The gangster at the Kremlin must go!

North Devon Gazette

Viewed from the somewhat discomfiting safety of Ilfracombe, it is all the more painful and distressing to witness the plight of Ukrainians as they battle in the streets against Putin’s aggression. Refugees continue to flee his cruel invasion and numbers promise to overwhelm neighbouring countries. The sickening, yet familiar scenario, is of pushchairs and prams caught in the crossfire of a paranoid despot’s immense military machine. The sheer strength of forces deployed typifies the cowardice of a man prepared to unleash terrifying brutality on civilians. He sees fit to wage a grim war of attrition against hairdressers, greengrocers, bartenders and shopkeepers. Â

Everyone is this psychopath’s enemy. Teachers, nurses, dentists and musicians, too, are in Vlad the Invader’s firing line. No toddler or elderly lady isn’t a worthy match for his trigger-happy artillery. This is a fast-moving crisis. My Gazette piece may be irrelevant by publication day. Here at the keyboard, I am wondering if there will even be a paper to write for at all should this abomination, borne out of psychotic ambition, escalate to unthinkable levels of violence. The N-word remains on the minds of European nations. Such a catastrophe would surely spell the end-game for humanity, for nuclear weapons are an assault on civilisation. Swaggering bully-boy Putin’s choice not to personally brandish a rifle alongside his brainwashed troops reveals his true colours. Â

Instead, this deadpan, unsmiling, ex-KGB bureaucrat, still obsessively mourning the USSR, cowers in his Kremlin lair. In contrast, President Zelensky’s street bravura has inspired millions worldwide as he defends his homeland against a barrage of hot metal. In the UK, the reassuring banality of everyday life is tinged with unease. Bins are emptied, grocery orders delivered, and mothers with young children pass by my home en route to school. What are they thinking? Â

I recall the Cuban missile crisis, on the evening of November 20th, 1962, when a deadly game of brinkmanship played out between American President John F. Kennedy and Soviet General Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev. Threatened was a global holocaust. My parents suppressed their anxiety, both fearing a nuclear war about to engulf Europe. Had Khrushchev not climbed down, the smouldering wasteland of an irradiated Britain would have ceased to sustain life. At my school’s morning assembly, headmaster Harold Shaw announced his profound relief that wiser counsel had prevailed. We were all alive. Â

Let us pray for a positive outcome to the Ukrainian incursion. Were Vladimir Putin to be arrested and removed from office by his generals, his ousting may herald the end for all the world’s malign dictators. Will any of his coterie turn on him? Once the biggest fish of all has been disposed of, emboldened peoples in a dozen other repressed countries may hasten the demise of their own tin-pot tyrants. If the Russian leader goes, North Koreans may lose their terror of Kim Jong-un, and topple their fat controller. Even China’s President Xi might be tempted to check his door-bolts were Putin to be Put-out. God works in mysterious ways.Â


The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended, and that means that once a month on a Sunday night, it’s time to get down to Fore Street and sing your heart out at a glorious Ilfracombe institution, one that’s about to celebrate its tenth year. Since 2012, the George and Dragon’s landlord, Jon Quinn, has hosted Beer and Hymns, during which pianist Jenni Coats leads locals and tourists alike as they belt out favourites such as the ever popular, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, (all our sins and grief to bear). Everyone is handed a song sheet and after vocal cords have been lubricated with a pint of ale or a gin and tonic, Jenni launches the evening going with a rousing hymn, perhaps ‘For All The Saints’, or ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. I’ve known holidaymakers who haven’t been inside a church since their christening sing Jerusalem with the full voiced enthusiasm of a Last Night Promenader at the Royal Albert Hall. Beer and Hymns starts at 8pm this Sunday.Â