Market faeces

Is no-one buying anything anymore?

I ask, because – my savings gone and no employment in sight, you tight bastards won’t pay me to read this stuff either –  it is today a month since that I have been advertising my lovely, shiny-red, pale-beige-leather-clad Italian designer interior, 130mph, 47mpg Alfa Romeo for sale, with 7 sexy photos, and have had not a single enquiry, not even from the usual prannock asking what colour is it and how little am I prepared to sell it for.

Not which, but I have been advertising for sale for the last FOUR MONTHS a 1962 vintage Gibson guitar, in rare perfect condition, for less than I paid for it, which is not at all how the vintage guitar collectors’ market is supposed to work; and another instrument that I have played only a few times, that is therefore probably in a better state than you would find it displayed in a shop, but £400 cheaper; and created not the faintest flicker of interest, other than from a teenager in Bucharest who admitted he was just being annoying for the sake of it. And who can blame him?

And now I am advertising my little house for sale, that I have had for only a year. This is not how it was meant to be. The sale of the instruments and the car was supposed to make a certain chain of events possible and to enable me to keep control of the sale of my house while I found another one somewhere more agreeable. But it seems that by ‘the squeezed middle’, Mr Miliband was describing not just a class of disadvantaged persons but also any price-ticket roughly in the middle of the market.

For, I am certain that, were my items either one tenth of, or ten times, the price being asked, they would sell easily. Who will pay £6000 for a car when they can buy one for £600, or £60,000? Why buy a Gibson, when you can buy a fucking plastic Chinese banjolele with a Midi interface that can make it ‘sound just like a Gibson’? I am not so much the ‘squeezed middle’, as rapidly heading for the ‘squeezed bottom’.

And meanwhile, after three weeks of receiving twice-daily helpful reminders from British Gas by text and email and semaphored smoke signals and carrier pigeons and junk mail and sinister old ladies sidling up to me beside the jumpers rail in Oxfam and phoney newspaper vendors on streetcorners and shoeshine boys spittling at me out of the crooked corners of their mouths and magical Pixar cats miaowing up at me and news headlines synchronistically popping up everywhere reporting that they have booked an engineer to call today ‘between 12 and 2 pm’ to service the boiler, I am still sitting here, at ten-past fucking two, waiting for some twat to phone to say he is outside – where it is dark and raining already. Yes, I have fallen for it – again.

Personally, I cannot wait for the Mayan Prophecy to blow all this shit into a charmingly eccentric orbiting ring of dust around Mars.

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Democracy in action

An MP on the BBC’s weekly Question Time show argues that IPSA, the body set up to monitor MPs expenses in the wake of the appalling scandals of 2009, is to blame for the situation I am about to describe:

Some MPs, 27 of them I read, have bought secondary homes in London, to be nearer work. As they’re no longer able to reclaim the mortgage payments on expenses, they’ve been letting the properties to one another in order to claim the rents instead.

This is apparently not against the rules. It is a loophole, not unlike the loopholes wealthy people exploit to avoid tax, that MPs often complain about. And if the taxpaying public doesn’t like it, well don’t blame the MPs, blame IPSA. They made the rules.

So, if someone burgles my house and stabs me to death in the process, it is all the fault of the courts, whose job it is to prevent this unfortunate event from happening. It is, as the MP on Question Time put it, “nothing to do with us”. The poor parliamentarians are the victims of a loophole that not only allows, but positively obliges them to get away with ripping-off the taxpayer, once again.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sally Bercow’s husband John, has blocked investigation of the practice on grounds that it might betray the home addresses of the MPs and thereby expose them and their families to press harrassment. Or, as it’s sometimes called, public-interest journalism.

Not only that, but MPs are arguing that, in order to prevent themselves from being victimised by such loopholes in the expenses rules, they should be compensated with £92,000 a year, rather than the miserly £65,000 a year they now receive. Plus, of course, expenses. Meanwhile, the rest of the British economy is frozen in time.

We are all in this together.

First Past the Post

A kind email arrives in my Spam queue from ‘kitsucesso’ of Brazil, asking for more Posts. According to Arkayla, the WordPress postman, ‘kitsucesso’ is responding, not to any of the 132 Posts I have already Posted, but to one of the headlined Pages.

If you look under Home you will find all my lovely Posts, ‘kitsucesso’. You could be enjoying reading them from now until Christmas, along with all my other lovely Spammers who never get past the first page.

Obbrigado. Boa tarde. Etcetera.

Very much post-scriptum: Having had a course of lessons in Portuguese I now realise that, assuming Kitsuccesso is not a man or a ladyboy, that ‘thank you’ should have been ‘obbrigada’, to agree with her gender.

On the other hand, why make that assumption? Wishful thinking, I suppose.

How’s About It, Guys and Gals?

When the story of DJ Jimmy Savile’s behaviour with underage girls started to come out in the wake of an ITV documentary last week, I posted on a Comment thread that something of the sort had been widely rumoured around the radio stations where I worked in the 1970s. Within minutes I received a torrent of abuse from people accusing me of lying. Other posts demanded to know why I had not reported it at the time, as if I had some personal knowledge or connection with the man.

A week later, as the police are investigating some 120 allegations that have surfaced since, there are still people, men and women, posting in his defence: it was the victims’ fault, why didn’t they report it before, they were just hoping to cash-in; protesting at the vilification (not that any of them could spell the word) of a saintly do-gooder, whose ‘poor family’ are bearing the brunt of what they see as essentially hypocritical public opprobrium: a witch hunt, in other words, against a dead man who ‘cannot defend himself’, as if he might somehow magically be declared innocent if he could.

The speed with which the family reacted to have his gravestone removed and ‘broken-up for landfill’ suggests that they cannot have been without their suspicions. The removal of the headstone, and the dropping of Savile’s name from his charities, will undoubtedly help to deflect the focus of vigilantes. There is a curious parallel here with the unfolding case against the seven-times winner of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, whose public image, burnished by his status as a cancer survivor and raiser of hundreds of millions of charity dollars, prevented for many years the unmasking by the anti-doping agency of his central role in pumping vast quantities of performance-enhancing drugs into the veins of himself and his fellow cyclists.

‘Sir’ Jimmy was, in fact, given any number of opportunities to ‘defend himself’ against frequent arisings of concern at his behaviour during his long lifetime of celebrity, and merely denied or laughed off the accusations. Nothing was ever proved, mainly it seems because nobody ever tried very hard to prove anything. Former Radio One controller Derek Chinnery came forward to say that he once bravely tackled Savile head-on: ‘Now what’s all this I hear about you and your young fans, Jimmy?’, but Savile laughed it off, so that was good enough. The BBC was like that in my day, a gentleman’s word was his bond.

As a celebrity, a ‘national treasure’ (although many people thought him sinister) he was sufficiently powerful and protected, it seems, to enjoy the silence of those in the know, his immediate circle of acolytes, and the denial of those senior executives who did not want to believe what they were being told, in case they killed the goose that was laying the bling. What harm was he really doing? Against them, the mere word of a few teenage ‘groupies’ and brain-damaged hospital patients would have counted, and did count, for nothing.

It does not yet appear that Savile was a true paedophile, as the word really refers to those whose interest lies in sexually immature children, not in post-pubertal teenagers. So far, it has not been suggested that the former Bevan Boy, unpartnered throughout his life and with an unnatural attachment to his mother, was molesting nine-year-old girls and boys, though that may still come out in the wash. Some people are psychologically incapable of sustaining mature relationships, often owing to emotional dependency on domineering parents, and their own sexual immaturity. Others are powerful and deluded enough by their celebrity to indulge in hedonistic, mild depravity, as they see it, with ‘willing’ and impressionable young fans. In Savile’s case, it appears to have been both.

There have been many other cases of celebrities becoming entangled with underage girls: notoriously Chuck Berry, gaoled for taking a 14-year-old across a state line; film director Roman Polanski; sex-tourist, Gary Glitter, and the Rolling Stones’ bassist, Bill Wyman, whose three-year marriage to Mandy Smith in the late 1980s crowned an affair she claims became sexual when she was just 14 and he was 47. Yet there is no suggestion of paedophilia on Wyman’s part; indeed, according to his Wikipedia entry, he is a respected supporter of the Conservative Party and a noted amateur archaeologist, after whom a brand of metal detector has been named. Anyone more achingly normal, it would be hard to imagine. Yet Wyman himself claims to have had sex with more than a thousand women.

Thirty-year-old Maths teacher, Jeremy Forrest must therefore count himself extremely unfortunate that he and the nubile 15-year-old schoolgirl (name redacted by order of the court, madly), chose this time to run off to Bordeaux together, where after some initial Gallic shrugging over this amour fou he was arrested on a European warrant alleging child abduction. Despite the many defenders who still appear to be in denial, the gathering mob, anxious to dig up and hang the celebrated corpse of Sir Jimmy Savile, appears in no mood to view such indiscretions forgivingly. It is not always enough to be only human.

In the week since this article was written, a man has come forward to say he was abused by Savile as a nine-year-old boy. The police are following 400 separate lines of enquiry, including the possibility of prosecutions against any who assisted or covered-up Savile’s activities. The NSPCC has announced that it thinks the popular DJ could have been one of the most predatory sex-offenders ‘of all time’. Who’d ‘ave thought it, guys and gals?

63

Numerologists will tell you, 63 is a propitious number.

Three is the Trinity representing Completion (or an old man leaning on a stick?) and six is twice three and so clearly twice as propitious, being the actual number of days on which God laboured to create the Earth. Sixty-three is also three times twenty-one, which in turn is three times seven, which is the most propitious number of all. I feel just incredibly fortunate to be 63, at long last.

A week ago, 63 looked very much like the final curtain, a harbinger of loss, loneliness, despair and decay; the end of all ambition. It didn’t help that I had reached the age of 63 on a dismal, dank and rainy October day at the end of a dismal, dank and rainy summer, whose meagre sprinkling of sunny days had served only to remind us of the better life to be found above the clouds. Or, that I had completely run out of money and ideas, and could see no further prospect of getting any.

Nor did it help that nobody had sent me a present, a card or even an e-mail — except for a computer-dating site I once signed up to and then cancelled in embarrassment when I  sobered up the next day and found that more than twenty women of a certain age had already ‘winked’ at me, an image that brought on one of my panic attacks. ‘Paul, do you know what day this is?’, the algorithm asked, coyly. It’s nice to have software that cares.

Yes, I do. It is the first birthday of my life that absolutely no-one near and even a little bit dear to me has acknowledged* (although my mother later complained that I never answer the phone. Well, neither does she!). I am alone in the Universe.

So what did I do on my birthday? Thank you for asking.

I drove my son to the airport, a four-hour slog away when you know how to find it.

Now, in most third-world countries every big city has a grand avenue leading straight to the airport, proudly named after their beloved Leader. Not so Bristol, whose city fathers have settled for anonymity in a warren of unmarked back-lanes. Peter has one of those talking maps on his phone, that tells you every 150 yards to turn left onto the next rutted track. After we had seen enough of North Somerset, I insisted on reverting to the antiquated system of roadside runes that had for several miles been mutely advising us of the benefits of turning right…. By this means I eventually deposited him and his massive laptop full of games at the Express Pick-up and Drop-off point and, with a curt nod and a manly handshake, dispatched him into adult life.

From the Express Pick-up and Drop-off point there is no escaping, other than via an automated toll-gate. The airport extracts a minimum £1 ‘parking’ fee (No Change Given) for using this facility, even though your wheels may not have stopped turning for even a second while you shoved your passenger brusquely out onto the tarmac, their luggage bouncing along after them. I emptied a pound in small change – all I had – into the bin.  With a contemptuous clatter, it spat out all the 5p coins. I tried again. No joy. Next to it, a box displayed fading mugshots of various payment cards you could try instead of money, among them a Visa Debit logo. Ignoring the insistent clamour from my inner pessimist, I thrust my Visa Debit card into the slot. It stuck there, tantalisingly out of reach. The barrier remained shut.

Happily for the travelling public, there is an emergency button connecting the box to a remote control centre, where a tin-man answered promptly. I explained what had happened. ‘That machine doesn’t take 5p coins’, sighed the man, a certain customer-focussed irritation creeping into his tinny voice. ‘Where does it say that?’ I asked. No reply. ‘Or debit cards’, he went on. ‘I’ll send someone to let you out. Stay with the car’.  I looked around at the uninviting vista, the immobile barrier. ‘Okay, I’m not going anywhere’, I said.

Ten minutes later, an elderly moustache pulled up in an airport van. While he set about dismantling the card machine, we discussed how much we both disliked airports. Nevertheless, I felt a tinge of envy: airports had given him a job, a little van and bounteous opportunities to rescue people. I was just another unpaid blogger, 63, stuck at an immobile barrier.

The ancient town of Nailsea is nowadays a suburb of Bristol, and I spent an hour driving round it, looking for a way through to the motorway, which I knew to be nearby; stopping occasionally to let Hunzi out for a wee. Without my son’s talking map I could navigate only by the sun, and there was 10/10ths cloud cover. All roads seemed to lead to the industrial zone. Occasionally, a fingerpost would point unhelpfully back towards Bristol, where I knew I also did not want to go. At last, we arrived back at the airport.

***

Entering the kitchen,  celebratory bottle of late-night-garage Merlot in hand, I switched on the light. The cheap supermarket bulb, rimed with dried-on cooking aerosols, exploded with a sharp pop, and all the house lights went out. Of the 3A fusewire needed, we had run out. I drank the wine, and went to bed in the dark. I was 63.

*To spoil a good story, a week later a book has reached me from the Amazon, which my son seems to have thoughtfully ordered for me as a birthday gift before leaving. ‘The Game’ claims to be a best-selling manual for making oneself irresistible to wealthy and eligible women. I am saying nothing except that, obviously at my age, the type is too small to read with the naked I.