Reflections and observations on life in general.

Category: livelihood

Across a border.


The Kelpies.

I have migrated,

crossed a border,

barely visible

but significant,

culture, attitudes, language

and much history.

Celts and Normans,

heart and head,

South and North,

my ancestors make me a bridge.

It is a new beginning,

this land of my birth

and half my blood

is home now.



I have moved to Falkirk in Scotland, to take up a new job in Stirling.  It has been a tiring but surprisingly trouble-free move.  There are new opportunities and challenges here, it is a move I have sought for the last three years; now it is time to settle in and explore…

…and catch up on sleep!


Goodwill hasn’t gone…

“Whatever happened to goodwill?”, said somebody in exasperation to a friend of mine some time ago.

“It doesn’t pay the bills”, she replied. She was beginning her career as a self-employed photographer. They had asked her to do some publicity photos and she had, quite reasonably, asked for payment.

I remembered this incident recently when I had a similar request at work – my experience and skills for free for something I am not employed by them to provide and which I do as my own business outside my contracted time. I explained that I would charge a fee for this, I doubt they will ask me to do the work. I am not disappointed, I like my weekends free at the moment. If they are not willing to pay a proper rate in exchange, it can’t be that important to them or they will find another way.

There seems to be a widespread expectation that, if you do work that is creative or adventurous and perceived as “enjoyable” or “worthwhile”, then that is surely reward enough and you should be providing it cheaply, if not free, and certainly on a basis of “goodwill”. I pondered this the other morning, while I guided a razor carefully over my too-early-morning face, and a new view of the issue emerged.

My reply to the complaint “where has the goodwill gone?” is this: it hasn’t gone, I provide all my labour and skills and experience on the basis of “goodwill”, there is no charge for that.

However, I am faced with a problem, I also need the “goodwill” of others, to take food from the shelves of their shops, get them to service and put fuel into my car, allow me to sleep and keep my things in their property and so on. They are nearly all generous and helpful people, all happy to do these things but they need to know that I am also part of the “goodwill” exchange system and I can only do this by providing material proof of my having also given my “goodwill” to others; as is the nature of our society, some paperwork is involved.

The administration has grown complicated, over the years, but the basic idea is simple; I do something in “goodwill” for you, you give me an officially and socially recognised receipt that confirms my act of happy generosity and indicates the amount of effort I have donated to your organisation or your quality of life, I can then give this receipt to others and they will reciprocate with an equivalent quantity of their “goodwill”.

To save us all having to make our own, these receipts or vouchers are ready-made and are really quite beautiful, combining aesthetic qualities with good functional design, they even feature a nice portrait of our illustrious Monarch, to confirm their authenticity ( clearly, a lot of “goodwill” has gone into the making of them ).

So, as long as we both agree on the quantity, nature and duration of the “goodwill” that I will give, and the type of vouchers to be exchanged, then I am entirely happy to help you!

Shaving safely completed, I made my way to turn on the kettle and the radio, which announced the news headlines and something about executive pay; they must be very generous people indeed, given the great quantities of “goodwill” vouchers they receive.

My employers need help today, I cannot bear to stand by and watch them struggle, I have no other commitments…


It is one of those days when the institutional disincentives to saving return to my awareness…



I have no car this weekend, it failed its MOT and awaits remedial work after the Easter holiday.
My travels are curtailed – train,  now walking.
Yet I feel much more free.

House, Home and Happiness

I live in a small but pleasant first floor (the first one above the ground, if you’re American) flat on a busy road in what I suppose is an ‘average’ area of this city in the middle of England.
I have enough space, just, for most of the things that I possess and adequate space for the things I actually need.
I would like to have a little more space, a room that could be a studio/office, a utility or workshop room, a garage or at least a covered area for the car that I still need, enough garden space in which to grow vegetables, set up some solar panels, a place to run a wood-kiln or experiment with rocket stoves or perhaps make a surfboard. This would be good, it would allow me to do things more easily, enable me to live more closely to the way that I want to and reduce further my consumption of ‘stuff’ and energy, perhaps even generate some. It would be enough.
I thought about this as I was driven past some lovely, large, relatively new, houses in a wealthy part of Cheshire the other night. Apparently they are mostly owned by ‘celebrities’ – footballers and others who are ‘famous’ for a variety of reasons – or by people whose work is valued highly in today’s society, whatever its contribution to the happiness, or suffering, in the world.
The houses were impressive, superficially attractive, sometimes beautiful, sometimes not, but all prompted my curiosity. I wondered about the people living there, what they were doing that evening, how warm it was inside, behind the grand and secured gates. Many had the appearance of being full of people, to judge by the number of lit windows, or perhaps they just left the lights on. Some had carefully designed outside lights, too, stage lights to display the houses and gateways. Some of these up-lights had the unfortunate effect of making the windows look like black holes, skull-like empty sockets. The house assumed the aspect of an empty office building or a prison under this lighting.
Were the occupants really eating very different food or enjoying very much better and more satisfying showers than I am able to? They could only eat one meal at a time, take one shower or bath at a time, sleep in one of the many beds, watch the same TV programs as most other people, probably even discuss similar things. Were they really as much happier than ‘average’ people, in compensation for the substantially greater cost in financial outlay and maintenance and worry involved in these modern mansions? Do they have fewer arguments, happier and more satisfying relationships, tastier food, much longer lives, greater insights and wisdom… Do they get their money’s worth?
How hard do they have to work to keep up these homes? How much extra insurance and administration do they have to pay for and do? How peacefully do they sleep when they are away?
We drove on, my girlfriend and I, to a lovely meal, good company, finally back to a small but comfortable and clean and sufficient flat, with only a small garden plot and no security gates.
We slept well.


I’ve just emerged from a busy supermarket into the brisk sensory immediacy of a cold, rainy, very British December evening.  It is a welcome shock that helps bring me back from the numbing of my mind induced by the relentless seasonal musack, the intensely bright light and the aisles of super-laden shelves.

As I start the car and turn northwards towards a shared weekend, I wonder whether freedom really equals choice and whether choice equals freedom, at least in terms of material goods?

Is there not perhaps a point beyond which greater choice becomes oppressive and limits our freedom to enjoy living and our relationships with others?

My cup is empty and I am running late…  I could choose to write more… but I choose to move on … people are more important than these words.

Safe journeys to any readers out there.

Careers Guidance

Society in general values and rewards those who make money for others. It does not value nor reward those who enrich others’ lives.

Of course there are exceptions to these broad statements and there are a lot of people in between, but consider these points:

If you trade in shares and other people’s money, produce and sell harmful recreational substances (tobacco, alcohol, etc), even design and sell weapons to enable yet more harm to be done in the world, you will receive high financial rewards, status and influence through having the ears of the political establishment.

You will be told that you are doing essential work for the nation’s prosperity, creating jobs and wealth – some of this is true, at least in the system as it is now.  Shareholders and colleagues will thank you and award you generous bonuses and share options.  You will be able to take things like a home, one or more cars, travelling on a whim (work permitting), private health care, an ample pension and so on for granted.

Even if you do lose your job, you will not really be poor, not like those people in the other postcode. Broadly speaking, regardless of your competence or the consequences of your actions, unless you’ve done something really stupid or incompetent, you will be able to get another post via your influential networks and impressive cv; a decent recruitment agency should sort that anyway.

You will acquire the means to make a lot of good and socially useful things happen, though that may not always fit neatly with the business or investment plan.  When you look back on your career, you should see a list of progress and achievements, material and professional.  You may never see the actual fruits of your labours, except on news broadcasts or in statistics, but you can’t be held personally responsible for all those things.  You can mostly ignore the bleatings of the ‘little people’ who think this is all so unfair, after all, you move among the ‘people who matter’.

If, instead, you choose to do something that reduces the suffering of others, improves the appearance and quality of things, creates beauty rather than destroys it, helps people to grow inwardly, or if you keep a good home and raise children to become better human beings, deliver education and understanding of the world, or care for people in their sickness, ageing and dying, you will be praised for your good work, thanked even.  You may get a reputation for being indispensable, reliable, ‘salt of the earth’, creative and ‘gifted’, committed to your ‘vocation’.  People will say things like “I don’t know how you do it, I could never do that, I’d lose patience (etc)”.

Occasionally people will tell you how you helped change their lives for the better. It’s good to know that, sometimes, flowers spring up where you have stepped; you will be able to look back knowing that the fruits of your labours were healthy, nourishing and sweet and contained the seeds of future harvests that others might sow.  This is valuable.

You will be looked down upon in a kindly, condescending, way but told you are doing essential work for the fabric of society, which is true. If you ask for that to be reflected in your pay, so that you can buy a house, an efficient car, feed and educate your children well, pay the bills without worrying every month, perhaps occasionally enjoy a revitalizing and inspiring holiday…

Please, be serious now, if labour costs go up, how can we hope to achieve ‘growth’ and pay off the Defecit?

We’re all in it together, after all.