Calling in the receivers

Happy Birthday BogPo

Congratulations on our 500th Post. The first mindbogls.plc ‘The Boglington Post’ Post was Posted on this day, 27th February, four years ago. In that time the BogPo team has covered many subjects, breaking stories, extended whinges and mindblowingly prescient Comment pieces amounting to, ooh, well over half a million words of scintillation and amaze.

We would like therefore to remind all our Followers, Likers and Spammers that we haven’t charged you a penny for all our efforts to keep you entertained and informed. Yet we are having to pay men to come help renovate our kitchen. There is definitely something broken in our society when we have to say that.

THANKS A BUNCH.

(I was about to add YOU GUYS, but that would have broken one of my New Year’s resolutions.)

 

Calling in the receivers

Since the posters and banners began appearing everywhere to alert us to the imminent closure of our only local omni-DIY store – the next one being 37 miles away – unless you count Cheap Charlie’s little Aladdin’s Cave, where you can’t park but you can buy anything from some pretty unfashionable outdoor clothing to a tube of glue or a power-drill, but not the big stuff; you couldn’t embark on a kitchen refurbishment, or re-fence your garden, for instance – B&Q has been jammed to the rafters with all the refuseniks who couldn’t bring themselves to shop there before, scrambling for possible bargains.

All the staff who were never there when you needed someone have emerged from the woodwork, as it were; many extras seem to have been imported for the occasion, and you can barely negotiate the aisles with your unsteerable flatbed trolley for orange-suited Guantanamo releasees restocking the high shelves from fork-lift trucks laden with extra sale-bargain, 25% Off!  stuff. Hundreds of middle-aged husbands have rediscovered their pride in being able to put up shelves or hang ceiling paper and are reviving those long-abandoned refurbishment projects. (I just happen to be in the middle of one of mine.)

The actual final date of closure is nebulous: ‘the end of April’. ‘When we’ve sold everything’. You can even talk to the manager about acquiring the fixtures and fittings. It’s possible it may never happen. The assister who helps me to my car is upbeat: he has secured a transfer to a faraway branch where he can obtain a better qualification as a fork-lift truck driver.

That says it all, really, about our little town.

But it gives me hope for the EU referendum.

On the morning after he loses and the receivers take over the business, Mr Cameron will announce the closing-down sale of GB plc – henceforth Britain will be available only on-line.

Within minutes, all the people who couldn’t previously be bothered just because Europe was always there will start flocking to the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow airport, demanding in broken French to be let out before the iron gates clang shut for the last time and all the remaining unsold stock is shipped out to depotland. Sales of garlic, berets, bicycles, Johnny Halliday records  and funny sausage will soar.

I predict, once we leave the EU we will all become much more European.

It’s only because we really were Europeans for a generation that the British were so grudging, nudging and fudging about all things Continental – bureaucracy (as if ours weren’t the most enthusiastic bureaucrats in Brussels), red tape, health and safety regulations, rude waiters, straight bananas, refugees – Spanish planning laws.

Unbeatable football teams.

We imagine, don’t we, that we can be more like our wartime allies, the Norwegians (except Peter Quisling of course), who aren’t in the EU but do okay on the margin. They may be suicidal, crepuscular alcoholics, but they always come out nearly t0p of the clever people league tables, have ruddy complexions and are allowed to ski heroically for miles with rifles strapped to their backs.

It hasn’t quite occurred to us, has it, that their prosperity is based on not squandering their North Sea oil resource on pointless wars in flyblown desert countries, refinancing bankrupt banks, financing large US tech corporations with huge tax subsidies or protecting a few monosyllabic anglophone shepherds and a postmistress from invasion by any passing brutal South American junta. This has enabled them to build up a huge financial balance they are now able to plunder to support their refugees.

Nor are they forced by national pride and the Scottish labour unions to commit to spending £100 million on scraping the barnacles off the bottoms of their nuclear submarine fleet every 20 years. Despite being hundreds of miles closer to the growling Russian bear, they have never felt the necessity to acquire a nuclear bomb.

I’m not sure what they would make of our charming habit of scattering empty lager cans, condoms and McDonalds wrappers over our urban landscape. Most people don’t know that Norway pays the EU money to have bilateral trade agreements and be part of the customs union, they just don’t get a say in how things are managed. Nor are most people aware that Norway has the same population as Wales, a quasi-autonomous British principality on the Celtic fringe almost entirely funded by the EU.

Not many people I suspect, could name a single successful global Norwegian company, historical figure – Amundsen? Roald Dahl? – idea or invention. As for their music, their computer games, their fashion, their film industry, their … Edvard Munch? Even tiny Wales scores more highly in the culture stakes, although neither country has successfully exported its tricky language to three-quarters of the globe.

Not to disparage Norway, it gives great fjords, but we had a lot to offer Europe, didn’t we?

And they appreciated it.

And now we’re about to walk out on them, out of some vague and unjustifiable feeling of superiority.

The words ‘rats’ and ‘ship’ spring to mind.

 

And lo! the dead arose and baulked

I’m delighted that Mr Ian Duncan-Smith, the failed former leader of the Tory party (no bald man has been voted into office as Prime Minister since Winston Churchill. Interestingly you can Google ‘bald Prime Ministers’ and get masses of helpful advice), has come out so assertively against his own, shinily coiffed leader and in favour of Britain leaving the EU.

As the architect, both of the failed policy to introduce a cut-price ‘universal benefit’ and of the disgusting policies to deprive disabled people of essential State supports while forcing as many of them to go to work as his private contractors can possibly justify on the grounds of their spurious tests (almost three thousand people declared fit for work by these charlatans, the children of Mengele, have inconveniently died within six months), so publicly loathed and reviled is this bland, arch-Tory cunt that his support for Brexit can only help to persuade waverers brainwashed by forty years of anti-European propaganda serving the interests of the hard-right that perhaps, after all, there might be something in this Europe business.

Compassion, possibly.

And will someone tell the Prime Minister that relentlessly campaigning to stay in the EU on the entirely negative and virtually meaningless slogan that to leave would be ‘a leap into the unknown’ is not helping?

Perhaps Sir Linton Crosby, the architect of that inexplicable Tory election win last May, could be pressed into service – or, if he is already in service, then out of it? Someone, me possibly, needs to tell Mr Cameron that the way to win is to show ordinary Britons that being second-class citizens in Europe is the inevitable corollary of making Ian Duncan-Smith a first-class shit in HM Prison Britain.

 

Q. Why does Donald Trump keep asking ‘What’s going on?’

A. Because he doesn’t know.

Ta-ra fer now!

– Uncle Bogler

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Welcome back to 1914

“You call it Visegrad, I call it the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”

Comment by:  Sterling Pound ©

 

I am hearing, mostly, about the unfolding insanity of Brexit – Britain’s now-inevitable departure from the European experiment – with an increasing sense of unreality.

Mr Cameron has returned from Brussels waving a blank piece of paper promising no closer union in our time, or indeed ever, purportedly countersigned by Herr Tusk. He is now, literally, hoist on his own petard (a quaint expression meaning you have blown yourself up with your own grenade). There was no necessity to go down this route, but having unwisely chosen to try to unite his fractured party by negotiating a virtual withdrawal from the Union without actually leaving it, he has given the Leave tendency a hostage to fortune.

His ‘friend’, Babyface Gove, the formerly reviled Education Secretary and chipmunk lookalike now in charge of prisons, meanwhile has sabotaged the entire renegotiation exercise by declaring for the Leavers before Cameron has even stepped off the plane. It was his Geoffrey Howe moment. The Camerons’ Christmas list gets shorter by the day.

The disloyal Mr Gove finds himself making common cause with certified lunatics such as Peter Bone MP* and Respect’s George Galloway, who addressed a packed meeting of visibly genetically damaged Empire loyalists and gum-gnashing Daily Express pension-vampires at Westminster Hall last night while the ink was still drying on the Brussels accord. After forty years of relentless anti-European propaganda in the corporatist press, British exceptionalism has reached its post-Edwardian apogee..

All it would take now is for France to sign a non-aggression pact with Russia, and we’re back in 1914. (You call it Visegrad, I call it the Austro-Hungarian Empire.)

And today, Sunday, the BBC’s coverage of the Out campaign continues unabated, with not one word published in support of staying in. Why? It’s not that BBC News employees all want to leave the EU, or that Eurosceptic cabinet ministers’ views are even interesting; it’s because they are terrified that the swivel-eyed,  power-sucking, über-liberal demagogues: Boris Johnson, Ian Duncan-Smith, Chris Grayling, Owen Patterson, ‘Dr’ Liam Fox, God-forbid John Redwood, will take over the Tory party after Cameron’s inevitable defeat in June, and that will be the end of the BBC’s cherished independence and your human rights.

Having wasted months of frantic diplomacy renegotiating our treaty obligations, we’ve arrived at the point where Mr Cameron can seriously advocate that we should remain members of the EU without having any responsibilities towards it. Our endless special pleading is a national humiliation.

We’re probably going to vote to leave anyway, since there is now no point in staying in. And that will lead to Scottish independence and further Welsh and Northern Irish truculence, as we out-of-towners depend so heavily on the EU for our subsidy fix.

So here we shall remain, interned in a disintegrating little Fortress Britain run by dodgy snake-oil salesmen, CIA-funded Atlanticists and City bankers untrammelled even by 0.1% transaction tax, trapped with the anti-immigrant groundswell of The Disappointed, second-class citizens in the rest of Europe; our holidaymakers queuing for hours with the migrants at the Aliens’ desks of Greek airports; no automatic right to live or work anywhere but here (you think the Americans will let you in?), acned teenage customs men crawling officiously over our MPVs at Dover, the triumphalist braying of Nigel Farage, ad aeternam.

Investment tip: buy flags. One is truly great again.

*Mr Bone’s Wikipedia entry makes fascinating reading, giving an insight into what a rightwing Tory Eurosceptic MP thinks. While having once been branded as Britain’s meanest employer, opposing as he does the payment of minimum wage, and having had a £100,000 fraud case against him dropped by the public prosecutor for insufficient evidence, the former accountant,  mysoginist and homophobic Mr Bone has sponsored bills to abrogate the European Convention on Human Rights and have the August Bank Holiday renamed Margaret Thatcher Day.

These are the self-interested, crazed fanatics who want to rule you, a 1950s Britain made in their image, unimpeded by a wider polity involving foreign people and their infuriatingly cultured intellectualism. By ‘sovereignty’ they mean theirs, not yours. Meanwhile, the march of the Trump continues unburdened by the merest hint of humanity, wisdom or  reason.

 

A vanishingly large number

So, Post number 499… on schedule then for Post number 500 to arrive next week. Saturday 27th is the fourth anniversary of this, muh bogl, thus producing a propitious numerical coincidence, of sorts.

Of such important considerations is my little OCD world made. But there you have an explanation for why my Posts have been getting bigger and more portmanteau-ish these past few months, with added sub-headings in Boldface, as I attempt to stretch them to fit.

Meeting next – hello, a JavaScript Scratchpad just opened up, begging me to Save it. No, fuck off, importunate JavaScript Scratchpad baboon. Whatever you are. Start again…

Meeting next week’s deadline will be a race against the peculiar entropy that is erasing the lettering on the keypad of my li’l Asus lapbook thing. E, A and N are now completely gone. T, S and M are just residual dots of white. I (no, sorry, it’s an R), H and L look identical, only the vertical lines remain. U, O and S have reduced themselves to tiny arcs….

The issue being, never having learned to touch-type I have a problem remembering where the letters are, and am now having to proofread my copy in real-time as I stumble over Rs and Ts, Ns and Ms, forever keying the wrong ones more in hope than expectation.

And why is it called a ‘laptop’? Does anyone ever use one of these things on their lap? I certainly never have. It’s hard enough typing while the letters are disappearing under your fingers, as in some work-related anxiety nightmare, you are giving a client presentation but you have only your socks on, and they have holes in, sort of thing – without having to factor-in wobble.

Maybe I could crowd-fund an appeal for victims with skinny legs? We lapless ones are a much misunderstood minority, especially by cats planning to settle amicably on our laps, only to fall crossly through the bowed space between our emaciated thighs.

Mind the gap!

 

A red-letter day

I got so much done yesterday, it was a real Beyoncé day!

With a little help from the sprog, I finally plucked up courage, stiffened the remaining unstiffened sinews, grasped the nettle by the horns, and Switched both my longstanding overpriced, maladministrated dual-fuel energy contract AND my pathetic dribble of constantly buffering Internet stuff to new and exciting service providers promising the earth, the moon and the odd star thrown in.

I now live in terror of getting impossible demands for penalty payments for Switching mid-contract. But at least I’m saving money in the long run! I think… it’s not very clear what any of them is actually offering or how much it costs. And why does it take three weeks to flip a switch? We should be told.

But I also went into town, big deal – I’ve become increasingly agoraphobic – and bought new brushes for my broomsticks, indoor and outdoor, both of which had rotted through; and went to the bank and transferred a bewilderingly large sum out of my pointless cash ISA (a tax-free savings instrument, currently offering 0.7% interest) to pay for improvements to my flooring.

Not before I had taken matters in hand and ordered on-line, a pallet of excitingly expensive ceramic tiles for the kitchen, plus all the tiling accessories; and informed my Estate Agent that said sprog wishes to avail himself of my hospitality for another year, so off the market it comes – my glaring inability to sell my little house being henceforth one less thing I shall have to bogl about.

Then I swept up all the soggy piles of leaves and stuff from my little garden and put them in the compost bin; painted the rusting front gate green, and winkled all the crud out of the deep grooves in the oddly complicated sills of the double-glazed front and back doors, that are designed to trap anything you carry on your feet and make it look like you never springclean your home.

All that, plus Hunzi’s two walks; food-shopping, cooking lunch and dinner, finally putting away both bottles of Mr McGuigan’s nastiest industrial-grade Merlot (‘2 for £10!), while guessing the perpetrator in TV’s ‘Death in Paradise’ (‘A marine salvage hunter is killed, but the main suspect has a solid alibi…’ of course it was the wife, she was having an affair with the stepson and they needed the money…), which I only really watch for the hot Detective Sergeant and her tiny shorts.

What a day, eh? I haven’t achieved so much in months. But today I’m back to my normal state of glum torpidity.

I guess it was just a celebration of Mental Health Week after all.

 

Reading the signs

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about linguistics and semiology, as one does.

Take this morning as a case in point. We are out on our walk, li’l Hunzi and I. At the end of the lane there is a 90 deg. bend onto the footpath under the railway bridge. As he rounds the bend, Hunzi, who likes to run on miles ahead because he is, after all’s said and done, a sheep-dog bred for the high rolling pastures rather than the thunderous outskirts of a busy seaside town, stops and waits for me. Seeing me also rounding the corner, satisfied I am still there, he trots on with his normal lack of concern.

Now, I didn’t train him to do this. So clearly, he is making a series of decisions of his own. Trot on, stop round the corner, feel anxious, make sure I’m following, feel relief, trot on again.

In another part of the forest, literally – well, a small wooded area between the heritage railway and the sewage works – there is a path that divides. Both paths then join up again a couple of hundred yards further on. Trotting on ahead, Hunzi is free to choose either path. Having done so – and he does not always choose the same path – again, once I am no longer in sight he will stop and wait to see that I am following him before he trots on, pausing now and then to read and reply to another pee-mail.

So, enabling himself to make those decisions: stop, wait, observe, recognise me, feel relief, trot on, he surely needs to have an internal vocabulary, a system of recognisable, infallible signs to which he can respond appropriately each time. To be capable of abstract thought it is necessary to be able to internalise the meaning of objects and events and signs in the outer world, which humans do through naming things and articulating processes, including memories: language.

Dog language.

What, I wonder, is his word for me? How does he internally express a compound thought: “Oops, I’ve gone out of my master’s line of sight. Maybe he’s not following me? Now I’m worried… Oh, right, there he is, slowcoach! He’s seen me. So it’s okay now for me to trot on again… I think I’ll go this way today.” Can an iterative decision-making process like that be produced entirely through conditioned reflexes?

I don’t think it can. All animals need to be able to make rational decisions on some level, based on the ability to recognise objects, other animals (such as me), signs and situations – and that cannot be done without any system of naming their world, and themselves. If food, warmth and sex are indeed all that motivates an animal, they still require ‘words’ for those necessities in order to seek them out and recognise them when they arrive.

It used to be thought by science experts that only Man has a sense of self. I think that is nonsense, for to have even a conditioned ‘fight or flight’ response to danger (and what happened to ‘freeze’ as the third option?) it is a sine qua non that the animal first recognises WHO is being threatened. Even insects exhibit this threat response, which must result from a sense of self. It’s very short, but ‘I’ is still a word. What is the doggish for ‘I’?

So although Hunzi cannot articulate language in the way I can, he recognises many of my words, he knows they have specific meanings, he responds to them and we converse otherwise through a system of signs; principally body-language. When he wants a walk, he tells me by repeatedly lifting my arm off the keypad with his nose. He’s pretty good at knowing when it is exactly 11.30 a.m., or if we don’t go now we will get caught in the rain. When I bang shut the lid of the laptop he is already on his way out the door, tail going nine to the dozen. He sees me closing down the tabs and he knows what it means. Without an internal dog-word for ‘walk’, or ‘now’, none of that behaviour or the exchange of signs would be possible.

Language and semiology.

Talking to myself, basically.

 

Blockhead

Okay, I confess, I use Adblock-Plus.

There’s growing indignation among the billionaire beanbaggers that wicked people like me are depriving them of necessary dough by blocking their paid-for site ads. Special teams of mini-baboons are being drafted to get around this malicious conspiracy to deny fundamental capitalist principles.

Well, okay.

I don’t ever watch commercial TV either, unless they’ve got the rights to a good rugby international. I don’t wish to buy a new car, or a sofa, or need help choosing a packet of washing powder or a tube of toothpaste. I’m not planning a Thompson holiday or flying Emirates anywhere this year. I don’t gamble, responsibly or otherwise, and I don’t need a Payday loan.

If I do need anything I know where to go, how to find it and buy it for myself. I’m all growed-up. I don’t want ads in my face, or my ears; not because I’m a subversive anti-capitalist, although I am; nor because I am unsympathetic to the argument that these service-providers need to pay their hired baboons now and then, but because I’m not interested in the content the ads provide.

Ads don’t persuade me, they don’t help me to choose, or enhance my brand recognition and loyalty; in fact, the opposite. And I don’t like my concentration to be interrupted with repetitive, banal messages every five minutes.

But I don’t see the good folk at ITV or Channel 4 threatening to find a technological workaround to force me to view their adverts.

The point is, with TV and radio you’ve got a choice. If you don’t want ads, you can watch or listen to something else. I find there are just about enough programmes on non-commercial BBC TV and radio to keep me entertained. I don’t mind paying £3 a week for them, which is all it costs for the licence fee, although to hear the denizens of Sofaville moan about it you’d imagine they weren’t already paying £600 a year for the full Sky package, 42 channels of subscription porno, shopping channels, makeover shows and all.

And if there’s nothing worth watching or listening to I have my record collection, my guitars – as a last resort, my singing voice. Or I can just go to bed.

I have consumer choice!

So there is no advantage in Facetweet and Bookagram and Gootube and Youhoo! demanding the right to chuck advertising pop-ups at me, because I am not ever going to buy anything from their advertisers. It would be pretty dishonest of them to promise advertisers, you’ll get x billion hits for your ad every day, when there are many people like me who won’t ever respond to their messages even if we have to be forced to look at them.

Except when the guitar shop emails me with another irresistible offer, obviously.

While I’m a happier customer without the unwanted distractions ads cause. So I’m actually doing them a favour by blocking their ads, that are wasted on me.

Cleverly, you may get to see ads on this page which, as the author, I don’t. I actually object to WordPress putting ads on my pages, profiting from my fascinating content and my army of Spammers, but I can’t stop it. Besides, they don’t charge me to be on here, even if they don’t pay me either. I object more to subscription sites like Preloved smuggling ads onto pages I’ve paid to advertise my stuff on; although nobody buys it.

So I don’t feel bad about blocking ads, ‘cos I’m a victim too. Ultimately, what will attract advertisers to web pages is not the number of clicks, but the actual response rates.

Sales.

Toodle-oo!

  • UB

 

 

 

 

 

With the utmost gravity

Huzzah for Big Science!

Yes, gravity… well, there it is. We knew apples fall from trees, and why. We just didn’t quite believe it. But now we know.

Experts have explained. It’s all got to do with a big rubber sheet.

You see, when you drop a heavy ball on a rubber sheet it rolls down and makes a dent in the middle. And that’s gravity!

Some of the weedier boys at my prep school had to sleep on rubber sheets, so I don’t find it hard to picture the space-time continuum as Einstein predicted it would look, sort of thin and stretchy and smelling of urine.

Apparently, after twenty years of staring at the cosmos through a special gravity telescope, last September to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the publication of Einstein’s Theory of Life, the Universe and Everything science experts detected a wave of actual gravity, a billion light-years away.

It was making a high-pitched squeaking noise.

It might be that Schroedinger’s Cat caught a mouse and is torturing it to death in my bathtub. It’s that sort of noise, a desperate plea for mercy. But it’s more likely to be the rubbery squeak of two black holes, eating one another up in a frenzied porno sort of way.

It doesn’t explain why we’ve had gravity for quite a long time, 400 years, and no-one could find it before. Was it a gravity wave passing by that caused the apple to fall on Isaac Newton’s well-filled head? Were there other waves that got here sooner, we just didn’t notice? Is a gravity wave like light, you never know where it’s going to turn up and when it’s not a wave it’s more like random bits of tiny stuff?

So, if gravity comes in waves, how come we don’t rock up and down and feel nauseous all the time? Why only now? And is finding gravity waves really going to change everything, like the experts are saying? Like, in future will we have gravity computers and gravity cars and gravity burgers and gravity action movies and gravity bombs?

Perhaps we should be told.

Still, there’s a few Nobel prizes gravitating towards those scientists, I feel.

 

An international bind

So it’s crunch week for Cameron. Can he get a deal in Europe that makes Britain a special case forever?

The question ought to be, why did he get himself on this hook in the first place? There is no evidence that EU ‘migrants’ come to Britain just to claim benefits. It’s bollocks. For a start, they’re not migrants. They have a perfect right to live and work anywhere in the EU. Just as we do. For now.

If he had just held a referendum on the basis of the status quo, but put a sufficiently persuasive case, without undermining the already fragile British faith in EU institutions, if he hadn’t allowed immigration to become an issue, but had negotiated on the basis of a Europe-wide agreement rather than making it an in-out ultimatum, he might very well have won.

As it is, the deal is so weak and unenforceable that he is likely to lose.

This poor Old Etonian booby should never have been elected Prime Minister.

He doesn’t have the intellect. He doesn’t have the judgement. He doesn’t have the depth.

 

Minding your Bs and Qs

Please understand, I worked for 15 years as a copywriter in ad agencies.

So I’m no stranger to the more dishonest literary confections with which companies desperately seek to dress-up unpopular decisions.

About four years ago, for instance, in an effort to clean up its image and attract institutional buyers for the shares we taxpayers paid billions for to rescue their incompetent, semi-criminal executives during the 2008 debacle, having failed to sell their sorry asses to the even more corrupt and insolvent Co-Operative Bank, my own bank decided in its panic to dump a few million of its less well-off customers into a new ‘plain wrapper’ subsidiary, TSB.

TSB had once upon a time been the Trustee Savings Bank, a mutual that got swallowed up in the 1980s by the slavering raptor that was Lloyds Banking Group – coincidentally, a client for whom I wrote a lot of advertising copy in the day.

Telling me by letter that I was too poor and indebted to make the cut, the copy-weasel advised me that my account was being moved to TSB ‘to increase my consumer choice’.

Of course, the choice on offer was, allow us to move your worthless account after 30 years man-and-business to the last-chance money saloon, or fuck off and die. In other words, no choice at all.

I was somewhat alarmed yesterday to see Everything Must Go! posters plastered all over my local branch of B&Q, the world’s fourth largest DIY shed chain owned by Kingfisher Group, former destroyers of the popular Woolworth high-street brand (they couldn’t compete with Everything £1 shops).

I could only assume they must be completely incompetent businessmen, because further investigation revealed what had escaped my radar last year, that they were closing half their B&Q stores nationwide.

This is especially inconvenient for me as I had their kitchen designer round to do an estimate a couple of months ago and was proposing shortly to have my kitchen refurbished, and do some other redecorating, and now the only places in town offering the potential to find the stuff I need are three tiny, understocked backstreet deco shops, basically ironmongers whose grasp on 21st-century fashion in interior design is tenuous to say the least.

Faced with a 35-mile drive to the next B&Q along, and with a 30-mile drive in a different direction if I want lumber, you can imagine the effect on my already ground-down, expensive porcelain dentures when I Googled to check-out the situation and picked up the following load of horse-shit from a last-autumn’s news archive:

“Over the coming years B&Q will be transforming its offer to customers as part of an ongoing initiative to enhance home improvement retailing.

“To respond to the changing needs of customers and how they live and shop, B&Q is changing the shape of its store network across the UK.”

You mean you’re closing our store, shitbrains, because you can’t make enough money in the modern world to keep it open. So going online is the last fling of your particular dice, right? Where you’ll be competing with Everything £1 again? Choking my road up with your delivery trucks?

Idiots.

Why not just admit to what a bunch of useless, incompetent, freeloading pricks you appointed to your board, Kingfucker? Or would that have screwed the share price, and your Xmas bonus?

Worse, the magnificent incentive we’re being offered to buy up all the bankrupt stock is “10% Off Everything!”

Maybe if you’d knocked 10% off your fancy prices in the first place you wouldn’t be in this situation now?

I think I’ll wait, thanks.

 

A lightbulb moment

So, gradually, gradually the weather starts to improve.

Hurricane Imogen passed on, leaving our seafront trashed again. One day they will open the new bandstand, but maybe not in my lifetime.

Since then, it’s been cold, but we’ve had two consecutive dry days, the first time that’s happened since October. Upside, it’s hazy but blue, and the sun is shining once again through my expensive UV-resistant double glazing on Avi, the light-starved avocado tree.

She’s still getting the enormous daylight bulb treatment every day. I’m not really sure if plants know what time of day or night it is. Do they just need 12 hours of full-spectrum irradiation in every 24, or does it have to be between the right times, like imaginary sunrise to sunset if they were living in Portugal? Is Portugal on GMT?

Because that’s asking too much of me, honestly. Dawn in the man-cave tends to arrive at about 10 a.m. when I get up, and sunset occurs at about 11.30 p.m. when I toddle off. I should perhaps put a note on the screen to remind me of the time. I see that science experts are hoping to trial various anti-Alzheimer’s drugs in the near future, but I think I’ll just stick to Post-Its.

No pun intended.

As you know, I cannot throw away a cardboard box, and yesterday I was sadly reading the upside-down text on the box Avi’s bulb came in, which is on top of a cupboard in the kitchen, and it says it has ‘intelligent technology’.

There’s convergence for you: a lightbulb with intellect.

Anyway, she seems a bit happier now.

Bless.

 

 

Okay, time to go

Listening to the BBC news, the day after Mr Cameron received the now notorious letter from Mr Tusk offering concessions towards Britain’s shameful demands for yet more special treatment from the EU, I have heard not one word from any interviewee in favour of remaining in Europe.

I fear this ‘unconscious bias’ towards the Outers is the BBC’s craven way of keeping onside with the egregious cabal of power-hungry, self-seeking Eurosceptic politicians and unreconstructed empire-loyalists, who hate the idea of the BBC’s editorial independence just as much as they hate the idea of a wider and more plural democracy; and hate that foreigners are usefully doing all the jobs the drunken, poorly qualified and barely literate British can no longer be arsed to get off their piss-stained sale-bargain sofas to go and do themselves.

Terrified of his own isolationists, ‘Schweinsteiger’ Cameron has refused to acknowledge the request of Parliamentary colleagues from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who would like him to postpone a referendum on Britain’s membership until well after their own municipal elections in May. Instead, he proposes to press the button as soon as the ink is dry on the surrender document.

There has been almost zero media exposure for the vanishing minority of Inners, whose inept campaign is being almost invisibly led by Sir Stuart Rose, former CEO of Marks & Spencer, a billionaire accountant whose bloodless efforts so far to persuade the public that Brussels is not the antiChrist have focussed entirely on dry-as-dust, virtually incomprehensible economic speculation.

Following the relentless, 40-year barrage of anti-European propaganda in the rightwing press, now building to a howling crescendo, there seems therefore a realistic prospect that, come June, the nation will once more be proudly standing alone, waving our little flags – just the way we like it, until we have to ask the Yanks to come over and bail us out. (Only they won’t, this time it will have to be the Chinese, or the North Koreans. Anyone, that is, without a sense of smell.)

I have argued all my working life and long into enforced retirement that 23 miles of windswept grey sea is historically no longer sufficient to isolate the Continent from Great Britain.

But here we are, with a draft deal on the table that says Britain can opt out of any EU legislation we don’t like; we don’t have to take any notice of the European Court; we can expose our workforce once again to dangerous Victorian working practices; we can abolish human rights; we need never join the common currency; we needn’t even discuss closer political union;  we won’t have to pay the Polish and French and Italian workers who are keeping the country’s economy afloat the benefits proper British people are entitled to; the wide boys in the City of London won’t ever have to pay a financially crippling one penny-in-a-thousand transaction tax on their gambling, and we can have total control of ‘our borders’ (whatever that ridiculous phrase actually means. How many borders have we got?) to defend our way of life against horrid scrounging refugee orphan children.

But we still want all the privileges of EU citizenship: duty-free fags and the right to an agreeable third home in Tuscany.

It’s a bit like saying to the golf club secretary, we’d like a free bar all night and you can get rid of the women, but surely you don’t expect us to play that weird game with the funny sticks? Can’t we just pick up the ball and drop it in the little hole?

I mean, what is the point of staying in the European Union if we persist in periodically making whining adolescent protests to be let off this and that household chore, merely because we think we’re too good for it? Oh mum, it’s not fair… I’d much rather sit in my room and wank over Taylor Swift.

We might as well leave, and take our shame with us. It’s a pitiful spectacle, nationally humiliating and just plain bad manners.

Somebody buy my house. Get me out of here.

 

May the Force be with you

I’ve been happy to sign several petitions demanding that the police shut down a series of planned presentations around the country by an unprepossessing American self-publicist calling himself RooshV, who apparently promotes the joy of non-consensual sex.

It now seems following attempts by concerned Australian authorities to ban Mr V. that he may just be a self-appointed comic genius, who has made up an organisation, Return of Kings, complete with outrageous misogynistic and anti-gay abuse, as a feeble publicity stunt. It is also now said that he was never intending to visit these shores; that was all the invention of the feminists.

I’m not sure that making up a spoof anti-feminist website pretending to advocate violent behaviour towards women is any better than the real thing, there are a lot of gullible cretins out there in Sofaville, but I’m willing to stand corrected. In the meantime, I’ve taken down the rest of this section as it was a waste of good outrage.

 

Neighbours

I am parked, as usual, somewhere along the side-road opposite my house.

My house does not have private off-road parking. Being on a blind bend, it is too dangerous to park on the main road. Across the road is a small estate, and a side-road lined on one side by a dozen or so 1970s link-detached houses with private driveways and garages.

There are always parking spaces along there.

The side-road is an unrestricted, council-adopted public highway as far as the end, where it turns into a footpath under the railway bridge. There are no yellow lines. Parking is free to all.

The owners of the linear estate houses are mostly early-retired, public-sector middle-manager types. They spend their days pottering about, obsessively polishing their retirement dream-cars, inside and out; mowing their neat suburban lawns, between weekend forays to visit relatives in their campervans.

Then they leave their cars and campers out on the road. Once, one of them told me, ‘I don’t like to look out of my living-room window and see other people’s cars.’

Opposite them, between the side-road and the main road, are just two bungalows, fifty yards apart. One contains a disabled lady, her family and health visitors; the other is owned by a gruff-looking  tradesman in late middle-age, who has a white van. Then the houses on that side give way to fields.

Today, I have parked between the two bungalows, about three feet back from the white line the tradesman has painted in front of the gate to his own private drive, which leads to a garage and beyond it a private parking space, that he never uses. My car cannot be seen from either house and I have left three car-lengths behind me, not wanting to obstruct the disabled lady’s entrance in case she needs emergency attention.

As I prepare to drive off, on our way to the supermarket and Hunzi’s afternoon walk by the river, the tradesman is walking past. As he turns in at his gate, he gives me a glare.

When we return, the tradesman’s white van is very pointedly parked on the space I had legitimately occupied before, not obstructing his driveway, three feet back from the white line, outside his neighbour’s house.

His van is the only vehicle parked along the whole length of the road. He has moved it from where it was before, on the other side of the entrance to his house, and parked it where I was previously parked; telling me, this is my road and I will say where you can and can’t park, which is somewhere other than anywhere near my house, thank you.

As if I am not depressed enough, what with the leaden grey skies, the Student Loan Company and not getting the part I auditioned for.

I should pray for the souls of my miserable, selfish, stupid, greedy, dog-in-manger neighbours.

But I won’t. They can rot in hell.

 

Toeing the line

Nine years ago, as avid readers of this, muh bogl will recall from an earlier Post, I was hurrying one morning to get to my ex-wife’s place 18 miles away to pick up the children to chauffeur them somewhere, I forget where.

The route took me along one of our rutted farm tracks with livestock, that passes for the main A-road between here and C., another large town about 50 miles away.

I was heading up an incline out of a rural village, past the 40 mph limit (the general speed limit in Britain is 60 mph), when a white Transit van emerged from around a bend, coming downhill in the opposite direction.

As we comfortably passed each other, a salesman in an unseen Volvo travelling close behind the van suddenly nudged out from behind it, presumably to take a look-see if he could barge past before the village arrived. With cat-like reflexes I swerved to avoid him, and braked to slow, but ran out of room on the narrow road. My nearside wheels clipped the raised verge and the car bounced back towards the middle. Like Boudicca’s chariot mincing through the Roman legions,  his sharpened Swedish wheel-nuts chewed through all four panels on the offside of my plastic Renault.

Another six inches and I would now be bogling through a straw, if I’d survived at all.

A tentative enquiry to the insurance company produced the interesting news that, as a result of there being no white line down the centre of the road, no determination of fault could be made.

With no white line, it could not be said that either of us was on the wrong side of the road, and thus had caused the accident, so both our insurers would have to cough up in equal measure, on what is known in the gritty world of the insurance racket as a ‘knock-for-knock’ basis.

Nor could it be determined that, had there been a white line, it would have deterred the oncoming driver from pulling out in the first place.

Thanks to the parsimony of the Highways Agency; or perhaps because, being so narrow, the road did not even qualify for a centre marking, in effect it was common space. And unfortunately, that meant there was only a few pounds’ difference between fifty per cent of the repair cost and the excess on my policy, that I would now have to forfeit.

To protect my no-claim bonus I dropped the claim, took the car to a backstreet garage for a gonzo repair that left me driving around in a petrol-blue car with two red doors, which my children christened ‘the Bruise’, and paid up.

But I am drawn now to the memory of a friend who, in a similar accident years ago on another rural road with no lane markings, ended up with a fractured skull, blind in one eye, and no compensation. That road was wider, straighter, but it had been resurfaced months earlier, and the white line had yet to be repainted.

That’s why I’ve been faintly horrified to read of an experiment in supposed road safety, whereby the central white lines are being removed from some UK roads in the belief that the added element of risk will encourage drivers to take more care.

Sowing landmines along the roads would in all probability improve the rash behaviour of the British motorist no end.

The inevitable uninsured deaths and injuries will be on the conscience of these meddlesome desk-cretins.

Won’t they?

 

Cross-current

According to the latest poll, Americans are increasingly angry.

The reasons are vague: a feeling that politicians in the Washington bubble are only interested in themselves and their rich friends. That America no longer has the respect of the world. That things are going wrong.

It’s probably true, like everything else we suspect about the Universe, in part. But it’s said to be why white middle-Americans, never the brightest bulbs in the lampholder, are increasingly voting for meat-faced, bullying, ignorant, loudmouth demagogues and deranged, white-haired old men promising change they can’t articulate or possibly ever deliver.

In short, they are willing to believe in anyone who pledges sincerely enough with quivering hand on flag and crocodile tear in eye that they will change things for the better and make America great again. (Something of an oxymoron, I fear.) The detail is unimportant. (Without a party machine, for instance, how is Donald J Trump going to staff the State Department and the White House?)

But as readers of this, muh bogl, have detected, I am also increasingly angry, and I don’t know why. It must be the change in the climate, which has not ceased to rain on us for the past three months. I have quite a nice life, on the whole, squirrelled away in my tiny cottage under a heap of empty wine bottles in the thunderous outskirts of a busy provincial town, supported by the generosity of the Department of Work and Pensions, who seem to have mistaken me for an elderly man who has worked hard all his life and paid his dues.

The really interesting statistic to emerge from the NBC poll is that Republicans are twice as angry as African-Americans. That’s probably because Republicans were registered to vote for the politicians they’re so angry about.

You can fool some of the people most of the time.

 

It’s a privilege

Waiting in an office, next to a pile of magazines.

One is the magazine of the county where I was sent to school. It has a special 24-page educational supplement. I haven’t been back to the school for fifty years, except once when I drove some mates down from London to a party, where I failed miserably to cop-off with Janet, the local doctor’s pretty daughter. The sexual revolution had not yet arrived in the English Midlands.

It is what is known in Britain as a public school, which is to say in that peculiarly British way of never saying what you mean that it is actually a private school. Less for the really posh, who go to Eton, Winchester and Charterhouse, Shrewsbury is a school more for the graceless heirs of well-to-do provincial solicitors and the owners of manufacturing and retail businesses.

I never really fitted in.

And lo, here is a report of my school today. It seems they have these strange creatures called girls there now. You can tell that from the photograph of a blond-haired girl, padded-up as a batsman and pretending with a determined expression to be about to receive a ball, surrounded by a half-circle of embarrassed and sniggering boys posing as slip-catchers, amused at the very idea of a girly playing cricket. Why, she could be someone’s sister!

The creative imagination of the school photographer doesn’t look like it’s changed much, either.

The accompanying article appears to be an extract from the school’s annual report, rather than a piece of semi-objective journalism. It has clearly been written by the Headmaster’s secretary, with his approval. The stilted, classicist’s prose style has not changed in fifty years, either. Private Eye magazine brilliantly skewered it in their ‘St Cake’s’ column. ‘Fifty pupils lined up for the Bickerstaff cross-country run on April 8th’. ‘A school party visited Pyongyang in July, great fun was had by all’. ‘Trumpington-Smythe Minor was presented with the Philpott Prize’ for something or other. Masturbating, probably. There wasn’t much else to do there.

Something else it goes on to report is quite interesting, however. It says the school achieved a 100 per cent pass rate in A-level exams; 83 per cent at A* or AB grades.

Now you know why Mancunian solicitors are prepared to fork-out £35,000 a year – more than my highest-ever annual salary –  for the privilege of sending their sons and daughters to a school where all I remember is misery and tedium, organised games played on frozen mud, the pervasive smell of boiled cabbage and borrowed jockstraps, terrible food, muscular Christianity and sub-lethal brutality.

 

Boxing Day

Goody, my new computer has arrived.

I may be the last dimwit in history to purchase an old-fashioned desktop tower. But it feels like the right thing to do, after busting my back for years hovering over this little laptop-thing perched at ankle-height on a coffee-table. I do an awful lot of writing, or a lot of awful writing, depending on how you look at it. It’s time I sat up straight.

A large box arrives, spot-on time. Why any business wouldn’t use DPD I can’t imagine, they are the only courier who gives you a one-hour slot and arrives within five minutes of the start of the hour, every time. TNT, Yodel, UPS… they’re all rubbish and make you stay in all day, if they haven’t already delivered somewhere down the street on the wrong day when you were out and now you don’t know where your £2,000 guitar has got to.

I reach for a kitchen knife and start slitting. Inside the large box is a load of crumpled brown paper, under which is another, smaller box. Inside that is a load of crumpled brown paper, under which is another, smaller box.

Finally my new computer emerges like the last of a series of Russian dolls, and I text my pet expert to come over and get it going for me. Technophobia is one of the privileges of old age.

And he informs me that a rather crucial component is missing from the mysterious, seemingly empty hinterland within, so I have to send it back. Luckily, it is a fact of my sad OCD life that I cannot throw away a good cardboard box.

My poor little house. All its cupboards are stuffed with useful empty cardboard boxes, some as big as yer ‘ead. Four-foot-long guitar boxes, outer and inner. Amplifier boxes, ditto. Shreds of bubble wrap, carefully folded. The huge box I bought my big-screen TV in, five years ago, still on top of the wardrobe. Small, intricate boxes saved in case of the need to retransport small, intricate things. Collapsed boxes. Boxes with little shreddy nests in them. Boxes that have been gnawed by mice.

I am feeling boxed-in, to be honest.

When is moving day?

 

Obituary corner

So, farewell then, Maurice White.

Earth, Wind and Fire. A curious choice of name for a funky soul band that provided much of the soundtrack to my early adult life. What happened to Water?

It’s not been a good start to the year for ’70s musicians. Lemmy, Bowie, Boulez…

After the love has gone, indeed. I check with YouTube.

It’s still there.