Panic now. Official. £1.10p at all good newsagents.

Godde preserve us, one and alle.

A little over two years ago, I evinced what I have since considered to be a bit of a crazy desire to emigrate to Portugal, an imagined country I have never visited.

I put my house on the market, anticipating leaving Britain with cash in my back pocket. I would find a cottage with a bit of land, a pool and a studio. I would do a bit of B&B and teach English – for both of which I have qualifications. I would play Portuguese songs on my expensive guitar. With a little money put-by, I would live on my pension on a diet of artisanal bread and cheese, ripe tomatoes and rough Douro wine. I would die in delicious obscurity.

The principal advantage of the plan was that I do not speak many words of Portuguese; whereas I can, for instance, manage a bit of garbled French or Italian. It is quite easy to understand written Portuguese, as we have many words and word-roots in common. I would quickly pick up a few courtesies: ‘Good morning’. ‘A kilo of that, please!’ ‘Where is the bus station?’ ‘No, I was never in Praia da Luz.’

But spoken Portuguese is impossible to understand! So as for accessing media, forget it. I would be pretty well isolated from the news.

As we all need to be in 2015, for our sanity.

Today’s lead story, for instance. One Scottish nurse who has years of experience of working in Africa has possibly contracted Ebola, the vicious viral disease she went to Sierra Leone as a volunteer to fight on behalf of the poor and needy and desperate people of the region. As she said in an interview before leaving, she didn’t hesitate.

I think you might, no? I know I have.

The infection was suspected only after she returned to Glasgow, via Casablanca and Heathrow. At Heathrow, she underwent the standard temperature tests for medical aid workers returning from Sierra Leone. She complained of feeling unwell, but the tests were negative and so she went on to Glasgow, where she tested ‘possibly’ positive and was immediately isolated and rapidly flown back to London’s Royal Free hospital, where there exists the most advanced treatment facility in the world for patients with high-morbidity infectious diseases.

She is, technically, the first person to have a diagnosis of Ebola actually while in Britain – setting her apart from William Pooley, the nurse who was diagnosed in Sierra Leone and returned to Britain for treatment. The difference is really academic. Now fully recovered, Pooley is back working in Sierra Leone. In the seventeen months since the outbreak they are the only two Britons out of hundreds of volunteers to be treated for Ebola in Britain.

These true ‘heroes’ deserve nothing but our humble and unstinting admiration.

Instead, every single tabloid newspaper today has headlines screaming insanely about why was she allowed back into the country? Are our medical defences against foreign illnesses as completely useless as our defences against foreign immigrant benefit scroungers? Internet trolls too are out in force: it’s her own stupid fault, she’s put us all at risk, black people don’t deserve help, we give them all this money and what do they do?, and so on and sickeningly on.

The nurse’s name is Pauline Cafferkey*. Thanks for that, British media. Releasing her name is a breach of her right to medical confidentiality, but I suppose our right to be protected against a rerun of the Black Death of 1347 transcends common decency – Leveson please note.

The question why? could equally apply to tabloid editors. Why are irresponsible, semi-educated, crapulous baboons encouraged to edit British newspapers?

I don’t feel well after flying either. It’s an unpleasant and disorientating experience, frankly, being forcibly packaged in a pressurised cigar-tube and shot hurtling into the stratosphere, being plied with peanuts and shopping vouchers, hoping the tyres don’t burst on landing. Nor do I feel well after I have caught a cold, hit my thumb with a hammer,  eaten dodgy shellfish, or watched Friday the 13th.

It doesn’t mean I have Ebola.

We are all aware, are we not, it having been explained to us myriad times by experts, that you cannot catch Ebola from someone unless and until after they are showing advanced symptoms of the virus. A symptom is a sign that someone is unwell (Editors’ note). Symptoms of Ebola include a very high temperature, projectile vomiting, diarrhoeia, multiple organ failure and bleeding from orifices. Another common symptom is death.

Nurse Cafferkey was not exhibiting any of those symptoms at the time she arrived in Glasgow.

We are also aware that you do not catch Ebola, any more than you can get pregnant, from merely sitting next to someone who has been to Sierra Leone. You would not imagine we knew this from the bizarre behaviour of some, especially American, institutions. The American mindset is of course still very much located in the seventeenth century. You would not expect it of an advanced society, yet we hear of schools in Britain that have barred pupils who have returned even from parts of Africa a thousand miles from the disease outbreak, at the insistence of worried parents with nothing better to do.

We have come nowhere, really, since the Middle Ages.

The training of medical volunteers travelling to West Africa is rigorous. The Army Medical Corps is providing it. Outgoing personnel spend nine days learning how to protect themselves against infection. But conditions in the field are such that, sometimes, nurses may come into unprotected residual contact with the bodily fluids of infected patients, living or dead. That is, so far as the experts are aware, the sole means of transmission of the virus. You cannot get it from reading newspapers.

When Nurse Cafferkey suspected she was unwell, she correctly reported the fact to the medical authorities, who have set up monitoring facilities at UK airports for people returning from the danger areas. The authorities did all that was necessary at that stage, given that there were no obvious symptoms: they monitored her temperature over a period of time, after which she was feeling better, and cleared her to continue her journey AT NO RISK WHATSOEVER TO THE READERS OF THE DAILY MIRROR.

The fact that they did so, and that one doctor – not a clinician, a psychiatrist – had complained on TV that the room in which the 37 returning medical personnel were tested was rather small (Freudians dislike small rooms) and there did not appear to be many staff on duty, is not really evidence that:

  • the Great British Public is being recklessly endangered, or a reason to
  • ban medical staff from travelling anywhere, or to
  • close British airports to onward flights from West Africa, or to
  • sack the Chief Medical Officer, or to
  • force everyone travelling anywhere to undergo quarantine, or to
  • panic the less sentient sections of the British public into ill-judged pitchfork lynchings of patients with embolisms or tennis elbow,

…or whatever the tabloid editors are trying to do by spreading dismay and disinformation.

Sell newspapers?

Has it not occurred to any of these feral word-rats, that the whole point of the story is that the precautions put in place against this expected eventuality actually WORKED? Evidence that they had not would be the onward transmission of Ebola to the population of Glasgow, something that does not appear to have happened. In the meantime, another Scottish and a Cornish case of returned aid workers reporting-in sick have proved negative.

It has been reported from time to time, as you may have heard, that in remote rural villages in dark jungly places like Equatorial Guinea, there remains a superstitious whisper among the afflicted tribesfolk that Ebola is being deliberately spread by the White Man’s juju. This belief has translated elsewhere into the ‘modern’ milieu of internet conspiracy theorists as a plot to eradicate Africans and steal their land for agriculture – which we are doing very efficiently already through the standard model of capitalism.

There seems to be a similar belief prevalent in the sweaty, sweary offices of the post-festive, tired and emotional baboons who print the spurious and dangerous medieval crap, which fearful caerls in deepest urban Sofaville seem to want to believe, that we are all doomed, if not by Ebola then by membership of the EU, and that it is all Nurse Cafferkey’s fault for being an n-word loving sentimentalist, coming back here when she should stay in bloody Bongoland or wherever she came from.

Could they not find one kind word to say about this courageous woman?

The thing is, the press would absolutely love it if there were to be a mass outbreak of plague in Britain. It’s the story, stupid! Just think of all the foreigners we could blame! The hapless ineptitude of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his Poshboys’ government! NHS cuts! Austerity! Lib-Dems! Lack of preparedness for whatever, asteroid impacts, tsunamis in Cornwall, a UKIP victory in May… anything, just to break the fucking monotony.

Why, there’s always an air crash somewhere at Christmas, another typhoon, a boring earthquake in some rutted feudal demesne nobody gives two shits about. Now, an outbreak of plague… seventy per cent mortality… people in Birmingham’s eyeballs exploding out of their heads… martial law… Nigel Farage… Romanians looting… undertakers running out of coffins… grannies buried in binbags… the dead coming back as zombies…

Now, there’s a real story to kickstart the New Year.

*Postscriptum: 14 October, 2015

Unhappily, Nurse Cafferkey was readmitted to the Royal Free isolation unit in a critical condition last week, following a recurrence of the Ebola infection. Experts say some ten percent of infected patients can continue to harbour the virus in small pockets of fluid anywhere in the body, and are liable to reinfection at any time. What that means for the 30 thousand ‘recovered’ West African patients is unclear, but it may be a death sentence for many.

Old Bogler’s Almanacke, 2014

So, farewell then, 2014.

Not so different from 2013, were you?

A year ago, I wrote a long, doomladen report on the year’s events, showing all the major currents and trends in world affairs. The inescapable conclusion was that we were heading for dark times.

The best thing about it was that I did the whole thing from memory, with just a little help from our friends at Wikipedia as regards things like dates and spellings.

This year, I don’t seem able to remember much that happened. Certainly not in any detail. Not due to the darkness, just failing memory. But I’ll try.

Most of the world’s troublespots then are still the world’s troublespots now, and have fallen out of the news headlines. Editors think their readers and viewers are easily bored. Maybe they’re right.

The civil war in Ukraine, for instance, drags on. There’s another ceasefire, apparently. An election was held in Kiev, so the pro-Western side got a new President, a colourless billionaire who owns a sweet factory. An unofficial election was held in the pro-Russian east, and was won by the pro-Russians. Talks have been held, inconclusively. Four thousand people, mostly civilians, have been killed, mostly in artillery exchanges. Still no-one quite knows what happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, downed over the combat zone in July.

More worrying, is the state of the Russian economy. The Rouble collapsed in November, losing 50% of its value against the dollar. Falling oil prices and economic sanctions over Russia’s ‘non-intervention’ in Ukraine were to blame. The West was to blame. Putin put in place a two-year recovery plan. In a four-hour speech. Or was it the other way round? His helpful response to Western sanctions was to ban imports of Western foodstuffs. MacDonalds’ Moscow branch announced the arrival of the caviar-burger, or somesuch. Russians stoically rallied round. Those who didn’t are increasingly being persecuted and imprisoned.

The civil war in Syria also drags on. The mind-numbing statistics of casualties and refugees continue to numb the mind. The moderate opposition has all-but vanished. The Assad dynasty has continued to reassert its power in the face of an increasingly terrifying neo-Islamist insurgency. The year’s big story has been the consolidation of ISIS, or ISIL, or IS, or Deish… whatever. Baghdad yet stands, but the battle has raged over various towns in the northwest of Iraq and over the border in Syria. A surprise coalition of Western and Middle Eastern states launched air raids against IS positions, but the movement continued to attract disaffected young men and women from around the world. Western hostages were beheaded in a series of propaganda videos. Clandestine forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters resist on the ground but without a general commitment to return combat troops IS remains in control of broadly co-operative Sunni areas and bathes in the glow of international outrage at its decidedly un-Islamic behaviour.

The NATO mission in Afghanistan ended in December, following withdrawal of US and British combat units. The Taliban immediately declared victory, celebrating with a series of atrocities in Kabul and elsewhere. The confused relationship between the Pakistan security services and the Taliban became more confusing when a Taliban suicide squad slaughtered 130 teenagers at a military school in Pakistan, apparently in reprisal for civilian deaths in army missions in Taliban-controlled Swat. The government in Islamabad immediately imposed retrospective death sentences on dozens of prisoners, some of whom may even have been Taliban. Way to go, guys.

IS atrocities seemed to embolden their counterparts in Africa: al-Shabab and Boko Haram irregulars continued their attempts to disrupt the education system in various countries with further kidnappings of pupils, imposing sex slavery on the girls and pressing boys into military service. President Badluck Jonathan and counterparts continued to wring their hands, with little effect, as there seems to be evidence of the involvement of senior ministers and military figures behind the scenes.

The year’s big Africa story was, of course, Ebola. By the year’s end the death toll stood at over 7,500, less than ten percent of the numbers slain by Malaria in the same period. A major international medical aid effort swung into action with increasing but still patchy efficacy, while journalists, quivering Daily Express readers and internet trolls remained vigilant to abuse any brave aid worker who might hopefully export the plague back to Western countries, thus fulfilling the Zombie Prophecies.

What has, of course, gone unremarked is the unusual degree of peace and economic development that has afflicted the Dark Continent all year. Apart, that is, from Libya, which continued to disintegrate in the factional rivalry that has inevitably followed the downfall of Gaddafi. In the wake of its democratic revolution, Egypt elected a military dictator, General Abdul Fateh al-Sisi. Ousted President Morsi remains in gaol, facing an ever-lengthening roll of trumped-up charges, while former President Mubarak was freed, all charges against him being dropped for lack of conviction. Al-Jazeera English (and former BBC) journalist Peter Grester and colleagues continue to rot in a Cairo gaol at the insistence of al-Sisi for just doing the job of reporting on the Islamic Brotherhood, hundreds of whom also continue to rot in gaol under sentence of death. Will someone declare the Arab Spring officially over?

From The New York Times, 5 August:

“After weeks of rising tensions following the killings of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager, Israel began a major offensive against Hamas in Gaza on July 8. On August 5, Israel announced that it had withdrawn its forces from Gaza, and Hamas said it would engage in talks on a lasting arrangement to keep the peace.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. That is because if I did, which I think I could, I should be accused of all sorts of things. Let’s just say that in July, the Israelites did smite Gaza under provocation from annoying but seldom lethal rocketry from frustrated young Palestinians walled-up for years in an economically blockaded collective punishment zone condemned frequently by the UN as a violation of human rights; slaughtering 1,882 mostly innocent women and children in what they claim was a carefully targeted campaign of shelling and airstrikes, destroying four thousand properties, including UN schools and vital utilities, and hundreds of illegal tunnels, in exchange for taking 67, mostly military casualties of their own? Quite Biblical, really, all that smiting, eyes and teeth. But Hamas don’t help themselves, and it looks like it may all kick off again in 2015.

China/Japan and North/South Korea remained on the fixtures list, but despite random shellfire the belligerent language seemed to get toned down. Korea’s tufty president, Kim Jong-un, disappeared off the scene, his non-attendance at certain key events stirring the loins of Korea-watchers hoping there had been a coup. However, after a few weeks he returned, leaning heavily on a stick (believed to be the legbone of one of his uncles… no…), and the explanation emerged that it was probably gout – an unusual condition in one so young, often brought on by a diet of rich food and wine while your subjects are starving. Soon afterwards the decree went out that no-one else in North Korea should be allowed to call themselves or their children ‘Kim Jong-un’. A hairdresser in North London was ‘visited’ by North Korean embassy officials for displaying a Kim Jong-un poster, under the slogan ‘A bad hair day?’.

As well as MH17, in March the luckless Malaysian Airlines lost another of its Boeing 777 fleet, MH370. This has already joined the rollcall of historic Earth mysteries: the Marie Celeste, the Bermuda Triangle, the disappearance of Glenn Miller, the existence of Justin Bieber, as despite a massive international search covering millions of cubic miles of ocean there remains absolutely no clue as to the reason for its disappearance, its final flightpath or its current whereabouts. To add to the region’s tragic year, airwise, on 28 December AirAsia Flight 8501 with 162 people on board disappeared in a storm over the Java Sea. Its fate now looks certain. Bodies and wreckage have been found, The world’s media lenses insensitively shoved in the faces of weeping relatives confirmed the worst.

In fact, most of the year’s disasters were man-made. That doesn’t mean the planet got any more benign, merely that we seemed to be better prepared for natural calamities In December, the Philippines was hit by another massive superstorm, Typhoon Hagupit. Thanks to a large-scale evacuation effort, deaths remained in single figures and there was no repeat of 2013’s Typhoon Hayan, in which around seven thousand perished. Hawaii had to put up with huge lava flows from an eruption on Mount Kiluea, as well as a severe snowstorm in December, while dire predictions of another ash cloud affecting flights over the North Sea petered out as the Bardabunga volcano (a suitable location for one of Silvio Berlusconi’s soirees) continued to pour out lethal sulphur dioxide for two months, fortunately a long way from Reykjavik. In Japan, 36 sightseers died in September when Mount Ontake erupted without warning.

In late November a sudden shift in the Jetstream brought Arctic weather to much of the USA, with snowfall as far south as Florida. The ladies basketball team from Niagara U. were stranded on their coach for 30 hours. (He didn’t object…!) Seven people died as the cold front dropped up to eight feet of snow in three days over the states of New York, New Hampshire and Michigan. The big news story in the European ski resorts was that there was no snow. Then in one day, fifteen thousand motorists got trapped in their cars over Christmas when it all arrived at once, to the relief of the resort operators.

The big weather story for we Brits was a run of unusually powerful Atlantic storms that hit after Christmas 2013 and continued into February, with extensive flooding in Somerset and expensive coastal damage. The government and Environment Agency came in for criticism after it was found that budgets for flood defences and river dredging in the Somerset Levels had been pared back for years. (Everyone failing to acknowledge that the Levels is supposed to be a wetland environment – too much of the UK’s natural flood defences having been built over by speculators.) The long, dry summer made up for it, however, and by December (when the weather finally turned colder) the Met Office was already predicting 2014 would be the warmest year on record. Retail sales fell by 0.6% on an unusually warm autumn. A sudden deep depression in December threw up 50-foot waves and 80-mph winds on the west coast of Scotland and introduced us all to the phrase ‘weather bomb’.

The US and UK both continued their modest economic recovery, with falling unemployment failing to push up household incomes beyond 2008 levels. House prices rose, then fell, on mixed government signals. UK annual GDP growth was revised downward, from 3% to 2.6%, but unemployment at a little over 6% was the best in the EU, although it failed to result in the expected increase in Bank rate, which remained at 0.5% for another year. This was because of record low inflation, thanks in part to falling oil prices, Brent Crude hitting $60 a barrel in December from a previous high of $120. (This resulted in a whole 10p drop in UK pump prices per-litre.) Despite austerity measures, Government borrowing rose on a falling tax-take to almost £100bn for the year.

The Eurozone continued to struggle, even mighty Germany posting minus growth in the third quarter. The European Central Bank finally gave way to pressure for a little Quantitative Easing. Greece was back in crisis by December, the parliament refusing to ratify Prime Minister Samaras’ nominee for President. Shares fell 10% on the Athens exchange and Germany began making anxious noises as the anti-austerity opposition Syriza party looked favourites to win power in a January election. Republicans took over the US Senate in the mid-term elections. He walks like a duck, he quacks like a duck, but is Obama now a lame-duck President? It’s all been sadly disappointing.

Cyber warfare took over from rogue asteroids in late 2014 as the threat du jour, when hackers took down Sony Corporation’s website and released millions of emails embarrassing Hollywood execs with public exposure of their post-prandial views of various movie stars’ egos. The furore was over the impending release of a third-rate comedy depicting an unlikely plot by hack journalists to assassinate North Korea’s popular boy-president, Kim Jong-un. The FBI fingered North Korea as the source of the hack; North Korea denied it, calling President Obama a ‘monkey’. The internet promptly went down in North Korea for several days, although not many people would have known it. North Korea blamed the Americans. Sony pulled the film from general release after hearing of threats to movie theatres, but later changed their minds following criticism from the White House. The film has subsequently had over two million internet downloads. Way to go, guys.

Meanwhile, cyberheroes or villains, Assange and Snowden remain under their various forms of self-imposed house arrest. As for the Kardashian family, it’s been a wonderful, publicity-filled year, I have no idea why. Celebrities’ arses loomed ever larger in the popular media, the best remedy I find being to imagine what comes out. Bob Geldof had a tragic year, first losing his daughter Peaches to heroin, then re-releasing the creaking 1984 Band Aid ‘Don’t They Know it’s Christmas?’ single in a minorly updated version to raise funds for Ebola victims. The response from black Africa this time was: ‘Of course we bloody know it’s Christmas, now stop patronising us, for feck’s sake.’ It went briefly to number one. Relentless pap-promoter, Simon Cowell finally found the Y-factor, promoting a new celebaby, Eric.

Amazing feat of the year award went to the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission team that succeeded (12 November) in landing a probe called Philae on a small, rapidly spinning agglomeration of rocks shaped like a bathtime rubber duck, travelling at 30,000 mph, 327 million miles from planet Earth, after a 12-year voyage to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (yes, I had to look it up!). Before its battery went to sleep (a familiar problem for cellphone users), Philae found a) organic molecules necessary to the creation of life, and b) water, although not as we know it (yes, there are alien kinds of water. This had too much Deuterium in it, so it couldn’t be the kind scientists think may have created the oceans on Earth. Frankly, that would have taken a lot of comets.)

Finally, is there a paradigm-shift in the British political consensus of the past 100 years? 30-year cabinet papers revealed today that David Cameron’s policy adviser, Oliver Letwin, was key to advising Thatcher in 1985 to press ahead with the hated Poll Tax using Scotland specifically as a ‘test-bed’, leading to nationwide riots. The Scottish independence referendum in November produced a 55-45 split in favour of remaining in the Union, but subsequent stories like the one above led to a 300% increase in membership of the Scottish National Party, now expected to wipe out Scottish Labour to hold the balance of power in Westminster after next May’s general election. Revenge best comes deep-fried, they say.

The success of gaffe-prone, ‘non-racist’, back-to-the-’50s party UKIP in by-elections in 2014 and an apparent increase in support for the Greens led to serious suggestions that we are moving towards a multi-party state – just like other European democracies, in fact! Polls suggest Britain would narrowly vote to leave the EU if offered a referendum. The PM’s ‘friend’ and former £475,000 p.a. press chief, Andy Coulson was released from gaol in November after serving five months of an 18-month sentence for presiding over phone-hacking while editor of the News of the World. Perjury charges in another case remain unresolved.

Personally, nothing much happened for me in 2014. A former girlfriend sadly died, much too young, from cancer. No-one at all came to view my little house, which has been on sale now since November, 2012. But I sold all six of my remaining guitars, and bought another one, after some difficulties – and a car, a Citröen ‘Berlingo’ or somesuch (I wasn’t planning to go to Berlin!), to replace my disintegrating dog-kennel.

My short-term memory continues to atrophy, often to my embarrassment (for instance, I have just today overlooked a longstanding lunch invitation while writing this. My hostess emails to say she is miffed).

I became an Old Age Pensioner for the first time; with the heating turned off, wrapped for warmth in my old school scarf, I remain lovelorn and single but for Scat the Cat and (of course) my principal quadrupedal fur-bearing mammalian associate, Hunzi, who is in the pink, thanks for asking. Otherwise, I continue to function normally, apart from a slight, inconvenient urinary problem (To pee, or not to pee…) which my medical team continues to ignore.

I have applied for more caretaking work abroad, this year with no success whatever; done some singing, and some fine acting, and taken Portuguese lessons (I am proud to have learned off by heart, two Portuguese songs! But I cannot now remember a word of the Portuguese I expensively learned in August and so do not know what the lyrics mean).

And my tally of Posts to this, muh li’l bogl, recently passed the 400 mark, which may be some sort of pointless record; Pointless contestants please note.

“After all, tomorrow is another day…” (Scarlett O’Hara, in Gone With the Wind)

It is indeed, Scazza. Pip pip!

–   Your Old ‘Uncle Bogler’

Golden threads amongst the grey

“If you’ve developed a crush on someone, you should pursue your heart’s desire.”

– Yahoo! horoscope, Saturday 19th Dec.

Oh, Russell, I have, I have!

You know me only too well….

I hadn’t thought about romance for years, not even once, nor given it thence a second thought but for the occasional passing regret that my life was certainly over, despite the coy looks I get from choirladies d’un certain age upon hearing my resonant basso profundo. In any case, with so little income and only a dreadful car, smelling of wet dog and the previous owner’s socks, who would look twice, even at a handsome old git like me?

I know I am far from a promising bet: a depressed, monosyllabic, autosexual pensioner dwelling pointlessly and underemployed in a tiny, unsaleable cottage on a thunderous main road in the echoing outskirts of a dull provincial seaside town, miles from anywhere. Why, it must be two years since I read a book or went out for the evening.

My last affaire d’amour left me for another woman, I don’t remember what year that was, probably what, five? six years ago? She always denied our relationship – how do you deny you are in a relationship with someone you have shared a bed with almost nightly for eighteen months? I found it funny. What wouldn’t I have put up with?

She used to pause in the midst of lovemaking to ask with a quizzical note if I was possibly using Viagra, which was cheating? Or, if I was sure I was not dyeing my hair? Because my relative youthfulness seemed such an unexpected attribute. Her practical and forthright parents (I am the same age as her father) would sit around the table discussing the awful possibility that we might make mentally defective, genetically dubious babies together, with my elderly neutrino-battered spermatozoa hobbling around on tiny Zimmer frames…. Yes, I’m afraid she was twenty-three years younger than I, and the difference became first a joke, then a concern, and finally a reason to move on.

She had done the calculation: by the time she was still only 47, I might be 70…. The future with me was too medicalised to contemplate. But, by a horrible irony, a bloody joke perpetrated by a vindictive and uncomprehending God, here I remain, needing no Viagra, no hair-dye, walking the dog and drinking too much wine, talking balls, writing rubbish, and there she is, inurned at not-quite 42, snatched from her choirs and pupils and infant son, her much younger partner and her mad family by a brutal and incurable, rampant disorder of the cells.

The unmistakeable message therefore must be, “Pursue your heart’s desire”: or, to resort to the Latin, gaudeamus igitur.

Since her, there has been no-one. Not even now, for my new passion is still and maybe forever distant and confused. But something has definitely stirred in the depths of my ancient reptilian brain, a saurian eye has opened on the world and the dragon begins to unfurl his leathery wings. I have indeed developed an all-consuming crush on a glorious personage with a fine sense of the absurd, little more in years than a child, yet who in my madness seemed from the moment I first saw her to be attached to me by some golden thread of destiny.

Lock me up now, but the last time I was with her, standing near to her at a gathering, babbling drunkenly something-or-other, she volunteered me a quick, squeezy hug in the kitchen…. Oh, rapture! An entire landscape of life, love and true happiness has since unfolded on the unsteady campaign table of my brain, many times over. I have vowed to pursue the dream, as far as it will take us.

That may of course be nowhere, it being in the nature of crushes to remain unconsummated. I don’t even know where she lives. I’m afraid to find out. Romantically challenged, frightfully English, I don’t know what I should say, what the magic words would be, were I to be vouchsafed another opportunity to say anything unconnected with the weather.

But if the power of infatuation can persuade the Universe from time to time to actualise your heart’s desire, don’t close it down, will you? Not yet. For the years are falling away, like the tanks of a Saturn V rocket on its way to the Moon.

Now there’s an image to conjure with….

Xmas humor

I made up a joke yesterday!

‘What do you call a Greek who is dating a chick-pea?’

‘A houmousexual’.

Merry Xmas!

– Uncle Bogler


This, by the by, is my 399th Post on this site. I hover on the verge of a new century. Most of you have managed as yet to read only one article, that I wrote in 2008 and archived almost three years ago under Pages, entitled How to Live in a Stately Home – an ironic title, by the way. Not that you’d notice.

Never mind, I look forward shortly to producing my 400th pointless Post for you all not to bother reading in the New Year. But keep dat spam a-comin’!

– UB

In the lap of luxury

“Being showered with presents is one of your favourite experiences. You’re not materialistic; you just love being pampered.” (Yahoo! Horoscope)

Do you know, I honestly think I must have some kind of direct spiritual connection with the heavily beringed hieromancer, Russell Grant.

How does he know this about me? Tell me, how?

My son has taken a more fatalistic approach. ‘Is that your latest guitar?’ ‘No, actually, it is my last guitar. I sold all the others to buy it. I don’t ever want to have to buy another one.’ ‘So it is the ultimate guitar then?’ ‘Er…’

Maybe not. It’s very lovely, wine-red with gilded brightwork, and has an extra-wide neck to accommodate my fat fingers, that no longer seem to work in quite such a co-ordinated fashion as they once might have. It was quite expensive. But there’s something… it’s partly to do with the finish.

It’s not quite the right wine; the same Burgundy red as the one I tried to buy in Birmingham, the one in the photo in the interblogue, that they didn’t have in stock and needed four months to order. It’s darker, more like Hungarian Bull’s Blood, with a secret black tiger-stripe effect hidden under a gloss seal that I find mildly disturbing. Made in Japan, I found it in Germany, where they do things differently (for instance, I ordered it late on Thursday night in Cologne and it arrived without warning and with moderate accuracy only two doors away, in my village on the impenetrable west coast of Wales, the following Monday afternoon.)

The top is not quite as deeply arched as I would have liked. You don’t get that from a straight-on photo. But it’s mostly to do with the weight distribution.

I’d been looking forward for months to finding a compact hollowbody format with a hybrid pickup system with which to pamper myself, but they are either rare or aesthetically hideous. I followed Russell’s advice not to go for something flashy and unusual and instead gave up, reverting to the classic, two-pickup, ‘335’ semi-hollow shape, that he felt I would not regret in years to come, only to find that this one is regrettably heavy and tends to slide backwards off my lap while I am struggling to form the D7 (b13th) chord; so-called ‘jazz’ chord extensions being mathematical improbabilities bewildering to the majority of classically trained musicians who imagine there are only seven whole and five half-tones in the scale, making twelve.

The obvious solution was to go into town and blow a fiver on a guitar strap, that would take the weight of the big-end off my right thigh. My incorrect and lazy playing position would horrify Segovia, but it seems to suit jazz musicians. Unfortunately, all the strap has done is to transfer the weight to my neck, with consequent strain on my dorsal fins.

So it may not be the last one, after all. But if it is not, I am reduced to a choice of only one very, very much more gratifyingly expensive guitar I have been lusting after. And without mortgaging my house I do not see how that can ever be afforded; the corollary being that I should then be homeless and lacking the electricity supply needed to milk the power of its fabulous pickups – given that I should have to acquire an even more fabulous and expensive amplifier and another house to go with it.

Now, if I sound materialistic, please understand that it is the spiritual and aesthetic qualities inherent in musical instruments that attract me to them, not the mere fact of possession. If I were a better (less lazy and unimaginative) player, it would also be their musical qualities, but alas.

The problem has also been, you see, that I have no-one to shower me with presents, so that I am forced to shower myself.

I long ago forsook materialism, and prefer to have about me just a small number of intensely beautiful and useful things; hence my sale last week of a set of six prints of jewel-like watercolours by the artist, JMW Turner, little sketches that he made on a trip to France that he wasn’t otherwise enjoying, at the behest of his patron, the curious polymath Ruskin.

Often cited as one of the Eminent Victorians, it is hard to see why. Eminence was the very thing he lacked. Ruskin famously recoiled in horror on his wedding night upon discovering that his bride sported a luxuriant bush of pubic hair, and was so shattered by this unexpected revelation that he was unable to consummate the marriage, which had to be annulled.

It seems odd that a grown man who knew all there was to know about art, literature and the Classical period suspected nothing whatever of human anatomy, but that’s polymaths for you. It came as a bit of a shock to me too. But, like going to a party where you don’t know anybody, you just have to dive in.

Though the hundred pounds (£95 after heinous bank charges) was welcome at Christmastide, the sale of my Turners has left me with bare walls in the bedroom, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Why do we hang pictures on our walls? We seldom if ever look at them again, they are only there to dictate to the emptiness of bare walls. We become accustomed to the oddly shaped no-man’s land between the frames, creating a maze of linked rectangles in which the mind can wander freely. We notice the pictures more when they are not there; we gaze on them fondly, only through the eyes of visitors searching for clues to our great and good taste.

As I lie in bed in the mornings, the thing that most interests me is hunting for the joins in the paper on the ceiling. The individual strips have been expertly butted together – quite hard to do when you are covering an irregular old cottage ceiling with textured paper – and the joins are all-but invisible. One is slightly overlapping, so I take that as my reference line and work the rest out mathematically.

When you have ceiling paper, who needs art? I’m sure Turner would have appreciated the irony as his subjects gradually vanished into a haze of white light. And it was that other Eminent Victorian, William Morris, who famously declared the principles of utilitarianism; and John Keats who knotted together the sheets of truth and beauty before escaping through the window of Eternity.

That none may have seen the beauty in guitars is not really relevant. It exists for me. Hoping to shrink my material world more to the compass of just one or two items of beauty and usefulness, I have lots more stuff advertised for sale, even my house. But, as I constantly moan, there are not a lot of buyers out there. Only me.

Unlike Victorian England, ours is an age of austerity, well suited to bare walls and unfulfilled dreams. These things have their own beauty, their own usefulness, and I am quite content to watch them be.

The irresistible lure of Boglington-on-Sea


The message I’m thinking of putting in a bottle and launching from the pier on the ebb tide will go on to explain, somewhat hysterically, that I’m trapped – like a large person in a tight jumper whose arms have got inside-out, and can’t seem to find the way through to the neck-hole.

It’s a well-known phenomenon. No-one ever gets away from Aberystwyth. Not even light can escape the crushing force of her faded seaside charms. It’s like you’re a lone figure in a painting of some long-ago, half-remembered place, hung in a dusty gallery.

I know loads of people – I expect you do too – who came for the day thirty years ago, to shop or maybe to study a while, turned up for a conference or were just passing through on the coast road, imagining they would soon be back home in Coseley or Cracow, Delft or Delhi, and here they still are, wondering why, how, but just – well, visiting.

And others who left, but have for some reason least known to themselves come pinging back, as if on a bungee line.

You thought The Prisoner was set in Portmeirion?

It’s like I woke up one morning having gone to sleep in South Kensington, and here I am, living in Aberystwyth, a name most people in the rest of the world can’t spell, have never heard of, or think is a joke place that appears only once a year, like Brigadoon.

Which, given that the river that flows right through the town is called the Rheidol and the Ystwyth is another river in the next valley over, but the town isn’t called Aber-rheidol, it sort-of is. (The truth being that the course of the Ystwyth was diverted in the 1850s to drain the saltmarsh, so that it just makes contact with the town at the point where it enters the sea, at the entrance to the harbour.)

But there you are, sometimes, you see the word ‘Aberystwyth’ pop up, and think, yes, there it really is, it really exists, I exist, on the weather map for the evening forecast, perched on the edge of the world between Birmingham and the Atlantic. (Weather forecasters are all in denial about the existence of the Irish Republic. Northern Ireland, sure that has weather right enough, usually awful. But the South? Not even tygers be there. Besides, they think Cardiff is in Wales!)

So how did I GET here?

The owners had come to hate me. I’d made them close the mansion, and they could never forgive me. I was only trying to keep them from going to gaol. They’re not the kind of people who can acquire an asset and not hope to make money out of it, even their own home, even if it’s falling down. They are accountants, after all.

So when they changed my job title through the simple expedient of firing the manager and rehiring the caretaker, my little cogs whirred over the problem for seven seconds before spitting out the obvious conclusion: you can easily make a caretaker redundant, but a manager is more difficult. You usually need to hire another one, and that’s illegal.

And so I bought the house.

In Aberystwyth.

I told myself I was buying it for the lad, who needed to finish his A-levels. Secretly, I knew it was for me. It was where I should live, and be obliged to retire, there being no meaningful work now for children of the analog era; where I would gesticulate angrily at speeding motorists, wear a woolly hat and sweater in bed, and turn by degrees, one white hair at a time, into a little old man, to be discovered by police and social workers, mummified in my armchair, gnawed by cats.

Resistance is useless. Sell? Move? Travel? Do more interesting and useful things? Pah! Would you believe, not a single prospective housebuyer has even been to look at my little house in more than a year?

I can understand visitors recoiling in horror at my floral wallpaper compromise, turning their noses up at my lazy penchant for beige, hating the road, the parking, itching to demolish my shed and grow cabbages rich in diesel particulates. But they don’t even come to look anymore.

My inviting kitchen space, well equipped, with slide-out corner unit, has been viewed over four thousand times on the interweb thing, and not a peep of excitement from anyone. Who are they all? What are they doing on-line, this virtual army of non-buyers, gazing bleakly at houses in Aberystwyth they are never going to buy?

A kind of force-field surrounds my little house. Keep away! Prisoner under house arrest! As the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England quake at the thought of another boom-and-bust housing bubble, the property market has begun to sag again like old knicker-elastic under the weight of their collective disapproval. How many spare bedrooms do they have, one wonders in passing?

No-one ever gets out of Aberystwyth. And why would they want to? Sure, don’t we have everything here we could possibly wish for: no crime, no fear and sadness, no hunger and homelessness, no need for loneliness or guilt or humiliation…. McDonalds… Starbucks (x2)… Morrison’s… The gently churning sea, softly rolling green hills, choirs of angels, the…

Ohmigod, I’m dead already and nobody’s told me!

Max Bogler to star in Bogl 3: return of the Blog






Ahoy! Movies for 9th December turns up the following interesting item, amid all the overhyped rubbish:

Some people – including mine – have been putting it about that I am to star in the reappearance of the remake of the smash hit movie concept trailer, ‘The Blog’ (writes Uncle Bogler).

Nothing could be nearer to the truth.

A script hasn’t actually been commissioned yet, but it’s widely known in Tinseltown circles that I’ve dreamed up a sort of idea for a storyboard for a pilot for the spectacular launch of the long-awaited trailer, consisting of outtakes from the previous two movies, that weren’t ever made but had their debut outing in a PowerPoint presentation to some Warner Bros executives one lunchtime in April 1996, Pointless contestants please note.

Fans are excitedly queuing at local movie theatres everywhere on reports the eagerly anticipated trailer pilot storyboard idea thing could appear on general release as early as the autumn of 2016, if it hasn’t yet. A crowd-funding appeal has already raised nine dollars, a trouser-button and a dog-tag.

Illegal downloads of the spectacularly unfinished sketches for the storyboard of the pilot trailer for the unmade movies have already gone viral, following the YouGov launch of a 3-D podcast encapsulating the breathless rumours circulating around the possibility of a remake starring the 84-year-old Bogler, reprising his original  kickass role as The Uncle, one of Marble Komix’ most enduring 1950s creations: a superhero with the power to wiggle his ears at weddings.

George Clooney is slated for a cameo role as Bogler’s face, while his madly waving hands are certain to be played by Shia LaBeuofbourguignon. A clue to the current signings is in the co-producer credits. Gerrard Butler is rumoured to be ‘keen’ to reprise the role of his pectoral muscles from the movie ‘Jaws 300: into the valley of death’. Uncle Bogler’s knees, which fans of the original will remember trembling violently at the sight of the teenaged Jody Foster naked in the shower, will appear as cutesy (if slightly sinister) CGI animations, courtesy of Disney-Pixar; while Sir Jeremy Irons is reportedly up for the part of Uncle’s  ears, which will wiggle independently from his eyebrows.

Owing to a ‘full schedule’ of commitments, all four incarnations of Benedict Cumberbatch were unfortunately unavailable to play The Uncle’s highly intuitive sidekick, Cheeky Bones. That part will be taken by Khloe Kardashian, whose people have kindly paid to have her name inserted here. (Other names were available.) A dialogue coach is being lined up to work on her chirpy Cockney accent, ‘doncha know Mary, oy veh’. Other parts may well be taken by King George V11 of Essex and Professor Stephen Hawking.

Uncle Bogler is 89.