Elton John – Rock Royalty?

Thursday 30th April

Undoubtedly Elton has assumed the mantle of National Treasure and Rock Royalty.  He even played a special version of ‘Candle in the Wind’ at Princess Diana’s funeral. But like Royalty, amongst the splendour and glamour the question poses itself “What is it all for?”  For me it has to be the music, and despite a few good records Elton has disappointed.  Throughout the eighties and nineties he kept making albums and apart from “Too Low for Zero” and “Sleeping with the Past” they were largely poor.  He was often in the news and sued the Sun for a false story, he got married to a woman and quite soon divorced and came out as being Gay.  Wow, we were surprised at that news.  Lately he has married his long-term partner and adopted two children.  He has written musicals and film scores.  For my money the songs from Lion King are the worst he has ever written, but millions love them.

He tours quite often and tends to sing the songs from the seventies when he was cutting edge and writing beautiful melodies.  If I had to choose one song it would probably be “Your Song” from his second record; the lyrics are so simple and original.  “My gift is my song babe and this one’s for you”.  But despite the excesses, despite the ridiculous glasses, despite the temper tantrums, despite the many middle of the road records he has been a large part of my life and I still buy his records and actually of late they aren’t at all bad.  I imagine he will continue singing and making music into his very old age and why not.


Wednesday 29th April

Well. Sort of.  At last and after 46 years of working I am officially retired today.  In fact apart from one short spell of unemployment (about four weeks) I have barely had two week breaks in my working life.  When I started we worked five and a half days a week.  I was working at the Carlton Towers Hotel in Knightsbridge and used to eat three meals a day there in the staff canteen.  It was always a treat on the weekend when I would eat in a Wimpy Bar or take home, in real newspaper, fish and chips.  Holidays were only two weeks back then too.  But funnily enough work never seemed that stressful.  My first office job, Assistant Wages Clerk in 1972 was a revelation.  Nine to five rather than starting at seven and we had a quarter hour coffee break at 11, and the same at 3 in the afternoon.  No computers of course, so everything took far longer.  But you were given far more time to do your work too.

Gradually it has gotten busier, more frantic, more stressful, longer hours, lunch – a sandwich at your desk and if the phone rings you answer it between mouthfuls.  In the early nineties e-mail arrived, a novelty at first, now a nightmare.  Everyone expects instant answers, instant replies – well you have a computer don’t you, just press a few keys and the numbers come up.  We are all now slaves to our e-mails, and now they are on our phones there is literally no escape.  People are reading them in Restaurants, on the tube, on the toilet even.

I am keeping one Restaurant, doing most of the work by e-mail, producing a weekly report and coming back for two days of work once a month.  I have to wait almost another year until my private and state pensions become available so a bit of money will be helpful.

For a while I was a bit worried about it, but looking around Eymet, where I am flying to today, almost everyone is retired there.  And you know what – they are happy.  Relaxed and happy, so bring it on.

I’m Beginning to Like the Guy

Tuesday 28th April

When Ed Milliband won the Labour leadership contest I was a bit dismayed.  His brother had been the obvious choice, though I actually would have preferred Alan Johnson or Hilary but neither were standing.  Thank God it wasn’t Ed Balls – imagine the headlines.  Or Dear Diane, though I was glad she stood (far too few non white women in Parliament).  So my preferences were with David (a bit Blair-Lite but very articulate and let’s face it – good looking) or Andy Burnham (sweet puppy-dog looks but did he have a bite?).  But as the contest went on I began to like some of the arguments Ed Milliband was espousing, but never actually thought he would win.  He did win, and I think that was largely because of Iraq.  The one big mistake Labour made.  I heard a radio interview with singer songwriter Martyn Joseph with a Canadian D.J., and Martyn said that hardly anyone in the country, practically no-one in the Labour Party or even in the Cabinet really agreed with invading Iraq but Blair had won anyway.  Well, Ed was the first to come out and say it had been wrong.

Anyway, that is History. For over four years we have been bombarded with silly photo’s and fed the idea that Milliband would be awful as P.M.  This was Cameron’s secret weapon – okay they hadn’t got rid of the deficit, they hadn’t slowed down the number of immigrants, they had made the rich richer and the poor poorer, but just look at Ed Milliband, would anyone in their right minds actually vote for the guy???   Or so their reasoning went.

But slowly, interview by interview, leaders debate by (Cameron absent) debate, he has changed our minds.  He is still not as popular as Cameron, but he does appear to be a human being.  Cameron is always earnest, always glib and quite frankly we are tired of him.  I have blogged before about the American statute of limitations.  Maybe Politicians can only be popular for a few years.  Next please…

The Sunday Times Rich List

Monday 27th April

Well, this is, for me at least, becoming an annual moment of despair.  The Sunday Times, the paper of the rich or aspiring or admiring of the rich and powerful if ever there was one, publishes each year their “rich list.”  In an age of ever increasing food-banks and world poverty that very term “rich list” is so ‘nineties’, so smug and insensitive.  Some commentators have heralded the fact that the number and wealth of the countries billionaires has double in the last five years as a source of pride, in both the success of our economy and the last Government.  I would come to exactly the opposite conclusion – it is the failure of that Government to re-distribute wealth or to tax fairly these already rich people that is a source of shame for us as a country (remember the smug look on Osborne’s face when he reduced the top rate of tax by 5p in the pound).

Because money is not an infinite commodity; people get richer as a result of other people becoming poorer.  The Tories will point to the trickle down factor, and yes these rich people will eat in Michelin starred restaurants and some of their tips (but not all by any means – remember I work in the industry) may trickle down to those on the minimum wage.  There is, it is true in London a whole service industry pandering to the whims of the super-rich which does employ quite a lot of people.  However if the wealth were re-distributed a bit, and no-one at the coming election is advocating really hurting them, then many more people would have money in their pockets to spend, so employing even more people.

But even economics aside, can anyone really be pleased with a society in which the super rich double their wealth in five years, and the Government is sanctioning people (that is –withholding their benefits for two weeks) when they are ten minutes late for an appointment.  I suppose they see that as one way of reducing the benefits bill.

2066 – Janek is up early and writing again

Sunday 26th April

Diary Entry – 20660106

“It is almost five in the morning, only time I could be certain she definitely would be asleep.  My dear and darling precious wife, who would never in a million years begin to understand why I am doing this.   And there was a time I could tell her everything, when we had no secrets at all.  Now I am terrified of her finding out, she would never begin to understand.   We seem to have grown so far apart, I constantly wonder why.  Do people really change so much, or is it just the life going on around us that changes?  Can we ever un-learn all our years of experience, is it possible to regain that excitement, that optimism before life kicked the shit out of it?  But part of me knows we can never regain that simple trust we once had; it sometimes seems we are two trains travelling ever further away from each other.   Tracks that once ran parallel to each other have diverged, I only catch a glimpse of her now and then, and my, she has changed.  Time was when she was my only friend, the only person I felt could ever begin to understand me.   All long gone now I am afraid.  In many ways she is a total stranger to me now.  Yet for routine’s sake we still cling on together, each pretending we are happy, each knowing it isn’t how it used to be.  And never will be again.  Or at least that how it is for me; what she is thinking I have no idea.  And that is the how I know it has all changed; at one time I would always know what she was thinking.

So I have slipped guiltily out of bed, and as quiet as could be, made a decaf and crept into the spare room and got out my dear little box of archaeological treasure and am writing again.  Not sure why I am doing this really, it isn’t as if it will ever change anything.  Maybe I just have an exaggerated sense of my own importance.  But as that old quiz thing used to say – “I’ve started so I’ll finish” – I feel I have to carry on.  Until?

Until I am caught, or I just decide to stop maybe.  But I feel I have so much to say, so much to record, so much to save.  Because I get the feeling that future generations will have no real idea of what life was like now.  The Official version is always untrustworthy.  Propaganda is rife, truth is a fleeting butterfly that may well be pinned down on some screen somewhere; but does that sterile preserved specimen give you any real idea of what it was like to spread her wings in the morning sun, and fly from flower to flower.  Will anyone ever record the taste of nectar?  And of course, butterflies are rarer than ever now the weather is so fucked up.

I can’t quite believe how fucking cold it is outside; and after all those scares of Global Warming in the first decades of the century.  We can’t say we weren’t warned, but as usual we ignored the evidence, disputed and refuted it, laughing at the scientists and carried on in our stupidity.  Until it hit us like a brick in the face that is.   And we almost sorted it out, we nearly did it.   Well came pretty close as far as most com-projections tell us.  What with hydrogen fuel cells which took off suddenly in the twenty-twenties, and then a few years later the big switchover to micro power which only uses a twentieth of that old standard power to run everything we severely reduced the output of all those nasty greenhouse gases.  Of course it was too late to stop the great thaw of Antartica and the rise in sea-levels, but we did manage to stabilise things by about 2045.

What no-one realised, what no computer programme predicted was that it was too late by then anyway.  The Great Tipping Point had been reached, and the planet lurched into this new mode so quickly.  They call it the Ambivalence, not because no one cares, but because no-one can be quite sure which way it is going to go next.  Some scientists reckon we are racing to becoming a super hot planet like Venus where life will only be really viable around the poles.  Others are just as sure we will lurch back into a new ice-age; they certainly have all this volcanic activity on their side of the argument, seems like one is popping its cork somewhere every month.  They say that if a really big one blows it will blanket out the sun’s heat for a decade, and so plunge us back into the freezer in no time.   Not the happiest of predictions.

Meanwhile we are stuck in these doldrums of Ambivalence, where as far as I understand it most of the ocean currents have slowed to almost half their old speed, a sluggishness that is affecting everything; it feels as if the planet has almost stopped spinning at all.  The result here in Brit is that we are fucking freezing; the old Gulf Stream that brought all that wet and windy (and warm) weather blowing in from the Atlantic hardly affects us at all now, it has moved far to the South and is less than half the strength it used to be, so now we have a climate nearer to Canada than the California that the scientists had predicted.

Overall they say that Global temperatures are still rising but now it is definitely in zones, bands of wildly differing temperatures, but still overall higher than ever.  They tell us that most of Africa is uninhabitable now, one big Sahara spreading south, with only a small fringe along the Med and south of Zimbabwe where most of the Africans have migrated to.  All the factories and wealth the Chinese installed there fifty years ago are gone, and the bulk of the continent is being ravaged by vicious carnivorous insect life now, all eating each other and mating and living and dying in that searing heat.  It seems they are the only creatures with a short enough life span to evolve fast enough to survive.  Great tracts of South America and even the south of India and most of South East Asia are the same, just barren desert wastelands now, in place of the tropical paradises we used to know.  Whereas here Europe is shivering, especially to the East, and the Med is more like Scotland used to be, with constant rain and snow every winter.

But you can never be sure of anything, can you?  Do we believe the screencasts totally, or are we all being manipulated to believe this is what has happened?  There is hardly any foreign travel now of course, they blame the Ambivalence and the volcanoes for that too, but maybe it’s convenient not to let us see for ourselves.  The safe-resorts are all bubbled now, so you cannot even be sure what lies outside the skein you are enclosed in.  Even the ride from the airport is in a plasticated tube, for all we know the desert outside could be a projection itself.  The amazing thing is how almost everyone just accepts it all, believes without questioning, settling into the new world reality as if nothing had really changed at all.  Or is it all too much for them to take in, much easier to tune in to yet another soapy-sope or plug themselves into syn and forget the outside world.

And now that America has regained its status as the only real superpower since the Chinese started slipping back a couple of decades ago; it has become the most populated place on the planet.  It is practically one big city down the entire East Coast, while in the Mid-West the temperatures are just too extreme for anyone except agri-workers to survive.   Greater LA is almost a country itself, the most powerful city within the most powerful state on earth.  The trouble is everything now comes out of America; they control nearly all of the screencasts, the holo-vids and the news.  How can we ever be sure where Disnews ends and Reality begins?  But screencast lies or not there is no manufacturing this awful cold weather.  It is here, outside my apartment block and it is really cold.  I hate it.

So is that where we are?   A planet fast running out of control with vast swathes of desert where people used to be, with almost everyone living in vast cities and keeping indoors in the bitter winter.    Is that what mankind’s stupidity has reduced us to?   At least the population has been culled somewhat; we had been in danger of drowning in our own numbers, starving ourselves to extinction as we used up all the land.  But at last the penny seems to have dropped and we are now stabilising numbers and even beginning to reduce them, especially here in the West, though I suspect a lot of the numbers are guessed, I mean who is counting in China now?

And with all this temperature change we don’t grow anything like enough natural food to feed ourselves.   The manna food industry is booming these days; apparently the proteins they grow are much more nutritious than the old natural foodstuffs used to be, and they can genetically stuff them full of vitamins and minerals, so people actually need to eat far less than their grandparents had to.  Cathy and I are quite fortunate in that we are in a fairly high strata and can use some of our cred in ‘realfood’ stores, so we only eat a small amount of manna.   Tastes okay to me, but it still lacks something, some irregularity, some unexpected flaws.  It all tastes much the same; that is my only problem with it.  Most of the lower strata exist on nothing but manna.  They seem quite healthy on it though, so who knows, maybe it is good for you after all.

But I just can’t get used to these long cold winters and short hot little summers we have now.  London is slightly isolated, or I should say insulated, by all the people and the heat-conserving tech in all the office buildings, but most people’s houses just weren’t built for these conditions, and are rapidly being replaced by new heat-retaining panel apartments, another boom industry.  Ours has had extra layers of heat-reflecting fibres laid down in the roof, and we have a generous heating cred allowance, but some mornings I simply can’t seem to get warm outside the flat.  Maybe I am just getting old, but I am fifty-five for pities sake, that’s not even halfway through, so it must just be me.  Cathy has reverted to wearing two layers of dermis outside the house, so hardly any of her body heat ever leaves her, I hate it though, it’s so constricting and tight, like wearing a second, (or in her case a third), skin.  I still like to feel the air flowing over my body, that silky glide as your skin reacts to each passing wave of air when the goose-bumps come up so quickly, and then settle down again.  I have always hated those dermis suits, with their silky metallic sheen it feels as if we are all turning into some sort of androids or robots, and indeed with the latest ones having chips installed they are just like robot bodies, automatically regulating themselves to maintain a median temperature no matter what the outside world is doing.  All those sci-fi vids coming true, it would seem.   A bit too soon for my liking too.

I blinked on the news channel as the decaf was brewing and the Middle East is blowing up again.  How long has that conflict been going on for now, it must be a hundred years.   It just seems that it will never be sorted out.   They are fighting over water now, perhaps because they have run out of everything else to fight about.   I read up about it a while back, and though you can never fully trust the versions they let you read, even the differing slants I could get hold of all despaired of any real solution.  Both sides seem to act with such duplicity that any agreements last only a few years before they break down and they start fighting again.   And despite Isreal’s continued economic and military dominance you can’t help feeling that the sheer weight of numbers on the other side will prevail sooner or later, and then there is the Muslimisation of Israel itself; as more and more Jews leave for America, their true spiritual home, and the Arabs simply have more kids than everyone else, they must win in the end I suppose.

Anyway, it’s nearly six-thirty, so I had better stop this, as she will be stirring soon.  I will have to make out I have just woken and couldn’t sleep so sat and watched some old re-run on the kitchen screen.”

The SNP scare stories

Saturday 25th April

We are approaching the end-game now and frankly no-one really knows.  And the Tories are desperate.  They had relied on the contrast of geeky ungainly and awkward Milliband against cool experienced Cameron, but the more we have see of Ed the more confident he has appeared; in fact the public are quite warming to him.  Okay he will never appear as smooth as Blair, but maybe that’s a good thing – but the public has not responded to him by flocking to the Tories.  Then they tried the bribes, inheritance tax cuts, 8 billion extra for the NHS and the right to buy for Housing Association tenants.  None of that has cut any ice with the public either so they have now resorted to FEAR.

And the current bogeywoman is Nicola Sturgeon who, on the backs of what should have been a disastrous defeat when they lost the referendum, has turned her party into an overwhelming force in Scotland.  It looks as if Labour will lose around 40 M.P.s north of the border.  But the LibDems will possibly lose ten too, and the Tories will certainly gain none.  And as all of those SNP winners will end up supporting Labour the Tories are running scared.   So, although the news is all about Scotland and the Tories are trying to scare everyone about these terrible Scots, the real battle is, as it always was going to be, in England.

The polls have barely moved and although they may all be wrong on the day itself it looks as if neither Labour or the Tories can rule on their own.  It may well come down to just how many LibDem seats are lost.  Cameron may just scrape home with the DUP and the rump of the LibDems but it will be a coalition of the losers.  The momentum is with the SNP in Scotland and a slowly improving Labour in England.  I doubt actually whether Cameron will admit defeat for a few days and may actually attempt a Queens Speech as a minority and dare the others to vote him down.  And then Milliband would have his chance.  All to play for.

Elton John – Too Famous Now – the 70’s albums

Friday 24th April

Well dear Elton was now famous.  His big breakthrough album was a double “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” with the brilliant opening medley of ‘Funeral for a Friend, Candle in the Wind, and Bennie and the Jets’  almost the best start ever to an album.  Full of very good songs it was possibly too long.  Elton was so prolific in the seventies and eighties that quality control seemed to go out of the window sometimes.

He followed this with ‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’, supposedly nicknames for Elton and his lyricist Bernie Taupin.  A very accomplished album with one of his best ballads “Someone save my life Tonight” but it came hot on the heels of Yellow Brick Road and was hard to appreciate before he released “Caribou”, which I think was his best from this period.  Again the songs were just superb, especially ‘Don’t let the Sun go down on me.’ And ‘The Bitch is Back’ though I love the closing song ‘Ticking’ about a serial killer best.  But around this time Elton, who was spending far too much time in America and far too much money on cocaine and outrageous glasses and outfits such as his Donald Duck costume, decided he wanted to be a Disco star.  He had the single “Philadelphia Freedom” and then a whole album ‘Rock of the Westies’ where the Disco nonsense won out over Rock and Roll; possibly his weakest record of this period.

He then released another double “Blue Moves” which divided opinion; some great songs but again overlong and a lot of fillers, despite classics like ‘Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word’ he seemed to be depressed and losing focus.  There must have been some artistic split because he abandoned his career-long co-writer Bernie and next released a whole album of collaborations with other writers.  And “A Single Man” is great, a lot of happier sounding songs, and the brilliant almost instrumental “Song For Guy”.  So Elton was back but he had never lost the idea that he should have been a Disco singer.  He released “Victim of Love” to close the seventies run of brilliance and this was something else completely.  Firstly no Elton songs or piano at all, just 7 soul covers and a session band which segued from one song to another, it is really just one long Disco track.  Actually I am rather fond of it….

But the Elton John story still had a long way to run.

Grant Schapps – A Modern Day Tory

Thursday 23rd April

If you want to see a modern day Tory, look no further than Grant Schapps.  He is Co-Chairman of the Tory party but on his Wikipedia page this has been changed to Chairman.  Actually Chairman or Co-Chairman of a political party is pretty much a non-position these days; they are  wheeled out for the TV camera’s but obviously not important enough to be a Minister.  But Mr. Schapps, or whatever name he really has, is a true child of Thatcher.  Making money and dirty tricks are in his DNA.  I am actually surprised that Cameron, not the best judge of character (think Andy Coulson), has kept him in his exalted position for so long.  Rumours seem to continually swirl around this attractive and media-friendly spokesperson.  He has been ‘outed’ as using a false name to front a particularly dubious money-making web-site even when he was elected as an M.P.   He at first denied this, vehemently.  And then when incontrovertible evidence was produced admitted that he had made a mistake with dates.

He has just been found out allegedly altering both his own Wikipedia page and that of Cabinet colleagues who may have had different views to his and opponents pages too.  We live in the age of the Internet, and many of us go to Wikipedia for fair and unbiased information.  Wikipedia is an on-line encyclopaedia which is compiled by a sort of consensus of opinion which is monitored by volunteer editors who watch certain entries and check changes made and try to verify them.  In other words Wikipedia is supposed to be incorruptible and uninfluenced by those with money or power, as the press so obviously isn’t. It is sort-of the BBC of the Internet; trusted to be unbiased (though there will be many of you who disagree with that I am sure).  Apparently a user “contributefx” has been altering Mr. Schapps and other’s accounts to present him in a more positive, and them in a more negative light.  Now, we are all used to Politicians rubbishing their opponents, but it is pretty nasty to attack your own colleagues, and even nastier to do it anonymously, or to get your assistants or friend to do it on your behalf.  Whether this story will die as he angrily denies it, or run a bit longer is still in the balance.  But if you want to know more about the modern day Tory party look no further than Grant Schapps.

Neglected Poems Number – who knows – Halloween

Wednesday 22nd April

And here is another of those old poems.  What?  You thought that nonsense was over, that I had maybe exhausted my little store?  No, there a few more nuts left, squirrelled away for that proverbial– and looking up at the sky, another bloody pouring – day.  This one is called Halloween and was written as soon as I returned from an ill-advised bonfire party.  I wasn’t too happy now I recall.


I arrive for the party, six-pack in my hand

Cheerful and hearty – you must understand

I intend to enjoy this, to let myself go

Ignore my own sadness and go with the flow

But bile and bitterness just won’t let me be

The memories stalk me; they can’t set me free

I try to relax, slide in to the mood

I drink too quickly, ignoring the food

Come on in and celebrate

Hot mulled wine we elevate

Bobbing apples in guilty throats

Superior lifestyles, everyone gloats

Those witches masks and pumpkin faces

Mean more to me than these social graces

The bonfire is lit, let’s go outside

At least there are shadows, out here I can hide

A bit too much wine, you thought you felt fine

But witching hours just lengthen

Faces are all masks and nobody asks

Just where you get your inner strength from

The excitement mounts as twelve O’clock approaches

You try to be part of them but loneliness encroaches

Your mind is full of your own ghosts as you quietly leave

As the guests depart their tail-lights gleam

What was it you were doing or trying to achieve

To exorcise demons or re-live another witch-filled dream


Blossom, blossom everywhere

Tuesday 21st April

I love blossom.  It is of course flowers, mostly of fruiting trees.  It is a sign, a flag to all the insects of course, but to us too – that Spring has arrived.  And suddenly everywhere is dripping with blossom, branches of trees are bending over, brimming over with gorgeous blossom.   The scent is heady; it actually makes my eyes sore as there is so much pollen around, but I don’t complain.  And the colours are splendid.  There is the brilliant white, the palest pink right through to shocking violent rose and my very favourite the soft lilac and that deep violet of wisteria. Some of the wisteria out here is just too splendid to believe, whole balconies are dripping  with the stuff, it hangs in perfect bunches presaging the grapes of late October.

And it has all happened in a matter of a few short weeks.  In late March it was still frosty and cold and suddenly, though the mornings are still chilly, we have gorgeous sunny afternoons and the trees are full of their Springtime blossom.  And the greens of the new leaves pushing through are so vivid, a bright almost yellowish green, dazzling in its intensity.  All too soon Summer will be here and those leaves will take on a darker hue, but for now they are all poking their fresh new leaves out into the sunshine.  The French love to control nature and many of the trees are pollarded; cut back to last and the year’s before growth, strange knobbly shapes that look almost deformed, but each year the new branches spring out and we have a fresh outpouring of blossom and leaves.

Much as I love flowers, cultivated and perfect, it is the brilliant blaze of blossom that I love the best.