image_pdfimage_print

New year resolutions and swimming at -0.7 deg C

image_pdfimage_print

I have just finished watching a film of a man, Lewis Pugh,  who has dedicated his life to drawing attention to global warming, and in pursuit of this he swims in the Arctic at temperatures lower than anyone else would dare to do. I have just witnessed him swim 1 km with a sea temperature of minus 0.7°C. He does it because he believes in it. Such actions give me motivation for keeping on trying amidst a world that is so riddled with corruption, hypocrisy and scandal that it is difficult to use this as a basis for any increase in morale.

I was listening to a religious broadcast today and the preacher was saying that sheep would only lie down if they feel safe. This they do when the Shepherd is there. This caused me to think, do I feel safe or am I picking up on the intrinsic and security of the world. It all comes down to whether you identify yourself with your body or your spirit. The spirit can never be destroyed; the body can. Jesus and the great religious prophets never promised that it will be life without problems or pain. The greatest blessing we have in spite of all the pressure is trying to make us mechanical is free will  and vison or maybe faith. We are not yet robots. Whilst we have freedom I think we should use it to make as big a difference as possible to the life of others and to leave the world a better place than when we arrived.

If I asked myself what I want to achieve in 2018 I would say more of the same. I like to learn, get to know more people of good quality, I have an unceasing lust for knowledge and buying books which I see no sign of diminishing, I would keep my body in reasonable shape, and take advantage of fully utilise all the amazing opportunities that come to me on a daily basis without announcing themselves beforehand.

If I knew what was going to happen in the next year I think I would die of boredom. If it were all mapped out and I could see the map I wouldn’t bother at all to do anything; the creativity and effort would be destroyed. I actually don’t want to know. I actually do want to be surprised. I actually don’t mind being confused because when you work your way out of it that is progress. I do not want to repeat the mistakes I’ve made so often and I can highlight one of them as the tendency to trust all want to trust people that I do not know and then being let down. It doesn’t matter how good or wonderful they seem, some people are flawed and so I am guarded and cautious but not I hope totally mistrusting.

Today I’m getting really stuck into the book of David Icke which has just come out called Everything you wanted to know. This is a 650 page volume, about the seventh book of his; his productivity is quite amazing. This is the dedication of the swimmer above. David is doing this for his children and grandchildren and who does not want to see the world reduced to a dehumanised robotic entity, drug and controlled, devoid of compassion and love.

The swimmer referred to above was fired up and determined by the feeling he had of needing to draw attention to global warming and the plasticiseation of the seas.  My only goal is to increase, or to stop the deterioration of the community by in my own way setting an example of caring for others. How this is done is secondary. I will continue to talk outrageously to complete strangers, to tell jokes, to cheer people up, just to say a simple thing of concern and try to make people’s day and to remember that they are valued and important. I have always done this ever since I was a youngster and will continue to do it until I transition from this body.

This yearning I will carry on into my next life if indeed I do return on this planet. Goodness knows there are enough to return to if we believe there are 20,000 possible planets in the whole universe in which life is possible. I would quite like to move onto a planet where they use telepathy. It’s much more accurate and less hard work than speaking words, activating sound waves, having your words picked up probably inaccurately by someone else. Telepathy is direct, spot-on and undistorted material and 100% accurate. With telepathy, you don’t need to speak the same language. The common denominator of the many people who have been abducted and taken to alien craft is that they didn’t have to speak. That appeals to me enormously. We speak of telepathy here on earth as it was something odd, but I think it is the norm and we have deprogrammed ourselves from being able to use it. Sad.

Figuring things out doesn’t have to be instant

image_pdfimage_print

I had the pleasure of meeting a delightful lady of 90 years of age whose husband died 10 years ago. It was in the service and they had to move every couple of years until he retired. They live in a delightful workers cottage, previously occupied by agricultural people and the house is supposed to go back to 1681. She wanted me to cut a long hedge which people have had a go at but frankly had made a hash of or simply abandoned it halfway through.

On the face of it, the hedge which must be about 70 m long is a disheartening job to contemplate. It is gnarled, high, irregular, and I had somehow to bring it into some order. We went along to visit it this morning and I came to an initial conclusion that I could not find a solution that was safe. The back of the hedge was on a slippery slope, a bank indeed, with many opportunities to get copiously scratched by the brambles not to mention losing one’s foothold and tumbling down. I told the lady that I would try and find someone else to do the job but then I thought to myself that if I try to see it from the correct perspective surely there must be a successful formula. I did not want to let her down.

I started off by mowing the area adjacent to the road which had lots of weeds and dying grasses. After that was all cleared the whole aspect looked much cleaner. I then realised that if I divided the job up into sections, I could adequately deal with it, with help, over a couple of days. There was precious little space to put the spoil as a prelude to burning it. The amount of spoil was potentially so great that it would need five or six journeys back and forth in the car. I decided to create an area where the cuttings could be left to dry and I could return on another occasion and have a bonfire. The disposability of the spoil was the main problem and that blocked all the other thinking.

I eventually made an offer to the lady to continue with the job. She was grateful because she could not find anyone else to do it and I believe the price I offered was reasonable. It is a good thing that I have access to a variety of power tools that don’t take any prisoners. I have an electric and a petrol chainsaw, an extendable electric hedge cutter, a chainsaw attachment on the end of a long pole, a short hedge cutter and some hand tools plus a couple of ladders of varying lengths. I realise that I didn’t have to rush the job and just do it in bursts of energy.   The customer was with me during my change of mind and so working out a final solution was quite a relief for her. It may not have been totally professional but at least I was honest. It is so easy to just walk away and tell the potential customer that you will give them a call and you never do.

Before leaving, the customer offered us a glass of rather fine sherry which we enjoyed with our conversation. She told us of a spring that used to come down the hillside and which during times of flood actually came through the house. They eventually persuaded the council to lay a deep drain and divert the water.

Weather permitting we shall start work next week.

*****

Praise be, the new allotment tenant that I signed up yesterday has already dug a quarter of the plot. I had written them a really long letter of encouragement as I think I mentioned before and that action paid dividends. People are so used to impersonal relationships, I think they were dubbed by Marx as the ‘Callous Cash Nexus’. To treat people personally and with respect and actually given time is a breath of fresh air.

She just wrote to me ” Hi Brian – Yes we had a lovely morning getting started, even the little one* got stuck in! We will take absolute care to leave the area/ plants at the bottom and the left over bags of manure etc until we hear more” (re the outgoing person who may want to lay claim to them).* she is 2 years of age. I said to mum ‘start them young’.

*****

And so the last days of the ‘week of nothing’ as I call it are drawing to a close. Tomorrow it is Sunday or is it Saturday or maybe Monday. This week was one with no appointments and thus the usual mental orientations did not take place. We bought some champagne to see in the New Year. We just about make it to midnight, watch the fireworks from London and elsewhere, and fall into bed.

*****

 

The pitfalls of lying

image_pdfimage_print

Over the Christmas period, I saw an excellent film on TV called “Flight” , 2012, which featured Denzel Washington. His character was a fully qualified and competent airline pilot who was unfortunately a cocaine addict and an alcoholic. On an eventful flight attended by bad weather, he rescued his passengers from almost certain death by an amazing manoeuvre. He crash landed the aircraft with only a few deaths and became a hero. SPOILER  However, during the court case he had to explain the existence of two bottles of whiskey on the flight deck and after much hesitation admitted his guilt (he had had alcohol the night before and in the cockpit) and was imprisoned for five years. It was extremely well acted and believable. What hit me was his statement. “I have been lying all my life. I could not bring myself to tell another lie and I realised I had to face the consequences. It was a relief”.

Very few of us are completely conscienceless. The problem with lying, and consistently lying, is that there will eventually be inconsistencies which will be spotted by others. You have to keep a separate mental file of the lies you have told and keep it separate from the compartment of truth where you need the truth in order to survive. This goes against our natures and will diminish us as a person. I’m not even talking about psychopathic lying where a person with no feelings can utter a barefaced lie and even fool a lie detector. I’m talking about normal everyday person who is afraid that if he tells the truth he will get into trouble or be thought less of. My question to myself and others is to wonder if it is worth it.

For sure, in my life I had told lies. I developed a a long-term strategy a number of years ago involving trying to get myself in a situation of strength and integrity where lies do not need to be told. I still find it difficult because I do go on the defensive for some instinctive reason. So now, if I have done something wrong then I just admit it and be dammed. In all probability I will not be dammed but I think it’s the fear of being socially isolated. In a stronger community where trust prevails, it is easier to tell the truth. That is the end of my little homily on lying.

*****

Today at about six o’clock in the morning I received a notification from a lady who wanted to take a plot on my allotments. I always take notice of my own reaction. I do get a psychic rush with certain  e-mails and that reaction varies enormously from nothing to excitement leading to immediate action. On this occasion I was motivated to call up the lady immediately. She had fairly recently moved into a new house built, as so many are, on floodplains and surprise surprise the house was the subject of damp. It is amazing what developers will do for money. Oh and would you believe the garden was only the size of a postage stamp and the ground included generous amounts of builders rubble, left over sandwiches and bits of timber. The proper amount and type of soil had not been laid down  so she had to suffer solid clay which is not ideal for vegetables.

Before allocating a plot I make quite sure that the person concerned has got plenty of help. This is particularly applicable to someone with a young child as was the case here. She has a husband who is on shiftwork plus the great bonus a very useful and enthusiastic and knowledgeable father who visits them at the weekend from the south coast.  She sounded on the phone as if she really wanted the site so I decided to respond to this by arranging to meet her the same day at 2:15 PM. She looked at the plot, which happened to be the last one available, enthused about it, whereupon I signed her up straightaway.

I also decided to write her a letter, something that I seldom do, giving her advice about what type of vegetables grow successfully and assuring her of my support at all times. She wrote back thanking me very much for my support and my welcome. What I like most of all is a satisfied customer. Apart from the intrinsic nature of being of service, one satisfied customer creates more satisfied customers when people spread the word. Her last words to me on leaving were ” I think we might come along tomorrow and make a start”.

With the dreadful rain that we are having at the moment I think it unlikely but I did admire her spirit.

*****

Airbnb – On the receiving end. (ouch!)

image_pdfimage_print

We are thinking of staying in London for a few days. Other Half wants to visit a friend and we both want to visit art galleries. I do not want to entertain the stratospheric prices of most London hotels which are in the £100+ a night  bracket so I thought I’d have a go at Airbnb.

I chose a fairly unfashionable area of South London to get a better price for a five night stay. I found a place that asked £21 a night and the amount and quality of references seemed reasonable. I enclose the correspondence with a chap with a Spanish sounding name and from his writing limited knowledge of English. (Potential guests are allowed to correspond with the owner prior to booking).

Me: I don’t expect a cooked breakfast but is there a facility to make coffee in the room and also to have cold cereal? Which are the nearest stations?
Owner: Good to hear from you Brian. The breakfast you described is fine. Do you fruits and fruit juice as well? The stations are Thought Heath, West Croydon and East Croydon. I’d be happy to host you. Best wishes.

So far so good but then I had another question which started to annoy him for some reason.

Me: I know London very well and Thornton Heath is quite a long way from East and West Croydon station. I need to be on a bus route so can you tell me the name of the nearest street. I can then suggests some dates to you.
Owner: with respect Brian, ( my hackles go up at this point), Thornton Heath is within brisk walking distance of East Croydon and West Croydon, from where I live off Bensham Lane and a 5 to 10 min bus ride.

Me: with more respect – brisk walking is not so easy if you are 73 (I measured the distance for walking mode on Google Earth and it is 32 minutes from Bensham Lane to East Croydon Station). I will come back to you. Brian

Owner: (gives up and terminates any pretence of being polite at this point). I get a standard letter saying ” unfortunately this establishment is unavailable for the dates of your trip. We’re sorry this particular listing didn’t work out but there are other places nearby that you can book instantly without sending a request to the host.   The owner then says in a PS  ‘sounds like you are over fussy and argumentative’.

Me (to myself) … er I thought I was just trying to get some information. I then wrote a final note saying

Me to owner (really p*** off): You really have dug a pit for yourself and you keep digging. I didn’t say they were the only dates. The letter you sent implies that I would prefer not to send a request to the host.  You seem to have a rather short emotional fuse. I have lived in London for 50 years and I know what a short walk is and what I am willing to do. You seem to have made the decision for me.  If that is your way of doing business then good luck but you have just lost a customer.   Brian
Funny, there was no further response to this note.
Reflection: I started off with 100% goodwill but the whole thing turned on its head when I displayed knowledge of London and I was somehow abused for this.
*****
I think Airbnb is basically a good idea but it does rely on the integrity of all who take part. From what I hear, the after sales service is not particularly good so I suppose everyone enters at their own risk. < pause while I searched the Internet> I have had a look at trustpilot.com to find the average star rating of 2424 reviews is 1/5. I understand that a higher percentage of dissatisfied people will complain than satisfied people but you might like to read some of the comments yourselves. Click here.

This is from a review five days ago which was 22 December 2017

Over 7 days i tried to resolve this problem with air bnb and their customer service has been appalling. Including being promised a callback by 5 different air bnb agents – NONE EVER CALLED ME BACK. They would just message me and they i would not be able to call and speak with them again. Over 7 days, my situation was never fully resolved. Every time i called i either got hung up on, never got a call back, or the agent never left notes so i had to repeat the very long story of my experience over 4 times, and still 7 days later no resolve. Nobody has called me back, despite me repeatedly calling them and every time i call I HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN. Horrendous. They dont even care that i was deceived and mislead by the host even when the picture comparisons are as clear as day.

and this is one from 20 December 2017

Airbnb get it together please!
tho I have used airbnb several times in the past and have had lovely experiences most of the time their current website SUCKS and is totally useless. After spending 2 hrs trying to find places to stay on an upcoming trip and getting nowhere I went to hotels.com and booked hotels for my stay. Airbnb was a great idea and had its day in the sun but it seems the sun has set. One problem is they revamp the website seemingly on a daily basis and by the time you get the new system figured out they have updated to a new stupider system. Hope they get this message, I really did enjoy my past stays but for now it’s back to hotels.
and a small one from 19 December 2017
website does not seem to be authentic.When you book propert at an X price and after few hours they say that this is not the correct price and the prices are much higher.Are you here to fool customers and make a joke out of us
*****
While I’m on the topic, I notice that the company helpfully listed ‘nearby places’ including Penzance.  Only a completely dumbed down traveller would know that it takes about seven hours to get this place which is at the extreme south-west of England. All I can say is that their algorithms are totally useless.

The only advice I can give is that you should only put down what you can afford to lose and do not have any expectations of professionalism or politeness.

Pity, such a good idea but like all ideas based in America they are just interested in the money.  America first – indeed.

The fear factor and how to avoid it

image_pdfimage_print

The following essay is aligned to my state of mind at this time of year to reflect on what I have done or tried to do in the past and compare it with the prioritization that I would ideally like to see in place for the so-called future.  Having said that, our soul or the eternal part of us (bear with me) is not aware of time as such because it is irrelevant. Light has no time. It is only the spirit and the body, i.e. that which has to do with the business of every day living that time becomes relevant.

On we go.

To what extent are we controlled by fear? Today’s discussion will focus on some of the possible causes and then discuss remedies. As I am basically a Christian I am reminded of the statement “perfect love casts out fear”. I wonder how many others are afraid of the future. As ever, we can find a wise person somewhere who have something to say on the topic. The quote I’m thinking was by CS Lewis about imagery “has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind”. In other words, we are afraid of losing what we have but it may be the loss of something, and image, and identity, a possession, clears the way in order that we can embrace something else more indicative of future potential than past experience.

Is fear a type of funk? Are we turning round and round in our mind consequences that we emerging could happen if we did something. Could we consider the possibility that in this instance we are completely and utterly programmed to be hurt or damaged by some mysterious invisible force which in fact has no power in us unless we allow it. It seems that pain, or involuntary adjustment, is a part of learning and fear of the unknown is just a part of learning. Again I like the C S Lewis quote “what do people mean when they say ‘I am not afraid of God because I know he’s good’? Have they never been to a dentist?”

Fear may also be a type of pride. “I don’t want others to know what I’m doing because I may fail”. This would be foolish as well as prideful because you might deny yourself the opportunity to get some useful hints and tips. Why not replace the fear or tendency to fear by taking someone into your confidence and telling them of your difficulties or concerns and asking them to hold hands with you so to speak. You do not wish to lean on them and get them to make your decisions, but simply to be with you in the time of transition.

The fear of fear may be of our own making. If we base ourselves more or shall we say have our insurance policy based exclusively in the physical world, which itself contains an endless cycle of renewal and decay, that has an inbuilt insecurity in and of itself. If we can base our faith system on something else for example the value of the community or the value of love and caring, this in itself will become a stabilizer to our moods, our faith and our emotions. The problem with the latter is that it may contain a portion of self-pity and even laziness and this needs to be pragmatised.

Stepping forward into the darkness – or the clouds – may be the only way we can develop our character. On a very banal level, we take a risk when we ask someone on a date for the first time. We take a risk when we make a phone call to a stranger and want to do business with, come to that, we make a risk when we cross the road. What is the least risky life? No life. If our mortal stand consists in just clinging on to the familial what scope for progress is there we do not get a chance to exercise our brain or express our uniqueness of soul. What a waste!

Fear of being rejected, or being seen to be different from other people, is a major driver for good or for bad particularly in young people where instant communication is so prevalent. It takes a lot of character to stand out and be different but unless you do so will you ever become individuated?Has it occurred to you that by making a stand people might actually admire you will be a grudging and nervous sort of admiration? We had to decide whether we’re going to go round in circles for ever or whether we’re going to move forward.

I do not think fear is entirely bad. A young child be afraid of being found out about stealing apples or from a shop and that will inhibit them from doing acts which they know deep down are wrong. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” is a biblical quote of note but does it mean fear as in anxiety or does it mean fear as in respect? There is no such thing as a perfect translation from one language or group of languages, in this case Greek and Hebrew to another. The Hebrew verb yare can mean to fear, to respect, to reverence something or someone, so it has very little to do with any emotional context that people may carelessly attribute to this word. By the way, the quote goes on, the one from Proverbs chapter 9 verse 10 “….and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” so it is always best to read the context when trying to understand anything.

I can understand a certain healthy fear of the consequences when we go against the word of someone whose mastery of human nature is second to none. King David tells us in one of his psalms “come, your children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord… (then follows good advice)… Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. I like this quote “When we fear man, we walk in a dangerous place, because we are no longer trusting in the Lord” I don’t know the attribution of this quote.

Incidentally, this address is not directed exclusively to religious people. It is a principle that if your conscience says one thing and you do another, you weaken yourself. This principle does not depend upon the existence of a god or a philosophy. We can say that beliefs such as Christianity can help you to neatly and cogently organise the facts and range one set of policies against another

What about angst? How does this compare with fear? Angst is a nameless fear, fear without an object, existential fear, and it is the state of mind that the shadowy people who run this planet want us to remain in. Has it not occurred to you how strange it is that there is a fashion for lone drivers running into people on pavements and killing some of them? Have you noticed that it happens in different parts of the world? Could you possibly cope with the idea that this is part of a plan to keep us fearful?

If you do not accept this I fully understand and sympathize because it took me years and years to understand the duplicity of the media and the governments in claiming to have our interests at heart but in fact have nothing of the sort. The whole of the world is a corporation. The world is run by corporations. Corporations have no heart. End of story. The only alternative endings would happen when we collectively wake up and see what is really going on. I am not in a position to judge the wake-up fullness of the world versus the guile and cunning of those 1% of 1% who decide what people will think.

*****

lovely yummy green stuff

Tesco will have good cause to regret selling mouldy turkeys. I can think of nothing worse than assembling all your family and friends around you for what should be a celebration lunch to find that the turkey is so smelly, typically smelling of bleach, and general decay that the bird had to be thrown away. The company have claimed that they function to the highest standards. Clearly their understanding of high standards and ours do differ. I can see Turkey and chicken sales plummeting and I can see that next Christmas people will shun Tesco for smaller reliable butchers. I read that the Food Standards Authority is going to do an enquiry. Obviously the number of complainants involved must have been quite substantial.

*****

On that rather downbeat note I close my diary for today noting that in contrast to the continual rain last night we now have lovely blue sky. Life is not all bad.

Compulsive apologising – why do we keep on saying sorry?

image_pdfimage_print

The inspiration for today’s theme came when I was returning from the paper shop and an older lady who was standing in a driveway started to move forward. There was no way that she would have impeded me or caused any inconvenience but she was impelled to say “sorry”.  the implication of the word is that you are telling someone that you’re sorry for the hurt caused even if you did not do it on purpose. I wonder if this is part of the cult of Political Correctness when we almost have to apologize for our existence or apologize for any difference in opinion with others in case we offend them.

A recent survey of more than 1000 Brits found that the average person says sorry around eight times a day – and that one person in eight apologise up to 20 times a day. What gets me is that people apologize for something else someone has done to them. Example, if someone bumps into me and for some unknown reason I am prompted to apologize for someone else’s incursion. A social anthropologist Kate Fox describes experiments in which she deliberately bumped into hundreds of people in towns and cities across England. She found that around 80% of English victims said sorry even though the collisions were clearly Fox’s fault.

In some cases, people have such low self-esteem that they always assume that other people have greater rights than them when in fact we always have to accommodate ourselves to the needs of others especially when we are living in crowded circumstances. In such situations for example in a crowded kitchen I say as a joke “let’s apologize once and get it over with. We’re not banging into people deliberately”

On the topic of conversation we should not apologize for ‘rambling on’ because so-called rambling is a part of figuring out what we really think, and if the words come out in the wrong order then so be it. The listener gets the idea (that is what the brain is for – geddit) and a useful result of the conversation would have been achieved. The effect of conversation is so easily undone by apologizing for it. It is as if you didn’t believe in what you said enough for it to stand on its own two feet. It is almost as bad as the dreadful habit of saying “sort of” in every other sentence.

The word sorry is much easier to say than the more considered “regret”. I very much regret the effect my actions had on the family, the government, a country. Regret implies remorse. Regret is also used in formal statements “I very much regret to have to tell you that your relative is  deceased, missing in action”. the origins of the word can be traced to the old English ‘sarig’ meaning”distressed, grieved all full of sorrow” but as we have implied most people use the words more casually.

If I want to know something for example how to get directions in a strange city I should not start by saying sorry but by saying ‘excuse me’. This seems a polite way of getting someone’s attention without demeaning yourself.  I really do draw the line about apologizing for rain or other circumstances beyond their control. However, this could engender sympathy for negative circumstances by expressing empathy for something outside everyone’s control. an apology is seldom an admission of liability however and may well increase a person’s trust. Anything is better than not apologizing at all. In the case of serious misdemeanors, you may have to repeat your apology and embellish it somewhat.

This brings me back to the original reason for writing this article, the older lady who wanted to cross my path. The remark was not intended personally, just a tendency of her generation not wanting to trouble anyone for any reason. In the case in point I said nothing and went on my way. Hopefully, her day was not spoilt.

A rainy and windy Christmas Day

image_pdfimage_print

My goodness, what weather for a Christmas Day. No afternoon walks with the children and with the dogs. Who would want to with the wind at 30 miles an hour and rain to boot.
It has been snowing today in Oxfordshire and some of the motorways and A  roads are closed. Somerset seems to escape the worst of the weather. The last time we had snow around this time was five years ago. Pathetic.

Would you believe dear people, I don’t have many profound things to say today somewhat similar to my erstwhile diarist of the 17th-century. I set myself the task of cooking lunch and of course in my usual fashion provided far too much food so much so that I could not fit the food on to the plates. Never mind, we shall spend the next two days eating the leftovers. Cooking of a complicated meal requires timing and a certain discipline. You basically have to decide when you want to serve the meal, work out how long things take to cook, and work back. It seems easy and intuitive but alas I overcooked the baked vegetables with the result that most of them carrots and parsnips included stuck to the tin and I had to scrape them off the bottom afterwards.

Never mind, we had generous doses of the Nine Lessons and Carols, and the classic Oscar Wilde play The Importance of being Ernest” and in the afternoon the life story of the one and only Michael Jackson. Very strange that since I joined the prayer group about 10 days ago my desire for drinking alcohol even in moderate amounts has declined. It seems superfluous to requirements. I’m not complaining in the slightest. Maybe alcohol is a compensation for something or other. I’m sure that the desire to take drugs certainly are.

There is a certain quietness on this particular Christmas day which I relish. It’s not the normal absence of noise but the fact that everyone is home, for the most part contently, and not driving around like lunatics going to the shops and to work. I’m seriously tempted to take a couple of weeks out and do nothing. By that I mean rearrange myself, sort out my priorities, remove unnecessary and pointless aspects of my life and make sure that the 16 hours per day that I’m awake results in a real progress not saying “My goodness, where did the day go?”

Ominous signs in this festive season

image_pdfimage_print

I remember reading some years ago that the Christian festival of Christmas could not be advertised in any manner shape or form outside Christian churches in New York. If they did so, they would risk the possibility of legal action. Honaker the Jewish holiday which celebrates the victory in a bloody battle can be advertised by candles in peoples’ windows but for some reason another historical event of a world changing nature is forbidden. Why are things happening which appear to make no sense?

Sooner or later, you will come across the term New World Order (8,880,000 returns in Google). The idea of this cabal is to reorganise the whole world with one government, one currency system, one court, one religion, one language. It is basically a mad system arising from a lust to control. If we understand that the world is ruled by a tiny number of people whose psychology tends towards the psychopathic, then that is the key to understanding events. It certainly pertains when watching the so-called news which is in fact public perception control. So, I repeat. When something does not make sense it is only because we do not understand the controlling hands in the background.

The Australian state of Queensland sent directives to primary school principals telling them to take action against children, (yes you read that right), who talked about users or gave out Christmas cards referring to the birth of Jesus. Making Christmas tree decorations was also banned. When challenged on this, the state education Minister sought to step back from these decisions but the current position is unclear. Pray that these ludicrously extreme rulings will alert Australians to prevent any future attempts to undermine the freedom of religions of Christians in Australia.

Many of the social reforms of the 18th, 19th and 20th century in UK for example were made by Christians who had the courage of their convictions that everyone is important being ‘sons of God’  and should be looked after. Unfortunately, the level of faith is going down in terms of its replication in public life and I fear that people will only react when there is no water left in the barrel. Anyone who believes anything should stand up for the right to believe even if they don’t agree with it.

I met a Christian friend of mine on the allotments and he said to me, have a happy Monday (referring to Christmas Day). He is so frightened of upsetting people that he couldn’t even say the word Christmas or Happy Christmas. Political Correctness was a Marxist idea thought up in 1923 as a device to destroy Western society from within. It consists of inventing people or classes of people who might be offended and therefore the language or the very tendency to think, is modified and curtailed. Hence, people like me who stand out and actually say what they think are regarded as oddities.  Fortunately, there are enough of us left at the moment to make an impression if we so choose but I believe that in another couple of generations  the robot mentality will prevail. The young people are mostly getting their feelgood dopamine  from pressing buttons on a computer or device or receiving an e-mail.

I believe that peace and quiet, silence, is so necessary to allow a ‘spiritual reboot’. Inner silence is a great teacher. Most of the time we are stressed and over stimulated with material that for the most part has no value to man nor beast.

Do we respect ourselves enough to allow time for contemplation? Is it necessary to fill every moment with activity?  Do we provide our children with holidays and occasions when they can just enjoy nature and where they can leave their mobile phones or their devices at home? My opinion is that the mobile phone in particular and devices in general are more addictive than drugs. I once saw an 18 month old baby scream when an iPad was taken away from him.  Is there any hope for us human beings to continue as a family and as a community. So far, the signs are not good. No one is going to ‘save’ us. WE need to save ourselves – by waking up.

One million books at £1

image_pdfimage_print

Have you ever wondered what 1 million books look like when gathered into one place. The main town for bibliophiles in the UK is Hay on Wye. The Bookbarn on the A37 (BS39 6EX) is the largest second-hand book collection in Somerset. Here, in a coffee bar cum restaurant, you will find bookish people failing to resist the temptation of buying yet another pile of books and at one or two pounds each who can say no.

It was to this place that I took my sister and brother-in-law thinking that it was the best type of thing for a fairly miserable day, foggy and so on. I had my usual conversations with complete strangers including with a man who was the splitting image of Michael Eavis of Glastonbury fame.  I told him he had the same twinkle in his eye as Michael does, which give the impression of welcoming everybody inclusively. We chatted about books, declining values, and asked the question whether we were the last generation of people who own books. The man and his wife (who had traveled from Fishguard, Wales) noted with quiet satisfaction that the use of Kindle is declining and that young people are taking an interest in real books. ‘Michael’ said that all children should be taught the value of reading and how to swim.

For some time I have been thinking about what to do with my books when I eventually leave this mortal coil which is laughingly called life. I dread the idea of someone coming along with escape and just tracking the main so I have decided to leave this noble establishment all my books in my will. The person who deals with this i.e. the owners were not in so they will call me next week.  I think the course of my life was very much influenced by reading, not only the normal children’s books, but adventure stories. While my brain was young and influencable I was able to use these volumes to build up my imagination. This talent or learned skill has never left me.

they don’t come much more memorable than this

There has been a lot in the press about making sure that your passwords are not too easy to crack. There were some computers in the restaurant with a card giving what I can safely say is the easiest to guess or crack username and password in the universe, above.

I have nothing much to say so here are a few pictures to tempt you into coming. Anyone remotely interested in books will not want to spend less than two hours here. You will see something that catches your eye, and then something else. If you are a bibliophile you will be totally hooked on entry.

C S Lewis does it again
The Bard speaks
impossible to show the whole thing with one photograph
the coffee bar, restaurant
this is a set of six double sided 78 rpm records

*****

Shepton Mallet Lantern Festival takes place every year about this time. we went along in the dark and the fog and found a parking space and entered the park where a number of carefully prepared lanterns were being displayed. It is virtually impossible with the nonspecialist camera to give any idea what it was really like. Everyone stood around for half an hour proudly holding their lanterns and then everyone went off on the musical possession round the park and through the town.

a magic parcel?
two ghostly forms
good expression
everyone went off in a long procession into the darkness
back in town, this must be one of the longest website addresses ever – bad idea – lots of scope for mis- spelling

My sister counted 107 lanterns. By any standards that is a very good effort. She also noticed not one single black face in the whole audience. About the only foreign people I know in Shepton are Poles.

Back home to stoke up the fire. No real need since it is 9°C but I love staring at a real live fire.  And so to bed.

 

 

Far too much food, and a good conversation

image_pdfimage_print

I cannot seem to break the habit of buying too much food for festivities. I comfort myself by the fact that most of it will be eaten if not on the day intended them shortly after. I reckon that about £125 has been spent buying fairly ordinary items. I suppose with two guests for the best part of a week that’s not too bad.

I had an interesting meeting with a tenant on my allotment who’s tenancy I had on behalf of the committee cancelled due to lack of performance. He wanted to meet me to discuss it. There are many elements that come together when you have to remove someone from a position, or sack somebody, or in the hypocritical speak of the United States, to ‘let them go’. This discussion was on a very small scale but interesting nevertheless.

I put myself in a strong position by saying that my main aim is to serve people and look after their interests. I pointed out that he had not performed to the required standard for the last couple of years. He admitted that it was the case but pleaded extenuating circumstances such as workload. I could have easily argued against this but part of this chap  genuinely wanted to leave his daytime work, concentrate on his woodwork and on doing gardening.

I had to think very quickly here and had to evaluate the goodwill and enthusiasm that he displayed . I suggested to him that although the present plot appeared to be too much for him, it might be a good idea to change down to a smaller plot. Before I knew where I was, he was suggesting the same. I assured him that if he could be productive then he should move to a larger plot at some future time. I always offer to give people a hand for a couple of hours. In his case, he’s not very well physically but is too proud to admit it. I don’t want to offend or upset anybody and in this case the ploy should surely be to suggest something which on reflection he will find is within his physical and mental capability.

I wrote to the committee suggesting he take a smaller plot and they were in agreement but this will be a  last chance because he has not shown a good record in the past.  As I write this diary I await his response but I think it will be positive.

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, people are less moderate than they would normally be and I think it’s a good idea to take this into account. There are very few bad people through and through. They are more likely to be stressed, financially challenged, having difficulties with their relationship, have not had a holiday for some time, and are generally barely functional. It is for this reason that we should try to give the benefit of the doubt if a person shows genuine contrition.

Irrespective of the result, the positive and creative stance was maintained throughout the meeting and I thanked him for his time. I don’t want bad blood anywhere on the allotment. I have always maintained that everything we do should be a work of art, conversations included.  I hope this example bears fruit.

*****

Samuel Pepys, rapist – enough! – the winter solstice

image_pdfimage_print

The 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys was responsible for – or I should say gave me the impetus – to start this diary in his style. However, in the diary Tuesday 20th of December 1664 we read that he went to his friend Bagwell at his house, accepted their food and after the meal sent the husband on a false errand while he proceeded to have sex with the wife against her will. He then goes to his own home where presumably his wife is present and had another meal. He is so self-conscious or maybe ashamed or maybe indifferent about his act of sex that he describes the event in french. I have reached the point when I don’t want to know.

Up and walked to Deptford, where after doing something at the yard I walked, without being observed, with Bagwell home to his house, and there was very kindly used, and the poor people did get a dinner for me in their fashion, of which I also eat very well. After dinner I found occasion of sending him abroad, and then alone ‘avec elle je tentais a faire ce que je voudrais et contre sa force je le faisais biens que passe a mon contentment’. By and by he coming back again I took leave and walked home, and then there to dinner, where Dr. Fayrebrother come to see me and Luellin. We dined…..

I don’t really want to read this stuff. He is an excellent diarist in many ways but I think I have reached the time to thank him for his catalytic effect on me and go on my way so to speak.

*****

a rather bad photograph of people surrounding the well of chalice well

Today is winter solstice, and by way of celebration we went that unique centre and focus for the Goddess energy, Chalice Well in Glastonbury. There is normally a charge but they let everyone in free before 12 o’clock on all these special days of ceremony.  We joined everyone in the garden area for coffee and savories and then made our way through the gardens up to the well itself for a ceremony which started on the dot of 12.

the well itself dressed for the occasion

The celebrant reminded us of the significance of winter and the shortest day and invited us to do a meditation imagining that our heart chakra was full of the living fire and that this fire should be imagined to move to the Crown chakra. We were asked to envisage energy radiating throughout the body to the whole universe and blessing it.

Finally, we were asked to relax, take three deep breaths, all join hands and make the sound of Om three times and slowly.

the spring in the gardens from which people take the water supposedly containing healing powers
walking round the special labyrinth constructed for the occasion

Oh, I forgot to say, when we arrived we were given an interdenominational prayer to say to ourselves. Here it is:

The Glastonbury moment

Spirit of All Life, Mother and Father of us all, look with loving kindness on this community of Glastonbury and Avalon. Bless all beings here with love, compassion and growing consciousness. Help us to be good neighbours as a safe, creative and prosperous town in which all children are cared for and all people supported in their growth and fulfillment.

Inspire us to care for our sacred landscape sellers to benefit the natural world and our children’s children for generations to come. Help us to be mindful of caring towards our many visitors and pilgrims, honouring their diverse parts and face, as we honour and celebrate the diversity of belief among ourselves. We pray for peace and justice at home and all across the world.

Blessed be. Amen, Om

After the celebration we sat around and talked with a few people. There is a unique atmosphere where everybody is open then you can speak to people on their own male and female. This space is safe. I noticed with great delight something about the women. Very few of them were wearing make up. I could then actually see their face, their expressions, and their real selves. I have always said about make out that if you can see someone is wearing it they got too much. I hate seeing eyebrows and lips daubed with this muck, this byproduct of the petrochemical industry. Anyway, I suppose this is not in conformity with the spirit of the winter solstice or Christmas so I’ll shut up on that one.

general gathering place, tea and snacks on the left, a fire straight ahead ( Ctrl and + to enlarge)

Anyway, back to the story. I spoke to a young man who had just moved to Glastonbury from Lincolnshire and felt very guided because he had nowhere to live and found himself ending up with a house share arrangement. Someone else was listening to the side, a chap in a Rastafarian hairdo, a beard and generally a hippy type though he said later he was trying to be anti-hippie. I mentioned my name and told everyone that I had joined a prayer group and what benefit it was. Lo and behold, this chap who was called Will, belonged to the very same group. The group consists of 50 people throughout the world. The world population is about 7 billion. The chances of two people from the same group meeting and communicating are vanishingly small, one in trillions. We might accept the fact that there is a higher force that is nothing to do with  mathematical possibility but of something happening which draws people together of like mind. That made my whole trip to Glastonbury worthwhile.

a lovely presentation in the street

A little later we decided to wander around the town and get some food. There was a very happy atmosphere along the unique Main Street of Glastonbury with buskers, people wishing each other happy Christmas, and a lady selling Chai tea. This brand of tea reminded me very much of my two trips to India and the tradespeople who used to sell this tea at stations in particular by shouting ‘chai chai’. I said I would buy a cup but she would have to chant the ‘chai chai’. She smiled and understood exactly what I meant and did so. The tea was lovely, I might say almost as good as the coffee which I drink too much of. Whilst I was being served, a thin young man came up to her and whispered in her ear that there was a free vegetarian and vegan meal on offer nearby at 5:30 PM.

A Puch 50cc moped with what looks like the original colours

Glastonbury certainly does have community spirit in spadefuls. People are connected with what they are selling and doing and what a difference it makes.

a memorial shrine in the middle of Glastonbury high Street

What an amazing day with lovely weather and the spirit of fellowship that if multiplied many times will transform the world. We are blessed.

A visit to Tesco’s

image_pdfimage_print

Now what could be more exciting than that? Can I make a remotely interesting literary piece out of the most banal of activities, shopping in a supermarket. We shall see.

Supermarket automatic doors
open for me;
therefore, I am.

Craig Bruce

Or how’s this for size?

“what we have learned is that if you can make the right decision in the supermarket aisle, it’s a heck of a lot easier than making a good decision when you reach into your cupboard when you’re craving a snack at eight o’clock at night”
Tom Rath

Food shopping is one of those things that has to happen. I think of people in rural areas of Africa who have to go half a days march to get to the nearest market and then half a days march back carrying their resources home to their family.  By contrast, we drive by car in a few minutes and take it for granted.

Here we are a few days before the great day, Christmas Day, in a large branch of Tesco’s with over-loud Christmas Bells music in the background, colleague announcements on the crackly microphone, and a crowd of purposeful people pushing groaning trolleys carrying lists and stare stressfully ahead looking for the next item.

There is something about me and probably my wife that creates anxiety so that when we have two extra guests for a few days we go into overdrive and buy enough food for an army. Anyone would think that shops are going to be closed for seven days or there was going to be a famine. How big is the salmon piece do we want? How many types of vegetables will satisfy the guests? Shall we get single cream or double cream?

I asked the girl at the checkout whether she had exceeded £100 on a customer that day. She slightly rolled her eyes and said that £300-£400 was quite common when drinks are included. I suppose if you’re a mum with a family of five and the in-laws coming over to 3 days that’s probably about right.  There was a certain happiness and comradeship, almost but not quite a buzz, a very distant echo of the Spirit of the Blitz which older people talk about when we are all against a common enemy, trying to get the most out of the least and searching for bargains.

Christmas would not be Christmas without one or two children two years old running up and down the aisle or screaming as they are being carried around on the trolley. I know that the supermarket has a host of clever tricks to entice people into buying more. I notice that yellow signs announcing a very low price on cauliflower at say 29p which will cause you to look at other vegetables that surprise surprise are not so keenly priced. In this case the cauliflower was an attractor and a loss leader. On the same display rack I was invited to buy a lemon for 53p.

On arrival in the store itself I was greeted by rows and rows of inexpensively priced Cava Sparkling wine. Some champagnes (we should not really call them that)  are so cheap but lacking in quality and I feel they could be equally well used for cleaning car engines and attacking any chemical residue lurking in the nether regions of my stomach. It also occurred to me that if you have 24 bottles standing side-by-side they are more attractive than one bottle on its own.

At the tills of some supermarkets, notably Lidl, there are tempting rows of items on the shelf leading up to the till itself containing little packets of walnuts, sweets, chews etc. I don’t think anyone minds being tempted. It’s a game of wits that everyone plays. My favourite parts of the market are the fish and meat stalls especially the fish. You can point to exactly what you want, have the privilege of paying an enormous price for it, but you know that the food is fresh.

My impulse is to go around as quickly as possible, gather up what I need and trying to ignore all the other temptations and escape. My wife, however, likes to linger creatively and as she walks she concocts what meals are going to be prepared for our guests. I’d tend to complain that the wife is spending too much but as she tactfully points out, we don’t often do a big shop so the spending per diem is not actually that great.

I hate the automated checking out especially when you’re going to buy wine. The innards of the machine spots this and says in a scolding voice “approval needed”. I then have to wait for some busy person to come along and swipe a card. The checkout device is also very choosy and in my view impertinent about leaving items in the wrong place, not packing things where you should do and basically starting where you should finish. ” Have you removed all items from the tray?”. I want to reply “I will remove them once I have finished thank you very much” but I know that that will be a waste of time. I much prefer to deal with a human operator even if I have to be asked every time if I have a Tesco card or if I want cashback. I try to smile and mumble my reply, “no and no” and off we go.

Among the annoying habits of people are those who pack all their items individually and carefully, close the carrier bags and then realise finally that they have to pay and get out their purse.  But then you see,  I’m a naturally impatient person. I pride myself on keeping pace with the goods that flow through the checkout with the accompaniment of the predictable beep. I then swipe my credit card and hold my hand up for the receipt and off I go. No time wasting, very little conversation and just a smile. “How are you today?”. Response – “I’m fine”.

The whole experience I regard as a mixed blessing and for our day-to-day purposes prefer the local One-Stop shop where you can linger and joke even if you bought just one of two things. I guess you can describe the supermarket as a necessary evil but one that we had to put up with.  The local shop has the added benefit of the bargain price reductions. I get the impression that supermarkets would rather throw the stuff away. People think that an item which has either passed or is on the sell by date is going to give you instant dysentery but I have never found this to be the case. I always look sneakily for those yellow price reduction labels and take delight in saving a few pounds.

*****

It is dark, the log fire is roaring in the grate (come to think of it, where else would it roar?), and other half is shortly due back from her shopping trip to Bath ” I’m just going to get one of two things = three hours away”. You know the sort of thing, chaps.

*****

Dreams and their meanings

image_pdfimage_print

This morning I had a series of extraordinary images appear in front of my eyes – or was it in my brain – in my semi-waking state.  I wish I could remember all the details.

The first scenario was that I found myself in the vicinity of a cathedral organ. The unknown player decided to activate the stops with the deepest notes, I think it’s 64 feet if I recall. Suddenly, smoke started to billow from the vents of the organ. As the amount of smoke increased I decided that I should leave the scene but at the same time was fascinated by  how an organ could catch fire.

The second scenario involved a chainsaw. For some reason, I saw a chainsaw on the ground that I subsequently discovered belonged to a gardener. It was night time but there was a strange purple glow.  I found to my delight on handling the chainsaw that it started by my touching a small button on the back. Momentarily, I tried to figure out how this would be possible when the chainsaw was not heavy enough to carry a battery. The gardener then appeared. He had no identity and no face.

The third scenario involved a church service to which I had invited some people. The church filled up not with adults but with crowds of children in night garments. There was nothing sinister about it. They were quite well-behaved and lively and in a way I felt that the church belonged to them. I had about five or six adult people with me and we stood at the side and watched the activities of the children. The service never started.

The fourth scenario was even more strange. I was standing somewhere and someone, I think it was a young lady,  came and put her cheek on mine so we were both looking outwards so to speak and not facing each other. I found that through touching the cheeks of another person I was able to top up their energy and they were recharged after about 30 seconds. She went away smiling.

I will not attempt to diagnose my own dreams but I think they have a cathartic effect bearing in mind that our conscious mind is only one of many levels of our active existence. Maybe the dream is some type of software reboot. Maybe the dreams are prophetic regarding some things that we are about to do. I know that Freud had a lot to say about dreams and symbolism but since my recall is imperfect and incomplete I do not know how reported incident could be adequately analysed and who  would I ask.

In the dream condition and indeed in a ‘separate’ world we are less bound by what we call reality, which let’s face it is just a degraded representation of the real dynamic of the human soul. Since I have no control over my dreams I’m just going to accept them and let them get on with the job. The nice thing is that if a dream is horrible you can wake up from it and escape. I have done that when I have been presented with a difficult or dangerous situation and wanted to cop out. Even in my sleeping state I knew that I could escape so some element of free will is there.

I have once or twice managed to control my dreams whilst keeping myself sufficiently in the dream state the while and what a fascinating journey it was but that will remain private.

*****

Bad websites – the perils of offering help

image_pdfimage_print

This post attempts to show that people in difficulty do not necessarily welcome the help that you see – oh so clearly –  that they need. I also want to talk about some of the basic principles of how to construct a site.

I have a friend who has built a website which has become over a period of time what I call a dog’s dinner. It is easy to see that different pages have been added at different times for different reasons. If you were reading a book, and each chapter was written with a different layout and a different typeface, you would not find it a comfortable experience to read. Referring to dogs dinner,  that phrase is more relevant to the United Kingdom. However,  the origin of this phrase is not clear but may have referred to a cooking mishap with results fit only for the consumption of a dog.

I do try to help people on many occasions but unfortunately in most cases people go on the defensive and do not absorb the essence of what I’m trying to say. Very often the advice is  unrequested and unprompted but I say to myself ‘If I don’t tell them then who will?’

I don’t think that a website bears the whole burden of reputation for a firm or an individual. However, for first impressions, it is very important that the impression is unambiguous. It should ring like a bell. The major problem is that people who write the website or design it have a clear picture in their mind on what the back story is. Who the people are, why they started the firm in the first place, where they are on the journey etc. and it is vital to make this clear to the reader. People love stories and there is somewhere a need to know where something started and why.

just plain chaotic

Free website building sites abound and the promise is that without any HTML knowledge you can have your site up and running in a few minutes. In other words, the whole process has been dumbed down. The result  is that you have restrictions on what you can do outside the format that the designer has presented you with. Therefore, if you want to change anything, you stand the risk of interfering with the basic infrastructure and ruining the whole site.  If you look at code, it is a fearsomely unfriendly procession of numbers, characters and symbols of all types but every single one is necessary and if one character is missing, the whole will not work or only work in part.

So let’s talk about a person who doesn’t know anything about websites, say the secretary of the small gardening club, and seeks help. They have no money to spare but a high need for perceived need. This could turn into a worst-case scenario where someone who knows nothing about computers accepts an offer from a friend to make a website. Although the development goes well at first and the site is produced, it gets more and more awkward when the site owner wants changes made and is essentially asking someone for a favour or to be blunt about it, begging. If they are busy with paid work you will be well down on the list. At the very very worst, they will have registered the website themselves, and registered their own name with the Internet service provider and had somehow lost or mislead the details or they have gone off sick leaving you completely powerless to change your own site.

The essentials of a website in this fiercely competitive market (there are after all over 1 billion registered websites there are probably only about two thirds are active) but you still have to get people’s attention. From the many many sites I have seen, most all the smaller amateur sites assume knowledge that the public does not have. They do not ask an impartial person to check the results before publishing it, and they try to do too much in one site. Site content is a supreme example of “less is more” be more effective. All you’re trying to do in most cases is to get people to make contact by phone or e-mail. Don’t undersell and don’t oversell.

A person with a weak site, and I’m thinking of a person that I’m trying to help at the moment, is on the defensive with their backs into the wall because the site is not working and they don’t really want to hear anything that constitutes criticism even if it is well meant. It is very difficult to say to the suffering person in a way that is acceptable ” Look, your website is not able to convince anyone. It lacks authority, information and coherence, and you really need to start again”. This is just too much for people to take especially as they’ve invested their hearts and probably their money in putting together the site.

As I write, I have not solved this diplomatic situation. If your comments are so bland as to be meaningless, you will not communicate any relevant information as in saying someone ‘does not look very well’. This is no help to man nor beast. The only thing I can think of is to say, “I think it’s a very good site but I think you could do with one of two tweaks”.

Unless you the owner of the site are very lucky with your friends, at some point along the line you’re going to have to pay for service provision and maintenance. Amateur websites look like it. When people visit, you may have five or 10 seconds of someone’s time if you’re lucky and during those fleeting moments you have to make an impression that is so positive that people want to go beyond the home page. The question you should be answering is, ” how can the visitors see that they will benefit?”

As if this were not complicated enough, websites of the traditional variety compete with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. This means people’s attention span is even shorter. There may be a case for using Facebook as the first port of call, referring to the website for detailed information and procedures. The nature of a Facebook page is that there is so much crowded into it that it can scramble the mind just by looking at it. In fact there was very recent articles, sample included,  plus an ex-employee of Facebook discussing the deleterious effects on mental health.

The only short to medium term answer I can think of is to get the trust of the person to establish your bona fides and then make gentle comments from then on. In this very insecure world, full of fear, it doesn’t take much to rattle someone’s cage so ‘gently does it’ I would suggest.

As for the names of domains, a very brief mention. Don’t be self-indulgent by making long named websites which could be prone to mis-spelling. it’s crystal clear to you what it is that if it’s not to others then they will not remember it and if they do will write it down wrongly.  there is nothing wrong with using your own name as a domain name providing it is fairly short. My name, the name of this site, just about passes muster.

Anyway before I rattle on more I better publish this.

Two remarkable films – WeiWei and Paddington 2

image_pdfimage_print

On a miserable,  cold and rainy day why bother to sit on the 376 bus to Bristol? Two very good reasons. I seem to have quite a good, in fact very good, inner guidance system. When I read about films, plays, places to go, the right item jumps out at me and I know I have to comply. Well, perhaps ‘comply’ is too strong a word. Let us say I’m strongly attracted to going to the event concerned.

The Watershed cinema and social centre strives and succeeds to be a lively coffee bar with meals and a three cinema centre showing arty films. When I enter, I feel like I am back in London

The first film started at the Watershed at 12:30 PM Paddington 2 is about Paddington Bear, his involvement in wanting a magical book for his aunt, his wrongful arrest and imprisonment for its theft instead of the true thief, the dastardly Hugh Grant. I cannot remember the last time when I saw such a delightful film, full of innocence, a reminder of positive family values, photogenic people and a ‘goody versus baddie’ story line.

We emerged from the first film at 2:30 PM with just enough time to go to the toilet and to grab a snack and then back again at 2:40 PM to see Human Flow directed by Ai Weiwei.  What a delightful and humble man to be with people in a refugee camp situation listening to them and comforting them and even bringing a sick bucket for one unfortunate lady who was overcome with worry. His attitude was a little bit like Michael Eavis of Glastonbury fame. The world refugee statistics are truly shocking. The number of people who had died in transit, the fact that 40 million people had been displaced in Iraqi and the fact that every day, 34,000 people find it necessary to become refugees due to difficult circumstances at home.

Some of the most spectacular photographic shots were from drones. We looked down upon acre upon acre of encampments where people have to survive in the heat, the rain, or the wind. Reviewers at the Venice film Festival gave it four stars out of five. I don’t know what you’d have to do to get a five-star. there was a good review in the Guardian

As we left the cinema in the dark and the drizzle back to the bus station I reflected how hugely lucky we are. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose your house, your wife, all your money, all your possessions, and finally be kicked out of your country or feel obliged to move. He would be without any prop, almost any form of identity, unrecognised by anyone except those of you who you knew before.

*****

It is almost a daily occurrence that I come across new websites supporting the alternative media. There is no question that the landscape is changing and the main stream media is losing its grasp. Today’s discovery was a video channel called Londonreal.TV I think it is or seems to be religiously based, no problem with that. It’s run by a chap called Brian Rose who appears to have a 100 year plan. No one can accuse him of lack of ambition. He was introducing a doctor who believed that all addictions were due to a desire to heal trauma from childhood. I will have to watch two or three more interviews before being convinced but I do like the immediacy of the videos and the liveliness of the site.

The wonderful thing about the Internet is that anyone can put on anything they would like others to see and so far anyway we have a fair degree of freedom except when we actually dare to speak the truth about the nature of the Dark Government of for example USA. In which case the ‘controlled by CIA’ Youtube will demonetise or otherwise censor the contribution.

*****

Yesterday, I made the decision to withdraw from everyday things as much as I could until after the New Year. This is a great time of year to do nothing because no one expects you to be at the end of the phone and you can in effect bunk off and be very lazy without anyone knowing. My work ethic is such that even at the age of 73 I feel I ought to be making a difference, doing something, understanding something, learning something for the first time, making a breakthrough, helping a friend. I do not feel duty-bound it is just that I enjoy the whole process.

*****

Mo Farrah was just elected to be sports personality of the year. He was at home at the time with this rather active child. When the presenter tried to interview him the child was making so much noise that he could not hear what was being said, and then the screen went blank. Maybe someone pulled the plug. Anyway, other people took over and the moment passed without too much embarrassment

*****

 

Technology – a stab in the back? – unexplained deaths

image_pdfimage_print

I switched on Trans World Radio early on this cold and frosty morning. The rising Sun is making the clouds appear pink. I look forward to a day of arranging the Christmas decorations, planning food and all the tidying up things that you do before Christmas. It is easy to go into overdrive and lay in food as if you were going to be besieged. The fact is that with the exception of Christmas Day and sometimes Boxing Day, shops are open and you will not starve to death if you don’t go overboard at each meal. The main point of Christmas is fellowship and so long as that is available in abundance then ‘job done’ not to mention remembering the reason why Christ mass is here in the first place.

Denis Alexander is the emeritus director of the Faraday Institute for science and religion. He has published many papers and books in science and religion. He gave a quote which stuck in my mind, even at 7.30 in the morning before about my coffee,  ” Technology is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other”  Carrie Snow (no idea who she is). I’m attracted to other  quotes ” The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do” B F Skinner. “everybody gets so much information all day long that they use their common sense” Gertrude Stein and finally – if there ever can be a finally – “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master“.

If I tried to sum up the application of science which is called technology I would probably bore you all to death and anyway you can find most of it on the Internet. What concerns me in particular is the ticking timebomb of mobile phones particularly those used by children as young as two and three. There is significant microwave radiation and if the phones had been subjected to proper testing they would never be used. I would like parents to consider the fact that their children’s use of mobile phones even for shorter periods is like putting their head in microwave ovens. I dread to think of the number of cancer cases we are going to get in a few years time when finally the companies will put their hands up in the face of irrevocable evidence that mobile phone use interferes with the brain.

The problem is particularly bad in cases where the signal is weak. It means the phone has to work extra hard and radiate even more to detect the signal. There is so much written on this that I simply refer you to Google.

However the main reason for writing this article is to reflect on my own use of the Internet and in particular the amount of time I sit in front of my computer seeking all sorts of interesting information and writing these diaries which I so much enjoy and have become a daily part of my life. It would only be possible with the use of speech to text Software so thank you Dragon Dictate for enabling me to write up to 1000 words in 20 min. That is of course if you know what you want to say and have an eagle eye for miss-spelling and misunderstanding.

My recent decision is to intersperse sitting at the computer with reading, walking outside, doing something requiring a different skill set and this seems to work very well. Everything radiates but it’s not so bad as the old cathode ray tubes. I think it’s the sitting stance in the absence of rarely suitable chair that may eventually take its toll of the human body.

*****

On a more dystopian note, we get our perceptions of the world from what we see. If we are fed false information by those who want to control our perceptions, they have us under control. I’m so grateful to have taken the red pill not the blue pill and sad to say act on the assumption that everything we hear in the media is controlled, is a lie, or cover up for a lie. The controlling elite have to retain their power at all costs even if it means killing people.

I read quite chilling article about the number of alternative medicine doctors researching in cancer who have mysteriously died, approximately 80 to date. This happens so frequently not only in this field but for example anyone who has a court case against Hillary Clinton, that the term used by the targeted media is “suicided”.

Studies have been done from the presence of Nagalase (aka N-acetyl-Galactosaminidase) is an enzyme that’s involved in sugar metabolism. Cancer cells and viruses excrete Nagalase into their hosts. Nagalase prevents the formation of GcMAF. Elevated levels of Nagalase are present in patients with cancer, autism, diabetes, immune disorders and in those with viral and bacterial infections. The cases of suicide involve  doctors who were studying GcMAF (Globulin component Macrophage Activating Factor) to treat patients with cancer and autism are seen to be the most significant.High levels of the new biomarker Nagalese have been linked with the massively increased schedule of vaccines in recent decades and which have coincided with the sharp rise in cases of autism.

As for the ability of GcMAF to neutralize Nagalase, researcher Melissa Dykes wrote, “Cancer is big business in this country. We’re talking about a 124 billion dollar industry. A number that big is naturally a matter of ‘national security’. One of our country’s biggest products is cancer, so why anyone believes the system would ever allow a cure is beyond me.”

If you want to watch a video on this then check out here.  How long the video lasts on you Tube without being taken down is a question due to its extremely sensitive and explosive nature. NB the person who made this video is not a doctor or a qualified person about someone who is outraged and disgusted by the deliberacy of the harm being done to innocent people. The people who do this are psychopaths.

*****

One of the young chaps on our allotment joined us this time last year as a stuttering youth incapable of addressing people with any degree of confidence. He was bullied at school and was not doing well. We gave him a plot which had to be signed for by his parents because at the time he was under age. I cannot tell you the change in him because he now has his own private territory – the plot –  where he can grow things and provide for his family. when I met him six months earlier, he was afraid to approach me  but now calls me Brian and says ‘hello how are you’ and spends lots of time on the plot, sometimes with his mates. What a healer is nature, but also how important it is to encourage a young person to counteract the bullying and mocking of cruel peers. I think environment plays a much bigger part in healing than we might imagine.

*****

To our favourite local, the Old Down Inn. We could hardly get in to the admittedly small bar because there were so many people who had booked tables for supper. They were all farmer types and boisterous to boot. We sat at a table and kept out of their way.

Interaction with my readers – the SS Great Britain

image_pdfimage_print
I’m coming up to my 250th diary entry now and nearly up to 300,000 words. I’m quite intrigued by the lack of response when I know that sometimes I’m being quite controversial in what I say. I was quite delighted therefore to come across on Facebook a comment on my article on rape “so called rape allegations” A person who knew me responded robustly. “I’m left a bit speechless by this. Appalling lack of compassion or understanding Brian. Really saddened to read this”
In my turn, I responded by saying “ my remarks apply to only one section, the self-seeking publicist who twists the story. It does not include taking advantage of young people, children, the disadvantaged, many categories. My point is that ambivalence prevails. Why not write a forthright note on the website itself then we could get a discussion going that would be great”.
When we see a piece written on an emotive subject such as rape or any form of violence come to that we look at it with the whole experience of how we have been treated, and how our friends had been treated plus what we have learned about human nature and we react accordingly.
I used to give talks quite frequently and used to ask people what they remembered and from the comments received you wouldn’t think it was the same talk.  I find that through disagreement a mid point can be reached which acknowledges both sides. My approach was to discuss the duplicity of people who seek attention at any cost and the writer started with a discussion of the pain and the perceived lack of compassion which she saw.
To move this one forward it would be necessary to have a dialogue on the matter in which the strong and weak points of each argument would be presented. I do wish that more of this would happen using the feedback form below. I do not use Facebook and Twitter because I find that medium to ephemeral and too ‘bitty’. I prefer a longer coherent statement taking perhaps one or 200 words to present a case. in general I find that communication consists of a series of shot across the bow. This is partly due to the nature of the medium or mediums and also because the decreased attention span.
I find the environment for having a dialogue is from a fairly specific. I will not have discussions, or participate in discussions, in noisy areas such as a public house or restaurant. I need silence. Unless I have silence, I cannot hear what the other person is saying all feel what they are feeling. I’m certainly not going to shout over somebody. I think we all need to learn to listen more without jumping in and be in a non-reactive non-survivalist state of mind and then we can learn much more from each other.
*****
Today, lunch at a local village called Tunley at the excellent King William Inn. There were about 16 of us made up of the art class that my wife goes to and the odd spouse dragged in for the occasion.  Somewhere in China there are groups of people thinking up the most dreadful jokes which are so bad they are good. Crackers and hats and plastic toys that may have a use for 5 min with someone with attention deficit syndrome are all part of the season and we enjoyed every moment of it.

Later on at Camerton village hall an excellent talk on the SS Great Britain, the role of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, drama on the high seas, storms and tempests given in a very professional manner by a skilled orator. He  gave a very good account of the trustees of the ship that is now moored in Bristol Harbour after navigating the world for 1,000,000 miles. Forty people attended on a cold evening. The countryside can be very deceptive, a place in the middle of nowhere has a very lively social and cultural life built up through the hard work of many people over a long period of time. Without such volunteers all the money in the world could not create this community atmosphere.

*****
In the last days I have joined an international prayer group. We have about 50 members who had been invited to join, friends and colleagues of a lady who lives in Spain. Since they were informed about my membership I have felt a definite shift in consciousness and a healing balm which is with me all the time. I’m what is called a body psychic, in other words I feel people’s thoughts. This is a blessing and a curse. Overall though, I know it’s very unfashionable to say this but nothing equals the power of prayer. I’m very grateful to my parents for bringing me up in the Christian faith and although they made a hash of bringing up a family basically through too much ‘guilt motivated’ action, the faith remains.

Quilting and quilters

image_pdfimage_print

Nothing major here, but if you want to know about ‘continuous creativity’ then this is the place to linger for a few moments.We are lucky enough to live near one of the major quilting centres in the UK.  This humble showroom, situated in the middle of nowhere, draws customers from all over the world and they have a large regular clientelle. Quilting is the process of sewing two or more layers of fabric together make a figure padded material. The art has developed over the years and so the results are becoming more and more beautiful. The delightful feature of this particular centre is the benevolent proprietor, Chris, who has arranged an informal seating area where coffee and refreshments are available for anyone who wishes to come and talk about quilting or even pass the time of day. Teas and coffees are offered but all profits go to Dorothy House, which is a specialist care service for those suffering from a variety of conditions.

Over coffee, I was motivated to describe the writing workshop I had last weekend (see relevant entries) and commented that five silent people were converted into a vibrant and lively group of conversationalists after an exercise lasting about 20 min where we were given a choice of three stories to tell about ourselves, one of which was fake. I think English people need to be cranked up and they live for the most part within themselves. Push the button, and a conversational ability equal to most nationalities becomes manifest.

Here are a few examples from the quilt exhibition. Most of the pictures were available for auction in other words you put in a bid and if yours is the highest bid for that particular work, you get the quilt. I’m impressed that people virtually donate the results of many hours worked done with such love care and attention.

The Kelpies are 30 m high horse-heads sculptures built from structural steel cladding next to a new extension of the Forth and Clyde Canal in fair Kirk Scotland. They weigh 300 tons each.
Funicular railway
Rhino: where is our future? The Rhino once roamed throughout Eurasia and Africa, but habitat loss and poaching have resulted in limited distribution. The southern white rhino is now largely restricted to 5 countries; South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda
Jodrell Bank
I love colour and I love bobbins

*****

I had an interesting discussion with someone about the local coffee bar, the “Holy Cow”. The proprietress in her desire to please introduced free Wi-Fi into this rather small cafe. What has happened is that the local office workers have come in, bought a cup of coffee, and spent two hours sitting on the laptop thus blocking space for others. The problem is you cannot please everybody all the time and if you put off the locals this is a heavy price to pay when you have five members of staff. It is so difficult to get everything right and I think the proprietor has underestimated the number of people who want to use their computer for long periods. The problem is, the more comfortable you make the seats, the longer people want to stay in them.  Suggestions anyone?

*****

The right words at the right time – taking pot luck

image_pdfimage_print

This morning I had an illustration of how important it is to be alert to the inner voice. This morning I was in the kitchen preparing my coffee as normal and I turned on the TV. I had a choice of BBC breakfast TV or looking elsewhere which was in this case TWI short for Transworld International, a religious station broadcasting 24/7. I want to make it clear at this point that I do not ‘do’ religion, I seldom if ever attend church and yet I do have a faith that works for me based on Christianity. Funny to recall that Jesus was not a Christian but a Jew. There was a preacher on at that time, Rev. David Jeremiah, talking about the world and our attitude to it.

He pointed out that the word ‘world’ was used in the New Testament in three ways. First as a description of the physical planet, secondly referring to the human beings of the world and their state and thirdly the ways of the world in other words the entropic trends.

He mentioned the text in Matthew’s gospel “blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness”. He pointed out that it did not say “Blessed are the righteous” though that should be obvious. It is the hunger and thirst that is blessed in other words the effort. On this particular day at this particular time that was exactly what I needed to hear. I felt the burden of guilt about my shortcomings lifted from me and experienced an overall feeling of freedom in that moment. Amazing, un-planned and unexpected.

If we extend this example to others. You never know what effect your words are going to have on others. I almost give up hope for those buried in the mobile phones because I think they’ve switched off the world. I’m talking about normal conversation and that we should never be frightened to say what we think for fear of offending people. So long as it is said in a loving way and supportive way, and that they know that we love and care for them, it should be well taken.

*****

On the topic of mobile phones, I was very heartened to see that in France the use of mobile phones will be banned in schools as from March next year. The head teacher concerned was saying that during the breaks, numbers of children are seen to be standing on their own staring into their devices and that is really not what playtime which is a time for bonding and relaxation is all about. I would love to see phones banned as an experiment for seven days just to see what would happen. As I said before, I refuse to wear earphones and listen to music while I’m in the street because I think we have a duty to be aware and available for others should they need it, not to mention the presence of friends and acquaintances who might pop along at any time.

*****

This night of blustery showers to an open evening at the Writhlington  secondary school where the amazing variety of orchids are displayed. These youngsters of 15 and 16 are considered world experts, capable of teaching school groups in for example South Africa.

To the S’ton Easton Garden group for our Christmas party with entertainment by a small music group, the singing of carols which we got into tune most of the time, a potluck supper where everyone brings along something. It is amazing how although people have no awareness of who was bringing what, the result is always a balanced repast. We had general knowledge quizzes, songs, and a raffle.

I talked with a jovial young man and his wife, who was a piano teacher of children and adults. I told them about my diary writing and the young man told me that he would find it too much of the discipline to keep a regular diary. I respond that that’s what I would have thought prior to starting but it has now become part of my end of day routine and I cannot not do it. I said all you have to do is to write a sentence and another sentence follows. Most of the time it almost writes itself but it is not a labour and it is not work, just a joyful expression. I said that you benefited from the experience itself, summing up the experience when you write about it in the later on revisiting the experience and enjoying it again.

On the way home, we did a short cut over the hill from the venue to home. The lane floods regularly when there is extended rain as there was today. Water rushes off the fields and runs along the road. If you drive very slowly you can get through most so-called floods provided the water is not more than 8 inches deep. So on we drove in the moonlight, avoiding fallen branches in the road and admiring the lights of the town to our left. A crystal clear evening and a perfect end to a busy day.

*****

Christmas time is normally the period when I get depressed, particularly the time between Christmas and New Year. This year, I hope I’ve got enough self awareness to avoid this void.  I think the trick of avoiding depression is being aware when you’re going to fall into it and catch yourself before you do by a combination of self-discipline, removing any state of mind akin to self-pity and doing something positive.

*****

can you spot the problem? The hedge is too close to the road and I must make extra sure that branches do not drop on the road and impede traffic, also that traffic knows I’m working and they do not run me over. I must get some traffic cones.

Today I went to see a job in Wellow  consisting of cutting 80 m of hedge bordering a lane reducing it from about 8 foot high to 4 feet. It is a job that a tractor and a cutter could do in about 10 min but the lady concerned did not know any friendly farmers or contractors so manual labour it has to be.  The customer is a delightful lady of about 85 and told me that the house could be identified by a sculpture of the Virgin and Child over the front door. I hope she accepts my quote. The price I have quoted is not low but the work is hard and will take a long time, about three days with an assistant. At least it will pay for our Christmas costs. If we don’t get it, something else will come along. It normally does.

What makes a good boss? – old friends

image_pdfimage_print

For seven years I was a boss of an organisation, albeit a small one and I have since then had dealings with a large number of people who were bosses of small or large organisations. I’m not particularly proud of my performance. I was in my 20s, excited about an idea but clueless as to how to deal with people. I had a wonderful secretary called Carol from Blackburn who put up with me and whose exquisite tact saved me from a fate worse than death on more than one occasion.

I have to say to my great regret that the traditional style of management has been subject to brutalising forces or to put it another way has become Americanised. The excuse given is “efficiency”. Never mind that the owners and directors get many times the compensation of the poor workers who often struggle on minimum wage.  People are treated as things, as robots. Productivity targets are issued and people had to adhere to them come what may. We know all this, but I want to tell you about one or two examples of managers or bosses that has stuck in my mind over the years. First, a quote

People don’t leave bad jobs, They leave bad bosses. A boss creates fear and makes work drudgery. Most of the time an employee has an issue with a company, it is something relating to their boss.You spend half of your life at work, and your immediate supervisor determines the atmosphere. Life is too short to spend 40+ hours a week in constant stress and misery.

A number of years ago I dealt with a boss of a printing company in Newcastle, Doig brothers I think it was. He was immaculately dressed and extremely courteous. I asked him when a particular delivery could take place. I gave him a time and his first thought was that ‘the men have their morning coffee break between 11am and 11.15am and they would be able to come after that time’. I was a young and impressionable man at that time but was so impressed that he respected the needs of his staff so much that he was prepared to work around them.

The other genre of action that I recall was when I sent a job for printing. Instead of doing it by rote, the manager rang me up and asked me if I had seen a typo on the front page. Would I like him to correct it? I thanked him profusely while cursing myself inwardly for not being alert enough.

Dealing with people on the phone and in general, it is very sad that as I think forward and compare the attitudes of 30 years ago with the attitudes today, I can think of few extra examples of going the extra mile. People are so worn down, anxious for their jobs, fearful for loss of productivity knowing that every keystroke and conversation is recorded, almost made robotic by scripts and stock phrases such as “is there anything else I can do for you” or the dreaded “have a nice day”.

Good managers are in my view born not made. The instinct to care for people under one’s wings and to give everybody a chance to speak out is what I would almost call a gift of the spirit. As a manager, you need to put your ego aside and remember that anyone is capable of being inspired with an idea that could help the whole company. It may be countervalent to an idea that you the boss holds dear but isn’t it worth a listen? Are ideas such a threat? Is the ground on which we stand made of rock or  sand?

The quality that I admire most about people, managers and bosses included, is pragmatic humanity. I have just made up this phrase. I could also say ‘compassion with realism’. What is the way of getting people to work productively? You can bully them or you can inspire them. I know deep down which is the right one. A problem in a big company is that the bosses may be decent people but they themselves are driven by those above who are only interested in profit to behave in a certain way. If you read about Amazon and Walmart and the manner in which they treat their staff, do the opposite and you’re probably on the right road.

*****

It is a strange if not surreal experience to be in touch with someone that you last met 20 years ago. Social media,  in this case LinkedIn, has its value.  I saw a familiar name while being invited to connect with strangers as they do but an old friend called Hilda popped up. I met her in my early days of living and working in South Africa. I can understand a little bit better people who have been released from solitary confinement for a number of years meeting their friends and relatives for the first time. Where do you start?

There are some people with whom the soul connection is so strong that it is almost as if you were carrying on a conversation that you stopped yesterday in other words time does not matter. In other cases, and where life changes have had their impact, it does take a little bit of work to get up-to-date but it is always worth it otherwise they would not be the impetus to reconnect in the first place. There is something about an old friend that can weather the storms and turbulences of the years and still find there is something to talk about. I do wonder about our capacity, ability or desire to make new friends when we are in our 60s and 70s but of course we want to be friendly with as many people as possible. My impression is that most people have shut up shop on possible new soulmates. Maybe they have given up I don’t know. All I know is that there is safety in numbers, a little bit of nutrition from many people is probably the safest way to go if you don’t want to be disappointed.

*****

It is the habit of many species of animals to hibernate in the winter. I have long been fascinated by this ability where they do not fully awake, where their heart beat slows down ditto breathing. This winter I intend to emulate them. Last evening I went to bed at 8 PM. Apart from reading the paper I did absolutely nothing but staring at the ceiling. I rose this morning at 8 AM. That makes a whole twelve hours in bed. I have to say that I woke refreshed in a way that I cannot recall having been the case for a long time now. I have a suspicion that I have guilt about so-called ‘doing nothing’. Well, guess what guys, from now on the world is going to have to do without me, from time to time at least. I doubt if anyone would even notice but I certainly will. I want to be around for a long time and I don’t want lassitude or illness to beset me.

Selfish eh? I don’t think so.

*****

We are blessed with having a local health food shop which for a town of 20,000 people is quite good. It has recently been taken over by two new people, Ian and Emma, and they have been working seven days a week for the last few months to renew the stock and increase the quality thereof. Other Half and myself went to the shop this afternoon to have some self-indulgence, I to have a coffee and cake with two generous scoops of ice cream one vanilla and one strawberry.

I saw a notice at the entrance to shop on the left by the Rescue Remedies and I was very struck by its simplicity. No fancy design was required; the emboldened message itself was enough. on closer examination I see the almost invisible white text which says I feel I cant and it has changed through the use of colouring.

Setting out our life stall part two

image_pdfimage_print

I ended the first part of my discussion by saying that the perceived disadvantages of childhood were no excuse for not achieving full potential (how is that for a double negative). In order to demonstrate the truth of that hypothesis you would have to show that the people with most pampered childhoods have achieved the greatest potential in life and those with deprived childhoods, the least. The most casual glance at contemporary history will indicate that this is a wasted exercise.

Ambition* is a two edged sword. Ambition for ourselves and our own glory could well corrupt our own essential value, whereas ambition for the world may bring countless blessings to ourselves and others. I think we might well replace the word ambition by the word “vision”. This word has less force and a more inclusive feel. The whole landscape depends on whether your philosophy includes an obligation to benefit or bring value to other human beings. This in turn depends on your belief of who we are.
* from the Latin ambire, to go around canvassing for votes

Example: there are some who believe that we were all one consciousness and we are all aspects of the same consciousness in which various elements are manifested. In this context, competition and individual ambition seems shallow. By affecting others we effect ourselves. By hurting others, we ourselves diminish so some would see that as a mugs game. People who do this are not necessarily evil but ignorant. For me and others like me of whom there are many I am sure the question will be where to place ourselves that we can make a difference.

I totally respect the fact that there are some people who like creatures on a treadmill are quite happy to maintain themselves in a physical state of comfort following the policy of “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”. This phrase, originating in the old Testament actually from Isaiah chapter 22, could be seen as an expression of hopelessness, though I hope you don’t find me too puritanical to make that statement. “If this world is all there is, we are of all beings most to be pitied” ( I forget whose quote this is). It would be extraordinary if there were nothing greater than ourselves though quite frankly looking at the way mankind behaves it is quite difficult to imagine something less.

I do not believe in the predestination of souls and take the view that we make our own future, neither am I a fatalist (the philosophy that means you cannot change your future) but I do believe that a measure of free will which most of us have in spadefulls we can choose to make the world a better or a worse place. In my terms, “better” means a more human, or community minded, a more purposeful, a more loving place which is concomitant with the world view of such great teachers and philosophers as Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha etc.

There is no small or large action. We either choose to bring people closer together by default, or we allow or ignore factors that are moving people apart. I could call it “passing by on the other side”. When we die, I think there is some sort of automatic evaluation and direction setting. The system has to be automatic otherwise St Peter, who reputedly officiates in these matters, will have to attend in quick order to 151,600 people each day will attend the Pearly Gates. The nature of our consciousness when we die is in essence so I believe a continuation of the way we were pointing when we were alive or shall we say when ourselves which I believe to be eternal was resident in a particular body. It would seem therefore a good and sensible investment to planning the long-term.

It is interesting to note the testimony of people who have died and returned to life again perhaps on an operating table and seeing aspects of themselves and their future environment that are either good or dystopian. There is no reason for these people to lie so I think we need to take their testimonies seriously. The conclusion I that I reached this morning is that it is not what you do but who you seek to become that is the main factor. So, you can have any job you like. Jesus was the son of a carpenter which you could count among the manual trades. If you look at many of the saints through the ages they had quite humble jobs and Albert Einstein worked in the patent office at one point in a career that was difficult and problematic to say the least.

‘Setting out our stall’, therefore, is not for the sale of goods for services but the individual embodiment of the type of society and the quality of living that we believe in. It seems to me that this brings a certain freedom. If we act on behalf of eternal values we embody a preview of eternity itself and we are not so reliant on the appetites and vagaries of human life. As St John and others commented “be in the world but not of it”. This means that our values distance us from the more ridiculous and nonsensical activities of the world. By that I mean, activities and mindsets that lead nowhere or on a downward spiral.

Whilst  on this subject, I have always had a good feeling about the adjuration of Jesus when he said “behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”.  This is a very clever analogy as most of them are. Doves are white, they reflect light. They look down on the situation and see it without being involved. The servant is the streetwise half very definitely know what’s going on on planet Earth. We are asked to embody the dove and the snake in one psychology. This is not a contradiction and we do not need to be schizophrenic but to be aware without upper brain, the neocortex, and the reptilian brain which is designed for physical survival.

If only people could realise that each and every individual is unique on the planet and if they acted like it and not one of the crowd I’m convinced that most psychological problems could be healed. Sad to say, some people go through their lives without thinking one original thought. These people are not even aware that they are in a box where everything they do, say and think is conditioned by the media and so forth.

People do not have to try and be unique because they already are. If you think I’m exaggerating imagine that every person has 50 qualities or talents and each one of them is capable of being developed in a different way in a different context you realise that the permutations and combinations are much greater than the numbers of people on this planet.

In this context, the idea of competing with others and attempting to be better than them seems to me to be futile. As a prelude to ‘setting out your stall’ why not enjoy this idea for a few days or weeks. Whilst on the subject, I think we need to address the topic of so-called failure. Failure means that the attempt to succeed did not have the results that you anticipated. However, unbeknown to us all, the experience gained comprised and essential stepping stone to achieve something else. I recall the saying “if at first you don’t succeed then try and try again”.

That’s all I want to say at the moment or rather that is all I’m inspired to say. I have given the number of clues for us who wish to to work on so ‘watch this space’. Oh and one more thing, if this is the first time you have read one of my blogs, this is an exceptional outpouring of inspiration, by no means my average diary entry which is indeed concerned with normal things that happened to me every day and my experiences in Somerset. Sometimes, a combination of things behind-the-scenes elicits such a phenomenon.

As I speak these words, I’m looking out on a bright blue winter sky, such a change from the grey skies and continual snow of yesterday. Time for lunch.

Over and out.

Setting out our life stall – Johnny Hallyday

image_pdfimage_print

I love stories of admirable people who have had several careers moving from one stage or skill set to another, experts on many things, travel stories that make you envious plus wisdom and experience of life second to none. However, the the vast majority of the population of the world are destined to make a fairly modest unsung and unappreciated contribution to the affairs of mankind. Apparently our contributions make little if any difference to the rise of greed, the continuance of wars (The policy of the USA and Israel who controls it is “War without end”). Moral standards continue to slide, people tend to be wedded to their devices instead of having actual conversations and standards of public service deteriorate under increased demands of an ageing population and failure of long-term policies if there are any.

How do we draw any inspiration from this rather dismal scenario. I ignore the rain falling outside as I write this early on Sunday morning. I was considerably cheered when listening to radio five during the night as I inevitably do by hearing a talk by Dr Axworthy of Exeter University about the situation in Iran. I found a clarity and an observational quality almost whimsical which when I heard it caused me to start up in bed and listened with great attention. The potential power of the spoken word remains supreme. I’m not talking about chatter on TV where the interviewee can hardly get a sentence out without being interrupted by the interviewer with their own agenda. I’m talking about rhetoric, clear delivery, without saying ‘sort of’ every five seconds. But then TV and radio is not about communication it’s about brainwashing and keeping the public entertained by a mixture of trivia and sensationalism.

At the end of an interview I notice the interviewer often says something like  “oh and one more thing…”. They then bring on some asinine question which causes the viewer to forget the real thrust of the subject. The aim of broadcasters is to create the appearance of news without actually giving news; it must be the impression but not actual substance. The aim is to keep the masses sleeping.  That’s why I call the BBC, Dumb Down Central. If the BBC or any of the mainstream media were obliged to speak the truth for a period of just 24 hours  about what was going on rather than biased propaganda there would be an uprising as the general public would wake up to how they had been misled and deceived. I think a lot of people are aware of this at the moment and it just needs someone or some event to catalyze the whole.

The overall point is that unless we see our potential or at least a way forward with sufficient clarity then live in the main is just survivalism and attempting to become socially acceptable to ease the pain. I think Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are for the most part devices of evolution. Real friendships and meaningful associations are not normally formed if you have never met the person concerned. We need to meet real flesh and blood with all their imperfections.  I’m thinking of the relationships my wife makes in her art class and I am now making in my writing classes. They are real. There is a sharing of humour, joy and sorrows. We all have a bonding mechanism which needs activation and may indeed be the answer to many so-called addictions including alcohol and morphine.

The greatest contribution that anyone can ever make is by being themselves. That was said about 20 years ago by my great mentor and priest Rev Dr Martin Israel, a profoundly spiritual man and the author of many books. The problem was that for many years I didn’t know who I was because I was afraid to look inside and accept all that was within. I now take the view that here I am, warts and all* (an English expression) so you take it or leave it.
* reputed to the first said by Oliver Cromwell to the painter Sir Peter Lelly when commissioning a portrait. Cromwell insisted that all details be included even if they did not flatter him such as roughness, pimples and warts otherwise the painter would not be paid a farthing.


I think this has to be the starting point for any decision as to our contribution. Having said that, I recall Shakespeare’s statement “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. It is amazing the number of people who have drifted in to or apparently drifted in to a job that was eminently suitable for them without any personal intention of making anything big. Remember that Google started with two chaps in a garage designing a system for back referencing scientific literature. I remember when I started a social organisation, London Village, in the 1970s. It came to me in the form of an image which stayed with me for three days and nights during which I could not sleep. I had a compulsion to follow the guidance, from above or below I know not , but succeed it did. It was successful not because of me but in spite of me and I think it was mainly because the idea of meeting people in each other’s properties was an idea that had reached its time. It may be that it is not you that sets out your stall but that the universe in its wisdom provides the conditions in which you can set up a stall if you wish.

One of the most important jobs in the world is that of being a mother because you were bringing the next generation to fruition but you would hardly describe this as a glamorous job. There can be few things more rewarding than being a proud parent of a successful person and it always gives me a good feeling when the latter make sure their parents are all right.

It is notable that some of the most successful people have had a difficult childhood and they’ve have had to make their own way in the world so any excuse if fake. Perhaps they wanted to prove themselves to themselves that they were worth something in the absence of parental encouragement. Be that as it may, we all have the capacity to change and develop but first we have to get rid of the dreaded FEAR.

……More tomorrow.

*****

So, Johnny Hallyday has left the planet. Go on you rock and rollers, enjoy yourselves. It’s only 2h20m continuous singing. Turn the volume up.

 

Creative writing course from the inside

image_pdfimage_print

What you may ask is your diarist doing going to a course when everyone else is rushing out to buy things, consume things, standing in lines to buy roasted pork sandwiches, mulled wine and the like. Good luck to these people BUT I was not in ‘consumer mode’ because <strikes magisterial pose> my dear friends, enemies, adversaries, critics, admirers, and those who don’t know me from Adam, other business do I have.

The bus company were in a good mood this morning at the Park and Ride in Odd Down; a chap in a high viz jacket was giving out sweets as well as selling bus tickets.

Certainly, everything is going on today. I love these immobile human art installations. The person portrayed below was certainly getting plenty of money including a good supply of pound coins and all he had to do was to sit still in his made up apparel.

On my way back from the event I’m about to describe, I detected raised voices among two people who were being asked to leave a mobile phone shop. I could tell from the body language and tone of voice that the two people, the complainants, had lost it and they were engaged in immoderate language.

The salesperson who they claim have been rude to them was asking them to leave the store so clearly this was the end of an acrimonious dispute. One of the reasons I do not use headphones when I am out is that you should ideally be alert for any difficulty or potential difficulty and prevent it if you can. This I achieved by walking up to the harassed sales assistant who was actually being very cool and siphoning him off in another direction. I have learned from long experience that if someone is angry beyond a certain point they will not listen to anyone.

The two complainants left threatening to report to the head office and I simply ignored them and asked the shop assistant whether he was okay. He said yes and thanked me for my intervention. It would have been so easy to walk by on the other side but as I make practice of being fully alert when in public I knew exactly what I had to do and did so. We are not children and we need to police and look after each other. As Kenny Everett would say ‘in the best possible taste‘.

*****

But I digress*. Maybe my whole life is a digression from my main purpose which is to cast off this mortal body and take my place in the real world where force does not prevail and time exists no more. I am waxing poetic because the morning was devoted to a three hour workshop on the topic of creative writing. First off, it is quite amazing what an apparently fairly normal group of people can produce if their minds are tuned to a common purpose.

* a digression can be a very valuable embellishment to a talk. After the speaker has laid out the main precepts he will digress, apparently telling a story that has little or no relevance to the topic but then show how the story does indeed relate to the main subject. In other words, a digression does not have to be counter-productive.

Five of us turned up. There were four ladies of middle-aged and myself as the nominal male. We were ushered into a downstairs room where stood a big oak table, a clipboard, plus a lovely open log fire and a view over the City of Bath which must be delightful in all but the worst weathers. The people who were meant to be there were there by some magical process. I have often had the experience of laying out chairs for a meeting after using my intuition to find the number of people showed up was exactly the same as the number of chairs I had laid out. This is neither a conscious nor a rational process.

The method of the course was just as interesting to me as the content. It is necessary at all courses long or short to orientate the people and get them into the mode and indeed the mood. We were asked to write three statements about ourselves, two of which were true and one of which was false. I wrote that I was a Life Coach, that I lived in a bungalow in Midsomer Norton and that I was 68 years of age. The others had to ask questions to determine which was true. I was rumbled finally when someone asked me the year of my birth and I remained silent. We repeated that process with the five of us with much laughter and gaiety.

The next exercise was to discuss various genres of writing. There are many types including horror, Victorian Gothic, thriller, noir, mystery, crime and detective, fantasy – a world of magic and symbolism, magic and the supernatural which could be called occult, existential, literary drama, sci-fi, romantic including erotica, historical, comedy, biographical, and travel. We discussed the implications of all these and attempted a definition with varying degrees of definitiveness.
Has anyone considered the meaning of the word ‘noir’ as opposed to horror. Horror covers anything and everything which produces an intense feeling of fear, shock or disgust. I was horrified at the way they had left the condition of the bedroom. There was a horrifying incident involving two cars.

The word ‘noir’ has a much more subtle meaning. People appear human from their appearance but their behaviour belies it. There is a dissonance between their words and actions. The feeling of ‘noir’ is heightened when we see in a film or story that one person is not aware of the true nature of the other. Worse still, we see what might happen if the innocent person does not see what might happen to them. In other words, two equally evil and twisted people are much less likely to constitute the attribute of ‘noir’. The common element is deception.

We discussed that when writing, you had to decide what your genre of preference was, to avoid causing confusion to your readers. Given sufficient artistry, you can slip from one genre to another.

Anyway, we played with these definitions in some detail and then after we had given our contribution, We were handed some leaflets giving the various classifications. We were then invited to write a story choosing any one or  combination of the genres. We all came up with something completely different. I chose “Brexit meets Dracula”.

This is my contribution:-

T’was a cold and frosty night
and the moonlight shone
through the windows
onto the assembled brood.

… The last duties to complete
before they set off
 on their pillaging, not of
worldly goods but of the
very lifeblood itself of their
distant relatives – the effete human being

These despised and unaware
‘useless eaters’, only ‘valuable’
if that is even the word – for the pulsating
warm fluid that passes through their veins

We entrance them
we suck from them
we engorge ourselves
and yet we are never satisfied
our need creates another need
for a power which creates a need
for more power.

We do not take more
lifeblood then needed
otherwise our object of derision
would be bereft of life.

And now, targets chosen,
we fly off into the night
seeking the strongest
that we can make weak

And what of our life eternal
in this contrary stance
where all but alas is inverted?
Our future we cannot see
save repetition without end.

 In such fashion we have no future

My poem tries to show that the evil doers are occasionally aware of their own nature but have lost the power of free will to deal with it

All five pieces were read aloud and comments given. We had a lively discussion about the balance between the need to praise the work, and give constructive criticism. I feel that most of us are very bad at this. We give a very brief thank you and you know that the word …but…. or … unfortunately….is coming which negates the value of the first positive statement.

We then had a break and were then asked to do a briefer version of this procedure, to describe a person and the situation they were in.

I wrote thus.

A person called Donald who was sitting at Durham railway station thinking that he should end his life and finding that what he achieved so far amounted to zero. And he wondered if he could disappear from this life by being still an invisible, would anybody notice?  He realised that he could not go forward, or backwards or sideways and he asked himself “where is the freedom in that?” He then had a minor breakthrough or perhaps a major one realising that the only way out is up.

I made a comment that it was not possible to tell if someone was having a breakthrough by looking at them walking on the street for example. People, especially the Brits, seldom show their feelings though they are not so inscrutable as the Japanese or Chinese.

One of the participants asked if it was okay to copy someone else’s idea and we made the point that everybody is unique and you can copy someone’s idea but you cannot copy their mind. She is unique on the planet as we all are.  I made comments about my work as a Life Coach and said the idea was not to interfere with people or make suggestions, but rather to facilitate their own thinking processes. I also said that unless the person was ready to work on something, you could say exactly the right thing, and it would have no effect whatsoever. I describe the process of becoming ready rather like a ripe egg in the female ovary.

I never cease to be amazed how productive small group of very eccentric and ordinary people can be as they wish to. For me, three hours was about right for concentration. The time did fly by or should I say float by pleasantly. The site of the sun rays on the log fire introduce a certain timeless element into the whole.

I left the workshop, promising to return. As I walked down to Bath city centre (you either walk up or down in Bath. It is very much in a valley) I found myself disjointed from the hordes around me referred to above. Without the capacity for original thinking or come to that any thinking which will do for a start, the prognosis for humankind is not good.

*****

Israel are at it again, using Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, to vastly over react to Palestinian protesters by conducting bombing raids with missiles when the Palestinian has fired a rocket or two. They actually want protests to give the justification to take over what is left of Palestine which is exactly what the Zionist psychopaths have in mind.  But enough of such gay banter. Hopefully, this Christmas I will be able to switch off the nasty things and either go into a pleasant vegetable state or perhaps something akin to meditation where I can link my higher mind with the real sources of harmony in the universe and thus link to other people, good and bad, in a different way.

*****

Approaching home base I went to our allotment and dug up about six semi-frozen leeks and some spinach which we will no doubt have for a meal this evening. The soil has changed from being delightfully diggable to a morass of mud. Three new allotmenteers have signed up; it is very good to have a complete allocation of 64 allotments, a nice round number if you ask me.

My goodness, it is 4:10 in the afternoon and dark already. At least we don’t have any snow.

So called ‘rape’ allegations

image_pdfimage_print

In this groundbreaking day of another step forward in the Brexit deals I find myself momentarily concerned with another matter. I read once again about allegations, sometimes decades-old,  made against well-known people for sexual molestation. We seem to have had a stream of these in the last weeks, so much so that it is becoming tedious.

There are two broad classes of molestation of all types, consensual and non – consensual. I’m not referring to sexual abuse of under age people, or innocent youngsters in their mid or late teens or predators jumping out of the dark to assault a hapless victim. I am talking about supposedly mature ladies who claim to have been ‘raped’. Frankly, I’m sick of the whole nonsense and simply don’t believe the accusations.

The thigh muscles for obvious biological reasons are among the strongest in the body. If they are ‘closed for business’ so to speak they are more than able to repel a small visitor if I can tactfully say that. If a person waits 10 or 20 years before reporting an instance of rape there must be a reason, and that reason in my submission is conscience. If my car was stolen or I was raped with violence I would be on to the police straight away. What is the scenario?

Here am ‘I’, an ambitious actress wanting a part in a film. I’m invited by someone for an interview in his hotel room and I open the door to find him in a bath robe. Only by ignoring my woman’s instinct not to mention my intuition would I allow myself to proceed into the room. Only if the desire for fame is stronger than what is left of my moral integrity would I enter the room. In the particular case I’m thinking of, the reputation of the person concerned must have been well known.

As the old song says, ‘it takes two to tango’. In a morally bankrupt ‘me me’ society  the so-called victim in this category should not complain but instead look why she got herself into the situation in the first place.  She did so because she was prepared to prostitute herself to get real or imagined benefits. Part of the bad feeling post event was due to plain and simple conscience but then (sudden brainwave)  she thinks of a cop out. If she shouts ‘rape’, the possibility is that she will be believed.  Also, the resulting publicity will not harm what she hopes to be her career.  Unless the so-called rapist is a very skilled hypnotist, of course it is consensual. Come on guys, we are not babies. We know what we are doing.

The acquisition of blame? 50-50 unless proven otherwise.

*****

Samuel Pepys, the 17th-century diarist, continues to be my inspiration for writing these diaries but in future I will only make direct reference to the diary if I see something that I particularly wish to comment on.

*****

I continue to recover from my debilitating virus. But it’s not my virus, it’s part of the world in which we live. Rumi the famous Afghani philosopher of the 13th century wrote a number of poems and scholarly works had this to say ” If you desire healing, let yourself fall ill let yourself fall ill”

Yes, he did repeat that for a reason. Allowing and accepting ourselves to be taken by illness can be a prelude to a very valuable period of meditation and renewal. I have spent most of today in bed staring at the ceiling thinking about nothing but very much enjoying the fact that I have no obligations apart from generally being around while my wife entertains a visitor, an old friend, with whom she enjoys hanging out with. The friend has impaired healing but she is not completely deaf. She is very good at lipreading so you have to remember to face her when saying anything. If she does not get it the first time she certainly gets it the second. She unfortunately dropped her mobile phone into a glass of water the previous day so we are cooking it over the radiator to see if that will help. A faint hope, but that’s all I could think of to do.

*****

 

John Humphrys and dowsing

image_pdfimage_print

I was delighted to read in the paper that the well-known BBC broadcaster John Humphrys has a secret talent (well, not now)  for water divining. In his case he needed to find where a plough had cut through a water pipe outside his farm in Wales. According to him, the man on the plough handed him a bent coat hanger and told him what to do. He said he felt a total fool walking up and down this field and then suddenly the coat hanger bent forward – “I couldn’t stop it – I felt the force, I really did, when I dug down and found the pipe”. This article might interest you.

I was introduced to the pendulum and dowsing a little over 40 years ago. There is far more to being nervous system than we imagine and any item can be used as a focaliser. Humphrys used a coat hanger, I have a normal conical shaped pendulum but have used a teabag, a nut on a thread, and anything else that came to mind. I cannot dowse for water to save my lifebut what I can do is to dowse the human energy field to a degree of accuracy that continually surprises me even to this day. I don’t think I mentioned the topic in my diaries so now is the time.

To call the body a computer is a bit reductionist; our human body is capable of receiving information on far more levels than we would first imagine. Most people are aware of a pain in their solar plexus and this can be telepathically induced. If you groan about the word telepathy, it is probably one of the most tested so-called psychic skills but I regard it as a natural part of the human being that we have most effectively dampened down and even cut off by the combination of prejudice, cynicism and I’m afraid the current materialistic climate.

*****

Francoise and myself both came down with food poisoning . She caught something on the last day of the holiday (see Wednesday’s entry) and I followed suit after I returned. There is a certain state of helplessness when the stomach completely rejects everything that is in it including bile. I tried to get some measure of peace of mind by realising that the body is doing its stuff, what it is best at, getting rid of the uninvited guests, the virus in this case, and returning to normal. After continual vomiting I finally got to sleep at 2:30 this morning. I woke at 10 o’clock feeling refreshed and invigorated but let it be said little bit wobbly on my feet. I went along to the local hospital for a checkup but they found no reason to send me to the hospital. Sometimes, a little bit of assurance is required as part of the healing process. For me the lesson was not to rush to take a pill but to let natural processes function.

*****

Off to the hospital again to have my eyes checked. It seems that there is a marked deterioration in my left eye, the one that gives the problems. I am most concerned that macular degeneration has a habit of spreading from one side to the other and I cannot imagine my life without reading. <returned home> The degeneration was not so bad as I thought that I still had another injection, I think about my 12th, so hopefully this disease will be kept at bay.

*****

 

 

Debate – Package holidays vs Do It Yourself

image_pdfimage_print

This is an extremely long and detailed discussion of the merits of package holidays versus making your own arrangements and is aimed at anyone who has pondered the many advertisements offering travel to exotic parts of the world or perhaps nearer home. I am focusing on the hotel H10 that I can heartily recommend, that is if you can get in.  It seems to be booked solid for most of the year.

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read 4,400 words, scroll down to the conclusions.

view from our hotel (Ctrl and + button to enlarge this picture and all others)

As my readers know, there has been a pause for the last week. This is because I have taken advantage of a package holiday in Tenerife which as you may know is part of a group of islands, volcanic in origin, off the coast of Africa but part of Spanish territory. As I write, my body has returned but I’m still somewhat in a post holiday bubble which enables me to enjoy a few more days without looking too closely at the realities and what passes for modern life.

It was the sight of over 30 planes parked at the southern airport of Tenerife that made me realise the industrial scale of the tourist industry. In this particular island alone composed of 1 million population, 5.7 million visitors are received each year. I don’t want to make a shopping list of pluses and minuses but rather tell you the conclusions I reached within the travel time line. Four hours flying time is more likely to be uneventful because you fly straight over the sea and avoid for example the famous Atlas Mountains which are almost guaranteed to produce a bumpy ride.

I naïvely thought that a midweek flight at the back-end of November would perhaps be half full. In fact the flight had only two unsold seats and they could have been no shows. The company I was with was Saga travel and this is in no way intended to act as a free advert for them though of course it is difficult to avoid this. We are programmed to look for a rep. with the name of the company on a board. There he was at the top of the escalator. On to a coach area dragging our suite cases where I estimate there were about 50 coaches waiting, we found ours on the third row back. On we get with a miscellaneous group of strangers and within a few minutes find ourselves on the motorway which connects most of the main towns on this island.

this is a volcanic island and lava is everywhere even on the beach

From end to end the length of Tenerife  is about the same distance as London to Brighton, about 50 miles. Imagine that distance with a huge great extinct volcano in the middle round which on the coast are built as many constructions as can possibly be accommodated bearing in mind the slope of the mountains. The main cities are incredibly densely populated but without tourism and the money it brings this island would be a shadow of its lively self.

I now make the first of my points about inclusive holidays. Two words, two critical words, transfers included. You will not get this with your plane ticket. It is difficult for us to realise that the distance between airport and resort could be considerable. In this case it was 90 km as you can’t drive straight through the middle of the island. There is a public bus service but it will take you for ever and the taxi ride will be about €120.

The East Coast motorway journey is one of the least memorable and most ghastly dystopian landscapes I can recall seeing. If I wanted to find a post-apocalyptic film set, all I would need to do is to plant my cameras without any preparation. I remember thinking at the time, what have we let ourselves in for. The good news is that when you go north and anticlockwise around the island signs of greenery appear.

The hotel chosen by the company was the strangely named H10 group. The name must have seemed a good idea at the time but does not really communicate anything. However if you throw enough money at the PR and publicity it doesn’t really matter. I could say the same of Tui, the recently rebranded company. Who cares so long as you can pronounce the name and associate it with the product.

It is part of the arrogance of the Brits, or maybe it’s just laziness, to assume that everyone else can speak English. My observations were that very few of the staff had anything like a command of the language necessary to hold a conversation. Do not be deceived by people saying “good morning sir how are you today”. They probably learned this by rote and if you were to reply they wouldn’t have the vaguest idea what you’re talking about. England is a long way away in the public consciousness compared with Spain and Germany. Mercifully, the receptionists were skilled in the common languages and our checking in was dealt with expeditiously.

It was a somewhat surreal experience to have a welcome glass of bubbly handed to you while you were still standing in the queue but rules is rules and the customer needs a glass of bubbly on arrival then so be it. Who cares about style? So here I stand, baggage and paperwork in one hand and awkwardly balancing the glass in the other but hey who cares. The temperature was short sleeve shirts and T-shirt weather, I think it was about 22° when we arrived.

It became quickly clear that the bargaining power of a long-established holiday group is considerable. We had been given one of the better quality and upgraded rooms where the mattress on the bed was so big that it was wider than it wasn’t long. Everything worked. Interestingly the only English-language TV programmes were Russia Today and BBC world News. The air conditioning was quiet, it did not rattle praise the Lord. The glass of the sliding doors leading onto a small balcony was thick and did actually exclude such noise as there was. We overlooked the Plaza where traffic was not allowed and have a sea view.

Tony AKA and Tommy Cooper, our Saga rep.

The following day we were invited to a welcome reception. I expected a hard sell but in fact our rep, who was the spitting image of Tommy Cooper simply told us what was on and how we could sign up if we wanted to. I mistakenly went to another meeting run by a competitive company and the attitude there was totally different. The rep was actually unpleasant and almost bullying people into signing up. What a difference it makes if you’re being paid largely on commission.

very high quality painting on buildings with good preparation of the surface

We had debated hiring a car and going round to see the sites for ourselves. That would’ve been a major mistake. Most of the villages are very small, compact we could say, with minimal parking. In addition, apart from the very necessary motorways, the vast majority of roads are not built for mass motoring and consist of many twists and turns, steep hills with limited passing facilities and you don’t want this.

The second reason it would be a mistake to hire a car is that you would miss out on guidance. We had guides on the two tours we went on and they were knowledgeable locals who had been in the job for 20 or 30 years and knew Tenerife like the back of their hand. Guides have to be accredited and they all have to know their history particularly from the 14th century which gave us a good perspective on the whole experience otherwise you could just be looking at scenery none the wiser.

The third reason for not hiring a car is the excellent bus service which includes the more remote areas. Because the income from 5.7 million tourists is vast, this island has the muscle to buy in as needed. You buy a pass, a rechargeable card, and pay the fixed fare per journey.

When we started, we didn’t know a single soul, but as the day progressed we became familiar with more and more people. In my youth I used to hitchhike and my kind drivers came out with all sorts of personal and other information which they could freely do, knowing that we were both anonymous and we would never meet again. Sometimes I acted as a confessional. The same applies with such transitory situations. Everyone is out to have a good time. They are very glad to get away from their ordinary life at home. There were lots of people from Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle but not many from Bristol which was our nearest airport.

very suspicious Banksy type Madonna

There are definitely differences between Brits on holiday and those from other countries. Brits do have a certain stiffness and stand-offishness which you can spot a mile off. However I do say that as the week progressed, more and more people got to know each other and they were talking to each other 19 to the dozen. There were about the same number of Germans than British people. You can spot the existence of German guests by counting the number of beach towels left tidily on the reclining chairs around the swimming pool at 7 AM. I think the first thing that they do after getting up and before breakfast is to preserve what they consider is their space. I was tempted to go around and take them all up again but then what would that achieve?

the best way of telling if there are any Germans staying – and look for the beach towels

Germans tend to be a bit loud sometimes but I have to say they were a pretty decent and well-behaved lot. Good manners are tested at the gargantuan buffets offered at breakfast and the evening meal which brings me to the topic of food. It’s amazing what can be produced if you have 300 guaranteed customers each evening. Economies of scale it is called. Before I start on the supper, the breakfasts were formidable enough.

The attitude of Spaniards to alcohol is a little bit different to us in the UK. It is not every day that I see vodka being offered with the breakfast not to mention sparkling wine. Okay it was only Cave but when mixed with orange juice it certainly woke you up in the morning. The porridge was to die for and you have a huge selection of cold meats,  cheeses, goodness knows how many types of yoghurt, six different types of fruit juice, about 20 different types of bread, toasting machines that actually work and of course the traditional English breakfast. We found that with this huge breakfast and with the supper, we had no need for lunch so apart from the odd snack here and there we managed to survive the day until 4.30 PM when we had the delight of…..

Free drinks. Another bargaining try out by the company on our behalf. The bar staff don’t actually seem to bother with measures. They stop pouring the wine into the glass when it is full and as for the G and T, they just fill up half a tall glass and ad the tonic. As for other shorts,there must have been about three measures of brandy or whiskey given in the very generous glass. I would say the average person (not me of course) drank their way through about £120 worth of good quality drink. I had a number of different types of wine and I did not suffer the after-effects that I do drinking less expensive wine in the UK. I understand they have very strict regulations about what can be used by way of sprays and fertilisers and my goodness does it show. I reckon they keep the best stuff for themselves and dump the rest in the UK.

impossible to show with a small camera but this is a full moon, the city lights in the distance and the reflection on the water in the Bay

Supper itself. Any time before the official opening time of six thirty there were about 60 keen people waiting to get in, mainly Geordies from Newcastle. Don’t ask me why. The sound of their cheerful and distinctive accents echoed down the corridor. The food itself, what can I say? – I suppose about seven or eight main course offerings; fish to die for, melted in the mouth but watch out for the small bones.

Back to our main theme of how you are treated as a package person. I know people complain about being treated like cattle, just a number, but it is difficult to avoid this when there are large numbers of hungry souls walking around in one place, looking this way and that, holding plates which they are in the process of filling up.  You certainly get the knack of dancing around and apologising and smiling. Seven or eight visits to collect food is about right. One evening, they produced 13 different types of tarts with all the flavours you could think of. I left the restaurant as full as I could possibly be and went for a walk along the front to encourage digestion.

Without the buffet model, the whole system would simply grind to a halt. I notice that people actually love going round and picking this and that. I haven’t dared to stand on the scale since returning home but I’m sure I have put on weight. This is where the independent traveler loses out big-time. You would have to spend your whole holiday money on buying food if you wanted to compete with the quality on offer. Going out to restaurants every night is expensive because it is Euroland although you can get a cheap meal for €10. I can’t be bothered to work out how much I save on a package quality for quality but it is substantial.

And now to the topic of people coming on a holiday on their own. Early on, we met a delightful and affable middle-aged chap called Chris, from Taunton, who spends most of his time going around holiday places on his own. He became my role model for how to do it. He smiled at everyone, didn’t trouble anyone but was glad to engage in conversation. It helped that he was genuinely interested in other people and their stories. From him I got a lot of useful information about the area and about the customs. Chris remembered our names and greeted us when he saw us and at the very end when we said goodbye at the airport he wished us all the best. Chris positively thrived being on his own because it was an opportunity to exercise his considerable social enthusiasms while making people feel safe.

an unexpected sighting of a Labour of Love in this art installation

I contrast that with a lady of a certain age who was administrative assistant at a technical college in Birmingham. This was her first time away by herself, who knows why, and she reminded us of this on two or three occasions. She almost had what I called “learned helplessness” and saw herself as a person who was clueless and needed direction on everything. In spite of that, people took a liking to her and looked after her by way of conversation in the bar and so on.  One thing it never pays to do is to sit on your own and look sorry for yourself because people will avoid you. Chris had his antenna waving in the breeze at all times, made it clear that he was glad to help people with any question or problem they might have.

So, listen up single people, just book and turn up. Everyone is out to enjoy themselves as I said before, so just take the initiative and open a conversation even if you are a lady or especially if you are a lady is easy and straightforward. No one is going to bite your head off. Say something like ” did you have a nice day today”. If you decide to go on a coach trip, which I strongly recommend, nod and smile to everyone as you get on and maybe see if there is someone else who is single and sit next to them. They will probably be glad you did. The problems are in your own head.

Company representatives can make or break the atmosphere of a tour. Nearly all of them love their job and the freedom it gives. Our Tony took us on a walkabout so we could orientate ourselves. People who live locally as he did have far have more information than they can possibly deliver in a speech and it is really worthwhile making a note of questions you have and asking them. There is no such thing as a stupid question. If you don’t know something it is a pretty safe bet that you want to be told the answer. Other people will be grateful that you chirped up.

What variety is this then?

Tony had a lovely sense of humour which did actually make us all laugh and relax, so important when you are in a strange though it must be said friendly city. It is interesting that the return rate for people who have been to Tenerife is very high. I met a lady who had been there 13 times. Tony said that of the 30 people who were due to come next week, 20 had been before. He also has a regular client who comes for four months in the winter It is mainly because of the reliability of the weather. Around this time of year, December, it is about 22°C maybe 20° average. Rain is almost non-existent, to the extent that the local population are concerned. If it rains, it’s not like in England when it goes on all day but it takes the form of showers which quickly disappear. This is after all a tropical island.

Puerto de la Cruz is one of the very successful and larger seaside resorts. The first thing that struck me was how clean it was. People do not litter though alas the same thing cannot be said for throwing down cigarette butts. There were some very good street entertainers and artists. They were attracted there because of the potential money but there was something strange which makes me wonder.

There were some caricature artists offering to work for three euros. Why such a small amount? It’s not that the tourists have little money. Maybe the competition for that money is too great.  Are they so desperate that they will work for virtually nothing? I understand from a guide that the average monthly income is a little over €1000 and overall it is the second poorest economy in the European Union. I suppose Cyprus would be at the bottom. I would assume therefore that most working for minimum wage if indeed they have that concept.

I keep on interrupting myself and changing the subject but I’m just writing in the order that things occur to me. Ha ha.

Part of the deal of this particular hotel was evening entertainment. The hotel is not in a position to pay vast sums for well-known people so it is a bit hit and miss so in general it’s ‘get stuck in and encourage their efforts’ time. We had everything from smooth jazz to muscle men doing feats of physical balancing to people who could hardly sing at all. There were two two-hour sessions between 8 PM and midnight.

I might add a word here about the age range of the people. Because this is outside school holidays, it was mostly older people. What struck me very much was a couple in their 90s who were very keen to do everything, bright as buttons, great sense of humour, happy to talk to anyone and exchange a joke or comment. At 73, I felt positively young compared with what I saw around me but younger people – don’t be put off, older people are very accepting of all ages. The younger ones probably remind them of their grandchildren.

Maybe it was my imagination but there was a disproportionate number of people in wheelchairs or disabled in some way. On the plane on the way back there were no less than nine wheelchair people. I.e. guess that the climate is good for arthritis and also the guaranteed sun in the winter is no doubt a good attractant.

My worst memory, and always relative of course, was the time when a rather distracted and attention seeking Russian lady decided to shut up her 18 month old child by putting a mobile phone in front of him and playing a cartoon at full volume. Why bother to have a child in the first place if you’re not prepared to make it part of the table instead of allowing it to stare at some moving object.

My best memories, apart from the above was on our last day when we witnessed a very skillful local shimmying up the palm trees to cut off the dead material at the top. His activity caused quite a crowd to gather and admire. He had two tools, a jungle knife and just as important a Stanley knife. It is evidently necessary to cut the outer upper bark into sections which you do by making incisions vertically and horizontally and throwing the bark down. The branches made a thud as they hit the ground. The man, a local obviously, was as much at home 50 feet up on the swaying palm tree as most of us would be on the ground. I noted the way that his shoes had a vertical spike which he dig into the tree before heaving himself up on a rope slung around the tree itself.

In so far as it is possible to summarise my week. It was about enough time bearing in mind we have never been there before. If and when I return I would know what I was coming to and have a more proactive plan properly to explore some of the lesser-known beaches and areas. I would stay for 10 days. We missed going up the famous mountain but will do that next time. I believe above 2000 m it is another type of land.

Going with the group from a tour company almost guarantees freebies, support and good value for money.

Other Half Francoise enjoying the sun

There is one other important thing that I have left till the last. The company takes responsibility for you while you are there. They have to get you to the hotel, look after you while you were in the hotel, make sure you get back to the airport and on your plane. We had one case where a road was blocked and it was not possible to gain access to the coach for a day tour. The Rep. paid for taxis for us to go round the back streets to rendezvous with the coach.

All representatives are aware that the reputation of the company is in their hands and they act accordingly. it means that unlike individual traveling, there is someone at your side to assist.  On tours, the drivers and guides know the best places to stop so you are not rushed about from place to place, although I know that is not the experience of everyone. I think if you are a first timer, it is definitely better to go as part of the tour. the reason you should choose an experienced company is just for that reason.

The company has arrived at a formula through trial and error and you are benefiting from the trials and tribulations of when they just started which in the case of Saga was in 1951 rather the same time that Butlins holiday camp was really getting going. Barclays started by the irrepressible Billy Butlin in 1936 in Skegness, following his success in developing amusement parks. A second quickly followed in Clacton and then Filey, all before the Second World War

The operation of saga were originally based at Folkestone in Kent and the founder offered affordable off-peak holidays exclusively for retired people but that was only within the UK.

If you are seeking to book a holiday and it seems expensive or a little expensive in this competitive market you get what you pay for.  If a price seems too good to be true then it is. They cut corners and then charge you for so-called extras when you arrive. Competition is unforgiving and companies rely a lot on word-of-mouth and Trip Adviser reviews so do not underestimate the beneficial effect of people power… Continued below.

*****

no time to read Pepys diaries today.

Sunday 4 December 1664

At noon home to dinner, and then in the afternoon to church. So home, and by and by comes Mr. Hill and Andrews, and sung together long and with great content. Then to supper and broke up. Pretty discourse, very pleasant and ingenious, and so to my office a little, and then home (after prayers) to bed.

I was able to sample some of this ‘pretty discourse’ on this vacation. I think it needs the will and the interest on both sides. With a bit of discipline and prioritising I think we could feed ourselves far more than we do already. I have not missed TV in my seven days away one little bit

*****

There was a small sting in the tail at my rendezvous with my taxi driver at Bristol airport. The authorities are extremely greedy. The pickup section costs a pound but for 10 min. If you go over that by 1 min it is £3. if you are unwise enough to stay for 41 min the charge is £20. Anything over an hour is £50. What our local taxi company do is get the customer to call them while they sit outside the airport. On receipt of the call they crack in quickly, load the bags and out again hopefully avoiding the queues on the way out with the fumbling for change. With no delay we did it in 7 min. people with lots of bags and young children don’t stand a chance.

And now to stock up the empty fridge and deal with the telephone messages