Zen

Zen, bought with Bolt and intended as pets for the home and as company for each other.
Thought originally to be a pied cock budgie, but was most probably a spangle hen budgie.
Featured on 2 Christmas cards cos of 2 striking poses – both completely untypical – cos budgies don’t really smile and the practice of hanging upside on a maiden’s clothes line was given up.
Died far too early at just over 2 years, from organ failure.
Hard to attribute personalities to such small animals, but the contrast with her black-eyed albino friend could be striking, and the most striking difference stayed – that Bolt will scarper whilst Zen was more relaxed.
Fond memories.

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David Mellen talks with Nottingham South Labour members

Thanking Labour members from Nottingham South for their campaigning, especially the wins in Castle and Wollaton West ward, David went on to highlight his priorities as the new Leader for Nottingham City.
– A council that does what it says it says it will do; work well with partners and listen;
– deliver the manifesto, especially the top 5 pledges;
– act on knife crime; homelessness; underfunding by government.

“This is not a drill” book launch

Five Leaves Bookshop arranged a launch of the “handbook” written by Extinction Rebellion.
The organisation has a very different feel to traditional political groupings.
Concentred most to compel people to realise there is a climate emergency through a range of actions including direct action.
Now famous for their blocking of transport, the road blockages in Nottingham were very brief.
I had expected such campaigns to generate some hostility, but the public have reacted by saying the climate is now one of their top priorities; something that might have been bolstered by documentaries on BBCtv showing the impact of plastic on the environment.
Having only 3 broad policies, but 10 principles, and a membership requirement that says you have to undergo non-violence training.
Three speakers from London had been organised for the meeting but two were on a train from London that was stopped by a landslide / bank collapse at Corby, triggered by the long spells of rain. (Turns out part of Arnold town centre was flooded too.)

As a veteran of working for progress through party politics, when called to speak, there seemed little point in saying that Extinction Rebellion are wrong, and acknowledging the change in public opinion, more relevant to say to work together where we can in our concern to get faster and more significant action on climate change.
Indeed, Cllr. Sally Longford, our new Deputy Leader, has worked with XR in getting a zero-carbon Nottingham policy adopted at the January full council.

I circulated a 2-pager on the council’s outlook (“cities are good for us”), our recent achievements, a 2006 plan showing how green policies need to be embedded in the planning of the council and our manifesto commitments.
In my speech, I emphasised the radical history of the city council, often led by Fabian & Co-op minded Labour members, had led to opposition to inner-city motorways, realised the bus needed help and introduced bus lanes, tried radical change with zone and collar (which was re-introduced in a different way in 2000), introduced free bus passes for older people and the less mobile, introduced the tram and alone in the northern hemisphere introduced workplace parking levy so that commuters to the larger companies (that can provide alternatives) pay for new facilities and extra services, rather than residents.

Pineapple leather and furniture

NTU degree show 2019.
The annual event is always worth a visit.

A seat made out of processed pineapple heads, and a “vegan” pineapple later cushion (filled with coconut fibre)

One student heard about pineapple leather and then found out that the heads of pineapples, and the skin, can be processed into blocks from which furniture can be made. Or maybe insulation panels.
Material from the nearby pineapple canning factory in Leicester, who otherwise have to pay to have it taken away.

Labour hold Nottingham in European Elections

Labour came first, despite stories from knocking up sessions on the day.
The No Deal Brexit parties’ share of the vote in Nottingham remained the same.
But we struggled to resist the protest vote about Labour not being clearer about wanting another referendum and about supporting Remain.

So support for Out and Out Remain grew the strongest.
I contend that in the main, this was an election whereby Labour supporters of Brexit were going to go Brexit etc., and in Nottingham’s case, I was explaining that Labour’s 1st and 2nd candidates were Remain. I leave it to others to work out what share of the Conservatives voters were Remain.
But this has the potential to show that support for Remain in Nottingham is higher than Leave.  

A Britain Elects summary tweet, by missing out the smaller parties, distorted the result.

Meanwhile, at 6%, this was the worst Conservative performance in Nottingham in their history.

Daily Mirror campaign in Nottingham

A day after Der Spiegel tell of poverty in Nottingham, and of food banks, the Daily Mirror tell their story of poverty in Nottingham, and of groups’ attempts to help people on their finances.
Michael Sheen was on the visit and I was there when he met the Aspley group “Women for Women’s sake”.

“City is a lesson in how to tackle hardship”

The visit was part of the Daily Mirror’s “Fair Credit For All” campaign.

Der Spiegel visit Nottingham to see the poverty

… and they succeed in finding it.
Cos we know, it’s easy to see people asking for money on our streets and we have food banks where people ask for food for free.
And they ask why does such a wealthy country have such need?
And it’s a reasonable question.

(v.l.n.r.) Cleo, Stacy, Kaydn und Kris Thomas auf dem Weg nach Hause von der Foodbank der Bridgeway Hall Methodisten Kirche.

The article is available -in German, but an English translation of part of the article follows, with some words – “Blackboard” and “antechamber” a victim of the translation …

Thomas is 27 years old, he wants to work, he has two children he wants to take care of. He has a right to state support. But in the United Kingdom in 2019, the fifth-richest country in the world according to estimates by the Credit Suisse “Global Wealth Report”, that is no longer enough.
And so Thomas enters the low antechamber of the Bridgeway Hall Methodist Church in Nottingham with an empty sports bag in his hand and sits down at a table with his head bowed. Around him, men in ragged clothes.
“What is the reason for your visit?” Asks a woman in a green apron after she has sat down with Thomas. She is a volunteer on the blackboard in Nottingham, a nonprofit organization that distributes leftover food to those in need for free.
When Thomas looks up to give her his pink certificate of entitlement, a tattoo is visible in his crook: Stacy, the name of his girlfriend. She and her children Cleo and Kaydn, ten and eight years old, are also there. It is they that Thomas worries most about.
He replies, “The Job Center sanctioned us and canceled our money even though we had two job interviews.” The woman in the green apron shakes her head. “This is a nightmare,” she says. “Do not talk at all, otherwise I’ll get upset again.”
Thomas nods and says that it makes his blood boil when he thinks about it. He is no exception. How he cares about millions of Britons. Hunger is rampant on the island. Workers, the unemployed, children – 14 million people in the country are now considered poor, and for more than half of them it is a daily struggle to fill the refrigerator. More than four million children are affected.
Since 2008, the number of tablets has risen from 29 to 2000, hundreds of thousands of people use them. The consequences of malnutrition: students are learning worse, parents are getting sicker, the elderly are dying earlier.
The reason is a decade ago. In 2008, the banks crashed. The British government provided £ 500bn for their rescue, but soon after that, Time magazine headlined: “Faster than it started, the banking crisis is over.” The profits in the financial houses bubbled again, the shares rose. Shortly thereafter, the newly elected conservative-liberal government launched an austerity program and embarked on a reform of social programs. The hunger returned.
The woman in the green apron puts a clipboard to Thomas, he signs and gets several bags, packed with pasta, bread and tomato sauce. A few chocolate eggs she has also housed, for the children at Easter.
Kris and Stacy say thank you and spread the food on your bags to make it easier to carry. They do not have any money for the bus. They walk home for almost an hour.
On the way home Kaydn turns laps on his bike, disappears again and again behind the corners of houses. Stacy’s gaze flickers, she has been struggling with panic attacks for years, busy streets chase her fear. She yells after Kaydn. Kris tries to keep an eye on everyone while telling his story.
School was fine, Kris Thomas planned to study. But when he met Stacy, who was soon pregnant by him and flew out at home, the two had to make their own lives to work. He found a job in the flagship store of a sports store chain and soon became Deputy Store Manager.
But when his little Cleo refused to drink and ended up in intensive care, work was out of the question for him. He found a replacement and left-just as it is, he thought. His boss thought differently: he warned him. Anger seized him, says Thomas. “Right now, I’ve just seen two options: quit or kill my boss.” He quit.
Thomas got a new job in the cafeteria of a big supermarket. But when the fraudulent house of cards of the big banks imploded, Great Britain plunged into recession and the supermarket dismissed staff, he lost him again.
Three times over the next eleven months, Thomas found work again, and three times he was the victim of layoffs, he says. To survive, Stacy and he borrowed money. Then he got a job as a garbage man in the city, turned his back on the lifting, despite the sciatica, despite the pain, went to work every day – and was still fired. Kris and Stacy did not know what else to do.
For people who are stumbling, the welfare state was once built – a safety net that slows down crashes before the very hard impact that prevents life from breaking up. This network, which spanned post-World War II governments across Europe, is considered one of the reasons for decades of stability on the continent and in Britain.
However, with the gradual introduction of universal credit reform in 2012 by the conservative government led by 
David Cameron , life has become more difficult for many concerned, said Nigel Adams, who founded panels in Nottingham. Two of the biggest problems are therefore: If someone loses his job and applies for social benefits, there are no money for the first few weeks, and if he stays away from an appointment, the money is cut.
Kris and Stacy had also got Kaydn by now. In the beginning relatives helped, but soon the kitchen shelves were emptying. Kris told Stacy to just give the remaining food to the children. “I did not eat anything myself,” he says. Three days long. On the fourth, in a parking lot, he was black in the face, then he knocked unconscious on the asphalt. A blackboard helped.
Nigel Adams knows what hunger can do to people, he knows hundreds of stories similar to those of Kris Thomas. In the long run hungry people lose their hope. Unfortunately, many people plunged into depression, stopped paying attention to themselves and their homes, eventually stopped paying rent and ended up on the street, at worst in the drug scene. Especially young men are at risk.
Adams knows that because he, too, made a momentous decision in 2008. A few years earlier, he had started at a construction company, was promoted steadily and eventually had thirty people under him. But as the owners began to pressure employees to make higher profits in less time, he quit – also because he wanted to serve the Church since his youth, not from any pulpit but down the street, in the middle the people who needed help.
He organized a small soup kitchen and blackboard in Nottingham. Initially, only the same ten homeless alcoholics came to him, Adams says. But with the takeover of the Conservatives in 2010, something had slipped. The Tories had changed the basic idea of the social system, replaced solidarity with mistrust. They no longer wanted to support and promote the poor, but to demand and, if necessary, to punish – as if the people were thieves who were dying of society.
The government handed over the so-called social fund to the municipalities. However, they were soon overwhelmed and sent people increasingly to Adams. It is the cycle that experts repeatedly criticize: the boards jump in, the state withdraws from its responsibility.
Adams now operates fourteen boards in Nottingham alone. Last year, according to his own statement, he distributed 14,000 food parcels, a thousand more than the year before, in which it had already been a thousand more than in 2016. Nationwide, it was the plates of the largest provider Trussell Trust alone more than 1.6 million food rations for three days. Kris Thomas realizes that he and his family can get away with a ration for a week.
Tim Lang, a professor at the University of London, is researching poverty and hunger in the UK. He founded the Center for Food Policy, wrote 18 books and more than a hundred scientific studies. He says when he started in 1981, the situation in his country was better. What happens today reminds him of medieval conditions, not only because of the church feedings, but above all because poor people die on average seven years earlier than rich, and they are 17 years more ill in their lifespan.
This gap between the life expectancy of the poor and the rich is the result of conservative politics. And for ten years, this gap is growing. This is a disaster for Tim Lang. Kris and Stacy fight with her every day.
Under the universal credit program, Kris Thomas’s family did not receive any money for the first five weeks. They bridged the time with a loan, then missed a job center appointment that they knew nothing about because he was communicated online, but they lack the money for Internet. The job center gave them 40 percent of the support.
The family got 480 pounds for food, electricity and rent this month, Thomas says. The poverty threshold of the British Social Metrics Commission for a family with two children is 353 pounds per week, around 1400 pounds a month. Without a blackboard [CHECK], the family would have no chance.
For a long time they hid their situation from the children until it became so obvious that even a teacher from Kaydn approached Kris Thomas and asked if she could buy shoes for the boy.
Working and caring for his family was Thomas’s pride. He no longer has work, and now he also eats the feeling that he is failing to care for him. “I’m afraid I can not protect my children,” he says. Especially the eight-year-old Kaydn.
The boy has difficulties at school. He envy the other children’s clothes and toys, recently he started to steal. Thomas sees his son take a path at the end of jail and death. He has seen this many times, in his personal environment and in his neighborhood.
Philip Alston is United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty. Every year, he selects only two countries that he visits. Last year he spent two weeks traveling the UK talking to social workers, teachers and women who are prostituting from their misery. In 
his final report, he warns about where the current course is going, borrowing the words of British philosopher Thomas Hobbes. He wrote about life in a society without a functioning social contract: “Human life is lonely, poor, disgusting, animal and short.”There, Alston says, there would have been alternatives after the banking crash in 2008: Britain could have invested in their own country instead of saving. Alston thinks it’s like a huge laboratory test, so relentlessly were the austerity measures pushed through. And as in the laboratory, the cause and effect of this million-fold human experiment can be observed very closely.
The impoverishment fuels the further rise of the extreme right. Because that’s where people would turn if they see no other options, says Alston.
Even Kris Thomas does not trust a politician for a long time, does not go to any election. He’s not a racist, he says, but the foreigners get too much money and that’s why he’s in favor of 
Brexit . Indeed, publications suggest that poverty and inequality could have been an important factor in the Brexit referendum.
Men like Thomas could become the big losers of Brexit.
The drop in British pound sterling following the resignation referendum has already increased the cost of living for poor people by £ 400 annually, according to Philip Alston. Car companies such as Ford, Nissan and Jaguar also want to shift their production due to the Brexit uncertainties in part to other countries.