Arrogance of Man

I was watching a news report last night about the tornado in Texas. The devastation it had left is awful and my heart goes out to those affected. However I was struck, again, with how an official giving a news conference described it. I’ll paraphrase. It went something like. “We’ve got houses levelled, destroyed and turn on their heads. It looks like a bomb went off.” I remember a recent report of the after effects of the cyclone had hit eastern Africa earlier this year a reported walking among the debris saying “It looks like a warzone”.

Interesting isn’t it that mother nature in both these events has shown just how vulnerable we humans are; that despite all our technological advances etc. that when nature decides a cyclone or tornado is going to go that way there’s nothing we can do. Or a hurricane or a tsunami or a volcano eruption. However we decide to compare mother nature to human induced destruction…. “like a bomb”…. “like a warzone”.

We don’t see reporters walking through the ravaged cities of Syria or Yemen saying – “looks like a cyclone hit” or “as bad as a tornado”. Also (with the exception of the bomb analogy) actually to look like a warzone takes time for us to bring that level of destruction a tornado, hurricane, cyclone, tsunami, volcano etc. can do it is minutes, seconds even.

Still we compare it to man made efforts. We really have so little respect for nature and so much arrogance as a species currently is my overriding thought on it.

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Brexit – yes I have to talk about it again!

I’ve just watched the Laura Kuenssberg documentary – The Brexit Storm. Billed as her inside story. Well… hmmm…. maybe. Yes her face was the same as mine at the moment the count was delivered to the commons on the first defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement- I’d expected about 100 not 150. Her jaw dropped as mine did that evening. But I expect many of the cozy little chats with Boris in the bar and Jacob Rees-Moog before a broadcast interview were much more managed and scripted than they’d like you to think. Steven Baker almost crying as he decided to again vote against the deal was … well… marginally authentic. (No it wasn’t) Oh and another bugbear – again the leave means leave march to parliament on 29th March was shown but not the 1 million who marched the week before demanding the whole thing be overturned – not very unbiased frankly.

However – here we are April 2019. I should be living in a country now freed from the shackles of the EU enjoying some new marvellous future the leave campaigns have promised for years. Colours to the mast. I’m a left of centre liberal who was (and still is) a remainer. I honestly don’t believe the years of economic pain is worth going through and I’m highly dubious we’ll be economically better off anyway when we ever get through the chaos. Whilst many shout loudly for isolationist populist messages in many countries what you really see across the globe is a continue consolidation into large powerful trading blocks. Here is a map I’ve nicked from Wikipedia.


Note that there is very little grey – i.e. not in any block – a handful in Africa but including Yemen which is a non-governable warzone, Iran (ostracised by the world) Syria (see Yemen with a dictator that we really should have done something about ages ago…. ), North Korea (ostracised repressive regime with a dictator)… You can see where I’m going here. The UK will be in glorious isolation as the only democratic, developed nation outside a bloc. Whatever you feel about globalisation and loss of sovereignty with regard to trade and multi-national companies etc. It is a fact of life and arguably an inevitable consequence of the continued development of capitalism. Essentially the aim will be that all wealth and trade will end up in the hand(s) of the biggest, the largest, the most aggressive etc. Capitalism’s end state is a single corporation (World Inc) that has a total monopoly in ever market. Obviously anyone can start up new but unless you have a disruptive model like Amazon did 20 years ago good luck on beating World Inc.

Regardless of how foolhardy the UK government asked the people and narrowly the vote was to leave. Now… no one had actually thought about what that meant. The question just said

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union.

So did leave mean join the EFTA (which we were in prior to joining in 1974?) and have a deal like Norway? I.e. we abide by the EU rules on trade, accept free movement of labour etc. Did it mean stay in a customs union… etc. Did it mean only operate on WTO rules (us and Moldova apparently, even North Korea has some trade deals!) Btw – how come WTO rules are all ok but the EU trading rules were unacceptable to us? But the EU has an elected parliament and a council of nationally elected representatives…. whereas the WTO?… To say I’m baffled by the arguments thrown about by the Brexiter champions is an understatement at times.

We didn’t know when we voted in 2016. It was one of my main reasons for immediately dismissing voting for that option myself – I had no idea what I would be voting for. It appears our representatives in parliament still are clueless as to what we actually voted for. Exasperation doesn’t come close to how appalling this situation is. Currently some of our factories lay idol since they’d planned a shut down in early April to avoid issues with no deal Brexit disrupting their supply chain. But we’ve not left however you can’t just change those plans they probably told all their suppliers 3 – 6 months ago of this decision. No doubt also placing contracts with others to do necessary maintenance or upgrades whilst the plant is shut. But now Brexit day is 12 April… or is it? What an utter utter mess. The CBI and TUC normally organisations at each others throats jointly wrote to the prime minister on 21 March saying.

Together we represent millions of workers and tens of thousands of businesses. It is on their behalf that we are writing to you to ask you to change your Brexit approach.

Our country is facing a national emergency. Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no deal to soar. Firms and communities across the UK are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come.

On Monday night there was a series of indicative votes to try to tell the government where to steer the negotiations. Of course totally ignoring the fact that the EU has said they are done negotiating the withdrawal deal on the table is the only one we can have. Something most MPs seem to totally ignore. I was bamboozled to see two options on Monday’s vote, so called Common Market 2.0 (looks like EFTA membership to me) or a customs union. I’ll spell this out so that MPs understand. Article 50 of the Maastrict treaty under which we can leave the EU makes it very clear we cannot negotiate a new trading arrangement with the EU whilst still a member. We have to leave (deal or not) before either of these options can be presented in negotiations for our future status.

Oh yes though of you reading from outside the UK – this is only the start. The deal we are agonising over and tearing ourselves apart constitutionally, politically and economically over is only to go to end of 2020 (end of current EU budget cycle), slightly more than 18months. In that time we are supposed to negotiate a far harder target – a new trading relationship. That took Canada 7 years and we supposedly (in current government policy) want a much more ambitious deal than Canada – sometimes call Canada++.

In watching repeatedly the government come back with it’s withdrawal agreement to defeat after defeat after defeat and to see no agreement on any practical way forward even wasting time on voting for situations that the EU would simply just wave away with a firm “NON!” beggars belief.

It all seems bizarre when you remember the leave campaign banging on about how we were going to “Take back control”. Frankly our parliamentary parties, MPs, the government and the Prime Minister have all collectively proved actually they are the last people to whom more control should be given.

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Memory jolt….

In a conversation with someone the other day I suddenly remembered a film. Silent Running. Made in 1972 it was, IMHO, years ahead of its time.

A brief synopsis which I hope isn’t too spoiler filled for those that have not seen it. Set in the future where mankind have so polluted earth that plants can’t live. So a fleet of space craft have a set a pods on them, greenhouses in effect, that hold the last plants, trees etc saved. They are waiting to be told to return to earth to allow the reforestation to begin. However they get told to jettison the pods and return to earth for commercial work instead.

The rest of the film is about a scientist on one of the ships and his struggle with that decision and what he does about it.

Made in 1972 remember its themes about pollution of the planet ring so more true today 47 years later. There are little drones etc all pre star wars etc. Bruce Dern is the star.

I remember seeing the film on TV in the mid 70s. I’d have been mid teens. I remember I cried my eyes out at the finale (I’ll leave you to watch the movie or read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia!).

For years and years afterwards I often told people it was one of my favourite films. But I haven’t seen it or thought about it in ages until this conversation sparked my memory.

And then I was set off thinking. I’d have seen this film a year, maybe two, before I began to regularly drink. I remember my family laughing and chastising me in a jovial “pull yourself together” as I cried at that film. Outward strong emotional outbursts weren’t encouraged for the men of the family.

This film isn’t why I’m an alcoholic but it suddenly struck me why I liked alcohols ability to numb my emotions so well. Why I did then abuse it’s use for 25 years to numb those emotions. That memory is symptomatic of why alcohol enticed me into its lair.

Now it’s accepted in my nuclear family that I can be quite emotional about films, news stories etc. Me weeping at DIY SOS or appeal films etc is not uncommon and met with “oh dear Dad’s gone again”. I cried like mad over that flypast for the guy in the Sheffield park just because he’d remembered those airmen sacrifice to save him and his friends 75 years ago and his amazing dedication to the memorial there.

I’m thinking I must buy a copy of Silent Running and watch it again to see if I still cry at the end 40 years on.

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Managing Ménière’s 

Hello anybody still around to read this – apologies for being the most infrequent blogger in the blogsphere.  However frankly there is very little to blog about – I no longer work, I’m stuck at home most of the time now and therefore there’s little (nothing!) of interest really going on.

So I’m now just writing this so that I might read it some point in the future I think.

After about 18 months suffering with the Ménière’s being really bad it is … perhaps a little better.  I hate to say that in case that triggers it all off again.  The frequency of the really bad vertigo attacks has diminished at least.  We’re at about 1 a month currently.  Which is better than one or two a week as it was back last year.  However difficulty balancewise, real issues with Hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound) and just hearing continue and vary but I’m learning to generally cope.

I recently saw the Neurologist who reviewed my MRI that I had done.  Nothing obvious.  Which is in someway good but in otherways a bit of a bugger as therefore no new treatment plan.  However he’s referred me to a Neurotologist who specialises in the bit between the ear and the brain.  Maybe that’ll yield something new we’ll see in time.

Via one of the online forums I’m on I found this page…

It says…

How do I manage an attack?

During an acute attack, lay down on a firm surface. Stay as motionless as possible, with your eyes open and fixed on a stationary object. Do not try to drink or sip water immediately, as you’d be very likely to vomit. Stay like this until the severe vertigo (spinning) passes, then get up SLOWLY.

After the attack subsides, you’ll probably feel very tired and need to sleep for several hours.

If vomiting persists and you are unable to take fluids for longer than 24 hours (12 hours for children), contact your doctor. He/She can prescribe nausea medication, and/or vestibular suppressant medication. He/she may wish to see you or even admit you to the hospital if you are dehydrated. Meclizine (Antivert), lorazepam and clonazepam are commonly used vestibular suppressant medications and Compazine, Phenergan or Ondansetron are commonly used medications for nausea.

Certain self-care tactics can help reduce the impact of Meniere’s disease. Consider these tips for use during an episode:
* Sit or lie down immediately when you feel dizzy. During an episode of vertigo, avoid things that can make your signs and symptoms worse, such as sudden movement, bright lights, watching television or reading.
* Rest during and after attacks. Don’t rush to return to your normal activities.
* Be aware of the possibility of losing your balance. Falling could lead to serious injury. Use good lighting if you get up in the night. Consider walking with a cane for stability if you experience chronic balance problems.
* Avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery if you experience frequent episodes of vertigo. Doing so could lead to an accident and injury.

The unpredictable episodes of vertigo are usually the most debilitating problem of Meniere’s disease. The episodes often force a person to lie down for several hours and lose time from work or leisure activities, and they can cause emotional stress.
Vertigo can also increase your risk of:
* Falls
* Accidents while driving a car or operating heavy machinery
* Depression or anxiety in dealing with the disease
* Permanent hearing loss

The real interesting bit for me was reading this is that this is how over the last 18 months or more that I’ve come to cope with an attack myself through experience.  So I completely support it (exception to the medications which I’ve not tried those ones so can’t say).  But I’ll highlight my experience.

During an acute attack, lay down on a firm surface. Stay as motionless as possible, with your eyes open and fixed on a stationary object. … Stay like this until the severe vertigo (spinning) passes, then get up SLOWLY.

100% – this is the best way to cope with it I find.  I try to get down on the floor and lay face down as soon as it starts to move.  I then raise to being on all fours or kneeling and then focus on a point on the floor until it slows.  It doesn’t always work but sometimes I can limit an attack to a few seconds or a minute or so.  If not I’ll get sat up leaning forward looking down and the floor and try to ride out the spin for an hour or two.

After the attack subsides, you’ll probably feel very tired.   I’m normally shattered for at least the next 24 hours.

* Sit or lie down immediately when you feel dizzy. During an episode of vertigo, avoid things that can make your signs and symptoms worse, such as sudden movement, bright lights, watching television or reading.

Totally agree – moving slowly avoid looking to the affected side (mine is left) so I’ll move my whole body to the left I’ll not move the head to the left at all.
* Rest during and after attacks. Don’t rush to return to your normal activities.

I completely agree – once I’ve had an attack that is it – that day at least is written off I need to just sit still and recover.
* Be aware of the possibility of losing your balance. Falling could lead to serious injury. Use good lighting if you get up in the night. Consider walking with a cane for stability if you experience chronic balance problems.

Getting up at night is difficult for me.  We leave the landing light on and the door ajar so I have some light but still my wife finds me ability to walk into the wall, bed, door highly ammusing.
* Avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery if you experience frequent episodes of vertigo. Doing so could lead to an accident and injury.

In the UK you can’t drive with this disease.  Recently we finally sold the existing two cars, one of which was simply just sitting on the drive most of the time and bought a newer middle sized vehicle my wife is confident to drive.  My large estate car is gone and her beloved little nippy runabout.  I’m no longer insured to drive and I resigned to never driving again.  But boy that takes your freedom away.  I have many good friends in AA to thank as they are going out of their way currently to help give me lifts to meetings where they can so I still regularly attend my home groups which is vitally important for me.

So I’ve put this here for anyone struggling with vertigo and esp Ménière’s as I’d recommend much of what it says as I worked it out through my own experience.  Also so that anyone who’s wondering what I go through this goes someway to explain it.

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New year views

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  I haven’t done in years – they always ended up dis-guarded by mid Jan at the earliest and Mid Feb at the latest.  I was reflecting that really why do you need 1st Jan to be the day you do anything you want to change?  14th May 2004 was a Friday – it was a boringly uneventful day – the only two real significant events worldwide on that date ever are that Israel declared independence from Great Britain in 1948 (that’s gone well!) and in 1787 delegates gathered to begin drawing up the USA constitution (possibly went better…).

However for me along with my birthday, the birth of my children, the day Mrs F walked up the aisle to meet me at the alter etc. it was the most significant day in my life.  I lay down after the final bender and cried and cried. Lying there in the foetal position I knew I just had to do something about my drinking.  So I did – the rest of that history is on this blog elsewhere.

But a new year does lead you to look back and look ahead.  2018 – well less said about that the better  for me in many senses.  Dominated by my illness and subsequently leaving the world of work, probably permanently.   I still feel I’m looking back on my career and thinking – I’d really not worked out what I was really doing and now it’s gone!  I’m one of those that sort of bumbles through life – remarkably well for the most part and very luckily with some good results overall.  But I can still think “Did I achieve anything of any real value?”  But then a belated farewell from a colleague over Christmas surprised me with the level of esteem they seem to hold me in.  I’m no doubt my own worst critic.

However 2018 had some really great things too – my daughter getting her MSc with flying colours.  Clearly the reason her thesis was passed requiring no revisions was of course down to the efforts of Mrs F and yours truly as her proof readers … ahem … 😉  My son’s engagement and his confirmation of longer term funding for his position.

I’m hopeful for 2019 to be a better year healthwise.  Whilst not symptom and attack free since I did officially stop attempting to work my condition has overall been better.  I’ve some projects planned – you’ll probably see more of them on the other blog – and time to enjoy doing them at least!

Happy new year to you all and may it be for those that want it a sober one.

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Happy Holidays

Happy holidays to all my readers – well that’s cheered up a handful of folks on the internet!

Now but seriously – happy holidays to the MPs who are off for two full weeks holiday.  Like … SERIOUSLY????!!!!!   For a short while I wrote a blog about Brexit in the lead up to the referendum back in 2016 as I was concerned we’d vote to leave.  I was also amazed at the rubbish campaigns that both leave and remain sides ran.  There were outright lies and mistruths on both sides.  So I had a blog pointing out facts.  As a remainer I still follow some social media with the remain focus and notice a continual stream of facts about how leaving the EU will hurt the UK economy badly – anywhere between 7% – 10% worse off after a decade, that includes the governments own assessment.  I see people pointing out that no country, including North Korea, trades exclusively on WTO rules as it is so detrimental to your own economy.  But I’ve come to realise that facts and figures may repeatedly show this but we voted to leave and that vote for many people was an emotional vote, a heart vote not a head vote.   So trotting all this back out in another referendum debate will do little to sway people.

When we voted to leave I thought that meant that we would simply crash out the EU with no trade arrangements with them or with anyone else and we’d have to renegotiate them over a number of years (decades?).  Again the reason why I voted remain – the EU is far from perfect but much better to be inside and argue reform to allow us to do some form of additional local national trade deals etc. than simply rip up all the agreements and enter into a completely previously untested and untried arrangement.  But then I was told we could have our cake and eat it – remain in someway linked closely to the EU without having to pay into it and to stop free movement (something I’m not against at all btw but seems to annoy a lot of others).

And here we are now.  A deal that can’t get through parliament which is amusing to me.  We’ve established in our own supreme court and the European court that the UK is a sovereign nation which parliament is the sovereign body.  We can leave the EU unilaterally because of that and we could stop the process and remain in the EU with no change of UK rights (we have all the concessions about our own currency, not in the Shengen agreement etc.)  However the deal ties us in this backstop that we can’t unilaterally get out of – I can see my the leavers are so angry.  I’m simply bemused that in “taking back control” we appear to be in a worse position than we were.  However the EU surely wouldn’t tolerate a large country no longer paying in and not accepting free movement (key cornerstones of the EU) whilst actually benefiting from full single market benefits.  Has to be said – that is a far worse deal for them than us and laughable that the stalemate is them refusing to budge on it due to their commitment to Ireland and supporting the the Good Friday agreement.

So a deal we can’t get through parliament.  A PM that has won a vote of confidence in her party and cannot be challenged until Dec 2017.  About 100 days to go until we, most likely now, crash out of the EU with no agreement and we are thrown into chaos.  8% approx of all UK tax income comes from EU financial transactions carried out in the city of London.  Just the loss of that is appalling to contemplate. It is to put no finer point on it a shit show.  I can imagine plenty of employers are now asking various employees to limit their Christmas holidays to a minimum as they plan for the unimaginable position of 30th March – No Deal.  Will planes fly?  Will the ports seize up?  How can they keep their supply and market lines flowing.  How much of the tariffs possibly introduced overnight can they absorb, how much pass on to customers in price hikes etc. etc. etc.  Many will be having a very challenging holiday period – I hope the MPs who could stop all that by having a voting, agreeing a way forward and just for once sticking to it for the good of the country enjoy their roast dinners and two week break.

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No one can deny your feelings

It’s been an odd period of time recently.  Lows of losing my friend Mick, a colleague of my wife’s dying very suddenly really upset her….   But then good stuff – my son got engaged, my daughter got offered a new secondment and also was told she has passed her masters.

I was reflecting on this with some recovery friends last night.  Now I can accept that I can feel both happy and sad simultaneously.  I never did feelings before – that was I believe why I drank.  I liked that alcohol provided the perfect anaesthetic to emotions.  My dear departed friend Mick would have agreed – I use that work “anaesthetic” because it was one he regularly used to describe what alcohol did to him.  That’s why he was one of my best friends in AA because that was like me – I wholly identified with him on that point.

Now however I feel those emotions.  I’ve learnt to identify them initially as Happy, Sad etc. then with my nuance to understand grief’s difference from anguish.  One key point said to me once early in sobriety where as a 40something adult I was struggling with now living with emotions and trying to understand them was “No one can deny your feelings.”  Of course they can’t – only I feel them.  The only person feeling what I feel now is me and only I can identify it, label it (if necessary) and ultimately only I can deal with it.  So if I tell you I’m grieving the loss of my friend but also am elated about my children’s’ good news you can never question that – that is my perceptions of my feelings at this moment – that is my reality.

There is an oft quoted adage in AA – “The good news about recovery is your get your feelings back.  The bad news about recovery is that you get your feelings back”.

Although I’ve had this quoted at me and quoted it to others I can say – I certainly am so much more whole as a human being with my feelings intact and not blunted by alcohol’s effect.

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