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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How we ended up out out

25/06/2016

A vast number of Brits pop to the corner shop for some Alka Seltzer (touch of gippy tummy after last night’s reheated Wiener Schnitzel, and a bit of a headache – doubtlessly that bloody Chateauneuf du Pape). They then nip into the Lion and Unicorn for a restorative Pimm’s, only to wake up the next day to discover that one thing must have led to another because they apparently ended up trashing the pub, crashing the family car and drunk dialling their humourless boss to tell him he’s a twat who can stuff his job. Oh, and the headache? Yeah, quite a lot worse now. It’s going to take a lot more than Alka Seltzer to shift that bastard.

Obviously Brexit has a few additional elements, but given that many (although by no means all) “Out” voters appear to prefer black and white over grey, and a good yarn over provable facts, I decided they were superfluous for the purposes of this tale.

When all is said and done, a referendum is a democratic process, democracy is something we have respect for, and the voters have spoken. Even so, when I hear “In” voters being talked about using terms such as sour grapes and bad losers, I can’t help but wonder whether a number of “Out” voters are actually under the impression that we are dealing with a village cricket match. Or the Great British Bake-Off. Or just a general election, where the “bad losers” only have five years to wait before they can have another stab at turning their sour grapes into more acceptable political vino.

But the reality is that on June the 24th, millions of people awoke to a future that has been completely and terrifyingly blown out of the water. Through no choice of their own. And there is no turning back; no chance for redress in five short years. A little comprehension from those who have chosen to plunge an entire country into extreme political and economic uncertainty would not go amiss at this time.

More disturbing than the terms used above, however, are many people’s apparent motives for voting us out. Motives which in a lot of cases seem to have precious little to do with any sort of real understanding or familiarity (the sort that allows one to breed legitimate contempt) with the European Union.

Instead many of those who voted out did so because they willingly choose to believe that the EU exists purely to outlaw custard creams, measure everyone’s bananas and write bible-length regulations on the sale of Cruciferous vegetables. The fact that it was actually established to try to unite a group of historically warring nations in order to assure peace to future generations (with prosperity a hoped-for side effect) is something I did not see mentioned much in the run up to this life-changing vote.

Others voted out because they willingly choose to believe that the majority of their country’s problems are due to the influx of foreigners, something that most unbiased reports seem to negate. And anyway, curbing immigration is by no means guaranteed by an EU exit, as has now been admitted.

There were those who willingly chose (I say chose, because that fantasy was destroyed almost as soon as the votes were counted) to believe that the money we currently send to the EU would be instead directed into purely British interests. Deprived British communities and areas (amongst many other British interests) have long been propped up by EU grants in return for our membership fee, but Brexit didn’t think to mention to the people most strongly voting to leave that they will likely be the hardest hit by a withdrawal.

And then there were those who voted because they are sick and tired of the “political elite”. They feel abandoned by the political class, in many cases with good reason. However, that is entirely unrelated to our membership in the European Union; sinking the country into a severe economic recession and complete political turmoil is unlikely to get their problems addressed any time soon.

These are just some of the reasons the “In” voters are not sucking up their sour grapes, or working on their losing skills, just so you know.

To those who voted out because they have closely followed or read up extensively on the British/EU alliance, or had personal/professional experience of the inner workings of the EU machine, and are in possession of enough political or economic acumen to judge that there is a chance we really would be better off out: thank you. Thank you for not playing Russian roulette with our future on a prejudicial whim.

We now have no option but to look forwards, and make the most of this turmoil to try and ensure something worthwhile comes out of it. A couple of key points that have come to me in the dead of the last few sleepless nights are:

  • no more political apathy – if you don’t have a favourite, pick the option you hate the least: just vote.
  • no more complacency – the world is changing, there are no more guarantees, wake up.
  • less ideology and more reality – what is desirable is not always what is right or necessary, ideology is a boggy road to nowhere constructive, reality is a rocky road to healthy compromise.
  • less “left” and “right”, more middle ground – we all want a fair society that cares and takes care, but in order to have that we need a strong economy.
  • don’t believe everything you read on the internet or in the media – fact checking is part of being a responsible participant in political change.

And having got this off my chest, I shall say no more about it except for: onwards and upwards, country of mine, regardless of what the future might hold. I am still looking forward to making you my home again, after over twenty years. And the first thing I shall do, before even unpacking my suitcase, is to get on the electoral role…

 

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Green, Sh-boogie bop

18/05/2016

I am sure my quality of life would be greatly improved with a little adherence to Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference

But in the absence of an obliging deity to wave his/her magic-wand-of-granting,  it will have have to remain on the ever-growing back burner of ‘Improvements to one day make to Self’ and in the meantime I shall continue getting frustrated at the state of the world in general, and the human environmental footprint in particular.

Having been brought up by parents who gave great importance to the natural world, an awareness of the consequences of our interactions with it has always held a prominent place in my day-to-day existence. But with vast numbers of people existing in an almost entirely man-made bubble, it is of little wonder so many cannot either conceive of, or bring themselves to care much about, a world outside the human sphere of influence.

You only need to see the outraged reactions to flights delayed by snow or homes flooded after unprecedented rainfall to understand how disconnected they are from the origins of life – they truly believe humans pull all earthly strings. And whilst they may feel sadness at the destruction of rainforests, the decimation of wildlife and many of the other side effects of our species’ “success”, they struggle to see how it relates to them, or that it will (and indeed already does) have a negative impact on the quality of even human life.

In an attempt to alleviate some of the feelings of helplessness all this arouses, I am increasingly prioritising my attempts to minimise my own family’s impact on the planet – an urge that has become even more crucial now I have produced my own contribution to the next generation.

For rather than worry about the world I am leaving my daughter, I am more concerned with raising a human who understands how entwined she is with her environment: how dependent she is on it, and how dependent it is on her (and everyone else) treating it with respect. We can no longer bring up our children with the idea that the “world is their oyster” or that everything is somehow “theirs for the taking”. It is now crucial that we bring up our children with an intrinsic awareness that they first have to consider whether their wants are environmentally sustainable, before choosing whether or not to indulge them.

Recycling, for example, is all fine and dandy, but there is no point in recycling if we do not also address our consumption. It is rather like shutting the stable door after two of the four horses have bolted – it only solves half the problem. Instead we have to learn to buy stuff with less packaging, buy stuff with less air miles… just buy less stuff.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that we should also try and reduce the amount of meat in our diets. I am not against eating meat in principal, but intensive farming practices have a lot to answer for in regards to both habitat decimation and changes in our climate (I won’t even go into the inhumane methods of rearing and slaughter employed to produce such industrial scale quantities). Our bodies certainly don’t need all the meat the West currently consumes, and the planet could certainly do without the side effects.

I think reassessing our travel habits wouldn’t go amiss, either. Most air travel is relatively cheap and easy (bar the eternal anti-terrorism security checks), but just because we can buzz off into the skies at any given moment, it doesn’t mean that we should. The pollutive nature of world travel (not to mention the destructive tramp of eager feet over previously untouched corners of the Earth) should render “travelling” an occasional luxury, even if the price doesn’t. Why not preserve a romantic mind’s eye view of those parts of the globe that were once worth visiting through books and documentaries, rather than deal with the shattering reality of jostling thousands of other “travellers”in order to get a holiday snap which often contains more sandal-shod strangers than it does precious memories? Our lives will be no poorer for not having “seen” all the sights.

And the ultimate taboo – have fewer children. I once knew a girl who wrote a eco-column for a Sunday newspaper, and I was astonished when she declared that she wanted to have four children (she was on her first at the time). I couldn’t fathom how someone declaring themselves concerned by ecological issues, would think it acceptable to have such a large family. Her argument was that she would bring them up to recycle. But these would be Western children, who would each contribute around 8,000 disposable nappies to a landfill before they were potty trained. Growing up into Western adults who, whilst trekking diligently to the bottle bank every weekend and visiting the supermarket clutching their own reusable shopping bags, would also expect to enjoy frequent foreign holidays, a home of their own, a vehicle or two, the up-to-date electronic goods that have become so indispensable to us, and as many children as they feel the urge to produce. Each. Their very existence renders them un-ecological, no matter how many plastic bottles they carefully wash out and put in the right bin.

Of course these are only a few examples of the many changes that need to be incorporated into all of our lives. And I fail at them far more frequently than I succeed: I often buy stuff I really don’t need, I often forget to turn the telly off rather than leave it on stand-by, I take planes more often that I would wish, I use the washing machine more often than I really need to, we still eat too much meat… and so the list goes on. But constantly keeping in mind the environmental consequences of our decisions is becoming an ever more innate part of family life, and it is exactly that which I want to pass on to Maya.

Because it is of vital importance that we help all children reconnect with the Earth beneath their feet, in a way that so many of this generation (and the one before) have spectacularly failed to do. Only by understanding that they are part of something much bigger, much more intricate and so very much more fascinating than just the human race, will all tomorrow’s adults be in a position to make the right choices.

An English Fandango update

26/02/2016

Just a quickie to show off the new book cover:

cover

The first one looked like a badly executed primary school project, so I am very chuffed with the improvements. I’m still not sure it would work for a “proper” book, but for Kindle it will do just nicely thank you.

The book, like so many other things, has been sorely neglected for the last two years and then some. It had been a horribly long time since I checked sales, or even reviews, and so I was delighted (and embarrassed) to find a lovely review on the Amazon.co.uk site from November 2014 that had completely escaped my attention. Nicer still, it was written by neither acquaintance, friend or relative. Anyway, it gave me the push to give An English Fandango a little bit of pampering, and has even got me thinking in more serious terms about the French sequel.

Now it’s “just” a question of persuading the toddler to give me a bit more time off…


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