the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Swing Out Sister

Today isn’t a good day. Not at all. Been having bad thoughts.

Just to be clear here, when I write bad thoughts, I don’t mean of the ‘I wonder what would happen if we got a woman to try and mate with an alligator’ variety.

More of the ‘And I woke up from a coma for this?’ kind. The kind that can easily lead me somewhere I don’t want to go. The kind that needs music therapy to stop that from happening.

Fucking loud music therapy, in fact.

Such as this,

A slippery slope.

 

You’re all Dominic Cummings now! I’m not. I’m nothing like you.

One of the unfortunate truisms of modern life is that whilst everything you do you think reasonable, proportionate and speak volumes about what a decent person you are, other people, well other people are a whole different story. Frequently they behave in a way that you wouldn’t and therefore find annoying, sometimes they do things you wouldn’t do a million years and sometimes they do things that make you think ‘And these people are allowed to breed, because that’s what we desperately need more of, fucking idiots’

Actually, thinking about it, if they were trying to have a baby, I suppose they’d be fucking fucking idiots.

I though of this moments after opening a link my partner sent me, with the engaging titled headline,

Durdle Door: Three seriously hurt ‘jumping off cliff into sea’

 and a story that

Dorset Police responded to reports of concern for the safety of people who were jumping off the cliff at Durdle Door into the sea at about 15:45 BST.

Two helicopters landed on the beach and those injured were taken to hospital. The extent of their injuries is not yet known.

The beach and cliffs were evacuated. People have been advised to avoid the area.

Ch Insp Claire Phillips, of Dorset Police, said: “We have had to close the beach at Durdle Door to allow air ambulances to land.

And my first thought was ‘Why not just leave them screaming in pain? Let them deal with the consequences of their foolishness. Why go to all this trouble when we could simply treat them the same way we sometimes see crashed cars on the side of the road near an accident black-spot, to act as a warning to others? Sure they’d die, but is it really a loss? They’d be more use dead than alive anyway. Their rotting corpses would be a smelly deterrent to others, in much the same way that the heads of people beheaded were hung on spikes or the bodies of the hanged were put in giblets in olden times. Be more effective than a warning sign’

My second was ‘It’s not as if the hospitals haven’t got much on, is it?’

My third was ‘What are all the other people doing there?’ All of them probably though that whilst other people were flouting lockdown guidelines on travel and social distancing were behaving deeply irresponsibly, what they were doing was somehow exempt from the condemnation they bestowed on others. Because when others break lockdown, well that’s stupid, selfish and making a second wave all but inevitable. But when they do it, by the power of Castle Greyskull a curious transformation takes place which means there are suddenly compelling reasons that not only justify their actions but also make it seem the obvious thing to do.

The fourth thing I thought was after seeing this headline,

George Floyd death: Trump threatens to send in army to end unrest

was that people are no longer rioting for the poor man who died. Instead they’re rioting because they’re sick of lockdown, sick of a whole host of social problems that as a white heterosexual male in Britain I don’t have to deal with.

As I wrote yesterday, the government must be shitting themselves that a similar outbreak of lawlessness doesn’t happen here. But then again, it’s already started. If people can decide what they do is reasonable, that they can justify their actions to themselves, that they feel no guilt about doing what they’d condemn others for,then were already at the top of a slippery slope.

You all interpret the easing of the lockdown measures to suit your own needs. You cherry-pick the ones that allow you to do the things that you’d wanted to do anyway.

You’re all Dominic Cummings now! I’m not. I’m nothing like you.

Chris Lowe

Before I start, I just want to clarify one thing. That whilst I in no way regret yesterdays post, it was nonetheless an indication of how much that this whole lockdown thing is getting to me. I’m going to use the Chris Lowe defence here, yes Chris Lowe, the musical brains behind the Pet Shop Boys, that Chris Lowe, not the Chris Lowe who does the music on BBC1’s ‘Countryfile’. Leastways I hope it isn’t the same person. I’d have to seriously rethink things if it were the case, my late teenage years for one. I’d always eschewed music with lyrics, believing that lyrics almost always ruined a good tune. Then one lunchtime, when we’d all given school dinners the bum’s rush and instead head headed to the ‘Swan and Pyramids’ for a liquid lunch, someone put on the b-side of ‘Opportunities – Lets Make Lots of Money’, ‘Was that what it was?’ and I thought ’This is really quite good’.

Every school had a pub within walking distance, well actually ours had three, where 6th formers could dash up at lunch break, have some food, play some pool, have a have a pint and pretend to be the dashing young blades we all hoped we’d soon become. Indeed, so hasty were some of us to be at that happy place that they’d put what they imagined were impressive books in their blazer pockets with just enough of the title showing to impress the girls from the local convent school. Virginia Wolf. Sylvia Plath. And absolutely anything by F Scott Fitzgerald! Apart from ‘The Great Gatsby’. That was on our ‘A’ level syllabus and even if hadn’t of been, it was too far too obvious an F Scott Fitzgerald choice. What was needed was something obscure, to indicate that you weren’t like the other boys, you were deeper than most and if it were a battered looking, well thumbed book so much the better. Clearly you were the sort of sensitive young man who…how did I get onto this? Ah! Chris Lowe, back on track.

The reason I mentioned him is because he maintains that if you are displeased by something he says or does in relation to something, blame not him but the person that did that something. Phew! That took a while!

This morning I made my tea, as per yesterday, and as per yesterday, my neighbour had his sprinkler on. He does know that watering your plants in the morning makes about as much sense as trying to teach a dog Latin, doesn’t he? That Thames Water loses enough water – 8 million litres – to burst pipes every day without him pitching in. Mind you, if you think of how much water we waste nationally every day – about 96 million litres – and then think about how much it amounts to a year. Then think of globally. And then think it won’t be a pandemic, that’ll make humanity extinct, it’ll be our carelessness, our inability to think beyond our own needs, basically our stupidity that’ll do us.

I thought back to yesterday morning, when I escaped the madhouse for some much need succor. Turns out the sucker was me, thinking I could find any. The cut-through to the churchyard near me has a pub on the corner of it, and despite it having been closed since March, despite it being early in the morning and despite it being in full sun, its hanging basket’s were dripping obscenely. This made me mad, but not as mad though as the two dog walkers in the churchyard clearly were, when some perceived transgression by one of them necessitated an immediate and shouty response. What they were arguing about, I don’t know, I couldn’t hear exactly, but breeze carried the sound if their angry shouting to my bench and there was no mistaking their body language.

Perhaps they were arguing about whose dog was the silliest, the most ridiculously small, the most unworthy to be even called a dog, so pathetic looking it was hard to tell who was most pathetic, and which end of the lead they were on. Perhaps it wasn’t about that at all, actually probably not given that someone wholly unconnected with the whole affair, thought that she too could join in proceedings.

Always the way. An argument is winding down, the heat gone out of it and someone just has to say something to re-ignite the whole thing. I think she did it purpose, had seen the arguing, seen it burn bright and then begin to fade and thought ‘Well I’m not having that!’ and marched over and threw her oar in. I think she cruises around local parks, like a bizarre cottager, hiding in bushes so she can leap out unexpectedly when an argument begins to flag, giving advice on tactics, suggesting insults, possible tangents to go down when your losing – the handy ‘But you do this-‘ we’ve all employed in times of need – and assorted red herrings, distractions and conversational knots to tie them up in. She’d be fair though, and help both parties equally because it’d be in her interests to do so, to prolong it, ideally to the point of police intervention. Although in this weather, under these lockdown conditions, with everyone being at the end of their tether, it wouldn’t take much. My primary school headmaster was called Mr. Tether. I wonder if he ever said that to his wife, did she want to touch the end of his Tethers?

Anyway things are like a powder keg and in a high population density urban environment, it wouldn’t take much for it all to kick off big time in London. Or Birmingham. Or Manchester, Liverpool or Bristol. We’ve seen the rioting in the US and whilst the initial causative factor may well be different, the same tensions, the same sense of inequality – Grenfell, anyone? – the same feeling that we’re not all in it together, is. The sense that what postcode you were born in, where you went to school, who your parents know, how rich you are, those are the determining factors that govern your life-chances. The government must be shitting themselves at the prospect of things turning very violent, very quickly.

Not least because they don’t have the manpower to cope with it. Police numbers have been cut and even if they hadn’t, remember Extinction Rebellion (XR) blocking London’s bridges last year? Remember how when the police finally made arrests, cells in London became swamped and prisoners has to be detained outside London. XR knew what would happen, were counting on it happening in fact,  so much so that they were actively encouraging people to get arrested to cause system collapse.

Now imagine that on a much wider scale, remember Toxteth, remember Broadwater Farm and Keith Blakelock? Makes Boris’s Johnson decision to buy two water cannon’s when Mayor of London not the terrible idea it was widely derided as being.

 

It’s just occurred to me that if this government pursued a policy of herd immunity, knowing full well that it in so doing it would effectively write off a minority of the population – the old, the poor, those with underlying health conditions, people living in care homes – basically anyone who wasn’t like them and couldn’t buy their way out of death, is it so far fetched that they might similarly just write off areas if things kick off?  Peckham, for one, although seeing as how it is within walking distance of my house, let’s hope it wouldn’t be their first choice. Of course they throw everything into defending Chelsea, Westminster, and the City of London, they’re Conservatives after all, they look after their own.

*I made up those figures for water wastage. But they seem true, don’t they?

This morning got to a bad start, only for it to head downhill from there but hopefully the afternoon will be better, although I’m not setting too much store on that being likely. As is well known, I love a cup of tea, indeed the first cup of tea of sets the tone for the day so the first cup of tea is tremendously important to me. For the last few weeks therefore, I have got up early and made myself an extra-sugary cup of tea so I can enjoy it in silence. But this morning I decided to make the tea in a Pyrex jug, then decant it into a large flask so I could have it outside  whilst enjoying the morning sun.

You know what they say about best laid plans and all that?

First off, our housemate Paul has for reasons he doesn’t feel compelled to share, suddenly taken upon himself to buy sugar and to use my sugar bowl to put it in. This raises some questions which are perhaps not best suited to be asked here, but as I hardly ever see him and l was right royally fucked off this morning, its all a bit Lauren Cooper!

One, whose sugar was he using before? Two, why did he think that I wouldn’t mind him using my sugar bowl instead of him using Joe’s? Three, why did he not ask, but presume it was an OK thing to for a housemate to do, just to use mine? Four, what kind of cheap skanky sugar crystallizes the way his does? Five, six and seven….it’s all a bit Catherine Tate’s ‘Nan’

So I was not in the best of moods first thing, when I opened the sugar bowl and my eyes were befouled with something that if left for a few days would require a chisel to pries it out. So I made the tea, put in the flask and tipped the crusty remnants out of the sugar bowl into the sink, before pouring some boiling water into the sugar bowl to leave it to soak. Thinking about it, I should really fill it up again and put it in my cupboard. I’ll do that now. Back now. I’ve missed that feeling, it’s been over thirty years since I last had it, that of being back in a student house and wanting to print a label that says ‘FUCK OFF’ to the underside of my sugar bowl lid.

As I’ve written before, I’ve had niceness foisted on me by brain injury.

Anyway, thinking the bad mood was all behind me and a darling cup of tea awaited me – a darling cup of tea being a darling cup of tea – it was with no little irritation that I saw the patio furniture hadn’t been returned to the patio, but was instead in the garden, where Joe and LMS had been doing some drawing last night. Granted, it was only a distance of ten or so yards, but when one is already in a bad mood and has to slowly manoevere a chair off the grass and onto the patio – where the sun was – by tiny increments, whilst trying to do the same with a wheeled walker, in reverse, without falling, well in ice skating terms that was a six for technical difficulty.

Soon enough, I introduced the contents of the flask into a mug and prepared to savour the moment. However a neighbour had other ideas. They turned a sprinkler on. This infuriates me no end, people who water their garden in the day, but especially the morning, when the day is only going to get hotter and today is predicted to be a scorcher. Are they so bereft of common sense not to realise that at night, when things are cooler, that’s the time to do it? LMS came out, and I explained this to her, using a drop of my tea that had fallen on the patio as an example of quickly the heat will dry things out.

So it was was with no little joy that I heard LMS unravel the hose.“What are you doing? said I, “Going to water the plants. Mummy said so.” she replied cheerfully. “You did just hear me say it why it was a bad idea, didn’t you?” ‘But Mummy told me to.” So I went into the kitchen and pointed out to Marge why it made no sense, to which she replied “Well they are in the shade” Like that somehow made it OK, like the sun never moves. I could hear LMS turning on the garden tap, so I went back outside and turned off the tap. LMS, as expected, came running up and shooting me a look that thankfully didn’t manifest itself into a physical form, wordlessly turned the tap back on and ran off to resume her idiocy. I then turned off the tap and when she returned told her “I’m not going to move. I’ll just keep turning the tap off.” Perhaps sensing that I wasn’t bluffing, LMS ran off, only to return moments later with the hose and a threat. “Its not your garden and if you do that again I’ll soak you” Given that I was wearing brand new Adidas Gazelles and that suede and water aren’t best suited to each other, I reluctantly conceded defeat, consoling myself with a loud “What’s the fucking point?”

Some moments later Joe and LMS decided that nosily having a swordfight, and pretending to be pirates was a perfectly reasonable thing to do at 10am on a Sunday morning. And yet for reasons known only to her, Marge imagines that it’s somehow not reasonable for me to play my music slightly louder than audible nightmare – quiet basically – lest that disturbs the neighbours?

Mmmm. Would that be the neighbours that burn a deeply malodorous something on a sunny afternoon? Or is it the neighbour with the sprinkler? On the other hand, it could be the Joe who has just popped out to our local gastro-pub to get me a frankly scrumptious chorizo sausage roll, some salt and peppered squid and a rabbit and bacon pie for two.

But that was my start to the day and it only lasted a fraction of the time it’s taken to write about it. Hopefully yours was better?

‘Your face is wrinkly as a withered apple’

I was in the churchyard near me yesterday evening when I struck by two thoughts.

Firstly, that a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is all but guaranteed to happen, if the churchyard is any indication of the seriousness with which people are observing social distancing. Granted there were a few couples enjoying warm evening sun, but there were also much larger groups, including one made up of twelve adults, five children and two babies. Two screaming babies. Why is it that there exists this belief among some parents that just letting their baby scream is the easiest thing for them to do – as they hear it so often they hardly notice it anymore – and won’t annoy the fuck out of everyone who is forced to endure it. As long as we’re fine with it, the thinking must be, that’s all that matters. Quite a selfish thing to do and quite why anyone doesn’t just go up and smack them in the mouth – the adults that is, not the babies, however much one is tempted – never ceases to amaze me.

But this group embodied the sheer exhaustion of life under lockdown and with it, the futility of having a ‘phased’ or ‘planned’ relaxation of the measures already in place. All of them were under thirty and clearly imagined that if they did get the coronavirus, they’d at worst get would be a bad cold. Yes it can be fatal if your old, poor and have underlying health problems, but as they weren’t, c’mon enough already. My partner tells of a similar nonchalance up in Stoke Newington, as where she lives is popular with young families who have flocked there to be fleeced by bakeries selling sausage rolls for £2 a go! And if it’s there, its wherever young families are and because they’re the ‘Facebook’ generation – who see themselves as the most important person in their universe, that their wants and needs supersede any other consideration – the idea that what they’re doing might be seen as extremely socially irresponsible just doesn’t register. Mind you, even if it was suggested that they were being irresponsible they probably wouldn’t care. And besides they clapped for the carers, wasn’t that enough.

There was a chap in the park, the sort of chap who could only see his belly button if he was standing naked in front of a mirror and breathed in heavily. He was doing some sort of video chat on his computer which needed him playing the Bob Marley song that goes ‘Every little thing’s going to be alright’ endlessly and annoying loud. Why no one introduced his computer to the ground in a forceful manner was beyond me.

Another thing I noticed, as I saw couples larking about in the way freshly minted couples do, was that I was missing human contact. I felt a pang of jealousy towards the couples. I needed a cuddle. Not something that I’ve ever been aware of feeling before and anyone who knows me will know how unusual that is. Not to want a cuddle, but to feel that I wanted one. I have an odd idea about physical contact, inasmuch as I believe it to have currency and that if you hug everyone, then a hug from you becomes meaningless. For most social interactions that require a physical greeting or goodbye, a good firm handshake will suffice. Actually, a handshake reveals a lot about a person; do they look you in the eye, hold your gaze or does their hand land in yours like a clammy dead fish? The amount of times people have asked to hug me, expecting to hear an enthusiastic ‘Yes’ only to hear an emphatic ‘No’

And besides, hugging etiquette is something you only become aware of when someone breaches it. Did they hug you for just that bit too long, was their embrace just a bit too firm, or was it the wrong type of hug. You know, when a vague acquaintance doesn’t give you a ‘wine glass’ hug – one where there is no physical contact below the collar bone – but instead tries to attempt a ‘saltanass’ – one where every part of the body above the groin, most especially the groin, is impressed upon you.

As wrong as broccoli ice cream!

That quote? From LMS to me. When she discovered I could get eleven grapes in my mouth…

Paul King

I’ve forgotten what this post was going to be about.

I woke up this morning, lay in bed mulling things over, when a great idea for today’s post suddenly introduced itself to me, and gradually invited his friends over. Annoyingly, I thought that they’d be there after I had a quick doze, but they were gone. When I write annoyingly, I mean annoyingly, for it is not unknown for me to start a conversation with my partner just before we go to bed, which she calls me getting my ‘second wind’, when all she rather selfishly wants to do is sleep so she’ll say ‘Hold that thought’. And upon waking the next morning I’ll say “As I was going to say…” It really is the first thing I’ll say.

It drives her mad, which is a bonus. Mind you, I know what it’s like for someone to start talking at you first thing in the morning and I didn’t mind. But then that someone was LMS. One morning I was expecting a delivery of a mattress so had slept on the sofa bed in the lounge the night before in expectation of it being delivered early. ‘Slept’ is being generous, it was more that exhaustion at being so uncomfortable eventually got the better of me and I woke up feeling as refreshed as error 404. They rang the bell at much too early in the morning o’clock, me being up and dressed let them in, only for LMS to emerge from her bedroom door and to immediately begin chatting away, like she’d been awake for hours. And I thought, ‘That’s what I’m like’

That was the fourth or fifth time they came to replace my mattress. Say what you will about John Lewis, their customer service is fantastic. I’d changed mattresses so often, that I was one first name terms with some of the staff in their bedding department. Whilst a mattress felt right in the store, literally sleeping on it was another matter. What I should’ve done was to take LMS with me so she could give it her approval. Not as something to sleep in, but as a trampoline. She’ll open my bedroom door, take a run-up through the kitchen and into my room, and hurl herself onto my bed. She my thinks mattress is perfect for jumping up and down on. Bless.

I however have got another, more depraved fantasy for testing out the beds in a furniture store. One Saturday afternoon when they’ve got a sale on and it’s nice and busy with young families, get an older couple to browse and generally act interested and when a salesman, seeing commission before him, invites them to test it, all their years in the porn industry are given a mainstream audience. They’d give an energetically detailed performance, before being hastily ushered away. Of course they’d keep their clothes on, I mean doesn’t everyone go to bed fully dressed and lay stock still? Ah furniture stores! What fun they used to be. Armed with a box of stink bombs, I’d go into one and hide them under sofa cushions, and sprinkle them on the floor. One had to imagine the confusion. Although it wasn’t as immediately gratifying as sprinkling them in church. Oh no siree!

You know that bit in a church service when everyone shuffles along to the aisle to queue up and get communion? When people are acting all solemn, heads bowed thinking goodly thoughts and not how much longer they’ll be stuck here for? That’s when I imitated ‘Hansel and Gretel’, liberally dropping stink bombs surreptitiously behind me. It was wonderful! The smell people were able to ignore at first, but soon it was unbearable. The key to pulling stunts like that is to act all annoyed and upset, but not to over-do it, lest you give yourself away.

Like the time I was testing out a ‘TV B Gone’ key-ring device, which as the name suggests, is a gadget that’ll turn off any TV. I was naturally sceptical about its effectiveness and it being small enough to conceal in my hand and there being a Champions League Final with Liverpool showing in a pub down the road, I naturally thought ‘Golden opportunity’.  The pub was packed, of course, and the football match, was as exciting as the pub was quiet. Come on. Full time. Nearly there. First half of extra time. Just another fifteen minutes. Yes! Penalties! Every time a Liverpool player would run up to take a penalty, I’d turn off the TV in the pub, the place would predictably erupt, the landlord would be frantically but ineffectually pressing the remote, before thirty seconds later it’d  turn back on. I repeated this a few times, being careful to enthusiastically join in with the sweary abuse being hurled at the TV. It never occurred to me that had I been caught I might’ve been glassed.

I saw that once, well more heard it and saw the pandemonium that it unleashed, as a teenager in a pub we used to go to. All towns have a pub like this, or they used before pubs started closing down at a rate of one per week, where as long as you looked vaguely eighteen, or had a friend who did and therefore could get served, they’d get the drinks in while the rest of you tried not to attract the bar staffs attention. We were there one Friday night, when over the sound of Paul Kings ‘Love and Pride’ from the video-jukebox came the most blood-curdling scream. See, I can even remember the song, that’s how blood cuddling it was. In truth though, the blood wasn’t curdling, it was gushing. Pouring out of a guys face like a red Niagara, his mates chasing the bloke who’d done it out of the pub, him wondering what the fuck had just happened and why his face resembled a very messy lasagne.

We’d just bought a round, so were not best pleased when the pub closed.

I wish I could remember what todays post was going to be about.

 

“How many grapes can you fit in your mouth?”

Last night I crashed on my bed fully clothed at about 10pm, only to wake at 2.30am feeling a compulsion to get on my exercise bike because my legs were telling me I needed to. After doing the bike, I was sitting on the toilet thinking and one of the the things I was thinking was that when I’m sitting on the toilet, my mind imitates the buffalo in those old Western songs, roaming free and that after doing the bike, there’s no stopping it.

Another thing I reflected on was this new fangled behaviour of any politician embroiled in a scandal to brazenly front it out, as if in any other job that would be an OK thing to do. When did this happen? When did resigning as a matter of honour become considered passé? The last politician I can remember doing that was Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary at the time of the Falklands War in ’82. He did the decent thing, because he felt he’d let the country down by not taking the threat posed by Argentina seriously enough. That reason that it sticks in my mind was because it impressed me, was the value that he placed on his own integrity, given I have so little of it myself.

Although I flatter myself that I gave a tiny bit more than Jacqui Smith, one of New Labours Home Secretary’s. Remember her? She tried to style out the revelation that she had claimed expenses for some porn films her husband had watched. Classy! Or to that married Mark Oaten, who paid rent boys to do things not even the tabloids would reveal, and you know things are really bad when the tabloids get prudish.

He got them to shit in his mouth. Really.

Mind you, they’re all amateurs when compared to Keith Vaz, the former chair of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee. He imagined that there was nothing at all hypocritical in lambasting others peoples morals when he was offering to buy cocaine for rent boys and having unprotected sex with them. That must’ve been a tricky conversation with his wife when that one came out. Unlike him.

And after month after resigning as chair of that committee, he was elected onto the Justice Select Committee. I know!

There have been loads more, but at 3am, those were the ones I recalled. I thought he’d do well to emulate Peter Mandleson, one of the architects of the travesty that was ‘New’ Labour. Old bollocks more like.

Like Goings’s, he too had the unwavering support of the PM, having helped him re-fashion Labour into a watered down but electable version of socialism. Johnson depends on him in much the same way and therefore willing to expend his political capital to keep him safe. He too had attained powerful yet undefined role at the heart of government, was both feared and loathed in equal measure by everyone bar the PM it seemed and was therefore able to ride out one scandal, eventually resign, come back to frontline politics before another scandal had him made a Lord.

That’s why I thought of Goings’ and how he’s trying to style it out, calculating that attention will quickly move off him, being someone who clearly thinks his honour is a judicial title only.

Mind you, duty calls. LMS has asked me how many grapes I can fit into my mouth…

Not faffing about

I spent far too long writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing and generally faffing about on yesterday’s blog post and having realised that, I’m not going to make the same mistake today and will keep this one short. You lucky people!

As I wrote the other day, the real story for me about Cummings’ Going’s isn’t the fact he made the trip – or trips – in the first place.

No, the story for me is that Goings’ is reportedly to be a very smart chap and being so smart, he must’ve known that there was a possibility that news of his trip would leak. Scratch possibility. More like a dead certainty actually. It is no secret that Goings’ isn’t exactly Mr. Popular in Westminster, so for his enemies – any number of civil servants, MP’s and Cabinet Ministers – this was a golden opportunity to get their revenge. The thing is though, he would’ve known all this all this, could have guessed what would’ve happened when this got out, but went ahead and did it anyway.

There have always been two laws, one for the people who make the laws. And the other, far more onerous and subject to punishment by the people who make the laws, for everyone else and this tawdry episode only underlines it. To be shocked by it, is missing the point. The details of it don’t matter – inasmuch as they unsurprising – but the wider point, that the more essential you are to those in power, the greater the impunity with which you can flout the law that applies to everyone else, is starkly illustrated by this.

Boris’s Johnson defence of him makes it immeasurably harder for the authorities to keep the lockdown travel restrictions in place. Because for people who’ve obeyed the rules, played the game because they think that everyone else is, for them to feel that the rules don’t apply to everyone, what do they reason is there to adhere to them? If your loved one died alone because of the lockdown, or you couldn’t go to their funeral you’d be right be feeling extremely fucked off by now.

‘Well if he can do it…’ they will not unreasonably think. That we’re far from all in it together. There is talk today of local lockdowns. Me neither. They’re as likely to be as effective as Boris’s Johnson marriage vows if people think they can do a Goings.’

ETON

Half-baked

Marge and LMS were making bread this morning. Put in your mind ‘The Great British Bake Off’, (GBBO) where methodology is informed by knowledge and an air of calm determination fills the tent. Well, until the bakers realise that they’ve run out of time, that is. Now put that out of your mind, I was simply messing with you. As indeed they were with me when I was awoken by my favourite sound in the universe – the click of a kettle having just boiled – and LMS knocked on my door to ask if I wanted a cup of tea. In the pantheon of pointless questions, asking me first thing in the morning if I want a cup of tea is up there with do you think Boris’s Johnson will ever exude the air of a man with all the details on the tip of his tongue. I heard the water being introduced to the cup and then nothing. They had a bag of ready mix sourdough bread mix to hand and after tipping the contents into a bowl LMS was immediately confronted with the age-old conundrum of when exactly is lukewarm water lukewarm?

LMS thought I should be the judge of this and came into my room, holding the Pyrex jug outstretched in the same way a priest holds aloft the communion wine for the congregation to bear witness to the miracle of it becoming the blood of Christ. Which he then drinks. No-one thinks this odd, nobody ever stands up and says “There are children here, and your drinking the blood of Christ and a few seconds earlier you were eating his body, like it’s a perfectly OK thing to do!” No, they just sit there expectantly, knowing in a couple of minutes they too can become cannibals and eat the body of Christ. That’s actually what the priest says to you, after you open your mouth and stick out your tongue for him to put the communion wafer on, he says “The body of Christ”

I’d worked out that religion was just nonsense, and had decided at the age of ten, that if my parents were going to make me go to church, I’d much rather be on stage than in the audience. So I became an altar boy, which proved to be a source of great fun for my brother, who would sit in the front row, position himself directly in my sight line and try to make me laugh. Mum and Dad, sitting beside him, were as oblivious to this as they were to the eerie similarity between the congregation at a church service reciting prayers en-masse, and the thousands at Nazi party rallies frenziedly chanting ‘Heil Hitler’. I’d been doing ‘A’ level History so this seemed an entirely reasonable connection to make. Shortly after that I read Darwin and you can guess the rest.

But back to today and my tea languishing half made in a kitchen whilst LMS tips the possibly lukewarm water into the sink and starts again. And I’m thinking ‘If there’s this much disagreement over what exactly is lukewarm water, this doesn’t exactly bode well for the more complicated bits.’ So it proved, as LMS tipped the ready mix into a bowl and began adding the water and after a few seconds mixing the two together, declared it done.

Not as done as the people who pay £5 for a loaf of bread. Maybe its me, maybe I weren’t brung up all proper like, but to me sourdough bread is a triumph of marketing over reason, I just look at a loaf of sourdough bread, think of all the ingredients, the cost of all them and I think ‘There’s no way that cost more than 50p to make, so how can you possibly justify charging £5 for one. Oh, you mean there’s a story. That makes all the difference.  Why didn’t you say so earlier? That people can tell all their friends that the baker sources his dough from a remote Sicilian mill that uses only a special type of wheat and is ground using by the hands of local virgins under a full moon. And that the bread is baked in an oven heated by all the hot air generated by the baker’s social media followers. They’ll be so impressed that it makes paying £5 for a loaf of bread seem like a bargain!’

Meanwhile my tea is languishing half made in the kitchen still, I mean we don’t have a still in our kitchen, we don’t brew our own moonshine in there, although the smells that sometimes emanate from the kitchen might explain that. No, the tea is still half made and my bedroom door is half open, meaning I can’t get out of bed without potentially committing an act of gross indecency. What trumps what? No, not another allegation of sexual impropriety by the US President, but does tea take precedence over every other concern? Silly question. Of course it does!

Using a combination of carefully positioned duvet and speed, I was able to effect myself into the kitchen at which point some milk was added to the tea and handed to me – the sugar having been added some several minutes previously. Any fanciful notions of enjoying my first cup of tea of the day in silence were soon covered in flour by LMS who had decided to continually add flour to kneading proceedings, much to Marge’s displeasure. The kneading part of things had just started when it seemed to be over. LMS showed me the result, pulling the dough apart so much so that it resembled Boris’s Johnson in a hall of mirrors. “Is it meant to look like that?” she asked. All my experience of the GBBO meant there could only be one answer, “No.”, said I, quickly followed by Marge calling out from the kitchen, “That really isn’t helping. Please keep your comments to yourself.”

I was on the way out to the garden anyway and I reflected as I basked in the quiet that Marge had been emboldened by last nights culinary success, courtesy of ‘The Roasting Tin’, which isn’t a shed used by Premier League football players for sexual activities of the tabloid and possibly criminal kind, but a cookbook full of meal ideas where you put everything in one tin and roast it. Her cousin Emily has enjoyed great success with it, she told us, before imparting the less welcome news there are now others in the range. “There’s a vegetarian one!” she exclaimed and quite why she though this would be of interest to me is anyone’s guess. Again, maybe it’s me, maybe I weren’t brung up all proper like, but I’m always a bit suspicious of a plate of food in front of me that doesn’t have any meat on it. If other people are fine with that, good, more meat for the rest of us. It’s just when people get right on my wick about it. Like a few years ago, Marge hosted a dinner party to introduced person A to person B. One of the guests was a vegan, so we all had to suffer the hell that is vegan food. I mean in the right hands I’m sure vegan food is great and everything but I resented having the choice being taken away from me. Not that I would’ve eaten vegan food, my first experience of it was bad enough. I was in a café with Marge. ‘They do peanut butter flapjacks.’ she said. My excitement lasted until the first mouthful. It tasted of worthiness and smugness.

Eventually the bread was ready and I remarked to Marge that LMS should’ve charged her 50p a slice for it to be proper sourdough bread. But it was good though.

An ’emotional psychopath’ writes..

Given that your reading this blog, you’ll be aware that I claim to have had niceness foisted upon me by my brain injury. ‘Foisted’ is a carefully chosen word, meaning to ‘impose an unnecessary or unwelcome thing on a person.’ Which describes exactly what has happened. One minute my life had been one long exercise in disregarding what people thought of me. Memorably summed by a friend of my partners, who, with plenty of evidence to support it, called me ‘an emotional psychopath’ After the brain injury however, urgent modifications were needed as I knew my previous attitude which hadn’t noticeably hindered me, would do so now.

So foisted is an apt word.

One particularly mercenary example – well she thought it especially mercenary I know – occurred many years ago now, when I was toying with what university course to apply for. Now it does help for you to bear in mind that not only am I morally flexible but also that I’m pathologically lazy. So the idea of applying myself to anything for three years was simply not on, even though someone at school claimed to have a book containing every university course complete with the ratio of male to female students and based his UCAS applications on that rigorous academic standard. Anyway, there was I, desperate to flee my childhood house, but with no idea as to how to effect it, a textbook teenage problem common, to all teenagers everywhere. I know that now, but then it was just another right royal pain in my arse and I wasn’t happy about that.

Thankfully, a girl I knew, who possibly I may have lead to believe was my girlfriend, had applied to a college to do advertising and had been accepted. I was somewhat good at English, had an imagination and some creative potential, in short everything an advertising copywriter needed. So being the dutiful boyfriend, I listened intently and asked questions, whenever she spoke about it. Naturally, I was careful not to instigate such conversations or to appear too keen when they did. Eventually, I knew all about the course, why it was unique – from Day One, they paired students into pairs, like in the real world – what a copywriter did, what an art director did, who were the leading lights in the industry and why they were so esteemed, not only what were considered to be great adverts, but why they were considered great and so on. Everything basically. She was Google before Google – not that she had much to Google at.

So I ‘phoned the college to complain that I hadn’t yet received any acknowledgement of my application. This was May I think. They were very apologetic and put me on a short list of applicants should any of the students not take their place. I know, a high-risk strategy, but it never once occurred to me that everything wouldn’t work out. The girl who thought she was my girlfriend started the course on the September and of course, I called ‘round to hers that evening to get all the details. Wouldn’t you know it but one the copywriting students had dropped out at the last second, and wouldn’t you know that the next day I got a call from the Course Leader (CL) inviting me compete with others on the short-list for the place. I had to come up with four newspaper adverts, four billboards, and four adverts to go the sides of buses for a thing. We were given enough details to help us out, we just had to tell them who the ads were aimed at, why they were aimed at them and what the key takeaway message was. Which I did, submitted and got the place. I was told on the Friday that they’d be expecting me on the following Monday at 9am sharp, and news of a new student had clearly got everyone excited, especially my now increasingly dispensable girlfriend. She told me all about it, as was her wont, and as was mine, I affected polite curiosity.

I turned up at college on the Monday, was met by the CL, who had gathered all the copywriters and art directors in one room, so he could make some sort of welcoming speech before I would emerge to the assembled throng. I could hear him through the door I was standing on the other side of. Any second now…and here’s the good bit. I stepped through the door and heard a muffled cry, rather like the sound a cat makes when it’s on heat. Mind you, I wouldn’t have been altogether surprised if she’d grabbed the nearest heavy blunt object and battered me repeatedly with it.

So result! Not as much of as a result as when news of this became common knowledge and we discovered that the CL had lied about the industry awards the students had won, his thinking being that that if it attracted the best and the brightest, they’d win them anyway. Which turned out to be the case. I won one. So in a weird way, what I’d done was a vindication of that thinking, that to succeed in the cut-throat world of advertising, you were either Sweeney Todd or you were pie filling!

Reading that back, I don’t feel ashamed in any way of my youthful behaviour. I don’t think it reflects badly on me at all. In fact, I’m curiously proud of the teenage me, not only because it was an instinctive thing to do, not only because it never once dawned on me that everything would work out in my favour. But because that I had the arrogance of youth, the confidence and the sheer front needed to carry it out. I sort of miss that version of me.

Truly, I’ve had niceness foisted upon me.