Small surges forth from huge setbacks

2017 didn’t start with very much good news. There were more attacks on innocent people just like last year. The rich and powerful are continuing to play their chess game with the planet, and have moved their rook into position to fuck things up in a big way. We, the pawns, stand ready to do what we can to oppose, but expect the worst they can impose upon us.

And 2016 slips right into its place in the graph as the hottest year ever recorded, right in front of 2015 and 2014.

Just like we see with all species, the numbers of predators, especially large ones like lions and wolves, have collapsed in the last number of decades.

A large part of the problem are the conflicts these large predators come into in areas where livestock are farmed. There are many different ways to prevent kills (such as guard dogs and electric fences) but in many cases farmers whose livestock are preyed upon take action and kill the predators (one supposes it is the same animal(s)). Thus, one dead cow or goat means one dead tiger or leopard. The former can be replaced a lot faster than the latter, unfortunately.

Just yesterday, a bear was poisoned in Italy.

But there are signs of some steps back from the brink. In Spain, where the population of wolves is actually increasing, the government of the Community of Madrid have increased the compensation fund to help farmers whose livestock are attacked (though it seems at 500 Euro per sheep, there’s a large temptation to fudge the death of an animal to look like a wolf-kill – which was widespread in some areas of Spain and caused a scandal last year).

This will help reduce such retaliatory killings, since farmers don’t see their livelihoods under threat from the predators. There are also movements to protect livestock using mastiff dogs and restoring pens – this helping much more in the long term as farmers readjust to the new reality of a rewilded landscape.

The world needs more of this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth; at least This Part.

 

Sun rises over the mountains Christmas morn,

Shreds lingering mist strings off the oak slopes.

Starlings sing across vale from barn and shed,

Sparrows flit back and forth on tree and hedge.

Windmills steady, cows still not lowing, nor

Dinging. Dew dries, roof drips, while kite

Shifts on bough, readying to take to clear skies.

Robin skips in goodwill, trilling to a lone soul

Soaking silence embracing peace on Earth;

This piece, yet in the absence of men.

 

 

Wrote this on Christmas morning, sitting in that sun – it’s a remarkably relaxed time in Amatriain, where mass was the day before, and, dinner was very late, and  lunch has usually been taken care of already (and doesn’t consist of turkey).

Hope everyone has had a nice holiday season and that we will have some peace in 2017.

I’m about to start edits of Silver Nights Part 2, Leading the Pack…. almost as excited as a kid at Christmas!

90 Years of the Sun Also Rising

In Pamplona at the moment, we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the publication of Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises (a.k.a. Fiesta).

 

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There are several activities organised, and a large exhibition in the Plaza del Castillo of photos from when he visited Pamplona – of him, and taken by him and his friends.

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Some of the places he stayed are still here, under different names to those used in the novel, some have changed.

It was interesting to see that Heminway, though he never ran with the bulls himself, did get gored by a baby cow, which they release in the plaza after the encierro.

 

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I was struck by a quote they have printed on one of the posters, which he wrote to a friend: “Pamplona is the most enjoyable place you’ve ever seen.” It was true then and it’s true now.

And my good friend JD Martins would agree.

 

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Have you had One Night in Pamplona?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The College Election

It’s an important day in the US, and for all of us, given the way the world is heating up.

I know it’s a bad idea to dis the President if you want to get into the country, but for the secret service dudes reading this, please understand, this is an exception…

So here’s hoping it’s a happy holiday for us all, and we can see some people who went to see the musical Hamilton paid attention, and we can stop thinking about how bad things are going to be in the New Year, but instead have some hope.   Here’s a couple of poems to mark the occasion.

The Clown Fools Us All

Remember when we thought this guy was a joke?

And now it seems so serious; yet still,

Even at this late stage, he could

Be red flagging us:

Showing us he’s seriously taking the piss,

Waiting for us to see it for what it is,

And pull the plug.

Mixed Blessings?

Remember when we used to say:

“Jays, we were blest with the weather today,”

As if we’d got lucky, and we didn’t worry,

Nor wonder what was coming?

Strange Things Indeed

I’ve just started watching season one of Stranger Things (two episodes so far) and enjoying it immensely. I won’t give away any spoilers by saying that a kid goes missing (it’s the title of the first episode), and it’s set in a small town in Middle America, back in the Eighties.

 

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It reminded me of some of those Eighties movies I loved – Pretty in Pink, etc., where the differences between the haves and have nots are pretty striking, even within the same school. There are the typical contrasts between the lazy, loutish children of privilege, and the studious sons of middle class, trying to raise their social level by excelling in their education.

One scene, however, seemed so odd to me, that it made me think about the whole setting and scene of the story, and there are disturbing trends that say a lot about America. While the story involves some eerie happenings which are obviously unreal, the daily life of the citizens should be normal enough to be believable. We all know that even in the divine Reagan years, income inequality was stark, if not quite as scandalous as it is now. Winona Ryder’s character is clearly living paycheck to paycheck, but it’s hard to credit that a few hundred photocopies could clean her out completely. But okay. That’s not the scene.

When she goes to her boss looking for an advance, though, at a job she has worked for ten years (without a sick day, as she says) the guy hesitates. He fucking balks at giving her two weeks pay!

What the hell? Where is the loyalty? Where’s the sense of community? Where’s the fucking pity?

It wasn’t the only weird thing about what I assumed was a homogenic and happy Heartland (with a token African American in the show). The kids don’t go to a school assembly to show support for their missing friend (they have their reasons). What’s shocking to me, is that the parents weren’t already planning to take the whole family. After all, the kid would have been eating dinner in their house with the other boys if he’d not been missing.

There hasn’t been a case of a missing person in town in decades; but the whole community isn’t up in arms. It’s only the second episode, but two days have passed and nobody so far has taken a pot pie or a pot roast or a casserole or a fucking sandwich to the single mother who’s at home alone, waiting for news of her child.

There’s a lot more wrong with this town than the dodgy experiments being conducted in the government labs in the woods.

If this is considered normal behaviour, or a valid representation, then the good folk of Middle America have more to worry about than the elites in the big cities.

 

Do Civil servants read Kafka?

Do Civil servants read Kafka?

This is not new. Complaining about the strange way civil service has of not serving much of anything or anyone is almost cliché. Kafka showed us all a hundred years ago. ? made fun of it in the forties. And yet it’s amazing how much it still goes on, even after demands for change produced significant improvements.

It’s not that they don’t give a fuck – they do, though they didn’t used to, and the can deny that all they like. The structures are too inflexible to make movement forward anything but slow. Though sometimes you can’t quite see what’s wrong.

Everyone has their story. This is mine.

I joked on my facebook page back in August that it would have been quicker and easier to go home to Ireland and get my Irish driving licence renewed there rather than get a Spanish one here instead.

I wasn’t far wrong. I went home last month without having received my new Spanish licence. And it was far from easy to get….

Part of the problem was the fact that this project of European integration is not running on rails – some of it is active resistance and some just ineptitude. That goes from the top; government departments not really eager to make it easier for dirty foreigners to come and get along here, to the bottom; civil servants unwilling or unable to learn the new rules and systems to follow the new laws.

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My old licence photo – part of the problem was having to hand this over, in case I tried to fool the system and get two licenses,  and thereby having to saying goodbye to my last ID where I have black hair…

The Traffic department has been turned to an appointment only system. You can’t just walk in off the street and seek assistance, like you would in any other service. That keeps down the number of people arriving at any one time. It hides the flaws, means the slowness is not so apparent. The queues not visible there in the office, but in cyberspace, where you need to wait at least a week to get a window – if you’re flexible in what time you can get there.

So when you get there, if all goes well, you are out in around an hour and on with your life.

But if you hang around, as I had to on my recent visit, well, you notice things that if they happened in any store or restaurant, you’d ask to see the manager and point out the problems with their service. Since it’s the civil service, we’re shit scared to do so, since the bastards know our numbers and can get their own back with good old losing our info.

Anyway, I was trapped in there for a lot longer than I should have when I sought to get a new driving licence. My mistake was not having a photocopy of my identity documents. And they don’t make photocopies in there for Joe Public. They might have a photocopier going night and day, have several sitting around, but they expect you to bring your own, even when they don’t tell you to have them.

I pointed out that the photocopy of the information sheet I’d got after queuing up the previous w

eek hadn’t said to take said photocopy, and the lady behind the desk produced a different photocopy that said I did.

So what were my options?

Go to the stationary store across the street and pay twenty cents for copies.

I had no problem with that. As long as it means you don’t have to come back another day, you forgive a lot of shit in these situations.

She gave me directions and then said she was going on break, but the next person would take care of me.

The copy took twenty seconds. Add to that the minute and a half it took to get there and back and I was standing before her before she’d got her handbag together.

But she was not going to sit back down – or, more precisely, let me sit back down. She’d mentally checked out for her break already. Instead she said to wait just there the next guy was on his way.

He was. He came and told her he wasn’t going to sit at her desk, but at the one next door. There was already an older dude sat there, dealing with some South American selling his car or something. That dude wasn’t going on break, but would swap to the information desk (Yes, I hear you ask, why didn’t the new guy just sit at the info desk and let the old dude stay where he was? Because I’m sure there are strange rules about how much time you have to spend doing each type of job) when he’d done with the car buyer.

He was in no rush, and his computer wasn’t working the best, so the new guy, a long, tall, sour-looking guy with a Union Jack tee-shirt (not necessarily a point in favour or against him) stood there behind him, then started to pace, holding his water bottle, while I stood there in front of the desk, making sure he knew I was next in line.

And we waited.

And so did the poor people who were queuing for the information desk

Because there was nobody there. And the tall guy wasn’t going to sit down there. It wasn’t on his job list for the afternoon.

So for ten minutes, at least, as we waited for that computer to process the car purchase, people came in off the street to find an empty information desk, and the queue built up. And the only person doing any work to speak of was a the security guard – a short young South American lady, who, being responsible for our safety could not allow the line to get so big and out of control. So she gave out photocopies and information to those she could, zipping around the office from place to place, and she most probably getting paid a pittance by the hour compared to the civil servants sat on their arses, or standing like long streaks of piss and going redder all the time in embarrassment at the situation.

Eventually out of said embarrassment, the guy started to acknowledge my presence, and my frustration, and when I finally sat down, and he began to process my own application, he did his best to make the computer do it’s jobs, and he was even nice enough to photocopy of one of my documents for me, so I could keep the original – which I didn’t even want, since it would only be valid for six months and I purposefully didn’t bother photocopying it. But he insisted, and I wasn’t going to argue, though I did wish that his workmate had been half as nice so I could have avoided the whole wait and his embarrassment.

After all that, the poxy computer would not work (they work through the internet, not with their own internal programs and server, if you can believe that shit).  So after another half an hour of so of sitting at that desk, I had to come back in half an hour. That didn’t help, and I’d to go back next day. Still the process wasn’t working, and in exasperation I decided that I’d not bother driving for the next few days.

That allowed me to leave my driving licence there with the dude so that he could work away on the renewal in his spare moments. This was because if the driver’s licence is not in his hands, he can’t work on the application – just in case, god forbid, I should try to send my old Irish licence back to Ireland and get a new Irish one in addition to my new Spanish one. Which is fair enough, I’d say – if I didn’t know better.

I’m sure he’s loads of spare moments, but at least he put a few to good use, so that the next day I got a call to go collect my temporary drivers licence, with the assurance that my new, ten-year licence would be in the post in a couple of weeks.

That was September. Now it’s December.

Even when you think you’ve finally won, you’re not always in the clear.

And then, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you get surprised. My new licence arrived eventually, just as I was about to get time off work to go to the DGT office and see what the hell the story was.

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The new licence! Worth waiting for? Not for that photo… ;-(

And then it was joined by a second, identical, Spanish licence, so that, if I was so inclined, I could indeed go back to Ireland and get a new Irish one. It’s like waiting for a bus, sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One By One, the Flood Gates of Antarctica are Breaking Open

a billion people…

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“We have still time to avoid the worst of it, but we have already opened a number of flood gates, one in West Antarctica, and several in Greenland.”Dr Eric Rignot.

“This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes.” Ian Howat, Earth Sciences associate Professor at Ohio State University.

“Burning all the world’s coal, oil and gas would melt the entire Antarctic ice-sheet and cause the oceans to rise by over 50m, a transformation unprecedented in human history. The conclusion of a new scientific study shows that, over the course of centuries, land currently inhabited by a billion people would be lost below water.” — The Guardian.

*****

Massive Rift Forming in Larsen C

Larsen C. It’s the next big ice shelf on the…

View original post 1,152 more words

Poems from the past

2016 has been a fuckin’ doozie. Apart from the usual shite happening in politics and war and another 12 months of carbon added to the atmosphere, we’ve had a long list of inspirational people pop their clogs so far this year. All that’s left to make a fucking mess out of it is for David Attenborough to kick the bucket – hang in there Dave!

But I’ve had an interesting year at home. 12 months ago my son was born and he’s a lively character. We just celebrated his birthday (he was a bit surprised at the sudden bouts of singing, but loved the toys) and it made me think of a couple of poems I wrote then that after a year might be al right to reveal to the world.  It’s a strange time, waiting, wondering if despite the ultrasounds etc, things might not turn out exactly as we hope.

Still no photos of the sprog himself, so he can’t get angry with me when he’s older.

 

Outside the Maternity Hospital, Three AM

 

Me and my equivalent of a cigarette

The silent night air, empty of all but the watcher

Waiting, wondering of all that is to come

Compared to what went before, and

Content for that moment in between.

 

 

Emotion on the Birth of my New Boy

 

The work is done – wasn’t done by me;

I was but a watcher of the night, but

It wasn’t easy from where I was standing.

And the last worry lingered as the time went by

Until eventually he emerged, and a tear slid

Similarly out to see his face amid the mess,

So similar to my sibling, so obviously okay.

 

 

Why vote Trump?

It’s obvious from my novels and poems, and my blog posts, that I’m a bleeding heart liberal ecologist.

At the same time, many of my readers will have voted for Trump this last week, and I have no wish to offend them – bleeding heart liberals hate offending anyone.

However, I have to admit I wish they ‘d waited this one out – held their noses and let the other candidate have these four years, despite her obvious flaws.

Anyone who loves animals, wildlife and the natural world just can’t accept a president who claims climate change is a Chinese hoax…. the world doesn’t have four years to fuck around with – the eight of George Bush and the congressional blockade of Obama have been bad enough, thanks very much. If that was the only reason for letting Clinton have her way, it was enough.

That didn’t happen, though, and I see why Hillary was so disagreeable to so many voters.

As Jonathon Pie so eloquently said in this video, we need to talk to those who disagree with us politically so we can find out the best way forward for us all.

I’m still confused about some things, though.

So if anyone can politely enlighten me, without ending up blocking me on social media (seriously) I’d be grateful.

For anyone who’s ever watched American Wrestling, you know that it’s all fake, and Trump was so clearly using that playbook for all his campaign. He was rousing the crowd to hate his opponent, but after a few pretend punches, they went out for beers together, counting the box-office take.

Whether or not you think he should be able to say the things he said (and I think many things, like mocking a disabled person should have sent him off the field straight away, no question) we have to ask ourselves if he really meant them.

The one about pussy grabbing is an exception – he said that before he wanted to run for President and had no reason to try shock people, and many women have come forward to say he did just that (and there’s him up in court for some nasty shit next month).

That said, does anyone believe that someone who has such a low opinion of non-drop-dead-gorgeous women really gives a shit if they have to get an abortion or not?

Whether or not you think Trump believes Mexicans are all rapists etc., do you really think a man who uses illegal labour himself is going to build a wall to keep them out? He and his buddies in industries like food processing make too much money.

Did you really think Trump was really going to “lock her up?” She was at his wedding for Christ’s sake! We know that’s bullshit now – he’s been singing her praises since winning and she’s thinking about working with him.

Do you really think that Trump will change the tax codes that Hillary never did – those ones that help out him and his billionaire friends? I agree that she should have done more, if she was really the liberal she claims to be, but Trump is hardly the kind of guy who shoots his own kneecap. He’ll double-down on keeping the rich rich. Otherwise his billionaire friends won’t want to play golf with him.

Do you think Trump is going to throw the dross out of Washington politics? He’s going to ask for their help to run things – since he’s obviously got no clue himself. He already said he wants Obama to help him. Rather than drain the swamp, he’s going to have swimming lessons.

For the sake of many people I know, who are minorities Trump also denigrated, I hope the nasty things he’s said about them were also bullshit. Since they’re powerless, though, he doesn’t really have to back-track there like he does with Clinton, politicians and the rich.

And I hope those of his voters who aren’t racist and xenophobic make clear to the ones who are ( and I don’t think anyone can deny there is a good whack of them) that his election doesn’t give them free reign to persecute their fellow Americans just because they don’t like the kind of America we have today and will have in the future.

 

The Bonfires of Halloween keep Burning

Watching the news of the demonstrations and disturbances across American cities, I can’t help but wonder how things would look like if instead of the defeated candidate and the outgoing president telling their supporters to give Trump a chance we had a defeated Trump, who had said the election was rigged, that he might or might not have accepted the result, and who has been inciting violence for the last year.

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Photo courtesy of http://wolf-bain.deviantart.com/art/Bonfire-185136996

I’d planned to write a post about Halloween, and this is mostly about that, but this last week is like a bad horror show that won’t end.

I went to Ireland for Halloween this year, the first time in at least a decade. In case you don’t know, Halloween is an Irish festival, called Samhain, which has been carried out since Celtic times. One of the most important parts of the celebration is the huge bonfires we have – which is my favourite part – despite ending up in the hospital ER after doing something stupid when lighting our neighbourhood fire at the age of thirteen.

The local councils always tried to take away our stash of firewood. I heard they are cracking down more nowadays – using drones to investigate the top of roofs and other inaccessible places, which is just plain cheating! It hasn’t happened yet – on my way through the working-class neighbourhood of Tallagh on Halloween afternoon, it seemed there was a bonfire for every twenty houses, and I wondered where the kids had got so much fuel from. There are not enough kids in my own neighbourhood to have a bonfire these days, but I hope the kids are able to outfox the councils and hide their firewood – if they’ve to stash it in their own garden sheds and garages, then I’m sure some will.

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Kids building a bonfire in the next housing estate to my home in Ireland.

Without the bonfires, there is a danger that it will dissipate into a simple consumer-oriented excuse to eat sweets, with kids saying trick or treat instead of asking for apples and nuts – not that they get nuts nowadays in the age of sugar over-consumption and peanut allergies.

In my memory, it was always a one-day event. The night of the 31st is when the dead can come back to the world of the living and wreak their havoc. Now, it’s at least a week-long affair, much like it is in America, where houses are decorated in the middle of October.

It was strange to go into the city centre on the Saturday night and see so many people dressed up two days before the traditional day for donning costumes to disguise oneself from roaming spirits. It seemed more serious in the old days – a night to be careful and avoid not only those original enemies of the dark, but the drunken assholes: one of which caused me to visit the ER a second Halloween night – though that guy was an asshole even when sober and got his comeuppance eventually in the form of a knife in the heart.

Which brings me to another new trend – the assholes dressed up as scary clowns jumping out at people with knives and chainsaws and whatnot to frighten the shite out of them. It reminds me of those pricks who film themselves insulting black people and other minorities to see their reaction. Well, a few of those clowns got a reaction they weren’t expecting and ended up in the ER themselves, just like those dickheads got their comeuppance and were given a few punches in exchange for their insults.

Many good people are fed up being harassed, and aren’t going to take it so good-humouredly. People say that the protesters across America are a disappointment to their democracy, but it’s an indication that they’re not going to take this rise of xenophobia lying down.

If Trump had lost, his supporters would be doing a lot worse, I’m sure, and he’d be egging them on.

I’ve a lot of friends in America who are minorities of various sorts. Some of them are military veterans. They’re scared and upset as they ponder the fact that a racist, sexist etc. wanker has been elevated to the position of president, and how much licence that gives the narrow-minded people who voted for him (and I know not everyone who voted for him is an overt racist, but please, they legitimised those who are).

But many of them are also galvanizing themselves for the fight they coming. They say they’re not going to face this hate with civil disobedience and peaceful protest. They’re going to arm themselves and fight back fire with fire.

That could make this bad dream cross the line into a nightmare.

And I apologise for that sentence to those I know are already living a nightmare.

Scary times indeed.