Lockwood

Ralphand veraMy family name is Lockwood. That’s similar to Jedward – no it’s not really but my father was clearly in the forefront of fashion. In 1920s his hair style was unique and remained that way until the Jedward boys copied him 90 years later!

Jedward

I woke up this morning chuckling about my father’s reaction when he was given a pair of sock suspenders at Christmas. My mother insisted that he wore them, as the present-giver was coming to visit that day. He moaned and grumbled, and made no reference to his present when the gust arrived. The very moment she left he ripped them off and threw them away. They were one fashion statement too far!
socksuspense

Resolutions

It’s that time of year. I’m not going to make a list, but it is a good time for reflection.

romaThere’s constant moans about Europe. We are now (allegedly) about to be besieged by Roma from Bulgaria and Romania. Our government is back-tracking, telling us that immigration brings advantages to our country. As a statistician I fume over the assumptions drawn from the unreliable formula used but that must pass. These people are here. They came of their own volition. Now they must integrate and become part of our society.

We must all be proud to be British, and, for me, being English is even more important.

A more pernicious assault on this country comes from a country described as our closest ally, the United States of America.USA-UK

For the USA we are seen as a bastion they can use to combat Europe. The European Union has 28 states, and a population of over 500 million, it is much bigger than the USA. These are old civilisations, steeped in culture and history, yet remaining bright, intelligent and alert to the future. The EU is a new geopolitical entity, and that has given the USA some advantages. The EU does not have strong political leaders yet. They will emerge.

Until then the USA can use the UK. We speak the same language, sort of. Their companies are welcomed. Tax anomalies (called fraud if you are small) are overlooked. Most Internet-based companies can manipulate their financial accounts so that they pay very little tax in the UK. Our neighbours, notably Eire and Luxembourg offer flexible facilities. The UK population picks up the bill.

As I write I’m reminded of a conversation I had recently with a good friend. “You’d better get yourself a bullet-proof vest,” he said. “Why?” I asked. “If you keep attacking our politicians they will be after you.” This article will do nothing to reduce his fear for my safety.

So, in brief, our business structure is being undermined. Couple that with the corruption by the banks. I’ll refer you to this short video, which does more than I can to explain what is happening. That’s not about the UK, but it can all be translated to this country.

Let’s move on to entertainment. You may have noticed that over the holiday period the BBC iPlayer did not screen every programme. Quoting ‘legal reasons’ every time. Why was that? Because these were videos whose copyright was held by US companies, and despite knowing that iPlayer only makes programmes available for a short period these holders refused to allow them to be screened on iPlayer. They want to sell them to you. You are not allowed to download and watch these at your leisure.

My much bigger complaint about US entertainment is all-encompassing. They delight in violence, in sexual exploitation, indeed in all forms of exploitation, and their humour (if that’s what it is called) is mind-blowingly facile. We must remember that the USA murders over 30,000 people every year, using guns. Our figures are much lower – all over Europe they are much lower. They accept violence as a way of life. That’s not our way.

As an old man who quacked with fear at Quatermass years ago I wonder how young children can face the daily diet of mayhem they are fed in the name of entertainment.

war costThe USA spends more on defence than the next 26 countries combined. It is a warlike nation. That’s understandable. It has not moved beyond the exploitative stage of the invaders. They ripped apart North America, murdering anyone in their way. For two centuries they have been able to exploit the untouched resources of North America. Latterly they have had to look elsewhere as the gravy train appeared to be running dry. Perhaps that may stop now they have found more oil at home to extract, and their mountains of debt force them to retract into a shell.

Strangely enough this is not an attack on the USA. Instead I feel like the headmaster admonishing a reckless pupil who has been caught bullying. Go home. Consider your position. Stop interfering with others. You are no better than anyone else. If we all behaved like you the world would collapse. Go away. Come back when you are more willing to join in rather than dominate.

What way shall we go? I’d favour encouraging all Europe to speak English, and throwing in with them, rather than allowing the USA to use us as a doorstep. Maybe you’ll think I’m biased but if Europe explodes again we are all in real trouble. Our full involvement there may help to avoid another catastrophe. The USA used a new method to build an Empire, commercial exploitation not war, but that is now starting to fade.

We Must Change

Philosophy-Politics-Ethics
The bean feast known as Christmas is already fading. The rubbish will soon be collected, plastic toys will break, batteries run down and the presents from lovers will be quietly pushed to the back of drawers with a slow sigh.

The fun is about to start! 2014! We made it (well I hope we all do).

What shall we make of this bright New Year. That’s after the haze of celebration wears away. Most of us will return to the routine. Up, wash, dress, travel, work, travel, home, TV, bed, sleep, up again.

In that short exposition much was left out. Paying of taxes, kow-towing to bosses that do little to gain respect, accommodating the demands of government, banks and other institutions.

It’s time for a change. Our present political structures do not work for the majority of people. We are ‘them’ giving to ‘us’ but the ‘us’ is not who you think.

Political parties have corrupted democracy. We are controlled by an oligarchy, and increasingly that small group is being dominated and controlled by powers that are even more powerful.

That’s enough for one day.

There will be no revolution. Gradual change is preferable. Let’s see what changes are possible.

Watch this space.

space

Weather is Coming

ReindeerAs I write we are in the brown sector on the map. The big blue sector is coming, and will be here soon.

There’s part of me that doesn’t need to see radar reports on a screen to know that it will soon be time to take shelter. We all have that ability.

I’m lost in the panic to buy last-minute presents for Aunt Sally, whom I’d forgotten about. It’s a bad time of year. I had a dream last night about visiting my father. I was very concerned that I’d not visited him for some time. I woke up, in a mild panic. I love my Dad. A few seconds later I remembered: he died 22 years ago!

I’m not yet ready. I decided to make presents this year. I have all the materials needed, but somehow my barriers are up, and I have that inertia that comes when you know you have to do something, but somehow you just can’t make a start. I’ve been doing anything to avoid starting. Problem is I will start, late on Xmas Eve, when the shops are shut. Or I’ll panic and buy the first piece of rubbish I come across, and me and the recipient will not be able to look each other in the eye as they open my gift – because it will be so unsuitable.

Why doesn’t the Xmas part just go away?

Solstice Poems

Winter solsticeTHE DARK

Dark mulls
the shortest day,
wraps itself
a living shawl pulsating
with the whole of past creation
birthing beats thrum
in harmony
with what will be
spurs new light
to be born.

Kaaren Whitney
Winter solstice 2013

THE DARK OF THE YEAR

Lights glitter and blink
familiar tunes, so used they lose their meaning
but gain something else
just
as significant.

Trepidation quivers
so many expectations
disappointments
endings.
Children echo in the crisp air
and we pray
for magic.

Beth Soule
Winter solstice 2013

The Gifts of Midwinter

The Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths have all used frankincense mixed with oils to annoint newborn infants, initiates, and members entering into new phases of their spiritual lives.

When used in concert, myrrh is “blood-moving” while frankincense moves the Qi, making it more useful for arthritic conditions. (from Wikipedia articles on Frankincense and Myrrh)

It is the tales which bring
their gifts of wisdom:
Three Kings move across the land of spirit
following the light which has been sparked
in our time of deepest darkness.

The seed fell when the veil between
our dark and light worlds
was momentarily rent.
And now, unseen by all except
the beasts, our familiars,
our flesh and blood,
The new birth is imminent.

One King brings a gift of gold –
not wealth alone
but that which will not tarnish,
metal fit for the making anew
of the soul.

One King brings a gift of myrrh
that rare and precious gum
bled from the tree.
It heals the circulation of the blood,
aids the breath of life
to reach every mysterious cell
within our bodies.

One King brings the gift of frankincense,
which balances the myrrh,
encouraging the flow of life energy,
the Qi which dances within
and between us.

Three Kings following a star
to the place where
our next salvation
awaits us.

How we long to believe these stories
like literal shards out of history,
But our constant rebirth
individual or all humankind
Depends on the wisdom
we gain from these tales:
That they speak not like pottery dug up from the past,
but as eternal containers for
our constant experience.

And that is why, at the dark of the year,
three Kings always ride
towards the manger,
bearing each their
special gift.

Ian Cameron
Winter solstice 2013

WINTER SOLSTICE

Summer turned out well enough.
No one died exactly.
We have wood for winter.
Time then to sit around and watch sparks fly.

Cassiopeia crowns the night
flanked by Orion and The Plough.
Unheralded, new shoots push through
and Spring is a stone’s throw.

Natasha Morgan
December 2012

Balance

I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.

I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.

As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.

I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport’s labryinth,

I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day’s sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.

Adam Zagajewski
translated by Clare Cavanagh

Christmas

Xmas
It’s not over yet, there’s more days to go.

Have you noticed how the meaning of Christmas has turned to making money for retailers?

They will soon be moaning that you – yes I mean YOU – didn’t buy enough, and so their profits are down.

Is there no joy in this world?

Of course there is:

Make something or buy cheap presents from charity shops.

Above all tell everyone in your world that you LOVE THEM.

Getting Older

lonely lady The BBC had an interview with a woman in her early 70s who was lonely. She just sat at home every day, didn’t bother to wash, just drank tea because she couldn’t be bothered to cook. She wanted people to visit her. There was no suggestion that she couldn’t get out, just that she didn’t want to go anywhere.

A charity spokesman was also interviewed. He oozed sympathy. He said a lot could be done to encourage volunteers to call on this woman. Then came the crunch statement, ‘all that we need to solve the problem is money’.

Why? There are dozens of clubs, groups and associations she could join. She sounded articulate and bright. What would be wrong in joining the WI, the University of the Third Age, helping in a charity shop or somewhere else. Perhaps she should visit folk who are worse off than her?

She had a computer and Internet access. What a world that opens up for her. I use it to get all sorts of stuff off my chest – just look at this blog. I’m redesigning the world in some way or another every day. It’s not that anyone takes any notice, or at least they don’t tell me they take any notice but I suspect I’m being watched.

It’s not the National Security Agency (well it may be) but over the years I notice that what I have said should change is slowly introduced. Looking at the visitor statistics to my site I find that it’s been looked at by ‘a government official from Whitehall’. That means I’m probably on a ‘list’ somewhere. Wonder what it was about? The time I said that David Cameron lives on short-term soundbites and has no long-term strategy?

It’s not important. After last night’s storm my house is still standing. The felt on my garden shed has decided to leave, and the detritus in my garden has been rearranged, but the sun is now shining. Christmas is coming – and the goose seems to have run away (or has David Cameron pinched it?).

Photograph from Age Concern Cardiff

Importing Young Entrepreneurs

Our young people deserve to be considered first. This week the government announced they will be paying young entrepreneurs to come to this country to start businesses. How does that help the one million young people now looking for a job? Is this government determined to sell everything we own and cherish to anyone who wants it? Don’t they have any pride in our people? Are they really helping us or is there another agenda?

Rosie

This is artwork created by one young graduate, now working part-time in a major retail store, stacking shelves. Does she deserve a chance? Email me if you have any ideas.

England has Retired

shipThe major news story today seems to be that people born in 1960s and 70s will not have such a good retirement as their parents. If they receive a legacy from their parents then their world may look brighter.

In common with many newspaper reports it looks at just one facet of the story. Why do older folk have more cash?

They are children of World War II or just after. Too many of the population of the countries involved in war had been killed or severely injured.  Perhaps the bravest and best. Towns were devastated, industry badly damaged. There was an urgent need to rebuild, and not enough people to do the work.

It was easy to get a job. In Great Britain (which was what we were then known as) we made practically everything. Our engineering skills were of a high standard, Sheffield steel, Birmingham Small Arms (which made much more than guns), a thriving iron and steel industry supported by coal.

My home town had 56,000 people, part of total population of no more than 56 million. The Bank Rate remained largely unchanged throughout that period, and bank managers knew their customers, and prospects, very well.

That demand suggested we need people, so in 1955 the 800 million people living in the British Empire were all granted British citizenship. Some came to England, often facing poor conditions, low-paid jobs and a recalcitrant population tinged with resentment.

We worked together until large corporations realised that products could be produced more cheaply elsewhere in the world. Why bring cotton to England, when the country in which it was produced had a subservient workforce, willing to work for much less.

Our workers realised their jobs were in jeopardy. There was resistance, strikes led to power and food shortages. The business world became more convinced that we were a difficult overpaid workforce, and they could do better elsewhere. So they went.

That was helped by the shipping container; it was easy to transport, difficult to damage, not easy to steal. Felixstowe, my town, broke the backs of Liverpool and London dockers. Today 400 metre-long ships can carry 13,000 boxes, or more.

In the 1980s a Conservative government knocked huge nails into the British confidence. Interest rates rose alarmingly. Mortgages became very expensive, population growth meant more demand. House prices rose dramatically.

Then came the belief that the private sector could provide better services at a lower price. In reality the efficiencies were obtained by sacking people, making those left behind work harder and reducing the quality of services provided. Prices never came down, any extra profit were absorbed by the new companies. We lost our pride. Jobs were no longer for life. We now live with uncertainty.

Allegedly our population was now better educated. Prime Minister Thatcher insisted that the service industries were our future, and so our manufacturing arm was allowed to slowly decay. Today there is not a major car manufacturer that is British owned. That picture is reflected across industry. Foreign companies are encouraged to ‘invest’. What happens is all of our expertise, often equipment and machinery as well, are shipped abroad, with the profit we make. If they are lucky the British worker becomes a wage slave, totally dependent upon the whims of a foreign (now international) board of directors.

Our workers became lethargic, fed-up, unmotivated and resentful.  We worked in offices, not factories. Wore white shirts, had foreign holidays, fast cars and owned lots of gizmos. Getting totally plastered every weekend was as far forward as we looked. Our skills base was allowed to dissipate.

Now we are waking up. That ‘Never Had It So Good’ generation of Harold Macmillan of the late 1950s are retiring. These born in the growth years of 1960s and 1970s do not yet realise that to survive we must do more that stagger into work with a bad hangover, buy a lottery ticket, and know we will win X-Factor.

The large companies have grown. They are now international conglomerates, with turnovers bigger than many nation states. We look to the child we spawned, the USA for our entertainment, and the Internet is largely controlled by that country. These behemoths are now the real decision-makers.

The United Kingdom has yet to properly understand that it is in serious trouble. Our media concentrates upon irrelevancies. We are not asked to consider the consequences of our actions.

The English, as a nation, are largely disregarded. Our money is gathered in and spent on supporting others. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland make money out England. Most government departments are based in these countries, as they provide income and support. The disadvantaged (and cheats, thieves and the lazy), the newly arrived immigrant, can expect more encouragement than an English peasant. We’ve been conned into thinking it will always be cushy not realising that our government were selling the family silver to anyone with a few bob, money they could spend on short-term projects.

England is just the cash cow, who can be milked dry by everyone. Our governments: national and local, seize every opportunity they can to squeeze more cash out of us. Little comes back to us, and when it does it is loaded with caveats: yes, you can have a business loan says my local office. We will give you £25,000 provided it is no more than 20% of the total project cost – and we need to see your money, not benefits in kind, not a skilled workforce, not the equipment you have purchased already. Another scheme will give money to a company if it has certified profits in excess of half million pounds.

Considering that even multinationals will struggle with that last demand, as most are now domiciled in cosy tax havens, and don’t pay much UK tax, then we are scuppered.

All stand for the National Anthem. Officers will salute, the rest of you stand to attention. The British ship is now sinking, taking with it our wit, intelligence, creativity, schools, hospitals and all health and safety officers.

One consolation may be that our political leaders will also suffer, but that is very unlikely.

Do we need Conflict?

War, conflict, pain, suffering, refugees, women and children, old people and society.

Do we need conflict? Do we gain anything from fighting each other? Most wars are ended by both side talking to each other – so why don’t they do that from the start?

The truth may be about power, money, influence.

Let’s make 2014 a year when we begin to challenge the very idea of fighting in any sort of conflict.

Jaw, jaw, not War, war: said Winston Churchill

war

Photograph taken from Business Insider magazine article