Another orbit around the sun. Another year less to live. Another year to anticipate and plan. It happens every 12 months.
2016 c.e. wasn’t too bad, I guess. At lease there were no crises as there were in 2015. We enjoyed spending Christmas with our eldest daughter Venetia and her family, in Chippenham. I keep the big Volvo just in anticipation of this trip, 127 miles of congested motorway each way. I am able to claim membership rights to the outside lane (offside, as the Brits call it) and nail the dial to 80mph and just go. Going there was slow, because the M25 was it’s usual parking lot, but we came home in just 2 hours on Friday morning. That’s an average speed of 64 mph. Wow!
My father passed away in December 2014 and my mother Ray died in May 2015, so, now I am an orphan! I was the executor of the estate In both cases and, in accordance with their wishes, I did everything possible to arrange the simplest, cheapest funeral possible. There is no such thing! The cheapest cremation funeral without any service, flowers or attendance, costs £2,800. Once the person dies, the body has to be removed to a morgue. The local council will not do this, nor will the ambulance service. The only option open to relatives is to ask a funeral home to collect it. From then on, there is no way out. The funeral home have you by the cojones! You will have to pay what they want, and they really do try and inflate the bill. You have to be very aware and direct in making sure that you are only charged what you ask for and no more. There is a process whereby the department of social welfare will come to the party, but only after a lengthy assessment and then only if there are no other relatives who could pay the bill and then the maximum amount they will contribute is around £800. The cheapest coffin is £750 and has to be a wooden one, for “health and safety reasons!” Cardboard costs more, as does wicker. The shiny gold “furniture” (handles and decorations) are non-returnable. They sure don’t burn. Beware, if you die without financial provision, you could bankrupt your family.
The medical experts who are my “consultants,” and that means the consultant urologist, the consultant nephrologist and the consultant radiologist are trying to decide if it is worth my while to keep my left kidney or not. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was worth selling on the spare body parts market - I am told that I could get a couple thousand dollars for it in Rio, but unfortunately it has been damaged to the point where it only works at 14% output. When I was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder and had my Urostomy, it was perfectly healthy. How it became damaged has not been clearly explained to me, but I will seek the answer, never mind. If it is removed, I will be fine until I reach the age of 80 or thereabouts, after which I may need regular dialysis, because my right kidney will have deteriorated normally by then to the point where it will not be able to cope. Oh well, watch this space.
We enter the new year worrying about family in SA, some of whom have serious health issues and all of whom have limited financial resources. The country is continuing to deteriorate economically, politically and socially. While neighbouring despot Mugabe buys his wife an $18 million diamond for Christmas, the majority of his nation starves. This is the way of Africa. SA is approaching a similar condition, with corrupt and despotic politicians becoming ever more greedy and self serving. The country has been dismissed by European powers to the extent that we never hear anything about it in the general media. With no national health service to speak of, medical care is almost solely dependant on private medical insurance, which has age restrictions and is ever more unaffordable to those with low incomes. The US president elect told the world “South Africa is a mess and is dangerous!” This was an understatement. Donald Trump is anything but a fool.
On that note, 2017 will probably see a continuation of the dismantling of the old world order and the re-assembly of a new political structure among the world powers. New alliances will emerge and traditional ones will cease to be. I believe that the United Nations will continue to lose influence and authority and will become nothing more than a propaganda platform for it’s member nations and, to it’s credit, more of a charitable organisation of considerable resources. NATO has become a mockery of it’s original charter as the western Europe that it was intended to defend against the FSU now includes former FSU nations. Excluding any of them from NATO membership while attempting to defend the remainder of it’s member states from Russian aggression only allows the fox into the hen house.
The last of the World War 2 generation are now dead and therefore the fervour has faded from the historic record. A new generation has taken control of things, and now there is a new evil loose in the world, disguised behind an Islamic ideology. The Prince of Darkness always has powerful instruments at his command. Back in the depths of time he had the Aztecs, Caligula, Atilla the Hun, Genghis Kahn, Tomas de Torquemada, Talat Pasha, Vlad Dracula, Maximilian Robespierre, Ivan the Terrible, Leopold II, Idi Amin, Josef Mengele, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong, Ayatollah Khomeini, Emperor Hirohito, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden………all were devoid of compassion and were responsible for the unjust deaths of millions upon millions of innocent people. Now he has faceless people calling themselves Islamic State, but no less evil, prepared to do his will without fear of retribution.
The entire political landscape of Britain is changing and the changes will be reflected in Europe as well as the USA. The Tories (Conservative Party, if you don’t know) granted us a referendum on whether we wanted to remain a member of the European Union or not. We voted not, but not by a clear majority in every part of the union. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain, Wales votes to leave by a narrow majority. Nevertheless, we will now leave the EU and Scotland will be dragged, kicking and screaming, with us. The labour Party has disintegrated into ruin like broken pottery. There will never again be a Labour Party anything like the one led by Tony Blair or Harold Wilson. The Liberal Democrats are cast adrift without anyone to throw them a lifeline, but Labour may be well advised to make friends with them if they want to have any chance in the next general election. That is, if the Tories don’t snag them first. Every election in western Europe last year leaned heavily to the far right, showing that people across Europe are fed up with the lefties and the mass invasion of most countries by Syrian, Afghan and Somali “refugees.” Thanks to Angela Merkel’s big mouth, they have flocked to Germany in their millions, shedding hundreds of thousands in other countries en route. And guess what? They are 99% Muslim, which will have a great effect on the social structure of the countries that give them residence.
The “conspiracy” theorists have been very vociferous lately and will become more so in 2017, as there are always those who will believe even the most unlikely story when they see no rational explanation for their fears and woes. I have heard that Donald Trump is an alien, that the government of the United States is an experiment in benevolent dictatorship and that Angela Merkel is the mistress of a Muslim sheikh. That the UK government doses our water supplies with mind control drugs and that the North Koreans have a base on the far side of the moon. I have even heard that there are secret developments being carried out in Antarctica and that Adolf Hitler lived to a ripe old age in Venezuela.
The biggest single thing that will shape 2017 will be the energy crisis. And I say “crisis” advisedly. The Middle East has become too volatile and unstable to remain a reliable source of oil and gas to keep the fires of Europe and the USA burning. Russia is cozying up to the surviving regimes of Syria and Libya and can shut off the gas supply to Europe and the UK at the flick of a switch. The Chinese have been given the go-ahead to build a nuclear power plant in the UK costing £55 Billion. With a B. You could buy a small country with £55 Billion. Will Britain then be beholden to China for the continued operation of this plant and therefore our electricity supply? The cost of household gas and electricity is nearing crisis point - I certainly can’t afford to heat my home any longer, at current prices. Rip Off Britain rules supreme. The energy suppliers (British Gas, et al) make billions in profits every year but continue to increase their prices. It’s just not sustainable.
I predict that, by 2020, 50% of all motor vehicles will be electric. If you want to make money, invest in the battery technology industry. Now. Nuclear power will have to generate the energy to charge the batteries used in motor cars. It will be our only hope of saving this planet. The biggest consumer of fuel oil is the agricultural industry. We burn diesel oil to grow food. No oil, no food. The farmers will have priority when oil becomes scarce. If there is no substitute, we will not have any transport.
Climate change is not a myth or a Chinese conspiracy, as Donald Trump believes. The scientific facts are incontrovertible and are there for all to see if you know how to read. By next winter there will be little or no ice in the Arctic but the average land ice thickness in the Antarctic is increasing, even though the sea ice is diminishing to the detriment of the Polar Bear population. Reason being, the sea temperature is increasing at an astonishing rate, which is having an effect on the major ocean currents, which dictate weather conditions worldwide. The recent flooding in the UK and Europe, the high temperatures and drought in Australia and Southern Africa, the diminished sea ice in the Arctic, wildfires in Northern Siberia, are all a result of increased mean global temperatures. The permafrost is thawing in the Arctic. As a result, it releases trapped methane gas in large quantities. The methane exacerbates the “green-house effect” of the CO2 already in the atmosphere. If you thought that cows farting was a problem, think again!
I was spoiled by my son, who gave me a new wristwatch for Christmas, one that actually goes tick-tock. He also gave me, as a gift from an old school friend of his, a Nikon F Photomic Ftn with 50mm f2.0 Nikkor H-C lens and two Soligor preset lenses, a 28mm and a 80-250mm. I am delighted with the camera as I now have both a plain-prism as well as a Photomic example in my collection. The Soligor lenses got me thinking about camera retailers, salesmen’s ethics and customer service. I was in the business long enough to have set some standards of my own, and seeing this particular combination of camera body and pre-set lenses got my nettles up. At the time of purchase, the Nikon F was the best 35mm SLR camera that money could buy, and probably still is. The person who bought it obviously wanted to get into photography in a serious way. There were other, less expensive cameras available more suited to the family holiday snapshot photographer, but the Nikon F was not only expensive, it was professional grade. Why then sell the buyer accessory lenses of such poor quality and specification as to guarantee poor results and a frustrating user experience? The Soligor pre-set lens does not have an automatic aperture diaphragm mechanism. One is required to set the required aperture on one control ring, turn another pre-set ring to open the aperture to it’s widest setting in order to make the image as bright as possible for focussing, focus the lens, turn the pre-set ring back to the required aperture and only then, release the shutter. A laborious, clumsy process guaranteed to result in missed shots and frustration. There were other, slightly more expensive lenses available with automatic aperture diaphragms much better suited to the quality of the Nikon F camera body, including genuine Nikon glass. My guess is that the salesman was either ignorant of photography or that he took advantage of a willing, enthusiastic customer and sold the lenses that made him the most profit, regardless. Shameful! And it still happens today. Grrrrr….
I have a good feeling about the coming year, for my family as well as my Best Beloved and myself. The bad things will pass, and the good things will be remembered. If only we could travel to visit Arizona and Australia as we had planned three years ago. We can dream, can’t we?
I hope and pray that your year ahead brings health, happiness and enough wealth to keep your hearth and home warm.
Live long and prosper……..