Notre Dame

I imagine many people woke up this morning thinking about Notre Dame de Paris. I know I did. I was taking a break from watching the news last night, but saw a tweet by @janh1 which alerted me to the disaster. Fire is something I dread, and to see the flames leaping skywards, the black smoke moving across the spring sky, was horrific. Channel 4 news was taking calls from eye witnesses, trying to put together a picture of what was happening. The moment when the spire fell was heart wrenching. Parisiens and visitors to the city stood side by side, watching, helpless. But there is solidarity in a crowd, and at some moment someone must have started singing, and suddenly the internet was full of videos made on mobile ‘phones of the crowd en masse singing Ave Maria as Paris’ cathedral burned. It was beautiful, it was moving, it was intensely sad.

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Prescient

Some people are saying they had no idea the country would be in reduced to such a state by the 2016 referendum and its result.

Where were they looking? What were they thinking? I have a little crystal ball someone gave me but I have never managed to see anything in it. But clicking on the related posts after the last one I wrote, I was struck at how prescient they were. Which suggests to me it was all pretty obvious then as I am no political pundit. Mind you I didn’t foresee Theresa May being praised for her heroic sacrifice of her career, praise that she put the country first because of her strong sense of duty. Call me naive, but I should expect any Prime Minister’s first priority, first loyalty, to be to the country, not their own career path. Perhaps that is why we are in the state we’re in now with Boris Johnson or Michael Gove being talked about as future Prime Minsiters, people we know have no scruples and enormous ambition. Theresa May has been quite happy to sacrifice 48% of voters who took part in the referendum, to sacrifice honesty and fair dealing by upholding the result and calling the dirty dealing regrettable, quite happy to sacrifice jobs and livelihoods of people who already have less than little.
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Fine words butter no parsnips

Sunday night. Celia and Charlie have just gone home. We had supper together, good chat, good wine, great gin. Maybe more about the gin at a later date.

Like many we are still processing the events in Christchurch and our reactions to them. Such evil. How has this happened?

I have been impressed by articles I have read, mainly, but not all, in the Guardian, that ease us away from the idea of a lone gunman and open our eyes to the global movements of the far right. While not so nameless politicians have been pointing fingers at the threat of Islamic fundamentalists, the far right has been mobilising on a global scale, aided no little by those not so nameless politicians. So let’s name some of them: Trump, Erdogan, Goldsmith, May, Johnson, Farage, the BBC.

I’m not sure about Erdogan, but the others, save of course the Farrago, have issued statements expressing their sympathy, saying their prayers and thoughts are with those who were gunned down and their families. Just think about that for a moment. Think about May and Goldsmith’s slurs when Sadiq Khan was running for Mayor of London, how they said he would be a terrorist threat because he is Moslem. Johnson has made repellent remarks about women wearing hijabs. Trump, well, where do I start? The BBC hurts me more as it is an institution I have grown up respecting, but increasingly the ‘balance’ it offers on political programmes is tilted; I read it as a fearful response, a kowtowing to the vocal bullies, it has given a platform to some of the most hatefilled people of our time. This is not free speech. This is not the BBC I knew. This is not balance. Continue reading

Twenty Minutes Apart

After Dry January (which I did not do, but Octavia did), Veganuary (which basically I do all year) it’s now Frugal February. Not, at least so far as I am aware, a national or international thing, but having received a bank statement which brought the unwelcome news that I had spent far more, despite already thinking I was being frugal, than I had made, I am wondering what further economies I can make.
So lots of good intentions which immediately got thrown aside when I had to buy a new printer cartridge costing £20.00 – £20.00! But at least I have the money. As a self-employed freelance, I know in my particular field January is not a good month. Neither is February. March tends to pick up, but Brexit is changing things and my sector is already suffering, so I can’t count on March, April or May to be busy.
I don’t earn a huge amount, even in a good year. If I were a foreigner there is no way the government would welcome me into the country. This is not a sob story, a plea for self pity. I chose to do what I do, gave up a part-time salaried post where I was bullied and miserable, I love my job. And I am lucky; I have paid off my mortgage, my outgoings if I am careful should be within my budget. I have choices.
But what of those who do not have the same securities? For some families that £20 unplanned expenditure wouldn’t be a setback, it would be the difference between eating or not eating, having the heating on or turning the heating off. When I hear politicians saying the pain we shall inevitably go through after the UK leaves the EU is worth it I simply don’t believe them. Today I saw Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new house. I’ve seen it many times before, but now he lives there. It’s in a very nice street, a lovely location, walking distance to the Palace of Westminster: further to the nearest branch of Poundland. As it turns out, a Poundland very close to where I live. About a twenty minute bus ride away.
It’s amazing how different neighbourhoods twenty minutes apart can be. Continue reading

Sanity Television

Tonight there are more moves in Parliament to try to resolve the difficulties of Brexit. Ideally, we shan’t leave the EU at all, but leave or remain, the fallout will continue for years, probably decades. The referendum revealed schisms, rifts so deep in our social fabric they make the Grand Canyon look like a ditch. If we leave, the campaign to rejoin will begin at once; if we remain, the campaign to leave will begin all over again. The EU has been our whipping boy, our scapegoat, our blame hound. You could be forgiven, listening to some virulent leave supporters, for believing that the UK has had no say in EU legislation for the past forty-seven years.
That meaningless yet emotive phrase, the will of the British people, has made a recent reappearance. It is all profoundly depressing. The Labour Party wants a general election. I’m with Brenda of Bristol on that one. I’m not all that keen on a second referendum either. Our positions have become so entrenched we could have a similarly narrow result to leave, which leaves us just where we are now. Companies are leaving the U.K. the damage has been done. But it can be stemmed.
I’m no fan of Tony Blair, but I do agree with him that we elect our MPs to work for us, and having looked at the consequences of leaving the EU, I have little doubt that a cross party consensus would agree that we should cancel the whole shebang. Continue reading

Divided not Ruled

I feel immensely cheered by Parliament tonight. At the eleventh hour, seeing their party leaders sitting on their hands or worse, cross party MPs are finally doing something to stop a total derailment at the end of March.
I have long believed the pro Leave vote was more a vote against the government, this one and any number of previous ones, than about the EU. The EU has been a scapegoat. Divide and rule is an ugly, but in the short term often effective, gambit. Pro Brexit voters voted against people taking their jobs, or doing jobs they wouldn’t do for the low wages those people accepted. So who wins in this low wage scenario? Well, goodness me, the people who pay the low wages and make lots of money. But instead of pointing the finger at them, the low wages workers and those who won’t take such a low wage become enemies and the exploiters laugh all the way to the bank. Nuts. Continue reading

Octavia is my Lab Rat

As someone who loves, and I mean loves, fairy lights the sheer range available in the pound shop in December was severe temptation. I was almost salivating. I had to get myself out and away before considerable damage was done to my pocket.
Now, in the cool light of January,my decorations down, cards undisplayed, but fairy lights still twinkling as they do here all winter, I found myself thinking of those lights again. I returned to the shop, imagining I might, in a more restrained, less Christmassy frame of mind, be able to choose wisely from the selection.
All gone.
We have moved onto St Valentine’s Day. So I could have bought heart shaped candles, various tacky objects in shades of red. No fairy lights. Perhaps it’s a blessing. But I am thinking that if they have the same wonderful array next year, all the friends to whom I give presents will get at least one string of lights for Christmas.
Meanwhile, Octavia made a fleeting return to the capital and we ate together on Sunday evening. She is my lab rat, or guinea pig if you prefer, when I am trialling new dishes on visitors. Unusually we ate at mine. This was because I was making soup and didn’t fancy carrying it around to her house. The chances of spillage which would have been messy, were too high. My experimental dish was a Freekeh salad. Now I have had Freekeh in a local restaurant but not been able to buy it. Apparently it sells out very quickly. So Lyn very kindly got some for me in Auckland, and then Celia managed to bag a packet which was part of my Christmas gift from her.
So now I am Freekeh rich, but with Brexit looming, I don’t think I’m going to be rich in much else. I am particularly worried about fresh veg as I eat a great deal of it. I might get by on home grown tomatoes in the summer, but there’s no chance of that in April.
Maybe by some miracle the MPs will put a stop to the madness and we can reboot. Brexit’s wounds are going to take a long, long time to heal, whether we leave or stay. The bitterness, the hatred, the anger the referendum threw up will leave scars.
I have just watched Brexit: the Uncivil War, a drama about the campaigns starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It left me thoughtful, and more than a tad depressed. I had seen part of it being filmed in 2018 and been told by one of the crew it was to air the night we left the EU. In that case, I hope I never see it, I replied. But we are still in the EU, and it has aired. Watching it on catch up I didn’t get the full complement of ads in the breaks (it was a Channel 4 production for anyone looking to find it) but I did get that it had been sponsored by Lexus, so presumably that was the type of buying power the anticipated audience was expected to have. Not I. Among the more ridiculous accusations levelled at remainers is the one that we are the metropolitan elite. Some of the poorest parts of London voted solidly to remain. My own neighbourhood among them. Apparently, and especially as I read the Guardian, I am also a member of the chattering classes, which perhaps I am, though not alas with any influence. The term was coined by Auberon Waugh whose politics were more than a bit extreme.
We are seeing the unedifying spectacle of MPs, journalists and others being racially abused; women having misogynistic comments hurled at them by a group of vociferous pro Leave protesters who gather outside the Palace of Westminster. How anyone hearing them could embrace a future where their views dominate is a mystery.
I don’t agree with Owen Jones about much, but when he says the right wing press and the language of hate and prejudice that adorn its front pages has much to answer for, he’s right. He didn’t mention the lies the Mail and the Express serve up on an almost daily basis. According to them, climate crisis is a lie, we are overrun with malign foreigners, the NHS is being bled dry by health tourists. All these stories have been shown to be false, but still they keep peddling them. It worries me that the newspaper proprietors push this trash, it worries me even more that people buy these newspapers and want to believe them. That is self-deception on a frightening scale.
But I can only take a little of Brexit at a time. It looks horribly like I shall be living in an ex EU country very soon. Any problems will be blamed on the EU which has become some sort of whipping boy for the right and far right. Any success, any minor survival, will be hailed as victory. And as I don’t want to see my country go down the pan, I and my fellow remainers will be doing our darnedest to make something positive out of this disaster, and not relying as the leavers seem to do on fairies at the bottom of the garden.
So expect recipes, pictures of MasterB, poetry, anything that distracts and keeps me sane while this lemming like race to destruction continues. Meanwhile, beneath the surface my legs will be paddling like billyoh.

Beyond rubies

Suddenly it’s almost upon us. The surfaces in the sitting room are filling up with cards, not as many as a few years ago as so many of us have switched to ecards or no cards at all, but enough for MasterB to sweep onto the floor with some regularity.
I have a table covered with presents, mostly ones I have to give, but some exciting packages to open and one for MasterB. A heated blanket, it’s from me, but he doesn’t know about it yet, so don’t say anything.
There’s a lot of talk about Christmas being a time of family togetherness, but I have not had a family Christmas in some years. No, that’s not a cry for sympathy. For all the blood is thicker than water stuff, I am happy, happier actually, spending the Day with friends. Yes, it is sad that my nearest in blood are not my dearest, but that’s the way it works sometimes, and I am fortunate, very fortunate with my friends. You can choose your friends they also say. Do we choose our friends? There seems to me to be some almost magical alchemy that brings us in contact with the people who become our friends. Continue reading

Home is Where the Cat Is

I’m home. Phew. Right now I am feeling very tired and all I want to do is go to bed, but I intend to stay up for a few hours more. Also, I need to finish unpacking my bag.
New Zealand is amazing. Stunning. Beautiful. Pick your own adjective. I need to start saving for a second trip to the South Island. I’m glad I didn’t go there this time because it would have been so intense, and like going through a list, ticking off places seen. That’s not my preferred type of tourism. You can’t see everything. And sometimes the more you try to see the less you appreciate, understand or remember.
MasterB was not quite sure how to react when I arrived home. He was pleased to see me, but he and Birgit have established a different routine over the last five weeks, now he has to readapt to my routine. Right now he’s curled up beside me. He couldn’t be closer. He has also seen Celia who I bumped into on the Walworth Road when I was heading for the mobile phone shop to get a new U.K. sim to replace the one I lost.
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