The Dangers of Democracy

Tuesday 18th April

The idea of democracy is that everyone (over a certain age) has a right to express their opinion and contribute to decisions taken which affect the community, be that a parish, a town, a county or a country.  And it is very hard to argue against that.  But in practice it has been very difficult to achieve.  Because of the difficulties involved in travel and communications in most countries a form of delegated democracy has emerged; where local areas elect a representative to speak for them in the Parliament or Congress or whatever we may call it. There is also the idea that elected delegates should be capable of listening to differing arguments and balance this with the wishes of their electorate and their own conscience.  But, as we have discovered people tend to join together to form ‘Parties’ which act in concert, sometimes to achieve good things but often to subvert and force members to act against their own ideas.  Such is our level of Democracy.

In Britain we also have a ‘first past the post system’ which often results in a delegate being elected with well short of even 50% of the votes cast, which must leave a majority of voters dissatisfied.  Proportional Representation should, in theory at least, elect representatives more evenly reflecting the actual votes cast.

Then we have referendums.  Again, it is quite hard to argue against this.  The people are asked directly for their opinion on a subject and the majority wins.  The trouble with this, and actually all forms of voting, is that the vast majority of people are simply not that interested in Politics.  They will complain when things are tough and often vote out a Government seen as failing.  But, more often than not, it is the Media which determines Public Opinion.  For example; the policies espoused by Labour at present are generally well received and ‘popular’, but the Media has presented Jeremy Corbyn as ‘unelectable’.  Which he may well end up being, but whether this is because people have actually listened to him, or have had their minds made up by the Media is debatable. There is also the problem with a referendum that shades of opinion cannot be measured; it is a simple yes or no.  And we then may face the tyranny of the Majority over often a size-able Minority.

Also, most elections are not ‘fair’, in that money spent can often determine the result, or Media coverage and opinion disguised as news will sway people.  There is also I am afraid to admit of my fellow voters a tendency to follow the crowd, or jump on the bandwagon; people seem to prefer to back a winner (or who they are told will be the winner) rather than use their own judgement.  In fact most people do not want to be consulted about most things, or of course to be held responsible in any way; that is what Politicians are for, stupid.  But unless anyone can actually come up with a benign and incorruptible form of Dictatorship we are stuck with Democracy – with all its imperfections and dangers.

Death Is Not The End

Monday 17th April

From an early age, we are aware of growing up, of ageing and life’s final ending, death itself.  And pretty soon too, we are faced with the devastating idea that death is the end, of our hopes and dreams, our thoughts, our pleasures and pains; no more living at all, we simply cease to exist.  Well that seems to be the evidence, once the heart stops and the brain is deprived of oxygen and our other vital organs stop working we are dead.  So, when someone came along with the idea of ‘life after death’ it soon caught on.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful not to actually die at all. Or having died, to rise up and exist in some parallel ‘Universe’ where we could once again meet our loved ones who had gone before us.

Of course, it is no co-incidence that I am writing this for Easter, where according to legend and a notorious ‘ganglion basher’, Jesus defied death and came back to life.  And I do not intend to upset anyone of a religious persuasion.  Believe away.  It is of no consequence to me.  Whatever makes you happy…

But if you really think about it, do we really want to live again, in any sort of ‘heaven’ or any other place?  Life, while we are who we are and where we are is precious and we understandably cling to it, but as most of us will die with wasted bodies and possibly minds too, for many the end may not come too soon.  It is only the process of dying we fear, not the state of being dead.  Though previous generations may have feared the eventual interrogation at the pearly gates…

But there is of course life after death too.  In a physical sense the atoms we are made of will be re-absorbed into the air or the earth and may well emerge as other life one day.  But as even the ‘Re-incarnation believers insist’ we will know nothing of our previous existence.  Just as well, all things considered.  But we will live on in people’s memories.  I often think about my Nana and Grandad, long gone but never forgotten.  And if we were lucky enough to have painted a picture or written a book, some physical artifact will remain too, or it may simply be great Aunt Maud’s plant stand.  And now of course e-mails and facebook posts never die, they will live on forever too.

And in a far more important way we should try to leave something of ourselves behind, some good things we may have done, some kindness performed.  We should all strive to leave the World in a slightly better state than when we came into it.  And as I have said before, everything matters, every little detail – and yet at the same time in the grand scheme of things, nothing really matters at all.  But this life is the only one we can be sure of, so we should do our best to do our best.  Now go and enjoy your Easter eggs, you won’t be able to when you are dead.

Bombs and Babies

Sunday 16th April

We are back to the days of bombs; in fact we have never left those days behind.  Ever since the invention of cannons, Generals have safely sat astride a horse or a desk and directed artillery at the enemy.  And with the invention of the aeroplane, how simple it is to drop a bomb from the belly of a plane, just like delivering a baby into the world; lots of squealing and pain and the proud daddy chomping on a cigar in another room.

Our generation lived through the Cuban missile crisis, when Kruschev and Kennedy faced off, and eventually Kruschev blinked.  It is easy to make threats but far harder to back down.  And we know that aggression is almost always met by more aggression, as both sides puff up their chests and rattle their antlers and huff and puff and hope that one or the other backs down and walks away.  And oh, how easy it is now with inter-continental missiles to launch one of these babies at pretty puny countries like Afghanistan or Syria or Iraq; our leaders know these ‘David’ countries don’t have the slings to hit back at us ‘Goliaths’.

And we have a President now who is anti-abortion, after all who can deny the beauty of a new baby – and yet who like those who went before him doesn’t hesitate to bomb other countries into the stone-age, men and women and babies and all.  So concerned about the sanctity of life….Oh yes, we are sorry for ‘collateral damage’ but this, in their perverted logic, is the fault of the Saddams and Bashars who have tweaked the noses of America or the West and who will not bow down when we threaten them.  So we resort to bombs and drones; little danger of the embarrassment of returning body bags to American soil that way.

And is it any co-incidence that these babies, these ‘Mother of all Bombs’ bear such a remarkable resemblance to a penis?  Male power projected over those defenceless populations.  And if even one of the big ones really gets nasty and we resort to bombing North Korea or the Russians in Ukraine or the Iranians at the behest of Isreal who knows just what Pandora’s box we will open, or if we will ever be able to close the lid again.

But let’s not worry about that, let us enjoy our chocolate cake, “a really big one, maybe the most perfect chocolate cake ever” as we deliver a few more of these babies into the World.

So Busy

Saturday 15th April

I have always been a busy person, rushing from one job to another seems to be my permanent default mode.  Maybe it’s because I cannot bear to think of a job waiting to be done – I cannot put off till tomorrow what can be done today.  Or maybe I am just OCDC or whatever the pet phrase is now.  I was brought up with phrases such as ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’ ringing in my ears; even as a child I had my jobs to do around the house, whether it was washing up (or more likely drying, as Dad always seemed to be the one who got the washing up chore) or polishing the families’ shoes, I was always busy.  But even when I am relaxing (hahaha) I am quickly catching up on the news, or trying to get a few pages of reading under my belt.  And remember all those promises I made to myself beginning “when I retire”.  Haha…retirement seems even busier.  As well as a tight decorating schedule (self-imposed I must add) there is the café to open in the mornings, and to close up at lunchtime, and this evening we have a ‘pop-up’ restaurant again, so it was hoovering and moving and laying up tables and sorting out the wines for tonight.  And little Polly, one of our dogs, has been a bit poorly so another visit to the vets, and suddenly the day has gone.

And you may (or may not, of course) have noticed that I have missed a few days blogs lately.  Just too busy; we have had some glorious weather and the lawn needs cutting and the hedges need trimming and people keep inviting us to barbeques or dinners, and we seem to have no time for anything.  At least we aren’t sitting in high backed chairs, propped up with cushions and watching Jeremy Kyle all day….


Jane knew her sister was only teasing her, goading her into a reaction, but she could be really cutting sometimes.  Harriet called it wit, but Jane thought it was something meaner really; some nastiness that was inside her that came out when she wanted to hurt someone.  And more and more Jane felt it was her she wanted to hurt.  And she could never think of something to say back to her, until much later when the moment was gone.   She would only say these cruel things to appear clever, and she never kept it up, she would come over and put her arm round Jane’s shoulder and say, ‘Come on Jane, you know I never meant anything by it, it’s just my way.  You know that, don’t you?  Now come on, let’s go down the Mikado and see what new records they have on the jukebox.’  And Jane would buck herself up, put away her tears and follow her.  Harriet always knew she would follow her; she would have followed her to the ends of the earth.

10)     And suddenly they were nearly grown…

Harriet didn’t know why Jane kept going on and on about music all the time.  She was obsessed by certain songs, playing them over and over on the little Dansette they shared until Harriet was so bored she had to leave the room.  Harriet agreed that it was all good stuff but music wasn’t everything, was it?  It was more like a backdrop, a scene-setter if you like.  It was meeting people and making an impression that was the thing for her.  She sometimes had to literally drag Jane out of her bedroom, where she would be sitting cross-legged on her bed reading the lyrics and sleeve-notes as she listened over and over to her latest LP.

‘Come on Jane, let’s go out.’  she would say.

‘Oh, I’m alright here, Harriet.’ Jane would reply, ‘You go and enjoy yourself, I just want to listen to a few records.’

‘You can listen to new records with me.  Come on, I’m meeting a few friends in the Mikado, then we might go on to a party.’  Harriet would suggest.

‘Do you really need me, Harriet?’ as she at last would put the Album sleeve down and actually acknowledge that her sister was in the room.  Harriet didn’t need to ask her all the time, she thought she could have just as much fun on her own.

‘No, I have never needed you Jane, but I would like you to come with me.’  Smiling her sweetest smile, the one she kept for Jane alone, she would drag her sister away from her records and out with her.  It wasn’t that Harriet had to drag her along, but when Jane forgot herself and had a couple of drinks she was good fun, and at least she was an excuse if things got a bit heavy and Harriet needed an excuse to leave.

Jane and Harriet were really becoming something in the tired little backwater.  They were definitely happening; which given that everything seemed at least a couple of years behind London in Suffolk, was an achievement in itself.  But the times were changing fast, with television and radio in every home they couldn’t be as out of touch as their parents must have been.

Harriet watched Ready Steady Go, not for the bands so much but for the girls in the London studio, and what they were wearing.  She noted it all down, and bought all the latest fashion mags too, so she was always one step ahead of the game.  Her father was easy to touch up for a few quid, he couldn’t say no to her, and off she would head to Ipswich and a couple of little shops that were calling themselves Boutiques by now, and she would have the latest gear before everyone else.   She used to pass on her old stuff to Jane, they were practically the same size, and together they would wow everyone at parties and pubs.  Harriet knew lots of older boys in the sixth form and would cadge an invite to parties most weekends, sometimes miles out in the country too.  Their poor father would drive out to pick the girls up all over the place.  And actually Suffolk was such a small place, that everyone seemed to know everyone else, so they were straightaway into the in-crowd.

*  * *

And for Jane it wasn’t just what the Music sounded like that was important in itself, that edge was always essential; when Music settled into complacency, it is always time to move on.  What the Music said was always as important as the sound.  It was that strange conjunction of words and melody that result in Music, or music that matters.  And yes the Beatles lyrics were superficial at first, but somehow even when they were doing covers of American Rock’n’Roll, they had enough edge to overcome the meaningless words.  Their own stuff, the songs they wrote said it all though.  And it was a lot about sex, but not sex as titillation, but sex as a form of rebellion.  A rebelling against the old ways of doing things, it spoke straight to young people, and was so obviously bloody right that they got it straightaway.

Jane wasn’t really aware at first of the sex in their songs, but it didn’t escape Harriet’s attention.  Harriet was crazy about John, but Jane liked them all, and she had the softest spot for George, the quiet one.  She thought he was definitely the sexiest, by a country mile, and being from the country she knew just how long that could be.  And the fortunate time it hit her, when her own body was changing, and she was suddenly aware of everyone else around her, both girls and boys, was the big life-changing force she needed.

She had always been quiet, much quieter than Harriet.  She was such a dominant character, she always had the ideas a few seconds before Jane, or anyone else come to that, that she had fallen into the habit of letting her do all the inventing, the connecting, the talking, the showing off really.  Jane was always reflected in her light anyway, Harriet’s sister she was introduced as, and it became an instant entry into any group.  Everyone knew Harriet, or knew of her, so her sister must be something special too.  And Jane didn’t disappoint them; though quite shy really, when she was with Harriet she was almost as brilliant as her.

Sunny Saturday

Sunday 9th April

It has been a wonderful sunny Saturday.  The week has been very good, the weather improving every day and today it was absolutely wonderful.  In England this may well have been one of the best days of the entire Summer, and we are only just into Spring here in the Dordogne.  Wall to wall sunshine today.  You could almost hear the sound of hands scrabbling in thousands of wardrobes, dragging out sandals and shorts.  And the air was full of the sound of lawns being mown and hedges clipped as we took advantage of the wonderful weather to try to stop some of this mad Spring growth, or at least contain it’s excesses.

I had mown the lawn yesterday but had a rose bush to plant.  We are gradually tidying up the quite large garden we got with the house; there were three metre high ( three posts of one metre ) metal posts with a wire fence attached.  This was half buried under the thick hedge that grows around three sides of the garden, but a bit of an eyesore.  The posts were buried, I eventually discovered, at least a foot and a half in the ground, and the limited access meant it was a tough job extricating them.  I even bent one of the prongs of the garden fork trying to dig them up.  Got there eventually.  Well, it was me or the posts, and I wasn’t giving up.  Exhausting work, but very satisfying.  A trip to the decheterie is looming soon.

And to wrap up the day we will be going to see Kenny belt out a few songs and have a curry from the Bombay Busserie at Allemans tonight.  Great Day…here comes Summer.

Rings On Her Fingers

Saturday 8th April

The nursery rhyme we sang as little children goes..”Rings on her fingers, bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes”.  I cannot remember much else except these lines.  But I am just like the young girl in the song – I must have music wherever I go.  And somehow I have contrived to achieve just, or almost that.  I try to listen to music every day, at least a couple of albums.  I have almost always managed this.  Of course it was easier when I lived on my own, I could have the music blaring and no-one to complain.  But since I am happily married I have to take into account another person’s sensibilities and taste.  I manage about an hour in the morning on my own setting up the café, and then when I am painting or some other household repair or gardening I listen again.  It is almost always from the laptop nowadays or on my Walkman.  And I agree, digital sound, even with semi-decent speakers, isn’t that brilliant.  But it is better than nothing.

I used to have quite a good set-up in the old days.  Record player, double cassette player, amplifier and large speakers.  But one by one they have failed or no longer work so well, and I have not replaced them.  You never know, I always promise myself to buy a decent system again one day.  But our lives out here are so busy I am not sure I would really find the time to just sit and listen.  Not that I ever really did that; I would usually paint or write while the music played.  And in a strange way it almost doesn’t matter how you listen to the music, it is what you listen to that is important.  So now my Walkman is my ‘bells on my toes’ and my laptop which has all my music on it and with a small but powerful speaker is the rings on my fingers – and I SHALL have music wherever I go.


Friday 7th April

And once June’s mother was dead she found that she really was on her own, which is strange because she had never felt that close to her while she was alive.  She almost didn’t have any relatives, well, older relatives left at all, just her sister – and between her sister and her loomed the great problem of Ted; who would end up with him, and the bitterness that would inevitably cause.  June’s father had a sister who lived up North somewhere, and they had last seen her at his funeral when June must only have been about thirteen.  They sent a letter to the last address they had for her telling her about mother’s funeral, but they didn’t receive a reply, maybe she had moved.  It was such a quiet little funeral, Phil and June. and Julie and Ted and a couple of neighbours from before their mother went into the home, it was driving rain and bitterly cold, and no-one wanted to hang about.  Phil suggested they go for a drink, but they had no idea where they might find a pub, so they all got back in the Bentley and drove around for a bit, then with no-one actually suggesting it, they drove back to Stowmarket and had tea at June’s house.  Phil drove Julie and Ted home, but not before Ted had managed to speak to June alone, on the pretext of helping her bring the tea in. He said that he thought they should lie low for a bit, take a sort of break for a couple of months or so.  June felt sick inside, was he saying that this was the end.

He saw the look on her face, and quickly put his hand on her forearm and said, “Only for a bit love, I think Julie might suspect something, that’s all.  She’s been very moody lately and keeps saying her life is in a rut.  I just keep worrying she might be watching me, so best to lie low for a bit.  But I promise you this June, you are the thing I loves best in the whole world, and nothing will ever change that.  Now, you take the milk and sugar and I’ll take the teapot and cups.”

*  * *

And all too soon they were laying Phil’s father to rest and he was blubbing like a baby.  He was amazed to see so many people there, but he had been such a popular doctor and the church was filled to over-brimming with Consultants and Sisters and even the nurses turned out in their smart white and blue uniforms.  Phil was meant to say a few words after the vicar had finished, but although he had promised his mother, in the end he had to bow his head and wave no at the vicar as he was suddenly overcome with nerves and a great big wave of grief mixed with self-pity came over him.  June gripped his hand and tried to steady him, but he just couldn’t stop sobbing.  It was because he felt that he had let the old man down, he died thinking Phil had turned out well, but neither he nor anyone else knew what a failure Phil really considered himself.  Here he was, this successful solicitor, with a big house and looked up to by all and sundry, but when you looked closer it was all mortgaged to the hilt, not only the house but his life.  He was in debt up to his eyeballs, loans everywhere and no real hope of getting clear, he could barely make the repayments most months, let alone start repaying the capital.  Everything he seemed to touch fell apart, nothing was working out and his own Dad had never owed a penny in his life, he would have been horrified if he had found out.

So would everyone, of course, Jones at work, and June and the girls, what would they say if they had any idea of the mess he was in.  And mixed up with his own self-pity were all these confused feelings about his Dad.  He had so dominated Phil’s early years, and even when he was away at University Phil felt he was doing it all for him, as if his wishes meant more than his own.  And so he just stood there useless and blubbing, when he should have been telling the congregation what a marvelous man his father had been.  He just stood there trying to stifle his sobbing; even here he knew he was letting his father down.  June next to him rubbed his arm and whispered, ‘It’s alright Phil.’  He looked over to his mother, but she had her hankie to her eyes and didn’t seem to notice.  Thank goodness the girls weren’t there to see him crying.

*  * *

All of a sudden Jane’s grandparents were dying all around her, first Nana, and then her Granddad from Norwich.  They weren’t allowed to go to the funerals; children weren’t encouraged to in those days she supposed.  Jane really missed them though, she knew they hadn’t seen them in ages, but they were still her family, and they used to always visit at Christmas and Birthdays.  Jane couldn’t stop crying when Dad told the girls, especially Granddad, but maybe that was because she hadn’t known he was ill at all; Nana had been in a home for a couple of years, and Mummy used to visit her, and tell them how poorly she was.  But Jane hadn’t been expecting her Granddad to be ill, it was all so quick and only a couple of months after Nana, it just got to her badly and she couldn’t stop crying for days.  Jane used to love spending Christmas at Norwich with her other Nana and Granddad, it was very old-fashioned, their house, stuck in the nineteen forties with big table lamps and old threadbare sofa and chairs, and a big wooden radio and no television at all.  Jane’s house was much bigger but never felt so cosy somehow, always a bit too untidy and uncared for.  Harriet said she was silly to cry for them, that she was just crying for myself really.  And maybe that was a little bit true, but she didn’t have to say it; Jane thought Harriet could be really cruel sometimes.

*  * *

Jane cried when Granddad died, ‘but then she cried at anything’ thought Harriet.  She used to catch her crying at plays on the television.  ‘Didn’t she realise it was all make-believe; it wasn’t real life for goodness sake.’ reasoned the older girl.  ‘And Granddad was old when he died, and so was Mum’s Mum, they were both really old.  I mean did she expect people to live forever, the place would be a bit crowded if they did, don’t you think Jane?’  They didn’t really know them that well either, they only used to go there at Christmas when Dad dragged them there in the Bentley for another boring day.  So she really didn’t know what Jane was thinking about with all that crying stuff, maybe she was just looking for a bit of attention herself.  Harriet told her to buck herself up a bit, she would have to get used to people dying as she got older, it would be Mum and Dad’s turn next.

“How can you say that?  Harriet, you are so horrid, I hate you.”

“And I love you too, Janey dear.  Don’t worry it won’t be for ages.  You’ll have to live most of your life first, before they die.  You know; get married, have a load of kids, wipe their bums for them and send them off into the world, and then your job will be done, and you can get ready to bury Mum and Dad.”

I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again

Thursday 6th April

Why is that some songs just get under your skin and when the first few bars begin you simply cannot stop yourself from singing along with them.  Not without some embarrassment either at times.  For years I was affected by “Yellow River” – one of the most inane of melodies, but actually the simpler the melody the more I find I am drawn to sing-along.  And so it is with “Gonna Be A Country Girl Again”. Buffy Sainte-Marie wrote and recorded it for the 1968 album of the same name.  She had released a clutch of ‘folk’ albums earlier, but with an occasional country style jig, often played on mouth-harp by Buffy.  But ‘Country Girl’ was an all-out and fairly traditional country album,  which at the time seemed strange as Buffy, half Indian was better known for songs about Indian injustices.  We grew up with the notion of cowboys and ‘injuns’ killing each other but it was actually almost always the U.S. cavalry which caused the genocide of the Indian nations in the nineteenth century.  Cowboys were simply that, hired hands who drove cattle from the plains to cities like Chicago to be butchered.  But country music had become associated with cowboys too, as during the forties and fifties country stars donned chaps and cowboy hats to popularize this music.

Anyway, I bought the record and fell in love with it.  Full of great songs, haunting ballads and sing-alongs.  None more so than the title track

“The rain is falling lightly on the buildings and the cars

I’ve said goodbye to city friends, department stores and bars

The lights of town are at my back, my heart is full of stars

And I’m gonna be a country girl again”

….And it gets worse, or cornier still..

“Oh yes, I’m gonna be a country girl again

With an old brown dog and a big front porch and rabbits in the pen”

….rabbits in the pen????  What was she thinking of?  But somehow the dire lyrics don’t matter at all, the tune is all.  And as soon as it starts up, there I am dancing round the room and singing “Oh yes, I’m gonna be a country girl again”

Great stuff, listen to it on you-tube and your life will never be the same again….hahaha

I'M Gonna Be A Country Girl Again

Two Hours Isn’t Enough

Wednesday 5th April

I fly to and from Stansted every four weeks, and I always allow two hours before take-off.  Not because it takes two hours, but I like to relax, have a breakfast in Coast to Coast and…well, you never know, better to be safe than sorry.  I was flying back yesterday but this time I had a case to check in.  A long story, suffice to say I had to for the first time, check in a case as well as hand-luggage.  So, I allowed a bit more time and got to the airport almost three hours early.  Now I have always thought the two-hour rule a bit of an exaggeration; normally I sail through Security in about ten or fifteen minutes and then have over an hour to relax before my flight is allocated a gate number.  It is probably years since I checked in a case at all and I usually walk blithely past the check-in desks barely noticing them on my way to Security.

Yesterday though I couldn’t believe how many people there were.  I looked up at the big board and my flight was checking in at over ten desks.  But with a sickening realization as I got nearer the desks themselves I realized that only two of the ten desks were actually manned.  And worse still the vast seething crowd were all queuing up for the solitary two desks.  There was a Ryanair official walking around with a clipboard who apologized and said that due to staff shortages only two desks were open.  I still had two and a half hours but the queues snaking round the room didn’t seem to be moving.  I started to panic and I must now confess that I cheated and walked halfway up the queue and just sort-of hung around looking aimless until I felt that nobody had noticed and assumed my new place in the queue.  It still took an hour to get to the desk and check in the wretched case.  Then Security, and again masses of people and several belts not working.  Maybe it was bad planning, maybe just the beginning of the Easter school holidays but again it took an hour to get through Security.  Just in time for my gate number to be called and scurry off for my flight.  So, two hours was definitely not long enough.  In fact I wonder if some of those queueing may have actually missed their flights as I would have if I hadn’t jumped the queue.  Worst of all I missed my breakfast…but at least I didn’t miss my flight.