Friday, 29 March 2019

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

A Climate of Climate Change

When I was a child I remember being scared rigid by children's encyclopedias warning me there would be no oil, coal or gas in 20 years time. Fossils were finite, apparently, and we greedy humans were to blame by using them all up.
But how will we live? I used to wonder.

Fast forward more than 30 years later - and guess what? We are still using oil, gas (and imported) coal. We have just sold our electricity off to the French, Spanish and Germans and closed our coal mines down in favour of cheaper (imported) coal.
So much for national energy and food security - once considered so vital to our country by 'the experts' - all of which now appears to have gone out the window.

Today's children are being similarly scared that the whole world is running out of everything and somehow they are to blame.

I consider this monstrously unfair, particularly when they have so many more pressures to contend with than my generation of children - bullying via social media for example, a 50% family split rate, the thought that they may never own their own home, among others.

Now children are being encouraged to skip school to take part in climate change protests.
Is anyone telling them the truth though?
Actually kids, yes, the world is in a mess, but it's not your fault.
What you can do to help though is lobby your government to ban cheap imports and anything which is not repairable or recyclable. You can take a stand against a throwaway society which encourages you to over-consume, unchecked and largely unregulated.

It is then just a matter of being sensible in your own homes.Switch it off if you're not using it, have 4-minute showers, wear a jumper before you put the heating up, boycott single-season fashions.  Think about the number of flights your family takes, walk and cycle as much as possible, etc etc. If you have a garden, cultivate it for the bees and butterflies, grow your own organic food and plant a tree or two if space permits. And don't upgrade your devices just because you can. Make them last as long as possible.

If every family embraced simple commonsense measures to consider the environment, what an instantly much better world it would be. None of us need to have a complicated understanding of environmental issues. We just need to do our bit and being sensible is about the best thing anyone can do. My grandparents didn't know the meaning of the world environmentalism but were greener than anyone I know - purely out of economic necessity and scarcity - see poem I wrote about them here. People can be green by simply not wasting stuff is a message I think is often lost these days.

And yes, we do need to be more responsible in terms of overpopulation - to prevent it in future - not to penalise those already here. Ensure the entire world has access to free contraception for starters. Ban free fertility treatment. Give people a tax break for remaining child-free or adopting a child who needs a good home. Economic incentives are a proven mass behavioural influencer.

We also need to beware of greenwash and unnecessary fear mongering. This doesn't help anyone, particularly if youngsters end up so paralysed by fear, they become medicated or turn to addictions rather than growing into fully functioning members of society ready to do something genuinely useful with their sense of social responsibility, their 'wokeness'.

Friday, 15 March 2019

The Oxymoron of Mandatory Organ Donation

From 2020 the NHS will assume we are happy to donate any or all of our organs unless we have 'opted out' and organ donation in UK will become mandatory.

How does that work? A donation is a voluntary gesture. A voluntary gesture is no longer a voluntary gesture if it is made mandatory.

From the number of online commentators supposedly unbothered by this change in their status from living human being (which you need to be in most cases in order to have your organs successfully harvested) to property of the state to use as it sees fit, one could easily assume there should be no shortage of genuine organ donors.

So why this mandatory move? What are the NHS doing wrong that so many altruists are not having their wishes respected with regard to organ donation? In other words, why the shortage of organ donors?

And what of those of us who wish not to be donors? How do we ensure our wishes are respected, whether for religious or ethical reasons? Or those who are perhaps happy for say, their kidneys, to be donated, but not their eyes, skin, bones, face etc?

And will our government adopt the DVLA approach to human beings like they do with vehicles in that we are designated the 'keepers' of our cars rather than the owners, so the state can theoretically seize our cars at any time. Will we simply become the 'keepers' rather than the owners of our own bodies?

I remember when we were simply asked to carry a kidney donor card. Now, rather like the taxman, they want the lot!

I foresee a time, possibly within a decade from now, when every human body will be routinely cannibalised, sorry, harvested, of all useable and saleable parts with a whole macabre international trade in body parts springing up in UK, the prime cuts of course, reserved for the super rich. We also live in a world which increasingly seeks to make money out of we human beings to the zenith - literally from the cradle to the grave. AND sell off our NHS to boot.

Yet another nail in the coffin of the sanctity of life and respect for individuals and their wishes.

Not surprisingly this change to the Organ Donor Act is linked to the emotive case of two blonde, blue eyed angels, one alive thanks to the death of the other, dubbed 'Max and Keira's Law'. A tragic case to be sure but also a success story in so far as organ donation worked in this case, so why the need for a law named after these children which compromises the human rights of the rest of us? It smacks of emotional blackmail.

To echo another rallying cry 'My body. My right to choose!' I for one have zero confidence in a so-called 'opt out' system when none of us have any idea of the manner or mode of our deaths and it will probably be a case of 'Act first. Ask questions later', particularly when donation decisions need to be made so quickly in order for most organs to be viable when they require a still-beating heart.

Oh, and by the way, in case you weren't bothered by your organs being harvested around a still-beating heart, there is no such thing as 'brain death' according to Dr Byrne (video here)

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Improvements Which Make Thing Worse

The Germans have a word for improvements which make things worse. Verschlimmbesserung. 

Britain desperately needs that word!

Here are just a few of the Verschlimmbesserungs our country has committed:

  • Care in the Community 
  • Deregulating the banks
  • Derivative trading
  • Outsourcing
  • Privitisation of public services including prisons and the Post Office.
  • PFI (Private Finance Initiative which offers shiny new hospitals and schools for no investment up front which will in reality be paid for many scores of times over out of the public purse, in some cases beyond the predicted lifespan of the new building).
  • Health and Safety (to the point that few people risk doing anything useful, even saving lives).
  • Deregulation of public sector pay at senior levels to attract 'the brightest and the best' - leading to no discernible leadership improvement in most sectors, but a lot of extra cost and the knock-on effect of demotivation to those working for the same bodies on a fraction of the salary.
  • Getting rid of Grammar Schools (the best route for disadvantaged children to social mobility)
  • Liverpool Care Pathway (posh term for killing the elderly).
  • Selling off industry and assets - at the expense of national food and energy security.
  • Pushing for a cashless and contactless society and driving everything online under the guise of 'convenience'
  • Encouraging the rise of the individual at the expense of a cohesive and caring society.
  • Mass immigration (not to be confused with a healthy and sustainable level of immigration)
  • Joining the EU without a public referendum in the first place, which would have avoided the current Brexit shambles.
  • Political Correctness - yes we needed to end racism, sexism and homophobia - but 'safe spaces', 'trigger warnings' and 'no platforming' of controversial speakers, and on no legal basis, is ridiculous. History has taught us that discussing and debating issues is the healthy way to resolve them rather than denying they exist or driving them underground.
  • Smart Motorways (proven to be more dangerous with no hard shoulder)
  • Extra brilliant headlights (might be better for driver but cause more accidents due to dazzling other drivers).
  • Smart meters - more expensive energy, you pay for the meter in your bills, cannot change suppliers easily and there may be health implications.
  • Long life bulbs - which don't last any longer, give a horrible light and are unrecycleable.
  • Digital radio - more radio stations but poor quality and half the country cannot get it!

I suppose we have the term counter-intuitive, but that does not really encapsulate this syndrome quite as well.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Cafe From Hell

My union is very proud of itself. It is introducing a 'menopause cafe' at my workplace which women 'of all ages' are encouraged to attend to learn about the menopause and support each other and...wait for are invited too, in the spirit of inclusivity!

Call me strange, but I would sooner pull my own toenails out one by one, even if I were at that stage in life, than join such a cafe, let alone tell my boss all about my intimate bodily functions in the expectation of special treatment.

Nor would I wish a condition to define me, should I be unlucky enough to suffer it. 'What do you remember most about _______?' 'Oh, I remember she had very bad menopause symptoms.'
Some gift to the world, huh?

Notwithstanding, women who are having a bad menopause are advised to cut caffeine and sugar out of their diet as this could exacerbate symptoms! Therefore a cafe is the last place they should go!

I also wonder how women who don't have to work for a living fare compared to women who do work. Do those who don't have a symptom-free change of life? What if it is all down to workplace stress? Of which there is no shortage where I work, so perhaps they should think about a more pertinent type of cafe.

For me a 'menopause cafe' is disempowering as it makes women 'the problem' yet again, discourages employers from employing us and does not fit with either equality or 'dignity at work', which we are all legally entitled to. Yet again we are returned to victimhood status owing to our gender. This level of overshare in the workplace is an equally unattractive prospect to me. Some things should remain between you and your loved one (or doctor).

Moreover there are plenty of alternative treatments on offer, or, if the worst comes to the worst, the dreaded HRT.

Interestingly it seems menopause symptoms are an invention of the 20th century and our 19th century ancestors did not suffer them. Too much artificial food, chemical and stress bombardment in our lives perhaps? Just look at how diabetes, obesity, allergies and other conditions have skyrocketed within living memory.

Men are known for mid-life crises. What cafes and special treatment will they be offered when they enter the womenpause, I wonder? Will women also be welcome to come along and understand what they are going through? And do men receive a constant steam of patronising cards through the post reminding them to have a 'scrotum scrape' every three years and that 'an appointment has been made for you' etc as if they are incapable of making an appointment for themselves should they want it?

The mind boggles.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Flash Fiction

A couple of recent attempts at Flash Fiction. 


'Attached entity? What a load of rubbish. You need help!' exclaimed the young man to the medium, after she stopped him in the supermarket.
The oleaginous winged creature clinging to his back shook with grotesque laughter, before urging him past the food to the booze aisle to fill his trolley.

Day Off

The microchip in his arm pulsed and a voice in his head announced. 'You're not needed at work today Trevor. Have the day off and report for extermination at 6.30pm at Endings walk-in centre. We've uploaded a credit for the last meal of your choice.'
'Ah well, you can't argue with progress...' reasoned Trevor.

                                                                                         ©LS King 2019

Monday, 25 February 2019


Tonight we went to see Misha Glenny, the BBC journalist whose book McMafia inspired the TV series.

Strangely enough my partner and I had binge-watched John Le Carre's 'The Night Manager' earlier in the week and as I listened to the soothing English public school tones of Glenny, I briefly wondered if he was actually a Richard Roper on the side, knowing what he knows about organised crime and worldwide rackets. Who better after all?

Disappointingly there was a lot about geopolitics and very little about actual crime, let alone mention of a single death threat. Surely all these criminals did not simply tell Glenny the journalist about their criminal shenanigans, who was only going to tell the world and potentially ruin the scams they had going!

The nearest we got to drama was the mention of a Chinese girl gripping his arm in a nightclub in Dubai and trying to strong ch-arm him into her services. Like all good journalists Glenny said he 'made his excuses' and left.

It was not hugely surprising that London turns out to be the world centre for money laundering. We have all seen those former palaces in Kensington rotting away empty, purchased by foreign powers unknown and we all know that almost every new block going up to ruin London is being advertised off-plan to foreign investors almost exclusively, sometimes to never even be visited by them but act as their gold bars in the sky. Our property market in particular stinks and there is more than simple dysfunction or shortage at play. It was good that largely thanks to McMafia a new 'unexplained wealth order' is coming in. Though this only goes part-way to addressing the fact that the super-rich seem to be repeatedly let off the tax and money-laundering laws the rest of us are zealously held to.

In a world where we clearly all need our wits about us to avoid the scammers and exploiters who await us at every turn, Glenny is a huge weed supporter. However just as a vegan would argue there is no such thing as 'humane slaughter' I would argue there is no such thing as 'harmless dope'. The clue is in the name. No one needs their brain function impaired and their driving reaction times permanently slowed at best, and psychotic mental illness at worst.

No mention of the up and coming cocaine either and how this is leading to multiple murders in the supply chain in its own right - avocado. And how this is all Meghan Markle's fault for making them so popular! And like palm oil, avocado is obviously also decimating the rain forests somehow and needs to be stopped.

Glenny touched on Rockafeller and Carnegie as early adopters of the manipulated market and stranglehold cartel (oil and steel respectively) using private security enforcers but failed to mention that Rockafeller then proceeded to re-organise and monopolise modern medicine to suit his own purposes and wealth to this day, ensuring there was somewhere for all his petroleum by-products to be used for additional profit and that alternative medicines were denigrated, driven out and illegalised wherever possible. Tax-exempt charities and The famous Norman Dodd interview also failed to get a mention revealing that the 1929 Wall Street crash was fabricated. Remarkably Glenny (in view of all he must know) seemed to assume that the current recession was natural and simply caused by the banks going crazy.

Brexit was predictably seen as a negative, despite Glenny admitting that whole new markets in drug and human trafficking had sprung up to service the newly formed EU back in the early 90s. No mention of the one-world government we were heading towards though and all the new problems this would have brought.

The positives of Glenny's investigations and the future of the world were few and far between but I believe there was a large note of hope he completely overlooked. Namely that those who run the world (whether officially or unofficially) are in the minority, so it is up to us, the majority, to keep our ears and eyes open and question EVERYTHING. Don't walk around blithely assuming that everything is either being done in your best interests or that life will somehow work out for you. We have to be participants and not spectators. Drivers, not passengers. In other words - our own best friends - focussing on what we want in life rather than allowing ourselves to be ruled by the fear of what we don't want.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Shame of No Shame...

Last night my partner and I watched an episode of 'Trevor McDonald on Death Row'. One of the inmates Trevor interviewed was unhappy about being moved from Death Row after nearly twenty years to a normal prison after his sentence was reduced to three life sentences. His crime? He had murdered his wife and two young children after his wife had told him she wanted a divorce.

He had tried to kill himself shortly after the murders by jumping off a bridge but had been saved and resuscitated from the icy river water and made to stand trial.

Trevor asked him why he was so unhappy and the convict told him he had wanted to die 18 years ago and he wanted to die now.

To be in heaven with his family was his only wish and being in prison for the rest of his natural life was a punishment he could not cope with.

I was gobsmacked by this. Supposing there is such a place, what on earth made him think that he deserved to go to heaven rather than hell after murdering his innocent wife and children? Why did he imagine his slaughtered family would wish to spend all eternity with their murderer in the hereafter? What could be more appropriate than a hell-on-earth for the rest of his natural life?

While mental incapacity had been argued in his defence in the endless appeals conducted in his name, there are normally only two reasons for an individual to commit familicide. The ultimate act of control and the ultimate act of revenge, sometimes both combined. Such a crime requires intent. It is not impulsively committed, but premeditated. The convict admitted he was 100% guilty of the crime and had even had teardrops tattooed on his face to remind him to cry every day for what he had done.

The case made me think about how common familicide now seems to be. Seldom a week goes by without reading about another case in the newspaper (copycats?) and the online comments are illuminating. If a man has slaughtered his family and then himself, he is roundly condemned. If a mother has, there are outpourings of sympathy for her mental state and her poor innocent babies and 'may they all rest in peace.' almost as if it were some terrible accident they were offering condolences for rather than murder-suicide.  I cannot join in with this. Murder is murder and the vast majority of people know what murder is, no matter how mentally ill, challenged or depressed they might be.

Now that children have become possessions rather than gifts, there seems to be a disturbing trend of  'I brought them into the world - I can take them out.' Which is no better than the wronged partner or spouse who murders their partner with the justification; 'If I can't have you, no one else can!' Except that children are total innocents in the process and did not choose their warped parents.

What arrogance too to assume that no one else can raise your kids if you've chosen to check out of this world! You, who were offering them brutal murder as your idea of parenting. And in the knowledge that almost ANY other parents would do a much better job than a broken down one who is bent on taking their own life, and potentially their childrens' too.

Not so long ago suicide was deemed as 'selfish' and it remains against the law. Now the push for assisted suicide, ahem, assisted dying, appears to be making suicide increasingly socially acceptable, and not just for the terminally ill. However in the 'bad old days' of social stigma and condemnation, and even refusal to bury suicides in consecrated ground, I could swear there was a lot less suicide around. And religious belief and caring what the neighbours thought also came in handy as a preventative.

God knows we live in a world that feels increasingly designed to drive us all mad, but I assert it is our job to fight for our mental health, not give in. And at least not have children (or pets) if we have grave doubts about our ability to stay the course and be loving and responsible parents.

Doubtless I will be accused of 'suicide-shaming'. But in my view it is a subject which is not discussed and thought about enough (and considering it is estimated we have all had suicidal thoughts at various times in our lives), and a shame comeback might not go amiss in terms of reducing its attractiveness as an option. I have been on three suicide-prevention training modules indeed (lest I ever come across a desperate student in my work) and the course leaders have all urged that it is indeed a subject which needs to come out of the closet and have the root causes examined.

As for 'selfish', suicide remains a selfish act insofar as those attempted suicides who lived to tell the tale have admitted that they were thinking ONLY of themselves and their own pain when they tried to kill themselves and not of others or the pain their premature departure would have caused to their loved ones.

The late film star Robin Williams famously joked; 'Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.'  Which could be ironic if you happen to believe that he actually did commit suicide. But he left us a very true statement whatever the truth of his murky demise.

Writer Dorothy Parker also left an apt poem on the subject.


Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Born in the Wrong Age - an Oxford Tale

I have an Oxford friend - let's call her Octavia - who although not born in Oxford, looks like the archetypal 'Oxford character' you would expect to find in an OxBridge novel - petite and birdlike with wire framed round glasses, an academic air and an eccentric taste in dress, long skirts, not quite Edwardian but not quite 20th century either, let alone 21st Century - a combination of vintage charity purchases and home sewing of silk and lace remnants.

For someone so 'in place' she has been finding herself feeling increasingly out of place, even born in the wrong age.

Her plays and novels bear this out. Octavia has penned at least half a dozen novels and numerous plays. All meticulously researched and often tackling big themes such as war yet too densely written for a modern audience, let alone pandering to the ever narrowing political correctness of current times. Nor can she boast the exotic background increasingly required for theatre competition entries that rule out a white Croydon-born spinster of a certain age.

Her successes have been modest  - a few short stories accepted by a local publishing collective and a few short plays accepted and performed by amateur groups. Her income remains eked out of parental inheritance.

As a child Octavia was highly praised and repeatedly told she would go far in life with her many talents from writing to painting, sewing, sculpture and antiques.

Now at sixty, she finds herself on the verge of a breakdown that so little has come to pass and the fears of deteriorating eyesight and contracting dementia, like her late mother, have begun to loom large.

Perhaps it has not helped that she has never known the grounding experiences of a regular job or a relationship in life. Mental health has always been fragile, all hopes and dreams pinned on becoming a literary success, much as she acknowledges that this is not an easy task for any writer these days, no matter how talented, such has the publishing world changed.

Indeed with her antidepressants precluding the day starting before lunchtime it would be hard to imagine a suitable day job for Octavia, even if she were prepared to compromise on the writing dream.

Not family (mostly died out), faith nor furry animals seem to be able to offer succor and almost 40 years after graduating from Oxford university the future renewal of her Bodleian library card (a lifeline) hangs in the balance as apparently there is a new regime seeking to crack down on those with no current link to the university.

I can imagine losing this would be the equivalent of signing a death warrant for Octavia as she spends most of her waking hours in this sanctuary, laptop and sandwiches to hand. On the plus side she has managed to avoid falling into the pit of addictions or anything other than prescribed drugs. In fact I've never seen her drink anything beyond herb teas and fruit juice.

Meantime Octavia has reached out to the local mental hospital where she was treated twenty years ago to request more CBT (the only treatment she feels she has ever truly benefited from). Regrettably they will not send anyone round to assess her until she removes her asbestos ceiling tiles (as an OCD sufferer as well, she felt obliged to warn them, even though asbestos only poses a health risk when disturbed).

However as a hoarder of silks, old books, prints and antiques it is hardly possible to enter Octavia's tiny two and a half room flat (bunk bed in the kitchen), so clearing it to remove the ceiling tiles would be an impossibility.

In truth, having such a full flat is more of a risk to Octavia's asthma owing to the mildew and dust collecting in all the unreachable corners. Asbestos is the least of her problems, and does not seem to have affected her in the 22 years she has lived there.

What Octavia could really do with (barring my previous suggestions of a lonely elderly antiques dealer with a big house in need of a late adopted daughter or celibate companion or a hoarding reality TV show) is an Oxford specialist in psychiatry who seeks a challenge - and possibly enough material in one subject to constitute a life's work!

People increasingly believe they have been born in the wrong body, but how often can they lay claim to being born in the wrong century?

Underneath all the issues, a charming young woman of voracious intelligence is waiting to be rescued, who does brighten under the lamp of human interest, whatever her protestations and self-deprecatory statements.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Four Swallows And Two Elephants

Just over a year ago I spotted a short letter in the Brighton Argus requesting information about an 'Arthur Sellman' who wrote as 'Southdown' in The World's Fair magazine.

The name rang a bell as my mother had had a beloved 'Uncle Arthur' who took her out and about as a child and paid for her to have secretarial classes when she left school at 14 so she could better herself. He had indeed acted as a surrogate father to her, her own father having died when she was three. And he wrote for The World's Fair and was related to the Sellmans of Cannock, a family undertaking firm, whose name continues to this day.

Arthur was not my mother's uncle at all in fact, but her cousin, and he had a grown up daughter - Margaret Doreen - who was a teenager when my mother was born, whom my mother Margaret was named after. I had never known Arthur, who died a few months after I was born, but a couple of fairground models of his remained, and were of great novelty to me as a youngster when I visited Margaret Doreen, though I wasn't allowed to touch them.

I telephoned my mother and Arthurs' granddaughters, Jenny and Susan (retired teachers) and told them of the letter and then emailed the enquirer Ned Williams, a Wolverhampton-based writer who specialises in historic publications, both local and entertainment-related. He replied to say how delighted he was to be put in touch with Arthur's only living relations as had had been researching 'Southdown' and reading his old articles for at least ten years but had gleaned only 'crumbs of information' about him until Jenny had been able to fill in a lot of the gaps. The sisters then assembled lots of photos, letters and other information for him and he visited Jennifer in Crawley to meet her and pore over them.

A year later Ned's book Four Swallows and Two Elephants has just come out with a whole chapter devoted to Arthur Sellman, aka 'Southdown' who turns out to have run a marionette show in addition to his journalism under various pen names for The World's Fair from 1914-1970, latterly settling on 'Southdown' and his eventual regular job as a cinema projectionist at The Regent Cinema in Queen's Street Brighton, one of the city's plushest cinemas. In his final years Arthur penned two short books; 'Bioscope Shows and Their Engines' and 'Travelling Shows and Roundabouts' under yet another pseudonym Arthur Fay.

The family surmises that confronted with a certain future in the family undertaking business in Cannock, young Arthur Sellman ran away to the fairground and so began a lifelong love affair with the world of entertainment as he gravitated around the country, eventually ending up in Brighton.

It is so lovely that Arthur has been rescued from obscurity like this and reading the book one realises what a huge and magical world the world of old fairgrounds was. And how reliant on this form of entertainment people were before cinemas came along, which eventually also seduced Arthur, much as he mourned and memorialised the passing of more traditional forms of entertainment and never lost his passion for them. The old fairgrounds were indeed a vanishing world even when Arthur was young,  Though I for one would still pay good money to see a show called 'Mrs Collins' Lions'! It seems there were a whole genre of gutsy widows of a certain age touring extraordinary-titled shows around the country and the fairground world of the early 20th century was a lot more equal opportunities than one might imagine.

Six other significant figures from the world of people's entertainment in the 20th century are also covered in this book and what fascinating figures they are.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Fall of Skysores...?

As reported in the Guardian back in April 
London’s skyline is to be transformed over the next decade with a record 510 tall towers, more than 20 storeys high, planned or under construction. The total is up from 455 towers in the pipeline in 2016, according to research from the industry forum New London Architecture (NLA) and real estate consultancy GL Hearn.
Construction has started on 115 towers, also a record. Over the past two years, work started on more projects than in the preceding five years combined.
Meanwhile as poor London gets bulldozed out of all recognition in favour of these monstrosities (and despite the horror of Grenfell), a most amusing article in The Daily Mail in the past few days suggests that the trend for multi-million pound apartments costing the equivalent of several Scottish castles (but on leasehold) in stab central may be about to break.
Something to thank Brexit for at last... as overpaid bankers and Russian mafiosi desert our shores? Or decide they prefer the white stucco town house in Notting Hill Actually after all.
Or perhaps the secret is out that these blocks are only built to last an average of 50 years with many not even making that before changing fashions (and land values) fell them, making them a shockingly bad investment, aside from the sky high maintenance charges and leasehold fees.
Many of these developments have been marketed exclusively to overseas investors prepared to buy their 'gold bars in the sky', no questions asked, offplan and upfront, quite often intentionally never to be lived in. Money laundering laws have been bypassed for such buyers. Certainly no pub or railway siding is safe from the march of the monster blocks.

Meanwhile homelessness grows worse and those serving the coffee shops and public amenities of central London are often to be found living in sheds in the suburbs or ten to a room in a 1930s semi for the privilege.

While not officially announced the backdraft or second recession is well and truly upon us as we continue paying for Blair's war, forever PFI projects and an education system, national health service and welfare state buckling at the knees. The country is in crisis, no emergency measures are in place (ie to prevent empty buildings), but perhaps the silver lining is that a crash might be the saving of London.

There will continue to be plenty of advocates saying we have to 'build upwards', despite little evidence suggesting this particularly improves housing density and plenty of evidence showing that living so artificially is detrimental to human health but perhaps we should simply start accepting that not everyone can live, rent or buy in the same place and it is a creates an equally unhealthy lack of socio-economic/geographical balance when they do.

The Drug-Free Pursuit of Happiness

At what point does an individual decide they are too young, too beautiful, too healthy and their lives are going too well so they will muck it all up with drugs?

At what point do they decide it is morally acceptable to support a trade which kills thousands of people worldwide every year, not just users, but individuals all along the supply chain from production to distribution in crimes and murders? 

Then there are the countless crimes, murders, accidents and suicides committed by those under the influence of drugs. 

As if this wasn't a high enough social and economic price to pay,  let's not forget the mental and physical ill health, time off work and additional social and health care costs to society by people rendered sick and disabled before their time.

People are terrified of dementia when old it seems, but not of risking their lifelong sanity and mental/physical functionality when young. 

It is not unusual nowadays to see relatively young men and women looking twenty years older than their age staggering along our streets in broad daylight, permanently raddled and disabled by their addictions. Worse still, this kind of self-inflicted disability no longer appears to carry any social stigma and even qualifies those who've let their lives spiral for lifelong benefits. Society is, in effect, rewarding them for dropping out rather than sorting themselves out.

Mental health issues are often cited with 'self-medication' used as an excuse, but few of these people are doctors. Why would they assume they can cure their mental ills with street drugs of unknown ingredients, provenance and purity any more than they would assume that they can cure a cancer by eating talcum powder? Plus we all know that if you are in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. Drugs are never a ladder out of that hole, just an ever deeper and more nightmarish hole, removing those in it further and further from the light at the top.

The legalisation that stoners clamour for would simply create new and even more complex issues by sending out the very dangerous message that drugs are safe, socially acceptable, and even sanctioned by our government. I doubt they would save a single life in reality. Quite the reverse as more and more people took up drug taking and we saw more and more crimes, murders, road traffic accidents and suicides as a result.

The war on drugs is failing through lack of enforcement and corruption in high places, not because it isn't a good idea. 

Taking drugs will never fit in the good ideas box. It is an undeniable waste of time, human potential and life. Those sucked into this world become a flaky waste of time to associate with and selfish to the point of violence in some cases to those who dare to try and put themselves between the addict and their supply. 

Stoners are quick to point the finger at alcohol as equally insidious (as if that somehow makes drug taking ok) but no one has ever suffered psychosis or lifelong mental health issues as a result of one pint. The road to alcoholic ruin tends to be a much longer and more committed one with many more opportunities for redemption along the way.  Furthermore a drunk person can be sober in 24hrs. A stoner can take days to fully recover their wits, by which time they have often imbibed further 'hits' so that their system is never fully clear.

Behind every addict invariably lies a trail of angels with broken wings who tried to help or save them from themselves.

It is understandable that human beings should enjoy being high and escapism from their problems and the weight of the world. 

But there is another and better way and that is to study meditation or NLP for free, safe and natural highs. No downers or health prices to pay either. 

Volunteering is said to be one of the best cures for depression, but any activity instilling self-respect, confidence or pride or involving giving something back to society will see a similar blossoming of mental welfare. It is self-obsession and fear-based behaviour which promotes depression and addiction. 

To those who subsequently find the strength to face their fears and slay their personal dragons one by one, the greatest gift of all awaits - contentment and peace - leading to happiness and living in the magic of life.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Why The Theft of Public Assets Must Be Stopped

Just like the green lungs of parks, the community lungs of libraries, community centres and day care centres are also at threat from councils up and down the country wishing to flog off these vital community assets to greedy developers.

But the horror continues when you consider how many of these same parks, libraries and buildings were donated to the people of that town or city by philanthropists and charities and NOT to its council to become its own family silver to rob the citizens of at will.

Here in Hove, there have been repeated threats to Hove Library (donated to the people of Hove by Andrew Carnegie in 1908 and erected on donated land) over nearly 20 years, to the extent that it appears Brighton and Hove City Council employ an individual full-time to devise ever more fiendish ways to run it down, make it unviable as a Library and carve it up to let to businesses, yet it remains popular and cherished and a lifeline to many, and despite the fact that it now apparently has to 'generate income' to justify its continued existence. Which begs the question; What next? Will state schools also have to start turning a profit by housing businesses within?

How can councils be allowed to disregard the physical and mental health and needs of their tax payers like this? We now have both a Minister for Loneliness and a Suicide Prevention Minister and mental health issues are going through the roof, as is homelessness and other social ills, all creating more vulnerable and socially isolated people with fewer and fewer community resources and facilities to turn to.

Is there no legal challenge which can stop these public thefts by public servants, particularly when public assets have been donated for the benefit of that town or city by a late benefactor, who would doubtless be spinning in their grave to know what was mooted for their gift to posterity and public memorial? 

To dispose of public assets is nothing less than an act of fraud against the public.

Furthermore once these public assets are gone they are gone.  It is not just a matter of the lost buildings and land. We now live in an age remarkably free of philanthropists with many wealthy people feeling no religious or other desire or duty to give back to society, let alone consider posterity, particularly in UK. It has become a me, me, me society where money is all.

Once it was unthinkable that we could ever lose our greenbelt protection but it is happening and the rot is spreading to the point that it is almost wholesale. Nothing is safe or sacred. 

To listen to councils who seem to be able to see no further than the budget for the year ahead, you could be forgiven for thinking human beings no longer have the same human need for parks, community facilities and spaces as we've all emigrated 'online'. They seem to make no connection with the level of social isolation, mental health issues and criminality rising up, sometimes purely because there is nothing else for people to do. More and more individuals are feeling uncivicly cared for. Unimportant. So they either lash out against society or pursue a nihilistic or self-destructive path, often costing society a great deal more money in the process than the preservation of the facilities which might have prevented their downward spiral.

Last week in Brighton an inquest heard how a talented middle-aged artist died within a year of his day centre being closed, his social worker convinced that losing this facility effectively signed his death warrant with his mental decline following a clear trajectory immediately after the closure.

My previous post on why our libraries save our councils more than they cost our councils here.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Why I Could Never Be Socialist...

How socialists think we should all live...

How I think we should all live...

I believe in champagne for all too.

And in the bible (John 14:2) it tells us 'In my father's house are many mansions.'
Not tower blocks, but MANSIONS!
Mansions are our birthright people!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Libraries Save Our Councils More than They Cost Our Councils

For all those councils who claim we cannot afford Public Libraries, and on whom the riposte 'We cannot afford an ignorant society' falls on deaf ears, what if we Library lovers were to change tack and argue that libraries are not only cost neutral but SAVE councils money in social benefits?

Amazing government report Libraries Deliver here chock full of handy graphics to support the argument. All you need is to put in an FOI request to find out what your Public Library costs to run in relation to other services and you can develop your Library case. If you are lucky enough to have a Carnegie Library, this was a gift from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to the people of your area. It may even be on donated land (as here in Hove), so your Library is off to a head start in terms of cost effectiveness if it was donated and has already stood for many decades (ours is currently celebrating its 110th anniversary).

A fantastic blog post here by Librarian Dawn Finch on what constitutes a Public Library and why we should accept no substitutes.

Personally I think in a society where we have seldom seen such social disenfranchisement, reversal of social mobility for the poorest, free education increasingly relegated to the past and safe non-commercial public spaces disappearing at a rate of knots, not to mention rising mental health issues, we have seldom needed our Public Libraries more. The time is ripe for their renaissance and the dispelling of the myth that the online world has replaced real life and the human need for social interaction.

Not all of us are suited to living in the 'contactless' world designed and increasingly controlled by the geeks of Silicon Valley. Many of us remain stubbornly human with human needs and our Libraries really are community lifelines as the Tsar of Loneliness Minister Tracey Couch, should be acknowledging as part of her remit.

There is no more fulsome ticker of a council's equality, diversity and inclusivity commitment boxes than a Public Library, aside from their legal obligations under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.

I now include some inspiring quotes on Libraries and reading below (some old and some contemporary) but all timeless in their message. We need books and we need Public Libraries.

"A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert." - Andrew Carnegie

"A reader lives a thousand lives before they die. The individual who never reads lives only one." - George Martin

"A library is the only single place you can go to learn something new, be comforted, terrified, thrilled, saddened, overjoyed, or excited all in one day. And for free".Amy Neftzger
"A Library is a place vibrating with ideas" Nancy Lodge

"Without the Library you have no civilisation"Ray Bradbury

"The Library is like a candy store where everything is free"Jamie Ford

"Who doesn’t love a library? It is a place you can go in any town and discover the world." –  Pat MacEnulty
"When I enter a library, I feel I’ve come home." Barbara Wright
"A Library is a hospital for the mind" Anon
"Knowledge is free at the Library – just bring your own container" - Anon
"I always felt if I could get to a Library, I would be ok." - Maya Angelou
"Whatever the cost of our Libraries, the price is cheap compared to an ignorant nation." Walter Cronkite
"A book is a device to ignite the imagination"Alan Bennett

"The Library is my cathedral" Barbara Bretton

"A Library Is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life" Henry Ward Beecher

"Ordinary people have big TV’s, extraordinary people have big Libraries" - Anon

"I have found the most valuable thing in my purse is my Library card". - Laura Bush

"Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a Library card!" - Anon

"The one thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the Library" Albert Einstein

"It was the kind of Library he had only read about in books"Alan Bennett

"Library doors are a gateway to anywhere." Anon

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Hove Library - 110th Birthday Celebration

On Sunday 8th July it will be 110 years since Hove Library (gift to the city from Andrew Carnegie) opened. on 8th July 1908. 
At 3pm, we will be having a street celebration outside (cake and cordial) to celebrate. We intend short readings, poems and quotes in celebration of Libraries - musicians and celebrities also welcome. One lady has already offered to come dressed in Edwardian costume to read an Edwardian library poem! 
Everyone welcome including children. 
Dress code: Bright colours.
A few of us will go to the Connaught pub afterwards for a drink, but we wanted to honour Andrew Carnegie (a teetotaller) in the street celebration.
Please come and show your love and appreciation for this jewel in Hove's crown.
Hove Carnegie Library is much loved and much used, yet has suffered many threats over the years so we thought it would be nice to do something positive with this celebration and show our appreciation. If you would like to contribute a reading or piece, please email to let us know.

Facebook invitation here

I myself have penned the following poem for the occasion. 

Love Your Library 

Whether you can or can’t afford to go to university
There’s no greater place for education and diversity
It’s international, equal and inclusive too
And the council provides it just for you!
It’s a window on the world
Great adventures unfurled
A chest full of treasures
And jewels beyond measure
You never know what you might accidentally find
Whereas Google just pairs you with the same kind
Social mobility lurks within these shelves
For the next Carnegie who wants to make themself
It’s a refuge from rain, a sanctuary, a nest
A lifeline for many who need a rest
From the world’s loneliness, cruelty and random tests
So love your library, give it a hug
Tell all your friends about the reading bug
Or come in to read the papers or use the free IT
Or join a book club or writing group in the local community
Bring your kids for storytime, it’s also free
What’s not to love about your local Library?
©LS King 2018

The other day I saw two teenage girls doing a fashion shoot on the internal staircase and enthusing how great the ornate windows looked on social media. It was refreshing to see that Hove Library users also find new ways to appreciate this handsome Grade II listed building 110 years on.

We look forward to seeing you on 8th July!

Friday, 8 June 2018

The Internet Of Things We Might Not Want

I've just listened to a Radio 4 programme where a panel discussed how to tighten up online security as people attach more and more 'things' to the internet such as their kettle, toothbrush, toaster and fridge/freezer.

Not once did anyone ask why. WHY? Why would any human being wish to connect their kettle, toothbrush, toaster or fridge/freezer to the internet?

I have just asked the internet this question and found a site with various explanations for five year olds, all enthusing how 'exciting' and 'useful' it will be to have all our objects smartified so that they can talk to us/each other and save us time and trouble.
  • Your toothbrush will be able to tell you when you've spent the full two minutes cleaning your teeth (er, mine has already has a 2-minute buzzer)
  • Your toaster will be able to tell you when your toast is ready (mine pops)
  • Your kettle will be able to tell you when the kettle has boiled (way ahead of you there - mine clicks off!)
  • Your fridge/freezer will be able to tell you you're out of orange juice and order the supermarket to deliver some more (just the one carton? How inefficient. And what if I fancy apple or mango juice instead?)
Even devices controlling our central heating are hardly necessary when we have timers to do that. Smart meters for utilities are equally redundant when most of us already switch things off when we're not using them for cost reasons and they haven't been shown to result in smaller (or more comprehensible) bills. Plus more reliance on devices rather than common sense does not, ironically, make bills smaller or us greener.

Nor does our garage door need its own internet connectivity or account in my view.

The one such application I can see that might be useful is tracking devices for pets to prevent them from getting lost or stolen. However pets are sentient beings, not inanimate household objects.

A friend bought a fertility thermometer and found she was meant to connect it to an app and enter all her (and her partner's) most intimate details into it. She was not impressed. Why could the information SHE needed not be incorporated into the thermometer in a simple daily readout of Fertile Today or Not Fertile Today? That's all she wanted. What would they do with all the data she supplied to their website? She had not agreed to be part of any mass research trial regarding fertility (or whatever their motives were). She could soon contact them to complain if the thermometer failed.

We have already witnessed seemingly innocuous geneaology sites, ostensibly to help people trace their family tree, turning into sinister DNA databases amassing samples worthy of any criminal database, and with the ability to sell them on for all kinds of purposes such as medical, travel and other insurance, prospective employee screening etc.

Meantime my phone remains unconnected to my bank account and I will not be letting Alexa into my life any time soon.

Every internet contact is a security breach risk and everything sold to us as 'convenience' could (and doubtless will) be used for a whole lot more without our consent, to one day control us in ways we cannot currently dream of.

Moreover is it wise to start letting devices and apps do more and more of our basic thinking for us? How dumb do we want to become? Completely-reliant-on-technology-for-everything-dumb?  I have always resisted a SatNav, precisely because I don't want to lose my map reading skills, which by and large, perform just as well and have never led my vehicle down a harbour slipway or any of the other reported mishaps ascribed to SatNavs.

In fact I've started turning my wifi off every night as it is not just security risks which are assuming more and more concern, but the potential damage that constant bombardment of Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMF's) may be doing in close proximity to our natural bodily EMF. The jury may still be out as we have not been under artificial EMF bombardment long enough to find out the long term effects. However it has always been recommended to keep mobile phones at least an inch away from the body and how many people do even that? I often recall a cousin who acquired a terminal brain tumour within a year of acquiring his first mobile phone twenty years ago. Of course it could have been a co-incidence, but he was noticeably in love with this gizmo (still a novelty at the time when whole offices shared one mobile for going out and about) and had it clamped to his ear a lot of the time and within a year he was dead at 37.

A Silicon Valley insider shares his experiences of EMFs here.

When I was around 20 and internet cafes started springing up because few people then had home access, I remember the internet being sold to us as something which would help us and give us lots of extra consumer choice. It would be a useful tool in our lives.

Not once were we warned that the internet might one day take over, closing our banks, post offices, ticket offices and shops and removing all other consumer choices from us including (eventually) the ability to pay in cash or by cheque. That one day Silicon Valley would rule the world and even encourage social isolation. Or that many of its designers were nerds who desired to minimise the need for human contact in their own lives and were designing the same for the rest of us aka the 'contactless' world. Consent for this to happen was neither asked or given and there was no political referendum on it either.

For all the undoubted advantages of the internet, I feel we've been mis-sold it and it should have been kept at 'useful tool' stage. Certainly every update on my computer seems to lead to it being less user-friendly rather than more and I suspect most updates are not for my benefit at all.