Haworth Idyllic, Tragic, Beautiful!!

So for anyone who has read a blog by me before, or knows anything about me, will realise I am a Bradford lad.
Now much to the annoyance of anyone who lives outside the traditional city limits of Bradford it is true to say that the city status of Bradford appplies to the Metropolitan Borough of Bradford not just the traditional city!
That being the case the towns of Keighley, Bingley, and Ilkley (and how people of Ilkley hate that comsidering they have a Leeds post code and their own dialling code) fall within the Bradford city limits.

Now when me and my future wife first moved in together in Bradford I was keen to make sure she saw the best parts of it, as opposed to some of the more dog rough areas around the borough. At the time I thought it didn’t give me too many choices of where to live so to cut a long story short I found a small 300 year old through by light terrace in a place called Cross Roads just outside Haworth in a very picturesque place.
We lived there for 2 years before moving to be cloer to jobs in Bradford and have regretted that decision ever since!

I remember when me and my other half were in what in UK terms is a longish distant relationship as I came home to Bradford and my now wife finished her final year of university, and she was coming over for a visit.
I was thinking of something to do that would hopefully impress and remembered she was doing a degree in English and Drama and loved to read. Well in Bradford if reading and literature is your thing there is only one place to go Haworth.
Now looking back I have no idea why I was surprised by the fact she already knew about the three sisters born in Thornton who became some of the greatest writers of all time (certainly from this country), and was very enthusiastic about the visit.
I also found out that she had never been on a steam train before, and with the Keighley and Worth Valley railway (another attraction of the area) running all the way to Oxenhope and through Haworth our trip was set.
Now Haworth is set in the foothills of the Pennine mountain range known as the spine of England, and the village itself is carved into the hillside just off Pennistone Hill.
As you walk the main street from top to bottom the hills that surround produce a spectacular view all around. Viewing the various independant retailers selling all sorts you feel at peace with almost everything in the world for the entire time you are there.
Have a pint in one of the various pubs on the main street, or a coffee in the many cafe’s that litter the main street as you walk along.   
Central Park at the bottom of the main street is almost stepped as it can be quite steep virtually everywhere in Haworth, and is a great place to sit picnic and view the idyllic surroundings.
The melee of stone built buildings hugging the hillside provide picture post card images. 
Penistone Hill just outside the village and the moors in general formed the setting of some of the Bronte novels. If you have ever read the novels and walk the moors your mind is a wash with images from the novels, expecting to see Wuthering Heights on the horizon.
You can sit and ponder at Bronte Falls, or see what many believe to be the Wuthering Heights inspiration at Top Withens.  

So that is the idyllic and some of the beautiful however there is also the tragic as well. As you walk down from the world famouns Parsonage (well worth a visit) you come upon the graveyard of the church of St Michael where Patrick Bronte was once Parish Priest.
Now the church was rebuilt in the late 19th century from the one Patrick would have known (all except the tower), and there are now trees where in the 19th century there were non. However the gravestones when read give you an idea of the tragedy of Haworth. I have read once there is supposed to be etween 20 and 60 thousand bodies buried in the graveyard at Haworth, a testament to the unsanitary conditions of the village back in the 19th century, and the fact disease was rife (tuberculosis was the killer of Bramwell, Emily, and Ann).
Additionally the tree’s in the graveyard were put there to try and take away some of the liquid from the bodies as they decomposed as it was getting into the villages water supply causing yet more disease, and to stabalise the land.
Looking at Haworth it is easy to forget that in the 19th century it was so unsanitary (as were most major cities at the time). 

For me though it has another very personal very special place in my heart that goes beyond the home of the Bronte’s, or the gorgeous setting (although it is because this it has such an effect).
We have always found during bad times when things get tough we can always go to Haworth or nearby by Penistone Hill and literally escape for a couple of hours at a time.
When we lost the twins we went to Haworth to clear our heads in the now fresh air. We sat in the Black Bull towards the top of the main street in the shadow of the church and talked over our grief in a calming setting.
When things go wrong we go to Haworth to be somewhere we love where we can clear our heads and find ourselves coming back to reality, and better able to face the world when we comeback.
I can’t tell you exactly why Haworth resonates with us so much, or why we use it as a go to place when clearly Yorkshire alone has so much to offer.
I think everyone whoever you are has a place they can go when things go wrong, or if you just want to be away and loose yourself for a while. Whatever it happens to be just a place to clear your head, a place you can go to be alone with your thoughts. 
Haworth the village and surrounding moors are our place. 
As always my opinions are my own. Thanks for reading.        


Body Shaming 

So I follow a few well known people on Instagram and noted one had posted a picture of themselves.
Nothing normally of particular interest there, but then I read the caption, which read ‘for all those who have said I am fat, I am not I am curvy.’ It then went on to say ‘usually I get a few trolls saying this but this time it was more than a few.’ 
So I took a look again at the picture and thought to my self this person is beautiful, truly stunning looking person. So why would anyone think they were fat and even more concerning why would they say it? I came to one conclusion, this was bidy shaming ! Now I will not name the celebrity in question for the one in a trillion chance they actually read this (very unlikely I know), but it got me thinking about the whole notion of body shaming and its implications.

Now to give you a little bit of context to myself I always describe myself as a tall fat guy with a beard and a pony tail so that those who don’t know me can spot me in a crowd, and I am not far out with my summary of myself.
I am a tall guy over 6ft in height, I have long hair and often have it tied back in a pony tail (long held ambition I finally decided to do in my 30’s before all the grey’s set in, and then well I will more than likely keep it long anyway), I have a beard that fluctuates between full and goatee (originally grown to make me look younger), and I am very fat. 
Unfortunately for some the size of my stomach is the first thing some people see, and they gip when they see me no doubt wondering how I managed to achieve it!
They have made no effort to attempt to get to know me, to find out who I am, or if I might be interesting. They simply see the weight, very much as a racist only sees a colour. 
The thing is I know I am fat and don’t need someone to point it out. I am aware of the limitations of being this size, and how I may appear to other people.
However what most people who go for body shaming don’t realise is most people are all too well aware of their appearance and do not need this dragging up for someone else to laugh at.
I mean for example you just don’t know the stories of the people you shame or what they may have been through that has made them the way they are. 
For me it is a constant battle with food and having the will power, discipline or whatever you call it to say no or stick to something that will help. I am also aware of the risks and the potential issues in later life. It is also worth pointing out the battle I rage in my head every single day (and lose 9 times out of 10) is something 99% of people are not privy to.

It gets me as well when people go to gym’s in order to help themselves and are met with derision from the ‘beautiful people.’
I remember seeing something online about a playboy model who took a picture of a larger lady in a gym and posted it on social media with a horrible attachment, then had to quickly back track when the back lash hit, I remember thinking to myself that person is trying to better themselves and become more healthy yet all the ‘beautiful people’ can do is  shame!!!

I will close by saying people like the widest spread of people in this world. What is perfect to one person may be repulsive to another, what one person thinks is perfect another may feel is not their type.
My point is no matter what body type you may see there is almost certain to be somone who feels that body type is the most perfect person they have every met, and to someone else it is not.
Also I am keen to point out that beauty is more than skin deep the real beauty is the soul of the person and what that represents. Just because someone may be famous they are still a person flesh and bone with feelings like everyone else on this planet.
I believe we all have the capacity to be beautiful, don’t be so keen to judge just because you don’t like the appearance of the package for two reasons: Firstly there is almost certainly someone around who does, and secondly what is contained within the package could be the most amazing mind you have ever met. 
As always my opinions are my own , thanks for reading.

Terrorism and its Many Forms!!

Okay this is my second attempt in a while to blog. As I actually got decent comments from my last one I thought I would tackle something a little more difficult (although my wife informs me my punctuation and spelling are as ever abysmal), terrorism and its many forms. 

So we have had 3 attacks in London, one in Manchester, and previous attacks in Paris, Nice, and Berlin. 
All are awful and abhorrent attacks against innocent people and no amount of explanation or quotation of doctrine can justify the actions of the people who perpotrated these acts.
The people who died aside from the terrorists were innocents, people going about their business having a good time. They knew little of the realities of terrorism and did not deserve to die! This also reinforces my belief that Karma whilst a nice idea doesn’t in fact exist. If it did then Jimmy Saville would have been convicted in the 60’s and spent the mjority of his life behind bars instead of in a penthouse in Roundhay (a well to do part of Leeds), Rolf Harris and Stewart Hall would have served monumental sentances in earlier life and not in their 80’s after a long period of luxury living. If there was real justice in the world. then children would not be forced to suffer hardship or terminal illness, but that is a discussion for another day. 

Something else we have to understand is what Europe has experienced is simply the tip of the ice berg. Spare a thought for the people of Mosul who remain in their war torn city, and are being used as human shields by evil terrorists. Spare a thought for the people of Syria who have been displaced by both terrorists and their own government. The people of Yemen who are trapped in the most disgusting and desperate of conditions through no fault of their own, all people forced to suffer due to a war most didn’t want or need.
Although they get reported in the press it holds nothing compared to the coverage of the attacks closer to home for that very reason because they are so close to home.
So much has been said about the facts all but one of the attacks were inacted by muslims based on statements made by the terrorists in the middle east and general radicalisation of muslims.
However I want to point out something here and now that a religion doesn’t make a person evil!!!!! Just check the religious writings of most religions and you will find that peace takes presidence over war. I grew up and live in a city with a high immigrant population from various parts of the world, and I can tell you that 95% of people who live here simply want to live their lives and have no interest in blowing people up, or huting people. 

This leads me to my next statement, which is a person is evil who commits these crimes not a religion, and just because they claim to do it for religion doesn’t mean they are actually doing it for religion.
It is true to saty a person can be influenced by the voices on the shooulder talking in their ears, or by statements made by those with extremist views. It is true to say some people are impressionalble to radical ideas, however anyone who can comprehend the difference between right and wrong still has a choice as to the path they take, and ultimately do not need to do what they do. 
A person is evil if they commit this crime, just as those who would look to be the voice in the ear comvincing someone to commit these acts are evil. However they are in the end just the same as the evil we attribute to Harold Shipman, or Ted Bundy. It is the same evil of those who kill their own children like the Wests, or child killers Hindley and Brady, and I do not think it should be treated any differently. The fact all but one of these attacks were the responsibility of those who claimed to be Muslims shouldn’t detraxct from the evil it took to commit it, in the same way the IRA waged war on the British government until 1997. 
Also we should treat with as much distain the Welsh national who ran into Muslims, as we do Muslims who ran into others. 

Driving into the public with cars, lorries and vans may be an alteration in tact than we have previosuly seen, and what we saw in Manchester, but it doesn’t change the evil required to carry this out.

I will also mention here the spirit of those who helped and pulled together in order to help those caught up in this. Together the effort shown to help and the amazing professionalism of the emergency services shows what humanity can do when pulling together for a common cause.
Real credit to Ariana Grande who’s name I didn’t know before the attack in Manchester (until my eldest daughter told me who she was) for not only the way she handled herself during all of this, but also for her actions afterwards in trying to help raise money for the vicitms afterwards.
These acts give us all hope that the real humanity has won out, and the true colours of this country have shone through. 

I will end with this thought, I have the same basic characteristics as most human beings, and biologically speaking I operate in same way. It is only the electronic impulses that make my brain work and by default the rest of me that makes me different. This also means when I meet someone on the street I see a person not a colour or a religion. I see a human being standing in front of me and I don’t care where you come from or what your background is, I could care a less what religion you follow or if you like sport. I say this not because these things are not important to you or that they do not help to create who you are, but more that I start out with the same first thought with whomever I meet. That thought is that there is a person standing in front of me and I would like to get to know that person. I would love to go for a drink with that person whether that is a beer or a coffee, or just water. I am happy to work and socialise with anyone who wants to socialise or work with me. I also believe most people feel the same way. 

As always thanks for reading. The opinions expressed in this article are my own and in no way reflect anybody elses.  

Frustrations back to political commentary!

Hello to all.

I write after what has been a very frustrating day for both me and my wife. Sitting downstaris on my own after logging on my works system to do a little work and complete my mid year review, then finding it didn’t want to work, I remembered I used to use my original blog (on a site that no longer exists) to vent and express myself in a way I struggle to do with people face to face. I tend to go quite and that is it until my fuse burns down and I decide to have a mad blast. 

Anyway enough of me venting away. It looks as though I have left this blog idle for so long. 
So where to start? Well in the UK we have recently had an election, and what a farce that was. Very much in the same vein as Cameron, Theresa May decided to go to the country and get us to vote on something we didn’t have to. There was no calls (except for UKIP) or need to call a referendum on the EU and he didn’t have to do it, but he did and he lost. To me a prime example of a politician so out of touch with the general population that nobody anticipated a leave result. You only need to look at the background of a politician born with the silver spoon wedged in his mouth, a public school boy who had it all laid out by the amount of sterling his family had. The only time he saw the working classes was when he was forced to mingle for votes. It was a world he rushed into and then back to the safety of the Oxfordshire countryside. Theresa May the daughter of a clergyman who I also believe grew up in the general affluence of Oxfordshire, and another politician who has little knowledge of the masses.
I remember saying on facebook after the referendum Cameron played poker and lost, and now it would seem Theresa May played poker and was dealt the same cards as Cameron, but used them anyway. Another example of underestimating the populace, thinking they would be guaranteed a huge majority and instead having to rely on others to be able to form a working government.
To me it seemed as though she insulated herself from everyone even the most experienced members of her own party and trusted in her ‘inner circle’ who made a spectacular miscalculation, actually many during the campaign. This has forced to go humble cap in hand to her party. I mean the tories tried their hardest to alienate everyone, from the base support in the older generations, to the poorest who they claimed to court, just look through the manifesto.
This has made us look weak in the face of a potentially vengeful EU, and at a time of crucial talks beginning on Brexit. 

Now lets not leave the Labour party out of scron. I mean they were reacting as though they won the election! :Lets not forget they may have increased their seats by 30 plus but still finished a distant second in seats (although not in share of the vote!!! Anybody for PR instead of FPTP).
Sure Corbyn performed better than some had predicted,  but if I might just suggest the Tories did more to self destruct than Labour did to garner extra voting share.
I also feel that the Labour manifesto was making promises that could not be delivered (free university tuition anyone, hmm sounds a bit orangy yellow to me)! Ultimately they simply cocked up less than the sound bite obsessed Tories did, and their leader was a far more amiable person than running scare of the public except in a controlled environment May did.
The SNP also shot themselves in the foot with the threat of another referendum that a country simply has no appetitie for.
Then the Lib dems who I recently resigned from seemed to say we didn’t get the referendum result we wanted so we will put it back to you until we get the result we want.
All in all what we have ended up with is more chaos and instability than ever before and the most galling thing is neither vote had to take place at all, the Tories could hve sat pretty with a small but workable majority, kept their austerity plans in place and May as home secretary hidden away from full public glare.
Instead it would appear Cameron and Osbourne’s political careers are over as one has gone back to the leafy affluence of Oxfordshire, and the other is trying their hand at being Piers Morgan when he was at the Mirror.
This has left us in turn with a distinct lack of leadership at a time when the world seems to be devoid of strong and prominent leaders, and at a time when we need a direction on Brexit, and the world is the least stable it has been since the end of the Cold War. In fact we seem to have entered a stage of new cold war with many commentators drawing comparisons with the 1970’s, although I would have to speak to my parents about that one as I wasn’t alive. 

Sorry if this one is not the most structured of blogs but it has been a while. I do tend to have a lot to say so watch this space as I intend to comment in my next blog on the recent awful terror attacks and if there is time the fire at Grenfel Tower. 

As always my views are my own and thanks for checking by in with me. 

The Daily Commute!

So I recently changed jobs after nearly 7 years working in Halifax. The commute from Bradford to Halifax was generally very easy. Buses didn’t tend to get packed out apart from one bus quite close to most people’s 9am work deadline. My only issue was despite only being 7 miles away from Halifax we had to get 2 buses to make it or a 40 minute walk to a bus stop (which became quite impractical after my leg break).

Well this brings me to my new commute to Leeds. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the area of West Yorkshire it might be worth me noting here Halifax is a small former mill town with a total population no larger than 100,000. Leeds is the largest city in West Yorkshire with a population of somewhere near 750,000 (just a foot note Bradford where I live is about 250,000), it is also worth saying Leeds is the largest UK financial centre outside of London (as I understand it), so you would expect more people making the commute to Leeds than Halifax.

So I generally try to be on a bus towards Bradford Interchange train station at about 7:25. If the bus is double decker it is generally busy but you have a fighting chance of getting a seat. Now for some reason a ‘ genius’ at First Bus also has a single decker bus turning up at least two days a week. This has the effect of not getting a seat and nearly falling over every time the driver breaks sharply, also worth bearing in mind that this is the only bus that stops at the stop I get on at. It is simply something that defies belief that a single decker would be on such a busy route. I could go earlier and jump on the 7:06 bus except for the need for me to help sort my daughters out in a morning and it would be very unfair to get them up at 6am.

Well that is the bus journey now for the trains. I will note at this point that I believe they are putting on an extra service from this week at 7:44 so before I jump down anyone’s throats (in a shouting sense) I will point this out as a potential congestion easer. You basically have 3 choices in a morning (4 now) 7:52 which is sardine in a can only from Bradford and this only gets worse at the subsequent local stations especially New Pudsey. 8:04 to York you have a chance of a seat but it still ends up standing room only even though the only other stop before Leeds is New Pudsey again. Hopefully the new service will help alleviate this but I cannot help but feel during peak times why not simply add an extra carriage both for the journey to work and from work. Coming back can be very uncomfortable as well and the trains travelling just don’ t seem big enough to cope with the footfall. For all the yearly rises we get in train fares from the companies who run the trains we seem to get little back for an infrastructure seemingly struggling to cope.

For me the companies arte in solely for profit and I believe this is wholly wrong when people have little choice than to use the service. Its like in the Terry Pratchett Discworld novel Going Postal where the patriarch says to the owner of the Clacks he currently has a choice between him and nothing. Well between the profit drivers of all private companies we have the same choice because trying to reach the major cities in a car is very impractical (although millions per day seem to still do it). I for one believe that either companies are forced to put on a good service that is value for money or the government takes full control of public transport companies back into public ownership with a guarantee it would be value for money. I feel there are certain areas of the world that should not be open for commercial exploitation, and governments should be charged with providing the best possible service with fares reflecting the honest cost of running the railway, as opposed to taking commuters for a ride (a bad one at that) for the sake of profit.

This is not to say I believe all areas should be in public ownership. Telecoms for example especially the mobile phone sector should be totally independent and has led to better deals for consumers. Not the case with the railways where the highest fares in Europe contribute to one of the worst services among developed EU member nations (i.e. France and Germany). We have to accept private ownership in this case has not worked, and yes I am aware that the government essentially own the tracks, but in terms of trains we do not get value for money. By way of balance alongside telecoms I also believe things such as parcel delivery, banking, insurance, taxi services should be private.

Well this is my first post in a long time but as always my opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading.

It’s been a long time.

Hello Word Press and anyone who ever sees my blog posts.
Crikey its been such a long time since I posted anything I was afraid I would forget how to write or something!
So after many years of having very cheap tablets and a very cheap keyboard attachment my wonderful wife has bought me a very powerful tablet, and with my birthday money (yes the mid 30’s are calling me now but I won’t declare here which side I have fallen on yet), I have invested in a bluetooth keyboard yeah for me!!!
Hopefully this will mean that my writing can get back on track again after so long in the wilderness (I live in hope).
After such a tumultuous 2015 where virtually nothing went right and all we seem to see was blackness and despair, I look to 2016 with a type of cautious optimism the type you get when you hope things improve dramatically but really have no real clue if it actually will or not.
For me although 2015 was a royal disaster of a year it wasn’t the first and was more like a gradual deterioration over a couple of years ultimately leading us to what happened last year.
Now don’t get me wrong 2015 was awful mainly for the parts we couldn’t control rather than the parts we could, and so in this sense it was a little different to previous years.
To this end we are finally attempting to put right the things we can control and this is where my optimism for 2016 comes from.
We have finally decided to cut our losses and attempt to get rid of our house of 9 and a half years by auction. I am a little apprehensive about the process and if we actually can do it, but all things being equal 10th March is the date set for the auction.
Other aspects of lives we do have control over will be assessed and we can see if we can do anything to make them better than they are currently.
My writing projects have progressed very slowly in the last year however finally I have after many drafts on my old computer and lost documents on a rubbish system outlined a full plot and setting with which to write a full novel (hopefully). No doubt this will be subject to a million drafts and amendments as it develops but lets see what comes forward and if it is anything someone would actually buy.
I continue to be interested in my politics and sport and even though I have not been active in writing my opinions are still hanging around in my head waiting anxiously for the chance to become print on my blog. 

For now dear reader I bid you a fond farewell and ask you to please check back when the next post comes about.

As always my opinions are my own thanks for reading.

Everyone is in Need of a Silver Lining!

I think everyone in the world has problems of some type or another. I also believe the magnitude of your problems depends entirely on your own personal situation.
Now for me I think I have had a pretty disastrous year to this point. Just to give you a very brief rundown:
I broke my leg the day before my wife’s mum died at the age of just 58, even though my wife didn’t always see eye to eye with her mother the loss has understandably hit her hard.
For myself I was unable to place weight on my leg for 3 months such was the severity of the break.
At the April bank holiday my mum who had had a heart attack the year before fell out of her caravan whilst trying to move stuff into her new caravan and shattered one of her forearms and damaged her leg (and when I say shattered I mean the doctor described her bones as looking like the bottom of a corn flake box when only a few are left)!
I got the news my leg had broken in such a way a quarter of my knee had to be reconstructed and I had caused permanent damage to the knee joint that means ultimately the leg is in permanent pain of varying degrees and I have no cartilage left on one side of my knee, so I will get early onset arthritis and will definitely need a new knee within 5 to 15 years.
My who’s mental health has suffered for a while anyway and she has been trying very hard to get it back has suffered worse as a result of her mothers death.
My wife’s stepmother has now been diagnosed with early onset rheumatoid arthritis and will always suffer to some degree from this point.
My sisters had tests for something comeback abnormal and needs treatment to try and prevent something more serious from happening.
My mum then found out just before she was due to go away that she has a secondary heartbeat that may require a pacemaker to be fitted if she qualifies for it that is.
My car has literally fallen to bits this year costing a fortune we don’t have to repair, and we cannot afford to change it either.
My house is on the market and despite some early interest has now died a death interest wise meaning we are likely to be spending another Christmas hear.
Then last night my phone that I have had only for a year and a half gave up the ghost and decided to die. Despite reading and trying every trick in the book it just will not work!
Added to that I sit hear writing tonight with a constant ache in my leg and knee joint I cannot seem to shift knowing full well unless the pain becomes excruciating nothing can be done.

So for me so far this is the worse year I have had since 2007, which was worse because it was the year our twin baby girls died, and 2009 the year where because I had not tried to deal with my grief I had a mental breakdown because of the events of 2007.

Now this is my year thus far and I consider it bad, however it also got me to thinking in the grand scheme of things how bad is it really?
I mean I haven’t become so desperate in my own country that I have been forced to flee on unsafe boats risking life and limb for the hope of a better life in Europe. Then promptly thrown the door when I get there (yes I am aware some will not register in fringe countries in the hope of moving to richer Western countries). I didn’t just loose my wife and two children off the seas of Turkey in the desperate hope of escaping oppression.
I am not now so poor within my own country that jobs are hard to come by and I struggle to feed my family.
I have not just had one of the closest people in the world to me pass away after a courageous fight against illness, a battle I knew would eventually be lost despite best efforts.
I don’t live in a politically insecure country where there is no help and little hope, where I search desperately for a way out that does not seem to be forthcoming.

All in all it is a matter or perspective, according to the way I live and the country I live in this is a bad year for me, my problems seem insurmountable to me and some of them in my view drag and hold me and my family back. However looking at people who have real problems and real current tragedies to deal with makes me think two things really, firstly that my problems seem petty in comparison to others who face life and death on a daily basis or who have had to face death and the associated grief.
Secondly it makes me realise I can see hope in the problems I have. For example the interest in the house may well have waned but by goodness it is on the market. My sister and I have succeeded this year in forging closer ties possibly the closest they have been since we were young children, and I will be there as support for whatever she goes through.
My wife realised there were problems with her health and she has taken positive steps to rectify them and become more stable. This is something I am immensely proud of her for as she continues to make good progress.
My mum is ill no doubt and has a heart that only functions 22% effective but he is attempting to make the most of her life by doing her best to function as well as she can everyday. For me I intend to enjoy the time we have left and hope it stretches beyond 20 years, but if it doesn’t I want to be able to say my mum made the most of the time she had left and I took the time to enjoy my mum and thank her for everything she gave me.
The most trivial things the car is getting on 8 years old now and as they get older things start to break, but it is wholly ours with no debt to pay on it allowing us to save for whatever goes next.
As for my phone modern technology is designed to look good and break regularly so you but another, I guess on this point it succeeded well.
Putting it into perspective by my standards this has been a bad year thus far but hopefully the seeds have been sown for a better future, and at least I have the chance in a country that gives e the opportunity to put it right.

As always my opinions are my own thanks for reading.

Gun Control in the USA

Well the title pretty much sums up what I am about to write, and please let me make something absolutely clear for the beginning! I am acutely aware that should someone be hell bent and determined to obtain a gun in the UK, and they are prepared to break the law to get it then they will obtain a gun! Guns are not banished from the UK’s streets and gun crime of some variety occurs continually across the country in our towns and cities.
It is also fair to point out that a degree of gun licensing does exist in the UK which means some aspect of the ordinary public can have a degree of gun ownership within the UK (for example farmers), so I am not trying by any means to paint us as a model Western country in any way as we clearly have many problems within our country just as every western democracy you may care to mention.

That being said gun crime and mass killings in the US is seemingly never ending and a lack of any determinable gun control makes solving the current issues increasingly difficult.
The latest a college in Oregon where 9 have been killed and 7 injured by a lone gun man who apparently bought the vast majority of his arsenal legally is just that, the latest in a long line of incidents at schools and colleges where some of the most innocent of society children have been savagely gunned down (and yes I am aware the college in Oregon was an adult education institution).
For the 15th time since Barack Obama became president he has had to either stand on a podium or release a statement on a mass shooting of some variety, and each and every time he has reiterated his calls for more gun control in the US every time it seems in increasing frustration that the supposed most powerful man on the planet could potentially press a button and launch nuclear weapons against anyone he pleases, but cannot pass legislation to control gun ownership in his own back yard.

In the UK in 1996 we had an innocent known as the Dunblane School Massacre where a lone gun man named Thomas Hamilton shot and killed 16 5 and 6 year old children and one teacher in cold blood.
The outcry from the public was stark with a demand for the banning of private ownership of handguns in the UK, this led in turn to 2 acts of parliament known as the Firearms (amendment) act of 1997 (Tory Government) and the Firearms (amendment) act of 1997 (No.2) (Labour Government) that banned most forms of handguns being in private ownership with few exceptions.
For the United Kingdom the senseless murder of such young innocent lives was enough to make even the most jaded and corrupt politician act to try and protect the public. We are aware legislation is rarely 100% effective and we have had a couple of major incidents since (such as the murders in Cumbria in 2010), but the point I want to make is the majority of the public in the UK have never seen nor have much interest in seeing a real live hand gun. This also means vulnerable members of society such as the mentally ill (as sited frequently by the National Rifle Association of the USA as the reason for some of the horrific shootings we have seen) cannot have legal access to a firearm, and little children cannot accidentally come across there dad’s gun in the garage take it to school and accidentally shoot a class mate.
The normal average person on the street has very little interest in guns and it is not even an after thought for most people within the UK, they are difficult to obtain and not in the public eye for the most part (by that I mean not readily on sale).

Contrast this with the USA that has the highest rate of gun ownership I believe in the world (certainly the western world) with most households owning a gun of some sort. As was demonstrated on a few occasions by Michael Moore in his documentaries such as Bowling for Columbine and others guns are easily obtainable (I believe he received one for opening a bank account), easy to view as most supermarkets sell them in some form, and scariest of all easily found by minors if parents have not taken adequate precautions.
The USA has more gun related crime than I believe pretty much all western world countries combined and only less politically stable countries seem to have more than the USA does. To me it shows what I was once told by my old history teacher way back in the mid to late 90’s when I was still at school. She said on the one hand the USA is the most forward thinking innovative and modern nation on the planet, a world leader in so many fields I lose count. Yet on the other hand it is the most backward, narrow minded, and blinkered country in the world, that refuses to be receptive of new ideas and beliefs because even if proven to be incorrect the old belief is so much safer.
In my opinion nothing shows this stark contrast more than the debate on gun control that is going on in the USA. On the one hand we have many moderates stating that gun control is needed to make sure at risk persons find it difficult to have access to any sort of firearm, and these people are not suggesting anything that I would consider radical. Ideas such as more stringent background checks, or making sure people are made responsible for safe and secure storage of weapons registered to them.
On the other hand we have those shouting about there amendment rights and the fact a gun is part and parcel of the American culture so why are the lefties and foreigners judging our way of life and how dare they (comically portrayed in an episode of the Simpsons where both Homer and Krusty said something to the effect that the King of England could just come and take your house if you didn’t have a gun)!
At the centre of all of this we have National Rifle Association chief among the gun lobby who have claimed many numerous things such as the aforementioned mental health argument, that teachers should be armed, and video games as the causes of all the gun violence and the incidents we have had. They are so single minded and unperceptive of even any talk on gun control that they blindly lead their followers through problems blatantly staring them in the face and make it almost impossible to affect the most minor change to gun control.

For me sensible moves in gun control doesn’t mean going as far as laws in other countries and making outright bans, and anything done has to be mindful of the gun culture in the USA. However I do believe that this culture can be changed nationwide and these are my thoughts (please be aware this is my opinion);

Firstly more stringent background checks need to be done and anyone considered a reasonable risk has to be denied legal access to guns (obviously the risk would need to be clearly defined).
Laws need to be passed about safe and secure storage of all guns in order to limit the risk of minors or other vulnerable groups obtaining them, and fines and prison sentences dangled for those who do not take adequate precautions.
Guns need to become less visible to the public in everyday life. Now I do not mean from T.V. or something like that but I refer more to banning the sale of guns in stores where children go such as supermarkets, and if they still wish to sell guns as part of their business then they would have to open a separate store elsewhere.
Nobody under the age of 18 or 21 depending on state law can enter an establishment selling guns very much like nobody under the age of 18 can enter a betting office in the UK (loose analogy I know).
Try to better educate minors as to the dangers of guns and not glorify guns quite so much as happens sometimes.
Nobody under the age of 18 or 21 can use a weapon with live rounds even at licensed gun clubs.

Even these very simple steps would in my view help to limit access to those likely to do the type of things we see on a routine basis in the USA. It may also be true that some states have adopted some of these measures already but I do not have the time to research that deeply not being a professional blogger.

Now I know new laws are very unlikely to happen in the US as I feel if something was going to trigger (pardon the expression) change and nationwide outcry it would have been the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. Nothing happened then and nothing will happen going forward until attitudes to guns change, and again I do not foresee this happening during my lifetime. If any Americans do read this they could rightly point out that in the UK we do have a problem with knife crime (reference the recent Bradford pupil stabbing a teacher at school, thankfully the teacher survived, or the incident in Leeds where a teacher was murdered by being stabbed to death), but knives are not so enshrined in our national culture that future laws cannot help to stop this.
Sadly I think I can say with a dreaded confidence that this may not be the last time we see or hear a condolence from President Obama in relation to some sort of gun related massacre before his term is through.

Please note the opinions contained within this blog are mine and do not in any way intentionally represent to views of anyone else.

Thanks for reading.

Jeremy Corbyn Labour Leader

All I hear and read in the media recently is he actually did it! The sheer sound of disbelief that a rank outsider has risen to be the head of the official opposition seems to have amazed most commentators who never thought it would happen. After all the accusations that people were joining for £3 just to get him elected in the end seemed pretty unfounded, as Mr Corbyn got a majority of support from most areas in the vote, in fact he earned more than Tony Blair did in his victory in 1994.

Now I will admit I didn’t see this one coming either as I felt it would be the same old guard leading Labour for some time yet, but I am not disappointed either. Now that is not to say I believe in his politics or even that I am a Labour supporter, far from it in fact as a member of the Liberal Democrats but I did feel it marked a nice change from what had become the norm in the Labour party since at least 1997.

I think it is very interesting that the parties biggest rebel over the years has now been voted to the top job, but I think it serves to show people’s general disdain for the political elite. In my view for too long now those at the top of politics have just assumed one of their own would be voted to the top jobs without opposition. This has led to an arrogance within politics with the assumption no matter what happens the jobs will always go to similar people. People have been steadily getting more and more detached from politicians as politicians have come across as out of touch and frankly very snobbish with a higher than thou attitude to the ordinary person in the street. This in turn has led to people attempting to seek politicians who seem more human than the established elite, people are then left searching for something different.

Think about the candidates we had Yvette Cooper partner of former influential MP Ed Balls (lost his seat at the last election) who I believe served under both Blair and Brown. Andy Burnham a former minister, Liz Kendell as well in the same mold. Then we had Corbyn who if he did anything showed he was a different type if politician to the other three who presented themselves all as very similar. Corbyn tried to engage with the public where as the others tried to preach to the public, Corbyn attempted to offer a positive campaign where as the others only sought to try and deter people from voting for Corbyn and offered a negative campaign. People have for too long been fed a lot of negativity and scaremongering from politicians. Things along the lines of we are bankrupt and do not have the money to maintain basic services. Immigrants are a danger to our society and overloading our services. Corbyn has sought to try and show positives instead of negatives and this can appeal. He has also offered something to the older more traditional elements of the party such as the unions, who’s power has been declining for years.

We also have a massive issue with trust in politicians what with a number of scandals not the least the expenses one and how much politicians are paid. All of this has served to play right into Corbyn’s hands to the point he is now the leader of the opposition. Good luck to him as well!

However I will offer a note of caution here. Corbyn in the end has said he is offering a new type of politics when in actuality he is from old socialist stock, so the question remains is he seeking to be more inclusive or trying to move Labour more to the left at the same time the Conservatives are seemingly heading further to the right? History shows in the end more extreme parties even those in the mainstream have never had the type of the support in areas of our flawed electoral system to be successful and gain power. Now I am very aware that in the grand scheme of things Labour could have elected a stuffed badger as leader and sections of the country will blindly vote for the same old parties and therefore the same old politics. However will he convince the swing community of seats that he can run the country? Only time will tell.

As always my views are my own.

Thanks for Reading.

Migrant Crises

Okay so we are currently in  midst of a major migrant crises across Europe. The sheer scale of tragedy cannot be summed up better than the pictures of young Alan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey with his brother and mummy.

Surely nothing else shows the effect on ordinary people in this crises than those harrowing images, I know they will haunt me as I think about anything bad ever happening to my own children. Now I sit in a position where I do know what it is like to hold a dead child in my arms, as a matter of fact my wife and myself have had to cross that tragic bridge twice in our lives. In 2007 we lost our twin baby girls to twin to twin transfusion. Lucy I held as they withdrew life support 1 month after her birth, she fought a long hard battle and this was the day we had to say goodbye. I will always remember it was the first time since her birth I had seen her without numerous drips and tubes connected essential for her life, and now I was doing what no parent should ever have to do I was saying goodbye. With Bryonie our youngest twin she was still born 3 minutes after her sister. I remember being handed her in a blood soaked towel and crying uncontrollably in front of my mum, wife, and those working on Lucy, and trying to hide those tears from my mum. I will never forget my mum saying that I never have to hide from her anything.

Now I am not in anyway trying to draw a parallel between our tragedy and the one that has happened to the Kurdi family, because they occurred in completely different contexts, but I do know the grief that I felt when feeling as though my life had turned upside down. Now we look upon a man who reportedly had his teeth pulled out by ISIS and now has literally lost everything with the death of his family. There are no words anyone can say that will take away the grief of all the families who have lost since the conflict began, and our response has been painfully slow. Hundreds of thousands are braving treacherous conditions for the faintest glimpse of a better life in Europe.

However why do they wish to some here? Well that one is easy since the uprising against Syria’s president Assad in 2011 there has been war conflict and displacement. Various different factions fight for control and no one side seemed to be gaining any particular advantage. Then we had ISIS the Islamic State or whatever you wish to call them taking over large swathes of Iraq and Syria during I believe 2014. Now whatever your leanings it cannot be denied the regime is brutal absolutely brutal! If you do not support their particular branch of Islam then you are at least persecuted if not tortured or murdered. Lets not forget there are many different religions and cultures within the territory now controlled by this so called Caliphate including Shia, and Sunni Muslims, Christians, and Yazidi’s who I believe are a branch of Christianity but I must confess I know very little about them. Stories are rampant of the brutality suffered if you do not conform to this branch of Islam being touted, so it must be easy to even the most ignorant of people why they are fleeing.

Let us not forget however there are those who will flee in the other direction as this is what they have been searching for, a type of regime they want and long for. From the UK many Muslims mainly younger people it has to be said have traveled to ISIS in search of their interpretation of a better life.

Now for those of you who have not already guessed I am not a Muslim, I was born to White British parents from a white British background with the inevitable hint of Irish prevalent to many English families. Although I grew up in a city with a large Muslim minority (Bradford West Yorkshire) I do not pretend to understands life as a Muslim nor would I ever be so ignorant to declare just because of where I grew up I should be able to relate because I cannot. I was Christened into the Church of England and my eldest living daughter goes to a Church of England school, I do however consider myself non religious although I am a believer in god agnostic I believe is the term.

Since the pictures of Alan Kurdi were released the wealthier nations of Europe have softened in their approach to refugees and will allow many more in. I feel those fleeing war or persecution should be allowed to settle in so called safe countries because we have a humanitarian obligation to help. People would not flee and brave what they are braving unless there was something to run from, many thousands have already made it across and no doubt hundreds of thousands more are trying.

Now it has to be noted that there are many in Western countries that do not like this open door policy and do not wish to allow anymore foreigners in. Take the UK as an example many see the country as full and believe foreigners living here have ruined their towns and cities and changed large areas of these areas into ghettos. The prospect of many thousands more making their way into Britain fills some with dread and they will always be hostile. People see great swathes of Europe becoming progressively more Muslim and this is a fear that will drive some to more extreme measures such as joining more right wing parties, and maybe something more.

It is true to say since 2003 when the EU expanded hundreds of thousands of people have becoming economic migrants from old Eastern Bloc countries, to the point that there is reported to be over a million Polish born people living in the UK now. They are not the only new EU country to find the UK attractive as many from Slovakia, Bulgaria, etc have made the journey to work in the UK. This has effected a lot of areas of the UK previously not massively touched by this type of immigration before, and for some it has caused problems with the local populations. So imagine the prospect of having thousands more entering at will and settling in these areas, it is more than some can bear.

My opinion is that the UK to an extent needs an influx of younger people within it as the population ages and native born people have less children per household than before. There are skill gaps within our society that can only be plugged by foreign nationals coming in, alongside the fact there are certain jobs within our society natives are not prepared to do but foreign nationals will, low skilled menial jobs many of those natives on benefits refusing to work refuse to do. Just because someone would rather stay on the dole rather than work does not mean those jobs do not need doing trust me they do, and foreign nationals help to fill these voids.

In the end no matter the colour of our skin or the religion you follow we are all human beings with the same basic biology no matter where we live. We breath and think no matter what our nationality is and we should all have the right to a fair chance in life. However sadly on the last point this is not always the case, where you are born as well as the circumstances you are born into is something you cannot control or do anything about. Now we were born in UK where our chances are better than those born say in Syria or Eritrea of having a fair crack of the whip (although admittedly those born with a silver spoon in their mouths will always have more opportunity presented to them). We are required to go to school and our parents are prosecuted if we don’t, if we are clever we will have the opportunity to go on and have a good career and a decent life, this is not the same across the globe however.

If I was born in a village in the middle of an African desert or jungle where the aids rate is massive, and food and water hard to come by. My first task would be reaching middle childhood without contracting some debilitating disease, then making it to adulthood where I cannot read or write because school is not a law but a privilege shared by precious few.

I will admit the governments of poorer countries seem to be more interested in corruption and keeping the rich rich rather than helping the people, and to this end I agree whole heartedly with David Cameron when he says more must be done to stabalise these countries and it would help stem the flow of refugees from these areas.

The simple truth however is always the same in cases like these. It is not the governments or those in power who are suffering as a result of these conflicts, I mean in the end President Assad still sits in his luxurious palace within a secure area of Damascus with plentiful food and supplies and he cannot see or feel the reality of life for the people he is supposed to represent. Those leading the Islamic State no doubt have there own luxuries while the cities around them burn and the people die in agony wondering what they have ever done to deserve this fate. Those who start the wars and those who fund it rarely see what the consequences of their actions are in real terms because they do not have to suffer what the people suffer. Allegations of rape torture and murder without provocation are rife against ISIS and the Syrian army and if people are having to go through that as people we have 2 duties. Firstly we have a duty to help these people, and secondly we have a duty to rid the world of those who would endorse and action this against other human beings.

I ask everyone out there to ask themselves one simple question. Would you not do the same if this was happening to you? I know I would.

It makes me laugh that countries such as Hungary are taking such a hard line with these refugees when people from their own country have moved in their thousands to richer EU countries, and when countries like the UK have said they want controls on EU migration this has been met with fierce opposition from the new EU members (as well as Germany and France as usual). They have said that this is an essential principle of the EU and will not discuss the option of altering it at all, yet when genuine refugees knock on their doors they say it is the problem of the richer EU nations. A quota was proposed so all EU countries can share the burden of refugees as it were but this has been met with fierce opposition from the new EU member states, places like Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic have all rejected this proposal out of hand and refuse to partake. So when it worked in these countries citizens favor it was acceptable yet when they are expected to take responsibility collectively with other EU states they refuse.

In terms of the religious question it is true to say that some fear the amount of Muslims coming into supposed Christian Europe and what that will do to the demographics of the continent. It is true and right to point out some radicals have developed in places like the UK and areas of some cities are majority Muslim, but I also feel must help while we still can as for me life is more important than any religion. Religion although being used as the basis for ISIS and their justification for their actions to me takes second fiddle over a human life and it is about time we all realise this.

Please note all opinions contained within this blog are my own and do not reflect anyone else.

Thanks for reading.