Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Truth Leaks

We live in strange times. There is an almost tangible feeling of something in the air, something afoot, but we know not what and it's an unsettling feeling.

Not that any era ever enjoyed complete stability and security as those who know their history will attest. Like it or not, the world is continually changing, and not always for the better - ie the benefit of humanity. At the moment it sometimes appears to be spinning so fast on its axis as to be in danger of leaving its place in the solar system altogether and even the young are complaining of headaches and mental illness as the sheer pace of life becomes a strain to keep up with.

On a pragmatic level I consider that if my grandparents can survive WWII, most of us will probably survive Brexit, the most off-cited source of present national fear and blame  Yes, it will involve new ways of thinking and seeking new opportunities, but even within living memory we have all been similarly scared within the last generation, ie the 'Year 2000' Problem', when it was believed that computers would not cope with the dates changing to the new Millennium and planes would fall from the skies, there would be food shortages and life as we knew it could well end. Does anyone remember what happened in the event nearly twenty years ago?  No? Well perhaps that says something about the event, not to mention the nature of fear.

And as the millionaire next door has sagely remarked more than once. 'I set up both my businesses in the midst of a recession.'

Of course during WWII we had a government telling us all to 'Keep Calm and Carry On', despite the air raids and the bombs dropping. Rather irresponsibly I see no current government encouraging national calm, but rather stoking national fears and making things worse than they need be. In fact politics have become more Carry On film than 'Keep Calm and Carry On'.

However one chord struck recently when a friend said that the great benefit of living in these unsettling times was that everything which had previously been hidden is now coming out into the open.

Just as the Kennedy Assassination is credited (or blamed for, depending on your point of view) with heralding the dawn of conspiracy theory, the death of a British TV personality Jimmy Savile has unleashed revelation upon revelation and unintended consequence upon unintended consequence beyond anything we could have imagined to reach across the globe. Indeed the unbelievable truth behind his public facade can even been seen in the fall of Jeffery Epstein and all the unintended consequences which continue to emerge from that. Hands up everyone who thinks he committed suicide?  Quite. We have never been less likely to believe the 'official' version of a story than we are now.  Akin to that famous saying; 'Never believe anything in politics until it's officially denied.'

Yes there is plenty of fake news to wade through, but plenty of truth is also leaking out and it has become the age of the leak and the whistleblower.

As for 'fake news' let's say 60% of all news is fake - and that includes sponsored news and advertorials - which indeed makes up a surprising portion of the news in its own right.

Who decides what is real and what is fake anymore?  Those with the money to manipulate the media or a few lone conspiracy theorists? How are people supposed to tell or trust the difference? I think the bottom line is often to ask the question; 'Who is making the most money out of their opinion on this topic?' or 'Where do the vested interests lie?'

Perhaps that's why Prince Andrew's interview at the weekend was such a welcome interlude. For once we were watching something that was so stage-managed and coached, it unraveled before our very eyes. We all knew what we were really watching was a desperate man ignoring all good PR advice (and it turned out that his PR chief had resigned only two weeks prior) and digging a bigger and bigger hole for himself. Yes, it wasn't pleasant viewing and it's not as if most of us previously disliked the guy (or often even gave him a second thought in my case) but there was something refreshingly real in that level of truth leak.

It's interesting to ponder that people only ever search for the truth. No one ever talks about searching for lies.

But to get back to the idea of everything coming out that has previously been hidden, this can only be a good thing for humanity surely, despite the discomfort? And ultimately no one will have any reason left to lie as there will be no human tolerance, appetite or market left for dishonesty. But why do we need lies anyway? Why can't we have a successful, functioning and fair society with jobs and homes for all employing the principle of complete honesty? A much better society no less. It is only the game players who need to lie. Those who seek to subjugate their fellow man for their own advantage.

All counter-arguments and devil's advocates to this theory welcome.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Pillow Fight - a poem

Pillow Fight

When night terrors come knocking
At three in the morning
Don’t lie there and take
What you wouldn’t day awake
As they press all your buttons
Mock all your failings
Find you out as an imposter
Alone in the universe, smaller and lost-er
Pray, pray, pray
To be delivered to next day
To shrug off the shroud
Of dark thoughts aloud
Scare the mares of night
Into flight
Cloven hooves departing as curtains open
Daylight banishes darkness once more
To the other side of the moon
Or so they say
Either way.
The pillow is not your friend
©  LS King 2019

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The War on the Elderly

Free TV licences are set to end.
Free bus passes are regularly threatened.
Most final salary pension schemes have already been phased out and peers now plan to end the triple-lock on pensions.

Any senior citizen unlucky enough to contract dementia has it treated as a separate illness to all other illnesses (under the NHS umbrella) and is expected to pay, even if that means selling the family home they have worked hard for all their lives. They even face a surcharge to subsidise all their fellow sufferers who were not so careful or hardworking.

My generation will potentially be expected to work until 75, irrespective of whether we do a job of manual labour. Working until 75 will also have a cataclysmic effect on all those with elderly parents, spouses, neighbours or grandchildren to care for and result in massive bills to society if they can no longer fulfill all the unpaid roles that retirement facilitates and that society relies on, if it did but realise it. Never mind all the charities and good causes reliant on volunteers.

Moreover if older workers are supposed to retire to make way for the young, how can they?

Few people work for fun. Most people work because they have to.

Meantime those facing retirement are encouraged to 'unlock the equity in your home', having witnessed absolute nose dives in savings interest rates over the years. Notwithstanding the more their resources dwindle the less able they are to take financial risks (ie shares) which might ultimately benefit them.

Even on the leisure side of life there will be unintended consequences. Cruise lines will go out of business as no one will have the time or money to go on long holidays any more. 3rd Generation universities and other institutions and businesses  will become surplus to requirements.

Then there is the NHS being privatised by stealth. That 'freedom from fear' that we all valued for so long. The Victorian Poor Law which took a world war to finally transform into the NHS in 1948. Private health insurance will swipe yet another sizeable chunk from every citizen's budget.
Anyone born pre-1948 inception of NHS was promised care 'from the cradle to the grave.' Class action against the government called for breach of promise?

Finally every financial penalty to the elderly has a trickle down effect in that it renders them less able to support the younger members of their families or leave legacies to them. Already we are seeing a current generation of pensioners who are not as financially 'comfortable' as their parents were. The knock on effect can only get worse, generation on generation.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The Wisdom Of J Paul Getty

I have just been reading J Paul Getty's autobiography, 'How To Be Rich', which I picked up in an antique shop.
Despite its enticing title, you don't really learn that much about how to be rich, alas.
Basically J Paul lucked out in the early 20th century oilfields of Oklahoma, though he drilled plenty of holes which didn't strike black gold as well.
Yes he had a good education and got sent to Oxford for two years of it, but his self-made father still made him earn his own money and he spent his early years living out of a battered jalopy, the front passenger seat his office, prospecting (ie drilling) on various leases, some of which paid out, but many of which turned out to be dry holes, spending the bulk of his time with roustabouts and other working men, learning the business from the ground up, literally, getting down and dirty in his overalls.
A few surprises - Mr Getty turns out to be very pro-worker and pro-union. Like Henry Ford he recognised that a workforce needs to be sufficiently well paid for the fruit of their labours to contribute to the economy in their own right. The consumers must be equipped to consume and be customers too. He boasts how he solved a pay dispute with a union within an afternoon, much to the shock of his fellow directors, and even the union itself, who had all mentally prepared for a long siege. His solution to a pay rise demand was simple. He took the balance sheet to the meeting, showed all present that the current profits allowed the pay demands to be met by 50% that year, but the second 50% of the demand would be dependent on how the company prospered in the forthcoming year. This was accepted, and in due course honoured, with the workforce incentivised to the necessary level of productivity.
J Paul was also a firm believer in CEOs donning their overalls several times a year to visit their factories or oil wells, not just for the cameras, but to work alongside their men, making it their business to know their company inside out and the view/views from the factory floor. He personally invented a new drill head retriever tool, which alone made him an enormous amount of money in solving a problem prospectors had had for decades when the screw head became detached at great depth and could not be retrieved, blocking the new hole it was trying to drill. He railed against process assuming more importance than productivity and saw this as the sure route to future business doom or takeover, and witnessed many examples of his theory in action during his long life.
He adored art and felt that the world means very little without the artefacts and writings which outlived most of their civilisations to become their only surviving legacy. He despaired in particular of the American male's rejection of high culture as being 'unmasculine' (a big fear in those days, apparently). He even goes as far as to state:  'The cultural man is invariably a self-assured, urbane and completely confident male. He recognises, appreciates and enjoys the subtler shadings and nuances to be found in the intellectual, emotional and even physical spheres of human existence - and in the relationships between human beings. Be it in a boardroom or a bedroom, he is much better equipped to play his masculine role than is the heavy-handed and maladroit educated barbarian.'
Quite a statement!
No small proportion of J Paul's wealth came from his eye for good art, but it was never an investment for him - he genuinely loved art and collected it for its own sake and the pleasure it gave him. Accordingly the J Paul Getty Trust was created after his death, the world's largest cultural and philanthropic organisation dedicated to the visual arts.
His biggest hobbyhorse however is his fear for humanity - ie the homogenisation of the individual to become as pasteurized (and bland) as milk. He sees this as a disaster not only for the economy but for the future. Human progress depends on the world's free thinkers and eccentrics according to J Paul Getty. They may sometimes be a thorn in society's side, but they are also the innovators and the stimulus every society needs to carry on thinking, debating and evolving. And he himself had been a part of the pioneering world which achieved so much - a maverick. And remained a proud 'individualist' his entire life, who neither wanted nor expected to be approved of for his every opinion.
He accepts the need for sensible structures in society but rejects the push towards regimentation, akin to fascism.
How appalled he would be then that western society is now on the brink of mandatory organ donation, mandatory vehicle tracking, mandatory smart meters, mandatory vaccination and other questionable mandatories, with the prospect of human microchipping just around the corner. As for diversity of politics and viewpoints, that is also heavily discouraged in apparent Western democracies. We also see anomalies like street drugs freely available while Western governments do more to try and drive vitamins and homeopathy underground as alleged dangers to humanity!
His worst fears appear to be coming true, though friends assure me that we will soon be replaced by cyborgs, so that's all good then! Except that no one seems to have twigged that cyborgs won't be consumers yet as they start to replace all our blue collar jobs with more mundane self-service machines.
So patriarchal is this book that J Paul scarcely mentions women at all. It is all about a man's destiny and greatness and a man's obligations to humanity. As a female I could see this as insulting, but with my comedy hat on I choose to think; 'Hooray - he's let us girlies completely off the hook!' Notwithstanding, he was writing this in the days (1976) when women could still afford to be housewives and were strongly encouraged by society to be so and he himself was in the final year of his life at eighty four, a product of his times, as we all are.
On the other hand J Paul was clearly a very progressive and individualist thinker on every other level so, on that basis, I would have loved to have met him. I am sure he would forgive a fellow arts lover for being masculinely-challenged.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

The Dumb of Smart

There is a legal obligation on all energy companies to complete their smart meter roll out by 2020. This will be pushed back to 2025 at which point county court bailiffs can apparently come round to your property and insist on replacing meters.

After the deadline customers will be openly charged £405 to ‘upgrade’ their meter to  a smart meter, even though we are all paying for them through stealth via our bills anyway.
It is no longer possible to request an analogue meter from an energy company. They do not provide them.

Currently the policy of many energy companies seems to be to deny the best tariffs to customers who refuse smart meters (the legality of which is being explored).

All of which begs the question:

Why does our government care what type of meters citizens have, never mind make it compulsory in a democracy???

1.       They know smart meters don’t save money
2.       They know smart meters are not free – they are added to people’s bills.
3.       They know they are not greener – people who can’t afford to use energy (or who are genuinely environmentally woke) will carry on switching things off and being frugal. The careless or those who can afford unlimited energy will carry on using vast or unlimited energy including to heat up their swimming pools, pool rooms and outdoor jacuzzis and to run their banks of automatic gadgets and lights.

    The following is also well known.

  • .       Smart meters use more energy than analogue meters
  • .       Smart meters can be interrupted or inaccurate if there is not a constant signal.
  • .       Smart meters make it harder to switch energy suppliers
  • .       Smart meters can be monitored to find out if householders are out (data which can easily be sold to criminals by energy insiders)
  •       Meters have to be disposed of at regular intervals as do not readily transfer between suppliers.

There are health concerns about EMF waves and their potential to detrimentally affect plants, pets and people, especially when operating 24/7. At least your microwave is not in use 24/7.
As for the cartoon above, many a true word is said in jest! Our comings and goings will be known to our energy company and who could blame a call centre worker on minimum wage for selling this information on to those who might take advantage while we are on holiday? You can bet the energy company itself will be using this information to take commercial advantage.

I have just heard an advert on the radio for an insidious new 'campaign to help create a smarter Britain', hiring the naive voice of Jane Horrocks to convince us of its planet-saving innocence, albeit with the questionable claim that UK electricity needs are predicted to DOUBLE by 2050.
IS the UK population predicted to DOUBLE in only 30 years?
How can that be, and if we are all going greener/using less?
I think we should be told.

Interesting too how this push towards 'smart technology' is ironically pushing us to use more and more energy whereas analogue and even manual use far less or none - anyone else remember when they used to have to open their own garage door manually, wind down their windows manually, put the sunroof up if it was hot, etc etc and there were far fewer devices of every hue in our homes. Indeed most rooms could get away with one plug socket! This point is also highlighted in my previous post 'The Internet of Things We Might Not Want'

As for Sir Elton John, he appears to think you can make private jet miles disappear simply by making a financial donation to a carbon offset charity!!!!!!!!!

I manage a number of properties in my daily life and those which have smart meters installed are already showing demonstrably higher bills so they are doing the consumer no favours.

According to Fiona Parker's excellent article in yesterday's Money Mail, they are also leaving a lot of customers very angry.... 

Not just me then.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Do We Get the Politicians We Deserve?

Today we got our very own Prime Minister Trump! Brothers by other mothers. Both confirmed liars and sociopaths (that's a psychopath without the axe), they yomp through life believing that everything is there for the taking. And they take it.

And we let them.

Serving the public and being a public servant couldn't be further from their minds. It is all about THEM, not what is best for their country.

But wait. Are we complicit in ending up with them?

Are we so negative and critical and cynical of all politics and politicians that no sane person in their nice mind would now consider putting themselves forward for a lifetime of public scrutiny, criticism, abuse and blame for everything down to the weather?

Has it become a chicken and egg conundrum? What came first the self-serving politician or the cynical voter?

While this particular battle was an internal one inside the Tory party. abstaining from voting seems to be the alarming means of general protest for a growing number of British subjects. But the irony is abstaining is NEVER seen as a protest against whatever array of undazzling potential leaders happen to be on offer. Abstaining from voting is seen as a BIG FAT assumption that you do not care who rules you. Silence should never be mistaken for agreement, but of course it invariably is. And 'don't care got nowhere' as our grandmothers were so fond of telling us.

If we can be exulted to be 'passionate' about a brand of ice cream or a variety of coffee, why so luke warm about the things which should matter most and have the potential to have the biggest effect on our lives? Like our leaders?

Bad things happen when good people do nothing. Whinging about who rules us or Brexit does not count as doing something.

Meanwhile we have open access to all the drugs, booze, porn, gambling, food and online addiction, ie bread and circuses, we could wish for to ensure we remain in our own little bubbles anaesthetised to reality and unlikely to rise up in any meaningful way.

The French Government live in fear of their electorate. We need to follow suit and aim for a bloodless coup or two. When we've all decided what we actually want, that is.

Meanwhile Trump couldn't be happier to have his Little Brit bro' ruling Britain.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Consumerism Will Kill the Earth

Even Extinction Rebellion is conveniently neglecting an inconvenient truth.

We cannot have rampant consumerism driven by limitless economic growth AND save the earth.

They can stop as much traffic as they like, causing as many additional fumes as they like in the gridlock. Here is what ER are NOT campaigning against:

  • The betrayal of the Green Belt
  • All new buildings (predicted only to last 50 years which doesn't even outlive their carbon construction footprint)
  • The demolition of heritage buildings rather than their refurbishment and retro-greening.
  • The failure to tackle empty buildings, brownfield sites and non-dom home ownership.
  • Air conditioning
  • Unnecessary travel, particularly flights
  • Multiple holidays per year
  • Single season fashions
  • Moulded shoes which cannot be repaired
  • Food miles
  • Food waste
  • Computers, tablets and phones having to be regularly disposed of and replaced when their software is 'no longer supported' by manufacturer.
  • Smart meters NOT saving either money or the environment and costing energy to run
  • The scrapping of all old but reliable energy meters in 'smart meter' favour. Plus the scrapping of smart meters when switching suppliers.
  • The 'smarting' of all analogue systems, which then require disposal of analogue systems and have a lot more to go wrong with them thus contributing to their short lives.
  • Hot tubs
  • Jacuzzi's
  • Personal swimming pools
  • Banks of lights in every property and premises.
  • Built-in obsolescence in manufacturing
  • Vehicles written off which are perfectly repairable after accidents but deemed 'economically unrepairable' by insurers who do not wish to pay out for repairs
  • Cars which require front moulded units to be replaced every time a headlight needs to be replaced
  • Non recyclable 'energy saving' bulbs
  • Single use plastics, among other single-use items
  • Unnecessary fireworks (ie when it isn't New Year or Bonfire Night)
  • Chinese lanterns
  • The fall of the school bus and rise of individual journeys to drop children to/from their schools
  • Unnecessary commuting to work
  • Multiple vehicle ownership per household
  • Building new estates where there is no existing infrastructure
  • Charges on rubbish dumps, encouraging fly tipping
  • Barbecues
  • Unnecessary gadgets and other goods.
  • Overpopulation
  • Lack of cheap, reliable and plentiful public transport.
  • 'The Internet of Things' which will encourage unprecedented consumption in getting people to link their every gadget to the internet!

Finally, while there is much each consumer, sorry, individual, can do, it is OUR governments who permit all of the above to be produced and sold and do nothing to discourage overpopulation.

We also need to remember that most people only modify their behaviour when they have to.

Poor people are generally automatically careful in their consumption. Wealthy people have no fear of the bills and will probably carry on wasting as many resources as they can without a second thought.

Limitless economic growth is not sustainable. On any level. Fairer wealth distribution and sensible reproductive levels are what is needed. Along with economic stability worldwide. We give ourselves the right to control animal populations when we deem them to be overbreeding (and by and large animals are far more sensible than we are and will only breed according to what the land can support) but fail to control our own numbers, and at the morally appropriate juncture, creation.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Dr Mary's Monkey by Edward T Haslam

I have just read one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read, if not the most extraordinary.

It all starts when a young boy, a native of New Orleans, becomes fascinated by the unsolved murder of one of his doctor father's colleagues, a high ranking cancer specialist called Dr Mary Sherman, a woman who once bounced him on her knee.

She is discovered one morning in July 1964 after reports of smoke emanating from her apartment. Naked, a pile of smouldering underwear has been placed upon her and set alight. She has stab wounds to her heart and genitals suggestive of a sexual motive.

But strangest and most horrifying of all, her right arm is missing and part of her ribcage is burned through where she is lying. How could a minor fire cause this level of damage? Moreover her neighbours had heard nothing overnight through the thin walls of the apartment block. His father is sent to identify the body and is clearly traumatised by what he sees, but won't go into detail with young Ed.

It is only as he grows up that Ed learns these details and starts to be party to various clues and rumours in the community, making sporadic notes. His father dies of cancer when Ed is scarcely out of his teens, but his last words are to warn him to be careful, knowing of his curiosity.

Decades pass and Ed lives a normal life, but every so often a new clue or new piece of the story presents itself and Ed duly writes it down. A pivotal moment comes when he gets a job at a local newspaper office and is sent to meet some men who wish to know if the newspaper might be interested in their files. He feigns innocence and disinterest, but what he sees is dynamite, including pro-Cuban tape recordings featuring Lee Harvey Oswald, the prime suspect in JFK's assassination.

Bit by bit Ed uncovers the fact that New Orleans has been a secret centre for monkey research since the 1950s involving the mutation of viruses, possibly with the aim of causing a quick-acting cancer to assassinate President Castro during the Kennedy era.  Simultaneously these viruses play a part in the development of the polio vaccine, in the early batch, with disastrous results, and latterly in a sense that could have given rise to the modern cancer epidemic, and even AIDS, as they manipulated viruses creating retroviruses far beyond their understanding, or ability to fully contain, using the new secret particle accelerator machine, a machine Ed comes to suspect of having electrocuted Dr Sherman, either accidentally or deliberately, leaving her colleagues with the horrifying task of having to finish her off and deposit her body at her apartment, making it look like a random murder to hide their top secret medical experiments.

The CIA, the FBI and the Mafia all play a part in this story and all turn out to have nationally-significant roots in New Orleans, including Lee Harvey Oswald, who was also a resident. However the central character appearing to bind everything together is the shadowy Alton Ochsner, founder of the biggest medical clinic in Louisiana, former president of the American Cancer Society and able to boast friends in the highest political spheres, and not just statewide.  He has also been granted special national security clearance for a project of national importance, but what?

There are times in Ed's life when he tries to turn his back on the story, which has now grown to gargantuan proportions from the unsolved murder of a scientist, to secret government laboratories, monkey viruses, a unique plot to kill Castro, a worldwide cancer epidemic, AIDS, the CIA, the FBI and the Mafia and now Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

It all sounds far too incredible to be true and yet the more you read, the more monsters begin to emerge from the sultry Louisiana swamps.

The first version of the book came out in homespun form in 1995, but has grown ever since as new pieces of information come to light and new witnesses come forward. This is no slick production by a seasoned hack or a journalist out for a quick buck, but one man's reluctant life's work on a story he felt deserved to be shared with the world, and at no small risk to himself. Many of the central characters have died before their time after all. It is even suspected that nightclub owner Jack Ruby (who shot Lee Harvey Oswald before he could testify) was injected with quick acting cancer cells to ensure his own death (and thus silence) shortly after. Certainly the researchers who worked on the secret cancer project seemed to be as expendable as their lab animals.

Interestingly 60 Minutes made a documentary on Dr Mary's Monkey, but it was pulled at the last minute with no explanation.

Ed Haslam doesn't ask the reader to believe his book but to join him in asking the questions contained therein. Starting off with questioning the bizarre murder of a renowned scientist which was quickly shut down and never investigated, no suspects, no arrests, no credible explanations.

That said, he provides an impressive array of evidence for many of his suppositions and demonstrates that the official version of events can be just as unbelievable when held up to the light as any alternative version of events we might not wish to believe.

This book has been unputdownable - akin to several thrillers rolled into one. If just one part of it is true, it would still be an incredible story.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Farewell Avon

They say every girl loves a bad boy. Avon was mine. I was eight. He was thirty seven. It could never be. And I'm sure my fantasies growing up in small town Northern Ireland were suitably PG.

Almost sure.

But he left a lifelong and indelible impression on my young mind. It was Avon I tried to channel every time I wanted to take a risk in life, albeit not always successfully. He who showed me that life was not necessarily black and white. You couldn't always tell the goodies from the baddies.

I didn't notice or mind that the space guns bore more than a passing resemblance to hair dryers or that the sets occasionally wobbled. I couldn't wait for each week's episode. The only annoyance was how Avon the anti-hero would chase Servalan across the universe each week, dispatching numerous creatures and henchmen at no small cost to his own life as he foiled her evil Federation plans, only to end up close up and personal with the perfect chance at the end of the episode; 'Kill her!, kill her!' King the merciless, urged. But no, he would always kiss her instead. Yuck! And how dare he kiss a girl who wasn't me!

I thought Servalan was the most evil woman in the universe. Then along came Margaret Thatcher.

I was tremendously saddened to hear of Paul Darrow's sudden death last week. Another part of my childhood gone. I couldn't believe he was 78 and felt even sadder to read of the terrible health issues he had suffered in his final years. Yet he had kept working right to the end, enjoying a new career as the sardonic voice of Jack FM, later Union Jack FM radio, triumphantly. 'Playing what WE want!' to the next generation of fans.

I have just been reading Mr Darrow's autobiography 'You're him aren't you?' which is an absolute delight. Almost a performance, rather than a book, where he is aware of his reader and their intelligence at every step, with frequent asides, just for us. This gives the book a three dimensional aspect a bit like when the painter Lowry included figures looking into the picture as well or Turner added that unexpected red lifebuoy into the foreground. I can't believe this tome seems to have escaped rave reviews with its sharp but witty insights, its marvellous theatrical insider stories and its very honest observations of the double-edged (not to mention extremely fickle) sword of fame. On being introduced to Liberace as a young actor, Paul received the sage advice 'Never forget your fans.' And he never did, remaining grateful for them for the rest of his career.

Unfortunately once the era of the avuncular smurf-like BBC producer (often ex-WWII military) who was happy to take a risk on a sci-fi series they knew little about, because they knew enough to know the kids liked that sort of thing passed, it fell to the shiny-suited bean counters of the 90s who refused to take any risks to make commissioning decisions. This spelled the end for many exciting new series, or even the resurrection of the original in years to come, the notable exception being Dr Who.

Blake's 7 was a ground breaker in many ways. It was the first time the bad guys were allowed to win, the first time heroes were allowed to be killed off, not least Blake himself, the first time so many principal cast members were replaced and yet the series still enjoyed viewing figures of over 10m per episode, and even benefited from regular injection of new cast blood. It was also a very sexy series full of stunning space outfits, much though things never seemed to go beyond a passionate kiss.

Moreover it made the telling point that a humanitarian (Blake) can end up unintentionally killing a lot more people through being soft (ie letting the bad guys live) than Avon did through being a killer (when he wasn't kissing Servalan that is).

Blake's 7 was the brainchild of Terry Nation who had also played a pivotal part in Dr Who and wanted to experiment more with the Sci Fi genre. America had Star Trek and Star Wars after all. Why shouldn't Britain have Blake's 7? And not filled with goody two shoes either.

Paul goes into an entertaining commentary on each episode, later detailing his increasingly frustrated efforts to resurrect the series, hampered by Terry Nation's premature death, and subsequently the bean counters who refused to take risks. Meantime as everyone grew older and the chances of resurrection grew slimmer, he penned several Blake's 7 novels and created radio plays based on the series, aided by enlightened company, Big Finish Productions, who decided to capture the audio play market.

But let not the scores of real life plays and TV series he appeared in both pre and post Blake's 7 be forgotten, not least Dicken's Dombey and Son. Then there was the surprising career highlight for Paul of playing Elvis Presley onstage, including singing his hits, for which he received many and extraordinary reviews.

Paul comes across as a dream dinner companion. Entertaining, honest, empathetic, wickedly funny, innovative, flirty, self-deprecating, but nobody's fool. From his first days at school we see the beginnings of an individual who thinks outside the box and who is not afraid to break the rules. However he is gentlemanly enough to do no more than subtly allude to the many conquests he must have enjoyed, almost inevitable in his line of work, even if he did manage to politely dodge the young fans at stage doors begging to have Avon's babies! Fellow actress Janet Lees Price was his wife and rock of 48 years, until her death in 2012.

Interestingly Paul's agent retained him 'just in case Jeremy Brett turned down a part.' Sadly Jeremy Brett never did. Much as I also love Jeremy Brett, and consider him the definitive screen Holmes, I would have been fascinated to see Paul Darrow as Sherlock Holmes. I think he would have brought his own brand of enigmatic menace to the role. Then again, he would also have made a sublime Dr Who, had he not been too well known as Avon. Starring roles can rule out so much and that is their tragedy. Every actor yearns for one, but conversely not to be typecast, even though like true love, it seldom happens twice in a lifetime. Very few actors can jump from one starring role to the next (or have the good fortune to) without getting snagged and then pigeonholed. The likes of John Thaw and Judi Dench somehow managing to be the exception to the rule.

So to sum up, all actors really want is to be loved and remembered according to Paul, and he goes on various witty flights of fancy musing how he might be remembered after his death. Well Paul, with this fan you got both. Thanks for making my childhood that bit more tolerable.

Monday, 6 May 2019

International Tin Foil Hat Day!

In an increasingly crazy world where reality and conspiracy theory are blurring, and even seemingly interchangeable at times and fake news also abounds, sometimes the only sane response is to don a tin foil hat!

I'll be joining the Worried Woke for a civilised but light-hearted silent protest march to mark International Tin Foil Hat Day on Monday 13 May.

It starts at noon from cafe at Hove Lagoon and ends up at Brighton Pier.

Dress code: Silver tin foil hat and top to toe black, white or silver. Dogs also welcome, preferably wearing tin foil hats!

Not all 'progress' is in the human interest. Let's question everything and stop sleepwalking into a world we don't necessarily want.

Facebook page here.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

A Week In An Almost-Perfect World

We have just returned from a week's European cruise to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday on the P&O Ventura. She had never been on a cruise ship before (unless you count a converted troop ship in her 20s) so it seemed the perfect landmark experience to mark the occasion.

Moreover it removed all the stresses and strains of having to think about food such as shopping, cooking and four different people consuming four different diets. Then there was the delight of only having to unpack once and the convenience of not having to walk too far for the member of our party with arthritic knees. Indeed we noticed a high number of passengers with disabilities, including children. It was the ideal holiday option for those with mobility issues with access to all public areas and abundant lifts throughout. It was also the ideal holiday option for parents who could leave their kids in the Kid's Club until 11.45pm at night. Every beaming child I met simply couldn't get enough of Kids Club!

Everyone looked happy from old to young and I didn't hear a single mention of Brexit for the entire week.

Two days in and I was seriously wondering why P&O were not running the country, so well organised was everything. The Captain's word was law and operated within Maritime Law (taken 100% seriously) and he ran a benign dictatorship. Attending the emergency drill upon boarding was not optional, but imposed with the lightest of touches. If you didn't have your cruise card swiped to prove you had attended, you would have to attend a special one just for you! Getting on and off at various ports was treated similarly seriously. You had to be swiped in and out with your bags checked upon re-boarding, passport at the ready.

Every night a print newspaper was hand delivered to the rack next to your cabin door which detailed the following day's activities/excursions and was avidly devoured cover to cover by all on board as encouraged by the Captain, to be carried around in bags and pockets and frequently consulted. We subsequently realised there must be an onboard printing press when they had to make last minute changes.

While an up-to-the-minute cruise ship on the exterior, it was touchingly old school in terms of the onboard activities, swimming, table tennis, shows, talks, cinema, casino, shopping, theatre, eating, drinking, pool parties, 4-channel TV (unless you count the Ventura channels, one of which was the front mast camera, for those without a window cabin). Everyone was literally forced to talk to each other and interact. In some cases, re-connect. If you were determined not to get away from it all, shipboard wifi chuntered along at dialup speed, if you could be bothered to pay £12.50 for a 24hr package.

Talking to fellow cruisers it became apparent that they adored this Britain as it should be on sea for a week, dipping a toe into other cultures, but basically eating their own food, and getting back onboard for dinner if they could. More seasoned cruisers had indeed often given up on destinations not reachable by cruise ship. Far too much trouble. Yet everyone we met was affable and in their element and they all had interesting tales to tell and cruise tips to share. We learned that the best tomatoes in the world grow in the volcanic soil of Iceland, but the Icelanders won't export them (or allow other tomatoes to be imported lest the strain be tainted), You have to visit Iceland to sample the best tomato soup in the world.

The afternoon tea was the killer. Luckily we only made it twice owing to shore excursions but we felt bloated for hours afterwards. Rather sweetly there was a daily afternoon tea for solo passengers to meet and socialise too. There were black tie or theme dinners on a number of evenings, which made an occasion of the evening - and obviously gave a good excuse to take portraits and sell photos!

The service was amazing, to the extent that sometimes plates and cups were whipped away a little too enthusiastically! Each day your cabin would be made up with fresh bedding and towels (including pool towels) and each night, your steward would turn down your bed covers and leave a chocolate on each pillow. Many of the crew were international and seasoned cruisers told us that cruise ship jobs were much prized by the Filipinos in particular who would work long days for 3-5 years on cruise ships and then be able to go home and buy a plot of land or build a house for themselves, which would otherwise remain an impossible dream in their homeland. The ship would also pay for them to fly home to their families and take shore leave fairly regularly in between times, though it was obviously tough for those with children to be away from them for so long. Tips were built into your daily cruise charges, which, when you counted up the cost for a week were amazing value compared to staying in a luxury hotel without everything included for the same amount of time.

Our excursions into Europe were revealing. Tour guides used such alien phrases as 'my country' and proceeded to reel off lists of achievements and products of their country, with undisguised pride. We drove through miles and miles of industrial landscapes where real people did real jobs before reaching the pearls of Bruges and Amsterdam (many Europeans have the good sense to build the ugly and workaday stuff outside of their historic centres with very little creeping into the hallowed tourist areas).

Health and Safety legislation has clearly passed the rest of Europe by as we observed a clog maker turn a pair of wooden clogs in four minutes, minus safety goggles or guards and without handing out any goggles to the audience, some of whom were hit by wood shavings. In Bruges, boatloads of tourists admired the vistas of unspoiled heritage from 14th-19th century without a single life jacket between them, including us, once we finally boarded a boat. Rather amusingly as we got up to disembark following our bi-lingual canal tour by a Peter Sellers lookalike, I saw some discreet stickers inside the boat indicating a figure wearing a life jacket. We were also driven to Amsterdam by a coach driver clearly slightly off his bonce on weed, making inappropriate jokes about the sex lives of dead nuns in broken English as he managed to forget where he was dropping us off. The real hazard in Amsterdam though were the cyclists who literally come at you from all directions at once. And then there's the trams and normal traffic jostling for position. Luckily few people in the city appear to have given in to mobile or headphone addiction, much as they might be prone to other temptations. Talking of which many of the locals came across as rude with a tendency to just barge into each other, or shove each other out of the way, no apologies. Whatever the arguments for and against, weed certainly turns people into a-holes on the manners front and stinks out whole streets and cafes in places. Graffiti too seems on the rise since my last visit to Amsterdam, though at least all the shops appear to be thriving and I didn't see a single homeless person, just a half-hearted beggar bin hoaking. There was a decided lack of public toilets in Amsterdam (unless you count the open air pissoirs (no handwashing facilities) for men and not a chemist to be found! The red light district appeared to have expanded into the most unlikely backwater streets. We even passed a middle-aged lady in her scanties sitting in the window of a deserted side-street at 3pm on a Monday afternoon. Was she offering an OAP discount at that time of the day? Were the users of the street pissoirs made to wash their hands, or indeed anything else, before procuring her services? The mind boggled.

The main thing about Amsterdam is that everything is much further away than it seems with a confusing road layout so buying a Metro ticket is a must to explore the city by tram or you can easily see only a small part of the city and not get the most out of your visit. There are also many streets and canals that are inaccessible by Metro and taxi, though you can intersect them with these. My mother had always wanted to visit the Anne Frank house but found most of the tickets were sold online up to two months ahead of time with only a small proportion of tickets sold on the day, a ready made queue of several hundred for them, so sadly she did not get her wish. My partner wanted to visit the Van Gogh museum but extraordinarily found out all tickets had been pre-sold for the next three days! Digital exclusion is alive and well.

Ah well at least the Puss-in-Boats - the world's only floating cat sanctuary couldn't disappoint. Could it? Sadly it was only open for two hours a day and the queue was enormous! Though I did catch a glimpse of pussy from the other side of the canal where there was a glass side to the boat.

Bruges was gorgeous. And tasted as good as it looked. I spent most of my Euros on a selection of fruit-centred choccies from one of the leading chocolatiers whose cafe we had earlier sampled across the street. Ponies and traps were the best way to get around and there were proud shiny horses of every hue, including piebald, trotting smartly through the cobbled streets, some with trendy two-tone manes and all with a pooper scooper trailing behind, much like a lawnmower tray. Unlike Amsterdam, there were chemists everywhere, even in the picturesque main square and public toilets were also plentiful, quaintly marked male and female.

The odd thing about Bruges was that despite its picturesqueness, its cleanliness, its lack of graffiti, prosperous shops and lack of homeless and beggars, there was a frequent stench of drains to be found round many corners, though the reason for this remained a mystery.

The only charity shop we saw during our travels was a branch of Oxfam in Bruges, which sold fair trade products, not second hand products. It seems the continent does not really do charity shops (as I noticed in France, some time ago).

While I am not sure I could spend weeks or even months on a cruise ship (or one day aspire to become one those urban legend old ladies who apparently flee to one for the rest of their lives, in preference to an infinitely duller and more financially ruinous nursing home), I would certainly cruise again, if only for the separate vegan/vegetarian menus now available on board!. I think it would have to be the Fjords next time. It is also an interesting example of community living, with some people forming lifelong friendships aboard in addition to reconnecting with families they otherwise almost need to make appointments to see in our frenetic modern lives.

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.