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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘London

A Tale Of Two Conferences

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

It was at its best as the brave Clark French and Cure Ukay gave their personal testimonies as medicinal cannabis users at the European Student Drug Policy Reform Conference.  It was at its worst when Peter Hitchens confronted me and Sir Ian Gilmore  at the University of Bedfordshire “A Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?” debate.

The Cannabis Panel

I am so proud to have been associated with both Clark’s and Cure’s contributions at the Manchester conference last weekend.  There were tears in the audience as first Clark, who has MS, then Cure, who has Crohn’s,  explained the reality of their daily lives and the relief that cannabis provides.  The following day, Clark had a relapse and he hobbled to the front to explain, his legs in spasm.  He went outside to take his medicine and literally skipped back into the conference hall.  It was like watching Christ telling someone to take up his bed and walk.  It was intensely moving.  It refreshed my enthusiasm.  It reignited my rage.  They are both warriors for the cause of great courage and dedication.  They are my inspiration.

The conference was a worthy and well-organised event.  Lembit Opik gave a barnstorming speech which had them whooping and cheering in the aisles. There were fascinating contributions from Sebastian Saville and Niamh Eastwood of Release, Darryl Bickler of the Drug Equality Alliance, Chris Hallam and Tom Lloyd of the  International Drug Policy Consortium.  There were very practical workshops on campaigning and an engrossing lecture from Chris Rose of Campaign Strategies.  I know I’m biased but I think Clark and Cure were the stars of the show!

And so to London on Wednesday evening for the debate at Kings College University, near Waterloo.  As I walked into the lecture theatre, there was Peter Hitchens chatting with Sir Ian Gilmore. I marched straight up and introduced myself, explaining to Hitchens that I am responsible for the four Press Complaints Commission complaints that he is currently facing.  I enquired after his brother’s health and he gave me a long and detailed explanation about Christopher’s oseophageal cancer.  He was extremely courteous to me.  I took my seat directly in front of him.

Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?

Hitchens spoke first.  He is the arch dissembler, presenting facts in such a way that he draws you towards a false conclusion. To be fair, he is a fine speaker but at the heart of his argument is an intellectual vacuum.

Sir Ian Gilmore, ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians went next.  He was quiet and dignified and presented a very scientific approach to harm reduction. Finally, Tim Hollis, Chief Constable of Humberside, stood in for David Blunkett. He was an entertaining speaker. I always rather like intelligent policemen.  They have a difficult job to do and I think the good ones are very valuable to society.

So to questions…and I was fidgeting in my seat with impatience!  I had my go, talked about the harms of prohibition, about taking the more pragmatic approach with a regulated system and the evil injustice of the denial of medicinal cannabis.  Right in front of me Hitchens was visibly seething. When I pointed out that his brother is a passionate advocate of medical marijuana he snapped.  He pointed at me, glared and shouted “Leave my brother out of it!”.

Steve Rolles from Transform spoke as did Harry Shapiro from Drugscope. Tom Lloyd, who had also spoken in Manchester contributed and there were many other intelligent observations and comments.  Hitchens was clearly unhappy.

We went back to the panel and Hitchens was aggressive in his response, gesturing at me and talking of  “idiots” and accusing Sir Ian of talking “drivel”.  I heckled him. he promised to “deal with you later” with another Alan Sugar-style stab of the  finger.  Sir Ian was next and he rather politely suggested that “Peter has his head in the sand” – at which Hitchens exploded!

He grabbed his coat and bag and made as if to leave.  It was a very deliberate flounce in high dudgeon.  Later it was suggested he did it for dramatic effect but no, it made him look foolish.  He was flummoxed by the opposition.

The chairman, ex-BBC presenter John Silverman, skillfully restrained him and persuaded him to stay.  In his closing statement Hitchens quoted some statistics from Portugal in an effort to disprove that country’s success with decriminalisation.  It would be against the rules for me to accuse him of anything more than dissembling but no one in the room recognised any truth in his figures.

It was an entertaining evening and a good opportunity to raise the profile of  CLEAR.  I’m back next week for another session entitled “How the World’s View of the Drugs ‘war’ is Changing”.

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Bringing Cannabis Back Into The Medicine Cabinet

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Professor Les Iversen delivers the Inaugural President’s Public Lecture during the BPS Winter Meeting, London 2010.

Prof. Iversen is the current chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and a founder council member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register.  He is also the author of many publications and books on cannabis.  He is famous for his article in The Times headlined “Cannabis.  Why It’s Safe” and for saying that cannabis is “one of the safer recreational drugs”.

He walks a courageous and tricky tightrope between science and his ACMD role.  He is the government’s chief drug adviser so at least we know they are getting good advice even if they don’t act on it.

You can watch the lecture here.

Professor Iversen has also provided me with a copy of his Powerpoint presentation from the lecture which you can download here.

London Games – The Novel

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Now On Sale Here.

It is 2012.  Britain is slowly emerging from the longest and deepest recession for 100 years. It has been a dark and difficult time. The London Olympics are now just a few months away.  The whole country is hoping that the games will provide the inspiration and renewal that it needs.

London Games follows five characters through the spring and summer of 2012, culminating as the games open at the Olympic stadium. It is a gripping tale of relationships and dramatic personal experience.  It concerns an Afghanistan veteran suffering from combat stress, a disgraced ex-banker sent to jail amidst scandal and public outrage, a cocaine dealer with customers at the very top and the very bottom of society, a property developer on the cusp of making his fortune and a restauranteur starting to make his name as a celebrity chef.  At times it plumbs the depths of London’s sordid underworld yet it also catches an uplifting mood and celebrates the city’s unique history and environment.  It examines crime and punishment as well as food and drugs, love and ambition.  Ultimately it reveals a bond between the most unlikely of friends, thrown together in an extraordinary and thrilling climax with a redemptive message of hope and optimism.

Sir Damian Fremantle experiences the shock of his first night in Brixton prison while Susan is confused between shoplifting in Sainsbury’s and bomb disposal in Helmand province.  Clive Dumonde is still mourning the death of his parents as he struggles to understand what’s involved in developing a multi-million pound property in Notting Hill.  His business angel Mark is also an investor in the uber-hip and trendy Vermont restaurant just around the corner. Meanwhile, Mo, or Big M as his customers call him, is living the hectic, stressed-out life of a cocaine dealer, supplying crack to streetwalkers one minute and top grade powder to city bankers the next.

John George is on the brink of becoming London’s top chef.  It is a constant struggle to devise new dishes while coping with the relentless pressure for perfection.  As the guests become ever more famous, so the financial pressures increase, the staff becomes more difficult and the vanilla vodka bottle in his desk becomes his best friend.  Then, without warning, the scales fall from his eyes and the sous chef who he has barely noticed for months is transformed into the love of his life.

The pressure on Mo never lets up.  His customers call all day and all night.  He is always looking over his shoulder, expecting to see a blue light in his mirror or hear a knock on the door. Then, for no good reason, his principal supplier accuses him of passing counterfeit money and Mo is in a race for his life with both the police and violent gangsters.

Susan finds herself locked up and heavily sedated.  She thought she was doing her duty but she has committed a dreadful crime that will have consequences for the rest of her life. What future or hope can there be for someone who has been a hero, trained as a killing machine but now behaves like a homicidal maniac?

Five characters, products of their time, all on an inevitable path as their stories intertwine and we glimpse a post-2012 Britain, rejuvenated, reinvigorated, ever more complicated, challenging and exciting – a Great Britain.

‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky!

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In tribute to the finest guitarist and one of the greatest musicians the world has ever seen – who died 40 years ago this week.

This remarkable photograph was taken inside the house at 25, Brook Street, Mayfair where the composer Handel lived until his death in 1759.  He was a German whose career took off when he came to London.  He was well known for flamboyant displays of virtuoso baroque music.

200 years later in 1968, Jimi Hendrix moved into the same building.  He was an American whose career took off when he came to London.  He was well known for flamboyant displays of virtuoso blues and rock music.

Their spirit lives on forever.

Written by Peter Reynolds

September 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm

The Obnoxious People Of Bovingdon

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My parents live in a small Hertfordshire village not far from Watford. It’s commuter land, only 45 minutes by train to central London but on the edge of the delightful Chilterns countryside. It’s not quite as gorgeous as Dorset but the dogs and I enjoy the change of scenery when we visit about once every month.

The nearest place to find anything more than a village shop is the small town of Bovingdon. Every time I visit there I am dismayed, horrified even at the boorish, selfish and obnoxious behaviour of the local drivers.

There’s nowhere to park in Bovingdon but that doesn’t stop them. They park half on, half off the pavement in the most dangerous and inconsiderate places, often right opposite each other. The town is full of ostentatious, gaudy four-wheel drive Toyotas, Mitsubishis or, God preserve us from even more oriental invaders, Kias. Does no one buy British any more? These tasteless and clumsy status symbols are thrown about with abandon, aggression and a complete absence of any manners. My 17 year old nephew was literally forced off the road last week by yet another woman who simply cannot judge the width of her vehicle and so drives in the middle of narrow country lanes.

Of course, I am sure that there are many very nice and responsible people in Bovingdon but you can drive through the High Street at anytime of day to see recurrent displays of the most selfish, inconsiderate and dangerous behaviour.

There is one other observation though that, for me, condemns these unpleasant people out of hand. As I walk the dogs around the local countryside I am disgusted at the fly tipping and the disgraceful amount and variety of rubbish in the hedgerows. It’s difficult to understand why this wealthy and privileged part of the country is full of so many nasty, selfish and dirty people.

Written by Peter Reynolds

April 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Where Have All The Poppies Gone?

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I had the misfortune to have to visit London briefly last week.  I was thoroughly disheartened to see how few people in Hammersmith were wearing poppies.poppyfield1 They should be ashamed of themselves. More worrying though was just how difficult it was to buy one.  Hardly any of the shops had them available.  Even those that we should be able to rely on to show a responsible lead like Tescos and Sainsburys are letting down our heroes.  None of the staff are wearing them.  What is going on?  Weymouth and Dorchester are doing much better and the BBC appears to make it a compulsory requirement – and that’s no bad thing.

London is a miserable place full of miserable, selfish people and it reminds me again how I have no enthusiasm for ever returning there.  Tired of London?  Yes, tired of death.

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson, 1777

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

To someone living in 18th century Britain this famous quotation may have had some relevance  After all, you could walk from the heart of the city into open countryside in little more than an hour.

Today, any man, with any intelligence, will spend only as little time in London as he has to, for today London is all about death.

The death of our children as they run wild, out of control, knifing, abusing and assaulting each other.

The death of liberty as we are watched and spied on relentlessly without proper cause by jobsworths and parasites.

The death of our culture as we have allowed minorities to create ghettoes that now overwhelm our indigenous communities.

The death of integrity as those who run our government and financial systems become ever more venal and corrupt.

Perhaps the only cause for hope in London is the bright light that is Boris Johnson.  This apparent disinterest in the Poppy Appeal, this insult to our heroes really is the final straw for me.  London has become a vile, oppressive hot bed of greed, violence and selfishness.  I shall fiddle with delight while it burns.

The Heart And Soul Of London

The Heart And Soul Of London