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Thursday, 7 June 2018

That ‘logged off’ feeling.

Luddite that I am (see blog 53 – I suffer from P.A.N.T.S ) I still need a real break from the STUFF like everyone else (as you can probably tell from last week's post) and even from the kids and grand-kids. 

My little piece of heaven earlier this week, prior to getting stuck into some new projects involved -

a.       – a rucksack with legs

b.       – waking up on a Scottish beach up the coast from where I live

c.        – and then I was truly – ‘logged off’…

OK - Now I really am taking a blog break til September.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

278. From Fear to Eternity.

(This is the last post 'til September. I may post some random stuff but not the regular Tuesdays which will be back in a few weeks)

From  Here to Eternity – the iconic (and debut) novel by James Jones – published in 1951 – deals with a pre-Pearl Harbour military compound and the compressed, convoluted lives of those contained in that strange mini world of bullying, social subversion, sexual repression and dishonesty, violence and tangled relationships.

The 1951 book is far more raw and risqué even than the film and that, with its famous ‘racy’ surf scene and blatant acceptance of complex sexual relationships, was regarded as ground breaking.

This post - From Fear to Eternity - is both a new and an old story about what is happening right now in this world. The sex isn’t racy (or Stormy) it’s drab and grubby and predictable and the plot is not raw and risqué so much as corrupt, corrosive and devastatingly destructive. Somehow, despite all the accumulated knowledge of the ages of the many civilisations that have existed since the ascent of man, we seem to have embraced a new era of ignorance and venality. Along with that has been the descent into fear – the kind of fear that leads people to follow men with loud voices who offer easy solutions to problems that don’t really exist.

This juxtaposition of fear and ignorance has, in the past, led to many things –not least the rise of despots and crack pots – from Hitler to Franco from papa doc Duvalier to Duterte and Urdogan and Trump. They, in turn, happily stoke the very fear and ignorance that got them to the top in order to consolidate their power.

But maybe – soon – we will reach the point where the problem is so big, the fear so deep, the ignorance so wilfully embraced that there is no going back.
In the words of The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss– “the mess is so big and so deep and so tall we cannot clear it up there is no way at all”

This is not just because these pigs wallow in the mess and benefit from the chaos but while they have all the attention, many things that cannot wait for our energies to be applied are left unattended to – the economy, the environment, poverty and disease and health, war trauma and so on and so forth.

Sadly it may be ignorance and fear that drives humankind into the premature eternity of extinction.

We may be approaching the moment where the confluence of stupidity, wilful ignorance, deliberately stoked fear and disarray with the disregard for real problems creates that perfect storm from which humanity cannot recover.
If we have – it will – most definitely – look something like this –

Zero One Zero Two is my actual vision of where we are headed (not the sci fi space parts – which are purely for entertainment – Elon Musk is not going to get us ‘there’ and he is the only one with the combo of fantasy and money). This is, in my view, how we will end up at The End.


And on that note, I will be taking a break until September.
I know – all the informed opinion is that breaking from posting your blog is not a good idea but there is STUFF to do including getting my youngest off to university and getting together a new one-woman show (possibly). Plus it’s not like there isn’t a serious back catalogue for you to dip into if you get bored. Here are some suggestions -

WE once aimed for better for the working class -  blog 10. My One Night Stand with the Ghost of Bill Farrell
Sleepwalking to Armageddon - blog 12. Armageddon Will Not be Televised.
The magic parts of family life - blog 22. Drink Driving with my Dad and Other Happy Memories
Killing innocent civilians by the book - blog 43. Killing Them Softly
Self-explanatory - blog 50. Ed Miliband – Political Semolina
On the death of Nelson Mandela who I met in Glasgow – blog 63. Nelson Mandela – If not a Prophet
We have got our priorities wrong – blog 97. Viagra – Yes. Effective Cure for Malaria – No!
The whole social disconnect thing – blog 113. The Crap Gap Club
Losing our humanity - blog 147. More Less Contact is Making us Horrible
Back when the really shit people were just a bad joke – blog 167. Donald Trump and Katy Hopkins Scientifically Explained
Before he was promoted to Foreign Secretary – blog 184. Boris Johnson Racially insulted President Obama
Then we kind of descend into the mire of Brexit and the nightmare of the toxic Trump presidency with some exceptions - blog 236. Does Edinburgh Need a Tree Museum?

And – if that’s not enough, bearing in mind what I’ve written recently about how Brexit is colliding disastrously with a Britain stripped of assets by decades of privatisation and the reversal of hard won post-war working class gains – here is a brilliant New York Times article on austerity Britain, proving that a little distance can give you a rapier sharp perspective. EVERYONE should read this.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

277. Trump and Brexit were served to us on the plastic plate of populism with a past- its-sell-by-date date dish of reality TV and the sickly sauce of social media on the side…

…and it’s all going to make us ill for a very long time.

Trump, the one-man political plague of locust and the Brexit botch are, jointly, the biggest blow to western democracy and social cohesion in a generation. They obliterate and distract from the things that actually matter. It’s as if someone deliberately blocked the toilets in the biggest building in town and the public are so mesmerised that they haven’t noticed the broken sewage works beginning to ooze and now there is a tsunami of shit building up behind them as they gawp at the turds in front of them.

Whether it’s an air crash in Cuba killing 110 people in a plane run by an airline that had prior safety concerns or yet another school shooting in Texas – or the collapse of barely tentative talks with N Korea after John Bolton shot is mouth off about ‘The Libya model’ for dealing with N Korea or whether it’s the collapse of more UK institutions and businesses as the hard right of the Conservative party bully and stamp their feet for toxic Brexit – nothing that matters – nationally or internationally -  is being dealt with.

There is a new outbreak of Ebola in DR Congo, Coral reefs – one of this epoch’s most beautiful natural icons – are decreasing at an alarming rate as seas warm and wildlife struggles against devastating human pollution and dumped plastic. But nothing grabs the headlines (maybe briefly the latest royal wedding) like another example of Donald Trump not being able to spell or – Bill Gates’ revelation that the leader of the most powerful country in the world and serial adulterer does not know the difference between HIV and HPV.

And here in the UK with xenophobia and jingoism as deeply embedded as a misdiagnosed tumour, there is no stirring, credible voice raised against the obvious oncoming chaos.  In many posts I’ve highlighted that decades of privatisation have left Britain plundered and poor - just as we blunder into Brexit. But these two socio-political dots are still not being joined up.

On the other side of the pond, the idea that Mueller is going to swoop in and rid the US of the orange menace is so far wrong as to be verging on lunacy. If the GOP won’t shift him nothing will and if corruption and scandal and treason and sexual predation and misogyny and lying and supporting fascists haven’t been enough for The Republican party, what on earth do you think is going to do it? And those who think that Brexit can be reined in with a big dose of common sense are worse than deluded. We forge ahead to the cliff edge even as we can see it collapsing before us – as I said in another letter published by The Independent 6 days ago -

In the past, although we cannot claim to have always successfully elected people of talent and depth, intelligence and diligence – they were usually people who gave a pretty good appearance of being such. We seemed to want to be led by people who we could admire – people who we hoped were better than our average. With the overwhelming of popular culture by reality TV and social media and the rise of political populism – we want people like ‘us’ - the worst of us. Hence – here in the UK we have a bunch of craven spineless wishy-washy privileged non-entities. In the US there is a fat, stupid, semi-literate, sexually revolting, cowardly greedy fat guy.
And that is why Trump will not be easy to get rid of and Brexit will run to the bitter end.

Is this seriously the best that the foremost democracy and the oldest modern democracy in the world can do?

The answer, sadly, seems to be YES.


If you are looking for summer reads, kindle versions of ALL my books are on offer at less than half price from tomorrow (wed 23rd June) until next week (wed 30th June)

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

276. Brexshit – The Creature from the Grey (stinking) Lagoon.

The nightmare is real – the monster is out there – it’s going to get us – AAAAAAARGHHHH...

…all to the sound track of a 1950's creature feature movie, obviously.

Paralysed by panic and confusion, I was trapped in a gelatinous quagmire, suffocating on the stench of constipated, putrefied privilege and surrounded by howling, part-formed entities screeching at a pitch to make your ears bleed and your eyeballs implode.

As I struggled to crawl out of the grey sucking slop, the withered, malformed sewer creatures slunk and slithered on every available slime-slicked bank, at home in the stagnant sludge of their natural environment.

Mouldy May grimaced and gurned aboard the barely floating turd of populism. The bloated buffoon, son of John, babbled incessantly enjoying the smell of his own verbal farts and double-dim Davis churned the viscid slime with his jerking uncoordinated movements. A withered creature of the genus Corbynus-ludicrous on the opposite bank – barely visible through a haze of rancid obfuscation – stumbled and stammered, sniffing stupidly at the murky edges of the swamp – occasionally putting one of his three toes in and then becoming inexplicably motionless.

Then the wailing of the other unidentifiable creepers and crawlers of dark spaces, agitated by a long, thin, flaccid part-reptile, part tape-worm, part mangy fur ball – Ree-Smog began to take some form. It was a chant – ‘we like the shit and you are not escaping – stay in the shit – we love the shit – we made the shit - down in the shit is where we likes it – the deeper we sinks the less we is disturbed by the pesky light and the nasty breathable air’ on and on. While in the very centre, the creature itself – Brexshit – a formless but horrifying mass – heaved and rolled, bellowed and belched toxic orange smoke, occasionally dragging down unwary swamp dwellers to unimaginable depths and terrors.

I began to gag – choking on the evil lumpy gloop. My eyes filled with acrid fumes that smelled something like the dead, delusional rotting yearnings of an Empire constructed on the murder and misery of my slave ancestors.

Then it hit me – this was not a nightmare. I could not wake up. This was the Brexshit swamp and there was no escape from the Brexshit creature in this grey fetid lagoon. It was real and it would not go away. And the verdant fields I could see receding in the distance would never ever be for me or mine again.

One remaining bridge, which stretched only as far as March 2019, called Ye Olde Customs Union(e) was in the process of being doused in evil caustic fluids by large, slow slug-like entities that had slithered from under their cold dark rocks for the purpose. The bridge was in danger of crumbling from its own decrepitude as it was already deeply corroded by the sulphurous, acid emanations from the uncontrollable irruptions of mordant xenophobia and the foundation-breaking tremors of jingoism.

I tried to cry but the tears burnt my face as they mixed with the vile caustic vapours from the reeking bog.

Then I sank…

And thanks again for visiting my blog and well done for finding it – I am not on fb or twit or any of the must-have social platforms so you are part of an exclusive group who go ‘outside’ to find more nuanced stuff. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

275. Britannia rules the waves – of nauseating nostalgia…

Brexit is now a runaway freight train of crazy – and we are all straight-jacketed in.

For light cogitation, I was considering the fundamentals of why Brexit is utter lunacy.

Put aside the fact that we only have Brexit because the right wing of the Conservative party is wagging the otherwise limp body of the blind, deaf, arthritic dog and the gutter press have used the EU as something to snipe at whenever they ran out of celebrity gossip –Brexit is still mad as a box of frogs. Despite the Empire fantasists who are shunting this tug boat, the only waves Britannia is ruling are waves of nauseating nostalgia.

Turn-out at the recent local elections (around 30%) at a crucial time in the UK’s history shows utter disdain for both of the major parties – one mired in an anti-Semitism row – the other in a kind of sate racism of the Windrush debacle (see blog 273).

Our Foreign Secretary is a joke abroad, our Secretary of Defense is a squeaky creepy boy with no experience, our Secretary of Sate for the Environment famously thinks you shouldn’t listen to experts. I would go on but you get the point and I’ve covered all that many times on this blog. Theresa May’s judgement is infamously bad and the only reason she’s not out is that the Tories don’t know who would replace her and stand so firmly while the S—t is spread around by the huge Brexit fan (see blog 270).

And – as Macron seems now to be the only major EU leader avec Trump entente cordial and the UK ‘special relationship’ is now just an acquaintance with someone who has serious special needs – the idea that there is any credible replacement out there for the massive free trading partnership the UK has enjoyed with the EU for most of my life time is beyond farce.

Also, Britain has never been in a worse position to ‘go it alone’. Existing as we have on the fumes of empire – the mismanagement and the total privatisation of the UK has turned what was a wealthy nation into a clapped-out vehicle on bricks in the yard ready for scrap (see blog 268).

I want the yobs baying for raw Brexit to explain just which bits of Britain are not broken. Which bits are ready and functioning and fit for purpose in the brave new world of ‘us and global free trade’.

I am currently still waiting for a ticket refund from Virgin trains that I applied for on 15th February – for another rubbish journey kyboshed by over-running engineering works on our failing rail networks. I am also in dispute with privatised energy giant npower – dating back 4 years over a mess they made of a household bill when I moved house. The head of customer services (hold on a minute while I stop laughing at that misnomer) sent me several mails in the last couple of months telling me his ‘team’ will sort the matter in 5 working days – the 4 yr old farce is still unresolved.

Many and sad are the personal stories of friends of mine whose kids – with 10s of thousands of pounds of student debt are kept off the unemployment figures on zero hours contract ‘jobs’ (see blog 174 – zero hours in not a contract) or shelf stacking or living off mum and dad – depressed and downtrodden.

Major high street shop closures are now so common they rarely catch the main news (see blog 185).

Bank branches are closing in droves. Ironically, the reasons given include the prevalence of online banking – just as the TSB bank is in hot water for their online banking disaster which has left thousands of customers stranded without banking facilities.

In this supposedly developed country, many of our cities regularly suffer from dangerous levels of toxic fumes. Our children are breathing it all in while the government spends all its time on the Brexit debacle.

The NHS struggles with the ongoing obesity crisis, IT failures, under-funding and staff shortages while longevity has decreased in the poorest areas of Britain since we first began to measure these things.

Tragedies like Grenfell Tower (see blog 240) show us that we do indeed need the very health and safety regulation derided in the gutter press and often penned in Brussels.

The wholesale contracting out of the management of Britain came to its own horrible hiatus earlier this year with the collapse of the Carillion behemoth leaving hospitals part-built and huge government contracts unfulfilled – but with shareholders’ pockets bulging.

So as the team that are pulling this wagon look more and more like a bunch of nags ready for the knackers yard – the government need to explain to the British people which bits of the UK are still functioning and ready to ‘rule the waves’.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

274. A litter of letters 2

I was potty training my grandson last week so no full blog today; instead here are links to the relevant letters pages of a variety of UK newspapers where you can find some more of my letters published this year.

The normal rules of decency not apply to the ruling elite -

Regarding the inevitable consequences of the wholesale outsourcing of government to behemoth private contractors -

Trump’s only motivation for everything is himself -

Just when I thought Blair could not revolt me more -

International Womens’ day – reason to hope

Cambridge Analytica and facebook -

The government’s fake sympathy for Syria -

Cracked beams in this Tory administration

And this one, yesterday, regarding the Home Secretary -  Amber Rudd’s resignation –

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

273. ‘Windrush’ - just dirty nasty state racism.

When I was at school the taunt ‘go home’ or ‘go back to where you came from’ was usually accompanied by the abuse of the day – in 1970s midlands it was Wog or coon – or just blackie for the less imaginative. It was upsetting but also confusing for someone born in Warwickshire. Now we have the Windrush debacle where folk who have been here as long as or longer than my mother are suffering the kind of treatment we would condemn immediately if it happened in Russia or an African dictatorship.

The Windrush debacle is blowing headlong onto the rocks of racism and into the cliff that Brexit is just about to tumble over.
(I know – by the time you’ve untangled that analogy Kaftans will be back in fashion…)

Politicians have known for years that the decision taken in 2009 (by a then Labour government) - to dispose of landing cards - was a disaster. Added to this was the declared policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ to illegal migrants championed by then Home Secretary Theresa May in line with the creeping xenophobia that was to break out in Brexit.  This led to thousands who had settled here and worked legally – suddenly finding that citizenship rights had evaporated. The initial decision was crazy and inexplicable, the landing cards were important historical documents tied to the rights of many who have contributed to British society for decades.

The problematic, mismanaged and often racist UK Border Agency has been criticised almost since its inception in 2008. It attracted condemnation for inadequacy, failure to process visas effectively or efficiently – for the way it has treated potential victims of trafficking and yet is it only now that those - many of whom have lived here since the 1940s and 50s – have had their nightmare acknowledged and backed up by a promise of speedy resolution.

In March 2013 PM Theresa May, then Home Secretary, brought the Border Agency back under the auspices of the Home Office but she did nothing about the plight of those whose lives were in limbo. Causing more misery, not to mention international embarrassment, the Prime Minister refused to bow to pressure until the headlines got too much and the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting in London this year amplified the bad press. THEN she was forced to apologise and claim she felt it was an urgent issue. IT is a humanitarian disgrace on our own doorstep.

It is hard to imagine the pain caused to those caught in this dirty, tangled net of state racism. From a man who missed his daughter’s wedding to people denied healthcare or even incarcerated. Theresa  May certainly succeeded in creating the  hostile environment but not just for ‘illegal’ immigrants but for many Caribbean people who contributed to British society for decades (after their slave ancestors contributed to the wealth of the British empire with literal blood sweat and tears for centuries.)

Meanwhile, Brexit negotiations get more scrambled and contradictory. Worryingly, the Windrush calamity is all too much of a taste of things to come. I have written many times on this blog, not just about Brexit but specifically how EU citizens are being left in limbo (e.g. 229. Article 50 is funny – isn’t it?)

As it gets ever more difficult to keep up with all the negotiation ‘redlines’ that keep getting crossed – even the abysmal  Boris Johnson (in The Telegraph 18th April) is now insinuating his double speak into the immigration issue. A small wedge is being inserted into the difference between taking back control of our borders – the UKIP cry - and actual immigration. What this does is leave those with power money and influence in a situation that suits them well  – a supply of cheap potential labour but unregulated by well-established EU labour laws – the exact opposite of what those who voted Brexit THINK they voted for but equally not what any Remain campaigners wanted either. In short – the worst of all possible worlds.

If this is how legal Commonwealth migrants of decades standing are treated – what hope for EU migrants after Brexit?

One thing is clear – Windrush may come to have a new meaning in the era of Brexit i.e. the wind of racism is blowing stronger than ever in the UK as Britain rushes over the Brexit cliff…
My good friend Bob – who was a Newcastle city councillor with me in the 1980s/90s, sent me this link. This well-known speech was made a couple of weeks before my 4th birthday. It reminds me that there have been truly great people in the world but also leaves me wondering how come the mediocre and the craven have taken over…