Sunday, March 30, 2008

Clear Blue

Something happened today. Of course, something happens every day, but something happened today.

A Full English Breakfast is only ever "full" if served with Black Pudding. And I woke to the smell of this treat being cooked. That smell alone adjusted the various chemicals in my brain to "normal" levels, making me feel balanced for the first time in months. But that's not what happened.

Making my way into the kitchen my eyes hurt from the sunlight which poured in, bouncing off of every reflective surface, washing away every bit of dark and gloom, bringing warmth and that special feeling we all get from time to time.

Today was the day when I could do anything. Well, not anything. Obviously I couldn't fly to the moon or bring about world peace by the mere act of releasing a pop record featuring best selling artists, but I could do anything within my means.

It was the first clear blue sky I had seen months. After yesterday's rain it seemed like Sunday might be another washout. But it wasn't.

After eating breakfast I washed my host's pots, as a way of thanks, and headed out. This was great. No signs of anything bipolar. No manic feelings, nothing depressive, no lithium washout. Today I was going to do something different.

I had no particular direction to head in, not even home. And besides, that isn't really my home, just somewhere to rest my head and store my things. So, I just went wherever my legs would take me.

Before I knew it I had passed through woods, walked through open fields, almost got trampled on by a cow (not the first time this has happened - cows seem to be getting aggressive these days), and I was by the canal.

There were many fishing the waters and as I passed each fisherman (there were no women fishing) I wondered how many times that day they would be asked if they'd caught something, and how they might react each time to that question, whether they would find it frustrating, or whether they'd indulge themselves by pulling the keep net from the water and showing off the products of their day's "labour."

Soon I was back on the road and passed by a park where there was a Sunday league football match. Most of the players looked hungover and some of them looked too old and fat to be running around for 90 minutes. I thought about how many times I'd read about people having massive heart attacks while playing Sunday league football. Still, if you die doing what you enjoy...

Looking at my watch and noting how long I'd been travelling away from where I ought to be ending up I decided to head back. But then changed my mind.

I wasn't too far from an important piece of engineering history. Engineering has a lot to answer for; some of it good, some of it bad. But for the most part, good. Humans were designed to be engineers, it's just that we got some of it wrong. It's not too late to put things right.

Something happened today. But I can't remember what it was. Something to do with the clocks?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kitchen Art...or...

...Utter Bollocks?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Changing Nature of Exploitation

Not so far back in history people did things differently, much differently. There was a real community spirit here in England, a spirit which appears to have been swept away by mindless consumerism, snobbery and apathy.

Last night I went to a local history lecture which focused on a local family who had brought much wealth to the area through exploitation of people, people they sent down mines, people they had working in foundries, people in other dangerous areas of industry. But there was something different about this family, something of moral fibre that today's rich people lack.

The founder of the company fathered three children, three of them boys. Before any of the boys took up roles within the company after completing their education he made them do a stint down the coal mines so they could see exactly what conditions the employees had to work in. Much to the father's horror, one of the sons, a keen sportsman who was destined to play cricket for the county, contracted pneumonia while working down the mine and he passes away aged 20.

So much was the father's grief that he passed away himself just a few months later, devastated by his loss, and feeling responsible for it. His remaining offspring learnt a valuable lesson from this experience and set about making improvements in the local area. I forget the exact quote but one of the daughters said something along the lines luxuries are bound up by the hard labours of the men in this community.

One of the sons went to the mine at the end of one shift and stopped ten men before they went home. He gave them ten pounds each (which was a lot of money back then), a return train ticket to London, and ordered them to go as they were, immediately. The idea behind this was so that people in the city could learn exactly what these men did in the North of England and in Wales, to bring them essential coal. The miners got to stay in luxurious accommodation and were cleaned up ready for their return.

Around this time the family gave away a piece of land to the borough, land that today is worth millions of pounds, so a park and municipal golf course could be built. They also gave away one of their luxurious homes, which was turned into a school. Another school was also funded by one of the daughters as well as Britain's first mother and child clinic. The generosity of the family also extended to the local hospital where new wards were built.

The older son was shocked by the living conditions families had to endure in one part of the town and so he invested, what would be over 3 million pounds in today's money, in the redevelopment of the area, bringing better living conditions for workers.

There were testimonies from families who said that these people were very good to work for and treated all employees well though they would suffer no fools.

In contrast, today's capitalists in this region put nothing back into the community. All they do is drain resources and avoid taxes. I've always been slightly left wing in my political views but last night's lecture taught me something I should have known long ago: we really do need to learn from the past.