The Age Old Question

About ten years ago I attended a Civic Society meeting in Hereford at which a senior member of the Council told us that within 20-30 years, the cost of adult social care would take up virtually all of the Council budget. He said that Herefordshire simply would not have enough residents of working age to support the ageing population and the influx of retired people moving to our beautiful county. The plan at that time was to build thousands of new homes to attract younger working people. And, shock horror, he expected most of those people to be of Eastern European origin – the reason being that younger Brits did not want to move to Herefordshire. The liberal-minded audience attending the meeting could see the sense of this, but we knew that the majority of local residents would be resistant to a rising number of migrants settling here.

Then came Brexit of course.

I do now see huge numbers of new properties cropping up all over the county, but I don’t know where we are with attracting new young blood to live in them. What I do know is that the issue of people living longer is something which must be urgently addressed across the whole country. Whilst some will have suitable provisions in place to fund their retirement, there will be an ever-increasing demand on the tax payer to support this section of our population. The figures below, from the ONS, show how things have changed since 1950 and where we’re likely to be in 2050.

YearAged 65 and overAged 75 and overAged 85 and over
2050 (projected)24.77%14.13%5.08%

Should young people be expected to pay more and more tax with each passing year to fund social care? Because that’s what’s going to happen if we don’t find a better solution. Our current government has promised to reduce immigration to tens of thousands a year, but how does this tackle the issue – unless they also plan to introduce euthanasia for the over 80’s (which I wouldn’t put past them)?

I argued this during the Brexit debate, that immigration is an essential element of maintaining our way of life in the UK. That’s apart from how much we benefit in many other ways from having a diverse population living here. We are already seeing a shortage of workers to fill roles in the care sector, hospitality sector and agriculture, yet Leavers are sticking to their guns and ignoring the ticking time-bomb that is the ageing population. So please answer me – how are we going to fund adult social care in 2050 when a quarter of the population will be over 65? Are you relying on Covid to decimate the elderly? Do you want to see income tax rise by 20% to cover it?

We certainly had a solution as part of the EU, as freedom of movement was very attractive to young workers from the less affluent parts of Europe. I guess now that we could open our borders to people from anywhere in the world as part of an incentive for free trade deals. But that means immigration levels similar or higher to where they have been over the last 20 years and surely that’s not what people voted for was it? If the majority was happy with high levels of immigration, then why leave the EU in the first place? Or will people come to appreciate the value of migrants who have contributed so much to our society and could be the answer to funding (and staffing) the ever-increasing cost of social care? I think so.

Let me be clear, I believe that everyone should have the right to live and work wherever they choose to in the world. I don’t think that being born in a certain country should give you any rights or entitlement that people not born there don’t have. Borders create division. Division creates conflict. Wars always seem to be fought over either territory or religion – so my policy would go some way to bringing the world together. But I appreciate that I’m in the minority and perhaps unrealistic. However, if you just try and be pragmatic about this for a moment you will see that our best hope for the future is to all work together. We’re going to have to take care of an ageing population and deal with the climate change issues ahead, so let’s ensure we welcome people here, wherever they may be from.

I don’t have the answer to this of course. As a 58 year old now, I am just questioning how my later years may look in comparison to how it’s been for people up until now. And who will take care of our children when they get to retirement age? We can’t keep ignoring this and government will have to have a feasible plan in place, because raising National Insurances a little (as is due to happen from next year) will not be enough as you can see from the chart. We either have to have more people working or a lower percentage of older people. Which will you choose?

Millchester United

Once upon a time, many years ago (more than forty!), struggling Millchester United gained promotion to the Premier League. Whilst they never really liked the other teams in the league, they enjoyed the trappings and became a very successful club over the coming decades. Revenues were high, the fan base grew and everything seemed to be going very well, all things considered.

But a growing number of disillusioned fans kept complaining about the cost of tickets, the cost of transfers and the regulations being imposed on the club by the league. Eventually, after a number of years of being harangued by the most vocal of these supporters, the Board of Directors decided they would deal with this disquiet by allowing the fans to vote on whether they wished to remain in the Premier League or voluntarily return to the lower league. There they would have more freedom to operate in the way that some of the fans required and they could ‘get their club back’. The Remainers and Leavers duly embarked on a campaign to convince the fans to vote their way. All sorts of claims and counter-claims were made about how the future of the club should look and the voting day arrived. To the Board’s surprise, the result of the ballot was 52% in favour of leaving.

Having agreed to abide by the result, the Board had no choice but to give notice to the Premier League and the club was duly relegated at the end of the season.

The Remain voters were distraught and in the following few years many of the Leave voters began to question why the club was struggling so much with its finances. Plans were made to join the growing American League and Chinese League but no deal could be struck to help return Millchester United to its former glories.

The Premier League continued to prosper whilst fans of the club looked on longingly. Even those who had argued for years that the league was undemocratic and overly bureaucratic, were now quiet. Their children were growing up asking why Millchester couldn’t be in the Premier League – and the parents who voted to leave couldn’t really explain.

As the years went by, Millchester United stabilised its finances and became a ‘strong and stable’ second tier team. Some say it found its level…but others still dreamed of the former glory days.

Just a matter of opinion.

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”
― Bill Bullard

I recently experienced first-hand  the ‘divided family’ situation that Brexit has brought to our nation. Clearly, I’m the only one of the siblings who voted to remain in the EU, so with mum and dad firmly in the leave camp as well, any discussion on the topic is somewhat one-sided to say the least.

When it was suggested that the ‘remainers’ had lost and should just accept it, I foolishly happened to say that I did accept it but it was a shame that the leave campaign had been so obviously full of lies about the cost of membership. That the £350m a week was simply not true and maybe the result would have been different if the truth had been told about how much money would become available to the NHS if we left. This was met with a tirade of (near) abuse about how no people voted to leave because of the figures quoted and everybody realised that the figures weren’t true anyway. I was ‘informed’ that the leave vote was purely down to the perceived corruption and money wasting which took place in Brussels – which was nothing more than an undemocratic behemoth foisting unreasonable legislation onto us and holding us back from realising our full potential in the world. You get the picture?

Now I have no problem with people having a different opinion on something than I have but to be told I am wrong for thinking the way I do is another thing altogether. To be told that I am ‘talking shit’ because I defend the things I believe in is unacceptable, particularly when I put a lot of effort in to researching things to ensure I’ve got my facts straight. I’m not always right of course and I have no problem with being corrected if I’ve got things wrong – but generally I will put forward a reasoned argument and will debate that reasonably with someone of opposing views. Unless the person with the opposing views is not prepared to listen and instead prefers to shout me down in a rant about me not knowing what I’m talking about. Then things are different. Then it gets personal and I begin to feel disrespected….and you know how I hate that! The family dinner did not go well. Things were said and I made my leave. I made my (brrr) exit (a cold departure).

I don’t like conflict. It leaves me with an empty feeling. A feeling of waste. I’m a lover not a fighter but this is what we face now in our post-referendum society. Divided from Europe. Divided from family. And all because one side of the argument feels hard done by and the other wants us to just shut up.

But in the aftermath of such an event I like to look at the facts to see if there was any validity in the argument being put to me. Was it true that nobody voted to leave because of what was emblazoned on the battle bus? Was the fall in the value of the pound since the vote a good thing because the pound was too high anyway? Will we get better trade deals by being outside of the EU? Is sovereignty important to us? And of course, the elephant in the room that night, is free movement of people a ticking time bomb?

Let’s examine these questions and see if I deserved to be shouted down after all.

The £350m a week saving. So, I’m told that this lie (and be clear, it is a lie – go check the facts) had no bearing on the result. This statement means that the number of people who voted leave on this basis (because they thought the money would go to the NHS) were not enough to change the result. I have not been able to find any figures relating to people’s reasons for voting but I put this to you – if the £350m a week was not a reason then why was it at the centre of the Leave campaigns strategy? If they thought it would not get votes then why use it? I put it to you m’lud that there were an awful lot of people who thought that by voting leave the NHS would get more money. Instead, what we’re told is that there is no more money for the NHS. My gut instinct tells me it did tip the balance but I can’t prove it either way so can’t say who’s right on this one.

The fall in the value of the pound. I’ve been directly affected by this one as the company I work for pays for components in dollars. We’ve had a 16% increase in costs which we inevitably have to pass on to our customers, so to be told that this is a good thing needs some further investigating. When is a lower valued currency good for a country? When you export a lot (as it makes exports more attractive). The UK imports more than it exports (a difference of £6.6bn in Dec 2016) so it does not make sense to devalue your currency (on purpose) as that means the goods you import cost more. And what did my sister-in-law (who is a banker) mean by saying the devaluation caused by the Brexit vote was just a correction? A correction from what? Had the pound been at an inordinately high level prior to the referendum? The answer is no. Seldom in the 50 years prior to the referendum has the average yearly exchange rate been below $1.40 and from 2000 to 2015 the average rate was $1.538. So how can today’s rate of $1.25 be regarded as a correction? I don’t accept this and believe that this rate means that we, the general public, are now paying more for our goods as a direct result of the vote to leave.

We will get better trade deals outside of the EU? Maybe, maybe not is the answer. Personally, I think that as we will no longer be able to offer piggy-backing for non-EU countries then we look less attractive but I’m prepared to accept that as one of the world’s richest economies there will be lots of countries wanting to trade with us. See, I’m being reasonable. Yet in our ‘discussion’ I was told that we definitely will get better trade deals. How can anyone know that? And does it make sense to sacrifice non-tariff access into a market of 500m people? Why take the risk is all I’m saying. And when I asked ‘what if the risk means that over a million people lose their jobs (note that I said ‘if’) I was told it was a risk worth taking. Yeah…..if you’re comfortably off and able to retire if the going gets tough.

The sovereignty issue. I’m led to believe this was the big one but let’s face it, there was a lot of misinformation about this too. Are we really ruled by Brussels? A recent study suggests that 14 to 17% of our law is derived from EU membership. And, for the sake of balance, it’s true to say that our membership also impacts on a lot of areas of our lives. But the EU has very little influence over such things as defence, taxation, public services and foreign policy – particularly as we have the protection of the veto in some of these areas. So whilst we must accept that the EU has a big say in British life it is clear that in some very important areas we have not lost sovereignty at all. And in this globalised world we live in we are often required to relinquish sovereignty because it is worthwhile doing so – eg NATO and the WTO. The main reason for this desire to regain lost sovereignty would seem to be so that we can control the immigration of EU migrants, a situation we cannot currently control. So yes, leaving the EU means we get back control of who comes in but again, at what cost? If we do wish to stem the flow of EU migrants then we must give up our current access to the single market. Therefore, if we wish to trade with Europe we will have to pay to do so…which in turn means the savings we get by leaving the EU will be substantially eroded. I’ve heard people saying that we don’t need to trade with Europe as there’s plenty of trade to be had elsewhere. But that’s just a childish answer surely. Why give up trading on our doorstep? And if other countries see we are desperate to trade with them are we likely to get a good deal? So, is the cost of sovereignty going to be worth it? If it means that every household is going to be worse off I say no. And somebody please tell me why it’s so much better to have the government of this country making the rules that affect our daily lives rather than the European Parliament (which our government gets a say in anyway).

To discuss the whole immigration issue would take just too long here and if you want to know my views in more detail then read my previous blogs. Suffice it to say, about 80% of EU migrants living in the UK are working and paying taxes. Overall employment figures have been rising in recent years which suggests nobody is taking anyone’s jobs and several areas (NHS and food production) rely heavily on migrant workers. All research you may wish to examine concludes that there is a net gain to the UK from us having EU migrants here. For those of you who feel the numbers are too high, don’t blame the migrants blame the system that allows employers to breach the laws on minimum wage! But also remember that as the number of retired people grows in the country the more younger aged workers we will need to attract in order to pay for the adult social care. If we don’t have enough revenue from income tax then how is any of this sustainable? Perhaps the next referendum will be on euthanasia.

You may not agree with my reasoning but I offer my thoughts for constructive debate. I welcome anyone to give their counter arguments to any of the points I have raised. Just don’t shout at me and tell me I’m wrong (don’t reply in capital letters). Remember, all I said was I was disappointed about the lies of the Leave campaign and I wonder if the result would have been the same if we had been told the truth. And yes, I’m aware that some of the things claimed by the Remain campaign may have been stretching the truth somewhat – but the fact is that we haven’t left yet so nobody knows what will happen when we do. I’m resigned to the fact that we will leave and just ask that the leave voters among you  show some humility and concede that certain aspects of your campaign were misleading. I accept that over 17 million people reached a different decision than me and I respect that but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong and you’re right. It’s not as simple as that.

What was that all about?

It’s fair to say that 2016 didn’t really go as I would have hoped but I can’t say it was unexpected.

I’m unambiguously pro-European, so the Brexit vote hurt. The majority of voters decided to believe that leaving the union of 500 million people will be better for Britain. And those of us who voted to remain will just have to lump it. Suck it up and stop whinging they say. And we would, if only the Leave Campaign had not lied so much about the reasons to leave. Where’s the £350m a week for the NHS gonna come from? How does stopping free movement get the net immigration down below 100,000 when non-EU migration to June 2016 was 196,000? Who benefits from regaining sovereignty? Certainly not the man in the street. But yeah, I’ll suck it up as I sit and watch the majority suffer from stagnating wages as the cost of living rises due to the inflation that the devalued pound will inevitably bring. I won’t say ‘I told you so’ when the only reasonable trade agreement with Europe will require free movement. After all, I believe in democracy don’t I?

As sad as it was for me the Brexit vote was not really a surprise. Western society has been moving more and more to the right. The disillusioned masses were always much more likely to hang their coats on a nationalistic peg when the opportunity came along. All it took was a few charismatic chancers to stir the pot and hey presto, we’re taking our country back!! The problem is that our move out of the EU not only separates us from our European neighbours, it divides us as a nation. 48% of voters don’t want this and perhaps another million 16 and 17 year olds would have voted to stay too. What does that do to us as a nation going forward?

I also predicted (on social media) that Trump would win the U.S election. The same rhetoric that appealed to Brexit voters also appealed to enough American voters to enable the liar that is DT to secure his place in the Whitehouse. He even got Oily Farage to join the party and endorse him. So the proud nation that is the United States now becomes Trumpton and the world waits for the havoc that Trump will wreak when he gets his feet under the desk in the Oval Office.

And to make matters worse we lost so many big stars. Did they just simply bail out? Did they know what was coming?

All that I can hope for in 2017 is that I’m wrong. We generally just live in our own little bubbles trying to make the most of life. I know that I’m one of the lucky ones in this world, that so many people don’t have the luxury of worrying about how a given political situation will impact on society. I have so much to be thankful for, yet I can’t help thinking we are heading in the wrong direction. Can we change course in the coming year? Let’s hope so.

To leave or not to leave……

The ‘Brexit’ and ‘Bremain’ campaigns are hotting up as we near the EU Referendum date on 23rd June and the rhetoric is getting increasingly vehement from both sides. Unsurprisingly in provincial Herefordshire, I hear more people arguing for the UK to leave the EU so we can ‘regain our lost sovereignty’ and ‘stop all the bloody foreigners coming over here and signing-on’. There is also a lot of mis-information regarding the cost to us of being in the EU and I for one would love to know the actual cost when the benefits are properly accounted for. No doubt this information is being saved until closer to voting day but I certainly don’t believe the figures being bandied around by the Brexit campaigners. I’m also aware that there would be a considerable cost to any trade agreement negotiated if the UK does vote to leave, so the potential savings would be greatly eroded and the free movement of EU nationals would be a stipulation – as per the agreements with Norway and Switzerland.

Those of you who know me well will already know that I’m all for staying and forging even closer relations with our European neighbours. I hear the counter arguments of course and fully accept that there is a cost for membership and yes, the red tape and excessive bureaucracy does irritate me somewhat. But to me there is a more fundamental reason why I feel that leaving the EU would be a backward step. I believe that our only hope as a human race is to work together to create harmony and fairness. I want to see a world where borders are broken down and human beings from all countries and cultures have the opportunity to live and work wherever they choose. I want to see a world where there is a much fairer distribution of wealth, so your opportunity to succeed is not based upon where you happen to be born. A world where people are not exploited or discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, or their sexuality.

Most of all I want to see a world where the norm is to be kind to one another.

It strikes me that the main reason why many people will vote to leave the EU is because they feel under threat in some way, either from a more powerful European Parliament imposing legislation on them or from the free movement of migrants around the continent. The fact that the EU is also able to impose a quota of non-European refugees on us has also added to the fear and hysteria of being overrun by foreigners who will eventually wrest power from the indigenous population. It is this ‘nativism’ that worries me more than anything. The fact that in the 21st century so many people around the world still view themselves as not being part of one human race but as being of a different race to others. More alarming is that many regard themselves as better or more special than others just because they happen to have been born in a certain place and of a certain colour.
As long as this continues to be the way people think, we are doomed to always live in a divided world of borders and nations where conflict with others is an acceptable way of life. If we are to maintain the status quo then how do we learn to share this beautiful planet with those who are less fortunate than us?

If we always do what we’ve always done, then we’ll always get what we’ve always got!!

The European Union is an opportunity to learn the art of integration on a grand scale. It is difficult yes, to bring together 500 million people from diverse cultures but it shows the world what can be achieved if we really have the desire. In a hundred years we may look back with pride and say that this was a huge turning point for mankind. Sustained peace and unity in Europe which demonstrated to other parts of the world that we can learn to accept one another for what or who we are. That we can learn to pool our many and diverse talents for the betterment of all. What an arduous task this is trying to get so many people to agree to abide by a consensus drawn from so many differing opinions. But surely what a worthy challenge we all should stick with?
I’m not saying that the governance is right or that a One World Government would ever work….but as long as we seek division from others we will never learn to live in peace. As long as we turn a blind eye to the inequality which exists around the world we will never learn to love our fellow man. I don’t accept that it is the human condition to be in conflict with one another. This is a learned condition and the habit is continually fed through the media and those who have a vested interest in us remaining divided. If we are educated to accept all people as having the same rights to exist anywhere on the planet they choose, then our whole attitude to the country we happen to be born in changes. Rather than feeling possessive about your country of birth you become an inhabitant of the planet, free to explore and settle anywhere you wish. Accepted by all you meet as being of the same (human) race but different because of where you have come from and what you have experienced. You feel neither a threat nor threatened.

Hippy dippy…yes maybe, but this is my great aspiration for the world.
So rather than vote to isolate ourselves from Europe lets show our European neighbours that we are fully behind this experiment and embrace the integration as best we can. Let’s send a huge message to the world that people from this neck of the woods are well up for uniting the world and making it a better place for everybody.

Life in perspective

Well, what a few weeks we’ve had.

The stress of watching one of our beloved sons come close to dying after an operation to remove a blockage in his intestines went badly wrong. The stress of watching him get sicker and sicker whilst hospital staff were assuring us that this was quite normal and all he needed to do was eat and drink to get things working again. The stress of him pleading with me to get him out of there cos if he stayed he was sure he would die. The pain in his eyes, in every sinew of his emaciated body. The relief when I whispered to him that I would get him out of there and take him home.
Then the despair in his voice when he called me the following morning to say that he really needed to go back to hospital as something was seriously wrong. A head-spinning car journey to get to him as quickly as I could so I could figure out what to do next. Seeing his sunken eyes and hollow face and knowing we must act quickly. Hiding the panic as his nana rang for the ambulance. The fear when the consultant at Hereford A&E said his body was filled with poison and they would need to operate as soon as possible to clean out the infection and reverse the operation from a week previous. Admiration as the wonderful team of doctors and nurses buzzed around to stabilise him as I looked on with tears welling, fighting hard for composure, wanting to be calm and confident for him. Then the waiting. The fear of the worst each time the eldest son rang with updates of how things were progressing every few hours. Fighting back more tears every time I contemplated whether I would ever see my beautiful boy’s smile again.
And then, so many hours later, the utter, draining relief when the Registrar came to talk with us to tell us that the second operation had been a success. The joy of seeing the boy we had so nearly lost smiling weakly as he roused from his anaesthetic and post-operative trauma. More joy at each visiting time as we see him slowly return to some kind of normality, the concentration camp features slowly disappearing with each step he took to recovery.

Then the further worry as mum gets admitted to hospital with a minor stroke. Both in the same hospital, the young man of 24 and the aging grandmother.

This sort of life event, which so many people go through, really does put life in perspective. To lose someone so loved or to come so close to losing someone makes all our other woes seem so trivial. Priorities change and new paths are set. Questions with no answers. The ‘what ifs’ and the ‘if onlys’. Head spinning with thoughts and emotions with the outcome being a paradigm shift in how life shall be viewed from this point forth.

You get to thinking more about what things in life are of any real value, what is the best use of our time, how do we ensure that we have the most positive impact on the world around us and on the people we love.

I sure don’t have the answers but one thing I do know is that we have but a few precious things in our lives and it’s all too easy to be distracted away from these. We must take the time to focus on the important things and let go of the trivial. In all honesty my head is still reeling but I know things have changed and I’m preparing for a different path.

Finding Enlightenment

I had something of a mad conversation the other night about how different people seek enlightenment and indeed what that even means. One theory is that it’s necessary to quiet the voice in your head so that you can experience pure thought. Seemingly Buddhist monks spend many hours a day in contemplative meditation, simply thinking of nothing. But do they really? I don’t know about you but I seem to have a continual conversation going on in my head whenever I try and grab a quiet moment. Trying to hush that inner voice is nigh on imposssible for me.


‘I wonder what ommmm means?’


‘Who decided that ommm was a good word to use?’

You get the picture. The fact is I rather enjoy those conversations with myself. At least I know somebody’s listening! And it got me wondering whether even the most devout of Buddhist monks has an internal conversation going on. ‘Ommm’. ‘D’you know I’m getting really fed up with wearing these orange robes every day.’ ‘Ommm’. ‘ What’s wrong with pink? I’d love to have pink robes a couple of days a week.’

So if the average monk has the same problem that I have with emptying the mind, does he ever really manage to find the enlightenment he seeks?

That got me thinking about other ways we may achieve this holiest of holy grails. I hit on the theory that finding enlightenment is when you find the answer to something that results in the end of your life once you have found it. The concept of… ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.’ So this is how the conversation went the other night.

‘If our pursuit of enlightenment could be found by saying ‘go on then tell me’, then once we find the information requested with that caveat, then we go to our grave knowing something that we can only have got to learn by sacrificing our life for it. Man, what a way to go out. Knowing that you have been given such important information that it is valued as high as a human life. Wow!! Would that not be true enlightenment?’

Now the timing of this transaction is obviosuly a critical factor, as I’m certainly not ready for that at this stage of my life. But as the ultimate exit plan…..well, I’m thinking that it sounds good to me. Of course, the giver of that information, the one who delivers the phrase ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you’ is a crucial element in all of this. He must have that deep James Bondesque type of voice. Maybe with a slight Irish lilt. Certainly deep and round. Think Liam Neeson.

I can now imagine my final moments. Sitting opposite me is a man in a red  leather Chesterfield.

I ask him, ‘What is the secret to enlightenment?’

He answers in his deep, manly brogue ‘If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.’

‘Tell me’ I say

And he does. And I end my life finally knowing what I’ve always wanted to know.



Things in general

Not had the the desire or time to write for a wee while and I don’t suppose that my massive audience of seven are really bothered either way – but tonight I feel the urge, so please bear with me. Just feeling consumed by gratitude (and a tad of the necessary catholic guilt whenever this happens) for the wonderful life I have compared to so many other people on this tiny planet of ours. I listen to the complaints that people have about their day to day struggles in a modern democracy and I empathise of course…….but should we really complain. We have so much. We consume. We take for granted. Yet we always manage to find fault; we always manage to find a reason not to rejoice in the abundance we have.

I shared a great facebook post over the last couple of days which say ‘If you are more fortunate than others, its better to build a longer table than a higher fence’. This really encapsulates what I believe in. In a Donald Trump led US they would build a big wall along the border with Mexico. If Britain decides to exit Europe, will we also see the barricades being built to keep the bloody foeigners out?  It’s all wrong my friends, we should be making the world more open to one another rather than closing it off. Yes, I know there are bad people…but there are also an awful lot of good people in the world. How do we learn to share the world and embrace all different cultures if we build fences? How do we ever cure the ‘human condition’ which requires us to fight, to be in opposition to others.

Gratitude is the key.

Think about what we have rather than what we we stand to lose. Think about what you can give rather than what you can take. Think about how you can help to create a better world rather than carry on with this spiral to ultimate destruction. We have it in our hands to make a better world for our children and grandchildren. I feel totally blessed to have such wonderful children of my own who are starting to ‘get’ it and open their hearts to all their brothers and sisters of this planet. I may sound like an old hippy…but I assure you I’m not. I truly believe that we are moving away from the whole capitalist shit which has got us where? Those of us of a certain age have brought our children up in a different way to how we were brought up and we’re beginning to see the fruits of this now as our children become adults with a much more tolerant attitude to those of different ethnicity or sexuality. Our job is to guide them and to suport them so they become the difference we yearn for.

Rejoice in the life you have, whatever probelms you may encounter.

Peace to you all.


L x


Alternative camping

I learned something this weekend.

I learned that camping is not always the family fun adventure that it’s cracked up to be. It doesn’t necessarily ‘put you in touch with nature’ or detatch you from the humdrum of modern living. There is an alternative kind of camping, a dark, soulless exploit which puts you at the fringes of humanity. Camping which you are thrust in to without realising the hardship and degradation you will suffer. A group experience which is akin to dirt being swept into the corner of a room and covered with an old mat; or being locked outside a grand home and made to watch a banquet through a window, whilst you cling by your bleeding finger tips to the window cill as the rain and the cold wrack your body.

It’s called ‘Refugee Camping’ and it ain’t very far away from here folks! Take a short trip by ferry or Eurotunnel to the port of Calais and you too can find this camping from hell. Hundreds of little tents, caravans and wooden huts strewn across a battlefield of a site with thousands of lost souls squeezed into them for warmth and shelter. Rudimentary toilet and washing facilities are a feature of this ‘camping-noir’, so queuing for the most basic of human requirements is the norm. And if you’re lucky you may have firewood or a gas burner in order that you can cook for your loved ones. But don’t worry if not as the camp offers an excellent array of cafes and restaurants if it’s the fine-dining experieince you crave. Am I selling it? D’you wish this is how your camping trip could be?

Now for the hard-hitting bit. This underworld of camping is on our doorstep and we are largely choosing to ignore the plight of our fellow brothers and sisters who in their desparation have fled the war zone of the Middle East. Men, women and children who are guilty of nothing more than escaping from a life threatening situation. There are maybe 6000 people on the camp I visited, so how easy would it be to lift them from their plight? What real strain would this put on our public services if the UK absorbed 6,000 people? Or 60,000? Or 600,000? Ah… now I’ve got you worrried. How could we possibly cope with 600,000 refugees? We don’t have the infrastructure. We’re already creaking under the stresses of austerity and couldn’t afford the cost of this. It’s all rubbish and you know it. Just feeble excuses to justify why we let displaced people, who just so happen to be of a different colour and creed (there, I said it) rot in this hell hole of a camp site just 20 miles from our shores.

The one ray of hope comes in the shape of the camp ‘red-coats’ who give up their time to help distribute clothes, food, bedding, firewood and love to the people of the camp. They don’t really wear red coats by the way (or yellow coats for those of you who are familiar with ‘Hi-de-hi’) but this wonderful group of volunteers do bring a little joy into the lives of the campers. Certainly more joy than the Robocop Gendarmes who patrol the site in body armour carrying automatic weapons and a look of contempt for the inmates.

I joined a group called Care4Calais ( to do my tiny little bit on Boxing Day. We met at their warehousing in Calais where they receive donations for sorting and daily distributions around the camp. I went with them on two trips into the ‘jungle’ and was uplifted by the smiling faces and gratitude of the poor souls for whom a warm sweater could make all the difference when the cold sets in. On the second trip we trundled right along the bumpy main track with its puddles and its mud and the scale of the camp really hit home. And it was the proximity to the relative riches just outside the camp boundaries which tugged at my heart. We know that this is the plight of so many people across the world but to have people living in this squalour so close to home is just, well, not right. If it wasn’t for the volunteers the conditions would be so much worse. If it wasn’t for compassionate people who simply refuse to turn a blind eye then we would have people possibly dying…on..our…doorstep – and just because for a Government to help the people in the camp would only ‘encourage more refugees to come’ and that would be terrible wouldn’t it? Fancy a rich nation having to give help and shelter to people who have had to flee their homes.

Without the wonderful and selfless work of groups like Care4Calais we are lost. As human beings we become mere vacuous vessels of greed and self interest. We are hearded like sheep into the pen of fear that the propaganda would have us believe. We forget that mankind is not just on this planet to ravage and consume like a plague of locusts. We are here to learn that it is compassion that gives us our souls. It is love and kindness which make us complete not the latest iPhone. To share and care and help and support is to find the fulfilment we crave. Thank you Care4Calais for reminding me of this and I hope to see you again soon.

Post navigation

One thought on “Alternative camping”

Leave a Reply


Follow “LHughston”

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 173 other followers

Kindness, the best religion

It’s that time of the year when we take a pause from our day to day lives in order to relax and celebrate… celebrate what? The birth of the Messiah? Mother Earth? The rising of the winter sun?

Those of you who know me know that I do not follow any  religion. In fact I feel that religion is one of the major causes of conflict and division in the world. But that’s not to say that I disagree with the main tenets of all the major religions. Respect for others. Love. Peace. Harmony. My problem is that the whole structure of most religions seems to be based around recruiting people to join and/or ensuring that once you are in you dare not leave. If most religions are preaching much the same thing then why is it necessary to require exclusivity? Why can’t you try all religions to find one that suits you best without fear of eternal damnation? If you fancy a few months immersed in one of the other versions, what’s the problem with that? Why is your particular religion so worried about you crossing over to another one?  I repeat, what are the religious leaders worried about if the ultimate goal is the same.

And is a head honcho really required (I mean him/her upstairs)?

My religion is kindness. Like most religious people I don’t practice this all the time, though I really wish I could (and I’m trying, honestly) but I am as fallible as the next man. Kindness is a thing that does not require a God it just requires you to be more considerate, compassionate and respectful of others. It is an act of love. It brings peace and harmony. Sound familiar? It doesn’t require me to go to church to listen to someone preaching to me how to behave. I know how to behave. Surely we all know the difference between right and wrong unless we are mentally afflicted? Do we really need a religious structure in place to remind us on a regular basis? Think kind thoughts. Do kind deeds. Don’t divide yourselves from others because they’re not in the same club.

That’s the bit I really don’t understand. God, Allah or whoever, is worshipped as the giver of life and salvation yeah? Yet in His name so many people are slaughtered and depending on whose side of the conflict you are on, you allow this slaughter to be justified. How can this be right? If God/Allah (or whoever) is taken out of the equation and everyone just practices kindness the conflict between different religious factions simply disappears. Granted, we are still left with the bad guys but at least then we can be united against them.

It’s probably a bit risky of me to blog about religion….particularly if I’m suggesting you should give it up. I know how important it is to so many people and just because I don’t believe in a God I am not saying that neither should you. I’m just really saying that if you can see through the divisiveness, most decent people are all singing from the same hymn sheet (pardon the pun). My Catholic upbringing probably imprinted the wrong definition or image of God so I have substituted it with the word ‘kindness’ or ‘love’. It doesn’t really matter what word we use because it’s actions which count. If your religion and your God helps you to be a good, kind and loving human being then that’s great but don’t allow it to divide you from all the other good, kind and loving people of this planet.

For me the Christmas period is a real focal point of the religion I follow – millions, perhaps billions of people doing kind things for one another. How great would the world be if we behaved like this all the time (okay, not with all the consumerist stuff)? But spare a moment to think of those who are suffering, either close to home or far away. If each of us could do just one kind act a week more than we currently do that would be billions of kind acts extra each year. Not a bad thing to strive for in the years ahead eh? A kinder, more compassionate world.

If you’re interested in becoming kinder and more selfless, I’ve put a facebook page together over the last few years with some nice thoughts which may help. You can find it by follwing this link (I hope)

Please ‘like’ the page if you feel it’s worthy of it.

Merry Kindmas to you all xx