Another Mayday Bank Holiday, another Riveting Snooker Final

Tuesday 6th May

As you can guess I am writing this on Monday – afternoon as it happens and Ronnie is in trouble.  It is a totally different game than last night when Ronnie coasted into at first a five frame lead before being pegged back to just three.  We should have known then that Selby was no pushover, in fact he has hung on with tenacity and courage and has this afternoon turned the tables on Ronnie and is in the lead.  Ronnie can’t seem to settle down and play his own game, he is constantly on the defensive as the jester from Leicester keeps putting him in trouble.  And there are signs that Ronnie is losing it, he is looking vacant when he is in his seat, and when he comes to the table he tries something reckless.  It is almost as if he wants to lose each frame.

Ronnie is possibly the most talented player to ever pick up a snooker cue.  Steve Davis was a master but has admitted that he had to work very hard at his game.  Then along came Stephen Hendry, a snotty-nosed detestable little upstart, but he seemed to carry all before him and currently holds the record of seven World titles, but even he has lost faith with his own inner self and has now retired at a younger age than Ronnie.  Ronnie is more in the mould of Jimmy White and Alec Higgins, brilliant when on top but deeply troubled and emotional.  He has been through severe depressions and family troubles including a separation from his wife and children, but he kept bouncing back and seemed until today to have that inner lack of self-belief under control.

This must be one of the hardest games to play.  It is such a marathon, and the tide can swing both ways in a matter of minutes.  Even the best players can miss seemingly easy shots, and there is so much luck when you least expect it.  I think that this is what makes Sport so exciting; if it were simply a matter of the best person winning we wouldn’t want to watch.  It is that combination of talent and circumstances and their own mental processes which makes Sport so fascinating.  At the moment I hardly dare watch as I am afraid that Ronnie will go to pieces, but then you never know….

The Importance of Gardens

Monday 5th May

We grew up in a house with a garden, actually two – one in the front and a long garden mostly put down for vegetables at the back.  I can’t remember playing in the garden; the front square of grass bordered with a neat two foot six privet hedge was purely ornamental and almost every house was laid out the same.  But out back garden was our food larder, at least half of it was potatoes, then there were carrots and green beans, cabbages, sprouts and lettuce, not forgetting tomatoes, beetroot and radish and onions.  There was a vegetable market in the town every Thursday but it was only in late winter when we had run out of potatoes and greens that my mother would go there for essentials.

I have never really had a vegetable garden, my attempts at growing veg have been half-hearted and resulted in a very meagre crop if any.  My whole attitude to gardening is very much like that.  I am really a fair-weather gardener and more often than not only tackle it when it is getting really overgrown and in desperate need of hacking back.  Then it is a mad four hours or so of lopping snipping raking and carting bags and bags to the dump.

At my last house there was an area right at the back which never got cleared, in fact it became the dumping ground for grass and cutting and branches and twigs.  Then about twice a year I would have a bonfire and burn all of the wood, causing masses of smoke even when I bought an incinerator and tried to do the thing properly it was thick black smoke pouring from the chimney.

But I do believe that even for lazy gardeners like me gardens are important.  They re-connect us, especially us city folk, with nature.  There is a sense of well-being only found in the tranquility of a garden, a real feeling of achievement if things survive and thrive and flower year after year.  I pity all these modern young people in these expensive high rise flats with only a tiny balcony and a few paltry pots to cultivate, but sadly at least here in London this is becoming the norm; all we see everywhere is so-called luxury tower blocks rising up on every bit of spare ground; when the councils built them years ago nobody wanted to live in them at all.  Everyone wanted a little semi with a garden.

The Future of Capitalism

Sunday 4th May

The nature of Capitalism is changing all the time; where once it was a sort of Wild West of opportunists who ‘capitalised’ on a certain market shortage, or speculated and got lucky, now it is highly organized and has become a vast behemoth.   And it is getting worse.  At one time it was just the ‘West’, Europeans and then Americans who became involved.  With the fall of Communism, Russia suddenly became the land of opportunity and huge fortunes were made from basically stealing State Assets. A similar thing was happening, but to a lesser degree, in Europe as Steel, Coal, Rail, Telecoms and Utilities were all sold off.

Then Around the turn of the Century China suddenly became liberated and Capitalists sprung up there and now there is a great rush as India, South America and Africa are becoming developed.  And along with that development comes both poverty and immense wealth which is concentrated in just a few hands.

And where will it all end one wonders.  We are back in a phase of Capitalism where wealth for those with Assets is increasing at 7% or more per year where wealth for ordinary people, that is the difference between income and prices had been diminishing or at the best just keeping level.  All of my life up to about 6 years ago I was in the ascendant, one felt positive; life would get better, one would become wealthier, ones standard of living would increase year on year.  All that has stopped now.

Whether Capitalism can correct this or is happy for it to continue on the present path I am not sure.  The logic for every company is to make more and more profit, one sure way is to produce more with less workers.  So the temptation to mechanise, to automate processes is very desirable from an individual company’s point of view.  However if more and more companies do this than there will be fewer and fewer consumers to buy the products of Capitalism, and where will that lead us?  It is quite possible that in fifty years time Britain and large parts of Europe will be very poor and Africa and India very rich.  Who knows, the only thing certain is that unless things change radically the super rich will get even richer faster and faster.

The Thousandth Blog

Saturday 3rd May

The wordpress site I post these blogs through tells me that this is my one thousandth blog.  Some achievement – or a monumental waste of time, I am not sure.  But then again, everything we humans do is a monumental waste of time, in the history of the Universe what do the nefarious activities of one species amongst millions on one plant amongst millions in one constellation amongst billions really matter.  But we are all we have, at this moment in time anyway, so maybe at the same time as nothing really mattering in the slightest, maybe every tiny beat of every microscopic insects wings, every flower that opens, every baby that cries does matter.

Some days the subject comes easily – something on the news, or the daily paper, or a book I am reading or more likely music I am listening to will spur my next blog.  Often it a matter of duty – something must be written, and as you may have guessed I have rather a lot of opinions and much to say – which may be better than having none.  I am not sure if I am really a writer.  Yes, I wrote Catherine, and the new book – 2066 – a personal memoir – coming out soon, but I don’t think I have that internal discipline required to sit and consistently write every day.

When (and if) I ever retire I have promised myself to both write and paint again, but there may not be that much opportunity in reality.  I find my days off at present largely taken up with catching up on work, household chores, bits of DIY and a thousand other useless tasks which mean the writing gets put off again.  I should be starting a new book by now, but have no ideas in my head at present.  Maybe the next book will come in a dream, or I may revisit some old writing and try to work something new up.  Until then this blog will have to do.  Who knows I may even reach blog number two thousand one day. r

Y is for Neil Young – Still Rockin’

Friday 2nd May

Neil keeps going, making records, touring, refroming Crazy Horse, doing gigs with Crosby Stills and Nash and now even writing books, though an accomplished writer he is not.  And he keeps changing and yet manages to stay the same.  New songs that sound like old songs but are different with great melodies and often poignant but sometimes stupid words.  His latest album – a double with Crazy Horse was one of his best ‘Psychadelic Pill’ full of long rambling songs that seem to have grown in the studio, like one enormous jam, but I suspect are quite planned.

On one recent live album ‘Year of the Horse’ he says “It’s all one song” – meaning I presume that we are to look on his work as a whole body of work, each song being just a part of the whole thing.  He has managed to achieve what almost nobody else in Rock music has, he is timeless.  Many of his recent songs could have been recorded back in the seventies or any time really.  The only thing you know is that it is just Neil, an ‘ornery old cuss’, who won’t conform to any stereotypes, who will play his music as he wants to, as the muse takes him for as long as he wants to.  And I love him for it.

GDP figures up

Thursday 1st May

It would seem as though the long recession is over, finally.  We have now had over a year of good GDP figures and there can be little doubt that the economy is recovering.  Especially if you live in London or the South East; I am not so sure that the rest of the country is doing anything like as well.  Another interesting quirk of the figures is that there has been an increase in population over the last four or five years, which should, by all economic laws, mean that the economy would have grown anyway, even if in fact everything was static.  Actually GDP per head, if anyone can begin to understand such a concept has barely improved at all.

It seems that unlike many previous recessions, by and large, employers have chosen to retain staff and take smaller profits rather than make swathes redundant as happened in the past.  Which is of course a good thing.  So how will all of this pan out electorally?  Surprisingly it may not help the Tories as much as they think.  Firstly if there is not so much danger of economic disaster the state of the economy looms less large in peoples list of concerns.  They may have welcomed the idea of cuts when we were looking into a black hole, but now that things are looking better the desirability of cuts becomes less obvious.  All of this is subjective anyway and anyone who thinks they can predict public opinion a year ahead is a fool.

There is still a year to go before the next election and I suspect it will be lost by the party seen to make the most cock-ups.  There is no great love for the Tories and I cannot see them improving their poll ratings much before the next election.  Likewise Labour isn’t particularly loved either and Milliband does seem to have an image problem which could deny them votes.  The Lib-Dems are half the force they were, and no-one can be sure where their votes will go.  Then there is UKIP, who keep banging the only drum they know – Immigration, mostly from Europe, and many lazy people who don’t want to listen to the arguments will be tempted to vote for them.

Suddenly the economy which was so important seems less so now.  Immigration, and the fear it engenders is the only show in town.