Friday 30th September

He was beginning to think that reading Law had been a big mistake.   Five wasted years when he could have been having fun, or at least studying something he liked, not this dry and dreary old subject.  Most of his old sixth-form chums were out there working now and earning money, or teaching or travelling – or married even, seeing a bit of the world.  They were actually doing something with their lives, while he was spending day after day burrowing into ever heavier and dustier old law books.  Was it really necessary to know so much stuff anyway; how much of it could he possibly need?  And the worst regret of course was that he was simply doing it all for his father and not because he had the slightest interest in the law at all, not because it had been his desire, his choice.  But he had gone along with it simply to please his father, a Consultant Surgeon, who had categorically stated his opposition to his only son following him.

“One Doctor in the family is one too many,” he had said with that wry smile of his, “Why not read Law, you could do far worse than law you know.  Wish I’d had the gumption to become a lawyer, instead of looking at sick people and their flabby bodies all day long.  I would have been far better suited to a courtroom than a clinic.”


Well, who knows if that is true, but Phil at eighteen had no idea what to do either and his father, who had no such hesitation, kept nagging at him to study law.  Phil knew that his father was a hard act to follow and maybe he was right; so he had read Law and was now regretting his own lack of decisiveness.   He had grown up knowing that his father was right in everything, in fact in every way he was so impossibly ‘right’ that Phil felt he would never live up to the example he set him, lawyer or not.  And even now, almost five years later, Phil still felt indecisive, unsure of himself, so damned self-conscious and just as fearful of upsetting his father or rather of inducing one his father’s disapproving looks.   In many ways he was scared of this self-assured father; not that he had ever raised a hand against the boy, his authority was deeper than that, but Phil was fearful of letting him down, of failing him in some way, of not living up to his idea of what a son should be.

He had spent his whole life quietly trying to please this stern and distant father, and for each of those twenty-three years of effort there seemed precious little to show.  Nothing Phil ever achieved seemed good enough for him.  He felt that sometimes his father barely seemed to acknowledge his existence; whether he was back home or away at college appeared not to bother him either way; there was no gleam of pleasure in his eye when he saw the young man, no real conversation at all, a grunt, a nod in his direction over his paper, but nothing resembling any real connection.  In fact Phil could barely remember ever having a meaningful conversation with his father at all; they seemed to always end up talking in platitudes, polite platitudes that never even began to scratch the surface, and so often there would be more silence than talking and Phil would sit there saying nothing but desperately trying to fill in the missing spaces with anything that might spark some reaction from his father.  If only he could find the words, but law student or not, with his own father those words that might mean something, anything other than this polite and frigidly meaningless chit-chat, constantly eluded him,

‘Did the old fool not realise I was doing all this for him, because he wanted me to study law, because I stupidly thought I would be pleasing him if I did well,’ thought Phil looking at the back of Daily Telegraph, hoisted like a barrier at the breakfast table between his father and him ‘I had hoped he might genuinely be proud of my graduating, he might actually for once say ‘Well done, son.’  His self-pitying musings interrupted by his father saying “Phillip?  Wake up son, and pass the marmalade, there’s a good fellow.”

And so he had settled for Law, without thinking of the consequences – and anyway what the hell does anyone know at eighteen.  A few years in and he was definitely beginning to regret that hasty decision.   He fancied dropping law and going into banking, or business of some sort, he had a couple of pals whose dads were stockbrokers and they were already dabbling in shares.  He was tempted to chuck it all in and try his luck in the City, but as usual he flunked it.  No bottle when it actually came to it, always scared of that stern father who would be horrified at the idea.  All talk when he had a few pints inside him but not a rebel at all in the cold light of day.  And this very lack of determination contributed to his misery, he despised his own inability to do something, anything different, so he stuck with Law just like his Dad had wanted him to.  But for all his taciturnity and lack of any real show of emotion his father was quietly watching over his son, sometimes almost despairing at his apparent aimlessness, and he had pulled a few favours in and young Phil was already almost guaranteed a clerkship in a Solicitor’s in a small market town not so far from Norwich.  All the boy had to do was turn up for the interview and show willing.

“Get your head down there for a couple of years, take on whatever they throw at you, make yourself indispensable and, before you know where you are, old Jameson will make you a junior partner.  He’ll be wanting to retire in a few years time; likes his golf too much to hang around in the office long past sixty.   He’ll be looking to get out and leave the Practice in safe hands.  Mark my words, my boy.  Get in there and get your head down for a few years.”   ‘And so’, Phil thought ‘my whole future seems to be planned out for me.  Why not go the whole hog though Dad and choose my wife for me, oh, and you’d better make sure and impregnate her yourself while you are at it, you wouldn’t want  a little twerp like me to botch that up for you, now would you.’

But actually that whole task fell to Phil entirely.   His Dad never met June until a few months before the wedding and Phil had well and truly discovered that, little twerp or not, his equipment was in perfect working order, thank-you very much Dad.  No help needed in that department after all.

*  * *

God that first time was so amazing.  Really fantastic, far better than she had ever imagined it would be.   She had almost dreaded it in a way, some of the girls at school had said that it would hurt like hell, and that you would bleed for days after.  And they insisted that you couldn’t possibly enjoy it the first time either.  Well they were wrong; so wrong.   For June it was amazing, not only the first time either, but every time after that too.   She couldn’t believe anything could be this fantastic, this pleasurable, this satisfying; simply this right.  And she had known from the first time she saw him that she wanted him to do it to her, no doubt about that at all.  She had never felt that with a boyfriend before; you know that queasy feeling when you can hardly stand up for the desire burning a hole right through your tummy, that yearning need, that intensity of desire, but it was there with him right from the start, from the first moment she saw him.  She knew she had to have him and it wasn’t long before she did.

*  * *

Oh, How The Greedy Are Fallen

Thursday 29th September

Newspapers have always been obnoxious and never shy of dirty tricks; we just had phone hacking and now we have entrapment.  Sam Allardyce, the latest hope for English football has just been entrapped; he was caught on camera talking to who he thought were businessmen, but were really reporters.  He had just been appointed England manager on a salary of three million pounds a year.  That is 57,692 pounds a week (more than I have ever earned in a year), he has to prepare for maybe a dozen matches a year, he gets to watch any Premier match for free, he gets to pick his own staff and of course the players.  If the team wins he is a hero, if they lose he is blamed, but hey – that pay-packet must be some consolation.  So, why, oh why did he have to be so greedy.  And it was a mix of greed and arrogance which led him to appear to agree to tell these businessmen/journos just how to break the rules put in place by his very employers to stop corruption in the transfer market.  He also stupidly rubbished his predecessor and his employers.

Now, I am not condoning the antics of the press; one can never be sure of their motives.  They say they are acting in the public interest but selling newspapers is really their purpose, along with trying to sway public opinion of course.  Anyway I suppose that their argument  would be that if their ‘target’ was honest they would not be so easily entrapped by the inducement of easy money.  And one must wonder why if they were innocent they would appear so willing to throw a match, or ask questions for money or accept bribes to break the law.  And the only conclusion we can come to is that in all probability the reporters knew or strongly suspected that their ‘targets’ were crooked in the first place, and the entrapment was laid to expose them.  And these rich people all went for it because of greed, as if being an MP, or a famous sportsman, or England Manager on a huge salary weren’t enough on their own.  The saddest aspect is that all too often the ‘entrapped’ is never punished as it is much harder to prove they ever broke the law.  At least in the case of big Sam he apologized for his stupidity (but not his greed) and he was promptly sacked, or forced to resign.  Hopefully this might be a lesson to all these greedy and already rich people…but I doubt it, there seems no limit to people’s greed – and getting a fast buck is now the nation’s chief attribute, from M.P.s to bankers to sports stars to football managers.

The Future

Wednesday 28th September

The future?  Well, who know what it holds, either personally or collectively.  I can remember as a boy being told I was stupid when I said (shortly after Sputnik was launched) that mankind would travel to the moon and other planets.  Likewise when I pointed out that car fumes must be dangerous, belching out smoke into the air; ‘what did a child know’ I was told.  Not that that record of correct observations is any guarantee of future predictions.  My book ‘2066, a personal memoir’ was an attempt at imagining a possible dystopian but maybe also hopeful future.  All we can do is to extrapolate from current knowledge and try to imagine how people will react and possibly change in the future.

Some predictions are easy.  Yes, we will undoubtedly visit and probably inhabit other planets at some point in the future, but whether that will be in the services of Capitalism or to help the human race is unknown.  We will probably with technology’s help be able to cure almost all diseases, but whether we will ever all have equal access to good health is still not clear.  Computers and Artificial Intelligence will surely continue to develop and bring us unforeseen benefits, but what then of human intelligence; at some point AI will supersede our own organic chemical brainpower, so what becomes of humans then?  If computers become better at all decision making than people, what will become of us?  Impossible to predict how things will transpire.

The Rise of Nationalism

Tuesday 27th September

We didn’t really see it coming, and I never expected it.  Growing up in the Fifties and Sixties it was all about Internationalism, the awful slaughter of the Second World War was still a livid memory for our parents – and our generation were determined to do things differently.  Gone was the British Empire, replaced by the Commonwealth, in Europe six nations had formed the Common Market and were co-operating rather than bombing each other.  The future was going to be International, there was no doubt about it.

But slowly the sickness of Nationalism has been returning.  It has always been there in America, where they salute the flag at every occasion, but over here we had stopped standing for the National Anthem at Cinemas and then we stopped even playing it, many of us thought Royalty was an anachronism.  Russia, as part of the Soviet Union was involved in its own Empire building behind the Iron Curtain but when that broke up strangely Russia became even more Nationalistic, as have many of its former satellite states despite most of them joining the now vastly enlarged EU.  And now the EU too is threatened with nationalism, led sadly by Brexit – but many commentators are predicting that others will inevitably follow.

In Britain the SNP have captured the hearts of the Scots, the Welsh may follow some time too.  And England itself is being wooed by UKIP, and a Tory party, now determined to go it alone, like some off-shore city-state negotiating its own trade deals and turning its back on our European heritage.  Who knows? It may all work, but if History teaches us anything it is that Internationalism tends to prevent or at least contain wars and Nationalism is often the fuel that stokes them.

Three Nights With Keith

Monday 26th September

I stumbled on it almost by chance.  We watch so little TV in France and I had no idea it was on, but back in England for a few days I picked up an Evening Standard and glanced at the TV.  BBC4 was giving up the whole weekend to Keith Richards of Rolling Stones fame.  Now, growing up I was always a Beatles fan, though I did like the Stones too – and in adulthood I have bought a few but not that many Stones albums.  I also saw them at Twickenham in the late 90’s; probably the worst concert I have ever been to as it transpired.  But Keith is a survivor, and has always been an intriguing character.

So, Friday night I tuned in.  It was quite a different sort of evening.  Snatches of Keith, enigmatic observations, lots of chuckling and cigarette smoke and irritating splashes of static across the screen, very few real revelations.  And personal choices of his, Hancock, Spike Milligan and the film 39 steps on Friday.  More Hancock, crazy cartoons, Spike and a film about Johnny Cash circa late 60’s.  A few snatches of the Stones too, but the best was Julien Temple’s film Babylondon.  A brilliant documentary about London from 1900 to present day multiculturism.  Absolutely fascinating and brilliantly made.  Keith rambled on till the early hours but I hit the sack about midnight both evenings.

I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, and Keith takes over the airwaves again tonight, and I will probably catch some of it.  I am not sure what to make of it; it is a totally different way of presenting television.  Innovative and different, but also a bit tedious and I don’t think that many people will have watched it all.  But well done to BBC4 for the bravery in allowing Keith and the makers of the ‘Lost Weekend’ to do it at all.  I wonder if this may be a signpost to the future, especially with the explosion of internet TV and more and more channels available everywhere.

Uncle Pirate-Chops hijacks HMS BBC4 for three nights … Keith Richards’ Lost Weekend.

The Truth About Syria

Sunday 25th September

Nobody is telling you, us, the general public – the truth.  Our wonderful Media, including the BBC and Sky news, are stilling peddling the one evil man story.  At differing times it has been the Kaiser, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and more recently; Saddam, Gadhafi and now Assad.  What they fail to tell you is that there are two sides to this, just like every story.  I am no apologist for Bashar Assad; like his father before him he is no Democrat, Syria is essentially a dictatorship – but even here Assad does not rule alone, he is backed by a party and does not make all his decisions, especially military ones, alone.  From Damascus the view is very different; there is a huge rebel insurgency funded by the Saudis and the Americans and, here is something you do not hear very often – by us too.  What is happening in Syria is a proxy war, or rather two proxy wars.  The Americans and the Russians are backing different sides, both militarily and in their respective media.  And Iran and the Saudis are fighting for supremacy within Islam; the old struggle – Sunni versus Shi-ite.

I am no apologist for Assad but they are, like it or not, the Government of Syria.  And like Saddam in neighbouring Iraq the country was, though largely Muslim, secular; other religious minorities were respected and protected.  The rebels; and these are made up of various different groups who largely hate each other as much as they hate Assad, are almost all radical Islamists, who if they ever took over Syria, would turn it into another Isis, or something very similar; religious dissent would not be allowed.  Syria had hospitals, schools, universities, electricity and water; it wasn’t what we would recognise as democratic, but the majority of Syrians had a decent life (and remember, our biggest allies in the Arab world are Saudi Arabia, that bastion of democracy….).

Isis, oh had we forgotten Daesh?  They have recruited most of their fighters from the other rebel groups, who we trained and financed.  In reality they are simply the nastiest and most successful of the rebel groups.  So what is happening on the ground?  Assad, or rather the Government of Syria, is grinding out a slow and painful victory with the help of Russia.  They will eventually win.  But here is the rub; our involvement is slowing them down (we are funding a slow and miserable retreat) and prolonging the suffering of the poor citizens.  If we really care about the civilians, if we want to stop the refugee crisis, if we really want peace in Syria; we should stop funding the rebels, persuade them to give up their losing battle and seek some sort of peace deal with the Government.  That is the truth about Syria; we and the Americans and the Saudis and the Iranians have ruined a once peaceful and beautiful country.  If we really want democracy in Syria we should allow Assad to take back control, include him in International relations and slowly persuade him to take a more democratic course; it may not work – but it is better than bombs and bullets.

Nutshell – by Ian McEwan

Saturday 24th September

Wow.  And again wow. What a book, what writing, what brilliance; a Booker contender surely, if ever there was one.  I have long been a fan of Ian’s, The Cement Garden, Black Dog, Enduring Love, Atonement, Saturday – and most recently The Children’s Act; all brilliant in their own varied and differing ways – but none as good as this.  Nutshell; and in a nutshell – all human life is here.  Though the book is short, (far too short, I wanted it to last for weeks not days) it is magical, mysterious, clever, funny, thought-provoking and sheer genius.  It is a murder mystery, a poignant love story, a letter to the future, a philosophical treatise, an exercise in imagination – and above all a great read.

And a book like no other; that I have read anyway.  All you need to know is the ridiculous fact that the narrator is an unborn child.  And once you have suspended belief (not that difficult) that this feotus can think and feel in almost sage-like adult words but has to interpret the world through sounds and pulses and movement it all makes perfect sense.  Much of our narrator’s wisdom has come from listened-to radio and podcasts but there is a much deeper understanding of the human (and pre-human) condition at play here.  The whole book is also present tense, which adds an urgency to the writing.  I have become a fan of ‘detective stories’ from Maigret and Mrs Marple of my teenage years, through Rebus and Wallander of late, but in this murder mystery there is no real detective, unless you count the unborn and un-named child as the true detective of the story, half-imagining and half interpreting the motives and actions of its unseen but all too well-heard adult companions.

Sad to have to say goodbye to the book, but so happy to have read it.  It is actually tempting me to re-read the whole thing straight away, but I think a hiatus, a pause and a happy later return is more in order.  Buy it.  Read it.  And be amazed and rewarded as I have been.


Do I Smell Compromise In The Air?

Friday 23rd September

The Labour Party, beloved of many, despised by many too – but also the only hope for the dispossessed, the poor and the unlucky ones – has been tearing itself apart for months now.  It all started shortly after the Brexit vote; many Labour M.P.s and indeed the entire ‘Commentariat’ were thrashing around and looking for a scapegoat – “Just why did many traditional Labour voters opt for Brexit?”.  And the answer they settled on was that it was all the fault of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s left-wing leader – he hadn’t made the case forcefully enough.  Strange that they ignored the incredibly forceful presentations of CamerOsborne who shoved Project Fear down everyone’s throats until the public simply ignored them.  Or the fact that far more Tory voters voted to leave than Labour people; as if it should have been Labour who rescued the Tories from their own misguided referendum.  In fact, Jeremy was given very little media coverage; I saw him on Sky answering questions from young voters and in fact his was by far the most reasonable and sensible argument – the EU is not perfect, but if we remain we can try to improve it, if we leave it will still be there and we will have to deal with it yet we will have no say in how it is run.  He also argued that many jobs would be threatened if we left.  Little good did this quiet approach do him, though I suspect had he been pouring fire and brimstone down on us if we dared vote Leave he would still have got it in the neck.  Maybe some of his M.P.s who dislike him so intensely were simply waiting for a perceived failure (though of course the failure was all Cameron’s) to start the row.  In a surely pre-planned drip drip, one by one, Shadow Cabinet ministers resigned and then there was a vote of no-confidence in Jeremy and a challenge to his leadership.

The result will be announced on Saturday and everyone expects Jeremy to win again.  So where does that leave us?  Stalemate? Well, not quite – and of course things simply cannot go on like this.  There is a proposal that M.P.s should have some say (the argument is really about how much) in electing the Shadow Cabinet and compromise is in the air.  And a solution will be, indeed must be, found.  Because otherwise the party will either split or continue slipping in the polls, and we will face mass de-selections and more bad press.  The country needs a strong Opposition; in fact even the Tories need a strong Opposition to save themselves from themselves.  And like it or not the (now vastly increased) membership of the party wants Jeremy, or at least the politics he represents.  After the Blair years this was almost an inevitable reaction.  And it may well be that the party will lose the next election, especially with the boundary changes, but eventually if it can hold together the pendulum will swing back, maybe Labour will have a new leader by then.  It took 18 years after Thatcher, and it took the Tories 13 years after Blair to even form a coalition and another 5 to rule on their own.  Let us hope it isn’t quite so long for Labour next time.


Thursday 22nd September

Authors Note

This is the title I have settled on; it was actually an earlier rejected title and although it doesn’t actually have anything specific to do with the story in many ways it is about love, and the lack of it and the need for it and the consequences of love.  Anyway, it is as good a title as any.  This is actually an old story, I wrote it a few years ago but was unhappy with it, but thanks to Word I have been able to save and re-open it and have re-written most of it.  It is unpublished in any form except this one, so enjoy…..



What the fuck did she mean?  Why did she say that?  It can’t be true.  It can’t possibly be true.  She knows it can’t be true.  She must be saying it just to hurt me.  Why did she have to say that though?  And why did she want to hurt me?  She must have known it would destroy me.  You can’t say something like that and not realise the consequences.  She has always hated me though – I don’t know why.  What have I ever done to her that she hates me so?

But I can’t go on like this, I am falling apart inside – I’m just breaking up.  This is too much too much to bear.  I have never hurt like this before – and though there is no blood I feel as though I have been cut to the bone.  I’ve never been so miserable, so bloody desperate before.  And never have I had to question myself like this.  I’ve never had to.  I have never even thought about it before, it was all so simple before.  But now I don’t know.  I don’t know anything anymore.  She has got me so confused. I thought I knew what was happening, who I was, where I was going.  Even if I have been a bit careless lately, stupid even, that never stopped me being me; that central core, the thread of self-knowing that defined me, was always there, clear and transparent.  But I can’t think straight now, there are all these stupid ideas rushing around in my head, thoughts whirling – why can’t I stop these thoughts.

And all this stuff I have taken hasn’t helped; hasn’t helped at all.  I thought it would take me away, help me to forget like it has before, I thought I could escape all of this mess, but it has just brought it all home. Home?  I don’t even know where home is any more.  And now all I can feel is pain, I have this vast plain of hurt all around me.  I am in such pain, such despair and I don’t know where to turn to for help.  There is just no-one I can talk to, no-one who would begin to understand; no-one to take this pain away.  I thought I could handle anything, I thought I would always survive – no matter what shit the world threw at me.  I was stronger than them all.  Fuck the lot of them – I was strong, here inside where it matters, I was always strong enough no matter what.  But now I feel shattered, cracked in two, just broken up inside.  There is a bloody great rip in my heart, and the wind is howling through it, there is nowhere for me to hide from this icy wind that is freezing my soul.  I feel desolate and so alone and I can’t even think straight.

And I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know what to do.  I am so all alone and I realise I don’t even know who I am anymore.  I am only nineteen for fuck’s sake and I don’t deserve this.  What am I going to do?  What the hell am I going to do?  I can see no way forward; I am lost in this raging blizzard of icy thoughts and can see no shred of warmth, no whisper even of kindness anywhere.  Would it be too much to just feel a touch of warmth, somewhere, some glimpse of hope somewhere; some light at the end.  But all I can see is tunnel, tunnel and yet more tunnel, and it’s dragging me down.  I just want it to end. I just want it all to end.


all good stories start with a romance

It never stopped raining that Spring – or so it seemed to Phil as he struggled with his finals.  Too much rain, too many gales blowing, dampness and wind everywhere, and he was beginning to wonder whether the real Spring – you know sunshine, flowers, all that feeling of hope and new life – would ever arrive.  But the gloom of that perpetual cold and drizzle was finally lifted sometime late in April, just after Easter in fact.

1947 was starting out pretty dull he had to admit, just like the weather; nothing to relieve the tedium, no glimpse of sunshine anywhere.  He had returned home for the holidays, a four week break where he was supposed to finish off his final dissertation, ready to be handed in by the second week of May.  His tutor was always reminding him of the importance of getting it in early, “It is really most important Phillip, you must prepare well.  Bring it in soon so we can revise and work it up together”.  Not that he could possibly interfere you understand, that would be quite unethical, but if he got a chance to see the direction Phil was shaping the thing, he might be able to put a few pointers in his way, help him to find his own path to success.   As he repeatedly emphasised, everyone needed a second opinion now and then.  And of course Phil knew only too well that that would entail the inevitable rewrite of the whole wretched thing, and at that moment he was utterly sick of it and nothing seemed less appetising, come rain or sunshine or snow.

Half Empty, Half Full

Wednesday 21st September

Half Empty.  The world is in a bad place and swirling down the plug-hole at a voracious speed.  Nations are squaring up to each other belligerently; we are faced with the Putin/Trump war of (at least let us hope it is only…) words to come.  The European Union, bastion of peace and co-operation for decades is slipping into rampant Nationalism.  Brexit may be followed by other countries seeking referenda.  Right-wing demagogues in Hungary and Poland are railing against refugees and clamping down on free-speech.  Intimidation is rife in the Russian elections as Putin seeks to hang on despite an economy in free-fall and corrupt Oligarchs enriching themselves, gorging on former state-owned monopolies and buying up half of London in the process.  China is building islands off-shore on occasional sandbanks and militarizing them and claiming miles of sea as theirs too.  Half the former republics of the Soviet Union are ruled by gangsters – freedom in much of the world is not even a distant aspiration.  The Middle East is in flames, radical Islam on the march.  Much of Africa is in poverty, corruption stalks the continent.  Here in Britain we are back in Thatcher-land, Labour is tearing itself apart, the Lib-Dems a shadow of themselves, UKIP with their thinly-veiled racism on the rise.  Global warming threatens to engulf us all and inequality has never been so great, nothing it seems can stop the rich from getting richer…..

Half Full.   The World is slowly improving.  More children are surviving childbirth than ever before, starvation is mostly being obliterated.  Children are becoming educated, more than ever before, the future lies in their hands.  Diseases which killed millions are being controlled if not completely eradicated, while in the West medicine has never been so freely available; more than half of cancer patients now survive and the research into genes is promising a future of re-growing faulty parts of our bodies.  Poverty in our own country is being re-defined, gone are the slums and starvation of the early Twentieth Century.  Technology may indeed solve our dependence on oil with electric cars now a reality.  More people own their own homes than in our parent’s days.  Cars and colour TVs are commonplace, almost everyone has a fridge and a mobile phone.  We have access via the internet to far more information than any generation before us.  Music is cheap and can be streamed into our ears (without rings on our fingers and toes) wherever we go. Our Supermarkets are overflowing with food from around the world – strawberries all year round.  Different sexualities are becoming more and more accepted, you can even choose to change your gender now.  Individually we are becoming less violent and more caring…And Strictly is back on the telly again….

In truth the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty, it just depends from which angle you are looking at it (or how rose tinted your glasses are).  Purple hat or Yellow hat – the choice is yours.