The Essential Thai Holiday Guide

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Obviously I frequent strange and exotic places. It comes with the territory. Not everybody has dangled their feet in the foaming waters of the Clogger Beck, or watched the tide scour the bank away at Plumpton. But there you are. Some of us have it and some of us don’t.

Still, I was walking home and there, in the middle of nowhere, lying at the edge of the road, where the tarmac meets the grass verge, was ‘The Essential Thai Holiday Guide.’ I confess to being a little bemused. Round here people throw many things out of their cars. McDonald’s drinks cups, Kentucky Fried Chicken packs, pizza cases, pregnant cats, garden waste, builders rubble, and in one case, a full three piece suite just dumped in our lane.

Note when I say dumped in our lane, I mean exactly that. The lane is the width of a car and somebody had opened the back, dragged the three piece suite out and just left it, abandoned, blocking the road.

But this is the first holiday guide that I remember. Indeed I fell to pondering on the matter. Had somebody travelled here with their holiday guide, and finally realised that they weren’t in Thailand and hurled the guide out of the car window in frustration?
It’s an easy mistake to make; Barrow in Furness has so many things in common with Thailand, beautiful beaches, gloriously hot summers, lady-boy bars and beautiful, slim and exotic women. We even have boats pulled up on the beaches!

But why do you carry a guide to Thailand in your car? And why do you just finally sling it out of the window into the road?

And now it lies there, a parable in dead tree form. A metaphor for life, it initially held out almost infinite promise. But slowly and surely battered by life, the inexorable decay brought on by pounding wheels and driving rain it has moved slowly and surely from glorious dream to paper-mache road kill.

The fate of the small publisher.

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The problem with the revolution in publishing is that many more people can become publishers, but should they?

 

The question that we have to ask is what can small publishers offer? We now have the technology that allows any author to produce an e-book and sell it through Amazon. With a little more technical know-how this can be extended to the rest of the electronic formats. With only slightly more know-how the author can organise print on demand and sell their own paperbacks.

So what is the publisher for?

Firstly some authors do want handholding through these technical bits so there is still a job to do there, but it is now very much a subsidiary one. Production also includes such things as editing, proof reading and providing covers. These services can be very expensive if done properly. It is a matter of some contention whether these costs should be carried by writer or publisher.

The second and most important job is selling the book. This involves such things as organising publicity, getting word out there, getting it in shops and in front of the reader.

There are two problems with this; one is that in the world as we know it, in all candour, nobody really knows the infallible route to success. (This includes Amazon and the big name publishing houses who are as in the dark as the rest of us.) Indeed, for all the endless stream of websites offering to pimp your book for you, it’s probably still true that word of mouth is the best seller. The other problem for the publisher is that in spite of what the author might hope, most publishers realise that the author has to do a lot of the work. The best the publisher can probably do is guide them so that they do the work in the areas where they get the best return on their efforts, and also perhaps open doors so the author can strut and fret their hour upon the stage to new and more influential audiences.

The downside of this is that all this costs money. You cannot publish a book for free and it’s probable that ninety percent of books most small publishers publish will lose them money.
Hence the small publisher is really somebody with a proper job that pays the rent, (and subsidises the business.) Some people do up old houses as a way of reducing themselves to exhausted penury, but running a small publishing business will probably achieve the same effect for less physical effort.

Obviously there is the hope that the small publisher will discover a writer whose sales put the company back in the black and help fund all those hopefuls who haven’t yet made it. This appears to be one of the popular ‘business models.’ I use the phrase ‘business model’ because it’s a little more flattering than the more accurate ‘delusion.’ The main problem with the model is the successful writer. No sooner do they become successful and prove they can sell books than a bigger company comes along, offers them money, and whisks them away from you. The small publisher is effectively left with the writers none of the bigger companies want.

 

Is there any way round this?

Specialist nonfiction might be a way forward. You’ve got a product which is easier to market, and the target audience is better known.

Another option would be to build on top of an existing enterprise. Somebody who has been successfully publishing roleplaying games could be able to sell fiction relevant to the games to the buyers of the games. Again, you’re selling to a target market who you know. Games Workshop with their associated ‘Black Library’ is perhaps one of the most successful versions of this.

 

There are probably other successful business models out there. But what you must remember is that whilst writing books can be anything from an art form to a type of therapy, publishing them has to be a business, because if the bills cannot be paid, the publisher cannot exist.

A short trip to Strasbourg

EU parliament buildings

Must be well over twenty years ago now, might be twenty-five. I was sitting in a meeting (well actually I was probably chairing it, which is how I stayed awake) when one committee member suggested we have a trip to Strasbourg to the European Parliament.

There wasn’t a lot of interest until he explained it would be expenses paid. At this point we all perked up. He was a member of one of our three main political parties, and explained that the EU had a fund which paid out for EU citizens to visit the EU parliament. He pointed out that in our constituency (as in all the others he knew about) the three parties tended to ensure that they send a fair number of their members on this jamboree every year. He’d been twice.

So he contacted the appropriate EU office, sorted the paperwork and a bus load of us, members of a farmers’ training group with no political affiliation whatsoever, went on a jaunt. Actually I didn’t go, my lady wife gets horribly travel sick on buses and somebody had to stay at home to milk, so I sent my parents instead. Luxury coach from South Cumbria to Strasbourg and back, three nights in decent hotels, and when they arrived at the Parliament building they got their expenses paid to them in cash. It was a fixed rate and I think that by the time they got home, their trip had cost them about a tenner apiece; the EU had picked up the rest of the bill.

 

Now it seems other member states used this scheme a lot. Many used the EU money to ensure that every school child got to visit the European Parliament and have everything explained to them. They felt it helped make them feel part of the European Community. In this country it seemed to be largely hogged as a perk for party members.

Now I don’t know whether the EU still funds this stuff, but it did strike me that if our MPs want to think of reasons why the people of much of England and Wales felt that they got nothing out of the EU, that it was remote and meant nothing to them, then a fair proportion of the blame for that falls at their own door.

 

The belief that dare not speak its name?

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It’s an old story, a very old story. Who rules? The Greek city states were torn by strife between the Aristocracy (a term which comes from the Greek, aristokratía. Aristos means “excellent,” and kratos translates as “power”) the rule of the Excellent, and Democracy, which again is from Greek, demokratia, or “rule by the demos or common people”.

 

And then I read this blog http://quillette.com/2016/07/08/remain-vs-leave-elite-technocracy-vs-liberal-democracy/ where he discusses Elite Technocracy versus Liberal Democracy.

 

Both sides have good antecedents. The democrats can look back to Cleisthenes, Pericles, Locke and the English Whigs. Their stance is the citizen is central and the state must govern with the consent of the citizen. Without consent there is tyranny and the right of rebellion.

The aristocrats, or in more modern terms the technocratic elite follow Plato, Thomas Hobbes and Georg Hegel. These stress the authority and wisdom of those in government as the only ones who really understand what is going on and are the only ones equipped to make the decisions about the future.

 

In Greece the conflict between the two ideologies led to strife within the state between the competing groups. As always it is more complicated than a simple ‘class’ war because the leaders of the demos were often men drawn from the same wealthy class which provided the aristocracy. Personal feuds and factions complicated and intensified the battle.

Obviously personal feuds and factions are unlikely to have a part in our modern politics, doubtless the dispute between Boris Johnson and Michael Gove was over the deepest philosophical conjectures. Similarly within the Labour Party, the current bickering between Jeremy and virtually everybody else has nothing to do with the fact that his MPs see little chance of re-election with him at the helm and again is a nuanced dispute over high political principles.

 

The last couple of weeks have thrown the fault lines into high relief.  We have those for whom the will of the demos, the common people is sovereign. (Even when they disagree with it.)  We have others who believe that some people are just too stupid, or too ill-educated to be allowed to decide matters of any importance. I’ve seen suggestions that persons over a certain age should not be allowed to vote, or that there be IQ tests before people are allowed to vote. (Or in extreme cases restricting the franchise to nice people like us who live within the M25)

 

The Greeks had many faults, but one they don’t seem to have suffered from was political correctness. They were perfectly happy to give something the label it deserved. I think we would start seeing things far more clearly if we were to do that. Let the believers in the rule of a technocratic elite proudly stand for their principles, let them boast of them, let them flaunt them in the market place of public opinion. “The man from Whitehall knows best, trust us to look after you.”

 

Or we could try democracy. The problem with democracy is that it’s difficult. It demands a lot of hard work from both the leaders and the led. Leaders really have to make a constant effort to keep in touch with people, not merely to know what hoi polloi are thinking and saying, but also to educate them and explain. Leadership is a two way process, where both sides listen and are changed.

And for the led, democracy cannot work alongside the cult of celebrity and a culture which emphases me, me, me. It also works best when you have a population that have been educated, not abandoned in sink estates and sink schools.

Getting Hacked off

rich and poor

I don’t watch telly any more. At least that way I don’t see the faces of the sanctimonious as they tell us what’s good for us and how we should behave.

But believe it or not, I’m worried about this country and the way it’s going. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing and is becoming entrenched.

 

For example we have people with job security, index linked pensions and the right to retire at sixty, writing rules to tell people with nothing who’ve turned up late to an interview that they’re sanctioned and aren’t going to get anything to live on for the next two weeks.

Now this isn’t the work of tory scum, this is the work of the state, of people who frankly don’t care and have no compassion and who are as likely to vote Libdem, UKIP or Labour as they are Tory.

Why these people do this is beyond me. The same hole in the ground beckons, whether they’re a modestly respectable junior civil servant or a drunk on the street. The modest respectability might keep you out of the hole for another ten or fifteen years, but it’s still waiting for you.

What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

 

And then I was listening to somebody talk. They were talking about helping refugees settle in this country. When the possibility of the refugees being housed in a certain area was raised, the answer was an immediate ‘No’; because frankly the area wasn’t fit for people to live in. This I can understand. If you have people whose lives have been shattered, then you need somewhere for them to live where they can feel secure. In which case why were they using the same area to dump our poor? After all if it’s not fit for people to make their homes in, it’s not fit, full stop!

 

I was listening to somebody else talking about how government was making things difficult for a particular group of migrants. The rules were always changing; decisions taken were arbitrary and made no obvious sense. The person telling me was shocked. I had to gently explain to them that this is how government always treats the poor, but as a bright middle class person it wasn’t what she was used to. The migrants were being treated like lower class natives of the country.

 

I’ve talked to all sorts of people, and we have, at the bottom of the heap a lot of people who have chaotic lives. Some of them have mental illness, diagnosed or undiagnosed. Some of them are not particularly bright; some of them have other issues. They cannot cope with complicated systems. In reality they never could and they never will. I know men in middle age who know they will never be more than semi-skilled.

 

So what’s needed? A big injection of money? More Mental Health workers? Better education?
Well all of them might help a bit, but I’m old enough and cynical enough to know that’s not going to happen. There might be a token scheme in London.

 

What we really need is simple, it’s compassion. And that’s the tricky thing to organise isn’t it. We talk about our ‘caring services.’ No, we don’t have caring services; we have ‘administrative provision.’ The bureaucracy, the system doesn’t care. Only individual people care, take the time to ensure that justice is done rather than merely following the rules.

So we need more people with compassion. Tough call that one.

 

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

 

 

The road from the Bigoted Woman stops here.

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You cannot say that our chattering classes were not warned. The bigoted woman put a shot across Gordon Brown’s bows, but he ignored it. To be fair some of his MPs did take her points on board and made big strides in combating various unpleasant rightwing parties.

 

But the problem is that our politicians have got more and more out of touch. Whether it’s because so few of them ever do proper jobs, or spend much time working alongside ordinary people I don’t know.

There were tactical mistakes made. Trying to use ‘project fear’ into frightening the English and Welsh into obedience was always likely to backfire. People aren’t stupid. They can work out that when the IMF says that if the UK should leave the EU the continent would collapse into darkness and end up sinking into the sea, whilst at the same time the PM says that we’re so irrelevant we’d struggle to get the same deal as Norway; one or both of them has to be wrong, and possibly lying.

But there are other mistakes, more serious mistakes. Large parts of England and Wales feel they’ve been abandoned. A ‘remain’ supporter told me this morning that those who voted to leave wouldn’t get what they were hoping for. That’s when it struck me; a lot of these people don’t actually have any hope.

Stuck in towns where there are few decent jobs left, educated in ‘bog standard’ comprehensives, advised to go to university because “You might as well, you’ll never get a job that earns you enough to pay back your student loan.”

I know too many young people who are stuck in dead end jobs with no real hope of improving their lot.

The marginalised, the ignored, those who’ve been contemptuously dismissed, they’ve voted. Sometimes for the first time; people in their fifties registered specially to get their voices heard.

 

It was G. K. Chesterton who wrote

 

We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,

Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.

It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,

Our wrath come after Russia’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.

It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest

God’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.

But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.

Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

 

Well are you happy?

Two faces

For years we’ve had increasing personal attacks on politicians, made by other politicians. No blow has been too low. We’ve seen it all, allegations of child abuse with no evidence to back them up, accusations that this party or that party would destroy the health service or the armed forces or the police or whatever

There’s an old Yiddish proverb. Throw enough mud and you get your hands dirty.

So now we have a situation where nobody trusts politicians because politicians told us that they couldn’t be trusted.

Bet you never saw that one coming did you!

 

Have you ever heard Sayre’s law? It states that “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.” By way of corollary, it adds: “That is why academic politics are so bitter.”

 

Perhaps those screaming abuse at the ‘other lot’ merely do it to try and hide the emptiness within?

 

And now we have the two faces of British politics. An MP murdered and a millionaire throwing his money about to ensure a politician he disapproves of cannot get to make his point.

Hey there are politicians I disapprove off. But unfortunately I’ve not got the money to harass them. I’m only a citizen. All I can do is listen to the debate and then cast my vote.

That’s a course of advice I would recommend to others.

Perhaps if the political pygmies, who prance, preen and oversee the steady decline in our country thought more, spoke less, remembered the basics of courtesy and perhaps studied a little history, this country might be a better place.

 

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