Go on, give up

For the first time in my life, I have formulated a sensible, viable New Year’s resolution BEFORE January 1st arrives.

Last year, I succeeded in giving up drinking a bottle of wine a day (see February posts). I did it, not for health reasons – I’ve not felt any better since – but because it was costing me £50 a week and I was being made redundant and facing life with no income.

But it was something I didn’t decide to do until January 3rd, when the opportunity had already presented itself. I had run out of alcoholic Christmas presents from family and guests. And I had run out of money. So it didn’t strictly count as a New Year’s resolution, although it lasted through until August and a holiday in France, where the blood of Bacchus runs from the very taps.

I found that giving up the little bottles of wine was made easier by also giving up newspapers. I used to buy a physical paper every day, so I have been saving another £50 a month by reading the news on the interweb thing instead. I would read the paper, drink the wine. The two habits were intimately connected.

But turning to online news sites created a new daily addiction, that of troll-baiting. I became a blogger and, masquerading behind a name I dare not reveal, took on the legions of whingeing, xenophobic morons, illiterate rednecks, foaming-at-the-mouth racists, Tea Party tax experts and God-bothering bigots who infest the news Comment threads, grasping with slimy tentacles at the merest mention of people of difference or disadvantage to spew their stinking pond-bile into the poisoned blogosphere.

I fear however, that while I may skewer many opponents on the sharp point of my rapier-like wit, I am losing the match. Every day brings more and more of them, violently puking up their envy, ignorance and hatred of humanity at the slightest provocation, from the squalid, piss-stained fortresses of their rotting, sale-bargain sofas.

I shall no longer dignify them by arguing against their egregious points of view, pointing up their manifest crassness. They are not worth the exercise of my tolerant good humour, erudition, proper spelling and punctation, because they don’t learn, are incapable of correction.

So that’s my New Year’s resolution, which I propose to put into effect in two days’ time, on January 1st, 2013. I shall thenceforth cease forever to dwell in my on-line news persona. Life is too precious to waste pursuing futile crusades against the undead.

Fuck ’em, I say.

I may have gone missing

Are we absolutely certain the world hasn’t ended? Only, for the first time in living memory (at my age that’s about five minutes) I have made myself a coffee, scraped stuff into the bin, wondered anxiously about cleaning out the fridge, woken up the little laptop on which I compose all these great thoughts and which is the repository of all the world’s wisdom, and found zero emails in my in-box tray thing!

Okay, keep calm. It’s a Saturday. Check. Somebody’s Sabbath. But I always get overnight messages, even on Sundays, no-one is a respecter of religious rest-days anymore, even God shops on a Sunday. It’s December 29th, which is close to, but not yet quite, New Year’s day, a bank holiday. But with the international dateline in perpetual motion, whizzing around the globe at 18000 mph, it’s always a bank holiday somewhere, nicht war? Conversely, there are always parts of the world where some kid has to get up and schlepp into an office to send me an email, business going on 24/7. And, yes, I am not logged-out. Not yet. Yahoo! only logs you out when you are just at the point of sending a long, urgent and detailed message. While you’re asleep it never rests, eternally vigilant and ready for the call.

So I always get emails. Every morning. Oh, not from anyone real, of course not. But from all the webnet thingies I’ve been congratulated for my success in registering with:

  • Futile reminders to update my ads on Classified sites where I’ve had no enquiries for months for things I am desperate to sell.
  • Newsletters from expatriate organisations in warm countries with pavement cafes where I’d be living the life of a flaneur if only I could sell my house (I’ve had two firm offers but no-one can move, we’re all stuck because one absurd mortgage company pretend ‘surveyor’ has decided counterfactually that my house needs a new roof…. I hope he had the worst selection of Christmas presents since the infant Christ was forced to write thank-you letters to the Three Wise Men.)
  • Wittily mis-targeted ‘job alerts’ seeking chief executives with accounting skills, casting calls for 22-year-old hair-extension models (£unpaid).
  • Special offers from online guitar stores (Now, Gibson, ONLY £999.99! — yeah, try selling it again…) and a sheet music company I’ve never bought any sheet music from (Now with 50% extra notes!…).
  • A guy called Howard I once contacted about a course of online piano lessons, wanting to sell me some more pianos.

These are my regulars. Where have they all disappeared to? And where, indeed, are my lovely spammers, when you need reassurance? Gone, all gone.

The Christmas message

Uncle Bogler forgot to send any Christmas cards again this year. He hopes nevertheless that you all enjoyed a festive Yule and may you optimise your Gargle ranklins in 2013 (you need to add more Hs with greater dentistry, I’m told. Ho, ho, ho should do it…).

With special woofs from Hunzi,

Your friend,

Ernst P von Bogl (Attorney and Santa at Law)

The boilerman cometh

I am still in a state of mild shock.

You may recall from Posts past, the boring domestic saga of the British Gas man who arrived two hours late to carry out a boiler service promised for “between 12 and 2 p.m.”

The point of my plaint was not that he was so unapologetically late, but that British Gas had been so persistently insistent he would not be, that they had bombarded me unceasingly day and night by text and tweet for a fortnight with messages reminding me to be in to greet him.

The last twist in this compelling fable was the letter enclosing an information leaflet on what to do in the event of dissatisfaction with the outcome of their top-level inquest into this epochal failure. No such leaflet was present in the envelope.

It was beginning to resemble one of those Monty Python sketches, where everyone in the company commits ritual suicide over a completely trivial complaint. Especially so, as today I received another grovelling apology and a cheque for £30.

If this is what happens when you haven’t actually complained, it might be worth complaining.

On the other hand, it makes you wonder if this huge effort to keep one “valued” customer happy might just be hiding a hint that it isn’t really worth paying £17 a month to have one’s boiler serviced for half an hour once a year?

Hey, Mr Cynical, it’s Christmas!

Pop go the weasels

A highly complimentary message has arrived in my Spam filter, asking if I get paid for creating the brilliant contents of this, my bogl?

The answer is no, I don’t get paid for writing these entertaining and informative articles, that I offer to the world out of sheer boredom. Why else do you imagine I am having to sell everything I own, to buy food?

It seems clear, however, from the 100% lack of interest in my lovely car, my guitars, that no-one is being paid for doing anything useful these days. You wonder what capitalism is going to have to do to survive, when there are no more consumers (other than wealthy mutts paying £1000 in Horrids’ posh-peoples’ store for fluffy, “Sarah Lund”-style embarrassing snowflakes-and-reindeer sweaters, this Christmas’s killingly funny accessory).

What they did last time the economic knicker-elastic went saggy was to cleverly invent the credit card, which replaced money as a medium of exchange for the underpaid while ensuring that the value added by charging astonishing rates of interest came straight back to the capitalists. “Plastic” took the stigma out of paying for goods on the “never-never” and kept the embarrassed lower-middle class out of the pawn shops.

Now plastic has blown up in the faces of the capitalists, “hardworking families” once again queuing in thrift shops, signing-on at food banks and popping their wedding rings, their children going to bed fashionably hungry, something new was needed to keep the wheels rotating whilst still affixed to the axles.

The answer was Direct Action: that is, more barefaced corporate theft and fraud. It seems to be filling the gaps in the economy quite nicely.

A purple passage

Until my father became a roving TV reporter and nightly chat-show host, my parents both worked in the theatre. As a child, I remember, they had many actor friends who were covertly ‘queer’. Indeed, one well-known ‘straight’ actor once observed to my mother that if you were a heterosexual man in the theatre, you never went short of willing girls.

The theatre was one place where homosexuals could behave naturally, as, in the real world outside, soliciting for sex with another man (I’m not sure lesbians existed then) would get you an automatic gaol sentence. In the 1950s and 60s, police entrapment was a real risk. Later on, after the law changed and homosexuals were able to ‘come out’ in public, they co-opted the perfectly innocent word ‘gay’ to describe themselves and their culture, and insisted we all used the term. Its original meaning, of being happy or lighthearted, is now sadly lost to the language forever.

In fact, most of those I knew then were anything but gay under the campery, and ended up either committing suicide or drinking themselves into an early grave. Another word that has been misappropriated in popular usage is ‘paedophile’. Having been fast-tracked  through a classical education, I get mildly irked when people describe child molesters as paedophiles, since the word comes from the Greek and simply means someone who loves children. The proper word for a child molester is ‘pederast’, and the act of having sex with a sexually immature person is ‘pederasty’, not ‘paedophilia’. Here too, I know, I am just huffing into the wind.

My point is, these examples are not just ‘living language’ in action. Language is constantly changing, metamorphosising with the addition of new words and changing usages. These however seem to me instances of sloppiness, born of ignorance.

The former Tory Chief Whip (for non-British readers, a ‘whip’ is a political party appointee whose job is to coerce the members in Parliament into voting the party line), Andrew Mitchell, was fired from the cabinet-ranking job not long ago – sorry, resigned –  after an embarassing altercation with police guarding the entrance to Downing Street.

They had made him wheel his bicycle out through the side gate, rather than opening the main security gate for him – an aperture more appropriate to the size of his ego. Being somewhat tired after a long week of whipping, Mitchell by his own admission effed and blinded a while, and then allegedly accused them of being mere ‘plebs’.

Thanks to a recent court judgement, no successful prosecution is likely to result even from someone telling a policeman to ‘fuck off’, as everyone, probably even the Queen, talks like that nowadays. But the popular blatts had a field day with the ‘posh boy’ Mitchell talking down to two loyal, upstanding, underpaid British bobbies.

As most of them are millionaires and not a few went to the exclusive Eton College, the majority Conservative wing of the coalition are acutely sensitive to accusations of elitism. And the word ‘pleb’ of course is an elitist term for someone of the lower orders who is probably a bit, well, thick and smelly.

Only that’s not what it actually means. ‘Plebs’ is a Latin word meaning ‘the people’. A ‘plebeian’ (not a ‘pleb’!) was simply anyone not of noble rank or born ‘to the purple’ (referring to the purple-fringed togas worn by the Roman aristocracy, purple dye being hideously expsnive on account of its being extracted from Baloney shells…).

‘Plebeian’ was not a term of abuse, quite the contrary: senators were acutely conscious of where their power was derived from. The motto of the Roman Senate was ‘Senatus Populusque Romani’, inextricably binding the two forces together: the politicians and the citizens of Rome. And by that definition, Mitchell too is a ‘plebeian’ who has risen to office.

It now seems as I write that the only ‘witness’ to this dreadful exchange may have been another policeman, who wasn’t even there; but, passing himself off as a civilian, sent an email verbatim supporting his colleagues’ version of what Mitchell allegedly said. ‘A man’ has been arrested for questioning and bailed.

Suspicions of conspiracy or collusion are flying around.

The statements of the police on the gate are also looking rather shaky, as the ‘members of the public’ whom they claimed to have been present and deeply shocked by Mr Mitchell’s outburst have turned up on closed-circuit camera footage as merely one tourist strolling past the otherwise deserted entrance and briefly turning his head at the commotion.

In addition, the CCTV suggested that insufficient time elapsed as Mitchell crossly wheeled his bicycle out for him to have used all the words he is alleged to have spoken. The Police Federation now stands accused of conspiring against a government that has been trying to cut the policing budget, again.

Only in Britain could a politician of Mr Mitchell’s standing be brought down by the utterance, sotto voce, of a mildly patronising insult. He continues to deny ever having used the p-word, although he refuses to say what he did say.

You must admit, it does all seem rather odd. Queer, in the proper sense of the word.

Sic transit gloria mundi

Only five days to go now until the End of Days, prophesied by the Maya, which falls conveniently on a Friday this 44,000-year cycle.

It’s a toss-up whether to gas the car up now, in case there are queues at the pumps, or wait until everyone is lying around in dead positions and you can just help yourself. Am I going to need a car, where we’re going? Will anyone be shooting looters, on a weekend? Decisions, decisions. Four-wheel drive might have come in handy; still, you don’t think of these things until that rainy day arives.

Clearing the decks is proving really difficult, no-one wants to go into the next world with all this much stuff, but I’m stuck with it. What off Earth am I going to do with two sofas? At the same time, one wants to ensure one has all the necessities for survival, at least in the short-run. I’ve stocked up on Pot Noodle and canned soup, bought spare batteries for the flashlight in case it gets dark from any cloudes that shalle cover ye face of ye sunne, drawing-pins for pinning-up photos of missing family, acts of sabotage, that sort of thing.

Money will be pretty useless after the world ends, I expect. Brute force will probably be the order of the day, until the actual Second Coming and the establishment of God’s reign on whatever is left of Earth. That could take a few days to set-up, quite a complex operation establishing a reign, especially dealing with the French. You’ll need a semi-automatic assault rifle and about 1000 rounds of ammo, I reckon. That could weigh quite a lot, so don’t hock the wheelbarrow just yet. Some bottled water, and a spare pair of dry socks. Gold coins, and trinkets for bartering. Grandad’s watch could be useful, still keeps good time. What’s a minute here or there, gained or lost in Eternity? Oh, and don’t forget the Nivea creme, in case the Judgement… well, in case it doesn’t go your way.

But don’t tangle with any scavenging remnants of the army, they can be nasty, or your unfriendly neighbourhood warlord (Hey, didn’t you use to be Michael from the fish counter at Morrison’s? Okay, okay, I’ll bow down and swear… whatever! Who knew you were Polish?). Larger ex-inmates of the Borth Animalarium roaming wild could be a problem after they’ve eaten all the cats; while, if you’re a woman, I’d shoot myself now.

You don’t know whether to finish tiling the bathroom; what not to get the children for Christmas, which isn’t coming this year; how to explain. Should you cancel the boiler man? It might get cold with no sunne. Should you leave a forwarding address? Where? Is one expected to wear a tie? The End of Days gives you a lot to think about, to plan for. Shoes or Wellies? Maybe a raincoat, it might Fludde?

Then, what if nothing happens after all? When you’ve gone to all this trouble? It wouldn’t be the first false alarm, you should have been here in the year 999! That’s how they chose the emergency service number. You’ve sold the house, the car, you’re basically homeless, carless. You’ve given away all your money and goods to the Church, you’ve confessed and said a few Hail Mary’s, which She listened to intently and sweetly forgave you; all you have in the world now is two sofas, a functioning flashlight, a 24-pack of Pot Noodle but no kettle, and then NOTHING HAPPENS?

It’d be like the end of everything, only worse!

Christmas in Connecticut

The arms-industry backers of the National Rifle Association and their bought proxies in Congress can drink a silent toast to Mr Lanza.

Where can anyone stand, ethically, in the face of a ghastly tragedy like the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut?

Predictably, against backdrop footage of an eye-dabbing President Obama, column-miles and whole air-days have been filled globally with pundits speculating that now would (or would not) be a good time to tighten-up the infamously lax gun control laws in America. And all the reader, the viewer, can think is, here we go again. Is there not a God? (Actually, there is, but He’s not real… sorry.)

With 300 MILLION licensed guns in the USA, what conceivable “tightening-up” of the gun laws is going to prevent some deranged, whingeing teenager from getting hold of his mom’s arsenal of lethal assault weapons, that she presumably bought so she could protect her precious child from imaginary enemies, and using it to cut out the beating heart of his community in revenge for some imagined slight?

Obama could dramatically increase the chances of his being assassinated before leaving office by decreeing a total ban on the sale and possession of guns of every kind, with a six-weeks’ amnesty giving people time to hand-in their Saturday-night specials and their must-have Glocks, their H-K 416 carbines and their rocket grenade launchers before a mandatory minimum two-year gaol sentence becomes Federal law.

It won’t make the slightest difference. The Good Ol’ Boys won’t pass it. No-one would do it, anyway. The US Constitution is as fundamental as the Q’uran, when it suits America’s paranoid rednecks (who need no encouragement from arms-industry lobbyists) to cherrypick its more anachronistic prescriptions. And it is sadly true that “responsible gun owners” are, by and large, not the Ritalin-damaged smalltown college kids and brooding scout-hut caretakers who end up committing these self-centred suicidal atrocities.

So, fundamentally, where can we stand, when the Weeping President next gives the order to a computer-game wonk in a bunker under Virginia to blow up more live children with a Hellfire missile from an unmanned drone cruising high over Waziristan?

What will he say to the grieving mothers then? Happy Christmas? We’re doing it for you?

We need something far larger to stop this happening in future, but I fear we never shall. The Massacre of the Innocents is a cultural meme with complex ramifications. Child sacrifice is an ancient rite going back to the Carthaginian holocaust and beyond, into mythology. We first have to accept that what Adam Lanza did is inherently a part of us all, not just an inexplicable anomaly, a random act of unparallelled “evil” that is “out there” somewhere in the dark, that we need to arm ourselves against.

Because all that the Sandy Hooks and the Columbines, the Dunblanes and the Utoya Island massacre by Anders Breivik ever manage to achieve, all the gun killings and the wasted potential of young lives, is, far from disarming communities, to heighten the state of fear and paranoia and to surely bring about the more widespread acquisition and potential misuse of ever-more lethal weapons of “deterrence”.

The arms-industry backers of the National Rifle Association and their bought proxies in Congress can drink a silent toast to Mr Lanza for what he will have achieved this Christmas in Connecticut. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

* I don’t claim to be any kind of seer, but a week after this Post we read that gun sales are soaring and the President of the NRA has made a speech predictably calling for the arming of primary school teachers, on the grounds that gun ownership is a deterrent to gun crime.

I’m being followed!

I am cheered by the news that I have a follower. That is, apparently, some poor soul who will receive an email shortly to tell them that I have posted a new post saying I have acquired a new follower, which is this, who is them.

Wheels within wheels.

But it is good to know that I am communicating with someone who is not a Viagra salesman from Semipalatinsk, or a computerised SEO geek trying to explain (badly) how to make my Google rankings more optimistic. (What is that about?) Hey, I just sold my house, I’m looking for somewhere to live, can you recommend anywhere? Also, I’m looking for a new wife, if you know of anyone going spare. It’s okay, I can cook. And, by the way, I’m selling my Alfa Romeo… and a 1962 Gibson…

It’s so great, to be finally networking!

On the rails

A phone call to an Alfa Romeo service agent (my nearest is 65 miles away) results in a quotation of £230 plus VAT (20%) just to fix my broken door handle. The part, the handle alone, is £126 and it is not gold-plated. In fact, it is clearly quite fragile. As am I.

That is more than one month’s income, at the current rate of progress. Half of everything I have left in the bank, that is not a red figure. There is one more week until Christmas. The weather has turned overnight from minus 3 deg., brilliant sunshine and frost, to rain, deep gloom and a southerly blast.

I rail against the Gods.