The Power of the Written Word

So 2019 is grinding towards an end, and what a complex, mangled year it has been for us, here in the UK.

On our small island with its natural water barrier between us and the world, a civil war of words has raged since 2016, over whether we should pull up the drawbridge to our sea moat and withdraw into our brittle little shell or continue to relate with our nearest neighbours in the same convivial way we’ve enjoyed for 50 years.

I’m disconsolate to say to my overseas readers, not only that the drawbridge fans have won the war of words, but that all of we ordinary citizens, those of us who don’t have huge investments squirrelled away or are not hedge fund managers, who are not the fabulously rich elite and right wing newspaper owners, we have all lost.

I can’t dwell for too long on an issue which has been divisive enough to make me sick at heart. Instead I turn for comfort to my own community and to the groups which provide solace, friendship and distraction in these gloomy times.

While I have only been a member of my current book club for about a year, the members feel like old friends already, with their lively, cheerful discussions and their enthusiasm for reading and sharing views. During the evening we spent enjoying a Christmas meal I discovered I am the oldest in the group [by 4 days!], although I’ve never felt myself to be a different generation. I love the range of ages and stages of life. Members relate to the books differently depending on these stages, which provides a wealth of varied insights. The group has grown so much that numbers have had to be regulated!

In contrast, my writing group, the wonderful Spokes, has kept going for years with fluctuating numbers, on occasions dipping to three of us, the original three. We’ve moved venue several times and seen writers come and go, some getting published, some moving to new areas, others giving up their writing journey. But new members always turn up, currently a disparate but interesting set of characters with very different levels of expertise to bring to our group. People have different reasons for attending a group; perhaps writing is an outlet for them, perhaps they are serious about pursuing writing as a career, or perhaps the feeling of belonging and being valued is all they need.

We are fortunate, these days to be housed in our wonderful, local library, a facility denied to many since austerity crept around the country pruning services to the ground. If you are still lucky enough to live near a functioning library, please use it! There are few greater treasures than books, even in this digital age.

So at this point, I wish you-readers from all around the world, all faiths or none, all nationalities, a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

 

For Better or Worse

                Change is inevitable; that much is a given. In industry and in any establishment ‘change’ is an issue that must be managed, trained for, discussed, prepared for and implemented. Why must all this effort go into dealing with change? Because most of us, the worker bees, the minions, the ignorant-we won’t like it. And we won’t like it because it won’t be in our interests. It will be in the interests of those making the change; they may be bosses, government ministers, directors or anyone who might benefit from alterations.

                One change that hit the national headline news this week was the move, after 40 years, of Ford’s van factory from Southampton, here on the South coast of England, to Turkey. The reason given is lower cost. I’m guessing this means lower wages. Of course the move is great news for Turkey, who, I believe is still aiming to belong to the European Union, having begun negotiations in 2005, but less good for those workers who had believed, not expecting anything to change, that their jobs were there until retirement. No doubt Ford’s will also have less in the way of employment regulations to follow-that is-if and when Turkey gets its membership in Europe.

                As the stirrings of unrest boil away under the surface in Turkey, I’ll be interested to see how Ford’s venture of moving there progresses. The turkey may come home to roost, as it were.

                Closer to home, the shockwaves are still settling after our little writing club was sacked from the ‘community’ arts centre where we always met. As a non profit-making club, apparently we do not generate enough revenue; hence we are no longer welcome. For now we will meet in our homes until such time as we find another venue. We have to adapt to the change.

                It may be unfashionable to adhere to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it’ mantra, but all change is not necessarily going to be better for all people. In my previous life as a real working person [ie one who earned a salary] I was happy enough for things to be changed if the benefits were pointed out. Being of a somewhat cynical nature, however, I tended towards the view that there is nothing new under the sun, therefore a proposed change would be a system or a scheme or an idea that we had implemented before under a different name and in a different guise. And here’s the thing-often more than once. On the occasions when, in my innocence, I was rash enough to point this out, the outcome was never happy, or indeed favourable. I became a sort of cynical ‘Mr Pooter’  figure, labelled as an idiotic buffoon-or worse.

                Nowadays for me, change is gradual and unavoidable, although strangely, not always altogether unwelcome, without authority to rail against. Who is there to blame for wrinkles, unwanted weight deposits or grey hair? It’s all in the scheme of things, just as it should be.