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Tyred (tired)

What a stress it is to put air in tyres (American translation = tires). You sit there waiting behind some lame-brain who can’t figure out how to work the machine, what the pressure should be, what to do with the caps once removed, how to fit the hose to the valves, doing contortions trying to watch the screen, fumbling around to retrieve the caps, giving the tyres a kick, climbing back aboard, fiddling with the seat belt, setting the GPS, at last chugging away. Then it’s your turn. Wait, how do you work this damn thing? Oh God, I’ve forgotten what the pressure should be. This damn hose won’t fit the valve. Can’t see the screen. What did I do with those caps? Better kick the tyres coz I’m not sure I did it right. Hell, there’s some impatient driver staring at me like I’m taking too long. For God’s sake, seat belt, will you please clip in. GPS, I do not want to go where I went last Friday. I want to go somewhere different today. For God’s sake, find it. Well, it’s time to chug away.

Europe doesn’t exist.

So here in the UK we are arm-wrestling with Europe, trying to get out of its stranglehold and yet wanting to be just good friends.

Europe, what’s that?

Is it Belgian chocolate, a la carte, saurkraut, spaghetti, ouzo, Guinness, pastries? Well try putting that lot together – at least it could be an exciting meal.

Let’s think about some places that are geographically defined – North America, South America, Australia. They all have their idiosyncrasies, but they look like they were designed.

Europe? Is it a place at all? It’s stuck on to Asia, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense as a single entity.

Ok, well something must join it together. A common language? Nope. A common currency? Well they had to invent one and not all the 28 of the European Union went along with that.

Well, maybe it’s a place that can be brought under one regime. Ask the Romans, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin how that went.

Where does this Europe start and end? To the West is it the UK and Ireland? Seems not. The UK voted out, the Irish want to stay in. To the East, oh that’s easy – the Turkish Straits are the Europe/Asia boundary. So why, then, does Turkey want to be in Europe?

In the 50 states of the USA, different as they are, there are things that bind them – the dollar, the flag, the FBI, the president’s executive power.

In Europe there is no natural bond. It’s hard to see what a frozen Finn and a sunburned Spaniard have in common. What about Switzerland – sitting in the middle of it all, yet not part of it?

There is no Europe. That’s why those who have tried to create one have buried themselves in bureaucracy and trivia, and why they spend an awful lot of money trying to make an homogeneous thing out of something that is not.

Please, countries of Non-Europe, keep your wonderful individuality. Pasta should be forever Italian, Gouda should be forever Dutch, Danish bacon should be forever …

Britain, you would die without fish and chips and warm beer.

 

 

 

The day Fake News took over

Fake news is not new. It was used by both sides in the Second World War to play down their failures and exaggerate their successes. Indeed, the manipulation of the truth in the 1940s may have been directly responsible for the rash of conspiracy theories that have thrived ever since: Was Diana murdered? Did the Americans stage the Moon landings? Are the aliens being entertained in Area 51?

The media that is supposed to find its way through all of this only makes the problem bigger. Every newspaper and tv station is biased politically one way or the other. So the theories or happenings that support the outlet’s affiliations are magnified; those that give the other side of the story get ignored or trodden on.

On May 30th 2018 we reached a citadel of official deceit and misinformation. For two days we had been led to believe that a journalist critical of President Putin had been assassinated, with the finger pointing firmly at the Kremlin. Then, lo and behold, he’s not dead after all. The whole thing was a sting to catch a real would-be assassin.

Okay, that operation may have worked, but where were we, the people of the world in those two days? Sympathizing with the journalist’s family;  fearful of how bad Russian espionage was getting; expecting that we were moving into a World War Three of widespread stealthy murder that was a bigger threat to freedom than the terrorism which, sadly, we now accept as part of Life.

The moral high ground of the West was removed with Guantanamo Bay. No longer could we claim to be above the level of those we previously accused of barbarism.

Now Real News is on its deathbed. Who knows, maybe Elvis is alive and pumping gas, maybe President Kennedy was really the victim of  a lone nutter and not the CIA, FBI, Russia, the Mafia or who knows who else. Maybe Marilyn Monroe did simply kill herself and nobody else was involved.

In future, I won’t be reading or watching the news. I’ll be looking for the flaws in it, and I’ll expect that tomorrow or the next day, or maybe years hence, I’ll find out that it wasn’t that way at all.

The truth will out – but when?

 

Passing Times, Number 2

May 19th 2018 will probably be seen in history as a day of tangible change. If it had been a day in any year of the 20th Century, that Royal Wedding would never have happened. The men in gray suits would have gone to see Harry and told him that there were two major reasons why he could not marry Meghan. (I think you can guess what those two reasons would have been.) Maybe the men in suits did say that to him, and maybe he told them where to go, which would only further underline the breath of fresh air in the UK’s Royal Family. Diana started it. Her two sons are continuing it. The Royal Family is coming out of stodge and into the real world where it connects with the people. It’s such a powerful change that you can see it has infected the older members of the family. Prince Charles made a point of chatting to Meghan as he led her to the altar. In the olden days it would have been a rigid and formal walk. In those olden days, I was one of the growing number of republicans in the UK. I’m happy now to be saying that I believe we have a Royal Family with purpose. God save the Queen.

Scam

I like the word “scam”. It sounds like its meaning. I first came across it when reading the biography of Steve McQueen – not the SMcQ who’s a film director now, but the actor of that name who made classic movies like “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Great Escape” in the 1960s-70s.

Tennis on tables?

The TV is showing table tennis and I find myself wondering “who the hell invented that?” I mean playing tennis on a table. You wouldn’t play golf on a table — unless you drilled holes in it. You couldn’t hold athletics on a table. And think of the consequences of baseball on a table… So why can’t these silly buggers go and find a real tennis court and play with racquets instead of frying pans?

Passing Times – Number 1

PASSING TIMES

The world’s relief at the victory of the Allied Forces over Nazi Germany in World War II was short-lived. The Hot War was replaced by The Cold War, with a standoff between the Soviet Union, expansionist and determined to spread Communism, and the United States, now permanently drawn into Worldwide affairs and regarding socialism as the enemy of freedom.

Between those super-powers, the continent of Europe stood trembling at the prospect of someone pressing the nuclear button, either by intent or mistake. The continent of Asia was where the action was played out by proxy, leading to mass slaughter.

As the calendar moved from the 1980s to the 1990s, the world allowed itself another breath of relief. The Berlin Wall had marked the boundary between East and West; Communism and Capitalism; freedom and oppression. It was torn down. The Soviet Union collapsed and Russia itself seemed to be ready for democracy.

Now we’ve gone backwards again. A Russian who was imprisoned for spying for the West, but later released under a hostage exchange and was living in England, was attacked with a nerve agent. His daughter, visiting from Russia, appears to have been a collateral victim. They have both spent weeks in hospital at death’s door, but now seem to be recovering. A police sergeant, who tried to help them when they collapsed in the streets of the city of Salisbury, was also affected by the poison, but is on the mend.

Furtive chemical warfare in one of England’s cathedral cities … and the UK government has firmly laid the blame at President Putin’s door. Another twenty countries have accepted the UK’s view and the toughest response has come from the United States.

So this could be Cold War II – not the threat of nuclear annihilation (although that could re-emerge), but stealthy, targeted attacks on individuals, of the type that has brought attempted murder and chaos to a city in England.

I look at some of the tensions of The Cold War in my novel, “Beyond the Last Hill”, available from Doce Blant Publishing.

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Salisbury Cathedral

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