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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?



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


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.



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