Living The Dream….In 28ft

Canadian, David Welsford, doesn’t pay rent, nor does he have to battle traffic each morning on his way to work. He doesn’t even have a full time job. Instead, he’s living his dream on board a 50-year-old wooden boat he restored, called “Lizzy Belle”.

She was built in Novo Scotia, and when David saw her, rotting away on a wharf in Bridgewater, NS, it was love at first sight. The restoration was a labour of love. That was a few years ago, and it was then that he decided to take her out onto the open ocean, give up the luxuries of life on dry-land and trade it in for a life alone on the sea. “For me, what’s more important than having a big house is having a space that makes me feel good,” he says.

This short documentary, filmed by his friend Kevin Fraser, explores David’s unique maritime lifestyle, the sacrifices he’s made and challenges he faces – from putting food on the table and filling his tummy each day, to the loneliness he sometimes experiences or the lack of a romantic relationship with whom he can share his experiences.

“There’s always a way to make money. There’s always a way to live,” he explains. “If I have enough to go and have a beer and I have enough to go to the grocery store, if I can put enough diesel in the tanks of the boat, then I think I’m one of the richest people in the world.”

This is one man’s idea of living the dream. But the message is simple. Do what ever makes you happy. We only get one life, so let’s make sure we live it.

Lizzy Belle_1 Lizzy Belle_2

Merry Christmas Ukraine

Today is Christmas Day in Ukraine. Christmas Day, no matter what day of the year you celebrate it, along with Easter Sunday, marks one of the key Christian religious days that emphasises values such as peace and kindness towards ones fellow man. Sadly, Ukraine has had not much of either in 2014, so my Christmas wish to Ukraine is that peace returns to her shores and that the Russian’s leave as quickly as they invaded this year.

As a small Christmas gift, I wanted to share with you a very cute animation with the soundtrack of a Christmas carol which I bet you never knew originated as a Ukrainian folk song. The enchanting music composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1904 based on the original song called “Schedryk”, or “Swallow”This animation is the original Leontovych arrangement animated by the Ukrainian artist Ev Melekhovets

The wider world was introduced to this beautiful carol through the help of American Ukrainian, Peter Wilhousky, and became known to the world as “Carol of the Bells”. Wilhousky made his arrangement following a performance of the original song by Alexander Koshetz’s Ukrainian National Chorus at Carnegie Hall on October 5, 1921.

The original song’s lyrics are about a swallow that flew into a master’s household and started twittering to him about the increase of his livestock.

But why on Earth are Ukrainian’s singing about a Swallow in the middle of Winter? Ukrainian swallows spend their winters south of the Sahara. The culprit of this confusion is the Russian Tsar Peter I, who in 1699, with his continued Europification of Russia, established New Year to be celebrated on January 1, following the example of the other European nations. Before that, Ukrainians celebrated New Year around the Spring Equinox.

From pagan times, it was the reawakening of nature that marked the start of the New Year. The ritual songs called “shchedrivky,” which means “bountiful New Years carols,” were meant to bestow all the earthly riches on a master’s homestead and wish him a fertile year – quite a desirable outcome in an agrarian society. It was also Peter I who introduced Christmas trees to be used as a celebration attribute. Before that, the Christmas decorations that Ukrainians used were made from straw. The main one used is called didukh and symbolizes fertility.

Traditional Ukrainian didukh

Traditional Ukrainian didukh

If the swallow around Christmas wasn’t confusing enough, Ukrainians sing these New Year shchedrivky not on January 1, but on January 13 – a result of the Orthodox church using the Gregorian calendar, which runs 13 days later than the Julian calendar used by the Catholic church.

But whatever calendar you use I would like to wish you all a very

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

З Різдвом і Новим Роком

Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain Shona duit

If At First Your Don’t Succeed

Mikhail MouseIt’s a philosophy we’re taught when we’re kids….never give up, always keep trying. And as we get older we sometimes either forget about this allegory, or we just give up that bit quicker than we used to. But observe “Mikhail Mouse”, a tenant in a Russian home who is the very epitome of ‘never giving up’. We can all learn something from even the smallest of our house guests.

I think what I love the most about this is that at one point he seems to just repeat and fail over and over again, kind of like what most humans do. Then he takes a wee break, looks from another angle and strategises a little. And ‘hey presto’, he runs off with the biscuit!

Even more interesting is our own attitude to “Mikhail”. Ordinarily I would have probably whacked him with a newspaper by now if I saw him in my house. But when I showed this to Herself, she was egging him on just the same way I was. 🙂

Enjoy, and remember, whatever it is you’re trying to do in life, never give up!

Governments – An Outdated Concept

Government Help Herself and I got all philosophical the other night over a few glasses of wine. She asked a very valid question….”what is the point in having a government?”

I, of course, began in my usual diatribe of explaining the purpose of a government, in a utopian society, and very quickly realised that her question did not warrant an answer. It was more of a “what value for money am I getting from my government, because they’re making a fucking balls of it and I don’t get ANYTHING in return”. And she’s right

We came to the conclusion that Government, as a concept, is outdated and not fit for purpose. Belgium got along pretty well without a government. It lasted 541 days without a government, and even managed to survive without passing a fiscal budget in 2011. So do we even NEED a government at all? Think about it.

Everyone today pays taxes (or at least they SHOULD be paying taxes). Whether you live in a communist country, such as the Netherlands (52% income tax), or an enlightened capitalist country, such as Russia (13% income tax), we all pay SOMETHING to the government.

And the rationale ALL governments around the globe use to justify and substantiate why I should be working my ass off and pay into the coffers of the exchequer more than half of what I earn is that I get various different services, support and safety, in return for the taxes I pay. But today’s 21st century citizen gets less and less as each new tax year passes.

When I was growing up, the benefits an average citizen received, covered a plethora of services, such as free education, healthcare and a nursing home/home help for the elderly and infirm.

But nowadays, we have to pay separately for all these various services we used to receive for free, and which USED to be funded from our taxes. So if I have to pay for these services separately AND still pay my taxes, then what the fuck is the government doing with my money, and why do I even need them to administer something which I’m paying for privately?

Making a simple list makes it even worse.

Government Services Removed

The list above is only a small fraction of the types of services that were paid for through my taxes, but are now charged to me directly as a separate fee or mandatory insurance.

And there are a lot more. About the only TWO things I can think of that would be difficult to privatise are the armed forces and the judiciary. And in my mind, with the exception of the Dutch judicial system, we should be only spending money on the judiciary. If you take the UK as a model example of how a judicial system SHOULD be run, and the quality of judges sitting on the bench, it’s about the ONLY thing I would feel that would warrant the existence of a government. Looking at the VERY lenient sentencing practices here in the Netherlands, and the fact that their prisons are better appointed than some four star hotels, I have trouble reconciling the money spend in the Netherlands on it’s justice department and the sentences handed down upon sentencing.

As for the armed forces, well, perhaps if we abolished governments altogether, we wouldn’t find ourselves getting so pissed off with other countries all the time to warrant spending huge amounts of money on maintaining a standing army or on wars, just to make sure you protect the price of petrol at your local petrol station.

And looking at the numbers doesn’t help the cause in favour of a government either. For instance, the Netherlands have had only 5 budget surplus since records began! FIVE. Can you imagine running a household budget or a business like that? You CAN’T! So how can a government think that they are run a country that is almost ALWAYS in debt, oh and we’ll still take your taxes and you get nothing in return.

So what the fuck are you spending my taxes on then? Last time I checked it was on government ministers debating if it was a good idea to install a GPS in every car so they could “charge me road tax”, but in reality would have been a great way to spy on me and sell my data and whereabouts to the likes of the NSA. Or it was spent on some clowns in the EU who spent millions putting rules into place about what was the ideal shape of a banana and went about preventing the importation of bent banana’s into the EU, in an effort to “protect” their citizens. MADNESS!

My simple answer to that original question “Is government an outdated concept?” is a resounding YES! We could all do very well without one.

Government Red Tape

The Weekly Shop

Food waste in the West has reached unprecedented levels in the last decade. And what’s even worse is the fact that this wastage continues, even inspite of rocketing food prices.

Add to that, the soaring obesity levels across the likes of the USA, UK, Ireland, to name but three, and the amount of corn syrup, preservatives, chemicals and crap in general pumped into our food, along with the never ending encroachment of GM foods in our diet, it’s no wonder that the population in the West is suffering from more food allergies, lower sperm counts, heart and digestive diseases than ever before.

On the flip side, there are nations whose population does not enjoy the excesses and trappings of a corn syrup filled, chemically pumped diet. In fact, they have to eek out an existence on a very basic diet indeed. And they also don’t throw stuff away just because they bought too much in a two-for-one offer down at the Piggly Wiggly or at Tesco and it’s now going off!

To get a glimpse of how other families live, Oxfam published a new photo series, which depicts people from around the globe with one week’s food supply for their families.

Building on an idea that originated with 2005′s Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, the new images are especially well-timed, when reports about half of the world’s food going to waste vie for space with news about rising global food prices. According to a recent article accompanying some of the photos in the UK Independent, “There is deep injustice in the way food is grown and distributed … the world’s poorest people spend 50%-90% of their income on food, compared with just 10%-15% in developed countries.”

Two things that strike me the most. The first is how almost everyone’s food basket consists of locally grown and seasonally dependent food. Unlike, say, the EU, where you can buy strawberries in the middle of winter, in these photo’s, if it wasn’t in season, it’s not on the table.

Secondly, if you look at the shopping basket of someone in the west, there’s loads and loads of pre-cooked, tinned, ready-meal style meals, and practically none of that crap in other the countries. Think about how much salt, sugar, preservatives and chemicals go into making that tin of Campbells soup, or that microwave lasagne!

Food For Thought – Literally!

Shahveller, AzerbaijanOxfam Food Azerbaijan

Mirza Bakhishov, 47, his wife, Zarkhara, 37, and two sons, Khasay, 18 and Elchin, 15, own a small plot of land where they grow cotton and wheat as well as animal feed. “Our small cattle and poultry [are] everything for us. All our income and livelihood is dependent on them,” said Bakhishov.

Vavuniya, Sri LankaOxfam Food Sri Lanka

Selvern, 70, far right, and her daughters have been members of Oxfam’s local dairy cooperative for four years. Her youngest daughter Sukitha, second from right, works at the cooperative and is also trained as a vet. Selvern gets up at 5:30 every morning to help her daughters milk their cows; she sends most of the milk to the co-op with Sukitha and uses the remainder to make cream and ghee for the family.

Mecha, EthiopiaOxfam Food Ethiopia

A week’s food supply for Wubalem Shiferaw, her husband Tsega, and 4-year-old daughter Rekebki includes flour, vegetable oil, and a paste of spices called berbere. Tsega works as a tailor, while Wubalem follows a long local tradition and supplements her income with honey production. An Oxfam-supported cooperative helped Wubalem make the transition to modern beekeeping methods, which produce greater yields.

Yegeghus, ArmeniaOxfam Food Armenia

The Josephyan family from with their weekly food supply, which includes wheat flour, dried split peas, sugar, and cooking oil. The family supplements their diet with eggs laid by their chickens and wild greens from the fields.

Kaftarkhana, TajikistanOxfam Food Tajikistan

BiBi-Faiz Miralieba and her family, from left to right: son Siyoushi, 11, niece Gulnoya Shdova, 14, and children Jomakhon, 6, Shodmon, 9, and Jamila,13. Like many women in rural areas of Tajikistan, Miralieba is now the head of her household as her husband has migrated to Russia to find work.

Gutu, ZimbabweOxfam Food Zimbabwe

Ipaishe Masvingise and her family with their food for the week, which includes grains and groundnuts as well as fruits like pawpaw and oranges. Masvingise, a farmer, said she sells extra grain from her harvests to pay for school fees and medical costs, and to support members of her extended family who don’t own their own land.

London, U.K.Oxfam Food UK

Ian Kerr, 30, with his family and a week’s food supplied by a charity food bank. Ian left his job to become a full-time carer to his disabled son Jay-J, 12. Also pictured are his daughter Lillian, 5, and mother-in-law Linda, 61. Kerr says the family’s favorite food is spaghetti Bolognese, but Lillian says her favorite is Jaffa Cakes.

Original by Anna Kramer at Oxfam America. The photographers are (in order of photos) David Levene (Oxfam), Abir Abdullah (Oxfam), Tom Pietrasik (Oxfam), Abbie Trayler-Smith (Panos), Andy Hall (Oxfam), Annie Bungeroth (Oxfam) and Abbie Trayler-Smith (Oxfam).

Your Life – In Jelly Beans

Jellybeans

If measured out in individual jelly beans, there really isn’t much time you get to actually LIVE your life.

And that’s exactly why zefrank’s philosophical, yet tasty, approach to showing us exactly how much time we REALLY have for ourselves, really does make me wonder what the fuck is the point to life? It’s not that I’m harbouring suicidal thoughts or anything, but when you count it out in jellybeans, and take into account all the stupid things we find ourselves wasting our time on, there really isn’t that much of it…..i.e. time.

Think about it, you will only experience, on average 65-70 springs, summers, autumns and winters. So that means, assuming you can afford to, there are really only 65-70 places you can choose from to go to for your summer holidays. When you see how many amazing places there are on this Earth to visit, you begin to wonder, short of joining the merchant navy, how is it even possible to visit all THOSE places too?

Or, that there are only so many days left between now and the day you croak, but an infinite amout of yummy things you could be eating for your lunch right now. You might get to eat a new thing every day, but then, would you want to waste a day and eat the same thing twice, or risk not eating something that could taste so incredible that you might miss out on it because you’re now dead.

Or maybe I’m just getting overly morbid over the fact that I’ve just celebrated another day in my life whereby people feel the need to celebrate another 365 day trip around the sun, which happens to be in the same astronomical position as on the day I was born. Who knows.

The Greatest Speech Ever Made

Chaplin The Great Dictator

This amazing video, of Charlie Chaplin’s final speech in the film “The Great Dictator“, mixed with a splash of modern imagery and the ethereal song “Window” by The Album Leaf probably really does deserve the accolade of “The Greatest Speech Ever Made”

Chaplin’s prophetic speech was as true then in the early 1940’s as it is today. Maybe even more so today. In a world gone mad, where celebrity, materiality and greed take precedence over education, common decency and compassion towards our fellow man, his words instill a passion that seems to have been lost on most everyone across this spinning blue and green piece of celestial rock we call home….we call Earth.

Hell bent on killing each other just as quickly and callously today as we did in the previous two world wars, our continued intolerance of one another has fanned the flames of hatred and instilled an ideological mistrust of one another over religion as great as the same mistrust that was once fueled between the West and East during the Cold War.

We say to ourselves that we have achieved greatness. Our intellect is unmatched amongst the animal kingdom, that we dominate the world we live in. And yes, we might be clever and make the most use of having opposable thumbs. But what use is that intellect if we don’t do anything good for humanity and for the generations to come. We continue to pollute the planet, rape it of its resources, all the while killing off species after species, over-fishing, over-farming and never ensuring that we can continue to inhabit this planet for years to come or ensuring that the food and wealth and education are fairly distributed among the entire world’s population. And we are the ONLY animal on the planet actively engaged in self destruction of the world in which we live.

I’m no eco-warrior, nor am I a multi-billionaire philanthropist. I am but one man. And though I might not be able to make a huge impact individually, I will endeavour to do so nonetheless. Because I want to ensure that I set an example for my children, my nieces and nephews, to ensure that they see someone whom they love and respect living by the same set of values he preaches to them about. And maybe along the way I will be able to meet other like minded people who are inspired to do the right thing and live as harmoniously with the planet AND their fellow man to make this world a better place than that which we ourselves inherited.

Sure, I’ll still drive my car, and fly on holiday. But, I can choose to eat the food grown locally, turn off the lights when I’m not using them, recycle as much as I can and cycle short distances instead of driving my car.

Sure, I’ll still get pissed off with bureaucrats, or obtuse, single minded individuals who can only see the world in black and white, rather than in the rich technicolour in which it’s painted. But I’ll teach my kids to understand the differences that make each person who they are. To accept those differences, to try and understand them and to cherish them, because variety REALLY IS the spice of life.

We as individuals CAN, in a small way, make this world that bit better. The more of us that try, means the quicker we can collectively achieve a world of harmony, peace and understanding.