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…is there a hole I can hide away in, call it Lyniezia, and ignore the whole thing for the next 2 years at least?

Or maybe better still, some meaningful thing I can do to benefit society and the world around me that doesn’t involve caring about either?

Any ideas? (Apart from the obvious, if you happen to be related to me).

Now, it’s easy to treat the mainstream media or some sections of it as some kind of whipping boy. Those on both sides who like to accuse the BBC of bias, to those on the left who like to go on about the demonizing antics of the Daily Fail Daily Mail or The Sun whilst those on the right do exactly the same with The Guardian. Or the more conspiracy minded types- or at least those who have no truck with the ruling establishment – who consider that the entire mainstream media are not to be trusted at all and prefer some alternative media source, however biased and full of “fake news”. After all, it can be pointed out that often the regular media has not been above reporting “fake news” in the past itself. (But it is not as if alternative media on t’internet is automatically more trustworthy. There is no such thing as a totally unbiased, trustworthy source- or nothing we can be 100% sure is.) Now, much as in the past I’ve liked the BBC, I myself have a long tradition of shouting at the radio with regularity every morning, over some line it wants to push, or the antics of interviewers wanting to push from interviewees the line they want (though politicians are often all too keen to make a speech).

There are a couple of things that have drawn my attention of late in the British news media, relating to certain things within government that are legally impossible. One: that the sitting Prime Minister, currently Theresa May, has the power still to call an early General Election. Ignoring quite clearly a little thing called the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, which quite clearly aimed to put a stop to that and requiring a motion, passed by a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons for this to happen, otherwise Parliament would sit for a period of 5 years. The other, similar thing is that Scottish First Minister Nichola Sturgeon is capable of threatening us with another Scots independence referendum at the time this country (Britain as a whole) needs it the least, in the vain hope the EU will let them back in with open arms. But, of course, she cannot do this without approval from Westminster, and before Brexit is concluded, Mrs. May is firmly opposed to any such undertaking. (Occasionally Tories are not without sense.)

I wonder what to make of Lansman and Momentum [left-wing Labour Party affiliated movement formed in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s appontment as leader] trying to get endorsement from Unite and take over the Labour Party, (Certainly some on the left do not like Lansman and ilk who they feel have launched a coup within Momentum, but that is beside the point). Look at the way the media are treating it as a “secret plot”- all the more to sensationalise it and possibly demonise those on the radical left. Or there are those who try and point out that the media- even the Guardian- are out to get Corbyn. Certainly they seem to be distorting facts about even when he is competent, but it seems a lot is left to be desired even then. Yet it is worth pointing out that any organ of the establishment and capitalism is not exactly going to give too much real space to anything that looks like socialism. Too much of a threat, I suspect.

Those who seem more conservative or nationalist leaning also seem to suppose that within the media there is some kind of “liberal elite”, affiliated with Europe to such an extent that they are out to derail Brexit by all counts. Maybe so. But then maybe the blogosphere is quite capable of producing its own twaddle. I’ll deal with that another time.

And then we have the narratives surrounding right wing populism in general. Particularly with Trump. Is this the reaction of a disaffected white working class? Perhaps there is some truth in this. Well, with Trump, I’ve heard allegation that those on lower incomes (perhaps however disproportionately from ethnic minorities) tended to vote Clinton, and not forgetting this was hardly a democratic result given Clinton actually won the popular vote.

Of course with Trump, too, they obsess over his tweets, his antics, his personality flaws, and whether or not the Russians hacked the election as to his actla policies- in other words, what matters.

Back here, it gets me how so much attention is paid when it comes to things like Brexit on what I would consider disgraced political has-been like Tony Blair (less respectable elder statesman, more potential war criminal and in hindsight less saviour than real destroyer of Labour?) The establishment looks like it will prop up those in its own club.

And don’t get me started on the way the news media seems to give so much space to celebrity related stories, the royal family, the ongoing doping and other corruption scandals within the world of sport, and indeed sport in general. These things are peripheral to the real issues facing the world at present, some of which are completely ignored.

And how the terrorist threat seems to be magnified beyond all proportion, when cars probably kill far more people than terrorists. And as for state actors, their stupid wars, mismangement, public service cuts…

Of course many today decry the internet age, the financial unviability of news media, and how it means the death of good quality journalism in favour of talentless hacks. But even as a kid I recall hearing how journalists- and let’s not forget politicians- were among the less trusted professions even back in the ’90s, as far as the popular imagination is concerned. There has long been the fact of advertising pressure on commercial media, the clear division of  bias in most of the British press, and state powers leaning on the lot – including the supposedly unbiased public service BBC.

Whatever media one chooses to trust, we must always critically evaluate, fact check, and question whether there truly is such thing as an unbiased source. Ever.

Well, this post has been something of a stream of consciousness semi-rant, and more to do with politics again. But ne’er mind. Maybe one day I will add some variety to this blog again. But first, I must post something.

Before I aim one day (when I can a. be arsed and b. become somewhat more knowledgable on such matters, which I probably never will be enough) to write some long treatise on what would make the ideal democracy, perhaps it might be beneficial to share one or two thoughts.

And here is one. There are always some banging on about how this or that party or candidate is bad because they do not “listen to the people” or put into practice “the will of the people”, and conversely, some others are better because, finally, they are in fact doing that very thing. Of course, this is what is supposed to happen in a democracy, right? The actual people are more in touch with what their own needs are, and the realities on the ground, than a bunch of over-expensed career politicians who have spent very little time in the “real world”, you think, or even the would-be experts in their ivory towers. Right?

Except, as many critics point out, many people are not always as intelligent or well-informed on many issues, they may form views and make decisions based on blind ideology and received wisdom rather than actual rationality and facts, and so on. For some, this is a reason to either abandon or limit democracy in some way, or an argument for representative democracy so that those best able to make decisions and have the time to become informed will be able to do so. As long as, it is assumed, they are in some vague way generally following “the will of the people”.

It is my thought that sometimes, these detractors are true in their diagnosis, but not always in their cure. Representative “democracy” often ends up turning into nothing more than choosing once every four or five years who exactly we want to rule over us and do politics on our behalf, and so to avoid becoming well-informed or engage our critical thinking faculties, to become involved in the debate to the point that we have to question and analyse our well worn ideas. At least if the elected politicians screw up, we can claim it is their fault for being corrupt imbeciles who took us along for a ride, or at least we voted for the other guy, or moreover, none of them ever listen to “the people” so why bother being engaged? It’s never our fault.

Another thing that certain people banging on about “the will of the people” fail to realise is that “The People” does not necessarily mean them and their mates, to the extent others should not be trying to form a contrary view. Even if their viewpoint is the majority (or at least the dominant viewpoint of those who are not the middle-to-upper class, well-educated elites) that does not mean it cannot be challenged, or that it might not be, well, wrong. People not agreeing with you doesn’t mean you are being ignored or sidelined. Especially when it’s by those who think that your views or actions are genuinely reprehensible.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except those others that have been tried from time to time. No, it’s not a perfect system, but just maybe, the solution is not less democracy but more and better democracy. Democracy I think should not mean mob rule, or tyranny of the majority in the sense that majority opinion should silence or shout down minority opinion. This is why I think that legitimate freedom of speech and expression is of paramount importance. The relevant information must be available. Radical or novel ideas which might be right should not be ignored in favour of comforting old myths and the standard way of doing things. (If people want to argue for open borders, little to no interference in the operation of the free market, abolishing capitalism altogether, then let them.) Of course, note I said legitimate freedom of speech and expression. It is my contention, that freedom of speech is about the freedom of ideas and information, not an excuse to attack, insult, or ridicule, to threaten, or act in ways that might actually cause harm for particular people. Of course I can see there are times where one would want to limit that, such as those who advocate hate-speech laws or no-platforming agendas. But I would hope that such people (and their detractors) consider that it is best served when those speaking or expressing their thoughts do directly threaten others in so doing, or step outside the bounds of reasonable discourse. Marginalizing ideas or shutting them down does, I think, not remove them, simply creates resentment and allows those who hold them the opportunity or find other ways to organize and come back with a vengeance. Those seeking to remove fascism or other intolerant or hateful ideologies might need to consider not simply making these views unacceptable in that way, but rather dismantling them, exposing their flaws, and above all, be better able to communicate with those disaffected people who turn to such when things are not going well – and offer something better, which I hope they have.

But I digress. In short, democracy can work – but it will only work if all the people have the opportunity to participate on an equal and open basis, are able to have their views and decisions have weight, are willing to debate in a calm, rational manner and listen to each other, critiquing and adjusting our views as necessary, and are willing to make rational, well-informed decisions as best possible. It may not always work, but there you go.

… I will get round to writing a new post. And a lot of other crap.

Won’t *entirely* be about a man I will refer to only as Drumpf. He gets far too much attention already. But he will be in there. So will Brexit. And other crap. Would that it were that the world were a nice, easy place where one never needed to comment on awkward stuff. But there it is.

Or maybe I should just stick to the anime reviews and the Jenny Everywhere. (Which I wonder if it does not contain certain awkward stereotypes as is).

Well, there’s only one day left to go before the dread EU Referendum is upon us Brits, and we decide once and for all whether we want to remain a part of it or not. Some of us will have already done postal votes and for them, the decision has already been made. Others will have already voted at the tradtional polling stations. For me, even with only a few hours to go before the close of polls… well, that’s another story.

To begin with I was definitely on the Leave side, and it’s quite surprising how much of this had to do with the one thing most secularists would be mortally afraid of if you mixed it with politics: my Christian faith. There are actually a few more conservative Christian types who actually think our membership of the EU contravenes the will of God, that when God divided the nations at Babel and later set their borders, this was somehow a good thing in order to prevent some of the worse abuses of power that sinful human nature could produce. This kind of argument I will best leave to one of my former pastors to make- see [1]. On top of this, there were even arguments to the effect that since the Queen had made in her Coronation Oath to do various things including upholding the Christian faith and so on, this was actually a covanent with God and the secularizing tendencies of pan-European institutions were somehow about us breaking that covenant. Even one book I read contained an alleged prophecy stating that we should come out of Europe because it would align itself with the Antichrist before The End. I kid you not.

Now, of course, when I looked into it, there seemed to be plenty of good secular reasoning to back this up. When you looked at, say, the Greek crisis and what the EU has forced (against the declared democratic will of the people) upon it in terms of austerity, to keep the Euro alive, we get one example of why it seems that this kind of power structure is no good- it undermines democracy and national sovereignty. How many referenda have we also had in the past on the EU constitution or other treaty changes, in various countries, where the EU basically said “Wrong! Do it again! Let’s hear the right answer!” And then there’s TTIP- the pending trade deal that might allow corporations to sue governments and force the privatization of the NHS. Not to mention the litany of regulatory blunders as part of things like the Common Fisheries Policy which, in setting quotas to conserve fish stocks, only forced fishermen to throw back perfectly good, and perfectly dead, catches of fish back into the sea. Or the various problems which the Common Agricultural Policy, farm subsidies &c. might likewise cause. (You hear little of butter mountains and wine lakes these days, however. Though that make a good idea for a short story- Jenny Everywhere in Surplusland, maybe?)

All this led to some pretty unpleasant conclusions- like voting for and supporting parties I was somewhat uncomfortable with, i.e. UKIP. The more I heard about it and the actuons of some of its members (everything from bigoted remarks to their voting records for MEPs inside the EU, which seemed counter-productive), the more I grew concerned, but, as I knew the candidate for our area personally, I thought maybe they’re not all that bad, and frankly, some of their manifesto ideas seemed to make sense at the time. Sadly, of course, their attitude to climate chainge (unrelenting skepticism) was not one of them, their economic ideas are unflinchingly neoliberal and this conflicted with some of my inner leftie tendencies which still remained after all this time.

Of course not all my Christian friends were in favour of UKIP and leaving the EU. Most of these being the leftty activisit types whom I knew through SPEAK or those who knew them, who probably had a very different idea of what Christianity was to some of my church friends- much more inclied towards social justice issues and less upon (where it infringed on worldly politics over evangelism at all) personal moral issues and would be religious liberty. Many of these people were astounded I’d even want to consider, at least, supporting UKIP. No matter how much I’d try to say they weren’t that bad really, I had to wonder.

Of course now I left the church (one of whose members is the local UKIP candidate), and with spending more time amongst those of a more radical leftist bent, I had reason to want to reconsider my views on the matter.

Now, when all that’s said and done, there are several things that really get me about this referendum business.

First of all, as has been pointed out in the mainstream media quite constantly, there have been claims of scaremongering from both sides. Typically one side will come out with some claim, and the other side will try and rubbish it or try to point out flaws. The Leave campign seem to provide some of the more egregious examples, like the alleged money we supposedly spend on the EU which when things like the rebate is taken into account and the fact we get some back anyway, and any savings we make from it form a minuscule part of government spending- we will not have all that much more to spend on the NHS. That even assuming the offset in economic losses will make it meaningless anyway.

Worst of all is all is the way in which the immigration issue has been so much of a big deal. The Leave side have been hinting, for example, that Turkey might join the EU and bring millions more immigrants to th UK, using the refugee crisis as leverage (even in spite of the fact that we are not inside the Schengen area and those trying to climb on lorries desparate to reach the UK are hardly going to be deterred by Brexit). Yes, it is true that there is ultimaely so much space to go around, so many houses, so many hospital beds. Perhaps free movement of labour does seek to drive down wages and conditions as immigrants might have a lower level of demands in terms of wages (which are naturally higher than in their home country anyway). But at the same time, immigrants can also pay taxes, start businesses, possibly fill the jobs British people would seek to avoid anyway, and actually be of benefit to our eeconomy instead of a burden. How much of the pressure on our poblic services is not in fact down to austerity? How much of the housing crisis is really down to bad policy or even markets? How much of the business with jobs is down to neoliberal notions of shareholder value trumps everything? Frankly, this is more about scapegoating those less fortunate than us instead of blaming the real people responsible- the rich and powerful. Exploiting xenophobia and Islamophobia.

Then again hte Remain camp isn’t so much better- even suggesting the security of Europe might be threatened if we left, that the economy would take a nosedive- admittedly, hough many economists back that one up. Typical of the tit-for-tat mentality in the debates, the Leave campaign immediately hit back and rubbished these claims, reckoning, for example suggesting that the economists who make such predctions also failed to predict the 2008 financial crisis. And the business interests who favour Europe? They said the same thing about is joining the Euro, didn’t they? And as history has proven, maybe our not joining it turned out not to be such a bad idea after all.

There is also the suggestion that Brexit is all about right-wing values and hate, which it should not be- it is not about personalities, who our awkwards bedfelows might be, but on the issues. Just like I could not care less about all the celebrities and political dinosaurs the campaigns wheel out (why should we care so much partiucularly about what celebritiess have to say any more than anyone else?) nor do I care if Farage, Boris and their ilk are campaigning for Leave. After all, I don’t like Cameron, Osborne or those dinosaurs as Blair (the man who brought us into Iraq), or all the heads of corporations who want us to stay in, but they are all supporting Remain.

One thing I am very skeptical of is the claim that the EU has ben instrumental in securing peace in Europe. Never mind that the institutions which would later develop into the EU were mostly a Western affair, and for the four and a bit decades after WW2 the biggest possible threat to peace was the tension between capitalist Weat and “communist” East, dominated by Russia/the USSR which covered a good chunk of eastern Europe and is satellite states a good chunk more? That, although the EU now encompasses much of Eastern Europe and some parts of the former USSR, there are yet more tensions between it (and the West in general) and Russia, which is not part of the EU? What about Ukraine? What about the former Yougoslavia 20 years ago? So what good has the EU done for peace? Can anybody really tell me if the last 70 years since WW2 has not had a resumption of major conflict on the level of the two world wars, has not been in spite of, rather than because of the EU? I would welcome suggestions.

So, what of the Left case for “Brexit”, sometimes referred to as “Lexit”? Wasn’t the Left traditionally Euroskeptic back in the ’70s? Well, we’ve seen sadly little of it. Despite the fact that there are a few trade unions (RMT?) supporting it, a few within Labour (not Jeremy Corbyn however, who seems to have gone over from his original euroskepticism to support the normal party line). There are of course a few on the fringes- George Galloway of Respect, the Socialist Labour Party (something to do with Arthur Scargill methinks) and the like. The Morning Star newspaper seems to have carried plenty of columns arguing a left case for leaving the EU. But we see little of this in the mainstream media- it’s all Cameron and Osborne on one side and Gove an Boris Johnson on the other. I mean, even UKIP has been complaining that Farage has been sidelined in the debates, but he gets more prominence than any on the left arguing for Brexit. The fact is that, for all the worker’s rights, environmental protections (you know, like those fishing quotas) and whatnot that came from the EU,  it still a neoliberal-oriented organization and no-one on the left who wants to remain in the EU argues for it without hoping for substanitial reforms. The only worry is that with a Tory government in power- and especially if Cameron has to step down- a lot of these may be eroded further. We worry about TTIP, but if we make the much-vaunted trade deals on our own, how do we know they won’t be as bad as if not worse than what we might get out of TTIP- which we cannot influence if we leave, along with our comrades across the Channel. But to suggest the EU is internationalist- well, it actually is a regional trading bloc at odds with some other parts of the world, and actually discriminates against those outside the EU with regards to things like free movement rights. Much hope for world socialism there? Doubt it.

Nevertheless, I came across a film which makes the case for “Lexit”, which might be worth a watch. [2]

And another article (shared through a friend) which suggested that we’re basically screwed either way. [3]

So, I’m out to vote. If you are eligible to vote (and are not an anarchist who doesn’t beleive in voting in principle), I encourage you to do so if you have not already. I doubt I can influence anyone at this stage with an article like this, and frankly don’t want to. I barely know myself. But there you have it. As ever, confused.





Well, this is a short post just to let you know that I am alive, well and hope to start posting more of my thoughts on this here blog. (Oh yes and, people who didn’t know I have a blog, I have a blog. ) WordPress tells me it’s been nearly a year. Of course, you’ll say, we’ve heard THAT one before, haven’t we? Well, true. But there have been ceertain other reasons besides my usual sheer laziness. One of which is perhaps a year of spending a lot of time worrying about certain faith matters before getting to the point that, all things considered, maybe it would be better off not having that faith at all. That is to say, I have come to the point where if Christianity (at least in the sense I believed it) is going to be worth following, it had better be true: its demands are so great that it had better be worth it, and there had better really be a God out there able to make us into the kind of people who can follow it. But, on closer examination of reality, how much of the evidence seems to point the other way? Just which claims, interpretations of scripture, etc. are true and which are not? Is this God everybody claims is really there and working in their lives, really there, or is it just all coincidence and tricks of the mind? All in all, I concluded, it probably was not. Unfortunately not all of my Christian friends might no about this, and I have also been hesitant to make it public. Partly out of fear it might upset the faith of some, partly as a lot would try to react with surpprise, tell me I haven’t really stopped believing or try to bring me back into the fold. Well, I have no objection to you believing what you want, if it is true for you then as long as it harms no-one else, I have no problem with it. But do not expect me to believe any longer. I hope perhaps to address this in more detail in future posts. In the meantime, I have this whole EU election thingy (even if it ends up being last minute again and affects nobody’s opinion or vote) and reflections on certain very nasty murders that have taken place in the last week or so. Not much fun, sadly, but needs comment. In the future, who knows? Maybe I’ll write that big ideal democracy post (my ideas have shifted on that), some stuff about capitalism (short: it has many shortcomings and needs to be replaced, eventually), and maybe more fun stuff like anime reviews, wry observations, silly rants about inane nonsense… oh yeah, and I forgot that Jenny Everywhere story.

Watch this space.

(In memoriam to the victims of the Orlando shootings, Jo Cox MP, and all victims of senseless violence everywhere.)

(Edited from a post on the Powerswitch forums)

With election time coming up, and with it being a messy one in which many people are hoping or wishing that minor parties might have some chance to influence things in parliament, some people are questioning whether an alternative to the first-past-the-post electoral system (in which people make a single vote for who they want to be the member of Parliament for their local constituency and the person with the most votes wins, then the party which wins the most seats gets to form a government) might have helped those parties do better. UKIP are polling even higher than the Liberal Democrats and yet (perhaps due to a fall in support) are, according to some sources, unlikely to win even some of the seats they were gunning to get, such as Farage’s hopes for South Thanet. As for the Greens, well they’re polling lower, but some want them to have more influence as an alternative to the same old politics which even UKIP isn’t much of an alternative to (if not, in their view, even worse). Perhaps an alternative: AV (rejected by the majority in a referendum as being too confusing), STV or even full-on proportional representation, might help to stop the same old same old ruling the show every time?

But is it really the right way to go?

The reality is that the first past the post system is definitely fit for purpose if we understand how it’s designed to work.

Basically people are so obsessed by the party system they fail to see it’s about voting for the person as well as simply the party. What is really not fit for purpose is that we have no real separation of powers between the legislature and the executive- the latter being made up from whatever sitting MPs lead the party with the most seats or whatever coalition is formed that can gain the confidence of the House (and the Crown). In something more like the American sort of system, where the executive is elected separately from the legislature, only with the difference of having direct election of the head of government rather than the questionable electoral college system that exists Stateside, we would not need to worry about FPTP with respect to electing members of parliament.

Now certainly if we were to maintain this lack of separation of powers, some sort of alternative voting system which still allows us to have a specific local MP who is directly accountable to the electorate in a given locality might be a worthwhile compromise, but a full proportional-representation system would not be something I could support, as it removes that link and does not give us any idea (beyond party leadership) who are the people who will be elected to Parliament.

Thoughts, criticisms, elaborations most welcome.

As apparently NATO are beefing up security therein and the powers that be reckon Putin and the Big Bad Bear actually poses a real risk. And it’s come up on Question Time but need to follow it more closely.

I honestly don’t get it, to be fair. Seems like posturing. I don’t really understand quite what is going on in the Ukraine, whether the so-called “pro-Russian” rebels are being backed by Russia, or actually are a false-flag type operation involving actual Russian military. Or if the current administration in Russia is as “Nazi” as some make out, just because of that Right Sector lot. Or if there was not some skullduggery on even the West’s part in the overturning in the old regime in [Ukraine, presumably].

I am not too sure I can trust our own powers that be any more than I do Putin on the issue. Just because Russia might be involved in the Ukraine, doesn’t mean it will be in the Baltics. I mean, surely Ukraine once was Russia, or at least part of it. The Baltics have passed between various powers over the years.

Yet I can see the real fear those countries may have. Once part of Russia, then gaining their independence, then losing it again to Stalin’s Soviet Union. Russia is right on their doorsteps, Britain is not. My late Estonian grandfather, I am told, couldn’t go back (part of having to do with having fought for the other side- which along with the fact of my other, late German grandfather, causes some mild embarrassment when talking to British war veterans, even if thy are sympathetic) and became a displaced person. It would just have been too dangerous for him. Yet old Blighty took him and others like him, in.

Listen to the pro-Western and pro-Russian commentators, you get two completely different versions of events. Question is, who do you trust? Again, I have no answers. Do any of my readers?

[ERRATUM, 15th March: As noted in the comments below it was presumptuous of me to suggest that “surely Ukraine once was Russia, or at least part of it”. I did have the Kievan Rus in the back of my mind when thinking of this, however, it is of fairly little relevance to the modern nation of Ukraine or its people. After all Estonia and presumably the rest of the Baltics also weren’t really a “proper” nation (independent, self-determining and recognised as such) until recently (i.e. last century or two) and were part of the Russian Empire too for some time, as well as being passed between various European powers. I suspect I may be corrected further on this, though.]

Some people might have heard of a character called Jenny Everywhere, who is supposed to be an “open source” character originally designed to be used anybody could use in any story you want, unlike, one presumes, Superman or Wonder Woman or whoever which you’d have to get rights to legally use (not that such stops a whole host of fan works, but that’s a grey area). She’s supposed to exist in all possible dimensions (implying fictional worlds as well) and has the power to “shift” between them.

You can find out more about her here, though I don’t endorse all the works posted thereon.

A couple of years ago, I started to write a tale based on what I thought one version of this character might have started out as. After all, when Clark Kent was growing up in Smallville he wasn’t quite Superman and was just discovering his powers and Kryptonian heritage.  Bruce Wayne had to go through a lot before he became Batman. Peter Parker wasn’t Spiderman before he got bit by that spider. So how did the Shifter start out?

Lately I’ve been trying to update it, if sadly I’ve been a little too obsessed and letting it get in the way of other stuff, as ever.

For the benefit of those who were requesting it and for the sake of slightly broader publicity, here is a working version of the same. Constructive criticism very welcome, as is any advice on whether I shouldn’t bother wasting my time on such.

There’s also a page on the website TV Tropes for the work, which may be edited by members.


The Genesis of Jenny Everywhere
By Richard […] a.k.a. “The Lyniezian”

[Obligatory notice: The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.

‘BBC’, ‘BBC Home Service’ and the Today programme belong to the BBC, and are included for reasons of affectionate parody only.

All other characters, institutions and the story itself belong to the author, and should not be used without permission. Any similarities to real life entities are either coincidental or not intended with offence in mind.]

Author’s note

This isn’t exactly meant to be the absolute origins of Jenny- after all she’s supposed to exist in every possible reality, probably at any point in history as well. Rather, it’s meant to be the story of how one particular Jenny discovers that she is, in fact, a Jenny Everywhere. After all, there must be millions of them, and they have to start somewhere. And her surname isn’t Everywhere to begin with either- it’s sort of a moniker, a general name used to denote the state of being Jenny Everywhere, in this version at least.

And don’t ask where Levendale City is. The real Levendale is a small suburb somewhere in the vicinity of a small town called Yarm. This isn’t it. It’s a lot bigger, for one thing. Like Springfield, it’s everywhere- in fact, just like Jenny. And yet, nowhere.

Part 1

Levendale City, on a September morning

“Wake up, Jenny!” came a shout from below stairs. It was Jenny’s mother, trying hard to get her up for yet another dreary school day. “It’s half past seven, young lady, and if you do not get up now, you’ll be late!”

“Yeah, OK Mum,” moaned Jenny drearily. “I’ll be up shortly.”

“Shortly’s not good enough! Now!”

The last thing Jenny wanted to do was get up, however: she was having far too much fun dreaming, and just wanted to roll over and doze off so she could continue for just five minutes more. When she dreamed, she could be anything she wanted to be, fly off to distant worlds and have all manner of crazy adventures. But her mother would have none of it, not when there were studies to be done and exams to be passed. Battling airship pirates over the Alps, riding your mammoth across the steppe or trekking though the Amazon searching for the treasures of El Dorado wouldn’t help you pass Geography or Further Maths. As for getting up late, why the heck that woman classed half past seven in the morning as late was beyond Jenny’s comprehension. School didn’t even start until nine, and it was only five minutes up the road.

“You’ve got to be early, got to make a good impression!” she would tell Jenny.

When all it would really mean is standing around the yard in the freezing cold whilst the other girls made fun of crazy Jenny with her silly goggles and scarf, always dreaming of adventures that would never happen; when she should be fawning over some boy-band member, arguing over who was going to win the latest reality TV contest or which shade of foundation was right for you. None of which interested Jenny in the least, any more than learning to solve differential equations so you could pass Further Maths or learning about the drought problems of the Democratic Republic of Muganda. School was just one big drag. Mum, though, didn’t seem to realise any of this. It was like talking to a brick wall.

“Hurry up Jenny! Get dressed! I made you some toast, your favourite, and there’s some tea in the pot waiting for you to pour it out! It’s twenty five to eight! You have no alarm clock or something?”

It was no use arguing. Begrudgingly, she dragged herself out of bed.


Part 2

[Warning: contains some slightly strong language and one arguable racial slur. Apologies to the BBC who own the Today programme- this is meant as affectionate parody, I hold no rights to it.]

The faint strains of John Whatshisname roasting another politician for breakfast could be heard coming from the radio downstairs, whilst in the distance the low hum of a zeppelin and the odd whoosh of early morning traffic punctuated the silence, but this would hardly motivate Jenny to do anything other than flop back onto the bed and return to her reverie. As per her usual solution to the problem, she reached up to the shelf and picked out a cartridge at random from the pile, too tired and bleary-eyed to care which one, leaving the rest to clatter to the floor. Loading the cartridge into the player with a satisfying ‘click!’ the noise of a funky beat and slap bass soon drowned out the background. Jenny splashed some water on her face, changed out of her nightdress and threw on a few clothes: off-white blouse, dark blue sweater dark blue slacks, bomber jacket- and of course her trademark aviator goggles and scarf. (Since Mum had insisted the green-and-purple Levendale United one was not to be worn except on match days, a perhaps more appropriate silk scarf had to suffice.) A quick check in the mirror and it was off to face the day. The B**** Squad would probably still be wondering what top matched what skirt or ensuring their eyeliner was applied just so, no doubt, she mused.

Several minutes later, Jenny clumped down the stairs nonchalantly just as Sister Belinda Snodgrass was just summing up her thought for the day and handing over to the weather forecast. Mum had by this point gone outside to hang the washing outside, leaving Dad sat at the table, munching on toast whilst mulling over the copy of the Morning Post spread out of the table in front of him, mumbling something about the “bloody Japs” entering Outer Mongolia, briefly looking up at his daughter and uttering a casual “Morning, Jenny” before returning his gaze to the newspaper. After a few moments, he added that there might be some tea left in the pot and that Jenny could help herself, which sitting down at the table, she did, along with some toast. Having cooled down too much, the toast lacked that warm, just-done feel but still went nicely spread with butter. Mmm. Her thoughts then wandered, and in her mind’s eye she was flying high in the skies above Mongolia, one of the bombers of the Imperial Japanese air force in her sights, fingers at the trigger ready to fire. But before she could her father’s voice brought her crashing back down to earth, not Mongolia but a kitchen table in England.
“So… penny for them young lady?” he inquired. Jenny took a while to collect her thoughts, before replying:
“Oh, erm… I imagined I was fighting the Japanese. Silly really…”
“Well,” he chuckled, “with you at the front I’m sure they’d not even be able to hold Manchuria! But if you want to do something about it, you know, you do have to stop just dreaming and work at it…”
“You’re beginning to sound like her,” exclaimed Jenny, gesturing towards the back window.
“Never mind,”, replied he consolingly. “Friday today, and it’s the big match tomorrow, eh?”
“Yeah,” she replied. (Going to the football with her Dad was probably amongst the other of the few other real-life pleasures she had; the fact that she was a girl made no difference even though he insisted it was very much a “man’s game” and she’d never yet persuaded him to go along with her to one of the women’s matches.) “Cranchester without a chance I’ll bet. Got to be three-nil at least…”
“Don’t bet on it, now they’ve got Jefferson back in-”
At which point Mum had just opened the back door, looking worn out and none too pleased. Looking at Dad with that stare, she scolded him:
“You should be encouraging your daughter in her studies, not talking about silly games!”
“I’ll have you know that football is not some ‘silly game’! It’s the Beautiful Game! And it’s something we take very seriously here, if you don’t mind…”
“Studies are still more important, and Jenny is starting her A-levels, so she needs to focus!”
“Mum…” interjected Jenny.
“Less of that young lady! This is no joke, you know! This is the rest of your life you are talking about, so you need to knuckle down! No more football, and no more silly dreams! Finish your breakfast and get ready! What have you got on today?”
Jenny sighed.
“Double maths, biology, some film about Japanese knotweed…”
“You see,” joked Dad, “even the Jap plants are out to get us. They take over Asia whilst their plants are busy taking over Brit-”
“You stay out of this,” scolded his wife.
It was a pity, thought Jenny, that knotweed wasn’t like a real evil plant, grabbing you by the ankle with its tendrils and dragging you down into the depths like in the movies. Then, at least Biology might be worth staying awake for, rather than drifting off and thinking about riding across the plains on your trusty steed or shooting down Japanese bombers. But alas, it was not to be.
“…beep, beeeeep!” went the radio, signalling the hour. “You’re listening to the Today programme on the BBC Home Service…”
“See?” said Mum. Eight o’clock already! Get a move on! And take those silly goggles off before you go!” Jenny reluctantly wolfed down the rest of her toast, downed the mug of tea, got up, grabbed her books and shoved them into the satchel (along with portable cartridge player and a few tapes from the former pile) before hurrying out of the door, slamming it angrily behind her… still wearing her goggles.

“Hey, Jenny!” called a voice from behind her. “Wait up!”
Jenny turned around to see the source of the voice, a small girl with messy, mid-length blonde hair, pretty but with the lack of personal grooming which would make the Bitch Squad turn their faces in disgust, dressed in a loose T-shirt (yea, even in this weather), jacket and jeans, backpack slung over her shoulder and wheeling a bike beside her.
“Oh… hi Leelee,” she replied. “Bloody heck, not like you to be up this early!”
Leah “Leelee” Jones was probably the closest thing Jenny had to a friend, even though she was still only a fourth-former and could be intensely annoying at times. Not so much of the cling-to-you-like-a-limpet-and-don’t-leave-you-alone kind of annoying as she used to be when she’d first joined secondary school and started hanging around Jenny because she was “really cool”, but still overbearing and silly with a sense of priorities even Jenny felt worrying. Like, for example, she’d be nowhere to be seen for three days and then suddenly she’d show up for school one morning, asking Jenny a ton of questions about what adventures she’d dreamed up this time and begging her to go hang around in the park with her because she didn’t feel like going to school that day. Never mind that there were studies to do and things to be learned, and a mother to give you what-for if you so much as slipped behind an inch. (Not that Leelee’s uncle and sole guardian could care less, despite the concerned and pleading letters from Levendale West Academy that popped onto his doormat on a weekly basis, the most they could do since truancy laws were a thing of the past, a thing even Jenny’s Dad dismissed as “bloody Libertarian nonsense”.) Even when she did go to school, it was usually straggling in two minutes after the bell had called students in for registration, so to see Leelee up at a mere ten past eight was little short of a miracle.
“Well, I dunno, don’t think I could sleep or something, like,” was how she explained it. “Uncle Joe got drunk again and he started snoring like a pig so I thought I’d nip out without him noticing.” She giggled uncontrollably.
“Is that the only reason you’re up?” asked Jenny.
“I think so,” replied Leelee. “Maybe there was something on first period that was interesting, can’t remember…”
The girl was impossible. One minute she couldn’t care less about school, the next raring to get there because something caught her fancy that day? Make your bleeping mind up, lass!
“Hmmm,” remarked Jenny in snarking tone. “’Interesting’ and ‘first period’ aren’t exactly the sort of terms I’d put together. Do enlighten me…”
“What’s ‘enlighten’?”
“I mean, what have you got on that’s so interesting?”
“Dunno, history I think. Sounded interesting yesterday.”
Leelee was clearly bored with this line of conversation, and after a short pause changed the subject.
“So, tell me about your adventures again Jenny! Pleeease?”
“Not now Leelee. I keep telling you I’m not a storyteller. Can’t we just talk about something normal for a change, like how United are going to thrash Cranchester three nil tomorrow…”
“Foot-bore! Foot-bore!” chanted Leelee mockingly.
“You should come to the match tomorrow with me and Dad, you might like it.”
“You know I don’t like football! Come on Jenny, tell me about your adventures…”
Sometimes Jenny wished Leelee might actually start being interested in fashion, pop music and boys like most other girls her age. At least she might stop reverting back to behaving like a six-year-old, not the 14 she actually was. Maybe in one of her better moods, she might make some lad’s ideal Manic Pixie Dream Girl, fun-loving, crazy and demanding as she was. But then again, if she were any different she’d not be the Leelee Jenny actually liked anymore, just another member of the herd, leaving her with nothing but herself and her dreams to shield her from this dreary world.
“Oh, all right then,” she said with a sigh, going on to relate last night’s dream involving shootouts with gangsters in a run-down part of some American city. And charging the Mongol hordes astride a mammoth. And walking on the Moon.

It was about twenty-to-nine by the time the two girls finally reached the imposing gates of Levendale West Academy. (Mum would not have been pleased with such tardiness.) Students could be seen milling around both inside and out, mucking around and being hounded down by the exasperated teacher-on-duty, or chatting about the upcoming weekend.
“Once more unto the breach dear friend, once more…” said Jenny to a puzzled Leelee. “Oh, come on, you are doing Henry V in English this year? You know, Shakespeare?”
“Meh, English is bo-ring,” replied Leelee dismissively. “Who wants to know about some old king talking in thees and thous instead of flying your airship through the mountains, you know like you, Jen? Or maybe riding round the park scaring off the ducks like me?”
And getting wolf-whistled and cat-called by all the perverts on the benches by the fountain, which you wouldn’t even think about would you Leelee? thought Jenny. Anyway, who wouldn’t want to be stirred up to battle by that rousing speech, stiffen up the sinews, summon up the blood and all that? (That speech was one of the few bits that actually made Shakespeare, and English lessons in general worthwhile, in her eyes.)
Never mind that, though, as no sooner had they reached the yard, than Charlotte’s Posse descended upon them, perfectly manicured claws ready to sink in. Charlotte Mitchell was probably Alpha B**** of the worst brigade of the B**** Squad, period.
“Look at them,” she shouted out at them, ostensibly addressing her loyal followers. “Where you off this time, Amy Johnson? Australia? America? Cloud Cuckoo Land? You can take Leelee right back home whilst you’re at it!”
“Go fly a kite, Charlie,” Jenny shouted back. “In fact, go take a long kite-surf off a short pier. At least then you might get some real excitement before the waves take you. Except you can’t, that’d make your mascara run, I’ll bet.”
“Oooh, feisty!” mocked Charlotte. “And did you just call me Charlie? You know that’s Not My Name, don’t you? It’s Charlotte and don’t you forget it…” The Posse gathered round, closing in for the kill. Not before Jenny had one last trick up her sleeve, though:
“Well… that probably because you’re a right one, eh?”
“Give it a rest, Charlotte Mitchell!” shouted a male voice. It belonged to Mr. James, head of Maths and the teacher on duty that morning. “Leave poor Jenny alone for once. I know she’s a bit… odd, but that’s no excuse for you to go around harassing her! Besides, you should be setting an example for the younger students, like our Leah here.” (Jenny grimaced at the teacher’s insinuations, but was secretly relieved at the same time.)
“Sorry sir,” replied Charlotte with mock sincerity. “We didn’t mean to be nasty, did we girls?
“No, Charlotte,” replied the Posse in unison. “How would we do a thing like that?” And so on.
“No excuses girls. Any more of this and you’ll be spending lunchtime in detention. I can still do that, you know. Now get out of my sight!”
Off went the Posse, dejected.
“Thanks, sir,” said Jenny to the teacher begrudgingly.
“Don’t think this is scot-free for you though Miss Bainbridge,” said James, using her actual last name. “We want you solving integrals, not breaking the air speed record in 1934,” he continued, glancing at the strange pair of vintage aviator goggles atop her head. (Jenny sighed.) “And as for you Leah… a good effort for once, but do try to turn up for lessons, not just registration? I don’t want to have to be writing to your uncle yet again, do I?”
“It’s Leelee, and… no sir,” replied Leelee, trying to wriggle out of the situation. Mr. James was not finished, though.
“Good. Now registration is at nine sharp, remember?”
“Yes sir.”
“And class is at two on the dot, don’t be late.”
“…yes.. sir…” she mumbled.
Mr. James’ attention was suddenly distracted by a group of first-form boys attacking each other with spitballs.
“Can’t we go to the park instead Jen?” pleaded Leelee, somewhat put off the whole school lark by the previous events.
“No,” replied Jenny.
“The shopping centre?”
“Up the cycleway to the airport?”
“Pictures? Grenadier Mary and the Great Zombie Massacre of 1987* is on this aft-”
“NO! I don’t care what you uncle says Leelee, but my Mum will kill me if I miss school again!”
“Pfft, suit yourself,” said Leelee, mounting her bike as if to make off back through the gate before Mr. James collared her.
“Oh no you don’t Leah, put it in the shed and lock it away,” he scolded.
Jenny let out a long and exasperated sigh. If only I could disappear from this shithole…
Perhaps, it turned out, she could…

In our next episode, the school day drags on and on, Jenny gains an unwanted admirer of the male sort… and Leelee, watch out for that bus…

* Some people will be able to spot the reference I made there…


Additional notes:

1. Jenny’s dreams are actually a manifestation of her ability to read the thoughts of her other selves in other universes- these portray adventures other Jennies are actually having. Apart from perhaps the fighter pilot one, which is probably just wandering thoughts inspired by her dad’s commenting on the newspaper.

2. Amy Johnson was a real-life aviatrix who set a number of long distance records and was eventually killed in World War 2 whilst serving as an auxiliary pilot.

3. A “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”, for those who don’t know, is a kind of romantic fantasy figure, basically a crazy, free-spirited girl who shakes up the boring male protagonist’s life. Whether Leelee would actually make a good one is left to the reader to decide.

4. Lest anyone get any hints from this story that might seem to suggest such, Leelee is not interested in girls either, in any particularly sexual way. Nor is Jenny in either girls or boys in quite that way. This isn’t meant to be a lesbian romance story or a “straight” one either, and I certainly don’t want any “Rule 34” in years to come (remember the characters’ ages). [EDIT: I’m not saying that kind of story is necessarily a bad thing, albeit at the time I first wrote this my religious sensibilities got in the way, plus I worried exactly how creepy it might seem to some for a thirtysomething man to write about potentially underaged teenage lesbians. But, if anyone feels up to writing that kind of story, Jenny is an open source character, so you can of course write your own. Just not using any of my original characters.]

Charlotte is probably interested in boys (as are the members of her Posse), but clearly would not be interested in either Jenny or Leelee.

5. School attendance in this world is intended as  a matter for the parents alone to decide, not the state. Hence the state can legally do nothing about it. Nor can they keep kids for after-school detention, only at lunchtimes (hence what Mr. James says).

6. Levendale is also partly inspired by a certain village called Leven, probably in East Yorkshire, the author visited as a kid. Certain readers may be familiar with it. Also, the River Leven which is a tributary of the Tees.

7. The narrative is very much sympathetic to Jenny’s in-story point of view, and as such may not reflect the author’s actual opinions.

I get an email in one of my several e-mail accounts (one used largely for this very purpose) from campaign group 38 Degrees, telling me to write to my MP expressing my feelings on the vote Parliament has been suddenly recalled to vote on. Thing is, they don’t have a position, and give out opinions of various members who hold completely opposing views, as well as resources outlining the case for both sides.

Now there can be little doubt that IS are a particularly nasty bunch who are quite willing to murder anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their particularly narrow and extreme view of Islam, and need to be stopped somehow. The question is as to whether, as for example the Stop the War Coalition might put it, intervention of this nature won’t end in disaster, bombs will end up killing ordinary civilians innocent of the crimes of IS, and be subject to mission creep, be it boots on the ground or “accidentally” hitting targets belonging to and servicing al-Assad’s regime– the same Assad who has apparently given his blessing to intervention against IS? The situation on the ground appears to be a total mess, and we intervene at our risk, perhaps. We don’t know how it will end up.

All in all, armed conflict and the morality of engaging in it are very tricky matters. The only thing I know is, sometimes they appear necessary but the wrong people all too often sadly get hurt. So, what shall I be writing to my MP on this particular matter? Nothing, probably, for what can I write that will be meaningful?