Near where I live is an unspoilt bay, and behind the beach is a low-lying, reclaimed estuary, from where in the 1850s the river was diverted away along the coast to deliver more water to the harbor.
Separating the two is just a shingle bar.
And living in a blue, two-room tent on the land side of the shingle bar, protected by a fence made from driftwood and stuff in garbage bags, is a homeless man.
He’s been there since last autumn.
He seems to bear a charmed life, as every spring-tide and storm surge now washes right over the barrier into the river and the fields behind. How the waves don’t wash him away, seems like some kind of miracle.
Truly he’s an inspiration to us all.
Home Office News
Call it “refocussing”.
“94 year old South African Myrtle Cothill visited her only daughter Mary, aged 68, in the UK in 2014. Whilst in the UK, Myrtle’s health deteriorated and her family were told that if she left she would be at greater risk of death within months of her return to South Africa. After a huge public outcry Myrtle was granted leave (to stay) on human rights grounds in 2016. But she is left to pay the fees to extend her visa every 2.5 years. It’s a huge financial burden as Myrtle obviously cannot work, her 68-year-old daughter Mary lives on a small pension, and Mary’s 62-year-old husband David (who suffers from Parkinson’s) battles on working part-time as a cashier in a supermarket.” – Petitioner, Jan Doerfel
Yes, the Home Office is once again threatening to order their barely sentient G4S goons to wrestle a 94-year-old blind woman with health issues onto a plane back to South Africa, where she has no living relations, her only daughter being British (a former nurse, and a registered carer).
But if she bungs the government twelve hundred quid, she can hang on for another couple of years.
Are we really that hard up, we have to start blackmailing vulnerable elderly couples caring for their aged parents?
Have we really become so intolerably nasty, cruel, miserly and grasping a nation? The sixth largest economy in the world? For why?
Oh, right. No room for foreigners, eh? When 6 per cent of the land mass of Britain is categorized as “developed”, we clearly have a problem finding space.
Except in Myrtle’s case, obviously. She’s living in her daughter’s house. The house is already there. So the problem doesn’t arise, does it.
Oh, well, what about Resources, eh? She’s non-productive and eating up our taxes demanding NHS healthcare for complex issues.
So am I (see below). And I get paid the State pension for doing it. Pay me £100 thousand and I’ll leave tomorrow. Cheap at the price.
And by the way, I doubt she qualifies for free NHS care, after only two years on a temporary residency visa.
But she’s not like us, she’s a funny color!
Actually not. She looks just like your grandma. And mine. But she does have a funny accent, so let’s send her back to bongo-bongo land.
Mrs May’s big election manifesto promise was to take care of the “Just about managing” lower-middle class. A promise totally, some might say cynically, abandoned as she teeters helplessly this way and that atop a fence of her own making over her party’s irreconcilable divisions on Brexit strategy, a crisis that has subsumed all other policy delivery and thwarted the functions of responsible governance.
Millions of people like “Mary” and “David” are living under this Toryshambles in conditions of worrying borderline poverty, many of them elderly first-generation migrants, a small step from potential disaster, watching their tiny incomes and benefits shrink while their costs of living rise inexorably. The coming reprise of the banking crisis will destroy them.
Conditions, one has to add, entirely brought upon themselves by the “Just about managing” class voting (twice, at least) in what seems like total ignorance for this historic blunder: the double-whammy of an inept minority Tory government buoyed up by Irish bigots, and Brexit.
Against this background runs an undercurrent of xenophobic resentment encouraged by the media targeting the same demographic, that has infected the bureaucracy so deeply that only root and branch reform can weed it out. And who can be bothered?
With so many injustices piling up as a result of Theresa May’s “Hostile Environment” policy on immigration (clergymen’s daughters are the worst, ain’t they?), the unthinking autocrat’s political solution to competent humanitarianism, the Home Secretary clearly has some Home Work to do over the holidays, don’t you, Sajid?
Call it “refocussing”? It’s enough to make you tear your hair out.
“Europe is entering a new dark age. But it is already too late. They have no idea how dark the age is going to get”
The EU needs to make an example of Hungary, and fast
Or, then, you could consider the case of Hungary.
In 1956, a student protest escalated into a fullscale revolt against communist rule and the government fell. The Soviet Union sent tanks into the capital. “On 4 November”, recalls Wikipedia, “a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. The Hungarian resistance continued until 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees.”
To cement his position in power, here in July 2018 the ultra-rightwing nationalist demagogue and one-time liberal protégé of George Soros, President Victor Orban has pushed through legislation, among other things criminalizing NGOs that provide aid to legitimate asylum seekers in his country. Hungary is barring its doors to refugees in open defiance of the UN Convention and EU law, to secure the popularity of this calculating thug among his white supremacist bigots re-running old battles against the Ottomans.
Open Democracy reports:
“The new laws target individuals and groups who provide assistance – including legal advice – to asylum seekers. Those convicted face up to 1 year imprisonment. NGOs that provide advice and assistance to refugees also face a potentially crippling tax of 25%.
“The legislative changes were labelled the ‘Stop Soros‘ laws. George Soros is a Hungarian-American billionaire financier and philanthropist. He has given large sums of money to immigrant and human rights groups over the years. He has also long been the target of far-right and antisemitic conspiracy theorists, including in his native Hungary.”
For the Orwellian fanatics beginning their assault on European democracies, it’s essential to have a hate figure, and for the expediently anti-Semitic, Islamophobic Orban the Hungarian-born Jew, Soros, who once paid for him to go to Oxford university, will do; just as Turkish voters are being taught by the clearly insane President Erdogan that his former friend and colleague, the exiled cleric Fetullah Gülen, is responsible for their ills; almost all of which have been brought about by Erdogan’s own economic incompetence and dogwhistle isolationism.
Clearly, this overbearing item, Orban has no grateful recollection of the events of 1956. I do, I remember my grandmother, an officer in the Red Cross, being dispatched to Vienna to process his terrified refugee family – at least, those like them who perhaps did not collaborate – and bring them to safety in the UK.
(That was the year after my grandfather, a postwar economic adviser to the Hungarian government and senior wartime MI6 executive, met a suspicious death in 1955 while ‘on holiday’ in neighboring Yugoslavia.)
We took in 27 thousand Hungarians, and if the Home Office were doing its job it would now round up any surviving refugees and their “British” offspring and intern the whole fucking lot in a camp on the Isle of Man, to remind Hungary what the outcome of their beloved leader’s pro-Russian fascist policies will inevitably be.
Buit they won’t, because I feel sure there is some not-so secret admiration in the British government for Orban’s hardline stance on immigration.
If Orban does vaguely connect with the events that must have affected his family 62 years ago, it has moved nothing in his black and empty soul, other than a hatred of the left, of anti-authoritarianism. It goes without saying, this shitty fucker needs to be expelled from the European Union, and fast.
Nothing in his expedient regime meets the rules and higher aspirations of the Union, so he should take his Ruritanian rutted feudal demesne, get on his ox-cart, and leave, now. Let him serve the Russian Tsar. We should not waste another tax cent on the bastards.
What ambitious pigs like Orban, Austrian vice-president Strache, pretty-boy Wilders, the Le Pen Addams family and Italy’s curiously not-quite Prime Minister, the n’drangheta mob-sponsored Salvini – not to mention Rees-Mogg, Johnson and the rest of the Brexit cunts – are not noticing, is that they have almost no time left in which to work their shitty little power-plays.
We’ve fucked the planet. Something entirely new and different from the 1930s is needed now, and they ain’t got it.
Europe is entering a new dark age. But it is already too late. The current crop of rightwing hopefuls have no idea how dark the age is soon going to get for them and everybody else.
The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump #279
Speaking at a veterans’ fundraiser in West Virginia, Trump solemnly informed the gathering that coal is the best form of energy for “national security” because it’s “indestructible”. You can’t bomb it, like you can a pipeline, and it’s not affected by rain…. (Yes, he said that!)
Mr Trump has previously imagined at a rally last year that “clean coal”, a scientific term referring to storing carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations underground, an expensive technology still at the experimental stage, meant you wash the dirt off before burning it. Seriously.
We can only imagine that Mr Trump’s fascination with coal derives from his gratitude to some of his biggest donors, Koch Industries and Murray Energy.
Meanwhile, investigations are focussing on Mr Trump’s relationship with Fox News, which, it now appears, may have made $15 million-worth of undeclared campaign contributions to his election campaign in 2016 through hours of free advertising masquerading as serious reportage.
GW: and the heat goes on
Japan: “Flooding and landslides have killed at least (76) people and left dozens missing in western areas of Japan. Most of the deaths have occurred in Hiroshima prefecture, which has been hit by torrential rain since Thursday. Hundreds of homes have been damaged. About 1.5 million people have been ordered to leave their homes and three million more advised to do so. Authorities say it could potentially be the worst weather disaster Japan has seen in decades. … In the town of Motoyama, 600km west of Tokyo, 583mm (23in) of rain fell between Friday morning and Saturday morning.” – BBC News, 08 July
Pakistan: “Severe weather, including dust storms and heavy rainfall, has affected parts of Punjab Province in Pakistan over the last few days. At least 6 people died after flooding in Lahore, capital city of Punjab province, on 03 July. Local media reported record levels of rainfall in the city. Further heavy rain fell in other areas of the province the following day. … a further 7 people have died and 29 injured in different areas of Punjab Province since the flooding in Lahore.”
Nigeria: “Local media are reporting that at least 8 people have died in flooding in Niger State. At least 2 others are still missing.”
USA: “Heavy rain caused surface flooding in Houston, Texas, on 04 July. Some central areas recorded 7.8 inches (in 24 hrs). Several bayous, including the White Oak Bayou, broke their banks. 3 southern Minnesota counties have declared a state of emergency as flooding caused by torrential rains washed out roads and damaged property.” – Edited from Floodlist reports.
“Thousands were forced to leave their homes in Santa Barbara County, Ca. on Saturday as a fast-moving wildfire driven by strong winds and triple-digit temperatures destroyed 20 homes and other buildings, and officials declared a local emergency. The Holiday Fire, one of more than three dozen major blazes burning across the US west, broke out on Friday evening and raced through the seaside foothills. The flames forced more than 2,000 people to flee their homes, and left thousands more without power.” – Guardian, 08 July
Italy: “As much as 130 mm of rain (5 in.) fell in under 4 hours on 03 July in the town of Moena and surrounding areas in the province of Trentino, northern Italy. The torrential rain caused rivers to overflow and sent mud and flood water raging through Moena’s streets. Other areas of the province also saw severe weather, including thunderstorms, lightning strikes and strong winds.”
UK: Our heatwave continues – still no sign of rain in West Wales. Wildfires continue to burn here, and outside Manchester. Scotland has recorded its hottest ever day, according to provisional figures from the Met Office. On Thursday 28 June, a temperature of 33.2C degrees was measured in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire.
Atlantic: after a month of quiet, the first Atlantic hurricane is strengthening for an assault on the Lesser Antilles islands. Hurricane Beryl is tiny: only 35 miles wide, but packin’ a punch. (Latest: No, Beryl has weakened to a TS but a new system is forming SW of Bermuda. Sea temperature and windshear are not currently conducive to hurricane formation.)
The Weather Channel/ Floodlist/ Guardian/ BBC
The water no works – a personal reflection
(May contain embarrassing medical details)
Once again your old Uncle B. has had to draw upon the seemingly infinite resources of the NHS to get him out of trouble.
He’s beginning to realize that however young you imagine you look, and however invincible you feel as you are lugging 25kg bags of ready-to-mix concrete and large paving slabs about your tiny garden, ignoring your protesting muscles, anno domini is creeping up behind you – fast.
My sweet new neighbour was astonished the other day when I confessed that I planned to turn 70 next year. “I thought you were maybe in your late 40s!”, she exclaimed, disappointment written over her pretty brow (her boyfriend has left her.)
Readers, Spammers, Likers, Trailers – and Those No Longer Reading This, muh bogl – will be au fait with the dismal tale of my retinal surgeries earlier this year, that have left me with a degree of vision in one eye that resembles looking through the bottom of a beer glass, only with a missing bit in the middle.
Opticians tell me sadly, no improvement can be expected, no lens can correct it.
Yesterday, more drama ensued as an ambulance arrived and bore me off to the local hospital.
I felt a bit embarrassed about that, as I was not dead or gasping for air, had not fallen down the stairs or accidentally mistaken weedkiller for milky coffee.
I did try, twice, to get in the car and drive myself to Casualty, but the discomfort was extreme – no cash for a taxi, and after four hours of desperately trying to drain my old bladder – Blad the Impaler, as I have christened him – to be rewarded only with a few drops at about 4 a.m. and nothing at all thereafter, the agonizing contractions were coming thick and fast.
(Such wimps, we men. If we only knew! Sigh.)
I had Googled “urinary retention” at about 3.30 a.m. and become alarmed at the possible knock-on effects of all that straining, not least the damaging back-pressure on my kidneys. Newton’s Third Law also comes into play when you squeeze that hard, that often into your pelvic floor, as any pregnant lady kno’, and it gets leaky the other side.
At 05.30 I called the hospital, but after twenty minutes with the phone in Casualty ringing off the hook the receptionist advised me to call my GP Out of Hours service, who in turn told me to go to hospital. I explained about the car, the discomfort, the contractions; she agreed that an ambulance was the best option and she was calling one for me.
After another hour went by, and no ambulance, I called the GP again. The surgery was awake by now, and casually informed me that today’s waiting-time allowance for non-emergency cases is four hours, although the ambulance station is only four minutes from here. I explained about the non-“emergence” of any urine for the past ten hours, the back-pressure on the kidneys, and she relented. My conveyance arrived four minutes later. Almost.
Once inside the medical campervan I underwent a battery of tests, blood pressure and sugar, heart still beating, pupils correctly dilating – all the while noticing that my arms and legs appeared embarrassingly begrimed with concrete dust and garden soil. So tired had I been after lugging half the stock of my local builders’ merchants home, that I had thrown myself into bed without showering, which I rarely bother with anyway.
The clodpolls had sold the rest of the pile of bricks I had earlier reserved and paid for, and had been collecting 50 at a time. “Sorry mate, you can’t get hold of those now for love nor money”, said the man, with much eye-rolling, sucking of teeth and, finally, an offer of a small compensatory discount for non-matching bricks – so now I have to construct a strangely piebald wall.
Life has consequences, of which deep embarrassment is one. Be Prepared! was the motto when I was a boy scout, and I had ignored it. Never put off until tomorrow… etc., but just take that shower; vacuum that sitting room; walk that dog; badger that urology department for an appointment; have those bricks delivered now, while you can!
The proximate cause of the blockage, I suspected, was the bottle of Merlot I’d imbibed while sitting on a hard chair in my sitting-room watching the shadows lengthening over the Centre Court at Wimbledon, enjoying the friendly banter and televisual comradeship of Claire, Boris and Martina, all the while inflating my old prostate, already the size of an avocado, crushing my urethra flat.
It happens sometimes, about every six weeks. I’ll spend half the night straining over the wc to little effect, but always there’s been relief as the sun comes up and I get going with the milky coffee and have to rush to the drain behind the kitchen in a sort of Pavlovian response to various psychological triggers, before spending a day dodging behind trees and whizzing in people’s front gardens.
After that, it’s always settled down – always, until the day the ambulance arrives and the curtains of the neighbours start twitching in curiosity and hope.
And now, Dear Persistent Reader, now I have a bag strapped to my concrete-dusty leg, filling with slightly bloody-looking urine as the catheter the willy-man shoved up my pipi gradually drains what may turn out to be the rest of my life away, through a bewildering complex of tubes and ingenious valves: a contraption it will be my task now to master and manage, possibly forever.
I forgot to ask him, what happens if you get an erection? Probably you never will again. And I worry about going swimming. But it’s quite handy, never having to rush to the bathroom, or worry about finding a tree. You just go wherever you are, even while having conversations with unsuspecting neighbours!
It is punishingly sore, though; and I have had to adopt a curious, crouching gait, slowly hobbling along after Hunzi, who still requires walking twice a day in the exurban space that, etc. (Later I discover lovely Mario, the Italian charge nurse who speaks little English, has strapped the thing on too low down on the leg, causing the tube to pull tight.)
It may be like this, only until I can get to see the urologist, a Ghanaian gentleman who also speaks little English, in what I have been hopefully promised will be a fortnight’s time. He might release me from the contraption, provided no lasting damage has been done by it. These NHS people are all very lovely and helpful, albeit incomprehensible, but I couldn’t help reflecting that my biopsy (happily negative) was twenty months ago and there’s been no follow-up contact since.
The NHS is great in emergencies, when you finally get through on the phone; when the ambulance finally arrives. Nowadays, that’s about as far as it goes. Endless forms are filled, that you suspect will go nowhere (“So, P., can you tell me about your medical history? Are you allergic to anything? No? Cool!”); repeated, not apparently relevant tests (blood pressure checked three times in two hours, although why? I’m not ill!), all procedurally highly efficient, no doubt – but once you’ve been gratefully discharged with a bagful of spare tubes and minimal instructions as to how to manage the rest of your life (“Any questions, see your GP” – never mind the three-weeks waiting time), you’re entirely on your own.
Apart from Hunzi, that is. You’re never alone with a lovely dog.
He even slows up for me, looking anxious.