Delusions of Grandeur

Tuesday 6th February

Spain once had an empire – it involved stealing gold from American natives.  France until recently had an empire – it involved stealing raw materials from much of North Africa.  England (well, okay the UK) once had an empire which started with Slavery and ended in a series of sad defeats.  Austria-Hungary once had an empire covering the Balkans and much of Eastern Europe. The Dutch and Portuguese were minor players in this game too.  But all, except the Brits, have accepted that the game is over.  France still considers itself an important country, especially in Europe.  Spain is quietly rebuilding.  Holland and Portugal and Austria and Hungary have now accepted that they are small countries whose interests are best served as part of a much larger group of countries acting together – the EU.

Britain continues to deceive itself that we are a World Power.  There are only three World powers – America, deeply in debt and in a slow decline of its own.  Russia, still struggling economically but with vast untapped resources and a rapidly modernising army.  And, of course, China, who like the Cheshire cat sits smiling at the World while quietly getting stronger and stronger.  England still believes that we have a special relationship with America, when all we share is a language (and many people doubt even that).

When we leave the EU, these Little Englanders, these Tory back-woodsmen, these harkers back to Empire, these ‘we will fight them on the beaches’ Nationalists, believe we will become ‘Great’ again; that the World will fall over itself to sign wonderful trade deals with us.  America, which is rapidly become Isolationist and dis-engaging itself will only trade with us if we obey their rules (chlorinated chicken and all).  China will smile and smile but are only interested in selling not buying anything of ours (except perhaps Scotch whisky).  Australia is concentrating all their efforts on trading with the Pacific rim and China in particular.  Canada? – oh yes, we may well want to buy maple syrup from them but almost all their trade is with the USA.  And so it goes on.  The third world is rapidly modernising and developing its own industries; they actually own our pathetically small steel industry.  They do not need us, except maybe to launder illegal money, which we are particularly good at.

We have delusions of grandeur, we still worship the anachronism of the Royal family, we cling to the idea of the Commonwealth, as if somehow this will resurrect a fairer Empire with us still at the centre.

Out folly was illustrated by Amber Rudd on Andrew Marr.  He said that the EU would simply not give us a special trade deal with all the advantages and no immigration.  She replied that we would fight hard “Don’t imagine that we will surrender that quickly”.  And Andrew laughingly said “Oh, so will surrender slowly.”  And that is the reality.  Against the EU, we will surrender slowly – just as we did in phase one of the discussions; the EU got exactly what they wanted.  I don’t think a trade deal will even be discussed until the transition period begins.  We will have technically left by then, but nothing will have changed – except the cliff-edge will loom closer.  And our delusions of grandeur will slowly be shattered as we will either accept what they have to offer – or shuffle off into a slow and devastating oblivion

I Have Lived many Lives -11

Monday 5th February

Ah Joybells.  This was about as close to love at first sight as I ever got.  Joy was a telephonist (you know, those internal operators with plugs on the end of rubberized cables – just connecting you) at a Hotel I had just joined as Assistant Accountant.  We met over coffee and went out that night and she practically stayed since then.  I suddenly felt confident, this could work.  She was so easy-going and actually loving and lovely.  We got married and had a wonderful honeymoon in what was then Yugoslavia.  We decided to have a child and were over the moon when Laura arrived.

Things were looking up.  We moved to a nice private flat with a controlled rent (back in the good old days rents were often controlled with minimally allowed increases), I changed jobs and was earning more money, Justin was starting school and we had a lovely little family.  I joined the Labour Party and got quite involved with my local Constituency, even attending Annual Conference twice and standing for the local council (I lost – it was solidly Tory back then).  Joy started playing table tennis at a local club.  We had some great Saturday nights playing cards with friends and playing music into the early hours.  In fact it was our joint love of music which had helped seal our love; that first night we played alternately Terry Reid’s ‘River’ (her choice) and McCartney’s ‘Red Rose Speedway’ (mine).


It all went wrong when I discovered that she was having an affair with a guy called Peter who she had met at the table tennis club.  I confronted her and gave her a choice – leave him and we would try to get our love back on track, or leave me.

She chose the latter….

For all my fans out there, this will be the last installment in this little series (far too may people I might mention are on Facebook, but I hope you have enjoyed it…hahaha)


Sunday 4th February

Of course, he was bound to get caught one day, but he later assured Jane that he had always intended to repay everyone, that if he had ever ‘hit the jackpot’ as he referred to his dubious schemes, his first action would have been to sort out any irregularities that might have occurred.  Nice way of putting it – wasn’t it.  ‘Irregularities’.  In his mind you see he was never a crook, just unlucky.  He never accepted that he was just a petty thief who had got caught with his fingers in the till; he never accepted responsibility for his actions at all.

Well he was caught, and tried, and convicted.  He served nearly five years, and came out a broken man.   He looked at least twenty years older when Jnae saw him a few weeks after his release, an old man and not even fifty.  The house was long gone by then, as was her mother.  But what really aged him more than that or the prison sentence, or her mother’s affair, which had probably prompted his flight and subsequent discovery in the first place, was what happened to Harriet.  That had really done for him, as it nearly did for all of them.

*  * *

Poetry was always Jane’s most disliked of English Literature subjects.  She had always loved stories, and had rapidly progressed from Bunty to Famous Five and Secret Seven, and then in her teens she discovered Agatha Christie, and though she never knew how to pronounce Hercules Poirot, she couldn’t wait for the devilish Belgian to twist his little waxed moustaches and make his next brilliant observation.  At sixteen, she was just beginning to fall in love with those classic English novels; the Bronte’s and Jane Austen’s, but she did struggle a bit with Dickens and later became enthralled with Galsworthy and Gissing and Henry James, those quiet observers of English manners.

She loved Plays too, especially when they read them out loud, and she could fall into character and almost believe she was Ariel, or Titania.  Again, later she would discover Tennessee Williams and Ibsen and Checkov, but back then at school she somehow didn’t quite make the connection between Shakespeare and TV dramas.  They were so different, or so she thought.  Shakespeare was all dreamy and strange language, long sentences, and short sharp violence; and plays on the telly or Z cars were like a mirror held up to the world, where we saw ourselves, only in more exaggerated form.  Until now, that is, and no amount of Dixon of Dock Green’s had prepared her for being actually mixed up with the sordid underbelly of our society, and they weren’t sordid at all actually; her mother had never been sordid, and even her poor father was quite pathetic in his running away.

But ‘Poetry’ she never got, until actually only a few weeks before all this happened and they started reading the War Poets, and it suddenly made sense.  Jane had been completely lost in those clouds of daffodils until now.  This was real; this was real people feeling the awfulness of the trenches, the mud the guns and the boredom, and thinking of loved ones back home.   And then they read TS Elliott with that famous last line about how the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.  Oh, how wrong he was; Jane’s world ended with the biggest bang imaginable.

Magical Mystery Tour

Saturday 3rd February

I first saw this on Boxing Day 1967, in black and white.  I watched it with my parents and their reaction (and possibly mine) would best be summed up by the phrase “They’re having a laugh, aren’t they?”

And that is exactly what they were doing.  At a loss and a loose end after the tragic death of their manager Brian Epstein they decided to make a fun film.  They already had the songs (possibly rejects from Sergeant Pepper) and they incorporated them into the film.  There was no script and very little idea except a Magical Mystery Tour where anything could happen – and probably would.

A few weeks ago I bought the DVD, recently digitally remastered and I watched it yesterday (the second time); amazing how much I could remember.  But the most surprising thing was  – it is in colour.  Brilliant vivid sunny colours, which transformed the fuzzy black and white images we watched on our tiny Murphy TV back in that psychadelic year (all that was lost in black and white.)

The whole film is a cross between an acid trip and a very English village fete filmed by a secret and surreal director watching and filming the antics.

I have had the CD for years which also includes a few ‘B’ sides from around ’67 and ’68 and have always loved those songs, even if the production was a bit hurried and not perfect at all.  Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed the film, it took me right back to the Sixties, where anything was possible.

In many ways it shows the Beatles in a totally different light, not acting, not playing for the cameras, but just being themselves.

I will wait a while before watching it again, but not as long as 51 years next time.  Well worth the tenner it cost…

Z – is for The Zombies

Friday 2nd February

Well, I recall the singles, especially the first one, the big one “She’s not There”, and that ethereal voice floating, ever floating, above the melody.  Then they sort of disappeared, the occasional single entering the lower reaches of the charts.  By 1969 they were ready to call it a day, five years since their big hit and since then diminishing returns.  They recorded one last album “Oddysey and Oracle” and then they split.

Rod Argent soon formed his own much heavier band Argent, Chris White released a couple of singles and Colin Blunstone, the voice of The Zombies took a couple of years out but returned in, I think 1972 with the sublimest of records “One Year”.  He had a string of hit albums and singles.   Argent did well too.  But what of that last album?  It was the slowest of slow burners, but gradually started to sell well and became a cult album, a musician’s record, a collector’s treasure.

And I started with Colin’s records – bought every one, and then got Oddysey, and then started to look up, mostly deleted, their earlier stuff (all available now on CD).  They have reformed a couple of times and still play the occasional concert together but are now really just Colin and Rod.  But I love the early stuff, the naïve singles, the gentle ballads, the imperfect pop of mid-sixties bands, trying desperately to sound different, to get a hit, to have a record as big as “She’s Not There”.  In a way having that huge hit was bad for them, they could never write a song that good again.  But what they did write was okay for me.  I have grown to love their early records, the failed singles and b sides too.  So, to close this little alphabet Z must be for the Zombies, an inappropriate name for an inappropriate but immensly talented group.

The Next Labour Party Leader

Thursday 1st February

Well, even Jeremy cannot go on forever – but he may surprise us all by his longevity.  After all he was the first Leader for ages who didn’t resign after not winning a General Election; I think you have to go back to Neil Kinnock.  Everything depends on how well, or badly Labour perform at the next General Election, and when that will be.  If it comes after a crisis in the Tory Party or a lost vote of confidence in the Commons then Labour may well win, but if Mrs. May can survive until 2022 (a big if) and she somehow pulls a half-decent rabbit out of the Brexit hat then who knows, – she really needs a Falklands war I suppose.

But if Labour start slipping in the polls and Jeremy decides to step down before the next election?  Well, it looks almost like a shoo-in for Emily Thornberry.  She has handled her brief well, is a steady and good TV performer and a head-to-head with Mrs. May would be interesting to say the least (handbags at dawn?).

But if Labour do badly at the next election and Jeremy is persuaded to go then anything could happen.  Clive Lewis has managed to get back into a shadow ministerial role and may have a chance.  I would like to think that Keir Starmer was a possibility but he may well be far too sensible for the current Labour Party.  Almost anyone who served under Blair or Brown is tainted.  There are a few new faces too – Rebecca Long-Bailey is mentioned, as is Debbie Abrahams – but the general public hardly know them, which actually could be a good thing.

My suspicion is that Jeremy will stay ‘in post’ after the next election, unless Labour do really badly, and in five or six years Emily Thornberry will take over.  But I have been wrong about almost every election and referendum for the last few years, so what do I know.