Tell Cameron and Obama to let Shaker Aamer home to his family

Shaker AI
If you, the wonderful reader of Hynd’s Blog, have a spare 30 seconds I would urge you to support an issue close to my heart. Click here to sign the Amnesty International petition calling for the release or trial of Shaker Aamer, the one remaining British resident in Guantanamo Bay.

The petition simply calls for Obama and Cameron to:

  • Secure the release of Shaker Aamer and return him to the UK without delay, if he is not to be charged and brought to fair trial
  • Give Shaker Aamer immediate and regular access to independent medical assessments and care
  • Immediately investigate all allegations that Shaker Aamer has been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and ensure that anyone found responsible is brought to justice

I, alongside 12,860 people have already signed this petition. Please join us. Then please do also encourage friends and family to do the same.

Together we can raise a voice loud enough that will force the authorities to listen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Human rights, Politics

Awesome cartoon column from Cheltenham MP, Martin Horwood

A hat tip to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood and the local rag The Echo for publishing this cartoon column in light of the attacks in Paris last week.

Jan2015_MartinHorwood_JesuisCharlie 1
Jan2015_MartinHorwood_JesuisCharlie2

 

Nice to see a MP thinking creatively about how to communicate important messages around freedom of speech and thought

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gloucestershire, Politics, Social comment

Cheering on a rapist

Picture the scene.

You are stood with your 10 year old son and 12 year old daughter on the terraces of your local football club. It is the first game you have taken them to but you can see by the way they are both responding to the ebbs and flows of the game that they are hooked.

You take a second to think back to the time you too stood in the same spot next to your own parents and feel happy with this sense of passed down community and belonging that local football clubs can gift to individuals.

As the game moves into the final 10 minutes and your team experience more near misses you see your kids nervously look at the clock. At that point all you hope for is a goal. A goal to be able to see your kids experience that communal elation as the terrace erupts in excitement.

As you reopen your eyes from a silent prayer you see your team’s new signing has picked up the ball deep in the oppositions half and cuts through two defenders before unleashing a strike into the top corner of the net. As the ball bulges the back of the net everyone around you roars and reaches for the sky in delight.

The normal celebrations though are cut short. As the opposition fans start chanting songs about the new signing being a rapist.

Confused your kids look up.

A second passes before your daughter, old enough to know exactly what a rapist is, asks you to explain what they are shouting about.

What can you say?

6 Comments

Filed under Football, Social comment

Green Party Deputy Leader to take on Labour Party Deputy Leader at General Election

Amelia Womack

In a small quirky twist of British politics the Green Party today announced that their Deputy Leader, Amelia Womack, will be standing at the General Election in Camberwell and Peckham against Labour’s Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman.

Womack, who previously unsuccessfully stood to become a MEP and local cllr, was elected Deputy Leader last September. She holds a BSc in Environmental Biology and an MSc in Environmental Technology.

Harman was elected MP for Camberwell and Peckham in 2010 with a huge 59.2% of the vote. The Greens stood the high profile London AM Jenny Jones in 2010 and received just 2.9% of the vote.

Although unlikely to win, or even stop Harriet Harman from being returned to parliament, Womack might well preside over a significant increase in the Green vote in the constituency as large amounts of the 22.4% of Lib Dem votes will be up for grabs.

The challenge for Labour will be to pick up enough of the former Lib Dem votes to stop a significant rise in the Green support that might place them as an awkward and credible threat for future elections.

1 Comment

Filed under Politics

Labour lead but support dropping as Greens continue to grow

The Labour Party Hold Their Annual Party Conference - Day 5

Ed Miliband has every reason to be looking glum as despite seeing Labour leading in the polls he has hit an all time low in personal ratings and his party has dropped support throughout 2014. 

To support their latest polling, YouGov have produced this neat little chart that tracks voting intention over the last three months.

3 month voting intention
Some in the Labour Party have got all excited that, despite those embarrassing glitches in December, this poll shows them ahead of Conservatives. The Green Party are also delighted that, once again, this poll shows them ahead of the Lib Dems.

The problem for the Labour Party though is illustrated in this other YouGov chart which looks further back at voting intentions across 2014.

voting intention 2014

Here we can see the long-term trend of Labour support dropping throughout 2014.

What is equally interesting is how this drop in support for Labour correlates with Miliband hitting an all time low with his popularity ratings. Is Labour’s drop in the polls a reflection of Miliband’s all time unpopularity, or vice-versa? A chicken and egg question.

Miliband

And so the question remains – where are these Labour supporters from the early coalition years going? And thus we move onto the relative growth of the Greens.

YouGov paints a nice picture of Green Party support consistently growing through 2014 which resulted in YouGov proclaiming ‘Greens ahead of Lib Dems in longer trend‘ in an article in December 2014.

While Greens are only picking up about about 4% of the 2010 Labour vote two additional points have to be made:

1) Labour dropping another 4% from their 2010 low point to the Greens is significant.
2) Labour, in the last year, have continued to drop in popularity when, while in opposition, they should be riding high on anti-government sentiment – they are not.

Before Green readers get too excited though it is worth pointing out that this growth in support is unlikely to result in any additional seats. In Norwich South (feasibly the Green’s second target) a Lord Ashcroft poll showed them doing well but considerably behind Labour.

As with many seats, the battle to pick up former Lib Dem voters between the Greens and Labour may well prove crucial.

The General Election in 2015 will bring more of the same in terms of overall outcome but it might, just might, also go down in history as the start of the breakdown of two party politics.

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Politics

David Drew still on odds on favourite to win back Stroud seat

ladbrokesDavid Drew, the former MP for Stroud and Labour Party candidate for 2015, is still odds on favourite to win back the Stroud marginal seat according to new odds tweeted by Ladbrokes.

This shows no real significant change since February last year when Hynd’s Blog reported that Ladbrooks had Drew at 4/9 to win back his old seat.

If you were interested in an outside bet though, Ladbrokes are now giving odds for the Green Party at 50/1.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gloucestershire, Politics

Take rosettes out of politics to help resuscitate democracy

rosette_1628747c

This is not a radical cry for the removal of political parties from our decision making mechanism. Far from it. This is merely a cry to those tiny number of people on the insides of national and local parties. Please, for the love of Hynd’s Blog, take off those ridiculous rosettes.

They are a symbol of one of the strongest held perceptions in politics and that is that politicians cannot be trusted. If you want to be listened to – start by taking off your rosettes.

For a long-time now I have encouraged any candidate of any political party to take off their rosette. This normally occurs when they are about to go infringing on people’s personal space and time by ‘door knocking’.

I do this not because their particular flavour of political party might be unpopular than but because politics per se is.

Or, to be more accurate, politicians are.

By wearing a rosette politicians shoot themselves in the foot on the first step they hope to take on their journey of democratic representation.

At the crux of my argument is the assertion that if you want a constituent to talk to you, let alone trust or vote for you, then you need to give yourself a fighting chance in the first few seconds on the doorstep. This is unlikely to happen if you were a badge that basically says, ‘Watch out, I’m a politician.’

As much as you might honestly believe that you are different to all the others, or your party is not like those overs, most people don’t share these subtleties. They see you – a politician – as untrustworthy.

New polling from IPSOS-Mori out today highlights how deeply rooted this mistrust of politicians is. Just 16% of respondents said they would trust a politician to tell the truth. This is an opinion as old as IPSOS-Mori’s polling.

IPSOS Mori
In other words, even if you got a constituent to listen to you, about 84% of constituents wouldn’t trust what you have to say. This is more than bankers…a profession not known at the moment for their commitment to honesty.

This might seem like a trivial point but it is one of the pebbles on the starting line of democracy that is tripping up genuine interaction and engagement.

It’s axiomatic that the removal of the rosette is only the first step to rebuilding trust. The long road ahead in our efforts to resuscitate democracy involves strange concepts like keeping promises and working hard to represent constituents needs.

But that is for tomorrow. Today, still with 4 months left until the election, I beg and implore candidates and sitting MPs, MEPs and Cllrs alike – get rid of those ridiculous rosette.

3 Comments

Filed under Politics

Why I keep on blogging: Reflections on 2014

firstImage

Walking with friends in mid-Wales

One of the many things that inspired me in 2014 was reading Henry Coetzee’s assertion that (and I paraphrase from memory) ‘there are few things cooler in life than getting an action photo of yourself doing something awesome but few things less cool than stopping the action to take a photo’.

I couldn’t agree more.

And so it is that I am writing my reflections of Hynd’s Blog for 2014 a few days before the end of the year because, in my mind at least, there are few things cooler than writing about life in all its wonderful contradictory complexity, but there are few things less cool than spending time online when there is life to be lived outside the window.

My next couple of days will take me into the internet nether zone of the mid-Wales valleys to spend New Years with old friends. My computer will be left where it belongs – on my desk at home and so these reflections will come a few days early.

This project, Hynd’s Blog, has always been, for me at least, about enhancing, understanding and/or challenging life – not replacing it.

I find it so interesting that this is a distinction that so many bloggers seems unable to spot.

Anyway, before I disappear into mid-Wales I wanted to reiterate my thanks to each and every one of you lovely people who take the time to read my ramblings. You’re ace and don’t let anyone ever tell you anything else!

Seriously, you are the only thing that distinguishes all this from a virtual equivalent of locking myself into a dark room and talking to myself. You are what makes Hynd’s Blog a conversation.

So…Thank you!

And what a rather large conversation it has grown into.

Hynd’s Blog continues to grow into something that I had no idea it had the potential to do. Tens of thousands of people come to read my ramblings every month and this, quite literally, never ceases to surprise and equally delight me.

From all over the world people are coming to read, to comment, and to interact with issues that mean the world to me. From local politics to the finer details of micro brewing; from human rights violations to the relative merits of lower league football people are coming here, to Hynd’s Blog, to engage with them.

As amazing and wonderful as I find this, it also adds a pressure, in my mind at least, to keep Hynd’s Blog being something worth reading. At times good articles seem to flow easily from my meandering mind to article form and at others it feels like drawing blood from a stone.

At these lowest times those, the times when I wonder why I bother writing, I have almost invariably been lifted by the sweetest of emails from both friends and strangers that makes it all somehow feel worthwhile.

Haters will always be haters (and believe me there are plenty of them) but it is each of you that have made the effort to leave an interesting or kind message or comment that makes me want to keep Hynd’s Blog going.

Hynd’s Blog remains a labour of love and you are part of it.

2015 will see me move back to Bristol after a few years of living in Uganda…Different people and issues will be on my doorstep but I am excited as ever to keep writing about them.

I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that you are as excited to keep reading and interacting with them.

If so, roll on 2015…

2 Comments

Filed under Social comment

Green Party to hold Brighton Pavilion in 2015 General Election

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas

According to the latest Lord Ashcroft polling of marginal constituencies across the UK, the Green Party are set to hold onto their only current seat, Brighton Pavilion.

The polling puts the Green Party ten points ahead of Labour (38 to Labour’s 28%).

Both parties see the Brighton Pavilion seat as their number one target for the South East of England.

Significantly the polling finds the Green Party picking up a huge 44% of 2010 Lib Dem voters. Labour in contrast picks up just 21% (with the Lib Dems picking up just 13%). This is opposite of the national picture which sees Labour picking up roughly double the Green Party of former Lib Dem voters.

Equally, the polling suggests Labour have been unable to plug the hole that saw so many former Labour voters turn to the Green Party in Brighton. The polling found that 27% of 2010 Labour voters were planning on backing the Greens. This is compared to about 4% nationally suggesting that either the Greens/Labour are doing something locally that is swaying voters and/or that Labour voters do switch to the Greens when they think the Greens have a chance of winning.

Labour however, to their credit, do appear to be matching the Greens in their campaigning efforts with about 1 in 4 of those polled saying that had heard from Greens and/or Labour in recent weeks.

It will be a bitterly battled fight but at the moment it looks like the Greens are on course to return their only MP, Caroline Lucas.

Read more on the marginal polling here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

24 hours in the UK

slad
Last year when my plane touched down at Heathrow coming back from Uganda I was met with a wonderful scene to welcome me back to old blighty. Queuing to enter the terminal building, what the British do best, an elegant determined woman pushed to the front of queue – sacrilege! One chap next to me notices that I have clocked this queue jumping outrage and chips in with the comment, “fucking French huh”.

What a welcome back to the UK – baseless xenophobic queue based hatred all performed to the backdrop tinny Christmas carols under a smattering of drizzle!

This year I was a smidgen disappointed to find no Christmas carols on repeat but delighted to make it out of the airport without witnessing any casual racism.

Once back in the hills and valleys of the ‘West Country’ though I took little time to head out for a walk. Thinking that this is what made the UK amazing I walked with uncharacteristic clear skies and meek winter sunshine hitting the frost covered ground. I was in a buoyed mood striding across farmer’s fields and down hidden valleys following bubbling brooks.

This mood was lifted further though with what truly makes the Great Britain great. With every dog walker passed a friendly ‘good morning’ was chirped followed by a compulsive observation of the uncharacteristically good weather: “wonderful day for it” or “you couldn’t ask for a better day” before then swiftly apologising for their dog who would be eagerly sniffing my trouser legs.

These small interactions last less than a few seconds but make up an integral part of the DNA of British culture.

Warmed by the simple pleasant jollity of rural British life I stopped in the open fire warmth of a local pub – the Woolpack in Slad – where I had arranged to meet family.

Sat sipping local real ales on slightly uncomfortable wooden furniture (why is that both pubs and churches consider it a virtue to have furniture that in other walks of life would be considered completely unfit for purpose?) I watched dogs curl up on the floor close to their owner muddy wellington boots. With a low warm afternoon winter sun breaking through the window I sat back with family around me and listened to the impromptu piano/saxophone performance that only added to the ambiance.

Outside, after a hearty pub lunch, we strode up Swift’s Hill which enjoys some of the finest views in the region down over the Slad Valley across the market town of Stroud and out to the Severn Valley and across to the Black Mountains in Wales. A few clouds clung to the horizon to exaggerate the sunset as wonderful pinks and oranges were thrown over the fields and footpaths.

It felt like the weather was welcoming me back to the UK, giving me 24 hours of pleasure before it inevitably resumed in the monotony of drizzle that everyone seems to perpetually believe might stop at any moment but so rarely does.

Walking back over the fields I make a decision to call into another pub on the way home. Instead of live piano/saxophone renditions, this pub instead has the unmistakable sound of football coming from the TV screens. Excited to be able to watch my national sport with my fellow countrymen I step in and order my pint of warm frothing ale.

Looking for a place to sit I approach a stranger with the prerequisite of “excuse me, I am terribly sorry, but would you mind if I possibly took a seat” motioning towards one of five empty seats surrounding him. Smiling warmly the man looks up from his Daily Telegraph with impeccable replicable manners and says, “Please, it would be an honour”.

How wonderful is that – being told it would be an honour for me to sit next to him.

Buoyed by these little interactions I sit happily watching Arsenal score four goals with the return of their star striker – Giroud. In an unspoken acknowledgment I suggest to the man next to me through nothing more than eye contact that I was happy, that I was delighted to be back in the UK and that in that moment I could think of nothing I would rather be doing.

Responding to this the man next to me commented in a perfect middle England accent, “Typical isn’t it”. “What’s that?” I responded. “The fucking French keeping such an English institution like Arsenal afloat” he sneered.

Sigh.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gloucestershire, Social comment, Travel

Living the best day ever

This is a cross-post of an article that I wrote for the Africa edition of ehospice news reflecting on the lessons learnt from Hendri Coetzee’s book ‘Living the best day ever’. 

kadoma1
Palliative care, by definition, is both a science and an art form that involves accepting the reality of death. What you have left when you accept this is what the profession calls ‘preserving or improving the quality of life’.

Never before though, have I been challenged to re-examine the concept of ‘quality of life’ than when reading Hendri Coetzee’s book: ‘Living the best day ever’.

Hendri Coetzee was a South African living in Uganda perpetually searching for the best day ever. This search led him to become a legend throughout the extreme sports and exploration world.

In 2004 Hendri led the first ever complete descent of River Nile from source (Lake Victoria) to sea (the Mediterranean). The 4,160 mile trip took four and a half months and crossed two war zones.

Coetzee was also the first person to run the rapids above the Nile’s Murchison Falls, a section of river filled with some of the biggest white water in the world, and holding one of the highest concentrations of crocodiles and hippos.

He would go on to complete this section of river a further seven times and he remains the only person ever to run the section by himself. He also ran large sections of the upper and lower Congo River, walked 1000 miles along the Tanzanian coast and was the first person ever to snowboard the glaciers in the Ruwenzori Mountains.

In short, his résumé was one of the most impressive in the business.

It was not, however, his outlandish adventures that makes Coetzee’s book such a challenge for anyone to read, but his burning passion for life. Deep within all of his adventures was an intertwined journey to accept the fullness of life – to be able to appreciate it to its full. Only by understanding and ultimately accepting one’s death, Coetzee believed, can we truly experience a ‘quality of life’.

Speaking to some, and by no means all, palliative care patients I have come across a stillness – a deeper happiness – that I have rarely seen elsewhere. It is a happiness that comes fundamentally from within, a spiritual or psychological wellbeing.

Does this come from an acceptance of one’s own death?

Early on in the book, when undertaking the Murchison Falls section of white water, Coetzee writes: “In our society we avoid the thought of death as if recognition alone could trigger the event. Thinking about your own death is seen as a sign that mentally, all is not well. Some people live their entire lives with the sole purpose of minimising the chances of it occurring to them, instead of preparing for the inevitable. After avoiding the issue for so long, it is almost soothing to invite death on my terms.”

Reflecting on this, I wonder how many palliative care practitioners spend their professional hours encouraging patients to think about their deaths, to make preparations and to become comfortable with the idea whilst then perpetuating the myth in their own lives that life is infinite?

I only speak for myself when I write that I am too often guilty of this self-delusion.

To live a truly high ‘quality of life’ do we have to be comfortable with the idea of our death? I don’t know.

For Coetzee though, this acceptance was clearly linked to the life he chose to lead. Writing about his desire to keep going on clearly dangerous expeditions he wrote: “Psychoanalysts may diagnose a death wish, but missions like these enhance the appreciation of life. It is no coincidence that death and rebirth are related in all forms of religion and spirituality. When you accept that you are going to die, and it will be sooner than you think, it becomes impossible to merely go through the motions.”

Even the acceptance of my own inevitable death cannot push me to actions that so invite the prospect of death earlier than it otherwise would arrive. There is too much to live for to put my life on the line in search of living just that one day to the extreme – in the search for the best day ever.

That said, it is imperative for the palliative care community to understand the full spectrum of thought that exists out there. Just as there are people who are terrified of the concept of their own passing so there are people like Coetzee that can write the following words:

“Death is coming for us all…the day we will have to face the crossing will come sooner than we think. I hope my day is many many years away, but… I don’t want to make the greatest leap in life in a vague dream. I want to have the chance to look it in the eye, to say: ‘You have had me in your sights all your life, but it’s on my terms that I come.’ Tibetans believe that one can find enlightenment at the moment of your death, as long as you prepared yourself for it during life…I have had the best day ever more times than I remember. So yes, I believe I am ready to die if that is what is needed to live as I want to.”

Hendri Coetzee was pulled from his kayak by a crocodile deep inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his body was never recovered.

At the end of his last ever blog entry though, after completing a section of river that many assumed impossible to kayak, he wrote: “We stood precariously on a unknown slope deep in the heart of Africa, for once my mind and heart agreed, I would never live a better day.”

I have no idea if – when it came – Hendri Coetzee was prepared for his death. It is clear though, that he lived life to the full and died in way he had to have expected.

Not many of us can say that and for that alone ‘Living the best day ever’ is worth reading. I think we can all learn something from Hendri Coetzee approach to both life and death.

1 Comment

Filed under Health, Social comment, Travel, Uganda

Greens ahead of Lib Dems in 3 YouGov polls in a row

YouGov

 

The Green Party are, for the first time, consistently ahead of the Liberal Democrats in YouGov polling.

The Green Party have in the past been level pegging or just beating the Liberal Democrats. But as I wrote before, it would be disingenuous to suggest that ‘Greens are ahead of the Lib Dems’ in the polls in general.

In the most recent three pollings for YouGov however the Greens have finished ahead of the Lib Dems on each occasion (see data set 1, 2, and 3).

It is interesting to note that in these last three polls, the Green Party are picking up an average of 18% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010. In other words, just under one in five former Lib Dem voters are now planning on voting Green.

This will have a huge impact on Labour (who themselves are losing 4% of their 2010 vote to the Greens) who are relying on the exodus from the Lib Dems to bolster their stuttering performance in the polls.

It is important to note however that this is just one polling company – when we look at the average across different companies we can see the Lib Dems maintaining a lead of 2% over the Greens (see UK polling report).

That said, this is yet another milestone on a ‘Green surge’ that is increasingly becoming hard for the political establishment to ignore.

3 Comments

Filed under Politics

One graph that shows young people’s support for the Green Party

YouGov have released this fascinating graph showing the marked increase in support for the Green Party among 18-24 year old voters.

Greensurge

Currently on an average of 19% with young voters the Green Party have seen their support grow from an average of 7% in January 2014 – a 12% increase in less than a year.

This rise is mirrored in the ‘Young Greens’ (the youth wing of the main party) rise in membership which doubled between January and October 2014.

In university cities that double up as key marginal seats this will be crucial come May 2015.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

The true size of political party membership

The Independent has published three charts that they claimed showed why British politics is so interesting at the moment (how very Buzzfeed).

One of the charts was this one showing the political party memberships:

party memberships 1
It is noteworthy that the SNP, a party attracting most of its support from Scotland – with a population of less than 6 million are towering above the Lib Dems and UKIP combined! Impressive.

Equally it is worth noting that the figure quoted here for the Green Party is that of just the Green Party of England and Wales. If you added the membership of the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party of Northern Ireland the chart would look something close to this:

party membershipsThis makes the Green Party membership comparable to that of UKIP. The Green’s membership however is growing about three times as fast in 2014 than UKIP suggesting that these positions will soon be reversed.

Read more on party political membership here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Green Party membership doubles in less than a year

Green.
The Green Party of England and Wales has today announced that it’s membership is up 100% since January 1st 2014.

The membership of the Green Party now stands at 27,618 with over 500 new members joining last weekend alone.

This combined with consistently high recent polling makes Hynd’s Blog wonders what Sadiq Khan has to say about this….

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Does drinking urine cure joint pains?

Hynd’s Blog reported before on how Uganda’s New Vision asked the question – ‘Is Panadol made from dead people’s brains‘.

Not to be outdone the Daily Monitor – the main rival paper to the New Vision – today asked – ‘Does drinking urine cure joint pains?’

Monitor
After offering a slightly cyptic answer which included the phrase,  “People have eaten cattle hooves for backache” the article does finish with the relieving (geddit) suggestion:

“Please seek medical treatment for your knees instead of contemplating drinking a waste”

Once again, a hat tip for some wonderfully obscure journalism.

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Media, Uganda

Boris u-turns on car free Sundays

Boris
The papers are today splashing the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s, new found support for the idea of a car free Sunday in London.

The Independent reports:

“speaking on a visit to Indonesia the Mayor of London said he was in favour of copying a scheme in Jakarta where areas of the capital have been closed to traffic from 6am every Sunday. “I was blown away by the popularity of the car-free Sunday here,” he said. “I will certainly be asking Transport for London to dust down [their] old ideas and have a look.”

Curious that Johnson was so blown away by the scheme in Jakarta in 2014 and so unimpressed with a comparable Colombian scheme that Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones asked him about in 2010.

In 2010 Jenny Jones asked the mayor:

“Will you consider replicating in London the hugely popular Colombian scheme whereby many city roads are closed to motor vehicles on Sundays and public holidays from 7am – 2pm?”

The Mayor, just 4 years ago, responded:

“Widespread restrictions may not be as viable in London compared to Bogotá. However, TfL is investigating options for single or localised street closures that may potentially help achieve a cycling revolution and increase walking, whilst maintaining the movement of people and goods.”

In short, he said, probably not.

What made him change his mind?

Hynd’s Blog hopes it is not something as simple as crass populism in light of his parliamentary ambitions…

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

A future full of potential regrets

These are some thoughts inspired by a conversation I had with my fiance about how, at just 28 years old, most of my regrets still sit in front of me. It explores how regrets are also rather complicatedly mixed up in taking the risks in life that ensure I live the sort of life I, and others, can be proud of. A life lived to the full. 

regrets
Regret rests in the past. That is what we are told.

Regret resides in those residual reminders of actions, or inactions, of days, months, or years gone by. The mantra, so often used by oneself to torment oneself is that ‘if only I had another chance, I would have done it all so differently’.

This perspective is one that comes with age. Age forces regrets into memories of days, months, and years that now rest in our personal rear view mirrors, distorted by the lens of time that we all place over our memories.

And yet, even with the most painful of regrets, the ones that loom largest in our memories, the ones that haunt us without warning in the middle of the night, we know where they are. If we have the courage we can turn to face them, we can take action to rectify them, or at the very least, we can learn to live with them.

At the age of 28 though there is something far more terrifying, in my mind at least, than my existing regrets. This is the concept of all the potential future regrets that rest in front of me, in my future. Sitting on the side of the mantra of ‘I would have done it differently’ that still holds the agency to enact the change that could steer myself and others away from regret is ironically both terrifying and debilitating.

My main regrets sit in my unknown future not the past. This is a challenge unique to the privileged and the young – neither of whom normally realise their predicament.

Like a rabbit caught in headlights I can see paths roll out in front of me leading to actions and inactions that hold all the potential for regret. I can see them all too clearly but choose to keep going, to keep walking.

Why? Why not stop now? To explain, I must tell you a little of myself.

I write these words with thousands of miles resting between me and the friends and family that I grew up with. Each mile serves as a barrier for why I can’t, or worst choose not to, spend the time with the people that mean the most to me.

The future holds a deceptiveness that leads you to think that it is infinite. Just as you fail to appreciate the beauty of the rising of the sun because you think it will always happen, so you can also fail to take the time or appreciate the beauty in being able to pick up the phone and speak to your parents, friends or loved ones.

Despite the warnings, the heart attacks, the high blood pressure, the years passing of my parents, I convince myself that the future will hold the same potential to always be able to pick up the phone, jump on a plane or even send an email to them.

This is of course not true. Life is finite.

Simply, you never appreciate what you have until it is gone.

I am all too aware that it is this that holds the potential for so much regret.

With this foresight, there is a question of why not take action now – look for a job back home sooner, close to friends and family? Why not take action to limit that potential for regret?

To answer this question, an explanation of my parents is needed. From the earliest age they encouraged me grasp opportunities with both hands. To fight for them and to appreciate them to the fullest.

All too clearly I remember both my parents repeating the phrase ‘just give it a go’ throughout my childhood.

Every day I feel the importance of living life, of giving it a go. I push myself to do things, to be bothered, and most of all to appreciate every bit of it – even the supposed failures. I think for that alone my parents are proud.

Life has thrown me around geographically. It dropped me on this earth in the UK but has since taken me all over. I sit now in East Africa thousands of miles away from the parents that made me who I am. I live, I make mistakes, and I regret them. But even these regrets I try my hardest to cherish and to savour because I know that these regrets are signpost to risks taken, choices made and a life lived to the full.

The biggest potential regret of not spending enough time with my parents should they die before me rests in the future alongside other potential regrets. I have no idea how I will react if suddenly the ones I care about are taken from me, but for now at least, that is a question for tomorrow. Today I plan to live every second to it’s full.

My regrets reside in front of me, but so does the rest of my life. I know I can’t have one without the other.

As always, please do contribute comments and thoughts below. 

2 Comments

Filed under Social comment

On international media representation of Uganda

The international media today picked up comments from Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, saying that Uganda’s tourism industry should rival that of Spain’s.

His comments, made in Uganda’s ‘New Vision’ newspaper were then picked up by Agence France-Presse (AFP) and published in global news platforms such as The Guardian.

After reading The Guardian article I did something I very rarely do – I read the comments section.

The first comment came from one Herman Lategan and said:

Grd 6

Other early commenters followed a similar theme in their comments:

Grd 1

Grd 2

Grd 3

Whilst I find the hateful and widely misinterpreted rhetoric of anti-homosexuality in Uganda deeply worrying I equally find it sad to see a country lumped with such a characteristic as its one defining feature.

Equally, I am not convinced that by choosing to not visit Uganda (let alone leaving comments under Guardian articles) you are doing anything to help alter this hateful and misunderstood rhetoric that is a much larger than just Uganda.

What I do know though is that Uganda faces a huge image problem in ‘the west’ and these comments, at least in part, are a symptom of this.

This image problem is one exasperated by painfully fictitious portrayals in the media such as the one in Series 2 of the Newsroom that I have just finished watching (other than the lyrics of Band Aid 30 I struggle to think of anything recent that is so crass).

Or, closer to home, try searching Uganda on the Guardian’s home page. All you will find are articles about the anti-homosexuality bill, the hunt for war-lord Josef Kony or bizarre novelty pieces quoting some supposedly hilarious thing an official once said.

Whilst all legitimate issues to cover they are, by themselves, playing into a mainly false perception of what Uganda is like.

In short, it’s crass, it’s unhelpful and it represents a form of low level journalism that I dislike. And importantly it’s all people in the UK (my home country, the place I love most), hears about Uganda (my home, the place that is pushing for that top spot in my heart).  

I find that really fucking sad.

I was about to write something along those lines in the comments section when this well-intentioned comment, one which many in Uganda would see as a balanced response but many in the UK will read like trolling, popped up.

Grd 5

I wasn’t sure I had the stomach to ever enter into the comments section of The Guardian let alone on a subject like this and so I headed back here to the safe shores of Hynd’s Blog.

Sane and respectful comments welcomed!

1 Comment

Filed under Media, Travel, Uganda

Stroud MP tables question on British resident still held in Guantanamo Bay

Stroud MP, Neil Carmichael, has tabled a written question to the FCO about British resident, Shaker Aamer, who is still being held in Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial. In light of this (and previous interactions with him which you can read here), this is a copy of my latest letter to him on the subject. 

Dear Neil,

Thank you for taking action on Shaker Aamer’s case. It is important that those within the FCO are regularly made aware that voters, including your constituents, have not forgotten about Shaker Aamer and that also we are not prepared to witness inaction from our own government and elected representatives on this issue.

I note however 2 things from the question you submitted and Mr Ellwood’s eloquent response:

  • Mr Ellwood did not really answer your question. You, very clearly, asked ‘what assurances he has had from the US administration about the (a) treatment of remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay (b) efforts to seek the release of Shaker Aamer‘ to which the Minister replied that the UK government ‘continue[s] to seek assurances regarding Mr Aamer’s health and welfare…‘I note that ‘continue[s] to seek’ dodges your direct question around what existing assurances the UK government has on Mr Aamer’s health and chances of release or trial. As such, I request, that you write in person back to Mr Ellwood asking him to clarify what current assurances the UK government has regarding Mr Aamer’s health and his potential release or trial as well as highlighting your concern about reports of his ill treatment and deteriorating health.
  • Secondly I note that although your question was important it was not specifically what I asked you to ask. I originally asked you to:’…write to the Foreign Secretary outlining that your constituents will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer.’

    As such, in addition to the existing point in the letter you will be hopefully writing to Mr Ellwood, I ask you to reiterate that your constituent, upon whose behalf you are writing, will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer. 

Lastly, I note that I have not heard back from you regarding my original request that you:

‘…make urgent representations for a full debate in the House of Commons for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK in accordance with the e-petition process.’

As such, I humbly request you use your position in the HoC to make representations for a full debate. If this is not possible I ask simply for an explanation as to why it is not possible or desirable in the current circumstances.

I hope you do not feel pestered by these on-going chains of communications and requests for actions – that is not my intention. I hope instead that you feel the enormity of the challenge that we face in securing the trial or release of British resident Shaker Aamer and the evident importance of ruffling some feathers to secure this.

In addition I am still awaiting an explanation or apology to the apparent plagiarism that you undertook in your initial response to me about Shaker’s case. How is it that Sajid Javid’s constituent received an identical letter to the one I received purportedly from you? The good people of Stroud elected you Neil, not the Tory Whip’s Office. When we write to you, we want to hear your thoughts on the subject not those of the Whip’s Office – is that too much to ask for?

As always, I look forward to your response by email.

Best,

Steve Hynd

This is a copy of the tabled question and the answer provided by the FCO:

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assurances he has had from the US administration about the (a) treatment of remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and (b) efforts to seek the release of Shaker Aamer. (215169)

Tabled on: 19 November 2014

Answer:
Mr Tobias Ellwood:

With the exception of those relating to Shaker Aamer, the British Government receives no specific assurances from the US administration about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, as no British nationals remain among them. However, whilst Shaker Aamer is not a British national, his connections to the UK mean that he remains a high priority for the British Government. We continue to seek assurances regarding Mr Aamer’s health and welfare through our engagement with the US authorities, and we continue to make clear to the US that we want him released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency.

The answer was submitted on 25 Nov 2014 at 14:43.

1 Comment

Filed under Politics