The Pen Is Mightier Than The Tweet

Sunday 7th January

‘Fire and Fury’ has just hit the headlines.  It describes in pretty graphic detail (the short excerpts I have read anyway) the chaos of the current White House under Donald Trump.  Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned.  I have met not a single person who likes him, or who even believes he may be a good President.  And even in America his fans appear to be losing faith in him.  The only real concrete thing he has achieved are his huge tax cuts for the rich.  This has long been a Republican dream and would probably have happened with any Republican President.  For all the bluster and the midnight tweets there seem to have been very few real achievements.

The book not only details the chaos, the feuds and the lack of coherence and policy making but paints a particularly harsh, but only too believable, picture of Trump himself.  He doesn’t read anything, he has a ridiculously short attention span, he goes to bed early and watches three TV screens and eats cheeseburgers.  And he tweets his hatred against anyone who crosses his path.

Now, I do use Social media – Facebook mostly.  But I place far more importance on the written word.  A book, especially, has to be thought about and revised and planned, and generally will have well-constructed arguments.  A tweet requires far less, if any, intellectual rigour.  Tweets are usually reactions to news items or other comments and are composed quickly and off-the-cuff.

Well, the President says the book is all lies.  A Fake Book, if you please. And so he continues to disparage in short sentences anything he disagrees with.  Rather than engage with the facts he dismisses them as fake.

But the pen is far mightier than the tweet.  The book will be around far longer than Donald’s tweets.  It may even become a major warning of the dangers of Populism for generations to come.

How the whole ‘Donald’ saga will end is anyone’s guess.  Impeachment still seems a remote possibility.  He will almost certainly want to win again in 2020, but if the polls, and more importantly the damage to the Republicans in mid-term elections continue then he may be persuaded to retire through ill-health.  That may be our best hope.  Until then, the only real weapon we have is ridicule – the one thing his tweets simply re-inforce.

I Have Lived many Lives – 8

Saturday 6th January


So, a new start  A new beginning.  At last we could begin our real married life together.  Oh yes, we had got married a few months ago, on the spur of the moment really. No parents came, just a couple of fair-weather friends.  And for a few weeks everything seemed good. I scoured the second hand shops and bought a wardrobe. a sofa, table and chairs, cups and saucers and pots and pans.  And paint.  I painted the whole flat white.  It certainly looked better.  Then Carol announced that she was pregnant again.  Oh.  I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or not.  Carol herself seemed pretty pissed off.  I tried to reassure her that everything was going to be alright – but her mood had darkened.  Really, who could blame her – she was barely more than a child herself and here she was pregnant again. Actually of course we were both barely more than children forced to grow up too soon by our own stupidity.

I mentioned that the ‘flat’ we had was the ground floor of a Victorian house.  But as this was temporary accommodation there was no separate entrance and the flat upstairs and ours shared a common hallway.  Upstairs was an Irish couple; the husband rarely seemed to be home; but the woman Liz got friendly with Carol and pretty soon became almost a permanent feature in our flat, drinking tea most evenings when I got home from work.  Carol was starting to neglect Justin too, he always seemed to have a wet nappy on – maybe the same one I had put on him in the morning.  Then Carol told me she was going out for a drink with Liz.  We had very little money but I felt it would be mean of me object.  She said she wouldn’t be long, but rolled in, a bit tipsy around 11.30.  She said she had had a great time, and began to berate me for not taking her out anymore.  I was saving all my wages to try to make our little home nicer.  That argument was brushed aside, and she started going out most nights with Liz.  I would return from work to babysit.

I knew things were going from bad to worse but felt powerless to even argue with her.  I can remember sitting up and waiting for her return, and imagining the worst.

And then one night, drunk but still coherent she said she had started seeing someone else.   I can’t even describe the despair I felt.  After all we had been through, was that all our love meant.  And yet I felt powerless to do anything about it all.  I was simply existing on autopilot, working and babysitting and torturing myself with this living nightmare.  It really was the lowest I had ever been.   And now, what the hell was going to happen…


Friday 5th January


At last some news of Phil, the police sergeant told June he thought he knew where Phil was and they would fetch him tomorrow, but as she was seeing him out of the front door, and the girls were making tea in the kitchen the sergeant spoke quietly to her.

‘You do realise Mrs. Wilkinson that your husband will almost certainly be arrested and detained in Police custody tomorrow.  There is very little chance he will be returning here.  Not for a while anyway.  I just wanted to warn you in private.  I didn’t want to say anything in front of your daughters, you’ve all been through enough already I should think.’

‘Thankyou for letting me know. To be honest I hadn’t thought about what might happen next.  I am just relieved he is okay.’ June replied.

She closed the front door and re-joined the girls.  She wouldn’t let them know what the policeman had said, it was enough for them to know their father was okay.

It was almost from that moment on that she detected a change in Harriet. She had really been pleasant for a couple of days, while Phil was still missing, but almost from the moment they knew he was safe and would be returning she seemed to slip back into her sarcastic mode.  As if she had been good enough to June while her father was still missing, but now she could start hurting her mother again.  It wasn’t completely obvious at first, just a slipped out barb, a half-spoken ‘put-me-down’.  June was so relieved to know that Phil was safe and would be returning that she almost ignored her.  Harriet was the least of her worries now.  She just wanted this business with Phil to be sorted out, surely they wouldn’t stop Phil from coming home, would they?  Probably they just meant for a day or two, just until they had time to question him.

*  * *

\the net was closing in on Jane’s father.  He had been quite close all along, in Lowestoft, on the East coast.  He had booked himself into a small hotel overlooking the sea, and simply sat in his room every day looking out over the ocean.  The Bentley was parked in the car park at the back of the hotel, but the Hotel said he never went out, not even for a walk.  The police sent a detective inspector and two constables to arrest him; Jane expected that he was quite relieved when they arrived.

*  * *

“Oh there you are.  I was wondering when you would find me.  Yes, I’ll just collect my things from the bathroom.  I won’t be a minute.”

*  * *

It was now a week since this whole nightmare had started.  Harriet’s stupid mother screwing her Uncle Ted, her discovering them, her return to Leeds and the rotten journey back home.  And now to cap it all her Dad had been detained for stealing money from his clients – of all the stupid things in the world to do.  Harriet had no idea, she just sort of assumed he had pots of money.   He was always generous with Jane and her.  She just never guessed for a moment he was stealing money.  The day they caught him, and it all started to come out, the Police were quite sarky really, a sort of sneer in their voices.  Harriet was too shell-shocked to think straight.  She hadn’t been capable of thinking straight ever since she caught her mother at it with Uncle Ted.  But that night, it suddenly dawned on her, the enormity of what her Dad had done.  He might even go to prison, they might lose the house and might have absolutely no money at all.

Shit.  Her savings book.  Harriet sat bolt upright in bed. ‘Oh no, surely he hadn’t, had he?’  She tore downstairs and into his study, and couldn’t give a fuck if her mother heard her, she started rummaging.  His desk, it had to be in his desk.  The Police hadn’t bothered to look in his desk, the key was still there in the lock – it hadn’t even been locked.  There in the top drawer underneath a few receipts were two neat little blue books.  One for Jane and one for Harriet, they had been shown them occasionally when they were both little.  Harriet was almost too scared to open them; unopened they still had the money in them, the money she needed to start a new life in London.  Fuck it, she would just go tomorrow morning, no point in hanging around here anymore.  There was nothing for her here, or up in Leeds.  London was her only hope, her only salvation.

She tentatively opened Jane’s book first. The columns ruled and added up, each entry in neat blue ink handwriting with the amounts carried forward to each new page.

Of course, she should have known.  Over a year ago he had taken out her meagre total of eight hundred pounds.  No need to open her own then was there?  But she did anyway, just in case he had left Harriet till later and hadn’t gotten round to screwing his oldest daughter quite yet.  But nothing – just a few odd pounds and pennies.  Fuck, she slung the books back in the drawer.  What would she do now, that had been her last hope.  Oh shit, how could he have done that?  Stolen from his own daughter’s savings.  Dad?  What a shit.

Winter Colds

Thursday 4th January

I always seem to get a Winter cold.  Every year, I never miss out.  In fact sometimes I am greedy and have two.  And the older I get the nastier I seem to like them.  There is something about the combination of a sore throat, runny nose and a headache, together with the grotty rainy and cold weather that can make you thoroughly depressed.  And I try to fight against it, I try to put on a brave face.  I have rarely taken days off for a cold, preferring to soldier through (no doubt contaminating half the town in my wake) rather than take to my sick bed.  In fact I am a very poor patient.  But this winter’s cold I have been going to bed early and sleeping for hours, waking only to check the time before turning over for some more sleep.  And in the morning I wake up feeling a bit better.  I tell my wife I am feeling better today.  And I am.  For a while, but gradually the day catches up with me and by evening I am feeling poorly again and begging for my bed.

I am fairly sure that my Winter cold is no worse than most other people’s.  But somehow that is no compensation.  The fact that others are suffering doesn’t make me feel any better.

And every year after a couple of weeks or so, things begin to clear up and before you know it Spring is on the way.

But it does seem strange that with all the medical advances, incredible heart and brain surgery and new drugs – we seem no nearer to curing or eradicating the common Winter cold.

Only the Brits

Wednesday 3rd January

I caught a piece on BBC News this morning.  It was reporting that many Hoteliers in Spain and Greece were now refusing to take British Holidaymakers on all-inclusive holidays.  The reason being that there has been a 5,000 per cent increase in insurance claims for food poisoning in the last three years.  Yes that figure really is 5000% – that is an increase of fifty times the number tree years ago.  They are almost all exclusively from Brits who on returning to Blighty claim they have been stricken with food poisoning.  There is no way the travel insurance companies can check this as symptoms can often be quite short-lived.  What people don’t realise is that the Travel Insurance companies recharge the Hotel in question.  It is up to those Hoteliers to claim on their own insurance – and their insurance companies are now refusing to pay up.

Now, I know some people have queasy tummies and a few cases may be genuine, but it is almost certain that these are actually false claims.  I had heard years ago of people deliberately ‘losing’ expensive cameras or watches on holidays abroad – and this is just the same.  It is old-fashioned fraud.  Whiplash claims are also huge in Britain and pushing up Motor Insurance for the rest of us.  It is obvious why people do this – make false claims, that is.  They think it is a victimless crime, that nobody gets hurt, that the insurance companies can afford it, or simply because someone has told them about it and it is too good an opportunity to let slip by.

But, of course there are no victimless crimes, someone always has to pay.  Downloading music from Pirate Bay for nothing hurts the artist as they don’t get the Royalties.  Ripping off Insurance Companies pushes premiums up for all of us.  Not declaring taxable income, such as private rents dimishes the tax revenues so there are more cuts in services.

And this seems to be a particularly British Disease.  I wonder if there is something in our National Character which means we are happy to be crooks.  Many Directors I have worked for fiddle their expenses; London is the world centre of Money Laundering and if the Daily Mail is to be believed all benefit Claimants are crooks too.  Maybe we would all ‘fiddle’ somehow if we could, maybe this is why there is this huge increase in false travel insurance claims.  Who knows, but it seems sad to me.


New Year’s Deceptions

Tuesday 2nd January

Maybe I am just a miserable old bugger (I am sure you will agree) but I never get excited about New Year.  I go along with it and sing Auld Lang Syne and kiss everyone, but there is always a rational part of my brain that is telling me ‘this is nonsense’.  Mankind has always told off the years by the seasons, but why 1st January should be any different to any other day is quite illogical.  Besides, it is quite ridiculous that it is so close to Christmas itself – we have a period of almost two weeks when nothing gets done, offices are closed, too much food is consumed, too much crap on the telly.  Now on 2nd janauary at least we can get back to normal.

But I suppose the thing I am most amazed at is the optimism people display, the belief that somehow their lives will change, that things will get better, that the world will become a better place just because a certain day in the calendar has been passed.

And when one looks at the next approaching few months there is little to be enthused about.  Brexit talks will resume shortly; we have spent a year talking about the ‘Divorce’ Bill, and we have ended up giving the EU just about everything they asked for.  This was obvious from day one.  In order to move on to talks about a possible future trading arrangement we had to agree to their demands.  We still have the impossible circle to square of Northern Ireland; and the equally impossible desire by the Government to have frictionless and tariff-free movement of goods and services but not in either the Single Market or the Customs Union.  My best guess is that the EU will stick to their guns – we will stay in both for another two years while the arguments continue – so we will formally have left the EU, but still be in it, and with no agreed trade deal in sight.  Of course Mrs. May will then call an election….no predicitons are possible about the result.

In America Donald Trump is busy tearing up all the good which Obama did.  He may well rip up the deal with iran too.  A new war in the Middle East is even more likely now.  North Korea is still a problem, as is Russia.  But maybe he will surprise us and bring World peace all round.  Don’t hold your breath.

So – I can see 2018 as much of the same.  Nationalism shows no signs of diminishing, common-sense is in very short supply.

All we can do is just to try to get on with our lives best we can.