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Two years after the Stop in 2005 the Make Poverty History march took place in Edinburgh at the time when the G8 Summit was being held slightly further North at Gleneagles also in Scotland. I attended and in fact I kept a diary of my time. In spite of attempts to derail the movement, in spite of smear campaigns by some who claimed they shared our objectives we marched and formed a ring around the city almost all of us dressed in white. It was a moving experience, a powerful experience. Why do I bring it up now? Because like the march in 2003 it united people of differing persuasions both left and right, atheist and religious, young and old who were all there to condemn the mindless slaughter of those disenfranchised in other countries by war, famine, disease and the simple lack of caring of the leaders of the Western World and their banking allies. This was another example of people standing up for what they felt was right, and that they felt disenfranchised by the mainstream political parties who all seemed hell-bent on standing for the same neo-liberal agenda and policies.
I am still yet to forgive Bob Geldoff for those days and will not do so until he apologises for insinuating that we were the wreckers, the ones being unrealistic or idealist or cynical etc. etc. for claiming that the deals were hollow and in fact the cynicism was on the part of the leaders cashing in on what was clearly a powerful movement of non-violent dissent. Geldoff effectively admitted we were right 5 years later but showed no remorse or contrition for the people he had slagged off at the time for casting doubt on the sincerity of the world leaders promises. Furthermore it was he who helped organise concerts on the same day as the great march in Edinburgh and then claimed that it showed how many people wanted to get rid of poverty, it didn’t Bob it showed how many people wanted to see Pink Floyd reunite or be at an event that formed part of popular cultural history. The ones who wanted to stop poverty were the ones who had to put their principles before their desire to see the Floyd as one for what will probably be the only time. The fact that the concerts were put on the same day I found crass and offensive, it put into the shadow those who came to do something and reduced the day to a mere rock gig, the at best naive and at worst disgraceful statement that all the people attending were showing their opposition to poverty in Africa was simply not true. I’m sure the people who attended did not specifically agree with poverty per se but protesting against it was not their primary reason for being there. It was ours for making the trip to Edinburgh. Furthermore we were not just protesting about Africa, we were protesting about poverty everywhere from continents far away to that which we see daily around us. If even half the people in those stadiums (stadia) were to have been part of that ring around Edinburgh too then the message would have been louder still and the concerts can only have diluted the message we carried and the significance of it. I specifically know of one couple who did get allocated tickets and were agonising about whether to go to Scotland or Wembley, they chose the latter.
The march on Gleneagles itself 4 days later was hampered and sabotaged by the police who tried to use radio news bulletins to claim the march had been called off and then when many still arrive sought to stop coaches and did indeed stop the 2nd wave (who then occupied Princes St. and got kettled and flushed by riot police for their trouble). They pulled the 1st wave over on 3 occasions making us stand around wondering if all we might be able to protest on was a road junction roundabout. We were told the “Anarchists had set up roadblocks which had closed off the A9″, what was shown later that I saw was that a piece of tree about 8 feet long and with a circumference around that of a milk saucepan that which barely covered one lane of the carriageway let alone the road. But eventually we got there and we made our voices heard. It was empowering, exhausting and exhilarating. We did not go to concerts, we did not stay at home, we came from different parts of the country – as did the police ;) and we made our views known.
[I was unaware at the time that a sweepstake was being run at work courtesy of a couple of "friends" who were very familiar with the penal code and felt that it was worth speculating on what charge I would be apprehended by the police - smart money apparently was on 'Affray' at 8/1, Incitement to Riot at 12/1 and someone had placed an outside bet on Treason at 500/1! As it was I behaved myself and only nearly got arrested twice - once apparently for being a "f*cking smart arse" when I pointed out that I didn't need to move back to avoid a "crush at the gates" because the fact that I wasn't actually in contact with anyone meant I could not be contributing to anything. The second time was when a police van revved at me as I was crossing a pedestrian crossing. I made a gesture and the driver made for the door clearly to come and 'have a word' but he was pulled back by his passenger and the lights changed. Money raised from the sweepstake went to Save The Children.]
On my return I was in mid-air when the bombs went off in London on the 7th and the whole family was in pandemonium since no-one knew where the other persons were. Everything seemed suddenly to be about blitz spirit, everything suddenly became on a war footing again and that put paid to any reasoned debate on peace and diplomacy, “London will go on” we were told, the outrage was tangible and the demonstrations were long forgotten. But does that make our actions wrong? Far from it, it means we stood up in a way that was not open to us in the ballot box, against those for whom we had not voted and in a way that ultimately was vindicated when it became clear that the information used to justify the campaign was fabricated, or at best embellished. People died for that, many people, leaving bereft and destroyed, more than just the buildings that made a number of rich people very much richer through huge outsourced rebuilding contracts, families and communities were irrevocably damaged in a way I suspect those born in this country after the 1940s can scarcely imagine. People in Syria now will tell you and the blanket media campaign that I see now about the conflict reminds me very much of 10 years ago.
Will the Make Poverty History March and the march on the G8 Summit be better remembered than Live8 – no I’d be somewhat staggered if the former make more than a footnote in the pages of political history journals, since the Stop The War march in 2003 merits little more than that, whilst Live8 is enshrined in popular culture, but when those who attended the concerts look in the mirror I doubt they will have quite the same sense of integrity as those of us who stood up for those who were denied a voice. And that is something I can tell my children when they ask the question that prompted this, and maintain eye contact whilst I do so.
Song Of The Day ~ The Mono Polys – Insomnia
My blogging comrade Big John – himself going for the same decade as I have been – recently posted on the occasion of his 75th birthday about how things had been ‘in his day’ as opposed to that which is available (to children) now. It got me in comparison mode so I decided to put another yardstick in giving how the world was in my childhood. You have to bear in mind I was in Chelsea (when it still had council tenants) so what we had was in many respects streets ahead of those living outside ‘the smoke.’
Anyway John’s formative years involved the following:
- Television .. Just the BBC on the
- Telephone .. The nearest one was two streets away on a shop counter.
- Computers .. Great fun was had playing games in the street.
- Motor car .. If a tram or bus didn’t go there, then, neither did I, unless I walked.
- Bathroom .. A scrub in the kitchen sink or a tin bath by the fire.
- Toilet paper ! .. I won’t go into detail.
- Fast Food .. Only fish and chips. ”Bring your own newspaper”.
- Holidays .. Abroad ! Where was that ? .. Well, maybe a day by the sea.
- Supermarket .. or “Can I scan your ration book?”
- Refrigerator .. Only a daily walk to the shops by my mum.
- Central heating .. Just open coal fires, even at school.
- Shoes .. Oops ! .. No .. Sorry, I got carried away for a moment, so I’ll …
As opposed to a man in his 70s I was a child of the 70s and things were different, we had moved on, evolved, advanced with almost wanton abandon, things were thus:
- Television .. Only bought when I was 13 and so my grandmother could watch the news, took up half the room in a wooden cabinet and 3 people to lift! Just two BBC and 1 ITV which I wasn’t allowed to watch because adverts were evil (this is quite correct of course!) Oh and it didn’t run in the morning except for schools programs and it didn’t come in the afternoon until 3.30 with Play School. It then shut down after the late film at around 11 and the National Anthem played! What’s a colour TV?
[Channel 4 came along in 1982 - it was such an event people took time off work to watch the opening... ceremony would be a bit strong, it started with Countdown one of the most sedentary gameshows ever!]
- Telephone .. The nearest one was two streets away in a red phone box – queues down the street on a Sunday before dinner and hoping you had enough 5p coins to beat the pips!
[Later when we moved out of London in the 80s we had a 3-digit phone humber!]
- Computers .. just came in – Yellow River on the BBC involving Xs or Spectrum cassette tapes which took hours to load and made a noise like a fax machine.
[I got my first computer in 1998 it was an Apple Powerbook Duo 280c and the snazziest system I had ever seen!]
- Motor car .. Trams? Bloody luxury, we didnt have them in my day. It was the No. 11 bus to school I had or a 20 min walk to the nearest tube station at weekends.
[I didn't learn to drive until I was 28 and that was for a job. I don't exactly feel the richer for it, though my 27 year old car is cool!]
- Bathroom .. Hot running water but an outside khazi still very much in evidence in the terraced housing, we had a separate toilet indoors in our flat for a while but when moved had to share a bathroom with the people above!
[Outside toilets were a nightmare, in the Winter it was bloody freezing and anything could be lurking in there and frequently was!]
- Toilet paper ! .. Unlike the Big Man I will go into detail – shiny on one side and ripped your aris to ribbons it did. Izal – I’ll never forget it, I saw some on sale not so many years ago, heaven knows what idiot still buys it.
- Fast Food .. Still only fish and chips. Newspaper provided! We did have an ice cream parlour – yes “parlour” but it was the Fulham Road you know! In the very early 80s we went ‘into town’ to a Nepalese restaurant in Euston – it was the most exotic thing we had ever done or eaten in my life. I still visit as and when I can.
- Holidays .. Calais, we were cosmopolitan and my Grandmother lived in Kent!
- Supermarket .. What? We had the grocer, the greengrocer, the butcher, the baker and knew them all by name. They’d give my mother a little extra because she was on her own and they liked my smile! (Tried that at Tescos and have another 6 months on the Anti-Social Behaviour order!)
- Refrigerator .. I got to go on the daily shop with mother!
- Central heating .. Coal? Ha you’ll be lucky, miners are on strike and all the powers off!
- Shoes .. So many choices, Clarks or Start-Rite!
If there’s anyone else who wishes to reminisce either here or on your own page then I’d be interested and perhaps amused about your decade. Feel free to share.
Song Of The Day ~ The Rifles – Shoot From The Lip
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.
There is little of which I am truly proud in terms of my participation in this world, (my children being the principle exception to this) but the fact that I stood up 10 years ago and said “Enough, this has to end now” is something with which I may hold my head a little higher and feel that there was a reason for being here at this time. For those who say the Stop The War marches in 2003 did not change anything I would say this, ten years on, I still remember them and I know many of the others do and if necessary I and they are prepared to go and speak up again. I still believe I was right to do so the first time and as my children are older now I can tell them why I did it and why a part of the country’s parliamentary democracy died that day, where a smaller part of the grassroots democracy was truly born. Did it lead to anything long-lasting – only history can tell that story but it did come at a time when people had been silent and suddenly many found their voice.
StW 2003 was the largest peacetime march in the country’s history, I’m not sure it wasn’t the largest in any time but people have always referred to it as the largest in peacetime. Even the police figures said well over half a million (which itself was larger than the Countryside Alliance march some weeks before of whom 300-400,000 had marched in 2002 to protest about fox hunting and urban encroachment into rural values). The BBC put the figure at over a million and generally on these occasions the real figure would be regarded as higher than that. (My figures of the Countryside Alliance march are going on the car bumper stickers the organisers had printed after the event in their claim to be the largest demo at that time.)
To remind people of the context, in the lead up to the march in 2003 the US and UK were already in Afghanistan on a somewhat questionable pretext and their aim was now to go into Iraq. The writing had been on the wall for Saddam Hussein for some time and an aide, I think it was Paul Bremmer, has since told of George W. Bush’s statement for them to get him something, anything that they could use to go and get Saddam on. He wanted to finish the job started by his Pappy a decade earlier and remove the man the US had formerly propped up for years in the fight against Iran. The US administration didn’t find anything concrete, and they ought to know since most of the hardware Iraq had would have gone through them, so they invented the WMD fiction and went in anyway. Many innocents died on the pretext of liberation, the West claiming that they were doing this in the interests of the Iraqi people, presumably the interests the Iraqi people may not have known they had yet. I saw one interview done by John Simpson, I believe, where he interviewed some Iraqis after Saddam’s forces had been defeated and asked them if they did not now feel that things were better after Saddam. “George Bush, Saddam, we don’t care we just want peace” was the honest reply. People will be divided on their opinions as to where Iraq post-Saddam is, in these polarised times many opinions will be made up mostly by the prevailing news channel that gives you all your “facts” but I think few would consider it truly a united or stable country even a decade later. And as for Afghanistan…!
This may therefore seem like our effects were a futile and hollow gesture meriting record only of the current statistic of greatest size of action of its type. However a Professor of Chemistry at Cairo University came and spoke at a meeting I attended sometime in late 2003, at the time we were indeed feeling a little deflated since we couldn’t help but start to feel the march had accomplished little of long-standing significance, given US intervention in Iraq anyway, people were dying and we had wanted to stop that happening but it was going on and we were being forced to witness it every night on the news. Whilst we were able to tell ourselves that if nothing else we had stood up to be counted it was difficult to really convince the detractors that we had done something more than moral actions and plastic sabre-rattling. The Professor though told us to look on things from a different angle as they had been marching on the same day in the Arab world and our efforts had not been in vain.
“We were being given updates that there were 1.5 million on the streets in London, over 1 million in Barcelona, nearly 2 million in Madrid, 500,000 in Berlin, 200,000 in Paris millions in Rome etc.* and it told us that this war was not a Western war, it was not leaders acting with the support of their people but in spite of it. It broke the glass facia that suggested a polarisation between the peoples of the West and the East. The myth of a clash of civilisations.” He went on to say that whilst we might not have stopped the US going into Iraq it was likely that they would not have the mandate or the inclination now to go into Syria which had certainly been mooted at various points both before and after the Iraq invasion. (I intend to write more on Syria given its current relevance but since it has taken me sol ong to write even the one post this year I will publish this one before moving on).
I wish that all the people who had been on the march could have overheard the Professor and could have felt the strength and the vindication that they had done a good thing, a significant thing. They would certainly not learn such things from the mainstream media who barely made reference to it at the time and certainly do not now. It was important, it was genuine grass roots democracy, not just the usual dissenting suspects, not just an attempt to railroad people into a specific dogma, the participants came from too broad a spectrum for that.
What is difficult to refute by the detractors is the enormous global scale on which the march took place, the level of coordination was immense it was a different kind of globalisation and one which encompassed a pan-ideological base. An unprecedented number of people across the planet mobilised in spite of their governments and gave an unequivocal message that what was happening was wrong. In terms of the total figures worldwide it will always be impossible to get anywhere near the actual number with any degree of certainty or proof, indeed the ranges I have seen go from 6 million people to 30 million people in around 60 countries. In Canada over 100,000 took the the streets of Montréal in temperatures of -30 (with wind chill), a group of Scientists from the McMurdo Station stood on the shore of the Ross Sea in Antarctica and a town in New South Wales had a march 2,500 strong which was the size of the town’s own population.
Some cite Canada’s reluctance to send troops to Iraq then as having been a consequence of the strength of feeling across the country, it may well have stopped others, Michael Moore has already pointed out the somewhat ridiculous claim that the coalition was anything more than the United States, a couple of its Western allies and a large amount of dependencies and military bases around the world. The consequences of the march may in fact be felt for years to come, perhaps into the next decades. I heard somebody speculate that in the UK almost every work place with more than 100 people in it was likely to have had someone who had attended the march on that weekend and that this meant news would be transferred in the old fashioned way by word of mouth and not a politically motivated sanitisation. One might wonder whether 10 years later the reluctance of the British Parliament to write a blank cheque of British lives to the illegal action in Syria may stem from the actions of 2003 and aftermath, either by the involvement of some, or the memory of others. What is clear is that there are cracks in that supposedly impenetrable ‘special relationship.’
Did we stop the action in Iraq happening in 2003 no we did not but I along with millions of others across the globe made it quite clear that this was not in our name, we did not support the action and that betrayal by our governments will sit long in the memory for some of us. And it is reawakened now.
*The 2004 Guinness Book Of Records listed the march in Rome on the 15th February 2003 as having been attended by around 3 million and was the largest anti-war rally in history. Wikipedia breakdown of figures by country
Song Of The Day ~ Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Cursed Sleep
I’m grateful to my new blog diving acquaintance Gabriela for providing the inspiration for this post, not to mention being the first new person in the blogosphere with whom I have interacted for some time. It is always nice to receive inspiration for something from other’s viewpoints and directions. I have always maintained that I am reactive generally, I cannot create new as such merely stamp my own colour of things on those that already exist. In this regard, as well as many others I take my lead from the very great WH Auden who said “Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.” That is good enough for me.
Gabriela’s post was on her alter egos, the facets as defined specific personalities in their own right that make her up as a whole. This is not, as many still seem to think, anything to do with schizophrenia, look it up should you need to! Anyway the post immediately struck a chord as I have for some time characterised myself in terms of the very different mood sets in a defined time period that seem themselves often diametrically opposed. I had thought at first that it was a definite polarity with the two ‘beings’ but there may be more to it than that depending on how granular you choose to look at it. Certainly there are more than one if choosing to accept the premise, and it interests me so I thought I would explore it.
Fairly obvious, the de facto occupant as t’were, the commander of the unruly force within etc. etc. various mildly humorous analogies yada yada. I am not too extreme a person, at least not in my opinion, I have passionate views, some might say dogmatic, but I believe in things that treat people as of equal value whilst recognising the myriad assortment of differences between us all. I feel justifies in being dogmatic about that. I have a fair few foibles, as anyone does,I am aware of a great many of them and I would assert that my heart is in the right place. I am all too aware that I am not always consistent, that I don’t always practice what I preach but then I would challenge anyone else not to be the same. I want to live life reasonably full and need sometimes a little prodding to help get there. I am not as self-confident as I very often need to be, especially in certain circumstances, when I am comfortable and amongst friends I can relax, if I get too relaxed or if I am amongst a large group of people I don’t know He comes out.
The Baron (often referred to as Him – mainly because of Dom Deluise’s dual personality character in The Cannonball Run which both amused me as well as having a little resonance!)
The Baron is everything in the outside world I wished I was all the time (though this would bring it’s own problems.) The Baron can hold court, talk upon a wide variety of subjects as if well-versed in all of them. He comes across as confident, erudite and a social butterfly/pompous arse – depending on your point of view. He can get women to fancy Him (at least He thinks He can!) with His quick wit and cavalier linguistic style. He looks like me but doesn’t act like me. He does not need or crave the approval from others, He feels that to a degree He has already attained it and has enough self-confidence that if He has not then He will win people over in the end. Herein can lie the problem, there are times He hears but does not listen, He looks but does not always see, it is almost itself a pretence, no it is exactly itself a pretence, a mask behind which I may hide. Not a mask I am aware how to control though. It is not arrogance I should stress that, it is as if the self-confidence I might have had from teenage years had things gone differently had evolved as a separate person not hampered by the chattels of .
I am a father but not always a ‘real’ father in the sense that my children do not live with me. As such sometimes decisions which would affect them are not taken in the context of them actually being there. There are occasions that the father steps in and makes the correct and rational choices but at others he isn’t quick enough or is suppressed by the stronger darker character. I am not satisfied with my performance of a father and I think this is probably a good thing, were I to be so I would not be trying to do more and that would be a far greater crime against my children. Being a father is one of the things of which I am most proud and my children are the things of which I am most proud. Given the circumstances of their upbringing they are remarkably well-rounded and this has far more to do with them than it does with me, however through them I can take some vicarious credit.
My nemesis, short-termist, pessimistic, addictive personality. The melancholic is not in control of the darker sides and is subsumed by them and the less attractive characteristics that goes with them. He needs constant validation, assuaging, emotional quenching validation, an insecurity that is almost bottomless like a whirlpool into oblivion, it has destroyed much and many and carries on as if never sated. In the absence of the neutralising validation it turns to short-term external factors such as sex, food, clothes, unwise purchases, anything that breaks the tedium of “normal” the mundanity that eats up the time in great gulps, the parasite of time. This abhorrence of the everyday, the middle ground, should spur me to look to achieve greatness and probably die trying, better to have flown and be shot down in flames than to stand on the ground doing nothing. But it is not like that. The melancholic sits idly, over-analysing, sniping, demeaning the achievements of the other character facets both backdating and foreseeing. He is the arms attached to my ankles holding me back, making walking forth near impossible, the constant temptation to give in and rest a while, have another go later makes him stronger and so much goes by the wayside because of his indolence and inactivity. The not wasting a moment by doing anything that makes the time go faster.
Of course one has to be careful not to disassociate responsibility of the deeds of one from the sum of the whole. This is all me and facets thereof, it is not as if I do not have any control over these aspects of myself, at least not outside the deterministic side of life anyway. To understand one I have to understand all and this is not always easy, however the understanding is but the first step because I am good at cerebral activity that involves none of its physical counterpart, this is analysis it feeds my interest in understanding whilst staving off the ambiguity that I detest. When I can tackle the physical side I may well begin to make progress and leave some facets behind whilst empowering the ones that have a positive impact.
Song Of The Day ~ Atomic Rooster – Devil’s Answer
Whilst it would seem a strange thing to have an annual review following a year that has only highlighted my descent into further indolence which is no mean achievement considering my starting point! However there is a rationale, for a change! Were Red Baron’s Words to have, or require, stakeholders you would be they by virtue of your presence and therefore you should be rewarded for your laudable persistence. Furthermore having left a comment on Gema’s brand new blog it seemed I needed to stick up for us old hacks who’ve been at this silliness for nearly a decade now! Even all the newbies have passed me and soon I will not even have my extensive back catalogue to rest laurels on!
It speaks volumes that I did not, as I usually have done previously, mark the anniversary of my starting this journey, such as it has been. On January 18th 2004 aged a mere 32 I decided that I was not going to right things down in books and notepaper that would get lost and would instead follow the example of luminaries and embracers of the new media such as Salaam Pax the “Baghdad Blogger.” Weblogs as they were then called were attracting a little attention precisely because no-one really knew a lot about them, such that had they been referred to in ways such as ‘online journal’ or ‘electronic diary’ it might have made quite clear what most people used the medium for. As it was it all sounded exotic to most people who at the time were not entirely convinced the internet was an idea that would catch on.
So this all in mind I decided that it would be fair and correct to give updates on the Pre-50 50 in order to see how I’ve been getting on, perhaps garner some hints, collect volunteers where applicable and generally hold myself to account a bit.
[The Pre-50 50 should you choose to revisit it.]
There are of course a number of things on the list that are ongoing and should be so one has to assess whether or not things are progressing as they should be.
1. Move abroad (again)
2. Leave IT for something meaningful
3. Go for custody of my children
4. Rationalise my stuff into want I need and a little of what commemorates my past for posterity.
In numbers 1-4 there has been little progression and in truth I would probably have expected as much. Which is not to say they should be forgotten, merely realistically assessed. Due to circumstances beyond my control no.2 may have its hand forced before the end of this year.
5. Keep off the fags
This continues and this is a good thing, the wagon has bumps now and again one looks out as sees the vista as one thought it might have been but I remain reasonably steady.
6. Do an MA either in Linguistics or Trade Union relations
This is something that may sort of be happening in a roundabout way as I have embarked on the TUC Dipl Employment Law, it isn’t quite an MA but it is practical study for perhaps something to assist with No. 2
7. Write something every week
Hmm yes a little difficult to avoid scrutiny on this one. I am gradually getting back to it now, I did write last year, fits and starts, mostly poetry, some prose, not as much diatribe as I probably needed to! I do of course have my other new project which until February was progressing pretty well. Not yet up to scratch but I do have a compadre equally derelict in her duties, so maybe soon we’ll be back on track.
8. Read a book every month
For whatever reason I cannot seem to get going properly on the reading, I’ve been much the same with music as well. Reading for me is not generally the sort of thing I do when going to bed it is the sort of thing I do when travelling by train or eating lunch and the former happens precious few times whilst the latter I now rarely if ever tend to do alone.
9. Write a book every year – and not just part of a book either.
Well I didn’t finish one last year, I did write quite a bit more of one but no still not finished, must try harder!
10. Finish my play – to avoid it becoming like the books!
Yep bang to rights again, I don’t think I’ve actually done anything else on it last year in fairness so it’s not been on the radar.
11. Get an anthology of poetry published
I’m not sure about this one, right now it seems unimportant almost undesirable, perhaps that’ll change. I do post poetry, I’ve even put some here, but others can be a little too raw.
12. Send more work to competitions and journals
Again there is a mixed feeling to this one so for now it’s on hold.
13. Take more photographs
I took comparatively few last year which is a shame, but my Christmas present to myself was a 9yr old 2nd hand camera that I have been after for nearly 9 years! I’m hoping this may reinvigorate. I should perhaps add to this one to take more video footage, the children grow up relentlessly and each week is one where you cannot go back to who they were and what they looked like then.
14. Do an anonymous selfless act each week
Well this hasn’t happened consciously which was sort of the point to ensure I did it. I’d like to hope I might do so as a general rule in life anyway but of course it is easy to think you’re being good whereas actually being so may be a little different.
15. Think before I speak more often
I still REALLY need to work on that!
16. Slow dance with someone.
Nope still a to do. The thing with something like this is that it would feel odd as a forced thing, doing it for the sake of crossing it off a list is different to doing it and gaining the enjoyment and then crossing it off the list with a story surrounding it.
17. Sit on top of a hill and watch the sun come up with someone
Again like 16 there kind of has to be someone to do it with. I know a venue close and one far away where it would be wonderful.
18. Ask people out if I like them
Well confidence has always been a tricky one, I have on two occasions specifically asked the question and on a further two there seemed a possibility of some ‘organic chemistry’ but all came to naught. However it is sometimes easy to see the end result as rendering futile that which led you to the conclusion in the first place and that would be wrong. I have fulfilled my part of the bargain the fact that nothing came of it was neither within my control nor the subject of this point.
19. Go to a film marathon with someone
The opportunity has never arisen for this but I guess the point with such a list is to be proactive, you have to make things happen as by and large they will not happen of their own accord. If you allow life to dictate the terms it seldom turns out well.
20. Spend more time concerned with those who care about me and less concerned trying to convert those who do not.
It remains something of an ongoing thing and surely something that everybody at certain times is guilty of but those of us with little confidence wobbles perhaps more so or more often. It would be probably inaccurate to say I’ve improved but I haven’t got any worse!
21. Learn empathy
Rather like the point above it is more about a time investment.
22. Take someone I’m in love with to Ile Saint-Margueritte
Well the second part rather relies on the first doesn’t it?!
23. Visit St-Guilhem-Le-Désert (again)
Still a to do, I have been back to France but not there, yet.
24. Buy a sailing yacht
I should really have put this one after the next one as there is something of an interdependence!
25. Learn to sail
No movement, literally.
26. Visit Cuba
27. Visit Venezuela
There is a leetle monetary shortfall on this one but you never know, one day.
28. Drive a 1980s BMW 6 series along the French Riviera
Ah, still just a dream sadly
29. Drive a multi-national banger rally in either an old Mini or a BMW E30
Well I have a friend who is interested in doing this one with me now in the E30 (not mine!) so that’s progress and I would say definitely going to happen before 50, maybe even 45.
30. Spend a month travelling round India on trains
Every time the pyjama cricket comes on the TV it makes me think of India and the myriad assortment of things I wish to do. As yet the cash is lacking but this will be the first one to be addressed when I have the time and money to do so.
31. Spend a week on the Isles of Scilly
Not even been back as yet, which is a bit poor really!
32. Leave the country once every year
So far so good on this, ok it’s only been 1 year in the scheme of things but we all start somewhere and I started in Portugal. The trip to France this year has already happened and I may be going again in the next couple of months.
33. Visit 1 new country every 5 years
Hurrah for Portugal ticking 2 boxes and giving me 4 years grace! It was nice to go somewhere new and I learnt a surprising amount about myself in a short space of time that I am almost a different person abroad. I am also hoping to get to Greece to visit a friend hopefully within the next 12 months so that would be another new.
34. Visit 2 continents within the 10 years
Sadly Portugal does not tick a triple whammy and the intercontinental endeavours must wait.
35. Take the children to Ireland
Disappointingly I’ve not been back to the homeland in a couple of years and it is high time even without the children. It is a place that seems to afford me a certain amount of peace which is much needed.
36. Take the children to France
This relies on the patronage of the other parent, as in fact does the above and that is yet to be granted.
37. Walk the route of the old Berlin Wall
I walked the great Hadrians Wall in 2011 with Captain Fay McDandy and it was most excellent, far from putting me off such efforts it fuelled the desire with evidence of its enjoyment, in all but a nasty encounter with Brown 187 and a last day that was as near to Northern hell as I would ever seek to experience.
38. Stay in the DDR theme hotel
This is probably one for the same time as the wall
39. Get into the habit of 4 forms of exercise a week
The High Intensity Training as part of the academic study is making some real changes here, which is as well given the excesses of Christmas and shoulder tendonitis stopping me from the badminton.
40. Cycle to work (4.8 miles)
There is partly a health issue to blame here but it is too easy solely to blame my back problems. However the High Intensity Training has shown that I can cycle and the benefit in doing so is manifold. Definitely one to have a real tilt at this year.
41. Get down to 34″ waist
Ahem, yes, well…
42. Get down to 14 stone
43. Sort out the health niggles I’m always putting off.
44. Pay off debts (around £7000)
This has plagued me since I left university, it’s a gradual process but progress remains albeit little steps.
45. Don’t get into any more debt
46. Menu plan every meal
A lot better at this now which has proven valuable especially this month, knowing what you are going to eat and when does cut down on the desire to eat shite because you’re not standing in the kitchen after work thinking that you can’t be bothered to cook.
47. Don’t buy mindless things just to make me feel better or less bored.
I’ve been skint, this has helped!
48. Sell one item on ebay for each item I buy
I’m buying little and selling even less
49. Save some money each month, even if it’s a tenner. – longer you leave it harder it is.
I am now saving a tenner!
50. If I should be still writing (not to mention alive) at 60 I hope that I might continue the process and that it will be of as much interest as it may be now.
Well I’ve continued to make it so I guess that’s a success!
So there you go, feel free to sit in the board room and issue suitable admonishments. If I’m feeling really productive I may even manage to respond, maybe even this month. Let’s not be too hasty eh, small steps!
Song Of The Day ~ Junip – Line Of Fire
Yes we got a little stuck again there didn’t we, the desire was there to write, and I have the drafts to prove it but I didn’t quite get back into the swing of things. We are working on bringing you back to your normal programme as soon as possible, however in doing so we are working closely with another former-Blog-City comrade over at Raytsbaron, a new home for competitive collaboration designed to make 2 indolent idiots get back into the habit of being a little more productive. Please check back here a little later where we hope to be able to return you to ‘Angry Man Getting Older!’
The last post was my 500th and I felt, perhaps self-indulgantly, that the milestone deserved a little marking. I started blogging 8 1/2 years ago in order to regulate my writing and give me an outlet effectively to replace lined pieces of paper and diary-type books which were constantly going missing. In that time I’ve met people both online and in person, had some excellent contributions, and hopefully made the odd one or two. At the beginning this method of communication was comparatively new, there were people doing it who had been for some time but there were a great many more who had never heard of it and looked quizzically when I mentioned it. I had heard about it through media coverage of the so-called Baghdad blogger, Salam Pax, who started at a similar time to me but was picked up very early in The Guardian due to the currency of his postings in Iraq at the time. Pax last posted in 2009 from what I can see and largely ramped down in 2006. By this time there were many people blogging, it was before the phenomena of Facebook and Twitter where people needed an outlet for their mindless inane ramblings. Some of it was unadulterated tosh, but the same might often be said of mine, why should opinions of the global and national events of the day be any more valid than those of very localised events about the type of clothing one is wearing to parties?!
In the early days I wrote a lot, at time a self-confessional, at time chronicle and usually rants from the rather left wing of the political dial. Within a few months there were a few people who seemed to regularly read my ramblings. It was nice to have a connection to others across the world at a time when in my personal life I was confined to a small one room bedsit and writing was the escape. Additionally the interaction from others often sparked new ideas and new posts and the desire to write often enough was good for regulating my output and stemming the lethargy that I often succumbed to. I’ve spoken to those who share similar political leanings as me to the holocaust denier on the other end of the spectrum. There is no greater catalyst to inspire writing than the actions of others, whether one agrees or vehemently opposes. There was even a period of about 3 months when I wrote every day just to see if I could do it. As I was listening to the news constantly in order to have subjects to rant about I was very much alive and participating in the online world at large and it spilled over into my work life, an environment increasingly unaccepting of my brand of political diatribe. In some ways my actions through the formative years of the new job I started at almost exactly the time I did my blog shaped people’s opinions of me that last to this day, for better or worse. By the middle of 2006 due in no small part to personal reasons my output subsided and became perhaps 2 posts in a month rather than a couple in most weeks. It became almost a chore, a desire to keep something going that I had held dear to me at a time of flux but my heart wasn’t in it in truth.
I went on hiatus for a long while, online fripperies took up far more time than they should have done, it was a more immediate method of communication replacing face-to-face contact in many cases, it did make you feel connected for a while but then, at least to me, became far more disconnected a medium due to its short conversational style. There is little place for wordy monologues now and some might say this is a good thing but I object to trying to shoehorn what I wish to say into 140 characters. This may make me more verbose than I should or could be but to speak to the outside world with only really the people you know following you, if even them, feels like an admission that the essay is dead, or just in-depth conversation. I do not wish to play a part in the murder of prose. I like long words when searching for the correct word or term for something I want the one that is most apt, or apposite, but were I to say ‘more appropriate’ that would already take up 10% of my allocation so I would have to restrict myself and this is low-fat communication, better for you but tastes like shit.
Besides which as an experiment I checked myself occasionally to see whether or not I had a sort of pithy retort the like of which I might see fit to post in so short a space. The only time I remember thinking that I had a good tweet was -
“Drinking Irish beer in a Cuban bar in a German city.“
- which I thought possessed both my own activity and one of some interest and would be worthy, in that moment only, in my having such an account to post to. This was in 2010 so had I been an early adopter of Twitter the endless tripe that might have preceded and ensued would have been a pretty unfulfilling experience both for me and anyone unlucky enough to read my feed more than the once. That is not to say there are a great deal of people here nowadays, it is like the small town in the Klondike that had its brief bedlam of people and activity when blogging became the online gold only to become a ghost town when the resource was exhausted and people went in search of it elsewhere. Every now and again a lost traveller stops in to ask directions and I think the Wild West analogy should probably stop there.
I found the silence made my writing more about what I wished to say than what I thought people might wish to hear. I don’t mean that I was purely writing for the audience but I was probably more likely to self-censor to protect some of my own identity. Now it is back to barking at the moon, people are no longer blog diving and therefore no longer find you which is at times liberating and at times discomforting. Anyone who writes does so to be heard, otherwise you wouldn’t write, it is a method of communication just as direct speech, but unlike talking it affords you the time to work out what it is you want to say before someone comes back and tells you that you are wrong and why they think so. It is also a way to commit one’s life to posterity, even if you write about things that are not related to yourself, the words you use, the way you see things and the experience of your eyes in seeing those things changes all the time as you age and it is in the very style that this is most visible if you know how to read it. I find the idea of trying to build a picture of someone based on throwaway comments that have been distilled into a mere sentence saddening, as if identifying a body from dental records rather than unearthing a perfectly preserved specimen that tells so much about the individual and the time in which they lived.
Perhaps people have just evolved to the point where demands on their time are so many and so varied that to sit and write long blocks of text is a luxury they feel they can no longer afford. Maybe it is a fashion the future generations will see as folly and return to the written word. Or I might just be a dinosaur clinging on to a fading food source as many around have moved on, evolved or died out. If it is the latter then so be it, I shall go down writing.
Song Of The Day ~ Air – Alone In Kyoto
It was admittendly some years after Fi’onna that I had heard the afternoon play. Initially it was easy to listen to the mellifluous voices, those of actors familiar, the woman’s warm yet vulnerable, the man’s enthusiastic and slightly swashbuckling. The nature of the familiarity of those voices led to a superficial involvement for a time, until the plot deepened it was so carefully crafted and well-acted that it pulled like a plughole and it brought it all back. The play highlighted the highs and the lows of non-physical contact, a relationship that is often more intense than those not familiar with it could imagine, often more intense even than the physical itself. It is something I know, something I got caught up in, an intensity that burns to the touch but is as nurturing as the sun in what would otherwise be the blackest darkness. There is the sensual direction of the person being as much as you could ever hope for, there is nothing to suggest they may not be all you wanted, needed and perhaps more. There is the heightening frisson of getting slowly, almost inexorably, closer and closer to someone, the very denial of certain senses necessitating an inexorable reliance on the others. A reliance we are not used to, a downhill run too steep to be measured or braked. What begins as a safe gradual relaxation of the boundaries, distance affording a cape of seeming invincibility, continues as a headlong dash, the wind whistling past, the thrill of the speed and the knowledge that the sensation is daring, exciting, utterly out of control, maybe there is no end, maybe this time the brick wall is made of paper and the velocity will bring you crashing through to the other side and a world where pain and cynicism is replaced by contentment and a lack of expectation of either good or ill, a living for being alive. It is as much beauty as it is tragedy.
The dynamic whilst not unique to inter-personal relationships is more critical because the lack of the space between. Those undulations of moods the patterns of love, trust, fear and faith coinciding only at specific points on the graph to allow empathy and connection whilst at other times seeming so distant as if reality tries to yank back from the edge of something that could be so much better. The highs of the psychological narcotic are such as to be so alluring, so consuming as to lay waste to the otherwise mundanity of the day. This in turn left the yearning in times of no drug to be as excruciating as to be physically tortured and the effects on mood just the same. There is all too often so little information that just to survive the silence we invent something, anything, just to show we are still there and they are with us, the mind trying to give us one last safety net suspending us over that abyss that spells a pain we cannot begin to speculate on. For me it was as emotionally violent as a previous relationship had been physically so, although on this occasion it had not been by design merely by circumstance.
In truth I could romanticise about how it all started but I don’t really know, or remember, or perhaps both. What I do know is the chain of coincidences that led to it. A chance comment on a picture put up on a profile to justify the humorous title of same led to a cheerful response because something in the comment had seemed bright, neither serious nor flippant, more friendly than merely polite. Therein began a conversation that effectively lasted 2.5 years and the effect a further 1.5 subsequent to that, the full fallout cannot be adequately measured because all events in our lives shape the people we become. We would be different if not for them and the world and our perception of it and those within it would be altered. We are the sum of our experiences coupled with our genetic predisposition as to what we are able to experience. Given these factors and who we are at a specific time we were perhaps always going to head along certain paths. I was always going to fall for her because she was always going to be the one that drew me in at that time in my life.
Just as the deep rush of positive emotion made me feel childlike, the exuberance, the cradle of a new creativity, a tone to my writing and a sudden outpouring of feelings and fresh awareness of the world and the things around it. The garage door opened, the light coming only from the gap under the door now flooded in with a radiance that brought with it warmth, vivid colour, and a small amount of fear. So the end when it came left a feeling the like of which I had not felt since 17, that first breaking of innocence, the dashing of the hopes that you may have held within you since the notion of deep relationships first starting growing from the soil in your dreams. Such uprooting is not like trimming the leaves or deadheading the flowers, nor even cutting into the stem, it is a wrenching from the roots removing the whole plant. It will not grow back. This is not hyperbole, this is not some idea that the world is over, it isn’t, there may be other circumstances there may not but this strand of innocence is gone, the empirical evidence now replaces the dream, any future moment that appears to be proceeding down the same path will ring alarm bells. Others will inevitably be judged by the sins of them that have gone before, it is unfair, it is unavoidable.
I have long since speculated as to whether given the chance to expunge the events and memories of that period I would do so. At times I have had distance and grace to think that I would not, that the writing to her and the emotions accompanying it were such as to tell me that which I did not know about myself, a level of me I had not hitherto attained not even been aware of, a seam yet to have been mined. There have been darker times when the hastily applied dressing has come off and opened up the wound a little to reveal raw flesh beneath and the twinge of pain that just piques a reminder, briefly spells the agony that once required such hasty binding of the cuts then. In those moments I would go back to the cynical and yet more naive me – a person not aware of that which could be and the consequences of both its successes and failure and I would tell myself to run in order to preserve the little saplings so that they may live to grow in better soil,
Like so much that we have to put away before its time so as to function properly day to day there sits at the back of my mind a box and in it the ephemera of each section of memories and unsolved little strands of them that wait in case ever needed for a little haunting, a little self criticism or just occasionally, very occasionally to be tied up and put on the shelf with the other things that time and closure has rendered benign. The latter is far rarer than the formers but not impossible and the catharsis drawn from such a situation is liberating. I sometimes believe that were I to have neatly tidied all the boxes I would be a happy man living a normal life, but I might also be dead with nothing left to make me live from one day to the next. It is only ever likely to be something I hypothesise about.
To open such boxes is a dangerous business, like chemically induced highs you may never quite know what you are going to get and once the walking of that path is begun there is no turning back for some time. Moreover it is not always within your control to keep the lid on the box and so in this instance it was that the play acted as the catalyst that heated the feelings causing them to expand and push off the lid to release themselves into the air again. It did not awaken the sorts of emotions there had been before, neither the level of love nor the level of anguish. In fact it wasn’t to do with the level of these at all, the detachment itself was both illuminating and disquieting. Time had not healed, the wound was still there but it had not bled for a while and I had forgotten what it felt like to have it do so. It could never be as bad as it was originally, then there was no way I could have expected that severity of pain, now it is just like revisiting something unpleasant but familiar where it is more the memory of how unpleasant it was at the time that causes the emotion than the specifics of the actual discomfort now.
In physical relationships we very often have things that go wrong and breakups that are not of our choosing, but there has often been much beforehand that we have learnt, the very variety of our senses bring us to conclusions of what is going on. After these there is often a proximity to a person that forces us into a state of acecptance or ambivalence, we are forced to confront the situation head on, the person continues to exist in our physical world (even if at times we may wish they did not) and this requires us to act. This is not at all the same with distance, endings are abrupt, feelings forced off like a broken circuit, sinapses still twitching and shaking as the energy of the impulses ebbs away. It is not just that a relationship is dead, the whole world with it has died, the person no longer exists and this is unnatural and allows your brain no peace. The cliff face has collapsed whilst you were standing on it.
Memories of things in the physical world are rounded, colour and odour, a sense of how someone moves and holds themselves, their bathroom habits, their clothing anomalies, the foibles that come together to make up the whole. Yet this means that the life goes on as an undulation the peaks and troughs not always noticable in the way they might be for the lack of stark comparison. But is this not better than the sharp climb to a world of more personal completion and the plummet to a world where the realisation that one is not and has never been whole renders it an aberration, a place devoid of the pleasures one used to take comfort in?
If you return to black and white having seen colour where black and white can no longer ever be the same, would you prefer to have continued life in black and white in ignorance that this is a hollow bliss or a comfortable numbness or is the fact that you then know that colour exists making your world the richer even if you are not able to enjoy it. Answers on a coloured postcard.
Song Of The Day ~ Gotye (feat. Kimbra) – Somebody I used To Know