Boots on the Ground

14054150_1071693506212151_6188641893629370659_nYesterday I had the privilege of being able to take part in the anti-fracking demonstration at Preston New Road in Lancashire as part of a month of rolling protest organised by the Reclaim the Power group. I have no pictures for the day as I don’t have permission to show the people that were there.

This what the protest is against:


The development of the first of thousands of fracking wells that are planned for Lancashire and beyond by Cuadrilla.

In view of the violence reports that have been pictured on social media recently. I was not quite sure what to expect when I arrived. So what did I experience?

First of all there were the locals. Ordinary people going to extraordinary lengths to stop mindless development, ‘the scraping of the bottom of the barrel of fossil fuels’ as I heard it so eloquently put.

The message from the site is very clear:  NOT HERE, NOT ANYWHERE.

Most locals were active all day brandishing banners and signs to attract the attention of passing motorists. They come in their lunch breaks, after work, weekends, all day every day, whenever they can. With children, with friends, with passion.  There were elderly and disabled people, housewives, young mothers, local councillors, all resting when necessary in garden chairs at the side of the road beneath yet more banners of protest, not only from themselves, but from environmental protest groups and other supportive organisations too numerous to mention.

Secondly, the colourful and tired looking ‘hands on’ activists of all ages who have come to support the locals, some of them camped at the road edge by a tower made of pallets and scaffolding poles. On the top of it a relay of young men with binoculars, are watching what is happening on the fracking site and giving advance warning of vehicles approaching to enter the site so that people can rally to the gates and confront the situation with direct action.

They are supported by an array of volunteers giving out food, working as legal observers, filming, making red felt roses to sell to raise funds, handing out free information on what to do if you got assaulted or arrested, collecting up litter and generally making a peaceful nuisance of themselves with police and security when necessary (They have also established a well-run support camp further down the road, but I did not get that far).

All of them are there for the long haul, continually putting themselves at known risk of violence from over zealous security guards/ police officers and potential arrest/criminal record for obstructing the gates of the site to prevent work taking place.


The police I saw yesterday were friendly but firm and ignoring the couple of individuals who seemed intent on goading them – ‘not in our name’ was the view of most other people I spoke to.  I oserved only non-violent handling of protestors who heckled workers and slow walked to delay vehicles, but the videos on Facebook tell a different story about confrontations that had taken place earlier.

To date, despite the Tories overruling Lancashire County council, who had banned fracking, an ongoing court case means Cuadrilla do not yet have permission to frack at Preston New Road. They seem to be very certain that they will get it and have just applied to change what they do there

There is a public consultation about the proposed changes in place until 3rd August 

I would encourage you all to take part in it





This could be the future if we fail to stop this nonsense:




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We have been hearing for a while how technology is going to take jobs and a recent piece I read somewhere predicted that most of the jobs due to disappear are the ‘middle skill’ jobs and that they would be gone within the next twenty years. This prediction was brought to life this weekend when I visited the Ideal Home Show in Manchester.

First of all, the show was a big disappointment for me. I was very glad I had a free ticket courtesy of Martin’s money page. From George Clark’s revolving home that didn’t; to the overwhelming use of grey in furnishings, fittings and textiles; to the preponderance of exhibitors selling enhanced personal image  products – cosmetic surgery techniques, skin care products and some things that disturbed me so much that I have coined the word ‘robotherapy’ to cover them.

Now I own a wonderful bed. It has Niagara massage function built into it, and it lifts up at both ends to provide support when necessary.  I use it every day and along with an infrared lamp, the two together help with the pain and keep me on my feet.  (I also have regular body massages in order to keep my muscles loose.) So I can honestly say that I don’t have an issue with using technology for health. However, seeing two rows of people sat back to back with plastic gags in their mouths with wires attached is a different matter. It was like looking at something out of a sci-fi film.

img_0129.jpgServiced by two girls in white (who could have almost been robots), for a special fee of just £39.99 (according to the hastily made hand-made signs over the head of each person) you could have your teeth whitened and there was  massive queue of people waiting to do it. DID ANY OF YOU ASK JUST WHAT CHEMICALS WERE GOING INTO YOUR MOUTH?

I suspect not.

I looked at the website today. The home page is focused on selling you a franchise. Says it all really. Apart from ‘zero peroxide’, there is absolutely no information about what chemicals might be used with the product other than ‘activators’.

So that was the first example of job replacement I saw. The next one disturbed me almost as much.

Another row of people sat in chairs having a Shiatsu neck massage – FROM A MACHINE – which according to the blurb, mimics ‘almost perfectly the pressure and kneading massage of a massage therapist’.  As I said before, I don’t have a problem with massage beds, nor chairs, nor devices at all and I agree that ‘the simple kneading or stroking of your back, legs, sole or neck may ease pain and help with the recovery process after an injury’, but this final quote comes from the blurb for an advanced massage chair.

We are now in the realms of having technology sophisticated enough to replace the tenderness of the human touch. That to me is the really disturbing development and it is already here.


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‘Publish and be damned’*

The Social Media Expert and I have been to the 5th Annual Self Publishing Conference this last weekend…

Organised by Matador, it was a well marshalled and slickly run event, but frustrating in that there were more sessions than we could attend between us, so we only got the benefit of half of what was on offer. Talking to other people over coffee, it became clear quite a few of them had been to previous conferences as well. Many people, like us, had travelled quite a distance to be there and from my personal point of view, a two-day conference giving more options to attend other sessions would have been welcomed. I went along to learn more about the business of self publishing not only as an author, but with a view to adding another string to my business bow. Over the course of the day I discovered that I was not the only one in the audience casting an eye over the potential market. Given that about 20% of the books published in the UK are now self published, it appears there are opportunities to be had.

For me the session on getting copyright clearance for using other people’s work was worth the conference fee alone. (an absolute godsend for anyone wanting to use quotes or extracts from other people’s work in their book). The talk by Alysoun Owen from Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook on how to avoid the pitfalls of vanity publishing was interesting too, if only as a foil for the information I had gathered from the Northern Lights Writer’s Conference, where the emphasis was very much on getting your work into mainstream publishing.  She spoke with honesty and a good measure of authenticity in the two sessions which I attended. I have always had a fairly recent copy of their Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook kicking around my office as a resource and she certainly added represented her organisation well. Signing up to their website (for free) gives access to a variety of resources for writers.

From listening to both sides of the author publishing industry this last month or so, it has become evident that the mainstream publishers are swiftly adapting to providing services for those authors who can afford to self publish. Matador is just one example of a self publishing company operating under the banner of a mainstream publisher who are now almost always using agents as a filter for writers they will publish themselves.  I have learnt that what is in demand is an author who can be relied on to produce more than a good debut novel. The potential for two, three or even more books is taken into consideration before the first one is accepted.

I have already self published my first book in a very modest way, using a local firm, Rossendale Books who did exactly what I wanted at a reasonable cost. I found them by word of mouth.  During the conference I heard of £1000’s apparently paid out by disappointed audience members to other so-called ‘experts’ that did not deliver. As a writer wanting to get published, you need to be very careful where you spend your money.

Statistics from Nielson this last weekend showed that just 100,000 of the 1.5m books published in English worldwide accounted for almost 90% of the £1.6bn sales. Given that other media providers such as the BBC are dominating popular non-fiction book sales with their ‘celebrity authors’ and that the likes of J K Rowling dominate fiction sales figures, I did sit and wonder about my chances of success as a first time novelist, but I know the first thing to do is to finish the damned book!

*This was the response of Wellington  in 1824 to John Stockdale who threatened to publish anecdotes of Wellington and his mistress Harriette Wilson





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Receiving Darshan

16178453_1099920833467393_8797991161239728001_oParamahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda

Last week, I was gifted the opportunity to receive darshan from Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda, a new experience for me, unexpected, as I have recently expressed my reservations about the spiritual integrity of  called modern ‘masters’ and I have no particular interest in eastern philosophy groups, although I do try to live by the buddhist principles in my day-to-day life.

The event I attended in Manchester was extremely well attended and slickly but very subtly choreographed. The atmosphere in the room was charged by singing, chanting of mantras and clapping, which got louder and faster as the time for the ‘master’ to join us got nearer. I loved it, but as a professional who has organised events in the past, I know good marketing when I see it.

However, I maintained an open mind, as I can honestly say I have never met such a healthy looking, joyful and affectionate group of people for a long time. The event was free, with donation envelopes discretely contained within a glossy brochure you were given on entry. You were asked for a donation if you could afford it. There were about 500 people there that night so I reckon they netted between £2-5k based on what I and people around me put in the envelope. Not a lot really to cover the costs of the evening.

Things got very interesting for me. I felt the master arrive in the building, goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up told me there was a big uplift in spiritual energy taking place. I had not expected this, but my friend, who was sat facing the door of an ante-room, confirmed that I was correct in my feeling. About half an hour later, his devotees, who were mostly sat at my feet rose almost as one an turned towards the door. I don’t know if it was choreographed or not, but the love and joy on their faces and through their body language was clear to see. The song changed and the energy in the room suddenly sky rocketed.

When the man himself entered the room, he was laughing, singing and clapping with the crowd, his eyes sparkling. He took the time to acknowledge people he knew with a word, or a touch or a hug.  The only words I can find to describe what happened as he passed through the room to an elegantly dressed raised dais was that his energy felt like a caress. I can honestly say that in almost 20 years of spiritual journeying, I have never experienced anything like it before.

From the dais there was a bit of a stage show with kneeling women and flower petals on his feet, he spoke about love for a short while and then it was time for darshan. Because I use a walking stick, I was gently directed to the front of two queues of people all waiting on their knees to see him. I was not asked to kneel, one of the things that I noticed throughout the whole event was the extra loving attention paid to the families with children and elderly people in the room.

When it was my turn I stood before him, as instructed, not touching him, but close enough that he could put his hand on my head and look into my eyes (I was relieved of my glasses by a helper). The healing energy flowing from his hand was cool, like a refreshing shower. His eyes, which earlier were sparkling and full of laughter were deep and grave. I can only liken them to some of the paintings of Christ, so full of love and wisdom. Unexpectedly, he leaned forward and smiled. Then he spoke to me about my spiritual work, leaving me with a lingering question: How did he know? Only one person in that room of 500 people knew me and he had never met the master. I was just a random person in a big queue. I had tears of joy as I returned to my seat. Why? Another question that still lingers.

Did I meet the divine incarnate as is claimed? I am leaving that one open. His message is one of love – love yourself, give and share love with others freely, change the world by love. After observing him for an hour, I have no doubt that he is a master of healing and perhaps a gifted psychic, who is on a loving spiritual path. He did not speak to most people, but when he did, they beamed with joy or with had tears like me.

He had a bad cold that night. The room was freezing. I was well wrapped up with thermals beneath winter clothing, but his devotees in their colourful eastern clothing were shivering. By the time I left, his condition had deteriorated and to be honest, he needed to be tucked up in a warm bed, but I had no doubt he would have continued with the darshan until everyone had received it. My message to him as a fellow healer would be that you need to take care of physical self as well as your spiritual self.

Am I going to become a convert, a devotee? I doubt it. My path so far has been the path of the fool, but I remain open to the universe and what it requires of me. I have been reading eastern philosophy and most certainly will re-read the ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ which has graced my book shelf for several years now – a gift from the friend who told me about the darshan. As they say. God moves in mysterious ways.

This is a man, apparently not accepted in India, as they say he is too young to be divine incarnate, something usually only achieved after a lifetime of profound study and devotion. I am not sure about that either, but he is touching the lives of thousands of people all over the world with love and helping them to develop an awareness of the divine within and that can not be a bad thing.

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Useful sites about trees

A guide to tree preservation procedures

Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas

Campaign in your community

Becoming a Community Guardian in Greater Manchester

Heritage Trees

The Tree Register – with a unique database of over 200,000 of our most notable Trees

Ancient Tree Inventory

Woodland Management

Governance of community forests and woodlands in Great Britain

Trees for Life

Information about the Caledonian Forest ecosystem.

The Druidic Tree Site

The Sacred Grove Planting Project

Tree Care info: Finding an aborist

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Is Anybody Listening?

Is anybody listening?

We cannot go back and fix the planet

100 months have been and gone

It’s only getting worse

More smog

More rain

More drought

More wind

Is there anybody listening?

Less bees

Less trees

Less soil

Less air

Is anybody listening?

No this

No that



Is there anybody listening?

This time it’s not the survival of the fittest

It’s survival of the one percent

The bad, the liars and the greedy

Are writing the script

For future life on earth

The rest of you are not listening



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Kicking the bucket back!

14054150_1071693506212151_6188641893629370659_nLet’s get real about the older generations and yes, I have put it in the plural for a very good reason. My mother is still driving at 85. My Aunt of 97 has recently popped over from Canada for a short visit. We have a 34 year age span. My friend of 86 is still working for a community farm in despite two or three brushes with cancer. I could give you several more examples from personal experience, so let’s get some of the myths about frail old pensioners dispelled shall we?

The media are fuelling what I suspect is a Tory backed campaign to turn myth to reality in people’s’ minds in that old people are going to be an increasing burden because of our increasing numbers. I am now one of the ‘younger oldies’, absolutely fed up with magazines aimed at my age group that are full of adverts for stair lifts and electric scooters. So I went looking for some actual facts about old people in the UK today…and figures are wonderful things to play with – but then most of you younger people don’t know that.

2011 Census: Those aged 65 and over accounted for 16 per cent (10.4 million) of the population of the UK. By mid-2039 the raw figures show a different pattern and yes the numbers over 65 grow – but not in the way we are being led to believe.

2018: There will be 12.3 million aged over 65 – source Office for National Statistics and the lower level age for receipt of pensions  increases from there on in.


The over 65s’ share of UK’s income tax payments was 11 per cent for the tax year 2012/13, or £17.5billion of the £157billion total income tax paid, according to Prudential’s analysis

  • So… approximately 10.4% of the population all aged over 65 paid 11% of the tax bill for the whole country. 



British pensioners pay on average £3,258 a year in income tax (but the figure could rise as the new pension freedom rules start to have an impact), a new study suggests 

The new state pension from 2016 is £8,092pa. So after deducting the tax revenue generated by taxing pensions, a shortfall of £4834 per pensioner has to be found from the NI monies that have been paid in by an individual over 39 years.(4834/39 = £123pa to be paid back for every year worked).

Life expectancy over 65

Men who reach 65 can look forward to another 19 years, while women can expect another 21 (but there are regional variations) says Public Health England.

Given this life expectancy (39 years paid in/20 average years paid out) means only £61.50pa of monies paid in is actually paid back for every year worked.

  • So… the UK national NI fund is net contributing only about £61.50pa per pensioner towards the state pensions of the over 65’s.

In 2018, given the figures above, that will be £7.56bn pa (12.3m X 61.5), rather less than the (12.3m x 8092) £99.5billion that might be assumed from raw data.

The overall cost of replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system would be £167bn  (that’s 22 years worth of pensions payments)

  • So the lesson is… figures can provide a lot of smokescreens – there are lots of anomalies buried in the figures that are not all easily found or explained and I have not even tackled the social care bills in this essay, but currently:

853,615 old age pensioners currently receive essential care that allows them to live independently (less than 10%)

The proportion of the population aged 65 and over who were living in communal establishments  declined to 337,000 in 2011 and … The resident care home population is ageing: people aged 85 and over represented 59.2% of the older care home population

2013: Residential care homes were more profitable, at 31.3% of total income, compared with 27.4% for nursing homes

At the end of 2015: research by wealth manager Killik & Co and think-tank the CEBR found that the average annual cost of a nursing home has risen by 3.8 per cent over the past year alone to £39,300, while the cost for a residential home has increased by 2.4 per cent to £29,300. 

  • So I propose that the reason older people are now being billed as ‘becoming a burden’, is that (2011) Barely 10% of total care provision remains in state hands and the private care sector needs ‘growth’ for its shareholder investors. Diverting pensioner wealth and government pension provision into residential social care funding is the only way that can be done – in the short-term at least.

and todays headlines? =  – a crisis deliberately created by those with vested interests in private ownership of the care system?

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