Friday, 29 July 2011


Basically, I just wanted to write that word, because it has a tang about it.  Some words do that - you would never use them in everyday speech, but you wish you could.  'Visceral' is another one; I don't even know how to say it, but I do know exactly what it means.  Shibboleth, of course, is the Gileadite testword to distinguish an Ephrainite, who could not pronounce sh.   But that's not important now.

The particular sh word I have in mind at the moment is 'Growth'.  (Okay, let's assume they couldn't pronounce th either: I couldn't until I was about seven.)  The U.K. economy has apparently grown by only 0.2% over the last quarter.  This is a bad thing.  Well, I don't know about you, but I don't really particularly want to grow any more.  I'm quite happy with the size I am; certainly no more vertical, and I'll stick with or even reduce the horizontal.  So, given that an economy is, when you get down to it, no more than a bunch of people, why exactly is it a good thing for it to get bigger all the time?  Can't we just steady down, live with what we've got and get on with our lives?

And of course, actually there is no such thing as growth.  There's only redistribution.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Single currencies

There are two different sorts of economy in the Eurozone, which I can characterise (because I'm the one writing this) as Northern and Southern.  They have separate financial policies, because they're separate countries, but they are governed by a single set of interest rates and exchange rates, because there's only the one currency.  The only solutions to this inherent contradiction seem to be either to bust the whole thing up and go back to pesetas, drachmae, lire and escudos, or to muddle through somehow: which is the option currently being leant towards.  Both ways will lead to catastrophe.

So, how about the middle road?  Instead of fissiparating the Euro into seventeen old currencies, how about two?  We can call them the Seuro and the Neuro, if you like.  They get exchanged at a rate of 1:1 on the cutover date, then they go their own separate ways.  I haven't worked out the details yet, it's only nine-thirty, but I can't see any insuperable problems.  The Americans will be a hiccup, but heck, it's all their fault anyway; and the Irish'll just have to decide whether to jump into the Atlantic or the Med.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Prescription drugs

Many years ago, I was in a queue at the chemist's when I overheard the lady in front of me tentatively ask the pharmacist whether it was safe to drink alcohol whilst taking her tablets.  The pharmacist drew himself up to his full height, and pronounced for the whole shop to hear: "Madam, I regard alcohol as a contra-indication for ALL medication!"  The poor woman slunk away, humiliated (and of course none the wiser from a strictly medical perspective).
I was reminded of this when the other day I had to collect a prescription for antibiotics to deal with a minor infection in, let's just say, a certain location.  I'm not sure which was worse: the memory of that awful piece of unprofessional bigotry; or the tiny smile of sympathy that my pharmacist slipped me as he handed me my prescription.

So when I got home, of course I immediately read the leaflet carefully, three times.  Thankfully, the word 'alcohol' didn't appear once.  The dosage instructions were a bit tricksy though.  'Take four a day, evenly spaced, with food.'  I thought about it.  I normally eat three times a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  But that's not a problem - I can easily sneak a snack of some kind in there to make it up to four.  So: 8.00am, 12.30 pm, 5.00pm, 8.30pm - job done!

But then I began to wonder what they meant by 'day'.  Is it my normal waking day (which can vary significantly in length); or is it a twenty-four hour period?  If the latter, then I'll only get six hours' sleep before I have to get up and have a meal.

At least the list of possible side-effects wasn't too bad.  There's a probably apocryphal drug which takes you through just about everything from itching to beri-beri, and ends with the word 'death'.  After that there's the usual instruction: 'In case of any of these, consult your doctor immediately.'

I've settled for plan A, and it seems to be working.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


I first read this word in yesterday's paper, then twice in today's, and I've heard it at least three more times on the radio today.  It had to come, because the suffix '-gate' has been applied to pretty well every political scandal since 1972, and has become easily the most insidious journalistic cliche of the past fifty years.  Of course, as Marina Hyde points out in the Guardian, the original had nothing whatsoever to do with water, or, for that matter, any sort of gate.  Watergate was just the name of a building.  I'd like to be able to identify the first journalist to appropriate the last syllable of this word as a generic suffix, and have a word with them, but I haven't the energy.

What gets me about this particular piece of linguistic abuse, though, is that it misses the point.  The current discourse should no longer be about phone hacking.  That was merely the entry point, the little crack in a huge wall, into which a much bigger wedge needs to be driven.  The 'Hackgate' neologistic cliche plays into the hands of the Murdochs of this world, because it enables them to trivialise the much bigger issues at stake.  (I presume you all know what those are, but just in case, I'll summarise them in Lord Acton's two words: 'Power Corrupts'.)  By keeping it at that level of specifics, it lets them damp it down (with carefully orchestrated play-acting - did anyone see Murdoch's performance yesterday? It reminded me of Ernest Saunders - and was the foam-pie thrower briefed, or employed?) and get on with the more important business of launching the Scum on Sunday.  And buying the next generation of rotten politicians and policemen.

Phew, that felt good!  Haven't had a good rant for ages.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Sun Burn

I'm lucky or smart enough to have a retirement income that slightly exceeds my fairly modest day-to-day needs.  I could of course expand those needs to soak up the surplus.  But all the extra things I'd spend it on would be time bound.  Every CD or movie you buy, every new car or boat or helicopter, these all require the consumption of the one commodity none of us can buy more of - hours. 

So what drives these people?  It's obviously not money, I've just proved that.  You can't eat, drink, shelter under, smoke, have sex with money.  Money doesn't get you a sunrise or a great conversation or an emotional crisis that expands your consciousness.  So what's left?

It must be power.  They must be deluded enough to believe that power - which is, when it comes down to it, the ability to use money to worsen other people's lives - is paramount, above all else.  How sad.

So what I suggest is that next Tuesday, when Rupert and his fellow-cancers are being dragged kicking and squirming to account for themselves and their insidious corruption of all that used to be good in this world, we all go down the local shop and buy every single copy of the Sun newspaper.  They only cost 30p each, so a fiver should cover it.  Get there early and barge your way to the front of the queue.  Then take them home and have a bonfire, preferably in the street.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I just posted a comment on a blog, and the computer that deals with these matters immediately replied with a friendly message which began with the word 'Howdy'.

I don't know about you, but for me this triggered a silver wave of nostalgia.  The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy ... They all said 'howdy' to heroes and villains, before shooting (never fatally) or embracing (never erotically) them.  I suspect and fear that remakes or reworkings of these fifties classics are in some perverted Hollywood production pipeline, probably funded by an offshoot of News Corp.  You heard it here first.  They're already doing 'Dallas'.

I digress.  What really interests me is: how many variations of 'Howdy' can you come up with, within the context?  I can think of several, but wouldn't wish to spoil your fun.                      

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Read the small print

The hotel seemed very nice.  The staff were friendly and the room, once I found it after negotiating several up-and-down flights of wooden hills, was clean and adequately equipped.  And the view across the harbour was delightful.  'This will do me for three nights,' I thought.

As I looked more closely at the facilities, I noticed this, printed on the outside of an envelope on the bedside table:

'I wonder what that means?', I thought, and forgot about it.

When I made my way to bed, much later, I found out.  The hotel was adjoined to a popular pub, which had an outside terrace for admirers of the view, and for smokers.  Smokers seem to talk much louder than non-smokers, to make more bad jokes and to laugh a lot.  I say smokers, because there were no view-admirers - it was dark - and the rain was falling steadily.  Smokers are also desperately resilient.

But the noise ended at about 11.15, I got a good night's sleep and forgot about it again.

Next night, the same thing happened, but I was wise to it by then.  Come 11.30, they'll be away.  And they were.  But then, the pub staff decided to have a chat, out on the terrace.  This was worse, because the conversation was inaudible most of the time, but then, just as I was slipping away, someone would make a good joke.  I don't know if you've ever been in a similar situation, but the worst of it is that you lie there wondering if that was the last one, or if not when the next one will be along.

It was time for the earplugs.  Here are the instructions for installing them:

Try that at midnight.  They sort of work, but they're uncomfortable enough to keep you awake.

By 1.30, I'd had enough.  I opened the window and had a word.  I was very polite.  "I say, would you be so kind as to put a focken sock in it?  Some people up here are trying to get some bleeping sleep!  Thank you SOO much."

That did the trick. 

By the final evening, the word had obviously gone out that there was a Scillonian demon residing up there.  The revellers meekly let themselves be shepherded off the terrace, at eleven sharp, by the ferocious landlady, and I slept soundly until five-thirty, when the seagulls started their dawn chorus.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Box-ticking exercise

Off on me hols tomorrow.  I'll tick the boxes when I get back.  Click and enlarge to enjoy.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Memories are made of something

I was hunting through an old wine box up in the spare bedroom for a notebook containing the first chapter of a children's story I'd started to write about twenty years ago, when instead these are what I found.

Is there anyone out there old enough for this to bring tears to their eyes?

I can do the backs of the EP sleeves as well, if coerced - and I might even have the records that used to live inside them.