I’m 72 with COPD – so self-isolating & socially distancing – and started doing this blog – along with morning exercises & flat cleaning, afternoon Tai Chi, and intermittent TV, reading & puzzle books, and social media promoting Mutual Aid etc and castigating the Tories – as a way of staying sane!
What do you like and/or value about yourself?
Is it your pioneering spirit always ready to engage with a new project, your love of the natural world and music, your uplifting humour when a night out gets stodgy, your caring loyalty to loved ones? Is it your reliable generosity not needing to be asked, your high standards building a platform of decent dealing, your tactful ability to bring warring parties together, your readiness to drop everything in a crisis? Is it your enthusiasm helping other people learn, your realism stopping wild schemes from failing, your eccentricities letting others be themselves, your empathy allowing pain to be revealed and healed?
Perhaps your honesty surprises and inspires, or your insistence on being thorough gets a result of excellence, or your insatiable curiosity means you’re never bored, or your home is a safe haven for waifs and strays? Maybe your creative passion lifts others out of gloom, your detailed concern finds remedies for stranger’s ailments, your objective charm facilitates with compliments, your insights cut straight through the crap? Or is it your ability to never give up trying, your self-discipline which means what’s needed gets done, your striving for consciousness lifting others above the mundane, your unconditional love supporting them to learn their own lessons?
Do you cherish the times you’ve just thrown yourself in and led from the front, those moments when your patience helped a child grow, the joy of your multitasking accomplishment, your feeling of belonging when in tune with natural cycles? Do you applaud your ability to be yourself whoever you are with, your humility in serving a higher purpose, your appreciation of quality which brings out the best in others, your intensity which can foment life from the ashes? Do you remember with pride when your tolerance has openly defied prejudice, your indomitable will has found a way round seemingly insurmountable obstacles, your search for like minds has strengthened a vital cause, your belief in better never gave up hope?
And for goodness sake don’t beat yourself up over examples I’ve given which you’re not so good at, which don’t come naturally. I’ve missed scores of qualities out – understanding, love of justice, humanity, sensitivity – which people who know you may recognise every time you meet. We’re often the last people to see what is special about ourselves – which is why friends are so precious.
One of the prime characteristics of capitalist society is alienation, from self and others. Every day the media wing of the billionaire cabal pour out their toxic gruel of divide and rule, focusing on one minority after another, celebrated qualities becoming denigrated flaws, whittling away at our core. Every day the trolls are out with their mindless judgment and abuse, intent on snuffing out inspiration, undermining solidarity, side-tracking from truth, eroding love.
Many people believe every human is unique and special – before leaving themselves out of the equation. Disdain for arrogance need not become whining self-censure. Sometimes liking, loving, valuing what you are and do, countering the alienation programmed in, needs working on. And not only does unfounded criticism just bounce off a fullness of self-respect, it can also overflow to bolster those nearest and dearest who are having a hard time.
Do make the effort to appreciate, value, love yourself at least a little – it’ll repay itself one-hundred-fold!
In school, we’re taught a view of history where great men (and a very few women) make all the difference, which the media amplify, and cultural elites compound with their tales of superheroes saving the world. Which makes it easy for them to set up and then shoot down anyone who threaten the monopoly of wealth and power, and fool the more stupid of their minions into thinking the problem has gone away.
In my lifetime, there are just two Labour politicians whose commitment to socialism I’ve trusted – Tony Benn & Jeremy Corbyn. And both suffered vilification, minor perceived flaws magnified 100 fold, umpteen lies turning beliefs upside-down – trying with some success to shunt leaders into a siding out of the public eye.
But the capitalist elite have a problem – that history is so much more the product of mass movements, and leaders may come and go, but the grassroots struggle is little changed by their passing.
Most days I’m sitting at my computer at 6.30ish, and go through any notifications which trigger a response, and scroll down overnight Facebook & Twitter postings which their algorithms have deigned to bring to my attention. Then after my shower and breakfast, I’ll settle to a fairly organised schedule of sharing posts – usually starting with Independent Media Facebook group and any recent articles in Tories Out! – then working through my three lists of consistently good tweeters: under headings of Claimants, Green & Left – with usually 20 or more I’m caught by enough for a quick read, and decisions whether just to retweet, or share on my Facebook timeline, or to any of a dozen Facebook groups (rarely the same group twice, lest I fall foul of Facebook’s bot chasing algorithm!) – before moving on to email notifications from Double Down News and Counterfire, and especially daily Morning Star articles about two-thirds of which I think worth passing on. Oh, and that’s all after posting my daily and s astrology blogs – and then lunch, and in the afternoon I may prepare blogs for tomorrow, and spend an hour or so on a bit more tweeting etc if TV repeats get just too boring!
Why do I bother – I’m not getting paid, no-one is forcing me to. But everyday I know I’ll be inspired – they’ll be tweets and articles that resonate with my core beliefs, they’ll be personal stories of struggle which bring tears and anger, they’ll be exposure of lies and corruption which are crying out for promotion to a wider audience. And it’s not just the content – everyday I’m reminded there are millions of decent human beings trying to make sense of a greedy, corrupt hypocritical world – shop stewards and feminists, anti-racists and disability campaigners, fighters against military oppression and environmental activists,
I’m not sure how much difference my social media presence makes – almost certainly very little in the scheme of things. But maybe every month or so one of the articles I share inspires someone else to join a union or an activist group, or one of my tweets helps lift someone from depression giving the energy to fight back, or think more deeply about what they believe, or start a petition on a local green issue, or triggers a donation to a group of independent media or a crowdfund seeking justice.
And I’m just one among hundreds of thousands of dedicated activists. Leaders may come and go, but the grassroots they’ll never silence.
Not long ago I did a year long blog of extreme weather events all over the world – and I must admit by the end I was almost ready to grow a beard, and parade outside Newcastle Civic Centre with a placard reading “The End Is Nigh”! But luckily before that I’d read an article about the Machievellian $Billion fossil fuel PR campaign – which not only touted the myth that climate change isn’t real, but also that it’s the Sun’s fault not humans and a host of other disinformation – including that it’s already too late, and we might as well go out in a splurge of carbon emissions! And if those bastards are advocating pessimism – I don’t need any other reason to do the precise opposite.
There are lots of stories of the worsening climate crisis and impending doom – and I’m not going to stop sharing them – but I’m damned if I’ll get downhearted when there are campaigns, policy changes, court decisions, a global fight back which all add up to a whole lot of hope. So I’m sharing a few of those stories, just from this last half month
1st How to Participate in Plastic Free July 2020 https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/how-to-participate-in-plastic-free-july-2020/?fbclid=IwAR2L6Ck4M6WQXD_2BLjxb91phHAeO9wfsxuLrw-IFYPnxbhIGuZxu6VSf2o
2nd Jamaica becomes first Caribbean nation to submit tougher climate plan to UN http://sumo.ly/14gEj
5th Duke Energy, Dominion abandon the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2020/07/05/duke-energy-dominion-abandon-the-atlantic-coast-p.html?ana=e_clt_bn_breakingnews_breakingnews
6th Food Resilience in Times of Crisis: Rethinking the Broken Food System https://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/story/40434/food-resilience-in-times-of-crisis-rethinking-the-broken-food-system/
6th Dakota Access Oil Line to Be Shut by Court in Blow for Trump (5) https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/court-scraps-dakota-access-pipeline-permit-forcing-shutdown
7th Report: Global Climate Lawsuits Against Governments and Polluters on the Rise https://scq.io/bh9DmMP
10th ‘Op-ed: How Urban Agriculture Can Fight Racism in the Food System’ via Civil Eats – https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/
14th Environment Agency sets out long-term plan for making at-risk areas in England more flood resilient https://www.channel4.com/news/environment-agency-sets-out-long-term-plan-for-making-at-risk-areas-in-england-more-flood-resilient
14th Irish Government vows to ban imports of fracked gas and cease support for Shannon LNG terminal. https://theecologist.org/2020/jul/14/ireland-leading-way-frack-free-future
14th A ‘B-lines’ network mapping out corridors of existing and potential wildflower habitat across the UK has been launched by Buglife
15th What citizen science revealed about nature during lockdown https://www.positive.news/science/what-citizen-science-revealed-about-nature-during-lockdown/#.XxQJGs5CxZw.twitter
15th Biden’s $2 Trillion Climate Plan Promotes Union Jobs, Electric Cars and Carbon-Free Power https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14072020/joe-biden-climate-plan-coronavirus-build-back-better?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social
15th Zero-waste shopping service launches to help customers go green https://www.scotsman.com/business/consumer/zero-waste-shopping-service-launches-help-customers-go-green-2913682
16th Could Plastic-Free ‘Reef Cubes’ Help Save the Ocean? https://www.ecowatch.com/reef-cube-2646418827.html
16th World Mayors Call for Car-Free Streets, End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies as Part of ‘Green and Just Recovery’ https://www.ecowatch.com/mayors-green-recovery-covid-19-2646419086.html
16th Report: Onshore renewables could boost UK economy by £29bn https://www.businessgreen.com/4017851/
16th Meet the young people of colour fighting for our planet https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/young-climate-activists-of-colour-profiles/
16th Green bonds to ‘supercharge’ green economy https://theecologist.org/2020/jul/16/green-bonds-supercharge-green-economy
16th The Recovery we need “arguing for a much more expansive Green New Deal”
17th Major Welsh speed limit change that will affect every neighbourhood https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/major-welsh-speed-limit-change-18613592?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shareb
17th Greta Thunberg @GretaThunberg
Already 50 000 signatures in less than 22hrs!
Read, sign & share our open letter and demands to EU- and global leaders here ->http://ClimateEmergencyEU.org
I was first diagnosed as disabled in 1984 aged 36, which came as a bit of a shock – but I’d already become inured to major shocks being a feature of my life, and picked up my Green Card with something approaching pride. I must admit that psoriatic arthritis is a fairly mild form, and had both up and bad sides. On the one hand, it’s not visible, so until I got a stick for balance, people didn’t believe I was disabled, on the other, I wasn’t subject to the stigma and abuse of wheel-chair users. On the one hand, it’s never been constant, instead subject to flare-ups for no accountable reason – which is great for not being unable to do things a lot of the time, but not so good for claiming benefit when I couldn’t, the DWP and its predecessors never any good at assessing intermittent conditions. In fact I doubt if I’d have got anything if I wasn’t also a fully certified and articulate mental health survivor, always going with a friend to tribunals, and automatically appealing with the help of advocates or solicitors whenever decisions went against me.
I’ve never been particularly active in physical disability campaigning, focusing more on mental health issues – but I’ve enormous respect for members of Disabled People Against Cuts – who’ve worked through one attack on their lifestyles after another. We’ve had the bedroom tax which either drastically reduced living space or income, and removal of guards on trains making vital journeys a constant worry or impossible. We had 10 years of austerity bringing cut after cut to social care and council services, negotiating a charging and assessment process becoming ever more stringent, and the advice bureau and advocacy projects disappearing.
And all the time, the changes to benefits getting sucked into the Universal Credit quagmire, with interviews changing from a stressful assessment by a medical professional, to a “cosy chat” with a privatised tick-boxer whose sole interest was in denying what is entitled, even marking a straight “yes” as “no” to reach their denied targets, and then the long wait for an appeals process as debts mounted, with legal aid no longer available. And the growing list of people who’ve suffered from disability hate crimes, or classed as fit for work just before or after they died, or friends who just gave up after yet again being sanctioned, their lifestyle becoming an existence becoming a daily grind of survival.
And that was even before the pandemic. According to Private Eye this fortnight, Office for National Statistics show “60% of those dying from coronavirus have had disabilities”. Meanwhile 90% of disabled people’s organisations in Manchester reported a decline in mental health – most significant in people who were told to shield, but not covered by the government’s extremely vulnerable list.
We’re living in a country which celebrates its medals in the Paralympic Games, which fetes participants in the Invictus Games, where the media just loves to print stories about the courage of a disabled person battling against all the odds, to raise money for a good cause. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.
And we brace ourselves for yet another round of “economic recovery” cuts and health service privatisation, with a government steeped in callousness, which no longer cares that its veneer of a civilised society has worn away.
Thank goodness for campaigning and information groups like DPAC and Disability News Service, whose incredible perseverance and defiance make sure this Tory government doesn’t completely get away with murder.
It’s been 18 days since my operation, and part of me is champing at the bit to get back to ‘normal’. My belly and man boobs are getting a bit too flabby for my liking, and parts of my flat could do with a good spring clean. But I’m still conscious of an ache around the operation area of my groin, and keep telling myself what I learnt from previous operations, the longer I manage to do very little – without castigating myself as “you lazy slob”! – the quicker it will heal, the better I’ll be in the long-run.
We all have a deep memory of childhood, of falling over on the pavement or playground, quickly getting up, and continuing running. Or getting a scratch, maybe a few tears and a plaster – and taking it off in the next day or two and there’s nothing there. Which makes it difficult to get used to getting older – that things take longer to heal. A simple fall can be major, just the shock lasting all day, and the tentative moves to see if any brittle bones have broken, which could take months to realign if ever. And if you’re on anticoagulant medication to help blood flow, a little cut becomes a major problem, which needs to be focused on for as long as it takes.
And then there are the deeper wounds – the emotional, mental hurts.
Children aren’t conscious that they are being bullied, abused, or living in a war zone, of a mother who can’t hug or a father who’s suddenly not there – that there is something not right. They just do their best to cope with whatever situation they find themselves in. At school there may be a feeling of being different – but it’s rarely explored, more often quickly glossed over in the urge to be part of the crowd, accepted as one of us.
In adolescence, frustration may arise – but rarely the people and circumstance to talk of them openly and honestly, express feelings that might shock, admit to fears which may be scorned, raise questions which challenge the whole facade of a civilised society. And all too often, frustration boils over into behaviour which challenges authority in mindless ways of anti-social behaviour, and a lifelong criminal record with not a soul asking why, and with the patience to listen.
I’m so glad that PTSD is now recognised, but we’ve got a long way to go. The overwhelming effects of an abusive childhood, of constant bullying at school, of being brought up surrounded by the violence of war, of having parents who couldn’t love, or were absent or died may be recognised by peer groups, and medical and psychology specialists, but there’s precious little interest or care in mainstream society. All too often employers or benefit providers have an attitude of impatience – proffering advice to get over it, deal with it, when the very nature of the disorder means it runs deep, and has its own time, it’s healing which cannot be hurried.
And each time the opportunity to heal does come to the fore, but is again suppressed – the wound just festers, the problem just grows inside, and finds other ways to express itself. I fear the impossible tasks of providing mathematical proof of hours lost, inevitable involvement of the NHS, social care, police, prison all precisely quantified, would be required before a society based on immediate profit even considered that care for the many sufferers of PTSD and grief in all its forms may be cost-effective and a good idea.
I do try to make these blogs reasonably upbeat, conscious that even as the rules are tentatively eased, the mental health effects of isolation during lockdown may last a long time. In fact a couple of times I’ve written an article while feeling particularly fed up, re-read it – and added a paragraph or two at the end full of hope which to be honest I just wasn’t feeling!!!
When I was coming to terms with having had ECT – I wrote a long diatribe against the hypocrisy of psychiatry pretending to heal while doing harm to thousands like me – and shared it widely – before becoming conscious that many of those reading it would be feeling despair, living on the edge, and the last things I wanted to do was help tip them over – so I added a long section of how I’d had successful jobs etc after my mistreatment.
I’m very conscious known more than one person who suffered from depression, which was confirmed by listening to Leonard Cohen dirges over and over, and committing suicide – while the book I read just before my near successful attempt was The Dice Man which promoted the idea that life is crap, nothing matters – which all poses the whole question of the balance between honesty, and accepting responsibility for what our output causes, and whether a higher purpose justifies dishonesty.
My father’s election leaflets back in 1956 had a photo of my mother and 3 children all holding hands and smiling brightly portraying the image of a good family man – when we were actually a dysfunctional family affected by sexual abuse, the parents unable to give the love each child needed, the youngest bearing the brunt of bullying. On the other hand, my father was one hundred times a better candidate than his corrupt Tory opponent – and an election pamphlet saying something like “By the way, I was raped at my public school, a my wife raped by her father, I can’t handle personal conversations or feelings with my children etc etc” would not have won any votes.
On Wednesday the Guardian announced that it was shedding hundreds of jobs, and stalwart supporters tweeted copiously, imploring the left to come to the defence of freedom of speech, of a left liberal paper. And there was a resounding response – particularly, a compilation of Guardian articles by columnists, what seemed an orchestrated project to attack Jeremy Corbyn and Labour – to effectively undermine socialist policies designed to put right all the ills Guardian writers quite rightly railed against. I’m quite happy to share articles which expose the extent of Tory corruption, the deprivation of austerity, the innumerable injustices. But I’m damned if I’ll throw my support behind the utter hypocrisy of a newspaper & columnists reveling in being “liberal”, yet who did their utmost to get lying, incompetent, corrupt, greedy, homophobic, misogynist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, racist Boris Johnson elected Prime Minister – and now cry “woe is me” at the inevitable result!
So here’s when I need to end on a positive note – after posting a similar diatribe on Twitter, I did manage to tweet a bit later “I’ll share occasional half-decent article in Guardian, Mirror, Independent, i-paper, even FT, which doesn’t mean I support, trust or would miss any of them – but happy to donate to @M_Star_Online @TheCanaryUK @skwawkbox @VoxPolitical @johnpringdns @dorset_eye @TheProleStar etc”
Can anyone recommend a reasonably sophisticated carbon footprint calculator – for both current and lifetime? The last time I did one, it came out to 1.1 or 1.2 (below 1 the aim) – but a lot of the questions seemed geared towards working people of a young or middle age, and missed out a whole lot of my life-style “choices”.
When I was promoting the Making Waves choir version of “What can we do about global warming?”, I got a whole load of sometimes aggressive and personal criticism from vegans for missing out what they perceived as the single most important factor – and while I took some of it on board for the rewrite, the holier-than-thou proselytising really got my goat, and I asked pointedly when they’d last been on a plane – my answer of 1984 on two work trips – i.e if I’d not gone, someone else would – of Heathrow to Belfast, and before that coming back from VSO in 1968, would blunt their competitive judgment! (I’d used to have a friend who suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her fundamentalist Christian partner – and if any converters came knocking on my door, I’d be ready with that fact, plus a list of Biblical contradictions to throw at them!!).
Another criticism was that I’d given too much weight to individual rather than collective action – which was really merited when the second verse read
“Insulate homes, get them lined, Stop oil, gas, coal being mined, Use tidal, solar, wind and find, We’ll shrink our carbon footprint”. What I tried to argue is that we need both – people are hardly going to listen to environmental campaigners who lead excessively wasteful life-styles meriting media headlines of “Hypocrite”. Which is why I was so impressed by climate change activist Greta Thurnberg sailing to the US to speak at the UN.
I know my daily carbon footprint is hardly going to tip the balance, as against decisions to prospect for oil in the Arctic, or subsidise the airline industry – but if I wasn’t trying to play my miniscule part I just wouldn’t feel clean. What currently concerns me is that although my travelling is now zero, my carer now comes weekly not fortnightly so hers should be included on my footprint, and I’m sure both my computer & TV are on a lot longer while I’m not going out – and the temptation to buy single items she can’t get on Ebay is huge – but I doubt whether any calculator is quite that detailed, and I’ll just have to use a less precise measure of what allows me to feel reasonably green, but not punish myself – not too blue!
Most people’s carbon footprint is bound to have been substantially reduced by lockdown – if only the grounding of so many planes. I just hope that as it eases, they don’t decide to make up for lost time and go on a gigantic splurge – but initial spending figures suggests that the lack of economic support from the government, compared to for instance Germany, suggests that lots of people are just too poor to buy much more than essentials. No doubt the Tories will be accepting praise – for making Britain greener by making people poorer (except for their donor friends whose offshore bank accounts are bulging ever bigger!).
Within 4 months of moving to Newcastle back in 1988, I thought I’d really fallen on my feet. Firstly, I’d got a decent job as a Volunteer Co-ordinator with CSV, my first caring role after 14 years of feeling like a square peg in a round hole with various small and mega businesses.
Secondly, while only just still unemployed I’d taken advice, cut up my four credit cards and came to an agreement to pay off debts totalling more than £5,000 – accumulated while trying to adjust from an income of more than £100K in today’s money, to the dole – at the rate of £10 per month each (and I somehow forgot to tell any of them about my new employment status, until paying off each amount well before the due by date!).
And I got rehoused in a council flat with spare room for when my son visited, which was 2 minutes from local shops, 8 minutes walk to city centre, and 5 minutes to work – a massive change from a 90 minute commute in London rush hour traffic twice a day – and my fellow workers at CSV all came to a painting cum housewarming party, where I provided music, beer and takeaways, and each room got a coat of emulsion.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Within a year or so, my lovely real ale local, which attracted an eclectic crowd of beer connoisseurs and cinema-goers, was sold off to Scottish & Newcastle, who shot themselves in the foot by chucking out the real ale and losing almost all their regulars. And Newcastle Housing/YHN decided in their wisdom that our flats were a good place for “problem” tenants. In quick order I had a neighbour opposite who regularly hit his girlfriend – until she once sought refuge in my flat, and although she didn’t want to take it further, I warned if there was any repeat, they soon after moved on. Then next door was a charming young lad who had a surprising number of even younger visitors – and it turned out he was selling drugs to pre-teen kids, and was somewhat less charming when we were in the lift together after he’d pretty much worked out I’d been regularly ringing the police. And in the flat below the tenant used to start weekday parties well after pub closing time – and when I complained in my dressing gown at 2am saying tower blocks weren’t the best venue for late night parties, she argued that she was a social worker and needed to let off steam!
But the final straw was after we were surrounded by new build student flats, and the walkway by my block was the direct route between one of them and Northumbria Student Union – with most nights drunken singing keeping us all awake, and umpteen letters to all relevant authorities having no effect.
I’d done my civic duty in the Tenants & Residents Committee, as ordinary member, then successively, Treasurer, Secretary, and Chair, attending Federation meeting, joining campaigns and decided I’d earned a payback – and just managed to scrape a move when, although I was a few months short of 60 – YHN decided to bend the rules to get a 2 bed flat in place of my one.
Since then the worst friction I’ve had is a neighbour who used to get a bit drunk, on a few occasions thought my flat was his and walked passed me at midnight before collapsing, it taking two housing officers to get him out – and another tenant with the beginnings of dementia who thought I was purposely running my cold water too loud to get at him. But besides that, our corridor has been friendly but not too intrusive, and I’m so glad to have semi-sheltered accommodation. I haven’t forgotten being homeless a number of times and sleeping on a park bench, ditch, railway station, shop front, police cell, a squat, friends flats on the floor, sofa, armchair – and I really appreciate the security of home.
If I’d been cooperative with psychiatrists, I’m sure that besides the three contradictory diagnoses I managed to notch up, one of them would have labelled me “bi-polar”, or “manic depressive” as it used to be called – and I’d have been hooked on Lithium, and died young, as happened to more than one friend of mine. Because for decades I’ve had all the symptoms!
Every now and again I’ve latched onto a project, and pursued it with huge enthusiasm and determination – often forgetting to eat or sleep. At one time while “on retreat” from the cult, I insisted everyone I knew gave me a coherent and telling phrase on any subject, 30 to 45 letters long – and guaranteed I’d come up with at least three meaningful anagrams – and although I succeeded with 50 or more examples, I drove people crazy, became a person to avoid, couldn’t find a publisher for a proposed book, and eventually threw the results on a bonfire, not the first fit of pique I’ve regretted!
On the other hand, I’ve regularly visited dark places of self-loathing, wishing good riddance on a world of greed, corruption and alienation seemingly intent on its own climatic destruction, debating with myself the merits of various means of suicide – while unable to admit to a soul the depths of my depression lest I drag them down with me.
As I got older, I found developing constructive habits, a fairly ordered daily existence, meals at regular times, exercise regimes, a series of productive activities, not allowing my desk, kitchen, bedroom become too untidy – all helped to regulate my moods, not allowing them to get too extreme, while careful to not try to suppress them altogether.
Long before this past week or so, I was aware of coming doldrums. After each now 7-monthly operation, I’m simply not able to exercise, and doing very little to allow my internal wound to heal, and without my carer allowed into my flat, means my flat is not as clean as I like. On top of which – whether you give them credence or not – I’d logged that the postoperative period would coincide with all three of my biorhythms running down and then negative. While also no planets are currently activating the ideas part of my birth chart, which I rely on to raise my spirits.
But although being forewarned hasn’t enabled me to avoid the despair, it has helped lessen its effect. I’ve long since thought of periods of depression as a natural cycle – just like the weather systems which particularly in the UK sweep lows and highs across the country – sometimes one or other getting lodged for a week or so – but never unendingly. And while times of high pressure are periods of giving out, sharing, social interaction – low pressure allows contemplation, learning from the recent past, enables new ideas to come in. As the song goes “You can’t have one without the other”!
So for the last few days I’ve been feeling pretty pissed off, with coronavirus isolation stretching into the future as studies of dire side-effects come to light, just ticking over. While hoping if I just live with it, perhaps some new project will come to light, something to really throw myself into – or at least I’ll have more energy as my scars heal, and my biorhythms one after another reach nadir, and will still be negative but all three rising as from tomorrow!
I’m a pretty tolerant, easy-going amenable sort of chap, never looking for trouble – but one thing which really gets my goat is being told what to do. Ideas fine, someone leading the way OK, suggestions not a problem – but any hint of assumption that I’ll blindly follow is a big No-no! I guess it comes from having three articulate older siblings and a mother who organised everything in detail – and wanted to do that with all our lives. My oldest brother was one of the last to do National Service, and I’m so glad I missed it – because I would have spent the whole year marching around and round, or peeling spuds, or in the glasshouse for disobeying orders.
In my early days, I was in a couple of relationships with girls who saw potential in me, thought my rough edges needed sanding down, decided I needed “direction” and started bossing me around – and they didn’t last long. What would happen is, I’d pick up the hint of an order coming, my hackles would rise, the adrenaline start flowing – and I’d freeze!
Now for years psychology “experts” told us that in situations of danger, there were only two options – fight or flight. And that was precisely what our bodies produce adrenaline for. But when I was younger and being bullied, neither was an option against someone who could run faster and was a lot stronger – and lying doggo was one of my main defensive tricks. If I thought a bullying bout was coming on, I’d pretend to be tired, yawn a few times, my eyes going drowsy, and curl up in a ball – and I could keep it up for hours, becoming pretty good at simulating dreams, a few moans, turning over – and almost always my tormentors would lose interest.
Because unfortunately these experts knew absolutely nothing about nature. There are dozens of animals, in the forests or plain, large deer when young and small reptiles – which rely on their camouflage to keep them safe. They know that many predators rely on movement to focus on prey, so the best defence for a fawn in the long grass,a lizard on a twig – is to not move a muscle, to keep entirely still. And that was an overriding instinct.
For decades in courts all over the country, women would be asked by their rapist’s defence counsel – did you struggle, did you try to run away – and if in all honesty they replied no to both, they’d neither fought not taken flight – it was assumed by the court they cannot have thought themselves in danger, and must have consented, and the lives of women who’d suffered horrific trauma was compounded by not being believed, and some nasty, viscous brutal men got off scot free. All because expert witnesses had not one iota of common sense, had not even considered the third option of freeze.
I have an enormous capacity for taking things personally, and many a time I’ve become over-involved in the stupidity of adverts – before realising that they just weren’t aimed at me. I’m sure advertising companies spend millions on demographics – and they’ve certainly got it right with older people like me watching interminable repeats of Midsomer Murders and being potential buyers of the sponsor’s walking aids. But I’m not sure whether to take it as an insult or compliment that as a viewer of Brooklyn Nine-Nine I’m probably a poor and disaffected youth ripe for recruitment to the RAF.
When my mother died and I was distributing my inheritance, many of the decisions were very personal. For instance – while tracing my family tree, I discovered that my grandfather had fought in the First World War, a private in Northumberland Fusiliers, and my father was a Captain in the Royal Armoured Corps during the Second World War. I’m convinced that both would have benefited hugely if there’d been some help and counselling, in the transition from military to civilian life – perhaps my grandfather might not have raped my mother, and maybe my father would have been able to handle personal conversations instead of avoiding them via the whisky bottle.
So I’d contacted a local group which supported soldiers who’d been spat out by the MoD after their years of service, and proposed giving a grant. The group was called About Turn and the coordinator a canny lad who’d since trained as a social worker before committing to helping his war damaged comrades, and understood my motives. But when I met him and fellow veterans at a meeting to discuss where I was coming from and how the money might be used – some of them were in total contradiction.
Because I was very frank, not only about my ancestors – but also that my father had gone on to join CND, had been the first MP to speak at one of their rallies – and that I was firmly in the peacenik camp – not only going on Aldermaston marches, but also anti-Vietnam war demos (including the notorious Grosvenor Square confrontation), and more recently had actively campaigned against the illegal invasion of Iraq – which some of them had been part of! And although I revealed that I was a mental health survivor and had experience of PTSD of a different sort – from ECT rather than the horrors of war – I don’t think that went down well either.
But although the atmosphere was quite tense, the coordinators’ diplomatic interventions moved us on to agree projects helping to get their fledgling group off the ground – and I sponsored a promotional video, therapeutic allotment and cookery classes – and later an angling club.
I did attend their sports day with teams of disabled veterans and was welcomed, and in a tentative way I tried to act as go-between with a Women’s Aid group, which I don’t think came to much. And I seem to remember sending articles which exposed the Tories callous attitude to ex-soldiers, and videos of veterans praising Jeremy Corbyn – but I suspect they went very much against the tide. And when I’ve visited their social media presence which had a new name, it’s been full of British Legion events and ceremonies of the kind I detest as being bombastic and jingoistic, promoting war and the arms trade – so we pretty well lost contact
I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of the ex-soldiers I tried to help are now members of extreme right, nationalistic racist groups which would be happy to beat me to a pulp. But if my small grants meant that one or two were more able to cope with the traumas of killing and friends dying and limbs lost and recurring nightmares, were less likely to be violent to their partners or children, were less likely to be consumed by drugs or alcohol or hate, then I consider it money well spent.
My older brother was very competitive, and insisted I learnt to play chess so that he could practice – if I ever made the mistake of winning, he’d throw a tantrum and make life hell for a couple of days, but neither did I like the feeling of losing, so I practised the art of a hard-fought draw. He was very good at it, and managed to rise to board 3 or 4 on his Oxford college chess team, and although I did take over as School Chess Captain, I was more interested in amassing titles for my CV – to show how well-rounded I was – than winning games, and avoided such cut-throat battles at university.
My short-sightedness ruled out any school team games requiring minimal eye to hand or foot coordination, but I did once win an 880 yard race – more by accident than design- and ran for my school and Islington in cross-country, but never came higher than about 102 in a field of 215 or so – and I felt my greatest achievement was when two of us held back to run with a third member, so our team got a slightly better result.
After my marriage broke up and son came to stay for 2 or 3 weeks during the summer, I taught him cribbage and scrabble, games I enjoyed but which also had educational value – the first for mental arithmetic, the second vocabulary – and, knowing how crushing it is to lose every game, I occasionally conspired to get beaten while feigning extreme disgust (lying when he saw through my ploy), and took great pleasure on the first occasions of each game when I’d tried my best and he still beat me – after which I gave no quarter!
But in the 1980s I also joined a group which promoted non-competitive board games and school sports days – where there was an objective set and reached with maximum cooperation of all players, where there were no losers. But this was the Thatcherite decade of bare-knuckle capitalism, and we got the pre-social media equivalent of trolling – weekly articles and letters in the press decrying attempts to sap the fighting British bulldog spirit, with the phrase “political correctness gone mad” featuring strongly.
I’ve a book called “The Garden of Their Dreams” which postulates the theory that cultures arising in desert regions of scarcity tend to be more masculine, competitive, warlike, while those in forest areas of plenty tend to be more feminine, cooperative, peace-loving. With a hangover from origin – so the 3 Middle East desert religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam retain their combative nature even when existing in rich countries.
And it also poses a personal question – was my brother more competitive than me because he was an Aries and me a Pisces, or because he was born in 1944, our parents apart, major battles of the Second World War still to be fought, rationing at its height – whereas I was born in 1948, our parents comfortably settled in post-war UK, rationing nearing its end? Part of the unending nature/nurture debate – which I always answer: a bit of both!
I recently sent to Newcastle Elders magazine a supposedly humorous translation of some millennial terminology for baby boomers like myself – but met with consternation as I’d forgotten to send the actual definitions!
I’d been responding to yet another tweet from a younger person blaming all of the ills of the world on the older generation – to which my standard response is – it falls into the trap of divide and rule, used by the rich for centuries to retain power, setting young against old, men .v. women, England .v. France, black .v. white, Christian .v. Muslim – the possibilities are endless! And always deflects from the wealthy few who are resisting any change which challenges their self-appointed power.
The usual current form is blaming my generation for global warming – if only we hadn’t been part of the post-war planned obsolescence consumerist culture which partied like there was no tomorrow. Which is a fair point – but then I could blame my parents for a whole host of things including never talking sensibly about “the war” and allowing the arms race to mushroom out of control threatening nuclear catastrophe, and they could blame their parents for letting problems unsolved from the First World War lead directly into the Second – until we reached back to the industrial revolution generation who should somehow magically have realised beyond all then current scientific knowledge that spewing masses of carbon into the atmosphere would have dire consequences. A long line of justified blame which achieves very little besides smug superiority.
I do appreciate that for some things “Ignorance is no excuse”, but it wasn’t until I moved to Newcastle in 1988 and joined Friends of the Earth the following year that I was really aware of the phrase “global warming” – and it’s utterly pointless pointing the finger at us oldies, making us issue grovelling apologies , wear sackcloth and ashes, for being fooled by incessant propaganda from media moguls – and not blaming the newspaper and fossil fuel billionaires clouding our minds.
It was a joy watching the media tie itself in knots over the school strikes for climate – yes, global warming is important, youthful idealism is commendable, but studying for exams is so much more important than the world facing global warming catastrophe, and really action should be left to elders and betters who’ve done bugger all for decades. And what I found even more heartening was how many parents groups and teachers stuck their heads above the parapet to applaud, and how many grandparents and people of my generation rushed to support with letters to the newspapers and joined demonstrations.
Whenever I read of “young people” in gangs, selling drugs, at virus spreading raves or whatever – I know damn well the media are cherry-picking the worst examples they can find, trying to brand a whole generation with the misdemeanours of a few.
And also, I think back to my youth – and heave a sigh. A little reciprocal understanding would go a long way.
I spent a year in 1966/7 in a sort of exile. My parents had persuaded me to drop my gap year idea of hitch-hiking to India, and instead do VSO – and I suspect I only passed the interview because my father was a Government Minister and VSO were afraid of losing official backing, but then sent me where they thought I could do least damage – the Island of St Helena, a British colony (which it still is) in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, old stop off place for the East India company, where Napoleon and some African chiefs thought unruly were sent to die, and where after the slave trade was abolished, the cargo of a slave ship was dumped because the British warship couldn’t be bothered to take the Black human beings home.
Soon after arriving, I discovered that the whole island had been warned about me, the first self-acknowledged atheist to set foot there. Early on I did attend one service – my first and last ever (at funerals since, I’ve always joined fellow mourners at the graveside to pay my respects) – but it was very high church and I found the parroting of responses to gobbledigook too much to take, and after that left it to my two fellow VSOs, who were both practising Christians. We were an odd trio, immediately splitting up when we disembarked at Cape Town on the way home, and not keeping in touch – but somehow lasted the year with almost no clashes, looked after by a Seventh Day Adventist housekeeper who was overjoyed when her constant gentle nagging got me to give up smoking (if only for a year!).
St Helena is a very small, the capital little more than a village – but throughout the year the C of E vicar and Catholic priest somehow managed to ostracise me (which I thought was not very Christian, but maybe better than stoning me to death!), crossing the road whenever we were about to meet in order not to have to say “Good morning”! And St Helena was also extremely racist, in the nicest British way – where all islanders were of mixed race, but those who were slightly lighter skinned were considered more acceptable and occasionally even invited to ex-pat cocktail parties.
And this racism gave the established churches a problem – because on the one hand they’d been warning islanders to avoid me as the devil incarnate, on the other hand, by the time our cruise ship reached the island my blond hair had bleached almost white, and I was experiencing its 3rd or 4th sun-burning – an object lesson in the dangers of being too fair skinned!
Within a few weeks, and with the full cooperation of my fellows, I initiated a Sunday discussion group after church, and we had some really lively conversations, where I often playing devil’s advocate, challenging pretty well everything young islanders had been taught about religion, and how the British Empire had “civilised” the world.
And for Christmas one of my fellow VSOs wrote a play performed at an outdoor setting, with distinguished guests including the Governor and French Consul (who spent hours trying to prove the British murdered Napoleon) – and the casting was a master-stroke, with one of us a bumbling useless King, I was the villain (a sort of Blackbeard meets Captain Hook) and the playwright himself was my murderous mate – while our islander discussion group friends were all goodies, the absolute hero Prince having the darkest skin! The pen-ultimate scene ended with a very dodgy sword fight, where he finally slew me (the old sword under the armpit trick) – and I managed to cover the whole stage in a death scene, appropriately milking every last breath.
The clear message was – a moral play where Black St Helenan Hero slays White British Empire Villain and the world is saved – and island children who’d never seen a play, no TV and very few films soon got over their initial fear that I might be as dangerous as portrayed, and I became much more popular – just what the unchristian priests and racist colonialists didn’t want. I can’t say my stay had any lasting effect on Christian and colonial hypocrisy, but at least we tried.
I used to know a woman whose sister and mother, both of whom I’d met briefly, had died – the sister was a lovely woman who I think had worked in sales, the mother a secretary. And they’d both committed suicide.
Of course everyone was very sorry for the surviving daughter/sister – who I’ll call Petra and her father Tony – but death was a taboo subject, suicide even more so – so conversation were full of pretence and false bonhomie – and everyone was very sorry for her, and her father – there were muttering about some inherited weakness – but this was way before any genetic research, and people just hoped it hadn’t been passed on.
Anyway, Tony married again, and had more children, and Petra married and had children – and for years I really only heard about them from mutual friends. And then I met Petra in Newcastle, I think her husband had died, and it was not long after there were revelations on TV about some priest abusing the children of his parishioners, and Petra knew about my mother and father both having been raped, and my mental health survivor background – and it all came out, why her mother and sister had killed themselves. It turned out Tony had sexually abused his oldest daughter, Petra’s sister for years, from when she was a young girl, and that Petra’s mother had found out, and neither could live with it – and then he’d done exactly the same to Petra, for years, and she’d been trapped, no-one to talk to, no-one who’d believe such a fine, upstanding man could really be so despicable – and somehow she’d managed to escape, and somehow, I don’t know how, turned into a loving, caring woman.
When you’ve been a mental health survivor for 59 years, and are a half-decent listener, you become a repository for a whole host of true life-stories like that, chats down the pub which turn into revelations which have never been spoken about before. And mostly it’s family abusers who’ve spent years grooming and deposited guilt in their victims, feelings it’s extraordinarily difficult to shake off. But sometimes it’s priests or vicars, doctors or psychiatrists, people with standing in the community, who’ve asserted their authority, daring their victims to tell and not be believed, making them feel completely powerless. It’s one of the few reasons I’m glad I had ECT, because I’m really good at forgetting things – I think if I’d carried around so much hurt and pain in my head, I’d have gone crazy years ago.
And I dread to think how much abuse is going on right now, under cover of coronavirus lockdown, children completely trapped everyday with those paedophile monsters.
There’s a public enquiry going on which has now been meeting for about 6 years. Near the beginning I wrote up my story, about my parents’ abuse and sent it in, and hoped that everyone with first or second-hand experience did too, however painful it might have been. But to be honest, I stopped following the inquiry after was it the second or third person leading it left or was sacked, and I rightly or wrongly surmised that like so many Government inquiries into illegal wars, or fires, or racism – that it had been set up to fail. But I guess I really had to stop following it as I just get too personally involved, and the anger and frustration might have just consumed me.
I do hope it has some success, some wide effect. But I suspect there will be little real change without a complete overhaul of society and attitudes and education and family from top to bottom. What I mean is, a removal of capitalism altogether, with its values of greed, and hypocrisy and corruption producing hunger and poverty, alienation and amorality – though the older I get, the less I’m sure about it happening in my lifetime.
But I haven’t lost hope – the worldwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the incredibly quick internet exposure of politicians each time they lie, the way groups like Extinction Rebellion are no longer seen as totally extremist, just a not so illogical extension of the public mood. And at last child abuse is spoken about openly, there are support groups all over the country, the code of silence has been broken and victims are likely to be believed – that’s a huge change for the better.
A classic case of Responsibility Deficit Disorder
I don’t listen to much music – mostly using favourite tapes for background while doing some housework – Beatles and ABBA big hits, a compilation romantic songs starting with Heartbeat, and a Motown tape – and it was while listening to the last that I really heard this line “Don’t you understand, I’m at your command”. Which immediately struck me as something a controlling, domestic violence abuser would want to hear! If I was more musical, I’d probably have long since got transcripts of lyrics, and worked my way through, liberally using a blue censorship pencil to underline the worst offences against decent feminism morality.
Most of my boyhood male friends played the guitar and banjo, and somehow put up with me not being all that interested. But my voice broke early – I was once thrown out of school assembly when I let rip with Jerusalem, the only bass among tentative tenors and even more nervous baritones – and I guess I earnt my place with the occasional Louis Armstrong rendition and background noises.
On one Aldermaston March when both in our early teens, me and a friend set ourselves the task of singing all day, non-stop, and somehow managed it without too many repetitions, working through lists of peace songs and left-wing anthems – lifting spirits of fellow marchers who were much older.
And I even had audition for a group just forming up, after being cajoled by a school friend – but the lead guitarist took one look at my glasses and decided I wasn’t up to scratch, even before he’d heard my somewhat hit & miss approach to musical notes, and even more dismissive attitude to lyrics I thought were stupid, with minimal pretence at being poetry to disguise utterly inept sentiments – which I reckoned I could have improved upon even at that age. In fact, for a time at University in the 1st year, one of my party pieces was singing songs with either nonsense lyrics, or – if I’d had enough to drink – substituting incredibly suggestive words, sung in my most seductive deep voice dripping with sex-appeal (“They call me mellow yellow” my favourite)!
But until I met Making Waves choir and began writing songs, I never really took lyrics seriously.
Of course – especially at my age, half the time pop songs music’s far too loud to follow the words – and every year (rant coming!) there’s a new bunch of earnest adolescents who think they’ve reinvented the wheel, and no adult could possibly understand the true meaning of yet another version of the same sentimental drivel since before my grandparents generation, probably also liberally laced with attitudes of sexism designed to brainwash the next lot of victims (rant over!).
One thing’s for sure, it’s not just Black Lives Matter who are needed to rewrite history and culture – there’s a whole lot of other cleaning up to do.
I was a bit bored yesterday and watched some of the horse racing on ITV, with lots of pre-race commentary interspersed with the most important section – the betting ads! I’m fortunate that although I’ve a very addictive personality (so I’ve been told!), I’ve somehow managed to miss out on gambling.
In my early teens when bunking off school by myself, I usually had no plans how to spend my day. And it was often decided by a visit to one or two one-armed bandit arcades – if I lost, I’d either go to a park, or get a one-stop Tube ticket on the Circle Line, and go round & round & round – if I won, maybe go to London Zoo, or to Soho and blag my way into a X film (surprisingly easy to do, despite my school uniform – but which gave me a few scary moments from the grey mac brigade, who couldn’t decide if they were more interested in Brigette Bardot undressing or paedophilia tendencies aroused by my pretty boy looks!).
Otherwise, me and my babysitting friends would often pass a few hours playing a variety of dealer’s choice poker, while in the 2nd year sixth there would often be a bridge game in our common room – but always they were for stakes of pennies, no-one ever lost more than they could really afford, or won much beyond paying for a couple of fag packets & pints. And I was very aware at an early age that betting machines had a fixed odds percentage, that bookies worked on the mathematical long-term when setting odds, that for a constant better, a win was almost certain to be followed by weeks of losing, that only someone prepared to make a full-time job of following form could hope to match let alone beat the system.
Getting back to the racing – I didn’t watch the so-called “Classics”, the Oaks & Derby – but did switch channels at the end, in time for two classic remarks.
Firstly, in almost every race, despite the ground not being particularly favourable, course records were broken – the reason given was although horses love to run, they hate crowds, so without masses of people cheering them on and actually scaring them to death, without spectators they ran faster! Secondly we learnt, such a pity, the trainer of the winning horse wasn’t able to be there as he was stuck at his Cayman Islands house.
We may be told that racing is a way of showing a love of horses, or it’s “fun”, about how “responsible” it is nowadays – when everyone knows just as many families are being torn apart by a gambling addict throwing life savings away on a “sure thing”, losing all self-respect by getting violent when no-one believes non-addiction after condemning children to poverty. But what it’s really about is a few socially-challenged multi-millionaire owners and trainers wanting to move a few places up the Sunday Times Rich List, it’s about betting company directors and shareholders increasing their off-shore bank balances, buying a 5th or 6th luxury home and private jets – and not giving a damn about however many lives they ruin in the process.
15 years ago I read an article saying laws had changed and people were allowed to see files on them held by The Security Services (which I’ll call TSS not SS!). So on 17th May 2005 I wrote to them, asking for access to files on me, and my late father. After an acknowledgement, I had a reply on 25th July which was full of their standards paragraphs – saying
“We have conducted a search of Security Service records, and have determined that the Service does not process any personal data to which you are entitled to have access under section 7 of the Act. You should not take this response to imply the Security Service does or does not hold any personal data about you.”
In other words, there’s no way we’ll admit to having the files both of us know we’ve got – because you’re still a “person of interest”! And they wrote much the same about my father – a different part of the Act meant they could refuse my request.
You may think mine was a spurious request, but I know for sure TSS have files on my father, and if they didn’t have files on me they’d be failing in their purpose!! My father was elected an MP in 1945, he and my mother met at the Communist run Labour Research Department, they’d both been CP members, my father had written a book on Marxism, and in the 1950s/60s we had holidays in communist Czechoslovakia & East Germany. Not only that, my father became a PPS in Harold Wilson’s 1964 government, won two promotions to Minister of State, and would have gone further – but according the memoirs of two senior Ministers at that time, Harold Wilson had been warned not to make him a Cabinet Minister because MI5/6 thought he was a commuinist spy! (When actually he was just a good socialist, who was active in such dangerous organisations as CND and Anti-Aprthied, and had built connections with Czechoslovakia from before the war, helping resettle Jewish Czech children in North Staffs – and believed in mutual contacts helping to break down the Iron Curtain). Harold Wilson took the advice, at the same time sticking two fingers up at TSS by making my father a Privy Counsellor, before he died in 1969.
As for me, just having such a suspect father would have put me within the TSS sights – but also I was the most active of my siblings. On Aldermaston marches and active in Anti-Apartheid , I’d been to South Africa on my way back from VSO (and could have been to an ANC training camp for all they knew- but wasn’t!!). Then at University I joined the Trotskyist International Socialists, was Chairman of the Socialist Society the year we had a sit-in, wrote inflammatory articles in the student newspaper, magazine & loads of leaflets, also a leading role in a socialist street theatre group trying to get local tenants to revolt! Then after ECT, in 1972/3 I rejoined IS, was a NUPE Shop Steward in Sheffield helping organise the first ever Health worker union strike, then in London, my job involved building links between tenant groups, liaising with squatters – before my police, prison and halfway-house episodes, and joining an esoteric cult which was certainly on their radar – at one time a police van parked outside monitoring who went in and out! So altogether a thoroughly disreputable character even before I moved to Newcastle – trying to disturb the natural balance of a country if not world run by white middle-aged millionaire true British men who’d mostly been educated at Eton & Oxbridge – not some tatty comprehensive and regional excuse for a university!!!
In 2005 when I told friends my failed enquiry, they mostly thought I was being paranoid, and in the grip of some conspiracy theory. But then came Spycops, and the revelations about the Terror squad. What struck me about Spycops was that a fairly insignificant police department had managed for years to infiltrate fairly tame left groups, with full budget approval – but their resources compared to MI5 & 6 are peanuts The Secret Services budget is never published, their accounts are shielded from every national budget, they have access to funds not even Prime Ministers know exist. Meanwhile the Terror Squad revelations showed the scope of their interest … including the following groups on their list I’ve been a member of, active in and/or donate to: Campaign Against the Arms Trade, CND, Socialist Workers Party, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stand up to Racism, Communist Party, Stop the War Coalition, plus Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, Rising Up, Anti GMO, Plane Stupid – at least 12 of the organisation they think suspect, and so according to the Counter Terrorism squad I must be a very dangerous extremist!
If the police can penetrate an animal rights group, you can bet various branches of MI5 & 6 have had active members in all the above groups and many more, a mixture of agent provocateurs trying to discredit them in public eyes, and moles looking to reach the top and influence decision making.
Personally, for decades I’ve assumed every group I’ve belonged to has its quota of members actually agents from various branches of TSS & police. And it doesn’t worry me – even though I know they’ve a chunky file on me – because I know what they love is secrecy and using divide and rule to spread confusion – and the antidote is complete transparency which they simply can’t deal with. I’m betting some of the HQ Labour staff revealed via Labour Leaks are actually agents of different branches, with a number of right wing Labour MPs getting regular briefings on how best to undermine the left. They may have one this round, but with the internet and its mass of information beyond their control, they know they’re fighting a rear-guard action, secrecy is impossible to maintain in this brave new world, they can’t win forever.
Recently Keir Starmer tweeting (as an Arsenal fan) congratulations to Liverpool FC for winning the Premier League, but no mention of sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey, is a reminder that it’s now more important for Labour MPs to be seen to support a football club than support socialism.
In the late ‘60s early ‘70s, many of my fellow socialist friends were genuine and fervent football fans – and I used to get quite a bit of stick for hedging my bets between support for
Newcastle – where my mother was born
Stoke – nearest to my father’s constituency
Arsenal – close to my secondary school and later home
Liverpool – where we were all at university
The accusation was that I was lacking in loyalty, but the fact is my interest in football was severely limited – having been de-selected from my school house B team (while representing Islington in cross-country).
And I’ve since accumulated a number of bugbears about the sport.
Firstly there’s the locality. When I was at school, our school first team was regularly scouted by Arsenal, which like most clubs included a majority of local players. Nowadays, most have zero connection to the region, and while fans will support through thick and thin, the players are only loyal to their agents’ next contract.
Then there are the exorbitant salaries. Yes it was great to see “local boy makes good” in the area gazette, lifting aspirations – until in line with capitalist society the differential between rich and poor become insurmountable, and all that it can inspire is envy and greed. Yes it’s great that a few working class kids can pull themselves out of the slums, but their salaries do nothing to help all working class kids – in fact the opposite. They perpetuate the myth of the superhero, that only a special few can ever make it – a myth which all elites have used through the centuries to retain power.
As for the owners, does any other occupation have such a disreputable bunch of dictators, human rights abusers, sweatshop owners, examples of the most exploitative, amoral aspects of society running the show and each week being PR worth millions for being rich doing almost nothing?
Meanwhile every year the football strip changes, with poor and single parents are forced into debt so their children don’t get bullied for not having the up-to date logos, of firms which themselves encourage gamnbling addiction and exorbitant loans, and yet more penury.
And just like the Olympics, the money that flows into the Premier League is money which doesn’t go to free sports clubs and school playing fields, elite sport creams off £millions while begrudging every penny it pays to sport at local level.
No wonder for well over 40 years right-wing groups have moved into fan clubs and exploited the poverty, turned local rivalry into rage, turned seething discontent into racism, used every means to radicalise downtrodden boys into vicious and violent youths.
Yes a few players are great role-models, yes some clubs fund-raise for good causes, yes some fan clubs run desperately needed foodbanks, saving many children from starvation.
But just think what a fan-owned club could do – using the massive profits to run free sporting activities saving the NHS £millions, recycling its profits into the local economy instead of some offshore tax haven, actively involved in school anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia courses. That’s the sort of club I’d be happy to support.
Here are some ideas football reform from a genuine socialist fan
Corbyn calls for football reforms to empower fans – via @LabourList https://labourlist.org/2019/10/corbyn-calls-for-football-reforms-to-empower-fans/
Usually, the way my mind works is, I’m entirely caught up with generalities, the wider scheme of things, and tend to forget details, dismissing trivialities, until they grow and bite me! But it’s undeniable how during lockdown – like millions on my own at home alone – little things can become HUGE!
Here are examples in my everyday life:
1 I pay for a premium alarm call service, with cords in every room of my tower block flat, and since the beginning of lockdown, I’ve been getting daily calls from our Housing Plus Officer (which greatly helps me stay sane in self-isolated shielding). However, for many weeks after a few minutes the intercom regularly cuts out in mid-sentence, and she has to ring me back, maybe 2 0r 3 times to finish the conversation – which gives me worry rather than reassurance. She’s reported the fault many times with no change.
Even worse, on Tuesday I let her know I would be going into hospital for an operation staying overnight, and she asked me to pull the alarm cord to let whoever was on duty know I’d safely returned. This I did on Thursday in the early afternoon – after a minute or so a female voice answered (not Bev), but before I could say anything, it cut out, and she didn’t ring back. And this morning I haven’t had my usual morning call. I know they can’t access my flat while I’m shielding, but I’ve emailed asking to know what they will do, and joined the millions of people all over the world asking for a refund for a service they’re not getting.
2 Every time I open my laptop, I get a Windows screen saver, photos from around the world or into space – which eventually becomes an access message which I click (without needing a password) to get into my actual screen. Sometimes, after what seems ages, in the right top a message asks if I like/don’t like the photo – but usually it doesn’t. A simple questionnaire, or smart program would have learnt I like photos of green wild spaces and wild animals, not bare rocks of cities – but it doesn’t, and I sometimes have to work hard quelling mounting irritation at how stupid computers can be (or rather computer programmers, of which I used to be one!).
3 After my operation, I know the less I do for a week or so, the quicker it’ll get better – the older you get the longer things really do take to heal. On the other hand, to keep my spirits up, foods I enjoy – especially lots of yummy chocolate – are a must, but no good for my waistline. So after hours of agonising, this morning I adopted a compromise – I put my regular 15 minute sitting-down exercise tape on, but was really conscious about not doing anything which stretched or strained my right hip and groin area – so some exercises I could do, some half do, some not at all. Which may not have done me much good physically, but did settle my mind – with the thought that my younger self would have used the idea of perfection or nothing excuse laziness, but maybe occasionally I am a little bit older and wiser.
Here’s my response to the Forde enquiry into Labour leaks. You can email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Forde inquiry,
My first active engagement with the Labour Party was canvassing and then running the Labour Party committee rooms in Newcastle-under-Lyme during the 1964 Labour victory – I more recently rejoined in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and am now an ex-member. Although now 72, with numerous chronic health conditions, I actively campaigned for a Labour victory in both 2017 and 2019 General Election campaigns.
I was part of 8 or 9 Facebook groups with thousands of members, and on Twitter now have more than 8,000 followers, and shared so many articles, memes and comments, I was constantly getting warned by both Facebook & Twitter, often having to text codes to prove I’m not a bot. I often posted on pages of BBC Politics, ITV & Sky News and a variety of newspapers, welcoming debate with (reasonably polite) Tory supporters and undecided voters.
I also spent hours compiling numerous blogs on leading lights of the Conservative Party exposing their hypocrisy & corruption, such as
Boris Johnson – Not Fit for Public Office
Who is Dominic Raab? https://leftgreen70.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/who-is-dominic-raab/
Liam Fox – making lying & sleaze the “easiest in human history” https://leftgreen70.wordpress.com/2018/12/01/liam-fox-making-lying-sleaze-the-easiest-in-human-history/
Michael Gove – corrupt, snobbish, racist, lying, sexist betrayal behind a schoolboy grin https://leftgreen70.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/michael-gove-corrupt-snobbish-racist-lying-sexist-betrayal-behind-a-schoolboy-grin/
Matt Hancock, a typical tantrum-throwing Tory, friend of media moguls, NHS privatisers, climate change deniers https://leftgreen70.wordpress.com/2018/07/21/matt-hancock-a-typical-tantrum-throwing-tory-friend-of-media-moguls-nhs-privatisers-climate-change-deniers/
And I spent more than a thousand pounds of my state pension and disability income helping turn an anti-Tory poem I wrote into a video
Tory Rogue’s Gallery
Also I spent days compiling blogs exposing chronic Tory corruption and incompetence, such as
50+ stories of Tory sleaze, failing to declare, the revolving door, and outright corruption https://leftgreen70.wordpress.com/2018/04/26/40-stories-of-tory-sleaze-failing-to-declare-the-revolving-door-and-outright-corruption/
From Tory Law and Order to Conservative Crime and Chaos – a chronicle of institutional failure https://leftgreen70.wordpress.com/2018/07/25/from-tory-law-and-order-to-conservative-crime-and-chaos-a-chronicle-of-institutional-failure/
And more specifically tried to counter media lies about Labour connections to Russia, and detailing a catalogue of connections between the Conservative Party and Russian billionaires (which hopefully will form part of the yet unpublished Russia report)
Also presenting a mass of evidence to show that Jeremy Corbyn is not antisemitic, and antisemitism has never had a place in the Labour Party
While compiling a catalogue of evidence of endemic Racism, Islamophobia & Antisemitism in the Conservative Party
As I’m sure you’ll agree, a huge amount of time and money working for a Labour victory and Government.
Of course I was aware of numerous Labour MPs conspiring to unseat Jeremy Corbyn, organising carefully timed Shadow Cabinet resignations designed to raise public consciousness of Labour splits, constantly leaking anti Corbyn and anti-Labour stories to the media. But you can imagine my horror when the Labour Leaks report came out, to find that key Labour HQ officials were actively conspiring to lose Labour two elections. And that they were also working to ensure that lies about Labour antisemitism had the widest audience, while circulating despicable racist messages, and specifically targeting Black Labour MPs with their vile slanders.
It makes me feel dirty to have been part of an organisation so rotten at its core. It makes me feel angry to have spent so much time fighting for a cause I believed in, when those beliefs were being so hypocritically undermined. It makes me feel furious that without those Labour traitors, we might well have won the 2017 General Election, austerity policies would have been reversed saving countless lives, the NHS re-nationalised and properly funded, and Cygnus acted upon, the UK been well prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, saving countless more.
Not only should all the Labour members and official implicated in the Labour Leaks report be summarily expelled with full publicity, but the Inquiry should forensically investigate all connections between them and Labour MPs who were working in parallel to undermine the Labour leadership – it is beyond belief that they were operating independently.
In addition, Labour policy on whistleblowers demands that whoever brought the report into the public sphere gets full support, including help with any legal costs – indeed he or she deserves a special Labour Party Medal of Honour.
Lastly, I will be supporting any crowdfunded class action against the individual Labour traitors, and if any Labour inquiry attempts to whitewash their actions, I will reluctantly have to consider whether the Labour Party itself should also be named in such an action.
Copies: My blog, Facebook etc
Off to hospital for my operation this morning, so this is my parting gift (for people who like sayings, otherwise you’d be better off watching a repeat of Friends!). I was going through some old files, and came across this sheet , with sayings listed in threes:
Every journey starts with the first step
Leadership is best from the front by example
Honesty defies hypocrisy, directness challenges duplicity
If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing thoroughly
Feelings are as least as real as thoughts and actions
A life based in true inner value shines forth
Be insatiably curious about your life – it’s the only one you’ve got
You have thousands of things in common with every other human being
Humour heals and laughter lifts the spirit
Are you subject to the seasons or inspired by them?
You were cared for as a baby – will you care for another?
If you don’t feel secure, make the place safer, or leave
The sun shines on all, not just its chosen favourites
Self-respect dwells in the magnificence of being human
Courage brings a life of drama and passion fully lived
Rubbish belongs in the dustbin, not the cooker of your mind, or the fridge
A high standard of cleanliness is a vital part of a spiritual life
Naivety gets conned, innocence protects
Objective truth is always found between the extremes
Like the wind, run from from high to low pressure, toward a balance
Flexibility and diplomacy need not compromise inner integrity
Strength and power never withheld is tyranny
Watch your surroundings intensely – their truths may save your life
Pain heralds growth, a crisis learning, death regeneration
Try, try, try, try, try again and again and again and again
Minds and spirits love their own and other’s freedom – do you?
Tolerance allows us to live, love, laugh and learn together
Purposeful will overcomes almost all obstacles
A short-term failure can become a long-term learning experience
Nature has its order, its laws, its ways – if you don’t know them, find out
You are a unique and special human being and equal to every other
Shock is a disease of the unwary, half-awake and expectant
When two people agree, they become as strong as three
While striving to become a healer, also you heal yourself, over and over again
You can cry ‘no-one understands me’, or try to explain
Empathy is a joining with the mysteries of life and the universe
Each of which you could think ‘got that’ – or spend some hours pondering.
People who know me will already have worked out that these are taken from a sheet I used to hand out when teaching astrology – the first three going with Aries, the second with Taurus etc – supposed to illustrate the 12 different ways of thinking and accumulating wisdom.
My problem is, I know the first one is a straight copy of a very commonly quoted saying, and a few I’m pretty sure I’ve taken from various sources and altered slightly – but as for the rest, I’m not entirely sure if I’m a plagiarist, or made them up!?!
At my primary school there was a class bully, who left me alone because I was bigger than him, but delighted in tormenting smaller boys. One day he started pushing a boy around when, to his own astonishment and the delight of the watching crowd, he ended up flat on his back in the playground. He got up, tried again, with exactly the same result – and gave up, tail between his legs, having learnt that size doesn’t always matter, and it’s best not to mess with someone keen to practise their new judo skills.
Even before that, I’d had no problem with bullies, partly because I was one of the tallest in the class, and my only fight was with a boy in another class in our year, on a particularly sultry day, when we both raced out of respective classrooms, we met on the grass, wrestled around for a few minutes – before both realising we were pretty evenly matched, and we’re together enjoying the tussle!
When I joined a tough Islington – before it was gentrified – school in the third year, it was slightly different, but I still managed to avoid most bullying. I was a Hampstead boy with a posh accent (which I rapidly lost, learning to swear copiously in the process), my father an MP, mother school governess, brother school captain – an obvious target. But I managed to get caned for smoking in my first week, had been expelled from my previous school, bunked off – so a bit of a ‘bad boy’! – had friends in the year above – and generally gave potential bullies a problem.
Firstly, I wasn’t scared of them – and bullies love fear – because I’d been used to fighting off a brother 4 years older (a huge difference in size when you’re six). Secondly, I was defiant but not aggressive and wore glasses – if they beat me, they’d get little kudos, but if I held my own, or even won, they’d lose a huge amount of face – a no-win situation, so generally they just ignored me. Of course the downside of me not being scared is that a couple of times I stood up to men who were much better fighters, and got knocked out, or badly beaten – when a few words of conciliatory retreat would have done the trick.
But I never felt the need for self-defence classes – which I’d recommend to every young person – the closest I’ve come being Tai Chi in my sixties. And though I believe there is a form which counts as a martial art, the class I attended was much more to do with loosening arthritic limbs and repairing damaged lungs. If I remember, each afternoon I put on some strangely melodious Eastern music and go through my routine – which involves 11 moves repeated 5 times and a 12th wind-down, which appeals to my Pisces brain. I’m certain without it my COPD would have progressed from mild to severe these last few years, and apart from relieving the isolation boredom, I’d be a heck of a lot less fit.
I detest religious evangelism – but the strength of my feeling may be because I can recognise the characteristics in myself. At different times in my youth I’ve been a socialist propagandist and cult member almost impossible to have a normal conversation with.
As a way of proving my left credential, I might turn a chat about someone’s health into railing against NHS underfunding, a supermarket trip could lead to a diatribe against profiteering, and watching TV Olympics peppered with comments about particular countries’ human rights abuses. As an esoteric acolyte, I’d share my knowledge of the esoteric meaning of the colours someone was wearing whether they wanted to know of not, and any conversation might be interrupted by me anagraming words spoken and relaying their occult significance, or suddenly asking “Are you a Leo?” completely ending the flow. Smug superiority does not tend to make friends, and undoubtedly I lost a few.
But I’ve also had periods of confusion, and unable to handle the briefest of encounters. The simple question “How are you?” often threw me, and I’d completely misjudge the questioner’s interest – starting a long list of complaints and getting snubbed, or mumbling OK when I plainly wasn’t and the other person genuinely wanted to know.
And my sometimes literal mind could live with hello and goodbye – but “See you later” took me weeks of settling – how do they know, one of us might die, why did they walk off without agreeing a time and date?!
But it was actually astrology which helped me – the sign of Gemini, and the value of light, inconsequential small talk. And I’m now so much better at judging what is appropriate to the occasion, when in an acquaintanceship the inkling of past traumas w might be revealed – giving room for the conversation developing into something deeper, or it being passed over, and maybe taken up at a later date. I could happily start a conversation in a pre-coronavirus crowded lift about the weather without having to reveal I’ve an A-level in geography and have written a song about global warming. I can at 72 exchange information about our last operation or current ailment in a light-hearted way, which doesn’t call for any response from someone I hardly know.
And – something I could never do in my youth – I can chat for half-an-hour or so with a friend over the phone, just catching up, occasional pauses which neither mind, exchanging titbits of gossip and current affairs – which are at least as much about cementing the friendship as what is said, and confirming we’ll be there for each other when the next life crisis inevitably happens.
These past months the Twittersphere has been full of Labour members agonising over whether or not to stay in a party they’ve supported perhaps for 50 years or more. And for many, the abrupt sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey has been the final straw – suggesting Keir Starmer’s election promise of “unity” was more aimed at the Tory run Board of Deputies of British Jews than the Labour left, including Jewish Voice for Labour which he continues to refuse to meet.
I’m no longer a member, but that didn’t stop me continuing to support Corbyn’s Labour and socialist policies, spending hundreds of my disability and pension income on an anti-Tory video, writing numerous blogs on leading lights of the Conservative Party exposing their hypocrisy & corruption, and being an active member of 8 or 9 Facebook groups, posting so many times I was constantly getting warned by both Facebook & Twitter, often having to text codes to prove I’m not a bot. Being in or out hasn’t made me any more or less a socialist.
What disturbs me is the antagonism between people who have left, and those who’ve decided to stay, trading insults – suggesting to leave is to “abandon the struggle for a just society” or is disappearing “into the wilderness”, while others equally vehemently state that staying is part of the problem, propping up class traitors.
I would have got downhearted if I’d been a lone voice against this vitriol (which I suspect stems from a lack of confidence and subconscious indecision – but that may just be my mental health background!), and scores of us have been pointing out that socialist people pouring their energies in People’s Assembly Against Poverty, Keep Our NHS Public, Disabled People Against Cuts, WASPi, Extinction Rebellion, Stop the War, Global Justice, Liberty, We Own It, Black Lives Matter and scores of other focused and socialist groups is hardly disappearing into the wilderness.
And to suddenly turn on the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and their supporters, and a Momentum in the process of trying to reinvent itself, is to rubbish the last five years when people who stuck with the Labour party through the Blair years managed to revitalise it and recruit thousands of new members – some of whom may well have become totally disillusioned, but many I suspect will remain socialists for life.
I have no problem respecting people’s decision either way, and as I tweeted
“I will try to work with democratic socialists and Marxists, people campaigning to end poverty, racism and human rights abuses, and for public ownership, a basic liveable income & green new deal – and resist all Tory attempts to divide and rule” We are far stronger working together – comradely debate is fine, but let’s save our reasoned insults for Blairites & Tories!
Every morning, in autumn, winter and spring around dawn, I decide there’s no point trying to go back to sleep, and sit at my desk which faces East – the rising sun. And gradually my flat heats up, and stays at a reasonable temperature most of the day & evening – no doubt double glazing and heat rising from six tower block floors below helping to keep my fuel bill down.
But in summer, by 9 or even 8 o’clock, on clear days the heat is becoming unbearable, and I’m thankful with curtains drawn, windows open letting in cooler air from Spinney Park, and my plants working mightily just about lasts me through to an afternoon in blessed shade.
While I was soaking in sweat on Wednesday and Thursday last week – even though it was “only” 28 degrees (less than the 38 within the Siberian Arctic Circle) reminded me of the 2003 heatwave which resulted in a European death toll of between 20,000 (Met Office) and 70,000 (Wikipaedia “peer-reviewed analysis”). And with world average temperatures ever rising, a repeat or worse is long overdue.
Parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, Central America now fairly regularly have temperatures approaching or above 50 degrees C, while 45 is no longer uncommon in Europe and South America. According to text books “The upper temperature limit for plants and animals is less than 50 degrees C” – we are already making some parts of Earth completely uninhabitable. So even disregarding the increasing number of extreme weather events – bringing forest fires, landslides, hurricanes and floods – the trickle of climate refugees will inevitably become a constant flow and then a flood as people seek to escape from hell on earth. And if past evidence is anything to go by, those countries in the North responsible for the most global warming, will close their doors to the citizens of poorer nations already ravaged by slavery, wholesale theft of raw materials, debt repayments and imported corruption.
Every now and again there’s an article saying, unless the world takes action by the end of the century, by 2050, 2030, in the next five years – aspects of global warming, accelerators like the melting of Arctic ice meaning much more of the Sun’s heat is absorbed rather than reflected back – will become irreversible. A drastic Green New Deal after coronavirus lockdown is not a cosy option – it’s an absolute necessity, if future generations are to have any future at all.
Yesterday I was invited to join a Facebook group, The Legacy Garden – which is to do with commemorating people who died in a Nazi atrocity in Lidice, Czechoslvakia, and the links which have been built up between Stoke and Lidice. The campaign was started by Barnett Stross, who later became Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, a close friend and colleague of my father and mother, all of them involved in re-settling in North Staffs Jewish Czech children who’d escaped from the Nazis. For years I was confused when we visited my father’s constituency in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and we were going to meet one of “the Czech children” who were always many years older than me!
In 1958 or 59 we had a family holiday which included a ceremony of remembrance at a huge garden commemorating the dead, and then a stay at a luxurious hotel, where we met Czech Youth League members, enjoyed huge breakfasts of cold roast beef, shook hands with the Communist Party General Secretary, and I learnt to swim. I had fond memories, and was happy to join the group, but thought I’d have a look first.
One prominent Legacy Garden group posting is a video featuring the current British Ambassador to the Czech Republic – standing in for Stoke Friends of Lidice, who for the first time were not able to visit because of coronavirus. It tells the story well, nothing I could disagree with – until right at the end it becomes very clear this is very much an official video with the logo of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Most of my life I’ve been plagued by what some people might call a pernickety, fault-finding, moralistic mind – which simply won’t allow me to pass over whatever might contradict principles I try to live by. It often takes me some time to work out why I don’t like something – but generally I’ll trust my instincts.
In this case, the commemorative garden is to do with anti-fascism and international friendship – both of which principles I absolutely applaud. But the FCO is heavily implicated in the Windrush scandal, and an intrinsic part of selling arms to human rights abusing dictators; we currently have a Tory Foreign Secretary noted for his xenophobia (besides being a sexist bully with 18th century aristocratic views of the poor) – who is deputy to a Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who’s called Black people “n***ers” “coons” “piccaninnies”, & OKd an article peddling the myth of “Black people have lower IQ”, who said Muslim women are “like bank robbers” triggering a 375% rise in hate crime, and particularly relevant, his novel Seventy Two Virgins depicts Jews as controlling the media along with other anti-semitic Jewish stereotypes – yet who says he doesn’t think Britain is a racist country!
I’ve not been above vying for funding from official bodies I didn’t entirely approve of – I do appreciate that small groups want some official recognition, and that the group didn’t make the video. But it just being there with such a hypocritical stamp of approval is something I couldn’t stomach. I think it’s a good cause, I’m all in favour of twinning to break down barriers, and really wish the group well – but my temperament doesn’t allow me to join without enthusiastic commitment – so I’ve declined the invitation.
When my carer came back with my laundry yesterday, I apologised to her for my shopping having been so heavy – I’d had a real job carrying the two bags from my flat entrance to the kitchen. To which her response was “Eeee”, being a Geordie, and told me it was nothing like as heavy as most of her clients, that she was a big, strong lass, and we both laughed.
In my youth I might have taken umbrage at the least suggestion of a mere woman being stronger than me, but have long since had that nonsense argued out of me by an expert. While in Sheffield I had a relationship with a woman who could be a lot of fun, but had absolutely no truck with male chauvinist piggery. Over the next weeks I was told, and inwardly digested
- Offering to carry a woman’s bag insulted her equal ability
- Offering a seat on a bus or train, ditto
- Women could be excellent engineers
- Only Ms was acceptable
- Slapping a woman’s bum was not a friendly gesture
- “Girl” meant pre-puberty or early teens
- All porn was suspect, Page 3 pin-ups an absolute no-no
- All history assimilated needing rewriting removing the patriarchal bias
- Wolf-whistles demeaned
- The merest suggestion a woman in a mini-skirt was in any way “asking for it” invited a wrathful lecture
- Adverts showing women cooking & cleaning were subversive propaganda
- The menstrual cycle is natural not dirty
- Pink and blue are non-gender specific
- Successful women haven’t all slept their way to the top
- No means no
and a whole host of other what nowadays would be called everyday sexism.
Now, you might have thought as a left-winger I would have worked a lot of that out for myself. But this was in 1972/73, and despite the Second World War when women had successfully run farms, factories, offices, there had been little advance in equality between the Suffragette movement in the early twentieth century until Women’s Liberation started their much needed protests in the late 1960s. Although left groups may have paid lip-service to equality, most were little better than the worst male pop singers in the way they treated “groupies”, as sex objects and little more.
The relationship didn’t last, and I won’t pretend that my attitude changed over-night, for good. But I’m thankful that I could no longer be unconscious of sexist thoughts and deeds, I had to re-examine much of my habitual behaviour, and nurture the feminine side to myself, and I feel much more whole because of it.
During the time I was having lots of counselling, there was a poll of people’s favorite song – and the winner was “Je ne regrette rien”, which irked me considerably! In fact I got quite obsessed, and spent many an enjoyable hour letting off steam, pacing my sitting-room, ranting away at what I regarded as gross stupidity.
My reasoning was that to have no regrets meant turning your back on the past, not recognising mistakes, and therefore not learning from them. I even made a list of my regrets, which began with having been born into a family affected by sexual abuse and contained almost everything that had happened to me, or done by me since – there wasn’t a single thing I couldn’t have improved upon!
One of my regrets was that while at University, in my second year, I’d been a feature writer for the student magazine Sphinx. The editor, who by great coincidence I’d known since primary school, had asked me to write an article about European student protest – and that summer, after a factory job, I’d got a train ticket to Rome, then hitchhiked to Copenhagen and home, which helped me convey some atmosphere, while wilful plagiarism of newspaper articles did the rest! My second article was a mixture of personal and political, explaining why a group of us had a day’s sit-in in support of an LSE student protest – but fearing retribution, I asked for it to be anonymous. Then the third term I harnessed copious pints and joints to splurge out my grief at my father’s death the precious February. And that year Sphinx won the Observer Mace prize and my articles got a mention (and if one hadn’t been anonymous, I might have won the features writer prize).
I’d never really settled on a career path, but had sort of assumed I’d be some sort of writer – until ECT put paid to that. Firstly it wiped out my vocabulary, and for a decade or more I needed to do exercises of going through a concise dictionary hundreds of times so as not to be continually lost for words. Secondly it destroyed my concentration, so that to this day, although I can now write paragraphs which hold together – despite numerous attempts, I’ve never managed to string together articles or chapters with any continuity. So before ECT, I’d envisaged being a writer for the Guardian, or New Statesman, with at least one published novel under my belt by the time I was 30, probably married with a successful wife and two kids, and reasonably happy with life – and instead I was striving to make ends meet and finding it incredibly difficult to live with a me I didn’t recognise – full of regret at my lot.
But of course there’s another side – success and happiness would have undoubtedly changed me, socialist views eroded as a comfortable existence reinforced expectations from a materially comfortable upbringing. And there’s no way I could have met on equal terms a whole host of survivors of mental health issues and abuse, poverty and domestic violence – whatever I wrote would have been imaginings from the top down, rather than struggles from lived experience.
So I can’t say I’m without regrets – I’ve made enough mistakes to still be ashamed of – I’ve done what I can to rectify and learn from many, and try not to let the rest prey on my mind. But basically I’d prefer to have regrets, and live with sad & wistful understanding, than live in proud & defiant ignorance.
When I went for my pre-op, one of the nurses remarked on my decorative handmade (not by me, via the internet) mask with pink, purple & yellow flowers on white, and I was quick to point out my yellow striped socks to match, and set off my otherwise drab attire. But I’ve rarely spent much time on how I look, and must admit to having very mixed feelings about the importance of appearances.
On the one hand, I’ve dated women who refused to shave anywhere and/or delighted in making anti-fashion statements, but known many more ruled by dieting gurus, partners who’ve agreed in principle that “you look as good as you feel” while ignoring the practice, full of self-doubt and loathing for parts of their bodies I found very attractive. And more extreme, known a woman who suffered debilitating anorexia – which I believe was a major factor in her suicide. All that together has been enough to give me loathing for a fashion industry peddling the “perfect” body image, knowing it causes widespread self-harm, while profiteering from workers in dangerous conditions only half a step removed from modern slavery.
On the other, I really enjoyed watching Gok’s series “How to Look Good Naked” (empathising with the self-confidence it brings, rather than voyeurism!), and can appreciate how bad many women (and quite a few men) are currently feeling without the weekly pampering of their trusted hairdresser.
Personally, I’d often strive to fit in, to go unnoticed. In my teens, I avoided the bold statements of mods & rockers, and wore regulation jeans, looking a bit like a beatnik or early hippie, but not enough to cause anyone offence.
However, a quirk in my character produced the occasional urge to break out of my mental strait-jacket, with outward appearances to match. So in my late 40s I grew my hair to below my waist, with and without pony-tail and accompanying beard, before having it all shaved off in a No. 1 cut. And as a student, although I could be incredibly shy, and would often hide in company needing 2 or 3 pints before striking up a conversation – yet at one time used to delight in wearing a purple shirt topped by a square-patterned waistcoat, my jeans decorated with flares of red silk I’d sewed in, and black metal-quarter block-heeled shoes – so everyone could hear peacock me coming from miles away!
My overall fashion statement could possibly be described as shy with a tough of flamboyance, conforming with a dash of eccentricity – who says human beings can’t be contradictory and complex!
Last night was the Summer Solstice, the precise time at which the overhead Sun reaches the most northerly latitude, giving us our longest day. And today is the New Moon, when the Sun and Moon are aligned and among other things give us some of the highest tides. These aren’t just some weird and wonderful events of esoteric interest only to mystics and druids – they are actual scientific facts known about since ancient times, and known to be significant when human beings were far less distracted by mobile phone, TV and wage slavery, and more in touch with their feelings, senses and nature.
But these festivals have long since been supplanted during the Age of Religious Hegemony by celebrations without rhyme or reason to any rational thinker. It’s universally accepted that if the birth of Christ did happen, it certainly wasn’t on December 25th, and the dating of Easter, disputed by different sects, was the result of a compromise committee – with as little relation to actual events as a virgin birth is possible, beyond the brainwashed imaginings of the most fundamentalist Chistians. And I’m sure people born into Muslim, Jewish, Hindi, Sikh etc cultures can name equally irrational festivals, which are also taught as fact in schools, and with some countries even legislating death for blasphemy anyone daring to dispute the fantasies.
Capitalism alienates, and the incomprehensible rites of the major religions compound the divorce from nature and our natural selves.
On Friday I became aware for the first time of the Juneteenth ending of US slavery – and I wondered what we’re missing in the UK. Every now and again, there are calls for days mostly arbitrarily assigned to patron saints to be made public holidays – although the existence of those historical figures has little or no relevance to the lives of the vast majority – especially St George who turns out to be Greek soldier of most interest to military historians.
Yet there are days in British history of great significance to ordinary people which go unmarked. Why is there no holiday for the signing of the Magna Carta which limited the power of sovereigns? Why aren’t Women’s and Universal Suffrage fittingly celebrated – or do the Establishment maybe still regret the challenges to their power? And of most relevance to revcent events, what about the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, and of slavery in 1833?
The rich and powerful are far happier with recognising the end of the slave trade, which they can portray as the work of a Great White Man William Wilberforce and enlightened Christianity (forgetting that numerous leading Christians & the Church of England itself were slaver owners) – but not so happy the Slave Trade Act came into force on 1 May 1807, thus linking the end of Black slavery with each Mayday call of international socialist movements to end wage slavery.
But they’ve no wish to mark the Slavery Abolition Act which came into force on 1 August 1834. Because they’d have to recognise that the driving force behind it was slave revolts in British colonies, violently suppressed – and that the moral case for ending subjugation of human beings was mired by the payment of £1.43billion in today’s money to the utterly amoral and greedy slave owners and not a penny to slaves. And a celebration might mean each 1st August the question being asked – why were the oppressors rewarded and their descendants living in luxury, where are the reparations for descendants of the oppressed?
There have been many recent articles bemoaning the tearing down of statues of slave traders as the “rewriting of history”, and I wonder if their writers would be in favour of Stalin’s view of the Soviet gulags, or Hitler’s ideas about the Holocaust still being taught in Russian & German schools.
When I was at primary school after the 11-plus, we had a project to study a famous person – most of my fellows picking Winston Churchill, Nelson or Elizabeth I or II – but I chose Hitler. I later learned there was some consternation, letters flying between my teacher and parents fearfully wondering whether they’d a budding dictator on their hands – when I simply wanted to know how such a universally hated man had accumulated such power in our wonderful democratic world. And my study taught me that not all “great” men are heroes.
Yesterday I was watching a documentary about the uncovering of a pyramid, and I had to switch off in disgust. The commentators and experts all spoke in hushed tones about the amazing structures, at the incredible riches buried – with only a passing reference to that pyramid being built at a time of famine – that while a massive tomb was being constructed in order that, according to their belief, one person of great wealth & power could have a decent afterlife, thousands of Egyptians, workers and slaves, were starving to death. In fact, every massive historical structure is a testimony to the huge disparity of wealth and power, and human life devalued – yet we are supposed to praise the beauty of these monuments to oppression, and ignore the lives lost in their making.
At grammar school – before I got expelled – I was taught about the incredible legacy of Ancient Greece & Rome, the amazing feats of heroes and Emperors advancing western civilization. It was only when I saw the film Spartacus that I began to see how history had indeed been rewritten – that the lives of the great men I was supposed to strive to emulate were made possible by societies founded on cruelty and corruption, greed and hypocrisy.
All over the UK, hundreds of pupils in grammar, private & public schools are taught reverence for ancient cultures with extremes of wealth and poverty which were built on the backs of slaves, to be in awe of men whose lives were made possible by crimes against humanity – young minds indoctrinated to despise the mob, peasantry, those whose fleeting existence was destined to serve. Is it any surprise we now have a Prime Minister, brainwashed at Eton, who then studied Classics at Oxford – and now thinks he can rule like an Emperor?
On Tuesday evening, having checked that I felt reasonably thick-skinned, I posted a tweet – responding to racist football fans:
“Will fans complaining about footballers “forced” to wear shirts with political statement #BlackLivesMatter also complain about footballers wearing logos of companies promoting betting addiction, using sweat-shop labour, with owners from countries using torture, bombing children?”
– and expected the usual barrage of trolls. But besides 54 retweets and 107 likes, the only adverse comment I got was “Grow Up”, instantly blocked – joining the reams of Twitter accounts in my blocked list.
While posting my global warming warning song, and during the Breit referendum, I used to spend hours trying to debate with people whose comments weren’t outright threatening or abusive. But for all my efforts, the only positive note was a long and reasonably respectful Twitter debate at the end of which we agreed to differ. And I’m afraid age hasn’t increased my tolerance.
Recently someone asked why I’d left the Labour Party, and I posted back:
- My right-wing branch decided to thwart Corbyn supporters by not having any branch meetings
- My CLP revoked my perfectly valid delegate status via the Socialist Health Association
- Members were being suspended for sharing climate change posts from Green Party members, and condemnation of Israeli government atrocity against Palestinians – both of which I was also “guilty” of
In my younger days I would have stayed and fought from within – but I envisaged weeks of poring through the Labour Party rulebook, and inviting suspension and the struggle of an appeal which I’d have conducted very publicly – but I just felt too tired to go through that sort process all over again, and decided I’d better ways of spending my time.
But I do hope younger people are more tolerant, try to use discussion, debate, facts and quotes to persuade before rejecting opposition out of hand. I’m seeing an increasing trend of judgment on Facebook & Twitter, and not only from the right – more and more people who seem to think swear words are a convincing substitute for reasoned argument – more and more hate speech and dismissal of anyone who disagrees even slightly, total polarisation, and it scares me.
Just before coronavirus hit, a friend upped sticks and moved North to the wilds of Scotland to live off the land. It wasn’t a sudden decision, she’d been involved in the theory & practice of permaculture for years – and seems to be doing really well.
In adulthood, I’ve lived in London, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle – but in adolescence I used to spend a lot of time roaming Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill dreaming of a simpler rural life, and could never understand how anybody could think the skylines of cities like London & New York with blocks of concrete and glass were beautiful – and when in the early 1970s some friends invited me to stay on their rented farm near Bath, I jumped at the chance.
I was recovering from ECT, and in many ways it was idyllic – just what I needed. There were two families, brothers I’d known since early teenage-hood, their wives and four young children, some hens and goats, and fields with cows and sheep nearby. They were vegetarian, into wholefood, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and sufficient joints to sweep away the cares of modern life without becoming addictive or it interfering with daily farmyard tasks. We’d collect the eggs, milk the goats, hire ourselves out to dig and mend fences, pick nettles for supper, and contemplate the good life of hippie-ness. And my stay came in very useful later on, when studying astrology – having first-hand experience of rams loving a challenge, bulls wanting to be left alone, and goats ready to go feral in an instant!
But I just couldn’t stick it. And it wasn’t just being a gooseberry, or missing the anonymity, hiding in a crowd which I’d nurtured to protect myself from bullies – I was bored, I needed the intellectual stimulus, of politics, current affairs – just knowing what was going on, and being part of it.
Of course, nowadays it’s possible to have the best of both worlds, with most places having the internet and super-fast broadband. Or does allowing it in lessen the full-bodied experience of country life, I wonder?
Every week when I was young, a pack of us siblings and friends would meet at the Odeon, Swiss Cottage for a fairly raucous Saturday morning pictures, and there’d be a newsreel, cartoon, a string of adverts, and the obligatory Western. I was of a somewhat rebellious nature, a confirmed romantic well before my teens, as well as having taken to heart that the essential character of being British was being on the side of the underdog. So every week, even though I knew damn well the Indians were never going to win, I always came away disappointed.
But when my parents bought a TV in the early 1960s, I’d spend hours sprawled in front of it, soaking up cowboy series like Rawhide totally indiscriminately, and one of my few fond memories of my father is sitting side by side watching Perry Mason exchanging the occasional remark.
Even before the advent of internet and Netflix, it was almost impossible to escape the insidious indoctrination of Hollywood, the facade of the ‘American dream’ which hid genocide, slavery and continuing institutional racism, extreme poverty living beside the flaunted wealth, and decades of rape and misogyny – Harvey Weinstein was by no means the first serial abusive director, earlier ones were just better protected from exposure.
All over the world, people continue to be peddled an impossible consumerist fantasy, of a luxurious life-style for all – with no mention of its unsustainability in the face of finite planetary resources, let alone the desecration of nature with our never-ending waste, and looming global warming well hidden as the film industry conspires with fossil fuel moguls to distract and hide the inevitable consequences of its nightmare.
Before I come across as a total, moralising high horse prig, I will admit to successively taking guilty addicted pleasure in Law & Order, Parks & Recreation, and currently Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But I’ve long since turned off Frank Sinatra films, knowing of his domestic violence, or retuned the radio if Michael Jackson comes on, in respect of victims of child abuse. Sometimes I see rave reviews of Hollywood movies, and I’m tempted. But although when younger I’m sure I’d have had little or no sense of contradiction, at my stage in life, I often find a sense of disgust at the mass propaganda deception outweighs ephemeral amusement – and prefer to do without.
Unlike (reputedly) George Washington, I can tell a lie – and I’ve told some whoppers. And over time, pretty well all of them have caught up with me.
A classic example is my CV, which in the 1970s and 80s, showed lots of things I’d done, but not necessarily in the way or length of time as written!
In 1989 I applied for a job running an Employment Training programme, got shortlisted, and the interview seemed to be going well. Until one of the panel picked up on a supposed job I’d had from August 1971 to March 1972 running youth activities at a centre in Kirkby just outside Liverpool (when in fact I’d been a youth leader volunteer on a summer play scheme, then my breakdown, ECT, unemployment). As it turned out – with odds of thousands to one against! – she’d been working in Kirkby during that period, had an interest in youth work, and couldn’t quite remember the same facts! I did try to bluff it – but the interview soon fell apart, with me mortified.
But I hated that feeling so much, it triggered a big response – I completely changed my CV, and instead of hiding my past – I highlighted being disabled, a mental health survivor and ex-offender, arguing that those experiences gave me empathy for clients having similar pasts restricting their life progress. And this strategy of honesty paid off – my very next application was to join CSV as a Community Opportunities volunteer coordinator, and I was successful.
I remember back in the early 1960s, when the Tory government was mired by scandal, what caused Secretary of State for War John Profumo to resign, wasn’t that he’d consorted with prostitutes, or been friendly with Russian spies (and so been incredibly vulnerable to blackmail) – but he lied to Parliament. He wasn’t the first or last Minister to be caught lying, and always there was a contrite apology, and resignation.
Fast forward to the 2010s, and we have as US President and UK Prime Minister two of the most prolific political liars ever, who’d have got A+ in any class run by Joseph Goebbels, whose lies were catalogued all over social media and yet still got elected, and who’ve kept on lying in office. No doubt when they got elected, they both had that smirk of schoolchildren who think they’ve got away with it.
And then came COVID-19, their callous incompetence is being exposed, with the unavoidable hard facts of avoidable death statistics – and every day people are recalling lies they’ve told in the past, which negate every new proposal, shed doubt on each speech, bring calls of “hypocrite” whenever they open their mouths. Lying is not the best policy, there are always consequences.
Temperamentally I’m a Luddite. Not for good philosophical or political reasons – that the industrial revolution was kick-started by slavery and funded by British Empire theft of raw materials, and itself began the inevitable crisis of global warming – but because I just can’t stand being dependant on things I just do not understand.
My current bugbear is my electronic bathroom scales. I weigh myself every Monday morning – and thought I might need to be extra careful weight-wise during lockdown. Instead, for weeks it flat-lined at 10 st 7, then more weeks at 10st 6 – such that I did think my machine might be faulty, changed the battery, which made no difference. Then the machine showed 10-5, 10-4, 10-4, 10-2 – and I rang the doctor very concerned (my brother died of skin cancer 2 years ago) – and we decided as my hospital visit was due, to see if they would add bloods test for that also. However, during my hospital visit, they took my weight – which is 10st 7lb – I was right all along, my weighing machine is kaput – I’m convinced (and the blood test should confirm), a whole lot of anxiety completely futile – and I’ve ordered a mechanical weighing machine (irony of irony, on-line!)
I’ve also got a desktop computer, telephone, radio clock, TV with black box, fridge & freezer, microwave & food mixer, let alone the flat wiring & complex fuse box, intercom and smoke alarm – and I don’t have the faintest idea how any of them work, I’ve a constant background noise of anxiety, knowing that especially while shielding, inviting any repair person into my flat would be fraught with danger.
To make matters worse, I’ve got guilt feelings of having worked for 4 different technology companies, I’ve been a computer operator, a computer programmer, and made pots of money selling the damn things!
I really enjoy watching the Repair Shop where an expert takes a mechanical toy apart and cleans and fixes it – but electrics and electronics are beyond me. At school I got top marks in A-level Pure Maths (a brilliant teacher full of enthusiasm who really knew his stuff), but just scrapped Applied Maths – perhaps partly because the master had obviously read up on lessons the night before and was completely thrown by the simplest question. Similarly with physics, the teacher had a thick Spanish accent which no-one understood, while his blackboard scratchings were completely illegible – and I’ve no idea how I got through O-level with the bottom pass grade. Good teachers are a joy, bad ones have a lot to answer for.
I didn’t take any chemistry or biology at school, but taught myself as part of my astrology studies, happily working my way through standard textbooks. But any mention of physics, a circuit diagram, someone trying to explain to me the basics of electricity – and my eyes glaze over, and my mind drifts off into some far more comprehensible fantasy.
But having written this – I’m concerned some of my gadgets might now take umbrage at not being valued and stop working in disgust (just what I might have done when I was their age!). No please, I take it all back – I love you all dearly, honestly I do!
Things I’ve learnt or confirmed since lockdown
- I can still cut my toenails without injury (but I do miss the Foot Clinic pampering!)
- The Tories are even more callous, racist & corrupt than I thought
- My vegetarianism is not fixed, if there were no veggie ready-meals I’d munch away at sardines and corned beef without a second thought
- A crisis does bring out the best and worst in people: while some rush to volunteer and help, others fall back on the supposed security of their bigoted selves
- I’m still capable of keeping my flat neat and tidy (but still prefer paying my carer to do it!)
- Right wing newspapers have failed to make everyone as greedy and selfish as their billionaire owners
- I value contact with friends far, far more than wanting complete self-sufficiency
- So many people being so strongly anti-racist brings huge hope
- Hospital scales are far more reliable than my bathroom ones
- A little humility goes a long way, not least recognising that Britain has not been best at dealing with a pandemic
- Liking my own company is not enough, I’ve needed a good but flexible routine to stay sane
- The links between of fossil fuel billionaires, Brexiteers, organised hackers, climate change deniers, media moguls, right-wing politicians are greater than even the wildest conspiracy theorists supposed
- Perhaps I’m just a little bit too concerned about how many “likes”, shares and retweets my postings get
- The Tory Establishment can never truly repent the horrors of empire and slavery without relinquishing the wealth and power inherited from those crimes against humanity
- Being alone makes me more vulnerable; trolling hurts, but blocking helps
- You don’t have to have been a delivery person, hospital worker, shop assistant, cleaner, postal worker to value them, but it helps
- It is possible to be very left-wing and come out as an astrologer without losing friends
- Never was extra-parliamentary opposition needed more to restrain a right-wing government hopelessly embroiled in the triple whammy of COVID-19, Brexit and Climate Change
- My somewhat perverse desire to bare my soul in public, warts and all, is as strong as it ever was
Many people dismiss hope as wishy-washy quality, and day-dreaming as a complete time-waster. But I honestly think they’ve saved my life.
When I moved to Newcastle in 1998 my main dream was of meeting a female companion, love, life-partner, and doing astrology in a big way. While what I really needed to do was address my issues of dysfunctional family background, ECT after-effects and cult membership.
Admittedly this probably wasn’t the best decision for romance – in 32 years I’ve only had one brief affair, and that was with a woman living in Leeds. While on umpteen dating clubs & sites I joined, women my age here tended to want a more macho man, someone with “no baggage” (not only do I have loads, I’d prefer someone with similar!), and own house, car & teeth (no, never, very few!). And admittedly having three main stigmas of disability, mental health survivor and ex-offender, plus my ambition to live in a council flat, and giving away my whole inheritance when my mother died, probably wouldn’t have appealed to any woman in the UK, looking for financial stability in older age.
However, that dream got me here, and it turned out to be an excellent choice for sorting through my issues. Newcastle was where my mother was born, and it was a great place to come to terms with the fact she had been raped as a child and its effect on my upbringing. Very soon after moving here I met a very supportive mental health survivor network, people of similar age who welcomed me without judgment into the fold. And the cult group started up here, which I joined, but was far enough away from the guru’s influence for a mass exodus to help me shrug off its stranglehold.
Meanwhile I’d met a string of adult education providers happy for me to run mainstream astrology courses. Again, I was particularly drawn to teaching the subject knowing 90% of students would be women – and although almost all were far too young as potential partners, I could always dream they’d matchmake me with mothers or aunts! And while I was going through the worst of my counselling sessions, hard up against my character and past, in turn furious and desolate at the damage that had been done to me by bullying & psychiatric abuse, the time wasted on ridiculous esoteric researches – suicidal for weeks on end – preparing my classes and a steady stream of birthday readings to give to really lovely people, and the occasional abortive dates at the Tyneside cinema cafe, kept me going.
I once read that concentration camps victims who survived years of degradation and horror were those who never gave up hope, who without any evidence it would happen, dreamt of a time afterward, what they would do when the war was over. Hope and dreams kept them alive – powerful forces indeed.
Friday blog – today I’m venturing out of my flat for the first time in 13 weeks, 91 days, 2184-ish hours …
Last week I had what I thought was my pre-op telephone assessment, but it turned out to be just the paperwork part – so that when I visit I can be in and out more quickly. So I’ve got to go in for blood to be taken (not an easy task with my smoking & steroid reduced veins!), and then an ECG – and I am assured all the corridors are one-way, with 6ft marked out, all the nurses I meet will be aware of my COPD and wearing full PPE gear, so with my trusty mask I should be OK.
Having heard from Danielle, my carer, that the buses were pretty chaotic, either full with only half passengers bothering with masks, or buses rushing passed – I asked the hospital about transport to and from. I was told I needed to get that organised via my GP, who said I needed to ring the ambulance services, who said they were only doing emergencies like COVID-19 & dialysis, unless – full circle – I could get the hospital or my GP to argue I really needed it!!! So I gave up and rang my fellow Pisces friend Dave, and he’s very happy to ferry me, and for my swab test on the 28th and actual operation on the 1st July.
I’m not sure whether to be excited by the prospect of an expedition, or terrified of the unseen viral enemy, or most likely just reasonably calm at having to do something which needs to be done, and whatever happens, c’est la vie!
I remember as a child reading many moral stories about people who behaved badly and got their comeuppance. But I remember even better parodies of those cautionary tales by Hilaire Belloc – which is perhaps a pity, because my life has umpteen examples of what not to do!
Take for example the idea of a good work, leisure, home life balance.
Back in 1984 I was a sales manager, a semi-yuppie strutting around in my 3-piece pin-striped suit, driving a Rover company car, entertaining clients with 3 course lunches on expenses, doing loads of overtime completing government tenders – then most evenings, an active cult member, joining in with meetings, before driving my wife home, a snatched catch-up conversation, before giving the baby-sitter a lift home in the early hours – with daily journeys from Kingsbury to Old Street to Putney to Kingsbury taking a god 5 or 6 hours mostly in rush-hour traffic. And in 1984 I got my biggest ever basic salary plus commission, feeling really proud of myself.
Of course it couldn’t last, I was exhausted most of the time running on imaginary fuel. A series of increasing acrimonious arguments at home led to me moving out, and funding two households. Then a series of three affairs ended with varying degrees of angst, I moved back in with my mother for a time – and after a disastrous change of job, used a recent diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis to say I couldn’t drive any more to leave but be able to claim benefit.
So from being fit, happily married, very well paid, leading an active leisure life, I’d gone to disabled, separated, unemployed, not even able to pay off my debts let alone keep up maintenance payments.
Now older and wiser, I’ve taken “pride comes before a fall” to heart, and warily watch if I’m feeling overly self-satisfied, waiting for the downer, and anticipating when I’m in a slough of self-doubt, that a boost is on its way – and it very rarely fails.
About 25 years ago when I was working at CSV, I volunteered myself to do an afternoon session – for a course they were running for people who wanted to work in mental health care – me a survivor, talking about stigma. I then got pretty nervous, and designed a probably much too formal presentation.
I put up a large piece of paper with a line down the middle – on the left side it described a man, from a family affected by sexual abuse; bunked off school & expelled; juvenile delinquent, smoking & drinking; sent to child psychiatrist; stealing & police caution; ECT & suicide attempt; in & out of jobs, redundancy & homeless; prison for assault; multiple failed relationships & divorce – on the right side, a man, youngest of four in middle class family; passed 12 GCEs, senior prefect & house captain; VSO and degree; 3 promotions in jobs, sales manager of computer computer; lots of charity & voluntary work; loving marriage & successful son.
Then I asked them who they’d prefer as a neighbour – and of course everyone chose the right side – before I revealed that actually, both descriptions were of the same man, and that man was me! There was a ripple of shock, and one woman got very annoyed that I’d set out to fool them – but I think I got the message across, that judging mental health survivors just on their psychiatric history gives a very distorted stigmatised 2-dimensional view of a 3-dimensional life.
Some 10 years or so later, during which time mental health campaigning had vastly increased my confidence, I was invited to join a Durham University course – I think postgraduate, for intending mental health social workers. This time I just plonked myself down and gave vivid and very personal accounts of my mental health history, interspersed with other aspects of my life – detailing some of my run-ins with psychiatrists, trying to prepare them for being part of team where the psychiatrist had the final vote & controlled the purse-strings. The tutor who’s invited but didn’t know me – with little idea what I’d be saying – was extremely kind in her thanks, and there then followed 5 or 6 really interesting questions, a discussion taking us passed the break, and a queue or students wanting to thank me personally for sharing my experiences – and I went home on a high!
More recently I heard of Northumbria University inviting mental health survivors to do something similar as a matter of course, I volunteered – but I think they were overwhelmed with offers from people with far more recent experiences of the system than me.
The possibilities are endless, with many happening in a small way – ex-cons advising on prison reform, people who’ve experienced domestic violence talking to students about gender issues, victims of racism joining school discussion about British slavery history. I’m not a Christian – but maybe this is part of “The meek shall inherit the earth” and I’m proud to be one of the meek pioneers!
I guess most people accumulate a store of life stories, ready to be brought out and dusted down when meeting new friends – stories which can almost be guaranteed to bring a response of “Wow – that happened to YOU?!?!” or “I don’t believe it – you didn’t, did you?!”, an appreciative giggle or roar of laughter. And I honestly think the best and most telling stories are personal experiences, whether full of drama, pathos, or laughing at one’s own foibles.
Which has given me a problem for the last 49 years, because on the one hand (you may have noticed!) I dearly love talking about myself and my life, but on the other hand, since ECT, I rarely remember what I’ve said to whom. But luckily that gets much more understandable now I’m 72 – what older person doesn’t get a bit forgetful?
But that leads on to one of the fears of getting older – until dementia sets in when I guess you don’t care anymore – of repeating the same stories to the same people over and over again, and eventually being faced with fixed grins and forced laughter at the punch-lines, the audience dwindles, and you’re left with one or two who have some notion of family duty, or are getting paid – while the rest have long since written you off as a boring old fart to be avoided.
Before starting this blog, I did have the commendable intention of making a list of themes, but unfortunately I forgot after a week and to be honest scrolling all the way back is not currently my number one priority! I do try to tell old life stories with a new spin – but I think it’s inevitable there’ll be some repetition, so I readers assume I’m writing to any new friends or followers, or that other people’s memories are as bad as mine!
Not long ago I got trolled for pointing out that the Fiona Bruce fronted art show Fake or Fortune was promoting a well-known paedophile in an episode on Paul Gauguin. And when they argued that his serial transgressions should be excused because he was a great artist, I asked whether Jimmy Savile should be excused because he was a great DJ – and no-one responded.
It is often said that history is written by the victors, but seldom is that applied to British history. Another much loved programme which Fiona Bruce comperes is Antiques Roadshow. And every episode includes a tour of the stately home overflowing with wealth and culture.
Such a pity there is no history of the family pointing out
- How many child servants died in that home from accidents while cleaning the chimneys, and inhaling noxious fumes from household products
- How many wives and servants, the property of the male ancestors, were sexually abused and raped in those rooms
- How many of the artefacts were pillaged by officers of the British Empire from colonies now reduced to seeking aid
- How much of the wealth of those aristocrats came directly from slavery & the slave trade, or investment in sugar cane or cotton industries or railways built on despicable slave profiteering
I don’t believe any country will be able to say children matter, women matter, Black Lives Matter, until the school history textbooks are re-written from the standpoint of the exploited and enslaved, and in the case of descendants of slavery, proper reparations are paid.
Yesterday and today I’ve been causing a bit of stir by daring to point out that a disproportionate number of BAME people are dying from COVID-19, and mass demonstrations with many protesters not wearing masks or making any attempt at socially distancing just helps spread the virus, and put yet more vulnerable Black Lives at risk.
I’ve been accused of being a White man who not only doesn’t think #BlackLivesMatter, but is by implication a closet racist. And mentioning my past doesn’t seem to carry much weight, even that
- I’ve been anti-racist since boycotting South African goods & joining Anti-Apartheid almost 60 years ago
- In the late 1960s working in a factory, I was threatened and spat at for refusing to stop sitting with Black fellow workers during tea-breaks
- In 1970 I was chair of Liverpool students Socialist Society helping put together demands on the University including sacking the racist Chancellor and getting rid of investments in apartheid South Africa
- In 1974 I was convicted of assaulting 2 police officers, one who broke my front tooth with his fist, another with 5 or 6 colleagues in a police station ring hit my kidney area repeatedly with truncheons, so I know a bit about police brutality
- As a mental health survivor for 60 years, admittedly far less visible than Black people, I also know a bit about stigma
Oh well, if my final evidence of anti-racist commitment – spending months putting together
“A catalogue of endemic Racism, Islamophobia & Antisemitism in the Conservative Party” https://leftgreen70.wordpress.com/a-list-of-articles-from-2001-to-2018-about-racism-in-the-conservative-party/ (which the EHRC refuses to investigate) doesn’t carry any weight, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree ..
Oh I do hate the scammers! Over the years I’ve had
- Amazing offers of tax rebates for years I didn’t pay any tax
- Tempting pleas from gorgeous looking Twitter followers to cover their temporary financial short-fall so they could fly from Florida for a weekend of fun
- A phone-call from “Windows” saying they could fix a non-existent bug on my computer and just needed my bank details (we all know how helpful Windows customer services are)
- Umpteen offers to give me one foot of manhood which would be the envy of my friends
- A knock on the door kindly promising to fix the mechanical fault I didn’t have
- Many princes from Nigeria saying they’d share untold riches for only a small fee
- Numerous women dying for some adult company, only a click away
- Debt collectors demanding payment for things I didn’t buy
- Government departments with links to important messages written by civil servants who seemed incapable of spelling
- Notification of many prizes from competitions I didn’t enter
And I’m sure you can add your own examples
So many people are isolated, lonely, vulnerable – the scammers are having a field-day. So beware of any unsolicited calls, unbelievable offers – and before responding, always check the official website first.
Here are 10 of the latest and most” common scam threats in the UK” to look a out for https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/06/10-of-the-latest-and-most-common-scam-threats-in-the-uk/
If you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, you can get email alerts of the latest scams from Which at
I really hate it when Twitter, Facebook, Hotmail change their format “because of customer demand” – when I for one am a customer who’s NEVER demanded the change. They do sometimes, but not always, have the option of sticking with the old format – but before too long there’s a notification that the old fashioned ways will no longer be supported, with no updates, opening it up to hackers and trolls.
It usually takes me weeks to adjust, and I often never find out how to do things which used to be easy. Occasionally there is an on-line tutorial, but invariably this is written by a computer geek whose mastery of language is limited to obscure terminology, and who obviously has nothing but scorn for lesser non-technical mortals. When I was selling computers back in the 1980s, I’d sit with the customer’s decision-makers explaining our systems multiple benefits in simple but flowery English, while our and their tech whizz-kids settled somewhere in the depths of our premises muttering about megabytes and RAMs to their heart’s content – the language barrier even bigger than our physical separation.
And while I’m at it, another bugbear is the way computer tools are supposedly designed to help, but do the opposite. For instance, the last few days on Twitter, I’ve been refusing to “Move On” – and sharing articles about Dominic Cummings many and varied past misdemeanours, usually with the hashtag #DominicCummings. But when I start to type that in, the supposedly helpful window gives me various options – which always start with #dominiccummingsisalegend, together with various mis-spellings, such as #DominicCumnings or #DominicCummmings. Now if I was a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that someone was paying Twitter to avoid #DominicCummings ever trending. Surely not!?!?!
I’ve just read about an appalling experience a Facebook friend had in her local hospital – and yes, NHS staff are doing a fantastic job in incredibly difficult circumstances, but let’s not pretend they are all saints!
As a mental health survivor, I’m used to encountering stigma, and getting a lesser service. But a few years back when I encountered rudeness on the ward at the RVI, left sitting for hours with staff standing around chatting but no-one taking any notice of me, or telling me what was happening – I plucked up the courage and asked to speak to the person’s manager as I wanted to make a complaint, and then asked for the PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) leaflet.
This caused a ripple around the ward, whispering and sly looks, a couple of nurses scurrying about (they later admitted they didn’t have any leaflets and needed to search a couple of other wards), until before too long a hospital manager and fairly senior doctor came and sat with me, full of apology and concern for my condition, taking great pains to explain why there’d been a hold-up, and what I could expect.
But I didn’t leave it there. When I got home, still angry but much calmer, I wrote a draft complaint in my word processor, made a lot of alterations making it more factual, politer and more conciliatory – and sent it as an email to my local PALS detailing my complaint. They promised to investigate, and pass on my concerns to the relevant bigwigs of relevant departments, and asked whether I wanted it to be a formal complaint – which in this case I did. As a result, I not only got an apology, but also thanks for pointing out procedures which weren’t working and helping cause changes in the way things would be done in future.
Some months later I had a slightly less concerning experience at the Freeman, but went through the same procedure.
The net result is that on my hospital record is the fact that I’m a bit of a trouble-maker, I won’t put up with being treated like dirt and – what they are really scared of – they know if a repeat happens, I might well go public or even sue. And – I can’t prove it – but ever since I’ve had staff treat me with kid gloves, doctors and consultants go out of their way to explain my treatments, and make sure I’m happy with it.
There’s a national characteristic which used to cause self-deprecating titters, of the British as a nation of grumblers who never complained. Don’t put up with it, complain as loudly as necessary and buck the trend – and so hopefully improve things for people who come after.
It’s not much good if someone you care about asks “Do I look fat in this?” and being too honest for your or their own good you reply “Yes you do” – which results in them getting depressed, and their usual response to depression is reaching for comfort food.
Nor does it really help if someone you care about asks “Do I look fat in this?” and being overly concerned about hurting their feelings you reply “Of course not, you look great” if that confirmation means they continue a diet of fatty foods, exacerbating a heart condition.
Some people have the knack of reaching a happy medium, somehow managing to give the bad news in a way that no-one could either avoid it, or take offence. Personally, as one of the “too honest” brigade, I can only listen to their disarming charm in envy and awe.
Such a pity would-be dictators like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump always surround themselves with boot-licking, sycophantic, fawning, kow-towing, toadying (you get the picture!) yes-men feeding their already bloated egos, protecting their ears from the least whiff of criticism.
We could do with some middle-course charming truth-to-power merchants at the moment, or I fear thousands upon thousands more people will die.
My daily exercise videos is led be an Australian (or possibly New Zealander, I’m not very good at accents) who every now and again says something like “You’re doing a great job guys” – which of course is nonsense, because he can’t see us, so for all he knows we could be using it as light entertainment while lounging around stuffing our faces with cream cakes.
In many of my past jobs – after the first few months of enthusiastically learning the ropes – I could often be seen pouring over a computer screen, but others in the office could never be sure whether I was writing letters to clients and toting up the departmental statistics – or writing an article for a mental health campaign and preparing that evening’s astrology course hand-outs, in other words, avoiding work, shirking, skiving off. And because I was almost always reasonably up to date with what my bosses required, and made some efforts to not be caught out, I must confess I had little or no guilt.
At primary school, I genuinely wanted to be there (much preferring it to being at home, where I was always on tenterhooks trying to dodge being bullied), and was quite ready – in a class of my peers and a teacher I’d learned to trust – to volunteer as a guinea pig for any new task, and laugh along with everyone if I made a hash of it. But secondary school was a different matter – my main interest in life was girls, and they were single-sex schools, so naturally I bunked off whenever I could.
And my work experience – in teenage cleaning, washing-up, shop and photograph assistant, painting and factory labourer jobs – primed me for the ideas of alienation and wage slavery I later met reading Marxist tomes.
Much later in my yuppie years, I was a salesman – but of a niche type. I sold computers for a small company which I knew wouldn’t try to fleece customers, and products I used every day – but I knew my limitations: I had to trust the company, believe in the product, and have only potential customers in government, health & local authority who somehow found my laid back approach reassuring – and I was prepared to work hard for a decent basic plus commission which help feed my family, and pay the cult guru his exorbitant fees – but I’d still be doing esoteric work whenever I could in office time.
Since I’ve retired, it’s been a very different story. Despite the fact that no-one is watching me, and my absence might go completely unnoticed, I regularly spend 6 or 7 hours on my desktop, assisting in making a number of video, writing left & green songs, sharing and concocting posts which expose the corruption & hypocrisy of the powers-that-be on Facebook & Twitter, hoping that my small efforts help towards some fairer and more just socialist society, which may possibly happen despite global warming long after I’m gone! I don’t need to be told, it’s what I want to do, it’s what I love doing – and if and when it isn’t, I’ll stop.
Meanwhile, I keep moving along with my exercise video, consciously adopting the mindset of my primary school years, doing my very best, as if trying to earn the personal praise of the video man who recorded it 6 months back, but actually content with self-satisfaction at my efforts.
What struck me most about Dominic Cummings defence of the indefensible was his smug sense of entitlement, a rule maker forced into a PR exercise, but totally convinced rules didn’t apply to him. Having been brought up in a mixed-class family, it’s something I can smell a mile off.
My mother was a Geordie born into the slums of Shieldfield, and never lost her lack of self-worth, vainly trying to compensate by name-dropping and boasting of her children’s achievements however petty. My father was educated in prep and public school, his ancestors (and mine!) including a factory owner who undoubtedly exploited child labour, and a Colonel in the Indian Army at the heart of the rape and pillage enacted throughout the British Empire. And although my father’s voting record as a left-wing MP – before he was sucked into government – was exemplary, he had no trouble fitting into the parliamentary world of being above the law.
The Hampstead home I was brought up in was paid for by inherited wealth, including shares in South America railways – which were built using slave labour. And there’s no better example of entitlement than the ending of slavery – an act univerally praised by establishment historians, who rarely mention that it was the slavers who received huge sums in compensation for being deprived of their “property”, while the slaves and their ancestors who’d suffered the deadly Atlantic crossing, and years of degradation, inhuman punishment and forced labour didn’t get a penny for their decades of suffering. But then is it surprising – since Parliament at that time was packed with slave owning MPs and Lords whose self-interest overrode all finer feelings – with as far as I know not a single slave or ex-slave entitled to speak in the debate or vote.
I remember when well below legal pub drinking age, I was treated to trips to parliament and gleefully supped pints in House of Commons bars where UK laws didn’t apply, bought for me by the likes of Robert Maxwell and other MPs my father publicly shunned, but happily rubbed shoulders with between debates. And the atmosphere of racism and sexism in those bars and throughout the Westminster palace was overwhelming.
In my late teens I came to the conclusion that while Parliament was in charge, there would be little change in the class system. With the extraordinary exception of 1945, governments have done little more than tinker to satisfy manufactured media outrage, no laws have ever affected by one iota the balance of wealth and power – a few crumbles thrown to workers, women, ethnic minorities, the poor, homeless, disabled & mentally ill, the disenfranchised. But always with care that the best sounding laws are little enforced, the inspectors shackled by small print, huge sums thrown at catching benefit cheats, while the very few cases brought against £million tax avoiding fraudsters are so often dropped because they are “too complex”.
And although I’ve flirted with membership of parties like Labour & Greens which focus on Parliamentary democracy to right the wrongs, I’ve never been entirely convinced. I still believe that real change will only come from the likes of workers and Shop Stewards (helped by Trade Unions whose leaders haven’t been corrupted by the promise of honours), from organisations like People’s Assembly Against Poverty & Stop the War, WASPi & Stand Up to Racism, Disabled People Against Cuts & Extinction Rebellion building mass movements of pressure from the bottom up.
About 20 years ago when I felt in dire need of some counselling, I came across a new scheme – I think NHS run which would pay for “talking therapies”. I applied, and as a long-standing mental health survivor and locally well-known activist, I was quickly accepted, and sent a list of “approved” counsellors, all of them boasting of various professional qualifications. So I emailed 2 or 3 initially, giving a brief synopsis of my three main areas – dysfunctional family background, ECT & psychiatric abuse, and cult membership. Which was probably a mistake, as I then got a series of refusals, each time emailing a new prospective counsellor – until turned down for the 8th time, the general view being my problems were too complicated – and I gave up with the scheme in disgust.
Instead, I tried other avenues – and at one time was seeing 3 counsellors simultaneously – a trainee (who was hopeless, having forgotten everything I’d told him, including my name, at the 2nd & 3rd sessions) via my doctor, a NECA counsellor (having somewhat exaggerated my addiction to alcohol, I was so desperate to talk & talk), and a lovely woman from Someone Cares who’d experienced childhood abuse and knew exactly what I was talking about.
Also around the same period I was a guinea pig for two separate students doing counselling courses at Northumbria University (or was it Newcastle College?) and who needed to notch up the practice hours – and their warmth and empathy was worth ten times the forensic analysis of some cold professional with umpteen letters after their name
And for a year, I approached practitioners of at least twenty sorts of alternative therapies – including acupuncture, herbalism, shiatsu, aromatherapy, voice-movement therapy, yoga, kinesiology, massage, flower remedies – and, because I was unemployed and broke, supported the barter economy by exchanging sessions with my birth chart readings – meeting lots of lovely people, before settling on the 3 which seemed to do me most good.
I remembered this when someone recently remarked that I seemed much more outward going (in spirit if not in isolated person!) than when she first met me ten-ish years ago. And it’s true that I seem to have regained some of the enthusiasm and humour of my teens and 20s – but it’s also true, as everyone who’s experienced abuse, PTSD, grief knows, that the struggle to continue, to come to terms with, to rise above and learn from, is never-ending – and hopefully the realisation that you are very likely a much better person not despite but because of it all.
I’ve just joined the EXTINCTION REBELLION POETRY GROUP, shared my “Bees are buzzing” & “We can do a lot about global warming” lyrics & links to YouTube – and saw a challenge, to write a poem about locusts. So here’s my attempt:
The locusts consumed every plant in their path,
Leaving the land, soil, rainforest bare,
An insatiable greed for economic growth and profiteering
Leaving behind poverty, disease, starvation.
When capitalist governments decided to emulate nature
Did they have to choose such a destructive role model?
How I learnt that challenging authority pays
During my final primary school year, a special event that afternoon was announced by our lovely form teacher Mrs Gbedimar (I’m sure not the correct spelling – she was Miss Harvey before marrying an Indian man, which my parents assured me was a Good Thing, in contradiction to the current of disapproval which swept the school) – we were going to be honoured by a cricket lesson overseen by our illustrious headteacher.
For some unknown reason Mr Bradford, a man held in much awe & fear, chose me to be one of the umpires – but although my older brother had dragged me along to Lords on a couple of occasions to keep him company, the rule keepers had not been my main focus. After I’d survived the 1st over without mishap, and was feeling confident, I was told to go to square leg, and wandered off to where I thought someone with square legs might stand – only to receive a tirade of scornful derision for having committed the cardinal sin of confusing square with off, the headteacher’s feigned ire provoking the predictable titters among my fellow classmates, with me stuttering an apology while a vivid hot, red blush filling my downcast face.
A couple of weeks later, we had another “treat”, Mr Bradford teaching us paragraphs – and overcoming my trepidation, I did quite well, and had lost my fear when approaching the homework that evening of a self-chosen paragraph. Overcome it to the extent of being brave – or some might think foolhardy – enough to write a paragraph about “My Headteacher” in which I implied he was not a very nice man and a bit of a bully.
The next morning before we handed our paragraphs in, I showed my effort to a couple of friends, and instead of praise for my cheekiness, got the feedback of horror – I went into a cold sweat, and instead of sensibly giving an excuse of “the cat ate it”, scratched a few ink lines over the worst insults, which emphasised rather than hid them, and handed it over.
The next day, after roll-call, the headteacher marched in, called me to the front of the class, and waving my exercise book in front of my face, demanded angrily “What is this!?” And instead of giving the defence of “Well it’s true isn’t it – you are a bully!” – I muttered something about having spilt my ink bottle over the essay – so obviously a lie, it just compounded my sin – and I was sent to spend the rest of the day in utter shame in the year below.
Having kept my head down all morning, and begun to enjoy sitting at the back of a class of boys and girls who all seemed to regard me with awe, I was quite relaxed approaching the afternoon sessions of art – and daubed the paper with browns and greens in much more free a style than I’ve managed since, with a large tree taking shape. Towards the end of the school day, the teacher looked through our work and – obviously not having got the message that my disgrace was supposed to be hammered home all day – held my painting up saying that was exactly how a tree should be painted, raising my kudos even more!
So – I had been supposed to get the message that being cheeky and defiant towards my elders and betters brings the most shaming and dire consequences, but instead I’d learnt that it gave me one of my most enjoyable ever school days – which may explain why I’ve been getting into trouble with figures of authority ever since!
I think I first seriously considered the saying “Expect nothing, anticipate everything” while a member of the Emin cult. The guru was an Encyclopaedia Britannica salesman and prolific plagiarist, so it’s probably much more ancient, and although I spent years shedding most of the cult gobbledigook, it’s one of the few concepts I still find useful.
Given my age & health, I had few expectation of what I’d be doing in 2020 – how much worse for someone who’d been accepted for a job, only for the company to be now laying off staff or going bankrupt; or for people who’d arranged their marriage or civil partnership ceremony which had to be cancelled; key workers whose jobs were only made bearable by an annual spring vacation; or thousands of bereaved people around the world who’d never contemplated their loved ones not living forever.
I’m not naturally pessimistic, and so much affected by the shock which have peppered my life and completely thrown me – my father dying, learning my mother had been raped as a child and its massive implications for my family’s psychology, the revelations about ECT after-effects I’d suffered for decades, and recognising the Emin (which I’d committed 19 years of my life to) was a cult with the prime object of enriching its guru, being just a few!
Some years ago I did an exercise – which *TRIGGER WARNING* I absolutely do NOT recommend to anyone who is feeling at all depressed!!! It is to imagine all the worst possible things which could go wrong – you’re diagnosed with an incurable disease, involved in an accident and lose your sight, hearing, 3 limbs, all the people you care about decide they hate you, an asteroid hits the planet – the idea is to give your imagination free rein, and list pages of these dire but highly unlikely possibles – and then settle with the fact that they are possible, and there is a huge part of our lives over which we have absolutely no control. And then after doing the exercise have pre-planned doing something you really, really enjoy!!
Then comes the point of the exercise – whatever then does happen, however bad it seems, is just a pinprick compared to what you’ve already imagined – and hopefully you’ve consciously built some coping mechanisms for shock, and will be able to handle the griefs that come, without being completely incapacitated.
(Note for astrologer: For the past and next few days Venus has been hovering around 20 degrees Gemini, now joined by Mercury, both square Neptune in Pisces, which always tends to bring false expectations and disappointment)
At the start of self-isolation, I realised I needed to do some regular exercise to compensate for much missed open air walks – and after a lot of searching, found a 15 minute Completely Seated Workout For Seniors which suits my level of health and fitness, and 9 weeks later I’m still managing to do it every morning, much helped by an encouraging video. And every afternoon I do 10 minutes of Tai Chi, my own compilation of moves to a CD given by my teacher, which has the added advantage of requiring focus out of my 7th floor window on the sky or distant objects, in contrast to far too much computer screen & TV viewing.
I don’t have a huge amount of trouble with adopting new habits, which crucially I’ve persuaded myself are sensible – but whether that is just age, strength of character, or as astrologers might have worked out, helped by having a strong Saturn in my chart (which I have) is debatable.
And that might surprise those who knew me when I was younger, when as far as I can remember, my habits were either very addictive – such as compulsive smoking – or involved a rush of pleasure chemicals, such as food, sex, alcohol, cannabis (although not necessarily in that order). For instance, I had little problem living in a tip, whereas now, although my desk and table might be a little cluttered for some people’s liking – everything present is there for a reason, and dust is rarely allowed to settle.
I do think it is important for older people to remember their adolescents every now and again, in the hope that it generates some generational tolerance. Personally, I find it difficult to blame any teenager for almost any sort of anti-social behaviour (although drawing the line at murder, rape, and other forms of violence and sexual abuse), when I know they are subject to utterly confusing and overpowering hormonal peaks and troughs, and as far as I know there isn’t yet a single education system around the world which provides at primary school level an adequate pre-warning and preparation for completely unavoidable changes in their lives in the near future. But if you do know one, please correct me.
One problem of living alone is too large portion sizes – ie for anyone not part of a 2.37 humans + .5dogs & .3cats or whatever is the average nowadays – which was bad enough when I was living in London, but far worse in Newcastle. I remember when buying my first fish & chips being astonished at being given what I was used to, times three (with the assumption I’d just love mushy peas!).
I was born in 1948 when there was still rationing, and my brain is hard-wired with the idea of not wasting a morsel. And at primary school I endured the shame of the lunchtime slow eaters table – not being allowed to go out to play until I’d finished every scrap of food on my plate, which I regarded as an extreme form of torture!
More recently – as a not-quite-fully-paid-up member of the green community, I’ve been very conscious of waste, the criminal uncaringness of consumer capitalism wiping out species with its dumping of plastic pollution, and rotting leftovers which could have been composted instead forming land-fill mountains so agricultural chemical companies can continue their profiteering.
On Mondays, our childhood dinner would always be cold cuts of the Sunday roast with bubble-and-squeak, and with my comparatively small appetite, I do try to save what I couldn’t eat for heating up in my copper frying-pan which doesn’t need oil (halo sparkling!”). And I must admit the choice of single person meals from supermarkets is much better than it was.
But occasionally I’m flummoxed. Some times ago, a friend mentioned bean sprouts as being particularly good for vegetarians – what I rather disparagingly call a super-duper food – and I bought a jar on-line. It’s quite a big jar, and I read the instructions “Once opened store refrigerated and consume within one day”.
Now, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to eat all of it in two days. Which means either I ignore the label and chance it, which with my health problems including a hiatus hernia is not a good idea – or much of it ends up in the bin. Luckily the use by date is 31-12-2023 by which time who knows what will have happened. Maybe post coronavirus I’ll even be advised by experts not on the Tory government payroll that it’s safe for me to invite a friend in, to share a nourishing stir-fry.
My ex-wife used to collect sayings from a variety of cultures, and I’m sure had quite a collection about boredom and idleness, mostly along the lines of “the devil makes work for idle hands”.
In my teenage years I was often bored, especially by school, and progressed from being a sometimes cheeky child, to a mischief-making adolescent – one teacher’s nightmare, sitting at the back of his class whispering just below his ear range a series of jokes and disparaging remarks which had fellow pupils in fits (it’s not, by the way, something I’m advocating – he left a term or so later, and I’ll never know if I was part of his loss of teaching inspiration, and it was a contributory factor in me being expelled about the same time!).
And I don’t seem to have lost that trait – which can make people like me ticking time-bombs in these times of forced idleness.
I do try to inject some humour every now and again to lift myself and others, which is great when with a group of people – but can be really dodgy in a Facebook group, especially if like me your humour ranges from the slapstick and absurd, through heavy sarcasm and irony to very dark indeed. It’s almost impossible to judge the audience, and the potential for upsetting people already having a hard time is huge. But I think the alternative of complete censorship of every joke for fear of offence is worse – so what I try to do is have some sensitivity, perhaps with my phrasing, try to take away some of the sting – and be very ready to say sorry, profusely, if (or rather when!) I’ve overstepped the mark.
And every so often I tend to propose some ridiculous theory, playing devil’s advocate, or allow my passion for politics free rein and come on far too strong presenting an outlandish concept as gospel. I’m not as bad as I used to be, much more in control – but as the weeks of isolation progress, I fear my boredom may get under my guard – if so, please take this as an apology in advance!
Earlier this morning, I posted in the Facebook group of ex-Liverpool University students who’d been part of the occupation of the Senate House in 1970, which was a big thing for me – and I’ve already had some nice comments in response. I’d been very active in the run-up to the sit-in (co-opted that year to be Chair of the Socialist Society, and leaflet writer), not so much during, but again afterwards (eg. prosecutor of the University authorities in a mock trial which made the local newspaper, and twisted a naive quote from me!).
10 years ago there was a reunion in Liverpool, focusing around campaigning for the one student who was expelled (another 9 suspended, including Jon Snow) to get an honorary degree, a campaign which succeeded a few years later. But I didn’t go. At the time, I was still having counselling over my dysfunctional family background, ECT and cult membership, and still pretty raw, and I had a falling out over an email group which I suspect was me looking for excuses not to attend.
I simply couldn’t cope with the idea of meeting so many people I’d not only not recognise – which probably most people my age experience to some extent – but quite possibly even when reminded of names and times we’d spent together, still have no recollection whatsoever – all because of the ECT I had in 1971, making the previous few years the most forgotten. And while I can handle the chagrin with one or two people, large gatherings are just too much (at my 40th birthday late on I sat and wept, exhausted by the strain of bluffing & putting on a brave face).
And then a really nice woman who was also a member of the group messaged me, and I had to admit to her that I hadn’t the faintest idea who she was, only to be told we’d had a relationship while students lasting some weeks! I was incredibly embarrassed, tried to explain about ECT, but wasn’t sure how much she believed me. Anyway, that decided me, and I’m not even sure if I made my apologies, but I stayed at home.
Not long after that a series of photos of the event was posted – and I came across one which had 5 or 6 (I can’t find it now) lovely women chatting, helpfully listing their names, and I realised I’d had a relationship with every one of them! (That, by the way, is not a boast – one of my greatest youthful fears was that I was psychologically incapable of sustaining any sort of male-female partnership, about 2 months being my absolute limit – until my marriage of 8 years from 1976 eased my troubled mind).
So I’m so glad I didn’t go – I would have loved to have sat down for a few hours with any of the people there and chewed the fat, especially women I’d got close to – but I know I simply couldn’t have handled the emotional and mental turmoil of meeting them all at once.
Why am I writing this – I guess for anyone who is offered ECT for whatever mental health issues psychiatrists this week have decided it magically cures – please be aware of what they are not telling you – 50 years later you could still be learning to cope with a series of chronic after-effects that drastically changed your memory, powers of concentration and personality for the worse.
Although perfectly entitled by the dictionary definition to call myself a feminist, I respect those women who think the term should be reserved for their gender, for fear it be taken over by those with less fervour and personal commitment – and am usually content to call myself a supporter of feminism.
I can remember conversations with my mother, who was thinking of returning to work, trying to persuade her to aim higher, giving credit to her experience managing a household of six (while also politically active) being transferable to the job market. And I was undoubtedly more feminist than almost all my youthful girlfriends, perhaps because my temperament really disliked telling anyone what to do – being happier told by prospective dates I’m “not macho enough”, than accused of dominance or any male chauvinist piggery!
Almost all – with one notable exception, a fervent member of Women’s Liberation who during our fairly brief relationship made me question everything I did and thought in relation to women – including all aspects of chivalry such as opening doors, standing up on a bus, which my upbringing had made subconscious. It was tough – not least when she dumped me for a more macho man, before telling us both she was coming out as a lesbian – but I’m glad of the experience!
I’ve been fortunate in being able to support a number of women’s aid groups in the North East from my mother’s legacy, but I can’t pretend to have shed all aspects of male superiority propaganda. Spending seven formative years in an all boy’s secondary school was not without its affects – my pleadings to go to the local mixed school falling on deaf ears of parents who thought potential academic achievement was more important than gender propaganda. And I have to keep a constant watch on it continuing to pollute my mind.
The current cabinet has a large majority who went to all boy schools. And judging by their behaviour, a majority of those are convinced a higher status by class and gender is their birthright. A few may pay lip-service to equality, before following their public school cronies through the lobby. Don’t expect any party without a majority of women from top to bottom, assisted by proudly feminist supporting men, to make any fundamental changes to umpteen laws which still discriminate against women.
When I’m feeling particularly lock-down adventurous, I make a foray to a BBC or right-wing commentator Twitter page, and leave a few comments and links, before retreating to await the explosions. And besides some agreements, antagonistic comments aren’t slow in coming, but invariably disappointing – almost never reasoned disagreement worth debating, just a variety of insults ripe for blocking, ranging from the ever-so-clever ‘have you taken your meds yet?” to the blunt “Your f*^*ing stupid”, with no clue as to why they might think that.
Being called stupoid is water off a duck’s back, as I’m fortunate in rarely doubted my intellectual ability, exams I could be bothered to pass came easy, and 3 or 4 times older adults after some brief conversation at interview or social occasion have said to me “You’re obviously very intelligent.” Which after I’ve got over the inevitable preening and smug desire to boast, often left me with the question – if I’m so intelligent, how come I so often do totally idiotic things, pretty much every week? Such as tripping over my feet because my head’s in the clouds, yet again ordering a flat-pack having refused to learn that I’ll have to swallow my my pride and ring my practical friend for help (something I sorely miss in isolation), hide letters I can’t deal with in the bottom of my in-trays in the hope they’ll miraculously resolve & disappear!
What I eventually worked out was there are different types of intelligence, and the grid I like best is the four – inspirational, practical, intellectual, feeling – linking to the classification fire, earth, air, water which scientists so love to hate.
Putting it loosely, inspirational would be very much in the here and now, in touch with the zeitgeist, and with a spiritual awareness
Practical is obviously down to earth, good at DIY and budgeting, lives in the real world of the possible
Intellectual likes its mind to roam freely, and has an ease with logic and philosophical discussion
Feeling is blessed with empathy for all living things, knowing well the cycles of joy and pain.
I’ve met scores of people over the years who’ve been repeatedly told by a parent or teacher “You’re stupid” until they believed it completely. And I’ve done my best, not always with success, to convince them they simply have a different form of intelligence – which is less valued in the UK, where intellectual snobbery is rife, evidence such a paltry sum compared to say Germany paid for apprenticeship courses as against classics.
In 1972/3 I worked in a hospital for people with learning disabilities (they were stigmatised with far worse names then), whose self-esteem had been trampled on. Yet this was not long after I’d had ECT and an absolute mess – and what amazed me was, so many of the patients I was supposed to help look after, had an incredibly acute feeling intelligence, and the experience for me of being with them was a daily healing and confirmation from them of the best of myself.
Similarly, so many people who’ve suffered trauma have their lives devalued, attempts to open up on social media bringing judgement and scorn. Such a pity that so much intelligence of value has been lost over the centuries. A society which refuses to learn from the formative experiences of its citizens surely stands in contradiction to the idea of humans being the most
My heart goes out to people who suffer the slightest symptoms of obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD) in these difficult times. Their hands are likely to be incredibly raw from incessant washing, and bills for gloves and other protective equipment soaring. Although conversely they might be the people who are most safe.
As someone who’s classified at severe risk, I’ve tried to keep abreast of COVID-19 advice, for instance reading a number of article on how long the virus can survive of different surfaces like paper & plastic – but unfortunately they didn’t agree, so I’ve made up my own procedures, to a large extent based on unscientific hope.
So, when the mail arrives, I take it to the surface next to my kitchen sink, open everything and separate what I want from rubbish & recycling, the latter dumped in a corner for processing in 2 or 3 days, any urgent letters read and filed in my bottom in-tray. Then I wash my hands & the kitchen surface.
On Wednesdays when my carer does my washing in the launderette at the top of the flats, I leave all the clothes and bedding, nice and clean and dry, in their bags until Saturday morning for sorting.
Similarly, deliveries of food get unpacked and mostly put at the back of the fridge, freezer or cupboards – although often milk I’ll need that day and try to remember to only handle with a tissue which is then discarded.
Unfortunately “try to remember” is a key phrase – as I’m not only 72 but also had ECT many years back, my short-term memory is not particularly reliable, and although, because of knowing that, I have had days when I’ve washed my hands after touching pretty well anything, I’ve also had days when I’ve realised far too late that I could have spread the virus all over my flat!
Not only that, I’ve read that droplets of COVID-19 can stay in the air far longer than first thought – so potentially a delivery person or carer could have coughed or sneezed in the corridor outside my flat, and whenever I’ve opened the door, the dreaded lurgy wafted in …
So I’ve basically decided that unless I consciously tried to develop OCD – which is just not me – I’ll just settle with doing my best, knowing it’s not 100% safe, which might be why I have (or have not?!) already had coronavirus, or may get it. And trust to fate, karma, or the gods – none of which, despite being an astrologer, I particularly believe in, more likely to use such trite or philosophical concepts as “life is full of contradictions” and the song “what’s the use of worrying” to laugh at myself and ease my troubled mind!
In my 72 years, I’ve known many lovely people who’ve killed themselves – and always the self-searching questions, did I do something wrong, could I have done more, was it partly my fault? And probably many family friends of people who’ve died of coronavirus will be beset by doubts of, was I careful enough, did I infect them, was it partly my fault?
In both cases they are impossible questions, there will never be any proof, no-one can ever know – so beating oneself up becomes a useless exercise for all but consenting masochists. But the danger is that the anger and depression stages of grief merge, the anger turns inwards compounding the depression, and a grieving person becomes inconsolably wracked by guilt.
What I found helped when grieving for my suicide friends, was having a target to blame – and for those I knew best it wasn’t hard to find fault and blame:
– The family member or partner, priest or psychiatrist who abused them
– The education system which allowed unchecked bullying to erode their self-worth
– The government which used divide and rule to stigmatise and alienate them
And with coronavirus, I would plead with the bereaved, for your own health and mental well-being, aim your anger outwards to where the blame belongs:
– It was the Tory government which spent 10 years under-funding, dismantling, privatising the NHs so that it could hardly cope with usual levels of ill health let alone a pandemic
– It was the Tory government which ignored and suppressed warnings from the Cygnus Exercise, that there was not enough PPE, that the NHS could not cope with a pandemic
– It was the Tory government which issued advice leading to untested people being moved to care homes which became death traps, in order to avoid too many newspaper headlines of “Hospital Overwhelmed”
– It was the Tory government which chose to advocate a herd immunity policy justifying lack of action (a policy many think still holds today)
– It was the Tory government which chose to follow its own hand-picked political appointees on the SAGE committee, rather than WHO guidance of world leading experts
– It was the Tory government which chose to ignore the example of countries around the world which adopted policies seen to be working in taking control of virus spread
– It was the Tory government which chose to stop testing and tracing, just as the WHO was advising “Test, Test, Test” and “Test, trace, isolate”
– It was the Tory government which always did too little too late, such as allow large gatherings in Liverpool & Cheltenham, until the virus spread was out of control
– It was the Tory government which chose to allow people from coronavirus hotspots all over the world to fly into the UK with no attempt at testing them, let alone quarantine
– It was the Tory government which chose not to give testing and other health contracts to the NHS or small businesses with expertise, but to Tory-donating companies which had been convicted of corruption, incompetence and fraud multiple times, ensuring that there was the vast sums of money were wasted on the wrong equipment, and very little worked
– It was the Tory government which chose to relax restrictions in chaotic fashion, forcing desperately indebted & hungry people to risk infection on crowded public transport, in order to be able to use those transgressors as a scapegoat
– It was the Tory government which kept massaging the statistics, ensuring that all subsequent policy decisions were made on a wish and a prayer rather than hard evidence
Don’t blame yourself, the spread of coronavirus in the UK is not your fault – look at Germany, Korea, and especially New Zealand for what could have been done – blame our greedy, hypocritical, callous, government, and never vote Tory again
Donald Trump gets more support for re-election bid!
Tory COVID-19 strategy (and then get their media chums to blame the Public, NHS, Immigrants, Gypsies …)
Right-wing commentators are all over social media plugging the lie that there is absolutely no evidence that children can spread coronavirus – despite massive evidence that there are human beings (which the last time I checked children are also) can carry the virus but display no symptoms, and a whole lot of articles like this:
New Studies Add to Evidence that Children May Transmit the Coronavirus https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/05/health/coronavirus-children-transmission-school.html?smid=tw-share
I’m not a fan of any US president, but this did make me chuckle!
When I saw the film Pollyanna about 25 years ago, I must admit I wept copiously, but my mind dismissed it as superficial and trite, with cloying religious sentimentality. At that time I was going through a rough patch, of trying to come to terms with three aspects of my past which a number of counsellors said were altogether too complex for them to contemplate taking me on! And while struggling for understanding, I did have a tendency to self-pity, and enjoyed wallowing in my woe.
But since then, I’ve occasionally been reminded of the film, and even found myself using its main premise – that however dire a situation, there is always something about it to be glad of. And after a number of false starts and giving up, managed to put together examples from those three traumatic and formative experiences …
I’m glad I was born into a family affected by sexual abuse and bullied throughout my early childhood, because having experienced such childhood trauma has given me a store of empathy and understanding for people who have or are suffering, often enabling me to be with, and sometimes find words to help.
I’m glad I was given ECT making my short-term memory totally unreliable, because it allows me to approach each situation afresh, with childlike wonder, often able to see solutions to problems I’d never otherwise have thought of.
I’m glad I was a member of a cult for 19 years, because it allows me to spot cultish behaviour a mile off, such as currently the band of Boris Johnson trolls, to write with authority about their mindless servility, and not waste too much time trying to convince totally closed minds.
Well, anyone who knows me well will have guessed what comes next!
I challenge you to share at least one real, credible, even inspiring statement about the current situation, with a beginning such as
“I’m glad I’ve spent weeks in lockdown/isolation because …”
Ps. Please don’t beat yourself up if you’re totally stumped – just leave it, let your subconscious contemplate, and maybe something will come – and if it doesn’t, the timing’s not right, do something else which makes you feel good!
15th March I started self-isolating
8th April I got my NHS letter saying I was extremely vulnerable and should self-isolate
8th May I got my first text saying I should self-isolate, giving a whole list of rules if I live with someone else, and now get automated texts every day, none of which add anything to what I already know and just create anxiety, but I’m even more anxious to send STOP in case the next one has crucial information (perhaps even doing the impossible and clarifying Boris Johnson’s auto-cued, Hollywood style, Dominic Cumming’s written speech which after 3 days of coaching by experts and umpteen mirror practises oozed Churchillian sincerity, with fine rhetorical words as clear as mud)
I posted on a disability site my experience of isolation, shielding, test confusion, and got a selection of comments, including these four:
“I got a letter telling me I’m not in shielding list even though I’ve got COPD asthma and a diabetic on steroids and fostair 200/6 inhaler and salbutamol – confusing”
“I had a letter from my consultant at the beginning of April telling me I was vulnerable to covid and to isolate for 12 weeks. I then had a letter on Monday from my GP telling me I wasn’t severely vulnerable and I could go outside for my daily exercise etc. I spoke to my GP who basically said the letter he’s sent was an admin error and I was vulnerable. Good job I checked”.
“My perfectly healthy wife got a call from the shielding helpline saying she had been added to the list. Neither of us have had a letter or text. I called our GPs and they said it didn’t come from them, so we have no idea why she was on the list.”
“I had a letter from my GP a few weeks ago but got the government text only yesterday.” (just like my own experience – it was only after I’d been told by NHS111 I might have coronavirus, I started getting official texts to shield because I’m vulnerable!)
If these are at all typical (and they are very like scores of accounts I’ve seen over the last few weeks), the Government has still not got a grip. I write “Government”, because if anyone feels inclined to blame doctors, hospitals, the NHS instead – may I remind you that the Tories have spent the last 10 years chronically underfunding, dismantling and privatising our National Health service, ensuring it could not possibly cope with a pandemic, and instead of giving a massive funding boost for the NHS to take control, choosing to outsource a whole lot of anti-pandemic measures to Tory Party donating companies which have been convicted of umpteen failures and frauds.
Over the last couple of days, No 10 leaked to the media that Boris Johnson would ease lockdown measures on Monday (which newspapers splashed, causing lots of people to jump the gun over the bank holiday), then briefing that the lockdown would continue at least until the end of May.
If they were trying to create maximum confusion, they could hardly do a better job. And because of that yet more people will die, and the Tory Government will have yet more blood on their hands.
So here’s some good news …
The Sun is shining
Tories finally forced to make airline arrivals self-isolate for 2 weeks
Major city mayors worldwide are planning for a green recovery
My son got accepted as a civil servant near the beginning of lockdown, now doing online induction at home on full pay (lucky sod!)
All over the UK, thousands of volunteers are helping the NHS, Mutual Aid groups, foodbanks every day
Many city dwellers are becoming aware of birdsong for the first time ever
A big boom in cycling is forecast post-lockdown
Yesterday New Zealand had only 1 new confirmed care of COVID-19 and no deaths
I’ve got a yummy veggie sausage and stir fry rice & veg lined up for lunch
First brown bear in 150 years seen in National Park in Spain
After months ignoring them Tories finally ask Public Health Directors to take charge of care home COVID-19 testing
Almost two thirds of people think looking after and improving local parks and green space should be more of a priority after lockdown
Air pollution has fallen by unprecedented levels saving thousands of lives
With meat processing facilities shut down in the USA, there’s been a boom in vegetarian food
In lockdown spring is unfolding before our eyes
Just watered my 11 house plants which have been supplying me with oxygen at minimal cost for up to 30 years
Ps. After the big VE day splurge, and newspapers acting incredibly irresponsibly raising false hopes of an early lockdown end, beware of a feeling reaction, of an all pervading disappointment. Astrologically, Venus in Gemini is almost static, square Neptune in Pisces, and this afternoon and evening both make a T-square with the Moon in Sagittarius – which all speaks of feeling all over the place, can’t cope & depressed (especially women!). So get on the phone/Skype with friends and have a good moan, try spending time with your favourites and whatever makes you feel good.
The fascist in No. 10 who probably celebrated VE day
So, I got my text at 5.38.23 this morning which began:
“Your COVID-19 test has come back NEGATIVE. You don’t have the virus at this time…”
But before anyone starts congratulating me for having dodged the dreaded lurgy, may I pose a few alternatives …
1 I imagined the whole thing, or made it up seeking attention – after all, I’ve been a mental health survivor for 59 years, and once met a doctor who told me he’s been specifically told on courses to totally ignore symptoms reported by “mad” people like me because we’re prone to making them up
2 I had hayfever – despite having been taking antihistamine for weeks, and not sneezing any more than usual, or had watery eyes (my usual symptoms)
3 I had flu – despite having this season’s flu vaccine the first day it was available, not having had flu since I started getting them (except the year they got the wrong strain), and not having read anything about this year’s jab being particularly ineffective (If you have read anything, please let me know)
4 I’ve had COVID-19, but my sample for testing arrived too late – because when trying to order a home testing kit from the Government website I got so many responses of “Not Available”, I couldn’t take the test until it was at least 12 hours beyond when they say it needed to be done, i.e. within 5 days of first getting symptoms
5 I’ve had COVID-19, but botched the swab test – which I’ve read up to 50% of people without medical training do, and believe me it ain’t easy, especially trying to see your tonsils in the mirror, having just dropped your mobile phone which has my only torch, and fumbling about between 9pm and 7am when it has to be done and I’m not at my best even when not feeling ill!
6 I’ve had COVID-19, but the testing procedure of my sample was run by Sodexo, G4S or Serco who couldn’t organise the proverbial piss-up, and they botched it.
7 I didn’t have COVID-19, did the test OK, being late didn’t matter, the testing procedure was correct, didn’t have 2 or 3 above but something else entirely different as yet unknown
8 I’ve had COVID-19, but by the time I did the test it had mutated (being a smart virus!) to something which no longer shows up in tests
… and I’d better stop there before my imagination goes into overdrive!!!
Personally I prefer 4 or 5 above – that I’ve had it, only a mild version, but my bloodstream is now brimming with anti-coronavirus antibodies, and have got a false negative test result – either way, I’m going to have to assume a true negative, and carry on shielding until at least 30th June, but more likely for safety until either there’s an antibody test or vaccine widely available, perhaps a year or 18 months …
Meanwhile my two possible May elective and June necessary operations are coming closer – but I’m still able to have a good belly laugh, particularly at my own foibles!
Here’s another way of whiling away some lockdown time – are there any celebrities born within a week of you? (My apologies to younger Friends who may have a lesser choice).
Here are some of mine:
Elaine Page 5th March 1948 Excellent singer, actress
Eddy Grant 5th March 1948 Singer, songwriter including Baby Come Back & Walking On Sunshine (or so Wikipaedia informs me)
Giles Brandeth 8th March 1948 I do like his humour, not his politics!
Emma Bonino 9th March 1948 Italian politician – great on human rights, but economic liberal (or so it says)
Me 10th March 1948
James Taylor 12th March 1948 Another fine singer, songwriter
You can hopefully find examples by putting into your search engine something like “Celebrities born in 1975” or “April 1983” and scrolling through – although unfortunately most of the sites seem to be American, with lots of film stars, but not many scientists, ecologists, left wing politicians!
I once met a woman who was born on the same day as me – although very different times, and we had no trouble finding a host of characteristics in common. Which would not come as a surprise to anyone interested in astrology.
But please, a word of warning. I’ve always really disliked the fatalistic view of astrology – and if you come across any unsavoury characters, and are inclined to think “Oh my God, I’m doomed” – may I suggest a refresher course in the whole nature .v. nurture debate!?! For instance, someone born on the same day, but different year, as me was Osama Bin Laden born 10th March 1957 – and although I am like him in having pretty strong beliefs, I’ve never felt inclined to go around killing everyone who happens to disagree with me – on the contrary, I dearly love reasoned discussion and debate!!
Yesterday Natalie Windsor suggested some breathing exercises and singing might help me – so for today’s update I wrote a little ditty, to the tune of that 1964 classic
“You’ve lost that loving feeling”
(my sincere apologies to the Righteous Brothers!)
I thought I’d been so careful for sure when isolating,
But I may have just let the virus start incubating,
And I’m trying so hard not to show it,
But I’m really not yet through it,
I’ve got that screwy feeling,
I’ve got that bluey feeling,
I’ve got that fluey feeling,
And it’s still going strong, woe, woe woe!
It was either post this – or the saga of registering the home test and taking the swab, which is boxed up awaiting collection (but the memory of that catalogue of errors is still too raw!) – or a diatribe against the purchase of Newcastle United by the Saudi regime (which I’m going to write today, but not post in my over-sensitive state, not yet well enough to counter with detachment or humour any trolls attacks).
Anyway, it seems whatever virus I’ve got hasn’t yet affected my ability to rant, write doggerel or laugh at my own silly jokes!!
Well – I’ve finally managed to book a home testing coronavirus kit – but what a kerfuffle! It was my 9th try before the Government website said Home Testing kits were available, and I definitely fitted second criteria of over 65 and with coronavirus symptoms. But when I started answering the form’s questions, they were all about Key Workers, including needing my National Insurance number – but I persevered, got an email to verify that I am me – only to be told they could not verify my identity and I needed to go through a private company called something like Trans Union – but all their questions were for Key Workers – so I was then told if I had problems (they were probably hoping by now that most ill over-65s would have given up in disgust or despair!) – ring an 0300 number, which I did and then had to answer a series of questions and again give the code sent to me – and was promised a kit would be sent to me “hopefully within 24 or 48 hours” – which since their website said I needed to have the test within 5 days of first getting symptoms may well be too late!!! But I didn’t say that – and so may get a false negative, but have to assume it is a negative and keep isolating and shielding until there’s an antibody test or vaccine readily available …. If that all makes any sense!?!?
Posted on Facebook:
Many, many thanks for all the lovely, kind messages which are very much appreciated. Not much change overnight, except I sweated a lot, which may or may not be a good sign.
But I realised that yesterday I forgot to ask the doctor about testing, and he didn’t mention it – so I’ve posted to nhs.uk on Twitter, and a slightly longer message on Facebook:
“I filled out the NHS111 form yesterday, doctor rang back in record time – perhaps as I’m in severe risk group – and I may well have coronavirus – but no mention was made of testing & I forgot to ask. Is home testing kit sent automatically, or should I contact NHS111 again?”
Trouble is on Twitter they monitor the site on weekdays 9am – 5:30pm, and the Facebook page hopes to respond “within 7 days” – so I may contact NHS111 again (if I can muster the will and energy).
If someone like me has been told by a doctor on NHS111 that they may well have coronavirus, but is still not being automatically tested, then this lying and criminally negligent – if not “herd immunity” genocidal – Tory government has no chance of getting any control over the spread of the pandemic for weeks to come.
I didn’t feel so good Thursday, Friday was better, but today – achy, hot chest, sore throat – so I filled out the NHS111 form, doctor called in 5 mins (I guess as I’m in the severe risk group) – the upshot is I may well have coronavirus, he said I’m already doing all the right things, to double my steroid dosage, and sit it out hoping that in the next 7 or so days there’s no shortness of breath or lack of oxygen drowsy confusion, in which case get back to them ASAP and I’ll be hospital bound.
Anyway, I’m at the low end of 70s, gave up smoking many years ago, hardly drink, I’m a vegetarian with a good diet, and do regular exercise – so who knows what’ll happen, but I think my chances are pretty good. And I’ve our Housing Officer who calls each weekday, and a cord to pull in case of emergency, a couple of friends who live fairly close, plus I’m a member of the Mutual Aid group – so no lack of help available.
Here’s one explanation I’ve seen on Twitter from AnitaRose
@a_nitak – which makes particular sense to me as I used to be a member of a cult – that they are members of the Boris Johnson cult, and if you come across them, do not expect any reasoning to work, they are beyond it – all one can do is hope that life experience eventually helps them shed the pernicious nonsense!
I don’t feel much like blogging – so instead here’s a compilation of some of my recent tweets:
“When will the media, businesses, voters realise that because of Tory incompetence stopping testing, tracing & isolating in mid-March, the UK Government hasn’t the faintest idea of the extent of COVID-19 – so we’ll be one of the last countries able to lift lock-down restrictions safely?”
“BBC & newspaper guidelines:
When there’s bad news of health workers dying, lack of care home PPE – “the government were following scientific advice”
When despite government policy & incompetence there’s good news of … eh … (make it up. Ed)
“It was Boris Johnson what did it”!”
“If you’ve compared the coronavirus-related death rate of the UK with Germany, Korea, New Zealand, and aren’t utterly outraged and determined to never stop asking why, you’re either a Tory, a BBC reporter, psychopathic, or possibly all three.”
“If Boris Johnson – after saying the government will be making decisions with “maximum transparency” – won’t tell us who the members of SAGE are, it’s another bare-faced lie – just waiting to be challenged by a TV or newspaper reporter (who isn’t a spineless invertebrate)”
“Oh please, stop playing the divide-and-rule generation game, so loved by the Tories – who hope their subliminal message of “who cares if a few thousand old people die – it’ll save £millions in pensions & social care” to justify the gross neglect of their herd immunity policy”
“Just heard @bbclaurak on @BBCNews suggesting the Tory government can’t make clear policy decisions since they don’t know what’s going on, because it’s all new, blah di blah.
But, they don’t know what’s going on because of a CONSCIOUS DECISION to ignore WHO advice & stop testing!”
“I hope @FT who seem to have best idea of coronavirus death rate will add victims of domestic violence murder, as initial figures show they’re at double usual rate since lock-down – with the measly Tory’s £16.5m+2m hardly covering funding shortfall let alone vital refuge expansion
“Dear health & care worker,
We’re not going to give you a pay rise,
or enough PPE
but if you die,
we’ll give your family 60 thousand quid
(funeral costs not included)
Ps. If your lack of PPE means someone in your family dies instead, you won’t get a penny”
And I’m usually such a mild-mannered person!
Now back to watching favourite episodes of Mrs Marples or Brokenwood Mysteries to calm me down!!!
This week I was reminded of the idea that troubles come threes, when firstly
- Facebook said they were blocking me for 30 days for something I posted in 2018, but when I appealed, didn’t
- My carer didn’t turn up on her usual Wednesday, and when I phoned, the woman doing admin said someone had forgotten to book her, so she came on Thursday instead
- Medicine one of my doctors said she’d ordered to be delivered on Tuesday hadn’t arrived, and I phoned the chemist and surgery, to discover the order was sent to a different chemist which doesn’t know all my prescriptions are delivered!
Of course, something else may go wrong which I’ll conveniently forget or assign to the next 3 – but I have logged these 3s a number of times. Which, although the scientific/mathematical part of my brain finds the idea completely ridiculous, I don’t have a problem with.
In my youth I was proud of being a sceptic, scathing about myths & religious mumbo-jumbo, but a series of traumatic experiences allowed the other side of my brain to have predominance – so spending 19 years in an esoteric organisation I subconsciously knew was a cult, but needed to shelter from a world I couldn’t otherwise cope in.
I then shed much of my mysticism, and returned to my left-wing roots – but to the astonishment of political & more scientific friends, kept up with astrology (as I have for 45 years, teaching it for more than 15). And I’m not an astrologer who tries to prove it’s a science – quite content with it being unprovable, my use of natural analogy in interpretations designed to appeal to both sides of the brain.
It used to worry me that the Mind, Body, Spirit exhibitions I used to frequent, and even help with stalls at, left out Feelings – putting that down to the esoteric world suffering from male domination as much as any other. And I’m not sure I’d want to live in a world where concepts like Love and Kindness were wholly interpreted as being the result of laws of physics and chemistry.
Where did you learn your love of nature?
I was born next door to a farm, but we moved when I was 2 so don’t remember that, and we moved to a fourth storey flat in London, with no pets or house plants. However, on Sundays we traipsed across a large park – part manicured, mostly heathland, to a pub at the top of the hill. And there were outings of Socialist Sunday School, and two summer weeks at Forest School Camps – which, after surviving the initial year of rain and a tent full of creepy-crawlies, I really enjoyed – learning basic survival skills, and just loving being in the open air, appreciating the plants and trees, and being woken by the dawn chorus.
The left has blamed older people for losing the referendum and two elections, at its most extreme deifying the youth vote, and looking forward to a time when the death of all my generation inevitably heralded the socialist nirvana.
More recently the Tory government – with full awareness that coronavirus brings more fatalities among old people – showed its callous disregard for the very voters who kept it in power, by ignoring care homes in even cursory PPE planning or statistical analysis, no doubt assessing that being no longer productive units nor great consumers, we have little value to a capitalist economy.
And while moguls of cosmetic, fashion, plastic surgery industries fuel the media obsession with looking younger, there have been a constant stream of articles, detailing the lack of importance given to grandparents in child care and development, about the invisibility of older people, and most recently pressure on patients beyond a certain age to not expect full treatment, or sign Do Not Resuscitate forms.
So I thought I’d share an article I wrote back in 2000, an attempt to give more respect to both the process of ageing, and being old..
The Older The Better
Ok I might have lost some vigour, the joy of running as fast as I can, the urge to seek new challenges, to test my strength; but also gone is the driving need to prove myself, the anger and frustration of pitting myself against impossible odds, the people unnecessarily upset, the impulsive acts which cost me months of work to put right – I know myself better.
I may not be as flexible as before, less able to bounce back after a fall, taking longer physically to heal; but my patience has grown, and I’m more able to make a stand against surface solutions, my decided ‘no’ carries weight, and I’m much more appreciative of thoroughness and lasting quality not least in the world of nature – I’m more real.
My tongue has perhaps lost a certain speed and ready wit in response, lacking clever knowledge of the current famous and modern technology; but it’s also less likely to talk total nonsense, I’m more accurate in my assessments of people, I can communicate deeply with whoever wants to, and have discovered enough interests so I never need to be bored.
Maybe I can’t so often remember where I’ve put certain things or his name or whether I’ve told her that story before; but I’ve learned to live with my moods. I’m less brittle with unfortunate remarks, I’ve found out who my real friends are, and I’ve built up a stock of favourites – books & films, tunes & reminiscences – sure to light the deepest depression.
It’s possible I’m less able to command attention with my vibrant presence or draw admiring glances; but also I don’t need it so much. I’ve made a fool of myself in public so many times not to mind, my confidence is no longer an act, it’s tested by experience. And I can guarantee a level of conduct within sure limits, my own standards which others can rely on.
Certainly I’ve lost the purity of my innocence and the goal of superlative virtue; but I’m kinder with myself, with less expectation of being impossibly perfect. I’m less self-punishing when intentions don’t happen, and my criticisms of other’s behaviour is tempered by understanding. I’m more able to value special moments within the general, and take things day by day.
Perhaps my body and face are even less like the current ideal of physical beauty, and it takes me just a bit longer to make myself presentable; but then I’ve learned to like the lines on my and other faces, that speak of character, of inner quality earned and also my charm is now a natural expression of me. I live a better balance between objective truth and my subjective needs.
Undeniably my power has diminished, to reach the heights of ecstasy, to reproduce; but so also has my striving to manipulate. I’m less likely to go to pieces in yet another crisis, and more in touch with what is important. I’ve greater knowledge of and control over my worst aspects, and can better manage my ability to influence with foresight of its wider repercussions.
My aims might not be quite so high, to see the world, know everything, write the best-seller, be a billionaire; but neither do I waste time chasing stupid dreams. My success rate with obtainable targets is higher, my range of knowledge is broader, my theories have more substance. And I’m rarely lost for words when meeting an expert in any subject.
I like being older – I’ve a better settled understanding of my family, my life, myself, and I get great satisfaction from reaping the harvest of long-term plans and efforts. I’ve regained a child-like ability to listen with total absorption and every so often I hear what I’m saying and realise that my main objective of being a wise human might just be beginning to happen despite little me.
I’m content with my age, the consciousness it’s brought, and I now have little problem resisting pressures to conform, to be what others want. I’m settled with my uniqueness and eccentricities. I’m much less subject to emotionally disabling shock, grief is a well-known phenomenon and I now know that those worst experiences of my life held for me the greatest learning potential.
My life has been so rich with insight and understanding, not least that sometimes things improve because I’m not there. I don’t think any religion has got it quite right, and I’m neither sure nor anguished whether death is an ending or continuum. I’m doing what I can to resolve unfinished business, so that as my physical body decays, I can weigh up my past and leave life settled with my minute part in the evolution of this wondrous planet.
More ideas for staying sane and positive as lockdown continues
Young people will be desperate for love when the coronavirus restrictions relax, which brings its dangers – so here’s a great poster (which I think originates in the Freedom Programme?) – an excellent starting point for discussions about loving and abusive relationships
During the hacking scandal and for months after, I shared many a posting sniping at Piers Morgan, who somehow managed to escape prosecution for ordering his Daily Mirror reporters to illegally access as many celebrity email accounts as they could – and since then I’ve not been at all surprised at his hobnobbing with some of the most right-wing leaders, delighting in being photographed with his best mate, racist sex abuser Donald Trump.
But this last couple of weeks, I’ve been retweeting interview after interview, as Piers Morgan lays into Ministers, exposing their pathetic lies, asking all the questions the New Labour non-opposition won’t, because of some ridiculous policy decision to chase after Daily Mail readers with its don’t rock the boat myth of ‘national unity’
There’s an ancient saying “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Some people run and hide in a crisis, and others rise to the surface – such as the vital job of holding those in authority to account. Piers Morgan is still an arrogant *!<&@*+*, and no doubt after this is all over, will revert to his celebrity toadying – but in the meantime, credit where credit is due.
Modern science tends to deride its forebears, dismissing them as alchemists, and ridiculing such concepts as the four elements. But for years I’ve found Fire, Earth, Air and Water – corresponding to the human spirit, body, mind & feelings – to be a useful grid for both study, and guidance on maintaining balance in difficult times. So here are some examples:
Fire – each day look for inspiration – the biography of a life you think extra special, a piece of music which lights you up, an animal which survives against all the odds – or conversely, it could be reading of Tory government incompetence or billionaire’s profiteering from this crisis, and using the friction as a spur to action – to write, campaign, donate (only do remember, too much fire burning out of control inevitably leads to burn out, avoid whatever makes you depressed!)
Earth – do something practical – I’ve a list of household tasks, and morning exercise plus my afternoon Tai Chi routine – but I’ve also used this time alone to do a couple of extra spring cleaning jobs, get out my sewing kit and stitched on an elbow pad, and I’ve a container for collecting plastic cut up for donation to a local school.
Air – keep your mind ticking over – years ago I read that daily puzzle games like hanjie & sudoku, and crosswords, are a great way of postponing dementia – and there are umpteen opportunities for playing scrabble & chess via the internet, learning something new via the Open University or cheaper options – or perhaps the discipline of an (almost!) daily blog, the challenge of finding words to communicate …
Water – what makes you feel good – a favourite book or film, a meal or just some chocolate (!) – or a search for “coronavirus humour/jokes’ – joining the Thursday clap for the NHS & carers, and expressing thanks for the friend or neighbour, postie or delivery driver helping keep you going. But above all, be kind to yourself – even if you’re having a particularly bad time and can’t manage any of the above, give yourself credit for every achievement, like: Got up, tick; had a shower, tick; got dressed, tick; had breakfast, tick – and with four ticks, you’ve already had a successful day!
Today I’ve been stressed out – rang the doctor after an ache in my kidney area developed (which I thought at first might be my cracked rib) – the fourth doctor at the practice (100% women!), which I don’t mind as they’ve all been very helpful – and she decided to ring the hospital urology department where I go for my now 7 monthly ops – and they said as I’ve had a previous infection, some bacteria might be left over – so to try one final antibiotic to try to clear them all out – and she then went away to find a chemist which would deliver, I’m hoping this evening but maybe tomorrow – there’s a risk of diarrhoea side-effect, so I’m just hoping my usual constipation cancels it out! My apologies to anyone reading this – if they think that’s too much information!
Meanwhile doing lots of Facebook & Twitter postings about Tory Matt Hancock incompetence running out of PPE this weekend, and Labour Keir Starmer cover-up, hiding the fact that his main donor is a pro-Israeli Governmemt lobbyist! What a world
A friend in need …
I’ve been having a not-coronavirus-related medical problem causing me constant irritation – not the best state of mind to survive self-isolation! After a telephone consultation 3 weeks ago, one of my doctors prescribed an antibiotic which usually works – but it didn’t, so another doctor prescribed a different one, still no good, nor a third possible remedy – and a fourth finally decided a urine sample was unavoidable, despite the kerfuffle of getting it to the locked surgery (my sincere hope is it shows an infection, or who knows what to do next).
So I phoned my friend Dave – we’ve been going out for a drink (two pints of shandy and a packet of crisps now my limit) together every 5 or 6 weeks for 15 or 20 years, our conversations something I really miss. I told him other friends had also offered and I had a backup plan of my local Mutual Aid group, but he had no hesitation in “accepting the commission” and after a bit of a kerfuffle accessing the stairs (I’d advised wearing a face mask, but still not using the lift – the last thing I’d want is him getting ill while doing me such a service – and I’d cheekily suggested that 14 flights could be his daily exercise!) he’s on his way, and said he’d ring when it’s been delivered. His parting words to me were that he was so happy that I’d rang him, that he could be some help, and not to hesitate if I needed anything else!
There must be millions of acts of kindness, small but vital for people’s survival, going on all over the world, by many a friend indeed.
Although living in a tower block flat doesn’t help keep me grounded, I’m fortunate in overlooking a small park, on the 7th floor just above tree height, with a bird’s eye view of the changing seasons – and I also have 11 houseplants, 5 in my bedroom and 6 in the living room, which magically keep the air fresh. I only know what sort 2 are – an orchid and a coffee plant (which I just liked the look of, though I haven’t drunk coffee for ages) – and they have all had to fit into my regime of Saturday watering filling the trays, and a top-up on Wednesdays (except the orchid which gets a double soaking) – and new ones which don’t like it or can’t fit into remaining spaces of light or shade just have to go. If visitors say plants always die on them – I can honestly reply, that was true for me, but I persevered, experimented with re-arranging, and watering which suited me and them. And some were with me in my last flat and another 10 years here, a couple of real survivors aren’t the prettiest – one very gnarled which almost died a couple of times but somehow got reborn, another tough reeds – but there is no way I’d ever discard them, just the longevity of time together, is something I really value.
This is a Twitter thread which gives the lie to Tory Ministers saying they have been “straining every sinew” to get ventilators
From FlakMagnet @Flakmagnet1 posted on 13th April
1 So I just want to share my CORPORATE experience on Covid19 with the UK Gov. A thread. I work for a successful medium-sized manufacturing company, which makes moderately clever electrical items. When the UK gov asked for makers of ventilators, we responded.
2 We assigned one person to act as point man, who went online to register us, only to find the website the minister mentioned didn’t exist. 24hrs later there was an online form available, which he filled out. After a week of silence we lost patience and started emailing.
3 None were answered. With a bit of fiddlery, we got phone numbers and started calling. We were passed from pillar to post, no-one taking responsibility.
We then contacted the local (Tory) MP, who took 24 hours and an increasingly “we’ll tell the press” tone before answering
4 That MP put us onto her double-barreled assistant, who sounded very conciliatory and took notes, but then;
5 We were then offered *VENTILATORS*- actual, functioning, certified, save-lives, VENTILATORS by a far eastern supplier who KNEW the UK was in deep, deep trouble.
We immediately offered these onto the MP and our govt. Contacts.
6 This was their response.
7 That was about the time the Dyson/ JCB horseshit story about ventilators broke, and I *personally* think that was proof enough, at that time, that Herd Immunity remained the strategy, just with maximal culling. There isn’t a corporate view, AFAIK. We’re a business.
8 We’ve heard NOTHING since. Not a squeak. Not even “no thanks”.
The offer of ventilators has passed, and I guess they are now going to a more enlightened country.
9 Since furloughing, we’re running the 3D printers in the labs flat out making visor parts. I’m doing the same at home.
But a whole factory & supply chain has been ignored.
With the stories of ventilator manufacturers getting contracts cancelled, I am not surprised.
10 So next time you hear “straining every sinew” and “Herculean efforts”, you can take it from me, they’re lying.
I don’t know if they’re incompetent, or murderous, or both, but they’re utterly, utterly dishonest.
Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream ..
When the BBC sycophantically shows ministers joining the #ClapForTheNHS and tweeting in praise of doctors & nurses, but “forgets” to mention these same Tory ministers voted umpteen times to chronically underfund the NHS, called for junior doctors to be sacked when they went on strike, dismantled nurses’ bursaries, and actually cheered when a minimal nurses pay rise was voted down
When bosses of a care home (which presumably is supposed to care about people!) sack a care worker who missed an appointment because she was in hospital with COVID-19, and put off the appeal so she’d have no salary for months
When the new Labour leader calls for for loyalty and unity, and then appoints as Shadow Ministers
Jess Phillips – who said she’d stab the previous Labour leader “in the front”
Liz Kendall – who repeatedly told Jeremy Corbyn to “Go now”!
Wes Streeting – who constantly briefed to undermine Jeremy Corbyn
Stephen Kinnock – one of the architects of the 2016 coup
thus rewarding the most disloyal MPs who constantly fostered disunity
When NHS managers who are supposed to be interested in Health threaten to sack nurses and doctors who dare to complain about the lack of PPE, which is putting the lives of themselves and everyone they contact at greater risk, more interested in obeying government orders to look good than the welfare of staff and patents
When reading about Tory ministers urging Windrush & other immigrant health workers to return or come out of retirement, while the Home Office slips out a memo stating that however much they risk their lives to save others during the pandemic will in no way alter their immigration status as non-skilled and not worthy of UK citizenship
Hypocrites the lot of them!
Isolation days so easily run into one another – so here are more ways of making each April day special, perhaps by artistic commemoration or study. It’s by no means of comprehensive – a mish-mash of UN calendar, a couple of left birthdays, some astrology & religion – and my apologies if I’ve left out your favourite!
9 Apr Paul Robeson US black activist & singer born 1898
9 Apr Maundy Thursday – Christian
9 Apr First day of Passover – Jewish
10 Apr 60 years since US Senate passed Civil Rights Bill
10 Apr 172 years since UK Chartists presented petition to Parliament
10 Apr World Homeopathy Awareness week
10 Apr Good Friday – Christian
11 Apr Mercury in Aries
11 Apr Mercury sextile Saturn
11 Apr 101 years since International Labour Organisation founded
11 Apr World Parkinson’s Day
11 Apr Holy Saturday – Christian
12 Apr Easter Sunday – Christian
13 Apr Easter Monday – Christian
14 Apr Sun square Pluto
14 Apr Moon last quarter
14 Apr World Chagas Disease Day [WHO]
15 Apr Sun square Jupiter
16 Apr Last day of Passover – Jewish
17 Apr Bat Appreciation day
17 Apr World Haemophilia Day
17 Apr Orthodox Good Friday
18 Apr Mercury sextile Venus
18 Apr 74 years since International Court of Justice opened in The Hague
18 Apr Orthodox Holy Saturday
19 Apr Mercury sextile Mars
19 Apr Sun in Taurus
19 Apr Orthodox Easter
20 Apr Orthodox Easter Monday
20 Apr Chinese Language Day (Chinese)
21 Apr Sun square Saturn
21 Apr World Fish Migration Day
21 Apr Yom HaShoah – Jewish
22 Apr Stephen Lawrence Day
23 Apr New Moon
23 Apr English Language Day
23 Apr Spanish Language Day (Spanish)
23 Apr International Girls in ICT Day [ITU]
23 Apr St George’s Day
23 Apr Shakespeare Day
24 Apr Ramadan start – Muslim
25 Apr Mercury square Pluto
25 Apr Pluto retrograde
25 Apr International Delegate’s Day
25 Apr World Malaria Day [WHO]
26 Apr Mercury square Jupiter
26 Apr Sun conjunct Uranus
26 Apr World Intellectual Property Day [WIPO]
27 Apr Mercury in Taurus
27 Apr Mary Wollstonecraft “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” born 1794
27 Apr World Tapir Day
27 Apr International Hyena Day
28 Apr Mercury square Saturn
28 Apr Workers Memorial Day
29 Apr Yom HaAtzmaut – Jewish
30 Apr Moon first quarter
One problem of self-isolation and lockdown is inevitable boredom, how one day seems to merge into the much the same next – which at 72 I don’t have a huge problem with – but still remember my teens when my constant cry was “I’m BORED!!!”.
So any way of differentiating days has got to be a good thing, so ..
For instance, in my esoteric cult days, I learnt that each day of the week has a significance, built into their English and/or French names:
Monday or Lundi – Moon day, have a child-like approach, home & mother, and have a good moan!
Tuesday or Mardi – Mars day, energetic exercises, a doing day
Wednesday or Mercredi – Mercury day, a time for communication
Thursday or Jeudi – Jupiter day, expansive, study & higher learning
Friday or Vendredi – Venus day, expression of good feeling, what you like (whether good for you or not!)
Saturday – Saturn day, self-discipline doing what needs doing
Sunday – of course Sun day, just be yourself, share the best of you
Whether this has any real significance you can try to prove or disprove for yourself – unless of course you’ve got a whole lot of better things to do?!?!
Government Health warning – if you value your health, do NOT follow the example of the Health Secretary (or Prime Minister)!
Even though he died long before I was born, I probably inherited the need to justify my daily existence from my Church of England rector grandfather – and although I’m scathing about the hypocrisy of “don’t what I say, do what I do”, I can’t help feeling guilty about my own self-judged ‘laziness’, while recommending other people to be kind to themselves!
Anyway, whether moved by guilt or self-discipline, anxiety or principles – here’s how I’ve been earning my atheist halo today:
Up at 5.30, relaxed with some hanjie before donating to a couple of local women’s charities (having read that calls for help from domestic violence victims – stuck in isolation with their abusers – have already shot up)
Shower, skin emollient & dress, light breakfast (grapes & tomatoes substituting for my usual much missed banana!)
Responded with my cheeriest voice to the daily tannoy call from our housing officer, and just managed a shouted “thank you” to the postie before she disappeared into the tower block depths
Ritual of placing parcels next to sink, separating & tearing recyclable cardboard (ready for my carer to take downstairs tomorrow on the way to the shops), putting everything else where I won’t touch it for a couple of days, before scrupulously washing hands
Worked through my emails, replied then consigned to relevant folders, and on to Facebook (my page, Tories Out & environment groups) and Twitter (my page, and groups I’ve collated of Left, Green & Claimants) – especially looking for scathing or uplifting stories (such as video compilations of PM stand-in Dominic Raab who thinks foodbank users have a”cash-flow” problem, or searching under “coronavirus jokes”) worthy of sharing across media – with due acknowledgement
Then my daily “Core Workout” – the gentlest sit-down exercise video I could find, least likely to pull aging muscles or break brittle bones!
And a fairly desultory wipe around my living room with a damp cloth, enough to tick my “house cleaning exercise” box.
So, I think I’ve earned my lunch, a fry-up of yesterday’s rather delicious vegetable stew remains – stock, garlic & herbs, potato, broccholi, carrot, onion, tomato & cauliflower, plus a few crutons, left-over beans and almost my last handful of quorn mince
And I can happily spend the afternoon (punctuated by 5 minutes Tai Chi)) & evening slouched in front of the telly, totally guilt -free!
Until tomorrow …
Tweet from Enzo Rossi @enzoreds
People demanding we “keep politics out of the coronavirus crisis” may not be aware that they’re parroting #DominicCullings aka Cummings, who was forced to sack his eugenics advisor before adopting the herd immunity strategy, putting his politics at the heart of this Tory Government’s COVID-19 chaos
Things I’m missing, balanced (almost!) by some positives …
- Foods like bananas, raisins & quorn really difficult to get hold of
- I wish I could scratch my nose and face (I’ve got psoriasis & eczema) without feeling anxious or guilty!
A. Got more email contact with the few family members I’m not estranged from in one month than a normal year (which is mostly my fault!!)
B. Happy to find there are others of my generation not ashamed to admit that, although we listened to Cream & Jimi Hendrix in our youth, in self isolation much prefer Motown & ABBA!
How about you?
(Ps. If you can’t think of a single positive thing, may I suggest viewing a film like “Pollyanna”!!!)?
I got a sobering letter from my landlord, Your Homes Newcastle this morning, that one of the residents in my tower block was taken to hospital and died of COVID-19 (and they are increasing all cleaning and safety measures here).
Do take this seriously – keep washing your hands, don’t go out unless absolutely necessary and keep 6 feet or more apart.
Posted by a farmer in Ireland
For some of us, adapting to social isolation is reasonably smooth & easy – but for people stuck in or trying to get out of a violent relationship, the abuse, the delays, the lack of support can be absolute hell.
Here is a message from a friend:
“Let’s talk about isolation for those suffering domestic violence.
Priti Patel made an announcement today that those suffering need to get out of that situation.
Reduced funding, lack of refuge beds, societal judgement on everyone needing to stay put, police indifference, the taboo that is domestic violence is so unseen, unheard and unfelt by society in general.
This Tuesday was meant to be my final hearing, which I have waited for and worked towards for 2 whole years. Due to this lockdown I have to wait another 6 months. Whilst we suffer.
We will have an online hearing on Wednesday for 1 hour to confirm that we will wait six months. Great. More money spent, more time to wait, handing over my girls every week because I have no choice even in these times.
I am angry.
Why should judges be safe at home self-isolating when children are still being handed over due to court orders? When families have waited years for truth to be heard? When domestic abuse victims have nowhere to turn?
I usually run when I feel this angry, but I have nowhere to take this today.”
For anyone wanting to get some exercise at home, and perhaps learn a new skill , I’d highly recommend Tai Chi – which is good for mental health, calming the mind, and physical health, your muscles and particularly strengthening lungs – so important to help them combat a respiratory virus. There are many different forms of Tai Chi, and you might need to look around before finding one that suits you (none of them are quite like what the classes I went to!) Anyway, here are 3 I found by searching “Tai Chi for beginners”
8 Tai Chi breathing exercises https://youtu.be/KIMSz8qezkI
10 different Tai Chi moves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHBR5MZmEs
A more comprehensive introduction and guide to each Tai Chi move https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIOHGrYCEJ4
No symptoms yet – but I spoke to my doctor (and thanked profusely her & the receptionist for continuing their risky life-saving work!) who checked my file to say I should be on the severe risk list, so if I don’t get a Government letter this week, she’ll make sure I’m added to it. And although I’m a lot better off than many, with a wonderful carer coming weekly (so far!), many generous offers of help from friends, and joined my local Mutual Aid group – after 2 weeks total lockdown, just knowing that removes much anxiety about access to food.
If you’re illness or disability is borderline, do check with your doctor …
“I’m seeing 2 hashtags. One says #BooForBoris. And the other one says #ClapForBoris. Apparently they’re both happening at 8pm on Sunday. Boo him if you like, but wishing Gonorrhoea on him – particularly while he’s battling #COVID19 – is a bit harsh” Tweet from Rachael Swindon @Rachael_Swindon
Idea for a mental health check-in
… and now for some good news!! https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/27/coronavirus-uk-lockdown-big-drop-air-pollution?CMP=share_btn_tw
CORONAVIRUS UK LOCKDOWN CAUSES BIG DROP IN AIR POLLUTION
This is a SCAM – do NOT respond!
- front-line medical staff without proper protective equipment
- NHS staff having to travel on packed public transport
- self-employed people forced to go foraging
- homeless people left out in the cold
No 10 denies claim Dominic Cummings argued to ‘let old people die’
Long before my social isolation, 19 years membership of an esoteric cult made me very wary of gurus promoting positive thinking as a universal panacea.
But I also find that sharing yet another story of Tory government failure & corruption can make my outlook too negative, becoming liable to join Boris Johnson in blaming the public (those who actually believed his criminal advice of a few days ago, of shaking every hand etc!) and adopting the mindset that everyone is as greedy, callous and incompetent as those in power.
I do now try to balance my postings, looking out for stories like
– the Cuban doctors flying to Italy putting their lives at extreme risk
– the NHS hospital staff using precious leisure time to raise money for their nearest foodbank
– the Mutual Aid groups of volunteers, ready to do shopping & run errands for elderly & vulnerable people, springing up all over the country
So when I see pictures of crowded trains & empty shelves. I don’t condemn all humanity – knowing from my personal experience in this crisis, that it is bringing out the best in most people, and proving that the socialist mantra of “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” is not just some pipe dream, but the only sensible way of humans being together.
One thing I’ll miss these next months is my regular visits to the barber for a good trim. I could just let it grow – as I did when 50 or so, an aging hippie phase, with & without pony-tail (before a drastic No. 2 cut reversal!) – but do now prefer it reasonably short.
In my mid teens, when barbers offered little else but “short, back & sides”, I used to do my Saturday morning jobs, then lock myself in the bathroom, spending hours snipping away at my mane of golden hair with a pair of nail scissors, a shampoo and bath, dressing in beatnik mode and strutting my stuff at the local coffee-bar, peacock-like in shy flamboyance, testosterone peaking, hoping some reasonably caring, intelligent young lady would allow me to fall in love with her, and reciprocate, without getting too close (an impossible ask!).
But this time round I’ve bought a hair-cutting device via E-Bay (which, just my luck, will probably turn out to be a fraudulent far eastern sweat-shop copy which explodes when turned on!) – but, this is probably very sexist, like most men I’m not very good at reading instructions, so I’m putting off my first attempt …
Although I’m at the stage in life where feeling good far outweighs looking good, I realised one thing stopping me was the fear of making a compete hash of it and laughed at. Until it dawned on me that no-one is going to know how I look for months and months! Which opens up loads of possibilities, of experimentation.
So next time you look at my profile photo, I can’t guarantee its accuracy – you never know, I might be sporting a quiff, taper fade or even a mohawk – while learning a new skill as a sure way of slowing down the aging process
To all the brilliant volunteers mustering around – please do appreciate that every time you do some shopping or run an errand for an elderly and vulnerable person, we are less likely to have to venture out into the world, we are less likely to catch COVID-19, we are less likely to die.
Some of us will be overwhelmed by anxiety, and we may forget to thank you enough – so please, every time you freely share your time and effort, don’t forget to give yourself lots of pats on the back, and in the days and weeks and months ahead remember, you are our superheroes, you really are saving lives!
If you’re stuck at home self isolating and need help, you could try grassroots volunteer Mutual Aid groups
Like millions of virus vulnerable people around the world – over 70 and with COPD – I’m self isolating and socially excluding, staying in my flat & no-one allowed in – and so even more dependent on my lovely, underpaid carer. Unfortunately the office didn’t pass on my message, so this morning we had a rather surreal conversation at 2 metres, then washing ready to go, and a week’s shopping list in hope that the local Co-op wasn’t completely bare shelved – and luckily she did brilliantly, with very acceptable substitutes, so I’m all set up for another week of nurturing a siege mentality (very luckily because there are no local Sainsbury delivery slots for at least 3 weeks, and when I tried to book the last available one, I got a “Generic Error” refusing my card!).
I’m also very fortunate in my semi-sheltered tower block having a housing officer – who tannoyed everyone today to check we’re OK, and letting me know that if needed some volunteers had already come forward to help with tasks (who I may well need, since my carer said, if schools close, she’ll be forced to stop work and manage somehow – and the care company will undoubtedly be forced to prioritise visits on urgent health grounds).
And I actually realised my brief chat over the tannoy and at either end of my flat entrance were my first conversations for some days – and, I’m not very good over the phone, got quite emotional …
But there must be millions who are feeling incredibly anxious, knowing their vulnerability – but just can’t get help, are running out of food and cash and forced into what could be a fatal decision whether to chance a foray outdoors for vital supplies. So if you are fit and well – I think there are local networks springing up all over – do consider giving a hour or two each week to help a neighbour, and perhaps be a life-saver.