Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dubai World Cup

So You Think?

Later today, out in the desert sand, under the bright lights a bunch of horses will try to win the world’s richest race over one mile and two furlongs.

Good luck to them all. I can’t find a reason not to think So You Think won’t win.

And I’ve got a collection of triple negatives there that would make an editor’s toes curl.

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I’m listening…

…To the Art of Melancholy by Marcella Detroit

#Pastygate & Jerrycans

I really try to catch myself if I start indulging in a bit of schadenfraude because, like sarcasm, it’s a largely distasteful practice. The last day or so then has been a real effort of will for me, as we have been bombarded with images of MPs eating hot pasties, sausage rolls and pies, talking about hot pasties, sausages rolls and pies and visiting purveyors of same.

I am not sure when I cracked the most. Perhaps it was when George Gideon Osborne was asked in a Select Committee when he had last entered the hallowed portals of a Greggs, or whether it was when Newsnight devoted time to the debate, or indeed was it when our own, dear pasty-faced, spam-headed PM was pictured (with crumbs down his front) eating some pastry product in 2010, albeit not the hot pasty he mendaciously claimed he had once purchased at Leeds station.

When a spokesperson for Downing Street is forced to clarify the Prime Minister’s pie-purchasing habits, then we can only surmise that the world is indeed an absurd place, in all the classifications of the word. When our much-vaunted democracy is employed by the government of the day to place piddling taxes on hot baked products, to bring a high street bakery in line with a global industry such as McDonalds, what else can you think but hmmmmm.

The Conservative Party carry on like a bunch of repressed Billy Bunters at heart, given the way they perpetually get themselves into trouble over their high-handed attitude to the foodstuffs of the rest of us. Who can forget John Gummer force-feeding his daughter a burger at the height of the mad cow outbreak, or Edwina Currie who, despite trying to laugh off Pastygate this morning on the radio – hahaha, has a public persona that will always be synonymous with salmonella in eggs. The only food-related hoo haa I can recall in the Labour Party was when Blair and Brown dined at Granita. It’s hardly the same thing.

The Sun: caption competition?

And then there is the language of the Conservatives, mentioned in the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning. Whilst the Labour contingent Eds Miliband and Balls hot-footed it down to Greggs to by a bag of sausage rolls, Francis Maude from the Conservatives was suggesting we fill up our jerrycans before we had supper in our kitchen thus painting a vivid picture of a landed gentry snacking on quails eggs and still holding a grudge against the *Germans.

To be honest, I am not in shock about that which their language purportedly reveals, most of us had worked it out anyway without an analysis of the Cabinet’s lexicon. They are what they are, the Conservatives. Yes, the big sticky clue is in the name. To conserve means to protect from loss or harm, to use carefully or sparingly, to avoid waste. It also means to make jam, chutney and pickles. Of course our Prime Minister shouldn’t bother to tell us whether he eats a hot pastry product, and he shouldn’t really need to avuncularly advise us to ‘top-up’ our cars in the face of a fuel tanker drivers’ strike. But the thing is the Conservatives just can’t help it, it’s in their DNA to protect us nitwitted ones from harm, to avoid us wasting their jam and petrol. As much as they want to shrink the state locally, when it comes to their own fiddling at a national level with the very fabric of our lives, down to what we might want to eat for lunch, or at a football game; or telling us when we should be prepared for things we could easily deduce for ourselves, well they just can’t help themselves.

And finally, aside from the nannying and the language, my more serious point is: how has it come to this? The absurdity of last week’s tinkering with the tax system resulting in VAT on hot pies on one hand, whilst with the other they hand back money to millionaires. And, we pay them to do it to us.

*Wehrmachtskanister is the German word for their invention that we call the jerrycan – literally translated as a canister that makes a dam or a weir. Who of us has one, or indeed the garage to put it in? My linguistic objection m’lud is: what would we be calling it in the Conservative Party today if it had been invented in Italy or Spain or anywhere else for which we could coin a derogatory nationalistic term as a prefix?

A heart & a star

Both found on a wall near here. Some might say, graffiti ~ others, public art.

Don’t forget though, ‘every wall is a door…’

Life taking its toll

By which I mean to say nothing quite escapes the up-turned palm of the gate-keeper as time rolls on. A family and a dog ravage a home, a garden and a car in their own particular way and, if you are busy with it all, you can’t quite keep on top of it at the same time.

That’s more or less what I was thinking about when I sat outside in the garden, an outside space that could pass for a film scene set in a nuclear winter. I was uncomfortable on a wooden chair that is coming up for 6 years old and could pass for vintage, on account of neglect. It’s more or less what I thought when I considered the aspect of the car from the inside of the petrol station earlier; when the woman in front pleaded with the inanimate object that was her bank card to, ‘Please work?’. She then simply announced she had no money in the bank when it didn’t work. The assistant asked could she pay with anything else, and she just said, ‘No’ and left. Someone apologised, it could have been the broke woman or the assistant. In my head, it was me.

Really, it was only a fiver or so, and as I too have no money in the bank, but my card was agreeing to work I should have offered to pay for the items myself. I only thought of that after she had gone, so surprised was I by her frankness when I suspect many of us would have offered at least some form of dissemblance.

When I drove into the petrol station I was thinking perhaps I would fill up the car on account of the impending petrol delivery strikes and then I thought I won’t be driving it by the weekend because it’s going to fail the MOT and I can’t countenance what it might cost to fix it. And I was also holding a thought from another, earlier, conversation. I had asked someone in London if there were queues for fuel there yet, and the reply had come, no there weren’t and who could afford to fill up their tanks these days anyway? With this in mind, and the impending MOT failure (no rear brake light offside, no wing mirror nearside, stone chip in the windscreen and god know what damage to the chassis due to a no-fault collision) I put in twenty-two quids worth of fuel (and twenty-two pence), mainly for the satisfaction of lining up all the twos.

22.22

These used to be my lucky digits, but I don’t believe in luck anymore, so I can’t claim them as my own. Someone else can have them if they like, I won’t mind.

So, yes, life takes its toll on the outside of everything, it takes away the notion of luck and in its place we can frantically replace and renew and paint and restore and fix-up and rub-down and then do it all over and over again another day, another year because that’s how it goes.

Or we can sit on the parched earth on the rickety old-before-its-time chair and read something about life by an 80 year old writer, translated from the Czech, and leave all of it and everything to its own devices.

Peasant Burning Weeds ~ Vincent Van Gogh

In conversation with the subconscious

Anxiety, which is different from a direct fear stimulus (say a spider in your bed), arises when we project ourselves into the future; by which I mean if I think about something I don’t fancy doing tomorrow, today, I might get a bit anxious about it. Of course, the time frame can be much longer than thinking about tomorrow, or it can be shorter: in the next minute I have to take an exam – that might get the gut churning.

Once you’ve made the connection you can ease the anxiety by putting yourself back in the now. That’s not to say you don’t rationalise and plan effectively for upcoming, less than pleasant events, but if you don’t want to be in the grip of anxiety the best method I find is to cognitively function very much in the moment.

All well and good, but what if you find yourself feeling anxious when you aren’t thinking about something in the future. When you are just doing some commonplace task and your mind is not elsewhere, but you suddenly realise you feel uptight, worried, angst-ridden. This is a more generalised anxiety and I think it’s possibly endemic in consumer-based societies. How to find the cause? Well, I guess perhaps you have to explore the subconscious – the list of all the things that might be on your mind, but weren’t, at the time. At least you thought they weren’t, but something must be…

And not just your own subconscious (if that weren’t difficult enough), you also perhaps need to have a poke around in the collective subconscious because, after all, you might be picking up some wider anxiety in the world. The collapse of the Euro, the rise of Nationalist parties, the increase in the price of oil ~ you are part of that too.

If I were to propound what Freud said, then this post would continue with me defining the subconscious in different ways and we would also be dealing with three different kinds of anxiety, but I don’t much find this helpful, although it probably makes life more interesting for the psychotherapist. Personally, I find the work of Joseph LeDoux resonates more; it is based on neuroscience and fear reactions in the brain (see here for his latest NY Times article).

What I find helpful in the grip of dread is to ask myself ~ are you projecting forward into the future by even a minute? If I am, I stop and I tell myself I will deal with whatever is causing the possibility of anxiety when it arises in reality, and not just in my mind. If the anxiety is some unnameable thing that has settled on my shoulder for a while, then I notice it. I whisper, ‘Hello, you again?’ and I accept it. I do not fight it or run from it, and, in the end, when it has seen what it came for, it moves on.

Is that a conversation with the subconscious?

Maybe not, but that’s as good as it is going to get.

In the writing of this post I spelled subconscious in about as many different wrong ways as it is possible to spell one word. I think it may be trying to tell me something…

From the album ‘Playing With Fire’ by Dervish

When this album came out in the mid-1990s I lived with my sister, Finky Wink, in Clapton. One November we had a mad party and in the small hours we switched from playing dance music from the charts to some tracks on this album ~ everyone dancing to the Irish folk music was one of the best times I can remember in my life, it was just joyful.

This is a sad song, a warning to women. We didn’t dance to this one.

The following day I had the worst hangover of my life (tequila).

And the moral of this post is? Well, aside from the song’s sad but true sentiment: don’t eat the damn worm.

‘Waiting for a Train’

Today’s blog title track can be found here; it’s an old one by Flash and the Pan.

The dog looked like he was waiting for the commuter train from London yesterday evening, so he could race it, probably all the way to the end of the line.

He didn’t get lucky on this occasion.

‘Under the Boardwalk’

Down by the sea…

The dog decided, for reasons best known to himself, to charge up and down in excess of 25 miles per hour. He repeated the feat more than once, for me to capture his top speed antics, but this was the best I could do.

Blink...

and you miss it

Well, will it?

Seen outside a barber’s shop outside Southend Victoria station, next the new sushi takeaway. The concourse at Southend’s Liverpool Street line terminus is still no rival for St Pancras’ though; I just heard a radio programme where they said that stations were the new shopping destinations…

To answer the question – it’s a kind of, yes, and a kind of, no. In my experience, if it truly matters today, it will still matter tomorrow. I’d say it’s the wrong question though. Mattering is not a problem, unless you make it so. Providing you are conscious to it, you can suffer it anyway.

As a matter of fact, it’s called life.

*fades in Freddie Mercury*

Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters – nothing really matters to me
Anyway the wind blows…

From Bohemian Rhapsody

I don’t mind saying the first song that came to mind was by Del Amitri. But that is something else altogether. Never mind, it’s Friday. I don’t dance too much anymore, but let’s have some music anyway and as an added bonus a few engaging introductory words about the ‘list song’.