Nothing to Report

I have spent so long writing about what happens to me that I have quite forgotten the nub of my problem: nothing ever happens to me.  I am not an adventurer or a socialite, I cannot report from the centre of the Amazonian Rainforest nor the shadow-lit back booth of a reality star lined nightclub.  I do not move in the kind of circles that would allow me to report on the foibles of the great and the good.  I walk about a bit, occasionally I trip.  I don’t have much to say.  If I start a post with ‘It rained this morning’ it is not the prelude to some fantastical recollection of a financially overloaded neighbour building himself an ark on his back lawn, it is merely a statement of fact.  End of.  I don’t know anybody who has been into space: most of my friends can just about manage the Co-op.  If I made attempts to ‘drop names’ they would not hit the ground with much force.

I have a steady readership that just about troubles double figures and the nearest I have ever been to going viral is when my wife had a cold sore.  I have never attempted to make money out of this thing – I fear, if I did, I might end up in negative equity.  For all those bloggers who decide to ‘follow’ me in order to sell me the means to make my fortune out of blogging, I can only say that I really wouldn’t bother if I were you; this is exactly all this blog will ever be: an exploration of nothing in particular, the odd trip into wishful thinking and an occasional wander through the land of make-believe.  All I can do is meander around anything that I think might amuse you and allow you to do the same for me.  I won’t change what I do in order to make money because a) I have nothing to change it to and, b) nobody in their right mind would pay for it if I did.  Anyone that actually reads this over an extended period will already know quite enough about me, thank you very much.  In the case of yours truly, less is definitely more.

I run, but I am not a runner.  I am not going to buy protein drinks, mega-vitamins or super-shoes.  Try me on Mars Bars.  I don’t need professional counselling or well-being advice.  I need chocolate and wine and diversion.  I do this thing simply because I want to.  It’s what I do.  I’d like to think that I occasionally raise a smile, but I seriously doubt that it is anything that anyone would ever pay for.  (How would I charge: a pound a grin?  Would I have to offer refunds to the straight of face?)  If I could become rich through people laughing at me, then I think I might already be loaded.  I would be very happy to ‘make $millions’ from this twaddle, but unless thousands of people suddenly decide that they want to learn about everything that never happens to me, it’s just not going to happen.

I will carry on telling you about the meagre salmagundi of my life, about the dustbin men, the gas fitters, my maladies and my hobbies; I will continue to bore you with my rose-tinted recollections and half-baked theories.  I will implore you to educate me whenever bafflement with daily existence proves to be too much for me to process.  In short, I will continue to report at some length on my vacuous self and you can choose whether you wish to read it or not – and all without charge.

One day, I’ll write a post about it…

The Flu Jab II

Photo by cottonbro on

I do learn, but it is often a very slow process.  Every now and then I publish a Little Fiction, often dropping back in on characters that I love writing and every time that I do so I am surprised to learn that nobody else is in the slightest bit interested in any of them.  I write an odd Guide to… and I am often quite overwhelmed by the sheer apathy that they engender.  A couple of weeks ago I prattled on about my annual flu jab for a few hundred words and not only was it (by my own very modest standards) very well read, it was the welcome subject of much WordPress conversation.  What I have to learn is that I am obviously at my most engaging when I have nothing to say.  Thankfully, that is quite often.

So, today I am reviewing my life, peering deep into my insignificant soul in order to find something with which I can divert you for a few minutes.  I have recently had my Autumn Covid Booster, I could tell you about that I suppose, but I’m not quite certain that the world is yet ready for ‘Flu Jab II’, even if the lady did drop my vaccination card into the Sharps Box.  Oh how we laughed!

I am lucky enough not to have been made ill by it and so do not have to take the Paracetemol that the nurse recommended.  I am happy about that: I think my liver is up against enough already.

Anyway, with Autumn on my mind, on getting home from the vaccination centre, I set about getting my bike ready for the winter e.g. chiselling the old batteries out of the bike lights before refixing them to the frame as close as possible to the light-clips that I broke getting them off.  I cycle a bit, not in a Tour de France kind of a way, but more in the manner of Norman Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine.  I do not ride a finely tuned racing machine.  My proudest boast for my bike is that the wheels match (or at least they’re both round).  The frame is probably best described as ‘robust’ in that it appears to have been made from old scaffold poles.  It weighs more than my car.  I have a lock for it, although God knows why.  If I am honest, it is probably worth more than the bike. 

I’m not terribly keen on all the peripheries that appear to come along with a pushbike: I have a helmet that I wear whenever my wife is looking and a set of lights that actually make my surroundings look darker.  I have a bell, but its little ‘dinger’ is stuck.  Not that I ever go far.  The local Co-op is about as far as I ever dare trust the tyres – the inner tubes have had their integrity challenged more often than the government.  They probably constitute the world’s greatest repository of Rubber Solution.  I’m sure that, if I asked them, the W.I. could probably crochet me new inner tubes that were more airtight.

I’ve ridden much worse, of course.  I come from a time and a place where bicycles were generally assembled from bits and bobs found in the bottom of hedgerows.  It was rare to have wheels of the same size and saddles were most definitely optional.  Mostly these construction were ‘fixed wheel’ and without brakes.  If you wanted to stop, you had only three choices: a) slow the pedals – perfectly effective unless you were moving at speed or downhill in which case you’re most likely to break at least one of your legs, b) launch yourself at the first available friendly looking privet hedge or c) throw yourself at the ground and prepare to tell your mum that your trousers were shredded by the pixies. 

The current bike, despite its wilful intransigence, is rather safer to straddle than those of my youth, and I am more than aware that any attempt to use a fixed wheel now would almost certainly lead several hours in a clapped-out ambulance before the fortuitous death of an impoverished pensioner allowed me access to a hospital bed.

As I said, I do learn…

Monochromatic Me

Despite the fact that I know nobody will read them, I cannot resist the urge occasionally to write ‘guides to’, be it History, Subversion or Gardening; I just can’t pass up the opportunity to expostulate on what I know nothing about whilst my readers showing, as usual, far greater insight than I, do not bother to read in their droves.  (Earlier in the year, having decided once again that I just ‘couldn’t do this anymore’, I stopped posting altogether and still scored more readers than I did last week!) I love to write these things but, weirdly, according to WordPress, what my readers most want to read about is me – and there is so little of it to go around.  My life is so uneventful that it could be a Zoom concert by James Blunt: why anyone would want to know anything about it I cannot imagine.  None-the-less, my life is an open book – albeit full of empty pages.  If somebody were to make a film of it, I would be the intermission – Pearl & Dean would not concern themselves with the insertion of various advertorial mini-epics in preparation for my main event – never-the-less, every now and then, as fascinating as I find myself, I have to take a break from it and, ironically, the cinema is the ideal place to do so – isn’t it?

Well no, of course it isn’t.  Somebody – possibly the God of Pissing Off Older People – has seen fit to change it all.  There was a day – almost certainly pre-decimal currency – when I loved a diversionary couple of hours at the pictures.  It was while I could choose my flavour of Poppet by the scoopful; before anybody even thought of salting the Butterkist; before some bright soul changed a Mivvi into a Solero.  It was a lifetime before a trip to the cinema became the stress-fest it is today.

It starts with buying the ticket.  I don’t want to choose where to sit.  I want to be given my ticket by the en-kiosked, pinch-faced woman with the creosoted hairbun and all the charisma of a mackerel fillet.  I am happy to be told where I will be sitting.  Just give me the simple choice, ‘Stalls or Circle?’  I do not want the pressure of selecting row and seat number.  I’m going to wind up seated behind a giant anyway.  I really don’t need to choose where I’m not going to be able to see the film from.  Just give me a ticket stub and a woman with a torch to light my way.  Just give me a pack of Olde English Spangles to suck in peace.

I don’t want to sit behind somebody eating nachos through a megaphone.  I really don’t want to sit in front of a family of four sucking eight gallons of Coke through a sump.  I do not want to sit aside two people who are determined not to let the main feature get in the way of a perfectly good conversation.  Who goes to the flicks to watch a film: that really is not the point at all.  Who wants to focus on a screen that is smaller than the TV in an average student flat?  Who wants to surrender concentration, even when the volume is cranked up to nursing home levels?  I honestly do not need to know what’s coming up soon – I won’t be coming back.

And tedious my life certainly can be at times: it is not destined to be next year’s big blockbuster.  It cannot be CGI’d into a Technicolor rollercoaster.  Watching it through bi-coloured spectacles will not make even the slackest of jaws gape.  The kind of mini-incident that punctuates its steady progress will not trouble a stunt double.  The only thing that ever breaks it up is exactly the kind of thing that nobody wants to read.

And all in all, I’m probably happy with that…

Business as (Almost) Usual

My brother died.

He was younger than me.  It was unexpected, it was sudden and it knocked me sideways, but fourteen days have now passed – it is, I know, no time at all – but I feel that it is none-the-less, the right time for me to start to settle back into what must pass for normal.

You see, my problem is that I see the absurd in everything and even the most painful of circumstances do not put a block on it.  Everybody else’s problem is the same one – me.  I have learned, of course, that just because I have seen it, I don’t necessarily have to say it, but I have also learned that popping the balloon is, occasionally, exactly the right thing to do.

I have been through these situations before – too many times (and I carry the knowledge that there will be many more to come) – and always, when despair is at its worst, we have laughed.  It must be part of the human condition.  It must be how we cope.  It is why The Wake can sometimes become such a riotous occasion.  When we are wretched, when we are sad – even more so when we are terrified – there is always the feeling that a giggle is not too far away.  Somehow, all extreme human emotions channel into the need to laugh.  We huddle together, we look on helplessly and hopelessly and we search for something to break the mood.  Nobody wants to turn tragedy into Music Hall, but everybody senses the point at which the deceased would have laughed too.

Laughter does not stand apart from grief.  It runs side by side.  It is an inalienable element of coping.  Joy and anguish are interwoven threads through which we look both forwards and backwards.

I cannot tell my mind how to think – we both know who is in charge there – but I do realise that I am not being disrespectful by looking at my own life in these circumstances.  Nobody expects me to stay sad forever, nobody wants me to be sombre.  In the darkness, I am most definitely not the light: I am the coffee table that skins somebody else’s shin.  I am never the way, but I am often the diversion.  I would love to cultivate gravitas, but I am stuck with child-like curiosity.  I will not make jokes about my brother or his life, but then I would never have done so anyway.  There are no circumstances under which I would seek to devalue the depth of pain being experienced by his wife and children, but I am equally certain that they understand that in discussing my own oft irrational responses – how I cope with this and all aspects of my life – in no way diminishes my appreciation of their loss.

I hope that from today, as far as this modest little smorgasbord is concerned, I can return to business as almost usual.  It will change nothing – that is not within my gift – but it will help my brain to re-establish some sense of equilibrium.  Life changes, but it goes on, and somehow I cannot stop myself from watching it…

Idle Speculation

It’s all part of a normal cycle for me: a few weeks ago, fresh back from the Aegean sunshine, my carefully curated backlog exhausted, I was writing my posts on the hoof and fretting constantly over what to do when inspiration did not come to call.  Today, I sit with a pile of essays in front of me, wondering if I should start to publish every day in order to get rid of them.

I won’t, of course, because I know that the days of nothing to report are just around the corner.  It is, as I say, just part of the normal ebb and flow for me: sometimes I can write this hodgepodge in abundance – it just oozes out of me – whilst on others I can spend an evening staring at a semi-colon, trying to decide whether I can do without it.  I am consistent only in my inconsistency.  I think that the knowledge that there is ‘work’ in hand gives my head the latitude it needs to wander off in all the wrong directions.  Torpor sets in and the cardigan comes out.

It is, for reasons I have not yet managed to identify, a quiet day on the building site behind me.  All work appears to have halted and silence prevails.  I swear I can hear birdsong.  I am sure that if I were to half close my eyes, I would be able to see soldiers playing football in the mud and the puddles.  I wonder, should the work actually stop today, how long would it take nature to reclaim the land: to subsume the proto-roads and infrastructures, to re-establish homes, not for humans, but for beasties of all types and sizes?

Idle speculation of course because, even now, I see herds of hi-viz approaching me from the left and a lorry (presumably a Brobdignagian tea-urn) disappearing to the right.  A casual glance from the window finds me staring into the jaw of a giant digger.

Half a century, or more, ago I read a story in what well could have been ‘Amazing Tales’ or ‘Astounding Stories’ which, unusually, did not centre on the Aliens living, undetected, next door.  It supposed that the Solar System was a molecule, each planet an atom, a tiny fragment of a reality that was infinitely bigger than our own – the Universe as a coffee table – and I can’t shake off the image of all the giant machinery around me as vast insects, themselves part of some huge colony, simultaneously building and pillaging.

At which point, doubt kicks in: do I mean pillaging?  Wasn’t that a Viking thing alongside names like Bloodaxe and helmets with horns on?  Always makes me wonder how primitive we English were back then that the Vikings could be regarded as civilising.  We had plenty of Vikings around these parts and the influence still persists.  I know that the suffix ‘by’ simply meant ‘village’ (hence Ingleby – the English village – and Normanby – the Norman village) and that Thorp(e) meant a village of lesser importance e.g. Thorpe-on-the-Hill, Thorpe-le-Fallows, Thorpe-near-the-Bus Stop and Thorpe-where-the-old-village-pub-is-now-an-Old Tyre Dump.

What I’m hoping, of course, is that they might dig up Viking remains behind me, a Viking village perhaps, fatefully named Colinby or Thorpe-on-the-Back Field, accompanied by pots of gold and enough ancient artefacts to keep Baldrick* happy for months – just long enough for a Preservation Order to be slapped on the whole shebang.

Fanciful?  I guess so, but the thought has kept me occupied for a while – even if it does mean that another day has gone by with nothing for me to say…

*A hugely popular character from Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Blackadder’, played by Tony Robinson, who later hosted ‘Time Team’ in which all manner of things were dug up by a team of people with whom you would love to spend an evening in the pub, but probably, all things considered, would not want living next door.

First and Last

I hang onto first sentences.  I hoard them about my person, on my office notice board and, more often than not, on torn pieces of paper crumpled in the midst of snotty tissue, conker shells and secreted Daim wrappers in the darkest recesses of my trouser pockets.  They are normally scrawled, semi-legibly on to whatever paper is immediately available, with whatever writing implement comes to hand and, by the time they are dredged from the lint-lined depths, have lost all relevance to whatever train of thought they were intended to precipitate.  I like to think that this is a good thing.  I somehow write a post that follows on from this disembodied little nosegay and, more often than not, like yourselves, have no idea of where it is likely to take me.  I hope that it’s exciting, but I fear it is merely confusing, like mistaking episode three for episode two, when you fell asleep half way through episode one of what turned out to be a completely different series which actually followed on from series two, most of which you missed altogether.  Like Blade Runner, The Matrix and ice hockey…

Over my time on this platform I have fielded more questions than I would like to admit about my writing process.  The general consensus appears to be that I have a theme to work to and various bullet-points that I meet on my way to the conclusion.  Sadly I do not.

Generally I am aware of my theme only after I have finished writing and I only know what the conclusion is because it comes at the end.  Bullet points would only provide me with something to miss along the way.  The ‘grand idea’ almost always comes after the writing is finished and I know the ending only after I have reached it.  It is a ridiculously amateurish way of writing, I know, but it is all that I have.  It is like knitting a blanket and deciding that it’s a pullover only after you discover it has sleeves.  Most of my time is taken up in trying to get the sleeve out of the neck-hole and the pattern running in the right direction.

On the rare occasions that I have a point to make, I have forgotten it long before I have worked out how to punctuate the first sentence.  The content of my brain generally just overflows onto the paper – the basis of my conviction that shit floats –  and such concentration as I can muster goes into making some sense of it all.  It is seldom the sense that I intended. 

It works like this: I pick one of my paper scraps and write whatever it says at the top of a blank sheet of paper.  I stare at it for a while.  I write a second sentence to stop the first one getting lonely and stare at that for a while.  I decide not to worry and I allow my mind to wander about for a few hundred words.  I stop.  I attempt to conjure up a final sentence that has some connection, however vague, to the first.  I transcribe the whole thing onto the laptop, convinced that the right font and line spacing will sort it all out.  I read it through and realise why I have worked in a shop all my life.  In a panic, I attempt to add some jokes, but quickly realise that putting a red nose on a pallbearer doesn’t stop him delivering the coffin.

I despair.  I eat chocolate.  I stare at the first sentence.  I formulate a plan to hang on to last sentences too…

A Very British Affair

I have always considered this little potpourri (lit. ‘bowl of dried-up, odourless husks’) of mine to be a particularly British affair in subject matter, points of reference and use of language, particularly colloquialisms (try saying that with a face full of Mars Bar – or spelling it with a head full of cotton wool) and idioms.  It has therefore always come as something of a surprise to me to find that my resident English readers are far from dominant.  Australia, New Zealand and Canada I kind of understand – old colonial ties and extended families could mean that my turns of phrase might be slightly more familiar to the ear; that my use of extended metaphor might not sound quite so much like a message from Alpha Centauri – and to some extent I get (and am certainly very grateful for) the welcoming hands across the ocean from USA: we are separated by a common language, but I think we get one another most of the time.  (With the exception of almost every word ever uttered by Donald Trump or Mickey Rourke, I can personally understand almost 90% of the American version of my language – most of which appears to involve dropping perfectly good letters from words and turning trollies into jockeys – providing it is not spoken by Joey out of Friends.)  In India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kenya, Madagascar and South Africa a very satisfactory number of people manage to make a little space in the day to spend a moment of time with me.  I am thrilled to find that I have readers all over the world, although I cannot help but wonder what some of you make of it all – please let me know – and am particularly bemused by my popularity in Romania, where, I think I might be becoming a bit of a cult (although I am not quite certain that I have translated that correctly).  To my one reader in the Philippines, I would just like you to know that I have my suitcase packed – please send the address.  I appear to have lost my Russian and Chinese readers recently and I am really sorry about that – we all need to talk to understand – and I presume that my single French reader peruses my weekly output with an ironic Gallic glint in the eye and the kind of shrug of the shoulders that assures me, however low my opinion of myself, I am completely right to hold it.

Now, I am sure that you are wondering what has brought this to the fleeting attention of my restless and febrile brain.  Well, for as long as I can remember – depending on whether I have just entered, or left the room –  I have toyed with the idea of writing a detective yarn with, should anybody have the slightest recollection of it, just the faintest hint of Adam Adamant* about it, (No!  Not Adam Ant.  That would just be silly.) although I’m not 100% certain I don’t mean Hadleigh*.  The concept is not a difficult one – if you haven’t done so before, I can only recommend that you read Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ books** to enjoy the sly, and very clever humour that runs through them – my problem is that for as long as I have been mulling over this particular enterprise, I have had but a single name in mind for my hero: Armitage Shanks.  It makes me smile every time I think of it, and then I wonder, would you get the joke wherever you may live?  Would I have to employ a translator simply to work on a nation-by-nation version of the hero’s name?  It worried me for a long time.  It stopped me properly setting my mind to the task, but now I realise, that if my very good friends from Poland, Ecuador and Taiwan can get their heads around this little junket, then a man named after a toilet should be a doddle for them.

*Come on, you’re educated people, I’m sure you can always Google it.

**Gerald Harper himself, by the way, would have made a particularly fine Holmes.

The Flu Jab

Photo by cottonbro on

It could have been Tesco, but I was waiting in Sainsbury’s for the pharmacist to administer my annual flu’ vaccine when it suddenly occurred to me that in my youth, when the National Health Service was an aspiration for the rest of the world, the very idea that a vital element of its armoury would one day be dispensed by a very pleasant lady in a startling polyester uniform within a major Supermarket chain by would probably have had Aneurin Bevan corkscrewing his way towards an early grave.  The absence of starched linen was striking.  I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, but not the merest hint of carbolic assaulted my epithelium.  I presume – although I am by no means certain – that such outsourcing of services, to all of our supermarket giants, is not undertaken on a non-profit basis, but is a symptom, rather, of a health service unable to cope with the volume of need and the sad realisation that you do not need to boil the towels before you stick a needle in somebody’s arm.  It bothered me…

Back in my youth, in the halcyon days of easy access to NHS G.P., Dentist and Accident & Emergency Services (I presume that this is not just my rose-tinted memory playing tricks again) I would have been surprised to ever find myself in the very middle-class environment of a Sainsbury’s store at all.  To the best of my knowledge (e.g. very little) the whole of this rural county of ours was a Sainsbury’s-Free Zone.  It was one of those shops, like Harrods, Biba and The Soho Sin-a-Rama, that you had to take a train journey ‘down south’ to visit. 

When I was a child, I remember the excitement when our estate had two former local shops knocked together in what we could charitably call an extremely rudimentary manner – the dividing wall was knocked through where the fireplaces used to be, lending a singular, if slightly alarming, tilt to the roof – and rebranded as Greenway’s Mace.  Mr Greenway – the only man to my memory on the estate that wore his brown overall over a shirt and tie – was the owner of the shop (not to mention a moustache stolen directly from the face of Jimmy Edwards) and Mace was a franchised brand of local supermarket, usually squeezed into the premises of former corner grocers by knocking through the downstairs bathroom and putting a corrugated asbestos roof over the back yard to store the perishables.  It did not have everything that Sainsbury’s had, but it did have a deli-counter that sold Luncheon Meat and Gala Pie by the slice, cream cheese and potted meat by the spoonful and a freezer filled with own-brand fish fingers and a lard-like ice cream that you stuck between two wafers and dropped on your shoe.  It had three different brands of baked beans!  It had a ‘bargain box’ full of tins that the labels had fallen off, a thousand different kinds of cigarette and if it sold alcohol at all, it was definitely under the counter with the prophylactics.

By the time I was married the day-to-day trip to Mace for the day’s shopping was a thing of the past.  Now was the time of the big shop: weekly or monthly depending on how you got paid, and it heralded the dawn of the domination of the massive supermarket chains of the day Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, except if you lived around our neck of the woods, where it heralded the weekly trip to Hillards (no apostrophe), which was situated in an old sack factory on the very edge of the estate.  It was very much a supermarket of its time with shelves packed willy nilly, stacked with tins and boxes and bottles and nothing that went off too quickly.   If it could be dehydrated, Hillards stocked it.  It seemed huge and it was a place of fascination and delight.  Treats were few back then, but I did generally manage to lay my hands on four cans of Norseman lager once a month – which had the both the strength and the taste of what it forced you to do the morning after – to accompany the weekly ‘Chinese’ takeaway treat of a shared spring roll with chips and sweet & sour sauce.  It had more brands of baked beans than you could shake a stick at…

If you Google ‘Hillards’ now, all you can really find out is that it was a small supermarket chain from the North of England bought out in a hostile takeover by Tesco in May 1987 and that, if I’m honest, is why I had my vaccination at Sainsbury’s – they, to the best of my knowledge, have never been hostile to my memories…

A Long Time in Politics (Confused? You Will Be…)

Photo by Element5 Digital on

I honestly don’t know when, or even if, I will publish this.  I keep thinking that I ought to wait for a conclusion to it all, or at least an end to series #1, but I fear that all I’m actually going to get is never-ending repeats, so I thought that it was important that I wrote it all down while I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have a clue what on earth was going on…

This has been a period of unprecedented political upheaval in the UK and, if you’ve noticed anything at all about my recent output, it will have been that so far I have steadfastly managed to totally ignore it.  By and large, my mind is just not closed enough to ‘do’ politics and I don’t want, even now, to waste too many words on it, they being somewhat more durable than Prime Ministers it would seem, and I wouldn’t want too many of my most ill-informed examples kicking about the internet forever.

As it stands today (Sunday 23rd) my understanding is this:

  • On the 7th July this year, the former Prime Minister resigned as, despite giving him a vote of confidence, his fellow MP’s belatedly decided that ‘confidence’ is in reality almost as fragile as a freak electoral landslide and thus that they no longer felt that they could actually either trust or back him (except into a corner), and the process of electing a new party leader (and thus Prime Minister) began.
  • After the MP’s had whittled the ballot down to two people, the ‘final word’ was given to Conservative party members – most of whom, it would appear, did not want the former blonde bombshell incumbent to go in the first place.
  • As the clear leader amongst the MP’s was considered by many of the party members to have been partly responsible for the resignation for the former PM, they decided to vote for the other candidate.
  • The other candidate was the most inept and totally unsuitable choice possible and was thus selected to be the new Prime Minister.
  • The new PM passed a raft of measures that the clear leader had warned would be a financial disaster.
  • They were a financial disaster.
  • The new PM, having plunged country into something that very closely resembled an abyss, resigned some 44 days after she took office (during which time she was actually only allowed 34 days to fully screw things up due to 10 days of official mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II).
  • A new new leader must now be elected.

As I write, the candidates are:

  1. The former PM with whom (having persuaded him to quit only weeks ago) I presume few fellow MP’s are happy to work (unless, of course, they actually are a bunch of amoral bastards who will do anything to keep themselves in power).
  2. The clear leader from the previous election, who was summarily dismissed by the party members for being complicit in the political demise of the Former PM – apparently ignoring the fact that, given a six-shooter, he had shot himself in both feet at least a dozen times.
  3. The person who came a distant third in the previous ballot of MP’s.

The person who formerly was a distant third is currently a distant third – although ‘reliable sources’ claim that she is about to ‘do a deal’ with the former PM who knows that if he can force himself into a ballot of party members, there is a very good chance that he will win.  The clear leader who is again very much ahead in the MP’s vote knows that if it goes to a vote amongst the party members, he will lose. It could be a long week ahead.

All clear?  Now read on…

Well, whaddya know?  Monday evening (24th) and it’s all done and dusted.  The Former PM decided not to stand because he felt it was inappropriate for him to do so in the circumstances and not at all because, in reality, he did not have the required backing of 100 fellow MP’s.  The distant third decided not to stand, for the good of party unity and not at all because, in reality, she did not have the required backing of 100 fellow MP’s.  The clear leader thus became the New New Prime Minister by default – fully aware, I imagine, that if he had been forced to take the vote to the party members, they almost certainly would have selected Kermit the Frog – or even Liz Truss – ahead of him.  Somehow we must all deserve one another, but I’ve no idea how…

So, anyway, I hope that has cleared everything up for you all – now, if somebody could just arrange for the last six weeks to go away…

I hope you will forgive me for dropping this in amongst the normal run of baloney but, you know by now, if it’s rattling around between my ears, you’re going to know about it sooner or later…

A Different World – The Same Old Darkness

Photo by Matej Novosad on

As I write this piece – in preparation for fallow days ahead – as usual some way ahead of publishing, we are living in a world punctuated by Postal Strikes, Rail Strikes and, slightly less problematically – particularly if you are wanting to post a letter – Barrister Strikes (Don’t panic!  I am talking of those who ply their trade in legal proceedings and not those who dyslexically concoct your daily fix of overpriced caffeine.  The world has not gone that mad.) and the threat of winter power cuts, precipitated not by industrial action, but by that nice Russian megalomaniac with a totally rational fear of personal freedom.  I find myself unusually sanguine about the prospect: I am 63 years of age, a veteran of The Three Day Week and I remember how we coped back then…

We lived, of course, in different times: we did not expect to be warm in the winter: we all wore our woollies, we all wore our string vests, we all had candles (some of us from the nose) and, perhaps more importantly matches, in a drawer, somewhere…  We ate a lot of toast back then, browned to a ‘T’ on a long fork in front of the gas fire which was lit by the coloured wooden spills kept in a little brass cylinder (a war time memento – the one that nearly got grandad) on the fireplace.  We cooked on a gas hob lit by those same spills.  Baked beans on toast in front of a roaring candle was a rota’d treat.  As a teenager, unable to do homework by the feeble flickering light, I could not wait for the blackness to fall.

Today we have an electric fire to accompany the electric hob, the electric oven, microwave and air-fryer.  We have a gas boiler, but it refuses to spark into life without electricity.  We dare not open the fridge for fear of letting the cold out.  We cannot open the freezer for a comforting ice cream as – one needs to keep perspective – it might melt the ice cubes.  We, in short, have little to make these hours of darkness bearable save a tartan Slanket and a mobile phone with a five minute battery life.  I will have to go into the attic to rescue the Pop-O-Matic.  I will have to bring down the chess set.  I will have to read the rules…  And of course we could try to read books, but I fear that the kind of megawattage required to make the printed word legible to our fading night-vision would mean a candle of such size it might well precipitate a nationwide wax shortage.

We do, of course, like everyone else have a number of ‘lanterns’ in our possession, each one of them with the batteries welded to the little spring thingies by a thick layer of immovable green goo, and a torch with a doody little button for sending morse code messages, providing you can send them in the five seconds before the bulb dies.  We are just as prepared as everybody else and equally aware that, nationwide, there are no matches, batteries or tea-lights to be had on supermarket shelves.  Camping stoves are in critically short supply.

I’m sure that, if it happens, I will attempt to embrace the excitement of it all – I love resetting clocks – I will regale the grandkids with stories of my own blacked out youth and, if I’m any judge, I will spend the hours of darkness confirming that drinking wine does not require any energy at all…