Walkies-talkie… School Shooting News… Russia hour… Would you like to meet my hero?… Bidness on the Cheep… uSwitch if you have to… GW: and the Beast Goes On.




“The scientists found dogs were more likely to want to spend time with the speaker who had used both “dog-directed” speech and dog-related content. … This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant.”

…there are no plans to carry out the same tests with cats.” – BBC News

Just as well. They’d think we were idiots, getting all squeaky and emotional over cat-related content.

They already do.


School Shooting News

Trump crony, billionaire Dick’s wife, Betsy DeVos, the fully unqualified, Bible-Truther Education Secretary of the USA (Imoji: wry smileyface throwing up), went to Florida the other day to case the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, scene of a massacre, for a photo op.

Ms Carly Novell, the editor of the school’s newspaper Eagle Eye, said she was allowed to photograph DeVos, but not to accompany her on the campus tour.

DeVos spoke briefly with reporters after what she said was “a very sobering and very inspiring visit” and contradicted the students’ account of the meeting:

“There were a number of student newspaper reporters who walked around with me (she fibbed) and they are obviously very interested in seeing what adults are going to do about this whole situation,” she said. (BBC News)

P/Matronizing cow. Did your English teacher never chide you about the over-use of ‘very’ when amplifying your adjectives unnecessarily for effect?

ADULTS??? Fuck you!

Meanwhile, after the teenage survivors finally persuaded the Florida assembly to introduce a modest law restricting the ownership of military-grade assault weapons only to alt-right psychopaths over 21, the National Rifle Association announced that it is suing the representatives for damages. Can you get a sicker species than Americans?


Kleimenov: a talking facelift made from Leonid Brezhnev’s old hair and a soggy ginger biscuit (BBC)

Russia hour

Botox-faced frat-boy and Putin bumguzzler, w/anchor Kirill Kleimenov had some words of comfort on the Russian government-controlled Channel One’s flagship Vremya news program, for ‘retired’ double-agent Sergei Skripal, who with his entirely innocent daughter Yulia was sprayed with nerve agent and found paralysed in a Salisbury, UK park at the weekend, both now on life-support:

“The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov opined, (with complete journalistic objectivity. Ed.) – adding that few who had chosen it had lived to a ripe old age. … warning anyone planning to defect: “Don’t choose Britain as a place to live.” – edited from BBC News

I’m assuming that sentiment also goes for the other spies Skripal was exchanged for?

And would anyone not assume from his choice of kind words, that Kleimenov was merely confirming what all his colleagues were embarrassedly trying to deny, that this was indeed a Russian hit, aimed less at Skripal and more at the voters? And that, given the directorship of Channel One is Kremlin-appointed, on the assumption his script was cleared with official Komplianz, the message probably came from further on high?

Britain prepares an ICBM in retaliation.

Wittily, Kleimenov referred to another 13 incidents of Russians who have died in suspicious circumstances in Britain in the past few years: “Maybe it’s the climate, but in recent years there have been too many strange incidents with grave outcomes there.” Ho ho, our terrible English climateski…. Have you ever been to Moscow, comrade? If it’s not fucking freezing it’s a sweatbox. And if the Big Blini don’t like you, you’re dead regardless. (Killer pun there, too. “Grave” outcomes!)

No words were naturally forthcoming to memorialize the nine or so Russian citizens based in America, involved with or having knowledge of the cyberattacks on the US election, including the UN ambassador, who mysteriously suffered heart failure and fell from roofs shortly after Mr Trump was trampolined into office last year. Even true patriots take their lives in their hands when you work for this lot.

One of the Polonium killers, two blundering FSB goons who left a radioactive slime trail across London in 2006 before poisoning another traitor, Putin’s old KGB mate Alexander Litvinenko, also managed to think up a wry comment of his own. Dmitry Lugovoi, now an MP, remarked: “The English suffer from phobias.” Yes, we’re a bit phobic about dimwitted mafia hitmen sneering at our national aversion to murder and causing mayhem on our streets and in our tearooms, actually. Especially from kulaks whose asses our North Atlantic convoys saved in 1941.

So comforting, these moral certainties.

On the other hand, it seems odd. Why choose exile in Salisbury, of all places, agreeably ancient county capital of Wiltshire, home to major defense industry contractors Qinetic, the Ministry of Defence tank ranges, close to the notorious Porton Down biological warfare establishment and RAF Lyneham (from where our troops embark for Afghanistan) and within an hour’s drive of our key naval establishments on the south coast?

You’d think he’d have been keener to vanish in Soho. Unless of course he knows something about Trump’s collusion? What, was he a connection to Christopher Steele?

I don’t suppose we shall be told.


Would you like to meet my hero?



Doing Bidness on the Cheep

“Fast-food chain KFC has returned to its old supplier after suffering chicken shortages that forced it to close hundreds of outlets. Last month, the chain experienced widespread distribution problems after it decided to switch its logistics contract from Bidvest to DHL.” – BBC News

If you have to ask what’s in it, you’re probably a paramedic.

What is the matter with British management? What did the bread-encrusted baboons at KFC Central think would happen if they fired a specialist food distribution company they’d worked with for years and instead hired a bloated global conglomerate of self-employed Amazon parcel couriers owned by the German post office to keep their outlets supplied with crummy chunks of raw animal torture-porn, just because they were cheaper?

The move damn nearly destroyed their business, with an outburst of social media opprobrium and thousands of ironic memes online, fights breaking out and street protests requiring probably a couple of million poundsworth of reputation management PR to get them back on course. Who knew KFC, with their repulsive ‘buckets’ of fried chicken aimed at grossly obese, piss-stained sofa-dwelling slobs with tattoo’d necks and calf-length shorts, were such a national institution?

But apparently The People cared. (Then they voted… and you know, DHL could just be their salvation, having developed systems for managing customs controls.)

This crazy nonsense of ‘best value tendering’ must stop soon. It’s destroying businesses, jobs – lives.

We’ve just had the Carillion disaster, where a hairy-assed housebuilding firm gets huge government contracts to run cut-price prisons, military housing and hospital services into the ground so the directors can stuff their sagging back pockets with wads of taxpayer cash, gaily spewing out profit warnings until the business hits the wall. Wikipedia notes:

The liquidation announcement had an immediate impact on 30,000 subcontractors and suppliers, Carillion employees and pensioners, plus shareholders, lenders, joint venture partners and customers in the UK, Canada and other countries.

But what the hell, the directors got paid.

This kind of shit killed my little business in the 1990s, when companies with no sector experience or creative expertise started throwing in spoilers to separate us from our clients, adding no value whatever and driving our margins down to the point where we couldn’t pay the staff.

There is really something to be said for contracting people who know and care about what they’re doing.

For loyalty.


uSwitch if you have to

Yet again we had a contract. I would pay them £70 a month, in advance, for my minuscule usage of electricity and gas. We would review the amount again after six months. Five days later, their computer emailed me, demanding £130 a month: “to avoid surprises”.

How they work out your bill.

It was probably the seventh time in two years OVO had tried it on, and I finally hit the ceiling. I am paranoid about my use of energy, living much of my life in the cold and dark, wearing two sweaters in bed and going about by the light of a small hand-torch. My piece of ‘real estate’ comprises two rooms downstairs, 12′ x 12′ sitting-room and only slightly more spacious kitchen/diner, and two up: bedroom, bathroom and 7′ x 9′ boxroom, where my son was kept folded until he moved out.

In the small back yard is this, muh Li’l House on the Prairie, as I call my exotic shed. I spend 80 per cent of my life out here, using the actual house only to cook and sleep and you-know-what. Although I mostly pee in the yard, I get so little warning.

Subsisting thus, I could not possibly be using so much energy, but no-one seemed willing to address the question I kept asking them: if I spend only £22 a month on gas, including 27p a day ‘standing charge’, when gas heats all my water and cooks my meals, how would anyone imagine I can also be using £94-worth of electricity just to sit here alone, by the light of a single LED lamp, writing this stuff on a laptop I keep pouring wine over?

Attempting furiously to switch to another supplier, saving £176 a year (how do they know?), I set up the new account using a number they gave me. The next day they emailed to say my existing supplier had objected, so we could not proceed. I would have to phone my existing supplier and then when the problem had been resolved, call them back.

There were some arrears, it turned out. Actually an improbable amount I had overlooked, fondly imagining that ‘balance’ meant plus, not minus. I cleared the outstanding debt immediately and obtained permission to switch. The next day I went back to my new supplier and, in person over the phone with a charming Irish lady called Maggie, spent half an hour setting up a new account with a new number – the first number now being inoperative.

And the following day got an email saying there was still an objection and they couldn’t switch my account.

So I phoned my old supplier again – they were beginning to sound quite sympathetic – and there genuinely was no objection. At least not from my old supplier.

The objection, it turned out, now came from my new supplier.

They were telling me I couldn’t have two account numbers, so they had cancelled both and I was to phone again and set up my account for the third time, with all the same information, the same tariff and contract, the same bank details, that I had verbally already signed – and be given a new number.

A typical IT manager in the Independent Energy Sector.

So sorry, but no.

The UK Energy Supply sector is broken. Competing with the overcharging “Big 6” companies, there is a plethora of tiny indie operators selling “green” energy and other attractive-sounding deals. But just wait until you try to sign up with one. You will never have another moment’s peace of mind. Nothing is as advertised, nothing real.

Their systems have been designed and are operated on the cheap by a heap of groaning IT baboons, who have consumed far too much fermented fruit for their own good. Or ours.

To quote the children’s story character, Catweazle the Incompetent Wizard:

“Nothing works.”

Postscriptum: A day or two after this Post appeared we read in The Guardian that a record number of consumers have been switching supplier this winter, largely owing to exorbitant bills.

How they manage it I don’t know, but it seems they’re choosing the smaller suppliers. Caveat emptor, is all I can say.


Russia’s “Cold Snap”: Sakhalin Island (Denis Sergeev/Siberian Times)

GW: and the beast goes on…

Australia: “Several rivers have burst their banks in North Queensland after 4 days of heavy rain. Disaster areas declared. Many areas have recorded 500 to 700 mm of rain during that time. This is the fourth serious flood event in the state in the last 2 weeks.”

New Zealand: flooding at Hawkes Bay. Vanuatu battered by Tropical Cyclone Hola, bringing torrential rain.

Albania: “Heavy rain and melting snow have caused flooding and landslides over the last few days. Shkodër County in the north west of the country is the worst affected area where the Drin and Bojana rivers have overflowed. Local authorities there said that 2,285 hectares of land were under water.”

Thailand: powerful cyclonic storm strikes Sakon Nakhon. Flooding in Bangkok. Extensive flooding in Indonesia, Bangka Belitung & Cirebon.

Brazil: Many central areas continue to experience unusually heavy rain, thunderstorms and flash-flooding in cities.

Argentina: huge storm trashes Villa Gesell on the northern coast with 140 kmh winds.

USA: Storm Quinn – the third Nor’easter this year and the second in a week – dumps three feet of snow and knocks out power on the east coast. State-wide states of emergency declared in New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia battered. North of the border, Canada however seems to be basking in a warm spell. As again are California and the southwest…

USA: March 10, temperature in Austin, Texas hits 34C, 94F. 2 die as hailstones the size of baseballs batter Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas. Wunderground reports that, OVERALL, from September to March the USA has had a drier and warmer winter season than average. Although they have to admit, there has been record snowfall. And record flooding. With another freezing spell and another storm forecast for the East this week (Accuweather).

Portugal, Spain, France: Storm Felix brings wind, torrential rain, damage and flash-flooding to a wide area.

Kazakhstan: Heavy rainfall above river ice-jams causes extensive spring thaw floods. Many evacuated.

Africa, India, China: heatwave with temperatures “more like May/June than March” continues across a broad swathe of the globe. Temps in S. Sudan hit 48C, 118F. Floods in drought-stricken Malawi. 16 killed when lightning strikes a church in Rwanda.

Arctic: “The situation is desperate”. In February, 260 mph moisture-laden high-altitude winds split the polar vortex into 4 parts. The jetstream was looping and broken. Feb 25 the temperature at the North Pole was 1.1C, 34.1F  a 30C anomaly. The mercury hit 6C, 42.8F in northern Greenland; 8.9C, 47.9F in Hudson Bay. That’s before the sun has even risen above the horizon.

Sea ice extent was at record low for the time of the year and is due to start receding toward the summer about now: driven by gales and big waves, 5-metres thick sea ice between northern Greenland and Svalbard had given way to open water by Feb 27. Peak sea surface temperature near Svalbard rose from 12.4C, 55.4F on Feb 23 to 15.6C, 60F by March 2 – a 26F/16C anomaly above the 1981-2011 average. The rise was accompanied by a measurable methane release. March 1, CH4 levels as high as 3087 ppm were recorded, getting on for twice the global concentration averaged in 2015 (NOAA).

Floodlist/ Climate & Extreme Weather News #101/ Wunderground/ thehumptydumptytribe/ Arctic News, 3 Mar/ CEWN #102


Life, the Best Medicine…

I found a note shoved through the door this morning, the postman hadn’t been able to deliver a parcel.

I know. It was my new doorbell…




Dogwhistle politics: It has to stop now. But Oh, God – what is going on?

“More than a quarter of EU citizens are having their applications for permanent residency in the UK rejected since the UK voted to leave the EU, according to new analysis of the government’s migration data.” – Guardian Today, 28 Feb. (Meanwhile the number of EU citizen doctors planning to quit the NHS, of which they comprise 40%, is now 60%)

In order to apply for residency, EU citizens domiciled in Britain are forced to complete an 85-page form, complete with supporting evidence. Any error in the data results in an automatic letter requiring the citizen to return to their country of origin, despite the fact that EU citizens have the right to reside and work in any EU country. Many are in essential work.

One woman interviewed, a French citizen, had submitted her physical passport in evidence, only to have her application form rejected on another technicality. Her passport was returned as an officially certified copy had been taken. When she re-applied using the certified copy of her passport, she received a deportation notice as she had failed to submit her physical passport a second time. She has lived here for 20 years and has a British husband and British-born children. She speaks fluent English.

Twenty-eight per cent of forms are automatically rejected. I repeat, Britain has not yet left the EU. We are still subject to EU conditions. Free movement of people is one of the fundamental principles of EU membership.

Extreme euro-fascists are untroubled, even in denial. It’s not true people are being told to leave; are being targeted, victimised by Immigration officials. Of course EU citizens are free to remain. For now. Confronted with the thought that European countries might retaliate against Britain’s two million expatriates, most of them pensioners, the Tory euro-fascist baboons reply: no they won’t, as soon as they see we’re deporting their nationals the European surrender-monkeys will back off. We’re great, we’re Britain.

These people are efectively being held hostage by the unelected Prime Minister, who is directing the movements of her appointed triumvirate of castrated Brexit-donkeys, Wilson, Kepple and Doris. Happily, the House of Lords has demanded an amendment to the Article 50 bill guaranteeing the security of EU nationals. But it’s expected that the robotic Mrs May will try to get it overturned. She needs those hostages.

The problem with being a liberal snowflake is simply that we are basically cowards. If we had any guts we would arm ourselves and declare war on the fascists and destroy them like ants before it’s too late. But that goes against our principles. We believe in civil society; agreeable accommodations; amity between peoples.

It doesn’t go against theirs. Because they don’t have principles; only brutish instincts.

Which obliges us once again to wait until dehumanised minorities are clawing at the walls of gas chambers and tanks are rolling across the Centre Court at Wimbledon before we can feel free to fight back.

I can’t find an emoji for resigned despair.


“Should he return, I fully expect Sir Mo will be placed in detention and then posted back to wherever the thuggish goons of Theresa’s immigration service decide he would be best left to rot.” – Ed.

It has to stop now

Many Posts ago I wrote a piece called Stirring the Jam Back Out of the Pudding.

It was in fact a review of a play, Arcadia, by Sir Tom Stoppard, a Czech refugee immigrant, in which I had taken a modest role. The plot, such as it is (it’s quite intellectual), linked the neoclassical revivalist world of aristocratic C19th Britain with the shallow fopperies of modern academia.

My thought was that once the currents of history had become intertwined, there was no way back. You could not, literally, stir the jam out of a semolina pudding once you had mixed it all in – although I recall Stephen Fry or someone doing something amazing with physics on TV, doing exactly that with water and some chemical dye he separated out, I forget how.

Allow me to explain what it is now, that has to stop.

Here’s a brief history of the world:

For millennia, humans have been migrating around the globe. Eleven – perhaps it was 16 – thousand years ago, Siberian tribespeople crossed the Bering Straight along the Aleutian islands from northeast Asia into what is now Alaska and spread southwards over the American plains into Mexico and across the Isthmus of Panama into South America. Many stopped on the way and founded pre-Columbian civilizations.

Humans had emerged, more than once, from the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia and driven by climate change spread northwards and eastwards to follow the hunting. Some were driven back by the advancing Arctic ice sheet, but thousands of years later returned to the northern lands as the ice retreated.

Those who moved eastwards into Anatolia and Sumeria began the seven thousand years of transhumance, of settled agriculture and technological development that have brought us to the modern era and the verge of extinction. Others founded the classical Mediterranean cultures.

Possibly in a separate evolution, a third eruption, forty thousand years ago humans left southeastern China and moved into Micronesia and on to Australia, where they were marginalised thousands of years later by brutal and arrogant white European settlers. Something similar happened in the Americas. Millions perished; cultures came close to vanishing.

Around the world the seas rose and fell, exposing and then isolating the land; the sun baked people brown, red, black; freezing winters turned people white.

But the intermingling continued at the margins.

Settled communities growing grain that could be stored for the winter had time on their hands; they began making stuff – pots, weapons, tools, jewellery, clothing, icons. At Dolní Věstonice in old Czechoslovakia are the early remains of a factory churning out ceramic ‘Venus’ figurines, as we call them: fetish objects, currency, souvenirs – we have no idea – thirty thousand years BCE.

The makers and their middlemen began trading in the surpluses. Trade depended on the endlesss, restless movement of peoples and goods across continents. Running for thousands of miles through mountains, across plains and along great rivers, trade routes opened up vast areas of the globe, chaining cities and their markets together.

Ports sprang up, customs flourished. Merchants settled and sold goods in one another’s capitals; sailors criss-crossed the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, the Baltic. Phoenicians from Carthage – black men – traded with tin miners in Cornwall; London traded furs for African diamonds with Volgograd. Empires arose, and as they expanded, kept stirring the human pudding.

Craftsmen were imported from everywhere to construct and decorate the grandiose buildings of military and religi0us empires for the glory of the rulers. Warfare and rapine spread genetic variation; conquered lands settled, moved and removed and scrambled-up entire populations.

And people intermarried.

After the first great era of modern mercantilism got under way, resource wars broke out – tentatively in the 9th and 10th centuries AD and into the early Medieval, then more fully in the C17th as people rushed hither and yon, desperately trying to grab a slice of the profit for themselves.

Millions of Europeans – some greedy, most just hungry – took ship for the New Worlds, seeking a better life for themselves, usually at the expense of the settled peoples who simply disappear from view, murdered, marginalised and miscegenated.

The transatlantic trade in slaves grew – the human power-plant of the early industrial and agrarian revolutions, inconsiderable by-products of commodity brokers – mixing Africans with Berbers with Europeans with native Caribs and Indians and Portuguese traders and London haut-bourgeoisie and Virginia plantation bosses – God-knows who, you can’t stop people from having sex.

While ethnic ‘purity’ persisted in pockets, indeed to this day the Welsh of mountainous North Wales are reported to be 85 per cent ethnically ‘pure’ Brythonic survivors of the Romans and the Normans and the detested English. Otherwise, miscegenation was the general rule over the entire world.

But some crazed ruler, some self-important baboon along the way had invented the idea of the ‘nation state’.

And thus it was on 25th February, 2017, that a grandmother, Irene Clennel, married to a British man and domiciled in Scotland for 27 years, a woman with a British native husband, two British children and a British grandchild, having been abducted on her return to the country by the State and held in a detention centre, was forcibly put on a plane to Singapore – her country of origin – because in the flint-cold eyes of some brain-dead bureaucratic cypher, an unperson I would be happy to pull a lever and watch twitching, a dope on a rope, the few years she had spent caring for her dying father in Singapore along the way disqualified her from having any right of residence in the UK; and her sick husband does not nowadays earn enough money to qualify to be allowed to keep her without imaginary State support.

(The Trades Union Congress has calculated that real wages in Britain have fallen by one per cent since the well-padded bankers got away almost literally with murder in 2008.)

The injustice and hypocrisy, the sheer malignant brutality of this indefensible, unChristian action in targeting this innocent woman for deportation and the heedless damage to her family it has caused defies belief. It is beyond words. It sears the soul.

It is, if such a thing can be isolated and focussed on the fate of one individual, a crime against humanity.

Last year we celebrated the life and mourned the passing of one David Jones, also known as Bowie. London-born, this globally famous ‘British’ rock star had lived for much of his life in Berlin and New York. Nobody kidnapped and imprisoned and deported Bowie or his family for the crime of living in the wrong country.

Wealthy Russians – Lebedev, the self-promoting millionaire owner of the London Evening Standard; Goncharenko, billionaire owner of £multi-million Mayfair properties left empty; Fridman, the ‘second richest man in Russia’, owner of £130 million Athlone House; Usmanov, who reportedly paid $77 million for Beechwood House in Highgate, north London and is busily building a Roman emperor-style pool complex underneath the tasteless Victorian excrescence; such men, their trophy wives, their well-armed goon squads and gardeners have no problem with their British residency status.

Up in Oregon, in a gated compound, lives with his British wife and children  ‘Sir’ Mohammed Farah, world-famous distance runner, winner of many races, holder of many records and titles. This extraordinary athlete lives in America But he comes from war-ravaged Somalia. A black African Muslim, he celebrates his successes in the colours of Great Britain, he is honoured as a knight of the Queen’s realm. But he doesn’t live here in Britain.

Should he return, I fully expect that Sir Mo will be placed in detention and then posted back to wherever the thuggish goons of the British immigration service decide he would be best left to rot.

Anywhere but here.

And as the Trump deportations grind into gear, the ethnic cleansing of swathes of America, the hollowing-out of its labour force, the ‘military operation’, the ruthless removals by the gum-chewing moronic Border Force thugs to God knows where of eleven million people to make America ‘great again’, cowering behind its protective wall, white again (how long has it been white, Trump, you disgusting and pretentious old orange slug?), English-speaking, we hear of more and more of these cases of lunatic official intransigence at our supposedly civilized gateways.

We hear of academics on their way to conferences with no intention of remaining, and writers and much-needed technology industry workers turned back, their Green cards useless; even the former Prime Minister of Sweden, for having an Iranian stamp in his well-travelled passport; detained at the airport, grilled for two hours.

We hear of US citizens with darker complexions detained and questioned for hours for reasons of blind and untutored prejudice on the part of dumbfuck airport jobsworths; even small children, regarded as ‘terrorists’; of racial and cultural hate crimes increasingly perpetrated under licence from cynical and expedient ‘populist’ politicians, proxies and bum-boys for diseased billionaires hastening to suck-out the remaining wealth of the world in the last days of humanity, before the game ends.

While here in tolerant, liberal Britain, home of Democracy, Empire, Commonwealth and manifest hypocrisy, we learn today that within a month, workers from Europe, 26 miles across the English Channel, will no longer be allowed automatically to settle and work; although employers are already complaining of labour shortages and major infrastructure projects are in abeyance. While those already living here with jobs and families are offered no security as Mrs May instructs her three wise monkeys to use them as a negotiating tool against the 27.

A strange shift in human evolutionary history seems to have begun.

Try as one might, it is hard to imagine: but the great vomiting disease of nationalism is separating everyone back into their original forms, forcing us to return to our points and conditions of origin, to fester behind miles of razor-wire.

We hear the newly empowered nobodies saying: well, according to our identification chart you’re this colour, you have these genes, you have this accent, these clothes, these visa stamps in your passport; you prefer these foods, you follow this unacceptable minor variation in our perceptions of the imaginary Creator; you have these genetic predispositions to particular diseases and disorders, your hair and eyes are this colour, your nose we measure such a length, your penis has this bit on the end or not, we determine that your ancestors came from such-and-such a place, you’ve stolen my job, so back you go.

A vast and, frankly, futile quest to ‘stir the jam back out of the pudding’ is underway which, if taken to its logical but frankly risible conclusion, would see a complete reset of a hundred thousand years of human migration and miscegenation when, in truth, our origins are so obscure, complex and convoluted as to defy racial and topographical analysis.

It’s bonkers – but on an individual level, heartlessly destructive: pointless, economically self-defeating, mad and cruel.

It has to stop now.

Dogwhistle politics

From: Political editor Laura Facebook ©2017, @Laurasweeplace

Remember the name Roderick Chunn, of  The Elliott School, Putney (a wealthy borough in SW London).

(Although you might care to note that it has not been The Elliott School – founded 1904 – since 2012, when it became known as The Ark Academy, under a Government scheme to rob public education of finance to pay US multinational corporations to run failing schools in the UK.)

For, there’s a petition trending on Change.org, that is approaching a quarter of a million signatures.

Clearly, a very serious issue of public concern. About education funding, possibly?

Actually, it’s about a pensioner, 87-year-old ‘Bob’, who rents a room in a care home in Carlisle, Cumbria, 316 miles from London, run by an outfit called Mead Medical.

Bob has a dog, a Schnauzer called, perhaps not politically correctly, Darkie, who has been his companion since his wife died from cancer two years ago. Bob has been in the home, Burnfoot Hall, for four years. The original lease from the local council gave him permission to have the dog, which is apparently well behaved and popular with the other residents, but the council has since privatised the operation, as I understand it, and the new landlords have given Bob an ultimatum: either the mutt goes, or you do.

Contrary to all other opinion I have seen on the petition, Mead Medical (‘Person-centred care’)  have argued that Darkie is ‘a nuisance’. Now, I have a dog, Hunzi, and I could lay my hands on at least thirty witnesses before lunch who would tell you straight, Hunzi is no nuisance. In fact, their observation would be that he is astonishingly well behaved; quiet, patient and gentle. And here he is, snoozing at my feet.

But I live in constant fear of someone maliciously pointing a finger, or reporting him for some imaginary crime, in a situation where their own uncontrolled dog has committed, and not for the first time, some unexpected savagery for which Hunzi will be blamed.

It has almost happened once, when an elderly party I recognise from casual encounters on walks was bitten by another dog, whose owner subsequently lied to the police that he did not own a dog, so it must have been my dog, ‘ the man over the road’, Hunzi being of a similar appearance and breed. Only the victim had already told the police that he knew my dog and it was not him, and the police let the matter drop. At least, I was never interviewed.

And poor Hunzi, so innocent and guileless is he that he is constantly being snarled at or actually attacked on our walks by the kind of vicious dogs the cretins off the council estate like to parade in public to show how tiny their genitals must be. (Or nice, retired middle-class folk with demented spaniels…)

So I understand the power of an accusation: many people – especially our wonderful police – being all too ready at the drop of a hat to jump to conclusions and point the finger of blame wildly in all the wrong directions; there being never any ‘smoke without fire’ in a mainly working-class community where incomers are regarded with suspicion.

On 1st February ‘Bob’ received a formal notice to quit, for failing to comply with the new regulation. He is to be evicted in April. So far, Mead Medical has refused to show the slightest concern that a baying mob of two hundred and forty-four thousand petitioners would cheerfully march on Carlisle, burn down their offices and string up their company officers on piano wire from lampposts in the street.

Like Donald Trump, Katie Hopkins or Nigel Farage, the company’s directors appear to be impervious to, even to thrive on, popular hatred.

Below the details of the petition is a Comment thread. It starts out, as you would expect, with half a dozen messages of support and sympathy for ‘Bob’. Most people in Britain, I suspect, other than out-and-out Nazi scumbag trolls hoping to foment bloodshed, chaos and oppression are righteously angered by such displays of high-handed officialdom and random instances of injustice.

Not so, young Master Chunn.

The snotnosed cretin pretending to come from a no-longer extant school in a really posh riverside suburb of wealthy London town, Chunn has contributed a brief message consisting of just seven terrible words:

“They wouldn’t do it to an immigrant.”

And from that point on, virtually the entire Comment thread erupts into a furious tirade from ghastly old hags and trolls, obese football hooligans bound to their piss-stained, bargain-basement sofas, poisonous amoebas who can barely spell their own names, howling down anyone reasonably disposed to pointing out that the matter has nothing whatever to do with immigrants.

Master Chunn’s message has received as of the last time of looking, 112 Likes.

Where has this visceral, kneejerk hatred of ‘foreigners’ grown from? What is going on, when so many people are happy to wallow in the abusive meme that ‘foreigners’ somehow get a better deal in life than they do; and why should that be a cause of such loathing?

It’s being promoted, exploited and revelled in by politicians who see votes in it; and their shadowy corporate backers.

The loutish British are notorious for their admiration of ignorance and prejudice, disparaging but secretly envying anyone marginally worse off – or marginally better off than – or in any respect different from themselves. Everything that goes wrong in their petty lives has got to be someone else’s fault, everyone else is somehow getting a better deal, more favourable treatment – is ‘on the take’ or ‘only out for themselves’ – as if wallowing in one’s own ignorance and prejudice is not itself evidence of the selfish behaviour of the human piggery.

It is so easy to push their buttons.

I wish it were only the insular British underclass, with their eternal inferiority complex and pathetic clinging to myths of cultural superiority, victory and Empire. But just over the water, in Holland, where the ‘genetically pure’ British mostly originated, we have the vainglorious, bouffant-haired pretty-boy, Wilders, poised to achieve victory come election-time on a platform of exploiting the fear, prejudice and bile against darker-skinned Others of the deeply devout and conservative, red-faced Boers.

Fortunately, his neighbouring presidential candidate, Mme le Pen, who seems to share many of his super-nationalist views, or is at least equally willing to exploit the dark undercurrents of chauvinism and prejudice in the bourgeois French soul – the French, whose ancestors originated in both northern Europe, Roman Italy and moorish Spain – has just become embroiled in an expenses scandal that threatens to setback her own campaign for a racially and culturally ‘pure’ France, free from both the evils of Greater Europe and the Muslim plague.

If genuinely a pupil, which must be in doubt, young Master Chunn needs to be brought to the attention of his school, who should call in the Prevent programme de-radicalisation specialists before his stupid and childish racialism, his dimly educated irresponsibility becomes a habit of mind.

But that isn’t going to happen. Because only-ever Muslims are radicalised in the security obsessed, authoritarian hellhole of State surveillance and the interception of Orwellian thought-crimes this country has become.

Anyone else – it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where in the world the name Chunn has come from – is apparently now on the side of the angels.

Snow-white Christian angels, that is.


Dead letter days

Because she was born in Scotland in 1924 on an RAF base my mother, although half-Greek and half-English and living in London, always had a fantasy of being Scots and in the early 1960s opened an account with the Royal Bank of Scotland, to whose brand she remained loyal all her life.

When she died in December last year I rang the Bereavement office at the bank to ask them to close her account, only to be told they could find no record of her; although I had her most recent statement in my hand, showing an unaccustomed surplus of £474.66.

Reasoning nothing would happen over Christmas and New Year, I sent a death certificate to her branch on the 6th of January, asking them to make sure the account was closed. The certificate was returned to me a few days later with a letter from the Bereavement office saying someone would be in touch with me shortly.

When nothing arrived, I followed it up on the 21st of January with another letter to the branch, begging for confirmation that no more money was going out of the account. Nothing.

On the 24th of February a photocopy of the certificate arrived in the post, again from the Bereavement office, with a letter saying they had received it and someone would be in touch with me shortly. Three weeks later I had a closing statement: there was £90 in the account.

I’m not surprised these incompetent 73 per cent taxpayer-owned bailed-out wankers, once the biggest bank in the world, have lost a total of £58 BILLION since the crash of 2008, £7 billion of it last year alone.

The CEO should be arrested.

Instead of which, Mr Ross McEwan, an Australian – sorry, New Zealand – immigrant, is being paid an annual salary of £3.8 million.


A Message from The Editor:

Hi. Bogl here. So great!

With only four days to go until the fifth anniversary of the first-ever edition of this, muh li’l bogl, for the first time I awoke this morning, a) feeling as if I had been transformed into a giant insect, and b) wondering whether Monday oughtn’t to be the day I finally stop doing this, since I still use grammar like: oughtn’t to, which modern linguists find not only quaint, but repulsive.

588 Posts ought to be enough for anyone; I’m not going to make it to the magic 600 before Monday, thus for the first time my numericism is in doubt; and when you consider that in recent months and years I have taken to producing multi-Posts, rambling omnibus editions of spleniferous political commentary running sometimes to five and six-thousand well-aimed words, my global word count is definitely well into the low tens of millions.  So many words, so little effect, it’s unbelievable.

I have begun therefore to realise why it is that my Likers, Spammers, Followers, and Those No Longer Reading My Bogl invariably go on and on switching into just an annoyingly small handful of Posts I Posted more than four years ago; and are ignoring any more contemporaneous comment they might find instructive.

It is because they have realised how long it will otherwise take them to get to the end.

There are some Posts they lap up avidly: for instance, those about the ill-fated ‘Comex Two’ Commonwealth Youth Expedition to India, in 1967, on which I rashly ventured beyond my comfort zone into what sadly turned out to be the real world, articles mainly concerning the frisky relationship between Time and Memory; there is one about my seven years a slave, employed for £1.60 an hour as the Old Caretaker of a freezing ‘stately home’ in a windy Welsh valley, that seems inexplicably attractive to wishful-thinkers; there is the inconsiderable trifle masquerading as an encomium to apple crumble, and other pensées that are grateful to receive some scant attention.

That sort of thing goes on attracting viewers by the bucketload, averaging at least three a week. But anything mentioning my twin-track obsession with Brexit and Trump… Well, you are getting your fake news elsewhere and it seems hardly worth my while fulminating over the results of my adventures into the farther reaches of the US alt-left media or conning the wit and wisdom of Boris Fucking Johnson and Iain Cunting Smith, if you are just going to wallow in nostalgia for those early days before the End Times arrived.

Yesterday, for instance, as I toiled over The Pumpkin – Issue 7, all day my viewing figures hovered around the average: zero. By bedtime one reader had crept in late, unobserved. But this morning, unaccountably, the figure in the handy WordPress bar-chart had jumped up to 19, marking a record since records began the previous week; when on the Wednesday we achieved 25. (The all-time record is a Guinness-unattributable 47, set some time last October. That was when it occurred to me that GCHQ might be listening in.)

It is of course possible that these extra readers are illegal immigrants, whose viewings should not count.

Bringing up the rear, one person yesterday had actually viewed a Post I posted only a week ago, The Pumpkin – Issue 5, making it almost a contemporary piece. I was so overjoyed, to be honest, I went back and re-edited it, in case anyone else drops by. And in fact, it garnered a ‘most viewed the previous day’ award from WordPress, for which I made a silent speech thanking my old headmaster for putting me off the idea that I might ever enjoy a rewarding career.

But I am assured by one technically minded reader, muh gudfriend Professor Sir Roger d’ Boyle, that there may be more eyes on the internal workings of my journalistic brain than I might appreciate, via the DSS;  viewers who by some means would not appear in the figures. I shall leave it to him yet again to explain how.

There is one other reason I am imagining abandoning my quest.

This, muh li’l laptop thing. It’s disintegrating, literally. One of the hinges holding the lid on has fallen to pieces, and there seems to be some connective mechanism inside the hinge that has become wildly displaced. This connects to the screen, which is floating free as the lid comes in two parts, at least it does now. And I dare not turn it off, ever, as when I have done recently it won’t wake up again, and I have to resort to various mystical passes and incantations, and it takes about 20 minutes to get to where I want to go; which is of course here.

Then indeed there is the problem of the vanishing lettering on the keys, that those of you who do try to keep up may have read about before. Despite more than thirty years in the field of high-pressure literary endeavours of all kinds, I have yet to learn to touch-type and can thus hardly sneer at Mr Trump for never having learned to read, or speak. Or, as you have just added, think. In this way my miskeying count continues to rise, doubling the editing time it takes to present a respectable text to the world.

Yesterday I ventured into the local branch of Curry’s where, after twenty minutes of bulling the shit with a bored salesboy, I heaved a sigh and made a choice from a range of about twenty-five identically boring machines. As we went through the rigmarole of purchasing the thing, however, when it became clear that a computer advertised at £629.99 would cost more like £999.99 once I had paid for all the extras to be able to actually use it, I was, I now realise, being saved by my Committee of Discarnate Entities from a rash fiscal error when the shop’s intranet ground to a halt and we were unable to complete the transaction that evening.

I have not been back, as promised.

I can’t face it, to be honest. All those passwords.

Leaving this and other compulsive internet-based practices behind me, becoming mindful, living toadly in the Now!, I reason, I could embark on a more fulfilling life, maximising the time available for struggling to piss, walking li’l Hunzi, selling my guitars and crawling into bed alone in the dark, which has become one of my favourite activities; as with sweaters, thick socks and a woolly hat on, a padded underblanket and two thick fleecy blankets atop the duvet, a couple of large nightcaps burning their way through my hiatus hernia, even in an unheated house in winter it’s so… I don’t know, cosy.

Anyway, I will bethink me, and let you know in due course.

In the meantime, I have to take a nap, sorry.

Bloody cats.


But I can’t, can I?

Oh God, what is going on?

I’ve blogged already as have many others about the weird statements Trump made last weekend concerning Sweden, migrants and the non-events of the previous night, that did not in fact happen until two nights later.

His curious error made news all over the free world as the Swedish government puzzled over what exactly he was on about. His camp proposed that he had in fact been discussing the ‘crime rate’ in Sweden, a) an unlikely proposition, given that he has no interest in Sweden and did not use the words ‘crime rate’, and b) again alt-factual, as the crime rate has actually been going down since so many migrants arrived.

The mystery is now compounded by further weirdness upon weirdness, as revealed in – again – a Guardian report. (The Guardian was one of the news organisations denied a seat at the Spicer ‘gaggle’ briefing on Thursday.)

One of the very few journalists on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News channels to dare to criticise the Orange President, Bill O’Reilly invited on his show to discuss the Swedish matter, two guests.

One was a Swedish news reporter, the other a man called Nils Bildt, billed as a ‘national security advisor’. But after the show, the Swedish defense ministry denied having any knowledge of or connection with Bildt, whose position in debate was virulently anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and who confirmed Trump’s inaccurate belief that migrant crime in Sweden is a national problem.

Surprise, surprise when AP trotted out the following info:

“Bildt is a founding member of a corporate geopolitical strategy and security consulting business with offices in Washington, Brussels and Tokyo, according to its website….

“Security experts in Sweden said he was not a familiar figure in their ranks in that country.

“He is in not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate,” Swedish Defence University leadership professor Robert Egnell said by email to The Associated Press on Saturday.”

– Guardian Today: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/26/fox-news-nils-bildt-swedish-defence-advisor-unknown-to-countrys-military-officials?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=215024&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Someone was being set up?

O’Reilly’s producers claim Bildt was foisted on them in the usual way, through their research team and its contacts. But it seems a stretch to imagine someone outside didn’t wangle him a seat in the studio. Whether to discredit O’Reilly, to massage the President (whose ego did seem somewhat bruised when his nonsense was pointed out), and to make him happy (he mostly watches Fox News and gets most of his policy announcements from them) or to simply further the alt-right cause among the Dumbfucks by putting in a ringer, we may never know.

But to this paranoid conspiracy theorist, there are numerous threads – fingers in the pie – running through this evolving tale of a globalised corporate coup in motion against liberal democracy  (they are not by and large corporates whose brand-names anyone would recognise, by the way), where names crop up again and again in the context of semi-official skulduggery, that include one labelled Murdoch; owner of Fox.

And it would not be entirely bonkers, would it, to wonder about that mini-riot in Stockholm, and how conveniently it provided the fuel for rightwing commentators to justify Trump’s ‘post hoc, propter hoc’ assertion that migrants cause crime; justifying his policies of voter disenfranchisement and ethnic cleansing – with possibly worse to come – in the US.

This way madness

Is it possible, I wonder, for someone to have Munchausen’s Syndrome linked to merely seeming a bit odd?

In other words, can a person act selfconsciously in a deliberately eccentric way, perhaps because the idea of behaving as if they have a mild mental disorder makes them feel more at home in a disordered world?

Yes [ ]  No [ ] What? [ ]  (tick)

You see, I’ve observed in the mirror that I have classic Obsessive-Compulsive habits.

I can’t remember having had any when younger, except for obsessively doodling a little squiggly sunrise motif in the margins of my Latin exercise book, but I seem to have adopted several over the years. Yet they don’t really feel natural to me. I watch myself with a faint sense of unease, thinking I would never have dreamed of behaving like this thirty years ago.

Hence the question: as well as physical symptoms, can Munchausen’s also describe feigning imaginary mental illness? Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder something people can acquire later in life? Or am I just pretending I’ve got it to make myself feel better, to attract sympathy, to seem more interesting, to fill-in the spare time God has cursed me with? Or is it the wine?

We need to know.

As well as, or perhaps because of, having to drink exactly one bottle every night; while straining not to Post my 500th Post until 27 February, the anniversary of the founding of the BogPo; putting on my socks in the right order, carefully counting my strides along the section of footpath made from uniformly five-yards-long slabs of concrete, so that I don’t step on the joins, for a good few years I’ve made a fetish of straightening pictures on walls and tidying unruly piles of leaflets in shops and banks.

Sorting things found on tabletops and counters: pens, pencils, rulers, dictionaries, erasers, so that everything lines up nicely, each category having its own place, creating geometric shapes and harmonious mathematical proportion in relation to the other items; then mischievously disarranging just one, maybe placing a pen at a jaunty angle to the others, to prove to any passing interested parties that a modicum of anarchic creativity still lurks within this frighteningly well-ordered mind

Only, I am the interested party. Everyone else just thinks I’m a bit mad.

An invigilator at the university, I’ve genuinely experienced in a crowded examination hall, a strange effect. With:

…things put back in their place, so; a gap of exactly one inch between the orderly piles of spare yellow, orange, green and blue answer books, of graph paper and Optical Character Recognition sheets; the blue attendance slips all neatly aligned, stacked, regimented; the little sticky tabs and treasury tags back in their boxes or neatly piled; no spare yesterday’s question papers and the torn envelopes they came in, no attendance sheets and instructions to invigilators for making announcements in Welsh, no paper cups, no helpful information about reporting Unacceptable Academic Practice, no dated photofit pictures scattered about showing how to spot last year’s illicit Smart watch, all tidied away, nothing littering the floor…

all this artful symmetry seems to engender an extraordinary feeling of order and Zen-like calm even in the biggest room, the one seating 377 reluctant biologists, where there was previously head-scratching tension and fret; radiating benignly throughout the space to impose a discipline thoroughly conducive to profound and silent meditation over complex questions of business or criminal law, physics, sport psychology – French literature.

I imagine the exam-room attendants who come to clear up after the invigilators have gone gazing spellbound at my neat tabletops, shaking their heads admiringly. That Bogler, they murmur to one another in their peculiar private language. He’s a stickler for tidyness!

Only I’m not. I have to work hard at making the bed every morning with its cushions arranged, just so; doing the washing-up: the glasses, the dishes, the cutlery, the pans, in the same carefully worked-out, ergonomic routine every time.

And then today, I notice with some irritation that I am having the exact same unhealthy ‘brunch’ I have eaten every day for at least the past month at my kitchen table at about 12.45 p.m.: two rashers of bacon, two eggs easy-over, two sliced mushrooms – all lightly fried in rapeseed oil (the one they now think doesn’t kill you), with a double-tablespoonful of baked beans, heated-up in the same old baked-bean heating-up pan; followed by a small, strong black coffee.

And I recall that this morning has been unusual, because I have gone downstairs before putting on the double-thick layer of socks that I need to wear to make my oversize Wellingtons fit better, no-one, not even the French, makes Wellingtons in half-sizes; a normal pair inside a heavier woollen gauge. I put them on like this every day, first the right, then the left, while Hunzi dives under my feet, rolling his eyes and making heavy grunting noises, and sticks his big doggy ass in the air, he gets some kind of sexual kick from being involved with me putting on my socks.

Talk about OC Dawg!

Instead, I remember I have new socks, and go downstairs to the fridge to fetch them, taking care on the way to step on the cat. She loves me to pretend to step on her, writhing and clawing the stair carpet, purring and squeaking and wiggling her little ass in the air. What is wrong with these creatures?

I’d finally plucked up courage yesterday and bought a twin-pack of thicker, outdoor socks that don’t have holes in, that I haven’t darned before. They’re great, but here I go again. Am I just saying about that OCD thing to appear more way-out, more fashionable? Do I really think my sock-buying habits are so interesting as to deserve mention in this, muh bogl?

It beats obsessively insulting a bunch of Tories, I suppose.


A low blow, but one maybe needing to be delivered

David ‘schweinsteiger’ Cameron has today agreed with Save the Children that we should, er, save more children. But not the few Syrian orphans dangerously alone and trapped in the Calais Swamp, only 32 miles away by train, oh no. That would only encourager les autres to come and throw themselves on our razor wire. So we’re sending them some extra blankets instead.

If anyone should know about children facing death… it’s this sneering, heartless, not-quite upper-class oaf some of you inexplicably elected.


Should auld acquaintance

My 87 year-old stepfather has undiagnosed Alzheimer’s. Undiagnosed, because he smartly fools the doctors. Though it is obvious to anyone who knows him, the doctors don’t know him. He can still pass the tests.

I went carol singing with the choir this Christmas around the old folks’ homes hereabouts, where some of the inmates have late-stage Alzheimer’s and were constantly having to be fetched back from wherever they had wandered off to by their amazingly patient carers, their minds a complete blank. Sometimes they can get violent. Husks, I described them as.

It’s scary seeing these empty husks, like Science Fiction, where an alien lifeform has sucked out everyone’s brain. Will I end up here, like this? Probably not, the cash-strapped local authority is closing-down the homes.

My stepfather hasn’t reached that stage. But he will ask you the same question over and over again. He asks you: ‘And w-w-what are your movements this afternoon?’ And you tell him, ‘I’m staying here this evening but I am going home tomorrow’. Five minutes pass, before he suddenly says, ‘And w-w-what are your movements this afternoon?’

And you tell him again. And then you ask him, ‘And have they finished decorating your flat yet?’ And he shakes his once great leonine head in puzzlement and tells you he doesn’t know, he can’t remember what it looks like. But he was there less than an hour ago.

So I can tell from experience the difference between someone being totally out of it, or just getting a bit daffy in their old age. My stepfather’s punishment from God is that he’s conscious of his plight; he knows he’s fast losing his never very focussed mind and can’t do a damned thing about it. It’s all slipping away. But as long as he can fool the doctors….

My 90 year-old mother doesn’t have it; nor by all accounts did my late, 83 year-old father, although his arteries were well furred-up.  My mother will tell me the same stories over, but that’s only because I visit her twice a year. Otherwise she’s as sharp as a kitchen knife. You can forgive her forgetting a few details.

So I’m hoping from a genetics point of view I’m not going to get the Big A anytime soon. But after trekking out to my garden studio for the umpteenth time without the door key, forgetting I always lock the damned door, and schlepping back to the house again to fetch it in the teeming rain, I’m not so sure.

I was telling a friend at choir on Tuesday that I’d been practising two new songs all afternoon. ‘What are they?’ she asked, although I knew she wouldn’t know them because I sing jazz songs at home, not choir songs (a community choir song = three lines of untranslatable Kyrzgystani lyrics chanted over crunchy, ever-so ethnic harmonies, repeat until you hyperventilate). Nobody much knows jazz songs now, except other jazz singers, we’re the only ones who listen to each other.

And I had to confess that, although I’d spent four hours playing through the Dianne Reeves tracks on repeat, singing over her amazing voice again and again with my amazing voice, following precisely her vocalisation, her phrasing; downloading the lyrics, dreaming of sending her an MP3 of my amazing performance and she’s like, wow, this old white guy is really amazing, and she invites me over to duet with her and I am famous at last; writing down the melody on the piano and trying to work out some guitar chords, and what the hell key the songs are written in,

by the evening I can’t remember even the titles of the two songs, let alone the words or the notes, to tell my friend about.

Nothing whatever comes to mind.

And I want to cry.


The end of the tunnel

We stopped off, Hunzi and I, on our walk around the industrial estate, to visit a wonderful new shop that has appeared in the bowels of a large shed otherwise dedicated to a not-very successful-looking campervan conversion business, selling everything anyone could need to grow plants indoors.

I shall refrain from making the obvious suggestion as to what plants, exactly, might benefit from the use of this technology. I wouldn’t know.

I had a specific aim in mind, which was to nurse Avi, my lovely Avocado tree, back to health.

Two summers ago, I popped Avi out in the garden, thinking she would benefit from the fresh air and sunlight. To my great disappointment some of her leaves got scorched by the wind, while she seemed to have suffered an infestation of those tiny, green, leaf-boring caterpillars that cunningly become invisible in daylight.

So ever since, I have kept her indoors, in the south-facing window of my garden studio.

Here, she has been unhappy. The expensive double-glazing advertises itself as UV-resistant, cutting out what I believe to be a rather essential component of the photosynthetic process; while the oil-filled radiator I heat the studio with is unpredictable – by which I mean I usually forget either to switch it on or to switch it off, or to set the temperature correctly, depending on the air temperature outside – and sometimes creates an unhealthy fug. I should probably go back to the shop and buy a thermostat.

Last year I repotted Avi, as she had grown to about four feet in height and was starting to put out dainty baby branches. I bought the biggest ceramics pot I could afford, and filled it with a mixture of peat-free compost and the loamy, sooty soil salvaged from operations to level the ground where the studio sits. The pot is now so heavy, and I’ve got so old and knackered, I can no longer move it; so there she sits.

But poor Avi had grown energetically in the three years since she was just a little stone, and was seriously pot-bound. Getting her out of her old home proved difficult. I didn’t want to break it, as Avi has a little half-sister, Caddie, coming along nicely on the living-room windowsill, who will be moving up a class in the summer term. So we had to settle for some rather drastic root damage, and now she looks droopy and her leaves are papery and pale; still bearing the brown marks and curled edges of the previous summer’s damage.

Now, the sun is making strenuous efforts to peer through the wall-to-wall haze after a morning of strong winds and intermittent rain here, on the edge of Storm Gertrude, a 100 mph monster which has sent 50-foot North Atlantic waves crashing once again into Scotland’s west coast islands. But for the past three months it has felt as if we were living through Cormack McCarthy’s The Road, under a thick blanket of brown, radioactive rain-bearing cloud that never seems to lift.

Let alone missing her daily UV, Avi has really been getting no light at all, and her little topknot of growth was stalled. She’d been growing straight and true, but her growing tip has become twisted, its little coronet of baby leaves stunted and futile. Nothing in her demeanour seemed to change for months, she was looking depressed and I feared for her survival.

So, despite it meant getting a tad overdrawn it was worth investing £42 on an enormous, full-spectrum daylight bulb, on the recommendation of the sagacious man in the shop. Seldom have I met anyone so interminably dedicated to the task of problem-solving vegetation issues. I hooked it up in the window, next to Avi, about a week ago, and have tried to remember to switch it on every day for the necessary twelve hours; I have yet to understand the instructions for programming the timer switch he also sold me.

And Alleluya, already she’s sprouting new growth, her tip has put on another inch and the tightly clenched baby leaves are unfurling their shiny new faces to the (fake) sunlight. Hope springs eternal in my studio.

Who knows, it might even be doing my SAD some good too, to be sitting here bathed in simulated daylight, while outside the world is enveloped in perpetual, rain-sodden gloom. Why, I could even imagine us all together in Portugal: Hunzi, Scat the Cat, Avi, Caddie, me and Gibella, my pretty young Gibson guitar.

But no-one is buying my little house.

Whose given name, incidentally, is ‘Lezah’.

I only found out she wasn’t just ‘Number One’ when the first utility bill arrived.







The randomness of lucky things

Bogler’s Paradox: “To be truly universal, any physical law must take into account the possibility of that law not applying in all circumstances.”

Luck, eh?

You just know it’s a random universe when you meet someone who lives in the next village and you get to talking about how you’ve been trying to sell your perfectly nice, sunny little house for nearly two years now, and they tell you, oh, my neighbour put her house on the market last month, it sold the next day and they’re moving out this week.

But it happened to me yesterday and my expensive porcelain teeth are worn down with grinding through the night, my face is wrinkled from crying.

And I’m watching that ‘Page viewings’ scoreboard on Preloved (Property) inching, centimetre-by-centimetre, towards the two thousand viewings of my page mark. As of this morning, we’re on 1,993 (average: 4.1/day). To a person who has OCD over propitious numerical conjunctions, the wait is agonising.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that in a random universe one of those nearly two thousand viewers would have contacted me by now, even if only accidentally, or just to annoy me by asking how little am I prepared to sell for, how many rooms does it have (not enough, too many, out-of-square, tastelessly decorated, etcetera), is there a roof, did it ever flood, does it have electricity, what time do the buses run to town, or something else pretty stupid,  by now?

It’s in the nature of humans to ask dumb questions, to challenge inaccuracies (I insert them deliberately, but nobody seems to notice), to enjoy wasting people’s time with inconsequential chitchat.

So this refusal by almost two thousand people to act on human instinct is just perverse. Why are they behaving like this? What has happened to the pack mentality, that instead of behaving chaotically they all enjoy being part of a huge gathering of unseen presences, a zombie horde of property buyers WHO REFUSE TO BUY PROPERTY!

But, just like sometimes scientists or conjurors can flip a coin and have it come up heads 1,993 times in a row when mathematical reasonableness and experience suggest that they might flip the odd tail now and then, the Law of Probability has clearly ceased to apply in my case, and that’s just another effect you could expect in a random universe, the possibility that, in certain localised cases, there could be no probability of anything happening.

Anyway, I’d just quite like to move in one direction for now, and that’s forwards. But, hey, I got in a day’s paid gardening yesterday, and I met a pretty girl with a pair of nice, er, spaniels and we chatted amiably for a while on the shitty footpath about dogs and things, I got home and drank a second bottle of well-chilled van rosay while watching another mysteriously improbable spectacle in which 11 plucky Belgians knocked the USA out of the World Cup in extra time – the third match I have watched in a row that went to extra time only for the losing side to win.

When you live alone, except of course for li’l Hunzi and Scat the Cat, and Avi the Avocado tree, who is positively thriving on my sunny back terrace in this counter-probabilistic hot summer we’re having (while much of the rest of the world is going to hell in a handcart), you tend to start thinking everything in the universe happens because of you, and of what is going on in your head.

It’s called ‘solipsism’, and it’s very, very bad. It really isn’t all your fault!

But who’s to say?


Sneezing at cats

Five a.m. precisely, and Cat wakes me with the special gurgling purr that says she has brought home another little playmate – or, as they are known in some countries, political dissident. Just in case there is time to perform an act of Amnesty, I stumble blindly downstairs, but it is too late. On my expensive hand-made Indian rug (100% Polyester) is a stiffening corpse.

Why Cat has taken to torturing her little victims on the rug especially is a bit of a mystery. The rug is a vibrant crimson colour all over, which goes perfectly with the wallpaper, and I think that either it has an exciting psychological effect on Cat, a red rug to a moggie, as it were; or she has discovered that there is some extra-terrifying vibe for mice in the colour , that increases the frisson of killing for its own sake.

This is a cat that is artificially fed about six times a day. She does not hunt because she needs more food.

Or it could simply be that she knows that if she leaves bloodied corpses and viscera all over the new, pale-beige coloured carpet next to the rug, she will be toast. The red rug offers the security of camouflage for her crimes against mousekind.

I shouldn’t admit this, as he is an IT bod and is probably reading this on-stream while he sucks freely on my Broadband pipe, but my next-door-neighbour’s garden hides a grisly secret. Just outside our adjoining front doors, there is a riotous patch of lavender, into which I have been casting the mangled corpses of Cat’s victims for the past two years.

In decades to come, occupants of the house next door who hate lavender will stumble upon a veritable ossuary. The legend of the mouse’s graveyard will be born. Tales will be told of a fabled miniature kingdom, where all the mice in Wales come to die.

Where then should we bury Cat? She has miraculously survived the transition from life on a country estate to living in a hell of noise and speeding lorries. Now, she is to be rehomed yet again, this time to my daughter’s house, 300 miles away, as I cannot take her with me to France. My new employer (should this appointment ever be confirmed) is ‘allergic’ to cats.

As I ruefully toss yet another little grim secret away into the lavender bush, I can sort of see her point.

The Olympics: what next?

The many denigrators of the O-word Games have been put to shame by the brilliant events taking place in the city of L. during the past five weeks of the year 20–. (Note: these terms were all copyrighted by the organisers!)

Looking back at my earlier bogls, I must admit I have to count myself chief among the disparagers, now thoroughly routed. I never thought my old school chum, Lord Coe would pull it off. The resounding achievements this past fortnight of little Lara-this and Kenny-that, whizzing about effortlessly in their molybdenum Sir James Savile memorial NHS wheelchairs, have dwarfed even the Herculean efforts of our so-called able-bodied Olympiads. Records have tumbled. Millions of spectators who once grimped and grimed at paying £1200 for a ticket to watch Burkina Faso lose to Lower Nepal at tag-team wrestling have gone away thrilling to the sheer brilliance of the organisation, the warm words and friendly chuckles of seventy-thousand dedicated volunteers ringing in their ears.

Now, sadly, it is all over for at least the next hundred years, and a sense of anticlimax is beginning once more to remind the nation of our ever-present economic woes. What can compare with the sheer genius of organisation, the good British spunk, the noisy and incomprehensible but somehow uplifting ceremonial, the vast haul of precious metals with which the nation’s coffers can be replenished, once they are exchanged for Prime Ministerial honours by the bucketload? As Old King Cole put it, “Knights and dames, you are the One!”

We need something quickly to replace the feelings of elation, to exploit the legacy, to ‘maintain the momentum’, and I have the perfect suggestion: the Dog Olympics.

With Crufts Show coming up, held appropriately at Olympia, the successful trials of British canines are the perfect antidote with which to lift a sports-hungry nation off their sofas. Are we not a nation of dog-lovers? Would British dogs not vastly outperform, say, Korean challengers, if any could be found? Wrestling Pit Bull terriers; little Yorkies and Scotties chasing rats down holes; Border collies shedding sheep; Lakelands and Bedlingtons frightening burglars; a parade of Dulux dogs all painted in pastel Bathroom shades, prancing Poodles in their topiary… what a spectacular and colourful show it would be, even before our plucky trained sniffer-dogs and faster-than-a-speeding-bullet greyhounds were put through their paces, nose-to-tail with their competitors: Mexican Chihuahuas and suchlike. And to follow, orienteering for guide dogs?

I can hear the happy woofing of the medalwinners, and the cheers of the London pack, already!

Little Hunzi guards the baton at the start of the 5-metres’ beach relay race.