I blog about this from time to time, when things coincide out of the blue when there is no reason why they should, and today’s synchronicity is about wasps. I’m subscribed to a site which sends me a poem every Friday (I used to get one every day but reading poetry takes concentration) and today’s was about wasps. It’s not the time of year for wasps, though what with global warming they do tend to hang around later than they did, so the poem was unexpected. It was a good poem, about helping wasps to escape the chimney where they’d been nesting and assist their passage to the outside world; the whole process being compared to The Great Escape.
Apart from that I thought no more of it. At least not until I read Beetleypete’s latest instalment in his short story. And guess what? In the very first paragraph wasps were mentioned.
What is going on here?
OH and I spent the last couple of nights watching Trick, a drama about the so-called Climategate scandal of 2009. My memories of the event are somewhat hazy (let’s face it, my memories of just about everything are somewhat hazy) but I have to say, after watching it we were still none the wiser. It starred Jason Watkins, who rises in my esteem every time I see him, as Phil Jones, a highly dedicated and respected climate scientist whose emails were hacked, then presented out of context to a cohort of press and climate change deniers who used them to discredit his work.
It all centred on the word ‘trick’. In a scientific context this means a particular way of looking at data in order to get a more reliable view. But taken out of context and inserted into a tabloid it seemed like evidence of fraud. So far, so understandable. But while the story was moving it didn’t really tell us much about what actually happened, focusing instead on the pain and shame which nearly drove a good man to suicide. He was cleared in the end but reckoned the whole episode had put back the cause of climate change by ten years – ten years we could ill afford to lose.
It’s worth watching but probably a good idea to view the accompanying documentary first.
Having cycled 18 miles or so over the (admittedly long) weekend I’m going to have a rest today. I was going to cycle to Barrow yesterday, meet a friend, have lunch and then over to Quorn and back via the road, but this proved to be a little overambitious. It’s a lovely ride along the canal to Barrow – I’ve walked it many a time – but what I had forgotten is that the path crosses over at Pillings Lock and there’s a Bloody Great Bridge over which bikes must be carried. I reached it; I looked at it, I looked at the map and I thought ‘nah. This is far enough.’ So back I went, and far enough it jolly well was.
I’ve been thinking, as one does at this time of year, about holidays and travel. Like most of us I imagine I’d really like to get away but apart from the fact that nobody really knows what’s going to happen with Covid, I’m beginning to rethink tourism altogether because as a tourist you feel like a walking consumer. There are, it’s true, delightful holidays where you don’t have to feel that way at all – hiking in the Dales, climbing Monroes in Scotland, renting a cottage in the depths of France – but on most holidays you tend to feel like a walking market in which people are always trying to sell things. Buy this! Eat this! Look at this! Get the t-shirt! You can’t blame them – it’s the way most of them make money – but it’s not a pleasant experience. But though tourism may bring income to an area or country there are many hidden costs, not the least of which is accommodation. Last time I went to Southwold I felt very sad as I walked around and realised how many of the lovely houses near the sea front were actually holiday lets. Instead of staying in the heart of a town we were living in a tourist village where most of the locals had probably been completely priced out. I have very strong feelings about second homes too – appealing though it is to have a pied-a-terre somewhere delightful, it often means that local people are priced out and that you end up living in a community of city dwellers who only come down at the weekends. Besides, people have no business owning two homes when some people don’t even have one.
We’re going to have to stop flying anyway, so why not rethink tourism altogether? Instead of regarding the world as a spectacle to be consumed, see it as a place to be discovered. Instead of photographing everything, see and interact. Let’s forget tourism and bring back travel: in fact, let’s regard travel as a form of reconnaissance. Then again perhaps it’s like one of those irregular verbs: I am doing reconnaissance, you are a traveller, they are tourists.
Thank goodness, the weather seems set to warm up a bit so maybe I will as well. I’ve had to have socks in bed and though I resist turning the heating on, I have to wear jumpers in order not to start shivering. But my main preoccupation at the moment is not cold but fatigue. Why am I so tired all the time? I can’t be – in fact I’m sure I’m not – the only person to be wailing this on a daily basis. Why am I so tired all the time? I had a lovely sleep last night, eight hours of the dreamless and I woke feeling… exhausted. Why? Should I go to the doctor? It’s been a while since I had a thyroid function test so maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s lockdown? I thought getting more exercise would help, and it has, to an extent but come ten o’clock I’m invariably shattered. It’s not that I’ve been busy, rushing around all day; but maybe it’d be better if I had? Maybe then I’d have some sense of purpose instead of being stuck in this ‘I-must-write-because-I-can’t-help-writing-but-it’s-not-getting-anywhere cycle. But if I give up, where is there to go?
Then again, maybe it isn’t me; I was reading the other day about how climate change is affecting people’s mental health, and surely exhaustion has to be a part of that? In a way it’s worse than a war; in a war the danger is present and immediate and you take steps to keep yourself and others safe – assuming you’re a civilian. But right now we’re being told of a threat that is approaching daily, getting worse almost by the hour, and yet most of us feel paralysed with impotence. It’s like sitting in a cave hearing an enormous monster coming ever closer and not knowing what you can do about it.
I believe that we have the power to tackle climate change if the will is there. But too many people are slow to realise the danger; too many greedy corporations want to hang on to their profits, too many governments want to hold on to power. So like many people I feel infinitesimally small and totally impotent. And that is exhausting.
Another thing that’s exhausting is rejection. I had an email from the BBC yesterday thanking me for my radio play but unfortunately… It wasn’t in the least unexpected – I’d have been astonished if they’d liked it, for all sorts of reasons, but it’s another blow in a long sequence of blows. Sometimes you wonder what you’ve done in a past life to deserve all this – but as with every rejection, you pick yourself up and carry on. But that takes energy.
Or could it be that I’m just getting up too early? I can’t seem to stop being a lark right now. So I think we should change the collective noun for larks – forget exaltation, it’s an exhaustion of larks.
Looking back over the last week I realise that I haven’t posted the link as promised to the Jo Berry interview. She, you will remember, was the daughter of an MP killed in the Brighton bombing who made friends with the bomber in order to effect some reconciliation. So here’s the link and I totally recommend giving it a watch.
In response to yesterday’s post on malapropisms OH came up with an overheard conversation where someone was going to ‘die of beetees.’ So keep your thinking caps on and send me your favourites. In other news, there is no other news except to say that I’m feeling exceptionally tired lately. I can’t blame it on lack of sleep – except that in some perverse rule of inverse proportion I often feel more tired when I’ve slept well than when I don’t – so I think it’s the fact that we’re coming to the end of winter. And what a winter! Most of it has been spent in lockdown (we were in Tier 4 before Xmas so lockdown hardly changed anything) we’ve had snow and ice and cloud and rain and now I’ve JUST ABOUT HAD ENOUGH. I too long for a holiday but my heart sinks when I hear of people booking flights for the summer – since Johnson posited the date of June 21st hordes of people seem to have taken that as the green light to book a holiday; very chancy if you ask me – but I despair sometimes of our ever getting to grips with climate change. It’s as if they watch David Attenborough, then open another tab and book with EasyJet. If we don’t stop flying climate change will get worse and worse and the tipping-point Attenborough warned us of will come and then what will we do? The government talks green but acts – well, whatever the opposite of green is. Since they’ve been in office they’ve approved a third runway for Heathrow (pity the poor people under the flight paths) given the go-ahead for a new coal mine and agreed a tunnel under Stonehenge.
On the other hand I can’t really blame people for wanting to get away. If you’re a key worker or someone cooped up in a flat or if you’ve been struggling with working and schooling from home it must be incredibly tempting to just jump on a jet and head off to a beach somewhere warm.
Ah well, at least we’ve discovered some Dennis Potter on Channel 4 – they have Karaoke and Cold Lazarus. And OH informs me that the opposite of green is magenta.
Don’t forget those malapropisms.
If we ever needed a demonstration of how anti-democratic Trump is, how little respect he has for the structures and traditions of democracy, it is here and now in his refusal to accept defeat. Latest news is he has sacked his Defence Chief of Staff (seemingly pre-empting a resignation) because he had the temerity to disagree with him, and is obstructing the handover in every way possible. In doing so he may very well be scuppering any chance he has of coming back in 2024, but who knows? In the looking-glass world of Trumpian politics all these features seem to look like virtues and the evil is all on the other side. Anyway, enough of all this; I think I’ve drunk my fill of American politics over the last few days. It’s been fascinating and horrifying, a relief and a shit-show, a laugh and a gasp in about equal measure – and a salutary lesson, if we needed one, of how deep-seated beliefs are not shaken by firm evidence. If a flat-earther or a climate-change denier can stick to their world-view in spite of all the evidence, what hope is there for Trump supporters? How do we get people to accept the truth?
I guess the sad fact is that you can’t. I’m reminded of a scene at the end of the Narnia books where a group of dwarves refuse to accept the evidence of their senses and believe in Aslan. Convinced that they are all tied together in a dark cave, they refuse to see the light and when Aslan provides them with a feast they imagine themselves eating leftover scraps. If Aslan can’t do it, what chance does Biden have? Still, he’s made a good start in setting up a covid team – but I fear that Trump and his diehard fans will spend the next four years in a bunker (perhaps a golf bunker?) claiming that none of this ever happened. Or perhaps they will hole up somewhere in the Deep South and set up an alternative state with the confederate flag and spend the next four years trying to get international recognition. This man is dangerous and toxic and they need to get rid of him as soon as possible. But getting rid of the mindset that enabled him may not be so easy.
And what of our own Poundland Trump, whose position is now looking much less stable now that he’s lost his orange brother across the pond? There is a school of thought that says the Tories will get rid of Johnson rather than allow him to drag them all down, and I think they will. They’ve got form on this after all – they are a ruthless bunch dedicated to staying in power and most of them are much less craven than the Republicans. They didn’t hesitate to get rid of Thatcher once her time had come, so I’ve no doubt they will do the same here. Rishi Sunak is looking a likely contender to succeed Johnson if and when that time comes. I have very mixed feelings about Sunak: on the one hand he’s a great deal more personable than Johnson and seems to have some almost one-nation instincts; he would also be the first Asian Prime Minister which in some ways would be a good thing. But on the other hand he is a Tory and if he turned out to be more popular than Johnson that would damage Labour’s chances. So we’ll see.
Rather rambling thoughts here in the UK on this damp and drizzly Tuesday morning. It’s not all good news, but this week the world is a kinder, less dangerous place. Let’s keep it that way.
OK confession time: I haven’t done as well as I’d have hoped this week. I’ve driven 16 more miles than planned and will add another 3 today as I need to get some shopping; and yesterday I bought some new curtains and bedclothes. In my defence these were planned purchases, I just hadn’t planned on getting them this week but I found myself in Wilko’s and somehow got into a furnishings frenzy. (If you’ve never been in a furnishings frenzy there are organisations to help you rehabilitate but I just came home and did some deep breathing.)
So, what did I buy and why was it not good for the environment? Well, first-off I bought some new curtains. These were badly needed as the old ones were not only horrid but cumbersome and kept knocking things over (when they were pulled, I mean, they didn’t go knocking things down of their own accord. Though sometimes I wonder…) I also bought a new duvet cover, equally necessary and not something I’d consider buying second-hand. And we did need another sheet.
So what about the carbon footprint? Well, new clothing is well-known for its environmental impact, so it seems logical to assume that bedclothes will be also. From the growing of the cotton to the energy and water used in manufacture and not forgetting the air-miles from producer to consumer, it’s not good news. But as I’ve said I’m not prepared to buy bedclothes second-hand, so the deed is done. Therefore off-setting would seem to be the way to go. There are companies you can subscribe to which do this but at the moment my method is to use Ecosia, a search engine which plants one tree for every 40 searches. It’s perfectly good, just as effective as Google and better for the planet. Unfortunately it can’t be installed as default on all browsers so I just have it as an add-on.
Sometimes you try not to do the damage, but sometimes it’s a matter of limiting the damage. On the plus side, the bedroom looks great!
I imagine most of my readers will agree with me that today is a sad day. While thousands drink in pubs waving flags and singing Rule Britannia the other half of us sit and mourn.
We are a divided nation and once divisions start they usually carry on; Scottish MP’s have just voted in favour of a second indyref and good luck to them. I nearly said ‘once divisions start they multiply’ but as Sir Bernard Woolley – RIP – pointed out if you multiply divisions you get back to zero. Then again, perhaps zero isn’t a bad indicator of where we are as a nation: back to square one, with the emphasis on the ‘square.’ All manner of forces have been unleashed by Brexit – racism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia – those who want to turn the clock back to 1973 are busy remembering how it was before curry invaded our streets and political correctness censored our speech (spoiler alert: it was awful. I was there.) At least it was awful in some ways. In others, it was better. Work generally paid well (though we were yet to get the equal pay legislation that made it better for women) jobs were secure and plentiful and Thatcher was but a glint in the evil eye of the Far Right. In some ways I, too, would like to put the clock back (to 1979 rather than ’73) but we can’t. We must move forward and deal with all of the genuine problems from which the Brexit sideshow, with ringmaster Johnson calling out ‘celebrate! bung a bob! Baby boom on its way!’ and other such ridiculous absurdities, is distracting us.
So we both need to stop and look to those things which are far more important than Brexit, namely climate change. At the beginning of the week I posted some of my challenges to myself, so how have I done with them?
Well, I’ve only used the car once this week, for a total of about three miles. I will be using it at the weekend but again only once, to go to Leicester. So the week’s travelling will amount to about 30 miles. I have explored sources of recycled paper and in a few days we will be ordering a pack of 5 A4 pads. Well, and that’s about it because I forgot to find out about the dishwasher rinse aid and I can’t buy the toothbrush heads yet. I wonder if I’ve done anything else by accident? Can’t think of anything new, but I will try to find out about the dishwasher stuff today.
That’s all folks. What are you doing on this horrible day?
I’ve started asking myself in the mornings what I can do that day to halt and reverse climate change. Now before you leap in, I’m well aware that one person alone cannot make this huge change, but I’m not alone. Millions of people are also making changes and whilst it may be true that the huge polluters are nations and multinationals, this does not invalidate individual actions. In any case, these actions do not exist in isolation. Each of us, unless we are a hermit, has an effect on others. This blog will I hope have an effect on its readers. My buying habits have an effect on the places I buy from (or don’t.) I boycott Amazon partly because of its environmental impact and to help me do so I use a browser add-on called blockamazonfor.me. Unfortunately it only works on Chrome at the moment so I can’t use it on my laptop, though it’s probably only a matter of time. But at some point a person in their bedroom (or office) thought about this and devised the add-on, and now people are using it. Similar initiatives are everywhere, from supermarkets reducing plastic to shops offering to refill bottles, people are realigning their thoughts. Yes, it’s not enough, yes we have to do more – much more – and soon, but it ain’t nothing.
The trouble with thinking about climate change and my part in it is that I can end up feeling either hopelessly depressed or horribly guilty. It’s like trying to lose weight; every time you think about the problem you are overwhelmed by negativity and this is the last thing you need. So just as with losing weight, we need to develop habits of sustainability that we can actually keep up – in other words, be sustainably sustainable.
So, what are today’s things I’m doing to halt and reverse climate change? I’m going to find out if I can refill my dishwasher rinse aid bottle as a part of the plan to take all the single use plastic out of our house. And I’m going to research sources of recycled paper. Then next week I shall buy some recyclable toothbrush heads.
That’s all folks!
PS I’ve done the first bit of my homework and found this source of recycled paper.
Like many people at this time of year I’m starting to think about the New Year and decade!!! and what both might hold. It’s also a time to look back at goals set at the beginning of the year and ask if they were achieved – and the answer is no, at least for one major goal. But as with many things in life the outcome is not always within our control, and I have done a fair bit of submitting work this year but to no avail. On the other hand I have also done Nanowrimo and I’ve sent ‘Tapestry’ to a number of readers and received some positive feedback. So things are progressing.I have also, one way or another, managed to make a lot more money than in recent years which I put down at least partly to Paul McKenna’s ideas here). His book on sleep has also helped and even though I still have problems the zzzzzzituation has improved enormouzzzzzly.
Levels of confidence have also improved, leading to the ability to ‘see’ success, in other words, to visualise myself as being successful. I believe visualisation to be hugely important: nothing can be achieved without first being visualised – or, to put it another way, everything starts with an idea.
So, what are my goals for the next decade? It won’t surprise you to know that they involve being published and establishing a solid reputation as a poet and author. What lies between me and achieving these goals is a complex mixture of the state of publishing today and my own fear of success.
The next ten years are crucial for climate change, so that needs to go on my list of goals. If and when we buy a house it needs to be made carbon neutral within five years. When the car conks out I shall not replace it but join a car club instead: I may also fulfil a long-held ambition to get a motorbike and pass my CBT (OH utterly refuses to ride pillion so the bike will have to be for my own use.)I don’t intend flying anywhere in the future so journeys will have to be made by train and/or boat. As well as all these changes there will need to be moves to more sustainable food, clothing and packaging – some of which are already under way.
How are these goals to be achieved? Will-power is one thing and on the whole I have plenty of it, but will-power can only take you so far: at some point my inner hang-ups and obstacles will need to be tackled otherwise I may end up sabotaging my own efforts.
So there it is in black and white: my goals for the next decade. Brian seems to be doing fairly well with his – what are yours?
And if I don’t see you before Jan 1st, Happy New Year!