Samples of Work

Code of Conduct (67kb pdf)
This is part of a copy of the “Code of Conduct” I wrote with and for staff at a residential establishment for people with mental health problems. I had (and have) a long standing relationship with the managers and staff and have a high regard for the work they do and the way they do it. Please feel free to copy and use it. An acknowledgement would be good and if you want a bespoke solution please call me.

Training in Relationship (47kb pdf)
I wrote this initially for counselling students but it seems to me that it might be a more general set of guidelines for emotional and social competences.

Past Newsletters

Heartwork Newsletters 2015

January

I hope you’ve had an enjoyable festive season and you will be happy and healthy in 2015.
For me this is a time of reflection (after some seasonal excesses)! This will be my 65th year on the planet and I’m curious about what happens next. I’m aware that I live a happy and fulfilling life in a rich country. The only “fly in my ointment” being that my youthful dreams of a more just and equal society are still just dreams. The gap between the rich and the poor gets ever wider.
The people in the middle are often chronically insecure and have their fears exploited by a callous and sordid gutter press and politicians who seem greedy and narcissistic.
I think that all we can do is to do our best personally and professionally, compromise as little as possible and, where we have the chance, stand for and with those who want and need social change. There are some contacts on my Friends & Resources page.

February

Hello Colleagues, It’s February and despite the cold wet weather the bulbs in our garden look like they’re going to produce a lovely “host of golden daffodils”-well, not as many as Wordsworth saw but definitely enough to repay Yasmin’s efforts in planting them.
My comments last month about the anger and sadness I feel about the widening gap between rich and poor in our wealthy nation struck a chord with several of you. It is sometimes hard to hold on to our values and live them out when individual greed and selfishness are sold to us as the primary motives for our lives rather than sharing and cooperation. “Aspiration” of itself is not a virtue if what we aspire to is only money and luxury without regard for how we get them and the effect of our actions on others and the planet we live on. All rather depressing and then……..
I’ve just read this on the Independent online (31st January) -It cheered me up no end! Compassion imagination direct action and humour all in one go! I’ve added Strike! Magazine to my friends and resources page-bless them.
“A group of activists from an anarchist magazine have made the most of a Daily Mail discount ferry deal to take supplies and blankets to migrant refugees in Calais.
Around 11 (“hopefully more are taking anonymous action!”) from Strike! magazine are heading out to the Impasse des Salines camp on Sunday after buying £1 tickets to the French port as part of the Mail’s £1 ticket deal with P&O. [We are] taking donations of warm coats, blankets tents etc, that we’ve collected.Looking forward to enjoying the Daily Mail’s free bottle of wine on the way back. Strike! magazine, speaking to i100.co.uk
The magazine was inspired by David Charles and Beth Granville, who made the trip this week after Beth’s Gran spotted the offer in the paper. The pair have subsequently “praised” the Mail for its “courageous humanitarian stance”. Here’s my programme (so far) for 2015 . If you haven’t already signed up for the March ones please contact me by email ASAP. I’m away for much of February getting some sunshine but I’m told there is free wifi in some of the bodegas so I’ll definitely be able to respond to you within a day of any requests for places, info etc. I’ve also changed the website so there’s some new things to read

March

Hello Colleagues, I’m now back from sunny Spain rested and refreshed. As I look out of the window it’s bright and sunny and one or two of the daffodils have braved an appearance but as the song says “Baby it’s cold outside!”

While I was away thanks to the wonders of wifi I was able to keep in touch with events in the UK.

One event was the sting which caught two very senior politicians boasting about their contacts and quoting their “consultancy rates” as £5000/half day or £8000 /day. One of these politicians who, in addition to being an MP, ex Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary, was chairman of the committee that is supposed to oversee the security services, the Intelligence and Security Committee. (Go, via the link on my website, to Liberty to get some idea of how effective they are.) During the sting he claimed that he had plenty of free time and had no salary. He somehow forgot the £67,000 salary (plus expenses) that he was paid as an M.P. and said later it was not nearly enough to attract talented professionals into politics. In the Register of Members Interests he declared five jobs outside parliament, which have earned him over £800,000 in the last five years. It probably goes without saying he has always voted against the establishment of a minimum wage (currently £6-50 per hour for workers over 21 years) and for every welfare cut.

The second politician, the cheaper guy (only £5000 for a full day) declared £112,777 additional earnings in the Register of Members Interests and says “I have acted with complete probity and integrity throughout my parliamentary career.” He has been at various times Home Secretary and Lord Chancellor, was Blair’s Foreign Secretary at the time of the Iraq War and was Secretary of State for Justice in the last Labour government.

JUSTICE…………now there’s a fine idea!

I can’t introduce you to any ambassadors or cabinet ministers but for all you talented professionals here’s some CPD and for much less than £5000 per
day!!

April
Acceptable Opinion
It’s April and there is a general election in a few weeks time. Will I vote? Yes, with a heavy heart and no expectation that my vote or that of millions of others will change very much. As Chomsky said “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….” Noam Chomsky, The Common Good). Anyone who wants to make real change in the world via a parliamentary route comes up against the reality that you are playing the establishment’s game with their rules and their referees. They own the stadium, the papers who report on the match and they’ve bribed most of your players. Maybe we need to play games where people who want to change the world for the better play their own game and set their own rules!
I found this (and many other inspiring thoughts) on the website www.crimethinc.com:

“It doesn’t have to be true that men and women waste their lives away working to serve the hollow greed of a few rich men, just to survive. It doesn’t have to be that we never dare to tell each other what we really want, to share ourselves honestly, to use our talents and capabilities to make life more bearable, let alone more beautiful. That’s unnecessary tragedy, stupid tragedy, pathetic and pointless. It’s not even utopian to demand that we put an end to farces like these.”

Tragedy and Humanity
After the usual careless and hysterical banner headlines in the gutter press, this time conflating depression with a propensity for mass murder, an example of emotional intelligence and common humanity by a German pilot was reported-albeit with no screaming headlines.
Time magazine reported:
“The morning after Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps—before any real details were known about the state of the plane or co-pilot Andreas Lubitz’mental state—Britta Englisch hesitantly stepped onto a Germanwings flight from Hamburg to Cologne.

As soon as she walked onto the plane, she and the other passengers were personally welcomed by the pilot, who assured them that he’d get them to their destination safely. Englisch praised the dedicated pilot and crew on Germanwings’Facebook page Wednesday night, and her heartfelt post has since gone viral—accumulating some 300,000 likes in less than two days.

“This flight was the morning after the crash—at this time no details were known and everything was mere speculation,” Englisch, who lives in Hamburg, tells TIME via email. “Logically it was pretty clear to me, that Germanwings might have been the safest airline at that morning—they doublechecked every plane and pilots and crew were free to choose if they were feeling able to fly or not. Nevertheless I had this feeling in my stomach. Feelings are not logical, are they?”

But her worry subsided after the pilot personally welcomed people as they boarded the plane. “If someone made an uneasy impression, he talked to them,” says Englisch, a PR manager at Stage Entertainment.

After boarding was complete, rather than going into the cockpit, the pilot took a microphone and began to address his passengers.
“He introduced himself and his crew, talked about how he felt—that some of the crew knew someone on the plane, that he also had a slight uneasy feeling not knowing what happened,” Englisch recollects. “[The pilot continued that] he and the crew are there voluntarily, that the company didn’t force anyone to be on duty that day, that he double-checked the plane this morning. [He said that] he has family, kids and a wife who he loves, that the crew has loved ones and [that] he’ll do everything to return safely to them every evening.” 5th May
As I write it is only a couple of days before the general election. Before you vote, if you vote, it may be worth remembering that although we are one of the richest countries in the world those riches and the power that goes with wealth are very poorly distributed. The rich minority appear to think they are entitled to run the world entirely for their own benefit and certainly it seems that laws against fraud and tax evasion do not apply to them. They own the gutter press who heap abuse and ridicule on anyone who suggests there may be any alternative which challenges their sense of entitlement.
Whether you know about Maslow’s hierarchy or not here is some information-

FOOD: Some facts from the Trussell trust
913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013-14 compared to 346,992 in 2012-13
Figures are ‘tip of the iceberg’ of UK food poverty says Trussell Trust Chairman
83% of foodbanks report ‘sanctioning’ is causing rising numbers to turn to them.
Over 900,000 adults and children have received three days’ emergency food and support from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the last 12 months, a shocking 163 percent rise on numbers helped in the previous financial year. Despite signs of economic recovery, the poorest have seen incomes squeezed even more than last year reports The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest foodbank network. More people are being referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks than ever before.

PAY: facts from The Equality Trust
Average wage of FTSE 100 Company Director = £4.3 Million
Average wage of UK worker = £26,500
From UK government figures: 1,386,000 workers are on minimum wage, which on a 40 hour week after tax will leave them £11,055 per year.
From the BBC: The basic annual salary for an MP from 1 April 2014 is £67,060. MPs also receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London and in their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.

HOUSING: Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said:
“Our housing market is completely out of control and England’s nine million renters are paying the price. Successive governments’ failure to build enough affordable homes and soaring house prices are leaving more and more families with no choice but to live their lives in expensive and unstable rented homes, never certain of what the future holds. And sky-high rents mean hopes of escaping the ‘rent trap’ are fading fast for many. We hear from people every day who can barely keep up with their housing costs each month, making saving for a home of their own a mere pipe dream.”
So..
Whilst I have very little faith in the political system to make any significant changes I am going to vote and keep my fingers crossed that enough people will share my view that we are all citizens of a wealthy country which has increasingly been run by and for a greedy and selfish elite. Perhaps one day we might all truly be “all in this together”.

11th May
In the days before the General Election I wrote in my May Newsletter “Whilst I have very little faith in the political system to make any significant changes I am going to vote and keep my fingers crossed that enough people will share my view that we are all citizens of a wealthy country which has increasingly been run by and for a greedy and selfish elite. Perhaps one day we might all truly be “all in this together”.
Like everyone else, including the victors, I was shocked by the results and in the 2 days since I’m still trying to come to terms with my feelings of sadness, given that my old fashioned values about social justice are apparently not shared by many of my fellow citizens.
So after having those immediate thoughts about:
moving abroad (maybe Scotland but… No! the weather is terrible)
stop reading the papers
stop watching the news,
stop listening to the radio
stop writing letters
stop signing petitions
stop having conversations about politics
stop caring about what happens around me
-in short doing the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and going blah,blah,blah.
Here are my thought so far:
Yasmin came up with something practical and went to the supermarket to buy food, nappies and sanitary towels to take to the Food Bank and we resolved to increase our monthly contribution. Now we are thinking about how to connect with other people who want real change. We need to think more about how to exercise our social and political responsibility when voting has such little effect.
If you are celebrating the election result please consider that if you really think “we are all in this together” you may want to make your contribution too.
If you are an employer you might want to check that you are paying at least a living wage to your employees and giving them job security so they can pay rent and get mortgages and have some of the things you take for granted.
If you are a landlord you might consider that just because you can charge whatever you like in rent –you don’t have to increase it- especially if you are already wealthy.
If you are a shareholder you might want to enquire whether the companies you hold shares in treat employees and customers fairly and operate in ways that are socially and environmentally responsible.
If you’re going to get reductions in your tax bill (and you probably will) please remember those who have a lot less than you-they are also citizens and are doing their best to look after themselves and their families without your advantages.
Even if the plight of other people does not move you, you might be inspired to use your influence to protect civil liberties.
One of the new governments’ pledges is to remove the Human Rights Act.
The civil liberties organisation Liberty says:
“The Human Rights Act, attacked by many in politics and the press, has protected journalists’ sources, safeguarded our soldiers, given bereaved families long sought-after answers and held the authorities to account over and over again. It has defended domestic violence sufferers, the vulnerable in care and rape victims. It protects a small bundle of basic rights; the right to life, privacy, a fair trial, protest; freedom from torture and discrimination.”
The whole point of having such an act is it protects you whether you are likeable or not so sometimes it protects people we don’t like. It is part of being a civilised country.
Shares in one of the major fracking companies have already risen 14% since the election. If they want to drill in your village and have the right to drill under your house neither your environment nor the sale value of your house will be safe. “When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”
~ Cree Prophecy ~
I found this on www.theconversation.com written by Martin Smith, Anniversary Professor of Politics at the University of York
“The 2015 result has produced a considerable divergence between vote share and seats won. The problem is that a 19th-century system of voting in the context of two major parties now seems broken. David Cameron has been hailed for pulling off an extraordinary victory but the fact is that his party has gained 23 seats, becoming a majority party with a swing of only 0.8%. Labour, on the other hand, saw a positive swing of 1.5% but lost 26 seats.
There is a strong argument that the 2015 results are perverse and that electoral reform – such as some kind of proportional representation, where the number of seats are determined by the share of the vote – is much-needed.
The SNP with just under 1.5m votes won 56 seats. UKIP with 3.8m votes won only one seat and the Liberal Democrats with nearly 2.4m votes have only 8 seats. The point is that votes are not equal and many people may feel that their political engagement is irrelevant.
63% of voters did not support the Tories.
This result throws up both moral questions and issues of legitimacy. The Conservatives will now come to office claiming a mandate to govern. In his first statement outside Number 10, David Cameron said that as the head of a majority government he can deliver all of his manifesto.Yet 63% of voters did not support his party. The swing to the Conservatives was minute and they still have just one seat in Scotland out of 59. Their majority is an artifact of the electoral system and not a true reflection of the choices of voters. How can the government claim to represent the electorate with such a small proportion of the vote? No mechanism exists to ensure that the Conservative government takes accounts of the views of those who did not vote for them. At the same time, millions of Green and UKIP voters are represented by just one MP each. The irony is that while an anti-political mood appears to have influenced many voters to reject the traditional parties, the outcome is that they are less represented than ever. And they can see how directly they are being excluded from the political system.”
If we want to change things I reckon we better get started now!

  • Be “aspirational” and aspire for a better world.*
    There are some organisations listed on my Friends and Resources page
    2nd June
    Freedom and Security
    “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
    Benjamin Franklin
    Within the first few days of the incoming government they announced their intention of repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British version. There was a strong principled outcry from civil liberties groups and their supporters, lawyers, prominent individuals and, to their credit, some Tories . By the time the Queens Speech came around on the 27th the government had had second thoughts- presumably mindful that their 12 seat majority and a prolonged fight with the House of Lords might not be a good way to start their 5 year term. However (and it’s hell of a big “However…” they are going ahead with the “Snoopers’ Charter” which will extend the power of GCHQ and other assorted spooks to operate mass surveillance on all citizens . If you think that’s benign remember the political activists who found out their lovers were undercover policemen. In case you think that’s old news….
    The Guardian (28th May 2015)
    “Blacklisted workers have intensified their campaign to uncover the extent of secret police surveillance operations against them.
    Covert police officers are alleged to have passed information they gathered on the trade unionists to multi-national firms who maintained a secret and unlawful blacklist.
    The blacklisted workers want the allegations examined by the public inquiry that has been established into the police’s use of undercover officers to infiltrate hundreds of political groups.”

June 2nd
Reasons to be cheerful
It might be worth remembering that there was time when apartheid in South Africa was seen by many as a “fact of life” and those of us who protested and boycotted were, as always, dismissed as troublemakers. I seriously doubt whether the fact I didn’t eat an orange for many years (Spain and Portugal were both under fascist dictatorships) had much direct effect but the cumulative effect of many boycotts and protests and the sheer stupidity of the system finally brought it to an end.
Similarly if anyone had said right up to recent times that the Thirty Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality Bill) would pass by 62.07% of the referendum vote in Ireland they would have regarded as delusional.

June 2nd
March against Austerity
Last Saturday Yasmin and I joined the Hastings Solidarity demonstration against austerity. About 2-300 people of all ages (including Quakers and Green Party members) marched in the sunshine from the Pier along the seafront stopping outside Sports Direct# which was thoroughly picketed. There were a number of heartening things about the march not least people being invited to arrive early to make their own personal banners-and when we arrived at Sports Direct everyone responded warmly to the suggestion to shake hands with the people around you. The marchers themselves were not austere!
#According to the Sunday times Rich List Mike Ashley the founder /owner of Sports Direct has a personal fortune worth £3,500,000,000. A total of 20,000 of his staff don’t get guaranteed hours or sick and holiday pay. If they turn down work, they fear they will not be asked again. A separate subsidiary of sports direct in Scotland went bust in January and was bought back debt-free by Sports Direct. It left 88 staff redundant and £15.3million debts to suppliers and landlords were written off, along with £700,000 owed to the taxman who must also pick up redundancy payments. July “The strongest predictor of a satisfying adult life was the child’s emotional health. Next came social behaviour, and least important was academic achievement. This is exactly the opposite sequence to the priorities of most (but not all) educators and politicians. Indeed the last Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, deliberately reduced towards zero the importance which Ofsted should give to the emotional wellbeing of students.” Lord Richard Layard (blogs.lse.ac.uk)

I have some arguments with the “happiness czar” Lord Layard but I’ll quote anybody who backs up “the bleedin’ obvious” with research !
I was prompted to write this by an article about the research paper Exam Factories? report commissioned by the National Union of Teachers and conducted independently by Merryn Hutchings, emeritus professor at London Metropolitan University.

The findings
Teachers in England are seeing unprecedented levels of school-related anxiety, stress and mental health problems among pupils of all age groups and abilities, particularly around test or exam time, according to a new report.
Children aged 10 or 11 are said to be “in complete meltdown”, in tears, or feeling sick during tests, and problems can be made worse by their competitive parents.
Teachers complain that low achievement at tests or exams is resulting in low motivation and low self-esteem. One secondary school teacher at an unnamed school said “self-harming is rife” at key stage 4 (14- to 16-year-olds) and reported that a pupil was hospitalised for three months in a psychiatric ward following a suicide attempt, another nearly starved herself to death and numerous other students “suffered from symptoms that are on the questionnaires that the NHS uses to diagnose depression”.
The report looks at how tests, exams, Ofsted inspections and other “accountability measures” are affecting schools. It includes responses from a survey of nearly 8,000 teachers, case studies of heads, other teachers (not all NUT members) and children, and a review of research and other literature.
Hutchings said: “The problems are caused by increased pressure from tests/exams, [children’s] greater awareness at younger ages of their own ‘failure’, and the increased rigour and academic demands of the curriculum.
“The increase in diagnosis of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) has been shown to be linked to the increase in high-stakes testing. Thus it appears that some children are being diagnosed and medicated because the school environment has become less suitable for them, allowing less movement and practical work, and requiring them to sit still for long periods.”
Christine Blower, the NUT general secretary, said: “The findings about the experiences and concerns of children and young people are shocking and sometimes upsetting.
“The study exposes the reduction in the quality of teacher-pupil interaction, the loss of flexibility and lack of time for teachers to respond to children as individuals, the growing pressure on children to do things before they are ready, and the focus on a narrower range of subjects.”

For a fuller description and more links look at : 3diassociates.wordpress.com

Even when I was at a secondary school back in the 1960s the resemblance of school to a traditional factory with all it’s hierarchies and the emphasis on exam results rather than the development of students was striking. No-one had the slightest concern about pupil’s welfare – we were containers to be filled with facts which were duly regurgitated at exam times. Disciplinary problems were dealt with by detentions and the cane and the less formal thrown object (e.g. wooden board rubbers) from masters who were keen cricketers. (Yes they were all “masters”). Social and technological changes and better training for teachers seem to have made schools better places in many respects . Though the buildings are more modern and the teachers have better relationships with children the schools are still in fact exam factories with even more exams to prove their productivity and fear for the future driving children, teachers and parents.

We knew as teenagers that on leaving school we would either get a job or go to university. It was much harder to go to university and very simple to get a job . If you didn’t like the job you could get another one and if you worked hard you could live a pretty good life, backed up by Health and Welfare services and supported by strong public institutions. Of course there was poverty and poor housing but pretty well everyone thought that as a society we could and should change that.There were many arguments about the kind of change required but not the combination of callous indifference and open malice towards the less fortunate that is so prevalent today in the media and in political discourse. No wonder our kids are scared that they won’t be pretty enough or slim enough or smart enough or rich enough. As well as constantly being measured and tested against each other at school they are given absurd role models by the gutter press and trash TV and witness the contempt shown by the powerful towards the powerless.*

Assessment question for schools and for society.
Are the children happy and healthy and enthusiastic about learning and looking forward to their futures? (Don’t lie to them about their schooldays being the happiest days of their lives, that’s just cruel and stupid)
Does every child get the opportunity to flourish or is it just the social or academic elite?
When they are distressed do the adults around them notice and respond effectively?
Are we helping them to navigate through the media and see marketing for what it is?
Are we helping them to understand that it is normal and natural to help others less fortunate than themselves ?
Are we helping them to understand that money and fame are not great measures of health, happiness or moral worth?
Are we helping them make the distinction between healthy self esteem and selfish narcissism?

Right now the evidence seems clear- unhappy stressed adults are attempting to help unhappy stressed children by prescribing more of the same medicine that they had (albeit with a bit more sugar and an absence of scars from board rubbers).

*As I write we’re 24 hours away from hearing where the promised £12 Billion of welfare cuts will fall. It seems highly likely that Child Tax Credits will be cut and push yet more families into poverty and all the additional problems that go with being impoverished. The public school educated multi-millionaire presenting the budget (he inherited his wealth) is also likely to cut Inheritance Tax……..

October 2015

Our phone crisis is finally over and for all the difficulties it was still a first world problem and the staff in the phone shops were understanding and very helpful. Normal service has been restored and my blood pressure is back in equilibrium.

Who is MAD ? or Am I on the right planet?
The new Labour leader has replied to a question that he would not “push the button” to use Britain’s nuclear “deterrent” under any circumstances-confirming that whatever the provocation he would not become a mass murderer halting any future for the human race. This apparently is another sign that he is totally unelectable and has his shadow cabinet threatening to resign etc.etc.
A definition from Wikipedia
“Mutual assured destruction, or mutually assured destruction (MAD), is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two or more opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender . It is based on the theory of deterrence where the threat of using strong weapons against the enemy prevents the enemy’s use of those same weapons.”
Now, when I read that someone has said that if threatened he might kill all his family and wipe out the whole neighbourhood , I think they are the ones who have serious, indeed potentially lethal mental health problems. It seems to me that a professed willingness to use weapons of mass destruction should immediately disqualify anyone from any position where they have sharp objects, never mind have their finger on the nuclear trigger.
The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church have produced a briefing on the economic costs of Trident which slams the projected £55bn expenditure on running and replacing Trident over the next 15 years. From the website Better Off Without Trident.
A statement from the Churches read:
“Each year for 15 years, Trident will cost the UK £3.7 billion. For the same amount, the Government could invest in: 15,000 more health visitors; 15,000 more teachers; 300 Sure Start centres; 12,500 new council houses per year; solar energy for 345,000 council houses and still leave an additional billion pounds available to support our troops. The three Churches are encouraging people to make the case against Trident to their MPs.
The Revd Leo Osborn, President of the Methodist Conference, said: “This is one of the biggest capital projects in the Government’s spending plans. We are being told that we must accept cutbacks in public services. At a time when the protection for the poorest in our society is under pressure it is surely wrong to tie up so much public money in nuclear missiles and their delivery systems. There is still time for the Government to say “no” to Trident.”
The Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: “In these days of austerity and severe cutbacks it would be extraordinary not to revisit the Trident issue. We fully appreciate the need for the country to have appropriate defence, but urge the Government to abandon this extraordinarily expensive project which relates to a defence context that has long since disappeared.”
Already just about everybody in the political establishment has suggested that without nuclear weapons Britain will have no influence in the world. This argument sounds like a kind of national narcissism -we have to be with the big boys and carry weapons like they do.
Some people have no problem in declaring they might, if pushed, destroy the planet. This is from the author Robert Harris talking about his former friend Tony Blair: “Who knew that he would become a great friend of George Bush and would want to keep bombing people and would be so passionately interested in making money and live this strange life with the billionaire super-rich on yachts and private jets?
“I mean maybe someone more perceptive than I would have seen it, but I never saw that at the time, nor – knowing a lot of the people who know him very well – did they.
“It’s a cliche to say that most politicians go mad if they are in office for more than about six or seven years and they become a member of a club and you become quite disconnected from reality, and I think there were in Tony things we perhaps didn’t realise at the time – of narcissism, a messiah complex, that had merely accelerated this impulse in him.”

What would happen if just for once our country actually decided to be really great? Deciding that all citizens will be properly fed and securely housed and have meaningful employment. Perhaps even education and health services that valued those they served and those that worked in them.
We could have an international reputation for being a happy healthy country that cared for it’s citizens and contributed to peace and justice in the world. But that dream of course is quite mad and anyone suggesting it is totally “unelectable”!

The Big Society

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said in its post-budget briefing that 13 million families will lose an average of £240 a year, while 3 million families will lose £1,000 a year. Paul Johnson, the IFS director, said it was “arithmetically impossible” for the increase in the minimum wage to compensate for the loss in tax credits.
Last week David Cameron said he was “delighted“and George Osbourne said he was “comfortable” that their cuts to Child Tax Credit had been passed through the Commons. A few “compassionate Conservatives” had made speeches about the unfairness of some of the poorest workers being further impoverished but their compassion did not prevent them from voting for the cuts. 27th October- I’ve just had to do a big re-write because the Lords did find enough courage to tell the government to slow things down and look again at the impact of the cuts. Cue for Tory MPs including the ever lovable Jacob Rees Mogg to bang on about how terrible this was for the “constitution” which of course though largely mystical in character (it’s not written down anywhere and has experts that interpret it ) is far more important than the well being of the plebs.

Travel news
That famous striver Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber flew first class from New York last Monday to vote for the government. His fortune is estimated to be £650 million.
I have my fair share of greed and selfishness but I just don’t understand why a man with £650 million pounds would fly first class across the Atlantic to vote for cuts to the incomes of the working poor. It does remind me of Alexander Pope “We may see the small Value God has for Riches, by the People he gives them to.” He wrote that in 1727 and the attitudes of the rich and powerful haven’t changed much since then.

Most of the Prime Ministers’ time last week however was spent kowtowing to the Chinese President Xi Jinping ……..

Cycling News

A British lawyer Paul Powlesland was cycling through the City of London on Wednesday afternoon on his way to his chambers after a court case when he saw a crowd of Xi supporters gathered before the president’s arrival at a state banquet.
On a whim, Powlesland said, he decided to stop and challenge some of the crowd about China’s human rights record. Unknown to him, a member of the Free Tibet campaign was filming.
The video shows him saying to the crowd: “You’ve come here to express your right, your freedom of speech. Do you think that right should be extended to everyone, all around the world – in Tibet, in Beijing, everywhere?”
The answers are partly inaudible, but one person appears to ask Powlesland about Scotland’s independence. He answers: “The Scottish people are allowed to vote – why don’t you give the vote to Tibetan people?”
Asked why he is asking such questions, Powlesland replies: “Because I care about human rights and democracy around the world, for every single human being. Every single one.”
Calling Xi “one of the greatest abusers of human rights in the world”, he adds: “So many English people are frankly disgusted at the welcome your president has got in our country, that our prime minister will roll over and frankly do everything your president tells him for money.”
Powlesland told the Guardian his questions appeared to flummox the students. “They didn’t really know how to answer them. They haven’t really got an answer, as far as I can see,” he said.
As he left on his bike, Powlesland was asked by the Free Tibet campaign member who filmed the interaction if he could post it on Facebook. “I said, ‘Sure, go ahead,’ not thinking any more of it,” Powlesland said. “Then I was sat in the office and got messages from my friends on Facebook saying, ‘Well done, you’re a legend.’ I said, ‘What are you on about?’ They referred me to the Free Tibet group, and already it was taking off.”
Powlesland said he believed the reception to the video was in part because people felt let down at the minimal official British challenge on human rights issues to Xi, who returns to China on Friday.
“A lot of ordinary British people are disgusted by the actions of our government and David Cameron, rolling over and welcoming the head of this regime just for any sniff of cash,” he said.
“It’s becoming a very British thing, to bring out the red carpet to any dictator who’ll give us a bit of money, whether China or Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. It’s pretty appalling, and very hypocritical when we also like to say we export democracy around the world, and talk about British values.” The 29-year-old civil law barrister has received messages of praise from around the world, with more than half a million people watching the video since it was posted on Wednesday. He has been particularly feted in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and has been interviewed by one Hong Kong newspaper.
Powlesland said he was pleasantly surprised by his unexpected and unsought fame. “It’s gone quite mad,” he told the Guardian. “I’ve been emailed and messaged from people all over the world saying, congratulations, thank you for standing up for human rights and freedom of speech.”

I’ve just read that some clever person has worked out that the £100,000 it cost to send Cameron to Saudi Arabia to the funeral of King Abdullah in January is equal to 51 years of basic tax credit of £1960.

Art News
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei said Lego refused his studio’s request for a bulk order of Lego to create an artwork to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria. The Lego was required for a “room scale installation” Ai Weiwei was planning, highlighting Australian activists and advocates for human rights and free speech. On October 21, a British firm formally announced that it would open a new Legoland in Shanghai. “As a commercial entity, Lego produces and sells toys, movies and amusement parks attracting children across the globe,” Mr Ai said in a post on Instagram featuring a photo of Lego bricks in a toilet bowl.” As a powerful corporation, Lego is an influential cultural and political actor in the globalised economy with questionable values.” I am pleased to report that people around the world are donating Lego bricks to the artist who will make the work.They are also using Lego bricks on various media to make their own statements about freedom.Good.
Medical News

A company run by U.S. hedge fund manager Martin Shrekli aged 32 bought the rights to drug called Daraprim. Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis an infection that is not common but is particularly dangerous especially when it effects babies born to mothers who have become infected or adults whose immune systems are critically compromised because they have Aids or some cancers. Mr Shrekl then raised the price of the drug from 13 dollars per tablet to 750 dollars per tablet (£490). The drug was first developed in the 1940s so the usual drug company excuses for excessive pricing won’t wash. Mr Shrekli is obviously a serious striver! The good news is that a San Diego-based drug company called Imprimis have announced that they’ll supply capsules containing the same active ingredient as Daraprim for 1 dollar per dose. Their CEO Mark Baum will also start to make other alternative versions of generic drugs for a reasonable price.

Dancing News In Spain a group of flash mob flamenco dancers called Flo6×8 have a brilliant form of protest. The group carries out carefully choreographed acciones (actions) in front of bemused bank staff and customers. The music and the dancing are wonderful and you don’t need much Spanish to get the message. Look them up on YouTube. As Yasmin says morris dancing in Barclays wouldn’t have quite the same dramatic effect!

Football News Two famous ex Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are allowing Manchester’s homeless to occupy a Grade-II listed building for the winter before they turn it into a five-star hotel.They bought Manchester’s historic Stock Exchange for around £1.5m, but since purchasing the building, it has become occupied by homeless rights activists.But rather than having the squatters evicted, the pair have opted to allow them to use the building for a “few months” across the winter before work commences on revamping the site.

Comedy News Do have a look at comedian Russell Howard’s piece on BBC TV (on Youtube now of course) comparing junior doctors’ pay (£23,000) to MPs pay (£74,000) and giving a sterling and funny defence of the NHS.

Union News My views about the BACP are well known and I suspect shared by many of those who remain members out of fear. The Counselling Society already offers an alternative and some (perhaps more radical?) colleagues are setting up a Union of Counsellors and Psychotherapists
Holiday News As some of you know we’re taking an extended break and will be off the beaten track from December 8th to mid January. I will let supervisees know how to access colleagues who will be available during that time. I have no intention of retiring from the work I love – just having a few more holidays!

January 2015
Yasmin and I are back in Blighty after a wonderful time in Bangkok and Laos. We experienced a sharp contrast between Bangkok ( turbo capitalism,concrete and corruption and extreme affection for the royal family) and the gentle laid back Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Laos (Communist,Buddhist and Animist with many different tribes and cultures) but both were wonderful in their own ways and we want to go back…….

Like all good travel experiences (and perhaps ”bad” ones too) I feel changed by being away from familiar places and routines and I’m still not sure exactly how. I won’t bore you with travellers’ tales but perhaps this will give you a flavour….

“The Lao are truly ‘people of the heart’. They believe the heart is the source of intelligence as well as emotion, and that ideas are the sounds or voices of the heart.

There are so many common Lao expressions which include the word jai – ‘heart’ .

to understand is to enter the heart – khao jai
to be glad is to feel good with a happy heart – dee jai
to be kind and honest is to have a good heart – jai dee
to be angry is to feel bad in the heart – jai hai
to be sorry is to have lost the heart – sia jai
to have empathy is to see the heart– hen jai
to feel upset is to be unhappy at heart – ouk jai
to be sensitive (touchy, nervous) is to have a small heart – jai noy
to be mean or stingy is to have a narrow heart – jai khap khaep
to be startled or get a fright is to drop the heart – tok jai
to be absent-minded is to have a heart which floats – jai loy “

So you see it is not that I’m a bit forgetful at times, it is simply that my “heart is floating” at the time!

March 2016

I qualify by age and temperament for Grumpy Old Man status and so I have to ask myself “is it just me?” experiencing disgust and outrage at the state of the world. The answer of course is that it isn’t just me and I know that partly because of the emails I get from the readers of my newsletters and this webpage. Thank you. I also get plenty of mail from organisations run by people who have the courage and patience to stand up to the rich and powerful.

More and more I realise that I am a part of a blessed generation who had the advantages of the N.H.S. when it was all run as a public service, free education under democratic control to fulfil our aspirations, and a general sense that poverty and injustice should be tackled collectively. There was a commonly held idea that some of the national solidarity that led to the defeat of nazism could be carried on into the peace. Then as now there was much wrong with the world but there was a shared expectation that the next generation and generations to come would live better lives.

In short the population as a whole had HOPE for the future. Now, after the ravages of Thatcher and her acolytes and the appalling waste of political capital and moral vacuity of New Labour we are far far away from even the idea of a healthy happy and optimistic society. The young have a much harder time in many ways, surrounded by models of vulgar materialism and encouraged to blame the poor, the disabled and the dispossessed for our social malaise. Children are involved in spurious competitions for wealth beauty and academic results where the majority have little chance of “living the dream” as portrayed by the media. They look to their future and for many it seems however much they try to “do the right thing” the odds against having secure employment decent wages and affordable housing are high. Hope is in short supply.

Many years ago I was lucky enough to be on a workshop led by the pioneering Transactional Analyst Muriel James, co-author of a wonderful book called “Born to Win”. Muriel, a tiny figure then in her eighties and wearing two powerful hearing aids was full of warmth, intelligence and experience. One of the participants asked her “Is there any client you wouldn’t work with?” She replied immediately “clients who have given up hope-I send them to a psychiatrist”

As counsellors and therapists and as citizens we need to keep hope alive in ourselves and in our colleagues,clients and friends. We need to be careful to keep alive the proposition that human beings are not just producers and consumers to be controlled, deceived or discarded according to the needs of the wealthy elites and their political servants.

Now more than ever we need to keep making the point that good therapy and education like good politics are about freeing people to fulfil their human potential not adjusting to a deeply unhealthy unequal society.

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”
Martin Luther King

April Newsletter
The American novelist Scott FitzGerald is supposed to have said to Ernest Hemingway “You know the rich are different from you and me” to which Hemingway replied, “Yes, they’ve got more money”

For many years some of us have been banging on about poverty and inequality and the reality that it is not in fact that they have more money that creates a problem for everyone else. They also have the power to increase their wealth almost at will without any benefit to society as a whole and share a belief in their right to do so regardless of the consequences to others.

In the recent past politicians said “We are all in this together” and deliberately reduced the incomes of the poor and cut many of the services they relied on and yet managed to get re-elected, albeit with only 27% of the electorate voting for them.

The last budget was so blatantly and shamelessly unfair, giving tax cuts to the already rich and reducing or removing benefits to people with disabilities that even some Tory backbenchers (mostly those with marginal seats) thought it might be a step too far. Ian Duncan-Smiths’ sudden resignation, seemingly accompanied by a loss of memory concerning his role for the last 6 years, included the statement “The truth is, yes, we need to get the deficit down but we need to make sure we widen the scope of where we look to get that deficit down and not just narrow it down on working age benefits,” he said. “Because otherwise it just looks like we see this as a pot of money, that it doesn’t matter because they don’t vote for us.”

Since then the Panama Papers, some 11.5 million documents leaked from the offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca have revealed that the rich and powerful go to great lengths to make sure that they are not playing by the same rules as the rest of us. Now I think most people already knew that, and those of us who read Private Eye know even more about it but these particular revelations have actually touched a nerve in the public.

The Prime Minister has no fewer than six sources of taxable income, including his pay as Prime Minister, rental income from his £2million home in Notting Hill, interest on his savings and dividends from his shares. As Prime Minister and an MP Mr Cameron enjoys a combined salary of £143,462, which after deductions for his pension contributions came to £140,522 in taxable income last year.
The Prime Minister’s second biggest source of income comes from renting out his £2million family home in Notting Hill while he lives in Downing Street.
He owns the property jointly with his wife, Samantha, and they rent it out for £93,798 – equivalent to £7,816 a month. Their rental income on the property appears to be slightly below the average for the street of between £8,000 and £9,000.
On his tax return Mr Cameron declares his half of the rent, equivalent to £46,899 a year. Over the past five years the Cameron’s rental income on the property is £430,800
The tax returns also reveal Mr Cameron’s interest on his savings, which last year amounted to £3,052. At a savings rate of 2 per cent this would mean that Mr Cameron has £150,000 in his bank account, although it could be significantly more. Downing Street sources disclosed that after Mr Cameron’s father Ian died in September 2010 his mother, Mary, gifted Mr Cameron £200,000 in two instalments in May and June the following year.
Downing Street revealed information about the Prime Minister’s inheritance. He received £300,000 on the death of his father in 2010.
Alongside that, Mr Cameron’s mother gave him two gifts of £100,000 in May and July 2011 in order to balance out Ian Cameron’s inheritance among her children.
The money from his mother will not be subject to inheritance gains tax unless she dies within the next two years, but a source close to the Prime Minister rejected any suggestion that the gifts amount to a tax “dodge”.

I suspect the right-wing press are more interested in hurting the Prime Minister for his pro-EU campaign than concerned about offshore earnings but in any event he has revealed (eventually) that he, relatively poor by the standards of some of his colleagues, has means far beyond those of the majority of his fellow citizens.

As I was writing this the Chancellor released his tax information, as follows:

Taxable pay and earnings as MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) 120,526
Bank Interest (2) 3 (sic!)
Net Rental Income (3) 33,562
Dividend Income (4) 44,647
Taxable Total Income 198,738
Net Income Tax paid 72,210

As we can see the Chancellors net rental and dividend income together come to £78,209.
The Prime Minister owns his own home jointly with his wife and they rent it out for £93,798. With interest on his savings of £3052 I make it that he gets £96,850 in addition to his salary.

I suppose they only mix with other very rich people and have little idea of how the majority of their fellow citizens live and that is very understandable. It is not just that the rich have more money as Hemingway said. Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor had the good fortune to be born into wealth and privilege. They are very intelligent and expensively educated (Cameron at Eton and Oxford, Osbourne at St. Paul’s and Oxford) and have chosen to use their talents in politics, not to improve the welfare of all the people but to use their power to undermine public services that we all use and deliver contracts to their wealthy friends and party donors.

To end: a quote from an economist usually thought of as being right wing.

“The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”
Adam Smith
Scottish political economist (1723-1790)
The Ayuntimiento viewed from out terrace

MAY 2016 Since the last time I wrote the newsletter I’ve been rehearsing for my retirement by travelling to, and in, Spain. Travelling in Spain is of course very different from our trip to Laos. A whole set of common European cultural assumptions and a knowledge of the common words in the language-or at least the script-means you can have a good guess at what things mean. I am less likely to commit social faux pas because I am, in all sorts of ways, European.

Any idea that being part of the European Union leads to a loss of cultural identity is easily dismissed. In Barcelona the Catalan language is spoken everywhere, red and yellow flags with a blue star adorn many balconies and I saw a very large banner/flag declaring “ This is not Spain” in English in case we did not get the point. At the other side of Spain on the Atlantic Coast the citizens of the ancient and beautiful city of Cadiz are “Gaditanos” (citizens of Cadiz) first, Andalusians second and at the same time, proudly Spanish.

The same picture is everywhere you look in Europe. Local identity flourishes wherever there is even a semblance of freedom and people recognise that they can be, for example, Brightonian, English, British and European and be a citizen of the world.The threats to freedom, democracy and diversity are not from the European Union but from corporate interests who undermine democracy by constantly subverting civil society. The institutions which are an expression of our cultural and political identity, e.g. the B.B.C., the N.H.S., free education under democratic control etc. etc. are not threatened by working time directives, equal pay, maternity and paternity leave or the requirements that our rivers and beaches must be clean. They are threatened by the very politicians and journalists (Johnson and Gove are both) who in the name of “Britishness” and national identity wish us to leave the E.U. but constantly campaign and vote to undermine the very institutions that (with all their faults) we can be proud of. The Brexiteers manage to combine a view of history and politics full of the great and glorious deeds of wealthy aristocrats with support for a rampant free market capitalism indifferent to any kind of boundary, national or moral, existing only to make profits.

The institutions of the European Union may be hard to love but the prospect of a Britain outside it is alarming. The Brexit campaigners have no credible answer to the question “How will the U.K. manage if we leave?” and as that becomes clearer their arguments increasingly boil down to the nastier side of nationalism-the beliefs that our problems are due to immigration and being controlled by outside forces. If we add to these beliefs the fantasy that somehow being British gives you a kind of innate superiority then voting to leave makes sense.

I wish at this point to declare an interest. I would like to rehearse my retirement again and exercise my right as a European citizen to travel freely in the E.U. If my fellow citizens vote to exit from the E.U. it is highly likely that the money I have earned in a long working life will lose its value overnight and that will limit my time in the sun. For me it is only a “first world problem” since I won’t go hungry or lose the roof over my head but I fear for the future of our country if we turn our backs on our neighbours and give even more political power to our own home-grown right wingers – urged on by the still unreformed gutter press.

July 2016*“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”*
The words of Jo Cox M.P. assassinated by Thomas Mair on 16th June. When asked his name in court he said “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

When I wrote last month’s newsletter I feared the outcome of a sordid referendum campaign. At the same time I thought when it came to the vote economic self-interest and hopefully some residual sense that we are a tolerant decent nation would lead to a majority for remaining in the E.U.

For the last few days I have woken up and the first sensation even before my need for a cup of tea is a feeling of sadness which over the day is combined with fear, anger and distaste. I over-estimated the power of reason and rational debate and under-estimated how hurt and angry I would feel – so I feel stupid too. As I have said to many students before, the word “stupid” originally meant numbed with grief.

Last month I wrote: ” I fear that a successful Leave vote will lead to the ascendancy of nationalists and right wing extremists whose policies will turn my country into an impoverished isolated offshore tax haven. The Brexiteers have blamed the E.U. and immigration for all the problems that have been created by our own home-grown politicians. If they get their way and we leave what will happen when the people they have enthused realise that they are worse off than ever?”

Racist incidents have already risen sharply since the referendum result and people with different backgrounds and racial groups have been abused and attacked. It is absurd to think that all the people who voted to leave the E.U. are racists and fascists but the campaign and the victory have certainly shown the extreme right and freelance thugs that their agenda of overt racism has been given a boost both here and in mainland Europe. As a commentator said: “Though all leavers aren’t fascists-all fascists are leavers.”

STOP PRESS !

I first wrote this on Wednesday 29th June: The man billed as a Tory intellectual Michael Gove when it was pointed out that the overwhelming majority of people who know anything about finance and economics and just about every professional body were in favour of remaining in Europe actually said:

“People in this country have had enough of experts”

Unfortunately they don’t seem to have had enough of unscrupulous careerists who will tell any lie, however dangerous and destructive, to further their own careers.

The following day 30th June Michael Gove announced that he would be running for leadership of the Tory party and therefore for the Prime Ministership. His buddy of the previous day Boris Johnson was now deserted by many of his followers and announced he would not be running for the leadership.
Meanwhile Teresa May who has been silent all through the campaigning now (1.30p.m. on July 1st) becomes the front runner in the contest……….

As I write the hourly news is about this fascinating horrible psychodrama alternating tragedy and farce whilst no-one has any idea what is going to happen in any area of public policy.

What to do? First and foremost we have to take care of one another and keep reminding ourselves that we are not alone. If ever we needed to make connections the time is now. We need to show love and respect for each other and stand up for those who are hurt and insulted by the “shadow” part of our society with their abuse and violence. I have taken for granted that for all its’ faults and desperate inequalities I was part of a culturally diverse, tolerant, open, and fundamentally decent country.

I still am – but I won’t take it for granted any more.

If this makes sense to you- mail me, call me, talk to me – come to our Tuesday evening meetings and DON’T BE ALONE!

November 2016

I usually use this newsletter as a way of passing comment on the state of the world. For a change I want to make a more positive statement. However shocking and depressing the state of the world as portrayed in the news, life goes on and people go on loving and caring for each other. A few days ago Yasmin and I went to my nephew Jonathan and his bride Nikki’s wedding in the ancient and beautiful village church in Shawbury, Shropshire. The day was a great celebration of the love and commitment of a very happy couple and a reunion and meeting of friends and families. I had the honour of doing a reading at the ceremony, and I’d like to share it with you.

Staying Happily Married

As well as being Jonathan’s uncle I have been a counsellor for the past 30 years listening to individuals and couples when they are in trouble – anxious, depressed and distressed.
This is for Jonathan and Nikki but please listen too if you would like!
I could give a list a mile long about what not to do to stay happily married but this is an occasion for celebrating your love for one another –and of great importance –your commitment to be together in the long term. A few years ago in pre-internet days in an idle moment I picked up a free newspaper full of adverts with very little editorial content except a few local stories probably written by a rookie reporter.
A couple, now in their eighties had recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. They had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and had seen hard times and good times together.
The rookie reporter assuming that they had a happy marriage (after all they had stayed the course), asked them what was the secret of their long happy marriage. The wife said ”We never go to bed on an argument” and the husband said “Two little words-‘Yes Dear’”. The reporter had assumed the marriage was happy since they had stayed together. I, being of a more sceptical turn of mind, wondered how many hours he had spent in his shed at the end of the garden escaping what he felt were her demands when she was in the kitchen frustrated that they never really talked.
You will, with God’s grace, live the kind of lives that even our grandparents generation can scarcely have imagined. In some ways better and healthier lives – and in other ways full of stress and tension.
Whatever happens you will face the future together knowing that this is your person who will take care of you when you are having a hard time as you will take of them. Take care of each other in the way that they want – which is not necessarily the way that you want for yourself. For example, some people when they are feeling poorly simply want to be left alone and definitely don’t want to be made a fuss of – it annoys them. Others (and this includes me) want to be treated with soft boiled eggs and toast soldiers and a small posy of flowers on a neat tray and generally pampered. Leave them alone and they will feel neglected and unloved. So…Find out what your partner wants and do that.
How do you know what your partner wants?
You might rely on your intuition -in which case you’ll be right some of the time and wrong a lot of the time , or you could simply ask them: “What do you need from me right now?” and then really listen to the answer. More than once I have asked one half of a couple to say to their partner what they really want from them and more than once the request has been ”I want you to tell me that you love me”, to which the other partner has replied “You know I do” as if they haven’t really heard the request or feel completely unable to say the words “I love you”.
Now of course it’s not all about words, though words can heal or hurt and give useful information to each other.
In the end Love is Behaviour – it’s the way we treat each other – how you listen and respond to what the other says, how you turn arguments into discussions to solve problems not to score points, how you change each other as you grow over time so you gain confidence in each other’s abilities to manage our complicated lives. Make decisions together and if one of you has a particular skill they can take the lead for the good of both of you. You can learn from each other so tasks are shared and it doesn’t always fall to one of you to do the work and make the decisions, big and small.
In these days I think most of us would agree that a marriage is a partnership where partners have an equal expectation of fair and loving treatment. Not just a Valentine and a birthday card but a constant affirmation in words and deeds that “You are my spouse and I love you”.
Is staying married simple or easy? NO. Like most things worth having, and I can’t think of anything in my life more worth having , you have to work to build your togetherness and learn to appreciate your differences – solving problems, having fun, thinking ahead – making your dreams come true. Side by side- but not in each other’s pockets.
The Rastafarians don’t use the word WE – they say “ I and I “ so expressing that we are together and we are ourselves. Here are 2 verses of a poem by Kahlil Gibran:
“Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

I understand that parts of this lovely church were built in the late 12th century when life for most people was short and most of the things we take completely for granted were simply impossible dreams. Even today there are millions of people whose daily lives are as dangerous as those of the people who married in this same church 900 years ago. So everyday be thankful for your lives and your love and work together to stay happily married.

December 2016
When deciding what to write about for this newsletter I always have a dilemma. Do I write about the state of the world and risk adding to the gloom and despair that many of us feel when watching and reading the news? Or do I write something optimistic and inspiring in an attempt to raise our spirits?

I’m going to attempt both. This is part of a speech Michelle Obama gave during the U.S. presidential election. I strongly recommend you look on YouTube and see the whole speech which was given in response to Donald Trumps’ boasting about being a sex offender.

“Because consider this: if all of this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children? What message are our little girls hearing about who they should look like, how they should act? What lessons are they learning about their value as professionals, as human beings, about their dreams and aspirations? And how is this affecting men and boys in this country? Because I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women like this. And I know that my family is not unusual. And to dismiss this as everyday locker-room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere.

The men that you and I know don’t treat women this way. They are loving fathers who are sickened by the thought of their daughters being exposed to this kind of vicious language about women. They are husbands and brothers and sons who don’t tolerate women being treated and demeaned and disrespected. And like us, these men are worried about the impact this election is having on our boys who are looking for role models of what it means to be a man.

In fact, someone recently told me a story about their six-year-old son who one day was watching the news – they were watching the news together. And the little boy, out of the blue, said, “I think Hillary Clinton will be president.” And his mom said, “Well, why do you say that?” And this little six-year-old said, “Because the other guy called someone a piggy and,” he said, “You cannot be president if you call someone a piggy.”
So even a six-year-old knows better. A six-year-old knows that this is not how adults behave. This is not how decent human beings behave. And this is certainly not how someone who wants to be president of the United States behaves.

Because let’s be very clear: strong men – men who are truly role models – don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together. And that is what we need in our next president. We need someone who is a uniting force in this country. We need someone who will heal the wounds that divide us, someone who truly cares about us and our children, someone with strength and compassion to lead this country forward.”

I don’t think Michelle Obama and millions of decent Americans will be giving up the struggle despite the forces ranged against them. Neither should we when faced with battles we thought had been won……..

The White Helmets

“When the bombs rain down, the Syrian Civil Defence rushes in. In a place where public services no longer function these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need – regardless of their religion or politics. Known as the White Helmets these volunteer rescue workers operate in the most dangerous place on earth.

As the conflict in Syria worsens, ordinary people are paying the highest price. More than 50 bombs and mortars a day land on some neighbourhoods in Syria. Many are rusty barrels filled with nails and explosives, rolled out the back of government helicopters — bakeries and markets are the most commonly hit targets. When this happens the White Helmets rush in to search for life in the rubble – fully aware that more bombs may fall on the same site. These volunteers have saved 73,530 lives – and this number is growing daily.

The volunteers save people on all sides of the conflict – pledging commitment to the principles of “Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality” as outlined by the International Civil Defence Organisation. This pledge guides every response, every action, every life saved – so that in a time of destruction, all Syrians have the hope of a lifeline.The White Helmets mostly deal with the aftermath of government air attacks. Yet they have risked sniper fire to rescue bodies of government soldiers to give them a proper burial.

Bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students and many more, the White Helmets are volunteers from all walks of life. Many have paid the ultimate price for their compassion – 141 have been killed while saving others.
As well as saving lives the White Helmets deliver public services to nearly 7 million people, including reconnecting electrical cables, providing safety information to children and securing buildings. They are the largest civil society organisation operating in areas outside of government control, and their actions provide hope for millions.”

If you look online you will find several sites calling the White Helmets into question. It is not too difficult to find out they are bought and paid for by the Russian government which supports the Assad government both politically and militarily.

I’ll put a link on my Friends and Resources page if you want to send them money for equipment.

I wish you all a peaceful festive season.

Every time I’ve tried to finish this commentary some new bizarre event or statement has made the news headlines and the temptation is to turn away from what is happening and not look up from my comfortable semi-retired existence. Although individually I have no power to change much and neither do you, we can at least register our dissent and challenge vile prejudices and straight lies when we hear and see them. History never repeats itself exactly and technology changes everything but there are parallels with the 1930s. Shooting the messenger (expert ?) who tells you something that doesn’t fit with your propaganda is the current government style.

Sir Ivan Rogers has stepped down as Britain’s ambassador to the EU. Here is part of his message to his civil service colleagues….. “I hope you will continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking and that you will never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power. I hope that you will support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them. I hope that you will continue to be interested in the views of others, even where you disagree with them, and in understanding why others act and think in the way that they do.”

He was immediately mocked and abused by right wing politicians and commentators, but I think his message is very important for all of us. Like many good messages it doesn’t fit easily on a banner, perhaps LISTEN, THINK, TELL THE TRUTH would do it.

Meryl Streep called out the President-elect for his habit of attacking reporters during an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. “One performance this year … stunned me,” she told the audience at The Beverly Hilton Hotel. “It sank its hooks in my heart … It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. “This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modelled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.”

The man who in just a few days time will become the president of the most powerful country on earth responded by saying she is “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”

Since I wrote this new alleged scandals have emerged about the President Elect* and he has complained about “fake news”.

*Some of you may remember my take on diagnosis- If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, eats bread,has feathers, eats bread and pondweed and lives in the park then it’s probably a duck.

Theresa May has stressed the role of the state in creating “a society that works for everyone”.

The so-called shared society, she says, “doesn’t just value our individual rights but focuses rather more on the responsibilities we have to one another” and respects “the bonds of family, community, citizenship and strong institutions that we share as a union of people and nations”.

In a speech setting out her vision, she said there was “more to life than individualism and self-interest”.

“We form families, communities, towns, cities, counties and nations. And we embrace the responsibilities those institutions imply.
“And government has a clear role to play to support this conception of society”

Now we know what her party and government has been doing (and not doing) certainly since the Thatcher years with her as active participant. In every area of government policy the state is being dismantled and public money and control is being handed to people whose primary aim is to make money not to provide service to the people. If that really is her “vision” either she is delusional or she needs to make a U-turn in every area of government policy and change her party’s and government’s philosophy and behaviour completely.

The High Pay Centre calculated that the average FTSE 100 boss now earns more than £1,000 an hour, meaning they will pass the UK average salary of £28,200 by around midday on Wednesday January 4th 2017. The thinktank said that after enjoying rapid earnings growth in recent years, leading bosses now typically earn 129 times more than their employees. Over to you Mrs May.

Many of you are aware that Yasmin and I are making big changes in the next few months culminating in a move to Cardiff in the summer. We are having the usual hassles in selling our house and renting here in Bexhill. Yes it really is the 3rd most stressful life event! We will both be working here until we move and having thought about it we’ll probably want to work in South Wales too. It is after all our “heartswork”

April 2017

Oh to be in England

It seems like April Fools’ Day every day. It is increasingly difficult to detect whether a news item is the work of a reporter or a satirist. e.g. Ex-leader of the Conservative Party Lord Michael Howard in an interview on Sky News said “Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman prime minister sent a taskforce halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country, and I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar”.

Just this morning (April 5th) news that Theresa May is in Saudi Arabia drumming up business (probably including selling more arms to use in the Yemen) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is in the Phillipines reassuring the murderer President Duterte, “The UK and the Philippines have a well-established and strong relationship built on a foundation of shared values and shared interests and we want this partnership to continue to flourish…..”

Artists and Artistry

The artist Grayson Perry has won the Royal Television Society’s best presenter and best arts programme awards for his documentary series exploring masculinity shown last year on Channel 4. Watching the programmes and his previous series on social class I was impressed by his interviewing style; involved, engaged, never patronising and always (whatever he was wearing) clearly being himself.
Fritz Perls when describing his work as a therapist sometimes likened himself to a sculptor refusing to accept the neurotic behaviours of his patient to find the authentic person underneath.
The existentialist psychotherapist James Bugental in his book ”The Art of the Psychotherapist” describes the therapists’ work as artistry. He compares the discipline required to be a therapist with that of the musician or painter . To paraphrase him –we have to start of learning scales and reading notes over and over until we find ourselves playing music- always more than just the notes.

To stretch the metaphor (this is me now not Bugental), we learn to duet with our client, play in a trio in couples work and become a bandleader in groupwork. Taking turns to play solos, returning to themes, elaborating on each others’ contribution and creating new tunes, new rhythms and new dances, growing and changing.

A Wedding and Community

We spent last weekend at a family wedding in North Wales. My niece Naomi was married in the parish church in Wrexham with over a 100 guests and the Brymbo Male Voice Choir. The bride and groom and their parents arrived in two vintage VW campervans and the reception was held in a Georgian manor house now serving as a hotel. A formidable posse of bridesmaids had helped the bride to plan and deliver the wedding over many months and the ushers, long term friends of the groom, made sure he was in the right place at the right time and everyone knew what they had to do. The sun shone the whole day and the party continued late into the night.

The word community has been used and abused to sell all sorts political ideas but I was reminded at the wedding that community has a reality that is way beyond political hoo-ha. At the wedding just asking “Who is that person?” received answers telling of rich associations of family, friends and shared history . My sister Barbara and her husband Mel were married in the same church 43 years ago and have friendships that pre-date their wedding day and many they have made since. These friendships have been nurtured by supporting each other through hard times and good times and celebrated at weddings, christenings and funerals, birthday parties, shared activities and everyday mutual aid that bind people together to make community. Modern technology was used to plan, buy and hire everything required and of course there will be hundreds of photos and videos, both professional and amateur, to look back on. In the end though the wedding was a celebration that brought families and friends together in a way that is timeless. There is such a thing as society, we are not all self-seeking individuals and people will put themselves out for others. It is heartening especially in these difficult times to see and be part of a marriage ceremony that involved a whole network of people coming together to support members of their community.

April 2017

Oh to be in England

It seems like April Fools’ Day every day. It is increasingly difficult to detect whether a news item is the work of a reporter or a satirist. e.g. Ex-leader of the Conservative Party Lord Michael Howard in an interview on Sky News said “Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman prime minister sent a taskforce halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country, and I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar”.

Just this morning (April 5th) news that Theresa May is in Saudi Arabia drumming up business (probably including selling more arms to use in the Yemen) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is in the Phillipines reassuring the murderer President Duterte, “The UK and the Philippines have a well-established and strong relationship built on a foundation of shared values and shared interests and we want this partnership to continue to flourish…..”

Artists and Artistry

The artist Grayson Perry has won the Royal Television Society’s best presenter and best arts programme awards for his documentary series exploring masculinity shown last year on Channel 4. Watching the programmes and his previous series on social class I was impressed by his interviewing style; involved, engaged, never patronising and always (whatever he was wearing) clearly being himself.
Fritz Perls when describing his work as a therapist sometimes likened himself to a sculptor refusing to accept the neurotic behaviours of his patient to find the authentic person underneath.
The existentialist psychotherapist James Bugental in his book ”The Art of the Psychotherapist” describes the therapists’ work as artistry. He compares the discipline required to be a therapist with that of the musician or painter . To paraphrase him –we have to start of learning scales and reading notes over and over until we find ourselves playing music- always more than just the notes.

To stretch the metaphor (this is me now not Bugental), we learn to duet with our client, play in a trio in couples work and become a bandleader in groupwork. Taking turns to play solos, returning to themes, elaborating on each others’ contribution and creating new tunes, new rhythms and new dances, growing and changing.

A Wedding and Community

We spent last weekend at a family wedding in North Wales. My niece Naomi was married in the parish church in Wrexham with over a 100 guests and the Brymbo Male Voice Choir. The bride and groom and their parents arrived in two vintage VW campervans and the reception was held in a Georgian manor house now serving as a hotel. A formidable posse of bridesmaids had helped the bride to plan and deliver the wedding over many months and the ushers, long term friends of the groom, made sure he was in the right place at the right time and everyone knew what they had to do. The sun shone the whole day and the party continued late into the night.

The word community has been used and abused to sell all sorts political ideas but I was reminded at the wedding that community has a reality that is way beyond political hoo-ha. At the wedding just asking “Who is that person?” received answers telling of rich associations of family, friends and shared history . My sister Barbara and her husband Mel were married in the same church 43 years ago and have friendships that pre-date their wedding day and many they have made since. These friendships have been nurtured by supporting each other through hard times and good times and celebrated at weddings, christenings and funerals, birthday parties, shared activities and everyday mutual aid that bind people together to make community. Modern technology was used to plan, buy and hire everything required and of course there will be hundreds of photos and videos, both professional and amateur, to look back on. In the end though the wedding was a celebration that brought families and friends together in a way that is timeless. There is such a thing as society, we are not all self-seeking individuals and people will put themselves out for others. It is heartening especially in these difficult times to see and be part of a marriage ceremony that involved a whole network of people coming together to support members of their community.

April 2017

Oh to be in England

It seems like April Fools’ Day every day. It is increasingly difficult to detect whether a news item is the work of a reporter or a satirist. e.g. Ex-leader of the Conservative Party Lord Michael Howard in an interview on Sky News said “Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman prime minister sent a taskforce halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country, and I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar”.

Just this morning (April 5th) news that Theresa May is in Saudi Arabia drumming up business (probably including selling more arms to use in the Yemen) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is in the Phillipines reassuring the murderer President Duterte, “The UK and the Philippines have a well-established and strong relationship built on a foundation of shared values and shared interests and we want this partnership to continue to flourish…..”

Artists and Artistry

The artist Grayson Perry has won the Royal Television Society’s best presenter and best arts programme awards for his documentary series exploring masculinity shown last year on Channel 4. Watching the programmes and his previous series on social class I was impressed by his interviewing style; involved, engaged, never patronising and always (whatever he was wearing) clearly being himself.
Fritz Perls when describing his work as a therapist sometimes likened himself to a sculptor refusing to accept the neurotic behaviours of his patient to find the authentic person underneath.
The existentialist psychotherapist James Bugental in his book ”The Art of the Psychotherapist” describes the therapists’ work as artistry. He compares the discipline required to be a therapist with that of the musician or painter . To paraphrase him –we have to start of learning scales and reading notes over and over until we find ourselves playing music- always more than just the notes.

To stretch the metaphor (this is me now not Bugental), we learn to duet with our client, play in a trio in couples work and become a bandleader in groupwork. Taking turns to play solos, returning to themes, elaborating on each others’ contribution and creating new tunes, new rhythms and new dances, growing and changing.

A Wedding and Community

We spent last weekend at a family wedding in North Wales. My niece Naomi was married in the parish church in Wrexham with over a 100 guests and the Brymbo Male Voice Choir. The bride and groom and their parents arrived in two vintage VW campervans and the reception was held in a Georgian manor house now serving as a hotel. A formidable posse of bridesmaids had helped the bride to plan and deliver the wedding over many months and the ushers, long term friends of the groom, made sure he was in the right place at the right time and everyone knew what they had to do. The sun shone the whole day and the party continued late into the night.

The word community has been used and abused to sell all sorts political ideas but I was reminded at the wedding that community has a reality that is way beyond political hoo-ha. At the wedding just asking “Who is that person?” received answers telling of rich associations of family, friends and shared history . My sister Barbara and her husband Mel were married in the same church 43 years ago and have friendships that pre-date their wedding day and many they have made since. These friendships have been nurtured by supporting each other through hard times and good times and celebrated at weddings, christenings and funerals, birthday parties, shared activities and everyday mutual aid that bind people together to make community. Modern technology was used to plan, buy and hire everything required and of course there will be hundreds of photos and videos, both professional and amateur, to look back on. In the end though the wedding was a celebration that brought families and friends together in a way that is timeless. There is such a thing as society, we are not all self-seeking individuals and people will put themselves out for others. It is heartening especially in these difficult times to see and be part of a marriage ceremony that involved a whole network of people coming together to support members of their community.

Who I am …

“Without methods one is a dilettante. I am for methods, but just in order to use them, not to believe in them”

Martin Buber