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February 24, 2016


If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words;

if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other

as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel—
then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,

no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated

apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge

Donald Hall


February 24, 2016

Commedia dell'arte

I hear via a couple of attractive grapevines, that you are having trouble writing. God! I know this feeling so well. I think it is never coming back—but it does—one morning, there it is again.

About a year ago, Bob Anderson [the playwright] asked me for help in the same problem. I told him to write poetry—not for selling—not even for seeing—poetry to throw away. For poetry is the mathematics of writing and closely kin to music. And it is also the best therapy because sometimes the troubles come tumbling out.

Well, he did. For six months he did. And I have three joyous letters from him saying it worked. Just poetry—anything and not designed for a reader. It’s a great and valuable privacy.

I only offer this if your dryness goes on too long and makes you too miserable. You may come out of it any day. I have. The words are fighting each other to get out.

John Ernst Steinbeck
Steinbeck: A Life in Letters


We are beset on all sides by groups suffering because of “Government Cutbacks”. Much media hype abounds. Oh, how they do love to get “stuck-in” when it comes to this sort of story. It helps sell their rags after all, enabling them to occupy what they see as the moral high ground. Bless ‘em, they become momentarily the conscience of us all with such sensational headlines…

But, of course, that’s nonsense. On the one hand they bemoan the devastations inflicted on local authority budgets, but then in the very next breath print a headline stating:

“Hands off our pensions – George Osborne should keep his hands off our pensions…”

Apparently Mr Osborne wishes to reinvent himself as Robin Hood – feared by the bad, but loved by the good – stealing from the rich (in this case from the retirement investments of young professionals), and distributing it to the poor, or rather the not so well off. This would be accomplished by replacement of the current tax relief system with a new “flat rate” which it’s been suggested could mean “a 25-year-old who pays the higher rate of tax and invests £250 a month could lose up to £161,263 between now and reaching state pension age”.

Oh, Lor, my heart bleeds for ‘em…

The Daily Telegraph for one, feels they “understand the Government’s desire to make the system equitable and affordable, but these punitive changes would be doubly unfair to those who are already investing” in their own future.

And herein lies the problem. We would like to see libraries properly funded, those with disabilities adequately accommodated, NHS waiting times reduced, the elderly cared for, homes for everyone, smaller classroom sizes – only no bastard wants to pay for it!


The EU, too, is much in the news. Emma Thompson, for one, feels it’d be “madness” for the UK to leave the EU. She lives, apparently, in “a tiny little cloud-bolted, rainy corner of sort-of Europe … a cake-filled misery-laden grey old island” (she’s spent half her life living in Scotland, but I’m very partial myself to Dundee cake, so don’t knock it!).

Financially the UK contributes nineteen billion pounds to the EU coffers. It receives back around nine billion pounds of that in subsides and aid. The biggest beneficiaries are the Welsh, the Cornish and the Scots. Most of the recent road building / improvements in Cornwall have been at least partly funded by EU cash. Would we be better off financially if we came out of this particular club? No one knows…and those who say otherwise are idiots or liars. The question is simply one that cannot be answered, yet. But I’d suggest the Welsh, the Cornish and the Scots would be worse off, at least as far as infrastructure investment goes.


It strikes me that many documentaries on the EU (on most subjects in point of fact), are not “evidenced” based, but more a reflection of the natural bias of the film maker, politically, ethically, economically, with the “facts” then organised accordingly for presentation to the viewer, which is us, of course.


Saw the latest Labour Party political broadcast (recorded off the Beeb), all weeping single mums and young couples bewailing their need for “a bigger house” before they can have more children. Their problem, the problem most of us have had to face starting out, is not having sufficient money to cover our aspirations and expectations. It’s tough, of course it is. But in an overpopulated world why would anyone want to subsidize a couple to have more children…?

The programme content was poor, naïve in a most painful way, and the presentation came over as amateurish (maybe it was meant to be like that, I don’t know?). Poor, poor Labour…if this is the best they can manage, they have bigger problems than anyone ever realised!

The furor attending Jeremy Corbyn’s election as head of the Labour party had me slightly bemused at the time of his unexpected ascension. On all sides the media (explaining to us yet again what we MUST think and feel to be truly functioning, useful members of society), made (and continues to make) so much fuss – almost as if Beelzebub himself had been elected to the exalted heights of “Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition”! Lefties in Central Office spoke of a return to “Core Values”, to “Traditional Roots”, all nonsense, of course. While newspaper articles hinted of a “red menace” that would undermine our tottering society. Equally absurd!

Corbyn tries to present problems as pure black and white. No grays. No inbetweens. All or nothing: a sort of throw the baby out with the bathwater politics. He appeals to the revolutionary streak in the very young, or the insipid nostalgia of the elderly. Those who believe he’s saving the Party from the ‘initially successful, but ultimately shallow, “modernity”’ of Blarite reform, are sadly mistaken. The most interesting thing I’ve heard about him to date, is from Sky News: one of his brothers, a weather forecaster, is “a climate change denier” (They mean the human element within climate change, I think).

Yeah, high five…!

I suspect ultimately Corbynism will lead to a dead end, and probably a terrible defeat in the 2020 general election. Which will be bad for UK socialism, yes; but even worse for UK democracy if, as I suspect, the Labour party experiences an electoral massacre on the same scale as the US cavalry at the Little Big Horn. Obviously, Corbyn, like general Custer before him, will not survive such a debacle. But a Labour party with very few members of Parliament will leave the ruling (Conservative) party with a vast parliamentary majority. There will be no one to challenge them; no one to hold them to account. They will be able to do whatever they desire…!


The government and those on the right of UK politics push for continued austerity – not, primarily, because of the “deficit”, but for the more obvious reason it shrinks the state! The “deficit” provides a first class excuse for axing public finances. A smaller state will support smaller tax levels, diminishing overheads and can be “sold” to the majority of people on the back of “job creation”, “business growth” and “greater prosperity”. Ultimately, it appeals to the greedy little bugger living inside most of us, and this is magnificently supported by the media with headlines such as these:



Which reinforces the basic message: Benefits are bad! Our taxes are being wasted on scoundrels!

Such selectivity denies the many thousands of genuinely needy and deserving people on benefits a voice. They are reduced to the state of candles blowing in the wind.

In these articles (purporting to be “news”) there is no mention of the ninety people per month dying after being declared “fit for work” (a statistic released by the Department for Work and Pensions last year). No mention of the DWP’s issuing of written guidance on suicide for its “frontline staff”; a euphemism for workers hired to call people and break the news to them they’ve been rejected for benefits.

One section of this guidance – that must be reported immediately to managers to alert them of “a suicidal intention” – instructs jobcentre staff to find out what the person plans, when it is planned for, and whether “the customer has the means to hand”!!

Death truly has become part of the UK benefits system…


The novelist and intellectual Umberto Eco has died aged 84. Eco was perhaps best known for his 1980 work, The Name of the Rose. He was one of the world’s most revered literary figures.

The author, who had been suffering from cancer, sadly died on Friday night.

Eco was the 1992-1993 Norton professor at Harvard and taught semiotics at Bologna University. He once suggested that writing novels was a mere part-time occupation, saying: “I am a philosopher; I write novels only on the weekends.”

A brilliant man, he will be sorely missed…

The real YOU…

February 24, 2016


February 24, 2016

España, magnificent, but suffering still. Much unemployment…Barcelona a veritable bee hive of activity, however – so many places to go, so many things to do: it’s never ending!

Dry but overcast. Freezing temperatures across much of the country, with snow falls further north. Heavy rainfall in the Canary Islands. Our arrival at the airport was on schedule. We collected bags and struggled to EuroCar to pick up a Ford Focus and drive off into the great unknown.

We drove through the damp darkness for what seemed like hours. One way streets thwarted our designs, the damn map was old and mislead us with ease – believing the shortest distance between two points was a straight line, we came in sight of our hotel’s green illuminated sign, glimpsed above passing rooftops, our final, much desired destination…but somehow it remained just out of reach, courtesy of the one way system. The roads inevitably took us further away. We imagined ourselves circling for eternity…perhaps we had died on the flight and this was hell?

In a small service station I asked directions. The white shirted owner replied in machine gun bursts of Spanish. Too many derecha e izquierdas, too many hand gestures for my tired head to retain…Soon lost again. So near, so tantalizingly near…”Let me play you tunes without measure or end…”

But finally, finally we arrive. Success at last. We book in, drop off our cases in wonderful rooms, then hurry to the restaurant before it closes for the night.

One of Antonio Gaudí’s many creations

One of Antonio Gaudí’s many creations


Thick hot chocolate and churros for elevenses in the morning. Then art galleries, Museu Picasso, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, these followed by Ginebra con tónica…three large Gins on ice with tonic…and lunch.

Later a slow stroll through Museu d’Història de la Ciutat, faint ghosts of the ancient Roman city of Barcino. Glass ramps above the 2000 year old streets. The pots outside the ancient public laundry were for now long dead people to piss in…glimpses of another way of life, different yet similar.

We decided, come what may, tomorrow we’ll visit Museu de la Xocolata! Yes, yes, it’s true – a museum dedicated to chocolate!

Museu d’Història de la Ciutat

Museu d’Història de la Ciutat


In the Spanish news, money laundering. Officials of the Chinese bank ICBC arrested on suspicion of laundering millions of Euros.

In Madrid a Podemos councilor’s on trial because she bared her breasts in chapel back in 2011as a protest. A witness praying in the chapel at the time of the incident testified that the protesters had shouted slogans such as “Against the Vatican, clitoris power” or “We will burn you like in 36”, in reference to violence against Catholics during the 1936-9 civil war. The councilor, Rita Maestre, faces a year’s prison sentence for the offence.

Feuding Salford gangsters took their troubles to the Costa del Sol. Spanish police arrested six Brits thought to be connected with a series of tit-for-tat gangland shootings in Salford.

Catalan poet Dolors Miquel read her feminist version of ‘Our Father, who art in heaven’ at the annual Barcelona Awards. The poem reads as follows:

“Our Mother, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy coño (cunt).
The epidural, the midwife, bring to us your cry,
Your love, your strength.
Become by your will our uterus over the Earth.
Our day of every day, give us today.
And do not allow those sons of bitches to abort love, make war.
Liberate us! Forever and ever, vagina. Let’s go!”

Christian leaders have filed a complaint which will lead to criminal charges for blasphemy being brought against the poet. If convicted, she’ll face a long prison term.

Barcelona’s metro to strike for two days (Monday 22nd and Wednesday 24th ) the first and last day of the world’s biggest mobile trade fair…


We drank much red wine, and gin, and rough Spanish brandy. We eat chocolate as if each day were Easter, and we were greedy, spoilt children. Wonderful. We visited old friends and talked into the early hours of morning about everything and nothing. We laughed much and eat a huge paella, the largest I’ve ever seen in my life.

We toured the city by El Tram or by bus. Cabs were reassuringly (and surprisingly) cheap? Walking through the Ramblas at two am was an experience…not one to repeat on a regular basis, however…

And so our time in the city went by…

My head filled to bursting with the artworks we’d seen. Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Paintings, sculptures. Ancient and Modern. And, of course, Antonio Gaudí’s giant basilica, Sagrada Familia which should have been left at Gaudi’s death, unfinished. An unfinished work of a peculiar and original genius…


Home again, home again…

And the sun is shining!