When Ciara came to Brighton.

This morning we went for a walk along Brighton seafront just as Storm Ciara was starting to make her presence felt. As I write this, some hours later, Ms Ciara seems to be getting angrier and angrier with the good folk of Brighton. The rain is lashing our windows.

I, for one, am not going out again today!

Not a morning for sitting out and contemplating the horizon.
Normally, the pebbles are on the beach, not on the promenade.
The West Pier skeleton still stands.
Time to go home, I think!
One solitary tourist.
One solitary, and very wet tourist.

Actually, she wasn’t really alone. Her husband was standing a little further back from the water. I went to talk to him, but all he could say was that he was freezing as he waited for his wife to conclude her communing with the power of nature.

The awesome power of the sea.

Yes, but is it art?

Well, as far as I am concerned, it goes way beyond the realms of graffiti and can certainly qualify to be described as Wall Art. A few more examples from that ever-changing art gallery that is Backstreet Brighton.

Yes, Brighton, really.
Remember sunny days?
I’ll be back!
A carpentry shop.
… and next door!
It’s OK not to be OK.
A lot prettier than a concrete wall.
This, on the other hand…..
My brain hurts!
Come to Brighton. It’s a cool town!

When all else fails, go for a walk.

When you feel alienated from your own country, when you worry that your compatriots have elected a government of self-seeking charlatans that will take the country further to the right than it has ever been, when you actually ask yourself, for the first time in your life, whether there is any point in voting any more, what can you do?

I took my misery out of the house and went for a walk into town.

If you need cheering up, you could do worse than wander around some of the backstreets of Brighton and look at the wall art. If it doesn’t give you nightmares, it’ll certainly bring a smile to you face.

There’s a awful lot of talent in Brighton and a lot of it finds expression on the walls. Below is just a small sample of what is currently on offer.

If you were a burglar, creeping around at the dead of night, how scared would you be?
A lot to think about.
Inspired by the sixties, perhaps?
How do you do that?
Don’t look behind you , Martha.

Love the disdainful face.
Whatever this artist was on, I want some!
Nice one, Amy.

That’s a selection of the sights of backstreet Brighton. more to follow

This week's 'Week'

The Week is a magazine that tries to give you a digest of what’s happening in the world through newspaper articles and opinion pieces from a range of different countries.

This was this Week’s front page. It dropped onto my doormat this morning.

Interesting to note that the British flag is being carried down the path to the right. Watch this space!

How we got through Brexit night.

Farewell from a small island.

I don’t know what to write tonight. Britain will leave the EU at 11.00pm this evening, after 47 years of being a generally recalcitrant, often obstructive and never exactly enthusiastic member of the Union.

But at least we have been a member of a political and economic bloc that has given us some influence over the development of Europe at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.

Now we are out and I, for one, hate the idea. Everything that I have stood for in terms of getting closer relations with and better understanding of our European neighbours has been rejected by the British electorate and we will now return to our old ways of blaming the French and the Germans for all of our ills.

The world consists of a small number of big political and economic blocs who all organise their affairs in furtherance of their own interests.

A bit like Dick Whittington in the fairy tale, Britain is packing its belongings in a spotted handkerchief, tied to a stick over its shoulder, and is “Taking back Control,” as it leaves one of the biggest trading blocs, in order to seek its fortune in the big bad world outside.

It is somehow believing that it will be able cut better deals with other countries once it is free of the constraints of European thraldom.

America is, of course, eagerly waiting to offer the UK incredibly favourable terms, as part of its “Make America Great Again” strategy. I can see the flotillas of ships loaded with chlorinated chicken sailing east from New York, even as I type.

China, has already secured control of our 5G networks and is rapidly buying up much of our industry and will no doubt look forward to negotiating trade deals with Britain outside of the EU.

Oh, well. Maybe Australia and New Zealand will be nice to us.

And so we cut our mooring ropes and bob off into the Atlantic, as we keep our plucky British spirits up by telling ourselves that we are going to ‘Take back Control’.

I am very sad tonight. I had hoped for better.

This was the front page of The Guardian today. Says it all, really.

At least Father Christmas cares about the planet.

Yes, I know that on 25th December he zooms around the entire globe at astonishing speed, visiting the homes of all of the good children, who believe in him, and I accept that that, in itself must have a certain carbon footprint. He also delivers unimaginable quantities of totally indestructible and unnecessary plastic items, many of which turn out to be ‘single-use’ or close to it. However, in his defence, his sleigh is powered by reindeer and not fossil fuel, so his carbon footprint isn’t as bad as it might be.

There is also, of course, an environmental impact of eight healthy reindeer and one old man spending an entire day flying through the atmosphere, presumably having to attend to certain bodily needs from time to time, during what must be a very busy and stressful twenty four hours. But let us draw a veil over that.

And as if to reinforce the old man’s environmental credentials, my Christmas stocking this year only contained two things: tickets to a West-end production of “Sister Act,” with Whoopi Goldberg in the starring role and a small book, which, I am proud to say, I have now read. (Yes, I know it is nearly February and many people will have finished their Christmas stocking books by the end of Boxing Day, but I am not one of those people.)

There’s a famous poem by Allan Ahlberg that has always resonated with me. It’s called “Slow Reader”. It goes like this:

I – am – in – the – slow

read-ers – group – my – brother – is – in – the – foot

ball – team – my – sis-ter

is -a – ser – ver – my

litt-le – bro-ther – was

a – wise – man – in – the

in-fants – christ-mas – play

I – am – in – the – slow – read-ers – group – and

that – is – all – I – am – in – and

I – hate – it.

Anyway, I digress…

Now, I have done a number of impressive-sounding jobs during my somewhat chaotic, and sometimes downwardly-mobile career. I’ve been a Regional Co-ordinator, a Field Director, a Head of Department and a Head of Planning and Evaluation. But none of these can hold a candle to Will McCallum’s magnificent job title at Greenpeace. What wouldn’t I give to be able to say that I was “Head of Oceans?”

The book is a veritable mine of information about the world’s use of plastic and the impact that this is having on our environment. A few statistics that I came across in a newspaper today just serve to add extra weight to the seriousness of the situation.

Britain has five big supermarket chains providing the nation with most of its food. They all use plastic to bring their products to our tables. Much of this plastic is unnecessary from the point of view of food preservation, but does serve the supermarkets’ purposes in terms of presentation and encouraging up-selling . (Buying four lemons in a plastic net is easy. If you only need one lemon, you might have trouble. So you buy four and then, three weeks later you throw two of them away, because they have gone so hard, you can’t even get a knife into them.)

The following list shows the current plastic use, in tonnes per annum, of our main supermarkets:

Waitrose: 31,000 tonnes

Asda: 65,000 tonnes

Morrisons: 100,000 tonnes

Sainsburys: 120,000 tonnes

Tesco: 252,000 tonnes

That’s a grand total of 568,000 tonnes of plastic, every year! Can anyone even visualise what 568,000 tonnes of plastic looks like? Most of this waste is dumped into the environment, and that’s just for the UK! Only a fraction of it is ever recycled. And as we try to bury these mountains of plastic waste into landfill, or worse still, let them float away into our oceans, we rest assured in the knowledge that they will last for anything up to 500 years before they decompose!

That means that every washing-up liquid bottle, every toothbrush, every Coke bottle and every disposable nappy, that we have ever used, will still be around when we are long dead and gone. Our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will be able to organise archaeological digs on ancient landfill sites to find out what we were throwing away and polluting the planet with in the year 2020. They will probably still be able to read the sell-by dates on the plastic containers of cheese coleslaw!

What a testament that will be to our contribution to civilisation in the 20th and 21st centuries.

McCallum, Head of Oceans, – (don’t you just love it?) – calculates in his book that, unless there is a dramatic change in the way we use, and dispose of, plastic in our societies in the next few years, the weight of plastics in our oceans will be greater than the weight of fish by the year 2050. That’s in our children’s lifetime.

What on earth are we doing?

It's enough to make you weep!

Yesterday was another dark day for Britain and British politics as our apology of a Prime Minister signed the official Withdrawal Agreement pulling the UK out of the EU.

I live in hope that, just as he has lied, cheated and blustered his way to the position he now enjoys, maybe he will reveal at the last minute, in his usual jocular and joshing way, that the whole thing was just a hoax, a jolly jape, and that he was only joking when he signed the document. As I say, I live in hope but I am not holding my breath!

The only good thing to have come out of Brexit and the last three years of division, deceit and Conservative Party skulduggery is the fact that it has given the world a splendid new compound noun in German. (See below)

A total of 44 letters in one splendid, resounding word, literally meaning, “Exit contract ratification law draft.” Translated into proper English it would be the “Draft Legislation for Ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement.” All German nouns have genders. This one is masculine, ‘der Entwurf’. Make of that what you will.

You can’t have too many complicated German compound nouns, that’s what I always say.

When I was a teacher, one of my tricks for trying to maintain kids’ interest in learning German was to introduce them to my very favourite compound noun.

I am told that the word appeared in various official and highly confidential, military documents in the early years of the First World War, as new military technology was being developed in secret locations away from spying eyes.

The word was “Schuetzengrabenvernichtungsmaschine.”, a mere 34-letter word meaning, literally “a machine for destroying shooting ditches”, (or ‘trenches’, as they were known on the other side.)

The word itself did not have a long shelf-life, once the ‘destruction machines’ started to be deployed in the field of battle against the enemy.

Picture, if you will, the poor, beleaguered and terrified observer in his forward dug-out on the German front line, with his crackly radio or field telephone, trying to get a message back to his commanding officers that there were ‘hundertfuenfundzwanzig britische Schuetzengrabenvernichtungsmaschinen advancing across no-mans-land!’ By the time the message had been repeated a few times to make sure it was understood by the startled generals, the attack would have been over.

‘Panzer’ very quickly became the new name for the new invention!

Cut me some slack, will you? It's only one day!

Yes. I know that January has thirty one days and therefore anyone professing to do “Dry January” should be prepared to refrain from alcohol for the full thirty one days.

But this is no ordinary year. January 31st marks the day that the Brexit debacle comes to its ghastly, idiotic and shameful conclusion. Britain will cut its European anchors, and sail off into the Atlantic where it will probably be swallowed by the rapacious whale that is Trump’s America. All the lies, falsifications and spurious justifications that Boris Johnson has been spouting over the past three years have paid off for him and he is now unassailable as Prime Minister of a diminished UK.

I do not think I can get through Brexit Day without a drink. Indeed I intend to raise a glass in a final salute and farewell to the EU as we step away from our European neighbours and begin the madness of ‘going it alone’.

My argument is that several of the other months of the year only have thirty days, so if I promise to forswear alcohol for the first few days of February, then that should be ample compensation and I can still legitimately claim to have observed a Dry January.

Our efforts to limit our alcohol intake, at least for one month, are driven by fact that during these winter months, when the evening starts at a ridiculously early time, it becomes increasing difficult to resist the temptation of a glass of wine, or two, as the sky turns dark and the day ends at 4.00pm.

Resisting temptation, however, sometimes needs a little external encouragement and we decided we could use some extra help to ensure that we stick to our self-imposed resolution and stay on the path of virtue.

So this is the plan. We calculated what we would have normally spent on wine during the month of January, probably about £80. (Don’t judge us. We all have our guilty secrets!”)

We pledge that, if we can get through the whole of January without a drink, we would donate that sum to a local charity at the end of the month,.

If, on the other hand, we failed in our good and sober intentions, we would send that same amount of money as a donation to the British Conservative Party, the duplicitous clowns that brought us Brexit.

Believe me, we will not fail!

Happy New Year, world.

OK, I admit it! I’m a bad loser!

I hate the fact that my country has decided to turn its back on Europe and to elect an inward-looking, right-wing, privileged, Conservative Party that will now ensure that “Brexit happens”. I know I am supposed to accept that “the people have spoken” and that in some bizarre way democracy has triumphed. Apparently I am now supposed to fall in behind our new ‘unifying, healing’ government for the good of the country. Sorry, no!

I am not reconciled and I doubt I ever will be.

I fear for what this country will become over the next five years as we move inexorably towards the political right. This weekend we had an example of what we can expect as this grim government gets into its stride.

Extinction Rebellion is a phenomenon. It has drawn the attention of the world to the dangerous state of our environment as we drown in plastic, our ice-caps melt and Australia incinerates. According to XR, and based on a growing body of scientific evidence, if the countries of the world do not take radical action to reduce carbon emissions with the next ten to fifteen years, global warming will reach a tipping point and become unstoppable.

The effects of that will be catastrophic for the whole world and populations start to move en masse to avoid starvation. Look no further than the Jungle in Calais and the efforts of the Royal Navy to sail up and down the English Channel in search of inflatable boats, to see that this movement has already started.

XR are a bloody nuisance, it cannot be denied. When they stage a protest or a demonstration, they block the traffic and inconvenience a lot of people. They encourage school students to take the occasional day off school to march and show concern for the future of the planet. They practice civil ‘disobedience’.

They are, however, entirely non-violent. When I dropped in to an Extinction Rebellion information day on a Saturday at our local Sixth Form College, I found people sitting around talking earnestly about the climate, informing themselves about the issues and trying to raise money to support those already arrested for refusing to get up off the pavement. No-one was advocating violent resistance.

And yet yesterday it was revealed that the police have added the name of Extinction Rebellion to a list of terrorist organisations that includes National Action and Al-Muhajiroun.

Let us be clear.

National Action is a neo-Nazi organisation that idolises Adolf Hitler and all he stood for. That includes the indiscriminate slaughter of millions of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and political opponents and the subjugation and plundering of half of Europe.

Al-Muhajiroun is a radical group of extremists who pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and whose followers have carried out bloody murders on the streets of Britain in furtherance of their manic ideology.

Extinction Rebellion is a group of citizens, from countries all over the world, who think it is quite a good idea that the world does not destroy itself by the end of this century through its disregard for the environment in its search for ever-increasing consumerism.

And yet, last November, XR found itself included on a list with National Action and Al-Muhajiroun in a document issued by counter terrorist police in the south-east of England and marked “Official.” The document called upon all police officers, government organisations, including the NHS and teachers in schools, to report their concerns about anyone involved in any these organisations to the “Prevent” programme, which aims to identify and presumably neutralise, all those at risk of committing atrocities.

Teachers and others are told, for example, to look out for young people who “neglect to attend school” or “participate in planned school walkouts.” In particular they are told to look out for people who “speak in strong or emotive terms about environmental issues like climate change, ecology, species extinction, fracking, airport expansion or pollution“.

This last sentence warrants reading twice.

So counter-terrorist police now now planning to draw up lists of young people who inform themselves about climate change or pollution and who are angry that their futures are being threatened by governments’ reluctance to tackle these issues.

This document came out in November 2019. Priti Patel was appointed Home Secretary in July 2019.

Because one newspaper, the Guardian, has highlighted and made public the inclusion of XR alongside avowed terrorist organisations, the document itself is apparently going to be withdrawn and reviewed.

But the questions remain: “Why did the counter-terrorist police think it was appropriate to include climate change protesters in the list in the first place? Was the list checked with the Home Office or did the authors just have confidence that no-one in Mr Johnson’s government was going to bat an eye-lid at the inclusion? And given that the police now accept that it was inappropriate for XR to be included in the document, has anyone been disciplined for including them?”

What scares me is not that XR’s name appeared on an inappropriate document, which has now been withdrawn. What scares me is the climate of opinion that allowed the inclusion in the first place.

I’m still waiting for Priti Patel to appear on Radio 4’s Today programme to apologise on behalf of the police.

But wait, the Prime Minister has instructed his ministers to boycott the Today programme, because he considers that the programme was biased in its reporting of the General Election. This is part of a wider attack on the BBC for perceived left-wing bias.

Take care, The Guardian. You could be next.

I think we are living in increasingly dangerous times.

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