Saturday, August 27, 2011

And one more, just for the craic, why the misery of others cheers us up and filthy, filthy Brits

It’s Saturday morning, I’m off to London a little earlier this week, I always miss my children so here’s another short, this one for parents and sentimental saps everywhere.

Actually, I could quite get into posting a short video or two on this blog lark. See what I can come up with.

. . .

I'm sure we have all been glued to the television screen these past few days what with the mounting misery taking place in the world. And there's nothing like the misery of others to cheer us up as we realise that however dull, frustrating, uninspired and essentially lifeless our existence is it could be a lot worse. The two major stories for the past few days have been Libya and the threat of mass destruction to the good Yankee folk who have the misfortune to live on the East Coast. Granted there has been untold misery in Northern Kenya and Southern Somalia as millions - I believe it is now millions - have nothing to eat, but for us in the West Somalia and Kenya are just a tad too far away to elicit more than just a resigned 'God, isn't life bloody! Makes you think, doesn't it'. Then there were the dramatic events in Egypt, but Egypt, too, seems rather distant. And anyway, despite the limited viollence earlier this year, their dictator was got rid of apparently quite easily with no incidents of wholesale massacre. But it's a whole different matter in Libya which arouses our interest rather more in that it is actually 'quite close'. Sitting just south of Sicily and even closer to Malta (which ran a ferry service to Benghazi until recently) we can relate to Libya. And many Brits of a certain age - those who are now between 65 and 85 - might well have a certain sentimental affection for Libya as the place where they got roaring drunk for the first time and might even have lost their cherry while serving in the forces during the war and its aftermath. ('Ah, Tobruk Tessa, what she couldn't do with a ... well, better leave it there.') Those feeling a little argumentative might argue that in that case Tunisia is almost 'closer', to which I would retort that that country's revolution also passed off comparatively peacefully and, anyway, the French had and have their fingers all over Tunisia which rather spoils it for us Brits.
But for the horror of revolution, Libya fits the bill neatly, and it's a comfort that we are able to see it all on our TV screens, which is as close to all the misery as we will get, which is just the way we like it. Which brings me to Hurricane Irene and the havoc it is wreaking on America's East Coast. We Brits know a thing or two about rain but this is ridiculous. And rather as the horror in Libya oddly afffects us more than the human misery in Somalia, the scenes of destruction in North Carolina and - heavens! - New York seem curiously more appalling than when we see virtually identical footage shot in Florida and Lousiana. I mean those Southern States have several hurricanes every year and they are geared up for it. But the East Coast? New York? Hurricanes? Surely not? Isn't that where America's intellectuals live? Can't have that can we? Granted that the mainstream news media are apt to exaggerate these days - in fact, I believe it is written into their contracts that everything is bigged up and then some - but I recall hearing the astounding snippet that one million New Yorkers are fleeing their homes for safer parts. But where are those safer parts? All I know is that beyond New York and to the west lie New Jersey, where no New Yorker would care to be seen dead, and the Catskills where - I think I've got this right - numerous Jewish comedians and playwrights honed their talent. Is that where they have gone?
. . .
I have strayed from the path. What brought on this particular sermon/rant/diatribe/delete as applicable is that I am sitting on a train bound for Bristol where I am due to pick up my car and carry on to London. (Long story, but briefly, my brother has inherited all the property, goods and chattels of an elderly bachelor friend of the family who died last year and having no use for a rather smart Vauxhall Astra automatic which was part of the package has given it to me. Yes, that's right, he gave it to me. Lovely chap, my brother. So I now have three cars to my name, and must now decide what to do with one of them. But that's all for another time.)
My journey didn't get off to a good start in that my wife dropped me off at the station one hour and 15 minutes before my train was due to leave for what she regards as 'good reasons' but which I regard as nothing but provocation. In the even it turned out an earlier train was leaving Bodmin Parkway for Bristol and although my ticket specifies that I can only catch the train I am booked for, I decided to chance my arm. When the ticket collector came - officially train manager - came along, a bottle blonde Mancunian, I immediately fessed up and asked humbly that as my wife had dropped me at the station earlier, would it be all right ... Yes, she said, but she was only travelling as far as Plymouth and I would have to ask the next ticket collector/train manager. And, she added, he was new and stuck to the rules, so good luck. And so he did, and so I got off the train at Plymouth (the station is as dreary as the town) and waited for the 18.23 for Leeds, which, as usually happens on these occasions when one detail becomes out of kilter arrived 35 minutes late.
What got me thinking about Libya was the state of the lavatory at the end of my carriage. There was no water, so it couldn't be flushed and it had been used by quite a few others by the time I got around to using it. And its state was not a one-off. I have been driving to London to work for these past few years but for many, many years I used to catch the train at Exeter. And all too often the loo was somehow out of order. But the Brits don't seem to care. How can I make that claim? Because if they did care, the train companies would ensure that their lavatories were always clean, and if they didn't, the public would put pressure on them to do so. But the public doesn't. At the end of the day, the British public would far rather have a good old moan about the state of the loos on the train - and Lord it was late! And Lord the state of the carriage - than actually get someting done.
How did I get to Libya from there? Well, simple really: whenever I've seen coverage of the war, the country seems to consist of God-awful scrubland and desert and the towns seem so down-at-heel that they, too, could be described as scrubland. Certainly, the country, thanks to its oil wealth, had modern hospitals and certainly Gaddafi and his sons and daughter lived very high on the hog. But it would seem the Abdul Public wasn't quite as fortunate.
Years ago, I went to Greece, to Corfu, in September, and it seemed to me that because it was getting towards the end of the season and because its 19th-century sewage system couldn't cope with the 20th-century hordes of, mainly British, tourists, the whole place stank of shit. I spent the second week in a small more or less purpose-built resort on the north of the island - pupose-built several decades earlier, I should add - and running to the sea was a small stream. This stream was thick and grey and stank atrociously, yet not feet away Brit tourists were sunbathing on the grass. Sadly, the Brits don't seem to care.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Steve Jobs steps down: a good excuse to rant about the smug, smug, smug ‘Mac community’ (Lord, I loathe them). Meanwhile, we stick two fingers up at the UN, more or less. And a short film from nowhere

I have preferred Apple Macs ever since I knew about computers, and although my first PC was a Mac clone, I bought it only because I couldn’t afford an authentic Mac. What I do not like, however, is the ‘Mac community’ as they style themselves with typical self-regard and importance. I mention this because Steve Jobs - I’m inclined to be particularly bitchy and write St Eve Jobs - is now so ill that he has stepped down as CEO of Apple. Predictably, the share price fell and Apple lost $15bn of its stock market value when the news was released. That’s how important Jobs was to the company. As far as the man himself is concerned, I simply wish him well and as much good health as a
man who has survived a liver transplant and pancreatic cancer can expect. There is no doubt that he was Apple, that it was his personality which drove the company and sustained its success, and that it was his vision of what might be which made Appe products innovative and unique. But there is also no doubting that the whole smug, self-satisfied ‘Mac community’ thing also derived from Jobs. The essence of the ‘Mac community’ - such is my loathing for it and its attitudes that I can’t bring myself to drop the inverted commas - is that ‘we are the best, we know we are the best, we are special because we are the best, if you are not one of us, you are not worth bothering with, but the chances are that if you are not one of us, you won’t even understand why we look down on you and don’t bother with you’. Admittedly, the Windows operating system is to the Mac OS what a haycart is to a Porsche and also admittedly Apple’s insistence on quality pays off in spades. So its products might be more expensive at the outset, almost double the price of equivalent non-Apple products, but they do tend to last longer, although that is not to say the Apple hasn’t also produced some clunkers. But none of that, in my eyes, can in the slightest justify the smug self-regard of the ‘Mac community’ and its unshakeable conviction that it is the Chosen Few. Dear soul,
members of the ‘Mac community’ are insufferable and their existence comes dangerously close to justifying murder. In that respect they are rather like Observer and Guardian readers who appear to regard themselves intellectually and morally as several cuts above the rest of us mere mortals, and one’s failure to acknowledge as much is all the evidence needed that they are right and we are wrong. And I’ll repeat that I can’t shake off my suspicion that the whole ‘Mac community’ ethos stems from St Eve himself.
As for the company, I have no doubt that it will survive for many years. Ford survived superbly after Henry Ford’s death. But I doubt whether it will reach the heights it did under Jobs, however much it pains me to say so.

. . .

As for Apple products, I have always bought second-hand (and, incidentally, a mark of the rather nauseating streak which dislike in Apple is that it is responsible for coming up with that horribly twee euphemism for second-hand: ‘pre-loved’. Yuk). There is only one reason for that: they are just so much cheaper, and if you use your nous when buying, you can get a computer (or iPod or whatever you’re buying) in pretty good nick. And as nothing seems to date faster than new technology, you are still getting something very useful. For example, I recently got rid of my two G4 laptops and have bought Intel machines. And one of the laptops was a top-of-the-range Powerbook when it appeared (I bought a refurbished model from Cancom i.e. more or less news but quite a bit cheaper). But when it comes to doing what the vast majority of us do on a desktop or laptop - write letters and surf the web - a G4 or even a G3 will do the job just as well. Yes, I know there are people out there who record music and edit video on their computer, but I think the vast majority don’t - they just surf the net and word process for which any eight-year-old computer will do just as well. One of the more remarkable marketing coups of recent years has been to persuade us saps to part with oodles of moolah and buy a tip-top computing machine hardly any of us needs. And as a chap who has recently bought a neat little eMachines 10in netbook I don’t need and will rarely, if ever use, to add to my line-up of two Intel Macs - a Macbook and a Macbook Pro - a Samsung Windows 7 laptop and a works Lenovo which can log into the the network in London, I must step forward and identify myself as one of those suckers with a great deal more money than sense (which does not acutally mean I am weatlhy. Just stupid). Now how’s that for humiliating honesty?

. . .

The hunt for Col Gaddafi goes on and the latest I have heard is that British jets are bombing the lad’s bunker compound in Sirte, his hometown. Well, I would like to see that back of him as much as everyone else and there’s no doubt that his supporters will carry on fighting until there is firm news that he is dead or has been captured. But wasn’t the UN mandate specific on what Britain and France should be doing and, more to the point, should not be doing in Libya. I seem to remember it was something about doing what it could to protect the ordinary Libyan population. Well, bombing the lad’s bunker compound in Sirte seems to me well beyond that remit and then some. Or have I got it all wrong. Are we, perhaps, defending Gaddafi's human rights?

. . . 

A throwaway something:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

This lad falls in love (her name's Romola) while the euro farce continues

This might not be the place for a review of a television drama series, but I shall give you one anyway. My sole justification is that it starred an actress called Romola Garai who made me wish I was 30 years older and consider taking up stalking. I am not and I shan’t, but a boy can dream.
The series was produced by the BBC and was doomed from the outset by comparing itself to America’s Mad Men. The only point the have in common is that both were set several decades ago – Mad Men in the late Fifties, early Sixties and this turkey, called The Hour, in the mid-Fifties. But where Mad Men was stylish, innovative – it took its time always – well directed, subtle, nuanced, well-acted and interesting, The Hour was just another six hours of BBC drama by numbers of which there is more than enough to last us all a lifetime and then some. I always imagine that when a drama is commissioned by the BBC, the script will not be considered for production until it was been put through the BBC editorial sausage machine whose purpose is to get rid of anything which might prove to be original and to add all the latest stylistic fads and trends. One criticism was that too many of the lines were anachronistic, but quite honestly, that was the least of its troubles.
The Hour deals with what we are asked to assume is an innovative BBC current affairs programme (called The Hour), launched just before the Suez Crisis. Also thrown into the mix are two murders by MI6, a traitor, an MI6 baddie who turns out to be a goodie (neat that, they will have thought, that will keep the punters guessing0, a suicide (I think - it wasn’t very clear whether or not it was that or an accident), a Soviet mole in the BBC, a Soviet list of possible agents, and affair between the attractive producer of the innovative current affairs programme and its well-connected presenter, a convoluted MI6 plot to persuade Gamal Nasser’s dentist to assassinate the Egyptian leader, a debutante engaged to a gay actor, a closet gay Downing Street press officer, a Lord and Lady of the Realm (we can be fined here in Britain if we don’t cap up those three words - who said the age of deference is dead) and it is all played out against the Suez crisis. Furthermore, all these rather lurid plot strands involved a total of - if I’ve got my figures right - about 16 characters, many of them minor.
If you think all that amounts to a F minus of a dog’s dinner, you would be charitable. On so many different fronts it failed and failed badly. I shan’t go into detail here (i.e. I really can’t be bothered), but, as usual, the BBC set itself up for a pratfall by trailing it as something like the Second Coming.
But then there’s Romola Garai: swoon. Then, swoon again. At first I thought she was a newcomer and this BBC dog’s dinner was her debut, but it turns out she’s a well-established trouper and even got most of her kit off playing a prostitute in some other piece of BBC drama. I shall do my utmost to track down a DVD if one is available. One more time: swoon.

. . .

I have just been googling for images of la Garai and have found, rather pleasingly, that she has one of those faces which can change rather dramatically. Here is a selection:

I've just realised that she reminds me of Annette, a woman I went out with years ago. Oh well. That's enough swooning, you'll all think I'm twp.

. . .

The eurozone car crash is working out quite nicely. On any reading the Germans are damned if they do and damned if they don’t: if they pull the plug on Greece, their banks are in the shit, and if they don’t the government is on the shit. Already, it seems, leading CDU politicians, with no doubt an eye on the elections in 2013, are burnishing their eurosceptic credentials and drafting a future script along the lines of: ‘I warned about it from the outset, but no one would listen.’
Germany’s Constitutional Court is due to rule on September 7 on whether what has been going on with the bailouts is legal according to German law, and they don’t ever pull their punches. Everyone, especially the Brits, are reverting to type. Given that one mooted solution would be a ‘fiscal union’ with Germany in charge, the sillier newspapers, of which unfortunately the Mail is one, have been claiming - not seriously, of course, but . . . - that this is the ‘rise of the Fourth Reich’ and that Germany is about to achieve economically what it failed to achieve militarily. The French, of course, are playing along, but I don’t doubt they have one or two nasty surprises up their sleeve, and there is outrage from the bailed out states that over the suggestion that it would only be right and proper if the offered their gold reserves as collateral for the bailout dosh.
Which ever way you stack this up, it is not going to end nicely.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lord save me from bureaucrats

I’ve spent the past 24 hours nursing bad toothaches and coming to terms with the fact that the dictum ‘better means worse’ is, unfortunately, true. I’m referring to the increasing bureaucracy which permeates much modern life and whose function is ostensibly to ‘facilitate’ but, in fact does anything but. (Incidentally, I can claim to be the author of the above dictum, which I came up with after I read another - ‘more means less’ - in the Daily Telegraph. Here’s another, which I also feel sums up aspects of aspects of the 21st century: ‘bullshit is the new bollocks’).

I had my tooth looked at a week ago by my very attractive 27-year-old Spanish NHS dentist (and, Maria, if you are reading this, I can tell you I wish to God I were 30 years younger). In fact, I don’t think it is the same tooth which is giving my gyp, but
the one behind it, probably playing up out of pique that it got no attention last Friday.

Anyhow, my wife told me that my niece had been taken to Bodmin Hospital which has an emergency dental service, so at 8.30 this morning I rang the hospital and asked to be put through to the service. I was told I had to ring my dentist. But they are not open on a Saturday morning, I told them, which I why I am ringing you.

Do you have the emergency dentist at the hospital? Yes, the woman said. Well, can’t you put me through? No, she said, you must ring your dentist. But all I get is a message telling me to ring back on Monday morning, so would you please put me through.

At this point, the woman claimed she was physically unable to do so, though I flatly refuse to believe that a part of the hospital is telephonically completely isolated from the rest of it. She told me to ring the NHS dental helpline. I did this and was given the number of the emergency dental service at Bodmin. I rang it, and was told by another woman to ‘ring your dentist’.

I told her I had and that the surgery was shut. Well, take paracetamol and ibrufen, she said. Can’t I see someone, I asked. We only see emergencies, she replied, people with an abscess and chronic pain. Chronic pain? That’s me, I told her. Well, take ibrufen. But can’t I see someone. It’s not protocol, she replied. (Great word ‘protocol’, it makes whatever is being talked about sound far, far more important.) Have you got anyone coming in now, I asked. Yes, she said (and I thought she sounded rather triumphant - that most certainly put persistent old me in my place.)

Well, can I ring back later? And she agreed, I thought pretty reluctantly, so the arrangement is that I am due to ring at 12 to see whether they can fit me in, although the unspoken threat - quite obvious from the tone of her voice - was that the chances were that I would once again be sent off with a flea in my ear for even daring to suggest I should receive treatment. Fuckwits.

I agree that my difficulties with NHS bureaucracies is as nothing compared to what several million Somalis are currently having to put up with in Northern Kenya and what millions of Indians have to put up with daily year in, year out in India, but then this is my blog not theirs and I am a lily-livered Westerner for whom ‘tragedy’ is if the car battery’s flat on a nippy winter’s morning.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

U.S. woman aims to become the World's Biggest Moron and is well on her way. Then there's young Mariam who is, perhaps, more worthy of our attention, while the Angela and Nicolas show rolls on. And on and on and on

Great news reaches me from Arizona in the United States where a woman called Susanne Eman intends to become the fattest woman in the world. Susanne, who has two son and is 32, already tips the scales at 52st (that’s just under 330kg for all luddites who slavishly use metric measurements and wilfully ignore are marvellous imperial set), says she is eating 20,000 calories a day and plans to hit 112st (711kg) by the time she is 42. Her ambition, she says, is to see whether it is possible that a human could reach weighing a ton. It’s easy to scoff at such people, so I’ll do so: what the bloody hell are you thinking off? Ms Eman (below) claims she has never felt better and feels
‘confident and sexy’, and undoubtedly there will be many who will defend her right to behave like a total moron. But I’m not one of them. By way of contrast (in a sense) I offer you a picture of three-year-old Mariam Jele who is having her hair washed by her father. Nothing particularly startling about that, you might say, and there isn’t. But Mariam and her father are Somalis living in a camp for refugees displaced by drought and famine
in Mogadishu. And for me there is something very touchingr about the picture. It’s a shame that young Miriam is having such a brutal introduction to life.
LATER: It has occurred to me that the above two stories will be especially interesting to students of irony: we here in the West spend all our time eating as much as we can and compete to be the fattest person alive, while several millions – and millions is no exaggeration – have nothing to eat at all. On the other hand we here in the West, who take an interest in all things native, can console ourselves that at least those starving millions are authentic and it reflects rather well on our liberal consciences that we feel really, really terrible about what is happening at the moment in Somalia.

. . .

As for the shenanigans about the euro (as I sense you are all clamouring to ask), well I’ll I can report is that there is no change there i.e. it is going from bad to worse. One of the first pieces of news I heard this morning was that the European Central Bank has lent an unnamed European bank $500 million. What’s significant about that? you might ask. Well, it could mean that given the shit which is on its way towards the fan here in Europe, U.S. banks are reluctant to lend money to European banks for the very understnandable reason that if things to do tits up, they might not get it back. So in order to stay liquid, the unnamed European bank has had to go cap in hand to the ECB. It’s not looking good, although one encouraging sign is that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are on the case. They had a meeting a day or two ago and subsequently urged eurozone members to ‘show a little pluck. We can get over this thing’.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Looting: just another excuse for a left/right dust-up - that’s the real problem. And years ago, a workmate had a problem providing an alibi

I’m sure the news of the rioting and looting which took place in Britain last week is common knowledge in most parts of the world. It isn’t that rioting and looting is unknown in other parts, it is that is is quite rare - though not unknown - in Britain. My first reaction when I say the live coverage on television was bafflement. Being a well brought-up, middle-class chap, it has never occurred to me to go looting just as it has never occurred to me to smash up a telephone kiosk or bus shelter for the hell of it. But in the days after the looting, it became obvious that being well brought-up and middle-class had nothing to do with it: quite a few of those who have already been brought before court were patently not the dispossessed, disaffected, jobless black youths the left would so dearly have loved them to be in order for their theories and ideologies to be confirmed. There were as many whites as blacks (and, it has to be said, given the amount of interracial coupling that has taken place over these past 40 years the description ‘black’ is used pretty loosely), there were apparently as many employed as unemployed among the looters and by no stretch of the imagination were they all ‘dispossessed’. Take a look at the six mugshots below (of men who have appeared in court these past few days): these guys look more like

white career criminals than dispossessed and angry blacks. The most bizarre revelation was the identity of one of the looters: she was a 20-year-old foreign languages student at Exeter University, the daughter of a millionaire who grew up in some comfort in Orpington, Kent. She cannot, of course, be regarded as typical of the rioters, but her presence does suggest one motivation for many of the younger rioters to take part. In the words of one, excessively stupid girl interviewed in Birmingham by the BBC, the looting ‘was great’ and she and her friend had a ‘brilliant time’. Others, of course, went on the rampage as soon as they heard what was going on because they fancied acquiring goods without having to pay for them: plasme TVs, cothes, booze, shoes, anything really. It didn’t matter.
That attitude initially made it all rather inconvenient for the left to shoehorn the event into their ideological explanations, until a day or two later they came up with a quasi Marxist explanation: consumerism is to blame. There, they had managed it. Now, counterintuitively, I shall partially agree: consumerist attitudes were part of the make-up of the psychology of the looters. But it is 24-carat bullshit to suggest the they were the cause. What about all those with a consumerist attitude who chose not to go looting?
Sadly, both the left and the right have very quickly adopted their fall-back positions: for the left society is to blame; for the right it is a breakdown in law and order. And by quickly adopting those positions, any analysis of why it all happened and what could be done to cure what is undoubtedly a chronic social problem here in Britain, becomes ever less likely. Ironically, of course, the kneejerk reactions of both political wings are equally symptomatic of the social problem. There is a suspicion that neither side is particularly interested in sorting out what went wrong: they are more interested in winning the debate of what happened and why it went wrong.
As far as I am concerned the canker which lies at the heart of society and which led to the scenes we saw in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and Birmingham was a long time in the making, and it will take equally as long to get rid of it, if we ever manage to. (It should also be pointed out that such rioting and looting is nothing new in Britain; it’s just that we have not had a lot of it for the past 60/70 years, but the Victorians were quite accustomed to it.) But at the end of the day, I am inclined to agree with the right’s analysis: the moral compass of too many in Britain has gone awol. The benefits the state pays have gone from being help we give those in a fix to see them through while they get back on their feet to an ‘entitlement’, a ‘lifestyle’ choice. It is also my view that the left as adopted the payment of generous benefits no questions asked as a useful means of buying popularity. For example, recent government figures have shown the three of every four jobs created in Britain over the past few years have been taken up by EU migrants from Eastern Europe. So it’s not as though there has been no work available and that people were obliged to live on benefits.

. . .

When I left university, I spent five months living at home, then went to Italy to teach English for five months. When I returned, I went up to Dundee, where I had studied, to visit friends. What was to be a two-week visit eventually lasted ten months stay. For the first eight of those ten months I worked as a barman. Then, courtesy of the schizophrenic girl I had ‘fallen in love with’, I was bust for possession of dope (er, cannabis, not heroin, which I understand is also called dope). It’s a rather involved story which I shan’t recount here. But a previous boyfriend had been a dealer and she had on her an ounce block of Morrocan. She, her flatmate and I went to the cinema and she purposely dropped the cannabis. (Why? She wasn’t playing with the full set.) A copper on the beat was in the foyer at the time, saw the ounce on the floor, came over and told me I had dropped something. I quickly picked it up and put it in my pocket. Then, when he searched me, I didn’t - as I should have done - explain it wasn’t mine, but being a green-behind-the-ears idiot, I took the rap for ‘the girl I loved’. We were, of course, taken to court, but one upshot was that becasue, coincidentally, Mick, the barman I worked with in the public bar of The Galleon, had gone sick, the cops stuck in an ‘undercover’ officer to work with me and pump me for information. They assumed that because the dope had been an ounce block, no more, no less, that I was dealing. Anyway, this idiot was hopeless. Within five minutes of him starting a chatty conversation, I cottoned on to what was going on - it didn’t help that at the time when everyone was wearing very long hair, this idiot, who claimed he had just graduated from art school, had a regulation short-back-and-side - I said as much - my exact words were: ‘You’re asking a load of fucking questions, aren’t you?’ - and I walked out. My next job was working for a landscape gardener, and one of the guys I worked with was a very friendly, very rough and tough, ginger-haired chap. We got on well, then one day at the end of the day he said goodbye. I asked him where was he going. He said he was due in court the following day on burglary charges, he was pleading guilty and he was bound to be jailed. Oh, I said, did he do it? No, he told me, he was innocent of the charge brought against him. So why plead guilty, I asked. Well, he said, he would not be able to give an alibi. Why not? I asked. Because he was burgling another house at the time, he said.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Are all twitterers nutters or do I just attract them? And anyone still fond of modern consensual policing?

A few months ago and against my better judgment, I signed up with Twitter. And that’s about where I left it until yesterday. I have never been able to see the point of Twitter (of Facebook for that matter), but then there’s no denying that I am not ‘the demographic’ for whom these things are, apparently, vital. Twitterettes and Facebookers don’t feel the need to stretch every limb in their body for five minutes just after getting up and before doing anything else: they simply spring out of bed in one bound and switch on their computer or smartphone to check whether or not perchance their cyber-friends have just taken a dump or are about to buy a bus ticket to go to work, that fascinating information being passed on to all and sundry courtesy of Twitter and Facebook. But it ain’t me, I’m afraid, not by a country mile. Some of you might reasonably point out that there is precious little difference between twittering and pontificating in a blog such as this, to which I can only reply: don’t get technical on me. Or to put it another way – fuck off.
But what with the riots, a colleague persuaded me to re-energise my cyber life a little and get back to Twittering. She is pretty and thus had little trouble convincing me. This morning I posted my first tweet re the rioting which has been taking place up and down the land these past few days here in Britain. I wrote (in just under 142 words, which is all part of this arcane cyber nonsense): ‘Would it be tactless to recall Enoch Powell' 'like the Roman' speech? Given that many of the scum were white, I suppose it would be, yes.’ It was a tad contentious, I admit, but needs must.
Ten minutes ago, I checked my email and was informed that I now have two Twitter followers: there’s AncientAlienTech who believes that ‘studies of Ancient earth ruins such as the Mayan and Egyptian Pyramids, suggest that humans were assisted by ancient alien technology’ and Rukma Vimana who is located ‘Deep Inside Planet Earth’ and who believes ‘flying machines from the ancient future landed in India in 6000BC’.
Oh Lord.

. . .

As for the rioting itself, the various liberal apologists who are apt to add their two ha’porth worth on these occasions have been strangely quite as have The Thin Blue Line, our splendid police. Actually, I feel very sorry for our rozzers: they’re damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t. As one pointed out on the radio, if, after last Saturday night’s looting and arson in Tottenham they had deployed several thousand men, ready in willing, in Transit vans just around the corner from where trouble was expected, they would have been accused of ‘provocation’. So, tactfully, they didn’t, so when the rioting did start, they weren't around. Well, there was one, a community police officer with a bag of mints and a book of bedtime stories. He was part of an initiative to test a new softly, softly policing approach. Added to that the imperative of ‘modern consensual policing’ to ‘engage in dialogue’, and the thousands of black and white thugs who fancied acquiring a new plasma TV with a five-finger discount had a free pass. But that is not to say the cops were happy just looking on. The problem with the liberal approach to policing is that it assumes the other side is rational and prepared ‘to engage in dialogue’. When they show themselves more willing to stick up two fingers to ‘modern consensual policing’ than sit down and discuss ‘issues’, you’re way, way further up shit-creek than you ever imagined. In essence, it’s the liberal dilemma.
To have a fair society, everyone must play fair. And, of course, there are always more than enough out there who who don’t choose to play fair and will take advantage of all the fair play to grab what they want, whenever they want it. Lenin once spoke of ‘useful idiots’ and although he applied it in a different context, the phrase in pertinent here. So what to do? Suggestions, please, on the usual postcard.

Disaffected youths engage in dialogue in support of modern consensual policing

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why blame to Germans? And when does ‘exercising your agenda’ become straightforward looting?

I’ve been reading up on the BBC News website about the euro crisis and came across their correspondent Gavin Hewitt’s blog and subsequent comments by readers. And what struck me was a noticeable anti-German sentiment among many of the comments. This is grossly unfair and na├»ve to boot. The general tone of the anti-Germanism was that sooner or later the ‘Germans will take over’, that the future of Europe should not be in the hands of a country which ‘started two world wars’ and similar bullshit. This is nothing but barroom talk of the most ill-educated kind. And what has Germany done to attract such animosity? Well, nothing as far as I can see. What it has done is to run a tight ship, keep its state borrowing down and to make sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently. What exactly is wrong with that?
There is a useful phrase which cynically, but accurately, describes a curious aspect of human nature. You might know it: No good deed goes unpunished. It seems to me apt in the circumastances. It so happens that the German governments of the post-war years have been enthusiastic about the EU and its institutions and so far that enthusiasm has ensured that Germany is providing the lion’s share of the bailout cash for Greece, Portugal and Ireland. It’s true that it isn’t just goodwill which is behind their actions – if the eurozone goes up the swannee and Germany’s customers for its exports can’t afford them any more, that is bad news. So Germany is doing its best to ensure that crisis never happens. But that isn’t the full story. For better or worse Germany – or rather its government – still believes in the EU and that the peaceful future of Europe depends upon it. And that is another reason why it is taking a hit to bail out the feckless Greeks. (Incidentally, it is well-known that the better off you are in Greece, the less tax you pay.
Part of the problem has been that successive Greek governments have simply let that state of affairs continue.) But there could well come a point, and it might well come sooner than we expect – or some fear – that the Germans tell themselves ‘enough is enough’ and ask themselves ‘why are we putting up with this shit?’ And that thought might occur to the electorate sooner than it occurs to the government. The next federal elections in Germany are in just over two years, and that is not a long time in political terms. It might be about now that both the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats take the pulse of the country and decide a little less euro jubilation might be called for if they are to have any chance whatsoever of beating the opposition.

. . .

For the past two nights there has been rioting in London in mainly black areas. It has carried on all day today in different parts of London. Actually, what mainly went on in Tottenham on Sunday night was looting. It started after a man was shot dead by police in Tottenham, but that seems to me a poor excuse for a bout of overnight all-out thieving. On the radio this morning an community activist, or something like that, from the area, spoke of unemployed black people ‘exercising their agenda’, whatever the fuck that means – nothing, I think. I don’t doubt that unemployment has a lot to do with it, but I can’t see why that justifies all-out looting. It also becomes rather murky when the number of blacks rioting is equalled by the number of whites, which rather make me think that any talk of this being caused be racism – which it might well soon from those intent on convincing us that the looters were ‘exercising their agenda’ – is just so much bullshit. It would be useful to point out that there is a considerable number of unemployed blacks and whites who don’t choose to ‘exercise their agenda’ by indulging in a spot of looting.
Rioters exercise their agenda in Brixton, South London, on Monday

UPDATE: The rioters have now set fire to buildings in Croydon, which is to the south of London, and the rioting has now spread to Kilburn, West London and Birmingham. I've been watching the news live on TV, and it is pretty obvious that this is action by hooligans. There is nothing in it to do with racism.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Barroso fucks up big time, while those at the bottom of the pile are reminded that the best advice as far as hope is concerned is to forget it. Plus ca change . . . Oh, and I go for a walk

For these last few entries, I have been banging on about how doomed the euro is, how the eurozone is bound to collapse and how the EU will go the way of the dodo. I don’t know about you, but I have no stomach at all to bang away for another entry. What has been happening over the past few days in no ways persuades me that I am wrong and about the only sensible and useful comment that can be added is: what kind of total fuckwit is Jose Manuel Barroso (or Manolo Blahnik as he calls himself when he’s in London selling shoes). We have a saying (of which there is any number of variants, and of which the Australian variants are by far the most amusing): he’s a sandwich short of a picnic, or given the bureaucratic nature of his existence, he’s a reassurance short of a total fuck-up. If you
Shit! I think I've fucked it. Me and my big mouth

think I am being harsh, let me remind you of how he poured oil onto a smouldering fire rather than, as would have been wiser, onto troubled waters. (And if that doesn’t win Hollywood’s Most Convoluted Simile next year or even Most Contrived Addition To Most Pointless Blog next year, there’s no justice in the world.) Just to remind you of quite how assinine he proved to be, he sent a letter to the head of states of all the countries in the Eurozone which can easily be paraphrased: ‘Lads, we’re in deep, deep shit, but don’t panic. If we all pull together, some of us might still get out of this alive. Don’t count your chickens, but don’t give up quite yet.’ If there were anything which Brussels might hope would inspire a little confidence in ‘the money markets’ (in this context quote marks imply that if they are not yet crooks, they are just a deal or two away from gaining that hallowed status) Barroso letter of reassurance was not it. Not by a million miles. Stock markets throughout the world (and, by some accounts, in Alpha Centauri) took fright as investors sold up and took off for an early weekend. Can you blame them. With ‘presidents’ like Barroso, who needs nasty little Englander eurosceptics like David Farr-Wright?

. . .

What bothers me more than anything is that it will be the same folk who will carry the brunt of the coming bad times as it always is: those at the bottom of the pile. When economies contract, as they invariably will, ‘labour flexibility’ will once again come into vogue and firms will ‘lay off’ — that is sack — as many of their workforce as will allow the bosses to survive. They will undoubtedly do so with ‘a heavy heart’ but when they do and when they confess their sadness at what ‘economic forces’ ‘oblige’ them to do, remind yourself that in this world there is nothing cheaper than words. In the meantime, our politicians, esteemed these days by ever fewer of their electorate, will retire to whatever comfortable bolt hole they have arranged for themselves, to write their memoirs, pass on their wisdom, admit candidly — now that the danger has passed — that they made mistakes and generally reflect that, on balance, life isn’t quite as simple as it might be. No, it isn’t, and it is even less simple for all those who have absolutely no control over circumstance but who have to live by the stupid decisions you make.

. . .

I realise I am getting rather incoherent here, but I put that down to anger. For all my life I have been cursed by an ability to see much from both sides, and, on the one hand I could here and now write the apologia of those politicos who meant well, stuck to their principles and who were desolate at how it all turned out, as I hear the desperate cries of unemployed folk throughout history who have been comprehensively shat upon only because they are apparently of no consequence and who have no control whatsoever over their destiny. I fully understand what is meant by and what are the advantages of ‘labour flexibility’. In a certain context it makes complete sense. But I also feel nothing but contempt for those who regard ordinary folk as nothing but an economic factor. And there are plenty of those. All my life the right has regarded me as a leftie and the left has regarded me as of the right. To this day I don’t know where I belong. But I do know one thing: you cannot treat people like shit. Not now, not ever. And that is what will happen yet again over the coming years as the euro goes phut, as the world economy grinds to a halt, as economically Asia gets the upper hand over Europe and the world as we 61-year-olds have known it is transformed into something entirely different. It will happen again as those who, for whatever reason, find themselves cleaning their lavatories see their wages cut because that is what economic circumstance and ‘the market’ demand, while those who are already earning too much will be paid even bigger bonuses for coming up with suggestions as to how to get out of the economic mess their kind produced in the first place. Am I a Tory or a Leftie? I really don’t know.


For a guy who lives in the depths of North Cornwall on the edge of Bodmin Moor and in an area which for many others is a holiday destination where they can find fresh air and peace and quiet, I spend scandalously little time out-of-doors. Well, this afternoon I decided to do something about that. For these past three or four weeks I have been feeling curiously out-of-sorts. Nothing physical, it’s just that I can’t get enthusiastic about anything. So earlier today, I decided that what I needed was fresh air. My son is now 12, but six years ago, he used to enjoy taking me for a walk and showing be corners of the village he had discovered. Unfortunately, he is now far more in love with his Xbox and the PC, but, hoping against hope, I asked him whether he would like to go for a walk with me. His answer was inevitable. ‘Er, no, not really.’ So I took myself off and visited - well, it’s not even a hamlet. It’s called Bradford and there are about four cottages and a farm more or less near each other. There is a pretty little bridge over what are the beginnings of the Lank river, and I sat there doing absolutely bugger all for quite a while, just enjoying the breeze and the flow of the Lank. Here are three piccies. They were all taken on my, now exceptionally ancient, Samsung mobile phone.