If you have recently watched the news, picked up a newspaper or left the confines of your own living room, you may well have noticed that things appear to be far from right with the world. Indeed, they seem increasingly to be crumbling around us. Yet we are told that the answer is to work harder, to consume more and to stop whining. Thankfully, there are people who recognise that this is far from being the answer. And George Monbiot (one of my favourite writers, in case you haven’t already noticed) is one of them. Continue reading
I read somewhere or other that our lives are a series of moments. Now, the physicist in me is quick to point out that this is a statement of the bleeding obvious. But my philosophical side would counter that, in any life, there are likely to be some moments that have greater salience than others. They just might not be the ones we’d expect.
We all need to get away from things from time to time. To recharge our batteries and to regain perspective on our often chaotic lives. And there is no better place to do this, science is now telling us, than in the outdoors. Where we can leave our troubles behind us and embrace the deeper rhythm of the natural world. Where we can take time to heal. Continue reading
An open letter to Theresa May
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
On 19th October 2017, we received a letter from Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, ahead of her meeting with the European Council as part of the UK’s Brexit negotiations. Given that she had taken the trouble to write to us, we thought it only polite to reply. This is our response.
Thank you for your letter explaining what you are doing to secure the rights of European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom and of UK citizens living in other EU member states. We were relieved to hear that you are taking this issue so seriously. Because your actions and those of your government since the referendum in June 2016 have given a very different impression.
You say that the rights of EU and UK citizens are your first priority. This is reassuring. But it would be slightly more reassuring, we feel, if it had not taken you sixteen months to come to this conclusion. You have left three million EU citizens living in the UK and over a million UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU in a state of increasing anxiety. And you have done nothing.
The freedom of European Union citizens to live and work without hindrance in any of the twenty eight member states has been one of the most positive and profound impacts of our collective European endeavour. As a married couple of one British citizen (Simon) and one German national (Natalie), it has formed the bedrock of our shared life together. And of the future plans that now lie in tatters. And we are not alone.
The three million EU citizens living in the UK work hard, pay their taxes and contribute to our society. They are our doctors and our nurses. They are our office workers, our builders and our taxi drivers. They crew our fishing boats, they look after our elderly and, yes, they pick our strawberries. But your inaction has created a climate where they no longer feel welcome. Where they fear for their future.
And it is not just these individuals who are affected, Theresa. You have left their – often British – spouses, their children, their friends and their employers in a state of enduring limbo, too. Punctured with vile threats from various members of your government about complex registration procedures, loss of rights, compulsory fingerprinting, exorbitant fees and more. Oh, and with your Home Office writing to numerous EU citizens demanding that they make immediate preparations to leave the UK.
You could so easily have given reassurance to these people that their rights would be protected. Or at the very least that they were not about to be rounded up by the goon squad. But you chose not to. While our family and our friends have shown nothing but love, kindness and compassion, our government has done nothing. And for that, Theresa, we are afraid that we cannot forgive you.
You complain that your government has been accused of treating EU citizens living in the UK as ‘bargaining chips’ in your negotiations with the European Union. Yet it was Liam Fox, your very own Secretary of State for International Trade (and our constituency MP), who claimed that EU citizens in the UK are ‘one of our main cards’ in negotiating a Brexit deal. So please forgive us if we find your protestations somewhat disingenuous.
You also seem a little optimistic about the current status of the negotiations between the UK and the EU.
You imply in your letter that a formal agreement is almost complete, with only minor issues left to negotiate. But that is patently not true. You must surely recognise this. There is no agreement. And there is no immediate prospect of one.
So you are, in our view, either hopelessly out of touch with your own government or not being entirely straight with us. Or, quite possibly, both.
But let us be honest, Theresa. Your letter is not really aimed at us. You have not given a monkey’s about our rights until now. You have only written to us because the European Union is furious at your lack of action in this area and you are trying desperately to dig yourself out of the colossal Brexit black hole that you, David Davis, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and others have created.
You are not ‘putting people first’, as you claim. You are putting your government first. You are putting yourself first. You are putting your party’s ideological loathing of all things European ahead of the future of your country and of those who have chosen to call it their home.
You are right that we are seeking certainty about the future. But the only certainty here is that you and your government have failed at every turn. And one letter is not going to change that.
Natalie Fey & Simon Perks.
There are books that make me laugh and books that make me think. But there are very few books that actually change me as a person. Feral by George Monbiot is one of those books. It has transformed fundamentally how I think about the world and has inspired me to be more courageous in challenging the received wisdom of our times. Continue reading
It’s a bit embarrassing, really, but I have a confession to make. Something that’s been nagging at me for a little while now, and that I feel I ought really to bring out into the open. Daylight being the best disinfectant and all that. So here’s the thing. I appear to have, well, sort of misplaced a small ninja. Continue reading
One of the things that I don’t do enough of in my life is canoeing. Which is to say that I’ve been perhaps once or twice. Over twenty years ago. But I absolutely loved it and have been kicking myself ever since for not having done more. It has that rugged outdoorsy-ness to it that many sporting activities seem to lack. And, unlike kayaking, you don’t have to worry about whether your eskimo rolling skills are still up to scratch.
So it was with considerable enthusiasm that Natalie, Molly and I actually got our acts together sufficiently to take a short canoeing trip down part of the River Wye. It’s one of the best places in the country for canoeing and (I’m ashamed to admit) it’s only about an hour’s drive from my front door.
There was also a certain trepidation to the escapade, though, as while Natalie and I have both canoed before and know that we like it, nobody was quite sure about Molly. Do Labradors canoe? Or would we end up taking the shortest canoe trip ever, followed by an extended swim and a hefty damage bill?
My new favourite author, Michael Perry*, has a theory about making it as a writer. It is, he says, like shovelling horse manure. If you keep at it long enough, sooner or later you’ll have a pile so big that people can’t ignore it any more.
In my writing, as in life more generally, I have a tendency to forget this. I seem always to be aiming for the one big idea. The thing that will bring everything together. A towering monument to my own accomplishment.
This is, sadly, just as unlikely as it is pompous. Continue reading
This is the time of year when, provided I’ve done my bit a little earlier on, all kinds of wonderful things start to happen here in my little patch of the planet. And while I might have been a tad late (as usual) planting some of the seeds that I ordered way back in the dark evenings of winter, everything is doing its very best to catch up and to make the most of the lengthening days.
With the general election coming up, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time talking to people about politics. Not just about the various candidates and their parties, but about what these parties stand for and the vision of the future that they are painting for our country. Yet the more people I talk to, the more I become convinced of one simple fact. None of us really know what we think about anything. We just think we do. Continue reading