Author Archives: elsimmo

Knock, knock…

Are you there? It’s your turn…

Sometimes the world is not big enough.

No picture today – this is an unusual post.

One day very recently I opened one of my social media pages to find a reply from someone I used to know in the UK; someone I last spoke to almost two years ago, and whom I had recently contacted to pick their brains about some details (names and places) of amusing events which took place approximately  eleven years ago and which I intend to write about. I was looking forward to their reply and eagerly opened the message.

What greeted me was a vicious, bitter response to my question which – evidently – had failed miserably to convey my actual meaning. I was shocked – extremely so, as I had never known this person to behave this way. They also happened to be online when I replied to the nastiness, asking what was going on. What followed was the most unpleasant, insulting interaction I have had with anybody for many years. In the course of the conversation which followed, I was not allowed to try to explain my original intentions as this person launched into attack after attack upon my character – in fact almost everything about me. Anything I had to say to correct the misunderstanding was dismissed and followed with more insults.

That individual will very likely never read this post but that isn’t important – the issue here is the perceived lack of consequence for unacceptable behaviour. As somebody in a position of significant  responsibility in their profession, this individual chose to deliberately and methodically ignore my attempts to rectify the misunderstanding which had apparently led to the stream of invective coming my way. Their response was to viciously insult me continuously, cynically twist the circumstances of our previously friendly relationship, and continuously attack me. This went on for perhaps half an hour while I tried to keep my head above water emotionally. In the end this person sent one final dismissive message and signed off, blocking me from responding.

I sat there mentally gasping, stunned at what had just happened. From my perspective I’d just been emotionally beaten up – and by someone whom, until that moment, I had considered a friend, and a gentle, reasonable human being. That made it worse. During the course of the ‘conversation’, historical posts that we had exchanged two years ago were pasted in by this other person with derisive comments attached; totally contrary to the response they had elicited at the time of the original conversation. It felt like who I was and who I had ever been, were both  under attack. The day had begun very strangely.

An hour later, my wife opened her own social media page to find messages from this person – whom she has never met – making unveiled accusations against me of a very personal nature. This individual, clearly not content with attacking me directly, had, subsequent to signing off from the conversation, seen fit to contact my wife in an obvious attempt to sabotage our relationship by seeking to create mistrust and doubt in my wife’s mind! I found that barely believable and very disturbing – such behaviour crosses a big, thick and obvious line.  I’m now left wondering to what lengths this person will go – I have grave doubts about their sanity and their integrity. This is all the more alarming since the whole thing was a total surprise, and the individual, as I mentioned, used to be someone I regarded as a friend – not close, but friendly on a day-to-day basis in a work environment. Now my regard for this individual is completely the opposite – that’s a shame, but there is no going back.

Since this happened, I’ve reviewed the message I sent  – and which apparently spurred this manic, aggressive and deeply disturbing response – and so has my wife. Neither of us can find anything overtly problematic with what I asked or the way that I asked it. Both of us believe that I was very clear and said nothing contentious. Nevertheless a totally different meaning has been assumed by this now enraged, aggressive individual. It seems that I was on the end of a frankly irrational response – and that’s scary because I have no idea how motivated this person may be to do something else – after all, if they have the gall to email my partner in an attempt to spoil our relationship with lies, where will this stop? It’s very worrying as well as being extremely hurtful.

I have two options; hope this dies a natural death (as it arose from nothing perhaps it will return to nothing) or take action by reporting the matter to the authorities (relevant to this person’s place of employment). I’m still undecided, but leaning towards not having this kind of energy disrupting my life any longer. However, when I awoke this morning, my thoughts instantly went to this issue and what a mentally unstable person is capable of doing if they are so inclined. The fact that I’m posting here tells me (and you) that it is still an issue that is disrupting my life.

Sometimes I hate the way people behave with little or no thought –  and the fact that the internet makes the world too small a place and enables them to spread their poison.

Ever wonder where we came from?

The picture above was taken in 1980, on my last holiday with my folks. At the age of 15 the novelty had worn off, and this was me putting on a less-than-disgusted face in a small street in St.Ives, Cornwall, just for the camera. Now, of course, I cherish this picture of me and my late father.

The photograph is remarkable for two reasons:

First, it was taken by my mum, who for the first time in living memory managed to NOT cut our heads, or any other part of our bodies, or indeed the relevant scenery, out of the picture. I can only assume that she pressed the button by accident before she was ready.

The second reason is NOT my haircut, which was at the time, modelling the final version of Wallace’s open face motorbike helmet (see “Wallace & Gromit; A close shave” for reference). Within a month or two I was sporting a far less goldfish bowl-like head, and boy, was it about time!

The second reason, dear fellow, is this: at that time of my life (and for a few years thereafter)  my nickname among some of my schoolmates was ‘Buster’. As in Buster Bloodvessel, the lead singer of ‘Bad Manners’ for those of you with short memories or lifespans. As far as I recall, I was kindly given this name by A.D. ‘Toskey’ Thompson and his trusty sycophantic sidekick  ‘Lol’ Pedley. Their reasoning was that I was fat. Since Buster Bloodvessel was very fat (and famously so), they felt that the name was appropriate.

Case for the defence: As the photograph clearly shows, I was not remotely overweight. As my memory (and, I’m sure any photographs of the period would confirm), Pedley was in fact rather chubby and in fact had the old pubescent boy boob thing going on. Case dismissed!!!!

What was going on? Was I merely a deflection from someone else’s insecurities? If so, why did so many people buy into the  nickname – or maybe that is a distorted memory of my own? Maybe karma for something I did to someone else?

Just as interesting is that it clearly bothered me at the time, and has remained a source of some puzzlement until this day. I wonder how much personal confidence this kind of crap eroded before we reached adulthood? My guess is that many of us bear scars inflicted at such an impressionable time of our lives…

Getting Lazy

I’ve just realized with a shock  that – to my eternal shame – the old blog is not being kept current. I don’t have time to submit something particularly topical so I am including an excerpt from something I am working on at the moment, in the hope that it cheerfully wastes thirty seconds of your day…

Never fart in a wet suit.

I recall quite vividly, one day as a child when I was sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car. Mum and dad were in the front seats, dad driving as always (mum never did learn to drive). Where we were going is lost in the mushy bits of my memory, and is anyway highly irrelevant – we’re talking about farts after all. Well, anyway, as I was saying, there the three of us were, toddling along the road, when I had the sudden and urgent need to let one go. And so, being a child of tender years, I duly allowed the silent event to take place. Within seconds a foul sulphurous cloud enveloped me – but I didn’t mind (after all, every man loves the smell of his own doesn’t he? – more on this later), in fact I felt unashamedly triumphant! This was a good one, a REALLY good one.

With a mixture of suppressed delight and trepidation I awaited the inevitable reaction from the front seats. perhaps that was what made it so funny; waiting for my little time bomb to take effect. By the time anything happened, I had slipped down to a horizontal position on the back seat (there were no rear seat belts in those days folks), stifling my laughter. And then, as if by magic, my mother was gripped by the invisible beast and uttered a startled “OH!”. Needless to say I barely had time to grab a breath before the convulsive laughing took hold of me. “Good GOD!” she said, emphatically. I was helpless, mouth wide open but making no sound…and then, as in all good crime stories, my dad fell victim too. Now it’s worth bearing in mind that my dad had lived a very varied life (Royal Navy at 15, Police officer for many years at that point), was not given to demonstrative behaviour, and had been known to crank out his own exotic malodourous creations from time to time. He was a hard man to impress.

However, impress him I did. As I said, he was not a man given to extremes of behaviour. This made his spontaneous reaction all the more funny to me. While my mum comically gasped to his left, he simply rapidly rolled down his window (no electric windows in those days either!) and muttered – just loud enough for me to hear, and with deep emphasis: “Bloody Hell…”. Well of course that just finished me off, and the memory can still make me chuckle out loud to this day, almost forty years later.

There I lay, spread across the back seat of that little old Austin 1100 saloon, unable to make any sound, tears streaming from my eyes and into my ears. Deprived of oxygen for a good minute, I had to gasp some air, but even after that first deep breath was only able to make strangled “Ah…ah…ah” noises in the back of my throat. You know the kind. After another thirty seconds or so of this unrestrained mirth I was finally able to wrestle my way outside of  another lungful of air. Opening my tear -filled eyes I could see my mum silently grinning out of the side window while my dad, despite himself, was unable to prevent his characteristic sideways smile from creeping across his face.

Sweet victory, I thought. Sweet victory.

I wrote a book.

It’s a kids’ book, it’s my first published one, and it’s just a start.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009DQSX5G

 

It’s not a small world, but even so…

 

Some friends are older than others…

Perhaps topically, given the subject of the more recent posts on here (although I’ve only just realised that my last post was a whole month ago today!), we recently had two visits from the UK. The first was from my now rather aged mother (she’s 82 y’ know!) who came out to see us all on her own and only a few months after losing my dear old dad. As a member of the extended family has remarked; a plucky lady!

That visit went extremely smoothly and lasted two weeks, although we could all have enjoyed more time together.

The second visit – well, more of a meeting really, was with a former colleague and friend whom, for the purposes of this blog we shall call…Paul. Because that’s his name. No, really; he’s called Paul.

Paul and his lovely wife (whom for the purposes of this blog we shall call…Brenda – because; etc., etc., you get the picture) were over in BC on another Canadian vacation, covering as much of the province as they reasonably could in two weeks without getting nose bleeds.  I first met Paul in 1999 when we were both forced into a classroom together as part of a police trainer’s training program. It sounds rather mild doesn’t it? Aha! Be not deceived good people! The police trainer’s course is (well, at least it certainly was at the time) perhaps the most feared course available to serving police officers. Back then, in order to take operational officers and turn them into (and I realise this sounds conceited but it applies to so many other hundreds of my former colleagues that I can’t dress it down) perhaps the finest group of adult educators in the country, the police service took people to places such as snowy Yorkshire where we were sealed off from the outside world and brainwashed.

Of course I exaggerate slightly – brainwashing it certainly wasn’t in the traditional sense, but washing of the brain perhaps.  It was a hugely intense six weeks followed by four weeks of even more intense practicum. Intense, difficult, enlightening, frightening but ultimately life changing, this course brought together a group of fourteen very different people and changed them all. One of the best outcomes of the course was my friendship with Paul. Forged despite (sleeping on opposite sides of and against a wafer-thin plywood wall) my truly thunderous rectal expellations on the theme of methane each morning – Paul didn’t need an alarm clock as a result –  our friendship was formed largely upon our shared sense of humour.

Paul and I worked together throughout the course and then, happily, throughout our practicum phase, which we have subsequently agreed was probably the most intense few weeks of our respective police careers. And so while our association was forged within a climate of hard work and to some degree, adversity, it was built upon a genuine regard for one another’s qualities. It is a friendship that is strong – I know this because after the lines of communication becoming stretched ever longer, our meeting last week was an unqualified joy.

For whatever reason (and there are only ever silly reasons for this), we lost touch with one another. Especially after emigtrating. I know how it can work; one person replies to an email too late or forgets entirely due to the day to day pressures of life and the link appears broken. One or both parties simply have too much else to think about and the communication imperative slips down the order of importance. It’s called life, and I understand it.

So, we had not had any communication for approximately five years until Tuesday last week, when an email from the man himself landed in my inbox! Shazzam!

“Oh nice!” I thought as I opened the message; “Paul’s back in touch again!”  What did I read? The bugger is on holiday and staying 45 minutes away from me – but only for one more full day! Needless to say, a meeting was hastily arranged for the next day, although prior commitments dictated that we couldn’t indulge in a full day and evening (with appropriate levels of alcohol consumption) kind of visit. Dammit.

The next day we got the story from them; following a technology fart, Paul had changed his computer and lost a shed-load of addresses and other details, including my own. Sigh. My recent Christmas card with our new address on let him know I was still out here somewhere, but old phone numbers and such like no longer applied. By sheer chance, having only the previous day arrived in the nearby resort village, they had decided on a whim to visit the information centre, and in doing so began to chat to the lady behind the counter. As the conversation progressed the delightful coincidence emerged that the infomation operative (to give her the full title) is an acquaintance of ours as well! And so – shazzam! Surprise! Contact!

What followed was a thoroughly enjoyable but all-too-brief visit with two lovely people. I introduced my new wife (not quite at our second anniversary yet) to them both and we all got on very well, and as if we’d only seen one another the week before. From that meeting I know that I will always be able to call Paul a friend. I don’t use that term lightly – I reserve it for a very small group of people. My friends are people with whom the laughter flows naturally, with whom I never have to try, they are people with whom I can resume a years – old conversation at a second’s notice.

They are few and far between, my friends. They are immensely valued and immensely valuable to me. These people are very special. I’m very lucky.

Go West, Old(er) man

A welcoming….are you mad sir? Don’t you remember me at all?

Continuing the newly coined tradition of digressing with the first sentence; I heard a track from ‘Go West’ on the radio for the first time in a decade today. It was not a pleasant experience. Despite my (increasingly frantic) pleas for mercy, the radio did not cease this attack until the aforementioned ‘song’ had been completed.

Where are my manners…Bad Manners…Buster Bloodvessel…aaargh!…welcome back to…um…Hoylake – and here of course! I am sitting here, late afternoon, cold beer in stomach (the temperature has been in the low 90s for some time – typical BC summer), paint all over me and my carefully chosen set of sacrificial clothes, after three days of determined painting of a few rooms in the house. We choose to paint rather than ‘paper – wallpaper is a strange and weird concept over here – everyone just paints their walls (praise the lord). Only another half of the house to do then!

In answer to your question, despite a reputation to the contrary (carefully fostered over 18 years as a rozzer) I am quite accommodating to visitors and charge only a small rent for a week’s stay, plus of course cleaning duties and making four out of seven evening meals. Oh and cutting the grass and pulling some weeds. And finishing the painting. The dogs need walking too. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

Putting my hilarious quips to one side for a moment (the audience breathes a huge sigh of relief) yes of course you would be very welcome to visit!

On the holiday topic, we are going away in a few days with friends to a stereotypical Canadian log cabin on the shores of a beautiful lake, where I shall play with my boat, do lots of fishing, reading, playing of cards and gazing at a light pollution-free sky, where I hope to see the milky way properly. My kids are coming with us, and so there will doubtless be plenty of dock – jumping, cannonball-ing and camp fire roasting of ‘smores’. The dogs will be with us too, swimmong and, once alongside a hapless human,  liberally shaking at regular intervals to ensure that we don’t stay too dry.

Smores – since you asked – consist of a biscuit/cracker type thing onto which one places a freshly camp-fire roasted (and therefore nuclear) and gooey marshmallow, followed by a wafer of chocolate and another cracker/biscuit. Once constructed, they are to be eaten immediately and with relish. Deadly for a diabetic like me, so I of course love ’em. I commend them to you, sir.

I’m looking forward to our break and then coming home to push all the rubbish under the bed because my mum is coming out to visit a week on Friday! It will be the first time I’ll have seen her since my dad’s funeral, and she hasn’t been out here since 2003 so it’s a big deal for her and us.

I do heartily recommend you get out here some time (I know the flights are not cheap) as the scope for travelling is vast – you can comfortably head East in a fairly straight line and not turn back for five days while staying in the same country. I totally understand the ‘staying rather than living in’ principle – although I’m not too sure that it applies out here…be careful!

 

 

Top hole, jolly good show!

Back in Blighty, we are so polite we avoid breathing on one another.

I’ve always liked the phrase ‘top hole’ for reasons I cannot explain in a family oriented blog. I digress – which for me is not unusual but digressing with the opening sentence is something of a first for me. Allegedly.

Sooooo Mr. Smith before you die you should know how I am going to bring down western civilization and  take over the world…oops sorry, that’s the wrong line, taken in error from my ‘Megalomaniac’s Monthly’ blog. I’ll try again;

Sooooo…living abroad hey? Well the first thing to say is that as a younger man it was something I never, ever thought I would do. As a very young man I’d fleetingly mulled it over mainly because I used to have an Uncle who lived out here in Canada (a long way away from where I am now), but it had become a non-issue for me as I really couldn’t imagine beginning from scratch in a new country. The idea of being brand new and clueless wasn’t a very attractive one – I knew how things worked in the UK and was comfortable with that knowledge. I was, in fact, part of the establishment – which made being in the UK very safe indeed.

Nevertheless, here I am. In May of this year I passed the ten year mark of living here in British Columbia. The very short version of my reflections on this landmark is that I am not planning to return to my home country anytime soon. I’ve been back several times since 2008 and for a variety of reasons, but having been away for six years before visiting ‘home’ again and becoming immersed in the western Canadian culture made a difference to how I experience the UK.

Being in another country allows me to look back at the old country with a more objective eye than I perhaps had prior to moving.  Having said that, I was moved by the Olympic opening ceremony this past week ; Britain for once celebrating itself on the international stage, rather than the compulsive and apologetic hand – wringing that seems to have been the case ever since the empire fell apart. Britain was great – very great indeed, and without the British Empire the world would have been a very different place. The Olympic ceremony was a wonderful chance to see Brits displaying their pride, and rightly so. But the old giant is getting on now, and from the outside looking in, is showing its age.

Britain still produces excellence in many fields – entertainment, engineering, diplomacy and I still believe, a sense of fair play(something I mention because I’m probably more passionate about fairness than anything else). British TV programs broadcast over here (usually on public-funded TV channels with small audiences) are light years ahead of anything the North Americans can produce, and we hungrily hunt down detective and other dramas for our weekend evenings.

There are occasions when, watching one of those UK TV programs, I will hanker for the scenery of Scotland or Cornwall, or Wales perhaps (if you’ve never been to The Gower peninsula I recommend it – the best beaches I ever saw in the UK) and it’s true that Britain has some stunningly beautiful scenery. But – and here’s the main problem which infests everything about Britain – the country is FULL.

I know, for example, that a peaceful canal barge  holiday will be far from peaceful – adjacent road noise and lots of other holidaymakers will see to that. I know that every beach will fill up on a sunny day, usually with annoyingly inconsiderate people who litter and intrude on everyone’s privacy and relaxation. I know that every town and city centre is a smelly, noisy and frankly grubby hotch-potch of humanity and all the unpleasant sights and smells which accompany such crowds. I know that finding a silent mountain top is a wondrous thing in the UK (I first experienced that at the age of 15 and was amazed that I found REAL silence), but also that a group of hikers or scouts or ramblers is just a few minutes around the next knoll or crag, or that within a very short time, the sound of an airliner will break through any fleeting sense of being on my own. Yes, that beautiful, diverse, wonderful island nation is full. And the old girl is showing the strain.

My last two visits were depressing on that note. I found the places I visited were dirty, scruffy and had a look of neglect. Even the airports, as I disembarked from several flights, frankly were smelly – that horrible rank smell of old damp mops left out too long. Too many people = too much to do = too little time to care.

Where I live, a good hour from Vancouver, we have no such problems. Our small(ish) town has a big, underused leisure centre (pronounced ‘leezyurr’ centre), beautiful parks coming out of every orifice, fantastic sports facilities, scenery to make your jaw drop and space like we can only dream about in England. I can go ten or fifteen minutes up the road and find silence and solitude if I wish – and I do so almost every day when I walk our dogs. Restaurants (with the qualification mentioned below) are hardly ever full around here, simply because there are so many of them and relatively few people to fill them. Cinemas are the same – you can get into a first showing of the latest blockbuster without even trying or booking in advance. Shopping is equally stress-free, lots of shops and not many people means no queues (and I mean NO queues) at Christmas, even in the last couple of days, and even in the supermarkets.

The pace of life here is slower than Britain, and there are places to go where it is slower still. Weekends feel like mini holidays even if you don’t go anywhere. The roads are quieter (which is a good job because they are awful drivers here) and HUGE in comparison. The road I lived on until three years ago was a quiet suburban street, but would be a four lane -wide road in the UK. In essence, life here is more relaxed and that’s what I want: time to enjoy what’s going on around me. It’s different here, yes, but different in ways which are far more positive than negative. Oh and we have summers every year!

The niggles I have are minor and they have never affected my opinion that I am fortunate to have found such a great environment to live in and raise my kids within. Yes I miss proper ‘chippy’ chips and other foods which understandably are not the same here, but on balance that’s not much to trade for the lifestyle I’ve found here. Anyway we have ‘drive-thru’ ATMs, coffee shops and burger places in every town (no matter how tiny) so that evens things out a bit. Fast food over here is terminally monotonous – consisting almost entirely of ground beef in all its forms. Burgers are on every restaurant’s menu – and most ‘restaurants’ here would be considered fast food joints in the UK – fine dining is a rare and beautiful thing outside of the major cities, and even a decent curry has to be searched for very carefully. Pubs in the main are crap and the beer is crap but if you look hard enough you’ll find what you want, and of course, like anywhere in the world, life is what you make of it.

I think that’s the main point; it’s not WHERE we live that’s the main issue – it’s what we make of things where we are. I think that living here has allowed me to live my life differently from the way I could live in Britain. There is so much to say but the distilled version of it all is that I have no desire to up-sticks and return to live in any part of Britain, not even the beautiful islands or highlands. Britain is a beautiful, wonderful country and I will always love it and be proud of its achievements. It is, however, overwhelmingly – and to my way of thinking; depressingly – full of people. By comparison British Columbia on its own is about three times the size of the UK mainland. Four million people live here. Four million, that’s all. In all of Canada (the world’s second largest country) there are only approximately 36 million people. I live in the South Western corner of BC and this is the most densely populated part of the province (about half the population in about 3% of the land mass), yet the available space here is still overwhelming. I’ve travelled widely and been to many other parts of BC with former jobs, and believe me, it is wonderfully EMPTY!

So understandably we pay more  (lots more) for food, less understandably a lot less for petrol (I almost said ‘gas’), less for electricity (all hydro electric in BC) and more for natural gas. We don’t pay water rates and there are no water meters. We pay house tax each year and we pay more for car insurance (until you get to be an old git like me and then the costs starts to tumble). Houses are MUCH bigger here and living spaces are very comfortable. Did I mention proper summers? Oh yes – I did.

You asked for pros and cons – I’ve pointed out a few and I could find as many of each in either country I’m sure. It’s about personal preferences though – perhaps you’d find the space and peace and quiet a little too boring? I know that you’ve seen some of the Eastern side of N.America (USA I believe?) but Canada IS different in important ways from the USA (for a start we have very few gun – toting crazy people). Western Canada is different again from Eastern and central Canada – if you ever go (or have been) to Toronto it is about as representative of Western Canada as London is of Cornwall or Scotland. The best testimonial I can offer is that everyone I know who has come out here has fallen in love with the place, and either wants to come back, is/are coming back, or has come here for good. I’m not sure if it has quite worked the same way in the opposite direction (although of course few Canadian tourists make it to West Kirby or Hoylake…)?

Come and dip your toe in the (crystal clear lake) water, why dontcha?

Birth of a Titan

That thing you mentioned about not remembering early school/life? You have a point there – I took this photo with the old box brownie on the grassy bit just next to door ‘H’ on the first day of Grammar School. As you can see, a young Pedro is taking delivery of another First Year. Oh by the way ignore the silly label on the  photo – I was just messing around. No offence.

“You boy! Come out of that pod at once! We shall call you…SMITH!”

I always remembered you as someone I had a good laugh with – although the snap below  (I had a colour film camera by that stage) does remind me that things started to fall apart in the sixth form;

“SMITH! Pick up that body part at once!”

Funny things, memories – so much missing but then some days my head is full of them…

Food Security & Nuts.

An American survivalist on the way out to the back garden to pick some onions.

For some time now, mostly at the behest of my lovely wife who opened my eyes on the subject, I have subscribed to the idea of food security and food sovereignty. I’m no expert – just a normal person living in a normal neighbourhood who has observed the rather alarming demise of the small farmer in North America in particular, and noticed the even more alarming increase of influence over our food supplies by massive corporations. I’m not a nut (not even an organically grown nut) – I’d describe myself as a concerned observer. The main result of my/our observations is that each year we try to grow more of our own vegetables and fruit (on an average sized and steeply-sloped plot) and hope to one day have the facility to effectively store our crops so that we can enjoy them throughout the year. To me – to us – it makes a lot of sense, and while we watch the growth of companies like Monsanto with trepidation, we are not fortifying our house or digging a bunker. Which brings me to my issue.

Using social media on a daily basis, I frequently receive posts from websites and facebook pages which reflect my own ideas about the development (or decline) of our culture in the west, many of which refer to the global issues rather than taking a parochial view from my own back yard. Many posts are accompanied by images of breathtaking ingenuity on the themes of recycling or sensible and sustainable consumption. I like the idea of sustainable consumption in particular – it’s as common sense as it gets, and for me reflects the fundamental idea of nature always seeking balance – if a species of animal eats too much of their preferred food (through population explosion) for example, through starvation their numbers will wither until the food supply and their numbers once again reach sustainable balance. But there is a problem with ideas such as this. The principles are being hijacked by those with extreme views.

In a world (wide web) where the most aggressive “be like me or f*ck off” approach seems to be growing in popularity among the bullied-at-school-and really-pathetic-socially-inadequate keyboard warriors of the world, simple, balanced ways of living seem to be increasingly the domain of extremist ‘preppers’ – people for whom the end of the world is nigh (AGAIN) and ‘survival’ seems to involve shooting everyone else first and asking questions afterwards. It seems like I can’t receive a post about roof gardens or interesting garden innovations without comments containing a heavy sprinkling of dark warnings of doom and advice to own as many and as large calibre weapons as I can lay my hands on. And there always seems to be someone with the North American obsession with ‘The Apocalypse’ on their mind. I’m beginning to think that ‘the rapture’ (and what a mind-bendingly ridiculous notion THAT is!) actually refers to people pleasuring themselves at the thought of the world ending.

Here’s an interesting clip I found on the BBC which reflects some of what I have noticed; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18877449

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard of the world being about to end during my lifetime. The only thing I AM sure of is that whenever I die, my personal world will end, and that will be that. In the meantime I’d like to live a balanced life as far as possible, as an example removing corn products (not corn on the cob – just processed corn products) from my diet as far as possible – it’s in almost everything – and live as long as I can, enjoying as much as I can. Let’s be blunt; there is no 2012 apocalypse, there is no global disaster on the horizon (unless Jupiter hurls an errant asteroid at us of course but I’ll accept the scientific odds that it isn’t actually very likely at all), and I don’t need to build a bunker to survive a three year nuclear winter.

What I DO need to do is live a sustainable life so that I leave behind as little mess as possible and rely on ultra capitalist corporations as little as possible. So for example we grow food, even in our front yard (gasp! maybe I AM a revolutionary extremist?), we’ll be getting some (illegal – oh boy I’m living life on the edge!) chickens one day in the near future, and tomorrow I’m taking my son fishing – which I love – for trout the right size for one fish per person each meal. Not really radical stuff is it – perhaps instead a few things that would have been recognised as sensible a hundred years ago?

Unfortunately, however, the ideas of balance with which I agree are increasingly being taken hold of and bastardized and distorted into extreme notions of impending danger, and it’s getting tiring listening to such rubbish shouted at us across the airwaves. Over here in North America the TV has apocalyptic ‘documentaries’ available for viewing several times every single day. It is, in itself, almost a religion – and that’s without the evangelists preaching the same stuff on a number of their own goofy TV channels! And by the way, how do you get away with making a career out of preaching imminent doom? Doesn’t anyone ever notice that it never seems to happen?

I wish the extremist survivalists in particular would bugger off to their own camouflaged gun – totin’ websites where they can show photos of their gun collections and videos of their whole family shooting water barrels to pieces with assault rifles, to their hearts’ content. It’s all utter bollocks and evidence of how screwed up America really is. I recently heard that there is something like three million of these nut cases out in the woods in the United States (i.e. not in institutions for the permanently paranoid) – three million scared people and their guns can do an awful lot of damage if they get scared enough.

The real fight is, for me, not one of weapons and blood – it’s the fight against buying all our food in one place – buying food we are convinced is easy to find and cheap to pay for. Real food rarely comes in cubed packaging or out of a squeezable tube. Real food is the stuff you DON’T see advertised on TV these days – perhaps something to think about and, dare I say it – digest?

These are my sprouts…I got sprout plants for my birthday in April…really! And you know what? It was a GREAT prezzy!

I love gadgets and I have a passing but not very deep interest in technology – some modern technology is patently favouring balance. Solar and wind power are two accessible technologies which I can see myself embracing in the not too distant future – I only have a couple of small portable battery charging solar panels and I’d love to have some for the house one day soon. So I am not an extremist – I’m trying to get there in a way which is itself supportable and sustainable, and I understand that many folks are much further down the road than I. I just happen to believe in finite resources – hence I believe that peak oil is a reality, but because we have the technology to create and exploit cleaner alternatives (Hydrogen anyone?) I don’t believe we will fall into a cataclysmic post-oil kind of hell. The technology will follow the money, and vice-versa. A kind of balance in its own right, I suppose?

In the meantime I’d like to live that balanced lifestyle, moving closer to sustainability and staying away from the bunker life which so many fantasists seem to embrace, and which is so consistently supported by the Hollywood film industry in particular. Because I live in an active volcanic/earthquake zone I have stores of drinking water and shelter and non-perishable food available in the case of a local emergency – I think that’s sensible, and I will take measures to protect the family and our stores in the event of a week – long (or more) regional crisis, but – the world ending? Nope.

I’ll leave that kind of hysterical planning (to kill anyone who sets foot on my property) for people who are off their medication, or who have yet to be diagnosed and prescribed their anti – psychotics. Three million (with lots of guns) and counting.

Well that’s made a mess of me brassicas….