The World’s Winter Blues

There is something about these gloomy, darker days and long cold winter nights that affects people. Countless millions of us can even be pushed into a period of mild or even severe depression by it. These winter blues are often triggered by a lack of serotonin, which is a chemical produced naturally in the body that can be stimulated and replenished with as little as 20 minutes sunlight a day. For those lucky enough to have the means they can choose to move to somewhere sunnier or simply migrate there for the winter. In the past some of you have questioned me about why I chose to live in Turkey, a country seemingly more and more involved in wars in neighbouring counties or fighting terrorism at home. Described by some as a de-facto dictatorship, Turkey is ruled more and more by Presidential decrees, which have been allowed since the State of Emergency was declared last summer. Well it is certainly not those dangerously polarized politics that attracts me or the growing climate of fear, where you can be a government employee one day and the next fired or even branded as an enemy of the state and thrown into prison. No the simple truth is I stay here mainly because of a quite different type of climate and to enjoy the healthier lifestyle that I still find here.

Bowl of pills
Photo by Steven Depolo

Of course there is always the seemingly endless list of pills designed to lift our moods or at least drug you enough so you don’t really care so much. Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex), Paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral) are just a few of the burgeoning list of Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that doctors have at their disposal. These daily pills are designed to make us all a little bit ‘happier’ while at the same time they keep down the number of patients the doctor sees. Unfortunately SSRI’s are also mostly addictive so their use is often prescribed indefinitely, much to the delight of the fabulously rich pharmaceutical companies that make them. I have always found it the height of hypocrisy when drug companies seem to release a new SSRI ever year or so but then wring their hands about the world being on the edge of an abyss as the last few antibiotic drugs developed decades ago lose their effectiveness against ever evolving super bugs. They tell us it is simply because of the development costs but we all know it’s more likely because there is no profit in developing a cure for anything anymore as the real money, the way to maintain an endless flow of profits is to develop drugs that only treat the symptom, without actually curing the underlying condition.

If you are interested in a little bit of speculation on the markets here’s my *tip for the winter of 2016/17: buy shares in pharmaceuticals, particularly in companies that provide us with those ‘happy’ pills. You may also find it a sound longer term investment that produces profits for the next four to eight years depending on the gullibility of certain electorates around the world. I predict that the sharp lurch to the right or the alt-right (as they now describe ideas that lean towards white supremacists or neo-Nazism in America) in world politics and power grabs by dictator wannabe’s, is going to have a profoundly depressing impact on all but the very rich, the open or closet racists and misogynists amongst us and the politically naive. This lurch to the right, whose momentum has been perpetuated by lies or what they now call ‘fake news’ seemed to gather momentum following the Brexit vote, where a hoodwinked electorate believed the whopping lies of self serving politicians like Boris Johnson and that odious idiot Nigel Farage.

Brexit lies bus
Photo care of Butran P Armatage

One memorable lie was a fantasy that £50 million a day could somehow be diverted, by some act of magic from the EU into the NHS (National Health Service) instead. When the reality is much more likely to be a £60 Billion plus loss to the government when the UK leaves the EU that will not only severely weaken the resources of the exhausted NHS but may finish it off all together. By the way, this figure although staggering does not include the incalculable job losses and the potential £100’s of Billions it could cost UK companies and other organisations. However Boris didn’t let small details like pedalling dangerous Leave campaign lies against his own Remain principles affect his conscience because he truly believed that the result would eventually propel him towards the Prime Minister’s job as the ‘plucky’ loser. So when the Leave vote narrowly won he seemed genuinely shocked and quickly declared no interest whatsoever in becoming the new Prime Minister who would now have to deal with the shitstorm he had helped create. Although somehow it was still seen as a good idea to award him the consolation prize of becoming the UK’s rather embarrassing and gaff prone Foreign Secretary.

The Narcissists World Tour
Photo by Duncan C

If Brexit was a shock against expectations built on mistruths, it was only a slightly bigger shock than the one pulled off earlier this month by Donald Trump. His seemingly limitless stream of lies coupled with the covert intervention of Vladimir Putin and an inconceivably suspicious intervention by the Director of the FBI, just days before the Election proved just enough to shade it in his favour and tip the world into what will one day be regarded as a darker and more troubling period in our history.

If Goebbels and Rasputin Had a Baby....
Photo by Mike Licht

Trump, Trump Trump #Trump… is all we seem to hear nowadays. But Isn’t it time we moved on from the catastrophe that just happened on the other side of the Atlantic? Enduring almost two years of filthy, divisive abuse, nonsense and sanctimonious tweets must surely make the American people now question the way they elect future leader? Seemingly not. The lazy news channels still show little else but the parade of racist alt-right cheerleaders nominated by Steve Bannon (above), turning up at their hideously garish lair of Trump Tower for job interviews. Minute by minute they report who is visiting from the Janitor all the way up to random world leaders eager to cut an early deal with the self proclaimed king of deals. But you would see, if you cared to examine the cold facts about his underhand business dealings a little closer instead of swallowing the pre and post electoral spin, you would see that he is a national and potentially international disaster just waiting to happen.

If by some miracle Trump makes it to the end of his four year term, without being Impeached, dropping dead because of the stress of the job (we know nothing about his health beyond a few lines hastily written by his Doctor, while Trump waited in his car with the engine running) or something else, I predict that there will be a groundswell, a sustained effort to ensure that other people like Trump and his alt-right storm trouping buddies are never allowed anywhere near the seat of power again. Maybe they will insist that one person, man or woman, is never allowed that much power again and that from then on any executive decisions like destroying the world with the press of a button is much safer if agreed by three or even five people instead of being left at the mercy of the mental state of just one individual.

Photo by The Official CTBTO Photostream

To miss quote A Game of Thrones – “Winter is coming… to the world.” But after a publicity addicted misogynist, racist and septuagenarian anachronism with recognized psychopathic traits is given the keys to the White House and the codes that could allow him to unleash Armageddon on seven billion people (instead of being given a much more appropriate bucket of coins to go and play the slots in one of his Las Vegas casino’s), all we can do is cross our fingers and hope that it’s not a nuclear winter that the world is about to endure?

* This is a literal piece using share speculation to underline a point. Any decision to buy shares should not be influenced by this blog post as there are significant financial risks associated with buying most shares.


A Beautiful World

Autumn, or fall as they say in the USA, is one of my favourite times of year. The colours, those subtle changes from summer’s heat into the first taste of winter conspire to make it an interesting season. However, the horrors of the world, our jobs or just plain old normal life make it far too easy to be distracted from noticing the colours, tastes and smells of our world. Years ago a dear friend who had just heard her doctor confirm that her old body was going into a heart failure that would soon kill her told me she had few regrets about dying but revealed one to me.

Autumn leaves boy
Photo by Philippe Put

She was sad that she would never see the first green shoots after winter or a dew laden rosebud captured in spring sunlight. She also said she would never experience the colours of autumn at its height – so her big regret was that she wished she had known it was to be her last spring and autumn so that she could have taken more time to drink in those experiences instead of allowing them to simply be the backdrop to her slow decline. Feeling her sadness I was quick to point out that we were in early autumn and persuaded her to allow me to arrange for the bed to be placed by her window that looked out onto the pretty garden of the nursing home, where the leaves of trees and bushes were starting to take on the subtle reds, yellows and purples of the season.

Eventually, quite breathless from the exertion of being propped up on pillows to take in the view, she thanked me for arranging it but was equally quick to point out that the real glory of autumn was still weeks away, weeks we both knew she did not have.

Vibrant Autumn Leaves
Photo by Dan G

Life often sidetracks us and sometimes fixates us with issues and problems or temporary distractions that all too often consume the best days of our lives much faster than we realise. If we are lucky, we will have a long and reasonably happy life unlike the millions killed or displaced by war, famine or deadly diseases. If you are reading this in your own home on your own laptop or device and you are not hungry, or anxiously in a place of danger you are in the lucky minority. If you have never felt you are sometimes a pawn of some power crazed dictator, whose psychopathic tendencies could see him snuff out your life and the lives of your friends of family without a second thought, rather than lose his corrupted power or allow any slight to his fragile ego, then again feel grateful. Most of all try hard to remember this when someone turns to you and your fellow citizens for help or safe asylum after they have escaped from war or tyranny.

Autumn Leaves at Coe Lake
Photo by Erik Drost

Of course for every charitable person there are three or four times more people who have allowed themselves to be fed by the hate and downright lies of politicians or state controlled media machines, who find it easier to turn their backs on such desperate people. Yes we all feel some of the fallout from that filthy war in Syria but never forget the almost forgotten conflicts within Africa, which produce four times more refugees than those from Syria and beyond. The biggest refugee camp in the world is not in Turkey but in Kenya, with millions of people scratching out an existence in hundreds of other camps throughout much of central and sub-Saharan Africa. In far, far too many African countries, it is the poor that suffer while the ruling elite and dictators get richer by trading off their countries national resources cheaply to China or multinationals. Most of these cesspits of corruption have been endlessly perpetuated through rigged elections since the day the colonial powers abandoned them to their fate. Far too often crooked leaders have claimed legitimacy for their veneer-democracies by pointing out that they are little different to their neighbours: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Angola, Congo, Togo, Uganda, Nigeria, Gambia are amongst the most corrupt but name any single country in Africa that is a fully functioning democracy with little corruption and I might just tell you where to find unicorns.

19th African Union Summit
Photo credited to The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa

Of course there is little point in turning to the most powerful democracy in the world for help or leadership at the moment because of the pre-election paralysis that always grips the USA for at least 18 months of every 4 year term. Far too many of its citizens, many who would struggle to find Africa on a world map, let alone locate a sovereign country within it, seem too interested in watching the reality TV show that is the Clinton vs Trump campaigns for President than give a second thought about refugees. That is of course, unless the conversation is about keeping the tiny amount that may actually end up trying to seek asylum in America on the other side of Trump’s ridiculous wall.

Clinton & Trump comical
Photo care of

Far too often the world seems preoccupied by similar contrived media circuses or the new breasts or new nail polish colour of some Kardashian or other, to worry too much about senseless wars and out of control dictators. For that very same reasons it is also unlikely that more than a few would ever find the time to look up from their phones or devices for long enough to enjoying a seasons colours or to stop for a moment just to smell the flowers.

Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum
Photo credited to David Ohmer

In a strange way my friend got part of her last wish, when her funeral took place on the most colourful autumn/fall day I could remember. If her spirit wasn’t present then she was certainly carried there in the hearts of her friends. So don’t leave it too late to start enjoying the world you live in, for better or worse, because for all you know you might actually have much less time on this beautiful, messed up planet than you care to think about.