The Last Few Days

Monday 31st August

I returned from my brief visit to England on Saturday.  Life’s complications meant that I waved to my wife on the tarmac at Bergerac Airport; she was boarding the plane I flew in on.  Sunday and Monday and Tuesday I ran the Café on my own and we were quite busy because our only real competition on the square, Kismet, has closed for a month for refurbishment and a new owner re-opens in a month’s time.  Tuesday night was the last Marche Nocturne in Eymet and we had mixed feelings; sad that it was the last of the summer and quite relieved that our late night opening of the Café was at an end, we seemed to be a magnet for late night drinkers (us included) and had a job turfing everyone away at midnight.  Wednesday and my daughter flew in with two of my grandchildren and her husband drove all the way arriving around eight in the evening; takeaway pizzas all round.  Thursday was our market in Eymet and again we were busy, after lunch I went swimming at the lake at Lougratte, great fun but I was quite exhausted and we still had the last Gourmande evening in the Parc.  Again great fun even if the music was decidedly poor; a trio of teenage girls who were awful last year and have not improved at all – a pity as we all so wanted them to be half-decent.

Friday and we went to a nice early evening reception to welcome back some Australian friends who had been away for a few weeks, then to the pub and Elvis (on his own) sung and played guitar and piano for over three hours; I danced with everyone, not only my two sweet grand-daughters but my daughter, my wife and basically any other woman I could cajole to join me in my semi-drunken state.  And Saturday night we joined some other friends for an impromptu barbeque down by the Pont Roman where not a little more wine was consumed.  I am now recovering on Sunday before more swimming with the little ones.  It’s a tough life but I am bearing up remarkably well.

Corruption Is Rife

Sunday 30th August

When the Greek Crisis was in the news (it is of course continuing and will not get resolved for a very long time – if ever) many commentators looked wisely over their glasses and tut-tutted that of course the main problem in Greece was that corruption was rife.  Many people did not pay their taxes, or at the very least under-declared their income; taxes went unpaid by businesses, house-owners paid no tax if the house remained uncompleted etc: etc:  And it was probably all true – more or less.

Africa is a basket-case, we all know that.  Most of the aid money goes in bribes or is actually stolen, or so we are led to believe – and what did you expect, they are all corrupt.  Chinese officials in the Communist Party are enriching themselves at the expense of the poor; they too are apparently all corrupt.  German and French Politicians are receiving bribes, or large unrecorded donations to their political parties, but we all know that those Europeans are corrupt. You cannot get elected as President of America without spending billions, and why are these billionaires supporting candidates if not for favours later on; so the Americans too are corrupt.  So is everyone else corrupt except us?  Well yes.  And no.

We live in a society where corruption is rife, but where nothing is admitted.  Here is Britain most (and I say this purely from my own observations, having done accounts for many small companies – and from conversations with self-employed businessmen) owners of small businesses are breaking the law, mostly by under-declaring their income; we all know that if you pay cash it will be cheaper because cash is easy to hide and there will be no paper trail.  Many small company bosses will have work done on their houses and the work invoiced to the company and put through as legitimate business expenses.  Sometimes the amounts are very small but sometimes they are very large too.  And this, my friends, is also corruption.  It is theft from me and you, ordinary taxpayers who have no choice, whose tax is deducted directly from their wages.  We have all heard of the large companies like Amazon and Google and Vodafone who do not pay much tax here, of Mr. Green who owns Arcadia but pays no tax as all his income is paid to his wife residing in Monaco.  But believe me there are armies of Accountants who are trying to reduce companies’ tax bills.  Much of this will be technically legal – but in a way it too is corruption.  And the Government turns a blind eye because to admit that the problem is rife would not only be a headache to sort out, but an admittance that for decades we have let it go on.  Corruption is almost inherent in Capitalism; greed is the motor, so whatever maximizes your profit is sort-of okay.  And almost all of us, if we had the chance would become corrupt too, though we would all justify it as just the way things are and we would be stupid not to go along with it.  As Abraham Lincoln said – “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” I just don’t see much vigilance going on at present.

The Trouble With Employment

Saturday 29th August

Is that it isn’t about making sure that there are no unemployed people, but is mainly concerned with counting the unemployed.  Or not even that, but in fact trying to find ways of not counting the unemployed.  Any excuse is used to declare somebody who has no job or income as not ‘unemployed’.  If they were sacked they are deemed to have made themselves unemployed, or else they would be suing their employer for wrongful dismissal even though the Government has made this prohibitively expensive.  If they are too ill to work they are ‘assessed’ by a private company and declared fit for work and many of their benefits are stopped.  The number of those dying after being declared ‘fit for work’ is truly astonishing; by some reckoning it is 300 a week.  If an unemployed person is ten minutes late for a meeting at the Jobcentre, even when that meeting may have been changed on the same day by Jobcentre staff they will be automatically sanctioned and their benefits stopped, and Hey Presto, they are no longer officially unemployed.

You see it is very important for the credibility of the Government to have constantly falling numbers of unemployed people, so that everyone, including mostly their friends in the Media, can see that their economic policies are really working for the benefit of all.  There is no actual job creation, there is no re-training; there is no real help for the unemployed except to shove them on a scheme for a few weeks so that they no longer show up in the unemployment figures.  After all, it really is their own fault if they cannot find a job, they really should have tried harder, worked harder at school, been a better worker, not questioned their employers and worst of all not gotten themselves ill.  After all there is a perfectly good NHS out there, why on earth are they claiming they are too ill to work.  Ever since Blair, Government has all been about presentation and News management, not solving the actual problems – just being seen to be having a solution and talking up, or in this case down, the unemployed.  Simple really – cretins can do it – they usually do.


2066 – and does Janek really like being beside the seaside

Friday 28th August

Diary Entry – 20660510

“I am in Hastings.  I made it.  The Atlas was pretty useless as most of the roads had changed, but though it took a few days I made it.  There used to be signposts everywhere, back in the days they let people drive their own autos, but they have all gone now.  I did discover a few old stones along the back roads with names and numbers on them, but they must have been in miles still, not kilometres, and I have no idea how long a mile is.  Hastings is a strange place; it has an ancient decaying grandeur, and yet is visibly crumbling before your very eyes.   Weeds as big as trees grow in the streets and wrecked self-drive abandoned vehicles line the old promenade.  Once-grand hotels are boarded up and in some cases have bricked up windows and doors.  Litter blows about everywhere and congregates waist-deep in doorways and colonnaded porticos.  No-one appears to be living here at first, but look closer and what appears dead is alive with a new round of guests, though these are non-paying and uninvited.  Squatters have moved in, and careful not to make it too obvious have left the boards at the windows mostly intact.  They are careful not to advertise their presence too clearly, but as you walk down the streets you catch glimpses of faces peering out of ragged curtained windows, or the click of a door being closed somewhere behind you.  This ghost of a town is indeed inhabited by a myriad of ghosts.

And I have become one of them.  At first they were wary of me, slipping away down alleys and round corners, but gradually I have made contact with them.  They are a strange mixture, a few oldies that would have been called tramps once, but a lot of younger people, some only in their thirties, and a surprising number of women.  They have all dropped out at one time or another, and exist by doing casual work for food or on handouts from the few strata-ed residents living on a newish estate a few miles out of town.  Not surprisingly some are alcoholics, or seem to live from one drink to another anyway.  A few have more serious drug problems; though where they get their fixes and how they pay for them I have no idea.  Some of the women prostitute themselves, travelling up to the outskirts of G.L. to find customers; they will be gone for a few days at a time, and come back with old watches or bits of jewellery to use as barter.  Even here there is no real money, nothing has yet emerged to replace cred.  The old notes and coins are worthless even here; only trade-able goods have any value.

I am living in a corner of the ballroom of an old hotel, ‘The Cliftonville’ it says on the plates and saucers.  There are about twenty of us here, some have their own rooms, but most live communally here in the ballroom, with its beautifully ornate ceiling and peeling flock wallpaper.  I have my own mattress and dirty old duvet at least; this cost me the wind-up torch Dan gave me, and so far a couple of women have shared some food with me, but I know I will have to find a way of getting my own food soon.  Even here you aren’t tolerated unless you have something to sell.

Amazingly no-one has switched off the micro-power, and though hardly anyone has any electrical stuff the lights and sockets are still working.  One of the women, Jane, has a radio, and has it blaring all day on some country music station, but at least it reminds me of the life I left behind.  Almost all radio is on the supernet now, but some stuff must still be broadcast in the old way, though no-one I ever knew had a radio, maybe outside of G. L they still exist.  Maybe the lower strata still use them; Jane’s machine doesn’t look that old-fashioned, so they must still be made somewhere.

It is quite a little community here, though very unstructured and everyone keeps more or less to themselves.  There is a strange feeling of togetherness though, an unspoken acknowledgement that we are one against the system.  No-one has really questioned who I am, or why I am here.  Probably they don’t care; everyone has their hard-luck story I suppose.

More than at Aldwych, I feel accepted here, not exactly welcomed, but certainly not rejected either.  As usual it is the women who are most forthcoming, the men are more reticent.  Why is that?  Why, even now in the Twenty-First Century are men so careful of letting their guard down?  Is that the way it has always been; women the homemakers, the friendly ones, and men the solitary hunters.  Because now I need to become a hunter again; if I am to survive I need to find some work and one of the women, Charlene, has told me that the local farmers need help from time to time, and will pay in food.  This is of course illegal, but even Tesda turns a blind eye; they have pre-purchased the whole crop anyway, so how the farmer gets it out of the ground is up to him.  So, tomorrow I am going out to one of the farms with Ben, one of the few men I have managed to get to speak to me, to see if there is any work.

I often wondered how unstrata-ed or non-persons existed.  I read that in the old days people were actually paid to do nothing, the ‘dole’ they used to call it.  I kid you not – as long as you weren’t working you got paid – as soon as you got a job your ‘dole’ stopped. By some crazy logic the authorities justified this, but it was obviously unsustainable in the long run and the whole system crashed decades ago.  It is far cheaper to employ people, even at crap jobs, then at least they become consumers – the only valuable function left for humans to perform.  Now no-one can exist in the cred system without working, although many, in fact most jobs, are better done by computers than people.  The con-gloms need people to earn cred so they can buy stuff, so jobs are created.  Sounds crazy, but as long as the system works, why not?   And doing something makes people feel they have some usefulness, and even here in this never-land where we don’t officially exist, you need to work, or sell yourself, which in a way is work too, or you would starve.

And despite all the hypercom enforced regulations, there are always ways round every situation.  Even here, outside of the cred con-glom system there are ways of surviving.  Everyone finds some way of getting by. It is only the incurably sick who do not have some work to do.  Mind you most illnesses are genetically obliterated before birth now, and since the euthenase programme came into full swing a lot of the oldies have chosen their own exit.  I can’t say I blame them, when the choice is a long slow and painful death being shipped from hospital to clinic until even the basic-med nhs doesn’t want you, or a swift painless death – nice bed, nice nurse to hold your hand, one last decent meal and a glass of synth wine, your favourite music as you drift away. No real choice is there?

But here there is no compulsion to work, no nagging daily routine to follow.  Of course you might starve if you lay in bed for days on end, but no screen is waking you and reminding you of your responsibility, no admen parading products to spend your cred on, no constant reminder of your strata level, no inducement to strive for the next level.  Here it was simple – work and eat, or laze about and be hungry for a day or two.”

People Who Think They Are Cleverer Than They Really Are

Thursday 27th August

Hands Up !!!  That’s right, almost all of you, or should I say all of us.  We are like enthusiastic and proud parents who claim that their quiet moody child who just sits watching telly is “really clever for his age.”  None of us, or actually only a very clever few, likes to think we are stupid, despite maybe a lifetime of being so designated by parents and teachers alike.  And as we listen to some old bore spouting on we nod inwardly to ourselves, knowing that indeed we are far cleverer than this old duffer.  In fact we almost to a person consider ourselves quite clever, when for example the fact that we are in possession of valuable property is nothing to do with our financial acumen or cleverness but the sheer luck of the market (or a husband conveniently dying early – lots of rich widows here in Eymet).  Most of us, I would say think we are cleverer than we really are.  There is almost a sliding scale, or a slide rule (remember them) and the cleverer you think you are, the further you slide the inner ruler the stupider you actually are; how many times do you find the slide rule in two pieces and you are frantically trying to slide the inner bit back in as stupidities dunces cap descends on your pretty little head?

And I am one of the above, in fact maybe the chief culprit.  Oh yes, I can answer questions on Mastermind and sometimes even University Challenge, I purport to dispense wisdom via this very blog and I know without a dadow of a shout that I am far cleverer than all these M.A and B.A. wielding dolts who parade their University credentials before them, as if this makes them superior to moi, who left school before his “A” levels and descended into a spiral of chaos I am only just extracting myself from.  So, next time you inwardly smirk and think to yourself that you are clever, think again, you are probably far less clever than you think you are.  Welcome to the stupid world, you may find it quite familiar….hahaha

G – is for Phillip Goodhand-Tait

Wednesday 26th August

I first heard Phillip in about ’73.  He had a single “You Are” which was just in the charts and he was on Top of the Pops.  He had quite long hair and a beard and was dressed in yellow satin shirt and red trousers.  He had actually been around for a few years but I hadn’t heard of him.  He started off as a rock’n’roller with his band “The Stormville Shakers” who troubled the charts not at all.  He then went solo and had three excellent albums of gentle thoughtful songs out, which again made very little sales at all.  He was then ‘discovered’ by Elton John’s record company Rocket records, and they tried to make him a “Pop-Star” almost after the fashion of Elton himself.  Phillip played piano and wrote all his own songs too, but was actually as different from Elton as you could get.  Not at all flamboyant, never the extrovert, his voice however is quite distinctive, gentle, deep and almost hoarse, more like a whisper but very beautiful too.

Well the attempt failed and he has remained in relative obscurity ever since, releasing the occasional album here and there.  I worked backwards and have sought out his records, now very expensive and only available as Japanese imports, he is another ‘collectors’ item. I responded to an e-mail address in one of these Japanese re-issues of an early record and we sometimes chat on-line.  I sent him a copy of Catherines Story, which he said he enjoyed and read when on tour.  He now sells his own records on the internet and seems to get by, ignoring the big record companies he must be seventy now and is a survivor, he even survived the attempt to make him a pop-star.



Phillip Goodhand-Tait


Sport and Doping

Tuesday 25th August

In the end Usain Bolt managed to beat twice convicted drugs cheat Justin Gatling in the World Championships in Beijing.  Well, that was the headline comment on the BBC.  An immense wave of relief washed over the whole sporting establishment.  At last they had a winner who was clean.  For now.  And please realize I do not for one moment suspect the Lightning Bolt of cheating.  It is just that so many sporting heroes have been found using illegal substances that it is very hard to actually believe that any have not.  And that is not again to accuse the athletes themselves.  There is so much money now in Sport, and in Athletics too (where years ago they were all Alf Tuppers) and all top athletes have an entourage which includes trainers, managers, publicists and dieticians that there is more and more pressure to keep winning, because so many people rely on the money keeping on rolling in.  And there is a fine line between what is considered a legal supplement and that which is presently deemed illegal that it is no surprise that athletes are sometimes caught out by their over-zealous training staff.

Until every athlete is checked both regularly and during and after every championships and the results published will any real confidence return to the sport.

And of course there are different degrees of “cheating”.  No-one can forgive Lance Armstrong who won the Tour de France seven times and always denied using drugs, only to be found out later and bring fresh doubt on every endurance cyclist since.  I suspect that many athletes simply do not know if they are “cheating” and blindly trust their staff.  Unfortunately it is impossible to tell the knowing from the unknowing.  But of course the BBC assures us that our British Athlets like Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah are clean.  But it may sadly be a case of innocent until found guilty.

The Trouble With Defence

Monday 24th August

Is that it isn’t.  It is not and never has been about our ability to protect the British Isles from an external threat, namely an invasion or attack by hostile forces.  It is and always has been about our ability to attack (nowadays as part of an alliance) other, invariably weaker than ourselves countries.  Once upon a long ago Brittania did indeed rule the waves, and a nasty despotic rule we enforced, ignoring international law and grabbing bigger and bigger chunks of land for our Empire.  That resulted in poverty and slavery, and not a few rich families in England.  But our Empire has gone; except for a few islands we cling on to, and Gibraltar, which is a running sore in our relations with Spain.

So what do we need a navy for, except to patrol our territorial waters?  And why do we need fighter aircraft capable of flying thousands of miles and refuelling in mid-air?  And why do we need a standing army equipped for both Desert and Artic warfare?  And why, oh why, do we need to spend billions on nuclear weapons that if ever used would mean the end of civilization itself?  The reason is because we have been bullied by America into supporting them and their ongoing attempts at World Domination.  Our membership of Nato was, immediately after the war, a bulwark against the then perceived expansionist Soviet threat (even though they had been our allies in defeating Hitler).  Well the war was over seventy years ago now and maybe we should be thinking about our Defence policy in a new way entirely.  We should be trying to make the UN a true global peacemaker, with its’ own standing army, and get rid of the Security Council and its’ veto (which stops any real agreement or democracy).  Our armed forces should be there to provide humanitarian aid both here and abroad and not to be senselessly bombing innocent people from the air as we are doing in Iraq and probably Syria too.  We should not be training young men in how to kill people, and then incidentally kicking them back into society with very few other skills.  This would mean upsetting an awful lot of vested interests, as the whole industrial military complex relies on constant war.  But as we can see George Orwell was correct, and words like Defence mean exactly the opposite.


Frequent Flyer Disease

Sunday 23rd August

I think I must be suffering from Frequent Flyer Disease.  A few years ago, and before buying the house in France I sort of made a vow to myself that I was done with flying.  Not that I particularly dislike flying, but planning no real foreign holidays and finding myself single and not having to kowtow to other’s choices, I quite liked the idea of travelling everywhere by train.  And I did for a while, even making two journeys to La Rochelle by Eurostar and TGV to spend a week with my daughter’s in-laws.

Well, all of that has gone to the wind, blown away by the decision to buy the house in Eymet. For the first two years I made two or three trips during the summer but was driven there mostly.  However this year, with my wife retired and opening the café, and me still working for a while in England, I was commuting two or three times a month.  I still have one customer and have to come back once a month to meet them.  I also try to check on the houses in England and sometimes see my parents or children and grandchildren.  So, a frequent flyer I have become.  And like the team flying the plane I am on auto-pilot.  I am almost in a daze as I pass through Security and wait for my gate to be called.  I try to lose myself in a kindle book and listen to music, trying to ignore even the safety instructions and definitely the sales pitches of the Ryanair staff, desperately trying to sell us food, drink, duty-free and even lottery tickets.

And strangely I seem to always have a headache on leaving the plane, my head feels as if it is wrapped in a very thick and heavy blanket and all I want to do is sleep.  Is this a new syndrome; frequent flyer disease, or is it just me, head full of reading and music and the persistent drone of the engines.  Whatever, I am glad to be back in Eymet, just in time for the Country and Western night at the pub tonight.  Yee – Haa.


2066 – a different persprective on Janek’s escape

Saturday 22nd August

-[And so our hero sets out again; though the word hero hardly applies to Janek Smith.  We eventually tracked down the Heaton’s, the brother and sister he found refuge with.  It was decided not to take any action against them.  They had never told anyone about Janek, and they were valuable suppliers of real food.  Besides what could we really have done to them, they were almost outside the system, an anachronism, but tolerated for the produce they unconventionally produced.  Tesda, I understand, were particularly concerned that we do nothing to interrupt supplies.

But what had Janek learnt so far?  Very little I suspect, unless it might have been the beginning of some sort of understanding, some glimmer that the world we had created may not have been quite as awful as he suspected.  He did get to Hastings, travelling as far as we know by night.   Hastings was once, many decades ago, a prosperous small coastal town, but it had fallen on hard times.  There was no industry at all, and the old tourist trade had died years ago; nobody holidayed on the South Coast now, it was too cold and gloomy.  The town should have died completely, but a small population of the un-strata-ed seemed to congregate there.  Exactly how they survived was never clearly understood.  It was a situation we tolerated because it caused no damage, and the Polis simply drove around mopping up any serious troublemakers, but mostly turning a blind eye to these vagrants and drop-outs.  Until and unless they threatened anyone else it was cheaper to let them live and die their vicarious existence without hindrance.  One day we might get round to sorting this problem out, but for now it was never a priority.]-