St Patrick’s Guinness

Well, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day again, and today as I walked through Liverpool the city was buzzing with the usual tricolours, green top hats, flutes and drums. 

As it is everywhere, Paddy’s Day is huge in Liverpool, and it warmed my heart to hear the Boys of the Old Brigade wafting out of a bar as I walked past. Commercially driven sentiment or proud cultural celebration – it makes no difference in the end as long as the city is alive with the rebel songs we know and love.

This year I had my usual sly wink and nod from my English friends, most of whom know I rarely bother with the spectacle anymore. I had the usual womb-ache that comes with seeing tiny babies dressed as pots of gold and laughed with the lads drinking and dancing in the street. And, as usual, I rolled my eyes at all those proud republicans lining up for their pints of Guinness.

It might not be too well known now, but it was certainly known at the time that Arthur Guinness was a staunch unionist, who opposed home rule and was accused of spying for the British occupiers. It’s also thought he provided men and other support to British forces in Ireland.

Described by historians as “steadfast in his loyalty to the crown” it is also documented that one of his descendants in 1913 donated £100,000 to the UVF arms fund, an enormous figure for the time.

During the lead up to the 1916 Easter Uprising, republican Guinness employees became afraid to join demonstrations for fear of repercussions in the workplace.

On the 29th April 1916, two civilians were murdered by British soldiers in the grounds of the brewery. They were said to be Sinn Feinn members, but were later found to be two employees with no connections to Sinn Feinn at all.

Later the company began to dismiss workers who were suspected to be involved in the rebellion or sympathetic to the revolutionary movement.

Arthur Guinness made it very clear he did not support his fellow Irishmen in their struggle for freedom, and wanted Ireland to remain under England’s control. He and his descendants supported and helped to fund the British against the Irish and continued to victimise republican members of staff afterwards.

Even as late as the 1980’s a PR spokesman for Guiness told the press that they should “make the distinction that Guiness is an English company” and distance themselves from the “Irish connection” as much as possible. 

Now I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll have a whiskey. 

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Morning Star Article 12/03/16 – Alexey Markov Interview

The ghost battalion are proving they are much more than just soldiers in the war-torn districts of Lugansk and Donetsk as they strive to bring aid and hope to the local area through a variety of social projects designed to aid in the rebuilding of the community. 

Despite the Minsk II ceasefire declared on February 15 2015 the situation in Ukraine remains unstable. Human Rights Watch claim that as of Autumn 2015 five million people in Eastern Ukraine are in need of humanitarian aid, with three million classed as “most vulnerable.” 

A United Nations report on the Ukraine conflict dated February 2016 reported that just 57,300 of those in need were assisted this winter, with UNICEF also claiming that up to 1.3 million people have little or no access to clean water. 

Commander Alexey Markov, a volunteer of Prizrak (ghost) brigade, has been based in Lugansk, the Russian-speaking industrial region of Eastern Ukraine since September 2014. 

“I had never been to Ukraine before 2014. After seeing the terrible scenes in Odessa of crowds cheering behind piles of charred bodies, I realised that fascism had been revived. As a Communist, I could not accept the fact that Nazis were again slaughtering innocent people, so I left my home and job in Moscow and went to fight in the Donbass.”

“When I first arrived, the city was dead. There was no electricity, no people on the streets and no traffic. All the shops were closed and there was no public transport. People were living in fear for their lives, under constant attack from the Ukrainian side. The destruction was clearly visible on all the main streets of the city.”

“Over the past year the situation has improved, and although many people’s homes, schools and hospitals were destroyed, life in the city is getting better. The city looks almost peaceful. Almost.”

The brigade which has its headquarters in Alchevsk has a strong social dimension, and has from its inception organised free meals through canteens sustained by the volunteers for large families and those on low income in the area. 

They have also provided products for schools and hospitals, as well as ensuring that the children of Alchevsk received gifts from the brigade at Christmas.

Although the work done by the brigade in the local community is invaluable, Markov is under no illusions as to the importance of international solidarity. 
“It’s very important that the local people understand that they are not alone in the struggle against fascism. Help from abroad may not be materially significant, but it is very important in terms of morale. 

Citizens are, however, in immediate need of medical supplies and equipment for the restoration of hospitals. It is also important that the reality of the war in Donbass is reported accurately in the West. It is imperative that European governments are encouraged to reassess their support for the Kiev regime.” 
 

Despite the volatile situation in Eastern Ukraine, which has seen in the past year ceasefire violations from both sides, Markov still holds hope for the future.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible to reach an agreement short of a military victory. I hate war, but the alternative is even worse.”

“I hope the children of Lugansk will soon live in a free, independent and socialist republic where nobody will ever again dare to kill or harm them, or compare them to ‘beetle larvae’ as the Ukrainian nationalists do. They will have a chance to become full-fledged citizens, and not ‘occupiers’ in their own land.” 

A spokesperson for the Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) said: 

“We are a labour movement campaign organised to pressure the government to withdraw diplomatic, financial and military support for the Kiev regime, and to help bring about an end to the civil war which has seen the death of over 10,000 civilians and the displacement of over a million people.”

“Since the Kiev government has also frozen all social security payments to the east, including those to pensioners, the unemployed and  the disabled, it is vitally important that we confront this humanitarian crisis.”

Those wishing to show solidarity to the people of Lugansk can do so by contacting Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) via sarucampaign@gmail.com.

Journalism coursework

Courvoisier launched its first ever global cocktail competition in Liverpool this week at McKenzie Whisky Bar on Rodney Street asking bartenders to use the history of Courvoisier and Paris nightlife as inspiration to create a new take on the classic champagne cocktail.
The event was attended by bar representatives from businesses all over the city including Jacarander, Some Place and Palm Sugar and began with the fascinating story of the history of the Courvoisier family and the cognac that conquered France.

Rebecca Asseline, a brand ambassador for seven years, explained how with the invention of streetlights and the explosion of nightlife in Paris Courvoisier was propelled around the world, and was the only drink served at the opening of the Eiffel Tower in 1886. Speciality chocolates accompanied the tasting session which explored the Courvoisier collection, and explained the intense and laborious process of ensuring luxury, quality and consistency year on year.

“This is why we come to sessions like this,” a representative of Mojo said, “you can get a lot of helpful information for competitions that can’t just be researched online.” And with the competition focusing on “The Golden Age of Paris” an inside edge on inspiration may be very helpful indeed. Amanda Humphrey, the Courvoisier Mixxologist told us “we want to inspire bartenders to create and explore new cocktails” but not before giving us an exceptional example in her unique twist on the classic sidecar. “Cognac drives good conversation” Rebecca affirmed.

The closing date for submissions is 25 March 2016, when six entrants will be chosen for semi-finals in London in April. Prizes include trips to Paris and Jarnac, and a chance to visit the exclusive Paradis Cellar to meet with a Courvoisier master blender, as well as a unique blend of cognac from the 1800s presented in an engraved crystal decanter.

Those wishing to enter the competition can do so at: http://www.barlifeuk.com/
 

Mothers’ Day

Mothers’ Day is probably one of the most significant days on my calendar. Yes like everything else it’s overly commercial and a bit insincere and all the rest, but every year Mother’s Day is different, feels different.

Let me tell you something – I wasn’t born a mother. And even tho I carried him in my tummy and watched him kick and felt him roll, it didn’t make me a mother. And even when I changed his nappies and wiped his nose and rocked him to sleep, that didn’t make me a mother. 

Back at the beginning, when I was so depressed I didn’t leave the house for months, there were nights I looked at him and thought “Oh god, what have I done? I’ve made a terrible mistake. I can’t do this.” 

I loved him, really I did, but not like I do now. I didn’t want him to cry, he was so lovely, he was gorgeous I wanted him to feel safe and warm and be loved, but I felt so awful that this tiny beautiful boy had been given a mother like me, who had to try and get out of bed, who didn’t gush and fuss every time he burped or cried. I loved him quietly inside myself, and afraid of what that meant. In the back of my head was sheer panic and a desperate need to find a way out. 

I didn’t find a way out, I found a way through, and I’m grateful for it every day. I learned to put more than just his immediate needs before my own. I learned to think of him in terms of his whole life, and not just what would get us through the day. I learned that he is his own person, not something that belongs to me. 

I learned that for some people that ache in your heart when you think about your baby and that peace that comes when you hold them close comes with patience and dedication and hard work, not always the first time you see them in the delivery room. 

My heart bursts with pride for him every day. He’s incredible. And he loves me like nobody else in this world ever can or will. And finally, I can say without doubt, without hesitating for a second that I love him more than anyone ever can or will as well. That didn’t come from me, he taught me that. This year, I really feel like a full and whole mother.