Check out this short video about the outsourcing of support for asylum seekers to private security companies- here, in the UK.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he retreated into the safety of his own penthouse suite and after he sat down his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the rich, because their wealth trickles down like warm syrup and everyone else feasts like ants on the mess beneath their tables. Through them the heavenly economy surely prospers.
Blessed are those who are properly focused on the things that matter and do not get distracted by weak sentiment.
Blessed are the strong as they reach out to smite the weak and unproductive. Their nation will be the most powerful on earth. There will be no end to the wealth they accumulate.
Blessed are those who can control the message and shape it to their own demands. Blessed are their spokespersons. Blessed are the forks in their tongues.
Blessed are those whose charity is sensibly directed only to the deserving poor. May their tax burden be greatly reduced in gratitude.
Blessed are those who are stuffed full, for they will never scrounge from the rest of us. Blessed are those who are content, because they are obviously hardworking, responsible, decent people.
Blessed are those who are white, male and rich. They can make the world as they wish. They can take what they want. Any hole is theirs for the filling. Any pussy is theirs for the grabbing.. They can exploit whoever, whatever, to ensure their own advancement.
Blessed are the warmongers, for they will ensure our security. They will make our nation great and our enemies tremble at our feet.
Blessed are those who take no shit from anyone. May persecutions be heaped on the heads of all the small people who dare to question or deride those I have ordained for positions of power and wealth.
May no small slight be left unpunished, lest the proper hierarchy of all things be questioned. For heaven belongs to the rich and to them alone. All else should consume what they can, according to the riches they are able to grasp. Let the fire of aspiration burn in your souls so that the Kingdom might never be compromised; so that the economy might never lack confidence.
New year. New House. We moved two weeks before Christmas- an experience much better viewed in hindsight. How we would have managed without all the help from friends I have no idea (thanks again… and again.)
Moving house is an interesting experience from a psychological point of view. We had lived in our old house for 14 years- it was the only one that either of our kids (16 and 21) could really remember. We had many happy years there. It was a wreck when we moved in- we gave it a new roof, rewired it, put in a new driveway and countless other renovations, often achieved on a budget, using our own labour. In keeping with the national obsession, we improved it and added value. Old houses are never finished however- there is always another job to do- sometimes repeats.
Once we made the (not entirely voluntary) decision to move on, we entered the twilight zone. Three years of almost-sales went by. Life seemed stuck in some kind of loop. Eventually however the house did sell. Frantic searches were made for an alternative, and here we are.
I was too busy/exhausted for a while to feel any kind of loss of what was, or to notice the impact on Michaela or the kids. All three of them seem to have had a harder time with the change than I have. Perhaps that is because I felt the pressures of maintaining the old one more keenly, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that I tend to always have my face towards the far horizon. I am excited by the new.
What really helped Michaela was to mark the transition. On our last night in the new house we invited loads of friends (many who had worked so hard to help us move) to share a take away in the almost empty house. It was obvious that friendship was much more important than any pile of bricks and mortar.
Having said all that, I am never happier than when at home, and this new home has been good to us so far. It is warm, it is surrounded by wilderness- red squirrels, deer and owls. It has old oak woods for a garden, through which you can see out along the Clyde towards Ailsa Craig.
There is a real blessing in a created space to share with those you love- something that not everyone is able to experience. I am deeply grateful.
For the first time too, I have my own desk from which to write. Here it is;
Assuming I will ever deal with the distraction-
(Written in the wake of my son watching yet another one of those superhero films. Wondering what they tell us about our culture and our aspirations. And being a curmudgeon.)
Tonight I am special
The atomic spider bit deep and now
I top the bill of this everyday freak show
looking down from height, my laser vision
scanning for photogenic girls to
save from the clutch of some comic-cut villains
because every empire needs a
convenient kind of evil
to scare the children to their bed and
the parents to their polling booths
Tomorrow I will be ordinary
I will commute through the same crowds as the crowd
all of us on our way to work in shops to earn money
to spend in other shops and if we are lucky
a little will be left for some compensatory
distraction. A movie perhaps?
We can watch the gods up there in their plastic palaces.
Fearing this truth:
that if we are all extraordinary
then none could ever be a super
and who would want a world like that?
A madman ascends to the gilded throne
The whole Empire convulses
A star tumbles down from the Eastern sky
Appalling portents in every Facebook feed
For we are, it seems, all doomed
(Apart from the celebrities)
Meanwhile in an alley behind the Chinese takeaway
Joseph and Mary are bin diving
Because nothing is made from wood these days
And they have no plastic
Mary wonders where they will lie
There are no stables in this town
It was always this way my friends
Just when hope was almost lost
When joy was replaced by mass distraction
And peace replaced by fear
Love comes down
Like the soft sound
Of a baby
December the 21st
The arc swings low
The day drains away
Across the steel grey sky
How deep is the sump
For before each breath
The lung must be fully emptied
Then swell the chest and say farewell
To the shortest day
During our on going clear out pending next weeks house move, I came across a picture that Michaela bought for me a few years ago. We had agreed to only buy presents from charity shops and she had found a watercolour print- a series of quick wet into wet sketches, entitled ‘the people of Aleppo’.
Of course, since then the picture has a whole new level of significance.
A couple of friends sit chatting on a park bench whilst someone takes home the shopping. An old man reads the newspaper while his friend pauses to chew the fat. Women walk home arm in arm and everyone lives outside in the sunshine. Life is ordinary, and all the more beautiful for that.
What happened to these folk?
Did they all survive, or are some still buried in the rubble of their former houses? Outlasted by this portrait done in happier times?
Have some fled and become refugees, scattered across a European landscape increasingly hostile to their presence?
Are some still there? Sheltering in cellars. Starved. Fearful. Awaiting the retribution of the approaching government troops.
Have some become heroes, rescuing others as part of the White Helmet organisation?
We will never know, but spare some thoughts friends for the people of Aleppo, who find themselves at the centre of a power play that they can never win. May they survive, somehow, to a time when they can once more sit in the street with no fear of bullet or barrel bomb.
I searched for the artist, Lucy Willis, and discovered that she is selling prints of this painting and others via Oxfam in aid of the people of Syria. Check this out here, as these might make fantastic Christmas presents.