From Crazy to Sublime

Saturday 21st March

I will shortly be leaving work – and not a minute too soon either.  The restaurant group I look after has severe cash-flow problems, and for a whole year I have been dealing (mostly successfully) with it, negotiating with suppliers and spending around a day a week checking statements and making sure that what little money we have is spread out as equitably as possible.  Little thanks have I received either, just complaints when we occasionally get put on stop because even I cannot satisfy everyone (I know that most women would disagree, but hey).  Anyway as I am going soon and another will be taking my place my bosses are now busy trying to rearrange the workload so that my successor will have a far easier time of it.  They are even admitting that they should have listened to me a year ago – the story of my life.  Anyway.  On Thursday I left all that behind and flew into Eymet, and oh, how sublime it is.  The sun was shining and I sat in the garden for an hour catching the late afternoon glow.  We had a lovely meal at the Creperie and a few glasses of Rose before stumbling home and to bed.

Today it was catching up on a few odd-jobs at the Café, chatting to people who came in and generally chilling out.  Amazing how easy it is to talk to people out here, so many are looking for properties, especially as the euro is so weak at the moment.  Tonight we are trying out a new Chinese Restaurant in Miramont, which is actually Thai I believe, with some good friends.  Then we will be popping in to the Gambetta to catch Geoff Barker singing and playing good old sixties and seventies rock and roll.  I fear some serious inroads may be made into the European wine lake.  We do believe in doing our bit to help the French reduce their surpluses.

2066 again – I am afraid

Friday 20th March

Janek Smith continues writing his secret little journal, unaware that it is being read all the time by our second narrator….

“And it is always possible for a very limited few to rise spectacularly up the strata, in highly publicised ways, via some special talent or other (socco players, karaoke singers, porn stars and the like).  There is always the possibility that, mediocre as you might be, fame might descend and scoop you up (cameras rolling, please) and place you in the firmament of the stars.   And so, sterile as our lives are, some sort of ridiculously helpless and hopeless hope still feeds into the young and their enthusiasm is securely directed into maintaining this new but ever evolving cornucopia of a status-fucking-quo.

Some might say ‘Hasn’t it always been this way?  Haven’t the levers of power always been in the grubby mitts of the few?’   And that might be true, but it doesn’t stop it from being fundamentally wrong.  Not that I want to be one of them, one of the faceless rich, the ones controlling everything.  I watch the History channels and see that while we may have gained stability we have lost something too, something almost un-definable, maybe simply the chance to fail.  Not that anyone wants to, but as long as you behave there is no chance of failure even.  It is all just too perfect.  But is my disillusionment, my understanding that the system, ‘perfect’ in so many ways, is utterly devoid of a whisper of compassion, of old-fashioned humanity, enough to bring me into danger of becoming a reb?  Why am I becoming a potential crim by writing this stuff down on a non-com unit?  Why, in short, am I so unhappy?

Maybe it is all just a personal thing with me; maybe everyone else is contented really.  Perhaps they just moan a lot about everything but are secretly okay with it all.  But I doubt it.  I have learnt to quietly observe them, not to look away when I see beyond the blank confident expression everyone wears, but to see that flicker, that hint of depression in their eyes, that moment of hesitation as if they are aware that they are constantly being watched as well as being eavesdropped on.  Spying is everywhere, and you must never betray yourself by telling the truth.  Screens are everywhere and they are all linked, and just as we watch them – they are silently observing us too.

We have had to reluctantly accept now that this is both necessary and to a degree comforting.  Comforting?  Did I just write comforting?  Am I going soft?  But for many people it is comforting, just as all that religious stuff used to be comforting.  The thought that you aren’t alone, that there is some huge safety net waiting to catch us if we should fall, is comforting.        Unless, like me, you see the net as pinning you down, as one that stops you from flying at all.  We are constantly told that the rebs are everywhere, and while we are all used to survcams on every street and alleyway and public place, are we so very sure that we aren’t being watched, even in our very homes.  I have long suspected that we are, and I will soon find out of course, as if I am being watched here in my own home where I am writing this, I won’t be writing for much longer, that’s for certain.

If this is the last entry made on this diary and you are watching it on a screen somewhere as yet another despicable reb is detected in our midst, you will know that I was not just being paranoid but utterly realistic.

But of course that won’t happen at all, will it?  If I am caught I will be detained for a few hours and questioned and when they are sure I am working in isolation and not as part of some reb-org or other I will simply be taken down a few strata and watched ever more closely.   I might even end up being clagged, though that is usually reserved for the hardened crims, the recidivists who cannot be controlled by inducements or punishments but who are not so dangerous that they have to be euthenased completely.

We will see.”

 

-[Janek quietly powered down and closed the lid of his ancient laptop.  Glancing quickly over his shoulder he slid it back into its hiding place.  He was hiding it from his wife of course.  He was under no illusion that if indeed as he suspected he was being watched in his own home any attempt at secrecy would suffice.  (Let me just point out, for the record, that he was not being watched; if we had any suspicion of subversive activity then we could have watched him; that goes without saying.  We have of course subsequently backtracked and observed him, but in real-time back then he was not being tracked).  But just in case he was unobserved Janek was almost as terrified of his wife finding out.   The fact that he was putting their whole lifestyle at risk was constantly on his mind.   Janek wasn’t stupid, but he knew that what he was doing potentially was.   But somehow this hadn’t stopped him.

What is it about people that they constantly put themselves into such dangerous situations?   It is as if there is a ‘reckless’ gene somewhere in the human genome, a self-destruct ‘hidden’ part of the programme that cannot be engineered out.  We have to constantly be on our guard.  We can never relax.  Even though our prime objective is the sustainability and beneficial safeguarding of the human species we have come to understand that it is actually a deeply flawed life-form.   The greatest danger to humans has always been from themselves.  From the first time they swung down from those African trees and loped along on their short bandy legs they were the one species that would sooner kill each other than another animal.  Strange, that with this deep psychological fault they should have achieved so much and in only a few thousand years too.   And yet despite all their progress they are still less than capable of being truly happy.

Happiness is such a plentiful and desirable commodity, all it requires is the relaxing of a few synapses and learning to live in the moment, but despite all the drugs available, despite the stimulants, despite syn, which is by all accounts far better than old-fashioned coupling, despite a world of information at their fingertips; despite all of this and anything else we have managed to devise, happiness still remains the most elusive of all human conditions.   And the hardest to measure, as soon as you ask someone if they are happy and they stop to think about it, that moment is gone.   Think it, kill it – seems to sum it up.

And yet Janek had no reason to be ‘unhappy’.  He even had a fairly interesting job.   Where most people’s employment was fairly unnecessary, he at least had the knowledge that the ‘work’ he was doing was in that rare category of being intuitive, of being somehow beyond the capabilities of computers; Hypercom or simpler programmed machines.  But, as has been observed by psychologists down the ages, lack of a specific reason not to be happy is no guarantee of contentment.  Almost the opposite is true in most cases.

Product Details

How to Buy – The Eagles

Thursday 19th March

Uncut magazine occasionally has an article rating albums by some of the most popular bands.  I usually disagree somewhat with their ratings and so I thought I would have a go myself….

Absolutely Essential – Hotel California – this album came to encapsulate the whole seventies West Coast vibe, not only for the cynical yet brilliantly evocative title track, but every song is great, especially New Kid In Town and Life In The Fast Lane.  The final track The Last Resort, though less well known is almost as good as Hotel California itself.  This was also the album that almost broke the band – how could they possibly top it.

Excellent  – The Complete Greatest Hits.  A double album includes all their hits and for most people this is all you really need.

Very Good – Desperado.  A mini-opera and a record which almost started Americana itself, building on earlier efforts such as The Byrds “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”.  But Desperado has bullets such as Out of Control and Saturday Night as well as their trademark sadder reflections such as Doolin Daltons and of course the eloquent Tequila Sunrise itself.

On The Border is also very good.  This was their third album and established them as superstars with songs like You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love, along with great rockers such as James Dean and Midnight Flyer.

Good – Their debut Eagles was a gentler affair but immaculate for that with songs like Witchy Woman and Train Leaves Here This Morning which established them as serious artists from the off.  Also good is One Of These Nights, which many rate almost as much as Hotel California itself.  I always felt the record was a bit too disco-ish, a bit too commercial maybe.

For the Completists – The Long Run, which was their last real record is good in places, but feels almost like a contractual obligation despite the epic King of Hollywood.

Best Avoided – Long Road Out of Eden – this came out of nowhere a few years ago.  The band had disbanded and reformed for money-making tours a few times and no-one expected new material.  A double album which should have been edited down to a semi-respectable single disc; too many long and boring songs which obscure the few gems.  One almost has to ask Why? What was the point?

Also the numerous live albums which add almost nothing except prolonged clapping, the studio versions are far better.

So, that’s it.  The Eagles had the good sense to implode and stop after six pretty excellent records.  Imagine if the Beatles had carried on, maybe a couple of good albums might have transpired but each of them released at least two or three gems after they split anyway.  Strangely the Eagles didn’t really achieve anything on their own.  Don Henley had “The Boys of Summer” but not much else.  Please feel free to disagree….

That Old Cold Sore Coming Round Again

Wednesday 18th March

I get them every year, but you can never tell when.  It starts with me feeling down, quite inexplicably miserable.  You cannot explain it, everything seems to annoy you, and you are incredibly tired all the time.  Even sleep brings little relief, as you keep waking up feeling feverish. Then after two or three days of this misery – for that is the only word to describe it you get that old familiar and sickening tingle on your lips and like a sucker blow you know that uninvited guest, the cold sore, has come to stay.

And I never guess.  It always takes me by surprise, creeping up and catching me unawares.  I can’t remember when I first got them because as long as I can remember I have been afflicted by this nasty little virus, which lies dormant for months then suddenly erupts when you least expect it.  Zovirax does eventually deal with it, but it takes a few days of application – and they sell it such tiny little tubes that you almost always run out before the cold sore slinks away, only to lie there waiting for its chance to blossom like some tropical plant that needs a certain rainfall and temperature to burst into bloom.  The thing which really puzzles me is this.  Am I miserable the few days before the cold sore erupts because the virus is already working on me; like an iceberg only the tip is visible?  Or does the cold sore virus seize the moment when for whatever other reason I am below par to attack.  It must be when my immune system is slightly lowered, but is that as a result of or simply a consequence of the virus itself?  Whatever.  I am suffering.  But at least I know why I was miserable these last few days.  Or do I?

The Weather Forecast

Tuesday 17th March

The Weather forecast is one of those things we all watch, and yet at the same time take hardly any notice of.  Who can really remember what they said last night?  It all seems a blur, the isobars mean little, even the squares with the temperature pass us by, and those little wind arrows point away with little purpose.  But an incredible amount of work goes into them, measuring data and feeding it in to computer programmes that look at similar rises and falls in temperature or pressure or wind speed and predict what they think the movements of high and low pressure will mean in the way of sunshine or rain, which is what most of us are concerned with.

My Uncle Pow, his real name was Albert but for some reason he was known a Pow, had a barometer, which would give a pretty accurate prediction.  Pow would move the fixed needle to the moving one each day and whichever way the needle registering air pressure moved would indicate if it would be rainy or sunny.  Maybe in its’ way it was as accurate as all these complicated weather computers.

But the forecasters are clever, they nearly always leaven their predictions with conditional statements. “It should be mostly sunny, but with the possibility of the occasional shower.”  Or “We can expect rain, but with sunny spells”.  Which actually tell you nothing.  Take last night (Sunday), I distinctly remember the forecast as being very cloudy, mild with the occasional shower, winds coming mostly from the East, but moving to Southerly.  I woke in the night to the sound of heavy rain on the windows.  It was absolutely pouring this morning as I took the dogs for their walk, I got soaked.  Still raining at eight, and at nine and most of the day.  In fact the miserable look on all these Monday Morning commuters as they shook off the rain and folded their umbrellas as they dashed into Prêt for their coffee told it all.  This was some occasional shower….hahaha

Days Go By and Months Slip Past

Monday 17th March

Part of my work used to involve writing cheques.  The first thing you had to do was write the date.  Every year I would start our writing the ….of January and then by force of habit write down last years date. Then have to start again.  Now almost all payments are electronic so you don’t even have to remember what the year is.  Days speed away so fast – we are already over half way through March, and those months are knocked down with increasing rapidity too.  The years?  Heaven help us, the years are racing ahead even faster than ever.  It is already 2015.  Five years ago I shuddered to think of how the country would be after five years of Austerity.  Five years have come and gone (almost) and of course most of us haven’t really been affected.  Yet.  The trick that George Osborne has played (actually two tricks) was to back-load most of the cuts so that they wouldn’t come into effect until 2015 – and so most of us wouldn’t notice them.  The second trick was of course not to even halve the deficit he inherited. He promised to eliminate it in one five year parliament, whereas he derided Labour for their more measured plan of halving it, which was of course what he actually ended up doing.  The Lib-Dems also chose to prop up the Tories because they would get rid of the deficit.  I suspect that, if as seems likely the Tories win the next election, or if even more likely they have to go again into Coalition with either the LibDems or UKIP, he again will promise to eliminate the deficit.  Actually it is scheduled to disappear by 2019, but that date, like the retirement age just gets pushed further and further into the future.

In fact I believe he isn’t really concerned about the deficit at all.  It is convenient when cuts to Benefits have to be justified, but who cares – as long as we can still borrow cheaply – and if by 2020 the deficit is still there, well all the more reason to vote Tory, because we all know that Labour spend more of your money etc:

And so the years speed by, and I will very soon find myself writing another blog about another new Labour leader trying to win again in 2020.  It seems we are in a pattern of Parties ruling for at least two, if not three terms.  Who knows what would have happened to Gordon Brown if the Financial crash of 2008 hadn’t happened.  Maybe he would have gone on for another five years. Politics, like Time itself is fickle, there is far more luck than judgement involved, and the years speed us all along far too quickly.

When The Party’s Over

Sunday 15th March

Janis Ian sung those words on her 1973 album “Between the Lines”, a gorgeously sad reflection on the vicissitudes of life. She also sung “ Let’s drink a toast to those who most believe in what they’ve won – it’s a long long time till morning, tears wasted on the dawn, I’ll not write another line for my true love is gone.”  The mood is of course sadness.  And we all feel a little sad when the party is over and we retrieve glasses from behind chairs and the final bit of washing up is done and you look around and where a few short hours ago there were happy smiling faces and children playing there are now just empty spaces.  But oh, the luxury of being alone again, of hearing oneself speak, of grabbing a quiet moment, of sipping that self-indulgent cup of coffee all to oneself.

There used to be a song in the fifties, something along the lines of it’s so much fun to go travelling, to New York, Paris or Rome, but it’s so much nicer to come home.  And so it with parties, all the planning, the cooking, the getting in of every possible comestible your guests might want, the moving of furniture, the final touches to the dining table, the carefully composed scene which descends in minutes into chaos despite your best efforts.  The clink of glasses, the shyness evaporates, everyone talks across the room to each other, As the Beatles sung “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.” The cake, the candles – all the little ones helping you to blow them out.  And then one by one they leave, coats are gathered, tired children placed in their car seats and eventually you are left alone.  It is so lovely to see everyone, everyone loves a party, but it is really quite nice too when they have all departed, and you can reflect and remember a few moments, the children’s faces, your Mum and Dad, your own children, now all grown up and their children in their places.  That coffee tastes so lovely as your feet up you finally can relax, now that the party is over.

The Trials of Life

Saturday 14th March

I thought it might get easier as I got older.  In fact I have always thought it might get easier when I was older.  As a child one thought ran through my head “Wait till I’m a Grown-Up” and then I would show them; then I would be a free man; then I wouldn’t have to obey any of society’s stupid rules.  Ah, or so I thought.  But nobody tells you, do they?  Nobody hands you a book of answers – “How to survive the Trials of Life”.  And so you get to seventeen and end up in the big wide world, with no school to go to.  And the first thing you realize is that you have to work or you starve.  No Mummy to put your meals on the table every day or pay your rent.  And so you put your head in another yoke and like dumb oxen you work.  Only no one tells you it’s for forty odd years…Then you fall in love, and with no thought at all you are married and have children.  And then the trials of Life really start.  Forget those smiling pictures – we all have albums full of them.  Just remember the sleepless nights, the dirty nappies, the teething, the feeding and clothing of them, the years of going without so that your children can have nice toys at Christmas.  Then they leave home without a by-your-leave, and especially without a thank-you for all your hard work.  Just as you did to your parents of course too in your own thoughtlessness.  Then your marriage breaks down and you have a few rootless years, working hard, trying to climb the greasy pole, brown-nosing your way up.  You get a decent salary at last, a larger home.  But the mortgage gets larger too, and you realize you cannot leave your job or change your career or you will lose your house – for the next twenty-five years.  Then the grandchildren start popping out – more expense for Grandma and Grandad.

At last retirement looms and a chance to put your feet up.  But at just this point your body starts to fall apart.  Your dentists tells you that all those expensive crowns you had will have to go and even more expensive implants need to be considered.  Hips fail, knees fail, arthritis sets in.  Glasses and hearing aids and sticks and mobility scooters beckon. You ache in places you didn’t know existed.  You start going to bed before ten, you watch more and more telly…..Ah the trials of life.  How hard it is to be a person and to survive these trials of life.  Hahaha….

The second entry in Janek’s Jounal – 2066 continued

Friday 13th March

Diary entry 20660102

 

“I have just been re-reading yesterday’s entry, and I have to revise some of what I said.  Not that it isn’t all true – but because of the slant, the accent maybe, I put on it.  I was so excited at the freedom to be able to com in some way, even to myself, that wasn’t being super-spied on, that I let things get a bit out of hand.  Maybe I let my words, the freedom actually of writing words completely unobserved, run away with themselves a bit.  But the gist, the essence of what I was saying is real, even if I might have got a bit carried away.  I have I must admit always had a tendency to see things only in black and white; I find the subtle variations of grey all look muddily the same.

It is true what I said about feeling that there is something missing in our lives; even when you go up a strata or two and get so much more cred from the con-gloms and the chance to experience new stuff, a bigger apartment maybe, better and real food, more luxurious toys even, it all palls quite quickly, and you realise that it’s just the same old shit served up on a prettier plate.  Or at least I did.  Cathy can’t wait for an upgrade; she is desperate for all the goodies cred can buy.  I just get bored quicker I suppose.

The trouble is most people have completely stopped thinking, or at least questioning anything.  It is far easier that way, to just ‘go-with-the-flow’ as the oldies used to say.  We all learnt from the Great Chinese Ascendency how to keep our mouths shut and not question anything.  ‘As long as the goods keep rolling off the production line’  has replaced ‘think for yourself, examine everything and make your own mind up’  as the mantra to aim for.  Con-gloms have taken over edu from kinder-crammer to Uni itself.  Keeping the machine running is all everyone is doing; no-one even stopping to notice what the machine is churning out.

The old democracies of the West adapted and learnt from the Chinese how to control and manipulate everything and yet still leave some semblance of free-choice for people.  The trick was persuading us that we were making choices when all along there was only one way to go.  We were sold the illusion of freedom, despite the fact that we had lost that ages ago.  And we all willingly went along with it.  After the ‘Third Great Economic Crash’ of the century, (you know the really big one that made the first two seem like  minor local problems to be sorted out) we were all so scared of free-will and how the markets had fucked-up so badly it turned us all into nervous little control freaks.  The greed merchants, the financiers, all those bankers just had to be stopped.  “Never again” was the clarion call from politico’s and business alike.  And we all had to agree – nobody wanted to return to the mad destructive chaos of the so-called ‘free market’.  The scandals kept emerging one after other, exposing the whole thing as a fraud; a giant Ponzi scheme that everyone had bought into, an ever-flowing stream of profit where money like everything else was constantly expanding.  In fact it was a house of cards that kept toppling over.  The market was never ‘free’ at all, like on-line poker which they banned around the same time the ones with the biggest pots always won no matter what cards they were dealt.

We had to be protected from ourselves, from unbridled Capitalism, from our personal greed and individuality, which kept dragging us into these messes.  And the solution they came up with was ‘con-gloms’.  These massive multiplexes evolved out of the largest old-style companies but are now themselves strictly controlled.  They exist in a sort of mutual parity and outward competition, but are never allowed to go bust or expand too quickly or to get too big and reckless.  It is a strange mixture of free-enterprise and state control (invented we think by the Chinese) that exists supposedly for the benefit of all in society.  Though as ever in history, the rich are the most rewarded and the poor stay shit-poor.  Every single transaction is recorded and inter-connected so that prices and cred are subtly adjusted to keep everything in balance.  It is all controlled by the hypercoms, which we rely on for everything.  They keep the whole thing in balance, the con-gloms happily making profit, everyone in their predestined strata, different cred levels for all; a perfectly regulated but ultimately stagnant and sterile system.

Those old Twentieth Century ideas of the market have all been swept aside; all prices and the flow of cred is controlled by the hypercoms so that at all levels of our so-called society people are ‘looked after’ (or kept in their place if you ask me).  Gov is simply there to make sure the con-gloms comply.  And Gov constantly assures us that they do; because they have all learned it is far better this way, when no-one steps out of line.  It all works seamlessly and really it is impossible to tell where Gov ends and the con-gloms take over.

The poor are really not as poor as they used to be, they have unlimited manna, reasonable homes and basic healthcare.  A few comforts and distractions keep them amused; safe cheap stimuli that don’t threaten their health too much, and their own level of net-freedom to stop them from getting restless.  Besides they aren’t crammed to anything like uni-level, just enough to operate as low-level consumers.  They seem happy enough too, though of course you never really get to meet them.  Why would you?

The vast middle class where I come from are finely subdivided with the ever ‘exciting’ prospect of moving up a strata or two to keep us working hard at making the con-gloms ever richer.  The rich are still rich, but (so we are told) seem to be limited from becoming too powerful in case they in their turn threaten the con-gloms or Gov itself in some way.  How much cred does anyone need anyway, there are only so many ways to spend it?  Aren’t there?  To be honest cred really bores me – as long as we have food and a decent flat – the rest I can do without.  The con-gloms are all ultimately owned by the rich of course, but the largest proportion of their profits are used in constantly rebuilding the factories and computer networks, so avoiding any threat of their failing or being taken over by another con-glom.  It is a perfect system of making more and more cred and keeping everything ticking over without the mad fluctuations of the market upsetting things.  It is also a way of keeping everyone at all levels in some sort of economic stability and it works as long as nobody asks questions.  Like me, I suppose.  But apart from what I am doing, writing my illegal little diary, who the fuck would you ask your questions of anyway?

Comeuppance

Thursday 12th March

My mother believed in “comeuppance”.   It was probably drummed into her by Grandma Allard along with “God Works In Mysterious Ways”.  She tried to inculcate me with these simple mantras but my unspoken response was “Blimey, they must be extremely mysterious then”.  However I have always had a sneaking regard for comeuppance; as if it were some unwritten Law of Physics that would strike when one least expected it.

The famous or as I regard him the infamous Jeremy Clarkson seems to have had his comeuppance at last.  And I must admit it is very easy to be suckered into his world.  Top Gear is slick and extremely well made, even if the “stunts” are so stage-managed as to be totally implausible.  He does have a clever if nasty turn of phrase, but I suspect that the whole show is pre-scripted anyway.  He has been involved in a fracas with one of the show’s producers.  Fracas?  Now that it an old-fashioned word only used by journalists and is code for a fist-fight.

We always knew he was a particularly obnoxious and right-wing pedagogue, but who knew he could lose his temper to the degree that he would actually hit someone.  I have never forgiven him for describing Gordon Brown (just before the 2010 election) as a one-eyed “c&%t”, a level of personal insult very few others have ever descended to.  He represents that boorish strain of the super-rich and super-successful which looks down on any attempt at helping others, and almost blames the poor for being, well poor I suppose.

So he has got his come-uppance.  Or has he?  I suspect he will soon be back on our screens, maybe on ITV with a show which is almost imperceptible from Top Gear, much in the way that Jonathan Ross decamped from the BBC a few years ago.   And every year he brings out another volume of bile which is lapped up by his fans.  Is it because he dares to say what they are thinking, or just that they are amazed he has the ‘cojones’ to actually say or write this stuff.  Who knows?  But for now we may say that he has his comeuppance.  God certainly does work in mysterious ways….hahaha

Jeremy Clarkson has launched into another rant after receiving Twitter ...