Love and War in the Apennines. And you.

The above extract is from Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby. It describes experiences as a POW after WWII. I idly picked it up, having bumped into the pile in which it was living, and re-read it. As you do.

I was reminded by the extract above of all the people like them that I have known, and their clones that now inhabit our government. I could never understand the apparent public charm of Johnson, people actually seemed to like him, inexplicably. I have known too many people like him back in the day to be suckered; some of whom I liked, some I suppose I might have thought myself in love with, some, most, I despised . They have always drifted towards some sort of leadership regardless of their lack of talent and ambition – the only ambition I ever saw in that cohort was self driven acquisitive ego based usually cruel ambition, such as Johnsons somewhat pathetic need to be PM and the cocks on the table struggle between him and Cameron for supremacy. And reliably enough they generally messed it up and someone with actual skill had to mop them up, usually someone from the “lower orders” or outside of that stable who had been there, done that, and understood the territory. And of course those saviours were derided for their humility and their heritage. The absolute lack of self reflection, the entire entitlement, of those men – it was almost always men – was breathtaking. The women in that stable were, generally, after a husband and saw no problem with ignoring the braying feckless self interest if it brought with it social standing and money, and the education they enjoyed was a means to that end. A generalisation, true, but no less accurate for that. The women who were not in that mould were terrific company and despised the men as much as I did. Happy days.

Those men, a la Johnson, knew no boundaries when it came to their satisfactions; they lied, cheated, networked with the most appalling people some of whom were de facto terrorists or tyrants, made pacts with anyone who “mattered” regardless of integrity. They used people without shame, as shame was not a characteristic on their radar. Why would it be? They could bribe, blackmail, intimidate or simply pay away any barriers or troublesome truths. People of no use to them were non-people.

I said I knew them “back in the day” because mercifully I escaped that demographic, it was a temporary madness. I got myself back, not intact, but salvageable. The struggle to compete, align, keep up, was gone, and I returned to human form. But I had learned more than I would ever find in an education or a social group, I learned what matters. It didn’t all leave me, I still sometimes had to be careful in everyday life not to confuse charm with veracity, but over time and with more experience that also dropped away. And then of course I worked with some charming and deadly men, prisons, mental health, other interesting groups, and recognised where charm leads, or should lead. Habitually, these days, I am by default mistrusting of charm, which has been a healthy state of mind.

We are a nation being groomed by those charming charmless men, by their chums, by their paymasters and handlers. They have sold themselves to the highest bidder and got themselves in hock with the devil because why not, and they will take us with them if we are not careful, militant, and aware. It is already almost too late. People, humans, need to allow themselves to see what matters, to see what doesn’t matter, and to shuck off the shackles of the servitude that those worthless people assume as their due. We are worth better. You are worth better. Charm belongs on a bracelet, not in public life where it deceives and destroys.

And I thoroughly recommend Eric Newbys Love and War in the Apennines. I am happy that I fell over it again…

Optimism? That’s Life!

I was putting my many and glorious pills into my dosset boxes this morning and it occurred to me how optimistic that made me. I put over a weeks supply out so they are easy to remember and locate – assuming, therefore, that I will still be around to take them. Why else would I do it? We all do things like that – we go to bed at night planning the next day, we do our weekly shop with the next few days in mind, plant herbs for our meals expecting to be here to eat them, arrange coffee dates, apply for jobs, have babies, plan the sale of the house and dream of where we will end up (ok that’s my current daydream), have pets, start reading a book. We assume we will be here to complete those actions. Unless we have reason to doubt.

People, humans like you and I, are suffering extreme and illegal sadism from Russia, in Ukraine. Those remaining there have little idea how long they will be around or how they will survive. When a friend of mine had a terminal diagnosis her world tipped over and she had different plans to make, seeing it from a fresh viewpoint. And yet. We still make plans: we plan breakfast and make sure we have enough milk and bread, walk the dog, cook dinner for our friends and family, clean the loo, put the hoover round, go to bed, do homework with the kids and grandkids. We smile. We love. And we even sometimes laugh.

Our optimism, sometimes against the odds, is what makes life bearable, even as we gather proof of its cruelty. I see this time and again in the many people I have had the privilege of working alongside in the Beyond Profit sector. Parents of children with disabilities who joined forces against enormous odds with often almost entire professions and sometimes eminent people telling them it was useless and a waste of time, to create new, revolutionary ways to support their children and in doing so made a new world for themselves and for people after them. Stephen Sutton, a young man who changed course, withdrew his application to uni when given a terminal diagnosis and campaigned to raise awareness and money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and whose smile lit up the room. Ben Parkinson the most severely wounded soldier to survive the war in Afghanistan – where my son in law also served. He campaigned and still does and his experience and campaigning forced the MoD to increase compensation to wounded veterans, and he has raised money, defied expectations, has carried the Olympic flame through his home town and has published a book. Extraordinary people and there are many of them all around us – and that optimism, the almost unconscious recognition that life goes on, is what gets us out of bed in the morning and creates more and more interesting extraordinary people.

Some of the most extraordinary people I know are also the most ordinary. In the same way that, for many people who are marginalised or disadvantaged, an ordinary life is a meaningful aspiration, the ordinary extraordinary people I have met have only ever wanted their ordinariness but things turned out in unexpected ways and their optimism and extraordinariness was forced into the open. That extraordinariness is inside us all and some just need that circumstance to light the fire. I know that there is fabulousness in all of us, and I also know that sometimes you have to dig a little to find it. But it is worth it.

Onward and Upward, chums. Onward and Upward.

At what stage will this challenge get dealt with?


Back in April last year Johnny Mercer is claimed to have told the Conservative Chief Whip that he intended to resign and he was dismissed by Boris Johnson. His comment which appears here was collected by a series of newspapers. Late yesterday a chap called Jeff Stone @JeffSto40037019 published this image with his statement “This speaks for itself. Please retweet so the whole world can see what this government is really like.” and a friend of mine Bernie Mayall @MayallMMent retweeted it with the statement “One of the good guys.” which I certainly agree her with. The fact is that along with Johnny Mercer another 147 Conservative MPs voted for Boris Johnson to be removed as the leader of their Political Party on the 6th June and then as I wrote here back on the 24th June, that along with these 148 Conservative MPs at least one other Conservative person…

View original post 292 more words

Decisions to make? Make soup.

There are many very good pieces, courses, posts about how to make decisions, especially personal decisions. Make decision trees, think about goals and values, keep a diary, write down the pros and cons….many great ideas. Here is mine. Make soup after a walk.

Those thoughts rummaging around in the dark bits of the back of your head need to be unfolded and examined before folding them properly and putting them on the right shelves nearer the front. Leave the house, wander around and stumble across a path you hadn’t noticed before that cuts behind the castle and passes some sheep, a heron and some lovely hedgerows. Or for the more urban of you, a path that climbs up past that estate and takes you to the old school buildings and the park where there are herbs growing wild and unexpectedly in between the planned and planted trees and hydrangeas.

Let your legs do the thinking, pacing through unknown points of light and striding away from doubts and those niggly hesitancies and feelings of responsibility that cloud over, rain on and obscure the path . Don’t slip! Stride carefully, avoid those muddy puddles, emerge into the sunshine where the path is clean, the earth smells good, and the way forward is more visible. There are still overhanging branches and a few potholes but away ahead, if you squint a bit, you can see the horizon.

Go home. Choose your best pot. Select your vegetables. Admire the assortment on the bench in front of you. Smell them, consider a spice, wash your produce. And then CHOP! Dice, chop, dice some more, watch the veg become something else, little pieces of deliciousness and health, notice how those big old pieces of grubby veg are turning into nuggets of delight. Pile them into the bowl, feel the satisfaction of a job well done.

Steam your stock with your herbs, the scent will uplift you. Breathe it in. Stir your lovely vegetables into the butter and olive oil, watch as they start to shine, listen to the crackle as they fry, revel in the scent of nourishment. You only have to add the stock and seasonings and sit back. And magically, while you are doing this, those untidy unfolded thoughts that had started to behave themselves while you were out straighten out and tidy up. Stir…that’s one tatty idea put to bed. Taste…there goes another. Add onion salt…another thought sits up and straightens his tie. All these ideas, thoughts, feelings, turmoils, promises coagulate under that old fella Integrity and alongside the slightly less glamorous but equally important and beautiful The Right Thing and take a shape that you will recognise. Then along comes your best friend Imagination to wrap around the package and hold it all together so you can fold it, smooth it, cuddle it and put it on the right shelf where it is accessible, visible and righteous.

And boom. Your legs, the vegetables, the herbs, the chopping and stirring have marshalled all those fragments of ideas and thoughts into entire whole living organic outcomes. Plus, you have delicious soup. What’s not to like?

And now I am off to eat my mildly spiced celery, red onion and spinach soup. Bon appetit.

Enniscorthy remembers Bloody Sunday

By Dan Walsh at Enniscorthy

A minute’s silence was observed and the names of fourteen civilians shot dead during acivil rights rally in Derry fifty years ago were read aloud and remembered in Market Square, Enniscorthy, today.

Johnny Mythen T.D. told that the Bloody Sunday 50th Anniversary remembrance event in Enniscorthy was organised by Sinn Féin, but it was non-political and open to everybody.

It was a dignified ceremony with Deputy Mythen reading the names of the victims, a minute’s silence was observed, Deirdre Barker and Marie Doyle read appropriate poems and the occasion concluded with Ger Sheehan singing ‘The Town I Loved So Well’.

Thirteen civilians were shot dead when British soldiers of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on people who had been attending a civil rights rally in Derry city on 30 January 1972.

They were Patrick ‘Paddy’ Doherty, Gerald Donaghey, John ‘Jackie’ Duddy, Hugh…

View original post 55 more words

%d bloggers like this: