Home » Ain't life great. » The Pumpkin – Issue 59: Is John Sopoor finally growing a pair?… Are we all going to die on 1 April next year? … GW: keeping us in the loop… Some birds never find the food… In praise of Kenny Wheeler.

The Pumpkin – Issue 59: Is John Sopoor finally growing a pair?… Are we all going to die on 1 April next year? … GW: keeping us in the loop… Some birds never find the food… In praise of Kenny Wheeler.

“Non, non, absolument pas, je vous dis! Jamais! Sacre bleu! Zut alors! Completement impossible! C’est de la merde!! A quoi pensez-vous, monsieur l’idiot?” (etc., ad infinitum).
Britain’s new Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab can hardly believe his luck as Barnier goes off on one over the Chequers white paper.


Is John Sopoor finally growing a pair?

The BBC’s hitherto uncritical Washington correspondent, John Sopel seems to be waking from the self-induced coma he has been in since the inauguration of the Tangerine Dream in January last year. Yes, he has noticed that the President tells the occasional lie.

Of the two he has spotted out of several thousand well-attested falsehoods, Supine refers to the frequently repeated boast where Trump tells his dumbfuck supporters he cleverly predicted Brexit on 22 June, 2016 – the day he arrived to play golf at his Turnberry course, the day before referendum day – when in established, verifiable fact he said nothing whatever about it until the 24th, the day AFTER the referendum.

Sopel finds it to be of interest that Trump then appointed an entire PR person to lie full-time about this somewhat confusing claim, out of all the many lies and rowing-backs of lies and doubling-down on lies and lying about lying, and sending putzes like Lyin’ Sarah Sanders and dim Sean Spicer out to explain what the president really meant, which was the opposite of whatever he was denying he ever said, only he never said it, so you better not print that he did, or else….

To the BogPo, whose mind is also wandering, it seems just like the kind of thing I’d do, if I had a free budget for paying people to tell the media what I wanted to say but didn’t have the intelligence to say it right the first time. But then, I predicted Brexit in May, 2013.

“Donald Trump was speaking at a rally in Kansas City. And he came out with a memorable phrase that sounded as though it had been lifted straight from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. He said: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”
“Or it is. There is just a concerted – and sometimes it would seem – systematic effort to make you think otherwise. Forget alternative facts. This is rewriting history.” – Sopel/BBC, 25 July

There seems to be little concern here for what Trump also told his audience; another pile of tragically hopeful, disused, flag-shagging military veterans whom he would deign to scrape off his shoe:

“Don’t believe the crap you hear from the media. … many Democratic politicians are “disciples of a very low IQ person,” (Rep. Maxine Waters, a frequent Democratic critic of the President’s; also a black person with a military record who receives many death threats from Republicans pissed at her criticisms of their hero, and responds: You better be able to shoot straight….)

Following this repellent racist slur, the filthy, lying orange slug with an IQ below 90 went further, which is short for ‘Full Führer’, as Sopoor reports:

“He also falsely accused Democrats of being “OK” with crime in the US. “They want open borders, and crime’s OK,” Trump said. “We want strong borders and we want no crime.” – Sopel/BBC

This total fabrication linking immigration with crime is par for the course at Trump rallies, the Gargantuan lies, total misrepresentations of the truth, wild claims of persecution, whining pleas for sympathy and manipulative slurs repeated over and again against manufactured hate figures; the self-victimization of a narcissist with nothing to offer but his dreams of a moneyverse, where war veterans (if of South American origin) are deported for minor traffic violations, splitting up American families, to countries where they may never have lived.

Because: “We want strong borders and we want no crime.” Although he knows, the lousy fucker knows, the little pictures have been shown to him, that immigrants commit less crime than the natives and are themselves more likely to be the victims of crime. But he bangs on with his obsessive meme, the hysterical pleas for love and understanding, the constant whingeing about ‘Fake nooze’ and the great ‘Witch hunt’, Hillary’s emails…. his messianic demands to believe in only Trump and his version of the world growing louder as the midterms approach.

Christ, but he is one predictable, reprehensible, lying racist fuckwit.

Tragically, the dead cat bounce of the US economy since the disaster of 2008 is running away with itself, rapidly overheating, and the presidential ignoramus is taking all the credit, despite doing his damnedest to destroy it with his insane tariff wars aimed at reversing non-existent trade gaps in his imagination.

Nevertheless the short-term gains may see him back over the line in 2020.

God help us.


Dark he was, and swivel-eyed… Dominic Raab describes a tasty British mangel-wurzel to the Commons, 25 July.

“Anyone knowing the very basics of food production … would know just how difficult it would be for industry to stockpile food.”

Are we all going to die on 1 April next year?

“With their comments – presumably meant to assure us that they have a plan, or at least a clue – May and her ministers have shown us instead how woefully under-prepared we are. Brexit is perhaps the most complex thing the UK has attempted in the lifetime of most of us, and it is being run by people who don’t understand the absolute basics.”

The quotes above are taken from a scathing article in The Guardian (26 July) by former special projects editor, James Ball, evaluating the reassuring claims made by the government that we shan’t run out of food if we exit the EU at midnight on 29 March, 2019 without a Customs deal, because we’re fully prepared for anything to happen.

Far from it being another example of “Project Fear”, the slur thrown at the Remain campaign during the run-up to the referendum, Project Reassurance – “We don’t know what we’re talking about but if the worst does come to the worst, there’s no Customs deal and the refrigerated lorries grind to a 17-mile halt tailing back from Calais you can queue for the basic ration at your local army barracks” – is coming from the new Brexit secretary, the swivel-eyed Eurosceptic, Dominic Raab.

If even he thinks it’s all going to be a dystopian nightmare, this rabid Brexiteer plotter and would-be privatizer of the Welfare State, this Tory CUNT (Conservative and Unionist Neo-Thatcherite) par excellence, calmly planning for the breakdown of civilization that he and his money-breathing co-conspirators have been hoping for, then it’s time to panic.

Because they’re all away now for six weeks’ holiday, maybe for the last time as free-dwelling Europeans visiting their agreeable second homes in Tuscany, which all good Remainers fervently hope the Italian authorities will immediately confiscate, so nothing gets done as the clock ticks loudly down to midnight.

Shortages of food and food ingredients are far from the only terrors No Deal holds. Michael Ryan, eponymous boss of the popular no-frills airline (you tell ’em! Ed.), seems pretty convinced his planes will fall from the sky – at least, they won’t be able to overfly or refuel in Britain as the deal with the EU ensuring Open Skies will instantly collapse.

Likewise, our membership of the medicines agency that licences drugs for use all over the EU will automatically lapse and hospitals will run dry as the winter ‘flu cases die by the score, coughing blood and moaning gently on their gurneys in the car park.

At that point, Ball writes, the government anticipates that “industry” will rush to save us with all the food they’ve been stockpiling – except, this isn’t Mesopotamia, 3500 BC. There are no “grain stores” held in stone jars against a washed-out summer, everything nowadays is shipped around Europe or flown in from Chile on a “just in time” delivery schedule giving producers and supermarkets about a day’s grace before production and distribution grind to a halt. Nobody stockpiles food.

And, he argues, neither Raab nor May has any kind of a clue about how the food business works, accounting for their absurd overoptimism. What happens, he asks, if the industry has to gear up at much unwanted expense to meet the challenge, leasing huge amounts of refrigerated warehouse space, hiring staff, and May does a last-minute deal to let the lorries in?

And what nobody seems to be taking much notice of, so gorgeous is the weather in what well may be all of our last summers, is that if it doesn’t produce the right kind of rain, and soon, all across Europe from the polytunnels of Alicante to the unending steppes of Russia, we’re not going to have enough food for all of us anyway, the supermarket shelves will rapidly empty, the doors will close, Christmas will be cancelled and the riots and looting begin.

Stockpiling what?

So that’s another alarm clock that’s ticking loudly while the little Raabs bury their fanatical dad up to his blue-blooded chin in sand and the ice-cream of Eternity drips melted strawberry flavoring on the sandal of international ridicule.

Ho hum, vodka and tonic, I think, slice of lime, and it’s back to the garden for your old Uncle B.


Carr fire: Redding, Ca. this morning, 27 July. “President Trump has not commented on the fires.” (Guardian). No, well. No votes in California.

GW: keeping us in the loop

Dr Jeff Masters of the now-hopelessly dysfunctional and sensationalist Weather Channel website, that used to be an erudite forum called Wunderground, or Weather Underground, has a scholarly essay today on a possibly dangerous situation developing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Parts of the Gulf are showing sea surface temperatures about 1C above normal, creating a breeding ground for hurricanes at the peak part of the season, where no proper hurricanes have yet formed since early June owing to unfavorable wind conditions at altitude. That’s now changing.

The key is apparently that the temperature anomaly at the surface needs to extend down about 100 meters to create a sufficient reserve of energy. Meanwhile, scientists are looking to the behaviour of the Loop Current, a feature that pushes this warm water around (and kicks off the Gulf Stream at its southern end), making its energy available to the right kind of cyclones, and which has recently split in two.

The conditions are now approaching those that in the recent past have spawned the most powerful, Cat 5 hurricanes in the Gulf. If I may quote Dr Masters:

“When a Loop Current eddy breaks off in the Gulf of Mexico at the height of the hurricane season, it can lead to a dangerous situation where a vast reservoir of energy is available to any hurricane that might cross over. This occurred in 2005, when a Loop Current eddy separated in July, just before Hurricane Katrina passed over and “bombed” into a Category 5 hurricane. The eddy remained in the Gulf and slowly drifted westward during September. Hurricane Rita passed over the same Loop Current eddy three weeks after Katrina, and also explosively deepened to a Category 5 storm.”


The hurricane season continues into September.

Meanwhile, across the western Pacific two more storm systems are strengthening into typhoons, of which there have been quite a few this year: Tropical Storms Jongdari and Wukong. Weather Channel reports: “Jongdari is strengthening in the western Pacific (winds now 75 mph) and may take an unusual path toward mainland Japan this weekend”, making landfall as a Cat 1, to add to the miseries of Japan’s devastating storms and heat this past month.

Wukong seems to be headed for northern China/Kamchatka as an outlier on a larger rotation in the north Pacific.

Jongdari latest: to hit Nagoya prefecture near Tokyo tonight, 28 July as a Cat 1, with forecast 15 inches of rain over the next 24 hours.

Greece: after the terrible fires that claimed more than 80 lives in areas around the capital, Athens; including the devastated holiday resort of Mati – 40 are still missing – comes a warning of severe thunderstorms for the weekend, and probable floods.

Arctic circle: “Description: Potential disruption due to extreme high temperatures from 5PM EEST THU until 12:59AM EEST FRI. Cities affected: Ahvenniemi, Aikkila, Juuma, Finland.” (MeteoAlarm). The northern Scandinavian heatwave continues unabated, with many wildfires still raging. Scientists are watching with alarm as shallower, warmer waters around the Arctic ocean are once again pluming methane. A 50- gigatonne “burp” is a theoretical possibility, that would send temperatures around the planet soaring uncontrollably “within minutes”.

USA: “Numerous tropical downpours since the weekend have caused major flash flooding in parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, where water rescues were reported and a disaster emergency was declared in at least one Pennsylvania town. Parts of the interior mid-Atlantic have been swamped with over a foot of rain.” (Weather Channel) Heatstricken California is threatened with heavy storms.

28 July: A fast-moving wildfire, the Carr Fire, is burning through the suburbs of the city of Redding (pop. 90k) in northern California. 2 dead, 9 missing, 48 thousand acres destroyed, many homes, and only 3% controlled. Temperatures in the region exceeding 42C, 100F day-to-day with strong winds forecast to last another week. 1.3 million acres – 89 fires – are burning in the western US. (reporting: The Guardian and others)

UK: Heatwave broken by powerful thunderstorms in the south. Didn’t fulfil predictions of a record 38.5 C anywhere, only 36C in Norfolk on Thursday, now there’s a forecast for those east coast US storms spiralling across the north Atlantic to hit us after Sunday, it looks like the long drought may be coming to an end. Not before farmers in many sectors report 30-50% losses. Food prices already rising.


Some birds never find the food

My nice new next-door neighbour owns a little wiggly dog of uncertain provenance: long, low, mostly gray, shaggy-coated and pug-faced,  looking like a cross between a pekingese and a stoat.

She’s quite a sweet little dog if you’re okay with the ingratiating type that rolls over to have its tummy tickled by a complete stranger. I’m not, but – neighbours – I do my best to smile and say, what a sweet little doggy. There, there. Oh, you want more? Thinking: I’m real glad of Hunzi, a proper dog.

Our tiny front gardens share a path and are open at the side, so when Ayshea – that’s the neighbour – lazily chucks the little dog out the front door – they have no back garden – Lola – that’s the little dog – is free to come into my garden and snaffle the food I started putting out for the birds two weeks ago, along with a bowl of water for the freakish hot weather we’ve been having.

Starting with a flock of half a dozen sparrows, birds were very quickly attracted to my little pop-up cafe under the uncontrollably spreading umbrella of the Photinia. Soon larger birds arrived, a pair of blackbirds, two collared doves, each requiring its own special menu.

As demand soared, twice a day I was cooking up a batch of seeds pelleted in suet, special wild bird mixture, dried mealworms and heels of bread that I chopped up into big crumbs, often sacrificing my breakfast in the process, as the supermarket has always just sold out of plain hand-stretched ciabbata loaves, the only kind I like, no matter what time I get there, leaving an unsold pile all day of other, specialized ciabbata loaves adulterated with olives or sun-dried tomatoes and cheese.

I ask the bakers why they think normal people would want to eat bread impregnated with olives when they could buy good, plain bread and some olives in a jar, or sun-dried tomatoes and a block of cheddar, and put them together if they really wanted bread with olives, or cheese and tomato flavor, and there’s no real answer: it’s the store policy.

There are few nastier things to taste than bread and apricot marmalade with olives in it, I’m sure you agree. Especially when you have my eyesight and have bought bread with olives by mistake. The labels are hand-printed and not always clear to read.

Anyway, there was little Lola, snaffling the birdfood that I was scattering on the ground, especially the crumbs of what would have been my breakfast, and I called her a little monster, affectionately as I hoped, but I fear Ayshea may have overheard through the open window, because she called the dog in and shut the door, and a certain froideur seems to have descended between us.

So I jumped in the car and drove to Charlie’s hardware emporium and bought a bird table tall enough to frustrate the dog with her little stoaty legs; set it out in the garden, poured an extra helping of bird food in the tray and sat back in the window to watch what the birds would do.

Three days later, and most of the original food is still mouldering on the table far above their anxious, darting heads, while the bewildered birds wander about the garden, pecking hopefully at the bare ground where sustenance used to be found. Only the pigeons seem smart enough to have worked out where the food now is.

The words “gutter” and “stars” flash through my head, and I draw a life-lesson from them.

Always look up, even if you have just pissed your pants in Morrison’s car park, trying to buy bread.


Jazz alert

In praise of… Kenny Wheeler

A brief footnote, you know how you get into the groove of ultimate satisfaction thinking, yes, that’s the last car I’ll ever want or need to buy, no more houses for me, I’m fine living here, abroad is the same everywhere so why travel? I can’t be bothered reading fiction anymore, life’s too short, etcetera?

So I’m in a space where, with around 400 recordings ranging from Miles Davis to Alice Coltrane, I no longer want to hear any jazz music that doesn’t feature the following personnel: Dave Holland on bass, Jack de Johnette on drums, John Taylor (or Keith Jarrett) on piano, featuring Norma Winstone on vocals, maybe Chris Potter on tenor – and Kenny Wheeler, the late, great Canadian flugelhorn player, who was like an erratic angel broadcasting from another realm.

No trumpet player in jazz history has ever sounded like Kenny, who also wrote most of his own stuff. I can only suggest to the novitiate that you may consider he produces the plangent yet triumphal tone reminiscent of a prodigious 13-year-old soloist under the wing of a respected old conductor secretly dying from emphysema; a bright, hopeful boy or girl who will one day move to the big city, for now brilliantly channeling Elgar Howarth in the front row of the ageing silver-band of a doomed mining community somewhere in the north, hoping against hope to win just one final competition – and they do!

You know what that sound is, I’m sure.

I would die happy if someone could just keep this divine music coming. But Kenny must have been one of the most under-recorded musical geniuses of the jazz-ignorant 1980s.

Sadly, having had to buy a new laptop after I killed the old one in a fit of frustration with its habit of flinging my carefully composed texts out of the Window for no reason I could discover, some invisible keyboard shortcut I kept triggering by accident as my three fingers flew over the worn-out keys, I no longer know how to transfer from CD to music folders, so that I can carry Kenny and the others around with me wherever I go.

With the old computer it was automatic, but for some reason Media Player works differently on this machine. I just managed to transfer one folder across before the old one died, and can’t anyway now remember how I did it.

The old laptop had a DVD tray, transferring music was easy, you slid the CD in and Media Player would obligingly pull up the track list and ask if you wanted to rip it? Whereas this new miracle of slimline technology – “In Search of Incredible”, indeed – obliges you to find some extra outside source and my brand-new Teac CD player infuriatingly has no line-out function other than to the speakers.

My son thinks I’m insane. Just sign up for Prime, or a Spotify account, Dad! Only £9.99 a month, unlimited music and you can make your own playlists! I sniff suspiciously. But they won’t have the more obscure stuff I like! Try me. So he goes online to his phone for about 15 seconds and sure enough, they even have Alice Coltrane’s Ptah, the El Daoud album I bought a week or so ago. So I really have no excuse not to cancel my charity subscriptions and get online, except I don’t trust any of those fuckers not to sell me to the highest bidder; to report my odd taste in music to the Security services.

So as my Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone collection of CDs exponentially grows in relation to the shrinkage of my small savings, and my limited shelf space fills up until the CDs are stacked on the floor, it stays on disk while I glare frustratedly at this power-packed new laptop, thin as a silver biscuit and about as useful.


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