Our precious daughter died Tuesday last, after years of illness related to an addiction. In spite of it she was a strong, outdoor person, devoted to the landscape and its creatures. She was my climbing buddy for many years.

Against the odds, my wife, Janet, and myself were allowed by the hospital to be with her for the last thirty minutes of her life. I intend to write more about her, but today I am simply placing on this page, a poem I have written and a photo.

ELEANOR MAIR 1971 – 2020

Excuse me saying you were competitive

When climbing mountains with me. Young

And fit from heavy backpacks you would drive

Robustly upwards past me if my lungs

Faltered. I’d catch you when you lit a fag.

It wasn’t just physical: you’d sussed the route

So accurately from the map you’d brag

You knew each twist and turn; and any doubt

Of mine was squashed, even if it was right.

Yet awed by space we could be quiet together.

Now huddled in this bed you’re mute and still

Without your mind’s protest or body’s fight;

But with what a delicate wee puff of breath

You overtake me on the final hill.


One of my favourite voices on BBC Radio is Dr. Margaret McCartney, a Glasgow GP who writes and broadcasts on medical issues. Her virtue and her notoriety is her refusal to isolate medical from social and political issues. It’s already scandalously clear that if you are poor you have a greater chance of dying from Covid-19 than if you are well-off. Dr. McCartney has always understood this disadvantage and campaigned against it. “Poverty kills,” she has written, “ and Statins are not a good treatment for poverty.” She has shown that a regime which forces the poor to argue for their right to benefit has added huge numbers of ill people to the NHS, without any recognition of that cause, or any repentance for having destroyed peoples’ dignity and health.

Dr. Margaret McCartney

At the same time, she has written beautifully of the vocation of medicine, and of her commitment to it. Any half-decent medical system would place a high value on a skilled practitioner who is also an analytic questioner of what she does, but so far, at least, she lacks any national recognition. She has written,” Problems are more effectively fixed if they’re first understood,” and in relation to commercial medicine’s advertising, “Doctors should call out bollocksology when they see it.” She is a free and joyful spirit, in whom I hear the voice of Jesus. Not that I want to lessen her distinctive identity; Jesus communicates by enhancing rather than diminishing the identity of a prophet. She has described herself as an atheist, so she may be dismayed by my enlisting her as a comrade of the first century healer and advocate of the poor, but she shouldn’t be: they are both on the side of life as opposed to death.

I contrast her to THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNDEAD, which has over the past ten years starved public services of sufficient funds to do their jobs and attacked poor people by claiming that they are a) incompetent and b) lazy. That a bunch of privileged idle bastards should have got off with this imposture without exposure, is almost beyond my comprehension, unless it is due to the extensive networks of the undead in our society.

One of the UNDEAD disguised by our flags

One of their little-known triumphs is that foreign citizens who work for the NHS have to pay an annual fee of £400 per annum per family person for their use of the NHS. So family of parents and one child will pay £1200 per annum; and if their permit of work is for 5 years, they must pay £60,000 up front, to continue providing an essential service to our nation. This policy arose from the hatred of the undead for foreigners. Obviously for them, anyone on the side of life is an enemy.

Readers should not make the mistake of thinking I am joking with this stuff about the UNDEAD. I admit an element of fantasy, but I am serious about the presence in government of people whose whose allegiance is to death rather than life. This necrophilia led them to the invention of unnecessary AUSTERITY and their cheerful destruction of some of the best public services in the world. A realistic estimate of how many lives were blighted or shortened by austerity is long overdue. Anyone who thinks that the present gang are reformed characters should ask how many lives of NHS staff have already been lost to Covid-19, because of their smiling incompetence.

St. Paul said that followers of Jesus were fighting against the “rulers of the darkness of this world” and “spiritual wickedness in high places.” I think he was right, and my own language in these blogs is an attempt to be faithful to his insight. I hope to continue spotting the shadowy figures of UNDEAD but even more importantly, the warriors for life.

I have been inspired to write this blog and its successors by listening to the daily official updates on Covid-19 by the government ministers and officials. Let me describe the symptoms:

1. The delivery is slow, not to say ponderous, because the speaker wants us to know that he is dealing with A VERY SERIOUS ISSUE, and that he has to communicate with ORDINARY, NOT TO SAY, THICK PEOPLE, whose brains work slowly.

2. At certain points in the narrative an oily tone of sympathy must he used because PEOPLE ARE DYING, a fact barely worth mentioning in the case of deaths from poverty, smoking, alcohol or being non- British.

3. The update will include many expressions of gratitude – “I want to convey my deepest appreciation”etc- to NHS workers, bin men, delivery workers, care home staffs, in other words TO POORLY PAID SUPPLIERS OF ESSENTIAL PUBLIC SERVICES NORMALLY IGNORED BY THE GOVERNMENT. This is done through gritted teeth in order that some of the public appreciation of these good people may be hoovered up by the government.

4. The ability to jump from the past to the present or even the remote future when asked a question that means, “ YOU MADE A RIGHT ARSE OF THIS, DIDN’T YOU?

5. The frequent use of journalist’s FIRST NAMES, in the hope that they will not ask the above question.

These are the symptoms, what is my diagnosis?

These people betray none of the usual signs of life, human, animal, vegetable, bacterial, or viral, and must therefore be diagnosed as MEMBERS OF THE UNDEAD, who have their own unique modes of existence.

(The difference between UK movies and Hollywood is paralleled by that between UK UNDEAD and USA UNDEAD, the latter having a behaviour akin to Nelson’s putting a telescope to his blind eye, in this case to report I SEE NO DEATHS, I SEE NO PANDEMIC, I SEE NO FAILURE JUST KEEP ON TAKING THE MALARIA PILLS, BABES. NOW WHERE’S MY ORANGE SLAP?)

They are doubtless the UNDEAD, who have been gone from life for some time, and have returned surreptitiously with tell-tale bits of soil festooning their garments and with an uneasy conviction that if they don’t hold their pose immovably BITS OF THEIR HEADS MAY DROP OFF.

My point is that if we listen to them too often we may forget that they are FROM ANOTHER PLACE.

To prevent this I would recommend:

1. Don’t listen to them too often, above all don’t believe what they are saying. (Would you believe a CROCODILE?)

2. Make sure you keep listening to real people who are alive. I made a point this week of thanking, from an approved distance, the man who empties my bins. He listened courteously, then replied, “Ach it’s jist the same F-ing job it was last year.” He is alive and not impressed with his own heroism. Or I read the Scottish novelist A L Kennedy who wrote that anything good ultimately comes from love. She is alive and impressed by what human beings can do at their best.

3. When Jesus rose from the dead, he came back ALIVE, according to reports. Alive enough to put up with daft questions and having fingers stuck in his wounds. He no longer speaks directly in this world, but his unmistakeable, irreligious aliveness is seen and heard in people like my binman and A L Kennedy.

For the next while, this blog will try to spot both the UNDEAD and the ALIVE in our midst.