Great Britain, RIP

The vote is done
Leave has won
The lies they spun
Now come undone…

This is a rant post. There is no poetry here. Feel free to move along if this is not your thing, but I am angry, and grieving, for the death of Great Britain, and much of what I thought it stood for. I have weighed up whether to post this at all, as calmer heads are calling for people to put aside differences and move forward positively. A reasonable position, perhaps, but one I cannot yet share.

On Thursday, there was a referendum in my country, my beautiful but flawed country, on whether to remain members of the European Union. The choice was unusually clear for a popular vote – In, or Out. To the EU, Yes, or No.

The campaign was long and draining, with a barrage of lies from Leavers being met with hyperbolae from Remainers. Lies won the day.

Honestly, I never thought the Leave vote would win. To wake up to the news on Friday was a genuine shock – my wife’s first words as I picked up my phone from the bedside were simply :”Don’t look. It’s bad.”

Boy, was she right.

To see that gurning shitweasel Nigel Farage arms aloft in victory nearly made me bring up my breakfast. And that was just the start… Stock market slumping… Pound dropping… Prime Minister falling on his sword (yes, Mr Cameron, this one’s on you)… Opposition in disarray… Immigrants suddenly feeling a lot less safe… Scotland talking of a second independence referendum… Spain wanting to fly their flag over Gibraltar… Calls for Northern Ireland to merge with Ireland…

This vote delivered a fatal blow to the body politic of Great Britain. She may survive a while longer on the operating table, but her days are numbered.

Things will settle. They always do, eventually. A new order will emerge. But why bring this on ourselves in the first place? What have we actually gained?

That clarity of choice was deceptive. Voters rarely get offered a chance to vote “No”. Democracy is based on choosing between the available options, however limited and flawed they are. Accountability is provided through general elections, at least in a broad sense. Where is the accountability, if voters make the wrong call?

To vote “No” was to bring down a government elected just over a year ago, replacing them with a right-wing cabal with no manifesto or mandate, and likely led by someone described as “a sentient haystack”, Boris Johnson (suddenly I can see how Trump becomes your President, my American friends) ;

To vote “No” is to make Scottish independence inevitable, thus ending the Union (this time I’ll be cheering the Scots on) ;

To vote “No” is to side with the racists, the xenophobes, the hate-mongers, the little Englanders with their outdated mindset EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THEM;

To vote “No” is to reject internationalism, the ideals of cooperation and mutual benefits from pooling resources; to choose isolation over integration ;

To vote “No” is to kick the wheels out from under the economy for the next few years, at least…

I could go on. I probably will elsewhere. But what’s the point? If you’re with me, you’re with me. If you voted Leave then you may well be looking at me blankly, not understanding my anger, or perhaps even what you’ve voted for. It’s like shouting at the cat after it shits on the carpet.

If you believed the lies from Leave about this freeing £350m extra a week for the NHS, you’re an idiot. This unravelled within 90 minutes of the referendum result (Farage claiming this was a “mistake”…) Surely some record.

If you believed leaving the EU would “Take back control”, you’re an idiot. When we have to pay into the EU budget to keep access to their trade markets, without any say over policy, congratulate yourself on that control.

If you believed this would reclaim sovereignty from a corrupt and unelected elite, you’re an idiot. Sovereignty has always been ours. The corruption is, too.

If you agree with Michael Gove that you “are sick of experts”, then you’re an idiot. A dangerous one.

If you didn’t even try to understand the arguments and still voted (either way), you’re an idiot.

For the sake of some semblance of balance, if you signed the petition for a second referendum, then you’re also an idiot. The result of the referendum has no legal status, other than telling Parliament what the people want. I don’t see the point of keep holding the referendum until the result is different. Doesn’t feel very democratic to me, however much I’m out of love with the concept of democracy at the moment.

In short, I think the referendum was the greatest act of constitutional and economic vandalism in history.

So yeah, I’m angry, and powerless, and uncertain about the future. (Ironically these characteristics may well have described many Leave voters, pre-Thursday.)

The task of rebuilding the house begins next, but don’t tell me I don’t have a right to be angry today, as the housefire you started smoulders around us. And if you voted Leave, for whatever reason, idiotic or otherwise, please at least try and understand why people like me are angry, rather than dismissing it as a tantrum.

I’ve said my piece. Soap box away. Normal service to be resumed.

Great Britain, RIP

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/70023venus2009/27780187162

What’s in a (job) name?

I’ve recently had to leave my job in “challenging” circumstances, and am urgently trying to find another job to pay the bills, keep the house, put clothes on the kids backs… you know, the usual curveballs that life throws in.

While I’ve been searching, I’ve come across some great job titles that I wanted to share with you, some of which may be commonly used without even thinking about them. These cover a variety of roles in society – to be very clear, it is only the title I am mocking! (And that’s without getting into the almost euphemistic nature of some roles – the worst locally being “public realm operative”. I’ll buy an ebook off anyone who can guess what that one really is!)

Web Developer – to help out Spiderman?

Domestic Violence Co-ordinator – because the only thing worse than domestic abuse, is the fact that it happens in an uncoordinated way

Clinical Fellow – well, I’ve always been a fairly clinical sort of chap

Kitchen Assistant – how much help can one kitchen need?

Practice Manager – practicing until the day they’ll be a real manager

Branch Administrator – there’s a lot of paperwork in those trees

Bank Chaplain – so those who’re refused loans have someone to pray with

Independent Chair – all those other ones are so needy

Patient Co-ordinator – the impatient need not apply

Penetration Tester … bet this isn’t as interesting as it is in my head!

Have you come across any unintentionally hilarious job titles? And what do you think a public realm operative does??

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/clement127/13661779374

Don’t miss! This weekend…

Want to know one piece of advice that really gets Annette’s goat… or what she’d be grabbing when the zombies come knocking… or her true feelings about rabbits?!…

All will be revealed on Sunday, in a new feature – The Dirty Dozen!

Twelve (ish) questions that will tell you more about #1 bestselling author, radio host, wordsmith and all-round inspiration Annette Rochelle Aben, than any host of more conventional author interviews.

I will be hosting this on my main website – http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/ – rather than here on my blog, so please head over now and sign up for the email alerts. My intention is to post no more than a twice a week on the main site, and I will be using that for longer articles on writing and blogging, along with this interview series. All the poetry and weekly challenges will stay here on the blog. Or…

Snacks here: https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/

Main courses here: http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/

Hope you can join us. And bring a bottle!

 

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Is the bunny safe?

Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/nichollsoftheyard/17331289342

 

Want to join… The Dirty Dozen??

The eagle-eyed and peachy keen of you may remember that I made reference to a new feature coming soon on here (well, sort of here – I will host it on my new site – http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/ and keep all the poetry on this blog). Well, here are the details…

Basically, I want to get to know you better. (Yes, even you!)

I did an interview feature on Ink & Quill recently, and really enjoyed it. I volunteered because I want to reach as wide an audience as possible, and am always looking at different ways of doing so, but more than that… it was just fun. I loved being given a bunch of questions and the chance to talk about myself in a way that I don’t get a chance to in my home life.

That’s not to say that my wife and family aren’t supportive – they are, hugely so – but I am always conscious about not sharing my obsessions with those who aren’t similarly afflicted. (You know when you “over-share” and get “that” look… yeah, been there a few times!)

So, in this safe environment of bloggers, writers, poets, lovers, lovely people all, I want to get to know YOU better, in what I’m hoping will be a regular Sunday feature.

I have twelve questions prepared, hence the title. If you imagine me as the grinning, nerdy host of a mainstream Saturday night chat show, this is the sort of nerdy crap/insightful probing that I’d ask you on the sofa… It includes an opportunity to shamelessly plug your blog/ book/ snake oil, and will reveal things about yourself that you’d never considered before… 🙂

So, who fancies a spot on the sofa? Let me know in the comments below if you want to take The Dirty Dozen, along with your email, and I’ll be in touch 🙂

 

Kate turned us down... will you take her place in The Dirty Dozen-

Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/wvs/2842348554. Amended by author.

 

 

Why you should NOT move your blog to a self-hosted site

There’s a military saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy… My plan had been to roll out a new website as my author platform, incorporating my existing blog with a whole bunch of extra stuff that I’ve got planned for the future. I want to make the leap from being an online poet to a professional writer, and an all-in-one, all-singing, all-dancing website was part of this.

Well, that was the plan.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

I’d done my research beforehand. Numerous “why you should self-host” articles were consumed… Almost all, incidentally, with affiliate links to self-hosting services (I’ve no problem with this, to be clear – but it’s not an impartial sample, and means that people have made choices that are right for them, and have commented accordingly. They may not be right for you.)

Own your own site.
Room to expand.
WordPress could shut you down at any moment, if the urge took them.
It’s the only way you’ll be taken seriously as a business.
It’s the only way you’ll make money.

It’s exactly what I wanted to hear. My impending redundancy from my job has sharpened my mind about what I want to do in the future, about what I need to do, and ultimately how I put food on my family’s table.

I jumped in with both feet.

 

And then the problems began.

You see, what I hadn’t realised was HOW my readers were accessing my site.

The numbers of people following my site has been growing gradually over my 18 months of blogging to date. Between WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, I have over 2500 followers. I know there are other sites around with far larger followings, and many amazing sites with far fewer (which always baffles me). I’m talking numbers not to brag, but for context.

Of this number, I have a small but vocal minority who regularly take the time and trouble to read, like and comment on my stuff. They are generous with their praise… sometimes they are a little batshit crazy too, but I LOVE that!

(If you’re wondering if this last comment applies to you, by the way, the answer is already yes 🙂 )

I love the energy and the banter.

This interaction is becoming ever more important to me, and my only regret is not having the hours in the day to reciprocate fully on their sites. On your site.

Along the way, I guess I changed from being a compulsive (if middling) poet, to a blogger who happens to be a writer/poet too.

I am a blogger.

I am also a writer.

Then the rollout of the new site hit a speedbump… A sizeable proportion of my followers (although not all) were relying heavily on WordPress Reader to access my site.

They would read my posts, hit “like” (hopefully), and be able to comment (even better), all through the Reader. I always reply to every comment (at least a like), and enjoyed the little chats that sparked off these. The little back-and-forths of wordplay, puns, jokes, anecdotes, lives shared, support offered.

Souls touching, though oceans divide us.

I know owners of other sites who bemoan the lack of comments or interaction on their sites. I am blessed to have this, and don’t take it for granted.

Then I learnt that, although posts from the new site appeared in WP Reader, and people could like them, they could not make or view the comments.

Although the new site is WordPress hosted, this does NOT mean that it’s the same as having a WordPress blog. (That had been my understanding… big learning curve this week.)

People could still leave comments by visiting the site directly, but they wouldn’t get notified of my replies unless checking back in manually.

The back-and-forth element was gone, shuffled off, gone to meet its maker.

Some lovely people persevered regardless, manually checking in. I am not sure I would have the time to do that on anyone else’s blog, so would not ask that of anyone either.

There is no workaround for this. No plug-in to fix the problem. (I contacted WordPress directly to check – their ridiculously titled “happiness engineers” are actually very helpful, even to the technically-challenged like myself.)

There are some other factors in there too.

I hadn’t expected to lose the little green follow button in the bottom right corner… Or the blue “following” icon in WordPress (I found a site claiming to have found a way to set one up… Hours later, it simply didn’t work)…

The emphasis with self-hosted sites is on building up the all-important email list, rather than these “softer” forms of following. Don’t get me wrong, I have plans for that email list, but in my head it’s a different beast to the daily output on here. It needs to be something that warrants the extra effort of jumping through the hoops of filling in your name and email, because I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.

Losing those easy ways to connect is a big thing for me, even if it slows down building up an email list to hawk my wares.

(You are going to buy my stuff, right? Bags of it. Wondering what to get your partner for your anniversary? My stuff. That perfect last minute Christmas gift? Yep, more from me. A leaving gift for that guy at work you never really liked? That too. Right?)

This blogger is starting to paddle in the marketer’s sea, but I’m doing it my own way. The way that feels right to me.

One thing that I really hadn’t expected was for there to be fewer WordPress options at start-up, when going self-hosted. For example, I couldn’t replicate my existing blog theme, and there were only a small number of free theme options. This may be a case of the blind man wandering into the new kingdom and not understanding what he sees – there are scores of plug-ins for almost every situation, for one – but first impressions were … guarded. This place just wants my money…

Maybe if my blog had fewer followers or commenters, or I’d done this a year ago, all of this would be less of an issue. No point in regrets or what-ifs – I need to deal with what’s right for me, right now.

So those plans, two sites in one, have had to change.

Two into one don’t go.

Maybe part of the problem is me wanting two fundamentally different things at the same time – the static site plus the dynamic blog; the “hey look at me” with the “hey talk to me“. Software is good , but people are always more complicated.

I need to respect my writer yin and blogger yang.

The two sites will remain as two entities, bridged by a workaround that I’ll blog about separately. (Go to the main site – http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/ – and click on “Al’s Blog” at the top. See what happens. Cool, eh? That took me half a day to work out!)

The writer site will develop slowly as I learn more about how I can use that, and present myself best. I’ll post some longer articles there, less often – maybe a couple of times a month at most. I hope some of the readers of this will take the time to go and check it out…

(Hey, most of you have been dragged that side and back already, like a reluctant child on a family trip to a stately home… Sorry ’bout all that. And in case you’re wondering, I’ve now transferred all of my followers back to this blog – courtesy of WordPress again being helpful.)

This blog has been given a stay of execution, and will live on, changing and growing all the time.

Thank you for being, and continuing to be, a part of this journey with me.

Now, who wants to chat below the line? 🙂

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/davidkingham/7688812482

Technical help…

I am starting to post exclusively now at my new site – http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/ -, and had planned on shutting down this old blog over the coming weeks. Now I’m in two minds… the last two days have been my best ever for follows, and every single one is following this site! (These all came immediately after I’d transferred all my followers over to the new site.)

Were people waiting for me to finally shut up for a minute before they decided to follow me??

So, I’ll have to think about that one. One thing I did want to flag and get some feedback on is about comments. My WordPress reader seems completely thrown by the new website. Not all of your comments appear in my reader… a number get quarantined for no reason (even when you’ve previously commented successfully)… none of my replies appear in my reader… and now, even my comments on your websites seem to be disappearing too.

Blogging is all about interacting, and this isn’t making things easy (for me, certainly).

My questions to you are twofold:

  1. Have you been experiencing similar problems with making comments on the new site, or picking up my replies?
  2. Does anyone have any technical insight to steer me towards resolving this?

Grateful for ANY help that you can offer, even if it’s only feedback to say that you’ve not had any problems! :-)

Thank you!

And now, the end is near…

Not one, but two, big reveals today…

The first is the theme reveal for the forthcoming A-to-Z Challenge, where I will be blogging throughout April on the subject of…

How to survive a zombie apocalypse…
                                                                            in haiku!

(Who has time to read any lengthy survival guides when you’re on the run from the undead?)

Regular readers will not be surprised by this… and I still plan to try and manage most of the usual weekly prompts and challenges, although that may be foolhardy!

The second reveal is much more significant for me. I am moving to a self-hosted site, and will be completely migrating over to it over the coming weeks. My new home is http://www.alistairlanewrites.com/please go and check it out, and let me know what you think!

I will try and migrate all of my current followers over, but if anyone gets left behind in the move, that’s where I’ll be!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on either of these pieces of news in the comments below 🙂

Monday Musing… The Worst Day…

Everyone has a bad day from time to time. Maybe not “attacked-by-a-bear-then-left-to-die-in-the-woods” bad, but everyday bad. Even those we see as being particularly blessed will have a shocker now and again. Bill Gates will get his wang caught in his fly. Dave Grohl (“nicest man in rock”) will accidentally drop a “c-bomb” in front of his mum at a family dinner. David Beckham will get completely ignored in public, while his son gets spotted and subjected to trial by selfie. Donald Trump will accidentally put the hamster on his head, while his wig is being cleaned…

Yeah, I’m keeping this build-up light. Last Thursday was a shocker for me. And that saying about things coming in threes? Yep, that too.

Thursday morning, out of the blue, I got told at work I’m going to be made redundant. In the afternoon, a serious health scare for someone very close to me, that will need surgery.

These are both major shocks to the system, but it was the one that happened in between that made me break down and cry like a baby.

I saw my cat die.

While getting changed out of my work clothes, brain whizzing about with what I’m going to do next, how we’re going to pay the mortgage/ feed the kids/ get through this one, I watched my cat die on the bed, right next to me.

With no warning, she lay her head on its side, and just curled up like a leaf closing, pulling in on herself. The air slowly leaving her body. A balloon silently deflating.

I patted her and stroked her, saying her name over and over, but there was no reaction. I patted her a bit more urgently. Nothing.

Her heart wasn’t beating.

Her lungs weren’t working.

Nothing.

I started blubbing like a baby, sobbing her name.

Maybe ten seconds later, she lifted her head up and let out a couple of angry mews (pain?).

I went to stroke her, but she ran off and hid downstairs. She was a bit skittish for the rest of the day, but otherwise acted the same as normal. A bit mental, a bit stand-offish, very demanding about food. You know, like a normal cat.

I know my cat, and I know how she reacts to things. I am absolutely certain that she died. And yet here she is now, nuzzling around my feet, acting within her normal parameters of strangeness.

Maybe her throat closed or something. I don’t know. Do cats suffer from anaphylactic shock?

So with those big three things happening on the same day, the one that made me really cry, and is making me well up recalling it, was my cat dying. For a bit.

Go figure.

 

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My cat. Definitely just napping this time.