Tag Archive: resilience


Happy Christmas Everyone

I do hope that you are otherwise occupied and really do not have the time to read this post. Whether you are with family, eating a special meal, enjoying entertainment, going for a walk, visiting church etc, I hope that you have some joy today.

But I do realise that, for some of us, today is a difficult day. When we are supposed or expected to be “merry” but most definitely are not feeling that way. Perhaps there is someone who is not here today whom you really miss. Or perhaps you are not well; or maybe you are not in a place you would like to be.

When we are on our own – or perhaps surrounded by other people – our loneliness, sadness, disappointment or frustration stands out all the more in contrast to the lights, laughter, excitement and music which are associated with today. There are all kinds of reasons for feeling low today. Maybe that is you.

That is OK. Believe it or not, today will not last forever.

I don’t know whether you will decide to hide away somewhere, or go away for a few days or simply put on a brave face for the sake of others. That is up to you. I would like to remind you that you are not the only one and that you have not been forgotten.

And if you are having a happy Christmas, please do enjoy it. Please, also, spare a thought and a prayer for those, for whatever reason, who are not.

May I wish you a “Happy Christmas” and may God bless you.

In December of this year this blog will be five years old. Originally I started writing as one way of coping with depression. I have never intended to write about depression as such but I have discovered that writing, humour and making a point of taking an interest in things have all contributed to building resilience. It is not true to say that I now no longer get depressed. It is true for me to say that depression is less frequent, usually (!) not as low as before and that I have some strategies to help. Depression is managed rather than cured. The most important strategy is permission to tell a couple of trusted people when I am feeling low without them assuming that my world is about to fall apart. Often the fact that I can say what is going on in my thoughts and feelings helps to deny depression of some of its power.

Over the years I have used “Sundry Times” as a place to share what I love about England, to post photographs that have caught my imagination and to pass on the least worst jokes that have come my way. I have included prayers and reflections as well. When I began “Depression” was the biggest tag, then “Resilience”. They are still there on the tag cloud but they are no longer number one.

This is not a valedictory piece but at the end of the year I shall retire this blog for the simple reason that I am running out of memory and prefer not to have to buy on-line storage. Instead, look out for “Sundry Times Too” which I am in the process of setting up and will go live at the end of 2015/beginning of 2016. I will post a link nearer the time.

Thank you for taking the trouble to read this.

God bless, Kangerew

There are some children’s hymns and songs which seem rather twee and the one I am sharing with you could easily fit into that category. However, the other day, as the grey clouds lowered and it grew gloomier, I found myself whistling the tune and repeating “You in your small corner, and I in mine”. It is not a complete theology by a long stretch but it is cheerful enough if you know the tune. The general point is that Jesus, the light of the world, is with us during our daily tasks, no matter how dark and dull it is outside.

1. Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

2. Jesus bids us shine, first of all for Him;
Well He sees and knows it if our light is dim;
He looks down from heaven, sees us shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

3. Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around,
Many kinds of darkness in this world abound:
Sin, and want, and sorrow—we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Susan Warner, 1868

“This book is impossible: Thirteen years ago I knew this couldn’t happen. I was going to die, you see. Or go mad.”

So begins Matt Haig’s book, “Reasons to Stay Alive” in which describes his breakdown and how he adapted to life afterwards. I hesitate to say “recovery” because, as he himself points out, you can be a happy depressive just as you can be an alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in years. There are five sections of unequal length: falling, landing, rising, living and being which approximately describe his feelings and insights following his breakdown when he was 24. With hindsight there were warning signs – but then hindsight generally has better glasses than foresight.

I noticed that most reviews on Amazon were very positive but there were a few who either did not like or did not ‘get’ the idea. Having read it all the way through I can see that this book could be helpful to someone who suffers from depression or who is close to someone who is. If you are not familiar with it, this book may not help at all. For example, one person criticised it because it was all about the author, “all about me”. That is to miss the point: depression is indeed often “all about me” but not in a “Look at me and see how important/special I am”. It is more of an “all about how worthless I am and I don’t expect you to take any notice of me let alone agree with me”.

Some useful ideas include page 126f “How to be there for someone with depression or anxiety”. For example, “Don’t take anything personally, any more than your would take someone suffering with the flu or chronic fatigue syndrome or arthritis personally. It is not your fault.” (p 127). The list of “Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression” rang a bell too. Meanwhile, on page 166 onwards, there is his list of famous people with depression. It may or may not help you to know that the list includes: Buzz Aldrin, Winston Churchill, Carrie Fisher, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton and Emma Thompson. The point being that depression does not happen only to “bad” or “weak” people. In fact, it has been remarked elsewhere that it is “The curse of the strong“. A useful metaphor, on page 181, is that if depression is a dark cloud then you are the sky: depression is smaller than you. Although that makes sense, convincing myself of that truth may take some doing.

And finally,

Self Help

How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.

Overall four stars or eight out of ten. Worth buying a copy to read and to lend.

A few cracker jokes

To be honest, I thought that this year’s crop of cracker jokes were quite poor. I don’t mean that the puns were terrible (that’s what they are supposed to be, after all) but several “jokes” seemed to have been machine generated by a mindless contraption: Not AI (Artificial Intelligence) but AS you might call it (Artificial Stupidity).

These are some of the least worst plus a few from “Cracker Jokes” collected by Amanda Li

Q. What do you get if you cross an elephant with a hose?
A. A jumbo jet.

Q. Who hid in the bakery at Christmas?
A. A mince spy.

Q. What sort of sentence would you get if you broke the law of gravity?
A. A suspended one.

Q. Why did the bloke get fired from the orange juice factory?
A. Because he couldn’t concentrate.

Q. What has 22 legs and 2 wings but cannot fly?
A. A soccer team.

Q. What jumps from cake to cake and smells of almonds?
A. Tarzipan.

Q. What is read and white and goes up and down and up and down?
A. Santa Claus stuck in a lift.

Q. What do you call lobsters who won’t share their toys?
A. Shellfish.

Q. What shouldn’t you eat before breakfast on Christmas Day?
A. Christmas lunch.

Happy New Year


							

… here’s my manifesto. I do not belong to any political party nor has any of the following been costed by experts or anyone else. In the unlikely event I get swept into power the chances are there will be rather more or less money than we thought so nothing is definite. Let’s just say that this is what I would aim for rather than what I might promise.

It’s not the economy, stupid!

But, oh it is, it is. I want to have more money and more stuff each year. Don’t you dare tell me that my standard of living is going down yet again. Actually, the most pressing concern is what kind of world we are leaving for the next generation. Unless we are going to organise a mass trek across the solar system and beyond, then how we use finite resources and how we deal with natural disasters is the most important thing. And that also means we need to think how we get along with other human beings across the world.

Migration

We do need to talk about what is sustainable, how many of us can our land support. To make any kind of long-term sense, “the land” has got to be the whole world, not just one nation or even one village. If there are refugees and persecuted people we should do our bit to welcome them into places which are safe, including our own back yard. Where there is pressure for migration there are better ways than fences and deportations to deal with illegal immigrants. Part of overseas aid should be about making the places that migrants want to leave more attractive to stay in. I don’t want Britain to be overcrowded but better to help our neighbour than start discriminating against those who do not look like us. A points-based immigration system sounds fair provided we don’t end up with institutionalised racism by mistake. We should also count the number of people leaving too.

Housing

Even if net immigration were zero we would still need more houses. Therefore I would allow local authorities to build modest family housing and to re-invest any revenue in them. The spare room tax should be extended to all domestic properties. It was once asked why a pensioner living next door to a family of four in the same sort of house should pay the same rates. The answer is to encourage use of any unused rooms. Perhaps the better option would be to raise a spare room levy on all properties worth more than, say, £2 million. In the meantime, more council tax bands are needed.

Resilience

This is not just about the 999 call room having a spare generator in the event of a power cut. Each year one or more communities are affected by one or other of the following flood, drought, storm, industrial accident, snow, to name but a few. I would make it a requirement that all new properties should have the means of cope with being “off-grid” for at least two weeks. Gradually, other houses would be included and the limit raised to a month. The sort of possibilities include solar energy, local hydro-electric schemes, domestic wind turbines and whatever other technology may become available. It would mean learning a habit of having tinned and dried food, bottled water etc at home to survive on for a fortnight. We will all need to learn about proper stock rotation.

Part of national resilience will be to make sure that 75% of our food comes from the UK (the exact proportion may vary but to insist on 100% would be to put all our eggs in one basket). As well as mitigating climate change, our energy use needs to be smarter and capable of working with local grids networked with a national grid. Reliance on fossil fuels is risky economically, ecologically and even militarily. Renewable and sustainable energy needs much more investment and my target would be 75% to come from renewables including hydro-electric, tidal/wave power, combined heat-electricity schemes as well as solar and wind turbines. Nuclear power generation would be part of the mix up to 25 %. Bio fuels, including wood, should be included. Alongside this we need to husband the energy that we do use. Much has already been done. For example, the lap top I am using is far more energy-efficient compared to the PC I was using ten years ago.

Sugar

Much of our food has added sugar and that is not just in desserts. I expect to find added sugar in jam but not in a shepherd’s pie. It has been said that the amount of sugar is a significant factor in the problem of obesity or just being plain overweight. We need to wean our society off so much added sugar so I welcome, for example, the move to have smaller-sized bottles of pop stocked in our supermarkets. The sugar industry need not fret about its profits. Surely all that sugar beet could go into making bio-fuels? Less sugar consumption, more bio-fuels, less dependency on fossil fuels; winners all round.

 Armed Forces

I do not think that we should be in the business of fighting war; unfortunately I do not have the courage that pacifists have. I do believe we need to be able to defend ourselves in the event that war comes to us. In addition to lethal force, we should also develop a force for disaster relief and mitigation. The “defence” budget I would not increase beyond inflation but would seek to gradually build up our relief capabilities. I believe that the armed services have the organisational skills and expertise to deliver this. Logically, the Ministry of Defence and the Overseas Development Ministry should come under the same roof. Perhaps “Ministry of Defence and Disaster Relief”. Prevention, preparation and information gathering would be part of its remit.

I commend HM government for sending troops in with medical expertise to Africa to help in the current e-bola crisis. That is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing: it helps our African family in the first place, and the rest of the world including us benefit too.

We don’t need Trident and I would have preferred something smaller and cheaper, but I’m not ready to give up nuclear weapons yet. When France gives up her nuclear weapons, then we should.

Tax and welfare

I would raise the threshold for 20% and 40% tax rates and introduce a 50% rate at a fairly high level. Bonuses count as income.

Corporation tax should be set at the same level as income tax because of the loop-hole that allows people to set themselves up as a company.

The living wage should replace the minimum wage and the lower tax threshold should be no lower than what would be earned in 50 weeks of a 40 hour week i.e. 2000xliving wage per annum. Welfare bills should decrease accordingly.

Instead of a married couples allowance, a couples allowance could be introduced in that the couple may pool their tax allowance. This is particularly useful if one is earning and the other is not. This would be fairly straight-forward to include both married couples and civil partners. Whether this could include any two individuals, I am not sure, as that would be more complicated. It could apply to two people living together in the same household for at least a year. (The practicalities may mean that after a year, of two, you could qualify for succeeding years).

Aviation fuel should be taxed at the same rate as other fuel, currently 5% VAT. This should be introduced across the EU and USA simultaneously.

In the long-term I would like to see all taxes at 10%. That includes VAT, income tax, capital gains, corporation tax, property tax etc. The benefit of this is a much simplified system and reduces tax evasion or so-called “aggressive avoidance”. This will take some time to achieve as it will require spending, as a percentage of GDP, to come down which would be neither realistic nor fair to those currently in need of welfare if it were done too quickly. First we need to balance the budget and that may take 50 years. In the meantime the guiding principles are to protect the vulnerable, to be fair and to be honest in how money is spent. That means that when money is tight, cuts in benefits to the poorest should be the least and cuts in taxes that affect the richest should be the least overall.

It would be good to set up a “sovereign wealth fund”. Its remit would be in part to make money for the government to use in addition to tax revenues. It would also be expected to invest in British businesses and in innovations. By judicious investment it can help shape the economy e.g. shares in renewable energy companies. It could be allowed to invest overseas particularly to help our migration goal to make the places more attractive to live and work in where economic migrants would otherwise come from.

Railways

As the franchises run out, bring them back into public ownership. The new rail company (s) should be independent like the BBC and required not to make a loss overall.

Constitutional reform

I would like an English parliament with the same sort of powers as the Scottish one. The English parliament will probably require about 400 MPs. They can use the House of Commons. We shall then need something for the UK as a whole. I propose using the MEP constituencies and proportional representation. That will probably require about 250 MPs. They can use the House of Lords. If the Church of England remains established in law then it seems fair that the five senior Bishops should have attendance and speaking rights in the English Parliament (after all, Canon Law has to be approved by parliament). To facilitate communication each speaker and first minister of each of the four devolved parliaments should similarly have attendance and speaking rights at the UK parliament. Hopefully this will not mean a net cost in the long run as the EP and UKP MPs will be about the total number of MPs at the moment and the House of Lords will become superfluous. There may be a case for some cross-bencher-type non-voting “Lords” having attendance and speaking rights and being able to serve on committees.

European Union

I would like a referendum on remaining in the EU. I will vote to stay in but not for “an ever closer union”. The fact of the matter is, our choice is between joining Europe or joining the USA. I would rather be British in Europe than another Costa Rica, much as I like our American cousins.

This is not the last word on any of the above issues, and there are bound to be others, but I thought I might as well get my tuppennyworth in as we seem to be in the throes of the general election campaign already.

I make no claim for their quality. These jokes rely on puns and work better if read out-loud to an (appreciative?!) audience. Here are a selection of jokes found in various Christmas crackers mostly supplied by helpful members of our congregations:

What is bad-tempered and goes with custard?
Apple grumble.
 
What’s brown and sneaks round the kitchen?
Mince spies.
 
What do you get if you cross Father Christmas with a detective?
Santa Clues.
 
What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
It’s Christmas, Eve!
 
Why did the little girl change her mind about buying a packet of handkerchiefs for her grandmother for Christmas?
The girl said she didn’t know what size her nose was.
 
Why was 6 afraid of 7?
Because 7 8 9.
 
What is at the bottom of the sea and shivers?
A nervous wreck.
 
Why are ghosts so bad at lying?
You can see right through them.
 
Why did the strawberry get a lawyer?
Because is was in a jam.
 
What kind of suits do they wear in court?
Lawsuits.
 
Why was Cinderella no good at football?
Because her coach was a pumpkin.
 
Why did the chewing gum cross the road?
Because it was stuck to the chicken.
 
What carol do they sing in the desert?
O camel all ye faithful.
 
What do you call a cat in the desert?
Sandy claws.
 
What did one eye say to the other?
“Between you and me something smells.”
 
What kind of shoes do frogs wear?
Open-toad sandals.
 

Sir Winston Churchill

Thank God for …

… libraries. Especially public libraries. There is only so much room in our house and any way, it is possible to get pleasure from something without having to own it. In fact, thinking about it, my possessions are really on a kind of long-term loan: I won’t be taking them with me.

One of the awkward things about public libraries is that someone else choses the books and they may not always be to my taste. One of the good things about libraries is that someone else chooses the books and I may discover a surprise or two that I come to enjoy. While I’m on the subject of gratitude for libraries, thank you to the many and various librarians who have helped me navigate the catalogue, suggested lines of enquiry and generally aided my studies as well as my leisure reading over the years. If we close too many libraries we run the risk of losing those professional guides and guardians. The internet has blessed us with more information and books and articles than we could fit into a single library: the forest has grown immensely and we need wise guides to help us distinguish the wood from the trees.

Thank God for …

… railways. This is not meant as a political statement on the 50th anniversary of the Beeching report into Britain’s railway system. It’s just that I want to do a bit better at counting my blessings. I don’t want to get into a philosophical debate about freewill, divine inspiration etc. I think that one can appreciate the talent of our railway pioneers and thank God for the blessing that railways are. Yes, there is the occasional story like “the wrong kind of snow”, but being able to travel great distances at speed is a boon.

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