Things I would have done differently if I knew we’d have covid-19.

Ibiza – a beautiful island, full of hidden gems. Sunsets by the lapping water, jumping off the rocks. I would have gone to raves and danced til the morning.

Oman, Malaysia and Myanmar – I should have jumped on a plane in November 2019/January 2020 to see a couple of familiar faces and smell the sweetness in the air.

Friends and parks and parties – could have gathered together more, drunk more together and danced, dropping the pressure of prioritising what we now know are very unimportant things in life.

Philosophy – read more ancient Greeks and a lot more Edward Said, a whole lot more of Said. They are good for the soul and got it all worked out. If everyone spent one hour a week doing this, the world would be much more prepared for this than it is now.

Notting Hill Carnival 2019 – I would have gotten out of bed at 7, arrive by 9 and put that big costume on offer to me to dance the day away. Still got to dance, but not in the band bc couldn’t get there due to overcrowding which also led to soundsystems being switched off early. Hot days in London…my carnival family which I miss so much.

It’s a tough time for everyone looking ahead from 2020.

May all your moments and wishes evolve into your reality.

Love to you all for a peaceful quiet Christmas and a kinder year ahead.

Lockdown urban London photos with people

Well here we go again, only this time things are a bit different.

In London, there are noticeably less people out after dark, but shopping malls and cafes are still serving take outs and grocery essentials.

This means the earlier photos from the lockdown in spring bear a significant difference to the way urban landscapes look now.

For example, there are a fair amount of labourers and cleaning staff going out and about their business as usual. Spaces look less derelict and more like Sundays before London got crowded millennium onwards.

In urban green spaces, people don’t consider being in fairly crowded conditions, a threat from covid anymore. Benches are open and cyclists have equal access to parks.

The level of interaction with larger crowds is a personal preference.

On a recent cycle with Simon around trendy Hackney Wick and guardian reader pretentious Hackney on Victoria Park, the crowds were heavily dense in many public play areas and entrances.

Away from the long queues outside to pick up coffees and take outs in places where some think it’s important to be at, our was certaintly picking a fish and chips from a good old reliable affordable local chippy just east of Victoria Park to the Wick.

No queues, no wait, no hassle. After a five minute walk, we were enjoying dinner on a bench in the park.

In my next blog I will write about meaningful ways to spend preparing for Christmas holidays and Christmas day itself.

Many get carried away with meaningless cultural traditions, missing the point. Culture can be as oppressive as American culture’s cultural non existence, when it adds no experiental reflection or mindful rest.

In a time of self reflection I couldn’t be luckier having met four days after landing back from a two month trip away early August 2019. And here we are still are today.

Back in the park, we sat watching the lowering sun introducing the mist, the temperature drop, the sensation of colours struggling to define themselves in this new reality.

I suppose this time, it is also the first time of the year’s season under covid for our urban neighbourhoods too. Well I say, we can only pay homage to this another new reality for the family albums to come.

Really, what’s there to complain about? And why not to?

Autumnal English hews

Noticing the small changes in the way the air’s scent carries cooking smells, perfumes and sound vibrations…

The light moisture chilling the edges off living things…

The light mist flowing through the land, thickening and lightening as it absorbs the wind.

Victoria Park, London

Wood burning in the city, logs burning in the fireplace, smoke climbing up from canal boat chimneys into the gaps of the urban air channels.

The yellowy orange with blues of the sunsets and the sunrises. A sun blessed season eclipsing into the vibrancy of the next. Nature signalling for a final celebration before it returns next year in spring.

Leafy kisses, giggles in the air

The cozyness of the orange, greys, dark purples, bronze and blacks decorating cozy corners energised by alchemy, alcohol and warmth.

The case of US diplomacy: What makes coercive diplomacy particularly useful in diplomatic relations? What are its limitations?

I will refer to two recently published articles, from Reuters and Politico, to analyse the developing outcomes as a result of coercive diplomacy in USA’s current international relations. The focus of these two articles is the USA’s negotiating strategies with the European Union and the United Nations International Court of Justice, which I will conclude with a review on the usefulness and limitations of such approaches in the given contexts.

Coercive diplomacy is applied in diplomatic negotiations as ‘deterrence’ or ‘compellence’   (Byman and Waxman, 2008,158 in Holmes and Rofe, 2016) aiming to change the policy or regime of the coerced state. There is a root weakness in coercive diplomacy as it is revealing of intention, and given it is applied in the pre-text of military action, it is also revealing the coercer is on their last option (Kerr and Wiseman, 2013). Coercive diplomacy is often seen as a pre-text for more serious actions (such as military), and is carried on the coersor’s power, military, or economic weight, motivated by a combination of ‘sticks and carrots’ (Jentleson, 2006)

In the Politico article (Cassella, Hanke and Oliver, 2018), the current US president’s application of coercive diplomacy threatens the EU with introducing car tariffs even though in July 2018 the EU and the USA had shared aspirations of zero tariffs between them. USA applied coercive diplomacy through threats of cancelling this proposition, and by attacking EU’s slow decision making, whilst seeking trade deals with non EU states. In the specific three month time-frame, the EU decision making process would not have changed, leading to my conclusion that the USA’s approach is misleading and misaligned with the apparent objectives in which it was applied. 

Outside the trade deal issue, the USA may well have aspirations for a regime change in the EU, thus placing the development of an influential market collaboration with the 27 member state block at risk of stalling altogether.

In a Reuters article published 3 October 2018, (Rampton, Wroughton and van den Berg, 2018), the USA threatened to resign from the Vienna Convention to show discontent in response to Iran’s and Palestine’s complain to the United Nations International Court of Justice about the USA’s upcoming tightening of sanctions against Iran. 

The Vienna Convention has been followed as a prescription of conduct for international relationships, including facilitating a platform for diplomatic immunity. 

USA Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded to threaten with USA’s resignation from the Vienna convention, as a result of the application of international law by the United Nations, to unfavourably to the extend it is threatening the domestic security of the USA. Pompeo simultaneously threatens to leave the platform, whilst reminding states they are still very much party to it, undermining the UN.

The application of coercive diplomacy in both situations attempts to manipulate those that have historically been allies of the US. 

This is a standard scenario before military action, contradictory to the USA’s objective. Is coerciveness used to widen the gap between prescriptions, thus creating spaces for exploitation?

Bibliography

Holmes, A. and Rofe, J. (2016). Global Diplomacy. Boulder: Routledge, p.199.

Kerr, P. and Wiseman, G. (2013). Diplomacy in a globalizing world. Oxford University Press, p.6.

Jentleson, B. (2006). Coercive Diplomacy: Scope and Limits in the Contemporary World. The Stanley Foundation Policy Analysis Brief, December 2006, p.1.

Cassella, M., Hanke, J. and Oliver, C. (2018). Juncker and Trump’s transatlantic trade truce falters. [online] Politico.com. Available at: https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/10/17/trade-truce-europe-trump-911940 [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].

Rampton, R., Wroughton, L. and van den Berg, S. (2018). U.S. withdraws from international accords, says U.N. world court…. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-diplomacy-treaty/u-s-withdrawing-from-vienna-protocol-on-dispute-resolution-bolton-idUSKCN1MD2CP [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].

Lifebuoy

During the Covid-19 pandemic, mindfulness, video calls, checking-in on friends and neighbours, social distancing and exercising, have become the norm of daily life prescriptions.

Recommendations on finding meaning in small things and appreciating the moment of what we have, to adjust from our fast paced life, have been a challenge for many. Yet, there is beauty around that for those operating in high levels of anxiety or to-do projects and achievement-oriented mentality, has been marginalised in view of personal gratifications and quick wins.

The Covid-19 situation has highlighted the reality of our unsustainable living, exemplified in shopping habits, sociopathic needs, drama karma, and neediness for external gratification.

Yet, the ample emergence of existing situations that have been in existence parallel to modern human material and immaterial condition, are increasingly claiming a place to the forefront of service and significance.

In the current re-adjustments of living and requirements new pressure points can afford us to look and really see.

Squid, remodelling needs

In one of my last dissertation supervision sessions, my supervisor asked me which animal species are thriving at present?

I took a couple of guesses none of which were right.

I was trying to join the dots between his question and my dissertation topic, which was a comparative study between the political economy of the Sami and the Inuit. I just couldn’t see where he was leading onto.

Jonathan went on to say it is the squid. And the reason for it, is that whilst fishing has focused on other species, the squid had the opportunity to multiply in swarms.

He went on to explain that the obvious answers are not always the correct ones. I suppose he was trying to tell me by focusing on one thing we assume as the path to survival, there are emerging occurrences we leave unnoticed.

I since then took to noticing squid more often.

Walking down SE Division Street. Portland, OR, past Whiskey Soda Lounge with Tim, I took this.

In one way, the story is that of silver linings behind a cloudy day. We are seeing changes to our lives that we have not entertained in detail of how they will be affecting our emotional needs and resilience.

Making a smoothie cocktail with Craken is my resilience recipe for the odd night now we are spending a lot more time at home. And enjoying it over a long video chat to the wee hours of the day.

We know in times of uncertainty there are certain parameters we can measure against, and work towards, to meet those needs.

 

Our needs are not only our own. They are universal values our humanity exists by. When these are threatened, or placed in new unfamiliar conditions, there’s a couple of things we can do to refocus.

The top ten commandments of emotional needs are:

Connection

Attention

Privacy

Autonomy

Security

Wider community

Friendship

Competence

Achievement

Meaning & purpose

The overarching point I see across the list of emotional needs, is intimacy.

Intimacy in a non sexual way.

But the space where two people connect over a unique shared experience that rings emotions of belonging, and trust, for both of them.

We are all interconnected. Even at times when we may feel that life becomes unfamiliar, rather than trying to regain a sense of control, our biggest strength may be in our capacity to reflect, learn and evolve.

I don’t know much, but situations like today’s offer a unique chance, that of a lifetime, to improve and rejoin community with renewed values of what we need and how to approach what we have and what presents itself before us.

 

Hiking in the UK

For outdoorsy adventurers, hiking is a much-loved choice of activity taken close to one’s place of habitat or place of visit.

The subtle differences between hiking in different parts of the world are on the type the equipment, the style of the hike like the intensity of the walk, and the distance covered. This reveals a lot about the flora and fauna, the weather conditions expected in general and the end objective for the hike.

This article presents a short oversight of hiking in the south of the United Kingdom, and towards the end of the winter. The overall equipment relevant message is to wear comfortable waterproof boots, bring a change of cotton t-shirts, carry 1-2 litres of water, prepare lunch snacks and carry cash for group saver fares, the pub lunch option and pub celebration at the end.

I have hiked in India, the Pacific North West in the US, in Scotland, in Bali, in Italy, in the Arctic part of Norway, in Morocco, on the north coast of Trinidad and in Tobago and in Fuerteventura and every single hike was different on many aspects.

In the south of the UK, hikes tend to be longer, often including a couple of very steep climbs up hills and the same dissent. The most recent hike took me up and down Pitch Hill in Surrey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, twice climbed it on the same day, a near-vertical and rather muddy aspect, and over a distance of 30km round trip on foot.

Walking sticks were encouraged whereas in other parts of the world they are prohibited as it can attract lightning strikes in tundra conditions. UK’s well known cloudy skies, even in winter, require sunblock as there is still plenty of exposure doing outdoor sports to cause skin damage.

20 min stops every two hours are also encouraged to take in the views from higher viewpoints. In contrast, stopping for this long or any period of time longer to a couple of minutes, in the middle of the winter, in the northernmost part of Norway, will cause your body temperature to drop really quickly and dramatically and make the focus of the latter part of your hike an effort to warm up instead of watching the path or scenery. This can make the body feel very uncomfortable, and rather demoralising, in severe sub minus C conditions.

The photos in this post are from my hike in Surrey this week.

It looks mud messy but it was a great all round exercise. I could not recommend anything else more satisfactory to do outdoors this time of the year. Hiking engages people in community spirited discussions, recharges the body with a full-on exercise uptake, and in the UK, it is rewarded with log fires in the pub, local bitter brews, and new memories and vistas to take away.

Esmerelda, Ben Howard

Everyone has that one song they go to for a reflection of their innermost feelings.

Mine is Esmerelda by Ben Howard, the video in particular.

The waves unrolling back in reverse is what gets me every time. It may be for the symbolic value of rolling back time and rediscovering today’s desires by the method of review.

The moving images are taken in the winter, the British winter many complain of. As a surfer, Ben Howard is staring at the swells as he would have done at any other season, reflecting on the conditions, the possibilities. The weather is not a hindrance, but an opportunity for assessment. A million components pulled together; I could ride that wave, I know I can, I can do it this way or that way. Maybe I will come back to it, maybe I will sit it out, watch it and leave it to perform before my very eyes.

The solitary imagery of Howard looking out from the cliff’s edge over the treacherous weather, is a message of renewal. Emerged from the knowledge that majestic moments happen in the most apparent challenging conditions. Our method and approach is the liberating experience emerging from what is on offer. A source and direction of energy that pulls the surfer to float on the surface is also defined by the surfer’s point of letting go and diving into the water when conditions become too much. These are not polarised experiences of bad or good, of success or failure, but of a journey of becoming one with nature, embracing it and re-establishing our relationship with it as our home.

Theorists have made the case for connecting with our histories in our pursue of conserving our natural habitat. Mythologies of Homer’s Odysseus seeking his Ithaca, and the realism of Caribbean slaves fishing out in the open waters on Atlantic Ocean’s edge have required an intertwined interdependent relationship with nature and its elements. The thousands of Syrian refugees drowned in the Mediterranean Sea escaping conflict. The skill of ‘reading’ nature and floating decisions under different communication needs, on the nexus with the changing elements, is part of the human condition that can not be aborted.

There are thousands of individual journeys to Ithaca, Caribbean fishermen and surfers connecting with nature in that way. The sea is a pool for everyone to explore their search for a home.