Friday, 16 September 2016

Disposable Reasoning

I follow the work of George Monbiot, a passionate environmentalist keen on re-wilding  as am I. His latest article, Disposable Planet, can be found here. As a Romantic as well as someone who values scientific reasoning, I find much to critique especially since his views are typical of many people I meet on my path to finding an ecological and sustainable way to live. The response I sent is below which will make more sense if your read his article first!

Post your comments below.

Hello George

Thanks for your latest article, Disposable Planet. Incisive as always...and also despairing and hopeless, leaving me with that unsettling feeling similar to the dread in the belly during a parental telling-off. "You're using the car again...despite the planet going down the plughole!" ..."Your shower lasted 8 you know how much water that could provide to a drought-struck village on the African continent??" Forgive me, Father. I'm also about to critique your reasoning. 

De-capitating Logic

So, I recently discovered a new way of thinking thanks to constellations which, like most things, suddenly seemed obvious. The Plough, Orion, the Great Bear...and all such named constellations, despite being individual stars light years away from each other, make very sketchy outlines for us humans... although simply an abstract handful of white dots in space. Why? Because we are making sense of the world around us (note - not necessarily the world we are entrenched in, but that's another story).

This "constellation" tendency is how many mortals flex their muscles with the things they've come to know. And it's a shame that the tone of your articles, as much as I enjoy reading them, fall into the same trap: a dying population here, extinct animals over there, melting ice here...and then industry growth over here, and blithe consumers shopping malls or on futuristic devices with 1,000 Apps promising every convenience. That's cause and effect, right? Surely any fool would agree. And, then, wham! you're reasoning wings are stuck in the glue! 

The intellect, like the internet, makes bold promises of a world that's understood and relatively neat and organised...and seems to hint a glimpse of world without physical limitations. But we aren't just heads on legs, or fingers tapping at keyboards - we are absolutely bound to gravity, despite our spiritual yearnings. Yes, you, too. Sorry about that.

Any breadth of knowledge doesn't exempt you from the hairy contradictions and compromises we are all forced to negotiate in order to be, firstly, human and, secondly, as informed individuals, sane, happy and motivated to act from a courageous space rather than a fearful one. Not recognizing that can dislocate the relevance of your message since a reader could be forgiven for imagining that you are beaming your blogposts on fairy's wings from a self-sufficient idyll only the enlightened seers inhabit (they had accrued enough carbon-offset points).

And yet, here we both are...stuck in fleshy bodies while able to communicate without having met...through complicated technological platforms that govern and shape our lives/perceptions which make no more sense than a fairy's wing. But isn't that also a great metaphor for the sophisticated infrastructure that we're inherited from our ancestors...complete with its socio-psycho-cultural matrix? I think a writer who is full of idealism (that's my attraction to your work) as well as one who endeavours to make sense of the incomprehensible bonkers-ness of it all, has much more weight. Of course, I see all that you do, too - this is about relationality (even though Microsoft doesn't seem to recognize that word).

It's no surprise to me that The Guardian (or similar) at once recommends a healthy tuna salad and reports the abominable nature of the fishing industry; it's more shocking that you have reached this point and only highlight the paradox rather than have anything deeper to say. Informed readers aren't oblivious to the many contradictions and hypocrisies in which they can flourish or fall.

Your knowledge, coupled with your power as an articulate and well-known writer, offers you a responsibility to soften the potential blow ("real" facts about catastrophe reeled off in your article is simply that well-known journalistic tool, sensationalism). Can you offer solutions...come back to your fellow inhabitants...rather than beautifully present heartbreaking and bleak summaries of impending extinction, that leaves some of us clutching for the Kleenex and Seroxat, rather than feeling elated and aspiring for excellence and betterment? And not for the sake of sugar-coating and the nicey-nice, but for tenderness and a sense of "we're all in this together"ness? We all need a continued sense of wonder that you so elegantly express when in the presence of wilderness and the animal kingdom. We are as majestic as those phenomena and deserving of as much respect. It's not apparent in your tone that you agree...directly from the Pulpit of Doom.

....unless I'm being terribly naive and Monbiot has evolved into a brand whose USP features lamentation, sorrow and that last bastion of hope for mankind? I thought I could watch any new channel for that.

Awaiting a reply,


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Bee & The Butterfly

A Sea Shanty

A boy stands feet together before his Majesty, sand sinking up between his toes. The string from a balloon dashes above and around his head, begging to be let go as the many fingers of the wind clutch at it. He smiles softly and shares his attention between its wild yellow thrashes and the crashing waves that gain momentum, threatening licks at his ankles and lower legs. His thinking softens, the larger part of his mind already immersed and occupied within the ocean's fiery gemstone blues and crested white kisses.

Hours go by, perhaps a decade or so, perhaps no time at all. He will only dare to reason again once the strange trance subsides and recedes. For now, the singular yellow balloon tosses in the curling gusts, like a young shark urgent to gain over its prey, conducting a slippery rhythm from the excited wind.

Barely perceptible crystal stars of salt dust the boy's lips, like early spring pollen on 2 petals of a red flower, and he moistens them with 3 considered licks of his tongue. And did he just miss the sight of a dolphin...or a whale, revealing its muscular form between triangles of water? He resumes his focus, promising by a slight frown not be distracted again. He even pledges not to blink. He wants to become the dolphin, if only for a second. He wants to know what it sees, and where will it sleep tonight, and how. Is the dolphin's vision the same as when the boy is submerged and attempts a glance through the wobbling glass without the defiant tilt of his head allowing his ears to drink the water?

He doesn't like to hear what they teach at school. Numbers and facts about the sea bed, the rocks, why there is water and from what matter it's composed, when it evaporates, or might flood low places. It matters much less than these naked moments of ragged wild silence.

Existing in 2 worlds as the coast line relentlessly defines itself, his feet enjoy the impression of the collision. Rather than a line, it is just a restrained spill of the waves, teasing... like the vagueries of the poet, feeding each other like lovers at a banquet, marrying and separating, relentlessly. The intimacy of the sea is not diminished  by the 1,000s of pairs of eyes that have soaked it in. It belongs to no-one, it doesn't need to. And still, it is not unlike a hopeless animal caged in a zoo... gazing sadly at the shore, and menacingly, with a dark primal heart in its blue twinkling eyes, capable of swallowing buildings, continents, promises.

For now, its loose invitation apparently extends to the boy and his yellow balloon, absorbing him into its private circle. The still boy, the exotic tango of the balloon, the sea busying itself  adorning them both, baptising them perhaps, with illusory eternity or some more beguiling gift. The sea and its many blue pencils draw boundaries around definitions of freedom, isolation, of tremendous union that the boy has heard about in handed-down fairy-tales.

Suddenly, he laughs absurdly. This blue watery soup before him seems silly, unknowable. The balloon seems to nod in agreement then continues dancing idiotically, its yellow hips at odds against the tulip blue sky. He looks at the end of his finger, bloated and pale as the string has tightened. Ah...and another glistening metallic lump diminishes as he turns to look...has he missed the dolphin again?

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Why Kale Really Is A Superfood


There are many things in life that I am proud of. However, the greatest must be that I have got my dad to drink smoothies. Not some flouncy soft-core syrupy foppish frappé (that's basically just melted ice cream) - I'm talking home-made rustic (Morphy Richards wand) with kale, turmeric and kiwis. Kale, turmeric and kiwis are 3 species that have never been unearthed by Planet Poppa before. And not only drinking them, but he's actually asking me to make them.

Nothing about my dad screams smoothie to you. He turns 71 at the end of this year, reads AutoExpress and lives for football. His dad was a miner from the North East. He has never heard of Gillian McKeith and wouldn't forgive her if he had witnessed the way she treated KitKats.

Since I was catapulted from the outer galaxies in to this family 35 years ago, I have challenged everything my parents have done and said. Annoying, awkward - that's me. Some invisible force has propelled me to shine a light on everything they do and show them that my way is superior. Even when presented with my mum's favourite brisket stew, that had simmered away for hours then lovingly finished with a nostalgic-looking crust, my face would contort as if it was a pouch of Felix.

So how did I peel my Pop's taste-buds away from Sprite and midnight glasses of semi-skimmed milk to this fine oxidant-busting beverage?  Simple: I shared the joy!

Normally, I would hammer my way around the aghast at 99% of the things they did and never alight the soapbox (I blame the Aries in me). But I've just been approaching things in a more joyful way. I love smoothies, so Pops...wanna try some? Magic. From a place of floating around on flimsy dinghies in the vast blackened parental oceans of life, we're suddenly, if briefly, rowing together, smiling,......with bits of kale stuck between our teeth.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Get Rich or Die Studyin'

Tonight was the 3rd week into my study group for Napoleon Hill's Think & Grow Rich. The themes of this week's chapters (since Week 3 and 4 have been rolled into one)... are entitled Imagination (tick), Organised Planning (what happened to Week 3?), Persistence (tick) and Decision (double tick - I ordered a burrito, followed by nachos). The author reminds us in no uncertain terms that those who lack decisive action and quiver in uncertainty are doomed to a penniless life. Or in his terms, "will not succeed in any undertaking". Harsh.

Napoleon Hill wasn't the only one eager to have his opinion heard. While a few of us were chatted about what being rich means, a pair of beady eyes bored holes into the air around us. Then as our discussion branched off between 2 of us, he erupted...with a violent declaration that we were all wasting our time. My friend and I looked at each other, then looked at him. He continued, with an incredulous expression, telling us that everything was "in here" (poking his own head) and that he didn't need anyone else. I eyed up the empty pint glass that sat gloomily before him.

"No man is an island!" I graciously declared hoping that the attempt at melodrama would dissolve any escalating aggression. But to my dismay, his response was defiant and sufficiently animated:

"I am!" and without irony, "I am a painter and sculptor!". Then, more cheerfully, "I'm as mad as a box of frogs". I was mostly surprised that this was the first time I'd heard the expression being used self-referentially. But perhaps that's what islands are destined to have to do.

Then, after a short pause, regurgitated more instructions: "You -- *pointing to my bewildered friend* --- need to get on with your life, and YOU --- *turning to me*---need to F*** off!"

My poetic exclamation had obviously done nothing to sedate him or gentrify the situation. But I somehow succeeded in moistening the vile glue of this strange conversation envelope and posting it back from whence it came (an unnameable monstrous island)...then the box of frogs gathered his coat and hat. Even deranged amphibians need clothes.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Stranger Danger

We should all be heartened, and relieved, by this (real) Lifeboats advert and gently reminded that it is that playful rascal Satan who joyfully pedals Sales and Marketing.

"Lifeboat volunteers will drop everything to rescue total strangers!"

What a waste of time. Why not join Friend Ships, a service where only friends are rescued 
if there's nothing on the telly? 

Friend Ships
Where friends come first, naturally. 

If a tree falls over in the forest and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If you're out at sea and in danger, you are safe with us - as long as you have friends**. We are the UK's first rescue service dedicated to putting friendships first, leaving strangers to bask in the briny. Our dedicated team of volunteers ask one simply question so you can be safe and sound in the shortest possible time. In the long tradition of Noah and his Ark, we recognise that teaming up, like love, is the most natural force in the world. Hell's wildest fires deal with the rest. **and the new series of Britain's Got Talent hasn't just started

Our unique rescue boats won't let you down
It Makes Sense

* With our I Got You, Babe plan, newly weds are prioritised - that Honeymoon love won't drown on our watch!
* No-claims bonus if you have over 600 friends on Facebook
* Get your first month free if you can show us that you receive 2 notifications per hour (proof required)

Don't be a stranger - our insurance policy covers anyone, even you pitiful creature surfing the web alone, because we are the only company in the UK who even accept a passing hello in the Post Office and a Message in your Other folder as a sign of  friendship. You're safe!

Peace of mind We know that you value loyalty - you don't like sharks. Strangers are like sharks and we can guarantee that your good money will never go to rescuing them. No-one wants their legs bitten off. Let them drown, the nasty friendless bastards.

We tirelessly rescue from Monday to Friday until 5pm. After hours, you can all take a running jump. But preferably not into deep water. 

One quiet afternoon in Cornwall...

Friend Ships Contact Centre (FSCC): "Hello, Friend Ships Cornwall, what's your emergency?"

Friend Ships Volunteer (FSV), Gary, aboard The Friendly Swan: "Sighting of a lady in distress off the coast of Bude."

FSCC: "OK, right. Let's establish is if anyone knows the victim so we can send Rescue straight away. Do we have a description so we can find her Facebook profile?"

FSV: "Female, white...difficult to establish her age because of all the splashing. Her hair's dark, really wet, maybe black. Her makeup needs touching up."

FSCC: "I'll need more, Gary."

"Well, I've heard there was a sighting in a local chippy - a lady in her 50s, about an hour ago or so. The owner said she wasn't happy with the chips. A caller has suggested a potential suicide attempt."

"Right, that's something. Did any of the staff recognise her?"

FSV: "My Uncle Roger used to date the fish-fryer from that chip shop back in 1984. So we could have a connection. Friends Reunited?"

"Gary, if she made it from her phone she's might be active on social media. We'll need her phone. Can you access her phone?"

"I'll try" *reaches down, boat tips, lady's hands grab at him wildly*..."be with you shortly, love, hang on in there, won't you...----- Negative to getting the phone, And I've heard that salt water will short circuit it."

"How about her password? Is she conscious? We could get a sync of her contacts, and we can go from there."

*Gary peers over the boat, trying to get the lady's attention*

"Excuse me, Miss - er, Mrs..." *desperate gurgling from the water* "Are you on Facebook? F A C E-book? *lady getting bluer in the face and struggle starts to lessen* ----- No, nothing. Er - subject uncooperative."

"Well, that's no way to behave. Perhaps we're fighting a losing battle and she doesn't have any friends? *tuts* Although I am getting a few profiles in Bude ... ah, but I'm gonna be here hours."

"Have you checked TripAdvisor? I bet she's the kind to leave a nasty review on that chip shop."

"Roger that. *taps furiously at the keyboard, mumbling incoherently*...doesn't look like she lef---oh, Gary, here we go, an hour ago someone posted a 2 star review."

"2 stars? What did she give the stars for?"

""Chips cold and undercooked. Don't waste your money. Man on till said he liked my hair, which made my day"."

"OK. A name...I need a name?"

"Er yeah - Buttercup Beamdancer."

"I'll Google that --------- I'm not getting anything up, Gary. Can you ask Buttercup her real name?"

"Butterc -- oh, erm...hello? *water completely still, dreadful silence*