Monthly Archives: November 2013

It’s 4am … Isa Muaza and “Scotland’s Future”.

National borders are designed to enforce a fear-based system of resource control. Fear of lack, of difference, of other, of change. Put two human beings in a room together and they will always be united by their common experience of life. Borders create barriers of mind and heart.

Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

It’s 4am and I am awake in a hotel room in Hong Kong. Gritty eyes, dry mouth, the mild, passing discomfort and weariness of travel. But this is not why I am awake.


Beside myself with rage and despair I check Twitter and Facebook for news of Isa Muazu and the campaign which is involving so many small committed groups. It’s 8pm yesterday for Isa. I am already in his tomorrow, the day he is due to be deported on a private charter flight, a man protesting with his incarcerated body, with the only means of protest he has left l, against the wickedness of the UK asylum and detention system. This is exactly the situation Spivak described in her extraordinary essay ‘Can the subaltern speak.’

Friends and fellow campaigners are gathering to protest outside the offices of the charter flight company, there is a vigil outside Harmondsworth detention…

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Police clash with early hour protest outside Heathrow detention centre over hunger-striker deportation row

This inhumane behaviour is driven by the same government led by David Cameron who went to Sri Lanka to point out their abuse of human rights. We need to remove the rock from our own eye. Today is a dark moment indeed on this island. We have a majority that has been manipulated to live in fear of fellow humans who need our help. Despair.

Stop Deportations

Police clash with dawn siege at Heathrow migrant jail over hunger-striker deportation row

Updated Press Release – 7.20am -29 November 2013

Supporters of Nigerian hunger-striker Isa Muazu are blocking access to Harmondsworth detention centre (outside Heathrow) to stop his deportation scheduled for 8 am. A man super-glued his hand to the detention centre main gate at 4am, flanked by a crowd of 15 steely campaigners. A specialist police unit took several hours to remove the glue. The man was arrested at 7am.

Detention centre guards initially used dogs and pressure points but failed to ward off the early bird demonstration. Supporters feared the Home Office was about to move Muazu to the airport at the crack of dawn.

A private jet is reported to be on standby, but critics say he is too weak to survive the flight, having refused food for nearly 100 days. Muazu’s case is a cause…

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An interruption to the planned Stoic service

To bring you…

HORSES. Giant ones.

These were finished today in Scotland. I MUST go. Utterly magnificent.

By the artist Andy Scott (under construction) Falkirk

Stoicism as an approach when removing the knife from your back

As I posted yesterday, it’s Stoic Week this week and I am taking part.

I came to the project late in the day and just managed to limbo under the closing registration bar to participate. Yesterday morning I listened to the audio provided and completed the exercise. By the end of the day (which was 10 pm) it was too late to do the evening audio.

And yet… I still found the considerations from the morning useful to manage the emotions that arose during a gruelling evening at work. I know I am not involved in hard labour in the classroom, but if you enter into the teacher – learner contract with a true heart and authenticity of spirit, it is hard. Last night someone displayed a set of characteristics that have been lurking underneath for a while. I found, somewhat to my surprise, that I had been royally skewered. Of course, there are those that say one thing to your face and do another in life fairly often, it’s just that I am not familiar with those kind of people in my life and that’s a blessing. So it all came as a bit of a shock, naive as I can be.

Oh well, the Stoic in me said… this event is beyond your control…

And another little voice said, ‘Let it come, let it go’. So I did. For once, the voices in my head were in total agreement. Move on.

So, I made a cup of lavender tea, which was delicious and went to bed and slept pretty well on the whole.

Tomorrow, how I coped watching a Hollywood blockbuster, certain Oscar-winning movie, in a Stoic frame of mind.

I wonder what the Romans drank…

It’s Stoic Week

I was tempted to put an exclamation mark on that title above, but I don’t think it’s a form of punctuation the Roman Stoics: Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius would have gone in for themselves (had the exclamation mark even been invented back then).

I didn’t know it was Stoic Week until I heard it on the radio this morning, but I thought it would make a change from the usual run of Novembery things. As it turns out, some of the practice of Stoicism is rooted in mindfulness, which I try to incorporate in my day anyway (although never enough as it turns out).

Anyway, if you are interested, or want to join in, the link to the University of Exeter blog is here. If you want to be part of the research, you have to take the ratings questionnaires before midnight tonight. If you don’t want to go the whole hog (and I don’t think a Stoic would) then it’s still worth a visit for some interesting ideas.

I’ll report back tomorrow *if I remember* but if I am in the spiritual state of this man, then you’ll be bound to hear more from me.


Ghosts on the Underground

These days I find, somewhat to my surprise, I have a deep connection with London, and particularly the Tube. It features both love and hate, a suck me in yet spit me out tension, but because I travel on it so infrequently these days, I am more aware of the memories that haunt its subterranean tunnels and chambers. It’s a place where the old and the new, the dead and the living, the fleet and the sloth, are shaken together in an overwhelming sense overload.

It’s a place where chasms open up under your feet ready to swallow you whole; where you can be pulled asunder by fellow man if you founder on rocks between the torrents raging in opposite directions. Keep left, stay right, flow up, flood down…

In the hallowed passenger halls I see apparitions of savage men in bowler hats: tap, tap, tap on the new butter cream tiles. They have room to move and leap and whirl before swinging their briefcases round in a final self-satisfied pas de deux, and boarding the train home to leaden-footed suburban wives in aprons.

Swivelling, they vanish and I am trampled underfoot by consumers travelling home from the decked emporia that ejaculate premature West End festive commerce over the face of the city. The bowler hats need to keep moving, like sharks, and the shoppers are Munchian Workers Returning Home.

Work as death and shopping as work.

Underground stuff.

There’s a link here to a photographic exhibition from the summer, marking the Underground’s 150th anniversary. The artist is Yangchen Lin. It’s good stuff – I have an idea of my own that I will get around to some day…

Paralympian Descending (Stratford 2012)

Paralympian Descending (Stratford 2012)


It was nerve-wracking, but lovely, to be able to be part of this literary festival earlier this month.

The feedback from my own reading was positive – and I hope not just polite. Anyway, the lack of blogliness lately is partly to do with the general pressing on with the second draft of the manuscript.

Some of you may have seen this video already. For those of you that haven’t, I think it captures the spirit of the event quite beautifully. The downside to reading myself is that I wasn’t able to catch other artists although I did see a wonderful film installation by the Greek artist Mikail Karikis called Sea Women which I would recommend.

Thanks to Metal, Rachel Lichtenstein and Syd Moore as well as my fellow Lit Labbers – some of whom, Penny, Farah and Miss Gish, make cameo appearances on the film.

Thinking in the past tense

I’m doing it a lot at the moment because of the big writing project.

It’s funny really because, every Friday, I stand up on my hind legs and remind people that to stay in a balanced frame of mind, to not be swept away twenty times a day on a great swell of emotions, what they really must do is… stay in the present moment.

It’s not esoteric flim flam either. A massive study conducted by some American scientists showed that mind wandering is bad for our happiness and, perhaps surprisingly, that it is equally bad for our happiness whether our mind wandering is pleasant, or not.

So, I say, ‘be mindful’

By which I mean be mindful of where your mind wanders off to. Apparently the average amount of time for the mind to not be where the body is at is a whopping 47%. Now, I accept allowing the mind to drift forwards to future events may create excitement and anticipation certainly ( after all, isn’t the shenanigan that is Christmas predicated on this likelihood?), but be mindful that projecting oneself forwards can also cause anxiety. Mind travel in reverse, well that can be pleasant too: happy memories and self-indulgent nostalgia over an eggnog whilst listening to George Michael crooning about Last Christmas… But often – often, often, often, mind wandering backwards leads to sadness and regret.

Yes. The evidence is out there. To be happy, stay in the present moment. So why, why, why is the past so much more interesting than what the hell is going on in my living room right now? And why do I look forward to getting home from work and throwing myself headlong into 1919?

Uncovering the signs

Uncovering the signs

Strike a pose?

Pictured below: photographer Alfred Stieglitz with his wife, the artist, Georgia O’Keeffe.

It’s a provocative image. I imagine a camera, on a tripod, set somewhere further down a grassy slope ready to spring into life and take an automatic exposure – staged – and yet the emotion that floods out of the image seems true.

Except for one thing. Her foot. It is not committed to the union. And then, when I think of that, I start to see the hats, the great dark, flowing coats and capes. I see much more artfulness in the image than the first impression. What can one expect, they were artists. Although their marriage endured in a form until his death, they spent a lot of time apart.

When Stieglitz died, O’Keeffe flew from her home in Albuquerque to his in New York. She spent the night before his funeral stripping out the pink satin that lined his coffin and replacing it with plain white linen.

The foot, the hats, the white linen. Perhaps it’s that milky coolness in the aesthetic that stops the passions burning up everything instantaneously their path – although they generally get there in the end.

Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz

Things are going to change round here

I am not quite sure how, or when, but I can feel it coming in the air (to borrow from Phil Collins).

I have changed. I know this; I am not sure that other people do. The world is changing too – and I hope for the better.

Anyway, it’s no big deal – everything changes – if not, things can atrophy and that is never good.

The main thing to do whilst in transition, I suppose, is to remember to keep breathing.

Anyway, the blog rapidly approaches the full up point. I am going to have to do some big housekeeping soon. But not now, I’ve got other things to do today. In a World First For Me, I poached eggs for breakfast. Not that hard is it?

onwards upwards