Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I very much enjoyed this book. It opens with Elizabeth Gilbert lying on her bathroom floor in her New York apartment in despair about her marriage. She appears to have everything: a successful writing career, a Manhattan apartment, a country house and a supportive husband. She is deeply unhappy. After a messy and stressful divorce she starts a voyage of self discovery by taking a year off to travel. She begins in Italy where she eats and drinks to excess and meets a lovely Italian family.Eating is the first part of healing herself as she leaves her skinny New York figure behind. Then she travels to India to stay in an ashram. This was my favourite part of the book. At first Elizabeth finds meditation really challenging but she masters the art and has an amazing metaphysical experience. Finally she travels to Bali and learns wisdom from a traditional medicine man. Here she learns about balance and learns to combine the different aspects of her personality. She falls in love with a handsome older Brazilian man so there is even the fairy tale happy ending.

I felt a kinship with Elizabeth though she is a much richer, prettier and more confident version of me. The book is a breeze to read and often very funny. I loved how candid she is about how she feels and sitting here in cynical Britain it was refreshing to read someone talking about their personal search for God so candidly. There are no new truths here as everything can be found in spiritual texts already of course but this take on it was great fun aswell as enlightening.

I found the book quite inspirational. Maybe I’ll be taking a spiritual trip sometime soon.


Corbyn, the media and me

I am one of the people who joined the Labour Party after they lost the election. I am one of the people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election. I am one of the people who considered joining the Greens instead. I am told by the media that this demographic is young and lives in London. I am not young. I don’t live in London. Yet I still voted for Jeremy Corbyn.

I am not certain about him. I don’t know if he has got what it takes to be Prime Minister but I am still backing him. David Cameron doesn’t have what it takes and he’s been in post for what seems like forever. I want change. I want something different. There has to be a better way than the way we have been going.

What has opened my eyes is the way the media have been spinning the Labour leadership election. They regarded Corbyn as a joke candidate. They treated him as they would Nigel Farage. He won in spite of them. The media seem to be in bed with the elite whether they are on the right of the Labour Party or in the Conservatives. What are they afraid of? Do they fear losing their cushy lifestyles? Even the Guardian didn’t back Corbyn. One thing I do now know. The media are not telling you the truth. They are working to an agenda. Even the BBC is right of centre though it is supposed to be impartial. Just look at the twitter feeds of their journalists. With the honourable exception of Jon Snow, Paul Mason and Alex Thomson they have been smearing him right left and centre. The execrable Sarah Smith of BBC Scotland, in a rare political tweet, offered us the insight that Corbyn went to a private school and was the only candidate to have done so. This smear is in fact false. It was a grammar school with a boarding facility. Pupils only paid for the boarding which Corbyn did not. So we know the Left have no hope with the Murdoch owned press but the BBC are also biased. They seem happy with people such as Tristram Hunt and the Tories but not the “hard left” as Corbyn is now described. In fact he is not hard left. He is a centrist. It’s just that British politics has swung so far to the right with everyone and their dog agreeing with the neo-conservative agenda that nobody knows what left wing politics looks like any more.

I read from the Scottish journalist, Stephen Daisley, another ill-informed idiot, that the election of Corbyn would mean a return to the winter of discontent with rubbish piling up in the street and the dead unburied. Daisley is younger than me. I cannot remember the winter of discontent as I was a small child at the time. Daisley cannot remember the winter of discontent because he was not even born. So how does he have the cheek to write such rubbish?

I do remember the seventies. Maybe bad things happened. I remember a lot of good things though like free school milk, everyone’s parents having a job, even in the north of England and a cosy sense of community long since gone. Maybe this was a result of socialist values. Maybe it wasn’t.

People need to wake up and realise that they are being spun a web of lies. There are different ways of doing things and different ways of looking at the world. People should be in politics because they believe in something, not just for their lucrative career options. Journalists should be in journalism because they have a thirst for the truth, not because they like eating out with their cronies at Heston Blumenthal’s.

Corbyn is not perfect but he is like a cool breeze blowing through the fetid halls of Parliament and the fuggy newsrooms.

Wake up Britain.
The glorious day could still come.
Freedom for Tooting! and for everywhere else.

Refugees and Migrants – Thoughts

It’s been an interesting week. I have watched the thousands of people walking into Europe. I have been horrified like everyone else by the body of the Syrian boy on the beach, washed up dead after trying to get to Greece in a rubber boat. It has cheered the heart to see so many Europeans welcome the refugees into their countries. Angela Merkel welcomed everyone to Germany. It all seemed wonderful.

But the cracks are starting to show as they are wont to do. Germany has now closed its borders due to the sheer numbers. Hungary seems to have a hard time coping with the numbers crossing its territories. There has been film of brutality here; guards tossing bread into crowds of imprisoned refugees. I have not seen such footage since the World at War.

I am not sure what I think. The view of the liberal Left seems to be that we should accept everyone out of a humanitarian impulse to help. This is so laudable and I am beguiled by it. Europe is welcoming everyone with open arms into its golden lands. I hope they are right and that it will work.

Part of me worries. We have seen far right attacks on refugee shelters in Germany. There have been anti-immigration marches in Poland and other states. Not everyone wants the refugees.

We are told they are needed to help the economy. Indeed from the journalist interviews many Syrian refugees seem well educated and keen to work. I have seen electrical engineers and teachers trying to reach Germany and Britain. They will fill our skill shortages and contribute. Everything will be fine.

However, doubts still nag with me. I read in the paper that most of the refugees will be housed in towns in the north like Rochdale. I know Rochdale. There is no work, not for electrical engineers and not for teachers, not really for anybody. In Britain the economy seems skewed towards London and the south-east. This is where all the jobs are but it is not where the government plan to house the refugees. This does not make sense. I lived for many years in the north of England. Life is hard. Housing is cheap but jobs are scarce. The working class population will be competing with the refugees for the same dwindling services. You can see how this can go. No matter. It does not affect the chattering classes of metropolitan London so everything is still all right.

There are more worries nagging at me. I have been touched by the plight of women and children in Lebanon as reported by Alex Thomson of Channel 4 news. They are living in derelict flats or tents with no running water and little money. Their children are working at night in agriculture and going to school during the day. It is horrific. These people need help. I wish we could airlift them to Britain to safety. Why can’t we? These people have gone as far as they can go into the neighbouring country. They can’t afford to go any further. It seems to me these are the people we are helping first.

Those arriving in Europe seem to be predominantly male though not entirely so. They are well educated, well fed and well dressed. They contrast with those left behind in Lebanon. Are these people refugees? The Left say yes. They are all refugees. Those calling them economic migrants have been vilified. Some of them openly admit they have dodged the draft. Of course middle class people can still be refugees. But still… why not stay in Syria and try to save your country from disintegration if you a young, strong male? I don’t know.

Some Eastern European nations have stated they only want Christian refugees. Here is another source of unease. There is fear of the Islamification of Europe, of Christianity losing out, of traditional culture dying, even of a European caliphate ISIS style. As a faint hearted Christian I can sort of see where they are coming from. Such ideas are met with the charge of racism. We must welcome everyone say the Left.

I have no answers. Only questions.

Even Germany is now doubting it can take everyone in who want to come. So what is the answer?

It seems logical to try to make the place they are coming from a place they want to stay rather than leave. In order to achieve this the war would have to end. It has been going on for four years. In his blog, Alex Thomson, never one to shy away from the difficult questions, suggests supporting Putin’s boots on the ground to prop up Assad, push back ISIS and the other rebels and therefore achieve some kind of peace. This will be met with disbelief in many circles. I think it has legs though. The US seems to have no will to fight, Britain incapable of fighting as is the rest of Europe. Assad is an evil dictator you say. Yes but what is happening now is worse.

I still don’t know. I have written this blog to try to clarify my thoughts. They remain confused. I align myself on the Left but not unthinkingly so. We cannot welcome the whole world into Europe however nice that might sound. We cannot let our anti-racist beliefs blind us to the problems within extreme forms of Islam. We cannot ignore our own homeless, destitute and jobless. Yet we can reach out in this wonderful way to help those in need. I still don’t know.