Category Archives: Issues

asylum

The lunatics have taken over the asylum

I have been quiet for a few weeks now, not because I have nothing to say or that there is nothing to talk about, because there certainly is. Being honest, as I suppose I must be, I have another project that has rather distracted me of late and taken up what little time and energy I have available.

Looking around at the moment you might be forgiven for thinking that you have entered some kind of twilight zone. As the great Neil Peart once wrote: “You have entered the Twilight Zone, beyond this world strange things are known.” Peart (drummer and lyricists with Rush) has always had a wonderful way with words, and in this 1976 song he was portraying a world beyond our own where anything can happen, based on the TV series of the same name. But here we are, 41 years later and those lines seem to sum up the world I find myself in.

And this is a slightly surreal world, though not too dissimilar from the world of 1976 when Rush recorded “Twilight Zone” for their career defining album “2112”. I had thought we had left the threat of nuclear war behind us, but then along comes Kim Jong-un and his counterpart Donald Trump. Two of the wackiest leaders the world has seen for some time. Whilst Korean madman Kim has nuclear weapons at the top of his birthday wish list, the tragedy that is Donald Trump is flexing his fingers, ready to push that proverbial button. And I am quite sure that if he thought he thought it would benefit him in any way, he would have pushed it by now. For once the Russians seem to be staying out of things. They have caused quite enough trouble in Ukraine and Syria without adding any further fuel to the fire.

So, other than the antagonists, no change there.

And what about things closer to home? Well, things aren’t all that rosy here either. I remember the political and economic mayhem of the 1970s only too well. The economy was going down the pan, labour relations were at an all-time low, unemployment was on the rise and the divide between the rich and poor was as deep as ever. After the struggles on the Margaret Thatcher era it seemed that all of this was behind us, but now I am not so sure.

Over the past few months we have seen acid attacks, terrorists striking our city centres and deaths due to negligence and penny pinching. We have a lame duck government that is struggling to put together anything remotely like a coherent plan for the future. Policy and direction seem to change with the wind, and with the current effects of climate change, that is a lot more frequent than it used to be. And with public sector pay being frozen and jobs slashed, things don’t seem to have moved too far from those troubled and insecure days that gave rise to punk rock and Margaret Thatcher.

Today the BBC published the salaries of its top stars. And linked to the recent pay increases for big bosses and politicians, it just rubs salt into the wounds of our health workers, police, teachers and other public-sector workers who have had to deal with real-term pay cuts for several years now. For someone like Theresa May, who along with her husband has great personal wealth, to condemn those at the lower end of the pay scale is hypocrisy on an almost bewildering scale.

Actually, much of what I see around me at the moment is somewhat bewildering. I have never been able to get my head around the thinking behind the actions of terrorists who target the innocent, or politicians who put personal gain above the needs of the public they are supposed to serve. Unfortunately that is the way of the world we live in.

Goodbye 2016

So here we are at the cusp of a new year. A time to reflect on the year that has passed and to look forward to the year ahead. It is no exaggeration to say that 2016 has been an eventful year, with far too many celebrity deaths and some unexpected political upheavals.

In many ways, the year has been dominated by death. Not only have we lost a great many well-known faces from every walk of life, but also the many thousands who have lost their lives through acts of war or terrorism (or are they one in the same?). We have also seen a near fatal blow to liberal values with the EU referendum and US Presidential elections. Both results were seen as a rejection of the “establishment” view and a victory for public opinion, but how true that is remains to be seen.

On a personal level 2016 has been a very good year for me and my family. It is a year in which we could put ourselves first and do the things we wanted to do. That is not to say things are perfect. They are not. But we are happier and more secure than we have been for some time, and the future is looking good.

In August I fulfilled a lifelong ambition to visit Cornwall. I have wanted to visit this beautiful county for as long as I can remember, and I wasn’t disappointed. The breath-taking splendour of the Minack Theatre, the historical significance of Tintagel and the unparalleled beauty of the land itself are memories I will cherish for a lifetime. I can’t wait to get an opportunity to return as there is so much more I want to see and do.

This summer I also decided to take up photography again, but seriuously this time. I have invested time and money in this new venture and am determined to get to grips with the f-values and shutter speeds this time around. One thing I have discovered already is that I prefer taking photographs of the world around me than of people. I am formulating plans for a couple of projects for the new year which should help me become more confident and hopefully snap some interesting images.

At this point last year I told myself that I was going to do more writing in 2016. Well, that never happened! I did get everything in place, but for several reasons I just never got around to putting pen to paper as I had hoped to do. I still have plans which may or may not see the light of day this year instead. Actually, this ramble is probably the longest single piece of work I have managed to do all year!

We are seeing out the old year with the expectation of further changes. My father-in-law may be moving permanently into a home and our daughter will (hopefully) have her own house by early January which leaves my wife and I very much on our own and gives us the opportunity to do the things we want to do.

 

So, for anyone taking the trouble to read this, I wish everyone a happy new year.

Am I turning into Victor Meldrew?

one_foot_in_the_grave_victorIt’s a lovely Sunday afternoon, with the summer seemingly having a last fling. But around us there are reminders that the winter is not far off. The geese are flying overhead and yesterday, I popped into our local branch of The Range and walked straight into their Christmas decoration display!

I must admit I felt a Victor Meldrew moment coming on (as in One Foot In The Grave). I am no Scrooge, but to be thinking about Christmas Decorations in the first week of October is just so wrong. And I couldn’t believe my eyes when my boss brought a packet of Mince Pies into work on Friday. I mean, I enjoy Christmas as much as the next person, but there is a time and place and as far as I am concerned, it is definitely the wrong side of November for this kind of thing.

I remember being in London in August several years ago. We went to Harrods and found part of the store closed off as they set up their Christmas department. I really couldn’t believe my eyes and it still shocks me to think about it.

Does this make me a miserable SOB? No, I don’t think so; I just don’t like to see events dragged out way beyond their time. We all know that by Boxing Day the shops will be taking down their Christmas displays and stocking up for Valentines and Easter. In fact, by Christmas the Cadbury’s Cream Eggs will be out.

Even the seasons themselves aren’t spared. Try buying summer clothes for a late get-away after the school’s have broken up! By August it’s all “Back to School” and winter woollies. In fact, you can see the Back to School displays before the holidays have started. I even heard a promotion for food to put in children’s lunchbox in early August. Who the hell is interested in school lunch boxes in August? What is all that about.

Well, I for one won’t be falling for the retail hype. Christmas will happen in it’s own time and I will be ready for it. Sort of.

World Food Day

Friday (16 October) was World Food Day and it comes as another reminder about the inequality and instability of human society.

Darwin introduced us to the natural process of evolution, where the strong survive and the weak do not. Natural selection is how species develop, grow and evolve; there is no place in nature for those too weak, ill or disabled to survive. That is as true of Homo Sapiens as it is of everything else, but our own evolution has taken us beyond this, at least superficially.

Compassion, a sense of what is right and what is wrong, have taken us down a different path. All the world’s religions tell us the same thing – to care for those in need. So rather than leave the weak to fall by the way side, we are taught to seek out those in our midst who need support and provide for them.

World Food Day is one of those occasions when we are asked to reflect on our own good fortune and do something positive for people we don’t know. A food collection at work brought in a veritable mountain of tinned and packaged goods, all of which will go to a local food bank for distribution to those in our town in greatest need.

For years activities such as this have been focused on Third World needs, but not anymore. It is a sad reflection on today’s society that we are now collecting to help feed and clothe our neighbours. How has it come to this point when citizens of one of the world’s most prosperous nations need to turn to charities just to feed themselves and their families?

It seems that for some the process of natural selection is still very much alive and well! However, now it is not the strong who survive, but the rich. As the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest continues to grow I have to ask, are we making progress, or are we slipping backwards?

On the positive side, while many are struggling with hunger, there are many more who are determined and willing to help. The growing need for Food Banks in a country like the UK may seem like a throwback to another less enlightened era, but it is a reminder that we are, at heart, a caring society. Whilst our “leaders” may not show it, and are only too willing to turn a blind eye to what they are doing to those they seem to feel are not worthy of their compassion, the majority of people do care about others.

We can all do something about world hunger without leaving the comfort of our homes by visiting the website http://www.freerice.com and taking part in their activities. Go on, have a go. It’s fun and will help to feed those in greatest need.