O – is for Mike Oldfield

Thursday 30th June

In 1973 Virgin Records, almost a one-man operation back then, released its first record “Tubular Bells” by the then unknown Mike Oldfield.  It was a strange choice; a completely instrumental record with no singing – one long track really, and every instrument played and multitracked by Mike himself.  But it was an instant hit; I’m not sure it ever got any radio play either but it soon gathered fans.  I was one, I almost played my copy to death.  Mike released several other long pieces “Hergest Ridge” and “Ommadawn” to slowly diminishing sales.  He had a couple of singles with Maddy Pryor singing but despite Tubular Bells 2 and 3 he has never had the same success.

So what is it about the original Tubular Bells?  Well, it isn’t like anything else, or any Pop or Rock record before or after.  It has the brilliant Viv Stanshall at the end introducing the same motif on different instruments.  It is really a classical symphony played on Modern Instruments, and at the same time a fore-runner of a lot of techno and electronic music, especially in the repeated refrains and constancy of the melodies (if there really are any). It was a remarkable achievement by a mere twenty year old and continues to sell well.  Excerpts from it have been used in countless films and TV programmes and it remains a favourite of mine.  Each time I hear it, it sound fresh again and somehow refuses to date.  Maybe because Mike did this all on his own with no input from other Musicians or Producers or Record Company Exec’s that it is so unique and brilliant.

Tubular Bells [2009 Remaster]

The Trouble With Jeremy

Wednesday 29th June

This all started a few years ago when, from maybe the best of motives, Ed Milliband changed the rules for the election of a leader of the Labour Party; having been elected himself partly on the block votes of the Unions, he created one member one vote, where every Labour Party member’s vote had equal weight; M.Ps, union members (who had paid the Political levy) and ordinary members.  He also created the speeded up £3 membership.  Jeremy Corbyn stood as the standard bearer on the Left and nobody thought he stood a chance.  But actually during the campaign he began to appeal, not only his strongly Socialist message, but his calm and thoughtful approach.  Anyway, he got elected, much to the dismay of most of the M.P.s.

He struggled to form a Shadow Cabinet (many former members choosing to walk away, but some choosing to make the best of it and serve) but eventually got there, and made maybe his biggest mistake by appointing John McDonell as his Shadow Chancellor.  Maybe had he appointed Angela Eagle or someone else from the soft Left he might have fared better, but he was determined to take the party in a Left-wing direction.  After the Syria vote he had a minor re-shuffle but the knives were already being sharpened. Labour did just enough at the May elections for Jeremy to survive but after the referendum, where his tepid performance was seen (maybe unfairly) by many as the reason many (but less than half) of Labour supporters backed Brexit.

Anyway, a concerted and rehearsed series of resignations from his shadow cabinet ensued, one by one they walked away – even Angela Eagle and others from the soft Left.  A vote of no-confidence is being organised now and Jeremy will almost certainly lose it by a large margin.  But Jeremy is fighting on, using the mandate from the members as his raison d’etre.  There is now an almighty struggle for the soul of the Labour Party.  But more importantly Labour is looking ridiculous, and at a time when the Press should be reporting on Tory woes they now have the trouble with Jeremy to fill their pages with.  And though I initially supported him I feel that without the support of his M.P.s and with a Shadow Cabinet full of complete unknowns it would be best for Labour and the country if he quietly fell on his sword – but I am not sure that he will.

Ignorance Beyond Belief (But maybe not)

Tuesday 28th June

We have had a stream of people in the Café since the vote on Thursday.  Most are appalled at the result, especially those choosing to live and work in France – but a few have been outers.  Civilised conversations ensued.  But today I was confronted by the most appalling Ignorance.

Just as I was closing up a couple, new to us, came in for lunch.  I served them and as there was nobody else in the Café I sat at another table.  The man asked me what I thought about the referendum and if I thought the result would affect us here in the Café.  At this point I had no idea how he had voted, but careful not to offend I told him that I had personally voted to remain, but that I expected things to calm down and that in the long run I thought not that much would change.

He then told me that he, along with everyone else he knew had voted to leave.  He was here on holiday and lived in rural Shropshire.  He said he had voted because of Immigrants.  I asked him if there were many where he lived.  Refusing to answer, he then went into a bit of a tirade about how Immigrants were given a council house as soon as they arrived and claimed benefits straight away.  He ended his little speech by saying that in no way was he a racist, but he f…ing hated Muslims and that was why he had voted out.


I took a deep breath and said that very few Muslims arrived from Europe, and that leaving the EU would have very little effect on the number of Muslims in the country.  He told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about because I was over here and not in England.  I decided to leave it at that.  There is no engaging with such Ignorance.  I am not assuming that all or even many others who voted to leave were so stupid – and though saddened and ashamed of my fellow Briton’s Ignorance, I am not that surprised.

O – is for Sinead O’Connor

She came to fame in the late 1980’s and in what seemed no time at all had a huge hit with “Nothing Compares to You”, originally a Prince song but re-arranged for her splendid voice.  She has since become famous for her crewcut hairstyle and for her Religious views, which have almost eclipsed the fact that she is a great singer and not a bad songwriter either.  I haven’t got many of her records, but I do love the ones I have, and should make a note to myself to buy some more whenever I can.

Her views on Religion may seem strange to us in England but she was brought up a strict Catholic and hated the Roman church and all its officials because, in her eyes, they have perverted the message of Christ.  There is also the small matter of child abuse.  Once, live on American TV, she tore up a photo of the then Pope and has been practically barred from America since and her records sell poorly there.  Which is a pity, as she is misunderstood.  I think she is resigned to it all now and just gets on making records and singing in one of the best voices around.  I quite like her for it really.

See original image

So, Why Are We In This Mess?

Sunday 26th June

The dust is not even beginning to settle, it may be several weeks before it does.  This is possibly the biggest Political upset in years – and all of it so un-necessary.  Why did we have a referendum in the first place?  Cameron says because it was in the Conservative Manifesto, but since when have we been bound by that, and anyway who wrote the manifesto but him.  No, we actually have to go back a few years.  There have been calls for a referendum on our European Membership for several years, but hardly from the British public, who before this were frankly rather bored whenever the subject of Europe came up.  However in the Conservative Party there had been a growing faction, which has now grown into a majority who have never forgiven Ted Heath for taking us in in the first place, and have done everything to get us out ever since.  Margaret Thatcher started off as a committed European but gradually became a skeptic, almost to the point of encouraging our semi-detached view of all things European.  Poor old John Major went into the Maastricht negotiations knowing he would have to win some concessions or he might not get the deal ratified by his own party.  And he was right, except as Cameron too would have to learn – there is no real compromise with the ‘Outers’; the more concessions you give them the harder their resistance becomes.

Then we had the Blair years and calls again from some Tories for a referendum, which he cleverly kicked into the long grass by agreeing to a referendum only after any Treaty change.  Cameron too seemed signed up to this, but then we had the rise of UKIP, funded by Euro-Skeptic Millionaires and supported by some sections of the press whose only aim was to take votes off the Tories and to get them to agree to a referendum.  And it worked.  Terrified by their apparent success Cameron foolishly promised a referendum in 2017.  Well, the polls were consistently showing a huge majority for staying in, in fact it seemed a shoo-in.  So he went through the charade of a renegotiation, coming back like Chamberlain waving a bit of paper and declaring Victory, when all he got were vague promises and crumbs swept from the Grand Table.  Ever the gambler, he was certain it was enough and rushed to an early referendum hoping to catch the Leavers on the hop.

And it all looked good, polls still favourable, the ‘Outers’ arguing amongst themselves, Cabinet ministers chomping at the bit waiting for the starting gun – and then they were off.  Cameron had lined up a whole parade of World Leaders, Economic think-tanks, the Bank of England, and Business leaders to say what a disaster it would be, should we leave.  And the polls were still showing a healthy lead for remain.  Then a month out Farage started bleating on about Immigration, controlling our borders, getting our country back etc:  And it was proving popular, so Johnson and Gove followed suit.  And suddenly it was okay to talk about Immigration as the real problem and how we could only ever get it under control if we left Europe.  Strange that nobody pointed out that over half the Immigration comes from outside the EU, and we have never been able to control that.

Anyway, too late now to complain about lies – both sides lied pretty badly.  But what started as a row in the Tory Party and the creation of a party whose original aim was to force a referendum out of the Tory Party has grown into a huge groundswell of support for – well, for what we cannot be sure.  Partly it is about Immigration and a dislike of Foreigners, Muslims in particular, but just about anyone will do.  Partly it was a focus for dissatisfaction, low wages, poor life chances, no council houses, NHS struggling, lack of school places and Austerity.  Partly it was a chance to stick two fingers up to the whole Political class, to Westminster, to Elitism, to the Establishment.  Whatever, it is over now and there is a mess to sort out.  But nobody seems to know the way forward, even the Brexiteers, who may be as surprised as the rest of us that the whole country (well, small town and rural England) voted to Leave.  It is now up to Boris to decide our future, but I suspect that a huge compromise may be hovering over the horizon, and Boris may be the first to seize it.

A Very British Coup

Saturday 25th June

Well done Boris and Nigel.  You have got your country back.  Boris will be the next Prime Minister.  UKIP will continue to win more votes.  I have to congratulate your very British Coup.  I bet Cameron wishes he was still in coalition with Clegg, how easy it was then.  And Labour and the Tories are both in turmoil now.

So, let’s see just how you intend to progress.  I am prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt, and let’s be honest 17 million voters cannot possibly be wrong, can they?

We have to accept the referendum result and make the best of things as Scotland drifts off into the North Sea and even little Northern Ireland are thinking hard about their future relationship with an EU Ireland.

Interesting times.  And how very British.  A Public Schoolboy’s spat played out in Wide-screen HD TV.  Victor Ludorum Boris.  Now please tell us what will our future be, and whether it was really worth it?

2066 – Janek’s Second Conjoining

Friday 24th June

Record date 20661105

I am recording this for future conjoinees while my second conjoining is actually happening.  I have managed to attune my thoughts to a very short frequency wavelength, and am sending, in rapid bursts my impressions.  There is no real time to analyse and put them in any coherent order.  Maybe I will be permitted to return to them and correct any misapprehensions that might arise; for now this will have to do.

I have been spending my time, exploring the knowledge banks of my Hypercom twin.  What at first seemed inexhaustible and vast, daunting is the word that springs to mind, is at last beginning to be understood by my own, I must admit, still inferior brain.  However despite having a vastly improved processing function, far more than all other humans thanks to my first full-conjoining, I still retain approximately the same memory capacity.   However, what almost all other humans fail to realise is that this is more than adequate.  We, none of us, have learnt to use our memories properly.  We ‘lose’ memories, we have favourite memories, we un-remember things we would like to forget (or more tragically those we would wish to recall), we remember remembering a memory rather than the memory itself, we cannot recall the simplest of recent memories and yet remember, clear as a bell, some childhood impressions which serve no real function except to feed our sentimentality.

Since my first conjoining my brain now has the ability to sort and file, to store and to recall all of my memories.  In fact all humans actually do record every single thing going on in their lives but are remarkably useless at filing them.  All of our memories are there, none of them go away, even as individual brain cells die and are replaced by new ones the memories are all still there.  You just have to try a bit harder to find them.  How many times do you hear a song on a screen, and know it, the tune, the melody, the words even, though it may have been decades ago you last heard it.  Walking down a street you suddenly recognize someone from twenty, thirty years ago. You know them, of course you know them, you just cannot put a name to a face you once knew so well.  The memories never go, but still we cannot find them, even commonly used words escape us as we scrabble around; hands deep in the mud, grabbing at squidgy elusive clues, but still our eyes cannot see.   We are lazy animals, we do not know yet how to file and to restore our memories.  I am rapidly learning this skill, and as I probe deeper and deeper into the hypercom’s brain I am recording and storing that knowledge in my own mind.  I admit that there are times when I need to rest, to lay down and attempt to clear my mind of all these images, smells, sounds, numbers and equations.  Overload I suppose you might call it, so even I have to learn to ration myself, to take things slowly, after all I have years ahead of me to ‘read’ my Hypercom’s memories.

I have started to learn Russian too, I don’t really know why.  Almost our constant enemy for over a century now, and yet we still know so little about the Russians.   Maybe it is just the beauty of the alphabet, those reverse R’s the strange looking M, the proliferation of consonants.   I will of course learn all of earth’s languages given time, but for now I am quite enjoying Russian.  I am attempting to read Dostoevsky in the original Russian; Crime and Punishment of course, that most cerebral examination of the human ’soul’.  Though of course we long ago dispatched such sentimentality to the rubbish bin; for centuries people were obsessed by ideas such as ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’, when all along it was just their own heightened self-consciousness giving them ideas above their station.  Mine is Euston by the way.  Joke – Durghhh!!!  We are still like little children, amazed that we can even think, and gazing in awe and wonder at our own understanding, the comprehension that we are actually thinking at all.  Our unreasoning brains cannot quite believe we are even capable of thinking and so we believe we are somehow special and create stupid ideas such as ‘soul’.   Ahh soul, I remember him well.  (Yeah, work it out for yourself.)

And so I am thinking, or trying to think, at the same time as transferring these thoughts, impressions, images that flicker across my seeing mind, my reactions, my emotions as I prepare for my second-stage conjoining.  One thought that has just crossed my mind is that the Hypercom I have been partially conjoined with has no sense of its own self.  It has not even given itself a name; it has a serial number – an address and identity code, but they hardly count.  It never refers to itself as an entity, it doesn’t seem to discriminate between its own intelligence and the shared knowledge of the Hypercom community.  Interesting.  This may actually have been a serious design fault; though the thought has just struck me that the fault may not have been that of the designers of Hypercom but of our own human brains.


Decision Day

Thursday 23rd June

I wrote a few days ago that Remain will win.  I was full of confidence, feeling that the mood was swinging back to commonsense, but of course that confidence could be sorely misplaced.  The polls (all we really have to go on) could be totally wrong and Remain win easily, but I am amazed but not really surprised at the level of discontent there is among so many of the people at large.  They are blaming Immigration for the fact that for the last 6 or so years wages have not kept pace with inflation, for the NHS struggling with a ‘winter crisis’ all year round, with the shortage of Doctors and School places – when all of these problems were made in Britain and caused by Tory cuts.  But the Leave campaign (run almost exclusively by those same Tories) has been very clever at laying all our troubles at the feet of Johnny Foreigner.

“Take back control of our Borders” scream the headlines.  Well, yes – but coming through Stansted there is barely any border control, and though we have 7700 miles of coastline we have just three small boats trying to stop any possible illegal entrants. And if occasionally refugees are found in the back of lorries, then how many get through unsearched?  Exiting Europe will have no effect on the number of illegal over-staying visa holders or ‘tourists’ who simply do not go home.  For every legal Immigrant there are maybe as many ‘illegals’ – I used to know two Australian waitresses who had overstayed their visas by years, and no-one came to deport them.  And as for the argument about wages being depressed here, this is more the fault of unscrupulous bosses who often pay below the minimum wage or have staff on zero-hours contracts, than European Migrants, who mostly work hard and pay their taxes.

I remember a song by McGuinness Flint, back in the early 70’s “Be International” which extolled the virtues of joining together with others to solve the World’s problems, where has that optimism gone?.  With the popularity of UKIP, the FN in France and Trump in America we are seeing a dangerous rise in far-right anti-foreigner views; I am just amazed that anyone falls for it anymore.

The Strange Attraction of Ugly Men

Wednesday 22nd June

I have always considered myself pretty ordinary looking; no film star but not exactly ugly either.  I am also a reasonable weight, managing as I do to eat whatever I feel like at every opportunity I never really seem to get any larger (waist size has very gradually increased from a late teen 28 to a comfortable mid-sixties 32/34).  And yet I am amazed, especially having been back in England for a couple of days at how many ugly people, especially men, there are walking around.  And even more surprisingly they don’t seem to lack attention from the opposite sex.

I travelled on the DLR about four times and I seemed to be surrounded by men in their thirties or forties with thick-set stocky bodies, no necks and bald heads.  And quite a few of these had not unattractive but often slightly podgy women smiling on their arms and seeming to look lovingly upon these fleshy and bulbous faces.  Having lived now for over a year in France I am struck by the difference in appearance.  You do see overweight people but they appear to be quite old, almost everyone under fifty is slim (it is only the English who appear slightly larger) – maybe it is the smoking, often in the time it takes them to down a strong espresso they can fill an ashtray with three cigarettes.  But I rarely see a stocky bald French man, you know – the ones whose heads seem to emerge neckless from their thick shoulders and are smooth and rounded with just a tiny nose and ears as any sort of adornment to break up the symmetry.  One imagines that these Englishmen are all footie supporters and work as builders but surprisingly quite a lot were suited and booted and probably work in Finance in the City.

And standing, waiting for a seat, it suddenly hit me just why these men are considered attractive to the opposite sex.  They are literally wearing their penises on their shoulders; their bald smooth rounded shiny pates resemble nothing less than an erect (if rather short) dick. Just an observation – no criticism intended, but next time you see one of these (what I would consider ugly) men, have a look and see if you too can see the resemblance.

Economic Forecasting

Tuesday 21st June

Economics is the study of how money and business and wealth and poverty work in the World, and it is not an exact science.  In fact it is very inexact indeed.  They say that if you have two economists in a room one of them is bound to disagree with the other two.  There are basically two parts to Economics; one is the analysis of where and why we are, and the other is to extrapolate from those conclusions what will happen next.

Just as almost all (except possibly one) opinion polls will not tally with the actual result of any vote; (they are just that, a statistical analysis of asking a sample of people how they will vote – which is not necessarily how they will actually vote) so Economic forecasts are almost always wrong.  Confused?  You will be when you talk to an Economist.  Firstly, most Economic forecasts are made by entering masses of data into a computer programme which compares this data with what has happened in the past and comes out with what it thinks is an educated guess as to what will happen in the near or middle future given certain criteria, such as tax changes or interest rates.

Unfortunately, sophisticated as these computer models are they always assume that people (the ones actually spending money or working) will behave in a rational way.  And they don’t.

No Economist saw the Financial Crash of 2008, which we are suffering from to this day, coming; or fearing some sort of crash, had any idea of the scale or ramifications of it.  George Osborne has missed every single target he thought his policies would achieve, all based on perfectly sensible forecasts from the OBR.  And no-one has any idea what would really happen if we left the EU, or indeed if we stay in (though there may be a degree more certainty in the latter.)

J K Galbraith, a very clever Economist of the Sixties, said that Economic Policy (and forecasting the results) was like pulling a brick on a piece of elastic along a table top when your only point of vision is at eye-level; you tug the brick and cannot see anything moving so you tug again, still no discernible movement, another tug and then the brick hits you in the eye.

Economics lesson over for the day, please bring your text books to the front of the class and place them one by one in the shredder.