It Is Up To The Rest of Us

If you want to make some serious money sell clothes pegs for our noses. It stinks out there. The paperboy or girl might as well deliver a bucket of manure every morning. At least it would be honest…

This week seems to have been all about Bankers. I doubt if I can add many more words or expletives to those you will have read or spluttered into your cornflakes this week. So, I won’t add many…except to say what an exceptional time we seem to be living through. What follows is not about the Bankers because this is about a lot more than the Bankers.

One by one the respected pillars of society – once respected by the gullible as institutions of morality – have become exposed as deeply corrupt, opportunist and exploitative of the rest of us (or maybe as the rest of us).

The law has always been an ass. Barristers have always told very tall tales for money. We expect little better. If ever I need one I hope she does a good job for me. But lately…MPs fiddling expenses, priests fiddling with little boys and girls, other priests covering up for them, Church of England Lords taking twenty-seven grand plus a year for turning up, phone tapping, policemen abusing women and taking bribes from journalists (and who knows who else?), bankers taking our money in bail-outs, mis-selling, insider dealing and fixing interest rates, supermarkets fixing prices, oil companies not passing price falls to the pumps, the already very rich giving to charity (and some very dodgy charities among the genuine) before paying tax whilst the rest of us buy our poppy after paying as we earn (or being “loaned” their pay by offshore holding companies (alternative comedy can’t even laugh at itself now) etc. etc. etc..

Suddenly all but the determinedly deaf will have woken up to the fact that not only the moral high ground but the very legitimacy of the institutions and persons that rule our lives has been nothing but a facade; a fantasy stage set behind which they can get on with all their dirty dealing, theft, perversions and embarrassingly conspicuous consumption that is obviously the reality of life behind the scenery and outside the theatre the rest of us were mis-sold tickets for. Honest MPs, bankers, politicians, priests, vicars, police officers, journalists and comedians must feel particularly sick.

Everyone is entitled to be an ass sometimes. In the Seventies sensible people – and anarchists – used to challenge me about the corruption in the Soviet Union. They were outraged by the theft of the aspiration of human liberty by grey men who put the Party ahead of people and themselves somewhere ahead of the Party. Men so immersed in bizarre, systemic hypocrisy and corruption that all they could hope was to learn to somehow direct it’s petulant and unpredictable tides whilst everyone else aspired only to float on the flood and avoid open drains. I tried to answer by pointing out Socialism had only been going since 1917. Capitalism had a 400 year start and had brought us a thousand little wars of empire and two world wars. A pathetic excuse for murder, famine, red empire and the gulag. But I was a EuroCommunist and it had nothing to do with me…

Corruption in a socialist state is something to point a finger at and be deplored as hypocrisy. However, capitalism IS organised corruption. Buy low, sell high, fix the market, intimidate, monopolise, export poverty, underdevelopment, disease and environmental degradation. Rob them, rule them, fool them with religion and racism, enslave them with credit, trade inside. Screw the rest of us. Keep the bonuses coming. The last few years have been a political education and more and more of us are learning.

These incidents are adding up to more than the sum of their parts. The rot seems to be running everywhere. The columns are crumbling quite severely and the temple is in impressive danger of collapse even without the crisis in Euroland. What will we read in the news tomorrow?

I find myself using the phrase “the rest of us” a lot in this article. I’m wondering how long The Rest of Us are going to put of with this behaviour. These days “The Rest Of Us” could be the big banner at the front of a very big demonstration or even the basis of the fabled broad democratic Alliance of the Outraged that overthrows the Coalition government to replace it with a Labour government that broadly demands…an end to austerity and a more humanitarian and compassionate capitalism. More fantasy then?

More than ever, it is up to The Rest of Us. A very nice young woman from the Green Party phoned me on the M2 this week and asked me to double my subscription. I did. Join me.

Idiot Fatigue

And then along came Gove with yet another wheeze: the return of a two-tier examination system. This time with New! Added Academic Rigour (who can oppose academic rigour?) so demanding that only children taught in the tiny classes that can’t be found outside the Independent and Public School System can possibly be guaranteed to Pass the new O Level. Well worth the fees then…

Watch out for the word “Pass”. The word “Pass” is bandied about freely by the ignorant and probably by the Russell Group of Universities for the Posh who seem unable to appreciate the value of examinations as a method of recognising the achievement of every child as opposed to an efficient method of swiftly and reliably separating the fee-paying sheep and their imitators in the remaining Grammar Schools from the rest of the kids that us Goats produce.

It is becoming clear that Gove’s Radical Agenda is leading (backwards) to deliver the reinvention of the Grammar School that the backwoods Tories crave but which the rest of the electorate won’t accept just yet. Backwards because this time the new two-tier O Levels and CSEs would be introduced first, with surely the appropriate two-tier school system to follow quickly.

Watch, when the present, increasingly chaotic and change-afflicted school system “fails” to deliver social mobility via “academic rigour” the cry will go out across the land for the return of the 11 plus and the opening of Grammar Schools (maybe called Something Else Academies”) purposely designed to bring back renewed social mobility to those mutant working class goats whose unaccountably large brains and energy are so necessary for the spicing and replenishment of the upper echelons of Trade, Industry and The Armed Forces. They’ll never quite be Officers Mess class but they’ll be there and who could really argue with that?

I could. You will read plenty of articles from journalists and politicians who will reject Gove’s big idea because they went through the experience of rejection, being dumped into a secondary modern and being labelled thick. And never realIy stopped being angry, no matter how much they have achieved since.

I can’t do that. I passed the 11+.

Elsewhere on this little website I’ll tell you soon how. And all about the appallingly petty, cruel, homophobic, violent, sadistic and elitist Rugby School-aping Mitcham Grammar School for Boys that took six months to utterly destroy my innocent belief in human nature and in myself before depositing me 6 years later onto the labour market with four poor GCSEs that didn’t include Maths. I didn’t see much social mobility on the way, unless you count the boys who joined us from Western Road secondary modern in the 6th form because they’d achieved better O Levels than many of us…

Anything I achieved I achieved in spite of Mtcham Grammar School not because of it.

This time not only hadn’t the Liberal Democrats not been consulted – why consult your poodle? – but it seems neither had the Boss whose job you’d like one day soon. I suspect that as time creeps by and more of Mr Gove The Thinker reveals more of his Great Thoughts the right of the Tory party (who despise Cameron even more than they despise Clegg even more than they despise Milliband…) will become even more enthusiastic that this Radical Thinker be given the top job.

These things will work themselves out slowly, until they go fast. The rest of us can only hope that our children’s and grand children’s education doesn’t join the NHS in collapsing under the weight of Idiot Fatigue.

And then I switch on the news this morning to learn that Cameron is seeking to reassert himself among the right of his party by…ending housing benefit for the Under-25s. For the young the 1950’s are already back: very little chance of a job, no chance of saving the deposit for a home, rents sky-high, no worthwhile face to face careers advice, no ladder out of the poverty that Ian Duncan-Smith is busy redefining, and now any hope of social mobility being denied precisely in the name of social mobility. Conscription next…

Idiots: aren’t you tired of them?!?

The Write Time

I turned 60 last August. Heading for 61. People my age are turning up dead in the media. They always have but now perhaps I notice more often. I have fewer teeth and more expensive dentures. My lapses of memory are more frustrating and worrying. My hair is either greying fast or gone. Sometimes small injuries don’t heal as quickly. Bruises stay longer. It sometimes takes a lot of energy to cross to the sunny side of the street. Sometimes the woman I love takes me by the elbow and guides me there.

I still feel desire: to nurture the vessels of my genes (life’s purpose), to love, to be loved, to communicate, to make love, to lessen my pain and the pain of others, to live. To write. But sometimes I can feel time shortening. Just sometimes.

I can remember being a very small baby and the idea of a day, a week being a long time. A year was an age; the time until my next birthday. And a year is actually the same length now. The same number of days, hours, minutes. Time not to be wasted worrying about being old or to be wasted worrying at all, even if the ongoing struggle to control the mind that is doing the worrying can be a worry…

At the same time a second, a minute, hour or day are a lifetime for some. They might be all that is left of my lifetime. I can either be senselessly worried senseless about dying or I can get on with living as much as possible. This in turn means becoming well and fitter and staying productive, maybe more productive than ever before. There are projects in all directions.

Just as a day is as long as it was when I was a child, so life has always been as precarious. I can’t deny I’m heading for 61 and that deterioration is evident but I can’t deny either that it’s amazing to have existed as the pinnacle of evolution – a self-aware and conscious human –  at all. It’s amazing to have survived this long and to have lived in a country not plagued by war, disease, famine or – er – plague in that lifetime.

All this means I have opportunities even if in the best scenario of another 40 years plus the deteriorations of ageing will take increasing effect. Heading towards 61 I have a window that, although not as wide as it was at 21, can be exploited with the knowledge, understanding and empathy that those 61 years of awareness bring. I just need the energy.

I have noticed that the expectations of age are something that other people – especially young people – seem to put on one. For some reason I have a Senior Citizen’s Railcard and I get my medication free. There are many negatives to slowly increasing frailty but there is also the increased authority. It might be that I have somethings to say and some people who might listen. So I had better tell them. Soon.

Once I found it hard to begin to write and sometimes couldn’t find anything to write about unless I was seeking relief from my own unhappiness (unhappiness is another frustrating waste of time…). Sometimes I was afraid to write because there was only one thing to write about really, And writing about it would blow my life even further apart. These days there are almost too many things to tell you; too many stories and lessons. And nothing to stop me.

Still sometimes I am just guiltily tired and want to sleep at times when I should be in or out and about doing, doing, doing. Is that allowed? But increasingly now, once my mind is focussed on writing, the ideas and concepts to be explored come in to my head as suddenly and unexpectedly as birds flying over the fence and into my garden. I might be focussed on photographing this flower when suddenly there is a robin or blue-tit or blackbird or jay hopping about on the lawn or hanging from the bird-feeder. I need to photograph them too but not only are they beautiful distractions, they are gone by the time I have time to turn and refocus my camera. Sometimes there are squirrels…

I am breaking one of Hemmingway’s rules of writing: when it begins to flow and the ideas come quickly, stop. Then the idea you stop with will still be there and getting going will be easier next time. Writing this time has – oops there was a magpie! – taught me that it might be important to keep a notebook and pencil beside the keyboard to catch and hold the tits and sparrows that appear from the undergrowth. The tits and sparrows are what I might be writing and blogging about next time or the time after that.

Being 61 then – the general probability of decline suggests – might be a great time to write, an important time to write, an urgent time to write before the wisdom goes cold, before the climate gets too hot, before the sea levels rise too high, before the coral is all dead, before the cod is all gone, before the country is overcome by the angry hungry from the south, before the revolution, before the next plague, before a bee is a creature from the past, before it’s your turn to be nearly 61.

So, later, I will get on with it. In the meantime duty calls.




The Balcony People.

It has been a while since I blogged. Almost too much has happened. I have been to Turkey for the day – four aeroplanes, a very fast BMW, a ferry across the bay of Izmir and back home at 2am the next morning with AN IDEA. One that I am not going to tell you about.

Since then there has been a garden party where I met the new Mayor from the office next door, a new tyre, days at the office and days at home, a Grandparent’s Day at Manby Lodge School, an extraction and new dentures I can’t wear yet, sunburn and a soaking, a bank holiday, an attempt at the Jubilee Pageant and the Surrey Country Show . Life has been very, very busy and I havn’t given the blog the priority I need to. Events, events, events. Maybe I’ll call it research. At the same time I havn’t used Twitter or Facebook as often either. There have been fewer photographs taken. Perhaps I’ve been in a little downswing, what with the pain from the extraction and the renewed popularity of the Monarchy. Time now for an upswing and tonight I can feel it.

It wasn’t just me though. The major topic on the “Connexions Services Need To Unite And Fight” Facebook page during this peculiar period of hiatus seems to have been the question of whether we should allow users to post adverts to recruit other people to Multi-Level Marketing Schemes. Not exciting but the beginning of a theme that has emerged over the Jubilee weekend. A sort of “this is what we’ve come to” theme:-

  • Skilled, experienced, graduate professionals being recruited as into someone’s Downstream sales team. That’s the sales team whose members rarely make money unless they also recruit their own Downstream sales team (or mugs as we used to call them) to sell the slightly overpriced goo to their acquaintances. Sooner or later you run out of friends, work colleagues, neighbours or fellow church members. I remember someone trying to sell me Canada Life Insurance when I worked at The Biggest Shoe Shop in the World. I still had to be dead to collect. Didn’t seem sensible at 20 years old. Is this what we’ve come to?
  • The Queen waving to a parade of old boats. The weather didn’t co-operate and I’m convinced Phillip said “Bugger this” the next morning and booked himself in for a course of antibiotics to flush away when no-one was looking. A sort of Royal sickie so he didn’t have to attend a Jubilee concert three-quarters full of naff has-beens. (They know who they are but if they are offended I’ll tell them they were in the other quarter). Is this what we’ve come to.

Daughter Number One is in the History Business and wanted to see some so we went to the River. We met at the Tate Modern Cafe (where they don’t seem to use butter and put toast instead of fried bread on your Full English) with Daughter Number Two and Son Number One at 10am. We took up a great position on a slight rise upstream of the Wobbly Bridge That No Longer Wobbles. It was cold and wet and already there was no paper in the Portaloo. Son Number One was on pretty good form. We watched the artists set up their weasels (private family joke) on the bridge. Daughter Number Two didn’t really want to get any colder or wetter. My absence of teeth was hurting and I really did feel quite alarmed at the rapid build-up of Idiots behind us.

We were too early. It was already midday and it looked like it would be another 5 hours before we might see someone waving not drowning. A man should never be where a man does not belong. Maybe it was the overdose of Nurofen Plus but I felt really weird.  I made a decision to be really assertive (not aggressive) and honest and..walk back to Waterloo. The Offspring were concerned about me but off I trudged past more Idiots. More flooded off the train I boarded at Waterloo. More waited at stations I passed on the way home. These people have the Vote.

I felt I had let the Offspring down. As I entered my home Queenie was just climbing into her first boat. I’d made the right decision.

I phoned The History Daughter later to be told The Offspring had watched it on TV and that it had been a disappointment: less colour, more rain, bigger gaps between the types of craft than in the Canaletto that had inspired us to go and eat at the Tate Modern. Health and Safety and unpaid security staff.

The Balcony obviously needs a bit of scaffolding if it wouldn’t hold the rest of the family. William and Katherine were so worried they appear to have been dieting heavily for the last few weeks. For some reason that will upset those who would like to think it was time we stopped going on about the War they sent a flypast of Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Lancaster. Queenie became more animated than we’d seen her all day; smiling and pointing the machines out to the crowd. Merlin’s do make a wonderful sound. The RAF sent the Red Arrows for a quick whiz-past and we all had tea. Where are all the Eurofighters we are paying for?

My position on the monarchy might surprise you. I’m not as rabid and tasteless a republican as some of the groups I subscribe to on Facebook. If we are going to have a Monarchy we might as well have the Balcony People as anyone else. Mostly Harmless and less expensive than they used to be, I believe. My father was a Grenadier Guardsman. Some of it rubs off.

The Balcony scene was interesting. Here were Elizabeth II, Charles (who seems more generally competent and maybe likeable these days), Camilla (who seems to have been Forgiven), the aforementioned Thin White Duke and Duchess and The Boy Who Doesn’t Resemble His Father Or Grandfather But Whom We Like The Best. A good few years of monarchy to come right there then.

In these times of global terrorism I half-expect an outrage at every major public event and imagine the spooks and other people who hold up the umbrella the rest of us live under must be very busy right now. Well done whoever you are. Do keep it up!

Maybe there were so few on the balcony because they didn’t want to risk having the entire Royal Family wiped out by one Rocket Propelled Grenade launched from a hotdog stall in St James’s Park. Maybe someone is keeping their powder dry for the Olympics. Paranoia is a terrible thing.

It is what we’ve come to. Let’s go somewhere else.