I now discover) sound timeless and deeply English. Songs for my canon. And salutory reminders that it's not a recent thing, after all - no, melancholy is a state I've always been in.
    Friday, March 23, 2007
    Beatitudes with attitude
    Happy the generous driver, for they will enjoy a satisfying journey;
    Happy the schoolchild dancing in puddles, for their spashes delight the aged...

    I'm working on a set of contemporary beatitudes, for an SU project I hope to tell you about soon. Want to add a one-liner?
    Wednesday, March 21, 2007
    When I drive my Ford Mondeo
    His dream is to own what I refer to as a ladies' car (well, the only people I know who own them are girls). But for now he's Mr Everyman, he runs a Ford Mondeo. Anyway it's stood him in good stead, Peter, as he's written a great poem reflecting on this year's Greenbelt theme, called When I drive my Ford Mondeo. He assures me that it's entirely safe, but whilst driving he manages to observe a lot of very close details of everyday life: The landscape sucks me in; / Everything appears in microcosm, he writes. And at the end of the poem, this is how he answers the question Where’s God?:

    She just walked past you, actually,
    Smiling at the kids,
    Remarking to their Mums how well behaved they are.
    He was wiping tables at the café,
    Asking after you, funnily enough.
    She was taking her younger brother to the park
    So Mum could have a break.
    He was opening a door
    For an old couple to enter Boots.

    Where’s God?
    In the grit, in the grime
    In the mundane joy
    Of washing dishes,
    Hoovering the house, wiping baby’s bottoms,
    Visiting the sick, listening to the lonely.
    Often out of sight
    Infamously working with a kind word
    Whispered in passing.
    An understood look between friends;
    An arched eyebrow between lovers.

    As we scratch beneath the make-up
    Of our raw lives,
    Tenderness and compassion
    Are available
    If we look hard enough
    Into the magic and mystery
    Of the routine and humdrum.

    [If you'd like to see the whole poem, drop me a line and I'll put you and Peter in touch]
    Tuesday, March 20, 2007
    Prepare to be startled
    Scary genius Diamanda has set two British tour dates so far, and given that the Gateshead one is impossibly late at night my preference will be to brace myself for an evening of spine-chilling sonorous sensation at The Barbican on 7 May. Dare to join me? I promise it'll change your life forever. You can get a flavour of what's in store in the video I've posted on my MySpace front page.
    Sunday, March 18, 2007
    Walk / not walk
    Time for some more walking. Reasons:
    1. A commission to create and then write-up a local 'pilgrimage' for Coracle;
    2. An invite to join Phil on his 150 mile walk following in the footsteps of the acorn-planting engineer Charles Hurst;
    3. Watching John's films of Nick Papadimitriou who I really can't like because he's one of those people who annoyingly chews as he talks, but is nevertheless a compelling psychogeographer*;
    4. Enjoying Jeremy Deller's Folk Archive, a lovely photographic collection of the sort of contemporary English eccentricity which can be freely witnessed on any road;
    5. Discovering This is 'Ull, that city's lively people's website, with refeshingly not a mention of (yawn) Willy Wilberforce... which makes me want to get out there soon...

    Time to hold the walking. Reason:
    1. Just looked out of the window. It's snowing again.

    [* update, 26/3/07: Nick tells me that it was actually nicorette and necessary because of a bad asthma attack. I take it all back.]
    Saturday, March 17, 2007
    Beauty, truth and hopefulness

    Four shootings; one domestic knife attack. Been a pretty tough week round here. And in this hour the Saturday night sirens are firing down the Avenue, the helicopter's circling overhead. The place aches. So I'm finding some emotional release in Patti Smith's timeless, angry, purging outsider anthem and, in the midst of her searing set, this calmly-spoken middle eight lyric of beauty, truth and hopefulness.
    Friday, March 16, 2007
    The icon wrapped up in the ordinary
    "The pursuit of style has always been a spirited part of the work process. Images that inform the work or the movement of the work. Baudelaire's cravat. June Christie's careless ponytail. A raincoat a la Camus. Bob Dylan's snap tab collar. Black capris like Ava Gardner. Discarded finery from rich heaps. Italian sunglasses. Green silk stockings. Ballet slippers. Boxer shoes. A sense of style. A certain body language. A simple, intricate gesture. More often than not, bred from innocence, awkwardness, or pure survival." - Patti Smith

    Another first for me. First time I've bought a book in a supermarket*. It seemed to be the right place to do it, to purchase a copy of Coleen's Welcome to My World during a late-night stock-up on essentials with one luxury item thrown in. In the very shop (at the top of our road) she still goes to with her Mum, the very chain she models clothes for now. It meant I could cover my embarrassment by also throwing into the trolley some pink wrapping paper which (I hoped) would suggest to the checkout girl that the book was probably a Mother's Day present.

    Not quite my Mum's sort of book this, though, I think. It's probably more a young mums' book, with its pages of fashion tips and clothes-shop chatter. It's certainly a young girls' book given the crowds of teens who swarmed Waterstone's on Bold Street last weekend looking for a sight of their city's latest diva, hoping for a word with her, at her book-signing.

    But I guess any mum would warm to the way that Coleen writes about her family, about how this autobiographical endeavour is charged with the air of someone who refuses to have her head turned by fame and who still likes nothing better than spending time in the family home with mum, dad, sister, brothers and Wayne (who loves that too).

    That's why I've previously recorded and make no secret of my admiration of Coleen who, of course, hails from this parish. Respect, for a young woman who respects (and is still strongly connected to) her roots.

    The publisher's puff for 'Welcome to My World' says that it 'offers exclusive insights into [Coleen's] transformation from an ordinary Liverpudlian schoolgirl into a glamorous style icon'. But Coleen seems keen to dump the 'icon' tag and accentuate her normality. Her conversational writing style - so like listening to a twenty-year old woman going on about health, fitness and her boyfriend's bad habits that it made my eyes glaze over on many occasions - achieves this.

    I think it'd be more accurate of the publishers if they lost the word 'transformation' and affirmed instead that a large part of Coleen's appeal is that this trendsetter, consciously du jour, is equally consciously wrapped up in the ordinary, enduring everyday. For that, we celebrate and give thanks.

    And as regards her fashion career, considering where that's come from, that too provokes respect: hear her telling you that from her earliest days she's always been interested in fashion, see the childhood photos which bear this out, then return to the quote at the top of this blog from the other, very different book which I've been spending time with today.

    [* unless you regard Borders as a supermarket, of course]
    Thursday, March 15, 2007
    Liverpool Blogs
    Vainly doing a Technorati Search on johndavies.org (it's what I often do after I've sampled the delights of Dave's Cartoon Blog because he's got the link on a convenient sidebar), I discoverd that I'm listed on something new(ish) called Liverpool Blogs. It's an attempt by Stuart Ian Burns to bring the city's blogs together, in the same way as the excellent Manchizzle. It can only be good.
    Wednesday, March 14, 2007
    Dare to Love - dancing in the face of the evidence
    This week, in preparation for a discussion tomorrow, I've been spending time with James Alison's scintillating essay Worship in a violent world, extracted here:

    Some people of course, do not accept that the coming down of the wall means that the beast is dead. They want to say: no, that's a temporary blip, and we're in charge here. So they turn up grunting and shouting and bullying to try and make it look as though nothing has changed. But it has, and even they are losing faith in the old order. Part of the celebration may be learning to help the apparatchiks of the old order discover themselves a place in the new one. Giving them a soft landing: something the old order, built on revenge and triumph over enemies, couldn't possibly understand. While they're around, of course, your celebration will look like, and be made to look like, dancing in the face of the evidence. And that is what True worship implies: the beginning of the celebration of a new regime even while the old regime hasn't yet grasped the news of its own fall. One of the things which really tickles me, in my own Church, is beginning to celebrate the good news of gay people, just as we are, finding that we really are at the party, and having to be quite gentle with the border guards of the old regime who haven't yet been able to admit that the wall coming down wasn't simply something which happened between Jews and Gentiles long ago, but it just keeps on coming down wherever the apparatchiks try to patch it up and make some people pure and some impure.

    In recent weeks we've been supporting the development of a play by a local writer who has suffered for years through her Church's rejection of her sexuality. Same Church as the one which stripped Alison of his priesthood some time ago. Dare to Love is about the walls coming down in the life of a devout priest who finds love in a relationship with a committed Christian transvestite member of his congregation.

    Anticipating its debut - in one of our church halls, today - has been an anxiety; hysterical local newspaper reports haven't exactly helped. But the sensitive handling of the material by the actors, the sense of fun included, the celebration of faith at the heart of the play, and the greatly encouraging and supportive post-production audience discussion, were a joyous surprise which took me away from gloomily anticipating hassle over this project (which we believe in) to the realisation that even if there is hassle to come, that would only confirm that Dare to Love is a fine and powerful expression of what it looks like to be dancing in the face of the evidence.
    Tuesday, March 13, 2007
    Bob's on line
    So what did your MP tell you about the Trident vote?
    Monday, March 12, 2007
    Principled Man
    Good on this
    principled man.
    Sunday, March 11, 2007
    Write to the Robert in your life

    The Trident vote is on Wednesday. It'll be a close-run thing. And it'll only take you a minute to ask your MP which way they're voting.
    Saturday, March 10, 2007
    Talkin' Heaven in Ordinary
    In Leeds today talking Heaven in Ordinary: all-new material. Well, mostly.
    Thursday, March 08, 2007
    Free magazines and the explorative spirit
    Feeling too conspicuous to walk into designer bars carrying a loaf of bread and a carton of milk I failed to find the latest Mercy magazine in town today. But I did come back with a copy of February's Stool Pigeon, featuring his truly on the cover.

    The interview features the revelation that MES kind of likes the popularity of Big Brother if only because it encourages him that 'You were right all along, Smith, people are stupid'. And plays down his celebrated psychic powers (his songs about the Manchester bombing and Terry Waite's kidnapping famously predated the actual events) by saying, 'It's not a good gift to have. First up, people think you're f--g barmy. Second thing is, a psychic can forecast when a bus isn't going to arrive but they can't forecast the winner of a horse race. It's no good to you!'

    It's the usual sideways-on Smith stuff and it raises the usual smile. More fascinating fare comes from Liverpudlian-in-exile Pop Levi. Levi, writes Phil Hebblethwaite, 'is an archetypal product of the affection you find in Liverpool for not just knowing about music, but really exploring it. "I ended up there because I heard about music scenes and things that were going on ... That's what people do in Liverpool - really study and get into things."'

    He demonstrated that himself by developing his performance skills by insisting on playing every song to the public on Liverpool's streets until it was learned by heart. So if the observations of this great talent are true then they go some way towards explaining why I've spent many years wandering around town in search of free - but very informative - alt. culture magazines.
    Wednesday, March 07, 2007
    All My Heroes Are Weirdos

    All My Heroes Are Weirdos, sing !!! on their ace new album Myth Takes. Hearing this track on a Wire compilation was enough to win me over. Brilliant, pounding, upbeat music. And the title is one to conjure with. As any reader to his blog will concur. Question is though, it's not just me, is it - after all, which heroes aren't wierdos? Outsider status seems to be a heroic requirement. In the Valley of the Wierd strange golden little bears are king.
    Tuesday, March 06, 2007
    To Whom It May Concern
    I was run over by the truth one day.
    Ever since the accident I've walked this way
    So stick my legs in plaster
    Tell me lies about Iraq.

    Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
    Couldn't find myself so I went back to sleep again
    So fill my ears with silver
    Stick my legs in plaster
    Tell me lies about Iraq.

    Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames.
    Made a marble phone book and I carved all the names
    So coat my eyes with butter
    Fill my ears with silver
    Stick my legs in plaster
    Tell me lies about Iraq.

    I smell something burning, hope it's just my brains.
    They're only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
    So stuff my nose with garlic
    Coat my eyes with butter
    Fill my ears with silver
    Stick my legs in plaster
    Tell me lies about Iraq.

    Where were you at the time of the crime?
    Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime
    So chain my tongue with whisky
    Stuff my nose with garlic
    Coat my eyes with butter
    Fill my ears with silver
    Stick my legs in plaster
    Tell me lies about Iraq.

    You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
    You take the human being and you twist it all about
    So scrub my skin with women
    Chain my tongue with whisky
    Stuff my nose with garlic
    Coat my eyes with butter
    Fill my ears with silver
    Stick my legs in plaster
    Tell me lies about Iraq.

    Adrian Mitchell's righteous invective rhyme revisited for today. I've changed just one word per verse to protest the Blair legacy. When he wrote To Whom It May Concern it was subtitled Tell Me Lies about Vietnam. Watch an awesome performance of this poem by Mitchell at the International Poetry Incarnation in Royal Albert Hall, London, 1965, here. Thanks Neil.
    Monday, March 05, 2007
    In St Helens stepping out of limbo
    Life's been a bit in limbo this week between Lynne's death and today's funeral. Very different experience taking the funeral of a friend, and I think it's been at the back of my mind a lot. All good though, today (they do things right in St Helen's). And quality music in the service helped a lot:

    Sunday, March 04, 2007
    A Sunspot

    It's a bit cheap just sticking a YouTube link here; but it's been a long hard day and tonight watching this thriller by Julian H Cope is my redemption.
    Saturday, March 03, 2007
    If I were to write a Liverpool poem
    Friday, March 02, 2007
    Up to our necks in it
    Having completed it today I can't recommend too highly the Liverpool: Centre of the Creative Universe exhibition catalogue. It really is an insightful, at times scintillating and always authoritative read. The spirit of it can be expressed in that it left me not looking back at the city's past artistic triumphs, but rather to the present and the future - since closing the book I've spent a while looking online at the work of young Liverpool artists I know, including Sean and Eleanor who I had the privilege of marrying three years ago.

    They were among the one hundred and forty artists in the project, Gift, who contributed an object that they bought or found with the intention of using in an artwork, a source of inspiration or a starting point for a work that was never made. In a week-long event at Museum MAN late last year this collection of unused objects and unrealised ideas was offered to the public as gifts. Visitors were invited to take home an object they liked, first agreeing to document their use of it; this documentation will be given, as a gift, to the original contributing artist. Nice idea.

    The catalogue contains the best of the visual images from the Tate show. And demonstrates that even Gormley's latched on late, because for a long, long, time in Liverpool we've been up to our necks in wierd, wacky, wonderful works of expressive engagement with the streets, clubs and beaches of our city.

    [Keith Arnatt Liverpool Beach Burial 1968 ]
    Thursday, March 01, 2007
    Seeing Ghosts

    Seeing Ghosts is important because it reinforces what you already know, about the illegal and exploitative trade in migrant workers. About the distress on leaving home and family for the pragmatic pursuit of a living wage abroad; about the high levels of dept owed to the organisers of the illicit, horrific six-month journeys which not all survive, about the migrants' high hopes immediately dashed on emerging into the cold hard light of a slummy English industrial estate or wind-blasted farm, on being abandoned in squalid accommodation, on receiving the first piteously low pay packet and realising that you've not bought yourself a future for your children back home, but instead your family is now indebted to criminals with whom you're mired in a trap from which you're unlikely to ever be released.

    Ghosts has had a lot of publicity, and on tonight's showing at FACT the sympathetic reviews are merited. It's an impressive docu-drama, disturbingly impressive. So I shan't repeat what's been said. I will, however, try to describe what for me is the most disturbing thing about the project. It is the challenge which the viewer is left with at the end. To consider supporting The Morecambe Victims Fund.

    On 5 February 2004, twenty-three Chinese illegals died in Morecambe Bay. Their families in China are still paying off their debts, an impossible task for some because they have lost the wage earner of the family. This has put them under enourmous pressure from the money lenders who have beaten and intimidated several of the families, and there have also been incidents of children being forced into prostitution until the debt has been paid off. The Morecambe Victims Fund aims to raise the £500,000 needed to pay off the debt of the victims familes. Sobering - and revealing - to note that they have raised just £10,000 so far.

    The internal dialogue is running through me now. Why pay towards this fund when the money is clearly going directly to criminals. The families themselves won't financially benefit, though they will have the great relief of winding-up an awful debt. But why be so reluctant to give towards this, when I don't think twice about lining the pockets of the shareholders of Sainsburys, Asda and Tesco - all implicated in the economic structures which depend on the exploitation of illegal workers, when despite all the recent furore over bird flu and the graphic scenes in Ghosts I'll still buy poultry processed in squalid Norfolk industrial sheds by people on a less-than-living wage, when I uncritically pay my taxes to a government which heartlessly continues to refuse to help these bereaved, impoverished and still-exploited families. I'll sleep on this. Perhaps. Or, haunted by it now, perhaps I won't.