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Against the Current

Living in modern society – perhaps living in society at all – is a trade off between going with the flow or not. Those who go with the flow generally reinforce the expectations of those around them; in simple terms telling them what they want to hear.

Those who go against the flow have a vein of honesty which does not permit them to fraudulently say what they don’t actually believe. This is not self-serving but it does serve the culture with the sustenance it needs.

Honesty is the one human trait desperately needed and the one least likely to be found.


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

If Hollywood is Anything to go by

then Americans think one person (usually a man) can make all the difference. Usually violently. The sheriff walks into town and the place is made better by his determination, strength, grit, honesty and ability to kill. In much the same way Americans have conducted their foreign policy. When the rest of the West is mostly on their side they get it right – look at the world wars – but when they go it alone that same feeling that a bit of might mixed with humanity and loving one’s family – cannot fail, fails.

England was the same for two hundred years – send a warship to scare the natives and everything is right with the world. Only it wasn’t and many of today’s wars are founded in the cruelty and stupidity of the British Empire.

Tomorrow’s wars will all come from the last century of American diplomacy.

Ageless Ageing

So in China they find flint and stone tools that look to be 2.1 million years old. Dated by the remains of the regular magnetic shifts in the Earth’s poles in the particles of metals in the deposits ( a dating method that is brilliant in itself ), and in Israel they find human teeth 200,000 years old. While scholars now suggest humanity as we know it, did not arise from one single group on East Africa but is the result of children being born from the interaction of all the hominid groups across the whole of Africa over millenniums.

These ancients tribes could teach us everything we need to learn about immigration.

Wasting Time

So, many millions of people are wasting their time tonight getting drunk, getting laid and watching a football match. Too sad. If 30 millions people were out this weekend growing their own food, looking after homeless people, taking care of their lonely neighbours, what a different society we would have.

What a better society,

The Nature of Compromise

In politics the nature of compromise saves lives, enables things to get done, breaks impasse and becomes the very principle upon which politics rests. In art the opposite is true – compromise destroys the art, destroys the artist, stifles debate and limits development of the individual artist.


Because politics is about power and the interplay between competing interests. Art is about an examination of the human condition, an exposition of human creativity which above all, to be useful in the debate,  has to be honest and open. Both have elements of people taking risks but in art the risk is to be an artist for everything an artist does is a risk. That is the core principle of art.

Far From The Madding Crowd

I was sitting by a river in a glade on a very warm summer afternoon yesterday and coming home to hear of the Brexit stuff, the happiness on beginning to save the Thai children stuck in caves, the stupidity of drunk men after England beat Sweden,  the fall of Dakaa to Assad, I got a real sense of what it means to get away from modern living.

And a sudden sadness that for so many millions the ability to get away from ‘all that’ keeps them sane and off anti-depressants. It is worth many lifetimes to be able to de-stress in the countryside every day.

The Dark Island

(For Anthony)

When we go dearest
To the faraway-land –
Soft music will sing us
Along the shores of the dark island –
We’ll call the island home or love
Or God – no devils there, only you
Stroking my hair and me kissing
Your fingers –
Our poems will be songs for the gulls –
Heather will bind our lips with mountain-air
And cares will drop into the sea –
Lost forever – we’ll dance – skip
To our tune and a haze of gold
Will circle our island days –
When we go to the faraway-land –
Your black-thoughts will turn
To silver-bells, that you can hang
Around my ears –
I’ll sport your ring
And love you till death –
Ride to the dark island with me –
Where wild passions will
Rule our nights –
And sleep is but to wake to love
Near all that’s free –
All the gods allow on Earth –
Fresh, pure wind –
And rain across our skins –
Above us a sky of stars
With our love its sun –
Come my dearest to
The faraway-land – come.

Shänne Sands, Moonlight on Words. FootSteps Press 2011


It has been obvious to many, for over a year, that the plans to leave the EU would necessitate the UK having a unique recipe for trading with the mainland. They skirted the issue with a ‘Canada like deal’ and a ‘Norway like deal’ but to keep faith with the Good Friday Agreement and in the long term keep the union together with Scotland, the UK needed a specific deal.

This is what is now going to be thrashed out with the EU based on the plan put forward by Teresa May yesterday. Initially the EU will reject cherry-picking the rules and the fight will revolve around whether they can keep other countries from seceding if they are too lenient. On the other hand they will be relieved there is no real Brexit.

Craft is Art

In the West, for some reason, we decided to make a distinction between craft and art as paintings can hang on walls and pots are to hold flowers. There are some other distinctions that are less complimentary about painters and less complimentary about design.

In Japan there is no such debate, as being able to drink from a work of art is part of their sensibility to the skill in making ceramics that is equal in every way to the skill of a landscape painting.

It is a false distinction as works of art exist in craft and in art, as the exquisite can be found in the skill of the maker and has nothing to do with the predilections of collectors and the policy of museums.

Networks That Don’t Work

Everyone today is in sales. We are all selling ourselves to everyone else. We all have professional contacts and we all network. here’s the thing about networks. The individual is only there to promote themselves and they promote others in the expectation that they will get help in their turn.

In as much as people hep each other this does work. In respect at how talent should be recognized for its own sake they are a brake on any kind of forward thinking as to how society works, and a brake on any change for the better.

They are, miniature interest groups vying with everyone else.


Watching sport is learned behaviour. I am all for people participating but going to a match or siting in front of a TV watching is nothing more than backward behaviour which engages tribalism and some kind of gratification because when your side wins, you win.

I am very glad to have been brought up by women who had no time for sports. They got excited by intellect advances. A new way of writing old stories; new scientific achievements; new knowledge. These are worthy of excitement.

Professional sports are all nonsense.

A few International Jokes

 A Burmese man visits a dentist in India.

The dentist asks him: “Don’t you have dentists in Burma?”

“Yes, we do,” the man replies, “but we’re not allowed to open our mouths.”


 A Chinese chess player who thought highly of his own skill once lost three games in a row. The next day, a friend asked him how the games had turned out.

“I didn’t win the first game,” the chess player replied, “and my opponent didn’t lose the second. As to the third game, I asked him to agree to a draw, but he wouldn’t.”


A girl asks an Argentine man for a light. He pats his trousers, chest, and back pockets.

“Sorry,” he says. “I don’t have one, but wow, do I have a great body or what?”


“I’ve written a letter to the Royal Mail to complain about my post being stolen. To make sure they see it, I’ve put it inside a birthday card.” – Gary Delaney


Human Personalities

I know some people who are very accurate when defining the character of the people they meet. My mother was brilliant at it, down to explaining how they would react in a given situation that was approaching to choosing which disc of their eight on Desert Island Discs they would take as their one disc. In forty years I never knew her to be wrong.

For the rest of us trying to discern how people think is a hit-and-miss affair but I take comfort in the fact there are people out there who are very good at it; one of them is my friend in America, and I feel safe in her opinions.

Calm Blue Sea

There is a tor above St Ives on the Zennor road where the abstract painter Peter Lanyon flew his glider into the hill and died. There is a plaque to commemorate the fact. When I am down here I walk Queenie past it and up the hill and sit n the granite.

Today it was calm with a warm breeze and one could see about fifteen miles of the headland standing before a perfectly blue sea.  Even Queenie looked. The breeze was relaxing but I noticed no birds and no bees.

Why can’t we share beauty with all the other animals on Earth? Why do we make such a virtue of selfishness?

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