Truth, the Optional Extra

When I was at school, l I was taught that when you cheat the only loser is you.  The morality aside, on a practical level this is sound advice for the important things in life and I feel grateful to have been given this insight from a young age.  Think what would happen if you were a brain surgeon and you had cheated your way through your medical training.   I don’t suppose you would last long before not knowing the difference between cerebrum and cerebellum gets you struck off. If you get somebody else to take your driving test, the first time you run over a pedestrian could make you live to regret your bad choice in life and honesty.

It seems that the Conservative Party, in its current form, went to a different school that never discussed such ethical issues. Cheating has been adopted as a stock feature of their modus operandi for some time now.  Johnson, Gove and Cummings were all middle of the Leave EU lawbreaking debacle.  We must conclude that given their leading positions in the campaign, these things were within their sphere of influence and therefore they must bear some responsibility.  Ian Lucas, Wrexham MP, who was on a committee examining these issues, in his departing speech, was very clear they had all failed to answer for their actions or certain knowledge that the campaign had cheated its way to a small majority for Leave. From deceitful Facebook ads served up to unsuspecting targets whose data had been illegally mined, to diverting funds which were an overspend to the BeLeave campaign, they have all indulged in pretending that was “nothing to do with us guv”.

Borsi with a glass talking rubbish

Lies about the money.  Lies about the foreigners. Lies about the benefits of giving up our EU membership.  The floor of the houses of parliament is littered with the ashes of all the broken promises of the leave campaign and May’s government and now under Boris Johnson, the cheating continues at an even greater pace.  The Election campaign is one of the dirtiest I can ever remember in my 51 years on this earth.  The Conservative Party has lied and lied and lied, they have doctored videos of Starmer, they have hidden important reports from the public including the contents of the Russia report which ex Tory Dominic Grieve is very concerned about.   They had a Facebook advert removed and the other night they renamed their blue tick Press Office account to pretend they were a fact checking account. They have paid for keywords on google relating to the Labour manifesto so they can point people to a website they created in order to attack it.  Interestingly we had a company do that to us once, they paid for a short phrase which happened to be our company name and interfering with our site traffic as a result.  Thankfully it was one of our suppliers, so we were able to get them to stop, their media agency hadn’t realised, but it’s a very sneaky trick to deliberately and we were furious.

Cheating or trying to get one over on political rivals with dirty tactics – it’s all designed to steal your vote.  But, you say, all politicians lie.  Well yes I suppose they do in relatively small ways and I think they definitely have a history of U-turns and failing to carry through manifesto commitments, but answer honestly, is it normal for them to lie about Russian interference in our elections, or to cheat in referendums and general elections?  Is it normal for a politician to deny their presence in a hospital is a photo opportunity to a patient’s dad when the cameras are literally pointed at them whilst having the conversation?  How big do the lies have to be before everybody wakes up and starts to take responsibility for their own vote in the light of all this.

The UK is a nation which was united in its outrage when Maradona scored his Hand of God goal.  They rightly saw the chance for England to win the World Cup had been stolen.  The UK is a nation which was united in its shock at the expenses scandal when, amongst many other similar revelations, a Tory MP paid for his duck house out of taxpayer’s funds.  The nation rightly saw this fiddling as a theft of their money. Nobody shrugged and said well “whatever”.  Sadly, something seems to have been lost since then.

The polls appear to show Boris Johnson’s lies are just being completely ignored by half the public. I think we have to blame several people, not just politicians but also the press which for 3 years have mostly blanked the cheating that occurred during 2016 or they have echoed the Brexit lie, that “both sides cheated”.  Both sides did not cheat but the myth persists.  Ignoring the law breaking in 2016 set the scene for a normalisation of big fat whopping lies and I fear that voters have been totally inured to it just at the very moment we have to contend with Boris Johnson, the Truth Optional Prime Minister, trying to get a majority so he can continue with his mad Brexit.

Moreover if ALL the opposition parties had also picked up on the work that dedicated journalists like Carole Cadwalladr have done at a higher level at a much earlier point, we would, I feel, have been in a very different place right now.  For too long we heard the respect the vote argument and that has really damaged us.

But now there is no excuse as we see with our own eyes fresh evidence of lying and cheating by what is left of the Tory Party after they got rid of most of the honourable MPs they had on their back benches.  Broadcasters have finally realised they are supposed to challenge politicians and are doing so quite well actually.   Yet the polls show people are not abandoning Tories despite this and I wonder if this is because they want to be on the winning side, and they think Johnson will win.

I would say to those still thinking of voting for a man who cheats to win, he will cheat on them too in the end.  Johnson, Gove, Cleverley all of them, they will be alright Jack.  They will have their power, their jobs, their money.  Ordinary voters will be the people who pay for their hard Brexit.  Our children will lose rights.  Our communities will suffer as the promises about money for the regions replacing the EU Regional funding ends up consigned as a distant dream.  In fact I haven’t heard anybody mention regional funds lately.  Those 40 hospitals, well, given there is no timetable laid out do we really believe that they will ever materialise?  The Russian Report, why, if it shows there is no evidence of interference in our democratic processes, does Johnson not release it?

But I come back to where I started, on this idea that when you cheat, you only cheat yourself.  Well, perhaps my teachers didn’t tell me the whole story because in the case of Johnson and his cronies, we are in danger of allowing them to not only get away with it, but prosper from their lies.  Life may in time deliver a form of natural justice to them but by then our economy will be trashed and we will be greatly diminished on the world stage as hard Brexit bites in every part of our lives.  We simply cannot wait on the offchance that random fate will intervene on our behalf.  We have only a handful of tools available to us right now in this hateful and dirty election.  We must deny these people a majority and in our first past the post system this is what we can do.

  1. Call out the lies. Don’t let it pass.  If somebody you know, family or colleague or friend shares a Johnson post you know to be incorrect or repeats a myth, tell them.  Calmly and politely and gently challenge the myths. Small conversations with your mates could make all the difference.
  2. Make sure everybody you know is registered to vote and cajole them to get out and vote on the day. Talk through the issues with them.  There are nearly a third of the electorate who are not registered, they have been called the Unheard Third.  Support campaigns such as this website which gives useful advice as to how we can persuade people to use their voices.
  3. We must look hard at our own constituency and consider whether Tactical Voting is going to help us. Do the research. There are several sites, look at them all. In fact somebody just gave me a link to this one which compares all the tactical voting sites at once so you can see If there is consensus emerging as to which candidate can best beat the Brexiter candidates.  Keep checking too because all the sites add data from polling as the election campaign goes on, some of the opinions may change.

Tactical sites are good but there is no perfect science to this, and local knowledge is also useful when deciding if you aren’t sure. Talk to your local pro EU group and see if they can give you any further insights.    Whilst you are talking to your local pro EU group, please consider giving them a hand.  Most have ongoing voter registration campaigns and other initiatives running at the moment. They will be grateful for any assistance you can give.   They can probably put you in touch with the right people if you want to directly help a particular candidate campaign.  There is a lot of local cross-party support for campaigning going on in target seats by pro EU activists.

We have come this far together, my friends, from being a disparate bunch of baffled sad or angry people, to a massive grass roots movement determined to put the wrongs of 2016 right,  We have given up ridiculous numbers of hours of our personal time to fight the Brexit Beast, neglected our lives in other areas in some cases because we believe it is so disastrous.  Why throw that hard work away on partisan rows.   if we genuinely want to win this round so we can stay in the game to stop Brexit, we are up against a group of people who are so desperate to get their Brexit they will cheat and lie over and over to get what they want and its only by working together that we have a hope of making sure they are stopped.

@redalphababe

Letter from the EU No 2

Dear Friends.

I thought it was time for a catch up.  We have been travelling for nearly 3 weeks now in Eric our lovely motorhome.  Eric has looked after us well though we got into a bit of a scrape in a Lidl when we caught the roof with the roof of a parking place.  No harm done just a little embarrassment.  We have travelled down through France into the North of Spain and then down through Portugal.

Having entered Spain from France with not much of a fanfare, we had set our route on non-toll roads and we had a couple of lovely days in San Sebastian also known as Donostia in Basque. We wild camped in Leon for a night and decided to press on to Santiago de Compostela which was an important stop in Galicia for me.  We had booked 3 days in a campsite in the city.

Santiago de Compostela is the city of my birth.  I have few memories of that place, given I was an infant when my family left, but I do have some pictures in my head from visits there and I cling to them.  Our memories are part of what makes us who we are.  They keep our feet on the ground and our memories of love comfort our hearts and give strength to us in times of our greatest need.

camino

As we got closer to the city, we could see from the motorhome more and more pilgrims walking along El Camino, the walk of Saint James.  They strode along the paths mostly alone, easily recognisable in the big waterproof hooded capes over their bodies and rucksacks and carrying the sticks. Some had the traditional tall stick to help them along the way, whilst some used the more up to date Nordic walking sticks.  I wondered with each pilgrim what their story was.  Why were they alone on a track on a rainy day in November?  What were they looking for?   There were so many more walkers than I expected to see.  I imagined a multitude of personal lives, all strangers but united by their common physical goal but with different spiritual agendas.  Were these people on their lone walk driven by grief or love?  A businessman escaping the rat-race.  A woman looking to lay down the burden of a painful divorce.  A priest drained by the lives of pain of his flock seeking a reaffirmation of his faith, a spiritual rebirth to excite and restore his weary jaded bones so he had something left to share out. A vane politician, a puffed-up peacock in all the gear, doing something interesting he could write about in his memoirs to make him look good.  A woman determined to challenge herself physically as she never had before. A young man of the Instagram Generation taking photos and selfies at each marker which displays the shell, the symbol that the pilgrims follow.

The city sprawled ahead of us and we found our way to the campsite and without further ado walked to the old town and the Cathedral.  As soon as saw the stone arches and cobbled streets of the old town, it all felt hugely familiar. I was delighted to recognise one of the roads and a café in front of the Alameda (park) which I think was there when my grandmother was alive.  We ate mussels and drank wine there as the barmen chattered to each other animatedly moaning about their families.

The following day, we set off to look for the street where I was born.  As we walked down a road, I glanced around and knew I had been there before. It was the market and being a Saturday morning we went to have a look.  The market thronged with colourful loud chattering Gallegos.  It is made up of corridors with stalls on each side.  Each corridor was devoted to a theme.  Fish, Meat, Vegetables.  Women barked out questions to the fishmongers and men stood in the middle chattering to each other about football.  Our mouths watered as we strolled through the crowds and smelled the freshness of all the produce.  The octopus red and plump, the fish shining and bright eyed, the cheeses creamy and delicious, the bread and cake stall surrounded by excited children waiting to choose a bun.

market

 

Part of my DNA belongs in this market.  My Grandmother, my Abuela, brought up my mother and aunt alone and made her living by trading in Padron Peppers, buying them from the farmers coming in from the country and doing deals with the stall holders.   Not so much city trader but definitely trading in a city.  It helped her pay the bills and put food on the table at a time when being a woman alone was not easy.

We were delighted, on turning the corner to find an entire hallway with bars and kitchens, and signs inviting people to buy their produce from the market, and have it cooked by these fine chefs.  There were many people taking up the offer, big family groups and groups of twenty somethings crowded around the tables eating clams and drinking wine and beer.

I felt slightly sad that for various reasons we had grown so separate from this city, from this region having moved to the UK.  I guess there was no internet and no Facebook, no cheap flights, so families that migrated were less able to keep their links intact as the older generations died.  I vowed that I would spend some time tracking down family members and arrange a longer trip to visit them.

The market and the memories I had tapped into were almost more exciting than finding the house of my birth which, with a little whatsapping with my brother, I finally found.  I was slightly disappointed to realise the front façade had been changed, as, in my imagination I could still see my Grandmothers front balcony stuffed full of colourful flowers in pots.

We topped off the day with a visit to the inside of the cathedral. Now, I will just have to come back because there is a massive renovation going on so much of the inside is covered in scaffold though you can still visit the apostle’s crypt.  The pilgrims were numerous here as traditionally they end their walk embracing the reputed remains of Saint James of the city title.

st james

The other great tradition was the Botafumeiro which is basically a giant incense burner which priests swing over the heads of the congregation on the end of a rope.  I saw it as a child and stood looking at the altar and closed my eyes so I could conjure up the smell and the sounds in my mind.  The Botafumeiro cannot operate whilst the renovation is going on, so a revisit is on the cards in the next couple of years.

The most interesting aspect of the city is the sounds.  Gallegos talk loudly, laugh together loudly.  When I was growing up in the UK, my friends used to ask me what I was arguing with my mother about in Spanish.  I didn’t know what they were talking about.  We weren’t arguing we were just talking. This entire city was filled with people just talking.

cathedral

I felt the history of my Abuela in this place of my birth as we strolled through the Alameda and admired the benches and fountains which I recognised from my childhood.  I am a child of Europe, it lives in me and is an important part of what made me.   This makes me happy.

@redalphababe

Letter from the EU No 1

Dear Friends,

This is our 7th day since we set off from Chester for some new experiences around the EU27 whilst we have the flexibility and chance to do so. Other Half (from hereon in known as OH) bought a motorhome and persuaded me to go out of my comfort zone and set off travelling in a very cramped space for a while. We must work on the move, but we can still do this for now. As you know I have been campaigning for a Peoples Vote and to remain in the EU and was reluctant to commit to this, but I am running out of energy and thought some inspiring distractions might be just the thing to revive my strength. OH insisted I name the motorhome, I think he thought, like a cute dog or pig or something, I would be more attached to it if it had a name, so I christened our 15-year-old Rapido motorhome Eric. We lived on a smallholding for twenty years and had various forays with livestock and anything we named always became a pet and lived until their old age in total splendour under our care.

We wanted to leave the UK before the 31st October just in case there were issues if Boris Johnson had got his way either with or without a deal so on Thursday 24th off we went. I think I need to confess to you my foolishness the day before our planned leaving date which nearly derailed the whole thing. I have been trying to learn how to ride a bike. Yes, I know. For reasons which I won’t go into here, I just never got a bike when I was a kid. I have managed my whole life without feeling I missed out but OH encouraged me to give it a go as it would make things easier if we could cycle from campsites to points of interest etc.

Anyway, on the eve of our departure I was trying to cycle to the motorhome and somehow despite going incredibly slowly I braked too hard and managed to fall like a ridiculous sack of potatoes over and to the side head-first.  I still don’t know how I did it, but I looked like an idiot.  As I fell down, I banged my head, broke my new glasses which promptly put a massive gash on my head.  4 hours later I came out of A& E with several stitches above my eye. Favourite Son who is currently away travelling himself, said “Mum, you will do anything to get out of going in a caravan”. OH growled “It’s not a caravan, it’s a luxury Motorhome”.  Do you think motorhomes are a bit metropolitan elite?  The favoured practice of using other facilities wherever you can instead of the toilet in the vehicle reminds me of when I was a little child and lived in a house with an outside toilet.

Somehow, (unlike Boris Johnson as it turns out) we still managed to leave as planned the following morning for Folkestone then the channel tunnel for France albeit with my old glasses perched on my nose.  I had a conversation with a local musician passing by who stopped to admire Eric and immediately gave me lots of useful advice having used many motorhomes when touring.  I think there is a community out there.  The rule of the road seems to be to wave to other motorhomers.  I have never had so many waves since the days when I drove around in an ancient Alfa Romeo Spider, an instant head turner.

I have to say, although it’s only been a week, on the whole living in a small space has been much easier to deal with than I expected.  It’s just like being in a very small hotel room.  We have managed not to completely fall out or trip over each other and there has been only a little tiny bit of hissing and snapping from me.  We realised quickly organisation is everything and I am so bad at the tidiness thing, but you really do have to put things away immediately.  On the nights we are in campsites with facilities we have made use of the washing and power facilities and planned for the nights of wild camping by making sure our devices are charged on route.  If you are ever doing this, a couple of apps are useful, Park4Night where people post good places to stop with reviews and comments and the ACSI app which also gives you discounts in the off season at their campsites if you join.  How did people do this before internet existed?  It almost feels like cheating to be looking every night to find a spot to camp at the following night. 

We had a little mishap with a kerb when leaving the petrol station at one point and poor old Eric has a little scratch at the bottom ofthe door.  If bad news comes in threes, only one more mishap to go, or perhaps I can count the announcement of a general election as number three.

Anyway, here we are on night 7. We have got as far as a beautiful spot called L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer as a stopover on the way to Bordeaux.  The beaches are beautiful here.  My impressions of France so far have been to wonder with awe at the amount of space here. Wide roads and huge fields. We have gone through flat country all the way so far.  We were in a public park with a stunning quadrant of silver birches in rows, which reminded me of my row of silver birches in our old garden we made in Mid Wales now hopefully as tall and strong and being enjoyed by the current owners. 

We have seen quite a lot of wildlife, in particular some stunning birds, a couple of which I have managed to photograph today so I can identify them.  Also, I have been amazed at how much industry there is.  Factories and manufacturing plants, engineering firms and machinery plants galore in virtually every town we go past. We have stayed away from motorways where we can so we can get a true flavour of the landscape and I have been impressed.  The other observation from the towns and cities we have stopped in has been the great care shown for the look of things.  Even supermarkets are carefully designed and arranged with little design touches in the lighting etc.  The public spaces in Nantes where immaculately presented.  I am looking forward to a few days around Bordeaux to explore the area a little as I expect more of the same and hopefully, we can take in some art (and wine) too.

I guess I can’t end this letter without broaching the question of politics back home.  I am still doing my twitter accounts though this first week away, I hope you can forgive me, but I have taken a little step back as a mini holiday.  I was shocked and disappointed that Labour decidedto go for a general election after members of the shadow cabinet stood on thatstage on Saturday 19th October in London and, as my friend described it, kissed our arses.  They promised they would support a referendum, that we inspired them to fight, but here we are instead, worrying about a general election.  I guess that was taken out of our hands and it’s hard not to be angry. 

But as always, we must face things as they are.  There is only one question for me which is important when deciding on tactical voting, well two really.  What is the candidate’s personal pledge on Brexit and how do we keep the pro Brexiters out of the seat?  That’s the most important thing, get the Remain Candidate in, keep the Brexit-at-all-Costs candidate out regardless of party politics.  Some of us may have to hold our noses and set aside our anger and irritation with politicians who promised us support but let us down at the 11th hour.  

At the end of the day we were hampered by 19 labour MPs and umpteen daft Tory MPs absolutely determined to ignore the Remain movement and actual facts.  Well I have news for them, there was a million of us on the streets of London on the 19th of October.  We did that.  We organised that.  We have a nationwide network of seasoned and now very experienced activists, passionate about our cause.  We have been up against it from the start but let’s see what we can achieve with a massive effort to get our vote out, get the young vote registered and out and get Remain or Pro Peoples Vote MPs into the house of commons speaking for the growing remain majority in the UK.  Remember, like my silly bicycle tumble at the start of this trip, when we started this #Remain journey together, we were laughed at.  Nobody is laughing at us now as on this Halloween we celebrate our THIRD Not-Leaving-the-EU Day within the last 12 months.  Happy Not Leaving the EU day everybody. 

Yours

@redalphababe

A Life in Business, Tomb Raider and Brexit – Revisited

I wrote this in August 2018. Not a great deal has changed. We are still in the EU and long may it continue. For many people it is already too late. businesses have moved. $1 trillion is leaving Britain because of Brexit. I personally know good people who have already lost their jobs and are struggling to get work in the supply chains for the automotive industry. I know people who have sold up or retired because they just can’t face the coming storms. I wrote this to give you some understanding of what it is like to run a small business and updated some information on the numbers of businesses in the UK from the Governments statistics. It’s interesting to note that numbers HAVE dropped since 2017.

I sometimes think a life in business is like playing Tomb Raider.  It’s a strange analogy, I know.  Having spent more hours than I should have sneaking onto my son’s computer in the noughties there are some similarities so bear with me whilst I try to explain my logic.

When you start, the first couple of levels seem easy.  You are well signposted, there are plenty of instructions, there’s lots of information available to guide you and give you some clues about which direction to explore in.  You can, if you have been cautious, afford a few false starts before you have fully committed yourself heart and soul into the game ahead.  Most importantly, you get a huge buzz out of every problem you solve and feel happy as you work your way up, around and through and over all the obstacles towards your goal.

It’s not long before you get on to the harder levels.  There are fewer pointers here. You have an idea of where you want to go but in the words of Oasis, “all the roads we have to walk are winding, and all the lights that lead us there are blinding “.   Every new level brings with it unfamiliar territory. The problems are harder to solve, the obstacles trickier. There are sabre toothed tigers and baddies with pistols around the corner threatening to end your game. Along the way you acquire new skills and weapons.  You make mistakes you lose a life you try again having learned from your mistakes.  But here is where the analogy departs for a while because suddenly your business is your life, it has become  almost your entire life and now you are immersed the consequences of the decisions you must make are very real.   

I am not an academic or an expert or an economist.  All I can offer are my personal thoughts having been a co-director of a small business for 20 years.  In fact, I have been involved in small businesses since I left university in the late 80s.  During all those years we have seen many things. I have experienced dealing with bailiffs at the door and conversely been in the fortunate position of being able to help when others were at a similar low point. There have been times when we had to sell everything we could to help us through cash flow squeezes or borrowed heavily on credit cards to make month end and times when making money was easy and we have been able to happily reinvest in the business to expand and move it forward.  We have had the privilege of building a team of people who do their best for us every day. We have been able to borrow to invest and taken many risks and chances, always calculated but sometimes dicey even so.  Some paid off some did not.  This is life. We make decisions, some are right, some are wrong, some work out, some not so much.  Just as in a computer game though, we only have so many business lives.  Unlike Lara, we can’t reboot and replay the game once all our chances have gone. 

Here is the thing I have learned.  However stable a business is, nearly all companies are really only 3 to 6 months away from annihilation.  From time to time paperwork will cross my desk from a liquidator winding up a customer or supplier and I always notice the same thing.  The implosion after the crisis point is pretty dramatic and rapid.  

There are several reasons why a crisis can occur.  Bang – a change in government policy.  Slap – a loss of an important contract. Biff  – the most profitable product is now out of fashion.  Punch – a miscalculation of stock.  Crash – a sudden dramatic move in currency exchange rates. Kick – a rise in interest rates when over-borrowed.  Zap – a stupid misjudgement on an expansion plan.  

This is not an exhaustive list but any of these things can happen to any SME with fatal consequences for their business.  The liquidators move in.  Suppliers switch to self-protect mode.  All the value everyone thought was there ebbs away and dissipates like Lara’s energy bar, as the customer base drifts off to competitors, stock is marked down, customers find reasons not to pay their outstanding bills and the accountants and bankers who make their living out of the dead bones of SMEs take their cut.  Long standing contacts distance themselves uncomfortably, embarrassed to admit a superstitious fear that failure could be catching.   I look at the updates from these liquidators and I shake my head with sorrow as it could be any of us.  I doubt I am the only one who sees it this way. 

So you see, the life of a small business is  fragile.  We plan, we build reserves, we look at the prevailing conditions, the things out of our control, and we try to make sensible decisions, we hedge against our vulnerabilities where we can, we look for opportunities to get ahead and hope they pay off.  Here is where I come around in a roundabout way to Brexit.  The fragility of SMEs means we are heading for some extremely difficult times with Brexit looming. Remember my list of potential obstacles?  Well for a proportion of the 5.7million SMEs and even some of the large businesses, Brexit, any flavour of Brexit on the menu, will mete out a number of those blows simultaneously.  The companies affected won’t so much be rolling with the punches as knocked unconscious before they have had a chance to even buy gloves.  We could do some contingency planning, we are doing what we can, but when there is a finite amount of time and resource and personnel we need to know roughly what we are planning for otherwise we may as well just buy a lottery ticket.  

If you voted Leave, you – yes I do mean each and every one of you –  have helped to put my business in harm’s way, but not just mine.  A great many SMEs will face existential challenges because of a direct effect on their EU sales, disruption in the supply chain, an increase in their input costs or less directly because of a downturn, which will most definitely come, leading to cuts in their customers spending in the short to medium term.  2 years on and I still have not seen a convincing reason which explains why we are voluntarily following this insane path.  There is no benefit to me and mine, my staff or my business and after asking the question multiple times, nobody credible has ever been able to cite a specific example of a benefit to my business or my life.

My partner and I are both from working class backgrounds, we started out with no contacts and no capital but lots of bravado.  Over the years we have adapted, diversified  and changed our business model to suit changing business environments.  We have battled and fought and sought the tenacity we needed to keep ourselves in the game.  We have reinvested our profits, taken chances, learned from our errors, some of them bad ones.  Some days I look at the uncertainties ahead and the idea of giving up, selling what we can and going away somewhere regardless of the consequences crosses my mind for a moment.  But I know we are not quitters and we will fight on, one problem at a time, one obstacle at a time.  

For many in business however, Brexit might just become like one of the nightmarish corridors in Tomb Raider Level 20 with the jets of fire, a sword of Damocles and a giant boulder rolling behind. There will be too many obstacles coming together in too short a time to negotiate successfully and no amount of stockpiled medi-packs will get us through to the next level.  Don’t be surprised if some players decide to just quietly turn the computer off and take up yoga.