Operation INFEKTION (and the advent of fake news)

Disseminated by social media and platforms such as Google (as well as more traditional media outlets), disinformation (or black propaganda or ‘fake news’) has become a significant feature in the complex landscape of modern international politics in recent years. With the modernisation of media and mass communication, covert online techniques have been used to influence all kinds of democratic processes, including elections. But disinformation campaigns have been around for some time, well before the era of bots and trolls and algorithmically curated news feeds.

The rationale of disinformation is simple – it’s false information that is spread deliberately to deceive and sow discord among particular communities or sections of communities.

Jakob Segal

Back in the 1980s, before the paradigm shift of computer-related technology, Operation INFEKTION was a notorious disinformation campaign run by the KGB. Aimed at fostering anti-American feeling around the globe, the Russian secret service agency placed articles in newspapers suggesting that HIV had been created as a bioweapon in the US Army’s biological weapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland. The articles focused on the research of Jakob Segal, implicating the US government’s role in the AIDS crisis.

In some ways, you could say the story foreshadows the current debate surrounding the origin of COVID-19.

Click here for the full story.

Posted in Dark Mutterings, Opinion, Science Tagged , , , , ,

Captain Tom


Captain Tom

He raised thirty million for the NHS,
Walking round his garden in his Sunday best.
With a spring in his step and a song in the charts,
He lit up the lockdown
And won our hearts.

He found it amusing as he rose to fame,
Saw the funny side of being a household name,
Joked that there’d be changes at his funeral wake –
A few more sandwiches
And extra cake!

In interviews he told us things would turn out right;
The future would be rosy and the outlook bright.
‘We will get through it!’ he assured us all.
Even lots of youngsters
Thought he was cool.

As Tom reached one hundred in the public glare,
A flypast was held and he punched the air.
When lockdown ended, he was back on the screen –
Honoured with a knighthood,
He met the Queen.

He chose his own epitaph, or so we were told –
A witty remark: ‘I told you I was old!’
An emblem of hope, his legacy lives on.
We’ll keep you in our thoughts,
Captain Sir Tom.

Interested in reading some more?…

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Posted in Humour, Nonsense, Story Tagged , , , ,

Red Ribbon Winner

Wishing Shelf Awards Red Ribbon


“A wonderfully eclectic set of poetry written by a very talented poet. A RED RIBBON WINNER and highly recommended.” The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

If you were a clownfish, swimming languidly and contentedly amongst the anemones on a coral reef, you would assume that the charming ecosystem you inhabit is the entire universe. But suppose a diver with a net appears and lifts you out of the sea. You see creatures you’ve never seen before. You see boats and a coastline and the sky above. Suddenly it dawns on you that your world is just a small part of a much larger and weirder macrocosm than you could have ever imagined in your wildest dreams. And what if there is a universe in which clownfish are keen on tennis and frequently speak in rhyme? And what if this isn’t a hypothetical question?

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The Wishing Shelf Awards

Posted in Humour, Personal Tagged , , , ,



A deadly virus sweeps the world, forcing many into lockdown. The lives of ordinary people are changed forever. At times irreverent, at times absurd, at times sombre, but at all times Coronaverse is an honest (okay, harebrained) attempt to find some rhyme and rhythm in all the dizzying and disorientating manifestations of life in a pandemic.

Click here to purchase the paperback from Amazon UK
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Posted in Humour, Nonsense Tagged , , , , , , ,


At the end of 2020, StrikeUp Theatre was awarded an Arts Council England grant to grow the company and build new projects. We’re now proud to present this – a beautiful, heartwarming film entitled ‘Exchange’, created in collaboration with Reading Mencap and supported by Reading Culture Live.

StrikeUp Theatre
StrikeUp Theatre

Posted in Personal Tagged , , , , , ,

Granny Cradock Cooks For Christmas

This short video was produced during a StrikeUp Theatre comedy workshop for the over 70s using Zoom. The premise is as follows:

The BBC plans to devote a special night of programming to Christmas nostalgia, including a remake of ‘Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas’. Fanny herself is indisposed. The beleaguered Executive Committee decides to throw open the role of her replacement to the public by means of a series of auditions and screen tests. Unfortunately, only 5 contestants apply and the only audition to take place is therefore effectively the final. The 5 women are great fans of Fanny Cradock, but have no idea about auditions or producers or how to conduct themselves in that context. The big day of the live televised audition arrives…

StrikeUp Theatre
StrikeUp Theatre

Posted in Humour, Personal Tagged , , , ,

Dear Rishi

With the UK on course to borrow around £400bn in 2020 and with the cost of financing our burgeoning national debt threatening to make tax rises more likely, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, proposed a controversial cut in overseas aid.

Actually, the national debt has existed for centuries and is by and large sustainable. We should consider it as capital invested in the country and we should have a debate about how best to invest that capital. Investing some of it in other countries might bring benefits to the UK.

If it’s important to strive to be a better person and inspire other people to do likewise, why not apply that principle to nations too?

Dear Rishi, please put up the taxes
On those of us who can pay.
Please don’t renege on overseas aid –
Let’s keep starvation at bay.

And while you’re going about it,
Take an extra little bit,
So the NHS is provided
With adequate PPE kit.

If we consider nations as people,
I’d like us to be the best.
I’d like us to always do the right thing
Each time we’re put to the test.

Posted in Opinion Tagged , , , ,

In the Bleak Mid-lockdown

As Christmas 2020 approached, France shut its UK border amid fears of a new coronavirus variant, causing mayhem for supply chains across Europe. Nearly 4000 vehicles were held at a temporary lorry park at Manston Airport, while around 800 were stuck on the M20 into Dover. Downing Street believed the border blockade had been timed to put pressure on the UK Government in ongoing post-Brexit trade negotiations, which were floundering over fish.

In the bleak mid-lockdown
Lorry men made moan;
All supplies for Christmas
Into chaos thrown;
Queues got longer, hour by hour,
Hour by hour,
In the bleak mid-lockdown
Long ago.

A new strain of Covid
Just would not relent;
Sadly for the UK,
It started here in Kent.
All the EU members
Gave vent to their hate –
Brexit made them angry,
The trucks just had to wait.

So, what could we give him,
The French president?
The public purse was empty,
All our money spent;
If Boris were a Wise Man,
He could grant their wish,
Yet what could he give them?…
Give them fish!

(With apologies to Christina Rossetti)

Posted in Dark Mutterings, Humour Tagged , , , , , ,

Leadership and the Tipping Point

Donald Trump

Presented with the example of high-profile leaders (such as Donald Trump for example), how do we define good leadership qualities? What we see with Trump is conviction, perseverance and decisiveness. And, on the face of it, these are all admirable attributes for a good leader. But are they really? What if they tip over into stubborn bull-headedness and inflexibility? If someone refuses to acknowledge the possibility that they’re wrong, is that a good thing? Where exactly is that tipping point?

If you persist with an idea or an opinion, and you insist on making your point, even when you know that others have valid objections, you’re probably teetering on the edge. If you feel frustration and impatience, possibly even anger, when others try to persuade you of something you don’t agree with, you’re in serious danger of losing your balance. If you shut down debates and conversations without making any attempt to process other people’s opinions because you believe there is only one viable course of action, make no mistake – you’re spiralling out of control. And if you’re digging your heels in when you know that you’re wrong, that’s inexcusable… and, frankly, you deserve a bumpy landing.

Obviously, we don’t want leadership that is paralysed by equivocation and indecision, but good leaders should always welcome a challenge to their convictions and assumptions. They should be prepared to entertain other possibilities that weren’t initially in their purview. They should be persuadable. They should be capable of surrendering a dearly-cherished belief if the situation warrants.

In short, I firmly believe good leadership entails holding your ground in a stoic and no-nonsense way whilst remaining open to the possibility that there might be a better rationale out there….

But, um, obviously I might be wrong about that?!

Posted in Opinion Tagged ,


loo roll

When I get bored in lockdown,
And feel my patience ebb,
I gossip with a spider
I discovered on the web.

I try to do some yoga
(But cannot cross my legs),
Make castles out of loo rolls,
Draw faces on the eggs.

When people speak of furlough,
I wonder what they mean.
Is it something like probation?
Or a place near Cookham Dean?

I forget my mask in Tesco
And use a bag instead.
Twice this week I’ve passed out
Before I’ve reached the bread.

I watch TV and laze around,
And, if the truth be told,
Most of my ‘new normal’
Is rather like the old.

When the R number tumbles
And Covid goes away,
We’ll reflect how 2020
Led us all so much astray.

Posted in Humour, Nonsense Tagged , , , , , ,