Friday 21st July

14)      The Sequence of Events…

Sometimes it is hard to recall the exact sequence of events.  One remembers not in a straight line but in a jagged array of little snippets, and then just as you are sure you have pieced together how it happened, you suddenly recall something else that was happening at the time, which maybe puts a different slant on everything.

There was a wonderful series of TV plays, a quartet, called ‘Talking to Strangers’. It was written by John Osborne and I think it was in ‘67 but I’m not really sure.  It starred Judi Dench, a very young and beautiful Judi Dench back then, and the most marvelous thing about it was that it was exactly the same story told from four different viewpoints.  And Jane was really knocked out by it.  It was on consecutive weeks, and she couldn’t wait to see next week’s play, and so discover the light shifting as the spotlight fell onto a different character’s viewpoint.  One startling feature was that in one play as two characters would leave a room, and we would hear and concentrate on the two remaining; in next week’s play we would follow the two characters who had left the room last week and hear what they were saying while we had been so engaged with our first two.  Anyway I am probably boring you; you really had to have seen it.  The point I am trying, so awkwardly, to make is that we only ever really see things from our own perspective – we never really consider what is happening in other people’s lives.  While Jane was so busy relegating and in fact negating her mother for her simply not being around, or not in any real sense, she didn’t realise what was going on in her world, or even that she had a world for things to go on in.

*  * *

It couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes between June hearing the sound of the back door opening – and then with such a sickening thud realizing that indeed someone was actually in the house.   She had half-dismissed that first click, but now there was no mistake about it, someone was there in the house.  They had nearly been caught once before by Phil, but we had both been dressed at the time.  Now Ted and she were both naked in bed, there was no way they could just pretend that he had popped round for a cup of tea and a chat.

And June was feeling so down and depressed anyway, she had finally accepted that Ted and she had no future, unless you can call these occasional stolen moments of rapture a future.  She was lost in her own desperately miserable thoughts and had almost forgotten what she now knew must have been the back door being unlocked and opened.  And then she heard what were unmistakable footsteps coming up the stairs, they always creaked unless you knew where to tread right on the edges, but then why would you do that in your own home.

The family kept the key under a flower pot just to the left of the step.  June had at least taken this precaution after their last scare, and only Phil and Jane knew where the key was – and Harriet of course, but she was away at University.  Jane was at school and wouldn’t be leaving until nearly four, it must be Phil.

‘Oh shit, not Phil.’ she thought in desperation – she grabbed at the sheet to at least hide her nakedness, even from her own husband, who she was sure it must be.  She couldn’t bear him to see her laying there naked.  Ted was almost asleep and lay half covered by some bedclothes at least.  She held her breath as the footsteps got to the top of the stairs and came closer and closer.  Quiet little footsteps, hardly footsteps at all, they got closer and closer and holding her breath, too scared to even breathe, her heart was in her mouth and she involuntarily brought up her hand to stop it falling out.  June waited and waited, hoping and praying it was just her imagination after all.

*  * *

Along with the inner turmoil Jane was feeling at Harriet’s betrayal of her; her choosing her drug over Jane, and her own sense of insecurity and loveless-ness, which had resulted in her hurting herself; there were other things coming to the boil too.   How long it would have all carried on for if Harriet hadn’t discovered them she couldn’t say, and also how long her father’s shenanigans could have continued to be covered up is another unknown.  Jane tends to think that it would all have come out in the open anyway, but maybe; no, surely not in such a dramatic and climactic way.

*  * *

Harriet had let herself in with the backdoor key as her mother must have been out.  She had of course tried the handle but you knew straightaway when the door was locked, so she bent down and retrieved the key from under the big flower pot with the dying iris in it and quietly turned it in the lock.  She knew that this didn’t make much sense, but she didn’t really want anyone to know she was back, and if the back door was locked it must mean her mother was out; Dad would be at work of course, and Jane at school, but still Harriet was quiet.  She was on a bit of a mission, no-one knew she was coming home today, She had been back for the weekend and this was only Tuesday.

She had boarded the train to London as usual on Sunday afternoon, fully intending to change for Kings Cross and the equally shitty drag up to Leeds, but somehow she just couldn’t face it.  She hated the fucking place, the whole draggy scene and smacked-out Jim even more.  He had introduced her to all this shit, and now she was feeling trapped; trapped by her own body’s need for a chemical that she at last realised was doing her no good at all.  Harriet knew she had to get away, from Jim and all that temptation, but also away from Leeds.  She reckoned she could still catch a later train and so she just started walking around London.

She had no real idea what she was doing; just drifting aimlessly from street to street until she was both lost and had missed her last connection for Leeds.  She looked around anxiously for somewhere to stay the night.  She was in Whitechapel, a really run-down part of London, full of small backstreet sweatshops and black and brown faces staring at her, as if she was the stranger here.  It was getting late and dark and she only had about eight pounds on her, and she was beginning to get worried.  At last as if by magic she saw a sign for a Hotel, though that might be a bit of a generous description of the shithole she ended up in.  It was two pound- fifty for a bed in a tiny damp and grotty room that looked out over ugly sooty rooftops and old outbuildings.   The lino had holes in it and the wardrobe door was falling off but it was a bed, and in minutes, fully dressed but under all the manky blankets she was fast asleep.

The Future

Thursday 20th July

Leonard Cohen released a brilliant album in the early nineties called The Future.  It contained a few brilliant songs including one called ‘The Future’.  He sings “I have seen the future, Brother, it is Murder.”  But actually it was more about what was happening in America today, or back then.  And of course in many ways, the future, or what we recently thought of as the future, is already here.  I used to watch StarTrek – they had phasers and little hand-held communication devices.  Who, back then would have thought that we would have mobile phones which are actually hand-held computers, connected to e-mails and the internet, with apps seemingly capable of doing almost anything.  Who would have thought even a few years ago when you took photo’s in to be developed that this technology would be so quickly superseded, not only by digital cameras, but by mobile phones as well.  Who would have imagined the rise in Social media, where even the President of the United States can communicate (even if it almost illiterate rubbish) with his ‘followers’.  We had no idea that we would be spending hours every week on Facebook or Instagram.  Nobody imagined that Television would be not only broadcast on multiple channels (remember Pink Floyd in early Eighties talking about America with 15 channels of sh.. on the TV – if only it were just 15 to choose from) but with i-player, being able to watch almost anything at any time – and not only on the telly, but the computer, the laptop, the tablet and even your phone.  Who would have dared imagine youtube, almost every song and even albums available for free to ‘watch’ or listen to at any time.

Most car manufacturers are staffed not by workers but by robots.  Amazon has a handful of staff in it’s warehouse, machines picking and packing the products and dispatching them.  In fact everywhere you look the future, as we imagined it only a few years ago, is already here.  The trouble is that almost anything you can imagine is either already here or soon will be.  It is almost impossible actually to imagine the future at all because in most cases it is already here.

Time Will Tell

Tuesday 18th July

I learnt to tell the time very early.  I got a toy clock for Christmas when I was four, and apparently, I learned all the hours and minutes by Boxing Day.  I had been promised a real watch when I could tell the time – but had to wait two years for the promise to be realised.  Since then I have always worn a watch – many watches in fact, as even reasonably expensive models don’t seem to last that long.  Never had a Rolex…hahaha.  In fact one watch was a Seiko and was expensive.  But it stopped working.  The jeweler I took it to said, while shaking his head that it would cost £80 to repair. “What?” I exclaimed. “Well sir, you buy an expensive watch, you must expect to pay a lot to repair it”.  “No,” I replied “You buy an expensive watch  – you don’t expect it to go wrong”

But often when we are unsure of the future, or just how things will pan out we say “time will tell”.  In other words, it is no use worrying about things, they will happen how they will happen at some point in the future.  But is this not an abnegation of duty.  A shrugging of our collective shoulders; a sort of cop-out.  And while I am pretty certain that the World will keep on spinning around the Sun for a few more million years, I am less sure about the future success of the species known as mankind.  History is written mostly a few years after the event, but my experience is often that the History of the late Twentieth Century is not my experience at all.  There was a time when we all thought that, despite Blair pinching the song, “Things can only get better.”  It seemed that we were on an economic and social trajectory of ever increasing living standards and understanding between people.  Maybe that was just a dream some of us had (as Joni sang), but at the time it seemed real enough.  Who would have thought that the Twenty-First Century would turn out so complicated?  And of course, time will tell if this new trajectory – of the rich getting inexorably richer, of intolerance becoming the order of the day, of ignorance and greed overcoming empathy and co-operation – will continue, or if things will indeed start to get better.

But just accepting that there is nothing we can do about it (and although there often is precious little, maybe that little is still precious) we must not just wait to see what forces, seemingly beyond our control, will throw up.  We must try to shape History, and everything we do, including of course nothing, shrugging our shoulders and saying time will tell, does shape History.


Monday 17th July

We are at possibly only the beginning of another Industrial Revolution, and this one may prove as chaotic and damaging as the last one – when millions were forced into factories and mills and mines to toil in darkness and fear and poverty.  Automation is the new innovation, though hardly an innovation – it has been happening for at least fifty years now, it is only the pace of change which is frightening.  There was a time when thousands of ‘skilled’ workers were employed in the motor industry, doing largely repetitive jobs which are now done by robots.  Automated tills are now in most large shops, and despite teething problems – “unexpected item in the bagging area” – we are slowly accepting them.  And largely, so far, they have replaced low-skilled and repetitive tasks.  And of course many of those jobs were semi-automated anyway – bar code readers replacing someone who remembered all the prices in the shop, or who had to add things up by hand.   So, in many ways Automation is a good thing.  The problem is not really Automation but the nature of Capitalism which needs two things – as low a cost of production as possible and a market of consumers to buy the stuff it makes.  And with the speed of automation there will almost certainly be an exodus of jobs – some are predicting up to 40% of the current jobs may disappear in the next twenty years.

And of course, as well as those employees losing wages with which to buy the products they formerly helped to produce, but which now are made by machines, the Government will lose Income Tax and National insurance.  In a strange way it is already happening.  Much as we applauded the increases in tax thresholds which have taken many low-paid workers out of income tax, this has contributed to lower tax revenues.  A better policy would be to increase wages so that these people not only have a decent income but can pay some tax too.  So, how do we go forward?  Strangely enough, San Francisco, which is at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence and Robots, is thinking about this problem.  Now, much as it makes economic sense for individual companies to automate and lose employees there is a strong case for them to pay an “Automation Tax”, maybe based on the number of workers made redundant, or just a flat rate – in order that Governments can pay a decent wage to, and employ many more, care-workers or nurses or teachers, jobs that for the forsee-able future will not easily be replaced by machines.

This needs a complete rethink of the nature of business, money-making and social responsibility.  There have already been calls for a transaction tax to be applied to all money transfers and buying and selling of all sorts of shares and bonds and futures.  But for this to work we need far more co-operation between countries, rather than competition.  I fear that there will be far more pain before any gain.  But unless we start to think in different ways the world is in for a period of massive disruption yet again.  There are now 7.6 billion people on the planet (and growing) and with more and more automation our current largely unregulated and chaotic ‘free market’ and ‘dog eat dog’ Capitalism will become far more ruthless in its quest for larger and larger profits – and people, especially poor people, will be, particularly as their labour (the only thing they have to offer in this cruel world) becomes obsolete, as machines work harder and faster and don’t complain – many will have no role or value in any vestiges of society left.  Also, of course, the more that Capitalism automates, the fewer consumers there will be for their products – but as Capitalism is not a unified force, individual companies will either benefit or not.  Unless Governments start to think about their Citizens in a totally different way….there could be trouble ahead.


Sunday 16th July

Money was slipping through Phil’s fingers like water – and his debts were just getting worse and worse, it seemed everything he touched was going wrong.  Two of the shops which Jones and he had the leases on were empty, but the mortgages still had to be paid.  Jones, of course was unflustered, ‘Oh, a tenant will come along sooner or later, and besides we can up the rent then.  Be patient, my boy, just be patient, we are sitting on a little goldmine.’   It was all very well for him; he hadn’t borrowed to put the money down in the first place like Phil had.  He had long ago said goodbye to the two grand he had ‘borrowed’ from June and Julie’s inheritance and was desperately running out of cash to pay his own mortgage, let alone the other loans he had taken out.

What you must understand is he never meant to hurt anyone, so he reasoned to himself – he just got himself into a bit of trouble.  He fully intended to repay everyone, he just needed a little time, and maybe a couple of thousand to tide him over until things came good.  He couldn’t have such bad luck for ever, surely.

*  * *

And in those few quiet moments before the storm broke June realized that Ted would never leave Julie.  If she was ever to escape it would have to be on her own.  She couldn’t rely on Ted at all, she had completely mistaken him.  In her blind infatuation with him, (though how can you describe something that has lasted for nearly twenty years as an infatuation she was not sure), she had never really asked herself if he felt the same way as she did.  It was just so wonderful when they were together that she stupidly imagined it was meant to be, that Ted and she were meant to be together forever.

What a fool she had been, how stupid to have pinned all her hopes on Ted, when if she had tried harder to love Phil it might have been okay, she thought to herself, if only she could have learned to forget this stupid man.  She looked down on him as he lay in her bed.  They were there in Phil’s and her bed; she sitting up trying to rationalize her life, while trying desperately to hear any sound from downstairs, maybe she had imagined it, or it was the cat pushing a door open, and Ted was laying back half asleep and looking so bloody contented with himself, he had it all; her beloved sister so loyal and waiting for him at home, and she, her sister, acting like the biggest slut in the world, gracing him with sexual favours whenever he deigned to pop around.

*  * *

Janes parents seemed even more detached from the pair girls than ever, noticing nothing and commenting even less, and in truth of course her family was falling apart in front of her eyes, probably had been for years, if it was ever together in the first place.  Now she looks back and only see the cracks in their little edifice, she only sees the flaws.  Her mother’s apparent disinterest in anything the girls said or did, and her father’s absorption in business and almost boredom whenever their paths crossed seem so glaringly obvious later.

But was that all with the benefit of hindsight, that is all now seen through the prism of what happened next.  Could it be that hundreds, thousands of middle-class families like theirs existed in this state of not caring especially about each other and nothing terrible ever happening, they just carried on for years.  Maybe her family could have carried on like this for years too, maybe somehow Harriet could have managed to shake off, or at least control her habit, maybe her mother would start to inhabit the same planet as them occasionally, maybe her father would start to realise there was more to life than the making and multiplying of money.  But what’s the use of maybes; ‘what-ifs’ was always a stupid game and anyway none of them had bothered to read the rules, or even read each other enough to realise what was going on.

And it was all beginning to come to some sort of a head.  Lots of days Jane felt like her head was in a kaleidoscope of crashing beads and fragmenting mirrors, nothing was making any sense anymore; it had all been alright while Harriet was her sister.  Because she suddenly felt sister-less, she felt not that she had lost her exactly; because she was still around, but she didn’t quite recognise her anymore.  She sometimes couldn’t really remember how she used to be, how fantastic she was, how Jane had looked up to her, how she had seen herself as Jane, little sister to her big sister Harriet.  Now she wasn’t even sure who Jane was, and as for Harriet; the sister she had known far far better than anyone else in the whole world, she was really a stranger to her now, and Jane didn’t know what to do about it.

She had only ever had Harriet to turn to, she had only ever confided in Harriet; Harriet had been everything to me, for ever and ever, only now – for ever and ever had ended with a jolt.  Jane was on her own.  And on her own she really didn’t like herself very much and so she was constantly trying to find a bit of herself she could recognise, a bit of Jane she could like.  Maybe that was why she used to hurt herself, to see if the pain would take her back to how she used to be; to who she used to be.

But it couldn’t, could it, because that person was no more.  She was no longer the little sister of her big sister, she was the sister of Harriet the junkie, Harriet the druggie, and this Harriet didn’t need her anymore.   That was the hardest thing to realise, because all the time she had needed Harriet, to establish her own identity, to define who she was; she had always thought that Harriet needed her too, that somehow Jane also defined who Harriet was; her teacher, her mentor, her older sister, her protector.  And now she didn’t need Jane, all she needed was heroin.

And she really didn’t know what would have happened if what was about to happen hadn’t happened.  What would have become of them all?  Well, of course it all did happen, though jane realises that even now it is hard to piece together the exact sequence of events, how one thing broke, and that breaking led to the next thing.  She just feels so tired now.  She feels tired so often these days, tired of work, and tired of people and their pathetic unreliability, and most of all tired of herself, tired of her, Jane – failure.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Saturday 15th July

‘Is it down to the lake I fear’ – as Haircut 100 once sang.  Possibly the worst rhyming line in Pop Music.  But maybe not.

More seriously, after the momentous Political upheavals of the last few years which started with the Scottish Referendum and have culminated in yet another Hung Parliament, exactly where do we go from here?  Is it really possibly that Mrs. May can hang on until 2022?  Is it even possible that she will survive the Brexit negotiations? We are truly in never-never land – we have a Prime Minister with no authority and which her own party blames for losing the last election, and yet they would rather keep her in place than replace her with a third leader in as many years.  The Government, propped up by a billion-pound bribe to the most Neanderthal of parties, limps on – arguing among themselves, with almost all the policies they fought the last election on ditched, and no clearly agreed position on Brexit even.  And it may be Brexit which finally breaks the back of this ragged bunch of chancers.  The mis-named (Great) Repeal Bill will attempt to transfer all the powers and laws and regulations previously and even now belonging to the EU into British only law.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But the devil is in the detail, and there are millions of details.  So many in fact that the Government is going to try to curtail discussion on much of it, relying on so-called ‘Henry the Eighth Royal Prerogative’.

And while this three ring Circus is progressing through Parliament – the clock is ticking.  The EU will not even begin to discuss any other issues until Citizen’s Rights are guaranteed for EU citizens living on the UK.  For some unknown reason Theresa May is stalling on this, when she must know she really has no choice.  The most important issue of course is trade.  And beyond platitudes that she will negotiate for a free-trade deal with the EU, we really have no idea what that will look like.  And I suspect neither does she.  The EU will certainly not grant us anything approaching what we have now.  The best we can hope for is a transitional period of 5 years in order to sort out all the details.  But Mrs. May is polishing her best pair of high-heels ready to stomp out of the negotiations….

And where do we go from there….it will certainly be down to the lake, I fear.

The Day After The Day Before

Friday 14th July

Sometimes you feel a bit deflated.  All that anticipation for the big day, a mad rush of adrenalin and excitement, and then it is over.  Yesterday was Le Tour in Eymet.  The biggest event in France and the biggest for the town in years.  It may be literally a once in a lifetime event.  And it was Fantastique.  But even 30 minutes after the riders had set off, special teams were dismantling the barriers and loading them onto lorries to be driven to the next start venue – Eymet, just one little stop on the never-ending tour.  And that is how it is with so many things.  Rock tours are managed in the same way, as are exhibitions.  Everything easy to assemble and dismantle.  As the caravan moves on.  And even the square, which had a stage with bands and a disco last night and tables and stools and a barbecue and wine stalls – this morning (Thursday) it is all gone in the middle of the night, the streets swept and litter all gone.  All we have left are the garlands of plastic flowers and painted bicycles decorating the town.  And one by one these too will disappear.

But today (Thursday) is market day.  The square is filled with stalls again and another form of madness takes over, and by one in the afternoon it will be gone – no sign remaining.  Tonight there will be music and a Marche Gourmande in the Parc.  We will all be drinking and eating under the trees, and on Friday morning there will be no trace that we were there.  For then the caravan moves on and it will be Bastille Day and more celebrations at the Parc Bretou, food and music and wine and fireworks.  In fact, for two months here it is one long party.  Just hope we are strong enough to keep going.  So, no time to be deflated at all.  Maybe in September we will relax and look back on another Summer of Madness.

Le Tour De France

Thursday 13th July

For weeks now the excitement has been growing.  The Tour de France, which is certainly the biggest Sporting Event for this country, was starting in our small town of Eymet.. Slowly the decorations have been going up, strings of plastic flowers – yellow and white, green and white and red and white.  The Thirteenth Century castle was even draped in ‘rider’s shirts’ made of the flowers, and the square was covered in flowers like the spokes of a giant bicycle wheel.  Yesterday, (Tuesday) they started closing roads into town, and for a while we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to get our visitors (Mum, Dad, and my Siser and her partner) into Eymet.  In the end there was no problem.  As the evening progressed there seemed to be more and more people in the town, many gathering in the square.

This morning (Wednesday) I was up early to open the Café.  Surprisingly few people around at Seven.  Even the Boulevard, where the race was beginning was quiet, but overnight the starting line and a lot of booths had been erected and barriers along the whole road.  By Eight it was getting bus, and then it became a mass of people walking from the Car Park to see the race.  We were incredibly busy, breakfasts and sandwiches and coffee, but we managed to get everyone served somehow and closed the Café at 12.30.

My Sister and her partner and my Dad were somewhere near the start line and I set off to get as close as I could.  I missed the Caravan, which had set off two hours earlier, full of Sponsors cars and bikes and throwing ‘goodies’ to the crowd.  There were a couple of big screens and we watched as the race formation was set-up and the lead riders interviewed.  Then the exciting countdown and they were off.  Exciting and exhilarating to be a part of such a great Cultural event in France.

Well, that was about it.  Fantastique – and the huge crowd quickly dispersed into the town again.

This evening there is promised entertainments in the square, live music and a disco. So, not quite over yet.

Baby Charlie

Wednesday 12th July

There is no denying the emotional appeal of this story.  A baby with a rare and almost certainly fatal disease has been in intensive care for nine months now.  His doctors say that he cannot see or hear or even move his muscles.  He is being kept alive on a ventilator and the Doctors insist that he has irreversible brain damage.  Those Doctors, at Great Ormond Street Hospital, believe that it is in Charlie’s best interests that he be allowed to die with dignity.  They want to turn off the machines keeping him alive.  His parents want them to keep him alive and they have taken his case to court after court trying to reverse the original court’s decision to support the Doctor’s views.  There is now yet another court hearing as the parents claim that they have new evidence of experimental treatments that they believe may help Charlie to recover at least to the point of enjoying some aspects of life.

I have no opinion on the medical aspects of the case.  There have been miracle recoveries with rare conditions in the past – and who can possibly tell what may happen in the future.  What is surprising is how this very sad story has snowballed into being sometimes the first item on the News.  Over 300,000 people have signed an on-line petition to the courts.  Donald Trump has tweeted his support, though maybe this was more to bolster his own image than out of real concern.  The Pope has added his support.  Many Newspapers are now running with the story, and one has to wonder at their motives.  It is obviously a good story, it will fill many pages of newsprint but whether it will actually help either the parents or the baby I doubt very much.  You cannot help but feel for the parents, and in a way they cannot really turn back now, no matter what doubts they may have.  To lose your child must be terrible.  But, to have a severely brain damaged child, even if there could be some improvement in his condition, must also be an awful burden.

I don’t blame the parents at all.  Or, of course the Doctors, who have to make these heartbreaking decisions.  But it seems a strange fact of our Modern life that this one poor baby, and his possible death has moved so many people.  Many of these same people will avidly watch the News, and be genuinely moved by his story.  At the same time they will ignore, or compartmentalize, the many other deaths reported.  Children starving, dying on refugee boats in the Mediterranean, being bombed to bits by our own planes in the fight against ISIS, or simply dying – as many do every day of lesser reported illnesses, or car accidents, or in fires or accidents at home.

And how much money all of this is costing.  The Hospital, where choices are maybe being denied other children.  The Court hearings, the Barristers and Solicitors costs alone must run into hundreds of thousands.  And it looks as if the judge will uphold the original Doctor’s view.  No doubt the parents will fight on.  And the poor baby, kept alive only by a machine and incapable of even thinking, must continue.  To say he is fighting is nonsense – his lungs are simply being kept going….for how long we do not know.  It is a terribly sad story, but I wonder whether in the fullness of time his parents will become reconciled to the inevitable.

And his story will become tomorrow’s chip paper, although of course we don’t use newspaper for that any more either.

The Liberation of Mosul

Tuesday 11th July

There were celebrations yesterday (Sunday) in Iraq.  The city of Mosul has been liberated.  Three years ago ISIS took the city in almost no time as the Iraqi army practically ran away. The Caliphate was declared in that city, and the stranglehold of Daesh took hold, dragging the city and its unwilling citizens back into a barbaric interpretation of some form of radical Islam.  Now, after nine months of fighting and aerial bombardment (mostly by the Americans) the city is at last reclaimed.  But it is a city in ruins with who knows how many innocents killed.  ISIS fought house by house and used snipers and suicide bombers to devastating effect.  And there really was no alternative.  Helped by Kurdish fighters, the ‘reformed’ Iraqi army has re-taken the city.  ISIS fighters have fled into the surrounding desert and countryside, to re-emerge who knows where.

But although ISIS has been militarily defeated I doubt they will disappear.  And the city is almost completely flattened.  As of course is much else in Iraq – much of the devastation caused by the US and UK invasion in 2003 is still unrepaired.  And it is to that terrible war that we must look again, to see where we are now.  There is no definitive proof that our decision to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein (because Regime change was always the objective) led directly to the creation of ISIS.  But we interfered yet again in another countries’ Politics, largely for our own gain.  Saddam was certainly a tyrant, and totally undemocratic.  But he controlled the differing factions in Iraq, and by and large, the country prospered with good schools and hospitals and a large degree of religious freedom.  Since his terrible hanging there has been chaos and confusion and instability, and into that vacuum ISIS has emerged.  Aided by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states and the CIA and no doubt our own security services they have spread into both Syria and Iraq.  And although they are being beaten back slowly in both countries – it has all been so unnecessary.

And, of course, I am glad that this terrible organization is losing power and ground, but we must ask ourselves what on earth we were thinking of fourteen years ago when we went to war for no good reason.