22 August 2016

Brexit and Independence Day

The Fourth of July is Independence Day in America. The day that America declared freedom from the United Kingdom. Two weeks shy of being 240 years later the United Kingdom began their own Independence Day! 23 June 2016, The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and go it on their own.

Some people panicked after the final vote came in and the people decided to leave the Union. Some wanted to have another vote, saying that “only” 72% of the people voted. That to me, was a very large turnout, when in America, they get excited if there is a 50% turnout. They moaned about not having 60% of the people agreeing to leave. Why that percent? I have no idea. The final vote was 52% to 48%.

Anyway, watching it all unfold makes me wonder how similar was America’s independence. I’m sure many wanted to remain part of Britain, if for no other reason than the comfort of it.

America wanted independence because they had no representation. They had no voice in the rules and the government that ruled them. Britain had representation, yet the people in charge of them weren’t elected, the final say came from bureaucrats, who had no personal say in the lives of their “servants” - British people as well as other people from all the European countries.

While America’s independence came about from war… the United Kingdom’s independence came about through a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. A civilized revolution where the commoners defeated the elite.

From the first day I arrived here I heard on the news and listened to many people talk about the choices. To leave or to remain. The people who wanted to leave were fed up with so many things. Stagnant wages and a loss of sovereignty as well as freedom of movement from any European country. The people who wanted to remain looked at the earnings of stocks and big business.

While both campaigns had solid points to make, as an outsider, I could see and hear that the leave campaign had the determination to make sure they got to the polling station on the 23rd of June. The remain campaign wanted to stay but if they didn’t make it on time to vote than “oh well, everything will be alright.”

After the final vote, the prime minister resigned and the leader of the opposition was put in the middle of his own party’s civil war.

By the end of the year, England will be well on their way to once again having total control over their lives and they will have two new leaders guiding them on this journey.

I love politics and this has been a blast to watch and learn from. Not just how European politics work but also how the democracy of a nation is challenged and when all is said and done, it survives.

At this time of the year and being an American it is difficult not to make comparisons and by doing so I have a better understanding for the founders of America and the many sleepless nights I’m sure they endured.

16 July 2016

Learning a new home

Well, I am closing in on a half a year of living in England. I still feel like a child learning things for the first time. Everything is in full bloom. The trees are alive and well, at least the ones that are on the highways. For some strange reason, trees in many towns are chopped. They reach a certain height, maybe 20 feet and then the branches are cut off. When it first happens it looks like a whole street had some kind of explosion or fire. Just trunks remain. Eventually, little suckers will sprout out of the sides of the bare tree and it will slowly come back to life, yet the tree will no longer reach for the sky. I find it kind of sad, not only are the trees stripped, but homes lose the shade they provided. Trees that were once homes to many types of birds now sit empty.

Speaking of shade, I have now experienced what it is like to live in similar conditions to the land of the midnight sun. England doesn’t have 24 hour a day sun but it has more than I have ever witnessed. It started about the middle of May and will last until the summer equinox on the 20th of June. By 3:30 in the morning, it is starting to get light out. By 4:30, the sun is up and nature is wide awake. On work days, I usually get up about 5:45. Now, I struggle to stay asleep past 5 AM. And at nights? On work nights, I try to hit the sack by 9 PM – well the sun is up past 10 PM. My body don’t know if it is coming or going. My wife came up with a great idea. She mentioned it about a month ago, before all this happened, so I never really thought about it, but now that it is going on, I gave her idea some more thought.

It is to have a second layer of curtains on our bedroom window. Well, not actually a curtain, but something to help make the room darker. So, along with our thick dark brown curtains, we made a temporary curtain out of a heavy blanket. Now, in the morning our room is pitch black. So much so, that last night I stubbed my toe! So, now I’m asking myself what is the less of two evils – waking up at 4 in the morning and not getting back to sleep, or stumbling around in the dark, trying not to bang into things? I think I’ll try and master my stumbling routine!

And one final thought – speaking about work. Last week, I was working with a young man, he was in his late 20s – early 30s. We were having odd conversations while we worked and when we went to break, I went to get a drink and something to snack on, while he went the other way to have a cigarette. Well, after my final break, I went back to work and saw a crowd of people and just outside an ambulance.

This young lad was laid out on the ground. I found out later he had a seizure. Anyway, he ended up going to the hospital and we all found out later he was fine. He came back to work to let everyone know he was OK. The thing that I thought about though was the cost. As an American, whenever we went to see a doctor or go to the hospital, we worried about the cost.

This guy, would have had extra costs with the ambulance and an emergency room visit. Yet, in England? He won’t see a bill, nor will he ever be charged for the services he received that day. It is an amazing system, one which I wish America would adopt. Yes, it has its problems, yet no one has ever gone bankrupt in England over healthcare costs…

15 July 2016

What A Wonderful World

Step Eight of the Adult Children of Alcoholics Group says that we made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
There comes a sense of total freedom when a list is made of the wrongs we have done.  It makes it "real" to see it on a piece of paper.  This list also comes with fear.  It is time to accept responsibility for our actions, it is something we have never done.  Growing up in an addictive dysfunctional home is not a place to nurture positive human behaviours.

With Step Eight, we symbolically strip every layer of dirt that has become us and we can look in the mirror and find acceptance for who we are.

What a Wonderful World

Skies of blue… trees of green
I hear Louie singing… what a wonderful world
people at peace… no games
no stories… no lies… no backstabbing

Imagine this world…
As John sung… living for today
where heaven is earth
and hatred doesn’t exist

Alcohol and drugs aren’t needed
after all it is a pain free life
a world of bare footed people
letting mud slide between their toes

shame doesn’t exist…
we are all children of God
shyness left when clothes disappeared
finally we saw all the beauty… of nature and each other

Katrina was walking on sunshine
and we knew we were all fine
love conquered hate… faith destroyed fear
holding hands… what a wonderful world

07 July 2016

Step Eight of ACOA

Step Eight of ACOA says that we made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Been awhile since we have looked at the Steps of ACOA. With preparing to move, then moving, and finding work, finding time to actually put serious thought into the Steps couldn’t be done. I probably could have written something up, but the writings with the Steps always has had my entire concentration and finally I feel like I can devote time to them once again. So, with that being said, let’s take a look at Step Eight of Adult Children of Alcoholics, which says that we Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

The hard part to accept with this step is that no matter how much I can justify my actions, in the end they were wrong and needed to be corrected. An example. In my childhood mind (teenage years) I would constantly take money from my mum. In reality, it wasn’t taking money – it was stealing money. Anyway, I could justify it. By stealing this money, mum couldn’t go and buy booze. Which kept her sober and kept her from getting beaten by dad. Perfectly logical reasoning right?

The fact is stealing is stealing is stealing, no matter how much I tried to justify it. To me, that was the hard part with being a child of an alcoholic. Everything that is done can be reasoned. Eventually, in his own mind, the child becomes a god. Every action that was taken was done for the betterment of the home. Which leads to a person who can not accept his responsibility for the wrongs he did. He can not be held accountable for his actions because he was right and justified to do everything he did.

Many years ago when I was being a very active drunk, I ran into troubles with the law and with family courts. One time in therapy, we were all present – therapists, myself, wife, and kids – and the subject got around to the behaviour of one of the children. This child quickly got defensive and used a line I used many times “I’m a kid. I’m only a child. It’s OK for me to make mistakes.”

It is true it is OK for a child to make a mistake – in fact, it is true for all of us to make mistakes. Yet, it is not OK to not “own” that mistake. To say, “I did wrong and I’m sorry I did that.”

All children, including children of alcoholics, need to learn from their mistakes. To take ownership of their mistakes and hopefully grow and learn from those mistakes.

16 June 2016

Nature... Our First Love

My first spring in England is starting to come to life. I haven’t been disappointed with the colors, the wildlife, the water, and the temperatures. You still need some heavy blankets at Nighttime as it does get down to freezing. While the days seem quite warm even though it is only about 15 degrees or about 60 Fahrenheit. Along with the way nature has evolved, I also learned a bit of history and the way some trees and bushes are forced to becoming living fences. When a tree is young, it is sliced and part is laid down. It is still attached to the root but now that it is sliced it can only grow along the earth. The branches are weaved together and a beautiful living fence is created. Also watching boats travel on the canals. Very long boats that are very thin. They are homes on the water for many people. The amazing part is watching them enter a lock. Opening one end, the lock fills with water and the boat enters. That end is then closed and the other end is opened. Now the water and the boat leave the lock. Engineering that has kept the canals functional for over a century. I’m already seeing that once the trees turn green it will be very similar to spring in New Jersey… The name of the poem is “Nature Our First Love.” And the music? My creation, entitled “The Morning Dew”

Nature Our First Love

Thinner then a blade of grass
larger then the universe
brighter then any Sunny day
darker then the dead of night

laying in a carpet of green grass
a television of blue skies
sprinkled with white clouds
slowly dancing across the screen

being a part of it all
yet… still on the outside looking in
so peaceful… so serene
so grateful to be part of it all

attention drifts to two geese flying overhead
floating in and out of the clouds
ducks sleep near the water
in another field baby lambs
romp freely on a hillside
mom holds her child’s hand taking it all in

Hawthorne’s make a living fence
to keep things in and to keep others out
a boat… long and thin
cruises along

it enters a lock, floating on top
then down low it goes,
at the bottom the lock opens
new water waiting for a new boat

modern cruising… in an old fashioned way
a walk back in time…
an experience that never grows old

all nature… all gifts from the Creator
given freely for all to experience

15 June 2016

Wonderful Glorious Food!!!

Oh food!!! How I love food and having new experiences with it. And living in England I have experienced and fell in love with loads of new foods and drinks. For me, top of the list of foods is crumpets. Kind of a cross between an English Muffin and a pancake, you pop them in the toaster, spread some butter on them and either microwave or broil a little sliced cheese on top for a flavour that is wonderful. A great breakfast, or a snack, anytime of the day.

Did you notice that I spelled “flavour” with a “u” which is the English way? I’m going to start doing this more often and hopefully regularly, so I can feel right at home… in my new home… England!!!

Anyway, back to food. One thing that all Americans seem to love is bacon. Well guess what? Americans have no idea what real bacon tastes like. Bacon in England has no fat and the taste puts Americans version to shame.

Of course, if you visit England you have to have one of their delicacies – fish and chips! Chips being fries. The thing that makes them so good is not only because they are fried but they are salted and sprinkled with vinegar – malt vinegar. Its taste can’t be beat!

A recent discovery for me is malt loaf. A delicious type of squirmy bread or cake. Spread a little butter on it and yummy, I can eat this all day. Which leads to another odd named treat. Spotted Dick. No, I’m not sick or have been cheating on my wife. Spotted Dick is a dessert that can be comparable to a raisin cake. I’m not exactly sure what is in it but it is good and very filling.

And finally, one other food. Scottish eggs. It is a hard boiled egg that is enclosed in a pork sausage ball… the best way to describe it would be meatloaf with pork instead of beef. You eat it cold. It is a taste that grows on you. What gets me is how something like this is sold in a grocery store. I can’t think of anything like it that can be purchased in an American grocery store. Speaking of eggs, you can also purchase a cold cut with a hard boiled egg cut up in the middle of it. And yes, I tried it and yes I love it.

14 June 2016

It's a quid... not a buck

I’m now truly starting to appreciate and understand the English way of doing things. Through five years of visits I never really had the time or the history to understand why things are done the way they are. Even though Americans and Brits can say they are cousins, they both have entirely different cultures.

Neither one is right or wrong, it is just the way their society has developed. It took me almost two months to quit trying to explain myself. I think the worst thing I did was constantly start my reasoning by saying, “In America, we did this.” No one in England gives a crap how it is done in America. I’m not in America, so how “they” do it doesn’t matter. What is that old saying, “When in Rome...”?

Now that I’m beginning to leave America in the rear view mirror, I am beginning to really feel part of this country. There is a “can do” attitude that nothing is impossible. The work ethic is amazing and what I really have found refreshing is that there isn’t any back stabbing. Management is professional and never talk bad about any other manager and they don’t engage in any type of conversation that is negative in anyway. I’m not used to that.

What has been so refreshing is watching the next generation, youngsters in their 20s and 30s that are hard working and are doing everything in their power to provide for themselves and sometimes for their families as well.

It has also been an awakening to see that companies get more production out of their workers while not working as many hours. The last job I had in America was an eight hour workday, with two 15 minutes breaks and a half-hour lunch. I say an eight hour workday because the day is actually eight and a half hours because of the half-hour lunch.

In England, an eight hour day is an eight hour day. A half-hour lunch and a half-hour break. The way it works is you get a half-hour break every two and a half hours you work and are deducted the half-hour for lunch. So an eight hour day actually involves seven hours of actual work.

Ten hour days, which is what I am now working, means a break at two and a half hours and then a break every two hours after that. All breaks are a half-hour. So my ten hour day is actually just eight and a half hours.

I continue to learn more about England and their way of life, which involves the way they work. The one thing that both countries do is work. Both countries have people that work, to pay bills, to keep the lights on, and to pay a mortgage or rent. The basic things about life are the same. We work for money.

Speaking of money, it has been a challenge for me to get use to a new currency and new words for that currency. The dollar is dead. The pound lives. While both countries have a penny things change quickly. Cents are pence and dollars are pounds. A buck is a quid… and even bucks are a quid. 20 bucks is never 20 quids. Its just 20 quid. And a five dollar bill is a five pound note. There isn’t any one pound note… just coins. And the Brits have a load of coins. There is the penny, then a two pence (2p) which is equal to two pennies. A 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, then a one pound coin and a two pound coin.

Funny story, I recently started a bank account here. One for myself and one as a joint account for my wife and myself. Well, I got through everything just fine until the final transaction. I wanted to transfer money from one account to the other. I looked at the teller and said, “Now I’d like to put 200 dollars into this account.” She looked at me and giggled. I quickly realized what I said and came back with, “Whoops, this American is still learning! I’d like to put 200 pounds into this account.”