Me, MySelf and Will

I’m trying to think of something good to say about Brexit: meanwhile here is some light music.

The last couple of weeks or so, we’ve been buying a pro-Remain paper called the New European which this week thought it was a good idea to turn over an entire issue to Will Self’s Brexit diary for March.  Self does not suffer from low self-esteem: some people might struggle to fill 50 pages of a national newspaper with their own thoughts; some might wonder what right they had to do so.  Not Self: and in an issue entitled A Plague on all Your Houses we learn that Will is pissed off with everybody.  His scorn, like muck spread on a field, is scattered everywhere; it covers Brexiteers, Remainers, Kippers, the Far-Right, the far Left, Momentum, the undecided, the alienated, the aloof and anyone else I’ve forgotten to mention.  In fifty excoriating pages Will Self finds an unkind word for all of us which left me wondering, where’s the moral high ground Self inhabits and how do the rest of us get there?  Because although he admits he can ‘remoan for England’ his scorn attacks everyone but himself.  He is – or appears to be – above or at any rate beyond all this.

Yes, we’re in a mess and no, we can’t see any way out; but what possessed the New European to turn an entire edition over to a man who criticises everything while proposing nothing, I can’t fathom.  OK, full disclosure; I don’t like Will Self.  I never have: his monotone drawl (a bit like a flattened Clive James) irritates me and his show-off cleverness annoys me – but none of this would matter if he had something helpful to say.  He doesn’t.

In case you didn’t know, Will Self is clever.  His writing style makes this very clear; he never uses one word where several adjective-laden ones will do, and makes each phrase carry so much extra weight that it’s hard to get hold of the main point of the sentence.  You might think that, like Wilde (only less ironically) he has nothing to declare but his genius – except that he does have things to declare and my god, he declares them.  Here’s a couple of typical examples:

‘My collaborator [in the paper] Martin Rowson sent me satiric little cri de coeur along these lines first thing, along with his latest twisting of the human form in to Mobius strip of scato-suggestiveness.’

Here he is slagging off John Bercow for ‘subverting the constitution’ (commentators including Laura Kuenssberg disagree):

‘There he is, depriving the Prime Minister of her third baby vote, and leaping out under the quizzical eye of the lancet window behind the speaker’s chair, his geometrically-patterned skinny tie, hip in around 1996, flapping behind him along with his batman gown…’

Scorn is Self’s stock-in-trade and he really goes to town here.  The paper’s editorial talks of ‘uncomfortable, even painful truths’ and there are plenty of those (I fully accept responsibility as a Remainer for not realising how many people felt ignored, and for in that sense being elitist) but in the end who appointed him judge, jury and executioner and why?  In this daily diary of March (up to the 26th when the paper had to be put to bed) he attacks virtually everyone and everything.  He’s mean about Harry Potter (‘liberal solipsism’) he loathes Jeremy Corbyn (though he’s no Blairite) he’s thoroughly nasty about Comic Relief and his rudeness about Stephen Fry by way of quoting Julie Burchill is insulting on a number of levels (‘Stephen Fry is a stupid person’s idea of what an intelligent person looks like.’)

There’s more, much more along these lines: in commenting on the mosque murders he scorns ‘the telegenic and impeccably liberal Ardern, who’ll order all evil to quit the world with a simple cry of ‘Expelliarmus!” and several times makes unpleasant reference to Radio 4, ‘superannuated funny-man Steve Coogan’, ‘presenter of a Radio-programme-for-the-four-people-in-Britain-who-still-read-books, Mariella Frostrup’ and ‘the oscillating deputy leader of the Labour Party and world-class fat-shamer Tom Watson.’  Blimey.

There was so much of this that, whether I agreed with any of it or not, it was hard to take.  Of course this type of ridicule is the cut-and-thrust of ordinary political satire but Self goes so far beyond satire and into spite that it begins to look like misanthropy.  In fact the only time he approaches human sympathy is when he chats to ordinary people in Stoke, one of the highest leave-voting areas in the country.

But none of this would matter so much if out of the morass he had some sort of proposition arising from it: if not a solution then some sort of way forward; some means of uniting the opposed and healing the rift.  But unless this is some sort of backhanded way of uniting everyone against him by attacking us all, he doesn’t.  Not one word does he say about the future; which is why as well as irritating the paper is singularly unhelpful.

Still, those who like Self’s particular brand of ornate vitriol will probably love it.  And he’s here all week…

Kirk out






A Tale of Two Women

You don’t often get two blog posts out of me in one day but today my brain was just bursting with stuff and I felt compelled to share it.  This is the tale of two world leaders, one a model of calm, selfless efficiency and the other a robotic, bull-headed mulish person with no leadership skills and who wouldn’t know the word ‘consultation’ if it biffed her repeatedly in the face.  Seriously, what planet is Theresa May on????  She has ploughed forward through repeated defeats, made blunders which would have unseated most Prime Ministers and generally behaves like a two-ton tank driving out of control over a camp-site (hang on, that’s triggering a memory of some sort: I think there’s a film where a steam engine runs over a load of tents.  Or is it Dad’s Army?  Let’s see if Google knows.  Yes!  I was right on both fronts: it’s a scene from the film of Dad’s Army.  I can’t find a clip but there’s an image here.)

Just from memory alone, here are some of the things the MayRoller has ploughed through which would have unseated any other PM:

  1.  Calling a general election to consolidate her base and instead losing her majority
  2.  Following said general election, paying one billion pounds to the DUP to secure their support.  This was a straightforward bribe which, as well as being corrupt, threatened to totally derail the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.
  3. Failing to consult with other parties on a national Brexit strategy
  4. Failing to exhibit any negotiating skills whatsoever
  5. Following said failure, bringing her defeated bill back to parliament and attempting to have essentially the same legislation voted on three times (the third time was quite rightly vetoed by the Speaker.)
  6. Offering bribes to Labour MPs in rundown constituencies in the shape of money for those constituencies if they supported her bill (they quite rightly refused)
  7. Having no personal skills whatsoever
  8. Insulting those members of parliament on whose votes she depended

Those are just off the top of my head: I’m sure there are others.

Her strategy seems to consist of shuttling back and forth between Brussels and London until she just wears everyone out.  But her opponents show no signs of relenting and even though Labour are not exactly coherent on Brexit we look positively resolute by comparison.

Now let’s consider Jacinda Ardern, PM of New Zealand, one of the youngest world leaders and one of the few to give birth while in office.  Following the Mosque attacks she:

  1.  Visited the site and expressed solidarity in the strongest terms
  2.  Took immediate action on gun control and announced legislation on assault weapons: an amnesty has already brought in thousands of these guns and as of now people will not be able to get a licence so although they are technically on sale there’s no point in buying one.
  3. Announced that since notoriety was one of the attacker’s aims, his name would never be mentioned by her

These strike me as measures which are both strong and compassionate: would that America did the same after a school massacre (incidentally, since Trump’s solution to these events is to arm the teachers, would he suggest that NZ arms the Imams?  I suspect not.)

Well there you go: two posts in one day.  I must be feeling better.

Kirk out



Should I Fast Faster?

Since I’ve not been well the last couple of weeks my fasting plan has been derailed.  No matter, things happen as they must; but the question is what to do with the remaining weeks.  I think I should make sure I’m fully recovered before I start so I’m going to leave any action till next week, but the question remains: should I fast faster or just begin at the beginning and go at the same pace?

I guess it partly depends how I feel.  If I’m animated I might enjoy doing the same plan on – ahem! – fast-forward; if not, maybe I should start slowly and see where I end up.  At the moment I’m feeling quite animated though, so if I went with the fast fast it’d go something like this:

Week 1 – 1st-5th April: Monday/Tuesday 10 am, Wed/Thur 11 am, Fri 12 am

Week 2 – 8th-12th April: Mon/Tues 3 pm, Wed/Thur 4 pm, Fri 5 pm

Week 3 – 22nd-26th April: Mon/Tues 6 pm, Wed/Thur 7 pm, Fri 24 hr fast.

This may be a tall order but we’ll see how it goes.

Kirk out

I’d Like to Report a Flat Battery

Unsurprisingly as I hadn’t driven the beast for a month, when I jumped in and turned the key Bertie refused to start: he coughed and spluttered and generally exhibited all the signs of a flat battery.  OH and I proceeded to wheel him out  onto the road but got stuck at the kerb; fortunately a helpful pair of passers-by helped out and pushed me at alarming speed back down the road and then up again, enabling Bertie to splutter into life.  Pausing only to give a jolly thumbs-up I took him for a long drive to charge him up and then to B&Q to stock up on seeds and compost for the impending growing season.

It was very heartening to see people stop and offer to help us, and the incident also reminded me of an incident years ago.  In the small town of Leigh, Lancashire I knew a guy known as Billy Keys, so called because he could get in anywhere.  Opinion was divided on Billy – to most people he was a character; to the police he was a serial offender.  Billy liked winding the police up and one day he went to the station and told the desk sergeant, ‘I’d like to report a flat battery.’

‘That’s not an offence, sir,’ replied the sergeant. 

‘No,’ said Billy.  ‘It’s flat.’  And he to show them a car which had been completely flattened (I forget how.)  They were not amused.

In case anyone’s interested I bought tomatoes (Gardener’s Delight) red peppers, chilli peppers, spinach, butter beans, runner beans and Maris Piper potatoes.  And three very heavy bags of compost which a very nice young man helped me to put into the boot.

Oo, young maaaaaaan!

Kirk out

Project Slow

Recovery from this thing that I’m calling post-viral fatigue is slow but sure.  Since everyone who’s had it says not to overdo things I’ve been not overdoing things, but when the brain is recovered and screaming like a toddler that it’s bored, it’s hard not to get busy.  This morning I went to see the nurse about my persistently blocked ears (‘keep up the good work and we’ll syringe them next week’ was the verdict) I found myself quite tired after walking there and back.  Yesterday I managed some Spring cleaning (at least that’s what I’m calling it) and some serious guerrilla war on the ivy which is strangling our hedge – these activities being spaced out with long rests in between, were manageable.  But today I reverted to my usual brisk walking pace to get to the doctor’s.  Result: fatigue.  As Mr Mickawber might have said: ‘Energy  rising, expenditure low – result, recovery.  Energy rising, expenditure high – result, fatigue.

Ah well.  Fortunately I have nothing on till next week and no employers phoning me up to ask when I’ll be back at work (I have managed to placate my inner gangmaster by simply telling him to eff off.)  In the meantime I’m listening to the excellent series A Terrible Country on radio 4.

Needless to say Project Fast has been postponed until I’m 100% better; it does not seem sensible to deplete my strength further by fasting, so it remains to be seen how much of Lent will be left by that time.

Kirk out




Do Not Adjust Your Mind-Set

Once upon a time when I was but a wee girl, your TV set would go wonky.  The picture would tip sideways or develop horizontal lines or a loud hiss would interfere with the sound, necessitating adjustment: fiddling with the aerial or finely adjusting the Horizontal and Vertical Holds, each interspersed with appropriate curses.  Like mantras in a ceremony it was important to get these right, viz: ‘Stupid bloody box – twiddle – why – bend – don’t – twiddle – you – sodding well – shove – work!  These occurrences were not infrequent but sometimes the problem would be at the Other End ie the TV company: at such times a sign would be displayed saying ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set.’  Then would follow the celebrated Test Card.  And some  music, usually of the plinky-plonk variety.

As a sort of hommage to this phenomenon a programme was made for children called Do Not Adjust Your Set.  I loved this, short-lived though it was, and only much later realised that it was proto-Python, being made by some of the same team:

 I had a serious point to make but my mind-set has gone all wonky now.  I’ll try giving it a  shove.

Nope, I’ve lost the picture.  And now the sound’s going.  Oh well, here’s some plinky-plonk music instead.

Kirk out

Dead Space for the Unexpected

Once upon a time, so I’m given to understand, it was popular in business to leave a ‘dead space for the unexpected’, an opening where time could be given to something unforeseen which might come up.  Great idea, you might think.  Very progressive.  Cogitating outside the container: well done that (wo)man.  But I couldn’t help thinking that it’s in the nature of the unexpected to be, well, unexpected.  You can no more schedule a space for it than the dinosaurs could pencil in the time of their own extinction.  The unexpected, when it comes, can be a tiny thing that fits into a margin or a tsunami-like event that overturns your entire schedule, your company and even your world.  It will almost certainly be something you never imagined, which is why no dead space could ever accommodate it.

I had a memory twingling away at the back of my head, that there was a short story I’d read years ago called Dead Space for the Unexpected.  I googled it and lo! one of the first things I found was this blog post, in reading which I learned…

…today’s new word, Novum, which means a plausible scientific invention in a work of SF; like Ray Bradbury’s hand-held communication devices or – well, anything in Black Mirror.

So that’s me done for today.  I can go back to bed now

Kirk out

Grumbles on the Sofa and Other Public Posts

It occurs to me as I read some of the nastier comments on last Friday’s Comic Relief that what we’re doing on these sites is basically overhearing people’s comments on the sofa.  It’s like The Royle Family or, going further back, Till Death us do Part, only in real life (if you don’t know what TDUDP is you can probably find it on wikipedia but they’ll never show any episodes on TV again.  Here’s a few clips which I hope don’t include some of his worst excesses; it seems like there’s a reference to Jimmy Savile in the first one.  Oh, and you might recognise Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson.  But I digress.  The point is that Twitter et al is like listening to everyone’s sofa comments,  stuff that before the internet would have been private.

It beats me how people can be nasty about Comic Relief anyway.  It seems to me an intelligent and entirely worthwhile effort to raise money while producing entertainment.  I particularly enjoyed the ‘Four Weddings’ reunion; the ‘Only Fools and Horses’ bit was excellent and the University Challenge episode entertaining.  The comedy sits comfortably beside the films and the whole thing avoids the schmaltz which would otherwise make it unbearable.  And besides, they raised a phenomenal amount – more than 63 MILLION.  It’s unreal.

Here’s  the whole programme

And here’s the Four Weddings thing.  See how many characters you can spot.

Kirk out

I Have Been Advised to Keep on Not Doing What I’m Not Doing

It’s always reassuring to encounter others who have had the same illness you’re undergoing, or in this case the same post-illness recovery period.  I had heard before this whole protracted period began that it would be – well, protracted and that it would also be debilitating.  ‘Oh, not for me,’ I thought in my smugness.  ‘I do lots of yoga and have a great diet.  I’ll be over this in no time.’  Oh, how are the self-righteous fallen!  To date it has taken me a week, much of which has been spent in bed, and although I’m improving slowly it’s a gradual process and not, according to my latest source, to be taken lightly.

For, like Abraham, I was visited by three apparitions.  They came bearing Labour party leaflets and when I told them of the parlous state I was in, one of their number, yea even a woman, did say she had suffered the selfsame plague and lo, it went on for Absolutely Ages.  So I’m basically cancelling everything and doing just a little bit of pottering every day.  Today’s pottering includes doing most of the Guardian Prize crossword, reading said Guardian, tutting and sighing over Brexit and 

Oh.  Yes.  Before I finish I must say a word about the massacre at the Christchurch mosque.  Not because this blog is important nor because anything I have to say is significant in any way but because to ignore it would be wrong.  It’s hard to know what to say, except that these events have no place anywhere and that communities must redouble their efforts to support one another.  I’m hoping this will happen in Loughborough and I know there is an event planned in Leicester.

Meanwhile I note the NZ Prime Minister’s response, that there ‘will be changes to the gun laws.’  Whereas in the US…

I guess they don’t have an NRA in New Zealand.

Oh, and I was going to blog about Comic Relief.  I guess that’ll have to wait till tomorrow.

Kirk out

Beware the Ideas of March

Now there’s a title I know I’ve used before but hey ho, the best ones are worth recycling, especially when an anniversary comes up.  For today is the Ides of March, made famous by the assassination of Julius Caesar as retold by Shakespeare, and no-one will ever forget that line the Sybil spoke.  By contrast I’ve never managed to get into my head what exactly the Ides were and how they differed from the Nones and the Calends, but I can’t say not knowing has made an appreciable difference to my life.

Last night I was bored, being in that liminal state where the brain is active but the body is still recovering and hence only capable of sitting in front of Netflix while a series unrolled before my eyes, pausing only to – well, hit the pause button for intervals such as meals and going for a pee.  It was a pretty good series though, and one I’ve seen before; The Assassination of Gianni Versace with the added attraction of imagining, between scenes, having an outfit designed by him to wear to the Nobel ceremony when I am awarded the Prize for literature (it’s an ensemble in bright colours, mainly blue, of trousers and jacket; and wearing it feels as though Versace has seen into my very soul.  In case you’re interested.)

Well, once Versace had been dispensed with and his killer destroyed, it was time to turn to the latest episode of MotherFatherSon, a series whose squished-together title does not, in itself, bode well.  I ummed and ahhed about even bothering with this but in the end sheer dumb curiosity won out.  Oh dear.  Well, I suppose it has a weird sort of entertainment value, but other than that it’s quite bewildering.  Max, the ‘Father’, is an unreconstructed media-moghul-arsehole; his divorced wife a garland of all virtues and their son who was last week rushed to hospital after a car-crash and given what looked like trepanning but turns out to be an operation to install some kind of cardboard flap in his head following a stroke, is comatose in hospital.

Things emerge jerkily: there’s a long flashback to the couple’s divorce and the Father’s gaining custody of the Son by devious means; this is barely distinguishable from a scene with Father’s new partner.  Meanwhile a somewhat batty woman comes to the Father with a proposal to make Britain great again, sounding like Mary Whitehouse aspiring to be Donald Trump.  It’s hard to take her seriously or even to know quite what she’s saying but in spite of this one of Father’s advisers warns him that she’s very dangerous.  Really?

Meanwhile Son stirs from his coma, Mother has a night with her homeless man (whom she doesn’t seem to want to help, just sleep with) and leaves him alone.  He unaccountably has a fit when she leaves and breaks something which seems to be significant, though I couldn’t see what it was: I guess if you have a 96-inch TV you probably could.  She rushes to the hospital where Son is in the process of telling a nurse we’ve never seen before that he ‘did’ her phone and knows who she f****d last night.  This news fails to surprise or shock her; in fact it barely seems to get through.  Enter Mother, whereupon Son grabs her, says he wants to die, pulls out his transfusion needle and clamps his mouth to her breast.

And… cue credits.

What the hell?  MFS seems less a cast of characters than a collection of random isotopes pinging off the walls of some experimental chamber.  It makes no more sense now than it did last week, and feels like something written by Martians after watching a few TV dramas and with only the vaguest idea of how human beings actually behave.

Anyway, here’s the link.  If you dare.

Kirk out

PS  Most reviewers seem to agree with me, though the Guardian kinda likes it.