This is Robert Llewellyn's personal blog. The views contained in here are mine alone and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone else I work with or for. Just thought I ought to make that clear.

Saturday
Sep132014

Empty Nest

It hasn’t really hit me yet but I know it’s going to.

21 years ago I became a father to a wonderful son. 18 years ago I became a father to an incredible daughter.

My son left home a few years back but we see him regularly, he lives in Bristol which is only a 30 minute train ride from home.

This morning I drove my daughter and her best friend to the local train station and she set off on an 8 week Euro-rail adventure. After that she plans to go to Australia for…. a long time.

(Her mum is Australian and she has an Australian passport)

This morning I didn’t cry as her train pulled out of the station and I waved forlornly from the empty platform, like many men I seem to experience delayed emotional responses to such dramatic changes in life.

When my dad died it took me a couple of days before I suddenly burst into tears, when my mum died the tears arrived sooner but still a couple of hours after I held her hand as she took her last breath.

I am very well aware that my role as parent hasn’t ended but there’s no denying it, as I sit in an empty house things have really changed.

When the school bus rumbles past our house in the morning I don’t have to get in a panic and scream ‘you’ve missed the bus... again!’

I don’t have to go on holiday in the school holiday period, I don’t have to sort mountains of laundry or cook a very complicated meals for 4 consisting of one vegetarian, one gluten allergic and a mass of ‘I hate cabbage dad, you know that!’ complaints.

I am also in the position of suddenly having to communicate with my wife again, but communicate about topics other than our children. I don’t think I have anything to say!

So, this morning, when the first Formula E race was taking place in Beijing, my mind was elsewhere and I don’t feel guilty about that, I’ll watch the next one.

 

However, taking into account all the heartache, the happiness, the mess, the laughs, the sulks, rows, struggles and joy my family have brought me in the last 21 years, I feel like a very lucky old bloke.

Tuesday
Jul292014

Show Me The Money

 Owen Patterson, what a fine upstanding man, now he’s out of government he can finally tell the truth.

That is of course, the truth according to the richest, most influential lobby group the human race has ever been confronted with.

They work together, they have a bottomless pit of funds and of course, they are aggressive because they have an enormous amount to lose.

Am I talking about the vicious communist cabal of green environmentalist Clarkson baiting bully girls who claim to know everything and who gave the recently sacked ‘Environment’ Minister such a hard time?

Am I talking about, to quote Mr Paterson, the “mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape.”

No, I’m not.

I’m talking about the multi-billion, multi-national hydrocarbon industry who quietly pump gargantuan funds through our political system through lobbying and lavish expense accounts to support ‘charities’ like Lord Nigel Lawson’s laughable ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation.’

Well, laughable if it wasn’t so incredibly well funded and powerful and has the inside track to the powers that be and is clearly having a great deal of success.

Who gave Paterson a very lucrative speaking gig the moment he got the boot from the Cameron Cabinet, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, quelle surprise.

Restoring balance and trust to the climate debate. Doesn't that make you feel safe and reassured.

Nothing new really, Paterson has been their best spokesman for the entire time he was in the cabinet.

Just a quick side-note. Lawson and his henchmen will not reveal where the funding for this ‘charity’ comes from. In fact it’s so well dodgy that their charitable status has recently been withdrawn

So let’s just step back from the heated debate for a moment, not get emotional about it and have a look at the two groups opposing each other on this jolly old energy matrix - climate change debate.

On one side you have the world's, indeed the wealthiest corporations in all human history. Forget Apple and Google, the really big money is still in fossils.

These are the chaps who extract hydrocarbons, ship, refine them and sell them.

They make massive profits for themselves and their many and varied shareholders including many of us with pensions.

They support the civilised world as we know it, their work, and I’m not being funny, their work is vital.

We are all utterly reliant on the job they do.

If they didn’t extract oil we wouldn’t have computers, phones, cars, medicines, roads and millions of other things because they not only make petrol, diesel and aviation fuel, they also produce plastics, pharmaceuticals and fertilizers.

They also produce all the world’s hydrogen for ‘clean’ hydrogen fuel cell cars but that’s another issue.

So that’s one side, I think we can all agree, no matter what our opinion or outlook, these corporations are likely to be keen to maintain the status quo, make sure they can still operate and make money and are capable and prepared to spend big to undermine any negative influence on their activities.

On the other side you have a ragbag of pressure groups, governmental organisations, university departments, very small energy companies, opinion formers and local activists.

Now, I read through that list and I’m not seeing big money.

I’m not seeing powerful executives with massive off shore bank accounts and the ability to bully, bribe, cajole, threaten and pester world leaders.

I’m seeing a bloke with a sign outside a coal burning power plant, a woman with a sign outside an oil company headquarters.

I’m seeing students shouting about drilling for oil in the arctic, or local people challenging the fracking companies, the tar sands projects, the more and more drastic efforts the hydrocarbon industry are having to use to keep the oil flowing.

So when Owen Paterson, his paymaster Nige Lawson and their sweaty cabal of loud mouth right wing nut bags tell you things like ‘renewable energy just isn’t viable,’ I merely want to suggest that we should consider whos beneftting from this successful doubt sowing campaign.

Say it enough times, as Fox News understands in the USA, say it enough times and people will believe you.

Show me the Money. Show me the Money!

 

 

 

 

 

Friday
May302014

A visit to the centre of Discworld

This week, during our gentle Tesla road trip across South West England we dropped in to a wonderful house belonging to the legendary Sir Terry Pratchett.
We were there to witness Sir Terry receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia in Adelaide, home town of my mate Simon Hackett 
As many of you know, Sir Terry is rather frail but he was in fine form on the day of our visit, his eyes sparking with gentle mischief and although it was a noisy gathering he coped with the attention like a pro.
What a dude, a great honour to see him again.

 

Friday
May232014

The Last Day

Today is one of those little family mileposts for us.

It’s my daughter’s very last day at school.

Okay, she’s got to go back every now and then to do a few more A level exams but this is officially her last day at school.

It all started back in 1998 when my son started at our local primary school and that’s really when our life changed.

Up until that point we had lived life more or less as we pleased as regards the calendar.

We were very privileged as parents of pre school children due to the fact that my wife is Australian. We spent a great deal of time in Queensland during British winters living very cheaply and feeling more than a little smug.

When you have babies and toddlers drastically reduces the amount of time and effort you spend dressing your children.

They didn’t need to wear much with daytime temperatures hovering around 30c. My son never wore shoes from the moment he got off the plane at Brisbane airport and ran to see Grandma who’d always be waiting for us.

My wife and I have never had regular jobs, I’ve never done a 9 to 5 five days a week job. It’s either flat out, shooting TV series, working at weekends and travelling all over the place, or I’m working at home and walking 10 meters to my office.

We never went on holidays during ‘holiday times’ and we always arranged our travel plans around cheap tickets and low crowds.

But when my son started school that all changed. Suddenly we had to be around every day at specific times to get them to school and be ready when they came home. We had to have holidays when everyone else had holidays; we suddenly couldn’t spend 3 or 4 months in Australia over the winter, we suddenly had to travel at peak times.

I suddenly became more stressed.

This picture was taken in Paris when we had a 'weekend break' hyper rushed visit in 2000.

 

So although today is a sad day in some ways, there’s definitely an up side. My son has already left home, he now at University in Bristol and my daughter is off to Australia this summer for an unspecified time.

We’ve had empty nest anxiety for a while and we’ll soon discover what it really means. My children have been such an integral part of my life for the last 20 years the change seems very sudden and permanent.

Okay, we are now much more flexible in our arrangements, it’s only dogs and chickens that rely on us but I know I will miss my wonderful babies for the rest of my life.

Friday
May022014

I'm a bit racist and....

How many times have we heard the clichéd phrase ‘I’m not racist but….’

It is only used by people who are blatantly racist and go on to make some crass generalization about a group of people who are a bit different to them.

I just want to remind myself what the term ‘racist’ actually means because it’s bandied about so liberally it’s true meaning has become obscured.

My simple definition would be judging someone on their genetic heritage, not their character.

We see someone with different skin colour, or different clothes, different beards and different outlooks and because we assume we are normal, then they are, by definition, a bit weird.

We all do it, it’s called being human.

Black people do it about white people, Asian people do it about Caucasian people and of course, white people do it about… just about everyone who isn’t white. And we have to acknowledge that when white people do it about anyone who isn't white, due to the power structures and history we live with, it has a bit of extra impact.

So, instead of saying, ‘I’m not racist but’ we should maybe modify the cliché to being, ‘I am a bit racist and’

As in, ‘I am a bit racist and I can see that it isn’t very helpful.’

‘I am a bit racist and I also accept that not every immigrant in the UK comes here to sponge of the state and get a free council house.’

‘I am a bit racist and I am trying to develop a wider view of humanity that doesn’t categorize people according to skin colour or culture, I fail at this every day but I can see the long term benefits of the internal struggle I’m putting myself through.’

If we all admitted to being a bit racist, when we read yet another pro UKIP headline in some tatty old right-wing rag screaming about immigration, we could see beyond the nationalist nonsense and question just how accurate the journalism is.

Here’s a clue.

It’s not very accurate.

It’s an opinion, an opinion from a racist who says ‘I’m not racist but.’

So lovely Mister Clarkson, who I genuinely feel sorry for at the moment, has made a bit of a boo-boo by reciting an old nursery rhyme from his childhood while on camera.

We are roughly the same age and I remember my grandma reciting the same lines to me over 45 years ago.

It’s a racist nursery rhyme, no question about it, my grandma was racist, pretty much everyone from her generation was.

I learned as a young man that using the offending word was wrong not because of the word, but because of the power relationships involved, the long and uncomfortable history white people of the UK have with Africans going back 100’s of years.

We can’t deny that history, we can’t make it go away simply by not saying a word.

We can only live with the fact that we are a bit racist but we’re trying not to be, which, to give Mister Clarkson his due, I believe he’s trying to do.

On the other hand, he did bloody say it, well he mumbled it.

He could have substituted the offending word with 'cyclist' or 'teacher' or 'social worker' or 'beardy weirdy environmentalist' or 'feminist' or any number of people he can't stand.

As Mister James May stated on Twitter, ‘what a bell end.’