Thursday, March 13, 2008



On World Book Day which was last week, Boy A by Jonathan Trigell was voted as THE Book to Talk About from a list of 10 contenders (to see the other books listed, click HERE) and I think it a worthy winner.

Boy A has chosen the name Jack Burridge for himself, his real name is never divulged, because Boy A is one of two lads who murdered another child when they were ten years old. Boy B was found dead by hanging whilst still in a Young Offenders Institution.

Now aged 24, Jack has been given a new identity and is tentatively beginning a life out in the real world. Jack has a job, and his minder/mentor who introduces himself to people as Jack’s Uncle Terry, has found him lodgings with a local woman. No-one knows his true background.

Boy A lives a very fragile life, terrified of relationships, never forgetting what he is guilty of having done. He is always aware that the tabloid press are relentless in their attempts to find him. When, because he and a workmate happen to be first on the scene of a terrible car smash, he saves the life of a little girl, he is hailed as a hero which he finds very frightening, as the local press send a photographer round to take their picture. He is also worried about having too much to drink in case he gives himself away, and when some of his workmates befriend him he has problems as they dabble with recreational drugs which are all off limits to him. Eventually he embarks on his first romantic relationship, which is also means a sexual relationship, something he has never had before. As events unfold the reader gets a real sense of foreboding, Jack is too vulnerable, his anonymity cannot be sustained indefinitely.

The story is very obviously based on the notorious case of the two boys who murdered James Bulger in Liverpool 15 years ago. Since then it has been revealed that at least one of those boys has been released on license, and needless to say there have been all sorts of stories in the tabloid press and circulating on the internet as to where they might be, and how they have “got away with murder” as they are no longer incarcerated. As a youth court magistrate for many years, I have visited Feltham YOI several times, and this book conveys the ghastly atmosphere, the bullying, and the deep unhappiness that permeate the place. It punishes youths, no doubt of that, but I doubt that it rehabilitates many.

The author has skilfully managed to cover the complex attitudes society has towards children who kill; how they are seen as more monstrous than adult killers, and how many feel they should be punished incredibly harshly for the rest of their lives. On the whole the public seem uninterested in WHY these children would kill, as they are considered to be almost sub-human.

“She could remember at the time of the trial, everyone she knew was horrified, imagining what it would be like if their child had been murdered in such a way. No one had stopped to think about what it would be like if their child was the murderer. That was why the boys had to be evil, they had to be alien: other, demons”

The book will certainly give readers food for thought, and it would be a fantastic book club choice as it raises several very debatable points of view.

Rated 5*


If I stub my toe, do I immediately look round to see who I can sue? Well no I don’t, but some people would. Scrolling through the BBC news website today I read an item which made me so mad I could spit.

Mr and Mrs Boardman are a couple in their eighties who live in Lincolnshire. Mrs Boardman has heart problems, and recently they had to call an ambulance for her. When it arrived at their house and she had been seen, one of the ambulance men returned to the vehicle to collect a stretcher and fell in their driveway. He has now instructed a lawyer and is seeking damages from the Boardmans for personal injury. The East Midlands Ambulance Service who employ the ambulance technician say that he is doing this on his own behalf and it is nothing to do with them.

The Boardmans were shaken and distressed when they received the letter from this man’s solicitor, and I’m not surprised. It would distress me too. They say they would now be scared to summon the emergency services even if they need them. Accidents happen, you can’t always blame someone else, and it is just plain greedy to try and exhort money from frail elderly people because you fell over whilst doing your job.

What kind of crazy society have we become?


Supermarket shelves are stacked high with crisps, nuts, cheesy wotsits and other snacks for serving with drinks, but they are so expensive and greasy that I am on a bit of a campaign to find other appetisers. I can eat houmous 'til the cows come home, and am partial to taramasalata and bits of pitta bread too but after a while it is good to ring the changes. This is ever so easy and very moreish, veggie friends like it, and I kid myself that it is healthy too!


Serves 4-6

2x 400g tins cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
5 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon cumin (I use half ground cumin, and half cumin seeds)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt & pepper
2 tablespoons (approx) finely chopped fresh coriander.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the cumin and chopped garlic and cook for a few minutes stirring well – do not let the garlic brown.

Add the beans and mix all together well. Cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove from heat. Either mash the beans with a fork, adding the lemon juice and extra oil if it is too solid and dry, or whiz in a blender, so that it forms a rough puree. It should not be too smooth so do not over blend. Stir the chopped coriander into the bean mash. Season well to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with warm grilled bruschetta or toasted pita bread.

This is also delicious spread in sandwiches with sliced tomato and cucumber.


Nick said...

Sounds like the ambulance man is crazy, but then again if (if) he was badly injured then I suppose he wants some compensation from someone. What I don't understand is the ambulance service saying he isn't covered by their insurance because he wasn't in the ambulance at the time. But surely he's covered if he's working, what's the ambulance got to do with it? Anyway, the Boardmans' house insurance should cover them for legal claims up to a pretty large figure.

gwaan said...

This kind of case really gets on my nerves. Technically the defendants probably due owe the claimant a duty of care, but anyone who tries to claim damages because they slipped on an elderly couples path is a bloody parasite. Unfortunately, with the rise of "no win no fee" practices such malicious claims are on the increase. For anyone who wants to explore the legal dimensions of this story further, I suggest they read Charles Foster's enthralling Tripping and Slipping Cases: A practitioner's Guide

herschelian said...

Hi Nick, always great to have a comment from you. Yes, I suspect the house insurance would cover legal claims for the couple. I do just wonder whether the ambulance man would have bothered with a claim if they had been residents of a sink estate rather than apparently well-to-do middle class people. The famous blogger Random Acts of Reality who is himself an ambulance man is pretty scathing about the claim.

Gwaan, welcome to my blog. I have popped over to read yours which I found fascinating and will be dipping in to regularly.

Jeanne said...

Oh now you have me angry too!!! Parasite is too kind a word for this guy. And I find it very hard to believe that there is no sort of injured-on-duty policy that would cover the medic. I mean, covering them only when they are in the ambulance is lunacy - are the supposed to wait for injured or ill people to drag themselves to the vehicle and greet them at the doors?? This society is well on its way to becoming as litiginous as the USA and that can't be a good thing.

Thanks for the book recommendation too - sounds fascinating if harrowing. And I agree with you on the "getting away with it" thing. Anybody who has actually been inside a prison will realise that it is not a place anybody wants to be (I spent many hours at St Alban's Maximum Security in PE in the early 1990s interviewing clinets). And thanks for the dip recipe - sounds fab :)

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