A Momentous Year

harpy-imagesA coke and a smile and it’s already 6th of January, most New Year’s resolutions are well on their way to being broken and a whole new seedbed of freshly sprouting tragedies are preparing to break the soil of 2017.    So, will this year be better than last?


At least, not in the eyes of the media harpies who sit on the branches  of the ‘London Bubble’, glaring balefully at me through the window of my northern turret.   Now these are interesting birds:  for they are gifted in their description of impending misery.  The instant I venture to share their wavelength they bombard me with carefully measured doses of doom, interspersed with worthy advice concerning avoidance measures.

Brexit, they persist in wailing, will be a disaster as yet beyond human experience, one we cannot possibly calculate in terms of the millions who will starve, the race riots that will injure us and loot our properties, or the unmitigated fury of the spurned bankers, who will all leave for France.   Have we not already been swept up in a tide of hyper-inflation, with savage price rises, critical supply shortages and assaults by irritable German Federalists?

Well again, no.

In fact, virtually every prediction for Armageddon has so far proved false, apart from the one concerning the lowered value of our dear old dusty English Pound, which, as it turns out, is a boon to industry, because at 2.2 percent the British growth rate for the past year is the highest in the western world.   Meanwhile, across the Channel, the European economies are either languishing or in trouble, one way or another.  The euro is showing all the early signs of terminal disease.

Without indulging in lengthy (and very boring) discussion of comparative ills, the political right is hauling itself up several electoral ladders, notably in the big European players – France, Italy, and possibly even Germany, with electoral processes due to chart their success this year.  Right-wing political thinking is broadly anti-EU, but political science is a lot like theology: a subject with no substance in itself which is guided and reinterpreted by those who administer it.  Where it exists it is upon an ideal or a myth, and the problem for the ministry of a fashionable creed is their vulnerability to being swept aside when events disprove their ineffable vision.  There is no in between:   saints or heretics; the Vox Populae judges only by results.

Britain’s greatest enemy in the execution of Brexit lies within itself.  Pandering to instinctive British obsequiousness, and unconvinced of its negotiating power or the cards it holds, the government seems to be falling over itself in attempts to ‘achieve the best deal’, regardless of its record in that department when David Cameron was lashed to the helm, and without any acknowledgement to the bigger world that waits to trade and interrelate.

Hot news!   You cannot ‘negotiate’ with zealots.  They don’t listen.  Whether Federalist or Islamist they are convinced of their cause in the face of all reason, and their pursuit of it will be relentless.   The only way for the European ideal to break down is the way it must, whether in months or years: by collapse from within.

Complications, EU rules and agreements founded upon them, are really a distraction from what will be UKs final recourse, just to walk away and close the door.   The vast amount of money, and work for the Civil Service, though, that will be expended in reaching that conclusion, is not for the EU.  It is to gratify powerful influences within UK.

Make no mistake, the greatest obstacle to a smooth and effective severance is rampant self-interest.   I can understand it, in a way.  In the long term, as everyone knows, the Carney Bank of England interest rate, which has lingered at fractions of a percent for some years now, must rise.  In most of the country such changes are manageable, but if you live in a two-bedroom flat in London which cost your lenders the north side of £600K a half percent rise is tantamount to ruin, especially if the property starts to devalue as well…

On a personal level, this is the year (so my harpies, in concert with the British Brainwashing Corporation tell me) I am sure to contract a significant disease – diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Ebola, terminal flu.   All will be well, if I could only bring myself to take the wisest course the moment I experience early symptoms and consult my medical practitioner.  Okay, although due to the medical staff’s extensive holiday commitments the waiting list for appointments with my local General Practitioners’ exceeds one month.  By which time, of course, I will have expired.

Meaning, I suppose, I need not be too concerned that a piece one-quarter the size of Wales is about to break away from the Antarctic ice pack, or that due to billions of gallons of extra melt water filling up the oceans, the world is getting too fat in the middle and wobbling on its axis a bit.   This is no surprise to me.  Ever since acquiring extra weight in middle age my pirouettes are definitely more erratic.  A lesson for us all.

It will not be a bad year, 2017.   Whether we like or loathe Donald and his rug, the system will blunt his excesses I am sure, and all though the treatment may be painful, it will be beneficial, by and large, in the end.  If one thing, and one thing alone, could make 2017 a very good year it would be to see peace break out in Syria.  Those poor people have been bombed and shot at for too many years, and for once I find myself applauding Russia for its logical approach.  I hope that, at least, succeeds.

Happy New Year, everyone.

No – NO!   Put that drink down.  You promised!  God is watching!

From the Night



In the pre-dawn of an English winter, it is among the world’s loneliest places.  Here, few birds will fly and none sing at this hour.  A
western gale, damp and cold, rattles the scrub of a featureless landscape, finding its way into the bones of the unwary traveler.  Few will travel here.   

Of a sudden, piercing lights split the darkness and within the space of a hideous screech and acrid stench a beast is upon the bare concrete ribbon; upon it and gone. So violent is its progress and so singular its purpose a mile will pass before it can be restrained.  When finally vanquished it will squat with unvented fury, compelled to be still as its cargo is disgorged.  Beyond a high fence a black coach stands waiting, the horses ready to draw it sharing that same harnessed anger, while their hooded coachman sits impassive, as if he, at least, is immune to time.

One by one,  wooden boxes are ripped from the belly of the beast by those workers of the night who must themselves be somewhere safe by sunrise. The beast, impatient, is anxious to be gone, yet for a precious minute it, too, must wait.  Then, somewhere high upon its flank its flesh is parted and from it a figure emerges – just one.  And about the figure’s head a hundred and sixty bats issue forth to find their freedom in the darkness.

The solitary figure sniffs the air, knowing his prey is near……

But those who protect this new land have been alerted to his coming and they are ready.  His first steps on fresh soil are greeted by milling people with clicks and flashing lights.  A ‘Man of Great Importance’ steps forward to shake his hand – to welcome him!  This the newcomer cannot understand:  he studies the ‘Man of Great Importance’ closely, checks his teeth, but no, there are no marks of the brotherhood upon him.  So how may he be a friend?  Is he the one who gives out the free money that is spoken of so often in his homeland?   He casts an eye about him, and begins to wonder why he came….

Luton airport may not be the best welcome for a weary traveler seeking a new home in the UK, and it is doubtful that the duty-free shop will have a supply of tzuika to offer as consolation, but it is gateway to a land which I hope will offer friendship to the reputedly thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants who, for the first time this year, are legally able to settle anywhere in the European Union.  

We British, represented as staunchly as ever by the Daily Mail newspaper, are furious about this, apparently.   Our health service will be over-stretched, Roma families will put up the crime rate, foul our streets, eat our children etc..  And, to compound all our fears, our wonderfully unbiased national media gleefully take every opportunity to remind us that flights from Romania to Britain originate at Transylvania Airport!  

It conjures up a picture, doesn’t it?  That control tower up there on the hill with a special atmosphere about it?  No other departure lounge can emulate those high walls of cold stone, and surely no other carousel in the world has so many


large wooden cases awaiting collection?

Now it may be as reported that the first Wizz Air flight for Luton, UK, out of that airport (a night flight) had just two immigrants on it, or it may not.  Two is the number we were given.  No mention was made of other passengers on that ‘plane when it landed before dawn; perhaps it was empty, perhaps not..

The truth, then.  The first of that invading horde of two,  a bemused Romanian immigrant was greeted personally by a Member of Parliament and buried under a swarm of media.  The guy looked healthy enough to me and, I hesitate to say it – really rather nice, actually.

Is an influx of immigrants a serious risk?  Well, life in a land with a grey, miserable climate whose assets are comprehensively stripped by foreign companies, whose national debt is among the highest in the western world and whose living standards, educational standards and health are among the lowest cannot be inspiring; so it is difficult to see why anyone would want to come to Britain.

We’ll see how many do!      

Correction of a House

For those who missed it, Shepton Mallet prison closed last week.  

As a child of Somerset, I have distant memories of Shepton Mallet, and the prison (no, I wasn’t an inmate) is among those vague recollections, squatting in the midst of civilised town buildings like a somnolent slug.

High perimeter walls – 75ft is high – grey stone, tiny peeping windows with those tell-tale bars: I’d like to think that someone with vision would re-open it as a themed hotel, but I’m told they’re going to pull it down.

There won’t be many arguments, I imagine, in favour of its preservation.  No outraged ImageNational Trust junkies will barricade the doors or lie down in front of the bulldozers – no, this is the less desirable face of history; a side of society we would prefer to forget.

Built in 1610, it’s certainly a candidate for preservation. It offered accommodation to many famous ‘lifers’ not least among which were the brothers Kray.  And I believe the ghosts (I’m told there are several) would like to see their nameless memories preserved.  So many of them, victims of the almost continuous ravages of smallpox and the brutality that reigned within its walls, lie buried there; their graves unmarked by any stone.

How many were hanged at HMP Shepton Mallet? No-one really knows – in early years no records were kept.  In World War Two, however, it was a military prison. Sixteen American soldiers were hanged and two shot for crimes including rape and murder.

So no tears but those which the men, women and children who suffered the continuous torture of years within those cramped cells have shed, and still perhaps run bleeding among the stones.  And maybe in the other silences  the creak of the treadmill that once turned there might still be heard, when Shepton Mallet needs reminding of those darker hours.