Reasons to be cheerful

Wednesday 31st August

We are in France for 18 months so far….

Reasons to be cheerful – 1) The Weather.  Winter was mild but wet and Spring a bit slow but we have just had almost two months of wall to wall sunshine, the temperature fluctuating between high twenties and mid thirties – sometimes it even gets quite hot here.  You wake up and look out of the window, a wisp or two of hazy cloud and an expanse of blue from horizon to horizon, and the forecast for September is looking good too.

Reasons to be cheerful – 2) The Wine.  The local Bergerac wines are superb, and mostly cost 3 or 4 euros a bottle.  Even in the Restaurants it is around 14 euros a litre.  It is always drinkable – we have rarely had a bad bottle.  In fact I am developing quite a taste for the local Eymet rose.

Reasons to be Cheerful – 3) Eating outdoors.  As the weather is so good all through the summer we tend to eat out of doors.  No more dodging showers as the barbeque is doused yet again, all the restaurants have outdoor seating and they are pretty reasonable too.  Often 12 euros or so for four courses and wine.  Why on earth would you choose to pay a lot more – but for just twice that price you can get a very good meal (almost Masterchef quality and presentation) in the two best Restaurants in town.  We very rarely spend more than 20 euros a head sitting in the prettiest square in South West France.

Reasons to be Cheerful – 4) The Night Markets.  For two months the town, and all the small villages around go completely crazy; there are wine festivals, oyster and seafood festivals, medeaval festivals and of course the regular Marches Nocturnes.  Great food, excellent wines, long tables and benches in the squares or parks, great company and live music….which brings me to no 5.

Reasons to be Cheerful  – 5) Music.  Every Friday night at le Pub Gambetta there is live music and it is usually pretty good, songs from the sixties and seventies, all for the price of a meal and some wine.  But there is live music all over, in many of the small bars and towns and at the night markets.

Reasons to be Cheerful….oh, so you are bored now.  Sorry, go back to your boring telly, I apologise for disturbing you.

P – is for Dory Previn

Tuesday 30th August

“I have flown to star-stained heights on bent and battered wings, in search of mythical kings. Sure that everything of worth was in the sky and not the earth, but I never made my way, down down down where the iguanas play”

My favourite line from Dory Previn, and when you read lyrics like that you know you are in the prescence of a very unusual songwriter.  She came to fame (of a very limited nature) in the early seventies with a series of intimate and honest and quite wonderful albums.  But she was already quite old by this time, in her late forties.  She has been married to Andre Previn, and they had both been involved in the Hollywood scene, he writing screen music and she lyrics to songs in films.  He went on to become a famous conductor, but it was Dory who had the most prescient talent.  Now, what you must understand is that Dory had problems, she had a very controlling and possibly abusive father; she wrote a side-long piece on her third album called “Taps, Tremors and Timesteps (one last dance for my father)”.  She had a nervous breakdown when her husband left her for the much younger and stunningly beautiful Mia Farrow, and she wrote about this in a song “Lemon Haired Ladies” where she tells us to beware of young girls who come to the door, wistful and pale, twenty and four, delivering daisies with delicate hands.  And she had electro-shock treatment in a mental hospital and recreated the nightmare on an incredible song “Mr. Whisper” about hearing voices, where the stereo splits and different Dory’s speak words from poems and sing snatches of songs at the same time; very scary and incredibly real.

She released four brilliant records on United Artists and then two poorer ones on Warners, and then she stopped.  Maybe she had nothing else to say, or perhaps thought she might have said enough already.  At least we still have the records, and one great live double album too.  Dory herself died in 2012, an old lady of 87.  I still get a prickly feeling whenever I play one of her songs, full of neuroses and fears and hope for a better future.  In laying out her own troubled life she was very brave.  Oh, and many years later Mia Farrow did apologise for stealing her husband.

See original image

You Cannot Trust the Turks

Monday 29th August

Throughout History Turkey has been a problem.  Geographically straddling both Europe and Asia and controlling access to the Black Sea it has been seen as vital in both keeping Russia out of the Mediterranean Sea and in bringing stability to the Middle East.  For centuries Turkey was in decline and fighting rearguard actions to control her Empire in both the Balkans and the Middle East.  But they could never be trusted.  Duplicity seemed hard-wired into their thinking.  And it is much the same today.

They are desperate to be seen to be modern and to join the EU (just as we are desperate to leave) but they have a pitiful human rights record.  They are a member of NATO and the Americans need them as a bulwark against Russia, especially after their recent incursions in the Ukraine.  There is also the thorny issue of Syria and the never-ending civil war.  Officially Turkey is fighting the Assad regime and also Isis, though Assad is fighting Isis too.  But the real enemy as far as Turkey is concerned is the Kurds, and always has been.  The poor Kurds have been seeking Nation status for decades, but as they straddle Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Russia there is little hope of their ever being granted a true homeland.  They have been, almost singlehandedly fighting Isis in both Iraq and Syria, and achieving quite a few victories.  But this only worries Turkey more; the stronger the Kurds are in Iraq and Syria the more Turkey fears them.  Turkey labels them as terrorists, along with Isis and almost everyone else fighting in Syria.  But the real terrorists are the Turks.  They have been complicit in helping Isis gain weapons and in selling oil for them with some links even to the Turkish President’s son.  They are also playing cat and mouse with the refugees pouring out of Syria, using them as bargaining chips with Europe and accepting huge financial assistance in the process.

There is a dirty war going on in Syria and Iraq.  Russia is almost certainly colluding with the Turks to try to get them to fight Isis and so assisting Russia’s ally Assad.  America is urging Turkey to get involved too, though not against the Kurds, who after all have done most of the fighting against Isis. And Assad still survives, though officially everyone except Russia wants him gone.  Roger Waters expressed it wonderfully when he said that war made perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds shillings and pence.  Nobody really wants the war in Syria to end, and sadly it won’t for some time yet.  Almost everyone is behaving badly but I think that Turkey (officially our ally) is completely untrustworthy.  It is only interested in subduing the Kurds and will play America and us along for years to come.

It Doesn’t get Much Better Than This

Sunday 28th August

Imagine sitting around a table, the late sun setting off to one side, with friends and drinking wine beer and water.  The temperature had been in the late thirties all day and it was just beginning to cool down.  The thirteenth Century church opposite is surrounded by recently acquired and improved old French houses.  We are in Allemans du Dropt, just one of the pretty villages around Eymet. There are a couple of speakers on stands and a clutch of microphones set up.  Off to one side is a large red converted single decker bus; the Bombay Busserie and they are busy completing orders, the smell of curry drifts over our table.  Terry Bradford hoists his Fender Stratocaster around his shoulders and steps up to the mike.  Jerry is already seated, recovering, he has his now trade mark black pork-pie hat on.  Sussie is standing to the side, her long Danish blond hair falling to one side as she glances at the mixing desk.  A couple of words of welcome from Terry and the band are off.  Gentle versions of songs we all know from the Sixties, Seventies and even a couple from the Eighties.  Each of the band take it in turns to sing; they all have excellent but different voices and their harmonies are great too.

Every so often we pop into the bar Lou Drot for more drinks, or someone’s curry arrives.  Lots of laughter and smiles all round.  The band invite a handful of guests up on stage; Chris, who is Jerry’s daughter sings a cracking rendition of ‘House of the Rising Sun’, Rob Russell does a couple of Elvis numbers, and Kenny Clark does his famous rendition (with alternative words) of ‘Honky Tonk Women’.  No, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Thanks everyone for another great night.

Nellie The Elephant (Alternative Lyrics)

Friday 25th August

Once to old UK
A traveling circus came,
They brought an incredible elephant
And Nigel was his name.
One dark night, (he was never that bright)

He slipped his UKIP handlers
And off he ran as fast as he came to good old Telly-land.

Nigel the Telly-star packed his trunk
And said goodbye to the circus

Off he went with a trumpety-trump
Trump, trump, trump

Night after night
He had danced to the circus band.
When Nigel was leading the big parade
He looked so proud and grand,
No more tricks for Nige to perform
They taught him the truth to evade.
And now he took the crowd by storm as the music played
When he said ‘Take control of our borders’
He was only following old Rupert’s orders

And from this tune by the light of the moon he never ever strayed

Nigel the Telly-star had sipped his pint
And said goodbye to the circus
Off he went with a bit of a hump
Trump, trump, trump

Nigel the Telly-star, his pint now drunk
He trundled off to the US jungle
Off he went with old Trumpety-trump
Trump, trump, trump
Nigel the Elephant resigned one more time
And trundled back to obscurity
Then he saw a fellow-trump
Trump, trump, trump

The head of the turds was calling
From the USA
They met one night and they both talked shite
On the road to Wankaway
Off he went with Don the trump
Trump, trump, trump

Nigel the telly-star sounded quite drunk
As he trundled along with the bungler
And the only sound we heard from these couple of turds
was Trump, trump, trump

Image result for images of Nigel Farage

How Small We Are

Friday 26th August

Yoko Ono released an album (pretty awful) back in the late 60’s, it was called ‘Approximately Infinite Universe’.  A great title and pretty accurate too; the Universe is so vast that most of what we can see is billions of years old anyway, so nobody is really sure how big it might be, it is also expanding anyway.  The numbers are bewildering and from our tiny human perspective they might as well be infinite, or as Yoko says ‘Approximately Infinite’.  And even on this planet we are still incredibly small, not even the most populous species; insects are millions of times more than us, and thousands more species too.

And even on this planet which we pretend to rule, we are so small.  The fish in the sea, the birds in the air do not bow to our supremacy; they try to avoid us as particularly nasty predators but have no concept of our superiority.  Plants are entirely oblivious to our existence.  Compared to whales with their enormous bulk and freedom to roam we are peculiarly tethered to one place.  Compared to uncomplicated dogs and cats we are incredibly troubled and neurotic.  Compared to most creatures we have the most complex mating rituals – it is amazing that any of us ever actually get it together.  And yet we are conscious of conscious thought; we think that we think, and what is more we think that we are the only life-form that thinks.  Maybe because we are the only ones with what we understand as a complex language we feel so superior to everything else.  But I suspect that many many creatures think, just not in words.

An interesting fact; around the site of Chernobyl in the Ukraine (the site of the biggest ever nuclear disaster) there is a 20kilometre exclusion zone, for twenty years there have been only a very few humans allowed in.  Scientists are amazed at the proliferation of wild life now that there are no humans around, wild boar, wild cats and thousands of plants and animals no longer around only a few kilometers away.  If mankind does ever extinguish itself, after only a few hundred years there will be barely a trace of us, even the skyscrapers will slowly crumble and fall.  Of course we all hope that doesn’t happen – but it is not a bad thing to remind ourselves occasionally just how small and insignificant we are.

2066 – The Conversation Continues

Thursday 25th August

-[And are you any nearer understanding those particular whys?  Please don’t tell me that you have reverted to thinking there must be a God.  You know that was disproved conclusively in the thirties.]-

No William, My Atheism is too hard-wired into my thinking, but if you start from a blank sheet of paper, the theory of some over-arching intelligent ‘creative’ force is as valid as anything else we might dream up.  The more interesting question is for what purpose?  Why does the Universe exist at all, why atoms, why particles, why do the Laws of Physics work the way they do.  Why go to all that trouble, what is the purpose of it all?

-[ I am sure that one day we may indeed know the answer to all of these questions. Janek.  Hypercoms are learning more and more every day.  Given the progress made to date, it must only be a matter of time before we know all the whys.   Maybe we should just concentrate on improving ourselves, our thinking abilities, our species – so that we are indeed ready for the answer to those why’s when they come.]-

Still hung up on this Eugenics crap I see Willy.  Maybe I should call you ‘Will of the Wisp’ – you are off with the fairies, after all.  Yes, you may be able to make people think faster, clearer, more like a machine, but that isn’t really evolution is it?  Evolution, as you rightly preach, is all around us; it is happening whether we like it or not.  And just as in that film, what was it called ‘2000 (and something) – a space oddity’ wasn’t it?  Where some other species planted some seed in our primitive ape brains, that fast-forwarded our evolution, maybe we are attempting the same thing.

-[I don’t recall ever seeing that film.  But is it such a terrible thing, if we give a nudge to mankind, if we bump them along the evolutionary scale a bit?]-

It isn’t for me to say whether it is good or bad.  Anyway, you fuckers are doing it, regardless of my opinion.  I am not sure though, that you will like the results.  For a while back there I was ‘super-clever’, when I was conjoined, when I could think so much quicker than before.  You must have noticed just what a shitty person I had become too; all that so-called ‘knowledge’, that ability, that clarity of thought made me a pretty poor excuse for a person.  Or don’t you think?

 -[There was a noticeable change in your personality I must admit.  You were flying so much higher than me, I couldn’t always follow you.  But surely, even if there are personality changes, maybe that is a price worth paying.]-

Now where have I heard that phrase before?  That’s the excuse everyone makes.  The point I am making Dear William, is that personality, all of our unique and wonderful personalities are what make us the creatures we are.  Faster, brighter, cleverer, the equal of Hypercoms – all fine attributes, that might or might not have happened anyway, but can you evolve our personalities too.  Or like the mist in the mornings will it be burned away by the clear burning sun of cold Hypercom reason.

-[Well that has of course been considered, but really it is a bit late to be worrying about that now, isn’t it?]-

Possibly far too late, especially for me.   When I am asleep though, something remarkable happens.  I become me again.  It is as if this year hasn’t happened at all.  I get up in my luxury apartment, watch Disnews, say goodbye to Cathy, hop on the tubeline and am whisked away to work.  Nothing bad has happened to me, no running away with mad old Scotsmen, no being beaten, pissed on by the seaside, no bugger up my arse.  And no conjoining either, no super intelligence, no nappy-pissing wreck.  I am just Janek.  That’s all, just me.

-[Well.  You must remember though that it was actually you that started this whole chain of events, you are not quite as innocent as you might like to believe.]-

I do know that.  I am quite aware of my own complicity.   And actually the more I consider things I don’t know that any of this is helping either of us William.  I am getting tired again, my headache is starting up; I need my sleep.  I will try to think about our conversation.  This one, all of them, in fact the whole conversation we have been having our entire lives together William, even long before we knew each other.  So to speak.  Let me go now, please.  I need to sleep, I need to think.


Into The Unknown

Wednesday 24th August

So, two months after the Referendum, and while most people may have forgotten amidst medal-mania and heat-waves, the problems facing the Government, let alone eventually the British public, are mounting.

Article 50 has only ever been evoked by Greenland, a semi-independent territory of Denmark, the only issue was fishing rights – and it took three years to get any sort of a deal. I have been reading and watching a few programmes where even experts in International and Constitutional Law are still scratching their heads at the complexities involved.  And we still have no idea of just what Britain will want our future relationship with Europe to look like, or indeed if that is either achievable or acceptable to those who voted Leave (or of course to those who voted Remain).  Constitutionally almost everyone is agreed that Parliament will have to be involved and any changes to laws, which are inevitable, will have to be enacted by new laws and voted on in Parliament.  And if we are in ignorance of the Governments stance (incidentally a Government elected on remaining a member of the EU) we know just as little about the Opposition’s policy towards the negotiations or indeed the referendum result.

There are indeed those who argue that as the whole process was triggered by a referendum then there must be a second referendum to approve (or not) the eventual agreement (even Tony Blair promised a referendum on any future treaty change – and what is leaving the EU if not a huge treaty change).  Personally I think that as there was never a defined exit strategy by the Leave campaign, nobody was in agreement as to whether we should remain in the single market with all that involves, including free movement of people, there should be a second referendum to approve or reject whatever Mrs. May’s Government actually determines as their policy regarding the exit negotiations.  If it is rejected then either she should come up with a plan B or resign.  And even if the strategy is approved, then there must surely be a third referendum to approve whatever the final deal is. Pandora’s box, once opened, may prove hard to ever close again.  And we haven’t even begun to consider Scotland or Northern Ireland yet.

There is also the possibility, remote as it may seem now, that at some point either before or during or immediately after the Article 50 negotiations (which incidentally may have to be approved by 27 separate countries Parliaments before becoming legally enforceable) there may be a different Government in Britain.  What is to stop them halting the negotiations and either starting again, or seeking a new referendum to approve their plans, or indeed to ask the initial question again?

The more you dig the more complex it all becomes.  Hahaha….did the idiots who persuaded all the other idiots to vote Leave really think it would be so simple.

The Low Pay Economy

Tuesday 23rd August

Just watched an interesting programme, ostensibly trying to find Britain’s Hardest Worker.  At first sight a stupid idea, how can you possibly compare different jobs and skill-sets, but it brought home to me just what a rotten society we have.  While many people have ‘easy’ jobs, maybe working in smart offices, or for decent employers – there are others, and a growing number of others, who are on the National Minimum Wage (if they are lucky – there are many employers who do not even pay this).  And one of the unintended consequences of a good idea; ensuring that everyone receives a guaranteed minimum wage, ends up being, for oh so many, the Maximum Wage they will ever earn too.  And they are slipping down society’s ladder quickly, rents are rising far faster than inflation as house prices rise and only ‘buy to rent’ landlords can afford to buy, and thanks to ‘right to buy’ there are precious few Council houses left.

The possibly surprising fact though, is that the lower paid actually work far harder than their higher paid managers or bosses.  Everyone thinks they work hard; I certainly did at the end of my working life, but until you have had the dubious pleasure of doing so-called ‘unskilled labour’ on the Minimum Wage, you really have no idea what hard work is.  And the irony doesn’t end there.  Poor in work and you will undoubtedly be poor in your old-age; many people well into their late sixties and seventies even, have to work to supplement non-existent or very low pensions.

Government after government have exhorted the workforce to be flexible.  That is shorthand for accepting low pay, zero hour contracts, job insecurity, bullying at work and a miserable pay packet at the end of the week.  We are in a Global Market Place, the Capitalists tell us, and so we must compete to work for less and less, or the Chinese or Filipinos will take the jobs.  And many of these low-paid are indeed immigrants, often sleeping three or more to a room to save money.  The right-wing press blames these workers for depressing the wages of the English workers, but it is the fault of Employers who are setting more and more people on the Minimum Wage (which of course may be higher than the wages back in their own country).

We now have a huge low-pay economy, driven by profit and Global Corporations who incidentally have no problem with paying millions to CEOs and Senior Management but squeeze workers at the bottom, deducting pay for lunch and coffee breaks and who have no guarantee even of hours per week.  How have we come to this pass?  Ask the Politicians who have chased GDP and sucked up to Big Business, believing in the trickle down nonsense peddled by Free Market Preachers.  Will things change?  I doubt it.  More and more jobs are being mechanised, and the competition for jobs will simply increase and Governments will continue to try to squeeze people off Benefits and into ‘work’.  Welcome to modern Britain.

A Nation Of Idiots

Monday 22nd August

Maybe we have always been, maybe every nation is – who knows?  There has never been a shortage of stupidity. Every time I return to England I become more and more disillusioned.  Walton is full of pissed up holiday makers, lairy and rude and oh so British. There is litter everywhere, can’t wait to leave. Up until quite recently I always thought that however our adventure in France turns out, I would spend my last few years back in my home country; now I am not so sure.  I still cheer for England or ‘Team GB’ as the BBC would have us believe when I catch them on the Olympics, but my heart does flutter a bit if France are doing well too.  It isn’t that I do not love my country, it’s History, it’s Natural Beauty, it’s Achievements – I have simply become disenchanted by the English.  Maybe it is just the case that the Thatcher Revolution, carried on stealthily by John Major and triumphantly by Cameron and unchallenged by Tony Blair has succeeded.  The majority of the population seems to be complacently happy with the status quo; as long as house prices are rising and interest rates are disappearing fast down the plug-hole of credit-happy heaven they refuse to see the failure all around them.  Not that those who are suffering the most seem to realise what is happening either; cheap supermarket beer and buy one get one free offers and Celebrity gossip keep them in a comatose state.

And even when they are roused by a suddenly passionate Media they fall for the buffoonery of Boris and Nigel rather than thinking things through.  Not that that will bother Mrs. May as she considers exactly how she will approach the coming Brexit.  There are rumours that Britain may be allowed some sort of Special Status; not quite outside and not quite in Europe either.  If she can pull this particularly stubborn rabbit out of the hat she will be rightly lauded as a prestidigitator of extraordinary skills.  But I fear she will fail.  If only it were that easy; besides Europe will want to stop others doing the same thing, so we will have to abide by the decision of a nation of idiots I am afraid.  What is certain is that the genie of Immigration cannot be stuffed back into the bottle; any trade deals we might hope to achieve outside of Europe will undoubtedly include more visas for those from other countries.

And the Labour party is on the verge of breaking up.  The latest idea is that if Jeremy succeeds in securing the Leadership then many M.P.s will try to join the Co-operative party and if enough do, then they could become the official opposition – a recipe for continued Tory rule for many years I am afraid; a nation of idiot M.P.s too it would seem.

Co-oncidentally I am listening to a cassette recording of Roger Water’s The Wall live in Berlin, sung as the Berlin Wall had just fallen.  The song is “The Tide is Turning” – how apt is that?  The tide is not turning at all, it is battering our shores with ever-increasing ferocity and there is no King Canute on the horizon to stop it.  We only have ourselves to blame – a nation of idiots.  But cheer up, we keep winning medals at the Olympics and ‘Strictly’ will soon be on the telly again – so nothing to really worry about then