Thursday, 23 November 2017

Surviellance - Five eyes.

07:16:00 Posted by Adele Robinson , , , 1 comment
The word surveillance comes from a French phrase for "watching over" - sur means "from above" and veiller is the verb "to watch." Surveillance (/sərˈv.əns/ or /sərˈvləns/) is the monitoring of behaviour, activities, or other changing information for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting people. This can include observation from a distance by means of electronic equipment (such as closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras) or interception of electronically transmitted information (such as  or phone calls). It can also include simple no- or relatively low-technology methods such as human intelligence agents and postal interception.

OK Wikki - I get it. I understand what surveillance is. I understand the need for it in the modern world. We have to be protected from the bad guys. Surveillance is used by governments for intelligence gathering, prevention of crime, the protection of a process, person, group or object, or the investigation of crime. It is also used by criminal organisations to plan and commit crimes, such as robbery and kidnapping. And by businesses to gather intelligence. 

I have never been worried about being constantly monitored. I like to think that I am one of the good guys.  I have worked for several Government administrations since the late 1970's, so have always been bound by The Official Secrets Act but anyway, I live by the Ten rules prescribed to Moses, so I am unlikely to stray far from the pathway. I understand the need for Civil Liberties groups to work to protect the oppressed in Totalitarian regimes - I also understand why they try to curb the excesses of Western surveillance of our own people.  I cannot help but say that when we are monitoring people within our own borders, it is not without good cause for concern. Recent sting operations have saved many lives from planned terrorist attacks. Some have been executed to devastating effect. When they have - it has not been due to lack of effort on the part of our homeland security services.

In 1946, after the need for code-breaking at Bletchley Park, which served to bring early closure to the war with Germany, a new organisation came into being.  Five Eyes, (FVEY) was a multilateral agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The origins of the FVEY can be traced back to the post- war period, when the Atlantic Charter was issued by the Allies to lay out their goals for a post-war world. During the course of the Cold War, the ECHELON surveillance system was initially developed by the FVEY to monitor the communications of the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Third party arrangements were made in later years include other countries such as The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and West Germany. A fictionalized Nine Eyes, with a different list of member states (including South Africa and China), was a key plot device in the 2015 film Spectre. The humour is not lost on me.

In 2013, documents leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs jointly operated by the Five Eyes.
  • PRISM – Operated by the NSA together with the GCHQ and the ASD
  • Tempora – Operated by the GCHQ with contributions from the NSA
  • MUSCULAR – Operated by the GCHQ and the NSA
  • STATEROOM – Operated by the ASD, CIA, CSE, GCHQ, and NSA
It was revealed that FVEY have monitored many prominent people whose behaviour might be subversive, including Charlie Chaplin, Nelson Mandela, Ali Khomeini, Jane Fonda, John Lennon, Diana Princess of Wales and even German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is quite an eclectic list.

Despite being nearly 70 years old, very little is known about the alliance and the agreements that bind them. While the existence of the agreement has been noted in history books and references are often made to it as part of reporting on the intelligence agencies, there is little knowledge or understanding outside the services themselves of exactly what the arrangement comprises.

Even within the governments of the respective countries, which the intelligence agencies are meant to serve, there has historically been little appreciation for the extent of the arrangement. In fact, it is so secretive that no government officially acknowledged the arrangement by name until 1999. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the FVEY as a "supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn't answer to the laws of its own countries". "I always feel like somebody's watching me!"

Five Eyes
Where do you go to my lovely
when you get out of you bed,
to slip into the shadows  
of the unknown web. 

I see your deception,
I know about the lies,
I see everything –
All the habits you disguise.

I know about your weakness.
The corruption in your art,
I know about the fury
that you carry in your heart.

I am watching very closely now,
I monitor your calls,
I see you through the cameras
embedded in your walls.

My satellites pursue you,
I follow where you lead,
My drones fly high above you,
record each breath you breath.

There is nothing you can do now,
I have you in my sights,
Think of me at bedtime
when you’re turning off your lights.

Thanks for reading.  Adele

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Boom! Boom!

Oh dear, oh dear -  one-liners  has not proved a popular theme with our Dead Good bloggers! As it was one of my suggestions, I will shoulder the blame for the distinct lack of posts on topic this week and must now try and step up to the task of rescuing what I thought would be quite an entertaining subject.

The reason I nominated it in the first place is because I have a black Moroccan notebook full of poems, bits of poems, ideas for poems - and at the back a few pages of miscellany where I save up striking lines that have no poem of their own to go to...and I thought: how about trying to herd some of those standalone fragments into a meaningful whole? It would be an interesting challenge to take a bunch of non-sequiturs and make something coherent of them - a bit like raiding a rubbish tip for discarded materials to work with.  Random examples from the back of said notebook include the following:

- big Hans, poacher turned goalkeeper
- the geometry of everlasting love
- scuttle along the spiny highway that is hedgehog street
- he is a Mexican of no fixed adobe
- fusing snippets of electrification
- poison girls come out to play
- schooled in the musky arts
- fractal dreams in smithereens
- friends, robots, cybermen...
- playing second buffoon in the orchestra of life
- as scandal rocks the Surrey Docks
- a pyrotechnician in the Zoroastrian tradition

etc etc etc. Wish me luck!

All of my favourite one-liners are  - by definition - inventive plays on words. Some are conceptual (see the example of continental humoresque below); many are funny (aka smart-assed one-liners); quite often they are quirky, frequently they are paradoxical, always they are clever after a fashion as they wilfully (mis)use language in the interests of being thought-provoking and making the world a more entertaining place.

Herewith five one-liners that never fail to make me smile:
Pinned to the door of an abandoned clown's caravan: "Goodbye, cruel circus. I'm off to join the world."
From Liverpool poet Adrian Henri: "'I've just about reached breaking point,' he snapped."
According to Oscar Levant: "There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line."
Graffiti sprayed on the wall outside the Plain English Campaign HQ advised: "Eschew obfuscation!"
From the razor-sharp mind of that irreverent comic genius Julius Henry (Groucho) Marx: "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." Priceless.

Please feel free to share your own favourite one-liners in the comments section at the bottom of the blog.

A Mexican Adobe (house of mud)
Right. Here is what I've cobbled together by way of a poem this week. It was much harder than I thought to wrestle those orphan lines into something resembling a coherent narrative. Eventually it decided to take on a life of its own, this happy/sad tale, and though it may not be the final version, I hope it passes muster for now...

Tequila Sundries
He is a Mexican of no fixed adobe,
a  mild man resigned
after many false starts,
to playing second buffoon
in the mariachi band of life;
a funny man,
once they get the hang
of his gallows humour.
It was not by design,
but so be it.

His erstwhile wife, well-heeled
but schooled in the musky arts
had been plucked from his side
too soon after their Tamaulipa honeymoon
by the masterful passion
of a passing pyrotechnician
in the Zoroastrian tradition.
Fire works in mysterious ways.

Bereft, a sadness gnaws at his core
and when the laughter and the crowd
have slipped out of the door
he fritters his after-hours
in seedy cantinas with dark-eyed whores
trying to figure the geometry
of this everlasting love
which triangulated his poor heart,
fusing snippets of electrification
till smouldering wise
he will stand with the dawn,
face shining from tears
and stumble outside
kicking up sand, tequila in hand.

In fact any day after sunrise
in some dusty one horse desert town
you can possibly hear
the thin sound of this lonely man
banging his head on a tack-house wall,
sinking slowly in a sea of remorse,
his fractal dreams lampooned abroadside.

In carnivorous sorrow
he drains another bottle with violent affection,
swallowing worm and all.

I think we're done. Thanks for reading. Have a happy week, S ;-)

Thursday, 16 November 2017

One Liners - one track.

Sorry to all you wonderful Dead Good blog readers - I almost let you down this week.  I was appearing on stage the night before my regular blogging day and was lost for words.  My role in Puccini's mini opera Gianni Schicchi proved to be quite challenging. Wait for it .... here is my one-liner of the week - "After playing a corpse for 3 nights, I have to admit, I was a little stiff."  Well it was funny at the time. As they say , you really had to be there. A good time was had by all.  We played to an almost full house for two of the three nights. The best part for me was hearing the wonderful voices of my fellow cast members and sharing in the backstage banter. Loved it.

I have been worried about what's going on in Africa this week. watch the news and have been chatting online to my cousin who has lived in South Africa since the mid 1970s and has friends over the border in Zimbabwe. The situation in Zimbabwe was dreadful when I stayed with her 2000. During the last seventeen years, raging inflation, poverty disease and fear have driven more and more Zimbabweans out of their native country.  The former British colony gained independence and was ruined by political corruption, ethnic cleansing of the white population, ruination of the incredibly productive agricultural export trade and the tyrannical rule of the President Robert Mugabe.

This week, the 90 year old despot has been put under house arrest by his own armed forces who I hope will do their best to restore Zimbawe to free democratic rule. The situation is volatile but calm at the moment. While we hope for calm and common sense to prevail, I want to ask - why no-one has no-one has intervened before.  So many have suffered at the hands of this elected official turned lunatic. Zimbawe, once called 'the bread basket of the world' is reduced to survival on food aid, a demise that has disgusted most of the free world.

I wrote the poem in 2009... I hoped then that things might get better. I still do.

Black and White (Adele V. Robinson 2009)

Match One

Black and white chess board stood evenly checked
all the pieces lined up in their place. 

White held power: black suppressed.
Smith slept peaceful in his bed.

Knights in their castles, bishops supreme
forced pawns in fields, fill the bread basket
Black freedom, an unrealisable dream. 

The West looks on with admiration:
At white African domination.

Match Two
The White Queen hands over independence.
New strategies come into play.

Elections bring black domination
as Smith’s regime is chased away.

Freedom and fairness proclaim the day.
Pieces move to power positions
Black and white in counter-play.

The West just smirks in indignation:
The white man’s grave is dug today. 

Match Three

New Black king charges veteran knights
to take white castles forcibly.

An exodus begins in earnest
As prosperous farmers start to flee.

What of the incumbent tenant? Does he know
the art of furrow, farm and planting?
He cannot reap – he did not sow.

The West looks on with consternation:
This is an emerging Nation.   

Match Four  

Give us this day our daily bread.
No grain to sell – barely a crust.
Economy blowing in the wind:
Howling inflation – no hope just dust.

Black cries out in poverty,
Demands a new democracy
to depose dictatorial tyranny.

The West ignores their ardent plea:
 "Help to set our people free." 

Match Five

Election sows seeds of corruption,
Opposition crushed and made to pay. 

Defeat allows wanton destruction.
Homes demolished, men taken away.

Orphaned children roam the streets,
Raw sewage runs in putrid rivers
Breeding cholera at their feet. 

The West stands back, observes the sight. 
Now white is black and black is white.

Check Mate
Disease blows over the chess board now
where once grew pride's prosperity. 

A lost generation without education 
No export income – devaluation.

Consumed by power: A spat out husk. 
Corrupted, tortured, beaten and bust. 
Darkness is falling: already it’s dusk.

The West impose their damning sanctions. 
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.   

Post-Match Analysis

Stalemate now. Why not prevention?
It seems all black and white to me.
No oil or gas?  No Western intervention.

Thank you for reading.  Adele  

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Harvest - what happens when it fails?

The Great Irish Famine (An Gorta Mór)
From 1845-52, the failure of Ireland's potato harvest devastated the population; a million people died from sickness and starvation, while from 1845-55 more than two million fled the country in a mass exodus, many arriving in Boston. Thousands died en route, in what became known a coffin ships.

Dependence on a single variety of potato, the Irish Lumper, had made the crop particularly vulnerable to disease, while the exorbitant cost of grain had made it a staple food for the working classes. The crisis was worsened by the export of enormous quantities of Irish crops to Britain, which continued unabated throughout the famine.

Potatoes were unique in many ways. Large numbers of them could be grown on small plots of land. An acre and a half could provide a family of six with enough food for a year. Potatoes were nutritious and easy to cook, and they could be fed to pigs and cattle and fowl. And families did not need a plough to grow potatoes. All they needed was a spade, and they could grow potatoes in wet ground and on mountain sides where no other kinds of plants could be cultivated.

More than half of the Irish people depended on the potato as the main part of their diet, and almost 40% had a diet consisting almost entirely of potatoes, with some milk or fish as the only other source of nourishment. Potatoes could not be stored for more than a year. If the potato crop failed, there was nothing to replace it. In the years before 1845, many committees and commissions had issued reports on the state of Ireland, and all predicted disaster.

In the summer of 1845, the potato crop appeared to be flourishing. But when the main crop was harvested in October, there were signs of disease. Within a few days after they were dug up, the potatoes began to rot. Scientific commissions were set up to investigate the problem and recommend ways to prevent the decay. Farmers were told to try drying the potatoes in ovens or to treat them with lime and salt or with chlorine gas. But nothing worked. No matter what they tried, the potatoes became diseased: “six months provisions a mass of rottenness.” 

In November, a scientific commission reported that “one half of the actual potato crop of Ireland is either destroyed or remains in a state unfit for the food of man.” By early spring of 1846, panic began to spread as food supplies disappeared. People ate anything they could find, including the leaves and bark of trees and even grass. Lord Monteagle reported to the House of Lords in March, people were eating food “from which so putrid and offensive an effluvia issued that in consuming it they were obliged to leave the doors and windows of their cabins open,” and illnesses, including “fever from eating diseased potatoes,” were beginning to spread.

Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel described the situation as "very alarming", and tried to repeal the Corn Laws which had artificially raised the price of grain, putting bread beyond the reach of many in Ireland. The motion failed to pass, and Peel's government fell in 1846. His successor, Whig leader John Russell, halted the relief efforts and refused to curb the export of Irish food to England.

The blight did not go away. In 1846, the whole potato crop was wiped out. In 1847, a shortage of seeds led to fewer crops, as only about a quarter of the land was planted compared to the year before. The crop flourished, but not enough food was produced, and the famine continued. By this time, the mass emigration abroad had begun. The flight to America and Canada continued in 1848 when the blight struck again. In 1849, the famine was officially at an end, but suffering continued throughout Ireland.

More than 1 million people died between 1846 and 1851 as a result of the Potato Famine. Many of these died from starvation. Many more died from diseases that preyed on people weakened by loss of food. By 1847, the scourges of “famine fever,” dysentery, and diarrhoea began to wreak havoc. People streamed into towns, begging for food and crowding the workhouses and soup kitchens. Those who took to the roads were infected with lice, which transmit both typhus and “relapsing fever.”  Little, if any, medical care was available for the sick. Many of those who tried to help died too. In one province, 48 medical men died of fever.

There have been many famines in far flung African countries: We see appeals on television, Western governments send aid, people motivate to try to help. I can't imagine the anger that the impoverished Irish felt towards their British rulers when they turned away. Most Irish peasants lived in tiny stone cottages, along with their children and pitiable livestock.  The land was hard, the soil difficult and the potato was king. The potato crop was all they had to sustain life. When the crop failed - life failed.


At A Potato Digging

A mechanical digger wrecks the drill,
Spins up a dark shower of roots and mould.
Labourers swarm in behind, stoop to fill
Wicker creels.  Fingers go dead in the cold.
Like crows attacking crow-black fields, they stretch
A higgledy line from hedge to headland;
Some pairs keep breaking ragged ranks to fetch
A full creel to the pit and straighten, stand

Tall for a moment but soon stumble back
To fish a new load from the crumbled surf.
Heads bow, trunks bend, hands fumble towards the black
Mother.  Processional stooping through the turf

Recurs mindlessly as autumn.  Centuries
Of fear and homage to the famine god
Toughen the muscles behind their humbled knees,
Make a seasonal altar of the sod.

Flint-white, purple.  They lie scattered
like inflated pebbles.  Native
to the black hutch of clay
where the halved seed shot and clotted
these knobbed and slit-eyed tubers seem
the petrified hearts of drills.  Split
by the spade, they show white as cream.

Good smells exude from crumbled earth.
The rough bark of humus erupts
knots of potatoes (a clean birth)
whose solid feel, whose wet inside
promises taste of ground and root.
To be piled in pits; live skulls, blind-eyed.

Live skulls, blind-eyed, balanced on
wild higgledy skeletons
scoured the land in ‘forty-five,
wolfed the blighted root and died.

The new potato, sound as stone,
putrefied when it had lain
three days in the long clay pit.
Millions rotted along with it.

Mouths tightened in, eyes died hard,
faces chilled to a plucked bird.
In a million wicker huts
beaks of famine snipped at guts.

A people hungering from birth,
grubbing, like plants, in the bitch earth,
were grafted with a great sorrow.
Hope rotted like a marrow.

Stinking potatoes fouled the land,
pits turned pus into filthy mounds:
and where potato diggers are
you still smell the running sore.

Under a gay flotilla of gulls
The rhythm deadens, the workers stop.
Brown bread and tea in bright canfuls
Are served for lunch.  Dead-beat, they flop

Down in the ditch and take their fill
Thankfully breaking timeless fasts;
Then, stretched on the faithless ground, spill
Libations of cold tea, scatter crusts.

Seamus Heaney 

Thanks for reading Adele

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Harvest - The Pumpkin

I wanted to carry a neat arrangement of fresh fruit or vegetables placed in a shallow box on a green bed of scrunched tissue paper. It didn’t happen. Instead, with an air of apology, I would hand over some tinned produce my mother had sacrificed from our kitchen minutes earlier.  The gift was received with kindness, always, and stacked up with the others.  This was the pattern of many Harvest Festivals from my childhood, school and Sunday School alike.  I would forget to say anything at home until the last minute, leaving no time to prepare.

Years later, getting Harvest gifts ready with my children, we shredded green crepe paper, stuffed it into shoe boxes and added apples and pears to one box and root vegetables to another. It was lovely to watch them carefully take their gifts forward to be added to the display, which always looked wonderful in church or school hall.

Times change and we found ourselves preparing Harvest gifts to be passed on to the homeless, the Women’s Refuge, Shelter and many other charities.  Fresh produce wasn’t practical.  Toiletries, packaged food with a long shelf-life, socks, gloves, scarves and other small items of clothing would be more welcome.

Harvest isn’t just about thanks-giving, it’s about sharing and caring, and that is much more important than the careful presentation of the gift.

This autumn, I have had the delight of trying out new recipes for pumpkin.  A work colleague has grown far more then he could use and I was happy to help. Pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup are popular dishes, but I found a recipe for pumpkin bread and discovered it to be very more-ish.  The recipe is American which I did my best to convert and it worked out well.  It’s full of chocolate chips and is cake texture rather than bread, well, mine is. I’ll make it again next year.
I found this poem.
     The Pumpkin
Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain. 

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines. 

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie? 

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team! 

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie! 

John Greenleaf Whittier   1807 - 1892

Thanks for reading, Pam x


Sunday, 5 November 2017

When Hallowe'en Poetry Rocked The Garden

In Hallowe'en week, the Dead Good Poets ran a ghoulish poetry workshop as part of the fun and games on offer at Devonshire Road Rock Garden's Hallowe'en Party. It was a brilliant afternoon.

Children aged 6 to 60 took part and here is a selection of what they wrote - and in some cases performed. Most of the poems were built around half a dozen keywords that each writer was dealt at random from a pack of ghoulish cue cards. Their fertile imaginations did the rest. Everyone involved worked really well and we hope you enjoy reading the works they created. (In the interests of confidentiality, names have been withheld.)

Thank you to the Friends of Devonshire Road Rock Gardens for inviting us. It is a fantastic place to visit and we hope to stage another Dead Good Poetry event there in the summer.

Be Warned
Darker than shadows in the middle of the night,
Running in the forest with no sign of any light,

Devils, demons, vampires with a special little bite
Climbing up a tree with a big height,

The vampires are coming with skin that is white
But the sun is too big to be hidden by a kite
So be warned vampires you will be in for a fright!

The Rat Monster
Watch out in the alley-way, he may be lurking there.
Take care in the garden or he'll give you a scare.
He is the Rat Monster, he has a funny glare
But if you dare laugh...
He'll turn you into a bunch of bones and hair!

Hallowe'en is minutes away,
creeps moaning are all you can hear,
light slithering out of the day,
people knocking on doors with no fear.

Snarling dogs with a vicious bite,
humans dressing up ready to fright,
people covered in blood,
ghosts, clowns, even little red riding hood.

Chilly wind, choking smoke,
storms brewing,
putting on make-up for a joke,
witches' potions stewing.

Rats scuttling, crawling,
heads in cauldrons, apple-bobbing,
children begging for treats, cold-calling,
people running scared and sobbing...

Souped Up!
On Hallowe'en I treat my bat
For being such a lovely pet.
I give him slime-and-cobweb soup.
He dips his wings to get them wet,
Then licks them for a spell.

But then to my immense surprise
His eyeballs swivel side-to-side.
He starts to snarl and howl in fright
And changes right before my sight
Into a souped up werebat!

Bloody Monsters
There are monsters out on Hallowe'en night
Wandering to put a spell on you.
They like to suck the blood out of your neck,
Bite the bones of your elbow.
You wake up and think it was a nightmare
But it wasn't!
You see a monster, then another
And another and another and another...
They keep on sniggering and you feel eerie
Until at last you SCREAM
And you're saved by your adults.

Finally, a group poem to which several writers contributed a verse...

All Hallows E'en is hours away,
so heed these words of warning:
keep your wits about you kids,
for Thingy's day is dawning.

His eyes flash red,
his breath smells fouls
and he howls a terrible howl.

When you're knocking on doors
for a trick or a treat,
watch out! for Thingy
is fast on his feet.

His eyes flash red,
his breath smells fouls
and he howls a terrible howl.

His scream is a shriek that could vanish a witch
and the rats they all scuttle in fright.
As Thingy's Hallowe'en appears...
the day of the dead becomes night.

His eyes flash red,
his breath smells fouls
and he howls a terrible howl.

He's only allowed out once a year,
so tries to cram a lot in:
small pets, stray kids - with chips and gravy,
even roots in rubbish bins.

His eyes flash red,
his breath smells fouls
and he howls a terrible howlllll......

If you like what you've read, feel free to share a link. If you'd like to know more about our regular open mic poetry nights, just email: and if you'd like to read more, check out some of the great daily blogs in the TRENDING THIS WEEK section - somewhere to the right as you scroll up the page.

Saturday, 4 November 2017


The  eighth deadly sin  has proved a fruitful blog topic this week and my co-posters have successfully nominated abuse, consumerism and social media as worthy candidates for this most unfortunate accolade.

I spent a couple of hours prowling the wiki-world and was surprised to learn that historically there was already an eighth deadly sin: acedia in Latin, deriving (of course) from the Greek Ἀκηδία (akēdia and translating approximately as delinquency of thoughtfulness, also known as neglecting to take care of a duty - subtly different from sloth/laziness. Thomas Aquinas described it as uneasiness of the mind (akin to a guilty conscience) and Dante further typified it as a failure to do something with all one's heart, mind and soul. I'm happy to bow to historical precedence and vote to reinstate delinquency/acedia as detailed by Dante as my candidate for the eighth deadly sin.

"Surely it is a sign...." :-)
I'm sure we can all think of our own examples of acedia - the doing of something (as opposed to not doing - which would be sloth) but doing it with a distinct lack of care, commitment, conviction, dedication, enthusiasm, love and respect. (Pause here for quiet contemplation.) Okay, that's it - job done.

I'm afraid this latest poem has but a tenuous connection to the week's theme - in the form of a delinquent motorist - but I wrote it for a Hallowee'n gig and so I'm not going to waste it...

Hallowe'en Party 
At my family's hallowe'en party
of course no one and nothing is quite what they seem...

My Daddy's the ghoul with a bolt through his neck,
and Mummy's the witch decked in shimmering green.
My brothers are zombies - so nothing new there!
My skeletal sister has tangerine hair,
while Nana's a beast with a fur coat and tail
and Pops plays the corpse in the easiest chair.

The tables are covered with hallowe'en fun-food -
there's frogs eyes to munch and baked rat-atouille,
pizza with scabs on and chopped-finger pies,
lashings of spiders'-legs (made from spaghetti)
all to be washed down with jugfuls of slime;
- one lot has got gin in, that's not for the kids.
It's sick in a good way, if you know what I mean.

Me? I stand apart, alone in the hallway,
a figure in thrall looking in on their fun
for my party was over before it's begun.
A reckless drunk at the wheel of a sports car
dispatched me aged seven down to my grave
from where once a year this revenant stares
at my Mummy and Daddy, my brothers and sister
and their hallowe'en madness in which I can't share...

For my family can neither see me nor hear me.
I've reached out in the past - they don't know I'm here.
On such nights I'm consumed with a bittersweet sadness
at being this close yet forever removed.
It tears me apart at the seams once again,
a desolate feeling that sets my head reeling...
My mind turns to jelly and I scream!

Thanks for reading. Have a fulfilling week, S ;-)

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Eighth Deadly Sin....Abuse

Abuse has hit the headlines for many months now. I'm looking at the subject from many different angles....

Abuse of one's own body. Either on purpose or because of a mental issue. Anorexia, self harm, drugs, alcohol. Lack of self worth, and self respect. Low self esteem, depression.

Abuse towards an animal. Leading to charities stepping in to prosecute and educate.

Abuse of a person's freedom...modern slavery. People trafficking. Taking advantage of some one else's despair.

Abuse of the system. Dealing outside the law. Avoiding responsibilities and thinking actions are admissible.

Abusing one's position...either as a respected member of society, a so called 'celebrity ', in a leadership position.

Abuse towards another person. Regardless of the age, relationship or gender of those involved.

   My poem today reflects the life of a good friend of mine.

                                            HER LIFE

               Don't hit me !
               I'll do all that you say.
               Then I'll go to my room,
               And there I'll spend the day.

               Don't call me names.
               I'll turn my face away.
               Then I'll go to my room
               And there I'll spend the day.

               Don't say I'm fat -
               Five stone eight is all I weigh.
               So I'll go to my room
               And there I'll spend the day.

               Don't turn the heating off -
               I think I'll pass away.
               Instead I'll go to my room
               And there I'll spend the day.

               Don't be nasty to my friends,
               They'll turn and go away,
               Then I'll go to my room,
               And there I'll spend the day.

               Don't leave me without money-
               I've bills I need to pay,
               After which I'll go to my room
               And there I'll spend the day.

               Don't open my windows wide,
               And expose me to sea spray.
               I can't then stay in my room,
               Where I usually spend the day.

               Don't think that I'm not hurting -
               I'll fight back these lonely tears-
               I'll break free from my room,
               Where I've spent too many years.

       Thanks for reading. Kath

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Consumerism - the Eighth Deadly sin.

I had to do a bit of research for this one.  I understand the idea of seven deadly sins and they all have modern day connotations. Gluttony - can lead to obesity - which can lead to complicated health problems and early death.  Naturally - you would have to allow a little grace when considering that the fast food industry and soft drinks manufacturers have made it very easy to become obese.

That takes me to Sloth. I am not naturally a lazy person. I am seldom seen without a tea towel at parties - I rarely relax even at home if there is washing up, a dirty floor, ironing in the basket. I find it hard to understand how anyone can. I live in an active family of sports professionals, hard workers and very busy children. Sloth is just not in our genes: Vanity may be though. My father was a very handsome man. He was always dapper too. Mum says he used to look in the mirror, comb his hair and moustache and tell her what a lucky woman she was to have married him.  I am not fond of the mirror.  I like to look attractive but I wouldn't have half as much fun if I worried about my appearance all the time. My roots haven't been done since June and no one has commented. I sometimes think that I am invisible.

Then there is Pride.  I wrestle with this one. Surely  - if you have worked hard to achieve - to be at the top of your game - earned the rewards for your tenacity and determination - surely after all that striving we are entitled to be proud. Aren't we? Maybe not.

Envy - I have to admit this one. There are people whose traits and abilities I envy but I consider that the ability to recognise that there are people to admire, people to learn from and emulate is a good thing. Envy without purpose is a destructive force but we all need someone to admire, to be our role model. For me a teacher, a dancer, my Godmother, my sister and a wonderful poet.  I have envied them all for their talent, their resilience, their patience, their creativity. For me envy is a force for good.

Greed. I am not greedy but then I have never been a 'thing' person.  I take my pleasure in more ethereal pursuits.  I like to take part in life. I dance, sing, go to workshops, help at fundraisers and I have nothing in my home that I don't need apart from gifts from others.  I don't part with them.  I collect pretty little jugs but I only have five. I am definitely not greedy. Oops - I forgot about gloves.  I have a few more pairs of gloves than I need but my hands (and feet) get very cold. I am a bit greedy when it comes to gloves. Forget about all those clothes - most of them are charity shop finds - recycled - part-worn - pre-loved - vintage. There is very little in the shops that doesn't fuel global warming. When I buy new, I like to buy 'British', often more expensive but quality is an investment.

Here we are - I really get Wrath. I understand anger but it is such a waste of energy and time. My brother once said to me, "Don't get angry - get even." It is an interesting idea and one that seems to work for me, however - I believe that Karma has a way for interceding to put the universe to rights.  At least it does seem to happen in my world. I am not convinced that it works as a global phenomenon. I have been around for nearly 60 years and have witnessed too many cruel, unpunished humanitarian catastrophes to believe that everything will come right in the end. Unfortunately I now believe that the constant bombardment of bad news into our relaxation time is causing national depression.  It is all too much to cope with. It is enough to make anyone angry.

Seven Deadly sins - an idea first bandied about by the Greek philosophers, tampered with in the Middle Ages by monks, apparently each of them is punishable in hell by a particularly nasty outcome.  Well my little rampage through the list has told me that I am not all bad. My Dad used to say that there was only one perfect man and look what they did to him.

However, it is the purpose of this blog tell you what I consider should be the eighth deadly sin. Well that is very easy because it runs unseen through the original seven. Consumerism is the root of all evil. We make too much stuff.  We buy too much stuff. We buy stuff that has no practical purpose. We buy stuff because we envy the stuff other people have.  We buy stuff from all over the world that is made under appalling working conditions, where people survive on subsistence incomes to make other greedy people rich. We buy stuff that has to be transported to our door, using planet polluting fuels. We buy stuff that destroys our planet because it cannot be destroyed.  We are greedy, vain, lazy and we think that possessions, how we look, where we are seen and what we wear is more important than the welfare of others and the welfare of our world.

Let's stop and think this year. Do we need to buy any more plastic?  Do we need to import so much fashion clothing? Do we need so many new gadgets? I am all for having a party, a family celebration - Winter would be a long, cold, boring season without Christmas but surely one thoughtful, longed for gift is adequate. One gift made by a local artist, something you make yourself at an art workshop or craft club - isn't that giving love instead of a 'buy two get one free' gift set that says so little, languishing in the back of a cupboard until the end of days.

Why not go to a local gallery and buy a handmade card? Look at labels before you fuel over-production in countries that don't care about the effects of global warming. Shop politically, buy Fairtrade goods and food. I once cleaned a friend's house as a Christmas gift: She had five year old twins and was thrilled. Buy less. Be mindful. Be the difference. Care about the world but sometimes just turn off all the bad news and enjoy the here and now. Today may be the best day you ever have.

Hygge - the Danish way of getting cosy. 

Disconnect the battery,
Throw away the keys,
I just want to walk today,
It’s better for my knees.

Give me the simple life

Trash the tumble drier,
Hand me pegs for the clothes,
Let the breeze blow through the bed linen,
Like flags in billowing rows.

Give me the simple life.

Empty the inbox, unplug the hub,
Disconnect the World Wide Web.
Settle down with knitting wool,
Let’s make socks for bed instead.

Give me the simple life.

Cross out the ‘To Do’ list 
Tear the pages from my diary,
let’s go and track a bullfinch
eat a picnic near the Priory.

Give me the simple life. 

Drag out the aerial,
Put gentle music in the air,
Find a book and glowing candle,
Read some poems we can share.

Give me the simple life.

Blow up the microwave,
Stoke up the fire,
Put fresh bread on the toasting fork.
Butter my desire!

Give me the simple life. 

Break the hands off the alarm clock,
Leave the curtains wide apart,
Awaken with the sunrise,
Sleep sweetly when it’s dark,

Give me the simple life.

Forget the espresso maker,
Let’s sit and sip Earl Grey,
You fill up the teapot,
And I will lay the tray
with cucumber sandwiches,
scones and clotted cream,

We’ll eat it in the garden,
Go on let’s live the dream
Then I’ll wash off my make-up,
Let down my hair,
Let's throw on soft pyjamas,
snuggle together in the big arm chair.

 Give me the simple life

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Eighth Deadly Sin - Social Media

The World Wide Web. Love it or hate it, use it or ignore it. We are surrounded by an invisible network capable of linking people with others all over the world within a second, or less. Send an email and it arrives at its destination, regardless of distance, at the same time that the final full-stop is typed and we hit ‘send’. No more neat hand-writing on thin, air mail stationery then having the letter weighed at the Post Office. The what office?  It’s getting like that but there are still a few around, for now. Use your webcam to ‘skype’ your cousin somewhere in Australia and have a conversation like you’re both in the same room, well, with the wonder of the internet, technically speaking, you are. When I was a child, I was fascinated by the wristwatches on the Thunderbirds characters. Press a button and there’s Virgil on the tiny screen chatting to  Scott, or Alan. I was seriously impressed.  Better than a Man from U.N.C.L.E. invisible ink fountain pen. The concept of those wristwatches exists now. It’s not Virgil though, it’s your own family and friends called ‘contacts’.  The eighth deadly sin, for me, Social Media, takes on many forms.

Check search engines like Google or Yahoo and everything you ever wanted to know, and even more that you didn’t want to know, is there. All the things once remembered, now forgotten can be found again. When I was at school, we had things to learn and remember in all our lessons; maths formulae, history dates, poetry to recite off by heart and more. By the time my eldest was working towards his GCSEs, he was very sure that none of us needed to remember anything because all the information was just a click away. I’d dispute his theory, along the lines of ‘what keeps your brain alive if you don’t feed it with knowledge?’ His peers were all the same and I used to despair for ‘the lost generation’, or maybe they are right.

My personal use of Facebook has increased over the years. It is a wonderful tool for collecting people together for events, keeping in touch with friends and sharing a bit of interesting knowledge I’ve stumbled across on Google. But it has its down side. There’s something I don’t want to see. Something I’d rather not know. Something I can’t unread.  And, that cryptic comment from a friend of a friend which disturbs and worries me and I can’t respond because I don’t want to show I’m bothered. Click bait. Yet I can’t leave Facebook completely alone. It is a minimised window on my lap top, so I can pop in and out while I’m busy with something else. It is the first thing I look at when I check my phone on my break at work. It’s sad. It’s a sin. Thank goodness I don’t ‘Tweet’.

Soon I’ll be enjoying a break in Dumfries & Galloway at the hidden away lodges where we often stay. No WiFi at all and no phone signal apart from a small area at the end of a long lane and I won’t be wandering along there on a cold, dark night. I will have peace and oblivion and the patience to wait until I can access the latest photos of my grandchildren, so cute with a Snapchat filter.

Social Media is here to stay. It’s a massive part of the electronic, technology-based lives we have, so I’ll continue to embrace it for what it is and carry on with the same level of discipline I have towards the other seven deadly sins.

My chosen poem is one of mine, a modern nursery rhyme.

Tom the Fool
Dashed home from school
To meet his mates on Facebook.
Oh what a frown
‘Cos the ‘net was down,
He didn’t dare to reboot. 

He hissed and swore
Like never before
And threatened to murder broadband,
Then found the hitch
Was a turned off switch
He should have checked beforehand.

PMW 2010
Thanks for reading, Pam x