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NATO comes to town

I live in Cardiff, and – even though the summit is supposed to be in Newport, at the garish, Colditz-lookalike, Celtic Manor (a few miles up the road from here) – my home town is in virtual lock-down.

“Wait” I hear you cry, “isn’t the NATO summit not until early September?” Yep, but they are putting high steel fences around the Castle and the Welsh Collage of Music & Drama (both are hosting dinner/events, on September 3rd & 4th) now, and causing traffic mayhem in the process. Central Cardiff resembles pre-demolition of the wall Berlin at present ….

It’s going to be a month of delays, of diversions and of frustration. Where the “World leaders” go, so do an army of media types (thereby guaranteeing no one gets served in the pub), and – worse – 9,500 (many armed) Policemen. “Great for the tourist trade”, you say? Possibly, but I’m not a hotelier.

Why is there still a NATO? Hasn’t the cold war been won, and the Warsaw Pact dissolved? It’s the North ATLANTIC Treaty Organisation; how the hell does Eastern Europe or Turkey have an interest in that? I’m certainly no fan of Vlad (the Impaler, or – as my dyslexic friend calls him – Vlad the Impala) Putin (never trust any man who strips to the waist and poses as often as he does), but even I feel he has a point when he says he feels threatened by the constant growth of US-led NATO. It’s virtually on his doorstep if Ukraine or Georgia join too …

All this hyper-security though reminds me of why politics is now so unpopular. Politicians, across the party divide, are distant. They keep themselves isolated from us, and have little connection with reality. Most live gilded lives in comparative luxury, and rarely come into contact with ordinary working people (other than the butler). They simply don’t see what we see, or feel what we feel. How the hell can they then claim to speak for you & me then?

I am thinking of blogging again, after a “protracted” rest!!

Is anyone still interested in what I have to say, or should I just STFU? 🙂

After some bereavement issues, and some health problems, I thought I might expose the world (Mr & Mrs Sid Scroggins of Splottonia Heights) to my wit and wisdom again; OK wit? No? – OK “opinions” ….

As a parent, I am used to no one listening to me, so I suppose an audience is absolutely necessary. Maybe it will be cathartic (is that the right word?) and I’ll feel better afterwards? Who knows.

Anyway, I await a response – any… ONE will do! 🙂 x 

TUC March for an alternative

I am looking forward to a pleasant day – with many old, and some new, friends tomorrow.

I intend to peacefully exercise MY democratic right, to participate with (hopefully) several hundred thousand like-minded people, and to show this misguided, deeply dishonest, government that they are not speaking for me. I have no desire to be aggressive, to be violent nor do I wish to do damage to anything other than – possibly – the soles of my shoes and a pint of Fullers London Pride (or two) 🙂

I am coming on a coach from Cardiff. I want to return – the same day – on the same coach, back to Cardiff. I want to do so with many photographs of happy people, beautiful Trade Union banners and of inspiring speakers at the Hyde Park event. I can’t promise I won’t try to heckle one or two though. Ed Milliboy sounded so uninspiring on the news.

If there is any trouble, I will do my utmost to get as far as possible away from it. I believe this reflects the opinion of the vast majority of those attending tomorrow – so it ill-beholds some irresponsible journalists, like Toby Young in the Telegraph – to seek to incite trouble on the basis that some individual did something silly with a statue in Nottingham. On this basis, the idiot Young predicts carnage and mayhem on the streets of London.

The media are getting themselves into a pseudo-sexual frenzy over the possibility. They want to justify their servile support for this government by painting all opposition as violent or destructive. It simply isn’t true.

Tomorrow, 21 colleagues from my work place are coming to London – most of us are 50+; we are Grandfathers and Grandmothers; we are mothers and fathers; we are social workers and street cleaners; we are concerned about our future and the future of our dependents. Most of all, we are concerned about the future of the service we provide to vulnerable people, and about the fate of disabled and elderly clients. It is that simple.

We could all stay at home, cut the grass – do the shopping – watch Wales v England at the Millennium Stadium even; but we are not.

We are coming to peacefully protest our concern and our opposition. We won’t be buying the Telegraph though !

Thank you for listening, and – as ever – be grateful that you can 🙂 x

Why I am marching next Saturday . . .

Source: “New Statesman” magazine, 21.03.2011: David Shrigley’s View -pg. 17. Says it all for me 😉

It’s not BIG, and it probably isn’t clever . . . ?

If I have understood this right, the BIG idea from this Conservative-lead Coalition government, is The BIG SOCIETY.

Initially, I thought it was just another attack upon obesity, but – apparently – it is not, it is really about taking government out of certain spheres and replacing it with volunteers. Almost by accident, I think, it also allows them to save lots of money that would otherwise be frittered away on Libraries, Play Groups, Arts events and Youth Clubs. This is, of course, good news, as it means that central government will reduce the deficit – you know, that one that is nothing to do with the banks (“time to stop the blame game, etc., and to concentrate on that bonus!” ).

I am a tad confused though.

This is, surely, the political party of TINA (There Is No Alternative) – of “U turn if you want too, The Lady is NOT for turning” – of the Great She-Elephant, who said, “There is no such thing as Society” . . . but her successor is saying, not only is there one, but it is BIG too ?

Anyway, as you all know, I’m incredibly old and remember things. I remember the 1970’s, when a Trade Union General Secretary (Clive Jenkins) and his union’s Head of Research (Barrie Sherman – think he went on to be a Labour MP?) produced a few books about the onset of new technology and the leisure implications.

Apparently, we were all going to be freed from the drudgery and the need to work till we dropped, and would have more time to pursue enlightenment and be a more caring bunch. No more lonely pensioners; no more isolated disabled; the new technological revolution would mean the growth industries would be the caring ones. It was even prophesised that we’d retire at 50 (HA!) and would have to learn how to enjoy our increased leisure time.

Boy, did that not happen!!

We are now looking to work until we are 70, not 50; and the average working week is going up, not down. New technology has become our taskmaster, not our liberator. OK, it allows me to do this too, so it isn’t all bad (unless you are reading it, of course !).

One thing that “put a spanner in the works” of the great age of leisure is the simple fact that leisure needs money. You can have oodles of time (ask any poor soul on the dole) but without some disposable cash – with a few exceptions (!!) – you can’t enjoy yourself. There is only so much day time TV you can watch (and that requires electricity, a licence and the occasional repair); only so many rigorous walks, etc.

Sadly, those who did benefit from the technological advances, held on to the benefits. The vast bulk of those who lost manufacturing jobs as a result, simply became unemployed, or shunted off to certain benefits (see previous rants!). That “enforced leisure” held no enthral for them

So where am I going with this?

Well, the BIG SOCIETY talks about volunteerism taking over libraries or community halls, about paid professionals being replaced by unpaid philanthropic citizens. BUT – Where do they get the time from to do all this? Who are the people who have the ability to do these tasks with this mythical spare time?  Perhaps the unemployed or the disabled will have to “volunteer” to “earn their benefits” in future?

Call me Dave” may mean well (OK, I’m being sarcastic) but is the 4th (or 5th, not checked – OK?) richest nation really thinking of returning to Victorian morals?

John Major tried “Back to basics ” as a Social model, until certain members of his party were discovered to have much looser morals than he anticipated (mind, even he was supposed to be “dallying” with Mrs. Currie!). Where is Cameron coming from on this?

For what it is worth – probably very little, before someone posts that comment – I think this is classic right-wing ideology. Remove the state from everything possible and allow the very rich (the very VERY rich, because only they ever benefit) to spend only what they want on what they choose to spend it on. The rest of us? Well, we are components, a resource, a commodity; something to be used and exploited, and not their concern really. Is this the 21st or the 18th century? I BEGIN TO WONDER . .

Thanks for listening, and be grateful, as ever, that you can 🙂 PK

Not so much a rant, more an observation . . .

As a child of the 1950’s, who was born on the outskirts of Bristol, my horizons were contained by the neighbourhood I lived in. I was born “at home” – not for any trendy reason – but because my father went to get the Mid-Wife on his bike (we didn’t own a car – no one in our street did) and I decided not to wait!

I was delivered by the next-door-neighbour, who became my Godmother, a wonderful and sadly missed woman called Dorothy Nolan (Aunty Doll). I was (and still am!) the youngest child and only son, so had my own bedroom, if you can call a “box” with a single bed and small wardrobe – and nothing else in it – a bedroom.

We, like nearly every other family in my street, didn’t have a TV then. We had an enormous valve operated radio, which took about 20 minutes to warm up, and that was the family focus at meal times. Especially Sunday’s – Sunday lunch with “The Navy Lark”, “The Clitheroe Kid” or “The Al Read Show”; Sunday tea (either cheese on toast or mashed sardines on toast) with “Sing something simple” with the Cliff Adams or the Mike Sammes Singers (God, it was awful!). No TV – No computers – No DVDs or CDs – No PS3 or Wii or whatever.

I firmly believe, that because our outlook was restricted, we were the better for it. No fridge either, so food was always fresh and locally sourced (quite a bit from our large back garden). I am aware that some will swiftly remind me that this ensured that women generally (and my mother specifically) were tied to domesticity. I can’t argue with that, she was; but we all (my siblings, my father, even me) did our share of jobs as well, though – of course – as was the case in those days, the “lions share” fell upon my mother. She was home all day, my father was out, mostly looking for work. He left the Army and struggled, until the 1960’s to find something permanent.

Memory is an unreliable thing, that too I am conscious of, but I sincerely do not recall being “bored”. We played football, cricket, whatever the season dictated, in the street and surrounding area all day. As I said, there were no cars to cause any problems with that. Everyone DID look out for one and other – comics and books were circulated amongst the kids in the street; if you got a new football for Christmas, you were suddenly everyone’s “bestest friend ever “!

A woman up the top end of the street even hand rolled cigarettes and sold them individually! I can sense some readers clouding over with anti-nostalgia sickness from the “we were poor but we were happy” line!! OK, I didn’t contract rickets or polio, so perhaps I have a lot to be grateful for!

Why am I saying all this? – because I feel that one cause of so much depression, illness and anxiety in the world today is the constant drip-feed of aspirational programmes on TV; about the better house, the designer garden, the second home abroad or the exciting holiday that many cannot afford and most will never enjoy. If you are stuck at home nowadays, you metaphorically have your nose rubbed in your failure to achieve the dream life. The only relief from these shows, are the imbecilic “you are all benefit scroungers” mockumentaries; they – of course – REALLY cheer you up . . . .

PaulK 🙂

Economics – the dismal science!

I left school aged 15 (you could in those days!), and I went to a Secondary Modern school (or factory-fodder preparer!). OK, I’ve done a few things since, but I’ve never thought of myself intellectually high-flying, so forgive my ignorance.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right:

  • the banks and the financial institutions – mostly American and Western European ones – made huge, speculative gambles and got it woefully wrong; so much so that governments had to bail them out or else the whole system would have collapsed;
  • this “banking” seems (to me) to have been mostly based upon “guesswork”, “speculation”, will-of-the-wisp types of deals, with very little substance, and no tangible assets (in that nothing was physically made, like – say – manufacturing or something like that). What my Grandfather would have called “Spivs”, chancers and the like;
  • The money used by Western governments, as is ever the case, mostly comes from the majority of taxpayers – the “PAYE” classes, who don’t have the opportunity to avoid or be creative with their financial affairs. The same silly buggers who don’t get paid eight figured “bonuses” . . .
  • Anyway, we bailed them out, so that western capitalism wouldn’t collapse. One or two senior Banking Executives lost their jobs (though, no doubt, kept their pensions, their Porsches and their penthouses), but mostly it was a bit of “musical chairs” and – in a short time – they said, “It is time to stop the blame culture, blah blah blah . . .”

We had a change of Government, and I remind readers (least I hope it is in the plural !) that I belong to no political party, and out went the fellow who bailed out the banks (you remember him, face like a smacked arse) and in came a coalition of people so rich that they probably own banks.

They said that the deficit was so terrible (even though I have seen figures and arguments from other eminent economists who say that in much of Post-War British history, it has been significantly higher!) that everything has to be cut, reduced, restrained, etc., and that “we are all in this together” – share the pain – cut your clothe . . . .   you know, throwaway clichés and soundbites.

However, like the cartoon below, the Equality of Sacrifice is a deceptive thing:

[Yes, I know it says “Vote Labour” – they produced it, but the message is quite clear – and I’m not saying Vote anyone nowadays.]

Anyway, back to my rant; if “we” are all in this together, why is my pay not increasing for the second year running? Why is my tax bill increasing (VAT by 2.5%)? Why is inflation increasing by something like 3.7% or more? and petrol, and gas/ electricity, and . .  well, you know this too, BUT bankers, the people who caused this situation, are awarding themselves BILLIONS in bonuses again?

Why is this coalition government hurting THE most vulnerable in society? The disabled, the mentally ill, the very young and the very old? Why are they making our future, the university students, pay more for their education? and why are they dismantling the NHS and the education system? Why are they not building houses for the homeless, or improving schools for our children?

Some smart Alec is going to tell me that the country doesn’t have the money . . . but our 84% in RBS must be worth a few bob now, if the bankers can all award themselves whacking great bonuses? and we own other substantial shares too.

This is the 3rd or 4th richest nation on the planet. We seem able to find billions for wars in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Serbia/Bosnia before that; and if the Americans pick a fight with North Korea or Iran, I bet we find the money for that too.

I know it sounds “simplistic”, but – hell – maybe the answer is simple!! Has anyone ever thought that? 🙂