Thursday 31st July
I am now in France for a few days, so posts may be thin on the ground. Writing this before I leave I am celebrating the current hot weather and the fact that so many young women are wearing the shortest of short-shorts. And why not, if they have the legs for it. Gorgeous long legs, tanned and unadorned by tights and stocking and seeming to go on forever are wonderful. And so we men have been treated during this lovely warm weather. But today (Tuesday) I saw the most ridiculous sight. A man in short-shorts. He must have been at least forty and fat to boot. His stomach in a tight white Adidas top was stretched tight over his belly, he had a darkish complexion and heavy black stubble. Fortunately he was wearing dark shades so we couldn’t see his piggy eyes. But we could see his shorts, and My God how short they were. And slightly loose too. Black short shorts flapping around and revealing two hairy arse cheeks wobbling with every ridiculous step he took. Don’t these idiots ever look in the mirror before leaving the house. Obviously not.
I can still remember a few years back the embarrassment I felt as a similarly (un)clad man sat opposite me and a bollock escaped his underpants and made its appearance beneath the hem of his shorts. Ugghhh !!!
No, short-shorts must be a fashion confined to the young and beautiful, and preferably women too.
Wednesday 30th July
During the Second World War Britain was indeed a country under siege, and by self-declaring it did unify the nation against the external peril. The threat was real and for a couple of years at least our very existence was in danger.
When Israel was first created it very soon became a country under siege. The Arab nations around hated it and threatened to exterminate it. Rightly the country became unified under this external threat. However that threat has been perpetuated ever since and now Israel exists in a constant state of fear of its neighbours. What is more it makes sure that this is so. Being in a constant state of fear creates the siege mentality we now see, where very provocation, every stupid statement, every real suicide bomber or rocket becomes a threat to the very existence of the country. If there is a constant external threat then no-one will notice the internal one – which might just be their own intolerance. And the more the world condemns their actions the more this re-enforces their siege mentality. The world hates us. The world has always hated us – because we are Jews. Wrong. So wrong. The world hates what is being done in your name, the world hates the indiscriminate (despite all the claims to the opposite) killing of innocent people. And especially so, because it is being done by Jews, the very people who having suffered such discrimination and genocide should of all people understand the suffering of others. Most of us know Jewish people. They are good, loving people and we find it so hard to understand how the Jews in Israel can behave in this uncivilized way. But it is the state of siege that does it. And though Israel is now by far the most powerful state in the whole Middle East the lie is still perpetrated. It is almost as if being hated by everyone gives them their whole sense of identity and righteousness.
So a country that thinks it is under a state of siege is bombarding a real country that is truly under a state of siege. How ironic.
Tuesday 29th July
I first heard the Beatles in the back seat of my dad’s Ford Zodiac in late 1962. Love Me Do had entered the charts, but didn’t reach number one. The Light Programme had a precursor of the chart show on Sunday afternoons, but they only played the top 3 or 4 and a few new entries. Frank Ifield, Helen Shapiro and even old stalwarts like Doris Day predominated. I had heard Elvis; Mum and Dad had some 78s and one or two by Elvis. Would be worth a fortune now of course, but were slung out some time in the Seventies. I was never that excited by Elvis, he was my parent’s sound. The Beatles were mine. I was 11 and fell straight away in love with them, and through them all music.
I have since tried to buy everything by them, including early recordings with Tony Sheridan and the demo tapes which Decca famously rejected. I especially love those early years with innocence and excitement in equal measure. It was quite a basic sound; drums bass, rhythm and lead guitar. But it was the singing that sold them. Sometimes their voices were so blended that you couldn’t tell who was singing, because the band had three very good vocalists, and even Ringo could sing. They had dropped Pete Best, and with a streak of ruthlessness replaced him in the eve of fame with Ringo.
From the start they seemed natural at interviews, competing with each other for quips and put-downs, which all added to their allure as rebels and heroes. In no time at all that innocence was lost and after just two albums they were huge stars and making their first film. But listen again to Please Please Me and With The Beatles, and you can hear all that pent-up enthusiasm, that excitement that they were actually making records. “Where are we going John?” “To the toppermost of the top” and they did.
Monday 28th July
Writing this on Sunday, Israel had extended the peace-fire, and yet Hamas has still continued firing rockets. They argue that Israeli tanks must be withdrawn first. A fair point, but impractical as we stand. But the interesting thing is that there was a huge peace rally in Tel Aviv. Young Israelis, just as sick as the rest of us at the awful scenes coming out of Gaza. Let us all just hope that the tide is turning against the militants in Israel and that a new generation will demand and achieve real peace. On the Palestinian side there is also a growing feeling that the Hamas answer will only perpetuate further hatred. BOTH sides need to take stock and see that all they will achieve is further hatred and death unless they change their entrenched stances. Now start talking.
Update – of course the Israeli Government has resumed bombing Gaza. As Joni once sang…”That was just a dream some of us had”
Sunday 27th July
What a strange little war it is. With the death toll rapidly approaching one thousand, with hundreds of buildings demolished, with thousand wounded, with tens of thousands in UN shelters (which don’t even stop them being hit), with hundreds of thousands displaced and not knowing if their homes and families will ever be safe again, with millions of ordinary people around the world begging for the killing to stop it has been decided by just a few old men to pause for a breather. And just like a tap the torture is turned off for just twelve hours. Ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, for a chance to treat the wounded, to get medical supplies and food into the war zone the guns have stopped firing for a few short hours. And though I am writing this on Saturday in the middle of the temporary cease-fire I am fairly certain that just as callously the tap will be turned back on again.
Ever since the Second World War, wars have been more and more fought in civilian areas and this one is no different. It reminds me of the expression “shooting fish in a barrel”, but these fish have no means of escape as the water gets more and more bloody. There is the tiniest flame of hope that the negotiators will be able to extend the cease-fire a bit longer to allow saner minds to prevail. Of course Hamas are not going to promise to stop firing rockets without some concession from the Israelis. Hopefully that will be a lifting of the blockade and a start to some sort of meaningful talks. Even if these are just talks about talks it will be something. Meanwhile as this temporary breather continues the World holds its breath.
Saturday 26th July
Just occasionally, but actually far too often a week of work really gets you down. Last week was a case in point. Just too much coming together, too many Vat returns to do, too many supplier payments to be reconciled, too many P. & L.s to finish. And not near enough hours to complete them in. I am so tired.
I desperately need those few days off soon in France. Trouble is I am working like a dog to get everthing done before I go. There is no back-up in our firm. We are all overstretched, and nobody can help when you go on holiday. So, in effect if I don’t do my work – I have to do my work. And I am sick of it. My dear sister (five years younger than I) took the decision to retire early and has already stopped. And even though her pension will not kick in for two more years, her and her partner are relying on savings to get them by. I am determined to do the same. I simply cannot carry on at this level anymore. It is too mentally draining. As well as three grueling day at work I slogged all day yesterday at home (even though I am only paid three days) and had to do even more stuff today.
I have taken the decision to stop at the end of next March. And if I have to live off my savings for a year until my meagre pension kicks in, so be it. I am going to have to kill the job before it kills me.
Friday 25th July
Maybe, just maybe – amidst the carnage and death and sadness as coffins were unloaded from military planes, without us even knowing these unidentified innocents – there is hope. Maybe despite the massacre that is Gaza – third time in a decade – where equally innocent women and children and bystanders are murdered – where Hamas still continues to fire rockets into Israel – where 2.5 million people are herded into a tiny bit of land, where they cannot leave or buy food or get medical supplies without their keepers say so – where brave soldiers are killed pursusing the dreams of old men – where the world looks on in horror – where resolutions about war crimes are proposed and vetoed by America and us – where peace talks rumble on with no real resolve on either side – maybe even here there is a glimmer of hope. The world is sick of it. Sick to the teeth of this senseless killing. Sanctions mean nothing, they will not work at all. And all this pointless rhetoric, bigging ourselves up. Do we really want a war with Russia? Why not talk, and talk meaningfully to the other side. As has been shown in Northern Ireland a political solution is always possible, even if it is fragile and not every one is happy at least it is peace. Whereas if you simply punish people they will always hate you. If in Ukraine the government backed by the West wins, even if they imprison all those who took up arms to fight for joining Russia, do they really think that will resolve things. If you leave hatred in peoples hearts it will fester and grow. In Gaza unless the fundamental issues are resolved and Palestine becomes a real state able to grow and prosper then this hatred will persist. There is plenty of land in Israel so stop the illegal settlements, in fact they should be handed over to the Palestinians whose land it was anyway. If you leave hatred in peoples hearts it will fester and grow.
On Wednesday night we had the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games and it was heart-warming. All those young people with hope in their hearts not hatred. That must be the future we must aim for.
Thursday 24th July
Young people are travelling, holidaying and working all over the world. When I was a boy hardly anyone ever left the town, or if they did it was to one of the villages around, or maybe to the big town Ipswich. I ran away from home and school, as far away as I thought I could get, London. But actually that is only about 80 miles from Suffolk. Seemed a long way back then. And my friends who I had left behind used to ask me what it was like up there in London, in the Big Smoke. Well, if truth be told, not that different really. A lot more foreigners, black and tan and all colours, but they were much the same as those I had left behind. My own children have likewise spread out a bit, but have stayed in England. My sister has two daughters, one is in Amsterdam and the other in Hong Kong. Young people see the whole world as theirs to explore and even live in.
It is quite common for youngsters to take a year or two out of their education and travel the world, whereas I never considered it. Too busy surviving to even think about a career, let alone seeing the World. But now, just as London is full of foreigners, so too every city everywhere is the same. And that must be for the good. Wars and hatred are most often engendered by ignorance and fear of foreigners; as if they were really different from us. The appeal of UKIP is mostly to older people and those living outside of cities, they did appallingly badly in London itself. I hope that this trend continues and the lines between nationality keep being blurred, so that it really doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going. We are again stuck with a xenophobic government, picking fights with Europe and now with Russia. What is the matter with us, try co-operation for a change. People are far more like us all over the world.
Wednesday 23rd July
I grew up with the Beach Boys, their bright and breezy California sound was as familiar as our own Mersey Beat. I especially loved Good Vibrations, which my music teacher dismissed as un-listenable and lacking in any discernable melody. Durghhhhh!!!!
Then as the seventies arrived it seemed that Music had left the Beach Boys behind, they were little more than a novelty band. Their creative genius Brian Wilson had practically left the band and wasn’t even on their recordings anymore. He was still writing and producing and in 1971 they came up with Surf’s Up. This was so fresh and original, with socially conscious lyrics such as “Don’t Go Near The Water” and “Student Demonstration Time” that you had to check that it was actually by those light-hearted Beach Boys. Carl and Dennis also contributed their own songs and it was a great success, even making Rolling Stones Greatest Albums of all time list at number 154. They followed this by their masterpiece “Holland”, where despite the band falling apart and into cocaine addiction they came up with a near flawless record. It still had those unmistakeable Beach Boys harmonies but the songs were just so grown-up and despite that infectious. From the first notes of Sail On Sailor to the ecstatic closing Funky Pretty they didn’t put a foot wrong. If you think you know the Beach Boys from Barbara Ann to God Only Knows then try Holland to discover what they truly could have been.
Sadly since then they have limped on becoming the best Beach Boys tribute band on the planet.
Tuesday 22nd July
We are living in dangerous times. Actually I think I have always lived in dangerous times. As a child, only a few years after the war, the Cold War was raging. This was a war of words and small wars between proxy states between the forces of Communism and Capitalism. Or so we were told. Other theories are that it was all about selling increasingly deadly weapons so that we could all live in Peace. Hahaha. Then there was the was against Islam. For the last twenty years we have been involved in conflicts with Muslim countries. Sometimes to oust a dictator, sometimes to steal their oil, and again to sell weapons of increasing barbarity. History may see it differently, we will have to wait and see.
We are poised on a precipice at the moment. There is danger in the air. The latest incident, the downing of the Malaysian plane over the Ukraine may be the latest in a series of events dragging us closer towards disaster. One hundred years ago, a small incident led to a series of events, positions were taken that could not be reversed without losing face and we stumbled into War. There is no doubt that Russia is helping the rebels in Eastern Ukraine. But we are helping the Ukrainian government too. We encouraged the ousting of a democratically elected President and now support his replacement. Rather than insisting on the “integrity” of Ukraine we should be trying to work out a formula to establish, all over the world where people may be in dispute, self-determination. Too many countries exist as areas which were administered by their old colonial masters whereas things on the ground are always more complicated than that. In a way the idea of Europe was to blur nationality and to establish a commonality of Europeness. That idea is going out of fashion, but it wasn’t a bad one for all that.
If you think about it is really absurd for anyone to die for their country. All men are brothers, after all. Nationality is a man-made concept to administer power and wealth. But it seems we do not learn, and History may well be repeating itself again quite soon.