Category: Political

Oh Peachy

So, WordPress have decided to cut off the last remaining method I had found to be able to add posts using the classic editor, cumbersome for some perhaps but in a format in which I was familiar and could structure things how I wanted to. I have tried posting a blog on another site which in draft format looked how I wanted but when published completely different and I have no idea why. It is ironic having paid the years subscription that I should then be hamstrung by technical difficulties.

The hiatus up to this point was one of motivational uncertainty, any silence now however is far more to do with the blocks system just not being as intuitive as the classic system and being difficult to navigate at a time when content is difficult enough makes for a process that is far more frustrating than cathartic. The ‘Classic Block’ is not even a poor man’s solution I can’t see it being of any use to anyone. I may in time try to solve matters and perhaps even be able to figure it out but I can’t promise anything.

My hiatus meant that significant and generation changing matters such as Brexit in the UK and the election and defeat of Donald Trump in the US and it might reasonably be assumed I have an opinion on these matters!  I conflate the two things for good reason because I see them as coming from much the same area of ourselves and our societies.

The idea of debunking certain long-held tenets is not in itself a bad thing, in fact often quite the contrary, from such little acorns so the oak trees that can topple repressive regimes might grow.  The difficulty here is that for me to point out where the problem comes is in itself marking out a perhaps slightly patrician way of looking at the world and people in it.  The reason being that I see the movements that have led to both Trump and Brexit as being manipulation of the disenfranchised for the good of an already elite few rather than for the amelioration of the people actually being mobilised on the streets around these ideals.  I’m not saying that Brexit and Trump did not garner huge swathes of popular support, they undoubtedly have done, in a way almost unprecedented in modern times because in both case they have almost split the population of a significant Western country in binary opposition to one another. I would also not want to make out that I do not think the people in their anger and frustration do not have many reasons for feeling so, had they not they would have been impossible to galvanise into such a force.  The working classes of both Britain and the US have been left behind for so long that the gap widening between richer and poorer is entrenched in the system from top to bottom.  What worries me is that they should listen to people who have so obviously benefitted from the system as it stands as being the ones who will lead them from its darkness.

Whilst I am not one for national politics and consider myself both Irish and European I was not intrinsically against Britain leaving the European Union as part of a move to decentralise power and move it to a more local basis, that as a principle is something I can see might have merit, I would have been very interested to discuss certain aspects of how it would mechanically work but I would not be opposed to exploring the principle.  The Left in fact have long since had a fairly antagonistic relationship with the EU as an organ.  I was however considerably more opposed to the Brexit voted for in 2016 because this was so clearly not about a localisation of power but a recentralisation in a different centre that was itself less accountable, namely the British Establishment.  The protagonists claiming to want sovereignty back soon revealed their true colours when the national legal sovereignty flexed its muscles as the Supreme Court ruled certain actions, such as the prorogation of Parliament to have been unlawful, at this point the vitriol was so severe that the judges were in fact branded traitors by the Murdoch media.  These commentators and politicians clearly did not want the British people to have greater power they wanted themselves and their cronies to have greater power over the British people and the ability to make unfettered profits at their expense.  Murdoch himself coined it when he said that ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.’ (He has since denied it and claimed he has never asked a Prime Minister to do anything but his denial came later and at a specific time he was looking for approval from politicians on a Sky News takeover so one could be forgiven for cynicism here).  To me Murdoch’s opposition to the EU was one of the great feathers in its cap but his papers and that of the Daily Mail’s campaigning over 40 years to influence the British public is one of the most disgraceful pieces of sustained misinformation of the modern era such was its breath, lack of substance and its mendaciousness. 

I understand to a degree why Americans en masse voted for Trump, there was precedent here long before Brexit, Boris Johnson indeed garnered many non-traditional supporters when he stood for mayor of London, people buying into the bumbling buffoon act he so often puts on much in the same way people have bought into Trump’s facade of successful businessman.  Both are fallacious, Johnson uses this persona in order to not seem like just another conniving privileged Tory bastard whilst Trump who inherited more money than most of us could hope to earn in several lifetimes has lost more than he has made and therefore is a net failure which is certainly not the success story he would have you believe.  This might have certain people casting their minds back over history for other such ‘failed’ figures that have held sway, the failed Austrian painter etc. etc. there will be parallels with many a dictator leader of course but I think the similarities between Trump and Johnson stretch to a great deal more than just curious conglomerations of blonde mop because they are very much 21st Century demagogues.

When you have an ill-educated and ill-informed electorate single-issue politics is very persuasive and this is not a 21st century phenomenon.  Give people binary instruction and tagline that are easy to understand without suggesting anything as to the mechanics of the process.  ‘Get Brexit Done‘ and ‘Make America Great Again‘ are prime examples of this just as the ‘stab in the back‘ theory (Dolchstoßlegende) was used in Weimar Germany to galvanise the German people into suspicion of the Establishment and the belief that politicians had betrayed the German army in WWI.  There is no actual substance to any of these proposals and that is crucial, it makes it consequently difficult to know by what indicator you would be measuring the success (or failure) of the endeavours. Whilst the Brexit slogan may seem to have a defined end point it is not clear what form of Brexit is to be ‘done’ by it and whether it would be the ‘no deal’ Brexit favoured only by the most cavalier, not to mention explicitly voted against by Parliament – the very body sovereignty is supposed to be coming back to following withdrawal from the EU.  Make America Great Again is yet more wooly, it doesn’t even have the idea of what greatness would or did look like nor whether anyone would have an idea when it had been achieved.  It is in fact rather like a ‘War on Terror‘ where no one truly knows when that noun can be seen to have been defeated!

There is a reason I have lumped the Brexit slogan in with Trump’s and that is because despite Brexit having in some way the framework for conclusion in terms of the conditions of Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome it is not that which was the reason for using it. Rather it was the vacuousness of the slogan itself and this I feel is best evidenced by the fact that Johnson attempted to use the phrase again when it came to the pandemic, though he quickly dropped it when it became clear that to link himself to something this nebulous which was potentially never going to go away was folly. Indeed his strategy was so much of a one-trick pony that it was soon followed to the waste bin of history by the very Chief Strategist Dominic Cummins – ‘Getting COVID Done’ requires a very different approach because you’ve not got the ire of the masses and the invective of the Daily Mail to fail back on. The people are looking for leadership, protection of their loved ones, reassurances for health and economic reasons, the enemy is unseen and cannot be vilified in a way that guarantees blind obedience.  The UK government has been typified throughout by it’s failure to decisively act and rather reaction to circumstances and this I would assert explains why the proportionate death rate due to Covid-19 in the UK is one of the highest in the world.

Trump’s reaction to Covid has been even worse than Johnson’s, he looked utterly out of his depth and that’s because he was.  Boris Johnson had several other cronies around him all flustering and floundering whilst Trump had the now infamous arse-clenching, legs-closing incident of one of his chief medical advisors in response to one of his more outlandish claims.  I don’t wish to make out that I presume politicians should have an immediate handle on a global pandemic, there is no shame in being all at sea, especially in the early days, we are all stumbling rather in the dark throughout our daily lives but the difference is in such circumstances you are best coming clean and leaving it to the clinical experts.  Trump instead employed a strategy of inventing or parroting spurious and at times dangerous claims about light and disinfectant amongst others in an attempt to somehow get himself back into the news agenda as the big shot again.  The principle difference between Trump and Johnson on this is that Johnson is the secondary school prefect caught with his trousers down in the boy’s dorm and whilst he won’t admit it has a degree of guilt written across his face and a knowledge that he hasn’t done very well whilst Trump hasn’t yet made it past primary level and looks as if he has been told that he can’t play in the sandpit today, what’s written on his face suggests utter ambivalence at the fact that he was the one responsible for the deposited faeces that rendered the sandpit off limits!

The analysis and studying matters because to quote a wise man ‘those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it‘ and in both Trump and Johnson what is clear is that our capacity to learn doesn’t seem to last very long before the very same things that worked to hoodwink people before are used successfully again – ‘fool me once, shame on… shame on you, fool me…….., can’t get fooled again‘ as a far less wise man once said in Tennessee! 

Song Of The Day ~ Biig Piig – Sunny

The Power Of One

For all my writings to be distilled to one entry I think would be a shame, but perhaps that’s sheer self-indulgence, to be remembered for or characterised by anything you have done (if benign) is a blessing.  I would like to hope that I have said something of value to more than one person across the years and well over 500 posts that I have published in the years I have been writing. Granted 500 now doesn’t seem that much these days given the 6 year hiatus recently and there were times in the old days when I could rattle off 50 posts in a couple of months but nevertheless, we are where we are.  In the early days I think there were more people using this form of expression but as the medium evolved so some have gone to Instagram I imagine, others wrapped up in Facebook and many have probably gone altogether.  Of all of the entries I have made there is one that has certainly received the widest attention which is the very angry review I wrote of the Snowden Mountain Railway in North Wales some 11 years ago following a visit with my children.  The experience had not been a good one and that sort of thing might have made me inclined to write something but what tipped the balance had been the friendly and genuine experience literally just across the road which juxtaposed itself so well.  

My first port of call had been sending something to the railway companies, a complaint to the SNR and a thank you to the Padarn Lake Railway, I received responses from both that were so in keeping with the initial treatment that they fed easily into the subsequent narrative given the contrast between the blasé indifference of the SNR and the genuine heartfelt response of the lake railway.

For quite some time on the first page of any google search for the SNR my post would appear resplendent and I found that pleasing, not only because it was mine but that people could easily get an alternative and independent view to the bog standard tourism side of things, partisan I’ll admit but independent nevertheless.  I was also pleased to be able to do a little in publicising the other little railway on which myself and my children had been treated with such warmth and kindness.

Those heady headline days are sadly gone, it is 10 years old after all and my review languishes now on page 5 with most of the preceding pages taken up by mostly standard corporate crap, my review is still more popular than this 2018 one written by someone who was given free tickets on the railway for the purpose of reviewing it which gives me a wry smile.  I should say that I make no judgement here as to the nature of the reviews, the person got a nice day and good views, who wouldn’t enjoy it when they’ve not even paid for the tickets, the price of which was one of my major contentions.

Much of the information in my post is now out of date and because it is a review of our trip at the time I do not see the need to update it, some of the commentators have done so in the information they have given and that is useful to determine how things might have changed over the years, which it appears they have and perhaps for the better.  The labelling and pricing of things does seem a little more transparent than it did when we travelled and that is certainly a good thing and was very much lacking on our trip.  I did write a follow up post in order to update things in 2015 but I think more in the hope to garner enough interest and interaction to get me back to writing than anything else.

[I discovered a mildly interesting thing though whilst browsing around in the preparation for this one.  If you type in Snowden Mountain Railway or even just Snowden in the search field for my blog the follow up post appears in the search results despite the title of the railway not being in the title of the entry whilst the original post, which does feature the railway title, does not appear in search results.  Strange or just me?  It’s not the tagging because if you click the Snowden Mountain Railway tag both entries come up right away.  I’d love to think that I bothered the railway enough for them to take proactive steps to have my post stopped but in reality I am long in the tooth enough to know that my importance is less likely to be the case than that of a simple coding issue! Hey ho!]

What the whole SNR review affair shows me is that what may seem the least significant may get the most coverage and that is often beyond my control. The review was written as a method of me having a rant, I did not go to any lengths to proliferate its coverage, at least not that I recall.  More simply but gratifyingly it demonstrates the power of someone writing a review in their own words for other people to read as they wish.  It was not my sole intention to cause the railway embarrassment, it was part of it because I felt that the enterprise was cashing in on parents wanting to do something nice for their children just as I did and the prospect of other children also being disappointed made me feel I needed to do something, I felt a counter narrative would allow people a better method of making up their own mind before such a hefty outlay and that if they did not have deep pockets they had an option across the road where they would be welcome.

I have always tried to write reviews and to do so fairly, if something is especially good I am just as likely to leave a review as if something is bad.  I like good service, I like quality and value for money and I like those little touches that make you feel that someone appreciates you being part of their customer base and that you are a person of value in your own right, one of the main reasons for that is that I think it is possible for anyone to do.  Civility, being personable and caring about others does not need to cost anything it just needs to be something that matters to you.  Those touches deserve to be acknowledged and rewarded and I try to do my bit to publicise them and I hope that allows those who have made the effort for me to feel that they have been appreciated.

Covid-19 Lockdown has shown me the power of supporting local businesses, from still getting meat from the butchers to ordering the occasional takeaway pizza from my former local pub.  I know these people, I know how their livelihood hangs in the balance and I want them to do well so that when all of this madness is over they will be able to continue to support the communities in which they are embedded and about which they have every reason to care.  We will have lost so many facilities over this period, much of the high streets and communities will have lost shops and services from large and small providers.  All come at a human cost make no mistake, I may shed more of a tear over an independent cafe going under than I do a branch of a chain closing its doors but I appreciate that for those working inside it is of little significance if they have lost their job from a big company or a small one when they cannot subsequently pay their own rent or put food on the table.

I feel at a time like this it is increasingly important for people to share their experiences, we are doing more online shopping for goods and services and have perhaps a little more time and capacity to review, in the case of local producers and traders it can go a long way to help them against the shortfall in advertising capacity that they may have.  Many businesses have thankfully still got the internet and will trade this way but if lockdown has taught us anything it is that whilst it can be useful to order something online when there are no other options a world where it is the only option is surely not one we would choose.  I cannot tell Amazon or a large supermarket what type of sausages or cut of meat I would like them to stock for me in a weeks time as I can with a butcher, I do not get little handwritten notes and extra sauce from dominos if I order pizza because the person has recognised my name like I have from my favourite publican. I’m not saying there aren’t chain shops where you can chat to those working there and build rapport because of course you can and much of that may depend on the staff and whether they themselves are local however their ability to influence wider policy decisions is diminished and their buy-in consequently might reasonably be expected to be less.

I have learnt far more about the companies from whom I order over the last year and been more specific then in tailoring those orders to the ones that I feel pass muster. I get handwritten notes from craft beer producers thanking me for ordering from them and this establishes a relationship with these people that is beyond the corporate and mundane and strikes to the personal.  Likewise I have ordered from them because being on their mailing list I have heard what they have been doing to safeguard their staff etc. and I feel businesses with the view that staff are their most precious resource and deserve to be protected should be supported over the ones who are profligate in their provision.  A brewery that made political points about the Black Lives Matter campaign and received much criticism about it got at least an order from me on the back of my appreciation that they were prepared to speak out against injustice and were looking to support local causes in the enfranchisement of BME members of the community. I told them exactly why I was placing the order and I was glad they told me they were heartened by the support shown by me and others like me.

The localisation of services has so much of a wider beneficial effect, it forms and maintains direct communities it also goes some way to preventing bigotry if you know real people, it is far easier to be radicalised around concepts than it is to hate an actual human being that you have come to know.  Additionally in your locality you matter so much more, your interaction, the pound in your pocket, your voice, your smile, your frown is of far greater significance.  Look at the moves of Craftivism for example and how they have by little pieces of craft sought to bring messages to people, if you did this on a national scale you would lose the feeling and passion behind each example.  Perhaps right now we all need to feel a little more than usual that we matter and our local community is probably crying out for the opportunity to show us that we do.

Song Of The Day ~ Mark Lanegan Band – Ode To Sad Disco

Given that we know any genuine chance of keeping any of the sorts of lofty, well-intentioned and/or healthy resolutions many make at this time of year lies with our own willpower it is perhaps testament to the likelihood of success that we have waited until an arbitrary point in time synonymous with group failure to choose to enact them. That said undoubtedly some will make it through, it does after all take two weeks for a habit to form, so they say, therefore the actual chances of success if the initial short-term obstacles are overcome rises exponentially. It interests me that at a point in time over the festive period that most people look to enjoy themselves, sometimes too much, the new year is beset with recrimination and efforts to make ourselves the person we feel we ought really to be. This lends itself all to easily to manipulation by forces around us, look no further than the issue of image and weight in particular. As someone who has suffered from weight problems since childhood I see this quite acutely, I am however only a man, the pressure brought to bear on me comes more from within and from the occasional friend or relative who may see me struggle from time to time. Where I have overcome some vices in the past this is the one that seems the most entrenched and tied to my psyche and therefore juxtaposed is the fact that it is the one that would make the biggest difference to my confidence if conquered.

I hear much about restraint, how people’s weight is to do with their own choices and this is undeniably true but a person’s choice hinges generally on their state of mind at that time, positive state of mind like as not healthy choices, negative state of mind and the minefield is laid out in front of you. Christmas therefore can be a time when presented with many choices but also with commensurate emotional baggage such to influence our state of mind and often even whole frame of reference given the likely involvement of family or sometimes the marked absence thereof.

Not everything we do to make us feel better is a vice, the key is whether if told at some point that it is bad for you that you be able to stop with immediate effect and not notice the lack of it. If there is a sense of longing or a sense that we would still have a desire or need in spite of the knowledge that it is not good for us then this is no longer an entirely benign influence. How malign it might be would depend on the balance of need over the likely damage caused by continuing. For some it is eating, for some the very opposite; for others it is substances of any description, from the socially more ‘acceptable’ drugs such as alcohol and tobacco to the more illicit narcotics. In all of these cases there are support groups across the land looking to help those who fall foul of the effects. However the root cause is seldom looked at properly and consequently other people suffering the same issues but with less tangibly identifiable effects may fall through the net. There are those who form relationships which are not good for them for a variety of reasons, there are those who hurt themselves physically and mentally and this can often only be seen should the scars show. What binds all of the people in all of the strands is that in all cases to varying degrees what is happening is self-harm.

The term self-harm often conjures up images of people inflicting specific physical damage on themselves, this is perhaps the most immediately alarming of the evidences and the one to which most people would feel themselves remote against, but if we look at it pragmatically we all know people who behave in a way that is clearly going to cause them harm and that this behaviour can be seen to be so by all parties in advance. The person that drinks/smokes/eats a little too much, a little too often. The person who stays too long in an abusive relationship/job they hate or simply tolerates behaviour from others towards them that could be seen as damaging. We may need to look no further than the mirror for that. Equally likely is that we may be part of the problem, putting expectations on people about things with which they are clearly struggling, we can be as much a part of that spiralling by caring enough to want someone to stop what it is they are doing when it is clearly harmful but not taking the time, for whatever reason, to understand why they might be. There may be a variety of reasons and it may be that the prospect of stopping and the reality that is left is far more terrifying than the consequences of the harm.

I remember a flippant example from my past when I was especially overweight. I had suffered from heartburn for many years, burning reflux at night that would wake me up in pain and never just recede. I could never fathom exactly why it was but what I did get to the bottom of was the fact that a glass of milk would assist. The greater the heartburn the more milk I needed to get it to go away, I tried plenty of heartburn remedies and these might assist briefly but rarely for more than the specific attack and usually not even for that, milk seemed the solution which had a degree of keeping it under control and tasting a great deal better not to mention being a lot cheaper. The only problem was I have a lactose intolerance that causes rhinitis if I drink milk, but in a toss up between gastric burn and blocked sinuses it was without question the milk which won out, by the pint. The consequences were sufficiently low level as to be outweighed by the need to assuage the more immediate pain and by and large I was reconciled to that dynamic. Whilst this is a flippant example there are elements here that map themselves to others quite easily, not least was the fact that when I was drinking milk I was in fact assisting myself to remain in the cycle for it was directly linked to my weight that I suffered the heartburn in the process therefore perpetuating a vicious circle. The principle point that I wished to make though was that the alleviation of immediate and acute pain will almost always win out over the potential prospect of problems later and that therefore to want to help a person in such a situation one must first understand the multidimensional reasons they are who the are and how many people have really the time or the inclination to do that?

Herein is the real problem, the lack of society, the lack of close-knit family, the lack of joined up services coupled with the pervasive ideology of self-aggrandisement, self-fulfilment and self-reliance has led us to where we are now. To me if you judge success and failure on anything other than the overall health and happiness of people then you are utterly missing the point. A country with a strong economy underpinned by slave labour is not a success, that is not to argue that a strong economy may not act as a vehicle for success if used properly but if that use is to grant tax breaks to the wealthy whilst mental-health funding is woefully inadequate then this is a time-bomb waiting to go off. What covid-19 has done is shine a light on where we are, who we are and for many people what is really important, the lack of proper structures of people around us has shown how interdependent we are. If that is something only now occurring to those who have hitherto felt themselves to be doing ok spare a thought for those who knew they were not and think about where this leaves them now.

Whilst I hesitate to speculate on what will happen with mental health from here and whilst I acknowledge the positive steps that have been taken bringing this one of the last great societal taboos more into the open I cannot help but fear that an already stretched health service with funding pared back to the very bone that has been struggling for some time to meet the needs of the declared mental health problems currently is going to be overwhelmed. In that circumstance where the bean counters may look at what can be done, the quick processing of people with milder forms of mental health issues in order to show some ‘results’ is a much easier path to take than to acknowledge that mental health is a lifetime condition and roadblocks along the way are part and parcel and require a lifetime’s attention. The prognosis therefore for those with deeper seated and more longer term mental health conditions who may not even have made it as far as the outside world let alone the workplace may not be a good one in the short or medium term. The onus therefore is on those of us in the middle tier who straddle both those environments to try to make our voice heard, not to do so may have fundamental implications for a long time to come.

Song Of The Day ~ Star Feminine Band – La Musique

Insert Suitable Title Here

It’s not as if there hasn’t been enough going on over the last while is it? I was hardly profligate in the 2010s but to have stopped when I did could, were you minded to give me more credence than I am due, have given the impression that I was portent to the things to come and the nature of the bile it would instil. Surely, you might counter that would mean all the more reason to be writing furiously, in both senses, in order to be one of the voices from the darkness. You would be right. I should have been that voice, I should have made my cry heard above the din and given a sense of what I felt was right. I wish I could have done but the words on the few occasions they came to mind were so fleeting and so swiftly gone as if a flock of geese in symmetrical formation merely flying overhead en route to a better mind than mine.

The fact is that it was not for lack of items of bilious nature that I did not write, nor did I ever stop caring but the ability to express it diminished in tandem with a period of time where there has been much emotional dissociation, to which I am yet to find a proper solution. Therefore if there is something so profound and so pervasive stopping one from writing and yet to not write makes it worse then perhaps one can only start by writing about the darkness itself and see if that scrabbling in time yields a chink of light. The alternative is that it all collapses on top of me and I might glibly muse that this may not be such a bad thing if the alternative is being in a metaphorical mineshaft.

I am not specifically sure when it all took place, there are things that suggest it was gradual and others that give rise to speculate as to there being a point perhaps somewhere, I can find no rational reason nor particular time. Without question the darkness that I was accustomed to changed exponentially and became something that did not seem to be preceded by a period of good and dissipate within some days as it had before but rather an all-encompassing malaise, the very antithesis of peaks and troughs such as to render all sense of creativity moot whether to express dark or light. This has in no small part robbed me of a sense of being, it has changed how I come across I am sure and made me probably

There will be many tales of 2020, I am sure of that, so many stories to tell, a great many of them will come from the overcoming of adversity, or the spirit of togetherness getting through and I very much envy those who have lived through this experience. I hope it has given them succour for what has been for so many a year like none that has been experienced before or hopefully to be experienced again. There will be no panacea for me this year that is fairly certain, indeed I have long since given up the sense that such panaceas even exist which may be no bad thing because the dashing of hope grows no easier with age. My tale of 2020 has not been all dark, there have been times where the coasting through things has been in comparison to the anguish felt by some to have given me a comparatively easy run of it. However to be devoid of feeling does not insulate you from pain, you still see it and feel it vicariously, you still bewail not having the drive to escape hurt or to right wrongs nor the gut instincts of avoiding future calamity.

It does feel self-indulgent to be looking introspectively during such a year when so many have lost their lives or been subjected to life-changing situations that will define many years to come. I remain housed and clothed, I am still broadly-speaking free from serious disease including Covid-19 as are my family and indeed there is much that I could draw up a list with in order to show my melancholic self just how irrational and ungrateful it is being. Rationality for so long a staple method of transitioning crisis and one by which I have always sought to help others by providing that detached without being dispassionate view of things has abandoned me in my own hour of need and the logical things from which to draw comfort in fact sit merely to taunt as I examine my thoughts.

Which came first the introspection or the dissatisfaction? This is one of those musing questions that I could explore for days, and frequently do, but there is in reality no answer. Is the fact that I am unhappy with my life purely down to me being unhappy with myself or is there more to it? It doesn’t matter in truth, there will be no finding of happiness externally until there is some comfort internally and that remains as elusive a spirit as it ever was. There have been times when I have begun to see in the mirror something I could reconcile myself to easier but that is not in the here and now.

Whilst there is in no small part a degree of self-absorption in my writing such a post there is also partially a sense that if I am not alone and there is someone who can see from this that they are not alone either perhaps a quiet movement, a small ripple on a very deep pond is at least enough to justify being alive now where more outlandish emotional movement is a distant memory or a faintest hope. I believe I am not alone, indeed I have seen evidence of this in part amongst those who have striven to share their experiences and I feel that for us to deny ourselves this acknowledgement that we are not ok would be the equivalent of denying anyone the right to cry. I have myself enough within that denies me that ability that I would not see anyone else given that treatment from without.

There needs to be more, much much more. I need to find the method to exorcise what should have been penned in some ways and to hope that perhaps a bottle jam effect may then clear the pathways to new lines of expression and thought. It isn’t so much the writing that’s a problem, nor is it the thoughts, it is somewhere in between and the linking thereof. If I can find the method to reestablish that process it may make things more fluid but as yet there is no sense of what might have been lost. Answers on a postcard please.

Song Of The Day ~ Charlotte Gainsbourg – Such A Remarkable Day


It has been a long journey back to here, whilst I have in many respects gone nowhere, physically, metaphorically and the rest. In my absence the weeds have grown up around the paths, the cobwebs are everywhere and there may even be the odd pane of glass broken. It does not feel at the moment like a wild pastured wasteland has grown in my stead more so the water has stagnated and the air is damp and musty. The place has an air of distress and neglect and mirrors very much the state of internal cognisance from which any colour in it had ever come. It is time to dust off, to get back to doing something which over many years brought much pleasure, some pain, the occasional friend, even the occasional enemy but most of all and most importantly was an expression, whether musing, crying or pontificating showed that there was life.

It is time to regain what was here, or at least to try. Like as not I will choose different decoration and style, maybe no longer feel comfortable and wish to move on, maybe the job of work that is at hand will be one that is too much for me to take on. There is much to be done to make the place feel right again, to make it reflect who I am rather than provide a snapshot of whom I was, it is a decision I will need to take because to leave things as they were has also a symmetry albeit one that is more in memoriam than ad infinitum. I am of course not the only one who went, my ability remained always that I had the option of returning, there were some who were not so lucky and there will need to be time to mourn them, some I know of, some I shall probably discover in time. It will be a sobering and perhaps difficult process and it has been a while since I have carried burdens well for reasons I may or may not ever get around to explaining.

We shall see. At least as things stand right now I can say – I am back.

Song Of The Day ~ Mistral – The Wanderer


Now is not the time for political polemic, tempting though it might have been to look at who has caused the crises across the world, in particular in Syria. It is a tragedy that it should have taken an image of a three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on the Turkish coast to shock the world into caring for the plight of the displaced, distressed and disenfranchised. People aware of the image do not even mention or perhaps know of the fact that he was washed up on the shore along with his five-year-old brother and his mother. Where was the same shock when 71 decomposing bodies were found in a truck near Nickelsdorf last month?

No, now must be the time for action, to look at what can be done to avert this catastrophe before it worsens resulting in a flood of drowned children on beaches around the Mediterranean and beyond. And yet here I sit on an island which is only populated at all because people crossed the sea to get here and what I see is ambivalence, distain and reasons being given as to why this is not our problem.

Today I was at the first “Refugees Welcome” demonstration in England, I am proud of my city for standing up to be counted, similar meetings, demonstrations and marches have already begun in Europe and tangible action has begun there whilst the British politicians prevaricate until they are shamed into action. David Cameron said Britain was full, he did so in front of an empty field. Whilst in Germany Chancellor Merkel has already pledged that Germany will take an unprecedented number of refugees and will taken Syrians from wherever they have entered the EU. I have seen videos of refugees being cheered and clapped on the streets of Germany, little children being given gifts and hugs and a general outpouring of warmth. I am proud of Germany where I once lived and experienced racism myself, yet now it takes the football fans of German clubs and the clubs themselves to show us the example. Bravo Bayern München Refugee Plans und Borussia Dortmund.


…and Germany is not well-known for its financial profligacy!

Someone articulated the counter argument to the right-wing posturing which will inevitably pervade. It is not about whether we can afford this or that, it is about leadership, it is about saying what it happening is morally wrong and we must find a way to sort this out. When I think how much money we are paying the politicians it seems only fair that indeed they do now need to earn it. If we are saying we are full whilst we have empty houses, empty bedrooms, food being thrown in the bin, blankets in the attic etc. then what we are actually saying is we cannot be bothered or we do not care. If our goal is to find a way then we will not focus on the obstacles we will focus on the endgame and how best we get there, we will solve the problem because it must be solved and impediments will be overcome if there is the will to do it. These refugees are humans, they are fleeing death or a life quite unimaginable to us cosseted in our comfy beds with duck down pillows. These people would be grateful for tents in a park and a 5 year old tin can of baked beans to eat in comparison with their current lot. Are we so heartless as to think we cannot help? And if we do not look to find a way then we merely fuel the business of the people smugglers, already extorting the sort of money from refugees that would pay a months rent for a very comfortable flat in the West just to give passage to Budapest.

These people are not lazy, they are not looking for a free ride, you do not uproot your whole family and leave your home and your possessions behind save for what you can carry unless the circumstances are extreme. Many of us have come to other countries seeking a better life, we have been allowed to live and work, to get education and training. This has enabled us to build a comfortable life with food, entertainment, transport, property and the like, more than we need for basic survival. Yet here we have people for whom basic survival would be a step up the ladder and we can offer our hands.

If you are not touched and cut to the very core by the images you are seeing in the news I question whether you are truly human. Personally I find it hard not to be ashamed that people might even feel they would be abandoned to their fate by people who have so much more than they need. Then I see the fences and the border controls and I know I have every reason to be ashamed.

I heard a speaker say they had been in Calais last month and that they had spoken to refugees camped there who wanted to come to England. The speaker asked the refugees if they could talk to the British people what would they like to say. She said that the most common response was “Mercy.” I struggle to hold back the tears even now.

Song Of The Day ~ Fréro Delavega – Le Chant Des Sirènes

They Still Haven’t Found What I’m Eligible For (to the tune of U2′ I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For)

I have climbed the highest staircase
I have jumped through the hoops
only to feed myself
only to feed myself
I’ve had to stand, had to crawl
I have filled in all the forms
all the forms
only to feed myself

But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for
But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for

I have kissed workplace arses
felt the loathing in the furtive glances
it burned like ire
with me deep in the mire
I’ve not heard any tongues of angels
but I have held my hand out to devils
it was cold in the night
I was kicked like a dog

But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for
But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for

I don’t believe the day will come
when right-wing bastards would bleed into one
bleed into one
But yes I’m still dreaming
You bought your bonds
Your private planes
You profited handsomely
and caused my shame
oh my shame
You know I can prove it

But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for
But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for

But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for
But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for

Song Of The Day ~ U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Craig Murray was a diplomat and worked in a number of embassies, he has over the years published books and articles expounding some of the less savoury things that have gone on in parts of the world where news appears not to filter through to the mainstream.

I have, with his permission, agreed to circulate this, along with many others, so that the numerous attempts to hack his site which have taken place over the last 3 days do not smother what he is saying.  In fact they should be seen only as confirming this is something that is part of the British government’s policy in order to railroad through the “Snooper’s Charter” giving backdoor access to pretty much everything.  

This is not a hoax, this is not about national security as it affects the general public this is about control and who exercises it and how much they wish to do so.  Orwell couldn’t have drafted it all better himself.  But this is not fiction and that should chill anyone interested in liberty and justice.

Five Reasons the MI6 Story is a Lie

by craig on June 14, 2015 10:06 am

The Sunday Times has a story claiming that Snowden’s revelations have caused danger to MI6 and disrupted their operations. Here are five reasons it is a lie.

1) The alleged Downing Street source is quoted directly in italics. Yet the schoolboy mistake is made of confusing officers and agents. MI6 is staffed by officers. Their informants are agents. In real life, James Bond would not be a secret agent. He would be an MI6 officer. Those whose knowledge comes from fiction frequently confuse the two. Nobody really working with the intelligence services would do so, as the Sunday Times source does. The story is a lie.

2) The argument that MI6 officers are at danger of being killed by the Russians or Chinese is a nonsense. No MI6 officer has been killed by the Russians or Chinese for 50 years. The worst that could happen is they would be sent home. Agents’ – generally local people, as opposed to MI6 officers – identities would not be revealed in the Snowden documents. Rule No.1 in both the CIA and MI6 is that agents’ identities are never, ever written down, neither their names nor a description that would allow them to be identified. I once got very, very severely carpeted for adding an agents’ name to my copy of an intelligence report in handwriting, suggesting he was a useless gossip and MI6 should not be wasting their money on bribing him. And that was in post communist Poland, not a high risk situation.

3) MI6 officers work under diplomatic cover 99% of the time. Their alias is as members of the British Embassy, or other diplomatic status mission. A portion are declared to the host country. The truth is that Embassies of different powers very quickly identify who are the spies in other missions. MI6 have huge dossiers on the members of the Russian security services – I have seen and handled them. The Russians have the same. In past mass expulsions, the British government has expelled 20 or 30 spies from the Russian Embassy in London. The Russians retaliated by expelling the same number of British diplomats from Moscow, all of whom were not spies! As a third of our “diplomats” in Russia are spies, this was not coincidence. This was deliberate to send the message that they knew precisely who the spies were, and they did not fear them.

4) This anti Snowden non-story – even the Sunday Times admits there is no evidence anybody has been harmed – is timed precisely to coincide with the government’s new Snooper’s Charter act, enabling the security services to access all our internet activity. Remember that GCHQ already has an archive of 800,000 perfectly innocent British people engaged in sex chats online.

5) The paper publishing the story is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It is sourced to the people who brought you the dossier on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, every single “fact” in which proved to be a fabrication. Why would you believe the liars now?

There you have five reasons the story is a lie.

I was minded to write this following a couple of statements made not so very long ago by senior politicians from the Labour Party in the UK.  I should explain to those outside the UK who do occasionally stop by, that the Labour Party is the one that would at least until the 1990s have been as the party on the left.  It remains to the left of the current Conservative party but it is now a very active proponent of neo-liberal economics rather than anything even remotely Keynesian.  This shift started some time ago and a move toward a more social democratic position as distinct from Socialism was clear from the 1980s but the death of Labour leader John Smith in 1994 allowed the Bilderberg-fuelled neo-liberals to transform the party into something the founders would have felt was an anathema to all the original ideals for which it stood, more akin in fact to the one it was formed to stand against.  A party designed to protect privilege a little less unfairly than its competitor, a party more inclined to throw some crumbs from the table rather than eat the whole meal in front of the impoverished.  It is almost the more contemptible for that.  Almost.

The shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls (no that is actually his name!) is in what one might to an extent think a strong position.  The current incumbent in government is a detached, self-righteous arse and wedded to the austerity agenda wholeheartedly, of course he would be these are all measures that will not affect him just as they will not affect the vast majority of the politicians who are telling us how important these things our for our own prosperity.  And yet the majority of people have never seen the sort of prosperity it is claimed is being protected on their behalf.  What these people see is their pensions being eroded, health service in disarray, house prices going to a level that is beyond even the dreams of the common person let alone the actual reach thereof.  Fuel and overall energy prices rise, petrol prices may have stabilised but that is an inevitable short-term thing and yet people are being talked to as if children again akin to being told that one has to eat one’s greens because think of the starving folk in Africa.  The politicians on the other hand have very often some serious prosperity and can claim lots of expenses from the taxpayer in order to help them enjoy it.  They say it’s hard to live on £67,000 something a great many millions in this country I suspect would like the chance to check on to ensure they agree.

Well Ed Balls has no plans to deviate on the austerity agenda, no what the compassionate man has said is ““Without fiscal discipline and a credible commitment to eliminate the deficit, we cannot achieve the stability we need.”  He does not address the hideous inequalities that are ever growing he does not talk about the redressing of the balance for the most marginalised.  He does talk about the protection of the NHS because of course this is a vote winning strategy for the middle classes, after all he doesn’t expect to need to court the disaffected and poorest, they all live in safe Labour slum seats.

And then there is the Machiavellian figure of Tony Blair, hanging around like an acrid stench in the air foully polluting anything and everything with which it comes into contact.  Blair was the main driving force behind Labour’s switch to a more right-wing stance that which would in say the 1960s have been seen as the ground of the Conservative party, which had itself since the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher moved considerably further to the right.  It wasn’t as if the Conservative lurch had sucked Labour with it, it was more that Labour chose to follow and indeed then to set the agenda for the centre-right to such an extent that it almost forced to Conservatives to continue the trend mollifying those at the more marginal end of the spectrum who might otherwise have been seen as bigots, racists and the overall far-right.

The excuse for Blair’s reforms was to make Labour electable, that something needed to be done to erode the Tories heartland. In my opinion it is likely given the utter disarray and catastrophic unpopularity of the Tory party in 1997 that if Labour had stood on the overt principles of the Communist Manifesto they would still have gained a Parliamentary majority. (Partially because there are plenty of principles within said document that people would not be at all averse to were they not to know whence it came).

Now Blair is coming in like a deposed Tory Prime Minister sticking his oar in and claiming that Ed Miliband, at best centre-left, is too far to the left for Labour to win the next election.  Blair referred to a poll in May 2014 as indicating that it could be an election ‘in which a traditional Left-wing party competes with a traditional Right-wing party, with the traditional result’. Asked if he meant a Tory win, he said: ‘Yes, that’s what happens.’ He denied the political centre ground has shifted as a result of the financial crisis. ‘I see no evidence for that,’ he said. ‘You could argue that it has moved to the Right, not Left.’ 

Errr… if it’s moved to the right doesn’t that mean it’s shifted Tony…?

Lest we forget Blair was also the man who not only led the country into an illegal and unfounded war but claimed it was in effect his religious duty to do so.  Blair and Bush were the prime escalators of the current mess, Bush’s motivation was clearer, he wished to finish Daddy’s work, not a smart reason but a reason nevertheless.  Blair was either a religious zealot or a gullible idiot and much as I intensely detest the man I do not think him the latter at all.  Much has been written as to how much the UK & US knew about the supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Let me just say this, either there would be receipts (and the US used to frequently sell Iraq its arms having set it up in effect to firebreak from Iran) or there would have been factories manufacturing it over a long period of time. I’d imagine that would have been spotted after all they’ve known where Iran’s factories are and they aren’t even making weapons.

Naturally after all his zeal and after the exit of Bush, Cheney and the lucrative rebuilding contracts that were exacted Blair was installed as the Middle East Peace Envoy, a more ironic appointment I would have thought there has not been and I’d go so far as to say it has to rival Henry Kissinger’s Nobel Peace Prize.  So if Tom Lehrer was ever likely to come out of retirement Blair’s arrival would have sealed his silence.

 The difficulty now is we have reached a stage where it appears to be the end of dissent in quite the sense it was before, or is this hyperbole?  Well perhaps a little because what has happened is the mainstreaming of a quelling of descent that has taken place more covertly across the world for many years.  The surveillance, the “security” and “anti-terror” legislation is such that we might have thought it dystopian reality had we had it presented to us 25 years ago

BBC journalist Tim Willcox has apologised for a comment made which was undoubtedly ill-directed and in poor taste and was dismissed by the person to whom it was asked, as was her right.  However why has such a furore as has met Willcox not been dished out to Rupert Murdoch’s amalgam conflating Islam with religious extremism?  Islamaphobia is talked about as a phenomenon and the righteous get very cross and worried about this whilst the mainstream media are allowed to peddle hatred and filth and an absolute perversion of a creed that they get very upset about should it be applied to theirs.  At the same time they whip up furore at the disaffected, the young joining the cause in the Middle East, why they say why do they do it?  Perhaps they have not really looked at the course they the establishment has plotted over the last 25 years.  This is not just about religion it is about the complete disenfranchisement of huge sections of society.  You might say it was ever thus after all “the blacks, the dogs and the Irish” took more than their share of stick in their time but that was ignorance and not deliberate policy.  The muslims are only one, but they are the dangerous one so they make the headlines.  The disabled are another but they aren’t glamorous enough to make the news and besides those that might have generally killed themselves from having been denied the dignity of human life and made to feel like spongers on account of conditions and diseases and the factors they have with which society disables them.  And then there’s just the common or garden poor.  Well, they’ve got food banks now and even Norman Tebbit thinks not all the people using them are scroungers eating junk food anymore.  But he did up to a few days beforehand.

We have an upcoming election and this is once again to be fought on the policies of negativity, ‘if you don’t like what they’ve done then vote us’ or ‘if you don’t want them getting in then vote us again.’  Only no-one really voted for things to be as they are and now there is a new mainstream movement of ‘if you don’t like it you can fuck off back where you came from.’  Parallels with dark periods in the past are easy to make but you know when they are valid when you see how much they chill you as you look at them.  I feel distinctly disquieted.

Yet I see no alternative except in the case perhaps of one party which has less right-leaning credentials. This is the Green Party and it has been all but marginalised from the media coverage whilst the bigoted ‘no room at the inn’ party gets feted for its shaking up of British politics.

So the fact is what we will end up with is a succession of parties with capitalist ideologies and intentions, call them the new right, old right, new left, red tories, blue-rinse, UKIPers it doesn’t matter because the fact is they are all selling the same ticket and it is one which has led to the despicable mess the country is now in, you choice is merely whether that trend to feudalism is a quick one or a slow one.  Tricky isn’t it? It’s like being told you face the Firing Squad in the morning and then being left with a loaded pistol… ‘do the honourable thing old chap!’

I’m afraid I despair sometimes, which may make you wonder why I came back as some harbinger of doom having been buried away for so long.  Well that’s the thing with harbinger’s of doom they don’t tend to come at convenient times.  Sorry about that.

Song Of The Day ~ GoFaster – A Modern Education