Thursday, 3 November 2011


Do you know what? I absolutely love Christmas. I am not even a Christian but I love it just the same, there is something magical about it, especially if you have small children in your life and it is even more magical if we are lucky enough to have snow like we did last year.

I have had to re-learn how to love Christmas because over the last few decades it has been totally dominated by consumerism, the latest in a line of false Gods for us all to worship.

In our house we don't allow TV advertising. I made that decision when our little boy was very young because I could see how our society had been completely dominated by advertising and the programs had now become more of an incidental gap filler in between ads. I wanted to see if we could bring up a child as an inquisitive little free thinker rather than just another compliant drone. The positive effect of that has been that we don't start getting wound up for the big spend as early as most people do.

I am lucky to have been a child of the 60's, a time when Britons were experiencing a new found freedom and a new prosperity. A generation were growing up who had no experience of war but were the children of people who knew it well and what hardship it could bring. What was great about being a child in the 60's was the fact that people still liked people. Our house was alive with the comings and goings of friends and relatives and of course at Christmas time it was positively buzzing.

I won't pretend that I didn't get a huge pile of presents because I did. I was an only child and because my parents had so many friends I was spoiled rotten. On my sixth Christmas the pile of presents on the floor was nothing short of embarrassing. I can't remember what most of the presents were but there were a few Action Men and a Johnny Seven assault rifle with which I rather abruptly awakened my Dad on Christmas morning. On any other morning, a batten round between the eyes from a Johnny Seven would have cost me dearly but hey, it was Christmas.

The things I do remember about Christmas back then were what make me want to share that with people in the future and help to bring us about from the present course of folly and find the true spirit of Christmas again. The happy atmosphere, the carefree people who just wanted to be together to share the festivities and have fun.

The celebrations at this time of year are of course nothing at all to do with Christianity and were conveniently hijacked by it when it was the dominant force in society. I don't want to labour that point because in fairness to Christianity, it didn't really do it much harm. The festivities are strewn with markers that give away it's pagan heritage from the mistletoe, the holly and the ivy, right up to Santa himself, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Odin.

I would like to see us liberate ourselves from corporate slavery altogether but it will be an uphill struggle because we have been brought up with it in our faces everywhere we look. We can't even switch on our laptop without being bombarded by flash adverts and especially on the websites of newspapers.I know it's going to be hard to break this habit but of all the times of year when we should, Christmas is the one where they target us the hardest.

The joy of Christmas truly is in the getting together and sharing the darkest time of year with the ones you love. The long list of people who we feel duty bound to send a card to is not essential, nor is it essential to go to the shopping centre and find yet another useless item for someone you care about. Children are prisoners in their own room in many houses to an Xbox or a PS3. Probably given with love but surreptitiously relieving you with the need to spend any quality time with your child and show that love.

Christmas is, for your children, a fun time and a time of expectations but is also an opportunity to give them a well thought out gift. A gift that can make them grow either intellectually or socially and also a gift of something they are really going to need.

It is time to rid ourselves of the corporations at Christmas. Their power over us is given to them by us and can be taken away if we have the will. A gift that is given with love is gratefully accepted by someone who deserves that love. A gift that you made yourself or bought locally is a well thought out gift, whereas a lump of technology from China is no more than a token given out of a misplaced sense of duty.

Talk to your children, your family & your true friends about Christmas this year. Talk about recovering this celebration of people & family from the grip of credit card companies and superstores. Try to make Christmas this year a happy time that leaves you all feeling fulfilled, happy that you were together and sorry to see it end instead of dreading it's arrival and then feeling hollow, and drained afterwards.

Eat drink and be merry, spare a thought for your less fortunate fellows and have a very happy Christmas.

Friday, 9 September 2011


Ok it seems like an odd title but you would be surprised just how deep the oil is in our homes & in our lives. I am surprised that we are not slipping around like mud wrestlers in the stuff.  If this is all sounding a little odd to you & you are unaware of the implications of being oil dependent, let me try to quickly bring you up to speed without baffling you with graphs and figures.

Oil is a finite resource. This means that there is only so much of it and when it's gone, that's it. Now so far we have used around half of the oil that is recoverable. This is what people are calling "Peak Oil." The bad part about this is, that it has been a slow rise up to the peak, with oil being reasonably easy to recover at the beginning. As we reach the peak then it is a Helter Skelter ride down to 'Oil Defecit' at the other side as it becomes less economical to recover.

The social implications of life, 'post peak oil' are extremely worrying for us all, not least the people at the bottom of society. Things are going to get more and more expensive at a frightening speed. We are seeing the signs now as I am writing this. Nervous financial sector, twitchy retail industry, country's leaders starting to talk about financial collapse, police forces being beefed up to prepare for civil unrest.

Ok well you get the picture. If you are still with me then thank you because now I want to swallow the doom and gloom and talk to you about doing something positive to slow down the process and to prepare ourselves voluntarily for what will be mandatory if we don't.

First we have to look honestly at our food shopping trolley & try to look at it wearing "Oil Goggles." Unfortunately you can't buy these over the counter so you will just have to imagine them & train your brain to spot an oily product before you put it in your trolley.


A word that keeps buzzing around my head when I am oil spotting is "Logistics." It's a word that affects just about everything but is also a word that we don't use much. We just turn a blind eye to logistics. In reality it's the life's blood of our efficient consumer society. Everything that we eat, drink or buy to amuse ourselves with has to come from somewhere, via aircraft, ship, truck and van. It also has to be harvested, recovered or manufactured using oil as the principle fuel, so you see even something as seemingly innocent as a pear may have made it's way into to your shopping trolley from New Zealand via all of the above.


I will just pick one thing to demonstrate the folly of over use of packaging materials. SOAP. I have to my shame, a little plastic bottle of "Antibacterial Handwash" sitting in my kitchen next to the sink. This seemingly innocent little bottle is just one of many such things that we have become increasingly likely to buy for our short term convenience. The trouble is that it really is only a convenience for us in the short term.

 Inside the bottle there is simply a liquid soap. I only have the product because I am too stupid to just put a soap dish in the same place & stick a bar of cheap, ethical soap in it's place and I am willing to bet that there are millions of you out there who are doing the same. Toiletries and vanity products count for an incredible amount of unnecessary packaging in all of our lives and it is one place where we can start to make changes with very little inconvenience to ourselves. I am going to take my own advice don't worry, the bottle is going.

Oh dear, that's the problem isn't it, where exactly is it going? "Ping!" A light goes on in your head. "Recycling!" Ah! Yes, of course, the good old conscience savior comes to the rescue but here we go again with the logistics. It is carted off, melted down & turned into another plastic bottle which is popped onto a truck and taken to another soap company to be filled with anti bacterial soap once more. Oh and did I mention the few gallons of oil it used on it's way? Look around your houseand you will see that almost everything is soaked in oil.


Well how oily is our food? Is a loaf of bread oily? How about a chicken or a pint of milk, a joint of beef even? Well I am afraid the news is bad at the start but positively terrifying by the time we get to the cow.

Wheat is grown on large swathes of land. The land has to be ploughed, harrowed raked, sown with seed and then fertilised and if it's not organic it's sprayed with pesticide. Then you wait several months before you harvest the wheat, transport it to be processed, milled into flour and then transported again to the bakery and then the shop and finally to your home. Lots of oil there eh?

Now onto the cow of doom. Last century a Sunday roast was a treat and for lots of good reasons. People lived in a realistic economy. When I was a child during the sixties the true cost of rearing a cow was understood by people. We weren't throwing oil at the cow as if there were an endless supply. We lived in a time when farms were small, fields were small and the farmer new the butcher and many of the final customers of his produce, both dairy and beef. The feed didn't have to travel far at all.

Today's cow is a totally different animal. It costs an astonishing five tons off wheat to produce one ton of beef and as far as milk is concerned, my own local farm supplies me with organic milk after it has done a round trip of two hundred miles to be bottled.

We can all do something about this spiral of self destruction but we have to believe that it is real. Look around your home and ask yourself honestly if your lifestyle can be adjusted, because what we are doing is no different than if we were sucking the blood from our own Grandchildren.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


There was a time when Britain felt great. Of course I was only a youngster then & I am also possibly looking at it through rose tinted glasses but there is one thing for certain, it's a lot less great nowadays.

Something went horribly wrong. After the seventies where we had just gotten used to a kind of prosperity not seen before, along came something new. It was what seemed on the face of it a kind of financial liberty where restrictions on how much you could borrow seemed to slowly vanish and we were steadily lured into the bottomless pit of a debt culture where we are today trying to scramble back up it's greasy sides in an attempt to survive.

It all seemed to just happen so easily. The financial & commercial sectors were growing so quickly from our input that we failed to notice that our manufacturing & skills base was slowly disappearing.

We lost coal. steel, ship building, textiles, car manufacturing & a whole host of other industries whilst jobs servicing the new industry, financially enslaving the entire country were taking up the former industries workforces.

We hardly noticed it happening to us because we had all been bewitched by the "Precious", Consumerism had landed.

Meanwhile back in reality, our new found passion for all things zoomy, techy & shiny was still taking it's toll on the environment. The Dark Satanic Mills may have gone from our landscape but none of the stuff we were buying had materialised from thin air.

The people who were behind the wonderful new world had simply shut down the factories of Britain & opened them elsewhere, where the cost of production was a fraction of that at home & such inconveniences as health & safety & environmental responsibility were abscent.

Because we were bewitched & bedazzled we either didn't notice or we didn't care. The trouble is that now that the gravy train is coming to an end we are realising that after thirty years of living with debt & consumerism & having pulled down all of the factories we have also lost the skilled workforce.

You can read all of the books you like on being a welder of a fitter, a weaver or a warper but nothing compares to learning from other skilled people in their working environment.

So why have I called this a paradox? Well because although the game is almost up for consumerism we have nothing to fall back on and if we were to start again from scratch, how could we compete with the cheaper foreign labour whilst still servicing the debt that we are carrying.

Answers on a postage stamp please.

Of course the other part of the paradox is, if we accept that the planet needs us to slow down a bit & become sustainable, would we really want to return Britain to it's fomer manufacturing glory?

Maybe we should let the consumerfest just collapse & start again from a more realistic perspective.