Remain Will Win

Monday 20th June

In the last few days I have been more and more concerned that Leave would win.  The ever un-reliable polls were showing steady if unspectacular leads for the Brexiteers, but of course opinion polls are just that, they are not a reliable predictor of what people will actually do on polling day.  And there are a lot of brave shouters about, who, suddenly released from the polite constraints of normal politics, are able to express their innate prejudices in a raucous manner, but who on quiet reflection may not actually vote Leave.  Just as we saw with the Scottish Referendum two years ago, there were opinion polls showing a Leave (Yes) lead but as polling day actually arrived the polls narrowed and in the end there was an almost ten point wn for staying part of the UK.  Not that that settled the question of course, and despite the surge in support for the SNP I think that if there were another Scottish referendum held now they would still vote to stay.

And of course the sad and tragic death of Jo Cox has sobered a lot of the debate. Although there is sometimes a mob mentality among the English there is also a deep reserve of loving and caring understanding.  And especially among women, who though they may not like the idea that we are moving more and more into an integrated multicultural world, who may tut when they read in the Mail about Polish shops on their High Streets, who may agree with their neighbours that there are too many foreigners over here, understand that the debate and the rhetoric may have gone too far. Some of the headlines have been ludicrous and close to racist, but at the end of the day they are just headlines.  And the Remain camps message, driven home with ever more ridiculous blows of the hammer of made-up statistics and predictions of doom, is gradually hitting home.

At least the whole referendum campaign may have woken people up to realise that politics matter, that decisions taken, both in our name and actually by us, will affect our lives.  It will be interesting to see the turnout figures, which in Scotland were very high and have remained high.  If nothing else good comes out of this the very fact that people are having to think through the arguments is a positive.  And, you read it here first – Remain will win.

N – is for Laura Nyro

Sunday 19th June

I don’t really know that much about Laura, but I think she was from New York.  She came to fame in the mid-sixties and was really the first of the female singer-singwriters.  She played piano and sang Blues and Soul with a voice, that though she was white you could swear was black.  Her songs were covered by many other artists, the most famous probably being Barbara Streisand, who had a hit with Stoney End in the Sixties.  Laura was a great influence on many female singers, she made them realise it was possible to sing your own songs get them recorded.  But strangely her best record in my opinion was one she made of covers of Tamla Motown songs “Gonna Take A Miracle” where she was backed by a black trio Labelle.  The songs are clearer and I think more vivid than the originals, Laura adds something, some sense of space and clarity to such well-known songs as “I met him on a Sunday’ and ‘Jimmy Mack’ and ‘You Really Got a Hold On Me.’

But when the singer-songwriter boom of the early Seventies took off Laura got left behind and faded into some sort of obscurity.  She died quite young too, in 1997 of cancer aged just 49, her best years long behind her.  I have collected most of her records, now available on CD and still enjoy her bluesy and individual soulful voice.  If she had recorded no other song but Stoney End I would still love her.


A Day to be Happy – A Day to be Sad

Saturday 18th June

Watching the long anticipated football match between England and Wales on Thursday afternoon we had the usual frustrating experience of England under-performing.  We had almost all the possession and peppered the Welsh goal relentlessly but still couldn’t score.  Then they did – another wonder free-kick from Gareth Bale.  But second half we equalized and then in the very last minute we scored the winner –and all England could breathe a sigh of relief.  And happiness; the dream was still alive.  And Wales are still in with a chance too, so a good result all round.

And then the news came on, and we were shocked and saddened to hear of the murder of Jo Cox, a new Labour M.P for Batley and Spen.  She was shot and then stabbed by a man attending her weekly surgery.

There has been an awful lot of cynicism about our M.P.s of late; the expenses scandal, awarding themselves large pay-rises and pensions.  It has been all too easy to see then as skivers, benefit scroungers even, as much of their housing costs are paid for out of the public purse.  But I have always contended that many, if not the vast majority of M.P.s put themselves forward from the best of motives and sincerely want to help make other people’s live better.  And none more so than Jo, who was an aid worker and a fantastic local M.P.  And a mother and wife too, we must never forget that.  Whatever the motives or mental state of her assailant, and there are rumours that he shouted “Britain First” as he attacked her, it was a terrible thing to happen.

So, a day for happiness and also a day for sadness.

Rupert’s Revenge

Friday 17th June

The Sun newspaper, which still has the largest circulation despite generally falling sales, has finally come out positively for the Leave campaign.  Their headline a couple of days ago was “Be Leave In Britain.”  And you have to hand it to the Sun headline writers, it is a classic if very simple message, combining the message with a sadly misplaced Nationalism.  Was there really any doubt which way the Sun, or actually the machinations of Rupert Murdoch, would swing?  Murdoch started his illustrious career in Australia but then moved to the U.K. where he supported Thatcher and her right-wing agenda to the hilt, being rewarded by being allowed to both buy The Times and to buy BSB and turn it into BSkyB and eventually Sky.  He then moved to and became an American and has been anti Europe ever since.

In 1997 he switched sides and backed the winner-to-be Tony Blair.  And maybe that is the real story here.  Not Rupert’s supposed Anti-Europeanism but the fact that he is astute and likes to back a winner.  Cameron to win in 2010 was a no-brainer.  But then came phone-hacking and Rupert’s closing The News of the World and having to be dragged in front of a parliamentary committee to defend his papers and his own reputation.  He has never really forgiven Cameron.  But in 2015 he still supported him, possibly he couldn’t be seen to support Ed Milliband at that time.  But now with Cameron reeling on the ropes he sees his moment for revenge and to back a winner at the same time.

The polls have been sliding around but are beginning to coalesce on a Brexit victory.  Who knows what headlines there will be on Tuesday, Wednesday and Polling day next week “Please Release Us, Let Us Go (for we don’t love you anymore)” or “Goodnight Vienna” or “We Are The Champions” – if England manage to get out of their group.  Whatever , we can bet the rhetoric will be ramped up to fever pitch.  And the Sun on Friday may be saying again “It was the Sun What Won It.”  We will see, but in a way this is a turning point, the Sun may just have called it right and Rupert will get his revenge.


No Time to Think

Thursday 16th June

Phew, what a few days.  We have had a new kitchen installed, and I have been helping, or hindering – whichever way you want to interpret it.  We have had an electrician wiring in the new oven and hob, and the plumber putting in a shower in one of the guest bedrooms and the new kitchen sink.  A sort of organised chaos, and amazingly it has all come together at the last minute.  We had guests arriving yesterday, and the plumber was still connecting sinks and showers as they arrived.  But remember, this is France and nothing is ever done on time.  We chose our kitchen at the beginning of May; the carcases were available in the shop and we took them home in the back of the car, but we had to order the doors.  Pas de problem, they will arrive in three weeks.  Of course, they didn’t.  Prochaine semaine, (next week) and next week was the same story.  In fact we didn’t have the doors the day the kitchen was about to be installed.  When I phoned and spoke to Christel, who we ordered the doors from, she said (you guessed – pas de problem, prochaine semaine).  I said to her in my poor French, but you say that every week.  Oui, she agreed with me.  And, I said, the doors never arrive.  Oui, she agreed with me, without any sign of embarrassment.  And so we went round in circles with her insisting that the doors would arrive next week, as she had done for several weeks already.

Anyway, BINGO.  Some of the doors arrived on Tuesday.  So, I take it all back Christel.  You were right all along – the doors will arrive next week.  But not all of them.  In fact about half  of them have still not arrived.  When will they be delivered Christel?  Ah, a different story this time – the remaining doors will arrive early July, J’espere (I hope) says our dear Christel.  Anyway, we have more than half a kitchen.  Lovely cupboards and worktops but only a few doors, but we do have a cooker and a sink.

But it feels as if I have had no time to think at all; busy helping to carry up heavy cupboards and work-tops and then sweeping and mopping up sawdust, as well as trying to help run the café.  Well, we can now breathe a sigh of relief, our visitors have arrived and tomorrow (today) and for four days we will have no building work, no sawdust, no mess.  And at last – a little time to think.

2066 – A Word from Janek’s Observer

Wednesday 15th June

-[And so our dear friend Janek appears to be progressing amazingly well.  His renowned sense of humour seems to be returning also, and though there were always fears of a personality change I think we can still detect enough of the old Janek in amongst his super-brain observations.

His insistence on speeding up the programme did cause us some heated discussions.  We have had failures in the recent past, although in Janek’s case he seemed to thrive on this unprecedented level of conjoining, receiving an almost unlimited burst of data into his brain.  I had received only about 10% more analyzing power in my own four year-ago partial conjoining and took months to recover my full functions.  I have benefited incredibly from this heightened clarity of thinking and analyzing.  I can only imagine how brilliant it must be to be inside the brain of Janek Smith, who has received so much more.

Many were rejected before attempted conjoining.  It is a long and laborious process, but one designed to weed out weakness, to (to use an old saying) separate the wheat from the chaff.  I can report that chaff does tend to outweigh wheat by almost ten to one.  Of course with the super-evolved children we are now breeding this ratio is bound to improve.  And the results have not been uniform, although certainly some discernible improvement has been measured in all conjoinees.  And the famous second stage conjoining has only been theory so far, we have never actually tried it.  So, all our ideas were and are subject to correction.  Janek was correct also as to the continued fitness regime, all the data was showing no benefit at all by continuing, so he was allowed to rest and to browse the supernet, absorbing as much knowledge as he wanted until the date for his second conjoining, the fifth of November.

You may be interested in my own progress, by the way.  I have been promoted, and now rather than just having observer status, I am an integral part of the team supervising Janek.  This was partly because of my success in ‘turning’ him, from potential ‘reb’ into MIP number one.  (Most Important Person, by the way, a rather ridiculous and unnecessary designation; still, anything to please the Americans, who seem to like this nonsense.)  In truth I did very little.  Although, as is often the case, there may have been more skill in appearing to do very little than all of those running around and shouting have achieved.   And maybe, even though our meetings were many and long (only a very few have been included in this document, but up-loadable appendix number 3 contains full transcripts) I was able to establish some sort of a bond with Janek.  Despite his dismissive comments, (humour of a very black and dry variety you could say) I feel that he liked me.  I certainly liked him.  Of course, the opportunities for old-fashioned friendships are not in the nature of the work we are embarked upon.  In fact friendships are not encouraged in our world at all.  After all, the random non-sexual attraction and desire for reciprocality are time-wasting and offer no material advantage, rather they are potential hazards.  A hostage to future fortunes if ever there were one.  Nevertheless, and despite the roles we were forced to play of Interrogator and Prisoner, in another time and place, maybe we would have at least seen each other as equals.]-

Dumb All Over

Tuesday 14th June

Frank Zappa, one of my musical heroes, once had a song “Dumb All Over”.  It was mostly about Conservative Christians in America in the Eighties, who have co-incidentally grown into the Tea Party, who in their turn have moved Republican Politics onto the fringes of Lunacy, where moderate voices are drowned out and all we hear is the hoarse bellow of Donald Trump.  Poor old Frank, who died over ten years ago; at least he didn’t live to see his prophecy come true.  America seems to have gone ‘Dumb All Over’, as we see the beaming flag-waving hordes chanting, with Donald as cheerleader, “We’re Gonna Make America Great Again.”

The truth is that America is still great, and in many ways America remains the ‘Saviour of Last Resort’ if only they knew it.  Obama has re-kindled the World’s faith in America again, after Bush did his best to destroy it.  By gentleness and wisdom and reaching out and talking to their enemies America is once again respected.  And while economically it is true that China is catching up fast, in the modern technologies of bio-science and computers and electronics America is still leading the field.  But Donald has tapped into a rich seam of ‘Dumbness’.  The same seam being mined vociferously over here by Nigel and Boris.  They hack away each day (just like the night nadgers in that old TV toothpaste ad) at our insecurities, blaming immigrants and playing on our fears of losing jobs or being ill and no NHS there to protect us, when all the while they have been complicit in selling off our assets and privatising the health system.  And we are ‘Dumb All Over’ not to see it.  And now the roller-coaster of ‘Dumbness’ is fast approaching the very cliff of Reason, and as opinion polls start to predict a win for ‘Dumbness’ many will want to jump on the ‘winning’ bandwagon.  They are even using the same slogan as Donald – “We can be Great again, (once we throw off the shackles of Brussels and go it alone.)”

Who knows?  I have a great fear that ‘Dumbness’ might win over sense; stupidity succeed over intelligence and Donald will win and we will leave Europe.  And that will leave us, a small off-shore island, that America might still want to sell stuff to, but no longer any sort of special friend.  A dumb island led by dumb leaders and ignored by an even dumber country led downhill by even dumber people.

Have a nice day now, y’all.…


Monday 13th June

Some are born into DIY – hammers and drills fit in their competent hands like gloves and I can imagine they were putting up shelves before they could walk – no task defeats them, or even worries them, they know instantly which size screw or rawl-plug or washer or electrical connection is needed.  And they always succeed.  First time too.  And every job is perfection; no botchiness in sight, immaculately sawn wood, screws aligned horizontally and exactly spaced, leaks – absolutely none in sight.  They automatically have a tool for every job, and all in perfect condition, often hanging up in rows in their work-shed.  They even have those leather belts with loops for screwdrivers and pockets for screws; they never leave the house without a state of the art retractable tape measure, a set of pocket screwdrivers and a pocket spirit level.  Aaargh, don’t they just make you sick.

Some assume DIY-ness.  After long practice and careful reading of manuals and Christmas present books on DIY, these plucky amateurs eventually master the mysterious arts of home plumbing, electrics and plastering, sometimes at the third attempt.  They are really clever too, because they go on the internet before starting a job, watch You-tube videos and most importantly of all, make sure they have all the tools and equipment before they start.  Talented amateurs, they do a pretty good job, though they may occasionally have to resort to phoning a plumber or electrician.  However they watch what these experts are doing, and next time do it themselves.  I have nothing but praise (and a little envy) for these guys.

Some have DIY thrust upon them.  Either through lack of money, or a totally naïve sense of how difficult a task is, or an over-zealous wife who nags him into submission, our hero sets out full of a confidence sadly misplaced and a bare minimum of often rusty or blunt tools and manages to bodge everything.  Shelves tilt at crazy angles, plastic joints that should clip together leak as soon as the water is turned on, electric plugs go bang, and pots of pollyfilla are thrown at the smallest crack meaning the whole wall needs re-plastering and they get far more paint on themselves than the wall.  Cuts and grazes mean nothing as he bravely soldiers on.  The third time the hole is drilled, or the shelf is sanded, or the wall painted – he stands back, hands on hips and admires his work.  “Okay, it’s not perfect, but nobody will really notice I am sure” he thinks, and then as the enormity of his crimes descends like a dark cloud on his shoulders he swears to himself to get an expert in next time. He tosses his crappy tools in a cardboard box and tucks it away at the back of the garage.  He hates DIY; I feel sorry for this guy.

Three guesses which category I fall into.

Football Mania

Sunday 12th June

There is a certain type of madness which overtakes even the most sensible of men.  International Football competitions come round every two years, and though the European Championships are slightly less prestigious then the World Cup they are still quite exciting.  And never more so than this year, when we have four teams to support, or follow at least.  England, as usual (and I am writing this on Saturday morning before our first match) may well flatter only to deceive.  We won our qualifying group almost too easily, winning every game – but were brought down to earth by the recent friendlies where we were either not so good, or maybe quite poor, depending on who you speak to.  But there is an air of the possible about this young team, with bright young forwards; Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane were the best scorers last season in the Premier League and we seem to have almost a glut of strikers and wingers.  Midfield, we are steady if unspectacular, but our defence is still like a wobbly jelly; on the verge of slipping right off the spoon and only held together by chance and brilliant goalkeeping.  And there is always Wayne Rooney, our talisman and one-time wonder-kid, who is still capable occasionally of being brilliant.  Wales are in the finals for the first time in years (nothing to do with there now being 24, rather than only 16 team this year; meaning that 4 third placed teams out of 6 will now progress to the last 16) (apologies ladies, sorry to bore you with technicalities) and have former Spurs player Gareth Bale to lead them.  The Welsh are in the same group as England which might cause a few problems.  Northern Ireland are also in the finals, a remarkable achievement and maybe, just maybe they will do well.  There is also Ireland, though nominally a foreign country we will also support them. And we always have our adopted country of France to fall back on…

And I must admit I am mildly excited.  This is the best time in these competitions – before your side has kicked a ball and anything is possible and before we see our goalie picking the ball out of the back of the net again.  And the first game can actually be lost too and you can still qualify (hope over experience but still) so this first game, which of course we want to win, is almost a warm-up for games to come (at least two more).  So come on England, there is no side to be frightened of – except the Germans, and maybe the Italians and the Spanish, and oh, not forgetting all the others…

The Last Hurrah

Saturday 11th June

We may all be on our last hurrah, here in Eymet anyway.  Another great evening at Le Pub Gambetta and the average age (discounting a couple of young children) must have been around Seventy.  Rob Russell, the singer was a mere stripling – not even retirement age.  He was joined for the second half by his slightly older brother John, and they really rocked.

Looking round I was almost, and certainly one of the, younger ones.  And it struck me that we, the baby-boomers were maybe having our last hurrah.  Mostly retired, we are simply having a great time.  And who knows when it might end. Hopefully not for a while yet, but just in case, let’s let it rip.  There is something really wonderful about walking into the pub (or actually outside under the ancient arches) and not only knowing almost everyone, but having your hand shaken by the men or being kissed by all the women.  And everyone seems so happy to see each other again, as we do most Friday nights.  We sing along and dance to the music of our youth, or in my case of my infancy – songs we know so well and have heard down the years.  We know from the first chords what is coming and most of us know every word.  This is our music, and it certainly was the best.  We have truly been the lucky generation, born into a relatively war-free world we have had incredible increases in our standard of living, easy employment, generous pensions and most important of all – rising house prices.  For which most of us have benefited, allowing us to buy second or larger houses out here in France.  And we may be old and wrinkly but we certainly are having a great time, even if this may well be our last hurrah.  The baby boomers are going out with a bang.