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Almost the end of the year. Most of 2020 has been about Coronavirus and the government locking up the population for fear of catching it. Man With A Skateboard The other day I was on the doorstep waiting for a parcel delivery (having been advised by phone and email he was going to turn up imminently) when this old guy wandered by taking his skateboard for a walk. Not since the 1970's and the kids tv show Magic Roundabout have I seen anything quite so weird. No, really, it was rolling gently down the hill, the man ambling after it and occaisonally nudging it with his foot to keep it travelling down the pavement. Man With Something I want To Buy I'd been out shopping and happened to pass one of my local music stores. I wonder if they've got a gizmo that could help me with my home studio? Hmmm... So I bravely crossed the road - Yeah same to you mate - and found that due to Covid restrictions I can't just walk in, masked or not (Bizarre that shops will only serve masked men these days). I rang the doorbell. Actually it wasn't all that bad, you get let in and ask for what you want. The guy behind the counter listened to my detailed requirements for gizmo heaven and offered me a gizmo. Not a simple gizmo you understand, but a quality gizmo, fully featured, compact, and able to cope with the mind blowing requirements of modern musicians. It's got this, he started, and it's got that, oh, and thingy here is used for... Okay. I said, I'll take it. No, stop selling, you've already sold it. He looked up a bit disorientated from having to stop his sales patter halfway through, but the gizmo did everything I needed, so yes, I'll buy it. We both parted in a good mood, a successful days transacting at the shop. Actually just in time too. By midnight Tier 4 comes into play and the music shop is shut. Man With An Agenda Part of my job is quality control. That means I have to check other people's work in some degree (by order of senior management no less). That makes me as popular as a traffic warden of course. Having spent the last two years having endless confrontations and giving endless lectures about proper procedures one of the key members of the team decided to brush me aside and ignore the standing procedure completely. I got miffed, confronted him about it, he got miffed because he's too important to be confronted, and before you know it, on the last day before our Xmas hols a minor war breaks out. There's a fair few of the team on my naughty list right now. Trouble is, I might be on a managerial naughty list myself. January might be interesting... Man At Last We Have A Proper Brexit Good grief, who would have thought it? Not only have we spent the last year under siege from Covid but we've also been tearing ourselves away from Imperial Europe, and we now have an actual deal with them, signed and done. From tomorrow night the United Kingdom is a seperate nation properly. I feel all British all of a sudden. We even won the custody battle with Scotland too. They can moan and sob all they want but frankly in the long term we've done them a favour. Sooner or later their precious independence was going to vanish in some European re-organisation aimed at dissolving national borders. We've also done preparatory deals with Canada, Japan, South Korea, and somewhere else too. I notice that the EU has now pulled business from London to an internal financial market. Bearing in mind how utterly obsessed they are with external borders, both real and virtual, one can't help comparing the situation with the waning years of the Western Roman Empire when Britain threw out the corrupt Roman administration after they withdrew their legions.. So, the EU is going to be overrun by hordes of barbarians wanting a piece of their action, and we're going to be overrun by hordes of Barbarians wanting a piece of our action. Funnily enough, the increasing numbers of migrants attempting to cross the Channel to get here is a startling parallel. But look on the bright side. In a few hundred years we'll be owning half of France again. Celebration Of The Year Oh come on, stop griping. Goodbye 2020 and hello 2021. Yeah! Rock and roll man!
I wonder what qualifications are required to become a bus driver? Not that I'm especially interested myself, it's just that I witnessed two drivers changing shift discussing Schrodinger's Cat, a piece of scientific philosophy used to illustrate quantum uncertainty. Good grief. What next? A law demanding drivers must have a Master's Degree in Quantum Mechanics just to drive a new-fangled electric vehicle? One wonders how the future government of Britain is going to make that happen. Half the kids I witness in my area learn to read and write Grafftti rather than English. I speak with some experience on this. There's a bunch of young lads utterly and wrongly convinced I'm gay. That's bad enough, but they insist on letting me know they think so. Worse still, a hard core of them are hell bent on coercing me into admitting it. The other night, on my way home through a side street in the early hours of the morning, the driver of a car wound his window down and asked "Queer yet?". Well, these attempts at bullying have been going on for some time. A few have already fallen foul of anti-social legislation courtesy of the Police. One wonders what life is like at school these days. Bullying went on in my day, just like it always does, but this intense psychological intimidation is well beyond anything I experienced as a child and points clearly to a complete failure of modern education practice as much as what passes as parental upbringing these days. At the bus station, I waited for passengers to disembark as usual. A toddler, no more than four years old, came off the bus commenting on a small item with an habitual expletive which was shocking to hear from someone so young. I looked at his mother who gave a resigned expression. Well, there's a young man destined for a loud but undistinguished future. Rather like a bunch of lads believing their opinions matter. Will they ever learn? And Now For Something Completely Different There's been a change of strategy from these lads lately. Having failed to convert me to the condemning world of homosexuality, they now want to portray me as a shoplifter. They even claim they've seen me in the act. "You just wait" I hear. "You'll be sorry" from others. Well, I do have to point out that coercion, abuse, and false accusation could land you with a hefty punishment in court, and as far as I can see, all you're going to do is prove my innocence. Please carry on. Bird Of The Week Lately I've heard the sound of an owl from the countryside around my place of work as I leave at the end of a night shift. It's rare to hear one, never mind see one. But the other night I saw it, startled by the approach of a car and flying ahead of the equally startled driver. What a size! I didn't know owls got that big in Britain! Be afraid, mice. Be very afraid. Brexit Footnote October 31st has come and gone and still Parliament has obstructed the determined efforts of the government to realise the decision made in a referendum more than three years ago. I'm saddened that so many now blame our bus loving Prime Minister for failing to reach the conclusion, but isn't that a little dishonest? I mean, the reason he failed is parliamentary subterfuge. Politics some might call it, but I wonder how many people listening to accusations of our Prime Minister's supposed dishonesty are aware of how much dishonesty is being blatantly pushed in front of the public by his opposition leaders? Parliament claims to speak for democracy. No it doesn't. Parliament be damned.
The weather forecast had already warned us of storms crossing Britain late into the night. As luck would have it, I was on a late shift, and that meant walking home during the period when I was most likely to be drenched in minutes or used by nature to light the vicinity when hit by lightning. There was every risk of both, and to be honest, I’ve always had a policy of avoiding such weather conditions by the clever use of indoors. Not last night then. One colleague at work told me that storms were already crossing France and would be here in two hours. Really? That would require winds in excess of gale force. There was barely a breeze and whilst thirty odd degrees centigrade isn’t hot by some standards around the globe, for Britain it was sweltering. In any case the winds weren’t from France, but the Atlantic southwest, as usual. Damp air then. Perfect for the odd electrical storm. I have to say working to very high targets in that sort of humid temperature was not for the faint hearted. By the close of shift, I was, as they say, ker-nackered. So. Time to go home. Almost as soon as I left the premises the display started. Around the sky flickers of light went off almost continuously, an extraordinary sight and one I found quite weird given not a rumble of thunder could be heard. I could see the mass of storm cells encroaching on Swindon. Sooner or later the rain would start. I wonder? Could I make it to the McDonalds outlet about halfway home without incurring a sudden outbreak of dampness? It worked. I made it to the rest stop barely seconds before the first cloudburst opened up. Perfect. Fast food, dry shelter, and bewildered staff to impress with my knowledge of storms. “Ahh” Said one McDonald droid, “it’s stopped. I can go home now.” You think? I’m staying here for another hour yet. He chuckled and headed for the door only to be greeted with a huge fork of lightning over the area. Your move mate. Cunning Move Whilst I was walking to McDonalds I spotted a fox on the other side of the road. Normally at that distance they either don’t care, or find a more discreet place to be. This one simply hunkered down. I know mate, it is warm isn’t it? Howls Of Badgers Badgers are the quietest of animals. They snuffle around, usually looking happy as Larry, but a week or two ago I encountered one on a footpath going home. Badgers aren’t the most alert of creatures. I’ve often walked very close to them before they realised I was there, but always they scarper, and scarper quickly they can. This one saw me coming and hooted very loudly. Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a badger. A born sergeant major that one. Big Beetles On the outskirts of an industrial estate I saw movement on the road, again lat at night. This was a black beetle, alarmingly huge. Two or three inches long, much larger than anything I’ve seen plodding around British countryside. This one was not only large, but fast too, scurrying around like demon possessed. A foreign import off a lorry? We don’t usually get beetles like that outside of zoos. Boris Of The Week This week’s star prize goes to our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who takes over from Theresa May today. There’s a sort of inevitable aspect to his new found glory. Can he sort out the mess and get a deal on Brexit past the hordes of British MP’s determined to frustrate the British public’s decision to leave Europe? The battlefield is the same as it’s been for three years and cost May her job. Who knows, perhaps the outsize beetle was an omen. Perhaps the gods welcomed Boris with a spectacular lightning display. Somehow I doubt he got rained on last night.
In the last few weeks I've rediscovered a television series from the sixties. The Saint were the adventures of gentleman adventurer Simon Templar, played by Roger Moore, a sort of poor man's James Bond without the gadgets and evil villains taking over the world. Moore plays the part with his usual bond-esque humour but it is hard to imagine a real life counterpart so genteel and light hearted. In his world, just like Bond, he's infamous and known to everyone yet can wander around incognito until the he gets betrayed by a twist in the plot. The thing is, like most sixties television in Britain, production values were very low scale. You can see that corridor is a painted backdrop. That car chase across Germany looks more like Essex. The train carriage is a simple sound stage set. Paris no more than a backdrop of Notre Dame. But you don't mind that, because again, like most sixties television, these programs tell stories. The adventures might be contrived, predictable, sometimes even completely implausible, but unlike modern series the episodes don't rely on emotional wrangling or deep significance. It's actually fun to watch, a guaranteed gritty fistfight in every episode, and the sixties cut scenes and cars add period flavour. Of course, when Ian Ogilvy took over in the seventies, changing the charismatic Volvo P1800 sports car for a lumbering Jaguar XJS, the mood had changed. Gentleman adventurers were a thing of the past, aside from James Bond. American imports introduced us to the Ford Torino of Starsky & Hutch, Kojak and his lollipops, and in Britain, series like The Professionals had opted for a more down to earth and working class feel. The Seventies - when Britain joined Europe and the Old World finally withered away. Hmmm... We've just decided to leave Europe. I wonder.... Pole To Port Stanley The Douglas DC6 is a pleasing shape in the air, a fifties four engine propliner descending from that old warhorse, the Dakota. In the night sky a few miles south of the Falklands, the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp engines, each capable of 2400 horsepower, droned on. Below us, hazy patches of sea mist lit by the moon. A few whisps of cumulus drifted by. Above, the stars, strangely static despite our two hundred mile an hour cruise. Most of the passengers would be dozing off by now, too tired by the white knuckle ride on takeofff and the subsequent journey across the South Atlantic to stay awake, too distracted by the vibrating rumble and the stale interior to sleep well. Finally, the radio messages became more frequent, and the command comes through to descend and head for the approach to Port Stanley. In real life my hand would have spread across four chunky levers, but with a couple of keypresses, the angry noise reduces to a quiet grumble, and the plane starts to lose altitude. But of course this isn't real. Finally with some time to relax and forget the busy schedule of the past year, it was time to break out the flight simulator. I'd been watching Pole To Pole, a travel documentary by Michael Palin, and fancied a go at flying down there. My first attempt was hopelessly inept. I ought to have known better, given my real life pilot training, but I took off without planning and quickly found the cold air causing engine failure after take off, made worse by the prospect of ending up in the icy waters of the polar seas. Not good. Okay. Lets think about this. The gravel runway in the simulator at the end of a rocky archipelago was too short for the heavily laden DC6 so I prepared every trick I could think of, and took a lot longer to warm the engines, running them up to power much more gently. Without that two hundred foot cliff off the end of the runway all would have been another disaster, and the random weather I took off in was appalling. All that had been coped with. There was the runway lights at Port Stanley. Realism? Well, Microsoft might claim its as good as it gets, but I certainly wasn't. Might have to practice a bit more before I get that phone call from a desperate airline. Crisis Ot The Week This star prize has to go to Brexit. it must have been obvious there was a chance the British public would choose to go, and everyone quickly forgot that until we kick off Article 50, nothing changes, and even then, there's still a two year negotiation period. Come on Simon Templar. Shoot the bad guys, kiss the girl, and put Britain back on course. At the moment you're a lot more real than some of our overpaid politicians.