The Summer Solstice marks my great friend Allan’s birthday - this year he was closer to sixty than fifty - yes, there is a bit of an age gap but mentally we are both around 19 years old so that doesn’t matter much.
The day of the Solstice was spent trying to whip my iTunes catalogue in to shape - with the recent announcement of iTunes being made redundant I may be seen as p*ssing in the wind.
However, iTunes was about cultivating a collection. Big online streaming sites were all about the greed. You had instant access to all of the music yet chose to listen to the same stuff.
itunes took looking after.
Maybe it was one final hurrah until the software is rendered obsolete, but I got something from it.
The evening was spent at a party in Creao Studio. Creao is Allan’s recording studio and has been the scene of quite a few adventures. We partied hard, we partied well.
Allan fell asleep and I recorded my radio show - here it is:
So, yes, I am worried abot the state of Apple’s music app. I am worried that it will turn in to an app for streaming rather than curation. Steve Jobs screwed over the Artists through the creation of mass-marketed downloads. Maybe now he is trying to post-humously screw over the customer?
I’m sad but acceptant that I will not see my Gran for a very long time. I could wax lyrical about Summerlands and the like. But, I am coming to the round to the fact Granny Dornoch lost her battle yesterday afternoon and she is now at peace.
She had a very tough life and a tough passing - she raged against the light until the end and cheered everyone up for knowing her.
She leaves a brother, two daughters & a son - and a gaggle of grand-children & great-grandchildren, who were all completely devoted to her.
She was such a loving person who made you feel like you were the only person who she wanted to see. She was loved. And, she loved.
N’night Granny - Safe journey.
I have deleted Ijo Pona as it existed and started afresh.
Ijo Pona is dead! Long live Ijo Pona!
The older version of this site was a Wordpress build - it became very heavy and not at all responsive. All rather cumbersome. So, I elected to start afresh - there will be less rants about white socks and the cricket in this Blog. The site you are looking at now is built using Blot. It seems quite elegant although there are a few bugs from my Wordpress build that I need to iron out before I launch in to this whole heartedly.
Plus, it is a blog run on my Dropbox!
First Impressions Of Blot
I like it. I like it a lot. It is a lot cleaner and a lot more lightweight. Responsive and quick to load on mobiles.
The back end is a joy to write with - the “Kitchen Sink” editor of Wordpress (and Gutenberg to that point) were not to my taste. The whole build of Ijo Pona (when it was a Wordpress site) was not what I wanted - I wanted something sharp and clean. So, I chose Blot. It doesn’t have an interface.
Easy to install and easy to set up - it is a bit utilitarian (if Brutalism was utilitarian) but I like it. Yes, there is not the choice associated with Wordpress - but then I am not after choice - I just want to write short blog posts.
Hopefully I will not regret making this choice.
The blog posts are all written up in Markdown on a text editor on my Mac. I then drop them in to the associated Dropbox folder and then I am good to go. This means I will always have a copy of my Blog posts when to hand.
I gave considerable thought to running a Anchor blog - but I guess that Indie-blogging is yet to get a foothold over here in Harrogate. However, I will make a stand for it and try my hardest to keep blogging independantly and in Dropbox.
There was the option to import all of my old Wordpress posts in to Blot, using a script written by David Mirfield. But I chose not to - I have been going through a rough time over the past while and I did not want the bad posts about that reverberating and haunting me further down the line.
So, onwards and upwards! I look forward to sharing my adventures with you.
I have had quite a fun filled weekend, what with my Dad’s birthday meal (Happy Birthday Dad) and the recording of my radio show - however, what I want to blog about this post is the first installment of Harrogate International Film Festival.
At the time of going on sale, Harrogate International Film Festival had over 708 submissions from 56 countries worldwide across six competitions - as a local this is not to be missed. However, I was perplexed by how little there was in the way of media coverage - I mean, the Film Festival barely hits on the first page of Google and I had to find out about the film festival via intrepid News Hound, Graham Chalmers, Tweet.
So, there was a film festival between Friday 3rd of March and Sunday 5th of March - but what of it? Was it just going to be a rehash of old classics framed “oh so quirky” against the back drop of a town I am enamored with? I am sad to say that for most of the festival it was a rehash of films that have been over played but set in pubs. Shaun Of The Dead in a pub that has an aging clientele? Scarface in a chain bar that plays on Cuban Nationalism? No thanks - I came for art.
Thankfully, there was plenty of what I sought at the “Independent Filmakers Competition 2017 - Documentary At Everyman Cinema.”
Tickets were a bargain at £8 a pop and you were welcomed with your own complimentary tote bag, pens, voting forms and magazines. Me and the good wife made it through the Yorkshire weather to the Everyman Cinema in ample time to have a sit down and order some food in Screen 5.
The Antipasti was second to none - although the idea of a sharer combo on a two person sofa in the dark made for a bit of a mess - I managed to polish of a good portion by the time the credits were rolling on the first documentary. But what was the first documentary?
The documentaries were only last 10 to 15 minutes and played consequentially - there was no time to reach for the humus of the ample sharing platter as the short mini-documentaries played out one after the other in quick succession. The seats were all very comfortable and, as I have pointed out in a previous blog post - Everyman is a custom built modern cinema - it is amazing for Harrogate, although I will always have a soft-spot for the art-deco Odeon.
The first mini-documentary was Brazilian and interviewed Brazilian comic book writers. It talked about the role of Super heroes to pubescent teens - how Peter Parker never quite gets the girl, has to wear glasses and goofs up a lot of the time - having lost his parents too - and that it is okay to be a tool as you find your own identity - you will never be completely perfect, but you can still be super awesome. It was life affirming stuff.
The second documentary, Green Way, got my wife’s vote - she was more than happy to vote for a short film that showed the culture of the interior of Turkey. Thing is, this documentary was against the building of a highway that would carve up the innards of Turkey - leaving a trail of devastation behind. It was touchingly told from the perspective of an elderly woman.
The third documentary came from Columbia: “Categoría V” could have proved to be one of the more interesting films. However, it was not subtitled and I do not speak Spanish - I was frustrated that I could not share in this dream-scape of hitch-hiking along with a long-distance lorry driver as he delivered goods too and from the docks to the interior.
The documentary “Perpetuum Mobile” got my vote for the Audience’s Choice award - it featured the story of an inter-war brotherly quest to build a machine that would just run by itself. Humerus, insightful, poignant and very witty - this had me beaming. It traced the story of a family’s search for a machine that ran by itself - a self powering machine: I loved it.
… balls, I’ve forgotten the name of this film - anyway, it was the first one … The super hero one from Brazil.
Then there was “A Man’s Got To Do What A Man’s Got To Do” - I took this as a bit of a sad film - it portrayed a lost German looking to shoot someone in the name of defending somebody. He spent his time at the shooting range - deftly setting his scopes on the paper target. He admitted that he would love to be a bodyguard, but, at the age of 53 (?) he thought he was a bit too old - humerus and slyly done so.
I have Cottage Pie waiting for me - Kathryn is busy cooking up a feast and it is high time I hot tailed it to the kitchen to give her a hand instead of Blogging. I am sat, after a brief call to Major Tom’s merry and in my Pyjamas - Life is good.
Mexican Macaroni :: This simple to follow recipe is great for when you have a mate over for a bite to eat after a day-time drinking session. Let’s hope he likes heat!
Mexican Macaroni :: The meeting of two great culinary traditions whipped up after the pub.
RIP Paddy - he was a good pup.
The realisation that I have seen Paddy for the last time has come true. I do not know if you remember, but in my post Xmas 2k16 Mk. II I mentioned that I thought I had seen my dog for the last time - well, he is now buried next to Mutt in the garden.
On the Sunday evening of the 12th he suffered what appeared to be a stroke - he could not stand or move his head, according to Dad who found him. The humane thing to do was to put him out of his misery and send him to sleep.
It must have been difficult for the vet. Paddy always brightened up his day when he went for his health check - indeed, the vet described Paddy as a twelve year old puppy not so long ago. However, Paddy had been starting to wane over the past eighteen months and arthritis had taken a grip - he was getting confused and his joie de vivre had left him.
However, he was still a very loving animal. Here are some photos of him:
He was happiest when he had something truly smelly to eat - dead carcasses or poo - you name it. He would then come and try and lick my face with his offending tongue and breath that could strip wallpaper.
We got him as a puppy from the Stockman on the farm - he came from working stock so had good instincts. You could not ask to meet a dog who was so full of beans. But, as I mentioned, he waned in his final years - age was not kind to him and he gradually lost the plot.
However, he never harmed a fly - bees on the other hand, he ate bees. He would try and catch them mid-flight and they would sting the inside of his mouth so that we would have to rush him to the vet so he would not go in to anaphylactic shock.
His sex drive was the stuff of legend - regularly he would wonder down to the village, from the farm to have his way with the lady dogs of the village - whether he fathered any pups I do not know, but it is nice to think there is a genetic remnant of him close at hand.
Indeed, his first venture looking for love nearly cost him his life at the age of eight months. He strayed off his hunting ground and wondered on to the main road - he got hit by a truck and thrown in to the hedge. The driver of the SUV, the head chef at the Black-A-Moor Inn, thankfully stopped and went to look. We were told that if he made it through that night then the vet would be shocked - that was thirteen years ago. He carried with him a piece of dislodged bone in his face and a dent in his skull the shape of a Mercedes car headlight until his final trip to the vet.
So, RIP Paddy - gone but never forgotten; you are now re-united with Muttley, chasing bees and smelling the flora in another place.
Me and the good lady wife, Kathryn, went to see the film T2 Trainspotting at the Everyman in Harrogate. Quite an occasion actually. It is the first time we have visited that cinema since it opened last year - what a cinema. All shiny and new.
It pains me to say this, but it wins over the Odeon, where I used to work. The thing the Odeon has going for it is it’s faded grandeur. The fact that folk would rock up to the art-deco building with it’s chandeliers and gold plate banisters in their finery was something that made me proud to work there.
However, Everyman Cinema has leg room and wins on that account. We sat comfortably on our two seater sofa and spilled popcorn all over the place.
I would write a short review of the film T2 Trainspotting, but there are far more valued opinions when it comes to film. I will leave it at the fact that both me and Kathryn really enjoyed it. Here is the trailer:
… but there was something not quite right with the experience. In the script of the film, Sick Boy asks Renton if he is taking a holiday - visiting his past life. That is what I was doing watching the film.
There are moments throughout the film about breaking free from the past. About taking a holiday through past memories, looking up old flames and there is plenty of reference to Heroin.
I enjoyed the film immensely. It would have been tough to follow up the first - indeed, it was almost a homage to the first film. Tying up the loose ends.
But, life doesn’t imitate cinema. There are no directors to tie up loose ends in real life. It is hard not to empathise with one or two of the characters (except Begbie) and it made it an unsettling experience. As in, I too can relate to some of it - through health not heroin - and it made me think of the things I would be doing had I not been ill. Probably tending a cash till in a high street shop or something, but it is nice to romanticise how things could have turned out but for the if’s/ what’s / but’s.
Guess I chose life.
That was that - Kathryn is tucked up in front of the telly & I am about to head to bed.
I thought about writing a homily to 2016 - a turbulent year that, warts and all, shaped me and my life - for the better or worse it is yet to be seen. I lost family members but my music career started to take off …. swings and roundabouts really.
So, instead of writing a bit about 2016 (which you can read about here) I figure I would like to focus more on what I hope to achieve in 2017. As stated, my music career is in it’s infancy but I was played on the BBC this very night - give below an ear look:
With this - one of my resolutions is to make music with more people. I have always held that music is a unifying force - it brings people together. I would like to spend a good portion of my time making music in 2017, but with other people. There is an energy and vibrancy when you are in the creative presence of friends - something I love - and more of that please.
Another positive I would like to take from 2016 is my employment. I have come on leaps and bounds with my web design over the past twelve months - moving in to freelance work and now sniffing around for more work. TreeBark Design has been the excuse to wake up on time and the reason I am a happier person. Another reason I am so happy at this junction in my life is my wife, Kathryn - I will be make a point of spending more time with her in the coming year. 2017 will be busy, but fun.
Yes, we have lost a lot of familiar faces in 2016 - but, if 2016 is to be remembered for the death of people, let it be for the 400,000 who died in Aleppo. I will continue in the early months to campaign for environmental issues and human rights affairs across the world - with renewed vigour I will still be petitioning and making a nuisance of myself to the local MP, Andrew Jones, whilst I can still type.
So, here is me, Andy Backhouse, wishing you - dear reader - the very best of starts to what will hopefully turn out to be a vintage year.
I almost feel nostalgic for writing this; why? Well, I will tell you at the bottom of the page. Today saw an above average early start for me - I was up at 06:30 but fully rested. We set the coordinates for Home Farm and set off on the 36 route to Ripon. It suddenly struck me, as we pulled out of Harrogate and went on to Killinghall, how beautiful the landscape looked dressed in it’s winter sunlight. There was a clear, icy light beating down - illuminating pasture and moorland alike. We trundled through Honey-pot villages and were picked up by Dad in Ripon.
It was great to see Mum, Dad, Alison, Paddy (dog, old) & Jess (cat, very old). Alison had the look in her eye of a veteran who has seen too much action - she was drained of Xmas cheer but plucky and resilient to whatever the day will throw at her. Kathryn and me got straight down to business and opened the presents that had eluded us on the 25th.
My brother and his family bought for me a Sun Ra CD Boxset! It was “Sun Ra - The Complete 45’s” and I hope to give it a listen over the next few days. Kathryn received a sausage dog door stop and a book about dog walking - sort of a memoir thing more than an instruction manual - she is more than confident when it comes to handling furry critters.
After a slap up, traditional meal (Turkey and Ham Pie) we all sat down as a family to watch the Steven Spielberg version of the BFG. Now then, the animated version of this film holds tremendous emotional clout for any of the Backhouse cousins. The is the first film we collectively (and individually for some) have any recollection of watching (may have been the Jungle Book - but, I will state here the first film I have any memory of watching is the animated version of the BFG). I think I was seven or eight when the original made-for-television version came out.
Whenever we had a meet-up as a family, the grandchildren would be plonked in-front of a Ferguson Cathode Ray Tube and the BFG was inserted as a VHS - complete with commercial breaks. Granny & Grandpa sold the house around six years later (Fieldgate - that was it’s name) but I have a strong connection to that house. As readers of the blog may know, my G’s are otherwise occupied at present so cannot comment. But the film was a heavy hitter and there were times where I was drifting off at the recollection of clouds of pipe smoke bellowing out of Grandpa and of Granny the beaming matriarch.
We quickly had tea and went to the Curzon in Ripon - this was the first time I had been to the cinema in 2016 - a long wait in any cinema goers book. The reason: Star Wars Rogue One. Yes, the CGI was patchy and there could be moral qualms about using deceased actors in new reboots, however: this was a film with a vape score of ZERO. As in, I was so giddy with excitement that I did not even bother vaping whilst the film showed - around three hours without my bong. Longest since …
In the car on the way home, Kathryn was checking her FB and broke it to us that Carrie Fisher had passed after a dip in health due to complications on a flight. It was a somber moment after watching the latest installment of a film that defined my childhood and an actress that defined my adolescent peccadilloes. This news flash made me realise I had probably seen my dog for the last time. Paddy is so old a strong gust of wind will knock him to the ground - he is so unstable on his back legs that dad has repeatedly told himself that he will have to take him to the vet on his last journey. However, he keeps on fighting back. As they say in Rogue One: what is a rebellion without hope. I am glad I got to plant a kiss on my dog’s head as I left.
Well, that was that!
A lot of blogs do the whole retrospective sweep around Xmas - I prefer to do that on New Year. So, I will, in this post, just write about what happened today: Christmas Day 2016.
Things got off to an excited start. Like a cotton headed ninnymuggins, I woke up at 03:30 and wanted presents. I tried, valiantly, to raise my wife from slumber. I did the gentlemanly thing and wait until 4am to do this. We exchanged gifts. Kathryn received a print by noted local artist, Robbie Burns. This was the winter scene called ‘Drawn to the Lights’ that compliments the autumnal scene that I purchased for Kathryn to mark our fifth wedding anniversary - also by Robbie Burns. I also got Kathryn the dress below and a couple (three) albums.
The dress looked stunning on Kathryn - it was as if it was made to specification solely for my wife. Kathryn bought me some amazing presents (a Sun Ra CD among them).
I then had four hours wait whilst Kathryn slept the sleep of the righteous - all I did was look at wrapped presents and feel useless. Thankfully, one of the gifts that Kathryn gave me was an espresso porcelain set and ground coffee - this set me up nicely in time to wake her up at eight thirty and tell her that “Now is the time for presents.”
Mum and Dad kindly gave me a voucher for a music store I frequent (Bleep) and my sister bought me a telescope - it looks ace as it has the added tech benefit of being able to sync with the SkyView app on my phone and point towards the stars labeling them as you go along; so that I am not wildly pointing my new telescope at airplanes.
We spent the morning of Christmas Day in our flat as the world busied itself for a day of gluttony. The chosen destination for our feasting was Kathryn’s parent’s in Harrogate. Kathryn’s mum is an accomplished cook and treated us royally. The feasting led to lethargy and I had to tag out after the third round of seconds was called up.
They even had Xmas pudding in for me and Kathryn - so the story told to me today goes, the humble Christmas pudding fell out of favour in Kathryn HQ to be replaced by a boozy trifle. Kathryn had not eaten Xmas pudding until she spent her first Xmas with me at Home Farm - she is now hooked on the stuff. We were treated great by Kathryn’s parents and it was great to spend time with them. They had got a lot of beer in for the day, but, after the feasting, I was a little bit full to start a one-man session.
The afternoon led to an intense game of scrabble - Kat’s dad cheated/won* and I came third - still it is the taking part that counts … until I win a game and then it is the winning that matters.
I managed to phone Home Farm and have a chat with siblings and parents - they seemed to have weathered the Xmas storm. Storm Mum was battering around the kitchen of Home Farm annoying the low pressure of Dad and generally clucking - but she was pleased that her Grand daughter was spending the majority of her first Christmas at the family HQ.
Back at Kathryn’s parent we slipped into a diabetic coma after over indulgence and woke up to see that Len Goodman was retiring from Strictly Come Dancing. Power snooze accomplished, we hot footed it back to our flat and slobbed in our Pyjamas. Yes, I have a beer in hand and, yes, I am wearing my pyjamas - well, it’s Christmas!
So, I would like to wish you the very best of days and I hope that all of your Christmas wishes have been fulfilled. So, from Kathryn & Andy Backhouse (plus Ted the Goldfish) - have a very merry Christmas!
*delete as appropriate
Friday was a quiet night in with Mrs. Backhouse - we just chilled in front of the telly and had a good catch up - it’s the backbone of our relationship - these quiet times - and it is an amazing thing that we still get to have them. I love my wife with all of my heart. She is someone very special to me - if I put in a bit more work she may reciprocate the sentiment ;-)
Saturday night and Allan’s studio, Creao, stank of Allan’s, Watson’s and my creative juices. We had everything flowing from premium lager to Dub Mixing. We are investigating getting Bitwig Studio for the band (Guerrilla Dub System) and we were trying to get that sorted. Then we had a live dub and a DJ sesh.
Sunday was spent getting ready for the evening. We met Karen & Stewart at the train station and were Leeds bound within minutes. The first stop was the restaurant Little Tokyo - the fun-size Japanese restaurant complete with Geisha dog - Bork Bork!
Me and Stewart had a pint of Asahi Beer and Kat went for a smaller lager - both were really palatable but what stole the show was Karen’s Plum Wine - it was like nectar! The main courses: we all ordered Bento Boxes on the advice of Stewart & Karen - I had Mackerel in Teriyaki sauce with Tempura veg - It was amazing! The highlight of the meal was the Japanese style profiteroles - Ice-cream deep-fried in batter on a skewer; although I think my wife won the pudding tournament with her marshmallow spring rolls - she claimed they were ‘genius’.
We then hot-footed it up to the Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen to see the world famous Sun Ra’s Arkestra!
I had been waiting around eight years to see this band live - whilst they did not have the man himself (he orbits a different star now) they were led by the spritely Marshall Allen, at 92 years young.
- Image first appeared in JazzIz Magazine
There seemed to be four surviving musicians from the Arkestra under Sun Ra in the early days of Space Jazz. Dozens of musicians—perhaps hundreds—passed through Sun Ra’s bands over the years. Some stayed with him for decades, while others played on only a few recordings or performances.
Sun Ra was personally responsible for the vast majority of the constant changes in the Arkestra’s lineup. According to contra-bassist Jiunie Booth, a member of the Arkestra, Sun Ra did not confront any musician whose performance he was unsatisfied with. Instead, he would simply gather the entire Arkestra minus the offending musician, and skip town—leaving the fired musician stranded. After repeated instances of U.S. jazz musicians becoming stranded in foreign countries, Sun Ra’s unique method of dismissal became a diplomatic liability for the United States. The U.S. State Department was compelled to tell Sun Ra to bring any fired musicians stateside rather than leave them stranded.
But, what was the experience of seeing Sun Ra’s Arkestra like for a fan-boy like myself? Well, it surpassed expectation. Hands down the best gig I have been to in years. Whilst I did not recognise all of the tracks that they played - seeing ninety year old’s dressed as Space Pharaohs lucidly conducting an Afro-Futurist ensemble was worth a trip out in anyone’s books.
So, what happened at the weekend? Quite a bit as it happens - I did not sleep so that meant there was a lot of w/e overtime put in.
I managed to re-haul my web design site www.treebark.design and I am quite please with how it looks. I have gone for a set-up that makes it easier to read and therefore slightly better optimised for search engines. It still has HTTPS (an SSL Certificate) so this means it will help with the rankings too. All in all I hope to have improved the set up and the flow of the site. Please, use this link to see what I have done.
Saturday was spent listening to music - something I find great joy in doing. I have quite a good setup (I inherited from a loved one) and a comfortable chair upon which to perch to listen to the music. See, I am on the mailing list of a PR firm based in Berlin - so I get a whole heap of avant-garde music to listen to and play on my radio show, The Parish News.
Saturday was a good day.
Sunday saw us in a bit of a panic - Kathryn had won four tickets to an (excellent) vintage fair in York. We only found out about it around 1am on Sunday morning! We contacted a few friends to see who was up for coming to York with us to take advantage of the free tickets and the voucher. Andy & Helen F were the first to reply in the affirmative so we met them at Harrogate Station and caught the soon to arrive train to York.
I managed to lose my bearings crossing the platform to the York Station’s exit - thankfully Helen was on hand to get us to Fossgate and The Merchant Adventurers Hall, the venue of the great vintage fair that we were destined for.
The vintage fair was called York Does Vintage - as run by the firm, Britain Does Vintage. They have a web site and I will post their banner below. But first I would like to witter on a bit about them - if you don’t mind.
Now then, I have never really been much of a fan of vintage clothing - I see it as a posh charity shop without the moral backbone. The clothes normally smell of piss and are always too small to fit my Tons-Of-Fun physique.
However, there was a class and elegance to the products on sale at York Does Vintage - the stall holders were all very friendly, polite and courteous. They went out of their way to try and help you.
Kathryn ended up spending a fortune on two jackets (Summer / Winter) and I bought a French Work Jacket for the token price of £15 - Bargain. Andy and Helen bought a few thing and we settled down for cake - a wedge of coffee and walnut cake with a strong brew to refresh us.
Then we hot footed it across town, via the Cornish Pasty Shop (Steak & Stilton for me, Cheese & Mushroom for Kathryn - Vegetarian for Andy & Helen). We called in to the York Tap on at the station to await on our train and sipped a libation - I can’t quite remember what I had to drink as I was running on vapours and was getting a bit confused.
We caught the train home and then met Scooby in Major Toms for a power pint and left as the quiz was starting. Scoob and me popped in to The Little Ale House on the way home: first impressions are that they do a good pint and the bar staff are friendly - we will call again when we have more time and I will write a full appraisal up here on Ijo Pona.
Nothing much happening this afternoon - so, I spent some time on Facebook. What led me to the ICAN site was the headline: “UN Votes To Outlaw Nuclear Weapons In 2017.” Something that piqued my interest immensely.
Two days ago, on Thursday 27th October 2016, The United Nations adopted a landmark resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.
At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, with 38 against and 16 abstaining.
The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March next year, open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat. For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons. - Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN
Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.
The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject — 415 in favour and 124 against, with 74 abstentions — inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in next year’s negotiations.
Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts.
Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.
Nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organization’s formation in 1945. Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernization of their nuclear forces.
Twenty years have passed since a multilateral nuclear disarmament instrument was last negotiated: the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which has yet to enter into legal force due to the opposition of a handful of nations.
Thursday’s resolution, known as L.41, acts upon the key recommendation of a UN working group on nuclear disarmament that met in Geneva this year to assess the merits of various proposals for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.
It also follows three major intergovernmental conferences examining the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, held in Norway, Mexico and Austria in 2013 and 2014. These gatherings helped re-frame the nuclear weapons debate to focus on the harm that such weapons would inflict on people.
The conferences also enabled non-nuclear-armed nations to play a more assertive role in the disarmament arena. By the third and final conference, which took place in Vienna in December 2014, most governments had signaled their desire to outlaw nuclear weapons.
Following the Vienna conference, ICAN was instrumental in garnering support for a 127-nation diplomatic pledge, known as the humanitarian pledge, committing governments to cooperate in efforts “to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”.
Throughout this process, victims and survivors of nuclear weapon detonations, including nuclear testing, have contributed actively. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and an ICAN supporter, has been a leading proponent of a ban.
This is a truly historic moment for the entire world. For those of us who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is a very joyous occasion. We have been waiting so long for this day to come. Nuclear weapons are absolutely abhorrent. All nations should participate in the negotiations next year to outlaw them. I hope to be there myself to remind delegates of the unspeakable suffering that nuclear weapons cause. It is all of our responsibility to make sure that such suffering never happens again. - Setsuko Thurlow
There are still more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, mostly in the arsenals of just two nations: the United States and Russia. Seven other nations possess nuclear weapons: Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
Most of the nine nuclear-armed nations voted against the UN resolution. Many of their allies, including those in Europe that host nuclear weapons on their territory as part of a NATO arrangement, also failed to support the resolution.
But the nations of Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific voted overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution, and are likely to be key players at the negotiating conference in New York next year.
On Monday, 15 Nobel Peace Prize winners urged nations to support the negotiations and to bring them “to a timely and successful conclusion so that we can proceed rapidly toward the final elimination of this existential threat to humanity”.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has also appealed to governments to support this process, stating on 12 October that the international community has a “unique opportunity” to achieve a ban on the “most destructive weapon ever invented”.
“This treaty won’t eliminate nuclear weapons overnight,” concluded Fihn. “But it will establish a powerful new international legal standard, stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament.”
In particular, the treaty will place great pressure on nations that claim protection from an ally’s nuclear weapons to end this practice, which in turn will create pressure for disarmament action by the nuclear-armed nations.
… there is hope.<
As a member of Amnesty International I receive emails asking me to sign petitions. This one chimed with me. Being on a low income, I would not be able to represent myself in court if I was attacked.
The response will be in the footer.
Dear Andrew Jones,
I am disappointed to see the latest evidence suggesting that the reforms to legal aid introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 have had a significantly negative impact on access to justice and protection of human rights, in particular for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
I am writing to urge you immediately to conduct a review of those effects — recalling in particular that the government previously promised a review would be carried out.
On 11 October, Amnesty International released ‘Cuts That Hurt’, a report which examines the impact of civil legal aid cuts on access to justice in England. The changes essentially reversed the previous position, meaning that instead of being generally available in civil cases, subject to the merits of the legal case and the means of the person, legal aid is now generally not available, other than in a few narrow areas. There is also an ‘exceptional case funding scheme’ which aims to provide funding where refusal would breach the applicant’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Amnesty International’s report looks at those changes. It details some of the ways in which the loss of legal aid has made it substantially more difficult for people to access the legal advice and assistance that they need. It sets out how the cuts have led to a loss in early specialist legal advice and resulted in a reduced and uneven provision of free legal assistance across the country. It also examines the exceptional case funding provision and finds that inherent failings mean that the scheme does not in practice provide the promised safety net for vulnerable or disadvantaged people who are struggling to navigate complex legal processes and effectively advocate for their rights.
The report concludes that the cuts to civil legal aid have had a particularly serious and disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and marginalized people in the UK, who already experience the most obstacles in accessing justice and effectively claiming their rights. That includes vulnerable children, and also parents trying to resolve family disputes. The report also makes some not exhaustive suggestions for the kind of changes which Amnesty International believes could improve the situation.
I am concerned about ordinary people like myself and others whose access to justice is at risk. I join Amnesty International in respectfully urging the government to conduct an urgent review of the impact of the LASPO cuts on access to justice and protection of human rights, in particular for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Below, you can read the letter I have just fired off to Andrew Jones MP (Harrogate & Knaresborough Conservative Party MP). It seems bizarre that I am having to write about the subject matter - Whaling - in 2016 (nearly 2017).
Greenpeace was founded to help highlight the plight of the whale. That was decades ago. Yet, we are still having to campaign to help protect them.
In the interests of democracy, I will publish the reply at the foot of the post.
Dear Mr Jones,
The matter I am writing to you about is an old matter - yet it is just as pressing today as it was thirty years ago. After thirty years, the global ban on whaling is under threat and I am requesting that you ask George Eustice MP to stick by the Conservative Party’s pre-election promise to oppose commercial whaling.
Over the past three decades, many whale populations have slowly started to recover. But, some countries are seeking to exploit this fact and restart commercial whaling. In your party’s pre-election manifesto, the Conservatives said “We will oppose any resumption of commercial whaling.” Please ask George Eustice to stick by this commitment.
On October 24th members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will be meeting to discuss the future of whale conservation.
For a long time the UK has been a world leader in whale protection - now George Eustice must stick the Conservative’s election promise and reject any threat to the ban on commercial whaling.
It’s also vital that that the UK government support measures for further whale conservation - such as the proposed South Atlantic whale sanctuary. George Eustice must do the ethically sound thing and stick by the party’s pre-election commitment. I hold zero sway in Parliament but you have a seat there, Mr. Jones - please voice the concern of a constituent to Mr. Eustice.
The below is what Harrogate Theatre had to say about H. P. Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains Of Madness” by Icarus Theatre . Me and the good lady wife went along to it as a way of celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary. Five years of happiness. I write about the joy of married life all over my blog, so this post will be a review of the Theatre performance that we witnessed last night.
Desperate. Incensed. Exhausted. William Dyer returns from a cursed expedition to the Antarctic. To protect our world, he keeps deep secrets that he knows the speaking of can only shatter his fragile mind. But as he comes to the realisation that we, the audience, are planning to go further into the penetrating cold than he dared, will his secrets unfold? Will he finally be resigned to speak? Will he share the truth, and give us a terrifying glimpses of the horror of things that should not be?
They even did a video to drum up the capacity crowd that flocked to the Studio Theatre on the night of the 24th to see Icarus Theatre’s production of H. P. Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains Of Madness”.
The studio theatre was was full to capacity and I was clueless as to what to expect. I am no theatre regular - I have never pretended to be. So, what was I doing at the theatre? I was marking an event by treating me and my wife. The theatre is a treat - and one I wish to indulge in more often after the wonders of last night.
What happened in the performance? Well, I was clueless as to what to expect. On a base level it was one man having a conversation with his radio - on an other level it was a masterclass in acting with a thespian who held his audience in the palm of his hand as he conducted a one man play.
RSC actor and RADA faculty Tim Hardy was the sole performer on the night - accompanied by atmospheric lighting and audio props that made for a very atmospheric performance. A performance that will stay with me for a while. The images created were of bleak, compounded fear and an unknowable evil - The delivery of the performance really was first class - the theme of insanity was fleshed out as a group of Antartic explorers faced an unknowable foe.
As stated I am no theatre buff - I treat the theatre as a treat. And we were treated.
We were treated to a show that was true to the H. P. Lovecraft original and made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I experienced frisson during last night.
Roll on January for the next Lovecraft installment at Harrogate Theatre.
Went to a party n ting.
The occasion was the return of the town’s heroes, Andy & Tracey. I was lucky enough to have been invited as part of a small crowd to welcome them home. Andy & Tracey had practically knackered themselves on the 4001 cycle ride across the USA but it was good to see them.
They had both lost a lot of weight and were busy planning the next adventure!
A testimony to the both of them that as soon as they have touched base here in North Yorkshire that they were planning the next adventure. They just can’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
The small gathering was held at Andy F’s house - a lovely house just off Leeds Road in Harrogate. The garden was just the right size. Andy F started brewing a batch of HomeBrew the moment Andy & Tracey left for the states. It was delicious! The IPA was a real success and the the stout was delicious - Andy really has a talent there.
Food was laid on with people bringing Vegan & vegetarian nibbles with them. By the end of the night I had sipped quite a bit and I really enjoyed myself. However, due to an early start (6am) we had to leave a bit earlier than most.
It was really great to see everyone again ….
Given the title of this Blog post, you may start thinking this Blog post is a music review - far from it: I am fortunate enough to be on the mailing list for Liberty’s Newsletter - not the shop, but the Human Rights watch. The below is lifted from their site. You may be wondering why I would be cutting and pasting a newsletter from a Human Rights Watch on my Blog, Ijo Pona - well, it is self explanatory really. It has to be on a person by person basis - I have made the leap to activist; I recommend you do too. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“In May 2016 the Government made a commitment to work with local councils to bring unaccompanied refugee children in Europe to safety in the UK, under an agreement called the “Dubs Scheme”.
Three months on and they have completely failed to deliver on this promise.
Liberty and Help Refugees are campaigning to hold the Government to account and make this pledge a reality, and we need your support.
Demonstrating local support for the Dubs scheme sends a strong message to central Government that the time to act is now — and that councils are keen to play their part. Write to your local Councillors using this link. Ask them to sign up to Liberty’s statement pressuring central Government into honouring their commitment. Statement of Support: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to create a resettlement scheme to bring unaccompanied refugee children in Europe to safety in the UK. We recognise and support the vital role that local councils can and should play in caring for children seeking sanctuary. We urge central government to provide funding to build the essential regional infrastructure necessary to secure the placement and support of children across the country and help us build them a brighter, safer future.” If you are a Councillor and would like to support the statement, please email [email protected]
A full list of councillors who have pledged their support to the statement can be viewed here.
Writing to your local newspaper is a great way of bringing the desperate plight of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to the attention of your community, council and local MP. It will be instrumental in persuading local Councillors to sign up to Liberty and Help Refugees’ Protect Refugee Children campaign. To help you get your message across, here are some tips for writing to your local paper.
Child refugees endure violence and separation from family members; lose access to education, healthcare, the support of their communities and often face bleak and uncertain futures.
As a recent harrowing report from UNICEF revealed, trauma does not end at Europe’s shores. Children seeking sanctuary across the continent face routine exploitation and abuse. Many have already disappeared into the hands of traffickers.
The UK has a long tradition of providing refuge to those escaping persecution and indiscriminate violence.
In May 2016, the Government committed to create a scheme proposed by Lord Dubs - himself a child of the Kindertransport - to bring refugee children stranded in Europe to safety in the UK.
The time for action is now. Local and central government must work together to ensure the Dubs scheme fulfils its potential as a lifeline for some of Europe’s most vulnerable children.
Currently huge question marks remain around funding for the regional infrastructure that will ensure consistent and high quality services across the country.
The whole process of resettlement - from assessment overseas, through placement with individual councils, to accessing essential services — must be rooted in the best interests of the child and adequately resourced.
Together we can hold the Government to account. Offering sanctuary to those fleeing war and terror is one of the most pressing human rights issues in the UK today.
By demonstrating local support for the Dubs scheme we send a strong message that urgent action is needed, and that local councils are keen to play their part.”
Sorry to have rammed it down your throat, but this is a pressing issue - I cannot for the life of me think of the damage inflicted on these young ’uns. Having seen their homes destroyed through Civil War they now spend their days in the Jungle - I must be hell for people. They have no other option but to try and make a bid to reach our country.
I have contacted Councillor Jean Butterfield in the hope that she helps with this. What really surprised me, when I looked at the list of Councillors was that there was someone with my name as a Councillor for Newby!
View the archives