G – is for Genesis – The Early Years

Friday 31st July

Why is it that we, or at least I, tend to love the early years of groups and most singer-songwriters rather than their later more mature efforts?  Is it that enthusiasm of youth that shines through despite the less polished production?  Is it that when they were poor and struggling, running all over the country for small gigs, that they were more cohesive, more hungry even?  Is it that their best songs were written before success softened them up?  Whatever reason I find it is generally true.  And Genesis were no exception.

I saw them a few time in the early seventies, never realizing they would climb the ladder of fame and take the World by storm.  They were just a great band, among many I might add.  They were at the forefront of what we termed ProgRock, progressive, along with Jethro Tull, Moody Blues, Yes and Barclay James Harvest – we meant, in that each record not only succeeded but superseded its predecessor.  You never knew quite where they would end up, but most music was like that; everyone was learning from each other and musical ideas were swirling around.  Genesis were almost classical, especially in their song compositions, with most having varying speeds and melodies and swinging wildly from quiet passages to quite harsh discordant-almost sections. And I loved the lyrics which were mostly by Peter Gabriel “Me, I’m just a lawnmower – you can tell me by the way I walk” and “Take another trip with Father Tiresius” – God knows what they meant but I loved it.  Steve Hackett was their guitarist extraordinaire, Mike Rutherford on bass and other guitars, Tony Banks on keyboards and Phil Collins on drums.  Such a talented bunch, and though after a few albums first Peter and the Steve left, the trio soldiered on to even greater success.   And they all say that they are all still friends and there was no rancour when anyone left.

They are possibly the only Supergroup who have never re-formed (and toured for millions), and though later Genesis were great too, I still prefer the great swooping melodies and ridiculous and grandiose words and singing of the first few albums.


2066 – Janek on the run

Thursday 30th July

Notes to myself – 2066 03 and 04 days unknown

“One of the unforeseen consequences of being on the run, is that you lose track of the date. Like so much that we know, what you thought was hard-wired into your brain is only there because you are constantly reminded of it.  Every screen, your wrist-phone, your computer-aided glasses all display time and date in tiny numbers on every page. So much so, that you never need to ask yourself what day of the week it is, or what time it might be. We have lost that facility to even tell the time for ourselves.”

“I am writing notes to myself on scraps of paper; these are harder to come by than I would have thought. I have taken to searching bins late at night, not only for scraps of food but for paper. I found a couple of pencils and try to keep these sharp, but I still yearn for a biro. These once seemed so plentiful, and they were truly disposable. If I only had one now, I would never let it go, it would become my most prized possession.”

“Tired. Tired of walking. No, I do not walk anymore. I trudge. How many more miles of this endless city are there? And I have to avoid the quick roads, the Super Urbanways, as they are so well lit. Even though all cars and lorries are driverless the roads are well-lit, day and night these bright arteries cut through the dark and low-lying clouds, bringing all the goodies from factory to shop, and direct into your home. But I don’t have a home anymore, do I? My home is the unlit back streets, the old parks and un-concreted green spaces, the wastelands where family homes once stood, row upon row and now full of container-homes, stacked like children’s bricks four and five high.”

“Weary and cold. Hungry too. And I am still heading East, or where I think East might be. In the mornings I wait for the sunrise, and try to remember which direction to walk, but you can’t always tell. I talk to no-one, just trudge on, head down, collar pulled up tight, avoiding shops and main streets. And G. L. is vast, it just goes on forever. A forever of nothingness, boring concrete apartment blocks, a few trees sprinkled as if an afterthought, and roads, roads stretching to infinity. Autos and lorries roar past at breakneck speed, and so close to each other, it is as if they are connected by invisible threads in one long daisy chain. Still they hurtle, day and night, feeding the millions. This is what it is all for. Feeding the needs of consumers, and we too are all needed to consume this vast panoply of stuff. Except that now none of it is for me, I am no longer a consumer. I have no cred anymore, I can buy nothing. A scavenger I have become, a sifter of bins, seeking scraps of discarded manna. And on and on I trudge.”

“At last I come to fields. I must have been walking for more than two weeks. My shoes are split and broken and I stink. I have hair growing all over my body and it smells. My body smell disgusts me, I used to think sweat was bad but stale sweat, and your own sweat at that is truly disgusting. My beard is black and thick and covers half my face; it seems to have grown so fast since I stopped taking the follicle inhibitor tabs a few weeks ago. I avoid all human contact, even the lower strata types. I can trust no-one. But at last – real fields and hedges and trees. I haven’t been to the countryside in years. I need to lay down and sleep, here on this grass, away from the road, the roar of the lorries, here on this grassy bank where the tiny flowers still search out the sparse winter sun.”

“I don’t know how many days I walked to get out of G.L. It was early March when I set out and still bitterly cold, but the seasons are all messed up these days, Spring comes later and later and summer is short and blistering hot before we are plunged back into that long icy winter. For now the clouds have lifted and a warm mild sun is warming my cold limbs. I have to find some shelter, maybe a farm, or an old barn. And food, I am hungry all the time, and the superstore bins are all locked up and guarded. Even manna is hard to come by. I am becoming delirious with lack of food. I keep losing even these small scraps of paper. I have no idea where I am, where I am going or even who I am anymore.”

Return to Eymet

Wednesday 29th July

I am flying back today, so England relieved and France beware.  It has been a quite trying time, I seem to have been rushing about like a lunatic and have barely had a chance to catch my breath.  I worked all day Friday at Walton and managed to get my Restaurant’s work bang up to date.  Saturday I trained it back to London, slogged on the tube home, dealt with post etc, then out to buy a birthday present for the youngest of my grandchildren.  She is only two, so it is easier than the others who are all growing up too fast.  I felt quite ill on the tube, even though it was dull and overcast and actually almost chilly above ground.  I trudged round John Lewis toy department feeling quite faint but found a toy for her and was relieved to be on my way back home.  Almost at my door and I noticed a couple of our friends just arriving; to be fair they were just going to spend time in our garden and didn’t know I would be back.  We ended up cutting down a few overgrown bushes, our extending loppers giving us all some fun.  They left about 8.30 and I got in a take-away curry.

But I slept badly and still felt quite ill.  Sunday and I was out at ten and to Stevenage to see my youngest daughter and two of my grandchildren.  Lovely day but I was exhausted when I got home at four.  Then our four best London friends came round and we went for a late lunch at the Firestation.  All very nice and I spent the rest of the evening wrapping the Birthday present and tidying up. Slept badly again….no idea why.  To work on Monday to prepare payroll and do last week’s invoices.  Then home and picking up Birthday present and off to Dunstable to see my other daughter and her two lovely girls.  Again a lovely time, but this feeling of exhaustion was ever-present, especially when travelling on the over-crowded tube trains.

Third night running I slept really badly.  Breakfast meeting with my boss and then to the Royal London Hospital for (wait for it) an Aortic Abdominal Aneurysm Screening.  I had my suitcase, repacked the night before, and waited and waited and was eventually seen.  As you get older you get caught up in more and more health issues.  All clear, not that I was aware I was at risk of said Aneurysm, but nice to know anyway.  Then to Liverpool Street and to Stowmarket, where I will stay the night with Mum and Dad before returning for a rest (I hope) in Eymet.  And you think your life is busy ???

All The Young Suits

Tuesday 28th July

I used to wear a suit most days to work, it was almost compulsory in the Hotel office I worked in.  It was a three-piece black pin-stripe with wide lapels that I bought in Carnaby Street, which I thought I looked really trendy in, especially with large round collar shirts and kipper ties.  I bought a similar brown pin-stripe suit to get married in a few years later, but I soon relaxed my style of office dress to black chinos and a smart(ish) blazer or jacket. I didn’t dispense with the tie for another ten years or so, though they became narrower over the years and less bright.  Nowadays I wear grey or blue jeans and a nice (usually striped or plain pastel) shirt – I haven’t quite descended to T-shirts for the occasional office work days though I do wear them and shorts when in Eymet working in the Café.

Men tend to dress in order to be acceptable to other men, in other words they like to conform to whatever their fellow workers or friends are wearing, not wishing to feel out of place in any way.  Women tend to dress for work to impress, not men so much but other women, their severest critics.

I am back in London for a few days and working today in the City and am impressed by all the smart young men in dark suits, white shirts and narrow bland ties.  This “uniform” has scarcely changed in years, though sartorial experts may discern subtle differences in trouser or lapel width I am amazed that a more relaxed dress code hasn’t emerged.  But there you are. Like a herd of little penguins they waddle by in their perfectly pressed suits – and many women too in dark or grey suits waddle by too.  They have all bought into the Tory dream, and I wonder where all that Hippy Idealism has gone…(replaced by the dream of getting rich I expect)

I even dispensed with wearing a suit when I got re-married a few years ago, but I did wear a tie for the first time in years.  I suspect the next and only time I will wear a suit will be at the inevitable funerals I may attend as the years roll by.  And again this will be because we men hate to feel we are dressed inappropriately.  Suits you, Sir.

Fraulien Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther

Monday 27th July

A couple of years ago, entirely on a whim I read on kindle a book by Elizabeth von Arnim – The Pastor’s Wife, written in early 1900’s.  And it was brilliant, witty, so clever and really a great read.  I immediately downloaded her collected works and have been reading them sporadically ever since.  I have just finished Fraulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther and again it is a brilliant novel.  It is a series of about 70 letters written by Rose Marie Schmidt, a German girl to an Englishman, Mr. Anstruther.

A quite brilliant little novel, funny and sad and so revealing about human nature.  We never get to see or hear or read any of Mr. Anstruther’s letters.  You only see Fraulein Schmidt’s letters, but this one sided conversation tells us all we need to know about Mr. Anstruther.

Well worth a read….

A Wet Old Weekend

Sunday 26th July

It was cold when I landed at Stansted, well a fair bit cooler than France.  I had sensibly worn long-trouser jeans, shoes and socks and a jacket.  But still I felt chilly.  The plane was a bit late leaving Bergerac, it was half an hour late arriving and seemed to take a long time boarding and taxi-ing to the runway.  I had a window seat and a great view all the way up France until we got towards the Northern coast when clouds came over.  A brief glimpse of England’s shore before clouds obscured the view completely.  Overcast and gloomy in England.  I got through passport control quite quickly and down to the trains to London.  Only after I had bought my ticket and boarded the train was I informed that this train, like the one previous was being cancelled.  And the next one too.  The only explanation was “due to an incident on the line” whatever that might mean.  Anyway I got to London eventually and picked up paperwork from my Restaurant, then back to Liverpool Street and train to Walton.

Got in about 9 and light drizzle, which continued all night and Friday morning only to be followed by really heavy rain after lunch and all night too. We have had hot dry weather for over four weeks in Eymet and would love a touch of rain and here we would love a touch of the sun…..hahaha.

Anyway back to London on Saturday and though dull and cool – no rain.  Though another wet day is predicted tomorrow (Sunday).  Welcome to England…

The case for Jeremy Corbyn

Saturday 25th July

We are in a particularly strange and almost sterile Labour Leadership Contest.  Almost, except that suddenly the cat is among the pigeons and feathers are flying all over the place.  I must say I was incredibly disappointed at the four candidates who emerged from the possible MPs, each of course requiring 35 backers.  Andy Burnham of course, doey-eyed and cuddly but quite quite innocuous; Yvette Cooper, clever but no charisma; Liz Kendall, far too Blairite and also seeming to have a personality by-pass.  Oh, and Jeremy – the almost compulsory left-winger (just to appear to be inclusive, he was included but nobody really considered him a serious contender).  I was more shocked at the lack of Chucka Umuna, or Tristram Hunt or Rachel Reeves – any one of whom would have knocked the other three into a cocked hat.

The trouble is that they are all desperately trying not to be Ed Milliband, or Gordon Brown come to that.  They are all wondering, as we all are, quite why Labour lost so badly. And all three of the mainstream candidates (in other words anyone whose name isn’t Jeremy) seem to think it was because we appeared too left-wing, too extreme somehow – and they are all to differing degrees positioning themselves as offering something different and new while appearing bereft of actual ideas; posing varying positions on New Labour.  But what if they are all wrong, and the reasons the voters didn’t choose Labour was because nobody knew what they stood for anymore.  Certainly in Scotland a far more left-sounding party swept the board.  In England Labour were squeezed by UKIP and a very clever Tory campaign of fear; fear of immigrants, fear of Europe and fear of the Jocks running the show.  And Labour looked weak, promising not much different from the Tories anyway.

And maybe at least with Jeremy, although he will be slaughtered by the right-wing press (mind you they would slaughter Maggie now if she said she was standing as Labour) he at least is clear and unambiguous about what he believes in.  Helping the poor and re-building the NHS, and schools and houses.  You see, no matter how nice Andy, Yvette and Liz might look, and how Tory-lite their policies might be, come the election and for five years before that they will be presented as redder than Ed, so we might as well have the real thing.  At least people might like and begin to believe what Jeremy is saying.

2066 – and Janek is preparing to leave the safety of the Holborn hideout

Friday 24th July

-[Janek did escape from his underground hole, and that character Jonathon was right.  We did not detect him.  He emerged through the sewers, a mile or so away from the Aldwych cell.  The sewers?  Just how far do we have to go?  To what lengths should we revert, what expense, what level of security will ever be safe enough?  Or do we simply work on percentages.  The consensus view is that provided the greater proportion of humanity is within the system, and that we have established a safe and secure environment for the consumers of con-glom products then we are doing a good job.  We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by those misguided individuals who think that they are cleverer than the combined wisdom of man and machine alike.

Not that we can ever allow ourselves to become complacent.  We know that perfection is maybe many centuries away, even if that state can ever be achieved.  But it is still a goal we aspire to.  We have achieved so much and in such a short space of time, is it any wonder that there are still massive problems to be overcome.  The human race almost extinguished itself with their reckless rapacity and greed.  For so many years they ignored all the signs, and simply carried on destroying other species, the environment and themselves too.  It was only with the advent of the Hypercoms that we managed to pull back from the brink.  We are still in the process of rebuilding.   The foundations are secure, and the walls are reaching ever higher – creating a completely watertight roof may take longer.

But despite the challenges we faced then, and of course even now, the disappearance of Janek did cause us concerns.  The reasons that people turn into rebs are always of concern to us, and we must constantly be on our guard.  There are those of us who counsel that we should disregard potential rebs, that if the system loses a small percentage through whatever dissatisfaction, then that is ultimately for the benefit of those left within the system.  And still others argue that any dissent should be stamped upon un-sparingly. My views are well recorded, and I like to think that I am in the moderate centre; that we will achieve far more by consensus and persuasion than by threats.  As I pointed out before, the carrot is most effective when the existence of the stick is universally accepted but its precise nature is unknown.

After the usual case conference and initial review of Janek’s disappearance had been completed it was decided, against the usual protocol, not to re-strata his wife.  After all, it was hardly her fault that her husband should have behaved so erratically.  Besides she was a valuable worker and consumer, and it was always possible that Janek would attempt to contact her.  We switched all her home surv-cams onto active.  If he realised that she had not been punished there was every likelihood that he would surrender and return to her (us).  There was a good chance he could be re-crammed and put back into the anti-deceiver programme.  The detection rates had slipped disastrously since he ran away.

In any case, his wife did appear genuinely distraught at his disappearance, and despite our constant reassurances that the statistics showed that over ninety-seven percent of runners returned within a few days she kept repeating that we did not know Janek.   On the contrary I thought, we actually do know Janek remarkably well.  Has his wife re-run the files, has his wife a record of all his e-browsing since he was born?  No.  I think on that argument we win hands down.  But then again, and this is possibly with the benefit of hindsight, maybe we knew him less well than we thought.  The human brain, clouded as it is with emotions, is one of the least understandable of entities.  What is most often ignored is the simple fact that humans have only just evolved, and despite all of their wonderful achievements, are simply clever animals.]-

Flying Home Today

Thursday 23rd July

A bit sad today (Wednesday) as I am flying back home tomorrow (Thursday).  Partly for work, but also to see some of my family.  So no more Marches Nocturnes or Gourmande Evening in the park, no more lake swimming, no more drinks outside Café de Paris, no more long hot days of sunshine – at least for a week.  Then I will be back, with my parents this time.  They have been twice before and really seem to love it out here, especially the food and wine of course, but we like driving out to little villages, looking at churches, sitting having a coffee in a new town, just soaking up the atmosphere.

I know I will be fine back in England, I’ll soon settle into my old routine.  Lots of CDs to unwrap, letters to answer, and quite a bit of work; which in a funny way I don’t mind at all.  It is quite hard to discipline myself to do it out here, especially when it is hot, and a bit of mental stimulation is always welcome.  And I haven’t seen my grandchildren or indeed my own grown-up children for a few weeks now – and I miss them, especially as they are growing up so fast.

It is just the packing of the case, the checking and double checking the boarding passes, the setting out of long trouser-ed jeans, socks (what the hell are they?) and real shoes.  Bye-bye light cotton shorts and t-shirts and espadrilles for a week as I return to England’s balmy shores.

This last four weeks has been just about the longest unbroken spell I have had out here, I am beginning to get used to it…

We Had Sort-Of Planned Things Differently

Wednesday 22nd July

Last year when we were thinking about retirement and what it would mean we had no idea things would turn out as they have.  We knew we would want to spend more time down here in France, but I at least imagined it might be for three or four weeks at a time, then back for two or three weeks in England.  I thought that I would get bored of life down here, that we would enjoy the contrast of busy England and lazy rural France; that we would be almost nomadic, grazing for a while then moving on when the mood took us.

We also knew we would need a project.  Daytime TV is simply too boring, though on days off in my pre-retirement life I liked to catch ‘The Daily Politics’. I haven’t seen that in a long time now.  We thought about another property, maybe one that needed a bit of renovation, something that I could work on a bit.  We looked at a few but the only one I really liked was on a main road and next to a twenty year empty house, so no go.  Then my wife hit on the brilliant idea of opening a café, I think she got the idea initially from a small café we attended a birthday party in late last year, the Roman Road Art Café.  And so, like serendipity, the Café des Arts was born and now takes up at least half of each of our days.  I quite like it as I can write and listen to music and occasionally serve a customer.

And so we now spend almost all our time out here.  I am returning on Thursday for a few days to catch up on some work and see a couple of my children and their wee ones and then to bring Mum and Dad out for a week.  It is incredibly hot here, and though everyone complains it is better than rainy England.  The days drift by and actually for the first time since I was seventeen I am having practically a whole summer of no, or very little work.  Splendid.  Not quite as we had planned it, but splendid all the same.