The usual story: Sunday shift finished, I am sitting in a pub supping my pint of cider and drawing on a cigar (which, I must swiftly add, I try as often as possible to buy when in Europe, where they are a damn sight cheaper – no plutcrat me, oh no). The choice of pubs is limited to two, in both of which I can sit outside and smoke and should it rain – not unknown in Britain – I am reasonably sheltered. Here, tonight, I am at the Scarsdale Arms. The other one I sometimes go to is the Devonshire Arms not – a rather hefty – stone’s throw away. In both the cider is excruciatingly expensive, but were I to try to find a cheaper pint, I should have to travel at least 10 miles, and for a cheaper pint of cider I can’t really be bothered.
Both pubs are patronised by loads of foreigners (a breed increasingly dear to a British heart in that, again increasingly, we have no choice in the matter). Foreigners, despite the goddam awful food traditionally served up in Britain, are attracted to our country. If you want to know why, you must ask one of them. Were I to be flippant – a useful ruse to say something you believe but want to disguise in case someone takes offence – is that you seem to get a better class of foreigner in the Scarsdale. That’s not why I come here, of course, and it’s just an observation.
I am writing this because almost always I have an itch to write. The problem is that I rarely have much to write about, so I am bound to restrict myself to inconsequential rubbish. So here goes.
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What the bloody hell is going on in Egypt? A few days ago an estimated 100 folk were gunned down in Cairo while demonstrating in support of the now deposed president Morsi. In case any you reading this entry have forgotten, Morsi was duly and democratically elected. There were no suggestions whatsoever that his election was in any way rigged. His supporters were apparently shot dead – and a great many more were wounded – by the army.
I don’t yet know, that is I haven’t yet heard, how the Egyptian army is explaining its actions and the deaths. In one of those excessively odd and, furthermore under the circumstances highly embarrassing, turns of fate, the army which killed all those folk – a more honest way of describing it would be ‘gunned down in cold blood’ – has the support – an ‘apparently’ is necessary here – of the liberal elite, the ‘burgeoning middle class’, all those folk who like to see themselves on the side of progress, literacy, democracy and the rest. So what is going on? The most recent piece of news I’ve heard is that the current prime minister has granted the army powers to arrest at will anyone they want to arrest. So that’s OK then. It’s all legal and above board.
Actually, I think what is going on is quite simple: the army had a nice thing going under Mubarak, but dumped him when the time seemed right. It then simply bided its time and they had more to lose by sticking up for their man. Then came the ‘popular uprising’ against Morsi, which suited the army’s purpose and cause rather well: they were able to steam in there, remove all those they wanted to remove, but do it all under the spurious cloak of ‘fighting for the people’ or whatever bullshit phrase they have chosen. Plus ca change...
Egypt seems to be split down the centre, which does not bode well for peace.
Meanwhile, Turkey, which had its own problems a month or two ago, has rather gone quite (though in a stange sideshow Erdogan has threatened to launch a libel action against The Times here in Britain, claiming that – hold on a minute while I look this up – he was defamed in an open letter The Times published which criticised his handling of the recent protests). But most certainly the trouble there has not been settled.
In neighbouring Syria things are still going from bad to worse, with Assad’s forces now getting more of the upper hand. Obama is, true to form, humming and haahing about what America should do next. It would be easy to slag him off at this point, but he really does find himself between a rock and a hard place, and, I should imagine, his prime concerns are what domestic impact there is as a result of what he chooses to do. He is on record as laying down a ‘red line’ and says the U.S. will act if that red line is crossed. The red line was crossed when he had very good evidence that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons.
Unfortunately, there is also evidence that the ‘rebels’ had also used chemical weapons and are generally behaving equally as brutally as Assad.
Up a bit and to the left (if you are looking at a map of North Africa) the puported ‘success story’ which was Tunisia is beginning to look rather less successful now that a leading opposition leader has been killed.
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On more domestic matters, my children are unfortunately growing up. My daughter Elsie will turn 17 in nine days and her younger brother Wesley turned 14 in May. And it seems like only yesterday that they were babes in arms, keen to listen to a story in bed or accompany me ‘to town’ because in their then very limited world it was something of an adventure. Oh well.
I mention them because what with the fuck up the ‘Arab Spring’ is becoming I rather feel that the next few years will be hotter rather than colder and not just for the good folk living in North Africa and the Middle East. Earlier on today driving up from Cornwall I was listening to Desert Island Discs whose guest today was Mary Robinson, the former president of the Irish Republic and – in my view – and all-round good egg. One of the tracks she choose was Dylan’s The Times They Are A’Changing. Well, they certainly are.
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JJ Cale — and without looking it up, I couldn’t even tell you his Christian name — has kicked the bucket and is now pushing up daisies. Cale was another of my faves, although again I can’t tell you when or how I first came across him and his music. It will have been in the Seventies, although if truth be told I didn’t really, really get to like it until I was older by at least 20 years. It’s like jazz and classical music: bit by bit you grow into it. Bit by bit the heroes of your younger years and the music they made begin to sound a little thin and you find yourself looking for something a little meatier. And despite his laid-back style Cale was meatier.