Tag Archives: the Asylum

Oh, what have you done?

There are times in your life when something momentous or calamitous occurs. Think declaring war with Germany in 1939, the assassination of JFK, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mandela walking free—those kinds of things. We seem to be in one of those moments.

Perhaps, as a child playing rather too boisterously, you managed to damage or break something precious. There’s no way it could be mended, no matter how hard you screwed up your eyes and prayed that it might miraculously be put back together again. You have a certain feeling, deep in the pit of your stomach, that signifies there’s been a significant shift in circumstances, and not necessarily for the better. There’s no going back. That’s it, done and dusted.

That’s how I feel about the EU in or out referendum our benighted country held on 23 June 2016, a day that will go down in history as most definitely not one of Britain’s finest.

I voted to remain in the European Union. My reasons are not important right now, I just felt it was the least worst option. Taking a leap into the unknown, on the basis of blatant fabrications, falsehoods and downright lies, seemed a little, well, terminal. I believe it still to be better to try and fix things with a hand on the tiller, than be tied to the mast with no say in how the ship is run. If it doesn’t get better, then think about leaving some other time.

Inevitably, immigration came seething to the fore during the campaign, because the failure of western capitalism was all the fault of the foreigners, of course—even though it’s not and never has been. It dominated the discussion, even though it was plain there was no simple solution, and wouldn’t change much if we decided to leave anyway. Another fact that got swept away in the tide of xenophobia.

Although the result of the vote was close, it tipped to leaving. Just over half of those who bothered to vote decided we should take that leap into the unknown. As it turned out, the consequences have been exactly as predicted. Depending on who you believe, the economy is struggling, the pound is plummeting, the world’s stock markets have the jitters, Scotland wants out of the union, other EU member states are hoping they might be next to take the plunge and leave the gang, and we have no sensible government after the prime minister threw in the towel and the opposition decided to start a leadership battle. To cap it all, reports are that racist and xenophobic incidents have increased by over 50 per cent. It seems that some of those who wanted us “out” really wanted the “out” to mean everyone who wasn’t born here or was perceived as foreign purely by dint of their skin colour. Whether the Faragists expected this to happen, who knows? The fact is the dis-United Kingdom is now a grubbier, more violent and unhappy place than it was.

It’s not even been a week since the vote, and already it seems like the end of days! The worst is the feeling that there is no way out. There’s no escape. There’s nowhere to run and hide. We are stuck in this chaotic farce that needn’t have happened, and we’ve broken the country irrevocably. We can’t screw up our eyes and try to will it all back together again.

I find it unbelievable that it has come to this. Did the Powers That Be not foresee this might be the outcome? Were they so cock sure the remain side would win they didn’t consider what might happen if that didn’t come to pass? Indeed, did the leave side really not have any form of plan of what to do in case they won?

Alas, so it seems. No-one expected to lose or win or split almost evenly down the middle, so we’re left with chaos and anarchy and no idea of what to do from anywhere. There’s no reset button.

Forget Article 50 being kicked into the long grass, Scottish Parliament vetoes, rerunning referendums. It’s too late. The genie is out of the bottle. There’s no going back. We have crossed the Rubicon. We are in uncharted waters, with no-one steering the boat.

Everything that I took more or less for granted in my world is suddenly inverted. It’s broken, shattered. There is no stability any more. Everything is twisted, torn and shredded. We are so screwed. Hate, it seems, is winning. I find I am swinging wildly between grief, dread and profound and deepening anger. One moment I’m laughing at the absurdity of it all, the next I’m in tears of sheer desperation.

How dare we be plunged into this chaos for no apparent good reason. Yet, life goes on. The sun still rises in the east; birds sing; we have to eat, shop, pretend our world is not imploding in some calm British sort of way. I don’t think I can cope with pretending it’s all normal much longer. It wasn’t my fault, but I’m tangled up in it, and it’s not fair!

So I say again: what have YOU done‽

The bigger picture

The government said tackling poor basic skills was a top priority.

Yes, of course, they would say that. They don’t mean it, though. Obviously.

BBC News – Pride in poor maths culture ‘must be tackled’

I had poor maths teaching at school. In fact, I think my entire school career was an experiment on behalf of the council and education authorities. If I didn’t have access to calculators, I’d be all but innumerate. Luckily, I managed to escape with reasonable qualifications in other areas.

But this is hiding the bigger picture—which only hit me this morning as I read the story linked to above. This wringing of hands about poor education standards has been going on for at least thirty years now. Yet, standards seem to be slipping lower and lower.

This is the bigger picture: the lower orders must be kept uneducated at all costs. Standards are being lowered, because that’s what the Powers That Be want.

You see, if the lower orders are literate and numerate, they will begin to want to better themselves. They will begin to see behind the curtain, and realise that those “elected” to govern have no real interest in the rest of us. Provided we can be kept ignorant, provided with adequate food and alcohol, and distracted with the likes of X-Factor and Strictly Come Don’t Look Over There, the PTB can continue to destroy everything we hold dear while they feather their own nests.

It’s sickening.

My resolution to post more about the nicer things in life hasn’t lasted very well. I can only apologise, but sometimes I need to get this stuff off my chest. Despite some of the planet’s population doing their best to restore sanity in their part of the world (Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, etc), the “elites” seem ever more intent on maintaining the insanity, as it’s in their favour.

I’m cross now. I’ll be over there, lying in a darkened room with a cool towel on my forehead.

Ghetts, the census and Guantánamo Bay | Jody McIntyre | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

In December 2008, the government quietly awarded the £150m contract to collect and securely handle the 2011 census data to Lockheed Martin, the second-largest arms manufacturer in the world. It makes bombs, bomber jets and has run most of the US military’s intelligence gathering and interrogation, including at Guantánamo Bay, where it operated through subsidiary companies. Nice people to be doing business with.

Even if we ignore the fact that Lockheed Martin sits at No 1 on the Pogo Federal Contractor Misconduct database, with more than 50 alleged cases of corruption, fraud, bribery, environmental damage and discrimination, there’s worse to come. As a US-owned company, under the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act, Lockheed Martin can be forced to hand over any private data in its possession to the US government and/or the CIA. It doesn’t make the government’s promises to keep our data safe sound quite so reassuring.

This is scary, if somewhat inevitable. I need to look at how to avoid being at home on census day.

What on earth possesses governments to award contracts for such jobs to non-British companies? Are they utterly mad?

Don’t answer that.

Steven Neary | The Court of Protection | Latest update.

Mr Justice Mostyn sitting on the last day before the Christmas vacation has just decided that Steven Neary shall be returned to his Father permanently in time for Christmas.

Remember this sad, sad story a while ago? Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and young Steven will be reunited with his father soon.

I needed some good news. There’s too much bad news floating about these days.

Stephen Neary | The Court of Protection

Whilst Stephen lived happily at home, he had the support of professional carers from the ‘Trinity Noir’ company. Stephen’s father was very happy with the level of support and had no complaints. The Local Authority footed the bill, as is their legal duty. Changing Stephen’s diagnosis from “autism, severe learning difficulties and challenging behaviour”, to “extreme challenging behaviour, learning difficulties and possible autistic spectrum disorder” may seem hair splitting to my readers, but on such finite definitions rest the liability to pay for Stephen.

The new diagnosis could shift the responsibility for care onto the NHS Primary Care Trust…..the current suggestion is that Stephen is ‘sent to a care home in Wales’, many miles from his home in London, who will ‘assess the reasons behind his behaviour’ – I would think most of my readers will have figured out for themselves by now the reasons for his behaviour. He wants to go home! His Father wants him to go home!

Those of you with a modicum of legal knowledge will be saying ‘but surely he can get legal representation and go before the mental health tribunal – I’ve read about cases like that?’

No, he can’t, he has no access to the Mental Heath Tribunal – Autism isn’t a mental illness. This action isn’t being taken under the Mental Health Act – it is being taken under the Mental Capacity Act. Under the MCA he only has access to a ‘Best Interests Assessor’ – who is appointed on a consultancy basis, and paid, by…..the Local Authority.

He can be deprived of his liberty for up to a year, which period can be renewed indefinitely, for the purpose of ‘assessing’ him – see above – being sent to Wales to ‘assess’ why he is unhappy at being locked up.

This has made me very sad and angry. There doesn’t seem to be room in “the system” for common sense.

I signed the petition. Consider whether you ought to as well.

A change in human character | Ian McMillan | Comment is free | The Guardian

The Lincolnshire scenery slips by like a pulled tablecloth, and we’re all on the train but none of us is really sure where we’re going.

Beautiful writing, thought-provoking words.

(And best read aloud in your head with McMillan’s lovely Yorkshire accent.)

Related posts: Switch off, log on; http://snaptophobic.posterous.com/three-stops-beyond-barking

Three stops beyond Barking


If you follow my ramblings with any level of alacrity you will note I’ve been considering putting the world into the Asylum. If this has confused you, dear reader, worry not.

You see, I am a Douglas Adams fan. Adams died in 2001, at the painfully young age of 49. Yet, his words still echo down the years, at least for me they do. I miss the fellow, even though I never met him in real life. I just adore his writings, his published works, and his finely-tuned sense of the absurd. 

I first made his acquaintance in the late 1970s, when the BBC was airing something called the The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You may have heard of it, but don’t worry if you haven’t. The radio series spawned a book, then some more books, some more radio series, a television series and — finally — a “major motion picture”. 

Douglas wrote many things in the Hitch Hiker’s universe that were patently meant to be absurd or surreal. He was writing a fiction, yet somehow along the way, the real world has fallen into step with what he wrote.

It’s absurd to think this is so, surely?

Well, for whatever reason, I feel the world in which I am existing now is not the real world any more. At some point around the turn of the millennium (two ells, two ens) I awoke in a subtly different universe to the one in which I’d been living up to that point. 

The differences were very subtle. The sun still rose in the east. Days were about the same length. The sky was still blue, when the clouds let it show. I wasn’t a different age, or living in a different country. It was, to all intents and purposes, the same universe in which I began my journey through life. 

As the new millennium (two ells, two ens) drew on, however, the disparities began to show. George W Bush had narrowly squeaked into the White House, and soon after somebody decided to take out the World Trade Center by flying jet airliners into it. Everything’s been going steadily downhill since. Sacred personal freedoms have been eroded more and more, in the name of security, yet we managed quite happily when some Irish freedom fighters were actually blowing shit up — and some of it not far from where I grew up. We just carried on as before, just being a bit more careful about lonesome packages and loitering near litter bins. 

These days, we’re perilously close to living in an Orwellian dystopia. We’re in a so-called War on Terror (without the vowels, if you’re George W), but it strikes me the terrorists have won if I can’t go about my daily life without being spied on, stopped for being a photographer, or having to virtually strip naked before being allowed onto an aeroplane.

I’m sorry but, what the f…?!

As the news media get ever more sucked into the world of Newspeak, nonsense “reality television” and no-name celebrity fawning, I have come to the conclusion that Adams’ character of John Watson, from “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”, first published in 1984 (how apt), was right all along. 

I won’t bore you with the whole back story, but let’s just say that Arther Dent (the main narrative character of the Hitch Hiker’s series) has found himself on an alternative Earth where the dolphins seem to have vanished. Trying to find answers to this disjunction in his timeline, Dent and his lover Fenchurch, head to the US west coast in search of John Watson, Wonko the Sane.

‘Your wife,’ said Arthur, looking around, ‘mentioned some toothpicks.’ He said it with a hunted look, as if he was worried that she might suddenly leap out from behind the door and mention them again.

Wonko the Sane laughed. It was a light easy laugh, and sounded like one he had used a lot before and was happy with.

‘Ah yes,’ he said, ‘that’s to do with the day I finally realized that the world had gone totally mad and built the Asylum to put it in, poor thing, and hoped it would get better.’

This was the point at which Arthur began to feel a little nervous again.

‘Here,’ said Wonko the Sane, ‘we are outside the Asylum.’ He pointed again at the rough brickwork, the pointing and the guttering. ‘Go through that door,’ he pointed at the first door through which they had originally entered, ‘and you go into the Asylum. I’ve tried to decorate it nicely to keep the inmates happy, but there’s very little one can do. I never go in there now myself. If I am ever tempted, which these days I rarely am, I simply look at the sign over the door and I shy away.’

‘That one?’ said Fenchurch, pointing, rather puzzled, at a blue plaque with some instructions written on it.

‘Yes. They are the words that finally turned me into the hermit I have now become. It was quite sudden. I saw them, and I knew what I had to do.’

The sign said:

Hold stick near centre of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion.

‘It seemed to me,’ said Wonko the Sane, ‘that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a packet of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane.’

It wasn’t the toothpicks, or the warnings on take-away coffee cups about hot liquids, or the packets of nuts with warnings about containing nuts, that convinced me the world had lost it. It’s a whole variety of little — and larger, it has to be said — things about everyday life, the actions of those around me, and the general aptitude for the “civilised” human species to royally fuck up everything it touches these days that has convinced me the world has actually gone insane. I am working on building the Asylum, but I’m having a little difficulty in finding a suitable calming location for me to live outside it.

Since finishing that last paragraph, I discovered the term “Dagenham mad”. As anyone who knows the District Line will note, Dagenham is three stops beyond Barking. It’s only that I don’t really like that part of Essex that prevents me from opening the Asylum on the District Line, three stops beyond Barking. It would be rather appropriate, don’t you think?