Tuesday, April 30, 2013

'The General: The Ordinary Man Who Challenged Guantanamo' by Ahmed Errachidi

We have all heard about Guantanamo and our opinion about it tends to be affected by news coverage or if made, documentaries. There is no doubt in most peoples minds that the treatment of Guantanamo's inmates crossed the barriers of acceptable and that human rights were breached. Operated in the name of United States of America security, the soldiers due to spend a term there were taken to Ground Zero just before they left to reinforce their hatred for all things relating to what was under no question anything but a major tragedy and act of terrorism.

However, this is not what Ahmed Errachidi, the author of The General is here to challenge. Errachidi calmly and with a greatly philosophical approach to life, tells of how he came to be an inmate in Cuba's most infamous prison. That he landed up there after attempting to extend a humanitarian hand of assistance is one of life's black jokes. Whether his decision to travel to Afghanistan as a Moroccan Muslim was one of the best decisions of his life is a moot point now. He did it, things went wrong for him but he is here to tell his story.


Errachidi was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. His introduction to his life before his imprisonment and how he came to be in Guantanamo is important to his story because it helps the reader to understand the man who was willing to stand up for the rights of his fellow prisoners and who managed to survive where others did not. His description of the conditions that himself and his fellow inmates lived  in and the treatment by the American soldiers is sometimes hard to read. There are some passages that just make you seethe with anger, others that make you wince with the shared pain of the inmate undergoing some form of unthinkable torture.

Ahmed's freedom from the prison and the admittance of his innocence was won after the human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith and his charity Reprieve presented insurmountable evidence that teh charges against Ahmed were absurd.

Just today in the news there is a story of force-feeding 100 of the 166 detainees still in Guantanamo who have been on hunger strike since February. This is enough to tell any reader of Errachidi's story that it is not too late to add our voice to protesters who are still calling for the closure, promised by Obama in 2010, of the travesty of a prison called Guantanamo.

The General: The Ordinary Man Who Challenged Guantanamo by Ahmed Errachidi is published by Chatto and Windus www.rbooks.co.uk 

'Richard III' by David Baldwin

David Baldwin, a medieval historian and expert on Richard III has been in the news recently. It was back in 1986 that he wrote an article claiming that the remains of Richard III would be found in an area of a car park that was over part of the site of a medieval priory. Roll forward twenty-six years, when a team of University of Leicester archaeologists began an excavation of the area, where a body was found that appeared to exhibit features that tied it to those known about Richard. At a press conference in February 2013 the University confirmed that tests revealed this was indeed his body.

Since this announcement there has been more news on the subject. Last week it was announced that the dig was to be extended to reveal the church and also that a reconstruction using a computer of Richard's head is to go on tour.
Reconstructed face of Richard III

With all this current interest, there is no better time to read David Baldwin's book, Richard III, where he puts forward his knowledge of the King to reveal whether he was saint or sinner. The things we know about Richard seem to certainly put him in a bad light. Physically affected with a hunchback, and reputed to have been born after two years in the womb with teeth and hair, these are some of the claims that Baldwin highlights for consideration. A King who put the young Princes in the tower as he barged his way to the throne, and a King killed on Bosworth Field. But these easily remembered aspects of Richard are not the whole man, and Baldwin, with his thorough research and wide extent of knowledge brings together all the contemporary references to support what he can put forward as fact and highlights also those claims from historians that were writing on secondary knowledge.

The book is extensive, and is very much a history book-not a lighter read such as many popular historians write, but a solid and well referenced source book that will interest students of history as well as the pleasure reader. Written chronologically we read of his father and mother, his early years and his life experiences, his rise to power to reign for just twenty-six months and his subsequent death. Whether he was the cruel man he has gone down in history to be is considered carefully with reference to the credibility of the records of the day and those written after.  The first edition of Baldwin's book was written before the excavation of Richard's remains As a result this second edition now has an extra final chapter 'Epilogue' which covers the dates and details of the finding.

With generous colour plates to assist the reader with people and place, there are also black and white prints of medieval plates, tomb effigies and locations mentioned in the text. A University lecturer, there is no doubt about Baldwin's enthusiasm and knowledge of this fascinating character from English history, made all the more interesting and current from his recent findings and very much bringing Richard alive for the reader to discover for themselves.

Richard III by David Baldwin is published by Amberley www.amberley-books.com

Monday, April 29, 2013

25 Best Places to Holiday in Ireland

The Irish Times today published the longlist of the 25 Best Places to Holiday in Ireland as nominated by the public. They tell us that there were over 1400 entries from every county in Ireland. The longlisted places are;
-Caherdaniel & Derrynane, Co.Kerry            -Achill Island, Co.Mayo

-Inis Meain, Co.Galway                 -Inishbofin, Co.Galway

-Valentia Island                                -Beara Peninsula, Co.Cork

-Gougane Barra Lake, Co.Cork                     -Killarney, Co.Kerry

-Dingle, Co.Kerry                                    -Dunmore East, Co.Waterford

-Gweedore, Co.Donegal                               -Rosslare Strand, Co.Wexford

-Strandhill, Co.Sligo                                       -Cork City

-Dublin                                                       -Derry City

-Cushendall, Co.Antrim                                -Fermanagh Lakelands

-Shannon River                                        -Glen of Aherlow, Co.Tipperary

-Boyle, Co.Roscommon              -Ballyvaughan, Co.Clare

-Loop Head Peninsula, Co.Clare                   -Louisburgh, Co.Mayo

-Kinsale, Co.Cork

These locations are now going to be visited by researchers to produce a shortlist for May 20th and the winner to be announced on May 27th.