Send this man a birthday greeting, please

Thanks.

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Landlords…

Never had any problems with landlords in the Netherlands. Never.

Had three in Florida. The first and the third were fine, but the second one was not and his attorney was rumoured to have mafia ties, I kid you not. But I heard that later. I think it was actually a legal aid lawyer who told me that who I talked with later, long after I’d moved out and his lawyer started pestering me. I’ll spare you the details.

My third landlord was the husband of the person I volunteered with on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. (He was a builder, built huge places, the way they are in Florida. Nice guy. I think he was in the US Army for a while, and they lived in places like Morocco. ) She stopped by one day – to bring me two birds – and was appalled and suggested I move in to one of their places. They owned a small apartment building that was mostly used by snowbirds (people from for example Canada who take winter vacations in Florida).

Some time later, I moved to Britain.

In Southampton, I knew several landlords. (Only one of them was mine.)

One said that only educated people were decent human beings, and I was too shocked to respond. He called tenants who rang him because the washing machine or heating wasn’t working (properly) “bad tenants”. This was not my own landlord, but someone I met within a business context and was friendly with for a while. Wasn’t actually a bad guy at all, strangely enough.

I also knew one who proudly told me how he had tricked an elderly woman with beginning Alzheimer’s out of her flat, I kid you not.

On another occasion, the same guy was talking with me about a new building he was constructing and then added that it did not have to be very good “as it is only for tenants”.

In Portsmouth, I’ve met two who dump rubbish on other people’s front courts and patios. I caught one red-handed and the other one admitted it.

I have principles.

If I can help make things better for people who come after me who are less strong in some way – okay, except physically as I am getting old and I am feeling it – I will try to do that. And that baffles the hell out of (most) Brits. But that is not my problem.

In-groups, out-groups, empathy, altruism, parochialism and disparity – but not necessarily hate

However, it can come across like that on the disadvantaged side of exclusive solidarity:

The Neuroscience of Hate: Rebecca Saxe from Petrie-Flom Center on Vimeo.

I find this talk very enlightening, also with regard to my own situation as a migrant in the UK. I will have to do some thinking about how I can apply this knowledge.

What Rebecca Saxe calls parochialism, I call exclusive solidarity (as opposed to inclusive solidarity). Rebecca Saxe’s talk also explains that scarcity – imagined or real, as opposed to having an abundance mindset – causes it. Parochialism. When you’re afraid that there won’t be enough for all, you will only want to look after your own.

In connection with this topic, this book by Kathleen Taylor, another neuroscientist, is very enlightening as well:

 

Stigmas

In my latest course, I also talk about stigmas, including the fact that I unsuspectingly became burdened with at least five stigmas after I moved from Amsterdam to England. It’s shocked and hampered me greatly, and it also taught me a lot.

My most embarrassing moments in this respect?

Finding myself wanting to emphasize that I am not eastern European “or something like that”.

Because even worse than being seen as a migrant was being seen as a migrant from eastern Europe “or something like that”, when I was living in Southampton.

“I am not one of them. I am one of you, I am one of us.”

I still cringe when I think back to it.

Nobody is immune to the destructive self-perpetuating power of a stigma.

 

The UK and women – setting it straight

Most Many Brits despise women – and I am correcting that view, the idea that women deserve nothing but contempt. (I can dream!)

The past few days, I have been going around telling women that they should be proud of themselves, that they’re human beings, not punching bags or trash, as most have been told most of their lives.

I have also reminded a few men of the fact that Britain is officially the world’s most (openly) hostile place for women and asked a few to teach their sons not to beat up on women. (Figuratively and/or literally.)

Some observations follow.

      • A very impressive young woman along Kingston Road took out her earbuds to listen, told me that she works in the military, locally. Her male colleagues treat her like she’s a 5-year-old. Her digital skills are likely a thousand times better than theirs – in view of what she does – but they have dicks and, hey, that is all that matters, in Britain. She also said that nobody here talks with anybody. That was the first thing she said, actually. (True! People here mainly communicate through violence, deception and threats.)

She told me to “keep fighting”. She does not let any of it get to her, she said. She meant it, I could see that and she impressed the hell out of me. Hats off to her! But she fully agreed that Britain is horrible in this respect, that women are seen as less than men and as having to be subservient to men. Her I wanted to hug and give a protective yet also very impressive superwoman cloak that she can wear all her life. (It does not need to be visible, such a cloak.)

She made my day, but I also felt very sad for the abuse she has to take while at work. I should add that when I addressed her, I was mainly still fuming over the relentless and immensely destructive abuse I have experienced myself, as a female professional and business owner in Britain.

Continue reading

If you want to know what Britain is like under the shiny layer of gloss

In many other countries, Britain’s shiny layer of gloss or deceptive image of the “prim, proper and demure” or soft and gentle is accepted as WYSIWYG. But Britain is not WYSISYG. The great Brexit entertainment show surely has made many people abroad cotton on by now. This is Britain as usual, well, most of the time.

Want another example?

People who do not have the British nationality can be grabbed anywhere and at any time, to be locked up indefinitely, for no good reason at all, often making them lose their jobs and homes, even those who’ve been here for fifty years or longer, and sometimes leaving them without documentation/passports (if the Home Office keeps it).

People – Brits – are locked up because they protested peacefully, against fracking or against deportation. And for many years it has already been the case that if Britons show up at a demonstration anywhere, their mere presence can get them into a police file and often tracked and hassled wherever they go in Britain after that. (There’ve been court cases related to the latter. That’s how I know.)

Here is a film about that part of Britain.

You can see what a farce this is because if they really had been considered terrorists, they would have been held on remand, not been left free to roam the country.

They wouldn’t have been allowed to leave the court after the verdict either.

This is about nipping protest in the bud, just like the food bank organizations and the BBC have gotten whistled back to heel so often.

For me, it is heart-warming and so encouraging to see that people like the Stansted 15 exist in Britain.

You see how gutted they are after the verdict. That, that alone, was the aim of this farce. To whip the souls of British citizens back into obedience to the state.

Creepy.

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Asperger’s in practice

I have no experience with autistic people – as far as I know – and have been trying to develop some understanding, very slowly. I just ran into a top artist with Asperger’s and this documentary seems to show a lot of how it works in practice.

People thought she had brain damage. People thought “she couldn’t do much”. People kept telling her that.

The funny thing is that the Asperger’s makes her a “better” or talented artist. It is why she makes audiences cry. That and her musical professionalism.

(I did not know much about her, no, had never watched anything before, other than one short video clip once. I watched another one this evening in which someone talked about her emotional connection to the songs.)

Human diversity occurs along a very broad spectrum, with lots of overlap and variation, and there is still so much we don’t know about that. And all the minuses seem to come with their own pluses, one way or another.

A story about a concentration camp or two

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Britain has a bunch of them too. And people can be in them indefinitely. Kinda like at Guantánamo Bay. An American concentration camp on an island in the Caribbean.

Shit.

The Netherlands used to have them too. (No longer, I think.) When I was still living in Amsterdam, a fire tore through one of them.

Criminalization of brain-based health conditions

Here we see how a young woman’s mental health crisis got her into handcuffs and in front of a judge for having inconvenienced the public.

Police criminalized this woman. That’s how stigmas work.

Now compare that situation with that of, say, a pregnant woman whose waters break in the middle of a supermarket? Or hey, who cramps while driving a car on the way to the hospital, skids, spins and ends up blocking traffic?

If police did not discriminate, the latter woman should be handcuffed and dragged in front of a judge as well.

Would police do that?

And what would police do with a woman who ends up in a diabetic crisis while travelling on public transport?

Or with anyone daring to have a heart attack in public?

 

Overweight air hostesses

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/pakistan-international-airlines-cabin-crew-weight-memo-intl/index.html

Ah, this rings bells too. In 1979 and in 1980 and 1981 or thereabouts, I applied to a few airlines. My mother had always told me I might want to become an air hostess because you get to speak a few languages and get to see a bit of the world that way.

I applied three times and I got three interviews. I think it was December 1980 when I was in a deadhead seat on a flight to Frankfurt. Yes, it must have been December, indeed, because I remember that there was a Christmas market at the airport. There was snow too. It was after my season at Amsterdam’s Tourist Office.

Upon arrival, we were all told to step onto a scale. I normally weighed myself in my underwear. My home scale said my weight was 58 when I sent in my application forms. I was now asked to step onto the scale wearing a blouse, a winter sweater, a lined tweed jacket, a scarf and a heavy lined plaid and pleated winter skirt. Their scale said my weight was 60 or 61. I remember that one guy’s weight was 5 kilos more than his application form had said.

While all of us candidates were in a room at a table, being addressed, the door opened and I was removed from the room. They told me that the weight I had listed on the form had not matched what their scale had said and that I was out of the process.

They treated me like a criminal.

I swore that I would never fly with that airline again from that day (but I relied on them to take me home again).

The guy with the 5 kilo discrepancy got to stay.

In retrospect, it was a good experience because I am pretty sure that I would not have enjoyed being an air hostess at all. Well, for a while, but not for long. Too many aspects about it, certainly in those days, that I would not have liked at all. But I didn’t know that then.

I am five foot seven, by the way.

Peace

It helps tremendously if you can VISUALIZE brain-related conditions for which other people tend to assign blame and make remarks such as that one should be able to grow out of it, admit it and seek help for it, and what have you.

It appears that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) simply lack part of the brain in which empathy is created (though it is not the only part of the brain that is related to empathy, apparently). If you can’t feel empathy for others, you cannot feel empathy for yourself either.

That explains the usual Catch-22 aspects of the condition.

This could also mean that/why people with NPD rely on notably empaths to “create” empathy for them. Symbiosis.

(People with NPD, by the way, lack emotional empathy, not cognitive empathy, apparently, according to a 2010 paper from the same research group.)

So, yes, the brains of people with NPD are wired differently. They did not ask for this, so stop blaming them. Look for what is good in them, and embrace that instead.

They’re like, hey, albinos. Or hey, people who go grey prematurely. Not their fault.

They’re like giraffes that people insist are, say, antelopes.

Or, like I wrote before, table lamps of which we demand that they change themselves into coffee makers.

Let go of it… All the frustration etc. It’s futile.

They are right. They are special. It’s part of the neurodiversity we have on the planet. (The brain is a miraculous thing!)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23777939

Now I am done waffling about narcissists in a rather chaotic manner. Continue reading

Happy New Year

This makes a very good New Year’s resolution. Go find the beauty in people. It may be easy to see the ugly in people, but seeing the ugly in people makes nobody happy.

Everyone has beauty.

Once you start seeing that, you’ll likely also start to feel a lot better, about people and about life in general.

Zen says that it is the label we attach to things – whether something is good or bad – that causes a lot of hurt for us, because if something is considered bad, we cannot feel good about it and so it hurts us. Is this an easy thing to do, to let go of such labels, of such judgements? Hell no, but it can help you a lot at times.

And if you can’t do it, simply focus on something else.

Here is a personal experience that I would like to share with young people because it may be useful to them. When I was younger, I used to watch in amazement how slow some slightly older people were, and I mistook it for mental slowness. Now that I am older too, I have learned that it merely has to do with eye sight. it is hard to, say, quickly grab a certain coin from your purse at the supermarket checkout if you can barely discern the coins.

(I am near-sighted, and I had to peek from under my glasses to be able to see the coins when I started getting older because with my glasses on or contacts in, my near sight was no longer as good as it once was and I could hardly take my glasses off or remove my contacts at the supermarket… It really annoyed me, but hey, that’s life. I want to try double-focus contacts one day.)

Once you realize little things like this, life becomes more enjoyable.

Older adults are undoubtedly often perceived as much slower than they actually are. They are often already labelled as slow before they’ve even done a thing, and will often be quickly moved out of the way, literally or figuratively speaking, just in case they turn out to be slow.

How do I know that? Another prejudice, in practice. Women are generally perceived as talking constantly. But when you record and analyse how men and women talk, then it turns out to be men who do the yack-yacking, not women.

If a python can carry toads on its back in a flood, and a cat can have its kittens in the same dog house in which a dog is having her pups (see earlier post), then labels about dangerous pythons and cats and dogs not getting along start to disappear:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/video_and_audio/must_see/46720030/australian-cane-toads-hitch-ride-on-python-s-back

Reality is more nuanced than good and bad, black and white, either/or.

THIS I want to share!

There are many resources out there, including by clinical psychologists, who make you feel that you are a complete idiot if your natural tendency is to take the gentle approach of decency and goodness if there is someone in your life who has a narcissistic personality disorder.

Let’s face it, most of us know nothing about personality disorders, so if you find yourself the target of “sadistic stalking” which happened to me or whatever it is that happened to you that made you look into narcissistic personality disorder and then recognize it (it’s how I realized that I have a friend on the other side of the world who has this disorder), you will find that there is no one to advise you and the only thing you have – besides your own inner compass – is what you find on the web. And a lot of that information is, well, crap, practically speaking.

NOBODY chooses to have a personality disorder and if there is one mental health condition that I think the people who have it would do almost anything for NOT to have it, it’s narcissistic personality disorder, because it is my impression that life hurts almost all the time when you have that.

As mentioned, I have a long-time friend who has this disorder and after I began to understand that, and started reading up, I made mistakes. I became afraid of these people. Being afraid is silly. This mistake makes me feel very stupid, in hindsight, but hindsight is always 20/20.

So, don’t repeat my mistake if there is someone in your life who has narcissistic personality disorder.

(By the way, in Britain, people with this condition appear to be revered – and very very common. Why is that? This is something I will want to dive into, eventually. I suspect that Theresa May is a covert narcissist, for example, the way in which she lies, the complete lack of empathy and the way she acts all personally injured at times. Or is it just a public persona that she adopts, because it is revered in Britain?)

Continue reading

Also quintessentially British is this?

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A few years ago, I read a story about a man who was constantly being hassled by British police wherever he went. Turns out that he had once attended some kind of relatively innocent demonstration and that got him into a police data base that got his car or his face flagged wherever he went.

19 December 2018
Here is more: https://rightsinfo.org/mass-surveillance-in-londons-west-end/ (Mass Surveillance In London’s West End As Unmarked Police Vans Scan 18,000 People Per Minute)

Quintessentially British?

This, too: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/kicked-punched-knocked-unconscious-tipped-out-of-wheelchairs-campaigners-describe-repeated-police-targeting-of-disabled-anti-fracking-protesters/

It’s happened before, a few years ago, when people in wheelchairs and pensioners (off the top of my head) protested against their ability to travel being severely cut short. Police hit back hard.

Here is a link:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10922230/Video-shows-pensioner-protesting-against-cuts-to-free-travel-being-restrained-by-police.html

In both situations, people were knocked unconscious by police.

Another opinion

The key to our humanity isn’t genetic, it’s microbial

File 20181211 76977 1euccsw.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The microbes that live in our gut are essential to good health.
Alpha Tauri 3D Graphics/SHutterstock.com

Ian Myles, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

What if the key to perfecting the human species were actually … yogurt?

Continue reading

(My) human rights in Britain

The British (as a nation) tend to see themselves as the human rights champions of the world, and “foreign fucktards” as those who violate human rights.

That’s otherization, explains Kathleen Taylor in her book “Cruelty – Human evil and the human brain”. If only “foreign fucktards” commit human rights violations, it follows that you, therefore, don’t.

That it is okay to violate the human rights of “fucktards” (foreign or otherwise) is the other aspect of otherization. Think of the fact that any foreigner can be arrested and detained indefinitely in places like Yarl’s Wood, for example, or the British government deliberately pushing poor people and poor disabled and chronically ill people into even deeper poverty, even causing their deaths.

I took a look at my own human rights situation in Britain. (Okay, make that “Portsmouth” as I did have quite a few more human rights in daily practice when I was still living in Southampton.) This is what my life has more or less looked like for the past ten years.

Continue reading

Rights that protect against socioeconomic disadvantage are long overdue – the UK is already paying the price

File 20181207 128202 1wfuf2g.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Swingeing changes are overdue.
Peter Gudella/Shutterstock

Peter Roderick, Newcastle University and Allyson Pollock, Newcastle University

In 2018, two anniversaries and a crucial decision loom large in the UK. We saw in the 70th anniversary of the NHS in July, while December 10 marks the 70th birthday of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. On December 11, the UK parliament will also vote on the prime minister’s EU withdrawal deal. The coming together of health, human rights and Brexit, raises questions of huge practical and constitutional significance.

The recent UK visit of Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, highlighted the effects of government policies on austerity and universal credit. Life expectancy rises have stalled, infant and neonatal mortality rates have risen, and 4.5m children are living in poverty.




Read more:
Reality of poverty in Newcastle, England: UN examines effect of austerity


Human rights are constitutionally important in constraining what politicians and public bodies can do, and they can necessitate action. Government must not, for example, interfere with enjoyment of rights and must even prevent third parties, such as private companies, from doing so. In the UK’s system of parliamentary supremacy, human rights can always be taken away. But incorporating human rights into UK law – as the Human Rights Act (HRA) does with the rights to life, a fair trial, and the prohibition of torture, from the European Convention on Human Rights – makes this politically more difficult and controversial.

The HRA itself is not affected by Brexit because the law stems from the Council of Europe, a separate organisation to the EU.

However, Brexit will directly affect other rights. The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which includes many rights relevant to health and the social determinants of health, and the special emphasis in EU law on the rights of persons with disabilities, will no longer apply. Brexit would also allow parliament to downgrade, for example, the 24 EU-derived employment rights identified by the UK Court of Appeal.

Social rights

Legal recognition of children’s rights has certainly increased but, like general economic and social rights – such as the rights to health, to an adequate standard of living, including food and housing, to social security and to just and favourable working conditions – they have never been guaranteed in UK law as human rights. This is despite the UK having accepted UN treaties recognising these rights in 1976 and 1991, respectively.

Many of these rights were also accepted by the UK as long ago as 1962 in the Council of Europe’s European Social Charter. However, Colm O’Cinneide, former vice-president of the charter’s monitoring body, recently wrote that there were “substantial defects in how the fundamental social rights set out in the charter are implemented within [UK] national law and policy”, with “serious failings … which in some circumstances have persisted for decades”.

In England, a public sector duty to reduce inequalities that result from socioeconomic disadvantage – enacted in the final days of the Gordon Brown Labour government – has still not been brought into effect. Theresa May, when minister for women and equalities, described it in 2010 as “ridiculous”.

Scotland has a slightly better story to tell. The duty was brought into effect there from April 2018. The human right to social security was at least recognised as a principle in June 2018, and recommendations of the Scottish first minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights, due on December 10, are expected to suggest how social rights could be put into domestic law in the country.

The dismantling of the postwar welfare state, and outsourcing of health, social care, water and other public services to private companies has been an incremental process over several decades.

NHS: much valued by the public.
John Gomez/Shutterstock

Policies such as the private finance initiative have brought into sharp focus the transfer of wealth, degrading work conditions and the creation of a two-tier workforce. If economic and social rights had been put into UK law as human rights, then eroding the legal basis for ensuring the social determinants of health would have been much more difficult.

Entrenching these rights would be no panacea – and ultimately parliamentary supremacy would remain in place – but they would be both a check on how politicians and public bodies exercise their power, and would compel politicians to act. As Alston said, legislative recognition of social rights should be “a central part” of reimagining what the UK represents and how it protects its people post-Brexit. Seventy years is too long to have waited to deliver on the promises of the Universal Declaration. In a divided, alienated, backward-looking “austerity” Britain, the time has come to make good on social rights.The Conversation

Peter Roderick, Principal Research Associate, Newcastle University and Allyson Pollock, Professor of Public Health, Newcastle University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The whiter than white ivory towers

The BBC sent FOI requests to all 24 universities in the Russell Group of highly selective, research-based universities, and 22 responded.

At these universities, the data showed average salaries of:

£52,000 for white academics
£38,000 for black academics
£37,000 for academics from an Arab background

From: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46473269

Surrogacy

For a while, I’d been wanting to watch the documentary “Big Fertility“, by the Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC), which was released on 17 September 2018. I was mainly curious.

I finally got around to it today. I watched the puzzling trailer this morning – It’s all about the money – and it intrigued me so much that I rented the video from Vimeo.

This documentary features Kelly Martinez, her husband and the director of the CBC as well as Kelly’s doctor during her last surrogacy.

Kelly has earlier addressed the United Nations, as is mentioned in the documentary. This took place on 15 March 2017.

She also went to Spain. I found an article in Spanish newspaper El Pais of 24 February 2017 that mentions her and discusses the problem of gestational surrogacy. It’s not allowed in Spain, but that does not stop people who have lots of money.

My conclusions:
  • The issue of surrogacy needs to be resolved globally, and as soon as possible, as many others have been saying for a long time. Some surrogacies go fine, but many don’t – and the victims are often the babies, for example when they can’t travel from the countries in which they were born or when people who bought a pregnancy change their mind.
  • As Dr Diehl (Kelly’s doctor) explains in the documentary, physicians are currently left in limbo. They are faced with making decisions for which there is (often) no legal framework yet (depending on state/country), which can expose them to lawsuits. An example he gives is the situation that a surrogate does not want vaccinations, while the person who bought the pregnancy does.
  • If it were up to me, surrogacy would be banned altogether. Babies are not products. (Nobody knows what happened to the two boys Kelly produced during her third and final surrogacy.)
  • Thankfully, with the soon expected advent of artificial uteruses – incubation pods for embryos (yes, we will have something like this; there is no doubt in my mind about this and they’ve already been used successfully for sheep – the problem will disappear, at least as far as the surrogates are concerned and to some degree also as far as the babies are concerned.
  • I am reminded of Michael Sandel’s words about the effects of various practices on inclusive solidarity. What’s technologically possible is not by definition mandatory. It is not at all a matter of choosing between nature or science and technology, as some suggest.

I believe that truly altruistic cases or surrogacy will not be stopped by bans but it would curb the predominantly negative instances and effects of gestational surrogacy. In my own family, there is a case of one family giving one or their babies to another couple that could not conceive. It concerned two siblings and their spouses and happened many decades ago.

She’s GOOD!

She raps a poem she wrote to an Iranian-American student repeatedly tasered by police at a UCLA library when he did not want to show his ID when challenged, repeatedly tasered and then told to stand up again. (It was recorded on video.)

And she’s surprisingly good. It’s powerful.

This is 11 years old yet highly current.

When irrational fears on the side of police officers cause deaths, people sometimes get angry…

This concerns my home town of St. Petersburg in the US. I’d just left…

Tyron Lewis was an unarmed teenager. Of course he was black. Hence automatically considered dangerous. And shot. Killed.

I watched the news about it on TV from Amsterdam but for most people around me, it was just another Rodney King story that happened on the other side of the world. It did not concern them.

Particularly for young people (?), the internet – still in its infancy back then, with most people not even using e-mail – enabling like-minded strangers from all over the world to connect has changed this.

(Or has it?)

I knew from my own experiences in St. Petersburg that there were officers in St. Pete who were scared. For their own lives. Expecting the worst. (I once had to ask for police assistance when I came home and found my front door locked from the inside. Seemed a bit peculiar, best to take no risks and let the professionals deal with it. To my astonishment, the officers were much more scared and nervous than I was.)

This video has great sound. One of the reasons why I am posting it.

 

Highly interesting legal case!

Was this whistleblower’s sacking discrimination?

On paper, whistleblowers are often legally protected, but in practice, well, that’s a different story. Whistleblowers usually end up ruined. It takes guts to take a stand and also often sacrifice.

So a different approach is taken in this case. I shall be following this (to the extent that I can).

Sacked vegan claims discrimination:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46385597

‘No blacks, no dogs, no kids, no Irish’

Racism and other forms of discrimination in Britain in the 1960s. (Thanks to Theresa May, we’re now going back to this, with many landlords preferring not to rent to foreigners – to avoid prison.)

Read more: https://rightsinfo.org/racism-1960s-britain/