The BogPo asks: How doomed exactly are we? Grind them into dust! Law and Disorder. Granny Weatherwax: Bi-polar Disorder. Important message to the BBC Board.

“Someone needs to tell Trump to ‘calm down, dear’ – but I suspect he probably knows that.”

How doomed exactly are we?

Trump has only one ideological position, which is: the Don + money + unconditional regard = good. Everything else = sad. Fake nooze.

‘Their knees are probably shot…’ Kim’s toy army on parade. (The Telegraph)

It’s no use appealing to the view that Trump has any political position other than clinging on to a job he must realize he is not physically or mentally fit to do (he has never had a job before, in the sense that the only employer he has known is Donald J Trump). He used to be a socially liberal Democrat, his rightwing posturing is purely expedient.

He has had to resort to consorting with some very dubious people and adopting some very crude methods to battle his way past his own severe limitations and gross appetites, yet at 71 he remains deeply in debt and under several potentially criminal investigations from which only his position and ability to divert party funds to pay a legal team are protecting him, to an extent he perhaps has not realized is quite limited.

The people around him are the danger, half of them are corrupt, cynical and/or merely incompetent and the other half are well-funded white supremacist Christian ideologues looking forward to the End Times. Bizarrely they’re being kept in check by a triad of military ‘hawks’ who nevertheless appear to be the only rational people in the building.

He also appears from his random actions, incoherent utterances (when off-script) and apparently self-delusory beliefs to be suffering in the early stages of dementia and really needs help.

Constant hammering by his critics may be making his behavior more, not less extreme: his latter protestations of huge success in office and great popular approval fly in the face of the facts and are indicative of a profound and growing insecurity against which he may react by doing something really stupid. That, or he has a ghostly sense of humor.

Observe his self-protecting body language as he spoke of ‘fire and fury’, arms tightly folded, shoulders hunched, eye movements indicative of growing desperation, seeking out an autocue device with some Bannonite text that wasn’t there to help bim.

That said, North Korea does not possess an invasion fleet, only a toy army that looks impressively drilled on the parade ground but appears to be equipped with old Russian technology and AK-47 rifles; that exaggerated marching style means their knees are probably shot; nor enough nuclear capacity to sustain a war beyond one brief and probably ineffectual exchange.

There have been intel reports before that they’ve succeeded in weaponizing their rockets, which turned out to be fake news.

They are not talking about a strike on Guam, only a display of unarmed synchronized rocketry promising splashdown  ‘near’ Guam. Kim is neither mad nor stupid enough to attack America for real, his bellicosity is mainly for domestic consumption, that has not changed. Someone needs to tell Trump to ‘calm down, dear’ – but I suspect he probably knows that.

We must believe that he is hoping, however riskily, that Kim will recognise the game he is playing, that two predictably ‘unpredictable’ leaders with authoritarian tendencies can play at it, and calm down himself.

Let’s hope, anyway.

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Grind them into dust!

A former aide to Brexit negotiations supremo David Davis has finally cracked and blown the gaff on the whole sorry saga, calling it ‘a catastrophe’ and urging that Boris Johnson and the other plotters should be gaoled for lying to the British people.

Is he looking at charges?

James Chapman went deliciously crazy today, firing off a seemingly endless series of tweets aimed at hapless ministers who have tried to express some collective optimism in the unfolding disaster, demanding to know if, for instance, UK airlines are going to be able to fly next year without a new Open Skies agreement in place – negotiations haven’t yet started – and claiming thousands of Brexit supporters will be badly hit by new customs regulations and port infrastructure that could cost them their homes, and by any delay for cancer patients in negotiating continuing arrangements with Euratom over the importation of radiotherapy isotopes.

According to The Guardian:

“The rush of tweets over the course of many hours infuriated a number of Brexit supporters, including Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, who asked which side Chapman was ‘really working for in the Brexit department’. As the row played out on Twitter, Michael Heaver, a former aide to Farage, said Chapman’s words were ‘lots of tweeting and not much action’ and suggested it was a sign remainers are ‘losing it’.

In response, Chapman replied to Farage and Heaver saying he intended to “grind you and your appalling party into the dust”.

Reports that Chapman plans next to invade the White House have been denied….

Loving it! LOL

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Law and Disorder

“We live in the information age. Anonymity is almost impossible to maintain.”

Probation officers have found a juvenile offender on parole to have been ‘in possession’ of a knife at his home. Although there was ‘no suggestion’ he had used it for any criminal purpose, the ‘disturbed’ 18-year-old is now back in custody, from which he had only recently been released after serving six years of an indefinite youth custody sentence, undergoing reassessment.

He and his older brother were originally convicted in 2010 of kidnapping and torturing two 10-year-olds in a ravine near their estate home in an impoverished former mining village in Yorkshire, where they were in the foster care of an elderly couple who couldn’t cope with them. The details of the abuse were pretty horrific, so the boys, then only 10 and 12, were granted exceptional immunity and given new identities on release, in an echo of the James Bulger murder case in the 1980s.

These orders have a way of rebounding on the courts. The supposedly protected 10- and 11 year-old kidnappers, torturers and killers of two year-old James were eventually outed as Robert Thompson and John Venables, the youngest convicted murderers in modern English history. After serving a fairly long sentence in juvenile custody, Venables – the more biddable of the two – was later returned to prison in 2011 after being found with child pornography on his computer. Both are now out, Thompson for many years, and have again been given new identities.

That sequence of events did not please the tabloid press.

Known universally as ‘Devil Boy’, the younger of the two Yorkshire torturers is now the subject of a barrage of insane outrage online from the usual baying mob whipped up by the tabloid press about the £1/2 million cost and politically correct madness of the judge granting the two children anonymity in the first place, although it is exceptional to identify defendants in juvenile cases.

Their unhappiness with the justice system is to miss the obvious point that if the court allows the younger brother to be named, because he is now an adult and supposedly a reoffender, on however minor a parole violation, the older brother who has a right to anonymity will also be ‘outed’ and both their lives made a permanent hell, because they have THE SAME NAME.

There are those who will argue they deserve it, there always are; although damaged young children from abusive backgrounds of deprivation and poverty, who had already been in trouble with the police, can equally be said to have a diminished sense of responsibility and lack of empathy and deserve the chance of rehabilitation, given the right psychological and social support.

Of course, that’s never good enough for the enthusiastic hangers and floggers who can’t find it in their hearts to pity anyone but themselves, even children.

In some countries, the age of criminal responsibility is as young as 7, in others it may range up to 18 or more. Britain follows most in setting the age at 10, which in the opinion of the BogPo is barbaric enough, given that we used to hang children of that age for stealing more than five shillings.

A website calling itself ‘Bizarrepedia’ however raises a serious point about the granting of anonymity to child convicts on their  eventual release from custody.

We live in the information age. Anonymity is almost impossible to maintain. The rebarbative armchair vigilante brigade that immediately sets out to try to unmask and persecute even supposedly rehabilitated child offenders has more than once identified the wrong target:

“Scott Bradley was regularly verbally abused after a hate mob falsely identified him as Robert Thompson. He took his own life. In his suicide letter, he wrote: ‘They called me all sorts – a paedophile, a follower of young girls, walking around bullying old people. The list is endless’.”

So pernicious is the bloodthirsty British instinct for revenge to be exacted in all cases, that the website goes on to blame Thompson and Venables themselves for ‘killing’ Bradley, by accepting court protection and thus rousing the finest instincts of the existentially disappointed thugs, bullies and prurient, self-righteous authoritarians who make up the hate community. One suspects many of them are probably child abusers themselves.

All editorial caution goes out of the window in these cases. According to The Sun, the boy ‘tricked’ his way out of prison by conning the parole board into imagining that he was on the path of rehabilitation. They know that for a fact, do they? But of course, because he has reoffended, sort of. He owns a knife, that he hasn’t committed a crime with – no smoke without fire, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, eh? I don’t know, these Devil Boys. Gotta keep roasting ’em for all Eternity.

It is still possible to imagine that the young man has not been receiving the full support of the probation service and feels threatened and vulnerable. Possible for those, that is, who have a different sort of imagination not rooted in the fifteenth century, when devils, ghosts, witches and boggarts roamed the land, putting the evil eye on people’s prize marrows, hunted by gangs of credulous village baboons armed with pitchforks and torches, urged on by the Witchfinder General, Mr Murdoch.

Ref: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2009/sep/03/doncaster-torture-case-brothers

10% – The amount by which the Government has secretly increased the fixed annual payments to private, mostly US companies involved in running Britain’s failing probation service (£277 million) in order to try to get them to fulfil the terms of their contracts. (Story: Private Eye #1450)

 

Granny Weatherwax: Bi-polar Disorder

Ottawa University climatologist, Prof Paul Beckwith reports, satellite images show there’s a wildfire burning in Greenland; it’s raining in both polar regions where it’s only supposed to snow. Arctic temperature anomaly is up to 8C and while the extent is broadly similar to the lowest ever recorded, in 2012, there’s almost no sea ice left anywhere more than 2 metres thick, otherwise it’s mostly thin stuff breaking up and floating away.

The jetstreams he reported for July 20th as having broken in pieces and crossed over the equator into both northern and southern hemispheres for the first time, mixing together. Sections are dragging contra-rotating air masses around, the southern parts have been broadening out in the hemisphere, weakening, and now fill 95% of the southern sky when at this time in winter it ought to be tightly focussed in a narrow high-speed band around the pole.

Unfortunately the video terminated abruptly at that point so I have no idea what it portends. Whatever it is, it doesn’t look good.

Sierra Leone: Hundreds of people are feared dead and others trapped in their homes after a mudslide near the capital, Freetown. A hillside in the Regent area collapsed early on Monday following heavy rains, leaving many houses completely covered in mud. (14 Aug.)

Arctic: Sea ice ‘gone’ by mid-September? “On average, surface temperatures over the Arctic Ocean have been more than 2.5°C (or 4.5°F) warmer than in 1981-2010. The warmer air is now also melting the sea ice from above, as temperatures over the Arctic have risen to well above the freezing point.”

Greenland: ‘unprecedented’ wildfire burning since 31 July, 3000 acres destroyed (no firefighting available). Australian firefighters arriving in Canada to help with 28 new wildfires in British Columbia adding to the 100 already burning – some rain may arrive shortly to help, but not enough.

Russia: powerful storm brings flash flooding to Vladivostock, most easterly city in Europe and home of the Russian Pacific Fleet. Roads and bridges washed away. A 2000 km-long plume of smoke from wildfires over Siberia centred around the city of Krasnoyarsk can be seen from space.

Mexico: city of Campeche, Yucatan hit by Tropical Storm Franklin, with widespread flash flooding. Other parts flooded; Moncova, Cloahuila, Nuevo Leon. Heatwave affecting Hermosillo, NW Mexico, expected to peak at 44C, 111F on Friday.

24 hours in Tulsa. Tornado damage. (D. Mail)

USA: unseasonal ‘freak’ tornado injures 30, damages houses, shops and cars in Tulsa, Oklahoma. City pounded by powerful storm, 130 mph wind, localized flooding. Power out. Weather service taken completely by surprise.

USA: Kansas City: 8 inches of rain overnight brings more flooding to the city. 6in rain falls on Houston, Texas in 6 hours. Dallas, Texas on flood alert. New Orleans floods starting to abate. Tornado in Maryland blows cars away – again no warning.

Italy: Alpine ski resorts melting out under a layer of soot from fires, glaciers vanishing rapidly. Five dead in violent storms following 130F heatwave. More amazing scenes as rivers of ice flow through Cortina’s streets from massive hailstones the size of hens’ eggs. Temperatures locally in south achieve 55C, 131F.

Austria: clearing up after flash floods in the mountains. Flash floods in Switzerland.

Spain: Drought. Towns in Andalucia and rural villages running out of drinking water, reservoirs at historic lows, intermittent mains water interruptions reported. A powerful storm with many lightning strikes floods the town of Denia, on the Costa Blanca. Violent storm over Ibiza brings torrential rain, property damage. New fires are raging through central Portugal.

UK: heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire as the Met Office warns of further rainfall. A huge bulk grain carrier has departed for Spain with 70,000 tons of barley on board to feed cattle starved of grazing by the drought.

Japan: Typhoon Noru hits mainland, dumps 500mm rain, flooding, ‘tens of thousands’ evacuated. Storm reported to be weakening over land as it approaches Tokyo.

China: As if the earthquake in Sichuan was not enough (death toll 25 and counting, 45 seriously injured, 85,000 evacuated) a flash flood and landslide carries away part of a village in Puge county. 25 people are missing, 71 homes destroyed. Heilongjian province, northeast China, the city of Harbin floods after torrential rain.

S Korea: deaths from heatstroke reported among the elderly. 37C – plus (100F) heatwave continues into fourth week. 2.7 million chickens and other livestock have died due to the extreme conditions. Korean TV reports, annual average temperature has increased 1.8C in the past 100 years, 0.8C in the past 30 years – and accelerating fast. Hospital admissions with heatstroke have doubled in the past five years.

India: new flooding in Assam, 65,000 evacuated.

“Dozens of elephants and rafts have been deployed to rescue nearly 500 people trapped by floods in a popular resort in southern Nepal, officials say. Several hotels in Sauraha, in Chitwan district, have been inundated, trapping the tourists, many of them foreigners. The floods and landslides caused by torrential rains have killed at least 49 people across the country. … Meanwhile, in neighbouring India, 45 people were killed when a massive landslide swept two packed passenger buses off a hillside into a deep gorge.” – BBC News, 13 Aug.

Iraq: building workers given the day off owing to extreme heat.

Commenting to Climate and Extreme Weather News, ‘CA Lund’ makes all the points the BogPo has been trying to make these past few months: it’s real, it’s ongoing and it’s very likely unstoppable.

“All the evidence a rational person needs is right in front of us, and it’s not even that the climate is changing, it’s that the climate has changed. It’s flipping into chaos.”

Thank you, CA. Where are the ‘rational’ people, I wonder?

Climate and Extreme Weather News #52, 53/ BBC Weather/ Arctic News/ Il Globo

  • Yellowstone update: 53 earthquakes up to M2.9  recorded in the bubbly 60 km-wide caldera on Wednesday 9 August. New magma is thought to be flooding the upper chamber.

 

The BogPo writes, on the subject of context:

One of the problems of researching these extreme weather reports is the lack of date information on many websites. We name The Telegraph as one egregious offender. Years-old reports come up on search even when you key-in 2017 and it takes time to verify the dates. But WE DO TRY!

Local media around the world seem reluctant to put off tourists by admitting to extreme weather events on their patch. Weather bureaux seem not to want to acknowledge that there is a wider problem than just forecasting tomorrow’s weather. US TV stations in particular seem taken by surprise that there may have been an extreme weather event locally, when similar outrages are happening everywhere across the USA and the world!

News media almost invariably report stories without reference to any extreme weather that may be going on behind the camera, while news analysis seldom makes mention of extreme weather events as part of the geopolitical strategic context: for instance, the crisis in Korea is playing out against the background of an extreme and tenacious heatwave in the south, while there have been floods in the north. It is hard to see, too, how the weather events we are reporting on weekly are not having an effect on national economies.

You can rely on the BogPo to do it for them.

Grrr.

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An important message to the BBC Executive Board

Let’s say you have an individual, a tenured professor of cosmology with two PhDs from a venerable Russell Group university, who has spent nine years in fulltime higher education specializing in his field and twenty years doing field research, teaching, reading and publishing peer-reviewed papers, a well-respected knight of the realm and director of a cosmological institute who has worldwide access to research teams and all the latest scientific equipment.

He is invited onto a national flagship morning news programme to give his ‘scientific opinion’ that the moon is a lump of rock whizzing around the earth; a fact that was verified fifty years earlier after some other scientists actually went there to look.

In the interests of fairness, which is mandated in the charter under which you operate as an independent corporation with tax-raising powers, an hour later you introduce an elderly former politician and discredited Chicago school economist, a professional controversialist in the pay of a moon-mining corporation, to give a ‘balancing opinion’ that the moon is in fact made of green cheese. It is hollow, he solemnly assures the audience, and flying saucers live inside it.

He has no knowledge whatsoever of practical cosmology, other than to maintain that the sun revolves around the earth – but that doesn’t matter, because it’s what we observe every day when it comes up over the rim of the flat disc we live on and is obvious, innit?

As the interlocutor, given that your guests refuse to debate one another head to head, you have to present a set of questions to each interviewee as if coming from the opposite camp. That’s what is known as editorial impartiality. You are not supposed to favour either point of view, and must treat both impartially as a matter of conjecture, fit for debate; even though one thesis is patently, utterly absurd and the other is fully and firmly established, although it is true that scientists have not yet physically travelled inside the moon to ascertain who might be living there, and cannot therefore be certain whether the Selenites’ scales are red or green, or whether they might instead be covered with feathers and speak Mayan.

And just as it’s getting interesting, sorry, okay, that’s enough, we need to go to the weather… Your audience is left in a state of mental paralysis. The two opposing points of view cannot both be true, yet the hallowed broadcaster, famed for its impartiality, has given precisely calibrated equal weight to both as if they are true. Job done.

Only it’s not. Former Director-Geeral, John Birt and journalist Peter Jay spoke of the ‘bias against understanding’, that results from the pursuit such arbitrary fairy-stories as ‘balance’. In this case, two-plus-two equals zero.

Judging by President Trump’s polling figures, it seems to be a general principle that 66% – two-thirds of the people – will always be inclined to accept that there is at least a 51% probability that the experts might be right; and one-third, 34%, who distrust experts. profoundly.

Experts who talk down to us ordinary people, who’ve been deprived by economic disadvantage of the opportunity to learn even to spell our own names, who have never read an actual book; so that we CHOOSE to believe any old bollocks that makes us feel better, as we cheerfully slice the tops off our boiled eggs poisoned with pesticide, knowing more about real life than some posh elite (ignoring that the proponent of the hollow moon theory is even more of a posh git from the Establishment than the professor, who hails from a modest lower-middle-class estate in Dundee).

What we think is more important than what you know.

That, unfortunately, is the situation we have with ‘climate change’ – an over-polite phrase meaning all-hell is being let loose over much of the planet even as you read this, thanks in large measure to our childlike habit of expecting lights to come on at our bidding.

So here’s a message for the politicians and industrialists who like to scream blue murder whenever the BBC shows the slightest sign of accepting a consensus view about anything; and a message for BBC editors trapped in the dangerous quicksands of ‘impartial balance’:

  1. THAT THE EARTH'S CLIMATE IS WARMING DANGEROUSLY IS NO LONGER A MATTER FOR DEBATE.
  2. IT HAS NOT BEEN A MATTER OF DEBATE FOR AT LEAST THE PAST FORTY YEARS DURING WHICH GOVERNMENTS COULD HAVE ACTED TO SLOW OR STOP IT BUT DID NOTHING UNTIL IT WAS TOO LATE.
  3. THE TARGETS SET BY THE KYOTO PROTOCOL AND PARIS ACCORD ARE INADEQUATE. THEY DO NOT CONSTITUTE SUFFICIENT ACTION TO PREVENT IMMINENT DISASTER WITHIN A GENERATION.
  4. THEY DO HOWEVER SUGGEST THAT WORLD GOVERNMENTS WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HAVE ACCEPTED, HOWEVER RELUCTANTLY, THAT THERE IS NO LONGER A DEBATE TO BE HAD. (YOU SHOULD TOO.)
  5. IT HAS NOW BECOME AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS FACING ALL OF HUMANITY AND INDEED MOST OTHER LIFE ON EARTH. OUR FAILURE TO ACT IS THE ULTIMATE CRIME, THAT OF PLANETARY ECOCIDE.
  6. THE SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING TODAY'S INCREASINGLY EXTREME AND ECONOMICALLY DEVASTATING HEATWAVES, STORMS, FLOODS, DROUGHTS AND WILDFIRES HAVE BEEN KNOWN FOR MORE THAN A HUNDRED YEARS.
  7. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LYING TO US ABOUT THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION AND ITS CAUSE, WHICH HAS BEEN IN THEIR POWER FOR DECADES TO AMELIORATE, THE BURNING OF ANCIENT FOSSIL FUEL DEPOSITS AS A SOURCE OF ENERGY, KNOW PERFECTLY WELL THERE IS A PROBLEM.
  8. AS CORPORATIONS IN THE BUSINESS OF EXTRACTING AND BURNING FOSSIL FUELS, THEY HAVE A MISPLACED LEGAL DUTY TO MAXIMISE PROFITS FOR THEIR SHAREHOLDERS.
  9.  THEY ARE THEREFORE UNABLE TO ACT IN ANYONE'S BEST INTERESTS, OTHER THAN TO KEEP LYING; A POLICY ON WHICH THEY HAVE SPENT OVER A BILLION DOLLARS IN THE PAST 30 YEARS PAYING AGENTS TO SOW DOUBT AND CONFUSION IN THE PUBLIC MIND.
  10. THE CONTINUED UNINFORMED PRESENTATION IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA OF THE ISSUE STILL AS A MATTER FOR 'BALANCED' DEBATE - CREATING RESISTANCE TO AMELIORATIVE ACTION - IS CRIMINALLY AIDING AND ABETTING THE COMMISSION OF A PLANETARY ECOCIDE.

HAVE YOU UNDERSTOOD THAT, BBC?

Perhaps you would therefore explain to that tendentious old humbug, Humphrys, that the stupid and uneducated point he put to Al Gore about natural fluctuations in the global climatic average over time has already been discounted in calculating human impact, is a typical red herring promoted by the denial lobby and has no material relevance in the argument about the causes and consequences of a runaway warming earth.

When will you start taking this issue seriously and stop pussyfooting around it?

Thank you.

 

The Boglington Post: Wimbledon: Enough. Who? Your filter-bubbles will not protect you. A not-unattractive moustache on the face of a woman..

Enough.

I’m watching the emotional breakdown of a fiercesomely black-bearded man of 28, 6’6″ in height, who looks like he might be losing a game of tennis barely before it has begun.

Former US Open winner, Marin Cilic is sitting on the sideline of the packed Centre Court at Wimbledon in tears, at three games and a set down after only half an hour, in the second set of the men’s final against the Swiss master, Roger Federer – at 35 an older man whom he has beaten in matches before, but who on this occasion will not allow his record eighth victory here to be denied.

You’d think seven would be enough for anyone.

Cilic is a brilliant, agile, powerful player with a deadly accurate 130 mph serve, but after two weeks of battering five-set tennis against players of his own stature in the crucible of the Centre Court he bears the entire weight of expectation of the people of Croatia, his impoverished Balkan homeland, and there is little he appears to be able to get right in this, his first Wimbledon final, against a player uplifted by his delirious corps of fans, who has run through his opponents so far without losing a set.

That Cilic will take home £1.1 million as the losing finalist means nothing compared with his national pride.

We have seen too many players recently who are being emotionally destroyed by the pressures of this demanding singles game. That includes our own darling of the Centre Court, the driven Andy Murray, who disintegrated in front of our eyes on winning his Olympic gold medal in Rio against the huge-serving Argentinian, Juan Del Potro; and dissolved again on winning last year at Wimbledon against the Canadian child-mountain, Raonic.

The half-witted commentators are at a loss to explain Cilic’s emotional state, speculating for several minutes that he must have sustained some injury.

He has. Blisters on his enormous feet, huge toes sculpted by Michelangelo, are being attended to by the tournament doctor, who seems to be more concerned about his client’s emotional state. Injury is the best explanation the pundits in their box can manage, as the honour of the game must be beyond question.

Scenting blood, on goes Federer, his almost miraculous groundstrokes bludgeoning and whipping and passing and outsmarting his wounded bear of an opponent, a giant being steadily dismembered by the Swiss’ alchemical skills. Each 3-minute average-length game he wins brings him another £122,000.

It is more than I can watch, which is why I’m writing this instead. I feel guilty being a part of it.

And now the Wimbledon crowd has swung behind the tall Croatian, urging him on. Not because they want him to win. They just want him to win a set or two so they can admire their hero a while longer. They want their money’s worth. They love an underdog.

Too much money, too many physical demands as the men’s game especially nears the margins of human endurance, too much expectation ladled over the players by an insatiable media and its complicit commentators; too much pressure, too many matches….

Federer wins in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. And now he too is dissolving in tears at the courtside, as his wife displays their beautiful blond children to the admiring crowd….

Enough.

(Presumably to rub it in, apart from the money second prize is a crappy little silver platter that looks like something off your auntie’s sideboard. First prize is a rather spiffing, 18-in high, elaborately decorated gold cup he’ll need to get insured.)

 

Who?

Immediately after the tennis the BBC runs a curiously low-budget and unimaginatively plotted 60″ trailer, revealing the ‘identity’ of the eponym who will play the part of Dr Who, at least for a one-off special next Christmas.

Horror upon horrors, the hooded figure of the 13th Imam turns round to reveal a female of the species.

Worse, I’ve never ‘eard of ‘er. It’s political correctness gone mad… Why, we’ve only just got rid of the Doctor’s black lesbian assistant, ‘Bill Potts’, and now this!

And out pour the dumbfuck Who ‘fans’ from their darkened, fetid rooms in force, intergalactic trolls with their misogynistic tweets and farts, like it’s the end of civilization as they never really knew it.

Er, guys… actually, my real GP is a woman! Worse, she’s a German woman (Sorry, I don’t do Twitter)….

Worst of all is the Daily Express, a pathetic snivel of a snotrag at the best of times, owned by a millionaire pornographer and read by 71-year-old Brexit voters, undereducated nostalgic empire-loyalists on caravanning holidays, that has published a picture of the actor Jodie Whittaker ALMOST IN THE NUDE.

The Broadchurch favourite, who is set to replace Peter Capaldi as the BBC Time Lord, left nothing to the imagination back in 2006 movie, Venus. The 35-year-old played Jessie in the comedy-drama, in which she starred alongside the likes of Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips and Vanessa Redgrave. Jodie bared her breasts and pert bottom in raunchy scenes as her character flashed elderly actor, Maurice Russell (O’Toole).

The ‘story’ doesn’t mention that ‘the likes of’ O’Toole, Phillips and Redgrave, immensely respected thesps, were GERIATRICS even then. And it was a COMEDY. And NOBODY REMEMBERS IT. Actors need to WORK so they can get PAID, just like the intellectual molluscs of the tabloid press, and they have to do what the DIRECTORS TELL THEM, they don’t fucking make it up as they go along, they don’t bare their ‘pert bottoms’ (only some howling cretin with a hairy arse and prolapsed piles writes shit like that) because they’re morally degenerate, like the editor of the Daily fucking Express.

These soi-disants ‘journalists’ are sick in the head. Almost as mad are the feministas from The Guardian, rushing into print to hail the first female Time Lord in the history of a patriarchal, male-dominated Universe without stopping to note that the character of ‘Missy’, brilliantly played by the barking Michelle Gomez, is also a Time Lord and the feminine avatar of The Master.

No, if I have a moan it is that Ms Whittaker does not come across as a quirky enough personality. I have no problem with a female Dr Who, or anyone anywhere else on the gender spectrum, but the character really demands an eccentric: larger-than-life, grounded in unpredictability. Not just a conventionally attractive and competent actor who has proved that she can spread herself adequately across a range of earthly roles but would not, perhaps, thrill and charm and irritate the viewer in a kickass caper across time and space.

My vote would have been for the thoughtful but flamboyant transvestite ceramicist, Grayson Perry. After Capaldi’s angst-ridden and tired old intergalactic gunslinger who has run out of magic bullets, a creative Couture Who would make a refreshing change.

x

“Less than a fifth of Americans are aware that extreme hunger threatens the lives of 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, yet the overwhelming majority regard it as the most pressing global issue once they have been told, a poll of US voters has revealed.” – The Guardian, 13 July

Your filter-bubbles will not protect you

The Pumpkin reported recently on a US poll revealing that 38% had no idea that Senator McConnell’s American Healthcare Act (AHCA) – also known as Trumpcare – is expected to remove health insurance cover from 32 million poorer Americans over the next ten years, to force premiums up to insupportable levels for those with pre-existing conditions, and to result in $800 billion defunding of the basic Medicare program that covers everyone for things like maternity and care home services.

You’d think they’d take an interest, but most seem happy to rely on Mr Trump’s assurances on the campaign trail that he will look after their interests with a ‘great big, beautiful plan, it’ll be so easy’ and that it is perfectly safe for him to tear up Barack Obama’s detestable, failing Affordable Healthcare Act because he has something much better in mind.

Middle-America votes. But where’s his healthcare now, eh? The silly old dumbfuck.

He doesn’t. There never was a plan. It was another Trump lie. And still the dumbfucks worship at his dainty, well-shod hooves.

When told about it directly, people express shock and opposition: the AHCA (it’s now got another set of initials, I lose track) has, supposedly, just a 12% approval rating. The leech-like Sen. McConnell has had to extend the Congressional term two weeks into the annual recess just to try to get it done, in the face of growing opposition even from Republican senators who have actually gotten around to reading it. Mr Trump has said he will be ‘very angry’ if it isn’t passed soon.

But then he is already very angry about everything and is said when not off playing golf to be doing little else but sit in the Oval Office, screaming abuse at the TV sets.

It is possible to draw only one conclusion from this story, that people are no longer actively interested in what happens outside of their headphones or their social media ‘filter bubbles’, that almost certainly don’t include any seriously life-threatening information they might need to know.

Which gives one little hope that they can go further, to understand that it’s the politicians they vote for who are behind these damaging actions, not the Muslims or the Mexicans, nor Volkswagen, and have an agenda that does not include the ordinary citizen; that major vested corporate interests are behind them*.

For instance, the ‘millennials’ so horrified to discover that vast numbers of people around the world are on the verge of dying for lack of food and water perhaps would also like to know that under the so-far undebated Trump budget, the US government is proposing massive funding cuts to UN relief programs in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest 1%, but I don’t suppose it’s even crossed their self-absorbed radar.

Climate disruption is another issue that really isn’t out there among the majority of people.

A recent article in the New York Magazine by David Wallace-Wells, entitled ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, has caused consternation and unleashed a tsunami of outraged denial about climate science, which is ironic considering the article is about just that: our desperate wish to push back against the issue of our imminent extinction as a species if we cannot break our addiction to burning fossil fuels now.

In a summary of the real scientific consensus on the effects of global warming, that we don’t normally get in mainstream media, Wallace-Wells has interviewed dozens of actual scientists to get a relatively modest overview and to write it up unemotionally in a way normal people can understand.

That would account for the torrent of scorn and opprobrium that has greeted the article from the familiar ranks of denialists, the usual suspects complaining that it is not sufficiently ‘scientific’ (irony abounds) to make its point.

Wallace-Wells explains to ordinary readers in plain English that real scientists have been too frightened of creating a panic or of just not being believed if they said how bad things are really getting, of being seen as too extreme, to tell people the unvarnished truth, that we and our innocent co-evolutes on the planet are heading for catastrophe: mass extinction within decades or maybe only a few years.

The article is being hailed as the first ever to try to bring together the various strands of thinking on the issue in order to present them to the lay reader in a popular medium; which is, of course, a bit of marketing hyperbole by the NYMag. Articles, books and YouTube videos abound on the subject. Nothing Wallace-Wells writes comes as any surprise to the Editor of this blog. The information is all out there if you care to look.

Most people don’t.

As of course is the ‘balancing’ view, in the form of articles online and in the rightwing press dependent on corporate advertising, from well funded denialists saying it’s all a big fuss about nothing. It’s marketable contrarianism, dangerously so.

For it appears from the huge response the story has been getting that the mass of ordinary people really have no idea of how serious the situation is; of how many of the natural systems we rely on are already at the point of collapse. Although it is probably obvious to the millions affected by annual droughts and flooding on an unprecedented scale.

The Boglington Post has been reporting the story for some time now, that a growing number of scientists are warning we are passing irreversible ‘tipping points’ in self-reinforcing feedbacks that could create more abrupt disruption to world weather patterns than was previously expected. The release of a possible 1.6 Gt of stored Arctic methane from melting permafrost is but one feedback among many. The signs are all there: a second successive year of record floods and droughts all around the globe, of polluting NOx and ozone smogs, is surely visible to all but the most obdurate denialists.

Wallace-Wells writes, too, that food production will be severely disrupted by increasing droughts alternating with more severe floods and more powerful storms. Well, there go your 20 million Africans. It’s not just about rising sea levels or any single event, a 200 kph hurricane here, fifty tornadoes in one wild Georgia weekend there, but a combination of events. Increasing wave heights because of stronger winds, for instance, are helping to break-up the Arctic sea ice faster. More blue water absorbs more heat, increasing transpiration.

It ought to be snowing in the Arctic now – in actual fact, it’s raining. Warmer seas make for a wetter climate, leading to heavier rainfall and more powerful storms. The normally reliable jetstreams have broken down, allowing anomalous weather conditions to develop anywhere. Thus, last winter we had snow in the Libyan Sahara.

And from Svalbard, Norway’s northernmost permanently inhabited settlement:

“The average temperature for the year was minus 0.1 degrees Celsius, or 6.5 degrees Celsius above normal, according to Bernt Lie, a weather statistician…. In addition, a record 310 millimeters of precipitation fell during the year, 63.2 percent more than normal and soundly topping the previous record of 267.9 millimeters in 2012.

“In July, October and November there was record heat,” he wrote. Temperatures at Svalbard Airport in December were 7.4 degrees Celsius above normal, the 73rd straight month of above average temperatures… Lie, in his summary of Longyearbyen’s weather statistics for 2016, called the trend here a “frightening development.” – Icepeople.net

Even so, the Icepeople website editor headlined the story as if nothing was amiss: “Frighteningly ordinary: Record high temperatures in 2016 nothing new for Longyearbyen or Earth.”

What would you think is meant by the word “record”? Oh, it’s been another boring old record every year for the past six years…. Nothing new, then. That Inuit sense of humor.

This year, extreme temperatures in many countries combined with increasing humidity have brought it home that human physiology cannot cope beyond a certain point, and that point is being reached more often and earlier every year. In Pakistan, in Iran, in Kuwait and California the mercury has topped 120 deg. F. , and it’s not yet the height of summer. The human body cannot cool itself through sweating at those temperatures, with 96% humidity. Your skin chokes you to death.

People are undoubtedly dying. A 100-deg. plus (42 C.) heatwave is in its third week in the south-western United States at the time of writing, floods are devastating large parts of Asia (2’6″ of rain fell on Japan’s Kyushu island in just nine hours last week) and many barely controllable wildfires are contributing to the CO2 burden in the atmosphere; more so in fact than our industrial emissions, which thanks to controls and an economic slowdown have not increased in the last three years. (Worryingly, the global economy is picking up again.)

Whatever the professional denialists in the pay of the energy industries will try to tell you, this is not normal!

The standfirst to this piece, for instance, indicates that climate change is almost certainly worsening the food supply problem for those 20 million Africans and people of the Arabian peninsula. Many of them have or will become climate refugees and die in the desert or drown in the Mediterranean.

Those of us lucky enough to live in more temperate latitudes have no way of coping with the scale of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the equatorial regions, other than through denial.

But this shit is coming for us all, so you’d better look it up and be ready.

Your filter-bubbles will not protect you!

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

*An article by George Monbiot in today’s Guardian investigates a new book by Nancy McClean: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. The plot by alt-right billionaires to overthrow democracy was first laid out by a Nobel prizewinning economist and crazed free-market advocate, James McGill Buchanan, in the 1960s. Everything he recommended is now happening, Monbiot realizes, with a shock of recognition – and not only in the USA.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/19/despot-disguise-democracy-james-mcgill-buchanan-totalitarian-capitalism

x

Granny Weatherwax, 15 July:

  • Canada: number of wildfires in Williams Lake area of British Ciolumbia ‘drops below 200’ but more hot windy weather is forecast. Considerable devastation has been caused, small towns entirely destroyed. Evacuation centres for 14,000 opened across the state.
  • Arctic: temperatures recorded at two locations on 11 July over Canada’s Mackenzie River, one of 32.6°C or 90.8°F at the mouth of the river and another one of 34.7°C or 94.5°F further inland. Surface temperature of water pushed up by increasing windspeeds through the Bering Strait into the Arctic ocean recorded at 10C, 50F. Little sea ice left, being pounded by rain.
  • 65 major wildfires burning across 11 US states. California worst hit: many homes burned, residents evacuated in Santa Barbara. Wildfires in Nevada caused CO2 to reach concentration levels as high as 742 ppm on July 12.
  • Huge storms bring flash flooding and record river rise to the eastern USA – state of emergency declared in Wisconsin. New York State, DC, New Jersey, Massachusetts affected. More forecast. 14 July, major storm in west, parts of Arizona under water.
  • Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – 15 July, city underwater.
  • Major flooding continues to affect very large area of NE India. Up to 40 million ‘marooned’, 85 dead, 1.7m evacuated in Assam. Refugee camps being set up. Still raining – heavy storms over Arunachal, 4 dead in Gujarat. 650,000 affected in Bangladesh.
  • Flash floods and landslides in Tibet – buildings washed away, many evacuated. 42 deg. C.-plus heatwave across China following weeks of flooding (93 cm more rain falls on Hunan province in the week). 16 July, 36 dead in devastating floods in Jilin city. A violent thunderstorm batters the city of Chengdu, Sichuan. Much damage.
  • Typhoon Talas is heading for Taiwan at 12 mph. after pounding N Vietnam. 42 deg. C. heatwave in S Korea turns to deadly flooding. Cheongju city, s. of Seoul, underwater.
  • Many wildfires reported in Khazakhstan. Satellite records CO2 at 747 ppm. Temperature of 53.1°C or 127.5°F in Iran for July 11.
  • Severe flooding in the Irkutsk region of Siberia after ‘endless rain’ has stranded airline passengers. Scientists warning, trans-Siberian pipeline projects could be affected by explosive methane eruptions.
  • Damaging flash floods hit Oman, Trucial States, after days of heavy rainfall in the mountains..
  • Storm floods Paris metro. S France, Spain continue to experience record heatwave. Greek tourist sites, Acropolis closed due to extreme heat, humidity.
  • Italy: wildfires ravage slopes of Mt Vesuvius, Naples; 1,ooo tourists evacuated from wildfires in Sicily, many properties destroyed. While in Calabria, Sicily – deadly ‘rain bomb’ floods the town.
  • Portugal, Alejo, more raging wildfires. Crops devastated across S Europe. Wildfires in Croatia, 34 fires reported around the capital of neighbouring Montenegro.
  • Storms flood parts of Lagos, Nigeria. 20 dead in Niger State. 40 deg. C.-plus heatwave threatening harvest in Egypt: ‘worse year on year’.
  • Coverack, Cornwall, Britain. 18 July. Flash flood follows torrential rain, hail breaks windows, sea surge cuts off road access.
  • An overnight snowstorm has hit Santiago, Chile, for the first time since 1970. A change from recent floods and wildfires.
  • Latest research shows global CO2 ‘equivalent’ – ie overall atmospheric greenhouse gas content including methane (CH4), CO, CO2, SO2, NOx – has reached 490 ppm.

(Climate and Extreme Weather News #42/Floodlist/Arctic News/Wildfire Today/Siberian Times)

Most extraordinary, is to observe from the camphone footage from around the world how people are prepared to take absurd risks driving through rising floodwaters and wildfires.

What climate change?

 

Sports News

A not unattractive moustache

I learn just now that Venus Williams is 6’1″. I am in love. She is such a sweetheart, and at 37 the perfect age. There is of course her opponent in the Wimbledon Ladies final, the aristocratic-looking Garbine Muguruza (6’0″, 23), a lovely creation for whom the word ‘lissom’ was surely invented.

If Muguruza wins, it will be because of her sense of style. She has been wearing Stella McCartney, our leading British designer and daughter of the Beatle. Everyone else is in Nike, or Adidas – or, as in Williams’ case, her family’s own-brand. Peasants.

Yet despite her perfect shoulders (I’m a bit of a shoulders man), the heavily strapped-up leg is not such a good look. This year, our leading players all appear stricken. Murray, Nadal, Djokovitch and many more have limped out in the second set or finished as losers, broken and bowed, owing to accumulated injuries. Many are match-rusty after months out of work, undergoing operations and retraining. Some should frankly not have turned up just to collect their first-round losers’ appearance fees, which are not ungenerous, bilking the crowd.

Commentators have suggested it might be due to their top-heavy match schedule. The winners of the Wimbledon finals each stand to go home with cheques for £2.2 million. My suggestion, for what it is worth, is that there is too much money in the game and that if even the top players are forced to compete week-in, week-out all over the world, even in minor suburban tournaments to maintain their ranklings and seedlings, the organizers of the flying circus might fairly be accused of greed.

The majestic progress of the greatest master of the game, ever, Roger Federer, stands out all too clearly when you consider his age, 34. He has simply swept past his younger opponents with magisterial grace and good temper. Not to mention his breathtaking skill. Miss Williams, too, at 37 to be in the final (she’s currently winning – sorry, no, she’s losing), is a wonderful example of how to be an entirely normal, yet supernaturally gifted human being.

Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Glaxy) and John Lloyd (Blackadder) wrote a silly book years ago, taking odd-sounding but real place names as the basis of funny dictionary definitions. Scrabster is a hardscrabble fishing port on the unforgiving east coast of Scotland, from whence come the finest kippers (smoked herring). It is also: ‘A not unattractive moustache on the face of a woman’.

The Spaniard, Muguruza is definitely a qualifier. And some woman! You knew she had her semifinal opponent Simona Halep beaten, when in the last two games the diminutive but fast and powerful forest-dwelling Romanian stopped making that hideous shrieking noise with which she propels the furry projectile at 90 mph towards the far baseline; and refused to play the last service return.

But the thing with true tennis champions is, one minute they’re 4-3 down in the fourth set, gasping for air and making desperate appeals to their box to send them more drugs – then before the kettle’s boiled, they’re 5-4 up with two match points in hand and serving for the £2 million cheque. It’s quite magical. Bewildering, how they do that.

Having never won anything, I’m fully qualified to remark on life’s mystery.

 

PS: ‘@StellaMcCartney’ wins, 7-6, 6-0. I feel so sorry for Williams, she is a complete sweetie who has lived under the shadow of her little sister Serena, the most successful women’s singles player of all time (some might argue for Navratilova or Court), who is off on baby-leave, yet she has won seven Grand Slam titles in her own right. At 37, this might well have been her last crack at Wimbers. Boo.

 

For the benefit of Mr High-as-a-Kite

Speaking humorously as I was there of drugs, there is a quite astonishing story in the Sport section of today’s Guardian – or is it the companion Sunday Observer? the website’s the same. It concerns a film that has been made about the ‘Russian doping master’, Grigory Rodchenkov, now in an FBI witness protection program after others considering blowing the whistle on a performance enhancement campaign apparently conceived by Mr Putin before the Sochi Olympics suffered unexpectedly massive heart attacks.

As head of the Russian equivalent, Mr Rodchenkov was trustingly shown around the UK’s anti-doping facilities before the 2012 London Olympics, and so worked out a way of cheating the system. He also devised the great wheeze of drilling a hole secretly under a table in the floor of the lab hut, disguised as a power socket, and passing clean urine samples through to an accomplice on the inside, making this the most wonderful story of opportunistic ingenuity since those RAF officers escaped from Colditz.

It’s a long and fascinating tale, which I recommend to anyone who wants to be educated in the workings of Mr Putin’s and the greater Russian mindset, especially in the light of the efforts to tamper with last year’s (and next year’s) US election. There’s too much to plagiarise for this article, so go to:

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/15/russian-doping-programme-olympics-london-2012-sochi-2014?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=235195&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Pip pip!

UB

Look out, you’re being Followed! #2

Is this the most isolated person not actually in solitary?

In line with my policy of not doing that stiff-upper-lip British thing of never admitting to anyone that you have a problem, even under torture, I’d like to tell you about my problem.

It’s a policy that sometimes pays off, in that someone gets to hear about your problem and steps in with practical help and advice.

You see, ancient as I am, I have this even more ancient mother….

We’re both grown up and can take responsibility for our own lives. Thanks to my boarding-school era, we’re friendly, not close. We’re separated geographically, and by the 32 years of my two marriages. We call one another every three months or so and I visit whenever I can find the money, the energy and an opportunity. It’s three or four times a year, anyway. Always at Christmas.

My visits are usually characterised by watching daytime TV together, cooking meals I don’t need to eat and drinking too much. Ninety-one years old, far from ‘liking a drop’ my mother is hard at it from ten in the morning, and I’m too polite not to join her. She also smokes heavily, which means that after two days I return home kippered, and the next day starts with coughing up grey phlegm.

Drinking and smoking are my mother’s pain-management regime. She takes about twenty pills a day for various conditions, but none of it helps and I remind her that my father had to do the same until one day he thought ‘fuck it!’ and threw them away and did okay for another ten years, he and his furred-up arteries lived to be 83.

My mother has conditions of the elderly. Having been an Equity card-carrying actress all her life, she used to keep herself supple like a dancer. Those exercises can come back to bite you in old age; the tendons in her feet have contracted so she has difficulty walking without support. Her spine is crumbling: she has osteoporosis, and spondylitis causing her vertebrae to compact and press painfully on her sciatic nerves. She’s a cancer survivor, although it wasn’t a bad one, and has an undefined heart condition I think of as disillusionment.

A notably beautiful woman in her day, she made films that included one cult movie after which she became a black gay icon in Brixton, not being either black or gay; did TV plays, and was a shoo-in for Lady MacB at the Old Vic, but sadly never an A-lister; possibly because at the point when success beckoned, she decided to look after me.

And still not bad. It’s a shame she can no longer visit the hairdresser; I’m not sure there is one locally anymore. Getting her hair done and looking nice is important to a woman, even at 91. But a trip to the West End and a £100 price tag have put it out of the question. So she’s had to go for that grey and witchy look.

But she’s tough-minded and independent. Okay, she tells me the same things over and again, but not because she’s losing it; her life is so circumscribed now, she doesn’t have new experiences to replace the memories. She’s sharply opinionated, and sometimes although I think I am the least politically correct animal, she will appall me with a sudden remark about someone or something she disapproves of, in ways which nowadays you’re not supposed to. It surprises both of us when she takes after her mother like that.

I’ve long known her age and mobility issues would one day become a problem that whisky and Chesterfields and old episodes of Miss Marple wouldn’t be enough to fix. That day has come, and I simply have no answers; no power or knowledge to fix anything.

Because my mother lives on her own, in a cluttered, second-floor, two-storey walk-up flat, up five flights of concrete steps she can no longer tackle unaided, in the middle of London. It’s the area where she has lived at least since I was born, around and about the borough of Kensington; until she remarried and settled where she is, over fifty years ago.

The only person she sees from week to week is a cleaner, a slightly dimwitted African lady who doesn’t clean – I find three-months-old food in the fridge – but can at least help with shopping, and bringing up the post from downstairs.My mother has to pay her £10 an hour; it’s more than I earned from editing books. And she’s not on the Internet; no Broadband, doesn’t have a laptop to keep her in touch.

Social Services seems to be aware of my mother, at least, although they’re not doing anything much about her situation. So, as I said, I don’t like to be around her too much or they might decide there’s someone taking care of business, which I’m not – I can’t at this distance – and pull back even the minimal help she gets now

Besides, I’ve lost touch with the city of my birth. After thirty-five years away I have no idea where anything is anymore. Where would you buy anything, there are no big supermarkets handy, no DIY stores – Harrod’s? Let alone solicitors, doctors, removal men, storage facilities… undertakers. I need to ask staff to help just buying an underground train ticket, I don’t have an Oyster card or even a contactless payment card!

It’s all changed.

Being close to the top people’s clubs and classy department stores, handy for the West End theatres, the royal parks and not too far from Parliament, the City and the admin buildings of Whitehall, the area went through a new gentrification – parts of it having been gentrified in the 1930s – in the 1970s; so that even the old stable-boys’ and servants’ quarters became pricey, ‘des. res.’ mews cottages and apartments. It was a villagey sort of area, I remember, where artists and writers and businessmen and politicians and people with country houses and a pad in town mixed together amicably. And there were small shops, a butcher’s on the corner. My stepfather’s sisters rented or owned several properties there. It had a familiar feel.

But long gone. Nothing compares to today, with quite ordinary – though luxuriously appointed – two-bedroom flats fetching crazy prices in the many £millions; endless redevelopment. Bought as investment commodities, those places aren’t even lived-in. The little shops I knew are gone, new ones coming and going with dizzying rapidity; pavement cafes like a street in Beirut, many Arabs sitting out enjoying their nargilehs, Arabic music blaring out late into the night.

Could anywhere as expensive look so cheap?

At night the area away from the main drag is like a ghost town. Few lights are on above basement level, and the backstreets are empty but for bored chauffeurs hanging around, lined up in their blacked-out SUVs waiting for the Kuwaiti princelings to leave the restaurants, private clubs and brothels in the early hours. Many of the little cottages have been bought by Russians; bristling with satellite dishes, there’s no-one to watch the screens.

A ‘statutory tenant’, meaning her rent is capped by the local authority, and with a tenancy for life, my mother’s landlords refused to carry out any repairs and maintenance, or even to install heating and insulation, for thirty years; until the flat deteriorated into an actual slum, with mould on the walls and in the bathroom, worn-out carpets, rainwater spurting in around the window-frames. Parts of the electricity circuit weren’t working, my mother relying on a handheld LED light to go to the bathroom at night.

Trapped in the wealthiest borough of the wealthiest city on the planet, unable to leave her flat without help, my mother has no money to change anything; and nothing changes, except the slowfast drip of time.

How come?

In 1985, my mother found some incriminating photographs in the bureau whose nature even I will not go into here, and divorced her second husband of twenty years. Although his family owned a C15th manor house with its own village, mysteriously he had no income and no assets; until she took him to the High Court and broke his family Trust fund.

She was awarded a one-off lifetime settlement. Having no idea about investment, she sought his advice (peculiarly they remained friends, he liked to be verbally abused) and was introduced to his syndicate at the world-famous insurance brokerage, Lloyd’s of London, in which my stepfather had been a sleeping financial investor, known as a Name, for many years.

Some of you may guess what’s coming.

My belief is that she was corruptly induced to become a Name. Totally ignorant of the workings of the insurance market, my mother was told, probably truthfully, that Lloyd’s syndicates had never declared a loss in the 200-year history of the company.

The fact was that while ‘Those lovely young men in red braces’, the Underwriters were serenading her over an agreeable lunch in the City, they knew that coming down the line imminently was a loss grossing $6 billion, that they were not capitalized to meet; many of the existing Names having mysteriously resigned.

Under the unique ‘three-year’ rule whereby Lloyd’s were not obliged to file accounts annually as other businesses are, they were able to hide the loss from the up-and-coming punters with a few bob earned from new soft-growth areas like the media, showbiz, advertising, design and architecture; people in my mother’s position, who were at the time being persuaded to invest their newfound wealth in Lloyd’s: a surefire vehicle offering high returns and prestigious dinners in the City.

I have bogled on this before: how for years, in my understanding, Underwriters had been bundling up and selling on to one another (‘reinsuring’) for fat commissions, loss-making policies in the US market – many of them taken out on workers in the West Virginia rustbelt mining industries who had contracted asbestosis, mesotheliomas and other occupational diseases, on whose behalf (or their surviving relatives’) the unions had been winning class actions.

And how, fearing a collapse of confidence in the City of London, despite numbering a good few Names in their own ranks, the government of the day had overruled calls for an independent inquiry, and instead allowed Lloyd’s to investigate itself, with totally predictable results. After which, the old Names returned and took up the business again of making their fortunes, oblivious to the suffering they had caused.

Many people, including my mother, were bankrupted. And when my grandmother died three years later, the principle of Unlimited Liability which Names have to accept in exchange for bigger dividends, meant that Lloyd’s took her house as well, leaving my mother destitute, clinging on to her ex-husband’s flat and with no legal redress.

Having been a Name for only 18 months, having never made an Underwriting decision in her life, having received only one small dividend payout, without the necessary capital to declare my mother had to resign, and so could not ultimately get back in the game or even claim the limited compensation available, for which you had to have remained a member. She had been fleeced of over half a million pounds, and never recovered.

Flat busted

Eventually, about six years ago the local authority housing officer stepped in and forced my mother’s landlords to make repairs. Central heating, double-glazing, properly certified electrics, everything was done cheaply and perfunctorily, in the ugliest and most practical way; really just to protect their investment in the building. The leaking roof was covered over; the roof garden my landscape-artist stepfather had made, that was causing some of the problems, removed.

Nevertheless it was done; and some security aids were added after my then 85-year-old mother, who was still working until she had a fall and broke her arm, pursued a burglar out and down into the street, yelling at the top of her considerable theatrical lungs.

And then the adjacent building was bought by developers.

For three years my mother lived with the noise, the dust and vibration, the cracks in the wall and the accidental cutting-off of her gas and TV. The hammering and drilling and pile-driving went on seven days a week as the builders dug down two floors to make a pool and a media room. The flats that eventually arose on the site were on sale for £12 to £18 million each.

Last year her landlord died, leaving the building to his children, who quickly decided to sell it. In August this year, she had a letter from a company introducing themselves as the new owners. A check on the web shows that they ‘specialise in tenanted properties and protected tenancies’; managing the rents before getting the tenants out and selling the buildings on.

The people in the flat downstairs have moved out, the owners of the commercial premises on the ground floor have been given a short, five-year lease. A defenceless 91-year-old woman has been left, stranded on her own at nights and at weekends, unable to negotiate the many stairs even to collect her post. The rent that the government is paying on her behalf is one-tenth probably of the rent the owners could be getting privately, but there’s been no offer to encourage her to leave.

I’ve made frantic enquiries about getting her out, rehousing her; she says she’s ready to go, hopefully somewhere there might be people around she can talk to, but there’s a Catch-22 in the proper sense of it.

We don’t have any money. If she is evicted, the local authority is obliged to rehouse her. They have no accommodation suitable for a 91-year-old woman with mobility issues. But she’s not being evicted, as a protected tenant she can’t legally be evicted; not while the Government is still paying her rent. So, if she were to leave of her own accord the authority is not obliged to rehouse her.

In any case, to find even a bedsit in the area, where she depends on several hospitals and her GP, would be unaffordable for the austerity-driven Department of Work and Pensions. If she does leave, she loses her rent cap. And the average rent in her borough is over £3k a month.

My own local authority is not obliged to do anything. She doesn’t live in the county, and in any case they have no accommodation available; nor do the housing associations, whose waiting lists stretch into years. Going carol-singing, I have seen some of the local accommodation for the elderly, and I’m glad of that.

My mother doesn’t need nursing, or fulltime care. She can still cook for herself, dress, bathe, put herself to bed. She’s not incontinent and does not have dementia until the fourth or the fifth Scotch of the day. Besides, they wouldn’t let her smoke.

My own tiny cottage will not suffice for both of us; I have looked at the accommodation from all angles and with steep, narrow stairs it’s not an option. A university town, private rented accommodation is at a premium, mostly infested with students and often in disgusting condition.

I sometimes find myself thinking she might not wake up tomorrow; although we wouldn’t know about it for a week or more; the cleaner doesn’t have a key, my mother doesn’t trust her with one. How paramedics would get in in an emergency, I have no idea. It takes my mother five minutes just to get from the kitchen to the door buzzer to let anyone in downstairs. The prognosis is hopeless, the problems insoluble.

What to do with all the junk, her stuff, the relentless, fifty-year accumulation of clothes and books and medicines and face-cream jars; the furniture, the unsaleable ‘antiques’? I’m no spring chicken. Who would help us get all of that out, down five flights of steps, out to the inaccessible parking, without charging a fortune; and where would it all go then?

What do people do in these family situations, your own slide into lonely old age staring you in the face? How on earth do you fix a problem like my mother?

Can it even be fixed?

 

2. A bonfire of the insanities

Does anybody else have the same thing? Like, the same weird experience all the time?

Like, when someone starts to Follow your bogl, only they are totally the most least likely of all people in the world surprisingly to agree with anything you like, write?

(I’m writing this Post in the vernacular, by the way. I figure that if I inject the word ‘like’ enough times, this, muh bogl will become virile on account of the dentistry of keywords. Right? I’m a businessman, I know words.)

So, last week, I found my bogl was being Followed by a woman who writes eloquently and poetically on the most exquisitely designed and fragrant web pages about her recovery from anorexia, which she attributes to the loving agency of Jesus.

(If you’re Following this, by the way, you may want to skip a day.)

Odd to find her here, as I’d just Published an excoriatingly anti-religious piece about the filthy murder of yet another open-minded human being by credulous Islamic baboons whose righteous anger was inspired because, a secular blogger, he’d ‘insulted God’ by reposting an innocuous cartoon on Facebook for the purpose of discussion.

I suggested that perhaps it was up to God to decide for Himself if He felt insulted, and to do something about it; not up to those medieval cretins to blasphemously take His name in vain.

So my general position on the subject of religions must have been quite clear.

As it happens, I welcome anyone to my li’l Church. It’s great to be reaching out to at least 35 people around the world, lost and lonely folks in need of intellectual guidance. Here is some:

It has probably not occurred to many Christians that the Ruler of an expanding universe of a septillion suns – 10 to the power of 24, an immensity your Church tried to deny for centuries –  is unlikely to care about you personally, your state of health, let alone count the hairs on your head. Even the Rulers of earthly kingdoms can’t do that, however micro-managerial they are.

Jesus unfortunately lets plenty of tragic young women die with anorexia, they don’t recover; and millions of children die every year from diseases of malnutrition and drinking filthy water, which is why I think the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes is a bit of a myth, but people can believe whatever they want to believe so long as they don’t point a gun at me and tell me I have to believe it too.

Perhaps all those millions of young women and children gentle Jesus lets die every year from hunger around the world just didn’t pray enough, to the right God, using the right words? Perhaps He doesn’t love them as much as He loves you?

The cultural history of the world is littered with abandoned Gods, all of them almighty in their day, but who ultimately didn’t deliver when it came to people’s happiness, security and prosperity. Why should this one be any different?

And it’s a bit of an insult, isn’t it, to those thousands of decent people who’ve dedicated their lives to finding more reliably replicable cures for Humanity’s mental and physical infirmities, deliverance from suffering that doesn’t depend on which God you worship or your personal special relationship with Jesus, to say no, you’re wasting your time, Jesus loves me and will fix me good if I just pray right?

Because nine times out of ten He doesn’t. How right you must be. (But of course! He’s ineffable! ‘He moves in mysterious ways!’ Well, I’m sorry, you can’t have your cake and eat it: going from the ridiculous to the sublime, as it were. We can’t simultaneously both know and not know the mind of God unless either He is a psychopath, or we are.)

Anyway, changing the subject, my newest Follower, No. 35 (after nearly five years of agonising mental effort and typing) is a gym instructor! (Should I say Personal Fitness Coach? I never know.)

That’s right. All his (or her? Haven’t worked it out yet) Posts that I have briefly browsed on are about the joys of doing gym the right way.

Now, I’m not against gym. It’s just that I haven’t myself vaulted a horse or pumped iron for decades. In fact, I will walk extra blocks to avoid the sight and smell of a gym. The only exercise I take is walking Hunzi twice a day for an hour, singing the praises of Charlie Parker, and typing of course.

But I did mention a few Posts ago that one of the many, many sports I had tried and failed at in my life was gym.

ouhahouahaouaha… (Maybe I’ll just use a different colour for flashbacks from now on instead of that theramin-type noise, what say you, ol’ buddy?)

Sergeant Harry Rusbridger….

…was the gym instructor at my prep school. He had a firm belief that a boy’s fitness level was equated to his ability to inflate his chest with air. (That was in the days before the Clean Air Act, the air everywhere in postwar Britain was tinged with toxic Sulphur Dioxide from burning brown coal.)

He seldom failed to remind me with pride and fondness that my Uncle Richard, who had preceded me by a few years, had the biggest chest expansion he had ever celebrated in a pupil (we were ten years old!).

Under Harry’s brisk and soldierly instruction, we concentrated on shallow chest breathing, to the ruination of my subsequent singing career, in order to push our puny rib cages into some semblance of a military pout.

Sergeant Harry would go around, solemnly measuring our chests with a tape-measure on the out-breath, and then the in-breath, exclaiming over the difference: ‘Four inches!  Uncle Richard could manage four inches! Keep breathing, laddy! Chest out, bum in, that’s the way!’

The fact that I was asthmatic had not occurred even to the school doctor, who would sign me off to the sanatorium with unstoppable coughing bouts regularly twice a term with a prescription for three days’ bed-rest, plenty of cod-liver oil and thinly diluted concentrated orange-juice for my ‘weak chest’.

To be fair, I got a lot of reading done.

And I was considered too delicate for games; until, in my last summer, an outbreak of mumps carried off half the First Eleven, and I got my break as a cricketer; scoring five runs, and taking three wickets in my maiden appearance against hated rivals, Twyford.

But I always worried about the deep hollow in my breastbone, where the ribs join on, that indicated the opposite of the proud, puffed-out, hearty chestedness that was clearly so desirable in a real ten-year-old Man fit to rule an Empire.

Had my character also failed to expand in the prescribed manner? Judging by this bogl, dear Followers, and its inanities, I fear the answer is yes.

 

The Outing of Uncle Bogler

OMG! The BogPo has had 32 views in the last 24 hours! An enormous blue spike has suddenly appeared on the graph.

It’s not the record (47) but considering the average is only one, it’s a red-letter day alright.

How come?

Well, I can’t work out from the stats if it’s 32 different people each reading one, or one obsessive insomniac clicking through 32 Posts.

That would be great except that my output rivals Chilcot, and to read 120 thousand of the Bogler’s well-chosen words in a single night (at 4000 a pop) would be the equivalent of my own many nights spent clicking through Christopher Hitchens’ and his acolyte, Sam Harris’ fascinating clips on YouTube into the early hours, when I totter off to bed singing God’s praises.

What’s changed?

Maybe it’s got something to do with the other night, when I decided, sod it, I’m not spending another evening morosely pressing buttons, Uncle Bogler is venturing OUT for a change!

The choice consisted of wandering the streets between the intermittent heavy showers, heading for a dying pub for an overpriced glass of cheap supermarket wine, or spending a tenner on a Comedy Club evening at the University. (It was fantastic, actually, two really good standups.)

There, I bumped into one of my Followers, who soon began singing my praises to her mates.

Is that what’s happened? That BogPo has finally gone virile through word of mouth, as I have always imagined it might have to, given that I go in for no SEO?

Anyway, here’s a Classified Ad:

WANTED: Teenager.

I’ve just acquired a tablet thing, device; another birthday present to myself, and there’s no instructions in the instruction booklet telling you how to switch it on. It doesn’t actually appear to be doing anything, let alone the stuff I needed it to do.

I managed to put it on charge, after working out that the curiously squashed-together points on the mains plug all cleverly slide apart, but all it does is show me a picture of an old-fashioned U2 battery, from which I assume but can’t be certain it’s in charging mode.

All I am aware of is the Health& Safety advice that it’s designed to explode if you leave it plugged in for ‘too long’, however long that is.

Also this, muh mainframe, has started acting up. Last Tuesday I cranked it into gear, only to find all the settings had unset themselves in the night while it was switched off (it’s got a switch!) and I couldn’t remember how I’d set them up in the first place, which thingys I’d pushed, my music files were all refusing to open and I cried.*

One of my earlier suggestions Theresa May has not taken up as party policy was that we could bring back National Service, creating an army not of reluctant squaddies but of tech-savvy proxy servers with head-tufts, who could go around showing ageing dimwits such as your Uncle Bogler how to switch their Smarts on and download files that mysteriously won’t open, and whatever apps are.

Hitherto I’ve relied on the resident boy, but he’s off somewhere doing a Master’s degree  in how to run World War Three and hopes not to have to come back.

Now I’m £150 lighter, and completely helpless in the face of ironic minimalist design.

 

*My tears gave way to rage, when I learned that, like Santa Claus, Microsoft beanbags had circled the earth in one night, strategically ‘updating’ their dodgy Windows 10 software as a 1st anniversary ‘present’; and had fucked with everyone’s settings in the process.

I feel, frankly, violated by these unaccountable techno-cretins; and I want my fucking music files back, they’re all I’ve got. So far, no-one can tell me how to do it. What, do I have to load all 50 CDs over again? Cunts. (Can’t Undo Nighttime Transgressions, Sorry).

 

 

 

 

 

Burying goats at midnight

The only conclusion it is possible to come to, is that immigration is driving the current modest expansion of the British economy.

-Sterling Pound, Business Editor

 

Trending on BogPo:

OMG! Heart-Breaking NEWS from the Beeb>>>> Calvin Harris has just unfollowed @Taylor Swift! #sorrow

That’s nothing, writes BogPoSho’biz newshound, Sir Rod Bogler. I’ve been unfollowed by just about everyone. #whothey?

 

A colourful turnout

From: Our occasional soccer contributor and Portuguese midfield supremo, Boglinho (as told to Giles Hacke)

France 7, Albania 0. Not maybe the scoreline – their Euro 2016 match is still in progress as I write – but the number of black and North African footballers (including international stars Patrice Evra and Anthony Martial) who have started the game for either side.

And, mirabile dictu, they’re all French.

While UEFA deplores and national football associations penalise racism among the fans, the ‘elephant on the pitch’ is the squads. Not Russia, not Poland, not Ukraine, not Slovakia, not Albania, not the Czech Republic, not Croatia, not Hungary – no Eastern European country I’ve seen play so far, nor yet Iceland, Norway – seems to have a single black or ethnic minority footballer in its squad.

Perhaps they have more discriminating taste than to live there.

Joke:

Q:  Why is there only one Albanian player in the free-kick wall?

A:  Because the others have all climbed over it and escaped.

*actually, plucky little Albania put up a decent show, holding an unconvincing French collection of ageing, overpaid celebrities at bay until the 89th minute. What they need now is a good striker. Call my agent, he’s not doing anything….

 

MigrationWatch

UK unemployment fell to 1.67 million in the February-to-April period, down 20,000 from the previous quarter.

The fall took the unemployment rate to 5%, the lowest since October 2005.

The number of people in work rose by 55,000, with the employment rate remaining at a record high of 74.2%.

Earnings, excluding bonuses, rose by 2.3% compared with last year.

  • From the BBC News website, 15 June, 2016

Now, if these figures are to be believed, and we always do believe them because the National Audit Office is an independent authority, anything the Brexit campaign says about the evils of immigration must and can only be, complete bollocks.

You may want to stop your ears with wax, but what I am about to say is the obvious truth:

The only inference one can draw from these figures is that, even as all those immigrants arrive, ‘swamping’ our ‘culture’, etcetera, with their foreign faces and strong aroma of garlic, more jobs are being created at higher wages – totally contradicting the xenophobic nonsense-myth that ‘they’ are stealing our jobs so that there is no work for us poor Brits, and that ‘they’ are ‘driving down wages’. There are plenty of jobs all round, and to spare.

With the claimant count falling too (6,400 additional non-claimants were discounted, for some reason), it gives the lie to the lie that ‘they’ are only here to sponge off our ‘generous’ social benefits (GENEROUS? Writes the office teaboy. Have you ever tried living on benefits?)

You cannot statistically have record low unemployment, a record employment rate, more jobs and rising wages AND 300,000 more people arriving every year than are dying or getting the hell out of Britain, all at the same time, if you are going to try to claim that immigration is bad for jobs. It is simply not possible to draw that conclusion from the facts.

Can you, Andrew sodding Green? (Baron Green, of some little corner that is forever England – and sole Director of oft-quoted white supremacist wank-tank, MigrationWatch UK)

The only conclusion it is possible to come to, is that immigration is driving the current modest expansion of the British economy, and that without inworkers we would have continued to decline, with far greater austerity measures needed, since the banking crash of 2007/8.

YOU ARE BEING LIED TO ABOUT IMMIGRATION BY LITTLE ENGLANDERS AND EMPIRE LOYALISTS, BY UKIP TAXI-DRIVERS AND THE RUTHLESS CABAL OF CYNICAL, POWER-HUNGRY NEO-THATCHERITES ON THE TORY RIGHT!

VOTE REMAIN, OR WATCH YOUR COUNTRY SLOWLY SUFFOCATING IN AN ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL VACUUM.

 

Burying goats at midnight

I maintain that I have done, and continue to do, absolutely nothing valuable with my life.

I am listening on the radio to a guest on Libby Purves’ Midweek show, calmly recounting her extraordinarily adventurous life story. It’s not untypical of guests on this show, otherwise they wouldn’t be on it. They’ve almost always written books about themselves and their adventures; it’s how BBC programme researchers work, opening press handouts from publishers and going to lunch.

Brought up in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the west coast of… Canada, she subsequently moved to… New Zealand, and then somehow on to somewhere in… Africa, from where she drove a rally car and ended up in… London, where she worked for a diamond importer while getting a job at the… Foreign Office and having a diplomatic career.

Somehow on the way she acquired both… a light-aircraft AND a commercial pilot’s licence, and developed a passion for flying… pre-WW1 biplanes. So, as one does, she flew a biplane twelve thousand miles to… Australia, braving hostile deserts and shark-infested seas in the wake of… Amy Johnson. (And has mentioned Boeing several times, I imagine they sponsored her.)

Later, attempting to follow the routes of the flying postal delivery service across the… USA, she walked away from a terrible crash that destroyed the plane around her. Currently, having found a spare fuselage and commissioned some factory in… Hungary to build her a pair of wings and having tracked down a reconditioned 1943 engine in… Colorado, which is being delivered to…Vienna, she is constructing a new biplane hopefully in time to take part in the… Farnborough air show…

And she even sounded nice!

While I am sitting… here, frozen into immobility; contemplating with a sinking feeling the upcoming travel nightmare of a week in France in late July.

All I know of British Columbia is that my fellow alcoholic Malcolm Lowry wrote ‘Under the Volcano’, one of the greatest English novels of the 20th century, while drying-out romantically in a shack on the beach. All I know of me is that I write this stuff, drink coffee by the hour, wine by the night and go to choir once a week, before bed.

Were I, or anyone, able to somehow get hold of a cosmic vacuum-pump and suck out all the uneventful, blank bits of our lives: the longueurs, the ennuies, the do-nothing times, the frustrating going-nowhere periods, the thousand-and-one nights when you were asleep on your own, not even dreaming; the terrible, dreary office jobs, the driving to Norwich and back, the stuck-at-home marriages, the slow piling-up of rejection letters and unread bank statements; all the boring things you ever did or said; dreary hours of sitting politely in waiting rooms, not leaving the theatre in the interval of a stinker, queuing at the Post Office, doing the washing-up, fidgeting through trite sermons and Greek lessons, the agonising disability of piano practice – like evacuating all the air from a Bell jar in class; and heat the rest up over a Bunsen burner, how much of a brown powdery residue of achievements and adventures and excitements would be left in the bottom of the tube?

When I look back, all the interesting lumpy bits I can remember; which are vanishingly few, both good and shameful, glorious and embarrassing, might add up to what some people might think of as an unusual and colourful life. Not everyone gets to be a failed farmer, burying a goat in a field at midnight (I thought I’d struck oil but it was only the village water main); a newsreader, anchoring an election night special; a 17-year-old, eluding the drug squad in a Turkish graveyard.

Mostly, though, it’s the long, jangling hiatuses inbetween, decades wasted doing nothing, getting nowhere; the knowledge that one is gradually closing up, as I have written before, like a daisy in the dark, so much left undone; the half-glimpsed, never-taken opportunities, the lazy knack of thinking of nothing to do that might help anything or anyone to be better, that fill the Bell jar with stale exhaust fumes.

To cheer myself up, trapped as I seem to be without much money in this tiny cottage on a thundering main road in the urban outskirts of a provincial seaside town, listening to my new neighbour shrieking all day at her bemused little dog; unable to sell, not wanting to move, waiting for something and nothing to happen, fearful of being found wanting at the end and plunged into futile rage and despair over my seemingly lost ability to act or create or bring about any change; abandoned apparently by the Fates, pushed back in my seat by the G-force of inertia, yet curiously still alive, I like to think that a glass-half-empty is always going to be topped-up by the waiter who anticipates a large tip; while the destiny of someone else’s optimistic glass-half-full is to be drained to the dregs.

 

Victims lash out

I spent much of the latter part of my teenage and early 20-something years in the 1960s and early ’70s trying without much success to have sex with various female acquaintances, to whom I now deeply and humbly apologise for any fear and distress I may have caused.

Having perhaps studied too much early 20th-century English Literature, and after a cloistered upbringing in all-male boarding-schools where the subject was never discussed, only furtively pursued, I thought in that time of innocence that sex was something normal people did automatically; and, being a perfectly presentable prospect with a job and well-developed abs, was somewhat puzzled at the reactions I got.

For, indeed, it is unfortunately the case that urgently wanting to have sex with someone attractive is the default mode of just about every living thing on the planet, fauna and flora – except my female acquaintances at the time.

And so it was that, after two marriages and any number (try three) of brief affairs with disinterested parties, I became this elderly eunuch you see before you.

Looking at the internet scene now, not a lot seems to have changed since my youth. Finding an experience for the night on certain well-known websites is still a major preoccupation among the young, driven to spread their genes by surging hormones over which they have little or no control; as well as by selfish desire for transient pleasures.

Which is why I’m a little dismayed that so many elderly women are piping up now from their retirement-home armchairs to complain that Sir Clement Freud MP, the popular author, TV chef, quizshow panellist and lugubrious co-star of a long-running dogfood commercial, may have propositioned them sometime back in the 1940s.

Who wouldn’t have? There was a war on, you know.

Freud, grandson of the famous old Viennese sex-maniac, died in 2009. The absence of any evidence or a confession hasn’t stopped the erstwhile pornographer, Richard Desmond, from using his UKIP-sponsoring Daily Express vehicle to brand him a ‘paedophile’ on the basis of an allegation that he might have abused girls as young as ten.

(How many under-age girls might be featuring on Asian Babes right now, inadvertently of course, I wonder?)

The Daily Mail, too, has weighed in with a daringly tentative piece in Mail Online suggesting ‘prime suspect’ Freud might even have abducted 4-year-old Madeleine McCann and abused her at his ‘£1 million villa’ near the Portuguese resort from where she disappeared, Playa del Mar. You have to admit, it’s a strange coincidence that someone lives there.

After all, was he not a nodding acquaintance of one of the early suspects, Robert Murat, a local expat who was cleared of any involvement? Did he not know Rolf Harris, the other popular TV entertainer and royal portraitist, convicted of sex crimes against underage girls? Did he not invite the McCanns to dine at his luxury villa, presumably to pump them for information about the inquiry and not at all because he might have felt sorry for them and wanted to make a neighbourly gesture?

Probably. Once you’re dead, it’s open season. But the lengthy sidebar next to the story, with its shots of long-legged nano-celebrity lovelies on beaches and its speculative come-on headlines concerning their wayward sex lives, should make up for the horror.

Let’s crack another tin of Winalot (Shomething in that name, shurely? Ed.) and wonder at the perverse ambiguity of human nature.

Except that something unprintable, unsayable, unspeakably awful occurs to this warped and diseased brain of mine. He didn’t, did he?

He couldn’t have, could he?

The TV chef, I mean?

 

 

 

 

Dwarfism in plants

“Wanted beautiful women with personality, acting abilities, nice skin for their age with positive wrinkles.”

– Angel Stages casting website, Garnier Face Care campaign

 

I so sometimes feel my wrinkles are lacking in positivity. Don’t you?

You glance at yourself warily in the mirror while you’re strimming those fashionably empty bits in and around your beard, and gradually they make their unwelcome presence felt: those drooping, half-formed so-called ‘laughter lines’ set in a purulent, greenery-yallery zone around the eyes, pungent with blackheads; lines that deepen in a sinister way when you grimace; the hastily packed eye-luggage; that annoying, asymmetrical half-wrinkle on one side of your expanding brow, that you got from raising one querulous eyebrow too many times over the years, and you wish your wrinkles could be more articulate, more persuasive – reassuringly assertive – brisker and more businesslike.

You’d like a perfect set of wrinkles, wouldn’t you, that would bowl any casting director over, and instead age has given you this negative assortment of vaguely displeasing, ill-matched tracks and traces, blurred borderlines betraying a lifetime’s thoughtless and selfish overindulgence in poor skincare, coffee and late nights with red wine in front of a screen radiant with negative ions.

You perhaps feel that your wrinkles are writing a story about someone whose life has not brought them much success, family, happiness and modest prosperity; someone without gracious good manners, unwholesome indeed, who doesn’t put their best face forward, but who retreats from healthy relationships and social interaction; someone who seldom entertains or has a presence on social media. The first person you’d automatically think of to make redundant when business times are hard. Someone down-in-the-mouth, a verbal opportunist who has experienced none of those courageous exploits of derring-do, that come to etch some lucky people’s faces with a permanent portrait of heroic survival against the odds.

Someone whose brow lacks nobility.

Someone not virtuous or deserving enough to be a fit role model for Laboratoires Garnier in their crusade against negative wrinkles.

I’ve only recently acquired these uninspiring crevices myself, mainly as a result of obtaining new glasses that enable me to see better close-up. The trouble is, I’m so physically superhuman, so well-endowed genetically, that opticians tell me my deteriorating eyesight – I’m practically blind by my standards – is still better than most people’s.

Oh, I can pick a target off a hilltop three miles away and count the bars on a fence, the crows on a wire, the sheep in a field. I can read the bottom line, with effort, and the 2-point print paragraph on the card is eventually hauled into focus under the brightest of lights. I can even just about see to drive. But it’s no use if you don’t know what you are looking at.

You see, you don’t have to have bad eyesight to be blind, you just need the disconnect between the seeing eye and the brain’s ability to make sense of anything. The older I get, the less involved I appear to be in what I’m seeing.

I’ve seen it all before. And I still don’t recognise it.

And now I’ve got breakfast marmalade all over the keys, and my swollen, red eyes (there’s a thing going around, apparently)  are watering so copiously I can’t see what I’m typing, and I can feel more wrinkles appearing, especially where you get that wattled turkey-skin around your armpits, on your upper arms where formerly was smooth muscle, when you lean forward – surely the most disturbing sign of physical degeneracy I’ve noticed since my manboobs passed the pencil test.

It’s all falling apart, drawing to an unsatisfactory close; an inconclusion. The memory is going, the male function flagging. I feel old, M. Garnier, and believe me, it’s got nothing to do with the wrinkles. It’s nothing you can fix with a fancy jar of overpriced emulsion. These are the wrinkles of a man prone to too much self-loathing and wastage, too addicted to failure and rejection letters – too cowardly to let go of what’s around him.

Positively wrinkled, in fact.

 

This world is your world

Hey everybody, I’ve just had an email alert to a job opening at my local university.

It’s for a security guard.

Or, as they are henceforth to be known, ‘Campus Life Manager’.

Beam me up, Scotty.

 

Dwarfism in plants

Fatsia fatshedera ‘Japonica’.

It’s one of those scientific nomenclatures I’ll always remember, whatever else I forget.

Like ‘Chronic Ossifying Pachymeningitis’, from which Chloe, our German Shepherd suffered in the 1970s and had to be put to sleep.

And the similarly degenerative ‘Chronic Ankylosing Spondylitis’ which is slowly and painfully crippling my 90-year-old mother, who can’t be put to sleep.

Or ‘Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia’, which means my prostate gland is the size of an orange, I’m to all intents and purposes impotent and I sometimes piss my pants while trying in vain to find a convenient bush or latrine. That’s if I can go at all.

Why I can remember these and other obscure Latinate technical terms from years gone by and not your name for five minutes, I have no idea. I forget.

Anyway, we’ll just call them Fatsias for now. And I’ve got two of them, and they’ve turned out to be self-dwarfing, which is quite interesting, no?

Let’s expand on that.

You’ll remember, I expect, from Posts passim, that I used to be the old Caretaker (and everything) of a dilapidated ‘stately home’ in the Welsh countryside, which the owner, an accountant by religion, could not resist demanding (he didn’t have to live there) that I run singlehandedly as an appalling ‘guest house’ for people just dying to sleep for £100 a night with the bed bugs on a semen-stained and lumpy vintage mattress.

At some stage, a statutory notice from the Environment Agency to stop flushing the toilets was affecting our weddings business, such as it was. So the owner agreed with a heavy heart to spend £60,000 on having the whole place dug up to lay new sewage pipes and install two huge concrete tanks under the lawn, to process the ordure.

The bidding contractor was an affable individual colloquially known as ‘Barry the Shit’.

As part of the eventual restitution of the overturned areas around the house, I persuaded Barry at modest cost to pave the access behind the kitchen, so that suppliers would no longer have to force their way through the dense thicket of briers growing out of the muck and detritus of decades of neglect, to deliver their comestibles via the tradesmen’s entrance.

I also thought it might be nice to have it as recreational space for catering staff to go out and smoke their cigarettes, rather than continue to run the risk of setting light to the important Grade One-listed building, described with ghoulish relish by local fire-station chief officer Evans as ‘a death-trap’ into which the law of corporate manslaughter would not allow him to send rescuers in the event of the inevitable, virtually instanteous conflagration.

Anyway, to enhance the standing-out smoking experience I acquired two Fatsia plants, potentially large architectural shrubs which I potted on into 10-inch pots and set out nicely next to the oil tank, hoping it would eventually be obscured, at least in part, by the characteristically large and shiny, palmate leaves of the Fatsia.

Not to be confused with fatwas, Fatsias are most common in London basement gardens, as they tolerate poor, shady conditions. Few places were shadier than the courtyard behind the kitchen, where the sun never penetrated owing to the steep and overgrown high bank into which the house had been thrust at the back. They are really quite boring plants, but have the advantage of being relatively cheap to buy. And every so often, probably imagining they are dying, they put out large panicles of dreary-looking white flowers, that turn to alien seed pods in the Autumn.

Anyway, during my last three years in that place the premises were increasingly occupied by building subcontractors employed in restoring the house, in the crudest possible sense (‘blitzing’ is the more appropriate word), uprating all the services whose glaring inadequacies had focussed my life for so long. (Can you imagine, a 14-room hotel with only two working telephones, one of them reserved for the owners who didn’t live there? ADSL download speeds measured in single kilobytes? Too little water pressure to work the showers?)

So, as they churned and ground and hammered and wrenched and sawed and chiselled their way through the protected historic architecture, somewhere had to be found to process all the offensive old junk-store furniture and worm-eaten skirting-boards and rotten window-frames and 1940s brickwork and pipes and plasterboard and gash timber and obsolete bathroom fittings, the dangerous electric wiring and semen-stained mattresses that were being ripped out wholesale to make way for a fully Health and Safety certified, Laura-Ashleyfied pastiche of a dreary 1970s provincial hotel, on an urgent time-based contract.

So for want of anywhere more accessible, they chucked it all outside on the paved recreational area I had insisted we create, beside the oil tank behind the kitchen, as no-one had the time to collect it and take it to the municipal dump, and the place was anyway no longer in use, except by me, and being only the old Caretaker I didn’t count.

On top of the two Fatsias.

So, before leaving forever I dug by hand through the pile of rubble, as if in the aftermath of an earthquake,  and rescued them only barely alive, and brought them over to the tiny cottage that had miraculously been acquired for me by my Committee of Discarnate Entities on a thundering main road in the outskirts of a humdrum provincial town, shortly before I was declared redundant as regards fulfilling any further useful purpose and thereby lost at one stroke, both my living and my home for the past nearly seven years.

But the tiny gardens had been landscaped by the previous owner, and her contractor had filled the raised brick beds and neatly covered them with a rubberised membrane with three inches of gravel on top, to suppress all but the weeds now growing vigorously there. So the Fatsia twins remained in their pots as there was nowhere deep enough to plant them out. In the Eternal sunshine of the south-facing front garden.

And there they have stayed for four years; until I noticed that, instead of adopting a flourishing, not to say exuberant habit of huge, shiny palmate foliage, they have retreated to the tops of their long, ghost-grey stems and are just barely keeping going with this coronet of tiny, pleading fingers; miniaturised versions of the real thing.

Faced with frequent drought conditions, in too-small pots and in full sunlight, which they hate, they have adopted a self-dwarfing habit.

And I know exactly how they feel.

 

Oh no, you can’t possibly have that here

Two weeks ago my energy level was high.

As was my optimism that the Universe could at last deliver the home of my dreams.

A home fully furnished with a coffee table, and a cooker.

Obviously, although I often dream about houses I have lived in before, but subtly altered and with extensive gardens, or facing the full fury of the ocean, I would never in my life have actually dreamed of living in a tiny cottage on a thundering main road in the outskirts of a humdrum provincial town in a glorious part of the country inhabited by misanthropic, pugnacious trolls (as the great Jeremy Claxon once so memorably described the natives here) who have made it their life’s mission to turn the historic chips on their shoulders into soap-boxes, from upon which to berate the English invader with moral instruction concerning their behavioural rectitude.

No, I’m talking about the inside, fools!

I have spent hours, nights even, trawling the internet hopefully for likely candidates to complete my wish-list of new stuff. The principle that ‘books do furnish a room’ is, of course, old hat; virtual emporia being more the thing nowadays. You can get anything online, so they say.

At long last, two weeks ago I bookmarked an attractive and practical-looking, under-counter double-oven made by the slightly prestigious Stoves company,  on John Lewis dot co. Priced at £458, in Stainless Steel, it was £40 cheaper than anywhere else, clean-lined and sculpturally attractive. It was all budgeted for, but the matching hob was not quite right… so I determined to keep looking for a better hob, and that created a delay into which doubt crept.

Something else was preventing me from pushing the Checkout button, a nagging sense that while my old cooker still bore any signs of life beneath its inch-thick coating of grease, sliding like a Greenland glacier at 5 km a year onto my newly tiled floor, I should stay my hand and microwave as often as possible.

So then, as I have bogld already, it became evident that the empty space between my new Poppy-red sofa that is due for delivery next week and the far wall ought, in some fidgety, dissatisfied sense, to contain… a coffee table.

This would be a lesser, more immediately affordable and rapidly deliverable purchase, I reasoned, that would nevertheless meet my pressing need to spend the budget on something.

The lack of a coffee table, I had begun to fear, might well influence the next generation of prospective purchaser of my tiny cottage; as previously had my telling lack of a sofa. Who, I asked myself, does not nowadays own a High-Street imitation Italian designer sofa, who does not also own a complementary conversation piece, perhaps a low and unusually shaped table on which a coffee cup might be placed next to an outsized book about Mondrian, that would otherwise have to rest on top of a handy loudspeaker cabinet?

Flicking night after night through hundreds of designs ranging from a plank on three sticks to a curvaceous post-modernist masterpiece worthy of the drawing-board of the late Dame Zaha Hadid, and priced accordingly, I began to despair. Although I had begun to narrow it down, nothing seemed to fit the bill: the right colour, shape, material, texture, dimensionality, period-style and ‘statement-feel’ to suit both my tiny sitting-room and my boundless imagination seemed not to exist.

And then last night, dear Spammers, I saw it!

With a thrill of recognition, I saw my new coffee table in a thumbnail vignette, one of the ‘if you like that you might like one of these’ suggestions you find at the bottom of the page, and immediately clicked to bring it into full view. It was perfect! And at only £299.99, under three hundred pounds!

Unfortunately, it had a notice next to it: ‘Out of stock’. But encouragingly, another note gave the 8th of June as the date by which new stock might well be forthcoming, and invited me to register an interest, which I gladly did: six weeks away, the wait seemed a price worth paying to get just the perfect coffee table my room, my sofa, my dream-house, my personality craved.

It more than made up for the notice I had found earlier in the evening on the page of the John Lewis website I had bookmarked, regretting that the Stoves under-counter double-oven cooker I had so nearly bought was already and would henceforth forever be discontinued. Rotten luck.

But you can imagine my shock this morning when, on opening my emails, I found a message from the other retailer, Messrs Wayfair dot co, informing me that my perfect coffee table was and would be no longer available either, and perhaps I would like to consider one of these appallingly ugly alternatives for my purchasing pleasure?

It was probably just as well, since my ‘budget’ lay now in ruins.

In the intervening days, an urgent demand had arrived from a debt recovery service located at some uninspiring address on a trackless northern  industrial estate (you have to feel sorry for them), in pursuit of a large sum of money which the Inland Revenue, they said, had told them I owe.

For the past nine years, the Tax Credits office had been persistently refusing to consider the evidence I sent them regarding the many egregious errors in their calculation of a massive overpayment for which they have already accepted blame, on the facetious grounds that it was too late to appeal; to which my answer was, well, ‘it would be, wouldn’t it?’.

Now, faced with a desperate scramble to plug the embarrassing gulf in the Chancellor’s fiscal ambitions, unable to prise loose the tenacious grip on their untaxed trillion-dollar profits notoriously exerted by global US technology corporations, it seems the men and women (not forgetting transgenders) of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are coming after the Little Guys: underperforming, reclusive style-mavens like me, cutting their losses and selling our aged debts on to the highest bidder.

There was an option on offer to pay the repo men a fiver a month or something, but I had become so outraged at the injustice of the case, and am so prone to cutting off my own nose to spite somebody else’s face, that I furiously scribbled a cheque for the full amount without thinking it through, and sent it forthwith by recorded delivery, leaving myself twelve-hundred quids’ worth of amusing ’50s retro-style furnishings short of a dream home.

It’s one thing to refuse for nine years to pay Her Majesty money you don’t owe her, another entirely to ignore a rapacious debt-ogre who might shortly send burly mesomorphs over to distrain your new sofa, that hasn’t yet been delivered (but for which you have already bought the matching cushions); your personal coffee table, your pristine under-counter cooker, that will now never arrive.

It’s just damned bad luck, really. Bubbles always burst.

I can see I’m going to have to sell the car, again.

 

Postscriptum

But no! Look! I’ve been allowed to find my coffee table elsewhere. It’s in stock! You really can buy anything online after all!

So I’ve gone ahead and ordered it. And it’s only £30.01 more expensive!

But taking the online survey with its Prize Draw will surely save me £100, I feel so lucky today.

Post-postscriptum

Until the next day, that is, when I learn the table is also out of stock at the next store- after I have paid for it – and, indeed, everywhere else you look it is there only in virtuality. The small rural Welsh manufacturer, I discover, is promising to resupply all the stores simultaneously on 8th June.

I don’t think so, somehow.

Two breezeblocks and a bit of chipboard should do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, farewell then

Poor Victoria Wood.

No sooner had Britain’s best-loved and most multi-talented female comedian passed away surprisingly from cancer at the ridiculous age of 62, who knew?, than the artist posthumously known as Prince has popped his platinum discs at the age of 57, during a bout of “‘flu”.

If there is a pandemic of ‘flu lethal enough to carry off a celebrity as wealthy and prominent as the little Prince, who must surely have had the entire global medical community at his behest, we are all in trouble.

As, clearly, most ordinary Americans are; at the mercy of a medical system as archaic and insane as their judiciary.

Fifty-seven, however, is one of those unpropitious, grey ages at which most of us wish we did not have to arrive. It is better to be 60, believe me, than 57. There is nothing youthful, sexy or promising about 57.

While I don’t think I have heard an entire Prince track from opening chord to coda, being just the wrong side of the right age, nevertheless I can see how important he was to the world of popular musicke. And judging by the encomia of his fellow celebs, he was a total groove; once putting on an arena concert with his band in a suburban living-room in the grimy north of the UK.

Respect.

It seems like celebrities are dropping dead at a rate not seen since the BBC website ran an article by a statistician two days ago, poo-pooing the idea that celebrities were dying in unnatural numbers this year.

Of course, it’s a generational thing. The 1960s and 70s produced an unnaturally large postwar crop of actors, musicians and comedians by the standards of previous generations, whose talents were exposed in greater numbers owing to the geometric expansion in entertainment channels in the West.

Unsurprisingly, many of them are in their 60s, 70s and 80s and are dying off within the statistical norms of people of their age. Celebrities, let us never forget, are normal people, only different. Perpetual, nevertheless they aren’t immortal.

And in some ways I am comforted. I have never understood why my first wife, a TV reporter and presenter, could not have been saved from cancer by virtue of being better connected with the medical establishment than yer ordinary Jane Bloggs. You’d think celebrity would provide some protection, some extra ‘two-year warranty’, some presentiment of immortality, but it doesn’t.

It’s in yer genes.

So there is our dear Queen, being upstaged on her 90th birthday by a mere Prince.

Ironic, or what?

 

 

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.