Baftas, Brexit and Insects

I awake this morning to the news headlines on the radio. First up is the Baftas – hot news at the moment as The Favourite has scooped an armful of awards, with Olivia Colman getting the Best Actress accolade. She was briliant, as were her supporting female leads; the film was odd and slightly boring (my view) and seemed filled with characters who were distinctly nasty to each other. I far preferred Stan and Ollie and Bohemian Rhapsody. But then I’m a push over for films with a spot of happiness, some poignant sadness and with music in them.

The news moves on to Brexit; in third place comes a mention of the alarming lack of insects, news of which has just broken.

Back to Brexit – that ongoing saga of unbelievable self-harm which parliament, government, the Prime Minister and some of the country seems to be willingly – almost eagerly? – putting itself through in the name of the “will of the people”. What tosh. It’s the most dangerous emergency the UK has faced sine WW2.

Boris Johnson is being interviewed and he’s using the quiet, well-modulated voice he’s no doubt been schooled in using, in an attempt to be taken seriously as he spouts something or other I may or may not have heard before. I’ve had enough of this man and the porkies he peddled during the referendum campaign so I turn off the radio.

I don’t need to hear anymore. The item on Insects is given little prominence and comes low down on the list. In fact, it’s something which is infinitely more important, scary and of long term importance and significance than a no-deal Brexit.

There’s a global decline of insects. A recent scientific review of insect numbers reports that 40% of species are undergoing dramatic rates of decline. We can’t do without them, whether we like them or not. We need them for pollination; they ensure that 75% of crops in the world are pollinated. And we need food.

Insects provide food for birds, bats and small mammals. They are good for the soil and they keep the number of pests (like flies) down. Loss of habitat and use of fertilisers and pesticides are to blame, along with climate breakdown. Most insect decline comes from Europe and North America.

So what can we do?

1) Make your garden or patch more insect friendly. Plant to attract insects – encourage the bees and butterflies. Don’t use plastic grass (horrible dead stuff – and it’s plastic too). Leave a wild patch on your lawn for the insects. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be there.

2) Don’t use pesticides. At all. There are other ways. One of them is leaving things be as much as you can. The worst that can happen is that some plants will be eaten by caterpillars….but then you’ll have the butterflies and moths too.

3) Buy organic or grow some of your own fruit and veg.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

adult art conceptual dark

These words are in my head right now as I’m learning to play the Elton John song of the same name on my piano. I’ve got a touch of earworm – it’s a very poignant song with a touching melody – and it’s got me thinking about how hard it can be to say sorry, even when we know we’re wrong.

The words are roaming around in my head……….It’s a sad sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd………..sorry seems to be the hardest word………..and they make me consider them in the context of a couple of real life situations which are in the news:

1) Towards the end of last week, Prince Philip crashes his car into another on a public road, his large car rolls over on to its side and he somehow manages to get out shaken but basically unhurt.

The two people in the other car are hurt, not seriously, the baby in the back is mercifully unscathed, and the official announcement is that Philip has been “in touch” with these drivers to “wish them well” or somesuch weird words.

How about sorry? It probably is the hardest word to say if you come from a place of “never explain, never apologise.” One of the injured passengers says she is still waiting to hear from him, and that no apology has been offered.

2) The whole Brexit mess in the UK is getting more and more absurd almost by the hour; it’s taking over the headlines to the extent that the media can barely keep up with the twists, turns, events, happenings. Prime Minister Theresa May seems to be ever more stuck between a rock and hard place, her apparent innate inflexibility making her dig deeper into the hole she’s already in.

Absurd is one way of describing the Brexit mess. It’s the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Antidotes are necessary – walking in nature, watching birds, appreciating what is good in life and being kind and generous to others, maybe giving them a smile (however they voted in that confounded referendum).

A great nation is like a great man: when he makes mistakes, he realises it. Having realised it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers.            Lao Tzu

Sorry doesn’t have to be the hardest word.


Photo by Pixabay on


laughing women sitting in front of table doing high five clap

You know what good will is when you experience it

Saturday’s People’s Vote march in central London – where an estimated 700,000 people, all concerned about the impending doom-laden no-deal or hard Brexit –  united together in harmonious solidarity to express their feelings and demand a final say on what happens.

Britain, my country, is in a state of flux, and has been riven since the 2016 referendum. People marching and demonstrating on Saturday were demanding a second vote on the final Brexit deal (if a final deal ever emerges. Goodness knows they’ve been negotiating for long enough and have only recently started to leak out some alarming details, should we tip over the cliff edge with no proper deal at all on 29th March.)

I wasn’t in London, I’d just come back from holiday, but I followed the events via Twitter and news media. And I’ve signed the People’s Vote petition. What struck me was the huge amount of good will that seemed to be around. People of all ages were cooperating. It made for moving, heart-warming reading and viewing.

Italian psychologist Roberto Assagioli – a contemporary of Jung – focused on the use of the will. Assagioli’s work is often called “a psychology with a soul”. He would most certainly have supported the People’s Vote march; he went to prison for his views and attitudes during WW2.

Assagioli outlined three identifiable expressions of will:

The strong will, where determination and persistence are engaged to reach an aim or goal. Strength of purpose and a clear outcome are sought, and there may be a rigidity of focus too. Hard Brexit?

The skilful will, where we’re prepared to deviate from a straight line or pathway to a desired goal, acknowledging that we may have to shift position, change and alter expectations along the way. The skill is not to lose sight of the goal, but to be prepared to make concessions and evolve with the situation along the way. What the People’s Vote was saying? Minds can be changed.

Then there’s good will, which can permeate both the strong and the skilful will by bringing openness, acceptability of the situation we find ourselves in and work to understand and include the viewpoints of others. With good will, much can be achieved. There are good feelings, an ambient atmosphere and meaningful connections with others are made.

Good will is one of those qualities that we recognise we when we experience it, but it’s hard to describe. There was a lot of it about on that march, and it’s that kind of thing which makes me feel proud to be British. Don’t let’s lose sight of it – we need it to help us out of the hole we’re in.

Don’t read this if you don’t like dogs!


This sign is a take on the French notice seen by level crossings all over France: Un train peut en cacher un autre (one train may be hiding another).

This sign was on the large gate next door to the house of our belle-fille’s family in northern France – and behind the wooden gate were two dogs (friendly and curious), poking their noses through gaps at the bottom of the gate. There was a bit of barking, but mostly sniffing and peeping at our 8 month old pooch, on his first trip to France.

Aware that in the event of a no-deal, hard Brexit (aka nightmare scenario) it could become more complex taking a pet abroad under the pet passport scheme, we had our doglet vaccinated, got the paperwork done and set off for France, via Le Shuttle so he could travel in the vehicle with us, and introduced him to some of our favourite places, as well as some new ones.

Everywhere we went in France we found people with and without dogs wanted to say hello/bonjour and ask us about him. We spoke to many more people on this trip because of the dog. He met French, Dutch and German dogs as well as other British pooches en vacances. He had a whale of a time and was welcomed everywhere – in shops, cafes, restaurants. We became very confident having doggy discussions in French too, and met some friendly people because of this.

In the DoP1060194rdogne, he made friends with a local lady dog, Luna, who joined us for walks. He also met two huge mastiff-like dogs – Dogue de Bordeaux – who were like gentle giants and towered over him, but they were friendly and well-controlled.

No problems at all. Easy.

Until we were on our way back, staying in La Fleche so we could fit in the necessary vet visit, when an officious Brit on the campsite told me I wasn’t allowed to exercise him on site. Oh? I queried that and said we’d not been told this at reception 5 minutes previously when we arrived. Having travelled for several hours the first thing a puppy needs to do is have a pee. How you stop a dog peeing when it needs to I have no idea. We always carry poo bags and clean up deposits.

The man clearly didn’t like dogs. I wonder how he gets on with people?

Escape from Brexit Island

We set off, me, him and the dog, thankful to get away from Britain and the gloomy prognostications on a “no deal” Brexit. How would it be, visiting Europe?

Good God, the date of the final Brexit curtain is only 6 months away and still no-one really knows what will happen. There are several not-very-pleasant outcomes being touted, along with lashings of mixed messages and an “it’ll be alright on the night ” attitude surrounding the small contentious issue of the border with Northern Ireland and…..shhh….the border between Spain and Gibraltar, which appears to gave dropped right off the agenda. Better get stock piling because there could be shortages of just about everything, and hey, prices are going to go up…and up…

Oh how nice it was to get away from it all.

Of course, there was the small matter of getting to a port and crossing the Channel, the North Sea or the Irish Sea, depending on which part of Europe we were heading for. No matter which way we viewed it, the likelihood of long queues at the border became a tangible reality as we passed a massively long line of Europe-bound lorries jamming up a motorway lane, simply because the technology which checks them through had broken down that day.

That doesn’t augur too well for the suggested tech-solution for border checks between Northern Ireland and Eire.

As for “no deal”, how can that possibly be so? If we don’t get a deal as such, there will still be 100s of details to be sorted out and agreed upon. I think the number quoted a couple of weeks ago was 759; it will almost certainly rise.

End of rant. Sometimes you just need to get some of this stuff off your chest and spit it out, like accumulated phlegm.