Friday 10th November

June felt so alone, in the midst of all this chaos, and she had no-one to talk to.  Phil had gone and run away, as if that was going to solve anything.  Was this his way of taking revenge on her, paying her back for Ted?   She had never had anyone to talk to; that was half the trouble.  Even her sister Julie had never confided in her, even as a child she had made it plain that she didn’t want to hang around with June, she had her own friends, thank-you very much.  ‘And,’ she thought, ‘if you had ever met my mother you would know straight away that you would get no sympathy from her.’  The few friends she had before she got married had drifted away from her too, all busy with their own lives now so she was all alone.  ‘Even my daughters didn’t want to know me.  Harriet of course, hates me, as she had done silently for years, only now it was out in the open, and Jane, Jane was a strange one, always brooding and keeping herself to herself, I have no idea what she was thinking.  I have lost touch with her too, so here I am having to deal with questions from the Police as if I am a common criminal and no-one to talk to at all.  I just wanted it all to stop and all I can do is cry, like some child unable to cope with life.’  Maybe she was crying for herself, for the wretched mess she was in, for being abandoned by everyone; Ted, safely back in the clutches of her sister; Phil run away like the coward he was; Jane out somewhere as if being with her mother was too unbearable; and Harriet, even Harriet, who in her blithe way had done so much damage, had escaped.  ‘And even though I don’t deserve any pity surely I don’t deserve this. It is all too much, and any sympathy I had felt for Phil is disappearing fast as day after day passes with no sign of him.  He has simply disappeared without a word.  I am beginning to get angry now because at least if I am angry I’m not feeling so sorry for myself.’

*  * *

Harriet had felt so desperate and lonely on that train back to Leeds; it sometimes felt as if her whole life was being spent in these pointless train journeys.  Only, she always arrived back where she started from.  And now she really had no idea what was happening any more.  She had found her mother and her uncle in bed together, and in her wildest dreams she couldn’t imagine anything worse.  She knew it was stupid but despite herself she couldn’t face her classes anymore, not that she had cared much about that for weeks now, her  heart just wasn’t in it. She had no interest in stuffing her brain with stupid knowledge she would never need.  She drifted round to Jim’s pad that evening and scored some stuff.  She just wanted to be out of it. What difference did it make now?  A couple of days ago she was determined to kick this stupid habit and was determined to start a new life in London.  And now her stupid selfish mother had spoilt everything. Every time she felt she was getting somewhere, something kept dragging her back down.  What else could possibly go wrong with her life now?  So, she just sat there like a dummy and got smacked out of it, as if there was nothing else to live for, besides it was easier than constantly going over and over it again.  She desperately needed to get my head free and stop thinking about her mother.  She needed to think about something else, or rather to not think about anything at all.  She just wanted to shut her mind down, to stop the thoughts from crowding her out, because try as she might she felt she was losing herself amidst all that other stuff that was in there.  It was as if her mother was trying to dominate her thoughts, even here miles away from her Harriet couldn’t escape her.

*  * *

Phil can see the sea from here, just a smudge of grey as it blends into the sky, but the sea nevertheless.  If he squints a bit he can just make out the horizon, and occasionally a boat drifts by. He never gets tired of watching as the boat slowly drifts along the horizon, he can’t really tell how big the boats are, larger than fishing boats he thinks, but they are a long way away and all he can really see is a faint black mark on the dark green-grey sea.

His family lived only a few miles from the sea in Norwich but they might as well have been in the middle of the Sahara for all the sea he ever saw as a child.  His dad worked long hours and lots of weekends, and he cannot really remember many holidays as a child, at least not by the sea-side.  But it is peaceful here, and quiet, so quiet.  And the most wonderful thing is he is all alone.  No phone ringing, no wretched secretary with papers to sign, no-one to answer to, no-one to worry about any more, just the sea out there to look at.  No newspapers, no television and no radio to listen to.  Silence at last.

A Priti Fine Mess

Thursday 9th November

And so, the Pantomime continues, limping into the final Act.  Even though the whole of the audience was shouting “She’s behind you” Priti Patel calmly leaned back in her seat on the Kenya Airlines bringing her back to face the wicked witch of Downing Street.  The whole of the news media was announcing that she was being flown back in disgrace to face a public sacking.  And then she resigned….either before or after getting the riot act read to her.

But it doesn’t end there.  In fact it is only just beginning.  Damien Green is under investigation for (maybe) having pornography on his office computer.  The new Defence Minister is hated by the whole Tory party as he is seen as having shafted his predecessor in order to get his job.  In addition, at least two junior ministers are embroiled in the sexual harassment scandal.

But I am just as concerned as to what exactly Priti Patel thought she was doing.  Supposedly on holiday in Israel, she had 12 meetings (that we know of) with Israeli Government Ministers including, unbelievably, the Prime Minister.  She was not accompanied by any of her officials, but instead, a Jewish donor to the Tory party.  And she didn’t inform her senior Ministers or the PM herself.  What on earth was going on?  What was she possibly discussing with Benjamin Netanyahu?  The Government’s official policy is to be working for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.  We are supposed to be neutral and the Foreign Office is extremely careful about the sensitive situation in the Middle East.  And yet here was a Cabinet Minister having confidential un-minuted and secret conversations with the Prime Minister of a country involved not only in the Civil War in neighbouring Syria but guilty of building illegal settlements in the Occupied territories – which are still officially un-recognised by the UK or the United Nations.  In fact, more UN resolutions have been passed criticising Israel than any other country.

Actually, resigning is the easy bit for Ms Patel.  She must disclose exactly what she discussed or proposed or even agreed to with Mr. Netanyahu.  In fact, Mrs. May should be the one publicly disowning her.  She should have been sacked 5 days ago when this first came to light.  Theresa May now looks even weaker than before.  A week is a long time in Politics – a week ago she had just about held things together.  Now she has lost two ministers; Boris is guilty of giving false information to the Iranians, resulting in a British Iranian woman having her sentence increased, and a sex scandal cloud hangs over several other Ministers.

As I said two days ago, something must change.  And it is obvious that it must be this Government.

Something must Change

Tuesday 7th November 2017

We simply cannot go on like this.  A Government clinging onto power by their fingernails, sexual harassment scandals sweeping Hollywood and Westminster, the Paradise papers detailing tax avoidance schemes for the Super-Rich – and Brexit steering the ship not only onto the rocks but sinking under the weight of so much dead meat stinking in the hold.

The last election was a watershed…..almost.  Labour came back from the dead and increased their share of the vote from 31% under Milliband and Opinion Polls of 25% to (what under Blair would have been a winning) 41%.  But still it wasn’t quite enough.  The Tories swept up Brexit votes because they portrayed themselves as the party of Brexit – despite a failure to explain to anybody, or even themselves, exactly what Brexit means.

And one gets the feeling that something must give, something must change.  Even Theresa May must realise that she is presiding over a catastrophic mess.  Maybe she thinks it is her duty to hang on, hoping that things will get better, that Labour will fall out of favour, that somehow Brexit will end happily,  That she will go down in History as a Great Prime Minister.  Dream on dear…

But really, can we simply carry on in this pathetic indecisive and disastrous way?  Just how much worse does it have to get?  And how exactly do you remove a totally ineffective Government that doesn’t even have a Majority, but is relying on the purchased votes of a handful of Neanderthal’s from Ulster.

And Capitalism is getting worse.  At least while there was Communism as an alternative, Capitalism had a half-human face.  Now, they think they can fuck us over as many times as they like….

Now Damien Green…

Monday 6th November

The Westminster Sex Scandal seems to know no boundaries – almost.  No party leader has so far been accused of any impropriety….but you never know.  It seems that the press are suddenly free to publish anything, secrets they have had tucked away for years are now being wheeled out with impunity.  I was quite surprised that Michael Fallon found himself in the firing line.  He didn’t last long.  Both he and Mrs. May must have known that other allegations were a headline away and he fell (or was pushed) onto his sword before you could say Heath (oops…Freudian slip there).

But now the net is closing on Damien Green, effectively the Deputy Prime Minister.  He is the oldest ally of Theresa, and watches her back – shielding her from the knives of Boris and Gove.  If he goes she will be even more vulnerable.  To lose one Senior Minister to a Sex Scandal is careless, to lose two…..

I do not know if the Police did actually find pornographic material on his office computer.  That almost isn’t the point these days.  The allegation is almost enough in this febrile environment.  No smoke without fire springs to mind.  There is no doubt that Mrs. May will try to save him, but it all depends how much further this story has to run.  If he now becomes the story and is on the Front page for a week or so he will have to go,  Exactly where that will leave this wounded limping Government is anyone’s guess.

There is also yesterday’s release of the ‘Paradise papers’ and the Lord Ashcroft connection.  Why are we even surprised that the rich and famous are hiding their money from the taxman?   But as more and more detail emerges in this age of ‘Austerity’the Tory brand is becoming more and more toxic by the hour.

MacMillan warned that the most dangerous thing in politics was “Events, dear boy, events.”.


When Women Get Ill

The first thing to say is that they recognise and accept that they are unwell.  Men barely recognise any symptoms they might have, or if they do, they assume (often correctly) that things will probably clear up by themselves anyway.  Women will go to their Doctor’s or consult (or be prompted by) something they have read in Women’s magazines, which seem to specialise in giving ‘advice’ (or simply frightening their readers) about all sorts of medical conditions.  Increasingly now though women are consulting the internet about any symptoms or illnesses they think they might have.  Googling away happily, contenting themselves with the graphic predictions of the suffering and their ultimate demise if these are left unattended.

Many women have told me that this is because of their responsibility for children, they both have to be concerned for their infant’s health and their own, as they have to remain healthy to look after the young.  I am not sure that that is entirely true.  It is probably far more to do with women’s ‘bits’ and the added problems of puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.  All of which men are both ignorant, and usually dismissive, of.

But there is also I have observed a propensity for women to discuss their own and other women’s medical issues in public. Going into details which men naturally prefer not to even think might exist.  Operations are related with an almost proprietorial glee, often women trumping each other like the famous four Yorkshire men Monty Python sketch – “Oh, yes, I had that too, but I had complications.  Why I almost died under the surgeon’s knife, it’s a wonder I am here today.”

Men, well the men of my generation, were brought up with an image of their own invulnerability.  Like Superman we would never be ill or old, but would fly on in our prime forever.  And we would be the breadwinner’s too, no sick pay often, so you soldiered on, shrugging off colds and aches and pains.  And I too am like that.  I hate going to the Doctor’s and admitting I might be ill.  I rarely go to the Pharmacie – which is full of women anyway, each taking up the time of the assistants and leaving with veritable carrier-bags full of medicines, lotions and potions for every possibly itch or irritation or symptom, real or imagined.

When women get ill, they usually get it sorted and get better, and live to a ripe old age.  When men get ill they refuse to accept it, and shuffle off to a quiet corner to die in peace, with maybe a copy of Playboy to console themselves with.

Y – is for Neil Young – the First Flush Of Success

Saturday 4th November

The thing about Neil Young is – he has always followed his muse.  He has never courted success and regularly veers off in a new musical direction, which sometimes only he really appreciates.

He was Canadian, but has lived almost all his life in America.  He was in a couple of bands in Canada before he drifted down to L. A. in the mid-sixties.  He first found success with Buffalo Springfield, a band with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay.  They made two albums, which I bought much later.  To tell the truth they don’t excite me, except for the Neil Young song – Mr. Soul.

I first heard of Neil Young in the very early 70’s, probably an ‘In Concert’ radio and tv simoulcast.  It was just after the release of ‘After the Goldrush’.  I was hooked instantly, and went out and bought his first two solo records.

‘Neil young’ released in early 1970 is okay and quite interesting, but many of the songs are weak compared to what was to follow.  He soon released ‘Everybody Knows This is Nowhere’ with a new band called Crazy Horse.  And this was a huge leap forward, similar to Dylan’s eight years earlier with ‘The Freewheelin’ – mainly because of the two magnificent songs ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’ and ‘Down by the River’ where the band really kick in with chiming guitars and a driving rhythm.

But Neil was also, at this time, getting involved with Crosby, Stills and Nash with whom he recorded their biggest selling album ‘Déjà vu’ with the brilliant Neil song ‘Helpless’ a highlight.  Always argumentative Neil split from CSN and leaving Crazy Horse set out on a solo tour and two years later released a live album ‘Time Fades Away’ (CSNY also released a live album ‘Four Way Street’ featuring Neil form this period.

Neil then made an album with session players (who he named The Stray Gators).  “After The Goldrush” was a huge hit and his first Masterpiece.  I love this record and have played it to bits.  It is simply perfect from the opener ‘Tell Me Why’ to the closer ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’ and includes the rocker ‘Southern Man.’

Two years later he almost repeated this with “Harvest” – a bigger seller and almost as good as “Goldrush”.  This had the hit single ‘Heart of Gold’ and another rocker “Alabama” a well as gentler songs like ‘Old Man’ and ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’  In the space of just over two years Neil released 4 solo albums, one with CSN and two live albums.  What a start.  And, that was only the beginning.

Neil Young (Remastered)

Bye bye – Michael Fallon, We Won’t Miss You

Friday 3rd November

Of all the faces in the Tory Cabinet the one I would have liked to slap most was Michael Fallon.  I hesitate to call him ‘Sir’, I had enough of that nonsense at school.

He seems to have been around forever, and has ‘served’ (or been servile) to four Prime Ministers, which takes him back to 1990.  He was often the one wheeled out to confirm his absolute loyalty to whoever or whatever the policy now was.  He always looked like the worst kind of stuffed shirt, upper-class mean-spirited Tory. As you might imagine I never liked him.  For all I know he may have been a good Constituency M.P. and Minister – it was just that supercilious face I wanted to slap.

He may also have been a good husband – but one must now doubt that.  The new scandal engulfing Westminster caught him up in its net.  But actually; what he was accused of, seems quite mild compared to some others.  Apparently, he (repeatedly) fondled the knee of Julia Hartley-Brewer, a reporter.  She has made light of this and says she never felt threatened.  Maybe it is an occupational hazard for many female reporters, who often get their best stories when M.P.s have had one too many.

We are witnessing the ‘revenge of the women’ at the moment.  And certainly, it is about time.  We have all worked in companies where certain bosses have thought it their right to pester young (and sometimes not so young) women into sexual liaisons, often with an implied threat or promise.  Where you draw the line between ‘banter’ which is often mutual and sexual harassment is sometimes difficult.  Men of my generation have had to learn to behave in a different way over the years.  It all comes down, I think, to Power.  I was never in a position of power, so my silly jokey comments may have been treated just as that.  When a man can get you sacked, or promote you, then a whole different dynamic is involved.

I think that Mr. Fallon was probably a serial offender, and it is more recent offences which haven’t quite emerged which may be the real reason for his departure.  I don’t think he will be the last…


Thursday 2nd November

“Oh, what have you gone and done Phil?  Why didn’t you just talk to me?  Funny, you never told me that you still wanted me.  When it all came out about me and Ted all you kept saying was that we had to stay together, you didn’t want me to leave, we just had to remain a couple and keep everything together somehow, even though we both knew it was broken and no amount of sticking things together would ever really work.  And you never said you loved me, you never even asked me if I still loved you, or asked me what I wanted. You had what you thought were the answers and never asked me what I felt, what I thought about it all.” Wailed June into the empty kitchen.

“Even at that most desperate of times, when if there had been any real connection left between us we should have been trying to build on that, you were thinking about what people might say, how you and I would be judged, not about how we ourselves felt about it all.  Just like my mother when I was a little girl, always more worried about what the neighbours would say than what we thought about things ourselves.

“And now what have you gone and done?  Do you really think that running away will solve anything?  Come back Phil, come back to me now.  Despite all that has happened, my affair with Ted, your apparent lack of affection for me, the missing money and the mistakes we have both made – maybe we really do need each other.  Maybe in some strange way we have always needed each other, but never fully understood it, until now.  Besides I don’t know how I’m going to begin to cope without you.  So, come back home Phil, and somehow we will get over this.  It’s only stuff, it doesn’t really matter.”

*  * *

Harriet felt so bloody alone amidst all this chaos.  She was back at University again, when by now I should have been in London, starting her new life.  Only now she had to resolve all this nonsense of her mother.  She really hated her now, and she thought she had hated her for years, but now she was beginning to really hate her.  ‘What did she think she was doing?  Apart from ruining Harriet’s life, of course; she probably enjoyed that aspect of it all.  But Uncle Ted, of all people, didn’t she have any sense at all?  What was she thinking about?  She must have known it would all come out one day.’

And Harriet’s attempts at getting away from here and starting a new life in London had still not come to anything.  She hadn’t even had a chance of looking for the savings book either.  Why had she wandered upstairs when she thought the place was empty, why hadn’t she gone straight into her Dads study and found the savings book, and left.  If she hadn’t discovered them she could be in London by now, and they could still be doing it.  ‘God, how sick is that?  My mother and my uncle, can you imagine it?’   Instead she was back in shitty Leeds with Jim and those other idiots she hang around with.  ‘God knows why, they’re such a bunch of no-hopers, and I am so much better than them, I am going to be someone one day.  I just have to find a way out of here, an escape route, that’s what I need.  Then I can begin again.  Somewhere where no-one knows me, somewhere I can find some space to think, somewhere away from all this chaos.’

*  * *

Jane felt completely alone, and as she sat on her own in the Mikado (it was a school day and again she was not at school). She tried to put her thoughts together.  She knew she couldn’t really make sense of other people’s behaviour; her mother’s reckless disregard for anyone else in her pursuit of Uncle Ted; her father’s disappearance, his fleeing the scene like a common criminal; and Harriet, her withdrawal into drugs, what could possibly have possessed them.  So she had to try to make sense of her own actions; she knew she had become withdrawn since Harriet had left for university, that she had been so depressed that she had started making herself bleed, she still had the scabs itching under her blouse, just waiting for that rush of release.  But as she sat there she began to grasp the fact that it wasn’t her fault, all of this.  She had simply not been considered by her family at all, she had been less than a consideration, she had not even come onto their horizon’s as they each in their own way had pursued their own goals.   And so, she was not to blame, and she was suddenly angry, angry at them; for what they had done, for wrecking her life at only sixteen, and most of all for not caring one jot about her.  None of them had considered her at all.

And mostly she was angry at Harriet, her darling big sister, who had nurtured her, used her as her protégée, guided and shaped her, and who now couldn’t care less about her.  She knew there was only one thing she cared about nowadays, and it certainly wasn’t Jane.  But if the truth be told she was angry with herself for allowing it to happen, for her reliance on Harriet, her worship of her, her utter dependence on her.  Jane realised as she sat there listening to pop songs that told of youthful exuberance, and love affairs, that if she were to survive this mess, if she was going to come out of it with any degree of sanity she would have to shake her ideas up a bit.  She would have to stop feeling so bloody sorry for herself for a start; she would have to stop worrying about them all, even Harriet – if she wanted to drag herself down with drugs then that was her choice – it had nothing to do with her sister.  she had to start thinking and worrying about her, Jane.

But that was easier to say than do, it all seemed so impossibly hard; she had never been really on her own before, she had always had her sister to rely on, and her parents even; her Dad had always been there too, even if Jane had never confided in him, he was there at least.  But now he was gone, just as Harriet had left her, my Dad had left her too.  And her Mum was falling apart in front of her, she was crying all the time now, Jane hardly recognized her.  She knew she should be brave, because she was the only one left.  She just didn’t think she might be strong enough, that was all.

Trump – The Russia Connection

Wednesday 1st November

Things are hotting up.  After almost a year of rumours and resignations and sackings and turmoil in The White House, the first arrests have been made.  I do not know the truth, perhaps nobody knows the whole truth and maybe we will never know all the details.  All we do know is that many e-mails either from or to Hilary Clinton were hacked and released, mostly by Wikileaks, just prior to the Presidential Election.  There was a lot of furore because she should not have used a private e-mail server for what may have been confidential documents.  The CIA were investigating.  Then just one week before the vote the head of the CIA reported that another batch of e-mails had turned up which they were also investigating (these turned out to be innocuous).  Trump made many accusations about this, even saying he would jail Hilary when he became President.

There were also thousands of new Facebook pages created, all supporting Trump and it is suspected that these originated from Russia.

Who knows if any of this actually affected the vote.  In the end the opinion polls were about right and Hilary got more votes and a higher percentage than Trump.  She just lost by a few thousand in a few states she was expected to win, which handed the prize to Trump.

This may have been the first election where Social Media played such a huge part, although Brexit a year earlier also saw huge activity on Facebook and Twitter.

It is also probable that over the years many governments including our own have tried to affect elections.  It obviously played into Putin’s plans for Trump to win.  He has threatened to dismantle many of the old institutions which Russia disliked.  Over the months it has emerged that there have been multiple connections and meetings between Trump’s inner team and the Russians.  Whether these will end up as proof of collusion or as red herrings is still anyone’s guess.  But there are shadowy links between millionaires in England like Aaron Banks, who supported UKIP and Brexit and in America who supported Trump, and Nigel Farage and Julian Assange and Cambridge Analytics, the company which did much of the damage over Hilary’s e-mails.

What this means for democracy is questionable?  I doubt very much if any of these investigations will actually prove that Trump either knew or sanctioned any involvement with Russia.  Or that any elections will be re-run.  And especially that Trump will be impeached.  It makes good headlines but as the rest of the world and almost everyone you meet holds their head in their hands at the very mention of Trump, it does very little to discourage his core supporters.

Sadly, I think he will be elected for a second term.  Only a disastrous war or another economic collapse will dent his popularity.

The longer term questions are harder to solve.  How do you stop either other countries or rich individuals from using Social media for their own ends?  How do you hold fair elections with a hugely powerful media anyway?  All we can hope is that as time goes on, more people become aware of the difference between genuine reporting of, and highly slanted opinion masquerading as, and downright made up fake – news,