It’s all just a crazy dream

Hey ho, Thursday again, time for the weekly BogPost and I can’t think of a single thing to say I haven’t written about ten times before.

Cameron has made a big speech advocating more bombing foreigners. Why? So, he agrees with the military experts that it’s unnecessary and won’t make a blind bit of difference on the ground, but we have to show ‘solidarity’ with everyone else and ‘keep Britain’s streets safe’, while also protecting ‘our brave forces’ from going into action on the ground, letting some unidentified other foreigners do it for us instead. That’s brave, Dave.

I’m quite glad I didn’t go to Eton, I never met an Old Etonian who wasn’t either a brooding alcoholic; a bumbling aristocratic halfwit, or a sneering bully-boy (or a combination, etc.) (You don’t get many round where I live.)

Gideon ‘George’ Osborne performed an insouciant volte sneering face on Wednesday by reversing his fiscal policy on taxing the poor into the mud. I have a theory about him, that he always leaks bad news until we hate him, then performs a daring pliée at the last minute to win the love and forgiveness of the multitude. Attar of roses fills his pants this weekend.

Let’s not forget, however, the appearance earlier in the month of his mate, Cameron, on the Andrew Marr Show, in which he issued a sneeringly robust defence of the policy of removing tax credits from three million hardworking single-parent families, despite the mounting evidence that suggested the mitigating rise in the minimum wage wouldn’t prevent teaching assistants on £7,000 a year donating £1,300 of it to shore up Britain’s rotting public finances and Gideon’s other mates in the City’s bonuses.

Another grand example there of Dave’s notoriously poor judgement.

(Postscriptum 2 December, and a sneer so vile it beggars description. Calling on his troops to vote for his pointless bombing campaign (I have christened it ‘chimpanzee warfare’ (as opposed to ‘guerrilla’) – you get together in a small party, jump up and down gibbering and waving your arms, and throw sticks at the enemy from as far away as you can), Cameron urged them not to go along with Mr Corbyn and the ‘terrorist sympathisers’. This veneered, jumped-up bag-carrier from a TV PR department is the most unspeakable apology for a Prime Minister or indeed, a human being of any kind, this country has ever had.)

So I won’t write about that, obviously, or the visibly disorientated Mr Corbyn, the Spike Milligan lookalike Labour ‘leader’ who has indeed written to all his MPs to say he doesn’t personally approve of bombing Syria but they can go ahead and vote against the party Whip if they like, as it’s the sort of thing he used to do. That’s the kind of flakey example I always set, which is why I never became a leader of anything.

Just some personal observations, then. (More might follow, but I’m doing Panto for the next few days and it’s enough just to eat, drink and sleep. I’ve learned though that the reason actors fluff their lines is because they’re so worried they’re going to forget the next line, they can’t remember the one they’re speaking. Plays hell with the concentration.)

 

Staying up

I’d been trying to upload a file to a publisher in Ireland, against a deadline, but they would only let me do it via their website – or by surface mail. Judgement Day was due, and I didn’t think it’d make it in time.

Anyway, I hadn’t finished writing it yet. You know me and deadlines.

And the website wouldn’t let me in without a password. The usual result, it knew my name and IP address, obviously, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to email me to remind me to send the file in the first place. Nothing much confidential in it, either, but you know web designers too, they just loves paswurdz.

Anyway, of course I couldn’t remember the bloody thing, I last contacted these guys more than a year ago. So I had to ask for a reminder, twice, and nothing was appearing in my inbox. Frantic emails to ‘info@’ yesterday produced no reply either. By eleven last night, with the deadline approaching like the 9.45 from Billericay, I emailed the editorial department in distress.

And amazingly, at 11.47 pm, that’s at night, the Editorial Manager, Mary-Jane, emails me back to say she’s sorted me out a temporary password and is sorry I’d had a problem.

Now, even allowing for the time difference in Cork, where it’s always last year, who works in an office until practically midnight, and why? Anyway, I’m jolly glad they do.

Great country, Ireland. Good people, great craic.

Better get writing….

Postscriptum

So the temporary password didn’t work and the Support hotline refused to let me Submit a request for Support with logging-in, because I wasn’t logged-in, so in despair I decided to try and re-register, knowing it probably wouldn’t let me do that because someone with the same name was mysteriously already registered, you know how it goes.

So I pushed the Button marked Register, and before I could log-in again the IT leprechauns welcomed me back and opened the page for me to upload the file, without a password….

Things can sometimes go like that in Ireland, I think.

 

A burning issue

I’d briefly thought about retiring to Greece, land of my forebears.

Spectacular scenery, laid-back lifestyle, sun and sea… Only don’t go there to die.

An article on the BBC Magazine website reports that Greece has, like, totally run out of burial plots. You now get three years maximum parked in the stony ground, before the burial-plot warden has your remains towed away.

People are having to dig-up their grannies and parents and sadly dead children with their heartbreaking little tributes and pay to have the bones stored in a small cardboard box on a shelf somewhere.

Thanks to austerity imposed by hard-faced Teutonic bankers, no-one can afford the rents.

So the alternative is the authorities just chuck your loved-one’s bones at random into a public pit, all jumbled-up together. And – I hope you’ve already breakfasted – not everyone is fully decomposed after three years.

What is the attitude of the Greek Orthodox church to all this desecration?

Well, the obvious solution is to cremate the dead bodies, keep Mum in a handy Grecian urn on the mantelshelf. But there isn’t a single functioning crematorium in the entire country. It’s not allowed, according to Church law.

While live Syrian refugees arrive in swarms and depart for points North, there is another flourishing trade in black-market migration of Greek corpses to neighbouring Bulgaria, where the crematorium business is on fire, as it were.

According to Metropolitan Anthony, a title that makes him sound like a rough-sleeper on the London Underground, the head of the church, cremation is definitely not on the cards.

Being cremated, see, makes it too difficult for Jesus to resurrect your body on the Day of Judgement.

What body, for God’s sake? It’s in a fucking rubbish dump, in bits.

How did we ever let these medieval lunatics in their daringly retro outfits rule our lives in the first place?

 

Lost in the jungle

I’ve been invited by online social petitionists Change.org to sign a pledge not to buy anything from Amazon during the month of December, to punish them for their many crimes.

Oh, God. Sigh.

Future historians will conclude that while the 20th Century was the century of evil dwarf dictators with dehumanising scumbag ideologies running countries, the 21st was the century of evil dwarf dictators with dehumanising scumbag ideologies running large US tech corporations. Why bother with messy old countries, when you can create your own evil empire and enjoy total control?

Employing 50,000 robotised former humans, Amazon’s Seattle HQ is by all accounts a hell on earth. And its founder, Mr Bezos, is the evil genius whose bullying scumbag management philosophy permeates every aspect of the organisation and its people’s lives. Work for Big Jeff, and it doesn’t matter that you get only minimum wage, because you won’t have your own life to spend it in.

Executives are expected to be still at their desks after midnight – they get emails to check. Internal systems are set up for employees to spy on one another and report their colleagues’ disloyal or negative behavior. A lengthy report in the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1HNMWQq) quotes one executive as saying he usually finds his colleagues weeping silently at their desks. Other managers: higher-functioning sociopaths teenage neo-Nazis and Old Etonian types, say they just loves working there.

Not only does Mr Bezos want to rule the corporate world – he’s already the world’s 5th richest person. He wants to take over every aspect of your life and mine, when it comes to our daily relationship with products and services. He wants to put every other retailer on the planet, along with the publishing industry,  out of business. He plans to target and bomb us with goodies from lethal delivery drones.

And, just to make sure he’s got it all covered, in case there are competitors on Mars, he’s just successfully test-fired his own re-usable delivery spacecraft.

And I spend about £2 grand a year with this maniac’s business, mostly buying jazz records. It’s so bloody easy, so convenient. Check out some tracks on YouTube, flip to the Amazon website, find the album, click on my speed-ordering button, it’s here next working day, and I’m wondering how I got overdrawn again?  How cool is that?

I live in a perfectly nice little town, but it’s quite remote and can’t support every kind of retail outlet selling every product I crave. Also, buying by mail-order means stuff comes through the mailbox, like at old-fashioned Christmas.

I does loves gettin’ prezzies, doesn’t you?

I’ve argued before, that criticism of Amazon’s low-or-no-tax business model ignores that their £5.3 billion UK turnover, on which they pay about £4 7s 6d tax annually, is not what it seems.

Amazon incorporates tens of thousands of third-party sellers and acts as a portal to thousands more retail businesses all over the world. I might order a jazz record in the UK that comes via a distributor in New York, whose warehousing operation is in Taiwan. Part of the price goes to paying royalties to the artists and the recording company. Each node in the matrix is a cost-centre. Turnover is not the same as profit.

Also, until it is able to knock our hats off with its postal-drones, frantically looking for ‘Ty Bach’ in a street of identical Welsh house-names all sharing the same postcode, Amazon keeps the postman service and the brown-cardboard-envelope manufacturing industry going.

So no, I’m not going to sign the pledge, because I can’t guarantee I won’t use Amazon at some point to get a card or a gift off to some relative or another in the diaspora, it may not be possible to do it any other way.

But I promise to try. Just to teach them a lesson.

Postscriptum

Ah. Okay, minor epic fail (1 Dec., Betty Carter album). Sorry, won’t happen again.

 

Now what?

Dressing after my shower, I am half-listening to a science programme on the radio. Listeners have been invited to send in questions to an expert panel.

One listener asks: We are told there is a vast volume of empty space between the atoms of even a solid object, relative to the size of the atom. Atoms themselves are made up of fundamental particles: a nucleus; protons, electrons. In turn those seem to be made up of smaller particles, muons and gluons and quarks and bosons; science stuff, with further vast volumes of empty space between them, relative to their size.

The question being, if you squeezed out all that empty space, given that the smallest building blocks of the atoms we yet know about have no mass, squeezed it right down, can we say there would be a residue of anything left?

And the answer was, obviously, no, not really. The smallest particles that make up the atom don’t behave like solid objects. We don’t even know where they actually are in space and time.

In which case, my friends, nothing exists. Everything is made from nothing. The Universe is a hologram. Or just a crazy dream.

I’ve been trying to tell you.

It’s just jazz.

 

 

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Please turn over… there’s a crisis at Christmas

Hi everyone.

Most of what passes for today’s weekly BogPo Post has been pasted over on my Pages, under 3,000 Words or Less. Except, it’s more.

It’s been put there because it’s a very long essay entitled Guerrillas in the Mist, seeking to discover the root causes of the past week’s appalling events.

As always, it is a work in progress. It’s good stuff, but you can read this instead.

Actual last week’s bogl:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has confessed that he has been wavering spiritually in the face of the attack on Paris. I wanted to say this to him:

My dear Lord Archbishop

I was sorry to hear of your momentary crisis of faith in the wake of the atrocious acts in Paris 10 days ago.

I can only express the hope that you have similar misgivings as to the whereabouts of God on the occasions of the numerous other barbarities carried out in His name, elsewhere in the world.

For what it is worth, after a lifetime of contemplation I have come to the conclusion that, as God is a purely human construct, He has no agency in the world other than through the collective desires and actions of human beings. You wonder where He was present?

I can only tell you that He was there, pulling the trigger repeatedly, dispassionately; detonating His suicide vest to show His disillusion and despair – His hope for a better life; here, dying in a hail of bullets, protecting His mates; there, responding with skill and bravery in hospitals and on the streets; there, in all of suffering Humanity, because we put Him there.

Where else could you imagine He was?

For our Prime Minister to explain the Paris outrage as the act of an ‘evil death-cult’ is puerile, pathetic and unhelpful to the formation of a coherent political response; other than a childish lashing-out. The Manichean heresy is the basis of a worldview every bit as medieval as that rudimentary theology of vengeance promulgated by the dimmest village mullah.

Of course there are explicable political and historical reasons for terrorism. Let’s stop fooling ourselves that these are just random acts of evil. There is no need to evoke supernatural forces!

One such reason is the quest for the perfect society. I think if you cut open any of the teenage baboons heading for Syria to join the evil death-cult, you will find their desire is not ‘to do evil’; you will not find ‘evil’ written through them like a stick of rock. But you will find the word ‘Utopia’.

When such idealistic aspirations on the part of self-identifying minorities come up against the mighty disapproval of imperfect States; when disillusion overwhelms them and moral argument is exhausted; when there are centuries of unresolved pain, what else should we expect of people other than that they will organise, strike from the shadows, sow fear and confusion in the midst of the oppressor, using whatever means come to hand – even their own nakedness?

Have people not been doing that since Biblical times?

We do not condone mass murder, in its futility; but should we not at least try to understand why some people are prepared in extremis to resort to it, and tackle the root causes rather than simply responding in kind, tenfold, against (and otherwise in the holy name of) some abstract principle that cannot be bombed out of existence? When has violence ever not begotten more violence?

And have you noticed that God is somehow with Us, while the Devil is always in the Other? And how that is mysteriously true for both sides?

It is sheer idiocy, I know, but self-righteousness invariably overcomes reason. That is why wars start, millions die.

With respect, I think it is perhaps the job of the Church now to challenge the fundamentals, not to seek comfort in them.

They do nobody any good in the end.

 

Crisis at Christmas

Speaking of turning-over, I’ve had a serious-looking letter from the homeless charity Crisis at Christmas, asking for a donation.

The author, an attractive-looking ‘Senior Volunteer’ (no, don’t even go there, I’m seriously past it) , explains that the sum of £22.29 will cover making a place available to a homeless person over the holiday period, getting them off the chilly streets and helping to feed and shelter them a while.

It’s a worthwhile cause and a charity whose name and reputation can be trusted.

But why exactly £22.29?

The more assiduous readers of this, muh bogl, will kno’ that I used to scratch a bare living as a copywriter in advertising agencies.

I worked for many charities, constructing fundraising campaigns just like this one, using ‘junk mail’ tactics – although I always argued that, if it’s not thrown away immediately, it isn’t junk. Frequently, I was the real creative powerhouse behind the invented names of the supposed authors of the letters.

One of the basic principles I was taught by charity marketers was: never ask for an open donation: always specify an amount, or offer a ‘shopping list’ with a range of specific amounts to meet different objectives. In other words, we were commoditising solutions to problems: ‘For this price, we can make this much of your guilt go away…’.

Another was, never ask for a round-number donation: £10 or £20 or £100. Always make it an odd-number: £9.63, £103.47 – whatever. It sounds like you’re not just fishing for cash, but that the cost of the solution to the problem described in the letter has been carefully calculated and it is therefore a serious request.

Precise pricing helps too, to create more of a sense of direct connection with the anonymous beneficiary of your aid. You believe you know exactly how much of your goodwill they are benefitting from. You don’t, of course, but it feels more secure.

It’s marketing psychology, and it works. Not because the donor is necessarily going to write a cheque for the requested amount: while many may do just that, others will make probably a lesser (though still useful) or maybe even a greater donation of a self-selected sum, where they might not otherwise have considered donating at all. (A recent online appeal took my £10 and then offered me the opportunity to feel even better by DOUBLING it, using a Button they had thoughtfully provided! The more blatant the ask, the more you rake in.)

The other objective is, of course, to do with profiling and testing.

I will have received the version of the letter asking for £22.29. Other demographic groups (usually identified by postcode) will have received different letters, asking for different amounts, to see which ones ‘pull’ best.

Postcode areas analysed in the past as ‘AB’, the professional class – or areas that have been particularly responsive to past mailing campaigns – will be asked for more: sometimes, a lot more. Asking for larger donations is another psychological ploy, it flatters the punters into thinking that you think they can afford more, enhancing their self-esteem. (You never ask very rich people for a donation, you target them especially to get them involved in fundraising themselves. The rich love that, it tickles their philanthropy G-spot without costing them anything.)

Collating and analysing all the responses that come back gives an average donation amount and the numbers and types of donors  found in each postcode area, each market sector – other cross-tests will have been done using different letter wordings and designs, even different ‘trigger’ colours, to see what works best – enabling the marketer to target prospective donors quite accurately for future appeals.

Honest, it’s dead scientific.

Clearly as someone now in only the C2 bracket myself, postcodewise, £22.29 puts me pretty low down the social pecking order, and quite right too – I’m an Old Age Pensioner, a C2D as we used to call them.

So here I am, teetering on the verge of sending C-at-C ten quid, because although I live on a very small income I do feel privileged to have a roof over my head, and enough money for a single man to drink wine at £7.99 a bottle; while ‘they’ are probably an unemployable 40-something ex-Afghan-theatre grunt suffering from untreated PTSD, drinking cut-price supermarket cider in a shop doorway.

Only, I’ve been left contemplating my battered chequebook, wondering why, and with a nagging sense of unease that, Crisis at Christmas feels it has to use such blatantly manipulative sales tactics on me?

That £22.29 letter has left me feeling that I’m just a postcode to them; a number on a computer. It’s destroyed whatever sense of human fellowship their expensive London advertising agency might otherwise have created between me and the anonymous victim, who might just have been grateful for my donation.

Oh, poop.

Pour another glass. I hope I haven’t spoiled anyone’s Christmas. Go on, give till it hurts, you smug bastards.

 

 

Over the seas to sky…

Hey, gang, I’ve noticed it’s Thursday again.

So I’m allowed a fresh Post, as my output is now artificially limited to producing only one a week, owing to the absolute numerological necessity to post my 500th Post on the exact 4th anniversary of the founding of the BogPo, next 27th February. (This being No. 486.)

Of such tiresome conceits and obsessions is the life writerly made.

So, what do I think today?

Well, I’m amused to hear that Mr Putin has announced an official enquiry into his own government’s alleged complicity in a decades’ long campaign to illegally stimulate dozy Russian athletes, as revealed in a report from WADA, the ‘World Anti-Doping Agency’, this week; the outcome of which he seems already to have decided (he has denied it. Surely niet?); while at the same time, British PM ‘Dave’ Cameron is complaining about cuts to public services in his well-heeled Witney, Oxfordshire constituency – cuts forced on the Conservative local authority by Treasury demands for ever-greater national austerity ultimately emanating from the cabinet office of… PM ‘Dave’ Cameron.

I’m less amused that Britain is still doing fuck-all to help with the migrant crisis in Europe while Germany, Sweden and Norway, Greece and Italy are drowning under the endless tide of hopeful humanity seeking asylum from the disintegrating arc of corrupt and incompetent tyrannies, proxy wars, droughts and ultraviolent gangsterism, much of it promoted by the wealthy North, stretching from Libya in the southwest to Afghanistan in the northeast. Press attempts to pin the murderous attacks in Paris on false refugees appear not to be working. As French police belatedly catch up with the remains of the perpetrators, it appears that the majority of those allegedly involved already live in France and Belgium.

There is a noxious undercurrent of isolationism here that will inevitably result in ‘Brexit’ from the EU, which in my humble view will be a disaster all-round. Not only for those Tory wives planning to acquire an agreeable visa-free third home in Tuscany, but perhaps for more important reasons.

What, for instance, will become the common language of the EU, when there is no further purpose served by them using possibly our greatest export, English? And how is Cameron to sneer at our European partners, if we haven’t got any?

Anyway, a summit of lots of European and African leaders has been held, a group photograph taken, agreement reached. We are to start shovelling vast sums of money at the often corrupt governments of the countries where the most ‘economic migrants’ are coming from, in the hope of creating freedom, prosperity and safety for their citizens, such that they will no longer want to find new lives in Europe. (‘An Expert’ calculates the sums add up to one English pound per inhabitant of the countries specified… an incentive indeed. It is also pointed out that the money is already committed in the normal annual aid budgets of the donors. But it made a nice photo op.)

So that’s alright, then. And all the governments have to do to benefit from this cash windfall is go on pushing their unwanted minorities out in precarious rubber dinghies on the choppy Mediterranean sea.

An economic migrant myself, from overpriced and crowded England to the impoverished but more affordable principality of Wales, I have tried escaping to freedom, but no-one is buying my house and I’m not getting younger, more adventurous or better organised on the travel-booking front as the years pass. It was a fine idea three years ago, but since my urologist has given me a medicalised choice to be allowed either to piss or fuck, but not both, owing to the avocado-sized obstruction strangling my urethra, it seems less like a sensible move to escape even the poorly administered and fumbling jurisdiction of the NHS*.

Besides, I know no-one in Portugal. I’ve never been there. But it looks like a nice place to go to die.  Cameron isn’t there much now, either, as he’s presumably no longer a ‘friend’ of Sir Cliff and would have to book into a hotel…. (See Post, 29 Oct)

And it’s even more affordable, and warmer, than Wales.

*Attempting to make an appointment with ‘my’ GP yesterday, while I am physically present at the surgery, the receptionist suggests I call just after 10 am today. Why? Seems nowadays you have to make an appointment to make an appointment… a slot three weeks from now has to be booked exactly three weeks beforehand, they fill up quickly, you can’t book for December 7th until 10 am tomorrow at the earliest… and nothing is available sooner, of course. It’s the weekend.

I gaze around bleakly at the empty waiting-room. No, he’s really busy…. Fuck it, I thought. Dead is dead….

 

Willkommen, bienvenue, välkomna

Two more items on the news this morning struck me as significant, although they may not be, I am getting a little hard of thinking.

One, the number of migrants coming to work in Britain from other EU countries has passed the two million mark.

Two, despite the appalling inability of any government of the past sixty years to ensure enough new homes are built for us all, so that the average number of flatsharers in TV sitcoms has doubled since the 1970s, the economy is said to be ‘booming’.

Juxtapose these two supposed facts with two others, notably: a) the ageing native ‘baby-boomer’ population leaving the workforce, so requiring the taxable support of a non-existent younger generation and b) the record low unemployment figure (1.75 million. Economists differ on what exact number you need to maintain enough flexibility, but that seems about right).

Do these headline statistics when taken together not perhaps suggest to the legions of ludicrous kneejerk xenophobes, anti-immigrant trolls, fuckwitted white supremacists, Conservative ‘think-tank’ wonks and low-wattage British nationalists that perhaps foreigners are not such a bad idea after all? That far from ‘stealing’ our jobs and raping our womenfolk, they have been taking up the slack in the economy and fuelling the boom, creating prosperity and jobs for all?

So why is ‘Dave’ Cameron trekking round Europe trying to persuade EU leaders of the benefits of controlling immigration to Britain? And why is he pretending that changes to the benefit rules require treaty change, when every other country in the EU has its own rules and assures him that his government is perfectly at liberty to set its own if it wants to?

Why does he not just get on and introduce a system whereby only ‘in-work’ benefits can be paid to temporary residents, while ‘out-of-work’ benefits require a qualifying period and a history of National Insurance contributions? What is discriminatory about it? Or is it just that he can’t rely on his hapless Secretary of State for Pork and Beans, the balding acronym known as IDS, to deliver it?

And why do people believe anything they read in the press?

 

Humor alert, sort-of

I got this feeble idea for a joke during dinner with some lovely jazz people.

They were exchanging banter at the expense of a saxophone player (not present at table) who was allegedly claiming in his other, unreal life to be a plastic surgeon. So scruffy was he in appearance, so laid-back in manner, that anyone less likely to really be a plastic surgeon they could not imagine.

Anyway, I manage somehow to think up about one new joke a year, which makes it worth recording them for posterity. So here’s my new joke, that I thought of much too late to tell at the dinner table and so missed my chance of winning respect for my improvisation skills… (ésprit d’escalier, as the French say)

Hey, I’ve got a really unusual and interesting job!

No honestly, I have. You know those playpits filled with little coloured balls kids like to jump and swim around in? Well, I work for a company that makes them! I get to travel around the country, refilling the ball-pits in leisure centres and primary school playrooms, places like that, and I supply children’s entertainment companies with thousands of playpit balls too….

Yes, I’m a plastic sturgeon!

 

Tiresome complaint, but

Domestic goddess and thinking-teenagers’ titwank, Nigella Lawson excited the Twits after a cookery demo show last week by spreading mushed avocado on a piece of toast, using only her fingers.

It wasn’t the plainly disgusting sensuality of the image that haunted so many of the hashtag harridans, but the ‘so-yesterday’-ness of avocados, reminiscent as they are, for some of the less glamorously ageing newspaper column-hags, of 1970s bathroom suites.

Well, I don’t care. I once bought a house with an avocado suite, could never afford to change it and agree, they ought to be banned. But we made £120k on the sale, so clearly avocado is not such a turnoff as might be supposed.

I don’t care, because a) I give a flying finger for overpaid word-mavens, and b) I’m not going to be pushed around by style critics who unwisely cross the boundaries between ladies’ wotsits, interior design and food.

And I don’t care, because I LIKE avocados. They’re delicious with all kinds of stuff – crab, tomatoes – versatile and give great mouthfeel. Also, I happily imagine that eating anything that looks like my prostate is going to be a healing thing.

And yesterday, guess what? That’s right! Among the last of a box of olive-green hand-grenades in Morrison’s I found one that felt suspiciously palpable,  as though it might even be eaten that very day. One that had slipped through the net, clearly. I grabbed my chance and bought it.

One of the dreadful things about supermarkets is the great confidence trick that unripened fruits, including avocados, and their tasteless, rubbery ‘vine-ripened’ tomatoes, need only a few hours’ exposure on the windowsill to become completely edible. Because we all know they will rot first, and ripen only when Hell freezes. Cunning Mr Morrison and His Ilk then slyly put out a next-door tray of said fruits of the vine, labelled ‘ripe and ready-to-eat’, and charge twice as much for them.

Of course, they seldom are. As part of the ripening process, they will have been squeezed and poked and fondled by so many disbelieving shoppers who may not have washed their hands after going to the toilet, that they are bruised black inside and crawling with e-coli.

Either way, this stuff can rarely be recommended for human consumption. Extraordinary, how the French manage to sell you flavoursome ripe fruit and luscious tomatoes. Extraordinary too, as yesterday, when I was able for the first time in a long while to enjoy the fruits of my labours, as it were: an avocado and tomato salad with Virgin oil and a pinch of crusty sea salt.

Mmmnya. Pale-greenlicious.

 

Second tiresome complaint

Isn’t it just one of the worst things that can happen in your life, when on a shining Thursday morning in November you put on your expensive L’Aigle wellies to go out walking with Hunzi, after overnight rain, in the exurban space that passes for your local park, and within a few hundred yards you experience the disagreeable sensation of your socks crawling down inside the boots until they bunch up under your feet, and you still have two miles to hobble uncomfortably before you can take them off?

Yurgh.

 

Third tiresome w.t.f.???

Okay, I deleted 74 Spam emails off my Yahoo! account without reading them, at about half-past eight this morning. I’ve had 34 new ones since (it’s ten to three). I’ve mentioned my genito-urinary problem graphically in today’s blog. Four of the 34 new Spam emails are from the people who bring you erectile dysfunction, impotence and prostate remedies… all four arrived after 12.20; none earlier. The first Edit was posted at 11.50.

And the Home Office wants a law to allow them to carry out total surveillance on everyone? I suggest that’s not necessary, since we are being constantly monitored by Eli-Lilly.

 

And finally….

From the Today programme today, we learned that the man at the Environment Agency responsible for the UK’s flood defences is a Mr….

Phil Dyke.

It’s known as ‘nominative determinism’. Now you know why.

A place in the sun

The idea that I might seriously kill myself occurred to me briefly this afternoon.

I have perked up a little since. But I’ll come back to that later (all my Posts are going to have to do double-duty from now until 27th February, the 4th anniversary of this, muh bogl, when I plan to post my 500th Post.)

Metrojet flight 9268, a knackered-looking old Airbus A321 with a bad safety record, flown by a budget Russian airline, disappeared off the Egyptian air traffic control radar on Tuesday, 21 minutes after taking off from the international winter sunspot tourism magnet of Sharm-el-Sheik. Not long afterwards, Egyptian forces found a plume of wreckage in the Sinai desert. Two hundred and twenty-four people, mostly tourists from St Petersburg, four Ukrainians and seven aircrew, were all dead.

So-called Islamic State in Sinai claimed responsibility for shooting the aircraft down. The claim was immediately dismissed by everyone as improbable: IS in Sinai doesn’t have the same Russian-made BUK missile system as the Ukrainian rebels who took out Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 with 270 casualties over the war zone in Ukraine in March, probably recklessly. The BUK can hit a target at 31,000 feet. A battered Kalashnikov can’t. But a revenge attack by Holland, who lost 157 citizens in MH17, seems fanciful. And no-one has fingered Ukraine for the crime.

Things then became chaotic, especially on the diplomatic front. Egypt’s current military dictator, an ugly dwarf called Mohammed al-Sisi, was even then in the air, bound for a prestige-boosting summit in London with strangely shiny-pink PM, Dave Cameron. Britain was getting ready to shove its aristocratic nose up the Egyptian arse (how times have changed) for some lucrative defence contracts, when the COBRA emergency committee put out an all-points bulletin: no flying in or out of Sharm-el-Sheik for British airlines.

The order left al-Sisi in a state of complete embarrassment and twenty thousand returning British tourists stranded in the desert.  Why? ‘Security, old boy. Not a word to the wise. Another snifter? Don’t mind if I do.’

The obvious conclusion was that IS proxies had planted a bomb on the plane. Not difficult, as everyone has complained that security at Sharm is – well, dodgy. Especially in the freight compartment. But a security review was carried out last year….The logical motive in selecting a Russian airliner was to attack Russia for its robust recent intervention in the Syrian civil war. The Egyptians have protested: it’s too early to say it was a bomb, beside we pride ourselves on our sloppy security. The Russians have protested: it’s too early to say it was IS, so let’s keep bombing them in Syria. Britain’s response, if there was no immediate threat to blow up a British plane at that same specific airport, seems unusual to say the least.

Now, even knackered 20-year-old Airbuses don’t just disintegrate in mid-air. They’re not Russian Antonovs or Illyushins, both of which take a lot of punishment before their vodka-soaked, ex-military pilots fly them into the ground.  But, like most civil airliners, they are designed not to explode of their own free will. The idea that pilot or crew error might have caused the Airbus to breakup is patently ludicrous. Even if they were drunk, were performing aerobatics or had invited their children into the cockpit to fly the plane to its doom, mid-air disintegration is the least likely result. The weather conditions were perfect.

The Russians immediately issued a statement denying it was a bomb, or an IS missile. They clearly don’t want this associated with Syria, spreading alarm on the home front. But even if it had been, why would the British government issue a flight ban at the highest level? Britain is not active in Syria. Two days before the disaster, a Parliamentary committee had advised the government not to bother seeking an unobtainable vote in the Commons to legitimise airstrikes against IS in Syria. There was simply no motive for IS to attack a UK tourist flight, beyond the general one of hitting the West where it hurts.

Today, however, ministers are calling for a new vote in parliament to sanction the use of RAF strikes on IS in Syria. So now we have a pretext: ‘communications intercepts’ – GCHQ – over the past few days, described as general ‘chatter’, have pointed the finger at a terrorist bomb plot. Words such as ‘probably’ have been flying out of Downing St. How convenient, too, that only days earlier, Parliament was being asked to approve a new bill allowing far greater communications surveillance than ever before, with search engines being forced to store every search term recorded and make it available to the security services. The destruction of flight 9268 has been a godsend for the government.

The logic frankly escapes me. There’ve been no bombs on US civil airliners, or French, or Australian airliners, as a result of them bombing IS from the air for over a year now. Why suddenly a Russian airliner? Isn’t this more likely to be Chechen separatists? And with all those forces flying missions against IS in Syria, why crowd the skies with British planes as well? Any fule kno, you can’t just bomb IS out of existence. The presence of yet another interloper in Syrian airspace only increases the risk of an incident leading to a wider conflict, or a revenge attack on Britain.

British foreign policy is not making sense right now. It is making the security threat worse, not better.

Other national governments have not issued a similar ban, not even the Russians, and the Egyptians are seething. British tourists make up a substantial proportion of the annual Sharm crowd. Without them, the Egypian economy is substantially fucked.

Charitably, we can imagine that after the random gunman operation last summer on the beach at Sirte in Tunisia, that left 30 British tourists dead out of 38 casualties, HMG is pretty sensitive to attacks on British tourists. But is this one?

The next question is: how long does it take to detect traces of explosives on wreckage?

The Russian response to British security concerns has been to argue that it will take ‘months’ to determine what brought down Metrojet flight 9268. Yet scorch marks and semtex or amytol residue on wreckage and corpses are virtually instantaneously detected and must be pretty obvious initial clues to an explosive event that massively depressurised the plane and caused it to break up, even if the fine details are not yet apparent.

The Kremlin is having to cover-up once more, the real issue underlying these parallel disasters; which is that civilians from neutral countries in the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts have again been in the wrong place at the wrong time: ‘collateral damage’ in a wider proxy war between Russia and Iran on one side, Saudi Arabia and NATO on the other. The truth about 9268 will probably never emerge: whatever the reason for the destruction of the aircraft, it is inconvenient to all sides in this worryingly multilateral conflict, but can be spun to provide any further casus belli any of the parties needs, to further their domestic political ends.

There is always a haunting after-image; in this case, it is that of 10-month-old Darina Gromova being carried aboard the doomed plane by her smiling father. Now the residents of St Petersburg know what it is like to have one’s loved ones blown out of the sky in an instant, one hopes ordinary Russians will have a more humanitarian response to the friends and families who died aboard the Malaysian airliner as a result of Russian military intervention in the political schism in Ukraine, and not merely swallow the tropes of sentimental xenophobic nationalism being pumped out by the State-controlled media.

That should go for us too.

 

An unwanted anniversary

Yes, the idea that I should kill myself occurred to me belatedly this afternoon.

Yet another apparently very keen prospective purchaser of my house has gone straight off after visiting me and my generous tea cupboard, to look at another house in another part of town, and regrettably decided on the spot that they just had to buy it and not mine.

That elusive prospective purchaser who exactly fit my ideal buyer: single woman, retired professional (ex-BBC), late fifties, sixtyish maybe. Slight hearing loss (for the road) and no car (ditto). Has sold her more expensive house in overpriced England, now looking to downsize to a cosy cottage in an agreeable seaside town to be nearer her seventeen children and grandchildren.

She arrived with her very attractive 40-something daughter, who turned out to live just along the road from me. I’d pursue that lead as a consolation, but my urologist Mr A. has given me a stark choice: piss or fuck. Take the pills and piss normally, but you’ll be Mr Floppy – or, keep struggling to piss all night and smell of stale urine all day. (The alternative is surgery and probably spend the rest of my life dribbling in a bag.)

Not a great prospect for an attractive, dark-eyed younger woman with the most perfect full-cream-milk cleavage I’ve ever yearned to lay my head in.

So, they told the agent how much they loved my little house, thanked me for my hospitality (and the two days I’d put in cleaning and dusting and vacuuming, thanks), but they just had to buy this other house instead, in another part of town. I can’t imagine.

They were only the fourth people to even look at my little house in the past ten months. For fifteen months before that, no-one came to look at all. I blame the road with its speeding drivers and thundering 32-tonne Cathedral City cheese lorries. Who would want to live alongside one of these? Why did I?

This month is the third anniversary of my house going on the market, as they say.

Three years without a sale.

You’d kill yourself too.

 

Sumer is a-cumin in

The date is 6th November. Early winter. I observe the following phenomena:

  • New strawberry fruits appearing on my otherwise half-dead strawberry plants.
  • My rose bush, in bud for the third time this year, although it has dropped all its leaves.
  • Greenfly breeding on the rose buds.
  • Six or seven bluebottles buzzing angrily round the sitting room.
  • Butterflies grazing on the sedum flowers; lots of other wildflowers still in flower.

All very unsettling. And the second warmest November day in history, after 1st November 2015, was in 1946. And we all remember what happened then.

Luckily, I have bought a fur hat from a Canadian fur hat company, ‘Made in Turkey’. My head is sweaty and itching now, but just you wait until Boxing Day.

And I’ve been listening to that little voice in my head that’s been saying: ‘Stock that cupboard you normally use for growing masses of spectral potato shoots with fishpaste jars and tomato soup cans,just in case.’