Tag Archives: freedom

New Year New Start

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I started 2016 on the beach in New Zealand but the peace and happiness I returned with didn’t last long.

By October I realised something had to change. After having a good ponder I realised that there were areas of my life that I needed to change and improve.

Mission Move Out house-search

I have started but it is not going well. I spent December looking for a house-share in a desperate bid for independence.

In my city, the average rental price has risen by 4% in five years. It has stayed expensive in my area, with the monthly cost adding up to a third of my salary. In comparison, house prices have risen by 7% in five years. Although this is a modest increase, I still could not afford to stay in the area if I bought a house on my own.

On two occasions I requested further viewings only for the house to get snapped up the same day. I realised I was  going to have to change the game and go with my gut (and not just metaphorically, see below). I tried it today and got “OK, I have a few more viewings this week so I’ll let you know.”

I am new to the househunting game so I was stumped. Maybe I had said too much and she had decided we wouldn’t get on? I said I could be tidy but I wasn’t naturally. Was that the clincher? Did this mean she was politely telling me where to go? Did she need more time to make her mind up? Could it even mean that she liked me but didn’t want to let the other potential tenants down?

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When I have a house my living room will be similar.

The place was perfect. Flowers decorated every surface and the lady, Olivia, had impeccable taste, with arty prints decorating the walls and vintage leather sofas. The place was spotless and homely.

She was also perfect. We liked all the same things and had identical schedules that somehow did not conflict with each other.

She even had the same personality. I didn’t think it was possible to find someone even more bubbly and excitable than me.

After a month of touring dismal dumps and meeting oddballs and eccentrics this was a breath of fresh air. Finally, somewhere I could call home if I’m lucky.

I told Olivia about my viewing experiences. There was a hovel with two young male tenants resembling hippies. The living room looked like it hadn’t changed from the 70s. 21231169There were grubby fabric settees and an old television on stilts. Smoking paraphernalia littered the table and street light filtered through the gaps in the blinds.

The kitchen was the only nice thing about the place. I was shown upstairs to a bedroom with such a sloping ceiling in that I couldn’t actually get to the bed. A naked light bulb blinked weakly through the gloom. I went upstairs hopeful for better things and was greeted with another severe sloping ceiling. This time I managed to get to the bed, sat down and nearly went right through it, the mattress was that old. Again it was lit with a single bulb. The only furnishings in both rooms were the threadbare curtains hanging limply across windows which were so tiny and so elevated that you couldn’t see what would have been a great view.

I thought I’d seen it all until they led me outside to the “garden” – a patch of grass with a massive black block of wood over it which they explained had been a door. The builders had ripped it out so the landlord said it was not her responsibility. It had been there for months. I tried to open the “shed” and a mountain of junk threatened to burst its way to freedom and join the door on the “lawn”.

If the house wasn’t ridiculous, the inhabitants were. I visited a property with a live-in landlord. I imagined that we’d have a good natter in the living room over a cup of tea, maybe cook dinner for each other, watch films together…I opened the door to a business-like lady in her 60s. She marched me up to the room which was lovely, so far so good. Then she took me downstairs and explained how I would be expected to stay in my room as the rest of the house was hers.

I asked whether I could possibly share the living room occasionally and she politely but firmly declined. She said I could cross her other living room to use the kitchen. She had forced herself to accept that her tenant would have to go through her living room to get through to the (thankfully shared) kitchen. Having proudly declared that the house was out of bounds she asked when I could move in. She hoped it could be soon because she needed the money. I politely but firmly declined the offer.

I want to move out because I don’t like living alone, it’s too quiet. I don’t like living with my parents either as I want more privacy and we don’t always get on. Currently I am getting comments about my accumulation of some winter insulation – I am 5 kilograms overweight, which brings me on to my next point.

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Mission Minimise

I need to minimise my fat/sugar intake. I can no longer spend the day guzzling from the sweet tin at work. No more cheeseburger snacks either. I don’t burn any calories with my sedentary job so I need to ensure my intake matches that or do more exercise. I have a medicine ball in my room that I hardly use which will come in handy for toning up. It’s easy to be lazy but I plan to get more involved in the walking group at least and do the odd run. There’s nothing like running for cutting the kilos.

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Mission Motor

I will pass my driving test. Automatic lessons are great and I know it will happen if I just put my mind to it.

Lessons are hit and miss (literally if it wasn’t for dual controls) but I feel like I’m nearly at the end of the road. My general driving is usually good but my manoeuvres need some work. I feel like I cracked parallel parking today but unfortunately I was so elated after that I set off without looking. Thank goodness it was a quiet road.

Once I can drive I will be more independent and I won’t have to beg for lifts all the time.

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On Mr Cameron’s “Small Island” generalisations

I was rather amused by Mr David Cameron’s Britain is Best speech at the G20 summit. This was not not just due to their similarity with the Prime Minister’s speech in British romantic comedy Love Actually, but by the glaring inconsistencies of it.

In response to an alleged comment by a Russian official that the United Kingdom was “just a small island” he responded “Britain may be a small island but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a 120802CameronPutin_6496554bigger heart or greater resilience”, continuing that:

“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 worthwhile 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.”

Despite the communal applause in the press, the flaws of these comments were all too obvious. In comparison to Russia, we are indeed a small island. Regarding our past, yes we have had great inventors and famous people who have changed history. But so have many other countries. As for our history, the way we occupied the colonies, slaughtering the natives and attempting to convert them all to Christianity is nothing to be proud of.

1. Mr Cameron claimed Britain cleared “the European continent of fascism”. Yes but not without the military might of America, without whom we may well have lost the Second World War.

2. The statement with the most holes is that Britain “helped to abolish slavery”. As The Guardian’s Stephen Moss AS 55 Anti-Slavery Britain then pointed out, we profited from it for 300 years before this happened. A BBC history website points out that of all countries, Britain profited most from the trade.

As the Abolition Project website points out, it was no longer in Britain’s economic interests to continue slavery. Since America had become independent, it had been able to obtain sugar elsewhere. Furthermore, following the Industrial Revolution, we had been able to produce our own goods. It was also no longer profitable because of the continuous revolts. These points may explain why many importers of plantation produce were also abolitioinists. In August 1833 the Emancipation Act was passed under pressure from religious groups and abolition campaigners. However this still did not go far enough as it still required slaves to be “apprentices” working for free for six years before becoming emancipated.

“Apprenticeship” was not outlawed until 1838. The 1833 Act was only a partial victory, only applying to the West Indies, Cape Town, Mauritius and Canada. The Empire continued to profit from slavery in other countries. The Act did slave-ship01s  not stop the practice – many simply ignored the ruling and although reported by campaigners, it was not enforced. Treaties were entered into with other countries, and an “Anti-Slavery squadron” was set up of old and derelict Naval vessels. However ship owners that were caught were tried in foreign countries. Those freed were sent to Freetown, a British colony. However when that became full they were forced into the army or “apprenticeships”. It took 100 years after the Emancipation Act for total abolition of the trade, during which time Britain continued to profit by importing and exporting slave-grown sugar and importing slave-grown cotton.

For freed slaves conditions were still horrendous with endemic racism, poor living conditions and lower pay, as a former slave and American statesman, Frederick Douglass commented:

“Though no longer a slave, he is in a thralldom grievous and intolerable, compelled to work for whatever his employer is pleased to pay him, swindled out of his hard earnings by money orders redeemed in stores, compelled to pay the price of an acre of ground for its use during a single year, to pay four times more than a fair price for a pound of bacon and to be kept upon the narrowest margin between life and starvation….”

3. To say that we invented “most of the things worthwhile inventing” is doing a great disservice to the great 1885Benzinventions of other countries. The invention of the car for example, was crucial to our sixth-largest economy, in which a £52 billion turnover is supplied by the automotive industry.

4. Mr Cameron then claimed we invented “every sport currently played”, what about rowing, which was first recorded in Egypt, basketball and sumo wrestling? (to name just a few). The comment suggests that the only sports worth including are British ones, thus devaluing the sports of other countries. Furthermore the reason for the widespread playing of British sport again relates to colonial rule. Game fields were used for “moral instruction” of the conquered,  following a rejection of local cultures and beliefs.

British army troop5. As for a well-funded military, we are the fourth-largest worldwide spender on military. Yet after cuts, the army will eventually number just 82,000 – a level one British lawmaker said was the lowest since the Napoleonic Wars. Even the new British Head of Armed Forces, General Nicholas Houghton commented: “We’ve got to get back into an ‘expeditionary mindset’ where we will not have perfect capability for every scenario.”

A political opportunity was seized to put good spin on the unproven comment by a Russian official, using sweeping generalisations. The majority of the press responded as was intended. However, as a result of the comments we appeared arrogant, misinformed and laughable as a nation. Yes, Britain has been the home of many great inventors and yes we do have parts of history we can be proud of. But lets not diminish the achievements of other countries.

As American poet and critic Ezra Pound said: ““Any general statement is like a cheque drawn on a bank. Its value depends on what is there to meet it.”

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