Sick Again

Seasonal tradition – the pre-festive flu

 

Body aching like I’ve been thrown several times against a wall. Head hurting like it’s been clamped firmly in a vice, and someone is still turning the screw and I’m coughing like an old tramp nurtured on full tar cigarettes and left out for several days in the rain.

« Can’t give you any antibiotics » says the doctor,

« Just stay home in the warm. Take plenty paracetemol and above all, do nothing. »

And with a flourish of his drug company-sponsored pen, the doc signs off « Here you are » he announces and with a big beaming smile he pushes a form a across the desk

« What’s this? »

« A médical certificate for a week’s sick leave. Doctor’s orders, stay home for a week and do nothing. »

« Nothing ! »

Yes, those are the doctor’s orders – nothing.

Now, there are some people I know who would simply ignore médical advice, and, even with a médical certificate, would crawl into work and work, just to prove to everyone else, that what they do is so important, that no one can do without them, and it is thanks to such « heroics » that a everyone else gets sick.

I am going to firmly follow doctor’s orders

YES you’re ill. You’ve got flu or something nastier and though you are not going to die, you certainly feel in a state close to mortal demise.

Get it into your head that you won’t be fit for work

Doctor’s orders – DO NOTHING.

And that is exactly what I do for a week. I do nothing.

I head home, a shivering wreck. I pop a fistful of paracetemol, pull on a grotty old tracksuit, fill a hot water bottle and then wrap myself in a huge duvet and settle down in front of the TV for a week of nothing.

Yep folks – I’ve spent all week watching TV

The news channels, the soap channels, the shopping channels, the kids’ channels, the vintage re-run channels, the religious channels, the crafting channels.

I’ve watched watched North Korean Missiles tests with non stop beaming faced images of « Rocket man ». I’ve seen Laura Ingells comes to blows with Nelly Olsen, I’ve cruised on the Love Boat, I’ve solved murders with Angela Landsbury, I’ve been to Southfork and back via Falcon’s Crest. I’ve learned how to make « lovely » Christmas décorations and « scrapbooking-style » Christmas cards. I’ve learned how to cook the perfect turkey. I’ve drooled over everything from hot rocks and cool diamonds on the jewelery channel to power vacuums, slow cookers, fitness machines and stairlifts on the shopping channels. I’ve watched Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs all ranting their rants – I’ve had calls to prayer, calls ro reason and advice to bring me closer to God.

And in-between the programs – commercial and more commercials with slippers, surgical stockings, death insurance, more bloody chairlifts, exercise aids for the elderly, Christmas chocolates and incontinence pants and checks for colon cancer and urinary probems for older men

AAAAAGH – If I were old. I’m only 52 and in every bloody ad or programme or propoganda slot for the « elderly » it is echoed and re-echoed «NOW YOU ARE OVER 50 … »

Yes I must accept that at 50 you turn into a gibbering, slobbering, incontinet, piss stinking, disabled, semi senile , pyjama-wearing, slipper shuffling wreck. AAAAAAAGH.

Oh Thank God, I’ve found Boomerang TV on the satellite – re-runs of the original Hanna Barbera cartoons – Scooby Doo, Flintstones, The Jetsons …

Hey, If advertisers think I should be senile at 50, might as well watch some kids TV.

What I have loved about this week in the Twilight TV sickness world – all the mid morning ménopause unf*** your f****d-up life TV –

Forgotten second rate stars back from the grave with a book to sell and a career to relaunch.

The youngish, late fortysomething replastified bimbo looks caringly and meaningfully into the UV gaze of the late sixtysomething soap survivor –

« Tell me how did …

ménopause

breast cancer

the loss of your pet dog

Alcoholism

Drug addiction

Bankruptcy

Sexual breakdown

Divorce

affect your life ? »

« And what is the subject of your new book ? »

ALL OF THE ABOVE

And in this week of TV watching, I have loved all these heart-tugging broken family shows – like Jeremy Kyle

Get a mid morning TV slot, when all the world’s misfits are just rolling out of bed, and wheel some obese, loud-mouthed, no-brain, white trash dysfuntional families into the studio, get them screaming at each other, and you’ve got one shit hot TV show.

The Usual stuff :

Mother sleeps with daughter’s boyfriend a few weeks away from the wedding.

Husband-to-be is sleeping with his fiancé’s sister.

Father-in-law having a fling with his future daughter-in-law.

And after a venomous slanging match it all ends in tears and a big hug.

When I hear people at work reeling off about their perfect lives and their perfect kids, I always feel that I have kind of failed somewhere in my life, but it takes a week of watching Daytime TV to show me otherwise – aspiring and subscribing to the dreams, hopes and fears of the stay-at-homes – for whatever reason people have to stay home.

It takes all sorts to make up a world, and we all need some kind of place in this crazy world.

Back to work tomorrow – fighting fit and one thing is for sure – the first thing someoneis going to say « Did you enjoy your holiday ? »

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Soldier

It’s one of those  airless,  hot summer Sundays. The world is on holiday, deepest France is in full summer slumber – a perfect time for a country drive, on uncluttered winding roads – across the fields and through the forests. On a photo safari down to the village of Souesmes, sight of a major battle in 1944 between local resistance fighters and the Wehrmacht heading north to reinforce German forces fighting in Normandy. This is the centre of France, where, in July and August 1944 over a quarter of a million German troops  heading north to south and west to east, were stopped in their tracks by the local Resistance. There are hundreds of small roadside monuments commemorating such events and occasionally village war memorials inscribed with the names of the dead from World war Two and World War One – in many villages nowadays the names of the dead from both wars are greater than the number of current inhabitants. Here are some photos of an “unknown soldier” on a village war memorial. His face shows the suffering and scars of war and his state of decay shows the indifference of modern France where once the link between the nation’s army and its citizens was a true historical and moral bond. here is the forgotten soldier.

On the Run in the Edgelands

The Edgelands – that parallel peripheral sub world that marks the transition from civilization to nowhere, from riches to poverty from being to existing.

Everything starts in nowhere places. Those places you thought you’d never be. On your own in those places that you would never choose to go. Those cheap hotels on the edge of the edgelends – lost and forlorn in the shadow of the high rise wasteland and the deserted shopping mall – long neon lit corridors of shuttered up shops and gangs of kids wandering aimlessly in errant boredom. In the shopping mall there is the restaurant – all ersatz, mid-west, plastic rustic burger in a basket, dirty round the edges with unkempt staff wearing geasy uniforms and nochalantly chewing gum in «don’t give a fuck» faces. They slap the food on your plate like they are slapping you round the face and we eat here because it is affordable and feels almost like a real meal. I got tough stringy steak, luke warm overcooked chips and a slice of anemic apple pie for my limp apologetic desert. «Try our delicious steak platter – a thick juicy steak, cooked just the way you like it, served with home made chipped potatoes» and for desert « a traditional home made apple pie served with whipped cream.» The waitress plonks down my anemic apple pie with leaden indifference. I ask her for the cream. She takes an aerosol from a pocket in her geasy apron and splurts «cream» everywhere. «Home made» or made in a place that someone calls home. Away from home you notice just how many people either, don’t have a home, or don’t have a home worth going to. In this ersatz parallel world you also notice just how many people are on the road, working away from home to pay for that home they never see. I call it the «survival circuit», the road trip from hell – plumbers, builders, labourers, criss crossing the land in their white vans, driving at break neck speeds, from job-to-job, from town-to-town,, mobile phones pressed permanently to their ears, that they might just need surgery to get them removed. Miss a call, miss a contract, miss a job, miss a mortgage payment and miss any semblance of a normal family life as you sacrifice any normal life to pay for a dream. And the wandering working classes are here in this grubby, formica farmhouse kitchen – this seedy shopping centre eatery where lost souls seek affordable nourisment – this down-at-heal diner where families from the neighbouring high rise have come for a «family treat» – a meal out in a restaurant. Nothing shocks me now because over the years, I have become used to these places. I am here in a spirit of tastless utilitarian indifference. This is one of those weeks when I am forced to work away from home and home has to be a cheap functional hotel in the insipid mediocrity of the edgelands – that forgotten, hidden, parallel world on the periphery of reality, but maybe this is reality and I spend my life living in a bubble. I was thinking how difficult it must be to run away home, because you end up in places like this that make you want to run away even more. When I stay here, I begin to feel how hard it must be to be «on the run.»

Following photos taken in France – Bourges, Toulouse and Orleans.

Hotel

Cigarette Break

Drive in skyline

KFC Dawn

Giraffe

The Middle of Nowhere

Saturday shopping

Sunset shopping

Bag man

Pushing cross the car park

Way in Way out

Trolleys

Welcome

Freedom?

FREEDOM!  screams a huge banner headline from the front page of the Daily Mail.

Freedom ? Freedom from what ?

Has Britain just been liberated from years of foreign occupation ? Have the British people just risen up and toppled a vile dictator ?

« This is E-Day. » proclaims a sub-header

March 29th, E-Day ?

Has the world (or at least the Daily Mail) gone mad ?

Pardon my flinching , semi senile, wine-soaked, ex-pat memory, but unless we have just booted the nazis out of Blighty, I thought that Britan had been a free and democratic country for the past … well at least for the past 72 years since the end of World War Two, and possibly long before that – OK bar a few arguments about when full and fair universal suffrage was finally achieved – Britian has been « democratic » since mid –to-late Victorian times.

I know with this last sweeping assertion I am going to make some history buffs howl with indignation, because Britain (or England) had a « parliamentary » tradition for many centuries before, but not everyone got to vote for who was supposed to represent them.

History aside, I am glad the Britian is free again, and now, casting myself into the Daily mail mindset, I can say that Britain will be GREAT again.

March 29th, E-Day (or Exit Day). We should declare this day a national public holiday, along with St George’s Day and June 23rd which was Brexit day itself. – B-day – June 23rd 2016 ; the longst day though was June 24th – a long slow depresssing and distressing day, where us « remain » supporters were in a state of jawdropping disbelief, occasionally pinching ourselves just to remind us that this was not all a dream, or a nightmare or a parallel universe

I therefore propose three new public holidays – Merci Brexit, and if there too many public holidays , we will et rid of all those « unBritish » days that the European Union inflicted upon us … how many ? The Mayday Bank Holiday – I get the feeling though that many Brits would quite fancy keeping that one, as well as getting the three others –

Three new public holidays – think of all the extra shopping time that’s going to give the Brits – but I think quite a few of you might be working to pay the astronomical costs of goodies, when Brtain also leaves the single market.

Anyway, congrats to the Little Englanders everywhere, you can dust down your Union Jacks and toast the Brave new Britain in a good pint of British beer – though enjoy it while you can, in a few years Britain might be no more than a distant memory – Imagine that the Kingdom of England shares a land border with the Republic of Scotland, and what if Northern Ireland decide that after 400 years or so of accrimonious relations with England, to will be far better for all to unite with the South and just have one country called « Ireland » Now that sounds very sensible to me

Freedom ! No ! This is a bad day for freedom, unless of course your idea of freedom is simply being told what you can and cannot do – Yes the nasty old EU setting norms for just how much meat content you should have in a sausage or setting environmental norms for just how much sewage you can pump into the sea.

I genuinely think that joining the EU brought Britain out of the dark ages. Back when we joined in 1973, the UK was beset by strikes, and power cuts, the country was working a three day week, Brits used to stare jealously acrss the Channel at the quality of life in Continental Europe. YES, true we won the War and YES in 1973, Britain was still living firmly in World War Two – well now, Britain can once agin enjoy the War mentality – a ture Churchillian mindset of standing alone aginst this bureaucratic, Brussels driven monolith that is the European Union – now we are free to determine our destiny.

So, a few concrete ideas

Imagine when Brexit is a reality , that you have to get a visa for your two week fling in Benidorm.

Imagine that there is no more cheap unlimited booze and we go back to the old rules whereby you can only bring back three bottles of wine from your European holiday as opposed o the 40 or so bottles you can bring back at présent.

Imagine all our youngsters who might want to work in Europe – that’s going to be an issue.

And if there is economic lockdown ?

We will buy products that are made in Britain – well if you want a cheap TV or car or washing machine, all the parts come in via the EU. So here I am venturing on to unresearched ground BUT, unless the UK strike some serious trade deals with the EU before WTO trade rules kick in ???? Can the UK still independantly produce enough canoës and paddles to navigate itself up Shit Creek ? Not so sure.

My ramblings are fliipant and unresearched, but they come from a Britsh ex-pat who is taking out French nationality so he can still work in France after Brexit because his future was determined by those Brits who voted for Brexit – in a referendum where I did not have the right to vote.

Ok thoughts over for now, but dwell on this. Donald Trump was voted into the Whitehouse despite the fact that Hilary Clinton had 2 million more votes in the final result. As an ex-pat, I was not given the right to vote in the UK referendum because only ex-pats who had been out of the UK 15 years or less were allowed to vote. Democracy does not seem to apply in either case

If Republic of Scotland there is, I shall be validating my 3 generational Scottish ancestry for a Hibernian passport.

To all ye Little Englanders – well done on regaining your freedom. I hope you enjoy it, though put away the Union Jack and unfurl the St George Flag ; and I forecast (thought do not wish you) fractious times head.

End of rant

PS, for all Daily Mail readers you read the  paper founded in 1911 by Lord Northcliffe to halt the progress of Lloyd George’s parliamentary reform bill. and this was the paper that supported the British Union of Fascists in 1936; with that unforgettable headline “Hooray for the Blackshirts.” – Not that I’m calling all Daily Mail readers “fascists”, but there is a nasty whiff of BNP style nationalism about you all.

Goodbye Chuck

A few thoughts on the passing of the great (now late) Chuck Berry. Is it too much to cal him the father of Rock and Roll?  I was listening back to some of his old hits on a deliciously crackly old vinyl record this afternoon – they all seemed so simple, stripped and basic compared to today’s many layered, complicated and over mixed songs. Just one man, a guitar and his talent and genius.

All that early rock and roll sounds so simple, but in music, simple is never simple. As any musician will tell you – it’s easy to churn out mediocre versions of complicated songs, but it’s real hard to do the simple stuff with the same rhythm and shine as the original – Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Holly – well-written, catchy, simple songs that are actually very difficult to play – and I mean play in the sense of giving them life and feeling.

Imagine Mr Berry’s life as a rock and roll road trip, his was the simple car – no modern gadgetry – just get in, crank her up and go – an old classic, a pleasure to drive because you had the real sensation and thrill of driving – and now a lot of music is like the modern, electric and soon-to-be, driverless car.

There are still legendary rock stars, but all that “rock and roll” thing is no longer an ethos, or an attitude, it has become a fashion statement, and in modern rock, I get the thinking that there is no rock and there are no legends – the world has become a succession of one hit wonders – if a band makes it to a third album, they attain legend status.

So, another living legend has now become the stuff of legend and  as for rock and roll legend itself, that is becoming a marketing strategy – creating heroes out of TV talent show winners. It’s like electric cars, electronic cigarettes, alcohol free beer and political correctness – there is nothing vaguely dangerous or edgy anymore in rock and roll.

RIP Mr Berry

 

THOU SHALL HAVE FUN (but without fireworks) OR “Making the Party Playlist”

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Thou Shall Have Fun

New Year’s Eve – party time – « Thou shall have fun » resounds the First New Year Commandment. No matter how awful you feel – you shall have fun, and as the clock strikes 12 and the new year begins, all your fears, troubles and problems will melt away like an ice cream in a micro wave oven ;

Ice Cream in the micro wave

Hey that is a rotten metaphor, who the F*** puts their ice cream in a micro wave ? Well I do folks – those small individual pots of Haggen Daz or Ben and Jerrys that I like to scoff in front of the TV – straight out of the freezer they are just too cold and I haven’t got the patience to leave them out long enough to melt just a little – so one minute on « defrost » in the microwave, just to thaw them out a little.

So, here am I trying to enter into the spirit of things for this, the last big festive hurdle of the year.

No Fireworks

Off to the « party » shop to buy few fireworks and bangers for tonight – I know it is still thick fog outside, but I had this dream of setting of huge rockets into the night sky – make a wish on a rocket, light the blue touch paper and then send it skywards before it explodes into a mass of mulitcoloured stars that fall back to earth – each star is part of my wish or my dream that I want to share with the world.

« Sorry » says the gum-chewing trainee down the party shop. We’re not allowed the sell fireworks this year. »

« Why ? » I ask

« It’s ‘cos it’s the law » she limply explains and chews

The manager comes over and explains that due to the current state of emergency in France, the sale of fireworks has been forbidden and under the state of emergency it is forbidden to let fireworks off from 26th December to 2nd January.

“I don’t want to blow anyone up” I persist.

We had all this last year – gangs of youths buying massive rockets and firing them at the police.

New Year’s Playlist

No matter, my contribution to the party will be musical – my new year’s playlist.

Something old

Something new

Something borrowed

Something blue

Looking for « old » songs with a new year’s theme. That U2 classic « New Year’s Day » , so when the adults are all drunk in the wee small hours, they can cavort around again pretending they are teenagers – much to the embarassment and disgust of their kids. I know there was also an ABBA song entitled « Happy New Year » – Oh dear, I’m not doing very well on this am I. What about a few tracks from those we have lost ? Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen … why not a blast of Debbie Reynolds ?

« Good morning, good morning – we’ve drunk the whole night through, good morning hangover to you…. » (revised lyrics)

Nostalgia – something else I have resolved to give up – Living in the past. (Jethro Tull ?) I had a nostalgia-driven pre-Christmas trip to London. I had promised myself to visit all those places from my past that had some kind of meaning. Too depressing, the past is dead and those places will never be the same. Talking about old times makes me acutely aware that I have more life behind me than I do in front of me. This year will be living in the present and the future. Go on, let’s have one nostalgia-driven track, that Bruce Springsteen classic « Glory Days. »

Something new ????? I’l leave that for the kids. I can’t think of any one single song this year that has made a lasting impression on me – come to think of it, I can’t really remeber any of this year’s songs. The first signs of dementia ? Well here’s one that got in the charts and I sing with the band – « Counting Stars » by One Republic .

Something borowed ? Guess I can find a decent cover version of an old song that is suitable for a New Year’s party  (I’ can’t think of anything for the moment)

Forget the « blues » – I swore that this would be the year I stopped singing the blues. Yeah, one or two blues tunes in the band répertoire, but no more. The blues is just so boring to listen to. I defy anyone to listen to more than three Robert Johnson songs without wanting to slit their wrists. I supose at relaunched the blues for my generation was when Eric Clapton went unplugged in 1992 and of course there was always the nostalgia around the Blues Brothers. I guess we all need somone to love, so I’ll at least have that one.

I would like to add some songs of hope to this. « Stairway to Heaven » is just too cheesy now, so I’ll opt for a song by Oasis entitled « Stay Young »

Hey! stay young and invincible

Cos we know just what we are

And come what may we’re unstoppable

Cos we know just what we are

Even at 51, I’ve got to stay young. Strange though, as I get older, I feel younger and it’s all those younger than me who tell me what to do. So to this play list I will also add. « My Generation » by the Who.

Of course we need fireworks, (even if they are against the law this year ) – so we’ll have some courtesy of Katie Perry – the lyrics are what I would wish for you all next year

« Ignite the light and let it shine. »

So, here is my playlist

New Year’s day                        U2

Happy New Year                     Abba

« Good Morning »                    Debbie Reynolds (from Singing in the Rain)

Diamond Dogs                        David Bowie

Glory Days                              Bruce Springsteen

Counting Stars                        One Republic

Somebody to Love                 Blues Brothers Version

Stay Young                             Oasis

My Generation                        The Who

Firework                                 Katy Perry

And finally

« Auld Lang syne » – and I don’t know what the words mean, but it is traditional.

Happy new year folks.

Pea Soup and Sacrifice (and shopping)

PEA SOUP

« F*** me, it’s a real pea souper this morning. Can’t even hardly see to the end of the garden. Far too dangerous to drive to work, might as well say at home. »

In translation

There is a thick fog this morning and visibility is very poor, down to only a few metres, thus making driving conditions far too danegrous. It would be far safer to say at home rather than risk the journey to work.

IF I CAN’T SEE, I CAN’T GO

My wife reminds me that I work within easy walking distance and can therefore go to the daily grind on foot.

« And what if it’s not there when I get there ? »

A bemused look from my better half, so I explain my theory of only being able to work in paleces that I can see

« I mean if the fog is so thick and visibility so bad that I can’t actually see where I work how can I go to work … if I can’t see where I work … »

The theory isn’t working, and my attempt at fog humour fails miserably.

At work, my daily « check in » with the boss. He likes to see me everyday and it is important to be seen. What you do when you’re not visible doesn’t seem to matter, the important is to be seen, charging around with a fistful of papers and a couple of dossiers under your arm, vigorously shaking hands with colleagues adding that you haven’t got time to stand and chat, you have too much to do. It always helps when you tell them that you have taken time out of a busy schedule just to come and bid them good day. (sounds like the basis for a good internal comms strategy)

I try my fog humour on the boss

« Well I nearly actually didn’t come to work because I couldn’t see the building and I reckoned that if the building wasn’t there then there was nowhere to work. »

The boss rolls his eyes and stares at me like he’s missed to joke, unsure if there was one in the first place.

« Oh, English humour » he laughs nervously.

I WANNA LAUGH

One Brit amonsgst several hundred French, such is my lot. Not an unhappy one, though you do miss ex-pat colleagues to chat with and spark off. I can’t rememer the last time I had a ood laugh at work. Can’t remember the last time I had a good laugh at all. Of course it’s November, a month of rain, fog, grey skies, death, more rain, the start of the annual flu epidemic and the mad run up to Christmas.

IT STARTS WITH DEATH

November starts with death and death has its own day off – yes it would be too much fun to celebrate Halloween, instead – November 1st – All Saint’s Day – is a public holiday, no one goes to work, we all spend the day tending the graves of our beloved deceased, flowering up their tombs, cleaning a year’s worth of bird shit off the headstone and weeding the borders round the grave – I suppsoe the dead do deserve somewhere nice to rest in peace.

Nowadays though you don’t get so many folks spending the day with the dead – not because there are less dead people than before (though that génération that would systematically gavesit on All saints day is itself dying out) there are simply more shops open. Like the US and the UK, public holidays have now become shopping holidays and this November 1st holiday is the time when all the ation’s major retail chains launch their Christmas Toy fairs. YShop now to avoid disapointment, bcause the toy fairs all finish around mid November at which point toys are thrown ff the shelves to make way for festive food.

ULTIMATE CUT PRICE SACRIFICE

If you have shopped and dropped on November 1st, or even if you have totally missed out on shopping because you spent the day with dead people, not to worry, the next public holiday is just around the corner – November 11th – Armistice Day – when we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This most solemn of days has aso become a shopping holiday over the past few years, leading me to wonder how those who laid down their, lives would feel that they had paid the ultimate price, so we could get cut price in the spécial « Armistice Day toy sale. » – Great time to buy your kids a toy gun.

ONE YEAR ON

They have joined « the fallen » – those innocents who were slaughtered in last year’s Paris terrorist attacks. Victims of the war on terror or the war thet the terroritsts are waging against us, our values and our way of life. Their names will never be inscribed on any war memorials, but in many towns and villages all over France, those killed on November 13th 2015 were remembered along with the hundreds of thousands of French men who fell in World War One. Poignant wreath laying cérémonies for the dead of the Great War and then seperate wreaths for those who did not go to war, but simply went for a night out with friends in a bar or to see a concert. Those victims who lived wanting every minute of plasure to last , a world away from the slaughter of the trenches where you think every minute might be your last.

Death was already firmly placed in the national November psyche, as sad and sombre as the weather, but it was death from another time and place. There are those who might say that we are still reaping the sad harvest of the « colonial » seeds we sowed générations ago.

THE CALAMITY OF UNCERTAINTY

So, I want to finish with this thought – The calamity and uncertanty of the Trump presidential victory. I would like Mr Trump to take heed as this weekend in France we have paid homage to those who died in the great war of the great empires and those who have died from the results of modern empire building. We marking the centenary of the Great War, but with the foreign policy that Trump is proposing, we are a mère step away from reinforcing those old empires under different guises – Putin has been emboldened by the Trump victory, for sure Trump will be lenient on Turkey – the door is wide open for new Czars and Sultans and the door is wide open for new wars and new massacres . Just a personal opinion.