BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Sunday, November 27, 2005

WEBWISE IN GLASGOW: Internet workshops and heavy drinking

Glasgow has plenty of impressive architecture to be proud of, but i was quite taken by this smashed up TV and could not help wonder what had gone on before it was lobbed out of the window.

This weekend, communications activists from all over the country gathered in the Hilton in Glasgow for my annual ‘Communications Liaison Weekend’. These can be hit and miss, as boring as the name suggests or actually quite interesting, depending on what is discussed. Fortunately, this year it turned out to be really good.

The weekend started off with some basic stuff; reports from each region on what they have been up to, review of campaign materials and campaigns planned for 2006.

Then Eric Lee stepped in. I had never heard of Eric before, but had unknowingly used his website many times. He runs ‘Labour Start, an on-line news resource for trade unionists.

First impression I thought, oh my gawd, a middle aged American cyber geek, but it was not long before Eric, who was born in New York but is now based in the UK, had me enthralled. He has been on the cutting edge of Internet activism since the very early days, before people realised what a useful tool it could be.

We discussed the uses for websites, how a blog can be used for a specific campaign, on-line petitions, cyber pickets and much more.

During one of his sessions he kept telling us how easy it is to set up a website. Embarrassingly one of my colleagues from Wales stopped him and said “you keep telling us how easy it is, well why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and show us”. The room went silent, I cringed and thought to myself ‘it had to be someone from Wales showing his ignorance.’ All eyes turned to Eric, who looked at first as if he wanted the world to open up and swallow him. After a brief pause, he said “well, that is going off the topic of this talk a bit, but… what would you like your website to be called?” Five minutes later Eric had set up a website for his branch (using, not quite ideal, but simple and easy to use.) My Welsh colleague was suitably impressed, as was everyone else.

I realise this will make me sound like a geek, but i think i will check out some of the books Eric has written. Many of his ideas will be useful both for my trade union activities and for my more 'radical' activities.

On top of the weekend talking Internet, we also managed to squeeze in a few pints, watch the Welsh rugby team beat Australia, do a bit of Christmas shopping and take some photos.

No delays flying home, at 20:30 we were in Glasgow, by 22:00 we were back in Cardiff. Sorted.

Friday, November 25, 2005

LOUNGING AROUND: Snowbound in Cardiff Internatinal Airport

Air Wales set me thinking about Indian Jones. At least we were not doing as much damage to the ozone as a proper airplane would have!

Today I was due to fly to Glasgow at 5:30pm, so arrived at the airport at 3:30pm, ready for check in, only to be informed that the heavy snow that had fallen earlier in the day meant there would be a delay. No problem, Me and James, who was going to the same meeting, headed for the bar.

I had never met James before, but as we sat there watching the delay get bigger and bigger, we got to know each other really well and found we had a lot in common. We both love the same music, have an interest in politics, and most importantly on this particular evening, both love cider.

There is very little to do in an airport lounge; once you have looked around the duty free the only thing left to do is drink, so we drunk!

It was gone midnight by the time we took off, so by the time we got to Glasgow James and I had consumed a fair amount of Strongbow and knew each other quite well.

It was 2am by the time we landed so had to get a taxi to the hotel, luckily I could claim it back, cos cheap it wasn’t. When we finally got to the hotel, at about 3am, the bar was shut so it was an early night for us, then up bright and early for breakfast.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NIBBLES AT NUMBER TEN: Meeting Tony Bliar in Downing Street

Tonight was something a little bit out of the ordinary for us mere proles’, I went to Ten Downing Street for drinks and nibbles with the Prime Minister.

How I ended up there was a bit of a sham to be honest, during the election earlier this year I was working full time for my union. Some how I got roped into being a ‘Trade Union Liaison Officer’ for one of my branches. I was not keen on the idea but I was after a full time job so I kept my gob shut and got on with it, all be it not very enthusiastically, if you see what I mean. Probably best I say no more, ‘cos I am still after a full time job. No mater how vigorously I carried out my role, simply because I had done the job, I got invited to number ten, along with about 150 other TULOs for a ‘reception’.

I had to give it a great deal of thought, did I really want to socialise with the man that has sent this country to war more times than any other Prime Minister; the man that almost single handily removed any socialist element in Labour Party policy, turning it into the party of big business and globalisation? The answer to that was an emphatic NO! But how often do you get a chance to have a look around one of the top five most important buildings in the world? The history of the place won out, and I decided to go and have a nose around. I think it is better to regret something you have done, than regret something you have not done.

I travelled up on my own by train and went for a wander around Westminster to get some photos of London by night, then headed for the nearest pub to Downing Street. The pub was full of Westminster types, backbench MPs, journalists, civil servants and of course tonight there was a healthy dose of trade unionists. It was not long before I bumped into some other Welsh TULOs that I knew.

After a while we wandered over to Downing Street. The security was fairly tight, as you would expect. We went through an airport style security area, got frisked, went through metal detectors and had to show photographic ID. I could not help thinking that despite all this security, they had not worked out who I was. Maybe I am just not as big a threat as I think I am.

We then wandered up to Number Ten itself, and paused to take some photographs outside the famous door. Once inside we had to hand over all cameras and mobile phones, then we were escorted up the stairs, with photographs of past first ministers covering the wall to a banqueting room where we were offered drinks by an extremely well spoken young lady holding a silver tray with a variety of drinks on. Unfortunately, due to the deficiencies of public transport in Wales, I was not going to be able to make the last train up the valleys, so could not drink because my car was waiting for me in Cardiff.

In the small banqueting room the walls were lined with expensive artwork and the floor was covered in trade unionists. Young girls wandered with trays of mainly carnivorous nibbles, or topping up your drink before you realised it was even empty.

Eventually Big Toe himself came in, wandered for a bit, then got up to make an informal speech He thanked us all for our 'hard work' during the election and stated how highly he regarded the trade union links with the Labour Party (We did, after all, create the bloody thing). He reminded us that if the Tories ever get in, we will never get invited to Number Ten, and will not have any input to how the country is run. I just stood there thinking ‘what a two faced git’; any impact we have on his policies is just lip service, or morsels to keep us quiet while he runs rampage. At least with the Tories we knew where we stood.

After his speech, he wandered around mingling with as many people as he could. I was determined not to shake his hand, or if i did I would grab his hand, put the head on him, and knee him in the crown jewels and shout ‘that is for Iraq you B*stard’. When the time came, I was stood next to the Regional Secretary for the South West region, the man who was going to be interviewing me a week later, who just happens to be married to a cabinet minister and is a big Blairite. I bottled, and shook his hand politely. “Sticking to the orange juice?” he queried. “Saving myself for a 24 hour binge drinking session tomorrow when the licensing laws change” I responded. Yeah.. well radical, that told him!

After a bit more mingling, it was back to Paddington then home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

B-RIGHT-ON: Another night on the Grange End

It may not be the best view on the pitch, but you cannot beat being right behind the goal when City score

Went down to the legendary Ninain Park tonight, the home to the greatest team in football the world has ever seen. Watched the City chuck away a one nil lead for a draw against Brighton and Fuckinghove Albion.

For the first half me and me bro Sparky stood right behind the goal on the grange end. Not the greatest view in the ground, but cant be beaten when the city bang one in right in front of you.

At half time we met up with a few mates in the bar, then we went to stand with them for the second half. I felt like an old man, they stand behind the goal with all the chavs that spend most of the game goading the opposition. It is the nearest section to the away fans and only a fence and a cordon of police separate them, so many of the chavs are just stood there chanting things like ‘Harold Shipman is out friend, he kills English’ (I like a laugh but this is just plain sick as far as I am concerned), and ‘come and join us over here’. I am glad no-one takes up the offer to join us, cos the lads shouting it are mostly school kids who would bottle it and run.

What with Brighton having a bit of a reputation for sexual liberation, some of the chants were less than politically correct. They started with ‘Your going down with the Millwall', which quickly progressed to ‘your going down on your boyfriend’, and ‘you only sing when your winning’ evolved into ‘you only sing when your rimming’. I think you get the picture.

Despite all the above negatives, when City slammed in a goal it was awesome, everyone in the chav-end went mad, making up for all the nonsense.

Sadly, we f*cked it up and let the Albion equalise. Still, one point is better than none! Onwards and upwards!

Monday, November 21, 2005

SAFE AS F*CK: Goldie Looking Chain Play Blackwood

GLC Rock da 'Stute

Tonight, Newport’s finest, GLC, played Blackwood Miners Institute, and what a CHAVtastic night it was; sorted, safe, tidy, you knows it like.

For those that don’t know, GLC are hip-hop’s answer to The Wurzels. As with all rap, they sing about what they know about, drugs, sex, making dodgy insurance claims, Newport and.. erm, drugs and sex! If that sounds bad, imagine it all being done with dreadful ‘Port accent and lyrics like “Your better off smoking the green instead, it don’t blim burn and it’s better for your head.” And “Guns don’t kill people, rappers do, I seen it on a documentary on BBC2”. It is all dreadfully cheesy and done with ultra straight faces; musically they are ok, nothing special, but when listening you can only vary from grinning to full on hysterics.

It only seems like five minutes ago I was listening to demo bootlegs and going to see them in places like Clwb Ifor Bach, now they are playing major venues, appearing on TV every other time I switch it on and hitting the charts with every wacky single. No wonder then, that the ‘Tour Of Welsh Small Venues’ sold out before you could say ‘tidy like’.

The venue was filled with (snob alert) people who had probably never heard of Clwb Ifor Bach and probably did not understand what half the lyrics were about. Many of the crowd were on the youthful side, so much so that you could not buy more than one drink at the bar in case it was going to an under 18.

When they came on, the crowd went mad, and justly so, they played the best set I have ever seen them do. The venue had a lot to do with it, the early gigs were a bit mad because there were so many people rammed into little clubs, then very quickly they were playing to huge festivals and the intimacy was lost a bit. But this was just right, about 800 people in a nice size venue; it was particularly odd because normally the sound upstairs in the ‘stute is usually crap, but tonight it was spot on.

As the band bumped and grinded on stage, hundreds grooved and sweated and dozens clicked away taking photos and even videos with their mobile phones. What a mad world we live in. But it gets madder, when they played the new single R'n B, they were recording it live so people could download it as a ring tone the following morning!!!!

There were quite a few old friends there and we all grinned and chuckled our way through the set, then headed for home not sure if we had been to a gig or been to a pantomime.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

ANARCHY IN THE PUB: Celebrating Joy's birthday at a G8 prisoner support bennefit gig.

Cosmo and the Pondlife MCs, come and 'ave a go if ou think you are 'ard enough!

Had two nights out in one this evening, a sit down curry and a gig.

The evening started off with me going, along with an old friend Joy and her parents, to a local Indian Restaurant to celebrate her birthday. The restaurant is slightly outside of civilisation, set in a refurbished building that used to form part of the old Britannia Colliery. There is no sign of the colliery now and only local knowledge gives an insight into the buildings former use.

I like the place for two reasons, one: it has its own car park so you can walk straight in (a massive advantage now the weather has suddenly and quite dramatically turned wintry); two: the fact that the food there is really rather splendid, always a good when eating out! We sat there in the warm for two hours savouring the meal, vegetable Jalfrezi for me, then after the melon ice-cream I took Joy’s parents home.

Then Joy and I headed for Dempsey’s in Cardiff for a benefit gig for those that got nicked at the G8 in Scotland last July. There was a great atmosphere there, with loads of friends old and new, mostly from the activist scene.

As I walked in the local paper was thrust at me with an article about the P.A.D. being burnt out after it had been evicted earlier in the week. Maybe ‘anarchist utopia’ is stretching it a bit, but for the two weeks it was open it was an inspiring place to be. But the NHS were having none of it and, despite the fact that they do not have any plans for the building, the building was evicted at the beginning of this week. It was decided not to resist and the building was actually vacated before the bailiffs arrived.

But this is where it all started to get surreal. In the early hours of Thursday
morning the building was unceremoniously ‘torched’. The timing of this
maybe a coincidence, but one cannot help but wonder. Was it a member
of the arsonists’ wing of the NHS? Was it a state sponsored agent
provocateur? Was it someone who does not like anarchists saying ‘don’t
come back’? Was it JD Whetherspoon trying to get us to go back to his
pub? Was it a Wales On Sunday reporter trying to create a story? Or was
it really just a coincidence? Answers on a postcard to the local plod please.
One thing is certain, it couldn’t have been anarchists, they can never find
their lighters!

Anyway, the atmosphere at the gig was warm and friendly, and we were entertained by ‘Adult Playthings’, performing their first ever gig; Kilnaboy, the folky jigabout crew that have developed a reputation for being the CAN house band; and Pondlife MCs, radical rap rockers featuring none other than me mate Cosmo on the mike, quite appropriate really given that he had his collar felt at the G8. I enjoyed seeing all me old mates and Joy enjoyed getting out of the house to celebrate her birthday, all in all a bit of a result.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

GREAT PLANS OF MICE AND FREAKS: The hunt for a live band in Cardiff

Tat Syrup, Live at the Hawaiian Bar, Cardiff.

I love bands that are on the edge, pushing the boundaries, going where no band has gone before; or at least I like to check them out at least once. When they get it right they blow me away, but very often they are just dreadful. It was a quest to check out a Japanese experimental metal band that took me, Crispy and Rob to Cardiff Tonight.

It was with great excitement that we headed to Clwb Ifor Bach to check out Melt Banana , even though we knew very little about them apart from a rave review in the local paper and a couple of MP3s we had downloaded from their website. And it was with great disappointment that we discovered that the gig was sold out and there were a bout 50 people outside without tickets. Maybe they are not quite as obscure as we thought! I will have to wait now to find out if they are awesome or awful!!!

Determined not to waste the night we headed over to the Barfly, but the sign on the door stated “over 16’s night”, which did not sound too appetising.

Crispy wanted to get tickets for Rich Hall in the Glee club for next week so we headed down to the bay. We had a wander around the area first, checking out the new Millennium Centre and then went off to find the Glee Club. The club is set in the middle of Mermaid Quay, which is basically a shopping centre without any shops, but about thirty up market restaurants. They are obviously there to serve the neuvau riche who have moved into the new apartments that have sprung phoenix like for the ashes of the docks and passing tourists, as opposed to the thousands of locals that have lived there all along. When we got to the Glee Club we discovered that '3 Men + Black' were playing, a super group that is made up from Pauline Black (Selekter) and her many friends. On this particular tour her friends are Roddy Radiation (Specials), Jake Burns (Stiff Little fingers) and Nick Welsh (?). We had a bit of a debate, Rob did not want to pay £15 to watch anything that had any ska in it, and I did not want to give any money to Jake Burns (for reasons given in my post ‘Go Fly A Kite’ dated 25th September); this combined with the stream of people walking out because they thought the show was boring resulted in us not going in.

After a phone call we ended up in ‘The Hawaiian Bar’ on City Road, where by coincidence my mate Dan’s ska band ‘Tat Syrup’ were playing. Rob was not too pleased about the idea of a ska band, but it was getting late and we wanted a pint. In the end it turned out to be an interesting evening, even if it was somewhat different to the one we had planned.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1: CARDIFF CITY 3; Blues reach highest league positon for 35 years

Yesterday was me first away trip with the city this season, Sheffield Wednesday.

Got picked up around the corner from the house, which is quite handy, at 2pm, but before we had even got out of the valleys the bus toilet was overflowing, which was not handy.

Travelling away with the Valley R.A.M.s, one of the two Cardiff city Supporters clubs is quite an experience; you can get away with all sorts of things you would never get away with travelling with the ‘official’ supporters club. Being a predominantly male organisation, the banter on the bus can get quite blue on times and the sense of humour varies from dim witted to incredibly sharp, but you very rarely go 5 minutes without laughing your head off at something someone has said.

By the time we get to Tamworth, even the RAMs with the most hardy of stomachs are complaining about the toilet and the driver is forced to do something about it. Unfortunately, because he had not sorted it when first asked there is now a three inch deep lake of p*ss on the toilet floor which the driver can do nothing about, but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, so by the time we eventually get home it is six inches deep.

We arrive at Hillsborough and find our seats literally seconds before kick of and we are quickly treated to a bit of a goal fest from the highflying City. In the first half Koumas bangs in the first goal right in front of the 600 travelling bluebirds, followed by two from Jerome, leaving us 3-0 up at half time. The second half was by comparison dreadful and we were lucky to get away with only conceding one goal. For more detailed review click here

At full time we had dragged our selves up to 5th in the division, the highest city have been in the league for 22 years (although that was only two games into the season, if you look back to a time when we have been in this position with 18 games under our belt you will have to look back 35 years). Not bad considering all the ‘stars’ we sold last year due to debts. This means we are now in the ‘play off zone’, but there is long way to go yet before the end of the season.

After the game it was back on the mobile p*ss bucket for the journey home. No matter how many times I go through it, there is something quite exciting about being in a convoy, especially when you have a police escort stopping all traffic mixing with the convoy and you drive straight through all red lights. Despite all the security one of the busses had its window put through when it pulled into the services out side of Sheffield.

The journey home was pretty much the same as the journey up, although one or two did start to flag and drop off to sleep on the 5 hour journey… a journey which was extended by the driver insisting on having breaks. I can appreciate why these breaks are necessary but taking a half hour break when we were almost home was a little frustrating.

Eventually arrived home at 3am, half cut, half tired but completely happy with the result.

Picture above, Jeromes first and City’s second goal.

Monday, November 07, 2005

RESISTANCE IS FERTILE: My first visit to the Peoples Autonomous Destination, Cardiff

While I had been enjoying myself in Devon, the weekend had seen the opening of the P.A.D. (Peoples Autonomous Destination), a squatted ‘social centre’ in Canton, Cardiff. It is a project that some friends of mine have been working on for some time, so Monday night had to mean a visit to the PAD.

The whole concept of the PAD came from a seed planted by the Cardiff Anarchist Network. I suppose I would describe it as a place where people can come to share ideas and inspire each other; a radical space for free thinkers, artists, and rebels; a vegan café, art gallery, cinema, library and erm.. conference centre! It all sounds a bit grander than the squatted health centre it really is, but if they are left alone by the authorities it has a lot of potential.

Tonight was meeting night for the Cardiff Anarchist Network, so it made sense to hold the meeting at the PAD. As I entered the building there were quite a few people about, and I was greeted by the smell of Zapatista coffee brewing. There were some banners on the wall together with some pictures of ‘actions’ and protests from recent years, and various bits of info on things coming up. In the opposite corner from the ‘kitchen’ was a little library and piles of leaflets were strategically placed around the room.

Leading off from the main room was a very clean and tidy toilet, the best I have seen in any squat, several bedrooms for those staying to ‘defend’ the space, and a meeting room. The building had only been ‘cracked’ a week earlier so it was still looking a bit sparse, but it was definitely starting to come together.

I shuffled off into the room where CAN was having its meeting and re-emerged close on midnight after several hours of planning and debate, to be welcomed by a cup of the aforementioned ‘Café Libertad’.

The powers that be have already started legal proceedings to get the centre evicted, but lets hope that it can last long enough to have a positive impact on the community, even if it is only to inspire and empower others to carry on the project elsewhere. From little acorns great oaks grow, so lets hope the PAD will help launch something sustainable that will demonstrate that another future is possible.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

R.I.P. BLOKE: A personal thought on the death of a dear friend.

No posts for a while, I have been a little bit on the busy side, then when I switch on my PC to write something, I am hit by an e-mail that brings me the tragic news that my mate ‘Bloke’ has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Bloke was the bass player with Brighton band Flannel. Not exactly a big name in rock but they were a bit of a cult on the festival scene. Yeah, I am sure Bloke would like them being described as a bunch of cults.

I first crossed their path when they came and played a Peppermint Iguana gig for us In Blackwood, supporting the Headmix Collective. They crashed out in Iguana HQ after the gig, and it was soon obvious it was going to blossom into a lasting relationship.

We all hit it off on many levels, Blokes sense of humour in particular never failed to have me in Stitches. My head is filled with many memories of him, from that crazy bank holiday weekend they spent with me, through the times we met up at gigs and festivals and the times when I just went to Brighton to visit them.

I have a vision in my head of Bloke crowd surfing at his 40th birthday party which I cannot get out of my mind.... laughing his head off like a little kid, and that is how I will remember him, always happy and up for a laugh. Flannel had split up at that point and Cosmo, the Guitarist had come to live in Wales, but they got together for Blokes 40th. I can remember being invited now, when he rang me I was being chased through Dublin by riot cops with water cannon, I was at an anti EU demo. The whole party thing was a bit mad, the gig was in a pub owned by Mad Frankie Frazer, and the support band featured the son of comedian Mark Little (Joe Mangel from Neighbours). The crowd was rammed with all the names from the Brighton scene, Tragic Roundabout, Headmix, and a few ex Tofu Love Frogs, to name but a few. After their set, Bloke was picked up by the crowd and passed over their heads to the bar.

I once got to perform with Flannel, they were doing this punk rock karaoke thing where they invited friends to come up on stage with them to perform their favourite punk song. They contacted me a few weeks before Glastonbury and asked me to pick a song, I picked ‘Fuck Off’ by the Electric Chairs. It turned out they were doing this as headliners on the Saturday night, all be it on the Mille and m Stage in the Greenfields. We waited ages for them to come on, Rory McLoed was on before them and he kept on and on and on, we thought he would never go off. I missed all the bands I wanted to see that night because I was determined to do this with Flannel. It was amazing, one of my best memories of Glastonbury in 20 years of going there.

We met up in June 2003 (when the picture above was taken). Bloke managed to blag us into a recording studio after stop tap so we could have a ‘chill’. It turns out it was the levellers Studio and we eventually got chucked out for misbehaving (mainly me telling Simon Leveller I thought his band were shite)… Bloke was rolling about in the gutter he though the whole sketch was so funny.

I am sure he had his down moments, but I never got to see any.

Nothing was serious to him, from his ridiculous attempts at a Welsh accent. ... "Who’s coat is that jacket", to his stupid text messages.

For the last few years he and his wife Sal and their kids had been planning to live in Europe, they spent ages doing up a little bus, so long I was having doubts as to whether or not it would really happen. Then one night I was in Eastbourne I sent him a text to say how crap it was there and suggest I pop down to Brighton to see him, but he simply replied, “Yeah, I know, it is really crap, but it is great here, I live in France now.” The family had moved to the Pyrenees and apparently had found their little piece of heaven.

Then a couple of days ago I received an e-mail from Cosmo to tell me that Bloke had had an accident, details are a bit vague but it would seem he fell into a ravine and did not survive.

I was stunned. Our meetings had not been numerous, but each one had been memorable and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to share a little bit of him.

I suppose the one saving grace was that in his 40 odd years with us he packed more into life than many 80 year olds, and at the end he was living his dream. Not much consolation for Sal and the kids at the moment, but I for one am determined to remember him with a big grin on his face and a wicked glint in his eye.

ANOTHER WINTRY BEACH: A few days in Croyde Bay

This weekend was spent in Croyde Bay, North Devon, staying at a ‘Holiday Camp/Village’ (Butlins style thang) owned and run by UNISON. The camp itself is clean tidy and .. well.. sanitised, nothing particularly great about it, but it is set in the village of Croyde, which is located in an area of Devon renowned for its surfing.

For several miles in each direction there are quiet little villages free from kiss me quick hats and slot machine arcades, but for every fudge shop have two surf shops. And as one local said to me, the surf in the summer is quite good but this wintry, blustery weather is when the real surf is whipped up. And a walk along the beach that backs onto the camp proved him right. The breakers were forming several hundred yards out, forming ferocious white chargers for the surfers to tame, or at least try to, before crashing in on the deserted beach.

And the surfers loved it, apart from me with my trusty camera there were three people walking dogs and about 30 wet suit clad surfers, braving the windswept misty weather in search of that elusive wave that would carry them all the way to the shore.

Unfortunately, I was there for a purpose, the little matter of some union business, so I did not have much time to wander, but I managed to get a few shots in before it got dark.

In the evening we headed into the village for a pint in the local pub, which I had expected to be a bit deserted in November. But it was standing room only and the Stone Roses were pumping out at full volume to entertain the annoyingly healthy looking punters, each one of them looking like something out of an advert for a VW Beetle or an Internet Service Provider. After a gallon or so of local rough cider it was back to base for a late drink in the camp ‘disco’, then off to my mate Billy’s room till a slightly nervous young security guard came around to tell us old fogeys to keep the noise down.

Then it was up the M5 and home, to be met by a rather tragic e-mail.