Monday, 4 April 2016

Panama papers leaked: the Guardian fingers Putin (though why just him?). Then there’s another few nights at the St Endellion festival and I wonder why I can’t simply settle for being middle-class. But sadly I can’t

I must immediately be honest about this entry and state that it has less to do with what I am writing and posting a blog entry and a little more to do with the fact that I acquired a Bluetooth keyboard a while ago when I bought my iPad Air and have never used it. So now I am using it to write this. I am sitting outside La Pappardella restaurant in London’s Earls Court (or, as some would have it, Earl’s Court - no one know which is correct, so that’s both or neither) where I have been coming for my Sunday supper - I only work a single shift on Sunday’s after getting up at the crack of dawn to drive to London and am thus the other side of fresh - and where I then go outside to enjoy a cigar and another glass of wine or a sambuca.

I was sitting here just now when my son messaged me and asked me whether I had heard of the ‘Panama paper leaks’. I hadn’t, so I looked them up, first on the BBC News website and then on the Guardian website. The saintly Guardian’s story is centred on Vladimir Putin, although the BBC states that many other former and current heads of state and prime minister are involved. Briefly, a law firm in Panama called Mossack Fonseca has been helping various folk fleece their countries and build up fortunes. Putin is, for example, said to be in it for $2 billion dollars.

Well, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of that over the coming days and weeks, so I shan’t blather on too much. But one thing I did tell my son was to look at the leak of the Mossack Fonseca documents in the round. By that I mean he should ask himself, as I’m sure are many other people: who was doing the leaking and, more pertinently, why these documents were leaked? The explanation could be anything from downright banal - a disaffected employee taking his chances - to something far more complicated. My bet is on the latter, although what is really going on we - Joe Ordinary like you and me - won’t find out for a long time or, to be honest, ever.

For me the first question was, I suppotes quite oddley: what is it that makes people want ever more money? I really, honestly, don’t understand. Certainly, most of us could do with a little more dosh as and when, and I shall in a few months’ time when I finally call it a day at the Daily Mail and retire. When I do that, my income will more than halve, but the bills will stay the same. But I can honestly say I really don’t want more.

Yes, I want enough to pay my bills and a little more to save for a rainy day as we say in Britain, but an extra $2 billion? What the fuck use is that? Does a nice gin and tonic really taste so much better because you are drinking it on some rich cunt’s yacht off the coast of Sicily? That is a rhetorical question, of course, but if you hadn’t grasped that, the answer - or at least my answer - is ‘of course it doesn’t’.  I have many faults, of course I do, as do you reading this, but in my case greed is really not one of them. But then I am not 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60. And I am now closer to 70 than 60. Getting back to the Panama papers leak, well, let’s see what comes of it.

NB. This morning I came across these comments which might be of interest to you if you want to know more about the Panama Papers' leak.

. . .

I spent the past two evenings in the company of Michael ’Peter Simple’ Wharton’s widow Susan listening to some very fine music at the 2016 St Endellion Festival. I have written about it before and shall decline my usual imperative to make the same rather snide jokes about how the whole set-up is quite remorselessly English middle-class.

Yes, there were one or two younger folk there, but I bet the average age of attendees is around 50. Susan, who I like a lot and who is very good company, will be 90 next year (and, sadly, feeling it). I know, because she has told me, that their first few years after her husband died were hard and she felt very lonely.

She and Michael Wharton had no children, although he had four (of which two were really his, and two were born to his wife by another man). She was a working artist and art teacher when she was working and has a workshop but she feels (this she hasn’t told me, but I know this to be true because I am gradually feeling something similar myself) on the periphery. It is a young person’s world - think back to when you were young if you are my or even her age - and young people, as a rule, take rather less notice of their older compatriots than is comfortable for their older compatriots. So she knocks about the cottage she lives in in Buckinghamshire, I should think trying to come up with ways of filling and passing the time.

Susan is by no means wealthy but I’m sure she isn’t on her uppers, but loneliness is loneliness even for an emperor. The music we heard was, on the Friday night, Bach’s Mass in B minor, which if you like Bach, you will like very much indeed. I have the piece on my iPhone and was not completely unfamiliar with it, but - well, I like Bach and am continually fascinated at how he just kept writing such sublime music week in, week out.

On the Saturday were a piece by Beethoven for violin, cello, piano and orchestra (I can’t be more specific because I haven’t the programme to hand), a piece by Brahms in which he set a poem by Goethe to music, a piece by a Judith Weir and a James MacMillan and it ended with Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony.

That last - well, I haven’t heard it for about 40 years, but when I heard it last night, I realised it was one of the six or eight pieces I had on my three or four classical music LPs at college in the late
1960s and which I listened to again and again and again. So there was the odd and very welcome added pleasure of listening to a piece with which you are - in my case last night surprisingly - very familiar.  We were unable to attend any of the other concerts - on Sunday to Wednesday - because I was still up here in London, but I have promised her that by next year’s Easter festival I shall most certainly be retired and she must come for the whole week.

. . .

The odd thing about the St Endellion festival - and you might be able to tell this from my past and present snide remarks - is that, for better or worse - I simply do not and cannot identify with the rest of the gang who attend. For example, walking in we got chatting to one or two folk we - or rather I - was vaguely acquainted with, and without exception they all declared the previous night’s performance of the B minor mass ‘stupendous’ and ‘magnificent’ etc. Really?

Me, I have not heard the piece before performed live and, quite apart from the fact that my appreciation of classical music is merely that of an untutored listener, I have no way of knowing whether last Friday’s performance was good, OK, mediocre, bad, stupendous or awful. Yet it seems to be de rigueur for folk such as go along to such festivals as St Endellion to enthuse in superlatives. But I can’t do it. Sorry, but I can’t even if it is expected of me.

I suspect that is where I am more German than English. Ask a German his or her opinion and, as a rule, they will give you and honest answer, one which might even come across as blunt. Ask a middle-middle-middle type of English man or woman (though I’m sure the same applies to their Welsh, Irish and Scottish peers) and they seem obliged to enthuse beyond all reason.

Me, I enjoyed the performance because of the music. Certainly that music could and can be performed well or badly but, as I’ve pointed out, I am really in no position to judge. I suspect I would have enjoyed it had the performance been bad. Who knows? 

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