Why can’t I decide…………

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It occurred to me last night, that if we have a General Election fairly soon, I don’t know who I’d vote for. I’m a lifelong Tory voter, although I suspect that had the Liberals had been a viable option, I would have voted for them. I’m talking about the old style Liberals of Joe Grimond and, God help us, Jeremy Thorpe.

In the absence of a viable Liberal option, and probably because my parents did, I voted Tory. My first voting experience came in 1974, the year of two elections, the Miners strike (the first one), the three day week (when commercial consumption of electricity was limited to three days a week), which meant working in a very cold office by candlelight and no electric typewriters! In fact that was a challenging time in British politics and bears some similarities to today. Look at this from Wikipedia:

‘The election of February that year had produced an unexpected hung parliament. Coalition talks between the Conservatives and other parties such as the Liberals and the Ulster Unionists failed, allowing Labour leader Harold Wilson to form a minority government’

So, I would describe myself as a left-wing Tory, as opposed to my father whom I would describe as a High Tory, a throwback from the nineteenth century! This has remained my position. But now, my beliefs are being severely tested.

I cannot accept that a Conservative and Unionist (to give the Party it’s proper name) Prime Minister would deliberately and without compunction undermine the stability of the Union.

By putting a border down the Irish Sea he will do exactly that. It’s clear that the DUP feels betrayed by Boris’s Brexit deal, and well they might. The problem is that unless they can get their Assembly up and running they are subject to rule from Westminster.

I would never vote Labour. Jeremy Corbyn is a dangerous man, I remember him in the ‘70s and his alliances with the Trades Unions and others. It was a politically toxic era and he was right in the thick of it.

So, that leaves the Lib-dems. Apart from the fact that they are still a minority group, I actually disagree with them. I have always been against a second Referendum as anti-democratic. A democratic vote is just that and must be respected. Although I have to say that as we have moved through this process I have sometimes thought it might be the only way, but I cannot disregard what, for me, is a fundamental belief.

There are other reasons why a second Referendum is not a good idea. Firstly, we cannot deny Scotland a second vote on Independence if we then go on to have one ourselves. Second, we could find the result comes out the same and then what happens? Third, has anyone in the whole country got the appetite for it?

If, as seems likely, we will have a General Election sometime soon, I really don’t know what I’m going to do!


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Where do we go from here?

Photo courtesy of BBC News

It’s not over yet

I have spent the morning watching the debate in the House of Commons about the Brexit deal. It’s an education in Parliamentary procedure. This is because an amendment was laid down this morning by Oliver Letwin (an old thorn in the side?) which, if voted through, would delay Brexit further.

The law states (the Benn Act 2019) that if this were to happen the Prime Minister must, at 11 pm tonight, send a letter to the European Union to ask for an extension to Brexit, delaying it until 31st January 2020. This is well known to everyone except, apparently, the Prime Minister!

Mr Johnson is, of course, refusing to do this. He is supremely confident, believing that he can get the legislation done and dusted by his magic date – 31st October. This would seem highly unlikely, given it has to pass through both houses

There is now a cacophony of speculation, apparent messages from sources inside No 10 , comment from various experts, trying to work out what will happen next.

As predicted yesterday, it is the Democratic Unionist Party who have complained bitterly about the proposed deal which puts a border down the Irish Sea. This was always going to be a problem.

There is a sense that something big has happened today. The thing is that no one is quite sure what it means. All we know is that we have not advanced towards an end to this endless and exhausting process.

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Exported from Medium on October 19, 2019.

O my ….. is the end in sight

Let’s not get too excited!

Photo by Valentin B. Kremer on Unsplash

So, Boris has got his deal ensuring his place in history. Yesterday, in Brussels, lots of back slapping, hand clapping and, frankly rather distasteful, kissing!

There is a sense that this has all been rather rushed, and it’s important to take a step back and look at how this deal was reached.

Basically the Prime Minister has rehashed the May deal with only one real change – replacing the so-called ‘back-stop’ with a customs border in the Irish Sea, something which, in 2018, he stated in the strongest terms, he would never do. This, in many people’s view, undermines the Union of our four nations, as well as the hard-won peace enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. it also raises the spectre of Scotland, who, if the SNP is to be believed, is champing at the bit to break up the Union.

Parliamentarians of all colours were quickly lining up this morning, to show their support for the deal. Most of this is sheer fatigue, everyone wants it over. Even the MPs who were chucked out of the party for voting against the Prime Minister, were saying they would vote in favour!

On the other hand, some of the less enthusiastic types, were urging caution, and they are right to do so. There plenty in the House of Commons who will vote against the deal. Added to that the fact that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will not support anything that separates them from the rest of the UK, or anything that leaves them tied to the EU in any way, it is possible the deal will not get through.

Tomorrow will be an extremely tense day, and possibly momentous. What happens next remains to be seen.

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That ‘fear’ word again

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Fear stops thoughts, ideas and characters entering one’s mind freely and then being transferred onto paper. Later on I heard the quote ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ (F D Roosevelt). This morning I opened an e mail from the British Library focused on writing, Then, quite coincidentally, I read an article about President Roosevelt in which the same quote appeared.

This seemed to be telling me something. That I should overcome my fear of the blank page and just start!

It all depends how I feel; if I’m having a bad MS day, if I haven’t slept well. If I need more coffee! Most importantly, whether I can remember an idea that may have floated through my brain and out again three weeks before!

I’m sure it is a common problem for a lot of writers, especially if, like me, they are fairly new to the process. There is also the fact that writing is never a matter of just the idea or the content, but the spelling, the grammar, the constant re-reading, editing, the list goes on.Even if you are mostly housebound like me and sitting in a wheelchair all day, when you think I would have limitless time, it never quite works out like that.

I just read an article by Brian Ye published in The Writers Cooperative, a Medium Publication.  In it, he describes how note-taking is invaluable in the process of writing.  Whether you use a notebook and pen (as he did for a long time) or electronic note taking (as he does now), being able to jot down ideas when you think of them can help to build a comprehensive list of ideas which should help to overcome the fear of the blank piece of paper or screen.

I do make notes rather sporadically and in a haphazard sort of way. I use the Notes app on my iPad. The problem is that a random idea can be lost amongst my very disorganised pages, which contain telephone numbers, appointments, names, lists – trying to find some idea in that lot is almost impossible. Even if I do find it, it’s usually so vague that I’ve forgotten what it was in the first place!

So, inspired by Mr Ye, I have decided to download a note-taking app and use it properly. Thank you Sir.

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How to Keep a Notebook of Ideas Close (and Why) Brian Ye https://writingcooperative.com


Why should it be so difficult………?

In June, this year, my husband and I took our usual flight from Heathrow to Toulouse in France home to our house where we lived for 10 years. Since we returned to the UK three years ago we can only manage to get there for just six weeks a year.

This is because of my disability. Or, actually it’s not! It’s because it is so difficult and stressful to take the flight.

We used to drive down back in the day when we were both fit and healthy, sometimes staying somewhere on the way down. We would stay for six months and then go home for six months.

So, we moved, lock, stock and barrel. I got into the health and social security system, and we got help. At the time I could still walk with a Zimmer frame. As my condition worsened the amount of care I needed increased and it happened!

But now we had to fly home if we wanted to see our family. And so it began. A catalogue of errors and mishaps and downright inefficiency and incompetence. Flying from the UK and back after our visit this summer was the pinnacle of all these things.

Photo by Annie Theby on Unsplash

When I was no longer able to drive, but was still just about walking, we could fly Ryan Air. Easy peasy! When I could no longer manage the stairs at home and the farce of attempting to get a diagnosis (a story for another day!) we decided to move there permanently. Our house is an old farmhouse with no stairs.

Flying out from Heathrow in June, despite asking the Assistance Team four times not to take the legs off my wheelchair to transfer me to a boarding chair (you can’t take your chair on to the plane), they did it anyway. Somewhat inevitably, they were subsequently lost.

The return journey was even worse. To cut a very long story short; flight cancelled, rebooked for the next day, disability arrangements not carried forward, upshot – no Assistance Team at the airport! Assistance was provided – by four young women in BA staff uniforms. They decided to stand me up on my completely useless legs despite me telling them what would happen. Result; I collapsed painfully, they panicked, threw me back towards my chair which I only just reached and I ended up in an extremely painful and undignified position. They called the Fire Brigade!

The one good thing was we were upgraded to business class! During all this I lost a front tooth. Back in the UK I had to have emergency dental treatment privately ( no NHS dentist could give me an urgent appointment) which cost me £745!

I decided to make a claim for compensation from the airline. After all, they had reimbursed me for the cost of the new wheelchair legs I had to buy.

They disputed the claim denying any liability. Now, strictly speaking, British Airways do not provide the disability assistance themselves. It is provided by another company. However, on this occasion they did, as they were left with little choice. They are refusing to compensate me for my dental treatment, saying that the airport provided assistance (in my view totally inadequate) therefore they cannot be held responsible, notwithstanding the fact that the Senior crew member told me to make a claim.

I need to make something clear. It’s not money that motivates me. It is the sheer inability of companies who advertise a service to understand the need for understanding and empathy when dealing with the diverse needs of people with disabilities. But, more than that, they need to listen. I have made this point over and over again to BA, on forums, anywhere I can. The CEO of Disability Rights UK (www.disabilityrightsuk.org) has written to his BA counterpart suggesting ways in which they can improve their service.

Yet, everyday on Twitter I see complaints about BA, RyanAir, and Easy Jet and their disability assistance.

I don’t know what it will take for them to wake up and smell the coffee, but I know I’m going to keep on trying.

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More Philosophy

Photo courtesy of Dailystoic.com

Since I wrote about the Stoics in my last piece, they seem to be popping up all over the place particularly in the Philosophy section of Medium.com. This a daily digest site with a platform for new and experienced writers to showcase their craft. One name that appears most frequently is that of Epictetus. He was a freed slave who studied Stoicism with the permission of his master, and gained his freedom after the death of Nero. not much is known about his life, other than that he lived a simple life according to the Stoic principles:

Epictetus taught that philosophy is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are beyond our control; we should accept calmly and dispassionately whatever happens. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. (Wikipedia)

It would appear, just from the above short extract, why people are talking about him. In our current political morass those in government and Parliament, on all sides and of all persuasions should exercise self-discipline when it comes to discourse. It is absolutely essential when choosing what language (i.e. words and terms) to use, self-control is paramount. The way our media operates should ensure that speakers act responsibly by not using inflammatory language, although it must be said that many politicians use the media for precisely the opposite – to add fuel to the fire! I would definitely point them in the direction of our friend Epictetus

This may seem like stating the obvious but, if , like many people you, dear Readers, are as shocked and disappointed at the behaviour of our politicians as I am, then I am sure you will agree that it needs to be said. The words of Epictetus, quoted above, say it most distinctly.

An ‘unlawful’ Prime Minister

I read over the weekend that Boris Johnson is considering making the Supreme Court a US style partisan affair. Judges would be selected by the government rather than the Monarch. This scares me more than anything else that is happening at the moment. The piece I read was a small paragraph in a sidebar, so as not to appear too important. But nothing would be more damaging to our democracy. In a country that has been one of the earliest and most stable of political systems for centuries and has no written constitution, the separation of powers is how it works. It is all based on the rule of law, of which the separation of the Judiciary from the Executive is key. If you want to destroy democracy in Britain that’s the way to do it!

Photo from bbc.co.uk

On Epictetus: https://plato.stanford.edu. (Stamford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)https://www.iep.utm.edu (Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)

The same sources can be used for for more information on the Stoics.