Not such a super position?

Several hundred thousand refugees, many of them doubtless women and children, have been blamed for mysogynistic attacks by roving gangs in Cologne over New Year’s.

Subsequently, other complaints of violent sexist attacks in public, including rapes, intimidation and theft, have come to light in other German cities. In no cases did the police try to intervene, or report anything other than the usual boisterousness associated with large-scale public celebrations; apparently for fear of seeming politically incorrect.

The city-centre attacks were followed by anti-migrant demonstrations by right-wing parties.

Then, reports emerged from Sweden of similar attacks on women by ‘migrants’ in Stockholm during pop festivals over the past two years, supposedly sanitised events artificially created by grownups (as you would expect from the anal Swedes) to keep young people off the streets. (Frankly you would have to drag me to one in chains.) A few days later, equally anal Switzerland and Denmark voted to confiscate assets owned by Syrian asylum-seekers over and above a very basic limit, to force them to compensate their wealthy taxpayers for the cost of providing sanctuary as required by the United Nations.

In the wake of these undoubtedly distressing incidents and their even more distressing aftermath, perhaps you should visit the link below, in  which a BBC regional reporter reporting on mysogynistic intimidation by gangs of young working-class white men is abused while actually reporting on camera.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-34368882

Then ask yourself: why would new immigrants untainted by local politics be stupid enough to flout the law in countries they hope will accept them as citizens? and two, why do young white men in Nottingham share the apparently mysogynistic values of young muslim men arriving in Germany? and three, why not listen to the testimonies of women violated by ‘demonstrators’ in Tahrir Square, Cairo and other so-called Arab Spring protest centres? and four, why not review the reports of unspeakably violent rapes in India.

Why not then conclude that there is something much more sinister going on against the growing equality of women than just crude racist propaganda and bullish demands for reparations from pathetic refugees arriving in Europe, who are not being allowed to work to pay their way, yet who are seen as potential cash-cows for Eurotrash governments pandering to their fascist minorities?

 

Speaking of which

What is it with Cameron?

Our embarrassing Prime Minister just loves jetting around the world, lecturing other leaders on what he (and by extension, Britain) finds ‘unacceptable’ about the latest manifestation of their sovereign right to behave pretty much as they see fit.

And now he is writing articles in the Torygraph demanding that Pakistani women in particular should be deprived of their spousal residence visas, rounded-up in the Yarlswood concentration camp for women, removed from their families and deported, if they don’t learn to speak English quickish, and chop-chop.

Why, are the Tories having trouble communicating with their domestic servants?

He says nothing about monoglot French women, or Spanish women, or Polish women, or Lithuanian women – or indeed men. He says nothing either, about the tens of thousands of British pensioners permanently soaking up the sun in the Algarve, who can’t muster a word of Portuguese.

He sugars the pill by arguing that muslim women in Britain would be more empowered if they came out of their kitchens and integrated a bit more. He tells them their husbands are a bunch of unreconstructed, chauvinistic, pig-ignorant peasants, who are keeping them down because of unacceptable patriarchal traditions in the muslim world.

But the main thrust of his argument is that if they could speak the local lingo better, they might spot sooner that their kids are online to Daesh and about to sign up for the special ‘Kalashnikov and forty virgins’ package holiday deal.

And so, using the ‘War on Terror’ as a rather far-fetched excuse,  he’s announced a few million quid extra for English-language evening classes, probably to the complete surprise of the Education Secretary, who has been busily closing down the Further Education colleges in pursuit of the standing ordinance to save money at all costs.

I have previously expressed my personal view that Cameron is a bit of an interfering, blustering, bullying, sneering prig, whose bewilderingly optimistic worldview has been radicalised by his childhood nanny and in fireside chats with his prep-school headmaster.

I hardly need do so again. But I am sick of being hectored on so-called ‘British values’. Who in the world doesn’t want our illusory ‘freedom’ and an occasional opportunity to fuck the Tory party over? It’s why they come here.

 

Under the covers with you

Lovely Likers and Followers of this, muh bogl, may be finding my frequent vituperative attacks on Conservative politicians a trifle unnerving. Let me briefly put them in context.

I don’t know if you’re aware of the many stories in the news recently about women who have found themselves in ghostly relationships with undercover police officers sent to infiltrate gangs of Corbynistas, tree-huggers, dog-lovers and other dangerous traitors? I’ve been following them with interest.

One surfaced only yesterday, a woman who accepted a proposal of marriage from her secret cop, whom she had lived with for two years, not knowing he was leading a double life with a wife and two children living nearby. That’s pretty typical of the eight cases Scotland Yard has already grudgingly apologised for, agreeing that their behaviour does seem a tad exploitative.

I don’t agree!

I figured that if I set up a sufficiently treacherous-sounding organisation like The Boglington Post, and propounded some dangerously democratic views, the fuzz might want to infiltrate me too. Accordingly, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to being picked-up and groomed by an agreeable-looking policewoman going by an assumed name, who just accidentally happens to bump into me with her trolley in Morrison’s one afternoon, and moves into my little house the next day.

We shall of course never fight, as the character she is impersonating would need to remain in a permanent state of submissiveness or her cover would be blown. She would be the perfect wife!

So far, sadly, they seem to be missing a trick down at the nick.

 

www.

The village of Eglwyswrw, pop. 700, lies 40 miles down the coast from here, about three miles outside the historic, small-minded coastal town of Cardigan, on the road to the Irish ferry port of Fishguard.

Perched on the windward side of the beautiful and remote Preseli hills, although of Norman origin Eglwyswrw is one of those communities you might not notice having any distinct identity, being mostly viewed as a late C20th ribbon development. There is a school, chapels, a pub. For all I remember, a convenience store. Without a really juicy murder, the tragic disappearance of a child, a barn fire or a proposed Tesco hypermarket, there would be no chance of its ever appearing on the national news, potentially for a whole week on end.

And yet, that is just what it is doing. It’s the kind of exposure even a PR agency could not hope to dream up.

Eglwyswrw has entered the information age, not because it has more instances of the letter ‘w’ than any other village in Wales, it’s barely a starter in that regard, but because it has rained there every day for the past 82 days.

If it continues raining for the next week, the story goes, it will surpass the previous (uncorroborated) record for continuous rainfall in the British Isles of at least 0.2 cm every day, 89 days, set in 1915 by the equally difficult to pronounce Eallabus, on the island of Islay, off north-west Scotland. This will enhance its status as a tourist attraction. (Sadly, I don’t think they made it – it didn’t rain on Sunday.)

Now, Wales is notorious for rain, stuck as it is on the western edge of the world and having inland hills that force warm, moisture-laden clouds blowing in from the Atlantic to rise rapidly, cool, condense and deposit. But it’s not usually like this.

Living as we do only forty miles north of Eglwyswrw (eglwys in Welsh means a church. The word is also of Norman origin. I’m not sure what the wrw means. Wet?), I’ve been wondering if most of the small communities along the bay of Cardigan, including this larger one, couldn’t equally claim a share of the record? I don’t remember a day and night since the end of October when it hasn’t rained here too, although I did have three days away over Christmas when it rained on me and li’l Hunzi every day in London instead, and so cannot be entirely certain.

Meanwhile we have another hurricane out in the Atlantic. ‘Alex’ has been hailed as the first January hurricane recorded for 88 years, over the Azores. And an antarctic explorer calls the BBC to say it’s only minus 12 C at the South Pole.

The times are indeed out of joint.

PS – Yes, it’s raining here, now, again .

STOP PRESS Major Tim Peake, the ‘first British astronaut’ – apart from the others – has become the first British hero to carry out a space-walk. He popped out at the weekend with an American colleague, whatsisname, to fix the TV aerial or something. Unfortunately it was raining there too, they got water in their space helmets, so they came back in again.

Is there no relief?

PPS –  20 Jan., OM giddy G! We awake this morning to a cloudless blue sky, out of which a strange glowing orb is blazing! After nearly three months of wall-to-wall blanket of grey, with other huge lumps of grey jostling underneath, endless drizzle punctuated by rain and shining, empuddled roadways, this diamond morning is as a benediction that almost commands the lifting of crushed spirits.

Until, that is, yet another kicking-the-can letter arrives from the Student Loans Company, another spirit-crushing punch in the face, demanding to see a ‘week 53′ payslip from my ’employer’ showing my ‘salary’ for 2013/14. Only then, it says, will they be able to assess my income for that year.

I have already explained to them several times since mid-October, at which time they told me they already had all the information they could possibly need, that I didn’t then and don’t now have an employer. There was and is no salary. There aren’t 53 weeks in a year.

Maybe whoever is sending me these shitty letters week after week in order to avoid paying my son his grant before either he is evicted from his housing or he graduates in June should fund themselves a place at university, on a course in basic cognitive skills.

The call-centre woman promises to check with Assessment and phone me back.

I’m still waiting.

 

Ouwhere in the Ouworld?

Another unlikely place in the news today, Ouagadougou is currently in mourning for the 26 victims of another IS-inspired attack by cretinous terrorists blowing themselves, some foreigners and their fellow muslims up in the name of Allah the not-very merciful, before being martyred to death by the police.

Why I bother including what is becoming a commonplace event around the world is in fact nothing to do with geopolitics.

It is simply to speculate on a curious coincidence.

Walking Hunzi yesterday morning in the rain along our local shit-strewn cinder path, the name Ouagadougou suddenly popped into my head. I don’t know why. After a moment or so reflecting on the strangeness of a name with three instances of the ‘ou’ diphthong, like Egwlyswrw (the ‘w’ is pronounced in the same way,’ou’), I vaguely recalled that it was the name of the capital, possibly of some flyblown central African republic. I couldn’t remember which one.

Sleeping late this morning, I caught the ten o’clock news on the radio, and was delighted to be reminded that Ouagadougou is the capital of Burkina Faso; albeit that the information was relayed in unfortunate circumstances. I’m hoping sometime soon to be reminded in turn where that is.

Thus,  my usually wispy thoughts have been excited by an article on the BBC News website about quantum effects.

Chinese researchers are reportedly hoping to use the superposition of entangled pairs of photons to transmit the molecular memory of a bacterium between distant locations, paving the way for some kind of transference of mind instantly from A to B. It sounds less like science fiction than complete bollocks. What does a bacterium remember? The time I defeated that phagocyte in mortal combat? How I gave that snarky human necrotising fasciitis?

Superposition, as any fule kno, is the spooky ability of either of an entangled pair of fundamental particles to appear in two different places at the same time. How they get an entangled pair together in the first place, I’m less certain; maybe one is a police impostor.  How do they know where a random photon might plausibly turn up next? Nay, I beg you, go no further.  The development, it’s said, promises more powerful and efficient quantum computing, just when we need it most.

But I did pause to wonder if thinking of Ouagadougou for no reason on a Friday morning and then hearing on the radio next day that that one city out of thousands in the world had been attacked only hours later – the sort of synchronicity that happens to us all, I imagine, on a daily basis without us being fully aware of it – might have some explanation in the whizzy, wacky Alice-in-Wonderland world of quantum mechanics?

Can we remember things before they happen?

Or are Chinese researchers hacking our thoughts?

We should be told.

 

Obituaries

Where are they now?

Lemmy. Bowie. And today (19 January), Glenn Frey of The Eagles, and Dave Griffin of Mott the Hoople.

It’s not a good time for old rockers in their late 60s, although at a pinch the four of them could form a rather odd crossover glam/country/metal band in heaven, complete with loud or soft vocals, bass, piano, acoustic guitar and drums.

Lucky for me then that I have been completely unsuccessful in music, although I know possibly several hundred guitar chords and still have the voice of an angel. (Of course I share the desire to be worshipped by millions, but I am a bashful and inconsistent performer with a poor memory for lyrics.) Nor did I inhale.

I should with luck therefore make it past the median age for dead rockers, which I hope to attain later this year, of 67.

From the Press Association today:

“High doses of cocaine can cause the brain to eat itself, research suggests.”

Aha.

 

– UB

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Seeing things

Are there really such things as UFOs?

In 45 years of consciously looking, I’ve never seen one. But they seem awfully popular just now.

Well, of course. UFO is a pilots’ acronym, it stands for ‘Unidentified Flying Object’. Once a UFO becomes an ‘Identified’ flying object, it ceases to have any special significance. Virtually anything seen in the sky can go unidentified, until there is an explanation for it.

What a UFO is not, necessarily, is evidence of visitation by aliens, either from other worlds or from our own future world. No UFO has ever been officially identified as being from another world, or from the future. As I go on to explain, there are classes of these phenomena that fit within a range of normal events.

Many silly, credulous or malicious people want to make this connection with The Other, however. Humanity has a deep-seated and desperate longing for contact with a higher power, that overrides commonsense rationality. Psychologically it is a feeling of unfocussed disempowerment that probably relates to our early relationships with our parents. We want to be nurtured, to be watched over. We yearn for someone infinitely more powerful and capable to look after our needs.

It is unsurprising that the world’s three great religions – I exclude Buddhism, as it is not strictly speaking a religion – of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, arose as monotheisms (belief in one all-powerful divinity) in desert countries. They represent the triumph of the life-giving but vengeful Sun-god over polytheistic (pagan) belief systems that mainly arose in northern climes, investing natural phenomena with spiritual powers.

(Sadly, Christianity eliminated that other famous solar cult in meso-America, the Aztec.)

The idea of alien visitation is attractive, but statistically difficult. Quantum physics offers the uneducated the exciting possibilities of faster-than-light travel, ‘action at a distance’ (the habit of fundamental particles to be observed in two different places at once), ‘wormholes’, extra dimensions, parallel universes and so on, as clever ways of avoiding the obvious problem of distance. Our nearest galactic neighbour is four light years from the sun (a light year being the rather long distance light travels in one Earth year; no propulsion system even theoretically invented approaches anything like the speed of light.

If life had evolved on as many as one in a billion planets throughout the observable universe, making the odds against winning the Lottery look positively inviting, even so 99 per cent of it is so far away, it would hardly be worth bothering to look us up. Only immortals could contemplate spending a thousand years aboard a spaceship, just to get here. For what? To counter this, it has been suggested that aliens live in hidden cities on the Moon, or Mars, or Titan – even under the North Pole. Or that They are already here! (There is a point at which the desire for an uber-dad shades into paranoia.)

Then, life as we know it takes many forms. Only one of the millions of evolutionary steps life has taken on Earth in the past billion years has ever, so far as we know, developed science-based technology to the point where it can send an unmanned probe to rendezvous with a comet, or with Pluto – a mysterious planetoid it has taken our little ‘New Horizons’ explorer ten years to reach, although it is far from the most distant object in our own solar system. Human evolution and history have progressed only by fits and starts. The element of chance introduced by evolution and history increases the odds against there being other civilizations out there… well, astronomically. (Paradoxically, I agree, it also shortens them. Luck can break either way.)

The one relatively solid piece of evidence we have of an actual alien visitation lies buried in the Old Testament accounts concerning the appearance to Moishe (Moses) “in a burning bush” of the enigmatic character known to us as Yahweh, who somehow becomes identified as the embodiment of the solar deity of the desert-dwelling Hebrews. This is an entity that makes some very strange demands on his initially unwilling hosts, including that Aaron, Moses’ brother who is appointed as the go-between, has to wear a protective coat made from gold – which, as we know, is an effective shield against gamma radiation.

Yahweh is in some accounts attended by the Eloim, the ‘Shining Ones’ – now equated with angels, the so-called Fall of Satan (God’s favourite angel) being to do with forbidden cross-breeding with the natives; he requires a high-carbon diet (all his ‘meat’ offerings have to be served well-done) and he has access to significantly higher technologies – the ability to fly, again on a column of fire; to ‘smite’ the enemies of Israel with what sound remarkably like battlefield nuclear weapons, and to give modern dietary advice.

I mean, what would you think, if you were intellectually free to think anything you liked? Early science-fiction? Even science-fiction has to be based within the canon of evolving scientific and technological ideas, it doesn’t invent stories entirely in a vacuum of ignorance. Certainly, then, the appearance of a superbeing out of a burning bush must count as early evidence of a Close Encounter of the Third Kind, however much the story may have gained in the telling.

And that’s the problem with UFOs. Nobody believes the explanations either way! If you’re a sceptic, all UFOs can be explained, identified. There just isn’t conclusive evidence yet. But what we know of the universe will explain them away rationally and sensibly. If you’re a believer in alien interventions, the absence of any more rational explanation must imply a supernatural or other-worldly cause. Anyone trying to offer a less-than-perfect account must be hiding the truth!

What are the main categories of explanation?

clouds 0211 Atmospheric phenomena.

I’ve spent the morning watching the sky on our walk through the park. It’s almost a perfect day, apart from two things. It’s been really busy up there, dozens of airline flights bearing holidaymakers messily westwards. Their vapour trails have been dispersing in the wind at 30,000 feet, there’s a thin veil of manmade cirrhostratus covering the entire sky, cutting down the sunlight (but also helping with the global warming problem).

And below that, dozens of tiny, fluffy white clouds are swarming around in small shoals, that I identify thanks to Wikipedia as the dispersing remains* of altocumulus floccus. Small clouds formed around ice crystals can move and change shape very quickly relative to other clouds, depending on varying windspeed and direction at different altitudes. The angle of the sun may give these evanescent microcrystalline structures the appearance of shining lights, that may be seen within other clouds they’re passing through; while they sometimes seem to be flying in formation.

The angle of the sun again is key to the observation of shining lights in the evening sky, that are not stars. Down here, it’s getting dark. But high above you, the rays of the setting sun are still blazing across the sky, brightly illuminating anything in their path. Your ‘moving bright light’ could be a distant aircraft, a helicopter, a weather balloon – small clouds, high-flying birds – that are reflecting sunlight and not projecting their own light source, as you want to imagine.

2 Atmospheric distortion

I was reading an account today of many people sighting a UFO last week in the Pacific sky off California. Hey guys, smell the coffee… didn’t we just have a close planetary alignment between Venus and Jupiter?

Venus accounts for a lot of UFO sightings, it’s the third brightest object in the sky after the Moon. The Earth’s atmosphere gets thicker and dirtier the closer it gets towards the surface of the planet, looking toward the horizon puts the maximum amount of atmosphere between you the observer and the far distance. Think how the moon looks really big coming up, then resolves into something less scary the greater the inclination. Density of air and pollution haze create different kinds of optical distortion, from green moonrises to the desert mirages beloved of cartoonists (you’re seeing stuff over the horizon); while the heat of the sun causes the air to dance about, creating an illusion of movement.

3 Observer disorientation

…may possibly account for the ‘line of lights that rearranged itself into a pattern’ phenomenon. Ever seen fishing boats working at night? If it’s dark enough you probably can’t tell where the sea ends and the horizon begins, especially from a clifftop.

4 Shaky camerawork

Disorientation also accounts for apparently anomalous movement of objects when filmed. I spent five years in fulltime education, studying (amongst other things to do with Photography, Film and Television) the physics of optical lenses. Cheap camera lenses are getting better but there’s a list of the types of distortion you can get with them, from barrel-distortion (wonky round the edges) to lens-flare and tiny flaws that can be made worse with a little sunlight hitting across them at an oblique angle.

Tracking an object across the sky is a skill few possess: nearer objects seem to move faster than distant ones, look bigger. Watch a tree or a phone pole you’re passing in a car, when you go round a bend… oops, where’s it gone? It wasn’t over there before! Cameras are dumb, they can only see what you are pointing them at. They can’t put things in context, relative to parts of the scene they can’t see. You can.

Camera movement can create the illusion that it’s the object that is moving. The further away an object is, the harder it is to track it, especially on full zoom. A long lens will flatten the perspective (planar distortion) and make it harder to keep the subject in focus. The low resolution of cameraphones equates to the low resolution of high-speed film emulsions: images are grainier, details lost.

So what, you ask? So, confronted with poor quality, partial images containing little information, what does your brain do? Right, it makes stuff up. It’s how brains work. Be glad of it: without it, your ancestors would’ve been eaten by half-glimpsed tigers.

5 Things in the sky

And, let’s face it, there are things you can see in the sky. You can make your own list.

Many UFO ‘sighting’ photos are risible fakes: anyone can chuck a frisbee or a metal dish up in the air while your mate takes a grainy snap, hey presto, an alien visitation. The famous Roswell incident followed publication of a photo taken by a farmer in New Mexico of a UFO that is quite clearly the pair of the circular wing mirror glimpsed in a press photo of the farmer proudly posed next his truck, the metal disc suspended by fishing line from an overhead cable.

You can also see that he is desperately, dirt poor. ‘UFO farming’ is a way of life for some.

Who would want to be seen to be so gullible as to believe it was a visiting spacecraft?

6 Plane sailing

Other UFOs have been identified as experimental aircraft. Okay, the world’s airforce boffins have tried all kinds of shapes, ‘fly-by-wire’ computer technology in recent years has enabled them to virtually forget the old concept of aerodynamics that demanded a plane looked like a cigar-tube with wings, nowadays they can fly a brick. The world is a crowded place and it’s getting harder to keep these things secret from the public gaze.

So let’s not automatically assume the authorities are covering-up the arrival of the ambassador from the planet Zarg. Sometimes it’s better for them to put it out that you’ve seen just that, knowing no-one will believe them!

7 Things in Photoshop

Yes, you can fake anything using what is now highly clever freeware. In my day, you had to pay through the nose for this stuff, now there’ll be a ‘Create Your Own UFO’ phone app. Signs of fakery can still be detected, however. Shadows not falling at quite the same angles, trees and buildings looking a bit transparent, clouds not looking to be quite where you expect them, mismatched shading… effects you recognise from Steven Spielberg movies.

8 In the mind?

Arguably Britain’s most notorious UFO sighting took place in December 1980. Rendlesham forest was just off-base for Cold-War American airmen stationed at Woodbridge and Bentwaters, in Suffolk. So seriously was the report taken that John Burroughs, one of the first servicemen to observe the phenomena was subsequently granted an invalidity pension after claiming the experience had given him PTSD. You have to be pretty seriously damaged to get anything out of the military.

Strange lights and sounds, at least two different ‘craft’ coming and going, beams of light, a mysterious orange ball, marks on the forest floor, increased radioactivity levels and even two alien-looking creatures, one of whom had a ‘silent conversation’ with RAF Wing Commander Gordon Williams were observed over a period of days by a number of US servicemen and ‘disaster preparedness personnel’ who went to investigate, until the whole affair was locked down by the Ministry of Defence.

The airbase was a store for nuclear weapons, and a technician who investigated underground installations in the location of the sightings reported finding old cables still carrying internet signals – unexpectedly dating from the early 1980s, but not technologically impossible, as the US military first created the internet.

Could the whole incident have been a diversionary tactic dreamed up by the KGB to cover their espionage activities in the forest? An elaborately staged theatrical event, cooked up either as a defensive measure to cover genuine secret activity, or by the kind of bored and mildly inebriated country yokels who sneak out at night to make crop circles?

Could there be another explanation, to do with experiments we now know about, testing weaponised LSD on military personnel? Or was it an outbreak of the same kind of crowd-sourced hysteria experienced by C17th French nuns, brought on by Cold War paranoia? (I’d go crazy, sitting on enough U235 to vapourise Russia…)

How the hell should I know?

I’m just a rational sceptic waiting my chance to be bogld.

 

*Later observation shows I was wrong about the little clouds dispersing, by about 4 p.m. they had all joined up (see photo, copyright me 2015) and now it looks like rain! (I hope not, I have an outdoor concert to perform in, in about an hour.)

-UB

 

 

 

The Eye of Horus

Adhesives of this, muh li’l bogl, will by now be fully cognisant of my penchant for relishing coincidences.

It’s a neurological condition, brought on by having nothing much to do. And it plays wonderfully well into my growing paranoia.

So (I hate it when people start every answer to a question ponderously, with ‘So…’. You need a sense of the heavily ironic to read this stuff, I’m sorry.)

So, the other night I took Hunzi out for his late-night outing. Across the road is a single-storey house, that is supposedly let to students. Outside the house was parked an expensive German car. Behind it, blocking its exit, a Mini.

Earlier that day, I had seen a man drive up to the house. His passenger was a woman of African appearance. He wore a beard (in fact, he may even have been growing it). They went inside.

I know few students of his age – early 30s – who drive upmarket, almost new BMWs, with left-hand-drive, registered in Germany. Understand, this is not London, where 30-somethings all drive expensive German cars. This is Boglington-on-Sea, where we all drive broken-down VWs, 1970s Land-Rovers with sheep in trailers, battered white vans and Fordson tractors.

I had noticed the car, with its F-for-Frankfurt plates, hanging around, parked in various nearby places, over at least the last six months. I had wondered what it was doing here, who drove it? But I had never seen anyone driving it.

I wondered too about the ‘students’ in the house. I have a son who is a student. He doesn’t live the way these ‘students’ do, he stays with a bunch of mates in the same places all year, the student-let contracts are for 11 months and he wants his money’s worth. These ‘students’ however seem to change over every few weeks.

And they are all, dare I mention it, of ethnic minority background. This has been the case for the past two years, that the house has been let to mostly women, identifiably of Indo-Pakistani, Micronesian and African heritage.

I had begun to worry too about the Frankfurt connection. I recalled the post-9/11 furore, the discovery of an al-Quaeda cell in Frankfurt, with links to the plotters. Who was this man? Why is he here? My paranoia grew.

As we passed the house, I heard a woman’s voice raised. I shrugged into my old-man disguise and shuffled on. Hunzi and I turned as usual into the first of the chain of paddocks between the main road and the houses, following the worn trail left by dogwalkers, illuminated between the vivid white streetlights over to our left, above the fields, and a brilliant moon shining from between scudding clouds.

Reaching the far end of the third paddock, where the path vanishes into the darkness of a hedgerow, where we usually turn round, the moon came out from behind a cloud, and I noticed something glinting in the long grass by the hedge. Instinct made me bend down and pick it up. It was a discarded soft-drink can.

And it was riddled with bullet-holes.

We lived on a farm. We had an air rifle, for the rats. Not that we ever managed to hit any. The boy and I used to shoot tin cans. They move slower than rats. So I know what a shot tin can looks like. It looked like this one.

There were five entry holes in front, but only three exit holes at the back. Low-power .22 air rifle, or pistol then. So at close range – the grouping was excellent. But the shooter had removed the spent pellets, crushed the can and tossed it in the long grass. It was a strange place to go for target practice, for all kinds of reasons I worked-out. I won’t go into them now, or we’ll be here all day.

Anyway, growing paranoia, next day I found myself wandering around B&Q’s spacious hardware shed. I’d gone in with a vague idea of checking out some prices, finding some tomato plants (too early), a thingy to unblock drains that you connect to your power drill (I’m sure somebody makes one).

At which, I came across the home security section and thought for a while about maybe the CCTV pack, a neat little camera with a phone app that for £100 sends images of visiting terrorists and 7th-Day Adventists on the doorstep to your phone.

Then I decided against it, for all kinds of reasons, etc.

And today I take Hunzi back across the road for his daily excursion round the sewage works, and there is a van parked down the side-road, and a power-lift and a pickup truck, they are from a CCTV company, and they are doing some kind of installation there, to keep us all safe in our beds.

I have a theory about CCTV.

You remember God?

And how we used to be told he was always watching over us, like the Eye of Horus?

Well, since we no longer do God, we seem to have turned to technology instead to give us that same comforting feeling.

Personally I hate it, that’s why I came here, to get away from Nanny, from God and from CCTV cameras. I like my privacy. I don’t want to feel comforted, to feel safe. I like feeling totally disconnected from society. No-one is threatening us, there are no burglars here, no muggers, no rapists lurking in the shadows. No-one even goes out after 10pm, except Hunzi and I. There are no shadows! The town council has abolished darkness.

With the new street lighting illuminating every corner of my home deep into what used to be the night, and now the CCTV cameras, I feel worse about everything than usual. I feel violated.

And with a shooter on the loose…

Get me out of here!

 

Postscriptum

Okay, I’ve just had a Spam email offering me ‘Mini cameras – Internet cameras’…

I’m going to the understairs cupboard now. I may be gone some time.

 

 

I may be in the gutter, but I’m looking at guitars

(Guitar bore alert)

Thursday, 27th November: Libra

“You will have to buy some equipment. The financial outlay will be considerable, so do plenty of research before making your purchases. When in doubt, choose quality products that are known to stand the test of time. These items will be decidedly less flashy than some other brands, but don’t get distracted. In a few years, you will be very glad you chose function over fashion. You work hard for your money and should get good value for it.”

Well, Russell, I don’t really work at all for my money, but I do worry a lot about it, if that counts.

The astonishing this about this prognostication, that I have filched from the home page of Yahoo!, is that it exactly matches what was happening to all we Librans on that fateful day.

And not for the first time – see Posts passim.

I have in fact spent the past few weeks, if not months, staring with glazed eyes and gelatinised brain for several hours a day at online guitar catalogues, researching plentifully (but apparently in vain) for the Perfect One, that I can take with me into exiled retirement.

There were several false starts, escape from which involved cumbersome and sometimes vituperative negotiations. ‘I just want my money back’ became one of my Top 10 Most Repeated Phrases of All Time. I was even killed by email: one dealer announcing murderously that he had ‘deleted all mention of me’ from his ‘system’, so that I ‘no longer exist’ to him. But eventually, by last Thursday, a sort of equilibrium was restored.

So I was prepared for a considerable financial outlay. For the past two years I have been selling off stuff I bought during a crazed, three-year attempt to turn myself into a professional musician, a jazz singer. I lost a fortune buying retail and selling wholesale: a piano I don’t play, a drum kit, seven guitars, four amplifiers, two microphones and a partridge in a pear tree. As I have Posted many times piteously, no-one at all seemed to be buying. The only people I ever heard from turned out to be bored teenagers emailing vicariously from messy bedrooms in Kyrzgystan.

And then suddenly last month the dam broke. In the space of three weeks I sold three archtop guitars, my lovely bass, that I hadn’t played for three months, and a small bass amplifier. This, together with a bit of stretch on the elastic of my overdraft, has proved just enough to buy a quality product known to stand the test of time, but not from a flashy manufacturer; and to obtain what should certainly be value for money.

I definitely needed to buy some equipment, I’d been without a string to pluck for more than a week. And that’s the unusually amazing part of the prediction. It’s not like: ‘You are going to buy yourself an expensive present, wooooahooah!’ (Sure, it’s coming on Christmas, why not? No-one else is going to buy me one). It’s the extraordinary insight into the long and complex mental process that has gone into my decision-making that really impressed me.

Okay, I have been known to poke a bit of fun at the astrologer Russell Grant when things turn out more or less as predicted in his syndicated columns, one of which I used to subedit on the local paper, but in this instance I’m feeling uncomfortable. What off-Earth have a dozen slowly wheeling ‘constellations’ of what we now know to be entirely unrelated stars and even distant galaxies that look like single points of light got to do with what goes on in the tousled or depilated, half-empty heads of bewildered and struggling humanity?

At the risk of boring you, there are indeed ‘flashy’ brands of guitar, and populist designs – some of them ludicrously overpriced – see again Posts passim. And there are brands that manage to be both flashy and populist but also quite cool and ‘niche’. There is a vast quantity on sale of a small number of familiar designs that all come out of the same pattern box, pretty much, distinguishable only by their cosmetic touches.

And then there are the known brands most players go for, that may have budget models for starters but which move on up to pretty classy models, even though you can’t sell them again without the name Gibson on the head. There are your collectors of rare and vintage guitars, that can cost up to £100 thousand or more. And finally, for the genuine virtuoso, there are unique and personalised designs from a small number of hand-builders, known as ‘luthiers’, that can cost a lot of money, but stand the test of time.

The guitars I had dismissed, or ordered and then returned or cancelled, were mostly budget-priced and ultimately disappointing versions of overhyped, ludicrously expensive and ‘flashy’ numbers. By last week, I was abandoning a lot of what I thought were my carefully thought-out criteria – size, shape, colour, types of ‘tonewoods’, electrical systems, suitability to playing particular styles of music, price, availability and so on.

I had set out looking for a one-stop solution, that would be future-proof in terms of the technology. But nothing fitted the bill. I had begun to despair of finding exactly what I wanted. Instead of looking for something that would talk to my fridge, as it were, I started thinking in terms of reverting to just a classic, simple style, that would never date. Of, as they say, ‘sticking to the knitting’.

So, on Thursday afternoon, I was prospecting yet again on the websites when, after about 1001 more scrolling images had been subjected disdainfully to my overcomplicated set of criteria, I was suddenly stopped in my tracks by a kind of ‘little black dress’ of a guitar – a double-cutaway, slimline design known as a ‘335’: elegant, simple, classic – a triumph of function over fashion, from a known but not overhyped, quality Japanese maker – expensive for me, perhaps, a ‘top-end’ instrument (I’m not the greatest of players, me), but affordable at a small stretch, and definitely one that would stand the test of time.

It took another hour or so scribbling numbers on the backs of envelopes, unopened bills, weighing-up the benefits of paying cash over credit, worrying lest my small posse of existing creditors should ask awkward questions about my irresponsible sense of priorities. Then I thought, to Hell with it: this is my one chance! With Russell Grant’s sage words of advice from the morning churning through my veins, I leapt into the car, rushed round to the bank, disabled-parked and, at five minutes to closing time, dumped every penny I’d accrued from my gratifying run of sales into my groaning current account. I was broke again, and happy. I was buying a guitar!

Conversation with the stockist on whose website I had found the answer, however, produced the disappointing news that the guitar was not a stock item: it was generally available only in Japan, with just a handful exported to the USA and Europe. To order one could take three or four months, and I would have to pay in advance. It would mean tying-up £2,000 well into the New Year, with nothing to show for it.

It struck me then, how lucky I had been to have found the guitar at all, and at the precise moment when I could just about afford it! Here probably was yet another example of the serendipity with which my life has been blighted, given the frequency with which I make the most selfish and appalling, spur-of-the-moment decisions on irresistible purchases I always seem to have to go back on five minutes later. Either because I do not really have enough money to keep them, or because they are made out of rust. But never mind! I was buying a guitar!

To avoid getting distracted, I went back on Google, increasing my quotient of research considerably; and at last, on about the fifth page, found an identical one on sale in a scarily efficient-looking shop (where are the workers?) in faraway Köln, Germany, happily at the same price. It was the last one in Europe! Late on Thursday evening I took a deep breath and hit the Submit button, ordering it from their English-language website (Do British or American guitar stores have parallel German-, French- and Italian-language websites? I seriously doubt it.)

Hurrah for the Common Market! My Ibanez EKM-100 in Wine Red (the EK stands for Erik Krasno. You’ve surely heard of him?) should be arriving next week.

Cheers, Russell! Here’s looking at the stars.

Postscriptum

Hold the Entertainments page! It turned out to be Not The One after all. What am I like? It’s up for sale again, to try to mitigate the awful cost of the next one I acquired (at the knockdown bargain price of only £3,000!) This one, I feel sure, is it.

Better be, it’s a Gibson.

I’m a believer

For a non-believer, I have an awful lot of strange notions.

I could swear the Universe just actualised someone I was hoping never to meet again, on our walk to the beach, Hunzi and I.

My mind was once again mashing the frumenty of my recent past into the familiar polenta of loathing for this one particular individual, when first a Weimaraner in a stupid red coat came trotting around the next bend – and then appeared this ghastly woman in an inadvisable pair of red trousers, the same colour as mine, under a clashing bob of orange-dyed hair.

The apparition, who looked as if she’d had a facelift, or overdosed on Botox, a living embalming procedure or something, as her face was weirdly as smooth-looking and shiny as a pink billiard ball, recognised me instantly, and I grunted something and hurried on, staring at the ground. I was damned if I was going to recognise her after almost three years, in fact I was eyeing the nearby river speculatively. At this time of year it isn’t deep enough to drown an average human without standing on their head for several minutes to make sure, besides you never know who else might happen along with their dogs to effect a rescue. It might have been worth a try, though she was no average human.

This was the monster who, while working supposedly for me on a very part-time basis, had put me through two years of mounting annoyance while she tried to steal my job, bombarding my director eight thousand miles away with slanderous ungrammatical emails hinting strongly that I was permanently absent without leave, had drunk the bar dry and was stealing money by charging people cash and not booking it: all total, libellous balls; except of course for the bit about the bar, a bit. (You try living there on your own in winter.)

Eventually she convinced my employer to embark on a potentially disastrous and hugely expensive course of action. Three years later, the grandiose folly was completed, and I was let-go in favour of a ‘proper’ manager, the son of a business associate of hers, who gratifyingly lasted about eight months in the job. I’d made nearly seven years.

But here I go again, and if I go on raking the humous of this long-ago scenario to a fine tilth in my head, I should not be surprised if the bloody woman appears in a puff of smoke in the corner of my studio, to admonish me further. There was absolutely no reason to expect that she would apparate on the footpath between two nowheres at that point in time, she lives over 40 miles away.

Except that, only the other day, out of the blue, her accursed name had come up on this, my tiny laptop, when the dreary Linked-in social media site sent me one of those annoying messages asking me to link to her in professional fraternity, and I told it to fuck off.  It was a hint.

And just to rub it in, we ran into each other a second time on the way back from the beach. My grunt this time was well-rehearsed, her smooth, shiny face crestfallen. If she thought a cheesy greeting was going to put a sticking-plaster on bygone wounds, she was wrong. Everyone involved on the project had at one time or another come to me to complain about her Janus-like duplicity, half-brained ideas and astonishing ignorance of many matters a consultant in her field should have known more about, and to wonder why on earth our employer took any notice of her ludicrous prognostications.

I had to explain that it was only because she was telling him what he most in the world wanted to hear: that he would make pots and scads and oodles and shedloads of money if he did as he was told. (He hasn’t. Not unless it’s a big tax fiddle.) And my chief failing was, I wasn’t.

Clearly, the Gods want me to get over it and move on, it’s been two-and-a-half years already. Maybe it was a sign, maybe I will now be allowed to sell-up and move to the middle of a foreign country, with my dog and my guitar, my avocado tree and my Jazz CDs (see Pages), where I don’t have to encounter anyone else with unresolved issues from my past life ever again.

Except you know, don’t you, you just bloody know you will, someday.

 

The law of unintended consequences

I had to look up the meaning of the acronym, MILF.

It seems pretty demeaning to both parties, one hesitates to apply it, but it’s an entirely accurate description of my feelings toward my mother’s friend Melissa. Although she sadly died many years ago, when I was still far too young and newly married to be having such thoughts, Melissa was absolutely the woman I would idealise, now I’m far too old and frequently divorced to be having such thoughts.

Fifty-ish, blonde (not really!), elegant, intelligent, well-travelled, feisty, just a little blowsy in a superattractive kind of way – and pretty definitely up for it, as they say, Melissa was the wealthy widow of a movie director who had ended up on the cutting-room floor. As the mother of sons my own age, both of whom were far more successful than I was being at the time, she seemed perfectly unattainable. But I knew I would have my own Melissa one day, it was just a matter of the right time and circumstances colliding.

I don’t know about you, it’s probably quite common, but I seem to live my life lurching from one desired image to the next. I fix a photograph in my head of where and how I’d like to be someday, and then spend months or even years struggling (and sometimes succeeding) to actualise that image, heedless of either process or consequence. Somehow, I would one day be there, like that, doing whatever, and it was enough to motivate my getting out of bed in the mornings.

For years now I’ve had this idealised image, a framed photo of myself sitting across a breakfast table on a balcony overlooking a sparkling warm sea, sipping coffee; while opposite, wearing a sparkling white towelling robe, sunglasses perched on a strong, blonde head,  long, suntanned legs (an intriguing scar?), carelessly absorbed in a detective thriller, caught just at the moment she raises her gaze with that familiar expression of amused contempt, is my Melissa figure. It’s absurd!

Think of all the billions of points in time: the decisions, the actions, the happenstances and consequentialities necessarily leading up to, surrounding, creating and nurturing that hypothetical scene, on any one of which one has absolutely no influence, each being dependent upon and the consequence of any other, but which must precede the actualisation of such an image. Then the consequential happenstances, actions and decisions leading away from it into an unpredictable and misty future. The moving image, if you will, of the still – all the myriad stuff that’s happening outside the frame in order to define what’s inside it. The meta-narrative. The Borgesian library of interconnecting probabilities.

It’s absurd to imagine the Universe will conspire with you to eventuate whatever you choose to envision as a desired outcome of your longings; that it will somehow deliver the exact inventory of presents you prayed to Santa would be hanging by your bed when you woke on Christmas morning.

But we do. Because it sometimes does.

Many years ago, driving to work, I passed a motorcycle showroom. In the window was this gorgeous, vintage bike: a 500cc silver Sunbeam S8, the only postwar British touring bike to have shaft-drive, like a BMW. Day after day I had to pass that window, until I could stand it no longer. Stopping off, I went in, blindly signed the credit agreement and then called a friend with a bike licence to come over and drive it home for me.

I had actualised my image, of being the owner of that splendid piece of motorcycling history. The Universe had conspired with me to eventuate my desired outcome. What I had forgotten to do was to visualise myself ever actually riding – or paying for – it!

Soon after, I got a job a hundred miles from home. I still didn’t have a licence to drive a bike over 125cc, so I had the friend drive it down for me. Then I bought a shiny red British sports car, whose engine kept seizing up owing to a basic design flaw everyone but me seemed to have known about for years. That and the demands of the job took up all my time, energy and money. The Sunbeam sat in the garage of our rented apartment for a year, occasionally being taken out for a spin by friends and colleagues with bike licences.

Then (as usual) I was fired. I never found out why, although I had upset a few important people by continuing with a journalistic investigation they were uncomfortable with. Fired on a Friday, on the Monday I found my local bank account had been frozen. I returned home to London, the friend riding the bike, me driving the little cheap French car I had taken in exchange for the Triumph TR4A, which the garage proprietor wanted for spares. (A few months later, the rear French coil springs suddenly sprang through into the French luggage compartment and I sold it to a stock-car racer for £12.) Unemployed and broke, with little hope of ever taking the test, rather than seeing it rot in the garden I gave the Sunbeam away to the friend. I still hadn’t finished paying for it.

There’s an old Chinese saying, be careful what you ask for – you might just get it. Modern parlance refers to the law of unintended consequences. Luckily, I have no money. I can’t afford the balcony overlooking the sea; I don’t know any attractive blonde women of a certain age; nor can I realistically envisage one ever wanting to know me. I may never actualise the image, but Followers of this, muh li’l bogl, will know, I have got my house on the market, just in case….

 

Pre-scriptum

Why was I reminded of the name Melissa, after all this time?

It’s a homonym!

I was planning to write, not about Melissa, but about Melisma… a musical term, referring to a passage in which the soloist affects a kind of sliding-around sound, a deliberate imprecision, bending the notes from flat to sharp and back again.

In recent years, especially, female singers of a certain school have been exploiting the melismatic style. One thinks of Maria Carey in particular, and Rihanna. Often, it sounds as if the melisma has been introduced synthetically, by the use of some digital post-recording trickery. To my ears, it is horrible. It puts me in mind of an American teenager whining for more pocket-money.

Unfortunately, the fashion has caught on among the X-Factor set, the sad fantasists prostituting their very tiny talents on reality TV shows in the hope of instant fame and fortune. Even respectable musicians are doing it – I had to switch off this morning, when a quite well-respected singer-songwriter commissioned to write a piece for radio started bending it like Beckham.

Shudder. The world is full of ugliness. Enough with melisma, let’s have more Melissas.