Some wonders arrive unannounced to make an end of the day a heart-stirring delight; and we swiftly forget the wasted days of May and early June’s cold winds, which so cruelly replaced the customary warmth of early summer.
This evening, as I hugged good-night to Sophie after dinner together, we saw the near end of a magnificent sunset and reluctantly leaving her, I chased its progress as I drove higher up the hill – constantly stopping to enjoy the panorama of beauty that expanded wider and wider as more of the scarlet horizon was revealed to me.
I park my car in the drive and still feeling a warm balm of heat from earlier in the day, I walk across to sit in the garden and listen to the hum of silence as evening slowly retreats with a last fading show of pastel colour.
Five coloured solar lights buried in the flowering clematis slowly come to life and provide a gentle reminder that in the right circumstances, even man’s coarse synthetic intrusions may sometimes enhance nature.
The wild garlic has not yet finished blooming and a heady smell of its full white flowers offer another delightful ingredient to soothe our moods. Both Whisper and I settle quietly down to enjoy each other’s company – me lounging back in a garden chair and Whippy stretched out full length at my feet, her nose lazily twitching as she inhales the news of other animals’ presence around our home. She knows they’re there - but she feels no need for action.
A blackbird twitters through the wood above us and a waking owl hoots its early call. There’s a rustling among the dead leaves and then silence once more.
I turn to go in and as Whippy struggles bravely with her sore leg, we walk slowly up the steps together and into the Granary, leaving others free and disturbed no longer to pursue their remorseless struggle with existence.
And on our joint behalf, I thank nature for the joy of our countryside.
Some wonders arrive unannounced to make an end of the day a heart-stirring delight; and we swiftly forget the wasted days of May and early June’s cold winds, which so cruelly replaced the customary warmth of early summer.
Where once we were embarrassed to show feeling, we now hug in friendship at both welcome and departure.
So take a moment to observe also, how warmly we react to the affection, kindness and consideration of others - and properly understand that love, in all its degrees and forms, is perhaps the greatest panacea in life.
Now, as I become old and time passes more readily, I reflect that the simple ability to express this belief unreservedly - one to another and irrespective of race, gender or age - is reward beyond value to both the giver and the receiver.
I believe it’s a good thing that we should reflect on previous British behaviour towards other nations and to genuinely understand that a significant element of this country’s past actions would not be even remotely acceptable today - indeed, many elements of our past are nothing short of bloody and shameful.
History is indeed a valuable subject in this context, for it provides us with precedent – in that it affords us the opportunity to stand back from the past and objectively examine the behaviour of previous generations, with a view to (hopefully) learning what to do, or not to do in the future.
I believe that where those who suffered are still alive, some form of compensation could indeed be considered rightly due.
I do not however, believe that we should have the arrogance to assume we are morally bound to apologise for the behaviour of others, particularly when most of them are long ago deceased.
However, between these two considerations then, must surely lie an anomaly - for if it is accepted as wrong for us to apologise, would it not also be wrong for us to spend the money generated by today’s tax-payers, in compensation for the errors and omissions of previous generations?
I ask the question.
Coffee break now and time to vent the rant I’ve been festering about each time I’ve dared to stop typing and gather my thoughts on plot expansion.
I ask myself the following questions (which arise through it being 4th June and my terrifying realisation that it’s a mere 17 days until the “summer” solstice): -
Why is it that I’m sitting here wearing jeans instead of shorts? I have above them a T-shirt emblazoned with a message about growing old disgracefully; with a Thai shirt on top and a fully zipped-up-to-the-neck fleece covering it all from the waist up. There’s also a fan on medium heat to warm up the two blocks of ice I call my feet.
Why am I feeling so guilty about absolutely refusing to re-light the wood-burner at this time of year?
Why am I so absurdly grateful for the hot fan outlet from my lap-top, which keeps the back of my right hand from freezing as I rotate it in the warm flow like a chicken roasting on a spit - occasionally basting it and its left counterpart with a warm huff of breath as I rub them together in an attempt to garner enough friction to create a modicum of life-preserving heat?
Why is there still a bitter north-east wind outside, shrieking its bloody juvenile tantrum down our valley and howling into my (always open) bedroom window like some kind of dementor? Is that wind really here to take me off to Askerban and if I should allow it to achieve its goal, would it then grant everybody else a basking hot what’s-left-of-it summer?
Should I then, sacrifice myself for the common good?
What in the name of living shit, is going on here?
I’ve asked Ian Johnstone enough times to order some properly seasonal weather but I think even he must have ‘hidden’ me from his Timeline, because he demonstrates not even the mildest hint of enthusiasm with regard to successful ordering.
Why are we being lulled into ridiculous gratitude every time we receive just one day at a time of lovely seasonal weather, despite knowing that it’ll screw up the following day and revert to what has become type?
These and other (less polite) questions I ask - but expect few sensible answers.
It’s ‘flaming’ June FFS.
The fucking bluebells are still out up here.
Even Whisper and Boris are cowering in their pits, curled up into tiny balls to preserve heat (and Boris is too cold even to either snore or fart).
The sounds of young lambs carry across the stillness as they return from a daytime gambolling crèche to find their mothers before dark; and the occasional insistent deep lowing of cattle lulls one into a lazy reverie of appreciation for what surrounds us.
Such a time was just now as I walked Whisper through Acrise Woods - both of us enjoying a companionable peace with one another and each doing their own thing as we soaked up the atmosphere.
Quite late on in the season really, the trees still seem almost cautious of coming into leaf, lest the recent frosts return to damage unfolding buds - yet beneath their stark branches, a carpeting of deep green new leaves has risen from the brushwood to provide the background for a white blaze of wood anemones with occasional clumps of deep yellow primroses. By contrast one can just make out the occasional light colouring of another plant whose nearly open buds indicate things to come. In a week or so then, this whole woodland floor will be a glory of scented bluebells as the signs of summer will at last arrive.
Whippy loves the woods and seemingly forgetting the nerve damage to her rear quarters, she runs around on the soft floor like a puppy - stopping frequently to push her nose deep into a rabbit hole, or sniffing at trees where other dogs have left their mark. We call it “Whisper reading the papers” and I guess that’s exactly what it is to a dog - reading the papers - catching up on who’s been in her woods and reading with her nose and eyes, all the smells and signs of a varied nature in action.
She slows down after half an hour or so and we have an understanding that I shall walk slowly near the end of our walk and she will once again allow herself to limp from recent exertions, tail going round like a helicopter rotor as she balances her back legs on the rutted rides. Occasionally, she’ll look back as if to ask why I’m going so slowly but we both know that as long as she’s ahead, she’s not giving in.
A headline in today’s Independent reads, “The real cancer killer - rip-off prices for drugs”
Before I became wholly disillusioned with politics and was still a budding politician in the 1960’s, my ‘ticket’ was the NHS. The cost of the NHS in 1965 was some £1,100 million per annum – a frightening amount at the time but a joke compared with today’s estimated cost of some £53 billion (coincidentally, 1965 was also the year when prescription charges were first abolished)
I can remember quoting that year a random comparison to describe the anomalies which even then, were embraced by the NHS.
“The cost of providing immunity to small-pox has been costed at fifteen guineas (£15.75) - a very worthwhile and justifiable expenditure. The cost of removing a facial mole or wart has also been costed at fifteen guineas. One is life-saving and essential, the other is cosmetic and not usually life-threatening - yet both are available at nil cost to the patient through the NHS. Is this not an anomalous situation?”
A week or so later, I was addressing a local constituency forum club on the NHS. When asked by a very determined lady to account for the high cost of drugs in this country, I was lost for a second but then improvised off the top of my head with a childishly smug explanation,
“There’s a drug manufacturer just down the road in Sandwich. The company is basically American. Need I say more?”
I was immediately assaulted verbally by a lady who stood up menacingly and in a voice full of threat, said: -
“Speaking as the wife of the medical director of Pfizer’s (or some such title, I forget which), I take great exception to the speaker’s remark and require him to explain himself!”
For years I cringingly suffered at any recall of the latter event but in light of today’s news, perhaps I should perhaps regard it as having been prophetic.
There is no doubt that the drugs companies use their position to hold governments and patients alike to hostage financially - and to those condemned to an earlier death by the unjustifiable cost of their products, it must seem as if Mammon is against them as well as nature – and this situation has maintained and worsened over the years.
There are many questions to be asked here, some of which I believe are not being addressed - presumably for fear of interfering with the industrial milch cow and the profits which presumably generate great revenue from the drug manufacturers.
However I do perhaps naively ask,
In light of the excessive amounts being charged, would it not now be more economically viable to use the excess towards the cost of establishing government funded research and development?
Why have the affected national governments not liaised with a view to jointly refusing to pay such excessive amounts? (the same principle could be applied to the finance industry)
I suspect I know the answer to both questions and it relates to the amount of tax generated by the companies, related to additional cost.
One way or another, we don’t win – Mammon does.
Dear Political Party Leaders,
As a preface to what I have to say, I should state that I do not have any intention of attending Margaret Thatcher’s costly funeral next week – a lady whom I did in fact meet briefly on two occasions but whom I would not in any way claim to have known.
My lack of attendance at the funeral of a lady whom I did not know is partly for personal reasons which I shall not elucidate here, coupled with an almost critical shortage of funds which I am currently experiencing - due to the devaluation of my original private pension and a wholly inadequate “State pension provision”.
I shall thus leave any attendance at her funeral to you and your fellow MP’s, who are the public servants of tax-payers in the UK.
However, just over two months ago I did attend the funeral of a very close personal friend and the cost involved was half a day, plus diesel and wear/tear on my car, which I estimate as hereunder: -
One half day @ say, £500 per diem = £250.00
Approx 2 no. gallons diesel @ £5/gallon = £ 10.00
Wear & tear, plus insurance, road tax etc., say £ 5.00
Total cost £265.00p.
Please would you forward this sum to me as soon as possible, because bearing in mind the dramatically reduced level of my current pension (from that which I had every right to anticipate when I originally invested), every single penny now counts.
I recognise that you did not know my deceased friend and that you may already be wondering why I feel you should contribute to my costs of attendance at his funeral.
Accordingly, I shall explain - but first, please bear in mind that I have already paid my share of taxes, national insurance and so forth over very many years.
Thus in effect, I shall also have paid in advance my share of the outrageous costs related to yours and your fellow public servants’ attendances at Parliament today (I understand that you have recalled our servants on the frivolous notion that their attendance is necessary in order that you may all discuss the merits or otherwise of a deceased lady whom I suspect few of you would have known personally either).
I thus felt you would surely understand my own position and be wholly sympathetic to my need.
Patrick O’Connor (One of your employers)
I’ve just read Kenneth Livingstone’s comment following Margaret Thatcher’s death yesterday and I’m taking it as an appropriate model on which to comment. He purportedly said,
“Thatcher created today’s housing crisis. She created the banking crisis. She created the benefits crisis. Her government started putting people on incapacity benefit, rather than register them as unemployed because the Britain she inherited was broadly full employment. The legacy of all that, we are struggling with today. In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact that she was fundamentally wrong.”
If his reported statement is correct, then I would comment,
I first became involved in housing in 1961 and it’s my experience that we’ve always had a housing crisis …. from way before even this ageing fart was born.
Bankers have always been a law unto themselves throughout history - one only has to examine the bible and other books to verify the fact.
Similarly, a needs/benefits problem has always been with us (but I challenge Livingstone’s facile ‘reasoning’ behind incapacity benefit and suspect it’s pure speculation, aimed to incite).
Thus I suggest that these three problems are perhaps akin to the old adage, ‘The poor, death and taxes will always be with us’.
I will however, add to Livingstone’s list by mentioning two major changes which he omits.
Thatcher’s methodology may be questionable but there was a definite problem in the growing power of the unions which had need to be confronted for a long time and I felt that until she addressed the matter, the power of certain unions and their out-dated practices were more and more holding our country to ransom.
Secondly, she became the first female Prime Minister in Britain’s history and she very much bettered the lot of women in many ways (although I suspect she adopted a different stance when it came to having them as potential rivals in her cabinet!).
I do not accept that every real problem we have today is the legacy of her being fundamentally wrong. I would say that she actually got a lot of it right and was thus fundamentally correct.
Where things have gone wrong in my view is that few successive governments have owned the balls to build on what she started. Almost more important, but generally ignored by the detractors, is the fact that none of them have apparently seen fit to reverse most of her changes.
So, does one therefore assume that they also felt she was fundamentally correct?
Whilst by no means ever having been a fan of Thatcher, I do recognise a lot of the good she achieved when nobody else had the bollocks to stand up and do something about many anomalies; but I also believe she was there too long and perhaps made some savage errors by not paying sufficient attention to cause and effect.
Yet isn’t that the fundamental error of most politicians, whatever their hue?
I supported her policy of ‘right to buy’ but I have always felt that funds thus generated should have been dedicated solely to continued replacement of social housing - thus relieving, rather than exacerbating, the housing problems of the less well off.
Whilst I believe her encouragement of private enterprise was a move in the right direction, I also believe that in tandem, more stringent controls should have been imposed - particularly on the banking world.
The failure of her own and successive governments (both here and abroad) to effectively regulate the markets, resulted in the financial burn-out which still devastates our lives today.
In this instance it may have been fired by the American sub-prime mortgage problem, but speculative money dealings et al were long since out of control; so in effect, the fuel was already there and all it required was ignition.
Too little attention is paid by critics of government (and in this context, of Thatcher) in respect of the need to ‘keep up’ by changing with the times. Unless we are to stagnate, and however much we may dislike some of its effects, we must progress by embracing modern business methods and technology. The alternative is to tacitly retreat against the advance of our competitors - and that is not our way.
Too many other world regions offered cheaper manufacturing and coal than our own very much union-controlled industries and mines - the Far East and Continental Europe (particularly Poland), respectively. Therefore alternative forms of business inevitably had to take their place and today we maintain a GDP through other means - largely the financial sector and by product assembly, rather than actual manufacturing.
Many people kick against Thatcher’s progressive thinking, rather as did the Luddites kick up about mechanisation of what had previously been labour intensive work. Fortunately, the latter didn’t win out, or we’d still be languishing in pre-industrial revolution conditions.
And speaking of which, progress has largely out-dated our need to put lives at risk by deep mining of coal. It had long been obvious that coal-mining was a dying industry, whatever happened and Thatcher recognised this when instigating action against the all-out miners’ strike.
I did and still do feel enormous sadness at the lasting problems and divisions which followed in the mining communities. But it’s my perception that their situation was largely exacerbated by the rousing rhetoric and dogmatic refusal of Arthur Scargill to accept any kind of change in the status quo, irrespective of the effect his resistance had on the rest of the country.
I believe he was wrong …. or is all modern thinking incorrect in its wish to reduce atmospheric pollution and global warming in an effort to avoid extinction?
Thatcher was certainly guilty of many faults and omissions but let’s be honest, aren’t all of us often similarly guilty to some extent during our decision-making processes?
Very regrettably, politicians aren’t actually some kind of faultless beings who only ever do the right thing, whatever their hue. Thatcher was a Tory and I have doubts about some of her actions and innovations.
Yet I also harbour some very serious reservations about the decision-making of Blair and his headmaster, the man Bush ….. but that’s another story.
A recent article in the Independent on Nigel Farage prompts me to offer my ha’porth.
Initially appealing, I felt refreshed by his aggressive approach towards both the UK and European establishments but reviewing his performance a while later, certain facets of the man remind me of self when I naively sought a Parliamentary seat in my very early twenties.
I was a mouthy little bugger with far too much attitude. I was impatient with the status quo. I criticised with abandon. I was a master of assumption (fuelled by preconceptions and unsupported by either knowledge or understanding). I enthusiastically recommended a need for change. I arrogantly assumed I was to be the voice of the future and I loftily condemned the establishment and established practices.
Sound familiar to anyone else’s youth?
Yet in reality, I possessed neither sufficient substance nor adequate comprehension of principles to offer viable alternatives to the established policies which I knocked so freely - and for far too long, my youthful arrogance hid from me the catalogue of my shortcomings.
Nowadays of course, such faults and deficiencies almost appear a prerequisite in certain types of politician - particularly when they’re in opposition. As thank heavens did I (just in time to avoid inflicting my immaturity on the nation), such people could benefit from recognising the imperative to constantly learn about, and sympathetically relate to, the conditions and needs of an electorate, rather than blithely assume that one is already sufficiently accomplished to properly represent their best interests.
As a former member of my school debating society, I learned long ago that a key requirement of debate is to nurture a mind open enough to learn from any worthwhile points which may be made by the opposition and thereafter, to cunningly re-present them as long-standing elements of one’s own glossary of beliefs.
On the other side of the coin, one must also learn that what might at first appear a valid opposition point, may frequently turn out to be quite the reverse.
In such instances, the assertions are usually made by those with immutably biased views, who cynically adopt any spurious ‘argument’ they think may help debunk the opinion of others – all this in the hope that if presented with sufficient vigour and confidence, their alternative will unquestionably be accepted as the way forward.
Although I voted UKIP back in the European elections, it is in this latter role which my now more enlightened opinion perceives the over-confident approach of Nigel Farage.
The man also appears a touch too inflammatory and jingoistic in my opinion; and bearing in mind where such tendencies have inhabited the minds of continental leaders in the past, this could be construed as vaguely sinister.
When making assertions, particularly when addressing issues relating to the EU, Farage’s apparent reluctance to suggest any alternative proposals, let alone detail of them, leads me now to add a lack of forward planning to my perception of his character and at worst, a total lack of substance
Yes, I do sense that the EU is, in effect, almost a modern day attempt at domination by the leaders of a nation which undeniably came second twice during the last century. (and I stress ‘leaders’ here - for it was initially the jingoistic aggression of their earlier leaders which drove those much maligned people to the two inevitable defeats).
And yes, back in the 70’s I did vote for the Common Market - what later became known as the EEC and is now the EU.
But no, I did NOT vote for a total European fiscal and political federation; and that is where I honestly believe the current arrangements will ultimately lead – so I agree with that element of Nigel Farage’s approach.
However, and unlike Mr Farage, I no longer believe that we should leave the EU completely, for I think that would be a route to disaster.
I do however believe that it’s time that we made a stand to firmly renegotiate our position and withdraw from some of the unnecessarily onerous EU legislation and directives which impinge on many facets of our independence.
Basically, I now believe the EU needs us as much as we need them - but I should perhaps qualify this by saying I believe our role in the EU should be primarily trade related and not too much more.
We have managed fairly well thank you, over the last few centuries, under legal and parliamentary systems which have become the model for many other countries. Yes, our systems definitely need reviewing and up-dating but they certainly aren’t broken - so if that’s the case, don’t fix ‘em, just tweak ‘em.
My belief therefore, does not extend to subjugation of our legal options and national culture to the whim of Brussels and the rest of Europe. We are an island here and therefore we differ from most other EU countries - Cyprus excepted of course; and given recent financial events on that island, I think there may be a lesson in there somewhere!
Farage appears to advocate a five-year ban on immigration and uses a departure from the EU as the only way we may control our borders.
Again, I find myself at variance with his view; for whilst I do believe we should definitely have more control on immigration, we would deprive our future of enormous benefits if we were to comprehensively deny access to all - particularly those who have something to offer in return for coming here. Par example, it could be said that our NHS could not survive without the current input of immigrant doctors, nurses and trainees.
Outwardly appealing, Farage’s wish for abolition of employers’ contributions is not feasible - too much revenue is generated in the present climate of austerity and one would therefore have to ask what would replace that income. A tax on children perhaps?
His wish for ‘Life to mean life’ is an easy proposal with which to agree (and many of us tend toward that thinking); but again, he doesn’t detail how this would be funded.
The cost of keeping criminals in prison is astronomic and the alternative punishments favoured by the “Hang ‘em and flog ‘em” brigade are precluded by the HRA and other such legislation - not all of the sometimes PC provisions of which seem justifiable in light of statistics showing both crime by new offenders and the recidivism of established criminals.
On other points raised,
“Our traditional values have been undermined.”
I tend to agree with this but suggest this may be down more to global changes in attitude, rather than just EU legislation- although I’m sure the latter has played its part.
“Children are taught to be ashamed of our past.”
I do not think this slant is entirely wrong, for with respect to the history teachers of my day, we were taught only the bits they wanted us to learn and forgot about (for instance) our invention of the concentration camp during the Boer war. Just as European youth is taught about the Holocaust and Germany’s culpability in two world wars, so I believe our children should be taught that all was not completely rosy in our greedy annexation of other countries and their resources (both natural and human).
BUT, whilst the bad should never be glossed over, our children should also be taught the better side of our respective histories.
“Multiculturalism has split our Society.”
Indeed it has - but not the principle, so much as the way we have allowed it to develop. True multiculturalism should embrace integration and not the development of what have in effect become urban ghettos - and that’s largely down to our attitudes and prejudices which have encouraged immigrants to cluster together in certain areas of our country, rather than ‘spread the mix’, so to speak.
The latter is of course indirectly encouraged as a result of inadequate entry requirements related to language-learning, non-acceptance of the status quo and the tolerance of too much radical behaviour by political and religious activists.
The other points raised related to Grammar Schools and ending the smoking ban on allocated rooms, Public Houses, Clubs and Hotels – and of course, referenda on the Hunting ban.
In my view, and with the exception of Grammar Schools, these are relatively minor topics when set against the impact of the other points covered.
Finally though, “Political Correctness is stifling Free Speech.”
I fear it often does but then again, the older I become, the more I believe that all legislation and control should be required to properly fit within the general principle of ‘What appears reasonable in all the circumstances.’
And in my opinion, neither Political Correctness, nor the bulk of Nigel Farage’s published views fulfill that requirement.
Unlike the photo which recently circulated around Facebook in criticism of the habit, I see little wrong with ‘Liking’ or even ‘Sharing’ certain posts which appeal to me (and I emphasise the qualification ‘certain’ here, for there are many other, cynical reasons for requesting these two actions by those with vested commercial interests).
Just as one learns from and occasionally adopts the different views of others in debate, so I see little wrong in celebrating the posts of others which are either novel, amusing or profound - by ‘recommending them with the ‘like’ or ‘share’ option.
However, a little caution is advised here. Over-use of those options could be taken by some to indicate lack of original thought, naïveté, or even total ignorance on the part of the ‘sharer/liker’!