Killing People

Saturday 10th October

I don’t mean to be morbid I can assure you, but we are surrounded by killing.  Almost every night on telly there is some detective series, usually involving serial killers of competing brutality, while upstairs young kids play computer games blasting people to digital pieces.  I have just finished reading another Rebus novel by Ian Rankin, again involving killers.  By the way I read his books because I love the way he deals with the character of Rebus himself, the essentially miserable and deteriorating old man that he has become; the murder and eventual solving of the crime is almost irrelevant – merely a coathanger on which to hang the crumpled suit of clothes that is Rebus.

But what is this fascination with killing people, and often young women too.  I can honestly say that the most awful thing I can imagine would be for me to take somebody else’s life from them.  And yet, by our passive acceptance, by our tacit complicity, that is what we are involved with.  Every night on the news bombs are dropped on Syria and Iraq, and by not protesting, by not voting against candidates supporting this killing we are a, maybe unwilling, party to it.  And it all sound so innocuous, doesn’t it.  Bombing sorties, successful missions; and even the cockpit videos only show clouds of dark smoke as ‘enemy command centre’s’ are blown up.  We do not see the mutilated and bleeding bodies that “we” are killing, the children torn apart before they even have a chance of deciding the future of their countries, which we have taken upon ourselves to intervene in.

So, maybe it is no wonder that we sit glued to the box and watch ‘innocent’ detective stories about murders that will never happen where we live, or be at our own hands, of course.  “Make another cup of tea, love – Lewis has just discovered another body, and he was just closing in on the killer too….”

2066 – and Janek is back in GL (Great London)

Friday 9th October

Diary Entry – 20660521

“Feeling better now I have had a couple of days to rest up. I scoured this old factory unit, not much left, a few stainless steel benches, some broken plastic chairs but most valuable of all I found a First Aid box, with bandages and ointment to soothe my bruised body.   Amazing what people leave behind, in the office there are rows of cardboard clip-files full of yellowing paper records, orders, bills of lading and invoices.  Apparently this was once a food manufacturing company, making cakes and pastries for Starbux and a handful of small restaurants.

Apparently lots of individuals owned and ran restaurants before MaccyDee got them all, and though there are still lots of varieties, Indienne, Chinkydink, Pastafunk, Francaise and Geeky-Greek, the food tastes much the same as in the original American Mickey.  My wife and I used to go out quite a bit when we were younger, tasting and discovering different foods from all over the world, but as all those independents got closed down and replaced by MaccyDee outlets we stopped going out so much.  I still sometimes get a StarryStarbux super-bean skinny-latay on the way to work if the fancy takes me.  I don’t think they use real milk anymore, not after that big ‘Dairy scare’ in 54, when they killed all those cows.  For nothing as it turned out, the poisonous bacteria wasn’t in the cows at all, but in the packaging plant.  Tesda had to pay out a lot of compensation to the relatives of those who died, so I think they’ve just used manna-milk since then.

Why am I reminiscing about Starry Starbux for Cosmos sake?  Mind you, it is one of the few things I miss, a decent, well actually, any coffee at all.  I haven’t really eaten for a couple of days.  I took a few potatoes with me, luckily Charlene had already cooked them, so they taste okay, but they’ve gone now.  I am going to seriously have to get hold of some food soon.  Besides I can’t keep holed up in here for much longer.

I think I am going to see if any of the lower-strata people will speak to me.  Maybe they won’t ask too many questions.  Apparently they have a different sort of credit, they have special plastic cards that change colour as the credit on them is used up, so I am guessing they aren’t under the same surv as the middle and higher strata are.  I seem to be in a very mundane area, stacks of container homes, and the shops look dull and drab and are smaller and scruffier.

Not like the Tesda super-marts I used to frequent.  They are vast and sell everything.  It can take you hours to glide around.  Everything you could ever want is there, and lots you had no idea you wanted either.  Of course the screens at home have eye-tracked the stuff you have looked at, and that is waiting ready for you to accept or reject at the front of the store.  That was my preference, a quick visit, in, pick up what you knew you wanted and had blinked for already, then out again.  Cathy though would spend hours in there; it was her major source of entertainment; that and her salon visits.  She never seemed to tire of gliding on her deck down the aisles, shopping cart trundling along the yellow line behind her.  She would look at everything, picking up clothes, kitchen-ware, make-up and hair products, skin darkener and her favourite – the drug counter, where she would sample all the new designer mood-enhancers before loading up with her faves.  She only seemed to stop when the cart would call out in that chirpy little voice “Cathy, I think you are approaching your cred limit and you still haven’t got any vegetables – your fridge tells me you are running low, and you won’t get more cred until next week.  Maybe we should think again about some of your purchases.  What do you think?” and she would reluctantly pick one or two of her more expensive items, sigh, and lift them out of the cart.  “That’s better Cathy, now you can still afford to buy enough food for the week. Please follow me to the food aisles.”

Ah, happy days. Hahaha. But no, I am beginning to understand that those days, happy or not are gone forever.  There is no way back for me now.  Does that make me happy or sad?  I am not sure really.  I do miss some aspects of my former life; the security of a job and cred most of all I suppose, but yes, there were some happy moments.  Listening to classical music, the Stones or Beach Boys, and sipping a latay, or even better a malt whisky.  Non alcoholic, of course, but tasting wonderful, full of peptides and that hot feeling you used to get with real whisky, but without the dangerous alconoids.  The drugs that mimicked being slightly drunk were far better, and if you felt you had had enough you simply poured yourself a ‘soberup’ to counter the effect.  As I mentioned before though, I never like getting off my head on any drug at all; I hate feeling out of control.

Which strangely enough has been the over-riding anxiety I have felt ever since I ran away; I can’t get used to this feeling of control slipping out of my grasp.  I don’t know exactly what I did expect when I followed Jonathon that day.  Meeting and joining a group of rebs I suppose, but so far no real contact.  The people I have met, Jonathon and the Aldwych group, Dan and Emily, and Charlene and the down and outs at Hastings are not exactly rebs are they?  They are simply existing, or surviving somehow outside of, or on the fringes of, the system.  Maybe that is all I can hope for too.  Maybe there are no organised groups; no rebs at all.  Was it all just another scare to keep us quiet?

I am steeling myself to try to make contact with the lower strata people I see mooching about near the factory I am holed up in.  I am bloody hungry and could eat a synth-horse !!!  At least I still have a semblance of humour left, if very little else.”

Things to get Annoyed About – Number 37 – Plastic Packaging

Thursday 8th October

Yes, I do realise that plastic packaging can keep food fresh, especially when it is shrink-wrapped or filled with supposedly harmless nitrogen – but it can be a nightmare to get into.  Sometimes they have these little corners marked ‘open here’, where the two layers are not welded together – but you have to have tiny fingers and the strength of a lion to actually open the packaging in this way.  Too often one resorts to a sharp knife and a, I must admit quite satisfying, stabbing action to actually get into your bacon……talk about killing your own food.

And anyway, what is so wrong with buying our food fresh from a real food shop where it might be wrapped nicely in paper, and served to you by a human being?

What we have to realise is that all innovations, especially in packaging are essentially for the benefit of the manufacturer and not for us the consumer, though they are often sold as ‘convenient’ or ‘new and improved’.  We are rapidly moving into a plastic world, where products are manufactured, chemically treated in some way, and hermetically sealed in almost impenetrable packaging.  This is supposedly so that our wonderful Supermarkets can offer us ‘choice’, when what we want is ‘good’, ‘local’, and ‘easy to use’.  It has now got to the point that one has to have a pair of very sharp pointed scissors at hand at all times.  Today I had to put new ink in the printer.  I had to cut open the thick plastic packaging which was incidentally ten times the size of the ink cartridges themselves, this of course left sharp edges and made reading the instructions far harder as they were in two pieces.  The cartridges were also hermetically sealed in plastic and a pair of nail scissors needed to open, so as not to damage the actual cartridges.  Frustrating and time-consuming and all so that the manufacturer can keep it on the shelf for months, and incidentally charge you more for a replacement cartridge than the printer cost in the first place.  Have a nice day…..

The Pensions Lottery

Wednesday 7th October

Some are lucky and many are not, and many more in the future will be even more unlucky.  Pensions truly are a lottery.  Many in the Public Sector and quite a few who worked in the Private Sector too are on Final Salary schemes, where they get approximately one eightieth of their final salary for every full year they worked for that organization.  There is usually a maximum of forty years, giving some half of their final salary.  Years ago when these schemes were designed people maybe lived until their mid-seventies, but now we are living to our late eighties and this is increasing year on year.  This means that most people on Final Salary schemes will be receiving far more than they and their employers ever put into the scheme, allowing for inflation too.  Most final salary schemes are running huge debts and have closed their doors to new entrants.  The Government is still in protracted negotiations with the Public Sector trades unions, and will soon have to decide whether to simply impose new conditions on workers or continue for more years by paying out very generous pensions to these fortunate workers.  New people joining the public sector will undoubtedly be on far poorer pensions.

And some of us have never worked for a company which had a pension scheme, myself included and have had to make their own provision.  I am paying over £400 a month into my Private Pension (my employer has never paid a penny), and will receive not much more than that back when it matures.  This is because annuity rates are on the floor.  An annuity is basically what you have to buy when your Private Pension matures.  A company, often the same one as you paid your pension into, will take the lump sum in your pension pot and “invest it” and take a fee and pay you a guaranteed annual sum.  They do their calculations based on what they can get by investing the money and working out the probability of how long you will live for.  And as interest rates are next to zero, and people are living far longer these companies are paying out very low annuities at the moment.  You may take a lump sum of 25% of your ‘pension pot’ tax free; and even though the Chancellor now allows you to take as much of the rest as you like this will be taxed, as of course will your pension be.

And now the Government are bringing in ‘Auto-enrolment’ where all workers will have to be enrolled in a pension scheme.  Those workers can ‘opt-out’ but this is not as easy as it sounds.  But the amount being invested will be so paltry that when these, mostly low-paid, workers eventually retire (maybe in their late eighties) they will get a tiny pension out of it.

We are sitting on a demographic time-bomb.  People are living far longer and often working fewer years (school leaving age increases and many go on to Uni or Colleges) so the opportunity for paying in enough to give them a decent pension is shrinking.  This is why successive Governments are frantically pushing up the retirement age.  The largest element of the Benefits bill goes to retired people – but it will be a brave Government that tries to change this, as these same people are the most persistent voters.  The stark truth is that we cannot dream of reducing taxes and maintaining pensions at the same time, but it will take a brave politician to square the circle. In the meantime, pensions remain a complete lottery, with often those poorest when they worked being the poorest in retirement too.

My Disease – Buying CDs

Tuesday 6th October

I first saw them on Tomorrows World; an indestructible shiny plastic disc which contained millions of minute pits which could be read by a tiny laser and converted into digital information that would translate into “MUSIC”.  I had grown up with Vinyl, well actually even the heavier and brittle plastic of ‘78s.  Mum and Dad had a Gramophone which played them.  Actually my Nana had a wind-up phonograph but that was never played.  I can’t remember Mum and Dad playing their 78s very often either, maybe they did when we were being babysat at Nana and Grandad’s house.  But I learned about music in the sixties, and there were 45’s and large 12” vinyl albums.  Mum and Dad bought me a reel to reel tape deck and I would tape Top of the Pops each week, and when I could, tape my friend’s Beatles albums.

I got my first record deck in 1969, a Garrard with a separate amp and two speakers and started buying one L.P. each Saturday.  It had a central spindle and you could stack 6 discs up and they would play one after the other, then I would turn the stack over and play the other sides.  I managed to ruin my entire record collection in this way…hahaha.  I soon moved on to cassettes and then the disease started to really take hold.  There were a couple of second-hand record shops in Carnaby Street and I would buy a record for maybe £1, take it home, tape it onto a cassette; next lunchtime I would take it back and exchange it for ten shillings and buy another record.  I have literally thousands of cassettes neatly filed in the garage and I am slowly playing those which still play.

More dangerously I am re-buying records on CD that I once owned on vinyl then taped onto cassette.  Many are of course now deleted or incredibly hard to find, or were maybe originally bought on a whim and I don’t even like anymore.  The disease has a complete hold on me I am afraid, there is no cure – except maybe cutting off my hands.  Even worse it has now progressed to the terminal stage. I am now buying box-sets of my favourite artists, usually featuring five or more original albums, now all on CD and in tiny slip-cases inside the pretty box.  They are often incredibly great value, often under £10 for 5 or more discs.  The stupidity is that I almost always actually own the discs already on cassette and on CD.  So, I now have a growing pile of duplicates, which I cannot quite part with either.

I do realize that I am getting older and chances are that I may actually perish long before I have managed to play all my CDs.  But I am going to give it a damned good try.

H – is for George Harrison – Living in the Material World

Monday 5th October

Everyone thinks the Beatles were John and Paul, and to begin with they were – except George was always there too (Ringo came along later).   John was a complicated man, and Paul had his contradictions too; but George was always the hardest to fathom.  The quiet one, that was how the Media of the day portrayed him, but even at the various Press Conferences George was the one who came up with the best lines.  At first he hardly wrote anything, but slowly he began, and then suddenly he bloomed into at least an equal to John and Paul.  On Abbey Road possibly the best two songs were by George ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Something’.

And although George was very conscious of living in the material world (he wrote Taxman after all) he was fast developing a spiritual side.  When the Beatles broke up, he became a somewhat reluctant Superstar.  He made a handful of brilliant albums and then a couple of poorer ones and was persuaded to tour America (a bit of a disaster as it happened).  But he seemed happiest either in the Recording Studio or in his garden, and he slowly disengaged himself from the Fame he had known since his youth.  One of his albums was indeed called ‘Living In The Material World’, it was maybe his best too.  But I never really understood the significance of the title.  Was it just a clever phrase, or a confession, an apology maybe?  George sought Spiritual Enlightenment for years (it was he who persuaded the others to visit the Maharishi at Rishikesh) and I like to think that he almost found it.

So, we are all of us living in the material world, despite our possibly Socialist credentials (just why is Jeremy Corbyn criticized for having an Islington home worth hundreds of thousands, when he would have been a fool not to have bought, like most of us, back in the eighties?). We have to almost live two lives; one with a central core of our beliefs, our philosophy, our principles; while at the same time living here and now in this imperfect material world where we are daily forced to compromise our beliefs to varying degrees.  And maybe that was just what George was trying to tell us, that all the trappings of Wealth are just deceptions and that a better life awaits us.  And don’t worry, I have no illusions about an afterlife; I believe we must all strive to make life better for everyone, right here and now while we are living in the material world itself.

The Great Lost Beatles Album

Sunday 4th October

“Let it Be” was the last released Beatles album, but it was actually recorded before “Abbey Road” – their true swan song.  1969 was a turbulent year for the Beatles, Paul and John got married and their partners helped to tear the group apart.  George was getting more into Indian mysticism and both he and Ringo temporarily left the band. They finally split in 1970 and went on to make fantastic albums apart – but just imagine for a moment if they had held it together for another year or two – what a great album they could have made.

Side one kicks off with ‘Imagine’ which would maybe be the title of the record.  Paul’s ‘Long Haired Lady’ would come next followed by George’s rocker ‘Wah-Wah’.  Then the plaintive ‘Crippled Inside’ from John.  Next up Paul’s brilliant ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ (only half worked on on his own record).  And a song for Ringo – maybe ‘Sentimental Journey’. Side one closes with George’s ‘Beware of Darkness.’

Side two – and another great song from George ‘My Sweet Lord’.  Paul’s ‘Admiral Halsey’ follows (it is in the same vein as Yellow Submarine but a much better song.  Then time for John to sing ‘Jealous Guy’.  Another rocker from George with ‘What is Life’ and then the stark but beautiful ‘Working Class Hero’ from John.  The album would close with ‘Sitting in the Back Seat of my Car’ – a Beatles song, if ever there was one.

Of course you could make another two or three great albums with other tracks.  It seemed that being released from being Beatles revealed a hidden energy.  But just imagine if they had recorded these songs together….what a great Lost Beatles Album that would have been.

But as it happened, instead we had two great records each from Paul and John, and the massive triple ‘All Things Must Pass’ from George.  So we shouldn’t complain really.


Fog on the River

Saturday 3rd October

This morning (Friday) I felt the first reminder that we are approaching Autumn.  The days are still sunny; in fact we have had some very warm sunny afternoons where I have sat in the garden for an hour or so in the afternoon, reading and sipping tea and soaking up the late Summer sun.  The mornings though are decidedly chilly, and as the year slides relentlessly on it is darker and darker when we get up.  It usually warms up about eleven and stays warm until about six in the evenings.  But until now we have had no fog.

This morning, walking the dogs it was really misty, I could hardly see the end of the road.  As I came to the river Dropt there was a thick milky fog, swirling just above the water.  The trees opposite were ghostly and a slightly deeper shade of grey.  The river itself, usually a murky greeny-brown was grey too.  In fact fifty shades of grey would just about sum up the whole scene.  It was incredibly beautiful.  There was no-one else around and even the dogs kept just a few feet away, in case they lost sight of me.

So, Autumn is almost here.  As long as we don’t get days and days of rain I don’t really mind. October can be a wonderful month, and actually suffers far less rainfall annually than August does.  So, enjoy this wonderful season while it lasts; the fields are now being ploughed, almost all the sunflowers are gone, the corn on the cob is almost ready to be harvested, the grapes are nearly all gone from the vines.  Soon the trees will lose their leaves and cold old Winter will descend…

Nuclear Madness

Friday 2nd October

We are still living in the shadow of World War 2 and like rabbits fixed in headlights cannot seem to move on.  That war was different from all previous conflicts in two crucial aspects.  One was the lack of surrender; the Germans were led by a group of fanatics who would rather commit suicide in a bunker than save even a few of their own people from the invading allies.  The other was in the use of the Atom bomb.  The Americans dropped bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and though thousands died or suffered horrific cancers for decades, it may have shortened the war as the Japanese surrendered shortly after.  Even though Russia was an ally, political differences soon saw it designated as an enemy.  Russia seeing itself threatened by a dominant U.S.A. developed its own Atomic weapons, as soon did France, China; and of course we did too.  Nuclear proliferation has continued and now Israel, India and Pakistan (and maybe others) have some sort of Nuclear capability.

The logic of deterrence is that no-one will drop a Nuclear weapon on us, because, even if they do and it destroys us completely we have submarines, constantly at sea somewhere which can and will obliterate that hostile enemy even though we as a nation have been blown to smithereens (the Royal Family and Cabinet of course would be safely flown out to Canada). This, so the argument goes will deter any enemy from destroying us, and they even argue that this has stopped Wars altogether (no mention of the E.U. as a force for bringing nations together, of course).

But…..if only that were true; wars still rage across the globe and have done ever since Hiroshima.  Proxy wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Africa and now Ukraine and Syria where America and Russia take sides and arm poor people but do not get their hands dirty. And nobody seriously thinks that either Russia or America or anyone else is going to drop a Nuclear bomb (except maybe Israel of course).  Why, we can kill hundreds and thousands by aerial bombardment alone, and with drones even our own pilots are not risked.

Jeremy Corbyn has provoked outrage by stating the bleeding obvious “He can see no circumstances where he could be persuaded, if he were Prime Minister, to press the Nuclear button.”  Why does no-one ask Mr. Cameron if he is prepared to detonate a weapon which may murder millions of innocent people, cause untold suffering and ensure the total annihilation of every person on these be-knighted islands?

Nuclear weapons are total madness – or am I the crazy one?

2066 – Observations on Janek’s Latest Adventure

Thursday 1st October

-[ I am surprised that the standards of our wonderful Polis have on this occasion fallen so low.  My only excuse is that they are simply human with all the frailties that infers, and are still subject to those basic emotions of fear and loathing so common in all of us.  I say fear, because I suspect that deep down the Polis are scared, frightened of the things they cannot control.  That poor wretch Charlene was right in that the Polis could not actually kill these non-persons.  That would have been frowned upon most severely I can assure you.  They should of course have brought them in for questioning, and had they done so, our problem of Janek Smith would have been resolved much sooner.  For that misdemeanour an inquiry was instituted as a matter of course, but somehow I have never been able to access the final report.  I hope that appropriate action will have been taken, because it would appear from the account Janek has recorded that an unnecessary degree of violence and humiliation was pursued on this, hopefully isolated, occasion.

These non-persons are a perpetual problem though.  They are too un-crammed to be useful members of society, and the few experiments to re-cram them have not been successful.  Some have argued for their complete removal, but in their way I believe they represent some sort of safety valve for the pressures of society.  There has to be a nadir for every zenith.  Possibly in some future we can only hope for there will be nobody who falls into this unfortunate category, but for now I believe they should be tolerated.  Besides they continue to teach us more about the human condition than one might suspect, in fact several Uni courses are already studying the anthropology of these disparate groups.

And still our Janek is refusing to acknowledge the inherent kindness that pervades all levels of our system.  What kindness has he really found outside the system?  If his diary is any evidence, precious little I would say.  But I do detect, in the occasional phrase, the accidental slip he makes here and there, that he may be learning from his experience.]-