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Ah, tweet mystery of life

Life can seem arbitrarily unfair, can’t it?

Last week, police in South London arrested a man who had tweeted to his one, barely sensate follower, news of a conversation he had had in the street. More of a confrontation, actually.

He had apparently importuned a woman wearing, one supposes, a hijab or chador, possibly even a burka or niqab, or maybe bearing a large neon sign on her head saying ‘I am a Muslim’, and daringly demanded to know what she thought of the attacks in Brussels. Her reply seemed to him to be unacceptably indifferent, and he tweeted so, describing it as ‘mealy-mouthed’.

Stupid, rude of him certainly, as the poor woman could have had nothing to do with the attacks in Brussels and her non-committal reply might have been calculated to avoid giving further offence or to deflect a possibly violent action on her verbal assailant’s part. But try as one might, I cannot see how this tweet constituted a ‘race-hate crime’, for which the man was held in custody overnight while his collected works were being ransacked by the digital squad.

I’m pretty mealy-mouthed at times. Then, I’m a bogler, not a tweeter.

We were all upset about Brussels, and the population is deeply divided about hosting so many new people of a completely different culture and faith background; among whom exists a very small minority bent on bringing mayhem to our streets. That is not to say we don’t have a few of those ourselves.

Persionally, I am neutral on the subject, believing that people ought by and large to be allowed to come and go as they please, provided they cause no other offence. However, it is infantile to pretend that this division does not exist.

Now, as far as I am aware, no journalists have been arrested for importuning Muslims in the street and asking them how they reacted to the atrocity.

At one stage, several BBC news programmes had their expensive presenters tumbling over one another, hovering nervously among the crowds peacefully protesting the outrage in the square in front of the city hall in Brussels, cutting away whenever words ran out to a squad of reporters roaming the seething alleyways of Molenbeek, stopping anyone who could string together two words of English and desperately asking them how they felt.

Many of those being vox-popped were visibly Muslims.

Not one journalist was arrested for a race-hate crime. So we must assume the sin was all in the tweeting.

Tweet ye not, controversial opinion-holders. Or face the wrath.


A techno-cretin writes


I have just successfully connected this, muh li’l laptop, to my new BT Home Broadband service, for which purpose a box arrived with commendable efficiency yesterday containing my new ‘BT home hub’, to replace the new Netgear ‘hub’ I acquired only last month, that will cease working henceforth.

(I wondered in passing why everything on my new ‘hub’ couldn’t have been designed to work with anything on my old ‘hub’, saving waste. The dongly thing, for instance, looks identical but is subtly unco-operative. Even the power-supply has been designed so as not to plug-in to anything other than the new ‘hub’, while all the phone and network connections are upside-down. It seemed like professional jealousy on the part of BT’s design baboons.)

I had been persuaded weeks ago (it takes weeks) to change my old service provider by my son, who had become bored with (yes: it’s ‘bored with’, not ‘bored of’, quasi-literate speech-monkeys please note) my frequent complaints that I could not watch TV on catch-up, as I generally do (being rather slow on the uptake) without spending many frustrating hours waiting for that little pink circlet to stop whizzing round while the system caught up with the flood of digital bitty things that wouldn’t all squeeze down the bit of frayed string I had been provided with for years at vast expense by EE, the garlic-chewing French entity formerly known as Orange.

Delivered mostly by tiny pulses of light, my new BT Broadband service seems dizzyingly fast*. Things happen before you have even thought of them. TV pictures are clear for the first time, I am not going blind after all! All is crisp, crunchy, exciting.

No doubt I shall soon become inured to it. I may even have to convert to Windows 10, just to keep the adrenalin level up. But in the meantime, here I am, look, Posting early this week!

Now I must think of many things to write.


*Four days later, I am gently fizzing. Instead of the pink whizzer, the picture keeps freezing. People continue speaking, music plays, but for several seconds at a time their screen faces are not moving. This happens about once every two minutes. I might as well be watching TV on Skype.

(Postscriptum: try watching golf under these conditions. Does the little ball go down the hole? Wait five seconds to find out…)

What trickery is this?


Deutsches Leben 1

“Und dann kommt die Fruhling. Die Sonne scheint. Das Wetter wird warm. Die Vogeln* singen in die Baume’ (or something atmospheric like that).

Those are, by and large, the majority of the words I know in German, a language I studied for about a year whilst at school and have rarely had to rely on again. That would have been, ooh, 1965?

For the uninitiated, they hail the arrival of Spring; and form to the best of my recollection the opening sentences of Deutsches Leben 1, our form textbook. (Leben meaning ‘everyday life’).

The words literally ‘spring’ to mind every year at the start of April, especially if the sun is indeed shining and the weather getting warmer, as it is outside today. They are among many things I astonish older people with, by remembering from so long, long ago. (I have also just recovered the evocative opening line of a poem by Goethe: ‘O, sag mir wo die Zitronen blumen.’ Now read on…)

My very elderly stepfather suffers, as I have previously bogld, from dementia. He is being cared for at home by a seemingly kind and devoted Ethiopian lady. Her one defect is that she has not known him for very long, and can only talk of the near-present, of which he recalls nothing after a few moments. Nor could anyone not born to the purple or raised on PG Wodehouse possibly have any true comprehension of the bizarre eccentricities of the minor English aristocracy and its country-house, Etonian upbringing.

He is tragically aware of his condition, but unable to affect the accelerating process of mental degeneration.

Visiting him over Easter, I spoke to him of shared experiences from my teenage years, of people we knew in common and places we had visited, the stories I remembered him telling then of other people and places he had known in years before we knew him. Astonished at the depth of my recall, he eagerly took up the theme, lighting up at the memory of his student days in Paris and walking holidays in Spain, the country house parties and fast cars, the houseboat he kept on the Thames (I needed to remind him where), the long-dead chain of dogs by whose many brief lives we measure our own; his succession of crooked business partners.

For such people, the past is not another country: as we eat up future time like worms burrowing through soil, it is the only present there is. Any cod-philosopher who writes popular books telling us we all need to live in the Now is an idiot. There is no Now, only an accumulated past, with its fleeting certitudes and fragmentary happenings that continue to bob up like mines out of the cruel sea of our bygone lives.

For some odd neurological reason, I can remember my old prep-school teachers probably more fluently than the names of acquaintances whose faces I dimly recognise in the supermarket, yet whom I cannot place. I have no idea when or where I know them from; only a few words exchanged or facts I have learned about them ‘spring’ to mind. Though I remember childhood dreams, yet I grope for common words and am obliged to look-up half-remembered names and dates, Google fast becoming the Zimmer-frame of my mind.

By the time I have got to the end of a paragraph, I have lost the beginning: given up reading. Product instructions have become incomprehensible: I approach every task arse-backwards, unpicking my mistakes as I go. Technology is not so much inoperable, as unfathomable. Not that I can’t press a button, I only can’t remember why I need to.

The memory is like an atrophying muscle. Use it or lose it seems a good motto.


* Yes, I know. There are bewilderingly no umlauts in WordPress’ Special Characters fount.


My manic DIY phase reaches the living-room

The gas-fitter has condemned my cosy imitation coal-effect gas fire, that I inherited with the house.

To be more accurate, he has condemned the useless old chimney into which it vented its noxious by-products of combustion, which his smoke-bomb detector has shown are filling the upstairs of the little cottage, and leaking out through the roof-tiles.

He wrenches out the fire and terminates its life by cutting off the gas pipe.

I had called him in because, in my current mood of modernising zeal, I had taken a fancy to one of B&Q’s closing-down-sale-bargain glass-fronted wall-hung gas fires, 30% off, to replace the elderly brass-trimmed Valor, whose black stovepaint was wearing unattractively, and wanted advice about the right type to order and getting it fitted.

Serves me right.

Now what am I to do on a cold winter’s evening in front of the tiny TV set I bought for the dog-sitter last year, and which now enables me to watch rugby matches on ITV that I can’t get on the big set in The Little House, that has no aerial for receiving commercial programmes through the æther? Where now is the reassuring focal point of the room, to welcome and warm the ghosts of my past?

All there is, filled with ancient soot and nesting materials, deeply attractive to cats, is an ugly hole in the wall.

And it doesn’t even dispense cash. Quite the opposite, it is asking to be fed copious portions.

So, having ordered online a pleasingly retro electric fire, the ‘Bauhaus’ model with 100% efficiency and 3d digital ‘electriflame’ effect, personally signed by Walter Gropius – probably not – I take to contemplating its eventual arrival and easy installation.

Retrieving the tape measure, I find to my dismay that the hole in the wall is one centimetre too narrow, and one centimetre too low, and in places not deep enough, to accommodate the back-box of my new fire, on which I have outlain £300.

Not but which, it is also 3 centimetres off the centreline between the two legs of the fire surround, which are in turn irremovably buried in a ghastly tiled concrete ‘hearth’ that I was also hoping to get rid of, by dint of covering it up with nicer tiles – i.e. not black and shiny.

So I need to enlarge the hole, and move it a bit to the right. Okay, I can chop out bricks on one side and somehow fill-in on the other side and plaster it over and put tiles around it and no-one will ever notice.

Until the DIY gremlin strikes again.

Preventing all this from happening, is a substantial concrete or slate lintel placed just where I shall need to cut-in to the brickwork above the hole to accommodate the extra height.

It is now a question of either demolishing the wall or lowering the floor.

I reach for a Trade directory. Sigh. Just getting a price out of them is going to take weeks, the complacent baboons. You have to ask three times, they don’t trust that you are being serious the first two times. And then I won’t get a bill until some far-off day by which they imagine I shall have forgotten what they said originally, together with a High Court writ distraining my possessions.

I was perfectly happy to take my chances with the noxious gases, to be frank.

Death in one’s sleep seems entirely preferable.


Spam fritters

Arkayla the WordPress Spammeister tells me s/he has protected me from the horrors of reading 4,833 Spam messages to date.

That is almost ten per Post, a gratifying response to my efforts.

Whilst I might be grateful to be spared the ordeal of having to cope with these mostly inarticulate and strangely nonsensical  communications – I am judging them by the few that have penetrated the digital screen of care – I have wondered from time to time why certain obviously Spam-like texts are being fed to me as genuine Comments, inviting my Approval, apparently without quibble or question.

They are, specifically, very long and garbled treatises on the subject of personal finance; a subject which, as the world’s richest man, I obviously know very little about. I should of course be grateful to learn how best to invest what is left of my State pension after today’s increase in Council Tax, but even I can see that, were I to do so on the advice of whoever is sending me this meaningless gibberish, I should end my days in the workhouse.

Following on the question of why Arkangel is allowing these badly drafted treatises to slip easily through the Spam filter when they are so clearly of no personal relevance or interest to anyone, is the question: WHO is sending me this load of auld bollocks in the first place – and, more importantly, WHY?

There is no attempt at all being made to solicit a response, to sell me anything, to promote some worthy commercial service or risk-laden capital venture. It is purely, supposedly, cost-free information for my benefit.

I am abysmally ignorant of the ways of Spammers, though of course grateful for any attention to this, muh li’l bogl, from whatever quarter. It may be that by the mere act of looking at these uninvited Comments that aren’t Comments, I am giving away useful data, transmitting to my computer a disease or making some secret, possibly arrestable, commitment to an unseen cause. It may just be that whoever is writing to me in this importunate fashion is in need of friendship and counselling, particularly on the matter of English syntax.

I have no way of telling.

All I can do in the absence of any rational explanations as to why: a) I am being allowed to receive these messages at all, b) which planet they are coming from, and c) what they purport, is to sign off with my usual valediction:

Fuck off, crapulous and impertinent teenage baboons. I am not listening. I have stopped my crying eyes with wax.


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