Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria vote: nobody's a winner

Nobody "won" the Commons vote tonight. The killing will continue, and would have continued if the result had been different. But their have been some surprise victories.

Even a dwarf fares better on the shoulders of giants. That is Ed Miliband. Tonight, with Milliband leading the vote to head off intervention in Syria, he has joined the ranks of those whose moment in history will be remembered for some time.

Don't get me wrong, hitherto I had no impression of him. As Churchill once said; "An empty cab pulled up in Downing Street, and Clement Attlee got out of it. You might have said the same of Ed Milliband.

One other person should get the thanks for the vote against war. Tony Blair - the legacy of Iraq just keeps on giving.

As for the United States of America..

Some of us sniggered a bit when Obama was hailed as the Messiah, on his election.
The BBC's John Simpson cooed,
The United States has seen the biggest transformation in its standing in the world since the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in November 1960..But there are times when it (the hype) is entirely true. With Barack Obama's victory, one of these moments has arrived. As an African-American (literally, since his father was from Kenya) his background is not one of privilege and superiority. He will be open to the world in a way President Bush never was. And he will show once again the value of the American dream. In the rush to war in 2003, when many American politicians were frightened to stand out against the crowd, Barack Obama condemned the invasion loudly and publicly.
The fact that he has been elected president is his reward for that. And everyone around the world who felt that the Iraq war was wrong will feel that America has now chosen a different path - a path that leads away from extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and all the rest of it.
Yes, and there is a Santa Claus after all. And the BBC are just as complicit in this obscene deception as the politicians.

So all in all, perhaps we can sleep a little easier tonight, but it is of little comfort to the  many Syrians are going to suffer and die.

Monday, 26 August 2013


I am taking a break from blogging for a bit. Real life has overtaken me, such as gardening and other people. It's actually all pleasant stuff, but it needs attention.

Trawling through the news and comments in the MSM, I am depressed by the level of the debate. I like to think I am even-handed, but the Guardian comments are perhaps the most rabid and bigoted of the lot. Most of the commenters are sheep-like in their ever-decreasing race to be the most right-on and most hate-filled and nihilistic. The Telegraph is barely better and the Mail, well, just does not bear thinking about.

We seem to be on the brink of another war, so I shall stick to the gardening and wait a bit until things become a little clearer.

best wishes


Friday, 16 August 2013

Weasel's Weekend World

There is a post-script to my post below about the Western Isles and it is about the people. There is an inner strength and a lack of fear about them that is both fascinating and difficult to pin down. I suppose it is born out of generations whose main preoccupation was staying alive. We were walking in a small village and came across some stray chickens. Being keen chicken fans and having spent ten year's keeping the little dears, we investigated further and discovered a little lad of about 8 or so who seemed intent on rounding them up. "Would you like to stroke one of them?" he asked us. With that, he picked on up and gave it a cuddle.

The mantle of anonymity is something that cyberspace must come to terms with. I am quite shocked at the excess it encourages, usually along the lines of some pretty disgusting comments. I don't suppose I am the only one who is shocked by the rotten core of our fellow humans who seem to think that it is ok to threaten violence and scatter obscenities.

I have been blogging for almost a decade and I can say that I have tried to ensure that I have the courage of my comments. I cannot think of any post where I was not prepared to back it up with facts or in person. Sure, I have expressed my opinions, and often forcefully. I have also said things that, upon reflection, were best left unsaid, but I was lucky because I was a trained journalist and the habit of fact-checking and a nod to the libel laws, not to mention a distaste for verbal abuse have helped me to do what I do without hurting people. Oddly enough, one of my favourite blogs was The Devil's Kitchen. It no longer exists now, but it was probably the swearyist blog in the Universe, full of vitriol, piss and vinegar. But it made a kind of point in a way which never offended me or anybody reasonably thick skin. The point of it was to vent spleen in a very targeted and clever way. It never descended to nihilism. Its author probably got tired of it, but also, as I recall, realised that he was too well known in real life and had to either tone it down or pack it in. He was not really the personification of the Devil, more a kind of Malcolm Tucker, a modern Thersites. He is missed.

Gibralter interests me. It is one of those issues which always brings out people who pick a point in time, any point in time, and try to justify their arguments by claiming that that point in time is the one by which the current problem should be viewed. The flaws are obvious; perhaps we should claim compensation from the Roman Empire because they scarred our landscape with unwanted building projects that we now have to maintain at tax-payer's expense. I would shut up about it if I got a Lamborghini Aventador and a villa in Capri by way of reparations.

We have been told recently to get used to decades of blistering heat-wave summers. The blistering heat wave summer up here lasted under two weeks and the thermometer never went above 25c. I can barely get out to mow the lawn between showers.

Nigel Farage, feared by the bad, loved by the good..(Oh sorry, that's Robin Hood). He is the man with a pint and a fag. Cameron and Eggy Milliband have a lot to learn from him. After all, who of the three can you most identify as an actual human?

Album of the week: Bakerloo, the eponymous. An often overlooked piece that came out on Harvest at the tail-end of the Sixties. This Worried Feeling is a Blues gem.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Life on the edge of nowhere

I have just come back from the Outer Hebrides - the Western Isles if you will.

It's a terrible place; wind and rain scour what's left of the vegetation from the ugly rock. Dead cars, dead houses and dead dishwashers line the roads, as if Armageddon had come last week. It's a tree-less tundra, sodden with peat and moss. The roads don't often run to two lanes. Instead, there is a series of passing places, sometimes a dozen or so in a half-mile stretch. (Why don't they just build two lanes?)

When someone leaves a house on Uist, they don't knock it down, but they were so badly built that a few years of neglect ensures their descent back to the rubble from which they came. Some got electricity in the 1970s. Some residents had running water, too. They made their own fun until television came along and until then the custom was to have visitors from day to day who would sit and talk the hours away. That doesn't happen anymore, according to one man of my age who was born there.

Nothing extraneous can be seen. It is devoid of visual culture, a testament to the (until recently) subsistence living. Townies from London sometimes move there and decide to paint and make sculptures. The results are mostly very good renditions of not a lot.

When the sun shines, which it did on one day of our week, it is possible to be lost on a three-mile beach of white sand, gently nudged by a turquoise sea. Stuck in the dunes, about half way up on one such beach, there was a rusting Citroen 2CV.

It is life in the raw; no wonder the monks liked it. Because the march of progress and IKEA has left the islands behind, there are a large number of prehistoric monuments and earth works. Standing stones and burial chambers, left, like the houses that nobody needs anymore.

The people, as you might imagine, are insular and obsessed with what each other are doing. An incomer does not really stand a chance. The standard type of entertainment is drinking at home (The few pubs are devoid of all but the most unsavoury locals), gossiping and watching TV. On the latter, I was told that it goes on for breakfast and stays on, all day, until bedtime. Few do any gardening for, there are no gardens. Homes stand as if stuck like houses on a monopoly board, clinging to the rocks for dear life. Most range from functional to just ugly.

There is a kind of myth that some communities close the swings on Sunday. Well. some shops close and the churches seem to be stuck in the 19th century and a care nurse we met told us that she was advised against cutting an old man's fingernails on a Sunday, since it was non-essential. We saw washing out on a Sunday. Curiously it appeared to be a mixed weekly bag of two towels, two pairs of knickers and some shirts. Washing goes on the line in all weathers and stays there until it dries. Perhaps only the prostitutes put their washing out on Sundays as a kind of signal - short skirts, co-ordinating clothes and make up seem to be out of the question.

A word about food. It is over-priced, but some of it is very good. If you want beef that actually tastes like beef, or crab claws that taste of the sea, there is no better place in the UK. But on the whole the Western Isles don't really get tourism. It is no place for sophisticated tastes or dependence on modern technology. Sure, you can get TV and the internet, and a phone signal, but not always.

Why did I go? To see for myself and to have a change. I'm curious. I am also spoiled; I am used to things like planning permissions and garbage regulations and Marks and Spencer and soft toilet wipes. Suddenly finding myself on an island that resembled a social housing project was a shock.

If, however, you truly want to be alone, to shun civilisation give up most of its comforts and culture and become one with the Universe, the Earth and Donovan, then The Outer Hebrides is for you. But don't forget; it rains most of the time and most of your meditations will be soggy ones.