Kraus – Is That German?

The micro world of Pembrokeshire once again finds itself reflected in the macro wider world. What have Pembroke Dock Councillor Peter Kraus and Katie Hopkins have in common? They both find themselves under scrutiny in a world that seems to be changing by the minute, and maybe even in a good way for a change.

Katie Hopkins has finally been banned from Twitter. The camps are of course split straight down the middle. There is much rejoicing in certain factions – her vile ways and her misuse of free speech have finally caught up with her, and she finds herself without a platform to spread deliberate hate.

Peter Kraus found himself in Katie territory the other day when he posted a picture on Facebook of monkeys attacking a car, alongside a picture of black men doing the same thing. The intent is clearly racist, but after first claiming to have been hacked, Cllr Kraus was forced to change his story when it became apparent to him that this kind of thing can be checked. So his story changed to the inevitable claim that he just meant people act like animals.

It’s too late in history to pretend to not see the link between the two images. It’s too late in history to exclaim that the picture was posted in ignorance.

In one way, he can be seen as worse that his macro counterpart. Katie Hopkins have never pretended to be anything other than what she is. She’s also not an elected representative. But Cllr Kraus, though only a councillor at the lowest level, is still regarded as an authority by his ward, respected for his good works in the community. People will listen to him and mark his words.

It depends what thread you read as to the attitude of the locals to his post and his subsequent apology, which is not so much as an apology, but a poor explanation, which reads a little like it was written in too much haste, by a small child. In the dark. Whilst drunk. I have hundreds of black friends he exclaims. You’d never hear Katie Hopkins admit to that.

The trouble with social media, and this notion of free speech, is the misuse of it all. Was social media intended to make it possible, easy even, to quickly spread vitriol with a few taps and a press of the post button? Was it never assumed that people would take the opportunity to not just share pictures, ideas, memories, but also ideas of hate, and division? You only have to watch a documentary about the rise of the Nazi party to realise what a role propaganda has to play in its steering of world events. You used to have to go through the rigmarole of printers, and leaflet dropping, posters, info-mercials. Now, any old local Tom, Dick or local councillor can write whatever they like in seconds, and have their words proliferate around the world in seconds, to influence whoever out there is looking to be influenced.

Some threads on Facebook this morning are congratulating Cllr Kraus for his brave apology and his work in the community. Other threads are incensed that such a racist post, followed by a clear lie that he was hacked, and are demanding his resignation. It would seem that another day of arguing on social media looms as lockdown continues to bore everyone to death.

The same strand of people who are behind Cllr Kraus, seem to be exactly the same people who are saying that Katie Hopkins shouldn’t be gagged. The ones calling for Cllr Kraus to resign and apologise are the same people who are glad Katie Hopkins is gone.

It’s little wonder, with the popularity of Hopkins, that other people will attempt to emulate her style, feeling empowered to say what they think without any of that pesky political correctness to temper their views. Our local councillors and their outspoken views, when challenged, cause the kind of arguments to divide a county, to split the people right down the middle. And this is where we have to be careful with the concept of free speech. In the UK, our laws have allowed us, for a long time, to have our say. But with the abuse of this power, eventually it’s going to be a privilege that becomes slowly stripped away. Stripping away the right to free speech when inciting hatred is being criticised by some, but if someone had shut the Nazis up early on, maybe history would have been different. In the early days of the Nazi party, Hitler was indeed banned from public speaking, but what use was that, with the similarly talented Goebells waiting in the wings to pick up the baton and fill the gap?

Who will replace Katie Hopkins? It won’t be Peter Kraus; I’m pretty sure he’ll be keeping quiet from now on. But someone will.

But with free speech comes responsibility. Free speech is a privilege. If it’s misused it can create chaos, war, discontent, genocide. If speaking your mind means spreading hate, then speaking your mind isn’t always a good thing. Free speech is a honour. It is power. Use it wisely.

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Locking for Trouble

The fissure that divides Wales is about to get much bigger. Mark Drakeford announced new lockdown lifting measures today, and within moments, social media had gone batty.

Wales’s response to the Covid crisis has been one of caution, basing its response on “the science” much more closely, it would seem, than their English counterparts.

The five mile rule which was enforced a few weeks ago has unofficially been relaxed since, with words like ballpark, and definitions of local being thrown around. But basically, in rural Wales, you have to go more than five miles to get a pint of milk. Many families are scattered widely over counties. If you live in rural Wales, as I do, you become accustomed to driving for half an hour just to find another human, so the five mile rule thing was met with much disdain.

Eluned Morgan managed to calm the waters, by letting people in rural areas know that these rules were stretchable, and everyone seemed to settle into a common sense way of doing things, in that local became your usual local circle. If your shop is twenty minutes away, then that’s your local. That was good. It worked well.

Businesses have been chomping at the bit to re-open however. Pubs, cafés, hairdressers, are all wondering when their turn will be. They’ve been patient. The tourism sector has its own champion however. Last week the secretary of state for Wales, Simon Hart, put his oar in and began to put pressure on Mark Drakeford. The tourism industry is suffering, it’s true, but we’ve all been hoping that a gentle return to proceedings would be peddled, especially as Wales has been so cautious up until now.

Today we learned that from monday, some businesses will be able to open. Already the questions have begun. The details are as usual, slightly woolly. People are wondering why clothes shopping is ok, but visiting relatives is not. The mileage restriction is soon to be lifted, and from July 6th, it’s proposed that Wales will again open for tourism business. No county restrictions, not even a Wales restriction. Nope. Our borders will be thrown open, and people are up in arms. They’ve all seen the pictures of the English at the beach., and they’re mortified.

One caveat for holidaymakers however, is that only self-contained units will be able to take residents. That is, holiday cottages, static caravans, second homes. Tents, or simple camping set-ups without their own toilet facilities are barred, due to all public facilities being closed. Once again, just like when they opened up the golf courses for exercise first, it’s looking suspiciously like the working classes are again going to be left out of this freedom bid. If you can’t afford a self-contained unit then you can’t go on holiday. Simple as. Yet others will be allowed to come, stay, go walkabout in the deserted, socially distanced towns, where there is no room for social distancing of big numbers, because they’re very little towns.

Many parts of Wales have stayed pretty much entirely Covid free. People are only just getting their heads around the schools opening back up, let alone the grockles invading. Except that is, the poor buggers who run businesses heavily reliant on tourism. And so again we see another divide occurring. Some are terrified, and want Wales to stay closed until all danger has passed. Others are desperate for things to get back to normal, insisting that Covid has done its worst.

But has it done its worst? Is it on its way out? You’d think so, the way everyone is acting. But the media has worked a treat, and it depends what media you read or watch as to which side you’re on. The government surely wouldn’t put everyone’s lives at risk just for the economy, would they? Surely not. This sudden change of heart from Drakeford can’t all be down to pressure from Simon Hart and his legion of freedom fighters, can it?

It seems Drakeford can’t win. He’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. No matter which way he flips, there are a band of hoodlums ready to take his head off and boo him like a pantomime villain. He’s taking our freedoms! Oh no he isn’t! He’s letting us die! Oh no he isn’t!

In the olden days, decisions got made, passed down to the masses, the papers said a thing, and that was that. The most contact a politician had to have with the public was at a rally, where they were all mercifully miles away in the audience. The papers may diss you, but that’s what papers were for. You may even have ended up with a Spitting Image puppet, if you were lucky. That was your scrutiny.

But now, within seconds of any decision maker speaking, even before the sentence is finished, the public are out with their pitchforks and torches, ready with the portable gallows. Whether you’re a fan of Drakeford or not – and many in my county are not, in that he has a reputation for being instrumental in the decision to close down Withybush hospital, the much loved icon of the county – you can’t fail to see that he faces an impossible task.

The economy in Wales needs all the help it can get at the best of times. Here we find ourselves at the mercy of policy, which let’s face it, probably get decided by someone completely different, and Drakeford gets sent out as the puppet whipping boy to be the messenger. Which begs the question of course that we always ask. Who exactly is running the show?

It’s not the people, that’s for sure.

Civil War – Sir Benfro

This week has seen a serious row break out on social media between two elected members of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Young, progressive Councillor Joshua Beynon of Pembroke ward, requested that the council light up their county offices in purple as a show of solidarity for the protests taking place elsewhere in the UK and abroad.

The council supported his request and the council offices shone purple and were visited by a group of supportive locals. Socially distanced, small protests took place in various places around the town.

However, controversial Pembroke Dock councillor Paul Dowson reacted unfavourably to this on Facebook, quickly rallying support for his opinion. He stated that the council were wasting tax payer’s money, supporting a cause that had resulted in vandalism and breaking of social distancing rules around the country.

And with that, all hell broke loose.

It’s always been evident that there’s a very clear left/right divide in Pembs, but never before have I witnessed such a dichotomy of outpourings from the locals. For days the argument raged, culminating in Councillor Beynon reporting Councillor Dowson and his followers for hate crimes, after comments referring to his homosexuality got extremely out of hand, and some serious bullying took place.

Members of the public had already reported Dowson for his stance on the issue, branding him a racist for his comments. Cllr Beynon even took to twitter after some particularly vile comments were posted. He included screenshots, one of which mused whether Beynon “spat or swallowed”. In a wonderful retort, Cllr Beynon confirmed that he does actually swallow.

There are people on facebook saying that they’re exhausted, after days of arguing on Facebook. The whole county are exhausting themselves. This issue has got far more massive than any other that has arisen in Pembs, and ultimately it seems less about BLM and more about the general discontent that exists in this part of Wales. Maybe it’s the same everywhere, where the social gaps are so huge as to be untenable. Where the youth have been away and seen a bit of the world and most of the elders have never got far past Carmarthen.

What’s going on here? Sadly, the comments expose a streak of Pembs that has always seemed to bustle beneath the surface, but has never been exposed. There are very few ethnic minorities living in Pembrokeshire. Not black or Asian ones anyway. There are many white Europeans, but you don’t notice them until they speak.

The locals happily get their takeaways from the Turkish family run shops or Chinese from the Chinese, but it’s like they don’t make the link. Their endless chants of All Lives Matter doesn’t seem to come from any real basis of understanding; the comments on that side are all recognisable from the media, be it mainstream, or social media, where an opinion is formed, it gets lots of likes, it becomes the new gospel, and those who do not wish to study can decide which side to take and copy and paste the sentiment, share it, retweet it, and then wait for the pile on.

It’s not just here in Pembs. It seems to be everywhere. How can we make it stop? It seems, looking in, that someone, somewhere, has been working very hard to turn the working classes against each other. There’s no solidarity out here. It’s like a giant football match turned nasty, it’s like the battle of Naseby or The fields of Blackheath. We’re heading for civil war.

But where are the leaders? Who is in charge? Where are Charlie and Ollie? This is the crux of the matter. Not many in this country trust their government, even if they trust their flag, be it a British flag, English flag, Welsh flag. Their government give them instructions and half the population refuse to give up what they think is their liberty. Here in Wales, where the lockdown rules are different, half the country love Drakeford and half want to hurl him into next week and swap him for Boris and the perceived freedom that the English enjoy.

The Welsh hate their own parliament as much as they hate Westminster. But they still have their allegiances to individuals. Some are crying that they’re following rules, some are crying that they’re having their liberty stolen. Everyone sees everyone else’s position and situation as somehow better than theirs. Rifts are forming. Some are fighting for black rights, some for civil rights in general, but the Thatcher generation never got past the statement that there is no society, only the individual, and they seem obsessed only with their own rights.

I don’t know where we go from here. It’s probably the end of days. If we don’t sort ourselves out soon we’re doomed. You know those scenes in sitcoms where everyone is arguing and someone comes in and screams “shut up!!” and they all freeze and look up? Well, we need that to happen, really quickly.

As for who’s going to come in and shout, who is the responsible adult here? Are there any? Speak now. Shout out. Pls.

The Show Must Go On

My plan, when I began documenting this journey, was never to be the harbinger of doom for the OPD movement. I was always sticking up for opd on the fb page, telling people that said it was impossible without loads of cash, that it WAS possible and that I was living proof. I’d bought marginal land, at a bargain price. I’d improved it and made it work. I had been told before applying that it was a policy that was watertight. That if you ticked all the boxes then they had to grant you permission. And if they didn’t, then you would win at appeal, because everyone wins at appeal.

These things are clearly not true and I found out the hard way. I’m not going to sit by and watch other people be drawn in and fooled in the same way.

My friend sold his profitable business to do OPD. He has land and is half way though the process of applying. He was optimistic, like I was. He’d been told what I was told. Now he’s crapping himself. We met on the OPD FB page, five years ago, green as hell, both asking stupid questions. The answers you got back then were very different to the answers you get to the same questions now. What happened to every piece of land in Wales has outline planning for OPD?

I got to the chase first and he’s watched me go through hell. Now he’s following behind me with his own project. But he’s no longer confident. He’s seen the whole bloody process from start to finish and beyond. He’s understandably worried.

I know that I’m not in the good books of the OPC. I don’t blame them for that. They’re trying really hard to fight the good fight for a movement that began with such promise, but unfortunately, with the loss of support in Parliament, and the lack of individuals in power who support the scheme, and the arbitrary way in which LPAs can make things up as they go along, and differ so widely in attitudes that Caerphilly Council are encouraging OPD and others are clearly not, it seems that a losing battle is being fought and that OPD is now just another Place in the Country type fad.

I’ve been told to not diss the policy, as the policy is not at fault. A policy should be able to be applied by a multitude of protagonists with uniform results. That’s what a policy is. However, that is clearly not the case in this instance. A policy can only be as good as those who are in charge of its operation. If it’s not going to be applied consistently, then I’d go as far as to say that it’s not a policy. It’s just plain old discretionary planning permission.

OPD was, I thought, supposed to answer a legitimate, community housing need. People choosing to live a low impact alternative lifestyle. There’s nothing alternative about OPD as it exists now. If you have the means, you can buy the best land, hire the best people to write your plan, hire the best lawyers, and hey presto.. planning permission. Same as it ever was. Many people who currently have OPD permission are not living on their site. They’re living in accommodation elsewhere and building their dream home from afar. That’s self build. To me, OPD is creating your space around you, as simply as your needs allow – isn’t it?

My blog seems to have gone viral, and that’s good. I want peeps to know that I’m not dissing OPD, or the people who have been successful. But to expect me to not react with some bitterness and anger would be to assume that I’m Hercules. I’m not. I’m not a hippy living in fairyland either. I’m just a local kid who made tons of mistakes and will never be permitted to forget them. Apparently if I’d had a community meeting none of this would have happened. I was not really in the fluffy place to be doing those things at that point, but that’s the thing, the people judging me on my wrongs, only know the bits, or care about the bits, where I messed up. When I’m right, no-one remembers, when I’m wrong, no-one forgets.

There are people on the OPC page who are, and never will be, anything to do with OPD. They’re there for what reason? I see them like the posts where my failures are highlighted. They’re people who used to be on my friends list on FB, but made judgements and then deleted me. Now they like nothing more than to watch me suffer. But that’s ok. Their weird little lives are empty, and that’s no concern of mine. On the other hand I’ve had so many messages of support I’m touched beyond words, which is not like me 🙂

I’ve had lovely words, offers of places to stay, made new friends, re-engaged with old ones.

That’s the main reason I’ve written this, is to say thank you to them, and you know who you are. New people coming into my life with kindness and humility and humanity and compassion and understanding, leaving aside judgement, because they know what it’s like to be in the positions I’ve been in, because they’ve actually taken notice of the Tess behind the online, angry persona Tess, that the others all like to think they know.

To the friends old and new, who get it, and have been there for me, and who stick their necks out, and who show solidarity, I thank you and I love you. You’re all mega.

Finally, with all that’s going on globally, how can any of this even be an issue? Who cares? As usual the main point of someone just needing a home is completely missed. My tiny life is a microcosm of that insane, macro world out there. All the madness, all the fighting, all the wars… it exists here in miniature. What a load of nonsense it all is. I have no control of any of out there, but I have control of in here. I’m entitled to tell my story. To fight the small battles in my little world. And to give people the warning and flip side in order to make informed decisions.

And so I continue with the show. It’s all I really know how to do innit.. theatre. Apart from making a lovely cup of tea….

And Justice for All?

I found a house available to rent. I looked at my finances. Not a hope. So I looked into Universal Credit, like the council advised me to when they told me I have to leave my super cheap eco residence that I build out of swamp and that costs nothing to live in.

Guess what? Because I’m self employed, and I own a bit of ex swamp, then the amount of UI I’d be able to claim wouldn’t be enough to keep me in teabags, let alone rent a house and pay all the bills.

So of course, this leaves me where exactly? The council are dying to classify me as homeless. I’m not sure why, because with that status the only place on offer to live is in the hostel in Pembroke, about 50 minutes drive from the livestock. It’s a bit rich refusing me OPD because I’m not considered eco enough and then attempting to force me to to drive 60 miles a day to my place of work.

The lady who put me on the council housing list actually said to me, and I quote, “It sounds like you have a smallholding there. Is a council house really right for you?” This was of course after telling me that I’d never get one. Because there aren’t any. And I know there aren’t any. I’ve lived in a field for five years. I’m fully aware of the lack of affordable housing.

My reaction to all of this has been to move my caravan. Not off my plot. But further onto it. Onto a bit that you couldn’t drive onto in October when I brought the caravan here. I’m now next to the dried up pond, down in the space where I was planning to build my house. It’s like being on holiday. I’m legit able to stay here until february, so I may as well have a good time.

Last week I took the plunge and made an official complaint to the architect next door’s firm. I was shaking as I wrote it. It’s not in my nature to write Karen-esque letters to complain. The response came quickly, and was basically a very long rambling excuse for not having planning permission on his cottage, by telling me all about how I should have applied for planning permission before I spent any time and energy on my project. Then he asked if I have an herbs for sale. I’m not making this up, honest. Sorry we made you homeless, but are you still planning to sell cheap plants? In answer, yes, I am still selling cheap plants. Just not here. I’m selling them in South Pembs where the neighbours appreciate it. I would be selling cheap plants right next door to you, had I got Planning. However, that’s a decision that you took. Garden Centre next door or not? Hmm. I’ve decided not. Well, there we are then. You don’t get no herbs.

He also told me that it’s a myth that there is corruption in the council regarding planning. It’s not a myth. The myth that it’s a myth is spread around by the people who don’t want the layman to know what really goes on, because they think we’re stupid and that people don’t talk.

I’m not sure if RIBA will do anything about his transgressions. He said that the other things I’ve mentioned, ie, landlord registration, septic tank issues, Energy Performance Certificate, have either been “sorted” or will be after Covid. No details. I can assume from the way he fights about his right to keep his cottage and not need a Certificate of Lawfulness, that he would fight to defend himself in all matters. I can only surmise, then, that he isn’t registered as a landlord, and hasn’t registered the dodgy septic tank, and doesn’t have an energy performance certificate, among other things.

It feels weird to get all Karen, and do the reporting thing. But needs must, when the devil vomits in your kettle, as they say. I’m not really prepared to sit back and let this injustice go. The only reason the neighbours here got away with all their planning transgressions, is because no-one grassed them up. I still haven’t had a satisfactory answer from the council about how they came to the decision to grant retrospective planning on the four stables to the bungalow next to the architect. And I won’t get an answer. In the same way that they just shrug when I ask if they’re going to enforce the rental property next door. They’re not going to, of course. They only enforce people they think they can get away with enforcing.

The architect’s letter also contained a warning to take down my structures before the deadline. Not a trace of irony. To quote Blackadder again. Irony. It’s like goldy and bronzy, only it’s made of iron.

Like my resolve, Mush.

The Book of Revelation

I’ve been doing a bit of digging since my planning appeal was refused just over a week ago. Not garden digging. But digging into the planning history of the farm track where my land is, and where all my objectors have their properties.

I always knew that the bunglow and the holiday home had gone through on planning on the four year rule, many years ago. It was a fact not lost on me when the owners started reporting me to the council repeatedly.

The woman in the bunglow applied for retrospective planning on her block of four stables while my planning app was in. Mine took 18 months. Hers took 7 weeks. There were no drawings on her plans, and the community council said that the application was “vague”, but it was passed by David Harries at PCC, nice and easy.

There was no talk of it being retrospective. And no talk of it being highly visible. The concrete floors, electricity, water, pretentious clock, were all deemed suitable to stay, even though she didn’t ask permission first. What makes an application like that go through, and an application like mine to be refused?

Another objector, a very well respected architect, who wrote a huge objection to my application, has a little cottage in his garden that he rents out. Turns out, this hasn’t got planning permission. But it’s been there long enough for the council to allow him to keep it. Funny that. He’s got to apply for a certificate of lawfulness. Isn’t that very suspicious? Someone who gets posh houses through planning as part of his job and has daily contact with the council would surely be very aware of the rules regarding planning. So it seems he was just trying to get away with it. And he has. They all have.

The holiday home at the bottom of the track was also built without planning. The owners like to tell the story of how they duped the planners by putting old soil between the stones so that when it was analysed it wasn’t shown to be the concrete pointing that had actually been used.

Last year, my water pipes were cut, by another neighbour who lives in vehicles. I was told he had planning permission for this site, but it turns out that he doesn’t. Yet no one on this track seems to mind his scrapyard, but they seem to take real umbridge to my cabbage patch.

The real point here, is the absolute two-facedness of a mafia ganging up on me when their noses are in no way clean, and they have ALL been in contravention or breach of planning. All of them. Yet the council saw fit to refuse the person who actually wants to farm this farmland, who actually asked for permission to build a house.

They have no need for the things they’re allowed to keep. The holiday home owner has two cottages side by side in a village called Wilton in Wilshire, a village where the average house price is £700k. She has two of them. And one here.

The guy in the bus has just inherited a cottage from an old lady up the road, so he has somewhere to live. Why is he still on the land, displaying a sold sign on the house, when the company whose sign he is using have never had the property on their books?

Why is the architect allowed to rent out a second home without planning? Has he declared that income? Has he paid council tax? He’s converted his sheds to a studio and a home for his flash sports car. But that’s ok. Why?

The bunglow that was built on a wing and a prayer and got planning under four year rule, but now also includes four stables outside the curtilege of the garden, is perfectly acceptable to the council. Why?

Point is, they got away with it because no one reported them. They’ve been sneaking about down this track for years. Yet as soon as someone else does something they’re straight on the complain and object train. Surely that’s the worst kind of hypocrisy? To be so blind to your own activities while judging and slandering someone else? To insist no one else has an opportunity, even though you’ve all been doing exactly whatever the hell you want? I don’t think so.

I don’t suppose they ever expected their stories to see the light of day. When they began their campaign of bullying I was in the middle of a divorce, weak, exhausted and alone. That’s not the case anymore. I’m going to fight this to the death. Mark my words. They have holiday homes, rental properties, stables, spare cottages. All I want is a home.

This hypocrisy and corruption stops now. Who’s with me?

If You Tolerate This…

A couple of months ago the Morning Star ran my article, that begged for my eco home to not be torn down. I had applied for a One Planet Development. Two refusals in, I was at the point of waiting for a planning appeal hearing. Of course, due to Covid-19, the hearing was cancelled the day before it was due to take place. Foolishly, in hindsight, I agreed to proceed via written representations.

The day before yesterday I got the email I had been dreading. I had again been refused. Not only that, but the enforcement order was to stay in place. I have nine months to take everything down, even the agricultural stuff like the polytunnel and goat house, the workshop and the caravan; everything must go, as the Manic Street Preachers once said. Something else they once said, those lovely Welsh boys is this. If you tolerate this, your children will be next. So 36 hours after losing my entire future, I’m on track to making a few future decisions.

Firstly, I could go to the high court. However, some friends of mine who won their case at high court are now being taken back to court by the council who are appealing their high court win. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Or, I could apply for agricultural business planning permission, and just not attempt to live here. After five winters in a field this is an attractive proposition. So I spoke to the housing at the council. There are no council houses. The list is as long as my face was the day before yesterday. So the Primary Mental Health Care Team put me in touch with another body that could apparently help with housing. Turns out, they basically act as an agent for people looking to rent. They don’t have any secret houses available. Just the same ones that are on Zoopla. Which is none. There’s a flat in Narberth, £129 a week. Their suggestion on paying that? Universal credit of course. To pay a private landlord a state subsidised rent that forces the tax payer to pay for a place for me to live even though I already have a place to live, the kind of place that the tax payer would really like to live too. What’s wrong with this picture?

I could go full anarchy. I could just say, no, I’m not going. That’s a possibility. In the spirit of Albert Dryden I’d be into that while my strength held out. I could park my caravan in the council office car park. They have nice facilities. I could turn my place into a campsite, or gift it to the gypsies and move to Portugal. I could get lots of pigs.

In essence, I’m glad I didn’t get OPD. It’s not real freedom. The process has been the worst time of my life. Unimaginable stress and drip torture with all the waiting. It’s flawed to the point of uselessness. There are so many loopholes that if your face doesn’t fit or if you’re retrospective in any way, you won’t get it, simple as that. It’s arbitrary and inconsistent. It’s a policy that is not fit for purpose, when a holiday home owner can object to a local trying to live a sustainable life. If I live away from my land I have to drive here every day. Logical that. In refusing OPDs they’re forcing people back out into a system that doesn’t work. Covid -19 has demonstrated how tenuous capitalism is. Yet, here I am, being told I have to go back out there into the machine.

I’ve been beaten by the system. A flawed, useless, not fit for purpose system. Against all logic, that is what has happened. So, we have no choice now but to change the system. And until then, I’m happy to ignore the system.

My entire future, home, business, the homes for my animals, everything, has all just been taken away from me. I now have nothing at all to lose. Nothing. I have no business to build any more, no home for my son to plan, no reason to care about any of it any more. The stress has gone. The wait is over. Now all I have is lots and lots of time, a blank canvass, nine months to decide what’s next, and raise hell while I decide.

My objectors may have won this battle, but you know what they say about wars. And despite it all, I’m still happy. They have everything, yet they will never be happy. That’s the difference between them and me. An I’d much rather be me.

The King is Dead. Long Live the King

There are battles, and then there are battles. Some are worth fighting, some are not.

Back when Blair took over the Labour party I wandered off, ignoring politics in my disillusionment, forming a liking for Charles Kennedy, even voting Lib Dems once.

When Corbyn rocked up, I couldn’t believe it. I had it in my head that JC was the second coming. That he was going to bring Labour back to socialism, the way it was when I used to sit with my grandad and do the pools and watch the snooker.

I was born in the early seventies, so lived though a lot of crazy stuff as a child, the Falklands, the Miner’s Strike, the troubles in Northern Ireland. Spitting Image was how my childish mind made sense of it all. I was incensed with Thatcher over the school milk thing, and my grandad told me Tories were bad. When he had the opportunity to buy his council house for next to nothing he wouldn’t, as he said social housing was for people that needed it. He lived in council houses for the rest of his life, downsizing as he went, before dying aged 92.

To me, because of his influence, socialism was a thing that just made sense and you never questioned it. It just was. The Labour party was an institution, like British Telecom, and Royal Mail, and British Rail and all the things that existed and were reassuring, and to be relied upon.

I didn’t quite understand what was happening when it all got sold off. There was no logic to it. My brain didn’t think in a capitalist way. The way the world became revealed to me made me disillusioned to the point that I felt I could no longer engage. So apart from turning up and dutifully voting Labour every time, even though they seemed to be creeping ever further away, Corbyn gave me the kind of impetus that makes you actually join a party, and join I did.

I watched closely as he became a hero, and I watched closely as he fell from grace. I grew frustrated with his silence over Brexit, I became angry at his fence sitting, but I still wouldn’t hear a word against him. I still won’t. I met him, for a split second when he visited Haverfordwest inSouth West Wales – our local constituency county town – a few days before the election, and he gave me a hug. That positivity and elation stayed with me, right up to the moment that the exit poll was released.

I went to bed. And decided I’d had enough of politics. In the meantime, my pre-election spamming on facebook had got so intense that I got reported and banned from posting for seven days.

Bored, and feeling like I had no voice, I wandered over to the old Twitter account I’d made ten years earlier, and starting floating around in there. I saw George Galloway had just started a new party. I watched the launch video and read the website. It said to be a member you had to get involved. I didn’t want to. I was sick of shouting and not being heard. But as the weeks passed, and I started to calm down, I realised that the same was happening as when Corbyn appeared. There was something here that might be worth fighting for. I had a chat with George, and ten minutes later I had left Labour and joined The Worker’s Party of Britain. It was that easy.

I travelled to Birmingham for the launch rally and met George there. A nicer bloke you couldn’t meet. Unassuming, no airs and graces, great hat. By the end of the day, and after all the talkers we had heard, I was more inspired than I had ever been by Labour. Everyone was on the same page. Everyone had a shared vision. The atmosphere in the room, filled with kids and friends and happy people, was one of family. And that feeling has continued. We have meetings online every week, a great side effect of the Coronovirus, in that we were forced to be creative about replacing the cancelled rallies. Hopefully this is something that will continue. Keeping in touch in this way ensures we all keep engaged, and we are encouraged to get involved.

There was never going to be a better opportunity for a socialist party, in that our capitalist government has been forced to turn to socialism to bail it out. The capitalist failures were exposed in less than a week, and the country doing the best out of everyone, really, is Cuba.

Socialism doesn’t work, we keep getting told. That seems to me to be false, even more false now than ever. The Covid-19 crisis has changed things like never before, without warning. Capitalism has been dying a slow death; just hanging on, waiting for the end, a long, drawn out illness making it ever weaker. Covid hasinstead been the equivalent of a sudden accident, a car crash where capitalism finds itself with fatal injuries.

It surely can’t recover, yet we know our corrupt governments will not rest until they’ve found a way to save its life, and they’ll keep it on life support for as long as it needs to be, until it recovers. Someone has to be bold enough to sneak in and turn the plug off.

Who will that be? It’s not going to be Labour. They’;re not holding anyone to account. The recent leaks throw up spectacular questions which we may or may not ever know the truth about. Labour isn’t the King of the working classes any more. It hasn’t been for a long, long time, since way before my grandad gave them credit for, but he was born in 1905, and was a product of his time.

Labour are making him turn in his British workman’s grave. If he was alive today, I believe he’d join me in abandoning ship. You don’t stay in a boat with a hole in it, not unless there’s a good engineer on board. But let’s be fair, a knight of the realm is never going to be much good with a spanner….

There’s only one choice for socialism now, as far as I can see. Galloway has always stayed true to his word. What other politician has? Yes, he’s changed his mind when presented with evidence, and that is the mark of a wise man. When people know what I’ve done, they say.. BIG BROTHER!!!Yes he was on Big Brother, but if your only cultural reference of George is that, then I’m afraid you may be part of the problem my friend. Get on youtube and watch his 43 minute speech where he rips the senate to shreds. Ten minutes in, you’ll have forgotten all about that leotard.

Imagine if they’d told him to be a cat and he’d refused. What a pussy that would have made him. When you’ve got the bollocks to put that outfit on and raise a fortune for Palestinian kids, then I’ll let you make fun. Until then, you’re missing out bigly if you use something so trite to stop yourself from joining a party that is welcoming, true to its principles and its members. That is starting form the ground up and where your voice will be heard. Where you can learn so much from the amazing people that are on board. Joti Brar, deputy leader, is a legend in her own right, and the party is growing every day with people from all other parties, or with people that have finally found a party that works for them.

Labour is gone. It’s time to step up and be brave. To be the change and see the change.

The King is dead. Long live the King.

An Inspector Calls

As my planning appeal hearing was cancelled due to Covid-19, I agreed with the planning inspectorate that I’d be happy to proceed through written representations, as I couldn’t see the crisis ending anytime soon.

Pembs county council agreed, and more writing took place, the final comments as it were, having already had the final comments before the hearing. So I made my final comments, others made their final comments. The Council made their final comments. Only one and a half pages, mostly just referring to the retrospective nature of my application. If only they knew the bungalow envy I suffer everytime I drive through Efailwen and see the centrally heated homes all neatly lined up.

Anyhoo. After these final comments, I was told that I then had an opportunity to make final comments regarding the Councils’ final comments. So again, I made my final comments, mostly based around my bungalow envy., There have been so many final comments I’m running out of final comments, but the council always manage somehow to irritate me enough to make another final comment. So, I made my final comments.

Meanwhile, I was told the planning inspector would do a site visit, but as the council would not be present I was not to approach him. I didn’t move for a week.. I watched, I analysed every dog bark, I peeped, but the guy is a ninja, because I didn’t see him. However, I knew he’d been, because the process continued at the end of the week, thus demonstrated by the request for final comments on the final comments.

It’s been three days since the final comments deadline. I’ve been told it can take up to six weeks for a decision to be made. I’m also aware that the planning inspectorate have been really quick dealing with every milestone of my case, so that makes me feel that I could get the decision any minute. So here I am, in lockdown, alone, in the place I’m not allowed to be, waiting for the word to say I can either be here or I can continue to not be.

The weirdness of life right now is surpassing every other time of life that I thought was weird. I should be climbing the walls by now. But I seem to have reached this state of Zen. Either that or delirium. Either way, ironically, for the first time ever, no one is coming to get me, because they’re all on lockdown and working from home.

I’ve had a cough which didn’t progress to anything but which has meant I have to stay put. It feels, for the first time, like I’m allowed to be here. I’m not sure whether to enjoy the feeling, or to not get too into it, just in case I get an email in a minute saying my appeal was refused. This is the most surreal limbo you can ever imagine, and I can’t even go out for a bit to see a chum or the folks. How very ironic that is.

Half of me hopes that he takes ages to decide and leaves me be for a good few weeks with the illusion. The other half wants it over and done with, so I know whether or not I can relax or if I have to prepare for further battle.

On the plus side, the place is looking mega. I’ve planted extra veggies, instantly regretting it as I pot on a million cabbages, but I won’t be regretting it when civilisation collapses. There are many people taking this opportunity to grow victory gardens, and I love that. I love that the crisis has made people see what’s important. It certainly eliminates the bullshit. I usually wake up each day vaguely nervous that I’ve got to leave site and face the real world. At this moment, I can’t, so all the guilt and stress of that thought is instantly dispersed. Knowing that you can’t go anywhere is nice when you don’t particularly want to go anywhere. All I have is this twilight time where I can reflect and observe the blossom on the fruit trees, the leaves and catkins busting from the willows, the veggies growing an inch a day in the polytunnel that I’ve finally got the way I want. There’s new life everywhere, the bees are awake, the bird houses are filling up, the ground is drying and the air is full of singing birds, made louder by the lack of planes.

This feeling could last a day, or six weeks. If my appeal is successful it’ll last forever. So, I’ll just wait. And be happy for the present. Who knows what’s next?

The Leveller

It’s human nature to go into shock in an emergency, and it looks like the nation is in shock.

Here in Wales it has found it’s perfect manifestation. The public have again been split into opposite camps and the riots are about to begin.

As the schools closed and the sun came out, and Boris kept his advice just woozy enough to be indecipherable, the crowds flocked to Wales; here in West Wales Tenby, Saundersfoot and Newport were rammed with tourists. The second home owners had arrived, the camp sites filled up. In North Wales day trippers flocked to the Snowdonia National Park to out their hands all over the rocks. It seems similar scenes occurred in English seaside towns.

This has gone nuclear in this area. Facebook is awash with irate locals wondering why they have to lose their livelihoods, and close their bars, cafés and other public spaces,yet the tourists are turning up in their droves and licking their ice-creams as per tradition. We rely heavily on tourism in this area, but still, the people want the aliens to disperse. I’ve never seen such desperation.

If you’re local, you’re well aware that the local health services are stretched to breaking point at the best of times. The incomers don’t realise this. They’re used to just rocking up at A&E and filling out a form. In this county however, many people struggle to get a doctor’s appointment in peacetime, let alone now. The wait in A &E is usually around 7 hours if you’re lucky. All the shops are empty. Our infrastructure cannot cope with the incomers. We have thirty ventilators in Withybush hospital. It’s a very big county. And that’s our only hospital. And it’s already broken past repair and essential services are being downgraded and shifted to Carmarthen, itself in need of a little TLC, to say the least.

Luckily, the big camp-site owners are closing down, the smaller will surely follow suit. One hopes that it’s explained to people with houses in the county that refuse to go back to their primary address, that there are no beds in the hospital for them. And no food for them to buy.

And this is the interesting point. I see freedom loving people, myself included, desperately pleading for a lockdown. We don’t want to take any chances with our elders, of which there are many in Pembrokeshire. If this is worse for the elderly then we’re going to be inundated. 61% of the population of the county is over 60.

The trouble is with people not taking advice, is that it becomes necessary to impose and enforce rules. We become trapped in this purgatory of not wanting out liberties taken away, but not wanting our folks to die either. The shouting between the scared and the laissez faire is becoming as crass as the Brexit argument. That’s the bit that hurts me the most in all of this. When we should come together, people are still finding ways to be at each others’ throats.

My own hope is that the virus will turn out to be less lethal than we thought, and that we can get a hold on it. But one thing I would like to see, is a total break with the past in terms of the way we’ve been living. Some conspirators have suggested this is a hoax, or a drill. If it is, It has demonstrated that we’re unready, to say the least.

If this is big, and real, then we should have been ready. It’s not like we haven’t known it’s coming. It should have been a case of, oh well, here it is.. get the breathers out. Instead we’re faced with this situation where the mighty are falling. Politically, physically, and economically.

The billionaires will escape this. They always do. The ones who I see getting affected the most are the middle classes. The working classes are used to this. Our lives fall apart most days. But to see the bourgeoisie getting upset at the lack of quinoa, and the loss of rent for their properties, and getting sent home from their holiday homes, and losing their assets with the fall in interest rates, and watching their unearned wealth disappear ans the housing market inevitable drops to possibly and unprecedented, level, where the old money is suddenly worth a lot less than it used to be – it’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out.

At the very least, the middle classes are experiencing the kind of insecurity and uncertainty that others face of a daily basis. Let’s hope when this is all over they remember what it feels like to be in crisis and to need assistance. We’re always saying homelessness is two bad months away. Maybe we’re about to level the land.