The Pumpkin – Issue (where are we – 18?): The Sabotage Diaries; “What Is Wrong With You?”; Did you hear the one about the ISIS asset?

Editor’s note: apologies for the delay in getting this issue down – I’ve been busy and then I got an abscess and off my face on painkillers. Still not too coherent, I fear, trifle wobbly, but we can’t let the fan down. Bear with.


Special “What is wrong with you?” Issue

You let Hillary lose? You’re FIRED!

The Sabotage Diaries

By Skellytanne Conwoman ©2017 #desperationrow

Can no end be put to the relentless sabotage of Mr Trump’s inspirational and well-run American government for all the people?

It seems a piece of non-copyright music was added to the soundtrack of a wonderful video Mr Trump has tweeted-out to his millions of adoring followers around the world, explaining his entirely logical reasons for firing the head of the FBI, the showboating, disloyal little garbage-snooper, James Comey.

We don’t know who decided to use the stirring theme, or why. Astute Twitterates have tracked the music to a library, from where the following description is available:

“… “News Anchor” …  Powerhouse news theme with a classic network vibe. Designed for news broadcasting, newscast, breaking news, special news reports, financial reports, Wall Street, election returns, corporate branding, trade shows and infomercials. Instrumental, News, News Openings”

Notice, there is no mention of the Fake News that so stains the reputation of our treacherous media, enemies of the glorious people. But ‘election returns’? Surely, they taketh the pee-pee? The vile baboons who added this snatch of subversive, disloyal muzak to the video while totally lacking a sense of irony must be found and fired.

The Pumpkin is not a member of Twitter and cannot find the video, in which – ABC News says – Mr Trump has personally recruited a montage of leading Democrats being rude about Mr Comey at the time the FBI chief treacherously swung the Presidential election against Mrs Clinton who, as you recall, was a notorious criminal user of a private Internet server not unlike Mr Trump’s own private internet servers that are not, I repeat NOT, in constant communication with Russi… sorry, start again.

Of course it is outrageous that Mrs Clinton should have won the pop… sorry, sorry. I just can’t seem to avoid not lying about this… despite Mr Comey’s best/worst efforts (delete according to how much sleep the old bastard had last night and whether he’s taken his meds today – xxxSpicey, Lt, USN res. c/o USS Carl Vinson, somewhere). And she really wasn’t elected, honest.

Nevertheless the President has been seething for months about the FBI meddling in his international relations, as that surely ought to be the job of the CIA, and detests Mr Comey for being six inches taller (probably better endowed) and disloyally refusing to tell the White House first, unlike the new Director of the FBI, Mr McCabe, what he plans to say about his investigations about the White House to the Senate committee.

PS I see Flynn has been subpoena’d by those devious shits in Congress. What next, Special Prosecutor? Impeachment? Ha ha, don’t-think-so face!!!

(Remind self – get back on the media, tell them they’re never again to criticise any decisions of our glorious leader, refulgent in his golden aura. Etc – make it up as you go. Keep ’em confused! Hail Trump. K-A C.)


Mr Reince Priebus (what is that, white South African? I think we should see his birth certificate) the White House Chief-of-Staff, has let it be known that if this sort of thing carries on the President intends to repeal the First Amendment to the Constitution, that he regards as a traitor’s charter for all that boloney about free speech and not making Betsy DeVos’ Bible Trutherism the State religion.

Oh, and also the bit about Americans’ right to protest against and even remove lying, overbearing, biddable, corrupt and incompetent, pouting monsters in the White House if they don’t care to be governed by that sort, he especially doesn’t get that part.





In a daze

I’ve been in a daze since 3 a.m. Monday with a worrying abscess on one of the three remaining teeth to which my astonishing piece of bridge engineering, my entire smile is anchored.

It flared up either luckily or as a direct consequence only after my final appearance on stage Sunday night in our production of The Merchant of Venice. Some people have linked the two events, while I confess that having as yet no toothache, yet I had been unusually grumpy on Sunday afternoon, even for me.

The younger members of the cast I find particularly annoying as they’re either messing about, dancing around and chatting loudly, making too much noise backstage despite endless warnings from the director; or they’re coming offstage and straight on to their bloody mobile devices.

How the hell do you perform to your best level if you can’t concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing for more than a nanosecond at a time? Those phones and tablets and even notebooks are a beastly distraction and yet, despite the entire history and culture of the human race being contained therein, no-one under 50 seems to know anything about anything anymore, being endlessly fascinated merely to gaze into the digital mirror.

Grrrr! (gnashing of elderly gums).

Looking up the range of side-effects of paracetamol, I can safely say I’ve had them all this week, only not yet death. Two 500mg caplets are supposed to give four hours’ relief, I was getting about 20 minutes. It became impossible to observe a four-hour gap between doses. I started to fly, my heart racing, saliva tasting – pee smelling – of paracetamol; chest pains, stomach pains, kidney pains, joint pains – rumblings and gurglings, headaches, tinnitus, shortness of breath and more.

The chemist pointed out that I could safely mix Ibuprofen between doses of paracetamol, so I started doing that. Then, one of those awful coincidences, in the supermarket I passed a newspaper stall and one of the tabloids was carrying a headline story: Ibuprofen doubles your risk of a heart attack.

I’m now on antibiotics and slowly coming down – as is my face, which yesterday swelled up like… a Pumpkin?, my top lip dragging downwards like a stroke victim’s, huge swellings on my gums, my left eye half-closed, my speech slurred like a drunk’s. At least the poison spreading from the root of my eye-tooth in finding an escape route through my sinuses had relieved the pressure on the nerve and, though tender, my top teeth were no longer firing darts of pain throughout my face, spreading through my body and keeping me awake in the throbbing small hours.

Anyway, I’ve been living on mush; soup, mashed potato, crême brulée. Anything that didn’t require teeth to eat. And, of course, no alcohol. 24 hours after my last fistfull of paracetamol I essayed an uncharacteristically small glass of Semillon-Chardonnay last night and slept until nearly 11 this morning. I forget what I was dreaming about, it seemed to go on for ages.

Which is all by way of saying two things:

  • First, I’ve been too mentally bewildered to write coherently about the latest, most amazing goings-on in Trumptown.
  • And secondly, even now I’m not sure I can keep up any longer, since every hour brings startling new revelations and reports of portentous signs in the sky. (I also find I am running out of pejoratives, can anyone help me there?)

Attorney-General Jeff Sessions ‘was present at the meeting’.

For instance, Mr Trump sent his notorious letter firing FBI Director James Comey, that he said was based on info given to him by Deputy Attorney-General ‘Rod’ Rosenstein, whereupon he had no option but to act urgently, but which it later transpired he had ordered Rosenstein to write in order to ‘cover’ his firing of Comey and the fact his supposedly ‘recused’ Attorney-General was present at the meeting which touched on the very matter, the Russia enquiry, he had recused himself from.

No sooner had Trump inserted another brazen lie, that Comey had assured him, like St Peter, ‘three times’ he was not personally under investigation, than MSNBC was reporting that the acting director of the FBI, the former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a 20-year man with a permanently worried expression, may have attempted to sabotage the investigation into General Flynn’s highly lucrative contacts with the Russians or otherwise broken ‘house rules’ by disclosing information about it to the White House.

In other words, he is not:

New FBI Acting Director McCabe Considered a Respected, Bureau Man

…as reported by MSNBC’s mainstream parent company NBC News, but is now – only one day later – said to have pedalled round to the White House on 14 February, two days after Gen. Flynn was resigned, in order to brief the President on the state of the investigations into Flynn (that may go on to compromise the President), and to reassure Chief of Staff Priebus that a report in the New York Times the previous day stating that the FBI was investigating ‘a number of’ Trump campaign staffers was ‘bullshit’.

Only it wasn’t. Numerous sources including British, French and Dutch intelligence, it’s now known, had been warning the National Security Administration of serious, repeated and ongoing contacts between members of the Trump team and Russian intelligence, since 2015. In the frame were Flynn, the reptilian ‘fixer’ Roger Stone, Carter Page (a minor go-between and energy ‘consultant’) and former campaign director, Paul Manafort – fired in July 2016, probably the first of Trump’s ‘bodies on the floor’: bodies connected with or looking too closely into the connections with Russia, Ukraine and the online sabotage of the election.

We know this, because NSA chief James Clapper told the Senate hearing so, two days ago. That’s the hearing at which Sally Yates, the former Acting Attorney General fired by Trump because she twice warned the White House legal advisor about Flynn, was finally able to confirm that Flynn, Trump’s ‘National Security Advisor’ – a man Trump tried for weeks to protect before ‘resigning’ him on a feeble pretext – a man who had previously been fired as unsound by President Obama – was possibly embedded with Russian intelligence.

The Pumpkin and a’ would like to know what Trump knew about Flynn while Flynn was merrily chanting ‘Lock her up! and encouraging the dumbfucks to revolt against the Obama regime, that had fired him. Was Flynn acting on his own, for his own PR company – or as a high-level go-between for Trump Campaign with the Kremlin? Or for Trump himself?

We now know, of course, that Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian ‘diplomats’ in December 2015, a move curiously not resisted by the Kremlin after Trump condemned the move, was not because of the GRU’s hacking of the Clinton and Weiner emails, as the White House explained – but because of the ongoing direct contacts between Trump’s transition team, including Flynn, and Russian intelligence. Did Trump tip Putin the wink, that it was okay, he would put everything back again once in office?

And what did Flynn’s PR efforts have to do with lurid tales of a plot to kidnap and render Dr Fetullah Gulen, Erdogan’s nemesis, to Turkey. Was luring former CIA Director James Woolsey to that meeting just a way of ‘confirming’ a false-flag decoy operation? Was Flynn really working for Noble Energy to get an undersea pipeline built to sell Israeli gas to Turkey?

And why is almost everyone in this story called James? We should be told.

With the cadavers mounting up in the closets of the Oval Office, anyone with information possibly leading to his impeachment for treason, it surely has to be clear even to what Lord Chief Justice Denning famously termed ‘The Man on the Clapham Omnibus’, the definition of any reasonable juror, that Trump is in a state of blind panic and desperately manufacturing any nonsense to try to push the FBI and Senate investigations away from himself.

Careless talk costs lives

He seems too, to be rapidly losing support. He’s reported to have screamed abuse the other day at the reliable Gen. McMaster; while no-one has heard the name Steve Bannon mentioned for at least a week. And Priebus has apparently had to order staff to stop slipping fake reports to the President as he reacts instinctively to tweet out about everything that comes across his desk; a number of people have lost their jobs as a result of internal plotting.

Indeed, the Pumpkin might travel a stop beyond Clapham to ask whether the Trumpkin might not have had the chief reason in pursuing the presidency he’s never really wanted and is scarily bad at, being to obtain the one position in the USA where he might be immune from criminal prosecution?

The Pumpkin gathers too that Trump has hired a firm of rottweiler Washington lawyers to go after the press and anybody else who doesn’t think he is wholly innocent of what he has already admitted, that he has had dealings with Russia, maybe not ‘in’ Russia as he says, that may have seriously compromised his position.

Yet he continues to incriminate himself. In an embarrassing interview with NBC he prevaricated over which of two accounts he should give, saying both that Comey had requested a private dinner-meeting in January to discuss the Russia investigation AND that he, Trump, had requested the dinner. He has since also denied Comey’s memorandum of the meeting, saying he never asked Comey to declare his personal loyalty – a promise Comey as Director of an internal security agency with powers of law enforcement would obviously have had a problem giving, especially to the prime suspect.

Nor, one hopes, did he actually ask Comey about the possibility of locking up journalists guilty of writing unfavourable ‘fake news’ about him. Only Comey apparently thinks he seriously did.

And today Trump has invited to the Oval Office, Russian ambassador Kisliak and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Right at the height of the fevered speculation of the world’s press as to his possibly compromised relations with Russia – or indeed about his fetish for pee-pee (if you think all this is planned policy for ‘improving relations’ with Russia and a Good Thing, get a brain).

Not to the State Department, as would be the normal protocol, but to the heart of the administration which Director Comey was beginning to prove they paid for. Is the President in their pocket, or just unbelievably stupid and reckless? And why was Lavrov there, what was the point of his visit?

But of course, Lavrov was going to be sent over to check on how much trouble Trump is really in. And Trump has already let slip that the meeting was arranged at the personal request of… Vladimir Putin, and that he ‘could not refuse’ it.

What, no horse’s head?

And the only media allowed in was the Man from Tass, following which Trump protested like a complete booby that he had been ‘tricked’ by Russians-who-lie into thinking this was Lavrov’s ‘personal photographer’. In fact The Pumpkin is not even certain if the Secretary of State, Rex Tillexxon was invited along, let alone the nurse who administers President Trump’s reality medication.

Yes, he actually invited an unknown Russian from a Kremlin-owned news agency with a camera and no security clearance into the Oval Office, along with the local chief spy and his Moscow handler.

And then boasted about his wonderful connections with Israeli intelligence, look, they’ve even got a guy inside ISIS who told us about the thing with the laptops you already knew about….

So dumb.

Donald, we all know you inhaled. It doesn’t matter, sweetie. Just come out with your hands up.



For many months now Trump has been swearing and protesting loudly that he has and had no financial or business connections whatever ‘in’ Russia. It’s not a question of belief, everyone knows it’s a Big Lie. It’s more a matter of definition.

How do we know?

Because before his election campaign he was forever boasting about his connections with Russian oligarchs, having organized a beauty pageant in Moscow and attended a party where, he announced breathily, he had ‘met them all’

Yes, all those delightful, very smart, very rich people he owes money and favours to, but whom he sucks up to because they’re richer and more dishonest than he is. He just adores guys who get away with stuff the press wouldn’t let him. He admires people who kill people.

And because he has produced a letter, written a full two months before the accusation even arose, from some accountants in Washington swearing he has no links with or income from Russia – except for a few, and maybe just a bit. Why did he get them to write that? Oh, right. Flynn.

And because he has lavishly praised President Putin and had a strange financial relationship with Putin crony, ‘The Fertiliser King’ Dmitry Rybolovlev – a part-owner in Bank of Cyprus, a known money-laundering outlet with Russian and US shareholders and a direct connection to Deutsche Bank’s Moscow-based Real Estate investment branch, to whom Trump owes over $350 million of a $640 million loan he reportedly defaulted on in 2008.

And because he has borrowed money – hundreds of millions – from Russian (and Chinese) banks, both private and State – American banks will no longer lend to him, such a credit junkie is the President that he long ago maxed-out his Platinum cards in the USA – to whom (and others, including RBS) his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also owes $1bn.

(If Trump is indeed a billionaire, why is his poor son-in-law, whom he has also brought inside the protective shield of the White House, having to finance his own property developments with massive unrepayable loans from foreign banks?)

This latter was confirmed by Eric Trump, the ‘Little Nazi’ who wonders why women don’t just put up with being groped, three years ago while unwisely playing golf with Arnold Palmer’s biographer, golfing writer James Dodson. According to a report in The Telegraph (07 May):

“Mr Dodson told Boston radio station WBUR: “This is the journalist in me, I said ‘What are you using to pay for these courses?’ And he (Donald Trump) just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million.

“So when I got in the cart with Eric, as we were setting off I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks, because of the recession, the Great Recession, have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.'”

“Mr Dodson claimed Eric Trump then told him: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programmes. We just go there all the time.”

“We just go there all the time”…. To play pitch’n’putt on the Kremlin lawn? Maybe Eric was just being puppyishly naive in blurting out some nonsense he might have thought would impress Dodson? Maybe Trump was too?

Wikipedia reports:

“Golf in Russia is not yet widespread, not only because of adverse natural conditions, but also because the construction of golf courses requires large capital investments (a few tens of millions of dollars, usually more than a hundred). The first 18-hole golf course was built in the suburban area of Nakhabino in 1994, and remained the only one in the country for many years.”

Only a handful of Russians who ‘really, really love golf’ are professionals, maybe four or five. The Russian Open has been won pretty much every year by outsiders – few of them household names – since Konstantin Lifinov lifted the first trophy in 1993. There are only nine golf courses in the whole of Russia, with another ten ‘under construction’.

The question might then be, if Trump has to borrow to build, who funded the controversial Trump International course at Menie Park near Aberdeen, to the tune of $120 million? It’s obviously losing money, its Google entry is offering ‘no reservation fees’ and ‘half-price hotel’ deals.

Clearly Russia is an area the Trumps would like to get into, if they had the money.

Or might I put on a fiction writer’s hat and outline the latest James Bond plot, a conspiracy to launder $billions of Russian oil wealth through covering the free world in tasteless, unused golf resorts patrolled by thuggish staff, funded by sinister oligarchs, and bring down Western democracy in the process?


The wisdom of the innocents

Trump’s latest poll figures somewhat belie his claim that his first 100 days have been a rip-roaring success. CNN reports his overall approval rating at 35%, and when asked to give one adjective to describe the President of the United States, 38% replied: ‘idiot’.

“Businessman” was the word least associated with President Trump by those polled.


“Since taking office, Mr Trump has mounted a frenzied, hate-filled, childishly resentful onslaught on the Obamas’ legacy by every possible means, heedless of the immense damage he is doing to ordinary Americans in the process.”

38% of Americans believe this poor fellow is an idiot. Please give generously.

“What is wrong with you?”

The Pumpkin believes that Michelle Obama has struck, with customary charm and wit, upon the exact slogan The Resistance needs to confront this tyrannical and abusive old moron.

What indeed is wrong with you?

Since taking office, Mr Trump has blundered around, unable to concentrate for more than a few moments on any issue other than the precipitous nature of his election, making rambling, confused and self-contradictory, self-justifying statements blaming everyone and everything for things he just can’t do right, appointing certified cretins, racialists and sinister lobbyists to positions of power ranked according to wealth and insanity; screaming abuse at subordinates and trolling people and institutions at random with vacuous, illiterate Tweets.

What is wrong with you?

Well, we wonder.

His handling of the James Comey firing has been completely cackhanded, even for the CEO of a one-man business. After first driving his newly appointed Deputy Attorney-General, the formerly well-regarded Rod Rosenstein, to the point of resigning over a lie that he, Trump, had had to move against Comey urgently on the basis of a letter which, it transpired, he had forced Rosenstein to write (there’s always a letter), Mr Trump tried to shift the blame onto his hapless little Press Secretary, Sean Spicer.

Spicey has been effectively suspended for his abject performance (on ‘Naval reserve duties’ he is, as usual, all at sea) in attempting to defend his demented Master without being briefed about the circumstances and the reasons behind the precipitate decision. Mr Spicer was discovered by the press pack, hiding in the dark among the bushes on the White House grounds, imparting a Keystone Cops dimension to the story you could not make up.

This poor creature, once human, has been trapped for 110 days in the White House: Please Give Generously.

With further contradictory statements by the Vice-President, the snow-capped advert for Anusol, Mike Pence; Sarah ‘We hate Huckabees’ Sanders (Spicey’s unpopular-fat-girl-dorm-monitor deputy) and the increasingly loopy and defeated-looking Kellyanne Conway, the story was being spun everywhichway, including by the Orange Glow himself, even during the course of a single interview with NBC in which he as much as admitted what he didn’t want anyone to know, that it was to stymie the FBI investigation into his Russian connections.

What is wrong with you?

In the middle of the night he sits alone in the Oval Office, firing off dangerously abusive tweets about things that have upset him, that he has seen reported on Fox News, the unreliable TV channel he apparently watches obsessively all day, and which, aides say, is – along with the Breitbart News website – his principal window on the world as he refuses to receive briefings from actual experts: a clear sign of paranoia.

And – The Pumpkin is not a qualified psychologist but a nearly 70-year-old observer of human goings-on – to that amateur diagnosis must be added Mr Trump’s two main drivers of policy – if you don’t count the attraction of his weekly three-day golfing holidays at Mar-a-Lago, that have as of last weekend racked up a total of $27 million in travel and security costs to the taxpayer in only four months and cost the local community many more $millions in lost trade; which he has been told about, but does not care.

What is wrong with you?

One driver of policy is the unbearable knowledge that he really lost the election.

It preys continually on what remains of his mind, that he actually got 2.8 million votes fewer than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, despite the vitriolic campaign of hate which he and his team of fascist brownshirts, frustrated housewives and Russian agents spewed at her, unprecedented in modern politics.

He won the election, only because the numbers were affected in the Electoral College process by Republican gerrymandering in a few key ‘swing’ states, disenfranchising tens of thousands of potentially Democratic voters.

The campaign of dirty tricks included putting out fake-news messages on social media giving Democratic voters incorrect information about registration and polling dates; reducing the number of voting machines in poorer wards (sometimes through fake burglaries) in order to create unacceptable lines, and sending out to large numbers of mainly black and Latino voters who had previously been removed from the electoral roll without their knowledge ‘on suspicion’ of duplicate registration, non-valid polling cards. Such tactics affected tens of thousands of voters.

Nevertheless in his confusion, the 70-year-old Trump was told, presumably by Bannon, to keep tweeting that between three and five million unregistered immigrants had voted for Clinton – a completely preposterous meme that over 60% of his supporters came to believe; prompting ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough on NBC to comment was the first case he had encountered, of a ‘sore winner’.

Add to Mr Trump’s equally neurotic obsession with trying to rationalize the relatively small number of people who turned out at his inauguration parade – for which he had raised $107 million in special donations (nobody knows where the money has gone, three times what it cost to bring out three times as many Obama supporters in 2008) – and the weekly ‘campaign rallies’ he keeps re-running all over the midwest, and you have a potent cocktail of grievance on which to endlessly brood.

His actual unpopularity haunts him night and day; indeed, he has been especially vengeful in shutting down the activities of the Parks Department, that reported the true official figures for his poor turnout and published the incriminating photographs showing an almost deserted plaza.

It is as if his great triumph in becoming President, the ultimate ratification of a life spent selfishly cheating people, never lasted beyond the moment of declaration and only the euphoria of that moment, the feeling of being swept along on an adoring tide, makes up for the sheer agony of having actually to do a job for which he is totally unprepared and unqualified. So many of his actions shout ‘Help, get me out of here’, even as he swaggers and bullies and lies his way daily deeper into trouble.

What is wrong with you?

There is no other route to political power in America, than through The Money.

His other great motivation is his equally strong hatred of the Obamas and their enduring popularity. How dare the uppity n-words get above him in social prestige? Especially when he and his dad invested so much in racially excluding tenants from their rack-rent housing projects.

President Obama was not quite the great black hope everyone imagined. Sadly, he is just another Wall Street white guy in disguise; a constitutional lawyer beholden to The Money. But what else could or should we have expected? There is no other route to political power in America, than through The Money.

Nevertheless, he is not a bad man. He did not try to grind the faces of the poor as the Republicans delight in doing, when they can be bothered to think about them at all between elections*. He genuinely did his best to bring about social reform, to extend free healthcare and to protect the environment. Despite his sorry record of extrajudicial killings, he is not thought to be an ecocidal money-launderer and serial bankrupt with connections to global criminal enterprises.

And Michelle has done sterling work all over the world in advancing the cause of public education and the advancement of women, a genuinely inspirational and gracious figure some say they wish would run for the Presidency.

Which is how she came to be at a conference in Washington yesterday on children’s nutrition.

Since taking office, Mr Trump has mounted a continued, frenzied, hate-filled, childishly resentful onslaught on the Obamas’ legacy by every possible means, heedless of the immense damage he is doing to ordinary Americans in the process.

He has attacked and attempted to rollback every single piece of legislation, every appointment the 44th President succeeded against the political odds in making during his eight years in office – including a tiny, inexpensive and inoffensive order requiring schools in the public system to meet proper standards of nutrition when providing pupils with meals.

When you consider that one State (Republican, naturally – what is wrong with them?) recently ruled that Pizza counts as a vegetable towards the ‘5-a-day’ target on account of it’s got tomato paste on it, duh, along with the processed cheese, you can see why it might be important to insist on a healthy balance of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

“We have a lot more work to do, for sure, but we’ve got to make sure we don’t let anybody take us back because the question is, where are we going back to?” Obama told a Partnership for a Healthier America summit in Washington.

“This is where you really have to look at motives, you know. You have to stop and think: why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you?” – Guardian Today report

It’s not an argument Sonny Purdue, the Agriculture secretary, would go along with, as, presumably in response to a Trump order, he has simply scrapped the requirement, the Pumpkin imagines in the face of lobbying pressure and much to the relief of the US’s vastly powerful junk food lobby, the ‘stuff everything with soya and sugar’ industry that is killing people around the world in large numbers for profit – another key plank of Republican policy.

What is wrong with Mr Purdue is easy to answer: he’s an asshole.

Mrs Obama’s comments, her appeals to Moms to fight this kind of Trumpenshit, apparently met with rousing applause; and not only from Jamie Oliver.

“What is wrong with you?” should be the question loudly demanded of every bribed Republican energy, arms, medical insurance industry and food-lobby shill in Congress, every member of Trump’s incompetent wrecking crew of billionaire Deplorables, every dumbfuck who voted to cancel their own healthcare, every supine journalist who goes along respectfully with the Office of President that is being daily disgraced and diminished by this lying, self-deluded old monster – and of the monster himself.


*As, for instance, the disgusting old Senate leader, Orrin Hatch, who has likened single-payer healthcare to being ‘on the dole’.


Did you hear the one about the ISIS asset?

Every new dawn brings news of yet another Trump gaffe, yet another hastily cobbled-together attempt by his frazzled staff to put him back in his box. And still no-one has the guts to have him removed from office, by force if necessary.

That meeting with the Russians? The Washington Post and others have been reporting, like a large orange baboon-child he blurted out to Lavrov a secret so secret it has a higher security rating than Top Secret.

It can, literally, only be spoken of in code.

Hey, guess what, I’m the President! Gee whillikers, who’d a’ thought it? Did you hear the one about the ISIS asset? Yeah, we’ve got one! His name’s dtgjk,skjiudcgtudjk, right?

Now, the subject matter of the coded secret isn’t actually a secret at all, it’s been in the papers for days. We all knew selected national security administrations around the world were making airports ban travellers from carrying laptops onboard as hand-luggage because of a tipoff that IS were planning to bomb one or more aircraft.

It must have been a pretty specific threat. But the real secret is who leaked it? The highest classification was designed to protect the source inside the IS, who given the difficulty of penetrating IS may be one of the most valuable assets on the planet. Trump apparently gave Lavrov enough background to enable the Russians to identify the source.

Now, the Russians, the US, Iran/Hezbollah, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, the Kurdish PKK militias, Bashar al-Assad and many others in the grand coalition are opposing IS. So we’re all on the same side, right? Well, no. The US is opposing Iran/Hezbollah on behalf of the Israelis, and the Russians are allies of Iran – Turkey wasn’t an ally of Russia but now is, only it’s an enemy of the Kurds… God, it’s a complete mess and I’m not even confident of finishing this paragraph.

Somewhere in the mess is Saudi Arabia, the oligarchic C15th dynasty that barbarously decapitates more people for less reason than ISIS ever did, where Trump is off to on a grand mission, his first trip abroad, to kiss the ring of the senile King and sell yet more $billions of arms to slaughter and starve more children and doctors in Yemen. (But not before he’s chocolate-caked President Erdogan in a summit of the world’s two leading authoritarian paranoiacs.)

And now the entire Gulf States region knows that Trump cannot be trusted with the secret of what day it is.

And Trumpski’s response to the shitstorm that even leading Republicans are gulping about?

“I’m the President. I have an absolute right to tell the Russians whatever I like.” (Actually, he doesn’t.)

The question must then surely be, if the info is fine to be given to the Russian Foreign Minister, what compulsion was there to send Lavrov in person all the way to Washington to receive it, when it could just have been exchanged via the normal channels?

He knows, he understands, he can be trusted with, nothing. Nothing whatsoever. He has become a grave concern to US allies and a laughing-stock at NATO, where it’s said they are preparing for his forthcoming visit with instructions to keep all speeches to under four minutes, in simple language and make them visually entertaining.

But the FBI has a way of eventually dealing with people like Trump, dangerous subversives, incompetent loose-tongued lunatics with dodgy connections, and you get a National Day named in your honor after the gun-carriage has passed by.

Please don’t sell me another saxophone!

“…this is a measure designed to make Britain more dangerous, more hostile, more insular and xenophobic: the really shit side of Brexit”

‘I’ve got a little list’ (G&S, The Mikado)

The ghastly Amber Rudd, whose business past makes her look like Trump’s twisted sister, says she doesn’t want to be thought of as ‘racist’ for apparently proposing – she’s the new Home Secretary, by the way – that firms should be forced to provide the Home Office with details of all ‘foreign’, i.e. non-British workers.

She only wants to make sure native British nationals are getting a fair crack of the whip when it comes to getting jobs.

Darling, the word is not racist, it’s fascist.

You can safely leave the way the lists are used to the racists. Maybe obliging the  interlopers with their unacceptable foreign accents to wear yellow armbands outdoors, having G4S paint their front doors red, might help?

Because lists can be harmful to health.

Coming on top of the startling news that half a billion Yahoo! email subscribers’ accounts were probably hacked by Russians five years ago, is the news that, in 2015, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, caved in to pressure from the National Security Administration and secretly had tracking software planted so the spooks could read everyone’s messages, scanning them for keywords, forever.

What, words like ‘go’, ‘fuck’, and ‘yourselves’?

Even Mayer’s internal security people weren’t in the loop, only discovering the ruse when they thought there had been another hack – which there had been, only it was their own CEO and the State security people quietly doing the hacking. The head security guy quit, proving there is still some honour among thieves.

And I’m unsubscribing from Yahoo!, not because I support terrorism, drug-running and organized crime, I don’t, but because I don’t like being lied to and implicitly accused by some acned baboon in a bunker of crimes I haven’t committed and don’t intend to commit. I signed for a Yahoo! account in the delusional belief that my privacy was protected, at least to some extent.

Maybe I didn’t read the bit in the contract labelled ‘Privacy’ closely enough, and just assumed there was some?

Let me try to explain where uhm cumin’ frum.

It was my birthday yesterday. I have to buy my own presents these days, so on a whim I’d bought myself a saxophone, a cute little curved soprano sax, which I’ve privately pledged to learn to play well enough to get up on stage by the time of my next jazz week in France. A strange idea, nonetheless at my age you need something to keep dragging you forwards.

I spent a few days trawling the wires for a nice one at a just-affordable price. I found one. Then I bought it. Yes, I really did! And look, it’s here; and I’m a bit puzzled, because it’s got more little keys than I’ve got fingers, but I’ll persevere.

Anyway, now, whenever I go on websites, there are pop-up ads from stores trying to sell me more saxophones….

How many saxophones do those marketing cretins with their stupid bots think anyone might want to buy in an average month?

Don’t you think this invasive inquisition into our purchasing habits has gone far enough? I spent 15 years in advertising as a writer and creative director, I get the principle of ‘relationship marketing’, I just want to be able to choose my relations. As well as dead celebrities, 2016 seems to have become the year of stupid.

Learning to play the little saxophone was my little secret, something private, a bonkers idea that I wanted to keep to myself. Now some speccy little drone in Langley, Va. knows I’m a complete dweeb and I will never be allowed to access any information without some lunatic popping-up, trying to sell me another saxophone.

Thanks, Amazon.

More seriously, about eight years ago my son, who is a military specialist now doing a high-powered MA, made me buy him a book for his birthday – he was 15 and didn’t have an Amazon account.

‘The Sniper’s Manual’ is not really the kind of reading I go in for, to be honest. I’m more a Saturday Guardian man. But for months and years afterwards it stayed on my Recently Viewed list, along with a whole bunch of suggestions for the Anarchist Cookbook and suchlike.

What is that going to look like when someone starts ferreting around because they don’t like me calling the Home Secretary a fascist? And under my bed in plastic boxes is stored two-thirds of the boy’s college research and private reading around military history and guerrilla warfare for the past ten years….

Should I just turn myself in, plead guilty and get it over with? Do they let you have saxophones piling up in a gaol cell?


Putting anyone on a database nowadays makes them vulnerable to abuse and persecution. Facebook, Yahoo!, Cloud accounts, nowhere is secure. As society increasingly coagulates into small, increasingly hostile, sometimes threatening special interest groups, ‘foreigners’ are high on the list of people it’s okay to beat up in the street.

Indeed, if you live in Pakistan, or Bangladesh, and you think you have the space to discuss ideas about the sharia State, well, sorry – we’re going to send a mob round to hack you and your family to pieces. Don’t worry, there’s a better life on the Other Side, where you’ll have all Eternity to repent your apostasy.

Do we seriously imagine our fellow nationals are so polite, so civilized, there aren’t thousands of us perfectly willing under the right circumstances, given permission, to become informers, militiamen, torturers – hangmen?

And where is the evidence that British people who deserve them can’t get jobs in industry because foreigners are taking them all? While it may be true at the lower end of the skills range, where we find Polish graduates doing manual labour or slinging lattes in Costa, no British graduate would take a labouring job – although the Irish used to, and we called them Paddy and ‘thick’, but they made their money and built their bungalows.

I’ve bogld endlessly about this, that immigration of workers is totally subject to the normal law of supply and demand. If there aren’t the jobs, they won’t come. Now, however, although there are the jobs, who’d come, if they knew they were being exposed to the more rancid side of the native British character?

And, look. The pound is trading today at $1.18, its lowest since the 1960s. It’s forecast to drop to $1.10 by the end of the year; and to parity with the Euro. So your average European can’t make anything extra here, converting the £s s/he earns doing a crap job back into €s for the folks back home. Again, there’s no incentive to migrate.

So this is a measure designed to make Britain more dangerous, more hostile, more insular and xenophobic: the really shit side of Brexit, licensing thugs and racists to decide our industrial and social policy – keeping the scumbag editors of Wapping in gloating headlines. While at the same time, the economics are already sorting out the problem, if there is a problem, which I do not believe there is.

There’s no security in databases, and Rudd needs to know that. Even without breaches of data security – will there be addresses, too? Other personal data? – lists lead to quotas; quotas lead to the Othering of the innocent; Othering leads to breaking down doors, confiscation of property; camps, gas, dogs, bullets in the back of the head.

Please don’t tell me this is Britain and that’s absurd. We interned foreigners in 1939, we can do it again. There are plenty of people who would. Look at the Black & Tans in Ireland in the 1920s. I never heard a bad word about Syria, and how hospitable its people are, until the flayed corpses of students started turning up on rubbish dumps with their eyes gouged out.

As for students, thanks to Ruddism it’s going to be much harder for them to study here in future. So they won’t come, the universities will have to charge the natives more, and a whole generation of talent will be lost to us. I have always wondered why, having conferred degrees upon these bright young people, we don’t make every effort to keep them in Britain. It seems a total waste to send them packing as soon as we’ve relieved them of their £18,000 a year, plus accommodation costs, just to avoid cretinous headlines in the Daily Mail.

And what if Rudd decides a company has too many foreign workers? Do we employ G4S goons to round them up and send them home? Do we dragoon unsuitable candidates, the long-term unemployables, from the nearest JobCentrePlus to go in and take over their desks?

What’s that going to do to the businesses, that’ve spent time and money putting these people in place, employing them only because they’re better qualified or more willing to work than teenage British baboons with hopeless degrees in nail-science through the medium of feminist slavery?

No, Amber, you’re not racist. Not at all.

You’re just deeply worrying.


Home and Away

Coming immediately on top of the hoo-ha over the Home Office proposal to list all the foreign workers in the UK (Amber Rudd’s own brother has expressed concern), the Foreign Office is now frantically backtracking over reports that it has banned the London School of Economics from employing any of its non-British academics to work on research or consultancy programmes relating to the Brexit negotiations, on grounds of ‘national security’.

There is not a lot of difference, as far as I can see, between this and the banning of Jewish academics from working in German universities in the 1930s. But maybe as Amber has said, and Boris’ civil servants are saying, ‘we didn’t mean it like that!’


Has Donald finally Trumped himself?

There’s not a lot you can say, is there, to the latest revelations about Trump’s breathtakingly insouciant attitude towards women, power and sex.

His simple idea that if you feel like having sex with a woman, any woman, and you are powerful enough, all you have to do is ‘grab her pussy’ and she will put out for you, has not gone down well with senior Republicans who, up to now, have been quite happy to ignore a vast wealth of Donald’s peccadilloes, missayings and dumb-fuck observations on life. Nevertheless, several still seem prepared to overlook that, among other things:

…he treats money from his  businesses and tax-exempt charity foundation as being for his own use while paying no tax on his actual income; insults and mocks women and disabled people and Vietnam vets and grieving parents; has openly racist views of Mexicans and Muslims – whom he has pledged to ethnically cleanse – has alienated vast swaths of the electorate, and has consistently hyperinflated his tawdry record of success and capabilities as a business manager.

Equally idiotic is his defence of his admitted, and almost certainly actionable sexual misconduct, his thinly veiled attack on Bill Clinton, which basically goes: ‘I’m no worse than the other guy you wouldn’t have voted into the White House if you’d known how bad he was.’


Yes, he really is as dumb as he pretends to be!

So what does that make the otherwise apparently rational, intellectual Americans, some of them women with PhDs, who would still rather vote for Trump than Hillary?


The pitfalls of life in the outside world

At least inside the EU we didn’t have to worry about insulting anybody’s president, or their stupid religion.

Now we’re trading with the rest of the world instead (I thought we always were. Isn’t that why the EU put up with us all those years? Ed.), we’ll have to mind our ps and qs.

A Dutch man has been gaoled in Burma, sorry Myanmar, for three months with hard labour and fined £80 for ‘insulting Buddhism’.

The hapless tourist was being kept awake in the middle of the night by a very loud noise blaring out of the local temple. Unaware, he says, that a service was in progress, he went round and pulled the plug out of the loudspeaker; thereby offering a massive insult to Prince Gautama, the Enlightened One, who has been dead for two and a half thousand years.

Some enlightenment.

As far as I was aware, Buddhism isn’t even a religion. It’s technically just a philosophy, the relative equivalent of homoeopathy to actual medicine; but apparently the Myanmarese are very pious people, who also accused the miscreant of failing to remove his shoes. You have been warned.

And in some Arab countries, there are strict rules about what you can and can’t do in the street, where you might frighten the camels; while, of course, there are plenty of places in the world where it’s a criminal offence to mildly scoff at the King, the President, the Army, and even the food – Kazakhstan has a particularly suggestive national sausage made from donkey-meat, the lampooning of which on Facebook got one Scottish engineer expelled from the country.

British businessmen might find it was a lot safer and easier trading under the umbrella of the totally secular and satire-proof EU.


In my Prime

There are probably 99 more interesting numbers between 1 and 100, than 67. Sixty-seven is an inbetween age, neither 66 nor 68. But it seems somehow Autumnal; a transitional number from Summer to Winter; the redline between middle-age and impending curtains.

Sixty-eight is OLD!

Sixty-seven is not a propitious number, but it’s an odd one and, being indivisible by any number other than itself and 1, it’s a Prime number. Which is about all you can say for it.

My mother remembered my birthday, but I’d left my phone somewhere and we didn’t connect until the following evening. My ex-wife rang, two days late, to say she always gets confused over the date.

Our kiddiewinks ignored it, although I didn’t ignore theirs. (So, I’ve found a ‘belated’ Amazon gift voucher in my disused Yahoo! inbox. Sorry, luv. It was only a day late… a record for this family.)

I generally comment on the Number of my birthday here in muh bogl, every year. I’m not really a numerologist, but there can be something a little propitious about numbers and dates an’ stuff. There’s often a tale hanging by it, but not this year, when nothing whatever interesting occurred.

Anyway, here I am, 67 at last. My Prime.

And not a lot’s changed, frankly. (Except I’ve taken up the saxophone!)


A Good Night Out

So, in addition to saxophony, I treated myself last night to a little Saturday Night outing to a concert – ‘gig’ sounds too unrehearsed – by a well-polished ’70s soul music tribute act; Soul Legends.

And here I must confess that, while I present to the world as some sort of modern-jazz fiend practically from birth, and even make strenuous efforts occasionally in the area of performance, the sad fact is that my first real grownup musical love-affair was with the black American soul music we played a lot of at my first Top-40 radio station, where I worked as the news jock for three years. (Indeed, for the first ten minutes of the set I kept having to wipe away small tears of joyous memory of those twelve-hour days I put in for twenty quid a week.)

When the local arts centre advertises an eight o’clock start time, that’s generally when the audience turns up. So my initial impression of a house looking more like the ones our choir generally gets, occupied seats being as thin as the hairs on the audience’s head, proved premature.

Although not rammed, it was a pretty decent turnout for the end of the road to nowhere. What struck me then was the demographic. Apart from muh gudfriend, li’l Emma, spotted in the stalls, there were almost no people under the age of 45, and I should say those of my own era, mid-to-late 60s, were in the majority – almost all of them women. That didn’t stop them from whooping and flopping about enthusiastically on the tiny floorspace in front of the apron stage; while Mike, the somewhat world-weary MC and lead singer, enjoined us: ‘If you’ve had enough clapping, audience, just wave your arms…’.

I noticed only two actually black faces in the audience out of about 500, which caused me to wonder a little if black people in general aren’t perhaps embarrassed by this particular manifestation of their musical heritage, that has so fascinated white – especially female – audiences for almost fifty years? There’s a little racial stereotyping, isn’t there, in the white suits and mirror-polished shoes, the afro wigs and porkpie hats, the high-stepping dance routines, that’s both endearing and a bit toe-curling at the same time.

The band consisted of six talented young black singers, taking turns with rapid costume changes at being, variously, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson (a tremendous impression, although I never took to him) and Tina Turner. There was a brief tribute to the late Rod Temperton, the fish-gutter from Cleethorpes known as The Invisible Man, who, rather surprisingly, wrote Jackson’s zillion-selling Thriller album and many other massive US soul hits.

While the backing was provided by three phlegmatic, middle-aged, white British session musicians and the obligatory geeky-looking keyboard player sporting Rick Wakeman tribute waist-length hair (no member of the Tufty Club, he), who astonishingly appeared to be sight-reading the entire repertoire.

I’d guess the odd mix had something to do with the Musicians’ Union ‘Amber Rudd tribute’ quota rules. It could have done with a couple of horn players, though. Soul isn’t soul without the additional punch delivered by at least a trumpet ‘n’ sax duo. Maybe it was just lack of stage-space, or the economics of touring.

But the audience were a friendly bunch, and in the intermission two mildly inebriated ladies from a coach party sitting in my row insisted on buying me a drink, the first time in my life that has ever happened, being bought a small red wine in a plastic mug by total strangers with no ulterior motive (they’d be wasting their time if there had been. ‘Nothing works’, as Catweazle so memorably put it).

I couldn’t get near them in the crush afterwards to thank them, they were heading on to a cocktail bar, so if you’re reading this, ladies (fat chance!), bottoms up!

Work. Life. Balance.

“A key function of media is the mass production of ignorance.”

  • Prof Greg Philo, Glasgow University Media Group


Having locked myself in the loo, as it were, by signing a petition got up by cleaning workers demanding the £9/hr London Living Wage as opposed to the National Living Wage of £7.22, which any fule kno exceeds the Adult Minimum Wage by a pound and tuppence, or something like that, a ‘personal appeal’ on behalf of two suspended workers contracted to Top Shop women’s outfitters (via an agency called Britannia Services) that turns out to be part of a Union-sponsored campaign, and never being allowed to hear the last of it, I’ve been cautiously interested in the Parliamentary Business Committee’s investigation into working practices within Mr Mike Ashley’s gargantuan retail empire, Sports Direct, especially at its Shirebrook, Derbyshire warehouse.

Here, it appears, female employees terrified of losing contract hours have been giving birth in the toilets, heedless of rules that require them to have their pay docked if they spend too long on comfort breaks; and other, seemingly astonishing, punitive management practices amounting to corporate abuse, including a ‘points’ system (six points and you’re out) that penalises workers for clocking-off on time, as well as fining them for every minute they clock-in late, or day they take off sick; charging workers £10 a month for administering their payroll via free prepaid bank debit cards, and so on – mean-spirited little fiddles that are causing high levels of stress and anxiety. Acts of physical violence by managers have also been alleged; while workers are intensively searched for contraband at the end of their shift, sometimes taking hours for which they get no extra pay.

External union calculations suggest that taking all this into account, workers at Sports Direct are being paid a lot less than the minimum wage; a claim the taxman is investigating. (I wonder what they would have made of my job at the ‘stately home’, where I took no holiday for five years, was back at work the next morning after having surgery under general anaesthetic, and was on-call literally 24 hours a day – on a 37.5 hours contract at £14k a year!)

Grilled by the Committee, the controversial Mr Ashley has admitted that many of the practices seem to be wrong, but states that the company has grown too vast for him to be aware of everything that goes on. However, he feels that the very high number of ambulance call-outs recorded to his premises is probably just due to overreaction by concerned managers….

I wish MPs would take a wider remit than investigating this one company, as these Victorian management practices are absolutely endemic in our modern world of low-cost, high-intensity retail distribution.

A friend of mine, Simon (58) took what he expected to be a part-time job at our local branch of B&Q’s DIY stores empire, only to leave after just a few weeks because of the dreadful quality of management, the incompetence for which he frequently had to cover, the compulsory extra hours demanded of him on pain of being fired, and the bullying, which he was not prepared to put up with.

I could use some extra money too. Half-heartedly pursuing a notification I received from yesterday of a part-time opening at Curry’s electrical store, a branch of the Dixon’s Carphone Warehouse retail group, just across the carpark from B&Q (now closed), I read review after review – over 100 – posted online by former employees (none actually from this branch) who gave the employer the minimum single star-rating, testifying to management incompetence, exploitative hours, refusals of leave of absence or holidays, total non-delivery of promised ‘quality training’, high staff turnover, dishonest selling of inappropriate extras and insurances and, again, bullying.

Interspersed with these deeply disturbing and negative comments, however, were 4- and 5-star reviews, stating what a brilliant company Dixon’s is to work for, and how happy and well-trained the staff are. Now, as readers of this, muh bogl, are all-too aware, I’ve been a journalist and news editor, spent 15 years as a commercial copywriter, run my own advertising agency (as Creative Director) and worked for six years as an editor in publishing companies. It’s perfectly obvious to me from the style of those anomalous reviews that they’ve been professionally copywritten, many by the same hand, presumably deliberately in order to mislead prospective job applicants and counter negative impressions of the company.

Prove me wrong, Dixon’s.

Amazon, too, has come in for similar criticisms over recent years concerning abusive working practices and exploitation of casual workers at its distribution depots; while van drivers working for courier companies may be paid as little as 45 pence per drop, and are expected to run their own vehicles as self-employed workers, contrary to HMRC rules on self-employment.

A lot of people are paying dearly for our modern world of instant gratification, stuff picked and delivered to your door in impossibly short order. And a few billionaires are being created from it.

Killing the goose

I have trouble understanding the way pay grades and scales and ‘spines’ operate, and all the other, highly technical bollocks invented by the Human Resources conspiracy to cut the wages bills of large companies and institutions. I suspect I’m not alone.

I had it explained to me the other day, for instance, how the HR department of my son’s part-time employer is recalibrating all the contracts to compensate the company for having agreed to the Chancellor’s demand that employers should all pay, not the minimum wage but the higher  ‘living wage’. I still don’t fully understand, as it appears he is being compensated for working fewer hours by being paid a much more generous rate even than I am! Another recent petition was got up to castigate B&Q for also cutting back on contract hours and playing various dirty tricks such as abolishing the higher rates for antisocial hours and overtime  to ensure the living wage does not cut into their profits, at the expense of their workforce. Surely not what the Chancellor intended.

My own part-time employer first tried to pretend they had carried out a workflow study showing that we didn’t deserve to be paid £9 an hour – a figure that had remained unchanged since 2007. Challenged on that, they confessed that the person who they claimed had carried out the study no longer worked there. A contracts review in 2014 led to an increase in the basic pay of 76 pence an hour, and an admission that the employer ought to have been paying us holiday pay under the EU directive on contracted part-time employment, which they then started to do. The HR department is now desperately trying to work out a new formula by which our holiday pay (paid pro rata at 1/27th the annual salary) becomes part of the £9.76 an hour basic rate, so that can be cut to £7.20, in line with the ‘living wage’!

(I was amused to learn too, that my contract runs until 2099, in which year I confidently expect to celebrate my 150th birthday!)

In the meantime our duties and responsibilities have increased, but thanks to some cunning planning involving the use of a new computer system the number of hours we are required to work and the number of venues across which we are asked to work, hence the number of people required,  have been reduced by about a third.

There will come a time, I foresee, when these efficiencies are going to kill the goose that, as it were, does the work…. There is, after all, little point getting out of bed in the morning and slogging in for only a couple of hours’ work in a day, paid at £7.20 an hour, that barely covers the cost of your lunch.  I thank the Lord however that my managers are relatively efficient, appreciative, forgiving, intelligent, adaptable, kind and mild-mannered; and yet the work somehow still gets done, and done well.

See, Mr Ashley, it’s not impossible.


Work. Life. Balance.

I came across this next bit in my unpublished Drafts folder, from May 2014. It seems so utterly fresh and relevant today:

With which of the following propositions do you most agree?

I cannot get a job because:


all them foreigners are coming over here from Romania expecting to live on benefits and get a house and work for less than minimum wage, while our Kylie has been waiting on the council list for six years and she’s got two kids who can’t get a place in nursery school because of all them moslims and it’s all the fault of Camoron and Europe.


none of us is qualified to get a job and no-one will employ us because we are a bunch of useless, semi-literate sofa-dwellers who have rejected every opportunity we were given by the state to benefit from free education up to tertiary stage in favour of stupidly imagining we could become pop stars or well paid footballers without having to do a tap of work.


I cannot continue keeping up my skills in the race against new technology applications, automation and expert systems, and do work at the same time. I cannot guarantee maintaining my career trajectory in a culture of zero-hours contracts and interim placements; of ‘labour-market flexibility’ geared to the needs of CEOs under pressure to deliver excessive dividends to shareholders at a time of ultra-low interest rates.

Now, I wonder where that draft was going?


Hate me, kill me, but don’t ignore me

The 0ther day, I Posted two great Posts about the rapidly approaching referendum on whether Britain should stay in or leave the European Union. They took many hours to research and write.

I am greatly fearful we shall vote to leave, because the Great British public is too compromised to understand the real issues and too poorly educated to know what happens whenever we turn our backs on Europe.

Not only has nobody read the Posts, according to WordPress’ Suicide Watch nobody has read anything at all on this, muh li’l bogl, for the past two days. This, despite me discovering that you can put tags on your Posts that get people excited.

Each time anyone anywhere says they don’t believe in logical reason, another bogler dies.

Remember that.


Life’s lottery

The deadline for voter registration for the EU referendum expired at midnight last night.

So great was the demand for registrations that the website crashed about two hours before the deadline. Immediately, 38 Degrees got up a petition to extend the deadline. Eighty thousand signatures in five minutes flat produced a 48-hour extension, as if from a magic hat of Government grace.

I’m sanguine about it. I can’t understand why, every year, British holidaymakers wait practically until they’ve turned up at the airport before thinking to apply for a passport, and then make a scene when the passport office is snowed under with applications every summer and there’s a five-week delay. I’ve had a passport since I was 15, they’re valid for 16 years, the previous iteration would have run out this year so I sent off for a new one in March last year, not at the height of the holiday season. It took only three days to arrive. I  seldom go anywhere abroad, but if I have to, I’ve got a passport! Having a passport is just one of those things you do, a rite of passage. It’s unbelievable that so many dimwits can’t manage in time to arrange the documents they need to get around.

Now we have a situation where everyone was told days, weeks and months ago that they had until midnight last night to apply for voter registration and there’s a huge fuss because the pathetic boobies found they couldn’t all apply at eleven fifty-eight. Maybe they thought it was a party, or something. (Postscriptum: according to BBC News, nearly HALF A MILLION people have registered in the past two days…. wtf???)

I simply can’t understand, given that we had nationwide local council, Assembly government and European Parliamentary elections only a month ago, in May, and a General Election 13 months ago, what the dimwits have been doing all this time? You only need to register once wherever you live. I’ve been a registered voter at this address for four and a half years since I moved in. All it took was, they sent me a form, I didn’t even have to ask, and I agreed, yes, I live here, I’m over 18,  and that was that. I get a voting card through the post a month before every election, and an annual request to confirm that I’m still alive (they’ll be mounting up on the doormat when my mummified remains are found by social workers, gnawed by cats.)

And I thought I was the most administratively challenged person on the planet.

How are these barely sentient procrastinating baboons able to understand the complex issues surrounding our membership of the EU, if they can’t arrange the simplest things in good time, like being a voter or owning a passport? Democracy isn’t something you spoon-feed people on demand, you can’t get it on Amazon or via Instagram. The Electoral Reform Society ought to look into it, such a massive last-minute voter registration online sounds highly fishy and could seriously affect the result.

These people don’t deserve a vote, they’re bound to get it wrong.

Alien conspiracy – we should be told!

Musiem tour guide
motoronics ltd – Aberystwyth

This job is for anyone highly interested in history science and technology, to visit musiems castles and historic sights, also exibitions where possible, the correct candidate will have the role of working as a team to research topics such as transport through time and log to create portfolio for later communications, the job is part time temporary role and its part paid & part voluntary, will also suite student who may allready taken the subjects as above for studies, transport and travel expenses will be provided, if you would like some fun or creative learning with weekends out then this is the placement you need.

A little while ago I developed a small Post on the theme of an online recruitment ad I had spotted in my inbox, for some rain-sodden enthusiast to log all the different makes of car entering and leaving the town of Aberystwyth, in West Wales, on a part-paid, part-voluntary (for which read ‘less than minimum wage if you calculate it by the hour’) basis.

I was first of all outraged that an illiterate troupe of monkeys could have been engaged to write such a piece of vertiginously ungrammatical, poorly spelled and punctuated copy.

I was happy to point out that the road on which this highly interested individual was to be stationed is in fact the A487 and not, as claimed, the ‘a470’ (sic), which is in a different (though not too distant) county. I poked fun, too, at their inability to tell the (very obvious and substantial) differences between words such as ‘suit’ and ‘suite’, ‘sites’ and ‘sights’.

And then this morning, I found the ad above posted to my online bulletin board by the Indeed dotcom recruitment empire, on behalf of motoronics ltd, the people who put the word ‘moronic’ in, and took out the initial cap. letters from, er, motoronics ltd.

Clearly, these are clues. There is something going on here, of which I (and the public at large) are unaware. I suspect no human agency is involved, or can be. I feel sure that, at long last, I have uncovered genuine and irrefutable evidence of an alien conspiracy.

Decode the unforgettable wording of this plangent request for a one-man team to visit castles and ‘musiems’ (I initially read it as ‘Muslims’, sorry, carry on…) and you come to the worrying realisation that it is pretty much the same ‘role’ as in the previous ad, a role which will be suite-ed to the correct candidate: some indigent student with an enthusiasm for ‘history science’ and an excitement for logging things ominously for ‘later communications’, only this time in an historical context, rather than beside the coast road; one who has perhaps already made a study of transport through time… yet who sometimes finds it impossible to visit ‘exibitions’.

Could we be talking actual Time Travel here?

Is this matching pair of advertisements perhaps a phishing expedition from the future? Employing an example of the strange language in which our descendants centuries from now, part-human, part-Apple, will be communicating with one another?

Is someone trying to reach us with a message of vital importance for all Mankind? (Feminists look away now, ‘Man’ in this context does not imply the thing you would like us to express our outrage about.)

What else but a projection from the future ‘motoronics ltd’ corporation can explain the unusual inconsistency of spelling, that enables a man (I am assuming it is a man, and not a heap of groaning baboons with keyboards, who have been at the fermented fruit again) to spell ‘museum’ as if he had never visited one, or ‘allready’ as if the letter ‘l’ was on sale this week; yet who can correctly man-up to more difficult words, such as ‘placement’, ‘portfolio’ and ‘temporary’?

The assumption – indeed, the only explanation – must be that archaic concepts like ‘musiems’ and ‘exibitions’ (sic) have fallen out of fashion by the year 2315, so that no-one knows any longer what they were (accounting for the occasional impossibility of researching them) or how the words were once spelled. Management-consultant chimps, however, have taken over the planet; so that ‘placements’ and ‘portfolios’ remain not only commonplace, but essential elements of the new national curriculum.

In my previous Post on this theme, I may have mentioned two salient facts: one, I have been a working composer and editor of texts for much of the last century; and two, I have been largely unemployed and otherwise completely unable to find a job utilising my literary skills for the past four years and counting. (Did I mention that I also suffer from depression and have a prostate gland the size of an orange, that gets me up several times in the night? Possibly not for a while.)

Only this, muh clandestine underground survivor resistance bogl, is keeping the flame of true words alive.

Do you sometimes feel you are living in the wrong time?

I thot not.


A keen interest of traveling

“An exciting opertunity for anyone with a keen interest of traveling and cars to be able to count vehicles types and models , logging the info for a database…”

I don’t know about you, but there are exciting opportunities, and then there are exciting opertunities.

To be able to exploit one’s keen interest in, and to count, car models and list them on a database (that’s a highly technological word for a list) doesn’t feel like it might fall readily into either category.

Plus, if you have even a modest grasp of the English language as she is wrote, you will perceive that the recruitment advertisement from which I have quoted the above extract was created, probably, by a crapulous fourth-grade baboon who has been at the fermented fruit again.

He, she or it continues, almost unbelievably:

…where we can decide what kind of garage potential it holds, job is part time and casual based, vehicle transport will be provided with a co driver, Will suite student or someone allready with a current main job e.g admin who requires a refreshing timeout, vehicle counting will mostly take place around the road of a470 along the coastline and the town centre.

Yes, a refreshing timeout indeed (hoping against hope that the database does not timeout too…)

Stuck around the side of the a470 all day in the rain, holding doubtless interesting conversations with the co driver of your vehicle transport, counting car types, assessing their garage potential… How suite! When, in fact, ‘the road of a470 along the town centre’ is, according to maps of this particular topographic location, the A487… meaning you’d be in the wrong county to begin with.

Oh, I do love the wondrous world of work. I’ve been prospecting for a fulltime job for the past seven years. All I can get is five weeks a year at the University, pacing up and down an enormous room filled with earnestly scribbling students smelling, as my student son memorably put it, of ‘death and pizza’, trying to look both fierce and helpful at the same time.

When, without any seeming effort on my part to have learned how to conjoin words in a recognised linguistic format, I could have been a contender for an ‘exciting opertunity’ to become a recruitment copywriter. It makes you weep, to be onist.


Postscriptum, also concerning the World of Work:

From AngloInfo – Dordogne edition’s Classified Ads section, today…

“We are looking for a cook, about 20 hours per week. Simple, hearty, honest food, (nothing processed or frozen).  We want the food serving hot, not like art-on-a-plate and served cold. Must be well organised. Some lunches could have many guests so you must have timing.
Work contract available with all the benefits.”

Mmn. I am wondering just what all those ‘benefits’ could be? I suppose if you’ve got a couple of weeks’ experience flipping burgers in a Blackpool kebab joint, the mere opportunity to serve such discriminating employers and their numerous friends clearly trapped abroad in a hideous EU nightmare of gelatinous cuisine minceur proper food – boiled beef and carrots, possibly? – would surely be a sufficient benefit in itself.

None of that foreign muck ‘ere, if you please. We’re Brits.

– UB

Outstanding recruitment ad of the year (or any other year)

Hi-de-hi, campers

From time to time your Uncle Bogler has been known to make disparaging remarks about obscure or badly written recruitment ads, as I continue to plough my lonely furrow through life as an unemployable man.

The following example, that arrived on the wings of one of my many daily employment opportunity bulletin alerts, however, is notable for its astonishing component of complete and utter, bureaucratic bullshit.

So much so, that I cannot resist sharing just a brief extract with you.

I’me debating whether to leave you to guess what the job actually is, but I can’t resist a spoiler. It’s for a 15-hours a week shop assistant in the ‘visitor centre’ at the entrance to a country park near Ponterwyd. I mention that, because you might otherwise think Natural Resources Wales is hoping to resurrect the great national hero, Owain Glyn Dwr; or perhaps even King Arthur of the Britons himself.

Why it is absolutely necessary to be able to speak Welsh (Fluency Grade 4) to work in a tourist attraction where 99% of the visitors won’t actually be Welsh and the other 1% understand English perfectly well is always something that bothers me, living where I do.

Read it and despair. (There is more. There is always more.)

These shared outcomes recognise the need for close working with stakeholders (including customers, communities, staff and representative groups). Multi-partner delivery will be central in addressing the key challenges associated with sustainable development and working in partnership with Welsh Government and other delivery partners, Natural Resources Wales Leadership Group will contribute collectively to deliver the shared outcomes [1] :

1. The people of Wales are safe

2. Natural resources are healthy and resilient

3. There are more and better jobs for now and for the future

4. The people of Wales are healthy

5. People live in viable and vibrant places

6. There are increased opportunities for people to achieve a better quality of life, and people are wealthier with greater equality

7. People have the knowledge and ability to make the best choices for future wellbeing

Delivery against these outcomes will require new ‘ways of working’ and Natural Resources Wales is committed to being a learning organisation adopting an ecosystems approach to deliver the NRW’s overall mission.

As a new organisation, Natural Resources Wales will face challenges in establishing itself as an exemplar in terms of how it delivers these innovative and far reaching concepts in Wales. There will also be challenges in ensuring that the organisation provides value for money for Wales and maximises the impact of sustainability for our people, communities, environment and economy.

Got that? We’ve sacked the National Assembly, the kid is in charge, so can we have two vanilla ice-creams and a tea-towel, please?

Drop-down Moses

Your Uncle Bogler is on fire today.

Friday Bogl #2 returns to a familiar theme, that of gumming and gnashing grumpily at the heap of teenage baboons who (in their waking moments) are paid huge sums to design online forms.

We are all mildly irritated, I know, when asked to declare what country we think we might have woken up in, to be faced with what looks like a simple entry field, only to be taken once it is clicked to a dropdown menu containing a nerdy list of every country in the world, all 196 of them (No, Scotland is not a country! Official.) from which you have to select the one nearest to where you live.

It is hard to imagine anyone living in some of these Godforsaken flyblown desert shit-holes actually wanting to do or to buy online, whatever it is you are being asked to sign up to. That’s perhaps a bit of a neocolonialist impression (I do others), but let’s face it, some of those 196 countries on the list don’t really exist, right?

What grates is the idea that the designers think we are so stupid, we cannot just say where we live – do not judge others by your own standards, baboons. Stay off the fermented fruit; or so lazy, that we require the support of a geographer to key-in so many letters, one after the other. Better let us guess where we are.

I imagine therefore that there must be some arcane nerdy secret to it, some link forged between databases, so that when you click on United States, or United Kingdom, a knowing little red light flashes deep within the bowels of GCHQ or in Langley, Va. to alert the Security State to the fact that you have signed up for another garden chair.

Plus, if you do live in the United States, or the United Kingdom, you are going to be a long time a-scrollin’, to find your once-proud nation sandwiched somewhere between Uruguay and Uranus.

Readers of this, muh bogl, will know that, of recent years, my trade has been that of Caretaker – I look expertly after rich people’s abandoned country houses. At least, I did until early in 2012 when, after seven years of stumbling out of bed and into the grounds at two a.m. to chase out drunken teenagers trying to break in to see the ghosts, or hoping to buy drugs (it used to be that sort of a place), I gracefully accepted a redundancy package.

Since then, despite many applications and a very few interviews, I have not managed to find another job like it; or any job at all, come to that – other than supervising the young baboons twice a year for a couple of weeks as they puzzle over their undergraduate exams . It doesn’t pay the rent.

But, knowing as long ago as 2008 that the Sword of Damocles was hanging over my exalted position in service, I signed-up with no fewer than seventeen hoity-toity Central London agencies specialising in recruiting Philippino maids and Latvian gardeners and debutantes called Jocasta straight from nanny finishing-school to slave for overweight Saudi bitch-princesses and heavily sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

In the six years since then, one of them managed to get me one interview; but that was all. Any interviews I have had, have been entirely as a result of my own efforts, ferreting around in the back-end of The Lady – whoops, pardon me.

Another such is an agency called Greycoat, now twinned with Lumleys. I travelled at some expense to their posh address in Belgravia (you’ll find it between Belarus and Bulgaria) for a getting-to-know-you interview with them in April 2008. While they were still Greycoat, they remained relatively civil and communicative, although patently useless where my career was concerned; but since they have invited Lumleys in from the cold, their enormous list of staff consisting entirely of debutantes called Jocasta, so prettily multitudinous that they deserve a drop-down menu all to themselves, has ignored every attempt I have made to draw their attention to things.

Which is why I was tempted the other day by a questionnaire they have rashly published (I still get cheery newsletters from them), asking candidates to declare their level of satisfaction with the services provided. (Of course, if they have managed to find you work, what are you going to say? They must pay themselves somehow, there must be some underlying raison d’être to their continued existence.)

Here was my chance to tell them how completely useless, rude and uncommunicative they were being in my case. It was all the more incomprehensible, given that I was surely the only unemployed caretaker on their books who had been, albeit briefly, at school with the Prince of Wales.

Which was when I hit the snag.

The first few pages were routine, providing several generously proportioned windows where you could extemporise around your feelings towards Messrs Greycoat and/or Lumleys. As you can imagine, I took careful aim and fired, at some length. Towards the far end of the form, however, the questioning became more explicitly concerned with social media usage and brand loyalties, which raised the suspicion that this might not be an exercise designed to survey candidate satisfaction at all, but something much more commercial.

Now, one of the things that probably disqualifies me from consideration for employment as a member of the human race is that I simply don’t ‘do’ social media; unless you count this, muh bogl, which I keep very quiet about, as you may have noticed. I did once many years ago have to register with Facebook, but only because I wanted to contact an old school chum and could not do so without registering. The page still has my name on it, and an improbable date of birth, but nothing else.

Another thing that may divide me from the modern world, is that I don’t have any brand loyalties. Oh, I have my prejudices – I still think Alfa Romeo makes pretty cars and that Gibson guitars are the only ones worth buying because you can sell them easily, even if their designs are stuck in the 1950s. I have remained with the same bank for 40 years, despite being treated scandalously. But I am not a consumer, other than of unbranded foodstuffs and the most nondescript cheap Merlot.

In both cases, therefore, honesty compelled me to tick the No box, when asked to state in the simplest terms, whether or not I used social media, and if I ‘followed’ any brands on them. The follow-up to both questions consisted of yet more drop-down menus, listing various social media I might use, and which brands I might ‘follow’.

The snag being, that there was no option to tick ‘None of the above’.

Now, if you have been asked to state whether or not you do something, it seems pretty futile to then ask you what it is you do, if you have said you don’t, without obliging the interviewee to perjure himself. (Is it a bit OCD to even be worrying about this? I never know.) It’s known as the ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ question, any answer to which damns you if you do, and damns you if you don’t.

But to then put in a little asterisk denoting that, without making an appropriate selection from the seemingly barely relevant drop-down menu, you will be summarily terminating the interview, disqualified from continuing and rendering all that you have previously input insubmissible, seems just mindboglingly, absolutely monumentally, self-defeatingly STUPID. No?

Which is why there is a part of my ancient reptilian brain, doddery old synapses muttering inconsolably down there in the dark, that it is probably deliberate.

I mean, who wants to be told what people really think of them?



Identifying the problem

One evening in 1976 my then-wife and I were leaving a movie theatre in west London to walk back to our car parked nearby, when I noticed that a drab-looking fellow in a raincoat appeared to be following us. We took a detour around the block and sure enough, he was still there. Being a belligerent sort, I marched up to him and demanded to know who he was and what he was doing. He didn’t answer, just turned and walked away.

At that time my wife had recently been in hospital, where she made friends with the woman in the next bed, who happened to be married to an officer in the Diplomatic Patrol Group of the Metropolitan Police. Over drinks, we mentioned that we seemed to be being followed everywhere. The next time we met up, the husband confided that we both had a Special Branch file. That was the end of the friendship, but the following seemed to stop.

The only thing we could think of that the surveillance could relate to was an incident earlier that year at my wife’s work. A journalist, London-born of Irish extraction, Trish was Chief Reporter at London’s Capital Radio. One day, the newsroom got a report of a security alert at Heathrow airport, to which for the first time in decades on the UK mainland the army had been called out. Trish was despatched to the airport, where she commandeered a taxi to drive her round the perimeter road.

Finding no army or police presence anywhere, Trish returned to Terminal One to try to get an interview with the BAA’s press office. At that point, armed police arrived on the scene and arrested her, accusing her of having breached a security cordon. Her press pass was taken away, and she was interrogated for two hours before a colleague turned up and rescued her, the editor having pulled strings at Scotland Yard to get her released.

This nasty and unnecessary incident had absolutely nothing to do with me, as I was off working in another part of the country. But I was still clearly suspected of some kind of terrorist link, if the surveillance was not merely heavy-handed police intimidation. (Interestingly, I have recently discovered that my grandfather was a senior officer in British Intelligence before, during and probably after WW11.)

Not long afterwards, I tried to get my old job back at the BBC – I’d gone off to work in the commercial sector – and was told nothing doing – don’t even bother applying. Was there a connection?

Over my rather strange career since, I have often found myself looking for work, and got to the interview stage with positive signals all round, only to find that my application has been quietly buried shortly afterwards.

And while I was until recently listed with no fewer than SEVENTEEN agencies specialising in recruiting people with my specific experience, I was offered only one interview in four years. That too seemed to go well, but I heard nothing afterwards, either from the employer or the agency, who ignored my email. One of the other agencies did arrange an interview for me with a client, but cancelled it the night before with no explanation.

Most recently I was actually offered a job, and accepted it; but shortly afterwards, having briefed a solicitor to draw up a formal contract of employment for me, the employer seemed to change their mind and there was no contract. What contract? What offer? No, no, we must make sure you are a ‘fit and proper person’… Was that some kind of hint? Why wouldn’t I be ‘fit and proper’? I’d just had seven years’ experience in a similar job.

It surely cannot be the case that a dead-end police investigation thirty-seven years ago is still hanging around to haunt me? I have tried asking employers who have turned me down if they would feel able to tell me why, but have never received a reply. It’s like there is something in my background, something they can see when they check on me, that isn’t immediately obvious to me. What?

Of course, it is illegal to tell an applicant, if you have obtained information concerning their criminal past, just what that information is. Only a Chief Constable has the power to do that. Is it why I can’t persuade anyone to tell me why they have quietly dumped me? But I have no criminal past! My only convictions are vaguely Centrist. I must be one of the few people in the country who has had a clean driving licence for over ten years – and I’m not on any banned lists, as far as I know.

So could it be a problem with a credit check?

Nowadays, I don’t carry a load of debt. While the average family debt in Britain is £54,000 (a truly shocking figure amounting to £1.4 TRILLION!), the little that is in my savings account would about cover everything I owe. I own my house outright, so the banks don’t have a headlock on me. But I don’t have a regular job to provide a regular income. And I live a pretty simple life.

So my credit score is only poor to middling: my consumer economy is too far below the radar to earn a triple-A. Would an employer wanting to fill a position of trust back away from someone who repaid a £20k bank loan over six years without defaulting, even though doing it damaged their credit rating for that length of time? Maybe, if they didn’t look closely enough. Easier just to say no.

And who is the other me? I mean, the bloke on Facebook who has my unusual name posted next to the photograph of a younger, darker-looking man who is definitely not me? Are we looking at a possible case of mistaken identity? Is the mistrust a result of the disparity between my account of myself in my CV and the online Profile of someone with my name, who isn’t me?

I believe there can be only one of me, because the spelling of my family name is unique. I know of no relation of mine with the same Christian name. But a casual fly-by check on social media could produce the wrong impression, why not? I once Googled myself, only to find that I’m a black Baptist minister in Georgia, convicted of child abuse….  People need to be careful if they are running checks, to get the right guy – I don’t have a Facebook account, by the way.

Possibly, I am paranoid. A classic symptom of depression is a powerful feeling of guilt, a neurotic foreboding that you have done something terrible in the past that will one day catch up with you, for which you deserve to be punished. (See Larkin, Philip: ‘Your mum and dad, they fuck you up…’)

Whatever the reason, I don’t seem to be getting anywhere in my life at present, and it’s irking me. Wake up, world of work, you’re wasting my talent and my time, sitting here having to write this stuff.

Just sell the house. Retire. Go.

The invisible hand (le main inconnu)

Somewhere in all this thicket of Posts is another labelled ‘So, what do you do?’. It gives you an idea of what I do. Basically, I look after other people’s property.

This Post, then, is a bat-squeak of protest, following the arrival of yet another seemingly arbitrary rejection note, to ask what more, in God’s name, could I possibly have done in my lifetime, to be granted a modest living now in exchange for all my proven skills, experience, carefulness, ability to add value, and my offer of hard work?

Towards the end of  that long Post is a description of the impossible job I had until lately, in which I was engaged to manage a rundown ‘stately home’ here in Wales for nearly seven years, largely singlehanded, while the owners jetted around the globe looking after their other business interests. My job description ran to eight pages of A4, and I more-than earned my keep.

And, when I realised that my job would inevitably become redundant as soon as the hotel conversion work was finished, I started looking again.

Registered with no fewer than fifteen central London agencies specialising in placing butlers, nannies and cooks to the Russian oligarchy, after more than three years of applying I succeeded in obtaining my first interview, with a lady landowner near Llangollen. I drove the 70 miles and, bursting for a pee and, not thinking I would have time to find the bathroom, went behind a large beech near the entrance to the driveway; only to realise, when confronted in the estate office with a battery of closed-circuit TV screens, that one of the cameras was also pointing at the tree….

I don’t suppose it made any difference. Not only did I not hear from the lady again, even the agent could not be bothered to let me know my application had been a complete waste of time and petrol. Rudeness is, of course, the modern fashion.

Then, last April, I was invited to London to meet an elderly Indian woman whose husband had died, leaving her with a rambling estate in deepest rural France, that she could not bring herself to sell but did not wish to live in. Fifty overgrown acres, maybe eighteen bedrooms, were too much responsibility for one person, even me; and from the photos the property looked like the proverbial can of worms, so I turned it down

Towards the end of June, however, she rang in a panic to say there had been a break-in and would I please, please go over for a few days to help? She had no-one else to turn to, who could speak French! Having quite recently gained an Intermediate-level certificate and – after seven years of learning French in school, fifty years ago – an O-level, I said I would try my best. I have never had a problem getting by in French-speaking countries. I bought a car, four road-legal tyres and the mandatory red warning triangle, checked my dog into a home, and set off on the 300-mile journey to the coast.

We could not stay in the house, the heating didn’t work. After two years of being tightly shuttered-up, all the upstairs rooms had gone mouldy. A procession of Keystone cops and security alarm men paraded through the rooms, marvelling at the period furniture, and I was immediately expected to interpret their rapid-fire colloquial French. The break-in turned out to be just minor vandalism, but the lady was insistently demanding the addition of more pointless security products, for which I did not know all the French words. She and her daughter could not agree on anything. Eventually, my head spinning, I went and sat in the conservatory.

Finally, it was arranged that I would stay on for three months, to help out until they found someone permanent, if that wasn’t to be me. She seemed delighted and relieved, and paid me a week’s wages. On our return, I prepared to mothball my house, had the dog inoculated against rabies, found a new home for the cat, packed-up my studio, said goodbye to my gardening clients and sat like an idiot for three weeks, waiting to hear when I could start. Eventually I twigged, she didn’t want to tell me she had readvertised the job.

And now this, a minor setback, but still another one, who – what? Doesn’t believe my CV? Thinks I will steal the family silver? Has found my Special Branch file from the 1970s? Loathes modern jazz? Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what to do. I’m at my wits’ end. I’ve had years of experience of caring for period homes and gardens, many of them my own. I have practical and administrative skills, creative vision… . What more can I possibly offer to an employer who will allow me to do the work again, that I am astonishingly, perhaps uniquely, qualified to do – apart from my obvious lack of fluency in modern languages?

It’s as if some invisible hand is preventing it from happening.

Mine, possibly?

The cookie jar

Apologies for the outpouring of Posts today. I hadn’t planned on having to answer an accusation of plagiarising someone else’s story.

I can’t think who else might have left their walking shoes on a train in Corsica and then had a pointless semantic discussion with the Lost Property attendant at Bastia station in broken French over the precise meaning of the colour brown, but if it was you, I apologise. I thought it was me.

Then, I had to say something about the mysterious difference between tapwater and rainwater in their relative influence on the growth rate of my garden plants, which I did. You can read about it in the previous Post if you care to. It offers no answers, but I have since recalled the word Nitrogen, that may have something to do with it.

And now, I must explain, the efflorescence of Posts is less to do with rainwater, than with my having to be away next week and probably well out-of-touch with this interweb thing. It’s only France, but as anyone leaving from London has a 200-mile headstart on me, it’s far enough.

I am going to look at a country house some people want me to caretake.


After I sold my poor, doomed Alfa Romeo at Easter for money to buy rags and a sliced loaf of stale Hovis, after I paid back the banking jackals in kind, and refurbished the bass section of my guitar collection with a stunning Ibanez SR-500, that I sometimes sit just fondling in the evenings, so like a mute but highly strung woman, I was left with a little cash.

This I kept, for quite a long time by my standards, invested in a jar in the kitchen labelled SWAG – Help Yourself, expecting to pay a contractor to replace my garden fence and cover-off the balance of the cost of my annual week jazz singing in France. Carless, I walked to play rehearsals and the supermarket, between long walks with Hunzi. I must have walked fifteen miles a day. I grew fit. Females commented archly on my new leaner, meaner figure. (I’ve always reverted to the mean, but that’s another story.)


Having been offered some temporary work in May, I did the math and realised that I could not walk there, and back home again in my short lunchbreaks, and then back again to work, with enough time inbetween to minister to poor Hunzi. I would have to take him with me. As at least half of it was uphill, I deemed it moot to acquire a mobile kennel.

This story could become a book. Don’t ask why I was passing time in a grimly jolly, jolly grimy Welsh seaside resort on a Bank Holiday Saturday, I just was. And I literally walked into this shiny black VW Golf GT parked on a double-yellow outside the theatre, that had a for sale sign asking for precisely the amount that was in the jar in the kitchen, and I knew immediately there was a reason I had been dragged off to Barmouth for the day. Why, it even turned out to belong to the vehicle test engineer from the local garage! The portents were irresistably persuasive.

My eyes were not opened for a few days until the deodorant wore off and I realised it was more dog than kennel: fourteen years old, stinking of cigarettes, bubbling with rust, knobs and other bits missing, a broken wing-mirror and a hideous retrofitted sound system whose cheerily flashing radio display stuck half an inch out of the binnacle as it didn’t fit the slot, nor have I yet figured out how to turn it off; while a 6-stack CD player occupied the glove compartment, leaving nowhere to put my gloves.

This morning, things came to a head when I took it to have its tyres checked, preparatory to the French excursion. The sheer cost of the four new 18″ sport tyres legally required, plus the absurd ‘repair kit’ with unfashionable reflective yellow tabard and breathalyser prescribed under French law, came to exactly the same amount of money as I had earned from doing the work for which I had persuaded myself I needed to buy the car. Work for which I have not yet been paid. Less the cost of the car.

I could instead just have sat on my well-toned arse for three weeks, drinking coffee, watching the money jar doing nothing on its shelf in the kitchen, had the fence fixed and fucked off to France in August to sing round the pool. It would have made not a blind bit of difference financially. But no, I bought the dog kennel and its four balding tyres, that were all the wrong sizes, and went to work at one of the most time-dragging jobs imaginable, invigilating exams.

Self-hypnosis is something you need to avoid, if possible.

This temporary excursion to France next week has taken on new urgency. I am, almost certainly, bankrupt. No-one buys my guitars, my house. Exams are finished for this year. The fence sags. My arse sags. The jazz holiday is cancelled. The car has eaten the cookie-jar.

Bye bye, blackbird.