Mixedmatt's Mixed Blog From London to Brussels, Mixedmatt spices up your world :)


My constant curiosity


I've found more and more out about myself this past year. One thing in particular is my constant curiosity.

Ever found yourself wanting to know how a nuclear power station functions, the differences between diesel and electric trains, why a suspension bridge is used over a standard type of bridge, why society is ordered in a particular way in different places? I have and I've been more open and accepting of the fact that I am so curious. In the past, I would have hidden away this fact about myself. Almost like I'd be ashamed of my differences.


But yep, I don't care now. I don't watch a ton of films or read novels much. If that makes me boring. So be it :)

Peace all,

RIP to all those lost in the dreadful attacks in Paris on 13/11/15

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Hull to see the girlfriend :)

Last week I went up North to Hull to see the girlfriend! :)

Yep, Everyone I have a girlfriend. Her names Abi. She's beautiful, caring, kind and just all round amazing. She lives up North in Hull. I've never been there previously so it was lovely exploring the city and being with my girl. A shame it was wet the first day and a bit chilly.

It was a magical day, in fact a magical few days. The Humber Bridge was spectacular to see and it was beautiful walking the foreshore hand in hand.

The sad part was leaving. When I wanted to just stay with her but it's her birthday this weekend and she's coming to Enfield for the first time! I don't have much to say this time, I'm pretty lost for words (these past few months have been amazing). So, here are the pics of the few days.

Pictures of last week in Hull

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I've almost finished the First Chapter (China and the United States: Cooperation or conflict?) of my last ever module with the OU. I've just got to do the interactive parts (online) of the the first week.

Abie, you're amazing.
To our next heights, next week 😛


The British Public and the EU – Democracy

British and EU flag

Britain and the EU need each other.

It seems a significant proportion of the British public believe we should have a referendum to stay in the European Union.

I will try to answer these the best I can to the extent of my knowledge currently it's a work in progress as always.

What distresses me is the lack of any intelligent discourse when the subject (The European Union) is debated. This ranges from when the media interviews a member of public on TV or writes an article in a newspaper and let's just not even mention question time, responses range from; the EU is undemocratic, the EU is a gravy train and what we spend towards the EU budget is too large, and it robs nations of their sovereignty. To add to this, It seems the public still believe lots of the Euromyths that have been proven to be nothing more then myth!

Furthermore, many citizens in other nations (from what I've been seeing on social media) now view UK citizens as being uninformed, or trying to hang on to a lost notion of empire, and due to this have many come to the conclusion that the UK is a burden on the rest of the EU.

I also worry just how misinformed the populace are and their opinion on vital constitutional issues, it often decided by the media or fringe/protest political parties. Important policy decisions and constitutional changes seem to be more knee-jerkingly drawn up. Independent research and rational reason seems to have disappeared.

Put the choice to the people they say.

The people have a choice at the ballot box. To vote for a anti-EU party such as UKIP (we can hardly call them Eurosceptic, more anti-Euro?) or vote for liberal democrats for example. Its how our representative system works and its how representative democracy has worked for hundreds of years. We seem to have a proportion of people who believe that unless a referendum is called on such issues there is no democratic choice. Do people now think we should implement direct democracy in this country then? Where a majority of decisions that affect the population is taken to the ballot box at regular referendums? Like the Swiss semi-representative model? Does the general public know the advantages/disadvantages of a direct system or more direct model of democracy?

I'm generally against this form of direct democracy which is often slow. Another drawback are the effects if the population not understanding what they are balloting for clearly enough (voter ignorance), financial imbalance can mess up outcomes, some issues are complex and thus cannot be reduced to a response as simple as yes or no, and question wording might mean the voter not being given the opportunity for their preferred option.

Representative democracy is not perfect but better then the alternatives. The politicians often don't seem it but they often are the people most qualified to take such decisions. We elect a party (the party leader is chosen by the party) that represents us and who have (hope :) ) qualified people to make decisions on our behalf

The EU is undemocratic.

As the only international government that has some element of democracy in the form of the EU parliament I find this statement odd in the least. To add, When did anyone have a vote on the founding of the UN?

I'm not saying that there is no democratic deficit. There is in the best of democratic parliaments and governmental systems.

Elections occur in every member state every 5 years. Some people on social media say this Jean-Claude Juncker, this Martin Schulz, we never voted for them. But they come through a similar party system as they do in the UK. The largest political group are the European People's Party (EPP) in the European parliament Jean-Claude Juncker was selected. How both democratic systems work is quite complex and I believe this is one stumbling point between the public as nobody really understands it. I confess, I don't understand the democratic system fully with regards to the EU, but it's something over the next few years I'll definitely understand more.

So, there is a democratic deficit. Just like at Westminster. Where we have a unelected House of Lords, both systems have flaws. No government is perfect but if we want to reduce a democratic deficit shouldn't we look closer to home first? Westminster is archaic and out of date.

The problem I have with referendums is that they quite often slow down any good governance. The vocal few never are often not satisfied and continue to push for another/other referendums. The method of direct governance has it's pitfalls, and I don't think some have been entirely thought through in the past few years.

The UK still faces the possibility of a breakup of the Union in the near future (popularity of the SNP) and calls of another referendum will be on the cards as to whether Scotland should stay in years to come. The very dynamics of the country have changed with elements of direct democracy. Britain a place once known for stable politics within Europe is looking rather different (more like Belgium!), it needn't be a bad thing though.

There is much more I have to say on this subject (as I do so many!). I'm always open to debate or expansion of points. Please leave a comment below. You can sign in using Facebook/Twitter or register for an account on my blog.

(Published from my iPhone)

Hope you all had a good summer :)


Nearly the end of French A1.1

Almost at the end of French A1.1!

Almost at the end of French A1.1!

Nearly the end of French A1.1!
Fast approaching the end of my French course. Lots more to go if I am to reach fluency.

Having started out not entirely new to the French language, after 12+ years since my last lesson in the subject, I've recalled most things pretty well. I'm still however disappointed by my lack of outside work. I generally complete most of the homework (Les devoirs), however, more often than not I feel that I could do more outside practice. The intentions are there, I started duolingo but have not really kept on top of it (really should do a little a day).

It's not so much self-motivation because I've been able to self-motivate throughout my open university degree.

I think it's more a case of sheer burnout! I've been intensively studying and writing assignments/projects since October 2014! Even now I'm planning to write an Economics project off my back outside of university.

So, maybe this month and a bit coming up of total nothingness, is really what I need to recharge these batteries that are really running low. I plan on spending the time to meet people who I haven't yet, or have neglected, sorry all! The faces and individual personalities of those people I talk to and love are what will help me recharge! I'm really am looking forward to seeing you all as I promised. I'm grateful to have so many of you amazing people occupying my life :)

Another thing I need to fix is my dreadful sleep pattern. Which has probably contributed to my lack of organisation/motivation towards the end of this course. Don't get me wrong. I'm extremely motivated by the French language/culture and I'm hugely committed to the end goal (leaving the UK) but my insomnia is affecting me negatively.

Overall, it's been positive for me learning through the Institut. I'm grateful to have met so amazing people on this course. Many of whom are multi-lingual. I need to now take advantage of my membership once the course has ended.

For anyone thinking of studying French with the Institut Français I say this, do it! It's a steep learning curve. Nearly all communication in lessons is done in French but to good reason (you learn quicker). If you don't understand just ask there are no silly questions, the teacher will often aid you with a charade. The benefits you get being a member of the Institute are second to none. You have access to the French cinema (inc two free tickets) and La Médiathèque (the largest French library in the UK) as well as the online library. You can read many French newspapers free of charge online such as Le Monde etc through EuroPresse. Don't forget the discount you get at Le Bistrot! Who can resist tasty French food especially at discounted prices if you are a member.

I'm looking to expand my French contacts (people) so if to you know French people who want to brush up on English, or just in general please send them my way :)

Till next time... peace :mrgreen:


Death of Jules Bianchi

The death of Jules Bianchi came as a major shock to me.
He had been someone I had followed through the lower categories and right up to Formula one.

He died after 9 months in Hospital after his accident in Suzuka, Japan. I don't want to remember the grand prix really or add any opinions into the accident. I just want to say rest in peace in Jules and what a top driver you were. Your friends and family have lost someone so dear, we have lost a future grand prix winner and Formula 1 champion.

Jules Bianchi's Funeral

Jules Bianchi's Funeral

One thing I do hope comes from this is that people will stop forever stating that F1 is not dangerous enough. There have been many comments like this in the past few years from both drivers and fans. Which I have always thought as being throughly ridiculous.

I purchased the autosport last week. It was dedicated to Jules. His rise through the ranks of karting, GP2 to Formula 1.

Autosport on the death of Jules

Autosport on the death of Jules

Today, Jules would have been 26. How tragic that is :(

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Brussels for the nth time :)

Brussels for the nth time :) - My return for the day on Tuesday 16th June 2015.

It's nice to be back in Brussels as always. Even if I found it extremely tiring (got back at 10:30pm after my French lesson the Monday) then had to be up extremely early as I booked an earlier Eurostar train then usual, up at 5:30am. Then kind of ran out of places to go, not enough time, and too tired to think. There are tons more places in the city that I have not even explored yet, but they can't be done in a day. I will only do a max of two more visits this year before saving up for the future.

In terms of University news. I was extremely disappointed that the Open university stopped graduation ceremonies in Versailles. Very, very upset about this. I was so looking forward to it. It was going to be one of the highlights of my 2016. So now, it's not to be. I'm still not sure of the reasoning behind it. It seems a tad opaque. The OU cited costs, how much would they have needed to charge to make it profitable? Could it have had anything to do with government funding? I've been local for a way to become more vocal on this issue. Below is the letter sent by the OU to students. Is it just me who finds the explanation a bit hazy? :(

Letter from the OU about the withdrawal of Versailles as a place of graduation.

So, here are a few videos that I took of my trip to Brussels. Enjoyed my time there even if it was just a day!

My images of that week are below, they are in random order.

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Lastly, Rest in Peace to all those killed in terror attacks worldwide. Good and freedom will always prevail. Also, sad to hear of the tragic events in Belgium that killed a coach driver, and left many injured schoolchildren and teachers from Brentwood, Essex.


Getting Frenchified

Getting Frenchified - A new term that's happily happening to me.

The first week (re)learning French has been exciting for me. I've lost a lot of what I thought I knew but also remembered quite a bit. Feel quite positive at the moment, I've only had two lessions so far my next one will be today (later in the evening).

Last week Monday, I was nervous about getting started with my first French lesson. Whilst waiting on the platform at Southbury (my local) station I heard a Belgian girl talking about Belgium with her companion. I got talking with her and she mentioned that she was from Flanders and how I would like Vilvoorde if I go to Brussels. I would have liked to speak to her more but didn't get her name or number!

Anyway, I'm determined to get more involved in French culture, aka getting Frenchified. I've been given a great opportunity by the Institut Français who have given me a free year membership along with my study of the language. I want to meet French people, talk French and feel more comfortable talking French. Right now, I don't have the confidence to talk French to people (in particular natives) except for a couple that I am really comfortable with. I've kind of become involved with meetup.com, to meet and socialise with more French speakers. I'm also interested in socialising with Belgian people in London more. Going to try and find groups and people that I can meet :)

Regarding the Institut Français, I aim to make use of the cinema. To watch French films, The prime one is Timbuktu at the moment and its subtitled so should help. I also want to explore other ways of connecting with French people and getting involved with French culture there. If anyone can suggest other ways in which I could get more Frenchified please comment.

I've got to work on my numbers, and French grammer a little more. My pronounciation is not too far off.

I've met a French girl that lives just outside of London. She's pretty cool and it's interesting getting to know her. Hoping to see her some more :)

This week in images

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I also ended up eating indian food at a restaurant for the first time that I can remember last week Friday. No snaps unfortunately.

Edit: I started writing this on Monday 15th and only published it on the 19th! I went to Brussels again on the 16th and so I will make a seperate post about my journey. Pics and videos to come! It's been a hectic few weeks for me. Bit unusual and I'm not coping! :)

Out of interest I need some business cards. I have a very basic design, could do with a little tweaking but simple is best and all that. They are going to be used for a wide range of purposes from professional job app to more informal encounters. If you a designer please comment below or mail me using the contact form.

I'm also thinking of writing a Economic paper (my second after my university report) about the Economics of developing countries focusing on the continent of Africa. If I do, the paper would be published and released here.


What I’ve been up to..

Studying French to C2 level.

Studying French to C2 level.

I've enrolled onto my French course for the summer. The aim is to learn French right up to C2 (Fluency). I'm excited, and start on the 8th June. So, next week! I'll also be in Brussels in two weeks, so, a lot to look forward to.

Today, I also officially completed my project for DD309 with the Open University. I will be driving up to Milton Keynes to hand it in on Tuesday morning (tomorrow). It's all been printed and bound, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears.. well not entirely true but almost! 😉

I've enjoyed this module immensely my tutor has been great. Assisting me through Skype/Email and face to face at our session at the London School of Economics. The project involved huge amounts of research regarding Environmental Economics and Carbon Trading. I'll never look at the European Emissions trading scheme in the same light again.

On the way, I learnt so many things about how the EU operates. From using their direct line service (for help on EU matters) and Email. All of which delivered exactly what I needed. I feel that like most things regarding governance most of the information and is there if you ask for it.

I've also become more aware of how deeply important the environment is to us as a public good. Not just due to climate change, but the air we breathe, the views we enjoy. The things we can't make excludable and struggle to protect. In conclusion, I found the EU ETS did assist with reducing emissions but only by a marginal amount and it maybe a little too early to say we collected any meaningful data. As the ETS has only been running 10 years. Environmental policies tend to take many years and not show improvements in short or even the medium-run. Many weaknesses within the EU carbon trading system can be solved by EU policymakers (which I will reveal in another blog post when I have my results back 😉 ).

It's been incredible this module and I want to thank friends (some who are no longer with me), close family for the support. It's been tricky at times to self-motivate myself. Many times I'd have a beer and watch question time doing little else. My degree is not over but it's been an amazing journey so far and I feel everyone in my life is part of it. I'm so lucky to have you all. So, thank you!

My Pictures of the Month are below

Few notes: EMA stands for end of module assignment it's basically my project for my Economics module. The intimate relations thing is an economic valuation I guess! How much time we spend and the net effect of those things, Got a few vanity shots... I don't often go vain but I thought I'd go against the grain a little. And protect the NHS, our human rights might be disappearing but can we at least protect that? Too bad the tories got in.

My blog may be down at various points over the next month. It really needs an overhaul a nice new theme, it needs to be mobile/tablet friendly (hint, hint can anyone help in any way? :) ).

Also, I'm taking action to address why the blog is slow loading. The database has pretty big over the years. I know the comment feature is not working properly for all readers. I'm trying to fix that too.

Whilst reading I was listening to:

Danke, Merci, Thank you


The Environment and the EU

The Environment and the EU

Climate Action is needed.

Climate Action is needed.

Many people have asked me why do we need regional or world governance at all. Apart from the diplomatic, trade, economic benefits (not just economics in terms of financial, social, welfare etc) but a properly governed regional/world government can provide change and action for the most important category of them all.

The Environment

Care of the Environment is no longer confined to a few tree huggers but has become a major international concern. Climate change is real and the years we have lived through from the year 2000 are proof of that.

We just had the warmest year on record (2014). A second typhoon in a year just battered the Philippines with enormity (though you could argue it's not directly linked). Climate change isn't new and has happened in the history of this planet before, but never has it been down to mankind as it has been since the industrial revolution began. We have been unlocking carbon stored underground and pumping it directly out into the atmosphere (along with CFCs and other gases). Yet, We have some that still deny whether climate change is happening. This isn't a post of whether climate change is or isn't happening however. It's about the environment, keeping the air we breath clean, the seas we fish in clean, the rivers we fish in clean, our existence and that of many species safe.

Why national governments can't succeed with Environmental policy

National governments are often short sighted. It's not their fault as most governments serve a term of 5 years. The focus will always be on the next election. The Environment requires very long term commitments and not short-run policy patches.

This is where regional or world governance can come in. The UN is not restrained by terms or the slow speed of democracy in this case. The EU does have a democratic parliament so can be restricted in terms of speed. In acting to form policy. Some issues which national governments have are not present at EU or international level.

But Climate Change will only effect other continents

Well, this isn't the case (and stop being so selfish if you think that's the case!) "A recent paper produced by the Climate Action Network highlights the impacts of climate change on Europe, of which Oxfam is focusing on the food and agriculture aspect of the report. With projected agricultural outputs expected to decrease 2% each decade for the next century in a world where food demand is set to increase by 14% in the same period, it is time for climate impacts on food security – inside and outside Europe – to be brought onto the agenda." As agriculture represents 3.5% of the 28 Member state European Unions GDP and employs 17 million people it would be one of the hardest hit sectors and this is what the Oxfam source recognises.

We have seen yields in Europe decrease this year due to a change in climate (regardless of whether it's a one-off or the beginning of a pattern). I talk of the Olive yield this year which is down on years previous, due to drought.

How far should things be left to the market to resolve?

It's a normative question and the answer to this may depend on a persons politics. Politicans on the right would tend to favour a lesser degree of intervention (a more hands of approach) those on the left generally would prefer intervention.

The EU uses 'cap and trade' principle. The EU Emissions trading scheme is in it's third phase.

Note: I've decided to make this a living post and will update accordingly (in the post or comments below). I chose to do this mainly as I don't have much time now not even to proof-read. I'm doing a project in my Economics module, focusing on Environmental Economics. I hope I can provide more of an insight into this subject area (and be able to explain whats in my head with clarity!) more then! I'll update this often once I've completed my project :)

Sources: Image and quotations courtesy of - Oxfam


Here just about!

I'm still here all. Just got smelly dissertation/projecty thingy :(

I got some new posts planned soon. On me and politics. Gotta stay tuned..

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