Today millions of my fellow public sector workers went on strike to protest about plans to make them work longer, and pay more towards their pensions. Sing along (to the tune of ‘White Christmas’)-

I’m dreaming of a fair pension

Just like the ones I used to know

Where the coffers glistened

and Mps might have listened

Before the bankers stole our dough…

I have been a member of a Union most of my working life- but at present, I am not. I joined the British Association of Social Workers a couple of years ago in disgust at my local Union’s refusal to support some of the lowest paid members of my staff. I wrote in protest to the branch secretary and did not even receive a reply, so I felt I had no option.

Which left me in something of a quandary today- a manager of services to vulnerable people, outside a Union. In the end, I decided to work.

I decided that I would not cross a picket line- but there were none, so this was an easy thing to get around. My conscience is still twitching uncomfortably. That word- solidarity

In the end however, I think I decided that I just did not feel strongly enough about this issue to want to man the barricades. Whilst I would strongly defend the rights of workers to protest inequity and harsh treatment by their employers, I personally don’t feel the sting of anger about my own pension situation.

Many other things about our present government do make me angry. For instance, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government recently announced a typical mindless sweetener used by all governments forcing through austerity cuts- they are going to spend money on job creation schemes, £1 billion in fact.

Sounds great- although experience might tell us that these schemes simply do not work- at best they mask the rising unemployment figures.

Worse than this, the government are going to pay for this by taking money from Working Families Tax Credit- which is a benefit paid through the tax system to low income families.

You could say that they are going to rob the poor in order to spend money to pretend that there is work for young people.

This at a time when the richest parts of society are doing nicely thank you.

The gods of capitalism must be appeased. Lets make a few more human sacrifices.

Now this is something that makes me angry. This is something I would strike about.

First Sunday of Advent…




There is no patience in this waiting

No watching from windows

Or straining for the whispered step in the distance


There is no surprise in this coming

It has been shouted by stars

And sung from supermarket speakers


There is no mystery in this telling

It is a story told and sold a million times

Asset stripped and bankrupt


There is no meaning in this madness

All this plastic decoration

All this hollow celebration


Yet still

He comes

The graffiti ghosts of Polphail village…

I came across a lovely blog the other day- Westcoastings. Well worth checking out not just because the author is but a skip across the peninsular from here, but also because it is beautifully written.

It also mentioned Polphail village– a collection of empty buildings out along the coast built in the early 1970’s to house the workers of a proposed oil platform construction yard. The yard never happened, and the houses were never occupied. Instead they have lain empty for all these years, slowly soaking up the west coast weather and mouldering into the hillside. It stands as one of those failed 1970’s macro economic experiments gone wrong- and despite many false dawns no alternative use for the site was ever found.

It is already an atmospheric place- a strange piece of urban decay in the middle of wilderness- as if a slice of the inner city had been teleported in some kind of science fiction experiment gone wrong.

What I was not aware of however was that a Graffiti outfit called Agents of Change used Polphail as a blank canvas (hmm- perhaps that is not the best metaphor come to think of it) for all sorts of wonderful art.

So this afternoon we took a trip out there, cameras in hand.

It was a rather wonderful experience. It feels like some kind of furtive secret discovery, and the contrasts and contradictions land on you like lead weights as you wander round.

Soon it will all be gone, either because the site will be demolished, or simply because it will fall down. Either way, if you visit- be careful!

Here are some more pics- click to open…

Wet road+45mph=ditch…

An eventful morning.

The weather has been dreadful, but I had to go to a meeting in Lochgilphead. Unfortunately I did not make it. The car pirouetted on a corner and span into a ditch.

I am fine- just a bit stiff and sore, and the car is not a write off.

On Argyll’s winter roads, walking away from an accident is something to be celebrated.

Not going shopping…

We did not do it.

Today was to be our day Christmas shopping. Michaela and I were going to take a day out and go somewhere like Stirling or Ayr- but when we sat down to plan it, neither of us wanted to go. This for the obvious reasons, but also (given all our recent discussions about doing Christmas differently) it just seemed hypocritical and frustratingly conformist-to me at least- Michaela is not so given to wallowing in angst.)

We were going shopping for a lesser amount of stuff anyway- we have been planning different activities and ways of Christmas sharing with many of our friends.

So instead, we spent a day at home MAKING THINGS.

I made a massive pot of chutney, and another of Piccalilli. I chopped veg for about 3 hours and the house is full of a heady smell of spice and vinegar. We will jar them up with hand made labels.

Total cost of ingredients- around £30 plus gas and plus TIME.

Michaela made clay Christmas decorations, which she will paint and string together. Later we will make some wind chimes.

Total cost so far around £20 for clay paint and varnish. And TIME.

And in the process we had a day at home together- listening to radio 4 and CDs.

While a gale is blowing outside.

Because the joy of the thing is never in the buying. Perhaps there may be some people who like shopping- who enjoy the cut and thrust of Christmas commerce, but I suspect they will be very few.


Another poster…

Here is another poster from Buy Nothing Christmas.

I confess- I am going shopping the day after tomorrow.

Christmas shopping.

Because, despite the journey we are on away from this consumer addiction that we call ‘Christmas’, I have not yet gone (forgive me for this) cold turkey.

I intend to treat this latest journey into the world of commerce as an expedition into a hostile land.

I may not return alive.