Thursday, 29 March 2018

Exactly One Year To Brexit!


It is now 11.00pm on the 29th March 2018. In exactly a year from now, we walk out of the European Union, not on the terms that we would like, and the aftermath will be pretty messy, but we will walk out.

Brexit, sadly, is not going to be an event, instead, it will be a process that has only just begun. We need to start arguing for the type of Britain that we want after March 2019, otherwise, our former allies on the political right will make all the running.

We voted for many economic things in 2016 and many of them are already starting to come true. When I wrote Brexit: For a New Country over a weekend in May 2016 I included this appeal to ordinary people:
Forget changing the law to restrict the entry of scab labour, forget rebuilding the unions that we once had or the Labour Party that we once had to speak for us.

Forget all that for the moment and concentrate on the notion that if foreign labour ceases to flood into the country, then almost by definition your wages will start to rise. If there is no longer a reserve army of unemployed and underemployed people then management scum will have to start offering decent wages to you and to people like you. They may hate you as much as you hate them, but they are not stupid and they need someone to actually do the bastard work that creates the wealth which they then skim off and enjoy. That someone could be you, with for the first time in your life, a decent bloody wage packet burning a hole in your pocket. 
Who can deny that this is now happening? Wages are rising and conditions are improving precisely because scab labourers no longer feel welcome in our country. That is why my 17-year-old son has more work than he can handle flipping burgers at a McDonald's and why he eagerly anticipates his 18th birthday in a month's time when he will get another pay rise and can then work the night shift which pays even more money. 

People like us understand that bastard fucking work is the price we pay for our money and companies like McDonald's know that they have to increase the wages to keep the workers now that Britain is a cold land for immigrants.



Those of us who are on the left, the real left, the left that believes in economic matters and has no interest in cultural ones, argued that case for years. It was one of the roots of our opposition to the whole EU experiment.  We were told that the economy would collapse after a Brexit vote, but two years later the economy, our economy that is, booms as it has not done for years.

Looking ahead, Labour needs to accept that position as dictated by us. If it wants our votes, then it must revert to its old, protectionist, state-support for industry base, otherwise, it will stay out of office no matter what Jeremy Corbyn says or thinks.

That is for the future. For the here and now, let us take a deep breath and look forward to the next year as we head inexorably towards the exit from the European Union.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

A Sensible Prepping Guide, Available Free Now!


A Sensible Prepping Guide is now available as an ebook from Amazon and it is completely free right up to Friday, 23rd March at 7.00am. So you have five full days to download it.

The file is not DRM encoded so you can make a free copy if you wish. I would rather you didn't, but what the hell, encoding a book file just makes the pirates more determined to break it and then gloat about their triumph all over the web. 

This e-pamphlet consists of last week's postings, with some extra material added in. I hope you enjoy having it as one file for easy reference.

Amazon UK                   Amazon USA

All I ask is that having read the book, you leave a review on Amazon.

If you do not have a Kindle reader, then you can get a free Kindle for computer or mobile app by clicking this link.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

My Ruskin College, Oxford, Posts


Late last year I was invited to write a series of posts for the Ruskin College, Oxford, website. I submitted five and the college has published the first four, with the spiked fifth post appearing here at my own blog.

To be honest, I don't blame the college for spiking the final post, since it is a depressing read as you will see in a moment. If you are trying to convince people that higher education is the road to a brighter tomorrow, then the stories of old lags like me who bought into that myth in the 1980s doesn't really help you to talk people into forking out good money to go to Oxford. At least in my day, the state paid us to study, rather than the other way around.


Here is the fifth post:


Life for a Ruskin Man After University

More than one person told me before I went to Ruskin in 1983 that if I could get a diploma from the college I would be guaranteed a job in the Labour Movement. I was also told that if I did an honours degree after Ruskin I would have my pick of jobs. Given that most union officers, researchers and an awful lot of Labour MPs were Ruskin men in those days that struck me at the time as sensible bits of advice to follow.

Unfortunately, Thatcherism turned out to be more than a passing fancy, with the result that many of us ended up with a degree and no jobs at all at the end of our student lives, so let me look back at what happened to my generation.

A few former Ruskinites ended up doing very well for themselves indeed. I can think of one man who is now a happy professor with the Open University and living in Italy. Another is a well-fed barrister and a third is a City of London solicitor who works for a major firm.

What those people had in common was that they all tended to be at the lower end of the Ruskin age-range. They also tended to be from vaguely middle-class backgrounds and something had prevented them from going to university in their late teen years, so they went to Ruskin in their very early twenties. In other words, by and large, they were people who already had the cultural norms that allowed them to fit into upper-middle-class employment patterns, coupled with a determination to do exactly that.

At the other end of the scale were people who were well into middle age when they arrived at Ruskin. Many were industrial workers who had given a lifetime to their unions and were being rewarded with a word in the right ear and a scholarship to Ruskin. They had been told that a union job or seat in the Commons would be theirs, but those promises turned out to be unfulfilled when the great industrial unions vanished along with their industries.

Sadly, after university, many of those people spent the remaining decade or so of their working lives signing on the dole until their state pensions kicked in.

However, the bulk of the eighty or so people who took their diplomas in the mid-1980s falling between those two stools, with my experience as a graduate in his early thirties being fairly typical.
After graduating in 1988 I went back to doing the last job that I had held before it all began in 1983 which involved throwing drunks out of nightclubs. A Ruskin friend of mine who had stayed at Oxford to do a degree had then gone on to take a Certificate in Further Education which qualified him to teach in the Further Education sector so at his recommendation I did the same thing at the same London college that had taken him.

My first job interview with my newly printed certificate turned out to be at a college where all the tutors were on strike, so the job that was being advertised actually belonged to someone who was stood on the picket line that was being mounted outside the main entrance. Instead of going in I stood outside with the strikers, drinking hot, sweet tea, smoking cigarettes and moaning about life in Britain.

My next interview was with a woman who told me that Ruskin was a “workerist institution,” and she doubted that I would be able to fully empathise with the “multicultural leaner experience.” It was at that point that I rather spoiled her nonsense by bursting out into mocking, raucous laughter, and then getting up and going to the nearest pub.

Many Ruskin people had already decided to go abroad. One went to Hungary just as the Cold War ended and became an English teacher.  Another, a former projectionist like me, married a South African Zulu who was also at Ruskin, and they moved to that country as soon as they could.

I ended up in Mexico, where I learned Spanish and did a variety of things both academic and otherwise. I fathered three Anglo-Mexican sons and learned to understand that poverty is far better in a warm climate than a cold one.

Had I not gone to Ruskin all those years ago I am sure that I would have spent my life in Manchester and unemployed for most of it. As it was, Ruskin gave me the skills that I have used to write my books, especially the political pamphlets that helped in some tiny way to get Britain out of the European Union. It acted as a gateway to the University of Manchester and from there to Garnett College, London. Six fat years with full grants and age addition supplements, coupled with the ability to sign on during the vacations, amounted in income terms to far more than I could have ever hope to earn as a casual, short-term worker, interspersed with long periods on the social, which was the life most working people were reduced to in those days.

That said, it did not lead to the life that I had been told would be mine before I went to Ruskin in the first place.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Sensible Prepping


Let's conclude this series of postings about prepping by summarising the themes that have emerged over the past week.

The first and most important to my mind is the notion that being prepared for a crisis that may occur is not an eccentric attitude to have. It is how the generations who lived in this country before us used to behave, and it is how many millions of people all across the planet behave to this day. The idea that things are never so bad that they can't get a bloody sight worse is a dictum that we should all take to heart and try to learn lessons from.

The second lesson is the thought that trusting the state and its agents to take over the role that for centuries was provided by robust individuals, their families and their communities is a mistake of the first order these days. The fact that a bit of snow and cold weather that lasted for about three days in late February 2018 led to a near system collapse is something that should trouble all of us. If three days led to such chaos, then imagine what three months would bring!

We have to start taking responsibility for our own well-being and stop pretending that the state or the collective incompetence of today's private businesses will do it for us. 

It is against this background that I believe that people need to make sensible preparations for future events. I have constantly used the word sensible as I honestly do not believe that even if the shit does hit the fan, then the end of civilisation will necessarily follow.

The creaking, incompetent, state machine will provide the water and rations needed to keep a population in distress alive, but it will do it badly and in its own good time. We, as rational adults have a duty to recognise that fact, and take our own precautions.

I have advised people to keep a stock of cash on hand at all times. That can be in the bank, but in an account that can be accessed at a moment's notice. People who worry about the long-term stability of sterling might wish to keep some of their savings in American dollars since the greenback is today the world's reserve currency.

Supplies of food and water should be kept in the house, with thirty days worth being my suggestion for food. I argued that some supplies would get through, anyway, so your stocks are a supplement to that, not a total replacement.

Those of you who work may think about leaving a bag at work with some basic supplies in it such as a change of clothes, sturdy walking shoes and some food bars. Motorists should never let their car's petrol tank fall below half-full and I suggest that they keep a bag or box in the boot with a blanket, water bottle and supply of cereal bars in it. Finally, learn to keep at least some cash in your wallet or purse as a matter of course. Stop relying on plastic at all times and remember my newly minted dictum that cash is king and plastic is only for plonkers. 

Finally, be sensible about all this and don't go overboard about anything. I reckon that the most that I have spent for items that were bought just to put into storage comes to roughly £100. That includes my solid fuel stove, a gas camping stove and camping heater, some gas canisters for them both, a large water container, a camping shower, a rechargeable lantern and some candles.

The rest is food that was not purchased especially for storage, it is just canned versions of the things that I eat on a regular basis. I built up the stockpile by buying a few extra cans every week until I had my complete stash and now I take items from that stash and then buy replacements as part of my weekly shopping. 

So I hope to get by, and I hope you do as well. At the end of the day that is just about all that any of us can hope to do.

Good luck to you all.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Sundry Preparations


Let's imagine that we have another killer winter like the one of 1962/63 when the whole country was snowbound from late December to early March. Let's also imagine that as the thaw sets in the pipes start to bust so water becomes a premium commodity.

You, being the responsible soul that you are, have a plentiful supply of canned goods in the house, and you may even have the means to cook if the power goes out. You have stocked up on drinking water and there is a river or canal nearby where you can get water for washing if necessary.

Now then, did you remember to get the sundry items that are needed? So, you have canned foods, but can you wash the pots that you cook them in or have you suddenly realised that you don't have any washing up liquid?  You decide to go to the lavatory and find that the toilet paper is about to run out. You are running out of clean clothes, so tell me how the stock of laundry soap is doing. Come to think of it, is your soap powder designed for a machine or can it also be used for washing clothes by hand? Had you ever thought about investing in a bar of laundry soap, or have you no idea what a bar of laundry soap even is?

You see how it works? You stock up on the big things and the smaller, sundry items get forgotten about. 

Of course, you can stock up on sundries in your emergency cupboard, but that strikes me as a waste of space and money. What I do is always have these items on hand and then go through them so as one gets used, another is purchased to take its place.

Let's take washing up liquid as an example. I live alone so don't need very much, but I still always buy the extra large bottles of the stuff. I always have one bottle in reserve and when the one in use is empty I start using the reserve and then buy another reserve when I next go to the shops.

The same is true of toilet paper. Many people who live solitary lives only buy a pack of two or four rolls, as they think that is all that they need for the month. I take the view that life is simpler if you have goodly supplies of things so I buy a 24 or 36 roll pack and when it becomes half empty I get another one to have in reserve.

What is true of washing up liquid and toilet rolls applies to just about everything that I use in the house, with the result that supplies are almost always in hand. 

Partly this attitude is to do with memories passed down to me of wartime shortages. Partly also to do with my own age since I can remember life before the massive supermarkets when corner shops were the only game in town and sometimes they did run out of supplies. However, I suspect that the main reason is to be found in all those years in Mexico where shortages are a fact of life. The corner shop across the street would run out of soap powder and unlike Britain where shops go to a wholesaler to purchase new supplies, the Mexican ones wait for a truck to make its weekly deliveries. If the delivery is not due for another week, then they would never think to go to the wholesaler themselves, they just sit behind the counter with a look of indifference on their faces. Sorry, we have no soap powder until next week.

So I got into the habit of bypassing the local shops pretty much entirely and driving to a supermarket. Alas, Mexico being what it is, sometimes they had run out of what I wanted and the staff had no idea when the next supplies would arrive. To get around that problem I just began to buy massive quantities of everything for myself and the family. Luckily, we had a very large house, so storage space was not a problem.

Back in the UK, it is obvious to me that a sophisticated, computer run, just in time system of distribution will break down because it is run by idiots and will break down at the first sign of bad weather or the like. So I live as I have always lived and keep a thirty day supply of sundries in the house. The difference between the sundries and the emergency store is that the sundries tend to be rotated through on a regular basis.

The exception to that are my backup supplies. I always keep two spare can openers in the house and my can openers are always manually operated, and of very good quality. Both were rather expensive and neither has ever been used, but I will be damned if I will be reduced to opening cans by banging a large screwdriver through the lids with a hammer.

I keep a pack of non-automatic washing powder in the emergency stash. Yes, you can hand wash with automatic powder or liquid, but it is not easy so why bother? The washing powder was cheap and can sit there forever, if necessary. I hope it is never used, but if it is needed, there it is.

Taking up far too much space in the house is a plastic tub that serves no useful purpose whatsoever, but will be needed if the power ever goes out and I need to wash clothes by hand.

By the way, have you figured out what laundry soap bars are yet? You hardly see them in this country, but they are still used in most of the rest of the world. They consist of a bar of very hard soap, about half a pound in weight, and are ideal for camping and the like since they save the need to carry powder. I bought one in Mexico and brought it home with me for my stash, but then lent it to a Guatemalan lady who begged it from me. Needless to say, women being women, she has never replaced it, so Maria Teresa if you are reading this, when can I expect my replacement bar of laundry soap?

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Everyday Carrying Items


If you have decided to keep a bag at work in case of emergencies then you will probably not be adverse to the idea of having items about your person, or in your everyday briefcase or handbag, to use when a crisis occurs.

What you carry is up to you, based on your assessment of what could conceivably happen as part of your daily commute. Please note, that I did write conceivably in the last sentence, so let's forget about EMP strikes, foreign invaders parachuting onto our shores or people turning into zombies. That said, looking at most commuters these days I often wonder how many of them are already zombies.

Some years ago I watched a television report about a train wreck on the outskirts of London. A man was interviewed who carried a hammer in his briefcase and had used it to break the windows in his carriage to get himself and others out of the train.

The interviewer was fascinated by this suited commuter with an office worker's briefcase who carried a hammer in it. The fellow then explained that a few years earlier he had been in another train crash and had found that the hammers provided in carriages to break the windows in case of an emergency were little better than children's toys, so he started carrying a real hammer that could be used to break real train windows.

Back in 2010, I was living in Putney, London, for a few months. One fine day I was having a drink in a pub - the Spotted Horse, Putney High Street, if you must know - and I fell to chatting with a woman of about my own age, so born in the mid-1950s, who had survived the 7/7 bombings. She had been on one of the underground trains, although luckily so far away from the bomb that she and the other passengers in her carriage had no idea that they had suffered a terrorist attack. The general consensus at first was that the train had been involved in a collision.

However, all the lights went out, and people had to sit in darkness for quite some time. In those days not all mobile phones had built-in torches so there was only the light provided by cigarette lighters and the odd torch that someone had.

The passengers were eventually led out of the train and as the realisation dawned on people what had happened her nervousness led to a great thirst, which she was not able to quench as the people who had got off the train earlier had grabbed all the bottled water that had been available in the nearest shop.

Since that horrible event, she had carried first a torch and then a set of lightsticks, the long, plastic tubes that have chemicals inside and when bent allow those chemicals to mix to create light. Some can last for several hours, and others are only good for about 30 minutes. She went for the latter type since they give off a very bright light that will illuminate a whole room or underground train carriage.  She concluded, rather sadly I thought, that she had used the lightsticks on several occasions.

The lessons from those two stories are that British infrastucture really is so atrocious as to be a national embarrassment and that people have to be prepared to take care of their own immediate needs. It is not an individual's fault that the infrastructure is only held together by duct tape, epoxy resin glue and a prayer, but we are responsible for our own lives. So we need to analyse our daily situation and decide what we should carry on the off chance that things will go wrong as part of the day.

Now, not everyone will feel the need to carry a hammer to break out of a wrecked train, or lightsticks to illuminate a darkened carriage, as it may be that those items are regarded by most people as excessive. However, a fully charged mobile phone, with a small power pack carried in a pocket or handbag, also fully charged, strikes me as fairly basic. That the handset should also have a built-in torch goes without saying. A reasonable amount of cash to cover times when the plastic is no good for whatever reason is also a matter of common sense to me.

Above all else, is the realisation that the state machinery is now creaking at best and that we are now as responsible for our own immediate needs as our ancestors in the years before the welfare state was created.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Get Home Bags


If any reasonably sane person starts to investigate get-home bags they will be stunned to see the recommendations that are put forward by the so-called experts in the preparation field. Bags that seem to include guns, large amounts of ammunition and seriously dangerous knives are all opened up and photographed by people who seem to think that the contents really will be of any use to anyone. Either that, or it is their idea of pornography.

That said, even though I have no real use for a get-home bag I will recommend that you keep one at work, if possible. I have no use for such a bag on account of the fact that I am retired, but for those who work away from home,  a get-home bag, kept at work, could very well turn out to be very useful indeed.

Just take it seriously, be British about it, and don't go off the wall by stocking everything in it. You are not trying to get home from the other side of the world since the vast majority of British people work within ten miles of their home. So you really don't need any of the junk that you will be recommended to have if you do a Google search for get-home bags.

On the 7th July 2005, London was subjected to a set of vicious terrorist attacks that left 52 people dead and a transport system that closed down completely whilst the state figured out just what exactly had hit the city. The buses outside the centre started to operate in the late afternoon, with some of the underground system starting up again the next morning.

In Edinburgh, during the mid-evening of the 28th February 2018, the snowstorm stopped all the buses and most of the taxis, with the bus service not restarting until the late morning of the 2nd March.

In both cities people found themselves stuck with no means of getting home, although it must be said that it was less of a problem in Edinburgh as the storm hit after most people had finished work and headed for home. In London, since the attacks came in the morning rush hour, tens of thousands of people found themselves trapped at work with no means of getting anywhere. 

Some walked, others took a hotel for the night, with very many other bedding themselves down in their offices until the chaos outside had calmed down.  It is for people in that situation that the idea of a get-home bag with three days supplies in it was thought up.

Do you really expect to be stuck for three days? Realistically, no, so the reason why you should have three days worth of supplies in the bag is that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Besides, you may end up helping out your less prepared workmates.

If you think that you may one day have to sleep at work then remember that any idiot can be uncomfortable, so try and plan to be as comfortable as possible. A sleeping mat does not cost very much and takes up hardly any space rolled up. A sleeping bag may be seen as an unnecessary expense, but cheap, summerweight bags can be had for a very reasonable price and they hardly take up any room in a bag. Given that you will be sleeping in a building, not out in the wilds, such a sleeping bag would be fine all year round.

If you are going to have to march ten miles home then a decent pair of walking shoes are just essential, as is comfortable clothing that you can walk in. Ladies, you may look great in your Armani suit with a pair of killer heels on your feet, but do you really want to be pounding the pavements like that?

If the crisis hits in the winter then you will probably be wearing outerwear for the elements, but for the summer months, a raincoat might be an idea for your bag. It may have been bright sunshine when you left the house, with the long-range forecast predicting weather like that all week, but this is the UK and we all know that weather forecasts are a work of fiction so tomorrow you could find yourself walking home in torrential rain.

Underwear, T-shirts, socks, that's where your three-day supplies start. The weight is minimal, but the need could very well turn out to be great.

Food should also be in the bag. Go for the energy and breakfast bars that you can find in any supermarket. Stick a load in the bag, along with anything else that is easy to transport and needs no cooking. Realistically, there will be plenty of cafes open, unless it is an unexpected snowstorm that hits you, in which case they probably won't be, so stock up and be sure of being safe rather than ever being sorry.

Water is a must, or rather a couple of plastic bottles that you can refill. We may only get scorching hot summers once in a while, but Sod's Law dictates that you will have to go on your long march on a day when the thermometer is in the 90s.

A mobile phone charger, because again Sod's Law will ensure that your mobile telephone runs out of juice, along with the power pack that you carry in your pocket at all times. You do carry such a power pack, don't you? Of course you do...

A few quid in small denomination notes and change will come in handy if the terminals stop working or you find yourself in a cash-only shop. The change means that you can use a payphone on the street if you can find one these days. In the hours after the 7/7 atrocities, pretty much all the mobile phone signals were out of action because everyone was trying to call home at the same time. The sensible thing would have been to send boring old texts which did get through, but people wanted to hear voices, or they didn't think, either way, the mobile network was swamped.

You might even want to keep a very cheap, very simple mobile phone that is only good for calls and texts in your bag. It might be an idea to have one that works on another network to your usual handset. That way if one network is swamped you have at least the chance of the other being free.

Finally, a small notebook with all your important people and their contact details written in it. Yes, I know that nobody remembers phone numbers these days and we all have them stored in the mobile's memory, so what happens if you lose the damned handset? I accept that this is unlikely to happen, but for the sake of a small amount of space, where's the harm in keeping those important details written down on paper?

The above are just suggestions, so obviously you can add or delete whatever you wish from your own bag, according to your own needs and priorities as you assess them to be.

What I would say is don't go overboard on this. Statistically, you only have to walk ten miles at most to get home. There will be plenty of people with you, all making the same journey and whenever a crisis hits people cooperate with each other. For instance, when my car got stuck in a snowdrift in early 2018, a man galloped off to his house to grab his snow shovel to help dig the car out of the drift so I could get on my way. The drivers of the other cars that were blocked in by my vehicle sat patiently until my car was freed and then when I managed to park up on the main road, they slowed down to check that I was alright.

So don't worry, as you are with your own people in your own country, and you can help each other.
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