The Next Conservative Party Leader

Wednesday 31st January

Firstly, as is the stock answer of all possible contenders “There is no vacancy”.  Secondly Mrs. May’s demise has been predicted so often and she is still there, that the next Conservative Leader may have to wait until after a General Election and may well be Prime Minister even then.  Predictions in Politics is a mug’s game.  And surprisingly perhaps the Opinion Polls (which were almost all wrong last time) are still showing Labour and the Tories neck and neck.

So, just as a bit of fun (hahaha) let us examine the field.  Largest is Boris, literally, and although he is most popular with the party at large, he would still have to be in the final two after M.P.s have had their say.  He could just be the big fish that never got himself landed.  And the fear is that he would crash and burn as leader.

Amber Rudd has been spectacularly quiet since the election last year.  She is certainly a contender, though maybe a bit too much like Theresa herself…and she has a wafer thin majority in Hastings, and it would look like cowardice to parachute her into a safe seat.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the bookies favourite, and is certainly on TV a lot, and although he may look and sound ridiculous to anyone with even one brain cell, he could just be the outside horse which romps home (Thatcher herself was an outsider, as was John Major and Ian Duncan Smith), so you never know.

Michael Gove does seem to have the ability to keep on keeping on, but again is may be just too much ‘old goods’.

Then there are the youngsters, David Gauke and Damian Hinds or even Penny Morduant – who knows.  It could still even be Phillip Hammond if the party is badly damaged at the next election by Brexit.

My guess is that Theresa will survive (better stick with nurse for fear of something worse) and call an election a few months after Brexit, while we are still in the ‘transition’ and nothing bad has happened.  I think she will lose a few seats and we will be in hung territory again.  A Labour, Liberal and SNP alliance could just govern for a few months before a new Labour Leader replaces Jeremy….read on

Coping with Depression

Tuesday 30th January

Firstly, I must say that you don’t.  Coping comes nowhere near – putting up with, living with and eventually surviving comes about closest.  And you know you are depressed and the rational part of your mind keeps telling you that things aren’t that bad, but the mind is also irrational and you can’t help feeling that everything is wrong, the world is against you.

The strange thing is the level of incomprehension and the total lack of sympathy out there, given the statistic that one in five people will suffer with depression during their lives, how come so few people have any understanding of another person’s suffering.  Because believe me, if you think that having a depressed person around is boring, a nuisance – then just try imagining being that depressed person.  Because it is utter misery, you feel that your mind is trapped in a very dark place with no way out.  Experience tells you that usually and very gradually you will come out of it.  So, it is no good people telling you to cheer up, or to snap out of it, or to try to think happy thoughts.  None of that works at all.

In fact, in my opinion nothing really works.  You can start the day trying to be positive, but the feeling that the treadmill you are on is getting steeper with every step, the oppressive feeling re-enforced by every trivial incident during the day and even worse the knowledge that you are depressed and are probably depressing everyone around you too just gets worse.  And as you trudge to bed you tell yourself that tomorrow is another day – and then that dread thought – Oh,my God, not another day to get through.

But eventually the clouds do lift, and you look back and are just as amazed as everyone else that you have been so miserable.  Sometimes a touch of sunshine in a long dismal winter can work wonders, or just being able to relax, to let the shoulders un-tense, to drift off to sleep.

Coping with depression is not really possible.  Getting through to the other end is all you can really hope for.

Just My ‘Magination

Monday 29th January

As well as being a great song by the Temptations, just one of Motown heroes, it is my almost constant companion.  And by the way I always heard them sing ‘magination, which sounded much better than imagination (it scans better too).

But what exactly is imagination?  I can remember being accused of having too much a few times at school.  I called it daydreaming, but it was just my imagination, running away with me; taking me places I had only read the name of, becoming another person entirely, being loved by exotic women – or just any women.  And I would retreat into my imagination whenever I could; as the teacher droned on and on, scribbling algebraic equations on the blackboard, I was miles away – and in a far better place I can assure you. Imagination is I am sure a part of the unconscious mind which keeps intruding (Intruding? I welcome the bugger in) on real life.  And the life of the imagination is so much more rewarding than real life with all its compromises and failures and problems.

Maybe that is why I find it quite easy to write, especially as another first person narrator – I just let my imagination drift and I become someone else entirely.

And maybe without imagination, we would never have been such a successful species.  It is only by not accepting the world as we see it, but creating what we can only imagine that most Art is achieved.  I used to dream of being a film director, converting the book I was reading into Cinemascope, long tracking shots and inter-cuts,  I think I would have been really good at it, if real life hadn’t taken me down a different garden path.  I ‘magined myself as a rock star, though I cannot sing a note (mind you that never stopped anyone) and I still drift away and sing quietly along with my musical heroes.

And whatever the teachers tell you children – there is nothing wrong with daydreaming – its just your imagination, running away with you.  Let it run kiddo…


I Have Lived many Lives -10

Sunday 28th January

Well, my only excuse is that it was 1971, I was barely 21 and had missed out on those late teenage years of fun, fun, fun – that all the groups were talking about.  I had barely been inside a pub, I had no men friends, no mates.  I had been through such a lot, falling in love, pregnancy, the mad escape to Edinburgh and the shameful return, the birth of my son, the scrabbling around to afford everything, the getting kicked out at midnight, the homeless hostel and the brief flame of hope that things might get better.  And I must admit that I went a little bit wild. For some reason there seemed to be an almost endless stream of women willing to have sex with me; maybe it was the attraction that I was a single parent, maybe it was the long hair, maybe it was the Afghan coat.  But I was never short of female company.

I was determined though not to fall in love – and my son Justin always came first.  I think I was a good parent, but how do judge yourself.  I used to wake at 6 and feed and dress him.  Take him to the Nursery at 8 (I was lucky to get in, they couldn’t believe at first that I, a man, was actually a single parent), then to work and rushing back to collect him at 6.  I slowly decorated and made the flat a home.  Then I got an offer of a proper flat from the old GLC.  It was in a pre-war block in a dismal part of Hackney, but my logic was to accept it, as you only got two offers and the next could be far worse.

I made the little two bedroom flat quite beautiful, with Biba wallpaper and lots of bright colours.  I hated the block and the constant smell of piss and rubbish and the occasional burnt-out car, but once I close my front door – it was home.  I would put on a few records and draw and paint until I fell asleep.

Just under two years maybe of this existence and then I met Joybells

Groups no longer fashionable

Saturday 27th January

It is strange how bands which were one really popular, in fact sometimes huge, are now either forgotten, or relegated to the bargain bins.  It is even seen as incredibly uncool to admit to liking them.

I will give just three examples, but I am sure there are many more.

Traffic – this was almost the first Supergroups.  Stevie Winwood left the fairly successful Spencer Davis Group and joined up with Dave Mason, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi.  They hit the psychedelic wave just as it was breaking with hits like ‘Paper Sun’, ‘Hole In My Shoe’ and ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush’.  They made some great albums too, especially ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’.

They were fairly short-lived though, Mason leaving and then Steve himself.  But they re-convened in the Seventies and had a string of great albums.  But they are barely heard of now.

!0 CC – this was also almost a Supergroup. formed by Graham Gouldman (already a successful songwriter, especially for The Hollies {another great forgotten band}), Eric Stewart and two friends Kevin Godley and Lol Crème.  They produced immaculate ‘Pop’ music, but always with a slight edge.  Their first single ‘Donna’ soared to 2 in the charts, followed by ‘Rubber Bullets’ (controversial as they were being used in Northern Ireland).  Hit after hit followed  – Wall Street Shuffle, I’m Not in Love (voted favourite song in the Seventies) and I’m Mandy, Fly Me.  I loved everything they did, including some great albums.  The band split in ’76 with Godley and Crème releasing even better albums as a duo.  Stewart and Gouldman continued for a while.  To admit that you love 10CC now gets you very strange looks.

ELO – The Electric Light Orchestra was formed by Roy Wood (previously of The Move) and was an attempt to combine Classical and Electric Music.  Joined by multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne they were huge all through the Seventies.  They had singles but were mostly an album band.  The line-up changed a few times and when Roy Wood left ELO really became Jeff Lynne, who wrote and produced everything and a few session players.  Brilliant albums followed each other, culminating in the trio of ‘A New World Record’, ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘Discovery’.  ELO were massive, with World Tours and mega record sales.  They could do no wrong.  Jeff eventually went solo in the early Eighties and wasn’t so successful.

All three of these bands are barely talked about now but were huge once.


Deal or No Deal -update

Friday 26th January

Theresa May is fond of repeating this mantra “No deal is better than a bad deal” – but what does it really mean.  The problem is that this is nonsense.  If a deal is agreed then it must be better than not agreeing a deal.  And the whole concept of whether a deal is a good deal or a bad deal is completely subjective.  Apparently though 65% of Conservative MPs think that “No deal is better than a bad deal”.  This is because that party is completely split about what constitutes either a good or a bad deal.

For the Mad Brexiteers any future contact with the EU or any of it’s constituent parts is anathema; just why I have never understood but they hate Europe so much that even a transition period of less than 2 years while arrangements are made for the future (whatever that will be) under existing conditions is a bad deal – let alone whatever may follow.  For the Remainers remaining either a member of, or having access to, the Single market (with or without {and it will be with} having to accept free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and some payments – in other words the Norway option) would be a good deal – and anything less a bad deal.

But whatever deal is eventually agreed upon must be better than no deal.  Because no deal means that on 1st April 2019 the UK will no longer be a member of the EU and will not have a trade deal of any sort – we will be, as they say, a third country.  “Oh that’s okay” the Brexiteers say, “We will fall back on WTO rules (tariffs and all)”. Well actually, No.  We will be able to begin the process of seeking accreditation to trade with the EU, and by the way every other country in the World (because until then we trade as part of the accredited EU) and this will take months if not years.  And even when we get accreditation we will have to pay tariffs and be subject to border checks and paperwork.  Imagine lorries queueing either side of the channel for days and a huge recruitment campaign for border officials and you won’t be far out.  But that hiatus, that cliff edge, of a “No deal” scenario will mean that our car industry will close down as it needs a constant supply of parts from Europe (we basically bolt bits together), all our banks and financial institutions will move to Paris or Hamburg, hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs overnight.

This was all obvious at the time of the referendum; I just can’t understand why Mrs. May keeps repeating this drivel (Europe is not impressed by it), or just why so many idiots in her party think she is right….


What A Crazy World

Thursday 25th January

And just when you thought that at least one conflict might be nearing a resolution, namely Syria – along comes Turkey.  Well, of course Turkey has always been involved, from funding various ‘Rebel’ groups to fight Assad to holding the EU to virtual ransom over Syrian refugees.  And they have a leader who is a right -wing demagogue, who, after the failed coup against him, has arrested any opposition at all.  His Authoritarian rule is almost absolute.

Turkey has always had a problem on it’s South-Eastern border with the Kurds.  A people with no nation state, though they do have a semi-autonomous bit of Iraq.  Turkey has long branded the Kurds as terrorists, and therefore legitimate targets.  Actually there is quite a significant population living inside Turkey’s border, but they also spread over Iraq and Syria and even a few in Russia.

The Kurds have been instrumental in defeating ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, and are brilliant fighters.  They now ‘occupy’ a large swathe of Northern Syria.  Gradually, and with Russian help Assad has been defeating the various ‘Rebel’ groups, in fact ISIS was just one of these, and it was funded by Saudi Arabia and America and (you guessed) Turkey.  Well, of course, we all know how that adventure turned out.

But now Turkey has weighed in against the Kurds in Syria, sending in bombers and tanks to clear them out.  But America has been helping the Kurds to defeat ISIS, and Nato, of which Turkey is a member, has also given tacit support to the Kurds.

So, the fighting is getting worse again.  Add to that the fact that Germany is threatening to stop selling Arms to Turkey (Oh, why wouldn’t all of us) and America is also strongly opposed to this new ‘invasion’ of poor Syria.  Russia, who have also allied themselves to the Kurds are pretty pissed off too.  Assad and the Kurds are threatening to shoot down any Turkish planes (possibly with Russian help).

It could all get very messy.   Britain is, as usual, sitting on the sidelines and saying nothing.

But what a crazy world…..especially as it will be ordinary civilians who will get killed and made homeless yet again.


Wednesday 24th January

Debt is the name of the game.  And now everyone is almost obliged to play it.  It started with Kings who needed money for wars, and they went to the Barons to borrow it.  Then as Capitalism took off with the Slave Trade, merchants started to borrow money to hire a ship and crew to bring Spices from the Indies and take slaves from Africa to the New World.  They often went to moneylenders for these debts.  But pretty soon a market was established both for the debts themselves and to gain shareholders to help finance these ventures; of course the money for those shares was mostly borrowed too.  The City of London started as a place to borrow money or to exchange shares.  Banks sprung up, happy to lend money they didn’t even have to lend to “entrepreneurs”, borrowing this at a cheaper rate than they lent it at.

And so the whole machine started.  Imagine it as a gigantic mincer.  At one end, raw materials and people’s labour are shoved in, the handle is powered by debt and as it turns so products come out the other end.  The whole idea of a small businessman who maybe started a Restaurant or a tailor’s and made a small profit, employed a couple of people and made even more money, saved this profit and after a few years opened a second establishment – is sooooo old-fashioned.  Nobody does that these days.  No, you have an idea, you pay some firm to create a business plan showing ever-growing sales and profits, you go to a bank, or more likely a hedge fund, borrow a pile of money, pay yourself and you advisers consultancy fees and eventually start  the business.  Which might or might not make money.  As long as you can pay the monthly loan repayments you can carry on paying yourself a big salary.  And if things go badly you can try to re-negotiate the loan, or borrow from someone else.  After all it is all someone else’s money isn’t it.  And the banks make so much money from borrowing cheaply and lending expensively.  And even if the company goes bust, well you put it into administration and your suppliers are chumped.  You walk away and start another business – always with someone else’s money mind you.  Debt is the name of the game.

Then they invented Mortgages as the only way to buy a house, and car finance deals for that new car, and credit cards for the foreign holiday, and for the poor people payday loans.  And the bigger the debt the better for everyone.  Even Governments  now almost all run huge deficits – far easier to borrow some more money than slam the electorate with taxes – well, you can’t blame them, they might not get re-elected if they actually tried to balance the books.

And so we all play the debt game; the numbers keep getting higher – but, hey it is someone else’s money isn’t it.

“And They Say We’ll Have Some Fun When It Stops Raining”

Tuesday 23rd January

There was a comedy song in the Sixties, (in fact there were several, a trend that seems to have completely disappeared) I can’t remember who it was by – some American comedian.  It was about a Summer Camp where disasters followed each other and the kids were miserable and accident prone.  The punchline was “and they say we’ll have some fun when it stops raining”.  Of course, in the song by the last verse the sun came out and it was all great fun.

Well – although we haven’t had snow (yet), it has been raining here for days if not weeks.  And it is miserable.  We came to France for the Summer sunshine.  Of course we do realise that there are seasons, and that Winter will be cold.  In fact it is often really cold; in November we had minus temperatures most mornings with a dusting of frost, but the sun came out and by lunchtime it was around 10 degrees and pleasant.  Now it is gloomy dark grey skies, and even when the rain slows down and you scan the sky for a glimpse of sunshine, just like that song “Ain’t no Sunshine”.

I have always hated Winter.  Not the cold; in fact I quite like those brisk chilly mornings, but the persistent rain.  Just as in England the pavements haven’t been dry at all in 2018 so far.  In fact walking the dogs is now a question of finding the least muddy route and avoiding huge puddles everywhere.  I also, like many others, seem to suffer from SAD (seasonally Affected Disorder).  I hate the dark mornings and the even darker late afternoons.  Every day I look at my watch while walking the dogs to see how fast the year is progressing, but it doesn’t seem to be moving very quickly at all – still dark at 8 (7 for you in England) before a glimmer of lightening skies heralds in another day of rain.

It is the first and almost only topic of conversation in the Café.  Everyone seems to hate it.  All we can do is hold tight and believe that the Summer will be good again.  Sitting out and drinking wine and listening to music in the Park, and enjoying the Night Markets and the Gourmand Evenings.  They say we’ll have some fun when it stops raining.

Explaining the Inexplicable

Monday 22nd January

They say that turkeys do not vote for Christmas, but the British electorate have in their millions voted for a royal basting (to say nothing of being well and truly plucked).  And I still find it hard to explain.  All the arguments about Sovereignty and making our own laws simply do not stack up.  The only argument which I think can begin to explain this irrationality – because the whole decision was completely irrational – is immigration.  And by immigration we are uncovering a whole nest of vipers.  If it were simply concern over European workers coming to Britain, and possibly undercutting British wages, or being upset by Polish shops in English High Streets I could understand that a few people might have voted for that reason.  Although the truth is that it if wages are being undercut it is down to the illegal activities of gang-masters.  And why shouldn’t there be Polish shops?  We could say the same about Chinese or Indian restaurants – except we have had longer to get used to them maybe.

No, sadly, when people say they are concerned about Immigration it is almost certainly Muslims they are concerned about – or, more specifically, would like to kick out, if that were possible.  And why this should be I find just as inexplicable.  Perhaps, because I am practically an Atheist, Religion doesn’t bother me – or rather, other people’s continued belief in Religion as a solution to our problems.  I can see very little difference between the major religions – they all seem to put their ‘faith’ in some unknowable ‘God’ who is all powerful, and yet doesn’t actually exercise that power on our behalf, no matter how many prayers are offered up by devoted followers.  And why people get so upset by people who follow a different God, who maybe pray in a different way, who dress differently, I find just as hard to understand.  Maybe it is the fact that new immigrants tend to settle near each other and take a couple of generations to assimilate.  Maybe it is because people are drip-fed hatred by the Daily Mail and the Sun.  Maybe it is because they are so disappointed at the paucity of their own lives that they are looking around for someone else to blame.

And the Referendum was just the chance to kick out; at Politicians who had ignored them for too long; at the Metropolitan Elite in London; at Common-sense itself.  I did detect a mood of nonchalant ‘We don’t give a f.,…k’ in the few weeks before, but was still shocked at the result itself.

And now we are stuck with it.  Theresa May seems to be on a mission to deliver the very worst Brexit that can be imagined.  And Labour are stuck between that very metropolitan elite who voted Remain and more traditional Northern voters who voted Leave.

I see no solution.  This is a self-inflicted wound that will take many years to heal.  The recriminations will go on for years, and it was all so avoidable – if people had only stopped and really thought things through.   But turkeys very rarely do.