Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Election: Does Anyone Care?

David Cameron voted against the repealing of Section 28, did y'all know that? So that's gay people AND foxes he doesn't like. But at least he smiles nicely for the newspapers, eh? I could never elect someone with a leer like Gordon Brown's...

I wrote the above on Facebook this morning, taking one of my periodic stabs at Shakespearean irony. But it will undoubtedly be ignored, as most of my political comments are. I can't say I blame anybody for that either. This coming Election has managed even to alienate those who are normally politically engaged. All you hear on the streets and in the pubs and in people's front rooms is a general agreement that "we have to get rid of Brown".

When you ask people why, they're usually hard pressed to give you an answer, unless they're Tory activists in their spare time. They might tell you he got us into the Recession, which of course is nonsense; they might tell you his ideas for getting us out of it, even if he didn't create it, will leave us walking forlornly around the world with a begging bowl for the next ten years--and whether or not you believe that depends on your view of economics. Your understanding, even, of economics, and who you think should bear the burden as we climb out of the hole we've been in towards the brighter sun of the recovery.

Most people, though, just want Brown out because they don't like him. They think he's creepy. But they don't like Cameron a great deal more. He seems insincere. He reminds us a little too much of the perfectly stage-managed Tony Blair, who turned out in most people's minds--whether they voted Labour or not--to be a conman of the first water. George Osborne has failed so spectacularly to make a hit with the public the Tories have even theorised about bringing back Kenneth Clarke as Chancellor. And as for the LibDems...well, Vince Cable is popular with political junkies because of his sharp wit and his gift for the soundbite. But nobody else would be able to pick him out of a police line-up; and the leader of his party may well be no more than a rumour.

In other words the public, whether it be cynicism or the truth, sees the current crop of politicians who will soon be asking for our vote as a generation of shop-window mannequins dressed up like human beings by their vested interests and convincing nobody except the really foolish. And behind all that there remains the whiff of corruption caused by last year's expenses scandal.

Hardly surprising, in the light of the above, that people miss Margaret Thatcher and Tony Benn and plan to use their vote purely as an act of protest against the party in power. It may well be an impotent act that does more harm than good to the country, but what should they vote for when they have their own crowded lives to lead and one has to dig the truth out of politics with an industrial machine these days?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Bard Of Semilong Goes Back To School

I'm applying to do the English degree I meant to do 28 years ago before I dropped out, driven by a vision of artistic purity & independence that left me doing a job I hated and living on nothing but the poison in my belly.

I don't want to waste the rest of my life doing things that murder my mind and ruin my general good will towards humanity, secretly loathing myself the whole time because I don't have the balls to get out. That's how I spent the last fifteen years (lol, as you kids say)(but I'm not really joking). Maybe I loved the job once but looking back through the journals I wrote throughout that time I struggle to find any evidence of it. In the last year, dragging myself out of bed in the mornings to go in and face the same old shit that I'd been facing year in/ year out since the mid-Nineties was getting to be pretty hard indeed, especially when my employer began harassing me about my health, and the home I worked in turned into a Stalinist hellhole where everybody was under the gun. I couldn't write, I couldn't meditate; I felt I had become a completely hollow man.

I'm out of that now, mercifully, but the dole won't pay me to sit around on my big bum writing just because I'm not in the peak of health anymore, unfortunately, though it was one of my scenarios for the future. And even if they would have done I'm not sure I'd want to go down there every week or every fortnight, however frequently they make you visit these days, and have to answer to some kid who doesn't know half of what I know (in the Raymond Carver sense) just to keep my freedom.

Freedom's just a different kind of slavery anyway, in my opinion. I've spent too much of my life refusing to take control of my own fate, just because I don't dare to dream (that sounds corny, but it's kind of right). Because I don't dare to try to be as big as I can be, in case I fail and have to accept I'm less marvellous than my arrogance wishes to believe.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bravo Google

Good news on the radio this morning in the ongoing fight against human rights abuses in China: Google has announced it will no longer co-operate with the Chinese Government's censorship of internet searches relating to politically sensitive matters. I'm not fully up on the technicalities of these things, being just on the borderline of what the sloppy press would classify "silver surfer" age (there wasn't anything as wonderful as the internet in my youth, lads and lasses), but apparently Google searches now are being rerouted through a server (if that's the right word) in Hong Kong. The difficulty is that results have to come back through a Chinese server which is still censored, but even if Google's move fails completely to liberate information for Chinese citizens, it's marvellous to see such a huge corporation putting conscience before profit at last. Okay, it took a few years, but to be fair to Google China was sending confusing signals about its readiness to open up to the world.

Monday, March 22, 2010

This Is How The Job Hunt's Going

I have to say, I'm getting a bit fed up with all these cheapskate employers trying to pass their own costs off onto me by sending application forms out only via email. & then  having the nerve to attach an equal opportunities monitoring form with the thing, as if they're not infringing equal opps with their assumption we all have unlimited internet access and a printer.

I can't say I'm particularly keen to find a job, after the psychological warfare of the last one, battling every day with a crude manager whose ambition seemed to be to string my testicles up over her desk; and the brutal way work cuts into my writing time and ruins my meditation, and the way you are expected to become a blindly obedient drone in most places I've ever worked--there's no room in the workplace for a real individual--but the money won't last forever and I feel I ought to show willing at least, before I give up and become a happy old man dozing by his window as the kids run by from school. Especially since almost every conversation I have with anybody these days starts with the words, "How's the job hunt going?"

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Confession

Watching the English Defence League march on tv made me realise how wrong I was to dismiss them as an inarticulate whites-only hooligan gang populated by pitbull breeders, Sun readers, Tory voters and former guests on the Jeremy Kyle Show. But at least I'm admitting it now.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Imagine the Pitch.

After the novel's done (part 1 anyway--it's a trilogy now), I've decided I'm going to write a film where nothing happens except 2 people have nice talks & pet sheep & sigh alot as they smell flowers & look at pretty things in the morning.

Imagine the pitch.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Kettering Days: You Can't Be A Saint When Your Ego Is Bigger Than The World

I've had three people I used to work with in Kettering reject Facebook friend requests I sent them in the last year. And in 09 someone else I once felt particularly close to treated me like a complete stranger when I got her number (by fair means) and sent her a friendly text, trying to re-establish some form of communication.

Why do I want to, you might ask? Am I trying to fill in tremendous gaps in my life? Am I looking for a girlfriend? Am I dying and as in some as-yet-unmade (I presume)American weepie trying to atone for all my past mistakes? No to all of those questions, as far as I'm aware.

I am actually happier than I've ever been, with a woman who "meets me in cafeterias and loves me", as Ginsberg would say, and so much going on in my life I don't have time to keep up with it all.

But my recent illness probably has given me a different perspective on life. So has turning 45. (So has being happy.) I hope I may be finally maturing. And part of that maturing process has involved looking backwards and realising I had much that should have made me happy before, but didn't because I didn't know how to respond to it then. I have realised that I disregarded too much. Overlooked other things. That I was, to borrow someone else's phrase, "an indifferent caretaker" of the gifts life had given me because my distorted thinking about the world and myself had made me angry and egotistical.

I just wanted, by talking to the people I knew then (and before that, when the time came), to acknowledge that I could have been a better friend or work colleague or family member (we all have so many different roles to play in the lives of others), thereby restoring the value of the trust or affection they gave and saw trampled in the dirt, I suppose, and releasing me a little further from my unfounded bitterness and self-delusion.

But the people I knew back then have either moved on, or they can't forgive me for the things I did and didn't do, and have no wish to make contact again. That's fine. One can't go back, not really. All we can do is understand the mistakes we've made and resolve not to make them in the future. It's a fundamental of Buddhist practise and the only way to be a decent human being who somebody might shed a tear over, in the grave.

I wish I had told them, though, in the old days, about the crazy person I had at home, who was screwing up my head by telling me stories about rape and incest, who was stealing my money, writing reams and reams of abuse directed at me on A4 paper and tacking it all around the house for me to find on the rare occasions when she went out. Who wrapped things in bubble wrap for no reason I could fathom and then became highly disturbed when I asked her about it. She was sliding rapidly into madness and I didn't feel I could tell anybody about it because of family loyalty. I was an egotistical man before that, with much less regard for other people than I should have had, so I'm not blaming my shabby treatment of my friends entirely on the situation at home. But it can't have helped. And it might have helped them understand me a little, if I'd shared even a little of it. "Candour ends paranoia," as someone, I think it was Ginsberg again, said.

I know my relationship with Ruth was divisive, but I'm saying that six years after the joy went out of it and four years after it ended. At the time there was an illicit thrill in it that anybody who's been in the same sort of situation will understand. And anybody who wanted to know if the stories were true could have asked, I think. I wasn't such an ogre then; I was just a narcissist pretending to be sweet and humble (pretending to myself as well, as I may be right now). Whether I would have told them the truth or not is another matter, but I hope I would.

"If time were like a passage of music," Joyce Johnson wrote in 'Minor Characters',"you could keep going back till you got it right."

I had to look death in the face and really, truly, fall in love, just once, before I even started to grow up.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

As A Stakeholder...

If the BBC wants to cut expenditure why doesn't it stop having 2 presenters, 1 newsreader, 1 weatherman, 1 travel person, 1 finance expert, 1 political correspondent, 1 film critic and 1 newspaper reviewer for every radio show rather than culling Radio Six and the Asian Network?