Angry Old Man

What changes a grumpy old man into an angry old man?

Is it simply age or is there something else going on?

These are some of the things which happen as we get closer to that severely malnourished character with the scythe.

  • The question “What shall I do today” changes from happy anticipation to gloomy introspection.
  • We become invisible to strangers. The tide of youth politely flows round us and continues, its ebb and flow unchanged.
  • We may still desire but are no longer desired. In other words the fear of being raped changes to that of being reaped!
  • The wise sage we see in ourselves is an opinionated old bore to the young.
  • We are loved by the young, but not as equals. We are like some kind of demanding pet.
  • Change – we used to love it, now we hate it.
  • Those things we used to love now seem pointless.

These are generalisations – another thing we seniors are good at – and there are plenty of exceptions. There are as well, a lot of good things about being 70 plus in a wealthy civilised country which is at peace with others if not with itself. Here are some of them:

  • We laugh a lot.
  • With some glaring exceptions, we no longer want to do things we are now unable to do.
  • We worry less about money.
  • We shrug off minor aches and pains as long as we are spared the big ones.
  • We learn how to be happy doing less.
  • We have plenty of time to do the things we enjoy.

So, is being angry part of the ageing process? I don’t think so. I believe that we are living at a time of exceptional change. Not only are the changes of great magnitude, but they are happening at great speed. The rate of change is accelerating. The younger you are, the less change you have to look back on, so you go with the flow. You are less conscious of the speed of change.  Is it surprising that some of us oldies are bewildered and angry about things we have no power over and which seem to be much worse than when we were young?

It is this anger which the Brexit campaign here in Britain so cleverly tapped into. Suddenly my age group was given the power to turn back the clock, and they jumped at it. I was not one of them and my concerns are very different, but I understand their anger.

My concern is that the young are not angry enough! I want them to rise up in rage at the complacency of our politicians when faced with the prospect, not just of accelerating climate change, but all the other horrors waiting to jump out and bite us, the biggest of which is loss of biodiversity. We are consuming ever more of the resources which sustain all life. In the words of a book  I read more than 20  years ago and which are as true as ever, we are The Future Eaters. (Tim Flannery 1994)

Far too many of those in power seem to think that tinkering with the system, another tweak of the technology, a move towards “sustainable development”, will solve the problem. I don’t.

I may well be wrong. There are many clever people who completely disagree. I’ve been wrong plenty of times in the past, but on this issue, everything I have read and learnt over the years points to a crisis we have postponed time and again by clever tweaking. At some stage the debt we have built up will be called in. Our future will have been eaten, and at my age, there is so little I can do about it.

That’s what makes me angry.









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Wildlife Blogger of the Year, Part 2

(This is a picture from my entry: The Running of the Deer)

Could I be the “Wildlife Blogger of the Year”? Short of a sudden influx of 400 odd friends to vote for me, I’m certainly not going to win the “Readers’ Choice” part of the competition, but the great thing about this is that simply being a part of it is enlightening.  Readers Choice

I have been spending some time trawling through the 90 other entries. It’s a bewildering experience. There is a hefty gap between my world and theirs, and it’s not just of age or opportunity. Here’s an example: I look at my second  sentence in this paragraph and decide that “bewildering” actually means something similar to “re-wilding”. Do you see what I mean? I’m a tad obsessive about language and words. However, most of the entrants I’m competing with are not, and for very good reasons. They are obsessed with saving wildlife. Most are also much younger than me and it’s heartening to see that there are so many young people out there who care so much about our vanishing wildlife that they devote their lives to the cause.

I’m going to take a few random examples to give you a taste of what is going on.

The piece I voted for is frightening and the excellent pictures capture in vivid detail one of the horrors of nature up close:

Another category of horror is how humans abuse wild creatures for money – vividly expressed by, among others, Jess Murray:

Many of the pieces are from the tropics, where the writers are celebrating a magical moment, frequently in the context of an organised trip. This one in contrast is an honest account of being in a cold  place with cold and difficult people, but ends with a song:

Lastly, a fascinating account of the local politics of a little known country: Liberia

The judging takes place at the turn of the year, but there is still time to vote for me:The Running of the Deer



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A Difficult Question

Here’s a question for my younger friends: “Would you vote for someone who promised drastically to reduce your standard of living?”

I began this some days ago, prompted by seeing dear old David Attenborough jerking his arms up and down and telling us we are facing a crisis. Most of us agree that climate change is a terrible threat to our future, so why are we wasting so much time and so many billions on a silly idea with a silly name: Brexit? Why do apparently intelligent people talk about “sustainable growth”. There is no such thing. Why isn’t that obvious to anybody? Any organism can only grow as long as its resource base is growing. Our economies and populations can only grow as long as we keep using more oil, more coal, more water, more land. So many people seem to believe that with some kind of technological magic we can enjoy all the benefits of our energy rich lives while dramatically reducing our emissions of carbon dioxide. IT CAN’T BE DONE.

“Nonsense!”  say those who think it’s all to do with the sun. “Look at the figures: all over the world we are less violent, better fed, we have more leisure we are better educated and better housed than ever.” It may well be true that life is getting better for humans, but those that say this forget to look at what is happening in the natural world –  the place where our food comes from.

Climate change is only one of the threats to our future which have been ignored for too long. With the human population still rising, even if we could find a way to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, we are likely to run out of water in, for example, the Indian sub-continent. Unless we can dramatically change the typical meat-based Western diet, we will run out of fertile land. As our population grows and becomes richer, populations of millions of other species are in rapid decline. Without insects we could not survive, yet the total population of insects seems to be in free fall.

The figures, when you dig deeper, are horrifying, but  we don’t have to stick our heads in the sand and wait for it to bury us. There are things that would work, but not the sort of things we would vote for. Would you vote for someone who promised to reduce your standard of living by – at a conservative estimate – a factor of 5? A  draconian carbon tax would work. It would dramatically increase the cost of anything which emitted carbon dioxide, but what happens when a country like France imposes a modest carbon tax on motor fuel?  – riots:  tax abandoned. 

But what about nuclear energy, particularly the prospect of super-abundant clean energy produced by fusion?  Surely that would solve our problems?

I don’t think so. With all that clean energy we wouldn’t have to worry about cutting down all the forests. We could irrigate the deserts to grow more and more food for more and more people.  Can you imagine a world choosing not to use all that power to make all the things that we need? Would we choose not to make any more plastic? Can you imagine us choosing not to have children so that the population could be reduced enough to save the natural world? It’s a law of nature that when resources increase so do populations, and vice versa.

If we won’t vote for it how, in a democracy can it happen? Traditionally democracy is suspended when a country goes to war, and war seems to be the preferred option on the right wing Trump/Brexit, Orban/Putin axis. Yes, a big enough war would reduce the human population but it would also send massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If, however, we could get all the richest nations to suspend democracy in a total war on carbon emissions, that might work.

I even think something like that might happen in my lifetime, so my answer to the question is YES! I would be overjoyed to vote for someone with some grasp on reality.


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Christmas Markets – absolute masochism!

If you are a connoisseur of the most exquisite forms of tedium then I recommend 6 hours at a market stall in winter. I’ve never known time go so slowly. The bits that just about made it worthwhile were those when I got chatting to some really interesting people, and the overall factor which put some plus signs in the balance was learning about selling to the general public. I’m still not sure about the best way to present my work in a form which will bring some money in, but making the stall much more professional looking is essential if I am to get more satisfaction from market trading.  

Did I sell anything? Yes – 2 pictures and 3 packs of Christmas cards. This was just enough to keep this option going. For now though a return to activity!

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Christmas Market

I’m no stranger to selling things – it’s what I’ve been doing most of my adult life; that and making things and organising things and selling tickets and . . .too many other ways of earning my keep. Yet in all my life,  today is the first time I have ever held a stall at a market. I’ve done shows with a caravan and an awning and lovely chairs and tables which people would admire but seldom buy; I’ve sold festival tickets online; gig tickets at the door; I’ve sold ideas of thing in wood which people have commissioned; all this but never the most fundamental and ancient way in which goods are traded: The Market.

What  a word with many meanings that is! The farmers round here call it the “Mart”  and go to buy and sell animals.  Politicians use it to mean the fundamental unit of capitalism. One kind of market in Britain  gets called a “Boot Sale”, which must totally mystify our US cousins. Another gets called a “flea market” which comes from the French “Marché aux Puces” meaning the sort of old stuff which might contain fleas!  Many towns in Britain have a market hall big enough to hold 30 or 40 stalls open most of the time but joined my many more in the streets outside on “Market Day”. Markets  sell anything and everything that can be fitted into the space.  In the last 10 years or so they have  become a major seasonal events: the Christmas Markets, and it is one of these I am dipping my toe into today, and a different one tomorrow.

I’m not expecting to sell out,  but with luck I might get a good idea of what is “marketable”.

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