Nobody told me ‘as you get older you get more relatives’

Saturday 20th August

Well this isn’t really true, but it just seems like it.  As a child you are aware of Mum and Dad and maybe two sets of Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles drift in and out and cousins are everywhere but somehow none of these matter.  You don’t have to buy presents or even cards for their Birthday’s and Christmas, and what is more you don’t even have to remember their Birthday’s at all – or even your own; you have Mum and Dad for that.  As a teenager you may start buying a card and a simple present for Mum and Dad out of your pocket money, or paper round wages (does anyone still have a paper round these days?).  In your twenties you are having so much fun that Birthday’s get forgotten all too often.  Then disaster; the Titanic is about to smash into an Iceberg – you fall in love (usually with the first person who wants to have sex with you…hahaha) and it is downhill from then on in.  You cannot possibly forget your loved one’s Birthday, and then as the last funnel disappears beneath the waves you cling onto a passing lifebelt and get married.

Suddenly you have a whole raft of new relatives – your in-laws, and even if you would rather forget their birthdays your partner won’t let you.  A couple of care-free married years before, like all the others before you, you start to have children.  Divorce looms and you wave goodbye to one set of in-laws only to glad-hand another set as you re-marry (hope over experience – we never learn…hahaha).  Pretty soon your kids are grown and having kids of their own and it is Grand-dad and Nana who are buying presents and proudly declaring to the world that they have 8 (is it really 8) Grandchildren already.  Then they grow up and great-grandchildren swarm in – if you live long enough.  And suddenly you have more relatives than you ever thought possible.

I have eight Grandchildren so far, three are grown-up and any year now I may be a Great Grandaddy.   As I played with my dinky toys on the kitchen floor I would never have thought it possible – well, nobody told me it might happen.


2066 – Janek and William talking again

Friday 19th August

Conversation date 20661124

-[How are you feeling, Janek?]-

Hard to say.  I don’t really have anything to compare myself to.  Sometimes it seems I have always been like this, helplessly childish, craving my sleep, wondering why?

-[Which why are you wondering?  Why you? Or why do you feel this way?]-

More just why, full stop.

-[What do you mean just why?  Surely there must be some corollary, some specific ‘why’ you are questioning.  We want to help you, Janek.  We want your condition to improve, we want you to get better.  Maybe if you explain some of what you have been thinking we can help you.]-

Forget the’me’ in this equation, I am not so concerned about me, as you seem to be.  In some ways I am better.  A better thinker; at least when I am asleep.  I find I am doing all my thinking when I am asleep these days.  Only difference is, when I used to wake up those thoughts, those dreams were like slippery eels, they slithered out of my grasp, I could never grab them, I couldn’t remember them.  Now, all I can remember is the thoughts I had when I was asleep. While I am awake I can barely think, let alone remember anything.

-[Would you like to share them with me, these thoughts?  All knowledge is useful; as I am sure you would be the first to agree.  Sometimes progress works not in a straight line but in a series of jumps and fallbacks; I suspect that what are seen at the time as setbacks may actually be the springboards for the future.]-

So what am I, the spectacular failure you see before you, strapped into a wheelchair, still trying to remember how to speak, having my arse wiped daily and scribbling frantically with my right hand; or actually the first of a new breed of super-humans?  See, even I can laugh at my situation.   The ridiculousness, the irony of it all is not lost on me.  You had hoped to create a new Frankenstein, a ‘Super-human’ with remarkable abilities; the first of a new breed.  And you have overcooked the egg.  Three minutes and it would still have tasted delicious – I was left in the boiling water for too long.

-[We are still hoping for a full recovery, there are signs, small signs that you may be getting better.  Your mind is still working at least.]-

You asked what I was thinking, during those sleeping hours, when normally we regurgitate what on waking seems to be rubbish .  ‘Where did that dream come from?’ we say in amazement, as we pick over the fragments we remember on surfacing.   This is different – I can only really think when I am asleep.  I have been thinking a lot of why’s.   In many ways our super intelligence has always thrown up more questions than answers.  Or is it that whenever we get an answer to one question, we immediately want to know more.  The answer, if you will, asks new questions.  But so far the answers we have been getting only tell us how, or where or what or when, when we really want to know why?

-[Oh, I think we know an awful lot of why’s.  We know almost all of the Laws of Physics of the Universe; why when this happens does that occur.  We know an awful lot about human behaviour, why we react the way we do, why we are such poor learners, why we make so many mistakes.  What why’s do you think we don’t know.]-      

The very big why’s of course.  Why the Universe, why life itself, why us?  Those are good for starters I think.  Every so many years we posit another theory about the Universe, its nature, its creation, its direction – and we cling to them as long as the computer maths add up, then when something doesn’t quite fit, a radio telescopes image don’t match the theory, we run the problem again with a bit of new data, and amend the theory slightly.  We know now that the Big Bang was anything but (more a silent seepage of matter), we know that all that nonsense about there being nothing before the Big bang was wrong too, and one day we may find out the precise nature of the Universe, how it keeps re-creating itself every so many billions of years but none of that ‘knowledge’ begins to approach the question Why.  Why a Universe at all, why matter, why atoms, why energy, why time even?


‘Desire is a sylph-figured creature that changes her own mind’

Thursday 19th August

No prizes for guessing the lyric, but I wonder how many will know it.  It is actually from Prefab Sprout, the song – Desire As, the album – Steve McQueen.  Of course the title of this piece should have been P – is for Prefab Sprout, but I love this line so much; complex and erudite and sheer poetry.  Prefab Sprout is really Paddy MacAloon, an incredibly talented writer and musician who formed the band in the mid-eighties; he is the composer and lead singer.  They had a few hit singles and their albums were brim-full of gorgeous lyrical pop-songs.  They were part of that brief mid-eighties bloom that included ‘Beautiful South’ and ‘Deacon Blue’ and ‘Everything but the Girl’ before the charts got overtaken by heavily produced dance records featuring people you had never heard of and never would again….hahaha.

And Prefab Sprout, despite the silly name, were always special.  Paddy suffers from hearing problems and I suspect some form of depression.  He releases records rarely these days, though rumours abound of whole lost albums he was displeased with in some form or other. His songs are always beautiful, rounded, polished to a pop-brilliance but with that sometimes whispery but always heartfelt voice. plaintive and yearning.  I love his/their songs, they take you back to some timeless period of pop perfection where songs last forever and never fade.  I hope that Paddy continues, despite his problems and continues to write and record his lovely music.  Well worth a listen…

See original image

Almost Shattered

Wednesday 17th August

It has been a crazy few days – and it isn’t over yet, of course.  We have some friends down, they usually come at Easter when things are a bit quieter but we persuaded them that August was the best time to visit.  They have only been here a few days but it has been night markets most nights.  Sunday we had a party in our garden; paella for 14, gratefully cooked by our good friend Graham.  But a late night and lots of alcohol consumed.  And I performed the unseen but essential task of smoothly removing and dishwasher stacking dirty plates and bringing out the desserts and keeping everyone’s glasses topped up.  Last night, actually all day yesterday, was the ‘White Wine and Oyster’ festival.

Even as I opened the café at 8.30 in the morning the tables and benches and stools were being placed around the square, vans were unloading fridges and barbecues and masses of oysters and moules and all varieties of seafood, chicken, duck, sausages, pizza, melons, crepes and every types of eatable imaginable.  Surely too much food.  But no, by 11.00 the square was heaving with early eaters.  Lunch stretched until about 4 in the afternoon when we closed the café, quite exhausted.  But I was back at 5.45 trying to reserve a table for the real feast in the evening.  And I was right as by 6.30 the square was packed and hundreds were searching for a spare seat or two.  Well, it was a hard job but we managed to eat and drink our way through until shortly before midnight.  Now, for the last two or three years there has been a euro-disco starting at 10.00 at night in the square, but (possibly thankfully) this year it was a French male choir who blasted out their tunes over the square.  I don’t think I could have managed the dancing this year (but you never know).

I fell into bed and up again this morning to open the Café.  And tonight of course we have the Tuesday night market again.  Where do all these people come from?  We have a break on Wednesday before more visitors arrive on Thursday…

The Days Go By So Quickly

Sunday 14th August

What am I saying?  Days?  No, the weeks fly past; the months simply fly and the years – where have all the years gone?

I can remember as a child thinking term time would never end, literally longing for the holidays; holidays which stretched out for weeks.  No more teachers, no more boring lessons, freedom; the freedom of the fields and the sun and playing with the other kids on the estate.  But then I started to get bored, and couldn’t wait for school to begin again, your mates, laughter in the playground and the strange camaraderie of your peers. Christmas was an oasis in a desert of days, you could barely remember the last one; but now Christmas is really a bore, so many presents to buy, cards to write and post, and even Christmas Day is just a big meal; nice to see everyone again, but no real excitement anymore.  And it seems to come round so quickly too, it seems only yesterday we were pulling crackers and moaning at the feeble jokes.

Is this just part of growing old?  Do the days really go quicker the older you get?  I hope not, because I may only have twenty years left and I want them to go a bit slower.  But time itself is a strange concept.  Does it actually exist outside of our own very limited experience?  There is no doubt that mankind invented time, or maybe simply because we were on a planet where the sun rising and setting was a daily occurrence that we invented the day, and then times of the day, and because of the seasons, years too.  And although scientists bandy about strange numbers and notions such as billions of light years, we can only really appreciate time as it affects us.  Sometimes time hangs on us like a dark dreary coat, and at others it slips away like sand in our fingers.  Anyway, must rush, I really don’t have the time for all this blogging nonsense.

2066 – William and Janek continue their conversation

Saturday 13th August

-[But what is it about being asleep that attracts you so much, why do you want to be constantly semi-conscious?]-

It’s like a drug.  I cannot get enough sleep.  Sleep seems to be my natural state; being awake seems wrong.  Asleep I am in my own world, I am not responsible when I am asleep; you lot cannot get at me, I am not here.  Most importantly I can sleep without dreaming at all, and that was always the trouble with sleep back in my old life, the fucking dreams – it was sometimes more hard work wading through those shit-encrusted dreams than dealing with life itself.  It is almost as if I am back in the g-pod again, even my limbs are asleep.  I feel my memory, my short-term memory I mean, may be returning. Things somehow seem familiar, even as I wake from slumber I start remembering things; I have a vague memory of the day before today.  All my yesterdays and all my todays are the same these days, but at least I can sort of remember them.  Or have I just learnt the routine?  Is it simply that I now know what to expect, I have learnt the routine.  But if you think about it, even rote learning is memory based.  Even if it is a non-thinking semi-automated form of memory, memory it may in fact be.

-[As you must have guessed Janek, one of the secrets that ‘select’ was hoping to unravel was exactly the nature of memory.  Hyercom memory is completely different from ours; it isn’t even memory, but simply the ability to never forget and to instantly recall.  Human memory is a much more complex and fickle beast; if human memory could be understood, and somehow incorporated with the superior processing power of Hypercom, then the evolution of mankind would be propelled into the stratosphere.]-

Are you sure William?

-[Am I sure of what exactly?  That human evolution would be speeded up?  Well, surely it would be.   That is self-evident.   We have come so far as a species already.  A few millennia ago we were just hunter-gatherers.  Maybe a bit smarter than the other apes, but still animals I would say.  We have since discovered farming and electricity, and built computers that are indeed smarter than us.  But our physical evolution, including our brains, is far too slow.  It would take hundreds of generations for our bodies to match the ability of the machines we have invented.  The danger was that with such clever technology we might stop evolving at all.  If the machines could do it for us, why bother.]-

You just don’t get it do you William?

-[Get what?  What is it that you think I do not ‘get’?]-

I see things a bit differently.  We created Artificial Intelligence, but not exactly, not even remotely, in our image.   Think about it William.  Who was it invented Artificial Intelligence?  Was it us, or a very smart computer?

-[It was undoubtedly us Janek.  Of course we may have used computers themselves to design the actual intelligence, to process all the connections necessary; but almost all computers are designed by other computers now, it would take far too long otherwise.  That’s just the way things work.  They can do things that would take us years to accomplish, but it was always our guiding hand on the tiller.   We were in charge of the direction all along.]-

William, for someone so supposedly damned clever, you are remarkably stupid sometimes. You may not have noticed it, but I have had access to the type of ‘Intelligence’ the Hypercoms have.  And Matey, it ‘aint nothing we had a guiding hand in.  This is cold, pure calculation; there is no time for reflection, for looking at things from differing perspectives.  It is pure reasoning, and William, it is fucking cold in there.

-[What are you suggesting?  That somehow Hypercoms have taken over, that somehow they are using their intelligence in some malevolent way?  Is that it?]-

I don’t know William.  How could I possibly know?  Actually I don’t think malevolence comes into it, it isn’t a concept Hypercom is really capable of.  And anyway what is malevolent in one person’s eyes is I am sure beneficial in others.  All I do know is that one of the main reasons I rebelled, for that is what it was, was because I felt helpless.  Not only in the whole strata system and in our very (un) democratic society, where actually our choices are so limited they are no choices at all, but as a person.  I felt I didn’t matter.  I felt that nobody mattered.  And now more and more I am becoming convinced of that too.  Having had access to the Hypercom mind, or lack of one I know I was right.  Nobody, no individual, and actually all of us, or should I say none of us matter.  William, people do not matter anymore.  We have created a world where though the purported purpose is the protection and well-being of people, none of us actually matters.

-[And you blame the Hypercoms for that?  What you fail to understand is that the single human being has always been pretty helpless.  Whichever way society has been arranged individuals were helpless against the system.  Even Kings of old may have appeared to have power, but were as much victims of the system as were their subjects.  Whenever an individual actually had real power it ended in disaster, Alexander, Hitler and Putin spring to mind.   I am not saying that the new republic is the perfect solution, but it is more benevolent for the majority than anything tried before I can assure you.]-

And who designed it?  Was it us or them?  Or actually some strange willing collaboration, some connivance, some complicity, some awful pact indeed.  Only we in our naivety thought that we were the only thinking entities, didn’t we?  We may have been duped, that’s all I am saying.

-[ I concede that the whole system runs with a great reliance on the Hypercoms.  But they are our slaves Janek.  Not the other way round.]-

Time will tell William.  Time will tell.  But this has tired me.  My hour is up.  I need my sleep.  Don’t forget the painkillers.  Oh, and the buzzer.  I can’t bear seeing that look of revulsion and disdain when they clean me up.

-[We will meet again.  Soon.  I will arrange it.  Janek?]-


-[I have enjoyed our conversation.  I hope you have too.]-

Absolutely wonderful William.  Never enjoyed myself more.  Even syn pales into insignificance.  Hahaha

-[Your sense of humour again, I take it.  So long my friend.]

Yeah, so long Billy boy.

Intelligence, Intellect and Guile

Thursday 11th August

I was considered an intelligent child, mind you have you ever heard a parent say that their sprogs are stupid – no, they always say how intelligent they are.  And actually all of us are, it is just that most of don’t get to develop that intelligence.  Either poor parenting or weak schooling or some innate laziness makes most of us underachieve massively.  But in ways we are all intelligent; almost all of us can read or use a mobile phone or at least the TV controller and get by in an increasingly competitive world.  When I was young and went for a job there were no CVs, they simply asked what you had done before and could you do the job, or someone gave you the nod and you were hired with few questions asked.  Intelligence rarely came into it.  But intelligent or not we are mostly a stupid lot, constantly making silly mistakes and yet somehow still surviving.

Intellect is something a bit different, but maybe not really.  I consider myself an intellectual, though that and modesty are my only faults….hahaha.  I am interested in everything (except popular celebrity culture), I love politics, current affairs, philosophy and talking about Art, Science and Religion; in fact as you have probably realised I have an opinion about everything.  But this ‘intellect’ has served me badly.  At least two long-term partners have ridiculed my ‘knowledge’ and said I was trying to belittle them because of their perceived lack of it.  At work having an opinion is considered dangerous, and expressing it will get you nowhere.  In fact for many the word ‘intellectual’ is a term of derision; I can remember John Lennon (an intellectual if there ever was one) attacking intellectuals for misunderstanding him.  Complicated isn’t it.

Guile is the best.  That, sly almost, form of intelligence whereby advantage is gained by being not quite honest and open.  There are those who seem to come out of every situation smelling of roses but who you suspect had been stirring up the manure quietly while everyone else was looking the other way.  I have never perfected guile, I was always hopeless at ‘Office Politics’, I am too much of a blabber-mouth to keep secrets and I am hopeless at poker with an amazing ability to misread every situation.

Still, I would rather be what I am than anything else.  So what if no-one else has read the books I have or can talk for hours on any subject – I can and do.  Intelligence, if I had any, has been wasted on me; guile was never a skill I learnt, and I may well not even be a real Intellectual…but I keep trying, or am I just very trying?

Can He Trump That?

Thursday 11th August

At first we laughed at him (mind you we laughed at Ronald Reagan too), nobody could take him seriously surely – not with that wig of blonde hair flapping about (but then wig-wearing Berlusconi got elected time after time too).  He entered the race to be nominated the Presidential Candidate for the Republican Party.  He wasn’t a Senator or a Governor or a Congressman even; in fact who knew he was actually a member of the Republican Party?  There was a huge field, actually possibly too large; and no-one stood out (except Donald the Clown).  Most commentators expected Jeb Bush to prevail; we were all set up for a Dynastic Showdown, Clinton versus Bush.

In the early hustings it was fairly even, but one by one the weaker ones fell by the wayside, even Jeb Bush, who patently failed to stir anyone’s enthusiasm.  Trump started to make outrageous comments; actually he has always made outrageous comments – that is why he was so popular in the American version of The Apprentice.  But whereas to all thinking people the idea of building a wall to keep out Mexicans was ridiculous, to a growing number of Republicans it was manna from heaven; at last someone was saying it as it was.  And so he slowly prevailed, making more and more ‘stupid statements’ until he was the only man standing.  He was hated by the Washington Elite of the party, but this was his secret weapon; despite being a multi-billionaire and ruthless businessman he presented himself somehow as the outsider, the friend of the working man even.

And he still could win.  He has had a bad couple of weeks, but somehow no matter how many self-inflicted wounds he suffers he still carries on regardless.  And public opinion is so fickle.  There are still three months until the election, and Hilary could make mistakes too, or her supporters simply assume she will win and not turn out to vote.

We should take nothing for granted.  In Greece they voted for Syriza, and in Italy for a former clown, and over here (well over there in Britain) the Boris and Nigel show won the day against the weight of the Establishment and all three major parties.  Do not underestimate the stupidity if the electorate.  There is a long way to go and Donald could still Trump that.

P – is for Portishead

Tuesday 9th August

It is pretty rare for an artist or a group to come up with a different sound; after all ‘Pop Music’ as we know it is over 60 years old.  Amplification and Electric Guitars changed music forever, then along came synthesizers and Electronic sounds.  Computers and drum machines have made making ‘Music’ easier, but it is rare that a really new sound emerges.

I first heard Portishead music while watching ‘This Life’ on TV in the mid-nineties.  The show was great, the storylines complex and real and the acting brilliant.  And there was the music playing in the background.  And some of this was Portishead.  The group was formed in the early nineties and must be the shyest band ever.  They do no publicity at all, and there albums (only three to date, and one live one) are getting fewer and further between.  It is quite likely there may never be a fourth.  Maybe they don’t have anything else to say.

They almost single-handedly invented trip-hop, a base heavy slower type of dance music with lots of weird noises, scratching and found sounds going on.  And best of all Beth Gibbon’s highly stylised and emotional singing, which seems to come from another planet entirely.  They don’t sound like any other band at all, and no-one has managed to copy them either.

For me, the first two records, Dummy (94) and Portishead (97) are simply hypnotic.  I could listen to them all day on constant loop, if I am in the mood.  Their latest ‘3rd’ was a disappointment – and nothing since then at all.  Oh well.  They always were a bit strange.


Too Many People

Saturday 6th August

Apart from being a great song on ‘Ram’ by McCartney it still remains the greatest problem facing mankind.  In the Sixties we were worried about feeding these burgeoning masses, especially in Africa and India, but somehow, and possibly even more dangerously by cutting down forests and genetic engineering, we seem to have solved this problem – though distribution still remains an issue, exacerbated by huge wealth differentials.  But the real problem with too many people is that they cause pollution, and as more, what used to be called ‘third world’ countries establish better economies their populations want consumer goods and mobile phones and motor cars, and along with that comes Global Warming.

But, as ever, the real reason for the world’s population continuing to increase is poverty.  Where there is no real safety net for people, especially as they age, then the solution for many is to have more children; so that at least some of them may feed and look after you in your old age.  And along with poverty there is lack of education, and education is the best route out of poverty; especially for girls, as they realise that they can control their own fertility and need not follow their mothers into multiple childbirths.

Of course slowing population growth also brings problems, as the demographics change, and as the West has discovered an ageing population without large numbers of younger workers paying taxes creates economic strains of a different kind.  Added to the rise in populations is the accelerating trend towards City growth, where people are sucked in as industrialisation of farming throws people off the land.

Nobody seems to be addressing or even raising population growth as a problem, yet even in Britain where there are still huge open spaces and only 11% of the land is occupied by buildings or roads people are already complaining that we are overcrowded.  The solution is a re-distribution of resources and wealth, but the ‘free’ market is not going to voluntarily do that I am afraid.  As Naomi Klein says Capitalism is not compatible with Humanity’s well-being.