Sunday, September 2, 2012

This, that and t’other (in no particular order)


I’ve rather lost track of what’s going on, for several reasons. First, August is always a bit of a dead month, although this year Fleet Street’s fabled silly season stories were swamped by more ‘real’ news stories, that’s if any story which appears in our mainstream media is ever ‘real’. There was a glimmer of hope last week, when every member of Essex’s finest was mobilised to find a lion which might – or, crucially, might not – have been on the loose. The Mail did itself proud as usual, accompanying the front page story (it wasn’t strictly the front page ‘lead’ story because there is rarely room for any more stories on the Mail’s front page now that is has a tabloid format) with totally gratuitous picture of a gloriously aggressive looking lion in full attack mode. It was not, of course, the ‘lion’ apparently spotted prowling around the Essex countryside, merely that the ferocious beast spotted in a Billericay nail salon was a ‘lion like this one’. Anyway the story was dead on its feet the following day when it was decided that the ‘lion’ was most probably a rather large, rather fat, ginger cat, and Essex’s finest were recalled to barracks where, no doubt, to a man and woman they set about calculating how much overtime they had earned themselves trying to track down a non-existent lion.

As for the troubles the euro has been finding itself in, there was very little development on that front, too, it being the August holiday season and the various fuckwits delegated to sort out the mess had all buggered off on holiday. Things should at least brighten up – from my point of view – or darken – from the point of view of others – nicely over the coming weeks. The one conspiracy theory I have come across is that Greece will not be allowed to go bust by the U.S. because (so the thinking seems to be) a bust Greece will lead quite soon to a bust Spain and a bust Italy, which will lead to a bust Eurozone and – this is the important point – and already horribly sluggish U.S. economy will also face even harder times. The point is that in November America goes to the polls to elect it’s new president, and Obama, the sitting duck (is that the right phrase?) would rather like to be re-elected, so he doesn’t really want his country’s economy to go tits up until after the election. Well, actually, as a patriot he doesn’t want the economy to go tits up at all – who does? – but it probably will at some point so the disaster should at least be postponed till the end of November.

But that is, after all, just another conspiracy theory, as is the one which claims Greece, Israel and Cyprus have entered into some kind of informal alliance, but what it’s purpose might be, I really don’t know. I think – I think – it has something to do with vast oil reserves under the eastern Mediterranean, but there again I might have got that very wrong.
. . .
 I am sitting in the outside smoking area of the Scarsdale Tavern in Kensington for my usual post-Sunday shift drink and cigar, but not a lot is happening. This place is either heaving with loads of young American bankers who seem to live locally (probably in company rented houses) or it is quiet, as tonight. The only people of interest are sitting directly behind me and the only interesting thing about them is that they are alternately conversing in English and French. They are speaking impeccable English, but as I don’t have French, I can’t gauge how impeccable their French is, if at all, but it does sound very fluent and they both, a young man and a young woman, seem to be very at home in the language. They don’t seem to be a couple (I can’t look, because they are behind my back and turning round would seem very odd), and I think they are either good friends from college or from work. But they way they are dressed I suspect college.
They are making me rather envious, because long ago I was not just fluent in German but bi-lingual in English and German. Trouble is, I’m no longer bi-lingual (stop the sniggering in the back), largely because I don’t ever speak German very much any more – no call for it. I console myself that were I to go to Germany and live there for a week or two, it would all come flooding back and I would one again be bi-lingual, but … who knows. Am I kidding myself?

Just solved the ‘mystery’: both were at French schools and both have spent a long time living in France.
. . .

Speaking of French, the French and France, my brother Mark and I are off to France again for two weeks this Thursday, this time to a little town called Caunes-Minervois the far south. I am just looking forward to doing absolutely nothing whatsoever. The routine normally consists of relaxing for the first few days, then once one feels a little more refreshed and enthused, doing whatever one feels like doing. The secret is to make no plans at all, none whatsoever. Another reason I enjoy going with my brother (apart from the fact that he is good company) is that he is still – me at 62, he now 54 ‘my little brother’ who I can still feel a little concerned about. He is very solitary and doesn’t really make an effort to socialise at all. Never has done, for that matter. So I try, as I managed to do last year, to get him out of his pit, if only for two weeks.

We both think that September will see huge developments in the euro crisis and are both looking forward to two weeks of political entertainment. I did, a few months ago, suggest to him – not quite seriously, but more seriously than jokingly – a trip to the Middle East to see for ourselves what is going on, but he wasn’t having any of that. Would I have gone? Yes, I think I might have done. Experience has taught me that not a great deal of organization is needed for that kind of trip and you always meet interesting people.
. . .
I’ve been in touch with an old girlfriend who I tracked down in order to see whether I might not interest her in reading my novel. I say ‘old girlfriend’ but there wasn’t really a great deal to it: I met her in Roscoff at something called the Celtic Film Festival and asked her whether I might see her again. Yes, she said, and then told me she lived in New York. A few months later I flew off to New York for a week, then didn’t see her again until the following October when she was relocating to Europe and used my flat in Cardiff as a dumping off site for her goods and chattels. She is French and from Britanny, and speaks very good English, although not quite as good as she imagines. She also speaks Breton and Welsh. That was all more than 22 years ago. It came to nothing for a number of reasons, two of which are my rather parochial outlook, at least parochial compared to hers, and the fact that, unfortunately, she has (in rather too large a dose for my liking) that certain kind of French intellectual arrogance and conceit.

She is holding off reading my novel, and to be honest I don’t really care either way. As it is, it was written quite some time ago, is so far the only thing I have written which I think might – might – be regarded as halfway decent, but makes me ashamed that I have not yet attempted anything else. In mitigation I could plead that it was written before I had children and that I was fully able to sit down once or twice a week and write in eight-hour stints. That would, at the momeht, be impossible, but I still cannot rid myself of the sneaky feeling that I am conning myself. Oh, well. I did imagine that her opinion would be interesting and worthwhile and that because of her background and interest she might finally be someone to understand what I was trying to do. But what with the questions she asks me about it by way of finding out whether reading it would be worth her while, I rather think she will eventually decline. Again, oh well.

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