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A Climate of Indifference, An Economic Drought, An Abundance of Punctuation February 25, 2012

Posted by markswill in Links, Media, Politics, Schmolitics.

I just read ‘Eagles and Angels’, the debut novel by Juli Zeh, a writer new to me but who’s written several since, which even though it makes little sense and is rather long, I found utterly mesmeric. Guess I recognised the coke psychosis elemental to its time-slipping narrative form. Reminiscent of the early work of my all time favourite author, Thomas McGuane, in fact. Or perhaps second favourite. Or third. Anyway, I wish I could write like that, especially without the drugs. But its staccato phraseology caught the mood of a strangely trance-like week and as it seems a good way of cramming a lot into little space, I’m going to give it a crack myself.

So I was on a train leaving the damp gloom of a Paddington morning, comfortingly bloated by a ‘Half-Monty’ Soho breakfast (or so it said on the menu), my sister’s stressful life still ringing in my ears. How could she have watched 87 movies since January 1st ? And she calls it work!

All around me people mouthing importantly into mobile phones louder than necessary and fat mothers feeding fat children fat. And the bog didn’t work. Possibly a reflection of the headline announcing the impending drought buried on page five. First Great Western saving water, hurrah for them. Better get the winter crud washed off my finally working car before the hosepipe ban.  Appearances are all when you live your life through consumer durables. Environment secretary Caroline ‘Not-In-My-Cotswold-Backyard’ Spellman is circling the bowsers, the farmers are already whining and soon we’ll all be eating Aldi’s baked beans because East Anglia’s gone Sahara and Waitrose’s spinach is fifty quid a kilo.

Meanwhile Rick Santorum, our great white hope now that our great black hope couldn’t in fact right the world says he doesn’t buy climate change because “God didn’t mention it in the bible.” To which I can only respond, will that same god help us if he really buys his way into the White House? Mind, Mitt Romney, who thinks poor people don’t matter, won’t be any better: they’re both deluded nincompoops. Be afraid, be very afraid.

It’s a good train journey, inasmuch as it’s not 20 minutes late so I manage to connect with the smelly, jam-packed two coacher at Newport which, unusually, doesn’t break down, although the bog has (Arriva Trains Wales also having bought the drought thing). More fat mums feeding more fat kids, more mobile phone pollution, this mainly from a young person expressing delight at Cindy’s karaoke of ‘I Will Always Love You’ last night. Good to know that kids today still respect  the recently departed.

Also passed away is any chance of our ship building industry rising off its knees.  Although Robert Wyatt and Elvis Costello might’ve applauded, precious little public outcry accompanied the contract for four naval tankers going to South Korea last week. Govt. apologist Peter Luff trotted out the usual platitudes about taxpayer value, these being the same taxpayers who contributed £200m to Emma Harrison’s welfare-to-work contractors, messrs. A4e, from which she paid herself a modest £8.6m in dividends. Still, according to Harrison, now resigned as allegations of fraud swirl around her outfit, “tens of thousands of people across the UK look to this company for hope of finding employment.” Which isn’t actually the same as finding them tens of thousands of jobs, Emma. But I suppose it’s better than tens of thousands of  unemployed youngsters stacking shelves at Poundland for no money at all in the ‘slave labour’ scandal that Tory ministers now try to dismiss as scaremongering by the Socialist Workers Party. This cheered me: I didn’t know the SWP still existed!

But if the government abandoned their obsession with retail employment, real or bogus, in favour of manufacturing which might then generate incomes that could be spent in a retail sector that is instead actually hemorrhaging jobs, then we might get somewhere. Meantime, let’s get Korea to build our ships… and China everything else.

Have I mentioned that the only cash machine in our town is disappearing, along with the HSBC branch that houses it? Some joker taped a note to it saying ‘Will the last person leaving town please switch off the lights?’  Behind this cynical termination almost certainly lies the closure of our last major employer, a specialist aluminium foundry, as mentioned here last year. A notice on the factory gates says that its motley collection of buildings are about to be demolished, no-one knows what to be replaced by. But it’ll be a summer of fun for those who live in its immediate vicinity, e.g. yrs. trly., when the jack-hammers and the 30 ton waste trucks move in and we’re not allowed to wash the brick and asbestos dust out of our hair.

Still, it’s not all bad. Good piece in last week’s S. Times on when the economy tanks, art galleries flourish, as the  big Freud, Hockney and most recently the Picasso shows in London amply prove. Certainly lifted my spirits. Talking of which, I recently got given, well loaned actually, a pair of delicately hand-wrought cocktail glasses. So with a bottle of Glen’s finest Scottish paint-stripper, sorry, vodka retailing at just £10.15 in Costcutter – still on our High Street, or at least until Tesco open a superstore where the foundry used to be – as Eddie Mair’s PM programme opens for more bad business every day on Radio 4  it’s vodka martinis all round and pleasantly downhill from thereon in.

Oh, and Wales beat England in the Six Nations this afternoon, so I’m staggering off to the pub to push the reverie to its limits. And thanks Juli for all your inspiration.

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CABBAGE PATCH DROLL February 17, 2012

Posted by markswill in About me, Media, Navel Gazing.

Ages since I scribbled anything, so although I haven’t got much in the way of pent-up bile that blogging seems to purge, with that promising preface, here come a few random thoughts.

Regular readers, such as there are, will know that I am no fan of the vacuous nonsense that fills the glossy mags which accompany the weekend ‘papers, especially the Observer’s whose 16 year-old editors willfully force upon us the opinions of Z-list celebs we should all be in thrall of. A recent example was the ‘This Much I Know’ spread devoted to artist Gavin Turk (which of course I only read because I am a self-appointed know-all on a woefully narrow skein of modern daubing).  But having learnt such important stuff as “I was gutted when I failed my MA” (poor darling) and “I am a happy person and don’t get depressed” (how spiritually uplifting), he actually uttered something rather interesting: “The fact that we can access things very quickly means that they don’t get much time to be tried and tested. We are living in a prototype world and we are the guinea pigs.”

Which having thought about it for a nanosecond before logging onto my FarceBerk account, tweeting to my millions of followers, putting an ad. on fleaBay for my old Lancia and ordering a copy of Katie Price’s latest masterpiece from Amazombie, is crushingly true. And where will it all end? This has actually been the (unrealised) subtext of many of my interweb spewings, and I suppose it’s also why I pay sporadic attention to discussions on LinkedIn fora about the future of newspapers (the consensus being, ‘There isn’t one’) and whether or not tablets and smartphones will render desktop and laptop ‘pooters redundant (‘Not sure, but my contribution is to show off how many state-of-the-hour gadgets I own’).

Anyway, I don’t think subscribing to LinkedIn, a networking site for middle class media professionals – ho-ho-ho – that I misguidedly thought might get me some, er, work, is ever likely to yield any revelations that will dispel Mr Turk’s or indeed my own concerns about the digital endgame, but I do invite my loyal and evidently expanding band of blogees to add their two penn’orth on how society is being and will ultimately be changed by having little time to test the veracity of the things we can now access very quickly digitally.

SOMEONE I DO HAVE MORE TIME FOR THE OPINIONS OF is writer and musician Terence Blacker, who has a twice weekly column in the Indie and its cut-price sibling, the i (the latter of course is my daily read). I should declare an interest here because I know him slightly and very amusing he is too, but his most recent column addresses the effects that slang and what I (but not he) call “digi-speak” – you know, the “LoLs” and the “OMG this is well interesting”. In an unusually muddled, by his usually crisp and perceptive standard, he seems unsure whether this is a good thing because, perhaps in an unintended nod in Gavin Turk’s direction, it shows how language organically develops, or a bad one because, “In a slang-filled world there will be a narrower choice in employment and a lot less social mobility”. Discuss.

I have emailed young Terence demanding his actual position on this, but as a committed contrarian, and also a little tardy in the emailing dept., he hasn’t yet replied and I must finish this scribbling before I change my cabbage leaves. Yes, you read that right. The only way I can actually type this tripe is because I have two large cabbage leaves strapped to my right elbow and forearm where until yesterday I had painful and disabilitating RSI. This was after ten days of endless pain on several fronts: toothache (which turned out to be a nasty abscess), back-ache (occasioned trying to remove some switchgear for my still-immobile Citruin XM from a dead one at the local scrapyard) and the aforementioned RSI. Industrial strength antibiotics and painkillers prescribed by ‘caring professionals’ eventually relieved the first two maladies, but only after five days of feeling utterly spaced-out, lethargic and miserable, but after the drugs ran out, the RSI returned.

AND THEN BY CHANCE I learnt that strapping cabbage leaves to the affected area would relieve the symptoms and eventually the cause of RSI and desperate, though of course sceptical, I gave them a try. And amazingly, they work! Within a few minutes they had a cooling, calming effect, and this lasts several hours until they’re changed for fresh veg, but after 36 hours they also rid my elbow of the stiffness that prevented me from pounding away at the keyboard. Further research revealed that this is down to the large amounts of sulphur they contain – as only cabbage leaves do, apparently – which oozes into the skin and does the biz.

ALTHOUGH OFTEN ACCUSED OF HYPOCHONDRIA, I mention all this because that period of ailment coincided with my birthday, and a monumental birthday inasmuch that I can now claim the state pension, and so was inevitably one of the most depressing I’ve ever spent for that and all the aforementioned medical reasons. The pension sitch forced me to realise that after eleven years of failing to recover my once glittering publishing career following my nosedive from grace (some of you will know about this, the rest will have to heed Mr Turk’s caution), it is now too late and I must unwillingly submit to the life of a typical retiree: golf, grandchildren-coddling and gradually getting more and more physically feeble. But since I’d rather have needles stuck into my eyeballs that play golf, have no cheap hobbies and certainly no offspring, am I to be reduced to escalating infirmity unrelieved by doing anything useful or satisfying whilst most around me, are? Perhaps Gavin Turk will tell me, or should I just strap cabbage leaves permanently to my head and not worry about it?

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