Monday, 15 September 2014

On Scottish (and Welsh) independence

Scotland goes to the polls for an historic referendum on independence in just a few days and an important question arises: What will the future of the UNITED Kingdom be?

I've mostly avoided politics on this website and keep this focused on writing, which was always my passion. I used to run a politics blog for five years, After leaving politics in 2005/6, I now try to avoid politics, particualry as I was foolish enough to support a mainstream UK political party at the time, but from time political issues still creep into our lives, and it's time to comment on it, for which I apologise for getting political.

I should state for the record that I am currently a unionist. Currently.

I'm going to post some text from 2007, when I outlined my ideal vision for a future of the UK.

Please note: these are my personal opinions only, and are not and may not be representative of any organisation, entity or body I am or have been associated with.
Firstly, I believe that more powers to the Welsh Assembly would be a good thing, on a par with the Scottish Executive.
Secondly, I believe wholeheartedly in the Monarchy and the Union. It is a United Kingdom in which we live, long may it remain so. Welsh independence is a folly that as a Unionist, I do not entertain.
I believe that England should also have an English Parliament, all with equal powers in line with Stormont, Edinburgh and Cardiff. The devolution experiment has worked, apart from the neglect of including England in the experiment. Placing the English Parliament in one of the heptarchies outside the SE England region may also help generate (or where needed, regenerate) the economy for the region. Furthermore, if regionalisation is to occur in England, let it occur along the lines of the old traditional heptarchies, not along imposed European regional lines such as the disastrous Labour campaign for a NE England Assembly (although though I don't forsee much call for a Wessex Parliament, or a Mercian Assembly).
Each of the respective nations would have their patron saint's day off as a Bank Holiday.
All of the United Kingdom would have God Save the Queen as the first anthem, followed by their relevant regional anthems, such as in Wales Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. As England doesn't have an anthem itself, the traditional hymn Jerusalem could be implemented as such.
Now the devolution experiment is firmly entrenched in the society of the UK, the constitution needs a rethink. As outlined above, I would propose four regional governmental bodies, that of N. Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England, each with their own respective First Ministers (or whatever fancy title they'd get). Westminster would take on a new identity, that as the supra-governing body of a Federated and United Kingdom, under a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, under the monarch. Perhaps it would be going too far to call it a United States of the British Isles, but I'm sure you get a clearer idea if I said that.
And that was my viewpoint in 2007. My idealistic goal would be to keep things like that, but things may desperately change, however, as Scotland goes to the polls in the next few days, on 18 September 2014, precisely 700 years after the independence-ensuring Battle of Bannockburn.

In just a few days, we are faced with the very real prospect of the break-up of the United Kingdom. I live in England, so I don't get a vote, but I have been following the debate closely. I personally am not seeing a strong enough argument put forward from the camp I support, the No to independence camp, and strong nationalistic tub-thumping from the Yes camp, There are talks of greater devolution being proposed by the No camp, the so-called "Devo Max" as a sweetener to persuade people to vote no, but still there is not enough clarity. There is great uncertainty in choosing independence, but the No campaign should be throuoghly ashamed of themselves in not actually presenting the positive arguemnts in preserving the Union, and instead focusing on scaremongering about the prospect of having independence.

I have given up trying to keep track of opinion polls, Yes up here, No up there, No down here, Yes down there, everywhere undecided. The result will come and it will be what it will be. If  on the morning of the 19 the choice is no, then talks have to begin to publicly clarify what the reward/sweetener of Devo Max will be. This will have drastic consequences, as the Cornish (a protected and recognised minority) will rightfully demand greater autonomy, just like Scotland and Wales, and Wales itself inevitably will want to follow in Scotland's footsteps.

But without Scotland, I feel, the Union is finished. I am sensible enough to recognise that if Scotland goes, there is no point in continuing to support the Union. In the scenario where Scotland has says yes, we can look at how it may affect Wales. Wales currently has an overwhelming majority of those polled who would say no to Welsh independence, but in the event of Scottish independence, a role model would be created for Welsh nationalists to base their Welsh independence model upon. I would hope the Scottish independence model would be successful; I would not wish any ill or Scotland or bear a grudge should Scotland vote yes. It would allow nationalist movements such as Plaid Cymru (the Welsh Socialist Nationalists) or Plaid Glyndŵr (the anti-EU Welsh Nationalists, a bit like UKIP but with dragons, I suppose) to gain ground across Wales. Sentiment amongst the mainstream three parties (Welsh Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) could also change. There are noted Labour Party members in Scotland joining the Yes camp at the moment.

Where Scotland goes, Wales inevitably follows, so without some fantastic deal (Devo Max Wales?) given to Wales to persuade the Welsh electorate to stay part of the union, Wales will likely also become independent,

As for Northern Ireland, that's a hot potato that would be a whole different story. How a potential break-up of the Union would affect Northern Ireland would be an extremely difficult thing to analyse in a short time, but I fear further violence and more "Troubles" could be involved if the Union were to break up.

What does this mean for me personally? Let me firstly qualify my current situation. I am Welsh, and I live in England. I should say that when I first wrote that sentence a few minutes ago, I wrote instead "but I live in England". That "but" may suggest I should apologise for leaving my homeland. I shouldn't and won't apologise, because I am happy living here, and I moved here for love and work. I should hope I am an integral part of the community and economy here in Worcester, England.

I have come to the firm decision that until the results are announced, my ideal for the United Kingdom would be a Federated United Kingdom (FUK; unfortunate initials, I know, but never mind) as outlined above. Should the result be No, I will continue to support the ideal of a FUK.

If the voters of Scotland destroy this dream on September 18, I am sensible enough to know that the dream of a FUK is dead.

Therefore, if Scotland votes yes, I will pledge support greater autonomy for Wales (I'd support greater Welsh autonomy anyway, regardless of the Scotland result), support the free movements of the peoples around the British Isles (I'm happy here in Worcester; I don't want to be ejected on the grounds of the place of my birth), abandon support of a United Kingdom, and should a Welsh independence movement become popular, it would gain my support. I of course remain loyal to whichever land I call my home, which would be England, and to my native land of Wales.

So vote NO to Scottish independence, or I'll have to eat humble pie and start campaigning for Welsh independence.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

"He Brews Coffee" - a poem written and performed by Damon Lord

Introducing a new feature on my website, here's a video of me performing a poem. I'll add new videos as and when the opportunity arises.

Today, we have "He Brews Coffee". Conflict and coffee are on the menu in a coffee shop, as a metaphor for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

He Brews Coffee

A Poem written and performed by Damon Lord


I want to drink my coffee in peace.
I want to just sit here, quiet, happy.

I am weary.
I have endured.
I am in pain.

You sit smoking, at the next table.
You keep hitting me.
Again. Again. Again.
You loudly proclaim for all to hear:
You want to kill me.
Why won't anyone do anything?

I am weary.
I have endured.
I am in pain.

They ignore:
my bruises,
my wounds,
my cuts,
my broken parts,
Wilfully damaged by your senseless, vulgar, pernicious rage.


I do not want this.
I want peace.
But no one will do anything to help.
No one.

I offer you my coffee to share.
You smash the cup in my face.

I have to defend myself.
I do not want to cause hurt.
I tell you I will fight back.
I give you so many chances to avoid this,
But you only rage:
“Come at me, bro! Come at me!”

I rise, strike precisely.
It pains - me - to hurt - you -
My brother from the next table.
I break your little finger.
Angrier,
You slide back down
Raining death threats on me.

I am now safe.
For now.

I do not want coffee now.
It tastes too bitter.

Everyone looks at me.
They have ignored me until now.
You cry to them:
I am the aggressor.
They ignore:
my bleeding face
my shattered coffee mug
my bruises,
my wounds,
my cuts,
my broken parts,
Wilfully damaged by your senseless, vulgar, pernicious rage.
They see only your broken little finger.
They call me names, call for action against me.
I have endured. I endure. I will endure.
I only fought back in defence
When I could endure no more.
Yet they say: I'm in the wrong.

I will rise above this.
I always do.

I am tired,
I am thirsty,
I am weary.
I have endured.
I am in pain.
I am scorned.

But I am strong in spirit.
I am a survivor.

I want to drink my coffee in peace.
I want to just sit here, quiet, happy.
Maybe, one day, we could do this together.


Copyright 2014, Damon Lord
All Rights Reserved

Monday, 4 August 2014

"Few Will Remember You" - Remembering World War I

Tonight it's the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Earlier this year, I wrote the following poem for the Worcestershire Poet Laureate competition on the theme of "Prelude to War".


Few will remember you
by Damon Lord


Get your kit together, lad, sign up with this pen.
Kiss goodbye to sweethearts, chum, say you'll meet again.
Get your act together, mate, have courage now and then.
Get your head together, boy, we'll make you all into men.

And it's off to war you go, lads, fresh battles to fight anew.
For when you're dead and gone, son, few will remember you.

You will be fighting hard, lads, but know that's just the start.
Work out your survival plan, and keep your uniform smart!
In the grand scheme of things, you'll play a tiny part.
The world will stop but for a moment, when a bullet strikes your heart.

And it's off to war you go, lads, fresh battles to fight anew.
For when you're dead and gone, son, few will remember you.

Here's the battle plan, lads, take a good look at this graph.
Drawn up by a general, and his clever office staff.
He's got his place in a history book, perhaps a page and a half.
And you? Your name may be engraved on the village cenotaph.

And it's off to war you go, lads, fresh battles to fight anew.
For when you're dead and gone, son, few will remember you.



Monday, 2 June 2014

Appearances June 2014

This month I'll be performing at a number of venues. On 12 June, 2014, I'll be at the Old Rectifying House, Worcester, at 7pm where Tim Cranmore, the Worcestershire Poet Laureate, will be launching his new book, "Barred". Polly Robinson will also be giving leading a reading of her booklet collection of poems on Chatterton, and I will be reading "The Father".

Worcestershire LitFest and Fringe begins on 20 June, 2014, and I'm participating in a number of exciting events throughout the festival. For more info on the festival, head on over to www.worcslitfest.co.uk - it promises to be better than ever this year, as we head into the fourth year, with a fresh, passionate, approachable, selfless, friendly and highly talented team at the helm this time.

On Friday 20 June, 2014, at 7pm head on down to the Worcester Guildhall, where Tim Cranmore's successor will be chosen, as I am one of the six finalists for the Worcester Poet Laureate 2014-15 competition. I wish the very best of luck to all participants, because whoever wins, we are assured of a wonderful night and a talented winner. Tickets are £4.

Later that Friday night, also on 20 June, 2014, head on over to the other side of the river, to the Old Hills, Callow End, where a midnight poetry walk is taking place, including readings by yours truly. It is with some excitement and fear that I approach this event, because I can't see in the dark, but it will also be an invigorating new venue, doing poetry in the open air! It is something I've not done before, so I hope it doesn't rain!

Next, head on over on 25 June, 2014, to 42 at Drummonds, New Street, Worcester, doors open at 7pm, where I'll be reading on one of the most outstanding nights in the genre calendar, as it's the 42 Festival Special.

On 26 June, 2014, head back to our familiar venue of the Old Rectifying House, Worcester, for a poem from my forthcoming poetry collection "Billy". I'll be performing this at SpeakEasy Worcester.

To finish off the week and the month, we're back in Drummonds on 29 June, 2014 from 5pm onwards to take part in the Worcestershire Poetry Slam 2014. It promises to be a great night, with numerous well-known and new poets from across the region competing for the title. It'll be the first Slam I've participated in, and I'm looking forward to it immensely!

And after that? I'm going to have a long rest... until next month.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Barcelona: showing how location can also be a character

I visited Barcelona last year, with my wife and son. It's a big urban city with high-rise buildings lining every street. Most every street is a wide, bright boulevard, and it has beautiful fountains and splendid greenery in most avenues and at major junctions. Those streets that are narrow are mysterious dark alleys leading to intriguing restaurants, cafés, bars, shops, galleries and museums. It has a thriving Catalan culture and language, and is a hotbed of politics, Catalan and Spanish. It's also famed for hosting the 1992 Olympic Games.

Maybe this update isn't about writing or any of my works. Or maybe it is. What I want to say is that places are often just as important as people in writing. I often think when writing fiction that a place can be as important as a character, and in fact can be a character in themselves. Barcelona has a relaxed character, but a fiery nature bubbles just beneath the surface and could easily be unleashed, as the history of Barcelona shows.