Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

On the 8th May 1945 the war in Europe came to an end. VJ day was celebrated in August of that year. I have no first-hand knowledge of these events not being born until 1957. I was born three years after rationing ended in Britain although the effects of the war continued well into the 80’s so far as the dairy industry were concerned.Britain joined the European Community in 1973. At the time I was living at home with my parents and brother. We were a small family, living in a small home. Times were tough, there was little money to support the family even though both of my parents worked hard. But I felt loved and safe and cared for.

My memories of life, pre 1973, are smoky coal fires, a coke hot water boiler, the winter of 1962-63, shortages of everything, dark days, even in milder winters scraping ice from the inside of my bedroom window. Grey men in grey clothing happy but poor. Support from neighbours, even for the old and cantankerous Mrs White who lived next door.

Produce was scarce, fruit and veg poor quality unless it was home grown. Cheap cuts like Oxtail from the butcher. Local shops of questionable cleanliness selling bread, greengrocery, butchery and sweets. Sweets, but not as they would be recognised today.

Things did not improve overnight. But slowly, incrementally, my family’s lot improved. Wages rose, the family became better off. There was more to eat both in quantity and variety. Little luxuries became affordable. We were able to buy a car to go with the van my father used for work, we even got a telephone. We all learned to answer the telephone, ‘Horsham 61618’. As a family we had entered the modern era.

By 1975, the time of the referendum, I was a soldier. I was serving in Germany as part of the occupying British Army of the Rhine. I felt no animosity from our German cousins. I also served in Belgium and France with trips to Holland. Nothing from the population but friendly intercourse. Convivial sharing of food, wine, stories. Things seemed, to me at least, to be normal. Normal that is except for the ever present threat of annihilation from the Communist Block, which really meant the Soviet Union. We all lived under this threat. Some people chose to ignore what the potential was, this was not an option for me and my comrades.

When I returned home after my discharge, things were so much improved in these United Kingdoms. I accept that I am a soft Southerner. I have no links to t’North save by Marriage. I have no knowledge of the hardships of pit life, working in cotton mills, hill farming and the like. I do have experience of factory working, building work, small holding and small business life. It is true that our close connection caused ‘issues’. Increased paperwork blamed by the UK government on Europe. The disappearance of bent cucumbers and bananas. But life was good.

From a personal point of view, there was increased opportunity for me, if I was prepared to work I could be what I wanted to be. My father always saw this as a betrayal of his way of life I think. Certainly when I was born, when I left school, there could have been no thought of university. No thought of a gap year. No thought of travel. No thought of any kind of trade except building. There was no social mobility. I felt like Ronnie Corbett in the famous TW3 sketch with Ronnie Barker and John Cleese. Stuck in a rut. The only difference being I was not satisfied to accept my lot.

I have seen my parents and friends standard of living grow. Friends from school who stayed in trade, seized their opportunities and live a fulfilling life of a higher standard than any of us had any right to hope for. There were some who fell by the wayside. I met the brother of a boy I was at school with. ‘Paddy’ was always a person I shied away from. However, from living in the poorest part of town, coming from a troubled family, in his late 20’s he had done well for himself. Sadly Cancer took him but even weeks before his death he was fulfilling his stand up bookings. I saw him in an Indian restaurant he was joking and a pleasure to spend time with.

Paddy’s brother, that I was at school with, was a painter and decorator. He was less well off than Paddy, he made money but drank it away. My point is that people do have choices. Those people from my past that I remain in contact with have largely seized their opportunities. They have made a good life and have a standard of living that could not have been dreamed of in 1970. Some fell by the wayside but they were handicapped, not by their upbringing or their neighbours but by their own deficiencies.

My own immediate family, all working class people, born into a time of social stagnation, were released by the opportunities created by this country within a broader Europe. I have witnessed the breakdown of rigid social order which I admit began in the sixties, but was assisted greatly by the introduction of a more European way of thinking. Both of my children are successful in different ways. I am proud of my son, he chose not to indulge in further education and has made a good life for himself. My daughter is an academic, she is able to make her own choices. I honestly believe without the influence of Europe she would not be able to live the life she does.

I have always thought of myself as English first and European second. I have revelled in the company of a variety of people from a number of backgrounds. The cross pollination of ideas and beliefs is stimulating and enriching. My friend Salim said to me the day after the referendum, that he was scared. He said that our country is the only country where people are free to practice their own beliefs, religion and are able to express their sexuality without fear. He wondered if this would change.

I too have concerns. Concerns that this country may descend once more to the xenophobic land of the late sixties early seventies. Gangs of WASP’s rampaging the streets fighting anybody they thought might not be pure bred English. That in itself is an oxymoron. We are all out of Africa, by way of the Middle East and Europe.

I have always felt at home in Belgium and Germany. As this country plummets toward isolation my thoughts turn to whether a small flat in Berlin might be a nice place to spend my latter years. A little place in Brugge perhaps, or Dieppe or Lake Garda.




Little Island

Posted: September 6, 2013 in economy, Pussy riot, Putin, Russia, UK

With thanks to the BBC for the headline:

Cameron defends Britain in Russia ‘small island’ row

Poor old Dave, it’s really not his week. First he loses a vote so he can’t make his name as a war monger, a la Joffrey Baratheon who was keen to lead his forces to battle from behind his mothers skirts. Then Mr Obama couldn’t find time in his busy schedule to give his poodle a nice cuddle, that damn vote again. Now, the leader of the Eastern Europe, Champion bear killer, Judo kai, and archaeologist par excellence, Oppressor of the Pussy Riot and Invincible President forever Vlad Putin has said this green and sceptered land, of which Dave believes himself to be leader, is nothing more than a Small Island.

Whilst the comment is not directly attributed to Uncle Vlad, the comment was made by a Russian Official to the press gathered for the G20, including our very own venerable Auntie BEEB. Now, there are three ways of looking at this.

1. Vlad is losing control over his paid officials. (Anyone out there in any doubt the former Mr KGB centrefold owns everything and everyone?)
2. The official was repeating something he’d overheard being said by Vlad or one of his crony fat cats
3. He is following the official party line.

Of course the swashbuckling ‘Super Dave’ could not let this pass uncommented upon. He is the leader of the most important collection of small rocks this side of St Helena. He immediately waded into the fray swining a metaphorical broadsword highlighting the achievements of this sovereign nation. He must have had lots to chose from, but here is his list as reported by our maiden Aunt.

‘We are very proud of everything we do as a small island”
“Let me be clear – Britain may be a small island but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart or greater resilience,” he told reporters.
“Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the Second World War.
“Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worth inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.
“We are very proud of everything we do as a small island – a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilisation.”
He added: “For the people who live in Northern Ireland, I should say we are not just an island, we are a collection of islands. I don’t want anyone in Shetland or Orkney to feel left out by this.”

Well, that showed them then, …. Only, Just what achievements has Dave been responsible for?

Abolition of Slavery Act 1833, major achievement Dave, only it didn’t extend to every rock of the former Empire for some years, probably due to financier pressure. Oh and he forgot to mention we were the nation that openly embraced slavery and exploitation of the poor across the four corners of the globe.

Inventing most things worth mentioning, well we pioneered the use of concentration camps, World domination leading to mass death starvation and poverty. The rape and pillage of societies across the world to form the Empire upon which the sun never set. The settlement of disputes by force, rather than diplomacy. The imposition of foreign forms of government upon nations even as they leave the Empire, however grudgingly granted. The invention of the many weapons of war. (A question, would the longbow qualify as a weapon of mass destruction. I believe it would when viewed historically e.g. Agincourt)

Inventing most things worth mentioning including SPORT? Is that the best you can do Dave?

‘a prouder history, a bigger heart or greater resilience’ all built on the back of your average working man while the Posh stock sit back and accumulate the spoils. Not so much achievements as national character.

Proud of World War two? Of course, but also historical.

Not so historical, art, literature and music. All flourish in spite of rather than because of the present government.

‘a small island that has the sixth-largest economy,’ This cannot conceal, to our own citizens at least, that the economy is f****d. Dave and his banker chums may think everything is lovely and rosy but in the mire where the most of us live things don’t look so great.

‘the fourth best-funded military,’ Behind who? Are we really an example to others merely because we can say our Army is better than your Army? What about care for the young and the elderly? Social equality and integration are obviously less important than having lots of citizens armed to the teeth to beat thoise who disagree into submission.

‘some of the most effective diplomats,’ Who? What are their achievements? I see countries taking little, if any notice, of British Diplomats unless they are supporting the policies / requirements of the US. Where we send diplomats to talk to foreign governments on our own behalf they seem to achieve very little.

So, we are a little cluster of rocks onto which we cling precariously. The corporations domestic and foreign strip this land of wealth and resources. The air, land, sea and rivers are polluted by corporate mismanagement and land is built on, covered by tarmac and concrete leading to increased flooding risk. This once proud nation now cannot even recognise good ideas of others. There are issues with power generation. Take a leaf from the German book and have ALL public buildings fitted with solar PV.

Silly me the damn bosch thought of that one so we can’t be seen to adopt that idea. Actually, if you stop and think, the one thing this country of ours is truly great at is making enemies, even of friends.

Dave, wake up and smell the coffee.

The Pussy Riot have been found guilty, the sentence has been passed. Putin‘s Russia is being portrayed as descending into a Stalinesque condition.

I have mentioned the Pussy Riot before. Not being religeous it doesn’t particularly bother me that they did what they did in a church. I can see it would upset believers. But whatever happened to turning the other cheek?

To quote from CNN:

‘While their actions outraged many of Russia’s faithful, their high-profile trial prompted international concern about freedom of speech in Russia.’

The piece, which can be found here:

appears to be broadly supportive of the girls. I wonder what would have happened if a similar protest had taken place at a similarly holy site in the US? I specifically exclude Native American holy sites because we know how they have been treated by the whites over the years. No, I am talking specifically about a WASPish or Catholic house of worship. In my bones I feel the result would likely to be the same.

Fredom of speech is, or ought to be, a right to be enjoyed by citizens of the world. I know that this is not the case but it is how it should be. In the UK we are generally lucky. I may have petty squabbles with those who lord over me, but I am at no real risk of imprisonment or worse for saying something they disagree with.

In Russia it seems, this is not the case. The politically incorrectly named Pussy Riots remain in custody following a protest which involved singing songs in a cathedral which contained profane language. Apparently the women were protesting at the Orthodox Churches support of Putin. Their crime, the profanity and approaching too close to the alter.

The Kremlin seem to have interceded and prevented the women obtaining bail.

So while the Oligarchs bleed the country dry, organised gangs pedal drugs and prostitution, the state seeks to exert it’s undue influence over a trial involving three young women. But that’s OK because it’s a democracy isn’t it? They had an election after the constitution had been changed by Putin’s chums to allow him back in office.

Here is a link to the article I read;

Of course Putin is one of the people blocking any assistance, through the UN, to the people of Syria. Surely it is time the UN changed it’s voting protocol, one nation one vote. No veto and work off a straight majority.

Oh dear, politics again.

Russian maritme fly tipping

Posted: December 15, 2011 in fly tipping, MP, Royal Navy, Russia

The Russian fleet
Shelters from a storm
Garbage thrown
MP’s lather
We would really rather
They took there trash
Home again.
A question, what do the MP’s think the Royal Navy does with its trash?