Monday, 15 August 2022

Letters to local politicians re Norwich City Council Housing Options policy and problem of loneliness and hardship for the elderly

 I wrote the letter below to several local politicians and this was their responses

My MP, Chloe Smith, Conservative, Norwich North = NO REPLY beyond automatic response

My three LABOUR Councillors for Catton Grove ward on 11th July 2022
Mike Stonard: NO REPLY
Paul Kendrick:  referred to Gail Harris, Housing Committee
Gail Harris: Initially NO REPLY, then I chased her up on 10 Augustand she replied on 11th:
"Dear Mr Buffry,
"I receive a considerable number of emails each day and I am sorry that I missed this one.
"I will talk to my Housing Options manager about the points that you raise.
"Kind regards
"Gail"

Norwich Green Party via their Facebook page 12 August:  I received a reply from "Gawain":
"Hello Alun, Thank you for your message, I have passed it onto our city councillors. They asked if you are happy to share your email address or telephone number with them , so that they can discuss this with you further? All the best Gawain

The letter (with slight variations, also sent to Letters to the Editor, Evening News, Norwich:


I am concerned about Norwich City Council's social housing options policy.

I read about Government and other concern about loneliness amongst the elderly, many of who are forced to live alone due to Norwich City Council's housing policies.

I understand that two bedroom bungalows and two bedroomed ground floor flats are reserved for families and not available for the elderly, as a matter of policy.

Those families could be housed in upper storey flats or houses, whereas older people often have problems with stairs or noise made by tenants of flats above or below them.

Many elderly people may had lost a partner and suffer from living alone, even if they are still physically capable or have home helpers.  They would surely benefit from being allowed to share two bedroomed accomodation?

I am asking you to look into this policy and try to change it.  I realise there may be a shortage of two bedroomed bungalows but it seems senseless to give them to families rather than elderly friends or companions.

In addition of course those elderly people who may have to live along are paying more in enrgy bills, TV licenses, phone and internet services and probably food bills, often out of their only income which is their pensions.

Alun Buffry


Thursday, 11 August 2022

Letter: Norwich City Council Housing Options policy does not solve problem of loneliness for the elderly

Letter sent to my three Labour Councillors

I am concerned about Norwich City Council's social housing options policy.

I read about Government and other concern about loneliness amongst the elderly, many of who are forced to live alone due to Norwich City Council's housing policies.

I understand that two bedroom bungalows and two bedroomed ground floor flats are reserved for families and not available for the elderly, as a matter of policy.

Those families could be housed in upper storey flats or houses, whereas older people often have problems with stairs or noise made by tenants of flats above or below them.

Many elderly people may had lost a partner and suffer from living alone, even if they are still physically capable or have home helpers.  They would surely benefit from being allowed to share two bedroomed accomodation?

I am asking you to look into this policy and try to change it.  I realise there may be a shortage of two bedroomed bungalows but it seems senseless to give them to families rather than elderly friends or companions.

In addition of course those elderly people who may have to live alone are paying more in energy bills, TV licenses, phone and internet services and probably food bills, often out of their only income which is their pensions.

 My name and address


Wednesday, 10 August 2022

August 1972: Leaving Diane, leaving Kabul, trying to stay alive

 Taken From All About My Hat The Hippy Trail 1972 ISBN 978-0993210716

The following morning, fighting with his conscience, finding that Diane was not going to join him, Al left. He went straight to the bus station and caught a bus to Herat, via Kandahar. It was normal for the bus to stop one night at Kandahar and he would sleep on the bus.

In that way he arrived in Herat the following day, spent one night there, bought a ticket to the border and from there a ticket all the way to Tehran.

Al crossed the border at Islam Qala and on to the Iranian side at Tayebad on September 3, 1972. He had been in Afghanistan this time for forty days and forty nights.

It was about fifteen hundred miles from Kabul to Tehran, Mashhad being about half way.

That five hundred miles to Tehran from the border took a day and a half, overnight Al slept on the moving bus.

By the time he reached Tehran, he felt filthy dirty not having washed properly for four or five days. He was very tired and very hungry and thirsty. He found a small hotel near the bus station, booked a room for one and before long was asleep.



 

 

Friday, 5 August 2022

August 1972: Consulting the I Ching in Kabul at Sigis: Diane remains resolute

  Taken From All About My Hat The Hippy Trail 1972 ISBN 978-0993210716 

Then came the day that Diane was given her replacement passport – now she just needed the entry visa.

That same day in the morning there was a message at reception for Al to go back to the embassy.

Off he went. Things are working out,” he thought. He took a taxi to the embassy, just to be positive.

Al arrived at the embassy and was shown in to the office he had been in previously and met the same embassy official.

The guy told Al that the authorities had been in touch with Al's parents and they had sent some money, £170, enough for a flight back to London and some change.

Well,” thought Al, “that's about six weeks wages for Dad.”

Then he thought: “Well God, if you are there, please let them be able to afford that, not let them get into debt.” (I can tell you now as it seems the best time, but Al did not know for weeks afterwards, that round about that time they had had a small win on the “football pools” whatever that is – it was in fact as if his prayer had been answered.)

Al told the embassy chap that he did not want to spend all that money getting home and agreed to take seventy pounds in cash, English money, and leave the rest at the embassy.

That way,” he said, “I can get home and get my friend Diane home too.”

He took the money and arranged that he could get the rest transferred to any country on route or get it refunded to his parents.

He already had his visa, Diane had her passport, all that was needed was to make the return bus ride to the border.

He went back to meet Diane at Sigis restaurant, that had become their regular haunt. They would go for a “slap-up” meal.


 

After a milk shake and a smoke, Al found the name of a good restaurant and took Diane for a big meal. Well, it ended up that the only vegetarian food available in this top restaurant in a big hotel, was Kabuli rice with vegetables on the side, yoghurt, bread and fruit. They could have eaten exactly the same in a local cheap restaurant for a fifth of the price and in a better atmosphere.

Al said to Diane, “So tomorrow morning we can get the bus to the border and back and sort out your visa, then we can get tickets and head back across Iran. It'll be fun.”

I've told you loads of times, don't you listen,” she said, “I'm not going, it's stupid, they know I am here. If they say I can't get out of the country without a stamp to say I came in, that's just daft! So what I can't even fly out. What about if they wanted to kick me out, they'd soon do that. End of!”

The following morning, Al got himself up and when he woke Diane, told her if she wanted to go to the border today, get up and go with him.

Diane refused. They had a noisy row.

Al realised that she was not going to cooperate.

Al turned to his "I Ching" and, throwing three Afghani coins, asked "what should I do? Stay with Diane or make the journey home alone?"


 

It seemed very sound and clear advice from the book that he had to make the journey home; the alternative suggested led to disaster.

Later that day he told Diane “Tomorrow I am getting up and going to the bus station. If you want to come, we will go to the border. If not, I'm going to catch a bus to Herat

Look, here is half my money that's left, thirty pounds” handing her the English notes and a few Afghani notes.

So it's up to you. Fifty pounds should get us both back to London if we share.”

Thanks,” she said, “Maybe I'll see you in England one day. I'm not going to the Pakistan border and if they aren't going to let me out to Iran, I'll have to stay here.”

Al struggled but he could not understand why she was being so stubborn, it was only a bus ride.

If I stay here I am going to die,” he said.

After that they did not talk about it and drifted back to a day at Sigis getting high.


 

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

August 1972: Tripping in Kabul: bad news

 Taken From All About My Hat The Hippy Trail 1972 ISBN 978-0993210716 

Well anyway,” said Al, “we've got to get some money or I'm going to die here. I don't have much energy. I'm going to go to the embassy and see if they will lend me some money or something. I've got a bank account but there's no money in it, maybe they will give me an overdraft.

"I reckon if I can get one hundred pounds it will get us both home.

If we can get to Istanbul, I know the Pudding Shop . We may be able to get a cheap lift to UK or Germany or somewhere from there - they have a noticeboard where people can ask for a ride."

I'll do that tomorrow. We might get some money before you get your passport. I've got enough to last a while, it's cheap here.

Here, you better have some.”

He counted out some notes that were part of what he had left out of what Diane had given him. It was ten pounds.

Don't give it away,” he said.

That evening they went to Sigis just down Chicken Street, sat ate, chatted with other travellers some going one way and some going the other, drank milkshakes and smoked joints. All for less than one English pound.

The following day Al went to the embassy for the UK. He was sent in to see an English official who asked lots of questions. Then he said that the embassy could not contact a bank and asked was there anyone that Al could ask for funds to be sent, what about his parents, where did they live.

Al provided the information. The official said it would take about a week and if there was no other way, they could not give Al a loan but they could fly him back to the UK.

Al told him about Diane.

The official said that when she got her passport and entry visa stamped into it, she should come to see him or she could come in sooner, they would have to see her before he could say how they could help.

Al went back to meet Diane at Sigis and told her what was happening.

I'm still not going back to the border though,” she said.

They had lunch and smoked a couple of joints of hash.

Suddenly Diane said “Hey, you want some of these?”

She held out her hand and in her palm were four or so small squares of blank paper.

What's that?” asked Al “looks like paper!” he laughed.

It's acid,” she said, “LSD, you know, Lucy in the Sky. I got some from a French guy. He reckoned they're really good! Want to try?”

Al found her manner too seductive to resist.

How many do we take? How strong are they? How long do they last? I've never done it.”

"I don't know,” she said “I've got four. You take two and I'll take two.”

I think I'll just take one first time,” he said.

With that Diane popped one small square of paper into Al's mouth. “Suck it and see,” she laughed.

Al laughed and then frowned as he watched Diane put the other three squares into her own mouth.


She washed it down with a fizzy drink.

So this is going to be a trip”, thought Al.

He thought about the books he had read: “Aldoux Huxley and Timothy Leary, about LSD and other psychedelic drugs: there was that book by the guy that gave acid to dolphins and then took it himself and put himself into an “isolation tank” and had met beings made out of light. What was his name? Oh yeah, John Lily's Eye of the Cyclone. Oh and the Carlos Castaneda's tales about a Shaman that took psychedelic plants to make contact with beings on other levels.


 “The Beatles of course – was that before or after they had gone to Rishikesh with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?

The whole hippy thing was a lot to do with LSD and love and peace and flowers, so that is obviously what it's about, a good time, a spiritual time, just probably stronger than hash.”

He looked up from his thoughts and started to look around the courtyard.

It looked different!

Al thought that he hadn't noticed the bells hanging from the edge of the roof, or the bright red flowerpots that held the small trees. And there seemed to be more flowers than before. Yet he'd been there several times before.

Some of the people there, the Westerners, started to look quite funny the way they were dressed. Bandanna’s! He hadn't noticed them – in Kabul – they looked really out of place!

Funny how so many were wearing blue jeans, including the two guys serving, and they had short hair, the customers all had long hair.

Weird that people came here to Sigis to eat food they could get back home.

Some of the people looked like people Al had known, or like mixtures of two of them. Several times he felt like shouting out to them, but then they moved and turned into themselves again. How strange, how funny.

He started to laugh and turned to Diane to tell her his thoughts – she was looking at a colourful bird, some sort of canary, that was standing on on top of a small green shrub, almost motionless, as she was. She looked mesmerised, so Al kept quiet, laughing again in his head.


 Al turned back to look at the people again.

That guy looked familiar.

As he looked at the guy, the guy stood up and walked over.

Hi!”, he said. “Are you Al?”

Al felt a little uneasy at that – how did the guy know his name?

You from Norwich? I'm Pete, remember me, Pete Roscoe?”

Wow,” said Al, “You are Pete Roscoe, yeah, I remember you of course, I thought you were somebody that looked like him, I mean you!”, he laughed.

Al had known Pete Roscoe back in Norwich but had had no idea that he too, would be heading for India. Pete had also known John and Keith.

How you doing man?” said Pete, “How long you been here, where you going?”

Al answered: “I went to India with Keith and then I got sick, Infectious Hepatitis and dysentery, nearly died, had no money, on my own, in Haridwar in the Northern Foothills. But I got to hospital in Delhi. I've been in hospital here too. Just waiting to get some money to get home. I'm with Diane. I want to get her home too."

He turned to introduce Pete to Diane. She was staring into a glass of fizzy drink and quietly giggling.

Hi Pete!”

Al knew that Pete had known John and maybe Mike, so he asked: “Have you heard anything about John and Mike? Keith and I left them with the van in Antalya in Turkey and caught a boat to Iskenderun. We hitched from there across Syria to Baghdad. I haven't heard from them. We were supposed to meet them back in Istanbul but decided to carry on to India. Are they back in England yet?”

God what a drag about John. You don't know what happened, do you?”, asked Pete.

No,” said Al.

Wow man, I hate to tell you this,” said Pete, “John was killed in a crash the night you left them in Turkey. Mike had broken his legs and some ribs and was in hospital there for several weeks. I heard they crashed into a parked truck on a bend at night – John was driving. He swerved out and probably saved Mike's life but was killed himself. Everyone was real sick about it, man.”

It may have been because Al was still in some doubt that this was actually Pete Roscoe. Maybe that cushioned the blow for him. He was tripping on acid and just been told his best friend John had died hours after he had last seen him.

So Pete and Al chatted a while longer, Pete was on his way to India. Al gave him some advice about being really careful about what he ate and drank, to keep hydrated, and not to drink the Ganges.

Then it was time that Pete said he would have to go as he had people to meet. They agreed to meet in the same place at lunch time the next day.

Al ordered another two teas with milk. It tasted weird. Different. He didn't drink his.

Then he felt it time to go and explore the streets.

Come on Diane, let's go for a walkabout. I want some of those spicy potatoes and corn on the cob I've seen..”

So they went outside to see the street.

Where are we?” asked Diane.

Sigis, Chicken Street!” said Al.


 
Or is it? Hang on, it's not Chicken Street, we must have come out of a different door!,” exclaimed Al. “Wait a minute, there's that Kabul restaurant place, it is Chicken Street. Wow, it looks different, I never noticed all those ribbons and flags. Hey be careful where you walk, there's holes all over the place. Hey look at that donkey, it's only got three legs!”


 
Hey this is great, let's go look at Flower Street!”

Okay,” said Diane. She wasn't saying much but she had a big grin. She took hold of Al's arm.

Don't let me fall down a hole, it's really tricky up here with the wind.” she said.

 Al couldn't feel any wind and we were not high up at all, from the road – well I guess if we're 6000 feet above sea level we must be “up here”.

Six thousand feet and climbing!” he said for no real reason.

So they strolled down Chicken Street towards Flower Street, looking in the shop windows and at stalls that Al thought he had never seen before. Everything except the road itself was much more colourful and shiny than he remembered, except the road had many massive piles of dung on it. As he looked, he saw a donkey adding more to it!

All the local merchants seemed to be nodding and smiling at them today! Al thought they all looked like – well they were on something. They were tripping too! Well, thought Al, I guess you've got to be on something to live here, it's like magic.

They reached the end of Chicken Street where it joined Flower Street.

It looked really busy with people that obviously weren't tripping.. It didn't look magic at all. Dark and damp with too many hidden spots, thought Al. Despite the flowers it was not inviting. Noisy too. Chicken Street had seemed very quiet – probably all the shoppers were down here.

Let's go back or down by the river, we could see the Mosque,” he said.

Yeah let's go that way, to the Mosque,” laughed Diana. “It doesn't matter where we land, we'll be OK.”

It seemed like hours before they reached the Mosque and Al had to sit down.

He sat on a low wall outside a building where he could see the Mosque and got lost in thoughts about the good and bad of religions and how the bad side made it hard to believe, yet so many had fallen for religions, as if it was some sort of spell to control people. Al did not want to be a part of religion. He wanted to be apart from them all. “If there's a God,” he thought, “it's not in religion.”

He heard Diane shouting “Get off, go away. Help!”

He turned to see Diane standing on the wall and below her were three dogs. They were jumping up at her in a friendly way, thought Al. “It's OK, they're just trying to be friendly, just get down and pet them!”


 
No they're trying to bite me, they won't leave me alone. They might have rabies!”

But they're only little,” said Al.


 
No they're not, they're massive. They're not dogs – they're wolves. Help! Please!” She was really freaked.


 
Al just shooed the dogs away. They went off down the street, stopped and looked back. Al shouted “Go!” Off they went, hunting for food probably.


He helped Diane climb down. She hugged him.


 “Well obviously, cos she took three, she's right out of it”, thought Al.

He grabbed her by the arm and they went back to Sigis where they could relax in a good friendly atmosphere and listen to some good rock music.

Kabul streets at night”, he said, “Not good on acid!”

That was a good decision. Diane calmed down and they both enjoyed the rest of the trip, going back to the Peace Hotel with a nice piece of hash to smoke, until they dozed off as dawn was breaking and the Mullahs were calling the so-called faithful to prayer, from their minaret towers.

The following day, Al went back to Sigis and, sure enough, Pete Roscoe was there. It was the real Pete and they chatted a while about what they had been through and, of course, the devastating news about John and Mike. Pete said everyone was really worried about Al as news had reached Norwich that he had been ill.

Diane gave Al a book, called the "I Ching". He had in fact seen it before. Keith had shown him the book in Norwich before they had left. It was the "Book of Changes", an oracle, not so much a fortune teller, more of a clarifier. Al learned from Diane that by throwing three coins six times and recording the results, one could "ask" the book a question, for advice, and the coins would reveal a set of lines that led to readings.

And so the days passed, pretty much day to day, up and down Chicken Street, getting high, meeting people, eating western foods and waiting. No more acid though!

 RIP JOHN SULLIVAN 1949-1972



Monday, 1 August 2022

August 1972: Kabul and Illness: Desperation

 Taken From All About My Hat The Hippy Trail 1972 ISBN 978-0993210716 

They had been there (in Kabul) for about ten days when Al started to get sick again. I knew he was feeling worse each day, unable to eat or drink without being sick, until one day he realised that he could not stand straight without his head spinning and the feeling that he was about to black out.

He told Diane that he was going to a clinic and she found the address from reception and arranged for a taxi. Al left his bag but was sure to take his passport. Diane went with him to the hospital reception but had not stayed. She took the same taxi back into the city.

Al had to wait about half an hour and then a doctor approached him, saying “Very sorry Sir, very few people here speak English – they had to fetch me from my home. It is a holiday for me today, but I come to see you.”

He took Al into a room and asked his problem, which he explained briefly. The doctor called and a male nurse arrived and, without a word, took Al by the wrist and led him out of the room. As he left he spotted a poster that was warning against smallpox!

Al was led into a very large structure, the walls were made from corrugated-looking tin and the roof was canvas. It looked like it had well over a hundred big steel beds, most of them empty.

Al was led to a bed and given a bottle of water and the nurse gestured for him to stay. He got on the bed and instantly fell asleep.

It was some time later that Al was awoken. The same male nurse took a sample of his blood.

A remarkably short time later, the nurse returned with a blood transfusion kit. They gave Al a pint of blood, into his arm, and when that was done, several pints of plasma. The nurse motioned to Al so he understood to drink water.

Al just kept dozing off. Several times somebody woke him and gave him sugarless black tea, then the evening meal arrived. It was rice. Just soggy white rice. But Al was hungry and ate it all.

It was two days before Diane arrived for a visit. She had waited, she said, for Al to come back, then tried unsuccessfully to phone the hospital for information, then decided to get a taxi.

Al spoke to somebody for the first time in two days. Diane told him that the taxi-driver had helped her find him and that he had translated for her, Al had been at such a point of dehydration that his life was at risk. She said that the doctor here had said there was nobody to speak in English but in another two or three days an English-speaking doctor would come and until then, Al had to stay!

True to that, the English-speaking doctor that Al had first met at reception, appeared three days later.

Al had been there for five days.

The doctor said that he was surprised that Al was still there; he should have been there for just one day but nobody knew. He said Al could go now.

 Al then realised that he did not have any money and told the doctor – his money was at the hotel. The doctor gave Al some few Afghani notes and told him that he could get a bus outside that would take him to the city centre. From there a short walk took him back to the Peace Hotel in Chicken Street.

Diane was there. She was not happy. She told Al how she had met an English woman whose husband had been in prison for drugs for two years and she had given her most of her money.

The she said “And I've lost my passport!”

Oh no, how did that happen? Are you getting a new one?”

I don't know,” she said, “It was in my bag and then it was gone. I went to the embassy and they are getting me a new one in about a week, they just gave me a temporary document for ID in case I need it. They told the police. I've got to go back in a week.”

Wow, that's not too good, we've got to get out of here next week, our visa's run out and I've not got much money left!” said Al.

I've got none either, well not much,” said Diane.

Bloody hell that all went quick!”

And,” she continued, “When I get a new passport I've got to go back to the border to get an entry stamp, then we got to get our visas extended.”

Well that's not too bad, it was a brilliant bus ride, I don't mind, I'll come with you. Got to get some money too, somehow.”

I'm not going to go back to the border,” said Diane, “I don't see why I should, it's obvious I'm here so I must have come into the bloody place. They can stuff it. I'll get my passport but I am not going back.”

Al decided not to argue. He just explained that it was all formality and if Diane wanted to cross into Iran she would need an entry visa and it was only at the Pakistan border that they probably have a record of when they had come in.

That didn't work.

Diane said rather loudly: “Look, I'm not going back, right. They can phone up or do it in the post I don't care. It's just stupid.”


 

image found on line

Sunday, 31 July 2022

End of July 1972: Peshawar to Kabul via the Khyber Pass

  Taken From All About My Hat The Hippy Trail 1972 ISBN 978-0993210716 

The following day, July 29 1972, was the day of the bus ride back through the Khyber Pass to Kabul, the journey that had so impressed and inspired Al on his way to India a few months earlier.

They journeyed past trains of laden camels that occasionally blocked the road, fields with sheep and cattle, the strange-looking men wrapped in blankets even in the heat of the sun, standing or sitting is groups seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

There was an incredible movement of people across the border and back. Many were walking in groups. Many of the men were dressed in garments the light-brown colour of the earth. Others were dressed in coloured tunics with waistcoats over light trousers. Most wore turbans.

The women were dressed in colourful outfits or entirely in blue, black or coloured burkas and many carried large pots or bundles on their heads. The children waved at the bus.

The bus itself was a rickety old machine that chugged along up and down the hills. As well as Al and Diane, there were several other western-looking travellers but sometimes it was hard to tell as they were tanned brown and dressed in clothes seen in India. In any case, they all kept themselves to themselves. There was no sign of any cannabis smoking.

As the road zigzagged upwards, sometimes passing over bridges built over what looked like small streams, Al noticed the many tent cities below in the valley, all with herds of camels and donkeys. Higher were the remains of the many forts originally built by the British. In the distance were snowy peaks.

High on the pass were fortified buildings that were the homes of the locals, each with its own watchtower.

In places the road had a simple and crude stone walls separating it from a sheer drop – in other places there was just the drop.

Then we arrived back in Kabul.

Al and Diane headed straight for a small hotel in Chicken Street, called the Peace Hotel. Diane told Al that she had stayed there before and that it was cheap and had good food.


 



Saturday, 30 July 2022

TRYING TO FLY AND WONDERING WHY by Alun Buffry (poem)

 TRYING TO FLY AND WONDERING WHY by  Alun Buffry 

Varanasi airport is quite a dump.
It's run by a man who is quite a chump.
Now we cannot board the plane,
Later we will miss our train.
Money flowing down the drain,
India Airways fucked my brain.
Seems the way here is to cheat,
So the system you can beat,
Just don't let them squash your feet,
Push for schedules try to keep.
"Baksheesh - don't say that word here sir,
"We're all paid well by Indian Air
"And you don't know the system here."
"Well I think it fucking weird!"
In India, it's different, so we're told,
Totally corrupt since times of old.
No problem sir, your seats been sold,
Paid in Karma but now with gold.

https://www.buffry.org.uk/poetry.htm