“It owes a lot to Agatha Christie; except, obviously, for the gratuitous heaving buttocks.”
In the sweet by-and-by
With a mild shock I check the date and realize it’s a week at least since my last Post to you, although I have had to amend that one several times owing to frequently changing news of Hurricane Irma, the most fibbed-about Atlantic Hurricane since YouTube began.
So you’ll be eager to hear that I awoke this morning once again transformed into a huge insect and can barely force myself to flip open the lid of this, the most annoying laptop of all time, to start communicating my thoughts to my Likers, Spammers, Followers, GCHQ and others.
This, muh severe depression, is possibly due to the weather. We have our own mini-Irma raging at the moment, strong gusty winds bringing occasional showers, the river running inches over the footpath, waves crashing on the Promenade. It’s positively cataclysmic. Apocalyptic, even. A monster to rival Trump. And the weather man didn’t even start forecasting it before it was upon us. It’s climate change, Jim, as we’re getting to know it.
More likely it’s because I broke my six-weeks-long abstinence from the nightly jar on Saturday, quaffing a passable Cabernet to wash away my tears over the ending of a curiously truncated run of Inspector Montalbano’s Sicilian mysteries on the BBC, with the spectacular native singing of the great Olivia Sellerio occasionally breaking in to the soundtrack; a voice to make an old man’s balls squeak.
The third and last episode of the run, supposedly a whole new series set in the extraordinary monochrome medieval ant-heap that is still Sicily today, showed up all the terrible flaws that make this show so watchable. (My only excuse for watching it is to brush-up my Italian. That, and there’s nothing else to look forward to on Saturday nights.)
The schizophrenia of the writing team usually means there’s quite a serious dramatic plot running alongside the tiresome opera buffo humor of Vigata’s improbably domestic-looking police station, its variously overcompetent or bungling denizens – the eccentricities of island life, the repeated use of the same three recognisable locations, the obsessive fixations of ‘Commissario’ Salvo and his on-off relationship with the jealous Livia (in about her fourth incarnation).
This episode was no exception: a naked girl covered in blood stumbles dramatically in the middle of the night out of a huge cavern, crawls painfully into her car and drives erratically away, only to die from multiple internal injuries (having been gang-raped and knifed) in the courtyard of a large house in multiple occupancy, where no-one will admit to knowing her. What is she doing there? Who has done this to her, and why? Only the bachelor photographer on the fourth floor can say, but his alibi is cast.
As Salvo puzzles, Livia turns up on cue, via the airport bus (she lives in Genoa) to get in his way as usual, and a sad retired judge wandering alone on the beach arouses our curiosity. Is he connected to the mystery? An old case, perhaps? (No, as it turns out, he is just an unconnected sub-plot.)
So is it drug-gangs, vicious East European people-traffickers, the Cuffaros? (One of the two rival mafia clans Salvo has a deft way of coping with). He survives an assassination attempt, the introspective judge is conveniently burned to death in a housefire… the show’s clown, Station Sergeant Catarella (played by aging comedian, Angelo Russo) has resumed his annoying schtick of being unable to open Salvo’s office door without falling through it… and embarrassingly, Salvo’s former girl-buddy, the tall, wealthy, ice-cool Swedish blonde, Ingrid, whom we haven’t seen for a while, turns up at his seafront pad with a witness, looking well Botoxed.
So, to spoil the ending, we never really do find out whodunnit – the infuriating part of the BBC’s haphazard scheduling, it might have been ‘continued next week’. Yes, admittedly Salvo turns up at the home of a local bigwig he has identified from a birthmark spotted in a video of a Satanic orgy shot by the bachelor photographer who has been found in his car dead from a drug overdose he obviously hadn’t administered himself but managed to smuggle out copies of the DVD before being murdered, so it’s an ending of sorts, but not satisfactory.
As for keeping his promise to the cantankerous old coroner, the gluttonous and foul-mouthed Dottore Pasquano, played by Marcello Perracchio – an actor so ancient, he looks like he’s only days away from having to perform a postmortem on himself – to ‘get the bastards who did this’, Salvo doesn’t, except by inference. That’s politics, Sicilian-style.
The plot left so many loose ends dangling in the wind, you felt the poor girl had been sacrificed to the Sky God. I fear for the series, quite honestly, as several characters aren’t there anymore; while others have aged alarmingly, including Mimi – ‘Dottore’ Augello, Salvo’s vain and incompetent but dashingly handsome Lothario of a deputy, who looks about 75 nowadays and seems to have lost all interest in the proceedings – while Salvo himself, played by startling Mussolini-lookalike Luca Zingaretti, is never offscreen for more than five seconds. The format owes everything to later episodes of Star Trek.
Still, I suppose if you have a 1970s-style TV show called ‘Inspector Montalbano’, you must expect it to be about our eponymous hero: his life, his loves, his finicky eating habits, his swims before breakfast (always interrupted by a scrambled phone call from Catarella to say they’ve found another body, and poor Salvo never seems to know where the location is, even though he was born on the island), his terrible old Fiat and all.
Must we now say ciao?
For next week, we start a terrifying new series, The Dark Lake – yet another murder mystery with the word ‘Lake’ in the title – in which a party of human backstories are stranded for eight episodes of gradual mayhem amid the local rednecks in a remote mountain lodge. It owes a lot to Agatha Christie; except, obviously, for the gratuitous heaving buttocks. I shall in future be avoiding lakes, as they obviously have sinister associations. But I have a dilemma: whether to resume drinking, or stick with the 1-step programme (just don’t do it!) that has already saved me enough money to spend another weekend in November cavorting with jazz musicians; a peculiar peccadillo of mine.
The third possibility as regards a reason for my brooding, suicidal mood today (what’s the point, I’m useless, always alone, etc., nothing more to say, my expensive and rather vital dental bridge feels precarious, I’m so tired and bored with Morrison’s ready-meals I could sleep forever…) is that a week today I have to go to London to cremate my mother.
And as the time rushes on, I haven’t a clue how I am going to organize it.
“I know, and you know, there’s probably not a molecule of the actual Loved One in the little container they give you”
Here be Dragonnes
My mother died last December, which sounds rather ghoulish. No, she wasn’t a murder victim, kept in police storage pending enquiries; just a very elderly, heavy smoker. Since her demise, aged 92, at her own last request she’s been helping the profession with their advances in medical science.
The Anatomy Service provides a free ten-minute funeral as payment for our generosity, and there seemed no reason not to take advantage of it until I discovered that it’s very much a fixed-format, take-it-or-leave-it offer, over which the ‘family’ (me) has no control. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of that, I feel I should go.
I have in fact only two living relatives as they might be known to me, my children. I have a surviving half-uncle (by my grandfather’s second marriage), whom I haven’t seen since 1976; and possibly many cousins, the children of his late brothers, none of whom have I ever met, nor even heard of; and their children, presumably grownup. I have a half-brother and sister, twins by my father’s ill-chosen second wife, now in their late 50s, whom I haven’t seen for years; although the occasional email arrives every five years or so, enlisting my support over some inequitable decision of the joint family Trust.
And finally, there’s an obscure relation living in Greece, I think the son or nephew of my grandmother’s sister Stella, of whom more anon.
So it’s not a close family; more of a diaspora.
Distance is indeed a factor. I live 256 miles to the north-west of the capital, but the cremation is taking place five miles to the south-east of the only part of London I know at all, the centre, at a crematorium of the undertakers’ choosing; and around twelve miles from where I may be staying the night in faroff North London, if we can resolve a row I’m having with the family (my ex-wife) over the arrangements.
It seems there is no direct public transport. To get within a long walking distance of the crematorium will involve several train changes, above and below ground – very early in the morning. I have a claustrophobic horror of urban trains – especially the London Underground, the packed-out Tube, that hasn’t been much updated since it was dug out in the early 20th century.
Then there is the question of how best to get from here to North London with Hunzi in tow, given there’s no easy transport between Euston station and the house, it involves more train changes and I can’t really take the little dog on the Tube in the rush-hour.
I suppose then I shall have to drive up, but I’ve never been able on my own to find the street where my ex-sister-in-law lives and I don’t possess or understand the operating principle of SatNav, although my son assures me my new phone will do just as well. So it’ll take hours and I shall arrive frazzled after blundering hopelessly around the warren of suburban streets and one-way systems, with their ‘traffic-calming’ measures that get drivers so wound-up.
A further, somewhat private matter, concerns my urinary needs, which have lately become sufficiently pressing as to make long journeys or their aftermath frequently necessitous, often all night.
And then there’s the problem with the ashes. It’s a bit like the advertising business: I know, and you know, there’s probably not a molecule of the actual Loved One in the little container they give you, but we can pretend: everyone expects you to scatter the contents in some place emotionally connected with the departed. I have a photograph of my mother, for instance, surreptitiously (and quite illegally) scattering the mother of her actor friend Susannah on the stage of the St Martin’s theatre in the West End before repairing to the pub. I’m afraid I don’t have their chutzpah.
The problem being, you can’t collect until they’ve coooled down the next day. So that’s another night in London, an idea that fills me with dread – and another set of trains across town, as I’d never find it by road and have no idea how you pay the Congestion Charge. Plus, I foolishly mention that her parents – my grandparents – are buried in yet another inaccessible suburb miles to the west of town, whereupon the family (my ex-wife) decides that would be the ideal place for the scattering, although there’s bureaucracy involved and I wouldn’t know where to start asking.
And then, the family (my ex-wife and her sisters) have decided there’s going to be a ‘memorial’ event, the last thing my mother wrote me to say she didn’t want. The guest list would consist of well under half a dozen people, any of whom would have to travel many miles at great expense, and for what? A glass of sherry somewhere, when the usual Christmas gathering, some extra reminiscence and a toast will do perfectly well.
But. There’s Cousin C., you see.
All families, I imagine, have a very distant foreign cousin, several times removed, who just can’t get over his or her fascination with ‘researching’ your branch of the family. They turn up out of the blue to let you know they just happen to be in the country, and you have to invite them for a tedious session with a bag of photographs and solicitors’ letters from the 1950s, trying to work out who was related to whom, why, and what property they may have owned.
In the immortal words of Rhett Butler: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Cousin C. has been unwell, his economic circumstances are seriously in doubt owing to the virtual collapse of Greek civilization thanks to the rapacious neoliberalism of German bankers, and I really don’t want him flying over just for five minutes of shuffling small-talk and a sausage roll. Such, however, is his obsession with my fairly glamorous mother and her tiny family (me, the kids and my ex-wife of nine years) that I fear he intends to do just that, and I shall feel guilty as I don’t plan on going myself. It’s one more impossible set of transitional arrangements I’m no longer up to engineering – and can’t see a reason to.
Selfish, I know, but just leave me alone! She was my mum, not yours. This morning anyway I have no interest in life, let alone death.
Coming from at least three generations of serial divorcees, having spent my formative years at dreary and brutish provincial boarding-schools, I haven’t a sentimental bone in my body – nor do I have the slightest idea of who anyone was, or is, and I don’t frankly care. Dead is dead, and unless someone in my ancestral line was spectacularly famous, the will is in dispute and I’m the last survivor of the residuary legatees, I’m perfectly happy just to acknowledge our common DNA, raise a glass and move on.
We shall meet in the sweet by-and-by, the song goes – and it’s great if you enjoyed it while it lasted.
I’m not, much.
Your Granny W. writes:
China: So, in the 24 hours since Irma started battering the southwest coast of Florida, on the far side of the Pacific we’ve got Typhoon Talim heading as a Cat 3 towards northern Taiwan and just to the south, unnamed Tropical Depression 21 crossing the main island of the Philippines, Luzon, over the next five days, towards the SE Chinese coast. The island of Okinawa and its capital, Naha, are well within the predicted track of Talim, which is now forecast to turn northwards on Friday, skimming the China coast and weakening to a tropical storm over Japan.
(Alternative possibilities include Talim strengthening to become Cat 4 supertyphoon, as the previous Talim did in 2005, when 150 people died and damage from the 149 mph wind was estimated at $1.5 billion.) Sea temperature in the area is 30 deg C., 4 deg. above the minimum needed to sustain tropical cyclones.
USA: Irma will be falling apart over Georgia and S Carolina over the next few days, dumping possibly two feet of rain; in fact, she now seems to be travelling on two separate tracks. In her wake, temperatures around Florida will be creeping back up to the 100 deg. F mark, with extreme humidity. No-one seems quite certain what José will do, it’s missed the Antilles and the Virgin Islands, and is performing a cartwheel harmlessly out in the Atlantic before sorting itself out next weekend and setting off for somewhere on the East Coast, God knows where – the forecast tracks are all over the shop, but it’s expected dry air to the west will degrade it to a tropical storm before it makes land possibly in Nova Scotia.
Mexico: And somewhere off the coast of Mexico is Tropical Depression 15E, which is strengthening somewhat as it heads away from land out due westwards into the vast and empty waters of the Pacific, perhaps to disturb the great plastics gyre, our new continent, in its passing.
UK: Meanwhile, here in western and northern Britain we’ve got more gales forecast, with heavy rain and winds gusting to 75 mph and amber warnings of flooding in Scotland and (again) Northern Ireland. The storm has acquired the name Aileen.
Reliability, a note:
Granny W. is starting to question the veracity of some of the reports it relies on for these summary bulletins of extreme weather events.
A recent selection of camphone footage from Mexico, labelled ‘Oaxaca, 7th September’ was edited into the Climate and Extreme Weather News package #64. There have been no confirmatory reports of any flooding in Oaxaca, but it was hit by the M8.1 earthquake on the same day, so you would imagine any flooding in the state would have been mentioned in subsequent news coverage. Oaxaca did however suffer extensive flooding, twice, in early and mid-June from Tropical Storms Beatriz and Colin.
Likewise, footage of flash flooding in Mexico City brings up no other references to any such event this month; however, Floodlist reported on severe flooding in the region on the same day, 07 September – in 2013. Without spending too much time on this, in view of the number of obviously phony weather websites, many of them promoted on YouTube by conspiracy theorists, religious and millennarian sources, ‘reporting’ fake news about Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, your old Granny will need to be more careful to double-check CEWN in future. It’s not that the events didn’t happen – the question is when? And often, where exactly? As you might just get a country name, or a TV weatherman speaking Chinese, and no other info.
(Of course, we haven’t fallen for the ones claiming Irma and Harvey were deliberately created or made worse by the Government, NASA, the HAARP project or Planet X Nibiru; while we don’t feel bound to associate ourselves with the ghastly and insane Fox News presenter, Ann Coulter, who says along with her Christian studio panel that they’re God’s punishment on the LGBTQ community.)
China: no doubts about this one, “the meteorological authority Monday warned that flash flooding is likely to follow torrential rain in the northwest and southwest of the country. Parts of Yunnan Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are likely see flash floods from Monday night to Tuesday night, the China Meteorological Administration said. Local authorities were told to prepare for mud flows and landslides.”
USA: The Rice Ridge wildfire in Montana is covering 133 thousand acres north of Seeley Lake and is only 8% contained. 1700 properties are threatened. The Lolo Ridge fire is about half under control and has burned 50 thousand acres… in fact there are more large fires burning in that one state than we can report, go to nbcmontana.com/news/wildfires if interested. But for all the horrors of this wildfire season, with thousands of square miles burning in a dozen states up into British Columbia, up to now 2015 was still marginally worse.
USA: Better news: the choking pall of smoke hanging over many cities in the western USA causing eye- and breathing problems is being cleared by a chain of storms. The heatwave still lingers, with temperatures in parts of California up to 95 deg F, although ‘relief is on the way’, say meteorologists; while city officials in San Francisco pleaded with residents to turn off their air conditioning as a power shortage is threatening.
Mexico: flooding is reported in the state of Veracruz, where Hurricane Katia eventually came ashore and fizzled out, upstaged by cousin Irma.
Spain: “Authorities in southern Spain say they are fighting a wildfire that has forced the evacuation of 500 residents from at least seven towns in the province of Seville. The regional minister of justice for Andalusia, said on Saturday that “around 500 people” have been evacuated because of the smoke produced by the blaze which broke out Friday.” Firemen are also fighting blazes that have broken out on the island of Menorca.
Italy: “At least six people have been killed and two are missing after heavy rainstorms and flooding in the port city of Livorno, Tuscany on 10 September. The storm dumped over twice the monthly rainfall in just 2 hours.” Flash floods also devastated mountain villages near Lazio, central Italy, on the 10th. And a violent thunderstorm brought heavy rain and deep surface flooding to Palermo, the Sicilian capital.
Croatia: after the heatwave, extreme rain, surface flash- and extensive river flooding. “Hospitals and houses have been flooded in Croatia following torrential rain in the Istrin peninsula. Meteorologists say it is the most significant rainfall in the region for more than 30 years. Officials in the city of Zadar are urging people not to drive” (! please note, idiots!)
India: bad news again from Assam… heavy rains in Arunachal Pradesh have raised the flood levels again, thousands displaced. Meanwhile, again in the wake of extreme summer heat, torrential rains have been lashing South Korea. The port city of Busan is under three feet of water.
Turkey: The great ‘Lucifer’ European heatwave lingers on around Marmara, with temperatures in the mid 30s C, 95F, though cooler now elsewhere.
Europe: Areas of southern Europe are still listed by the European Commission Copernicus website as in ‘extreme danger’ of fires, especially southwest Spain and the Basque country, Sardinia, the south of France, Bulgaria and southern Turkey. Numerous wildfires are still burning around the Mediterranean coasts, especially across North Africa, and in Israel.
World: An excellent article today in Salon magazine (originally published on Truthout) draws together many of the themes the BogPo has been struggling to report on recently. http://www.salon.com/2017/09/10/greenland-is-burning-wildfires-and-floods-surge-worldwide_partner/
Footnote: “Rains that are almost biblical, heat waves that don’t end, tornadoes that strike in savage swarms—there’s been a change in the weather lately. What’s going on?” So asks the National Geographic, reporting on a year in which wildfires and insufferable heatwaves, droughts and epic floods and storms affected the weather around the world, with the benefit (unlike 2017) of an El Niño – 2012. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2012/09/extreme-weather-global-climate-change-effects/
Wunderground/ China Daily/ Salon/ Daily Sabah, Europe/ Copernicus/ the Telegraph/ National Geographic/ Floodlist/ EuroNews/ Climate and Extreme Weather News #66/ Accuweather.
Diggers: Just Keep Digging
Australian actress, Rebel Wilson has been awarded an eyewatering $4.5 million in damages against Bauer Media for a series of uncomplimentary and increasingly unapologetic articles in their gossip magazines alleging that she is a complete self-invention.
The jury was inclined to believe (seemingly without much evidence) her barristers’ claims that she had lost two years’ worth of starring Hollywood roles as a result, although frankly whoever is not a complete self-invention is unlikely to make a career in Tinseltown.
In a statement delivered as it were on the courtroom steps, without a trace of embarrassment, shame or contrition, Bauer responded thus:
“Bauer Media has a long history of delivering great stories to our readers and we have a reputation for developing some of the best editorial teams in this country. This is what we are focused on. It is about continuing to do what we do best and that is delivering great content to more than 85% of Australian women across the country via our iconic portfolio.”
Is it any wonder the courts like to give these absurdly pompous media people a good kicking from time to time?
Important questions of our time #29:
Why as your shoes get older do the laces persist in growing longer and longer, until to stop them trailing on the floor you have to tie a double knot you won’t later be able to undo?