Another Missing Plane

Saturday 21st May

Incredibly we have another plane going missing, although this one had definitely crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.  We still haven’t found the Malaysian plane which went missing on a routine flight in South East Asia and may have ended up somewhere in the huge expanses of the Southern Indian Ocean; nobody knows for sure what happened to it because they still haven’t found the black box, and may never do so.  The most likely scenario is some sort of suicide by the pilot, a terrible possibility.  We put our faith into pilots with hardly a thought, especially that they might want to kill us all and themselves in some sort of glorious suicide.  But that is almost exactly what happened to the German plane which crashed into the French Alps last year.  And how do you possibly ensure that that won’t happen, unless we rely completely on computers to fly and land the plane, and somehow I just don’t have enough faith in computers for that yet.

Then there was the plane shot down over the Ukraine, probably, but again almost impossible to prove, by either the Russians or Russian supporting Militia fighting to break away from the Ukraine.  At least flight paths have been re-routed and you are now unlikely to be shot down over a war-zone, but it seems that air travel is facing new threats.

The plane flying from Paris to Cairo may have been brought down by some sort of terrorist action, and the most likely scenario is either a baggage handler or some other person with access to the plane may have planted a bomb on board.   So, how do you guard against that?  All the security measures in the World cannot ever stop a determined individual, and the present Security restrictions are enforced rigorously, but I am sure even here it might be possible to get a small device on board.  Once upon a time it was plane malfunctions we had to worry about, but increasingly now it is crazy individuals who obviously have no qualms about killing hundreds of people.  And still we will all continue to fly and hope that this time it isn’t our plane which goes missing.

Hole In My Shoe

Friday 20th May

A great single by Traffic from 1967 I think.  “And all that I knew was the hole in my shoe was letting in water.” Traffic were just another great band who somehow struggled in the Seventies, though I did buy a few of their records.

And occasionally down the years I too have had a hole in my shoe, sometimes indeed letting in water, before I bit the bullet and bought a new pair of shoes.  For a few years I only ever had one pair of shoes anyway, and at others I have had more than I could wear.  I always seem to have my favourites, however many may be languishing unloved and unpolished at the bottom of the wardrobe and automatically slip on the same raggedy and stained pair of espadrille-type canvas shoes every morning.  I do have some proper shoes I wear some evenings but have fallen into the habit since living here in France of dispensing with socks entirely.  Even on cold days I feel more comfortable going sockless, it is only when returning to England that I stuff a couple of pairs in my case and put on sensible outdoor shoes and socks for the flight back.

One of the perpetual complaints among the English living here is the state of the pavements, many broken or non-existent and many potholes are simply filled with small grey stones which have a habit of slipping over the gunwales of your shoes, so often I have to stop and knock out unwelcome guests from my footwear.  A couple of days ago I felt that old familiar prod of a stone in my shoe.  I quickly whipped off the shoe (well a slip of rubber and canvas if truth be told) and scooped out any contents.  No stone, so I put the shoe back on.  Still that prod of a stone so I repeated the process.  No, there definitely was a stone in there.  On closer inspection it wasn’t a stone at all but a nail, a tack really, point upwards with the head firmly embedded in the sole of my flimsy footwear and the point protruding rudely and about to enter the sole of my foot.  I managed to wriggle it out and now I have a hole in my favourite shoes, but looking at them, tatty as they may be, there’s still a few more weeks wear in them…..hope it doesn’t rain.

2066 – The Conjoining Described

Thursday 19th May

Before I describe the experience I should just like to reassure those few remaining skeptics that I am to all intents and purposes still Janek Smith.  I am not sure what personality changes I may have or indeed will experience, but these were hardly unexpected.  My memories are all still there, complete and ordered, however an unexpected development is that they are much more detailed than before.  I not only have the complete memories, in audio-visual replay mode, but am able to recall sensory perceptions such as smell and touch.  As I am drifting off to sleep I particularly like to recall the soft stroking of my mother’s finger encouraging and caressing my infant face, as I nuzzle her extremely large and chewable nipple.  The milk, sweet and sticky and warm comes out in little gushes when I contract my infant gums and hits the back of my throat forcing me to swallow, which is particularly pleasing.  I have no choice but to obey the instinct to swallow even though I now realise I could just spit the liquid out my baby self obediently swallows.  It is strangely un-erotic and yet comforting at the same time.  I seem to have regained the ability to replay whole memories in only a second or two, even recalling whole mundane work-days processing numbers – I see them all, every number I ever processed, scrolling vertically before my eyes.  More recent memories, especially of my temporary foray into the outside world are clear as a bell, reliving them I feel every blow on my weak body, the pain and the shock as clear as the moment it happened.  I can now see clearly the individual faces of those irresponsible Polis who beat and urinated on me so shamelessly.  I will be transferring these images as soon as my second conjoining has been completed and expect that swift and corrective action will follow shortly.

I am also able to recall exactly all the details of that evil bastard Skinner.  I will not rest until Justice is brought to prevail upon him and his coterie of sick friends.  If these ‘special’ people have been allowed to ‘transgress’ and to violate the bodies of innocent, or even as I may have been, not completely innocent, lower echelons, then there is a serious flaw in the whole strata system.  I will be filing a report shortly when I have gathered all the data needed.

The day of the conjoining was different from those that preceded it.  There was no gym, no puzzles to solve, no counseling.  It was all weightless pod.  For what seemed like days, but may have been only a few hours I was weightlessly drifting, gradually clearing my mind of everything.  Slowly the empty space in my brain expanded until it and the weightless expanse of the gently turning colour-swooning g-pod were one and the same.  I think I lost consciousness at some point as the next thing I remember was being laid down on what resembled some old magnetic field resonance imaging machine.  The lights were dimmed and only a soft glow from a distant control desk held my vague attention.

Suddenly a quiet whooshing noise invaded my ears, rising gradually to a loud but not unpleasant crescendo.  Then white light invaded my closed eyelids and filled up my whole being; I felt the light and the noise right down to my toes, my fingertips tingled and even my spine felt invigorated.  In fact I had a great feeling of elation.  This rose to a pitch where I felt I might explode with the feeling of ecstasy. My mind was overloading on light and noise, I automatically closed down all thought.  That is all remember, as even my memory of the actual conjoining stops at this point.

I came to,( waking slowly as out of a thick glutinous lake, dark and cold) sometime later and it felt as if I had just woken from the most perfect and prolonged sleep.  A feeling of utter contentment flowed over me.  I knew that I had done the right thing.  I could barely raise my arm and had almost no sensation in my lower body but I still knew that I had done the right thing.  I closed my eyes and smiled myself back to sleep.  And still, days later I like to sleep.  In sleep nothing matters except re-running memories, or trawling through some data-files from my Hypercom twin.  These appear to my rational mind as boxes, shiny white plastic boxes which are scattered somewhat casually around my brain.  I really must start filing them soon, but I am too busy both reliving in hypercolour-holo mode my own memories and the new ‘memories’ I have gained in the conjoining.

So, you see, in the end it was completely painless and ecstatic; nothing to be frightened of at all.

Interviewed by The Sun

Wednesday 18th May

A friend of ours who runs the best Chambre D’Hote in town called yesterday and asked if I would speak to two Sun journalists who were in town and staying with her.  They wanted to talk to someone who had an Opinion on Brexit; well, as you know I am full of opinions without ever risking the accusation of being opinionated (hahaha).  So, I spoke to them.  And though of course I regard the Sun as the lowest of the low, they were quite pleasant and chatty.  They are over here for a couple of days trying to drum up a feature story about Brits in France and our possible fears over leaving the EU.

Although I talked for about 30 minutes and they took copious notes and a few photos I doubt very much whether I will feature in their infamous paper – but you never know.  And, of course even if I do, I further suspect that opinions attributed to me may not be exactly what I said.  So, if you see me in the Sun (which I very much doubt) don’t necessarily believe a word of it.  As ever journalists are looking for a story rather than the boring old truth, and the only story in town is that we are all scared stiff of what will happen to us and our houses and our lives here in France.  Whereas in all probability not very much will happen, and certainly not immediately, and there will most likely be some sort of transitional arrangements – and if we have to make a decision further down the road to become French, we will cross ca pont then.

I did of course ask the journalists what line the Sun was going to take, and they said that there was no editorial line as yet, and they would wait and see.  Which may be journalese for mind your own business, or may be the truth.  I suspect that the Sun and Times will reluctantly swing behind Cameron at the last minute.  The Telegraph and Mail will probably mildly support Brexit, while the Express will be all out outers.  The Indy and Guardian and Mirror will be for remain while still criticizing Cameron for his reckless decision.  We will see…

Over-egging the Pudding

Tuesday 17th May

Oh dear, is there nothing we can say positive about the EU?  All the remain campaign are relying on is Project Fear, and it is now getting ridiculous.  Every day another Financial Institution or President of America or Governor of the Bank of England is wheeled out to warn us of Economic disaster, of mass unemployment, and worst of all – falling house prices – if we are stupid enough to vote Leave.  We are being bombarded by all this bombast, wave after wave, a veritable tsunami of opinion all on the same side.  And it is getting worse; Cameron has even suggested that World War Three may erupt if we leave the EU, or of course not – he actually commented on how the EU had kept the peace in Europe for seventy years, but such is the febrile nature of the “debate” that commentators extrapolated his comments.  But this is what Project Fear has achieved.

And where it will go now with almost six weeks still to go?  Will God herself descend in a ball of fire to warn us of Armageddon just around the corner should we be so foolish as to fall for the charms of Boris and the Brexiteers?   Which of course raises the question as to why Mr. Cameron, if it would be so dangerous to exit the EU, did you ever give us the chance of voting to do so?  Why, only a few weeks ago, there you were on telly, saying that unless the other leaders agreed to your changes you would actually campaign to leave yourself.

But worse almost than this disaster scenario is that there is nothing positive being said about Europe.  The message seems to be “Look, we know the EU is a mistake, but it will be an even bigger mistake to get out now”, which is hardly inspiring.  And just wait till the real arguments about immigration start…..

I fear that the whole thing, granting the referendum itself, was a terrible mistake, an electoral gamble to fend off UKIP, which could go seriously wrong.  Or, like Scotland before it, Cameron may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – and the mood for Brexit will grow despite maybe narrowly losing the vote and UKIP will go from strength to strength, Boris will become the next Prime Minister with a promise to have a second referendum after a ‘real’ renegotiation, and on and on until we leave the EU, and Scotland then leaves us too.


N – is for Mike Nesmith

Monday 16th May

In the mid-sixties ‘Pop’ exploded and nowhere more so than TV, which suddenly embraced this youth culture as its own.  We had shows like Ready Steady Go and Top of the Pops and Juke Box Jury….and The Monkees.  ‘Hey hey we’re the Monkees’, they sang in an imitation of The Beatles in their suits and long hair – and kids all over the world loved them.  First there was the idea, create a TV show about an unsuccessful Beatles look-alike band and fill it with songs and jokes.  Next, find the actors – and here it gets weird, the creators didn’t really think they had to be able to sing or play any instruments; it just so happened that Davy Jones had already sung in Musicals and that Peter Tork could play bass guitar.  Micky Dolenz had been Circus Boy and also could play drums and Mike Nesmith was a guitarist who auditioned for the show on the off-chance.  So we actually had a band, though of course they got in ‘real’ musicians for the records.  At first, but slowly the boys insisted on playing themselves and even writing their own material.

The Monkees didn’t last long and neither did the show, but Mike Nesmith secured a recording contract with RCA on the back of it.  However I am sure they didn’t like what he came up with.  It was a back-to basics country sound, and sold miserably despite Mike’s “fame”.  Well, I was one of those who bought his records and, here I find it hard to explain but though they were really not the sort of thing I was listening to, I kept on buying them.  There was something in the way he sang, some twist of humour or irony that kept me coming back for more.  And now re-listening there are some gems in there, though a lot now seems pretty boring.  Then along came the single Rio, with its lovely line “I probably won’t fly down to Rio, but then again I just might”, a great song.  And his later work is more melodic, more rounded and less country.  Mike has, apart from his stint in The Monkees, never sought fame, in fact he seems to deliberately avoid it.  An interesting musician, almost an anti-musician really.  The Newer Stuff is his best record.


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Words – it’s always been the words

Sunday 15th May

From as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the words in songs, and our popular songs are folk poetry, even if they are largely manufactured.  When I first bought records, albums, I would sit cross-legged on the floor and pore over the lyrics, the reverse side of the cover balanced on my knees as I tried to decipher the hidden messages in the words.  And I was writing my own songs then too, poems that I sort of knew how to sing along to, though I have never mastered an instrument and I am sure I sing out of key all the while.  And it was the words that mattered; just what were The Beatles trying to say to me?  And then I discovered Dylan and the words started to make sense, even when he deliberately spilled weirdness over everything “Jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule” or “they’re painting the passports brown” – it all made sense somehow.  Then Leonard came calling “Jesus was a Sailor and he walked upon the water till only drowning men could see him.” And “I told you when I came I was a stranger”.  And I knew I wasn’t alone, that someone else understood.

And then I fell in love with Joni and her wonderful lyrics and Neil Young singing down by the river, the words reeling in my brain as I learnt every line.  And Bowie and Elton and all the others down the line; the words and the intonation of the voice inhabiting the words were what I was listening for, some communion, some holy sharing of life’s experience.  And in songs I have found such strength.  Especially those sad songs of loneliness and loss and yearning.  Why I enjoy this melancholy side of life so much I really don’t know.  Maybe my default mode is misery and I force a smile for everyone else so they think I am okay and leave me alone.  But really I am not sad, even when I am singing along to Leonard or Joni or Bob; Joni once said “There is comfort in melancholy” and I have found it; when I have been at my lowest I put on another sad record and sing along, almost wiping the tears out of my eyes.  And gently gradually I am lifted and healed by the magic of the words.

I cannot stop listening to the lyrics in songs, and sometimes get quite annoyed when playing something for someone and they start talking over the words.  ‘Listen to them, listen to what they are saying’ I feel like saying.  But maybe, just like when I listened to secret messages from the Fab Four, the words are really for my ears only.  If no-one else can distill the magic, so be it – at least I know what they mean.




Saturday 14th May

The world is changing fast; too fast for some of us.  And sport is changing fast too.  We now have the Para-Olympics where handicapped athletes are given, quite rightly, equal billing with the other competitors – a few years ago this was unheard of.  The Winter Olympics now include fantastic Snowboarding disciplines we never knew about a short while ago.  And now there is to be, staged at the O2 in London, an e-sports tournament.  This is basically computer games, but as a spectator sport.  There will still be computer nerds hunched over their own screens while their fingers scrabble at fantastic speeds but huge video screens will display their tiny screens for the edification of the expected hordes of devotees.

Now call me old-fashioned, but I find this hard to describe as a sport, though I concede that there is great skill involved; skills I have never desired to accomplish I might add.  But on Sky news this morning they were describing the participants as “athletes”, a term I find hard to recognise.  For me sitting in front of a computer screen is about the furthest from an athletic pursuit one can get, and incidentally a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic among many of our young people.  The whole event is of course being promoted by the makers of the games themselves, and despite my reservations will probably be a great success and go on growing in the future.

So, what exactly is the definition of sport?  I would automatically exclude “field sports” where animals are hunted or fished, and while I don’t ever want to hold a gun I concede that shooting at targets is a legitimate sport.  Bridge has just been ruled as not a sport, and likewise I think that Chess and similar games, full of skill as they may be are not sports.  For me there has to be an element of physical strength or skill involved, although in a way that does include computer games.  Who knows?  Snooker is classed as a sport and it isn’t exactly physically demanding.  But I wonder just what the future will hold; cyber athletes, drone racing, robot races – or a complete virtual Olympic games.  For now I am looking forward to the Euro football and, the Zico virus permitting, the Rio Olympics – hopefully drug-free this time, which of course may not be an issue with computer games, though viruses may be.

2066 – Part 6 – The Conjoining

Friday 13th May

Record date 20660918

I sleep nearly all day.  I like sleeping.   But I am woken gently with a drink of warm liquid, which I am told is milk, but which I have analysed as a mixture of soy derivative nourished with artificial vitamins and minerals.  Rather a lot of magnesium, which I suspect is not exactly helping me.  Now that I have recorded this I am certain the formula will be amended.    This is the first time I have been asked to do a recording.  I am still attempting to regain control of my fingers.  I was warned that I might have difficulty in walking and speech for a few days, but I was quite unprepared for the lack of both sensation and sensory awareness in my fingers. Consequently, typing has presented me with a slight problem.  As I am still learning to speak again the screen cannot lip read either.  I soon solved this slight technical hitch by forcing the keys on the keyboard to depress themselves by sheer concentration.

Amazingly simple really, and now that I have re-memorised the Qwerty alphabet, I can type far faster than by using my fingers.  Clarity.  Clarity and Precision.  That is now the difference.  Nothing is a problem anymore, but a situation to be assessed.  A problem is simply a case of identifying two states, a) – where you are now, and b) where you need to be.  The space between a) and b) is the problem to be solved. By correctly analyzing both a) and b) the problem solves itself.  There are usually several routes; it is relatively easy to choose the most efficient.  Most people, (myself included in days gone by) never thoroughly assess a) or b);too many distractions, too many loose synapses firing off at tangents, too many ridiculous animal hormones booting up defense mechanisms, the brain is only working part-time on the problem in hand, the ‘mind’, that element of self-consciousness we cannot seem to shut down keeps intruding with ‘but how does this affect me’ and ‘how will this make me look’ and other un-related thoughts, loss of concentration ensues, stabbing guesses are grasped at, poor human brain overloads and that entity called ‘self’ takes over and we shut down all the wrong synapses and fail.  Time and again we fail to make the right connections. Stupid animal brains. Thank Cosmos that phase is over for me.

As you can tell I have received the first of my three projected conjoinings.  Understanding, as I now do, the complete nature of the ‘select’ programme and all its ramifications for the future (having accessed all of the relevant files on my Hypercom twin) I am recording my impressions of this first conjoining.  This may prove invaluable for future conjoinees.  Unfortunately until my second conjoining the traffic is all one way only.  I am able to read and understand and use the knowledge and fast processing power of my Hypercom twin, but cannot, as yet, pass this information back and therefore onto the wider ‘select’ network.  So, for the time being I am forced to use this ‘old-fashioned’ and cumbersome keyboard, even if the words will be recorded faster than you, (my human audience) will be able to read them.  I apologise for the compromise, but I am depressing the keys as speedily as I am able to.

I understand that as my pre-conjoined brain already displayed certain characteristics which indicated I might be more advanced than previous conjoinees, it was decided that I would receive a far more intense first conjoining than any attempted since the first two unsuccessful batches a couple of years ago.  There was some nervous anticipation involved, (more in the minds of my trainers than my own self I think) but as you can see I have completed my first conjoining and I am fine.  Really.  I am fine.

Quelle Jour de la Semaine?

Thursday 12th May

For as long as I can remember I have woken thinking, “Today is Thursday” or whatever day of the week it is.  In fact I always know what day of the week it is, and when I get to the Café and head up the little sales pad I always record the day “Jeudi” or whatever day it might be, in French. This comes automatically just like the numbers; at least up to seventy, but the French habit of not having an Eighty but Quatre Vingts (four twenties) still confuses me, especially in le Supermarche when they rattle out the amount due trop vite pour me.

My French is getting better, slowly. Painfully slowly I think at times, and it doesn’t help that most of our customers are either English, or French who speak much better English than I do their language.  But sometimes, if I am engaged in conversation I catch myself actually thinking in French, or the limited French I know, and not rapidly translating in my head. I suppose I will consider myself fluent when I wake up and say to myself “Ce jour est Jeudi”.

And we constantly meet English people who have lived out here for a number of years who can barely say “Bonjour”.  The lazy English take the easy option of expecting everyone else in the World to speak their language; victims of our earlier World domination when three-quarters of the globe was either painted pink, or America (which was really English anyway) or places nobody wanted to live (like China or Russia).  Other nations automatically teach their kids English, as it is the language of Commerce, whereas languages are considered a choice in the UK rather than a necessity.  C’est la vie…..