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Trials of Harmony and Invention

For Trump, the race to the White House is a meta-format for the biggest reality TV show on earth.

  • Laura Facebook, Chief Political Correspondent. @laurasweeplace


All that Jazz

So, yes, it’s true, I’ve been away. My ‘fermeture annuelle’, my ‘feragosto’, my one week’s break from doing practically nothing else all year, I’ve been to yet another French summer school to discover anew how to sing the music of jazz.

It does eventually come around, in a last-minute welter of changing money, re-checking tickets and buying T-shirts; and then the week is suddenly over before you’ve even got started, pulling-in to St Pancras, five hours more on the train ahead, 51 more unfilled weeks stretching out before you, your bank account on empty.

You’ve survived on two hours’ sleep a night and much rough red wine, but for that one week of jawin’ and jammin’ with likeminded others you have at least felt like you might still be alive.

How much can change in another 51 weeks, I wonder? Will there be one more such week to enjoy next year? And the next? Some of us aren’t getting any younger, or richer.


Tree Story #1

Flickering slickly at unimaginable velocity across northern France, I’m struck by how few trees one sees that can be more than forty years old. Almost none.

Everywhere you look across the flat and uninspiring desert of the Pas de Calais, beneath the lazily rotating arms of the wind-engines are clumpy dark-green plantations of uniformly sized trees, none more than about 25 feet high, filling the spare corners and interstices of every broad field of ripening wheat.

So with my adopted Wales, one senses a landscape thickened with the blood and bones, the armour, the rotting boots and harness of men and horses fallen in combat over the centuries; the scattered farm buildings too are almost all new, as in a world revived; while here and there the surviving corner of an C18th century farmhouse or chai prompts thoughts of covering-fire positions, of midnight assignations with parachutists, of impromptu firing-squads and hastily improvised field headquarters in the midst of shot and shell.

Was this endless, boring stretch of land worth the repeated sacrifice of so many generations, plunged into such bitter struggles?

It occurs to me once again to write to the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and propose to him another in the honourable line of spectacular Anglo-French engineering projects: Concorde, the Airbus A300, the Channel Tunnel, the 1784 Anglo-French Meridian Survey, when old enemies and wary allies came together to turn common dreams into extraordinarily successful realities.

So, Sadiq. Why not rent from the cash-strapped French government, a large site in the Pas de Calais, an area that serves no other useful purpose than to soak-up EU farm subsidies and from time to time the blood of young men, and build a new airport, jointly managed, next to the high-speed railway that slides you into London in just under an hour, to meet the much-complained of capacity shortage in the south-east of England, where there is no debatable space left to build another runway?

As they say in French, it’s a plan, no?


Tree Story #2

South of Le Mans, and the trees once again grow tall and stately.

On the agreeable 30-acre château estate where we are anguishing over Brexit and the awful, diurnally re-stewed, cold coffee (why can’t the French do proper breakfast?) with our Dutch and French and German-Swiss friends, our impossibly talented musical mentors and poor, hopeful I, towering above are many 100-foot-plus giants, beech and oak mostly, among them a vast old yew and one as-yet unidentified non-native specimen, that must be over 200 years old.

War has not so much ravaged this region of what was presumably Vichy France. Not, at least, compared with the total devastation caused across the gently heaving plains north and east of here.

I am reminded of visiting a town in Normandy last year that lay in the path of the Allied liberation forces. Fewer than five percent of its present buildings date from before 1944; even the castle is a restoration. But it wasn’t the Germans who flattened it, killing hundreds of civilians: it was the RAF.

Yet they still welcome us, commiserate over the fallen Pound and say they are sad when we decide to leave their Union, that is making more such devastation less likely by the year.


Nuts in November

President Hollande of France has surely echoed many of our own thoughts in saying that Donald Trump’s viler utterances make him ‘want to retch’.

That was before video emerged of Trump’s extraordinary outburst at a rally in Virginia. Taking, presumably, umbrage at a crying baby in the audience, he first riffs with a beatific smile on how lovely the baby is, and how much he loves babies. Then he goes back to autocue, and his favourite subject: Donald J Trump.

A few moments later, however, he suddenly interrupts himself again to announce with a menacing fish-stare that, actually, he was kidding, and the mother should get that baby the hell out of his face.

So much for Trump’s family values, parading his own ghastly plastic Barbie-and-Ken doll children (but not the mad, ugly one) and his desperate trophy wife at the party convention. (Could you imagine having sex with him? Keep retching.)

The man is clearly psychotic, a paranoid-schizophrenic, just the sort of person you want with his tiny baby fingers on the nuclear trigger.*

Or is he?

Many people think he behaves like this because he really doesn’t want to be the President of the United States of America. He is hopefully trying to make some satirical point about how any dumb, overweight, billionaire slob with a face like an angry mole-rat carved from Spam and a brain made of congealed greed can fool enough of the people enough of the time.

For Trump, the race to the White House is a meta-format for the biggest reality TV show on earth.

It must have seemed a good idea at the time, like Boris realising over Xmas lunch at the Johnsons’ that if he switched horses and campaigned for Brexit, he could be waffling disarmingly at the Queen by September; or Gove, announcing that he woke up one morning realising it was his destiny to lead Britain into the sunlit uplands, etc., etc.

These people are all barking mad.

*10 August: Trump has made a speech appearing to license his fanatical supporters to assassinate his opponent to stop her from appointing judges to the Supreme Court, who will take Americans’ guns away.

Notice that he never says anything outright: his style is one of nods, winks and innuendo, ‘know what I mean?’, followed by outraged denial that he ever said anything of the sort. This is the Great Negotiator? A man who never says what he means?


A Midsummer Night’s Improving Literature

Before my departure, I nervously essay an extended conversation with the lad, who is temporarily resident between universities, across a pile of smoking dead aliens.

I need to ask someone why it is that so few people seem addicted to this, muh li’l bogl. I see that after four-and-a-half years of earnest endeavour, it has precisely 33 Followers, most of whom I suspect are no longer bothering; and is there anything he can suggest I might do to improve its vital statistics, short of deploying yet more H-tags (#H-tags)?

He is of the view that it is like majorly wordy, has no vital links to other people’s dreary and badly written bogl Posts, and contains only one image per page, that of The Massively Depressed Man (MDM), above. No-one, he opines, is nowadays able to concentrate on such lengthy texts.

He broadly sketches out a new generation of Millennials, Generation Y, technologically sophisticated, unemployable 17-year-olds with hyperactive thumbs, switchbacking with baboon-like gymnasty on their i-Stuff from one damn’ thing to another.

They are likely to conclude within milliseconds that The Boglington Post is not for them: some depressed old fart maundering on about politics, without sexts, cartoons or cats.

Pondering on this shrewd critique while abroad, I observe that August is a time for two phenomena in particula. (Note the correct use of the plural ‘phenomena’: ‘Phenomenon’ was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who introduced monotheism.)

One, at the end of July the Man-Booker Prize jury announces its ‘longlist’. Not only are jurors expected to have read and be able to expatiate disarmingly on the viscera of the two dozen books listed; it has been their bounden duty over the previous God-knows how few busy months to plough through all 150 submitted works in the same gory detail.

Two, millions of people go away on holiday in August. Half of them at least are women, and 99 per cent of those will be carrying in a stripy raffia bag, along with a pack of wet-wipes and a banana, a plain-bound copy of the sequel to 50 Shades of Grey.

The other one per cent will have acquired from Waterstone’s before departure, at least two of the aforementioned Man-Booker longlisted books (which is why the publishers issue the books and the jury obligingly leaks the list in late July…).

Let’s not ignore, too, the publishing sensation of the last seven years, the 6,000-page Chilcot Report; which concluded that the Iraq invasion was a Bad Thing and ought not to happen again in quite the same way.

So, it’s not true, is it, that people can no longer hack verbose and closely argued prose, without benefit of helpful illustrations?

Thus bolstered, I continue on my way rejoicing.


If you are Joanna, the lady who ‘Liked’ the first part of this Post, or anyone for that matter, kindly note that all weekly editions of the BogPo are subject following publication to massive amounts of later addenda, scribenda and general stupenda, so don’t go away yet! I need you here poring over me attentively, in case you miss any of my fast-moving content.









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