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Each Thursday evening at the Admiral Nelson facility for distressed Marinators the drugs trolley is unceremoniously shoved aside, and the lounge magically transformed – into a cinema! – but without the girls in french maid’s uniform offering ice creams at prices that make them an attractive investment for russian oligarchs keen to flee the vagaries of the currency markets. You can’t smoke either.

Or snog I suppose – do the young people still do that? Mercifully the ANFDM remains a popcorn-free zone.  They tried it once before, but an incident following the Deer Hunter screening nearly got us closed down.

 

We had a nice film about the prime minister, still looking magnificent, and doing her bit for Britain as always. God bless Maggie I say, every bit as sharp and alluring as she was in 1980.

Jim Hunt down the pub recommended “Senna” – a very good documentary apparently, but happily I’m still untroubled by digestive sluggishness, so think I’ll give it a miss.

As a fan of Ulrika Johansen I’m looking forward to that film about Vermeer – “The Artist”, as well as Those Magnificent Girls with their Pearl Tattoos” – I do like that Daniel Craig-David from the Bond films.

Last week we watched “The Ironing Lady” which was supposed to be about a black domestic in Tennessee or somewhere, but I can’t be the only one who thought that she bore more than a passing resemblance to Margaret Thatcher. And why didn’t they get that Whoopsie Goldstein to play her instead of Mary Street-Porter? Institutional racism I call it, anti semitism.

This Thursday I’m looking forward to a new film “The Help” which is supposed to be about a black domestic in Tennessee or somewhere, but anyone who’s lived long enough to gain any wisdom knows that it’s not new at all, but a film about those loveable moptop lads from Liverpool, with young Cliff Michelmore taking a bus on holiday to Greece with his nice friend from off the tennis, Mary Sharapova.

Sshh now – I think it’s starting!

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Noah? – What a prat!

My mates sometimes ask me “Why, after brilliantly masterminding the whole ‘creation in seven days’ scam did I suddenly change my mind, and why for your own sake did you put that peasant Noah in charge of the WWF – whatever they used to call it back then.

Fact is, after all that plaguing and smiting and stuff I was pretty bushed. And really you just couldn’t get the people at that time – after Abraham went the whole business took a dive. Hence the flood – I had to make it look as though I’d made an effort, or those idiots at direct line would’ve smelt a rat (if any survived). So this is the plan – Get old “yes sir, no sir” Noah and his half-wit lads on the job, they’re bound to cock it up, and bingo! The whole lot’s a certified write off, and it’s new alloys and some decent speakers on the Scooby.

So I sort him out a nice boat to keep him sweet, and ordered the rain – (you could only get the forty day packages in those days – cost me a fortune) and as soon as it starts spitting old Missus N. and the girls start in with “Oh, what about the budgie, what about the dog, what about the chickens”, and before you know it, it’s like London Zoo in there, really disgusting.

That was a tasty little cruiser, and they wrecked it, fucking savages. You’ve gotta laugh though, the things they ended up with – lions, tigers, I don’t know – camels and shit – God knows where they got hold of penguins – actually he doesn’t does he? – know what I mean?  Ha ha ha!

So anyway, I get him a nice boat, set him and the family up nicely, and tell to keep stum. Next thing you know the daft fucker’s sending out messages. Birds – see if anyone’s around sort of thing. That’s the way you get caught. It was the same with that stupid bint Eve – give her an apple, has to go showing it off.

Anyway of course the filth are straight onto it, and send him back a bit of olive – that was always their little joke “Ol ‘ive you!” – geddit? No I didn’t laugh either. We had to come to a settlement. I had to pay for the drainage, they let me develop the west, and they got to use the middle east as an oil dump. Fair enough I suppose, but I tell you – I ever see that Noah down the old Orb and Sceptre, he’s gonna get a load more shit than he ever saw in the ark.

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Adam – the early years

Yeah, I remember Adam. And that Eve was right handful too. I used to know her mum bless ‘er. Used to run good fruit stall, but the girl wasn’t going to settle for that, oh no, it was going to be the Garden of Eden for her, clothes ‘n’ everything.

Adam was alright. OK, he’d been in a few scrapes, but he was sorting himself out. Anyway, she wasn’t any good for him, but he couldn’t see that. He’d seen her down the market of course and fancied her melons I reckon Ha ha ha.

Nah, she was a looker, I’ll give him that, but she let herself go after the boys came along. They were trouble from the off. Eventually Cain tried to muscle in on Abel’s turf up west, and Abel ends up getting shot. Course Cain swears it wasn’t him, but still legs it off to Nod, which had already got a dodgy reputation even in those days – bit like Benidorm I s’pose.

I’d outsourced a lot of the creation business by then. I did the light – oh yeah, that was all me, and the water – that took ages (I know that’s not what it says in the manual, but I used to tinker about with time when I was a nipper, so I could sort all that). But it’s the details – the snagging that takes so much time, all the plants and stuff, and I wanted to be spending more time down the club. Then this bloke turns up offering “turnkey solutions for human resources”, so I give him the job and left them to it. But of course they cut corners, were just up for a fast buck, and next time I checked there’s all these traffic wardens, bankers, management consultants, Gawd ‘elp us,  and they’d even started turning out “Jehova’s Witnesses”. Well that was it. I hadn’t licensed the name, so I got them on that.

“Evil Eve” we used to call her – yeah, I should’ve seen that would happen, once the idea of naked, grasping self-interest took root there was no way to go back.  But I just re-branded it and whacked it out as “Freedom of Choice” – Kerching!

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God gets back in touch

Dear All,

Just a note to see if you’re still living in the same place really.

Remember me? White beard – in the heavens, bit handy with the old thunderbolts? Yeah, sorry about that. ‘Course I haven’t done anything like that for years now, put on a bit of weight I s’pose – haven’t we all? And the beard’s a bit thinner,  I did try dyeing it, but I looked a twat.

Truth is, I hit a bit of a dodgy patch, and I’m only just coming out of it, you know, starting to look a few people up. Not always welcome either – talk about a lost weekend! Lost couple of millennia more like! Well, I wouldn’t have believed it, but when they show me the pictures and the stories… It’s frightening, frankly. I can’t believe it was me. It wasn’t me. I’m different now, I’ve changed.

When I think what I did to those Sodomites, poor buggers Ha ha! – poor buggers! – d’ya get it? Ha ha! No seriously though, it’s shaming. It’s not as if I wasn’t old enough to know better is it? I mean – I’m fucking timeless! Sorry! No sorry missus, you got kids there haven’t you? Sorry.

Then there’s the A-rabs.  Just ignorant I was, I admit it. That Mohammed, I was livid when they first moved in, but he’s done well for hisself, started with the one cornershop and now look at him. Very profitable enterprise – Ha ha! Profitable – do you see I done there? No, but he’s a good old boy, old Mohammed. I see him down the golf club Thursdays and we have a drink and a bit of a laugh now. Course he doesn’t really drink, and I’ve cut back a lot, but we still have a good time, talk about books and stuff.

Anyway that’s me, what have you been up to?

Thanks for having my lad over by the way. Said he’d had a good time, but some people got upset and he had to leave a bit sharpish (like father like son eh?)

I wasn’t a good dad to him. Wasn’t around a lot of the time, it’s no wonder he turned out like he did – long hair, peace ‘n’ love and all that shit – no girlfriends, know what I mean… Nah, that doesn’t bother me now. He’s my boy, that’s what counts, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Talking of which, what’ve you all been doing? Did  you ever get those brains to work properly?  I didn’t keep up with the updates on you lot to be honest, and they just stopped support after a while, so you can’t get the specs when something goes wrong. I try to keep it ticking along, with some old bits and bobs from here and there, but it’s a bit flakey, really needs totally re-doing properly, and I can’t see that happening at this stage. It’s bit late now to be doing that sort of thing.

Wasn’t it you who had all those nice mountains and stuff? Rivers? – Atmosphere? Yes it’s coming back now.  Spent hours doing that, shifting stuff around, getting the drainage right. Did a good job on that one, though I say it myself. Takes skill that. Course that was before…

Dear oh dear, hark at me rabbiting on like an old wossname…,   fuckin…

Anyways what have you been up to then? Still enjoying the fresh air and stuff? Don’t touch that plutonium stuff that I left did you?  I did say – didn’t I? Left a message or something? Maybe I forgot. Shit. Sorry.

You’ve had some characters there though haven’t you? That Atilla the Hun? – Nutter!

Old Joey Stalin? He’s long gone I s’pose – That Hitler bloke? Dear oh Lor… he had a temper on him didn’t he? Whoo hoo!  Mind you I kind of liked him though. You knew where you were with him, and he’d had a harsh upbringing I reckon. OK, he wasn’t the most sociable, but you know, you shouldn’t rush to judge should you? I’m sure we’ve all seen off a race or two before now, and thought better of it later.

Bugger, look at the time! Look, it’s good to be back in touch, I should pop down sometime if that’s alright with the missus and that. We could go for a drink or two, and not that pissy communion wine neither. Nice drop of Courvoisier’d go down a treat, line or two of the old marching. Course I shouldn’t really, but I do like a bit of a bevvy you know, at Christmas… Easter and stuff. Watch the racing. Though of course it’s not the same when you know who’s going to win.

That be OK with you? If there’s anything that needs sorting, you know… I feel perhaps I owe you… any damage or stuff…

Anyway, chin chin – later!   Take care.

 

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The naked and the warm.

We are all born naked as babes, and from that moment on are variously covered for many reasons: Protection – both for our own person and later in life for the sensibilities of those around us; to help in attracting a compatible mate, and to express ourselves. But for the married female, the overwhelming priority is to keep warm.

The paradox is that if by some lucky accident, an outfit can be found that both parties to the marriage agree looks nice, SWMBO will declare seconds before departure that she will soon be feeling cold, and it is necessary to bury the delightful and carefully-assembled ensemble under shapeless woollens, fleeces or a ski jacket in order to ward off frostbite.

Girls, frequently decorated by adoring mums in infancy, soon learn that they can make themselves more fascinating by divesting themselves of as much of their clothing as possible, the only proviso being only that you have to leave something to take off.

Interestingly, the extent to which this is observed is generally in inverse proportion to the prevailing temperature. Hard to believe I know, but a short visit to Tyneside for example – ideally in the winter months – will confirm this. Enter any bar on a chilly Friday night, and you will find a bevy of hardy amazons in various states of deshabille. It’s what they call “dressed up”.

Should they address you, it will very likely be to enquire whether you are surveying their “pint”, and may be accompanied by an offer to step outside. This would be a very bad idea. While they can withstand hours naked in this harsh climate, you would be sure to succumb to hypothermia within minutes.

Despite the acres of timber forest sacrificed for fashion magazines, the day-to-day apparel of the working woman sends an altogether different message. The dark tailoring – uniform in all but name – has the strength of sheet steel. Armour for the city, but with little cracks from which feminine attacks may be summarily launched with terrifying effectiveness.

Of course on tropical beaches, it would be foolish to wear any more than you need to, but when the icy blast of a sub-35 degree English summer’s day threatens, then cardigans and fleeces appear like autumn leaves, to restore vital core temperatures.

Although it has been noted on blogs passim that the diversity and availability of feminine apparel is bewildering and overwhelming, nevertheless, woman invest enthusiastically and repeatedly while making little impact upon the supply.

Young husbands should learn early on to distance themselves from this activity, fraught as it is with unavoidable risk. Although no shortages have been reported in the uxorial wardrobe, and no purchase needed, or foreseen in any way, the ingenue will find unexpectedly himself being pressed for an opinion on the suitability or appeal of this or that garment.

Devoid of any criterion to judge, he begins to dissemble, and the day is lost. The only way to restore relations is swiftly and enthusiastically to purchase whatever seems to be the most favoured item among the sartorial kaleidoscope spinning madly before him. Stumbling out into daylight, he feels emotionally bruised, confused, and unable to make sense of what has just happened.

His bafflement is compounded when later, with the taxi running up a bill outside, the new clothes are still being combined with every other item in the wifely repertoire to see if there is anything that doesn’t clash or produce any other sort of harmful reaction.There isn’t, and is clear that a painful compromise is going to have to be reached.

Once again hubby is called on to pronounce on this hopeless situation. It is so clearly lose / lose that he should be reaching for the hemlock instead of the fortifying G&T which he has hitherto been sucking to steady his fast-shredding nerves.

Fuming, the lady of the house declares that she will pull on some all-enveloping yashmak thingy which will disguise all but the very the worst of the sartorial catastrophe which has quite naturally ensued from hubby’s fateful indecision earlier in the paraphrenetic purgatory of the dress shop.

At least she’ll stay warm.

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The Stepford Years

Another of those little online clothes brochures has insinuated itself into my post.
A well-preserved thirty-something on a country walk beams from the cover with a look that says “Life is sooo… good!”
There then follow eighty pages of pictures featuring clothes in such classifications as “casual classics” “refined casuals” “weekend casuals” as if you’re supposed to have a selection of each of these in your wardrobe which, it infers, you completely renew on an annual basis.

The clothes horses women in these pictures are very happy – tripping in and out of boats, hugging their knees on a sun-bleached boardwalk or just remembering something nice and dreamy.
And why wouldn’t they be? They are the women who gorge on burgers and cheesecake and never gain a pound, who look drop-dead gorgeous even bleary and bedraggled as they tumble out of their lucky bed.

These women are well brought up, don’t talk about their fine arts degree, and affluent (judging by the prices). They have children called Ben and Bethany who excel at maths and swimming and have a singing scholarship to an enlightened school nestling in some green Cotswold hollow.

What is interesting about these fashions though, is that they are not sexy, or strikingly stylish, they bespeak comfortable mumsiness. It’s M&S for those don’t shop at M&S. At least not for clothes. The word “easy” appears on every page in a multitude of guises and conjunctions.
We are privy to a world of Waitrose and country walks, of school gate and book clubs, of the home beautiful.

These are snapshots of the Stepford years.

And “he” is nowhere to be seen.

Oh no hang on – there are six full pages of he-wear for her to choose for him!

All five of the permissible items of the Stepford male wardrobe are available here: The dress-down-Friday outfit: Pastel shirts with racy button-down collars, chinos with razor-sharp creases (wife does properly turned-out husband). And for when you’re really slobbing it, smart t-shirts and the ubiquitous polo – sorry, piqué polo. For the really adventurous, substitute “cargo pants” for chinos at when mowing the lawn. Shorn of any military association, these are also clean and nicely pressed.
No jeans, no hoodies. If you need to know what won’t get you blackballed at the golf club, look in here.

Oh, I nearly missed the last page – it’s the jacket your dad used to have.

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Are we seeing the (overdue) death of capitalism?

For generations capitalism has facilitated a fantastic increase in quality of life and scientific advancement. Since the days when the word “industry” meant honest toil, the profit motive and private ownership have served as a spring to development driven by a very powerful philosophical engine – the belief that human greed and self interest will trump everything else.

It has proved incredibly resilient, but the adoption of that basic, and to my mind rather nihilistic, assumption has also had consequences. A populace previously constrained by strongly prescribed moral values were now licensed to enact all sorts of iniquities in the name of progress. As the industrial revolution began, life was indeed improved for many, who preferred the regular work and relative comfort of town life to the risks of hand-to-mouth dependancy on unreliable agriculture.

But along with a completely new urban culture we also saw the environment under attack. Dying and bleaching processes, mining and milling, the grossly inefficient extraction and wasteful use of resources that we now are desperately trying to ration and conserve.
Capitalism needs growth, and at the time of our greatest expansion resources were available in abundance, often from other countries whose own welfare frankly, was not our concern. In today’s global village however, we are painfully aware of the limitations of raw material supplies.

Although education has undeniably been a bonus of this period, it’s value has become construed as being chiefly in the service of capitalism. That is, young people are trained to do jobs, and any spiritual dimension, so crucial to the early educators (being mostly churches) has been all but squeezed out. The body has been gratified, but the mind much less so.

At some point on the graph, it must have seemed like the perfect system: More people in work, scientific and medical advancements appearing almost weekly, luxury as had only hitherto been enjoyed by very few now available to millions, financial systems and instruments that promised stability as well as refuelling the system.

Those financial entities quite logically applied the same concepts of growth and optimisation to their own operations, and a whole new sector was born, apparently independent of the manufacturing and trade that had parented it. Now rather than simply facilitating physical, real-world activity, exchange and debt were traded as commodities, and often – in an echo of the early days of the industrial revolution – with scant regard to any real-world damage that might result from that trade. And since few people are familiar with the frequently arcane processes of the world money market, this sector has largely avoided the scrutiny and judgment which democracy and a free press have brought to bear in other areas of our lives. When dubious practice comes to light, exculpation is often sought – interestingly – not by reference to morals and ethics, but to the benefits to our economic system. In other words, a further assumption is being made – that what is good for capitalism is good for society.

Over the years however, many products have been marketed that have plainly not been good for society – opium, medicines with appalling side-effects, and not least, cigarettes, where we have seen the tobacco industry resorting to criminal activity to preserve itself long after the deleterious effects of smoking were known. We see similar behaviour in the oil industry and with other deniers of climate change. The financial sector has also been busy lining its own nest while pension funds have been plundered, and debt created that would never be backed by equity. We are now feeding the beast.

It may justly be argued that businesses have only supplied what people want, and that the market is the ultimate expression of democracy. We do have however an alternative measure of public opinion in the shape of democratic elections, and oddly perhaps, there is frequently a discrepancy between the market and the ballot box. Is it in fact in the interests of big business for a populace to be fully active in politics – or just sufficient to claim majority approval?

We have seen rapidly falling participation in the democratic process and a disenchanted and effectively disenfranchised sector has emerged. The result of this is that policy can be enacted without majority approval. While the executive can argue that everyone technically has a voice, the effectively disenfranchised can only resort to other, non-democratic methods of expressing themselves.
We should also remember that we have a whole industry – advertising – devoted to distorting the market, which is quite happy to encourage us to give up our wealth for any purpose by subverting the supposed balancing effect of competition – one of the pillars of capitalism.

The media (industry) which we need to inform our democracy is closely bound up with advertising and commerce, and so is genetically disposed to support the status quo. The words “rich” and “powerful”, are virtually inseparable, and the influence of that power can be seen on governments across the world as industries use their impressive resources to influence ostensibly democratic parliaments in their favour.

The twin systems of capitalism and communism have grown old together. International post-war politics, manifested so graphically by the rabid reactionary eruption of McCarthyism in the United States and the continuation of the cold war, polarised whole nations against even the words “communism” and “socialism”, while these doctrines found favour with those who not unreasonably feared the west’s all-encompassing cultural and economic imperialism. The abandonment of communism in various countries in 1989 was largely seen as a vindication of capitalism
These regimes, it is true, may have been far less than perfect, but then who, especially in the light of recent events, would like to argue that the American model of capitalism is itself perfect, or free from corruption and cronyism?

Has capitalism also reached the end of its useful life? We are so habituated to it that it is difficult to see beyond the constraints of the profit motive, and maybe it will take great disruptions, both self-inflicted and natural to test the system to destruction, forcing us probably painfully, certainly reluctantly, to give up our unquenchable lust for unsustainable luxuries and start realistically and honestly to plan for a sustainable future.

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