The Subject for Today

Tuesday 10th June

You may well wonder how on earth I find something to write about every day, and I must admit especially when in France it becomes increasingly difficult.  Days go by, full of sunshine, good food and contentment and the blog passes by unwritten.  And like everything, once a rule is broken, it becomes far easier to break the next time.  This blog which for about three years I never missed a day suddenly seems less important, the necessity of completing it and coming up withsomething new fades.  And my friends once that Rubicon had been crossed, why missing another day here or there is easy-peasy.

What I usually do on the way to work as well as reading a few pages of Anthony Trollope is, somewhere in the back of my mind, a search for the subject of the day.  Once I have this, writing something is easy.  Almost the same incidentally with the book, once I have the title fixed in my mind I can write stuff.  But then some days no subject will come and I have to rapidly search BBC News on-line or City AM, or even the Metro for a subject.

Occasionally even this defeats me and I sit in front of the computer and my mind goes blank, so I end up writing this sort of blog.  I therefore beg your pardon for wasting your time on a piece of writing which contains no gems of enlightenment, no wit, no political intrigue and no humour even.  Possibly the greatest sin.

A Row About Nothing?

Monday 9th June

Another Sunday, another row within Government, but this time among the Tories exclusively.  Ostensibly it is about how radical extremism should be tackled; softly softly as per Theresa May, or short sharp shock as per Michael Gove.  Now most people will not care and actually whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument Government policy ‘aint gonna change either.  But it does expose a fundamental problem.  This Government and Gove in particular have been so keen on so-called “free schools” that they have bent the rules for them and even robbed other budgets to help set them up.  This is the real Trojan horse.  If more and more schools are free schools, directly funded out of Whitehall and though supposed to be non-profit making are often linked to Business then sooner or later everyone will only have the choice of almost privately run schools or academies.  But part of the problem is that many of these “free” schools are religious schools, where any concept of free choice, either in what is taught, or what the kids are supposed to believe or actual intake is totally missing.

Religion should be banned in schools – in my opinion.  It is always divise, backwards looking and in many cases extremely dangerous.  Hence the problem – several new free schools are simply re-inforcing hard-line Muslim ideas on kids who if they attended normal integrated state schools would have been open to a much wider range of cultures and opinions.  So these free schools may indeed be radicalizing kids who may end up the terrorists of the next generation.  Which incidentally, how to deal with that extremism was, the what the row was all about.  Durghhh !!!!!  Elephant  !!!!   in the very classroom!!!!

An Insatiable Desire for Boy Bands

Sunday 8th June

Not me, I hasten to say.  The general public I mean.  Personally, although in love with The Beatles from the age of twelve or so I don’t think they really qualify as a boy band.  They played their instruments, they wrote their own songs mostly and though they could harmonise they didn’t all sing in harmony all the time.  Also they really rocked at times rather than sing soppy ballads.

Almost everyone has a time when, like Don McLean, they feel that the music has died.  Mine was in the early nineties when after a decade of synthesizer bands and stadium rock we had both the emergence of boy bands and hip hop.  Both left me cold.  I had no point of contact; music had died.  Or chart music anyway; albums still held me entranced.  I particularly loathed Take That and Westlife, interchangeable in their schmaltzy sameness.  I never quite understood the attraction.  And today’s crop of One Direction look-a-likes is just as boring.  Overproduced, overmanaged, overhyped.  But the public has an insatiable desire for them. And Britain’s Got Talent (which I haven’t watched but accidentally caught the very end of the final show) had just thrown up another one.  As Marlene Dietrich once sang “Ven Vill Zey Ever Learn.”

Starting a new story

Saturday 7th June

Even though the last one “2066 – a personal memoir” isn’t published yet, I have started a new story.  I won’t say much about it yet, as I am still feeling my way both for the plot and the tone of the narration. This time however it will be a third person narrative, so far almost everything I have written was in the first person.  Different voices; but always from their individual personal points of view.  My subject this time is more elusive and I want the character to evolve slowly through the story.

But at least I am writing again.  The thought that you might run out of ideas always scares writers, that somehow the words will dry up, that you won’t be able to write is a constant worry.  So, a metaphorical sigh of relief.  And where do the ideas come from?  Possibly I am dreaming them, not so much night-time dreaming but a form of daydreaming, where I let my mind drift away into almost nothingness.  There is also quite a bit of autobiographical stuff, though not as much as you might imagine.  I look at it more as my own life is the coat hanger on which I drape the story, it is simply a prop, a starting point, a place on a map, a moment in time.  And my characters are all part of me in a way too, different facets maybe of my own self.  I am at my best when I can slip into the character; then I know the voice to use, the turn of phrase, and I can believe in them.  And if I can, then hopefully so can you.  The writing of the story is almost the easy bit, the editing and the rewrites are the hard bits.

Bi-elections tell us nothing

Friday 6th June

After all the kerfuffle and media speculation of the local and European elections of two weeks ago there was quite a bit of interest on the bi-election at Newark.  This was a very safe Tory seat, with over 50% of the vote but the word was that UKIP might take it.  But strangely a lot of the noise about UKIP has suddenly dissipated.  It is as if the Press had had their fill and now decided to move on.  As it happened the Tories safely held on to Newark, reduced turnout, reduced majority but still a good win.  Ukip came second, taking some votes from Labour and a lot from the LibDems who limped in sixth.

So what does this tell us about what might happen at the General Election?  Precisely nothing.  It is most likely that the Tories will hold on to Newark, and most other mostly rural seats.  Labour will probably hold onto the Inner Cities.  The LibDems will hang on to seats in the Celtic fringes but may well lose others, maybe to the Tories despite their losing votes too.  Such is the lottery of the first past the post system.  The interesting phenomenon may be just how well UKIP manages to do in a few places like Essex and the Midlands and some traditional marginal seats may be upset too.

Unfortunately no matter how exciting bi-election results may be they very rarely tell us who will win at the General Election.  They can severely embarrass a Government and give great hope and publicity to opposition parties but they are no indicator of the eventual result.

Another Difference between men and women

Thursday 5th June

Facebook is full of homilies and sometimes funny, sometimes clever little posts which tend to generalize but in which we can always recognize some inner truth.  In some ways this social media phenomenon may be making us more tolerant and understanding, but in others it can promote hatred – I have seen not a few anti-Muslim posts too.  Last night I saw one of the funnier ones showing twelve ways in which men were different to women.  And being a man of course the ones which ridiculed women’s behaviour were the funniest.

I started thinking and came up with another vital difference which the list had omitted.  How we react to the actions of others.  As a man, if somebody does something which in some way impinges on my life I automatically assume that they simply hadn’t given me a thought.  I was incidental to their action, collateral damage you might say.  Yes, they could have been more considerate but there you go.

When another person’s actions affect a woman she invariably assumes that it was deliberate, that this other person had done it deliberately to offend or upset her.  The idea that they could have simply not considered her in their actions doesn’t occur to women.  They seem to place themselves at the centre of the Universe, and other’s actions must somehow be related to their own existence.  And I wonder where this comes from; is it biological or learned behaviour; nature or nurture?   I am always surprised, but shouldn’t be considering how often it happens, at this behaviour.  I have always understood that people are mostly like bulls in china shops and it is best to simply get out of their way and try to stay safe; it never occurs to me to think they are deliberately aiming their actions or words at me, I just happened to get in the way.

And why is no-one that excited about Rio?

Wednesday 4th June

I can remember previous World Cups (well they do come around every four years) and it was quite different.  Flags hanging out of windows, bunting and even mini-flags for cars and the papers full of “30 years of hurt” and “We’re backing our boys” and other assorted jingoistic nonsense.  But this time – nothing.  An eerie silence, and I have to keep reminding myself – did we actually qualify this time?  So why?  Why no bunting? Why, in fact does everyone expect us not only not to win it but to most probably not even scrape through the first round?

Is it because it is in Brazil itself, and Brazil usually either win it or are runners-up?  Is it because there are no superstars in our team this time, though fat lot of good it did us when we had Owen and Beckham and Ferdinand and all.   Is it because the manager is so quietly spoken and, well sensibly boring?  Is it maybe because we have grown up at last and realised that we aren’t actually that good at football (even if we did invent it) and that even against minor nations we struggle?  Is it because we have Italy in our group?  And Colombia?  Or even Costa Rica?

Or is it because we all secretly harbor the burning belief that we will win it one day, and well – you never know, but it is cooler to be self-denigrating, to write off our chances so that when we do get to the final it will be such a surprise and as underdogs we will actually win it?

Answers on a postcard please and the first card drawn will win a ticket to Heathrow airport to see our returning heroes in about two weeks time….

Heard the one about Qatar hosting the World Cup?

Tuesday 3rd June

It was always a joke, wasn’t it?  In fact the look of surprise, not only on Sepp Blatter’s face but on the whole audience and the commentators was confirmation that he wasn’t at all serious. Qatar? – I mean where the hell was it exactly – somewhere in the Persian Gulf, one of the hottest places on earth in the summer, and did anyone know if they even played football.  Of course it was good that the World Cup  should move out of the safe European and South American countries it was usually held in.  But Qatar was tiny, with a tiny population, women wearing burkas, they had never even qualified before for a final, and one’s initial thought (after it emerged that it was no joke at all) was that bribery had to have taken place.

And of course it is almost certain that it has.  Qatar may well argue that the briber Bin Hamman was nothing to do with their bid, but he apparently used over three million pounds of somebody’s money to secure an impossible deal.

In a way it will now be an easy exit for Sepp Blatter who must realise, that even had no money exchanged hands, Qatar was a ridiculous choice and would have been a disaster.  Now we have to go through the quasi-legal investigation and a hastily convened re-vote, where they will inevitably choose either Iceland or Burkino Faso….

Why do we all love Barbeques?

Monday 2nd June

It was a lovely sunny day and of course we had a barbeque.  Because it is true that we all love a barbeque?  Well, almost everyone I know does, and certainly our friends do because whenever we have a sunny weekend and we are in London they ring up and say “Are we having a barbeque?” and of course we say “Yes, when are you coming round.”  To be fair they always bring lots of food with them so it never costs us much.  I usually boil some potatoes, make the salad, get the barbeque and the chairs out, and do most of the clearing away and washing up.  But why exactly do we all love barbeques so much?

Is it because we all cannot wait to revert to being cavemen sitting around a fire and eating hunks of cooked meat?  Does the food really taste better cooked over coals?  Is it the social thing of sitting around in a circle and waiting for the food to be ready?  I really don’t know, and it is probably a combination of all of that.  Maybe we haven’t moved that far from being hunter-gatherers, from celebrating the killing of the beast and the dividing of the spoils, from eating well, because despite our brains telling us that the supermarkets will be full again tomorrow, we just can’t resist that last bit of chicken.

Anyway, whatever….it was another lovely day in the garden.  Maybe we should just relax and not try to analyse so much, just enjoy.

Another Holiday Over

Sunday 1st June

Firstly I have to apologise for not posting a blog for a few days.  Just been too busy having a good time. We drove back yesterday and it was okay; too early a start for my liking at 4.00 a.m., but plenty of long stops on the journey and we were back under the channel and home by 8.00 p.m. the same day.

Our lifestyle is so relaxed there, a different way of living completely. This time the weather was a bit mixed, one day of solid rain and a few showers here and there, but when it did clear up it was lovely.  We had a couple of drives out into the countryside, stumbling upon tiny villages and old churches and cemeteries.    Or just finding a field to let the dogs have a run.  We had un petit soiree on Wednesday evening where we invited our English friends and our French neighbours; it was a great success, everyone talking and eating and drinking.  We did the market on Thursday, but it was very quiet and we didn’t sell much.  I finished off painting the back of the house, which now looks very smart, and I bought a few gifts for the grandchildren.  Another great night of singing and even crazy dancing in le Pub Gambetta finished off the week.

Now it is back to reality, or a different sort of reality i am afraid.  For a few short weeks…