photo by Dave Randell
Thankfully Christmas is over. 2016 is nearly over and I can't say I am sorry to see it go. The year has brought focus to bear on the real issues of our time in a way that I cannot remember in previous times. We live in a country where almost all government claims to address the issues that matter are total lies and misinformation. Poverty is rapidly increasing, working people have to use food banks to supplement their needs, housing for most young people is unaffordable, some of our most capable young people are shunning a university education to avoid more debt, the government are threatening to ban strikes, the great institution that is the NHS is on it's knees through lack of funding and genuine endorsement. Racism, sexism and homophobia are insidiously on the rise in UK culture and a clear move to the right is evident throughout the land. I see the evidence every where I go and I have been around a bit this past year. Whole communities in the UK are struggling to survive and government austerity policy is responsible for most of this deprivation.
All of this seems small compared to the troubles across the world, the plight of the dispossessed of Syria and the exodus by refugees to Europe.
For many folk it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the worry and uncertainty in their lives and in the world. The strain is showing. The cost of this is probably most evident in the emergency services where highly trained and capable professionals are leaving their jobs for some thing with less stress. Are they up to the job? Well they were before cuts to services bit hard and resources were diminished. As more people become clinically depressed and anxiety levels go through the roof, the care for people with mental health issues is under resourced if it is available at all. The Police increasingly say they spend valuable time looking after people with mental distress in cells. This is because they have no where to send them for proper support and care.
The world will spend around $79 billion on ice cream in 2017. Non governmental and governments total spending on world wide aid is less than one third of this. In the UK we spend £6 billion on pet food. In 2014 it was suggested, by top fiscal experts, that the Christmas spend in the high street and on line is now an essential component of a successful UK economy. I find that very scary.
It has been a tough year for many folk I know. Many of us have lost people and of course this has been a very sad year for most of us as we saw the passing of so many great musicians, luminaries of our time and poor Jo Cox.
As we look forward to 2017 it is impossible to forget the surreal state that prevails in the world. I am thinking of Trumpworld and how is it possible that some one like Farage can achieve so much division and negativity along with his closet Little Britainers and Europhobes? I have still not met a single person who voted remain who has changed their mind. It is easy for many Brexiters to say to Remainers that they should get over it because a lot of Brexiters I meet don't seem to know what they have done or why they did it.
I suspect a lot of folk will be shocked and dismayed when we see the real cost and the resistance from the rest of the European Community to UK conditions around leaving. But I guess this debate will continue until May and co have cobbled together a route to a place they never wanted to go in the first place.
I am wondering what Putins pal Donald Trump's "State of the nation speech" might be all about. Every president makes one. Bill Clinton's was wonderful and Obama's was pretty amazing also, just to name two. Basically, for those who don't stay up half the night to listen to them, the president outlines all of the things he would like to implement and all of the ways he would do it if he was allowed. US presidents are never allowed to actualise most of their policies and the whole thing gets very watered down in Congress and in the Senate. I can only hope this applies to Trump and curbs the worst of his ignorant excesses.
In the past couple of years or so we have seen many u turns and back tracking from government caused by the will of the people. Think what might happen if we all participated in signing petitions on 38 degrees at least, never mind marching for our rights and those of our children and grand children. Are we going to let the government ban strikes, human rights and any thing else that gets in their way? Are we going to bother?
I think it was one of the first 38 degrees petitions that prevented the Tories from selling the forests to private ownership. It took a quarter of million signatures but it worked. Imagine what we could tell government if we all got involved. There are many ways we can let them know that they work for us actually and not the other way around. Join the debate here and now.
Personally I have had a great year work wise. I have had the best time playing fair days pay gigs and lots of different kinds of public shows. It would be difficult to pick the best though I especially liked the Swedish Fair days pay shows, the Norway shows with Luke, The HRH Prog fest in Wales and the gigs with Family in London and Leicester that have just finished. I loved the London shows but it was special to play the old EBB songs with Luke at Leicester. I have had a good time mostly with a few minor glitches that had little or no significant negative effect. I have made many new friends and re acquainted with some old ones too. As always I think of the people who have supported me through the year in so many clever and caring ways. You know who you are and I love you all.
I heard a radio report on BBC 5 a few days before Christmas about a little boy who had told his Mum that he didn't want Christmas presents for himself. He said he didn't want people to die over Christmas. He wanted to buy presents for "the poor children" and "get food for the homeless". With help he made parcels and distributed them. I hope that next Christmas might look and feel more like his vision of it.