I just finished watching a lovely little film on Netflix. It's in the children's section and it's based on the book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. In the midst of all the protesting, death and general misery, this is a heart-warming and heartfelt little gem. I just loved it and will no doubt watch it again. Highly recommended for children and adults alike.
This is the latest from the art class. I forgot to bring a canvas last night so borrowed a small one and did this. It's from a photo I took from the top of an Grianan Aligh at Burt in Donegal. What makes it memorable for me is this is the day I took the pain in my side which ended up becoming an inflamed gallbladder. This is looking towards Inch Island and Faughan (pronounce fawn).
I had another painting finished but it is away getting framed as the art teacher wants me to try and see if it will be accepted into an Open Art Competition which is on in the Glebe Gallery in Churchill which isn't too far from Letterkenny. I don't really expect to win but it's good experience. This is oil on canvas (A4) and took all of 90 mins or thereabouts.
Great to see the Grand Prix back but what is going on with Vettel??? He has grown a moustache over the winter break and it's awful! Some people suit moustaches, like Freddie Mercury but some don't, like Seb. He looks like a 70's porn star! If anyone out there knows him (they say we're only 6 degrees of separation from anyone) tell him to shave! Puuullleasseeee!
I've had workmen in all morning, putting in new windows so I had to seek refuge in the library. When I was down there, I read a newspaper or at least part of one. That's the first paper I've read in years, there was an interview with the wonderful Ralph Fiennes and also, a piece on the Bolshoi Ballet who are coming to London's Royal Opera House, later this year. I must check it out.
Apparently, Ralph lives alone and drew the distinction between being alone and being lonely. This is something I have to explain quite often too. I live alone too and I love it. I'm quite happy in my own company, probably too much so, but everyone should try it. They say you're not fit for a relationship until you've lived alone which is probably good advice.
The windows are all in now and the mess isn't too bad. The floors all need washed and there is a film of dust over everything so I may get on with it and start cleaning up!
With the spring equinox, we're back in growing season. I just spent this morning planting potatoes on the allotment. We're off to a good start this year and have peas, garlic and broad beans already planted. I'm still not up to full strength since the op so I have to be careful lifting and moving around. But since we're doing the Charles Dowling, No Dig, the demands aren't too great. I also noticed when I was over there, how much better our soil looks compared to those around us. There is definitely something in the 'feed the soil, not the plant' method, and we've only been at it for 10 months.
Then, I finished the short course, From Brexit to the Break-up of Britain. There are still a few others I might try over the summer, there are a few Forensic Psychology courses that look interesting and there is one on Art and the Mexican Revolution which also looks good.
I always say if I had been born in America, I would have become a forensic psychologist. When I was a teenager, I read a great book called The Michigan Murders, it was actually one of the first books I ever read. I was fascinated by how the FBI Forensic Psychologists were able to profile and help catch the killer and I had a deep interest in the psychology of serial killers for many years. I've read several books on the subject and used to buy a monthly magazine which detailed individual cases.. My interest may have been triggered by the fact that I was growing up in the middle of a conflict where there were many mentally, questionable individuals running about with guns! I always felt that the 'Troubles' provided an outlet for those with psychopathic tendencies. Psychology is a fascinating subject, delving into the psyche and finding out what shapes and drives us. I must see if I can find the book again.
I had a lovely weekend away in England, I went over to visit my sister and we managed to squeeze in a trip to London on Saturday. There were a couple of exhibitions on in the Tate Modern that I wanted to see, Pierre Bonnard's, The Colour of Memory and Magic Realism, Art in Weimar Germany 1919 - 1933. We didn't manage to get into the Pierre Bonnard exhibition as we had walked up the 3rd floor, only to be told, we had to go back down to the entrance and buy a ticket and the gallery itself was very busy, so we just did the Magic Realism instead and had a look around some of the other exhibits. It was ok, but like a lot of art movements, they haven't travelled very well. They are of a place and time in art and some of them were quite cartoonish and overall, I only liked one or two of the pieces.
Picasso's Weeping Women was also on display in the gallery. It is quite a gaudy painting but what made it worse was the ugly frame which did it no favours at all. I found this with a lot of the paintings in the National Gallery in Ireland too, so many were let down by clunky, overly ornate frames which detracted from the art. i prefer my art, for the most part, in plain white frames. In relation to the rest of the 'art' we looked at, I have to say there is a lot of brock masquerading as art. As my sister remarked, a lot of it looked like A-level art projects and left her cold. I had to agree, Modern Art is very subjective and to be honest a lot of it really doesn't appeal to me, I'm conservative in my tastes and while I recognise that sometimes art can express the social and political, it has to be done well in order not to appear pretentious or ridiculous.
So, we headed for the National Portrait Gallery which has an exhibit on at the moment; Elizabethan Treasures, Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver. I loved this one; the detail was fantastic and took real skill and a very steady hand. I would definitely recommend you go see them, if you can, the exhibition is on until the 19th May. We also had a look around the portraits: there was our own Seamus Heaney and a large one of Judy Dench. We weren't very impressed by the Judy Dench portrait, she looked like a doctor and all the character was missing from her face. I did love the portraits of Ken Dodd and Stanley Spencer. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to take in as much as we wanted but I have to go back over in the summer for the Van Gogh in Britain exhibition so we hope to get back to the NPG as well.
I managed to rattle through Mark Blake's, Is This the Real Life, a biography of Queen while travelling. I thoroughly enjoyed this as it details the fact from the fiction of biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Highly recommended!
For Paddy's Day, the cousins and their children came around and we had some great food and a few drinks and a good time was had by all! All in all, a wonderful weekend and made even better in that I'm not back to work until Friday! Yayyy!
Is there anything left to believe in? Is there anything of honesty and decency left in the world? Has all the magic gone and not just gone, but gone rotten? Politics is a cesspool where democracy and accountability have become nothing more than words in a propaganda war; the Catholic Church, a so-called Christian institution, a playground for paedophiles; the business world, whose rotten practices have led to the corruption of governments and the abuse and exploitation of millions; the world of entertainment, its rotten underbelly exposed with stories of rape and assault, not that it was really much of a surprise since the casting couch has been common knowledge for decades, probably since the beginning of Hollywood. But, even the world of science, where logic and reason used to be the foundations of scientific truth, has been swallowed whole by the lie of ‘global-warming’.
Now, Michael Jackson, who is again, the focus for allegations of sexual abuse, after the documentary last week which detailed the alleged grooming and sexual exploitation of Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
I loved Michael Jackson, I grew up with him and don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who he was. My father never bought a record in his life and seldom had a good word to say about ‘pop stars’, but he bought Rockin’ Robin back in the day which I only found out when Michael Jackson died. But we all loved him, especially back in the 1980’s, when he soared to global mega-stardom. My children loved him, his movie Moonwalker was never off in my house. My eldest boy wanted to be Michael Jackson; he wanted black skin and an afro hair-do. I hope this isn’t racist - poor old Motsy, John Motson, who I thought had long since retired, got into a bit of bother recently because he said some footballer was ‘big, black and brave’. He was condemned as a racist for saying ‘black’ but if someone says I’m white, is that racist? I mean, I am white! This is like that nonsense back in the 80’s when the words of Baa, baa, black sheep were changed because it was deemed racist. You get black sheep, that’s not racist it’s just a fecking sheep! Then, Amber Rudd got into all that trouble for saying Diane Abbot was ‘coloured’. What do you say in these days of fascistic political correctness, a person with a lower or higher percentage of melanin in their skin??
Anyway, back to MJ who managed to be both black and white! That’s another thing, he was called a liar many times for claiming he had vitiligo and accused of skin bleaching. The coroner’s report after he died, confirmed that he did have the condition and apparently, he used skin whitening creams to even out the discolouration.
Anyway, getting back to the afro, as I pointed out to my son, there isn’t a perming lotion in the world that could curl his very thick, straight hair, much to his deep disappointment. He loved and still loves to dance, he danced like Michael Jackson and there is video footage, somewhere, of him doing his best Michael Jackson moves. I never entered him into any moonwalk dance competitions, but in all honesty, if Michael Jackson had landed to my door, to take my sons to Neverland for a week or a weekend, I doubt if I would have refused. We believed in the image of childlike innocence and made allowances for his strange behaviour because of his upbringing and life. No-one has ever had a life like Michael Jackson’s and no-one, in the entire history of the world, has experienced that level of fame.
When the first allegations of abuse came out, I was unsure. It seemed as if it was part of a plot by the boy’s father, to extort money out of Jackson, to make a movie and the doubts weren’t entirely dispelled when he decided to settle out of court. When the next allegation was made, Jackson fought it in court and was acquitted. I assumed the jury had more detail and knowledge about the truth of it all, than I did and it seemed that his reputation had been restored, at least for some. Safechuck and Robson, spoke in defence of Michael Jackson in that case and Robson did again, in 2003, when he was in his 20’s.
Years after both those cases, other facts have come to light. Michael Jackson apparently didn’t want to settle the first case but his insurance company did it, out of fear of loss of revenue, in case, there was a protracted court case. Jordi Chandler also refused to testify and a year after the settlement legally emancipated himself from his parents. He also left the US in 2003 so that he couldn’t be called to give evidence in that trial. We can only speculate as to why. He never reconciled with his father who committed suicide a few months after Michael Jackson’s death. Again, we can only speculate as to why but apparently, no-one from his entire family attended his funeral.
Michael Jackson is no longer with us and is unable to defend himself. So, until there is irrefutable proof, the questions will remain unanswered and people will, I’m sure, debate it for many years to come and believe who they choose to believe. Watching the documentary made me think that, if the allegations were true, it appeared to me, to be behaviour that had been learned. His sister LaToya had made allegations of sexual abuse against her father, many years ago and was publicly ostracized and condemned for it. It was interesting to see old Joe Jackson sticking so closely to Michael during the Gavin Arvizo court case, considering their relationship wasn’t always that good. LaToya also made a statement condemning Michael but later retracted it, saying it was made under duress from her husband. She did apologise to Michael and the two were reconciled.
We have also heard in recent years, allegations of paedophile rings operating in the entertainment world and with the fame Jackson attained at such a young age, is it possible that he himself was a victim? That is not to excuse his alleged behaviour in any way but, if true, it could provide an explanation for it.
The allegations haven’t hurt his record sales, not that they will benefit Michael Jackson in any way. I myself don’t know who to believe. There is so much conflicting information online and in the media. I have trawled through hours of it but, to be honest, I still can’t wholly believe he was a paedophile. He had an aura, an attraction that drew people to him, maybe I don’t really want to believe it.
Will I listen to his music again? Probably. I have a Motown collection which has a lot of Jackson Five hits on it. Human Nature is my favourite Michael Jackson song and I can’t imagine never listening to it again or any of his music, for that matter. What difference will it make now, anyway?
At the end of his life, Michael Jackson was unrecognisable, compared to the happy, smiling boy who sang those wonderful songs, Ben, Rockin’ Robin and the great cover he did of the Smoky Robinson song, Who’s lovin you? A pale shadow of the handsome young man from the 80’s who danced and moonwalked his way into our hearts and to stratospheric heights of fame and adulation.
The fame, the pressure, the lifestyle and the allegations all took their toll on him as he grew older, his features distorted beyond recognition by all the plastic surgery and he became more reclusive. It seemed that he was headed towards a Howard Hughes like future, a rather sad and lonely end for someone who was idolised by millions. But then, as we have seen in recent years, many of our idols and institutions have been shown to have feet of clay. Then again, who of us really knew him? We knew the image, we knew where he came from, we all knew our version of him. But which one was the real one? Was he gay? Was he straight? Was he a paedophile? Predator or victim? Would the real Michael Jackson please, stand up?
Or was he just a sad man who was robbed of his childhood and never got over it: a lesson to us all on the perils of fame and money, and how destructive it can be, if not managed right. There are no black or white answers at least, not enough to wholly convince me one way or the other so until then, I will hold a little piece of my heart for him and wonder in shades of grey.
I had a day out to Dublin at the weekend, met up with a good friend and we decided to try Wagamama’s for lunch. It was very disappointing, some of the staff hadn’t showed in so all the curry options were going to be at least 30 minutes which, of course, they didn’t tell us until we were about to order. We settled for a chicken and prawn with veg, stir-fry with brown rice. What we got was a brown rice stir-fry with a 3 prawns, very little chicken (about half a fillet between both of us) 1 mushroom each and some very uninspiring looking veg. We complained and got it for half price but it wasn’t even worth that. We won’t be back!
On Tuesday, 5 of us headed to the Millenium Forum to see the Royal Moscow Ballet perform Swan Lake. A great night was had by all and I didn’t even mind missing my art class for it. Highly recommended! Keep an eye out for them, as they are touring Ireland, at the moment before moving on to Holland and then Poland later on in the year.
I had a couple of days off work last week too; the best 2 days of the week and the year, so far, weather wise at least. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and we are now back in a cold spell. But what really pissed me off about it, was all the bloody doom and gloom merchants. You can’t even enjoy a good day now without the whole ‘climate change’ terror on the media. I don’t know about you but I am sick to death of being terrorised about everything.
Don’t sit in the sun – you’ll get skin cancer!
Don’t eat meat – you’re destroying the planet!
Don’t buy new clothes – you’re destroying the planet and exploiting the poor!
Don’t fly anywhere- you’re destroying the planet!
Don’t light your fire in the winter – you’re destroying the planet!
Don’t use plastic – you’re destroying the planet!
Don’t drive a petrol or diesel car – you’re destroying the planet!
Arrrggghhhh! I can’t stand it! All the joy is being sucked out of life with this constant terrorising of the population: everybody, guilt-tripping over everything, and stressing out. It’s no wonder everyone is depressed and anxious with this constant onslaught of fear, negativity and misery.
I've been on a bit of a reading binge again. First up, Alan Cummings autobiography, Not My Father's Son. This was an interesting read and for anyone who doesn't know him, he played the role of Eli, in The Good Wife which is how I came to know him. Alan's father was a bit of a psycho and he suffered badly from his bullying and abuse. But in spite of all that, he got out and did very well for himself. I won't say anything more about it, I don't like to give too much away but a good read and I would definitely recommend it.
On a similar theme, I was in the library 2 weeks ago and saw Operation Lighthouse by Luke and Ryan Hart. I had heard them on the radio, the day before, talking about their lives and the book they had written. Coincidentally, it was on the recommended display in the library when I went in to return the Alan Cummings autobiography so, I thought, I would give it a go.
Luke and Ryan's father was also an abusive bully, controlling and manipulative. He was never physically violent until he was completely murderous, and he shot and killed their mother and sister and then shot himself. Their reason for writing the book was to show that while a relationship may not always be violent, it can still be abusive through the use of coercive control. Their father wanted to control every aspect of the lives of his family and did so through his bullying and demanding behaviour. They were also appalled at the sympathy shown to their father by the media after he murdered their mother and sister and how little sympathy was directed towards his victims. I would highly recommend this, if for no other reason, than to open our eyes and minds to the quiet acceptance of abuse in society and the tendency towards victim blaming in the media.
Another, in the real lives genre, was Gavin Edward's biography of River Phoenix, Last Night at the Viper Room. This tells the story of River Phoenix's life, from birth until his death, at aged 23. Best known, in my house at least, for his role in Stand by Me, the Rob Reiner directed film, from the short story by Stephen King, The Body. A favourite of my son's when they were growing up and one I still watch fairly regularly.
River's parents were a couple of hippies who became part of the Children of God cult in the US and who travelled around and lived for several years in South America, preaching and recruiting on their behalf. The leader of the Children of God cult, David Berg, advocated sexual relationships between children, and between children and adults. River's parents parted company with them when they started prostituting women to attract more recruits but there is evidence in the book of River being introduced to sex at a very young age.
There is no doubt his death was a tragic loss. He was quite heavily into drugs and although, he had been clean for a couple of months while shooting what turned out to be his last film, the moment he got back to LA, he was straight back to the drugs. How much of his drug use was a result of his upbringing, we can only guess at but the lack of education and involvement with the Children of God, I'm sure, played a part.
I never knew that he was interested in music but it turned out that he was more interested in making music than movies, and there are some videos of him with his band, Aleka's Attic, on Youtube, if anyone is interested. Sadly, the talent he had, never got to play out into maturity, like so many before him. That's the thing about drugs, it only end one of two ways, you either stop or die. But an excellent read and highly recommended as it also contains snippets about many of the other actors who came to prominence in the 1990's, like Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Leonardo Di Caprio.
In case anyone missed it, the 'yoof' had a day off school on Friday. They went on strike for the day, to demand us grown-ups do something on climate change. While I admire their enthusiasm, I think they might have been better off staying in school and studying some real science as opposed to 'environmental' science. They might have learned a thing or two about C02 and realised that, like King Canute trying to stop the sea, they have about the same chance of stopping 'climate change'.
The other thing about all this 'save the planet' stuff is the arrogance. How self-righteous and arrogant do you have to be to think you can 'save the planet'. What is it about us here in the West, that make us think we know it all about everything and are so sure of ourselves, we don't even have to bother to check the facts. That's not to say there aren't issues that need addressing especially around plastic pollution but when I look around me, I see a much better world than the one I lived in 40 years ago.
There are many more trees now and not just around my town but across the entire country. The rivers and waterways are all much cleaner and most of our rubbish is now recycled too. There are still many more green spaces than urban and people aren't getting shot or blown up every day either which is a really big improvement!
No sooner than I call for a change in the political structure, than 7 MP's split from Labour with Chuka Umunna leading the charge. In his statement, he said,"It is time we dumped this country's old-fashioned politics and created an alternative that does justice to who we are today and gives this country a politics fit for the here and now - the 21st Century,"
I wonder if he was reading my blog at the weekend?? While it would be nice to think that Chuka et al were just what I was looking for, I don't really have much confidence that they are the great hope for the future, I had in mind. They are long on rhetoric but rather short on actual ideas and since they're all Blairite pro-Brexiteers, I don't envisage a startling and original manifesto being issued anytime soon.
But just in case they're looking for a few ideas to get them started here's a few of mine...
Complete re-structuring of the Government with a move towards issue-based politics. This will take some time to set up but if it is done one issue at a time it is manageable. I'm not sure how many politicians we would actually need but we may not need more than one or two for each county. Changing to issue-based politics would also get rid of the need for general elections as we understand them now and instead, you would have a ballot paper with the issue on it instead and I envisage this working on a county by county basis and getting rid of the constituency model we have now. So, if the country was to go to war, for example, it would be up to the people to make that decision.
Proportional representation would be used until the changeover was complete and anyone standing for election would have to have been a resident of that constituency for a minimum period of 2 years.
Ministerial positions would then be advertised as jobs and given to the most qualified and experienced. This would reduce the size of government further because all you really need is a leader and a good accountant to dish out the money.
Overhaul the tax system to ensure everyone pays their fair share. This would stop the rich and obscenely rich from paying nothing. Devolve some tax powers to the counties with more of the tax raised staying within their areas. Put the betting tax back on and stop gambling being advertised on TV.
Fair employment legislation. This would break up the 'old boy networks' that have reduced social mobility and would help to build a competency based society not one based on who you are and what your daddy owns. Get rid of the Honours system.
No public money for private schools and an overhaul of the public education system with parenting as part of the school curriculum along with philosophy and personal &social responsibility. This would get people thinking again and as parenting is a basic for the foundation of a good society, as good parenting produces good people (mostly), especially when they've been educated in their personal and social responsibilities.
No public money for the private sector unless they pay into the system,
All large companies to have worker's representatives on their boards.
Well, that's a few to get started on, I'll have to start fleshing things out now, you never know who could be reading and who knows, someone, somewhere might be interested in creating a real alternative, some day!
We haven't had a working government in Stormont for 2 years now. It's a political stalemate between the 2 extremes of Irish Republicanism (Sinn Fein) and Unionism (DUP) which are, in all probability, irreconcilable. Especially, since the DUP hold the balance of power in Westminster and are keeping Theresa May in office and the Conservatives in government.
The same political stalemate is happening in the US with the stand-off between a Republican president threatening to close down the Government again and the Democrat-controlled Senate refusing to fund his wall.
Then, we have the political shambles of Brexit with Theresa May incompetently lurching from one crisis to the next and unable to deliver a 'deal'. There is political stalemate with Europe refusing to renegotiate and neither the Left nor the Right anywhere able to fully grasp the reality of life outside the Parliamentary bubble for the rest of us and deliver what we want and need and not just on Brexit.
The stagnation of politics in the West at the present time is because we are caught between 2 irreconcilable positions, the Left and the Right, or public vs private and there is no-one of competence, capable of stepping up and delivering a coherent and practical alternative. (Well, apart from me!)
The other problem is that the political structure and the policies of the Left and Right are years out of date and do not serve the world of today. The Right dominates at the moment because the Left have collapsed and failed to address the reasons for this. Tony Blair did attempt to move Labour from the old policies of the 70’s that had kept them out of office and towards the middle but unfortunately, he kept going in that direction and ended up more right-wing than some Tories.
The Right believe in capitalism, especially Free Market Capitalism which has been the doctrine since the 1980’s. It doesn’t matter that it collapsed in 2008; those on the Right still refuse to acknowledge its failure or to acknowledge that it worked best when it came with a social conscience as it did in the time of people like Cadbury and Rowntree.
The political doctrines of the left and right were drawn up when the parties were formed, either in response to or opposition to, events or social and political conditions as Labour did after the Second World War when the populace demanded change. The Welfare State was set up to address the demand for better health care, education and housing and to provide a safety net against poverty. However, the Conservative Party detest the Welfare State and have been doing their best to dismantle it since then. Their belief in the private over public is best seen in the way they sold off and privatised all the nationalised industries.
Here in the North, Sinn Fein are becoming strangulated by their ‘ideals’. Their refusal to sit in Parliament was a policy drawn up a hundred years ago as a protest against British rule in Ireland. Since they have signed and accepted the Good Friday Agreement, they have accepted British rule in the North so why are they not taking their seats? They also have a problem with the oath to the Queen but let’s be realistic about it, would anyone think they really meant it? Or they could do what Tony Benn always did and cross their fingers. If they were in Parliament, they could at least drum up support against the oath from other Parliamentarians and get rid of it altogether. Ironically, if they had taken the seven seats they won after the last election, they could have made life very difficult for the Government and since they were able to change their position on the EU from anti to pro within a couple of years, I don’t see why they can’t make that change.
The doctrines of the Left and Right, like Sinn Fein and the DUP are based on certain ideals. Each has their own belief in what the world should be from their perspective and they try and shape it to fit in with those ideals. That’s not to say that having ideals is necessarily a bad thing but when it translates into policies and dogma that are unchangeable and cause political stagnation then it becomes a problem.
The politic world is ripe for change, a middle way has to be found between left and right, a balance between public and private because as history has shown us, neither of these options has worked when put into practice. It is time to abandon the doctrines of the past and move towards a new way of working. Brexit has shown that issue-based politics has driven a wedge through the left and the right but it also offers hope of a better way of working in the future. Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) it would mean the parties within Westminster would have to abandon their dogmatic political position and work to deliver a solution where politicians would work together to resolve the issues instead of trying to impose a party-based solution more concerned with keeping a government in power but which cannot deliver in the long term.
We need a complete restructuring of the political landscape. We should decide on the issues, healthcare, housing, transport, security, education, what are we willing to support through taxation, what kind of society do we want and what are we willing to do to create it? In abandoning party politics and moving towards issue-based politics, we would be dealing with the actual problems, free from the dogma and rhetoric of the past and instead, focussed on finding a solution to today’s problems. It would also mean a reduction in government and an end to cronyism and corporate predominance.
There should also be rules in place so that only people who actually live in a constituency have the right to stand for election in that constituency. This would get rid of the London-centric politics which has split the country and left those outside the London and Parliamentary bubble feeling disconnected and forgotten.
While many are worried about Brexit, we should see it as an opportunity to redraw the political landscape. Once Britain is free from Brussels, we have the chance to start over, to wipe the slate clean and rebuild society and the political structure. Margaret Thatcher once said ‘there is no such thing as society’, this was a very famous quote but it was only part of what she said, she went on to say, ‘There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after ourselves and then look after our neighbour. It is time to look after ourselves.
Change will come, the disaffection of the people with politicians and the political structure is evident across the world. We have hit an impasse and Brexit has revealed the failure of the Left and Right to find a way forward or to offer a solution. If we are to move forward, then we have to address the realities of the world today and create a political structure that serves the needs of the people and the country first. The day of party politics is coming to an end, change can be frightening but with a little courage and imagination, there is no telling what kind of society we could create. All it takes is the will to make it happen, we can be idealistic and wish for a better world but at the end of the day, it is up to us to create it. Idealism does have its place, it can and does inspire us to action, great men like Mahatma Ghandi were idealistic and achieved so much but it was achieved through action and by facing and dealing with the realities of the day.
Idealism fails when it doesn’t deal with reality as we have seen only too well in the last century.
Albert Einstein once said, ’Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow’. I think we should learn from yesterday, act today and tomorrow will take care of itself’.
A few weeks ago, a bomb went off in Derry; a stark reminder of what can happen when the ‘ideals’ of the past, impinge on the present reality. When vacuums open up in politics and leadership (quite often between their ears!), the worst elements step in and try to fill them.
I took my life in my hands and headed out on Friday night to see Atom Heart Floyd in the Balor Theatre, in Ballybofey. I didn't realise at the time, I was taking a chance with my life by going. Storm Eric was forecast, it was raining and a bit windy but nothing overly tempestuous. However, by the time the show was over, Eric had arrived in full force. Between the howling gale and the torrential rain, it was a treacherously slow drive home, much of the time on the wrong side or in the middle of the road, to avoid the pools of water.
Was it worth it? Definitely! A great time was had by all!
Atom Heart Floyd hail from the south of England so keep an eye out for them if you're a Floyd fan, they put on a good show and if they come back this way again, I'll definitely be there.
They started off with some early Floyd from the Sid Barrett era and finished the show with Comfortably Numb. They had a large circular screen and throughout the show, there were mini films projected on to it featuring, among others, Sid Barrett and other surreal graphics and images. During Brain Damage, from the Dark Side of the Moon album, they showed film of politicians from the 80's, Maggie Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Boris Yeltsin, Gorbachev and a few other less notables. While listening to the lyrics and watching the screen, I was struck with the thought that at one time these people were all giants on the political world stage, inspiring admiration and loathing in equal measure. Now, practically all of them are dead.
Considering the state of politics in the world at the moment, this was a comforting thought, because it made me realise that no matter how big they are politically or how much power they might wield, eventually, their time will pass, things will change and they too, will become a footnote in the history books or an image on a screen, reminding us of the past insanity of our 'leaders'. I can safely look back now to all the anti-Russian rhetoric of the 80's and the threat of nuclear war that hung over us like a cloud of lead and see that it was nothing more than egotistical grand-standing by idiots with too much power and not enough sense to realise the limits of their time on earth. They could have done so much good but most of them wasted it. In a thousand years, who will even remember them? So, if you're worried about Trump, Putin, Brexit or anything else in the world, political or otherwise, take comfort in the fact that it won't last forever or as Shakespeare so brilliantly put it -
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
There's an old saying, 'Good fences make good neighbours' which basically means take care of what is on your side of the fence and recognise where the physical and psychological boundaries or borders lie between you and your neighbours.
There is a place called Wall in the film Stardust which is in my DVD collection and which I like to watch on a fairly regular basis. It's a nice movie, ideal for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I might even watch it this week as I've a few days holidays to take. So, sometimes 'wall' can be a good thing and borders too, especially when they are filled with flowers. Even fences, when they are well built, the US is built on the ideal of the 'white picket fence' in the neighbourhood.
Trump is still looking to build his wall between the US and Mexico and threatening to shut the government down again if he doesn't get the funding from Congress. I for one,am quite happy for Donald to build his wall...but with one condition. He keeps the US military on their side of it and I mean all their military.
Now that they have decided to pull out of the INF nuclear proliferation treaty, there is a real possibility of the US deploying their nuclear bombs in Europe as a defence against 'threats' from Russia.
Every time I hear about the US and their nukes, I go back about 3 years ago, to the morning I was listening to Radio 4 and there was a general on talking about the plan to go to war with Russia within 3 years because they had these new limited nuclear bombs which they wanted to try out. I have mentioned this before on the blog. John Humphries was interviewing him and basically said, 'that's insane!'. But the election of Trump threw a bit of a spanner in the works, Hilary was supposed to get in which is why Obama had started to build up the anti-Russian rhetoric towards the end of his tenure in anticipation of the coming conflict.
Unfortunately, it seems that Trump has now been leveraged by or sold his soul to the Halliburton's and the other corporate hawks (assuming, of course, that he had one to begin with!.) From here on in, there will be more and more anti-Putin and anti-Russian propaganda in the mainstream media. Don't believe a word of if although, tensions have certainly increased now that Russia has decided to withdraw too.
Those who make war, don't fight them. They profit by them at the expense and with the blood of ordinary, usually poor and/or working class. For everyone's sake, don't let your children or your neighbours children be sacrificed for corporate profits!
In spite of the cold, I ventured out tonight to see Vice, the biopic about Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale as Cheney, Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as Dubya. What can I say? I have looked upon the face of evil and lived to tell the tale...
Brilliant performances all round. Christian Bale is truly deserving of the accolades he has received for his performance. Steve Carrell was so good as Rumsfeld, I've even forgiven him for Finding a Friend for the End of the World and Sam Rockwell was outstanding too as Dubya, I got the feeling he was enjoying every minute of it. Mind you, you never go too far wrong with Sam.
The downside is that they were all so good, I came out feeling like I needed a shower after being in the company of such slime for 2 hours. I had always thought Rumsfeld was the real evil in the Dubya camp, but Dick Cheney is a man??? Well, a male person anyway (I think? Possibly made in Area 51c...) He's cheap, nasty and soulless. He reminded me of a description of the character, Annie Wilkes in the book Misery. 'You could stick your thumb into her and she would just be solid the whole way through' or something like that.
The other downside is that because of Dick Cheney, I'm never donating any organs. My car tax and insurance were up this week and I was online getting it sorted the other day and coincidentally, there was a form for organ donation. I started to fill it in and when it came to the liver, I thought, I need to think about this one, I don't really like the idea of my liver being given to someone who has drunk themselves into ill health (yes, I know I'm being judgemental but I don't care, not when it comes to alcohol). So, I didn't fill it in.
In the film, Dick Cheney gets a heart transplant after years of heart trouble. The big surprise was that he actually had a heart! I remember thinking the same thing when it was announced Martin McGuinness was having heart trouble. A bit of a coincidence too, now that I think about it!
So, that's why I'm not donating any organs because you don't know if they'll be given to some evil toe-rag to extend their life and I don't want to be responsible for keeping the Dick Cheney's of the world alive.
But apart from that, anyone with an interest in politics or the Iraq War, should check this movie out. It shows how rotten the whole political world is, not that we didn't know that anyway, but we just don't get any in-depth investigations into their dirty dealings anymore. At least, none of the calibre that we used to get in World in Action and Panorama. And the worst thing about it, is that they got away with it! Cheney, Bush, Blair, the whole rotten shower of them, they got away with it and made a fortune. Disgusting! But go see the film anyway!
My brain has been itching for something to do recently so I tried out one of the OU's free online courses, Living Without Oil. I had started it when I was off after my op (which I had forgotten) but I finished it this week. It was interesting, at some point in the future humanity may have to live without oil and as we have lived without it for many more years than we have had it, I don't really think it will be a problem. Humans have shown themselves to be incredibly creative when needed and are great problem solvers. The thing is, we could easily cut back our consumption if the will or necessity was there. All houses could be insulated to a much higher standard than they are at present and there is always the option of ground source heat. Public transport could easily be improved too with trams and trains. I'm not losing any sleep over it, we'll adapt when the time comes, I'm sure.
I've now moved on to a Philosophy course, Faking Nature. I have too much on this year to commit to formal study but I think I may have to do something after the summer, my brain needs it.
I've still been reading a lot too. 2 outstanding reads are; The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Educated by Tara Westover. They are both on similar themes, growing up in highly unstable environments, I would recommend reading The Glass Castle first. You can also watch the movie of it on Netflix, I haven't checked it out yet so I can't comment on what it's like.
Talking about movies, I ventured out to see the new Mary Poppins this week. It started off well enough and was in keeping with the original but then it just went on and on, about 25 minutes too long and there was a bit at the end which didn't make sense. Spoiler Alert! They were racing to turn back the hands on Big Ben and then Mary Poppins flew up with her umbrella and did it. I thought, 'well, why didn't you just do that to start with?' And it's not that I don't enjoy a long movie, I'm actually sitting here at the moment watching one of my all-time favourites, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (today on Channel 5). I actually have a limited edition Directors cut of this on video so when it's good, the longer the better!
I've also just finished Jordan B Peterson's 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos. I only recently got to know about Jordan Peterson (again when I was off after the op) by watching videos on Youtube. I am most definitely a fan and he has transformed my thinking and consequently, my life. He is every man I wish I'd ever known, I wish there were more like him. The book was a much more intelligent and spiritual read than I expected and I think listening to him has rekindled the desire in me to get back to study. I'm now re-reading CJ Jung's Memories, Dreams and Reflections since Jung gets quite a few mentions in it.
Just back from the cinema after watching the new Laurel & Hardy film starring Steve Coogan and John C. Riley. There wasn't a dry eye in the house! A very moving and poignant portrayal of Stan and Ollie's lives towards the end of their careers. Just go and see it, that's all I have to say about it, just go and see it...and bring tissues!
Latest from my art class. This is another practice piece and a copy. I wanted to try horses again and I find I'm moving more and more towards oils. A bit more impressionistic this time which is the great thing about oils, they're a much more pliable medium to work with.
So, Theresa May has a grand new plan for the NHS which involves making health care more 'community-oriented' instead of hospital based. Back in the 1980's, we had lots of small community-based hospitals and I was lucky enough to give birth to my youngest son in our local hospital; he was one of the last children to be born there. I say lucky because back then you stayed in for 5 days after giving birth (10 if you had a caesarean) and the nurses looked after the babies at night so you got a well-needed night's sleep. The food was really good too; we had home-made scones for breakfast and good dinners in the evening. I was so well looked after; I didn't want to go home! Now, you're out in 24 hours and once the baby is born, you're basically on your own. As for the food, after my recent stay (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the worst and 10 the best) I'd give it a 3 and that's being generous!
Then, Maggie Thatcher closed them all and centralised everything in the larger hospitals. The thing about this is that over here, they built 2 huge hospitals, one in Omagh and one in Enniskillen, at a cost of millions under PFI schemes which we're going to be paying for, for the next 20 years.
Now it's all change again! Maggie may not have been for turning, but it seems Theresa may!
As the Brexit shambles rumbles on with no leadership in sight, the country as divided as ever, and the war of words, long on rhetoric and short on truth, sincerity and substance, I came across a documentary film called My Generation on Netflix one night and thought this could be interesting, a look at 1960’s Britain (pre EU) narrated by none other than ‘Alfie’ himself, Michael Caine.
It told the story of Britain in the 1960's, and how the teenagers of that era, were the first generation to enjoy freedom and money in a way previous generations never had. These were the children of the working-classes who had fought and sacrificed so much in the First and Second World Wars, who demanded the social changes that put the Labour Party into power in 1945, and which led to the creation of the Welfare State that gave us free healthcare, education and decent housing.
As a result of these changes, there was an explosion of working-class talent in art, film, music, fashion and politics that led to London becoming the centre of the 'Swinging 60's'. The class barriers were torn down as they stormed into places previously denied them and they did so through sheer force of talent. They were educated and confident, and not afraid to challenge the class barriers that previous generations deferred to, and instead of remaining 'in their place’, they questioned, challenged and created new places. They marched against war and discrimination, demanding peace and equality for all, and were a beacon of inspiration and hope for others. The baby-boomer generation; advantaged by the political consciousness, of their parent’s. A new generation of working-class hero, as recognised in song, by John Lennon.
Looking back, I must ask, where did it all go wrong? What happened to all that working-class energy, why did it not grow and expand to encompass future generations? What happened to all the potential and idealism that since the 60’s, has seen the working-classes reduced to an object of sneering disdain, and led to the social and political stagnation we have now?
There are several factors to consider which together created a perfect storm which has insidiously diminished the gains made by those previous generations. One of those was in education. While those on the liberal left despised grammar schools, they did give many the opportunity of a college education which had been denied previous generations and helped to fuel the explosion of talent in the 60’s. We have the grammar school system to thank for educating people like John Hume and Seamus Heaney. But even if you weren’t academically inclined, you had the option of leaving at the end of 3rd year and going to a technical college where you could learn a trade and become a plumber, electrician, joiner or brickie; there was also the option of secretarial courses with shorthand and typing.
The 1970’s saw the demise of grammar schools as the liberal left, in pursuit of equality for all, created the comprehensive system (which seemed like a good idea at the time). The decision to try and create an equal playing field has unfortunately, over time, led to the dumbing down of the education on offer. Some comprehensives still maintained a grammar stream in their schools but the chance to leave and get a ‘technical’ education at the end of 3rd year was taken away and there is now an academic requirement for GCSE’s in order to get on a plumbing or electrical course (at least that's what happened here).
Also, in the 1970’s, Unions that were set up to protect and fight for worker’s rights became more and more demanding, leading to strikes and, eventually, to the winter of discontent when they over-played their hand and lost the support of the public, leading to the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and almost 40 years of Tory rule since. (I include Tony Blair's New Labour in that) It was the working-classes who helped elect Margaret Thatcher, she promised to give them the right to buy their council houses, brought in legislation to curb the power of the unions and promised to create a nation of shareholders in the great sell-off of public utilities; selling off to the few, what belonged to the many.
As the public housing stock was sold off (and not replaced) those who had been in council properties for a long time, received large discounts and with the economic boom in the 1980's, many of those home-owners saw the chance to make a profit and so sold their houses, many of which have now ended up in the hands of private landlords. This happened to most of the public utility stock too, and the race for a quick profit meant that most of those nationally-owned companies and industries are now in private hands and/or foreign corporations, and the profits for the many have ended up in the pockets of the few.
On top of this, Globalisation and Free-Market economics saw many working-class jobs either disappear abroad or disappear altogether. The job losses, the Miner's Strike and the legislation to curb union power also had another effect, which was to close the door to a political career. Factories and trade unions used to be where the working-classes learned, or were introduced to, politics. They received an education in how to negotiate and fight for their rights and many started on the road to a career in politics and into the Labour Party through their union. Since the 1980’s, the Labour Party lost its working-class edge and under Tony Blair became a middle-class party. But, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, there is a move back to the Labour grass roots, and the working-class are making their presence felt again and trying to wrest control back from the Blairites who, realistically, should be on the Lib-Dem or Tory benches.
These changes are some of the main reasons for the disaffection that is driving the Leave voters here in the UK today. At its heart, are the working-classes, ignored for years by the political establishment, and punitively targeted by that same political establishment with 'austerity', and made to pay disproportionately, for the reckless gambling of the private/corporate banking sector. And now sneered at disdainfully by the middle and upper-classes over Brexit and dismissed as a bunch of ignorant racists.
Looking at the My Generation documentary, I was struck by how many of those 'working class heroes' from the 60's turned their backs on the class they came from and are now firmly part of the establishment, including 'Sir' Michael Caine himself. One of the most recent to accept the bauble from the Crown and tug the forelock, and one of the greatest disappointments, is 'Sir' Billy Connolly. Like his fellow countrymen, 'Sir' Sean Connery, that great supporter of Scottish independence (ironic or what??) and 'Sir' Rod Stewart who, on a recent show, tried to excuse it by saying it's from the British people, not the Crown! Then, we also have people like Dame Judy Dench, crying crocodile tears about the lack of opportunities for working-class actors while helping to support and maintain the very system that keeps the working-classes down and out.
So, if anyone is worried about Britain after Brexit, it would do no harm to check out this documentary and get a look at Britain before the EU, when it was the centre of everything with a strong manufacturing base, and thriving home-grown industries: when working-class was something to be and something to be proud of.
When Britain joined what was the Common Market back in the 70's, it was with the intention of making trade easier among the countries of Europe, which seemed like a good idea at the time. It has now grown from a ‘common market’ into a bloated, bureaucratic monolith, expanding and growing beyond the remit of easy trade into a superstate, now with plans for its own army (under whose control, and to what or whose purpose?).
Watching My Generation, has consolidated my belief in Leave. Britain has the potential to do well as an independent nation but only if everyone in that nation is considered worthy and given the chance, starting with a decent education for all, so their talent and ability has the chance to evolve. Those working-class who achieved so much in the 1960’s need to be reminded where they came from and instead of rushing to join the establishment, they should try extending a hand downwards to their fellow countrymen instead of pulling up the ladder after them.
The working-classes believe they have found a hero in Jeremy Corbyn and all the sniping and sneering by Blairites and their supporters will not change that view. (Take note, JK Rowling! Another working-class, gone snob!)
The disaffection among the working-classes here, is now visible on the streets of France with the Yellow Vests, and is spreading to other European countries with many taking to the streets in solidarity. The silent majority who have been pushed to their limits, finally making their voices heard.
I sincerely hope the Yellow Vest protesters find a leader or spokesperson, if this movement is to become more than just a 'street riot', to be put down by the forces of the state. I sincerely hope Jeremy Corbyn lives up to the expectations of those who have supported him and helped him become leader of the Labour Party. He carries the hopes and dreams of the working-classes on his shoulders, something they haven't had for a very long time. I sincerely hope he becomes the hero they think he has the potential to be, because if ever the working-classes needed a hero, that time is now.
This is another from art class, acrylic on canvas. I was coming home from the allotment one evening in the summer and there was a spectacular sunset (we get some great sunsets here) so I took a picture of it and thought it would be nice to paint. This is it, this view is looking towards Lifford in Donegal,
This is the latest from my art class. I was up around the river in Sion earlier in the year and one of the sluice gates was broken. I thought it would be a great image to paint.
Is this the real life, is this just fantasy...and many a day I spent, back in my teenage years, gazing out the classroom window, watching the sky as clouds contorted and rolled over Croaghan Hill, the ever-changing light, adding depth and detail to the broad vista of the town below while fantasizing about (among others!) Freddie Mercury. Completely unaware at that stage of his sexual preferences, although, even when I did become aware, I still fantasised that he was only gay because he had never met me! After all, we had so much in common, he liked opera and ballet and so did I, and he also loved to play Scrabble, my favourite board game!
Bowie and Zeppelin were my first loves in music and I had been introduced to them through my oldest brother but Queen, I discovered and fell in love with, all on my own. I still remember the night at St Colman's disco when I first heard Seven Seas of Rhye, Now I'm Here and of course, Killer Queen. I also remember, only too well, the announcement of his death and how I cried that miserable Monday morning in November. So, with my heart on my sleeve, I ventured forth tonight to see if justice had been done to my beloved Freddie, in the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody.
The movie tells us about the early days of the band and their rise to fame. It reveals more about the background of Freddie's life than the other members but there wasn't anything in it that I hadn't read or heard about before, from his long term friendship with Mary Austin to his, shall we say, adventurous party lifestyle.
As a Queen fan, I loved it! I had forgotten just what a tour de force Freddie Mercury was on stage! What a showman, artistic and outrageous, unique and dynamic! I wanted to sing along! I wanted to stamp my feet and clap my hands to We Will Rock You! I wanted to stand in the crowd at Live Aid and cheer and sing and drink in every second of that heart-storming performance, made more poignant when we realise he had just been diagnosed with Aids, and I'm not the least bit embarrassed to admit a few tears were shed. Ah, Freddie! We'll never see your like again, unfortunately!
When the film ended, no one wanted to leave, conversations were struck up with strangers in order to delay the inevitable as fans and new fans discussed the merits of Mr Mercury et al. Those of us old enough to remember relived those moments in our lives when the music of Queen provided the soundtrack and helped to cement those memories in our hearts and minds. Many vowed to come back and see it again and next time, we will stamp our feet and clap our hands!
In the daily grind of life, we sometimes forget those great moments in life. Times when our hearts soared, when the sheer joy of a performance or piece of music lifted and inspired us, reminded us that there was more to life, that there could be better days or better ways of living if we just had the courage to reach out for it. I remember 1985, I remember Live Aid and how unhappy I was with my life at that time. I also remember vowing to change it and the following year I ended my marriage and even though I had a tough few years after it, it's a decision I've never regretted.
I haven't listened to music much in the last few years even though I still have all my albums and CD's. I seem to have settled (or been driven?!) into a sort of musical doldrums, I put away Queen and the Sex Pistols, Billy Idol and all those others who sent my heart soaring and my pulse racing, those powerhouses of my youth who didn't compromise or apologise for being exactly who they were and screw everyone who didn't like it!
In the apparent misery of the world today, as controlled and promoted by the media, we are fed a daily diet of fear, propaganda and paranoia. We have forgotten that music used to be a way to stick it to the man, a way to upset the establishment and inspire revolt and rebellion. Nowadays, everybody is so busy trying to display their liberal principles, demonstrating to the world how open-minded they are, how welcoming, all kumbaya and political correctness, anxious to be good citizens, terrified of change with a soundtrack so bland, sanitised and nonthreatening that we're being lulled into a permanent state of brain-deadness and musical easy-listening (which used to be the most insulting thing you could say about someone's musical taste!). Now we have music giants like Ed Sheeren with all the charisma of cold rice pudding, perfect for the snowflake generation and political cowards like (punk?) Bob Geldof who turned coat and now kisses the asses of the establishment. 'Oh, we're better together,' 'Oh, we need to save the planet', 'Oh, we can't listen to someone who might disagree with us because we're so easily offended', 'Oh those nasty Brexiteers have taken away our future'. Blah, whine, blah!
It speaks volumes for how weak and insipid we have become that the most rebellious voice in politics today is Jacob Rees-Mogg! My God! What happened to us?? We were the punk generation, when did we roll over, give up and play brain dead?
Well, I'm not giving up and thank you Bohemian Rhapsody for getting my blood pumping again, I'm going make it a point to listen to Queen, the Sex Pistols and Billy Idol at least once every month because I need those reminders. We all need those reminders, to remember who we were, when we had a fire in our bellies and weren't afraid to speak up and speak out. Remember our youth, when it was normal to challenge the status quo and defy the authorities instead of cowering in a permanent state of anxiety, too terrified to stand out or stand up and go against the crowd even when we're being sold out! Maybe it's time to get out those old tunes, crank the volume up and let chaos reign for a while, be a rebel, disagree with your friends, be offensive, challenge everything you are being told and be a bit like Freddie, strutting, confident, belting it out at volume, the shy man who was a God on stage, and who knows what might happen if we let that fire burn again...ROCK ON!
I came across this today on Facebook and thought I would share it since we're still doing the Brexit hokey, cokey! Are we in or out, half in and half out, out but still in, or in but being told we're out????? What a farce! Anyway, this is an excellent article and worth taking the time to read. It's from Tony Abbot, former Prime Minister of Australia.
It’s pretty hard for Britain’s friends, here in Australia, to make sense of the mess that’s being made of Brexit. The referendum result was perhaps the biggest-ever vote of confidence in the United Kingdom, its past and its future. But the British establishment doesn’t seem to share that confidence and instead looks desperate to cut a deal, even if that means staying under the rule of Brussels. Looking at this from abroad, it’s baffling: the country that did the most to bring democracy into the modern world might yet throw away the chance to take charge of its own destiny.
Let’s get one thing straight: a negotiation that you’re not prepared to walk away from is not a negotiation — it’s surrender. It’s all give and no get. When David Cameron tried to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership, he was sent packing because Brussels judged (rightly) that he’d never actually back leaving. And since then, Brussels has made no real concessions to Theresa May because it judges (rightly, it seems) that she’s desperate for whatever deal she can get.
The EU’s palpable desire to punish Britain for leaving vindicates the Brexit project. Its position, now, is that there’s only one ‘deal’ on offer, whereby the UK retains all of the burdens of EU membership but with no say in setting the rules. The EU seems to think that Britain will go along with this because it’s terrified of no deal. Or, to put it another way, terrified of the prospect of its own independence.
But even after two years of fearmongering and vacillation, it’s not too late for robust leadership to deliver the Brexit that people voted for. It’s time for Britain to announce what it will do if the EU can’t make an acceptable offer by March 29 next year — and how it would handle no deal. Freed from EU rules, Britain would automatically revert to world trade, using rules agreed by the World Trade Organization. It works pretty well for Australia. So why on earth would it not work just as well for the world’s fifth-largest economy?
A world trade Brexit lets Britain set its own rules. It can say, right now, that it will not impose any tariff or quota on European produce and would recognise all EU product standards. That means no border controls for goods coming from Europe to Britain. You don’t need to negotiate this: just do it. If Europe knows what’s in its own best interests, it would fully reciprocate in order to maintain entirely free trade and full mutual recognition of standards right across Europe.
Next, the UK should declare that Europeans already living here should have the right to remain permanently — and, of course, become British citizens if they wish. This should be a unilateral offer. Again, you don’t need a deal. You don’t need Michel Barnier’s permission. If Europe knows what’s best for itself, it would likewise allow Britons to stay where they are.
Third, there should continue to be free movement of people from Europe into Britain — but with a few conditions. Only for work, not welfare. And with a foreign worker’s tax on the employer, to make sure anyone coming in would not be displacing British workers.
Fourth, no ‘divorce bill’ whatsoever should be paid to Brussels. The UK government would assume the EU’s property and liabilities in Britain, and the EU would assume Britain’s share of these in Europe. If Britain was getting its fair share, these would balance out; and if Britain wasn’t getting its fair share, it’s the EU that should be paying Britain.
Finally, there’s no need on Britain’s part for a hard border with Ireland. Britain wouldn’t be imposing tariffs on European goods, so there’s no money to collect. The UK has exactly the same product standards as the Republic, so let’s not pretend you need to check for problems we all know don’t exist. Some changes may be needed but technology allows for smart borders: there was never any need for a Cold War-style Checkpoint Charlie. Irish citizens, of course, have the right to live and work in the UK in an agreement that long predates EU membership.
Of course, the EU might not like this British leap for independence. It might hit out with tariffs and impose burdens on Britain as it does on the US — but WTO rules put a cap on any retaliatory action. The worst it can get? We’re talking levies of an average 4 or 5 per cent. Which would be more than offset by a post-Brexit devaluation of the pound (which would have the added bonus of making British goods more competitive everywhere).
UK officialdom assumes that a deal is vital, which is why so little thought has been put into how Britain might just walk away. Instead, officials have concocted lurid scenarios featuring runs on the pound, gridlock at ports, grounded aircraft, hoarding of medicines and flights of investment. It’s been the pre-referendum Project Fear campaign on steroids. And let’s not forget how employment, investment and economic growth ticked up after the referendum.
As a former prime minister of Australia and a lifelong friend of your country, I would say this: Britain has nothing to lose except the shackles that the EU imposes on it. After the courage shown by its citizens in the referendum, it would be a tragedy if political leaders go wobbly now. Britain’s future has always been global, rather than just with Europe. Like so many of Britain’s admirers, I want to see this great country seize this chance and make the most of it.
Tony Abbott served as Prime Minister of Australia from 2013 to 2015
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