About Me: ‘Open-Mind’

“This Benighted Kingdom” – My Blog / Book

Welcome to my blog about life in England in the first quarter of the 21st Century 

by Paul Avard MA(Ed); FRSA, CNHC, NSTT  (aka ‘Open-Mind’)                

Did you want to be here? Or are you just passing through? 

Stick around a bit – you might learn something about this benighted kingdom, (England) a place where 1% of the population own 99% of the wealth and don’t appear to like paying their fair share of tax, leaving that bit of civic duty to those least able to afford it. You and me, I guess? 

A country where education means passing rote tests and exams rather than having been helped to think for yourself and to develop skills in thinking for yourself and in how to be a critical thinker. In fact critical thinking is positively frowned upon – just ask Nadim Zahawi, our current Minister for mis-Education

A place where fighting for scraps is all that 95% of the population have to look forward to.  A place where we seem to worship a royal family who are deemed better than the rest of us by virtue of an accident of birth, a land where fictional programmes about wealthy ‘toffs’ garner a huge percentage of airtime and popularity. 

A place where feeding those least able to place food on the family table at the start of the pandemic in 2020 was led by a very young soccer player, who also happens to be a young black man, who has lived experience of living with a mum who worked several jobs daily and still struggled to put food on the table. Oh, and he shamed this government into providing free, hot meals during the holidays for children whose families couldn’t feed them. And he was ‘called out’ for it – yep, by those who had never experienced hunger… 

Are you sure?  Are you sure you really, really want to read a polemicist rant by an old geezer who doesn’t give a sh*t and who is sick and tired of what England seems to be fast becoming? 

A home to xenophobes, racists and their ilk; where forelock touching is de rigeur and being ‘foreign’ and / or the ‘wrong colour’ can make your life miserable: but then, so can being a woman or a girl, poor, LGBT+, disabled, a child or a teenager of any gender identity. If you include homeless people and families and you have a picture of England 2022. And, oh, and all the other persons here who struggle daily, and I include those with mental-health issues, like a lot of these other cases, with no-one to turn to for help. 

A country where your government gets away with lying to you as a matter of course – £350 million per week anyone? Levelling up? Certainly, How High? Build Back Better …?

A country where the government thinks playing with trains is going to help us “build back better” or level up.  Mrs Thatcher did consider, I believe, the building of raised roadways alongside motorways so that businessmen (and I guess they were middle-aged, white men in those days, as they are now) didn’t suffer the indignity of being stuck with van (wo)man on a regular motorway, but had their own fast-lane to somewhere, especially as we only had telephones in those days… oh, and she said there was no such thing as “society”.

A government which governs without any transparency; whose reports and papers regarding the most important happenings in the land will be ready by the end of whichever year number pops into the head of whichever Minister is delivering the morning media round, or a later one. Whose report on Covid-19 and how it’s been handled will be ready sometime next year: a Party? Moi? Nah, it was a work event…

A government which excuses cronyism and sleaze and misappropriation of public funds by using the excuse of the pandemic. A government who neither took the time to properly examine the companies who took millions of pounds for PPE that wasn’t fit for purpose, nor explained what their relationship was to people awarded these contracts. Such as the then Minister for Health and the landlord of his local pub and who ‘resigned’ after, inadvertently, taking a ‘selfie’ groping a colleague.  Oh, and creating a VIP Lane for such people as his pub-landlord and numerous other cronies – and not just his cronies either.

A government who will willingly believe that spending billions of pounds on a train set that will get you from London to Manchester an hour quicker than ten years ago is better than using the money to support the poor, or disenfranchised elderly people in care homes, for instance. A government who make promises about ‘building back better’ but not in areas that have a female, labour mayor. 

And so much more… 

So, if you decide to hang around, I’d be glad of your company. 

Especially if you want to consider what is happening, or has happened to: –   childhood, mental health, education (primary, secondary, tertiary), being born with or acquiring and living with disability; poor housing, health, wealth (you what?). Poverty, misogyny, life in general, the climate, environment and wildlife etc. 

Am I qualified to write about this stuff?  Thankfully I am trained as a social scientist, I’m a teacher, a trained counsellor and therapist, a UK Registered clinical hypnotherapist and I have (life-long) lived experience of disability (I am disabled) as well as having a teaching degree (B.Ed (Hons) and an MA.Ed.  I’m also a F.R.S.A.

I’ve taught in state schools; worked in local authority children’s homes and children’s secure units (before they were privatised). I ran (as Chair) a large mental health charity, I run my own mental health practice and train therapists; I supervise therapists, have written chapters for therapy text books and articles and presented at conferences; been a school governor (including being chair of governors) and a local councillor (parish). And I have not forgotten, I am a proud husband, father and grandfather. 

I follow WASPS rugby football club, and I have French and Welsh heritage as well as my English heritage. I am euro-centric and hate the idea of Brexit. Will we benefit from Brexit? I’m open-minded about that (despite hating the whole deal) – just not holding my breath …

Welcome to an ‘Open-Minded’, and transparent view of this Benighted Kingdom …