So Mr Johnson, What did Mr Putin do for you in 2016?

We know social media, and in particular Facebook, was responsible for targeting voters in the 2016 referendum with false information. We know that the Leave Campaign has been found guilty of breaking the rules, though mysteriously this is still often referred to as an allegation, and was even denied by Fiona Bruce on Question Time last week.
For those of you still unconvinced, you can read about it here, not as reported in a newspaper with a particular view, but the Electoral Commission’s actual report. Continue reading

Back to Brexit

You would think that there had been no march on Saturday, no five million plus signatures on a petition asking for Article 50 to be revoked. Europe is talking about it, the world is talking about it, the UK government isn’t. No. The day after the march our esteemed Prime Minister met renowned Brexiteer MPs, people who would be quite happy to leave the EU with no deal. The Prime Minister followed this meeting up with a speech where she spoke about the British People (yep, they’re being evoked again but apparently my birth certificate lies and I am not one of them) and how they would not countenance not leaving the EU. No mention of the march, the petition, the fact that the referendum was advisory and not binding, and had it been binding it would have been declared void because of illegal activity by the Leave campaign.
Not. A. Word.
There’s the usual baloney about respecting the ‘will of the people’ respecting ‘the result of the referendum’. Nothing about respecting those who march peacefully, who follow the rules, who do not threaten civil disruption, public mayhem if this goes ahead, who engage in debate not rhetoric and meaningless slogans. Continue reading

The Wheel Will Turn

Anger is only useful if it fuels action.

Yesterday’s anti-Brexit march felt useful. I wasn’t on it as I was working, but just seeing the pictures gave me a sense of solidarity, a sense of hope; this madness will stop.

If it doesn’t, those of us who wish to remain in the EU will continue to campaign to return. Please don’t talk to me about the will of the people, or democratic process. When the referendum was held in the early 1970s and people voted to stay in the EU, or Common Market as it was then known, the leave campaign sprang into action immediately. To paraphrase a meateater’s saying, what’s sauce for the lentils is sauce for the butter beans.

Democracy is about argument, not things set in stone.

My outrage meter was just returning to somewhere above normal after POTUS’ announcement that he would reverse his inhumane decision to separate children from their parents and then blame the Democrats, when I realised it doesn’t apply to those families already separated. The trauma those children have undergone for this Trumplestiltskin to make a point, beggars belief. I cannot begin to imagine how this is going to affect them in their adult lives. The insecurity, the realisation at a much too young age that their parents cannot always defend them will leave an indelible mark. And all because this man likes to think he’s strong, and that this is the sort of thing strong men do. The truth is he’s weak, and the weak never know how hard they are hitting you. Continue reading

Divide and Rule and the Windrush Generation

Such excitement chez Isobel (and Cat) this afternoon when I located the lottery ticket I bought for last Friday’s draw and checked the winning numbers. I am so inured to reading that there are no matches that it took a couple of seconds for the news to sink in and to understand that I am a winner. At last! I haven’t yet claimed my prize and am not sure how I am going to spend it. £8.10 may not be a life changing amount, but after months of zero it’s quite exciting. It could get me three quarters of a glass of champagne in a not too fussy establishment; pay for more than half the ticket I have bought to see Our Country’s Good next week at Stratford East; buy two and a bit copies of Saturday’s Guardian; buy four entries to Saturday’s Lottery. However you look at it, I’m a winner.

Not so the Windrush generation. I thought my country couldn’t plumb new depths after the fiasco which was the referendum in 2016, but in an increasingly crowded field for acts of shameful inhumanity it seems the race to the bottom is being fought hard. We’re told the government has apologised, that there will be compensation, compensation described by MP Kwame Kwarteng as generous. Oh that’s alright then. So you may have lost your home, your job, your entitlement benefits and health care, been threatened with deportation and locked up in a detention centre not knowing where you are going to be this time next week, but now you can sleep easy in your bed as the government has promised to make amends. Continue reading

Prophylactic Names and Parliamentary Responsibility

I don’t think I could ever fall in love with a man called Nigel, or Donald. They are names that just don’t do it for me. Try imagining passionate moments with a man with either name. “Oh Nigel!” “Oh Donald!” No. It sounds like something from a bad sitcom. Comedy names; cartoon ducks.

Shame the parents of the current prominent owners of these names didn’t just practise safe sex rather than landing their offspring with prophylactic names. Maybe the new US President parades his family so often to show how against the odds, and I am not just talking about his name now, he has managed to persuade three women to have sex with him.

That Nigel Farage has also children makes me realise there is no accounting for tastes.

But I do find it incredible that family men can be so cavalier with the future of the planet. On the news tonight there was footage of Trump signing a document that could mean the go ahead to oil pipelines. He chooses to ignore the evidence about climate crisis and puts all our lives, all life, in jeopardy, spouting figures for jobs that presumably he has just made up as no one else has those figures, as though jobs now make up for the loss of polar bears tomorrow. Continue reading

Pictures to Follow

The grebes are nesting, but not next to das Boot. This year they have chosen a spot on the river. I watched them busy collecting material. It seems much noisier spot than in the marina, but I suppose most grebes don’t have the luxury of off river facilities. I took some pictures, but it don’t know they show more than vague outlines.

I forgot MasterB’s harness so he can’t have shoreleave, and this time he seems rather keen. I’ve been playing with him, but it can’t be as interesting as the smells he’d have found out on a walk. Indoor cats must miss out on a lot.

 

The forecast has been so dire I nearly didn’t come. But in my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to be here and if there was a chance the weather might be kind, I would come. So there I was this morning, still vacillating, but at the back of my mind choosing the things I would pack. Pity I forgot the harness. Maybe if it’s quiet tomorrow morning I’ll risk taking him ashore and letting him run free. Not if it’s windy though. I don’t want any accidents when he gets back in board.

 

The journey east was varied. We left in sunshine, drove through hail with winds that swept the rain sideways across the roads. Pedestrians in Stratford outlined by garments wrapped round them. Then more sunshine; winds that chased clouds across impossibly blue skies; scatters of raindrops.

 

There were roadworks. There are always roadworks in spring. One lot had us crawling several miles until we were clear. I stopped at a petrol station and filled the tank.

 

Near the start of the undulating road across the fens that leads to the marina I nabbed half a dozen eggs from the nice egg lady. The road seems even more undulating than a week ago. Mary and her two uncontrolled but beautiful Labradors was here. They ignored her commands and jumped up at me. MasterB, so had been quiet and accepting most of the journey began to cry plaintively as I emptied the car. I wanted to get the bed made before he came aboard. When I let him out of his box, he made big eyes and sniffed everywhere before taking refuge under a pillow.

Continue reading

Whose Regeneration is This?

A few years ago a terrible fire broke out by our old town hall. I happened to be walking down the road at the time, and saw the billowing smoke and the flames leaping from the roof. It was an incident that drew the community together. At a public meeting soon afterwards, the audience made it clear that the town hall, and the library next door were both buildings the community valued. It seemed that our council officers took note, and planned to restore both buildings and keep them as community buildings.

Roll forward to 2016. Sunny Walworth, my home for more than three decades, is part of the extended regeneration zone around the Elephant and Castle. I believe it would be fair to say that the regeneration has not been quite what local people imagined it would be. We started with high hopes for our neighbourhoods, our communities. Gradually these hopes have been repaved by cynicism.

Whose regeneration is this?

It feels like neighbourhoods and communities are being unmade and remoulded, and the remoulding is for people the developers want to attract. This has been a diverse area, and one that has seen little division. Intentionally or not, regeneration has created a them and us scenario.

Increasingly it has felt as though established communities are voiceless. We can look on, but the place we regard as home is being redesigned for others. We are outsiders in our own neighbourhood. Continue reading

How Would Your Cat Vote?

I am rather disappointed that less than two weeks after the excitement that was the Scottish Referendum, UK politics has gone back to be mainly blah again. Last week Ed Milliband forgot to mention the deficit in his main speech at the Labuour Party Conference. Jon Snow grilled him with barely concealed exasperation, like a public school house master who is getting very tired of this student who continues to dither. I have some sympathy with Ed. I threw precious marks away in my finals when I was so confident in what should have been my best paper that I put all the frills into my essay but failed to include the main points. Something that occurred to me about ten minutes outside the exam hall and literally stopped me in my tracks. George Osborne, who I am still not convinced is a real person, gave a speech today where people on benefits were warned of more cuts, because we cannot ‘tax our way out of difficulty’. That’s not exactly what he said, but I didn’t have a notebook beside me and am not prepared to watch the speech again. It translates as ‘we shall leave people with money alone because they have power and influence and can make our lives uncomfortable. Also, we have money too, and cannot conceive of what it must be like to not have choices. Therefore those of you who fall into that category are not like us and do not qualify as human beings worthy of our sympathy and attention’. A few weeks ago someone wrote a long but brilliant piece in the Guardian about the City of London’s rôle in our country. We, as voters in a supposedly democratic country, think we choose our government and that our government is ultimately accountable to us. Step forward the City. The government is accountable to the City. Another interesting, but frankly depressing piece, was about how the country’s assets have been sold off; many now in the hands of other countries. We are effectively tenants in our our own land. So how did this get me to cats? Well. If you know me, or if you have followed this blog for a few years you will know that I adored Cat. He adopted me, opened my eyes to the pleasure of feline company, and made me reassess their position in relation to dogs. I should previously have classified myself as a Dog Lover. Actually, I should still classify myself as a Dog Lover. Nothing expresses joy in the world like a dog. Dogs are amazing, wonderful creatures who enhance our lives, give generously, empathise, protect us and remind us that loyalty can be bought by a sausage. Continue reading

The Health of the People – the Highest Law?

I missed the article in the Guardian by Harry Leslie Smith, but fortunately these letters in yesterday’s edition led me back to it.

Maybe you missed it too. If so, I urge you to read both the article and the letters.

Yesterday, a few of us were discussing how regeneration is affecting our neighbourhood; how untruths, half truths and downright lies, damned some buildings to demolition. It reminded me of the behaviour of a certain London council in the 80s. Residents, all of them council tenants with secure tenancies, were told that there was danger from asbestos, and evacuated from the homes. People were rehoused in housing stock that was often inferior, in different parts of the borough. They thought this was a temporary measure before they could move back to their homes. Continue reading

Famine, Fame and Fatuousness

For reasons too convoluted to go into here, I watched Michael Buerk’s 1984 news report on the famine in Ethiopia this afternoon. It’s the report that resulted in Do They Know It’s Christmas? Live Aid and, I think, Comic Relief.
I wasn’t alone. There were five of us, from teens upwards. I hadn’t expected the teens to have seen it, but one adult who strayed in while we were watching and stopped transfixed. had never seen it either.

By the end of the report I was crying freely, the other adults were silent, the fifteen-year-old looked stunned. Even the thirteen-year-old who had been a bit surprised by our intense concentration and serious faces looked sombre.

I don’t know where the doctor from Médecins Sans Frontières is now, I don’t even remember her name. And it made me wonder yet again, how someone like Paris Hilton is famous simply for being rich, vacuous and pretty, when there are so many other unsung people we could know about.

Just in case you have never seen that report either, here’s a link: