THE WAY WE LIVE NOW

It’s probably a sign of undeniably strange times that the murder of a British police officer can provoke less public outrage on home soil than the murder of a career criminal on the other side of the Atlantic. Then again, there may be wider reasons why the reaction to the fatal shooting of Sgt Matiu Ratana in Croydon has been fairly muted. After all, the police force seems to go out of its way to alienate itself from the people it allegedly polices with consent, preferring instead to pander to political causes and ideological fads that matter to the few rather than the many. Moreover, the performance of some forces and individual officers during the lockdown – from dispatching drones to shame isolated dog-walkers in the Peak District to informing householders they were breaking the law by sitting in their gardens – did them no favours; and the blatant contrast between their approach to those promoting issues they approve of and those they don’t further detaches them from the public.

When an anti-lockdown protest marched through the centre of London on Saturday, the boys in blue arrived in full riot gear and let rip, reminiscent of the way in which the Gilets jaunes crowds were dealt with in Paris. The protest was breaking the latest hasty regulations regarding gatherings and social distancing – fair enough; but the BLM ones that took place at the height of the actual nationwide lockdown in the summer were flaunting the rules when everybody was supposed to stay indoors. The police responded to those by taking the knee; yesterday, they opted for batons. The difference was striking. ‘This is not acceptable,’ shrieked Sadiq Khan on Twitter. ‘Large gatherings are banned for a reason – you are putting the safety of our city at risk.’ So were BLM, Mr Mayor; but I guess God (or the Met) must be on their side. Oh, well – just write Saturday’s event off as a ‘far-right’ demo and all will be justified.

At the moment, the police are challenging politicians as the public servants most mistrusted by the public, and if the former can no longer be depended upon, then it really is every man for himself. Mind you, put the entire country under house arrest and it’s only fair to expect a few manifestations of madness after a few months. Pubs were already an endangered species before anyone had even heard of Covid-19; forcing them to call time at 10.00pm – clearly the coronavirus only springs into life at that hour – is the latest kiss of death that could well herald the towels staying on the pumps permanently. Pubs are at the forefront of a hospitality industry dying on its arse, yet any opposition to whichever Cromwellian brainwave this useless administration comes up with next – cancel Christmas, anyone? – naturally means the blood of the NHS is on the hands of every traitor to question the wisdom of those without wisdom. Boris blames the public, of course; far be it from the Government to take any responsibility for their catastrophic strategy.

And don’t forget young people – the least vulnerable appear to be more responsible for the mess we’re in than anyone else, going by the way they’re currently incarcerated. In Scotland and some English cities, university campuses have become virtual prisons, with students paying extortionate fees for the privilege of being locked-up 24/7; Wales, meanwhile, has effectively sealed itself off from the rest of the UK. Never mind, though – we’ve got Covid Marshals to keep us safe. Yes, Captain Mainwaring strikes again! As the call goes out for the nation’s officious little Hitler’s to don a silly uniform and goosestep outside your local Asda for the foreseeable, all those sad men with chips on their shoulders because they couldn’t even pass the audition to become Community Support Officers have now found reading ‘Bravo Two Zero’ over and over again has finally paid off. England expects every nonentity to do his duty, so who needs the police, anyway?

And amidst this insanity that one can often only view through a glass darkly, there are human stories of tragic sadness that inflict unnecessary cruelty on those affected. I read one last week, one of many I receive that is already a fully-formed petition requesting my signature. It concerned the mother of a sick child born at the beginning of the lockdown. When the baby was admitted to hospital, coronavirus visiting rules meant only the child’s mother could sit with him, excluding his father from the picture. The mother had no relief from her bedside vigil because no one was allowed to take her place, meaning she was denied a break from the unimaginable strain of being there on her own with a critically ill child who spent part of that time on a ventilator in intensive care. Whilst there, she met other mothers going through the same nightmare – one of whom had spent eight weeks sat beside a ventilator alone, with no partner allowed in to share the dreadful burden.

According to this heartfelt account, the parents present were tested on a weekly basis, meaning the same could be applied to any other visiting family member whose in-person emotional support would undoubtedly be an invaluable alleviator of stress for the lone parent. As she points out, some of those mothers spending the majority of their time in hospital are managing to go home too, where they will obviously be around other people. The risk, therefore, is fairly minimal. Whereas the rules are ridiculously flexible to suit some – and who doesn’t round-up their chums for a good old stag-hunt or grouse-shoot every once in a while? – what most of us would regard as a humane necessity is not being considered. If this business is scheduled to be as long-term as it would appear, surely priorities are in desperate need of re-evaluating. The mother in question’s petition is aimed at Matt Hancock in the hope he and all NHS trusts can change this policy so two people can sit with a sick child at neonatal units and children’s hospitals. Doesn’t sound like such an unreasonable request, does it?

We’ve already heard stories about people with curable illnesses putting themselves in danger because they’re too scared to enter a hospital as well as the postponement of life-saving operations to accommodate the nonexistent Covid avalanche; but this is another consequence of the panic that needs to be addressed – one more symptom of this slapdash make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach that is causing so much avoidable grief. As with some of the more bizarre rules regulating social gatherings, it sometimes feels as if the old British sense of fair play is conspicuously absent, whether how parents confronted by a worst case scenario are being deprived of sensibly decent treatment at one end or how the police and authorities respond to public demonstrations depending on their political stance at the other. Perhaps one should always wear a BLM T-shirt and a rainbow badge for good measure. They seem to have become today’s equivalent of the old ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ sketch in which an American Express card was seen to open all doors. At a time when so many doors appear to have closed, it would be nice to think they won’t stay that way forever – for everyone.

© The Editor

CROSSROADS

What is referred to as ‘real-time’ rarely impinges upon long-running works of fiction; for example, if the chronology of our world was applied to ‘The Simpsons’, Bart would be roundabout 40 now; but he remains frozen in a no-man’s land somewhere between pre-and post-pubescence because that’s his character for life. A rare instance of real-time seeping into a successful animated franchise came with the third instalment in the ‘Toy Story’ series. Reflecting the decade-long gap between II and III, Andy – the little boy whose toy-box had provided the movies with their non-human stars – has aged several years and is now poised to leave home for college. However, he remains emotionally attached to his childhood playthings and reluctantly surrenders them to the young daughter of a neighbour at the eleventh hour. Even when Andy knew it was pointless holding on to his toys when they’d simply be stuck in the attic rather than being enjoyed by another child, he still found it tough to let them go. But it can be tough letting go when something becomes entrenched even though its relevance has expired – whether childhood toys, a failing marriage…or a lockdown.

A couple of weeks back, when we experienced a sustained bout of warm weather on the eve of Boris’s revised instructions to the people, I mused on how much longer the people could be kept indoors. Many were already beginning to seep out of their fortresses, lured by the sun and prepared to gamble with the threat of arrest if it meant alleviating boredom in the open air. Why not, they thought – after all, the NHS wasn’t overwhelmed, the Nightingale pop-up hospitals were all-but empty, and the members of society who were actually experiencing the coronavirus as the genuinely lethal plague we’d all been led to believe it was would have been just as vulnerable to it had the country carried on running as normal. Nobody was going to die because a few people sat around in a public park.

Although the elderly had been earmarked as the most at-risk from day one, the fate of many was sealed with or without the lockdown on account of so much focus being given over to the NHS. Such was the fear generated by the nightmarish prospect of hospitals swamped with coronavirus casualties, anyone admitted with symptoms would be swiftly dispatched back home once through the worst in order to avoid congestion. And that’s all fine and dandy if you’re heading back to your own place – not so if the virus is still in your bloodstream and you’re returning to a care-home that is effectively an all-you-can-eat buffet for Covid-19 to feast upon.

The short-sighted approach to the care-home issue seems to me to be the single biggest cock-up in the litany of them that the mainstream media is so fond of reciting. But, hey, the Peston’s and Kuenssberg’s are having fun scoring points as their ratings are flying high, so it’s to be expected, I guess. Whether or not the Government has made an almighty mess of everything – and, let’s face it, this particular administration is not exactly crammed with intellectual heavyweights or inspiring political giants – endless comparisons with the approaches of other nations to the coronavirus, especially in Europe, seem pointless when each country has its own unique set of circumstances to deal with. A one-size-fits-all approach to this crisis just doesn’t work, not even within the borders of one nation; as I’ve said before, there has to be a point whereby recognition is given that some parts of the UK are more at risk than others, and the easing of restrictions needs to reflect this.

Giving back the freedoms taken away from the people may well be something some in authority are reluctant to do, for sure; in many respects, this troublesome electorate that goes against the political class by voting Leave and then having the nerve to kick the main Remoaner offenders out of Parliament has finally been rendered powerless and is utterly at the mercy of its overlords at last. But when one considers the economic collapse that the Government is now confronted by as a consequence of events, it’s difficult to see what it gains from prolonging the lockdown; getting society fully functioning again is in No.10’s best interests as much as it is anyone’s, and the last thing a man so concerned with how history will remember him as Boris Johnson is will want as his Prime Ministerial legacy is a Suez, an Iraq or a 2008. That’s exactly what his tenure in Downing Street will amount to if this goes on much longer, however – indeed, it may already be too late; but he’ll surely seek to minimise the damage if he can. Yes, the country’s police forces might mourn the passing of their temporary stint as Brownshirts, but a Government elected with a whopping majority and able to boast record levels of employment just five months ago is hardly likely to stand back and watch it all go up in smoke overnight.

At the moment, it feels the lifting of the lockdown – even if a gradual and protracted process – will not so much struggle to re-establish normality because of any reluctance of the authorities to relinquish control, but will be stymied by the fear the Government instilled within the majority of the population to bring it about in the first place. Scaring the people into observing the containment of Covid-19 was naturally enforced by the closure of most shops, businesses and places of entertainment; but so effective has this particular Project Fear been in its impact on the behaviour of the general public, who knows what the long-term damage could be? People might want to go back, but are they capable after two long months of this? Socially distancing in the sun is one thing; returning to the workplace and indoor public spaces whilst simultaneously trying to maintain that distance could prove to be one hell of a headf**k. There’s the danger many have become so institutionalised to the two-metre lockdown lifestyle that it could take years to properly pick up where we left off.

Of course, some are more eager to settle back into the old ways than others. Those elements of the middle-classes that lean to the left have had a good war so far and it’s no surprise they’re amongst the most vocally opposed to the lockdown being lifted. In political terms, their true ideological leader is Nicola Sturgeon, but they have to make do with the boring barrister south of the border, who at least has the backing of the unions – and the unions are another long-redundant section of society that are relishing reclaiming the spotlight, especially those representing the teaching profession. The middle-class environment might suit home schooling, but sending their kids back to school isn’t something some parents can choose to opt out of; if schools do reopen in June, they have to reopen for everybody – and the parents that most need them to reopen are being denied that at the moment. There may well be legitimate concerns on the part of teachers themselves, but the spat that has overshadowed the issue this week almost feels like another extension of the polarisation that has characterised discourse over the past couple of years. And no child will benefit from that.

It really was a case of damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t at the end of March for this Government. I don’t really think they had much option but to take the path they did; the MSM certainly wouldn’t have relented from claiming the blood of every fatality was on Boris’s hands had the lockdown not come into effect, yet it was destined to be a no-win scenario even if this administration was the most capable and talented in living memory. The U-turn over the health immigration surcharge on non-EU migrants has the feel of another capitulation to media pressure from a Government so concerned with public perception as it balances on the economic precipice that it is willing to bow to any demand if demanded loud enough. Some might argue that’s what it did two months ago. Yet however bumbling and stumbling it appears to approach every challenge, it now has another tough choice confronting it that is every bit as tough as the one confronting it two months ago. But whoever said government was easy?

© The Editor

GOGGLE BOXING

As I’m not really watching much television at the moment, I wasn’t aware until it caught my eye in the Radio Times listings that there’s actually five minutes set aside every Thursday at 8.00pm on BBC1 for live coverage of people clapping. Yes, you heard that right – it’s apparently for real; under the name ‘Clap for Our Carers’, this show simply as a concept sounds uncannily like one of the numerous silly pretend programmes I myself have invented in the endless spoof TV trailers I’ve put together over the years. Having never tuned-in – I might wait for the box-set – I can’t help but be curious. Is there a lengthy build-up beforehand, featuring interviews with retired ex-clappers and clips of classic clapping moments from the past before we join our commentary team and enjoy the latest event? Suddenly, ‘The World Sleeping Championships’ and ‘International Tongue-Holding’ (both of which I trailed around five years ago) don’t seem so far-fetched.

I’ve no idea what the ratings are for ‘Clap for Our Carers’, but it’s ironic that the viewing figures for mainstream TV channels have soared over the past month due to obvious reasons; this upsurge comes at a time when production on all of ITV’s and the BBC’s big-budget dramas and ongoing soaps has been suspended for the same reasons. Once all this is over, will both broadcasters look at their schedules and wonder if it’s worth investing in such productions if the public will just as easily flock in huge numbers to watch the likes of the far-from expensive ‘The Repair Shop’ – an innocuous, small-scale show designed for daytime and now promoted to primetime? Even though most of the programmes requiring writers, directors and actors are so depressingly formulaic that the plot can be anticipated in advance simply by seeing a trailer, a modicum of creativity is still a necessity.

Not that this hasn’t happened before – one thinks of such successes from the 90s as ‘Ground Force’ or ‘Changing Rooms’, which were daytime TV programmes in all-but name that ended up attracting unexpectedly high ratings when being given an evening slot. The popularity of these pioneering makeover shows helped blur the previously-clear demarcation lines between daytime and primetime, so that we today have a situation in British television whereby so many of the programmes that clog-up primetime schedules really belong on screen at a time of day when anything intellectually stimulating or even something that gets the adrenalin going is not required. And as a result of recent events, this pattern could well be set to continue indefinitely.

Not only has this strange situation seen daytime fodder abruptly fast-tracked to the evening in order to plug the plentiful primetime gaps, but even those post-watershed mainstays managing to stagger on are doing so in reduced and wholly unsatisfactory forms. I only saw the first in the new series of ‘Have I Got News For You’, but it was so bad I haven’t bothered with the rest. A long-running panel show dependent upon a studio audience and the close-knit banter between contestants in order to generate an atmosphere is now run like a self-consciously ‘light-hearted’ business meeting via Skype or Zoom; all four panellists and the presenter are speaking on screens from their respective homes – verbally stumbling over each other and laughing uncomfortably at one another’s jokes because there’s no audience to react to them. In entertainment terms, it’s about as much fun as watching a rep give a speech with a slide show at a sales conference.

One could perhaps argue the best days of ‘HIGNFY’ are long behind it now, anyway; but surely putting it on ice for the time being would have been preferable to this. Ditto ‘Question Time’. The replacement of David Dimbleby with Fiona Bruce – for whom ‘Antiques Roadshow’ has always seemed a more fitting platform for her particular presenting talents – didn’t initially suggest that great a change in tone when the bias towards a specific political perspective via the chosen panellists was more of an issue. However, the studio audience has now vanished, replaced by pre-recorded questions from members of the public; for some reason, this evokes memories of ‘Points of View’; I almost expect said members of the public to be complaining that there’s too much sport on television – only, they can’t because there isn’t any on anymore. Observing social distancing, Bruce and the panellists sit several feet apart in a semicircle minus a table, and the atmosphere is excruciatingly polite and so bloody nice it’s like an informal coffee morning at a village church hall, one in which Bruce the vicar hands out the Rich Tea to bored parishioners. The programme has been brought forward to directly follow ‘Clap for Our Carers’, as though it’s all part of some benign public service, like Soviet propaganda with the ubiquitous rainbow flag replacing the Hammer & Sickle.

News programmes, of course, are having to adapt to the new normal as much as any others; however, speaking to a reporter via satellite from a distant corner of the globe is such an established aspect of the genre that it isn’t too radically different to adapt the cliché to those who’d normally be in a regional outpost if they couldn’t make it to the same studio as the host. Indeed, the sight of interviewees carefully positioned in front of a bookshelf has become a news trope in itself now, and part of alleviating the boredom comes from trying to read the spines behind the figure who may (or may not) have carefully arranged the volumes on display in order to impress ala Dominic Raab.

None of this matters when it comes to radio, as you’re never entirely sure if presenters and guests are in the same studio, anyway. Although presenters are now at pains to state their guests are elsewhere – presumably lest the BBC incurs the wrath of the Met by breaking the guidelines – I can’t say I’ve noticed any great differences in presentation as a result. One’s imagination has a habit of painting the picture one is hearing as compensation for what the eyes are denied, which is an advantage radio has over television that is currently being reinforced as a real strength of the senior medium now that TV’s limitations are so evident.

The daily Downing Street coronavirus briefings are also apparently a regular fixture in the TV schedules now, though like most, I tend to catch a snatch of edited highlights online. From what I can gather, they appear to have already fallen into a cul-de-sac of ‘gotcha’ tactics from journalists that are more about boosting the point-scoring egos of the hacks than posing potent questions. Again, I’ve no idea if these broadcasts can compete with the mighty ‘Repair Shop’ when it comes to smashing the ratings, though those that do naturally do so because the landscape of broadcasting is as upside down as everything else at the moment.

Yes, it’s possible all of these shows are attracting disproportionately massive audiences compared to what one would expect for the same reason programmes in the pre-deregulated and pre-satellite/cable/digital era used to boast huge viewing figures – because there’s nothing else on and there’s nothing else to do. When the normally dependable standbys of sport and royal events can’t even be called upon, the next best thing is Woke Aid – in which The Biggest Names in Music sing their greatest hits from their kitchens, or the BBC’s Big Night-in, in which suspicions that we are all trapped in a 24/7 broadcast of Comic Relief are merely confirmed. Coming next – Crap for Our Carers (the nation takes a simultaneous dump) and Slap for Our Carers (social distancing is temporarily suspended as we are allowed to hit the nearest person to us for the NHS). Hey, don’t mock it. You never know.

© The Editor

THE CLAP CLINIC

So, yes, it’s been another strange week-and-a-bit in these strange days. Boris ending up in intensive care; Brenda addressing the nation with her first message outside of the festive season in a long time and even paraphrasing Vera Lynn for that extra Blitz Spirit/Britain Can Make It vibe; Matt Hancock shaming easy target high-earners like footballers whilst conveniently neglecting to bring off-shore Oligarchs off the bench; oh, and Emily Maitlis attempting a ‘Walter Cronkite on Vietnam’ moment by abandoning the threadbare vestiges of BBC impartiality and delivering an impromptu Reith Lecture as a novel new ‘Newsnight’ intro. Yeah, Lockdown Britain is everything Remoaners promised Brexit would deliver – and even weirder.

The mainstream media reporting of events has become so wearingly sensationalistic and speculative that it’s no wonder the reaction of some has been to abandon initial ambitions the lockdown inspired; rather than learning a new language, a musical instrument or starting to write a novel, many have simply slipped into the junk-food/binge-watch routine and steer clear of the daily death-toll roll-call. On the other hand, social media being the maternity ward for the more outré conspiracy theory has unsurprisingly provoked a descent into medieval madness. Burning 5G masts in the baffling belief these objects generate evil is straight out of the dark children’s serial of the 1970s, ‘The Changes’, in which the western world undergoes a violent rejection of its dependability on technology by smashing all machines because they’re ‘wicked’.

Misinformation, or at best the poor communication of information, has also been responsible for the misconception that the humble domestic moggy is possessed by the virus. From what I can gather, misguided advice to keep cats indoors was actually specific to felines living in infected households; their coats when stroked by outsiders would still bear the residue of Covid-19 as much as any surface touched by someone with the plague, so preventing the prospect of the cat coming into contact with strangers was deemed sensible. My own personal worry is the same yahoos that thought 5G masts were spreading sickness may well single out cats for the same reason. Again, this is pure ‘she’s a witch’ mentality it would be nice to think we outgrew centuries ago; amazing how close to the surface such superstition actually is. Yes, the source of this virus does come from animals, but nature’s payback – if that’s what it is – stems from the disgusting trafficking and menu-adding of endangered species so commonplace in the Far East, not next-door’s cat.

When Benjamin Franklin said ‘Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety’, he probably couldn’t foresee the populace of a free and democratic society prepared to accept the severe restrictions of civil liberties currently being imposed upon it. However, I think most people are content to go along with these restrictions for the moment by viewing them as a contract between the state and its citizens, a personal inconvenience done with a greater good in mind; the delicate equilibrium can be maintained as long as both play their part and the sacrifice is regarded as a just one. Reports of some law enforcers exceeding the traditional ‘policing by consent’ foundation stone of the police force in this country are no more helpful in maintaining the equilibrium than those who continue to irresponsibly gather in groups.

Of course, it’s difficult at times like these to discern how widespread the abuse of police powers is when the most OTT examples will naturally be seized upon by the media (both mainstream and social), even if these are not representative. But anyone with half-a-brain is well aware that certain constabularies have a reputation for over-zealousness, and if their officers have been given the green light to wander into public parks and disperse a couple catching a bit of sun that they might not be able to access at their place of house arrest, it’s no great surprise that these individual constables are becoming ever-more officious in their ridiculousness. Threats of roadblocks or demanding to rummage through the contents of shopping bags are undoubtedly overstepping the mark; in the case of the latter, no policeman, policewoman or Community Support Officer has the right to be an authority on such a subjective subject as what is or isn’t ‘essential’ when it comes to the supermarket shelves – even if you’re lucky enough to find some eggs. And not even the emergency legislation rushed through Parliament without question gives the police that right.

The sudden high visibility of the police is either an indication that the PM’s recruitment drive has borne fruit in record time or that they’re relishing throwing their weight around without having to worry about difficult things like catching burglars or solving murders. Maybe if they were always this omnipotent they’d actually act as a deterrent in neighbourhoods plagued by crime. I suspect there won’t be any choreographed clapping rituals for the boys in blue just yet; but maybe not being elevated to the status of secular saints currently occupied by NHS workers helps to keep them in check. I remember when the military briefly received a similar elevation around the time the bodies of dead soldiers were being driven through the streets of Wootton Bassett during the Iraq War; and just as politicians back then would tediously preface each reply on ‘Question Time’ by ‘paying tribute to the wonderful job our armed forces are doing’, they’re at it again now – only with NHS workers.

Whilst the recognition and acknowledgement of those doing a bloody hard job is perfectly laudable, the overnight establishment of the mass clapping does make me a tad uncomfortable – perhaps because the compulsory participation seems just a little reminiscent of the forced tears North Koreans had to publicly shed when Kim Jong-il died. How long before the police are knocking on doors at 8.00, demanding to know why the residents of the house aren’t standing on their doorsteps applauding doctors and nurses? As with the public display of appreciation for the army fifteen years ago, the ring-fencing of any service as beyond criticism can act as a convenient smokescreen to obscure the shambolic state of the institution that employs these heroes and heroines, and how little it pays them for their troubles.

Then again, perhaps clapping for the NHS is only able to fully function as a new national pastime due to the fact all universities are closed; the ritual has the potential to provoke a panicked rush to the nearest safe space, so if this is to continue after the lockdown, maybe a jazz-hands compromise is in order. Recognition of how difficult being on the NHS frontline can be should be a given, anyway, as should free parking in the grounds of hospitals for staff. And the abrupt determination to ensure rough-sleepers have a nightly roof over their heads is something else that didn’t need a pandemic to institute; the fact they were on the streets in such high numbers in the first place should have alerted authorities to an already existing emergency that needed sorting.

Oh, well. That’s the state of play. Herd immunity might have worked as an alternative had it not been rendered impossible due to the poor health of most western nations – especially the special relationship fatties of the US and UK. As it is, we are where we are. The previous post may well have appeared to be dealing with a trivial topic; but it was refreshing for me to do so. I need those moments of light relief because otherwise there’s only the one subject right now.

© The Editor

SEVEN AND THE RAGGED TIGER

Seven is a highly potent number. It concluded the head-count for both dwarves and Samurai; it provided us with the seas, the deadly sins, the colours of the rainbow, the wonders of the ancient world and the ages of man. It gave us the right quota of brides for the right quota of brothers, the amount of years for a marital itch, the veils needed for Salome’s erotic dance routine, the title of a disturbing 90s horror movie, Enid Blyton’s secret alternative to her famous quintet, the necessary inches for the classic pop single, the correct collection of rogues for an intergalactic outlaw called Blake, and – of course – the assembled days of the week. It seems to have followed me around. I was born in a year ending in seven, lived at a No.7 for the best part of two decades, and my current home is a residence whose separate flat and house numbers add up to…you guessed it. And now I have seven months on the clock to measure my faltering progress through the brave new world I was dumped in as 2017 drew to a grim full stop.

Careful – I’m perilously close to a pattern so familiar on Twitter, that of relentlessly focusing on the one topic over and over again with mouth-frothing fanaticism. I never used to do that, but I never previously wrote for this blog whilst trying to recover from…er…well, a breakdown. No touchy-feely alternative word for it. I certainly don’t want any of my jottings to be viewed as ‘therapeutic’ as a consequence, however. Even if trying to get back into the habit is undeniably a form of therapy for me, I should imagine coming to such posts as a reader when burdened with that awareness could make approaching them akin to a ‘duty’, precluding either enjoyment or stimulation and reducing the whole exercise to the reading equivalent of a professional goalkeeper allowing a special needs child to score a penalty for charity. I’m sure a holiday in Salisbury would seem more appealing right now.

OK, let’s try to widen the picture a little by saying Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. Bored already, alas. Mind you, it was two years ago when we all made our way to the polling station and cast our vote, so should the subject still be the main headline day-after-never-ending-day? Tiresome doom ‘n’ gloom predictions abound on both sides if it does/doesn’t turn out how either want it; and I’m afraid I’ve reached the point where I’m beginning to not care anymore. Most days, I feel as though this country is incurably f***ed anyway, but that’s probably because on many of those days I feel as though I’m incurably f***ed. Sorry, it’s not you; it’s me.

I ain’t no Jacob Rees-Mogg, extolling the economic virtues of Britain breaking with the EU whilst relocating my Russia-friendly business interests to Brussels-friendly Eire; and I ain’t no Lord Adonis, wistfully waving goodbye to the Continent from the window-seat of a private plane flying over the Alps with a teary-eye that foresees endless referenda until the desirable result is achieved. At the same time, much like that gruesome twosome, mine is not an objective perspective right now – though I at least have the decency to leave the subject alone as a result.

I suppose I could indulge in the contemporary trend of anniversary-marking to fill otherwise empty column inches; it’s not like I haven’t before, after all. This year we’ve got 10 since the financial crash, 30 since Acid House, 50 since the Paris Spring, 70 since the birth of the NHS, and a century since women in the UK won the vote (well, as long as they were over 30). The latter two have received the most attention, with the NHS anniversary in particular plumbing a nauseating nadir of sentimental media waffle that has run parallel with – and appears contradicted by – the shocking revelations from Gosport and Chester. Mysteriously, very little coverage has been given to the impenetrable layers of self-interested and self-satisfied management swallowing up the bags of cash that governments routinely throw towards the NHS in the hope some of it will filter down to frontline nurses and patients. But I guess that doesn’t fit the celebratory narrative.

Anyway, I’m not really paying attention. My much-missed feline companion passed away two years ago this month, yet just the other night the light caught one of her long-discarded nails embedded in the carpet – unseen since 2016. This tiny, seemingly insignificant fragment of a friend lost to me forever felt like an invaluable, precious gemstone when I excavated it; but any trinket touched by the lost keeps them close when we can no longer draw them to our breast. Some bin or burn such mementos because they cannot bear to be reminded; others find these articles imbued with a comforting resonance that serves as evidence they really were in our lives and we didn’t imagine them. As someone once said, was it just a dream? Seemed so real to me.

But, what the hell! School’s (almost) out for summer, so let’s switch our attention to the World Cup and Wimbledon. Better that than allow our eyes to linger on ladies’ legs and other exposed body parts lest we incur the wrath of those who permit female drooling over topless Aidan Turner whilst simultaneously condemning male longing to varnish the delicious porcelain flesh of Demelza with one’s tongue. Long may her Cornish bosom heave, for drama is one of the Beeb’s few remaining assets; by contrast, claims by the BBC’s box-ticking ‘comedy controller’ that the Pythons wouldn’t happen today because they were ‘too white’ gives an indication why the corporation’s current comedic output is so dire. The sun must have gone to his diversity-mangled head.

I remember 1976, but it was different then; I did things in hot weather I can’t do today. Besides, fun wasn’t as ‘organised’ forty-two years ago as it is now; adult involvement in childhood summer pursuits was mercifully minimal. I feel fortunate to have had the freedom to climb trees, kick balls past woollen goalposts, and arrange toy soldiers for a pitched battle to the strains of ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’. I steered clear of the Boy Scouts and the Cubs because I didn’t want grown-ups imposing their twee, sanitised idea of fun upon me. Pity the poor monitored kids of 2018’s heat-wave, who have never been left to their own devices and consequently can’t entertain themselves.

No, the best thing about this time of year – if you burn the midnight oil, of course – is reluctantly retiring to bed around 3.00am and catching one last look at the world outside your window. The landscape still consists of silhouettes, but the sky isn’t black; it’s a luscious shade of blue that enables you to already discern the next day on the horizon, as though it were a great wave rolling towards you in slow motion, one that only matures into its finished form when it washes over you several hours later, stirring you from slumber in the process. That’s a nice image to leave you with, at least. You don’t need a weather-man to know which way the wind blows; but may you always have a tiger in your tank.

 

© The Editor