The World We Are Living In

Tuesday 4th April

Everything seems to have changed overnight, it is as if I have woken up in a strange world – one I barely recognize.  But actually it has been changing for some time; I just didn’t see it coming.  The last year has seen Brexit and Trump and now we are facing the strong possibility of Marine Le Pen in France…and who knows what else.  It suddenly seems as if the World has gone crazy.  And what has really changed, what has been the driving force for this unleashing of Nationalism, this feeling of superiority to other people, almost a mood of self-pity, that others are taking our jobs, our houses, our culture even.

And I can only put it down to the internet, to social media, to people getting less of their information from the Television News and more from Facebook posts or Twitter or Instagram or whatever.  Social Media is more immediate, more direct but also far more selective.  No two people see exactly the same things on Facebook, so we are all getting a different feed of information, and mixed in with the pictures of cats and the endless selfies are subtle political messages.  I can remember during the Brexit referendum itself quite a lot of posts from acquaintances.  Most of these were actually like-minded people, left-leaning Labour supporters, but a few were old work colleagues or school-friends or just friends of friends really.  And quite a few of these were unashamedly declaring they would be voting Leave.  I argued with some but of course even then I realized I wouldn’t persuade them.

But I hadn’t really realized the power of social media.  We are all influenced by peer pressure and whereas in the past you might chat occasionally about Politics, now on Facebook or Twitter you can chat on-line without actually meeting them, and this I believe, is behind the change in the Political mood.  We are now so connected that we feel deprived if our phone is dead or we cannot log in to our e-mails or social media pages.  And I think the movements which brought about Brexit and Trump and threaten us with Marine are like a bandwagon that has rolled on picking up supporters like snow on a snowball.  And social media has been one of the driving forces.  How far the snowball will roll is unpredictable, and it doesn’t have to be limited just to those on the right, whose actual clever messages mix in left-wing ideas about Social Justice with Nationalism and anti-Muslim ideas.  Much like the National Socialists ninety years ago in Germany.  All Political parties and movements now have to learn how to deal with Social Media.  One encouraging new development however is Emmanuel Macron, who here in France, has come from nowhere, with no Political party behind him, just an army of young volunteers – and he is running a close second in the polls.  An unthinkable phenomenon a few years ago.

Who knows what this or the next few years will bring, but we have to maybe learn that things are now more fluid, more open to sweeping changes.  Hopefully the young will grasp these changes and make things better for all of us.

The Odd Couple (short story)

Sunday 2nd April

Everyone agreed they were a bit of an odd couple, they kept themselves very much to themselves, which was fine; out here in the country we tend to keep our doors shut in the evening.   Conversation was limited to a hearty “Good Morning” or “Nice day for it”, if in passing you saw Jack Wilson mowing his neat little lawn, or maybe harvesting beans or cabbages from their small vegetable plot.  Jack could be found most evenings in the Shepherd and Dog, but even here he would seem content to sit on his own, quietly sipping his pint of mild and bitter.

“Just the one, thanks” he would mutter as Wendy, the barmaid tilted the empty glass his way as she collected empties.

I did try to engage him in conversation once or twice but he would mumble that he didn’t follow football at all, and would smile and offer nothing for me to latch onto, if you know what I mean.  It seemed he was almost apologising for his very presence, and one word replies were almost all you got from him.  A bit henpecked, I suspected, allowed out for his one pint an evening and then back ‘under the thumb’.  I suppose we just took him for granted; reliably boring was Jack, but a good old boy none the less, no harm in him at all, (not like some I could mention).  I never found out what he did before he retired, he wasn’t from round here I know that, but I could never quite pin down his accent.

She, Sheila Wilson, was much friendlier, though she was rarely seen in the village itself, a real little house-mouse we thought.  But occasionally you would meet her in Tesco’s, stolidly pushing her trolley round and stocking up on ‘Buy One, Get One Free’s’. She was always happy to chat about the weather, or her Jack’s lumbago.  My wife and I never got invited to their house; well, we don’t do that sort of thing round here; dinner parties and the like are for younger folk, or those yuppies down Skeltons Lane where they’ve built those awful new houses.  London overspill, they call it.  We dussn’t mix with those sort, wish they’d stayed up in the smoke rather than come round here with their Range Rover’s and Barbour coats, pretending they are ‘country folk’ like us.

Oh, there was one time I went into their house. I was passing and Jack called me over and said he had a bit of bother with his boiler, did I know anyone.  I replied that I knew a thing or two and had fixed my own a few times, would he like me to look at it for him.  He hesitated a moment, but then said “Okay.”  It only took me a few minutes to sort out, pilot light, usual problem.  She wasn’t there at the time, out shopping I supposed, though now come to think of it I hadn’t noticed if their car, an old Rover, was in the drive.  But to be honest I never really gave it any thought at the time.






It was a real shock when the Policeman called at our house.  It was a Friday evening and terribly windy and I was surprised anyone would be about at that time of night.  He was young and looked a bit pale and nervous and asked if he could use our phone, he couldn’t get a signal at all on his radio, and even his mobile was dead.

“Of course” I said.  “Our phone is in the hall, just inside the front door.”  Out of politeness I disappeared into our front room, but the door being slightly ajar I couldn’t help overhearing. A suspected murder at the Wilson’s. A female, unconscious, a gunshot wound and showing no signs of life.  To say I was shocked is an under-statement, I was horrified.  A murder!  Here in our quiet Suffolk village!  That was unheard of.

And poor Mrs. Wilson, what a terrible thing to happen.

The police obviously suspected her husband Jack, especially as he had scarpered.  And him such a quiet old boy, who would have thought it, but as I said, they were an odd couple.

Well, we heard nothing for weeks.  And no sign of Jack either.  It was as if he had simply disappeared form the face of the earth.  And in a way he had.

You see, it was the strangest thing, no-one had ever suspected.  Turns out it was suicide.  Sheila blew her own head off with the shotgun they kept for shooting rabbits. Well, I say, they, but actually; truth is, there was only ever her, Sheila.  Apparently Jack never existed.  It was the strangest thing.  The angle of the bullets entry and exit suggested suicide, then they found out that only Sheila’s DNA was on any of Jack’s clothes.  No underwear either; why would he leave and only take vest and pants?  And then CCTV footage and that new face recognition malarkey showed they were indeed the same person.  None of us villagers had ever noticed, well, I suppose we just weren’t imagining such a thing, but apparently, Jack was really Sheila dressed up, and always wearing a flat cap with her hair pinned up and her breasts tightly wrapped, and when she was Sheila she wore a lot of make-up and a bit of padding to make her stouter and with a dress and cardie on she looked quite different from him.

She had been divorced with no children, and had bought the house ten years ago on her own, but for some unexplained reason felt she needed a male companion, and decided to become that person too.  Why she decided to end it all no-one knows either, she left no note.  There was a silly joke going round the village for a couple of days that maybe she thought Jack had been unfaithful.  But a sad way to go nevertheless; she had propped the shotgun between her knees and under her chin.  Blew the top of her head clean off, a right bloody mess I expect.

And that’s all we ever found out; that’s the story of our odd couple, who was really just a very odd woman instead.


Flying Back Again

Saturday 1st April

I am still returning to the UK every four weeks, and yesterday I flew back again.  I still do some work, mostly by e-mail but a visit every month to do wages and check the paperwork.  And I used to look forward to it, but now I am not so sure.  In a strange way England seems a foreign country to me now.  I simply don’t understand the change of mood, the Brexit decision still amazes me, the anger – hatred actually – of Europe, of Muslims, of anyone different.  And the country is slipping backwards again, schools are going to lose funding, despite Theresa May’s assurance that overall spending is increasing.  She says the same thing about the NHS of course, when we can all see before our eyes that it is struggling.

But the recent budget has shown that there will be no changing course, we are still refusing to even contemplate tax rises to sort our problems out. Austerity will continue and the deficit will continue too, so long as it is cheap to borrow money to fill the gap.  And all the news is dominated by Brexit, and will be now for at least two years to come.  And despite this I don’t think it has begun to sink in, just what a momentous decision the country has taken.  After the Second World War we begun to lose our Empire and decided that our future was with Europe, though to be honest we have always been poor Europeans.  Now we are on our own, Europe will not really want us anymore – and who can blame them – and our old Commonwealth has moved on too.  All we will have is America.  And whether they will even want us is debatable too.  Our only future will be as some sort of offshore tax haven.  Heaven help us…

p.s…I seem to be having difficulty in France reaching the catherine’s story site I post these blogs on…poor reception I suspect.  So, in the future you may see a few less blogs, but don’t worry I still care about you…hahaha