Category Archives: Political comment

L’agression des enfants

Yesterday, an horrendous event took place – no humour from me today, maybe – I was mugged on my own doorstep by a group of 100 teenagers. They were trying to wind up a Somali girl to fight an Asian girl on our street – there were about 50 to a 100 kids, all about 13 or 14, desperately trying to smash a girl’s face in. Not only was it very different from the aggression we faced as kids, where it’d be one or two girls having a bit of a yell at each other, or one or two lads – I never saw the Billy Casper/Kes kind of fight scenes, but this was horrific. As I stood, trying to call the police, calm things down and move them on, my phone and my camera were stolen from my hands by two Asian youths who sprinted off.

I was shoved about a bit and luckily the police found the boy who’d done that, but he could shed no light on who had done this to me. What sickens me is that I thought it could have ended so much worse, with me dead, not just with a couple of shoves and a stolen camera and phone. It also makes the kids of Essa Academy seem like lawless hooligans – a far cry from how they used to be. You give kids ipods to revise with, and they become savages. Re-branding has done nothing. It horrifies me that it could have ended more like this:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/8639113.stm

http://menmedia.co.uk/news/s/1228489_teen_charged_with_cody_turners_murder

http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/8118353.Facebook_row_led_to_tragedy_for_Cody_Turner/

Cody Turner, a teenager stabbed in Bolton for confronting someone… how quickly it escalates

http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/4764026.Teenagers_wearing_Essa_Academy_uniforms_attack_woman/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7176471.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/4424766.stm

I can’t begin to describe how terrifying it is to be in the middle of a baying mob of kids who will stand around and watch whilst someone in the community is robbed in front of them, who will laugh, who will barge and jostle and steal. I can’t say how utterly terrifying it is to know how vulnerable you are and that they could do anything. The police were brilliant, but because it is a Level 1 robbery, involving minors, even if they were to be caught and sentenced, they would get 36 hours community service to do over 3 months.

And I know that this wouldn’t happen in rural France. Not yet. It’s a little piece of the world where gangs of children don’t mug local residents, where the world is safe still.

Le retour de l’homme

Steve’s on his way back this evening. He’s glad I think to be coming home, though I think I’m sad it’s him joining us and not the other way around. He sent Jake a text last night saying he’s as excited as before Christmas Eve and Jake’s his present. I can’t wait until he’s over with us.

The political situation is also very unsettled. Both the pound and the euro are down against the dollar. The problems in Greece and Spain have led to a weak euro, but the pound is in a terrible state against it… our Governmental issues are rife.

Can’t believe Ed Balls is stil in power. Would have thought the good people of Morley would have got rid. Mini-Blair Milliband is also still in, as is Hazel Blears. I kind of like Hazel Blears. I like she is a little feisty shortarse who rides a motorbike and rocked the boat a bit. I don’t believe in towing the party line if you don’t believe in it. Investment is huge in Salford, and maybe Blears has a lot to do with that. It’s becoming a different place, in parts, though Ordsall and Langworthy are still (and always going to be) the same. I like she came from a working class background and was the first to go into higher education. She reminds me a little of me, for all her faults. For all her sins, she’s not smarmy or fake or false. Good for Hazel.

At the same time,  I’m sad the lib dems didn’t have a higher proportion of seats. I think it’s right and proper we should have a wide variety of parties: we aren’t a republic. I like Nick Clegg and I think he’s sincere. It’s time we stopped this monopoly of Tory/Labour – they’re too comfortable in their positions. I very much like the cartoon from The Times depicting Brown as a bull in a china shop, I think it sums up my view of him: I trust him to fix it, more than the Tories, but then he broke it in the first place.

Morten Morland Cartoon - The Times

I wonder if I should do a ‘Paul Daniels’ and say I’ll leave the country if a party I don’t endorse get in? I know he didn’t (not even a man of his word, let alone a good magician!) but I could say I disapprove.

I am glad the Green party are represented. I think it’s good to have someone with a say in there, even if it’s only one person.

I couldn’t bring myself to vote Tory, not after the expenses scandal in particular. Duck palaces and moat cleaning take the piss and remind us what being a Tory is all about. I like Clegg’s pro-Europe stance; I think in 100 years, we will be part of the USE and if we’re not, we’ll never compete with the likes of a resurgent Brazil, India or China. India is too disorganised to break in to global domination. So they can do things cheaply and they have manpower, so what? China is ingenious and Brazil has resources. And the only way we can fight against these super-sized nations is if we man up. And if that means taking part in a United States, that’s fine with me. I’m pro-euro… If it can rebound from Greece and Spain, it is long-lasting. It’s good to have a no-boundaries Europe, whatever the anti-immigrants say. In fact,  I don’t think immigration is a problem, from Europe. Sure there are scroungers from less developed nations, but there are worse scroungers from Britain itself. I’m thinking of Karen Matthews et al. Vile individuals who squeeze out kids to make enough cash to keep them in cheap lager and bingo fags.

In fact, alongside the amusing Tory posters (and what a colossal waste of money they are!) depicting Gordon Brown smiling, there was a comment in The Times from a guy calling it the contest of the ‘dead babies’ and that’s exactly how Cameron played it, and exactly what I despise about the man. Fancy dragging out the dead baby to win an election! As much spin as Blair, and no mistake.

So… not enough of a wide variety, glad that Nick Griffin hasn’t got anywhere, sad that more people haven’t had faith in Clegg, annoyed that Balls is still there, alongside Mini-Blair, smirking that Blears is still there (and a little happy, too!) glad the Greens have got someone in Parliament.

I know this might not be a popular comment, and I’m aware of his past transgressions, but I think Charles should have more say in this Constitutional Monarchy of ours. I like what he has to say!

je suis une cynique

I’m just about up to the back teeth with this country. Cheating, lying, swindling politicians, potholes all over, rancid buildings à la ‘1960s USSR’, ridiculous policing that’s more bothered about car speeds than hooligans, gang culture, chavs, the benefits system, “asylum” seekers who give a bad name to those really in need of asylum, story after story of scandal and misbehaviour… and I get a letter from Bolton Council to say they won’t backdate my council tax rebate because ‘ignorance of the rebate isn’t a good enough reason’ for them to back-date it. I’ve paid into the system for all my life. I’ve worked since I was 11. My mother never claimed benefits, even when she could have done. I went to a private school on a scholarship, so I cost the tax payer nothing for my 11-18 education. I have grafted every single day of my adult life. I’ve paid 40% tax at some points in my life. And because I’d rather be self-employed than on incapacity benefit for my bipolar disorder, they’d rather not give me any money. I still haven’t claimed a penny. I still pay council tax. And here I am, eating spaghetti with tinned tomatoes for my lunch because I can’t afford anything better. Spaghetti and a tin of tomatoes will keep me going for 4 lunches for less than £2.00. It disgusts me. I can’t afford to buy washing powder, or bleach, or conditioner for my hair. And yet I have worked every day of my adult life. I worked hard. I didn’t claim benefits even when I could. And because of that, I’m being punished.

Not only that, I can’t open a bank account because I’m self-employed and I’ve only got 1 tax year’s summary because I’ve only submitted one set of accounts. I can’t, therefore, get a job that needs a bank account. I’m still waiting for bank cards that I asked for 14 days ago, and yet my bank harasses me as soon as they think I might go overdrawn. Bankrupts are treated better than this. It’s no wonder people declare themselves bankrupt. I’d be able to open a bank account if I’d just come out of prison, yet I can’t because I’m self-employed. So… those on parole, those who can’t manage their finances, those who are benefits’ hounds, they’re the ones who have privileges. If you’ve got credit, if you use catalogues and have cards, and store cards and HP and loans, then they’ll lend you money. But not me.

I hate this country and how it treats its citizens. It’s all about money. I earn enough to live (just!) and yet I still get slapped for tax and I pay my prescriptions, even though my drugs are cheaper than a prescription price, and I pay to see, because I need glasses, and I pay car tax, even though the roads are full of potholes. And my local council can go cap in hand to the government and get more cash. I can’t. If I can’t pay my bills, the bailiffs come round, not someone from the government with some more cash. I pay more than enough for my bank account, and they, more often than not, are responsible for pushing me over the edge when they slap on fees. £10.00 for 5 pages of bank statements exactly the same as the print-offs I had, but the bank I’m trying to deal with in France only accepts ‘bank’ copies, not mine, and so I pay, even though it probably cost a pound to print and post them. £217.00 to get from here to London on the train. £7.00 return from here to Bury on the bus. RIP-OFF Britain. And I’ve had enough.

It makes me sick.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3338076.ece

We’re being constantly spied-on and monitored, and The Matrix is alive and well, people, and we’re living in it!

Today’s news:

terror; strikes; terror & strikes; expenses scandals; Budget reports; Income Tax rises; NI rises; man has heart-attack after yobs bait him; pay rise for MPs & pay freeze for doctors; Falklands’ rows; vanishing species of flowers; birds fall from the sky….

Now, of course, you and I are rational people. We know this is media spin. Bad News makes Good News. Good News makes Bad News. No-one likes to hear about animals being saved, or kind people, or how much we give to charity, but it’s just beginning to get to me. I’m a nihilistic sort of person suffering from anomie. Marx and St Simon were right. I can’t stand all this corporationism and globalization, despite its positives. Yes, I can be in touch with people at the touch of a button. Yes, the internet gives me reading and information and TV and it’s great. What I don’t like is all the negativity.

So… in a way, I’m looking forward to being a bit of a rural terrorist, living off the grid, without gas and a TV line. To some degree, not having a phone would be great too, for business. I’d dearly like to pay only the hospital bills I need to.

I’m just reading:

http://www.off-grid.net/2010/03/05/off-the-grid-and-the-prepared/

which asks us what we’d do if our electricity failed. I know, because Steve often forgets to top up the meter until the last minute. I know about living without a fridge – did it at uni. It’s amazing how far you can get without a fridge, and with powdered milk! Not sure how far we’d get without a freezer in France, because I’m planning on freezing a lot of it. Pickling and drying, I guess!! Living without music… a little harder, though you can make your own. Living without light? Candles, fire, early nights. Living without TV. Not so hard at all. Living without the internet? Not so sure.

Maybe this blog is kind of spiritual in the sense of sharing with an unknown world. My words are out there, even if no-one’s reading them.

So… a moneyless existence, by and large. How ridiculous I was thinking of getting a horse, yesterday, because along with my bike, I’d need only public transport for longer journeys. No dependence on the car and on oil and petrol! I could wash my clothes in the bath, like I used to at uni, and barbecue stuff and cook it on the range. I could also read by candlelight, and go to bed with the seasons.

Perhaps, then, I should prepare well for an off-the-grid life. I want to be self-sufficient and cash only. That’d work! Except for the taxes. It’s true what they say about death and taxes, you know!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whSYTSXm8wo

Paul Weller does a good job here of summing up my feelings!

Anyway, having listened to a bit of Bob Marley, a bit of Jimmy Cliff and some ‘Lion Sleeps Tonight’, I feel a whole lot better!

I’m flummoxed… do they think I’m gormless?

Having sorted out (a bit) the finances… and realised it might not all slip away to nothingness and fantasy, we’ve been getting on with the process of uprooting and moving.

The first has been Steve’s bike – a CCM 604DS – a beautiful northern beast of a bike – his love and passion. I’ve been frequenting a couple of forums for expats, and realising they might just not be the place for us! I’d asked what to do about importing the bike, only to have some quite superficially helpful advice.

Turns out, it wasn’t so helpful. The guy who I was told to write to for an ‘attestation d’identité’ doesn’t deal with CCM any more… so after I’d painfully transcribed it in French, he’d written back to me (in English) and faxed it through to CCM in Bolton, a mere 4 miles from my house.  Bah.

Then it turns out it doesn’t have a certificate of conformity because it was pre-1996 and it was not manufactured in great numbers… so it had a motorbike single vehicle approval, which isn’t recognised in France, and it’ll need the equivalent in France.

Not a big deal, I hope.

Still, I’m quickly getting the impression that the forums are full of moaners who have done things the hard way, if at all. They pass on second and third hand stories about difficulties they’ve faced…. without any specific ‘do this, do this’ info, and the guy who I did get some from was so much of a pedant I’d probably slap him in the face. He questioned whether I’d done as he’d advised (to the letter, and better) and then told me what I already knew. Bah.

Then there’s the English ex-pats who want everything English – the same cheeses, the same meat, the same cars, who don’t want to be in France particularly except it was cheap and not a big deal to move there. It might as well be Spain, Italy, Germany…. France is the accidental part of it.

Why even move to a country you don’t want to really live in?

Steve and I went to his mum’s on Wednesday, so I could make my famous Anglesey eggs (thanks, Hairy Bikers) and we were talking about how close we are to a complete monetary failure in England. So much is owed. We’re like some tinpot dictatorship in Africa in the 1970s. It’s quite shocking. I’m going to Cuba if the world’s economy collapses. They’re virtually self-sufficient, were it not for a bit of Hugo Chavez’s oil. And they live like we plan to… fresh veg, chickens, bicycles, music…. I know there are social problems and problems getting various items, such as soap, when I was there, but when Hurricane Ivan swept over and much of the island was in black-out, it wasn’t much different from normal. No street lights in Havana, no extraneous lighting, no ridiculous food, no commercialism. It’s a world totally unaffected by commercial corporations, and I love that. I love that they sit 90 miles off American shores and stick two fingers up at McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, Gap and Banana Republic, Abercrombie and Fitch and so on…. I like that they do things their way. I wish not every country in the shadow of America had joined the embargo.

But, it’s a rural, quiet, basic life where people sing and play, work some and learn. They’re healthy and literate and it’s a beautiful untouched country. I like that about rural France.

So I’m not going to expect Sunday roasts and pubs and cheddar cheese and dole queues, but then I’m expecting it to be a lot nicer than England, too, if only because I won’t be bogged down in all this political cynicism I’ve developed. And in many ways, I hope the ex-pats don’t invade my turf. I’m interested in France, not living in an enclave or ghetto. Not for me, at all.

The day someone asks me something in French on the street, that’ll be the day I’m at my happiest.

Anyway, why is it that people who don’t know what they’re talking about feel free to add their grumbles, the old women. It’s as if they feel like they really should piss on your parade, just for fun. If something’s been hard for me, I usually do the opposite and say ‘oh, it was fairly easy’ and assume that any complications were idiocy on my behalf, or stupidity on behalf of whatever it is I’m trying to do (like some of my ridiculous phone calls of late) not that it’s impossible. That just makes me look incompetent.

Anyway, I’ve realised that someone is missing a damn fine PA. I’m very good at getting things done. I’m good at list-writing and ordering and colour-coding and photocopying, and things involving the post office. I’m good at phoning people up and following instructions and gathering stuff. I’m a paper-pusher of the highest order, and I do so in colour-coded box files and with multi-coloured sticky notes, with highlighter pens and dividers and folders and binders. I love Staples and Office World, and I especially love Paperchase who make organisation a kitsch and cute affair. I love boxes and labels and order.

I could definitely be a ‘move co-ordinator’ or a wedding planner or something like that. I would be an excellent sheepdog or shepherd, since I’m very good at corralling gormless animals, rounding up strays and bringing it all home tidily. At times, teaching is much more like herding cats, so all of this is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

So I say ‘bah’ in the general direction of the nay-sayers and the old Mary Anns who like to make everything sound impossibly difficult, and I promise, when I have done things, to share my wisdom and optimism about how easy it all was, in practical, colour-coded, logical steps. Yes.

Il pluit chameaux et chevres

It’s November. It’s still pissing down. Flood warnings. Wind warnings. There’s not been a bright day for what feels like weeks. Misery and torment!

It’s not just the weather that’s pissed on my parade, England-wise; it’s a collection of everything else. Politics, taxes, education, housing, traffic, law…. In short, nothing there’s not a Cabinet position for.

It doesn’t seem long ago that British people were renowned for courtesy and politeness. Now, most people walk around looking at you as if they’d like to do nothing more than spit on you. The traffic is horrendous, and it gets worse, daily. I sit in traffic from 8:50, noticing how people cut out, cut lanes, don’t look. It’s as if cars are protective bubbles in which nothing else matters and utter selfishness is tantamount to good practice. Hence, you don’t stop at a double white-dashed line at a junction, unless the other person (me) on the main carriageway threatens not to slam on and let you in. Then you should let the nose of your car protrude a good foot over the line so as to make your indignation noticed, to make it impossible for any drivers to get past without swerving into oncoming traffic, and thus ensure you get your wish anyway. The white lines are all in the wrong places these days.

And to make it worse, none of the traffic lights seem to be synchronised sensibly. So…. let the flow of traffic stop at lights, to let a minor junction seep three or four cars into the road, then stop everyone at the next set, and so on. I can understand why I get stopped at the KFC junction, to hold us all together, but why, then, as the main ‘flow’ of traffic, do we then end up stopping at Tesco and then the turn-off to Bury? And when I get stopped at the main set on the A666, why, then, do I have to stop again moments after??? Do traffic planners not actually drive or do surveys of where traffic comes from???

So, what with the pulling out, the slow traffic lights, the people who double park, the people who park on double yellows…. the endless pelican crossings and stopping, starting, stopping, starting, the volume of traffic on the roads, the inconsiderate bus drivers who launch out after having stopped for two seconds, the lorry drivers who couldn’t care less about anything smaller than a tank, it pisses me off. Most right royally.

And then I get home to bills – extortionate bills – council tax reminders, gas and electric bills, super-inflated insurance, because nothing’s safe – only to settle down to read a paper, realise we’re being robbed blind by benefit fraud and politicians, that the sentences passed out to criminals are vastly disproportionate to the crime, that the country is plagued by hoodies and mini-terrorists who rule the suburbs, that the banks are frivolous, wasteful, over-paid wide-boys, that the politicians are so out of touch with reality that policy no longer reflects anything useful or relevant, that education is stuck in a rut to improve that it’s been in for at least the last 20 years, that public servants hear the same messages over and over again, and never change…. this is a selfish, selfish country and no mistake.

I don’t think most people are like that. I tend to think that most people are genuine and caring. That they would do as I did when a man had a vet bill for his cat’s euthanasia and pay it for him, that they’d let the knocked-over dog take their place in the queue for the vet, no matter how long it took, that they’d rescue a cat or lend their neighbour a hand. But they don’t. Maybe they’d like to, but they never do. This is the country of the onlooker, where only when it’s too late does someone offer to help. Houses get burgled, cars get stolen, and people watch on. So, if they’re not selfish, they’re petrified.

Yesterday, many hundreds of things pissed me off: the extortionate dentistry costs – £85.00 for a five minute extraction??! – the terrible driving, the double parking, the selfishness of the general populace outside.

People live in a bubble. And I know I’m not the only one to think so. From the supermarket-wanderers who wander aimlessly with trolleys, blocking the aisles with trolleys and aimless, meandering surplus family members, to the people who pull out expecting the world to stop for them, people are blithely unaware of everyone around them. I don’t know how there aren’t more acts of street violence when people just wander so aimlessly and so self-absorbed. Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I expect too much out of politeness and civil behaviour. All I know is that with the country so heavily overcrowded, it’s ten times worse, and it’s time to break free, as Freddie would say!

So… doom, gloom, selfishness, overcrowding…. can I scrape together the money for the house??!