Thursday, December 29, 2016

Join me on my journey (or another cliche if you can think of a better one)

Just something to keep you going while I decide which of my wise thoughts I shall next share with you. . .

And here is a second version. The first has got Billy Bauer on guitar, this one has Grant Green, with Baby Face Willette on organ and Ben Dixon on drums (I’m told).

And by the way, I’m ‘Jacques Pernod’. There’s absolutely no reason why I should choose that name or masquerade as some dilletante Frenchman. It was a spur or the moment thing a few years ago when I started making short videos and posting them on You Tube and I rather like it. I suppose it could have been ‘Jacques Ricard’ or even ‘Jacques Bardouin’. Look it up. And as I am in the swing, here are two more videos for your enjoyment. The first one is obvious and should speak for itself. The second is pretty much plain nonsense masquerading as sense. The music is Thelonius Monk and the quote is from a BBC Radio 3 broadcast of H G Wells’s Time Machine. I thought (and think it) rather apt, but to be honest it was simply happenstance.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Save the bloody hyena? You’ve got to be joking. Ah, the tiger - well, that’s completely different. Their young are so sweet, aren’t they? And this earth belongs to all of God’s creatures doesn’t it? (Well, the cute ones at least)

One thing that has always bugged me pretty much since I can remember raised its head again a few weeks ago. As a child I was often told by my mother ‘Du musst immer anders sein’. That might translate into in English as ‘you always want/have to be different/the exception’. Or, as it was put a few weeks ago by my brother with support from my sister, ‘you’ve always been a contrarian’.

It bugs me because at best I don’t like contrarians and at worst feel something close to contempt for them. By ‘contrarians’ I don’t mean people who sincerely hold an opposing point of view but people who do so merely to stand out from the crowd - the names A.N. Wilson and Stephen Fry spring to mind (and sorry, dear Johnny Foreigner if you haven’t a clue who they are). But it also bugs me because it simply isn’t true (or better: it isn’t true as far as I am aware and I shall be mortified if, against all my expectations, I am given conclusive proof that it is true).

When I voice an opinion which goes against the tide, it is because that is my opinion. It is not because, as my brother and sister claim, because for some stupid reason I want to stand out from the crowd, want to be thought as remarkably different or quite simply I am some kind of sad attention-seeker (although let me again add, by way of figuratively touching wood, I bloody well hope not).

Now you who is reading this who must make up his or her mind as to who to believe have absolutely no other way of judging the matter: do I say things just to stand out from the crowd or do I say them because, for better or worse that’s what I believe? And I am obliged to tell you now that despite my vociferous denials, my brother and sister would not be swayed: they insist that I am quite simply a silly contrarian who disagrees with the majority simply to stand out from the crowd. Oh, well, there’s not a lot I can do about that.

Where all three of us can agree, though, is that I quite often do disagree with majority opinion. And on one matter you reading this might well conclude that my brother and sister are quite right: that I simply like to cut a dash by holding minority views. That matter is conservation and all the hoopla and rigmarole which goes with.

The problem - and, in view of the above, my difficulty - is that conservation is such an important shibboleth of the modern age and of modern liberal thinking, and championing conservation is so keenly regarded as pretty much a defining characteristic of the modern man that even to doubt that it is worthwhile would strike many as not just perverse, but quite possibly wilfully perverse. It’s as though in all seriousness someone were to question the habit and benefits of wiping your bottom after taking a crap and suggest they it is a horribly overrated practice and quite simply unnecessary. In other words anyone suggesting that conservation is not necessarily A Damn Good Thing (and I can almost here the latter-day completion of that claim ‘... To Save The Planet) is nothing but a very sad and self-regarding contrarian looking to make his or her mark.

Well, if that’s your view, fair enough. But I’ll repeat for those at the back: I still can’t quite get my head around the modern notion of conservation in the form it takes and, crucially, I dislike a great deal of the double-think which surrounds it. And, quite possibly to compound such an inexcusable moral and ethical faux pas, I have long thought that conservation is rather less about ensuring various forms of wildlife are not made extinct and a great deal more about Homo Liberalensis basking in a little more of the glory he instinctively thinks is his due.

My doubts about exactly who is kidding whom about conservation occurred to me again yesterday - for about the umpteenth time - when I happened to find myself watching on TV one of those staples of afternoon gogglebox, the wildlife show. It was one of those shows which catches your eye with exceptionally good wildlife photography and an increasingly inane and sentimental commentary, and before you know it, it’s time to pull curtains and decide how to waste the rest of the day. This one was about it five mountain lions in Wyoming who - don’t you know it - had been orphaned and were each struggling to survive.

A team of conversationists had become aware of their plight when they were still very young - they are known as ‘kittens’ and would all win an Oscar for looking cute - and decided to follow their fortunes to see how they would get on. Each was fitted with a tracking device and then released to make their way on their own. Because they had been orphaned, none of the five had been taught by their mother the kind of skills they would need to make their own way in the world, for example how to hunt, and the team of conservationists wanted to discover how they would fare.

It was all very interesting and not one cynical thought crossed my mind until there was mention that in that part of Wyoming the population of mountain lions was ‘declining alarmingly’. And why was this? Well, we were told, it was because ‘wolves

Just spotted: some bastard contrarian who thinks conservation is pretty much a load of self-deluding crap

had been re-introduced into the wild’ in that neck of the woods, and that these wolves were competing for resources - that is the smaller animals killed and eaten by the bigger animals. In the struggle for survival mountain lions were losing out. I can’t quite tell you why and I don’t think we were told except for the reference to the competition for resources, but it occurs to me that the wolves have an advantage because they hunt in packs, whereas mountain lions are solitary hunters.

And there, dear reader, was yet another example of the double-think which seems to permeate so much of our thought: wolves were re-introduced to the wild? Why? Well, because they had once been indigenous to the area but their population had ‘declined alarmingly’ because of human activity. So where’s the double-think, I hear you asking? Aren’t you getting your knickers in a twist about nothing? Well, it’s this: we are up in arms because ‘human activity’ is interfering with the ability of various wildlife to survive and impacting on their environment, leading to a ‘alarmingly decline’ in their numbers. And what is the solution? Why, even more human activity and even more interference. In this case it is the ‘re-introduction into the wild’ of wolves because their numbers have ‘declined alarmingly’. Surely, I hear you ask, this is a Good Thing? Well, is it? You tell me. Does it really make sense if the effect of this apparently saintly and caring re-introduction of wolves is an ‘alarming decline’ in the numbers of local mountain lions?

Such ‘re-introduction’ of various forms of wildlife continues everywhere: just here in Britain lynx, sea eagles, beavers and wolves have been re-introduced to Scotland - the buzzword is ‘rewilding’ which admittedly does make it sound sexier - and there’s even talk of ‘rewilding’ bears. To be fair, even those involved in widlife do have their concerns - here you can find reaction to the rewilding of sea eagles - but generally speaking ‘rewilding’ is regarded as a Good Thing, and any cunt (such as me) who dares to question it is at miserable bastard or, at worst, anti-progress.

A further aspect of what I regard as double-think by the conservation movement is that generally the cuter to animal in danger of extinction, the greater its chances of some caring herbert setting about rewilding it. Conversely, if you score rather lowly on the cutey-cute scales, you can kiss goodbye to existing anywhere except in, perhaps, a zoo (which, by they way, I loathe, but my rant against how inhumane zoos are must wait for another time).

So I haven’t yet heard mention of any plans to rewild the Tasmanian Devil, pug-ugly if ever an animal were pug-ugly. And how about hyenas? Their numbers are also declining, but I’ve have yet to see a collection tin anywhere exhorting us to Save

Save this ugly bastard? You are joking, surely!

The Hyena. Have you? Well, why not? Shall I tell you: because hyenas aren’t cute, that’s why not. The greater irony, of course, is that wolves, bears, sea eagles, lynx, beavers, tigers, lions and all the other cute animals we insist must be preserved and rewilded aren’t that cute, either.

Certainly, they look cute in photographs, and which cat lover hasn’t at some point or other seen a picture of a tiger and though ‘ah, must be so great to stroke that tiger. Ah’. Well, it would be the last time you stroked anything if you were given half the chance. And were it to enter your head to cuddle up to a bear or wolf, that would most certainly be the last thing in this world you would cuddle up to.

Furthermore, anyone who comes into proximity with any wild animal (or even, as I do, farm animals as my brother-in-law is a beef farmer and I have, on one or two occasions, helped out in some way) will know that as a rule they stink to high heaven and when stroked leave all kinds of shit on your hands. As for beavers, sea eagles and lynx...

The concern I mention - and here are more thoughts on rewilding and why it might have downsides - at least had the good grace and honesty to consider rewilding from both points of view, and for that it deserves credit. But for me the final, and darkest, irony of the whole conservation industry - and there’s certainly a great deal of money to be made producing wildlife films reminding us what complete bastards we are to all those dumb animals - is that our conviction that we must remain in control the whole time: our relationship with wildlife is utterly one-sided.

Let me try to explain: on, for example, the issue of foxhunting, I am firmly in the ‘I don’t give a fuck either way’ camp. Both sides are very much inclined to talk bollocks to push their agenda: the hunters in general claim that they are only hunting to keep fox numbers down; and the ‘sabs’ get het up because of the cruelty involved. Both claims are thoroughly dishonest: there are far greater dangers in the countryside than foxes and far more humane ways of controlling their numbers. And as for the sabs, I would be more impressed with their bona fide and concerns about cruelty if they didn’t behave in rather cruel ways towards the horses ridden by hunters and would be a little more sympathetic to their views if some of them weren’t inclined to threaten hunters with death.

Finally, of course, in the list of Evils The World Faces, foxhunting can be found at the bottom of page 29. But what I cannot deny is that pretty much all forms of hunting are utterly one-sided: if the hunter, whether some cunt in a pink jacket on a horse or some fat Yank with a high-powered shotgun, were in just as much danger as their quarry of losing their lives then the hunt would at least be equitable. But, of course, he’s not. The hunter will spend the evening boasting of his ‘courage’. The quarry will spend the evening in bits if it was a fox or being roasted on s spit. The hunter in danger of losing his life? Not a chance, unless he's a complete idiot and shoots himself or is shot by one of his hunting compadres (I think that is the jargon). And that is the crux of the debate on hunting and, more broadly, at the essence of the zeal for conservation: at every turn we, humans, mankind, call us what you will, are not only in charge, but would not countenance any situation where we weren’t in charge.

Rather like a secular god, conservationists the world over are deciding what species should or should not exist. For example, every attempt is being made to exterminate mosquitoes wherever they are found because of the diseases they are partly responsible for (partly responsible because they are carriers, not causes). And amen to that: lives are being saved. It’s a similar story with rats and rabbits: get rid of the fuckers, they are a pest and carry disease. But when we get to the ‘noble’ lion, wolves, bears, tigers, bears, lynx, sea eagles and every other we decide that it is a Good Thing that they should be rewilded, re-introduced. Why? Well, I have yet to hear an argument for rewilding which is not distressingly circular. But it rarely gets even to the stage where rewilding can be questioned in civilised society: deny that it is absolutely necessary and you are regarded as very odd indeed. Try it.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A brief glimpse into private correspondence - read it while you can because I shall delete it if asked to


Upstairs brushing my teeth earlier on, it occurred to me that although I had replied to your email, I hadn’t, in fact, replied in the sense of responding in that I didn’t in any way touch upon any of the points you made about your life and tenaciously stuck to my affairs and concerns to the exclusion of the rest of the world. I didn’t for example ask you about the upsetting (I should think) and most definitely rude and self-centred behaviour of your son _______. What he said must have been hurtful Nor did I ask you any more about your diary/commonplace book.

Well, having realised yet again that I’m just as self-centred as the rest of the world, I shall do so now. My first question is - I, too, have a daughter, 20, who seems in an odd way a little more distant now than she was while growing up and until a few years ago, and a son, now 17 - what has been your relationship with ________ as he grew up, was he affected by your troubles with you wife and subsequent divorce, and why do you think he is behaving in such a dismissive way (e.g. that nasty crack about your library)?

Was he at all grateful that you gave him a roof over his head, irrespective of whether or not he was paying rent? And were there any signs in him as a lad, from 0 to 20, of this kind of behaviour? How old is he now? I was about to move onto my daughters rather distant behaviour when I remembered just how I had begun this email. So tell me about ______ (a good RC name, by the way. Was it your or your wife’s choice?).

As for your jottings, and I agree that it is difficult to give them any descriptive name which does sound arch, twee, pretentious or self-regarding, so I shall stick to ‘jottings’ which strikes me as the least offensive and most descriptive name, keep them up. I suspect you are writing them for exactly the same reason I began to write a physical diary - in hard-backed A4 ledgers bought especially for the purpose - for about 15 years (until I married, actually, in 1996, and topped because I didn’t want any private thoughts to be read by my wife and also because I no longer felt so bloody lonely as I had done in the five years I lived in London, and writing them had been an odd, though effective, escape from that loneliness.

If nothing else it was like chatting to someone, only there could never be any guarantee that those diaries would be read. In fact, the chances that anyone would come across them were tiny, and the chances that anyone who did come across them would even bother to spend more than a minute trying to decipher my grandiose, but illegible handwriting, were even smaller. By the way, I once had a friend (a fellow hack with the apt surname Penman, who had also briefly gone to the OS) with whom I had shared a flat with in Cardiff and occasionally saw for a drink in London who once, before he married, very shamefacedly admitted to feeling lonely. What struck me at the time was quite how ashamed he felt of it. Ashamed?

Well, I can understand that in a way, and perhaps it is a guy thing where we believe we must at all times be tough, resilient, heroic and sport a perpetual hard-on, and that any deviation from that behaviour was unwelcome proof that we were wimps of the first order or, for men of your and my generation who had been sentenced to five years in one of Her Majesty’s Public Schools (despite being wholly innocent of anything except being the sons of men and women with, most probably social pretensions and through some wheeze or other money to burn) quite possibly homosexual or in the now dated phrase queer. I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of ‘queers’ when I first got to the OS, but then I and Bettesworth - I still remember the name, on of three brothers at the OS - were the only ones who hadn’t gone to a prep school.

So any admission of what might be seen as something sissy, under which admitting to feeling lonely was sure to be filed, was most certainly not on. At this point it has occurred to me that this letter to you, for letter is what it is although I shall be sending it as an email, could prove to be a useful blog entry to keep my tally up. I think I have before published and email to you as a blog post, but again I shall comply with your wishes: if you don’t want it to be one, please say so and I shall take it down again asap.

You say that you are writing them to as somewhere to keep pieces of text and prose you have come across and want to keep etc (which would make it a commonplace book) but that you never write about our family. Why not? The chances of anyone somehow or other coming across your laptop and then stumbling across the now 62-page long Word document are tiny. Mention your family, let it out, that’s what I urge you to do. And I am also intrigued by your cryptic comment that whenever you do mention family in conversation it ‘invariably lowers the tone however bizarre the circumstances implied’. Care to elaborate? I would be interested. Did they all, against all expectations, drop their aitches?

Well, that is it. I shall email this and also post it if that is OK by you. By that I mean if you object to me posting this as a blog entry, I say so and I shall immediately delete it. Deleting a previous entry, one which has upset my sister, is what I shall suggest I might do if she so wishes. Even though I was surprised she didn’t realise that in my blog entries, or at least in most of them, I am essentially speaking with my tongue in my cheek, I should prefer her to be happy and that we get on as well as possible rather than insist on any higher justification along the lines that ‘a blog is sacrosanct and cannot be censored’. For that would be total bullshit and as I say I love bullshitting for fun but don’t ever want to be tempted to doing it seriously.

So sorry I didn’t actually address any of the points you made in your previous email and please fill me in on quite why any mention of your family immediately encourages folk to leave the room and cross you off their Christmas card list.

Pip, pip