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No Prophecy For The Chimney Sweep

My chimney sweep came today to clean out the stovepipe of the pellet stove in the kitchen. He’s not just a chimney sweep, but a plumber and a heating engineer, also.

I see him at least once a year, unless I need some plumbing done in the meanwhile. He’s English but has lived in France for nearly twenty years.

He enjoys coming to me because he says, not only does he get a good cup of coffee, but he also gets my prophecies of what will happen in the world over the next twelve months.

“Well, go on, then,” he insisted, taking a swig of coffee, “what’s going to happen to us by this time next year?”

I grinned rather sheepishly. “Sorry,” I said, “there’s just too many variables.”

He looked mildly disappointed.

Not only do we have the war in Ukraine which is certainly going Ukraine’s way at present, but what will Putin do to change that? Tactical nuclear weapons are certainly on his table. He has already managed to put the biggest nuclear power station in Europe out of action and in a highly dangerous state.

Then there is Africa and the power struggles there likely to reach a flashpoint as crops die and water becomes ever scarcer.

In the United States it is perfectly possible Trump will become President again in 2024. Okay, that’s two years away, but will his tribe of faithful right-wing Republicans gain control of the House and Senate in November? Who can say at present? There do appear to be some flaws in the ranks, mainly due to the overturning of Rowe v Wade by the Supreme Court of Trump appointees, but nothing is certain there.

Right-wing politics is rearing it’s ugly head again in Italy. Does this mean a split in Europe? Italy’s right-wing have roared before to little effect, but we have an energy crisis on our hands and a possible winter of discontent, which can turn politics on its head, and there’s nothing the political right-wing enjoys more than public disquiet and possible rioting.

This week in Uzbekistan Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Erdogan, and a rash of Iranian leaders are meeting in a ‘summit’ intended to show, (according to the Kremlin) an “alternative” to the Western world.

Over all of this hangs climate change: millions homeless in Pakistan after the worst floods in living memory; near continuous wildfires in the U.S. and the worst drought in living memory. “In living memory” is fast becoming such a norm that people hardly take notice any more.

Huge wildfires engulfed the south of France this year as the whole country suffered the worst drought “since records began,” which makes a change from “in living memory” but means much the same.

Bolsonaro’s Brazil has now brought the vast and glorious Amazon rain forest to its tipping point. This vast carbon sink, once one of the great lungs of the world, is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it is sequestering, as Bolsonaro and his brothers rape and pillage and murder, destroying habitat and habitation not only for the animals, birds and insects that rely on it, but also the indigenous human population who called it home.

The melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet will now raise sea levels by twenty-seven to thirty centimetres, inevitably, even if we reduced carbon emissions to zero tomorrow. Twenty-seven inches will devastate coastal areas of the world and make millions homeless. It is a very conservative estimate, because of course we will not reach net-zero carbon release tomorrow or next year, or in any foreseeable future.

These are just some of the bare bones of what is happening right now in the world we inhabit.

Given all these facts, and facts they are, I would be arrogant in the extreme to attempt to prophecy what was going to happen in the next three months, let alone a whole year ahead.

“Yes, but things are going well in Ukraine, aren’t they?”

At this moment my chimney sweep’s brush got lodged somewhere high up in the stovepipe, and the next ten minutes was given over to such heaving, sweating, and occasional swearing, that it was not necessary for me to answer him. Eventually, it was released and the job was done.

After he left, with a cheery, “See you next year, then,” I pondered on what I may have said to him had not his brush problem intervened. Are things going well in Ukraine? I doubted the thousands of dead civilians, the grieving relatives of those killed, the suffering of the many with permanent injuries, tortured, beaten, electrocuted, homeless, would be likely to have agreed with him.

Ukraine war: Hundreds of graves found in liberated Izyum city.


Single-Use Plastic Just Another Human Crazy

2.5 BILLION single-use coffee cups thrown away every year – in the UK alone!

As the world becomes even more awash with plastic and the ocean creatures give up their lives to our pollution, at least one country is making an effort to do its part to curtail this human devastation of our world and our home.

Not only is France trialing a three year opt-in system for junk mail, (French residents have always had the ability to opt-out of junk mail)…

…but a whole raft of new laws have been introduced designed to outlaw single-use plastic for plates, utensils, coffee-cups, and single-use plastic bags and wrapping.

As the English language online French website, “The Local” today reported, many new laws are coming into force to curb the single-use of plastic.

They are:

Throwing away non-hazardous waste that can be recycled (eg. plastics, cardboard, green waste) is being gradually prohibited.

Aggressive advertising prohibited outside of sales, in an attempt to cut consumption. In reality France’s laws on sales and discounting are already pretty strict, but this further limits them.

New single-use plastic products are banned, whether they are entirely or just partly composed of plastic. This includes plates and cutlery, straws, stirrers, expanded polystyrene boxes (such as those used for take-aways or at fast food restaurants), lids used for take-away cups, plastic confetti and all objects made of oxo degradable plastic.

Distribution of free plastic bottles in companies or public events is prohibited.

Recycling containers have to be placed in supermarkets to allow customers to dispose of the packaging of their products.

The production and distribution of single-use plastic bags is prohibited.

Drinks served in a reusable cup presented by the customer must be sold at a cheaper price

Large businesses of more than 400 m2 have to provide reusable containers (free or paying)

Bulk retailers have to accept containers brought in by consumers

Distributing promotional gifts in mailboxes is prohibited

A network of drinking water fountains will be created in an attempt to cut the use of plastic bottles

A ban on plastic cups and Q-tips came into effect last year, thanks to a 2016 law on biodiversity, aimed at reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans.

Meanwhile, a ban on plastic wrapping for fruit and vegetables has been postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

From July, all restaurants will have to allow customers to bring their own containers for take-aways and doggy bags.

This is all part of a EU wide campaign to drastically cut the amount of plastic waste going to landfills or into the oceans, or dumped on the shores of other countries by unscrupulous so-called “recyclers.”

UK plastic waste sent to Turkey for recycling is burned creating more environmental pollution

Plastic already invades our water supplies. It has been found on the tops of the highest mountains and in the deepest depths of the oceans. It is in our bodies as micro-plastics and no-one as yet can ascertain its long-term effects on our health.

2.5 billion single-use cups discarded every year in the UK alone?

France and the EU countries are making inroads into the problem of plastic waste and it’s time for other nations to follow suit, before it overwhelms us all.





Earth Goddess Or Idolatrous Intruder?

If there’s one thing that can be relied on never to change in this somewhat dubious and uncertain world , it’s the arrogant and supercilious attitude of the Christian churches.

While the beauty and artistic merit of the latest embellishment to the Cornish town of Saint Austell is undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder, the reaction to it by the local clergy was predicable.

In a letter signed by seven of their resident Christian reverends to the local council who sponsored the project, it was claimed that the statue was “an offence to  God.”  Perhaps it was the name, “Earth Goddess,” that upset them the most.

According to the Guardian (19 August 2022):

“One of the signatories, Rev Pete Godfrey of the Light and Life Church, said the concern was not the look of the piece but the spiritual significance apparently attached to it. He added: “We see very clearly laid out by God that we are to have no gods but him and we are not to make idols, which is essentially a statue that represents another god.””

The general consensus among the populace of this very conservative part of southern England is that they don’t like the “Earth Goddess” and would prefer it was removed.

Of course, folk said similar things about the “Angel of the North” …

…when it first appeared overlooking the A1 major trunk road near the north of England town of Gateshead. Now, if it was threatened with removal, there’d be a major outcry.

The “Earth Goddess” stands higher than two double-decker buses and is situated in one of the town’s squares. It does seem a little incongruous, but not because it lacks colour or fascination to the beholder. No, around it is some of the worst examples of modern architecture one could hope to see.

Behind the statue sits a grotesque building now occupied by the local “Boots the Chemist.” To the left (as it’s viewed) a tall grey, almost menacing slab of concrete, under which, and somewhat dwarfed by this monumentally diabolical construction, is a shopping arcade.

It’s truly hard to know which of the two camps one could enjoy insulting the most, the band of pitiful clergy with their outdated and medieval doctrine of life, or those with the nerve to call themselves architects, who were responsible for the grotesquely ugly, concrete structures that surround the “Earth Goddess.”

Maybe one day the people of Saint Austell, like the folk of Gateshead with their “Angel”, will wake up and embrace the colour, strangeness, and, yes, amusement even, that the mighty “Earth Goddess” can bring into their lives, if only they’d open their eyes and their hearts.


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