Talking in my last post about 'coming out' to the music of Carole King brought up some memories of what happened after I admitted to myself that I was gay.....
I began some tentative research, being rather naïve to say the least as to what 'being gay' actually involved on a practical level. I'd seen all the stereotypes of course but somehow I didn't think I'd fit comfortably into the costumes worn by the Village People, either physically or metaphorically.
I'd grown up in a less than conventional family, more about which some other time, but nevertheless I had become, through my environment, what in the trade is called 'straight acting'. So nobody would necessarily expect from seeing me that I was gay. Of course, delve just a little deeper and my love of Abba, Hinge and Bracket and female torch singers might have given my secret away.... but for thirty odd years my taste for camp music and drag acts had not betrayed me. However, here I was, coming out fast and not knowing quite what to do.
I soon felt like a character of two halves. I was leading a double life which was a real juggling act - daytime acting the straight role and night time playing a different part, drinking in gay bars and exploring the often seedy night-life – but gradually, as I came to terms with my identity, I found myself more of a one dimensional being.
Until I remembered, I do have a second identity - I'm Jewish.
Targeted by missionaries...
My Judaism was something I had returned to recently, though it had never gone away just retreated to the background while I sorted myself out.
But before I had fully started to acknowledge my true identity and travel the new road I found myself on, Christian missionaries had swooped in on me. They perceived me to be an easy target as I wandered around, appearing for all the world, to be a lost soul. A nightmare followed as they proceeded to use all the manipulative tactics they knew to force me to 'befriend Jesus' and 'save myself', though from what exactly I was saving myself I never did find out. The bizarre experience proved to be a turning point in my life eventually but not the one they had in mind for me. While they raised their hands to the sky, praising and beholding as they went, I watched nonplussed at their odd ways and less than honest attempts at 'conversion'. That's all a tale for another day but suffice it to say that I extricated myself from their hold and ran back to Judaism without turning back.
And finally I began to fully embrace who I truly am.
So it was that I found myself Jewish and gay, 'twice blessed' some call it, though at the time it didn't necessarily feel like a blessing, more like another complication in an already confusing life.
A Friendly Stranger...
I turned to a website called Gayjews. The title said all I needed to know. They had a picture on their rudimentary website of a friendly looking Jewish granny who promised to find someone nice for me. I took the plunge, it was free after all. I signed up, though I was very careful to close the curtains before I logged on, lest some peeping tom see me through the window. I was still, after all, living in an area where being an undercover gay was probably safest.
Trawling through the profiles, I was disappointed to see that nearly everyone on there was in North America, not many in the UK. There were about three people in Manchester - without photos - and a couple more in London. But that was okay with me, I didn't want my first online communication to be too close to home.
I spotted a photo that made me stop. The man in the picture seemed friendly, he looked trustworthy somehow. He was in Atlanta, USA. Not ideal for an easy commute I know, but before I knew it I had pressed the button and sent a 'wave'. Gulp. I switched off the computer and went back to my 'real' life. But it wasn't long before I logged back on and read this man's profile in a little more detail. He sounded open and decent. So I dropped him a short note, explaining my situation. Naturally that ended up rather a longer note than I had intended but it was good therapy for me if nothing else.
And that's how I began to correspond with a man who was to help me take my first steps into my new life. His name, well let's call him T. He was pivotal in changing my life for the better.
On a plane to New York City...
This was never going to be a romance, but it was a learning experience for me. He proved to be a best friend just when I needed one but it couldn't have happened had I not got on a plane to New York, a rash decision that I made on the spur of the moment and never ever regretted.
Most gay men will tell you that they have been prone at some point to being reckless, most of us have found ourselves in a 'nothing to lose' situation, where almost any risk is worth taking because it couldn't be worse than where we found ourselves at that point in our life. So I got on the plane and crossed the Atlantic to meet a stranger in a hotel. I had made an equally snappy decision in our choice of hotel, T had entrusted the booking of the accommodation to me and I'd found it somewhere online....cheap.
I had chatted with T for some time prior to this, we had spoken on the phone and we clicked, made each other laugh and knew instinctively that we could well be friends. But strangers sharing a room in a New York hotel, never having met before, smacked potentially of a plot for a comedy farce at best or a murder mystery at worst. I mean the Gayjews website didn't guarantee that the profiles were genuine, you just had to trust instinct.
T arranged to meet me at the hotel in New York. He had lived in the city for four years in an earlier incarnation, while studying, so he knew his way around. He had also been 'out' since the age of eighteen so was the best part of twenty years ahead of me in being openly gay.
The very few people who knew about my plan were worried to say the least. It seemed more than likely that this stranger would turn out to be an axe murderer. And as I got off the plane in New York I suddenly had the same feeling. I later discovered that T did too but we both still turned up at the Hotel Malibu on Broadway as planned. Reckless.
Staying at a homeless hostel....
Now Broadway is a long thoroughfare it turns out, and far from being in the heart of theatre-land as I had imagined, this accommodation was miles out in a somewhat seedy area, but in for a penny..... so, as I had arrived at our rendezvous first, I checked in.
I later learnt that according to local reports, the Malibu was a shelter for homeless adults with AIDS and had, according to locals, become something of a centre for drug dealers and prostitutes. That was not hard to believe......
Meeting T for the first time was strange. We were both slightly uncomfortable to find ourselves here, what had seemed so right on the phone across thousands of miles suddenly turned into something more awkward and uncertain. But we decided to go with the flow and so began a friendship that has stood the test of time.
The Malibu 'Hotel' was a real dive, filthy communal bathrooms, dubious beds, fungus growing from the carpets and an atmosphere that was straight out of a gritty movie where it was easy to imagine the illicit goings-on in the corridors and even worse goings-on in the bedrooms. But it certainly made for an adventure. Each time we returned to the hotel our belongings had been moved to a different room. And on each occasion the room was worse until we felt like it might be safer on the streets.
Breakfast at Tiffany's - and the adventure really begins.....
However, T was a marvellous tour guide and educator. Over the next few days, we experienced the best that New York City had to offer. We travelled the subways, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, saw La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway, strolled though Central Park where I imagined being Charity Hope Valentine in my own version of Sweet Charity, my favourite musical. The bittersweet story fitted my life at the time and in Central Park I recalled scenes from the movie as I followed in the footsteps of Shirley Maclaine. We ate at Second Street Deli and even had Breakfast at Tiffany's, or at least wandered in there all Audrey Hepburn-like at breakfast time much to the obvious distaste of the immaculate staff. We stood under the clock at the Waldorf Astoria, the famous rendezvous point from the movies and then T took me to Greenwich Village. This was legendary in the gay world, the site of the Stonewall Inn where gay rights were born and where a real vibe buzzed on the streets. We ate excellent cake at one of the many trendy coffee shops there.
One day over breakfast T asked me a question. It was one of those questions that came from out of the blue and carried with it a profound realisation. He looked at me and asked, “do you think you would have been a good father?” I had often wondered what my life would have been like if I'd been straight, settled down with a nice woman and followed the whole family route. “Yes” I answered, “I think I would have made a great Dad”. He didn't even look up from his breakfast and just said to me “tough”.
Soon it was time for T to leave. He had to go home but I had a few days left before my flight back to the UK. We said farewell, arranged to phone on my return home and then he went. I waved him off on a bus and that was the last time I saw him.
I returned to the Hotel Malibu. My booking here had ended and I wasn't sure where I'd wind up until my flight home in three days time. I laughed to myself, there was always Central Park, that couldn't be worse. As I was making my decision whether to leave or take my chances at the Malibu, I discovered that T had paid for me to stay on, but this time in one of the Malibu's rare ensuite rooms, for the next three days. Compared to the other rooms, this turned out to be a luxury, not only was it quite clean, there was even a private, albeit basic, toilet and shower. T's generous gesture in paying for this room confirmed to me that I had, by some unknown hand of fate, met a gentleman and quite possibly a real life angel.
And during those next three days, I wandered New York a new man, I returned to Greenwich Village on my own and I began to find my feet, confidence bolstered and ready to go back home to England and begin the journey of the rest of my life....
It's been nearly a year since one of the biggest moments in my life.
In July 2016, I went with my partner to watch Carole King performing live in Hyde Park, London.
It wasn't just that I'd been a fan, no a super-fan, of Carole since Lord knows when, probably my early teens if not earlier, or that her words and music resonate with me on the very deepest level. It wasn't even that I was here with my partner when for many many years the very thought of having someone like that in my life seemed to be beyond the remotest possibility. It was the fact that for those few hours in Hyde Park with 65,000 other super-fans, I was experiencing the very essence of contentment. Finding quiet contemplation in a crowd of 65,000 people would seem impossible and yet, here each one of us was inwardly connecting with our spirit through music and outwardly sharing a wave of joy, laden with melancholic poignancy, singing along at the top of our voices, remembering how it was when we first heard the music and realising that we were still alive, lucky and blessed to be hearing the music still.
Carole King was now 74 years old and her voice perhaps a little more fragile than back in the day, but age is irrelevant. This was about being here with the woman who spoke to us through the years, who reassured us through her words and caressed us with her melodies. It was about comfort. Because it reminded us how lucky we were to be here at all, after the journey we each had made.
As she sang her way through Tapestry, her iconic 1971 album, we were all transported back to a time when life felt more simple. When we could imagine a world down the line where the sun might shine every day. A place, where to quote Carole's own words... “Way Over Yonder......trouble's gonna lose me, worry leave me behind”.
But, although time softens the memories, it was always a struggle.
I don't know if I've ever told anyone this but I first 'came out' as a gay man on Carole King's own website.... several years ago, when the internet was in its early days and there was a forum for Carole's fans. I decided that there may be some sympathetic, perhaps like-minded souls there and yet I could also remain more or less anonymous.
In the world in which I lived, where I felt that others were judging me constantly, I was terrified to admit, even to myself, that I was gay. And yet years earlier, one of Carole's own songs had encouraged me to acknowledge this part of me even if I wasn't to admit it fully for some considerable time. The song In The Name Of Love advised me to “..do the things you believe in, in the name of love – and know that you aren't alone, we all have doubts and fears”. That remains one of my favourite songs because it helped shape who I am.
Indeed, in 1986, I wrote a play based on the lyrics, a muddled tale about a closeted gay married man whose wife discovered his secret. The naïve play wasn't going anywhere but in retrospect I can see that it was my unconscious admission to myself about who I was - or who I might become. Or maybe even a conscious admission....
After I had handed the script of my play over to a theatre in Liverpool which had shown an interest, I became consumed with doubt and anxiety. I was terrified that my secret might come out. On some level I wanted it to but at the same time I was utterly petrified. And I returned to the theatre, retrieved my script and tore it up into little pieces. I withdrew to a dark place deep inside myself and there I remained for the next few years, afraid and lonely.
But anyway, after the dawn of the internet, on the Carole King website forum I felt safer. I ventured a modest post admitting that Carole's music was helping me to come out. I didn't expect a response, it was an exercise in gaining personal confidence in my identity. However I received many messages of support, some kind strangers were even congratulating me on being gay. This was a revelation for me and I realised that actually the whole world was not against me, there were others out there like me, we had found the same path through Carole's music and they were willing to encourage and share.
Now, in 2016, the concert in Hyde Park was in some ways a distillation of the journey for me. I hesitate to call it the culmination, as that might imply the journey is over and it isn't, though the biggest part of it surely is.
But here I was, standing with my partner at my side, in a park in London, listening to a woman who helped shape my life, singing from the heart for me - and thousands of others who no doubt each had their own tale to tell. With truth and openness, this woman really had provided the soundtrack to my life.
As Carole sat alone at the piano and sang Will You Love Me Tomorrow, my emotions welled up and spilled over, and the memories of years of uncertainty, pain and real heartache made me cry, tears for the young man I was back then, the man who was struggling to find out who he was, but also tears of pure joy, celebrating the man I am today. And all that had happened in between.
And as I looked around me, on that fair summer's evening while the sun set in shades of orange and red over the horizon, and as Carole sang words from her heart to mine, I saw that 65,000 other people were crying too.
“..do the things you believe in, in the name of love – and know that you aren't alone, we all have doubts and fears”.
It's probably the best advice I have ever had.
Following my post about vegetarianism last week, I was interested to hear from several good people, all offering encouragement should I decide to take the plunge and ditch the meat.
Although as I write this I am preparing a veggie meal for this evening, when it comes to eliminating meat from my diet completely, well I'm not there yet ... but it has got me thinking - not just about where my meat comes from and the way it's reared but also about meat alternatives. The world meat market is worth billions of dollars each year - an unfathomable number of animals are killed for our plates - so are we not, as ethical consumers, morally bound to explore the way in which our meat is produced and perhaps find more compassionate alternatives?
Recently I saw some horrific footage taken inside abattoirs, it was heartbreaking and awful. Nobody with an ounce of compassion could fail to be moved by seeing the images of animals suffering to satisfy the demand of the public for cheap, plentiful meat.
But it's not a simple as that I suppose; as much as we would agree that animals should not be treated in this way, there will for the time being be a huge market for meat and meat products.
Personally, although I am trying to cut down on meat with some success, it is not an easy task to overturn a lifetime's habit; much like smoking, we tend to develop a taste for meat, and then a craving for it. It could be called an addiction.
But what are the alternatives for those who find it difficult to remove meat completely from their diet while they struggle with their conscience?
Soya products can be made to resemble burgers and sausages and there are various savouries made from grains and mushroomy ingredients. All of these are widely available but frankly remain unattractive alternatives to many carnivores. They can be tasty, are often nutritious and filling and rarely can even pass for real meat – but if we are honest they are never going to satisfy the craving of the most obstinate carnivore.
But, there's one particular development that on the face of it appears to offer a possible option for those who care about the animals but perhaps haven't yet got the willpower to give up meat entirely.
Several companies are now working on 'growing' real meat from single cells of tissue in a controlled environment, a process that could completely eliminate the need to rear and slaughter animals. Known as cultured meat, it is biologically identical to the meat that we eat, is non GMO and amazingly contains no animal products apart from the original cells used to start the culture.
Meat without harming a single animal? Surely that's a great prospect.
Not only that but the meat produced is basically exactly the same product as the meat we buy at the supermarket.
Incredibly, because of the method used in it's manufacture, the meat might even be acceptable to those vegetarians and vegans for whom the main objection to meat is the cruelty of intensive animal farming.
One company, Supermeat, based in Israel is asking for private funding to continue its research, they state on their website:-
“One of the purposes of our company is to make cultured meat products without ongoing animal use. We have a unique technology to make that happen, without the use of serum and other animal ingredients”
Another company, this time in the USA, Memphis Meats, has developed beef, chicken and duck meat using cell cultures, without harming a single animal.
I know, this just sounds too good to be true... so what are the drawbacks?
Well for now there is an issue with the cost because due to the small scale of research and production, currently the cost to produce this lab meat is quite high, although it is falling rapidly.
The team at Memphis Meats expects to continue reducing production costs dramatically, with a target launch of its products to consumers as soon as 2021.
It may take a huge leap of faith for some of us to embrace this innovative approach to meat production but personally I feel it must be worthy of consideration.
The world is not going to stop eating meat any time soon and the increasing demand means that animal welfare standards are bound to fall even further as pressure is put on farmers and abattoirs by consumers to drive costs down. This means unthinkable distress for animals and I find that entirely unacceptable.
For the sake of the animals we should look at every alternative and this 'lab meat' to my mind is a possible solution.
The environmental benefits that might arise from this alternative to intensive farming cannot be underestimated either. Research suggests that producing 'lab meat' would result in 45% less energy, 99% less land use and 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than current meat production methods.
The Dutch government has been spending large amounts of money funding research into cultured meat production. I feel it is the duty of every civilised nation in the world to follow their lead.
For those who can bear to look (and I think all of us who are meat eaters should), there is a video from PETA following this post where Sir Paul McCartney voices his concerns about intensive animal farming.
For anyone interested in companies and organisations developing and researching cultured meat, the following web sites may be of interest:-
Just to cement my dissociation from politics which I've had up to here (points to top of head), I've decided not to engage in any political discussion with anyone, on or off Facebook or anywhere else, and I'm moving on to what are most likely much more important topics.
People roll their eyes when you mention the word 'vegetarian' and even more should you say 'vegan', it's a built-in prejudice that may be left over from the 70's when it was a short-lived fashion to embrace one or the other, become a bit of a contrived eccentric, stop eating meat, start eating pulses, join a commune (very popular back then) and wear tie-dye smocks. That's not a parody, it's just what happened. If you don't remember it then ask someone who was around back then.
Now, although attitudes have been slow to adjust, more and more people are engaging in the vegetarian movement and for some really good reasons that don't necessarily involve sandals and lentils.
Firstly, there is much more around now to cater for this way of life, supermarket shelves bulge with veggie foods and restaurant menus offer tempting fare for non meat eaters. Given the appalling conditions in which our meat is produced, anyone with any conscience should probably refrain from eating meat, there's no excuse not to.
But.... basically we (and by 'we' I mean 'me') like to eat meat, it's a habit that is difficult to break. I've seen some of the awful treatment of intensively farmed animals, the waste and the cruelty. I am well aware that these conditions will not improve while there is demand for the product. I realise that by calling the end product 'a product' in itself makes it more palatable and less of what it really is - a life created and terminated to satisfy the human craving for meat. Imagining the animal as a product removes any compassion we need have as humans for the welfare of the animal. And thereby lies the problem.
I struggle with how I would adapt to my concept of vegetarianism but I struggle just as much with the fact that I am part of the demand for cheap meat. I am part of the problem.
Growing up in the countryside, I used to visit a local farm every morning to see the calves and get a glass of 'fresh from the cow' milk. I 'adopted' one calf and called it Patch. I'd visit him every day and we quickly formed a bond. Then one morning I arrived at the farm to see him on the back of a truck, ready to be driven off to the abattoir, along with all the others. Nobody can ever tell me that he did not know where he was going. There was fear in his eyes.
I number within my extended family (and circle of friends) a percentage of vegetarians and vegans and I admire greatly their discipline. I don't necessarily know their reasons for choosing their lifestyle but I imagine that an opposition to animal cruelty will figure in many of their choices.
In our household we have started to make at least one day each week meat-free. It's not difficult and it's not expensive. It's even quite tasty, given the many options that every supermarket now offers both in raw ingredients and ready made meals. Perhaps one day soon we will make it two days a week, or maybe more. But the eternal conundrum still returns, I like to eat meat. And I don't know how to stop liking it even though I know I'd feel much better about myself if I did take the plunge and become vegetarian.
Perhaps the biggest influence on me regarding this question will be my literary hero Isaac Bashevis Singer, a loyal vegetarian and an all-round very good man.
I think this quote from him perfectly sums up the reason (if one really should need one) to give up meat. For the sake of the animals.
To Mr Singer there was nothing more important in life than kindness. Who would not agree with that?
“We find very few people who have never thought that killing animals is actually murder, founded on the premise that might is right . . . I will call it the eternal question: What gives man the right to kill an animal often torture it, so that he can fill his belly with its flesh. We know now, as we have always known instinctively, that animals can suffer as much as human beings. their emotions and their sensitivity are often stronger than those of a human being. Various philosophers and religious leaders tried to convince their disciples and followers that animals are nothing more than machines without a soul, without feelings. However, anyone who has ever lived with an animal be it a dog, a bird or even a mouse - knows that this theory is a brazen lie, invented to justify cruelty.” Extracts from Singer's foreword to 'Vegetarianism, a Way of Life, by Dudley Giehl'
Recently I have found myself becoming a little too pre-occupied in thinking about what I want rather than what I have.
Ambition is a doubled edged sword, most people see it as a positive force, some even as essential in life.
However, generally I shy away from allowing ambition to drive me. It is a tough master and all too often leads to disappointment and a lack of fulfilment. That's my belief. So I try to be happy with what I have and move forward slowly, instinctively.
It was Thomas Otway in the 17th century who wrote: Ambition is a lust that is never quenched, but grows more inflamed and madder by enjoyment.
It remains true today I feel.
This little poem was born of some thoughts I have had about the future and what I want from it, more importantly what I need from it – which it turns out is little more than what I already have.
On The Road To Ambition
“Tell me”, said the bird, “what it is you treasure,
what things bring you pleasure
when you stop and look around...?
Is it all of nature or just the things you see?
If what makes you sets you free,
then what gifts may you have found?”
Puzzled by the riddle from the funny little bird
I examined every word
and I saw where I was bound
And I realised that the folly of my way was clear to see
that my ignorance brought me
to a place without a sound.
Not a bird was singing nor a whisper from a tree
and the silence troubled me, this could not be holy ground.
And just in time I saw that the path was going nowhere,
that I had no need to go there
and I did not care for greed.
So I stopped and thanked the bird and returned to where I started.
Ambition has departed.
I have everything I need.
© Jason Endfield 2017, all rights reserved.
I wrote this on the bus today, I must have been feeling slightly melancholic for a change 😉
For there were days when no-one came,
when all her thoughts were of the past,
She'd sit and dream and wouldn't blame
the ones whose friendship didn't last.
To her it seemed that given time
the deepest wounds would always heal,
the clouds would part, the sun would shine
and cast aside the pain she'd feel.
And if by chance someone would call
to see if she was doing well,
she'd smile and chat, pretend that all
was good and they could never tell
that she was lonely, missed the days
when she could do what she would do,
she smiled again but wished that only
time might pass to see her through.
The day would come, the door would open
out on to another place,
but until then she knew she'd cope and
wear a smile upon her face.
© Jason Endfield 2017, all rights reserved.
I'm so utterly fed up with politics now, it seems to be nothing more than the ultimate silly joke. Prior to the election, I admit I was caught up in the tide of propaganda that masqueraded as manifestos and promises and I watched some of the interviews and speeches designed to inspire the electorate.
But I very quickly woke up and found myself in cynical land again, a place I feel rather comfortable actually.
When one reaches a certain age, I think the world in some ways becomes much clearer. For sure the older I get the less I know about the important things in life – the really big questions still have no answers. But I also find that I have long ago lost the exhuberant youthful desire to change the world and the belief that the young have that they can actually effect those changes and make the world a better place. I think it is entirely possible for the youth to bring about change – but it certainly has nothing to do with politics and especially not with those ageing politicians who appear to think they know the answers and have the right to impose their ideas on others. The truth is they don't believe they have answers but they do have a desire to make others believe in them. Proper ego stuff.
So, while I was angry at the attempts by the politicians to influence the young voters with their promises of an idealistic 'equal society for all', I am acutely aware that their empty words mean nothing. Anybody can promise anything, it's easy. If you read to the end of this blog post then there will be world peace and an end to social injustice. See, it's easy to make a promise but nobody with any wits about them would believe it.
And so it is with politics in these rather strange times, when the sheepy electorate will vote for the person who says all the things that the sheep wants to hear. It's nonsense - and nonsense leads to more nonsense. Vote for nonsense!
And here we are in the afternath of another ridiculous election with some nasty people on all sides (some more than others it has to be said), where it doesn't matter what the vile politician has said and done on their road to an election, as long as they now say what the sheep want to hear.
It doesn't matter if it's the US, the UK or Outer Mongolia, the mentality of the general public seems to be that of followers.
I am not a sheep. I like sheep actually, they are gentle, docile animals, a little too trusting perhaps. But I am not one. More and more I feel like an onlooker, watching the sheepy chaos ensue.
So from this place I can see that the masses are ignoring what is really important. It's not about politics or money or this or that. It's about the fact that we have lost touch completely with the world we live in, the planet, the earth. Now I sound like a new age hippy – but I do believe that we have all lost that connection to much much bigger things, you know like life, love and the universe.
We need to reconnect with the bigger picture in order to regain perspective.
From the city and indeed most of the country here, it is not possible to look up and see the stars, the night sky is smothered in harsh orange light reflected from the urban sprawl. I am lucky enough to remember growing up in a time where the night sky was filled with thousands of stars, it made me feel small and insignificant and also very very content to know that it was never ending. It was perspective.
In those days I could see the horizon, the big skies and the sea. There was constant motion, a sense of something eternal and everlasting. A sense that all was well in the bigger world.
Now that the world is blighted by man, little things like politics become foremost in the minds of people who have either lost sight of the bigger picture or have sadly never even seen it.
What hope? Who knows.
All I do know is that the thought of opting out is ever more appealing. Living off grid, out of sight and away from human sheep is quite probably my ideal.
When I was at school, I so hated the regimented authority of it all that I decided at age thirteen to opt out of the system, I walked out of the school gates and for the next two or three years, I spent much of my days wandering the streets or sitting in the park. I read books, wrote poetry and songs and I observed the world around me. Eventually the school didn't even miss me. And I certainly didn't miss the school. To this day I don't regret that decision, it was right for me. I am not a sheep.
So to get back to the beginning of this piece, politics now leaves me cold, the politicians leave me even colder. And I despair at the people around me who seem to think that politics is all that matters. It really really doesn't. What really matters is the bigger world, the bigger picture - for without that there is nothing left.
No politics, no society. Not even sheep.
I wrote this poem, which could also be lyrics I think, in a stream of consciousness.
Stars Beyond The Stars
Many of them said to me
"we cannot see the stars beyond the stars,
we'll never know which destiny is ours,
unless we fly
beyond the sky."
They laughed at me and tried to make me feel
as though the dreams and hopes I had were never real.
Their shallow view however left me cold
and so I sought to see just how life might unfold.
I found that those who dream will never really die
unless they cannot dare to find the will to try
to reach that everlasting world beyond the sky.
To understand that shifting sand
reveals a truth, and every possibility
reflects the universe and all that's real in me.
And every butterfly and bird and every tree
already reaches for the sky for they are free
and they can see
that there are stars beyond the stars
and that the destiny is ours
and we will be whatever we decide to be.
© Jason Endfield 2017. All rights reserved.
In my piece about wind turbines, I proffered an opinion that I didn't care for them based primarily on their appearance and the fact that they really do detract from our beautiful landscapes and seascapes, for me that is unquestionable.
This, in addition to the suggestion that apparently they are not in fact very efficient.
The response I received to this blog post was of a magnitude that I could never have imagined.
In the days following the publication of my post, it was viewed around 3000 times and I was inundated with messages and comments from people on both sides of the debate, all of whom had extremely strong opinions, often based on their own personal experiences of living close to these turbines.
I have tried to remain open minded to both sides in this contentious matter, those in favour of the turbines who promote their 'green' and sustainable merits – and those against them who raised some very worrying statistics about the machines.
While I remained very willing to hear about the wind machines' good points, I am afraid that the pro-turbine people have generally been the ones who have shouted the loudest, said that they 'love' the wind turbines for no particular reason and generally come up with some rather thin arguments when confronted with objections from the anti-turbine lobby; statements like “cars kill more birds than turbines” and “I'd have one in my garden if I could” really don't impress me much. Not only do they miss the point but they appear to be very flippant in the context of such a potentially serious problem.
I will not be swayed by political bias either. I have noticed that many contributors to the anti-turbine debate, which has been taking place on both facebook (where my blog post was shared) and on my blog itself, are affiliated to political movements and parties whose line seems to be to oppose the turbines at all costs. I am fully aware of this and remain wary of allowing politics to influence my own thoughts and opinions. While I also know that political involvement is a major way to bring about change, I feel that some people might have other agendas and might be piggybacking on the genuine concern that many people have about the ethics, safety and efficiency of wind farms and their very real worry about the continued expansion.
However, after weighing up each and every argument for and against, I stand by my instinctive dislike of the wind turbines. That is not to say that I am necessarily against the technology on a small scale, I have seen many successful small turbines attached to dwellings that are far removed from the national grid – these work, are not a blot on the landscape and provide a modest amount of back up energy when required. They can take up less space than a lamppost and are a different animal altogether from the giant turbines.
So I have decided to try to summarise some of the key points that I have learnt here after collating opinions from the many people who have contacted me.
Wind turbines are most certainly NOT green. It's a common misconception because they are marketed as such.
In fact the manufacture and installation of many turbines actively results in contamination to natural environments both here and overseas. This is in part due to the fact that minerals known collectively as 'rare earth' are used in the production of many turbines (as well as mobile phones, electric cars and other technological goods).
Many of the factories that process these minerals are in Mongolia and China. It is desperately worrying that where once there were green fields and lakes teeming with life, there are now toxic wastelands and vast ponds filled with poisons and radioactive materials, by-products of the manufacturing processes.
Closer to home, the installation of the turbines themselves presents challenges, large amounts of concrete and steel out at sea being just one of the drawbacks in constructing the turbine fields .
The real and direct threat to wildlife must not be underestimated. Significant numbers of birds and bats are killed by turbines every day of the week, many of them rare and endangered species which cannot survive any dip in their numbers. Some of these species are protected by law and yet no action is taken to ensure that they are safe. No action practically can be taken while the turbines exist.... while an individual purposefully harming a protected bird would be prosecuted, the logistics of taking companies to court over the mass killing of the same creatures means that it is unlikely to happen.
There is also some evidence that marine mammals are being affected by the turbines.
In less than one month last year, no less than 29 Sperm Whales were stranded and died on English, German and Dutch beaches....in an area with the highest concentration of wind turbines. While there is much debate over the cause of the whales' deaths, there is also evidence that the acoustic pollution from wind farms can interfere with whale communication and navigation.
I have heard directly from people with experience of living in the shadow of land based wind farms too. Some have become desperately distressed by both the noise and the intrusion on the landscape. Many are fighting to protect areas of natural beauty in their communities which are threatened by new banks of turbines.
And the turbines are getting bigger.
There are many suggestions for turbine design that might have less impact both on wildlife and the environment – but are they in production? Or will they be any time soon?
I don't know the answer to this. Perhaps someone in the know can enlighten me.
Meanwhile large coastal installations are proudly being sold to communities as being both environmentally friendly and an efficient source of energy – two points that I have learnt are very contentious indeed.
So, all in all, I remain totally unconvinced as to the merits of the things. Reading the many many comments and messages I have received since writing the post, I can say that there are a huge number of folks out there who are very worried, angry and distressed over the plans for continued expansion of wind farms around the world. Protest groups abound but they are fighting big business, government subsidies and local planning authorities who may have less than honourable motives for granting permission to blot our landscapes and seascapes further.
So my feelings have not changed. I remain open to hearing intelligent discussion about the issue.
Please, if you do comment, be polite and refrain from insults. Following my earlier post, there were some very strong views expressed but I will remove any comments which might be deemed inappropriately aggressive on either side of the argument.
Please be kind and constructive.
I consider myself an environmentalist, I'm at the very least environmentally aware and vocal in my support of conservation and the protection of open spaces and particularly public access to such spaces. In a world where no piece of vacant land seems to be out of the grasp of developers whether it is 'protected' or not, I try my best to write about and support efforts to conserve what is left untouched.
And of course all of this empathy with the natural world encompasses the need to factor in the responsible production of energy and other essential services.
Is it just me or are those wind turbines (in spite of their purported benefits) a horrible blot on our landscape? Not just landscapes in fact but also and especially seascapes which are forever ruined by banks of huge ugly wind turbines. Many wonderful views have been entirely spoiled forever, they are the places where one could look out to sea and imagine infinite space, find time to think and be at one with one's thoughts in nature.
I for one don't buy into the assertion that these windmills are efficient producers of energy especially given just how much priceless space they take up. Whole hillsides are covered in the things and some of my favourite stretches of coastline are now dominated by these sinister looking edifices. One report into the efficacy of these so called 'wind farms' (as if the term 'farm' makes them sound more wholesome) concluded that UK wind farms top 80 per cent of their potential output for less than a week every year and that wind turbines are only able to produce 90 per cent or more of their potential power output for a tiny 17 hours a year. So they appear to be a wholly inefficient waste of space. I'd dearly love for someone to provide some figures proving otherwise....but it seems unlikely to happen.
We recently left our 'green' energy company because they incessantly told us that our energy was coming mostly from these wind farms and that they were investing heavily in this (inefficient) system, like it was the best thing ever. What about the alternatives?
Call me cynical but one wonders if someone somewhere is making a fortune out of manufacturing and installing wind farms throughout our precious countryside and coast whether they are in fact ecologically sound or not.
I'm not Einstein but surely if we are to doggedly pursue this less than efficient means of producing power (and the one thing in its favour is that the wind does at least produce some free energy that we can harness) then would it not make more sense for very small windmills to be fitted to domestic dwellings (next to the satellite dish perhaps) and for solar panels to replace traditional roof tiles where possible, thereby benefiting the householder with free or subsidised electricity and/or feeding it into the national grid...?
That and hydro power of course which just seems like an obvious choice for an island nation surrounded by water.
Meanwhile I hold my breath and close my eyes when we take a trip into our favourite parts of the countryside lest I find they have desecrated my cherished places with these monstrosities – they seem to be encroaching fast but it is still just possible to find wide horizons and open vistas for now. My hope is that those who seek solace in these places will be able to do so for generations to come without the ugly intrusion of wind farms.
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