TAKING CONTROL ON THE NET

Internet Map. Ninian Smart predicts global com...
Image via Wikipedia

Are values different these days?  Once upon a time you could tell a lawyer, doctor, estate agent!  anything and know that it would not be repeated. Nowadays, I have my doubts that is still the case. Of course, these people have professional codes of practice, but somehow the word seems to ‘get out’. Just check the tabloids.

And what about loyalty and integrity amongst friends? That appears to be rare these days. You meet someone, have a relationship with them, it breaks down and you are left the keeper of secrets… How many ex-partners feeling resentful and hurt about a break-up manage to keep their mouths shut? You probably gave your ex-partner photos, documents, letters? Recently a friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend only to see he had used all the photos she’d taken of him on dating sites. How hurtful is that? Where is discretion?

The whole issue of personal data protection is fraught with problems. What should you do if someone uses personal information they have about you in another context? Does that add up to theft? A photo is a likeness of you and that’s pretty personal. What about love letters? When you are dead, it won’t matter a jot. But while you are still breathing, how can you stop someone sabotaging your personality by showing your letters to other people? If you are rich and famous you can sue. Most ordinary citizens can’t do that and now that the Internet dominates our lives, you can simply Google someones name and see what is on the net about them and their personal life. It can feel very threatening and you can do nothing about it,

Social network sites do have privacy laws, but you can’t stop your details being uploaded elsewhere, because details about you can be accessed through your work, your friends, even through other sites. You may think you are researching your family in confidence. YOU ARE NOT.  And once you are on the net, you are there forever, it seems. Out in the ether, your details, your name, your family, your job contacts, your likes and dislikes cannot be rubbed out once they are on the net.  There may be lies about you or others may have used your good name to lie about themselves in order to make themselves look more employable or just more interesting than they really are. We all recognise a nutter during a real life interaction but it’s much more difficult on the net because all the other clues, like body language and eye contact are missing.

Unlike a newspaper, where after a mistake is made in an editorial about someone’s personal life, an apology can be printed the next day, on the Internet, that can’t be done. You can contact the site manager, but the organisation maybe based thousands of miles away from you and you will have to wait for an email response that may not deal appropriately with your complaint.

The internet is an amazing resource and I cannot now imagine life without it, but beware of what you upload about yourself and who has access to your personal details because they can so easily post them on dozens of sites without your permission and you may never be able to remove them

© Lyn Ferrand 2009

NOT THE TIME TO BE YOUNG

English: Peter Mandelson, British politician a...
English: Peter Mandelson, British politician and European Trade Commissioner, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote this in 2009.

The unemployment rate in the UK stands at 8% as I write this. To put it a little more succinctly – the number of people out of work in the three months up to June this year, was 2.435 million. Soon there will be over 3 million people without work. But to put these numbers into perspective, look up the global figures. This is not a good time to be young. Jobs are few and far between and graduates are queuing up alongside school-leavers with no qualifications.

August is known as the silly season. Most of our politicians are on holiday and Peter Mandelson is running the country.  He has been shouting off about ‘ economic stimulus’ and other nonsense – I call it nonsense, because nothing seems to be happening except he and his cronies are mouthing a lot of rhetoric in an attempt to make the plebeians – us, feel appeased. I warn Mr Mandelson – it is not working. We need action.

We are now told that unemployment on such a scale will cause social problems to escalate. We can expect more domestic violence, more crime, more marriage break-up, more unrest. Along with global warming and swine ‘flu, that’s not a lot to look forward to! The ‘feel-good’ factor will be a long time coming back.  So what about the people who are in jobs but are being paid far more than we, the public think they are worth? Those in the banking and corporate sector? Or in the media or footballers and pop stars? Our local authorities employ top executives that earn more than the Prime Minister. And what about the medics? Our general practitioners and dentists are often earning more that £300,000 a year. Is that right, when the most precious pool of talent we have – our future – our youth cannot get work?

Our politicians need to develop a much more transparent attitude towards the wealthy and wealth in general; a more candid approach to its social and behavioural repercussions, in the same way as they do about the unemployed. But it’s a debate that all parties are scared to engage in. And it’s hard to gauge when someone has become disgustingly rich. At what point do they become unacceptably super-rich? And should this be tolerated when such a high proportion of people are losing their homes and living on the breadline in 2009?

Our recent culture of greed has not produced productivity. It has, in truth led us into economic collapse and recession. We have been encouraged to pursue wealth above all else. How many of us envy the spoils of excessive wealth? How many of us live the dream of becoming lottery millionaires?

Chasing wealth has not created any real incentive to make this country better than it currently is.  There must be something else? We have to offer our young people – our future  – something better.

FAMILY FOOD

Pasta making
Image via Wikipedia

My parents were Italian. They loved food. And could my mother cook? Like an angel. For a week before Christmas, she would be making pasta dough. Strings of spaghetti would hang over the backs of chairs, ravioli covered every surface. I remember the smells, the colours and the tastes. My favourite treats were Torta – a pie made with potatoes and spices and another dish, the name of which I cannot recall but I can taste it now, as I write this – sweet ravioli filled with chestnuts soaked in liquor and honey. Fantastic and so reminiscent of my childhood Christmases.

I am now going to research these ancient Italian recipes and once I’ve tried and tested them, I will post them here. In the meantime, try my daughter’s amazing food at Muckrach Lodge Hotel in Scotland. I am told the restaurant is to die for….   Bon Apetite!www.muckrach.com

A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER

Singin' in the Rain
Image via Wikipedia

Rain. It’s out there. It’s going on and on and on and….

You know what I mean? If you are reading this in the UK, you will be sampling the delights of water falling from the sky every day. Do you have your ark ready? Soon, when you read magazines with names like Dozens Of Beautiful Homes, you will see photos of boats; big boats, small boats, boats wallpapered with Laura Ashley paper, poop decks painted with Farrow and Ball, galley kitchens fitted out by Mark Wilkinson…. That’s when you know that rain really is here to stay. Rain has become fashionable. Rain can make money. Rain is the new economic miracle. Buy shares in rain!

Each morning, I scan the heavens for a glimpse of something that I expected to see at least a hundred times between June and September. THE SUN! (The only sun I can look at now is being sold at the garage down the road and tells me global warming is here to stay. I KNEW THAT!) So, like a man putting away childish things when he becomes a man, I have put away my sun glasses, my swimming suit, my garden (sun) loungers, my tan. I am descending in to SAD. My central heating may go on in August. The outside walls of my house are constantly dripping and my gutters groan in complaint at the weight of water running through them. Even the birds have hidden themselves and only appear for a quick worm forage on the lawn, between showers.

Let’s try and be positive. The plants have grown into Triffids. They are huge. The combination of warm air and constant rain has them made them expand in all directions. No good going out there with a pair of fragile clippers and gently snipping. I need a chain saw. And every spare container is full of water. I can rinse my hair with rain any day of the week, now.

At the start of our summer, we had a couple of weeks of heat wave. We were all waiting for the declaration that this was going to turn into a draught! Standpipes were inevitable. Water would be very, very scarce if the sun continued to shine and the temperatures soar… I hope those weather forecasters are hiding their heads in shame – under their rain hoods!

How to cope with all this wet? Well, grow rice on your lawn. Mine already resembles a paddy field. Plug in your Ipod and listen to Gene Kelly. Singing in The Rain can put a spring in your step. You can wind yourself and your umbrella around any lamp post you encounter and splash policemen to your hearts content – it must be permissible in all this RAIN! You can collect rain water in large barrels and feel good about it. Save the stuff until the next drought when you can wash your clothes in it. You can fill bottles with a mix of rain and whiskey and drink when SAD becomes unmanageable. Think how much money you will save the NHS if you don’t have to be sectioned? There is so much you can do with rain; you just have to use your imagination.

Send ideas on a post card, please to Noah’s Ark, Devon.

THE BEAUTY OF LOSS

Stained glass panel in the chancel of St. John...
Image via Wikipedia

Every moment of every day of our lives we are dealing with loss. The pain loss can cause is so tangible, it feels like torture of the heart. If we are lucky enough to reach adult hood without experiencing the death of anyone we know or love, we can so easily live with a sense that we are invincible. We see death all around us, yet somehow, it remains distant if it hasn’t touched us personally. We may instead,  experience loss through a lover leaving or rejecting us. We may lose a job or a home. And all create wounds; scars that go as deep as death and remain with us for a lifetime.

Life must be lived as if one is on a tightrope. To try and protect yourself all the time, is like keeping a beautiful object hidden in a drawer. So loss must be accepted as part of the risk of being alive. Once, I flew across the world to visit someone I loved very much. I was blind and foolish, because the love was unequal. I ended up abused and hurt and the loss has lasted a long time. But I would not have missed the experience. It heightened my perception of joy and gave me the chance to experience an exquisite happiness, even though it did not last.

Facing my own death is not something I ever thought about until recently. When I was very young, I occasionally allowed thoughts of death to slip into my thinking, briefly. I read the occasional book about life after death and near death experiences. It was an interesting but far away mystery that I had plenty of time to explore. Life seemed so long. When I was twenty, I would see forty as so far ahead; like the moon is from earth. Years were eons. Life stretched and stretched and time was long, like my hair. Now, time is short. Every moment must be packed with adventure, with doing, with seeing. Nothing must be missed. It’s become so important to experience every second, because the seconds run into minutes into hours into weeks into years….  The years are gone before you have time to count the days and then – here it is: the Day You Have To Die. No use saying, sorry – not today, thank you. I have something better to do, like live! No use at all. It will happen.

I will be a loss to my family one day.  Cards will be printed with my picture on them, with In Loving Memory written underneath. How long will I be a memory – loving or otherwise? I look at photos of family members who have died and wonder who they were. They look familiar, but their memory fades so easily. I cannot remember my father’s face, but I want to. I want to.

The sweet scent of loss pervades our lives. It always will. Like the falling petals from a bunch of roses that lay scattered on the ground, we must pick loss up and examine it, see the colour, smell the scent, appreciate the beauty of its design. Loss is there for a purpose. It takes a lifetime to work it out.

A DISEASE CALLED DEBT?

Credit cards
Image via Wikipedia

Swine ‘Flu has given the government the perfect red herring. While we are all panicking over the vague possibility that we might get the bug, millions of us are getting a variety of much more serious illnesses through the weight of our debts. I do not know a single person who is not burdened with trying to pay off either an overdraft or a credit card debt and is not feeling the effects physically or mentally.

These days, at dinner parties, the perfect hosts encourages discussion not about the sale of your house, but the question of capitalism. Comedian Mark Thomas even has a show touring about it. It’s called: It’s The Stupid Economy. In this performance, he asks audiences to help him draw up a manifesto. Gordon Brown, watch out.

So, what to do, when you look at your financial situation and feel suicidal? Just recently, I heard the horrendous tale of a wealthy business man who became so engulfed in debt that he felt the only way out was to shoot his wife, his fifteen year old daughter, their dogs and horses and burn down his house and everything in it, killing himself in the process. The fact that owning money can make an intelligent man – he must have been intelligent to make all that money in the first place – resort to such a terrible way to solve his predicament, is an indictment to the way we have been brain-washed to worship at the altar of money. He couldn’t bear to tell his family that their opulent life-style would go. He couldn’t see a life with less money.

Last summer, the government set up the mortgage protection scheme. It was made public with huge publicity and was their latest exciting idea to help people in financial trouble stay in their homes. The scheme, which has been available across the UK, has so far helped only one couple! it was revealed this week. Politicians are desperate to get the housing market breathing again and give us all the feel-good factor once more. But there is hardly any evidence that house prices are doing anything other than going down, and nobody feels good – not with Swine Flu around every corner! To add insult to injury, one economist Ed Stansfield said: “Rising unemployment and widespread pay freezes will mean that prices fall considerably further.”

A friend of mine received a letter from the bank saying they were foreclosing on him, a repossession letter from the mortgage company, two letters from credit cards companies demanding settlement or else, all on the same day that he was diagnosed with cancer. For a whole year he’d been trying to sort out his debts. The stress had, I’m sure contributed to his illness. This is a good man. A hard working man, who simply lived the way we have all been encouraged to in the last twenty years – up to the wire. It makes me so angry to think that we have been used like cogs in a wheel to power an economy that has been based on the decisions of corrupt bankers.

There are some good schemes out there to help people when they reach the point of no return. The Citizens Advice Bureau have a wealth of information to give out and they are always discreet and friendly. But even when you do find a way to get help, and things improve for you, there is the aftermath, similar to the way you feel after you’ve had a serious illness. There is the sly stigma that you weren’t quite up to the mark to allow things get into that state, you feel exhausted and weakened by it all, you may have depression or feel life is not worth living with the huge adjustments you have to make, losing your access to credit cards and other forms of credit, for without using credit, you can’t get a credit reference so where does that leave you in the future when all your debts are finally settled?  And while all this is going on, you pick up a paper and read that your politicians are abusing their expenses!

I’ve also been reading that very rich people will leave the country if taxes go up. Rich people? Let them go, say I. Come on Alistair Darling, steal their bloody money and spend it on the ailing health service!  That may sound simplistic and irrational, but I’ve woken up this morning with a sore throat. I haven’t been to Mexico and I don’t know anyone who has, but I know that there are two pandemics out there – debt and Swine ‘Flu and I may be in danger of catching them both.