One Hundred Years of Solitude

For New Year’s Eve I attended a dinner party in Stockholm. I donned a new suit, (from the H&M boxing day sale) and not to sound too immodest looked particularly handsome. Whilst we had coffee and dessert conversation turned to books. I mentioned my recent obsession with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his most highly regarded novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. Only one other person at the table had read the book but she immediately replied, “it’s rare that a book lives up to the hype”. This review (by the most esteemed reader Lina) is exceptionally accurate.

Initially I had bought the text from a second hand book store for £1 and was apprehensive about opening it. There were other books I bought that day I wanted to read first and One Hundred Years of Solitude filtered its way to the bottom of the pile. This was a mistake. I should have devoured Marquez’s words fresh upon purchase because it quickly became the most captivating story I read in 2016.

In 1982 Marquez was correctly awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In the directions of Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament, writers may be awarded the prize for producing, “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. It seems verbose to describe my favourite book of the year with Nobel’s words but Marquez managed to do just that. He weaved a story unbound by the normal passage of time and follows a whole family, with their interweaving life and relationships, over the span of a century. So much detail is compacted into a small space. It’s an achievement to fully explore the history of the whole family through the generations. A testament to the number of characters and various relations is the family tree that is printed in my edition.

Not only does the book cover an expanse of characters but manages to do so simultaneously. The chapters are long because whole family’s life is explored at the same time in a fluid manner. There’s no stopping to focus on a particular person for a chapter, despite how pivotal the drama is. This creates a different approach to the passing a time and saves excessive leaps in chronology to catch up on people’s lives, allowing for fuller characters. If you add to this the magical nature of the story, the remote location family reside and the tone of isolation, you’re quickly immersed into the lives of the clan.

The tragedies of the household and rare their joys are easily felt. It swiftly became a book I couldn’t stop reading on the commute, at lunch and before falling asleep. Unfortunately, disaster struck one lunch time after I returned the book to my bag along with an unopened bottle of cola. As I returned my bag to the storeroom, before sitting at the desk, I noticed it felt damp. The liquid had exploded over the book when I had less than twenty pages left. The paper was soaked and no radiator was working for a quick rescue. I started working under the sways of melancholy; the train home was in mourning with nothing to read.

I managed to rescue the text on the bathroom radiator. I paced the tiles all night hoping the words would be legible. Eventually I awoke, slumped against the bathroom sink. The book pages struggled to be separated but the words were fine. In fact, the book smells better than before. The heat curled and splayed the pages into a fan as large as the story they hold. It’s now the most beautiful book on the shelf and possibly the best story as well.


Swedish Language Lessons

I first went to Stockholm in March 2017 and haven’t stopped going back. I now have my first frequent flyer card. It’s shiny, silver and says SAS Eurobonus. After so many flights to the capital I started feeling like a part time resident. I took to Duolingo and decided to try  attempting to learn the language again. But it is hard. Stupidly hard to learn Swedish. Here are my main to obstacles:

Firstly, the accent is unique. When I try to talk Swedish my tongue does an uneven waltz between Russian and Welsh. It’s a complicated sound with unique syllables and accented words making it hard to replicate for none natives. Even once you’re past the embarrassment of speaking like an alien and talk to a Swede they look at you with either horror or excitement. The frightened people express fear because your sound is so poor that the words are misrepresented and it’s better to “Tack”, thumbs up and walk away. On the other hand, those who are happy to talk are enthused because you’re so blatantly English you may as well wear a mask of Elizabeth II and carry a teapot. Their eagerness quickly overshadows yours because they desire to practice their English. After all, the country is full of Swedish speakers and you can always work on your words with somebody else.

The second reason I find Swedish particularly challenging is the word endings. More specifically the different approach to the indefinite article,  definite article and plurals. When you learn a new Swedish word you also have to learn the grammatical rules which differ from word to word. The indefinite article is fairly simple. It’s usually placed at the front of the word as “en” or another variant. Plurals and the definite article are located at the end of the word. For example:

Child- Barn

A Child- En Barn

The Child- Barnet

The Children- Barneten.

Before you know who the parent of the child is and breach into possessive suffixes there’s already two attachments to remember. I don’t doubt this is something that I will adapt to with practice. Eventually, I expect this issues to become second nature but for now I’ll just have to hit Duolingo harder.

Journeying into Copy-writing

In September of last year I was asked by a friend to proofread and edit their tender for work. I did a good job apparently. So much so that he suggested I start doing it freelance and charging for it. At the time I’d applied for many editing, proofreading and copy-writing jobs. Only one interview came out of it and I was quickly rejected. His suggestion of doing it independently seemed appealing because it would bolster the little working experience I had. Hopefully the freelancing would be more appealing to employers.

I set about building a website through another online website which somehow creates other websites. It’s still a little perplexing that can be done- it seems like matryoshka dolls but for the internet. However, I gave the site a try and have had a page since September. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the response I would. Perhaps this is because the website still needs a polish; maybe I need to be bolder in my advertising- I shall work on both. Speaking of bolder advertising…here’s the link:



Poetry Reading

It’s an odd thing to confess you write poems. You hide them away in books, in old shoe boxes and under the bed. They’re treated like a large spot on the end of your nose. You walk with your head to the ground hoping nobody notices, or worse wants to take a good look. It’s a hard thing to let someone else read your poems because it makes you feel vulnerable. When you’re writing nonfiction it appears in your head as if you’re conversing a subject with another person: you’re just explaining what you think about the topic. But a poem doesn’t form at you fingers in the same way. It’s more automatic than the talking stroll of sentence. In truth, it feels more sensitive and there’s no guarantee the reader will understand it, let alone think it’s good.

I have been writing poems for a few years. They always stay in word documents, notebooks and on scraps of paper. Rarely I’ll share them with a trusted friend. However, in December I was brave (through much encouragement) and stood in front of over ten people and read five of my poems. Apparently, this is referred to as doing a set. Standing before so many people, reading what is normally clandestine was terrifying. The recording will show the shakes of my bones and at the time I was too caught up in the fear to enjoy the experience. Strangely, as soon as I’d finished and the adrenaline had ebbed away, I wanted to do it again. Only the second time I wanted to do it better, the way I’d practiced in front of the mirror. I now know that reading in front of others isn’t just exposing- it’s freeing as well.

That night there wasn’t chance for another try and I only had one other poem prepared. The other acts took the stage. There were a few guitar players/singers, other poets and a girl with a ukulele. They all were brave and brilliant, showing their talents for a good cause. The aim of the evening was to raise money and awareness for a mental health charity named CALM.(campaign against living miserably). Their focus is prevention of male suicide, a cause which initially confused me until I learned that 3 out of 4 suicides are male. The organisers of the event (at the Nexus Art Cafe in Manchester) are an art collective called Datura who produce original plays and are starting their first film later in the year.

I’m grateful to have people who challenge me and I’m inspired that there’s people reaching out to those who most need it. I hope to engage in such an important event again and next time I’ll aim to slow my words and shake less throughout the set.

The poem I didn’t read that night:


In the beginning there was the word

lighting on tongue of Gods

but when it first cracked out his human skull

I misheard it as “hello”:

His eyes that saw Pangaea split, continents drift

apart on sheets of ocean foam,

Lost warmth when I turned the body over

into frost soft pillows of snow.

I pulled the spear from his sleeping head

thanked a God for battle well won

with lines that ran my face in blood

praying conflict, never war.

With one last breath of wind or luck

the dreamer shook out a jigsaw of bone,

I sat among the red, rearranging the hieroglyphs

until his mantra formed:

“Cool down the spear,

heat up the pot and

with open ears

pass my message on.”

Today I feel like Leslie Knope

I have just posted the following letter to my county council because the street lamps near my house are dreadful and always turn off. Plus that alley is super creepy.


Dear Sir or Madam,


I am writing to inform you that the street lamps in the wooded alley -between Gillibrand Primary School and the nursing home on Gillibrand north- are inadequate. Currently the majority of the lamps are functioning but as the cliche states one bad apple spoils the bunch. There are a few lamps, closest to the nursing home side of the path, with defective sensors. The issue is that the lamps remain at full luminosity until you’re within eight feet of them, then turn themselves off. Perhaps this is a programming error? This lack of light is particularly inconvenient on my way to the train station early in the morning and from evening onward.


Last Sunday I walked through the area in question. Ahead of me, approximately ten feet, was a young lady around the age of fifteen. As she walked further down the path the lights went out. Frightened by the sudden darkness she froze, turned around and noticed myself. Then the young lady started screaming as she ran out of the wooded area. Later, after I had exited the path, I heard the girl talking on her mobile. She was exclaiming her belief that I had intended to murder her- a fear brought on by the lack of light. If the alley was properly illuminated the young lady may have felt safer. Furthermore, in correct lighting I would have appeared a less imposing figure because (as my mother has frequently informed me) I am rather handsome.


The incident with the young lady was rectified: I explained that on that particular evening I lacked any murderous impulse but was instead (as evidenced by many bags) simply journeying home from the airport. We laughed at our circumstance and continued our merry ways.


Whilst this suitable anecdote evidences that the area is largely safe, the citizens of Chorley may feel more secure if their paths were correctly lighted. Now that we are reaching the winter months it is more vital than ever to ensure true illumination in the extended darkness.


Yours Faithfully,


Average Joe

Success for Isolationist Isles

After the marginal victory of the Breixt campaign the majority of media focus, regarding the United Kingdom’s future economy, has fallen onto the hopeful deals politicians can broker with the European Union. The exit looks inevitable and negotiations are of utmost importance. Politicians are looking to play hardball and the future for a trading system like Switzerland or Norway will be a hard won slog. Our financial ties with the other member states of the EU are manifold and weaving them again under fresh circumstances will be a colossal labour. However, despite the Brexit camp’s claim to regain money poured into the continent and instill sovereignty, few progressive policies are being suggested (or the mainstream media are neglecting their coverage) to ensure the United Kingdom can withhold further austerity if negotiations aren’t favourable. In a sweep of arrogance I have listed some areas of the UK economy which are heavily dependent on either EU members or other international states and how control of these would ensure economic self reliance, potentially safeguarding a stronger financial future.


Energy Dependence


It’s no surprise that north sea oil and gas supplies are depleting. After all, fossil fuels are a finite resource and cannot last indefinitely. To base the UK’s energy needs upon them as well as to sell fossil fuels can only be a temporary measure. One solution has been to extend our dependency on fossil fuels through “fracking”. Read any article on the subject and it’s an obviously unpopular power source, sparking numerous protests across the country. Thus, we would assume that other means of sourcing energy would be high on the agenda. This isn’t the case. Instead, the United Kingdom has become increasingly reliant upon the import of fossil fuels.


The bulk of the UK gas supply derives from Norway. Some is imported from EU members such as Belgium and the Netherlands via the general European network (a series of pipelines running under the sea from Belgium and the Netherlands).[1] Other sources include Russia and in a liquid form from Qatar. This highlights that even though gas isn’t the primary fuel source it is still interconnected with several nations including the EU through Belgium and the Netherlands.


UK coal imports on the other hand are a more global affair. With a decline in home coal production, external sources have been the main suppliers. Trade with coal selling countries has escalated due to an increase in gas prices (material not household). In 2013, 93% of UK coal import came from three countries: Russia, the USA and Colombia.[2]


When we consider the origins of UK fossil fuel sources, with the exception the Netherlands and Belgium, it becomes clear that energy supply largely is traded outside the EU. When it comes to negotiations it would almost be safe to assume that energy prices are fairly secure. This is an incorrect assumption. Whilst the raw materials are imported from Non EU members, four out of six of the UK’s largest energy companies are EU countries:


1- British Gas (British)

2- Npower (German)

3- SSE (British)

4- Scottish Power (Spanish)

5- E.On (German)

6- EDF (French)[3]


These six companies, according to the BBC, supply around 95% of all household gas and electricity. This means that despite fossil fuels imports being from Non EU countries, a large percentage of household energy is either produced by EU countries or at least distributed by them. When it comes to Brexit talks, deals must consider how households fuel themselves and how large EU members are a pivotal aspect of that.


If the UK has dwindling finite fuel resources and must rely upon other countries, then the solution for energy independence is within low carbon and renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, tidal and (depending of which side of the debate you fall on) nuclear power. Nuclear power is the only one of the above list that apart from the initial technology relies upon foreign imports- uranium.


There has been increasing move towards these low carbon sources, producing a varied mix of the UK’s energy origins. In 2011, renewable energy usage was 9.4% and increased to 11.3% in 2012. This trend continued into 2013 with renewable energy producing 15% of total consumption.[4] If this is considered alongside nuclear power, by the end of 2013, over a third of the island’s energy came from low carbon resources. This is a step both towards a greener and self controlled future. In order to secure this, government and industry must work towards an increasing use of these fuel sources; ween the energy companies away from fossil fuels and develop a solid renewable energy infrastructure in which the profits have the potential of remaining within the UK.


Correct taxation of corporations


Since the inception of the David Cameron led Conservative government in 2010 it has been hard to ignore the increasing shift towards economic austerity. Public spending cuts and financial tightening have been a central aspect of the Conservative and the once coalition parliament. Benefit fraud was made center stage in the press and pushing people into zero-hour contracts became policy. This focus upon the poorer strata cheating society has lead to an ignorant public opinion. In 2013 a parliamentary report explained that Britons believed 24% of all benefits were claimed fraudulently. This public estimation was 34 times greater than reality, with the government estimation for fraudulently claimed benefits being 0.7%.[5]


At the same time as the media attention on benefit fraud there was an increasing illumination on corporate tax avoidance. The attention was less severe possibly because information on large multinational business is harder to obtain or perhaps the press believed it more acceptable (the BBC article I take the following corporation tax examples from questions whether shaming these companies is fair). In either case, the figures do not change: Amazon with 2011 UK sales of £3.35bn only paid a tax expense of £1.8m; Starbucks had UK sales of £400million pounds(2011) but managed to pay no corporation tax; and Google paid £6m the same year after a turnover of £395m.[6] These figures demonstrate that, whilst not yet illegal, tax avoidance is hemorrhaging the UK of money. If the Brexit campaign based a large aspect of their argument on saving money from EU member costs and the government has consistently targeted the poorer sections of society, then surely claiming fair tax from multinational American corporations should also be high on the agenda. After all, should the USA receive preferential treatment from the UK when they are unwilling to pay the country correctly?


Lost tax is not only confined to multinational companies. There is a large loss in personal tax from the affluent sections of society as well. The UK government estimated the 2013/2014 tax “gap” to be £34bn. Of this figure £14bn was suggested to be a result of uncollected income tax, national insurance and capital gains tax as well as £13.1bn in uncollected VAT.[7] Naturally, part of this figure can be attributed to bureaucratic and human errors. However, it’s unlikely those mistakes could accumulate into such a ridiculous loses. The recuperation of this money in unlikely but moving forward the UK needs to ensure such high levels of tax aren’t avoided in favour of private or corporate wealth. Doing so will only strengthen the economy and provide social programmes with healthier funding


Until recently it appeared that little movement was being made towards curbing tax evasion but evidence is demonstrating this to be changing. Within the UK a new policy that would require Multinationals to publicly declare country by country tax and profits has recently been passed.[8] This forward taxation policy comes in the wake of the landmark European commission order for Apple to pay back £11bn in taxes to Ireland. Given these two policies it seems that both the EU and the UK are making moves towards tightening the minimal tax restraints on international companies. If this direction can be maintained then the loses to the UK economy through unfair tax contributions can be reduced and the people who make the money may see it placed back into their country.


Fair Wages within the Food Chain


It’s public knowledge that UK farmers and those throughout the EU have been financially supplemented by subsidiaries from the common agricultural policy(CAP). Estimates suggest that UK farmers benefit from £3bn annually.[9] A leave from the EU would probably remove farmer’s access to this directive. If we aren’t an EU member state then why would they buffer UK farmer’s income? The only reason UK farmers may still benefit from CAP is that the policy has large environmental ties such as wildlife protection and preservation of unpolluted waters. Perhaps the EU may wish to continue this to safeguard a greener future for all of Europe. If they chose not to then UK farmers will start to lose a serious aspect of their incomes.


Given the consistent pressures for cheaper dairy and other food products, the loss of CAP funding could push UK food providers into an even lower wage bracket. This may result in a disregard of environmental concern if produce can be made cheaper by encroaching on once protected wildlife or using agricultural substances that are damaging to the ecosystem . In order to prevent this there are two obvious options. Firstly, pay UK farmers properly for their produce. This seems highly unlikely seeing as supermarkets and other food providers are consistently pushing for cheaper products, in order to bolster profits, regardless of the effects on producer. But without a supplemented income from the EU this cannot continue.


The second option for safeguarding UK agriculture is on a governmental level. Aspects of CAP can be introduced to UK policy, providing farmers with the subsidiaries they currently receive as well as preserving the environmental aspects that EU directives have worked towards. Furthermore, new policy can be tailored for specific UK needs either enhancing eco protection or fairer wages for farmers.


In either situation the protection of UK agriculture is imperative. It is a large proportion of the UK food chain as well as providing products that can be sold both at home and abroad. Ensuring the farmer’s future is pivotal to the UK future economy and it must be imperative within governmental discussion. Preparation for agriculture without CAP subsidies will stand the UK in good footing when they almost inevitably no longer available.