Poem: Love after Love by Derek Walcott.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Today is World Mental Health Day; although the above poem concerns recovery after a broken heart, I feel it has a wider resonance, too - learning to be kind to, to like, let alone love oneself again after a bout of depression can be so hard. But it can get easier, given time, and help. Please don’t give up hope.

“We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for. I knew a parish priest in Hamburg who was dealing with the beatification cause of a Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis for teaching children the catechism. After him, in the list of condemned individuals, was a Lutheran pastor who was killed for the same reason. Their blood was mixed. The parish priest told me he had gone to the bishop and said to him: ‘I will continue to deal with the cause, but of both their causes, not just the Catholic priest’s.’ This is what ecumenism of blood is.”

Pope Francis (via chrysostmom)

(via johnthelutheran)

Wuthering Heights


Because obviously what I need to be reading after a emotionally tough few days is a psychologically convoluted proto-Gothic novel, I’ve been re-reading ‘Wuthering Heights’.

I’d forgotten how brutal a book it is - I’d mistily remembered it as hysterical, perhaps, but the cruelty - emotional,…

Once again, I will not negotiate with terrorists.


Ok, let’s try this again.

This has nothing to do with games and is not a matter of legitimate public interest, but is simply a personal matter. I would hope and request that the games press be respectful of what IS a personal matter, and not news, and not about games. This is explicitly about…

Eurozone negotiations, 18th century style.

The chaplain then recounts the case of a Jaeger subaltern who was assailed “by an Englishman in his cups” with the declamation: “God damn you, Frenchy, you take our pay!” The outraged Hessian replied: “I am a German and you are a shit.” This was followed by an impromptu duel with hangers, (a kind of cutlass, rather than coat hangers, which was my first thought), in which the Englishman received a fatal wound. The chaplain records that General Howe pardoned the Jaeger officer and issued an order that “the English should treat the Germans as brothers.” This order began to have influence only when “our Germans, teachable as they are” had learned to “stammer a little English.” Apparently this was a prerequisite for the English to show them any affection.

From : ‘Steven Schwamenfeld.”The Foundation of British Strength: National Identity and the Common British Soldier.” Ph.D. diss., Florida State University 2007, p. 123-124

Poor Law, poor law.

You are a woman leaving, finally, an abusive man. You are either sent due to a lack of local provision or choose to go away from the area in which you have lived with your abusive partner. You enter the safe space of a women’s shelter. You begin to heal. If you’re very brave, and very lucky, he is convicted, and/or given a restraining order. If you’re even luckier, he respects its conditions. You heal well enough to go home. Despite not having much money, you are, thanks to changes over which you have no control, now responsible for paying at least some of your Council Tax. Fortunately, your council will still help though, surely, via a Council Tax Reduction? It’s at this point that some women discovered that no, their council would not offer them any help. It’s at this point they discovered that there was a financial penalty for having had the courage to leave. It’s at this point they discovered a new Poor Law.

Poor Laws were marked by their imposition of a residency test: if people were not ‘of the parish’ then they were not eligible for support, no matter how destitute. Sandwell Council introduced a residency condition in its Council Tax Support (CTS)scheme: people who hadn’t been resident in the area for two years would not be eligible. The under-provision of places in refuges is a discussion for another day, but it effects in this case mean that women who had to be sent out of area, either for their own safety or because a place wasn’t available in Sandwell, who then returned would find themselves ineligible for CTS. Equally, women who ended up in Sandwell having left another area due to domestic violence, wouldn’t be eligible either. Given the strong correlation between leaving a violent man and subsequent poverty, the consequence would be to make impoverished survivors of DV even poorer.

Enter, thankfully, the courts, who did not so much strike down Sandwell’s policy as shred it (details of the judgment here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2014/2617.html). To reduce the careful language of the judge to the demotic, Sandwell were told that their policy was a Big Fat Fail.

And that, one would think, would be that, surely? Well, no. For example, Basildon Council (who I suspect will not be alone) either can’t read, or haven’t noticed the Sandwell ruling - and their residency condition is seven years. Seven. Years: http://www.basildon.gov.uk/lcts To borrow the words of one well-respected legal blog: it is bonkers.

In these councils’ policies are revealed the way poor and vulnerable people are sent from pillar to post by the push me-pull you between local and central government policies. This government has encouraged the idea that people should be prepared to move house to find work, introduced a cap which means many benefit claimants will be forced to move because their housing benefit will no longer cover their rent, and introduced a bedroom tax (sorry, ceased to pay a spare room subsidy) which has the same effect whilst ALSO allowing councils to introduce residency conditions for CTS. Oh and cutting the grants made to councils,of course: one effect of which has been to reduce the provision of women’s refuges.

I haven’t been able to find a response by Eric Pickles,(Secretary of State for DCLG) to the Sandwell ruling: but being a sunny little optimist, I hope he would condemn what Sandwell did, and what Basildon is still doing. (Rather embarrassingly for Pickles, Basildon is a mere nine miles from his constituency - apparently his enthusiasm for localism doesn’t extend to noticing what’s going on in his own backyard, even when it pertains to his own department’s policies). However, whether he does or not, he cannot escape culpability. The policy decisions these two councils have made did not take place in a vacuum, but against a constant din of rhetoric from inter alia, the SoS and his media supporters about ending the ‘something for nothing’ culture, protecting hard-working families from being ripped off, and the need to ‘put our own people first’. That some councils have absorbed these messages and acted on them in ways which cause harm to the poorest and most vulnerable should come as no surprise. That it only took Sandwell thirty-nine minutes to agree to its new Poor Law is merely the rancid cherry on top.

(I was alerted to this mess, by the excellent Nearly Legal blogpost here: http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/2014/08/just-bonkers-absolutely-bonkers/ - anyone interested in housing law should add the blog to their RSS as a matter of urgency).

(Thirty seconds after publishing, I was told that Tendring DC also have residency test. I am beginning to suspect there will be a fair few of these cases…)

The Way We Live Now. Again.

Having been thinking over the last few days about Putin, and Mark Harper’s (unconnected) re-emergence at the top of the political septic tank, led to my wondering what the nineteenth century term for ‘spiv’ was.  Naturally this sent me to Trollope’s ‘The Way We Live Now’, and this quote from him on the reasons for its writing:

Nevertheless a certain class of dishonesty, dishonesty magnificent in its proportions, and climbing into high places, has become at the same time so rampant and so splendid that there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable. If dishonesty can live in a gorgeous palace with pictures on all its walls, and gems in all its cupboards, with marble and ivory in all its corners, and can give Apician dinners, and get into Parliament, and deal in millions, then dishonesty is not disgraceful, and the man dishonest after such a fashion is not a low scoundrel.

It happened in the 19th century, the 20th century, it is happening again. We learn nothing it seems. Nothing at all.

Confused by the French language? This graph should help you



If your French A-Levels or GCSE mostly left you confused at when you were supposed to way “tu” or “vous”, this should make things a bit clearer:



A simple guide to tutoying vs vousvoying. 

A Fragile Empire and the Country Next Door

From Ben Judah’s excellent book on Putin’s Russia ‘Fragile Empire’:

"Russia has and will always be a great power".: these are the words with which Putin began his Presidency. But what kind of ‘great power’ cannot get what it wants - in Ukraine? This country (Ukraine), for Russians, is not really a country. Going there is not really abroad; being from there is not really being foreign. Russians are as intermarried with Ukrainians as the English are with the Scots; they feel like the Germans would towards a sovereign Bavaria - that it is something abhorrent, and surely temporary. There are as many born Ukrainians in the Kremlin as there are Scots in Westminster. Here in Kiev, in the beginning, was the baptism of the Rus - the common forefathers of both Russians and Ukrainians.

A hundred pages in, and I’m finding ‘Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin’ is a truly valuable, beautifully written book - Russia’s recent history is very much Not My Field, and this is an excellent introductory overview. Even if you just dip into it, the section on Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’ provides a great contextual background against which to set recent events…

Poem: When Considering the Long, Long Journey of 28,000 Rubber Ducks

'To them who scorned the limits of bathtubs' … Kei Miller.

To them who knew to break free from dark hold of ships

who trusted their unsqueezed bodies instead to the Atlantic;

to them who scorned the limits of bathtubs,

refused to join a chorus of rub-a-dub;

to them who’ve always known their own high tunes,

hitched rides on the manacled backs of blues,

who’ve been sailing now since 1992; to them

that pass in squeakless silence over the Titanic,

float in and out of salty vortexes; to them

who grace the shores of hot and frozen continents,

who instruct us yearly on the movement of currents;

to those bright yellow dots that crest the waves

like spots of praise: hail.