November

There is no moustache to join in the fund raising of a Movember. It is long gone like the career I once expected that went with it. Seventeen years of no upper lip shaving swept away with the clip of some scissors and the scraping of a sharp blade. There was not even a tan line left behind, once the sink was rinsed. The face in the mirror was a shock, almost as much as the look on my children’s faces.  They had never known a non-moustached father nor one permanently out of uniform.

The moustache was a reminder from an earlier beard and other changes from my young adulthood. Like hair which occasionally was quite long. Now that is nearly all gone too. My multiple ages of man (The Seven Ages) may match Shakespeare’s words, but it feels like multiple adult lives.  There was the work time before the armed forces, then the military career which in turn encompassed multiple locations, jobs, stages, phases but not as many ranks as I had hoped.

Then there was the moustache-less rebirth as a civilian, jobs then as a self-employed consultant then back to the attractions of permanent roles. Again different jobs in different locations with one huge difference. I have stayed in one home. I have lived in this house longer than anywhere else, whilst jobs changed, children grew to adulthood and my little hair changed to grey.  Why this retrospective now, it is not an anniversary, but an anniversary has prompted these thoughts.

I worked from home on Tuesday and walked in the dull drizzle to the war memorial where at 11:00 I stood for the requisite two minutes and contemplated the war dead. The memorial was ill attended on Armistice Day although on Remembrance Sunday it had been busy. Then we had stopped the car for the two minutes, on a journey to see family. As I stood with my wife and the dozen others, cars drove by seemingly oblivious. The silence was in my head. The memories were in my head.

I have written before about my annoyance at not commemorating proper dates and I was glad to see the BBC make an effort on Tuesday with its coverage from The Tower of London and Ypres. Perhaps in 1918 we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the war on the proper day. I find it hard to enjoy the commemoration of the start of the war. On Monday I used my lunch break to join the crowds at the Tower of London for the stunning display:

IMG_0406Wednesday provided a shock, as my daughter’s boyfriend broke his leg during training on an Army course. This flooded memories of other notifications and more remembrance, from my service days of delivering bad news or hearing it.

The growers of the Movember Moustaches raise funds for Men’s Health. By raising funds they hope that there will be fewer notifications or treatments required. I shall not be growing one to join in although for an unshaven weekend I was tempted, but I can support them. My son is growing one – so well done him, He’s growing the one I once had my wife has just commented. I wonder, if, at the end of the month, the growers will be glad to cut, trim, and shave, the hair away. Perhaps some will remain for several years or return next year for an anniversary.

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Ramblings on a Referendum

IMG_0169 I’ve just returned from a week in Las Palmas in The Canary Islands of Spain, don’t worry this is not trip advisor. Away from the UK my wife and I missed the Scottish referendum election and much of the ongoing horrors in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine alongside the Ebola crisis. Not that these events have gone away, even the referendum will have ramifications for months in the UK as the politicians will decide which of the bribes they proposed to the Scottish electorate will be fulfilled – oh and England, Wales and Northern Ireland may get some constitutional change too. How generous, although the argument now seems to be either: from Labour on what the impact will be on reducing the ability of Scottish Labour MPs to vote on English matters; the Conservatives need something to continue their fight with  UKIP.
Meanwhile another group of MPs continue to receive their salaries and benefits of MPs without ever attending Parliament or taking up their seats. Sinn Féin step forward no news there.

As I discussed in a previous post the whole referendum process for Scotland was anything but democratic for the rest of the UK in the end 55% of those voting which was 85.5% (thanks for bothering, but what happened to the other 15%) of the 4.3m, or 3.6m decided the future of 64m. We had the unedifying view of all the main political parties disappearing to Scotland with vague promises on DevoMax which they had all decided previously should not have been on the ballot. Promises put forward by Gordon Brown, so we can all believe those!. I think the SNP were right to describe this as a pointless halfway house if Scotland really wanted control it had to vote yes. Further devolved powers do not make us more united. Of course the independence movement failed to mention the real problem – with so much legislation decided by Brussels or other treaty obligations even an independent Scotland would not have had that much control just like Westminster does not. That was if the EU (Spain may well have vetoed), NATO (would take defence commitments) and the UN (they will take anyone) accepted applications. What about the World Bank, IMF, World Health Organisation these international institutions are all part of legislative and economic power base of the world. Would an independent Scotland have joined the European Space Agency? Perhaps it was this and the currency uncertainties that tipped the balance in favour on a no. Who knows perhaps it was the colour of the flag that appealed.

The Liberal Democrats (remember them they are still in the Coalition) have proposed a federal organisation of the UK as part of the reform. My son who has studied this stuff likes the idea. If it creates another layer of bureaucracy which the previous Labour regional assembly proposals did then I would be against. Labour wants to follow the example of London for more power to big cities but then what about those of us that do not live in big cities? Whatever happens Parliamentary reform is long overdue we should have far fewer MPs given the devolved powers already and even fewer in the Lords. Perhaps 500 MPs with devolved powers to regional parliaments and 250 in the Lords – elected please.

Meanwhile the Pope thinks World War 3 is effectively under way due to the conflicts throughout the world. Not quite; however brutal and the number of conflicts. Clearly it makes no difference to the victims whether the Pope thinks it’s a World War or not but human history is full of mostly unreported conflict. The battles in Africa seem never ending mostly based on tribal divisions made worse by the colonial false borders. There seems no easy resolution of the Syria conflict without supporting Assad, the very man the Western powers (and others) wanted removed, in order to defeat the allegedly bigger threat of ISIS, IS or ISL.

The appalling beheading on video of hostages adds to the fear element in the West allowing/forcing the politicians to act as if that one death is worse than the death from Ebola, Malaria, AIDS, or cancer. Horrific yes but so is a bomb from a coalition aircraft or a shell from an ISIS fighter. Remember those wonderful pictures of precision bombing. Someone’s son, brother, father, daughter, sister or mother has just been publicly killed. No squeamishness from western media in showing that video, but of course the victims are not journalists or aid workers. Not that we know who was in the vehicle or building alongside the fighter. The famous unverified reports beloved of BBC speak especially when dealing with sensitive subjects, must not get in trouble with the government when the next license fee discussion is under way even to the point of not reporting a story about a famous tennis player in case his view influences (only during voting day) the Scottish Referendum – really? The BBC’s efforts not to fall foul or the Electoral Commission are sometimes laughable, just like the promises of constitutional reform which we will now have to sit through.