Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Way We Live Now: Strike

The Way, Strike

I’ve a feeling I’ve delighted us all long enough with these snapshots of the crises and trials of 2003. Time I got on with the travails of 2011. So I’m going to bring this little project to a close with the square entitled ‘Strike’. There are indications that strikes are brewing again, in particular among public sector workers re pensions. But we’ve had the tube drivers threatening to quit before the Olympics (an expensive one), and there are rumblings among teachers and many others – anyone who isn’t scared stiff about losing their job.

And then if the library closures go ahead, and the ‘surplus’ hospitals…

Enough of politics, I’m getting back to painting, mixed media, Hove artists an’all – and maybe starting up some workshops. There will be a newsletter soon from the Wolf at the Door. May I remind you?

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wolf-at-the-Door/193126690726221

The way We live Now: Finance

The Way, Finance
The orange writing on this square has faded so none of us can read the text properly. It was all about stocks and shares, derivatives and futures, trading and commodities. What can we read? The dot-com bubble: that was a phenomenon of its time, with fortunes made and rapidly lost in an updated Trollope-type scenario.

But PFI , now! This is the (to me) infamous public/private finance set-up that enabled all those hospitals to be built – hospitals which it seems now we don’t need and can’t afford to run. I would much rather not have been proved right, but wasn’t it always obvious that this formula meant pay a bit less now, pay a lot lot more later – and compromise future spending and decision-making in the process? All those contracts tied up for years ….Of course principled politicians should plan for the long-term good, not present gain. Do they ever? Indeed, does the system make this easy for them?

Incidentally I’ve always been interested in text at the point where it becomes illegible and merely a form of pattern. More on this later. I didn’t intend these comments to become a political rant! This square used sweet-papers – glittering, alluring and throwaway – and non-enduring inks. Symbolism a bit heavy, perhaps?!

The Way We Live Now: Education

The Way,  Education

Academies are the new buzzword. They may have been in existence in 2003 but quite a few are now an established part of the educational scene. Good or bad? For others to say. What doesn’t seem to have changed is the constant tweaking of syllabuses, strategies, initiatives, so that practising teachers still complain about time spent on paperwork and coping with the inspectorate rather than teaching.

The implications of allowing parental choice (and coping with the backlash when the reality falls short of desire) seem to be at the base of a lot of dissatisfaction. Which could be avoided if there were a commitment to improving each and every school and a presumption that every child would attend the neighbourhood establishment? Perhaps then they’d be able to walk there, avoid distant playdates, save time, travel and pollution…

I can’t actually read the text of this square on the photo. It must have faded a lot. Is this symbolic in some way? With the financial crisis education does seem to have faded into the background as a newspaper topic.

The Way We Live Now: War Tactics

War Tactics

This seems an apposite topic for the day when the Secretary of State for Defence has resigned. It is one of several War squares. There was so much going on during that Blair era: the run-up to the Iraq war, the Dodgy Dossier, the Kelly affair, weapons of mass destruction…. And huge, huge public disquiet about what was being said and done in our name.

Enough for today.

The Way We Live Now: Mental Health

Mental Health

I wonder how many books have been published in the eight years since 2003 on the pursuit of happiness? If, indeed, happiness can be achieved by pursuit, rather than being a fleeting by-product of other activities and states of mind. Happiness studies are beginning to figure on progressive curricula – that’s new. But are we after the impossible? Mental equilibrium, acceptance, contentment, satisfaction, happiness: are they separate or part of a continuum ?

I can’t remember the ‘happiness’ rankings in various countries as quantified by a fairly recent (was it UNESCO?) inquiry. That some countries live by a general philosophy of life more conducive to contentment than others is quite plausible. But clearly mental health is linked to economic circumstances, even if being happy isn’t dependent on having a lot of things. (Another recent study showed that, once the basics of life are assured, extra possessions don’t add more than fleetingly to people’s level of satisfaction)

However, anxiety, fear of poverty, loss of status, uncertainty, all these things are on the rise. As in 2003, the psychological and mental results begin to hit the headlines as the cuts work their way through the system. Let’s not be unduly pessimistic but we should expect some long-term consequences.

The Way We Live Now: Disease

<The Way, Disease
I think I’ll abstain from too much comment on this one. The many-headed hydra. The subject we’re all superstitious about. There’s a gruesome condition mentioned on this square that I would prefer not to think about at the moment.

Seemingly miraculous new cures do emerge, for which we’re profoundly thankful when they affect our nearest and dearest. But it’s always at a cost. One man’s funded treatment is another’s post-code lottery. Drugs are big business and tradeable commodities.

Develop one new treatment and a drug-resistant strain emerges. Generic drugs can’t be provided to third-world countries because patents are still operative and the named drugs are too expensive.

Colloidal silver, a promising line of treatment abandoned when antibiotics became big business (in the 1960s? I’m ignorant!) , is back on the scene. Tim is having his surgical wound from the screws put in his broken ankle painted with a silver lollipop. This pleases me, although no doubt silver’s been patented too. Perhaps we’ll all soon be aspiring to drink gold (aurum potabile) as the universal cure, like they did in the Middle Ages. But of course the recession has sent gold prices soaring….

The Way We Live Now: Leisure Pursuits

The Way, Leisure
This is my best shot at a suitable ‘Sunday’ topic. There doesn’t seem to have been much leisure activity going on, or maybe the text has all faded away? Or I thought life too grim for leisure!

There’s been a bit of resurgence in free activities: the weekend papers usually flag up all manner of interesting local activities and events, often free. The dominance of the big Festivals seems to be fading; they can’t sell their (expensive) tickets.

We don’t hear so much about over-the-top kids’ birthday parties with designer party bags either. (Are they still happening, but people don’t brag about them? Or is it back to a lollipop and a pencil? I really don’t know!) What about lavish stag and hen parties? Gym membership? Paintballing? Trips to Ibiza?

My impression is that all these things mushroomed after 2003 and seemed part of the fabric of life for many, but have dwindled rapidly of late. What will my 2011 update include? Free music downloads, allotments, Facebook events… even rioting?

The Way We live Now: Countryside Matters

Countryside Matters

We haven’t heard so much about footpaths and the Right to Roam, though the proposed sell-off of woodlands recently caused quite a public furore.

This tapped into the same vein of resentment over the power of wealthy landowners to monopolise large tracts of land. The debate was perhaps a bit more nuanced because of the lack of public funds for maintenance of practically anything at all. The National Trust now seems to be reclaiming an increasingly political role as a counterweight to private and public ownership.

The fox-hunting debate and animal rights issues rumble on and beneath the surface I imagine much has changed. Has anyone been prosecuted recently for illegal hunting practices? Our attention is elsewhere. We all seem paralysed – let’s hope temporarily – by the economic situation but a change of government and philosophy is bound to have caused the plates to shift.

The Way We Live Now: Throwaway Society

The Way Throwaway Society
People do seem at last to have become a bit more aware of the mountain of packaging we throw away and the vast number of goods we consume. Possibly – sadly – there’s even a certain fatigue about these issues; people no longer seem to refuse plastic bags at the checkout like they did a couple of years ago.

But both in Lincolnshire where I lived till recently and here in Brighton (Hove actually), freecycle/greencycle are flourishing – alongside the skips filled with usable and serviceable materials that are chucked out in order to allow for the next fashionable revamp. Viewed in this light a recession can have advantages…..

The way We Live Now: Terrorism

The Way, Terrorism

Quite a lot has happened since 2003 but airline travel routines have changed irreversibly, we take little for granted, and every time there is a natural disaster we feverishly ask ourselves if this could be a targeted attack.

Attitudes to the niqab have hardened on both sides. Own goals abound, the Arab-Israeli conflict seems much as it was.

There must be things to celebrate: in the end, the UK is a lot less racist a society than many; we coexist fairly happily, we have an ever-richer social mix. These may be the only riches for years to come so let’s celebrate them!

Sorry, this has now become one of the most boring squares! It was once vibrant, colourful: now it’s faded and you can’t see the detail. If it’s become a little dreary maybe that’s a really good sign!