The Smartphone Era, Republished

Someone from my hometown of Kidderminster left a comment on one of my latest videos last night, questioning whether I liked the area and its people.  I mulled it over and thought that it signalled that the time is now right to republish the Flickr blog posts I ran years ago during what I called ‘the Smartphone Era’, a brief time where smartphones were available, but not widespread in certain areas, like my hometown of Kidderminster and when social media was hitting its peak in terms of its quality, thought not in the number of users.

These Flickr posts cover an all too brief and unique period where social media wasn’t quite mainstream and when smartphones were, to many, still somewhat mysterious devices. I would experience hassle in my hometown for using the new tech, though since I had links with a local university at the time, I could compare my hometown’s approach with attitudes in Birmingham, a nearby city, where tech use was openly encouraged and even celebrated. It was quite an interesting comparison to make, showing how lives lived so close in proximity can still be worlds apart.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Kidderminster and its county of Worcestershire are fairly backward and socially conservative areas, something of the UK’s ‘bible belt’, suffering many of the social problems you might expect of such an area.  Birmingham, a city, is more progressive and politically aware in outlook – or at least the Birmingham I was exposed to.

What I found in Birmingham was a more relaxed atmosphere, with a population generally more open and friendly.  Kidderminster, on the other hand, for reasons I see partly as cultural and material, has a general population which is hostile and suspicious, especially of new things and new people (to them ‘outsiders’).  There is a widespread and thorough imposition of numerous restricting norms, imposing limitations not least on creative expression, especially when it includes analysis of the area, making those who try to be creative, in the thinking of one relevant professional, especially vulnerable to adverse reactions.

At the time, I was exploring such norms partly by defamiliarising myself with what had become the everyday over time.  I was seeking to get to the heart of what made the place tick, though aware of how hostile people around here can become with such things as analysis and exposure, especially if it looks like word might get ‘out’. To be fair to the people here, they tend to be politically ignorant and unaware, limited by a damaging, blinkered, myopic conservatism, and don’t really know any better, which is why they’re essentially powerless to address issues with themselves and the area.  Regardless, though, it was a stressful period for me, at times, but it was also an interesting one, which I hope comes across in the content.

To me, though this doesn’t always come across, it was an attempt to use social media in its best use: to do a job of improving things, somehow, by highlighting what hadn’t been publicly highlighted before.  Again, though, in such an area, this approach carries a number of risks.

Which is why, I suppose, there were things that I didn’t mention even back then.  It was obvious that the time would soon come when online activity would become more the norm than the exception and that what you could get away with posting openly and freely would become more limited.  So, for example, not enough mention of the sadistic little character who ran the social scene at the coffee shop in town, an individual psychiatric services believes fits the bill of a sociopath.  There are many other examples where, because I knew this time of openness would be brief, I had to hold back and maybe wisely so.

There were also comments left almost certainly by locals.  It’s possible that you have to have experience of such people to know how they operate, trying to corrupt not only their direct audience, but the wider one, and anyone else they can assimilate into their ‘ways’.  Specialising in a toxic approach of ‘divide and conquer’, it’s in the water of the place for many of its inhabitants to play people (including unwitting officials) off one another to win at all costs, which is another reason why the mindset of the place, according to one official, hasn’t essentially changed for 500 years – they’re very effective at it.  The tragedy is that, as is possibly the case with the comment left last night, the very methods such people use highlight the issues which urgently need to be addressed for the well-being of the locals, with their blind spots to matters of self and place, issues which are yet again left in place – as they no doubt have been for centuries – by people adept at cutting off their nose to spite their face.

In the subsequent years since these posts I’ve developed the sort of education I wish I’d always had, leading to a level of awareness that’s a world away from  what was, a breath of fresh air, even though it has the potential to distance me from the bulk of the local population.  But, thinking back to the posts, I was already starting on a journey which would develop with the disciplined and sharpened lens a thorough appreciation of theory and research can provide.  Linked with having had the experience of seeing the place play out what it was always going to play out (once its key participants got it in their collective mind to do so), you have a powerful and informative combination which may, one day, be of some positive use if not in the specific area, then perhaps somewhere.

The Smartphone Era, Republished (via Flickr)

Let me get this straight…

If you’re prepared to publish and be damned, whenever you are damned, you’d better be sure that if you want to count for anything you’re prepared to publish that you have, indeed, been damned, especially when it’s been by your own hand.

I’ve been getting consumed with thinking that I was about to go into war yet again, when nothing much has been happening at all. Putting the pieces together, I’ve come up with something that was so convincing it could easily have escalated into what I was guessing at, acting as a twisted form of confirmation. But I checked my facts the first realistic chance I got and came up with nothing to verify even the slightest conscious emotion in someone that would have suggested war was on the horizon, which in a way makes this different to a case of pure paranoia, where there are no checks and balances available to offset an imagination gone horribly wrong.

That said, I do feel like I’ve been at war, still. It’s not easy to put into words the thoughts and feelings you can get when you think the system’s about to rape your soul again, effectively on the basis of a poor level of analysis from institutions you always believed were there to protect against such abuses. A succession of physical illnesses, traumatic anniversaries, compounding sleep loss, maddening sleeping pills, memories of past injustices (to which I could add some crackers), how I crashed off the back of them, along with the remaining potential for all of it to happen again, have hit me from all angles, grinding me down when I’ve been near my weakest.

But this is important, this error, in a way that isn’t merely the positive thinking of our times. Not being someone who believes in sweeping things under the carpet, which I think only gives them a greater potential for harm, I’ve brought on the memories and given this year as good a battle as it always had in store for me, and in facing down the threat of overload, I’ve dealt certain damaging thought processes what could eventually turn out to be a fatal blow. Too much time on my hands? Maybe, but if that time’s going to significantly improve in quality, I’m certain some things need to be done.

This isn’t the end of it and the instant birth of endless good times. Too much has happened down the years for anything to be that easy. This is going to be gradual, this evolution of life and, though I’m making more progress than appearances may suggest, I’m hoping it all starts getting a lot easier pretty damn soon and the natural change of time returns to its conventional approach.

This is the first day, after 13 of them, that I’ve woken up having not taken sleeping pills the night before. My mind’s no longer feeling ragged and the world’s finally stopped melting. My body’s craving more sleep, but that’ll surely come. I’m not desperately chasing peaceful experiences, now, and looking out of my window to test this out, the scene looks settled, nothing out of the ordinary at all. It’s good to see.

Say it ain’t so…

You try detoxifying after years of dodgy experiences while still having to make allowances and guard against the potential of an ongoing toxic social environment that makes Chernobyl look like Disneyland.


The dust settles on the new horizon and it’s a bit like the morning after embarrassing sex – you’re not quite sure how to handle the situation, you just know you need to get out of it somehow. Everyday life needs to resume as soon as possible while new (and some old) methods need time and space to bed in. Meanwhile, elements in my toxic environment are none too pleased and have a track record of even manipulating organs of the state to subvert their own safeguards while thinking they’re fully justified in brushing crimes under the carpet, as they’re telling you you’re the crazy one. Say it ain’t so.

You can never do enough to protect against such things repeating and it’s a factor you have to compensate for that when you rise from being submerged in a disempowered – especially when that’s been an abusive – state, people who’ve become comfortable with the former state of affairs can go to almost unimaginable lengths to maintain the status quo. No matter what psychatric medication is used, though, the facts, when so badly handled, will always tend to rise to the top eventually. Saying that, I have tried to address what could be about to happen in the coming months. Yet again. If it works, my environment will cohere with reality for the first time in 20 years. If it doesn’t – as is the more likely scenario – then I’ll have to work on an alternative compromise as I coexist with this costly environment.

I’m outgrowing the limitations of who I was supposed to be, here. The community now offers me no social opportunities which fill the gap of what I’ve created by learning key facts about, and lessons in, life. That could sound like bragging, but if anything it’s a sad moment which will take time to evolve into something more satisfactory, but if I’ve learned anything over time, it’s that substantial change can take years to become fully realised. It’s time I might not even have, but it’s a course that’s now been set and is irreversible. All I can do is shift gears and alter, but not change, direction. Will that be enough? Right now, I can’t be sure.

Meanwhile, there’s plans, but they’re up in the air at the moment as I need to look into them further. There is, though, a potential solution to this. There’s no more compromises I can make, I’m sure of that, so from my current perspective, the solution is to find an environment better suited to me and that means an escape from my hometown and even its county. I’m no fan of the culture here, my needs can’t be met by the place and if I don’t move on life will become very stale, claustrophobic and disheartening. That’s not what it’s all about. I’m at an age in life where I’d love to settle, but the only way I can see me settling in Worcestershire is under six feet of dirt.

Sitting here, as my playlist has ended and the birds put on a better show without really trying, I realise that you can work out whatever issues you’ve faced, but in the process fresh challenges will probably emerge which can submerge you again if you’re not careful. Toxic relationships are all about power, not understanding, so my methods won’t ultimately work and leave me at risk of official bodies extending abuses yet again. The trick is to know that could easily happen, that I won’t be able to do much, if anything, about it, that no-one else will do anything about it, and to be cool with all that. I’m not Superman, but I think I can pull that off. At least now, anyway.

A Moment Passed

I’m split. Part of me wants to do something; the other part wants to relax and think, taking stock of what’s happened and what it signals for the future. Let’s compromise: I’ll write something, something that won’t make sense, but that’s not the point.

It feels like the end of the school year – all your work’s done, there’s nothing left to do after putting all your effort into something that’s now reached its natural conclusion. Feelings of accomplishment mixed with exhaustion, loss, finality but also possibility.

It’s too early to say whether or not I’ve been entirely successful, but the signs are good, even though that’s possibly not the vibe I’m giving off in this. Again, that’s not the point. What I set out to do, I think I’ve achieved. That didn’t come into clear view until late in the process, appearing only gradually and in different forms until, layer upon layer, in the final moments of the whole thing, what I needed to do and why I needed to do it became evident. It finally all made sense.


My Fitness Tracker


Last night I could have died. It wouldn’t have mattered. Smashed by a succession of illnesses and severe sleep-loss, it was one of those rare moments when you’re so fucked you realise there’s nothing left to do because you’ve already done everything you set out to do. Your meaning’s been realised and your life’s seen out its course. This never lasts long and it suggests life’s some sort of road with staging posts, not uncomfortable places to be while they last.

This year – this staging post – was always going to be difficult, though. It’s 20 years since I first started having it really tough in life and, though such anniversaries shouldn’t really mean that much, we’re human, and we often replay key moments. Within that were a whole host of more recent memories, clouding my mind even further for not far off a decade. And yet, last night, because of how things had gone, it all made sense, it was all packaged up and put away once and for all.

Different place, this world, now, with a different outlook. The structure I’m putting on these events makes them all look almost pre-determined, as if there’s some great scheme of things, some intelligent design to it all. Maybe there is. I don’t know and I’m not sure it matters. What I do know is that life’s different all of a sudden. I’m still me and the experiences I’ve had are still part of my make-up, but it’s an evolved me where the events have taken on a new meaning and place in life. ‘That Moment,’ my last post, wasn’t what I thought it was at the time. Again, the layers were being revealed as something which would become much more substantial and important to me. Now that post means something different, something better.

I don’t use a lot of the social media I use for the usual reasons. I don’t see that kind of use as serving much of a purpose. Social media at the moment isn’t really going anywhere and we seem to be in some sort of limbo. I’ve also not got a lot to benefit from in building a ‘social media reputation’ or in fostering primarily networked relationships.

Some time ago my usage evolved into me going to the ropes and using social media in a way which suited me and what I wanted out of it. There’s not much conversation on many of these networks, so I use my imaginary friends instead. Because my Twitter account is so bad in number-crunching, status-seeking terms, I’m generally blocked or otherwise ignored, certainly not taken seriously most of the time, if at all.

Better, then, to have an imaginary audience, one which performs for you. My imaginary audience isn’t too petty (but just enough) and has a highly-developed bullshit detector. It’s knowledgeable in a variety of relevant topics and sees things, not in a temporary fashion, but as part of an ongoing process, leading somewhere. It sees social media, in the short and the long-term, as a tool for personal and social change. My imaginary audience, obviously, is me during my better moments.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I tend to throw out a lot of highly personal stuff – stuff which my follower-count suggests I shouldn’t in the manner in which I do. But that’s not enough to stop me from doing it. It’s become almost a compulsion, partly because the rewards have been so worthwhile over time. I don’t throw around everything – there’s a few things even I wouldn’t – but enough to be a cause of embarrassment, if I saw it all that way (I don’t, though I’ve got to take into account other people can).

It’s a bad strategy for social media use as we’ve come to think of strategy. So bad, I’m probably the only person who’ll ever use social media in such a way to talk to himself. That might end, now, as I’ve reached some sort of conclusion with a particular approach to life. If it does, I’ll miss it a bit, though I’m sure other approaches will take its place, as they tend to. It seems to have served its purpose, now, and if it’s time to move on, then it’s time.

Does the same apply to other things? YouTube, for example? I don’t know. I’m once more starting to make videos I actually like, videos which are getting closer to my voice, rather than one too heavily reliant on existing media influences. That comes across in how I’m talking to camera, too, as the power of the lens and the world behind it have balanced, with me coming more to the fore from beneath the avalanche of memories which has buried too much in the back of my mind for too long.

I can still vividly remember the day, about 20 years ago – the where, the when, the who – when I told a friend I was getting too cynical, pretending I didn’t know why, but understanding all too well that things were going drastically wrong. Even without, at that time, a thorough understanding of my local culture, I somehow knew they would in ways which told me that in small, cut-off communities, crazes around archaic subjects like witchcraft and wizardry may have changed their overt subject matter, but the characterisations, bizarre beliefs and motivations retain their ability to consume even while their victims are convinced of their sanity and modernity. The craziest of times would last a long time, fuelled by the type of characters you can possibly imagine.

You don’t want to hear it. You really don’t. Even if you did, you wouldn’t believe a lot of it and no-one would admit enough to verify what I can say about it all. But I no longer need to verify or even tell it. It’s done. The craziest of times were over a long time ago and in not processing it all properly, they lingered in my memory, retaining a sort of relevance. But in taking the longer route, I now understand it all even more, and in exposing their true meaning, they’ve lost their power to haunt. They’re very dead ghosts.

There. There’s a bit of writing. I’ll post this. A few people might read it and I’m even dumb enough to check the stats. Double-figures mean party time, let’s put it that way. It’ll probably read bizarrely, but my imaginary audience will work away on it and all the rest of everything else to seal in place this peculiar, but successful method of progress, which is opening up the world again on more peaceful terms. For the first time in about 20 years, I can feel the soil beneath my feet and, if only you knew, you’d know that that’s some achievement.

That Moment

It’s taken some storm to get here but, for me these days, spring’s got an almost religious vibe to it, some magical sense. It wasn’t always so but, as the accumulated memories of life gather and mould – sometimes obviously, more so subtly – they jump aboard the conventional view of spring, as the season of freshness, to give it all added depth.

‘Here Comes the Sun’ has attained this almost spiritual, universal aspect to it, its author making appearances not only at this time of year but also even at gatherings to see off those who’ve now died, adding to that depth more baggage, baggage which seems to transform into some sort of treasure as the end ever increasingly hints at its existence. Spring, and the rest of the year, wouldn’t happen without that song, it’s so embedded in life, now, as is the attitude that, when your time comes and the memories congregate one final time, ‘it’s all right’.

Challenges come along all the time in various guises and of varying intensity, but as my post-40 years have crept up on me in the spellbindingly rapid time from 40 to 50, it seems as if I’ve been going through the big one: the long approach to my final days. Premature, you might think, but with the distinct chatter of earlier years quieting to a relaxed, barely audible murmur in the corner, it’s time to make the most of the experiences which are left before it’s all over, though in ways suitable for this approaching stage of life, something – according to the relativity of time – that’ll come and go soon enough. This is that moment. Prior challenges seem to have been in preparation for something like this, some huge upheaval in my approach to everything. It’s time. It’s definitely time.

At no other time before would I have been in a position to approach all this and certainly not in this way. Apparently, that’s not an uncommon experience. My social environment doesn’t make any of this an easy challenge and may try to impose limits and restrictions on it, typical of its culture, but the trick, I suppose, is to figure out how it’ll do that and circumnavigate the course ahead with that in mind. Easily dealt with when the local culture and its people are properly understood. As for the wider culture, which similarly speaks little to me nowadays, it’s a case of tolerating, rather than celebrating, the neighbours much of the time, but more than this being down to a matter of taste or any sense of superiority, it’s usually merely an unbridgeable philosophical divide: they’re doing their thing, I’m doing mine.

I suppose it could all end before I get a chance to fully live out what I’m preparing the groundwork for. But would that necessarily be a bad thing? From this vantagepoint, I don’t think so. I’ve done everything I wanted to do, bar a matter of degree and, apart from the experience of just being alive and sharing that process with others, there’s nothing to really cling on to or for. Besides, life makes clinging on too long impossible. Time to make room for the next lot if, and when, that’s necessary. Until then, in understanding all this, the road opens up and you’re through the door to a new, better vibe, not far removed from the freedom and wonder of your younger days, as you’re seeing things in new ways again, just at another stage and with greater ability to do the job in a measured way. There’s no reason to not enjoy the ride.

Looking back, so many of the things I thought I was doing wrong, I was doing right, and so much of the ‘progress’ I made only held me back, but that’s me talking from where I am now, not where I was then. If you’re heading to where I am, or if you’re already there, you’ll probably know what I’m getting at. No need to bog you down in detail just yet – this speaks to that moment and maybe nowhere else. Here, translations probably don’t work, and it’s maybe for the best that they don’t. This one’s for those in the know, of a time and a place, a vibe, you know?

The shifts going on now are happening fast. I’m already writing this long after the event – just for the road, sort of thing. A whole new structure has opened up, ways of growing into it are taking shape, and I’ve already entered the process. It’s so far removed from what’s gone before that it’s not yet time to even try to define any of it though, overall, it’s a gradual process moved along by rapid change – an enjoyable one, once you settle into the slipstream of it all. Amazing, really: at a stage in life when evolution is supposed to be stuck for answers and life seems to offer little to people approaching the stage I’m reaching, it seems to be that this is the moment where you begin to learn from the best lessons of all.


6.59am, 4 March 2016

I’ve been yearning for it all winter, the sun, as it rises into clear view, at last, marking the beginning of the end of the cabin fever months. In the time ahead, it’ll travel from right to left, from south-east to north-east, on the horizon outside my window, and then back again for another year. I can even envisage what it’ll look like and feel the atmosphere it’ll bring. I’ve seen it so many times, I know how it goes, now. As George prepares his strings another time – even, maybe, for those who didn’t make it this time – I’m in awe at the potential of what the coming months may bring. This is the best time of the year if only for the sense that the possibilities and the potential are staggering, with nature pointing the way. I just hope I don’t become accustomed to all that, too.

Re-engaging with the creative impulse

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged to this site or posted one of my pictures to Flickr, along with a commentary. Pity, I enjoyed doing those. Other networks took over, though, but in doing so, they dulled my use of technology, not least for creative expression, becoming too familiar and, consequently, leading to content which was hackneyed and uninspiring.  Recently, it’s become evident that changes needed to be made.

I’m starting to appreciate that the better souls who use these networks really need to somehow lead the way back more to content which involves, challenges and helps develop people again, like in the very early days of social media. That brings me to the content I posted on Flickr years ago, content which I’ve since made private for a number of reasons. I may republish it all, but maybe it’s more important to put the lessons learned there into fresh content which develops what came to me then and what’s come to me because of that since.

Leaving a few social media networks and reconfiguring my phone more around the mobile web and creative apps, it’s time to pick up where I left off, with the added benefits of having had a break to gather my thoughts and come back fresher – and maybe wiser – in many ways. While I’m in the process of researching around an initiative I hope, perhaps, to bring to fruition in the coming years, I will try in the meantime to juggle the posting of new content without revealing too much, too prematurely about what I’m doing behind the scenes. There’s sharks out there, you know.

The only question I have is whether to post here or at Flickr. I think I’ll settle here on WordPress, now. Even though I think my stuff on Flickr was better than I realised at the time, especially in retrospect, this isn’t then and I like this place.

It’s taken a while to navigate through a series of often bitter experiences down the years – much longer than I ever thought it would – but now I’m edging ever more across the boundary to the other side, let’s hope it’s time I can put all these adventures and misadventures to some sort of use.

What can you do with a toxic brew?

It’s only a cup of coffee, you might say, but I’ve seen people physically shaking with anxiety from Kidderminster town centre’s toxic mix of social problems, excessive caffeine, status anxiety and status envy, concentrated in a small patch of commercial land in my hometown.  It’s linked to what beats the heart of my county of Worcestershire, the British class system, which is a huge factor cross-county, and which manifests itself in numerous ways, from people internalising the dominant ideology of the area to the desire to be ‘posh’ to an almost obsessive desire at times to get one over the other person at varying levels of intensity with a hierarchy based on criteria which would find a better home in a pantomime.  Territoriality also factors into it all as people lacking a home worth living in become obsessed with a commercial area that has so little to offer.  It is, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to see it, quite simply the strangest place in the most backward of counties you can imagine.

Kidderminster is a former market town – an insular town, a town where its reactionary politics are made to look apolitical to the point that people think they’re natural and have no need for an alternative, which would only be seen as a threat, anyway.  The status quo never had it so good.  The local Conservative association had (or still has) its offices in a building called ‘Margaret Thatcher House’.  During a crisis brought about by deregulated bankers, they elected a hedge fund manager to power: a Conservative, not a member of an extreme far-right party, only because that isn’t thought ‘posh’ around here, though the core ideas and way of life betray the diversion.  You get the picture, even though most of the locals don’t.

So, in the context of a politics that likes to individualise rather than see broader issues, there is, of course, no point in trying to help those with shell shock after they’ve been exposed to the place.  There is no problem, they’ll instinctively insist, to any problem they clearly have which you may highlight, having unwittingly learned to erect any defence (partly, again, in the interests of one-upmanship and, well, psychological survival) against the reality that setting up an alternative home in Kidderminster’s town centre represents a significant admission of failure in a great many aspects of life, all the while spilling their lattes all over the place – hands beyond control, minds too easily drawn towards hysteria, all the while almost constantly desperate for something – anything – to prove that maybe hints that they have value beyond the superficial commercial relationships they have there.

I was once close to becoming one of those people until I rediscovered that life was worth living.  That said, revisiting the town centre over the past fortnight has already had an impact.  Years ago, a pretty decent, very likeable fella came to work in the area.  This year he left, widely disliked.  I had tried to warn him in his early days there, but it’s natural not to listen to such things when the reality seems so different to the uninitiated.  In my last vlog, the effects of the place were evident in the video even when merely describing it, the danger being how, like quicksand, the area can submerge you into its ways and the social scene of its bizarre ‘community’ of tragicomic regulars.

Making vlogs can be interesting, not least in a therapeutic sense, so long as you can summon up the right frame of mind for assessing your own work, and it was on first viewing of ‘This Toxic Spill’ that I realised the impact the town centre was having on me even after so short a space of time.  The world seemed smaller, restricted, narrow.   The air of possibility that I usually carry around with me had vanished.  I could feel the lack of enthusiasm for things that really matter as things that don’t came into the foreground.But gone are the days where I’d spend almost all my daytime in town, almost camped out, so I lacked the level of stress that involved which would obscure my way out.

As with many psychiatric patients, you can generally gauge the unresolved psychosocial issues the regulars have by the size of the bags they carry for their big day out at the coffee shops in the town.  Mine was occasionally indicative of the trials I was going through, though never as bad as many I’d seen.  But now is not then and, even though I’ve taken my man bag there, it’s been pretty half-heartedly, yearning to get back to my home routine, which is enjoyably productive, rewarding and fulfilling, as are other areas of my life, leading (the hope is) to something interesting further down the line.

Just as importantly, though, I don’t want to lose the defamiliarization I have of the town centre as that process did what it can do at its best, demystifying it and, in so doing, opening up a fresh, perceptive and acute perspective of the place, the county and, beyond that, even the country itself.  There is something to be said about seeing the area you’ve mainly lived in with a fresh pair of eyes, in ways you’d been obscured from seeing in the past, which develops you and your approach to things.  Defamiliarization with my hometown and the majority of the people who inhabit it has led to greater reflection on many things beyond the geographic and cultural, which has led to a degree of personal development I could barely have hoped for.

But what about the place itself?  Trying to address the problems of the area from within the area will probably always result in a fruitless conclusion.  The instinctive tendency here is to deflect it all and say that the area is little different and no worse than anywhere else, despite the evidence, the professionals and key lay people strongly suggesting otherwise.  While appreciating how tragic it is that the regulars’ defences against self-awareness and awareness of the culture that does them so much damage is beyond resolution, I can’t help feeling that life here and elsewhere could be so much better for far more people, but that the extant issues – too often internalised by people who know little better – should be tackled by people who should know better.  It can’t be acceptable that you can drive within 20 miles to the urban landscape of Birmingham and be presented with people, despite that areas issues, whose personalities are as if from another planet, they tend to be so personable and lacking in the superficial charm, hostilities and paranoid approach of Kidderminster’s majority.

But this is not for me to resolve.  The type of tragic figures who haunt the town centre and speak volumes for the county and even the country aren’t yet on the radar of organisations who are currently more likely to target pub dwellers, drug addicts and people as psychologically damaged as the coffee regulars, but without seeing the similarities and the needs these people have.  State institutions won’t touch the place because that would be to admit that the area and its culture has deep-rooted problems, as many professionals and lay people would willingly tell me during my initial spell frequenting the place.  The local press is more interested in tittle-tattle for the local gossips and in promotion for tourism, though let’s hope the tourists always manage to get out before it’s too late.  The locals themselves are so familiarized with what should always be kept at arms length that they can’t ever really be hoped to see the issues.  All that’s left, then, is for social and psychiatric services to pick up the pieces of those for whom the defences are eventually breached.  Surely that’s wrong, but that’s the way the system currently works.

As for me, I went there today at the close of business, even though I didn’t want to.  I’ve got enough to do at home, a decent coffee machine and non-commercial relationships to attend to.  But it’s that witnessing a car crash thing, isn’t it.  The trick is to keep it like that though, as you’ve probably figured out by now, that’s far easier said than done.  And as for it only being about a cup of coffee, I wish someone would tell the powers that be because, ideally, that’s all it really should be.