Greek Crisis, What Crisis?

Tuesday 30th June

It is actually more like watching a Greek tragedy.  And despite the massive news coverage, we really have no clue what is actually happening behind the scenes.  What we do know is that the Troika (The IMF, the ECB and the other lot) has rejected the current Greek Government proposals and are refusing to release crucial funds unless far more stringent and punitive austerity measures are imposed instead, meaning that the Greeks will default, at least on paper.  But this Syriza Government was elected to put an end to Austerity, which has dragged an already poor Greek economy down even further.  So where is Democracy (remember that – what we fought a war in Iraq for, what we in the West stand for as we prop up Autocratic countries like Bahrain and the Saudis – but that’s an argument for another day) in all of this.  Well here may be either the Master-stroke or the worst mistake ever of Syriza; they are holding a referendum this Sunday.  The question will be  – Do you want the Troika’s proposal for lower pensions and more cuts to wages and services for the poor, or do you want the Syriza plan for higher taxes for the rich.  And no-one can quite predict the outcome, or the fall-out from that vote.  In the meantime the Greek banks are shut for a week to attempt to stop public panic and a run on the banks, which in itself may cause a degree of panic.

So, one wonders firstly if the public’s decision will be honoured by the Troika if it goes against their wishes.  Probably not, which would mean Greece definitely defaulting and exiting the Euro (which in their case could be a good thing) but what would that mean for Greece and the EU? Have they all finally run out of fudges and fixes, or will it all be smiles as yet another compromise is cobbled together.  And if the public accept the Austerity route will that mean the end of Syriza?  It would also almost certainly mean that they would call another General Election and who knows what that will throw up.  I suspect that despite all the journalists predicting chaos it will not be as traumatic as they are all saying.  We will see….

What Does The World Do About A Problem Like ISIS?

Monday 29th June

As yet another day of atrocities passes like a slap in the face of Civilisation the question has to be asked “What does the World do with a problem like Isis?”  Because two things we know for certain, this won’t be the last attack, and if we think this was barbarous we ‘ain’t seen nothing yet.

So, what are the alternatives?   Do nothing, and see a never-ending stream of desperate refugees in camps in Turkey or dying on boats and continuing merciless executions (because that in effect is what we are witnessing) of innocent people whose only crime is that they do not adhere to the same radical religious tenets as the self-proclaimed executioners.  Or do we join America in even more bombing or indeed a land campaign.  Oh dear no, remember Iraq; which of course has been used as the justification for the Islamic state anyway.  The idea of some grand coalition of the good is also a non-starter; who is to decide just who is good.  Leave it to other Muslim nations perhaps, but would we not be possibly inviting even more bloodshed and a mighty war between Iran and the Saudis, who may or may not soon be nuclear weapon-ised.  And if we simply try to contain them to their mostly desert Caliphate this will do nothing about the infectious nature of the beast, where young men and women from all over Europe and even America are inspired to go and fight, or even worse to commit atrocities in the West themselves.

I think the World is crying out for some real leadership, some politician strong enough to take this to the UN and really get an overwhelming agreement to sort ISIS out militarily for good.  Only we seem more interested in continuing the current spat with Russia, with both sides escalating a regional dispute out of all proportion; the solution to the Ukraine is to hold UN controlled regional plebiscites and let the people decide which country they want to belong to.  But Democracy seems the last thing on everyone’s mind; even in the Greek debt crisis when the Greek Government has said that the Greek people must decide on the bail-out conditions there has been a shock horror reaction; you cannot possibly let uneducated people decide on such matters.  We may see in a few days time just who blinks first on that one.

Ask ordinary people?  I really wish our politicians would.

Hot and Hotter

Sunday 28th June

I am returning to Eymet where it has been hot, in the mid-thirties actually.  But back in England it has seemed even hotter, although actually it was only in the mid-twenties.  Why is that?  I really don’t know, but I think it must be down to humidity.  I had spent a couple of days at Walton and it was sunny and warm but by the seaside you always get a bit of a sea-breeze.  I had a hearing test on Friday in Clacton (even I, Superman, am starting to fall apart) and the train back to London at midday.  It was at Liverpool Street that I really felt the nasty sticky heat.  There is an escalator from the concourse up to street level and it was here that I felt it like a wave almost of heat.  The streets were crowded and pulling my case behind me I had to weave through a mass of people, almost all under forty (no-one old now seems to work in the City) as I made my way to Bank and the Restaurant I had to do some work for.

I was so thirsty too, two glasses of lemonade went down pretty quick and I got the work done.  Then the dreaded tube journey home.  So many people rushing and squashed up together (and no, it is no fun). As usual I had to stand.  The thought hit me that I used to do this twice a day for over forty years….durgh !!!

Home and it still seemed really hot.  A few chores, mowing and watering the lawn, doing my washing, unpacking and repacking my case.  A couple of friends came round and we had a take-away curry.  One of the few things I actually miss in Eymet.  But even in bed I was hot and sticky and slept badly.  Am flying back today (Saturday) into an even hotter country, but somehow I feel it will be a cooler place to be.

The Week

Saturday 27th June

I have been back in UK for a few days, mostly at Walton.  On the train back from Stansted on Tuesday I picked up a discarded magazine, “The Week”.  I had heard of this already but had never bought it.  It is a collection of the most interesting, amusing, well-written and apposite articles published in the Press and other magazines in the preceding week.  It costs £3.10 and has 55 pages so at first glance would appear to be somewhat expensive.  Mind you my music magazine UNCUT cost a fiver, although you do get a free CD each month.  Anyway I settled down to read it.  And what an excellent read it was.  Almost every article was interesting and I read them all.  The selections seem very well chosen, the politics are spread over a wide spectrum and there is no obvious slant and no editorial, although the items chosen are obviously subject of some editors viewpoint.  What I think the magazine aims to do though is to give the reader a balanced overview of the week’s events.   For me, who just lately has watched very little news and absolutely no Newspapers it was great.  It was as if someone had taken a whole week’s papers and stuck post-it notes with “Read This” or “You might find this interesting” on the best articles.

I am not sure if I will ever actually buy the magazine, although when returning from France it is a great way to quickly catch up on what in my stunken drouper I had missed in France.

2066 – Janek’s escape continued

Friday 26th June

Listen very carefully,” his voice was suddenly threatening and loud, “there is no way back for you.  If you choose to come with me, you come all the way, if not I will push you out of the door we just came through and you will be free to continue your life as if nothing had ever happened.  Do you understand me?”

I don’t know how I found the strength to actually say “Yes”, but I did.  I knew that if I chickened out now I would be left forever wishing I had had the guts to do it.  Besides my world was closing in on me fast; this may be a way out after all, some glimmer of hope in my desolate life.

“Hold on to my sweat shirt and don’t let go.”  And off we went, him striding through the darkness and me stumbling blind behind him.  Like a child I simply had to trust this adult, leading me Cosmos knew where.  After a minute or two he switched one of those tiny old led light-torches and I could see we were in some old storage room, or wide corridor.  It was full of reels of thick black cable and those old red plastic cones I hadn’t seen in decades, piles of oil-stained overalls and towers of folded and black dust-covered cardboard boxes.  At the far end of the corridor or store-room was another metal door, but with no writing on it at all.  This time he opened it with a T shaped piece of metal that he inserted into the tiny round lock and wrenched in a circular motion for a couple of revolutions.  The door swung outwards and there was a waft of cold musty air that felt as if it came from another century entirely.

And actually it did.  This was an old part of the network that had been closed down almost a century ago.  It was called the Aldwych branch and only served one small stop called unsurprisingly ‘Aldwych’.  I later found it on-line as I perused old tube maps, but the building called Aldwych was long gone, the ten lane North Thames SuperUrbanway now covered the site entirely, tube-line and all.

Closing the door behind us my companion/abductor reached up and pulled down a red metal handle and a string of bulbs like a giant’s fairy lights lit up and curved away into the distance.

“Now” he said, “before we go any further I need to know who you are, and make sure any coms you have on you are switched off.  Then please give them to me.”  I quickly took off my micro-glasses, handed him my personal screen and undid my wrist-phone and held the tiny off switch for the required five seconds.  The words “Dis-Phone going to sleep” scrolled across the tiny surface, Mickey waved goodbye and the screen went black and I handed it to him.

“You won’t be needing these for some time, and for safety sake I am going to lock them away in this cupboard” he reached up and opened a heavy galvanised door set high up on the wall, and placed the glasses and wrist-phone inside.  I noticed there were several others in there already, so I knew that this must be a well practised procedure.  “Don’t worry it’s perfectly safe, but disabled, no coms can get in or out.” He said, “Now, I have to ask you if you are wearing a chipped body-suit?”

“No, I hate them actually”

“Really?  I thought they were pretty clever actually.  One of the few advances I approved of.”

I kept quiet about this laptop, but really no-one carried such bulky items around any more.  He didn’t ask what I was carrying in my shoulder bag, and I didn’t tell him either.  But I was careful not to even unwrap it while I was underground.

“What now?”  I asked him.

“Well – that depends on you, doesn’t it?”  And he smiled at me, a slightly skewed off centre smile, as if only half his face was really working.  He saw that I had noticed and explained.  “Lack of dentistry I am afraid, a friend pulled out my wisdom tooth and I have lost some facial movement as a result. Small price to pay, but there you go.”

“I think we need to establish exactly who we both are first.”  I said, “I mean you could be anyone; you could be the people who I am scared are watching me.  This could all be some clever artifice for all I know.”  Was I really that paranoid?  Apparently I was.

“And you too, my friend, could be one of them too.  I have as much, no, actually far more to lose than you do.  Why don’t we just trust each for the time being, and see how we go.” He replied again half-smiling at me.

“Where are we?” I said looking at the ancient tiled platform with its filthy wooden seats and torn old posters half-hanging off the walls.

“We are in an old part of the tube system that everyone seems to have forgotten about; it is only a short stretch and if you will follow me I will introduce you to a few of my friends.  We live down here, in a funny way we like to call it home.  We are a small cell; we are only in tentative touch with others, though there are far more of us than the government likes to admit.  Despite their amazing computers it is a little known fact that thousands of people disappear every year. They catch a lot of them, very clever tracking cameras and lack of cred means most are short-lived rebels.  We understand that most will be re-strata-ed and become obedient citizens again, but a few escape forever.  Or for however long they choose.  Sooner or later people, and the Polis, forget about them completely.”

“So, you are actually rebs then?  You want to overthrow the system?”  I asked him, not sure if I was excited or terrified at the prospect.

“Well, we like to think of ourselves as an alternative, and actually we don’t want a revolution at all.  It is probably too late for that, besides the system, imperfect as it is, is for a large majority far better than anything that went before. It just isn’t for us. For me, I was just too old to go along with it, I harkened for a simpler life.  For a few years I eked out an existence on Orkney, a simple farming life, largely unaffected by computers, but even there we were eventually subsumed by the con-gloms.  Even us few hill-farmers couldn’t hold out against a system with no money, only cred.  So, after drifting around for a few years I ended up here, in this little bunker, right in the heart of the beast, you might say.”

Again he half-smiled, and held out his hand to me.  “Welcome aboard laddie.  My name is Jonathon, and you may be able to tell from the accent, I used to be Scottish; that’s all you need to know at present.  I have to assume you will at least stay awhile with us, and in any case I cannot just now return you to your world.  Not until we are sure you will not betray us, although in the long run we cannot force you to join us. Unlike those who rule over us we believe in voluntary actions.  Just spend a bit of time with us and make your own mind up.  Follow me, then.”  And off he walked to the end of the platform and down onto the tracks.  I had no choice; I followed him.  I had made my decision the moment I had followed him off the tube-line train. Whatever was in store for me I knew there was no going back now.  This was it.”


Clacton – The Spiritual Home of UKIP?

Thursday 25th June

Back in the UK and at my house at Walton, I had to go into Clacton today.  Now Clacton is the only constituency in the country that has a UKIP Member of Parliament, and it is not because they are a bunch of Neanderthals or particularly anti Europe it is because their M.P. Douglas Carswell is quite a character.  He was in the Tory party but was always a maverick and refused to toe the party line and never got even a junior ministerial job.  Little surprise that he defected to UKIP and won the by-election by a huge landslide and the general election by a smaller but still decent majority; one suspects that if he suddenly defected to the Communist party and forced a by-election he might win that too.  Now the Clacton constituency covers not only the seaside town of Clacton but the very posh Frinton and the not so posh Walton and a few affluent villages too.  It used to be a marginal and Labour held it for a while in the Blair years but is really Tory territory.  The town of Clacton itself though is quite mixed, there are some very well-kept large houses and streets of smart bungalows, it being a favourite retirement destination.  But there is also Jaywick, almost a shanty town of tiny converted chalets where practically everyone is on benefits and Clacton itself like many seaside towns has a chronic unemployment problem.

In the town centre you see a high proportion of mobility scooters and many residents seem to have long-term medical conditions, many using walking sticks and lots very obese.  One hates to make comparisons but sometimes it feels like chav-central, most of the young women have tattoos and various metal facial embellishments, short skirts seem de rigeour, as are bra straps and thongs showing above or below clothing.  And the young men are no better, trousers at half-mast and baseball caps back to front. A typical English town, then.    But the funny thing is I quite like the place, I never feel threatened and most people are smiling (well, they aren’t stressed out working, are they).  Today it was sunny and warm and I was in a relaxed mood anyway.  In a way London now seems far more threatening to me with its hordes of smartly dressed strivers all showing a cold hard face to the world.  There is nothing remarkable about Clacton to make it UKIP territory and I suspect that Mr. Carswell will at some point have had quite enough of UKIP’s closet racists and will leave and stand as an Independent – and he will most likely win.

The Shock of the Old

Wednesday 24th June

The town of Eymet is 13th Century, and much of that mediaeval architecture remains, so it is definitely old.  But for me Eymet is my new life, I left the old one behind me in London.  And though parts of London are as old or even older most traces have been erased, and even ‘Historic’ buildings like the houses of Parliament or Bank of England are by Eymet standards pretty new.  And I consider London my old life.

But I have returned, for five days only I can assure you, and mostly for work.  The plane lands at Stansted and you join the lines of returnees at Passport Control then out, grab a coffee and a train to Liverpool Street.  It is here that I always suffer the Shock of the Old, life that is.  Hundreds of people all rushing about, desperate to catch their trains home.  Madness really, but I did something like this for over forty years, twice a day, rushing to get to work and home again.  The daft thing is that there are trains on the tube every couple of minutes, and even commuter trains are pretty frequent but for some reason we simply have to get on the first one, squashed and no seat maybe, but like lemmings we all jump off the cliff of sanity together.  I had to go to my Restaurant to pick up three weeks of paperwork and then back to Liverpool Street and home to Walton.  I had to stand in the queue for a ticket with a Senior person’s discount.  I waited over twenty minutes and though there were four staff windows open the queue barely moved, they all seemed to be having complex and long conversations.  Now in Eymet no-one rushes and we all wait….but my train was about to depart and it was an hour for the next one so I risked it and got on without a ticket.  I was quite prepared to pay the full fare and a fine too.  Luckily no inspector got on, but you see I was swept up by the madness, the Shock of the Old.

After the Marathon

Tuesday 23rd June

I have never run a marathon, the longest apart from cross-country runs at school was the Run For Life in 1986 which was six miles.  Long enough I can assure you.  And you do see a few people collapse when completing their marathons but most are so elated.

A couple of posts ago I detailed the Music Marathon here at Eymet; three nights of music and not a few glasses of wine.  Friday night was le Pub Gambetta and Geoff and Elvis, a very good night as usual and I was home by about 11.30.  Up at 7 to make scones for the café.  Saturday was fairly busy and Antoine (the local artist/publiciste) had blown up an old biro drawing I had done and printed it on 16 A3 sheets for me to paste outside the café.  I must explain that Antoine had already put up his own (highly pixellated) image of a famous painting of a woman’s muff ; this was a scandal in the 1860’s when it was exhibited in Paris and still caused a few ripples when he did it here, even though the image only becomes clear when you walk some distance away from it.  Anyway – that evening was the local Rugby club evening in the Parc Forestier.   Wine was 5 euro a bottle, Calamari was 2 euro and a brochette of poulet et frites was 7 euros.  Bur the entertainment was free.  This was a rather large brass band who played some great tunes, including ‘We will rock you’ by Queen and ‘Those were the days’ by Mary Hopkins as well as standards like ‘Volare’.  Brilliant and great fun.  I was quite tired and left before the end but heard the fireworks as I was drifting to sleep.

Last night (Sunday) a stage was placed in the square and a few performers did their stuff, mostly old rock and roll.  My favourite was Kenny Clark, an Eymet friend who was a roadie for several bands in the sixties and seventies.  We have seen him playing a mean harmonica before but tonight he sang ‘karaoke’ to a great backing tape.  Old blues and soul numbers mostly, he belted them out with a loud and rasping but very good voice.  Then we had Geoff and a great solo set from Elvis before all three rocked until past midnight.  A great night again.

I had to get up this morning (Monday) at seven and not feeling too bad, maybe the wine is gradually anaesthetizing me, who knows.  Anyway the marathon is over but that feeling of elation remains.

F is for Julia Fordham

Monday 22nd June

Ah, the wonderful Julia Fordham; the singer of so-sad songs with the incredible range and such a distinctive tone to her voice that you instantly recognize her.  Unlike most of my music favourites Julia only started making records in the eighties, and it was the song ‘Woman of the Eighties’ which I first heard.  Actually I saw the CD single, she was incredibly beautiful and had been photographed upside down in sepia, and I took a chance on her.   And I have never looked back.  She does sing mostly sad songs of loss and betrayal, but a few happier ones too.

She never really fitted into the music business categories, she certainly wasn’t rock, a bit more like the New Romantics.  Sade was around at the same time and Alison Moyet; all incredible singers.  She soon had quite a loyal following and released a handful of albums through the late eighties and nineties.  Then at some point she moved to America and has settled in L. A. and occasionally lets slip a gem of a new album.

Every record of hers is serenely beautiful, she favours a piano accompaniment and her voice seems to hover over the melody, dipping in low or soaring higher as the mood seems to take her.  My favourite album of hers is Concrete Love – a mid nineties record, she seems to have expanded her palette a bit on this record.

I did see her live once but was a bit disappointed.  She did sing beautifully but was a bit giggly and nervous between numbers and shared a few songs with a guest singer from America who in my opinion hadn’t half the voice of Julia herself.  Not much more to say really; a minor star who seems happy to keep it that way.  Her greatest hits Collection is a good place to start, or on you-tube try ‘Lovin You’ the old Millie Ripperton hit which she delivers brilliantly, ultra high notes and all.



Julia Fordham

Music Marathon

Sunday 21st June

I always thought that Britain or maybe America was the spiritual home of Music, but of course it was Europe, which for centuries was border-less as far as the rich were concerned.  And here in France, though there seem to be relatively few Modern Musical Giants, they love their music.  This weekend is a Music Festival here in Eymet, in fact tomorrow is all over France, they just seem to have made a whole weekend of it here.

Last night (Friday) was another great rocking night with Geoff Barker and Elvis at le Pub Gambetta and as Summer is here it is out under the arches now.  We were all singing along till nearly midnight (again, naughty stop-outs).

Today  (Saturday) there is music in Parc Forestier just behind the Chateau and there will be food and wine too.  I have no idea who will be performing but am looking forward to it anyway.  This is a precursor to the Soiree Gourmand evenings all through July and August every Thursday in the Parc.  Also at the Pont Roman (Roman Bridge) there will be a hog roast and music, but this is ticketed and I was too late to get a ticket this time.

There is also a classical concert in the church at eight (I may look in on that too).  Then tomorrow (Sunday) in the square the real music festival will take place with a stage and sound system.  I will open the Café and see if anyone wants to come in while I listen to the music myself.  Geoff and Elvis will be appearing at some point but lots of other performers too.  A real Music Marathon.