Monthly Archives: October 2017

A Hand Up Not a Hand Out

In 1978, in one of my first steps into the new life that had just opened up for me, I organised a conference in Harrogate on the implications of, what was then known as, the new technology. Among the contributors was Tom Stonier from Bradford University, Tom Burke, then Director of Friends of the Earth, and Andrew McKillop from Hull School of Architecture. Somewhere I, probably, still have the transcript.

Professor Stonier talked about what people would do with the, much increased, leisure time that they would have in the future upon which questions were raised in regard to providing an income for all the people who would no longer have to work for a living. Now, I may have been a little naïve in those days and I suggested that the best way might be to give everyone a basic income whether they worked or not!

If we move on a few years, I then ran a city farm which was built and run by people, myself included, who were on a job creation scheme. If we then move on another few years, I ran another charity which helped people, who were homeless and/or unemployed, to build their own sustainable homes. All of these people delivered the goods and, during that time 16 years in all, I only ever met one person who didn’t want a job. So the idea that people who are on benefits are idle scroungers, not only has never sat well with me but is, largely, proven incorrect in my direct experience.

And my reason for this diatribe today? Well only an article in The Guardian describing the success of the trials of a Universal Basic Income Scheme in Finland. Under this, people are paid £500 per month (less than one fifth of the average wage) with no strings attached. The country’s Social Affairs Minister (described as Finland’s equivalent of Iain Duncan Smith) is quoted as saying that she believes that the country’s citizens really do want to work. Something that echoes my own, admittedly small, experience. It also appears that the scheme is also successful in helping people into gainful employment. Meanwhile back in 19th century England……….

Why I “Don’t Just Support Arsenal”

DSCN0155Yesterday I received a proof copy of my 4th and latest book, “Why Don’t You Just Support Arsenal; the Life and Times of a Spurs Supporter”; although nowadays “sitting in the pub watching the television” might be a more accurate description of my supporter’s status.

The title, for those of you who are interested, came courtesy on my lovely wife who, during those many years when the team weren’t doing as well as they are now, and hearing me extol the, then, virtues of Professor Wenger’s management of our north London rivals, simply raised the, to her, obvious question. Well, it may have taken 22 years but, last season made it all worthwhile, as well as providing the idea for the cover design (again with the help of lovely wife). Which leads me, in my usual rambling fashion, to the point of this blog; apart, that is, of providing me with the chance to advertise the book. It, by the way, includes on the back cover, the quote “Mike is an incredible writer and this book is brilliant. Indeed, it’s a love letter to the beautiful game and, in particular, to Spurs, a team he’s addicted to.” That from an Arsenal supporter!

So, what is that point? Well, it’s the one that I make at my speaking engagements and that is, all you have to do is try; albeit with some intent. You may not succeed but the act of that effort and perseverance will itself change things and, likely, lead you down paths you may never even have envisaged. As it did for me 10 or so years ago when I decided to stop talking about writing a book and actually started the process (with intent). Every time, I found that I needed another cup of tea, that the washing up needed doing, that I needed to hang the washing out or find something else to do, after doing them, I went back to the writing. The result was that I built up a momentum and the books almost wrote themselves. All through the simple act of trying with intent. And, of course, not supporting Arsenal!

The Joys of Reminiscence?

Those of you who follow my wife’s blogs about our weekend walks where we search out those places that are “just off the beaten track” will be aware that, last weekend, we visited Hull. Those who aren’t aware of her website, could do worse than to have a look at what we find in plain sight, usually in broad daylight.

Among the things we found out about one another when we first met, was that we’d both been in Hull at the same time, me at the School of Architecture and Gaynor on her social work placement in the late 1980’s. Well, as part of Hull City of Culture 2017, some of the students of that period decided to organise a series of talks and an exhibition of our work since those heady days. This also, of course, provided the perfect opportunity for a reunion. Hence our trip. Having travelled back to London yesterday, I will be returning to the city to give a talk on Wednesday. For those who are interested, it’s at the new school building at 5.45 pm!

Now, I lived in Harrogate during my student years, traveling to Hull one or two days each week, so I had less chance than Gaynor to sample the delights of the place. The old school, unfortunately, is no longer there but “The Land of Green Ginger” is and it’s still one of the loveliest street names you’ll ever see. So, while I was reminiscing with my peers, Gaynor went out with her camera to photograph the place, something that we continued together on the Sunday morning before we came home. Parts of the town are not as we’d remembered them although the historic buildings and streets are a delight and within a day’s trip from the capital!

Over drinks in the evening, Gaynor discovered that she hadn’t actually lived in Spring Bank as she’d thought but in Hutt Street. How did we discover this? Well some of my compatriots had also lived in the street and remembered the person who owned the house she lived in; also a social worker. That’s why, after we’d left the pub at 11pm, we found ourselves walking the 15 minutes to Hutt Street and The Polar Bear opposite; also fondly remembered by fellow students and Gaynor. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite identify the house and the pub was now a venue for live music with a noise level that wasn’t quite to our liking so we adjourned to the hotel for the night.

My point? Well, apart from celebrating a lovely weekend and the joys of reminiscing, it is to acknowledge the fact that things are often not quite as you remember them!

Take on the Situation not the Torment

Like many other traits in life, worry is, probably, inherent in the human condition. Indeed, in many respects, it is a perfectly natural response to the circumstances that we find ourselves in at any particular time. And there the matter should end. However, for many, worry itself becomes the default mechanism, the usual state of mind. It becomes, in fact, a defining one for an individual’s pattern of behavior, irrespective of events. At which point, it can be as much a determinant of as a response to those events and there lies the rub, as they say. However, should this be something of concern?

Well, as someone who was an inveterate worrier but is now considerably less so, I think it should be. For a start, worrying less frees you up and gives you more emotional space to enjoy life and develop any potential that you have. Whereas worry can be draining and inhibiting. Indeed I read somewhere a few years ago that what can prevent people who are unemployed from moving on is the fear of having too many bills and not enough income; with the certainty that the bills would increase whereas the income wouldn’t. Something I can well relate to from when I was unemployed with two children.

So, how do you do become less of a worrier? Well, in my case, by looking at the issues that caused me to be a worrier in the first place. Issues that were buried so deeply that I hardly knew they existed. Unfortunately, it’s likely that you will need professional help in order to do this. After all, if you already knew the causes, you would already have sorted things out.

Am I, in my usual fashion, analysing too much? Well, maybe, although I think not. What I do know is that I worry much less than I did and, in doing so, live by the title of that song. Then again, I always did like Stevie Nicks!