Monday, November 14, 2011

High Highs

Great music, uplifting and harmonious

Friday, November 04, 2011

Uplifting short film

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Murmuration: an amazing and beautiful film of starlings wheeling around the sky. This is nature's visual representation of flow... how a group can move as one, a creative and exultant energy. I love it. The music is by the Nomad Soul Collective.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


The clocks have gone back today, and I am watching the poor horse chestnut trees across the road shed their leaves. Some years it seems to happen over a weekend, they suddenly shift all their leaves quickly. Other years, this year, it's a long drawn out affair, a few leaves flutter down every few minutes. A bird alights on a branch and a leaf floats off. The wind... well you get the picture.

The trees are suffering some sort of blight anyway, looking ready to drop from the middle of the summer. There is some confusion about whether this is a fungus, a bacterium or the fault of a moth. It seems that the leaf miner moth weakens tree but does not kill them, the fungus is a blight in the USA, but the thing which is killing the trees in the UK is the bacterium which causes bleeding canker.

Those across the way from me look to be fighting the infection, as they are still producing viable conkers, but many trees have already become so dangerous to the public that they have had to be cut down.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Domenic Johansson

I've posted on numerous occasions about Domenic and the fact that he was snatched from his loving parents two long years ago. The fight just got very urgent because we understand the authorities are planning to apply for the right to remove parental responsibility from his parents altogether.

They have done NOTHING to deserve this treatment. I hope you will read about the case here:

and sign the petition here:

and do everything in your power to help this family and this little boy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How to be... Caitlin Moran

Review: How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran, Ebury Press, £11.99.

Like much of Caitlin Moran's writing, “How to be a woman” had me laughing out loud almost as soon as I started it. Her ability to express herself and to share her experiences is unrivalled. Apart from her wit and writing, I've always had a soft spot for her because she was home educated, and I eventually chose to home educate my own children.

But for me, the laughter was soon tempered with horror at the unremittingly dire and awful circumstances she described in a home where she wasn't even given the small amount of information I would have thought most modern, intelligent and caring parents would provide, about the beginning of being a woman, periods, pregnancy and childbirth. When she later describes a woman fantasising about a colleague, it is almost as though she believes the whole of womankind is similarly distracted behind a sham working facade. Maybe I'm the odd one, but I don't have rich internal imaginings about the men around me and I never did. Actually, I used to work at work... hard.

For a writer to be a good writer, an entertaining and accessible writer, they need to express some universal truth in a recognisible way, either from the inside of society or from the outside of it. It is clear that some of Caitlin's clarity about the idiocies of modern life and growing up a woman are from the outside, granted by her unusual childhood in a very unusual family.

There were some yawning gaps in the book, which is constructed in order to follow her progress from extremely lonely and isolated home-educated child to mother with children. She jumped from isolated teenager in Wolverhampton to columnist at the Melody Maker without explanation, and into television, and the world beyond, again without any real explanation. I think we are just supposed to recognise her talent, and presume it was that which took her from life before to fame and fortune in the city. It is clear that her unusual upbringing produced an unusual person, and I longed to know more about the rest of her family...are they similarly successful, or is she supporting the rest of them in their diet of cheese lollipops and furniture made from cardboard boxes?

I wanted the book to be full of the insights which usually make her writing so readable, but I became more and more depressed as I realised that she was just another feminist who claims that a woman is really the same as a man and a man is the same as a woman, give or take the odd high-heeled shoe, which no one should attempt to wear *anyway* according to Ms Moran, and the compulsion for daytime fantasy.

I don't agree with Caitlin's take on feminism... that for any woman to be a feminist in Caitlin's world, she simply has to be a woman. The trouble is, that in this post-1970s feminist society, the word feminist doesn't simply mean woman, it carries with it a whole lot of baggage. Generations before Caitlin, when I was a teenager in the 1970s, teachers would reserve special scathing for any girl who simply wanted to be a wife and mother. Not that any of my contemporaries would have dared express such a wish... we all knew that we were expected to want a career of our own, and to reject any idea of wasting our talent and education on home making.

In those days, I believed the lie that men and women were exactly the same, and that society and conditioning were all that stood between women and the boardroom. It was a lie then, and it is a lie now. What stands between women and the boardroom is that we are naturally nurturers and carers and the model of the boardroom which is currently in place doesn't value those things, it values the opposite – the sort of cut-throat, uncaring capitalism that puts profits first and people second.

That isn't to say that I don't think a woman is capable of making a success of business, or of making as good a job of being a man as any man might make – it is clear looking at those women who have risen to the top in many areas of life, that it is perfectly possible. But my feeling about the whole mistaken drive of the 1970s feminists and since, is that we haven't embraced the unique things about womanhood and applied them to our lives and to society. Instead we have spent our time denying that they are there at all, and claiming that we are essentially men, with different hormones.

I think women are different from men in many wonderful ways, and the main problem with what feminism means to my generation is that with defending a woman's ability to be equal with any man comes a requirement to reject anything specifically feminine, as though all the differences between men and women were a product of their conditioning, and nothing to do with biology, physiology and being a woman rather than a man.

The original suffragettes protested the vote, but they were also asking for the things which were traditionally women's work to be recognised as equally valuable to society. Think of that! The idea that child rearing, looking after the home, looking after the elderly, for example should be recognised as having a similar value to society as trudging up and down the metropolitan line in search of professional fulfillment. This wasn't to pin women into those jobs and prevent them from being anything else, but to recognise that those jobs, those activities, provide real value for our society and that should be recognised as being equal to other activities.

Of course, that didn't happen. Having been a housewife and mother for 20 years, I can tell you that there is nothing that you can say to kill a person's interest in you as a person so effectively as that you are a full-time mother. It's the equivalent of saying that you enjoy train spotting, or have a definitive collection of banana labels at home, neatly categorised by country of origin. People's eyes glaze over as they make the assumption that you must be very boring indeed not to be shelf stacking in Sainsbury's at the very least. Motherhood is the job with the lowest possible status. And feminism put it there, in my not so humble opinion.

I look back at my mother's generation, who were expected to give up work and to look after the house and home when they married, and I see a lot of unhappy and frustrated women, who wanted to be at work, and weren't satisfied with their lot. Have things improved so much for women? I look at my generation, and see a lot of unhappy and frustrated women, who expected their husbands to pick up half the housework and half the childcare, who learned pretty quickly that wasn't going to happen. Yes there are odd families where there is an equal division of labour, but for every one of those you can show me, I can show you twenty five – fifty! - where the woman is still the one doing all the cooking and cleaning as well as a full-time job.

I see women who felt that they were the same as men, who felt that they deserved careers and a life outside the home, who have come to realise that they are expected to work full time AND do the lion's share of the housework and childcare. I see a lot of unhappy and frustrated women trying to get men to cough up their half of the deal, and failing.

Even if they do get them to take half of the childcare, I have to tell you that in my experience a man doesn't do the job well. It's a generalisation, and I agree it is a continuum, with good men overtaking the bad women on the childcare spectrum. However, most men don't possess the sixth sense that women who are tuned into their children have... thus one of my friends who did succeed in sharing everything 50/50 with her husband still knew within two minutes of coming through the door that her baby was ill, when the man who had been with her all day, did not.

Don't get me wrong – I don't think that women should be forced back to the kitchen sink, any more than I think they should be forced into the boardroom. I think women should get a choice, though. Some women choose motherhood over a career. I did myself. I was lucky that I was willing to give up my salary, holidays, new clothes, ever being able to afford any extras, any prospect that anyone outside the family would want to talk to me, in return for the time I spent at home. I worked part time, I made sacrifices and I did what I wanted to do more than anything: I spent time with my children. I'd like all women to have that choice, with that work recognised as being of value to society. Maybe it is going to take more social disruption for society to start to recognise that a stable family life may have a greater value than making mothers work.

I wrote a letter to the Times when my children were small, expressing my frustration that people assumed that one was brainless and unambitious if one chose to stay at home with children. I received a lot of letters from other women telling me how much they longed to spend time with their babies, and how their families and especially husbands, pressured them to go back to work. Over a century after the suffragettes, I think that's terribly sad. We should have done better.

I'd like a book on how to be a woman to actually recognise that there are some positive things which do distinguish women from men, and that they should be celebrated. I don't want to oppress anyone into gender roles... I'm happy for anyone, including men, to be good at nurturing, and glad if there are women who want to be army generals or professional footballers. But I do want the caring, soft, kind, pretty side of life to be celebrated and valued, not just the success-at-all-costs, hard-nosed, taking-no-prisoners side of life.

I wanted a celebration of being a woman... and actually, a recognition that being a woman is something to value, to cherish, and not just an accident of biology. My sense of disappointment was extreme when it came to the chapter in the book labelled simply “abortion”. I don't presume to tell other women what they should do, and so I have always been pro-choice, despite knowing, incontrovertably, that I could never ever have had an abortion myself. I don't expect or want other people to be the same as me, but I suppose I do expect an abortion to be a big deal. And I don't understand it, not at all. Caitlin Moran had a stable family, enough money, two children already. It is clear that one of the facts of life her family omitted from her upbringing was the fact that while two children is definitely about four times as many children as one child, three children is only half a child more than two.

For those of you similarly handicapped by ignorance of the mathematics of child rearing, when you have one child, even if you were a successful businesswoman handling a budget of millions of pounds, you are completely how much work one child can be. As Caitlin expresses it well, you can't believe how much time you have squandered in the past. Just catering for the needs and whims of a newborn baby is enough to keep two adults fully occupied 24 hours a day. And the house will still look as though a laundry bomb has hit it.

In the first few weeks of having a baby you look in admiration at anyone with more than one child. How do they manage to get dressed? How can they function? Eventually, when you succumb to a second child, all your worst fears are realised: the second child is just as time consuming as the first, but now you have the first child's needs and wishes to take into account. Instead of being able to fall asleep when the baby sleeps, you suddenly have to entertain baby one and try to stop her killing number two.

It seems like an impossible amount of work, and suddenly you are juggling two infants who want time and attention, food and changing, washing and combing, plying with stories and love. It seems that the amount of work and effort has grown exponentially, although the number of bodies only doubled.

The magic is that a third child can be added without seemingly adding much work at all. It seems shocking that a mother with two small children already would have an abortion with a third. Maybe it happens all the time and people just don't talk about it. It just seemed overwhelmingly selfish to me. Maye selflessness is one of the traits which she associates with the oppression of women and their real natures. But the defining characteristic of a good carer is selflessness, caring for others more than oneself. I found it hard to like her after that... she said it was an easy decision to take and one which she didn't regret afterwards... and I am afraid that made me dislike her more.

Women should have choices. I believe that all women deserve choices about how to use their time and their bodies. But in an age of easy contraception, I'd expect intelligent women not to fall pregnant if they know that they do not want to have another baby. I dislike the promotion of abortion as an easy decision and an easy answer.

Being a woman IS a thing... it isn't just society and convention that propels women into a nurturing and caring role in the family and in society. Motherhood is a thing too, and it isn't exchangeable for fatherhood – that's a different thing altogether.

At the end of the book, I had been entertained and horrified, but I don't know that I had learned anything insightful or useful about being a woman. I had learned a bit about being Caitlin Moran, however.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My personal archaeology

Iteresting article in the Guardian, suggests one should think about what would endure for future archaeologists, of one's life. I felt inspired to write the following:

My Personal Archaeology

What would endure?
Not my laptop, which would decay into a sticky pool of plastic
Not my writing, which has burned in the heart of who I am
Not my children, who became my life, my joy and my reason,
Not me.

I propel myself forward
Watch decay set in as my ivy takes over the world,
My box of important things
Now probably a mush of family history papers
Coins I never learned to collect, a broken watch

My Life would speak incoherently
Glass bottles of long-gone vitamins
Would mislead about my care of my health
Scented oils and bottles for this and that...mirrors...
Might make one think I worried about how I look.

It would be random: glass beads scattered,
Sand-washed glass
Ugly porcelain mementos of beautiful friendships
The twisted frames of a hundred frozen moments
Stones and shells with no purpose but themselves.

I have concluded what lies about my life
Would lie about my life, so
Does it lie about those others I have watched
As Time Team discovers
Their bones, their bowls, and a series of small walls?

Or did they leave more durable memorials than I?
No emails, no letters, no life online
No excess possessions to deceive
No books, no gadgets, no plastic
Just the trusty stone, metal, glass

But then again, maybe the most important elements
Are not written on the ephemera or
bound up in the enduring ceramic, but
Are written on the hearts of others
Drifting forever in the dust which lights the stars

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hate never wins

Hate never wins
It burns itself out on a hundred victim pyres
consuming the souls of the haters
whereas love burns eternal with the spirit light
A silver thread which knits us together
They are many, but we are one.

Love connects people
In their compassion, the knowledge of how a mother feels
When her child is taken
Lives with me, although my children are but a phone call away
I feel her pain, her loss
I want to be able to turn back time
Give those children back to their families
I don't want one to suffer as I know they are
I want to be able to hug them and say it's all right
I want to be able to step into their lives and heal it
And I can't...
But we are one, though they be many.

I can't bear to think about the sudden end
The fear, the pain, the last thoughts
I can't bear to imagine what it's like
To run for your life
I can't bear to think about the families
Learning that the goodbye they said happily
Was the last one to be said
Learning that the goodbye hug
Was the last one to be felt
and they couldn't know it.
We are one and they cannot break us.

Hate never wins
Darkness is a prelude to the light
Dawn breaks
Chasing away the night
What endures is the love,
Hate never wins,
For we are one.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Help Domenic Johansson

I'm taking the unusual step of posting the same blog to all my blogs, no matter what their subject.
Domenic Johanssen was a happy child of two loving parents. His parents were taking him to India from Sweden where they had been living, when officials boarded the plane and took Domenic away. People who are told the story cannot believe that Domenic was removed from his parents on such flimsy grounds: the Johanssens were planning to home educate (which was legal in Sweden at that time), they hadn't allowed him to have all the vaccinations, and he had two cavities in his baby teeth.

He has been in the care of the Swedish authorities since then, and repeated attempts to get him back have failed. The separation has adversely affected the health of his mother and father, and the photograps of the child now compared to the child then make it obvious that he is far less happy in the care of the authorities than he was at home.

Th Swedish system seems to be a heartless and inhumane system which ignore human bonding and puts the interests of the family last in any decision. I find it absolutely incomprehensible that a state in a civilised country could be allowed to behave like this.

I don't know what can be done. I have written to judges and officials over the past two years. In a place where home educating seems to be considered abuse, it is very very hard to know how to communicate with these people.

Everyone to whom I have told this story have been suspicious that there must have been another, hidden, reason for taking Domenic away from his parents, but that truly isn't the case. If you can think of a way to publicise, or to put pressure on the Swedish authorities, please please let me know.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Starting out

For years I have been writing a book.  For years.  The only trouble is, that I have never actually worked out which book I am writing.  Thus, I never finish it, I just keep starting it over and over.  There's the children's story I have been writing since my own children were small.  I must have twenty or thirty versions of the beginnings of that.  I know how it starts, and I know how it ends, but the middle has evaded me and I have never managed to get past the feeling that I ought to know what's going to happen before I start to write it.  And I don't.

There's the book about my spiritual journey, from childhood to adulthood.  I have started this more times than I can count, and have drafts of the first few chapters in books, in word documents, on scraps of paper, in diaries.  I have never managed to make a coherent narrative from it, and have even made lists of revelations, things that have happened, the things I believe and how I came to believe them.  I find that once I start to work on it in a disciplined way, which I have frequently started to do, I get irritated by the idea that I might be espousing things I don't actually believe, in my heart, or espousing things I don't actually do when I have a choice, and that it is hypocritical to continue to write it.  That or I think I come across as a saintly person which is very far from the truth.  Writing the truth, so that it doesn't talk the talk without walking the walk is the most difficult thing.

There there's the book I have been writing about home education, and about my transformation from a wholly conventional mother, sending her children to school, to a rabid unschooler.  Again, the trouble is that I have a natural (inherited) tendency to lecture, and I hate it when that comes through in the writing.  I try try try not to lecture people if I can help it, but I know that I catch myself after the fact sometimes.  In writing, it is obvious, and so I end up with a John Cage situation.  I write and write and then erase more than I write and am left with nothing at all at the end of it.

Then there's the book about my family history, which remains unfinished despite thirty years of work.  My major problem with it is the John Dickins who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.  I know so much about this man, about he jobs he did, the places he lived, the people he married, his children and who they married.  What I don't know for certain is where he was born, and whether his father was indeed John Dickins of Church Preen, son of Richard Dickins of Church Preen.  The book, the History of Church Preen seems to indicate that he was, indeed that John Dickins... but then I have done enough family history over a long enough time to know that people ought not to accept at face value what a relative says.  My great aunt was convinced her aunt was a doctor, and she turned out to be a nurse.  Not that different, but different.

So I have failed to write down in a coherent way the things I have learned over the last thirty years and I think anyone in the family who comes after me will curse my lack of information - not the lack of notes and material, but the lack of a narrative which puts them in context or tells them where I obtained information.  I should have been doing this as I went along, and have advised many people not to make the same mistake, but the truth is, I would struggle to do this with the wealth of information I have collected, and I have so much information in my head and nowhere else, that it is difficult to know if I would ever finish, if I started now.

Then there's the more personal history I have not been writing for more or less all but the first 10 of my fifty two years.  I have written diaries and odd notes and for the past 13 years have written blogs and posts all over the net... but I have never yet succeeded in turning that into a narrative that other people might be interested to read.  Mostly I am like everyone else - say that I am interested in people and don't care if they are famous or not... but generally if I see an episode of "Who do you think you are?" for someone I don't recognize, it has to be said that I feel a lot less interested in it.  I fight against that feeling, but I do have it.

Then there is the book about being a Quaker, I have started to write but have stopped, for many of the reasons that I gave above for the spiritual diary.  Part of my belief as a Quaker is that everyone has their own path to God, and I don't like the feeling that I am telling people what it is right to believe or to think.  I'm not, but it can appear that way when trying to write down what drew me to Quakers, and why I feel I am one, and have always been one.

I've also often wanted to write down my feelings and thoughts and what I have learned about reincarnation, although a lot of what I thought I knew has been called into question recently.  I've started books about Second Life, how to use it and what it is.  I've started books about being a family historian, about the history of the Quakers in Uxbridge, about how to unschool, and about how to do various crafts I love, like beading and papier and fabric mache.  About the illness which struck my husband, and my experiences with my son when he was so ill in 2005.  All perfectly viable ideas which I haven't finished.

So... the trouble is you can't cobble one book out of the beginnings of all of them.  I need to have discipline, which I have never had, decide on a subject and stick with it, rather than changing my mind once I have written thee or four chapters.  So.  I have decided that as blogging is something I have successfully done in the past on a regular basis, I will try to make one blog post every morning, because I do other things and get caught up in the day.  And this is the beginning.

Friday, April 29, 2011


I cannot touch the you I see
I can't touch you
You can't touch me
And yet my heart leaps when I see
Your avatar in front of  me

I cannot feel your hand or kiss
I can't feel you
You can't feel me
And yet I feel it when you kiss
(Even if the avatars miss :-))

I cannot watch your hand or eye
I can't watch you
You can't watch me
And yet I watch with inner eye
And hear your quietest, slightest, sigh

I cannot touch
I cannot feel
I cannot watch
I cannot hear
And yet the you that you are here
Is the one I hold most dear


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I had no warning you were going,
I turned around and you were gone.
I looked for you in every person that I met.
Caught glimpses of you in strangers' faces,
Chased your shadow around corners.
I waited for you to come back.

The love I had for you is still here.
At first, it was a shard of ice in my heart,
It woke a little after me, reminding me,
Stabbing me with the loss I felt.
It filled me with yearning.
Longing for poppy-sleep and you.

Gradually the ice melted and I remembered.
I found the love for you warming my heart.
I realised that love doesn't die, it lives forever.
When strangers remind me of you now, I smile.
Remember how I love you and you love me.


I could have had one hundred thousand pounds by now
If I had stayed in the daily grind
Found someone else and given them my babies to mind
I could have bought them anything they wanted.

I could have had exotic holidays each year
If I had kept at the coal face
Trekked up and down the tube at a snail's pace
I could have gone anywhere I wanted.

I could have had clothes and shoes and jewels
If I had left my children at home
Left someone else holding the brush and comb
I could have worn anything I wanted.

What I wanted was to feel my heart squeeze
Every time I turned and caught sight of my children
What I wanted was the joy of squidging the face paint
Even if most of it was squidged into the carpet
What I wanted was the tears and tantrums, the fears and nightmares,
and the firsts that scatter the land of childhood

If I had a million pounds by now
I couldn't buy one day in the past
The work is always there, but childhood doesn't last
The time I have had is priceless.

Fee Berry 2005

Spirits Rising

They left expecting ordinary days
Instead found they were going on a different sort of journey
They left their cups of coffee and unpaid bills
Stepped out of their homes and away from their lives
And can't return

Instead their souls set free today,
In darkness and confusion,
In smoke and pain,
Soared away from their broken bodies
Into a life beyond

Light a candle for their friends
and their families.
Light a candle for their children...
Their wives and mothers...
Husbands and fathers...
Light a candle for the loss

But their souls were set free today
Into a life beyond

The people in real need of light,
Of prayers and illumination
Set those bombs

Mr Trebus

I didn't know, I told my friends
I only saw the odds and ends
Littered over his garden.
I didn't know, I couldn't see
The person that he used to be
Before his confusion.
We used to call the council too
They'd charge him for the work, it's true
...though he hated them.

The blow fly problem abated for a little while.
The rats had nowhere to hide until he provided more accommodation.

I couldn't see, I told my friends
A garden full of odds and ends
Obliterated the man.
I couldn't know, I didn't see
He once was just like you and me
Before his confusion.
The council took his stuff away
It took them more than half a day
To move it.

We asked what he could possible want with second-hand garlic presses
and a pair of boy's shorts.

I didn't care, I told my friends
How many men the council sends
It will not solve it.
They'd need to know, they'd need to see
The solution's clear enough to me
He needs to go into an institution.
The council tried to talk him round
They never gained an inch of ground
He was intractable.

The junk helped him live his life
Old air conditioners and wood for healing was an unusual approach....

I didn't see, I told my friends
I hated all the odds and ends
Gathered with love.
I wouldn't know, I wouldn't see
He needed care from you and me
To cure his confusion.
The council only saw the crap
Only television saw the chap
Under the junk.

Even then, the hurts in his life were only diagnosable
Using the encrustation outside.

Fee Berry 2005

Nearly Dead

Will they say I lived all my life
On suburban roads
Not of the city or of the country
But a place in between
Will they say I never took any risks,
Never had to hack my arm off in extremis
Never eating anybody's cousin in desperate straits?

Like millions I struggled from one pay day to another,
Trying to stop the haemmorhage of money through the bars and pubs of the town...
Trying to keep up, to keep the income over the outgoings.
I don't care what the Joneses do.

I long for the wild places without fences or walls,
Where the birds wheel and the wind blows lustily,
Where the sound of the sea is never far away
Where the shores rustle their greeting to the waves
And the driftwood tumbles up and down the beach.

I long to run without worrying I am going to break a knee or hip,
Long for those days when I didn't know what I had, who I was, what I was going to be.
"Youth is wasted on the young," said my grandmother, and I protested, but I didn't understand
Until now
How little I appreciated my youth while I had it.

Will they say I had talent but I
Frittered it away on unfinished projects
Neither brilliant nor awful, but somewhere
in between?
Will they say I never took any risks,
Never embroidered all my lovers or
Revealed my innermost self?

Like millions, I was always writing my book, a novel or
a handbook or an autobiography.
The truth is, I started too many times, and finished

I long for a place of my own, a library
A place to keep everything that means anything
A place to watch my family on the wall, laughing and smiling
While I write or sew or research or simply read
A place for being and a place for remembering and everything in its place.

I long to write without worrying about the consequences,
Long to say what I think
A place to scour the corners of my memory, to see the pattern of my life.

Will they say, they hadn't realised I was still alive? 
Will they say, I never kept in contact, which is true
I have tested my ability to live without them all
And I can.
What will they say about the person I have become? 
What can I say?  I tolerated difference and saw none.
I loved the people I loved
Did the things that I did
And I am not sure what sort of future I made for myself, or what past.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I watched a short film from WanderingMind which turned up on my Youtube feed last week, questioning the current economic system. I agree with him; I have often wondered why it should be that the same world should go into free fall because an elite set of people suddenly decide to crash the stock market.

In the comments for that video I found references to Zeitgeist the movie, and although I am busy and the film is over two hours long, I made time to watch it, because I thought it might be important.

I like a lot of the movie, I suppose because it reflected a number of things which I believe, about the nature of human beings, and the importance of nurturing children in their early years.  It wasn't radical enough about education for me, but then, few things are.

However, I was very disappointed by the end of the film, the apparent solution to our dysfunctional money market system that currently abuses the planet.  I felt that the film maker spent a lot of time discussing human nature and its need for nurturing, but then ignored a lot of basic human needs - for a place to call their own, and for possessions... for frivolous things which the state is never going to provide.

I looked at Peter Joseph, the film maker, and even before he propounded his communist utopia, thought how like Trotsky he looked.  I don't know if there is anything in reincarnation theory, but he's definitely a candidate for examination.  He looks like Trotsky, and he sounds like him too, in the theories he proposes.

What I was hoping for, was something different, and I suppose more scientific.  There have been successful societies which have used different paradigms for their operation, where there has been considerable equality.  Couldn't we try one of those systems instead?  I feel that any system has to respect human nature, and our need to be diverse, to allow for the fact that one man's meat may be another man's poison.  We don't all like the same stuff or even need the same stuff.  We need to assert our individuality, even when we believe passionately in joining in society to protect the weak or to help those unable to help themselves.

I think the current market-based, money-based economy is a male-centric competitive system and we could be trying the alternative, which is a feminine nurturing system, which values caring and sharing and looking after people, and thinking about them.  Which doesn't count the cost of everything in financial terms, but in costs to individuals, societies, countries, in human terms instead.

I think any system which is going to work will have to consider the nature of being human, and allow for the endless variations which we come in.  Certainly I think a feminine system would make sure that babies and children are looked after well, and particularly children who are removed from their families... currently I think our society takes children from abusive parents and consigns them to abusive institutions which compound the damage.

I will have to think about the information in the film.  But I don't think it is the answer.  Maybe the reported system which obtained in Britain before the arrival of the Romans, or the system reportedly used on the Island of Thera, known as Minoan Akritiri society, seems to have been egalitarian, nurturing system which led to a highly artistic and creative place which thrived.  Why not look back in history to find better ways of doing things?

One thing is for sure... I think a lot of our trouble came when we allowed people to start trading in things which don't exist.  If I were Queen of the World for a day, I'd ban that.  I'd ban trading in futures, in currencies and in derivatives.  And there's an end to a lot of the ills, right there.

One thing I think the film achieves, is to stimulate thought about the sort of world we live in, and the sort of world we want to live in.  That can only be a good thing.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Comic Relief 2011

I have tears running down my face, having watched part one of Famous, Rich and in the Slums with Lenny Henry, Angela Rippon, Samantha Womack and Reggie Yates, part of Comic Relief.  For those outside the UK, Comic Relief is a charity which raises money for projects at home and abroad, and which is very highly regarded in the UK, as all the money raised goes to the charity work, none of it to administration or publicity.  The charity raises money specifically for those things directly, in order for them to be able to say that every penny donated by the public will go to charitable work.

One of the places that they work is Kibera slum, the biggest slum in Africa.  It has to be seen to be believed, and even though one could vicariously understand the noise and smell from the reactions of the people involved, it was obvious that it was very difficult for a viewer in a comfortable home in the UK to really gain a sense of the poverty they were looking at.

The four volunteers were stripped of their belongings, including their clothing, and then sent to live alone for three days.  They were given a very small amount of money and told to make their living.  The culture shock must have been extreme... they were hurtled from cosseted lives in the UK to the worst living conditions imaginable... sewage running in open gutters in front of their doors, hole in the ground lavatories shared with hundreds of others, people whose only suggestion when work wasn't available was to go to a bar and sleep with a man for money.

I admired the people who did this.  I'm not sure I would have survived the first day.  I found festival conditions intolerable on a holiday  couple of years ago.  I'm not sure how I would have coped with open sewers and holes filled with human excrement.  On the other hand, what struck me was that I think my lack of adaption would make me organise improvements... one of the striking things about the programme was that the participants had stopped noticing many of the things which made such an impression at the beginning.  In this context I wonder whether survival by acceptance would be more useful than a refusal to accept the circumstances and insisting on change?  I expect I am kidding myself about the possibilities for change... but what distinguishes Kibera from the urban areas which border it except for organisation?

At the beginning of the film, they stated that as Kibera is classified by the Kenyan government as an illegal settlement, they are not obliged to provide health services etc for the people living there.  While I applaud the projects that Comic Relief are running in the slum, and the bravery of the four celebrities who went there, I hope that pressure is brought to bear on the Kenyans to put health workers and facilities in place, and not simply to bulldoze the camp which has been the response of some governments to clearing up similar places.  We have to change things.  We have to feel responsible for the people who are enduring that life.

If you wish to donate to Comic Relief, text "help" to 70005.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

End of the Archers

At least for me.  For those who don't listen to the everyday story of farming folk, it ws the 60th anniversary of the Archers on Sunday, and the producers decided to celebrate Eastenders-style, with the death of one of the best-loved characters.

Had the actor, Graham Seed, been keen to pursue pastures new, I'd still have been annoyed by the clumsy and unbelievable way that they did it.  In the episode the staid and sensible farmer David Archer, persuaded his brother-in-law to go up on the roof in the dark and a high wind to get the New Year banner down.  I this had been Kenton, fabled Peter Pan of the series, it might have been just about believable, but nooo, David was the chosen foil.  Actually, though, the news that Nigel was to die came as a shock to Graham Seed too.  He played him beautifully, and it was mainly due to his continued involvement that I came back to the Archers after becoming irritated by previous shock-horror storylines.

The producers have spent the past few months turning one of the female characters into a whingeing and unlikeable harridan over the past few weeks.  Now if someone had thrown HER off the roof, I'd have applauded wildly.  But Nigel was the light relief in the programme... a hooray henry made good, who was kind and gentle, despite a recent storyline in which he has been forcing his small son to work ever harder in order to pass an entrance exam.

The choice of a shocking death, clumsily queued up a few episodes before, to mark the 60th anniversary of the show indicates to me that the producers are going for the depression and "excitement" of the TV soap, instead of the quality that kept Archers fans coming back for more.  It was the affection they felt for characters like Nigel, and the lack of shocking happenings... the small scale triumphs and disasters of real life, instead of the artificial drama. 

It amazes me that BBC radio knows its listeners so little... they are continually trying to interest Radio 4 listeners in Radio 1 and vice versa... when the type of person who likes Radio 4 is very very unlikely to want to listen to Rado 1 and vice versa.

Similarly, the person who loves the Archers, is not likely to enjoy the sorts of dramatic disasters which litter the TV soaps.  The petty squabbles which mark real life are far more interesting than the sudden loss of main characters which happens all too frequently in Eastenders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street. 

There should be room for both, and it should not be necessary for The Archers to pander to the tastes of people who are perfectly well served by the TV soaps.  We deserve our own fare, and once we had it.  Now it seems to me that the Archers has descended to the point where I don't want to listen any more.  The end of Nigel is the end of the Archers, for me.