Death is smelly .. 

I am not a writer. I promised I would write things down for my mum and this is the start of the project. I am starting with the end ..
The beginning .. 
They met in London in 1969 my father, Stephen, was 19, working as a trainee manger for Sainsbury and my mother, Wendy, was 22, working for the advertising agency J Walter Thompson. They met by chance at a dance my mother did not want to go to. They talked all night and my father was smitten. My mother went off to Yugoslavia, where she flirted with Italian men and when she came back my father told her they were getting married, by taking her for lunch and standing outside a jewellers asking her to choose a ring. This was a pattern of behaviour that would be repeated throughout their marriage, whether it was going for dinner or the house that they were buying, my mother developed tactics. 

He was from a solidly lower middle class family in Birmingham, his father from Catholic Irish stock and his mother, a fiercely intelligent woman who today would have gone to university, devoured news and politics so she could keep up with my parents. Buying the Guardian on a Saturday and reading the reviews of concerts and plays that my parents had been to. Most importantly she taught my mother how to be a mum. My mother was middle class, from Hampshire, to my father she was beautiful he could never quite believe his luck, but she never believed she was. She grew up with a wonderful father and a mother who never really loved her and whom my mother found cold. My grandmother was a jealous woman. Jealous of my mum, her own friends and in the latter part of her life she alienated everyone around her. She only ever liked the boyfriend that my mother had been going out with. As a result she never liked my dad and made it very clear with subtle and not so subtle slights. 
My parents were in love with each other, the sort of love that can exclude others and can make other couples look on bewildered as to how they maintain that sense of oneness. Even after 40 years of marriage they did everything together, my father did not play golf or go to the pub, he and my mother enjoyed music (Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison anything with words and real instruments) and art, they cultivated their interests together. This is not to say that the road was always a smooth one, my father suffered from depression, it first blighted their happiness when he was in his late 30’s, at one point my mother was putting cooking trays outside the bedroom door each night so she would know if my father was to get up. They were both afraid he would harm himself. If not for the incredible generosity of the company he worked for he may well have lost his job. Instead a stint at The Priory and a new drug Prozac helped his through it, it was a drug he was to continue to take on and off for the rest of his life. When I was 18, a woman came along who said she needed my father, he wanted to be needed and this was a huge temptation. My mother had recently gone back to work as a lecturer having been at home since I was born and my father felt at a loss, my mother no longer required him financially, she had her own money, car, new friends. He did not know what his role was anymore and did not value himself enough to realise that it was never just as the provider. My mother could have asked him to leave, she almost did, but ultimately she realised she could not live without him and together they set out on to build a new life. I spent a long time being angry with him, I deeply regret that now, but teenage girls can be very protective of their mothers. 
Our life was a very middle class one, holidays in France in the summer ,Cornwall in the Spring and in October off to the mists and dampness of Yorkshire. It was a life surrounded by books and music. My father loved music, he read all the reviews and at 65 was still buying new artists that he had “discovered”. After he died three new CDs arrived that he had ordered – they remained unopened until a few months ago. From my father I get a love of music and from my mum books and both surround me in my home. Constant reminders of them both. There were trips to National Trust properties, outings to the theatre, riding and ice skating lessons. It was a solidly middle class upbringing.  It was a loving upbringing, my father always had total faith in my sister and I, he believed we could do anything. 
My father retired at 52 and when he retired so did my mother, they bought and sold a house in France and then bought another. They sold a huge collection of arts and crafts antiques that they had collected and went on to collect 1960’s art, pottery, prints, furniture, glass and jewellery. My father had an excellent eye and a prodigious memory for artists and designers. In France they would visit every brocante in the Creuse looking for that one treasure that would make him happy. Many of which now live with me. When I moved to Scotland they moved to Cumbria, a move that was for my father, he wanted a dog ( that lives with me!) and the countryside. They visited Islay on a regular basis and my father developed son interest in Whisky. They had started to build a new life in a beautiful place when it all went wrong. My mother was diagnosed with cancer on her 67th birthday and a few months later my fathers heart failed at the age of 65. I had written an email to my dad on the Wednesday before he died, it’s one of those moments when you wonder what hand moved you to do something that you would never normally do. 
The loss was devastating for my mum, life had revolved around him. Everyday my father would get up make my mothers breakfast and say “what are we going today Wendy” and they would be off on an adventure. In the end my dad felt needed, he would leave my mum at home and disappear to the grocers and come back with fresh raspberries and mango to tempt her to eat when she was going through her chemo. He would look for concerts to go to and arrange for friends to visit. Perhaps he was tired, perhaps it was too much for him we will never know. 

For a year and a half my mum stuck it out in Cumbria, her health was good and she had a circle of women friends through The Soroptimists, the WI, reading groups and the croquet club, women who supported each other and provided her with a very active social life. Through all of this I travelled down to Cumbria with my daughter every holiday and my sister travelled up from Cheshire. Then in January of 2016 she realised that perhaps it was time to come and live with me. She was lucky the apartment that my father had been so proud of sold in a week, to a famous chef who needed a bolt hole. We found a wonderful house overlooking the sea and in June we moved in, without my mother. She was in hospital, her calcium levels had risen beyond safe levels and she spent a week on a drip and then another week hiding out in the hospital whilst we got the house ready. 
In June she fell ill again and on the day of the EU a referendum the hospital told us that the cancer had spread to her Liver. She spent the summer and autumn flying out to Glasgow each week for chemo sessions. She was still active, still driving her car, meeting me for coffees after work, but she was eating less and less and with each passing day her energy dissipated. My sister and her family came up for a week in the summer and my mother put her best face on and even went out on a boat around the island – asking Gus to go faster – he obliged with huge fast circles that thrilled my mum and made my niece, Issy, squeal.

We went out to Glasgow in November for her results and the doctors told us that the cancer in the liver looked stable, that there would be no more chemo until February. We were relieved, that was to be short lived. Three weeks before Christmas, on the day of the Christmas fair, a Friday, I rang the doctors at 5pm for my mums blood results. Over the phone he told me that it was bad news that she had perhaps six to eight weeks. I had promised my mother not to tell her if the news was bad and I didn’t, I rang my sister and we decided that she should come up the weekend before Christmas with her family and I went home and cooked dinner and sat with my mum and chatted about our plans for Christmas. Over the weekend I bought her a Christmas present and gave her the slippers I had got her. I tried to persuade her to wear her new pyjamas from Toast, she kept saying she as saving them for when she felt better, I persuaded her to read the end of her book and we watched the last of the series she was enjoying on Netflix, I didn’t cry in front of her, I did not let on what I knew, I just disappeared in to the kitchen to cry and rail at the world. I went back to work on Monday as normal but at lunch time my sister rang, she has spoken to my mum and it a clear that she knew, the doctors had been to visit. I went home, signed off sick and stayed home. That week, before my sister came, the fantastic health service where I live kicked in, providing the equipment that made my mums life easier. I gave her the books I had bought her for Christmas, but she had stopped reading. I downloaded one of them as an audio book and she sat listening to it, but she never finished it. On Thursday I got some lemon sole from the fish lady and cooked it the way mum loved it, she ate it all. The last meal that she really enjoyed. 

The weekend before Christmas my sister and her family came, by this time I was getting my mother dressed and undressed every day, helping her to shower. My mother sparkled, we managed to go the cafe next door, she laughed at my nephew antics, she loved her grandson, he was so like my dad and she worried about him. She sat at the dinner table, for the first time in weeks, and ate, drank wine and was strong for her daughters who were heartbroken. Three days after they left she stopped coming downstairs, she put on her beautiful new pyjamas and she retreated to her room. 
What follows is what I wrote Boxing Day onwards. I wrote it as it happened, it was a kind of therapy, I did to want to forget what happened, what she said. I wanted to lock it in, look back at it. It might seem to be a strange thing have to have done but it’s how I held myself together. 

The end .. 
It’s Boxing Day and my mother is dying, she’s been dying for three years. She has breast cancer, she was diagnosed too late to “cure” it. She had the prescribed treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but now it’s in her liver. 
Boxing Day 
What day is it, what time is it, you won’t go back to work will you, you will stay with me. 
I like you talking to me 
Hannah and I were talking about him on Sunday “George Michael” he’s only 53 

Changing the quilt – silly things it’s creased and I won’t put it on the bed like that because my mum always irons them – so I iron it tears mixing with the steam. Such silly things make you cry 
James Christmas present (a book on maps) is on the Andrew Marr show on radio 4 .. the brain is active even if her limbs are not 
Mum was right about Andrew Marr – she tells me this makes her pleased .. to be right! 
Listening to the story at 9:45 on radio 4 .. leads to mums delight with entomology 
Convinced herself sleeping drug is to blame for tiredness .. nothing to do with cancer ..
Planning my wedding .. buffet .. 
“I wondered where you were .. leave a note next time!”
Agnus came – out of bed in chair – a glass of red wine (don’t heat it up in the microwave like your dad) and some trifle  

Trifle . Enjoying every mouthful .. 
Look of joy 

Listening to Karine Polwart .. remembers going to see her in concert at the brewery Kendall .. thanked Oxfam for the dress she was wearing cost £2 .. talked about her children .. unlike some of the new folk singers she does not have a whiny voice. 

” glad you like my music” 
Eyes closed 14:44 at peace with music 
“I thought I had longer” let Hannah go to the sales 
Scottish Fantasy – Bruch .. 
19:27 sitting with mum on the bed watching bake off using subtitles. – “I know you are there” 
21:00 “Is Armelie okay, I heard the door slam” 
She asks can I take smaller sleeping tablet I don’t want to be so sleepy .. how to tell her it’s her body shutting down. 
“I am sorry I can’t cry” – she has not cried since Ben left
Silly things make me cry like mum not wearing clothes that she bought for her life on Islay – a sleeveless brown jacket from jäger .. she wants me to try it on 
“It shows what a lovely person you are” “you’ve been a lovely daughter” 
I am going to miss drinking the gin .. I am inheriting the gin I got my mum knowing she could not drink it .. I already have a bottle of Bunnahabhain I inherited from my dad 
“Sorry it’s taking so long” .. I tell her I don’t want her to go 
“I want to go to the beach and the cafe with you” .. I wish she could too
“Better you should cry now than later”
A discussion on Islay airport .. shoe taking off .. they knew I was ill they let me sit in the chair 
It’s not a sign it’s breathing .. a disgruntled parent 

Now mums hair is coming back .. the irony 
James helps with the tablets – mum says she wants to be remembered jumping in and out of the car make up on. She’s worried dad will think she has lost her femininity .. we both agree dad would have been useless at the moment 
Awake until 3:30 am .. mums breathing veers from so faint it does not exist too noisy rattle ..her conversation gambits lucid to ridiculous – what led to “Murphy Richards” being shouted out.
27th December 
I get up at 7:53 .. I hear mum breathing so I make a calculated run to the bathroom.
She’s both lucid .. show me if the brown jacket fits you .. “I am quiet on the outside but shouting inside” .. ” I don’t want to be tranquillised” 
And not .. he got the ball for me four times yesterday .. who .. the German the one who speaks English 
My dilemma is should I ring the hospital? Do we give her a drug that might remove more of her but make her feel calmer 
I don’t want anything more .. more thirsty .. wants two pillows .. do I want to watch the news 
Remembering what she heard on In Our Time on Harriet Martinue .. lived with all women in Ambleside .. her tummy rumbles interrupted we laugh .
I read mum Christine’s email .. she tells me to tell Christine how grateful she is for the email .. tells me to say it’s evocative. 
“Fancy a bacon and egg sandwich .. I fancy one” .. go and make one for yourself it’s just one frying pan! 
11:17 .. getting confused now .. don’t let James forget things from the pharmacy .. sun is shining in on the bed and ” I can hear the waves” 
Can you close your eyes and sleep for five minutes .. ( I wish I could but not now maybe in the afternoon) 

She no longer looks like my beautiful mum, so careful to keep her femininity and her individuality all her life she’s now slack jawed, yellow, old – she has never been old! – I am glad she can’t see, is becoming less aware. As the sun shines through the window the jaundice is more obvious the faded yellow of sugar paper that’s been on the classroom wall too long. 

Mum says she is sorry .. I tell her again not to worry .. we talk about the front garden and she tells me throw seeds on the gaps between the weeds and the grass will grow. She’s so lucid at times. 

“Look sweetie I will be fine .. go and make some tea” 

Not on my own 
I can see the sun .. I tell her it’s shining on her face .. she smiles “not sure about that” I am crying again .. time to go hug my dog 
“When do you think I can go in the chair .. I don’t have any symptoms .. what time is it .. I don’t suppose the politics show is on .. suspended for the new year”

Let’s watch the news .. did God send us anything us on his birthday .. mind you he did send us Trump ( oh this made her cross this and the EU result – she kept saying dad would have loved this, all this politics he would have been fascinated 
“It must be easy to die when you are 95 .. another 25 years”
“Sorry about mad men ness” .. (I had got her it too watch, she saved it for too long)
Two nurses come today, mum pleads with her eyes not to have more medication for calming her .. i don’t tell the nurses about how anxious she is in the night. I want to carry on giving her the right to be angry a bit longer. 
She tells me to go! Leave the room and eat something   
13:43 Hannah rings .. mum puts her best foot forward! Beautiful view sun shining 
Lunch .. half a glass of red wine that my dad bought four years ago. And some very creamy brie on a nain cracker .. 

Just thinking the perfect peace of my mums room has been changed by medical supplies .. neatly stacked under the window .. but still evidence that all is not right 

Mum does not want to disappear down the back of the sofa ..
Linda rings .. will send mum an email .. Linda is wonderful she makes me smile her voice brings back childhood memories of Saturday afternoon walks in the park and sitting in Linda’s lounge watching basil brush 
Now it’s trifle .. well the cream and custard bit .. and a telling off for eating too quickly 
15:18 mum goes back to bed .. james has to help mum distraught that she has become a thing .. if she was not at home she would be a thing to be moved around and prodded – she’s so grateful to be at home – I am so lucky to have her here 
Tells me to go and cook dinner and have a rest .. James offers to cook – goodness knows what he would put in it – he wants an old fashioned curry with stringy chicken and cream – I will oblige 

They are playing ticket to ride .. 

I should sleep but can’t so instead I amuse myself with Caroline Santos on twitter – she’s a useful idiot when I need to vent the frustrations of life on someone. 
Still amusing myself on twitter .. I have had an hour .. I hope mum has slept. 
17:07 mum is sleeping .. she has —– breathing it’s very shallow and it stops and starts, it’s frightening but I am so pleased she is at peace. I won’t wake her. Instead I will sit here and watch pointless – it seems prosaic it seems normal – it was my mum who introduced us to pointless – something my dad and her used to define the time at which to light the fire in winter – pour a whisky – put on the evening meal 
The jaundice makes my mum hot .. so the window is open, I am wrapped up in a fake fur blanket it smells of my mums perfume – dad gave her a bottle of channel five just before he died .. she kept saving it .. I made her wear it .. I knew it would not be long. 
18:11 .. she is still sleeping I see Richard Adams has died at a grand old age, if my mother was to live until his age I would be her age. It’s not to be 
19:33 .. Hannah rings .. I was just drifting off .. mum tells me she is cozy .. we tell mum about Dave and his £1 cheesecake .. mum does not reply .. she’s worried I am tired .. I tell her since I don’t drive it don’t matter. 
Her hands are cold 
A narrow road to a deep north is mentioned in university challenge .. I bought it for mum last year .. she tells me “it’s not a book you can forget” .. she’s still in there! 

21:13 .. I fell asleep on the bed next to mum, she has ordered me to my own bed .. I have obeyed 
22:48 .. back on my mums bed .. she’s confused thought it was morning – she’s cross with herself think she’s lost it .. she’s worried she’s lost a day

Armelie hears mum say she would gave loved to see her room .. showing her a video of her bedroom. How neat and tidy it is. 

We put the archers on shhh if we speak .. James and I help her drink some water 

“I won’t sleep now, I slept all day” .. listen to FrontRow 

“You will make it up to Armelie afterwards won’t you” 
I wish It had waited I wanted to take “Armelie” to Roy’s and take you to the beach 
Front row .. is too much so we move on to PM .. Richard Adams dead at 96 “i shouldn’t be jealous, but I am” “not 90 but perhaps 80” “I don’t even look old” 
11:40pm .. “go to be bed ness but check on me in the night” 
I don’t sleep, I sit outside the room for a bit and then I sit in the chair in mums room and sleep

6;40am mums awake .. she thinks she’s been awake all night .. I go to shower I feel overwhelming guilt tinged with overwhelming relief that I have slept 
“So glad my Steve did not suffer . He didn’t know what was happening .. it did not go on for days”. Mums lips are very dry we use biotene to moisturise mouth and lips 
“Why is it taking so long .. sorry”

Read out email from Linda 
When you were little I liked lots of people at Christmas .. we went to Linda and Brian’s on Boxing Day. Lunch with Jean in Solihull every five-six weeks when we live in BC .. Linda started to come
“I didn’t misbehave last evening .. indigestion .. I wish I could find my voice , everything’s going .. can’t project my voice .. I sound Ike a strangled swan .. a strangled something”
I love you little girls one in one hand one in another and off we go, I was so proud of you both, so proud to gave such beautiful daughters. 
10:21 .. I help mum sit up, she drinks a few sips of water takes her thyroxine tablets .. not really necessary but she wants to take them. Open the window some more – women hour is on discussing FGM -,the hospital has rung do I want the rail for the bed. I don’t know – can my mum really pull herself up still. I have to hold her up when she drinks. 
James comes in he’s going to Bowmore, mum asks for melon and mango. She’s sorry we are not all going, we could go for a coffee .. 

11:53 the hospital equipment guy has been I asked him to collect the aids that we were using downstairs. It’s not cleaning up behind mum – even if it is – it’s reclaiming the space from illness and pain. Carols taxi is parked outside .. I want to go and see Carol say hello and have a conversation about kids and Christmas but I stay sitting 
The district nurses came, Mum not so happy about today’s nurses .. they made the mistake of saying how’s Mum .. she’s Wendy more than just my mum. Another thing to make my mum feel like she is disappearing. 
“How long will it be Ness .. it’s taking too long” .. meanwhile the Santos woman keeps me entertained .. twitter saves me from slipping into depression 
“I have always been a savoury person .. but I can’t think now” she wants fruit cold and fresh  
Melon .. but James forgot to buy it .. he’s going to Bowmore I hate when he does so .. 
“Maybe I will have a few days .. i tell her she can go when she’s ready” .. she says she is ready .. “sorry” 
“Wish I hadn’t said melon now 
Steve would be really proud of you and James .. ”

Piled up the cushions and got my mum up .. Wendy wants melon and ice cream .. feeding her with a posh silver pastry fork .. she tells me she would never have done this for her mother .. she lies back it’s enough eyes closed
James is downstairs with Armelie and when I go to get the ice cream the fire is lit in the lounge and the kitchen smells of sausages and eggs .. I want to stay with them .. I settle for a hug and reassurance 
Mum on form during antiques roadshows.. but starts to lag towards the end. It’s time for university challenge .. Cross she is missing it as it’s two teams of women .. enormously satisfying 
Mum and I manage to organise the taking of drugs .. she takes the sleeping tablet .. I stay for a while and then I go downstairs and sit in my lounge and for the first time in three weeks sit and watch a programme from start to finish with James. 
I say good night to mum,

 2:30 she’s awake the lights on she’s dropped the iPad and wants The Archers on .. I oblige I go straight back to bed .. sleep is important 
Thursday 29th 
Up at 6:40 .. Mum is awake and I put on the today programme and sit for a few minutes she wants a hug – she smells, she would hate that, I hate that I notice. 
8:00 – water through a straw .. “I hope I am more company today” .. told her about the fire .. I wish I could sit by the fire with you and have a whisky 
“At least my eyes are open today” .. talkative today wants to know the news, listens to an email from Christine. “I am fraud” “waiting to die” .. James will be saying “has the old bag gone yet” .. “legs won’t carry me up the stairs” .. 
Worrying about me going back to work .. I promise her I will not go back to work .. I am a fraud I know that she does not havethat long.
11 o.clock I want to go the chair – I want to get up today .. I want to look out the window 
Do you think Hannah will get a villa? “If she does Ben will probs come too” .. she likes the lights in the room 
Sending Hannah a message .. ” ring mum soon her eyes are open” 

“Ben and his silly diet” (Ben is on a muscle building diet) 

11:00 out of bed .. james helps .. she hates the smell but makes it to the chair .. she can see outside .. watch TV .. even get herself a drink .. Hoover the room .. james tells us Armelie made the fire 
Mum says she is fraud .. I think this is a rally that might not last .. I should stop reading stuff on the internet 
Wig on .. worried she looks silly .. I think she looks like my mum 
She can’t settle, wants a hug – she wants to be calm 
11:43 Hannah rings the loudspeaker on the phone does not work. 
Mum is uncomfortable .. she asks about the resort I have been looking at 
She soils herself .. I clean her up .. this is the reality of providing care at home – she sits on the toilet and defiantly says I am a college lecturer .. I am an intelligent woman 
“I wish Steve was here .. do you ..not really he had a good death .. its good because I had a bit more time with you and time to know James but I want to go soon.” 
“Thank you for tidying me up” .. don’t be silly 
“Where are Pinky and perky today?”  .. (local nurses) They started off on the wrong foot 
I watched a film .. mum slept 
I sit and hold her hand 

“You won’t throw my things away will you Ness, you will keep my good clothes and my jewellery, you won’t forget me”  

Kate Pickering came .. she’s very good with mum .. tells us to take advantage of Marie curie nurses starting tomorrow night Give Hannah a reality check of mums condition and look at a picture of Ben and issy .. dressed in shorts .. Hannah’s house must be warm 

Get Mum stuck half off the bed then pull out pillows and get a nesssss .. I want help from the nurse 

Sleeping – watching mastermind .. “it’s not that I want to leave you”
Dying is smelly 
19:56 .. I rang the hospital .. mums experiencing pain – no pain allowed the doctors coming 
11:15 .. she’s talking still, she wants me to go and get Hannah .. the. She asks me if Hannah is on islay. She wants to sit her up and put on her good clothes .. and then the words I dreaded “where is Steve” 

Armelie comes in .. Harry Potter hasn’t finished yet .. she holds her grandmas hand and says goodnight. .. when she leaves Mum says “when it’s over I don’t want her to see a dead body .. I don’t want to see a dead body 

It’s 1am .. and Mum is breathing quietly .. we have had three hours of irrational thinking .. Vanessa I want to sit up now .. I want to go out ,. Let’s get dressed .. call Hannah to come over .. I want Steve tell your dad to come in from the garden. The rest has been unintelligible ..

Death smells, death is not always peaceful .. mum has been restless all night I was up at two, four, six and now I have given up sleeping. I tell I love her I hold her hand but she does not respond. I am going to have some toast and shower and phone the hospital. If she can not make the decision to take a drug then perhaps I should make if for her. 
Twitter is my lifeline – I can get angry there .. I can battle with wit and win .. I can’t win the battle in my home .. cancer has already won there .. it gives me a release for frustration a connection outside of this house.
The doctors come .. two lots of a drug to relax her and she’s still not relaxed .. the doctor thinks she’s fighting it, it’s true she says that there js no such thing as a good death. 10:53 she’s sleeping, I have rung my sister, she’s shopping with Ben … jealous of their normality .. I don’t know why I am writing all of this down it seems such an odd thing to do I think I should justify it but in reality it’s because I don’t want to forget .. I am scared to forget. 

I am sitting holding her hand, kissing her. She wants me to take her Pyjama top off .. she can’t speak but she keeps pulling at it. I take it off. Her breathing is getting slower ..James brings Armelie in. Shes such a good girl kisses mum tells her she loves her .. I know why James has bought her in. I keep telling mum I love her, but she’s not speaking to me. I am holding her hand. It’s 12.35 it’s going to be soon .. I read mum the last bit of the poem from the picture over the bed kiss her and that’s it the breathing is really slow laboured noisy and then it’s stopped. 

” when the curtain falls and night envelops the passing day. When silence calls and burning passion lulls to sleep. When the star is fixed and reasons dream; then the heart is free and I alone with thee” 

Those pesky Brexit questions, still no answers 

A few weeks ago I posted some questions that I wanted answers to. Yesterday a UKIP supporter posted a blog with replies @thunderdriver, George Choy – currently resident in Hong Kong. 

The answers offered by George are in Italics, my rebuttal is directly under each one. 

Will we still have access to the single market? If not what will the replacement look like?

Yes, just like any other non-EU country. The UK and EU will need to negotiate a trade deal.”

This has not answered the question, in fact you seem confused. You have said that we would remain part of the single market – free to sell our goods and services without restriction whilst stating that we need to negotiate a trade deal. It is either one of the other. You have failed, along with most that want to Brexit, to address the model that the trade deal would take. 

To vote to leave and then to expect to trade under the same conditions is wishful thinking at the least and highly foolish in reality.

Will we be able to sell services, 78% of our economy, to the EU free of WTO tariffs? 
”That depends on trade negotiations between the UK and the EU. Don’t forget there is EFTA which is a tariff free trade deal between the EU and non-EU European states.”

Again, you have assumed a model that has not been confirmed. EFTA members have had to accept freedom of movement. Since Brexit is being sold to the public on the basis it will lower immigration we can not apply to, and join EFTA , without accepting that there will be freedom of movement. Since the other gripe is the implementation of EU regulations, those who want to leave to make their own laws may interested in this report from the government of Norway which shows they have implemented 75% of EU regulations without any representation from elected officials. 

If after two years there is no agreement, which according to the Brexit lot is highly likely since they constantly moan about the long time it takes for all the EU members to agree. Trade between the EU and the UK would revert to WTO rules, these would mean the introduction of fixed tariffs on services and agricultural products, amongst others. It would also mean a whole slew of non-tariff barriers to trade. 

I also refer you to the following answer on customs union. 

What kind of non tariff barriers will we face?

“Ditto the comments about trade negotiations.”

If those wishing to Brexit can not offer an answer to this question, then it is realistic to look at the current situation facing MEDCs who trade with the EU with or without a trade deal in place. 

If you wish to again refer to EFTA then note EFTA is currently not part of the customs union with the EU this means that goods produced in the UK which include components not produced under the Pan –Euro Med convention, for example cars which are assembled with parts not made in this area, would be subject to customs duties. Rules of origin mean that for each component contained a movement certificate would have to be produced – this would very likely increase the cost of our exports making us less competitive. 

The lack of a customs union is very concerning when much of our manufacturing production is owned by those who specifically invested in the UK to take advantage of the customs union.

Will there be a visa system for holiday makers? 

“This is a very interesting strawman that just popped up.  I now live in HK and after HK went back to the PRC in 97, most HKers were given HKSAR passports instead of the BNO. The HKSAR passport allows visa free access to all Schengen states and the UK.  If EU countries want UK tourists then I guess it would be in the EU’s interest not to put up visa conditions on UK nationals. Otherwise, if the EU puts up visa restrictions then UK people will just have to spend their holidays in the UK, thereby helping the UK economy and cutting down the carbon footprint.  This is a pretty poor reason for remain, methinks.”

It is not those who wish to remain who have mooted the question of visas

And although VISA restrictions might be a small matter the complication faced by the airlines are not.

Will the CAP payments be maintained at the current level and for how long? 

“Can’t believe you are using the CAP as a reason to stay.  CAP subsidizes farmers for producing more than enough cheap food, which is then dumped on the third world, thereby destroying local markets and livelihoods. Which then creates poverty, conflict, migration etc. CAP is actually a very good reason for Lexit as it benefits a few rich people.  Speaks volumes that you as a left-liberal should use this one.”
It speaks volumes that you are unaware that food dumping no longer occurs, export subsidies are being eliminated. One of the problems with those who wish to Brexit is that they do not actually know what is happening in the EU and rely on out of date newspaper articles and biased commentary without looking at the facts. 

Ditto there are no tariffs on food imports from most African nations under the anything but arms deal that has been in place for a number of years. There has already been considerable reform of CAP as regards these issues. 

As for the EU and food production in Africa, one of the problems faced by African farmers a lack of technical assistance to enable them to produce food sustainably for themselves and the local market place. To this end the EU has invested a large part of its overseas aid and technical assistance to farmers in poorer regions of the world. 

How do we get future governments to guarantee CAP payments at EU levels? When agriculture, in reality, employs few people in the UK and does not have the influence of numbers

”See above regarding CAP”
Again you have failed to answer the question. CAP exists and is essential to upland farmers in particular. The agricultural industry is worth only 0.6% of our national value added, how can those advocating brexit guarantee that payments to farmers will remains the same as now in real terms into the future. British farmers benefit from the greater collective bargaining power of strong farming groups around the rest of the EU.

In addition many of those who want to brexit claim food prices will fall with increased imports of food. One oft quoted example is lamb from New Zealand as part of commonwealth reconnect. I am sure upland farmers in Scotland, Wales and Northern England will not be impressed by being undercut in a product that already, often, costs as much to produce as sell. 

How will we ensure that governments of different hues will maintain structural  aid, even when it’s directed at areas where it would give them no political gain?

”Why would it not continue to happen post-Brexit?  As someone who grew up during the Thatcher ’80s in South Wales and later in Manchester, I saw lots of various government projects and aid pouring into both depressed areas.”

Let’s take Liverpool, in the 1980’s its population declined by over 40%, the public aid that it received which created a climate for private investment was objective 1 structural funding initially in 1994 followed by ongoing objective 2 structure funding. Much of the money invested by the government was EU funding that had to spent in a designated area. Again you demonstrate a typical brexit trait to ignore the facts and to make stuff up. You can get the gist of the importance of EU structural funding for Liverpool here.  

Perhaps you can attempt to answer the original question, for example by comparing the amount spent by the current government on infrastructure/arts projects in London compared to the far more deprived North of the country.


Northern Ireland and Wales are net gainers from the EU budget. Will the Westminster government maintain this investment? 

“Ditto my comment above. Further why should UK taxpayers pay a larger amount to a supra-national body and then get a smaller amount back to invest in NI and Wales?  Why can’t we bypass the EU in the first place and cut out the middle man?”
See my comment above, successive governments have shown clearly where funding priorities lie. By the way the net cost of the EU is a small price to pay for the inward investment and trade benefits we receive .. See all my previous answers on EFTA .. Very small. 

What is an acceptable loss of GDP over the next 20 years? 

”Why do you think there will be a GDP loss because of Brexit?”
Again not an answer to the question. Financial models including those who are pro brexit show that should brexit supports get their desire regarding migration GDP will fall or fail to grow at a level that it would in the EU.

One of the main funders of Brexit, Arron Banks, has stated any price is worth paying. So what do you think is an acceptable loss of GDP over the next 20 years? If you think there is not going to be a loss, show this with a peer reviewed study.


How exactly will making our own trade deals increase the amount we export?

“The amount we export depends on the quality of our goods, service and the cost.  In fact it is possible that we could export more, without the shackles of EU rules and regulations.”
Which shackles would you remove, although try to remember that we do not have to comply with EU regulations to sell to the rest of the world now and we will continue to need to comply to sell into the single market. 

By the way, I expect that for most people detail would include a list of regulations that you intend to get rid of.


Explain in detail the reasons you think food will be cheaper? 

“Blimey the CAP again.  The food is ‘cheaper’ because it is subsidized by EU taxpayers.

Again a failure to answer the question.

Leave campaigners claim we can cut the cost of regulation. Account for which regulations will be removed in order to achieve this lower cost.

“These regulations don’t account for local cultures and business practices.  It is trying to force a one size fits all across the EU states.  A good example of this is the 48 hour EU working time directive which is unworkable and forced on the UK.”

Since the UK is already the least regulated economy in the EU, both for production and as a labour market, you might consider that we already opt out of what we don’t require. For example almost anyone can choose to opt out of 48hr week Of course you may want a bus driver driving 60hrs a week, most of us would prefer they did not. 

This is another example of where your knowledge seems to be limited to UKIP soundbites and not actual facts on the ground. 

The reality of regulation is thus 

“Take regulation. The Paris-based OECD club of mostly rich countries says that Britain has the least-regulated labour market and second-least-regulated product market in Europe. The most damaging measures, such as planning restrictions and the new living wage, are home-grown. Post-Brexit Britain would almost certainly choose not to scrap much red tape, since the call for workplace, financial and environmental regulation is often domestic and would remain as strong as ever.” Economist October 2015 

How are you going to address the very real fears of NI and Eire?

“Eire is a sovereign state, its people can deal with the EU themselves.  As for NI, what fears are you referring to?”

I suggest that you do a little reading you can start here . Many of fears are replicated on the Northern side of the border.

The Working Time Directive is often seen as a Cost to  businesses. Do you envisage it being removed from UK employment regulations, if so what would replace it?

”I think it should be removed, what should replace it should be decided by British people.”

Again no answer. 

The leave campaign claim fuel prices will be cheaper. If this is through a removal of VAT, where will the government recoup this loss in income?
”This can also be decided by the British people.”

This will be decided by any government in power, if you can not suggest a way that this loss can be recouped then I suggest you have no ideas of your own or know that the answer would be unpalatable!

How will you guarantee that a government in thrall to busines does not erode my right to paid leave? 

You can vote out that government if enough people are dissatisfied with it.  Can you do the same to the EC commission?”

A very weak answer that does not address the issue. Until the working time directive paid holiday leave was contractual not statutory, most people do not want a different regime of regulations every five years, depending upon the hue of the government. 

Overall you failed to answer the questions and displayed a typical lack of knowledge on some key issues. Like most UKIP supporters you fail to check facts, for example on CAP, and rely on soundbites from fellow kippers on social media, friendly newspapers and Nigel Farage. 

Bizarre Brexit Bods

There are many reasons for people to want to leave the EU. There are some “genuine” political concerns based on sovereignty and power sharing. There are also the frankly bizarre, the racist and the truly misinformed.

The Tory led campaign has made this about sovereignty, UKIP has made is about the fear of immigrants, just watch their misleading  “Turkey” video to witness the lengths they will go to,  and the labour left about corporate greed and big businesses ruling us through Brussels – the threat of TTIP. All of these have been throughly debunked more than once by the excellent infacts, although you can guarantee that the hardened brexit bod will never read it.

But to back up these “big” issues are the frankly bizarre and occasionally bigoted reasons put forward as “fact” by brexit supporters.

Reason number one. The threat of military dictatorship from a secret base – that has an open day in a few weeks.

This was posted on the all politics discussion page on Facebook. It long ago ceased to be all politics and us now largely a place that frankly bizarre reasons for brexit are shared.

Reason number two. The desire to brexit and beat the Hun! A hangover from WWII. These brexit bods are convinced that by choosing brexit we will “show those Germans” and “bloody Jerry’s nose”,


Reason number three. Without brexit we will become a muslim country with sharia law so vote brexit to save the grandkids! This of course has been encouraged by UKIP with constant references to Turkey by the leadership.

Meanwhile they want commonwealth reconnect, I can only presume they want to allow immigration based on religion.

Reason number four. The EU is part of the “New World Order” This is the David Icke wing of brexit bods, they watch videos like this and imagine a future of giant concentration camps and a population forced to become coffee coloured. There is a tinge of anti semitism in this with references to the Rothchilds and to Cultural Marxism. UKIP themselves have a thing about cultural marxism  – the oft used stick to hit ‘progressives’ with that has distinct Anti Semitic overtones.

With the far right advocating brexit, its worth taking a look at the Daily Stormer . The ideas here, that the vast majority would find shocking, have been watered down in the main stream media for those who would deny being far right, as legitimate reasons for brexit.


Reason number five. The EU is communist or the EU will take over once we vote in. Whilst the leave left and UKIP tell is its all about big business wanting to rule over us and corporate greed, this branch of brexit madness think its a plot by ex communists to turn us into a socialist state. Quitters are encouraged in this by those like Ian Duncan Smith  

And there is this: 


These views may seem amusing to most of us but to the people who believe them they are genuine worries that they have about the EU. These worries are constantly being stoked by comments made to encourage such beliefs by those who have the ear of the media. Take any day in The Express or Breitfart and you see headlines designed to scare and articles that twist reality in such a way to cause genuine fear and distress.

Is it worth countering these “reasons for brexit” yes absolutely. Is it possible to show the already convinced how mistaken they are, doubtful.









Love Women .. Love the EU .. 

There is lots of evidence at how the right see women only as victims of “Islamic” aggression, a useful tool to promote Brexit and borders ( which we already have ). Ukip have consistently failed to vote for the protection or the promotion of women in the EU. The Tory government has failed to ratify the Istanbul Convention which aims to protect women from abuse. There is a growing trend to call feminists – Feminazis.  

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. The memes below are based on facts readily available without much effort and they promote the idea that Women in the EU are Stronger In as part of a strong vibrant community of 250 million.

If you want you see what women in the EU lobby for go here, it’s worth a visit.

Women in Europe do not yet have equal pay or an equal amount of power, but over 250 million women are further forward than they may have been. Europe is going forward for women and I would like to carry on moving in that direction.


Feel free to share the pictures if you don’t want to share the post. It’s important that a positive case is made for women in the EU.

Hey  ukip and BREXIT bods some questions 

The leave campaign, such as it is, has as yet not actually managed to offer the public a concise picture of the future. 

Will we still have access to the single market? If not what will the replacement look like?

Will we be able to sell services, 78% of our economy, to the EU free of WTO tariffs? 

What kind of non tariff barriers will we face? 

Will there be a visa system for holiday makers? 

Will the CAP payments be maintained at the current level and for how long? 

How do we get future governments to guarantee CAP payments at EU levels? When agriculture, in reality, employs few people on the UK and does not have the influence of numbers

How will we ensure that governments of different hues will maintain structural  aid, even when it’s directed at areas where it would give them no political gain?

Northern Ireland and Wales are net gainers from the EU budget. Will the Westminster government maintain this investment? 

What is an acceptable loss of GDP over the next 20 years? 

How exactly will making our own trade deals increase the amount we export?

Explain in detail the reasons you think food will be cheaper? 

Leave campaigners claim we can cut the cost of regulation. Account for which regulations will be removed in order to achieve this lower cost.

How are you going to address the very real fears of NI and Eire?

The Working Time Directive is often seen as a Cost to  businesses. Do you envisage it being removed from UK employment regulations, if so what would replace it? 

The leave campaign claim fuel prices will be cheaper. If this is through a removal of VAT, where will the government recoup this loss in income?  

How will you guarantee that a government in thrall to busines does not erode my right to paid leave? 

  Ukip, The Commonwealth and BREXIT 

The idea that by joining the EU we abandoned the Commonwealth Nations is not a new one. In 1975, when we last voted on membership, it was thought to be enough of an issue to be addressed in the leaflet sent to each household:

In 1975 the government of Australia was clear and things have not changed, in a recent interview in The Telegraph the ex deputy prime minister had this to say:

“International companies from outside the EU – from, say, the US, Japan and, indeed, Australia – base themselves in the UK in no small part so they can access the wider European market. The single market is especially beneficial for your vibrant and world-beating financial services industry, which benefits from having all of Europe as its home market instead of just Britain. I can see no good reason why the UK would want to give up such a beneficial economic relationship with its nearest and largest trading partners – nor am I clear what you would replace it with”

It seems clear that the views of one of the wealthiest Commonwealth Nations have not changed.

So where does this idea of Commonwealth reconnect come from. It’s certainly not a new idea, those like Rory Broomfield, who is a director at the think tank The Freedom Association and of Better off Out, have been pushing this view for some time: (it is worth remembering that The Freedom Association has as its aim the deregulation of the labour market)

The book that was written to help promote this view is sadly no longer available from the links found here but can be found as a kindle edition on Amazon. What it has at its heart is the rather paternalistic view that the Commonwealth Nations want trade with the UK at all costs and are prepared to enter a free trade agreement with us.

It also has a belief that a trading block can be formed that would either replace lost trade with the EU  and, or, would allow us to make trade deals that would increase our trade with these nations. Something they claim we can not do whilst still a member of the EU.

Let’s address these separately: 

The claim made by many a kipper and brexiter is that the Commonwealth at over 2 billion people with a GDP fast approaching that of the 550 million people of the EU, is a better long term trading partner that the EU. They will make grandiose statements about growth rates across the Commonwealth and expect you to be bowled over by the wealth of trading opportunities.

What are the realities?

I am a geographer and a teacher so I like maps and I like to think out side of the box. The reality is that much of the commonwealth, has not yet reached the toothbrush for each family member  stage of development, this article from Anna Rosling-Rönnlund will explain. Or as Hans Rosling would put it, they are not yet in the washing machine economy. If the vast majority can not afford a toothbrush , its laughable to assume they will be buying financial services products.

How about the maps? 

The data for GDP Per capita is easy to find, you can use PPP data to make it fairer and I have, a simple on-line map maker and you can produce a map that can be downloaded for use on a blog.

You can find the online version here (it does not work well on tablets and phones):


This map clearly shows that we have a problem if we want to trade with the Commonwealth our goods and services services are simply too expensive for the vast majority of those living in countries with a GNP per capita of less than $6000 per annum. If you need more help in understanding try this, gap minder and Dollar Street  .

Income is not the only consideration, a small or medium sized company doing trade in the EU is protected by a plethora of regulations and can be assured that the cost of doing business is not increased by corrupt practices:


All those countries that are pink and yellow have a lamentable record of corruption and governance, more details can be found at Transparency `International 

There are those who strongly advocate a Commonwealth Reconnect but the reality is that there are many divisions within the Commonwealth and a real problem with the emerging countries in the Commonwealth being considerably less open to trade then we would want as well as less keen on democracy, some of the opposing views are discussed here. The conclusions reached are clear, in reality most of the Commonwealth shares little with the UK.

The problem goes still wider. Look at the voting records of the United Nations Security Council, or the UN’s grisly sub-committees on human rights, and compare Britain’s votes with (a) votes of other EU members and (b) votes of other Commonwealth members. Whether Eurosceptics like it or not, Britain is far closer to (a) than (b). Many Commonwealth members are far removed from Britain’s way of seeing the world, aligning themselves firmly with the “south” in an inchoate “north-south” stand-off. The EU may not have played a blamless role in the decade-long misery that is the latest round of talks at the World Trade Organisation. But in truth, one of the biggest obstacles to a deal for a long time has been India, a Commonwealth giant that is far from a reliable ally on free trade and market-opening.

While I am being difficult, I would leave readers with data from the latest Chatham House YouGov polling for 2011, which asked British voters to rank foreign countries in terms of favourability and unfavourability. True, Commonwealth stalwarts Australia, Canada and New Zealand take the top three favourability slots for non-European nations, with only America coming anywhere close.

But the same British respondents are strikingly hostile to the other Commonwealth nations on the list, such as India, South Africa (6% approval apiece) and above all Pakistan (1%), which comes bottom of the table, just above North Korea. It would be depressing if at least some British public support for the “Commonwealth” meant nothing more than liking unthreatening, English-speaking western countries that look rather like us. (The Economist 2011)

With many UKIP supporters deeply distrustful of Muslims countries you can safely assume that they see the Commonwealth as a handful of countries which closely share our culture and religion – the rest of the Commonwealth being full of those who they are more likely to call “swarms” than trade with.

Do the Commonwealth Nations want our Trade? 

This question assumes we don’t trade with the Commonwealth so consider these facts:

  • UK’s exports to Commonwealth countries have been increasing at over 10% a year
  • The increases (over two years) of 33% to India, 31% to South Africa, 30% to Australia and 18% to Canada. In fact
  • Since 2004, British exports to India are up 143%
  • EU already has agreed trade deals with 64% of Commonwealth countries, and is negotiating with another 26%

If we lost 10% of our trade with the EU we would need to increase our trade with the Commonwealth by 40%. Since most of the trade between the EU and the Commonwealth will be covered by FTAs by the time of BREXIT, and with the UK starting from scratch with negotiations, one can rightly wonder how likely that it! More facts of the sort BREXIT run away from can be found in this article by Steve Peers .

Both UKIP and Brexit Tories share the belief that the Commonwealth Reconnect can be flogged to the public as an alternative to aid for developing counties. Its worth noting that the developing nations have made huge improvements in education and health outcomes and in GDP per capita and much of this is down to targeted aid. The UN has a 15 year plan to help the last stubborn few up out of absolute poverty. Trade with the UK is not going to help them achieve this. Indeed this is where I and the EU fall out as for me inter African trade is far more important than the EU encouraging trade between African and the EU. The bulk of the region’s trade is with Europe and America: only 12% is with other African countries, according to research by Ecobank, a Togo-based bank. By comparison 60% of Europe’s trade is with its own continent. The same is true in Asia. In North America the figure is 40%. Whilst the African Union is busy creating a Continental Free Trade Area , recognising that their ability to develop lies in unity and improving that 12%, we are busy trying to exit the EU.







Why are UKIP lying about Google? 

Since yesterday Ukip have been promoting the idea that the EU is preventing the UK from taxing large corporations such as Google.

This has been posted on their FB page. And shared numerous times on Twitter.  


Is there any truth in it? 

In a word, no, although it is complicated. Companies like Google use a tax avoidance tactic called transfer pricing. It’s not something only EU countries suffer tax loses from. The US is not immune, Such income shifting costs the U.S. government as much as $60 billion in annual revenue, according to Kimberly A. Clausing, an economics professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

What George Osbourne said about the latest EU directive

“This directive, for perfectly understandable reasons it is not the right directive, does not address the transfer pricing issue. The transfer pricing issue has been one of the issues that has caused greatest concern. This is where companies artificially shift profits and therefore can not be taxed on where the economic activity took place that generates those profits took place. It is one of the most complicated areas of the international tax law.”

He did not say, that we would need to leave the EU to deal with it. In fact clearly with the US also losing $60 billion a year it would make no difference.

What is the EU doing?  

This is what they are doing on tax a whole raft of measures to try to prevent large corporations taking advantage of differing tax rates. This excellent PDF gives an overview of what the EU is doing, including how it wants to tackle transfer pricing. 

Specifically Margrethe Vestager is using the substantial clout the EU does have to prevent governments in thrall to big business, like the current crop of Tories, from effectively breaking state aid rules by subsidising big wealthy companies. She can fine Google and others as much as 10% of their global turnover and she us not afraid to tackle these companies. She has already  tackled Google launching formal antitrust proceedings against the company in April last year over accusations that it uses its dominance as a search engine to unfairly privilege Google’s online shopping service over those of its rivals.

Yet again UKIP have told a lie. They know that on our own we would never be able to successfully target these companies, even if our governments were actually prepared to do so. The EU is not preventing us from doing something. We are preventing ourselves from doing anything. 

Why do ukip lie, because they can not be honest about the EU, it might reveal that the only argument for brexit they have is  people’s fears over immigration.