2066 – At Last Some Truth as the Conversation Continues

Sunday 20th March

You still don’t get it do you.  I ran away, not only from the system but from my life.  Yes, my dear Cathy, my wife too was part of my dissatisfaction.  I know I could have divorced her, but in a way I still loved her you see. Or loved the memory of her, of what we once had; it was almost painful every time I had to look at her and regretting how we had both changed.  Leaving everything was actually easier than just leaving her.  What will you tell her?  About me, I mean.  You can’t just leave her with nothing, expecting me to maybe walk back at any time.

-[We have already taken care of that Janek.  She thinks you are dead.  Apparently she was really upset, if that is any consolation at all.]-

Shit.  You guys really do think of everything, don’t you?

-[We like to think so; though we are constantly guarding against complacency.  In your case it was really the only sensible decision.  Whatever you might have chosen you were never going to return to your old life I am sorry to say.]-

No, don’t be.  I was the one who ran away.  To have returned would always have been a failure on my part.  At least this way I know I have been true at least to some of my ideas.  But tell me; if I don’t pass the tests?  If by some chance I am found to be incompatible in some way, will my decision to erm….volunteer not mitigate in my favour.  In other words dear William, if I am rejected further down the line, am I back to square one?  Or What?

-[My dear Janek, the older and wiser you become the more you will realise that bridges are best crossed when one actually approaches them.  To attempt to prepare for every scenario is pointless.   Besides it may not be in my control at all by then.  You are about to enter a completely new sphere, a higher echelon.  You may in fact never see me again, though that would be a pity.  I feel that having read your journal, and followed your escape route, and through these few brief meetings I have come to know you quite well.  You mentioned earlier that you had no personal friends.  I too have no friends, well not any more.  In a different life I would like to think that we might have been friends, you and I, Janek.]-

How flattering William, but unfortunately I cannot reciprocate.  It isn’t that I don’t have any friends, that no-one likes me.  I have, or have had, many acquaintances.  I just didn’t want any of them to be a friend.  I have never felt the real need for a friend.  I have always been a bit of a loner.  The only friend I thought I had was my wife, but sadly we sort of grew apart, and as the years progressed I realised she might actually be the opposite, my enemy.  In many ways I regret ever placing so much trust in another person; experience should have taught me that they always let you down in the end.  Or you them, I suppose.  So friends no, but acquaintances – yes many, and as acquaintances go, you were pleasant enough William.  You know, you chose a rotten pseudonym.  You should have been a Roger or a Peter, or even a good old Dave.  William just doesn’t suit you at all.

-[Well Janek, I have to leave you now.  You will be processed in due course, and inducted into the programme.  Who knows if our paths will cross again.  You are about to become one of us; one of the special ones, the new breed of humans.  Doesn’t that make you just a tiny bit excited.]-

Excited?  Hell, I’m scared shitless.

-[You really should try to curb that tongue of yours, Janek.  It may not be appreciated by those you are about to meet, especially the Americans, who are to say the least, quite puritanical about bodily functions.]-

Conversation ended

The New Reality – There Is No Reality

Saturday 20th March

We have become isolated, insulated; somehow removed from reality.  Those images of starving children or bombed cities are simply that – images; they no more represent reality than the ads that seem more prevalent on Sky than the actual programmes.  The News is now Entertainment, newspapers are filled with Celebrity Gossip and real news is squeezed out, not that that many people read newspapers any more.

Facebook is full of homilies and quotations which mostly preach to the converted – no wonder our youth have no interest in real Politics.  You mention things like the Budget or the EU Referendum to most people and their eyes glaze over you can almost hear the gears crunch as they think “Oh no, not reality – I really don’t want to think about reality.  And I was having such a good time too.”  The dumbing down of Society is almost complete, project “Idiocy” almost accomplished.  Television, once a cutting edge informative and enlightening tool, is now full of formulaic “shows” that teach us nothing and are instantly forgettable, simply there for the benefit of the advertisers who bookmark the usually trivial content.

And worse of all in this unreal world of unreality nobody cares.  Which is why you have probably stopped reading this already.  I do understand.  Please scroll down for images of cats or photos of your friends holidays or messages to love your daughters.  The real world is too painful to contemplate.  I apologise for disturbing your meaningless and thought-free life.

Another Budget – Another Wasted Opportunity

Friday 18th March

So, after all the hype, after all the Media build-up – there was nothing.  Just an announcement that there would be a “sugar-tax” in two years time, just enough time for the big soft-drink manufacturers to re-formulate and replace corn syrup (possibly even more dangerous) for sugar.  And as ever with this Chancellor, details are to follow, so we don’t even know how effective it might actually be.  No real attempt to simplify the massively complicated tax rules, or to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance, or to close tax havens.  Oh well, what did we expect?

And George has given us all a nice increase in our tax threshold, especially those nice people lucky enough to pay tax at the higher rate.  This of course does nothing to help those on minimum wage, and most low paid workers will have the saving taken straight out of any tax credits they might receive.

It was in fact a catalogue of failure.  Six years ago Osborne proudly declared that he would eradicate the deficit by 2015 and despite savage cuts he barely halved it.  Now he declares he will run a surplus in 2020, even though the Office for Budget Responsibility says he has and will consistently miss his deficit reduction and overall debt targets every year until then.  It just doesn’t add up, and I can only assume that the OBR has been leaned on to present the rosiest of possible scenarios.  I suspect that George will come up with some wheeze to re-classify some Public Spending as Capital Projects and exclude them from borrowing figures (co-incidentally when Labour proposed borrowing to spend on Infrastructure this was rubbished by the Tories).

And the cuts continue; both to Spending and more crucially to Taxation.  In the Eighties when taxes were cut the tax revenue actually increased as there was an explosion in Financial Services, but so far every time George cuts taxes the take decreases too so he is then forced to both borrow more and plan more cuts to Public Services.  J. K. Galbraith said that Economic Policy was like pulling a brick along a table, for ages nothing happens then the brick hits you in the face.  Keep tugging George.

I thought actually that Jeremy Corbyn gave a very good response; it is a very hard job to respond to a Budget you know nothing about beforehand.

But this was a wasted and a very cautious Budget; we mustn’t scare the voters before the Referendum now must we?

M – is for Malcolm McClaren

Thursday 17th March

Let me just say I was not impressed by punk, even though Malcolm was a big part of that.  I only listened to the Sex Pistols once and now realise that the words on the album cover were misprinted, it should have read “The Sex Pistols – bollocks; Never Mind”.  He was also some sort of Svengali behind BowWowWow and Adam and the Ants, which were much better.

A couple of years later he then presented us with Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch, which were basically field recordings of emerging black music from the Carribean and America and was interesting to say the least.

Now, Malcolm cannot sing or play an instrument, but he released three albums in the eighties which were simply sublime.  He had a knack of putting together different elements to produce something totally new and never before heard.  The first record was “Fans” which was a mix of classic Opera and hip-hop.  I fell in love with Madame Butterfly, my favourite Opera ever, and played Malcolm’s version of it incessantly, much to the annoyance of my partner.  He followed this with a mix of Waltz and dance music, which was still brilliant though not quite as wonderful as “Fans”.  But his real masterpiece was “Paris”, where he combined Miles Davis style jazz, Satie piano music and his own spoken reveries of that wonderful city.  Add to that some great melodies and vocals by Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Hardy and you have sheer genius.  It remains one of my enduring favourite albums ever.

Malcolm was a strange mixture of the very modern and almost a Dickensian manner; he sadly died far too young a few years ago.  But at least we have these three great records to remember him by.

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Where Are We Now?

Wednesday 16th March

The election is almost a year behind us and the surprise victors are comfortable as they implement not only Manifesto pledges but long-held ideas they never thought they might be in a position to actually put into action.

  • The Economy. Well things may be on the turn; a few commentators have warned that things are about to get very nasty indeed.  Meanwhile despite only three months ago the Chancellor stating that things were going so well he had over 20 billion more than he thought he had, it looks as though he will struggle to achieve even his own modest deficit reduction plans this year – despite harsh cuts to the disabled and unemployed, his continued tax give-aways to the rich are making it harder than ever to balance the books.
  • This is the real crisis facing the country.  House prices continue to rise relentlessly as only those who already own property or private landlords can afford to buy, the very low interest rates helping them to fund their purchases.  And now even Housing Associations are being forced to sell their properties to sitting tenants.  Private rents are increasing far faster than inflation, forcing even more families to face a future of short-term lets and ever increasing insecurity and higher and higher rents with no prospect of ever owning their own home (a Thatcherite dream which has been scuppered by her own policy of council house sell-offs).
  • The NHS. Well, it limps on, more by the dedication of its beleaguered staff than any help from Central Government.  We have so far seen none of the extra 30 billion, was it, that Cameron promised during the election.  The Junior Doctor’s dispute rumbles on too, with neither side willing to compromise.  Maybe the idea is to force more and more Doctors to abandon the NHS anyway, so that it can be declared unworkable and we have to have a private system after all.
  • The Opposition. The SNP, which had a huge surge in popularity during the election campaign, have done very little in Westminster, concentrating on Scotland instead.  But this doesn’t appear to have dented their popularity north of the border at all.  The Lib-Dems have a new leader but the public hardly seem to have noticed.  Labour still appear in a bit of a muddle, with mutterings of discontent from many of the MPs making more headlines than what the Leadership might be saying.  Not that Jeremy and John McDonell are really saying very much anyway.  But the Labour party remains the only real opposition to a very rampant Tory party.  The much ridiculed Opinion polls are showing a slight narrowing of the gap but the Tories are still comfortably ahead.
  • The Tory party are tearing themselves apart over Europe, with the ensuing and still to be announced Tory leadership election as the sub-text.  The danger is that we could be sleep-walking into disaster.  With nothing positive to vote for the IN campaign risks a high level of apathy, whereas the OUT lot are quietly playing on people’s fears of even more immigrants arriving from Turkey and Syria and my suspicion is that those who want to leave will be more determined to vote than the ones who want to remain (witness UKIP doing very well at the last European Parliament elections).  We will see.

So we have four more years to run.  What sort of country we will find then I dread to think.  They say we get the sort of Government we deserve…I’m not sure of that.

The Noise, The Dust, The Smell

Tuesday 15th March

The sleepy little town of Eymet is in a state of chaos.  Not only is there a new Restaurant opening soon in the square but the Cafe de Paris is being refurbished.  Add to that the fact that for weeks they have been installing new drains all over the town; roads have been closed, bulldozers, pneumatic drills, stone cutters and hordes of French workmen everywhere.  And today (yesterday of course) they were almost outside the Café (again).  Terrible noise and dust everywhere.  And we had M. Cantiran with his drain clearing lorry parked outside, I think they were flushing out an old drain right outside the Café, terrible smell.  The road is quite narrow and his large lorry was blocking the entire road, I even had to move several chairs and tables for him to get his lorry in.

Heaven knows if we will get any customers today, but French workmen are no respecters of ordinary people.  The word in the town is that it will all be finished by Easter (two weeks time) but as we have never known a French artisan to actually turn up on time, let alone finish the job in a timely fashion we have our severe doubts.   Of course the incentive of the Easter holidays and an influx of mostly English tourists should spur them on, but we suspect that by Easter they mean Easter Sunday, forgetting that most of our English visitors will come either the week before or the week after.  However the signs on the Café de Paris say they will re-open on 16th March, and the Pizzeria which was shut for the winter re-opens this Friday too.  So, fingers crossed we will get back to normal soon, but for the moment we just have to put up with the constant noise and dust.

What A Swell Party That Was

Monday 14th March

The morning after the night before.  Not much sleep I am afraid as the music kept going round in my head and a touch too much alcohol in the system.  But by the morning, though groggy, I was sort-of okay.  And looking back, what a swell party it was.  My wife and I do parties well; weeks of planning, excursions to food shops, last minute changes of plan and we were finally ready.  We had of course over done everything, too many guests, though as it turned out it was all okay on the night.  Literally only a couple of cancellations, and there were at least seventy people.  Our dear friends Maxine (cake maker extraordinaire) and Graham (king of the Barbeque) were fantastic.  Rob Russell played brilliantly all night too.

We started at Seven, and Graham lit the thre barbeques and managed around ninety burgers.  We had had weeks of fairly poor weather with lots of rain, but the gods shone on us, it was a sunny warm day and a mild evening.  We held the party all downstairs in our very large garage.  Around half the people stayed inside but many sat or stood outside so although we had panicked about chairs we had enough in the end.  Lots of people got up and danced and Graham led us through two conga’s.  I danced nearly all night and had a wonderful time, despite trying my best to poop the party by my rendition of “Joan of Arc” by the blessed Leonard.

Most people stayed till well after 11 and the last few left just after midnight.  I tumbled into bed around one.  Cleaning up was pretty easy as well, as it is a tiled floor.  The next day and I opened up my presents…..lots of lovely wine to drink and a painting by Dominique Bocher.   What a lucky boy.

2066 – There Really Is No Choice

Sunday 13th March

Date of log – 20660618


-[Good morning Janek. Have you had time enough to reflect on the scenario I painted for you?  Our little discussion must have given you something to think about.   I think I know you well enough that despite some reservations, natural enough given the enormity of what I told you, you will have been intrigued to say the least.  Have you, in short, come to a decision?]-

I need to know more, I need to know what will be happening to me.  You can’t expect me to make a decision without having some idea of that, can you?

-[So, not a complete yes, or a decided no either; I wouldn’t expect that at this point.  But I gather from your answer that you haven’t completely rejected the idea.  In principle, at any rate.  Am I correct?]-

It’s like this William, if that is the name you are answering to today, you made it pretty clear that the alternative to my not becoming a ‘volunteer’, willing or unwilling, was that I would be of no more use to you.  By that I take it I would be killed, disposed of, euthenased, or whatever other euphemism you might call it.

-[In theory that is correct I am afraid Janek.  You see, I took a risk, a calculated risk as I am sure you have worked out by now.   By informing you of the ‘select’ programme, by even letting you know of its existence I made the choice easy for you.  There is no way we can let you back into society, or in fact to come into contact with anyone at all, now that you know what little you do know.  So, although not completely decided, should you not wish to join us, then your alternative future would be very bleak I should imagine.  But, I feel certain that given your intelligence, your curiosity and maybe even a touch of vanity which might prevail, you will want to be a part of what promises to be a highly significant and exciting leap forward for mankind.]-

I thought as much.  Well, I have given it some thought.  Shit, I haven’t thought of anything else. Amazing how the thought of one’s possible death concentrates the mind.  But I need to know more, and you said I didn’t have to give you a final answer today anyway.  What I am trying to say, is that I am not ruling it out.  Or in either.  I just need to know more.

-[Of course.  I had hoped that would be your answer.  At least now we can relax somewhat, though I hope you are not under the illusion that this tentative agreement of yours has been given simply to buy you some time.  Unfortunately the same logic will apply at any point in the near future that your co-operation might be in question.  As to the details, I cannot go into the exact procedure at this point, partly because I am not privy myself to that exact information.

In many ways I am simply a messenger, albeit a highly informed one, and I was part of the panel which decided to put this proposition to you, although I was one of those counselling for a longer interrogation process.  You must appreciate that the programme is shrouded in secrecy; layer upon layer of secrecy in fact.  All I can tell you is that despite the accidents of six years ago, when several volunteers did not complete the course, the technology has improved since then.  There will be very little personal danger to yourself should you proceed.]-

So, the choice is to go blindly into what could be a severe head-fuck, or be disappeared.

-[As you are prone to such exaggeration I will ignore that last remark, suffice it to say that in essence you are correct.  Should you choose to join the programme then you will be changed, altered, improved far beyond what you may ever have imagined.  I cannot exactly say what the alternative would entail, though undoubtedly it would be painless.  We may sometimes have to make uncomfortable decisions for the greater good of the rest of us, but we are not barbarians.  I can assure you of that.]-

That’s comforting.  You must excuse me but I had assumed that barbarism was actually the order of the day.  Anyway, I assume you will ignore that remark.  Good.  So, assuming that I make the only choice you are really offering me, what happens next.

-[Can I take it as correct then that you will be taking that option, and it goes without saying that any participation on your behalf would be completely willing?  You can have a few more days to think about it, if that is required.]-

What’s the point?  I have no real choice, do I?  And actually, in a funny way, this may just be the escape I was looking for all along.   At least, and correct me if I am wrong, I won’t be living back with my wife in that little apartment again.  I won’t be returning to that life, that monotony of screen-watching.  This really will be something new and different, won’t it?

-[Correct.  One of the conditions of your participation will be that you will automatically lose all contact with the life you had before.  But as to an escape, that is a strange way to categorise things, although your heightened sense of your own importance has always been one of the things that has marked you out Janek.  Think of this as a contribution, an invaluable contribution I would say, that you are selflessly making to the advancement of the species.]-

And there I was thinking you were going to stick some wires in my head and turn me into some super-computer zombie.

[Well we can but hope that one result will be that your sense of the ridiculous, which I assume you call humour,  may be tempered somewhat.  In answer to your question though, as it appears that you are now volunteering for the programme you will be taken to a facility deep inside this building and a series of tests will be run to ensure your complete compatibility.  Provided they are successful then the programme will be explained to you in more detail, and work will begin.  And I can assure you that you will never see your wife or family again.  Strangely that has always been one of the hardest aspects for volunteers to accept.  You seem to relish the prospect.]-

And They Call This Retirement?

Saturday 12th March

Well the big day has come at last.  65, and believe me there have been times I never thought I might make it this far; I have to confess that I haven’t always been the careful, considerate and conformist individual you now know….hahaha.   And technically I have been semi-retired for a few years, some might say longer.  I still have one customer which takes about three or four days a month and of course I work in the café sometimes.  And yet I seem busier than ever, I sometimes wonder how I ever found the time to go to work.

And at last it seems to have stopped raining, not exactly warm spring days yet but you can feel a touch of warmth in the air at last.  And it is the summer we really love out here, for two months we practically live outside as there are Marche Nocturnes and Soir Gourmandes almost every night of the week.  And music under the arches every Friday, and the special festivals, the Medieaval Weekend and the Oyster and Wine festival make it really special.

We are having a huge party tonight in the new house.  The trouble is that once you go past your small immediate circle of friends you have to invite practically everyone you know.  And we certainly know a lot of people; the English community here tends to all know each other and running the Café we have met so many more.  We have spent days getting everything ready and today (Saturday) will be spent preparing the food.  Rob Russell is playing live so a good time should be had for all.

And then life will carry on, much the same I imagine.  Though at last I will have an income, not as good as I had once hoped but still.  So looking forward to retirement but stopping working, no chance.

McCartney Still Has Something To Say

Friday 11th March

He has been around so long it is hard to imagine him not making music.  Every couple of years or so he gives us another record, some are better than others – I didn’t really like his take on old standards “Kisses on the Bottom”, despite its cheeky title.  But “Run Devil Run” his modern version of old rock’n’roll songs was excellent and better than John’s “Rock’n’Roll”.  And he continues to surprise us; he has written classical pieces and a couple of experimental electronic records as ‘The Fireman’, not my cup of tea but interesting, and apparently he was the Beatle who first used tape loops, taking his demo’s in for George Martin to smooth out.  And he was far more interested in the avante-garde in the mid-sixties than John who discovered it a bit later.

And he still has something to say.  His latest record “NEW” is certainly very modern sounding and the tunes aren’t that bad either.  I doubt he will ever write another “Yesterday” or “The Long and Winding Road”, but the Sixties were indeed extraordinary times, and while most of his contemporaries rest on their laurels or embark on lucrative World Tours he is still exploring new music and writing and releasing records.  And he obviously doesn’t need the money, The Beatles made far more money from their records after they split than before.

And he is almost the last remaining Beatle, (Ringo? Well Ringo played drums very well and was a funny man, but is pretty irrelevant nowadays) and he was at least an equal to John and though the Popular Conception is that he was lucky to bump into him, it may well have been the other way round.

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