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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Monday, 25 July 2016

No News Can Be Good News

Last Friday afternoon, I was driving along glorious country lanes.  It was amazing weather, we were on the way to a favourite campsite and we were singing along to All Request Friday on Radio 2.  But just as I was looking out for the last turning, my phone pinged and the news about a gunman in Munich flashed up.  Instantly, the mood in the car felt different.  I mean, the kids didn't know and I carried on.  But it felt like world events had once again taken a bit of the pleasure out of everyday life.  You are imagining the scenes, thinking how those people must feel.

I am all for modern technologies.  I can see the endless reasons why instant news/contact/banking etc are advantages our ancestors did not have but still...  Is it really good for us to live with 'news' infringing at every opportunity?

We lurch from awful news story to awful news story on these twenty four hour channels and on the endless news websites.  I watch and read these as much as anyone.  But I just wonder if our ancestors were happier when they didn't know what was going on?  The worldwide wars, the Crusades, the natural disasters, the plagues all made little ripple in everyday people's lives until ages after events.  Unless they were unlucky enough to live in those areas.

Our twenty first century expectation, on the other hand, is to know what is happening everywhere, all the time.  As another less serious example, going on holiday to a new hotel or cottage used to be mostly guesswork.  You were lucky to even see a couple of pictures before you got there - and those would be taken from the most advantageous angle.  Now, we expect to have taken a video tour, read fifty reviews on Trip Advisor and looked at the area on Google Earth before we even set off.
There are few such happy places as a British campsite on a fine summer night.  A constant burble of chat, jokes and laughter interspersed with cheers from endless cricket and rounders matches.  And all the better - with no offence to anyone affected by this weekends' news stories - for the lack of 4G or television or even a newspaper shop.  Just for a little while, it is still possible to step off the news treadmill.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Opinions for the Future

Once again, there are any number of unbelievable events which I could write about from the last week.  It is impossible to do justice to the suffering of those caught up in the latest attacks/coups.  To say nothing of the continuing wars and refugee crises.  Maybe the person who posted this week that David Bowie had been the glue that held the Universe together was actually right... 
Before the horror of Nice though, the entire world seemed to shout a collective 'What the f...??!!!' at the announcement of Boris Johnson as the new UK Foreign Secretary.  Clearly Prime Minister May now has Johnson, the Leave figurehead, firmly in her debt but it does seem incredibly risky to be sending such a buffoon (polite description) on diplomatic errands.  We will have to pin our hopes on the ever present Civil Service to keep him under control, a la Yes Minister.
But future descendants of Boris will at least have access to a mass of information and speculation about the motivations on all sides.  Chapter and verse for his personal and political histories.  Possibly his own diaries.  However badly he performs.
This is the 'privilege' of fame or notoriety.  Descendants of the very famous or aristocratic never need to grub about in county records offices or trawl through online newspapers.  Their family history is freely available.  (Distant relations of Big Brother contestants or other minor celebrities will have a job separating the endless 'saucy' selfies from the true facts but hey, it'll add a new dimension to family history.)
I have argued many times on this blog that our historical records lack ordinary voices.  In 1937, a project called Mass Observation was started in Bolton.  It began as an artists' curiosity project but once the Second World War began, it was an important exercise in public opinion and requirements.  Its people observed, eavesdropped on and photographed ordinary lives.  Plus members of the public kept daily diaries.  To quote David Dimbleby's BBC series Seven Ages Of Britain, governments began to realise that they 'could not just tell people what to do, they actually had to listen to what they were saying.'
For something like Brexit, our descendants should not be left with simply academic or journalistic opinions.  Or with the thoughts of the privileged.  Somebody or some organisation needs to be recording ordinary opinions.  Social media is all very well as a record but Mass Observation, for example, was very fond of gleaning information in the pubs or on the streets.  Social media generally excluding the views of the elderly being a good example of the need for this.
To quote Dimbleby again, 'Bolton stood as an example of the great Northern cities which supplied much of the nation's wealth but which had a long history of being ignored by the South.'  Sounds terribly familiar in the context of what we already know about the split of the Brexit vote, doesn't it?  Someone should have been 'mass observing' before David Cameron decided to assume he could win a referendum.

Monday, 11 July 2016

David for PM

Late posting today.  Partly doing school holiday stuff and partly because everything I thought of writing seemed to pale compared to the increasingly mad UK political news.

As if leaving the EU wasn't enough, our 'politicians' seem to have lost the will to live.  And apparently in two days time, the one who started it all - David Cameron - will retire to his estates having graciously handed over to (gratefully chucked it to) the second ever female prime minister, Theresa May (apologies if by the time you read this, the news has changed again and Kermit the Frog or someone equally well qualified is taking over).

This weekend, the debacle over Andrea 'Loathsome' Leadsom did at least spark some interesting teen 'show and tell' events in our family.  We were staying with friends and the adults were busy exclaiming over the hideous parenting-related claims which had burst forth from the woman.  And our nearly teen was earwigging.  The journey home therefore severely tested my powers as a politics graduate.  Rather large questions such as 'what is a feminist', 'what do Left and Right mean in politics' and 'why there has only ever been one female prime minister before now', fired from the backseat for most of the way.

I noted on Facebook this week that I was horrified to find myself wishing for a Theresa May victory and even more disturbed by the failure of the Left to produce any female leaders.  I spent my own teen years protesting against Thatcher - for the miners, against the Poll Tax, in favour of CND, etc.  I can only hope Theresa May manages to conduct herself and the government in a less adversarial way.  Mind you, at least Thatcher had a well-honed plan - whether you agreed with it or not.  No-one at the moment seems to have a clue.  (Must have Brexit-itis - I have just expressed a positive sentiment about the Milk Snatcher.)

Previously I have posted about where our political beliefs come from.  I had one Left and one Right parent growing up.  It never occurred to me to vote Tory though.  My innate tendencies were firmly Left wing.  I am now very curious to see where my children end up on the political scale.  They too have one Left and one Right parent but their father is more economically Right than in terms of equal rights etc.  But how will their views be affected by what we are living through right now?  By the time they are - hopefully - coming out of university, we will have Brexited.  What will they be concerned about?  Britain's place in the world?  Or basics necessities like finding a job in a shrivelled economy?  Or all the rights which they know their ancestors enjoyed and which no longer exist?

Will May be the saviour of the country or the bogeywoman of their teen years?  Who will grasp Brexit and make the best of it?  Theresa May is the best of a very sorry bunch - and I sadly include Labour in that.

Mind you, Youngest might have an idea.  She asked me this afternoon whether David Beckham would now have to move out of Downing Street...  Maybe we should be moving him in... his management would never have let things come to this.  A worldwide PR and financial disaster.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Alternate Reality

And so another week into Brexit World and still there is no semblance of a plan by our politicians.  I can't write anymore than that or the ranting will start again.  Instead, some thoughts on the future. 
When I was an A level student, I wanted to join the European Civil Service.  I did French 'A' Level and had a university place for European Studies.  Unfortunately, despite doing all five French 'A' Level papers, the exam board claimed I was absent.  My name was mixed up with someone who had been absent and there was no sign of my papers or marks.  I lost my university place.  Me being me, I refused to retake because I felt I should not have to and thus language degrees were out.  Instead, I went to Sheffield a year late.  To do History, Philosophy and Politics. 
My life now is totally shaped by that moment of not receiving my French result.  I am married to the man I met at Sheffield for a start.  As for my 'career', well I never really found any professional path after the idea of the civil service.  I went from job to job, moving on according to merit and experience and changing sector every few years.  Until I ended up as a stay-at-home parent, which in general I have loved.
Whilst at Sheffield, we were very keen on Red Dwarf, a comedy set in space in the future.  Many episodes revolve around ideas of parallel universes, alternate realities, unexpected time travel.  For example, a parallel universe where the male leads' counterparts turned out to be female.  All except the creature who had evolved from the starship's cat.  His opposite, to his disgust, was a dog.
This week, I have been reading On Writing by Stephen King.  He says his story starting points are most often from a 'what-if question'.  I also read a very poignant article about Brexit - I'm afraid I can't recall the source - talking of the 'lost marriages, lost friendships' etc of the future thanks to withdrawal from Europe.
It seems to me that Brexit is like a massive time bend.  We all have our own personal turning points, our 'what-ifs' throughout our lives.  But Brexit is a huge shared experience of that.  For the thousands who voted Leave without really understanding what the EU does for their lives (as discussed in my post last week), there isn't the sense of fear and loss which the Remain voters are feeling so immediately.  Leavers think they have won.  But their lives will turn.  Funding withdrawn from thousands of projects, businesses closing, cheap travel opportunities gone, employment rights whittled away.  And they will have to find a new bogeyman to blame because it won't be the EU.
It will take at least ten years after the Brexit for pro-Europe people to feel like they have control of their own destinies again.  At least that long for an EU-less world to feel real and not like a weird parallel universe.  Maybe one day, humans will access an alternate reality where Brexit was rejected and future generations of Brits will meet their counterparts, all still living as part of the EU.  Let's just hope the reality chosen by Leave voters will measure up when our time traveller descendants are comparing notes.