Thursday, May 11, 2017

I watched a pigeon die.

Having a cup of tea after having a swim (even though it is to my onw special brew requirements) is hardly the most exciting thing to do, and yet simply sitting, sipping and looking have provided me with an amazing amount of raw material for use in my poetry.
     When I first went to Turkey I was armed with a sketch book.  I do not, for a moment, pretend to possess any technical artistic ability, but I doggedly sat and drew some sort of picture for every day of my three week stay.  I would love to be able to report that by the end of my time there I was producing fluent, artistic and compelling work, but I wasnt.  My drawings were just as pedestrian at the end of my holiday as they were at the beginning - but I had looked, and I mean LOOKED at things.  Sitting down in front of a mosque, monument, landscape, bottle of after sun (don't ask) or a knife and fork (when I almost forgot to do the daily drawing) made me appreciate the detail of what we usually only glance at.  It was a valuable lesson and one that I apply today.
     I know that as I take my accostomed seat and have my usual cup of tea something will be new and different from what I have seen before.  I look and, if I concentrate I see.
     To be fair, it doesn't take a highly developed form of perception to realize that with a title like "I watched a pigeon die" there is visual material that should be obvious.
     The dramatic nature of the incident also posed its own questions about guilt.  The title was anticipatory and also accusatory - though I am not sure what I could have really done about it.  I felt that I was in a sort of Christopher Isherwood mode, when he wrote "I am a camera" recording rather than acting, my writing in my little yellow notebook gives me a distance which allows inaction.  If you see what I mean.
     As you will see from the poem, there is a sort of twist.
     This was a satsifying poem to write.  Though it didn't 'write itself' the strength of the opening line encouraged a direction that guided the production.

I watched a pigeon die.

It limped, theatrical, goitered left leg,
into the sun.  Once found,
it folded, wearily, into itself,
looking, oddly, as though about to lay.
Its head, sleek in the light,
made jerky quarter turns until
it too sank in the feathered heap.

A public path was this bird’s grave:
its headstone was an open gate.

Approaching feet -
                       and what was moribund
took to uneasy wing and landed,
painfully, a few sad foot along.

A Desperate Last Flight, I thought,
and now The End Game plays.

The feet walked on, and once again
the tired bird pushed
from the ground,
                       but this time
made an arching loop,
above the fence, beyond the trees
into the open blue.

And death will be a little late this year.
At least for some.
Or just, perhaps, for one lone bird
whose flapping flight made false
my quick fatality of thought.

Though, there again,
who knows what must occur
beyond our seated sight?

As always, comments are more than welcome!

Monday, March 20, 2017

National Lemmings Day - 29th March!

Image result for pompeo batoni lord north

Frederick North, Second Earl of Guilford. (1732-1792)
Portrait of Lord North (1753) by Pompeo Baloni (1708-1787)

So, National Lemmings Day is to be the 29th of March. 

This was decided by the party that brought you the second Earl of Gilford, Frederick North (1732-1792) whose indolence and idiocy lost us the American Colonies and British prestige and influence, just like another of his later party hacks whose fear of a repugnant group of narrow minded, right wing extremists allowed him to think only of the Conservative Party and not worry about the larger country that he was supposed to be defending.  

Though even the possible loss of Scotland from the Union is small change compared to that other Conservative inspired disaster – Brexit.

So, our unelected Prime Minister, she of the “tin ear” when it comes to real discussion about the impending catastrophe, has decided to start the process of disengagement from our continental neighbours on the 29th of March.  And God help us all!

It is at times like this that I turn to the 1948 speech of a fellow countryman, Aneurin Bevan who, when talking of the Tory party said, “So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”  I wonder at his moderation!

So far as I am concerned personally, I am shocked at the level of racist comments from sections of the British public and an acceptance of the most distasteful right wing populism.  The fact that UKIP is still a force to be reckoned with is a continuing insult to what I used to think was the basic morality and decency of the British voting public. 
Let’s not get carried away.  Although I despise the Conservative Party and find their basic assumptions and policies repellent, I do not regard them as fundamentally anti-democratic.  They are antipathetic to virtually everything that I value and their contempt for the working class is only matched by the loyalty of those sad working class Tories who vote for them through thick and thin.  But Brexit changes everything.
Brexit is not merely a different view of generally accepted policies, it is also a dramatic reworking of decades of generally positive international co-operation.

So far, and let’s remind ourselves that nothing has actually happened yet, my pension (which is paid in pounds sterling in Britian before being transferred to Spain after British tax has been deducted at source) has lost 20% of its worth with the fall in the value of the pound.  I know that I am not going to get much sympathy from those in Britain for retirees beside the Med, sipping Sangria and basking in the sun, but I have had a substantial drop in my annual income because, because . . . well, because of what precisely?

I can well understand people who have little job security in areas where the industrial infrastructure has been decimated feeling disgruntled with the powers-that-be for not listening to their concerns.  I can well understand a feeling of dislocation (to put it mildly) from the political classes in Westminster experienced by those same people.  I can well understand the feeling that ‘they’ need to be taught a lesson, be taught to start listening to what ‘real’ people think and want.  What I can’t understand is taking the Brexit route to do this.

I would be the first to admit that the EU has its faults – what system of government does not?  But to cut oneself adrift from an economic, social and political grouping that has kept the woefully dysfunctional continent of Europe from instigating yet another World War is something to value.  Yes there have been disgraceful and bloody conflicts, and yes, the economic situation was criminally mismanaged, but there is so much more positive than the obvious negatives that the right wing press so gleefully parades.

Still.  It is done.  And the 29th of March will be the beginning of the . . .

Well, I am not going to add ‘end’ to that sentence.  I still have enough belief in my fellow countrymen to believe that somehow or other we will make a go of a situation that looks so very negative.  

As a retired teacher I know from past experience and the idiot pronouncements of successive Ministers of Education that whatever asinine educational rubbish comes out of politicians’ mouths hard working teachers can, have and will make stupid policies work for the benefit of the kids.  Sometimes it takes stupendous effort to square the educational circle, but, if there is a way to do it so that education survives, teachers will find that way.  I am trusting that the way that teachers have worked throughout the years with unsympathetic political interference will be the way that the country works so that Brexit is not the inevitable disaster that it looks to be.

And, to go back to the justly maligned Lord North; some historians have suggested that although there was a real loss for Britain from the result of losing The American War of Independence, there were real advantages as well.  In hindsight, the increasing problems attempting to retain the colonies if we had ‘won’ would have demanded more and more resources in an geometric progression of difficulty in trying to maintain our position.  It would have been a dangerously large drain on British resources which could have been even more catestrophic if the break had been delayed.  

And it turned out that the American colonists eventually did quite well.  Though they had powerful allies, the French, not only supporting them, but fighting with them as well.  Where are our allies?  At the time of the American conflict we were fighting virtually every other nation in Europe.  And now, having learned nothing, we are cutting ourselves off from Europe again.  45 (POTUS) in America seems to be a seriously capricious ally (to put it mildly) at best.  And who else is there on our side whom we have not offended?

But, we have always found a way, we tell ourselves. 

Except, of course, when we haven’t. 

That is what worries me.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


The Zulus considered that the greatest honour that they could give to a person was never to mention his name.  I draw this information from my childhood reading of King Solomon’s Mines by Rider Haggard - a book, I might add that I heartily recommend, not for its implicit and explicit racism and colonial assumptions, but rather for some excellent characters like Gagool the witch and for being a damn good yarn.  I, and the greater part of the world, am not Zulu.  Never to mention a person’s name is not seen as an honour, but as a distinct mode of contempt.
I am adopting this approach to the Orange Holder of the Post of President of the United States.  That arrogant narcissist sets such store by his fabricated name (seemingly oblivious to the fact that, in English slang it means ‘fart’) that to deny its use is obviously hurtful to his thin-skinned sensibility.  From this time, onwards I will refer to him as ‘45’ (as the 45th holder of his position) and I encourage all those thinking people who are offended by any or all of his spiteful pronouncements to join me in limiting the space given to his odious name.  You might look here about this attitude:
Thinking about the attitude of 45, I was reminded of the novel Catch-22 (which everyone in the world should read at least once) and in particular his resemblance to one character in that crushingly funny book, especially in Chapter 21, General Dreedle.
He is described as “a blunt, chunky, barrel-chested man . . . His nose was squat and red, and he had lumpy white, bunched-up eyelids circling his small gray eyes like haloes of bacon fat.”  He is also, coincidentally, accompanied by his son-in-law “That bastard” as he complains to everyone, “Everything he’s got he owes to me.  I made him, that lousy son of a bitch!  He hasn’t got brains enough to get ahead on his own.”
The parallels do not stop there.  One of the funniest-unfunny parts involving General Dreedle is when, during an army briefing the airmen start moaning with desire about the General’s astonishingly beautiful companion (!) until ordered into silence by the General, “his great, red domineering face . . . gnarled with perplexity and oaken with awesome resolution . . . his eyes glaring with disapproval”.  A hapless Major lets out an involuntary moan of frustration at something else entirely and the General’s response is to demand, “Take him out and shoot him.”
It is at this point that Colonel Moodus (the General’s son-in-law)
“stepped out diffidently toward General Dreedle with a sickly air of self-sacrifice.  ‘I think you’d better wait a minute, Dad,’ he suggested hesitantly.  ‘I don’t think you can shoot him.’
             General Dreedle was infuriated by his intervention.  ‘Who the hell says I can’t? he thundered pugnaciously in a voice loud enough to rattle the whole building.  Colonel Moodus, his face flushing with embarrassment, bent close to whisper into his ear.  ‘Why the hell can’t I? General Dreedle bellowed.  Colonel Moodus whispered some more.  ‘You mean I can’t shoot anyone I want to?’  General Dreedle demanded with uncompromising indignation.  He pricked up his ears with interest as Colonel Moodus continued whispering.  ‘Is that a fact?’ he inquired, his rage tamed by curiosity.”
Far be it from me to point out similarities between the bellowing of General Dreedle and 45’s fury at the interruption of his racist programme via presidential edict and his ranting against the judges who have a constitution role in the government of the country – but I think it holds. 
45 has no conception of the different strands of government and considers that his powers are directly linked to those of an emperor!  One only hopes that 45 will be restrained from testing his supposed powers to the breaking point!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

S C A N D A L !

The treatment of the sister of the king, the forgetful ignoramus of a bank worker who apparently knows nothing of finance, should have prepared us for the treatment of her criminal husband.  He was found guilty of a range of crimes for which he was given a prison sentence of . . . wait for it . . . no time in prison!  Today he has walked from court and is able to go back to his home in Switzerland!  Just when you thought that PP (let’s not pretend for a moment that the justice system in Spain is separate from the political parties) could do nothing more to take the breath away, they encourage the degradation of justice by allowing this glaring piece of toadying, fawning favouritism AND they have replaced some of the most honest fiscals (the legal characters who are leading investigations into the rampant corruption of the systemically corrupt PP and its unsavoury associates) in the hope that the scandal of the incredible treatment of the husband of the sister of the king, will deflect attention from the other disgusting activity that they are indulging in to ensure their escape from the punishment they richly deserve.

            Although it seems like overstatement, this country is looking more and more like a dictatorship in which the MINORITY government’s cynical scratching of the already thin veneer of democracy is looking more and more determined in their ruthless determination to stay in power.  The previous local PP government of Valencia shows what a cesspit of fiscal corruption is revealed when a sitting government is forced to relinquish the reins of power: presumably our national PP government must be terrified about what might come out of any other than themselves is able to see the true situation in this country.  I feel nothing but contempt for most of the political system and for almost all of the questionable characters that run the justice system.  There are, of course, notable exceptions who plough an increasingly lonely furrow in trying to get the truth into the public arena – but in my view, it is easier to think of Spain in terms of a banana republic than as a modern democratic state.  And, what is more depressing is that the government thinks that it can get away with it.  No, they know they can get away with it, because that is what they have been doing, with impunity.

            This is a bad day for democracy, justice and the reputation of Spain.  The actions of this government must be rejected by anyone who cares about the future of the whole country rather than just for one political party.  This should be a wake up call for people to reject the debased ethical stance of a systemically corrupt government and ask for real separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislative in this state. 

The political farce that we have watched with fascinated horror for the past umpteen years as generations of politician and constructors fleece the public purse and get away with it must be stopped.  Most of our present political caste seem unwilling or unable to offer anything more than more of the same.  This is intolerable, and it is up to that part of the disgusted population of Spain to teach their political ‘masters’ the true meaning of that word.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When education is not enough

Resultado de imagen de tick

Today I rose in the dark, had a hurried shower and gulped down my essential cup of tea and then marched upstairs to my ‘study’ on the third floor.  I have to admit that this is not normal behaviour on my part.  My enthusiastic study dedication was a direct result of fear: a test. 

You would have thought that a life spent in education, lurching from exam to exam (either sitting or marking) would have meant that these, uninspiring experiences would have lost any ability to inspire anything other than boredom in me.  But this test was different – though only because it was part of my Spanish class in town, and for some reason I feel more, how shall I put it, exposed somehow.

It is true that I am struggling as each new tense fails to ‘take’ in my mind.  I have been wandering around chanting verb endings to myself like some demented cult monk and then, as soon as I am confronted by an actual piece of original writing in Spanish all verbs leak away and I am left with nouns and the odd adjective linked with inaccurate badly spelled illiteracy.  Or is that last part tautological?  Anyway, there are others there (we are all learning Spanish as a foreign language) who are much, much better than I am.  They find things easy that I find very difficult; they see simplicity in exercises where I only see fiendish evil.  I am, in other words, suffering what the more work shy pupils in the school on the hill used to go through when I took them through similar exercises in English!

The one good thing about my approach, however, to differentiate it from the attitude of so many of those I taught in Barcelona, is that I don’t cheat.  I find frustration, ignorance and inability all working against me, but I don’t cheat!  It remains to be seen if such an approach actually gets me sufficient credit to scrape through.  And I have to say that I will be quite satisfied with a bare pass.  However, humiliating that might be in comparison with a certain other gentleman who is taking examinations at the same time as I!

The actual horror of the test was slightly mitigated because there were a few 50/50 questions which at least allowed me the luxury of hoping that the informed monkey vote would work out to my advantage.  There were also a few ‘odd word out’ questions which were also a sure thing, but I am not sure that there was enough there to give me the marks that I need.

And ‘need’ is a key concept here.  The reason for learning Spanish is surely a no brainer!  Who would not want to be able to speak the language of the country in which he lives?  It is common courtesy and common sense.  And essential.

Given the lunacy of my fellow countrymen in their support of Brexit, I have had to rethink my position in Spain.  At the moment as a citizen of the EU my position is unassailable, but what happens when the trigger is finally pulled and the Brexit bullet goes careering into the British brain?

So far, the fall in the value of the pound has lowered by pension income by 20% at least, and that is likely to be much more when the dreaded Article 50 is finally invoked and we start the two years’ hard labour to break ourselves away actually begins – which I am sure will be a surprise to some die-hard Brexiteers who think we have actually left already and aren’t we doing well financially!  Then the real problems begin for me when I have to start thinking about my ‘rights’ in Spain when the real rights that I have at the moment will be taken away by the hard ‘right’ and ignorance.

Then there is the question of health care.  As a retired person, I am conscious that I am not getting any younger and that there is a likelihood that my medical needs will only grow with time and at the moment my needs are well met by the Spanish National Health Service of which I am a card-carrying member.  The fact that we Brits living in Spain are being used as a bargaining chip is not an encouraging element in my future planning!

So, the Master Plan is for me to apply for dual citizenship so that when the final break occurs I will be able to stay in Spain because I will have the rights of a native.

There are problems there however.  Two to be precise.  The first is that you have to have a level of proficiency in Spanish equivalent to A2 (a level where a working knowledge of the dreaded verbs is obligatory) and the second is you have to pass an examination to demonstrate your knowledge of Spanish culture, geography, politics and institutions.  A further problem is that I am not sure that Spain actually allows join Spanish/British citizenship, but stories are confused on this issue and I will go with the confusion until I am told it is impossible.

So, my efforts to learn the language have an added urgency.  It’s just a pity that this does not translate into information staying in my brain!  I will keep on keeping on and hope for the best – and use any other clichés that come to mind.
Resultado de imagen de the making of donald trump melville house

Meanwhile, I have bought and read (thank you Amazon) “The making of Donald Trump” by David Day Johnson (2016), First Melvin House, Brooklyn & London.  A thoroughly depressing read for lots of reasons.  It is obvious from what Johnson writes that there have been numerous occasions in the past when the murky behaviour of Trump should have landed him up in far more trouble that he appears to have got into.  The number of times when, if various legislative bodies and law enforcement agencies had done their job, it would have been highly unlikely that the present President of the United States would have made it to the White House.  Trumps unsavoury background and the appalling people with whom he has associated; his unscrupulous chiselling; his duplicity, where the truth does not seem to have any purchase on any part of what he might laughingly refer to as his system of morals and on and on. 
“The making of Donald Trump” is a compulsive read, though you have to keep reminding yourself that this is documentary and not grotesque fantasy.  The reality is emphasised in the last section of the book where there are detailed references, where the horrified reader can find documentary references to follow up any of the unlikely incidents, occurrences and statements made.
Resultado de imagen de nestles strawberry cheesecake chocolate

As a way of dealing with the awful reality of the political situation on both sides of the pond, I have discovered (and am desperately trying to lose) Nestles Strawberry Cheesecake Chocolate.  In an oversize bar.  I bought it because I could and then made the disastrous mistake of trying a bloated square of it.

By way of digression: have you ever seen a half-eaten dish of dry roast peanuts?  To which the usual answer is, no you haven’t.  My explanation was that, as part of the production process, the peanuts were lightly dusted with heroin.  I was always astonished by people’s reactions, which were mildly surprised, but not dismissive!  People actually believed that a commercial company would really do something like add a Grade A drug to nuts!  In fact, the easy acceptance of the drug addiction as an explanation for the taste and consumption, has made me wonder about it too!  I suppose this is the nearest that I get to experience what it must be like to be Trump: someone who believes his own alternative truth!

Anyway, back to Nestle.  One piece of that delectable sweet was enough to convince me that I would never buy another bar as long as I lived.  Something that delicious is dangerous!  I limited myself to one square a day, a restriction that (after the first day of splurge) I managed to keep to.  In a desperate attempt, yesterday, to make the thing last longer I sucked it instead of crunched it. That was a mistake, it is the immediate masticated combination that makes it what it is. I would only recommend this addictive chocolate to those of a stern and forbidding constitution who able to say no in spite of overwhelming compulsion!

And now to get ready to join my fellow poets for an evening in Barcelona to which a certain orangely self-regarding bigot is not invited!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A family trait?

This is my second or third attempt to write about the Spanish approach to corruption as exemplified by the trial (inter alia) of the Infanta and her husband.  You will be able to detect the bitterness in this piece, so you can imagine what the first versions were like.  In certain places my vitriol was eating through the screen

To the immense surprise of absolutely nobody in Spain, the Infanta (the sister of the present king) was found flamboyantly innocent of any wrong doing connected to her criminal husband’s machinations in the corrupt use of his royal name and connections to produce overinflated payments for the ‘services’ he provided, with illicit money gained being funneled into a ‘front’ company run by himself and his wife.  When questioned in court about her knowledge of the front company that she helped run she answered “I don’t know” and “I can remember” over 200 times.  One is tempted to wonder if this woman with an MA from NY and her working life being in a bank might possibly have been expected to have at least a faint glimmer of understanding about what was going on, but her avowals of ignorance were obviously very convincing, and so she was only fined a quarter of a million euros for ‘ignorantly’ (or ‘innocently’ if you prefer) benefiting from the gross luxuries of life that came via the ‘front’ company.  That she helped run.  In ignorant innocence, of course.  Naturally.

Her hapless, scheming husband has been sentenced to a period of years in prison.  The right wing, including the systemically corrupt Peoples Party that is presently governing thanks to the support of the political sluts of Spanish political life, the Cs, have lauded this innocence as being a shining example of egalitarian democracy in action!  Look, they seem to say, the actual sister of the king went to court, confessed to astonishing otherworldliness in an inability to answer questions that would have been considered a gross contempt of court by any witness other than a member of the royal family, was found innocent and has to pay a hefty fine!  Gosh, they say, that is just a totally clear example of what the so-called King-emeritus called justice being the same for everyone.  Except for him, of course, as he was given a legal indemnity which followed him into the retirement that took some of the pressure off the family as the full extent of his, um, actions was becoming clear.  Haven’t we, these right-wing idiots say, done well!

To which the answer is of course, no.  Resoundingly no.  The distance between the poor and the privileged and between the privileged and the privileged politicos is as wide or even wider than it was a generation or two ago.  Not only in Spain, but also throughout the so-called developed world.  During the height of the economic crisis in Spain, the then king, after mouthing banalities about equality, whisked himself off on a vastly expensive (paid for) elephant killing safari – and the only reason that we in Spain found out about it was that he was injured and had to explain how he came by the disability when he came home from the jolly.  Politicians are protected left, right and centre in a way where the elite’s contempt for ordinary people in shown in the way where they don’t even bother to hide their preferences.

We need a root-and-branch clear out of the political class that has been in place for years.  It is tainted by corruption, a corruption which goes from top to bottom and is astonishing in its exhaustiveness and also by its blatancy.  There is a perception in Spain that the political class feels itself beyond the ordinary restraints of everyone else in the country.  The machinations of PP with the supplanted leader of Valencia and their cold logic in translating her from her failed dictatorship in Valencia to a new seat in the Senate so that she could not be indicted by the lower courts which were gearing up to try and deal with the accumulated filth of corruption that she left behind.  Since her death, PP, with the breathtakingly insulting bare faced audacity which we have come to expect from a party which feels itself ultimately entitled, actually gave her a posthumous honor!  Presumably they assume that her death means that she is inviolable from any back-dated enquiry into her activities and that of her corrupt government – many of whom are awaiting sentencing or have already been sentenced.

Of course, that fact that a person connected to PP has been given a sentence, does not necessarily mean that the criminal has actually gone to prison.  The latest continuing comedy show is watching the acrobatics, both verbal for the watching public and metaphorical behind the scenes, as the husband of the Infanta escapes the perusing press on his Swiss bike in the shadowland of the period of his conviction and the start of his sentence.  How are the complicit powers that be going to try and keep him out of prison?  Most of Spain expects some sort of underhand deal to be worked out.  We will wait and see.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The new white feather?

As a Baby Boomer (Leading Edge) I have never had to make the sort of problematic choices that the previous generation to my own had to make.  I have not been involved in a World War, I have not had to do Military Service, I have been able to find work without problems, I have been looked after through my educational life and in terms of medical help in a way in which I have not had to think too hard about the financial consequences.  I have, in short, been fortunate in choosing the time to be born! 

Central of course to that opening paragraph of gloating, though not actually stated, is the reality of my pension.  I now have three pensions from two countries: which sounds a damn sight more impressive than the reality!  I have a professional pension from my job, I have a much smaller state pension and I have a truly tiny (but welcome) pension from Spain.  The generations that have come after my own look at my experiences and feel envy and resentment.  This is an attitude that I can easily understand, especially as the retirement age seems to be getting more and more distant for some folk.  But this piece is not about finance and comfortable old age, it is more about responsibility.

I was far too young to have an opinion about Suez and the criminal behavior of my government: I was too young to understand the trauma of moving from an imperial past to an uncertain future – and very badly managed at that; too young to understand the full import of the Cold War, though old enough to appreciate the danger of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I suppose that the first real moral challenge that I felt fully engaged with was the Apartheid system in South Africa and the United Kingdom’s culpability in the continuation of the regime.

What did I do?  Looking back on it, the answer would have to be, not very much.  I supported Anti-Apartheid; I refused to buy or eat South African fruit; I didn’t drink South African wine; I sent money to organizations against Apartheid; I put up posters; I marched; I spoke against it.  But could I have done more, could I have been more pro-active?  And what about Viet Nam?  How much, or how little did I do to show my abhorrence about that grubby conflict?  When I look back, I think that I was more worked up about the Conservative government’s imposition of museum charges for our national galleries than I ever was about a war which claimed the lives of thousands and threatened the stability of the world!

In other words, I feel a nagging sense that I could have done more, and should have done more, but I was protected by a fairly comfortable sense that, in spite of a few local and international difficulties, things would probably work themselves out with, or without, my active help.  And my involvement was my choice.

In today’s world, with the rise of the extreme right, the self-inflicted wound of Brexit, the reality of President Trump, the growing obscenity of inequality in the world, the banking crisis, corruption and on and on – it is much more difficult to remain as a vaguely involved spectator.  To do nothing, is actively to encourage the situation to worsen: disengagement is denial.

What I am saying is that life in 2017 is the equivalent of life in the 1940s: there is an international crisis and everyone has a part to play in attempting to ameliorate what is turning into a national and international disaster.  You have to make a choice, in which not making a choice is a choice in itself.  It’s the same as it was living in Northern Ireland during the Troubles: the situation was dangerous, and if you had knowledge that might help the authorities then you would have to accept that your duty would put you in danger.  In just the same way involvement in the Word Wars that my parents and grandparents had to endure, put them in danger too.  Dangerous times, and god knows we are living in dangerous times now, call for positive action.

We can see that the growing opposition to Trump and so-called policies in the United States and around the world is an active statement that many people have accepted their responsibilities to hold power to account.  This is one of those times when inaction is the deadliest action of them all.

So, what am I doing, this time round?  Well, it basically comes down to reading the Guardian, shouting at the television, watching American late night political comedy on YouTube and typing futile screeds against the fading of the light!

Stuck (by my own choice) in a wealthy, sunny corner of Spain it is easy to forget that the rest of the world is going through a crisis and, in some ways, this period of time is a little like the so-called Phony-War before the actual war of 1939-45.  My Dad was in London when war was declared and remembered the sirens sounding soon after the announcement and . . . nothing happened: no enemy planes, no bombs, nothing!  Obviously that quiescence was soon to develop into the bloodiest conflict that the world had ever seen, but the immediate result of the challenge to German Nazi power was nothing.

You might say that quite a lot has happened over the last few years.  The banking crisis has weakened economies, and the paucity of cells filled by the perpetrators of one of the greatest pieces of financial fraud and duplicity ever has weakened the very concept of democratic accountability.  Governments have poured public money into the banking sector with the result that the very bankers who caused the crisis are now even more secure in their inflated pensions and high lifestyle.  Bonuses are back, the stock exchanges are booming and people are getting poorer.  This should be a time when implementing the ideals of socialism is seen as something that can take people out of poverty and make a fairer society – instead of which we see the politics of inequality and prejudice trumping any humanistic ideal.

You might think that, as a retired person with a secure pension, I am one of those people ‘sitting pretty’, but I am most certainly not.  As a British national living abroad in an EU country, I have seen the relative value of my pension fall by some 20% as the reality of Brexit gets closer and starts having a real effect.  I have the threat of punitive action by the government in which I reside when Article 50 is finally invoked and I find myself as a foreign citizen, living in a state which can, at a moment’s notice cancel my healthcare, and revoke my right to stay in the country that I now call home.  And that is just the local, Spanish situation.  Let us not consider the full ramifications of the Oaf in the White House!

We are all (including the country of origin) living in what the Chinese curse calls “interesting times” and what we do in response to those interesting times will define the conditions of development for the next generation, or indeed the next generations.  We all have to step up to the plate and ‘do’ something.