Lock Down

Locked down, on my own, no one but me

No hello, no why? No, just not anything.

How I wish I were with someone, anyone, especially you

But I’m not, I’m locked down with me.

I’m locked down, what does this mean? Lock down.

A lonely prisoner locked down on my own

I don’t even like myself, at least not too much

I am afraid of myself if I let myself go and scream!

I wish I could be locked down with you

I don’t know who you are, but it’s you I want

I want to be free, to be with someone I know but don’t

So I can be surprised by our startling face ups.

If I was locked up with you, would you be nice to me?

Would you be nice enough, to be nice to.

Being in lock down on my own, is good, it’s cool

Because I know I am alone and free.

Boing in lockdown, I can pray, and write a poem

I can wish, to meet all my other me’s.

I can imagine, imagine this and that

And be in love, with whoever I may want to be.

What do you think Brexit means?

–The European Union has developed from a trading bloc concept post second world war to the political union institution of today. It started as a trading proposal and then developed into a political union. The treaty of Lisbon 2007 replaced the EU’s key treaties — the 1957 Treaty of Rome primarily and conceptually a trading agreement, and the treaties of Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1996) and Nice (2000) Each step following on from the treaty of Rome has moved closer and closer to a federal Europe. Indeed the treaty of Lisbon is the accepted foundation of a Federal European Constitution.


The idea of a political and eventually a federal Europe has above all been the most effective way of keeping the peace in Europe, and in many ways expanding the idea of democracy to former communist and totalitarian states. This has undoubtedly been an enormous boon to the peaceful advance of Europe as a whole. The other benefits are that Europe has a much stronger voice in world affairs and much more clout when it comes to both soft and hard influence.


The Lisbon treaty has laid down the primacy of the European institutions over, (though shared in some limited issues), national sovereign governments. The European Union’s exclusive decision making encompasses the customs union, competition rules, monetary policy over euro members, common fisheries policy, commercial and international policies. This effectively means that the EU centre has primacy over all things regarding the internal market including, social policy, territorial cohesion, agriculture and fisheries, environment, consumer protection, transport trans-European network energy, freedom security and justice, public health.
Individual states are left with a much modified freedom of legislation. The greatest change has been the introduction of the Euro as a common currency, a massive operation that was implemented in a political euphoria that resulted in catastrophic economic consequences for the PIGS, (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain). Portugal has been the first to begin recovery from this catastrophic politically motivated financial change. The desire to spread the economic unity of a single currency remains one of the most intransigent issues which the EU faces. There are eleven currencies in the EU presently and all except two, UK and Denmark are bound to accept the Euro as their currency. The European Central Bank will therefore hold sway and all the member states who will eventually have to accede to fiscal union, i.e. The ECB will have the last word on budgets and thus austerity or expansion.


There are rules which govern the translation of national currencies to the Euro. Hopefully lessons of the past (Greece et al) will be learned. This is where many Euro sceptics shy away from the Federation idea, clearly to have a currency union will require the surrender of national decision making (sovereignty).


The other argument that is a worry to some, is the overall primacy of the EU in commercial policy. In the interests of the common customs union and other trading matters, the EU is defensive as well as enterprising. The EU whilst protecting its internal market, restricts access to other external markets and insists on unity of trading principles from all its members. Membership restricts members’ ability to exploit their individual specialist skills or knowledge – another Euro sceptic objection. Defence and Food industries (agriculture and fisheries) are two which are particularly sensitive to non-European opportunity.


Whilst the Pound Sterling remains outside the Euro, and the UK dominates the defence scene in Europe (which is quickly changing), the issues of international defence relationships are also vexed questions, particularly to the UK, which with France, is a permanent member of the Security Council. . The relationships of NATO and with the United States are confused with the EU aspiring to flex its own muscles on the world stage. Good or bad? Probably the former in the longer term, but there are serious issues with some member states who seem not prepared to invest in defence but still want the collective protection.


Many of the European states are keen to accept the democratic ideal, though several still have autocratic and populist aspirations. Here membership of the EU is an undoubted force for progressive good. However, the cumbersome nature of many national ideas is also a hindrance to unity and deftness to respond speedily in a very dangerous world. The strong will need to surrender their leadership international roles and be more sensitive to consensus politics. Leadership of the EU is now vested in France and Germany, how long will that be comfortable for the smaller nations.


One of the great planks of the European idea is freedom of movement and this was one of the emotive issues when the UK held its in/out referendum. The awareness of the good of immigration, has since dawned on the British public, and perhaps this has become a lesser-issue for many, but not for all. Control of our borders is a cry not only of the UK but many EU countries in the light of mass migration from the Middle East and Africa. This issue is not going to go away and seemingly will affect all nations for the foreseeable future.


The European Court of Justice is clearly an important pillar of European integration, there is much confusion in the minds of many that the Court is involved in minor admin, (e.g. the price and shape of bananas) and whilst no doubt the Brussels community is a humungous beurocracy the Court plays an essential role in the furtherance of judicial rules across the EU.


In this blog I have tried to draw attention to some of the pros and cons of the European dilemma. Not the British dilemma, which courts division, the breakup of the union, and much risk besides. One thing is for certain that if the UK leaves the EU it will have a detrimental effect both in the UK and the EU. There will be a shrinkage of the EU economy, and the UK which currently makes up 17% of the EU economy,will certainly find, at least in the short term, some very difficult issues in the financial services and agricultural industries in particular.


The possibility of the reunification of Ireland is a problem that nobody wants to face, yet it may be the only answer to the Irish problem. That would prove a detrimental financial blow to the Republic of Ireland and there is no real support there for such a move. The UK on the other hand, could foresee the unification of Ireland as a boon, since Northern Ireland has a substantial fiscal deficit running into billions of pounds/euros.

Scotland also may opt to have another vote for cessation from the Union, which if granted in the earlier days of withdrawal from the EU, could swing away and cause a huge uproar in constitutional and legal affairs in the UK. The Welsh who have the greatest fiscal deficit (per head of population) may well agitate for independence, but reality makes such an aspiration unlikely to succeed.


So there are great risks on both the EU and UK sides. Whist there have been many divisive shrieks from both sides of the Brexit arguments, no one can prophesy the future with any certainty.


In sketching the threats and opportunities that face us all, I hope some will be given food for thought.

The magic money tree and other delusions of the great British revival.

Brexit, here we go again, why?  Boris and Jeremy are both promising to take UK out of the EU, no matter what. (respecting democracy they say). Additionally they are both promising all sorts of goodies in the form of  giveaways such as tax reductions,  National Insurance thresholds, not to mention corporation tax.

What complete nonsense! We need to take note of these wild promises, not only because they are undo-able, but because both candidates have a warped idea of what leaving the EU means and where on earth the promised money is to come from. 

We know for sure that the consequence of the UK leaving the EU will result in further confusion, even worse if we have a ‘no deal’ exit.  So how are these guys going to shake the magic money tree?

Well of course they could save money from areas such as defence, overseas aid, abandoning our nuclear submarines and withdrawing from our overseas missions.  Where else are we to find money to improve education, law and order, the NHS, Social care etc etc.

There is confusion here.  Are we leaving the EU so that UK can trade freely, generate growth in the longer term and remain a first class power, retain our seat on the UN security council, remain a nuclear power in defence terms, remain a leading partner in NATO?

At the same time we are to suffer, certainly in the short term a decline in national wealth.  If Boris and Jeremy want to put the Great back into Great Britain then they have to square the circle.  Both candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party are either fibbers or magicians.

Neither has been brave enough to say, “Look, we’re going to take a substantial hit, but it is going to be worth it in the longer run. What we want to achieve is a new UK which will surely lose its hard power because we can’t afford it, but we can recover and attain soft power through trade and a limited international presence. There is no magic money tree, we all have to work and aspire to become the future independent and prosperous UK”

What is the vision?  I wish they would tell us.  No wonder we say Bah! to politicians!

Boris for a day – it’s dark out there!

Telling the future is always hazardous, but I am prepared to bet that Boris the boorish philanderer will be come Prime Minister of UK. Happily though, it will only be for a day or two at the most. Surely, if Boris gets in, and the blue rinse Tories are daft enough to get him there, there will be a vote of no confidence and a general election will follow.

The bad news is the chaos that will follow that. It is hard to imagine, but the options are not pretty. A hot bed of Lib Dems, the Brexit party run by Nigel Farage, the tail end of Labour, or maybe the resurgence of a more moderate Labour, an active and insurgent SNP and a minority of Tories of whatever hue. It seems most likely that the mother of parliaments will become the home of a huge mix of political variations with a coalition being paramount. The key issue of ‘Brexit’ will remain the elephant in the chamber, it depends if the Brexit alliance can hold the rest at bay.

The numbers, that’s the issue. Despite the apparent huge changes the UK will be in the same boat. The one item/personality that can change all this is not Boris but Nigel Farage.

The next general election will be fought as another referendum on Brexit, like it or not! Let us hope the electorate vote decisively one way or another. This is where my future prophesying lapses.

The prospect of Nigel Farage is one I might contemplate down in the Pub, but not for more than a millisecond, who else do I see on the horizon. It’s dark out there.

 

The blind leading the blind.

Having watched last night’s debate with five conservative hopefuls to fill the hapless gap left by Mrs. May, I am astonished that not one of these candidates has the foggiest idea how to deliver what they promise.

Boris Johnson was clearly the best, at not answering questions at all, he just bumbled along assuring us it was completely unimportant that he condemned Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe to a double term in an Iranian jail. In fact, he said, it was the Iranians fault in the first place and what he said as Foreign Secretary was neither here or there. Can you believe that?

Believe it or not, not one of his opponents picked him up on this. How can they possibly tolerate such clear idiocy from Boris or anyone else. I was hugely disappointed that Jeremy Hunt did not pick up on this.

It seemed to me, they all, with the exception of Rory Stewart, were toadying to Boris as the inevitable winner and next prime minister for places in his cabinet.

What a complete farce, nobody knows how to deliver Brexit, and nobody will tell us what they are going to do to manage the UK’s EU exit.

On other policies, they were all suitably vague and united, again except for Stewart, on giving away loads of money on tax breaks.

I don’t know if they turned out just to show how useless they all are, but they certainly succeeded.

Boris, backwards to the ruling class.

So, we really do need a posh bullshit merchant to bluster our way to Brexit! So it seems, if you believe the results of the first conservative election results. I think it speaks volumes about the Conservative MP’s who are scared to death of losing their jobs. Dear Boris launched his campaign saying nothing except possibly “Tally ho! follow me!”

He followed this baloney with claims of his success as the Mayor of London, carefully avoiding some of his positively gargantuan cock-ups. He then took questions which he entirely ignored with one exception, and continued his bluster about what a good man he is . Tally ho! Bullingdon Club lads to the fore.

I can never forgive Boris for his dreadful betrayal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, by a total disregard for his responsibility, his off the cuff stupidity and his downright arrogance.

If the conservative rank and file are stupid enough to support this nomination I for one will never vote Tory again.

Israel Folau – free speech?

Israel Folau has been fired by the Australian RFC for making his thoughts known about homosexuality. Firstly this is very bad news for the Australian team preparing for the upcoming IRU World Cup. That aside, the issue here is not what Folau said but what Folau is allowed to say as a citizen of the free world.

I understand he made a comment that folk who conduct themselves in a way that is prescribed in his religion will go to hell, where ever that is? I am not knowingly a member or of a behaviour type to receive Mr Folau’s wrath, nor can I remember the full list of those condemned to hell. Nor am I concerned.

What does concern me is that this excellent athlete has stated his religious views and everyone is free to agree with or disagree with him. Personally I disagree, but I absolutely believe he has the right to express his religious views if they do not incite hatred or encourage malevolence.

Going to hell, seems not the most desirable place to end up, but hey, you believe what you believe. The statement does not imply any other imposition of punishment of any form on this earth – so what is the problem? The statement he made says much about Israel Folau, he is a religious man who lives by strictly defined values. He may be at at odds with some of us, but surely that is not only acceptable, it has to be his right to express himself.

I hope the Australian Rugby Football Union relent and practice what they preach which is an inclusive organisation, both for ideas, free speech as well and sexuality.

Brexit, failure or ambition.

David Cameron has tucked his £800,000 advance up his shirt and walked away from the biggest political upheaval the UK has ever seen. I sincerely hope that as few as possible buy his book which no doubt will point to his genius and integrity in creating this major cock up. Whilst not mentioning Libya (another huge mess) he will no doubt point to his achievements as he sees them. How anybody can be remotely interested in this failed ‘has been’ is beyond me.

Nevertheless, President Macron’s impassioned plea for the goodness intrinsic to the idea of the EU is a compelling one. He does not labour on the failures such as the PIGS bankruptcy and unemployment, but he does claim the Euro has been a success with which I heartily disagree.

What went wrong then? Now we have no end of dissent about both the purpose and the practice of the European idea. The Brits are clearly fed up, many for the wrong reasons. The Austrians, Hungarians and Poles have perniciously right wing governments and dissatisfaction with the EU is widely the rule.

There is a clear disconnect between the ‘man in the street’ and the European Union as a consciousness of belonging to something of worth. Brussels appears as a nightmarish bureaucracy populated by greedy politicians who are profligate in the extreme. Easily dis-likeable and easily pilloried.

Cameron recognised the dis-like and the dissent but he washed his hands of the whole affair and committed to a referendum nobody (except perhaps Nigel Farage. ) wanted. He presumed, I think, that remain would win and all would be well. That they did not, came, I’m sure, as a a complete surprise, and off marched DC the victim of his own innocence and naivety.

Is it too late to turn back the clock? Since the referendum no one has a solution to a problem nobody wanted. Impasse!,

Please will somebody – anybody – attempt to clarify what is good about the EU and what is bad about the EU, and what would be needed to improve the institution. The idea of the EU – unity, peace and concord, – good. Practice – graft, gravy train, issues with borders, law and order, defence, unification of standards – vary from very good to very bad.

Why is the reversion to so called sovereign status good, why is nationalism bad?

All I know is faffing about doing nothing is bad.

Brexit means Exit!

We know what we know, we are aware of some of what we don’t know, and we don’t know what we don’t know.  So why does everyone say “now we know what happens when we leave the EU.” Oh no we don’t – sheer fantasy like the Boris’ big bus.  

As I have said many times before ‘he who tells the future tells lies’.  Actually, he tells what he wants us to believe and he, whoever he is, is seldom right. 

The fact remains that the idiot Cameron allowed the uninformed to make a choice that was, and is, very unclear.  He offered the in/out option and the people in vast numbers voted, the majority for out.  Oh what a bugger!  Not what David of the shiny face wanted!

Enter stage left the dreaded Blair the man who misled the country so wilfully into Iraq.  He’s now mincing around Europe canvassing the EU to make our exit so difficult we’ll have no choice other than to cancel after what he says will be a positive peoples  vote.

If ever there was a motive to stick with the majority this is it, this deplorable truth spinner who’s made vast sums parading his ego as the saviour of the centre ground.  He has much in common with Macron who also has a ‘God’ syndrome.

No my friends, we voted out, no way back, out without a deal or with a deal, the people have spoken. It might be they spoke rubbish but it doesn’t matter its called democracy.  If you have another idea, maybe a Trump PM, or the loony left, take your pick. Me, I’m for believing in democracy even if the direction might be flawed.

Anyway who knows? I for one don’t know what I don’t know!

There’s none so deaf that will not hear!

The UK is transfixed with Brexit which is understandable, but just take a minute to look around and see what chaos rains across the European Union.

France is in chaos, Germany uncertain, PIGS broke, the Euro uncertain, the world environment being trampled over by not only Trump but several of his kind in the EU, and we worry about Brexit!  Even worse a range of people who should know better keep on prophesying doom and gloom and no one seems to think there can be any upside to leaving the EU.

It’s time for calm thinking.  The EU dream is all but dead, coming apart at the seams, and it is fair to say that the UK is one of the main causes or at least one of the main  manifestations of this unravelling.

The Brits for all their faults, are smarter than many think.  There is no doubt that the EU will suffer enormously from the British exit, far more that the UK.  In areas like technology, research, defence and intelligence the UK is miles ahead of its peers in the EU.  In terms of finance and banking London holds sway and will continue to do so. Yes there will be short term disturbance of all the markets but it will settle and the UK will be substantially better off without its levies to the EU, with opportunity to trade fairly and widely inside and outside the EU.

Hopefully the vicar’s daughter in Downing Street will be replaced by a leader of imagination and charisma that can exploit the great opportunities that will doubtless come.  It will not be too long before the gigantic bureaucracy that is Brussels will be knocking on the UK door seeking advice and succour on any number of fronts from defence to technology.

The French always resisted the entry of GB into the European fold.  There is little to choose between the posturing Macron and the elegant but strutting de Gaul.  Their attitudes remain unchanged, in wanting to see the resurgence of an imperial France as a joint European leader without the Brits who have always retained more soft power. The french dig up the streets in protest the Brits just wring their hands. 

The real disadvantage of the unravelling of the EU is not so much the UK’s withdrawal as the rise of populism throughout Southern Europe. The stability that the EFTA and EU  imposed has been comforting, but the rise in the uneven material wealth in Hungary, Roumania, Greece and say Germany has given rise to enormous dissatisfaction and the rise to this uneasy populism. Instead of de-emphasising nationalism the failure of the EU’s fiscal system has exaggerated it.  The whole political ideal of Delors has been or is being turned on its head.  

In the UK referendum many people voted to leave for the reasons they perceived to be the most crucial.  Those who have least feared they would lose most and voted primarily against the free movement of people which they saw as a strain on the UK welfare and NHS.  Now that the reality of world economic migration is striking home everyone has a much more reasoned view of migration in general.  Immigration is no longer the issue it was. Nonetheless the great majority of Brits are loath to change their minds.  The population seems at odds with Parliamentarians who are as ever more cautious and unadventurous than the great majority. Democracy strikes again!

The question is should MP’s vote as their constituents tell them or vote according to their conscience. An impasse!  How the French love that word – but the people say “Let’s go, the world awaits.”

Brexit – we arrived exactly as this blog predicted.

The chaos that passes for our parliamentary democracy is the direct result of the dreadful political error in allowing a binary choice in a grossly over simplified referendum.  This has been compounding by the dogged but narrow minded Prime Minister May mismanaging the consequent negotiations to leave the European Union.

I wrote about what to expect back in May 2016 see my blog “Cameron – democracy what a chancer”  I then prophesied what was to happen and by and large I was almost precisely correct.

What I could not prophesy was that Mrs. May would call a disastrous election and then personally manage the negotiations with the EU from the view point of the vicar’s daughter she is.  That is to say, she set off by seeking to agree to what the EU wanted because she was sorry we were to leave.  Perhaps, it would have been better to have set out by adopting the stance that the UK was leaving and this is what the UK expected to happen.  I am not suggesting that the difference in the two approaches are apocalyptic but the nuance and difference has proved to be crucial.  She has allowed the EU to turn the screw and now we find ourselves with a deal that nobody except the PM finds palatable.

I have a feeling that many people will want to see the ‘May’ proposal rejected by Parliament and negotiations reopened after an extension to the article 50 period.

The EU will say no, of course, as they will try to press their advantage, but they may be chastened by the closeness of opinion and the growth in the likelyhood of the ‘no deal’ option.

If the PM prevails then we can only hope that in the fulness of time things will move on to new ideas and new partnerships. This is a big ‘what if’ issue the preliminary agreement is seeded very much in the EU’s favour. The current negotiations are preliminary but the EU has seeded them with one sided options which are the main object of disdain and revolt that has emboldened the Euro-sceptics. If these one-sided issues could be made less one sided and more equal then there would be far fewer opposition to the May proposals.  This may force the UK governments of the future to be in permanent state of angst against the EU.  Not an attractive proposition.

If it is not too late, Mrs. May has to be more assertive and go back to the table and negotiate away these one-sided  EU impositions, then she may became the saviour of the piece.

In the meantime the EU has plenty of problems of its own. Brexit will hurt both the departing and the depleted. Many feel the Euro and all that that implies will tumble and that the Brexit question will become in theory and practice much less crucial in the great scheme of things.

Not so surprising, Saudi Arabia?

I’ve been around a bit, and one of the most vivid memories was of my first visit to Jeddah in the 1970’s.  I was stuck by the strangeness of it all and even had a booking foul up which meant I was marooned over the weekend in Jeddah (Friday).  I wondered about and my curiosity was peaked by the crowd outside the rear of the Red Sea Palace Hotel.  I chanced upon the most revolting dehumanising thing I have ever witnessed, namely a public execution.  I did not tarry but scuttled off, shaken to the core.

Since then the Saudi regimes of the various so called royal rulers have continued to routinely chop off heads  of anyone who they disagree with or those who are deemed to have offended the religious beliefs of the Kingdom’s rulers.

Human rights have been and remain the last thing Saudi royal family consider.  They rule by fear and have no truck with the idea of self determination or even self expression.  The  idea of the noble Arab raising from the desert tribes is truly nonsense, and without oil Saudi Arabia would be nothing.  With oil it could be one of the best educated and progressive countries in the world, alas that has not turned out to be the case.

Are we surprised then when the Saudi regime bumps off in the cruellest way a dissenter. Sadly we are not, which begs the question of why does the West espouse the Saudi regime. The reasons are many, including not allowing China/Russia to have control over an important energy source, the biggest pocket book in the world to buy anything from fighters and bombs, as well as hospitals and luxury goods and property in London and Paris.  Also I believe an honest desire to influence these primeval Saudi rulers towards democracy and the respect of human rights.

Clearly this last objective has failed miserably.  The issues of the pocket book remain.  Who cares if the Saudis kill and maim and starve children in Yemen?  Nobody if they can make a buck from selling the Saudis militaria.  Should we care?

Please, I hope we do, and we should lobby our Parliamentarians to stop this trade no matter what the cost.  A Yemeni child or a Saudi journalist or those Saudi citizens  awaiting a barbarous beheading should be given the chance to live. What price on them?

Imagination vs Fear of the unknown. Brexit is certainly unknown.

There we have it, stay in Europe or strike out on our own.  So far we’ve had umpteen warnings of the catastrophes that will beset the UK if we come out of the EU, so far they haven’t happened.

I wrote two years ago that what has come to pass has indeed happened, quelle surprize! However the lack of leadership from all political parties has added immensely to the conundrum.  “He who tells the future tells lies.” (old Arab proverb) Bare it in mind and accept that we have no idea of what is going to happen.  Absolutely no idea.

There are some out there who feel that launching into the unknown is a crazy thing to do.  They have a point.  There are others who argue that independently the UK will be better off, controlling our trade, taxes, laws and borders.

The worst offenders in irrational arguments are the regional players in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who keep barking on about the financial support they’ve received from the EU ignoring the fact that the UK as a whole is a net contributor.  The aggregate of their argument is that they get a better deal regionally from Brussels than they would from Westminster.  This is a curious argument from those who seek more local power and yet want to bow the knee to an unelected European commission.

The other great argument is about the motives of the Brits to leave the EU.  It is argued, probably authentically, that the great majority of voters voted for Brexit based on their xenophobic attitude toward immigration.  This sad but reflects the oversimplification of a yes/no referendum.  It also reflects poorly on the British sense of values.

We would all do well to go back to the core of the argument, i.e. Do we want to be ruled by an unelected council of ministers whose credo is ever more integration into their idea of a United States of Europe.

Me, no!  That’s it, you may want that, OK if the majority want that, that’s OK with me too.

Just keep in mind that if we leave we have to stride out and do our best to thrive. I hope in so doing we continue to welcome friends of every colour and creed.  I want to see my country thrive as an example of skill and adventure for the good not only of the UK but the world at large.  I just happen to believe that we will do this best as we Brits have done over the centuries.

 

We all need company.

Loneliness is one of the scourges of he modern era. Whether you live in Wales or Algeria it matters not. Despite all the changes brought about by social media there remains a huge gap of real one to one contact that is any more than superficial.

It is the superficiality of the great mass of social media that is doing the harm. Rather then allowing individuals to make meaningful trustworthy contacts it is often doing the opposite. Luring people of all groups and ages into superficial avenues they really don’t want to enter. But they do. And by following these traits their lives are devalued rather than enhanced.

I’d like to try to start some group conversations where, whoever you are, you maybe, will meet a decent friend, who will share with you his/her day to day interests and cares.

I must confess to having no idea how to proceed. I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to be an influencer with a marketing tag, I do not want to be an agony aunt, I do not want to be a political commentator.

I know to a limited degree what I do want. I want to be a catalyst for those who are lonely to find a friend, I want to spark new interests to lonely unstimulated minds, I want you to be interested in others for their sake as well as yours.

If you have any knowledge how to help me do even a little piece of this please write to me. If you want a chat, or want to start a journey to you know not where, give me a shout.

I know I am luckier than most, I am older than most, happier than many, better off than most.. Never mind these handicaps, get in touch.

Find a friend

Smash a window – a vote for Trump

The anger at police brutality is entirely understandable. The consequent demonstrations are against institutional racism in a so called democratic state, the USA.

It is easy to understand the anger of the institutionally deprived and abused, but the break down in law and order is benefitting the Trump election message. In all this confusion, and it is confusion, the American electorate are dividing into sub-groups with varying goals emphasising differences not common beliefs. This is definitely in Trump’s favour.

Smash and grab opportunism powered by frustration and years of deprivation is driving a wedge between the haves and have nots. We must be clear, many wealthy liberals will support the cause of anti racism, that is, till someone throws a brick through their window.

The response to personal loss is always defensive. “Who did that? It’s unreasonable, I want protection, I want law and order, I will vote for Trump!”

Despite the great majority of peaceful protestors, the lunatic fringe, are stealing the show and taking away the focus from institutional racism to ‘law and order’. How you get this message over, I have no idea. If you do, please do it.

Growing Old – Gracefully 6

A dignified and positive end.

In our earlier discussions we have examined all the positives we can apply to make our lives as full and fruitful as we can make them.  Growing old for all of us is not without a certain inevitability. We often avoid the subject – but life, we all know, is finite.

Birth, life and death we all experience it.  For the life of me I have no recollection of my birth, but having witnessed two since that time, it seems to me, that birth is a bit of a stressful time for mother and baby. Whilst we all know mum suffers, it can’t be much fun struggling down the birth canal. For all that, birth is a joyous occasion and family and friends welcome another human. The pain is washed away, as we embrace a new life into our world.

At the other end of the spectrum, when someone dies, we are almost always washed in sadness and grief.  The end, of life and of being comes to us all, fulfilling life to the last moment is something we should all aspire to do. Like flowers or trees we fade either with an onslaught of sickness or a gradual failure of our vital organs. Sometimes peacefully, sometimes in agony. There is no escape.

As with birth, beyond our knowing, as is death unknown.  Like all creatures and plants we dissolve back into nature.  There are as many theories and religious beliefs about the afterlife, many are a great comfort to many.  However, they all accept our physical end. However we dispose of the physical remains, it seems to me, it doesn’t much matter.

What does matter, is that the end of life is as fruitful as it can be for both the departing and those who remain. The majority will leave this existence with reluctance, many will leave relieved and others may leave in darkness and pain. In our western society where often people die alone, we should consider such happening a disgrace.  Surely everyone who passes deserves to have their hand held.  Alas it is not so. Whilst we may not mourn the lonely we can strive, at least, to lighten their darkness by giving them some of our time.

There are many institutions who give that special care, they cherish the lost, embrace the lonely and heal their pain.  There are hospices, and shelters, there are hospitals and homes, in all these places human dignity is upheld by those who care. Praise be, they are many, their name is legion.

Some people experience severe emotional and physical suffering at the end of life despite receiving excellent palliative care. Research shows that 17 people a day in the UK would die in pain even if there was universal access to the highest quality palliative care. There are other symptoms beyond pain that cause suffering and not all these symptoms can be controlled. They include nausea, constipation, fungating wounds, faecal vomiting, and rapid loss of blood caused by terminal haemorrhages. There are those with terminal illness who see themselves progressing toward death hopelessly losing their abilities to breathe, or swallow, in constant anguish. They want to be helped to end their suffering.  Losing autonomy can also result in severe psychological suffering. Those opposed to assisted dying acknowledge there will always be a group of people whose suffering cannot be relieved by even the best palliative care.

I believe the case for assisted dying is unassailable, of course with all the legislative safeguards. Those who are dying, without hope of recovery, and who are suffering untold distress need to be loved and their suffering put to an end by mutual consent. Love and care come in many guises.

Growing Old – Gracefully 5

Humankind above all else is a society.  From time immemorial the human tribe has grouped together beyond the immediate family. In common with most sophisticated creatures. Like other apes elephants and whales we have interacted not only within families but identified social groups as an essential part of our existence.

Yet, today it is as if we have come full circle.  Loneliness has become a major scourge in modern society. Modernity and attendant mobility has influenced traditional family and social groupings. This particularly true for the elderly, who in many cases live the late part having lost their partner.  The inevitability of life’s end can and does lead many to surrender to ‘nothing and loneliness’.  

So far, we’ve determined that making the best of our physical attributes and our intellectual powers will create a more positive life.  However, without social intercourse of whatever nature, our lives are still less than full. 

All of us can sit at home, be it a warm house or a mean tent, and hope that something happens, or, we can create relationships.  Once more we are responsible for our own lives, it is you and me who must reach down within ourselves and make a positive move. For those who are physically disabled to those still riding a bike, we can all smile, show warmth, reach out, ask, and give thanks.  These are all positive moves, these gestures are investments that by and large will earn a return. Don’t look down, look up! Looking down is to escape, looking up is to join in. Looking down is to close, looking up is to open.  

Why do we close down? Why do we allow ‘nothing’ to invade our lives?  Usually because we are afraid, afraid of rebuttal, of being humiliated in whatever form. In black and white this seems ridiculous, but the single biggest reason we deny contact is because of fear of rebuttal or humiliation.  In fact this is simply not true. In the vast majority of cases looking up, smiling saying hello or thanks will result in a positive response.

There are many channels that are there for the very purpose of helping us communicate, these include vast numbers of charities, from the Salvation Army, to Citizens Advice.  However none of these can excuse us from looking up and initiating contact with our fellow men and women.  No matter how old, how infirm, how handicapped you feel there is nothing that is better than looking up and initiating contact even in the most modest way, such as a simple smile, or hello.

There are many who are lonely despite being in a relationship.  Where communication is stunted, where there is little apparent common ground.  In many cases the idea of love has faded, where caring interest is passed.  Were we ever in love? Did we ever care?

The same sentiments of self-help  apply, as someone very wisely remarked – “being in love and staying in that happy state is very much an act of the will.” So is being a member of our human society, an act of our will.

 Look up! Tomorrow is another day to be lived as fully as we are able.

Growing Old – Gracefully 4

In the last few days we’ve talked of the aspects of aging, from avoiding ‘Nothing’, making the best of whatever is our physical condition, managing our emotion positively and today we’ll discuss managing our intellect and how that can contribute to creating a more fulfilled life, even in our most advanced years.

Intellect, is a big word, and like most big words harbours all sorts of predictive behaviours, mainly defensive.  Intellect, though, is just the name for your thought processes and whether you’re a professor or a shop worker, you still have a thinking facility.  True, some intellects are more powerful than others, but rather like making the best of our physical attributes we can make the best of our intellectual prowess in a similar way. It is often said that we use very little of our potential brain power, and physiologically this is true.  There’s a lot there we have never used.

The obvious question is how do we reach down within ourselves and stimulate our thinking systems to regenerate our enthusiasm, or discover new horizons? Maybe we want to learn, it’s never too late? Maybe we want to re-examine our own history, maybe we want to travel in our own minds or through our physical world?

Many of us have hobbies, from gardening, playing golf to knitting, is doesn’t matter as long as that hobby does not become a companion of ‘nothing’. There is comfort in the familiar, and I do not mean to decry that. To enjoy familiar company, or tasks for their reward is wonderful, but If our hobby no longer stimulates, it has become an excuse to avoid discovery and curiosity.

It is also true that as we age we become less and less tolerant of change, we become set in our ways. It is part of who we have become. A little self-criticism from time to time, does no harm.  It can and should be a stimulus for change, it is the hardest thing to do.  Reinforcing old habits be they good or bad in effect closes our eyes to the ever changing world. If we are to remain a part of it, if we want to be, that’s the secret that so many of us have lost.

Can we learn? Can we share? Can we discover parts of our own minds that have lain dormant for years?

We said that there are enormous number of ways to waste what time we have and be numbed and dumbed by ‘nothing’ but at the same time there exist a growing number of ways to experience and learn. There are still innumerable sources of enjoyment and enlightenment from the written word, through sport and competitive games to the digital media.

Perhaps the most stimulating way of using our intellect is in conversations with our fellow man.  These are challenges and choices that we make every day. We can choose to watch some mindless game of chance or read a book.  Creativity is not the preserve of the young, we can all have the ability to discover.  No matter what our age we can find a joy in discovering something that is new, at least, to us. We can choose whether to have a nap or take in some music, or enjoy a magazine. There is purpose in our being, whatever our age, and that purpose is our individual gift. To ignore it is to throw away our life.

Growing Old – Gracefully 3

In the last two blogs we’ve looked at getting ourselves together and starting off by making the best of what physical attributes we still have.  That was the first step in avoiding ‘Nothing, boredom and loneliness’ the three great enemies of the elderly.

Today I want to beat the bushes about how we keep our minds positive, especially the sentiment and emotional side of life. What do we mean by ‘emotional’?  I refer to the rollercoaster of life, the thrills and spills, the happiness, the misery, the excitement, the boredom.  The boredom is the still neutrality that sucks the light and life out of us.  Excitement and affection are the opposite side of the coin.  These emotions are positive and life enhancing.

Finding stimuli to excite us is absolutely one of the key issues and drivers in making our lives worthwhile.

 There are many of us who are recovering from loss, many others full of regret about mistakes of the past. In these circumstances it is easy to see the slide into negative introspection. Regretting or mourning for persons and things past can lead to lonely self-doubt and a foundation for regret. 

Memory, the longer we live the more is packed away.  All of us have good memories and bad memories.  They are by and large inescapable, but we do have a conscious choice about which memories we chose to dwell on. Additionally we can interpret memories, as for example the sadness of loss or the happy memories of time spent joyfully. The emergence from grief varies with each individual, but ultimately we have a choice of what to emphasise when choosing memories. Accepting loss, or mistakes as things we can no longer change, varies individually, but a way forward is what we must search for.

There is little doubt that bad memories thrive when we are lonely and happy memories emerge more easily when we are socially engaged.  We will discuss social drivers in a later blog.

In our late life roller-coaster we need to find and enjoy the things that excite us.  For many the following generations are the source of enthusiasm and excitement though for many this may not be the option or choice. Finding that exciting focus is a goal in itself, and we would do well to spend positive time examining what really ‘turns us on’.  What lights up what maybe a fairly dull world, how do we find that beacon of purpose?

Being in love is not the sole property of youth, being in love in one swoop generates all the excitement you’ll ever need even if it means devoting your like to caring for your loved one. For those where the burden has grown too hard seek help, do not give way to misery and distress.

Step 1, if it makes you smile, you are on the right track.   We can do it, if we try!

In my next blog I will be visiting the intellectual aspects of growing old and there, the emotional and the intellectual objects of excitement merge rather than collide.

Growing old – Gracefully 2

Physical Wellbeing.

Growing old they say is not for sissies.  If ever there was a truism, this is it.  We all have to face some deterioration of our physical being with age.  None of us, however are the same.  Some of us are fitter than others, some have ailments varying from tiresome to life limiting.

Our prospects might vary from; I will almost certainly pass in the next three days to, if I am lucky and positive, I can live another ten or many more happy years. The key here is, it doesn’t matter how much time we have. It is making the best of it that counts.

I am not being naïve here, I recognise that closing a life with as much comfort as possible is always valid as is extending and a fulfilling one.  Whatever our situation keeping ‘Nothing, boredom and loneliness’ at bay is what will underpin a fulfilling life, however long or short.

For the purposes of these blogs, I will gently, (as I can) point to those of us who are aware of our age but unsure how to live it.

Making the best of our physical attributes is absolutely key, and of course the variation in capability varies hugely from one to another. Nevertheless, there are things we can all do if we want to enough. Wanting to stretch, to stand, to walk, to jog, to exercise within our limits, yet doing enough to make the best of what we’ve got, is not as simple as it seems.  Firstly the enthusiasm to start is elusive.  It is much easier to say to oneself, I’ll do it tomorrow, and tomorrow almost never comes!

There are more excuses not to do anything, our inventive minds know few bounds.  There can always be a reason why NOT to do something.

We have to believe that if I want to live then I must be as fit and active as I can. This might mean anything; from sitting up, standing tall, riding a bike or taking a walk.  Whatever it is, we must have the get up and go to start.

We all have within us a starter button, it’s called enthusiasm. Appropriately from the Greek ‘the God within’.  Finding the starter button is the problem, how do we generate the enthusiasm to change our behaviour, to break a very entrenched mould?

This is the start, you can do it.  Do it, do it now!

Growing Old – Gracefully.

One of the great issues with growing old is the inevitable physical deterioration. Of course this can sometimes be mitigated to various degrees.  In the event of progressive and inevitable slowing down of our physical capability, ‘Nothing’ remains the main cause of physical deterioration, depression and associated anxiety. Clearly it is a fact that you cannot run as fast at eighty as you could at eighteen, our mortal coil changes with age, and so it must. Nevertheless sustaining our life and making it worthwhile is what we all strive for, but frequently forget how.

There are several manifestations of ‘Nothing’ getting the upper hand.  In our age of instant gratification the temptation to delegate your mind to the mindless is almost infinite. For example watching TV is perfectly OK as long as it doesn’t turn out to be an excuse to do ‘Nothing’.  Watching TV or listening to the radio are often described as ‘company’ for the lonely, and indeed at can be seen as such, however, passive listening or watching without purpose simply closes down the active mind.

I don’t mean following a dramatic series or soap, listening to a concert of your favourite band or a sports event such as golf or cricket.  I mean just watching anything to combat boredom.  Boredom and ‘Nothing’ are close friends. They are an evil pair that stalk us twenty four hours a day. The third member of the killing trio is loneliness.  Loneliness is the scourge of our modern society, it destroys self-esteem, closes our minds, and envelopes us in ‘Nothing’.  By loneliness we do not mean those who seek a solitary existence, loneliness is quite different, it is mean and destructive, it feeds on boredom and ‘Nothing’.

The following sections in this series will give you some insights into how to avoid ‘Nothing’. Believe me, ‘Nothing’ is a killer.  It is the fact of the matter, that escaping nothing prolongs life.  Having objectives, targets, ideas, ideals, and affection are all life enhancing.  They are all within us all if we reach down within ourselves to live a fuller and more enjoyable life.

Please let me know of your ideas to brighten the lives of those who are mature.  How we can as individuals and as a society enhance and improve our own lives and the lives of others.

Fighting Time.

What’s the point of time past, it’s done, finished,

tomorrow matters so much more, but it looks empty

and mean, the coldness of that empty day aches

in my aging limbs. Gone has the speed of youth,

gone has the lust for living, and winning ways.

Today time has ticked slowly by, tick tock, tick tock.

Yet these vital seconds have vanished in a trice

down an empty space, invisible, vanished for eternity.

What can I bring to tomorrow? What can all this vanishing

past bring forward to give some future purpose?

Alas, the creative power of my youth is vanishing,

consumed by speeding, greedy time.

taken on the wind of time, each gust a day less to live.

Wasting Time.

No work, no where to go, nothing to do

all very tiring, wearing out my soul,

Listen to the silence of many books read

Some entertaining, some right over my head.

Space is suddenly everywhere, yet no room

for me and my fading patience staring

bullishly at the blank wall of my existence.

Looking back, even that is fading to limitless grey,

nearly as far as the horizon of my emptiness

Looking forward to nothing, how comfortable

will that be, if I switch off, and choose to

ruffle the sofa, the snoring grunting breath

Of time passing, and eating me and you

 in its hungry vacuity with no horizon.