Tag Archives: we’re all in this together – my arse

2016 – a year in review

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This review of my year is somewhat coarse and uncouth. I apologise if any of the following language causes offence. I’ve tried to be creative with it rather than write what I really think! It’s just, well, it’s just been one of those years, hasn’t it?

I usually try to find a suitable header image for these reviews. The best idea I came up with was an image of 2016 being flushed down a toilet, just as a big fat hairy arse was pooping 2017 into it. It sort of sums up my feelings. Yes, this year has been a bit of stinker to say the least. 2017, though, is set to be a real honker. An “I’d leave that about 20 minutes before you go in” sort of year. That’s why I’ve put a picture of Billy-puss there instead.

So, 2016. What have you got to say for yourself?

The World

It’s very easy to be a bit of a grump about the state of things, I think. I keep looking for something positive. I’m sure there are one or two diamond chips lurking in the overall shower of shit that was 2016, but I’m buggered if I can spot them.

The new year set the trend with the somewhat unexpected death of David Bowie in January. It seemed to go downhill from there, frankly. When you come to look at it calmly, though, the quantity of celebrity deaths in 2016 isn’t really all that much different to previous years. It just seems worse, I think, because there’s a cohort of actors, musicians and so on, that has reached that kind of age where they will tend to drop of the perch. It becomes more acute when you’ve lived with these people as part of your life, even if only vicariously or tangentially. Their work, of course, lives on.

The Middle East remains an utter mess. As I type this, a final act in Syria is potentially beginning, but I don’t wish to comment in depth. Bombings and shootings in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and whatever you do don’t mention Yemen… No one source of “news” can give a clear picture of the maelstrom, and picking shreds of truth from the endless frothing onslaught is all but impossible. At every turn, claim and counterclaim, and everyone is currently blaming the Russians. Odd, that, since last year it was the Chinese.

We turn to the United States of America… Actually, no, let’s not. They’ve made their bed. We’d have suffered whichever side had claimed the presidency, and we’ve got enough of a pickle of our own to sort out.

The environment seems to be collapsing faster than Sterling against the US dollar. Despite the evidence before their very eyes, unbelievers still insist there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming. I’ve given up. We might just as well give up and let it all crash and burn. Perhaps then they’ll listen, when it’s all too late to do anything. Actually, I think we passed that point about twenty years back, just when we were beginning to realise something was badly amiss. It’s your grandchildren I feel sorry for. I don’t have any kids, so I don’t waste any time worrying about their non-existent futures.

Sheesh! Is there a sane country left on this planet‽ Would you be surprised if I told you I was at the point of applying to emigrate to Iceland? Seriously. The only problem is I wouldn’t have a job there, Best Beloved wouldn’t like the climate, and working as a modelmaker in an overseas territory when my client base is mostly here in the UK would be a bit silly. Oh well, another door slams, as they say. Chalk up another opportunity I failed to grab as it sailed by. The story of my life.

Blighty

Sodding Brexit. Seriously, sod it and all who sail in her. What a fiasco. Even if we end up not leaving the EU—and some polls seem to indicate a sufficient number of leave voters have since changed their minds, such that it could swing that way—something deeply fundamental at the core of the United Kingdom has been utterly broken. Brexit, apparently, means Brexit, whatever the hell that word salad is supposed to mean. Possibly with red, white and blue, but it means Brexit. That’s the level of foresight and planning our inglorious leaders have on the matter. I find it hard to look at anyone these days and trust them with anything. What must it be like for other EU nationals living here, let alone people with deeper skin tones? You know who I blame for it?

The sodding Tories, and especially that moon-faced arse-gibbon David Cameron. Frightened by the UKIP tendency, he called the referendum, failed to make it binding as he fully expected the Remain campaign would win it with ease, then flounced off to his millions when it all went tits up. Arrogant shit, leaving the rest of us in the same. If we could find him, he should be dragged back and his nose rubbed in the mess he’s made!

After a couple of nights of the long knives, Theresa May reached the top of the Conservative Party greasy pole. What’s rather worrying is she’s shown little aptitude for the job, which isn’t altogether surprising as she wasn’t exactly employee of the month in her previous one. I don’t suppose it’ll be long before we get to choose more self-aggrandising wastes of oxygen and space to occupy the crumbling ruin of the Palace of Westminster. The Labour Party weren’t any better, either. Bunch of tossers. A leader is elected with a massive popular mandate, but the MPs don’t like him so they try to run another leadership campaign to oust him. The original leader is returned with an even larger mandate. What the actual blue-faced f@c# did they expect would happen‽ Honestly, what a bunch of moronic no-hopers. Meanwhile, the Tories run rampant, tearing the country to shreds with no real opposition. You couldn’t make this up.

Having decided by the slimmest of margins, of those that actually bothered to vote in the damned EU referendum that is, that the “will of the people” was we should leave the European Union, Mrs May placed Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis in charge. The Three Stooges, only with less intelligence and foresight. God help us all. Oh, I forgot, there is no god. Sorry. Looks like we are on our own.

That other bad smell, Nigel Farage (that’s pronounced as “farridge” round here), simply won’t go away. Having resigned from the Kippers’ leadership, he found himself back in it again almost immediately when the woman elected to run things found white middle-aged blokes don’t like women telling them what to do. Shades of General Election 2015. Now he’s found a properly loony white middle-aged bloke to run things, Farage is off again. Mr Froggy-Would-A-Wooing-Go has recently been crawling up the tailpipe of the Orange One in Trumpland. I wish he’d crawl up there and stay, and good riddance. I wish to no longer see his leering visage on my television screen, thank you.

What a nasty, vicious, small-minded place this once great country has become. Perhaps it’s always been that way, but the pretty wrapping paper covered it up. Who knows. Whatever, it’s a darker place now than it was this time last year, and it was no Blackpool illuminations back then either.

We had some pretty good weather during the summer, so that was nice. The autumn was pretty spectacular, too. I failed to get out my camera gear, though. Another positive note was the release of a new ELO album. The summer was only marred by the old biddie in Buck House turning 90. Woo-bloody-hoo! Oh, and the Rio Olympics. To be fair, Team GB did quite well. Good luck to ’em.

Domestic

At home it’s been a year of ups and downs. On my work front, it’s like it’s never ending. I closed my order book for 2017, and will tentatively take on new commissions for 2018 some time during next year. It’s feels good to be in demand, but my pace of work is painfully slow at times. Still, the bank balance is well into the black, which is a nice place to be.

We said goodbye to our old Sophie-puss in May. Her health had been on a downturn for a while, but bearing in mind she was close to 20 years old, she didn’t do too badly. We went off to be chosen again as soon as we could, and Billy-puss has made himself properly at home now. It’s almost like he was meant to be here.

Best Beloved’s health has been up, down, up, and sideways. He’s not too bad, overall, considering what’s wrong with him. As I type this review, we’re both in the last stages of recovering from a really nasty bout of some cold virus or other. I have never felt so ill. It killed appetites, meaning we’ve been missing out on meals, leading to overall weakness. Today is the first day we’ve felt almost human. I don’t want another dose of that, thank you very much indeed.

In other news, we had a new back door and window fitted. We’d been planning to do that for about a decade. We then lashed out on a new air source heat pump heating system. Theoretically, it will save us money on our utility bills. While it’s not perfect, and doesn’t really heat the whole house floor area as one would expect, it’s doing okay and we look to be on track to make some savings as predicted. Our gas consumption is now down to a tiny amount, as we still need to make hot water for washing and so on, but we’re looking at alternatives to that. Our energy supplier recently announced that they sourced all their electricity from renewable and low carbon sources, which is nice, and our monthly payments have been reduced based on our usage. I call that winning.

So we end the year on a generally positive personal note. I know there is still a lot of good out there, and there’s still a lot of beauty in the world, but you have to admit it’s becoming pretty hard to put on a happy face for any length of time. Let me end my drivel by wishing you and your families the very best compliments of the season, and let us hope that 2017 turns out to be not as bad as it looks like it might be. See you in the new year!

Fings ain’t wot they used to be

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It’s a terrible affliction, and one which I find myself suffering more as I get older. That feeling when, perhaps, you’re listening to a favourite album and it suddenly smacks you between the eyes that you bought it for the first time 35 years ago. You’re suddenly transported back to those days, and you can’t help feeling things were better then than they are now…

See? How can things be worse now than three decades ago? Ridiculous! Look around you! Look at how marvellous our world is.

How marvellous our world was, perhaps. My species is rapidly outgrowing its home planet, with precious little thought to what happens when the resources run out. “Someone else will sort that out for us,” seems to be the consensus. “Someone clever will solve all our problems, so we don’t need to worry about it now.” We carry on being told to consume all we can, and so we do.


For more in this vein, perhaps you might cheer yourself up with some previous posts:
Have we peaked?
Everything seems a bit shit these days


For the first half of the 20th century, life for ordinary people was tough. If you were lucky, you had a job, your health, and enough money put by that you could perhaps consider a short holiday by the seaside once a year. You couldn’t hope to own your own house, or a car. If you were unlucky, you struggled to survive, reliant perhaps on charity to get by until something turned up.

Further afield, the world in general was not a happy place, with conflict and things to generally make life harsh and short for most people. If you were wealthy, however, the world was your oyster. Some had managed to make a large fortune for themselves and their offspring, mainly by exploiting the labour of the poorer members of society.

In some countries, men came to power that promised to make life better for all. They blamed all of society’s ills on ethnic minorities, or anyone who wasn’t “like us”. People believed in their special kind of message, and so the world turned. Eventually, things went too far, and the poor and disadvantaged were plunged once more into a conflict not of their making.

In 1945, after this particularly savage global conflict had finally ended, the returning soldiers, sailors and airmen decided they wanted a world that would be better for everyone and not just those that could afford it. What is now known as the post-war consensus was formed. Many industries were taken into government hands and run for the benefit of all. A universal healthcare and welfare system was set up to ensure no-one would suffer unduly from ill health, and there was something there to catch you and help you get back on your feet if things went wrong. New social housing was built, slums were cleared, education was improved, the world began to look bright and hopeful.

By the 1970s, things weren’t looking quite so bright. Industrial strife gave nationalised industries a bad name, and some politicians began to point to a brave new world where privatised and deregulated businesses could solve all the ills of our world. Slowly but surely, everything the returning servicemen and women from the Second World War had built was taken away again. It’s taken four decades, but even the sacred cow of the National Health Service is being slowly devoured, sliced and diced to the highest bidder.

It struck me today that the calibre of those who built our post-war society was much higher than those who think they should run things today. In the 1940s and 1950s, I suppose the founders of the new Britain hoped their children would learn to run things well, and so it proved for a while. Where things have taken a wrong turn is difficult to say, but perhaps the so-called Baby Boomershad it so good” and really did think it would last forever. They didn’t teach their offspring as well as they might, it seems, and the result is we’ve got a bunch of career politicians who don’t have a clue about much.

Disaffection with the political classes, the intense feeling that former industrial areas are wilfully ignored by the elites in Westminster, has led to a collapse in our political system. We see the rise of the far right—across Europe and beyond, it has to be said—and such political organisations tap into the general dissatisfaction. It’s all the fault of the “others”, those ethnic minorities, the “immigrants” and “migrants”.


An interesting read over at The Guardian about Brexit and the revolt against liberalism.
Nationalism: Nasty or Nice?
Oh, what have you done?


Supposedly sensible people—like me, for example—tend to want to make fun of the new species of demagogue that is arising in the world. The Nigel Farages and Donald Trumps of this world won’t ever amount to much, we tell ourselves. They’re fringe politicians, their followers are not the mainstream of political thought.

Then the Farages and Trumps begin to win.

“There’s no way Trump could win the Republican Party nomination.”

“We won’t vote to leave the European Union.”

“But there’s no way Trump can win the presidential election.”

I find myself thinking, after everything else that’s happened so far in 2016, that we had better prepare ourselves for a Donald Trump presidency. The world, it seems, has turned almost a full circle. Where it will end, I don’t know. I’d like to be optimistic about things, but I rather think it won’t end well. You don’t need to guess who will suffer the most, whatever the outcome.


Ticket To The Moon
ELO, Time, 1981

Words and music by Jeff Lynne

Remember the good old Nineteen Eighties,
When things were so uncomplicated,
I wish I could go back there again
And everything could be the same.

I’ve got a ticket to the moon
I’ll be leaving here any day soon
Yeah, I’ve got a ticket to the moon
But I’d rather see the sunrise, in your eyes.

Got a ticket to the moon
I’ll be rising high above the earth so soon
And the tears I cry might turn into the rain
That gently falls upon your window
You’ll never know.

Ticket to the moon
Fly, fly through a troubled sky
Up to a new world shining bright.

Flying high above,
Soaring madly through the mysteries that come,
Wondering sadly if the ways that led me here,
Could turn around and I would see you there,
Standing there

Ticket to the moon
Flight leaves here today from Satellite 2
As the minutes go by, what shall I do,
I paid the fare, what more can I say,
It’s just one way.

Ticket to the moon.

Read more:  Electric Light Orchestra – Ticket To The Moon Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Coming to terms

It’s been two weeks since we woke to a slim vote to leave the EU. Since then, having been a remainer, I’ve been through the shock, grief and anger stages. It affected me badly, and is still affecting Best Beloved.

I am still very angry. Angry at the mendacity chiefly from the leave side, angry at the ignorance, angry at what the result has unleashed, anger at those having perpetrated things then decided to just point the finger at everyone else and leave the stage. Anger, too, allied with frustration that the entire political class seems intent on in-fighting rather than sorting out the mess we find ourselves in.

Anger, though, doesn’t change much. We are where we are.

There’s a slim chance the whole thing can be kicked into the long grass. The vote was only advisory, has no bearing in law. The government would be stupid to ignore the vote, but the longer they take to enact Article 50—the official starting pistol for the true leave negotiations with the EU—the more likely it could be some kind of deal to remain properly in the EU would happen.

The thing is, despite petitions and marches, grumbling on social media, and the more traditional hurling obscenities at the television news bulletins, the only people who can do anything about anything are currently embroiled in leadership contests. Until that mud slinging stops, and of course the summer recess and conference season has passed, nothing will happen. We remain in limbo until at least October this year, as our world unravels.

It’s almost as if the politicians don’t care about what’s actually happening out here, in the real world. In their little Westminster bubble, they play their silly games as if it’s all that really matters. It is almost as if there is no constitutional crisis, no urgency to sort the mess out, nothing to worry about at all. Crisis? What crisis?

What we must do, those of us still angry about being told to stop grumbling because we “lost”, is hold our so-called leaders to account. If we have to leave the European Union, we must make damned sure we get the best possible deal, and we must fight tooth and nail to make certain those likely to be hardest hit by leaving will be given as much aid and support as they currently get from the EU.

There’s also the small matter of rebuilding our society. Fourteen days seems to have opened the cracks that many of us had thought filled and lost for several decades. All that has been undone must be done again.

It’s not going to be easy. We must each learn to direct our anger, to channel it to make sure that whatever happens we get to build a great future from the ruins of the past.

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‽

It’s immoral to have food banks in one of the world’s richest countries | Suzanne Moore | Comment is free | The Guardian

If the recovery is underway – the new mantra – how come people have less money in their pockets? How come youth employment is refusing to budge, and a generation moves seamlessly into “the long-term unemployed”? Pay has stagnated, prices have gone up. To have avoided a fall in standards, one has to be either wealthy or asset-rich. This means owning property in London, as do most of the media/political class, me included.

Nonetheless, my standard of living is certainly affected by the distress all around: by the numbers of mentally ill people wandering the streets; by what happens in my child’s school; by seeing friends and family pushed out of hospital long before they are able to care for themselves. Austerity meant we quickly forgot the happiness index, but we must still comprehend that a decent standard of living comes from understanding rather than undermining mutual dependencies.

via It’s immoral to have food banks in one of the world’s richest countries | Suzanne Moore | Comment is free | The Guardian.

I’m going to get angry again. Why are we letting this stuff happen? Why aren’t we outside the Houses of Parliament or Number Ten, hammering on the doors to get answers?

It’s enough to make a body despair.

Dog Whistle

There’s been even more hot air from our government this past day or two about benefit fraud. It’s been claimed by the Department for Work and Pensions—and ably regurgitated with little analysis by our state propaganda machine mainstream media—that benefit fraudsters should face tougher prison sentences.

Step forward Channel 4 News, and their FactCheck blog.

So if we combine the central estimates from both departments, the total amount of money lost to fraud across the benefits system was a little over £2bn in 2011/12.

To put that into perspective:

Fraud accounts for about one per cent of the total annual benefits and tax credits spend, which ran at £194.3bn in 2011/12.

Fraud isn’t getting worse

DWP says 0.7 per cent of its benefits were overpaid this year due to fraud. The percentage was exactly the same last year, and it was a fraction higher in 2010/11 – 0.8 per cent.

“Error” costs more than fraud.

Across the whole system, fraud cost us £2bn and error – in the form of honest mistakes made by claimants or official cock-ups – cost £3.4bn last year.

This is only a fraction of the money lost from tax evasion and avoidance.

HMRC puts this figure at £32bn but tax campaigners say the real “tax gap” is much higher.

Richard Murphy from the Tax Justice Network thinks tax fraud could be 50 times bigger than benefit fraud.

The cost of fraud is dwarfed by the surplus from unclaimed benefits

The figures are a bit shady but DWP say between £7.5bn and £12.3bn of the six main benefits it administers were left unclaimed in 2009/10.

To this figure of around £10bn we can add several billion more in unclaimed tax credits, although HMRC is reluctant to tell us the real figure.

Huh. So, the actual amount of fraud in the system is smaller relative to the amount of errors made on benefit payments, and absolutely minuscule when compared to the total benefits paid out each year—and the albeit completely legitimate tax evasion and avoidance going on.

If we could get everyone to pay the right amounts of tax, this country wouldn’t be in the shit it’s in. Or is that too simplistic?

How Britain can make more ‘things’ | Jürgen Maier | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

We should also be proud that we have some great UK manufacturing brands, for example in car making, Jaguar Land Rover and Bentley – the latter up 30% on volumes in the first six months this year compared with last.

Isn’t it lovely to know the 1% can afford to buy more luxury cars?

BBC News – UK receives first F-35 stealth fighter jet from US

It has been a long and expensive wait, but Britain has now been handed its first Joint Strike Fighter jet, also known as the F-35.

Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond flew out in person to the searing heat of Fort Worth, Texas, for the official handover ceremony from its US manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

He says it is “the best warplane money can buy”. But it is an eye-watering sum – the current cost of each jet is more than £100m.

After watching Britain’s first F-35 take to the skies, Mr Hammond said “this is money well spent”.

He said it would give the RAF and Royal Navy “a world class fighting capability” with the ability to “project power” off the two new aircraft carriers now under construction, anywhere in the world.

Hammond, stop the warmongering. The UK is not a “world power” any more, and we shouldn’t be pretending we are. What is this “power” you want to project anyway? Planning on attacking Iran on the coat tails of the US are we?

Anyway, £100 million pounds for one plane, for an aircraft carrier we haven’t finished yet. I’m not sure we can afford a second plane, so I propose the RAF and Royal Navy sort out a time share on the one we have got. The US military-industrial complex must be rubbing its hands with glee.