Author Archives

  • Brexit Breaks Britain. Chaos Predicted Till Christmas—Which Year Is Anybody’s Guess

    But where are we going…

    Like living in a Monty Python sketch that isn’t remotely funny, the UK has unleashed forces of chaos beyond anything it imagined would happen. If only the big foot would appear and stamp us back to sense.

    The United in United Kingdom was always slightly wishful, like calling an aggressive dog Serena. But it worked, and we burbled along, united more or less and without having to debate how we really felt about our nation every minute of the day. Scotland’s go at leaving two years ago petered out after the vote without grave consequence, despite continuing calls to rethink it.

    But this week here, and all across the islands, the united feeling is gone. Citizens voted in or out—as stark a difference as being male or female, or a bird or a bee. And while there are many shades, and points of view, and arguments to be made, one’s neighbour, friend, relative may in this regard be the total opposite.

    If it wasn’t for the chaos and crisis that now engulfs us like poisonous fog, reconciliation might be easier. But there is, as I write, no government leader on either side, nor is there any plan whatsoever for what to do now we’ve to cut ourselves from the mainland, though nearly half the populace didn’t vote for it, and many who did wish they hadn’t.

    The collective regret is enough to fill a small ocean, next to the Sea of Sadness on the Coast of Anger. How did we as a nation manage such a feat of stupidity?

  • Don’t Let Angels Fear To Tread

    Source: DS

    A disaster a day keeps the newsman in play. Can we reclaim our peace of mind by saying no to terror, by saying no to feeling terrorised? Will our world allow it?

    I was in Paris once, in a restaurant, when a bomb went off downstairs. It detonated in the ladies’ loo, from where my stepmum had just returned. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt. One woman went to hospital with an ear injury, and, according to the news report, two waiters too. This was in 1981. It wasn’t a big bomb, but still. Such things happened often enough in Western Europe then and we were strangely, sadly, used to them.

    “The first blast occurred shortly after midnight,” UPI News reported the next day, “in a lavatory in the basement of Fouquet’s restaurant on the Champs-Élysées. Two waiters were treated for minor cuts and bruises but damage was reported to be slight. Many customers at the restaurant were unaware of the incident.”

    That last bit isn’t true. No-one was unaware. It was a bomb-like noise with injuries and broken glass. But its impact was nevertheless small. We stayed seated at the table and finished our coffee. Maybe that was better than freaking out, or maybe it was because the attack seemed contained and past and we were tourists without homes to go to. The other tables left.

  • How to be confident

    How To Be Confident

    Happy New You, we should say, as a new year takes off. Away with token resolutions. Embrace the whole enchilada of a better self fizzing with action and positive steps.

    For many, number one is to be more confident. Stare our fears down. Make timidity cower and then take on the world, living fully and contentedly.

    Possibly the only people who say they don’t want to be more confident are those who are too much that way to start with, swaggering about on blinkered ego energy, sucking up fear but breathing out vanity and self-importance. We all know someone like that. Privately (or not) we may call them narcissists or bigheads or pompous #@&*!’s.

    Whatever carapace their heads are wrapped in, like unaware beetles they meet the challenges of life without feeling rejection and anxiety as keenly as others do, if they feel them at all.

    Maybe we don’t want to be like that—certainly for the arrogance or conceit—but we can envy a little how easy they make it seem. Ironically, making it seem easy is a clue to perhaps the simplest path to self-possession.

  • Do You Want The Good News Or The Bad News First?

    Daily we are enmired in a bog of dark news. Terrorism, climate change, refugees, Korea, Syria, Brexit, Trump, murders, rapes, robberies and crashes, on and on it goes. The world has become a run of endless near catastrophe. It’s a wonder we have the cheek to imagine a future at all, let alone have children or fall in love!

    The flow of terrors pouring in through our eyeballs and ears makes it easy to believe we’re all off to hell in a handbag. Yes, we may be wired to pay attention for danger lest that tiger be near or the rains don’t come, but we’ve become strangely addicted in the modern era to harking every grisly, thunderous sign.

    Curiously, in any case, the opposite is true: the world is in fact safer, richer, cleaner and healthier in general than it’s ever been in the history of humanity.

  • Something Toxic Brewing in the Teenage Brain

    Children playing traditional Chinese Instruments. Source: Bloom Expose

    With the extremes of the world getting crazier all the time, being a teenager is as hard as it ever was, and a lot scarier.

    Two 15 year-old schoolboys have been jailed for plotting to blow up the Houses of Parliament using ingredients for explosives they found online (including fuses and chemicals). They were considering other targets too – the usual: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Palace – but in the end it had to be the Houses of Parliament. A long tradition of Guy Fawkes night in this country makes it a historical favourite.

    No doubt in an effort to be trendy, the boys were going to make a beheading video too. Perhaps in some dormant part of their minds they thought it would help them get girlfriends, never mind all those willing virgins in the ever after.

  • keyboard voting

    Make Your Weekly Vote With a Click of the Mouse

    In or out Source: Ellen Photo

    Google knows what you like. Google knows what you need. Vote Google.

    Basically there won’t be any news out of Britain for the next three months, except endless guff and drilldowns about whether it should leave the European Union. The country decides once and for all on June 23 in a referendum. Until then, prepare for a giant posture-fest of politicos and opinioneers sifting and mulling and mooting and expending billions of words in an exercise of democracy so unpredictable there should be a giant Undo button installed in Parliament Square just in case.

    More than anything, it’s a good chance to find out more about what membership actually involves, costs, and offers to the UK, and to gauge how fantastic we could be in the world without Europe telling us what to do all the time. To be fair, we’ve never been that enthusiastic about the whole project, but we have given it a good go.

  • Life in Super Spandex

    Real Superheroes Take the Train. Source: Humber Cin

    Superheroes are walking planet Earth, and not just little people. Dressing up expands identity, say fans, and it’s a budding movement, all ages welcome. But can a new elastic me match the hype? To the bat-cave!

    I know plenty of kids, as I’m sure you do too, who like nothing more of a morning than to kit up in their superhero costumes and head off to save the world. A mask, some latex, a plastic weapon perhaps tucked away just in case, and the world is turned into a wonderland. Call it dressing up and pretending, but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s much more. Unlike life in civvies, it’s the chance to feel what it’s like to make a difference.

    What began in US comic stories in the 1930s is now in nearly every child’s bedroom, video stream, lunchbox, dressing gown, and imagination. The same characters, the same stories. The reach of American fiction has come full circle. Comics on one side, Hollywood on the other, merchandising all around.

  • What, No Visa? Europe’s Migrant Crisis

    Young Syrian refugee on Greek island of Kos

    Young Syrian refugee on the Greek island of Kos. Source: HOS Photomedia

    Like King Canute sat on his chair on the surf, Europe’s politicos are helpless before the ever-rising influx of refugees washing up on beaches, hiding in car engines, doing anything and everything to get here.

    All year, Europe has been agonising about what to do with the migrants flooding over, nay, desperately crawling in by hook or crook. Each country takes it personally, too, hypersensitive to how their contributions or attractiveness compares to other countries. They want to come to Britain! Of course, they do. It’s so lovely. But it’s ours. They can’t. They can go to Germany, or Sweden. Why don’t they go back home. Let’s make it safe for them at home. Then they won’t want to come here in the first place. But we can’t make it safe at home. Look what happened last time we tried to fix up someone else’s problems, Iraq and all that. Libya! Nooo!

    For most people here, east of Europe is now seen as a moving maze of upheaval. A mess far beyond the clearing-up capabilities we pride ourselves on. Wasn’t Syria the enemy? Now we have to help them? What are the Russians doing anyway? What is Isis’ problem?! Add all the countries, one by one, in to the mix – Israel, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, and so on – and the result is a stew that few can make out.

    Yet screens everywhere offer the latest detail. The over-analysis can lead to a focus on trivia, or a numbing to the scale and immediacy of what is happening. But the misery is real and staring us in the face.

    And nobody knows what to do.

  • British Roos Loose in the Top Paddock

    British wallabies living wild on the moors

    It took fifteen police officers to catch Wesley the wallaby last week, the latest Antipodean visitor to go walkabout without anybody realising.

    They had to use a tranquiliser dart to down the little fella. “We detained the wallaby without the use of handcuffs,” said proud Inspector Richard Mallinson of the Yorkshire Police.

    Wallabies are creatures of discernment. Only beauty spots will do. They like the Lake District. They love Loch Lomond in Scotland, where several colonies live, and the West Country. How they got there, nobody knows.

    England accommodates a wide range of exotic animals. Alongside the meek indigenous wildlife, badgers and squirrels and sheep and so on, nowadays there are regular sightings of panthers and other big cats and powerful snakes, all somehow eking out a life on the sly.

    Great flocks of gorgeous, glamorous green parakeets flit among English trees, a sudden tropical flourish when they appear in an otherwise ordinary day. Thought to be descendants of a pair of escapees from a century ago or more, they now number up to 100,000. (Some maintain they’re from a flock that escaped the set of The African Queen, with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, filmed at Shepperton Studios in 1951. Parakeets rarely move far from where they are born, and the greatest numbers of them are still found in Surrey, near the studios.)

  • Who Wants To Be A Billionaire?

    Cocky Prince Al-Waleed and his comely nemesis, Middle East fixer Daad Sharab

    Bad hair, face in all the papers, everybody wants something. Your partners are only after one thing and you still have to obey the law. The nation that invented fairness and cricket (and irony) is having a tough time accommodating the world’s grumpiest billionaires and keeping them in line.

    A penthouse unit in Knightsbridge, central London sold this week for 140 million pounds. That’s $270 million – over a quarter of a billion bucks! For an apartment. With a few windows on the top floor and a lot of traffic outside. It’s still a shell too, no walls or flooring or anything. Fitting it out is extra, and will push the price to an expected $300 million or so.

    That is one brave “eastern European buyer”, as the mysterious new owner is known. What if they don’t like how it turns out? They’ll want to move. And they can’t. They’re already in the most expensive property – which surely is one of their purchasing criteria.

    There is, at least, a hot tub on the terrace to chill out in if tempers flare. Somewhere a testy oligarch can contemplate the stars and his place in the scheme of things, a place to feel exalted again. Or, if of a more reflective turn of mind, to fantasise about being a commoner perhaps, down below heating up leftovers, or whatever commoners do, and having commoner fears and troubles. Then maybe letting up a bubble or two into the still night air, to celebrate their shared physical nature