Going for the Jocular

I Got Algorithm

OMG!!! I may be caught in a ‘filter-bubble’!

That’s the latest thing where the people watching you watching them can select the news stuff you get to see on the basis of what you recently looked at rather than showing you what is actually happening outside.

So, as a serious journalist and newswatcher, I just found myself staring at a page of BBC News that includes the shock-horror content that Funny Girl, Sue Perkins won’t be able to play host in the Great British Bake-Off tent tonight, owing to a bereavement. But don’t worry, ‘cos Sue’s still in the prerecorded section, and she’ll be back next week!

It’s obviously serious, but not too serious. This story is currently running at number two in the popular and widely trusted news site’s main news rankings. (I may be the only visitor to BBC News, as whatever story I’ve just been browsing on always seems to get bumped up the chart.)

There then followed an impassioned thread of Comments from apparently real people about whether or not someone should have been ejected from the tent after baking the ultimate-looking lemon drizzle cake. (Apparently, 10 million people watched the first episode.)

I have no interest whatever in baking shows, but trapped in this algorithm I fully expect to receive urgent news feeds about nothing else from now on.

Actually, it’s quite soothing.

Justin Bieber has apparently broken it off with someone. And then I learned that some highly illustrated US rapper called Chris Brown has been arrested for pointing a gun at a woman who was admiring his friend’s diamond necklace (male friend…), which also sounds pretty serious; especially as Brown loudly invokes Black Lives Matter, a cause devoted to exposing police brutality, whenever he is arrested for… er, brutality.

One in five parents are apparently regretting their choice of baby’s name, according to BBC News, while young girls on social media are increasingly unhappy about their looks, and many women are asking why their gym kit smells sweaty? (Because you’re sweating! Duh.) Clyde the Turtle has been stolen from his tank at the Blue Planet aquarium in Ellesmere Port – police are seeking a topless teenager who may have smuggled the cute reptile out under a sweater.

And here, look, the Guardian wants me to know that Selena Gomez (who she? Ed.) has had to take a career break because she’s having panic attacks (useful info, actually, as I need a break from shopping in Morrison’s for the same reason). Tweeter, phone-in host and cyclo-fascist, Jeremy Vine has posted a video of a black woman abusing him in the street for videoing her abusing him for… I don’t know, the crime is lost in history. And, like, now Justin Bieber is apparently ‘seeing’ someone else!

And following on from the Burkini debate French politicians are arguing about women’s breasts. France’s enduring female symbol, Marianne, is always depicted norks-out. You’d never see Britannia with her jugs on parade.

The big news story of the week for me was the video of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ bassist, Flea, giving Koko the Gorilla a lesson in playing electric Fender bass. Koko treated the instrument with childlike curiosity, respect and tenderness; unlike Flea on stage, obviously. She also admired his body art, and the pair are now thoroughly bonded.

Of actual news, I can find almost none. Brexit? So yesterday. Refugees? So last year.

This nonsense idea from the marketing baboonery that whatever you did, saw or bought yesterday is what you’re just dying to do, see and buy again today is fixing the world in a kind of Groundhog scenario. For years after I bought my militaristic son the birthday book he wanted on sniper technique, Amazon continued to select for me a choice of reading I feared would shortly get me arrested.

The late, great Humphrey Lyttleton summed it up: you can’t eat in the same restaurant every night.

He was talking about adultery, of course.

Isn’t everyone?

 

Stranger in the Night

So, today already, I see with amaze that this, muh li’l bogl, has received TWENTY Views and it is still only half-past eleven in the morning; barely second-coffee.

What’s going on? Have we gone virile? Only time will tell.

Statistics are all very well, but they seldom reveal easy truths. Each of twenty very old Posts was hacked in the night, by just one – presumably the same – person. Presumably the same person who read 47 old Posts ten days ago – a one-day record. But who is not viewing any more exciting current issues of the BogPo, which otherwise attracts on average half a dozen desultory viewings a week (see Comment below for who I think is doing it!)

There is just one piece I Posted in 2012 that has attracted a thread several miles long. ‘Does No-one Now Remember Comex 2?’ recounts the fallibly remembered history of a disastrous student expedition to India in 1967; and tries to explore the Bergsonian nature of memory.

This piece seems to wake up every September, at about the time the horrid events took place; thus answering the question posed in the title.

More recent upPostings, however, have not proved of any interest; although many of them uncannily predate by at least three days, highly-paid correspondents’ reports and Comment is Free pieces on the Guardian website and expert utterances on Newsnight and headlines in the Daily Mail.

So you could be reading it here first, for free, and more amusingly; but you’re not, more’s the pity.

 

Seek and ye shall Find

It’s the Editor’s fault.

The BogPo doesn’t go in for Search Engine Optimization, that I am reliably informed is the translation of SEO. We are editorially opposed to the ‘keyword’ culture that subordinates content and meaning to a system of signs intended merely to bamboozle Google, which (like Gordon the Green Engine) is a very clever and wise engine.

Nor would we pay for ‘paperclip’ deals or provide extra Lynx to other people’s dreadful websites in order to gain the attention of their readers, who have their own loyalties I’m sure.

No, the BogPo is a chthonic organism that will one day blossom and, indeed, fruit.

Until then, I shall continue to do my best to hide in plain sight, as despite obviously being a billionaire entrepreneur I remain a notoriously shy individual who seeks no temporal recognition or thanks.

Herr Professor Doktor Ernst von-und-zu Bogl (By appointment), Senior Editor-at-large

Aboard the BHS Arcadia, Boglèry-sur-Mer, France-Sud (32⊂, sunny).

 

Red Nose Daze

Readers of this, muh bogl, may recall some years ago I commented satirically, and with tongue firmly in cheek, on a news story about a consultant from Texas (a ‘Texpert’?) who was over here, ‘training’ British policemen at great expense in how you can spot a paedophile by the clothes they wear.

I suggested the police could catch more paedophiles then, by planting suspicious cardigans on the racks in charity shops and following home the dirty old men who bought them.

Although it obviously is a serious subject, nonetheless the proposition seemed utterly absurd and (in my belief) were it not for the hysterical atmosphere that has been whipped up among credulous village baboons in the wake of the Savile affair, this self-promoting expert Texan bigot might have been denied a visa on grounds that we don’t let fantasists and conmen into the country, where wasting police time is an indictable offence.

Now, however, I’m not so sure.

Women residents of a warden-patrolled apartment complex in Greenville, North Carolina, have reported seeing groups of men dressed as clowns hanging around in nearby woods, ‘whispering and making strange noises’; while children have reported that ‘clowns’ were attempting to lure them into the undergrowth.

‎Evil clownOne resident told police she was walking to her home on 21 August in the early hours, when she saw a large clown with a “blinking nose” standing under a lamp post near a rubbish bin, local news channel WYFF4 has reported. She said the clown waved at her, but did not speak or come near her. – BBC News report, 30 August

Greenville police reported finding no evidence, but the warden has warned residents to be on the alert and to observe the 10 pm ‘curfew’ imposed on minors (only in America!).

‘Colurophobia’ is a semi-officially recognised condition affecting people who have a genuine terror of clowns. I have actually met someone who had a similar phobia about puppets; a friend who is a puppeteer says it’s not that uncommon. A lot of people just find clowns creepy and desperately unfunny.

As one of the latter, while not an out-and-out phobic I suspect I must have had a bad experience being taken to the circus as a very small child. I certainly remember my grandfather running a red light (nose?) and crashing the car en route.

Of course, people having private conversations with man-sized rabbits are not uncommon. Aliens from outer space, too, like to hang about in woodland, whispering and making strange noises. Nuns high on wheat ergot tend to see sexually aroused demons in the convent. Donald Trump hears Muslims and Mexicans plotting the downfall of the US together with senior Republicans in his sleep.

But I’ve never heard of an outbreak of suburban mass hysteria involving false sightings of large, taciturn, paedophilic clowns with blinking noses gesturing satirically at housewives from behind the garbage bins. That’s a new one.

And children never lie when they get caught breaking curfew.

Could it have anything to do with the widely reported pandemic of adulterated heroin abuse in America’s rust-belt communities, that is causing hundreds of tenement dwellers to OD every day?

We may never know.

However, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that strange men going about dressed as clowns could be classed as a danger to children on the basis of their obviously sinister outfits, excessively silly make-up and furtive sylvan habits; circuses R-rated as a precaution.

Best be on the safe side when it comes to menswear.

Photo: Google images

 

Lifestyle

By Lifestyle correspondent, ©2016 Gwyneth_Platform, @whereits@

“…for men the wearing of brown shoes with a business suit is generally, though not always, considered unacceptable by and for British bankers within the investment banking division” – Social Mobility Commission report

Question: what do you mean, ‘though not always’? Blue suit, black shoes. Always.

Time the hobbledehoys at the Social Mobility Commission employed a proper style consultant. Preferably a real man, educated at Eton and Oxbridge.

I am putting the Editor forward, forsooth!!

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Brexonomics: are the entrails good or bad?

“Donald Trump showered Nigel Farage with praise as the leader who had helped Britain regain control of its borders”. – BBC News report, 25 August

Watching the KKKonservatives

By: Laura Facebook, Chief Political Correspondent ©2016. @laurasweeplace

If I’d had breakfast yet, I’d be hard put to keep it down. As it is, undigested coffee is seeping uncontrollably from the corners of my mouth.

Homo Ubiquitous, that man Farage has popped-up again, this time as the star turn at a Trump convention in, of all places, Mississippi, urging Republican voters to ‘get their boots on’ and go out and vote for the 70-year-old New Yorker as the quickest way to ‘smash’ the political establishment.

That’s the same establishment, presumably, that guarantees the 14th Amendment rights of Afro-Americans in Mississippi ?

The noisome apparition has been greeted ecstatically by the KKKonservatives of the new American right; the so-called ‘alt-right’ who, political commentators are increasingly noting, are attempting a re-set by giving new intellectual weight and respectability to the sameold ideas of racial separatism, virulent antisemitism and Aryan superiority propounded back in the C19th by Houston Stewart Chamberlain.

(Add to that some forthright ideas on gender balance, and you can turn the clock back to the 1950s, basically, before the shame of Vietnam, when Murca was great, cars had fins and women with domestic appliances ruled the kitchen.)

The report continues: ‘Mr Farage spoke about when President Obama came to the UK and urged voters to remain in the EU. “He talked down to us,” he said, “he treated us as nothing.”‘

Do we detect faint racialist overtones in that remark? Short, that is, of using the uppity n-word? It seems the real insecurity Trump (who believes nothing himself) is tapping into is not immigration, income inequality, gay marriage or terrorism: it’s letting women and blacks upstairs in the White House.

Trump has for some time been feeding on the absurd idea that Farage, a demagogic succubus on the European Parliament, from which he hypocritically draws a generous salary and even more generous expenses, is some kind of rallying point for disaffected British rednecks dreaming of overthrowing a rigged political system that has failed to deliver prosperity and equality – respec’ – for the white working-class, encouraged multiculturalism and recklessly imported dangerous foreign elements in the name of soft-left liberalism.

A privately educated, former City commodities broker, Farage presents shamelessly at the saloon-bar of publicity as a pub-going, warm-beer-drinking, anti-smoking-banning, anti-corporatist, anti-political-correctness, spivvily dressed Good ol’ Boy, embodying all the solid British lower-middle-class virtues of literary fiction: Mr Pooter Goes to War Against The Foreigners. He would not look or sound out of place in a 1950s Ealing comedy movie.

Trump in turn has hailed Farage as the author of Brexit – the liberator from European tyranny of oppressed Sunderland fish-porters; and has wrapped himself in our Union flag, whose several symbolic components he doesn’t understand, comparing Brexit to the freedom he proposes to deliver to traduced white America from the global corporatism of the corrupt State in Washington DC – a corporatism his supporters seem unable or unwilling to accept he personally espouses with every dollar deposited in the Bank of Donald.

(Has no-one noticed, btw, that Washington is currently threatening dire economic reprisals against the EU for suggesting big US tech corporates might pay their tax in the countries where they make huge profits, instead of in countries where they don’t? Just this knowledge must surely… no, forget it. We’re not interested in reality, only reality TV.)

Farage, let us recall, could not even persuade the deeply disaffected voters of Thanet South last year to put him in Westminster, despite the endless uncritical publicity afforded to him by the petrified wankers at BBC News, and what the Telegraph – a newspaper often called the Tory bible – reported on 16 June this year:

“An analysis of election records shows that Ukip was potentially £10,500 over the legal spending limit of £15,000 in the constituency.”

A finding naturally denied by the shambolic proto-party, even for whom its founder, Farage, a notorious expenses-eater careless of protocol, has proved too toxic.

But so what of it? The end, as Trump might say, surely justifies the means. Brexit and the Great American revival, both bear a pallid resemblance to the so-called Arab Spring: the street-protest of the over-governed.

Yet both carry the danger of a repressive backlash amid the death of democracy. Real revolutions often start with moments like these, and always end in imaginative new tyrannies.

 

We have a representative democracy, not mob rule: I voted for my local MP, not for you lot. I did not give you permission to take away my citizenship of Europe.

The Brexit paradox

People on the telly are still reminding me, it was immigration that was the number one reason people voted to Leave.

So, there’s a paradox here.

Proposition a) holds that the UK has been filling with unwanted foreign labour by the million, ‘swamping’ our services, our limited housing stock and culture, whatever Brexit voters mean by culture; stealing our jobs, undercutting our wages.

Proposition b) however argues that, of the three key labour market indicators: numbers unemployed, job vacancies and wages, we find the first is continuing month-on-month to come down, the second to go up, and the third also to go up, by about 2.5 per cent a year.

These two propositions cannot sit side by side. As more people arrive and take jobs, miraculously more jobs become available, and at higher wages? There is a paradox here, which Brexit voters are unwilling or unable to confront: the world is not as they see it!

I am genuinely sorry to keep trolling these people. I do so, only ironically. Let me address you directly instead.

Why I remain so angry and depressed is because you have effectively imprisoned me on this little island where I was born 67 years ago next month, stuck in a dogshit-strewn urban nightmare among a race of violent, acquisitive, over-sentimentalised, shaven-headed, tattooed barbarians, with a Tory government or worse promoting self-interest for the foreseeable future – Labour will not get back in my lifetime.

You have betrayed the trust others had in our country, put our intellectual capital; and, indeed, your precious sovereignty, up for sale to the least-moral foreign bidder – Chinese investment in buying-up UK businesses is running at £6bn and counting – and condemned millions of your fellow Britons to queue forever at the immigration desks of Bulgarian airports as second-class citizens in the wider (and more important) polity of Europe, where we are about to have lesser rights than the nearest Latvian streetsweeper (not that I am disrespecting streetsweepers, or Latvians. You know what I meant: it’s an analogy.).

No, I am not going to ‘make the best of it’, I will not ‘come together in a spirit of unity and reconciliation’, nor ever accept that you have done the wise, the sensible, the normative thing, nor that your vote was based on any actual knowledge or apprehension other than that which you have gleaned over years from the sleazy, lying headlines of the Daily Express; when it wasn’t inaccurately predicting the next weather doom.

We have a representative democracy, not mob rule. I voted for my local MP, not for you lot and your disappointed whingeing noises, which you imagine pass for political philosophy. I did not give you permission to take away my citizenship of Europe, and you had no right to do it.

Forgive me if I take these matters personally, but just fuck you, okay?

Cretin.

 

Whatever the outcome, people will try to make money out of it if they can.

Follow the money!

By: Sterling Pound, Economics correspondent ©2016 . @willyswinebaruntil4.30

Two months after the referendum, economists, politicians and media pundits still don’t agree on whether ‘Brexit’ has had a good or a bad outcome for the British economy.

The point all of them seem to be missing with the deadly efficiency of an armless man reading Braille is that we haven’t yet exited the EU. Article 50 has not been triggered. Negotiations have not started. It’s probably going to take two years to get the protocols agreed and specialist teams in place qualified to renegotiate dozens of complicated trade deals; and even a week, as they say, is a long time in politics.

Any movement in the economy is therefore likely to be prompted only by international money-market speculators or changes in Government policy that are unlikely to be announced until the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, and is still subject to long-term cycles that remain unaffected by the vote. It takes time to change the course of a supertanker; albeit a rusting one with weeds wrapped around the prop shaft and barnacles fouling its bottom (that’s enough nautical imagery. Ed.).

Whatever the outcome, people will try to make money out of it if they can. That is where you need to look for the causes and effects of Brexit, not in the high street. Follow the money!

The positive indicators hailed by Brexiteers this week have the feeling of grasping at straws and fall apart under the simplest analysis.

The positive news that there are more tourists visiting Britain, for instance.

I ran a sort of hotel for several years, so I know that, to begin with, tourism is cyclical. It has its up years and its down years. This is an up year. Chinese families don’t suddenly decide at the end of June to visit Britain next week, just because there’s been a referendum; Europeans may only be popping over to say goodbye!

A key reason is that many fewer people are going to France, Europe’s most popular destination, this year because of fears of terrorism, wildcat strikes, riots and ‘migrants’. They may be coming here instead. Britain has not had a major terrorist incident for nearly ten years, there are fewer unprocessed ‘migrants’, we last had a riot in 2011 and we have tougher labour laws (yes, we can make our own laws, even in the EU!). The weather hasn’t been too bad, either.

More obviously, the 12 per cent fall in the value of Sterling worldwide has made Britain a cheaper destination.

For the same reason, it has made overseas holidays more expensive for Britons. More of us are ‘staycationing’ (Shudder. Ed.). The summer population swell produced by those two statistics combined is perhaps the main cause of the four per cent increase in consumer spending in July: there are simply more shoppers around.

In addition, rising wages – especially with the ‘living wage’ increase – have marginally offset price rises for the first time since the 2008 crash, releasing pent-up demand. Another attraction was almost certainly the summer sales, with discounting typically at 15 per cent in all of the major high street chains. Borrowing, too, has become a bit cheaper.

So more spending has nothing to do with Brexit boosting confidence, as has been claimed. It may be that in non-food sectors more people are buying now, hedging against future rising prices. Prices will have to rise, because we import more than we export.

Brexiteers are pointing wildly to the benefits for exporters of a lower pound making British goods cheaper abroad. Low-wattage thinkers, they may not recognise the corollaries, that a) lower prices = lower profits = lower tax-take, and b) imports will have to cost more; not just finished goods, but components and raw materials too. Rising ‘factory gate’ prices are a harbinger of trouble ahead.

With fuel prices also rising (a litre of unleaded at my local garage has gone from 99 pence in June, to £1.14p today) many things are going to get more costly in the Autumn. The Bank of England is running out of wriggle-room on interest rates to combat rapid price inflation; which rose to 1.6 per cent last month, four times its previous rate.

Rising oil prices are also good news for Nicola Sturgeon. The main barriers to further SNP ambitions for Scottish independence were the possibility of a Remain vote, now gone; and permanently low oil prices hitting the Scottish economy’s mainstay industry. So Brexit combined with rising oil prices may well cause the breakup of the UK, we’ll have to see.

The most volatile indicator of price rises for imports is surely the fresh groceries sector: in my local supermarket, a 50g pack of trimmed Kenyan stick-beans has gone in the last few days from 50p to 57p, almost exactly matching the fall in the value of the pound.

But unemployment has fallen, hurrah!

Well, despite the ‘swarm’ of immigrant labour that Brexiteers are itching to reverse, unemployment has been falling month on month for several years, job vacancies and wages gradually rising. It’s another long cycle and nothing to do with the Brexit vote.

Unemployment always falls in the summer as seasonal jobs become available and thanks to Ian Duncan Cunt, benefit claimants can now be forced to take them. It hasn’t fallen by nearly as much as it should have in July, only 8,500, so that’s actually a negative indicator.

And look, there’s been no effect on property prices! More people are buying flats and houses!

I wish they’d buy mine, it’s coming up four years it’s been on the market. Only, I’d planned to retire abroad, and with the pound on the floor it’s going to be much more expensive to move.

When I started looking in 2012, I could buy an agreeable €100,000 cottage property in central Portugal for £72,000. It’s now an unaffordable £85,000; the price to me has gone up, but the value hasn’t.

That’s if triggering Article 50 doesn’t ring down the curtain on Britons’ right to buy elsewhere in Europe.

It could be that I become a prisoner in my own country; unable to afford to emigrate and with no automatic right to buy, as a pensioner I’m not economically attractive enough to qualify for permanent residency.

Thanks, irresponsible Brexit thickos.

Have the economists forgotten, George Osborne made it less tax-efficient to buy-to-let? There was a Gadarene rush of speculators to beat the tax change. You can’t buy a property overnight, on average it takes four months to complete a purchase. The bulge is still working through.

Among other reasons for more people buying properties; if indeed they are, property market statistics being only as reliable as whichever building society is publishing them, could simply be that interest rates came down in August, making mortgages cheaper. And another: as rents have become unaffordable, it’s probably cheaper now to buy if you possibly can.

If there are buyers in the market, prices will not fall. So the referendum is unlikely to have had much or any immediate effect on domestic property. Remain economists predict a long, slow decline.

Commercial and investment property however, especially in London, has undoubtedly been hit by a loss of confidence. Investors are waiting to see what happens, and that could mean a two-year moratorium. Some overseas banks, too, have stopped lending to property investors looking to buy in the UK.

Not such good news for London’s obscenely wealthy estate agents, better for ordinary buyers and London’s new and so-far dispiritingly ineffectual mayor, Sadiq Khan.

So, no, Brexit has as yet had little effect; as any sensible person might expect. Economists, politicians and media pundits, however, have to justify their impressive salaries somehow.

Stuck in the UK for the summer hols, Brexonomics is unlikely to resolve the arguments between them anytime soon.

 

Ring-fence

I suppose that can’t be the smudged fingerprint of Brexit being lifted by the Sellotape of news I’ve just received from my mobile service provider, EE – the confusingly Franco-German virtual monopoly owned in the UK by BT?

Namely, news of a slightly above inflation 20 per cent price hike for extra-contractual usage of unimportant services such as mobile-to-mobile, country-to-country and ‘freefone’ 0800 calls?

Accompanied by BT’s usual weasel-shit about needing to invest in 4G?

(That’s the new whatever it is that’s caused a virtual blackout of reception in my area, so when your phone rings you have to rush out into the street to answer it or get a No Service message, and find your neighbours all standing on their doorsteps too, struggling to make calls over the din of the traffic.)

It has nothing to do, I imagine, with the EU ruling that has forced EE to abandon its prohibitively expensive and opaque structure of roaming charges in a virtually borderless Europe? Which may someday soon no longer apply to UK travellers?

 

Postscriptum: Nature Notes

A rose by any other name

The rose bush in my garden is in bloom for the second time since June. It’s not quite normal: this second flush comes usually much later in October.

The rose has long been a poetic metaphor for the transient beauty and fragrance, especially of young women.

Odd therefore that honeybees do not seem to feed on roses: flies do, however.

 

 

Rolling Down from Rio: We’re back on the Gold Standard!

Cutting us down to size

My foreboding by about Day 3 that any more Olympic success for ‘Team GB’ would only encourage the gormless Brexit tendency to start crowing about how it proves Britain can punch above its weight and go it alone in the world without the garlic-munching losers in tow soon proved tragically correct.*

The Guardian (17 August) reported:

In a video released on Twitter on Wednesday, Leave.EU, the Brexit campaign backed by the businessman Arron Banks, used footage of a string of medal winners, including Andy Murray and Sir Bradley Wiggins, with the slogan: “We may be small, but we truly are Great Britain!”

The slogan neatly betrays the crass ignorance of Brexiteers. The ‘great’ in Great Britain refers, not to our ability to outshine Johnny Foreigner in just about every sphere of human activity bar the intellectual, but to the greater geographical entity that is mainland Britain and associated small islands, including England, Scotland and Wales. The ‘United Kingdom’ adds Northern Ireland to the constitutional mess.

We can at a pinch describe Britain as a small country, being about 800 by 300 km – anyway, 243,000 sq km in area (3,700 sq m per person. Crowded?). It does however harbour a population now said to be 65 million, including the approximately two million EU migrants whom the Brexit campaigners would like to see go home to their respective nations.

As the deluded pack of disappointed xenophobes and Empire loyalists have now got their way, Britain is likely to be quite a smaller nation in the not-too distant future.

 

Knights and Dames, You Are the Ones

“Theresa May wants an extra-long honours list to celebrate Britain’s Olympic heroes” – Telegraph, 20 August

Coming, astonishingly, second out of 208 nations in the medals table, above (if you count it on the points system, ie we won more gold and silver medals, they won more overall including bronze) the 1.4 billion-strong Chinese, 280 million dopey Russians, a boxer from Mongolia and the whole of the rest of the EU practically put together, it cannot be denied that TeamGB (as it’s controversially known – it used to be the fuddy-duddy British Olympic Association) done good; especially the high-jumpers being over the moon.

My heart has plummeted like a not very well synchronised 10m diver today, however, on a statement from Buckingham Palace. ‘Brenda’ has generously issued her congratulations to all the medal winners, ominously assuring them that, following a terse ph0ne call from Switzerland, further honours would be forthcoming ‘with no limits’.

Coming in the wake of Dave Cameron’s notorious resignation honours list, that has thoroughly devalued the whole weird panoply of Commanders of the Bath, Keepers of the Corgis, Bearers of the Royal Bogbrush, Hammers of the Scots and so on, this is terrible news.

Olympic sport exists in an elitist bubble of its own. The honour of winning an Olympic medal, whether for oneself, one’s team or even one’s country, is invested in a system that has pumped over £350 million into supporting, supplying, coaching and honing our athletes to perfection, at a cost of about £6 million a medal. If we were genetically engineering medal winners, I should not be surprised.

Entrants compete for places and medals; for glory, Lord and honour, for continued funding, and winning ought to be enough for them. It is everything they have trained for, and everything we have paid for through our taxes, scratchcards and weekly Lottery losings to support them to try and do.

Indeed, since London, few of our medallists have enjoyed conspicuous success on the world stage in the run-up to Rio; the swimmers, even the cyclists have taken everyone by surprise, while no-one expected the hockey team to get near the final. Britain is not interested in grubby professional world titles; in front-loaded races and fixed matches – only in the noble Classical ideal of ‘taking part’ in the no-longer amateur Games.

Unless there’s good PR in it.

As Knight follows Dame, the mood of elation in the country is sure to translate to a slew of ill-considered and, frankly, pretty meaningless royalist baubles to heap on top of athletes who have already been rewarded in the ways they and we value most: with winners’ medals, public adulation, places in the record books and the promise of fresh grants. In that sense alone we are becoming more like some terrible totalitarian state, desperate to draw attention away from our abuses of power, managerial incompetence,  sinking currency and expanding food banks by achieving the symbolic glory our leaders lack in spades.

Of course there can be no objection to, say, Sir Mohammed Farah being created a Knight Commander of the British Empire; only a certain geopolitical irony. His back-to-back victories in the 10k and 5k meters events are almost unprecedented, genuinely ‘historic’: I believe only the Flying Finn, Lasse Viren has ever matched him. He has announced that he will be retiring in 2017, three years before Tokyo, but that he might try to come back in 2020 for a crack at the one distance title that has eluded him, the 42 km Marathon.

Surely then would be the time to decorate the Mobot, not when he is hot off the track at Rio and still has some way to go in his career? Maybe a more welcome gesture from HMG would be to reverse the ruling deporting his brother back to Somalia?

Likewise, Dame Laura Trott is only 24, and despite now being the holder of four Olympic titles, still hopefully has further tens of thousandths of a second to shave off in the Velodrome-crunching business. Athletes can and should be honoured by their country, but not just for immediate success, in a mood of national euphoria bordering on media hysteria; or to buy votes.

Has it really added to the sum of human happiness, that after the last couple of games sports commentators now have to emphasise that it’s: ‘Sir’ Bradley Wiggins, ‘Sir’ Chris Hoy’, ‘Sir’ Steve Redgrave, ‘Dame’ Kelly Holmes or ‘Dame’ Tanni Grey-Thompson? It sounds a little disconcerting; although they may have given us more heart-stopping pleasure than a whole garden-party of dodgy donors to Tory central office, they are still very ordinary ‘extraordinary’ people; many of them perhaps still too young to bear the weight of public high-office.

The honours system is supposed to reward service to the Crown, acts of bravery, altruism, communitarianism; not just the ability to run and jump; and that takes a little more time and patience. A few years’ more in the saddle or on the track; a post-retirement administrative, coaching, media or advisory job, passing the torch on to the next generation; charity work, governorships, chairing inquiries, running a pub in Cornwall; that extra maturity is what will surely better qualify our current crop of successful young athletes for promotion a few yards down the road, for adding value in the sport and kudos to the country, rather than the winning of trackside medals, which are surely in themselves the ultimate, the most appropriate rewards for sporting excellence?

Of course, pride-wounded Australia, China, New Zealand will come back at us with a vengeance. Who knows how many of our medal winners at Rio might turn out next time to be just a flash in the pan? Is it really the mark of a mature society to heap further honours on young shoulders, merely for winning honours they have already been accorded?

But no. And who can blame ‘The Firm’ at Buck House and a post-Brexit Tory government desperate to right the capsized Finn Class yacht of state, for rowing themselves in on the action, buying a share of success by spraying around a few cost-free gongs, ribbons and scrolls of their own? The oft-times repeated podium-dirge of the national anthem can only have come as music, too, to the ears of  IAAF president, Lord Coe, who in the leadup to the Games was under increasing pressure to say what he knew about Russian doping. Who cares now?

I feel a little sorry, though, for the long queue of likely recipients, who seem by and large to be decent young people who will probably never realise the profound sense of relief their success will have brought to our broken and discredited political masters;  how flabby politicians, the palace, the media and the honours system will ruthlessly exploit British winners for their own faintly disgraceful benefit.

*This was before the gormless Brexiteer, South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler, posted a tweet (or whatever you do with them), having added up (for a joke, she says) all the medals won by ‘the British Empire’, i.e. Britain and the Commonwealth countries, past and present, proving that we had beaten both the rest of the world and the EU.

It’s surely one of those fatuous ‘jokes’ you make after a mildly inebriated gala dinner at the golf club, not in public. I can’t somehow imagine Australia agreeing to be part of the British Empire ever again, Fiji or Zimbabwe, but it’s nice to have Usain Bolt back on board. Worse still, by the time the BBC story broke the ‘joke’ had garnered 564 Likes. Not as many as the Boglington Post, which has been proving unexpectedly popular this week.

OMG!!! 47 views TODAY (24 Aug)… The BogPo’s gone virile!

 

Tout de grace

I suppose there’s an Irish joke somewhere in the news that Mr Pat Hickey, the unpopular 71-year-old head of the Olympic Association in Ireland, has been dragged by Rio police from his hotel room in his dressing-gown and slung in top-security chokey pending investigations, following the reported discovery of 700 tickets issued free to his organisation for distribution to officials and other favoured persons, apparently for sale online at prices up to £8,000. Three more Irish officials are under suspicion.

The joke of course being that the Brazilian organisers couldn’t even give legitimate tickets away. The stadium venues were more than half empty for most of the events, owing to the unaffordable prices, muggers and transport hiccups; not to mention foreigners’ fear of catching Zika keeping them at home, and the parade of numerous obscure and frankly tedious ‘sports’ no-one in Brazil has ever heard of.

 

A Bolt from the blue

I must confess, I too am baffled by the dominance of British cyclists, especially 10-times gold medal winners Laura Trott and her fiance, Jason Kenny. Neither of them looks strong enough to fetch in the cat, yet they managed time and again to get their skinny tyres in front of more powerful-looking riders and keep them fuming in their wake until they’d all finished whizzing round.

A lot of French and American and Italian and Korean muttering went on after the events, and I can sort of see why. Trott is tiny, and spectacularly ordinary-seeming in every way, like a suburban schoolgirl who’s just got her GCSE results – although apparently she’s 24, and has done this sort of thing before.

Now, I’m not qualified in sports medicine, but I could detect nary a ripple nor a bulge of muscle in her legs, no knot or cord of sinew about her diminutive person. The Canadian designer bikes also appeared fairly normal, if you can afford one, with no sign of any hidden Star Trek warp drives. (Until I looked it up, I’d recalled, falsely, that ‘Cervélo’ was Spanish for beer, which seemed very British.)

Looking at the many hundreds of athletes represented, you can see that Mankind is evolving a range of shapes and sizes best suited to Olympic events. The swimmers, for instance, all have massive dorsal fins, guppy mouths, slack jaws and pale, round eyes. You can find the type any day on a slab at your local supermarket. Their lower bodies seem to taper off into legs that are gradually fusing together.*

Sprinters on the other hand have impressively muscular upper bodies like college footballers, or weightlifters, that you cannot tell me have not at some stage in their careers been inflated with buckets of anabolic steroids. These huge engines, sucking in thousands of litres of oxygen per second, like the ramjets of F-35 combat aircraft, when they are working, sit atop a set of massive glutes that balloon into mighty thews of steel, propelling the athletes like Exocets out of their blocks and (hopefully) into the record books, behind Mr Bolt.

Any runner hoping to win a race of 1500 meters or longer, however, needs to look like Mo Farah: basically, a smiley lollipop on a stick. I cannot understand where these distance runners derive their boundless stamina from, as they clearly have on their skinny frames an ounce neither of fat nor muscle to burn. They are all sinew, like corded wood. If pictured on the cover of Vogue, the women in particular would immediately attract thousands of feminist tweets demanding justice for size-zero supermodels kept in a permanent state of sub-lethal anorexia by evil (men) fashion designers.

But then I am reminded of a young woman I occasionally used to agree to play at squash, with added trepidation. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with anorexia, you’d think a gust of wind would actually not manage to blow her over as she was so etioliated it would pass round her, and her not above 5′ 5″; yet she used to beat me every time; and probably go for a run afterwards, while I was still in the bar, morosely nursing a pint of Cervélo.

At all the many sports I’ve attempted to participate in (see previous Post for remarkable longlist), my own body shape has, alas, not equipped me to excel. I have, as you would expect, evolved an enormous brain-pan, with odd bulging nacelles on either side that phrenologists tell me contain my advanced analytical skills, and massively enlarged typing fingers – two on the left hand, one on the right.

Beneath a burgeoning tummy, however, a thick pad of adipose tissue hidden below pendulous manboobs, the rest has generally atrophied, my socks and shoes merely accoutrements tied on with colourful ribbons taken from my many freestyle bogling medals, God Save the Queen repeating endlessly on Windows Media Player.

A pensioner can dream.

*Odd, but the underwater shots showed that freestyle swimmers hardly use their legs at all when doing the front crawl. I was taught at school to paddle up and down like mad, which is presumably why I almost drowned several times and ended up as the 50m breastroke man on the team.

 

They’re so yesterday!

I see that skateboarding is one of the new ‘sports’ being admitted to the Tokyo Olympics.

The IOC is obviously completely out of touch with the yoof of today, who have abandoned fuddy-duddy skateboards entirely for those scooter things with tiny wheels.

Some of them are not so youthful, either.

Having evolved one long, muscular pushing leg and one shorter leg with no foot, just a peg, they whizz past us on our walks through the dogshit-strewn exurban space that passes for our local park, on their way to Olympic glory.

 

The towering intellect of Donald J Trump

 

You’re never alone with schizophrenia

Sometimes I ask myself, are you lonely?

And the answer comes back, no, not really. Not with all these multiple, disjunctive personalities bickering together, snoring, itching, offering sage or misleading counsel in my head.

There’s the Paranoid One. He goes to bed in the dark and keeps the curtains closed, so no-one will know he exists. Sometimes I hear him bantering nastily with the Guilty One, whose fingernails are bitten to the bone waiting for the knock on the door. He is responsible for everything bad in the world.

Then there’s the Satirical One, who drives me to work at the computer every morning; and the Alcoholic One. Whatever resolutions the Sensible One may have made during the day, come six o’clock the Alcoholic One always remembers he’s forgotten to buy dogfood and returns with a bottle of wine and a sheepish grin.

The Calculating One then reminds us both that at £7 a bottle we are spending two-and-a-half thousand pounds a year on this stuff we can’t afford, just to try and shut the others up.

The Forgetful One spends hours Googling stuff he knows he knows, but can’t recall. Names, dates, the roots and outcomes of historical events – the meanings of common nouns and adjectives. Meanwhile, that offputting personality, the Fearful Procrastinator is working out how long we’ve got before the hospital reminds us we haven’t made that appointment to have a camera shoved up our cancerous old colon, and if we don’t hurry up we’ll miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

The Ambitious One is constantly hovering in the wings, muttering darkly that time is running out. He’s a mate of the Still-Young-And-Handsome One, who’s worrying that Size 36” seems to be shrinking and you haven’t showered, shaved or changed your socks for three weeks.

Advice to get a life usually seems to hinge on joining some activity group. So that’s fine for the one evening a week in term-time when you can exercise or go singing and meet up briefly afterwards for a drink and a chat. Although you can never be certain which one of you is doing the talking? It only intensifies the darkness when you get home afterwards and yesterday’s washing-up is waiting in the sink.

And it’s fine for the one week a year when we can all pack our T-shirts and shorts and head off together to France to study with real musicians, who don’t exist the other 51 weeks of the year. Until the Failed Sinatra personality follows me to bed at three a.m. unkindly pointing out where I started on the wrong beat, sang out of key, missed several crucial high notes and was pathetic at directing the band.

Couples get invited out. In my previous working world of domestic support services, couples get offered very well-paid residential jobs as… couples. Couples can go on holiday and do things together, or apart – couples have those choices. Couples can sometimes delegate responsibility for things they individually find difficult or irksome, knowing the other will probably help. Couples can rely on one another to say when you are being a twat. Couples might even care for one another in old age.

The Unbearable One is resolutely opposed to the idea of becoming a couple again. He points out with some justification that, with all that going on in your head, with no money and smelly socks, impotent and increasingly housebound, you are hardly a catch.

So no, a schizophrenic is never lonely.

 

A matter of course

Lest anyone imagine I cannot crack a smile, if they have not been watching the Olympic golf they will not understand the reason for my great amusement currently, but it is to do with golf-course etiquette.

In situations where congratulations or thanks are in order during a round, or where a golfer has holed in one or something, I have noticed that men golfers tend to fist-bump and high-five one another a lot.

At the end of the round there are manly hugs to distribute among the caddies, match officials, colleagues and rival players in the three-ball, and these can be quite close, muscular, emotional affairs that one might describe as ‘bear-hugs’.

Between the ladies, however, their opponents and (mostly male) caddies, there are embraces, and these are ritually distant; just a brush with one hand going behind the back and a sort of crane-like dip towards one another, gaze averted, the aim being to achieve absolutely minimal contact.

Is it to avoid transmitting Zika? Humans are funny.

BTW… If your daughter is white, blonde and wears her hair in a ponytail, why not enter her in the Olympics? She might do well!

 

The towering intellect of Donald J Trump

“…Libya was stable; Syria was under control; Egypt was ruled by a secular ally of the United States. Iraq was experiencing a reduction of violence and Iran was being choked off by economic sanctions.”

In an astonishing attack on Barack Obama’s foreign policy, in the apparent belief that voters are so ignorant they will accept any lie so long as it is sufficiently American, Donald Trump has claimed that before 2009, Libya was a stable nation, as was Syria; Iraq was on the mend, a peaceful country, while Egypt was safely in the hands of a secular ally of America and Iran was safely contained by sanctions. Obama, he says, destroyed all that through his evil policy of ‘nation building’ and appeasement and Crooked Hillary will only continue on the same reckless course to the detriment of America’s greatness.

Of course, al-Quaeda did not exist before Obama was elected… Hezbollah did not exist, Iran was not building a bomb, Iraq was not in a civil war between rival militias. If he truly believes this claptrap, he is a very much more dangerous threat to world peace than anyone in history I can think of. (I’m not saying more than Adolf you-know-who, right? Am I right about that? Yeah, you better believe it. Anyway….)

The facts are somewhat at variance with his simple analysis.

Before 2009, Libya was the principal sponsor of state-backed terrorism in the Middle East and beyond, supplying weapons and explosives to the IRA in Northern Ireland, responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 101; tens of thousands of Libyans opposed to the regime or suspected of being so were rotting in gaol, torture and extrajudicial executions were rife. A rapist and murderer, Gaddafi could only be persuaded to stop trying to buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan in exchange for the most lucrative oil deal in history and a kiss on both cheeks from Tony Blair.

(I can forgive Blair for some things, but never for that nauseating, nationally humiliating display of Christian forgiveness of a deranged monster who, one sincerely hopes, is for all Eternity slowly and agonisingly turning on the Devil’s toasting fork.)

Presumably Trump thoroughly approves of Colonel Gaddafi and his peaceful methods of bringing stability to Libya.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was a corrupt authoritarian dictator, his rotten regime and Swiss bank balance propped up by tens of billions of dollars of US aid, including massive amounts of advanced weaponry to maintain his army in its firm grip of Egypt’s fragile democratic institutions in exchange for a pledge not to use it on Israel, and compliance with a policy of bare religious tolerance.

The army ran, effectively, a second state, its economy virtually independent from that of the mainstream. Following the wobble of Tahrir Square and a brief interregnum of the not-too extreme Muslim Brotherhood, elected on a democratic vote, the military mounted a coup and the country is now safely back in the hands of another authoritarian dictator, General al-Sisi, who has sought to rehabilitate Mubarak; while thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters rot in gaol, many on death row.

That’s the way to do it. Like we interned the Japs in the war. Muslims, right? Know what I’m saying? Am I right?

Mr Trump has accused President Obama, whom he takes care to refer to as ‘Barack HUSSEIN Obama’, of being a secret Muslim, and of supporting the Islamic State in its ambition to restore the Abbassid caliphate. Mr Trump sincerely believes that Obama was born, not in the 50th US state of Hawaii, as it says on his birth certificate, but in his father’s home country, Kenya, and is therefore illegally in occupation of the White House.

Mr Trump indeed believes all sorts of things; anything he can convert into another ‘know what I mean?’ subtle innuendo, that will gain him votes from the crazy community; the paranoid ‘future-phobes’: survivalists, revolutionaries and millennarians, the legions of the disappointed and the conservative-leaning blue-collar anti-managerialists who make up his enraged lower-middle-class constituency; many of whom live in the hope that he is The Messiah who will bring about The Rapture, having first removed any non-Europeans beyond The Wall; ignoring the point that, of all the managerial elite, their hero is the most managerial and in financial terms, among the most elitist of them all.

Mr Trump seems to have forgotten too, how the current situation in Iraq came about, through the ‘nation building’ not of Barack Obama, but of Republican president George W Bush, his friend Tony Blair and their friends the Wahhabist dynasty, the House of Saud, egged on by corporatist neocons in the Washington cocoon. Iraq was previously a stable country all right, thanks to a regime of extreme domestic terror, while thousands of his political opponents rotted in gaol under threat of public execution and Saddam’s Ba’ath party placemen enjoyed the economic and political limelight.

Way to go, Donald.

Another of Mr Trump’s election-winning beliefs (who knows what he believes?) is that climate change is not happening, right? I mean, it’s just not happening, know what I’m saying? It’s a Chinese conspiracy. Meanwhile, Jerry Brown, the governor of California,  a climate-change believer, has had to declare another state of emergency as brushfires rage out of control in San Bernadino County, after years of economically devastating drought; while Louisiana is experiencing the worst flooding ever recorded in the Mississippi basin.

These are no longer random events, they are happening on a global scale with increasing severity and frequency – entirely as predicted in the climate science. Science being a dirty word for half of Americans who believe, with Donald J Trump, who can personally vouch for it, in the literal truth of the Bible; and who welcome the prospect of the End Times. A dirty word too for the fossil fuel barons, whom Trump is winning over with speeches extolling the virtues of coal and oil as the clean fuels of tomorrow.

It’s all fine, Donald can fix the weather, you’ll see. He’ll do a deal with God, am I right or what? Is the Pope a Communist? No, just kidding. No smoke without fire.

It might be asked, which problem is it that Mr Obama has brought about, since you cannot blame on the one hand his interventionist ‘nation building’, and on the other hand, his appeasement and a desire to reset relations with the rest of the world. It’s an implausible dichotomy, frankly. And we are wondering, aren’t we, on what evidence Trump believes he needs to increase the size and power of the already hugely expensive US Army, the most powerful in the world, when he is so opposed to foreign interventions; and what he means exactly by making America ‘great’ again – when was it ever not ‘great’? Does he just mean ‘white’? Meanwhile the economy is growing, unemployment falling, wages rising….

Mr Trump concludes, not without relish, that we are living in an Age of Terror, that only he can bring to an end. He will build a wall to keep terror out.

So, which is the greater threat to the security of the USA, I wonder? Terrorism, on the very minor scale at which America has been experiencing it since 9/11 – that’s America, whose own well-armed population of gung-ho paranoiacs and drug gangs is responsible for thirty thousand gun killings a year – or the most profound, irresponsible ignorance and brute stupidity any candidate for the Presidency with only self-contradictory, rhetorical platitudes and no policies to offer his adoring fans can ever have demonstrated in US political history?

Unless he’s only kidding, of course.

 

Hearts, minds and so forth

Is anyone else waking up with a feeling of unease that, after much air-punching and devout wishes that the man will rot forever in Belmarsh or be extradited by the CIA to Cuba for some extreme vetting, or be dropped into Aleppo by parachute to see what his slimy utterances are really making of the comfortable world he inhabits, the radical preacher Anjem Choudary has been found guilty of, essentially, exercising only what we in Britain used to refer to naively as his freedom of speech?

The security forces, it is said, have been trying to ‘get’ Choudary for the past twenty years for his radicalising Jihadist rhetoric; the problem being, he never himself apparently engaged in any skulduggery, or overstepped the increasingly tricky line between polemic and hate-speech. Only when his supporters – who may have included planted agitators  – became a threat to his pre-eminence, demanding more extreme support for Jihad, did he slip up in briefly praising the efforts of the so-called Islamic State.

So the story goes; there’s that unexplained gap of three weeks between the jury verdict and the media announcement, in which anything could have been cooked-up.

Speech supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation that operates with extreme, nihilistic brutality under a wafer-thin veneer of religious respectability, even against its own co-religionists, is a criminal offence, not just bad judgement; and so he will go to gaol, probably for a long time. And good riddance; by all accounts the man was a slippery, manipulative, controlling egotist, a cult leader by whose poisonous words a number of fairly tragic young men and women were persuaded to engage in acts of terrorism and flights to Syria to join the IS – actions for which, while approving them,  Choudary considered himself not personally responsible.

Gross hypocrisy is, of course, not the sole prerogative of religious Imams, as someone like Mr Farage is demonstrating, continuing to draw his fat salary and expenses from the very institution he has been seeking for sixteen years to bring down – by perfectly legal means, it must be said. His powerful, radicalising rhetoric has persuaded thousands of ordinary men and women to vote for his fundamentalist views against their own best interests, and those of their country. His speech sometimes puts him in the camp, if not inside the tent, of bullying, extremist proto-fascist parties that instigate violence against minorities. Yet we accord him the freedom of the media.

Because the leadership of IS has essentially declared war on the West, and instructed its followers to carry out atrocities in Europe and elsewhere, wherever in fact there are large Muslim populations whose disaffected young men and women can be persuaded of the historic importance of such acts in the divinely sanctioned mission to reinstate the worldwide caliphate under Sharia, it seems right and proper that we should counter their campaign with all means at our disposal.

But look. Surely the suppression of rabble-rousing speakers has a poor history of success in halting religious and political movements for revolutionary change? One thinks of Thomas Paine, author of the tract ‘The Rights of Man’, imprisoned and driven into exile, whose subversive ideas subsequently fuelled both the American and French revolutions;  of the Chartist, Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt; of Karl Marx, who found refuge in C19th England, and whose academic analysis of capitalism led within a century to the murders and starvation of tens of millions in failed ideological experiments of a most inhuman kind.

I feel certain that during the twenty years the security forces had been hoping to ‘get’ Choudary, he will have had his uses to them. And I still think it must surely be better to let the people speak, however unpalatably and provocatively, than to amplify the importance of their ideas through the suppression of speech; far more productive to contain their actions, than to stifle their words; which we should all be allowed to hear.

What we are not hearing is any credible message of counter-radicalisation; any persuasive defence, backed by outward acts of integration and advancement for our struggling minorities, of a way of life which a minority of incomers seem to find so hard to accept. Is it racist to ask why anyone would deliberately choose to remain in a part of the world where they find the prevailing culture so inimical to the sacred beliefs and traditions of their place of origin that they can be so easily diverted by crude fundamentalists?

In reality, it is difficult to see how such a complex set of customs and practices as ‘Britain’ has evolved over the centuries can be explained in terms of simple, attractive, easily grasped images that might appeal to religious conservatives. Is that ‘Britain’ not what attracted them to move here in the first place? Perhaps Mr Farage could be persuaded to turn his considerable oratorical talents to the presentation of an alternative paradigm for Britain’s disaffected young Muslim population?

In the battle for ‘hearts and minds’, it is not helpful to marginalise the very people you are hoping to win over.

 

 

Your Friendly Eye in the Sky

“What legal status people will people have? How do they prove eligibility to stay? When is the cut-off date and how do we manage any possible migration surge ahead of it?”

Crucial questions posed by Gisela Stuart MP, the Labour shadow minister who voted Leave, against the majority wish of her party, a German immigrant now concerned about the rights of EU nationals living in Britain.

Didn’t the silly cow know before she voted?

Cretins.

 

The Big I Am: repopulating the shadow world

Right from the moment the Pharaoh Akhenaton decreed there was only one god, the Big I Am was depicted by scribes as an eye in the sky, looking down.

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount explains that his heavenly father is an all-seeing deity, by whose loving gaze not even the humblest sparrow falling from the air, nor a single hair parting company with your prematurely balding head, can possibly go unobserved, despite the obviously enormous size and complexity of the universe; which if anyone knew about at the time, surely he must have.

The painter, Joseph William Mallord Turner, hailed by many as the father of Impressionism as his subjects – ships and romantic landscapes – tended as he grew older and blinder to vanish in a haze of white light, is said to have exclaimed on his deathbed: ‘The sun is God!’ This suggested that whatever one got up to after dark was not observable, and hence none of God’s business.

After Friedrich Nietzsche declared in 1882 that God was officially dead, there was something of a hiatus for a century or so during which people had to rely on their individual feelings of guilt, generally imparted to all good children in a patriarchal, churchgoing society, to ‘keep them honest’, as sports commentators have taken to saying.

And yet, there was a sense of unease that no-one was watching benignly over us. After all, has not morality been defined as that which you do when no-one is looking? The legacy of God’s abandonment of his responsibility for overseeing human affairs was fascism.

Latterly however, the evolution of technology has allowed us to create anew the all-seeing God, in the surveillance society. Global networks of CCTV cameras, faintly buzzing drones and the universal proliferation of smartphones are ensuring that no unsuspecting Chinese pedestrian may fall into a sinkhole, no adorable baby be disguised as a squirrel, no woman driver park across two bays without it being posted on YouTube.

With God now reinstated digitally as the omniscient monitor screen of our moral conscience and guardian of our earthly destinies, all is once again right with the world.

The sensation that we are moving backwards in time has not been engendered only by the Brexit vote, whose slender majority is increasingly being understood as the product of a despairing nostalgia for Bingo, HP Sauce, the Blitz, white faces and beer at 1s 9d a pint among traditionalists bewildered by the modern world.

The other day, my (23-year-old) son confessed sheepishly that he had downloaded to his smartphone, the game known as Pokémon Go ‘just to see what the fuss is about’. Soon afterwards, I was disconcerted to learn from him that there is a virtual creature dwelling under the railway arch over the footpath across the road, who can be made to appear by rubbing the magic lantern with your finger. (Sorry, that sounds a bit rude. It wasn’t meant to. Now read on, pervert.)

Although the creature is completely transparent to me (the smarter the phone, the dumber I get, etc.), I’ve now developed a mild phobia about entering the darkness beneath the arch while walking Hunzi at night, and generally turn back nervously unless the moon is out. That sort of information plays hell with your limbic system.

I suppose, if you’re going to have a global village you need global superstitions, promulgated by credulous, neo-medieval villagers: admonitory priests and imams, witches and shamans, TV pundits, politicians and advertising creatives; village idiots exchanging fearful old wives’ tales about the mutinous tribe of boggarts and hellions, leprechauns and fairies, shape-shifting incubuses, talking cats and djinns lurking in the undergrowth, at every crossroads, in the twisted and gnarled forks of ancient trees; trolls guarding the bridge, conspiring to lure poor folks to their doom, leading them down to chthonic piles of accursed Lottery cash, to go along with it.

I predict that, after Pokémon, smartphone apps will move next to recreating in the increasingly inseparable virtual world around us, the primitive animistic figures found in juju and Santeria; volcanic Norse gods, figures from Greek mythology: naiads, dryads, caryatids – hamadryads, repopulating the old natural places, the woods and the water; conjuring forth the ancient puckish spirits from a lost world civilization has paved over and buried under soulless, glittering towers of hubris and greed.

And why not?

 

New balls please

I wonder what it must be like playing Murray in a final?

The huge-serving Juan-Martin del Potro, six-feet-six of lean Pampas beef with a forehand like a howitzer, looked knackered – hollow-eyed and unshaven – after his emotional all-Spanish-speaking, double-comeback semi the night before against the lovely Nadal.

Nevertheless the player at one time fourth, now following a lengthy spell of injury ranked only 141 in the world, was powering the number two seed Murray out into the sidelines, pushing him back among the line judges, forcing the errors, springing in to the net for some sensitive touchy-feely play, firing-in nearly 90 per cent of his battering first serves accurately, as against Murray’s agonisingly poor record of just 39 per cent.

So tense was it, so likely the plucky Brit wouldn’t make par, or his 9 p.m. flight to Cincinatti; relying as he had to on his deep but none too powerful second serve, I kept having to switch over to the rival pole-bouncing heats to stop my tremulous imagination jumping ahead to the inevitability of a tearful courtside interview with a thwarted Scottish flop.

Why weren’t Kim and Judy in his box, fist-pumping him on to victory? The Mount Rushmore-faced Lendl? Where were they all? Missing his key emotional props, Murray kept casting agonised glances up at his ‘physiotherapist’ and his air-punching partner, who appeared in that cauldron of seething Argentine supporters to be his only friends; other than for three mildly inebriated-looking Scottish businessmen in tartan caps and ginger wigs, patriotically waving the blue GB saltire, who had won the love of the director.

Then, just as you began to think along with del Potro that after four gruelling hours on court he had the fourth set sewn-up at 5-5 and break points for 6, and were mentally preparing for bed, all of a sudden he was staring in slack-jawed disbelief at three match points and one more impossible mountain to climb.

How the hell does that happen?

The top players seem to live in a different space-time continuum to the rest. It doesn’t matter how many points they don’t win, as long as they make sure they do win the right ones.

It’s all about smart.

 

Be very afraid (Contains inappropriate language)

“The Alzheimer’s Society has appointed actress Carey Mulligan as the first UK Global Dementia Friends Ambassador. Her grandmother Margaret, known as “Nans”, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004.” – BBC News, 16/08

Hi.

Just to let you know, I worked out two years ago that at 64, I had become both biologically and legally old enough to be someone’s great, great grandfather.

The computation was prompted by a radio interview with a 48-year-old woman who is the great, great granddaughter of the novelist, Charles Dickens.

Dickens was writing in the 1830s, 180-odd years ago. He was alive at the same time as Napoleon, Beethoven, Garibaldi. William 1V was on the throne, Lord Grey was the Whig Prime Minister, busy abolishing slavery.

I’ll bet with history all around him he never imagined his great, great, great granddaughter living in 2016, texting her mates. It’s not impossible she’d be graduating now. I’ll bet, too, that very few people even have an idea who their great, great grandfather was, so great are the historical timescales across the generations.

But here I am, yet to even greet my own granddaughter, let alone a great, great, etc., as my daughter hasn’t quite married yet (millennials plan ahead these days) – nonetheless qualified as a true ‘generation-shrinker’.

For, if I and my offspring and their offspring and their offspring had all been incontinent working-class 16-year-old teenage ‘pramface’ brides and grooms, I could by now be dandling a two-year-old great, great grandson or daughter on my knee, whose historical connections would go back only as far as the first transistor radio!

Only, I’m not.

And damaged by alcohol and lack of sleep though my poor brain may be, I’m lucky enough not to have Alzheimer’s, so I can make this comment if I want to:

Anyone in my family who renames me “Pops” can go fuck themselves, patronising cunts.

 

News for no-one

Viewings the past two three four days: 0.

I’m assuming my Followers, Likers and Spammers are all on holiday.

You are, aren’t you? Hello?

Is anyone there?

No, Joanne has pressed the Like button, yet oddly her visit has gone unrecorded. Perhaps WordPress is on holiday on our behalf?

Olympian heights

One of the pleasures – or the pains – of enforced retirement is the opportunity for the first time probably in my life to watch Olympic sport on TV for eight hours a day.

I’ve suffered along with our BBC commentators – that is, whenever there’s anyone in the box,  their mics are live, we can’t hear the French guy commentating alone in the background and the camera isn’t pointing at nothing going on – the disappointments of the damned as Brit after Brit has failed to match up to their ludicrous overexpectations to come ‘only’ fourth or fifth in the final (out of 200 countries in the games).

The actual winners of events, such as the astonishing Ethiopian runner Almaz Ayana, who twice lapped thirty of the supposedly best athletes in the world to shatter the 23-year-old record for the women’s 10,000 metres, and was still seemingly capable of effortless  acceleration after 24 laps, are virtually ignored in the media gushing over another Bronze medal for our plucky Brits in the one-metre pole-bouncing event.

Nevertheless, a ‘small island’, thanks mainly to our powerful and consistent rowers and cyclists we have now gone third second! in the world medals table, behind only Michael Phelps and overtaking China, which gives further cause for reflection.

It’s another example of our absurd British exceptionalism, that we still feel we have to lead the world at everything.

It’s not good or helpful for the sanity of the viewers to put so much pressure on our bravely battling athletes, who have spent four years training at vast expense for the moment when they might have to watch an Australian back disappearing over the horizon or an Uzbek boxer’s arm being raised in victory,  but we do it all the time.

This year, however, I fear ‘Team GB’ success may simply reinforce the notion that Britain is so great at torturing its athletes, we can go it alone in the world, vindicating the untenable position of the EU ‘Leave’ voters. By Day 8, I can already begin to hear loud crowing. Each latest cry of ‘AND IT’S GOOOLD FOR GREAT BRITAIN!!!!! both stirs and sinks the heart at the same time.

At least with so many great rowers we can be confident of speeding our little island craft out into the Atlantic as we start the Brexit lightweight double-sculls event for real.

(And those tedious interviews and catch-up segments showing all the stuff you’ve just seen, endlessly repeated CGI-animated trailers and mini-documentaries, embarrassing John Inverballs…. endless waiting around for tedious anthem-chewing ceremonies…. why can’t they just get on and show us the sport? The TV presentation is awful, erratic, with great, unexplained lacunae and haphazard captioning. Is no-one in charge?)

(And why do we need all those intimate ‘shots up the shorts’, is it to make sport seem sexy? It doesn’t, by the way. Too much bulging information.)

(And can we please stop pretending any win for a sportsperson, even coming second, is ‘making history’? It isn’t! Brexit votes make history. Wars make history. Assassinations of important people make history. Ireland winning a rowing silver is not ‘history’)

(Also, it seems to be compulsory political correctness for commentators to describe every participant as an ‘athlete’. Trap-shooters are not athletes, check their waistlines!) (Okay, trigger-fingers are on steroids…) Ping-pong players may be phenomenal sportspeople, how they keep landing it on that tiny table I don’t know, but they aren’t strictly speaking athletes, any more than are dressage riders or golfers.

Thinking about so many sports at once prompted me last night to make another list….

A complete list of the sports in which I have personally participated at some, very – to extremely – low competitive level is actually quite impressive, given that until the age of 13 I was considered a ‘delicate’ child – asthma went pretty well undiagnosed in the 1950s – who was excused games. It certainly shows that a boarding-school education with compulsory games gives you a broader upbringing.

In my lifetime, it seems I have tried playing:

  • Cricket (school 1st X1; works team)
  • Soccer (left-winger, you guessed!)
  • Rugby Union, rugby 7s
  • Hockey
  • Shinty (indoor hockey, played with a puck)
  • Gymnastics (vaulting horse)
  • Swimming (school team, 50 yds breaststroke)
  • Golf (gave up – too expensive!)
  • Tennis
  • Table tennis
  • Darts
  • Archery
  • Croquet
  • Squash
  • Fives*
  • Running (100 yds sprint; cross-country)
  • Long jump (medalled!)
  • Fencing (school team, foil)
  • Riding (gave up – don’t like horses!)
  • Shooting (.22 rifle, school champ two yrs running)

Normal domestic rowing, cycling (hey, that sounded like ‘domestic rowing!’ How do foreigners cope?)… plus, I’ve driven a Formula Ford single-seat race car five laps round Brand’s Hatch to win Gold over my loathsome BMW-driving boss!

Put like that, it’s a remarkably long list of sports, a veritable one-man Olympiad; yet I don’t consider myself at all sporting. Apart from the shooting, and being able to sprint quite fast, I wasn’t much good at anything. I can’t admit to any winter sports. And if I threatened to get good, I used to let the others go past. It seemed to mean so much more to them.

As one TV pundit explained, it’s not enough to be the best, you have to really want to win.

I was too lazy to do either. But I’ve been wondering what I could take up now, in time for Tokyo and a history-making Bronze medal (He’sh 70 yearsh old, yer know!)?

Freestyle bogling, possibly.

*Explanatarium, Fives: obscure two-player sport, developed originally at Eton school, where it was first played against the chapel wall. Aim: scored like Squash, to keep a hard, stitched-leather and gutta-percha golfball in motion by smacking it against the walls, one floor-bounce per-point allowed – differences being: no racquet – just a padded glove; no back-wall, and a bloody great stone buttress sticking out of one side of the court, behind which is a pit known as the Pepper, where the server or hitter tries to place the ball irretrievably.

Toeing the line

Ayana’s incredible, perhaps never-to-be-bettered, run produced some very odd comments indeed from Britain’s ageing doyennes of the distance event. Steve Cramm, Brendan Foster and Paula Radcliffe were all quoted as saying something along the lines of: ‘I don’t understand what just happened’.

Am I to take from this that perhaps some unwritten convention of distance running had just been transgressed? That Ayana and her five African colleagues, who broke the field by setting such fast lap times in the opening stages, had maybe failed to stick to the script?

There was some speculation this morning about why so few track records were being broken in recent years, compared with the swimming.

So, swimming is pretty much an individual sport in which athletes, sometimes in relays, compete to be the fastest over the distance, using the prescribed style of stroke, in separate lanes. You either go all-out or you speed up towards the finish; you either put your fastest swimmer in first or last; either way, it doesn’t allow for much in the way of tactics, unless you count mysterious bee-dancing in front of Michael Phelps just to annoy him.

Could it simply be that it is easier on the track for a group of runners or cyclists to act in concert, anti-competitively, to collude in formulating a strategy to, effectively, ‘fix’ an event in favour of the recognised star performers, by setting slower lap times and generally protecting them by running in front, sacrificing your own chance of a medal to enable them to come through triumphantly in the final stages?

In other words, it looks to the crowd like an individual event but it’s secretly a team-tactics kind of thing?

And Ayana broke the cosy convention by going it alone from 10 laps out, cruising to victory, smashing the previous world record set in Beijing in 1993 by 14 seconds, four of her pursuers finishing inside the magic 30 minutes, showing-up the mostly ‘white’, American and European runners in their true colours as a bunch of slowcoaches who’ve been faking it all these years?

Ayana’s genuinely historic run yesterday, as one commentator described it ‘the greatest performance in modern Olympic history, whether male or female’, was so far down the BBC Sport homepage this morning, miles below the devastating news that Andy Murray and Heather Watson had crashed out of the mixed doubles tennis, I had trouble finding it.

The surly reactions of the beaten race insiders, supposedly the top women in their sport (not a few of whom were dragged along to post personal bests and national records), who had helplessly watched the half-dozen African runners overtaking them again and again would seem to suggest that they didn’t know ‘what just happened’ either.

Today the great Mo Farah goes in the men’s ten thousand; maybe some of his faster African ‘competitors’ might now throw off their shackles and dare to think the loveable adopted Brit’s long reign as the unassailable one could just be brought to an end this time?

Postscriptum

And indeed, that is just what the Kenyan team tried to do, burn Farah out before he could put in his famous last-lap sprint. Only he’s been around too long to fall for it (except he did fall… and got up, and beat them at their own game. Amazing bloke.)

Money makes the athletes go round… and round

Lyn Davies, the great Welsh longjumper from the 1964 games, explains on radio this morning: Team GB is winning so many medals because if they don’t, they don’t get any more Lottery funding.

Seems a good incentive, with those Canadian racing bikes at over £6k each.

 

The age of infantile

A new Facebook thing is reportedly a page where grownups can post details of meals they have ordered in fast-food restaurants and other people can write in to comment nicely or nastily on their choice of menu. Hundreds of thousands are signing up to it.

Meanwhile, after weeks of mounting horror stories about the consequences of the latest global craze, in the USA a man has been killed by a random shooter while playing Pokémon Go, pursuing imaginary monsters around what used to be the real world.

Why do we need imaginary monsters in the world, when we have so many real ones?

Mob supporters of Donald Trump are hysterically screaming at Nuremburg-style rallies for the imprisonment and even the murder of his ‘crooked’ opponent in the race to the White House, Mrs Clinton.

Trump, who is plainly insane, as well as being a racist braggart and bullying mysogynist, is inciting them to do so as he sees his poll ratings slide; and yet he has not himself been arraigned for hate crimes or sectioned under whatever equivalent might exist in America (one can always hope) to our Mental Health Act.

His friend, the equally power-crazed Mr Putin, adroitly judging that Western leaders are all on holiday while the media are junketing in Rio, is busy manufacturing a case that the government of Ukraine has militarily violated the Crimean territory he himself violated two years ago, producing a badly bruised man to testify sincerely that insurgents killed an FSB operative and a Russian soldier in a border raid last week.

Kiev has denied it; but as I recently discovered, denying it doesn’t prove you aren’t a witch when some vindictive or possibly mistaken oik liar says you are.

No-one seems quite sure what Vlad the Imperator’s plan is, but as the Russian military builds-up on the Ukraine border again all agree it is but the latest phase in a long history of Kremlin dissembling aimed at confusing and dividing the West. Or maybe it’s an invasion.

Along with Prof Hawking, I’m no longer certain – if ever I was – there is a future for the human race. We have brought upon ourselves an age of infantile, self-indulgent fantasies, with live ammunition.

 

 

Dog Days: Fat ladies, and an Editorial reminder

The editor writes (for it is he):

The BogPo is a living, breathing bio-journalistic entity responding in a fast-paced and contemporary way to rapidly moving world events. New material is being added continuously to old Posts, old material reviewed, revised and sometimes translated to new Posts; football notes and Postscripta added, interesting words coming and going, hither and yon, until each Post positively groans with content, like my old school chum, Boris Johnson after an agreeable lunch.

You  may set eyeballs on any of the Posts on this, muh bogl, over a period of many days with confidence of finding the latest updates. No Post is ever set in Postcrete; no Like button need be pushed until the, as it were, fat lady sings; as fat ladies are wont to do, given how few of them entertain the ambition to reach the topmost rung of musical directors.

Having made that particular analogy, I now propose to put myself on extended garden leave until the inevitable shitstorm of ‘women tweeting dangerously’ abates.

E. von-und-zu B., ‘Das Öperahaus’, Boglheim-am-Rhein, De. ©2016

 

The United Kingdom Instability Party

I suppose it is a bit fatuous to suggest that politicians could or should ever be brought to book for misrepresentation of anything other than their expenses and constituency accounts.

In a recent Appeal Court ruling it was, for instance, decided that it was okay to slightly misrepresent the facts on which you have based an insurance claim, provided the claim itself is valid.

It was called ‘collateral lying’.

‘Collateral lying’ is pretty much what all politicians have done throughout political history. It’s the inevitable consequence of having to provide ‘pie-in-the-sky’, with ‘jam tomorrow’ as dessert for the yearning masses.

Voters would simply not know what to do, if politicians were not in some sense lying to them about most matters of public policy. Candidates are required to lie extensively about the shameful past record of their opponents, and to lie more about what they plan to do themselves when in office; how a newer, pinker, fluffier world will come into being.

I’m not sure, however, that I’ve ever come across a case before, where a new political party built on a mass movement driven by disaffection with the status quo has, in only three years:

  • terrified the government of the day to the point where a stupid, hasty and disastrous plebiscite has wrecked both the economy and the nation’s standing in the world;
  • put its candidates up for election on a platform of root-and-branch reform of the political landscape;
  • won a substantial number of local authority seats, and then:
  • its founder and incessantly yarping mouthpiece has owned up to several ‘collateral lies’ and resigned to spend more time making money, while the party organisation has…
  • immediately evaporated in a welter of procedural wrangling and top-level resignations, as it…
  • struggles to elect a new ‘leader’ from among what one senior officer describes broadly as a squabbling bunch of obscure ‘megalomaniacs’.

In other words, a party that has obtained votes and seats and spent public money and caused global chaos entirely under the false pretence that it was ever a serious political entity.

This seems to me to go rather beyond ‘collateral lying’ to outright misrepresentation.

Do we expect UKIP to apologise and call for a re-run of elections in those areas where it has gained local authority seats at the expense of the other parties?

Not really. That wouldn’t be politics.

 

Climate Change

Ho hum, call me an anti-semite if you must, but I find there is something distasteful about the way Rabbi Mervis and leading Jewish lobbyists are ganging up to protest that the distinguished and cute-looking human rights lawyer, Shami Chakrabarti QC, OBE should not be awarded the life peerage everyone else (other than racists and anti-human-rights campaigners) believes she deserves.

Their objection arises from a hastily convened inquiry she chaired into accusations that the historically vehemently anti-racist Labour party has fallen into the clutches of some foul anti-semitic conspiracy, which she found it has broadly not.

Her conclusion did not agree with their wish to believe, based on a silly joke tweeted two years ago by Ms Naz Shah, who is now a Labour MP, that it has; although they have not actually held a similar inquiry themselves.

What leaves the nasty taste in the mouth is the implicit accusation that Ms Chakrabarti is herself an anti-semite because she did not bias the findings of her report in their favour. These people will not hesitate to throw any disgusting slur that suits their pro-Israel agenda.

Victim ideology tends to ignore wider issues, such as the obvious fact that anti-everythingism is on the rise; hence Brexit, Trump, Angela’s brick, etc.

In the present climate it is clearly impossible for anyone to say anything, so maybe we should all just shut up and get out more?

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Don’t go away, there’s bound to be more to come! And there’s more now on the previous Post than you realised! Stuff about Trump….

The Boglington Post: great holiday reading for the absent mind!

 

BTW: please stop telling me to remove my adblocker, web people! I know you need money, so do I, but please understand: you are selling my eyeballs to your clients under false pretences. I NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM UNSOLICITED ADS! So it is a waste of their money advertising to me.

 

Tempting Fate is not always the best idea #1

The first thing I hope I wouldn’t do is mistake the noises for fireworks.

While almost every incident produces witnesses who say they thought at first the shots were someone letting off firecrackers (why? How often does that happen?), the event in Nice involving at first no live fire but a lorry driven into and over a crowd happened during a fireworks display, whereafter a witness duly reported ‘hearing shots’.

Clearly, confusion kills. It is best to be certain: but I suspect fear of embarrassment prevents many people from taking cover, possibly unnecessarily, at the first sign of trouble – after which, it may be too late. The answer is to move with purpose and dignity, but to get the hell out of any potential harm’s way as quickly as you can.

Waiting for my transfer at Lille station, I invent for myself an intellectual exercise called ‘what if?’

The game involves working out where you would find immediate cover at the first sound of firing; which concourse furniture could you get behind, or under, that looks potentially bullet-hardened and blast-proof; where all the nearest exits are, and is there a further means of escape beyond them, or would you be fatally trapped in a sealed branch of Prêt à Manger?

The crowd, of course, is anxiously scanned for likely nut-jobs.

My reverie – I had an hour to wait before the ludicrous chaos of the security screening hall, with its illuminated signs reminding us, as if your average terrorist needed reminding, that guns, bullets and hand-grenades were not to be taken on board the train (nothing about axes, or sharpened laptops) – drifted into areas of architectural design.

I imagined future terminuses and malls being designed to frustrate the gunmen, with hollowed-out support pillars providing shelter behind rotating steel doors; steel-lined benches that could be flipped over to create barricades; trapdoors that would tip down automatically for people to slide beneath the floor level and escape through crawl-tunnels; geometrically variable spaces with walls that would swing outwards and provide screening; smoke pots, and knockout-gas vents.

It all began to seem quite jolly, like an episode of I’m a Celebrity with live ammunition. The teenage soldiers roaming the station in pairs, nervous fingers on the triggers of their H&K semi-automatics, safety catches off, eyes darting around like frightened rabbits, only added to the atmosphere of danger. (Is there a maximum height restriction in the Belgian army? We should be told.)

Tired of being a suspect, I humped my bags up the escalator and went and sat in the relative safety of the street, next to the taxi-rank, where the worst of it was the procession of junkies and abandoned refugees wheedling for spare change.

Is there anywhere more soulless than the environs of Lille station, I wonder? Its total disconnection from human culture, hope, beauty and imagination might indeed be its best defence against the nihilists.

 

Tempting Fate is not always the best idea #2

Jazz singing weeks in France include the threat, or the opportunity depending on the size of your ego, of getting up on stage and singing with a band to whomever may be in the room, who is not having explosively hilarious fun at the adjacent bar (that’ll be the tutors, then.)

I’ve taken to extending my own nightly appearances with small announcements, testing the water as a stand-up in the mould of the late Ronnie Scott, club owner and moderate saxophonist, whose wonderfully off-colour jokes were sometimes more of an attraction than the acts.

On one such appearance last Wednesday, I wisecracked: ‘So, this song is dedicated to all you elderly gentlemen out there suffering from prostatic hyperplasia. It’s called Didn’t We(e)!’

I was anticipating a slow ripple effect, which gratifyingly took hold even of some of the younger members of the audience, and then as the uncertain laughter turned to groans, I launched cavalierly into Jim Webb’s 1969 classic pæan of love and loss – my speciality genre.

It’s five a.m., and I am leaning blear-eyed across the toilet bowl, desperately trying to push out a few drops of urine to relieve the pressure on my bladder, leaking blowily from my anal sphincter, wishing my kidneys would find water on Mars. Instead, they are still grinding painfully through the lees of half a gallon of cheap winebox Merlot.

Taking a double-dose of Tamsulosin, I return to bed, and up again five minutes later for more torment. This goes on until it is time to get up and head for breakfast. Every minor dribble piddled is a triumph, for which relief I bless the merciful God I don’t believe in.

At last I begin to feel drained and find half an hour’s sleep. Breakfast can wait – the coffee will be cold anyway.

And then before you know it, I am making apologies every few minutes to my tutor and fellow students and rushing off repeatedly to the loo, undoing my fly buttons surreptitiously as an urgent precaution on the way, with barely time to wrestle my little spigot out before I am pissing floods everywhere, my pants stinking of stale wine.

‘This song is dedicated to all you elderly gentlemen…’

Fuck comedy. Just fuck it.