the brilliantly leaping gazelle

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.

Bear shits in woods. Again!

The most shocking thing, to me at any rate, about Dominic’s Cummings – and goings – in breach of government advice only to travel if absolutely essential is that this shocks people. Are they somehow unaware that throughout all of human history, there are 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.

We know this to be true. We know that those in positions of power operate using the same moral compass we all do, but we declare ourselves shocked when this is revealed? Or do we delude ourselves that by the power of Castle Greyskull their position somehow elevates them above the same human impulses we all have? Why do we imagine that the venality, hypocrisy and greed, so rampant in at all levels of public life – according to the stories in ‘Private Eye’ anyway – will be temporarily put on hold for the duration of this pandemic? Why?

One of the modules I took as part of my degree in politics was ‘Disease and the Social Order. It was fascinating to learn how the same basic human foibles and weaknesses had remained constant – indeed more so – during all pandemics throughout history, and that all political elites behaved exactly the same way. Irrespective of any other consideration, humans always act in the same way. I could give examples, but its Sunday – well I think it is but who knows? – and I can’t be bothered to look them up. But you know it’s true. You don’t need me to prove it to you.

So whilst the specifics of this may raise a moments fleeting irritation, I can’t get too excised about it because frankly it isn’t worth the effort. The real story here is how and who leaked this story in the first place, how long and why the media will keep this story going and add new revelations when it begins to flag to rejuvenate it. The story for me isn’t the story. That’s as old as it gets. The real story is why have so many turned on him so quickly? Why has Cummings and goings become such a hate figure,  emblematic of a distant and unaccountable elite, one that plays by it’s own rules?

That’s news. What he did isn’t. It’s a cliché.

The fingeratti!

A few days ago, a book arrived for Marge entitled ‘A Portable Paradise.’ Which was ambitious, given as how it is a collection of poetry and my feeling regarding poetry mirror almost entirely my feelings about homeopathy. But the book isn’t what this post concerns itself with; instead my hackles were raised by one of the testimonials on the back cover, by Afua Hirsch, who claims that the poet is ‘the voice of our communal consciousness’. He may well be, but whether she is qualified to say that is another matter.

A look at her Wikipedia page tells us

Hirsch was educated at the private Wimbledon High School and then studied philosophy, politics, and economics at St Peter’s College, Oxford. After her graduation with a Bachelor of Arts degree, she took the Graduate Diploma in Law at the BPP Law School.

Private school and then Oxford and law school? Doesn’t sound to me like of kind of upbringing and education that would afford one to have the necessary lived experiences to then make the claim that someone is ‘the voice of our communal consciousness’. How can she possibly know what a ‘communal consciousness’ even is, if the formative years of her life were spent enduring the humiliating privilege denied to most people. Anyway, after law school,

(she) worked in international development, law and journalism. She began working as a lawyer in criminal defence, public and international law. She then became a legal correspondent for The Guardian.

 Ah yes ‘The Guardian’ which claims to be ‘the world’s leading liberal voice’ but is increasingly anything but. There is ample evidence for this, not least in its heavily one-sided coverage of the whole Brexit issue. Their much-vaunted ‘liberal voice’ was silent when it came to understanding the many reasons why people voted to leave, respecting their choice or supporting the government as it attempted to enact the will of the people.

She still works ‘the world’s leading liberal voice’ as a columnist, one of many the fingeratti who work for them – those who point the finger of blame at someone or something, seemingly finding endless reasons to somehow guilt their readers about this or that – and one of the reasons why I no longer read it.

So when she claims someone is ‘the voice of our communal consciousness’, what she in fact means is the rather absurd version of ‘liberal’ consciousness that exists only in the pages of ‘The Guardian’. Nowhere else. She doesn’t mean ‘communal’ in the sense that might imply a shared set of values that we believe in. For one thing, there are so many different tribes that there is no one ‘we’ anymore, not that there ever was. Secondly, an individual may identify with any number of different tribes, and these tribes may have conflicting and contradictory values from each other.

I don’t know what she means by ‘the voice of our communal consciousness’. I don’t think we have one. I think ‘The Guardian’ would like it if we did, as long it met with their approval and was constantly updated by them. The irony is that people even think a ‘communal consciousness’ is a desirable thing, and not some sort of totalitarian groupthink and not the least bit ‘liberal’

Normal serviceis resumed

Last night I was in the park with Marge, Joe and LMS having a birthday picnic, and being a balmy summers evening, lots of other people had the same idea. Lots of people in small groups, mostly couples, no groups of more than five, all situated a good distance from each other and best of all, no amplified music.

I was sitting there thinking ‘Ah, this is nice, after so long seeing people gathered together, but being sensible with it.’ And then suddenly the air was rent asunder by the sound of communal onansim, people clapping, cheering and generally making an infernal racket. My views on the whole clapping nonsense is not a secret, if people had wanted to show their support for the NHS, they should have voted Labour at every election. But that’s private, between you and the ballot box, whereas this clapping fuckwittery has the benefit of showcasing your concern, that you’re a nice person, that you care.

Only this morning I saw that Amazon are now selling Handmade Rainbows of Hope, to save people the hassle of making something themselves. I Immediately thought of the line in ‘Withnail & I’ ‘There selling hippy wigs in Woolworths’, both to indicate the way in which the commercial imperative will quickly see a money making opportunity in something that was seemingly impervious to it and to herald its end. If people can buy ready-made culture, like they do a pair of socks, then is it culture?

Amazon is generously donating 12% of the proceeds to various charities. That would be the Amazon, which avoids paying the tax it should pay in the UK, which could directly help the NHS. Instead of asking people to buy things with money they’ve already paid tax on and donating a pitiful amount of the profits, not the actual sales total. Paying a small percentage of a small percentage? How very Amazon!

See? Normal service has been resumed.

Happy Birthday Marge!

Today is Marge’s birthday, the something anniversary of her 21st birthday, and while I’m normally quite cynical about things, Marge’s birthday isn’t the day be so. As I’ve noted many times on this blog, most of my so called ‘friends’ upped sticks and vanished either soon after the accident or when they realized that I wasn’t going to make some kind of miraculous recovery so that things could return to how they were.

Marge could have done that. Course she could. And who could blame her? Not me. Her plate was quite full enough as it was. She didn’t need the added complications that my brain injury provided as well. Shortly after my brain injury we had to move house, a perfect opportunity for her decide, ‘Well I’ve done my bit, I’ve got to think of my own needs, what they are and might yet be, and so I wish you all the best, keep in touch and let me know how its all going’

But she didn’t. Instead she found a house nearby, with a downstairs room and a toilet that could be used a bedroom, the room that is, not the toilet. She has also been of incalculable help in helping to manage my care plan, something for which I’m not always as thankful as I should. But she always seems able to reframe my negativity into less of a negative, to see the potential in any given situation, to cajole using her own unique brand of encouragement, indeed she is imbued with such boundless optimism that it would make Pollyanna seem like a miserabilist.

One might think therefore, that in return for the countless kindnesses she bestows on me, I would perhaps be not as caustic about all the things I’ve just deleted. But I’m not. Quite why she hasn’t killed me yet is a testament to how forbearing and wonderful she is. Come to think of it, I can’t recall her ever having really gone off the deep end at me, shouty wise, in fact not even in the shallow end, even though I don’t doubt there’s a voodoo doll of me in her room full of needles.

I don’t do ‘Hallmark’ sentiment and don’t worry, I’m not going to start now, but she has come through for me in a way that is quite beyond mere words.

So Happy Birthday Marge!

Doris

Bit hot and bothered today. Actually very bothered today, but thats only to be expected, everyone is. This lockdown is exacerbating things and no mistake. The weather isn’t helping either. If it had just stayed the way it was two weeks ago, hot, but not unpleasantly so, then great. But it isn’t. Life sucks.

A bit of Doris Day helps though!

Feeling not posting too much today. Been in the garden most of the morning, busy doing nothing, and my partner is due over soon. So the Jew is due! I know, but I’m trapped inside the body of someone who looks like they should know better but doesn’t. Anyway, here’s ‘Another Day of Sun’ from the wonderful film ‘La La Land’ As I wrote a while back – I told you I was feeling lazy -,

From the spectacular opening musical number ‘Another Day Of Sun’   – expertly choreographed on a traffic jam on a Los Angles’ flyover and edited to look as if it was done in one take – it’s as if the film is saying to the audience ‘Sit back, strap on and enjoy the ride, because we’re going to entertain you.’ And unashamedly, it does just that. Rarely does a film deliver on the breathtaking potential that cinema can offer. Rarely does a film not only make you feel better for having seen it, but also have that feeling stay with you for days. The last film I saw that had a similar effect was ‘Strictly Ballroom’ where the audience burst into spontaneous applause at the end.

Thomas Dolby Remixed

In yesterdays post I claimed that LMS had stated that a nucleus weighed as much as eight billion cars. This is wrong and I am happy to put my washed thoroughly hands up to it. She said that a nucleus was as dense as if you crushed eight billion cars up and squashed them into an orange. I know this because Marge referenced my blog yesterday and LMS pointed out my mistake.

Except that squashing down eight billion cars so much so that they could fit into an orange makes as much sense to me as, well actually, now I think about it, something equally beyond the realm of understanding. If she had said that a nucleus was as densely packed as the 7.14 South Eastern train into Victoria multiplied by more than a thousand, I’d have been with her. I know how packed the rush hour trains are and using that as an example renders it within my knowledge of relatable comparisons. But millions or billions of cars being crushed so small they’d fit into an orange? Meaningless!

So it was with no little scepticism that followed LMS and Joe stating that there was a video on YouTube that explained this. Oh YouTube? You should’ve said so earlier! The YouTube that is full of scrupulously fact-checked videos, hosts no implausibly absurd conspiracy theories, immediately removes any offensive comment and has hours of cats who look like Hitler chasing balls of wool on slippery wooden floors? That one? According to LMS, this video had claimed that if you were God – we’ll skip that one – and looked down at the earth then a nucleus would be the same size as a blueberry on it. What’s all this fascination with fruit related comparisons?

Later last night Marge and I were discussing the benefit of knowing how something worked as opposed to knowing that it works and leaving it at that. Marge was of the opinion that humans being curious beings, want to know how things work. I wasn’t. It doesn’t benefit me to know; yes, at a dinner party or a similar opportunity to astound and amaze people with how much you know, it might come in handy there. But does your car save you petrol, give better fuel consumption, because you know how the internal combustion engine works?

For some reason, Leonardo ad Vinci became involved in all of this. I think it may have been me, me suggesting he’d claimed that a bumble-bee shouldn’t be able to fly, in defence of my assertion that I don’t need to know why an aeroplane flies, I just need to know that it does. Marge used him as an example of an incredibly curious mind being incredibly curious.

Mind you, he was in all probability independently wealthy, if he could twat about thinking about things rather than get up at 4am every morning to milk the cows like his poorer neighbours. I said that as he lived in olden times, when there wasn’t dogging, good quality drugs or the internet to occupy his leisure time, then what else was there for him to do?

This observation amused Joe greatly, as indeed did my assertion that knowing the how’s and why’s of how things worked was useless knowledge. Other people had figured out a way of putting together things that did things and that if you put enough of those things together, then a great thing would happen. I don’t need to double-check that they got the sums right and besides, not knowing how a bird flies, how a ship stays afloat or how solar energy capture works, to name but three things I don’t know, has not had a markedly detrimental impact on my life. I’d even go so far as to contend that knowing how these and other things work hasn’t had a massively beneficial impact for vast numbers of people either.

Things work or they don’t. End of.