Human Sorrow, Environmental Joy & the Wisdoms of Danny The Dealer.

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Bear with me as I just want to set out the slightly odd logic that got me to here.

While walking along the banks of the Ouse towards Hamsey, mist rising off the sky soaked water, a chattering Magpie swooped and settled on the dewy path in front of me.

Good morning Mr Magpie: 

how are Mrs Magpie 

and all of the other little magpies?

Thats what I should have said at least, if I were a man truly stitched into the natural fabric of Albion’s rolling, rural majesty and the echoes of our medieval ritual and lore. But it was in fact the Magpie theme tune from the 1970s children’s show, with accompanying electric moonage graphic intro that came to me first, through a rose-tinted mist of Angel Delight, It’s a Knockout, Berni Inns [the Tudor Tavern in St Alban’s to be precise], ABBA, and Susan Shanks.

This was closely followed by an passing echo of Radiohead’s:

Good Morning Mr Magpie,

How are we today

Now you’ve stolen all the magic 

And took my memory

At which point I settled back into the familiar One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, Three for a Girl and four for a Boy refrain. And it was the word Sorrow that finally popped to the top of the pile in my head. 

As I walked I remembered a passage in Stephen Pinker’s book, Enlightenment Now which alluded to Sorrow and something about pandemics.

For those who might not know him, Stephen Pinker is a Scientist first and foremost, the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard, and an Elected Member of the Academy of Sciences. He is also an advocate of Eco-modernism or what some call Eco Pragmatism, and actively refutes any attempts to create a morality play around issues concerning the environment and climate change. He dismisses the positioning of these arguments as being those of Good vs Evil and rightly questions all of the incumbent fanatacisms that come with that framing from either side. To some Green Revolutionaries and Climate extremists this places him firmly in the opposition. 

Why had this Sorrow Pandemic thought demanded revisiting? Because recently in the pursuit of seeking out and discussing positive outcomes from our current crises, I’ve been reminded that some, especially those at the bleeding edges of the Environmentalist establishment [and yes, you are as much of the established order now as those you damn], see the crisis unfolding around the world as licence to make unrestrained and slightly gleeful statements and exaltations about the impacts of COVID 19.

There is no doubt that this cloud does contains a multitude of silvery positives. That there is barely a plane in the sky, no travel to speak of, a collapse in oil demand, a shrinking if not collapse of unfettered consumption, the return of certain ecosystems to their purer nature [the canals of Venice’s return to beauty is a much trumpeted benefit of the collapse of its tourism trade], and a general re-engaging with nature in all of its glory are indeed to be somewhat thankful for. But they come at a price.

There is also a sense from some that COVID will act as a great leveller, and that, just perhaps, this crises may lead to a shrinking of inequality in the world; a rebalancing in favour of smaller living and needs and a greater balance between humanity and the natural world. 

The upsides are plain to see. But where my issue lies is that these upsides often seem to be dislocated from the downside price we will have to pay for them – and what’s more, unfettered from whom will pay that price eventually. It is that dislocation that concerns me. And it is the glee present in some of the exhalations that pricked me; the whiff of a misanthropic, Thanos-shaped righteous mania that is in need of checking, in my humble opinion at least.

The piece I remembered was in fact to be found in his chapter on Inequality, and if you’ll bear with me I’ve reproduced it below in its entirety:

‘The historian Walter Schneidel identifies “Four horsemen of Levelling”; mass-mobilisation warfare, transformative revolution, state collapse, and lethal pandemics. In addition to obliterating wealth [and, in the communist revolutions, the people who owned it], the four horseman reduce inequality by killing large numbers of workers, driving up the wages of those who survive. Scheidel concludes, “All of us who prize greater economic equality would do well to remember that with the rarest of exceptions it was only ever bought forth in sorrow*. Be careful what you wish for. ‘

Source: Stephen Pinker, Enlightenment Now, Penguin Random House

*my emphases

There it was – careful what you wish for. In reading this I had mentally added to Sheidel’s prize of greater economic equality those of greater environmental well-being; an equality of possibility for all regardless of gender, colour, creed or background; a reduction in industrial carbon emissions; greater respect and care for the creatures we share the planet with; a return to less nihilist consumer tendencies; and a general rebalancing of humanity and planet.

All of these are eminently desirable, but must exist within a universal order under natural laws, and therefore there are losers and losses to be accounted for with these gains. Positive and negative externalities. We must be cognisant of that.

And this is where I come to my point [at last]. 

I have a simple request to those whom might quietly caw and reel and dance as the old order burns about them – the price for your glee is being carried by human beings who do not necessarily deserve your dance at their despair.

To punk and pimp Yeats:

But I being poor have only my sorrow:

I have spread my sorrow under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my sorrow.

Before you say or do anything in celebration of the upsides, just be conscious that there is a bill: the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives; the deaths of precious loved ones, the loss of millions of jobs and the supplementary well-being and progress they bring to individuals, communities and economies – and a severe loss of momentum on the social and technological progress that might just accelerate humanity out of the poverty that fuels so much of what’s wrong on the planet.

In his chapter on The Environment, Pinker quotes Indira Ghandi; ‘Poverty is the greatest polluter.’

If we only look to the negative environmental impact that historic and more recent scale industrialisation brings and discard the fact that the advances inherent in these epochs have in turn raised millions out of poverty, of course we will see a doomsday scenario. 

Pinker’s book reminded me that for all the degradation and diminishments the industrial revolution and subsequent technological advances have bought [and he does not shy away from pointing to the dreadful scale of them, and equally the role of tyrannies of both the extreme left and the extreme right in escalating them], he reminds us that once the leverage of progress has lifted millions out of poverty and away from scratching a daily subsistence, they are able to raise their eyes and minds to higher-order issues and challenges that might face us not just as individuals but as a collective.

In the act of liberating millions from poverty, enlightenment stops being the exclusive preserve of a small cabal of highly-educated and righteous minds exercising the luxury of their conscience above everyone else. Enlightenment becomes democratised across millions, eventually billions, of people – and through that enlightenment comes the responsibility it brings.

The rise out of poverty allows any society to educate and enlighten those liberated millions to the positive and negative impacts of our existence, both on each other, the environment and on the planet as a whole – and it elevates and accelerates that society’s ability and capacity for making and acting upon smarter choices. There has to be some good in that.

And in regards to a point I made earlier, whether Pinker is the opposition or not, here’s a thought in regards to how we might nurture greater consideration and consciousness of others in the machine of all of this. 

Break out of your echo-chamber. Every now and then. Move away from those that celebrate the same beliefs and value systems as you and consume the same feedback loops of ‘suitable’ or relevant data that you consume. Read texts that make you feel uncomfortable; texts that hold the opposite of your belief system; texts that present research findings, insights and correlations that contradict those you usually rely on to support your beliefs – seek out the peta-flip-side to the peta-flop of big data points your echo-chamber usually feeds on.

Big Data and the feedback loops of insight and ‘truth’ it brings are the drug of Now. But this presents us with somewhat of a dichotomy. What makes one ‘truth’ right and the other wrong? Who decides?

What we trust and why is a shaded and complex thing, as Withnail’s provider of Phenodihydrochloride benzelex, Danny the Dealer points out:

Marwood: Give me a Valium, I’m getting the FEAR!

Danny: [very calmly] You have done something to your brain. You have made it high. If I lay 10 mils of diazepam on you, it will do something else to your brain. You will make it low. 

Why trust one drug and not the other? That’s politics, innit?

Why trust one ‘drug’ and not the other? Though the data point itself may be scientifically or statistically immutable and solid, it does not stop the purveyor, distributor and propagator of that data point ‘framing’ it for their own benefit and in such a way as to suit their immediate need. So for balance, and in search of illuminated self-enquiry, it pays us to see and contemplate on all sides. In doing that we might achieve a slightly more universal, humane and less partisan perspective.

You might of course align yourself with Saul D. Alinsky’s Rule for Radicals of polarity and extremity as the only way to drive transformative change. You may choose to remove any of the naturally occurring grey and revert to a black and white absolutism underwritten by the fifth rule of Ridicule and think ‘Fuck your Trumpist orange-man point of view’, in which case, enjoy your radical bully-hole. 

You might be so delighted at the evidences of nature’s ascendency that everything else can go whistle.  That’s also fine. Unlike millions of people who still live under the shadows of poverty, tyranny, ignorance and degradation, you live in a society that treasures and upholds free speech and the application of free will. So you’re free to utilise your educated, enlightened mind to think and say what you like.

And if, given all of that, you quietly and simply don’t care; and see the doomsday scenario of natural reordering and devastation required to deliver your aims as worth cheering for in the face of others sorrow, then crack on.

All I would ask is this – that you and your opposites, those who trumpet and celebrate free-market dynamics and profit while dismissing the destruction and degradation they bring on humanity, our communities and our environment as a fair price for the gain, do us all a favour:

Get a room, and leave the rest of us to try and make the best of this.   

Up-Close & Silent. Firing up intimacy in a Zooming world.

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This is a really simple, and hopefully, rewarding and meaningful exercise we can all do.

The only barrier to participating will be your broadband connection.

If it is dodgy and you already spend indeterminate amounts of time waiting for the frozen rictus grimace of the person you’re zooming or hanging-out with to unfreeze, what I am about to impart as an exercise in intimacy will be lost on you. Though you may want to try filling the down-time by capturing screen-shots of the best ‘frozen faces’ and creating a ‘rogues gallery’ to while away the moments.

But, if your broadband is bulging with bandwidth, we’ll crack on.

Now, hands up who’s spending a ridiculous amount of time on Zoom meetings or call meetings or meeting meetings of any kind? Thought so.

It seems that though we are winding into our newly virtually-streamlined dance of life and work reasonably well, some of us are finding it hard to shake the need to be busy being busy.

Working from home seems to be an exercise in existential professional angst.

“Should I have a Google meeting Calendar?”

“Should I just ‘be around, dial in whenever’ or more formal and less available?”

“What is ‘too many meetings” in a COVID 19 world?”

“ How do I project value to my employer while ‘not in the room’?”

We also then have the aesthetics and logistics of the Lockdown Screen-Age. There’s been lots of adjusting, and light moving, all to sort the Zoom friendly ‘best angle.’ We know full well that people are surrepticiously viewing our Now – the life of us visible around the edges of our in-screen head when we meet. Slightly to the left? To the right? Painting or book shelves in shot? But which books? Which artists? What do they say about me? Back to the wall, or space behind me? Comedy zoom-bombing by family members [or pets]? Or door cemented shut with barbed wire?

Questions questions questions.

The one outcome or effect? 

Zoom & FaceTime saturation. And a staggering disappearance of natural intimacy.

Once upon a time when it wasn’t used for everything FaceTime was fun and quite personal. Not any more!! You are as likely to have your line manager, CEO, business partner or the accounts department on FaceTime as you are your 12 year old and the family dog.

And it’s also getting a little ‘performance’ out there.

We are trained almost chimp-like to ‘lean in’ [the crap silicon valley speak for being half-interested] when the camera is on. And we seem to be suffering from accelerating excitability, so desperately in need are we of a new face/conversation/topic/theme/human to point ourselves at.

So we tend to perform a little more – and in turn perhaps be a little less genuine?

So how do we rediscover intimacy not only in the absence of hugs and physical proximity – the rub of life – but also in the accelerating tsunami of zoom screens and facetime?

And here is my thought – and, as I say, it’s really simple.

Select someone you love – family, friend, child, grandparent, anyone – and the best channel on which to connect with them – hangouts, face time or zoom.

Then do the following:

  • Agree in advance that you will only be on the ‘call’ for 5 minutes max – no more
  • Agree that after the first minute, you will both stop talking. 
  • Agree that you will just look at each other directly; no wriggling or evasion
  • Agree that you will do that for as long as possible.

And see how you do.

This is about a simple shift in behaviour with big impact. And putting the staggering intimacy of silence and direct gaze to work.

And it’s tough. You may only get 10 seconds in – or, perhaps, like a lot of other things recently, you may surprise yourself and last longer. 

But don’t underestimate it. To engage, fully, in silence – to truly look at the person, and not demand noise, action, words or response; that is ‘powerful shit, man’ as Cheech may well have said to Chong at some point in the late 60s early 70s.

To look at the person directly, and just be comfortable with that and the deafening silence of it can be remarkable and so intensely intimate you’ll be amazed. Or terrified.

Someone mentioned that they’d be lucky to get through 2O seconds without either breaking wind, slurping tea, cackling randomly or bursting into tears.

Well, all of those sound great to me. But perhaps all at once might be a challenge. 

Give it a go and then at least you’ve tried and there’s another thing to cross off the Things To Do In A Lockdown list.

Bon Chance

Soul Telly, Snacks & Reasons to be Cheerful.

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Love Gogglebox. Every fidgeting, gasping, shrieking, bantering, bolshy, camp, caustic, crass, deep, playful minute of it.

Gogglebox is soul telly.

There is no better reminder in these C times of why things will be alright. Gogglebox reminds us that the genius of every British sitcom from Fawlty Towers and Sorry to Plebs, Shameless and the IT crowd is rooted in the fact that basically they’re us, but with a director and a cameraman attached. But there’s more to soul telly than meets the eye. And its just one beautiful piece of the puzzle

In the words of the master Blockhead, Ian Dury, that timeless funk-punk Chaucer, Gogglebox brings Reasons to be Cheerful, 1, 2. 3.

So let’s pick through those Reasons. Starting with the biggie. No. 1. Gogglebox is Soul telly. And I really need to be clear about what I mean when I say Soul Telly so we don’t get muddled up. For me there are many kinds of telly so I break them into four buckets just for my tiny brain to order them better.

First there’s Brilliant telly. Now Brilliant Telly is the Oh my God have you seen…? format of telly that people refer to as having ‘water cooler’ cache [though I prefer to call them Kettle Conversations as we’re keeping this British!]. Brilliant telly is the likes of: Blue Planet, Peaky Blinders, Killing Eve, The Nest. Brilliant telly goes off like a rocket and lights up culture and conversation.

Then there’s Reassurance telly. We all know this one. It’s the t.v. solution to ‘now THAT was a shite day. Is it wine o’clock yet? Right answer. Yes.’ Once the liquid and the nibbles are sorted [more of the later], next step, reassuring telly. The increased likelihood of Reassurance telly viewing can be mapped in direct relation to the degree to which you’ve had a shite day, are knackered, and simply can’t be arsed to start a new box set, navigate Catch Up or start a movie. At the intersection of all of those variables a moment occurs. ‘Modern Family? Love it. I’m well in the mood for that. Pass the Chipsticks and that full-fat hummus, right now.’   Reassurance telly is telly that is an old friend. You know each other and you are happy in each other’s company and it requires little effort on either part. And the biggest upside? You know you’ll have a good time and you shall go to sleep quietly happy.

Then there’s Nostalgia telly. V. different to Reassurance telly. Nostalgia telly does a very particular job. It is the televisual equivalent of sticking your thumb in your mouth and having a good old suck. Nostalgia telly is when you purposefully call up something that is as much a part of socio-cultural memory and history as it is of your own personal intimate memories. For me that can be anything from The Sweeney [the original] and Thunderbirds [the original] to Dr Who [the third one]. Granted some telly does a weird slip-shift thing between Brilliant and Nostalgia – Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes are a perfect example of this. But don’t be fooled. These anomalies are Brilliant first and foremost. Nostalgia tends to announce its presence – like the screen format giving away the fact that it was built for the old television format. Porridge. Fawlty Towers and BlackAdder fulfil these things nicely.

And finally there’s Soul telly. And this is a transcendent level. Soul telly seems to be able to reach something that, to punk an old beer advert, other telly cannot reach. And Gogglebox is one of those for me. It is not just something I look forwards to; or something I love to watch with my family; or something that just makes me feel better.  It fundamentally restores my faith in a very British humanity. This is not solely reserved for reality formats. The Detectorists, a masterclass in gentle, wry, rolling storytelling  is one of the most sublime pieces of soul telly I have ever seen.

NOTE I have not included the slightly difficult 5th child. Shite Telly,  as I didn’t want either to pretend I give a shit or to intellectualise what is effectively shite by its very nature. And to be fair it demands a whole journey into the underworld of its own.

So, Reasons to be Cheerful – part 1.

Soul Telly.

Now Reasons to be Cheerful parts 2 and 3 exist, in my world at least, directly in relation to part 1. This may be currently due to the lockdown and the country calling on us to park our arse on a sofa and crack on. But to be truthful, it’s not that much of a change for me. 

When I’m not wandering around the Downs in my over-tuned trainers pretending I’m Wordsworth, or perched at my lap top typing stuff like this, or undertaking any of the various other task-based living that makes up my day, I can be found parked in a blue, poplin armchair in front of my television. [I can’t bring myself to call it a smart screen TV as it isn’t – it’s my mother’s old telly which I’ve never upgraded.]

Sometimes I am doing this with my children. And sometimes alone. But for the purposes of this piece I’ll stick with the version that includes nearest and dearest. When we do, as has already been pointed out, there is always some form of snack close to hand . 

Which neatly brings me to Reasons to be Cheerful – part 2. 

Snacks.

Yup. Snacks – or nibbles. Some form of savoury snack is always welcome – piles o’ toast. Crisps, chips n dips. [Naked Tyrells for me]. Or sweet stuff. Maltesers, M&Ms or some such chocolate. Chocolate Fingers. Whatever. [Be warned, it’s a bit of a push dragging 85% Patagonian cocoa chocolate with organic caramel splinters into this environment – a little like trying to watch Corrie with Donatella Versace but – everyone to their own.]

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Make no mistake, snacks are REALLY important to the Reasons to be Cheerful. They are not discretionary. They are a pivotal part of the whole shebang. But, again, I cannot be generalist here. In this instance, for me, snacks require a nature of self-containment if not portability. Snacks need to come in a packet, bag, sachet, wrapper or box. Cakes should be of the already individually-portioned, or of the complete-format variety – for example; chocolate cake rolls or eclairs. Though I LOVE Marmite toast, marmite toast is a step or two beyond ‘snacks’. It is for want of a better word – un-contained. Toast? Fine. But Marmite Toast. It requires toasting – and the buttering – and then spreading.

It is no surprise that every one of the gorgeous, funny and highly individual families and units on Gogglebox always have some form of snack on the go, from expansive picnic-like extravagances, red wine and chocolate, to cup-a-soup, glazed eclairs, and spray cream. They play a profound role in the dynamics and integration of the people in the room. A catalyst to lean in.

One question that does arise in my mind though is why Dave, one of the Malone family’s dogs, doesn’t eat the piles of snacks and treats on the table? Plastic props? Discuss.

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Which also brings us to Reason to be Cheerful – part 3.

Company.

There is something simple and human about the intimacy and proximity of the people in Gogglebox and the company they keep [even when they are not always human]. And once we’ve got beyond the slightly self-conscious construct or conceit of us watching them watching telly – a simple truth reveals itself to me every time. 

We’re going to be alright. If this is a half decent mirror of British society, give or take a little tweaking around the edges, we will be fine.

I am uncertain as to the degree to which they programme tries to ensure that it is being ‘UK SAMPLE’ representative but there seems to be a reasonably decent balance between types and natures and backgrounds in the Gogglebox regulars with little preference shown to any one unit. 

And as if we needed proof of the great leveller of it all, Celebrity Gogglebox simply proves that however extraordinary the things people do, they are still ordinary people. Whatever makes and bakes their fame, they are still broadly the same: same quirks; same glitches; same beliefs; same values; same need for simple acts of togetherness and belonging.

I am reassured by the fact that if I were to put a camera on myself I am no different. When I sit and watch The Detectorists while stuffing Tyrell’s Naked crisps in my face, nibbling a Malteser, or scoffing hummus with carrot batons [I just HAD to use that word], I am them. And they are me.

I am no different to any of them really. And the reason that makes me cheerful is this:

Before the big C popped up, we have been living arse-deep in divisive shite. If it wasn’t the strange and quite unpleasant hectoring and bullying of BREXIT, the utterly slippery nature of how all sides presented themselves at any given time, and the civil war of LEAVE and REMAIN, it was the hysteria of identity politics, with seemingly intelligent people sucked into messy, unravelling justifications for carving society into finer and finer pieces in some insane slice and dice race to the bottom of the self-assertion barrel. And however good the cause that one or other crowd or tribe might ignite, the nasty social smack-down bullshit of the echo chamber prevailed, and it got uglier and uglier and noisier and noisier. Cheerless, Soul-less. Charmless. Over protesting. Needy. Crooked. Divisive.

In Gogglebox. I see a celebration of shades of same. Not difference. And I think right now, out there, the majority of people are proving everyday in so many ways that shades of same are a beautiful thing. Something we’ll all stand up for and fight to protect. And it is not isolationist to look to our own first before we look to others across the world. We must secure the integrity of our society first and foremost. We’re no good to anyone elsewhere if we don’t. 

And if Soul Telly, Snacks and Company underwrite that sterling effort… I’m in.

Vestigial Tales, Trainers & other Natural Wonders.

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     The sponging of dense grass and moss muffles up through each footstep. Each earthly percussion creates a physical feedback loop that drives the next step and the next. There is something of the mechanical meditation in this walk. Each step reaches further than just the simple exchange of calorific energy through muscle and sinew for propulsion. Each footfall connects me with the deeper history of the chalk and flint ground beneath my feet. My pace is steady. [My speed hovers somewhere around the 7 in gym treadmill terms.]

That I connect to this ancient soil through the soles of my very urban white, red and green Suacony Jazz 91 trainers doesn’t quite fit the idyllic bill. But in their defence, they have carried me through hundreds of hours of walking around this Downland over the last 3 or so years. So they have earned their place, however incongruous they might seem amidst the herds of professional walking boots and shoes we pass.

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The wind-blown tree sits on the prow of the hill. The tree is my first marker. Beyond the tree, decompression and a quieting of the mind awaits.

As I pick up my pace, I imagine each heel-crump and sole-scuff echoing down through the Cretaceous layers beneath me. The chalk here is a vestigial blanket beneath the patchwork quilt of the East Sussex Downs – a residue of microscopic plankton skeletons from the bed of the shallow sea that once covered this area. As I veer left towards the tree I see the roof-tops of Cliffe High Street and the scimitar curve of the tidal River Ouse behind and below me as it exits Lewes. I also sense the Culfail Tunnel that cuts beneath me behind the chalk cliff-face that rises up over the south-easterly point of Lewes.

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The walk takes me up and into the Southerham Farm Reserve, just south-east of Lewes. The grassland here has developed into the close-cropped downland pasture through over a 1000 years of grazing. South Downs sheep speckle the hillsides, bobbing like fluffy white and grey corks on the waves of chalk and flint hills rolling back towards the sea some five miles off to the south of me. The Reserve footpath scarps up a green incline to my left punctuated with sheep and meat-herd cattle. In front of me to the right and below where I am standing is a curved hollow that wends around to the right and down into a dip through which a farm track runs – a natural amphitheatre with topographic welts running along its steep sides – the long grassed-over furrows of some older crop raising. 

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Vestigial echoes are a theme up here. Another quirk of my Saucony Jazz trainers is that the left one wheezes slightly each time my heel hits the ground. [Well, more of a  squelchy-sigh than a wheeze.] The right remains inscrutably silent. I speculate that this lop-sided sound effect might be due to the fact that I carry more weight on my left foot. A physical echo perhaps, of an L1/L2 prolapse disc that demonstrated itself [sciatica] in my right leg and foot. The echo here resides in the heel of my left trainer as evidence of my ‘carrying’ it still, [my leg that is, not the trainer] some 18 years after the fact.

Beyond the wizened tree, the ground raises upwards in a gentle slope and then steepens. The meat-cattle are closer now, bunched in this narrower spit that runs around the top edge of the amphitheatre to my right. As I move to the prow where a stile opens onto the next leg of the walk, the wind blows up a little. I am suddenly aware that there is not one obstacle between me and Eastbourne to the immediate east and Beachy Head and the Birling Gap to the south-east of me.

Sound overwhelms me here, the wind buffeting my ears. Until this point the walk has been wrapped in the birdsong of skylarks hovering and flitting 20-30 yards above my head. The warbling sing-song of them wafting over the downs just above ground level is particular to this landscape.

The purity of their song marks a clear phase in the walk. Earlier on, as I climb the tarmac hill from Cliffe High Street up past the golf course to reach the downland, the birdsong is an exquisite collision of sparrows, starlings and blue tits, tinged with the corvid caws of crow, magpie mutter, wood pigeon coos, and the wood chatter of a distant woodpecker.

This blanket of birdsong is soulful evidence of a universal grammar at work in the natural world. Current research shows increasing evidence of the links between birdsong and the universal grammar evident within it and the syntactical rhythms of creature speech. It would come as no surprise to me that humans have mined and mimicked bird song to elevate and sophisticate the basic range of primate vocal communication. Chimpanzees may well write Shakespeare given a typewriter and long enough. But it takes birds to elevate the human language to a sonnet or an aria.

Once past the golf course and out on to the downland, everything falls away.  I am left with only the skylark song all about me. It is punctuated every now and then by soaring seagull calls high above me and the distinctive cocking of the male pheasant below me, scuttling along the fringes of the low copse woods. Ive decided that, at their harshest, pheasant calls sound like a hybrid between a crow caw and a fan-belt slipping.

As I look up into the blue, scanning to find the various protagonists of said songs, something reveals itself to me. Before the lock down came, even up in this beautiful and reasonably unspoilt part of the world, there would still be a steady, low level of noise pollution coming both up from the traffic rush of the A27, and down from the planes heading for Gatwick Airport.

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Now. Just blue. And silence. As testament to the emptiness of the sky bar the birds nature put in it, I spy just one high distant vapour trail. This blue canopy is usually criss-crossed with the vapour scratches of windswept and interesting air travel. No now at least.

The lockdown has given those of us lucky enough to live at the fringes of nature an opportunity to reconnect with her beyond a simple Sunday walk. The silences left by the absence of air and road travel amplify and elevate the natural orchestra of the wild. Greater tracts of time and a far deeper need to reflect and interrogate some of the turbulence and anxiety the COVID 19 pandemic has bought compels us to spend longer out in nature than we might otherwise do. Thats not a bad thing. And it is a living privilege that I am deeply grateful for.

As I loop my way up and across the downland, Mount Caeburn sits to my left-hand side at the highest point, with Lewes to its north and the silvery Ouse snaking beneath its gaze southwards to Newhaven and the sea. This hunched, moated echo of an iron-age hill fort is from a time where defence against the dangers that might lurk all around the settlement, against what might harry and kill the occupants, was the key to survival. It was a defended place everyone could withdraw to and take refuge in. It strikes me that every home in the UK right now is less a castle and more a Mount Caebourn.

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The sun is up properly now and the mists are starting to lift off the alluvial plain below and to the south. The striding dark sigh of me falls away to my right across the grazing field.

It makes me think.

The shadow that falls from me is not the stretching shadow of an evening sun whose lengthening signals the coming darkness of a long night. This is a morning walk. On this day, for the moment at least, much like our impacts on the environment, my shadow will only shorten as the sun rises and the day fills to blooming.  And with the coming of the mid-day sun that shadow will briefly disappear. To nothing. The long shadow of my presence on the downland will have passed into memory, for a short while at least.

It would be rather nice if our impacts on the only planet we have did much the same.

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HEAVY BRAKING. A cautionary tale for our times.

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Mike did not see Sir David Attenborough until the moment he stepped in front of Mike’s speeding Lexus Hybrid NX 300h.

Thankfully Mike did what every right-minded father-of-two raised on endless episodes of Life on Earth would do when a force of nature steps in front of your vehicle.

He braked; heavily.

Truthfully Sir David was never in danger. A combination of a fierce primal instinct to preserve Sir David’s life and the superior braking system of Mike’s new hybrid Lexus SUV meant that Sir David was successfully avoided. Mike was highly attuned to forces of nature. He recycled – and drove a hybrid, albeit a self-consciously ‘desirable’ one.

No, It was the occupants of Mike’s car who experienced the full weight of this event. In so many different ways.

The first fact we must absorb is that Mike is speeding. No surprise there. It’s not that Mike is irresponsible. He is a very cautious man in many ways. But. The smarter the technology life gives us, the simpler and more effortless our ability to accelerate to fibre-light speed, and the more cocooned we are made to feel as we do it, the more oblivious we are. And ultimately, the faster we go. It’s a human thing. It’s what we do.

Now to Mike’s driving. Is he fully attentive to the road? Kind of. Truth be told, he is perhaps a little preoccupied with how things are going right now. Mike is a reasonably senior director in a small local firm. And BREXIT has been a little bumpy – but things are sort of OK. They’d only had to lay off Sharshi, but frankly that was more to do with her being a gob-on-a-stick as well as being highly inappropriate with the logistics manager over company email than it had to do with any financial pressures bought on by ‘BREXIT. But Mike cannot shake this creeping feeling that failure is lurking around every corner at the moment.

The other occupants in Mike’s speeding Lexus NX 300h with superior braking are: Tilly, Mike’s partner. Tilly is an exceptionally rigorous and controlled laboratory director at the local University. And part time keep-fit instructor.  Though right now, data sets and crunches are the furthest thing from her mind. She looks blankly at the txt. thread she should never have answered talking back to her now in highly physical terms. Words like sucking and pumping shouldn’t be in her message threads, especially when accompanied by a picture like that. Jesus! Her laboratory was potentially losing funding – cheers BREXIT – so everything is a little crazy.

Next is Kiera [yes, really. Blame the film Love Actually.] Kiera. 15 years old. Up to her ears in GCSE study modules, performance anxiety and Spotify playlists [her most recent being MentalSplinter – music to die for.] At this very moment life is a mixture of ear-bleeding headphone-induced oblivion, fierce self scrutiny, a particularly tricky spot on her hairline and a pubic pimple that was frankly freaking her out. Fuck growing up if this is what it had to offer.

And then there is Rachel. The ‘clever’ one. Rachel is 13 and better read than Mike currently. Two more text books and she will over-take her mother. She is startlingly astute, with a vocabulary and syntactical sensitivity that could fell Stephen Fry. BUT. For all of Rachel’s blistering astuteness, learned appreciations and curious ability to breakdance, she cannot fathom what to do with the complete B in year 8 making her life an utter hell on SnapChat. Speccy virgin. Shoot yourself. Skiddy Knickers. Nightmare. And no idea how to stop it. Yes. I know… I shouldn’t even be on Snap Chat but COME ON people. Anyway, right this minute, the sun’s streaming across her and ABBA are on her playlist. LOVE Mamma Mia!

And now to that series of events:

Well, heavy braking creates a rather remarkable succession of immutable truths – unstoppable occurrences that one always hopes will end well. So with an optimistic note, let’s unpack them a little more. 

The minute Mike hits the brakes two things happen. And they happen in hyper-slow motion.

Firstly everyone in the car is dragged [sometimes screaming] at hyper-speed from whatever thought, moment, reverie, dream, fantasy, space or private perceived hell hole they’re in into the Now. Boom. And what a Now it is.

As the driver’s reflex dictates, Mike puts his left arm across Tilly’s chest to potentially stop her over-accelerating towards the dashboard and, hopefully, the airbag – and in doing so comes far closer to her breasts than he has been for quite some time.  

At the exact moment Mike stamps on the brakes, Tilly’s txt concerns become utterly irrelevant as a mixture of gravitational pull and sheer momentum pitch her towards the dashboard in a rather twisted and uncomfortably movement caused by her badly positioned seat-belt [Tilly always slightly wriggles the seat belt down and across her so it doesn’t cut into her gunmetal silk blouse.] The raised airbag logo on the dash board is something she has no wish to become more closely acquainted with but equally appreciates that she may well end up emblazoned on her forehead. What’s more it will be reversed in much the same way that AMBULANCE is written to be legible in the rear view mirror. Nonetheless forwards she goes. And she is uncertain as to what is less welcome, the word airbag tattooed on her forehead, or Mike’s hand hovering in intimate proximity to her breasts.

Rachel’s master plan of destroying Yr 8 B in a firestorm of BRILLIANT Snap Chat ripostes simply leaps from her mind as she starts a low-rider body slide towards the back of her mother’s seat. The combination of highly-synthetic patterned jeggings and the leather-creamed sheen of the open-stitched leather seats quickens her already pacy trajectory as the lower seatbelt-strap ratchets up over her hips as its diagonal strap hovercrafts upwards over her wrinkled chin towards her pert nose. The phone that’s in her hand is now just another item in the vehicle heading forwards at a greater velocity than the vehicle in which it is currently travelling. Mamma Mia, here I go again…my my… how can I resist it. For Rachel resistance is futile as forwards she goes in super slo-mo, her wide eyes furiously snapping a million single images in quick succession to turn into some survival slide show for  a later date.

Kiera’s mind’s eye has dumped the multiple threads of general teenage angst, confusion over two-timing Archie, the pubic pimple debacle and exam horror to concentrate solely on her trajectory towards the back of her father’s driving seat and the small plasma screen currently showing High School Musical 3 with the sound off. In this moment Kiera is focused on the general dynamics of her motion towards an irritatingly perfect Troy Bolton as her seat-belt steps into the role of Sharpay, holding her back from an accelerated rendezvous with Troy’s plasma-screen lips. This series of unfortunate events is accompanied by the 4th random play track on her Mental Splinters playlists. As it turns out, Stormzy’s Heavy is the Head is the perfect anthem, given that her heavy head separates from her headphones like Usain Bolt on a very good day.

The second thing that happens in times of heavy braking is an exercise in relativity. When seen from the outside world through which it moves, the car slows rapidly, but when viewed from the inside we see that the the occupants inside the slowing vehicle experience the polar opposite physical phenomenon as they accelerate through the cars space, embarking on a whole new journey through space and time. And not only the occupants, but every other thing in the car that is not of the car.

As the Lexus screeches to a halt things fall open, fall apart, tip over, reveal themselves. Objects roll out from under seats and from behind head and arm rests and door side pockets – things once considered lost, or misplaced, or nicked by one’s siblings: Those special Lego characters thought pilfered. A small corner of an ancient blueberry muffin, a load of CDs [wot they] that simply got transferred from the old car to the new one and got dumped in the boot. Three random and now chalky Maltesers. A pen. Old car park tickets. Carb Killa wrappers. A branded gym water-bottle A scrunched and discarded note, written by a teenage admirer. A copy of a ‘no idea, never been there’ restaurant payment receipt for a meal for two. And a Final Reminder letter that proved to upsetting to open. 

Once these are seen, they re-enter the lives of the car and the occupants, evidence of other times and moments until recently lost to them.

In a time of heavy braking, as the speed of life both reverses and accelerates, the unseen become seen. Things reveal themselves to Mike, Tilly, Kiera and Rachel – material things, physical things, emotional things, spiritual things – things that they might otherwise miss, ignore, over-look or feel able to hide in the usual speed of life.

And in the midst of this moment, their minds will demonstrate exactly how quickly we adapt – how we create expanses of inner space in what we thought was a mind full up with life’s really important stuff – an expanse of inner space that gives us the room to take up new threads, scrutinise events, record information, and expand to accommodate all of those tasks and complex conundrums and puzzles to solve in the next few nano seconds.

In a moment of extreme reflex survival, our hearts and minds demonstrate how resilient they truly are – how fast they can operate, how much they can absorb, how much thinking they can do, how much consideration they can muster and how many decisions and commitments they can make in the lifetime of infinitesimal moments that occur in times off heavy braking. And in that moment we are re-stitched into the fabric of each other’s lives in the most profound way.

All of this seems clear enough.

The big question is this – when the period of heavy braking is over – once the agile, highly engineered and resourceful Lexus NX 300h comes to a stop [beautifully of course, as the hi spec ABS and sports suspension has fulfilled its role] – once everyone is checked and found to be OK, other than the odd scuff, chaff and wrench – what will Mike, Tilly, Keira and Rachel have learned? About themselves and those in the car with them? What life lessons and outtakes can they pop in the back of their memory for later?

Will the shared moment of dramatic suspension – the memory of their collective journey through space and time, hurtling through the inner space of Lexus engineering towards the unknown [the cosmic unknown that is – there is very little unknown about a windscreen, air bag or dashboard], the intimate proximity of it, their shared expulsions of breath, their primal exclamations, all mixing in some primal soupy in-car atmosphere of survival – will those things positively imprint on Mike, Tilly, Keira and Rachel? 

Will the experience make them see how some things are barely worth the anguish or the upset – and how sometimes our vanities and inflated expectations of ourselves and what life serves us are just that and with the gift of a clarifying experience to guide us, should be set aside and good things embraced.

Who knows? But you can only hope. 

In these times of heavy braking, take the time of slo-mo living that it presents to look to those closest to you, open your eyes to them – freeze frame these moments. And try and catalogue the gifts this time gives us. Starting with the realisation that the previous speed of life was bullshit really. And all that shiny ‘look at me’ momentum was simply that, the veneer of our vanity. Take the time to think What If… what if we managed to capture even the smallest of the gains from this time of heavy braking – insights, realisations, commitments, behaviours, resolutions, even the smallest of transformations in ourselves, our families, our communities and our societies. That would be good. That would be something.  

Author’s Note: I apologies if the use of Sir David Attenborough as the human embodiment of Nature’s volatility. Sir David is Nature to millions of people – so I popped him in there. Though he may not like being used to represent COVID 19 – and some might even question the ‘natural’ nature of the virus given humanity’s ability to turn it into a blight.

Spams, Scams, data & the clicky tricks of E-vertisers

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It seems we are only ever one click away from digital heaven or hell – the chiaroscuro of polluted data bases, email hijacks, scams, dark trading and the ugly beauty of spam and click-bait either flinging us skyward or casting us down into the digital lava of e-hell.

Internet searches can get dicey even with the most innocent of search terms. So staying vigilant and being careful helps. 

God help you if you’re stupid enough to glaze over while scrolling emails [that’ll be me] or even staggeringly dumb enough to click on one that reads ‘Your Amazon Order Update & Competition Exclusive’ [that’ll be me again] especially if, on thinking about it, you weren’t actually expecting an Amazon or any other kind of order for that matter!! [And yes, still Me!] 

But Lordy lord does your gut know the minute you click on that icon that you’ll rue the day you ever did. Perviously this kind of stuff would really irritate me – my inbox suddenly filled to spilling with mindless and pointless pap – honking scams, over-promise and tat. But as life goes on, I’ve started to quietly enjoy the spillage and taint of the ridiculous and spurious missives that land in my box.

And I’ve even started taking to building out a sort of emotional logic around them just to amuse myself!

So here is my take on the most recent batch of e-joy that’s popped into my world. I’ve snatched the most important first few lines just to show flavour. Enjoy! 

Erase my Back Pain

1 weird stretch DESTROYS Back Pain & Sciatica 

Pain Free!!

Delicious! Free anything is good – but PAIN and FREE and two screamers? Wow. I just feel the need to use 13 ‘screamers’ in celebration!!!!!!!!!!!!!  And this one’s actually relevant to me.  I had a prolapse L1/L2 disc some years back, and the terrible sciatica from it destroyed me. So the chance to DESTROY it back with an obtuse physical gesture makes me very happy. 

Get perfect Little toes in as little as 3 days 

Nail Vitamin Deficiency 

Mother natures recipes

But not as happy as the idea of perfect little toes. Anyone that can save me from my Frodo feet gets a prize.  And there is a certain messianic thread to the 3 day promise. And on the third day my feet will effectively rise from their calloused, shoe-stuffed grave to throw light and beauty into the world. Who knew. And that it is Mother Nature doing the raising of my dead feet, all the better. 

ACADEMIA

You read the paper Genetic Risk and Reproductive Decision Making:

Read this paper too!

Punchy. And you are correct – yes I did. But that doesn’t mean I would subsequently like you to send me an update every time someone puts out a white paper with the words ‘genetic’, ‘reproductive’, ‘decision-making’ or ’Risk’ in the title or sub-head. Or for that matter any derivative of the above, words – e.g. gene, or risk – or associated key words, compounds, synonym/antonym comparatives – or any random fridge-magnet approach to key word search stuff you may choose to push at me. Come to think of it, perhaps a peer-reviewed White Paper on The Impact on Intellectual Discourse of the Vulgar Monetisation of Academic Mediocrity might be a whizz.  

Diabetes will kill you! 

Blood Sugar Formula – Mother nature’s recipes

No shit. Will it? I absolutely never, ever knew that. My mother was diabetic – late onset, in her 60s by the time it snuck into view with its thin-lipped, mean-spirited needling and blooding. But she managed it with remarkable elegance and aplomb. And no, it did not kill her. But its presence in her life did really, really irritate her for a while, much like the reoccurrence of all this scruffy E-vertising in my life. 

XPHONE 

One of the best smart phones in the world

Offers a true visual experience at a very cheap price

Lummey. An X phone. What, like an X Men phone? Incredible. No? Oh, or X-rated? Weird. But strangely modern. Anyway. None of this matters. As this is one of the best. But not the best though? I think your ambitions are a little frail at the end there, guys. Or are we worried about over selling – in email – spam? How can this matter when a phone offers a true visual experience. What does that even mean? Are the pictures and films true to the originals? Like they actually play them without creating untrue versions of them? Do phones do that? Play unreal films? Like, swapping out original content and playing a pirated or faux version of it – to avoid licensing fees? A sort of digital mobile BeKindRewind strategy. Hmmm. This X Phone is a conundrum.

Invest in bitcoin and the life of your dreams 

Earn 13,000 in exactly 24 hours riding the bitcoin wave

Only 3 free copies still available

But not as much of a conundrum as deciding what dream life I’m going to take a run at with the 9 bucks a minute I’m earning investing in bitcoin over the next 24 hours. Get In. And, note, it isn’t 23 hours and 49 minutes – or 24 hours and 32 minutes. Be very clear – this is ‘exactly 24 hours’. And it is 24 hours with attitude. This 24 hours is no slacker – no slouch. This 24 hours surfs! This 24 hours carves off the lip of the bitcoin WAVE! How cool is that! Every minute’s worth of that $13,000  – every 9 bucks of it – comes dripping with bitcoin spume. BUT hold on. There’s a sort of Stranger Things thing going on here, no? I could have SWORN that the only 3 free copies still available went weeks ago. So there must be a universal 3 somewhere. Like deities perhaps. Eternal. Invisible. A trinity of Bitcoin Divinity existing only in Upside Down world.

DRONE 4K Camera

Best affordable drone just hit the market

Adventure unfolds with the MACVAIR

Got it. I know how to find out whether the Trinity of Bitcoin Divinity exists in Upside Down world – send in the DRONE 4K camera. And not any old DRONE 4K. We’re talking the most affordable – which means cheap, right? As I really don’t want to be splurging even one cent more than I have to of my 13,000 bucks – no way. But MACVAIR gets that, right? They know that searching for a Trinity Divinity of Bitcoin in Upside Down internet world is an ADVENTURE, right? And that shit is going to UNFOLD. And let’s face it – if I pull this off, find the trinity of bitcoin divinity, convert the 13K in 24 hours [exactly], I am hot stuff. I am off the scale desirable. EVERYONE will be chasing me down. Wanting a piece of me…

Positions available – YOU’RE HIRED

2 position available GOOGLE & facebook

So let’s put it another way GOOGLE. Lets re-frame this facebook. I’ll decide whether YOU’RE HIRED. Hows about that? Not the other way around. Do you know who the actual f%&* I am? I am the wave-riding, drone-flying Bitcoin Trinity Divinity Slayer. I have the last 3 copies, purged from Upside Down World. I DECIDE who hires and fires. Not you. And just by-the-by, if you are going to even dare approach me, I suggest you make that 100 positions available – as I am now obviously worth a hundred of your usual talent quality. Just saying.

Lillian

This drink is the answer to becoming skinny

Your stomach will shrink fast 

Shark Tanks new product is a diet sensation!

Oh I see. So you’re implying that I not only carry the intellectual mettle and heroic weight of one hundred people but also the physical mass of them? Well, if the Shark Tank thinks it’s a diet sensation, how could I possibly refuse. These people are the leading, bleeding edge of entrepreneurship and business nous. Sharks, Dragons, Tigers. They are a menagerie of business brilliance. And if they say that this will indeed be the answer to becoming skinny, how could I question that – other than asking on which planet the originator of the delusional waffle lives? A dystopian one liberally scattered with Crystal Meth and freely available prescription opiates, punctuated with double-fronted fixed trailers lying unnervingly close to a breastaurant, a breakers yard and a penitentiary I’d wager. But hell – let’s try it! 

Track

Rest easy and never worry about your car being stolen again

Richard Berg says

It works like a charm! CAUTION  Make sure you really want to know what you might find out. This thing tracked my wife and her boyfriend into the middle of nowhere

If this push email trail is anything to go by I probably NEED to drink myself skinny, as my united-state-of-largesse has patently rather put off my other half, potentially to the degree that, much like Mr Berg here, if I were to track them to the middle of nowhere I might otherwise find my loved one in fiercely repeated receipt of someone else’s largesse. But hey, you know what? Knowing the exact GPS location of that rutting betrayal completely takes the sting out of it. In fact, it allows me to rise above it all through smartly applied technology. Track allows me to be the bigger person and take the bigger view. Thank you Track.

Stop Snoring device

The mist that stops you snoring

New invention gives hope to all of those suffering from chronic snoring 

And now that we’ve broached the issue of the fading and faltering nature of personal desirability, this email allows me to embrace the wider ambition. Why stop at just getting skinny quick to alleviate the possibility of philandering and betrayal. That over-carbureted nasal exhaust is hardly likely to get the lower engine running and the pheromones firing, unless one finds oneself lying furtively next to a member of the Sus Scrofa family. So the misty blue yonder of non-snoring hope is beckoning me.   

SMART WATCH

The smart watch that watches out for your health 

The smart watch that big tech companies don’t want you to know about

Have you been wanting a smart watch. Well now you can afford one!!

Now, fatuous, fat, snoring, dream-life-living greatness aside, I have never claimed to be smart enough for my phone. I am indeed a stupid man in charge of a smart device. At most recent reckoning I have estimated that I use, at best, about 3% of the functionality of my phone.

So IMAGINE what I felt when I saw that a watch, smarter than my phone even, will look after my health. And what’s more, it will do it TO SUCH DEGREE that Apple and Microsoft just won’t want me to know about it. Wowsers. Could it get any better?

XonePhone

Theres a new smart phone. You can’t ignore its performance and price

Wow-wheezers. It just did. Game change! I agree. It is night on impossible to ignore the words performance and price. Well, that’s what it says in Killing it in the Email Sales Dept 101 Guide to Successful product sales. Helluva key word focus. How do they do it? It would be so easy to stumble into mediocrity in this game, sliding down the greasy chute of indifference towards lowest common-denominator schtick and sleazy selling – but all these guys manage to keep that quality bar so high it makes me dizzy.

Drone X Pro 

Limited time sale on drones

Foldable quadcopter with wide angle batteries [US]

Speaking of which, the DRONE X Pro just feels like its going to take me up to a whole new level. Foldable! What the wahoo is that all about? But it sounds really exciting. But if I’m really brutally honest, the thing that hooked me through the lip like some digital grouper is the idea of ‘wide angle batteries.’ Frankly that is simply genius. Not only is the lens wide-angle but the batteries too. I’ve no idea of the technical nature or material build or the power engineering required to enable a battery to both power the unit AND expand the retinal capacity of the lens on the on-board camera. But that’s got to be worth stacks! Thats worth swag-money. 

KETO SLIM DIET

Shark Tank Investors LOVE miracle weight loss pill

50 lbs. in 61 days: No New Exercise Skinny Pill melts Belly fat

And swag money is the name of the game with these Shark Tank kids. KETO slim diet is feeling like my kind of miracle weight loss pill. And the Sharks LOVE it. That makes this one hot. So hot in fact, that it ‘melts’ belly fat. ‘Melts!’ How cool is that. A kind of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nazi-Face-Melting moment…but for belly fat [national socialist or otherwise]. You’d need something pretty powerful if you’re going to lose 50lbs in 61 days so something akin to the power of the Christian faith’s Almighty God as vested in the Ark of The Covenant seems like a pretty sensible choice. I mean it could be a scam but there’s something so trustworthy in phrases like No New Exercise Skinny Pill. It just SMACKS of integrity and professional discretion. I’m in.

Ryan Oliver 

Get this new diagnostic Tool and Save Money 

Prevent car repair scams …as opposed too online ones…

Hang On. Ryan. You beauty you. Scams! You read my mind. And not just those of the car variety. Car scams. Diet scams. Technology scams. Bitcoin scams. Ryan you are the man of the moment. So, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to suggest something. Might you ever consider getting together with Sheila, MACVAIR, the Shark Tank guys, Richard Berg and Lillian and create one universal Diagnostic Tool that prevents all and every kind of scam? That would be thrilling.

Meet a Lovely Russian Woman Today

RussianWomenDate.com

International Russian And Ukranian dating

Free membership will close in 01:02:47 

Now this is fascinating on three levels. First of all I sense there may be a role for the Universal Diagnostic Tool here as the countdown clock seems to be stuck at 01:02:47 – so free may not be as free as you think anymore. Secondly, I find it remarkable that one needs a site to meet Russian ladies. There was a perfectly charming young Russian lady on the train the other day, travelling to the airport with her father I believe. [It demonstrates just how conservative and old fashioned the Russian culture is.  A young 20-something Western-European woman wouldn’t be seen dead going on holiday with her father!] And thirdly I am quietly surprised how blatant the Russian Annexation of the Ukraine has become. I mean land is one thing but appropriating the woman as yours seems rather arrogant and presumptive if you ask me, especially if you then flaunt them on a dating site.   

Sheila Andrews

Logo and Website design for my business

Attract more new customers …

But bless Sheila for being the absolute antithesis of all that arrogance and sleaze and complex Ponzi style selling schtick. Simple. Straight up. Honest. Logo and Website design for my business. Do you know what Sheila – if I had a slew of small, low-level, low-grade slightly shady, grubby businesses all scrabbling to make a good impression in an on-line world, before I let them send one email, I’d have them sitting in front of you talking logos and websites. And that’s a promise.

 Ergo Relax

Best travel pillow that ever hit the market

Rest even in difficult conditions

Phew. All of this typing on trains is making me rather sleepy. Can you imagine then how thrilled I was when I saw this. I am in a chair. I can sit back. It is possible to close my eyes – ergo, I can relax. But what really snagged my curiosity on the broken fence of promises is the fact that Ergo Relax tells me that I can rest even in difficult conditions. Holy Moly. So, though I may have made an inappropriate slur for which someone chose to press charges, I would still sleep like a baby! I could tuck in for 40 winks with flood water rising about me. And a good night’s sleep in the midst of a climate crisis beckons. Amazing. Ergo Relax is not to be sniffed at, either with or without Snoring mist.

3D Airplane games 

ProFlight Simulator 

Presenting the most realistic flight simulator ever created 

I can’t pretend to be anything other than a tiny weeny bit suspicious of this. I have a lot of love for simulation tech in all of its guises. And I know that the track records of the USAF and Boeing leave a lot of room for people who might create superior flight simulations and trainers that prepare people to a] not crash and b] not bomb the wrong people. But when I’m told that this is the most realistic flight simulator ever created I am stunned into humble silence. Perhaps this is the issue. The real geniuses are to be found not in Bomber Command or Boeing’s testing team but here, discreetly and humbly selling the most realistic flight simulator ever quietly in the furrows and margins of the internet and my inbox. No accolade chasers or plaudit junkies them. A small profitable stipend from an email campaign is more than enough.  

Herpes Simplex

Medical Mystery. How did their Herpes disappear

Hi If you or a loved person suffer from herpes simplex it is urgent that you do not go another day without the powerful information in the following lines

Didn’t you see the news? Its a revolt!

Perhaps this might explain the shyness of our majestic simulator designers. They may have been so busy creating the most realistic flight simulator EVER that they missed the revolt, the news passed them by and they continued to live another day and another day without this powerful information in the following lines [whatever that might mean.] Can you blame them for choosing to stay rather discretely out of the glare of fame and fortune.

Canvas Print Ads 

Add to your holiday collection

Hmmmn. I wonder whether our reclusive simplex flight engineers might just be a little down. Perhaps they might just need a lift of some sort. Something to jolly them up a bit. Digging out a picture of favourite holiday moments and suchlike can be a real tonic especially when rendered across the highest quality synthetic canvas. I know someone whom has two rather fetching canvas prints of themselves throwing what someone mistakenly referred to as a VOGUE shape at the Casino club, Guildford on MADONNA NIGHT, while sporting a wet-suit and a rather fetching fedora. An easy mistake to make but, for the record, they report that they were simply gesturing to the fire exit due to the fact that the person in front of them looked so HOT they thought they might well burst into flames. That the person happened to be both my associates boss and also their bed mate probably explains why said associate got a raise and was fired, all in one 24 hour period. But to be clear, it wasn’t EXACTLY 24 hours. No bitcoin investment there. Nor a professional Reference for that matter   

Professional Who’s Who

Nominated for inclusion

On the subject of professional credentials, imagine my surprise when the e-call came to join the rarified ranks of the professional aristocracy. But Who Knew Professional Who’s Who even existed? And a nomination for inclusion no less. I am always up for inclusive action. Diversity is a really strong suit at the moment in corporate circles so nominating people for inclusion strikes me as a very enlightened action on Who’s Who’s part. Thank God their email arrived frankly. I was starting to think ‘What? Is every email a scam or a prank?’ So here’s to your professional rigour and enlightened inclusivity programme Professional Who’s Who.  

Ultra Boost WiFi

No More Buffering! WiFi boost speeds up your internet 

Your cure for spotty internet

Buffering. I must confess I LOVE this word. [Note to self: beware excessive use of screamers, capitals and absence of punctuation induced by protracted periods of time looking at push emails from shite businesses, products, faux brands and personalities.] Buffering implies a fierce circular attention to something, involving friction and some form of rotation or animation. So I can imagine that once someone’s stopped buffering this liberates a massive cache of energy to apply in some other direction – to power the WiFi connection for instance. That we can give that surge of redirected energy a boost just fills me with utter joy. Currently my wi-fi wheezes along at barely a breath. If I was of a mind to take up contouring as a new face-forward make-up solution, I’d be stuffed. It would take an age to play even the smallest section of a 2 hr 32m Contouring Tutorial – to such degree that I would probably take to spending enormous tracts of time seemingly in a creeping state of tribalism – given that, at any point in the day, the marks on my face would have developed in some really slow flick-book animation of an abstracted patch pattern effect – a sort of snail’s pace Tyson-face tattoo – part Maori part Bobbi Brown part Shrigley.

But nonetheless, all’s well with Ultra Boost. And that it cures spotty internet is a matter for religious level celebration. Hallelulia. No more teenage internet angst. No more screen scrubbing. No more microbeaded bandwidth. Internet spots are gone forever!    

De Pigmentation

I am vitiligo free and so much healthier and confident overall.

Vitiligo Miracle

Cure Vitiligo holistically

Much it seems as will be the ones on my hands face and other extremities, very, very soon. As the words set out, I may well be Vitiligo free with this holistic miracle. I have had Vitiligo for a few years and it is spreading. Though I am aware of it, especially when I have been in the sun, it has always been a visual thing for me. So LORD, I never knew that I might be unhealthy because of it? Unhealthy? How? Herpes. But I’ve got news on a natural remedy revolt for that. Obesity? Screw that, as I’ve got two Shark Tank approved skinny making pills and something from a lady called Lillian for that baby. Diabetes? I can kill it before it kills me. Back Pain? Again, one ninja move and a weird stretch and that baby’s history – so not that. Which leaves me little to worry about. My anxiety seems to have ebbed away.

And how amazing – my confidence… has soared! It’s true. I am going to be absolutely fine!

As all of the wonder emails have told me. I am the answer. I only need act. Perfect.  

Seems simple enough to me. But hang on. Just got to read the 347 emails that have just popped up in my inbox.

But then I’m getting RIGHT to it.

 

er compromising on quality

Being  organised with time and resources

Utilising available learning

Taking care of EHL property

Making productive use of available technology

Being productive with time

Sharing knowledge

Living the 7 steps of service excellence every day

Ensuring processes are implemented and followed

Meet your deadlines

Understand our business

Be a champion of sustainability

Measure and evaluate the impact of your decisions

Never compromising on quality

Being  organised with time and resources

Utilising available learning

Taking care of EHL property

Making productive use of available technology

Being productive with time

Sharing knowledge

Living the 7 steps of service excellence every day

Ensuring processes are implemented and followed

Meet your deadlines

Understand our business

Be a champion of sustainability

Measure and evaluate the impact of your decisions

Look Up, BREXIT & the great healer.

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The sun strikes the Corinthian uprights of Barry’s Royal Opera House building.

And unless the world spins on its axis, gets jolted by a passing asteroid or we find we are  inadvertently sitting on the fault line between two tectonic plates, nothing will change in the nature of how the sunlight falls across these columns from when morning breaks across them to when nightfall takes them back again. [Other than when London’s cloudy temperament muddies the moment.]

To feast on London, to receive her positive charge, is to look up, especially on a crisp blue-sky day like today as the sun fires up the masonry above and around me.

And at no time in recent history do I think we need a little upward-looking optimism.

The art in this though is to prime this upward-looking optimism in ourselves without waiting for anyone else to delver it to our door – especially anyone from our political classes. And there’s plenty to distract ourselves wit is we choose.

To walk [especially in the quieter hours of the morning] past the fascia of the Opera House, to then turn left down Long Acre, cutting through Mercer street to Seven Dials – and then along Earlham Street to Cambridge Circus and to the Palace Theatre in front of you, is to find your eyes constantly being drawn upwards.  

Porticos, balustrades, fascia decorations and old advertisements painted on the walls above the line of shop fronts. 

To cut through to Old Compton street as the collision of scents and aromas rolls up to meet you – of restaurants prepping garlicky delights, bars scrubbing off ale-soaked floors, the warm wrap of air from the Chinese bun bakers, and the beep beep beep of Vans reversing into lay-bys with crates boxes and bags of ingredients and supplies – all mixed with the sharp acrid bright citrus of industrial bleaches and disinfectants slopped into doorways and across the restaurant and bar thresholds. To swim in this soup and yet to look up and watch the light as it crosses buildings [much as it has done so for some hundreds of years] is truly a beautiful thing.

To find a complex yet staggering simple beauty in London, one need only swim in her streets while looking up at how the sun light falls on her building tops. 

To immerse yourself in this continuum can smooth even the bumpiest times and the greatest turbulences out of your mind – like a de-wrinkler for the soul. 

As I walk through the streets I hear people barking BREXIT platitudes for and against. People crouch crowd and squat over their screens sniggering at cruel memes, bathing in podcasts and trading ugly human politic in gif format.

And as these people teem about me, snippets of conversations are scraped. A slathering of WTF! and ‘its all gone to shit’, with a fistful of Keep Calms and a mouthful of ‘They’re all as bad as each other’s.

Off-hand paens to BoJo float towards me as devout van drivers flick a V to both cyclists, foreigners, and ‘the lot of ‘em’. 

Pacifists and anarchists fight each other with words and slogans shouting off the front pages of newspapers as wi-fi-eared drones march ever forwards to the beat of their spotify drum.

London teems with the bleary eyed and the upright, the dishevelled and the dandy, puffer jacketed tourists clutch street foods as TV producers and media types clatter across paving stones vaguely chewing-gummed together. But they are all simply the colouring in. They are the water running through it, human flotsam and jetsam that either surges onwards or washes up at the edges of the streets in cafes and bars and restaurants. The true riches lie above the screen line of ordinary people.

A sharp neon hum over Bar Italia draws our eye to the blue John Logie Baird plaque above it. Twas ever thus. Almost all of London’s most famous sons and daughters are   celebrated in blue and white above our general eye line. And something pushes our eyes up to meet them.  There is an irrepressible something that comes up through the ground London walks on. Something that vibrates up through it. Pushing our thoughts and dreams skywards. And none more so than in Soho. If ley-lines are a thing, then I sense a cluster of them collide under SoHo’s streets.

Theres an over-powering sense of timelessness here. The past and future are one – tied together by the Now. Today is simply a bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. And on we go.

And, in much the same way, so do many of these buildings, enduring as they have always done – weathering the collapse of societies, the chess game of Royal In and Royal Out, decay of Empire, financial crashes and crunches, street riots and both World Wars of course, especially the one that peppered London with every nature and type of bomb, incendiary or otherwise, and on the back of which and calls of Never Again led directly to first the Treaty of Paris in 1951 and the reconciliation of France & Germany as promoted by Winston Churchill and closely followed by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, in which European Union was made material and binding.

In much the same way these streets and buildings have weathered one European firestorm, I am certain they’ll weather this one. And in much the same way that they now simply carry the echoes of the many who lived through those times and whom are now long dead, they will carry the echoes of my footsteps and the noise of our current european furore that echo up and around these streets..  

In the long run October 31st. will be a date like so many others whose import will whither and fade. But right now…

Sticks & Stones & BoJo’s bitter pills.

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So. Apparently bluster, divisive phrasing and inflammatory language do nothing to stoke any kind of aggressive nature, hate or violence against the person or property.

Well that’s frankly bollocks as we all know.

Both sides of this current ugly debate make a lot of decrying their adversaries in the most pestilent terms . The only thing that is slightly disappointing is how easily BoJo can scatter a few Churchillian phrases around the place and get such an immediate and rousingly patriotic response regardless of the veracity of what he is spouting.

It seems you really do just need to walk around shouting patriotic anti-foreigner things and everyone is there flags a waving and bunting a buntin’

Never Surrender. Traitors to a man. It’s them foreigners wot done it G’vnor, and no mishtakin’!’

The language seems to have become a vague collision of Churchillian oratory and some form of patriotic Tourettes as dispatched by what I can only assume to be Bert from Mary Poppins.

It is a short hop from ‘surrender’ language to ‘traitor’ – that ultimate betrayal

[The loose use of the ‘T’ word does though seem rather rich given the Judicial view-point of the Prorogue of Parliament as having required BoJo to ‘sham’ the Queen; surely the only person in pole position to comment on what traitorous behaviour might look like. But I forget. The judiciary are just another part of the Liberal Global Jewish Conspiracy – more of that later]

Traitor is a word that carries. And if you happen to be Jim Cornelius, a pro-Remain Liberal Democrat living in Lewes East Sussex, it is carried on both sides of a brick and hoofed through your window.

Ugly blame games are an ancient human art of divide and rule.

We’ve been using blame, public decrying and propaganda to take the spot light away from the real crooks and miscreants for centuries. And we like nothing more than a highly complex set of adversaries and a complex conspiracy to fuel the moment. The more ridiculous and elaborate the better.

Lewes in East Sussex is traditionally a hot spot of radicalism. From hosting one of the founding fathers of the American Revolution to happily embracing the Anti papist firebrands in support of the protestant Martyrs [we like to burn Papal effigies in Lewes] it is home to some rather punchy political dissent and exclamation.

Traitor Bricks are just one accessory for the discerning Lewes radical. A good old fashioned tin of spray paint is another. Thought the content, as a modern media person might point out, needs a little work. Or does it?

‘FUCK THE EJEWS SOROS’S WHORES AND TRAITORS’

This was emblazoned across a new fence of a perfectly nice house in a perfectly nice road in Lewes the other morning.

Now, once the surprise of what it says wears off and one starts to dissect it, it would be rather funny, if it wasn’t so desperately sad, deeply sinister and a blatant outcome of the kind of divisive crap people are increasingly spouting in the cold light of day.

The current climate has without question let some rather unpleasant people out of their fetid rat-pits of trollery and ugly blame into the waking world.

So lets start with the EJEWS. Did the perpetrator simply miss-spell I-JEWS. Did I miss a new product  accessory from Apple’s Israeli market, available with every new i-phone?

Or are EJEWS simply electronic Jews, like emails are electronic mail. And if so, what are they? Where do they come from? Why do EJEWS exist? And how exactly are EJEWS different to non E Jews? Are they electronically generated Jewish people – like alter ego avatars in Sim City? Or is it the platform name for real jewish people whom exist in virtual environments?

Or are the EJEWS jews from the E.U. or Pro European jews. Simply put, are they jews who’ve moved here from Europe or British jews who voted Remain?

So many questions.

Whether Pro EU, European, electronic, wholly virtual or simply virtual versions of a real person, the one thing we know from this graffiti is that these EJEWS are busy. Boy are they busy. And it seems they are in cahoots with one George Soros.

Now, for anyone not paying attention, George Soros is a Hungarian-born jewish Holocaust survivor who has made billions speculating on the currency markets. More importantly he is vilified by the Alt-Right as being at the heart of the global jewish conspiracy, blaming him in no uncertain but rarely proven terms for everything from the Charlottesville Rioting to Fake Bomb plots against himself and Barack Obama – and whom is presented  in the social posts of one Robert Bowers, murderer of 11 jews in a Pittsburg Synagogue, as the ‘jew that funds white genocide [the global jewish liberal conspiracy] and controls the press’.

So in the heart of an East Sussex town, on a fence are words that echo the disturbing belief system of a dangerous and sometimes murderous cabal, obsessed with some global jewish conspiracy and whom in this time of division feel free to publicly and explicitly conflate it with the BREXIT sentiments and traitorous brick throwing events.

To posit that the two are separate incidents and not linked by any direct evidence would be to deny historic hindsight’s tendency to show us after the fact that human beings act in waves and urges – their sentiment coagulating in emotional clusters of activity that though in some ways seem at the time unconnected prove themselves retrospectively to have been part of there same toxic malaise or momentum.

In some ways the EJEWS piece with its shoddy spellings smacks of the Goulston Street graffito scrawled on  a wall near one of the Ripper Murders in Whitechapel in the late 19th Century. The graffito stated that  ‘the Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing’.  Ironically it was written at a time when frankly the jews were being blamed for most everything, and subsequently has been viewed as Anti Semitic propaganda that was designed to stoke ill feeling and create an uprising against the new arrivals.

In much the same way that White Genocide and the Global Jewish Conspiracy is increasingly present in the ghoulish theatrical nightmares of the likes of Robert Bowers in our here and now, so it was in the late 1800s in the East End.

The jewish influx, though seen initially with sympathy due to the pogroms and harsh treatment they had received in Russia Poland and Germany from whence they fled, was soon to be seen, first as a blight, then as both a soft invasion and a commercial coup [Jews were blamed for increasing output and decreasing quality, flooding the markets with cheap shoddy fare to the detriment of older East End manufacturers and producers] Eventually, as the anti semitic sentiment increased and locals became more incensed, the Jewish problem was to be regarded as an affront to all that was truly British and wholly against the social balance and social improvement of the East End. As unemployment rose and housing became scarcer the usual spectres rose up and the jews were blamed for indigenous East Enders increasingly precarious and perilous existence.

John Law AKA Margaret Harkness, in her book Out of Work, put the sentiments of many residents of the East End of London into the words of one of her characters – the wife of a radical carpenter:

“Why should all them foreigners come here to take food out of our mouths…” 

Twas ever thus.

So when BoJo spouts Surrender schtick and fires up the mood against Johnny Foreigner, and when he attaches the memory of the murdered Jo Cox to a successful BREXIT – and when traitor bricks get thrown through windows while troll conspiracy theorists scrawl EJEW graffiti on fences in sleepy Sussex towns, it is time to be alert.

Because we can be sure that those words can become sticks and stones can all too easily. Sometimes murderous ones.

So lets tread carefully and take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths. Starting with our ‘leaders’. And when I say that I mean all of them. Not just the flaxen-haired Trumpeteer.

Bash Street, The B Word & a search for Castlereagh.

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It’s 7a.m. in the sauna at the Leisure Centre; a tight dog-leg affair tucked into the corner, to the left of the baby pool.

It’s 7 a.m. and someone said the B Word.

It’s 7 a.m. and someone said the B Word and things are hotting up.

It’s 7 a.m. and someone said the B Word and things are hotting up – and the temperature is rising. (This is somewhat of a first as usually the temperature in this sauna would barely warm a cockle let alone boil a shrimp. If the least that the B word might do is to bring the sauna to a serviceable and job-fulfilling temperature, I’m all for it.)

Someone said the B Word.

And silence falls. 

From me at least. To begin with.

I choose to stay out of it [which for a very over-opinionated man takes some doing]. 

This sauna resides in a broadly LEAVE realm, heavy with the fust of Faragista.

In this particular sauna, tucked as it is into a small green corner of East Sussex, a mix of ages, genders and ethnicities all broadly ascribe to an Anti-European, Self-Determining future with incumbent bumps, recessions (double dip or otherwise) and social crunches as a wholly acceptable part of the bill for the heady freedom.

We’ll struggle through.

We’ll manage.

Sure we’ll figure it out

Ok so it’ll be tough but we’ll soldier on.

And, much like flatulence;

Better out than in.

In the sauna the language is of a wartime nature. Valiant struggles. The underdog. The enemies abroad. The vision of prevailing. The idyll of remaining free! 

What did we fight for in the first place? 

In some ways the years from 1945 to now seem to have simply fallen away.

The odd usurper brings a whiff of Remain into the room, emanating enlightenment. They are mostly brimming with humanitarianism and belief in diversity of culture as a healthier model for that inclusive society. Many of them work in and are supportive of the Public Sector, a strong  social contract, and an inclusive society.

Sensibly [I sense], they hear a whiff of cod Farage/Bojo speak and just stay silent or leave. 

These are not wall flowers – simply people who mostly prefer to discuss the complexity of this matter in a rather less heated, cramped and sometimes overbearingly ‘righteous’ atmosphere.

Now our LEAVERS, lets be clear, do tend to index towards the cliche – being older, white males and females of what someone once cruelly described as the ‘Little Englander’ variety. They are [publicly at least by their own admittance] Express and Mail readers, or, otherwise, don’t read the news at all: 

Its all bullshit

Can’t trust a word of it

All written by lefty Guardian types.

So in the Leisure Centre sauna, as the Weather Girls sang, the humidity’s rising – barometer’s getting low…and, in BREXIT terms, politically at least, its raining men.

White. Privileged. Righteous. Right leaning. Men. To be precise.

Which brings me to the point of this piece, and the types of leader we desire and aspire to. And the issue of whom do LEAVERS respect and laud – and why?

My concern is that the nature of our current slew of would-be LEAVE heroes strikes me as the antithesis of what we need to get through this coming B Word Debacle by the skin of anyone’s teeth.

BREXIT is not a simple puzzle to crack whatever the common wisdom or otherwise about No Deal Dead Stop all out departures

Given:

  • the complexity of the Exit Agreement;
  • Legal mandates, preexisting agreements and precedents; 
  • the supplementary conditions & back stop issues;
  • the number of British & European stakeholders; 
  • the back room Trade Bloc chess game of Yes trade Deal No trade Deal played by everyone including our Special Relationship cousins;
  • the subsequent civil strife, bad feeling, victimisation, bullying, vitriol, political mismanagement, jingoism and blame throwing generated by a referendum based upon a rather spurious question surrounded by disinformation, propaganda, and smoke and mirrors on all sides;

it’s a wonder anyone in the normal world has even half a handle on what’s going on (and some would say that, given the nature and degree of popular feeling, most do not.)

At a time when we need steely resilient statesman-like acuity, a labyrinthine capacity for detail, a prodigious Machiavellian sensibility and most importantly an ability to ‘stick with it’ – the banality of it, the wheezing mind numbing boredom of it all in room after musty, hot-shoe room – to secure the right exit for Britain, what do we have?  

Well at first glance it seems the majority of England have abdicated responsibility for robust discourse, reasoned debate and seasoned global geopolitical nous to the writers of The Beano and Topper.

And it is their characters that we now see striding towards Downing Street, keys jangling in their fat sweaty greedy hands.

And the ‘unts and the Bojos are not the only power players here – we must include the minstrels in their populist galleries, Farage and Rees Mogg. And though down, His Right Royal ’my hand is on the tiller of environmental destiny’  Gove is certainly not out. [I am uncertain as to whether he or anyone else realised that his sole task was simply to make Bojo look more presentable and capable.]

It seems that at a time when we need the zenith of political nous, insight, application and a tireless irrepressible pragmantism, we have:

  • A philandering, straw haired clownish buffoon with a Churchill fetish.
  • The greatest reoccurring spelling mistake in British politics
  • A Gin, Jag & Fag spiv in a camel coat,
  • A turncoat with a cocaine stain on their heart
  • A monocled monochromatic Victorian Undertaker with a taste for off shore trading

Frankly between Bojo’s ego libido sandwich salad combo, ‘unts self righteous ‘only real alternative’ sorry that’s my Olympic accolade shtick, Gove’s yearning hands & insincere masque, Farage’s blatant people-powered self-interest [and tendency to run for the hills at the first sign of real responsibility] and Rees-Mogg’s fun-fair side-show Victorian Toff (there’s definitely a market in putting coin-operated ‘Victoriana Stove Pipe Hatted Rees Mogg Fortune Tellers on every British Seaside Pier), we really have all drawn the short straw.

I said.

Loudly.

In the sauna.

My Inside voice outside voice mechanism had failed me.

Ah well. In for a penny in for a pound.

Yeah and it would be a cent and a euro, not a penny and a pound, if you lot had your way.

The immediate flavour of the room was not favourable

After some uncomfortable shuffling and murmuring I was able to point out that, given the result and what we need to do as a country, I was in fact simply offering an opinion (which in a democracy that sanctifies the freedom of speech I feel more than happy to do). I was offering an opinion on the quality and measure of the politicians the LEAVERS were celebrating as our potential leaders out of this fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, Stanley. Leadership Quality of the right calibre and nature to be specific.

My punt is that what we really needed all along was not a Churchill or a Disraeli. We needed a Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry. 

A much maligned yet highly influential British politician of the 18th and 19th Centuries, it is is not for his suppression of the Irish Rebellion, Act of Union, Treaty of Chaumont, Engagement of Wellington (a fellow Northern Irishman) against Napoleon or his forthright Leadership of the House of Commons that I invoke him. 

No.

It is specifically for his dogged resilience in carving out the greatest and most stable outcome possible for post Napoleonic Europe at the Congress of Vienna. In collaboration, collusion and sometimes in spite of and against Metternich, Castlereagh forged something unheard of out of a snake pit of self interest, bile, vengeance and self service: a long-term period of stability in Europe that united the great powers. And he did not forge this through compromise of our trading position. His vigilance in regards to Britain’s imperial interests was unsurpassed.

It is unsurprising that Henry Kissinger, whose Harvard Dissertation was an idealistic entreat in support of the realpolitic of pragmatists like Castlereagh said of him that ‘he developed a reputation for integrity, consistency, and goodwill, which was perhaps unmatched by any diplomat of that era.’ [Kissinger’s re-invention as a widely misunderstood politician and statesman is brilliantly set out by Niall Fergusson in his book Kissinger: 1923-1968:The Idealist]

So, no-ones perfect, but some people are perfect for their time. Castllereagh was just such a man, destined to be in the right place with the right influence to do something humanity struggles to do all to often when left to its own devices. Get over itself.

To exit where we are requires I believe, the irrepressible pragmatism and the stoic ability to ‘stay in the room’ that Castelereagh exemplified in his engagements in the Congress of Vienna – an ability to keep talking, and to not allow a descent in to some bar-room oratory or scrappy jingoistic sleight every time we don’t quite get out way. [Sound familiar?]

When using those leadership criteria, I do not see a man or woman for our time.  I do not see in our ‘leaders’ the requisite traits and character.

If we’re lucky we’ll scratch under the cod Churchillian crack and reveal a streak of Castelereagh in someone somewhere and we might all be better off for it. If not I say lets match the Topper Toff throwbacks like Rees Mogg and raise them – and get The Bash Street Kids to take over the Commons. (Though some might venture that between the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour Parties we have already got that strategy pretty much covered off  – which begs the question who Danny, Plug, ‘Erbert, Fatty, Sidney, Smiffy, Spotty, Toots, Wilfred, Wilfred, Cuthbert are currently masquerading as?)

The sauna fell silent.  

Knob.

Too clever by half.

Got a right to his own opinion though.

Fair enough.

Anyways, Castle who?

 

More from the Sauna soon.

Unicorns, Humanity & the Voices of our Redemption

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We are funny.

We’ve spent thousands of years navigating the theologically and intellectually boulder strewn path from the pagan arts and necromancy of the darker older world through proscribed religions to finally arrive at a what we think is a mostly enlightened secular state unfettered from the domain of Church and the blind abstractions of the Faiths they vaunt.

And in doing so we have notionally put most other faiths in the same hell-bound handcart on which we dumped our own spirituality.  This is not necessarily always a disrespectful or dismissive pursuit, though the “My Books better, older and more profound than your Book/Scroll/Tablet” sociopathic bullshit of the more bellicose monotheistic religions might make it seem otherwise.

We tend to quite favour religions other than the one’s we are born into. Vast quantities of westerners raised as goodly Christian and Jewish children have embraced other faiths. We’ve had a good old roll in the karmic hay with all forms of Buddhism recently, and plundered some rather shiny variations on an existing religious theme – Kabbalah for instance – courtesy of Madge and a few A Listers.

But certainly in the predominantly Christianity rooted West, bar the odd few tens of thousands of God fearing Commie hunting, Koran burning, Gay baiting, Abortion stoning, Feminist damning, 21st Century hating, gun totin’ rootin’ tootin’ yihaws; some fiery Baptists; and a clutch of die-hard papal purple purists with a fist full of dollars and an incense ball and chain keeping the dream alive in most of Middle and South America, western religion is broadly redundant intellectually speaking other than as a point of plane to pivot and lever off. 

It has become a vestigial spiritual tail – a divine obsolescence from our millennia in the metaphysically charged dark forests and the last three thousand years under the auspices of ‘pick an Abrahamic Faith, any Abrahamic Faith.’

But in doing so, we never really think through the contingency and legacy planning. Mostly we lean on Science as the replacement – the thing that will fill the void left by what has gone. Bt that is to assume that everyone responds in a non metaphysical left brain attenuated manner in times of distress and duress.

So where do we look to these days when all the dark truths of our humanity hove into view? Where do we cast our eyes when our profligate destruction of the beauty of the planet we inhabit overwhelm us and the darker recesses of our human psyche demonstrate themselves in brutality, cruelty, rape, torture, murder, genocide and war?

Morgan Freeman.

Yes. Morgan Freeman.

In the absence of God, many multiple thousands of us look in reverence and seek reassurance from the 81 year old son of a teacher and America actor and star of Shawshank Redemption fame.

OK. To be fair, the substitute religious reverence things is a little muddy here. Morgan has ‘played God’ which might confuse many – and in a far less destructive way than most of his species and more importantly his gender.  But there is something more about him than his Oscar and nominations and  loose, white, open shirted God performances might predict.

Morgan Freeman’s voice alone can salve the most anxious heart and fevered brow. 

Something I called the Morgan Freeman Effect, when discussing how one might make a film that helps patients to relax and perhaps focus of take in information in the midst of being told some very distressing, complex and frightening news rooted in genetic science. Bring Morgan Freeman into the room and into that moment to pop the bubble:

Morgan: Hey…

Patient: hey…

Morgan: Now…you’re not really listening to what that smart doctor lady’s saying are you?

Patient: No

Morgan: Kind of confused and scared?

Patient: I’m really scared.

Morgan: What say you and me take a walk and just talk – about anything – your favourite John Denver song – favourite Toy Story Character? I don’t care. Anythings fine with me.

Patient: OK then.

And with that, most of us would mostly probably get up out of our chair in that Medical Consultant Specialists room and take a walk with Morgan. With no rational reason for doing so.

His calming modulated tones and open expressive and gentle face are a modern human phenomena.  It is a form of gift – one that is hard to explain in our hard edged data fuelled rationally obsessed world.

There is the sense of everything is going to be OK while Morgan is in the world.

In that way he is remarkable. In that way he is no different to the Unicorns of myth, whom some believe to be a sign of the world being in balance – and their death or absence being indicative of the world tipping toward the dark.

And in Unicorn terms I am most assuredly referring to the horsey single horn mythological creature type as opposed to the over blown silicon valley algorithmically charged frothy Investment stock type of the new digital world order.

Granted – Unicorns can make many people respond with anything from a bluster to an outright screech of derision, and, if the following answer to the question Are Unicorns real? posted on answers.com were to be taken at face value no-one would want to be identified as a believer in any kind of Unicorn:

Actually if you are christian you should know that they did exist well the story begins back with the story of Noah’s ark see the animals were going on the ship but the unicorns just stayed there and played and Noah couldn’t get them aboard so he had to leave them to drown. but many people think (including me) that the unicorn still lives somewhere possibly on an island because unicorns are magical nothing will stop them.

But saying that [and someone really did], lets take this in the spirit in which it is meant. AKA just go with me on this for a minute.

Unicorns represent a sacred creature to whom the prospect, balance and spiritual well being of the world are inextricably attached. Unicorns merely by their presence predict good things – even the briefest glimpse of them augurs a world where good prevails.

On that basis, Morgan Freeman is a Unicorn for millions of people – in that his presence in the world offers us a sense of salve and reassurance. But thankfully for him, he is not alone.

Another of our Unicorns is David Attenborough. One of the most remarkable creatures we share this planet with. His one man crusade to bring the truths and beauty of the natural world to bear across millions of screens in millions of homes is a staggering act of will and craft.

That he creates such compelling and mesmeric filmic storytelling without the sickly sweet confection of Anthropomorphism favoured by Disney et al is even more remarkable. 

Unlike Morgan Freeman, David Attenborough carries the added hindrance to his fantastical mythical Unicorn status of being a die-hard sharp-cornered scientist rooted wholly in the rational world. There isn’t even a whiff of the spiritual about Mr Attenborough. [Even if there was, I sense it would be a be of the swift-5-minutes-of-High-Church-C-of-E-chapel variety, with a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the sacristy to smooth out the God wrinkles in it all.]

But none the less, there he is: the voice of such superior human vantage, such purview, creature insight, expansive understanding and natural intimacy that grown men and women almost weep when they hear him, and people clamour to be near him in much the same way they would pilgrimage to touch the sleeve of their most revered prophets sages and saintly personae.  

Now, is this a male dominated domain, like some throw back to a paternalistic misogynist church or medieval men and their power lusts?

Nope. Oprah is right up there for me on the runway to Unicorn. And Michele Obama [though sadly not the next POTUS – but how we pray!!] is also a Unicorn in waiting.

And death will not silence the Unicorn, however sad its coming. Maya Angelou, though gone from this mortal coil has [and I use the present tense knowingly] a similar effect – her words and recordings chiming the zenith of our humanity and the depth of our feeling in such a way as to give people succour and support and bolster them for what life may bring. She is alive in, with and through them. 

Equally I cite the saintly phenomena that was Mother Theresa, even with all of her subsequently revealed peculiarities and sharpness [who wouldn’t be consumed and sharpened by witnessing and carrying so much suffering].  

So I’d like to give a small ‘praise be‘ on this Easter Sunday, and say, in the increasing absence of any kind of faith in advanced cultures, let alone Abrahamic ones, and in the face of the staggering circus act of hubris currently being demonstrated by left brain reasoning and a blind faith in science knowing all, thank deity for Unicorns in all of their wondrous being.

Something tells me that, as more fires and floods ravage, as more religious fundamentalists scour and murder, and as the pillaging self interest of corporatism supported by the likes of the straw haired idiot to the West continue to thrive, we’ll need as many of them as we can get.