Thoughts, Ideas and Stories

Thoughts, Ideas and Stories

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My Biggest Loss as a Child

Stories (Autobiographical)Posted by Ian Blackwell Mon, January 18, 2016 16:57:50

When I talk about loss I don’t mean something that your normal adult would consider “a tragic loss”; I mean something that was really important to me only when I was a child.

The first thing that comes to mind is my Premier League sticker book from when I was nine years old. It was 1994. Premier League stickers were a big thing in school; every boy was busy swapping stickers every chance they had. The stickers were mostly of the players and the team crest of every football club in the English Premiership. There were a lot of them, and I spent a lot of time and money putting my collection together. All of these stickers were stored in a sticker book.

When I was well on the way to completing the book I found that finding the new ones was becoming a struggle: most, if not all, of the stickers in the packets of five I bought were ones that I already had.

After a long campaign of swapping and buying new packets hoping that they’d at least contain stickers that had a high swapping value, I finally arrived at the point where I was only thirty or forty stickers short. The significance of this is that once you got here, for a fee you could order the remaining stickers directly from the manufacturer, which is what I did.

I remember the day they arrived and I eagerly completed the book. I had conquered the mountain that so many other boys were fighting to climb. No longer would I have to battle it out in the playground, using what negotiation skills I had to convince other boys to part with the stickers I needed. I had joined the few elite who could relax and watch the others argue it out with as much passion as opposing politicians feeling that their way is what’s best for the country.

I divided out the excess stickers I had among my friends as if I was a billionaire sharing my fortune. My learning had come to an end and I had become an expert in the highly-cherished field of sticker collecting. Over the next week I often flicked through my completed sticker book and marvelled at my success. Then the disaster happened.

It was a hot night. The temperature had soared well above normal and I couldn’t sleep. After trying in vain to fall into a slumber for over an hour I decided to move downstairs to try and sleep on the sofa where it was a lot cooler.

When I was a kid I drank a lot of milk. I even had my own huge sports bottle for it which I kept beside my bed at night should I awake and fancy a drink. That night I took it downstairs with me and placed it on the coffee table beside my sticker collection. I pulled the coffee table close to the sofa so I could reach my bottle during the night. I made myself comfortable on the sofa and soon I was asleep.

The next morning I awoke and sat up. When I had rubbed the sand from my eyes I looked down at the coffee table. The sight before me slapped me wide awake: my sports bottle, with its lid resting a short distance away, was lying on its side, right on top of my sticker book! I must have knocked it over in my sleep!

I desperately tossed the bottle aside. I carefully picked up my sticker book with both hands like a mother handling her child, as it was soaked. I stroked as much milk off the cover as I could, knowing that it would do little good. I gently opened it on one of the middle pages to find that the book had been soaked through. It was ruined!

But I hadn’t given up hope. I placed it in the airing cupboard, begging for it to dry it out and make everything okay again.

It took a day or so for it to dry. When it did I lifted it out as if it contained the cure to some awful disease I had. But to my dismay the waiting had been a waste of time: the pages were all stuck together, reducing the book to nothing more than a thin slab of paper mâché. I tried to pull each page open at only a centimetre at a time, but the pages stubbornly refused to part without tearing.

The book was dead. All of the effort I had put in was for nothing. I didn’t cry but I’m sure I was very close to it. I mourned for the loss of my Premier League sticker book for many days after that.

Now that I am an adult I realise that I’m very lucky that I didn’t lose anything really important. I now have enough awareness of the world to know that there are many people out there who are much less fortunate than me and have lost things and people in the most horrible circumstances who were special to them. But I did not have this knowledge as a child, and as a child that sticker collection meant the world to me.

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A Leprechaun With A Lesson

Short Stories (Fiction)Posted by Ian Blackwell Fri, January 01, 2016 21:48:07


I once met a leprechaun. I forgive you for being sceptical, but it was something that taught me a valuable lesson in life.

One day I was outside in the garden of my home in County Sligo, Ireland, mowing the grass. It was a hot summer day. Although the Sun was burning brightly in the sky, making me pour sweat and feel exhausted, all I could think about was Mary. She is a pretty girl with a slim build and long dark hair. Ever since I laid eyes on her I wanted her.

We used to go to the same school; she was in the year below me. I never had a proper chance to talk to her, but I have held doors open for her a few times during those years. I gave her the friendliest smile I could muster each time, but all I received in return was a mutter which I think was an expression of gratitude. She hardly even looked at me. I only had the pleasure of witnessing her beautiful smile from afar; how I wished that she would, just once, smile at me. It was only after we left school that I finally worked up enough confidence to approach her, thanks to quite a few pints of beer of course. The chance came on a Saturday night in town at the local pub called The Black Horse. Michael and I were standing in the corner. The place was full like the bellies of many that were there. Mary was waiting at the bar to get served. I could see another lad a few yards away from her, eyeing her and considering his approach. I knew I had to act fast.

“Should I?” I asked my friend, begging for encouragement.

“You should. If you don’t, you’ll never know.”

“Okay! I’m going to go for it!” I swallowed down a generous mouthful of beer and I started to fight my way through the crowd to the bar.

“Good luck!” Michael called after me.

My heart started to pound like the hooves of a cow that had been scared away. I had no idea what I was going to say to her. Just be normal, I told myself. It’ll be grand. As I dodged my way through the noisy crowd I noticed that there was a space beside her I could squeeze into. I went for it like an arrow, pushing past the potential rival who was too busy looking at Mary to see me coming like an ambush.

“Hiya, Mary!” I said. I had shouted too loudly, startling her. “Having a good night?”

“Aye,” she murmured, not smiling. She turned away from me, facing the bar.

“We used to go to the same school,” I said.

“Aye, I remember seeing you about.”

“My name is Seán.”

“Two vodka and cokes,” she shouted at the barman when he motioned to her.

“So what are you up to these days?” I asked. I knew that she worked in Linda’s, a local hairdressers, but I didn’t know what else to say.


“That’s nice. . . Do you like it?”

“Aye, it’s grand.”

She handed a note over to the barman after he set her drinks down in front of her. I felt like I was on a plane falling towards the ground. She slipped the change into her purse. When ready she lifted the drinks and said: “See you later.”

“Wait,” I said. She stopped and looked at me with an expression of inconvenience. “Look, I think you’re a very nice girl, and I would love to take you out sometime?” My heart was pumping so hard that it was forcing heat out of every pore on my body. She grimaced.

“Sorry, I would never touch a weirdo like you.”

Her words were like a knife to my heart. The falling plane had finally crashed and exploded into pain. She smiled as she watched my face drop. I always wanted her to gift me her beautiful smile, but not like that. She giggled and shook her head as she walked away back to her table. The rival, who had watched the whole thing, smiled as if victorious and took a long drink from his pint. All of the girls at Mary’s table grinned at her as she sat down, waiting to hear what had happened. I didn’t want to watch so I trudged back through the crowd to Michael with nothing but my pint and the charred remains of my pride.

The rest of the night was a terrible experience. Although Michael did his best to console me, it did nothing to numb the pain every time Mary and her friends looked over at me and laughed. I tried to drown the pain in beer; the only thing I remember after that is purposefully keeping a distance between Mary’s group and myself when we left at closing time.

Such were the dark thoughts that plagued my mind as I steered the lawnmower. Although the day was hot and I was sweating, my insides felt like a cold, dark cave as I replayed the previous night in my head over and over again. When the lawnmower’s bag was nearly full I stopped, easing the throttle back. As I lifted the heavy bag off the lawnmower I suddenly heard: “Help!”

I killed the lawnmower’s engine and listened: “Help me!” was the call I heard. It sounded like it came from one of the gateways to my drive. I had lifted the cattle grate off to clear the leaves that had gathered in the pit under it, but it hadn’t been replaced yet. The space was about three feet deep, and surely no-one could’ve fallen in there? “Help!” flew from that direction again. I dropped the bag and ran at the gateway, expecting to find a walker who had fallen in and injured himself. But what I found there was not what I expected.


I peered over the edge, afraid of seeing lots of blood and bruises. But much to my amazement, there stood a little man only a foot tall. He was wearing a tall green hat with ginger hair hanging down to his tiny shoulders. He had a green jacket on with brown trousers and brown boots. He cowered when he saw me, as if I was a hunting dog closing in.

“Please don’t hurt me!” he cried, covering his face with his baby hands.

“I won’t!” I said.

“Please don’t hurt me!” the miniature man repeated, peeking from between his fingers at me. “If ye let me go, I’ll grant ye three wishes!”

“Grand, grand!” I said, not taking his words seriously. I knelt down and offered my hand. The little man was hesitant.

“Ye won’t hurt me?”

“I won’t. Now grab my hand, wee man!”

He looked up at me with his little blue eyes. I could see him pondering to himself, but he must have decided that I was true to my word because he took my hand and let me pull him out. He weighed not much more than a bag of carrots. I backed off as he brushed his jacket down. I just stared at him, wondering how a man so small could exist.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“The Land,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. He straightened up like a ferret and looked at me.

“Thanks for helping me out there. Good man yourself! Ye were true to your word, and I’ll be true to mine.” he offered his hand to me again, so I took his hand gently and we shook: he had such a tight grip for such a tiny fella!

“My name is Fergal.”

Hiya, Fergal. I’m Seán.”

“Seán . . . that’s a good name.”


“Look Seán, I can’t hang about. I’m not really supposed to be anywhere near ye human beings. So let’s sort out our agreement and I’ll be off. Now, you’ve got three wishes. What’s the first one?” I laughed, but the little man looked serious.

“I wish for a million wishes!” I said.


“Are you a leprechaun?”

“I am, and an impatient one at that.” He looked around as if making sure that no-one else was about. “Just make a wish like a good man and I’ll be away.” I knew what I wanted more than anything else, but I still wasn’t taking him seriously.

“Alright, here you go: I want Mary to be my girlfriend!”

“Granted!” he said, pursing his lips as if he had heard better. “Right, that’s ye sorted now. I’m away, but sure I’ll hear ye when ye make the other two wishes and I’ll grant them on the spot for ye. Thanks again for getting me outta that predicament, Seán. Best of luck now!”

With that Fergal sped past the pit he was trapped in only moments before, and what a speed he hit too! He ran into the hedge and faded into nothingness as if he was a ghost. Strange.

I stared at the hedge to see if Fergal reappeared: he didn’t. I walked back to the lawnmower, laughing to myself about what it would be like if my wish actually did come true. If only life was that easy! Suddenly my text alert on my phone went off. I nearly exploded when I saw who the text was from: Mary. I didn’t have any Mary on my phone, and there was only one Mary I knew. The heat of the Sun above was meaningless as I opened the text.

“Hi. You still meeting me after I finish work?”

What is going on? I wondered. Did that wish actually come true? I quickly typed in a reply.

“Yeah. Where are we meeting again?” I sent back. I paced about the garden waiting for the return text.

“Cooks Café. Be there at 5.” was the reply. I looked at my watch: it was two o’ clock. It seemed that after I finished the lawn I had a date to get ready for!

“Grand. See you there,” I sent back. With that I grabbed the bag of grass cuttings and hurried to the back of the hedges to dump its contents. The excitement pushed me constantly like a supportive parent, making sure that I finished that lawn quicker than ever. I can’t say I made a good job of the lawn, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was what I was going to wear that evening!


At 4.50pm I was in Cooks Café. I ordered a coffee and picked a table by the window. I had driven into town like a rally driver, overtaking cars like a madman in order to make it in good time. I even took a big risk overtaking on a corner, but I landed in town okay so all was grand. I rubbed my hands together as I looked about me happily: the place wasn’t that busy compared to the jitters that danced through my body.

At 5 o’ clock I kept looking out of the window up the street every ten seconds like a puppy waiting for its owner to come home and feed him. Soon enough, I could see Mary coming down the street from the direction of Linda’s Hairdressers. My palms went sweaty and my chest started to rise and fall so fast that I don’t think oxygen had a chance to absorb and calm me down. What will I say? Or what if she keeps walking on past this café? She didn’t though: she made a sharp left into the doorway; the jingle of the bell above the door confirmed her entrance. I held my breath as I watched her stunning figure move gracefully into the café, looking all around her. Finally her eyes rested on me, and she came over.

“Hi,” she said without smiling. “I want a bacon and cheese toastie and a glass of coke.”

“Er . . . Hi! Anything for you, my dear!”

I stood up and skipped off to the counter. My eyes were on the menu high up on the wall behind the counter so I could quickly decide what I wanted. I settled on a tuna toastie and I ordered, waiting for the drinks. I paid and carried the drinks back to her. She was doing something on her phone and didn’t look up as I sat back down.

“Did you have a nice day?” I asked her.

“It was alright, but Claire is such a bitch! All she does is complain about the lack of light around her chair and yabbers on about how difficult it is for her to see what she’s doing! It can’t be that bad! I think she’s overreacting, and it stresses me OUT!”

“Aw, I’m sorry to hear,” I said. I couldn’t think of anything to make her feel better. “I had a grand day. I just had a lie-in this morning and I spent the afternoon cutting the grass. When my parents were alive they really valued keeping the house tidy, so because it’s just me living there I make sure that I keep it that way.”

“Very good,” she said, still messing around on her phone.

“You doing much this evening?” I asked.

“No, staying in this eve. But I was thinking: you could take me to that new restaurant that opened on Scotch Street called Vevinos?” She finally looked up from her phone, fixing me with a look of expectation.

“Of course!” I said. “How about 6pm tomorrow?”

“Hmm, 7pm would be better for me.”

“Yeah grand so! 7pm it is!” I said. Soon our toasties were brought over.

All she talked about for the rest of the date was how hard her life is. She went on about the people she didn’t like and how she hated living at home with her parents. I was as sympathetic as I could be. Every time I tried to change the subject she forced the conversation back to herself. But she was so pretty that I didn’t care. I was lost in her amazing brown eyes, even though they were lost to her phone’s screen most of the time. But she only had to glance at me for a second to give me a moment that I treasured with all of my heart. I drove her home afterwards and we shared a short kiss that nearly knocked the sense out of me. I knew I was in love.


The next morning I awoke, feeling great. I lay in bed for a while, marvelling at how Fergal’s wish came true. I had two wishes left, and I knew I had to make the most of them. One thing I did learn about Mary was that she has expensive taste. She buys all of her clothes in Wilson Morrow’s who charge at least €100 for a pair of jeans. I knew that I needed more cash in order to meet her needs.

“I wish for a billion euros in my bank account!” I called, unsure as to whether Fergal would appear. He didn’t, but I did hear his wee voice echo around my bedroom.

“Wishes are not limitless, ye know! Try for a hundred-thousand, and that’ll do ye well!”

“Alright then,” I sighed, feeling disappointed. But still, one hundred-thousand was better than a kick in the balls. “I wish for one hundred-thousand euros, straight into my bank account!”


I checked my bank account on my phone: sure enough, the money was there. Now I had loads of money to keep Mary happy for a long time. The pay I took home from the building site would never have been enough.


That evening I drove to Vevinos, more aware of the debit card in my pocket than ever before. It even felt heavier, weighing my leg down as I accelerated. I would’ve liked to have had a beer with my meal but I wanted to be able to drive Mary home, rather than her having to get her parents to pick her up. I noticed how busy the place was as the waiter led me to our table. Mary landed about half an hour late. I was growing annoyed as the clock ticked on, but all of the frustration evaporated into the joyful atmosphere of the place when I saw her enter. She looked beautiful in her classy red dress. How could I stay angry with a girl looking like that?

“Sorry I’m late.”

“No worries at all!” I said.

“I’m so annoyed!”

“Why?” I asked.

“My dad! He is so irritating! He keeps treating me like a little child, telling me not to stay out too late! He wouldn’t shut up the whole way here! I HATE living at home!”

“Ah well. Maybe it’s just his way of showing that he cares,” I said. She stared at me as if I had just called her fat.

“A bit of support, please! You are my boyfriend, or at least you’re supposed to be!”

“Sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say so I picked up one of the menus. “Any idea of what you’d like?”

“No, because I haven’t even looked at the menu yet, obviously!” She was like a snake with a headache so I remained silent and focused on choosing what I was going to have. Everything was expensive.

We didn’t say much as we waited for our meals, so everything was grand until she cut into her steak. She threw her knife and fork down on the plate and called frantically at the nearest waiter as if she was shouting at a policeman to catch someone who had just stolen her handbag.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned by her dramatic gestures.

“Yeah. What’s up?” I asked.

“This steak! I asked for it to be well-done! It hasn’t been well-cooked at all! It’s disgusting!” The fun atmosphere at other tables dampened as other diners went quiet and peeked over at us. Mary was really making a scene and I felt embarrassed. What made it worse was that her steak appeared to be thoroughly cooked: there certainly wasn’t a lot wrong with it.

“I’m sorry,” the young waiter said, scooping up her plate. “Leave it to me. I’ll take it back and sort it out for you.”

“Don’t be long: I’m starving!” she called after him as he skipped off through the swinging kitchen doors. She then looked at me and treated me to her beautiful smile. “You’d think a place like this would get something as simple as THAT right!”

The waiter came back with her steak in under five minutes. I could tell by the stony expression on his face that he and everyone else in that kitchen knew there was little wrong with her steak, but in the name of customer service they were powerless to object. They even gave Mary a complementary bottle of red wine: an insult to pride that Mary didn’t seem to feel.

“Shy children get nothing!” she said when the waiter was out of earshot. I felt uncomfortable, but I reasoned to myself that no-one is perfect. The rush of the endorphins pleasuring my brain every time she looked at me helped me forget about the incident.

The meal came with a hefty price tag. But I didn’t mind, especially with a massive account like mine. Plus Mary seemed to be satisfied by the time we left, although she was drunk. She just about managed to stay on her wobbly feet as we left. I drove her home as she talked about herself and what she wasn’t happy about in her life. The only time she stopped was when I parked up outside her home where we kissed passionately. I loved every moment of it and felt sad when she pulled away and said goodbye. I watched her struggle to climb out of my car. She blew me a kiss before slamming the car door too hard. The sadness didn’t leave me as I drove home.


I found myself at work the next day wondering what I could do to fill the empty void in my heart. As I result I wasn’t the most productive worker and I got scolded by the foreman for not getting much done. But towards the end of the day I figured out what was wrong, and it would take my final wish to make it right.

“I wish for Mary to love me!” I said, driving home.

“Limits! Remember: there are limits!” was the warning that startled me. It sounded like Fergal’s words came from the back seat. But I could see nothing in my rear view mirror and when I stopped at a junction I turned and confirmed that he definitely wasn’t there.

By the time I arrived home I had thought through what was wrong with my relationship with Mary: she only talked about herself and didn’t seem interested in me at all. I couldn’t wish for her to love me, but if we lived together then I could work on that. If we lived together it would provide her with the perfect opportunity to see what a nice guy I am and what a happy life we could have together – what a happy life we will have together.

I chucked my lunchbox down on the kitchen worktop and squared up to the wall as if I was facing somebody. “I wish for Mary and I to be a married couple, living here in my home!”

“Granted,” came Fergal’s reply. His tone sounded unsure, but I knew what I was doing. Mary always went on about how she hated living with her parents, and now her wish had been granted. Now she was free and able to concentrate on our relationship. I looked down and there was a thick gold ring on my ring finger. I could hear someone moving upstairs.

“Mary?” I called.


I jogged happily down the hall and up the stairs into my bedroom – our bedroom. There she was rolling the duvet down the bed. She was wearing pyjamas, ready to climb in.

“I’m shattered! I’m going to take a nap!” she said. The room was a mess with puddles of her shoes and clothes all over the floor.

“Do you not want any dinner?” I asked.

“No. But if you’re making something, will you leave me something nice in the oven?” She smiled sweetly at me and hopped into the bed.

“Uh . . . Okay,” I said. “Have a good sleep.”

“Humph!” was all I heard as I closed the bedroom door behind me.


“Will you do me a favour and iron my clothes?” she asked, fluttering her eyelids at me.

“Well, I have to weed the flower patch this evening. Can you not do it? Have you anything else planned?” I asked, sick to the stomach of her many requests.

“I don’t know how to iron! Mummy used to do it all for me! And there’s a programme on TV I want to watch!”

“What? Your mum did that for you as well?”


“Right. You can’t cook, you can’t iron. What can you do?”

“Don’t you speak to me like that!”

“I’ve no problem helping out around the house. But you’re going to have to learn to do your fair share!”

“YOU’RE GIVING ME A HEADACHE! HOW AWFUL!!!” she roared at me, marching out of the kitchen as if she was in the right.

Such were the frequent arguments we had. The joy that once filled my heart every time I saw her was becoming less and less. I found myself having to do everything because she couldn’t, and wasn’t prepared to learn, I realised that there’s a lot more to being married to someone than meets the eye. Within three weeks I didn’t want her to be there. All she did was complain. I didn’t want to be around her yet I had little means of escape; all I could do was pop off to the shop if I wanted a break from her. But the misery followed me like it was my own shadow, only darker.

One evening when I was throwing rubbish into the outside bin I heard a little voice behind me: “Well, Seán!” I spun and there stood Fergal. “How’s it going?”

“Not very well,” I said. “I’ve found that things aren’t working out the way they’re supposed to.”

“Sure that was always going to happen!” the little man cried, slapping his hat. “I had to come to ye and do my pieces! You had THREE wishes! Ye could’ve wished for anything within reason, yet ye wasted them all on that selfish girl! Ye stupid fool! Now look at where you’re at!”

“I know,” I said. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of having three more wishes?”

“Ah now, Seán! Not a chance!”

An evil thought grabbed my mind, and I debated the possibility of catching that little leprechaun who could give me so much help if he wanted.

“But I saved you!” I said.

“Aye! But sure didn’t we make a deal?”

“To hell with you!” I cried, launching myself at him like a pitchfork. But he was too quick; he turned and tore off across the garden like a green hare.

“Ach, there’s no need to put us on bad terms!” he said, stopping a safe distance away and turning to face me.

“Come here!” I demanded, charging at him like a bull. But he fled, vanishing into the fence, never to be seen again.

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Communism: What it is and Why it Could Never Work

PoliticsPosted by Ian Blackwell Sun, November 22, 2015 17:18:51

Communism is such a dirty word here in the western world, which is why I’m surprised to find that a lot of people don’t know what it actually is. They can name you one or two communist countries but they can’t describe what the original philosophy of communism is and how it is supposed to work, which is probably a result from the efforts of the rich. Knowledge is power.

Communism is a political ideology that is characterised by a classless society in which the means of production is owned by all in that society i.e. there is no private ownership. Although communist ideas had been in existence for a long time, the term was popularised by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their ground-breaking pamphlet The Communist Manifesto which was published in 1848. It was written in response to the antagonism they felt towards capitalism which emerged from the Industrial Revolution; they felt that capitalism was taking advantage of the factory workers by paying them little and exposing them to poor working conditions in the name of profit.

To summarize The Communist Manifesto, it theorizes that all history of societies consists of a struggle between their classes: the oppressor and oppressed, or bourgeoisie and proletariat. The state has reached a point where it only exists to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie; the proletarians are exploited from behind the mask of religion and politics. Industry now uses machinery and has divided labour so much so that little skill is required from the individual labourer: the labourer has been reduced to a minor role in a much larger process. This means that the cost of production from the individual labourer is small, and therefore the wages fall. The wages fall further as cheaper methods of production are developed. But the numbers of this new class of proletariat grows with industry. Because they are being reduced to a point where they have no property of their own, or much at all for that matter, the proletarian class will eventually turn on the bourgeoisie and seek to balance the books more fairly. It’s predicted that this will first happen in each individual nation, and these movements will be ripe for joining together to become one powerful force that knows no borders.

Communists seek to abolish private property, countries and nationality, as such things are tainted by exploitation of one by the other, and only stand for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. Unfair exploitation will be at an end. All instruments of production will be controlled by the state which will exist to serve everyone.

I am sure that many would agree that a state that exists to serve everyone would be ideal. This communist ideology is something that scares the rich capitalists here in the western world. They’d rather cut the throats of their own children than to lose everything they have gained for it to be used for the common good of society. Capitalism is an economic system that is driven entirely by profit. We only have to look at the extortionate prices that the pharmaceutical industry charges for new, life-saving drugs to find an example of the lack of morals in a purely capitalist society. The rich capitalists in our society would be trembling in their Armani shoes if they thought the working class were seriously considering an overthrow and a rebalancing of society. After all, a lot of those in the upper class are not there because they have earned their way; they merely inherited their wealth. However, in practice, there are two things that capitalist and communist societies have in common: greed and a lust for power.

Although the communist ideology of a society that exists to serve everyone is noble, we only have to look at communist countries to see that things haven’t exactly worked out as what had been originally intended. The three countries that instantly come to my mind when I think of communism are Russia, China and North Korea. These are single-party states that are riddled with corruption i.e. the party membership is self-serving. These single parties came to power through the promise of overseeing the transformation of the state to a truly communist society, and it didn’t happen.

Power and greed are damaging desires. No matter what political system you put in place, there will always be those who will always want more. The most prominent of these become addicts – slaves to their lust for power and wealth. Drug addicts do damages to themselves, but the prominent people in society do damage to others for their own shameless benefit. It is these flaws of the human race that guarantees that the ideology of a completely communist society that exists to serve all will never come to fruition and even if it did, it could never be maintained. However, taking into account the fact that the gap between the richest and the poorest in society is forever growing wider, I feel the possibility of the working class rising up against the so-called elite in the distant future is a scenario that could yet become reality.

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The Unanswered Questions of the Financial Crisis

EconomicsPosted by Ian Blackwell Sat, November 14, 2015 23:12:43

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 has changed the world forever. Things are more difficult for many of us than ever before. It is important to remember that it was all caused by filthy greed. It was caused by bank employees gambling with money that was not theirs, seeking higher yields with no regard given to the risks involved.

In the years leading up to the crisis, banks were freely giving mortgages to people they knew might find it difficult to pay back. It is my opinion that the banks thought that if borrowers defaulted on their mortgage repayments then they could repossess their homes and sell them on. Because of the ease with which people were able to obtain mortgages house prices rose to ridiculous levels, and were rising faster than household incomes. This eventually caused the housing bubble to burst as it led to many people defaulting on their mortgage repayments at a much higher rate than the banks cared to anticipate. The problem for the banks was that they lent heavily to financial institutions around the world against the strength of the profit that they expected to generate from these mortgages. The fall in profit from mortgage lending for the banks meant they were quickly finding it more difficult to meet their other lending obligations, and therefore they found it harder to borrow money from each other. They were all fast running out of money and on the verge of collapse.

To prevent the banks from collapsing, governments bailed them out with taxpayers’ money. I think we in the UK all remember when it was revealed that the Northern Rock bank asked the government for financial support. This caused a mass panic among their customers and sent them all rushing to queue at their nearest branch to withdraw their savings. The end of the world was near. The fall in confidence in the financial system led to people spending less money and the level of investing fell dramatically. And as a result of bailing out the banks, governments had less money and so have had to make severe cuts to tax-funded public services in order to balance the books.

So what effect has all of this had on our society?

Unemployment rose as public institutions made people redundant in order to make savings. Private businesses did the same to try and offset the losses from the fall in consumer spending. Profits must be maintained. When the line on the graph moves downwards the shareholders believe that they are going to die. The result for the remaining employees is that they now must work harder for their wages in order to make up for the shortfall in staff. The unemployed have to scrap for any new jobs that become available. The power is with the employers: if you don’t take the not-so-great job offer, someone else will. Fact. Wages have also fallen in real terms. A rising population doesn’t help the jobseeker either.

In order to offset the losses, businesses have also focused on reducing wastage. We find that many high street stores do not keep much stock compared to what they used to. It simply isn’t cost-effective for a business to have a stockroom full of valuable products; it’s cheaper to only order things in as needed. Households have followed a similar trait: they’re buying less but are shopping more often. Households have also developed a keener eye for spotting the best deals. Cobbler businesses boomed as people sought to repair their shoes rather than throw them out and buy new ones. We have all learned to be smarter with our money.

Banks and financial institutions have, unsurprisingly, learned to be smarter as well. Even though a lot of those in the banking sector escaped prosecution for their part in the financial crisis, it seems it is the normal taxpayer who has come under more scrutiny, even though it was the taxpayer’s money that saved the banks from going bust. Never has there been such a focus on the individual’s credit score. Never has it been harder to get a mortgage.

In short, there isn’t as much money around as there used to be. But how can that be so? Think of it this way: if all of the money is stored in a pot, then the money has to be taken out of that pot for there to be no money left. Money cannot disappear. So where did it go? Which financial institutions were the receivers of the money the banks effectively gave away in the first place? One person’s loss is someone else’s gain, so who is the someone else we never see? As the saying goes: the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.

I am no expert in economics by any means. But one thing I do find extremely unusual is the fact that neither the government nor the press have told us who has benefitted from the harder existence most of us find ourselves in. That is highly suspicious: surely it’s in the public interest for us to know? Who or what are they hiding? This is something I would like you to think about the next time your government announces new financial pressures on public services. If there’s something you would like to add or if you feel that there’s something I’ve missed then please let me know in the comments below.

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My First Blog!

Where Writers Could ImprovePosted by Ian Blackwell Wed, March 04, 2015 16:50:34

Greetings! I have finally completed my website. It took more time than expected so I’m glad I’m finished! I hope people will find this blog useful for their own development. I aim to use this blog to share my general thoughts on what I’ve read and whatever else might be relevant. Feel free to comment and get involved!

Apart from setting up the site, I’ve been spending a lot of my time recently reading the work of others. Here’s a few things I have noticed that I would like to point out:

KNOW YOUR WORD COUNT: I always ask for a word count so I can guess how long it’ll take me to read. It looks unprofessional if you don’t know it. Saying “193 pages” is not a word count. How many words are on a page? How many teeth does a monster have? How many planets are in a parallel universe? You get what I’m saying. There’s no correct answer. There’s no standard for how many words are on a page. As a writer – especially if you’re submitting your work to agents – you want to look as professional as possible. Not knowing how many words your novel has is NOT a good start!

BE CONCISE: As the saying goes: “Write as much as you need to, but not one word more.” The world we live in today has unfortunately worked itself up into a big rush. People don’t have as much spare time to read exceedingly long novels. There are exceptions to this that have seen worldwide success. If you honestly think your work is of this standard, then best of luck. But in general, it’s in your interest (and most importantly for the reader as well) to not have pages and pages of filler that don’t add to the story whatsoever. If you’re having difficulties doing this, then you should consider hiring an editor.

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