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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Blog 61. Rev. Paul Flowers – My Saviour!

I mean really. It was beginning to feel like some sort of reverse prejudice.

Catholic priests were raping children with the knowledge and collusion of those in power – I mean forever amen. The Church of England is positively glorying in its misogyny and homophobia. Henry VIII must be feeling a little pathetic. Back in the 16th century all he managed was to chop off a few spousal bonces. Let’s face it, by the standards of the time and for a typical megalomaniac chauvinist, vain, possibly psychotic bloke of the period – nowt to write home about.
The Mormons got polygamy and The Osmonds. Like most of Britain the Jehovas have me cowering below my letter box on many an evening. And so on.
Back in the day, I attended a Seventh Day Adventist church with my great grandmother (see Shirley Temple Jesus but was then sent to Methodist Sunday school and have stuck with it ever since – even teaching Sunday school myself for 7 years. Instead of going for the day like I used to when I attended the black church in Birmingham, I slog it out for an hour – job done. And like the white folk, if it feels as if the minister of the morning has forgotten that there is lunch to be got and uncomfortable clothes to get out of, I get fidgety.
In the past I’ve even worried that being mixed race I could find myself in some sort of cosmic debt when the big day comes. Black folk go to church for the day, white folk for an hour (if they feel like it and there are no sales on) but maybe as a mixed race person I should be putting in a whole morning rather than a pathetic 60 minutes. It is something that could be more of a problem than it first appears. As the non-drinking, non-gambling etc kind of Methodist let’s face it I could be here a while. When I finally pop my clogs – perhaps after friends who live more adventurous lives – I sure don’t want to be sent back because I’m heavily in debt for church attendance. Hmm something to consider.
But God bless Paul Flowers. In order to get the Methodists up to scratch he’s been on some sort of deadly sin binge. I mean did he miss any out? Really we should look for some bodies because he’s done such a fab job with other sins. Whilst being gay is not a sin – despite what the Caths would have us believe (don’t they know it was only introduced as a sin in the 13th century after a bit of advice to the then pope by your man Thomas Aquinas?) but being a big fat hypocrite must be there and if not I nominate it as a newy.
On a more worrying note – I was scanning some headlines last week and was struck horribly by the coincidence of the Door to Hell that exists in Turkmenistan. Geologists would have us believe that those knackers who are so intent on smashing the planet to smithereens before we have finished with it (the fossil fuel maniacs) caused the crater when they were trying to drill for oil and set light to the escaping gases to ‘burn them off’ That was 40 years ago. The burning desert crater is actually called the Door to Hell and it sure looks like it. BUT did anyone stop to think? Did anyone pause and put two and two together and realise - THAT was when Revd Flowers began his Methodist ministry????????????????? I mean for heavens’ sake. Good Lord. Clearly he is YOU KNOW WHO.
The best thing we could do is to chuck him back down the crater along with the paedo priests and misogynists, racists, bullies, war mongers and homophobes, the general bigots (plus Tony Blair and George Bush) and fill the bloody thing in.
(apologies for any confusion - this week's cartoon uploaded in 'view my profile' actually relates to blog 52 - I offer no explanation)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Blog 60. Giving v. Giving Up

Should climate change deniers be treated like holocaust deniers?

Unnaturally extreme Natural devastation in the Philippines has, quite rightly, led to the usual outpouring of sympathy. It will be short-term as it always is. Media focus will move onto more important things soon enough – a celebrity with a new shade of nail varnish. But the immediate givingness is impressive and speaks well of human instinct. What seems almost impossible to achieve is the giving up. Giving up the endless shopping for crap, the  one-person car journeys, the unnecessary short car trips, the overheated house (though that one may be coming to an end – see last week’s blog), the wasting of food, the chucking of chemicals down the sink and toilet, the pollution of the atmosphere by industry feeding our need for cheap products and so on ad infinitum.
The hurricane that decimated much of the Philippine archipelagos was the fastest EVER to make landfall. The usual split between rich survivors and poor victims was not as marked because even the properties of the wealthier inhabitants did not totally withstand the onslaught.
News groups were on the ground almost as fast as the tornado, asking the bereaved and injured ‘how do you feel’ (for heaven’s sake) and launching in with the criticism of aid agencies and governments. The fact is there is no way you can legislate against a hurricane and there is no preparedness for destruction on this scale. My local council can’t keep dog shit off the pavements (or cars) lord knows how they would cope if my house were obliterated by a typhoon. News reports have followed like lightening with disapproval of government corruption and mismanagement, which of course in this civilised democracy we’d know nothing about (unless of course you are thinking of the police / politicians / journalists / banks / planning authorities...).
It is our fault. We are ruining the planet, and not just in ways that result in dramatic headline-grabbing destruction. In many ways that are ongoing and possibly irreversible.
This week ecologists tried to make a headline out of the increasing acidity of the world’s oceans. Crustaceans are unable to form shells, fish are malformed and unable to breed, coral reefs dissolving. Never mind what is going on above sea level – if the oceans are knackered – we are all doomed. The ice caps, vital for global environmental stability are being melting and the forests, vital for the air we breathe, are being hacked away year by year.
I propose that climate change deniers should inhabit the same category as holocaust deniers. Hitler carried out mass slaughter in Europe. Climate change is fundamentally the fault of developed nations and unfairly impacts on poor ones and is killing the entire planet prematurely.
While we are being distracted by rich babies and their dim parents and celebrity break ups and who said what to whom in the media, the planet is groaning. Mother Nature is crippled and screaming for help but going unheard, like the victims of Bhopal (there will be a blog on that).
One thing I did not expand on in last week’s rant about the energy companies was the smoke screen debate about the green levy. AS we know the big 6 energy companies tried to blame the governments’ green levy for their price hikes. The lily-livered government seems to be kowtowing to the tantrum thrown by the energy companies’ share holders, and is going to backslide on even this pathetic fig leaf of a policy.
Meanwhile, before typhoid has even set in, the BBC is debating the question of aid to disaster-struck and poor countries when ‘we’ are suffering austerity. Well some of us are (see blogs 16, 18, 24, 35, 49).
Frankly when I heard that The Moral Maze (let no catastrophe go to waste with the national 6th form debating society) was to question whether disaster prone foreigners should get our tax money I thought they must be referring to HRH Phil the Greek. Sadly, no.
This won’t go away. And you know what? Being less manic in our consumption wouldn’t only benefit poor countries it would do wonders for the physical and mental health of people in the West; improving our waste lines would improve our waist lines as the saying goes.
Thanks for all the funky comments about the cartoons. There are two to accompany this week’s blog post – got o ‘view my profile’ Thanks.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Blog 59. £hafted by npower – incompetently

This week I am fed up and worn out, sapped of energy you might say, with trying to get some sense or even just a response out of my energy supplier.

Saturday morning saw me trying – yet again – to ring them using the precious free minutes on my mobile. Even at 8.05 (their lines open at 8) there was a 37 minute wait to get through. Thus had it been all week.

In September I was informed that my monthly energy bill would rise by just under 1/3 despite the fact that my usage has not risen significantly. I complained. A letter arrived stating that my monthly bill would not go up by that staggering amount and that a little of the credit that they hold to ransom (and cream off interest – times however many million customers) would be refunded. Wohooo!

On further reading I noticed that the letter was addressed not just to me but to someone called Mrs Tims (hello whoever you are). I tried to ring; I did e-mail but answer came there none. I could not find out whether the contents of the letter were for me or the mysterious Mrs Tims.

In any event the monthly payments did increase dramatically – along with yours I’m sure – and they held even more of my monies on credit now than they did then.

In response to the sever hurt that people are feeling at massively above inflation increases in their energy bills along with the introduction of standing charges, investors are having tantrums and threatening to pull out, WHICH IS WHY UTILITIES WHICH USED TO BELONG TO THE NATION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN FLOGGED TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR.

On Saturday I trekked to the library, registered my account online so that I could message npower (nine times) to say I no longer wished to pay by direct debit and that I wanted all my credit returned. Really it’s a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning – you should try it. AMAZINGLY they were suddenly able to spring into action. I arrived home on Monday to find the doors of my external meter boxes hanging open. Either npower had been able abruptly, in the light of the new arrangement where I might owe them money, to galvanize themselves and had done an emergency meter reading or people round my way like to peak at their neighbours’ meters.

This week’s ‘cross cartoon’ is a little raw I admit. I have put this (with some of the others) in the photo section (because I haven’t worked out how to put pics in the main body of the blog (see I suffer from PANTS blog 53) You can access it by clicking on the orange ‘Amanda Baker’ next to my blog pic at the top of the right hand column of this blog or the ‘view my profile’ at the bottom and go to photos.

There just seems to be so much to be cross about. If it’s not eye-wateringly rich people not paying tax, its corruption in institutions that we need to be able to trust. Our youngsters are blighted by student debt; workers are struggling on poverty wages or reapplying for their own jobs only to find reduced terms of service and eroded salaries. You can almost sense the get-up-and-go leeching out of people – the life force being worn away. I mean if you care and are aware.

The knack of the rich to sense when the poor have had about enough and need to be thrown a bone seemed to me to be what kept British society from real rebellion. In modern times it has been the tax system that has made Capitalism just about acceptable with, more recently, rampant consumerism and T.V. to keep the proletariat tame. But things are badly out of kilter now. You wouldn’t know it to listen to the news which is  an ongoing self obsessed chatter about one section of the elite bickering with another – but we must be close to a perfect storm of discontent. Maybe the only thing keeping Britain from mutiny is that we can’t afford to put the heating on and we’re too bloody cold. (But then that didn’t stop Russia!)

This week’s cross cartoon is not for the faint hearted. But for anyone paying energy bills, who – like me – will have to wear outdoor clothes indoors to get through this winter – you may find it cathartic!


Tuesday, 5 November 2013


In our house the ‘C’ word is usually banned until December. But concentrated Chri£tma$ craziness didn’t used to begin until after bonfire night. Sometime around 2000 the whole thing got shunted forward to the first week of the autumn term. This year,  Chri£tma$ card displays in my local charity shop went up before the summer holidays.

For some folk it’s a 12 month slog. The spending hangover is no sooner over than ‘saving’ for the next bout of psychotic shop splurging kicks in.

Some folk will, this year, be paying for their winter binge with Pay Day Loans. What PDLs tell us is that people are already struggling and possibly out of control of their finances. It is unclear just how families can sit and eat a turkey or mince pie knowing that by the time they have finished chewing, their debt may have quadrupled. Such is the modern madness and it will. Many of these unsecured loans can be got in less time than it takes to make a sandwich.

It used to be said to dieters,

‘A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips’

Where PDLs are concerned maybe a better saying could be,

A click of the mouse, you lose your house’

Should they even be called loans? Isn’t it actually a kind of inverted mugging? These lenders make The Merchant of Venice’s Shylock look like a benign and kindly uncle. The clients (victims?) would probably feel they had got off lightly if all that was required of them at the end of the loan period was a pound of flesh. In many cases it is everything that holds life together, home, relationships, family, dignity.

And yet this is all being done in the name of celebration / having a good time. Whose good time? The good time as advertised by the myriad department stores that would have us think that our children will love us more if we get that toy / game / designer outfit. And that’s before you start on that sofa/ carpet / kitchen you must have 'fitted in time for Chri£tma$'

Not wishing to sound like the world’s granny, but as a very little child what I can recall about Christmas is feeling so excited that I could not sleep and when I was a wake I felt sick. Partly this was because Christmas was defined and separate from the rest of the year by its time limited excess. The celebrations were punctuated by (tipsy) visiting – (see blog 22 Drink Driving with y Dad) - and Christmas parties where we were allowed to eat all sorts of things that were not allowed the rest of the year. But in a country where Chri£tma$ begins in earnest in July and commercial excess is a 12 month orgy – how can we delineate and take pleasure in a special time – even for those not religiously minded who just wish to enjoy the winter holiday? I suggest it’s becoming impossible.

The truth is that the festival has taken on a dark aspect – not just because it has been layered onto the Winter Solstice but increasingly it is a time of relationship stress, money worries, mental and physical ill health.

One small antidote may lie in another literary character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Not just as his redemption is now forever associated with the 25th December but because of an episode that I offer up for the benefit of anyone who may wish to take advantage. I call it my Scrooge letter.

At the turn of the century I found that not only had the shops dragged Chri£tma$ back from December to October but I had to start chipping away at an ever increasing  to-buy-for list ever earlier. Often scouring stores for gifts for the multiple children of friends I hardly saw. I was also aware that other people were doing that for my brood. In a fit of end-of-century inspiration I drafted a letter that I hoped would be received in the spirit in which it was written. Though I do not have a copy, the basic idea was that anyone who bought for me and mine was to consider themselves off the hook and I would be wriggling of any similar hooks that I found myself painfully speared by. All bets were off. All shopping, other than for immediate family, was off and even then significant presents only for the children. I waited with baited breath for the responses and reactions. With all but two exceptions the effect was upbeat. In some cases it was rapturous, relieved, back-slappingly positive. Only two seemed to take affront. One I no longer see and the other was, this year, still manfully sticking to her determination to get Chri£tma$ gifts out - in February!

Each year, at about this time, I still cannot believe my luck. I note it especially if I am unfortunate enough to have to venture into the city where I am pummelled by hurrying hordes of the stressed and the miserable struggling with bags full of STUFF that they may never fully pay for (at least not with money). Like glum gladiators outnumbered by ravenous commercial lions they stoically seem to say,

We who are about to buy salute you’

 I shudder and heave a hug inner sigh of relief. I can’t say I ever mustered enough dishonesty to feel guilty; the sense of release was too great.

For an increasing number of desperate consumers, the First Footers of 2014 may well be bailiffs.


BGOTR ‘cross’ Chri£tma$ cartoon cards & political post cards will be on sale at the ncle Love Libraries event (see What I am Up To in right hand column)