Coronation Chicken…

Can I open my eyes? Is it over yet – the festival of privilege?
The TV has been off, I’ve been maintaining radio silence, trying to avoid the nonsense that has been going on in my name, but not with my consent. I didn’t need to see it of course; I already know what it’s all about- what has happened…

On Saturday, the bumbling head of a dysfunctional family got dressed up like a dog’s dinner, walked into a magnificent ancient building, and swore an oath of allegiance, not to the people upon which he is being imposed, but to his imaginary friend. Afterwards he emerged into a dull, grey, rainy city (at least I hope it rained – the forecast was promising). The cry will have gone out, ‘long live the king!’ And, just like his parents before him, he will. Maybe there’s something to be said for in-breeding after all. Or could it be the result of a life lived with the best of everything – including health care?

For the last coronation a special dish was concocted – ‘Coronation chicken’. This time it was ‘Coronation quiche’ – presumably the royal family and the aristocracy having a joke at our expense in a process in which they demand that we ‘quiche’ their arses. It’s at times like these when it becomes clear who is really in charge in our supposed democracy. The media went into full propaganda mode, with blanket coverage and barely a dissenting voice to be heard (with the exception of the excellent Frankie Boyle, who talked of marking the event by raising a bottle…with a burning rag hanging out of it).

In a rather sweet act of nostalgia, the arch bishop of Canterbury invited us all to reconnect with our serfdom of the middle ages by swearing an oath of allegiance to the new king (an oath to an oaf?) The king swears allegiance to god, we swear allegiance to the king, and hey presto, the Church of England has us all firmly by the balls. Except, they’re forgetting that around half the population have seen through their coercive fantasy.

The coronation was carefully designed and choreographed by the Church of England as a propaganda tool to remind us of just how much power this freedom-suppressing, kiddy-fiddling crime cartel still wields.

You might have thought the old queen dying after seventy-odd (in more ways than one) years of ‘reigning over us’ might have triggered a period of reflection, during which we could consider what it means to have a monarch, and whether we still want our country to be organised along those lines. Not a chance. Instead, the shady characters who really control our country (and have done so, yea unto the middle ages) used it as an opportunity to stamp down on us ordinary folk. Not only were we not allowed the chance to debate the monarchy, any attempts to protest against it were banned, and peaceful protesters rounded up and taken away. Exactly how does twenty-first century Britain differ from Putin’s Russia? We are the only nation in the world where religious representatives sit in the legislature, unelected, by right. Oh, apart from Iran, that is. And now we have another unelected head of state, also there by right, and swearing to maintain the church’s privilege.

In France, when the president recently announced his intention to raise the retirement age from sixty-two to sixty-four, the people took to the streets in protest (raising a bottle with a burning rag hanging from it) in such numbers, and with such determination the state couldn’t stop them. In contrast, in Britain, when the retirement age was increased from sixty-five to sixty-eight, a few people wrote letters to their favourite newspaper. At the time of the gulf wars, the French were unfairly (but amusingly) referred to as ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’. The reality is that the French people have got far more guts than us British ‘coronation chickens’.

You may not be surprised to hear that I haven’t sworn the arch bishop’s oath of allegiance. Here’s my oath – I do solemnly swear that if I’m ever unfortunate enough to meet the new king, I’ll tell him he’s an anathema, and address him not as ‘your Royal Highness’, but as ‘Charlie-Boy’. Or, if I’m feeling particularly aggrieved, ‘oi, wing-nut!’…

text & image ©graham wright 2023

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The Unbearable Weight of Human Beings…

A recent study by the Weizmann Institute of science has been widely reported in the press. It found that ‘Wild land mammals weigh less than 10% of the combined weight of humans’.

Now, curious minds will be wondering just how you measure the combined weight of all animals, either by species, or overall. These figures will of course have been calculated from data, and from estimates of the numbers of animals, but presumably the institute is confident its methods give a meaningful level of accuracy. But even if the margin of error was large, there’s no escaping the implications of such an incredible imbalance between the population levels of us humans and the other species we share the planet with (although sharing the planet is quite obviously something we’re incapable of doing). The unprecedented success of one species (ours) has undoubtedly been the main factor in the decline of all others.

Well; not quite all others. The animals we breed for our own use (both as pets and as food) are plentiful. The study estimates the biomass of domestic dogs (20 million tonnes) as being roughly equal to that of all wild land animals. And the weight of farm animals is 630 million tonnes (nearly twice the biomass of humans, at 390 million tonnes). Which explains why the air I have to breathe where I live, out in the countryside, is frequently so thick with ammonia.

Now, one of the factors contributing to our overall weight is that we have exceptionally large, heavy brains. Which, when you come to think about it, is a terrible irony. We are rational beings – possibly the only rational beings on this planet. We’re fully cognisant of the problems that arise when populations of other species get out of control. But when it comes to human populations well, that’s the white elephant no-ones talking to, in the corner of the room (not that there are many elephants left – white or otherwise).

The number of humans on the globe is fast approaching 8 billion. Our astounding population growth continues to swallow up ever more land. We’ve reached the point where there is precious little wild land left on planet earth. I know this only too well, living in an island nation, at the unfashionable end of Europe, where the quantity of genuine wilderness is effectively nil.

We really need to take a long hard look at how we manage our population level (or don’t, more to the point). But it’s just not the done thing. Mention that we ought to control human population and people will look at you as if you’re suggesting slaughtering babies. Raise the issue of excessive human population, and people will call you a monster, or a Nazi.

Climate change is the issue of our times: ‘Just Stop oil’, electric cars, the Green party, sustainability, net zero, re-wilding, carbon capture, blah, blah, blah (as Greta might say). There’s no end to the ideas and suggestions for mitigating, or even reversing, the warming of our planet. We’ll clutch at the flimsiest of straws; consider anything, however difficult or far-fetched, just so long as we don’t have to discuss the one thing that is at the back of all of our problems, from climate change, to environmental damage, to the housing shortage, to the ever growing number of species extinctions.

By the time people wake up and start talking about that particular problem, it will be too late. In fact, it’s probably already too late. We’re disturbing the balance of our environment not just by our behaviour, but also by shear weight of numbers.

Somewhere in the universe, I like to imagine, there is a planet similar to our own, where a species has evolved not just to be as intelligent as us humans, but also to have developed that most elusive of attributes: common sense…

text & elephant © Graham Wright 2023

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Roald and the chop-up factory…

The new editions of Roald Dahl’s children’s books have been edited for ‘sensitivity’, and as you may have seen, it’s caused something of a furore, with allegations of ‘political correctness gone mad’, and that horrible pejorative word ‘woke’ being thrown around like…I don’t know what! The Prime Minister has even got involved, criticising the changes. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with him wanting to appeal to the tabloid-reading popular vote…

Beyond all the indignation, there is a complex philosophical debate to be had. If contemporary writers use language that is viewed as discriminatory or harmful, it gets edited out. But how do we deal with writing that passed through unedited in a time when there was rather less ‘sensitivity’ to people’s feelings? It’s a bit like the issue of statues of notable characters we now consider to have been unsuitable to be commemorated. Do we tear them down, or leave them in place, but with a new plaque explaining the reality of their legacy?

Likewise with authors – should we sanitise their writing for a modern audience, or simply add a footnote that attitudes in the past were different? If we airbrush history, do we risk repeating the mistakes of the past? On the other hand, do we want the next generation to read and become familiar with attitudes that aren’t appropriate?

The media is claiming Dahl was anti-Semitic, but in fact most of the reported changes involve language that is rather more innocuous. The word ‘fat’, for instance has been replaced with ‘enormous’. I’m sure that will be a weight (pardon the pun) off the minds of enormous people. ‘Man’ has been replaced with ‘people’; so the Oompa Loompas are now ‘small people’, rather than ‘small men’ (lets hope the female Oompas are getting paid the same as their male counterparts).

In other changes, the products coming out of the chocolate factory are now all dairy-free. Charlie has been changed from male to female, and the title of the sequel has been changed to ‘Charlie and the great glass ceiling’. ‘James and the giant peach’ is now ‘James and the giant impeachment’. And one of Dahl’s favourite characters was considered so dangerous to the minds of young people the book has been withdrawn. So Matilda won’t be going-a-waltzing anymore.

I don’t know; it’s a minefield. What do you think..?

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The Satanic Verses – Book Review

I bought this book more out of a sense of duty than anything else – a desire to show support for its author. As I’m sure you’ll all know, shortly after the book was published (1988), Salman Rushdie had a fatwa issued against him by the mad Mullahs who had somehow managed to impose their brutal, repressive and immoral ideology on the poor sods living in the historic country of Iran. I believe they did eventually revoke the fatwa (probably in an attempt to get the West to lift sanctions) but by that time it was too late – every half-witted Islamic zealot was out to get him; and of course one of them finally did, earlier this year.

Rushdie’s ‘crime’, of course, was to write a book that might potentially cause the faithful to engage their brains for once in their lives and analyse the ideas and rules their religious leaders have brain-washed them with from the moment they were born. For that, he had to die. Well, I believe we have a duty to ensure these religious criminals are not successful in their attempts to repress the fundamental right of freedom of expression (and thereby; freedom of thought). Buying the offending book seemed like a good place to start, because the more copies that are sold, the more they will see their tactics have backfired.

So, to the book itself. I wanted to like this book; I really did. I made it through the five-hundred and forty-seven pages, but for much of the time, it felt like something akin to swimming upstream in a fast-flowing river. When a friend discovered I was reading it, she told me she’d tried, but gave up after the first two pages. When Rushdie writes straight (which happened more in the later stages of the book) he writes well. But so much of the text is affected, self-indulgent and practically impossible to follow, with sentences that are absurdly long, and punctuation that is, at times, all over the place. Italics and capitals are used unnecessarily, and he has a really irritating habit of joining all of the words in a phrase together. Someone should have told him the purpose of language is to communicate, not obfuscate. As an author, your job is to give the reader something they can understand, even if it challenges them; not to create over-complicated, unintelligible text that appears to be designed for the purpose of showing them just how clever you are (even if you are, as Rushdie seems to be, very clever).

The Satanic Verses is packed full of literary, cinematic, and religious references, most of which will go over most peoples’ heads (including, maybe especially, mine), particularly as the way they’re presented is so obtuse. At times it felt like I was working my way through a badly printed copy of the world’s longest general knowledge quiz.

At over five-hundred pages, the book is far too long; not helped by the author’s determination to put in at least three pages of description, and very intense back story, for every character he introduces (and there are lots of them) regardless of how incidental they are. Groups of characters are introduced, and then not seen again for another couple of hundred pages, by which time you’ve forgotten who they are. The main story is regularly interrupted by very long religious/spiritual fables and stories, including one that seems to be a telling of how the Islamic religion came into being. It wasn’t clear to me why they were there – they didn’t provide anything more than nominal support for the main story.

On the plus side, there’s a lot of good descriptive work. But equally, there’s often a lack of detail that leaves the poor reader wondering what’s going on. The book is mostly narrated by the author, but now and then the voice of a mysterious ‘guest star’ narrator butts in. Unfortunately, Rushdie did nothing to delineate these two voices, so you often don’t realise it’s the occasional narrator until you reach the end of the section (if at all). Oh, for those over-used italics, to let us know who’s speaking to us!

There is humour in there – in fact, quite late on I found myself wondering whether it’s intended as a comedy-drama. Actually, on reflection, it’s more farce than pure comedy. I have to admit I don’t get on well with most humorous novels; often the humour is too thin for me; the jokes too weak. I need something full-on to make me laugh (Douglas Adams and Ben Elton generally do the trick).

I’ll stop there. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most enjoyable book I’ve ever read. I feel bad – considering everything poor old Salman has suffered as a result of having this book published, I really wanted it to be good. I very much hope he doesn’t get to see this review (I don’t think it’s likely).

I don’t recommend this book to read, but I would urge you to buy it, to show solidarity with a very brave author and his determination to exercise his right to freedom of expression. Buy it to send a message to those who want to take away that right from us all. To save paper, you could buy the e-copy. Or buy a physical copy to display on your bookshelf (and impress your friends). Either way, buy it. Who knows, you may have different tastes to me – you might just find you love it…

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Book Review – The Reluctant Gay Activist

This is the memoir of the late Terry Sanderson, familiar to me as a leading light in the National Secular Society (NSS), of which I’ve been a member for some years. I never spoke to Terry, but I remember him from NSS events as a very distinguished man, always well turned out in a smart, well-fitting suit; slim, with a sensible haircut and a neat, greying beard.

It wasn’t until more recent years that I discovered Terry had been a prominent campaigner for gay rights, but this made perfect sense. The NSS campaign for the removal of religious privilege from society; the separation of church and state – for freedom from religion (as well as, somewhat magnanimously, freedom of religion). The NSS was the driving force behind the repeal of that blight on freedom of expression, and protection of religion from reasonable criticism – the blasphemy law. While campaigning for gay rights, Terry says he increasingly came to realise that the most significant opposition to reform was coming from the church, and that if LGBT campaigners were to have any hope of achieving acceptance and equality, the control that religion exerted on society would need to be reined in.

The book is well written (Terry was an experienced journalist and author) but could have done with some proof reading – there are quite a few typos and errors. It’s a shame also that it’s published as an Amazon print-on-demand book, which means the quality isn’t great. I don’t understand why Terry did this, when he had already ‘properly’ published other books, had experience as a distributor, and would have been sure of selling at least a limited print run (and probably would have sold enough to justify having it professionally distributed).

Terry’s debonair appearances on the London conference scene gave no clue that he was a working-class lad from Rotherham, and the son of a miner. At the time his journey into adulthood was starting, homosexuality was still criminalised. You might imagine that a Northern mining community might not be the easiest environment in which a young gay person could find themselves coming of age. Terry does a good job of conveying the growing sense of isolation and loneliness that he felt at that time. As much as anything it was the lack of information that meant that Terry and others didn’t understand how it was they were different to other people – didn’t even know that they were in no way alone. This is highly relevant to today, when increasing numbers of kids are finding themselves in religious schools that refuse to teach them about sex and relationships in an open, honest and realistic way.

Terry writes with great humour about how he finally discovered there were such things as ‘homosexuals’ – in other words, that he was neither unique, nor alone. And he went on to write a very successful self-help book (called ‘How to be a Happy Homosexual’) that would help many gay men avoid this ignorance trap set for them by an intolerant and unrealistic society.

Terry’s life, and his time as a campaigner, was directly aligned with the rather amazing transformation of societal attitudes to homosexuality, as it moved from illegality to being (almost) universally accepted, and even celebrated. And despite the hatred and the vitriol Terry encountered on his journey, it’s encouraging to read just how much tolerance and understanding he and his fellow campaigners received from the wider community – it seems that most people, even back then, had little problem with the existence of homosexuality.

Terry spent the second half of his life in London, where he continued campaigning. This was at the time of the progressive Greater London Council, led by Ken Livingstone. The GLC provided copious funding and support to LGBT groups, for which they were denigrated on a daily basis by a steady stream of hateful articles in the right-wing press. The GLC undoubtedly spent a lot of taxpayers’ money, but they also helped drag British ethics kicking and screaming into the modern age. Living on the outskirts of London, I remember it as a time of tolerance, understanding, freedom and hope.

The book covers Terry’s time in the NSS, when he and his partner, Keith Porteous-Wood, transformed the organisation from an introverted, overtly atheist outfit, into a bold, outward-looking campaigning group, based on inclusive secularism, rather than atheism (i.e., not denigrating religion, but aiming to curb its privileges; giving everyone the chance to formulate their own world view).

In the last section of his memoir, Terry Sanderson tells us about his diagnosis of cancer, and the on-going treatment for it. The book paints a portrait of a man who, despite the seriousness of the campaigns he championed, was fun-loving and good natured. In his life, Terry came up against some of the worst examples of humankind – vile bigots whose life work was to destroy other peoples’ chance of enjoying a free and fulfilled life. And yet, in this book, there are few people Terry couldn’t find any kind words for.

For most of his career Terry worked as an occupational therapist (he somehow managed to fit all of that campaigning into his spare time!) and it sounds as if he was most happy when helping others. There is a profound sense of this man’s kindness that runs through the book, which is informative, witty, and at times very moving. Terry was an extraordinary man, who led an extraordinary, and very interesting life. Sadly, he passed away in June this year, aged 75. His last missive, via social media, was ‘Goodbye, and try to be kind to each other’.

text & image © graham wright 2022

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Why has no-one asked us if we actually want another Monarch..?

An aging monarch has died, rather suddenly, and without a second thought the Establishment has fired up the archaic, grinding, heavy machinery that will install a replacement. There has been no pause, no chance for people to think about the role of the royal family, and whether we want to continue with this ancient, undemocratic regime.

The history of the monarchy is one of oppression and cruelty, of ultra-privilege for the lucky few, and of extreme poverty for the majority. The role, and power of the monarchy may be much reduced on what it was in the past, but we shouldn’t think of the king or queen as merely a symbol.

Remember that the monarch, as well as being the head of state, is also head of the church of England. What that means is that a nation made up of people of varying religious beliefs, and none, are effectively subservient to the established church. Remember that we are the only nation in the world, other than Iran, where religious leaders sit in government by right (the twenty-six bishops in the house of lords). Charles has, in the past, said that he doesn’t just want to represent the C of E; that he wants to be ‘Defender of faiths’ rather than ‘Defender of the faith’, but even that ignores and shuts out the majority of the population who don’t believe in religion.

Make no mistake, there are dark forces at play. The threatening, mysterious, unelected and unaccountable monster that is the City of London for instance, is central to the process of replacing one unelected head of state with another. The media has come together to promote the Establishment model of monarchy as a wonderful thing we should all love; setting the tone of sycophancy we are all expected to copy. Where are the dissenting voices? Who speaks for the large proportion of the population who have little respect for the royal family, and who don’t want them?

I know I’m not alone. There are many people who, like me, want to see the abolition of the monarchy. We believe in equality, the withdrawal of privilege as birth right, and the principal of the people having the right to elect leaders, rather than having them imposed upon us. We don’t believe that anyone in a free and fair society in the twenty-first century should be required to address one of their fellow human beings as ‘your majesty’. Who knows, maybe we’re even in a majority? Whether that’s the case or not, we deserve to be heard, and the people should have a choice.

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The Perfect Storm

I have a difficult relationship with throw-away metaphors like ‘The Perfect Storm’. They can be amusing. They can make language more colourful. And occasionally, they may even put across an idea more effectively and succinctly than plain language. But mostly, they do exactly the opposite.

Original pastel by Les Darlow

‘The Perfect Storm’ is perhaps the most over used metaphor-turned-cliche in the media today. Used casually, we assume we know what it means. Think about it a little more, and it seems a careless, inaccurate description – the opposite of what we actually mean to say. Maybe it’s just my obsessive mind, but picture this…

The Perfect Storm

You’re walking through a beautiful, imagined English landscape of soft contours, with fields and hedgerows, and little copses dotted around. It’s mid-afternoon on a hot day. There’s no breeze, and the air feels stale. The land is dry, but not excessively so (we’re in England). But it needs rain. It’s been warm and dry for a week or more, but today, there’s an increased humidity, making the heat stifling.

But then, you notice a line of cloud rising up from the horizon, and quite quickly, even as you watch, great towers of cumuli-nimbus bubble up, creating fantastical shapes and effects. There’s movement in the air now, and the wind builds – not to a gale, or a tornado, but a warm breeze that gently soothes away the discomforting heat. There’s a flash, followed soon after by the deep bass rumble of thunder. The animated cloud moves closer, obliterating the blue of the sky.

There’s another flash of lighting, and then another, followed in quick succession by thunder. Now the cloud is almost overhead, and the first drops of rain begin to fall. But you don’t run for cover. The rain is warm, and you welcome it with arms outstretched, face turned up to the sky. The raindrops splash on your face, building in intensity, until it’s like standing under a warm shower; refreshing and exhilarating, making you feel more alive than you’ve felt for a long time.

In less than five minutes, enough rain falls to rejuvenate the parched landscape. And then it stops. You can see the rain falling from the clouds as they move away, and as the sun emerges once more, a rainbow appears, brighter, and more intensely coloured than any you can remember having seen before. The wind has dropped to the slightest of breezes, the air is cooler and fresher, but still comfortably warm. There is a moist, earthy smell rising from the ground, and you can almost hear seeds swelling, and plants drawing moisture up into their leaves. The sun, re-instated, warms and dries you as you continue with your walk. All is, indeed, well with the world…

That’s how I would describe the perfect storm. But ‘The Perfect Storm’ is used to mean a situation where numerous factors combine to make it as bad as it could be; rain so heavy as to cause landslides, wind strong enough to destroy buildings, and lighting strikes that take out the power network. All of which is anything but perfect.

During my time in the IT industry I faced an on-going struggle to get my colleagues to use plain English. Reports intended to communicate processes and policy to a wide audience, with varying IT knowledge, would end up being unintelligible to anyone who wasn’t up to date with an ever-changing, ever more absurd catalogue of in-crowd clichés. I think people in most industries will have experienced something similar. Clichés tend to confuse the meaning of language – it’s easier to repeat a popular metaphor than to actually consider what it is you want to express. Words are the tools of the trade for the media. I wish they’d choose them more carefully…

text © graham wright 2022

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Why do we stand for the national anthem?

Double meaning intended!
I’m old enough to remember the queen’s silver jubilee. That at least was tempered by some robust criticism, as a friend recently reminded me (my own memory being only marginally better than that of a goldfish) by the Sex Pistols…

God save the queen,
She ain’t no human being,
There is no future
In England’s dreaming.[1.]

A clever piece of marketing, designed to appeal to the large proportion of the population who don’t want to be ‘reigned over’. That may have boosted sales, but in my opinion it was head and shoulders above most of the pop music of the time, and certainly of anything that’s around at the moment. Apparently it reached number one in the charts, but in a shameful, if not entirely unexpected act of censorship to appease the establishment, it was curiously missing from Top Of The Pops.

Forty-five years on, and this time around I hardly noticed any dissent – so much for progress! We’ve had to suffer weeks of sickening sycophancy by the media, with the royal frenzy cheer-led by the monarchy’s partner in crime (against the people) the Church of England.

But hearing the national anthem for the first time in a long time brought back into my mind a rather tricky ethical question – if I were to find myself at an event where the national anthem is played, and everyone else stands up, what do I do? This was very nearly tested a few weeks ago at the English Haydn Festival (yes I know; not very trendy, but Haydn’s music is considerably better even than that of the Pistols). The opening and closing concerts were to start with a rendition of the national anthem. In fact I decided only go to one concert from the week-long festival, so it was easy enough to avoid these two.

But the dilemma remains – what would I do if I were to find myself at an event where the anthem is played, and everyone is expected to get to their feet? For me the national anthem, which entreats a character I’m certain is fictional (god) to ‘save’ (whatever that means) a head of state there by right of birth, is an insult to my beliefs. The idea I should be expected to honour it by standing up is ‘like, against my human rights and shit’. What do I do? Remain resolutely seated, the subject of the disapproval of everyone around me, and risking verbal, or even physical abuse from one or more of my fellow human beings who happen to be joyfully unburdened by the affliction of free-thinking? Or abandon my own principles and stand to attention with the rest of the herd?

What would you do in my position?

text and ‘Black Jack’ image © graham wright 2022

[1.] NOTE: apologies for any offence caused to residents of Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland, by the band failing to acknowledge that the UK is so much more than just England.

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Flash Fiction: The Streets Ran Red…

Flash Fiction is not a format I’ve tried before, but on holiday in Spain last week, I was inspired to have a go. Here’s the result…

Cold, damp and windy; strange weather for a holiday in the sun. At the Alcazabar – the hill Fort overlooking the pretty town of Antequera – the wind blew cold through the shivering cypresses. We climbed the bell tower, and then left just in time to avoid hearing the giant metal cone ring the hour. But we couldn’t stop the cold wind ringing through our heads.

Back at the entrance, ancient Moorish guitar music played through plastic outdoor speakers on an endless loop. Coffee was called for, and came, rich and complex, at a cafe at the bottom of the hill, accompanied by indulgent, flavoursome cakes. Outside, the plaza was alive with an eruption of excited school children frolicking beneath the magnolia trees. We retreated to our hotel for a siesta. Visit Spain, live Spain.

Later, we woke to an orange glow. Outside our window the sandstone church, with its ancient brick tower, the plaza that it overlooks, the shops and the balconied apartments, all had been transported to Mars; we were vacationing on the red planet. And then it rained. It was still raining when we went out to eat. The streets ran red with dissolved red dust, and I couldn’t help but think of the streets of Ukraine running red with the blood of innocents, slain to feed the greed, the ambition, the twisted hubris of a crazed dictator, the red rain in this medieval city mirroring the medieval bloodshed; the war being waged by Russian oligarchs.

We sheltered from the red rain, first in a bar, and then in a restaurant, where we ate among religious iconography, and drunk the blood of Christ till our heads spun. We retreated to our hotel room. Our clothes, shoes, bags; everything was spattered – contaminated – with the red dust. Would the sun ever shine again?

Note: I’m going to come clean and admit that unfortunately I didn’t think to take a photo from the hotel window when I saw the sky had turned red. The one I’ve used is from the Alcazabar, earlier in the day – I coloured the sky orange in Photoshop.

Text & image © graham wright 2022

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What Can Writers Do About Climate Change?

It’s hard to comprehend the ability of supposedly well-educated, intelligent people to shut out the blatantly obvious. Britain holds the Presidency for COP26, and at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow at the end of last year, our leaders asked the world to turn its back on coal. And yet, just three months on, the UK government is busy issuing new licences to dig for coal and drill for oil.

Change will be forced upon us…

The people making these decisions know we need to move to sustainable forms of energy, and quickly, or face catastrophe. Most of them have children, and will have grandchildren too, if they haven’t already. And yet, just a few months after being immersed in the grim reality of anthropomorphic climate change, they’ve allowed themselves to be tempted back to the path of destruction by the potential wealth-giving powers of the fossil fuel lobby (who, presumably, also have children). The question is, how long will our politicians and industry leaders have to enjoy the riches they are amassing, before the entire ecosystem collapses in on itself and the human race is wiped out, along with most other life forms on the planet?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

It would be very convenient to blame ‘The Establishment’ for our impending demise, but are us lower mortals any better? When so many people still choose to jump into their car to make a two-hundred metre journey? When the number of over-sized, over-powered vehicles on the roads continues to rise? When the road-sides are strewn with litter? When so many people can’t even be bothered to put packaging into the recycling, rather than the rubbish bin? I could go on (some people might say that I do!)

Dogs are a case in point. There was a long running campaign (possibly by the RSPCA) intended to make people consider the responsibility involved, rather than just thinking, ‘ooh, that looks cute; lets get one’. Today, dogs are trendy; a fashion accessory. And company while working at home during the pandemic. But what happens when you have to go back to work? There are now around twelve million dogs in the UK alone, and a study has indicated that the sheer quantity of faeces and urine from dogs is actually changing the ecosystems of our natural spaces. We know that meat production has a disproportionate effect on the environment, and that we should be eating less of it. Dogs, on the other hand, eat almost nothing but meat.

Having a conversation about the contribution to climate change of population is difficult. It touches nerves, runs contrary to people’s animal instincts. You only have to suggest that maybe people should show some constraint with their family planning, rather than having just as many children as they choose, to find yourself being compared to the Nazis. But if we can’t even have that conversation about populations of species other than our own, then what chance do we stand?

What is it with us humans? How is it that an animal with such a large brain and an impressive intellect can possess such an innate ability to ignore the obvious, even at the expense of its own survival? As a species, we’re running towards a metaphorical cliff edge, and apparently enjoying it so much we just can’t bring ourselves to change direction. We know that if we don’t stop we’ll go over the edge and fall to our deaths, but somehow, we just can’t imagine it happening. Surely we’ll just launch ourselves into the void and fly away?

So what can writers do about climate change? We can write, of course. Journalists and article writers can write factual pieces to make sure the public is informed about the damage human activity is doing to the world we live in, and what can be done to reduce the damage. Novelists can be more creative, in helping people to understand what the future could look like if we don’t act.

People trust the written word – more than they ought to. It’s why fake news gathers traction, and why British newspapers get away with dis-ingenuity and lies to further the interests of their wealthy owners. It’s up to us to balance things out; to make sure the truth is out there. Who knows; maybe we can make a difference?

Text & dog cartoon © Graham Wright 2022

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