I would like to take this moment to confess, I guess what could be considered a truly, awful, reprehensible, heinous crime. Part of the disgusting act is that I was actually quite willing and relaxed as I participated in the odious behaviour. What kind of human am I?! Such egregious behaviour doesn’t normally come naturally to me, but on this one evening or should I say two, I simply found myself without any internal questioning happily involved in the act.
How free are we? How free are we to be openly who we feel we are? How free are we to escape the confines of our comfort zones, our enclosures of safety, our abodes and mix with society? To speak frankly, openly and willingly? To dress in the clothes and styles we desire? To embrace our sexuality and gender? To be able to simply just be?
There’s no doubt a sizeable proportion of the population of this country last weekend, and the weekends to follow, particularly as we edge towards Christmas will find themselves strolling around Bluewater and Lakeside Shopping Centre, Westfield Stratford City Mall and many others dotted around the country buying and consuming to their hearts content blissfully or ignorantly unaware of the sweatshop labour, the slavery behind the products they are buying. We all do it, some more than others, it’s a modern-day preoccupation for many, a false idea of comfort and happiness. Of course, there are things we need and trying not to buy sweatshop products is quite a task. But we should be aware of the pain and suffering that goes into the making of those products, particularly if we are to be angered by the rise in energy prices coming our way.
Do you know why you behave in particular ways in different situations?
Do you know what you are worth?
Do you know where you fit in society?
Do you see other people’s points of view easily?
Do you understand the structure of society?
Do you recognise the way you react to situations?
Do you understand why you feel certain emotions?
Do you know why you fear what you fear?
Do you know why you have wronged someone when you do?
Do you even know you have wronged someone when you do?
Do you know why you are motivated and ambitious?
Do you know why you feel depressed?
Do you take yourself too seriously?
Do you know when you are insecure and why?
Do you feel you need to please people?
It’s important for each one of us to have an understanding of who we are, to recognise why we behave the way we do, essentially to be in tune with ourselves. By gaining a greater perspicacious insight into our behaviours and emotions we are able to live better lives. We can read situations better and act accordingly. Rather than reacting, we can have choice. We can add to society in a healthy manner.
Whilst the increase of energy prices is awful for many families across the UK and the world, it shouldn’t surprise us that the price of energy is rising, in fact we should be expecting this. Energy companies aren’t philanthropists, it’s their job, their role to make a profit. Their role isn’t to give us good deals on energy or to ensure that we all keep warm and have enough electricity. They exist for one reason and one reason alone: to make money. Of course, when our lives are so dependent on this energy it affects us hugely, as does the rise in the price of food, the price in rent or mortgages and every other tax hike currently coming our way. But none of it should surprise any of us for if we truly understand the system we live in, then we can see this is exactly how it should be performing. In fact, we should be expecting this, it should be common knowledge and easily understood when we identify that we all live within a system based purely on profit by any means.
As the world falls deeper into the algorithmic way of life, nations caught under the hypnotic spell of the infinite scrolling of social network timelines, a perpetual somnambulance entrancing millions in the act of low brow voyeurism I find the importance of reading and the written word more valuable by the minute. This is not to say I’m advocating in a Jaron Lanier fashion a complete deletion of social networks, but I am advocating a different addiction, a healthier pastime, one of reading the written word, and by written word, I mean a book.
I have to be honest, before I went to Tenerife, I did hold a particular view of the island as being a tourist hell hole that served up English food, to English people who only spoke English and would never make the effort to speak any other nations language, but thankfully, as I found out this was only in the plastic Disneyworldesque cultural low points of the island know as Playa de las Americas and a few others where you can sunbathe on the fake imported sand from the Sahara and order your food in the ‘propa langwij’. If you so choose, you can have a completely English holiday in a completely foreign land. Ah what it is to experience the culture of others.
How powerful is your computer? There is a strong chance your answer to this question will be along the lines of: I have an Apple Macbook with the new M2 chip and an 8-core CPU or I have a PC with an Intel 12-core Core i7-1260P. But that isn’t what I am asking. The answer I am seeking is far more interesting, and possibly dangerous.
Solidarity and understanding are two major components to recreating a better society. As it stands, we are easily divided by many things, one of them being wages. This has been highlighted in the media response to the strikes by the RMT in the last week. And it worked. Given that the strikes aren’t even solely about wages, it’s clear that the ‘wage’ can be used as a divisive issue causing discontent among some of the population as they react with how little they earn in comparison to the 60k a train driver earns. Is it the train drivers’ fault, if true? Of course not. This is a corrosive issue across all our society. We should also be focusing on and questioning the wages of politicians which currently stand at £84,144 https://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/members/pay-mps/ and be happy that our contemporaries are making a good living.
Every week generally on a Tuesday night I treat my kids to a meal out. It’s a bit of time for us to spend together and chat about school, their digital existence, and life. I like to give them the choice of where we can chow down, but I draw the line at McDonalds. There’s something about the Golden Arches that doesn’t sit well with me: the unhealthy injection of sebaceous fat with every meal, the digital menus on huge screens to order your food that some have touched with their unwashed hands after defecating and the business model with their highly expendable work force, but most notably it’s the fucking disgusting and inedible food. When I do relent to them in moments of paterfamilias weakness and ‘treat’, isn’t that the oddest term for digesting anti-health fat fast food from any Ronald eatery staining the country, I try a fry and instantly realise why I never eat there. I don’t relish chips tasting like deep fried cardboard. And another reason is that I don’t eat meat, but that my friends is a whole other article.
And once again immigration in Britain is a Hot Potato, let’s just hope it’s a King Edward or a Maris Piper and not a Desiree or a Patata Naxou otherwise the gingham warriors will spontaneously combust with patriotic misinformed outrage.
Once upon time in the foggy corridors of politics Tony Blair was heard emphatically declaring: ‘Education. Education. Education.’ How long will it be until we hear Priti Patel in the same vein exclaim: ‘Immigration. Immigration. Immigration.’ Which she already is in all but words.
Nigel Farage must be popping champagne and celebrating tonight as he almost single-handedly has turned the Tories into a racist political party as they get ready to outsource 7 ‘illegal’ asylum seekers, yep 7! At the cost of £500,000 to Rwanda through their new legal people smuggling policy, that they’ve copied from Israel… where it essentially failed and led to them leaving via smuggling routes, heading to Europe via Libya. Remember Libya, yeah, we bombed the hell out of that country to the tune of £320 million under David Cameron’s government creating, you got it, refugees.
If you are currently a resident, an inhabitant of Great Britain, particularly England, there is a strong chance you are disgusted by the egregious self-interested hypocritical behaviour of our Prime Minister and particular members of the government, whilst simultaneously angered, worried and despairingly thinking about how you will manage the rising price of gas, electric, food and more. But all this shouldn’t really come as any surprise because it is exactly what should be expected from a system built purely on self-interest and competition. There are no places for ‘losers’, in a self-interested system there will always be winners and sufferers.
Whilst it is somewhat funny and perhaps reassuring to see and hear Boris Johnson being heckled and booed as he alights from his chauffeur driven Range Rover and then traverses the stairs into St. Pauls for the platinum jubilee event with his wife Carrie, following and preceding the adulation given to the royals, what really comes to mind rather than a form of minor rebellion on the publics part, is the performance of a pantomime. We all know how a pantomime works, it is a participatory form of theatre where the audience is encouraged to join in and partake in the show. Cheers for the heroes and boos for the baddies. Simple, but highly effective. Just watch the platinum jubilee ceremony at play.
Whenever there is a royal event, I always feel it’s an important time to question and reflect on the monarchy. Now let me just put this down in writing first that I actually have no problem with them as people, as individuals, well not all of them but that is another article altogether. The point I want to raise and make is about the unequal hierarchy that part of the population embraces so freely and people all over the world admire.
When it comes to training: running and cycling, I’m a morning person. Within 20 minutes of my eyes opening and after the performing of the perfunctory matutinal ablutions I’m out either running between 3-5 miles or cycling 15-20. Given that our lives are now unfortunately consumed and partially wasted in front of a multitude of screens I find it important to exercise. Losing weight is less of an interest to me than just getting out in the natural elements and… moving. I did try the gym once for a stint of about 4 months through a dark wet British winter (is there any other kind here in Blighty?), but it was short lived the moment the sun started to rise early, and so it was back outside for me. Plus, I couldn’t take witnessing men video themselves in their Lycra lifting weights anymore to post on the ‘gram. Let’s be honest who can? And furthermore, who ‘likes’ that?
It then went on to explain how “under the move, set to be unveiled in Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech that buildings left vacant for over a year would have to be entered into a ‘rental auction’”. Boris Johnson is quoted to have said that “boarded up premises were a blight on towns and cities and damaged local economies.” BBC.
What is love? This may seem like an odd question but let us be honest in understanding that it is something we all say every day and possibly at times without much thought. Not that we don’t mean it, but in a loving partnership, we know the other wants to hear it and when we part, or at moments appropriate, it is part of our lexicon and leaves our lips. But right now, I want to investigate what it means to love, what is love and how do we define it.
Imagine if an alien came down to the Earth. What a field day they would have.
I say ‘they’, as I don’t want to assume their gender. I mean it’s hard enough on this planet if you make a gender faux pas but imagine making a cosmic one! And anyway, what gender does an alien have with 6 titties, 8 testicles, 3 vaginas, 5 penises and 6 anuses? Don’t worry I’m sure Facebook with its 71 genders will add one in due time and we’ll be fine.
If there is one term in this cosmos of captions we now find ourselves encapsulated in that I truly biliously detest and everything it stands for, it is ‘brand loyalty’. Why anyone in their right mind would devote themselves to anything as dull and faceless as a ‘brand’ is truly beyond me. Have you not seen these clowns ‘branded’ head to foot with logos exhibiting their ‘brand loyalty’, under the incredibly false assumption that somehow, we should envy them or even worse be under the illusion that they have achieved something by simply going into a shop or online and paying for the ‘branded’ item? Wow what an achievement! It’s a pair of fucking shoes! It’s a garish gaudy handbag! It’s just a fucking car! I love to hear folk brag about how they think their ostentatious material products speak volumes about them. They have to, because they nothing to fucking say! It illustrates the legerdemain of marketing.
I had been trying and hoping to view the ‘Man and Beast’ exhibition by Francis Bacon for some time which was being held at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. One thing or another had acted as an obstruction and so with just 10 days left before its closure, I booked it for an early Sunday afternoon. I don’t venture much into London anymore. I was born and brought up there, spent many years between my 20s and 30s hustling in the metropolis and have seen it slowly morph meretriciously into a nothing more than a monstrous shopping mall with streets simply lined with gaudy corporate logos. But the one attraction it still has to offer is art with its huge galleries decorated with paintings by the masters.
My mind eludes me as to how and why I got the mental itch to travel to the Brecon Beacons and hike up Pen y Fan Mountain, but at some point, in the last 6 months I had become fascinated, enthralled, and obsessed. Possibly I was inspired by my brother’s whirlwind 24-hour escapade of climbing the 3 peaks starting with a long haul from Folkestone to Ben Nevis and then working his way back through the verdant valleys and umbilical express ways that join the United Kingdom to ascend the remaining 2. Or it may have been that my cousin Tam who is a resident of the welsh metropolitan city Cardiff, which in a motor is only a short jaunt away had mentioned and suggested it. Either way, I was hooked.
Film, movies, the cinema, the pictures, the silver screen, the flicks, the motion picture has played a dominant role in my life from a very early age, as I’m sure it has in many others. I don’t recall and I wouldn’t want to confabulate, but according to my father, he took me to the cinema in Leicester square circa July 1977 and introduced a 4-year-old version of me to George Lucas’s science fiction cinematic masterpiece, Star Wars. I’m by no means a fan anymore but I’m sure at such a young age the moving picture left an indelible mark on my highly impressionable still forming embryonic mind as I stared wide eyed in the darkness at the huge screen, the celluloid light bursting across the theatre illuminating the auditorium like a religious experience with projector above beaming the film over our heads to be reflected back on the audience with images dancing over us, as we all tucked into our popcorn and watched Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero with a thousand faces’… in space.
I currently live in a small coastal village by the name of Seabrook in Kent. It is sandwiched between Sandgate and Hythe, and if one is driving from the latter or the former to the other and happens to blink, they will never have known the village existed. This, in itself, gives you an idea of how geographically microscopic the village is.
I have a mirror in my hallway hanging on the wall adjacent to the bathroom door and one above the toilet. Unless I choose to wear clothes in bed, which I have no desire to do, when I take that hazy matutinal stroll to the toilet to empty my bladder I am faced with the body I was ‘blessed’ with, or more to the point, one that I ‘shaped’ over the years. The slightly rotund stomach, the adipose tissue clinging to the sides making ‘love handles’, the ubiquitous ‘Dad’ bod, that women apparently love. Let’s face it, I have my fair share of avoirdupois.
From as early as I can remember I have been a creative person. This I consider a blessing, a true benediction. To be constantly bursting and overflowing with ideas across different formats and genres, adrift and absent in the moment where time is of no consequence with thoughts parading in the background unattended is a state one could only wish to attain constantly. It’s a freedom, a release, a spiritual connection unblemished or untarnished and untangled from emotional thought and subjectivity.
As I ground a canvas coupled with music or the natural soundscape, as the brush is dipped into the paint and the mind/arm/hand move swiftly and symbiotically in tune leaving indelible strokes and marks, as my fingers dance across the keyboard so freely married with the mechanisms of my mind using the alphabet to digitally scribe and bring my thoughts to life, as I strum, bend and hammer the strings of my guitar to interpret my emotion, as the minds meet when I perform in front an audience… I am truly free.
The other night as I settled onto my settee for the evening, I picked up my fridge-cold can of Brewdog, their Elvis Juice flavour to be exact and took a good hefty hearty swig. This was the way to end a night, with our nations much loved ‘alcohol’, the permitted and accepted drug. I was acting out as the rebellious consumer chugging down on a Brewdog and living vicariously through their outrageous and offensive advertising as they ‘disrupt’ the alcohol market with expletives and engage, which I guess could be considered postmodern, in the act of mocking advertising itself. It is an interesting insight into the workings of a society where marketing that uses cussing and coarseness still resounds as an act of rebellion, you only have to look at the millions of people who were willing to pay to have the word FCUK across their chests. But yes, it still grabs the eye of the consumer, and particularly rankles as we work our way through this new age of purity. Does this say more about marketing or about us, the consumer?
For a moment picture the Earth floating through space, this lonely ball of rock placed with exactitude in our solar system, the perfect distance from the Sun for life to begin and flourish, this planet surrounded by other heavenly bodies, all spinning on their axis in what we have called the ‘Universe’. And as we start to move into our world through the clouds, we can begin to see the shapes of blue and green where the aquatic worlds float under the surface and mammals stretch across the land comprised of towns, cities, deserts, mountains, forests and jungles. And what seem like ants from a distance are human beings living within their social structures, their evolved environments, their religions, their economies, their quotidian affairs utilizing some of the most advanced technology enhancing their lives, like never before. We definitely are living in a world of wonder, creativity and leisure. With the touch of a finger, we can access a colossal amount of information that will undoubtably add interest and inform our lives incredibly.
There is a disturbing irony between how human consumption is destroying the Amazon rainforest through our need for vast amounts of resources including logging, agriculture, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction and dam-building while the other ‘Amazon’ known to us all too well for delivering consumeristic goods at the touch of a button is growing exponentially and taking over the world.
In the last 5 or so years it has been somewhat disturbing yet hilarious to watch flat earthers and their theory gain a little momentum. Let’s be honest who in their right mind seriously believes the Earth is flat? It is antithetical to anyone who views the world through the eyes of rationality. But wait! They may not be wholly wrong, for the world may not be flat, but neither is it round, because as of late, it actually feels fucking square.
As I talk to many people, read many posts on social networks and place my ear to the ground there is clearly an air of fear, rage, anger and despair. People are openly disgusted with the current status quo as they watch their lives get increasingly harder, the price of living climbing out of control and making ends meet a feat in itself as they move slowly through the years.
This against the backdrop of the FAANG corporations making trillions, their governments and associates doing as they please, breaking their own rules that they create for the population and setting new agendas with laws to increase and control through digital surveillance often leads one to think: ‘what can I do?’
It pains me to watch the domestication of the British public. And how obvious it was after the interview between Oprah and the ex-royals. No, I couldn’t watch it, why would you need or even want to? I say ‘need’ simply because you couldn’t not hear about it non-stop afterwards, and oh yes how we have!
There is an extremely interesting case of denial happening within the borders of Great Britain. Nationally we are amazingly good at blowing our own trumpets, looking down our noses at the ‘others’ across the seas and bathing in self-congratulatory for simply being ‘British’. If we were to listen to our own self-indulgent praise, we are angels, leaders of the world that have never put a foot wrong.
51 years ago, in 1970 Joni Mitchell wrote the melodic highly compelling song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ with the lyrics “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” to alert her listeners to the fact that “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone” which included various different things including trees, animals, her old man and of course paradise. Paradise, of course, comes in many different forms to many different people.
The other night as I lay awake at 3 in the morning, as does happen from time to time, the thought suddenly hit me, among many others, that in 13 years I will be 60. Fuck me 60! I have to admit I felt a twinge of fear, a spike of horror, a stab of insecurity.
Thankfully we now live in a time where collectively racist terms are no longer used by the majority and if they are, people are quick to point out their disgust and move to halt such behaviour. To say the N word or the P word just simply is no longer excusable or acceptable.
Every morning, in a Kantian fashion, I like to rise from bed and walk down to the beach. It’s a walk I generally do in solitude to allow myself 40 minutes or so to compose my thoughts, to allow the dust to settle as each thought fights for prominence and importance in my mind, and with a gentle act of selection I file each one into a somewhat ordered list to work through as the day moves along at its own pace all determined by its sequence of events.
There is a well-known phrase: Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.
But perhaps that should be: Never judge a man until you’ve seen his family killed, witnessed his country being bombed, travelled precariously thousands of miles to find safety and warmth, been vilified in the press and all across social media, then detained and treated like an animal for simply being one of ‘them’ in his shoes.
As we move through this period of COVID with the lengthy lockdowns I have sat in front of the TV more than I would be prepared to admit. I don’t have terrestrial television and refuse to pay for a licence, simply because I don’t use it enough or feel there is actually anything worth watching. I have 5 shelves of DVDs, mainly films you won’t find on Netflix or Now TV, possibly on Amazon, but you would have to pay the extra on top, which I feel is a bit much. These films I return to periodically, like a good novel, as they are such beautiful, in this case, cinematic experiences.
There is a strong difference between conforming and working towards the greater good. There is an even bigger difference between wearing a mask and being under the illusion your freedoms are being rescinded. In this age of individualism and with its dangerous pervasive sense of entitlement it is very easy to fall into a trap and misread what is happening.