Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Atacama Dreamscape?



Even now, as I start to tap out these thoughts, so it is almost as if I am still slightly unsure that I am 'actually' awake- it is 03:23 of a Tuesday morning. This posting may read as a tad self-dramatic, but I thought that I should quickly note the experience, before some significant detail is whisked away and is gone from my grasp. By the time that it is posted the 'moment' may already lie several weeks in the past, but at least it, or that vital essence of it, will have been 'captured.'

To clarify, I am referring back to a dream that I have just had (31st October 2017). It was quite so 'real' as to have left taste in my mouth and a sense of arid sandy soil between my toes and upon my clothes, a sun-scorching sting to my eyes. More, it was one of those dreams from which one may awake more than once, as I believe that I did, and to be left unsure that one is not still quite dead to the world.

Track to Parinacota.

I believe that I awoke at the very least once before, to find myself still asleep, yet also fully enveloped within the afore-alluded-to dream. Such dreams- I have not reliably had one so vivid since I was a child, or at the very least a far younger adult- may leave one so stricken as to warp one's belief as to quite which is real and which is not.

Atacama Sunset.

Elon Musk is undoubtedly but one of many souls to have speculated that we are far more likely virtual than real. "There's a billion to one chance we're living in base reality," he has claimed. At least a decade prior to this, Nick Bostrom pondered that we might 'simply' be, "living in a simulation," in which case of greatest concern should be that "our 'future selves,'" might simply, "switch us off." In its various guises the idea dates back at least as far as a speculative 17th century. Many of the variable musings as to the degree of reality, or not, that we might perhaps inhabit are not even those of the chemically adjusted mind... and who's to contest that even this mode of thought might not be some form of enhancement to significantly better our perceived understanding?

The Andes at dawn.

Encapsulated within this concept, we may also find a far more credible space for humankind's various guises for what sometimes passes as God. Would he, she or whatever then really much care which particular model we chose to adopt or to pseudo-worship? There is not seriously the acreage here for even merely my own ponderings upon the very tenuous nature of 'reality.'

Church at Parinacota.

Except to briefly mention a still quite vividly recalled 'moment,' back in the late summer of 1996. I had woken some time in the dead of night and had, upon an inexplicable urge, been drawn to the bedroom window- at this time I lived opposite a church, and within a village uncursed by street-lighting, so would sometimes not bother to pull the curtains closed of a night.

Flat plain
Having, in the small hours, just climbed from my bed I knew that I was 'awake,' yet I had somehow carried with me some fragment of the 'dream' from which I had just awoken. Lit by the moon, the church opposite had been transformed into a 17th century (another 17th Century reference?) white-washed Chilean church, and all about its walls had been the gently-ruminating, dusty Atacama Desert. I still well recall being both fascinated and perplexed, unsure whether to somehow further explore this phenomenon, or else to ease myself back into that 'real' world?

Andean Sunset.

To commit the experience properly to paper is and has always proven quite impossible, a credible explanation also requires being able to search within my pleading face and eyes, to be assaulted by my insistent voice. Even then I doubt I would be properly believed. It was as if I had somehow woken into a moment which was untethered, neither of this world nor of that one. A listener, or reader, would surely assign the moment to one of perhaps sleepwalking, or else to some such other similar category. But there would surely have to be left just that tiny element of uncertainty?

So, round-about-the-houses, and back to 'last night's' dream.

Chungara.

This alternate reality took me back, again, some twenty-now-years to that same holiday in Chile. I was again at altitude upon the volcanic plains about Mount Parinacota, secreted within the Lauca National Park. The altitude sickness, which incidentally has pursued me from dream to this reality, was with me, the taste of vomit still unfresh upon my tongue. A couple of concerned Israeli fellow travellers had earlier expressed much concern when I had opted to be dropped off at the sandy junction to some half covered track, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But also there was this wild excitement at having found myself, during the following days, seemingly almost-virtually alone at some 4,500 metres, fully immersed within a cornucopia of Andean wonderment. There was the constant presence of arid soil between my toes, the dust in my eyes and upon my clothes, a sun-tightened feel to my face and a certain altitudinous wild sensation that lingered about my nostrils.

I had daily risen prior to the sun, whilst its presence was just barely evident at the eastern horizon, and I had leap-frogged out into a freshwater lake, the shallow waters held in abeyance via a certain volcanic rockscape. The freezing temperatures of the night had hardened the various mossy bofedal clumps, enough that I might venture just far enough from the shores. And I had sat within the magical puna landscape and filled my notepad with all manner of detail, and my camera with just a tiny taste of The High Andes.

Bofedal

Once again, referencing my notebook, running along uncannily parallel to last night's dream, I am now reminded of the sheer radiance and of the burgeoning aliveness of the place. I had noted the eruptive joy that I had felt at the moment that a small wading bird had alighted just a few metres from where I was sitting; it duly commenced to completely ignore me as I sketched away. The Diademed Plover had lain close to the top of a long list of hoped for wildlife, and had duly set the day upon a perfect course, excepting the pounding headache which never quite left me during my days at this altitude. I am reminded also of a niggling nose-bleed that would never quite relent.

Route out towards the lake.

The list of wading birds, the slightly less-buoyant Andean Swallows and Lapwings, the various species of Flamingo, the Ducks, the various Coots, the vast array of Finches and other species, is both as immense in the notebook as it was in the dream. For this I am thankful, but also slightly curious.

Lake shoreline.

I had made the questioning observation that the higher-altitude Silvery Grebes could not possibly be of the same species as those I had seen two weeks previously, bobbing as a small raft upon the Pacific. The note, unknowingly 'supported' via far more copious and scientific observation, has since come to just fruition. I had, hours later, padded less assuredly back towards the lake's shoreline- the bofedal was fast softening under the quickening heat of the morning. A gem-like Andean Negrito flashed its primary flight-feathers, before dropping to the plain and substituting a zipping run for the labours of the air, a rich rufous-earthy back upon a muted charcoal body. The drier landscape was already quite awash with all manner of grey Ground-Tyrants, many sporting their own specific cap-come-nape-patch as a clue to species, many not. Somehow, defying the significantly enhanced drag of gravity, way up in the eye-scouring blueness, a pair of juvenile Mountain Caracaras were whirling to no immediately apparent purpose. The far more handsome, and thus absent, adults were having none of it!  

Receding peaks 

Even the most seemingly insignificant minor-slopes were able to conjure a throbbing heat to the temples, drawn from the dull ache at the back of the skull, but the effort was quite rightly deemed worthy, merely for the greatly enhanced proximity of a resplendent Black-hooded Sierra-finch. Surely these creatures had somehow thieved something of the essence of the setting sun upon their backs? Even so a scuttling Vizcacha might still set the heart to yet greater pounding, and the skull to yet greater pain, as it scaled a sheer slope as if 'twere horizontal; nether rabbit nor mouse, instead some bizarre other rodent-type, equipped also with a miniature beaver-type-tail to waft at the air in departure.

Moss as hard as pumice.

Defying the almost prickly-pumice qualities of the strange mountain-moss, I sat to permit the pounding to subside, becoming aware, as I did so, of a family of humbug Puna Tinamous, neither bustard nor grouse, but either way appearing instantly very akin to a snack-upon-legs. "Such plump and vulnerable-seeming birds will certainly have evolved their own peculiar means of surviving," I considered, although at this sort of range none was immediately evident. The flashing flight of the earlier noted White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant again animated the puna-desert-dreamscape. Although perches were at a premium this bird evidently had a greater claim than did most other species; there was a multitude of ground-tyrants and shrike-tyrants from which to choose. No sooner had it alighted than it was beating ten bells out of some uncertain former lifeform.

Andean Flicker nest holes.

I had already noted the 'unlikely' holes, drilled high into the ridge, but it was the echoing call which finally drew me to the ground-feeding activity of several Andean Flickers. Although the landscape was quite immense the absence of sound was, at times, almost more so. I had watched the towering twisters wandering intermittently across the desert but, even then, it wasn't until I had determined to stand and embrace the form as it whipped about my ears that I could actually hear the fine scattering hiss of sandy particles, severely chastising any areas of exposed flesh. The experience left me with sand-choked hair and much grittiness about my face, ears, hands and clothes, in the ears and especially in the mouth!

Andean sunset.

I had planned to spend the best part of the final day walking to Lake Chungara, but opted instead to abandon the effort when yet another semi-feral dog set about snapping at my heels. I had heard the beast drumming across the sands from more than half-a-mile away, and that was before it had commenced barking its war cry into the void. The distance afforded me just time enough to arm myself with a few meatier stones. Our brief engagement saw me landing at least two significant blows upon the damned creature, before a sharp whistle brought the whole affair to a much-appreciated conclusion. Whatever the damage, clearly I hadn't, at least not significantly, damaged the bugger's legs. I know that one stone thudded into the side of the ultra-angry face- I think that I had winced at the sound of stone upon tooth- but far better that unsightly mess than my ankles, I had reasoned. Whatever the damage, the unseen whistler, never thought to question my hastily-elected approach to evading dog-attack. At lower altitudes I had grown accustomed to arming myself with any from the most thorny of boughs, but up here this more benign and defensive manoeuvre had been denied me.

Route to Cotacotani.

It was at the point of perhaps greatest isolation that I was, I had initially thought, once again to be 'challenged,' but this time it was by a virtual dot at the foot of a low line of arid hills. Thankfully this beast remained put. Upon closer binocular inspection this transpired to be another of the lama-like Guanaco- I was impressed that the creature had so distantly and instantly recognised me as a potential threat, even though I was far from this. I took the time to sit for a while, by the icy crystal stream which I had been tracking, and there I noted my only Red-backed Sierra-Finch. It was instantly separable from the wealth of alternative Finch species that had earlier been on offer, a stunningly rich-red saddle, set behind a soft grey neck and head. I had known that such a sighting was almost a 'gift,' but had not yet realised quite how sought-after these jewels had become. I know that I was able to spend fully fifteen minutes studying the bird, as it scraped about at the edge of a chiselled bank. And all the while my presence was punctuated by the distant bark of the solitary Guanaco.

Atacama Desert.

A decidedly more substantial twister was seen to be gathering strength some distance off to the west. I watched with mounting interest as the rising cloud slowly resolved itself into one caused by a wandering Land Rover. I think that I must have watched the vehicle's approach for well over a minute and a half before there was even the faintest hint of a mechanical growl- all the while my sentinel was echoing 'his' warning into the vastness. It was only as the engine became a background constant that I thought to look more carefully at an 'islet' of isolated boulders rising at the centre of the valley.

Track to Parinacota.

Upon a far closer inspection of the rocky cluster I noted that the shadows here cast, such as they were, had now assumed rather more of a fluid presence, seeming almost to ripple across the surface of the nearest and the most sheer of the visible surfaces. Assuming the strange spectacle to be some sort of trick of the rising heat, I watched on, almost absent-mindedly awaiting some sort of credible resolution or further clarification. The shadow, almost dreamesque at this juncture, appeared to lengthen and then it twisted and thinned outwards, stretching itself almost to breaking point before contracting into the form of some sort of creature... a cat maybe?

So, this had been the cause for alarm, and all the while I had been unaware. Had the approaching jeep not drawn my attention back towards the outcrop it is most unlikely that I ever would have spied the feline. It transpired that the 'shadow' had in fact been more cat than shadow, albeit more visibly liquid than solid, and so I concluded this to be the form of a black Jaguar. I pressed my eyes to my binoculars, as if attempting to push them clear through the lenses and ever closer to the beast. I caught the eyes ever so briefly- green, I thought- and in that moment it was evident in such casual behaviour, that the beast had all the while been watching me. As the Land Rover drew level with the mound so the ripple shimmered one final time and then simply 'melted' into the flat surface of rock.

Before shaving and drinking heavily, or perhaps after drinking heavily?

I mentioned the sighting to my driver, Gary, before we set off down to the lower altitudes of Putre, where the altitude sickness would thankfully decline to follow. At first he reacted sceptically, but would not completely write off the likelihood of such a cat. So, before setting off, we slowly circled the mound, which conspired to be rather more diminutive than it had at first appeared, certainly no higher than ten feet at its peak. We twice drove round the perimeter and at such a slow and meticulous pace, never once glimpsing so much as a dubious shadow, but still Gary remained adamant upon us staying put, securely inside the jeep.

Framed within one of the vehicle's wing mirrors I was confronted by a vaguely familiar face, spied for the first time in several days, and I was curious to note that so much unkempt hair and patchy beard had afforded it something of a 'different' persona. All that it needed now was some sort of beret, maybe the barrel of a rifle peeping out from behind a right shoulder?

A far more benign Putre.

Scratching away at a mat of unaccustomed facial hair, I squinted into the light; suddenly so much older those features appeared in the bathroom mirror. Head cropped tight, and jawline uncharacteristically clean shaven? Instantly, I regretted having glanced at the offending wing-mirror.

Best get some of this down, before the memory fades...




Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Truly Second Class Performance


Children's TV has pretty much gone stratospheric since the days of 'Watch with Mother,' with the likes of 'Bill and Ben, Flowerpot Men,' when TV viewing for the infant was very much a half-cocked afterthought. The neoliberal dream back then, of course, had far yet to go in the then-poorly-exploited field of pester-power. Now, having 'hastened on,' one might easily access several channels of 24-hour viewing, quite naturally interspersed with the requisite volume of targeted, in-the-child's-face advertising. 

In truth I don't so much recall ever, as an infant, watching Bill or his alliteratively-named, supposed brother, Ben, more so as an adolescent. I remember spending entirely too much time laughing and joking about the adopted linguistic traits of the characters, when I should instead have been properly focused upon the 'O' Level syllabus, either literature or language, this detail I do not recall; it was quite likely a bit of both.

A school that was orchestrated as much under the tutelage of would-otherwise-have-been hippies as it was career teachers, mine was fairly open to such juvenile distractions. I recall also that 'we' afforded much time to 'The Clangers,' 'Noggin the Nog,' and that a number of 'us' were very much in awe of the likes of Oliver Postgate, alongside a few of the more sporting and conventional musical performers of the day. The art studios- they were most definitely studios- often seemed to operate like some sort of virtual commune.



The goal of a raft of A*s was not at this time quite such a 'distraction' as it has more recently become. Jobs were pretty much a given, although not necessarily always the precise ones that everyone would have wished for. Times were generally more benign and considerably more inclusive. I played quite a lot of cricket, and this meshed pretty well with the heat of the long summer days and an almost driven lack of focus.

So, back to 'Bill and Ben,' or more precisely Ben, the undoubtedly younger and more easily provoked twin! I'm thinking here specifically of a Ben of uncertain thought process, perhaps frustrated through a given inability to effectively communicate outside of immediate associative boundaries. Curiously, the Ben in question is not unlike 'our own' Mr Stokes, although his lack of sometimes-appropriate communication skills seems these days to manifest itself in altogether more ill-advised ways.

I am getting around, albeit somewhat tortuously, to the same Ben Stokes who ironically appears to have shown himself to have finally and almost magisterially overcome his tendency towards rash stroke-play at the most inopportune of moments. Sadly, Ben's is entirely a different species of self-destruct to that often of late employed by the currently-colourful English Ashes Squad/Team. Ben's is upfrontedly and unreasonably more confrontational, eventually and demonstrably evolving from on field abuse, and now on to other darker recreational pursuits. The rest of the squad have thus far concentrated their own bouts of self-destruct entirely towards the cricket field of play.

It, that is the team's effort, has this summer-season and for several of the preceding ones, provided a wonderfully pyrotechnical spectacle for the fans, at least those who are prepared to pay the Sky-high ransom, or else watch the live spectacle. Will the team- our's or Sky's?- explode into life, or will they otherwise implode, we have frequently been given to speculate- it is surely a Ray Winston wet-dream, a veritable betting bonanza!



A most unexpected e-mail brought, for me, the whole sorry affair right out into the spotlight, perhaps prompted through recent events. Lord alone knows how one goes about tracking such a hermit as myself? But, tracked I was, and from a most unlikely quarter; I had almost completely put the related episode away and out of mind. But, it did help to clarify an until-then-unresolved issue for me... Ben Stokes, please desist or step sideways and into the unbeautiful game of football.

Along with a then very close friend, commencing quite unexpectedly during our lazy sixth form days, I had just started to practise, and even more rarely play, along with the then Middlesex Second Team- one of the school's physics teachers was then a team regular- it was to be hoped that this might lead on to 'better' things. My 'friend' was, I always considered, a far more gifted prospect than was I. Through the faded memories of several decades, I recall his batting as wonderfully flamboyant; he wasn't quite the full Barry Richards, but then neither was anybody else in world cricket. He modelled his game upon the great South African, and I think that this was what actually brought about our 'being noticed.' That is to write that he was noticed and that I just happened to be present at the time of the noticing.

I was rather less fluent- although I still much preferred batting- but could also bowl a bit. Mike Proctor was my cricketing idol. I could neither control the ball as masterfully nor intimidate a batsman so well, nor could I bat with such imperial might, but again neither could just-anybody else in the cricketing world. Still, we could dream, and 'everybody' had their cricketing idols, so we dreamt and we played on

We had barely started to get to know 'the group,' when stupidity and consequence brought about an unhappy closure to the brief flirtation. I had always considered it an embarrassment, had almost put it well away from my thoughts. Mr Stokes, with whom I have absolutely no sympathies- except with the current English Ashes hopes- and the untimely aforementioned e-mail brought the sorry memory and a rather nasty taste flooding back to the fore.



It seems like almost another lifetime- I almost had to check that it was actually mine- when we used to mix and to chat with the likes of the wonderful Vince van der Bijl and even rarely to watch the truly dangerous Wayne Daniel pounding 'depressions' into the middle of the wicket.

I remember that Brearley, perhaps the most astute English captain that I can recall, was not ever quite the charmer that his TV and radio persona would suggest, that he was frequently dismissive of even the other regular first team players. I recall that Gatting was ever the bumptious and opinionated one, entirely as his TV and radio persona would suggest, and that Edmonds, far more so than Embury, could perform almost magical feats with the ball. Other players are now but shadows of memories, except for Selvey who often seemed to flatter to deceive, except for when he was at his most cunningly deceptive.

Daniel was a wonderfully funny chap, but really scary in the nets; I cannot now believe that serious injury did not result from some of his early work with the Second XI. It swiftly transpired that he should not continue to bowl at the Seconds. But always my favourite was the monster of a man who was Invincible Bill, as we called him. He would spend forever talking through how best to draw a false shot with the perfect late-away-swinger. In truth, he seemed sometimes to bowl even faster than Daniel, but his quicker ball didn't seem to make quite such a threatening sound as it thudded into the back of the net, perhaps because it wasn't so often accompanied by that adrenalin-inducing whistle from somewhere around ear height? I remember Daniel once pitching the ball no further than around the middle of the wicket and watching it lift clear out of the rear of the nets and towards the players cars. It missed the lot, instead crashing through a changing room window and (perhaps) denting one of the lockers; a seriously faded memory has me recalling it as Captain Brearley's, but this could be just fanciful?

Upon further reflection I wonder if the denting of the locker actually happened at all, or in fact whether the ball in question was actually a beamer, but do remember padding carefully into the showers, just in case a shard of stray glass had evaded the attentions of the broom.



Invincible Bill was curious about this ability that a couple of the Seconds had, to get the ball to swing counter to the conventional; at first we all found this baffling, Christ alone knew that it was hard enough anyway to properly exploit the swinging ball. I could occasionally manage this 'aberration,' but only do it with a quite worn, even tatty, cricket ball, and unreliably so; the ball would appear to be set upon a perfect trajectory, only to suddenly veer off line at the last instant. If 'we' adjusted the line accordingly then almost inevitably no such swing would occur. We played around with the delivery, which both baffled and evaded Invincible Bill; it was the only time that I can ever recall Brearley actually talking to me, rather than at me or otherwise down to me. Selvey was very quick to pick up on this strange trait; it was the one thing that he learned to do really well, although it never seemed to happen for him during his brief flirtation with the international game. I think that this ability- few other cricketers at the time had toyed with the variation- may even have brought about my solitary chance for first class cricket, against Cambridge University... a chance which never quite materialised. 

I had honestly almost forgotten quite how wonderful the time with my Middlesex Second Team 'colleagues' was; even after all these years I could feel the emotion welling up. I think that I have barely talked about the instance for over thirty-five years, instead defaulting to 'less traumatic' but more prosperous minor club times. Recalling the now-seemingly-insignificant event curiously still seems so very and surprisingly raw!

Even as I write the words I can feel an inner-shakiness- is it anger, or just upset, or perhaps a bit of both?- as I remember my then friend secreting some tiny black grains into Brearley's shaving foam, at least this is what he later claimed to have done. And I can recall a face like thunder, when the partially blacked-up captain- more grey-chinned, as I seem to recall- emerged from the washroom and demanded to know who, "the bloody prankster" was. 'Friend' and self were immediately told to get dressed; 'friend' left in a tantrum but I sulked, came on briefly as a sub to take a single catch on the square-leg boundary. I never stayed on to partake of the post-match ''analysis.'

I carried on with the Seconds for a couple more games, but never with quite the same sense of belonging. Bumptious Gatting- with his elephantine memory and arse- and an absence of my guilty ex-friend were always 'present,' even when they weren't. My cricket had taken a serious dint! The timing of my second half-opportunity was spectacularly poor! Even Invincible Bill suggested that I should more-seriously consider the Uni-option, which I duly did and that was that.



I believe that my then friend went on to perform rather spectacularly- his e-mail suggested as much- but know that he never again chanced his arm at the First Class game. We quickly lost touch.

So, Mr Stokes, it leaves me quite beyond words to contemplate the humongous scale of your misdemeanour, when coupled with the number of on field chances that you have been afforded. Mine was neither my own misdemeanour, nor was I afforded much of a second chance. I did not repeatedly hurl abuse at the opponent, neither did I end up trading punches with either opponent or spectator. I have admired your game- the silent part thereof- but decidedly not the wider spectacle.

I read more recently, that even the amateur game has taken something of a nosedive. I learned that umpires- the sort of job for which I would once have happily sacrificed a lazy Sunday- are now having to 'tear' apart brawling, heavily-tattooed opponents- your game, Mr Stokes?- so much so that the signals of the game are now being extended to include a four-part warning, the ultimate of which is to be a sending off!

A sending off in a game of cricket? What the blazes has happened to our most wonderful of games? One wonders quite what the odds are upon who will be trading the first on-field Ashes blows? Any thoughts, Ray? My money's on Warner. 

Bon voyage! 




Sunday, 20 August 2017

Yet Another Age of Unreason


As a child I was gently indoctrinated, along with just about everybody else in my class, into the ways of our Lord. From a very early age it was put to me that there was, nonspecifically out 'there,' a far greater and more powerful Being and that, intrinsic to this contention, there was a tome of knowledge, also non-specifically, far beyond anything that I could ever hope to amass. Thus, I was introduced to the concept of 'faith.' We sang a lot, which didn't leave a great deal of time for questions.

Where would such a Being reside? Heaven, where's that then? How could such a Being know what everyone was doing? What about those people who were working deep underground? How could such a Being know what we were all thinking? At the same time? What about dreams? How would such a Being be able to 'hear' all of our prayers? How would such a Being prioritise? If someone said 'good' things, but secretly thought 'bad' things, how would such a Being know this? What if we believed the 'bad' things, because a cleverer person had misled us? How would such a Being be able to tell the difference? If someone made a very 'bad' choice, hurting or killing others, why would such a Being not intervene? Why would such a Being allow natural disasters to kill and hurt people and other creatures?

Our's was never to reason why, apparently. We just weren't knowledgeable enough to understand the overriding will of such a Being. Although, some of us, even at such a tender and an early age, were starting to draw our own conclusions about this 'greater' Being. 'Faith' we were reminded- my teachers reminded me, my mother reminded me, the church reminded me, and numerous other people reminded me- was our lot. Faith!


Now that I am older I know enough to know that I am differently unsure. Older and slightly more jaded, I am arrogant enough to believe that I know the answers to some of the above questions. Now, I have different questions... requiring different answers, which necessarily do not pertain to faith.

Accepting, just for the sake of argument, that I am not going to be able to directly put my questions to such a Being, I would like instead to be able- safely!- to ask these questions of those who are most 'certain' of the 'answers'... the fundamentalists.

The fundamentalists have, of course, weaponised 'faith,' effectively remodelling it as fear! Naturally, honing the doctrine to a fine point- fear is often anyway still not enough- the fundamentalists might well kill us regardless; they might detonate shrapnel amongst our children, or they might career their vehicle along a busy pavement, or they might simply refuse to reason, sheltering behind the trusty (rusty) shield of faith, a highly selective shield when it comes to bombs and bullets. Our bombs and bullets, those of reason, are, we are 'assured,' far more discerning than are 'their' bombs and bullets, the old 'benign collateral' (cite "friendly fire") versus 'indiscriminate terrorism' argument! Proudly wear your faith, wear it much like a pair of spangled blinkers, wear it like a mask!

My opening question to the Being's spokesperson upon this Earth would have to be, why it is that our imperfect minds have been equipped with nothing better than faith with which to navigate our route through (theological) life? Why then equip us with the means with which to question 'His'* existence? So, of those various humanly-scribed books, which tome was actually the first draft, and which should we take to be the 'finished' (polished?) article? Presumptuous on my part, maybe, but I'm going to suggest that just a smidgen of greater clarification might not go a miss. Are we perhaps long-overdue a further redraft?

And then on to the sensitive subject of personal armaments, about these cursed hand-guns and rifles for example- those which have often been employed in His name- shouldn't we perhaps keep them locked well away from the cerebrally inept? We have, I am hoping, now evolved well beyond the belief that sinking a flaming cross into the earth, and wandering around in pointy white hats, weapons loaded, may be a superior or purer means of somehow 'ordering' humankind, along the lines of some sort of human-paint-chart? Couldn't we just hammer home this point, once more for the hard-of-understanding?

My is it third?- and certainly it is the most delicate of questions to the Being's spokesperson on this Earth- relates to the female gender of our species. I am, of course, assuming that this set of rules isn't perhaps an earlier and some-since-time superseded draft of His 'correct' Holy Book. Why, I feel obligated to ask, is having been genitally mutilated considered to be the 'correct' physical state for any female?- or, especially, any innocent child? And, in anticipation of any response, I would like to question 'why said 'clitoris' was there in the first place?' Further, I would like to ask 'if this means that He has therefore made a fundamental error?' Furthermore, is it not cruel to have designed 'us' for pleasure, only to have then prescribed the removal of one highly significant means by which this might be achieved? Is He then not in some major capacity also flawed? Is it really the role of certain significantly flawed and immeasurably-lesser beings to 'improve' upon His efforts?' Page numbers for reference, please? 

Here on Earth, I think that it would be only reasonable to assume that I argue for the vast majority of humans when I seek to question the butchering that is done in seeking to (shall we refer to it as?) modify the human form. Are these 'people'- the butchers- not defacing His work? Can we not instead modify the butchers?- if only to remove from them their more dubious of powers?

And, quite why would He create someone so very beautiful, only to condemn that same someone to a lifetime of conducting 'life' from within a black box, a niqab or, even more condemnatory, a burka? Really?- so, it's entirely about modesty, is it? Does this mean then that the man in this 'relationship' is acting immodestly? So the woman is actually a possession, is she? And the covering of the hair thing?- perhaps then You might have considered a less hairy model? I presume then that the role of the more hirsute male requires entirely less modesty?

And stoning? What, even if the male perpetrator- cases of rape, for example- is permitted to watch on, whilst the female victim is being pounded into  the earth? Is he, the perpetrator,  also then permitted to throw rocks? And, what is it supposed that the perpetrator is actually 'punishing,' should he deign to partake? Will the mighty Being judge him at some later date? Pages? **

And- fourth now is it?- this racial difference thing? Perhaps I'm being just a bit thick here, a bit humanly flawed, as 'twere, but it really doesn't feel in any way superior, being white. On a handful of occasions I've been given due cause to think that being white is, if anything, rather inferior. White pointy hats and burning crosses, what was all that about? Demonstrating superiority, how? Do those with the loudest shouty voices also possess faith? Or has some form of enraged-entitlement here substituted? Any sort of hierarchy seems questionable, colour or otherwise... that is, unless we should regard those who follow this path as immensely inferior? You know what, might we just have stumbled onto something here?

Surely I cannot be alone in thinking that we here upon this Earth are well overdue a smidgen of enlightenment on the mega-touchy subject of "racial superiority?" The 'ride' thus far has not been a wholly tranquil one! The merest concept of 'superiority' is never going to sit comfortably, alongside any culture that it is looking to 'order,' or that might be hoping for order alongside reasonable law.

Thus, cannot we all hunker down to a spot of disentanglement, for example where Semitism and Zionism are concerned? A 'few' of the more confident readers are becoming a tad alarmed at the tanglement-by-design of terms like anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist, media-orchestrated-and-fuelled and further fanned by the thoroughly-disingenuous. Semite, pertaining to a group of Semitic languages, spoken by, amongst others, both Israelis (Hebrew) and many Arabs (Arabic), am I right in believing this to be so? Would that then- although somewhat veiled through this ever-curious twisting of reality- seem to imply that the Zionists are amongst the more anti-Semitic of peoples?


My next question would be, in the event of a human detonation, or vehicular mayhem, who gets to decide who might live and who might die? Well then, who in His stead might decide? Okay, so does this not mean that His human spokesperson is destroying and/or defacing the Supreme Being's work? And, if your response to this is that the Divine Being then intervenes to decide who does and does not survive any such act, why then are not all of the perpetrators also subject to such a brutal 'selection' process? Might I be so bold as to suggest that He perhaps endeavours to ensure that the ultimate-decision-makers- those who might plot or otherwise bring about such awful destruction- are always, from this point onwards, to be situated far closer to the consequences of their decisions, especially as they profess to be following His imperfect plan? Under these circumstances, would they 'smile' quite so confidently for that flash?

And, this mention here, just here, about the taking of a single life destroying a whole universe? I think the wording is "... if anyone slew a person- unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land- it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people." (Al Quran 5:32) How should we regard this wisdom, as an earlier note... or better, as the perfected amendment? Shouldn't we clarify this issue, specifically for those who possess the wrong kind of faith? And, with much haste!

And, this far too non-specific, "spreading mischief in the land"?- who gets to decide which is 'mischief' and which is 'government?' And, where the two transpire to be one and the same?

Pertinent to an earlier question, am I to assume then that the detonator, or driver, or knife-wielder, the 'religious' killer, is going to be repaired in Heaven? And, will his, or rarely her, 'repaired' mind still be 'functioning' along similar lines? How many virgins is that? What, virgins with or without fully functional genitalia? Anticipating the masculinity of His response, can I then ask- refraining from employing the 'r' word- what sort of congress is this likely to be? Is this then going to be a different sort of Heaven for all of those virgins who will be on the receiving end? References again, please?

Presuming then that His loyal foot soldier's thought-process is to remain fundamentally unchanged, will (s)he be required to continue to detonate, or stab, or run-down other inhabitants within this Heaven? What, so sort of like a one-transaction contract, specifically undertaken prior to 'joining' the 'anointed,' then? And, 'this' type of 'suicide' will be afforded a 'get-out-of-jail-free card,' will it?


Will there be many (for the sake of argument, shall we refer to them as) mass murderers in Heaven? How will other, non-violent, arrivals be expected to relate to these murderers? Will there be time, do you suppose, for the inhabitants of this Heaven to converse calmly about the 'good' old days? If so, is there a 'correct' and politer etiquette for referring to the shattered remains of murdered children? Is there one which permits the murderer not to feel somehow excluded from politer circles as they well might down here?- or otherwise deeply and irretrievably ashamed? So, will these mass murderers now be able to laugh and to joke and to somehow to 'live' (on) with themselves? What, no remorse? None whatsoever? Again, can I request specific page numbers?

And, what if killer A is 'right', for want of a better, far better word, to have murdered' those in group A, whilst killer B is wrong to have murdered those in group B? Will killer B be judged to have sinned for adhering to the wrong type of faith? What, even if the ritual slaughter was carried out in 'good' faith?

Can I also ask, is life here on Earth really supposed to be quite so Hellish and devoid of compassion? Does that not then make Him a vindictive Being?

And dare I ask, just for the sake of argument, should we be preparing ourselves for the event that His idea of Heaven might actually transpire to be our idea of Hell?- and that He might transpire to be some sort of monster?

If we are not to question these things then why would He give us the minds with which to do so? Unless this also is another design flaw. Or is it yet another test... of our faith?


We are finding that neighbourly respect and affection- at least whilst we are trapped here upon His Earth- offers a mighty antidote to much of His more curious will. Often, this might even happen to transcend faith. Even so, might I not harbour just that tiny kernel of contempt for the religious fundamentalists?

Finally, would it be in any way unreasonable to conclude that, if one could reason with religious people that there would be no religious people? Do any of these thoughts make me a sinner?


* Apologies for the gender allocation. In modest justification of my choice, I chose to affix a male label over a female one because I considered that the faults of any such being- pain, war, 'torture,' conflict, that sort of thing- were more likely to sit 'comfortably' within the remit of a male creature.

** And, this would have to be the moment, the moment, at which we- that is 'we' unbelievers- may be as certain as it is possible to be, that certain 'individuals' are far more inclined towards faith and religion because it is entirely the means by which they seek to consolidate their advantages over others, than because they are inclined to believe in anything other than their own advantage. Otherwise, why would they lay themselves open to such disappointment in the 'eyes' of their 'God?'


Friday, 28 July 2017

The Flat Earth Society


As all half-decent photographers will know, it is all about the light. The subject matter is therefore entirely of a secondary importance; because without the right light nothing else matters, or if it does then any resultant substandard image pretty much soon determines that it really doesn't.

Ansel Adams understood this implicitly. He would get up well before the dawn and he would lug his bulky view finder camera and other boxed paraphernalia- his immaculately prepared large-format glass plates- to the pre-located spot of choice, entirely in order to pay his own particular homage to 'the light.' Few, if any, have ever paid it better, or to greater effect. 

Adams would have probably marvelled at the modern alternatives to his cumbersome 'box.' No doubt he would have wondered about the vast pool of buttons, dials and variable settings and functions, all of which are but slaves to 'the light.' Either they are a means to more easily capture 'it,' or else they are a means to taming 'it.' If all else fails, then they are a means to substituting for either a lack thereof, or else a surfeit of 'the same.' Ergo, it is all about the light!  


I was reminded of as much, just last autumn, when I happened to find myself perched upon Hunstanton's clifftops at the point of sunrise. The precise blend of perfect light with which I was met was of my very particular favourite; there was a weather front of quite spectacular proportions, fast approaching from the west, yet the sun behind me had slanted in under the darkening leading edge to throw every crest, and estuarine dimple, every blade of grass, into perfect relief. I think that I have never seen a more wonderful nor a more terrible image! I learned, several weeks later, that such a phenomenon as I was witnessing had only twice before been recorded. And so, curiosity duly whetted, I thereby determined to dig further. 


The cloud that had so fascinated me, that of a cumulo-stratus structuring, was unnaturally low, weighted down by the pressure of the greater and far more extensive 'front.' Entirely more conventional, this otherwise typical weather front was characteristically and decidedly blue-black in appearance, almost bruised. It was this entirely familiar 'belt' that had so perfectly captured the light. But, as I am here endeavouring to establish, 'twas the lower roll of cloud that had taken on a spectacular, an almost biblical or otherwise magical appearance! 




The rising sun had so precisely positioned itself that the roll had temporarily assumed a buttery golden appearance, quite 'solid' and glistening so as to appear to be literally generating its own peculiar light. I doubt that the roll had been more than 300 feet in height, yet so low at the underside of the curve of its face that one could almost have reached up and brushed one's fingers against the polished surface, that is if one had been standing upon one of the few tethered boats in the immediate estuary. The roll of cloud was actually a tad more elevated than this, slightly fewer than 100 feet above the waters. It extended as far to the sides in either direction as the eye could see, or at least as far as mine were able to determine.

All of this of itself was wondrous enough to quite simply demand one's attention, yet there was something even more otherworldly about this image. Upon its flawless, peculiarly-glistening surface, there above the mirroring estuary, I saw, in such immaculate and astounding detail, my own projected shadow. There was time to wave and to test the image, and 'twas definitely mine, of me and of my old telescope. At first this curious shadow had delighted me, yet as the roll moved ever closer, and the image resolved itself into ever crisper focus, I could not help but feel a certain chill creeping into my bones. I know not what the cause of this uncertainty was, suffice to write that I was somewhat relieved when the roll grew so close as to seem to suddenly rise up and over my head. 

Almost beyond the range of my imperfect hearing there was (I think it was) a sort of hiss, as if of sand being blown across a beach, or maybe it was more of a deep rumble, the type that may register more in the pit of one's stomach than in one's ears, rather more felt or sensed than heard- I longed to thrust my outstretched palm into the mass, but it was just too far above my head- either way, throughout the whole experience, the curious roll seemed to retain the mass or consistency of a solid shape, that of a golden cylinder, one that was, it seemed, entirely capable of uniquely generating something approximating sound. 

I searched up and down the clifftops, hoping for another soul with whom to compare 'notes,' but the scene was otherwise unpopulated, and soon to be replaced by, and immersed in, a thick and drenching fog that made driving home decidedly unpleasant, extremely hazardous for the first mile or two. This, before the rain proper set in for the remainder of the morning and the better part of the afternoon. 

I was later to learn that this magical light phenomenon had been 'once' before recorded in Victorian times. On this other occasion the accompanying cloud mass had proven fatal, consisting significantly of pea-souper-smog industrial-particles. That bitter veil had lain heavily upon the landscape and, before it had lifted or rather blown out, it had claimed over thee-hundred lives, almost exclusively from pulmonary complications. Of course, such a smog- rather greyer, considerably less golden- in Victorian Britain had been a frequent and an all-too-natural consequence of industrial pollution- albeit rather less prevalent upon Norfolk's rural coastline- yet, so significant was the death-toll on this occasion that it was briefly rumoured that the Black Death of the Middle Ages might have again returned to plague our shores. 



More pertinent to my consequent research, the curious additional phenomenon of the strange golden light had also been detailed, and this was down, almost entirely, to the curiosity of one minor meteorological student, by the name of Delaney Kingston. Had the young man been rather more caucasian, rather less Asian, I feel certain that this valuable historical record would have been afforded far greater attention. 

What young Delaney, a fortunate survivor of the culling Victorian smog, had also gone on to unearth was that of one further significant prior instance of such a golden-light phenomenon, it's occurrence having also been an almost overlooked aside of book margin 'insignificance,' referring back a further millennium to the days of Viking raids upon our shores, way back in the late eighth century. 

The 'pencilled' note to which Delaney Kingston alluded in his writings has, I am led to believe, long since been misplaced, but Delaney's consequent writings not only help to enlighten us regarding the instance but also manage to considerably flesh out the curious meteorological details. In his short essay, Delaney manages to draw together such diverse cross-references as the Brothers Grimm together with that of early Norse Mythology. 

"Mirror mirror on the 'wall,' who in this land is fairest of all?" is an oft misquoted line from Snow White (Brothers Grimm, published in 1812). The precise wording of the original is now irretrievably buried in the mists of time, but what we do know is that the Grimm line was in turn lifted from an earlier Norse text. Further, we can be fairly certain that the now (Disney) corrupted line was gleaned from a longer Norse 'plea bargain,' a plea culminating in a worshipful prayer to the Goddess Hel herself.

"There are none more magnificent, nor more munificent than yourself, Omniscient Hel!" or some such desperately grovelling attempt to evade The Goddess's wrath, we learn, was to be a beseeching conclusion, cried into the face of the onrushing storm. The absolute terror in finding oneself teetering at the very edge of mortal existence- the ultimate abyss- was said to have been enough to have brought about an immediate termination to (all) mortal life. But, presumably a literate handful at least survived long enough to recount the tale.



It almost goes without the need to remind ourselves that in the eighth century man-created-pollution would have been almost nonexistent, deforestation would have been as of nothing, and that the reclamation of marshy landscape would have been far beyond the wit of humankind. Consequently, the marsh mists rolling in from Western Scandinavia would have been, at various times of the year, an almost daily occurrence, perhaps through unique and once-in-a-generation-juxtapositioning- to be sun-gilded, as on my autumn morn, from the east. Quite how many occurrences there were, of that imperfect timing, whereby one's own image could be captured upon the golden wave, we can only speculate, except to note that glimpses into the very mouth of Hell would surely not have been a daily occurrence, otherwise those clever Vikings would surely have started to ask a few more questions. Any consequent death toll would have been down entirely to heart-failure- quite literally scared to death!  

Imagine, if you will, that desperate Viking, standing at the face of the blinding light, believed to be the literal rolling back of the edge of The Earth, Hell's golden underbelly momentarily exposed to all of those about to be crushed into nothingness under it's mighty bulk, or else cast into the void. The poor desperate soul might actually have thought that he or she could actually see their own perfect reflection- every flawed and impure thought and action captured therein- staring back at him or her from the polished underside of The Earth. "Omniscient Mirror of Hel, might my people not be pure enough of soul, spirit and deed to this once be considered worthy of salvation?" The moment of reckoning had surely arrived!

Truly Hel was one spoilt brat, more than fully prepared, as are many of today's fictitious Gods and Goddesses, to gather up both bat and ball and to thoroughly spoil the game for everybody else concerned. 



Monday, 19 June 2017

Towering Indifference!



"Preparing to avoid conflagration, it is more the offcuts than the bespoke suits with which we need be concerned."

This, or something very like it, has no doubt oft been muttered in the upper echelons of 'our' society. It's the sort of thing that Jacob Rees Mogg might have tossed into the arena, before sitting back and looking rather pleased with himself. But clearly it's also the sort of utterance that has been repeatedly ignored, in the ever downward drive to prepare 'our' future society for the 'better' times yet to come. 

More truthfully, 'it'- the presumed utterance- has been selectively ignored, selectively actioned. I think 'it' was ignored, in the sense that the working peoples, to whom it was of greatest concern, were proven repeatedly not to matter. 'It' was acted upon in the wider sense, that all manner of precautions were put into place to ensure that each and every dissenting voice was to be nullified. In an oppressive machine such as our state it is an academic exercise of epic proportion simply attempting to establish quite which is 'dissenting voice' and which 'silencer.' 


That'll do!
When, in one of the wealthiest boroughs upon the planet, Grenfell Tower lit up the Kensington skyline, the consequent sound of shuffling was momentarily so very prevalent that it almost drowned out the words of the BBC et al, reporting the latest disaster to befall the nation. The 'shuffling' was, of course, society's 'top cards' manoeuvring to be as far as possible away from the  accusing finger which was already hungrily searching out blame, far enough from the dying embers that they might not themselves combust

The peculiar shuffling sound, was entirely like that to be heard when the late and hated Jimmy Savile was found to be the nation's most prevalent sexual predator. I write "found'" but what I really mean is , 'when this information was released to the wider public.' Because, it was already known to so much of 'our' 'upper,' and lower, society. Right to the very top, we can safely surmise! In the flavour of this reporting we have almost the very essence of our problem. We might refer to it as a form of assimilation. 

As the cooling flakes of Reynobond plastic 'fuel' were still settling into the dust, so the panic had already set in, perhaps even upsetting more than one or two rather extravagant dinners along the way. We have long since surpassed the point where targeted austerity had created far more offcuts than was humanly acceptable. Yet, in a climate of continued and targeted slashing the theme is still being far too eagerly embraced.

Whether it is because the likes of Mr Murdoch and Mr Dacre, Messrs Rothermere, Desmond, Hall and the well-appointed Barclay Brothers have decreed that it shall be so, whether it is simply the Brexiters hoping to shore up the self-inflicted damage, whether it is born out of hatred for the public establishment, or perhaps it is just lazy habit, we can only speculate.

Lily Allen spoke well upon the issue. She spoke of the Conservative-Liberal Coalition's decision to slash away at the fire and rescue services, lopping off a massive 30% of the nation's means to guard against just such an eventuality as has just happened. Three fire stations in the region of Grenfell Tower were duly closed. Nationally, one in six firefighters have 'disappeared! Boris Johnson was later recorded, telling Andrew Dinsmore, a Labour Assembly member to "Get stuffed!," for daring to question the decision. 


That'll do!
Specifically about the fire and the tragic death toll, Lily Allen said that the government were, "micromanaging people's grieving." Lord alone knows that they have enough clout with the Main Stream Media to do so. Lily went on to accuse the media of misreporting the incident, the "death toll has been downplayed by the media!" she insisted. 

"I feel like the government are trying to micromanage people's grieving here... I've never in my entire life seen an event like this , where the death count has been downplayed by the mainstream media. 17? I'm sorry, but I'm hearing from people that the figure is much closer to 150, and that many of those people are children," were her angry words. 

In consequence her scheduled appearance upon Newsnight was duly cut. A BBC spokesperson 'clarified' that the two were unrelated. The bod went on to fabricate that, this was in order to allow Kirsty Wark to conduct a thorough accountability interview. Another, or quite possibly the same bod 'explained' that "With live news programmes like Newsnight final decisions on guests are often made late in the day, which can mean that the lineup changes at short notice."

The statement was, quite naturally, entirely unnecessary, as the nation- that thinking part of it, anyway- had already deduced the BBC's truer reasoning. Effectively, there are now two fires from which we should draw our conclusions. One has been doused, its numerous casualties yet to be unearthed and identified, some perhaps never to be afforded even this final dignity. The other, and second conflagration, is currently still raging in the 'important' corridors of our 'betters' and 'our' decision-makers. And, as Lily has made clear, the establishment are attempting to micromanage the crisis until the flames (of anger) have considerably died down. 

Lily also recounted the earlier instance of Seventy-two Tory Landlords in The Commons, voting down a law requiring landlords to make their homes fit for human habitation. 

Elsewhere upon the continent, the terrifying forest fires raging in Pedrogao Grande in Portugal are yet another scream into the smug face of (the likes of) Boris Johnson, that one cannot safely allocate safety and rescue services in line with the proposed corner-cutting balances of the wilfully indifferent.   

When we are searching for a presence at which to point the accusing finger of blame, we will need quite a sizeable hand, perhaps a wave of hands? Or a stab of forefingers? I think there is not yet a suitably accusatory collective noun. 


That'll do!
It transpires, and relatively quickly it has done so, that the cladding, as supplied by Harley Facades- boss, Rob Bailey- was already banned in the U.S. and worse, that there was a more fire-resistant alternative, but that this was a slightly more expensive variant, at £2 per square metre. The decision as to which to use was, we can be in no doubt, taken entirely upon 'efficiency' grounds.

It transpires that the gas pipes, running up the central stairwells and common areas were not even boxed in with fire-retardant cladding. More 'efficiency?

It transpires that there had been no fitting of sprinkler units to the interior of the building. Efficiency?

It transpires that even if there were supposed to be working fire alarms that these had not been tested and were effectively, and in the panic, almost silent. Efficiency!

It transpires that time to be devoted to an effective escape strategy was still being bumped ever further into the never-distance. Efficiency!

Now, we should be in no doubt that somebody signed off on all of this, several somebodies have repeatedly signed off on this! There are, even as we contemplate the scale of this and the next disaster to befall the nation, people preparing themselves to sign off on similar undercutting in almost identical buildings. In order to counter this we are going to need, perhaps, a great many fingers of blame and accusation. How far up the tree will they be able to prod? How far back in time will the fingers be prepared to travel? Is it just me, or does this not seem to be an easy route to plot? 

Mrs May slinked to the scene and away, under armed guard, before angry residents were even aware of of the proximity of her toxic insincerity. Jeremy Corbyn was able to walk freely amongst the gathered crowds. It is to be hoped that he and his cabinet will be able to glean some small comfort and clarity for the affected families. Mrs May, we know, already 'knew' the scene, although not perhaps the immediate devastation, because she and her type have been driving this divided nation agenda for decades. Of course she had nothing to say to the bereaved, what could she possibly have to say, "You are the unfortunate yet acceptable consequence of my government's and of successive government's deliberately implemented policies."? 

As, every time that we tune in to the news, we see the burned out tomb that is Grenfell Tower, I wonder if perhaps this charred monument to failing British values might not somehow be preserved- carefully relocated to haunt the culpable- as a constant reminder of the contempt in which ordinary people were held in 2017? Can we not incorporate Grenfell Tower into the refurbishments currently underway at Westminster?  

Meanwhile, what about those who made it out of the tower, before it was consumed? Where will they reside? Can we not requisition those investment properties in the borough that have lain empty for the past year? How is Westminster Palace geared up for emergency accommodation? 

I have been reading in the Guardian, "Why does it take a tragedy for ministers to put lives above money?" Andrew Rawnsley, fighting for the light of publicity, wrote, "Grenfell Tower's residents were failed long before fire broke out." And, it makes me weep! 

In answer to the former, I would have to respond that the question is based upon a false premise; beyond this it does not even warrant an answer. The same sort of empty platitudes had been offered after Savile, after Hillsborough, after all manner of past tragedies and will be again after all manner of future tragedies. The question is an insult to the residents, many of whom know- in a sense already knew- that money is still held in far higher esteem than all of the deceased, all deceased in all such instances. Of the plans that are already in place, we can be certain that, in this regard, they are set for 'no change!' My response to the second article amounted to something approximating, "Pah! Well thanks, Andrew." Are 'we' here driving a call for change? Or are 'we' already, and so seamlessly, so very deep in the process of assimilation? I think and I fear more of the latter. Should we be at leisure to revisit this tragedy, in say a year's time, I am certain that these thoughts will have been vindicated. 

Lessons will not be learned! And, finger pointing is not rude, it is absolutely essential, but it desperately needs to be accompanied by some very serious high-calibre clout! 

Martin Moore-Bick has been refused the appropriate arms license and will be conducting his public 'inquiry' equipped with only blanks. Is the speed of the assimilation not absolutely breathtaking?


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Boundary Changes


Boundaries will always appear so much less significant if one views them through the wrong end of the telescope.

My father's generation did something quite shameful, they 'collectively' raided a larder which wasn't truthfully their's to raid, that invested for future generations. We watched them doing this, and we duly processed the 'information.' But, in attempting to come to terms with what we were witnessing, we applied the wrong filters. And, in so doing, we are now in the process of seriously compounding the error.

In truth the collective intergenerational-we were lazier than this. What the intergenerational-we did- and what the intergenerational-we are continuing to do- is the intergenerational-we allowed 'somebody else' to apply those filters. In effect, we allowed 'somebody else' to buy, to restructure, and then to apply those filters in our stead. We allowed those with money to tell us what to think and then what to do, and then we collectively did it... or rather we collectively abdicated responsibility and thus we collectively abdicated control.

Democracy was born. Democracy was bought. Democracy was 'remodelled.' And democracy died!



My mother stayed at home and raised the family. I realise that not all UK mothers did this- in our neighbourhood working mums were, applying different filters, quietly looked down upon- but staying at home and raising a family was sold to us as aspirational. Less than two whole generations later we reside in a society where earlier and earlier aged schooling is being deployed as a means to drive young mothers prematurely back into the marketplace.

I am not here advocating an iron fist approach to the issue, I am merely wishing to draw attention to the iron fist approach to the issue. That is to contend that the UK's drive to push ever-younger children into our (incidentally seriously underfunded) schools is a thinly veiled drive to provide cheap child-minding. The issue of today's families not being able to survive on one income is, quite naturally, a different yet irrevocably interwoven issue.

If we look at the Scandinavian approach to education- the term 'education' here being used more appropriately- we find that children start schooling two years later than those in the UK. A 2006 Unicef Report on children's wellbeing rated Denmark's children third and those in the UK bottom. Further to the issue of Scandinavian children starting their formal education two years later than British children, within two years of having commenced their education those in Scandinavian schools will have already caught-up and be (averaging) well ahead, and far more roundly educated, than their UK counterparts.



In the UK we are both divisive and 'we' are dishonest about education. And, in so doing and care of those aforementioned filters, we are collectively abdicating our responsibilities towards the next generation. Taught in underfunded schools by often-unqualified staff, herded through ever-narrowing SATs hoops, before being saddled with debt via 'our' cha-ching university system. Now, off to the housing treadmill you must go! Enact that neoliberal dream, if you please!

This is not in any way to knock any of those invariably-overworked and under-appreciated staff in our schools and universities; it is instead an objective observation of the filters being applied, when we are 'invited,' as we so often are, to judge them.

During my childhood teachers and many other public sector workers were appreciated, often admired, and certain professionals were frequently held in high esteem. Through today's tabloidesque filters the next generation of the same are being systematically undermined, often vilified, and continually scapegoated as ripe for yet further government cuts. They are also thus an ever-downward-pressure being applied to wages in the jobs' market.

During the 'bad' old days of the 70s, when the 'bad' old trade unions were holding the country to ransom, and the 'bad' old councils sheltered the 'shirking' classes in subsidised homes-for-life, and the UK was the 'sick' man of Europe, many mums did stay at home and raise children, who in turn were likely to get jobs, which in turn were likely to afford rents or potential mortgages consistently based upon three-times one's salary. In the 'bad' old days pensions were aspirational, as was the prospect of owning a single home, as was job-security. In the 'bad' old days different filters were applied. Although, even then, the manufacture of a more opaque version was already covertly underway.



Late on in the 'bad' old 1970's a security lock was effectively jemmied open and the infamous larder raiding did thus begin. History records what was sold off: the supply of gas, the supply of electricity, the supply of water, council housing stocks, the railways, the list is a long and indeed a shameful one. The filters at the time, rose-tinted or otherwise, obscured the raiding. As we came to terms with life's suddenly rosier hue we were reminded time and again that we really ought to climb on board this particular gravy train.

Since those heady, gravy days, the train has slowed somewhat- undoubtedly some cost-cutting corner, care of Virgin Trains- and now the stops are more infrequent, even fragmented. In order to sell off the Post Office there was the necessary rebranding, the identification of the most valuable assets and thus the drive of the less-valuable into crisis. I doubt many younger adults will recall that the Post Office was once massive, with an umbrella that incorporated telecommunications. In truth 'twas slightly lumbering, but the sharks were very quick to strip off the meatier chunks, and the 'free press' were there again to supply those rosy goggles. Sledgehammer and nut? Currently the remaining Post Offices are still under fire, simply because they offer something that the sharks cannot- local and safe storage of undelivered parcels- once gone, don't hold your breath! 

Of greater alarm by far- the (Sir Robert) Naylor Report will confirm- our NHS is currently being subjected to much the same sort of treatment.

Yet another area of our society that is frequently being subjected to filtering is policing. So very many different filters have been employed in order to 'appraise' the UK's police forces that it has almost been like a game of musical glasses. Those Tories keep reminding us of the money being spent and, importantly, that crime is going down. But, how can this be? Create enough substrata in any society and a rise in crime becomes inevitable, I'd have thought. There's the 'just about managing stratum'- even Mrs May occasionally refers to these people- and there's the 'not even remotely coping and relying on food banks stratum.' It's the ballooning of the second stratum that has prompted Mrs May to so frequently refer to the former- another filter surely- and we can rely on the Main Stream Media to polish it up and to make it sparkle. If any stratum is permitted to sink low enough isn't it inevitable that different 'laws,' or a lack thereof, might apply at vastly different 'depths?'



Of course, crime statistics are not as clear as our lords and masters would have us believe; many of the figures, such as they are, are easily disputed. And, there's always the manner in which the figures are compiled to be refuted. And crimes that aren't reported at all? Well, what can we do? With the best will in the world- never a given- it is surely impossible to compile figures that effectively do not even exist? Although, we might deign to speculate as to quite why these figures do not currently appear to exist.

In order to do just that, to speculate as to why they do not exist, I am going to cite a specific crime. A young man that I know recently had his flat broken into. He lost quite a deal of stuff; from experience I know that the event hit him hard, harder because he feels reasonably confident that he knows who the perpetrators are- his neighbours are inclined to concur. The police themselves may have more than an inkling, observing as they are inclined to do from ever further afield.

Will he report the crime to the 'local' police, make it official? He knows that they have nether the staff nor the resources to properly investigate; in truth, they'd given up on this before I was burgled in the early 90s. There are far too many nefarious and more urgent 'issues' to worry about. The roads also are barely policed anymore, although serious accidents are still measured and recorded for insurance purposes, I believe, before effectively being hosed on to the verges. If he reports the crime he will get a crime number, which will enable him to claim on his insurance. But, of course, he has no insurance, because he cannot afford it. So, knowing that the crime will not be investigated, will he bother? Perhaps he will pursue the absentee landlord through the courts, because the man has not bothered to secure a frequently reported faulty lock at the side of the building. I jest. 

The landlordly classes also require their own specific filtering process, my God how they 'require' it! It's a wonder that we can see at all. And, of course, in a very real sense, we cannot!

Crime figures are down, we are reminded. But, which crime figures would they be?



Amongst the strata there is also the 'coping-wonderfully-well-and-don't-really-care-about-other-layers' stratum. And here, please permit me to take a sizeable sideways step, into the field and wider concept of creature reintroductions. I refer, of course, to the idea that we might reintroduce a species to again live amongst our avifauna, one which has already once been extirpated from our shores.

Quite why we would wish to do this, upon an island where even many of the smaller and more manageable species that are left are fast declining, could be regarded as something of a mystery. The 'controversial reintroduction of the European Beaver, the proposed reintroduction of the Wolf, the European Lynx? Rewilding, I believe the 'conservationist' are excitedly calling the process.

As a conservation-minded soul myself, the idea of encountering a wild European Lynx or a Wolf quite thrills me. I know, from experience, just how much adrenalin such an encounter may swiftly generate, that curious balance between fear for one's immediate wellbeing and unbridled delight at having come so very close to one of nature's finest. But why, when we cannot conserve the likes of the Skylark, the Linnet, the Bullfinch the Tree Sparrow, the Yellow Wagtail, cannot even conserve the UK's major breeding woodland for Nightingales, would we consider reintroducing a showboat species like the Wolf, when the last UK record was shot some three hundred years previously?

The clue, I believe, lies within the previous sentence, primarily within the terms "showboat species" and, more specifically, within the word, "shot!" I would go so far as to suspect that this is one 'conservation' effort with which even the likes of Mr Angry-Gun-Wielding Botham might yet agree. By all means let us reintroduce the Wolf and the Lynx, but let's also bother with the smaller stuff shall we, the creatures which don't seem to count for much when the 'developers' move in. Oh, and if we're going to go to all the expense and bother of reintroducing a past species let's ensure that it doesn't end up as target practice for some depleted dentist half-a-generation down the line.



Two generations on from the 'bad' old 70s, we live in a very different world. One where one's clothing accessories and shiny white teeth, aid of the MSM-applied filters, may easily hold more sway than any form of compassion or sense of community. In today's what-passes-for-society the best that we might perhaps hope of ourselves, on the social scale, is that we are that little bit less of a hypocrite than is our 'neighbour.'

"I count myself jolly lucky to have got on board with the sell off of Anglian Water but, my God, isn't it awful that those bloody Virgin train fares are going up yet again?"  "Have you seen my water rates? Way things are going I might have to sell off a couple of those council homes I snaffled with last year's annual bonus." "Tried your hand at the stocks and shares game? Found this tidy little app..."

Truth is that, of all those who play the game, all of those who manage to convince themselves that they're actually beating the stocks and shares odds, almost nobody- small fry that is- wins. Even the mass automated systems which are meticulously programmed to compute thousands of volatile figures each second, against which one must successfully compete, even they will not always turn in a profit. But, just Google, "play the stock market" and you'll be bombarded with sites that'll promise you the Earth. They'll find ways of dressing up the losses, tossing you another depleted bone, find as many ways to keep you playing as you'll find ways of losing. The House always wins! Even the old cynic- that would be 'me'- was surprised to learn that, of those players who consider themselves 'winners,' less than 2% manage to beat the system- and that's amongst individuals who, aid of some smart language and the right filters, consider themselves to be amongst the canny winners. Invite the plebs to gamble their money in a marketplace that has become increasingly, often legally, questionable and it somehow legitimises the practise. We must insist on safety goggles, please everyone! 

So, life is rather like an elastic band, isn't it? We lay it out and we place everybody on the line, from the richest to the poorest and then we flesh it out with details like 'affordable holidays,' a 'new car,' a 'mortgage,' or maybe just simple things like a 'meal on the table,' a 'loaf of bread,' 'tea-bags,' 'pay the rent,' 'afford the new train season ticket.' And then we find 'the' most important detail, where to stick the 'I'm surviving' dot. Then we do exactly what consecutive governments have been doing for a generation, we stretch that band!

Now, are you to the right or the left of that all important dot that's just got so much further away? Don't get too cocky, terms and conditions do apply, the management reserves the right to move any dot, as is arbitrarily deemed to be in the greater interests of...

Is it just me, or did everything suddenly get so much brighter?