The Internet – a true democracy or a witch-hunt

Saurday 10th November

There are those who profess that the internet is the true expression of democracy in our be-knighted age, and it is true that every on-line newspaper article or item on BBC news has hundreds of comments following, though one does suspect that there are serial commentators who are driving their own political agenda and trying to point-score rather than debate.  However it is at least encouraging that hundreds or thousands of people may feel liberated enough to at least have their say, and in the classlessness of the internet every comment has equal worth even if most remain unread.

On Facebook there are more and more of those almost laughable but I am sure heartfelt little sayings, ‘cod’ philosophy maybe, but almost entirely they are positive and life affirming and may well represent what I have long felt, that the general public are streets ahead of our politicians especially on social acceptance and caring for others.

There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from Wikipedia, and even the political sites such as Guido Fawkes give us hints of news long before they are breaking on official sites.

Twitter is mostly dross, but occasionally it reveals what the official media are gagged from reporting.  In many ways there is no hiding place on the internet.

But then there is the more sinister side such as the naming of suspected peadophiles, who may or may not be guilty, the ease of reposting means that this ‘gossip’ spreads far faster than any official system can control, which may be good, but it may also be bad.  The very fact that a TV presenter thought it would be a good idea to try to ambush the PM with a list of names circulating on the internet of suspected peadophile politicians on live TV shows how dangerous the game is.  And congratulations to Mr, Cameron in the way he dealt with it.

It won’t stop it of course.  And the Genie is out of the bottle now anyway.  Life will never be the same as it was before the internet, but we just have to be careful in what we read and believe and share.

Please share this if you agree.  hahaha

E is for ‘Eagles’

Friday 9th November

People talk nostalgically but in my mind slightly mistakenly about the great music of the sixties; true there was some excellent stuff then, from the Beatles and Stones through to Tamla Motown and The Beach Boys.  But it was the early seventies that really was the Golden Age, and as well as all the Prog Rock and Glam in Britain there was something special happening in America, mostly in California.  Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and James Taylor all emerged around 1970, and they all shared a musical heritage that included both rock’n’roll and country.  They built on the sound of the Byrds and Gram Parsons and the Band and developed a new and wonderful music which has endured and lasted far longer than most other musical trends.  And then along came the Eagles.  I first heard them as the warm-up to a radio 1 concert by Joni Mitchell, who had just released Blue.  They were an instant hit and though the personnel changed a bit over the years they never released a duff album; and hardly a poor song either.  Their masterpiece was Hotel California, a near perfect slice of American self doubt and self analysis, wrapped up in the most gorgeous melodies and wonderful singing.

The band struggled on after this and released a couple of semi-decent albums, and broke up and occasionally reformed for yet another World Tour.  They were incredibly popular, their Greatest Hits album being by some counts the biggest selling LP in history.  But despite the brilliance of songs like ‘Tequila Sunrise’ and ‘Take it to the Limit’ it is always Hotel California I return to, with those great lines ‘You can check out anytime, but you can never leave’

According to several articles on the band they apparently hated each other, and tours were fuelled by industrial quantities of cocaine, but none of that matters whenever I hear ‘New Kid in Town’ or ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ again.   Pure heaven, and no, I don’t ever want to check out of the Hotel California.

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The biggest sigh of relief

Thursday 8th November

And in the end it was a comfortable victory, although the electoral college system does make a very small margin of votes a sizeable chunk of the 540 college votes.  But it was nail-bitingly nervous at times.  And what a remarkable and confident and statesmanlike victory speech Obama gave, so unlike his hesitant and unsure tv debates, where he seemed almost afraid to actually say anything passionate at all.  Of course, now the hard work really starts.  The Republicans still control Congress and there is likely to be an almighty battle looming over the budget deficit, which by a previous agreement has to be reduced in 2013.  Just how, nobody is agreed upon.  And yes, Obama has disappointed, but maybe that was largely because of how much we expected of him, and the economic crisis took far longer to sort out then anyone thought, and even now is still at best a faltering recovery.

But can anyone doubt how much worse it might have been had Romney won.  Increased spending on the military, lower taxes for the rich and somehow, as if by magic – the deficit reduced and jobs created.  The so-called economic miracle of the eighties under Thatcher and Reagan is now being exposed as a con-trick.  The rules were relaxed, credit was made available and boom boom boom away we went.

So now, and for the next four years we can begin to relax a bit…..well, at least until the primaries get under way in 2015.

The Lowest Common Denominator has yet to be reached

Wednesday 7th November

It is no use bewailing the fact that programmes like X Factor are so popular; the general public seem to love them.  Talking to a an acquaintance recently I realised that what I consider dross is exactly the opposite for the vast majority of TV viewers, who seem to exist on a diet, though glut may seem a more appropriate description, of Eastenders, Corrie, Emmerdale, X Factor, and Strictly,   I do here apologise if I have missed anything off that list, but my knowledge of such matters is mostly hearsay.

There have always been ‘popular’ programmes, but since the turn of the twenty-first century, or maybe just before it, we have had a new phenomenon – saturation.  When I was younger and would fall in love with certain ‘unmissable’ programmes of the seventies and eighties, at least we had to wait a whole week before being immersed in the rubbish again.  But now we have saturation dross, night after night of ‘I’m a Celebrity’ – whole weeks of ‘Big Brother’, repeat after repeat of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’, even ‘Strictly’ stretched over three nights.

And now there is i-player and the possibility of watching crap twenty four, seven.  At least with the schedules you were at the mercy of someone else’s inanity.  Now there is nothing to stop you in the race to the bottom.

In the never ending search for popularity there is no floor.  The dumbing down of the dumbest has so far found nowhere nearly down enough.  The lowest common denominator has yet to be reached.  Lately I have taken to the adage that if I miss a certain programme it is a bonus.  Of course with i-player and skybox-plus nothing now is missable, dross is with us forever.  Welcome to the brave new world.

The Closest of Elections

Tuesday 6th November

It is quite amazing that in a country as vast as America, with such a diverse population, that as election day looms there is barely a tissue paper between the two candidates.  And yet it happens quite often, more so than here when the last ‘too close to call’ election was 1992, when John Major pulled off a remarkable victory after trailing for years in the polls.  Yet in America, with just two parties there was the closest of races just 12 years ago when Bush won (or as conspiracy theorists would have it – stole) the election from Al Gore.  Bush won easily four years later on a tide of patriotism following 9/11, and there was never any real prospect of McCain beating Obama four years ago.

But now, it really is too close to call with different polls putting first Obama and then Romney one point ahead of the other.  It may well end up going down to the wire in a couple of states such as Ohio and Florida, which Obama needs to win in order to avoid being a one-term President and maybe setting the United States on the real road to oblivion.  Nobody knows that much about what Romney will do when in office, his popularity having more to do with getting rid of the hated Obama than what he has said.  But when we look at what he has done in his life so far it doesn’t augur well.  He has run Bain Capital for nearly thirty years, and has in the process destroyed many good companies and got rid of thousands of workers.  This was achieved by leveraged buyouts, where with mostly borrowed money, Bain acquired a majority of shares in a steady but unspectacular company.  They then forced the company to streamline, sack workers, and re-capitalise, often going bankrupt in the process.  Bain earns huge fees for its investors and always gets out before the shit hits the fan.  Gordon Gecko could well have been modelled on him.  Let us hope and pray that Obama wins, and that this man doesn’t become President and do the same thing to America herself.

A voter in Lancaster, Ohio, on 5 November 2012

The Return to Work

Monday 5th November

For the first time in my life really I am utterly bored with my work.  Even when I was a humble store man at the Carlton Tower, or taking cake orders at Lindy’s in the early eighties, I always enjoyed my work.  In fact I went at with relish, and I still, bored as I am, like to see a job well done.  There is absolutely no point in doing a bad job, be it so humble a task as painting a wall, or a complicated set of accounts.  Cut corners will always come back to haunt you, and anyway it really doesn’t take that much more time to do something properly than to bodge it.  In fact deliberate bodgementation is surprisingly hard to achieve.  So, the wonky shelves and the doors that don’t quite fit were the result of my best and not my worst efforts, in fact with DIY generally it is the third attempt at a job that finally succeeds, often when you have gone out in desperation and actually bought the correct tools for the job.

But lately, oh, in the last year or so I suppose, I have become utterly bored with my work.  Maybe it is the sheer repetition, the monthly figures that are always waiting to be processed, the fact that I doubt if anyone really ever looks at the numbers anyway, and somehow it all seems more and more futile.  Except for the vitally important fact that it keeps my salary being paid, and delays the inevitable day when I have to actually retire and sort out how on earth I am to live on my meagre pension I would chuck it in tomorrow.

But I have always been a fatalist, far happier for events to conspire to decide my future than to actually make any conscious decisions myself.  I keep hoping my boss will sack me, or even better make me redundant, but no.  No matter how I let him know I am bored and really not all interested in the job I just keep on keeping on, and he keeps on keeping me employed.

The Long Drive Home

Sunday 4th November

We left very early in the morning, and this was by far the best bit of the drive, hardly any traffic on the roads, and we took regular breaks.  But as the dawn came up and the day progressed it got harder.  We spent nearly two hours in a jam in Tours, the Motorway Link, a short bridge hop over the Loire was closed, we assume for repairs but as usual we could see no work taking place.  We simply had to drive a couple of miles along the river over the next bridge and back again to pick it up.  Unfortunately so did everyone else, as well as all the Saturday traffic in the city going wherever they wanted to go too.

The weather was mixed, dry, drizzle, pouring rain, sunshine, then pouring rain again, especially on the long slap across Northern France.  We were on time though, so we weren’t too concerned.  Arriving at Eurotunnel we had to first get the pets passports approved.  The main aspect of the scheme is that the dogs have to be seen and checked by a Vet in France during the previous five days to their return to England.  We had our dogs checked and their passports stamped in Eymet the previous day.  To our horror the Vet had stamped both passports but had only signed across one of them., which of course we didn’t notice at the time.  This had cost 95 euros.  The official at Calais said he could not accept this.  We had to slap out in the rain to a vet in Calais he recommended who agreed it was ridiculous.  ‘A simple mistake’  Without examining the dog he countersigned the omitted signature in less than a minute.  Sixty Euros please.  In cash, No Credit or Debit Cards.  We gave him 30 euros and 30 pounds as we had spent most of our euros on the jouney.  He reluctantly gave us a receipt which we may try to gain some compensation for from the Eymet vet.  He then turned to the next English couple and their dog, as there seemed to be a constant stream of unfortunates behind us.  What a great money making machine, especially as they insist on cash only, and most people are in such a panic they do not ask for a receipt.  We made it back through the driving rain, and relieved, got on our train.  Home at last, tired, relieved of the burden of carrying quite so much cash, and so to bed.

And now the sun has returned

Saturday 2rd November

The sun has come out again now after a spell of rain, and everywhere looks different.  Autumn is only just arriving here and many of the trees are still green.  The vines are a yellowy colour, and some in particularly low and sunny places are already brown, the grapes have all gone.  Where there were fields of yellow plates all nodding in the same direction, and then late in summer dark brown and almost black sunflowers there are now freshly ploughed fields, the furrows dark mulchy and glistening in the early morning sunshine.  The orchards of plums, this being the prune capital of France, are still mostly green or a yellowy pale colour.  Unlike England there seem to be very few red leaved trees here.  The gently rolling hills are so beautiful, with their serried rows of vines marching across the valleys, and so little traffic we are often apart from the obligatory tractor the only car on the road.

A short trip into Bergerac confirms that it must be one of the least interesting cities in France.  They are redeveloping the ‘Vielle Ville’ yet again, if that is not a complete contradiction in terms.  The road are all up and posh new pebble stones are being laid.  We did manage to find a lovely clubby bar where we had a nice coffee and listened to a selection of country blues being played via a laptop from You Tube and through the speakers.  I could have stayed there all day just looking out of the window watching the world go by.

Today is our last day proper here, as we are driving back tomorrow, all day.  So this might not get posted until later on.  But I can assure you that even if I do not appear on Facebook, Catherines Story is always thinking of you.

Je suis fatigue

Friday 2nd November

The cold has got worse, then better, then a bit worse again, hovering around like some demented mosquito, always swattably out-of-reach.  Occasionally it goes quiet and you think  – ah, maybe it is the beginning of the end, but then it starts to buzz again until it is a full-blown drone.  And one of the symptoms of the blessed cold is fatigue; a tiredness that overwhelms one, when your whole body aches to rest.

A pity, as apart from feeling awful a lot of the time I am really quite enjoying zee ‘oliday.  Most of the jobs in the house are either completed or can only be done in the warmer weather, such as painting exterior doors and windows.

We have just been to the market, and bought cheese and cakes and a few tins of charcuterie for Christmas presents, and to the big Supermarket just outside Miramont for a case of wine (a present) and a few bottles for us.

The weather is deteriorating a bit and we now have rain all day.  The holiday will soon be over, but it won’t be long at all before we are out here again.  Our long French holiday has a nasty habit of being interrupted by a few weeks of work here and there.

So, tired but happy – I leave you pour ce moment.

And now it is November

Thursday 1st November

November can be the cruelest of months, with the last vestiges of summer behind us, and only damp and misty weather and cold hard winter to look forward to.  Almost everyone is at work too, hardly anyone chooses to take their holidays in this bleakest of months.  The tubes are crowded and people are togged up with winter woolies and hats and umbrellas, and try as you might you simply cannot find those gloves your sister gave you for Christmas, or was that last year – they all begin to roll into one, never mind – you will probably get some more this year.

But my – how the year has sped past.  In a few weeks we will be out rushing about, trying to buy those last few Christmas essentials again.  And it is the again-ness of it all that is so depressing.  Christmas comes but once a year, but as it approaches on the horizon, even that once can feel once too many.  Today has been a little hiatus, we are both full of cold, it is gently raining and apart from a quick nip out this morning  for pain and lait we are staying in today.  No more slapping around Hypermarches, no more French departement stores with their two hour lunch-breaks, no more assembling yet another cupboard or table.  We are having a reste, and in its way this is such a luxury.  To just be doing nothing, a terrible waste, but enjoyable too.