Thursday, 3 September 2015

On the refugees and your facebook friend

I've been dusting off the pen and pad recently, scribbling a few words and occasional tune but wasn't really sure where to stick the results in a more shareable form than just facebook. This seems worth a try.

Contains swears, don't read it if you don't like them. Peace out.

On the refugees and your facebook friend
If you find my position on you turning your back offensive
On you saying it’s not your problem, 
On you saying the politicians need to do more,
On you worrying that a part of your comfort might crumble,
On seeing your dumb as fuck posts on facebook,
Then ponder upon this.
You would turn your back on desperate people
Fleeing mustard gas and gunmen and their homes
With little but their lives perhaps, and sometimes not even all of that
And rarely with all their dignity intact
And sometimes without even their children intact
As a matter of fact, I have no idea how that must feel
I can’t begin to imagine
How that must feel.
And they come here running, scared and scarred and potless and pleading and you worry that some of your comfort might become just a little less comfy.
And that absolutely fucking amazes me.
That you would judge these people should suffer due to the place they emerged from their mother?
Really? The place where their mother lay down and gave birth should determine just how much their lives are worth?
Did I get that right? How the fuck can you sleep at night, in fact fuck that, how the fuck can you tie your own shoes with such an obvious lack of a brain to use?
You have all this, and they have just that, and you think that’s fine.
You think “That’s theirs, this is mine”.
If you find my views on you and how you view that offensive,
Then you haven’t begun to see how I see you
And this is not me asking for repentance
This is me saying my opinion of you can’t fit into sentences
My contempt for you can’t really be tamed
Or very well explained
Using just words and rhythms. I need something for hitting
Over and over again
Cos when
Shove comes to push
and Push comes to shove
And there’s no more love
then, only and especially then,
the sword is mightier than the fucking pen.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

One year on / Postacrd from the North / Thoughts on Guildford "Vision" Group

I wasn't sure where else to put this so it's here. Written as a letter to The Dragon who don't want it, presumably because their inbox is already overflowing with opinions on this.

It's exactly a year since we thought we'd said goodbye to Guildford for good, but for several reasons we haven't really said goodbye at all. Guildford is a hard place to let go of, especially when you end up accidentally not selling your house there. But there's more to it than that. We miss the people, the buzz from living in a university town and the sense of community, especially around the town centre. We miss the balmy summer days, strolling along the Wey or through Stoke Park or some of the nearby countryside. We even miss the Spectrum despite it's blatant disregard for basic hygiene (apparently this is much better these days).
We've had a few visitors from Guildford though, and the old community facebook group I set up is fairly active, and along with news from The Dragon we manage to stay fairly up to date.
We've had a blast up here. The air felt strange to begin with, lacking in the Sulphur dioxide, unburnt hydrocarbons and Carbon particles that we used to inhale on a daily basis. It's quieter here too - right now I can hear a chicken gently chirping and some leaves rustling very slightly in the breeze, along with the distant sound of my children fighting. Besides all this, it doesn't rain half as much here as everyone said.
But I still love Guildford and still have a house there and part of me wouldn't mind moving back one day. This is why it's so disappointing that, a year since we left, a group of unelected and unaccountable individuals are forcing locals -  many of them our friends - to live with an eyesore and the problems caused by people hanging around outside a shop that can legally and openly sell poisons to our children. Okay, sadly this shop won't close as part of the development but at least their customers might take their legal highs home to imbibe or trade them rather than doing so in broad daylight.
Lord Howell “of Guildford” doesn't need to look to the North East for derelict wastelands, we have one right here on our doorstep. Could fracking make it any worse? Yes, okay, probably.
I often used to moan about a lack of democratic accountability in Guildford. I was, none of you may remember, the first person ever to be given permission to film council proceedings and I wanted to do it because I shouldn't even need to ask permission. “It's our town, and they're spending our money” was what I said at the time.

I believe that there is still a long way to go before Guildford is actually run for the people who live there, in a clear and transparent manner and in a way that residents understand. But this “Guildford Vision Group” - whatever their intentions - doesn't look like the answer to me. They're still spending your money (in legal fees) and they are blighting your town, yet nobody has ever voted for any of them to do what they are doing.
I don't think that everything about the proposed supermarket is perfect. I'd prefer the idea of an indoor market, or something community based. In fact, being completely honest, I'd love to live in a world where we can be free from money and all the misery it causes, where creative dance is used as a form of currency and where everyone is able to fulfill their dreams. But none of that matters. We live in a real world where compromise and prudence are the order of the day, and to my mind these expensive attempts to delay the Waitrose application are arrogant, misguided and selfishly blighting the lives of those living in the area.
I wish you all well and hope that things will be better by the time we're celebrating our second goodbye-versary.

Friday, 10 August 2012

End of the first week

Well it's been a hectic week and whilst of course we're missing our friends from down South, we're more convinced than ever that we've made the right choice and we look forward to welcoming visitors up here in the near future.

We've met all the neighbours, been to the nearest couple of beaches, had our first visitors (hi to A, L and N!) and spent most of the time unpacking boxes and attempting to beat the garden into some kind of recognisable shape. Here's an as-they-came-out-of-the-camera round-up of pictures for your entertainment.

The "Lawn" on day 1

Annabelle looking for mole hills in the "lawn"

Looking up to the house from the other side of the burn

Can you see him dear?

Mr Toad looking not very impressed to be having his photo taken in Culben Forest

I should be looking at the sky but I think there was a spiders web

Nairn Beach. Just wow.

A & T on Nairn beach - a bit crowded that day!

And another - collecting shells

Did I mention Annabelle broke her arm a few weeks ago? It meant she couldn't go on the roller coaster at Landmark

Pretty much on top of the world at Landmark

Thursday, 26 July 2012

And the Stamp Duty

Thank you to Caroline P for pointing out that someone who does even less than estate agents, the Taxman, will get the most of all due to the Stamp Duty. I am leaving him off the previous list as this does not qualify as "someone who helped...". 

As an aside, I did have the option of halving the stamp duty by using an "aggressive tax avoidance" method that apparently is fully legal. I have to admit that the idea is tempting, but where would society be if we only paid the taxes that we felt were fair? 

I reserve a special level of contempt for those who duck out of their financial commitment to society, so we will pay the full whack and remain poor but self-righteously smug. This means that I can still shout at the telly when tax dodging millionaires* appear on it, explaining how the only way out of this financial mess is to make the most vulnerable in society pay back all the money that the rich people took.

* - I have absolutely nothing against the other kind of rich people - the kind who do pay their taxes. JK Rowling and James Dyson spring to mind.

What you earn when I move house

Here's a list of the occupations that have helped us so far in our house move, along with what they will be paid. The moral of the story? Don't bother learning stuff, just get a biro!

Solicitor (with degree and professional memberships) £1,000
Mortgage Broker (with CeMAP and FSA approval) £1,100
Removal Man (with an HGV licence and a great big truck) £1,600
Estate Agent (with a biro) £5,000

Sunday, 22 July 2012

An underwriter asks "Why?"

About a month ago a mortgage underwriter asked why we were moving so far away from where we are now to live in such a large house. "Oh, I know this one" I said to my very patient mortgage broking friend Stuart, "It's because we can".

We got the mortgage offer eventually, despite my amusing and witty response to this and a number of other pointless and tedious questions from people who clearly aren't paid to dream. (I will grudgingly concede that my proposed "how exciting are your plans" approach to underwriting would perhaps be unsustainable for the long term, but wouldn't the world be a better place while it lasted?).

I remember my grandfather sitting in his armchair in the nursing home towards the end of his life. He was very frail by now and his voice was weak as he leant towards me and whispered "don't get old Ollie". I intend to take this advice at face value and to stay as young as I can for as long as possible. In my head I've always assumed that the part of my life when the children can fend for themselves (is that the bit people call retirement?) will be spent somewhere in the Highlands. Fishing and growing vegetables, although not at the same time.

But we're not at that point yet, in fact we're not even half way through our working lives so isn't this a bit premature? Well it turns out that all my wife Wendy needs to keep her happy and, almost as importantly, to keep her bringing home the bacon, is an internet connection and a nearby airport. Guildford has these but so do lots of other places. So you look at a map of Britain for towns near airports. You chuck out anywhere that looks a bit full already. Or that might have a lot of concrete or tories. You dismiss places that might make the kids grow up with a funny accent or where they might get laughed at for their inability to breathe through their ears. And then you start factoring in things like "it has a beach and a swimming pool". And that, friends, is how we ended up thinking that Nairn might be a good idea.

An added bonus is that having grown up an hour or so away from there it's almost an area I know well but not well enough for me to be imposing my place on the rest of the family. If that makes sense. It might not. This is our journey forwards, not my nostalgic journey back in time.

So last March we went there to stay for a few days and explore a bit more - to try Nairn on for size. Looking back, this short film of the kids playing over on the West beach is probably a recording of the moment we decided to move.

We tried it, we liked it and now we're about to live there. If you were at our leaving drinks last night then thank you for coming and I meant what I almost certainly said about coming to visit us - there's plenty of room!